Syracuse

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Syracuse police officers have reached a new labor contract with the city, more than three years after the old one expired.

It's not uncommon for police union contracts to lapse, but this one stretched on for a while, mostly over health care costs and coverage.

The new contract is for five years, but it applies retroactively to when the old one expired at the end of 2010. The 428 Syracuse police officers will have to pay about twice as much for health insurance, but will get two percent raises for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The Syracuse Common Council has snuffed out the right to smoke in city parks and publicly-owned downtown gathering areas, like Clinton Square.

The council also formally added the dropping of cigarette butts on sidewalks to its anti-littering ordinance, punishable by a $50 fine.

The laws were written by councilor Bob Dougherty and Khalid Bey, who said they will shift the habits of smokers and protect people in public who don't want to be near second-hand smoke.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Paying for street parking from your smart phone will soon be an option in the city of Syracuse. Public Works Commissioner Pete O'Connor says the option to pay by phone will be available once meter readers get new hand-held devices they use to scan cars parked on city streets.  

“On the app, there will be a map. You’ll punch in what block you’re in. The meter will pop up for that block, you punch in what time you want, what credit card you want, and your license plate number. That’s it.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

There will be skating at the Meachem Ice Rink in Syracuse’s Valley neighborhood starting in October.

The rink closed earlier this year after a series of mechanical problems made it impossible to make ice. State Sen. Dave Valesky and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli combined forces to get more than $450,000 from the state’s capital budget to pay for installation of an ice mat.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says it is the latest innovation in the ice rink world.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The city of Syracuse parks department has a big "help wanted" sign up, because there aren’t enough lifeguards to staff the city’s eight outdoor pools this summer.

The pool at Thorndon Park is filled and ready to go, but a shortage of lifeguards could put parts of the upcoming swim season in peril. Parks commissioner Baye Muhammad says the city still needs to hire 53 lifeguards to open all pools in the city.

And if they don’t find lifeguards?

Dale M Moore / Flickr

Syracuse lawmakers are moving to ban smoking in city parks. And that includes some popular downtown hangout spots.

An ordinance brought up by the Common Council’s new health committee would prohibit smoking on any land managed by the Syracuse parks department. That includes around the fountains in Columbus Circle and Clinton Square and Hanover Squares.

The committee is also putting forward a measure to discourage smoking on sidewalks.

Councilor Khalid Bey says the city won’t be able to stop everyone from smoking in parks, "but the effort, I think, is warranted."

Syracuse common councilors will be asking for more information from not-for-profits that get funds from the city budget.  The city contracts with several agencies to provide various services to city residents every year.

But Councilor Pam Hunter says there needs to be more accountability about what these nonprofits are doing with city funds.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Syracuse parks department is taking action this summer to try to stem the loss of ash trees to an invasive beetle. Arborists will soon be injecting trees with a chemical to kill the Emerald Ash Borer before it can inflict its damage.

Mike Fleming / via Flickr

The Syracuse Police Department says its network of security cameras in the city are helping fight crime. And some neighborhood advocates are asking for more.

Nearly 40 cameras have been installed in parts of the city since 2011. They’re on the Near Westside, in the Pioneer Homes complex and along Butternut Street on the north side.

Twenty more cameras will be online by the end of the summer, mostly downtown and along East Fayette Street.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Some emergency medical service personnel in New York state have started using technology that lets them take ultrasounds during emergency situations.

Joseph Wlostowski, a clinical educator for Mercy Flight Central is showing EMS professionals in Syracuse how a small portable ultrasound device can be used by first responders to identify life threatening injuries before getting patients to the hospital.

“It’s a tablet, a PC, the size of an iPad," Wlostowski said. "Currently at Mercy Flight Central, we are employing them on our aircraft.”

There are more than a dozen Syracuse public schools that are staring down major changes or closure in the near future, much like what three city schools are going through this year.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has vetoed a last-minute property tax hike the Common Council added to the city's spending plan because she says councilors didn't bring it up for public discussion first.

"When you don’t allow that process to happen, you create cynicism and you allow people to get turned off from the process," Miner said Wednesday.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Syracuse school district is considering turning one of its underperforming elementary schools into a charter school.

Superintendent Sharon Contreras sent a letter home Friday to parents of Delaware Elementary School saying a charter school is the best option available under state rules for chronically poor-performing schools.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Both the Syracuse school district and state education officials are being hush about the future of one of the city's elementary schools, possibly because the district is still scrambling to come up with a plan, as sources have indicated to WRVO.

Under state policy for chronically underperforming schools, Delaware Elementary School must be drastically overhauled or shuttered.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse's Common Councilors are raising taxes in the city in a way they say won’t be painful.

Mayor Stephanie Miner’s proposed budget didn’t include any tax hikes, but the one the Common Council passed Wednesday does. The tax increase they are instituting is ultimately a wash because of a new state program that reimburses taxpayers for any tax increases they pay this year.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse is 100 years old this year. To coincide with that anniversary, the zoo has announced a 20-year new action plan that could change the way the zoo looks like in the future.    

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney says the anniversary makes it a great time to look towards the future.

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.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The transformation of the former Sainte Marie among the Iroquois museum on Onondaga Lake into a Haudenosaunee heritage center continues. Museum experts are in the midst of reprogramming the focus of the museum and are looking for help from the public.

Rick Hill is a guest curator working on the interpretive script for the new Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center. He says it’s going to be a different kind of museum.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

A new Interstate 81 could rise 25 feet higher than it currently does, or be buried 81 feet below the ground's surface. Those are just two of the 16 options the state Department of Transportation has revealed to the public as an update to their lengthy process of choosing how to replace the current roadway.

There are two constants in the 16 options: The north-south I-81 will be properly connected with the east-west I-690 in all directions. And properties will have to be knocked down, though DOT provided few details about that.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Pleas for funding for a literacy program, and concerns about public safety spending rounded out comments at last night’s public hearing on the city of Syracuse’s proposed 2014-2015 budget.

In all, six people spoke to common councilors about Mayor Stephanie Miner’s proposed $660 million spending plan last night. Among them was Felicia Salley, a mother of three from Syracuse’s southside. She says the Imagination Library, run by the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County, has helped her kids prepare for school by providing each of her children one new age-appropriate book a month.

N.Y. Department of Transportation

A tunnel to replace Interstate 81's current elevated path through downtown Syracuse could take four possible routes through the city.

The New York Department of Transportation revealed tunnel options ahead of a meeting to explain all 16 possible variations of a new Interstate 81 in Syracuse. 

Interstate 81 runs from the Canadian border in the north to the Pennsylvania border in the south. The 50-year-old highway carries thousands of cars each day through Syracuse.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Syracuse school district has a few more days to present a plan for the future of one of its elementary schools to state education officials, but the school board currently doesn't have a meeting scheduled to approve such actions.

Stephen Sartori / Say Yes to Education

Say Yes to Education is slightly short of its goal to being independently financially sustainable six years after its start.

Say Yes is a national nonprofit that opened a chapter in the Syracuse school district in 2008. It offers a different strategy to improve urban education with a promise of free college tuition to graduating high school seniors.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A Syracuse start-up is building on the success of a smartphone app that helped people get someone to plow their driveway. Now the PLOWZ app is being joined by MOWZ.

Wills Mahoney admits it was a good winter to start a snow plow app. More than 40,000 people downloaded the PLOWZ app, and thousands used it to call a plow, not only in central New York, but into the Midwest.
 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Public works crews have already patched 2,000 potholes on Syracuse streets in April, but there are so many more, they now have their own email address.

City officials Tuesday unveiled a new pothole repair truck and called on residents to help report potholes around town. A quarter of those repaired so far came from city complaints, officials said.

Finding more shouldn't be a problem.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

About 200 central New York runners marked the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings last night. The running bond remains strong a year after the bombing that left three people dead and scores injured.

A bagpipe serenaded runners hitting the pavement of Onondaga Lake Park to mark the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.
 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Syracuse public school system has a plan in place for the future of Fowler High School, one of three it's overhauling this year. The school board has approved turning the school into one focused on public service and law enforcement.

Starting in the fall, incoming students will not attend Fowler High School, but the Public Service Leadership Academy.

Katie Keier / Flickr

The new budget for Syracuse public schools includes more state aid than the district asked for, but the school district still has to dip into the fund balance to level its finances.

The Syracuse City School District asked for $7 million from the state in order to balance its budget. Legislators came up with an extra $1.9 million, part of an overall state spending increase on education.

The extra cash will allow them to restore some previous cuts, Suzanne Slack, the district’s chief financial officer, said.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was the first member of Congress to offer the U.S. Export-Import Bank the opportunity to visit small businesses in her state. The result was a meeting last week at Filtertech in Manlius with the bank's president.

Filtertech designs and manufactures industrial size liquid filtration systems.  

In 2008, the U.S. Export-Import Bank financed the manufacturing of a project Filtertech produced with a company in Italy; a project that helped keep them in business at the time.

The Syracuse Common Council is getting its hands on the mayor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which doesn’t call for a tax increase.

More than half of the city’s $660 million budget goes to the school district.

For the rest of the budget, on the upside, the mayor’s office expects to see increased revenue from sales tax, parking fees and property tax collection -- thanks to the land bank, the agency tasked with handling the cities massive list of vacant properties.

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