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AUBURN
Environmental test results, concept designs unveiled for Auburn lot

AUBURN — Preliminary soil and ground water tests for the future community park space at 1-7 State St. — the site of the former Kalet building — came back "non-detect" for contamination, Ted Liddell, a landscape architect with Bergmann Associates, said during a public meeting Monday night at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Given the site's history of lawsuits based the environmental testing, Liddell said the company's environmental scientists looked at the previous testing results and expanded their testing "just to cover all of the bases."   

The land was tested in five different areas for contaminates, such as petroleum, volatile organic compounds, pesticides and PCBs. Two samples were taken from each spot and compared for the most accurate results. Liddell said there was a discrepancy with one of the ground water samples, so that one will be retested to ensure no pollutants are present. 

"So far the preliminary results have shown that there's nothing to worry about," Liddell said. 

Liddell also unveiled four possible park designs during the meeting. The concepts were designed using ideas from the previous public meeting, including a stage for performances, green space and water features. He said the park will have a mix of contemporary and traditional design features. 

The first design features a large green space surrounded by built-in wall benches, foliage around the perimeter and a shaded stage platform. Design two is more of a plaza, with a paved center, overhead lighting, a water feature and movable seating. The third design also includes green space, along with a band shell, public restrooms and light posts with built-in charging stations. Design four features a paved center with a checker board design for large checker and chess games, along with a water wall and planters and trellises for greenery. 

All four designs incorporated a stage, foliage, lighting, seating, bike racks and the potential for an ice skating rink in the winter.

After the designs were presented, those in attendance were asked to write down what they liked and did not like about the each concept, as well as write down a name and choose their favorite overall design. Concept three seemed to be the most popular option. 

"There might be something in each one that you really, really like and there could be the opportunity that some of the elements from each of the four concepts could be combined into the final concept," Liddell said.  

Auburnian Jack Hardy said the concepts were "interesting" and he liked different elements of each design. Hardy, who helps organize the Founders Day car show downtown, said the park will be a attractive feature for visitors. 

Jane Stebbins, the president of the Music United Foundation in Auburn, attended last month's meeting and said the architects did a "phenomenal job" with the designs. 

"I think they listened to us and put a lot of time and care in constructing all four park concepts," Stebbins said. "Out of the four, you certainly could garner pieces of each to create one amazing park."

Stebbins pitched the idea at the last meeting to name the park after Thommie Walsh, a two-time Tony Award winner from Auburn who died at the age of 57. Several other people suggested naming the park after the performer as well. 

Thommie's sister, Barbara Walsh, was at the meeting and said it is "pretty exciting" that the park could be named after her brother. 

"I think my brother would be extremely proud and honored to know that the Auburnians were thinking of him and wanting to name something after him," Barbara said. "I think he would be thrilled about it." 

Anyone who has additional ideas or comments can submit them by email to Auburn's Office of Planning and Economic Development Director Jenny Haines at jhaines@auburnny.gov, or Kimberly Baptiste, a practice leader at Bergmann Associates, at kbaptiste@bergmannpc.com.


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CONGRESS
Cayuga County business leaders tell Katko: Tax reform would help workers

SYRACUSE — At a roundtable discussion Monday, a group of central New York business leaders explained to U.S. Rep. John Katko how tax reform would benefit them — and their employees. 

The meeting, held at Progressive Expert Consulting in Syracuse, featured 20 business leaders from the Syracuse area. Two panelists were from Cayuga County: Joanne Cross, owner of Cross Filtration in Moravia, and Drew Wilcox, vice president and general manager of Nucor Steel in Auburn. 

Cross believes tax reform will help her company, which produces wet filtration press cloths for manufacturers, mining operations and water treatment systems. She said the tax plan would allow Cross Filtration to continue to pay for employees' health insurance coverage and increase wages for her employees. 

"This is a good way to put more money in their pockets and keep our workforce happy," she said. 

While Nucor Steel is a larger company than Cross Filtration, Wilcox sees similar benefits for his business and workforce. 

Nucor, he said, has invested more than $7 billion since 2009 despite economic challenges for the steel industry. If tax reform is adopted, he said it would allow Nucor to continue investing in its plants, including the mill in Auburn. 

What separates Nucor from some companies represented at Katko's roundtable is it is a major player in the global market. Wilcox noted one way the tax plan would help is by lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. 

"All we ask for is a level playing field," he said. "To have a similar tax rate as a lot of these other companies that we are competing with it just gives us a chance to keep our people working and busy and making a good wage." 

Steve Wells, co-founder of American Food & Vending Corp., a company based in Liverpool, said tax reform would benefit his employees because the food service industry tends to pay low wages. 

With the possibility that many in the working class will receive a tax cut, Wells said it would be "great" for his business and staff. 

"In every way, this tax plan advances the economy as a whole and in particular, upstate New York," he said. 

The comments at the roundtable echo statements Katko, R-Camillus, has heard at similar events. He cited business support for the proposal when he decided to support the House GOP tax reform plan earlier this month. 

The House passed its tax reform measure and now it awaits action by the Senate on its own plan. It's unclear when the Senate will vote on its bill, which is still working its way through the committee process. 

If the Senate passes its bill, a conference committee will be formed to reach an agreement on a final tax reform plan. 

There's a possibility that the final bill could be different than the proposal Katko supported. But based on the House plan, he said a vast majority of his constituents will pay a lower tax bill. He also believes that it would benefit businesses in his district, including the companies represented at the roundtable. 

"It's going to unlock manufacturers' and businesses' potential to not only stay here but to flourish and maybe bring jobs back," he said. 


INFRASTRUCTURE
Auburn to get state money to replace lead pipes

The city of Auburn is one of more than 20 New York municipalities awarded funding to replace aging drinking water lines that contain lead.

Auburn will receive $698,134 through the state Department of Health's Lead Service Line Replacement Program. The grant program is part of the Clean Water Infrastructure Act that was included in the 2017-18 state budget.

The city was one of two central New York municipalities to receive funding. Syracuse was also awarded $698,134 to replace lead service lines. In the Finger Lakes region, the town of Lyons in Wayne County received a $538,096 grant.

Overall, the state allocated $20 million to replace lead service lines.

"These critical improvements to New York's drinking water infrastructure are vital to protecting public health and to laying the foundation for future growth and economic prosperity in these communities," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Water contamination is possible when pipes containing lead corrode. While a 1986 federal law bans the use of lead in pipes, older water lines that contain lead could corrode and contaminate the water.

Lead poisoning can be harmful, especially for young children and babies. New York requires medical providers to test children for lead at ages 1 and 2.


STATE LEGISLATURE
NY Democrats float plan to fix Senate schism

ALBANY — There's a new proposal to heal the schism dividing Democrats in the New York state Senate — one that could potentially give Democrats control of the chamber.

Democrats now have a one-seat Senate majority, but they aren't in charge because the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference broke with mainline Democrats to give control of the Senate to Republicans.

State Democratic Party leaders on Monday floated a proposal to allow the leaders of both sides to share power as co-leaders.

Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the mainline Democratic leader, said her side is willing to agree to the proposal.

Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the independent Democrats, called it an "exciting development" and expressed support, provided both sides agree on several policy initiatives.

Democrats already hold the governor's office and control the Assembly.