Cayuga County Office Building

The Cayuga County Office Building, at 160 Genesee St. in Auburn, opened in 1969.

Sarah Jean Condon, The Citizen

AUBURN — The fate of the Cayuga County Office Building in downtown Auburn is once again on the minds of legislators, and one proposal has come forward to examine constructing a new building in the current building's parking lot.

Legislator Ben Vitale passed along a letter to legislators at the Public Works Committee from C&S Companies after he requested them to study the potential for a new building at the county parcels of 160 and 168 Genesee St. At the committee meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Gary Duckett said the 168 Genesee St. parcel was the center parking lot. 

Legislators expressed some confusion over which parcel was intended for the study, but C&S said for $4,600 it would do the following: determine zoning and development regulations for the two lots, prepare a site sketch with a new building on the vacant parcel including proposed parking and consider future uses of the existing county office building on 160 Genesee St.

The building has been the center of various discussions for years, but more recently after Wendel Energy Services completed an energy audit of all of the county's buildings. In an unofficial estimate, Duckett said, the firm had suggested that the cost of renovating the current building would be in the $11 million range, and building a new building would cost in the $25-$26 million range.

Renovation costs are estimated to be high due to asbestos throughout the building. Even something such as replacing windows cannot be done without going through an abatement process. 

Legislators had been considering putting a new county office building on the Sennett campus on County House Road, among several other options, and Legislator Andy Dennison was perplexed Tuesday night about the sudden new proposal for them to consider. Dennison said he'd been asked to be on a committee to examine the various county buildings, but as far as he knew, the committee had never met, or he had been uninvited. 

"Who's making these decisions?" he said. "We seem to be going in the direction of the $25 million (new building). I'm not going to my taxpayers and telling them that in my district, and it seems that's the direction we're pushing hard for."

Legislator Grant Kyle said the proposal was meant to give a fuller picture of one of the options the county had been considering.

"It's $4,600 for a $25 million problem," he said. "Sounds like a good trade off to get some information."

Legislator Tucker Whitman took issue with C&S Services, saying that he didn't like previous work the company had done for the county. He asked if any other companies had been approached to conduct the study, but it was not clear Tuesday night if any others had. 

Committee Chair Terry Baxter said it was his intention that the committee propose the contract as a resolution, but no one would offer it up. The proposal is expected to be discussed at the upcoming Ways and Means Committee meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 18. 

In other news: 

• Jeanine Wilson, director of the Cayuga County Water and Sewer Authority, said the organization is ready to map out the county's water and sewer systems and search for a second source of drinking water, but delays from the state keep the project from moving forward. 

Legislator Tim Lattimore said considering the toxic blue-green algae blooms in Owasco Lake, it's critical that the county have a back-up system to get drinking water. The water and sewer authority had received a $100,000 grant from the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council to complete that study, but Wilson said the plan is still waiting to be signed by the state comptroller's office. 

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