1. The Legislature has explored building a new county office building to replace the aging structure downtown. What do you think should be done?
Grant Kyle: I believe creating a long-term plan for Cayuga County’s aging buildings will be a major priority of the Legislature. Any future plans for the buildings will be a large investment for the County so all options should be considered. A thorough analysis of the County’s future needs should be paired with finding the most cost-effective plan.
Chris Petrus: Cost estimates put the construction of a new building at approximately 25 million dollars while the removal of asbestos and the renovation of the existing structure is estimated to cost approximately 11 million dollars. As a fiscal conservative, based on cost alone, I am opposed to the construction of a new building. It is also my opinion that the current location provides for easy access to the consumers of the services provided by the County. In addition, the removal from the current location would be a detriment to the city of Auburn’s Business District.
2. How can the Legislature ensure more stability with the Cayuga County administrator position, which has experienced considerable turnover in the past decade?
Kyle: The County Administrator is a critical position within the organization. The Administrator is tasked with achieving the goals set out by the Legislature. I believe the Legislature should set out clear priorities for each fiscal year and provide the Administrator the tools and confidence to achieve our goals through the management of the County Department heads.
Petrus: Cayuga County currently operates as an appointed county manager form of government. Therefore, the manager position is beholden to the whims of the Legislature and furthermore is accountable to the power and control of the Legislature and not the people. I am in favor of changing the charter to allow for an elected County Executive. It is my opinion that the benefits of a County Executive form of government are two-fold. First and foremost, an elected Executive would shift accountability and control from the Legislature to the people. Secondly, by the establishment of four-year terms, turnover would be reduced. This will ensure that the Legislature focuses on its prescribed duties of oversight and not interfering in the day-to-day operations of the County Departments which, in my opinion, has had a significant impact on turnover.
3. What should the Legislature be doing to address the harmful algal bloom and invasive species problems affecting local water bodies?
Kyle: Our water resources should take the highest priority. It is the source of our drinking water and critical to our economic health. The County should be the rallying point for all groups and organizations, so a comprehensive plan can be executed. A well-organized plan will be the critical to drawing in State and Federal partners to solve our water quality issues.
Petrus: This is a very complex issue that requires research and collaboration between the Federal, State and Local Governments. Possible solutions include but are not limited to, retention ponds for liquid manure, the creation of new sewer districts to capture residential waste, and the creation of buffer zones to facilitate the trapping of sediment, organic matter, nutrients, and pesticides.
4. Working with leaders in all municipalities, Cayuga County will be asked to submit a shared services plan to the state in 2018. What types of services should the plan target?
Kyle: Shared services will be critical to the fiscal health of Cayuga County. The County must continue to be creative in finding cost saving measures through creative partnerships, and more efficient structures. County wide codes, assessment, and highway are among many options that could be considered. The balance between delivering the best services at the lowest cost should be the basis for any shared service plan.
Petrus: Although the County Highway Department is one of the largest non-mandated line item in the budget, I do not support the abolishment of the Department. I do however feel that the taxpayers could benefit from a consolidation of services such as equipment, buildings, and operating expenses. Another area I believe consolidation should be explored is with regards to the water and sewer districts that currently exist. It is my opinion that the cost of water and sewer could be greatly reduced by bringing all existing water and sewer districts under the umbrella of the Cayuga County Water and Sewer Authority. This will prevent the exponential growth of fees and services the further away the consumer is from the source.