Forum

The candidates for the Cayuga County Legislature District 4 seat participate in a forum Thursday at Cayuga Community College. The candidates are Chris Petrus, left, and Grant Kyle. The debate was moderated by Guy Cosentino, center, and questions were asked by The Citizen's executive editor, Jeremy Boyer. 

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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. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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