AUBURN — A large cluster of purple was front and center at the Cayuga County Courthouse in Auburn around noon Thursday.
The annual Wear Purple Day rally — meant to raise awareness of domestic violence — took place at the steps of the courthouse, with many participants displaying purple through clothing in some fashion. Before the event began, participants were given purple balloons. Purple is the symbolic color of domestic violence awareness.
The event, hosted by Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency, featured speakers from Cayuga County government and law enforcement reaffirming their commitment to stopping domestic violence and supporting survivors.
Auburn City Councilor Jimmy Giannettino said domestic violence is an "epidemic," despite work at both local and nationwide levels on the issue.
County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said it is fortunate that so many officials, agencies and others in the county are dedicated to addressing domestic violence.
"Let the offenders know that our community is not going to allow it, we're going to (shine) a light on them, that we're going to bring it to the forefront, we're going to address it and hold them accountable," Budelmann said.
Other speakers included county Sheriff David Gould, county Legislature Chairman Keith Batman, and action agency deputy director Marie Montgomery.
At the end of the event, participants were asked to let their balloons loose to the sky.
According to the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office, local law enforcement investigated over 2,200 domestic violence cases last year.
More than 10 million men and women in the United States are physically abused by a partner every year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Patty Weaver, domestic violence services coordinator for the action agency, said the event have taken place at noon is meant to allow more people to see and participate in it if they wish, as many people have their lunch breaks around noon.
These events send a signal to survivors that help and support are available and to offenders that their actions will not be tolerated, Weaver said.
She said she believes these events keep these issues in the cultural conversation and may help survivors come forward to get help.
"We want to make sure that we're putting it out there, that we're talking about it," Weaver said. "If you don't talk about it, people are afraid to talk about it."
AUBURN — The candidates for the Cayuga County Legislature District 4 seat had different opinions about the future of two top county positions Thursday.
During a televised forum at Cayuga Community College, Chris Petrus and Grant Kyle were asked about the fate of the county administrator position, which has been vacant for most of the year after Suzanne Sinclair's departure.
After updating the administrator's job description, a search committee comprised of lawmakers and county employees narrowed a pool of candidates from 60 down to five.
Kyle and Petrus agreed the position — or one like it — is needed. Kyle likened the county to a $150 million business without a leader.
"That's kind of the way it is right now," he said.
Petrus wants the county to explore elevating the administration to an elective office. Establishing a county executive would require a change to the charter.
A county executive would have similar duties as a county administrator. They would oversee the county's day-to-day operations and manage department heads.
That change would allow the county Legislature to focus on its oversight role and the budget process, Petrus added.
"That will be our form of government it won't be subjected to the whims of the Legislature," he said.
The candidates also differed on the status of Cayuga County Legislature Chairman Keith Batman. Jeremy Boyer, The Citizen's executive editor, asked Kyle and Petrus who they would support for chairman if elected to represent District 4, which includes the town of Brutus and village of Weedsport.
Petrus, a Republican, said he wouldn't support the current Democratic chairman. He didn't have a specific candidate for chair he would support. He said that would be settled after the election and would be based on who seeks the position from the GOP caucus.
Kyle, an unaffiliated voter who caucuses with the Democrats on the county Legislature, praised Batman for including Democrats and Republicans in discussions.
"It's not about party, it's about people," Kyle said.
Petrus accused Kyle of "sitting on the fence." He noted that while Kyle is an independent, he aligns with the Democrats and has voted with them a majority of the time.
"My vote will create a change," Petrus said.
The candidates also spoke out about the future of the Cayuga County Office Building. Legislators are considering options for the facility, including constructing a new building or renovating the existing Genesee Street structure.
Kyle didn't reveal a preference for either option. He acknowledged that cost would be a factor and that any final determination would be based on a review process.
Petrus opposes erecting a new county office building. A new building could cost an estimated $25 million. Renovating the existing facility could cost $11 million.
The District 4 race will be decided on Tuesday, Nov. 7. The election is for the remaining two years of a four-year term that expires at the end of 2019. The seat was previously held by Mark Farrell, who was re-elected in 2015. He resigned from the county Legislature in 2016.
Kyle was appointed to the vacant seat after Farrell's departure.
As the incumbent, Kyle will appear on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families party lines. Petrus has the Republican and Conservative ballot lines.
AUBURN — Members of the Auburn City Council voted Thursday night to set dates for two public hearings for input about the city's updated zoning code.
The first meeting will be held during the Nov. 2 city council meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at Memorial City Hall.
Director of the Office of Planning and Development Jennifer Haines, who stood in for an absent City Manager Jeff Dygert during the meeting, said after the first public meeting, city staff will discuss the public's concerns and comments and incorporate them into the final draft of the code. Currently, the updated code is 75-percent complete.
The final draft will be made public during the Nov. 21 city council meeting.
On Nov. 30, the second public hearing will take place during the council meeting at 6 p.m. to hear feedback on the 100-percent completed draft. Then, council members will vote to approve the updated code on Dec. 7.
Haines said several city residents and business owners have already expressed concerns regarding the code. She said staff has been working with these citizens to rectify any problems. City staff has been working with Bergmann Associates to overhaul the city's outdated zoning code, which has not had a major update since 1991.
City clerk Chuck Mason said a hard copy of the draft is available at the city clerk's office.
In other news
• The city is preparing to close 3.6 acres of the municipal landfill as the sections have nearly reached capacity. The council voted to award a project bid to Adhan Piping Company, of Cortland, for nearly $270,000 to prepare the parcels for closing.
"What we're required to do by law, as certain areas become filled to capacity, we close them out as we go," said Superintendent of Public Works Mike Talbot.
Work to actually close out the capped parcels will not begin until the spring or summer of 2018. The city will have to hire another company to do that work, Talbot said.
"These are just the site improvements to get us to that point," Talbot said of the project voted on during Thursday's meeting.
Before the parcels can actually be closed, the side slopes must be prepared for closure, which is the most difficult step because the slopes have to be at a certain angle for "stability purposes," according to Talbot. Intermediate cover also needs to be placed in areas to mitigate leachate outbreaks.
The landfill covers 29.3 acres of land. Nearly 10 acres of the landfill have already be capped and closed, Talbot said.
Talbot said the process is "pretty simple" and "straightforward."
"It's really routine landfill stuff," Talbot said. "We don't have to borrow any money. It's part of our operating budget for the landfill."
• Councilors voted unanimously to accept a $10 million grant from the state to build the Equal Rights Cultural Heritage Center.
On Oct. 5, council members voted to approve the project's environmental review and authorized City Manager Jeff Dygert to advertise construction bids for the project.
Councilor Jimmy Giannettino said he wanted to remind residents that the welcome center is not being funded with local taxpayer money. The $10 million award is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Upstate Revitalization Initiative program.
"This is the first award to Cayuga County. I'm happy it's coming to Auburn," Giannettino said. "I think this is a project that's going to further accelerate what's already going on in the city."
A soon-to-be 24/7 regional addiction recovery center has opened its doors in Syracuse to residents in Cayuga, Onondaga, Madison, Cortland, Oneida and Oswego counties.
With no cap on the number of people it will assist, and the ability for people to walk into the center whenever they are ready to get help, it's a program unlike any other in the state, said Cayuga County Community Services Director Ray Bizzari. Bizzari is also the chairman of the Central New York Directors' Planning Group, the nonprofit organization that worked with the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to get the center open.
"The job is somebody comes in, you take care of them," Bizzari said. "If you can't get them into an in-patient bed, there's respite capabilities. So people can hang out there, and can also just hang out there and decide not to go. So the idea is you start touching people and using peer services to kind of track them and follow them and say, 'Hey, how are you doing? Are you ready?' So you don't lose people."
Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare's Integrated Outpatient Clinic is running the operation at 329 North Salina St. It's within minutes of three major hospitals, Bizzari said, if patients need to be stabilized before coming back and getting a more comprehensive analysis of the treatment they may need. Once that is determined, the center can help find community recovery service options in their home county, according to a release.
The center will help with any addiction from drugs and alcohol to gambling. Patients can expect to get an evaluation of their needs, and then have those needs met. There's no waiting list, and the center provides transportation to get patients where they need to go. It's a model, Bizzari added, for other regional groups to consider.
"In our many discussions with individuals, families and groups in our region who have seen or experienced a substance use disorder, it is clear that an urgent response is what's missing from the system," said President and CEO of Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare Jeremy Klemanski, in a press release. "Outpatient, inpatient, and detox services all exist both locally and regionally, but there was no one place for a person to go and get an assessment for treatment options at any time."
It's a much needed service for Cayuga County, too. There are between 325 and 350 people in the county currently utilizing outpatient services, Bizzari said. And depending on whether you look at state or federal statistics, Bizzari said only about 1 in 10 or 1 in 12 people who need help with addiction are getting it.
"It's just a serious problem," he added. "It's hard to figure out how big it is. I think of those numbers, and no matter how big it is, or how small it is, you have to have access for people, and you have to have multiple ways for them to enter treatment."
To spread the word about the Syracuse center, Bizzari said he's hoping emergency responders and hospital staff that revive people who have overdosed on drugs, will let them know the place exists. He's given informational sheets to hospitals and responders to hand out, so when someone is ready to make the call, they can.
While it took about 14 months for the directors' planning group and the state to conceptualize, build and open the center, Bizzari attributed its existence, too, to the many families and friends that shared their stories about substance abuse. Remaining active and talking about their own struggles, or a loved one's struggle, he said, pushed the state to make a move.
"It does matter what people say and do," he said. "I just think that this is one of the more important things that I've been lucky to be involved in."