Onondaga County

The third time wasn’t a charm for Onondaga County CSEA workers, as members of the county’s largest union have again rejected a contract offer.

The vote wasn’t close: 1057 workers were opposed to the agreement, only 747 agreed with it. 

This is the third negotiated deal between Onondaga County and employees of several departments, including the district attorney’s office, the Department of Social Services and OCC.   

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

An attempt to reverse pay raises for some Onondaga County elected officials is still alive, but barely. Republican Legislator Kevin Holmquist railed against the 15 and 30 percent raises for legislators and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney when they were voted on last month. Now, he's trying to get those raises rescinded.

Holmquist couldn’t get the votes to consider it at the Legislature’s organizational meeting this week and had to settle for potentially taking it through the committee process.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County legislators and County Executive Joanie Mahoney will be getting raises in January.

It will be the first raise for everyone since before the recession, when they took a break from pay increases. And, that’s been part of the problem. Because there haven’t been pay increases in such a long time, the current proposal raises pay for the county executive by almost 30 percent, and for lawmakers by 15 percent.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Raising the pay of elected officials can often be a prickly political endeavor. Onondaga County lawmakers now find themselves in the midst of it while considering potential raises for themselves and other elected county officials, including the county executive.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney has not had a raise in the eight years she’s been in charge of county government. Neither have members of the county legislature. All agreed in the wake of the recession in 2008 that raises would be inappropriate. But now, the politically hot topic is coming up again.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative award to central New York signals a turning of the tide for the area. The region's economic development plan was one of three big winners in Cuomo's competition to invest $1.5 billion in upstate. At a ceremony in Syracuse Sunday to commemorate the region's success, Cuomo said this investment in upstate rights a wrong.

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A six-year highway funding bill passed by the House of Representatives last week would remove $564 million from New York's current federal transportation funding.

A last-minute amendment to the House bill would move $1.6 billion in funding from seven Northeastern states to a general discretionary fund for use by the entire nation. Current law allows these high density areas to receive the extra funding because they account for half of all transit in the country. Sen. Charles Schumer said the loss of funding for New York is a travesty for the state's transit system.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

A report on government consolidation in Onondaga County will be released early next year by a Consensus, a commission looking at the modernization of local government. One potential recommendation for saving substantial tax dollars could be the creation of a county-wide municipal government.

Whenever Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney starts talking government consolidation, it generally begins with a story about snow and the 19 towns, 15 villages, and city, county and state snowplows that clear the streets after a snowstorm.

WRVO News file photo/TobyShelley.com

On Election Day, voters will make decisions about various levels of Onondaga County government . The entire legislature is up for election, and there are several countywide races. District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick is running unopposed, but there are contested races for comptroller and county clerk. But the biggest office up for grabs is for Onondaga County executive. 

The race pits a well-heeled incumbent going against an opponent who lost support from his party’s leadership.

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Union workers ratified a contract with Otsego County government on Monday.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner are lobbying for more money from New York state to pay for infrastructure improvement. Standing in the shadow of the Evans Street Bridge in Syracuse that the state calls deficient, DiNapoli called on Albany to help localities fix bridges and roads that are falling apart. He said a recent report shows that local government spending on infrastructure has dropped dramatically.

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The Onondaga County policy of placing 16- and 17-year olds into solitary confinement at the Jamesville Correctional facility is under the microscope.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency has agreed to purchase a site along Onondaga Lake that has been contaminated by industrial pollution for years. County officials are hoping the site can be cleaned and used for development.

The Canadian-based company, American Iron and Metal, which owns Roth Steel, a former scrap yard along Onondaga Lake, came to a settlement so the county could purchase the property. American Iron and Metal wanted to reopen the "pick and pull" junk yard but the county said they had the option to use eminent domain to take over the property.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County’s new Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter has opened up at the Jamesville Correctional Facility.  

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The Onondaga County Drug Task Force continues to look for ways to keep prescription drugs out of the wrong hands. A new pilot program launched this month will place them in the hands of police.

Nine police agencies, including the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, are putting out collection bins in their offices for unused prescription and non-prescription drugs, as well as used needles.

Gail Banach, of the Upstate New York Poison Center, says the idea is to create a safe place to drop drugs that otherwise could be abused.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s proposed 2016 budget is pretty much a status quo document. Spending is down slightly and the tax levy is down a bit  to a historic low. The only fee increases involve sewer rates that are part of a five-year sewer improvement plan. The only proposal that is generating flak initially is a proposal to change the legislature’s budget calendar.

Mahoney’s first budget experience laid the groundwork for this year’s proposal to push the legislature’s budget deadline from October to December.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Country music star Miranda Lambert played to a full house at Onondaga County’s new Lakeview Amphitheater Thursday night. Now that the stage has its first concert under its belt, what does the future holds for the entertainment venue?

First off, it’s going to be intimately intertwined with the New York State Fair. Gov. Andrew Cuomo made that clear this week when he outlined specifics regarding a $50 million renovation of the town of Geddes fairgrounds. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

There are about 1,800 vacant buildings in the city of Syracuse, according to the Syracuse Land Bank, which steps in to stabilize a property and resell it to responsible buyers when it gets foreclosed. A recently released audit of the land bank by Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse finds that while the organization has many successes, some potential problems lie ahead.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Onondaga County and its biggest union are close to agreeing to a contract. As WRVO’s Ellen Abbott reports, the county and CSEA leadership have agreed to the terms within a fact-finding report from the New York State Employment Relations Board.

The deal includes modest wage increases over five years, and raises health insurance contributions from employees. County Executive Joanie Mahoney says that reflects a changing trend in contracts for government employees, who traditionally were paid less than private sector counterparts, but had better benefits packages.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Legislature approved the creation of a jail oversight committee in January. The legislature appointed Barrie Gewanter to be the commission’s new executive director. Gewanter has been working as the director of the central New York chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union since 2003.

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Officials continue to track the movement of the Emerald Ash Borer in Central New York.

Jessi Lyons of the Onondaga County Emerald Ash Borer Task Force says the parts of the Syracuse areas that are seeing the most activity right now are in transportation corridors.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

 

Dr. Robert Neulander was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison on Thursday for the murder of his wife Leslie Neulander in 2012. The trial of the prominent OB-GYN has shocked and fascinated the Syracuse community.

 

Onondaga County Court Judge Thomas Miller said he did not sentence Neulander to the maximum 25 years to life in prison because of the emotional toll taken on the Neulander family. They have maintained that Neulander is innocent. But Judge Miller also did not sentence the minimum 15 years in prison after scrutinizing the jurors' verdict.

 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Agriculture Council wants you to buy local produce. A campaign has kicked off this June to encourage more people to spend food dollars on items grown in Onondaga County.

Brian Reeves, of Reeves Farm in Baldwinsville, says getting people to buy local is in part a matter of getting the word out.

“Sometimes I think it’s a lack of information.  If a consumer knew more often that it was local or fresher they would prefer it,” Reeves says.

Onondaga County

Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says he is optimistic there will be an announcement soon regarding an opening act for the county’s new amphitheater on Onondaga Lake.

“We’ve had a much shorter time period to put one together than what most other venues have.  They usually have a year and a half to get things booked.  We’ve only had 60 days.  But it’s going to happen.”  

McMahon also points out that the New York State Fair has had difficulty finding acts for the Grandstand at the fair this year.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney is kicking off her campaign for re-election with an endorsement from a group that doesn’t traditionally back Republicans.  

The Alliance Network is a leading Syracuse-area community organization that represents many of Syracuse’s minority interests. It has only endorsed two Republicans in its history, former Rep. Jim Walsh and Mahoney, when she ran for a second term as county executive four years ago.  

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

By the end of 2015, the group Consensus CNY will release a full report on how to modernize government in Onondaga County.

Consensus CNY is a 19-member commission with former Rep. James Walsh serving as co-chairman, collecting data on local government to find areas to improve.

Melanie Littlejohn, one of the commission members, spoke with young professionals in Syracuse from the group 40 Below about the initial findings for Onondaga County.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Taking care of dogs can help rehabilitate an inmate. That’s one of the theories behind the creation of the dog shelter at the Jamesville Correctional Facility.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse's Upstate Medical University is taking a research project into the community, which will focus on older, frail adults.

Dr. Sharon Brangman, chief of geriatric medicine, says usually researchers start out with a thesis and then try to prove it. Armed with a $15,000 federal grant, they’ll work the other way around on this.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Prosecutors and police agencies across central New York are trying a new strategy as they continue to fight the rising use of synthetic marijuana. Not since the bath salts craze of 2012 have local police and emergency personnel come across so many agitated individuals high on synthetic drugs. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s been just over a year since Onondaga County got out of the business of running a nursing home. And according to Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, the sale of the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing to the Upstate Services Group has been a good move.

In this archived broadcast from August 17, 1984, John Weeks talks to the Director of Recreation for the Onondaga County park system. Weeks interviews him and asks him about his job and what is up and coming for the Onondaga County parks.

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