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Mahunik named chairman of Cayuga County Legislature

AUBURN — In a 9-6 vote, Patrick Mahunik was named chairman of the Cayuga County Legislature Thursday night. Newly elected and re-elected legislators were also sworn in during the body's reorganization ceremony. 

Though the Democrats hold a narrow weighted majority with eight members, the party became divided in the discussion for chairman nominations. The position was up for grabs between two Democrats — Mahunik, who was favored by Republicans, and Legislator Benjamin Vitale, who had the majority of the Democrats' support. 

Legislator Joe Bennett nominated Mahunik. Legislator Aileen McNabb-Coleman then nominated Vitale. Since Bennett was the first to raise his hand, the body first voted on Mahunik.

There was a tense moment during the meeting when the weighted voting tally on the county's computer stopped working. After some adjustments, the nomination showed that it had passed. Mahunik replaces former Chairman Keith Batman, who decided not to run for a third year.

Legislators Vitale, McNabb-Coleman, Batman, Joe DeForest, Charlie Ripley and Elane Daly voted against Mahunik. 

"2017 was a year filled with many successes and challenges," Mahunik said as he addressed the body for the first time. "I see no reason to spend time discussing those tonight because tonight is about the future. I look forward to 2018 where the blurred lines of leadership for department heads are made clear. You all report to the county administrator, not the chair of your committee, or the chair of the Legislature. I hope this empowers you to bring new and creative ideas about how to efficiently run your departments, and provide the best service to our residents."

Also in a 9-6 vote, Legislator Tim Lattimore, a Republican, became the Legislature's vice chairman. Daly was named Majority Leader and Legislator Michael Didio was named Minority Leader. 

Three newly elected legislators were sworn into office by Judges Mark Fandrich, Thomas Leone and Michael McKeon. They include District 11 Legislator Daly, District 9 Legislator Ripley and District 4 Legislator Christopher Petrus. Petrus is taking on the remainder of former Legislator Mark Farrell's term after he resigned in 2016.

Several legislators were sworn in after being reelected including District 5 Legislator Paul Pinckney, District 7 Legislator Batman, District 3 Legislator Vitale, District 15 Legislator Ryan Foley, District 13 Legislator Lattimore and District 1 Legislator Tucker Whitman.

Cayuga County Attorney Fred Westphal was also reappointed to his position with a $115,875 salary. Cayuga County Legislature Clerk Sheila Smith was reappointed as well with a $61,000 salary. Cayuga County Treasurer Jim Orman was also sworn into office after being re-elected.

Gallery: Cayuga County Legislature reorganization meeting

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Auburn City Council gives OK to move ahead with Genesee Street paving project

AUBURN — The Auburn City Council unanimously voted to approve two resolutions advancing the Genesee Street paving project during Thursday night's council meeting. 

First, council members voted to pay 100 percent of the project costs upfront — a total of nearly $4.7 million. Upon completion of the project, the city will be reimbursed from both local and state funds. The city's total contribution will be $339,257, according to the resolution. 

The council also granted a construction contract for the project to F. Rizzo Construction for $4,148,679. Work is scheduled to begin on the road paving in early spring, City Manager Jeff Dygert said. 

Before construction starts, Dygert said, the city will meet with Genesee Street business owners to help develop a construction timeline for the project and establish when work will be taking place on which portions of the street.  Dygert said he is not sure at which end of Genesee Street road work will begin.     

"We'll try to figure out what's going to be less of an impact on the businesses and downtown events," he said. 

As for the parking change that will come along with the project, Dygert said that is something the city will "tackle as we go along." 

Councilor Terry Cuddy noted that there will be numerous other construction  going on at the same time as the road paving.

"We are going to try to time things so we're not constantly causing problems and delays for visitors and residents," Director of Capital Projects Christina Selvek said. "People are going to need to be patient with us this year." 

In other news

• The city released its 2018-2019 budget preparation and adoption timeline. Preparation will begin in mid-January and the budget is scheduled for a public hearing on May 24 and adoption on June 7. 

• Council members unanimously approved Auburn's share of Seymour Library's 2018 tax levy. The city will collect $474,166.57 in property taxes to pay their share of the library's $991,318 budget, which was voted on in early December

• The city council conducted the annual city manager performance review in November and December. The evaluation found Dygert's job performance "satisfactory, entitling him to receive merit pay increases," according to the resolution. 

Council members thanked the former fire chief for the work he has done since starting in his role in October 2016.   

"He brings a new energy and style of leadership to city hall and its been nothing but effective," Councilor Jimmy Giannettino said. 

Dygert expressed his thanks to the city staff for their work during his tenure. 

"Our staff is excellent," Dygert said. "There have been a lot of changes the past 12 to 18 months and there have been a lot of issues dealt with through various departments. I'm hoping some of those issues are behind us and we can work just as hard on just plain old projects, not emergency projects."

Molinaro will not run for governor

Another Republican has opted not to seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro announced Thursday that he will not run for governor. His decision comes after a months-long exploratory effort and the formation of a campaign committee.

Molinaro has been critical of Cuomo's policies, especially the governor's economic development strategies and how he's addressed issues affecting local governments across the state.

But Molinaro decided not to take the next step and enter the race for governor.

"After much discussion, contemplation and prayer, I have made the decision that at this time I will not be a Republican candidate for governor," Molinaro said. "While I believe that state government can be a servant of the people when run well and with integrity, it's just not the right time for me to seek the governorship."

Molinaro, 42, is a former state assemblyman and has served as Dutchess County executive since 2012. He was re-elected to his current position in 2015.

He is one of four Republicans who announced last year that they were considering runs for governor. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb is the lone candidate to enter the field. Harry Wilson, a corporate restructuring expert who was the GOP candidate for state comptroller in 2010, said earlier this week that he will not run for governor.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco hasn't decided whether he will run for governor. A late addition to the field, former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, announced his candidacy on Wednesday.

Republicans face an uphill battle in their bid to unseat Cuomo, who will seek his third term as governor.

Democrats hold a large enrollment advantage in New York and Cuomo, who has been in office since 2011, has nearly $26 million in his campaign war chest.

With a gubernatorial campaign off the table for now, Molinaro said he will focus on his work as Dutchess County executive. He also plans to continue traveling the state to advocate for individuals with disabilities.

While he isn't running for governor, he believes New York needs new leadership.

"I will be an ardent supporter of the Republican nominee for governor, promoting the strong ideas and values that throughout my career in public service have proven to work," Molinaro said.