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AUBURN — The Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program is still in limbo while parties involved transferring its oversight work out contract negotiations. 

Inspection program staff are currently under the employ of the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District, but the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council voted in August to assume authority of the program after becoming a nonprofit organization. The council was created several years ago by the Auburn City Council, Owasco Town Board and Cayuga County Legislature to take on the program.

The transfer, however, is looking more complicated than originally thought.

Steve Lynch, the county's director of planning and economic development, said a Jan. 1 deadline was looking less likely. That news had the conservation district's executive director, Doug Kierst, concerned at the council's meeting Tuesday morning.

"I mean, we've got two employees in the corner over there, that don't even know if they're going to be working in a month," Kierst said, gesturing to Watershed Specialist Drew Snell and Watershed Inspector Tim Schneider. "You know what I mean? They haven't even been approached yet. But they're our employees right now, is what I'm concerned about. Here we were all along going for this Jan. 1 deadline. I only have one more board meeting before the end of the year."

The district's fiscal year ends Dec. 31, too, so Kierst said if the agency is keeping the inspectors on as employees, it needs to know that for budgeting purposes. 

The watershed council is waiting on the Auburn City Council to vote on the transfer, but City Manager Jeff Dygert had said earlier this month that there were some administrative and contract language concerns still to be addressed. The Owasco Town Board and the watershed management council have voted for the measure, and a resolution is making its way through the county Legislature this month. 

The conservation district's chairman, Ray Lockwood, wrote a letter to the watershed council on Oct. 17, fully supporting "a smooth transition of the OLWIP to the OLWMC" adding that the district was ready to move forward with the process. Lockwood outlined wrinkles that needed to be ironed out, like transferring vehicles insured to the district, but Kierst said neither he, nor Lockwood, had received a response to that letter.

The management council went into executive session Tuesday to discuss personnel issues and contract negotiations. Kierst said some of the information should be discussed in open meetings.

After an approximately 45-minute executive session, the council adjourned with no more discussion.

Owasco Town Supervisor and watershed council member Ed Wagner told The Citizen after the meeting that a Jan. 1 transfer was indeed unlikely, and the council would be sending a letter to the conservation district next week requesting they keep the inspectors on staff for the time being. 

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


County Government Reporter