Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Onondaga County Executive focuses investments on tourism-related developments and human services needs

Board Walk at the Syracuse Inner Harbor, Syracuse, NY, March 23, 2022.
Maxwell Mimaroglu
Board Walk at the Syracuse Inner Harbor, Syracuse, NY. The area is the location where McMahon hopes to build an $85 million aquarium.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon Wednesday night declared the state of the county “stronger than ever” as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. He was quick to acknowledge the pain and loss of the past two years, including the 1,087 residents who’ve died from the disease.

But McMahon also expressed much optimism for the future, much of which involves major tourism-related projects. He still wants to forge ahead with the proposed $25 million sports complex in Salina and the controversial $85 million aquarium in the Inner Harbor. He says traveling sports parents will need places to go when they have downtime.

“A community needs to have attractions and assets that these people can take advantage of whether it be our parks system, a concert at our award winning amphitheater, visiting a museum, our zoo, or downtown. Or maybe even an aquarium. If we want to keep these people coming back to our community, then we have to give them reasons to come back.”

McMahon says the county also remains committed to developing the long dormant White Pine Commerce Park in Clay. He says it could serve as a potential “mega site” for one of the many “mega projects” searching for a home.

“With the support of Senator Schumer’s Chips Act, and the unique power, water and wastewater available at White Pine, we are very much a finalist for a historic investment by the semi-conductor industry.”

McMahon says the county’s strategy has been validated by some of the greatest technology companies in the world. White Pine can now be a site for what he calls a “historic end user” or multiple large investments.

Investment in Human Service Should Be on Top Priority

Investments in human service needs also figured prominently into Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon’s state of the county address Wednesday night. McMahon says he wants to complement Syracuse’s $11.5 million investment in affordable housing with $10 million from the county.

“This will be targeted towards filling project gaps for affordable, mixed income, market rate and residential housing. This fund will help stabilize rising assessments, provide quality housing security for our vulnerable and meet the demands of our growing community.”

Affordable, accessible child care is another priority. McMahon says as of March first, they increased the eligibility income threshold for subsidized care from $55,500 to $76,313 for a family of four. The parent share of care was reduced from maximum of $12,000 to just $336, which McMahon calls a huge benefit to working families.

“Let’s be clear, reliable childcare is a barrier to employment for working adults. This initiative will mitigate that barrier which will then help us drive down child poverty rates.”

The county is also embarking on a new 911 program called “Nurse Navigation” this summer to better triage emergency calls. For example, McMahon says calls deemed non-emergencies will be transferred from the 911 operator to a registered nurse.

“The nurse will then assess the patient’s symptoms and immediately refer them to the appropriate level of care. This could be telemedicine, urgent care or potentially back to 911 for an ambulance. The goal of this initiative is to get patients with non-emergency needs to the right level of care in the right amount of time.”

He says this system should preserve the county’s ambulances and emergency rooms for life threatening injuries and illnesses.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at