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Onondaga county-wide shared services panel could take up sewer pipe consolidation

Onondaga County Twitter
A recent meeting of the county-wide shared services panel.

An Onondaga county-wide shared services panel, made up of town and village leaders, convened recently to discuss new ways to save money. It’s an opportunity for Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon to push one large consolidation effort that’s on his agenda.

The meeting is required by New York State law, for the panel to come up with a plan to reduce costs. Local governments then need to approve or reject the ideas. This was McMahon’s first time as chair of the panel, since being appointed county executive by the legislature last year. He has been talking about consolidating ownership of the sewer pipes owned by the towns, villages and the city of Syracuse. McMahon said when the pipes fail, as they do now, those municipalities don’t have the money to fix them.

“We believe that by us taking over and correcting that ownership issue, we will save the overall public money,” McMahon said. “We think it could qualify, because of that, for a shared services plan.”

Plans that demonstrate savings, could qualify for a one-time financial match from the state.

The county already controls the wastewater treatment process. McMahon said consolidating ownership of the pipes would be done in a strategic fashion, starting with the eastern part of the county, where he said, infrastructure is in the worst shape.

"This is a 15-20 year commitment," McMahon said. "It will take a long time to do the complete consolidation. But we think it is in the interest of all county residents who utilize the waste treatment facility."

It’s been two years since a county-wide panel approved a savings plan that included sharing highway facilities and bulk-buying cheaper insurance.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.