Storm damage

Richardson Hill Road in Sempronius was damaged from July storms.

AUBURN — With flooding damage from July storms to southern Cayuga County roads wracking up large price tags, the county Legislature voted Wednesday night to allocate $1 million from the highway department's fund balance for repairs. 

Cayuga County Highway Department Superintendent George Wethey said initial damage estimates are $1.3 million to county roads and infrastructure alone.

"It could be better," he said. "It could be worse."

The original resolution on the special Legislature meeting's agenda allocated $777,000 to be transferred, but Legislator Joe Bennett amended that to be $1 million considering the initial estimate from Wethey. Legislators passed the amendment and resolution unanimously with Legislators Tucker Whitman and Ben Vitale absent. 

The $1 million will be transferred into an Emergency Road Repairs account. Legislature Chairman Keith Batman said putting the money into that account will allow the county to keep better track of its costs from the storms should there be a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster declaration.

Niel Rivenburgh, deputy director of the county's emergency services, said the county has already more than reached the $285,000 in damage to be included in a federal disaster declaration, but the state must reach $27 million to be considered. 

"I believe we're on our way to achieving that," he said. 

Though FEMA funding could come to the southern end of the county, Rivenburgh said for now towns and villages and the county are on the hook for taking care of their citizens. In total, Rivenburgh estimates about $3.74 million in damage to public infrastructure, though he thinks that number is conservative. That number, too, does not include damage to personal property, farms or businesses. 

In other news:

• Legislators chose not to discuss or vote on a resolution regarding assessment relief for properties affected by Lake Ontario flooding. The resolution would have set a public hearing for a local law allowing affected properties to be reassessed and owners to possibly receive a tax refund. Without moving on the public hearing, the local law will not move forward.

Part of the state's "Lake Ontario and Connected Waterways Assessment Relief Act" signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on July 10, several legislators expressed skepticism in the local law. The state allows municipalities to opt in to the assessment portion, but there is no provision reimbursing local municipalities for the refunds they may have to give.

• Legislators passed two local laws they neglected to vote on during their full meeting on July 25. One local law involved amendments to establishing the county administrator's position. The other local law created a tax on prepaid wireless cell phones.

"We talked about them," Batman said. "We modified them. We voted on the amendments, and I failed to call that final step which is the vote of the thing."

Legislators unanimously passed the local law involving the wireless surcharge. All but Legislator Tim Lattimore passed the amendments to the county administrator local law. 

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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County Government Reporter