Auburn 31 Seminary St.

The Auburn City Council last week approved the purchase of the parcel at 31 Seminary St. to convert into a new headquarters for the Auburn Fire Department. On Wednesday, City Manager Jeff Dygert discussed sharing the building with Cayuga County emergency departments with county legislators.

AUBURN — The city of Auburn is moving forward on a plan to build a new public safety building, and now officials are looking into how Cayuga County can join in on the project as well.

Last week, the Auburn City Council approved the purchase of property that will be turned into a new home for the city's fire department as part of the wider Public Safety Building Project.

On Wednesday, City Manager Jeff Dygert met with the Cayuga County Legislature's Judicial and Public Safety Committee to discuss how the two governments could cooperate and mutually benefit from the project.

The project was included in the county's 2018 shared services plan, developed as part of the state's shared services initiative which promised to reimburse municipalities for tax savings made through collaboration.

Dygert, who was a former city fire chief and currently serves as a county fire coordinator, said he has long thought connecting the city's fire service with the county's Emergency Management Office and a combined Emergency Operations Center (EOC) would make a good partnership.

"If we could collaborate on sharing that space some good things could happen," Dygert said.

The county's Emergency Management Office currently works out of the basement of the county office building. Co-locating the office and its staff, whose work involves a great deal of coordinating with fire and other emergency services, could facilitate closer coordination, Dygert said.

Locating an EOC within the new building would similarly offer the space to accommodate what a modern center requires, he said.

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An EOC serves as a single space for private and public organizations to meet to coordinate in severe emergency situations, such as an extreme snow storm.

Through an agreement to share the space and equipment, Dygert said it was even likely the city and county could collaborate on the project without adding any extra cost for either.

Minority Leader Keith Batman, D-Springport, said it would be important to identify either savings or new revenue sources for the departments that would be involved in the project, so that any likely rent required would not become an additional expense on the county budget.

Legislators asked Dygert what the city would need from the county in order to move forward.

While Dygert said he was more than willing to connect city staff with county staff to discuss details, he said a signed agreement from the Legislature stating its willingness to collaborate on an EOC would likely be enough to qualify for reimbursements with the state.

County Assigned Counsel Executive Director Lloyd Hoskins, who has essentially been acting as an interim administrator for the county, said he would work with Legislature Chair Tucker Whitman, R-Sterling, on such an agreement.

"We're all interested in public safety and if this building delivers public safety better then I think it would be efficient to go further," Committee Vice Chair Timothy Lattimore, R-Auburn.

Lattimore added that he would like to arrange for a public work session between county and city officials to discuss both the building project, as well as wider public safety issues like exploring whether a metropolitan fire service for the city and surrounding sounds would be more efficient.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin.