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Thursday 1 December 2022
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If Onondaga and Syracuse Don’t Merge, Cuomo Says They’ll Have a “Serious Problem”

cuomoprimaryIn early January, Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded Syracuse and Onondaga County $500 million in order to allow the municipalities to merge governments and to address the problem of dilapidated water and sewage systems. Cuomo’s actions were part of a large effort to revitalize Upstate New York.

But if they don’t follow through on their pledge, Cuomo states that both municipalities have “a serious problem.”

“Remember, before you, Erie County and Buffalo tried to consolidate and that never happened,” Cuomo stated during a conference call with Upstate New York newspaper editorial departments. “Why? Because the fears and suspicions of both were raised.”

“In Syracuse, I would suggest you to be a little less conspiratorial in your thinking,” he continued.

On January 26, Cuomo made his first public comments on the matter, recommending that Syracuse and Onondaga become a single municipal government. Both city and county are experiencing serious infrastructural issues with both their sewage and water pipes, which should be replaced after 40 years.

The Consensus, a citizen-based commission of 19 representatives from Syracuse and Onondaga County, issued a preliminary options report, consisting of 80 pages of over 50 recommendations to help improve Onandaga County.

In his statements, Cuomo makes clear that, although he had always been in favor of the consolidation, he wasn’t “an invisible hand” that directed the work of the Consensus.

“One thing I’m not is invisible. I’m a very direct person. You know full well the consolidation didn’t come from me,” he said.

 

The recommendations on the official Consensus report state that a consolidation of water systems would “broaden the repayer base,” making it easier for other municipalities to finance their own major capital improvements.

However, similar to the case with Buffalo, officials in Syracuse and Onondaga are finding the situation “dubious.”

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has yet to publicly promise to support the merging of
the city and county. In October Miner publicly stated that it would be “way premature” to discuss the possible consolidation.

After Cuomo made those comments, one of Miner’s spokespersons said that the mayor had only agreed to the following language in the $500 million grant application:

“We will recognize that a critical success factor for our region’s long-term trajectory is our ability and willingness to address difficult issues head on, including the obvious challenge of local municipal fragmentation in New York State. Building on the Consensus initiative in Onondaga County, we intend to pursue a bold, collaborative and modern approach to governance in the heart of our region that will better position Central New York to compete in the 21st century.”