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Onondaga County Legislature slowing down progress on McMahon’s economic proposals

An artist rendering of a proposed $85 million aquarium in the Inner Harbor section of Syracuse
Onondaga County
An artist rendering of a proposed $85 million aquarium in the Inner Harbor section of Syracuse

In a rare bipartisan move, Onondaga County Legislature leaders agreed to put the funds for both of McMahon’s major economic development projects into a contingency fund. This means the legislature will get to vote on the proposed Salina Sports Complex and Aquarium in Syracuse’s Inner Harbor separately from the 2022 budget vote.

While this is very far from a rejection of his proposals, legislators have heard criticism from constituents across the county about the investments.

One of the biggest comments that Legislator Mary Kuhn, who represents District 7, has gotten is that there are better ways to be spending the federal stimulus money–which would fund the $25 million sports complex. She agrees and said available funds should still be going toward public health efforts.

“A.) We are still in a pandemic,” she said. “B.) We should be looking at where were the issues for this pandemic? And how do we prepare for the next one.”

She suggested putting more funding into the county health department and social services to address things like the rise in sexually transmitted diseases and providing more COVID-19 testing centers.

She is also concerned about how quickly things are moving, specifically with the $85 million aquarium that McMahon proposed just a couple of weeks ago.

“First of all, we need a deeper dive into it,” said Kuhn. “But second of all, it should not happen before the needs of the community are met.”

However, the funds for the aquarium are not from the American Rescue Plan Act, but rather a county surplus.

“We are learning from our CFO that this year we will have in excess of $60 million dollars in surplus funds. That's the 85 million in cash that County Executive McMahon is proposing to spend.”

McMahon has recently pushed back on criticism of his proposals, saying that he’s been using county funds to address the immediate needs of the people and that the economic benefits of these projects will also benefit the community. WRVO reached out to McMahon's office, but did not comment in time for publication.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.