Consolidation of water agencies highlight of proposed Onondaga County budget
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney took a page out of recommendations made by the government consolidation group Consensus for one of the cornerstone proposals in her 2017 proposed budget. Mahoney wants to merge the agencies that deliver water to taps across Onondaga County.
The way things work now, the county-run Metropolitan Water Board is in charge of bringing water to Onondaga County. Then OCWA, the independent Onondaga County Water Authority, sells it to businesses and homeowners.
Mahoney’s plan would fold the operations of the county-run department into OCWA.
"It’s one of the proposals that Consensus made. It should have happened a long time ago, but once we dove into it, and saw how complicated it is legally to do this, I can see why it’s taken so long,” said Mahoney. "We don’t have a big enough geographic area that we need several administrations taking care of the water. Onondaga County takes the water from Lake Ontario. OCWA from Otisco Lake and Skaneateles Lake. It’s not really that complicated.”
Mahoney says she doesn’t believe there will be any immediate cost savings to water customers, but expects it will create savings down the line, and make it easier for OCWA to maintain the water infrastructure. The move does save the county money because 34 water board employees come off the county payroll.
Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon calls it a win-win situation.
"I think it’s very refreshing that the county executive has proposed this. Essentially the county executive is giving up a lot of control over a department, to really, a very well run authority,” said McMahon.
Hearings on the proposed $1.3 billion budget start today. Lawmakers will vote on it October 11.