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Mahunik named chairman of Cayuga County Legislature

AUBURN — In a 9-6 vote, Patrick Mahunik was named chairman of the Cayuga County Legislature Thursday night. Newly elected and re-elected legislators were also sworn in during the body's reorganization ceremony. 

Though the Democrats hold a narrow weighted majority with eight members, the party became divided in the discussion for chairman nominations. The position was up for grabs between two Democrats — Mahunik, who was favored by Republicans, and Legislator Benjamin Vitale, who had the majority of the Democrats' support. 

Legislator Joe Bennett nominated Mahunik. Legislator Aileen McNabb-Coleman then nominated Vitale. Since Bennett was the first to raise his hand, the body first voted on Mahunik.

There was a tense moment during the meeting when the weighted voting tally on the county's computer stopped working. After some adjustments, the nomination showed that it had passed. Mahunik replaces former Chairman Keith Batman, who decided not to run for a third year.

Legislators Vitale, McNabb-Coleman, Batman, Joe DeForest, Charlie Ripley and Elane Daly voted against Mahunik. 

"2017 was a year filled with many successes and challenges," Mahunik said as he addressed the body for the first time. "I see no reason to spend time discussing those tonight because tonight is about the future. I look forward to 2018 where the blurred lines of leadership for department heads are made clear. You all report to the county administrator, not the chair of your committee, or the chair of the Legislature. I hope this empowers you to bring new and creative ideas about how to efficiently run your departments, and provide the best service to our residents."

Also in a 9-6 vote, Legislator Tim Lattimore, a Republican, became the Legislature's vice chairman. Daly was named Majority Leader and Legislator Michael Didio was named Minority Leader. 

Three newly elected legislators were sworn into office by Judges Mark Fandrich, Thomas Leone and Michael McKeon. They include District 11 Legislator Daly, District 9 Legislator Ripley and District 4 Legislator Christopher Petrus. Petrus is taking on the remainder of former Legislator Mark Farrell's term after he resigned in 2016.

Several legislators were sworn in after being reelected including District 5 Legislator Paul Pinckney, District 7 Legislator Batman, District 3 Legislator Vitale, District 15 Legislator Ryan Foley, District 13 Legislator Lattimore and District 1 Legislator Tucker Whitman.

Cayuga County Attorney Fred Westphal was also reappointed to his position with a $115,875 salary. Cayuga County Legislature Clerk Sheila Smith was reappointed as well with a $61,000 salary. Cayuga County Treasurer Jim Orman was also sworn into office after being re-elected.

Gallery: Cayuga County Legislature reorganization meeting

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Auburn City Council gives OK to move ahead with Genesee Street paving project

AUBURN — The Auburn City Council unanimously voted to approve two resolutions advancing the Genesee Street paving project during Thursday night's council meeting. 

First, council members voted to pay 100 percent of the project costs upfront — a total of nearly $4.7 million. Upon completion of the project, the city will be reimbursed from both local and state funds. The city's total contribution will be $339,257, according to the resolution. 

The council also granted a construction contract for the project to F. Rizzo Construction for $4,148,679. Work is scheduled to begin on the road paving in early spring, City Manager Jeff Dygert said. 

Before construction starts, Dygert said, the city will meet with Genesee Street business owners to help develop a construction timeline for the project and establish when work will be taking place on which portions of the street.  Dygert said he is not sure at which end of Genesee Street road work will begin.     

"We'll try to figure out what's going to be less of an impact on the businesses and downtown events," he said. 

As for the parking change that will come along with the project, Dygert said that is something the city will "tackle as we go along." 

Councilor Terry Cuddy noted that there will be numerous other construction  going on at the same time as the road paving.

"We are going to try to time things so we're not constantly causing problems and delays for visitors and residents," Director of Capital Projects Christina Selvek said. "People are going to need to be patient with us this year." 

In other news

• The city released its 2018-2019 budget preparation and adoption timeline. Preparation will begin in mid-January and the budget is scheduled for a public hearing on May 24 and adoption on June 7. 

• Council members unanimously approved Auburn's share of Seymour Library's 2018 tax levy. The city will collect $474,166.57 in property taxes to pay their share of the library's $991,318 budget, which was voted on in early December

• The city council conducted the annual city manager performance review in November and December. The evaluation found Dygert's job performance "satisfactory, entitling him to receive merit pay increases," according to the resolution. 

Council members thanked the former fire chief for the work he has done since starting in his role in October 2016.   

"He brings a new energy and style of leadership to city hall and its been nothing but effective," Councilor Jimmy Giannettino said. 

Dygert expressed his thanks to the city staff for their work during his tenure. 

"Our staff is excellent," Dygert said. "There have been a lot of changes the past 12 to 18 months and there have been a lot of issues dealt with through various departments. I'm hoping some of those issues are behind us and we can work just as hard on just plain old projects, not emergency projects."

Massive storm roars into Cayuga County-area and beyond; record cold to follow

A massive winter storm roared into the East Coast on Thursday, threatening to dump as much as 18 inches of snow from the Carolinas to Maine and unleashing hurricane-force winds and flooding that closed schools and offices and halted transportation systems.

Forecasters expected the storm to be followed immediately by a blast of face-stinging cold air that could break records in more than two dozen cities and bring wind chills as low as minus 40 this weekend.

In the Cayuga County area, wind chill warnings covered both northern and southern Cayuga County and Onondaga County. Wind chills between 20- and 30-degrees below zero were predicted for the overnight hours from Friday into Saturday, when the deep freeze was expected to be at its worst.

A winter weather advisory was issued for southern Cayuga County, with predictions of as much as 10 inches of snow coming from a storm that will linger into Saturday afternoon. In the northern end of the county, a lake effect snow warning was issued with up to 14 inches of snow predicted.

All area schools cancelled after-school and evening activities on Thursday as the snow began to pile up, and a few had already decided to close school on Friday based on predictions of dangerously cold temperatures and more snow. The Cayuga County Sheriff's Office issued a travel advisory warning of hazardous conditions on area roads.

Closer to the coast, blizzard warnings and states of emergency were in wide effect, and wind gusts hit more than 70 mph in some places. Eastern Massachusetts and most of Rhode Island braced for snow falling as fast as 3 inches per hour.

Three people were killed in North Carolina after their vehicles ran off snow-covered roads, authorities said. Another fatality was reported near Philadelphia when a car could not stop at the bottom of a steep, snow-covered hill and slammed into a commuter train. A passenger in the vehicle was killed. No one on the train was hurt.

In New Jersey, Orlando Igmat's car got stuck in a snowbank along the Garden State Parkway in Tinton Falls as he drove to work at Verizon. He waited a half hour for a tow truck to pull him out.

"I didn't expect it (the storm) was going to be a heavy one. That's why I went to work today. I'm going to stay in a hotel tonight," he said.

Tens of thousands of power outages were reported, depriving many people of heat. More than 100 warming centers were open in 34 towns across Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

In Maine, the problem was a shortage of drivers to deliver heating fuel. Small independent fuel merchants in particular were overwhelmed by customers who do not have automatic refill service, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The high winds caused coastal flooding from Massachusetts to Maine, and the rising waters stranded people in homes and cars.

The Masssachusetts National Guard said it helped rescue a woman and her two children from a car in Marshfield. Flooding in Newburyport forced evacuations on Plum Island, and the only road from the island to the mainland was closed, police said.

Joe Weatherly, a 40-year-old artist from Los Angeles, was in Boston's Seaport district, holding his Boston terrier while searching for a seafood restaurant. Part of the district was flooded.

"For someone in California, this is really, really scary. Mind blowing," he said. "We don't live in a state where things shut down with the weather. I've just never seen this much snow in my life."

Linda Heuman and Amy Remensnyder were supposed to fly to Berlin on Thursday, but the flight was canceled. That left them stuck in their home in Providence, Rhode Island, with no food. So they trekked through the snow to a grocery store nearly a mile away.

Their plans for the rest of the day were simple: Make soup, do some desk work and maybe watch a movie with popcorn, Remensnyder said.

Schools, businesses and ferry services in parts of the Canadian coast were also shut down. Nova Scotia Power said it had more than 1,000 people at the ready in its biggest-ever pre-storm mobilization of personnel and resources.

Wind gusts strong enough to topple trees and power lines were predicted in the Delmarva Peninsula, which includes parts of Delaware, Virginia and Maryland; coastal New Jersey; eastern Long Island, New York; and coastal eastern New England.

More than two-thirds of flights in and out of New York City and Boston airports were canceled. The flight-tracking site FlightAware reported about 4,900 canceled flights across the United States.

Rail service was affected too. Amtrak planned to operate a modified schedule between New York and Boston on Thursday. Northeast Regional Service between Washington, D.C., and Newport News/Norfolk, Virginia, was canceled for Thursday.

The storm shut down much of eastern Virginia, but some people took it in stride.

Mark Schoenenberger, a 45-year-old NASA engineer who lives in Norfolk, Virginia, put on his cross country skis so he could make a half hour trip to the bagel shop for some breakfast for his family.

"It's like 'Yay, I get to go out," he said.

The only concern he seemed to have was telecommuting while his kids were home from school. But "it's just noise," he said.

Waiting just behind the she storm was a wave of bracing cold.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Peterson said record low temperatures were predicted for 28 major cities across New England, eastern New York and the mid-Atlantic states by dawn Sunday.

Boston expected a low around minus 11 overnight Saturday into Sunday. Portland, Maine, and Burlington, Vermont, could see minus 16 and 19, respectively, the weather service said.

State and local officials urged people to stay home so crews could clear streets and roads of snow. There were concerns in Boston and elsewhere that if roads were not properly cleared, they could freeze into cement-like ice after the cold blast arrives.

In other areas, plummeting temperatures had already caused water mains to burst. Jackson, Mississippi, was under a precautionary boil-water notice after pipes failed. Portable toilets were placed outside the state Capitol because some of the toilets would not flush.

The massive storm began two days ago in the Gulf of Mexico and first struck the Florida Panhandle. Some meteorologists described it as a "bomb cyclone" for the process of bombogensis, when the barometric pressure drops steeply in a short period.

It was so cold in South Florida that iguanas fell from their perches in trees in suburban Miami. The reptiles became immobile when temperatures dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius).

In Charleston, South Carolina, 5 inches of snow was enough for Chris Monoc's sons, ages 4 and 2, to go sledding.

"They probably will be teenagers the next time something like this happens," Monoc said.

Molinaro will not run for governor

Another Republican has opted not to seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro announced Thursday that he will not run for governor. His decision comes after a months-long exploratory effort and the formation of a campaign committee.

Molinaro has been critical of Cuomo's policies, especially the governor's economic development strategies and how he's addressed issues affecting local governments across the state.

But Molinaro decided not to take the next step and enter the race for governor.

"After much discussion, contemplation and prayer, I have made the decision that at this time I will not be a Republican candidate for governor," Molinaro said. "While I believe that state government can be a servant of the people when run well and with integrity, it's just not the right time for me to seek the governorship."

Molinaro, 42, is a former state assemblyman and has served as Dutchess County executive since 2012. He was re-elected to his current position in 2015.

He is one of four Republicans who announced last year that they were considering runs for governor. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb is the lone candidate to enter the field. Harry Wilson, a corporate restructuring expert who was the GOP candidate for state comptroller in 2010, said earlier this week that he will not run for governor.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco hasn't decided whether he will run for governor. A late addition to the field, former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, announced his candidacy on Wednesday.

Republicans face an uphill battle in their bid to unseat Cuomo, who will seek his third term as governor.

Democrats hold a large enrollment advantage in New York and Cuomo, who has been in office since 2011, has nearly $26 million in his campaign war chest.

With a gubernatorial campaign off the table for now, Molinaro said he will focus on his work as Dutchess County executive. He also plans to continue traveling the state to advocate for individuals with disabilities.

While he isn't running for governor, he believes New York needs new leadership.

"I will be an ardent supporter of the Republican nominee for governor, promoting the strong ideas and values that throughout my career in public service have proven to work," Molinaro said.