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Syracuse officials await governor's signature on bill to start work on STEAM school

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)
The former Central Tech building in Syracuse. Officials are waiting for Gov. Cuomo to sign a bill allowing work to begin to renovate the building

The city of Syracuse is anxious for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that will get the ball rolling the premier project of the Syracuse Surge, the creation of a STEAM school in the old Central Tech building. But at this point, it’s just a waiting game.

In a stop in Syracuse last week, Cuomo applauded plans for a county-wide school that focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math. But he said he’s not quite ready to sign legislation that provides most of the $75 million cost of renovating the vacant Central Tech building.

"Like anything else it’s a question of funding. And we have to find the funding, and that’s what I’m working on," Cuomo said.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh admits this project has a couple of different angles to make it a little more complicated. It is asking for a more than the usual up front construction cost and it’s asking for approval so Onondaga County can fund some of the work. So while the legislation sits on the governor’s desk, the city waits.

"The school district already has a curriculum team that's building out the curriculum. They have done a good job at preserving the building," Walsh said. "They’ve kept a minimal amount of heat on and  I’ve been through buildings in much worse shape so that is helpful.  But we need the legislation signed to move forward."

The STEAM school is a cornerstone of the Walsh administration’s Syracuse Surge initiative, a series of economic development projects on the city’s south side meant to modernize the local economy. Walsh notes that Cuomo shares that dream. And he adds there’s plenty of time for the governor to sign the hundreds of bills on his desk before the end of the year.

"As long as it’s still 2019, we’ll be cautiously optimistic and if we get past that, we will have to rethink the project," Walsh said. "But we are committed to making the project happen regardless."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.