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Auburn community wants green space, art, stage at State Street lot

AUBURN — Auburn residents were given the opportunity to share their thoughts on what elements they would like to see incorporated into the city's redevelopment of the 1-7 State St. property during a public meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn on Monday night.

An economic analysis conducted as part of the Auburn SPARKS initiative determined the former Kalet's department store lot would be best suited as an outdoor, public use space. The city recently hired consulting firm Bergmann Associates to design the site, as well as conduct the environmental site assessment. Ted Liddell, a landscape architect with Bergmann, led the meeting. 

During the meeting, the community had the opportunity to participate in two activities to give their opinions and ideas. Auburn students from the Blueprint II program attended the meeting. 

The first activity was a visual preference survey. Those in attendance were shown a series of images, such as different park designs, light fixtures and benches, and asked to rate them on a scale of one to 10. Liddell said the results will be tallied and used to create the overall design of the space. 

The second activity required residents to brainstorm in groups elements they would like to see in the park. Liddell then asked the groups to prioritize their top five "must haves" and "would like to haves." Finally, the groups were given an aerial shot of the 7,500-square-foot park and asked to place their ideas within the site. Each group presented their ideas to those gathered. 

Some of the more popular ideas included green space, a covered stage or amphitheater, public art, a water feature and statues of Auburn's historical figures. 

"No idea is a bad idea," Liddell said. 

Jane Stebbins, the president of the Music United Foundation in Auburn, said the area "lends itself perfectly" as a space for arts, music and entertainment.

Natalie Brophy / Natalie Brophy, The Citizen  

Jane Stebbins shares her ideas during Monday night's meeting. 

Stebbins said she would like the park to be named after Thommie Walsh, a two-time Tony Award winner from Auburn who died at the age of 57. She said an Auburn walk of fame, which would highlight successful Auburnians in the arts, would fit into the theme of the park.

Liddell said he and the staff and Bergmann will take all the ideas from the meeting and incorporate them into several different designs. Then, Bergmann staff will present those ideas at another public meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27 at the Hilton Garden Inn, to get more community feedback. During November and December, the firm will finalize the environmental report and prepare construction documents. The project should be ready to go out for construction bids in January, Liddell said.

In the meantime, two phases of environmental tests will be conducted on the site.        

"Through that process we'll find out what types of contaminates are on the site, if any, and what types of remedial action needs to take place in order for the site to be safe for public use," Liddell said. 

Those findings will be shared with the public during the Nov. 27 meeting. 

Auburn Downtown Business Improvement District Executive Director Stephanie DeVito attended the meeting. She said she was impressed with the ideas generated by the community.

"I think there was a lot of really great ideas," DeVito said. "It was a great turnout. It was wonderful to see the kids' ideas, from the Blueprint group and I think they really came up with some really clever ideas that we haven't thought of."

Anyone who has ideas they would like to submit for consideration can email them to Auburn's Office of Planning and Economic Development Director Jenny Haines at, or Kimberly Baptiste, a practice leader at Bergmann Associates, at

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Cuomo: First phase of $27M NYS Fair Orange lot upgrades begins this fall

Construction will begin this fall on a $27 million project to upgrade the New York State Fair's Orange lot, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday. 

The first phase of the project will pave the entire 65-acre lot and add lines for parking spaces. The improvements are expected to expand the capacity of the lot to hold up to 7,500 vehicles. 

Additional upgrades will be made to the lot's infrastructure, including the installation of 114 new LED lights, new drainage to prevent flooding and a redesigned intersection from exit 7 off Interstate 690. A new interchange will be created to connect the west end of the Orange to I-690 westbound. 

The improvements seek to address the criticisms of the Orange lot, which also serves as the primary parking venue for the nearby Lakeview Amphitheater. Drainage has been an issue, especially after heavy rainfall, and the excess water can reduce the lot's capacity. 

The existing lot isn't paved, which can create messy conditions for those using it to attend concerts or the fair. And the lot doesn't have permanent access to I-690 — a temporary exit is open during the fair — which causes traffic flow problems after events. 

The first wave of the Orange lot construction project is expected to be completed before the 2018 fair. 

"For a century, the fairgrounds went virtually unchanged, and in just a few short years, New York has completely upgraded and transformed this historic attraction into a world-class, multi-use operation," Cuomo said in a statement. 

He added, "Transforming the Orange lot is critical in our efforts to complete the fair's modernization, and will provide much-needed additional capacity as we continue to attract more and more visitors to the grounds and to central New York as a whole." 

For the second phase of the project, the state plans to provide greater access between the Orange lot and nearby highways. One goal of the improvements is to eliminate the temporary traffic signal that is used on I-690 during the fair's run. 

This phase will aim to redesign the on- and off-ramps from the Route 695 southbound interchange and install a bridge to allow vehicles to gain direct access to Interstate 690 east from the Orange lot. 

A new pedestrian bridge from the west end of the Orange lot to the fairgrounds is also planned. 

The Orange lot improvements aren't the only project in the works ahead of the 2018 fair. Cuomo announced earlier this year that a new $50 million expo center will be built on the fairgrounds. The facility will be used during the fair and for year-round events. 

The state has invested more than $120 million in the fairgrounds over the last few years. The 2016 fair, which was a 12-day event, broke the all-time attendance record with 1,117,630 visitors. 

This year, the fair expanded to a 13-day event and drew 1,161,912 attendees to set a new all-time attendance mark. 

"The fair has grown by nearly 25 percent in two years and our non-fair business is on the verge of great growth with the construction of the new expo center," said Troy Waffner, the fair's acting director. "The governor's investments have provided an opportunity for growth that we are taking advantage of, and which is benefiting the entire region." 

Natalie Brophy / Natalie Brophy, The Citizen  

Finger Lakes SPCA Shelter Director Carol Russell brought her dog to be blessed at Hoopes Park Sunday. 

County plans $1.4M project to expand industrial park sewer capacity

An infrastructure project endorsed by the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council would benefit two businesses in the Aurelius industrial park.

The Cayuga County Industrial Development Agency applied for a $284,000 grant to support $1,418,125 project to expand sewer capacity at the complex, which is home to Cayuga Milk Ingredients and Grober Nutrition.

Cayuga Milk Ingredients is a milk processing plant. Farmers send milk to the facility where it's used to produce milk protein concentrates, milk powder and other products. Grober Nutrition produces milk substitutes for animals.

Tracy Verrier, executive director of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency and one of the county's regional council representatives, said with the two companies operating in the park they are "very close" to the sewer line's existing capacity.

"The sewer line was built for the capacity of a typical manufacturing business that uses the sewer for office waste," she said. "Obviously, Cayuga Milk Ingredients has a lot higher need than that."

Kevin Ellis, CEO of Cayuga Milk Ingredients, admitted that the company didn't inspect the sewer line before it opened the $100 million plant in 2014. Prior to constructing the facility in Aurelius, he said Cayuga Milk Ingredients was promised a daily sewer capacity of 500,000 gallons.

But Ellis questions whether that's the true capacity. Cayuga Milk Ingredients disposes up to 315,000 gallons of waste per day and there are times when the sewer backs up, he said.

The state of the industrial park's sewer infrastructure could impact Cayuga Milk Ingredients' future. Ellis revealed that the plant is in the midst of strategic planning and expanding is under consideration.

The company's long-term vision could require a sewer capacity of 750,000 gallons per day. However, the plant is eyeing a modest expansion that would require an additional 75,000 gallons of daily capacity.

"Unless this gets fixed, we're going somewhere else," Ellis said. "We're not going to be able to discharge it. Grober, those poor people, they wouldn't be able to discharge. We'd have to take turns discharging."

The initial plan, according to Verrier, is to expand the industrial park's sewer capacity by installing a force main that would be parallel to the existing line. This would free up capacity on the sewer line and large plants, such as Cayuga Milk Ingredients, could use the force main.

The Cayuga County Industrial Development Agency issued a request for proposals for preliminary engineering to develop a plan for the park's sewer infrastructure. Verrier hopes that engineering study will determine the best option for the park to expand sewer capacity and determine future needs.

The request for proposals was due earlier this month.

Verrier added that once preliminary engineering work is complete, the agency will seek funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to support the sewer expansion.

"This is exactly the kind of project they want," she said.

The Cayuga County Industrial Development Agency will learn in December whether the project will receive state funding. The seventh annual state regional economic development council awards ceremony is expected to be held in December.

The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council is competing for its share of more than $800 million in state aid to support projects. The regional council endorsed 38 priority projects in 2017, including seven in Cayuga County.

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Health Department: West Nile virus killed Cayuga County horse

A horse at the southern end of Cayuga County died from West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, according to a release from the Cayuga County Health Department.

The department was notified by the state Department of Health about the death, and as of Friday it said no other animal or human deaths in the county have been reported due to the illness. 

About eight of 10 people do not exhibit symptoms of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some, however, may develop a fever and exhibit symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. About 1 in 150 people infected can develop a severe illness, according to the CDC.

In the meantime, the department is encouraging the public to remain vigilant and use personal protection measures to minimize the potential of mosquito bites. People should wear shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors. The health department also recommends using a mosquito repellent containing 20 to 30 percent DEET or Picardin.

To reduce mosquito breeding on property, eliminate standing water by cleaning clogged rain gutters, turning over wheelbarrows and wading pools, changing out water in bird baths, properly maintain and drain swimming pools, remove tires, throw away outdoor containers that hold water, drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers and use landscaping to eliminate low spots where water could accumulate.

For more information, call the health department at (315) 253-1560 or visit