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Local
ENERGY
Clean fleets: Auburn celebrates new vehicle charging station in downtown parking garage

AUBURN — The city of Auburn has unveiled its first electric vehicle charging station, which was installed in the public parking garage on Lincoln Street. 

On Friday, several city and state officials hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony downtown to celebrate the charging station. The station was part of a city, county and statewide effort to promote alternative fuel vehicles in the community. 

Auburn Mayor Michael Quill said the project was the one of four high-impact action items the city completed to receive a Clean Energy Community designation. That designation will now allow the city to apply for up to $50,000 in state grants for other clean energy projects, including a geothermal energy system at the Equal Rights Heritage Center. 

"The (charging) station is an important step toward meeting the goals of the city of Auburn and Cayuga County," Quill said. "Hopefully it will help to encourage tourism and a cleaner, safer way of life in the city of Auburn." 

The city displayed several electric vehicles at the parking garage Friday, including the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt EV and Smart Fortwo Electric Drive. Those who attended could actually take the vehicles out for a test drive or ride-along. 

According to Chris Carrick, the energy program manager for the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, one of the biggest barriers with electric vehicles has been the uncertainty about where and how drivers can charge up their batteries. That is why Governor Andrew Cuomo launched an initiative to install 3,000 charging stations throughout the state by 2018. 

"Our regional plan identified gaps where public charging stations are not currently available in the region ... and made recommendations about new stations in key locations to establish a comprehensive charging network," Carrick said in a press release. 

"Charging stations like this help to make customers more comfortable by alleviating the anxiety that potential (electric vehicle) owners may feel," he added at the event Friday. "They know they have a place to charge up their batteries and it makes it more likely that they'll buy an electric vehicle."

Auburn's new charging station is now one of 1,700 stations statewide. In total, 25 stations will be installed in the Capital District, Mohawk Valley, Central New York, Genesee and Western New York; most should be operational by the end of the year. 

As of July 2017, there were around 20,000 electric vehicles registered in the state, with more than 2,500 registered in central New York — Auburn-based attorney Andrew Simkin owns one of them. 

Simkin attended the ribbon-cutting Friday to speak about his experience as an "EV driver." He said he loves his electric car, a 2015 Nissan Leaf with an 84-mile charge, as it requires less maintenance and costs less per mile than a gasoline-powered car. 

"For me it's a very practical vehicle," Simkin said, noting that he has a 15-mile commute to his office in Auburn each day. "There are much fewer parts to wear out. There's no muffler or oil to change ... and it's fun to drive."

The charging station on Lincoln Street has two ports and will be free to the public for the first six months. 


NEW YORK STATE
NY to adopt new employee scheduling regulations

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the state Department of Labor is finalizing new scheduling regulations aiming to provide more predictable schedules for employees, especially those in the service sector.

The highlights of the proposed rule include a 14-day advance notice requirement for scheduling and two hours of additional pay for last-minute shifts. For on-call employees, they must be receive at least four hours of pay if they're called in to work a shift.

The regulations wouldn't apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement that allows for call-in pay. Workers who earn more than 40 times the minimum wage rate wouldn't be subject to the rule.

The new rule also wouldn't apply to new employees during their first two weeks on the job or to scheduled employees who volunteer to cover shifts.

Cuomo directed state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon to hold public hearings on employee scheduling. There were four hearings held across the state. Testimony collected at the hearings was used in the development of the new rule.

According to the governor's office, the regulations were developed to "give workers a voice in their own schedules" with the goal of providing additional protections for low-wage workers.

"In New York, we have achieved nation-leading success in workers' rights, and we will continue to fight to protect all hardworking New Yorkers," Cuomo said in a statement. "The regulations advanced by the Department of Labor will increase fairness for workers and allow employers to retain flexibility."

There are concerns about the rule from the business community. The Business Council of New York State said it is reviewing the rule and intends to submit recommendations during the upcoming review period.

Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, acknowledged that there would be some benefits, including simplifying compliance by employers. But she said the proposed rule would be another financial hurdle for New York businesses.

"It will drive employers with part-time and/or lower-income employees to significantly modify their scheduling practices, at a time when they are also absorbing the costs of an increased minimum wage and dealing with the complexity of the new paid family leave act," she said.

The proposed rule can be found at labor.ny.gov/schedulingregs. There will be a 45-day comment period once the regulation is published in the Nov. 22 edition of the State Register.

To submit comments on the proposed rules, email hearing@labor.ny.gov.

"At the beginning of this process, we set out to strike a fair balance in scheduling for both workers and employers," Reardon said. "The regulations advanced today accomplish just that."


Local
LEGISLATURE
Cayuga County Office Building, budget, subjects of upcoming meetings

Cayuga County legislators will meet next week to discuss the future of the county's office building at 160 Genesee St. in Auburn and the county's 2018 budget.

This summer, legislators had some discussion about renovating the existing office building, though asbestos concerns have led to considering erecting a new building altogether. Initial cost estimates from a July meeting indicated a renovation could cost about $11 million, and a new building could cost between $25 and $26 million.

Legislature Chairman Keith Batman said the Legislature will gather for a committee of the whole on Nov. 16 to discuss all county buildings, and Public Works Committee Chair Terry Baxter will lead the discussion.

"The intent of that really is to set a direction of what we need to do with the county office building, but look at it broader so we can discuss buildings in general," Batman said. "The intent is not to make any decisions about anything, quite frankly, to really set a direction of what kind of information needs to be gathered so we can begin that process."

The reason for gathering the meeting now and not earlier, Batman said, is because the county has now hired a new administrator. The county hired J. Justin Woods on Nov. 7, and he is expected to start work in Cayuga County sometime before Jan. 1. With no administrator earlier this year, Batman said there was no one available to set an intentional direction for the building.

Prior to the committee of the whole meeting, a special Legislature meeting will examine the county's 2018 proposed budget. The Ways and Means Committee made a few changes to the budget at a special committee meeting Nov. 7, using about $36,000 more from the fund balance than the first proposed budget. Those changes will be discussed as well as any others legislators might want to propose.

Legislators will vote on the budget, which Batman said will then go to the full body's meeting and a public hearing on Nov. 28. Legislators will have to pass a final budget by Dec. 14, their final meeting.


Local
EDUCATION
Skaneateles school district preps for proposed capital project vote

Ken Slentz has been working on the Skaneateles Central School District's proposed capital project, in one way or another, since he became superintendent over three years ago.

A capital project was voted down in April 2014, and the board of education told him about the need for another when he started that July, he said. Taxpayers will be able to vote on Project 2021 Tuesday. The districtwide endeavor, currently set at a cost to not exceed $36.5 million, would involve reconstruction and upgrades for the district's buildings. Slentz said the project wouldn't put an extra tax burden on the community.

Over time, the district has tried to disseminate details of the project and assuage community concerns through various mediums, including social media, its website, emails, videos, PowerPoint, community forums and tours of what would be affected by the project. He said he has also met with community members to talk about their concerns or skepticism.

"We've tried to cover every possible communication medium," Slentz said.

Slentz believes the district has done a "decent" job of getting its message out to community members, but he's still wary of misinformation that people might have come across. The district has worked to react to misinformation or skepticism about the project through various communications, he said.

With Skaneateles community members being involved with matters in their own lives, they only have so much time to deal with other priorities, he said. As a result, he said, people might not always prioritize the information from the district's communications.

Several items the project would address are considered high priorities for the district due to health and safety concerns or are at or past their warranties.

"The biggest concern is that our buildings are safe, healthy and secure (for students and staff)" Slentz said.

Slentz said the amount of water in the basement of Waterman Primary School has caused steel to rot, so a substructure within the basement and beneath the front entrance of the building was built a few weeks ago.

"That floor bounced when you walked on it. It does not bounce anymore," Slentz said.

The community's share of the project is currently set to be around $12 million, to be paid off over 18 years. The payment schedule had previously been 20 years, due to change in scope at Waterman. It is anticipated the project will be eligible for around $22 million in state aid. The district also has $2,250,000 in capital reserves and a $110,784 gift set aside for the press box. The district's calculations have been based on an estimate of 95 percent of the project being eligible for state aid.

The endeavor's scope includes remedying a campus-wide drainage system, replacing Waterman Primary School's 1972 boiler, reconstructing the middle school's gym, replacing the high school's windows from 1986, fixing the primary school's leaking foundation, establishing energy efficiency in the classrooms and replacing sections of each school building's roof at the end of or past their warranties, among other items.

The Project 2021 name refers to the year a piece of the district's mortgage on the undertaking will be paid off.

Taxpayers will be able to vote on the project from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Skaneateles Central School District Office, 45 E. Elizabeth St.