1. The Legislature has explored building a new county office building to replace the aging structure downtown. What do you think should be done?
Michael Lesch: County workers and county residents deserve to have a safe and efficient county office building to work and visit. In exploring a new build versus a renovation of the current county office building, several estimates should be obtained for each plan and made public for all county residents to see and evaluate. In my capacity as a certified public accountant, I help clients analyze opportunities and calculate potential returns on investment on a daily basis. Unless a new build created quantifiable efficiencies and/or reduced the county government’s physical presence that allowed its increased cost to be recovered within a seven-year period, I would be against such an expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
Elane Daly: The current County Office Building, a building I worked many years in, is aging and has issues with asbestos. The building will no doubt need to be refurbished or replaced in the future. A facilities project such as this will need a thorough evaluation. What is the current buildings ability to meet our future needs? There needs to be an assessment of all other buildings the county owns and those being used to house other county programs and services and costs of operating and maintaining them? A building upgrade or replacement would need to be incorporated into an overall county capital plan where financing can be planned for. Public participation should be part of the decision making process for such a large undertaking.
2. How can the Legislature ensure more stability with the Cayuga County administrator position, which has experienced considerable turnover in the past decade?
Michael Lesch: First and foremost, the county administrator position needs to be set up for success. This means establishing a structure and policies in county government where department heads report directly to the county administrator and do not circumvent this position by reaching out directly to legislators, outside of committee meetings. Similarly, county legislators cannot undermine the position of county administrator by not allowing her or him to be the point person in regards to administering and implementing all legislation/policies. Secondly, when filling the position, we need to find an open-minded and qualified person with leadership skills. Experience in both the private and public sectors would be beneficial. The administrator should understand the role of the position is to administer and not create policy. I believe under these circumstances, we can find a county administrator and give that person an opportunity to prosper in the position, benefiting all county residents.
Elane Daly: After the next county administrator is hired the legislature, in my opinion, has a role in supporting the success of the position. I have worked with the past three administrators. The position needs to be given authority to lead and make decisions. The legislature needs to require that the administrator be included in on information coming into the county and to include him/her in matters pertaining to county operations. All department heads should work through this position. The legislature needs to establish expectations for the administrator and communicate them clearly. Feedback on job performance needs to be given on a regular basis.
3. What should the Legislature be doing to address the harmful algal bloom and invasive species problems affecting local water bodies?
Michael Lesch: The county government’s commitment to the health of Owasco Lake should not be a partisan issue. It should be an all-hands-on-deck issue. The lake provides drinking water to over 40,000 people and the importance of its safety cannot be overstated. In 2016, Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council implemented a Nine Element Watershed Management Plan. A 9E plan helps to identify nonpoint sources of pollution, such as runoff. It, also, keeps the community involved by setting goals and timelines, with continual updates to the public. With this plan in place, financial assistance can be sought from the state and federal governments, as milestones are reached. Continuing this plan, would be a priority for me.
Elane Daly: It is critical at this time that the legislature stay informed, involved and engaged in the work being done around the issues impacting the lake. Currently the county is funding the data collection on Owasco Lake which is needed for the development of the watershed-based management plan. They have representation on the Water Quality Management Agency, and Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council. There needs to be closer oversight of the Watershed Inspection Program. The county needs to make sure the departments working on lake issues have the staff and resources need to complete the work underway. Important work is being done around revising the Rules and Regulations of the Watershed and development of a Watershed- Based Management Plan. Most importantly they need to be a strong advocate, so the State moves this work forward. We need to aggressively seek State and other funding sources to address known sources of contamination and other water quality issues.
4. Working with leaders in all municipalities, Cayuga County will be asked to submit a shared services plan to the state in 2018. What types of services should this plan target?
Michael Lesch: Looking at shared services throughout the municipalities of Cayuga County is a good way to potentially save taxpayer money and provide improved and more efficient services, especially considering the incentive given by the state. This process should be open for discussion amongst all the municipalities in Cayuga County and all departments. To use the municipal highway departments as an example, developing a comprehensive plan of mapping and calculating the cost of existing services would be a good start. Each municipality should be able to figure out the cost of plowing roads or mowing ditches on a per mile basis. Creating more efficient areas, by mapping, for municipal highway departments to service should create cost savings for the taxpayer, as well.
Elane Daly: The 2018 shared services plan, an initiative aimed to save property taxpayers money, has the opportunity to expand on the efforts already being taken by a number of our towns and villages. Opportunities such as joint purchasing, sharing equipment and shared plowing and road maintenance can be looked at. The various town functions can be considered to reduce administrative overhead. Looking at including the towns and villages in the county’s insurance plan could be another opportunity for savings.