County looks into potential military partnership for construction projects

Cortland County office building. (Photo Source: Kevin L. Smith/Cortland Voice)

Cortland County legislators and department heads announced Tuesday the possibility of partnering with the U.S. military to pay for part of an improved highway garage.

Officials unveiled the potential partnership through the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program at Tuesday’s county agriculture, planning and environmental committee meeting. 

IRT is a collaborative program that sees communities provide materials and basic services, while members of the U.S. Armed Forces contribute personnel and training resources toward a desired project, according to the U.S. Department of Defense website.

County highway superintendent Charles Sudbrink said Tuesday the IRT program could bring expertise and reduce costs on a potentially new garage for the highway department. 

“This is something we can take advantage of and save millions of dollars,” he said.

The county currently has a 20,000 square-foot garage that is more than 60 years old and can house 27 trucks.

“This is something you have been looking to replace for the last 10-12 years,” Sudbrink said.

The county would have to front the costs for materials and demolition of the former structure, but military partners would help with construction of the new garage. Sudbrink has not looked at estimates for those costs, as the county has not applied to be in the IRT program yet.

Legislator Paul Heider (R-LD-16) said the county budgets $300,000 every year for building expenses that could go toward the county’s portion of the project. Some portion of the road machinery account in the county budget, which is around $800,000, could also help cover some costs.

“So we would not have to worry about the labor rate,” Heider said. “And they could also probably help with the electrical work.”

Legislature Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2) spoke in support of the project.

“A lot of the costs of these construction projects that we're looking at labor is often the biggest chunk of the whole thing,” he noted. “If we get the IRT help, that would take that (big expense) out.”

The county had previously hosted a medical assistance program through IRT in the past, and the opportunity to collaborate with the military recently surfaced again thanks to the county’s involvement with the Southern Tier 8 regional economic development agency. 

Applications for the IRT program will be due sometime in September, with planning set to begin in 2024 and a breaking ground date of 2025.

The project application should highlight an area the county is specialized in, a potential project opportunity, and how that mission would benefit the community. It should also list the materials and resources the county could contribute to the project.