Onondaga County

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

College students across central New York today are learning valuable lessons this Election Day. Many students from different colleges and universities are fanned out at polling places across Syracuse and Onondaga County, interviewing voters or volunteering to help.

Jonathan Rowe, who attends Onondaga Community College, has been what’s called a "gatekeeper" at the Elmwood School polling location in Syracuse, since polls opened this morning.
   
“Good morning, do you know what district you are voting in?” he says to one voter walking into the location.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Construction can now begin on an amphitheater on the western shore of Onondaga Lake.

Onondaga County lawmakers agreed Monday to borrow almost $50 million to build the venue. Opponents, like Republican Kathleen Rapp, voted against the plan, suggesting it doesn’t have enough of an economic punch.

“It’s like your family budget," Rapp said. "You’d like to do everything. I would love to do this amphitheater, but not at the cost of giving up other things that would give far bigger return to taxpayers.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Onondaga County is experimenting this Election Day with electronic poll books. Information gleaned from this experience could change the way New Yorkers sign in to vote in this state.

Right now, when voters go to the polls in New York state, an election worker flips through a big book. A voter then signs in next to their name, before casting their ballot.

Electronic poll books would change that first step, with voters' names stored in a laptop-like device, using a signature pad to sign in.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Update: The Onondaga County Legislature voted today to borrow $50 million to build an amphitheater along Onondaga Lake. The vote passed by a 12-5 margin. The five members of the legislature who voted against the proposition were Kevin Holmquist, Judith Tassone, Kathleen Rapp, Casey Jordan and Peggy Chase. 

WRVO

For the first time in two decades, Onondaga County will have a new sheriff next January. The two men vying for the opportunity to succeed longtime sheriff Kevin Walsh, who’s retiring, are making the rounds across the county this fall, trying to convince voters to pay attention to the race.  

The candidates are Republican Gene Conway, currently the police chief in the town of Dewitt, and Democrat Toby Shelley, a 16-year veteran of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, who retired in 2011.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Onondaga County says part of its jail overcrowding problem could be eased with a little help from New York State. Lawmakers are asking the state to make changes in a policy regarding state prisoners who’ve run afoul of their parole.

Right now, Onondaga County is forced to take state prisoners, who have violated parole, and keep them in the local jail while the justice system decides whether to send them back to state prison. County officials say that policy is squeezing an overcrowded county jail even more.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

It was a relatively easy budget season for Onondaga County lawmakers this fall. Legislators unanimously approved County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s proposed $1.25 billion spending plan. There was only one hiccup; concern about spending more money for construction of a dog kennel at the Jamesville Correctional Facility.

Onondaga Emerald Ash Borer Task Force

Onondaga County’s Emerald Ash Borer Task Force is trying to take a more regional approach as it tries to corral the spread of the invasive insect.

The task force has been on the trail of the Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, for three years now, so when it showed up in parts of Syracuse and DeWitt last summer, local governments started an aggressive campaign to take down or treat infested ash trees.

This edition of the Campbell Conversations begins a series of joint conversations this fall with candidates in contested races for elected positions.  This week the two candidates for Onondaga County Sheriff join host Grant Reeher, in their first shared appearance.  Republican Gene Conway and Democrat Toby Shelley discuss their background and experience, the need to make changes at the sheriff's department, their vision for greater cooperation with other law enforcement agencies in the county, and just how vigorously they'll enforce the SAFE Act. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Since its passage in January 2013, the New York SAFE Act has been a topic of discussion for law enforcement officials across the state, including the two candidates running to replace outgoing Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh.

While speaking with Grant Reeher on WRVO's Campbell Conversations, Republican Gene Conway and Democrat Toby Shelley expressed concerns with the gun control law, and neither threw their full support behind it.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO/File photo

Onondaga County and emergency management officials are taking the next step to help central New Yorkers prepare for a natural or man-made disaster. Officials believe it’s not a matter of if a disaster will strike, but when, and residents need to be ready.

Following a survey last year of central New Yorkers asking how ready they were for a disaster, one statistic stood out to Rosie Taravella of the Red Cross. Most people believe emergency responders will be able to help them right away if there is a community-wide storm, flood or man-made disaster.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The number of mental health inmates at the Onondaga County Justice Center is on the rise, and the implications of that are widespread.

Esteban Gonzalez, chief custody deputy for the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, sees more and more mental health cases in the jail’s daily count.

"It’s gotten pretty high in the last four weeks," Gonzalez said. "We have more than 20 constant observation inmates on any given day.”

Gonzalez believes some of the increase is due to the heroin epidemic currently plaguing central New York.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Slightly lower property taxes and decreased spending are the hallmarks of Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s proposed $1.25 billion spending plan.

The debate over the budget may ultimately be overshadowed by another proposal from Mahoney this week for a bond that will pay for the Onondaga Lake amphitheater project.

At the end of ten days of budget reviews, county lawmakers have injected a review of the western Onondaga Lake revitalization project, that includes construction of an amphitheater on the west shore of Onondaga Lake.

Those visiting the New York State Fair might stumble into some money, thanks to the state comptroller and the Office of Unclaimed Funds.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says there's about $13 billion in lost money throughout the state.

John Weeks talks with director of recreation and public programs, Bob Geraci, about the different parks in Onondaga county. They address how the various parks are classified and different activities that go on at each one. 

Onondaga County

Residents have almost an extra month to weigh in on the initial environmental impact statement for the proposed Lakeview Amphitheater facility along Onondaga Lake. This move follows criticism among lawmakers and the public that the environmental scoping process for the $100 million project was rushed.

Syracuse is facing a host of challenges and opportunities; front and center among them are the replacing of I-81 and the economic development of the city.  On this edition of the Campbell Conversations, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney sit down together with host Grant Reeher to discuss these key issues. 

Note: See the transcript below for highlights of the conversation.

Onondaga County Sheriff's Office

The New York State Police helicopter operation based in has moved to Rochester, which will cause a gap in air support for police investigations and rescues in central New York. Onondaga County’s Air One helicopter will still fly, but needs more funding to provide those services.

Before the state police helicopter moved, the troopers generally took care of calls during the day, and Onondaga County’s Air One handled them in the evening. County Sheriff Kevin Walsh says the county’s crime fighting helicopter can’t fill those day time hours at this time.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Just about six months ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to central New York to announce that the state would chip in $30 million for a multi-million dollar plan to revitalize the western lakeshore of Onondaga Lake, including the village of Solvay. Today, Onondaga County is ready to share with the public detailed plans about what this development entails.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the city can't have a modern economy without access to high-speed Internet and strong phone service.

Miner has recently called for better broadband in Syracuse, and has signed a petition to the state's Public Service Commission asking for an investigation into broadband's rollout in the state.

"And what I have seen firsthand is a number of businesses who said they wanted to locate to Syracuse, or expand in Syracuse, but couldn't because of a lack of access to affordable broadband or telecommunications," Miner said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Independent restaurants in central New York are hoping to fight what they call an uneven playing field when it comes to Destiny USA. Many restaurants say they’ve lost business since the mega-mall expanded a few years ago with the help of a tax deal with the city of Syracuse.

Denis Sick, of Mohegan Manor in Baldwinsville, has seen business fall 30 to 40 percent since December a year ago, and puts the blame squarely on competition from Destiny’s chain restaurants.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

This summer, environmental questions will be heard surrounding the construction of a new amphitheater on the old Solvay waste beds along Onondaga Lake. A draft environmental impact statement surrounding the project will soon be up for review.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Onondaga County expects to spend more than $15 million over the next 25 years to deal with the Emerald Ash Borer infestation. The plan targets almost 47,000 ash trees on county land that pose a danger if they fall over.

The invasive bug was discovered in Onondaga County last summer, and if left alone can kill an ash tree in two to seven years. County Environmental Director David Coburn says the county is proposing an ash tree management strategy that is a balanced approach.

With an aging population, elder abuse is becoming more prevalent across the country and in central New York. Financial abuse has become one of the most common ways people take advantage of older Americans.

Jenny Hicks runs a program out of Vera House in Syracuse that focuses on elder abuse, and says there’s a kind of déjà vu in an agency that for years has counseled victims of domestic violence.

“It’s very much like domestic violence was 35 years ago -- in the shadows," Hicks said. "People are just now starting to talk about elder abuse.”

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Opponents to a trash to ash plan between Onondaga and Cortland Counties had their say at an informational meeting on the environmental impact of the proposed move in the town of DeWitt last night.  

The plan would truck garbage from Cortland County to Onondaga County’s trash burner in Jamesville, then return the ash to the Cortland County landfill. Many of the people who testified at the meeting had been involved in the fierce debate over whether the plant should have been built in the first place  20 years ago, and remembered the promises made to placate a community.  

Office of Onondaga County Comptroller

Onondaga County is hosting the first of several public hearings on a plan to import trash from Cortland County to burn at Onondaga County’s incinerator in Jamesville.

Onondaga County Legislator David Knapp says this is all part of the process of getting information about the potential impacts of the deal.

“Right now we’re in the scoping phase of the environmental impact process," Knapp said. "So this meeting is open to any resident to come in and give us their thoughts about what should be in the scope of the environmental review.”

The wait for a pistol permit in Onondaga County has steadily gotten better since a logjam was created in the wake of the passage of the NY SAFE Act.

A year ago, it took 15 months get an appointment with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department simply to apply for a pistol permit.  

"We’ve been able to reduce the wait from over 15 months to three months.  That’s a tremendous improvement,” said Deputy Chief John Balloni.

Office of Onondaga County Comptroller

The so-called Trash to Ash plan is now officially before the public. The initial public comment period has started, regarding a regional solid waste partnership between Onondaga and Cortland County, but there is already opposition to the plan.
             

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Onondaga County’s program that turns food waste into the compost and mulch we use in our gardens is expanding.

OCRRA, the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency, has installed new structures that make the process at the Amboy Compost Facility work like a well-oiled machine.

It all starts with the food we throw away at restaurants, schools and grocery stores; the fruit rinds, the crusts of bread and corn husks. Those scraps are dumped into a new covered mixing area at the facility on Airport Road in Amboy.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO file photo

Onondaga County will be helping out some local governments, including the city of Syracuse, re-pave roads ravaged by a bad winter.  

It wasn’t as much as originally offered by Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, but Onondaga County lawmakers did agree yesterday to foot the bill for paving two major roads in the city of Syracuse.  

Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says the county will spend a half a million dollars to re-pave Adams and Harrison Streets.

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