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Onondaga County lawmakers approve $30 million for community development

Shoppers pick out produce under a large shed at an open air market.
Scott Willis
The $30 million plan includes $5 million for farmland protection, agritourism, and improvements to the regional market.

Onondaga County Legislators had one big final decision to make at their last session of the year Tuesday.  They had to agree on whether to spend $30 million of fund balance for several community development projects that range from business support to preserving agriculture. 

Lawmakers received details of the wide-ranging plan only a week ago, and had about 24 hours to vet the proposal in two committee meetings. Republican Floor Leader and Ways and Means Committee Chair Brian May didn’t hesitate to note the constrained time frame forced upon them by the county executive’s office.

 “This was an interesting process. Raise your hand if you like being boxed into a corner on your decisions or within your process. That's what happened here, right? Facts are facts,” May said.

 At the same time, May praised McMahon’s administration for quickly and thoroughly answering legislators' questions about the various projects. In the end, the measure passed unanimously.

“These are investments. They're not one shot spends," May said. "We heard it from lots of people all over this room. We want to spend down that fund balance in in good ways. Well, I think this is a good proposal to do that. We talked about it all through budget. It's coming to life here.”

Democratic floor leader Chris Ryan was equally supportive.

“We need to get these projects off the ground," Ryan said. "We need to get that fund balance back out and to the community where it's needed, whether it be greenways, blue ways, senior housing or business development.”

Ryan was also glad that resolutions were added to include some oversight by lawmakers.

"It's not anybody's intention or motivation to try to micromanage any of this, but and rather to step back saying where are we with some of these projects? Who's getting them, who isn't getting them? Coming back to this body on a quarterly basis certainly is a good idea," Ryan said.

Legislator Linda Ervin wanted more funding to address the housing crisis, and hopes more is done in the future. Otherwise, she says she's glad to support the measure.

“For years, I've asked why we can't spend money out of the cash fund. It's been sitting there," Ervin said. "So I'm glad to see what we're using some of it now to do something that's really good.”

The year’s final session was the last for Ervin and democratic colleagues Peggy Chase, Bill Kinne, and Mary Kuhn. It also marked the final session presided by Republican Chairman Jim Rowley.

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