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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

Deputy Clerk



SEPTEMBER 17, 2013



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

ALSO PRESENT:  Chairman McMahon, Mr. Liedka, Mr. Andrews, Ms. Tassone, Mrs. Rapp, Mr. Shepard, Mr. Plochocki; see also attached list


Chairman Knapp called the meeting to order at 9:23 AM.


PARKS & RECREATION DEPARTMENT - pg. 5-79: William Lansley, Commissioner; Nate Stevens, Budget Analyst 2; Ruston Petrela, Senior Manage Analyst


Mr. Lansley noted Mary Harkola, President of The Friends of Beaver Lake Nature Center and Janet Agostini, President of Friends of the Zoo were in attendance and thanked them for all the great work they do on behalf of Onondaga County. 


Mr. Lansley presented an annual commemorative check from the Friends of the Zoo for $882,101, representing 32,287 hours.  Volunteers have dedicated their time and efforts for the Parks department in excess of $1 million dollars in value and are closing in on 50,000 hours.  They are a very dedicated group; wanted to recognize them early.


Mr. Lansley presented the following:


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New this year – one of the best events on the pkwy;

Destiny used for parking and busing; will do again next year

  10 11

Live ESPN coverage

Canine Carnival continues to grow 5k – 1st yr., 7,500                       

2nd yr., moved to Long Branch Park had 15k this yr.; 14k attended Golden Harvest Festival

12 13

Moved 2wks closer to summer due to bad weather - 75% of flights took of

17k for Doobie Brothers; some weather challenges –successful overall


 14 15

Invested in websites – reducing printing and mailing

Arrowhead Lodge completely booked from April-Oct.; numbers don’t include the zoo – additional 500 events administered by Friends of the Zoo


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  18 19

Water bill decreased from $27k to $13k for July-cost effective program


20 21

Had flooding issues, porous pavement installed, center of parking lot used for retention area then drains into large basin at top of parking lot – if overfull then goes to Wilbur Ave with extensive rain gardens; even large events should see 0 water going into the sewer 

Construction to begin Monday, facelift will fix roads and drainage problems, should be completed by Nov.; topcoat put on by June 2014


  22 23

2.1 miles completed


Nov. completion scheduled; bridge and deck have been installed; creates loop from NYS Fair to Onondaga Lake Park  


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Fee Restructuring Plan (on file with the Clerk) includes all fees – some have no changes; analyzed programs and surveyed other parks with similar items 


Mr. May noted the effort that volunteers at Beaver Lake Nature Center give to the county.  They are the core and essence of the program; without them, these programs don’t happen and thereby substantially diminish the value of the parks.  The work done by the volunteers saves county taxpayers a great deal of money.  In addition, the Friends of Beaver Lake are contributing $165,000 toward the capital projects at Beaver Lake.  These are funds that they have raised as a volunteer organization for the center.   Down the road, we will discuss this in further detail but The Friends are also looking to contribute more toward capital improvements to the park, in ways that will be very helpful to the county and to them as a volunteer organization needing to raise funds and generate volunteer recruitment.  Hats off to Mary and all the volunteers for a job well done.


Mr. May asked if the fees being proposed are comparable to cities or regions of comparable size and what steps were taken to validate this.  Mr. Lansley answered:

  • Checked other agencies - anyone with a fee associated to a venue similar to what we have
  • Determined they were at par or below on some levels, didn’t find much over the accepted average from other venues; facility rentals were low – some have healthy increases
  • Tried to streamline fees, fewer choices, easy to understand and equitable; when he came to parks had large menu of items at the zoo; e.g. price point for children, teens, students, senior, general, on-season, off-season, and shoulder-season – very confusing

Mr. May stated his priority is to make sure that taxpayers in this county have as much as possible accessible to them and not cost prohibitive.  Mr. Lansley responded that many of their prices are just a couple of dollars; e.g. skiing.  The zoo is in line, recently made changes so no changes in structure at this point. 


Chair Knapp asked if the new fee structure would better reflect our actual costs for labor, maintenance, etc.  Mr. Lansley responded it will make us closer than we were; e.g. Special Park Use Permit fees previously not charged – fee now pays for time dedicated to making event work.  A number of the programs we’ve had did not have any sharing for the County.  You will notice that with some of the festivals we can get a percentage of the beer sales or headcount for admissions, if registering for an event.  This offsets the staffing that we put into the program.


In answer to Mrs. Tassone, Mr. Lansley confirmed he expects $250,000 in increased revenues.  This was determined by taking the price changes verses the past attendance in the programs. 


In answer to Mr. Plochocki, Mr. Lansley stated the increased revenue estimate is on the conservative side.  We have made many improvements and our attendance is increasing.  Earlier in the year, we had close to forty days of rain in a row affecting our spring attendance.  Overall improvements have been well received; will see increased attendance at the zoo, and programs such as Color Me Rad bring in 7,500 people.  This  can only add to our bottom-line.  As more programs that the public enjoys become available, we will add them in resulting in increased attendance and revenue.


Mr. Plochocki stated that the Fisheries Advisory Board has presented the idea of a website promoting fishing and tourism, similar to the Oswego County website, to the Environmental Protection Committee.  Initially there is some support for this but money is always the problem; $25,000 rough estimates to create a solid website.  In answer to Mr. Plochocki, Mr. Lansley confirmed that he believes an additional $25,000 could be added to the revenue line based on the conservative estimates of the fee increases and could then be allocated to create the website.  Millions of dollars are received in economic impact from the fishing activities and the hatchery itself.  This has been proven through NYS annualization, as well as the friends following the Fisheries Advisory Board.  The CVB also calculates our ROT return for those programs.  We would love to take the ball on creating the website as we have the marinas in the park system and over 50 fishing tournaments at Oneida Shores alone each year.  This would help in showcasing our parks and the fishing opportunities within Onondaga County.  


Mr. Jordan asked if there was any plan to raise the soil level to meet the trail; potential liability young girl riding her bike hit the edge of the trail and feel of her bike.  Mr. Lansley stated the construction project has leveling in it for new paving and Onondaga Lake Park has been instructed to bring in topsoil to maintain this when there is soil saturation.  Mr. Jordan stated this was on the trial near the water.  Mr. Lansley added this area is not part of the construction and is maintained by the staff at Onondaga Lake Park.  The issue has been addressed and will be remediated. 


In answer to Mr. Jordan, Mr. Lansley stated they perform 300 burials per year at the Veteran’s Cemetery, 5,700 since its opening.  The cost is $500 - $50 goes to perpetual care and $450 goes for the burial service.  A few years age vehicles were purchased for the cemetery out of the perpetual care account.  Funds will be used for perpetual care of the cemetery moving forward.  The fee is about half of what you would pay to be buried in a private cemetery.  Mr. Jordan stated he believes there was some discussion in previous budget session as to the actual cost to the county for the entire burial process.  Mr. Lansley stated he would research this and follow up with the actual costs.  


In answer to Mr. Jordan, Mr. Lansley stated the fee is assessed by the Veterans Administration and comes from the family; family pays for the burial, can prepay if desired.  Mr. Jordan asked if the there was a maximum amount that the family was reimbursed from the Veterans.  Mr. Stevens stated the veteran or their family buys the plot through the Veterans Administration – money goes into holding account, revenue is transferred to the operating line of the Parks budget upon burial.  Mr. Lansley added he does not believe there is any reimbursement to the family from the Veterans Administration.   Mr. Jordan asked if the fee was consistent with other Veteran Cemeteries.   Mr. Lansley responded that he would look into this and follow up; hasn’t checked to see what others are charging.  We follow the national standards but have the ability to change those fees via a local law; haven’t been changed in several years.  Mr. Jordan added he is not saying that we should place any additional burden on veteran’s families but if there is an opportunity to receive increased reimbursement from the Veteran’s Administration for burial costs, we should be utilizing that opportunity.  County taxpayers should not be paying for costs that could be covered by the Veteran’s Administration.   In answer to Mr. Jordan, Mr. Lansley stated he would check into the maximum amount reimbursed by the Veteran’s Administration for burial.


Mr. Jordan questioned the criteria for determining who can be buried at the Veteran’s Cemetery.  Mr. Stevens answered the veteran or their immediate family.  Mr. Jordan questioned if they had to be a resident of the county or reside in the county when they pass away.  Mr. Lansley stated he believes they have to be a resident of the county and a veteran – he will look into this and follow up.  Mr. Jordan stated that he has had a few complaints - people are being buried there that haven’t been a resident of Onondaga County prior to their death or only lived here for a brief period, such as a few years during college.  Mr. Lansley added that spouses of the veteran are also included.


In answer to Mr. Jordan, Mr. Lansley stated burials are not done on established holidays and we try not to have them on Sundays.  Monday through Friday is the standard rule but when our cemetery was established, this was a lowered rule so there are Saturday burials.  There are no graveside services per Veteran Administration policy; could have multiple burials in one day, all in a row, not safe to family gathering with open areas in the cemetery.  Mr. Jordan stated that if there is a weekend burial we are paying overtime to our staff and asked if there was any consideration to limiting the burials to weekdays.  Mr. Lansley responded that this is typically just an hour or two.  We have considered this but have had many comments from the Funeral Directors Association as most people are looking for Saturday burials to accommodate out of town visitors.  We have stayed with what has been the historic practice.  


Mr. Holmquist asked for a list of positions that are funded and vacant and positions that are unfunded.  Mr. Stevens responded that he did not have a readymade list but would supply the information.  Mr. Morgan added that they are working on the lists; goal is to have them to the legislature by the end of the day for the county as a whole and will include administrative interns currently working or any planning to be working next year.  In answer to Mr. Holmquist, Mr. Morgan confirmed that individuals funded in one department but physically working in another would be included for all departments. 


In answer to Mr. Holmquist, Mr. Lansley confirmed he would provide any differences in his original budget request verses the County Executive’s proposal before them now.


Mrs. Ervin commented that the veteran’s family pays for the burial and there is no additional reimbursement coming in from anyplace.  If we raise the fees, the fees are coming from the family.  Mr. Lansley agreed.  In answer to Mrs. Ervin, Mr. Lansley stated the current fee is acceptable.  Mrs. Ervin stated she would not be in favor of increasing fees to families just because it looks good.  Mr. Lansley agreed.    


Mr. May stated that debt service is an area of concern or at least something to be watched.  There are many great things presently underway in the Parks system and another robust list is included in the CIP.  In answer to Mr. May, Mr. Petrela stated the CIP title is Park Roads, Parking Areas and Trial Paving (pg. 78); the funds requested for 2014 are $350,000.  In answer to Mr. May, Mr. Petrela confirmed the other items will not get underway in 2014 because of what is already in the hoper.


Mrs. Rapp referenced information listed in the CIP (pg. 43) under Parks Improvements and Maintenance; asked for explanation of the $2.2 million that has not been spent.  Mr. Stevens stated the money will be spent on the current capital projects highlighted in our presentation - Jamesville Beach and Beaver Lake projects.  The projects have been identified with the design finishing on Beaver Lake and Jamesville Beach to start soon.  In next year’s CIP, the language will be changed to reflect those projects.  In answer to Mrs. Rapp, Mr. Stevens confirmed the funds were not excess money in a project account; they have been allocated and are on track.  


Chairman McMahon questioned where the money was coming from to pay for the increased 2013 budget; $270,000 over adopted budget (pg. 5-79).  Mr. Stevens stated there are a few key areas to keep in mind; $125,000 was allocated for the zoo strategic plan, currently ongoing and projected to be completed this year (Line A590083).  Many of the other funds were   encumbered funds; rolled funds over to 2013 to pay outstanding bills from 2012 year end. 


Chairman McMahon stated there was a big increase in local dollars from 2012 to 2013 and asked where they anticipate the Parks budget to be in the next year or two as far as local dollars.  Mr. Lansley responded that as we wrap up our capital projects, we would remain about the same level as 2014. 


In answer to Chairman McMahon, Mr. Lansley confirmed they receive revenue from Highland Forest logging (pg 5-84 Line A590057).  Mr. Lansley stated they have achieved about $140,000 for logging in 2013; $100,00 was put into the budget with the remainder used to offset building the lodge – still owe about $700,000 for the lodge.  There is no plan to log next year, but it is not out of the question; logging management accesses the situation.  Chairman McMahon asked why we wouldn’t log in 2014 when we are spending money to identify and remove Ash trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer.  Mr. Lansley responded that much of the Ash that needs to be removed is tree height verses fall zone.  If it is within an area that a fall would hit a building, utility or trail it has to be addressed, we are not worried about cutting down trees that are a quarter of a mile into the forest.  If there is value in the wood and it happens to be in an area we are logging for regeneration and revenue, it would be a different project.  The Ash trees we are most worried about are those that will damage our infrastructure or become a safety hazard.  Those are being addressed specially with the monies for the Ash Borer Project.


Chair Knapp stated he believes we have two different subjects on the Ash Borer situation.  You have the trees in the fall zones that need to be handled specifically.  The rest of the trees at Highland Forest, Beaver Lake or wherever are going to die.  We might as well log them, even if we have to make a special trip, as they will be worthless in a couple of years.    This might not be as good as when we are able to manage it and do sectors but this is a unique situation.  Mr. Lansley responded that there aren’t large populations of Ash at Highland Forest.  They would be mixed in with other trees; doesn’t believe it would be cost effective, as you have to put a road in to do the logging and extract the trees.  Chair Knapp stated they might be surprised; the price of Ash is very high right now, because it has been decimated in so many other parts of the country.  As an example, the Lafayette Apple Festival has a small patch of woods in a similar situation and is receiving a nice amount to remove the Ash. 


Mr. Jordan asked if Ash trees in the fall zone could also be sold to loggers.  Mr. Lansley stated there is some value.  If you look at the large Ash trees in Onondaga Lake Park, they haven’t grown in a forest situation and have been allowed to lean and twist; doesn’t have value in the ash wood world.  If you have an infected tree, believes you can take off a certain amount of wood and the interior is still valuable.  Chairman McMahon added it would make since for us to take a hard look at this now.  As the bug spreads to the east coast the value for those trees goes down, we might as well be first to market.   


Chairman McMahon noted the overtime line more than doubled this year and questioned why (pg. 5-79 Line A641020).  Mr. Lansley stated the allocation received for the 102 line last year was not consistent with what has been historically spent; doesn’t cover the basic needs of the Parks department.  Chairman McMahon asked for a breakdown on how overtime is spent.  Perhaps we can get a better understanding of what is being done.  When the line is allocated at a decrease, it is because we are trying to change behavior.  If we can understand the behavior that would be one thing but like any department, when you go over the overtime budget you are going to catch heat.  Mr. Lansley responded that they watch the overtime very closely, he reviews what the department believes might occur in overtime two weeks out.  They have already allocated a transfer to cover their losses through other cost savings within the department for this year.  He will provide the actual overtime report for review.  Mr. Stevens added over 90% of  the overtime would be things that occurred within a 1-2 week timespan in which they were not able to change someone’s schedule.  They don’t approve overtime unless it is unavoidable.  Chairman McMahon stated it is important to look at where you are doing this; e.g. if overtime is spent for a private function where money is being made, is there chargebacks that could be in place.  It will be good for us to review the report so we can understand it when we are making our decisions on what to allocate.  Mr. Lansley responded that much of the overtime is reimbursable to the events.  He will provide the entire layout.  


Mr. Millea stated he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to expand on Chairman McMahon’s question on the local dollars and the shift from $9 million to $12 million.  Per the County Executive’s comments in her budget address he wants to make sure that we don’t miss the opportunity to highlight the debt service shift that we are seeing; believes Parks will peak out at about $2.2 million, they are at $1.7 million now.  As these projects that we have talked about at Jamesville, Beaver Lake and the zoo are completed and the debt service starts to hit we should see an additional $500,000 in local dollar needs.  At the same time, this is why it is important for us to have revenue discussion and why they have talked to the commissioner about revenue opportunities, finding the balance between revenue opportunities and public access to the facilities.  Color Me Rad is a great example of where we can partner with a for-profit private sector entity, hosting an event at our facility and we can make $30,000-$50,000 partnering with them.  The balance we need to find is what does this do to our public parks users.  We need to find more events like this, to offset these increases.  There will be an increase of $500,000 on just debt service alone and then as the County Executive mentioned we will see wage pressure once we have a new agreement with the unions.  Parks is a heavy 101 department.  Hypothetically, if we have no increase for 2013 and 2014, when we start to see increases in 2015 and 2016, we will see pressure in the 101 line that will significantly affect the local dollar share too.  This is why we want to work with you to mitigate the increases that we know are coming, particularly on wages and debt over the next few years.  We need your support on some of these revenue-generating opportunities for public-private partnerships that are concerts or events like Color Me Rad and on the rate proposal before you.    


Mr. Jordan asked for an explanation on the contractual expenses increase (pg 5-79 Line A695700).  Mr. Lansley stated this is for Jazz Fest.  He has explained the vest popularity of the program.  The program is a partnership that we have had for several years and this would offset some of the expenses that we incur with that program.


Mrs. Rapp requested an accounting for all the project accounts in each of Mr. Millea’s departments, to include the balance in each account. 


Mr. Kilmartin asked if there were any infrastructure concerns for the next 6-24 months within the various parks.  Mr. Lansley responded that they take care of 180 buildings.  Some of the major concerns are NBT Stadium; it is pretty aged at this point.  The roof has leaked several times and is getting to the point where it will need repair; will be an expensive project.  Some of the roofs within the parks system have deteriorated.  The Salt Museum is on moderately short range; some structural issues with the roof, not an immediate concern but will have to address within the next couple of years.  If they stay within the area of what is requested he believes they can stay ahead of projects with repairs and stay away from major rebuilds and renovations; fairly comfortable with what they have.  Most of the existing road problems are repairs, not major reconstruction projects, outside of what has been allocated and is currently on the plate.  They are in good shape with utilities and overall for the short-term, with the exception of the stadium roof. 


In answer to Mr. Kilmartin, Mr. Lansley stated the NBT Stadium roof will need to redone within two years.  An initial estimate has been done; will provide the figure.    


Mr. Kilmartin asked if there were any thoughts or discussion on how to increase utilization of Pratt’s Falls Park, attracting more users and possibly additional revenues.  Mr. Lansley stated new restroom facilities were installed within the past two-three years.  Camp Brockway had become deteriorated and is now in good shape.  The park requested the floors to be redone but he is at odds with this; has a rustic feel and the floors are part of the ambiance.  The park does not have widespread use; mainly utilized by local visitors.  The park is the location of the first mill in Onondaga County and has a history but he believes the falls is the attraction. The facilities are in good shape for continuing operations, very cost effective. 


Mr. Kilmartin asked if there were any issues or plans for work to be conducted at the Veteran’s Cemetery; has heard there are some capacity issues.  Mr. Lansley responded that this is something we are looking at – another expansion is needed.  We are in ownership of about 59 acres and have used one fourth of it as of this time.  The soil conditions contain a lot of bedrock and are also a low point.  With all the residential runoff from the hill, there are a number of ways the water transitions through the cemetery.  We are currently looking at what property is useable and what could be remediated for expansion.  It will be 12-14 months before an expansion will be necessary for the next phase.  This is currently on our radar.  Mr. Kilmartin asked if this was in preliminary design or if an engineer had to be hired.  Mr. Lansley responded this is one of the projects the current engineer has looked at.  We have a very preliminary map of the wet areas.  We will have to remediate that area or work around the; assessing now for the next phase.  We typically open an acre at a time, lasting a couple of years. 


Mr. Kilmartin referenced provisions for capital projects and asked for details on the utilization (pg. 5-79 Line A6744600).  Mr. Lansley responded:

  • new carpeting, exhibit wall replacement, and shoreline erosion project for Beaver Lake;   restroom upgrade at Carpenter’s Brook; some camp roofs at Highland Forest; new fuel tanks at Jamesville Beach; painting of Oneida Shores office buildings; polish polycarbonate windows at zoo for penguin exhibit; chlorination system for Pratt’s Falls, ongoing skate park repairs and comfort station upgrades for 2 facilities at Onondaga Lake Park
  • Emergency situations take priority – items may be reprioritized or scaled bac


Mrs. Rapp referenced grant funding (pg 5-97) and asked if there were grant applications out that might cover some of the capital improvements.  In keeping with the history, it seems that we have been successful in getting grants.  Mr. Stevens stated the 2014 grants budget is made up of two components - $100,000 pass-through grant for the snowmobile trails and $35,000 placed in contingency account for ROT dollars to be spent on items that help to raise Park’s visibility, tourism and media efforts.  In previous year’s the reason you are seeing higher amounts is because of reimbursable that flow through special events accounts; e.g. Friends of the Zoo host Brew at the Zoo and pay animal staff overtime at the event through this account.  This is why you see the discrepancy between the previous budget and the executive budget.  In addition, last year there was a $35,000 reimbursement of FEMA money for 2011flooding. 


Mrs. Rapp asked if they were applying for grants for specific projects.  Mr. Lansley stated they received a $75,000 grant for the West Shore Trail.  The zoo has grant funds that are applied for annually, in excess of $100,000.  Mr. Stevens added that the zoo grant money comes into the operating money, not the grant budget.  They have looked at applying for grants for the West Shore Trail and other elements of the Loop the Lake Project. 


In answer to Mrs. Rapp, Mr. Stevens confirmed that the difference in the 2013 grants adopted budget and the modified budget is due to actual reimbursement costs that show up after an event; categorizing as grants.


Mrs. Rapp stated through the Regional Planning Board we just applied for a portion of a $90 million dollar NYSERTA grant, which was pretty broad.  It seems that we should be putting some of our parks projects into that grant funding.  Mr. Lansley responded that he would love to sit down and talk more about this.  Mr. Millea added that this was a great point.  They are working with the Regional Planning Board in pursuing capital monies for the soon to be determined overpass over the CSX rail line for the West Shore Trail.  Last year the Legislature authorized moving forward with the EIS design and scoping process.  We are attempting to leverage the local investment to receive up to $2.25 million in capital monies from that allocation.  The appropriation authorized last year for the EIS and design put us in a very strong position to leverage that and hopefully get some capital money; believes grants will be announced in December through the Regional Economic Development process.


Mrs. Rapp asked if this was the only project they submitted.  Mr. Millea responded that this is the project we attacked to try to get the biggest bang for our buck.  There will be two additional rounds of that Cleaner Green Monies.  We look forward to working with you to identify priority projects for rounds two and three.


Ms. Williams questions the creation of a project coordinator position (pg 5-99).  Mr. Lansley responded that this is a  requested position.  It is not a funded position but provides flexibility to move workloads.  We have had many projects come up and have identified in our restructuring plan over the last several years that this would be a position that we would like to have.  If the position is acquired it would be funded through another position that wasn’t being used - not an additional headcount.  In answer to Ms. Williams, Mr. Lansley stated it would not be an increase; would unfund a position to fund this position, just a title they are looking for.  The decision as to what position would be unfunded would be made at the time when this position is funded, based on availability and what is needed.    


Chairman Knapp questioned what the project coordinator would do.  Mr. Lansley stated we have many projects that are ongoing.  Construction projects are a large part of this; have received a great deal of assistance through Facilities.  Mr. Ellis retired but has come back to assist us in a transitional period, it would be work similar to what he does.  He handles all of our fleet management, takes care of day-to-day Parks integral management program issues, such as the studies we did on the pricing schedules.  There are many programs that take one person a long time to complete and while we still operate the parks, this would be a person that we could give project work to. 


Mr. Holmquist asked if the position would definitely be used next year, if created.  Mr. Lansley stated the project coordinator position is something that we have talked about extensively and would like to have.  Within other positions we might have the flexibility to have that title but based the on the project titles we want to stay within work duties.  Certain people have been doing projects in addition to their regular job, up to this point.  Mr. Holmquist suggested that it would be better to come back to the legislature next year with a formalized plan, when they know what positions they want to unfund for this position.  Mr. Lansley responded that they would like the flexibility to fund and unfund positions without having the delay of the 45-day process to go through the legislature.  There are no additional dollars coming into our budget.


Chairman Knapp commented that our Park’s system is one of the many things we do right and the reason why there are many questions.  It is really a jewel of the county.  The County Executive mentioned free admission in her presentation.  Chairman Knapp asked how this would be implemented and what the impact would be on the budget.  Mr. Lansley responded that the impact would be small.  The people that identify themselves as Veteran’s or active military that have taken advantage of some of the programs we already have is a small number.  Outside of the zoo where we have two days around Veteran’s Day where it is free admission for Veterans, active military and their families, we are talking about general park admission.  Mr. Millea added access would be granted through the Onondaga County issued Veteran’s card, VA card, or active military ID for beach admission to Jamesville Beach and Oneida Shores and zoo admission; all other fees would apply.  Chairman Knapp stated he thinks this is a great program.


In response to Chairman Knapp, Mr. Lansley stated the Jamesville Beach repaving project would be a combination of porous pavement for the walkways and roads will be a regular asphalt surface.


Chairman Knapp questioned the professional services increase from 2012-2014 (pg 5-79 Line A694080).  Mr. Stevens stated this is where the expense is for the zoo’s strategic plan.  This is a one-time expense.  In response to Chairman Knapp, Mr. Lansley stated they are in the very late stages of the plan; have had several meetings.  The agency doing the plan has made several visits throughout the year, interviewed hundreds of people, worked on the mission, done an analysis of the zoo, talked to business and government leaders and is close to giving them a final draft to review.  From all indications, they are on track to have a very good product available. 


Chairman Knapp questioned the capital project for NBT Stadium (pg 5-81 Line A674600).  Mr. Stevens responded that this number is for expenses they anticipate will arise due the stadiums age as the commissioner previously alluded to.  Chairman Knapp stated this was more general maintenance, than a specific project.  Mr. Stevens agreed.  Mr. Lansley added there are hundreds of doors, hardware, glass and locks.  Pavement repairs are made annually due to surface sinking.  There is ongoing general maintenance to the facility. 


Chairman Knapp noted that the overtime line is also going up significantly (pg. 5-81 Line A61020) and asked if there was one employee there.  Mr. Lansley responded, “Yes”.  There are times when he is called in for maintenance issues; elevator repairs, fire alarms, nothing out of the ordinary just general operation of the stadium.  


Chairman Knapp stated overtime was discussed in general earlier but the overtime for Beaver Lake is almost doubling (pg. 5-82 Line A641020).  Mr. Stevens stated they looked at staffing and this is what they were projecting.  They will be happy to provide a breakout of this with their other submissions.  Chairman Knapp stated overtime is a general area of concern.


Chairman Knapp questioned the dramatic increase in the 103 line for the Parks Ranger budget (pg 5-92 Line A641030).  Mr. Lansley stated all of their rangers are part time other than the chief.  Onondaga Lake Park is one of the parks that has been bombing for evening activity.  They have identified were another shift of ranger activity is necessary for the summer months, which is the bulk of this.


Chairman Knapp stated that we are very fortunate to have all of the various friends groups for the parks.and asked if there was a breakdown of what they are paying for at the various parks or how they were contributing; something similar to the breakdown provided from the Friends of the Zoo.  Mr. Lansley responded they have breakdowns of agreements, as to whose responsibilities are what, within parks and will forward the information.


Chairman Knapp asked for a breakdown of our costs associated with big events; Balloon Fest, Jazz Fest, Harvest Fest and so on.   Mr. May asked that Lights on the Lake also be included in this report.  Chairman Knapp agreed, reiterating that he was asking that any of the major events be included.


Mr. Millea congratulated Mr. Lansley and his team on the robust capital improvement program they have been doing.  He invites the legislature and staff to do tours of the projects while they are ongoing or anything they would like to do with their constituents.  He feels it is very important to highlight the improvements that have been made over the last few years as a successor to Parks for Tomorrow 1 & 2.  There has been a tremendous amount of improvements to these facilities and you see a reflection of this in the budget but these are long-term investments.  We have worked very hard to insure that these aren’t quick fixes; they will be generational.  The East Shore Trail is a good example of this; could have done a simple overlay of patched holes but instead did a full depth restoration.  This is an important improvement that will last 20 years for our community.  The zoo entrance, the East Shore Trail, the deck at Highland Forest, we will see a transformation at Jamesville Beach as Mr. Lansley noted, this is becoming a premier Iron Man location for the entire nation and there are some great green infrastructure elements added to that to continue our momentum to expand Save the Rain beyond our city footprint.  On behalf of the County Executive, we appreciate the Legislature’s continued support for these projects and look forward to opening the West Shore Trail with your participation later this fall.  In addition, hopefully getting the Loop the Lake Trail connected to the Creek Walk sometime in 2015-2016.


Chairman Knapp asked to be provided with the balance in the special events account.


Mr. Lansley acknowledged Stephen Wowelko, President of the Onondaga Federation of Sportsmens Clubs and John Hluchyj, President of Friends of Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery.  They do a tremendous amount of work and were invited to attend today but are probably volunteering somewhere in the park.


Chairman Knapp thanked Mr. Lansley for his preparation and presentation and stated a ten-minute break would be taken before moving onto Facilities.  The meeting was recessed at 10:50 AM. 


Chairman Knapp reconvened the meeting at 11:06 AM.


FACILITIES MANAGEMENT – pg. 5-18: Duane Owens, Commissioner; Archie Wixson, Jr., Deputy Commissioner


Mr. Owens stated although he was here last year, this is really his first year presenting the budget.  He went on to present the following:   


 27 28




   32 33


    34 35

County Employees and citizens’ now utilizing space that was unutilized prior to this year – great addition to the building

36 37


 38 39


 40 41


 42 43





Those are just a few pictures representing how busy Facilities has been utilizing authorized capital funds.



 49  image

DPR not realized by calendar year – 2013 winter will be included in 2014 summer; cautioned that much of the revenue is dictated by the costs of energy - will utilize savings each year but may fluctuate; NYSERDA funding is reviewed for each project


  51 52

Requesting $750k be put back into provisions for capital projects, utilize pay as you go; e.g. rug replacement-small maintenance items


 53 54

55 56

Not fund balance- request for 960 account (pg 5-18 Line A674600); use cash instead of borrowing


57 58

Reduction of paper filing very important for sustainability in the downtown complex

Reviewed capital plan already in place for 2013-2018, was able to realign the debt service costs, spreading it out



Mr. Petrela stated the departments look at their needs and want to address them as soon as the money allows them to.  Considering this, they tend to front load the CIP.  What we did was look at the parameters that were flexible.  The most flexible parameter is the proposed 2014-2019 plan.  We looked at both the scope and the timing of this plan, reconsidered and optimized the scope and modified the timing.  Instead of borrowing, it was spread evenly.  Another variable they looked at was the authorized unissued debt, which was front-loaded.  This was also spread-out a little with the intention of producing the blue line; smoothly going to where the two lines meet instead of abruptly.  Some RBD has been applied.  This graph may remind you of the graphs you see at WEP; we go from the red line to the blue line in WEP’s case by applying fund balance and RBD.  We don’t have that luxury here; we just have a little RBD.      


Mr. Owens added in addition, he is taking a different approach when requesting authorization for capital projects.  In the past, they asked for complete funding of a project all at once.  As you study his capital plan, you will notice some projects are spread out over a couple of years; don’t need to spend the money until the work can be done.  They are trying to time the borrowing to when work is actually being done to spread out the debt.     





Mr. Owens stated this concludes his presentation and thanked the Legislature for the opportunity.  He feels good about this first budget.  He knows it shows a significant increase to the local dollar bottom-line but this is mainly due to moving the provision for capital projects back into the operating budget, where we should be paying for things as we go along as opposed to borrowing, and the reduction in revenue.  When looking at this number if you go back to 2011-2012, we are somewhat flat.


Chairman McMahon stated that he had previously asked for a complete inventory on every building owned by the county.  This item is needed; not sure who is going to supply it.  It is tough to make decisions for capital needs when we don’t have assessment of what we own.  When we are being asked to potentially put Carnegie back online.  We need to know what assets we have in the arsenal that perhaps we should be selling; these are the types of things we need to be looking at, as they could help us pay for many of these capital projects.  Chairman McMahon asked for the inventory list to be provided within the next few days, adding this fits right in with the management concept that Mr. Owens is looking for.


Chairman McMahon referenced the abstract charges to the City of Syracuse for PSB work (pg. 5-19) and asked to be provided with an understanding of what our mandate is for at the PSB; what are we responsible for.  The abstract is a tax on the City taxpayers and is utilized much too frequently and loosely between the two governments; questions why we are charging this without permission from a legislative body beforehand.  The work that was performed for the PSB looks really good, but he doesn’t believe we should be asking for the money after the fact.  We need to be asking before.  The way this has been utilized is troubling.  Once the mandate information is received, maybe Mr. Millea and the legislature can figure a way to get this done before hand; asking for permission, instead of forgiveness.  Mr. Millea responded that this was a great point and something that both he and Mr. Owens have had to get a set of brains on.  This goes way back to the construction of the building, there was an agreement upon the construction of the building and how costs would be shared and then evolved overtime with regard to the space allocation.  This was something that we went through in 2011 or 2012 when we did the elevator repairs. 


Chairman McMahon added that it may make since to have the Sheriffs at the PSB, if we are going to making these improvements.  Mr. Millea responded that there is a dialog on any improvements to be made there; we can decide not to do them, can decide the county will pick up 100% of the costs, or through the conventional methodology of splitting it via the lease space.  A hold is being placed on future improvements, while they work with the Legislature to figure this out.  It is a sound building in the since that it was built well and it’s not going anywhere but it is an old building that needs aesthetic improvements.  The Chief is consistently requesting Mr. Owens services.  Within the confines of his current physical flexibility, the message to the Chief is that on a case-by-case basis we need to talk about what the share is going to be, how the city is going to pay for it -police budget or abstract.   You have raised a great point; we need to do those discussions on the front end of those investments rather than after the fact. 


Chairman McMahon noted that the Legislature did not approve $124,000 worth of improvements to the PSB this year.  He is not even sure this was done legally; guesses they are asking for approval now through the budget process.  Mr. Millea responded it was one or the other; in this case, we have done improvements and are apportioning those improvements to the abstract or it will be on Facilities local dollars.  Chairman McMahon stated his point is this, what does the mandate state we have to do.  He is guessing we did more than what we had to do via the lease.  If the Police Chief is asking for this, whatever the difference is from our mandate should be coming to this body for approval, not being billed directly to the city taxpayer without legislative approval.  This is what it looks like was done here.  He understands that this practice has been going on for decades but it is something that we need to get a grasp on.  Moving forward as we have more synergies between the city and the county, the county taxpayer who lives in the city, isn’t going to bear the brunt of this.  Mr. Millea stated a memo would be provided by the end of the week detailing how the allocations work, based on the leasehold and based on the original construction agreement of the 1950’s. 


In reference to parking revenues, Chairman McMahon questioned why we wouldn’t hire someone on a month-to-month basis to manage our parking, so we get that revenue.  Mr. Owens stated the option is still there, they are talking about it.  There was an immediate need to get Murbro.  Until we have further discussion this is the best option for us.  Although there is some increase in the 103 as a result, the net is still about $10,000 per month overall.  Chairman McMahon stated he has had some experience in this while on the Common Council, they went through a big parking RFP process.  Being in the parking business is a loser for government.  He strongly encourages them to put something together very quickly on a month-to-month basis and bring somebody in.  There are professional vendors already in the city that would love to do this work and we could get revenue.  Mr. Owens responded that they would look into it.


In answer to Chairman Knapp, Mr. Owens stated that we are operating two parking lots.  Mr. Jordan questioned why this resulted in a decrease in revenue, if anything it should have been an increase since we are not sharing revenue with the operator of the lot.  Mr. Owens responded that the previous operator supplied a false revenue, there was no way he could have achieved this mathematically.  Mr. Jordan clarified that this is really just correcting the number, not a decrease in revenue.  Mr. Owens responded that it also a decrease in revenue as the actual true numbers are much less than what was promised.


Chairman McMahon questioned where the money was going to come from to pay the increase in the 2013 budget from adapted to modified (pg 5-18); e.g. no funds for automotive equipment budget and expenses but spent $46,000 (Line A671500).  Mr. Morgan responded that fund balance was appropriated for this.  In addition, there were carryovers from previous year, pulled money from the previous year into the current year.  Many of the modified numbers are a result of this.  Believes the furnishings and equipment was a fund balance item also (Line A692150).


In answer to Chairman McMahon, Mr. Owens stated they are looking to replace their box truck in 2014 (pg 5-18 Line A671500).  The truck is used to relocate departments, move equipment, furniture and supplies; utilized significantly.  The current vehicle has passed its usefulness; maintenance costs are higher than the value.  It has become a safety hazard for the drivers; lift was added to the truck after the fact.  One employee was hurt while trying to walk on the lift, luckily not seriously but it could have been. 


Mr. Holmquist asked to be provided with a copy of the original budget request submitted from Facilities.  Mr. Owens responded that they could supply this without any problem.


In response to Mr. Holmquist, Mr. Owens confirmed the building maintenance supervisor was a direct transfer from the Health department; no create and delete. 


Mr. Holmquist stated that a number of facility personnel have access to sensitive information and asked if there were background checks and/or a formal policy in place.  Mr. Wixson and Mr. Owens responded:

  • All receive background checks, Jobs Plus prescreens - we follow-up with the background check whenever assigned to a sensitive building; some common areas and grounds don’t require the same level
  • Ready to engage the intrusion alarm system - will provide another level of security with badge access
  • Jobs Plus workers don’t go into a sensitive area without a Facilities fulltime employees
  • New this year - provide all Job’s Plus operators an ID badge; identifies individual and if card access is required we know they are there; 98% of the time they aren’t in sensitive areas


In answer to Mr. Holmquist, Mr. Owens stated once a fulltime employee passes the background check, no further checks are done by Facilities.  He would need to talk with Personnel to see if there is anything from a County perspective. 


Mr. Holmquist asked if the County had a clean desk policy, all sensitive materials put away and locked up and if there was a formal training program to remind the staff that this is something we need to pay attention too.  Mr. Owens responded that we need to revisit the policy, if there is one.  Mr. Holmquist stated that annual training could be setup to let employees know how important it is to maintain sensitive information.  Any person going through these areas could see information left on the desks, even during the workday when they leave their station and information remains out on the desk.  It has been brought to his attention that this is possibly pervasive and should be addressed. 


Mr. Millea stated this was a good question and something we should continue to work together on.  If there is a clean desk policy, he is in violation of it.  He believes the answer is both yes and no; believes there is very good training in areas where there is sensitive information.  However, we have a challenge system wide with regard to files.  The purging and maintenance of those files is something he and Mr. Owens struggle with as they are looking at the design of floors, particularly for DSS.  This gives us an opportunity to shift away from paper files, go to digital and work with IT on how we can use cloud storage and other opportunities to do this.  Child and Family Services aren’t supposed to have paper files for anything; everything is within the state’s connection system, never to be on anyone’s desk.  This is a challenge particularly in sensitive areas where we have family or custody issues.  With DOT we wouldn’t be so concerned if someone was leaving plans out for a highway project.  Mostly we are working to spend less time and resources on filing and to use less square footage within our buildings for filing; only storing what is required by the State Record and Information Act.  This is important from both a security and space utilization perspective.  Mr. Morgan noted from his days in Social Services, the employees receive training and are required to sign a confidentiality agreement.  As alluded to by Mr. Millea, much of this has to do with the computer systems that are used.  The struggle we have is the paper that is still maintained; slowly trying to image and store offset where it is not accessed.  


Mr. Millea added that the card access mentioned is critical to our control systems.  All floors are locked after office hours and specific floors are locked at all times; floors with most sensitive information are locked at all times so we know who is coming and going when.  We are shifting to a system where you will swipe in, doors will unlock and in order to unlock the doors to leave you will have to swipe out.  We will know who came into the building when and what floors they went into, also when they leave. 


Mr. Jordan stated they had talked about the demolition costs for the North Area Maintenance facility and asked what the long term plans for the site where.  Mr. Millea stated the $3 million listed in the Capital Plan is a worst-case scenario.  A conversation is needed with the Legislature to determine what to do with that facility.  We would likely get some real-estate expertise to help us determine if we could market the facility.  An environmental assessment would also need to be completed to see the potential liabilities we may need to mitigate; can’t market without assessment.  Hopefully we can avoid demolition and sell the building for redevelopment.  Mr. Jordan noted that often these properties can be sold and demolition costs can be deferred to the purchaser, depending on what they want to do with it.  This should certainly be part of the mix. 


In answer to Mr. Jordan, Mr. Owens stated the cost to purchase the truck is far less than the cost of contracting for the services done on a daily basis.  The truck is utilized 3-4 times per day.  


In answer to Mr. Jordan, Mr. Owens stated that Job’s Plus workers receive assistance from the county; aren’t paid by Facilities.  Mr. Morgan added that they are on assistance but with that aside, Job’s Plus was receiving grant funds to subsidize employment for some individuals at the county and other entities outside of county government.  This was called Jump Start Jobs; got the individual in the door, subsidized position for a short period with the hopes that the individual would maintain employment at the employer’s expense going forward.  The grant has dried up but there was a time when they were actually being paid and if it was enough, assistance would stop at that point.  In general, they are paid via receiving assistance benefits.


Mrs. Rapp asked whom they anticipate moving into the Carnegie building.  Mr. Millea stated Mr. Owens has provided some great information on this via the Facilities Division of Construction and Office Planning book (on file with the Clerk).  As discussed this with some of the leadership at our CIP briefing, they want to decide together with the legislature what the best adaptive reuse of the facility is.  There are three potential scenarios in the document provided; could be unlimited scenarios, not narrowed down to these three, just some options to show potential for reuse.  A key office to move there would be the County Executive’s office onto the second floor; potentially Management and Budget, Law, Planning, Community Development, and Purchasing.  We have many options.  In addition to the work Mr. Owens mentioned with regard to the County Office building and the Civic Center, we are going to have floor space available within the Civic Center on floors 8, 11, 13 and 14.  We could bring people from satellite offices back into the Civic Center; Jobs Plus, Health department nurses, and WIC.  This is the big picture, with many details to be worked out; believes this will be a cost beneficial experience.  Two appraisals have been completed on the Carnegie building.  The first appraisal conducted by a private party to see if they were interested in buying came back at $500,000, less than $19 per square foot.  The appraisal commissioned by Facilities came back at $700,000.  If we were to put this out to auction or try to market it, we aren’t looking at a tremendous amount of revenue and would be adding empty office space into a market that is already glutted with vacancies.  The Excellus building is up for auction again just two blocks down the street because they can’t find anyone to fill it.  The government would be doing a disservice to the business owners in this area by add more vacant office space.  Adaptive reuse is the preferred alternative for us at this point.     


In answer to Mrs. Rapp, Mr. Millea stated we are annually paying approximately $637,000 to lease space offsite that could be brought back in (final pg of Construction and Office Planning book).  Mr. Owens added this figure is just for the departments that they could fit back into the Civic Center based on space availability. 


Mrs. Tassone questioned the expense increase in other miscellaneous revenues (pg. 5-18 line A590057) and asked for a breakdown of the items.  Mr. Owens responded that this was mainly due to the increase of demand response participation.  A breakdown will be provided. 


In response to Mrs. Tassone, Mr. Owens stated the painter position would not be a layoff; found another job somewhere else.  Instead of filling this position, we took the opportunity to propose a swap in positions from painter to electrician.


Mr. May asked for distinction on the increase in the maintenance, utilities and rent budget line since 2012 (pg. 5-18 Line A694130).  Mr. Owens responded that $400,000 was due to utility increases and about $300,000 was due to an increase in repair needs, not increases in rent.  


Mr. May asked which energy saving initiativesare working, which ones aren’t and what the rate of return on investment was.  Mr. Owens responded that much of the lighting changes can be seen rapidly: e.g. Elevator lobby upgrades went from 5-30 watt bulbs to 5-6 watt LED lights, can see the affect and cost saving immediately.  HVAC and air handling upgrades will be seen overtime as we look at our energy usage.  There are some other things we need to do as far as the overall building envelope and sealing it up; dealing with aged infrastructure.   The curtain wall window we are replacing will assist in the HVAC improvements made; all go together and will be seen gradually overtime.  


Mr. May asked if they had seen anything in the mix that wasn’t worthwhile going forward.  Mr. Owens responded not yet.  He sits down with his energy specialist and discusses these options before going after them.  In situations where improvements won’t see the return on investment, we don’t implement them; e.g.  Micro turbine generation proposed in CIP has been on the table for many year, wasn’t worthwhile to go after until they received the NYSERTA rebate, this along with the maintenance reduction now makes great since to go after.  It will pay for itself in five years.


Mrs. Ervin asked if there was money in the budget to take care of the buildings rodent problem and what the plan was.  Mr. Owens responded that there is money in the budget to take care of this.  They have increased this amount significantly; currently spending four times what was allotted and taking aggressive steps to reduce the rodents.  We have the perfect storm here; we are attaching the rodents, they are running for cover, at the same time construction is tearing up their homes.  We are taking very aggressive approaches; looking at this daily and can provide more detail on the specifics anytime. 


Mr. May asked to be provided with a breakdown of where they are at in terms of completion and   original budgets for key capital projects.  Mr. Owens stated he could provide a breakdown of all the capital projects, which ones have been completed, which ones are in progress and things of that nature. 


Mr. May asked the level to which Facilities was working with the Sheriff’s department on the Special Enforcement Unit and evidence facility.  Mr. Owens responded that they try to get involved in all the RFP processes with all county departments.  The Sheriff’s office came to them early on and we worked very closely with them to put the RFP out for an architect engineer.  We are currently in the process of reviewing proposals; once completed will set up another process to select the candidate for the project. 


Mr. Plochocki asked if the asbestos pipes in the tunnel between the garage and the courthouse would be part of the future HVAC repairs for the courthouse.  Mr. Owens stated there would be some asbestos abatement with the project but not those particular pipes.  Mr. Plochocki asked if the asbestos abatement of the pipes was in any future capital project.  Mr. Owens responded that asbestos is only harmful if it is disturbed; if the pipes aren’t broken they will not abate it.  If a pipe is damaged they are will repair it, regardless of which building it is part of. 


Mr. Kilmartin stated he greatly appreciates the details provided in the large handouts for different proposals of the Carnegie building usage and other proposals for uses of the Civic Center presently.  He asked if it would be possible to do a rudimentary stacking plan as you look at the Kochian building and the Civic Center; basically taking the information and making it vertical so you can see all the floors and provide a quick comparison of current use, and rudimentary floor sketch of proposed use or various uses of the building.  This would be a quick visual in addition to what you have for the overhead views.  Mr. Owens responded that the current layout of those two building is included in the book provided, as proposed but not stacked.  The layout is color-coded.  Mr. Kilmartin stated he would look at it to see if it was helpful.  Mr. Owens added that he would get together with Mr. Kilmartin after the presentation to get more information on what he was looking for and would make it happen. 


Chair Knapp asked if all the floors were ready for the DSS moves within the Civic Center.  Mr. Owens responded that the floors are not ready, still discussing where everyone is going with Ms. Rooney and her staff.  She had a goal to get some of DSS moved by the end of 2013.  We are working diligently to accomplish this but with everything else going on it will be difficult.  The windows project is going to be a major move for county employees because we have to relocate workers away from the windows and build barriers.  We are trying not to disturb employees multiple times.  


Chair Knapp stated other employee wages increased significantly (pg.5-18 Line A641030), as did night maintance.  Mr. Owens responded that the increase in other employee wages was for the parking attendants; added three attendants on the 103 line to cover the two lots repossessed from Murbro.  They handle special events at those lots as well.  Chair Knapp stated that night maintenance also increased $24,000.  Mr. Owens responded that he would have to look into this; believes this is the same.


In answer to Chair Knapp, Mr. Owens stated the increase in overtime costs (pg 5-18 Line A641020) is mainly for snow removal.  Last year was down, they are looking at getting it back to a 2012 estimate.  In addition, we have a call in policy whereby whenever workers are called into the DH&C plant they get paid for four hours even if they are only there for two hours. 


Chair Knapp thanked Mr. Owens for his presentation and stated the meeting will adjourn for lunch and reconvene at 1:15 PM with OCPL.


The meeting was recessed at 12:34 PM.


Respectfully submitted,



Onondaga County Legislature


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