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Meeting Minutes Return to Committee
Meeting Minutes
Office of the Onondaga County Legislature
Court House, Room 407 * 401 Montgomery Street * Syracuse, New York 13202
(315) 435-2070 Fax: (315) 435-8434

DEBORAH L. MATURO
Clerk
J. RYAN McMAHON, II
Chairman
KATHERINE FRENCH
Deputy Clerk

 

WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE REVIEW OF THE 2014 TENTATIVE BUDGET

COUNTY FACILITIES DEPARTMENTS P.M. – SEPTEMBER 17, 2013

DAVID H. KNAPP, CHAIRMAN

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Jordan, Mr. May, Mr. Holmquist, Mr. Kilmartin, Ms. Williams, Mrs. Ervin

ALSO PRESENT:  Chairman McMahon, Mrs. Tassone, Mr. Plochocki, Mr. Andrews, Mr. Shepard; also see attached

 

Chairman Knapp reconvened the meeting at 1:25 p.m.

 

OCPL:  Elizabeth Dailey, Executive Director; Sally Carmer, Director of Administrative Services

(2012 Summary Handout on file with the Clerk)

 

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Thank you for this opportunity to present our 2014 budget and the library services that the budget supports. Sally Carmer and I are here to answer your questions.  I would like to start by telling you about some of our accomplishments this year, some of our challenges and plans for the coming year.  Refer to OCPL’s Annual Report for 2012 for a statistical overview of the way OCPL meets community needs.

 

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The budgets that Sally and I are presenting today reflect Onondaga County Public Library’s organizational structure.  As a result of consolidation in the 1970’s, OCPL consists of a public library system, the Central Library and the Syracuse City branches. Our System, Central, Branch and Grants budgets are built on service mandates and funding from the State of New York, the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

4As one of 23 public library systems in New York State, OCPL ensures that our county’s libraries are working together to the benefit of all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In May of this year OCPL started a process that will result in improved library services and increased recognition of the value of those services. One of the first steps was a survey of staff and public to chart the relevancy of current services. Most important to our public was one library card to use in all of our System’s libraries.  The library card is now almost as useful outside the library as inside --- OCPL libraries added over 10,000 e-books this year to meet growing patron demand. With library card and PIN our users obtain information from databases, download audio books, music and e-books, and can even pay library fines.

Traditionally, the library card has been offered free of charge to all residents within our System, and also to residents from other states or other parts of New York State.  OCPL libraries are now finishing up a process, to be implemented for Central and Branches 2014, of charging $35 annually for cards requested by residents who live outside of the OCPL Library System.

 

 

 

 

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 Library users highly value the ability to request and receive items from any library. This service depends on library staff at every library who spend time each day pulling items needed elsewhere; and on the System’s sorting and delivery service.  So core system services that are synonymous with OCPL are one library card, one library catalog and delivery to 32 libraries five days a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

7Not-for-profits, government agencies, arts and social services organizations all depend on effective outreach to successfully serve individuals and our community.  They look to all of our libraries to collaborate in raising awareness and providing access.  A couple of quick examples are that libraries provide HEAP applications and tax forms; the library distributes both paper and electronic flyers and brochures from these organizations; CNY Works uses library computers to teach job skills, and libraries host programs that explain veteran benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8Another great example is the DeWitt Community Library’s Senior Fair which connects individuals with the agencies and services that they need.  And, just as importantly, individuals connect with each other. 

 

Libraries are increasingly involved in creative endeavors whether providing space for the meetings of a quilting group; teaching children to prepare a nutritious snack or repair a bike or hosting a poetry slam. The trend nationally and in Onondaga County is for libraries to meet the needs of their communities for interactive learning and creation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9Computer use rises not only because more information is available online but because so many services - particularly government services - are available only by accessing a Web site.

 

In our online world libraries do what they have always done: provide citizens with opportunity.  Those who need to learn technology skills or need access to sufficient broadband turn to libraries. Whether it is an older adult who was given a Nook for Christmas or parents who need to communicate with their children’s school through email, libraries are prepared to assist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10A critical need being addressed by libraries is one-on-one assistance to job seekers in preparing electronic resumes, setting up email accounts, uploading the resumes and completing job applications online. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

11You might be surprised to learn that librarians have a formal alliance with the Federal government to assist the nation with both the Affordable Care Act and Refugee and Immigration programs.  Librarians have spent time this summer in multiple webinars so that they will be prepared to help our residents navigate our increasingly online governments.  This is happening in city, County and State government also. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12One will be in the town of Clay; our partner is the Great Northern Mall; and the other is on the near Westside where our partner is WCNY in their new location in the former Case Supply building.

 

They will be installed within a few months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13Books and reading are at the heart of our mission. Storytime classes, programs for daycares and nursery schools, as well as classes for adult new readers are standard in our libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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17Two of our branches have GED study classes for adults, plus conversation clubs for speakers of other languages and special collections of books and DVD’s to meet specific needs. For children, there are educational computers, books, magazines and many programs that promote and improve reading.

 

In addition as noted on the slide, branches and Central collaborate with organizations such as the Zoo, the MOST, the Everson, Say Yes, WCNY and others to enrich children’s learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I’ve mentioned our role in the online world.  Branch computers, such as these at Beauchamp Branch are always busy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19Public access computers are an important element of our infrastructure. The total number of public computers in the branches is 166; in 2014, we’d like to replace 50 of the 84 that are 7 or more years old. Sally will give you more detail shortly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here are a few Branch accomplishments that were culled from hundreds of services and events that have taken place so far in 2013.

  • GED classes have expanded at White Branch - they are now hosting 3 classes per week that attract over 100 participants per month.  Beauchamp Branch has also expanded their offering of GED classes to 5 mornings per week.
  • Two automated DVD dispensers and self-checkout stations were installed at Mundy and White Branches.
  • The Branch Infrastructure Project at Hazard, Paine, Petit, Soule and White Branches was completed, resulting in energy-efficient buildings that are all now handicap accessible. 
  • An ABC Family Literacy Grant got under way at Beauchamp, Soule and Paine Branches.  Each branch received an AWE Early Literacy Station and partnered with local day care centers to provide programs using the stations to enhance story hours.
  • 81 people attended an information session for refugees at White Branch.  White Branch staff worked with SU’s Maxwell School SUPRA program to present information and discusses resources for those who are interested in obtaining U.S. Citizenship.
  • Petit, Hazard, Mundy, White and Beauchamp branches are all benefitting from Save the Rain projects that include porous pavement and rain gardens.

 

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The Central Library and Branches have many similar services, however the Central Library has some unique contributions that I would like to point out.

 

A vital contribution to our region is the expertise of the Central Library staff, supported by reference resources not duplicated elsewhere. Information and assistance is easily available. You can come into the library, call, text, do on-line chat or email.

 

23The range of materials and services offered by Local History and Genealogy is amazing. It is not just old books and microfilm. Corporations and agencies that need to make reports available to the public turn to Local History.  These documents inform citizens today while becoming part of the historical record of our community.

 

Remote patron access to Local History/Genealogy resources is also important. This year library staff added 10 unique, locally-developed databases and finding aids to the Web site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24There are approximately 2,200 persons in Onondaga County who are visually impaired or blind.  There are many thousands more who have vision loss requiring large print  and/or audio books.

 

We provide bulk loans of children’s Braille books to member libraries to help them serve their patrons with disabilities.

 

OCPL’s STAR librarian serves the community by translating documents from print to Braille for educational institutions and county agencies.

 

The library is the only place locally that people with disabilities can get free access and training on assistive computer technology.  Even agencies like CNY Works and AURORA of CNY that have the technology send people to the library for help.

 

 

 

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  • For the tenth summer, Syracuse University's Literacy Corps used materials from the Central Library's Children's World to tutor school-age children enrolled in summer school.  Literacy Corps volunteers donated their time to help students become “ready to read” in the upcoming school year.
  • Local History/Genealogy Librarians have been producing finding aids and putting them on the library website, which makes them searchable by Google.  Finding aids give our patrons and the public the ability to find resources within library collections with in-depth inventory details that most online catalogs can't provide. The newest finding aid was created for a collection of papers donated to OCPL about the War on Poverty - a 1960's era program. 
  • Central expanded its selection of reference e-books by buying Gale’s Virtual Reference Library platform (GVRL). Patrons throughout the OCPL system have unlimited, simultaneous access to the ebooks in GVRL where they can cross-search, read, download, and e-mail chapters. There is no loaning or checking out; the books are always available to be read on a computer or portable device. GVRL has ReadSpeaker technology (text-to-speech) allowing text to be read aloud to users and downloaded in MP3 format in 19 languages. On-demand translation is available in 11 languages.
  • A Central librarian presented a basic grant-seeking program the Marcellus Library; Participant feedback:  ‘very valuable’, ‘absolutely’ learned new things, ‘provided thorough explanation of the resources’, ‘wonderful handouts’, ‘great outreach’.  Grant-seeking and Nonprofit Resource Center presentations were also made to an SU proposal writing class and at a United Way staff meeting.

 

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Our planning began with community involvement and as we go forward we will continue to respond to the needs and priorities of residents, agencies, organizations, and Onondaga County government. 

 

I think you are all familiar with the goals of the Central Library renovation project. Here is a brief summary.

 

 

28Our expectation at this moment is that we will have a contract with architects, engineers and a library consultant within a month or six weeks.  The design process and construction will occur over the next 18 months, giving us a goal of completion in the spring of 2015. 

 

You will see that the 2014 Central budget does not reflect significant changes, because the new building isn’t expected to be completed until 2015.

 

Now I will turn the presentation over to Sally Carmer, who will present our budgets. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29The County Executive’s recommended 2014 budget for OCPL is $15,289,723, and includes $5,860,714 to support the operation of the Central Library; $2,393,113 for System and Member Services; $6,565,238 for the operation of the eight branches and two satellite libraries in the City of Syracuse, and an estimated $470,660 in Library Grants.

 

This budget maintains current service levels while reducing one full time position, and overall represents a 2.1% increase over current year funding. We are, however, requesting no additional local tax dollars to support the increase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30Of the combined $15.3 million budget, $9.3 million is for direct appropriations, and close to $6 million, or nearly 40% of our budget, is for overhead costs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31Supporting those costs are State Aid of $1.5 million; charges to the City of Syracuse for the operation of the branch libraries totaling $6.2 million; almost $5.3 million in local tax support; and nearly $2.3 million in other revenues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking at the Central Library, this budget shows an overall increase of $136k when compared to 2013, due to the commencement of debt service payment for the Central Library reconfiguration project in the amount of $171,063. Absent that item, our Central Library budget would actually see a decrease of $34,519.  The most notable changes to this budget are the increase in our expense for part time staff due to the increase of minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.00/hr, which adds almost $13,000 to the Central Library’s budget, and an increase of almost $44k to our Maintenance, Utilities and Rents account. That increase is due to a couple of things: an estimated $14k increase in utilities in 2014, and changes on the technology front. In order to fulfill the responsibility of the OCPL System to maintain an integrated library system, email, our website, authentication and other services, OCPL's aging servers need to be replaced and their software upgraded. OCPL is working closely with IT to plan the process of moving OCPL’s servers out of the basement of the Central Library and to IT's data center.  Such a move will provide better physical management of the equipment and easier recovery if failure occurs. The funds required for this move and the replacement of software and hardware come to about $14k.  We are also requesting an additional $9,600 to install 20 data drops on the 5th floor. This is needed to accommodate staff relocation to the 5th floor as a result of the Central Library reconfiguration project, and is critical to the success of the project. Finally, we’re requesting an additional $6,000 for security system maintenance.

 

On the revenue side, the amount of fund balance available to appropriate to offset expense has increased almost $248,000 compared to 2013.  Our requested tax levy support for the Central Library for 2014, while $146,504 higher than this year, is offset by a decrease to local dollar support in the System Services budget, resulting in a net change of zero additional tax dollars for the library overall.

 

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The 2014 System and Member Services budget will drop by almost $174k on the expense side, due primarily to interdepartmental decreases. On the direct appropriation side, we are requesting an additional $13k in our 103 account for a part time clerical position, and $16k more to support the new servers to be located in the IT data center. These are offset by an anticipated $42.5k drop in our maintenance, utilities and rents account. You may recall that last year, OCPL was forced to significantly increase our budget to accommodate an anticipated large spike in our telecommunications costs. This big jump prompted IT to rebid the countywide contract, which resulted in a new contract with a new vendor and significant savings. The impact of those savings is enabling to OCPL hold our 2014 direct appropriations to within $3,400, or .002% of our 2013 direct appropriations funding levels.

 

Coupled with shifts to our interdepartmental costs, our overall appropriations for System Services will show a decrease of $173,783 in 2014.

 

The good news continues on the revenue side, as we see a 4.9% increase to State Aid, which results in about $45,000 in additional funding. Combined with the appropriations net decrease, the additional funding enables OCPL to request $146k less in local dollars, which offsets the increase for the Central Library and results in an overall net -0- increase in County tax dollars for 2014.

 

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Moving to the Syracuse branch libraries’ budget, we will also see a decrease in appropriations in 2014, by nearly $27k. We are reducing our 101 payroll by one full time position and moving the funding to our 103 payroll, which will enable us to hire two part time Librarian Assistants, providing more flexibility in scheduling. This shift will result in a net reduction of $13,964 to our personnel expense.

 

The technology plan that Elizabeth and I mentioned earlier includes the Branches, and is reflected in an increase of $28,938 in our computer equipment account. OCPL is requesting to replace 50 of the 84 public access PCs in the branches that are more than seven years old. Fully 81% of our public PCs are six years or older, and our automation staff are finding it increasingly difficult to patch together fixes to aging and near-obsolete hardware and software. We are also requesting an increase of $67k to our maintenance, utilities and rents account to accommodate additional data drops throughout the branches as we move to the new VoIP phone system, and software to support the remote technology strategy I mentioned earlier, whereby OCPL’s servers will be relocated to IT’s data center. This additional funding, however, is offset by reductions to other direct appropriations accounts as well as interdepartmentals, resulting in an overall appropriations decrease of $26,928.

 

Additional appropriated fund balance of $82,675 on the revenue side, coupled with the reduction on the expense side, enable OCPL to reduce charges to the City of Syracuse to support the operation of the branches in 2014 by over $66,000.

 

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Finally, as with the State Aid revenue in the System and Member Services budget, we expect an increase to State-funded grants in 2014, resulting in a bump of about $14k for those grants. We are also continuing the successful effort begun with the 2013 budget to include estimated competitive grants in our 2014 budget.

 

All told, the 2014 OCPL budget continues to support services to our community that help make Onondaga County residents strong, engaged, informed, self-sufficient, healthy, entertained, and successful.

 

Chairman McMahon asked if the Mundy branch redesign would be completed in early 2014.  Mrs. Dailey responded they expect to start in January, and it will take a few months, so it will be a little bit into 2014.  Chairman McMahon requested a small memo on where they are in the project.  Chairman McMahon stated there is a fund balance item of $240,000.  Mrs. Carmer commented that is in the Syracuse Branch Library budget.  Chairman McMahon asked what it is, and if it is their own fund balance.  Mrs. Carmer responded the City pays for the operation of their branch libraries (abstract) so any funds that are unexpended in the previous year are appropriated to the next year’s budget.  This is so they are made whole, and the County is not building up a bank account.  Mr. Morgan commented that it is their fund balance not general fund balance.  Chairman McMahon stated the people in Albany do different things that affect the County, and one recent change was minimum wage.  It is costing $13,000 to this budget.  Chairman McMahon requested a number on what it is costing the entire County budget for that piece of legislation. 

 

Mrs. Daily responded to Mr. Jordan that the branch budget shows replacement of 50 public access computers, so this will leave a significant inventory to address in the 2015 budget; servers also.  It is working on infrastructure, and this year’s theme was refresh and revive.  Mr. Jordan asked if the servers are included in the 50.  Mrs. Daily responded no.  Mrs. Carmer replied to Mr. Jordan that there are 25 servers that support the system wide operations of the catalog, and the 50 PC’s in the branches are public access.  Mr. Jordan stated there was a similar increase in the books budget.  Mrs. Carmer commented that is an accounting anomaly.  In the branches budget it shows a big jump from the modified budget, but the modified is very low because of a PeopleSoft issue that has not yet been resolved with the Comptroller’s office.  Mr. Jordan asked the department to elaborate on the significant increase in the software expense.  Mrs. Carmer answered it is mainly the software for the servers, and they are looking to replace 25 servers.  They need the software to go on the new servers; does not make sense to install obsolete software in new hardware.  Technology is a big part of the shift in budget in 2014.  Mr. Jordan stated there is a significant increase in the Syracuse branch telephone budget; in a few years went from $1,400 to $18,000.  Mrs. Carmer replied this is for internet access, and it was an expense that was shifted; in the past it was charged to the Central Library system services budget.  Since the branch libraries consume some of that expense, it should be showing in their budget.  Mr. Jordan said the Syracuse branch detail for furniture went from $0 to $31,000 for the 2014 budget, and asked what type of furnishings the department is referring to.  Mrs. Carmer answered there are a couple self-checkout machines in the budget, and there is approximately a $30,000 budget in 2012 and 2013.  Mr. Jordan commented he is looking at the detail book against the Syracuse branch which shows capital equipment at $12,000 and now it is up to $30,500.  Chairman Knapp stated it would be line 692150.  Mrs. Carmer replied that it is $33,000 in 2012, $30,000 in 2013 and $30,000 in 2014.  Mr. Jordan said in the last few years it has almost tripled because in 2011 it was $12,419.  Mrs. Carmer commented they started to purchase all the machines in 2012.  They are trying to bring self-checkout technology to all the branches.  They have been adding enough to the budget to purchase two self-checkout stations.  They would like to get them to all eight branches so patrons can serve themselves.  Mr. Jordan asked if this is like a self-checkout at a grocery store.  Mrs. Daily responded yes, and even more the DVD’s are secured in it.  It can only be dispensed with a library card, so it takes staff out of double shelving and it saves on loss of materials. 

 

Chairman Knapp stated last year the internet lines were really scary, and it was touched on in the presentation so something was worked out.  Mr. Fisher commented it was done on a County wide basis.  When Bell Atlantic ripped off their consumers, they agreed to provide cheap internet service to the County, library, OCC and others.  That ended in late spring, so the County put out an RFP in conjunction with St. Joes; rather than face an 800% increase, the County is only up more than double.  It is in this year’s budget, and next year’s budget does not reflect any of the higher pricing that the County would have faced with Verizon.  The County has gone to a company called Fiber Tech.  They put in fiber connections for internet at a number of County locations as well as the library.  The County has also scaled back with some departments downgrading from a 1000 mb speed to a 100 mb, so there is still good performance and better pricing.  Mr. Fisher agreed with Chairman Knapp that it is working well. 

 

Chairman Knapp stated on page 3-180 of the budget book line 674600 there shows $30,000 for capital, and asked what it will be used for.  Mrs. Carmer responded in the past they had $300,000 in the branches provision for capital account in anticipation of paying off the bond for the branches infrastructure capital project; $270,000 was for bond/debt service and $30,000 was carried for small scale capital projects.  Examples of the small scale projects that are not big enough to be in the capital program are crumbling masonry that was a safety issue, a boiler and a woman who drove into the library so they had to replace the facade.  The library is now paying debt costs so for 2013 the $30,000 and $270,000 was separated.  Chairman Knapp asked why maintenance, utilities and rents is up $240,000 over 2012.  Mrs. Carmer answered that is mainly because that is where they budget the software.  It is related to the technology plan, and they are anticipating $14,000 in increased utilities.  Lastly the VoIP is anticipated to roll out next year which includes adding data drops to each of the libraries to accommodate the system. 

TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT:  Brian Donnelly, Commissioner; Colleen Gunnip

 

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  • Public Information Specialist:  high volume of media requests during construction and snow seasons; dealing with road conditions, what’s out for forces, how long the project will be, any delays expected
  • Someone to handle press relations and coordinate social media - started a twitter account this year to let public know when paving, when doing bridge projects - advance notice so the public knows what they are heading into
  • Stock Clerk:  not funded; have Stock Attendant out on medical leave and not sure if the individual will return
  • If the person does not return, there is another Stock Attendant on the list they could upgrade; would take on two stock clerk jobs; going from four shops to three, they will be handling two inventories in one area

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  • Special project:  funding for new combined highway facility and closing of north area in Camillus; when complete with design and have hard cost estimate, will come back to Legislature for bond authorization
  • Legislature provided funding for design of facility
  • Other special project:  improvements at Rte 31 and Caughdenoy Road in conjunction with White Pines Business Park
  • Update signal and turn lanes on all approaches so area is shovel ready for development

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  • Concern of debt service - bonded debt – $5.3 mil; year before was $3.5 – $4 mil, will be at $7.7 in 2014
  • Outside of new facility, with no highway debt, the debt service would still climb and top out $10.5 - $11 mil
  • 2013 CIP – looking at high paving mileages which would have sent debt service to $15 - $17 mil range
  • 2014-2019 CIP – $6.8 mil in highway bonding in each of next three years; will reduce in ‘17, ‘18, ‘19
  • Hope to be in better cash position, better cash infusion as opposed to debt service
  • Following plan and new facility - debt will climb to peak of $11.9 mil in 2017, then start reducing
  • Still heavy impact on operating budget but will get to debt service not consuming operating budget at higher rate

 

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  • Paving dollars looked at based on a private company that comes in to rate the roads – variety of scoring but most important is the Surface Distress Index which tells the ride-ability and cracking on the surface of the road
  • Generally go worst first but moving forward won’t go to worst first; want to look at as a whole:  what is the current condition of the road; how well is the road utilized; what is the average daily traffic on the road; how does it factor into the system as a whole; what is it connecting (major with a lot of traffic or isolated instance of travel)
  • Won’t ignore the isolated roads but those most traveled will be emphasized

 

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  • Biggest item and dollar is vehicle #3 wrecker truck (commercial industrial) – was previously cut from budget; 1990
  • Very expensive which is why there is only one snow plow
  • Used to tow 10 wheel dump trucks that break down on road; used to pull trucks back on road during snow season
  • Have been asked about private vendors previously:  there are private vendors but rates vary and charges are based on severity; per instance charge of $300 to over $1,000 with an est. annual cost of $30,000 - $40,000; single biggest challenge is calls are handled in order so instead of getting plow back on road immediately, could take 5 - 6 hrs

 

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Mr. Donnelly’s responses to Mr. Jordan’s questions:

  • Fees for services in 2011 $7,400 up to $46,000 in 2014 – starting training program; $25,000 in budget to address having outside company who specialize in training of heavy equipment; challenge is training younger individuals
  • A lot of CDL drivers but no plow experience; make sure evaluated and put in positions the individual is best suited for
  • Meal expenses in 2011 $0, $53,000 this year and $49,000 in 2014 – have meal claims every year

Mr. Morgan commented there was a shift between the two lines of program travel and meal expenses.

 

Mr. Donnelly’s response to Mr. Jordan’s question regarding the improvements to Bear and Allen:

  • Nat Grid called this morning and will be finishing their utility relocation this week; road reconstruction will start Saturday or next week

Mr. Holmquist stated throughout the year he hears feedback from a variety of sources and local governments, and consistently they say that Mr. Donnelly and the department are doing a fantastic job.  Even if there is bad news to report, Mr. Donnelly is responsive, and a straight shooter who is direct and fair.  Mr. Donnelly appreciates that, and commented that it is a credit to the department. 

 

Mr. Holmquist stated the trash pickup was stunning when the President came, and it is a shame that it is not part of a normal day to day.  The tax payers deserve the same respect so it would be nice to see a more collaborative effort.  Mr. Donnelly responded that the state has changed some of their paving methodology to a preservation approach.  There was more activity on the state highway system then Mr. Donnelly has seen in years.  The state used to have programs in place to better maintain the highways, but their funding has reduced and gone away.  It is challenging to close off lanes and dangerous to make work zones acceptable for trash pickup so DOT is trying to coordinate with the state during their projects.  Mr. Holmquist stated in recent years the Legislature has had an emphasis on road paving as it is one of the biggest complaints they get.  Mr. Holmquist thinks the plan presented is innovative but is DOT doing this because of the pressures with debt service.  Mr. Holmquist also asked if the Legislature gave DOT more money, would this plan continue.  Mr. Donnelly responded the projected debt service is driving this.  It is fiscally responsible and of sound highway principle as far as maintaining the roads.  It is not as much as they have been doing (depth of asphalt), but it does take care of the primary concern which is water penetrations into the top which will ultimately erode the base and sub-base.  The driver is the debt service and the need for a new facility.  Mr. Donnelly has two businesses which are road/bridge maintenance and snowplowing.  They are both important but the snowplowing is more dominant with safety.  The concern is if debt service becomes a larger percentage of the operating budget, then there will be pressures to trim the budget.  Will that trimming occur in personnel?  Mr. Donnelly stated there will always be more need in the highway system then there is available funding to do it, and Mr. Donnelly is not looking to cause more of a debt burden moving forward if they were to pave more miles.  Mr. Holmquist stated a few years ago they were behind on paving pretty significantly.  Mr. Donnelly responded:

  • Hard to say the County was behind; dept. talked about model based on size of highway system, and what it is treated between hot/cold mix
  • Ideal world – if never wanted to do full depth reconstruction ever again, would have to do 40 miles of hot mix paving and 19 miles of cold mix; make sure highways in pristine condition going forward
  • That would be $22 mil investment annually just in pavement; no bridges or guiderail
  • Reality - never paved that much; provides perspective; County last 30 years achieved that goal once at the expense of everything else; no federal work, bridge work or repair to highway system – couldn’t find enough vendors for work
  • Can’t fund at that level; empirical model but not an attainable model

Mr. Holmquist asked if there are any occasions to justify going back to 3” and 4”, or is this forever gone.  Mr. Donnelly responded the preservation is a good model to stretch limited dollars, and if money was no object, they would be doing 3” hot mix and 4” cold mix (will have a longer life span).  What is this life span going to be?  It is difficult to tell.  It will be reduced but if they are keeping good roads in shape, then they should stay on a good trajectory. 

 

Mr. May stated Mr. Donnelly made good points on the wrecker that is 23 years old, but the concern is that they are not buying plow trucks.  What position does Mr. Donnelly forecast this putting the County into for 2015?  Mr. Donnelly responded:

  • If didn’t think the dept. could handle, wouldn’t recommend; fleet is old and average dump truck is about 9 years old
  • Replacement cycle approx. 3 - 4 trucks/year; last year able to get 4 with fund balance
  • Question of priorities; cost of steel has skyrocketed since 2008 when getting plows for $150,000-$160,000, and now single wing plows are $210,000 - $220,000; double wing or AWD at $280,000
  • Back in 1999/2000 – large infusion of funding for vehicles; DOT bought 10-13 dump trucks which was great, but they all go south at same time; mechanics do great job keeping fleet together; replace vs repair; wrecker is priority

Mr. Jordan stated DOT did not spray as much salt years ago as they do today.  The salt eats away at the steel of the trucks, as well as people’s cars, and it impacts the life expectancy of the roads.  Mr. Jordan wondered if DOT could reduce the salt consumption.  Mr. Donnelly replied they are judicious when it comes to salt.  Each vehicle is equipped with a spreader control unit which allows them to dial in the pounds per mile that is put down, so it is not constantly spraying at stop lights.  The average rate is about 350 pounds per lane mile.  It is difficult to ascertain but a lot of towns are 700 – 800 pounds per lane mile so the County is considerably less than the towns and villages.  That is not a criticism as the County has more traffic on their roads which helps with getting the salt to work.  Towns have to put the salt down heavy because they are not seeing a lot of traffic on the road.  There is always room for improvement, and every truck purchased now has brine tanks on the side of the truck.  The tank pre-wets the salt with saline brine before it hits the ground, and this allows DOT to dial back approximately 20 – 70 pounds per lane mile.  The salt is active as soon as it hits the ground, and because it is wet, it reduces the scatter.  DOT is also trying to use brine for anti-icing to also reduce the amount.  Mr. Jordan commented the thruway has grooved lanes all the way down, and asked if that would have any longevity.  Mr. Donnelly answered that the state thruway authority has been experimenting with this, and did the road with concrete versus asphalt.  Concrete roads are standard in less severe climates in the country.  The theory is that it is a 50 year road using concrete rather than asphalt, but it is at 5 or 6 times the cost of asphalt.  The grooves are put into the concrete to provide more friction.  This is done with the County bridge decks.  It is an experiment of the thruway authority and was wildly expensive.  If it proves out, then it is something to look at going forward.  The problem is that concrete will suffer from the salt, and it still has maintenance with pot holes and patching.  It remains to be seen as a good method.

 

Mr. May asked if the budget reflects one hundred percent participation from the towns with the plowing agreement.  Mr. Donnelly responded all 19 towns are participating.  Mr. Donnelly replied to Mr. May that the agreement was accepted by all the towns for five years as opposed to three years.  Chairman Knapp congratulated Mr. Donnelly on having all the towns participating. 

 

Chairman Knapp asked if the DOT does one person plowing on all the routes.  Mr. Donnelly answered that it is about half the routes.  They do not do it during rush hour, but will during an overnight on any route.  During the day they will not do it on multilane roads, areas where there are turning lanes or high volumes.  There are a lot of one person routes in Jamesville and Marcellus, and the least number in the north area covering the more highly populated suburbs.  There is one full time shift, and the rushes in the morning and evening are covered with overtime.  The overnight hours are covered with four trucks per section, and they generally will go out one person.  If conditions are bad or visibility is tough, they will call in someone to ride with them. 

 

Chairman Knapp asked if the state was helping with the White Pines project.  Mr. Donnelly stated it is an intersection of a state and county road, and being a County project, the County will take care of it.  Basically DOT will be widening the lanes, adding turn lanes and updating the signal.  Mr. Donnelly responded to Chairman Knapp that there will be turn lanes in both directions of 31 and Caughdenoy Road. 

 

The meeting was adjourned at 2:57 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

  

Jamie M. McNamara, Assistant Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

 
 
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