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One downtown Auburn restaurant to reopen, another new one coming

AUBURN — Come summer, there will be a couple more places to get a burger downtown.

Burger Theory is projected to open in early June inside the Auburn Holiday Inn, Sales & Banquet Coordinator Brandi Miller said Friday. As its name suggests, the restaurant will serve burgers along with appetizers and salads for lunch and dinner, as well as 24 bottles and 12 taps of beer. Miller said the hotel will try to feature local beers in the restaurant.

Burger Theory will replace McMurphy's Authentic Irish Pub, which some of the hotel's regulars are sad to see go, Miller said.

The pub's warm wooden decor will be replaced by a modern look with several TVs in Burger Theory, Miller said. The hotel has few other details about the restaurant because it's being handled by InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns the Holiday Inn and other hotel chains. Burger Theory is part of the group's new H4 design for full-service Holiday Inns, Miller said.

Miller is excited about the design, which she's seen in other Burger Theory locations that have already opened. She's also gotten sneak peeks at the menu, she said.

"It's going to be a very friendly place to hang out," she said.

While renovations are underway, Auburn Holiday Inn guests can get lunch and dinner at The Falls Room, the hotel's breakfast space. The hotel's pool area, atrium, fitness center and meeting rooms are also being renovated, while its lobby, ballroom and 165 rooms have been renovated already. The $5.1 million upgrade began after the hotel's purchase by Visions Hotels, of Corning, in 2016.

Meanwhile, downtown restaurant Patty Shack announced on its Facebook page that it will reopen sometime this month.

Located in The Plaza of the Arts on Genesee Street, Patty Shack opened in April 2017. Its owners are Gena Poggi and Jeff Verno, who also operate a Patty Shack in Macedon, and the Empire Bar & Grill in Webster and Macedon. The restaurant serves burgers, fries, milkshakes and more, and its flagship Roc Plate is similar to the garbage plate made famous in Rochester.

Patty Shack abruptly closed for the winter in December, its owners citing slow sales due to the weather and the loss of the restaurant's patio seating.

Patty Shack's owners did not respond to requests for comment on the restaurant's reopening.

Gallery: Patty Shack opens in downtown Auburn

The Citizen file 

Patty Shack opened in the Plaza of the Arts building in downtown Auburn in April 2017.

Auburn firefighters help kick off Cayuga County DMV's Donate Life month

Cayuga County Clerk Sue Dwyer said Friday was the hottest Organ Donor Kick Off Week the county's department of motor vehicles has ever had. 

In recognition of April as Donate Life Month, the office gave out popcorn Friday, popped fresh from a machine. The Cayuga County Office Building's fire alarm sounded, however, and the building had to be evacuated. Dwyer said the Auburn Fire Department arrived and discovered that the popcorn machine had set off the alarm.

Staff and the public were allowed back in the building soon after, and Dwyer said popcorn was shared with everyone, including firefighters.

"This was truly the HOTTEST Organ Donor Kick Off Week we ever had and we are thankful nothing serious happened," Dwyer said in an email to The Citizen.

The awareness campaign has been successful in its own right, too, as Dwyer said over the past eight years staff have signed up more than 1,500 donors. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 116,000 men, women and children are on a wait list for organ transplants as of August 2017. While about 95 percent of U.S. adults support organ donation, the department said about 54 percent are signed up as donors. 

Those interested in signing up to be an organ donor may do so at the Cayuga County DMV on the First Floor of the Cayuga County Office Building, 160 Genesee St., Auburn. People may also register online at

Skaneateles school board juggles budget, school resource officer questions

The Skaneateles Central School District Board of Education will be facing a range of budget decisions for its Tuesday meeting, including the potential inclusion of one or more school resource officer.

The board is looking at different tax levies to present to the community for the budget vote on May 15, district Superintendent Ken Slentz said. The district has shown the board different levy options, Slentz said, including factors such as possible cuts that could be made if a particular option is chosen. The district's property tax cap given by the state is 4.44 percent. Slentz said he has not gained the impression from the board that it is interested in raising the levy to the cap.

The board is currently set to adopt a budget at the Tuesday meeting. The board may opt to finalize the budget at an emergency meeting if they choose, Slentz said. In that case, he said, such a meeting is anticipated happening Thursday, if at all.

"While the goal is to adopt, the board may choose to push that a couple days back and wait until the (emergency meeting) to finalize things," Slentz said.

The district has put a hefty emphasis on safety after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in February and the incident in which the Skaneateles middle and high schools went into lockdown on March 1 after a bullet was found in the middle school, Slentz said. In the wake of those incidents, he said, some students, parents and staff alike have been concerned about "the environment that we are in," which he worries is distracting students from their education, despite people's "justifiable fear."

To try to balance those concerns, Slentz said, the district has been looking into a hiring an interim armed guard for the rest of the school year. Slentz said the district has interviewed three retired law enforcement officers for the spot. Slentz said he anticipates a candidate will be picked Monday and be up for board approval Tuesday.

The board is also set to discuss the possibility of adding a school resource officer next year, Slentz said. He noted some board members have advocated for posting an officer at each school. Slentz said the district is set to make a recommendation on how many officers the district should have, and the board is expected to approve a number.

If the district approves having a resource officer, Slentz will suggest the creation of an advisory committee — ideally including community members and students, Slentz said — that will help craft a "job description" for the position, including how the officer would interact with students, how they would dress and other considerations.

Slentz said an armed guard will serve as a test to see how students, staff and parents respond to having a person with a gun by their hip in the district's hallways. He noted that while he has heard positive reactions to the idea of a resource officer, some students have told him an armed person in the schools would make them "more anxious."

The budget would further be impacted by whether a resource officer would be retired or an active duty police officer, which would be decided by the committee, Slentz said. If the committee were to opt for a retired police officer, Slentz said, a waiver from the education department would be needed for anyone on the state's retirement system to receive more than $30,000 a year. Picking an active officer would require more funds. 

A proposal taxpayers can expect to see on the ballot in May besides the budget vote is a proposition to purchase four buses at a cost not to exceed $450,000, according to the district's website.  A proposition for a 10-year capital reserve of up to $2,500,000 for district upgrades and renovations, such as parking lots, driveways, technology, safety and security, classrooms equipment, etc, will also go before voters.

Slentz said there are several cost drivers this year, such as $276,000 in special education costs and $510,000 in debt service from capital projects from 2013 through 2015.

Katko: EPA chief Scott Pruitt 'getting close to the end of the line'

U.S. Rep. John Katko fell short of calling for Scott Pruitt to resign, but expressed concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency administrator's conduct.

During an editorial board interview with The Citizen Friday, Katko responded to questions on whether Pruitt should step down. There have been several stories that raise ethical concerns about Pruitt, including his decision to rent a Washington D.C. condominium from an energy industry lobbyist.

Before his condo rental was revealed, Pruitt was under fire for flying first class — at taxpayer expense — to events across the country.

When asked if Pruitt should resign, Katko, R-Camillus, said "he's getting awful close."

"I don't know all the facts and that's why I can't say for sure," he said. "It's extraordinarily poor judgment to rent a place from someone who's a lobbyist for an interest you represent. That's an extraordinarily bad choice. It's an extraordinarily bad choice to fly first class everywhere in this climate. You should know better than that and should be smarter than that."

A Wall Street Journal report Friday indicated that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly believes Pruitt should step down. But President Donald Trump hasn't called for the EPA chief's resignation.

On Friday morning, Trump tweeted in support of Pruitt while responding to a report that he was considering replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with the EPA administrator, who previously served as state attorney general in Oklahoma.

In the tweet, Trump wrote that Pruitt is "doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege."

Despite Trump's show of support, members of both parties are calling on Pruitt to resign. One of Katko's New York Republican colleagues, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, said Thursday that Pruitt should step down as EPA administrator.

At least two other GOP members of Congress have called for Pruitt's resignation. The top Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, also believes Pruitt should exit.

While Katko didn't say Pruitt should resign, he believes the embattled EPA administrator is "getting close to the end of the line."

"I'm going to need to know all the facts, but I'm very concerned about his conduct," he said.