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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

 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION COMMITTEE MINUTES - DECEMBER 9, 2015

MICHAEL E. PLOCHOCKI, CHAIRMAN

 

Members Present:  Dr. Chase, Mr. Shepard, Mr. Burtis, Mrs. Rapp

Also Attending:  Chairman McMahon, Mrs. Tassone and see attached list

 

Chair Plochocki called the meeting to order at 9:10 A.M.  A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mr. Shepard, to waive the reading of the proceedings from the previous committee minutes.  MOTION CARRIED.  A motion was made by Mrs. Rapp, seconded by Mr. Shepard, to approve the minutes of the proceedings of the previous committee.  MOTION CARRIED. 

 

1.     OFFICE OF THE ENVIRONMENTTravis Glazier, Director; Michael Jones, SUNY ESF graduate student; Mark Burger, Executive Director, Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District (OCSWCD) Soil and Water Conservation District

        a.     INFORMATIONAL:  A Resolution Authorizing the Onondaga Ash Tree Management Program, in and for the County of Onondaga, New York, at a Maximum Estimated Cost of $1,019,000, and Authorizing the Issuance of $1,019,000 Bonds of Said County to Pay Costs Thereof ($1,019,000)

Chair Plochocki:

  • Emerald ash borer (EAB) started in Midwest, has progressed to Onondaga County
  • Estimate local ash trees will be gone within 10 years - 20% of entire canopy population
  • Over past 5 years have debated how to address the problem; 2012-2014 inventoried ash trees in drop zones – totaled 46,000, 10-year plan proposed by Mr. Coburn in 2014 - $15 million for entire plan; debated borrowing funds for entire plan, ultimately allotted $350,000 for year one
  • Now debating year two

 

Mr. Glazier:

  • Distributed information packets (On file with Clerk)
  • Introduced Michael Jones, SUNY ESF graduate student - will address biological control and Mark Burger, OCSWCD – administers funds on behave of the Office of Environment, a vital partner
  • Predecessor provided great plan, now following his lead; have great partners with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), SUNY ESF and OCSWCD
  • 46,128 trees identified in right-of-way/drop zones – plan calls for 95% removal, 10% planting of non-host trees, and 5% inoculation

Chair Plochocki said that the plan was included with the agenda packet.  The tree points mentioned by Mr. Glazier are over a ten-year period.

 

  • 95%, 10% and 5% are the essential numbers with implementation on a year-to-year basis; some adjustment in the past year as inoculations must be done early and they had limited funds for removal of targeted trees
  • $350,000 previously allocated was administered over the summer; seasonal schedule – summer through fall tree cutting, spring planting, summer inoculation
  • Inoculation long-term strategy - proposed 2,300 to maintain ecology and esthetics
  • Size dictates amount inoculated - cost $5 per injection, per diameter inch, don’t inoculated tress less than 12 inches or greater than 36 inches
  • Majority of trees treated thus are far located in Onondaga Lake Park, some in Rosamond Gifford Zoo, NBT Stadium and Highland Forest has 1 – major eyesight trees chosen by OCSWCD, working with Parks to maintain canopy

Mr. Glazier asked Mr. Jones to address the following handout:

Emerald Ash Borer Hand Out

Chair Plochocki asked if biological control was a potential alternative to inoculation.  Mr. Jones said that it was another aspect of the overall management of the EAB.  It does not replace anything.

 

Mr. Jones:

  • Bio controls are an intensive scientific process
  • EAB came from China and East Asia, look for native natural predators, select those specific to EAB, bring them to North American research labs, test against native species and EAB, if specific to EAB they are viable for release
  • Function to control EAB population in high density areas – don’t establish at low density; knocks population down with theory of damage mitigation, slows tree death rate and rate of EAB spread to new areas 

Chair Plochocki asked if the parasitoids had been released in other areas.  Mr. Jones said that they were released in 22 states throughout the infested area, west to Colorado, south to Louisiana and most of the northeast. 

 

  • EAB moving rapidly
  • More parasitoids released in NYS than any other state for research

 

Mrs. Rapp asked how well this was working.  Mr. Jones said that the Tetrastichus planipennisi is establishing well and they have tracked it following the density of the EAB.  In answer to Mrs. Rapp, Mr. Jones confirmed that the EAB was a food source. 

  • EAB larva feeds under bark of the tree in cambium tissue, where tree transports nutrients, starves the tree; larva produces 100’s to 1,000’s of beetles
  • Parasitoids highly specific to EAB, females able to detect ash trees with larva, drills through bark, stabs larva and lays eggs, eggs catch and consume larva

Mrs. Rapp asked if this would save the tree.  Mr. Jones said not really, because the beetle was already in the tree causing damage.  The parasitoid females can deposit multiple times, e.g. Tetrastichus can lay up to 25 eggs per larva, and new parasitoids emerge to find new hosts, knocking down overall population of the EAB.  

 

Dr. Chase asked if they could cause other kinds of damage.  Mr. Jones said that they have never seen the Tetrastichus on any other wood borrowing insects native to North America.  In a lab setting, they have seen the Spathius go after the Goldspotted oak borer (GSOB) but the GSOB is acting as an invasive species in California.  There is a risk of the parasitoids jumping to native hosts but this is doubtful, as so many EAB are available.

 

Chair Plochocki said that he assumes California tested the species used against its native species before releasing it.  Mr. Jones said, “Yes”, adding that California has not used bio control.  The GSOB is the west coast equivalent to the EAB.  It was native to Arizona and moved on firewood into California; same way EAB has spread.  Theorize EAB entered the US via wood shipping material from China into Michigan and Canada.

 

Chair Plochocki said that even with testing sometimes scientist get things wrong, which could upset the ecological balance.  Mr. Jones said that this a was valid argument.  The gypsy moth is an example of a failed biological control that happened long ago when they did not understand the processes - simply released predators from Europe into the North American forest, which did everything but go after the gypsy moth.  The process is now very extensive - discovered the EAB in North America in 2002 and spent five years testing hosts in labs to ensure parasitoids will not jump to native species before releasing but they cannot be 100% certain.  However, they are so coevolved with EAB that it will be their preferred host and there will be plenty of it on the landscape for the foreseeable future.  Once the EAB population dies down the parasitoid population will also die down.  He is confident that EAB biological control is one of the key success stories for biological control.

 

Mrs. Rapp asked if the hope was to keep the EAB from spreading.  Mr. Jones said that this would not stop the beetle.  It will suppress the population, allowing more time to remove hazardous trees and treat high value trees.  It is part of an integrated pest management technique.  Once established, bio control is self-sustaining and more cost effective than inoculation but it is not a replacement.  May only need to treat a tree once or twice instead of the lifespan of the tree.

 

Mr. Glazier:

  • Many question why save some trees if all will die anyway - the integrated pest management approach provides opportunity for thriving ash population again someday, vital for local ecology to have healthy trees maintained to reproduce and help repopulate
  • Currently have glut of ash trees and EAB, once population of ash trees decrease, EAB will decrease; ability to maintain thriving ash tree population will depend on diversity of control measures

 

For the record, Chair Plochocki said that he was playing devil’s advocate and wanted to address legislator’s concerns.  He asked how each would respond to the fact that this predator exists in nature and maybe the population needs to be reduced to those that can survive, why spend taxpayer money on this.  Mr. Glazier said that if they took this approach with invasive species across the board the community, population and ecology would be much different.  Invasive species are not a natural occurrence.  They are able to thrive because there are no predators.  Establishing a predator and making it part of the ecology is something they can strive for, as total removal is not a realistic goal.  Consider what waterways and fisheries would be like if they allowed gobies and flying carp to run ramped.  

 

Chair Plochocki said that the plan calls for inoculation of roughly 2,300 trees.  Members of the caucus have suggested reducing that number to ten or fifteen percent, roughly 250-500 trees and those trees would be specifically saved for canopy while new trees grow – why go beyond this.  Mr. Glazier said that over the last year they expended $22,500 for inoculation of 192 trees.  From a high-level policy amount of allocation, they are discussing essentially the same amount following the 95%, 10%, 5% model.  Out of $1,019,000 dollars, they are talking about $20,000 to have something in the plan that offers hope for repopulation. 

 

Mrs. Rapp asked if they believed the EAB would not come back and eat the new trees.  Mr. Glazier said that there is a population spike and as the population of trees decreases, the EAB population will decrease and continue to move its way from east to west in search of greener pastures.  All replanting’s are non-host trees.  CCE will collect seeds from healthy ash trees in an effort to repopulate the ash tree.

 

Mr. Glazier asked Mr. Burger to discuss the inoculations.

 

Proposed Tree Removals

 

Mr. Burger:

  • Inoculation targets specific high function locations to avoid changing dynamics of the park, e.g. Onondaga Lake Park, Willow Bay-Saw Mill Creek area, Oneida Shores camping area, and Pratt’s Falls
  • Some grant funds available specifically for inoculation; waiting to hear on $153,375 grant for cuts and pesticide applications

 

Chair Plochocki questioned if the grants were specific to inoculation.  Mr. Burger said that they have chased down grants of various amounts; waiting to hear on $153,000 grant for cutting, replanting and injection.  Part of the grant would go to injection.  As Mr. Glazier stated, injections are a rounding error in terms of the entire project - the real money is in the cuts. 

  • 191 trees/4,488”’s of injection completed in 2015 – primarily in Onondaga Lake Park for high function/value trees; put money towards best use
  • Injections buy time, currently can go 3 years, research suggests 5 years; County teamed with Rainbow Treecare for research, injected 27 large diameter trees at no cost to County
  • Things change with time, would be short sighted to cut all trees

 

Chair Plochocki asked if the specific numbers were correct, as some find it hard to believe that there are 2,300 high-value trees.  Mr. Burger said that it might be 2,000 trees as they developed these numbers three years ago and are now racing the bug. 

Inverse Relationship Graph

 

Mr. Burger said that they are currently between six and seven years.  Once they reach the steep part of the curve many trees will die.  Oneida Shores is the focus for 2016, as they were not injected in 2015.  They need to remember that the treatment option will be off the table at some point - trees will become too heavily infested.  Currently a tree in 40% decline can be brought back to continue to provide its high function and value. 

 

Chair Plochocki said that some legislators believe 500 trees would save the high-value trees and asked for general examples of the consequences, e.g. 500 trees could save Onondaga Lake Park, jumping to 1,000 saves Oneida Shores.  Mr. Burger said that the number would be the number.  Beaver Lake would like to save every ash tree but had to choose areas where the trees are providing high function value.  Onondaga Lake Park is the best example.  One can walk through the park and count hundreds of trees marked for injection.  It will ultimately come down to blending a balance of what the legislature and Park’s department are looking for; 2,300 was a reasonable target for the money. 

 

In answer to Chairman McMahon, Mr. Burger said that half of trees to be cut are in county road right-of-ways.  The other majority are located in various parks across the region.  Highland Forest will have many but they are trying to factor them into timber sales, a potential revenue generating opportunity.  Critical infrastructure, such as pump stations and treatment plants, will be high on the list but the largest percentage is parks and right-of-ways.

 

Chairman McMahon asked the length of time before inoculation was no longer an option.  Adding that the legislature never adopted the plan as policy.  They have been working on this piecemeal and allotted $350,000 last year.  The inoculation number used in the plan is creating anxiety and does not seem possible based on the curve and the yearly allocation allotted for inoculation.  If in year three this is no longer an option, why talk about it.  Mr. Glazier said that this has a lot to do with the spread of the EAB.  Traps in Onondaga Lake were just found with EAB therefore, it was good that they performed inoculations in that area over the summer.  The spread is happening and beginning to hit the Town of Clay where one will hear about this from a residential aspect.  This is a 10-year plan with inoculation implemented in high-risk areas once populations are positive.  The spread is not universal around the Count but is located in particular pockets and growing.  Field researchers, OCSWCD and the Office of Environment work together to determine where inoculations will occur.  The expenditures are also done using the 95% removal, 10%, replanting and 5% inoculation model.  Due to limited funding over the past year and a vital need for inoculation, they performed 1.2% of the overall need for removal and 8.3% of inoculation.  They were trying to be proactive and protect trees in Onondaga Lake Park for that year.  Chairman McMahon said that if they inoculated another 400 over the next two year, and then could not do any more, the number would not make any difference.

 

Chair Plochocki said that Chairman McMahon was outlining one scenario but Mr. Glazier was saying that they would spend a higher portion of the allocated funds for inoculation in the early years to save 2,300 trees.  Mr. Glazier agreed, adding that if they were allocated $1,019,000 last year, the inoculations would have been more than 10%.  Chair Plochocki said that if the legislature allotted all the requested funds for 2016, without restriction, they would likely do many more than 191 inoculations.  Mr. Glazier said that if they receive the matching funding, they would help to offset things.  They are behind in cuttings.   

 

Chairman McMahon said that there is a time limit for using the proactive measure.  Mr. Burger agreed, adding that the number of injections would be based on available funds and priority.  As they move further up the curve, the treatment options substantially reduce.  If they want to save strategic trees, they need to inoculate in 2016-2018 and then keep the maintenance cycle in place for every third year.

 

Chairman McMahon asked where the grants came from.  Mr. Burger said that they were federal funds received from Finger Lakes PRISM.  Mr. Glazier said that between the Ash Tree Management Plan and the efforts of OCSWCD, they are a leader for communities throughout NYS on this issue and it has been reflected in their funding awards.  They are proactively addressing the bug as a community and OCSWCD has done great work.  Mr. Burger said that the DEC is supporting tree planting with $25,000 grants.  Currently they have covered roughly 14% of the work completed in the County over the last three years.  Mr. Glazier noted that they are working with WEP and Save the Rain for non-host trees to ensure plantings do not conflict with one another.

 

Chairman Plochocki asked for thoughts on a compromise to modify the plan to provide funding for inoculation of 500 trees, anything beyond 500 would need grant funds.  Mr. Glazier said that this was grasping at a small part of the overall plan.  Decreasing the number does not serve the community or the ecology and puts them in a bad position.  Maintaining the strategy as proposed is quite conservative.  Five percent of 46,000 trees is a wise investment to ensure that someday they can repopulate and have a healthy ash tree population.  In addition, they would need more funds for removal if they reduced the inoculation number.

 

Chairman Plochocki asked if removal costs were comparable.  They have been working under the assumption that inoculation would be much more expensive in the long-term, as it needs repeating.  Mr. Burger said that currently inoculation is cheaper.  A few years ago, Maxwell students surveyed all affected communities in the Midwest and each of the 18 states said to use injections to buy time and manage costs over a longer period.  They are recommending this to homeowners also.  Cutting costs for a zero to six-inch tree is $121; injection cost would be $30.  Chairman Plochocki said that the injection would need repeating in 3 years.  Mr. Jones said that the cost of injection would decrease over time due to competition.  Mr. Glazier said that they are also experimenting on items with greater longevity.

 

Chairman McMahon asked what they intended to do with the funds requested.  Mr. Glazier:

  • Reviewed handout (see page 4)
  • Proposing $22,500 for injection - may be partially offset by grant; number of inches and trees varies depending on size of targeted tree

 

Chair Plochocki said that by year-end only about 400 trees would be inoculated.  They are fighting about small amounts of money that are not here yet and even if the legislature said that they could only inoculate 500 trees, it would change their plan for this year.  Mr. Glazier agreed, adding that if they removed the inoculations they would only end up saving about $15,000, as cuttings would increase.

 

Mr. Burger:

  • To save money worked with County DOT for position change on stump grinding – only grind stumps absolutely necessary on highway right-of-ways
  • Town of Dewitt project contains 325 trees, only 6 stumps are being ground; cost $115 for 7” to 12” stump, $165 for 13” to 18” stump

Chairman McMahon suggested that they address the stump grinding savings to the plan, showing the reduction.  Because time is not on their side, they would spend the money from the efficacies to do more but this is not what scares people.  If a person had an ash tree fall in their back yard or on their house, they would completely understand why the government was spending this money.  However, $15 million is a very scary number and it will be difficult for the majority of constituents to grasp the problem.  

Mr. Glazier:

  • Plan calls for annual reapproach from Office of Environment - yearly funding bonding resolution; recognized as fluid issue with new developments over time
  • Insecurity of year to year allocation amounts puts partners at OCSWCD in difficult position – subsidize staffing via large purchaser of service; years with no funding would hurt partners and the market, many are small businesses working within a small margin, would go out of business; wants legislature to consider annual amount with Office of Environment reporting yearly - stabilizes issue, drives down cost for constituents

 

Chairman McMahon asked why the county, towns and city did contract for the service as one to get more buying power.  Mr. Burger said that the Town of Dewitt and Marcellus already contract with OCSWCD for injections and the city is years ahead of the county in their efforts.  Much of OCSWCD’s work is gas and break – they pay off the projects that they do because they are on soft money.  He is acting like a private consulting firm – bids work and secures the effort so that if they are not doing ash tree work they can do inventory work for Town of Clay or whomever else calls.  However, if they are doing $1,019,000 worth of work for the County, they need to let Clay go elsewhere for their services.  A little bit of information was good for OCSWCD, so that he was not laying people off that are a hot commodity to go elsewhere.

 

Mr. Glazier:

  • Knows legislators have concerns regarding plan and funding – is open to recommendations
  • Inoculation has value; changing number inoculated will not change the dynamics of the problem to make it more palatable
  • Need to jointly create funding security to address the issue

Chair Plochocki asked if there was anything they could do, short of adopting a plan, to create more funding security.  Mrs. Rapp asked if they could legally bind future legislators to specific dollar amounts.  Chairman McMahon said that they could not but they were asking to bond for the full amount, which would then allow them to implement the plan over the years.  This was part of the shell shock.  Once one is in this type of business, they are in it until there is a solution therefor, that provides the security.

 

Mrs. Rapp suggested a build and measure approach, adding that it seems like they should be frontloading inoculation even more than they are.  Chairman McMahon said that part of the reason they did not go for bonding the full amount was that things change over a ten-year period.

 

Chairman McMahon said that some areas of the county have not been hit.  Mr. Jones said that it was just a matter of time.  Chairman McMahon said that they do not know when.  Mr. Glazier said that different areas of the county are at different points on the year scale (See page 5) but the County as a whole is between year 6 and 7.  Chair Plochocki said that if they want to change the curve, biological control might slow the process down.

 

Mr. Burger:

  • One of every 9 trees in the County is Ash – largely in areas north of the thruway
  • Female beetles produce 90-200 eggs, some with 2 reproduction cycles a year – are racing against the population

 

Mr. Burtis asked if biological control was part of the plan.  Mr. Glazier said that the county was not currently engaging in release practices however, some were released in the Town of Dewitt.  Mr. Jones said that it was federally funded and was primarily a research objective.  They are essentially releasing at no cost to the county or the state; funded by federal tax dollars.  Mr. Glazier said that the limiting factor is obtaining the baby parasitoids to begin the colony, which are in high demand.  Mr. Jones said that one lab in Michigan rears all parasitoids used. 

 

Mr. Burtis said that the parasitoids were not immediate and would need to grow.  Mr. Jones said that the lab uses 6 inch round ash material called bolt.  They infest the cut bolts with EAB, then introduces parasitoids, parasitoids deposit and develop.  When the parasitoids are ready to emerge from the bolts they are set in the field, emerge as adults, and presumably find new infestations in the immediate vicinity.  They have multiple generations; could release 200 and presumably have 2,000 by the end of the season.  They establish well so the numbers should dynamically improve.  After a few years in the infested stand, they should start to disperse 

 

Dr. Chase asked if the parasitoids were placed on roadsides or in forested areas.  Mr. Jones said that they need a forested area, as they need many hosts to establish well - currently using Ley Creek area, near 298 and Carrier Circle.  To date, Carrier Circle has the majority of morality due to infestation.  In answer to Mr. Burtis, Mr. Jones said that they chose this area over others, such as Onondaga Lake Park, as there were not enough hosts for establishment.

 

Mrs. Rapp asked if they could start rearing the parasitoids here.  Mr. Jones said that they are a lot of work and they have a resource that will send as many as they would like at no cost.  Mrs. Rapp said that there would be no reason to rear them as long as there was enough supply.  

 

The committee viewed bottles containing various parasitoid samples.  Mr. Glazier explained that parasitoids have been referred to as wasps but are not.  They are very tiny and do not sting.  Mr. Burger reiterated that injection buys them time for new technology and treatment, which is what Mr. Jones is bringing forward, three years after the plan has evolved.

 

Mrs. Rapp said that it seems as if they could complete all 2,300 inoculations for $500,000.  Mr. Burger said that it would be even less.  Mr. Glazier reiterated that inoculation was a balance.  They are not inoculating in places where trees are not being threatened.  They are monitoring the spread on a year-to-year basis countywide.  Mr. Burger said that a balanced approach is the best approach moving forward.  They need to keep up with dead trees, inject trees for preservation and get planting underway for canopy reestablishment.

 

Mr. Glazier said that the EAB was very close to entering the Town of Clay and once it does, they will hear a lot about it.  One in nine trees are ash but they are not peppered out, big forests of ash will become bare.  Many of these trees will be expensive residential problems - $1,000 to remove one tree from his yard in Clay.  People are going to make a lot of noise once they have to start dealing with this. 

 

In answer to Mr. Burtis, Mr. Glazier said that the $96,360 for OCSWCD labor was actually administrative costs.  Labor costs for cutting and stump grinding are included in those costs.

 

Mr. Burger:

  • Everything projected from the Midwest is happening in the Town of Dewitt - trees starting to fall on houses, large branches coming down on structures
  • Cannot emphasize enough public needs to be involved – must start dealing with their own trees, price of tree removal triples once tree dies

Mr. Glazier:

  • Leveraging resources with County DOT tree crews and WEP to remove any ash trees in their mix

 

Mrs. Rapp asked if they were working with National Grid.  Mr. Glazier said that National Grid had their own plan and was proactively dealing with this via their tree removal.  Mrs. Rapp said that everyone needs to be working in concert.  Mr. Burger said that County bid packets and expectations for the work were modeled after National Grid. 

Mr. Burtis asked if ash trees have timber value.  Chair Plochocki said that these ash trees do not because companies want pure growth stands.  Mr. Burger:

  • Trees haven’t had value - for Dewitt cut notified area sawmills and encouraged them to team up with tree companies to see if there is any marketable material
  • Onondaga Lake Park will be best example to try and match sawmills and tree companies
  • Onondaga County has a restricted zone, special permit and approval needed to ship logs outside of restricted zone; targeting B&B Lumber as they are inside the restricted zone, Mr. Glazier and Mr. Harris meeting with city locals who make novelty products from ash material, efforts are continuous, just need industry to catchup

Mrs. Rapp asked if anyone pursued collaborating with ESF to use the ash for their biofuel boiler.  Mr. Glazier said that he was not aware of this.  Mrs. Rapp said that it seems as if there would be an endless supply of material.  Mr. Burger said that currently the material was going for mulch and firewood but if they can keep pushing the envelope to get someone to pay something for the material they could presumably lower the tree contractor costs to make the money go farther. 

Mr. Glazier said that currently contractors are responsible for disposal and removal.  The current restricted area was recently expanded by the DEC – simply stated wood cannot be transported outside the area, which is intended to decrease the spread.

 

Syracuse EAB Quarantine Boundary Map

 

In answer to Mrs. Rapp, Mr. Glazier said that the circle was the restricted area.  Mr. Jones said that the circle was the known extent of the infestation with a five-mile buffer.  The dotted black line was the quarantine. 

 

Chair Plochocki said that he found the biological information very interesting.  He noted that he had asked many devil’s advocate questions but one of the strongest arguments is bio diversity, as they do not know that the trees will survive.  The EAB is not simply culling the herd, from what has happened in the Midwest, it is more like extinction. 

 

The meeting adjourned 10:35 A.M.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Katherine French

KATHERINE M. FRENCH, Deputy Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

Attendance

 

* * *

COUNTY FACILITIES COMMITTEE MINUTES - DECEMBER 9, 2015

JUDITH A. TASSONE, CHAIR

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Dougherty, Mrs. Rapp, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Shepard

ALSO ATTENDING:  See attached list

 

Chair Tassone called the meeting to order at 10:42 a.m.  A motion was made by Mr. Dougherty, seconded by Mrs. Rapp to waive the reading and approve of the minutes of the proceedings of the previous committee meeting; MOTION CARRIED.

 

1.     PARKS AND RECREATION:  Bill Lansley, Commissioner

        a.     INFORMATIONAL:  A Resolution Authorizing Improvements to Various Parks and Recreation Areas, in and for the County of Onondaga, New York, at a Maximum Estimated Cost of $3,521,000, and Authorizing the Issuance of $3,521,000 Bonds of Said County to Pay Costs Thereof ($3,521,000)

 

  • $3.521 million; general improvements to Parks
  • Highland Forest – popular spot for rentals in CNY (weddings, skiing, snowshoeing)
  • In winter time, people parking along roads and entryway; 8 yrs ago when program started, it was crawling
  • Last year the skiing and snowshoe program brought in over $230,000; winter program has exploded
  • Want to add an additional 90 spots and parking lights; people leaving at night with no lights for parking lot; looking at towers with solar lights
  • Longbranch Park – one of the busiest properties as far as summer schedule; i.e. Antique Fest and Bavarian Fest; facilities are dated:  restrooms, shelters, parking lot; everything in need of improvement
  • Would like to expand parking lot to double its size; have large scale entertainment events, and people parking beyond means of parking lot; use grass, but if it has rained, it will be muddy
  • Shelters are dated – would like to do a study to see what is optimal use
  • Restrooms in the office are in rough shape
  • Onondaga Lake Park – concession stand building near rowing houses; has been closed for 8-10 years since Griffin Visitors Center opened
  • Would like to convert concession stand building into rentable space - interior needs complete renovation and deck needs to be rebuilt; very close to parking; vendors come in and set up, but never panned out to be long term concession
  • Park roads, parking areas and trail paving constant projects that need to be kept up on; deteriorate quickly
  • Salt Museum in need of complete envelope renovation - roof, windows dated, siding bad and entryway bad with tree roots coming through;
  • Salt Museum is open on weekends in summertime; do tours via reservation (school groups)
  • Historic value is there, and it’s a historic building; does not have another use

Mr. Dougherty stated it is a lot of money ($600,000) for something only open for the weekends.  Mr. Lansley responded that it is a valuable piece of history.  Mrs. Rapp requested attendance records, and Mr. Lansley replied that he will forward them.  Mr. Lansley said it is a key focal point in Onondaga Lake Park (OLP). 

 

Mr. Lansley:

  • Projects:  Highland Forest community restrooms, community shelter, Skyline Lodge (need of replacement in a couple camps), overlook restroom at Jamesville Beach; Pratts Falls Tractor Bay (maintenance building); OLP willow bay restroom (one shelter has historic features, will keep as is); half of administrative building roof; Beaver Lake Visitor Center roof in need of repair; Rosamond Gifford cafeteria; Salt Museum
  • Veterans Cemetery – expanded an acre this year; did master plan; need to build additional roads into facility to get beyond new plots; 2 small roadways; moving forward will need another building for upkeep; currently only one garage

Mr. Dougherty responded to Chair Tassone that the Salt Museum is 82 years old.  Chair Tassone asked if it would be easier to knock it down, and build something new.  Mr. Lansley said they could, but he would ask the committee to invest in a trip to come see and review the history.  Parks sees the value in the history of the lake, and how Syracuse grew with the canal and salt industry.  Having a place to tell the story is a value.  It is a historic building that was renovated, but was previously used for the heat reduction of salt production. 

 

Mr. Shepard asked if there are funds remaining from previous projects.  Mr. Lansley replied yes; the funds are allocated to projects Parks is finishing up.  Mr. Shepard asked for a ballpark figure.  Mr. Stevenson responded everything breaks down differently.  Currently they are finishing up at Beaver Lake, and continuing to work on the loop of the lake.  Mr. Stevenson stated the dollars are allocated.  Mr. Lansley will get the number for Mr. Shepard.  Mr. Lansley responded to Mr. Ryan that the money is already bonded for and allocated to projects they are continuing to finish.  There is a trail expansion for the loop of the lake project (design work), and still finishing up redoing the exterior siding, windows and doors at Beaver Lake.  That money was allocated to specific projects being finished.  Mr. Dougherty asked when these projects will be finished, and Mr. Lansley answered the longest is the bridge, which will be the fall of 2017.  Mr. Stevenson stated the timeline is 2017 to 2018.  Mr. Lansley replied to Mr. Ryan that it is over the railroad track pending completion of the Honeywell property, which is why it is out so far. 

 

Mrs. Rapp asked if they are redoing their administrative office, and Mr. Lansley clarified it is only half of the roof.  The office was expanded, so there are two levels of roofs.  One level is complete, and this is the other half. 

 

Mr. Lansley answered Mr. Dougherty that the office space is in Longbranch Park, not OLP, which is what Mrs. Rapp was referring to.  It is a forty year old shed used for registrations with a small restroom, and is probably the number one worst building that Parks has. 

 

Mr. Ryan questioned the bigger parking lot at Longbranch Park.  Mr. Lansley stated that during major events they park twice as many cars as they have pavement.  Chair Tassone has parked in the grass there.  Mr. Lansley answered Chair Tassone that there are 600 -700 spaces currently, so it will exceed 1000 plus.  Mr. Lansley will get the exact number.  Mr. Dougherty asked if this was near the sledding area, and Mr. Lansley agreed.  Mrs. Rapp asked if it would be porous paving.  Mr. Lansley is hoping it will be.

 

        b.     Amending the 2015 County Budget and Authorizing the Department of Parks and Recreation to Accept Donations in Support of Purchasing a Generator for Use at Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery ($25,000)

 

  • Received generous donation from Friends of Carpenter Brook Fish Hatchery
  • Mark Hettler, former President and current Treasurer of the Friends here today
  • Generator Friends renovated 10 years ago (not sure how old was originally); experiencing problems and hard getting parts; generator is backup to keep fish alive; without backup could lose trout population
  • Cost just over $25,000 to purchase brand new high efficiency generator; Friends stepped up and wanted to donate

A motion was made by Mr. Dougherty, seconded by Mrs. Rapp, to approve this item.

 

Mr. Hettler:

  • Wanted to say hello and thank the committee for the partnership have with County; Friends group started in 1994
  • Have done a lot of projects; first thing was buying 80 acres behind hatchery, and donating to the County
  • Playgrounds, fish pond, picnic shelters, prior generator
  • Glad to step up and by the new generator - more efficient and avoid loss of fish
  • Mr. Lansley’s staff and Mr. Stanczyk have done a great job; continue to increase fish production
  • It’s a main area for people to trout fish; bring in tourism dollars; not only a great park for local people to use, but also great area for tourism to bring in dollars that get recycled

 

Mr. Hettler responded to Mrs. Rapp that the 80 acres behind the hatchery has a trail, and they would like to possibly develop the area to create another walking trail people can use.  It was originally bought to stop the watershed, so people could not build behind the hatchery and ruin the water flowing to the hatchery.  Mr. Lansley stated the hatchery is all spring fed.  Mr. Hettler answered Mr. Ryan that it is spring fed, comes down into the hatchery and goes out to the brook.  The acres were bought to keep the water for the fish.  Mr. Hettler is glad to continue the partnership.

 

A vote was taken on the item.

 

Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

2.     TRANSPORTATION:  Brian Donnelly, Commissioner

        a.     Transfer from Account 693000 $44,724 Supplies and Materials to Account 694130 Maintenance, Utilities and Rents, $44,724

 

  • Request to transfer funds primarily for transmission and engine repairs for a number of vehicles due to harshness of winter; also HVAC in north area and Jamesville

Chair Tassone asked what the forecast for winter is, and Mr. Donnelly replied if it stays like this, he will be the happiest DOT commissioner ever.

 

Mr. Donnelly responded to Mrs. Rapp that DOT was concerned about the salt budget in October based on last January and February being very harsh.  Mr. Donnelly was counting on a normal November and December, which would have put DOT over budget in that account.  Based on how light it has been, they should not have that issue.  Things can turn rapidly in December, but it’s been a great season so far.  At this point in winter, there have only been three trucks on the road. 

 

Mr. Dougherty asked for an explanation on the transmission problems.  Mr. Donnelly answered:

  • Fleet is aging, and primarily standard transmission; with the age, there’s a need for transmission work
  • $10,000 - $15,000 difference between buying standard versus automatic transmission trucks; have moved to buying automatic to save on repairs, but the vast majority of the fleet is standard
  • It is challenging with new employees that have training from NTTS or other schools because they only teach on automatic; there is a learning curve, but it still puts more wear and tear on the trucks
  • There is training on standard transmission, but most have not operated standard; DOT tries to fill the positions by October or November, so they can take the trucks out on dry runs; least amount of experience will determine where to go; avoid stressful areas with hills (southern part of County)
  • Three or four transmission repairs and some engine repairs are necessary
  • Try to be proactive by appropriating funds for new vehicles in the budget

 

Mr. Donnelly responded to Mr. Ryan that other repairs are going to the north area (old UPS facility) and Jamesville.  Mr. Ryan asked where they are with that.  Mr. Donnelly replied:

  • Under design for renovation of the north area and Camillus facility
  • Diligently looked at a combined facility (talked about at budget); preliminary and schematic design, could not get the cost down to a level they wanted
  • Wanted facility cost around $17 - $18 million, but everything for the combined facility was coming in at $24 - $26 million
  • Told years ago it would be cost prohibitive to renovate both; recently determined ways to reconfigure north area
  • North area is 160,000 sq. ft.; DOT is there, and other operations, but more space than necessary for any occupant
  • North area needs a new roof costing $4 - $6 million without including structural issues, HVAC, etc.
  • By demolishing a large portion of the building, it eliminates those problems; in turn will be more conducive to a DOT operation; will do the same in Camillus
  • Able to renovate both facilities at a price of $17 - $18 million

Mr. Ryan said there were multiple discussions about getting DOT out of Molloy Road (building has outlasted its useful life) and out of Camillus by Air One.  The idea was to put up a bigger facility in proximity to Buckley and Morgan.  Mr. Donnelly replied to Mr. Ryan that the combined facility estimates were coming in at $24 - $26 million, and DOT wanted to be at $17 - $18 million.  Mr. Donnelly said they are hoping to use the $17 - $18 million to renovate the two facilities and stay where they are. 

 

Mrs. Rapp asked what they are demolishing.  Mr. Donnelly answered that they are knocking down a large portion of the facility.  The UPS facility was not designed to be a DOT facility; same as Camillus.  The way DOT brings trucks in and out of the UPS facility is one way.  By demolishing the center of the building, DOT can have overhead doors for each truck, and stay in the same footprint.  This is close to a good size salt shed in the north are that the County built in 2006 in the tune of $250,000.  There would be a fabric structure in Camillus as the salt shed is small.  This will give DOT the operations they need, covers DOT for the next 25 years, and leaves it where it is now. 

Mr. Donnelly replied to Mr. Dougherty that the new facility was going to be predicated on staging trucks at town facilities.  In summertime the response time is not critical versus winter time.  DOT looked at putting trucks in Elbridge, Manlius, etc.  It was feasible, but if DOT does not have to do that, then it’s a better situation. 

 

Mr. Donnelly stated that in 2005 or 2006, this was looked at, and DOT was told they had to scrap the two facilities.  Looking at it again, there is work to be done at both facilities, but they do not have to be scrapped.  Camillus is a standalone that was always going to cost around $7 - $9 million.  North area was going to be the huge expense, but by demolishing what is not needed, then it is a more manageable price tag.

 

A motion was made by Mrs. Rapp, seconded by Mr. Dougherty, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

The meeting was adjourned at 11:13 a.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Jamie McNamara

JAMIE McNAMARA, Assistant Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

Attendance

 

* * *

PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE MINUTES - DECEMBER 9, 2015

BRIAN MAY, CHAIRMAN

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Dougherty, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Holmquist

ALSO ATTENDING:  See attached list

 

Chair May called the meeting to order at 12:03 P.M.  A motion was made by Mr. Jordan, seconded by Mr. Dougherty, to waive the reading of the proceedings from the previous committee and to approve the minutes from the previous committee.  MOTION CARRIED.   

 

1.     PROBATIONAndrew Sicherman, Commissioner

        a.     Amending the 2015 County Budget to Accept Department of Justice Funds for Project Safe Neighborhoods Work Done by the Onondaga County Probation Department and Authorizing the County Executive to Enter into Contracts to Implement this Resolution ($23,995)

 

Mr. Sicherman:

  • DOJ money; goes through the Gifford Foundation, supports Probation’s continued involvement in Syracuse Truce project
  • Used for home visits of SPD identified gang involved targets, also custom notifications; custom notifications somewhat new to Truce, instead of/or in addition to call-ins, go to offenders home with Probation officer, SPD officer and services person typically from Salvation Army, review material and answer any questions
  • Funding supports cost for visits – no positions

In answer to Mr. Dougherty, Mr. Sicherman confirmed that the program was on going.  In answer to Mr. Jordan, Mr. Sicherman said that the Truce model has the call-ins, which are done incrementally - determined by SPD and the district attorney’s office.  Probation is a minor player, except for the fact that many of the Truce targets are county probationers, federal probationers and state parolees.  This is ongoing funding to continue the Truce project. 

 

In answer to Mr. Jordan, Mr. Sicherman confirmed that the program targets identified gang members.  Mr. Dougherty asked if it was working.

 

  • Worked well the first year, has seen similar results across the country; shooting and homicides down initial year, then mixed results
  • Some items completed with this and GIVE funding provides supportive items that are working, more long-haul items such as the SNUG program - program uses violence interrupters to stop violence
  • Truce is successful but needs the inclusion of the other piece

 

Mr. Jordan asked what methodology was being incorporated to address gang violence, such as getting the heads of two gangs together to help resolve disputes. 

 

  • Working to resolve disputes falls under the purview of violence interrupters, caseworkers, Safe Our Youth program, and the Southwest Community Center; social media has proven to be a huge component - here most of these things start to jump off
  • Call-ins focus on one gang so rival gangs are not in one room, held in a community room, church or courtroom - need to get back to using court setting, provides a more serious message; intelligence identifies people involved, at risk of being involved, or having influence over gang violence, these people are brought in to discuss how rule enforcements have changed - if one member of a gang, group or click shoots someone, all members will suffer greater scrutiny if on probation, parole or social services; idea is to make it uncomfortable for them, if there is another shooting or gun homicide
  • US Attorney’s office discusses RICO and using federal prosecutors to charge gangs with drug and gun involvement, a map is displayed to show those convicted of a federal offense could serve time far away from family and friends, e.g. California
  • Offer services - Salvation Army explains services available to help make good decisions; discusses job readiness and resume building
  • Mother’s Against Gun Violence speak, very moving and important
  • Ask identified individuals to talk to everyone they know about what has been discussed; viable, worthwhile tool

Chair May said that these conversations would ideally happen within the context of a courtroom.  Mr. Sicherman that it would be their first swipe.  Chair May said that it was more formal.  Mr. Sicherman said that they do not pull people out of work for call-ins.  The same message is brought to them in their home, also people that did not make the call-in, or those they feel they need to talk with further.

 

Mr. Jordan asked if they encouraged individuals to bring their friends in to attend the call-ins, as it would have more effect if they are listening and asking questions themselves.  Certain things are lost in translation.  Mr. Sicherman said that this was a good point.  He will take the suggestion back to those in charge of putting the list together.

 

Mr. Ryan said that the County District Attorney’s office should also be a part of the process as they likely process more of these crimes than the US Attorney’s office.  Mr. Sicherman said that Joe Coolican, from the DA’s office also speaks.  They have a large impressive collaboration and introduce everyone in attendance, e.g. ATF and US Marshalls. 

 

Chair May said that the success of the program is almost impossible to measure using straight-up matrices.  Many programs surround the entire situation.  There are documented wins that cannot necessarily be measured, e.g. absent recidivism - one gang member received the message, an important part of the formula.

 

Mr. Jordan asked if former gang members speak.  Mr. Sicherman said that as part of the program, one or two x-offenders usually speak.  There is one man whom is very impressive in the way he tries to engage the youth; went to jail at 16 and got out at 32.  Although much work needs to be done and could be gained in this area, in his personal opinion.  However, if they choose someone out of the life for 1-3 years, there is a risk that they could fall back into criminal activity.  If he were running the program, he would explain the risk to the youth upfront and believes that they would get more traction with people that are recently removed from the system.  There are people that want to participate but the SPD is reluctant; very difficult to thoroughly vet someone but much could be gained with someone closer to their own age. 

 

Mr. Holmquist said that it was inspirational to hear the dramatic stories of those that have been through the system and turn their life around under incredible odds.  This happens because of the efforts of all those involved in these programs.  Mr. Sicherman said that he appreciated the comments but there are also many good, grass-roots efforts do not make the press, e.g. neighborhood efforts.

 

Mr. Dougherty made a motion to approve this item.

 

Mr. Ryan said that he attended a function recognizing the Southwest Community Center and there were photos of 60-75 youths murdered by gunshot.  It was very powerful and moving.  

 

Seconded by Mr. Ryan.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

2.     EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONSWilliam Bleyle, Commissioner

        a.     INFORMATIONAL:  A Resolution Authorizing Design/Study Expenses in Connection with Improvements to Emergency Communications Facilities and Equipment in and for the County of Onondaga, New York, at a Maximum Estimated Cost of $345,000, and Authorizing the Issuance of $345,000 Bonds of Said County to Pay Costs Thereof ($345,000)

 

Mr. Bleyle:

  • Building constructed 1990-1991
  • Committee viewed photos of building issues – windows and doors leaking, energy efficiency issues, electrical system at capacity, out of storage room, using South Station/Hillbrook and fire control building that are in bad shape, starting to buckle, needs repair or replacement
  • Lacks training and work space for technicians, facility maxed out; seeking $100,000 for facility rehabilitation study
  • Also seeking replacement of mobile data communications infrastructure; currently all Onondaga County police, fire and EMS vehicles are equipped with automatic vehicle location and mobile computer terminals - system installed in 2007, reaching end-of life 2017
  • Times changed, need higher than 48 kilobytes per second for computing; many police agencies pursued aircards on their own - still a number of smaller police agencies, most fire service and a good portion of EMS service rely on the 800 megahertz backbone
  • Repair for 10 year old equipment has increased exponentially
  • Challenging throughput issues - some agencies want to move into IPads, others rely on Windows XP and don’t have the resources to update equipment
  • Software advancements require more bandwidth and capabilities, making them work on a 48 kilobyte modem requires much time and technical staff; looking for consultant to guide them through the complicated process and options, e.g. LTE network, commercial vendor or FirstNet
  • Federal funds allocated for FirstNet, state looking at getting on board, eventually will be hardened national broadband network available to all public safety agencies - won’t be on board in timeframe needed to replace system; would rely on consultant to guide them to the most cost effective methods, e.g. temporarily use aircards or build LTE system with potential to migrate into FirstNet

Chair May said that aspect one was the facility.  Mr. Bleyle said that it included the main center, as well as the building next door.  In answer to Chair May, Mr. Bleyle confirmed that the second item was technology and they were looking for consultants to assist with both items.

 

Chair May said that in concert, they also had the HVAC project, and asked for an update.  Mr. Bleyle:

  • Met with engineers yesterday, received 1st cost estimate for replacement -one of the reasons they are looking for someone to guide them, cannot wait for catastrophic failures, must operate 24/7-365
  • HVAC just one part of the project; roof 25 years old, electrical system maxed
  • 6th largest public safety answering point in the Northeast – too big to fail, don’t want to discover items by failure 

Chair May said that HVAC engineering was appropriated but he would prefer a broader perspective before determining if they should hire consultants.  He does not like what he saw in the pictures but at the same time, they are going in multiple directions with large amounts of money.  In answer to Mr. Dougherty, Chair May said that it was hundreds of thousands of dollars for the engineer but they are looking at a couple million dollars just for the HVAC project.  Mr. Bleyle said that the quote was $1.5 million.

 

Mr. Dougherty said that the problem was not simply the building.  There is a lot of computer hardware, which must be maintained at a certain temperature.  Chair May added that they must also operate at all times - this was the reason he wants another view, to put everything into prospective.  Mr. Bleyle said that it was also the reason they wanted someone to guide them.  When he first arrived, they went into replacing the air-conditioning system to keep up with added equipment.  They want to proactively look at the future and see where they stand with all the systems.  The recommendation could be to consider another location. 

 

Mr. Ryan said that if they were aware of all the structural issue, it would seem more effective to look at everything all-inclusive – HVAC, roof, windows, locks, doors.  Mr. Dougherty said that there are two categories and Mr. Ryan was addressing the first category – facility rehabilitation.  The photos displayed images that look serious but are not unlike images seen on every building in the county.  He questions why they need a consultant to fix those problems.  It seems as if they have two separate resolutions.  Chair May agreed, adding that there were at least two.  Mr. Dougherty said that he would include the HVAC in the first category.  Mr. Bleyle said that the first category has been in the works for a while.  They reached out to Facilities and were told that they did not have the resources to guide them. 

 

Mr. Dougherty said that he would prefer to not bond for the facilities rehab.  Chair May said that the theme has been pay-as-you go for many buildings.  Mr. Dougherty said that the County could certainly absorb $100,000.  For the record, Mr. Ryan said that he agreed with Legislator Dougherty.  In answer to Mr. Holmquist, Mr. Bleyle said that the budget office recommended bonding.  For the record, Mr. Holmquist said that he agrees with paying cash. 

 

Chair May said that he would like Mr. Bleyle to return with all three pieces together - confined to what has to be done and with an eye towards paying cash for certain items.  Mr. Holmquist said that the item would also go to Ways and Means and the bonding decision would happen there.  Chair May said that a solid recommendation would be worth the time for the next phase of bureaucracy.  Mr. Bleyle reiterated that he received the HVAC estimate this morning.  The drawings are 75% complete for replacement, which must be timed with when they can evacuate the center and when the temperature is correct, e.g. summer heat could affect critical systems.  It will be a critical window. 

 

In answer to Mr. Dougherty, Mr. Bleyle said that they must replace the network to get a wider throughput, which will only increase in the future.  There are many options.  He questions going the commercial route, as many carriers did not have signals after the Labor Day storm.  For them, voice is the most critical but a data network takes a lot off dispatchers.  Eliminating data would mean giving out more information, increasing the load on channels and may force them to hire more dispatchers.  They will have to go forward with either building an LTE network, using a commercial provider or a hybrid solution that could do both and possibly be ready for FirstNet when it comes on board, if it is cost effective.

 

Mr. Dougherty asked if this would be a change in every radio tower of the County.  Mr. Bleyle said that it would depend on the solution.  Currently the data system is at three different towers but if they go LTE, it would require a lot more spacing and they would be adding tower sites.  FirstNet will build LTE’s; the question is who will pay for them and how much they will cost.  They need to determine the best option for the County, as 2017-2018 will be the time for replacement.  They do not want to scrap whatever they put in place whenever FirstNet comes out.

 

Mr. Dougherty said the resolution has two parts, $100,000 and $245,000, but the $245,000 was not being spent all in one year.  Mr. Bleyle said that the consultant would guide them through completion.  Mr. Dougherty said for the record, that he would prefer not to bond for the first $95,000 of the $245,000 and that they could decide what to do with the larger price tag in 2017.

 

Mr. Ryan asked if FirstNet would be all cloud computing.  Mr. Bleyle said that one could picture it as competition with Verizon but it has not been completely defined.  The federal government determined that the backbones that exists today (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc.) are not robust and secure enough to sustain public safety.  They are looking to build a national broadband at the federal level - a hardened wireless network for all public safety.  Mr. Ryan interjected saying that he was referring to wireless when he said cloud.  Nationwide coverage would require many towers and the bandwidth needed for that would billions.  He cannot begin to think what the price would be. 

 

Mr. Dougherty said that most of the infrastructure was already in place.  Mr. Ryan said that Mr. Bleyle was saying that they would need different infrastructure.  Mr. Bleyle said that the bandwidth was already allocated but FirstNet has not decided how it will be built out - may go to Verizon or AT&T and have them harden their networks and hop onto theirs.  Mr. Ryan said that the federal government bought enough spectrum in the cloud to say that they are going to utilize it for FirstNet but then the company would have to upgrade their infrastructure to go far beyond 5G LTE.  This would be a big undertaking for the company and he does not believe that they would do so.  Mr. Bleyle said that the move to digital television allocated certain channels for public safety use.  There are different models of FirstNet and the exact model has not been decided.  There are many questions and they are waiting for the RFP information to return before deciding the best way to go.  Government may not be able to afford to build this; might be a hybrid commercial/government model.

 

        b.     Authorizing the Execution of Agreements with the State of New York for the Installation and use of Mutualink to Promote Interoperability

 

  • Secure connection capable of linking various municipalities with IP based capabilities – any system that travels over the internet
  • Initially every county will be equipped with the device, also a number of state and federal agencies - could tap into expertise outside of Onondaga County if needed, e.g. NYS Emergency Management
  • 2 NYS counties have a pilot project linking schools with Mutualink –public safety responders could connect during emergency, e.g. schools video camera system
  • Equipment available to 911 centers at no charge; seeking permission to sign IMA

 

Mr. Dougherty said that he worked on a contract to build out a statewide wireless network via radio years ago and this is a terrific advancement.  It is a very cheap solution to help many people in various situations.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Dougherty, seconded by Mr. Ryan, to approve this item.  Pass unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

3.     SHERIFFChief Ken Andrews

        a.     Transfer from Sheriff’s Office, Account 666500 Contingency, to Sheriff’s Office, Account 641020 Overtime Wages, $500,000

Chief Andrews:

  • Requesting transfer from contingency; projection included with packet

Chair May clarified that this was budgeted overtime dollars sitting in contingency. 

 

  • Last presentation projected being over budget by $109,000, a dramatic improvement from Mach projection of $400,000 over budget, now projecting to be under budget by almost $500,000

Mr. Dougherty said that he does not believe he has ever seen the word Sheriff and under-budget on the same page and he was very happy to see this.  Chief Andrews said that they continue to try to make necessary improvements to help the situation, especially at the Justice Center. 

In answer to Mr. Jordan, Chief Andrews confirmed that the amount was for their entire budget, including civil, police and custody.  Overtime is still a problem; they could add employees and reduce overtime but it increases salary costs.  There is a delicate balance.  They are working on this as best they can.  Once the safe cells and constant watches are in place, he assumes they will look at staffing.  They are still completing the evaluation and making identified efficiency changes.  It is not easy to make changes to structures and facilities or staffing, due to union contracts. 

Chair May said that the last projection included a detailed breakdown and asked Ms. Fricano to provide the same for the current projection. 

Mr. Holmquist asked if this could be replicated for 2016, knowing all the variables.  Chief Andrews said that it was hard to say what would happen.  The DSBA approved their contract so there is the potential for an influx of retirements, causing the need for overtime, if the positions go unfilled.  They would have to run an academy and hire from the civil service list.  Structural changes, constant watches and frequent check inmate classifications savings will remain.  How quickly they can put full time officers in place, rather than overtime, will be the issue.  The salary line is tremendously under budget but it does not offset the overtime – salary goes down but overtime goes up by 1.5%.

Mr. Ryan asked if there was a current list to draw from, adding that they can expect three things to happen, people will retire, the payroll line will go down and overtime will go up.  Mr. Dougherty asked if people were simply waiting for the retro check before retiring.  Chair May said that the retro check would affect their pension credit, providing an incentive to stay on board until there is are resolution. 

Mr. Jordan asked if they planned for an academy.  Chief Andrews:

  • Choose people from civil service list, held academy this year; Jamesville currently holding an academy and chooses from the same list - list pretty well exhausted
  • Next civil service test to be given in April 2016, new list will be out in June
  • Currently 3 vacancies, not ready to hold academy - could attend Madison or Cayuga County academies if held
  • Are aware of the potential - prepared and awaiting new list
  • Transferred some lateral moves from Jamesville to the Justice Center; Jamesville held academy to fill their vacancies

Chair May said that the projection was dated 11-2-15.  Since June, they have been moving in a positive direction each month.  The County moved minor males from Jamesville to the Justice Center and he was told that there were concerns about the operational efficiency of that decision with respect to the amount of space required.  He asked if they anticipated costs to detract from the projection for that change or if the projection was reflective of where they stand going forward.  Ms. Fricano said that the projection was reflective; at this point all females boarded out have returned from Oneida and there are no additional cost associated with boarding inmates.  Chair May said that it was a function of population.  If they start getting crowded, they could see the effect from boarding out costs. 

 

  • Forecast is tight
  • Juvenile males not with general population, each pod holds 60 inmates – only 35 youths, empty cells cannot be used for adults; Jamesville pods didn’t create empty cell situations
  • Change had an affect

Chair May said that if the population goes up it will create an expense but right now, they are in good shape.  Mr. Dougherty said that he had questions about that move and general procedures at the jail and asked if Chief Gonzalez could attend the next meeting.  Chair May said that it might take more than Chief Gonzalez to answer those questions.  A whole cast of characters was involved in the ultimate decision, much insight was taken into consideration and everyone had many reasons.  Chief Gonzalez could answer the logistics but the rationale might have to come from someone else.  Chief Andrews said that he did not believe that it was Chief Gonzalez’s decision.  Chair May confirmed that it was not.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Dougherty, seconded by Mr. Ryan, to approve this item.  Pass unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

The meeting adjourned at 1:15 P.M.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Katherine French

KATHERINE M. FRENCH, Deputy Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

Attendance

 

* * *

HEALTH COMMITTEE MINUTES - DECEMBER 10, 2015

DANNY J. LIEDKA, CHAIRMAN

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Burtis, Mrs. Tassone, Dr. Chase

MEMBERS ABSENT:  Ms. Williams

ALSO PRESENT:  See attached list

 

Chairman Liedka called the meeting to order at 9:32 a.m.  A motion was made by Mrs. Tassone, seconded by Dr. Chase to waive the reading and approve of the minutes of the proceedings of the previous committee meeting; MOTION CARRIED.

 

1.     SOCIAL SERVICES – ECONOMIC SECURITY:  Sarah Merrick, Commissioner

        a.     Amending the 2016 County Budget and Providing for Personnel Changes Related to the Department of Social Services – Economic Security ($99,598)

 

  • Move money in 2016 budget for one position; Special Assistant Commissioner for quality assurance
  • Take the idea of process mapping and lean management throughout department
  • Focused last couple years on training and technology - third leg is to find efficiencies and look at all processes; eliminate extra steps; desire to limit requests for additional staff once they figure out how to be efficient in all lines

 

Chairman Liedka asked Ms. Merrick to identify the low hanging fruit this person will tackle right away.  Ms. Merrick responded the highest concern is the second floor.  The kiosk is taking care of approximately 200 people a day, but there are still 500 plus a day that are waiting in a small waiting room.  The department needs to find efficiencies in Temporary Assistance and Snap processes.  They will have to dive in and figure out how to expedite for the client, and make it easier for the workers (from A – Z).  Also, with Chronic Care the department needs to figure out how to move through that process quicker, than what they are currently doing (the state will eventually take over Medicaid). 

 

Ms. Merrick agreed with Mrs. Tassone that they are creating a job, but not getting rid of any at this time. 

 

Chairman Liedka asked if the money is sitting in contingency, so they are not adding any, and Ms. Merrick agreed.  Ms. Merrick stated at the budget presentation this year they had 413 positions, and asked for two additional to bring it to 415.  Ms. Merrick is now back to request the one.

 

Dr. Chase asked what type of qualifications this person should have.  Ms. Merrick is looking for someone who has experience doing this in business, and someone who is able to think step by step (detail oriented).

 

Chairman Liedka asked if this person cleans up a lot of things, will the job expire.  Ms. Merrick hopes it does not.  Ms. Merrick stresses to her staff that it is important to continually improve on processes.  Historically the County has brought in processes, but the problem is that they come in, do the process, then leave.  The process then ends up losing momentum.  This department needs someone dedicated to spearheading that and will keep things going.  With the changes happening in Federal and State, the department is not seeing a decrease in necessity.  There needs to be someone who can adapt and help individuals in those processes.

 

Mrs. Tassone asked since it is such a high job, if Ms. Merrick is looking within the department to hire.  Ms. Merrick has a candidate within the department, and that would be her first choice.  This person has the experience, and business background.  Chairman Liedka stated it does not hurt to look at someone outside of the organization, and Ms. Merrick agreed.  Ms. Merrick is looking for someone with the mindset to be strategic and logical.  Ms. Merrick needs someone who can be more objective than (i.e.) the Director of Temporary Assistance, since they are so embedded in the process.  

 

A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mr. Burtis, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

2.     CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES:  David Sutkowy, Commissioner

        a.    Amending the 2015 County Budget to Make Funds Available for Use by the Department of Children and Family Services in Connection with Capital, Technological, and Program Improvements ($899,000)

  • Request to  move $899,000 to an account that allows use for capital, technological and program improvements
  • It is not a grant, but first cousin of grant; 100% revenues; relates to revenue generated by Day Treatment and Outpatient Mental Health Clinic - located on Hutchings campus; both programs reimbursed through Medicaid; state sets the rate
  • In recognition that the rate set by state was low and did not cover all program costs, the State Office of Mental Health provided supplemental rates in addition to the base rate; this was capped and subject to reconciliation
  • Could not claim over and above costs; over years able to claim supplemental Medicaid rate
  • 2014 - reconciled through 2008, $899,000 available for use; accountants set aside; no spending until reconciliation
  • Move funds to account to use to help facilitate relocation of Day Treatment Clinic (talked about in budget)
  • Outpatient and Day Treatment programs housed at Hutchings for many years; building available free of charge
  • Hutchings systematically been renovating campus; every year department was told to be prepared to leave
  • The day is here and have to move; couple extensions to make a plan; want a seamless move that does not interrupt programs or dislocate the kids that are served
  • Have until February 19th to find a place, renovate and move; dates have changed based upon Hutchings’ projects
  • Want to find right space; money set aside will help in renovation of space and movement of Day Treatment program

Dr. Chase asked if they are moving to the Civic Center.  Mr. Sutkowy responded no; their eye is on a facility located on West Genesee Street.  This is not definite, but it is the old Boy Scout building between Nick Orso’s and the Missio Church (previously First Presbyterian Church).  Mrs. Tassone asked if they will be charged rent, and Mr. Sutkowy answered yes.  The cost of rent was part of the operating request for the 2016 budget.  Mr. Sutkowy replied to Dr. Chase that the Church owns the building, and it is not a done deal yet.  Ms. Rooney stated the reason they are not considering moving to the Civic Center is because it is a school in need of a playground, etc.  Ms. Sutkowy added that the need for parking, a playground and outdoor space would not be suitable downtown.  Mr. Burtis asked if the location they are looking at has all of that, and Mr. Sutkowy said yes.  Mrs. Tassone asked how much rent it will be.  Ms. Lopez responded about $5,000.  Mr. Sutkowy wants to stress that this is not a done deal.  Ms. Lopez replied to Mr. Burtis that she is not sure what the square footage of the space is, but it is a large building.  Currently the program has 45 children and 40 staff, and will need five classrooms, nursing and a cafeteria. 

 

Chairman Liedka wanted to know if this would be a step up or comparable from where they are now.  Ms. Lopez responded yes.  The program currently being on a psychiatric campus is not appropriate for the children going to school.  Dr. Chase stated the new area is more accessible than the current.  Mr. Sutkowy said they would not relocate to a psychiatric center campus, but it is hard to walk away from free; compromises had to be made.

 

Mr. Sutkowy answered Dr. Chase that there are 46 kids; 33 from the City and 13 from County schools.  The department has known this was coming, and have had many conversations with Hutchings; it was a matter of when. 

 

Mrs. Tassone inquired how long it will take to reopen.  Mr. Sutkowy said they would like to do this during vacation time or over a weekend.  They do not want to miss any days of school.  Ms. Lopez stated the plan is to move over winter break.  Mr. Sutkowy wants this to be the least disruptive as possible.

 

Mr. Sutkowy confirmed to Mr. Burtis that the $899,000 is money available through the reconciliation up through 2008.  Dr. Chase asked if there is more money to come after 2008.  Mr. Sutkowy said they are waiting for the State to finish its books; right now $230,000 is set aside. 

 

Mr. Burtis said the improvements are $446,000, and wanted to verify that the money for rent was in the budget.  Mr. Sutkowy stated they factored in the ongoing operational costs into the 2016 operational budget.  This money is one time, so they did not want to factor that money into ongoing costs.  This money is for one time expenditures related to moving costs or improvements. 

 

A motion was made by Mrs. Tassone, seconded by Dr. Chase, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Mr. Sutkowy wanted to say again that the space is not definite until it is definite.

 

3.     HEALTH:

        a.     A Local Law Relating to the Establishment of Fees Collected by the Onondaga County Department of Health and Exemptions Therefrom for Charitable Organizations, and Amending Local Law No. 16 – 2002, as Previously Amended

 

Chairman Liedka:

  • Have been contacted by the Knights of Columbus; right now groups that are 501C3 with food service have to be inspected by the County, and there is a cost for that; if an organization is tax exempt, they do not have to pay that cost
  • 501C8, where Knights of Columbus falls, were missed in the law; currently they are paying inspection fees
  • This law would add 501C8 into the language and cover the Knights of Columbus
  • There are a zillion 501C(etc.) groups, but Law Department and Mr. Morgan went through them all; no others made sense to add; this made sense to add in
  • Alliance Clubs and others are covered; Knights of Columbus are different and are not covered
  • There could be other groups that come forward, but Steve Morgan did a great job researching; he did not find any others that would make sense and did not want to expand beyond this

A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mrs. Tassone, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Chairman Liedka asked if anyone else had anything for the good of the committee.  Dr. Chase stated a couple months ago Ms. Williams approached the committee about family seeing loved ones (murdered) at the Medical Examiner’s Office (MEO).  Is that something the committee can work on?  Chairman Liedka asked Dr. Gupta if this is something they would discuss with her or the MEO.  Chairman Liedka elaborated that there was an issue where a young teenager was murdered, and the mother was anxious to get in to see the body.  There was a delay for entry into the building as clarification on protocol was looked into.  There were questions that came from Helen Hudson, Common Counselor, and Chairman Liedka asked if Dr. Gupta wanted to get back to the committee on what the protocol is.  Dr. Gupta responded it would be good to talk to Dr. Stoppacher at the MEO.  The agency does a lot of investigation, and is not sure how it will affect that.  Dr. Gupta will talk to Dr. Stoppacher, because they do not want to jeopardize anything, but at the same time have a responsibility to the public.  How do they draw the line (do for one, then do for all)?  Mrs. Tassone said Ms. Hudson stated the mother was denied the chance to see her son.  The big concern was that the mother was told no.  Ms. Rooney stated that hopefully this never happens, but the main concern was not denying access.  Once the body has been delivered to the MEO, it is part of a chain of evidence (a homicide).  Ms. Rooney said Dr. Stoppacher’s main concern is not denying access, but when the body has been transported.  It is a very delicate situation.  Ms. Rooney said to give Dr. Gupta a chance to sit with Dr. Stoppacher and the District Attorney.  When the autopsy is completed, the body is immediately delivered to the funeral home for the family to see them.  In some instances the family cannot go there because of trauma or financial reasons.  Chairman Liedka asked to allow Dr. Gupta to have the discussion with Dr. Stoppacher and report back.  The committee agreed.  Mr. Burtis asked if the mother was totally denied access.  Ms. Rooney said there have been two instances where the family did not have a funeral home, and Dr. Stoppacher worked with them to allow family to come in.  The other concern is if the body has a bullet wound, the preference is the mother does not see that.  There are a lot of pieces to this, and Ms. Rooney does not want this characterized as denied access.  Ms. Rooney would like to table the discussion until Dr. Gupta works with Dr. Stoppacher.  Chairman Liedka agreed, and said to consider it tabled.

 

The meeting was adjourned at 9:50 a.m.                                            

 

Respectfully submitted,

Jamie McNamara

JAMIE McNAMARA, Assistant Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

Attendance

 

* * *

 

PLANNING & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE MINUTES - DECEMBER 10, 2015

KATHLEEN A. RAPP, CHAIR

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Burtis, Mr. Liedka, Mr. Plochocki, 1Mr. Knapp

ALSO ATTENDINGb  See attached list

 

Chair Rapp called the meeting to order at 10:35 A.M.  A motion was made by Mr. Liedka, seconded by Mr. Burtis, to waive the reading of the proceedings from the previous committee minutes.  MOTION CARRIED.  A motion was made by Mr. Liedka, seconded by Mr. Burtis, to approve the minutes of the proceedings of the previous committee.  MOTION CARRIED. 

 

1.     PLANNING AGENCY/SYRACUSE–ONONDAGA COUNTY PLANNING AGENCY:  Don Jordan, Deputy Director; Bill Fisher, Deputy County Executive

a.     INFORMATIONAL:  Amending the 2016 County Budget and Providing for Personnel Changes Related to the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency ($51,314)

 

Mr. Fisher:

  • Distributed organizational chart from budget book

cHART

  • Informational- would like Ways & Means to act tomorrow

 

Chair Rapp asked why this was coming forward now, after just finishing the budget.  Mr. Fisher said that the City was in desperate need of a transportation planner.  The legislature deleted the position about 18 months ago.  An IMA allows the position to be funded via the City abstract.  Chair Rapp asked why the position was deleted.  Mr. Fisher said that there was not a pressing need to fill all the open planner 1 positions allowed under the IMA and the thought was to save money for City taxpayers.  Mr. Plochocki asked if the position was vacant and unfunded or completely cut.  Mr. Fisher said that the position was eliminated.

 

Mr. Liedka asked what the position entails.  Mr. Fisher said that would be federal and state dollars for any infrastructure spending.  In order to receive and spend those funds they must have a plan that conforms to the comprehensive plan and codes.  The federal government re-upped a significant amount of transportation dollars and they are hearing that the next state budget will also have significant dollars.  The process for receiving those dollars is often competitive, so the County Executive’s office believes that this was the right time to fill the position.  

 

In answer to Mr. Liedka, Mr. Fisher said that if the City were not awarded the funds, they would have plans that they could not immediately act on.  Mr. Liedka said that the City has no means to pay for infrastructure.  Chair Rapp added that most of the funds would be matching grants.  Mr. Fisher said that they believe planning should precede spending.  Mr. Liedka agreed that planning was necessary, if they have the means.  He is concerned, as the County had to step in and repair streets for the City.  What commitment do they have that the City will be able to pay for the transportation infrastructure, even if the position were filled?  Mr. Fisher said, “None at this point”, and then referenced the City water system that has no plan but wants the state to provide funds.  This makes for an abrupt conversation.  

 

  • Planning now on the County – legislature agreed to move planning division into SOCPA
  • Reviewed org chart (see page 1); Mr. Jordan acts as overseer of the 4 sections
  • No longer able to get along without additional planner 1; City needs solid transportation planning - done best by planners hired by SOCPA and working under their direction

 

Mr. Liedka said that he was concerned about repairing what was underneath the road before repairing what was on top and asked how this could be handled.  Mr. Fisher said that dig once was a good idea - planning and engineering before doing the work.  The City would be well advised to handle things in this manner but they do not always do so.  They believe that the County could play a leadership role in getting the necessary planning in place to spend taxpayer money in an intelligent way. 

 

Chair Rapp said that both SMTC and Regional Planning have transportation planners that prepare holistic plans on a contractual basis as opposed to hiring people.  Mr. Jordan said that adding the extra position would enable SOCPA to coordinate with SMTC to identify and prioritize city transportation projects that they would then present SMTC for study.  A fair amount of work goes on at the City level to identify the projects.  They are submitted to SMTC as part of their planning work program.  The planning work was the prerequisite to allocation of capital money that would come in to implement some of the identified projects.  Chair Rapp said that it was not unprecedented to contract with SMTC for the identification work, especially when they were not at a point where they were actually able to do anything.  It is important to have a plan in place, in order to get money. 

 

Mr. Liedka agreed, e.g., SMTC performed a rigorous study of the circle and Butternut Street.  It was a great plan but it will sit on the shelf until funding comes along.  If he is hearing correctly, they are going to map out the troubled areas, create a plan and then use the plan to go after funds.  Chair Rapp said that the plan would be used as a proof source. 

 

Mr. Fisher said that in general, City planners that are now doing transportation planning would have more time available for other types of City planning activities.  Mr. Jordan said that the planner position would also implement transportation projects identified in the City’s recently adopted comprehensive plan, e.g. bike plan and pedestrian plan.  Mr. Fisher said that having public input on plans, such as bike paths, was important, e.g. Euclid Avenue – taking away parking drives cars back into neighborhoods and may not be a good idea. 

 

Mr. Liedka said that the intersection of Geddes and Fayette streets is a logjam in the morning.  There used to be two lanes and now there is a bike lane.  The cost per biker must be a minimum of $10,000.  Mr. Fisher said that a planner could study that.  Mr. Liedka said that he already had and over the course of an hour, he did not see one bike. 

 

Chair Rapp said that they were requesting $51,000, plus benefits.  Mr. Fisher said that when they staff a position on the City side of the SCOPA budget it goes against the City abstract and gets adjusted two years later.  It does not affect the county budget.  In answer to Mr. Plochocki, Chair Rapp confirmed that the amount did not include the cost of benefits.

 

1Mr. Knapp arrived at the meeting.

 

Chair Rapp asked if there was a transportation planner for the County.  Mr. Jordan said that the County participates in transportation planning with SMTC but does not have a dedicated planner.  Chair Rapp questioned the fact that the entire County does not have a transportation planner but one was needed for the City. 

 

Mr. Fisher asked how towns performed transportation planning.  Mr. Jordan said that they request studies from SMTC or have their engineers work on it.  Mr. Knapp said that the engineers are generally used.  Mr. Fisher said that it is believed that city streets are worse off than the town streets, and this may be the reason they would want a transportation planner. 

 

In answer to Mr. Knapp, Mr. Jordan said that there are currently three people in City Planning and six people in City Zoning.  Chair Rapp said that the County performs all the GIS work. 

 

Chair Rapp said that she would work with SMTC and the CNY RPDB to explore a model that would work to draw all the resources for City Planning.  She represents a portion of the City that was not thrilled with the tax levels.  They obligation to find ways to do more with less and to consolidate whenever possible.

 

Mr. Knapp asked for an update on the director position.  Mr. Fisher:

  • Interview committee comprised of Mr. Fisher, Ms. Primo and Mr. Maxwell
  • Joint appointment of mayor and county executive with approval from the legislature and common council
  • Number of qualified candidates, hope to start interviews next week

Chair Rapp said that there would be more to come on this item.

 

2.     INFORMATION TECHNOLOGYKevin Sexton, Chief Information Officer

        a.     INFORMATIONAL:  A Resolution Authorizing the Issuance of an Additional $775,000 Bonds of the County of Onondaga, New York, to Pay Costs Related to the Acquisition and Installation of an Integrated Information Technology System, Including Professional Services, in and for Said County ($775,000)

 

Chair Rapp said that this was an additional $775,000, over and above the $10 million already spent. 

 

Mr. Fisher:

  • Contrary to comptroller’s letter PeopleSoft project was not $4.736 million over budget
  • 2010 original budget $9,887,416; $988,741 added in 2014 – 10%
  • Contracted for $5,950,000 and spent within original budget
  • 10% over budget, no surprise, additional funding was approved for original project with no new scope – PeopleSoft financials 9.1 and Human Capital Management (HCM) 9.1
  • Current request focuses around upgrade to 9.2 version of PeopleSoft financials and Hyperion, also finishing work on HCM; expect to go live 2nd quarter of 2016 with HR, payroll and benefits, most money needed to finish HCM already in IT budget, bulk of request for upgrade

 

Chair Rapp asked what the upgrade would provide.

  • Complex system needs to be patched to correct defects, don’t have capacity to patch 9.1 – a complex and expensive process Oracle has done away with; no longer patch, version 9.2 applies an image, holistic way to keep software up to date
  • Going live with HCM 9.2
  • In-house staff will routinely update 9.2 software, much easier; fixes to 9.1 very expensive and performed by consultants; HR and payroll have many updates, e.g. taxes, FLSA rules and Obama Care changes
  • Financials and HCM will be operating the same version; additional functionality for minor modules, i.e. asset management

Mr. Sexton:

  • Important to get to the current version as soon as possible
  • End of life period applied by software company, 9.1 end of life slated for 2017, need to be in position or will need expensive extended support
  • Number of defects in current release, keep tripping over each time they add functionality; have to fix standard code base –not a good practice but necessary evil
  • Upgrade puts them in a better position and allows for implementation of modules, e.g. supplier contract module - highly important to Purchasing department, currently manually intensive and error prone, will greatly assist work flow

 

Chair Rapp asked if they should expect software to be coming to end of life annually.  Mr. Fisher said that this was the last time they were going to ask to borrow money for PeopleSoft software.  Chair Rapp said that in the beginning $10 million was promised to be all that was needed.  Mr. Fisher reiterated that this is the last time they intended to borrow money for the system. 

 

In answer to Mr. Burtis, Mr. Fisher said if there was cash on hand at year-end, they could pay cash.  Mr. Knapp said that they paid cash for the increase in 2014 and it would be his preference to do so again, depending on how the year finishes. 

 

In answer to Mr. Plochocki, Mr. Fisher said that going forward upgrades would be part of the IT budget.  As discussed in the past, it has been difficult to maintain staff trained on PeopleSoft, as they are valuable and leave.  They are trying to figure out how they can build a larger group of people that understand PeopleSoft and absorb the hit when they move along.  They may need a conversation about an advance step, as they are trying to get away from expensive consultant reliance.  Mr. Sexton and his team had to take money from other budget lines and move it into PeopleSoft. 

 

In answer to Chair Rapp, Mr. Sexton said that they would be using every dollar but the department would not be over budget for 2015.  They were able to keep spending even by not filling positions and transferring those funds.

 

Mr. Knapp asked if they were buying 9.2 modules.  Mr. Fisher said that they own the modules; the money goes into configuring the system.  Mr. Knapp asked if they owned 9.1 versions and would now need to buy 9.2.  Mr. Fisher said that they have annual maintenance, as part of the IT budget, which allows them to use the latest and greatest versions. 

 

Mr. Burtis said that he would prefer not to bond for something that has a useful life of 5 years.  Chair Rapp said that they would be spending bonding debt on things that were already obsolete.  Mr. Knapp said that this was why they paid cash last year.  Mr. Fisher said that language for that resolution directed the CFO to use cash on hand first.  Chair Rapp asked that the language directing use of cash on hand be inserted into the resolution.

 

Mr. Knapp said that the upgrade to 9.3 would be part of IT’s budget.  Mr. Fisher said that the new way of upgrading via image means that this will be the last major upgrade.  All innovations can be rolled in as they come along, as long as they are on maintenance.  Other municipalities suggested applying images about twice per year, whenever they choose.  They do no need to input each update, as jumping to latest image gets all updates.  Mr. Sexton said that a new feature allows updates to be applied whenever they are ready, in a test environment, and once certified they can move ahead, e.g. manual upgrade of 9.2 requires 468 objects to be reviewed, compared and applied in test environment.  It is very time consuming. 

 

Mr. Plochocki encouraged the county executive’s office to respond to the comptroller’s letter, if they feel that the facts were inaccurate or key items were omitted.  Mr. Fisher said that a response would be sent to legislators prior to Ways and Means, adding that he met with the comptroller on Tuesday and pointed out, what they believe to be inaccuracies.  Mr. Antonacci agreed to provide a revised letter, if he agrees to the inaccuracy.

 

3.     GREATER SYRACUSE PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (LANDBANK)Donald Weber, Real Property Tax Director

        a.     Authorizing the Transfer of Tax Delinquent Properties to the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation

 

Mr. Weber:

  • Properties were withheld from the auction per the landbank’s request; all residential property, other than 1 vacant parcel with flooding issues
  • Letters of support from town supervisors
  • Tried to auction at least 1 of the properties prior, was purchased and found to be too expensive to fix

In answer to Chair Rapp, Mr. Weber said that the home located at 4686 North Street in the Town of DeWitt was auctioned twice.  It looks fine from the outside but water enters the basement during heavy rain.  Mr. Liedka said that if there is a flood season, this was a very bad area.  Chair Rapp asked if the landbank was going to knock it down.  Mr. Weber said that both properties in the Town of Dewitt would be transferred to the town.  One would be used to expand the park access and the other would be used to shore up flooding.  Chair Rapp said that it would be silly to build in the same area.

 

Chair Rapp said that the pluses and minuses conversation was the same as they had with Community Development.  Mr. Knapp said that some of these homes actually went to the auction.  Mr. Weber said that it was years ago and one of them returned the same day. 

 

Chair Rapp asked if the landbank was going to redevelop the remaining properties.  Mr. Weber said that he did not know their plans. 

 

A motion was made by Mr. Knapp, seconded by Mr. Liedka, to approve this item.  Passes unanimously, MOTION CARRIED.

 

4.     ONONDAGA COUNTY CIVIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

        a.     Confirming Appointment by the County Executive to the Board of Directors of the Onondaga Civic Development Corporation (Dennis Duval)

 

Mr. Fisher:

  • President of Hofmann Sausage Company, former Syracuse Chief of Police; well-known public servant

A motion was made by Mr. Liedka, seconded by Mr. Burtis, to approve this item.  Passes unanimously, MOTION CARRIED.

 

 The meeting adjourned 11:20 A.M.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Katherine French

KATHERINE M. FRENCH, Deputy Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

Attendance

 

* * *

WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE MINUTES

December 11, 2015

David Knapp, Chairman

 

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

MEMBERS ABSENT:  Mrs. Ervin

ALSO PRESENT:  Chairman McMahon, see also attached list

 

Chairman Knapp called the meeting to order 8:50 a.m.  He stated that Mrs. Ervin would not be present today due to a death in the family.  He also congratulated the community on receiving the URI award.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Jordan, seconded by Mr. Kilmartin, to waive the reading of the minutes of the proceedings of the previous committee.  AYES:  5; NOES: 0; ABSENT:  2 (Ervin, May); MOTION CARRIED.  A motion was made by Mr. Jordan, seconded by Mr. Kilmartin, to approve the minutes of the proceedings of the previous committee.  AYES:  5; NOES: 0; ABSENT:  2 (Ervin, May); MOTION CARRIED.

 

CONSENT AGENDA

 

Chairman Knapp said that the Sheriff’s item, agenda no. 5a, would be moved to the regular agenda and considered first.

 

1.     TRANSPORTATION:

        a.     Transfer from Acct 693000 Supplies & Materials to Acct 694130 Maintenance, Utilities & Rents, $44,724

 

2.     PARKS AND RECREATION:

        a.     Amending the 2015 County Budget and Authorizing the Dept. of Parks & Recreation to Accept Donations in Support of Purchasing a Generator for Use at Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery ($25,000)

3.     PROBATION:

a.     Amending the 2015 County Budget to Accept Department of Justice Funds for Project Safe Neighborhoods Work Done by the Onondaga County Probation Department and Authorizing the County Executive to Enter into Contracts to Implement this Resolution ($23,995)

 

4.     CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES:

a.     Amending the 2015 County Budget to Make Funds Available for Use by the Dept. of Children and Family Svcs. in Connection with Capital, Technological, and Program Improvements ($899,000)

 

A motion was made by Ms. Williams, seconded by Mr. Kilmartin, to approve the items on the consent agenda.  ABSENT:  2 (Ervin, May); Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE REGULAR AGENDA

 

5.     SHERIFF:

        a.     Transfer from Sheriff’s Office, Acct 666500 Contingency, to Sheriff’s Office, Acct 641020 Overtime Wages, $500,000

Chairman Knapp said that the Sheriff has done a great job of keeping expenses in check throughout the year.  Their projection is that they will come in approximately $500,000 under budget, which is great news.  A few people have questioned the need to transfer $500,000 into the Sheriff’s budget if they will be coming in under budget. 

 

Chairman McMahon congratulated the Sheriff’s Department; the collaboration between the legislature the Sheriff’s office over the last 2 years has been excellent.  He asked why this money should be moved, if they are coming in $500,000 under budget.  Ms. Venditti said that this is to correct the deficit in the overtime account.  Chairman McMahon said that it is specific to the overtime account; and asked if there is confidence that the numbers received in the other accounts are accurate so that by releasing this there won’t be any last minute spending.  Ms. Venditti indicate that there wouldn’t be. 

 

Mr. Jordan questioned why the money isn’t being moved from the accounts that are under budget, into the overtime, instead of from contingency.  Ms. Venditti said that it doesn’t matter; the contingency hasn’t been used to correct deficit as part of the year end process; it is typically left in contingency because legislation is needed to release it.  Should we not release this contingency, we would have a difficult time trying to correct overtime with some of their other accounts.  Mr. Jordan asked why and Ms. Venditti said that the projection includes the balance of all appropriation accounts including the contingency.  The total appropriations and to the total projected spend is coming in under budget by $500,000, which includes the contingency release.  Mr. Jordan suggested that it makes more sense to transfer from the accounts that are under budget to the overtime account.  Ms. Venditti said they could look at doing that; without using the contingency the whole budget would be over.  The release of the contingency is really needed.

 

In answer to Chairman McMahon, Ms. Venditti said that the $500,000 to the good includes the contingency.  Chief Andrews said that if the contingency is not released, they will come in at about $275,000 over budget.  There is still close to $300,000 left in contingency in two other accounts.

 

A motion was made by Ms. Williams, seconded by Mr. Kilmartin to approve this item.  ABSENT:  2 (Ervin, May).  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

1.       FINANCE, DIVISION OF REAL PROPERTY TAX SERVICES:  Don Weber, Real Property Tax Director

a.     Southwood-Jamesville Water District – General Apportionment

b.     Southwood-Jamesville Water District, Town of Dewitt Apportionment

c.     Southwood-Jamesville Water District, Town of Onondaga Apportionment

d.     Warners Water District – General Apportionment

e.     Warners Water District, Town of Camillus Apportionment

f.      Warners Water District, Town of Van Buren Apportionment

g.     2016 Town Tax Rates, Fixed, Ratified, and Confirmed

 

  • 1a - 1f:  apportionments for two small county water districts; dollar amounts already approved in the budget
  • 1g - approving the general tax rates for county tax rates

 

A motion was made by Ms. Williams, seconded by Mr. Kilmartin, to approve items 1a – 1g.  Absent:  2 (Ervin, May).  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

2.       SOCIAL SERVICES – ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTSarah Merrick, Commissioner

a.     Amending the 2016 County Budget and Providing for Personnel Changes Related to the Department of Social Services – Economic Security ($99,598) 

  • Move from 2016 contingency for a Special Assistant Commissioner for Quality Assurance
  • Dedicated position to help find efficiencies in program processes
  • Continue to see increased demand, but have kept staff at around 400 people  - have to find ways to be more efficient in working with the public and pressures on employees
  • Have 2 Lean projects have been identified to start right away

 

Mr. Jordan said that previously a consultant was used to determine ways which to increase efficiency, and asked why a consultant isn’t used in this case.  If consultants determines ways to increase efficiency and then those changes are implemented.  A person would not be needed year in and year out indefinitely.  Ms. Merrick said that was her initial thought, but in talking to employees who have been here 15 – 30 years and experienced outsiders coming in to give them TQM, Seven Pines, etc. -- once the consultant leaves, the whole idea leaves.  It is a standard of business that needs to be embedded in the department and continuously done.  Feels there needs to be a dedicated staff person who will be leading and monitoring those efforts. 

 

Chairman Knapp asked about the qualifications for the person.  Ms. Merrick said someone with business experience, who has done this in business – not rocket science, but process mapping.  It is used much more in private industries than in public.  Looking for someone who is detail oriented who can manage people who are resistant to change. 

 

Chairman Knapp said that it is a balancing act; consultants are valuable—used often for IT, but there is something to be said for having a person after the decisions are made. 

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Ms. Williams, to approve this item.  AYES:  3 (Knapp, Kilmartin, Williams); NOES:  2 (Holmquist, Jordan); ABSENT:  2 (Ervin, May).  MOTION CARRIED.

 

3.        LEGISLATURE:

a.     Amending the 2015 County Budget and Authorizing the Execution of Agreements to Provide Aid to Local Governments ($82,500)
 

Mr. McMahon:

  • Towns & villages apply for Community Development funds yearly
  • In 2014 after towns and villages put their applications in, the federal government later came in and said that certain towns and villages were no longer eligible to receive the funds that were allotted by the Community Development Advisory Council
  • This resolution provides funding to 3 towns (Elbridge, Clay, Skaneateles) and one village (Baldwinsville) for community development projects that the federal government said they can’t receive money for
     

Chairman Knapp was part of the Community Development Steering Committee, which went through the process as they always do.  Communities put in applications, a lot of work and expense goes into putting them together.  The Steering committee went through a vetting process, eliminating several and awarded several others.  After the process was already done, the Federal Government said that they were changing the rules and they would be retroactive.  It was unfortunate; the communities had already been notified that they were going to receive money for very worthwhile projects.  The Federal Government went from using communities within towns, and basically look at the whole town now.  The 12th legislative district doesn’t have one acre of property that qualifies for any Community Development funds.  It is really unfortunate.  

 

Chairman McMahon said that some of the towns and villages are going through income surveys, i.e. Van Buren, and have been able to show the federal government that they should qualify for it.  It is a very detailed, door-to-door type process.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Mr. Holmquist, to approve this item.  ABSENT:  2 (Ervin, May); Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

        b.     Transfer from Acct. 666500 Contingency to Acct. Transfer to Grant Expenditures, $77,595

 

Chairman McMahon

  • Rolling over $77,595 to a project account
  • Potentially projects in 2015 may not receive money – may have the same types of issues (as in item 3a)

Mr. Jordan said that this will be for capital projects; Chairman McMahon agreed.  Mr. Holmquist said that they are for projects that would have qualified under the old program; Chairman McMahon agreed.

 

A motion was made by Ms. Williams, seconded by Mr. Holmquist, to approve this item.  ABSENT:  2 (Ervin, May).  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

4.     GREATER SYRACUSE PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT CORP. (LANDBANK)Katelyn Wright, Exec. Dir.

        a.     Authorizing the Transfer of Tax Delinquent Properties to the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation

 

*Mr. May arrived at the meeting.  

  • Properties diverted from normal auction process
  • Abandoned and blighted properties is not just in city – seen in a lot of towns and villages
  • Last year there was a similar request to the county, and obtained 6 structures through this process for $1 each:  4 sold to private investors; 2 were demolished
  • Some of the demolition was done with some of the revenue from the properties that were sold
  • Primary way to get titles to abandoned properties is through tax foreclosure – eager to do more of that in towns & villages with County’s assistance – not as easy to do outside of the city
  • County has had successful auction rate for many years so delinquency rate is much lower – a lot of abandoned properties in towns and villages that are tax current, and will have to use other methods to get titles of those

 

Chairman Knapp said there was a lengthy discussion about a similar type of thing last month with Community Development.  Ms. Wright said that all of these addresses were selected based on advice from town supervisors, mayors, and code enforcement officials.  Chairman Knapp said that two of the properties actually sold at auction and the person came back and wanted their money back.  Mr. Weber said that one was auctioned twice in the past.  

 

Ms. Wright said that the auction is place where we can get more predictable results.  Buyers are diligently screened to make sure they have a good plan and enough financial resources to tackle that property so they are not buying it sight unseen the way they would at the auction.  Once it is sold we can keep a lien against the property, which is not discharged until they follow through on all of their promises to redevelop it.

 

Mr. Jordan said that he raised the objections relative to Community Development – concern is that we are competing with people in the private sector that this is how they make a living, support their family, and how they pay their taxes.  He has no problem with properties that have gone to auction and sold.  The problem is taking properties out of a tax sale, giving preferential treatment and eliminating the opportunity for investors that do this for a living.  He said that he will support this with the same proviso that he made with Community Development.  He would like to see a different process implemented where these properties are offered to private investors, giving them an opportunity.  If there is a situation where there is no interest by private investors, then he has no objection to the landbank developing the properties. 

 

Ms. Wright said that they are not replacing what private investors would do.  The properties are taken and proactively take title, do an evaluation, and market them to private investors.  Mr. Jordan said that the landbank isn’t developing it, they are taking title, selling it to somebody with being able to control how it is developed a little more.  Ms. Wright agreed – there are more predictable outcomes and able to capture some of the revenue that is made off of selling the good properties and re-investing it in the blighted properties.

 

Chairman Knapp referenced one of the houses in Dewitt, near the Canal and Butternut Creek.  It is a terrible place to build a house; there is 3’ of water in the basement.  It will have to be demolished; there is an interest from the town to use that property to expand the park.

 

Ms. Wright said that they need private investors to make the model work – have sold 225 properties in the City of Syracuse to private buyers, who are getting them back into productive use.  Those buyers are investing $7.7 million in renovations. 

 

Mr. Jordan referenced the landbank’s sizable inventory of properties at one point, and weren’t turning them over as quickly as they hoped.  He asked if there has been an improvement in that regard.  Ms. Wright said that there are 600 properties in inventory right now – they are going out more slowly than coming in, but right now are dealing with a backlog.  It is primarily a problem with the City of Syracuse; they hadn’t addressed abandoned properties proactively for a very long time.  The bottleneck is intentional – it’s the way the program was designed – expected to bring in a lot of properties and over a several year period be able to merge they ones that are adjacent to each other.  She noted that there are about 17 properties on Butternut St. right now – it took 2 years to assemble them, but were able to deliberately pick up the pieces in the middle.  The process of doing the site assembly is time consuming.  Mr. Jordan asked if it resulted in the landbank being cash poor.  Ms. Wright said “no; I think we are doing alright.”  Mr. Jordan said that the county allocated more money to the landbank because it was cash poor.  Ms. Wright said that they didn’t ask for the county’s financial support because they were cash poor.  There was a backlog of abandoned properties that hadn’t been addressed for a long time – they were allowed to become extremely tax delinquent; a lot of other productive properties were allowed to become tax delinquent as well.  The city was never able to go out and proactively collect their taxes because they didn’t want to get stuck having to foreclose on some and hold those properties.  With the creation of the landbank, they now have somewhere to put the properties that get foreclosed on – isolates the risk for the City.  There is a deluge of people coming in to pay taxes to avoid forecloses – it will only last while they clean up the long, backlogged list.  The landbank proposed to the city and county that it would take the junk properties, consolidate them, do the planning, analyze them – which ones to demolish and which ones to sell, but there was a one-time opportunity to capture some revenue that wasn’t going to be collected before.  Capture it now, because when at the end of the list, the delinquent collections drop off – back to a very low level.  That is OK because the on time collections that were previously 94% should go up to 99%.  In order to sustain that collection level, an investment in the landbank is needed to keep mowing the lawns and get the properties back out the door.  They have put 225 properties back on the tax rolls and back into productive use so far; and are making a hard press to sustain that rate. 

 

Chairman McMahon referenced Butternut Street – there is land banking because they are clustering to have a maximum impact.  Ms. Wright said that when they get houses that is the only vacant house in that neighborhood, they are able to list it with a real estate agent and flip it very quickly.  Butternut Street and a lot of other neighborhoods are a different animal – there is a very high vacant property rate there.  If they take 2 and sell them immediately, there might still be 4 or 5 other vacant houses on the block and they haven’t really done anything.  A slower approach was taken with Butternut Street – took as many as they could through tax foreclosure; purchased vacant properties in the middle, and were able to assemble much larger parcels.  They partnered with Housing Visions, a nonprofit, who has an application into the state right now for an allocation of the tax credits.  If they are funded, they will be able to come in and tear down a significant number of buildings and do a bunch of new construction.  She referenced the project on Prospect Hill across from St. Joseph’s Hospital, which has transformed the way private investors look at that neighborhood.  She also reference a mixed use project at the corner of Butternut and Townsend, which is completely privately financed now.  The amount of investment they made changed the market.  The hope is to do that same thing, more north, on Butternut Street.  Similar assembly projects are being worked on in the near west side and other neighborhoods.  Chairman McMahon referenced the projects by St. Jospeh’s hospital, noting that there are a lot of neighborhoods competing for the money.  Congressman Walsh really believed that if it were done, it would spur this kind of reaction in the private market.  Ms. Wright said that it has taken them two years to get the assemblage into place, which has allowed Housing Visions to get their application in.  If they get funded, they probably won’t be able to break ground until Spring of 2017.  Sometimes it means holding the property for 4 years into order to make a transformative change. 

 

Mr. Jordan said that he has had clients that were trying to redevelop properties, and near as fast as they are putting in new plumbing, someone breaks in and steals the copper from it.  He asked what is/can be done to address the problem.  Ms. Wright said that unless there is someone on site, if someone wants to get in, then they are going to.  There has been discussion about more extensive board ups, but it doesn’t seem worth the investment.  When there is a high-profile project, they have been able to partner with SPD to have more frequent patrols. 

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Ms. Williams, to approve this item.  ABSENT:  1 (Ervin); Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Chairman Knapp took the agenda out of order. 

 

6.       FINANCE, DIVISION OF MANAGEMENT & BUDGET:  Tara Venditti, Deputy Director

a.     Authorize the County Comptroller to Transfer 2015 Unencumbered Appropriations and Appropriate Revenue After Expiration of the 2015 Fiscal Year Upon Approval of the County Executive and the Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee

  • Traditional year-end authorizations
  • Allows fixing deficits by transferring funds between accounts
  • Would allow comptroller’s office to transfer the funds after the County Executive and the Chairman of Ways & Means approve the transfers

Chairman Knapp said that he reviews this after the first of the year.  In answer to Mr. Jordan, Ms. Venditti said that his not for amounts under $7,500.  It authorizes the correction of deficits of any amounts.  Legislative approval is needed for any transfers about $7,500.  Chairman Knapp said that this is a temporary authorization for year-end above $7,500.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Ms. Williams, to approve this item.

 

Mr. May asked if there are any crazy ones in it.  Ms. Venditti said that there isn’t – the year end resolution is used very sparingly.  Chairman Knapp said that Ms. Stancyzk and he review them line by line in January.  There has not been any abuse in the past.

 

Absent:  1 (Ervin); Passed unanimously.  MOTION CARRIED.

 

b.     Authorizing the County Comptroller, Upon Approval of the Division of Management and Budget and the County Executive’s Office, to Transfer 2015 Unencumbered Appropriation Account Balances in Excess of $7,500 Into, Between, and Among all Interdepartmental Chargeback Appropriation Accounts and Adjust the Corresponding Interdepartmental Revenue Accounts

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Ms. Williams to approve this item.  Absent:  1 (Ervin); passed unanimously.  MOTION CARRIED.

 

7.        MISC:

a.     A Local Law Authorizing the Sale of County Property Located off of Munro Road in the Town of Camillus

Chairman Knapp:

  • County owned properties in Town of Onondaga and Camillus, near Tuscarora Golf Course 
  • Old trolley line that ran to/from the City – it has long been abandoned
  • Approached by homeowners
  • Went through the process put in place by Mr. Jordan to advertise the property
  • Because of the advertisement, more parcels were picked up
  • Property is a liability to the county; county has no use for the property

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Mr. Holmquist, to approve this item.  Absent:  1 (Ervin); Passed unanimously.  MOTION CARRIED.

 

b.     A Local Law Authorizing the Sale of County Property Located off of Munro Road in the Town of Camillus

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Mr. Holmquist, to approve this item.  Absent:  1 (Ervin); Passed unanimously.  MOTION CARRIED.

 

8.     ONONDAGA COUNTY INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY:

        a.     Confirming Appointment to the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency (Susan Stanczyk)

 

Chairman McMahon:

  • Lisa Dell has 6 months remaining on her term; resigned when elected as County Clerk
  • In the interim to get someone on the board, without conducting an extensive interview process, he is putting forth Sue Stanczyk to fill out the remainder of the term

Ms. Williams said that she will abstain.  She is sure Ms. Stancyzk will be wonderful on the board, but recently OCIDA had a public hearing, and it was very disrespectful that they did not show up.  

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Mr. Jordan, to approve this item.  AYES:  5; NOES:  0; ABSTENTIONS:  1 (Williams); ABSENT:  1 (Ervin); MOTION CARRIED. 

 

9.     PURCHASE, DIVISION OF:  Sean Carroll, Director

        a.     Revenue Contract Report

 

Mr. Carroll distributed the following; noting that there are not changes since the last month.

 

report

 

Chairman Knapp asked if there is any update on Lights on the Lake.  Mr. Carroll said that he hadn’t heard of any.

 

5.        PERSONNEL:  Peter Troiano, Commissioner

a.     Standard Work Day and Reporting Resolution

 

Mr. Troiano said that this the next group to submit for consideration.  Chairman Knapp said it is just acknowledging receipt.  

 

Chairman McMahon said that these are resolutions confirming that county employees work the mandatory hours to qualify for the pension system.  Legislators are sometimes reported as being part time, but stated for the record that they also have to fill out the reports confirming that they are working the minium, 30 hours/week, to meet the state requirements. 

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Ms. Williams, to approve this item.  Absent:  1 (Ervin); Passed unanimously.  MOTION CARRIED.  

 

         b.     Transfer from Acct. 641010 Reg. Employee Salaries to Acct. 694100 All Other Expenses, $14,000

  • 410 account pays out county’s share of exam fee collections
  • 2015 started out a little bit short and had an uptick of applicants that weren’t expected
  • County collects exam fees and retains half; the other half is sent to the State
  • No net gain or loss – just need money moved to pay the bill when it comes due

 

A motion was made by Mr. Jordan, seconded by Mr. Kilmartin, to approve this item.  Absent:  1 (Ervin); Passed unanimously.  MOTION CARRIED.

 

Chairman Knapp stated that item 5e would be taken next.

 

e.     Authorizing Various Personnel Changes

 

Mr. Troiano:

  • Creation of several positions in several departments:  Economic Dev. Specialist 3; 3 Laborer 1’s in DOT; painter in Co. Facilities Dept.; Ground Supervisor, Building & Maintenance Operations Assistant in Parks & Rec. Dept.
  • Positions needed to round out staffing for this year and going into next

In answer to Chairman Knapp, Mr. Troiano said that he doesn’t believe there is any money attached to it.  Chairman Knapp asked if some of them are for fall back.  Mr. Troiano said that because the budget process is started so early, some of it occurs in terms of reaction to the events that occurred since then.  There are adjustments needed to be made in order to go forward, after the budget has concluded, and there is an assessment of positions that need to be established. 

 

Mr. Jordan said that there are no positions being deleted, only added.  Mr. Troiano agreed.

 

A motion was mad by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Ms. Williams, to approve this item.  AYES:  5; NOES:  1 (Jordan); ABSTENTIONS:  0; ABSENT:  1 (Ervin).  MOTION CARRIED.

 

c.     Accepting and Approving Contract between the County of Onondaga and the Deputy Sheriff’s Benevolent  Association of Onondaga County, Inc.  (Sponsored By Mr. Knapp, Ms. Williams)

 

Mr. Troiano:

  • A packet was sent to members containing the draft contract; outlines the key provisions negotiated into the labor agreement
  • Carries a cost of $7.2 million over a 6-year term of the contract
  • Union has ratified the contract
  • 285 members in this union

 

Mr. May asked about retroactive costs.  Mr. Troiano said that the contract provides for the wage increases to be retroactive to 2013, which is included the the $7.2 million.

 

In answer to Chairman Knapp, Ms. Venditti said that in 2016 there is approximately $1.9 million in provision for salary and wage.  There should be sufficient funds to cover this.

 

Chairman Knapp asked what the vote was.  Mr. Troiano said that there were two ratifications – the 1st one was defeated; the 2nd one was 186 to 42.

 

Mr. Jordan stated that he will abstain from items 5c, 5d, 5e, 5f because he has not had a chance to look at the agreements.  They were just received today.  By voting he would be approving something he hadn’t really seen.

 

Mr. Holmquist asked if these just became available/why did members just receive them.  Mr. Troiano said that they were prepared and were making sure the the draft contracts were complete.  There were a lot of edits to be made, and wanted to be sure that the salaries were correct, even on the draft.  Regarding the Operating Engineers, next agenda item, it was ratified on Wednesday -- didn’t want to send it to the legislature until they were sure it was ratified.  Mr. Holmquist asked Mr. Troiano that if it were possible to get it to members, then you would have.  Mr. Troiano said that they would have and generally try to do that when they have the luxury of time.

 

A motion was made by Ms. Williams; seconded by Chairman Knapp, to approve this item.  AYES:  (4 (Knapp, Kilmartin, Williams, May); NOES:  0; ABSTENTIONS:  2 (Jordan, Holmquist); ABSENT: 1 (Ervin); MOTION CARRIED.

 

d.     Accepting and Approving Contract between the County of Onondaga and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 158S, AFL-CIO (Sponsored by Mr. Knapp, Ms. Williams)

  • The group is involved in HVAC work, operation of maintenance of systems, primarily in the downtown complex, some at Dept. of Correction
  • Ratified on Wednesday
  • $670,000 cost of the agreement over 6-year term
  • About 35 members in this union 
  • Wage increases are different then DSBA’s

 

Mr. May asked if it was open as long as DSBA’s; Mr. Troiano said that was 2013-2018.

 

In answer to Chairman Knapp, Mr. Troiano said that the agreement passed 24 to 10.

 

A motion was made by Ms. Williams, seconded by Mr. Kilmartin, to approve this item.  AYES:  5; NOES:  0; ABSTENTIONS:  1 (Jordan); ABSENT:  1 (Ervin); MOTION CARRIED. 

 

f.      Expressing Support for the Currently Proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement Between the County of Onondaga and the Onondaga Local 834 of Civil Service Employees Association, Inc. (Sponsored by Mr. Knapp, Ms. Williams)

  • Tentative agreement reached with CSEA
  • Their original plan was to ratify Dec. 22nd, the date has now been moved to January 5th
  • Want to support the agreement – feel is is a very good deal for both parties
  • Resolution expresses support that the negotiations be concluded, ratified and adopted in January

 

Chairman Knapp said that he and Ms. Williams felt it was important to send a message to the county employees that are members of CSEA that the legislature supports this agreements – want to get this off the plate and move forward.  It has been out there long enough.  This is basically to encourage them to ratify, hopefully by the margins seen in the other ones that were just approved.

 

Mr. Holmquist said that this looks like a memorializing resolution and questioned if it has ever been done before.  Chairman Knapp said that it is basically a memorializing resolution; it hasn’t been done in his time here, and noted that this is the first time these contracts have been done since he has been here.  Mr. Holmquist questioned why it is being done.  Chairman McMahon said that there has been a lot of misinformation about our support during the bargaining unit processes; feels this is an opportunity.  It is a great contract for both sides.  It is reasonable and brings clarity to all of the members and their families for 2018, even though the clarity for our government in 2016-2017, with sales tax not going where it should be, really isn’t there.  It is a beneficial deal for this bargaining unit to lock in now.  He supports this resolution because it makes it very clear that the legislature supports the agreement and thinks it’s fair.  Hopefully it will encourage people to support it on January 5th. 

 

Mr. Holmquist asked for a copy of the draft that we are supporting.  Chairman McMahon said that he thinks there is one in the legislators’ mailboxes.  Chairman Knapp said it is basically the same as the one just approved for Operating Engineers.  Mr. Troiano said that the wages are patterned after the Operating Engineers numbers.  Mr. Holmquist said that he doesn’t know a reason to do this.  There is a process in place, which has been in place for the history of the county.  He doesn’t understand doing a memorialization before the vote.  Chairman Knapp said that it is just to encourage them to look at it real had and hopefully take advantage of the offer they are being afforded.

 

Mr. May said that he will support this, but it isn’t a habit he would like us to get into.  When going to a bargaining table, the spirit of collective bargaining agreements start with good faith.  The truth of the matter is they all take too long for lots of different reasons.  He supports quick and equitable resolutions to all of these things, and feels this is superfluous to do this. 

 

Mr. Holmquist said that agrees with Mr. May, but will not support it.

 

Mr. Jordan said that he will abstain, as it is expressing support for an agreement that he hasn’t seen. 

 

Mr. May said that his interpretation is that we want to get this done; we are not saying that we agree to the numbers.  We will have another bite at the apple when the agreement comes before us.  Mr. Jordan said that the language in the resolution states “expresses its support for the currently proposed collective bargaining agreement”.  It is saying that we support a specific agreement with specific terms, which he has no idea what the agreement is and what the terms are.  

 

Mr. Troiano reviewed the key factors:

  • Wage increases follows that of the Operating Engineers:
    •  no wage increase in the first year;
    • Not retroactive fully in 2014 – starts the middle of the year
    • Wage progression:  2.25, 2.25, 2.75, 2.75
  • Health benefit modifications – increases employee contributions; plan designed/constructed by Health Benefit Coalition, will apply to this unit  - will help slow the growth of the health benefit plan

Mr. Holmquist said that he has full faith and confidence in the CSEA members to analyze and make their own judgment.  He does not think they need the County Legislature to tell them that this is a good deal.  After they analyze and make their own judgment, the legislature will take its roll.

 

Chairman Knapp said that during this process he has had several CSEA members approach him about stories they heard that the legislature was going to do.  He wanted to do this to remove the doubt that there was some malicious intent behind this. 

 

Ms. Williams agrees with what has been said; this is not normal.  Normally we wait and let the membership ratify, but there was misinformation about the legislature that we weren’t supportive of CSEA.  This says to the members that we are supportive of what the union leadership and our leadership agreed on.

 

Chairman McMahon said that Mr. Troiano will be available to any members that have additional questions.

 

Mr. Jordan said that he has had conversations with people who were emphatic that the legislature wasn’t supporting them, but unfortunately he had no idea what was being proposed.  The members knew more about it than he did, which was bothersome.  He supports resolving this, but wishes there was more of a free flow of what the terms are.  He does not like the situation when he is at a CSEA member’s door and they asked about terms of the agreement that his not familiar with.  Chairman McMahon said that the members know more because they voted down two contracts.  They voted down something that we didn’t see.  We were briefed on what the contracts said.

 

Mr. May suggested deleting and adding a couple words to the resolution to align with what he is hearing.  He suggested changing the RESOLVED clause from “currently proposed” to “ratification of the collected bargaining process.”  Mrs. Berger advised against the change and advised to keep the wording as drafted.

 

Mr. Holmquist said that this isn’t an appropriate role, the legislature has no formal role or responsibility for this – feels “we should stick to what our job is in the Charter.”  Chairman Knapp said that we are the policy making party – where the rubber hits the roads – we are paying the bills and salaries.  Mr. Holmquist said that we will vote on this after the CSEA membership votes on it.  Chairman Knapp agreed, adding that this is just bringing clarity to remove any doubt.

 

Mr. Kilmartin said that memorializing resolutions are passed for many different reasons throughout the year – items we might control, does control, and will never control.  If people want to vote in favor of it because it’s good to send a message about resolution of the contract, or if people want to abstain because they need more time, then it is perfectly reasonable.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Kilmartin, seconded by Ms. Williams, to approve this item.  AYES:  4; NOES:  1 (Holmquist); ABSTENTIONS:  1 (Jordan); ABSENT:  1 (Ervin).  MOTION CARRIED.

 

g.     Amending the Onondaga County Salary Plan for Elected Officials (Sponsored by Mr. Knapp, Ms. Williams)

 

Chairman Knapp:

  • For many years there was a process in place in the county that took the politics out of this process.
  • There was a good process, but for somewhat political reasons it was changed, which interjected politics back into it.
  • Some kind of a process should be put in place to take the politics out or we walk away from it totally -- saying this is going to be the salary for good. 

Mr. Troiano said that in the context of adjustments periodically, this needs to be looked at.  Chairman Knapp said that this is similar to what was proposed a year ago.

 

Ms. Williams:

  • Cosponsored this -  wants to get to a point where we as a body take politics out of elected officials raises
  • Once elected, she doesn’t feel comfortable voting on our own raises.  However, it is just that, because politics have been put back in 
  • Wants to move forward and know what the process is and that it be transparent  
  • Doesn’t like when we are moving people up in pay grades and justifying it
  • This is not the easiest vote, not the popular vote – it has a lot of fall back to it because we are in these positions.
  • Wants to get to a point where that is not happening, so the public knows exactly what the pay rate is and what it is going to look like
  • Maybe more people may want to run for the positions; does not want politics played in this at all

Chairman Knapp said that administratively, he’d be shocked if this went to the floor without changes, if it even goes to the floor.  No vote will be taken on it today, but it will be considered.

 

Mr. Holmquist:

  • Asked about the process - spoke to several members yesterday, including Chairman McMahon, and nobody knew what the resolution was, even into late last night. 
  • Questioned where it came from, and was handed to members at 9:00 a.m. today.

 

Ms. Williams said that these numbers have been talked about for over a year.  She said that raises for these positions have been talked about since she started in 2007.  Mr. Holmquist question what nobody knew about it.  Chairman Knapp said that we knew about it; some of the specifics were decided on late.  There is no real surprises; it is basically the same as what we have been talking about. 

 

Mr. Holmquist continued:

  • There was a general agreement that it is not appropriate by any measure for us to vote on our own raises.  Now, all of sudden we are doing it. 
  • We agreed that we would vote on the next legislature, the next Comptroller, the next Executive, and wouldn’t vote on our own raises. 
  • We talked about process and process matters; we said that this is most appropriately put in the budget, and should be discussed during the budget, during committee.
  • Does not define discussing this during committee as showing up an hour before the deadline yesterday and submitting it this morning -- didn’t even know what it was until this morning
  • Have come to expect bad behavior from the County Executive - she lobbied legislators privately, last night, behind closed doors, with no public input or discussion
  • It magically showed up on our agenda -- questioned who can defend that.

 

Mr. Fisher said that he can defend it:

  • The county executive is appreciative of the sponsors; she has been calling legislators and surprised that Mr. Holmquist hadn’t been called.
  • He defends the process -- eight years ago Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the county executive went against what had been the practice of a small increase in her predecessor’s salary, as did legislators. 
  • Four members of the current legislature were there; 13 were not.  There have been no raises in eight years for legislators or county executive.
  • County executive is now paid less than the superintendent of his school system, a position that arguably has as much or more responsibility
  • A tremendous amount of work has shifted to the county legislature over the last eight years, and the pay is the exactly the same as it was then.

Mr. Holmquist didn’t disagree, but said Mr. Fisher was missing the point entirely:

  • Legislature agreed that whatever proposal there was, it would be voted on before Election Day.
  • There was an opportunity – Ms. Breidenbach, Post Standard, asked everyone if they supported elected officials raised.
  • This proposal wasn’t in the budget.

 

He questioned if the County Executive supports the legislature voting its own raised.  Mr. Fisher said “she certainly does.”  Mr. Holmquist asked if the County Executive supports the legislature voting on this after Election Day.  Mr. Fisher said that every two years the voters have an opportunity to weigh in.  Mr. Holmquist said that the County Executive is wrong and asked if anyone else agrees with her that “we should vote on this after Election Day.” 

 

Chairman McMahon:

  • No one is on trial and said that the rhetoric needs to be more respectful to colleagues. 
  • If what Mr. Holmquist says is correct, that all agreed to vote on it before Election Day, then why wasn’t a vote taken last year when it was brought up. 
  • Everyone agreed, but couldn’t find a format, was that the way it is done, isn’t done correctly – it’s political.
  • Certain people got raises over the last 8 years, some larger than others.  Certain people are friends with people and ironically got raises.
  • Previous county executive got raises every year; this county executive doesn’t get raises. 
  • To take the politics out of it, this body needs to take a leap of faith to set the positions where they believe is right.
  • To take the politics out, you have to adjust, to a degree, the 8 - 9 year gap that hasn’t been adjusted. 
  • Tying it to CPI takes the politics out, and thinks all agreed to it.
  • There was never any agreement; if there was it would have been voted on before Election Day – it would have been voted last December/January when it was being reported on and covered at this committee. 

 

Mr. Holmquist:

  • It sounds like you want to take the public input out of this -- public input isn’t going to be possible.  It is being jammed in right before Christmas and no one is paying attention.
  • We all got this this morning; and we come in and vote on Tuesday -- you want to take the public input, public dialogue, and public discussion out of it.
  • This is not taking politics out of it – this is political.

Chairman Knapp agreed and said that is why we are just going to bite the bullet or not.  Maybe we say that this goes away for the next 100 years and maybe someday down the road we’ll change it.  Mr. Holmquist said it can be done two years from now, before Election Day – set up a process that we can be proud of.

 

Mr. Holmquist:

  • He told Ms. Breidenbauch in her article that he supports elected officials raises before Election Day.
  • Others said “not at this time” and meant “not this year.”  Other people meant “not at this time, we are going to do it right after Election Day.”
  • Said yes before Election Day, not to this plan, but to something reasonable, to something that we can be proud of with both process and policy.

 

Chairman Knapp said that the numbers can change; it’s all part of discussions.  In answer to Mr. Holmquist, Chairman Knapp said that the public has been talking about this for years.  The county executive ran on this. 

 

Mr. Jordan:

  • Came to the legislature in 2006; there wasn’t consistent raises prior to 2006
  • Legislature passed a resolution in 2006 to provide for 3% increases every year.  Before that the legislature went many years without raises.
  • Thinks it’s false the the county executive had raises every year before that.  It was implemented in 2006 to have a certain percentage raise every year.
  • Regarding taking the politics out of it—politics is what resulted in no raises for a number of years.
  • An economic downturn occurred, that the taxpayers benefited from the politics and the process.

 

Chairman Knapp said that he doesn’t know if it was politics; it was economics.  Mr. Jordan said that the legislature changed a set policy, eliminated a set percentage increases every year, because of the dire financial circumstances that were presented.  It was done to try to protect the taxpayers, and many constituents weren’t seeing raises.  The view was that they weren’t getting raises, why would we get raises.  

 

Mr. Jordan continued:

  • His understanding of what was discussed years ago, was that that everyone was in agreement to go back to a situation where politicians weren’t voting their own raises, and tie future raises to an index.
  • There was broad, if not unanimous, support to tie it to an index for all elected officials.
  • It fell apart when a resolution came forward with significant raises for a number of elected officials.
  • Clear from the very beginning that he was supportive of tying raises to an index, but not supportive of having “make up” raises.
  • We are all elected officials; the county executive could have proposed in her budget a raise for the last 8 years; she could have proposed a raise for all elected officials.
  • The legislature could have proposed raises for itself and all elected officials; legislature chose not to. 
  • Now to say that we need to make up for all of this is wrong.
  • We chose not to take the raises.  If we want to tie it into an index, then we can do that now, but don’t need to make up for decisions that we made before. 
  • Supports the idea of tying legislators’ raises and all elected officials to an index, but not supportive of the idea of giving big bumps to everybody.
  • Statements that were made regarding making more if in the private sector, can be said about anybody - referenced U.S. Senators and the President of the United States.
  • It’s a fallacious argument; nobody in a public office is paid what they would be in the private sector.  “We ran for offices knowing what the salary was”; now wanting a $3,000, $5,000, or $7,000 raise right after the election is not right.

 

Mr. Fisher corrected the record that the county executive raise did not begin in 2006 as stated.  The prior county executive received raises in 2000-2008 – eight consecutive years.  It stopped in 2009.  The comparison he made to school superintendents – those are not elected officials, but are seen by most as public officials.

 

Chairman McMahon:

  • Obviously legislators aren’t going to take a pay raise during a recession
  • Our bargaining units didn’t take pay raises; nobody did.
  • Some of these bargaining units contracts have gone so long, to the benefit of no one, and they are trying to do their best for their members to make up for the years on the table, but also for some of the previous years where they did not get anything.
  • At one point there was 12.5% increase for the legislators; it was for the same reason – for a long time before there was no increases.
  • To take the politics out of it, something has to be done. 
  • Does not accept the notion that we need to vote for the future legislative bodies so we are not voting ourselves a raise – that is what we tried to do last year.
  • Some of the same members that said that is what we need to do said no then -- we tried to do just that, and the resolution didn’t go anywhere.   

 

Mr. Holmquist:

  • Asked legislators that were present, who said in Ms. Breidenbach’s article, “not at this time, no raises”
  • That was a month and a half ago.  Now after Election Day, all of a sudden, there are all of these supporters for a raise of $37,000 for the County Executive and big bumps for everybody else. 
  • All of a sudden there is a master plan for all of these big raises and questioned why it wasn’t a good idea a month and a half ago.
  • He relies on the leadership – any four could have said “no” to the County Executive.
  • This is not OK; this type of thing is talked about during the budget process.
  • Now the public is being cut out; they are not going to be part of this debate.  If it is a good idea now, it should have been a good idea six weeks ago. 

 

Chairman McMahon said that the difference between now and six weeks ago is that our largest bargaining unit, with our most county employees, did not have an agreement.  It was a totally inappropriate time to have a discussion.  Mr. Holmquist said that they don’t have an agreement now.  Chairman McMahon stated that there is an agreement; there hasn’t been a ratifying vote.  Regarding transparency, there is more media present today then there was in the whole budget process.  From a transparent standpoint, the best way to handle the issue is to have a stand-alone issue, which is fully debated, where constituents and anyone interested can come and listen to these meetings, listen to debate and make up their own mind.  

 

Mr. Holmquist said that the fact that it made it to the agenda, with our rules, means that it can be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting.  Chairman Knapp said it can, but it doesn’t mean that it has to.  Mr. Holmquist said that it will be completely contingent upon if the county executive and proponents get nine votes.  If that happens, it will get jammed through.  He is relying on the media to tell everybody to kill this so that we can have a full debate.  It can be debated in January.  Then the public can have a chance for input.

 

Chairman Knapp:

  • There is never a good time -- i.e. if it were done in January, people are in Florida; in the Spring, it is getting closer to budget.
  • This could be hidden in the budget, if we really want to hide it.
  • By having it as a stand-alone like this, it is pretty transparent. 

 

Mr. May:

  • Agrees with a lot of what he has heard today. 
  • It is in the eye of the beholder right now -- Mr. Jordan’s opinion is similar to his regarding the process the last time around.  The broadest consensus was received for an indexing type of approach.
  • The truth is that this resolution didn’t even make it out of the board room; it didn’t make it to the floor. 
  • What has happened in the past from this kind of policy, doesn’t motivate him to do anything today.  What matters is what is done today; and what we do going forward to fix things.
  • Can’t support this in any way as proposed and presented. 

 

Mr. Holmquist said that he thinks it should be voted on today.  Presumably the sponsors are proud of it and support it, and questioned why a vote wouldn’t be taken today.  Chairman Knapp said that this was put out there, but there are things that will be changed or tweaked, which is the whole reason for the discussion.  If we wanted to jam something through, then we could try that.  The reason this was put out was to generate the discussion.  He said that he has no idea if there is support in the general legislature for this.  This could very well change.  He doesn’t think that Ms. Williams or he is saying that anything is written in stone.  He likes the CPI, but regarding the true up numbers, or the whole thing in general may fall of its own weight. 

 

Mr. May asked which CPI is being used.  Mr. Fisher said it is CPI Urban; it comes out every month and you have to pick a 12 month period.

 

Mr. Kilmartin:

  • This issue can get very political and very personal--doesn’t think that it has to be
  • There is a tremendous amount of anxiety about this.
  • It shouldn’t be about anxiety, fear, personalities, performance, or politics.  That is a problem with the present and a big part of the past. 
  • The item is here for informational purposes.  Nothing is going to happen today unless someone decides to take action on it.
  • The past should be looked at, as is done with many items, i.e. vendors, contracts, process, or budget items.
  • The past should be analyzed – should determine if there is any need with any of these salaries or positions to see if there needs to be a right side of this based on the past. 
  • A standard should be set going forward that is fair, objective and takes it out of the hands of the legislature, so that as with the problems of the past it isn’t personal.
  • There isn’t name calling, it isn’t political, it is not based on fear, media, outside influences or salacious headlines that come about without all the facts behind them.
  • Has looked at the historicals, many developed by our staff and others over a year ago.  They were distributed to the media and all legislators; has copies of them to share, and people can do their own homework because there is a lot of misinformation out there.
  • In the past it was arbitrary, inconsistent, uneven, disproportionate, and unfair on many levels.

 

Mr. Kilmartin gave an example:  a number of years ago, in the midst of the recession, the legislature decided to adjust the salary of the DA.  He was a significant proponent of it because he thought the office deserved it; the data bore out a raise for the DA.  At that time, the DA’s salary was tied to judge’s salaries.  At that time, for more than a decade, the NYS Assembly and Senate decided not to give judges a raise for 10, 12 or 15 years because they wanted raises.  They didn’t want to do something equitable and fair for another branch of state government unless they got something.  They didn’t have the wherewithal to take the hits for it, analyze the data, and do something that was fair and proportionate.  As many other counties did at that time, we adjusted the salaries for the DA.  By a near unanimous vote, we thought the office deserved more; the process was so cockeyed that it deserved to be addressed.  Some of those issues carry over to today with what we are looking at for some of these offices. 

 

Mr. Kilmartin continued:

  • Our analysis should be based on facts, data, research, analysis, and comparables. 
  • Mr. Jordan brought up a good point that a public position shouldn’t be analyzed to the private sector, because they are two different animals, but at the same time it is one of the relevant comparables.
  • In terms of comparables for any of these offices,  other county wide officials, governments close in proximity and size, public sectors, to a limited degree the private sector, other elected officials, and county employees should be looked
  • For any county-wide office, it is relevant to really look hard at some of the minutia, because there is a lot of anxiety with the county executive’s pay and other county-wide officials.
  • There was a pay raise for the county executive every year for many years until 2008, then it stopped for 8 years. 
  • The recession was imposed upon all of us; it’s probably not all of the story.
  • Looking at other county-wide officials, family court judges, county court judges, medical examiner, Commissioner of Health, school superintendents, and court claims judges, many of them have county wide jurisdiction -- they don’t have nearly the budget or number of personnel to oversee, and they are making substantially more than the county executive and other county-wide officials.  It is relevant; it may be or may not be dispositive.
  • It is relevant to look at the size of the budget each of these officials has to receive, the number of employees, and the number of departments and subdepartments that each of these officials has to oversee.
  • Review of the data is helpful; it’s what we should rely on; it should be done objectively. 
  • The last time around, it was based on recommendations from elected officials, county legislators, and outside parties.  Many data points were looked at; counties with similar geography and with the nearest population to us were looked at.  The high and low was stripped out and the median data was analyzed.  The data tells a story.
  • There is a better way forward – strip out the emotion and personal comments is the best way to go.

 

Mr. Maturo said that Mr. Kilmartin pointed out the history of what was done in the past.  He reminded the legislature that in 2011 the County Comptroller was given a raise after the budget process in December.  A raise was voted in, and the County Executive later vetoed the raise - saying that all raises for all elected officials should be discussed in the budget process so that the public can have input.  He suggested that the legislature may want to take into consideration going down a road of voting this in and risking a veto later.  Chairman McMahon asked if the Comptroller got his raise.  Mr. Maturo said that the following year it was in the budget and voted on in the budget.

 

Mr. Kilmartin continued:

  • Looking at the history, short and long term, it gets very arbitrary, very quickly.
  • Regarding the Comptroller, there were a number of raises year in and year out and then became arbitrary.
  • There was one over the past four years.  It was similar with the county clerk – a raise for many years, then no raises, then a raise during the recession.
  • The sheriff got raises for many years, some significant, and then it fell off for 8 years. 
  • The DA has had one raise in 14 years. 
  • The county executive had raises year in and out and then stopped in 2009. 
  • The legislature had a limited number of raises over the past 14 years; twice in the past 14 years.
  • Looking at the CSEA and M/Cs for other comparables – an average raise of about 2.2% looking at 14 years.  It doesn’t account any contracts that might go retroactively for a couple of years.
  • He reviewed the average for the past 14 years:  legislature 1%; county executive 1.1%; DA 1.9%; Sheriff 3.2%; Clerk 3.1%; the Comptroller 3.36%; DSBA 2.3%; OCSPA 3.1%; IUOE 2.7%.
  • Very quickly wild swings are seen in it.  If we have the ability to analyze, right size, put on an objective criteria going forward, it is simple, transparent and the right way to go.

 

Mr. Holmquist:

  • Mr. Kilmartin is saying that the facts, analysis, and all of the numbers he read off matter, and agrees with that. 
  • The point is when this is proposed – after Election Day, right before Christmas, there is not enough time for the public to have input -- cutting the public out of it
  • It is wrong; the process is embarrassing.
  • Facts and figures should be done in a committee process, at budget when there are weeks of public process and debate – not something that gets jammed through in the dark of night.
  • It is also wrong for elected officials to vote themselves raises.
  • It is absolutely appropriate to vote for the next legislature because that is not us. 
  • All of the facts and figures that Mr. Kilmartin talked about should be used – do a full analysis.  A full analysis can’t be done in a weekend between the deadline for Ways & Means and the last session of the year on Tuesday, right before Christmas, with no ability for the public to have any input.   

 

Mr. Jordan:

  • Agrees with Mr. Kilmartin that there have been some arbitrary instances on how raises have been given
  • Supportive of the idea of tying raises to an index across the board with whatever index is decided to be appropriate – it takes the arbitrariness out of it.
  • It is worth considering what other county officials across the state are paid, but it is not dispositive.  Many other legislatures in many other counties are more willing to spend money than we are.
  • Traditionally, we are very conservative with our spending, which is why we have one of the best credit ratings in the state.  The fact that other legislatures in other counties have chosen to pay certain elected officials more than ours for the same position, is not dispositive.  We have weathered the storm much better than most every other county in the state.
  • The spot light has been more on the County Executive’s raise because it has been one of the highest percentage raises of all the raises proposed.
  • He supports tying future raises to an index and may support some very modest increase in salaries for elected officials. 
  • He is not supportive of the idea of make-up raises in large sums of money.
  • Preference would be no raises and tie them to an index from here on in.

 

Mr. May:

  • Many of these positions, particularly county executive, should be increased.
  • However, doesn’t agree with this process and what is proposed in any way.

Mr. May stated for the record that his opinions, and much of what he has heard conveyed today, has nothing to do with fear, politics, or anxiety.  For himself, it has nothing to do with anyone personally.  He likes everyone on the list, but we are trying to do the right thing and that is why opinions are being shared.

 

Mr. Holmquist:

  • Asked why there is a $37,000 raise as a starting point for the county executive; why it isn’t what the the consensus was some time ago -- that this should be incrementally put into place.
  • It was vitally discussed in the public that it is disrespectful to the taxpayers and to the people that work in this community -- many of which don’t even make $37,000. 
  • Questioned why it didn’t start with something that had wide support, something reasonable.

 

Chairman Knapp said that this was to start the discussion.  In answer to Mr. Holmquist, Mr. Knapp said that he doesn’t know if there is consensus for anything.  Ms. Williams said it wasn’t about the numbers on the paper, it was to open up the discussion, which has to happen.  She said that we keep sidestepping this discussion – have tried several time to have it and it hasn’t happened.  This is just to spark the discussion, get the data, and make a decision on the process of what to do going forward.  She respects everyone’s opinions, but at some point we have to take the politics out and move forward with a process.  None of us probably know right now what the process will look like in the end.

 

Mr. Holmquist:

  • Recommended starting with the process and getting rid of the resolution.
  • Talk about when the best time is to discuss it; recommended that the budget is the best time – it give 6 weeks of discussion in public, with open debate, in multiple meetings over a long period of time, and can be properly vetted.
  • Recommended that we do this before the election, not right after it, particularly right after the election when we aren’t up for two more years.  This is the worst possible time, we lose public support, and it is very disingenuous; it appears as if it is trying to get jammed through – it was submitted at the last hour yesterday and members didn’t have the recommendation until this morning.
  • Recommended that it should be something reasonable, that we can be proud of, the employees of the county and taxpayers can be proud of.
  • Nobody is proud of this, outside of maybe some of the executive team and a few politicians.
  • Believes his recommendations are widely supported on both sides of the aisle, amongst the public, and done transparently.  The recommendations address every issue discussed today, including the facts and figures – can be done when there is enough time and enough public input. 

Chairman Knapp said that this has been a good discussion, which is the goal of putting this out there.  He didn’t call for a vote; this could very well change.  He and Ms. Williams are not married to any of these numbers; it was done to have to discussion and get people’s reactions. 

 

The meeting was adjourned at 10:45 a.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

signature

DEBORAH L. MATURO, Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

 

attendance

 

 

 

 
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