1. The Legislature has explored building a new county office building to replace the aging structure downtown. What do you think should be done?
Melissa Jenkin: Cost is obviously one of the most important factors that will decide the direction of this project. At the moment, there has been a lot of discussion but not much real action taken. It is something that definitely needs to be addressed in the next year, but there are more pressing issues requiring the legislature’s immediate attention. With that said, I do believe that both the public and the various county agencies involved should be an integral part of the discussion and planning going forward. I also feel that, if cost effective, the county offices should remain within a single building, and that Auburn is the most central location. Keeping the offices in close proximity to each other fosters more efficient coordination between the various departments which benefits both the departments and the public it serves.
Paul Pinckney: I strongly believe renovations are the best way to go. We need to get everybody to the table to discuss the day to day needs for the county office building. We need to have proper office space and functionality. Then we proceed with hiring someone to design and rebuild the interior for the county’s day to day needs.
2. How can the Legislature ensure more stability with the Cayuga County administrator position, which has experienced considerable turnover in the past decade?
Jenkin: The position and duties of the administrator need to be clearly defined during the hiring process. There needs to be a well-established outline of the boundaries and relationships between dept. heads, the administrator, legislative committee chairs and individual legislators. Basically, legislators and department heads need to respect that the legislature creates policies on behalf of the public and that the administrator is in charge of implementing those policies. Moving forward there needs to be an unwavering commitment to supporting the authority of the administrator so that he or she can do their job effectively.
Pinckney: In my opinion, the County Administrator position can only be successful if the Administrator is able to manage County Government using the polices set forth by the Legislature. And by the Legislature buying in for the Administrator to do their job managing the day to day operations of the County by helping to stop the end-arounds that have wreaked havoc with the previous administrators.
3. What should the Legislature be doing to address the harmful algal bloom and invasive species problems affecting local water bodies?
Jenkin: I think the Legislature and various departments and organizations have already begun the difficult work of treating the drinking water. They are coordinating efforts with other local officials; local farmers and business owners; the various soil, water, environmental and public health departments; as well as local civic organizations. Together they are developing a watershed management plan and making updates to the watershed’s rules and regulations. I think continuing these efforts and strengthening public outreach and watershed education efforts will be key to long term success.
Pinckney: The Finger Lakes region is like no other and the health of our lakes is one of the most important resources we have. The County must support the Watershed, we need to police and enforce regulations that protect this natural resource and we need to work on early detection, removal and preventive measures. And we can do this by working diligently with local state and federal agencies to find a solution to protecting our lakes.
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 this plan target?
Jenkin: There has been several meetings and discussions this past year, including a survey of all County Departments, the City of Auburn, all 23 Cayuga County Towns and all 9 Cayuga County Villages. From these efforts a list of potential shared services and programs was developed. Among the various ideas listed, the four I felt were the most promising thus far include:
• Moving toward a single water and sewer authority in the county with discussion to umbrella county water and wastewater under the Cayuga County Water and Sewer Authority.
• Countywide planning and implementation of road improvement and repair; expanding the shared purchase, use and maintenance of specialized highway equipment; and expanding the County/Town snow plowing and road related work agreements.
• Sharing back office operations such as payroll, registrar, records retention, tax collection and billing.
• Looking at a single purchasing agent/person for all County municipalities. This will allow bulk purchasing in areas including consumables, electronics, small equipment (mowers, etc.) and perhaps cars, light trucks and related equipment, as well as electricity, road salt and fuel.
Pinckney: I believe that there is a lot of duplication of services, but shared services should benefit everyone and there should be clear guideline set forth to ensure no one is burdened financially. I would suggest that local Highway Departments and DPWs could work out a plan that makes for the efficient use of manpower and machinery to keep our roads clear of snow, to mow roadsides and maintain our roads and highways. I believe that we have highway departments working together now, so putting a plan into place for that department would make the most sense.