Onondaga County

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  After a few weeks of leveling off, flu cases in central New York have seen another spike.

Now in the heart of influenza season, Onondaga County health officials’ weekly total of reported cases was the highest of the season, so far. That's in contrast to statewide numbers, where reported cases declined five percent last week.  The county documented 316 cases for the week ending Jan. 31. That’s after four weeks of reported cases between two and three hundred.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Governments in Onondaga County spend an average of $3,900 per resident each year. And spending on each of the 468,000 people in the county is rising.

Those are some of the findings in a new report out on government consolidation.

Center for Government Research president Joseph Stekfo says municipalities that go through consolidation typically see noticeable savings but that’s if governments and residents are willing. He says any change in municipal services pulls at people expectations of community.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

At a time when police community relations are at historic lows across the country, Onondaga County lawmakers have made a move they hope will repair some of the trust between central New Yorkers and the Onondaga County Justice Center.  

There was a rare standing ovation for Onondaga County lawmakers Tuesday.

Applause followed a unanimous vote to create a jail oversight commission.  This independent group will review serious incidents at the Justice Center, and make reports to the legislature and the sheriff’s department.  

Madison County

You won’t be able to throw out old computers, televisions or video game consoles in the trash anymore in New York state once a new e-waste law is goes into effect Jan. 1.

This is the final phase of the state’s electronic waste recycling law that’s meant to divert electronics that can harbor dangerous metals from getting into the landfill.  

Andrew Radin, with the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Center, says this is meant to keep dangerous metals out of landfills. But he also notes there is a jobs component to all of this.

Onondaga County

It’s been a busy year for economic development for Central New York.  And one of the highest profile projects that will be completed in 2015 is the $100 million amphitheater and Solvay revitalization project. This kind of economic development reflects a new reality when it comes to paying for government.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The city of Syracuse is continuing its fight for accurate FEMA maps that will cut down on the number of homeowners who have to buy expensive flood insurance, and they have a powerful ally.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney says central New Yorkers should expect to hear more from her than usual next year, as she runs for a third term.

At this point, she hasn’t made any formal declarations about running. “I did not make any kind of official announcement, and I think I broke protocol, but I happened to be talking to a reporter who asked if I was running and I said I planned to," she told WRVO.

She does plan to make that formal announcement, she said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Today is the day the Salvation Army gets to play Santa Claus. The annual Christmas Bureau gets help from local organizations and volunteers to provide gifts and food for Onondaga County families who can’t afford it themselves.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Onondaga County lawmakers hope to help the operators of the Syracuse Chiefs build on a successful season of baseball.

County lawmakers have agreed to lend $1.2 million to the operators of the Chiefs, who want to make stadium upgrades that would allow large groups to host parties or events during games. Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says this is a concept that can help bring more business to the stadium.

Don McCullough / Flickr

There are 57 fire departments is Onondaga County, which is nearly twice as many as the number of municipal governments. That’s just one example of the issues facing a task force on government consolidation. Tallying the number of government agencies is the first job.

There are 36 municipal governments in Onondaga County, from the city of Syracuse to tiny Marcellus. Each also has its own public works department. With government costs rising and population – or really, the tax base – shrinking, the county has been looking at ways to consolidate services.

The group F.O.C.U.S. Greater Syracuse is trying to keep baby boomers from leaving the area as they retire. The community group has completed a study about just how age-friendly central New York is.

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, make up about a third of Onondaga County’s population. F.O.C.U.S. wanted to find out what would make it easier for them to stay in central New York.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Vera House in Syracuse has been helping victims of domestic and sexual violence for 25 years now. Officials for the agency say they will continue to help victims, but are looking for a more permanent answer to the problem over the next 25 years.

The domestic and sexual violence numbers in this year’s Vera House annual report didn’t change much from the past. Last year in Onondaga County there were two homicides involving intimate partners, and Syracuse Police and Onondaga County law enforcement officers answered almost 18,000 total domestic violence calls last year.

CNY Fair Housing

A recent report finds Syracuse and Onondaga County suffer from “hyper-segregation,” where minorities are mostly confined to a few, low-income neighborhoods.

A practice of only placing affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods, combined with the fact that few landlords outside those blocks are willing to accept housing vouchers, has resulted in Syracuse being one of the most segregated cities in the country, according to a report by CNY Fair Housing.

"As long as we keep having this pattern reoccurring for decades and generations, we’re not going to see, really address the difficult issue of the fact that we have one of poorest communities in the country and one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country," said Sally Santangelo, executive director of CNY Fair Housing.

The number of children from Onondaga County who go through the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse is holding steady. Officials say getting the word out about these children who are sexually abused is key to getting that number down.

About 700 kids used the services of McMahon Ryan last year, and most of them knew their abusers, says Executive Director Linda Cleary.

"Almost 45 percent of the children we’ve seen were abused by a parent," Cleary said. "And then another almost 40 percent were abused by someone they know or love.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The Solarize Syracuse initiative was a success, according to organizers. The three-month long program has helped more than 70 property owners in Syracuse, Dewitt, Manlius and the town of Onondaga go solar.

Solar energy is helping Diane Swords of Syracuse’s university neighborhood heat her home. Swords is one of the property owners who installed solar energy technology during the recent Solarize Syracuse blitz.

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. 


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.