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Politics and Government

Task force investigates spending on infrastructure projects

The New York Works Task Force is touring the state explaining how it's trying to better spend taxpayer dollars on infrastructure programs, and looking for suggestions on how to do it. The Task Force Stopped in Syracuse this week during a spate of infrastructure woes.

This past Tuesday was the first night in three weeks there were no calls about a water main break in the City of Syracuse. Mayor Stephanie Miner says it's an example of how an aging infrastructure needs help.

"We've had three weeks when we've had a water main break every night ... that's what happens when you have that kind of infrastructure," Miner said.

These problems are not visible on the surface, Miner said, but they're the kind of things that give mayors and governors nightmares. She believes that infrastructure is vitally important to the lives of New Yorkers.

As a member of the task force, Miner will help develop ways to prioritize projects like fixing aging water systems.  Governor Andrew Cuomo put together the group in May to come up with ways to coordinate money spent on infrastructure projects every year. It amounts to billions of dollars.

Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce Chair Andrew Fish says the state hasn't been particularly efficient about this in the past, with each agency budgeting in a kind of silo.

"Is the Department of Transportation investing in something that Parks and Recreation are investing in another area?" Fish asks. "And if we bundle these together, do them together as a unit, are we going to see savings and be more strategic in our investment?"

The group will present the proposal in September, following a template much like the Regional Economic Development Task Force system. They will coordinate infrastructure spending among the state's 47 agencies and authorities.

30 percent of state spending goes toward infrastructure projects.