Print version of this report is available by clicking here.
As you know, I chose not to run for another term this year. Four years ago, I ran for Supervisor with a clear agenda and I have done what I set out to do. With that, it’s time to move on. I believe that Public service is a duty and a privilege, not a career.
As we bring 2019 to a close, I want to thank you, the residents of Cicero; my fellow Supervisors; our own Town Board; our Emergency Service Providers and the great folks in New York State and Onondaga County Government for their support and cooperation these last four years. It has been my honor to have been given the opportunity to serve this community as your Supervisor and to work with such fine people.
I will never be able to thank everyone individually, so please know that I appreciate you all.
This year was special. We completed and moved into our much needed and anticipated Highway Garage. For the first time ever, we’ll be able to house all of our highway equipment indoors and be able to wash the salt off our equipment. The engineers tell us that we will add about two years additional life to our equipment for an estimated savings of $100,000 per year. We closed on and moved our Police Department into a completely renovated facility on State Route 31. I was able to negotiate a $450 thousand dollar purchase price. We applied for and received State Grants that paid for all but fifty thousand dollars of this beautiful facility that appraised at $650,000 dollars. This was a great deal for Cicero and long overdue for our Police Officers. Additional detail and photos on both of these achievements may be viewed at https://ciceronewyork.net/progress-reports/ .
As I write this, we are waiting to close with National Grid to sell our old Highway garage property. They wanted to put a large and unsightly substation as part of their power line upgrade program on the old Rte. 11 Turkey Farm property. You will remember that we rezoned all of Route 11 from Bear road to the Hamlet of Brewerton in my first term as commercial property. This action defined our Business District. We told National Grid “no way” to putting an unsightly structure in the middle of Rte. 11. Instead we offered a piece of the property behind Town Hall where the old Highway Garage and Salt Barn now sit. The town will retain half of the existing property, National Grid will remove the existing highway garage and salt barn at their expense, and the Town will net $225,000 dollars. Even sweeter, we sold the covering on the old, rotted salt barn for $19,000 dollars.
Sidewalks – Traffic
We were successful in having sidewalks placed on the west side of State Route 11 from Bear Road to just north of Caughdenoy road. State DOT had promised that the last stretch north to State Route 31 would be done this year, but they pushed it off until 2020. We also won a State grant to install sidewalks from Cicero High school east to the Thompson/Torchwood intersection. All but the last 600 feet have been completed. The last 600 feet of sidewalk will be installed when State DOT constructs the promised turn lane at that location in 2020.
As an FYI, I have met with State DOT regularly to ask for a remedy to the Route 31, 11 and Route 81 congestion. It is they, State DOT, that keep pushing the traffic issue further out. You might remember that we won a $260,000 grant two years ago from The Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council (SMTC) to study and come up with a plan to manage traffic on Route 11 today and in future years. That study, with their recommendations, is near completion and will be released next year. You have noticed that we installed high intensity LED lighting on the Rte. 11 corridor and in neighborhoods throughout the Town. These lights (especially on Rte.11), not only make traffic and pedestrians safer, but they have reduced our carbon footprint and have reduced our cost.
AA Credit Rating – Debt
For the second year in a row, we have achieved and maintained a AA credit rating from Standard & Poors. Standard & Poors told me that this puts Cicero into an “elite” financial category and I’m also told, that this two year AA credit rating was our first ever. In the last two years, we’ve paid down over two million dollars of Town Debt. This is the best financial shape that the Town of Cicero has been in for years.
NYS Comptrollers Audit
We just completed a four-month NYS Comptrollers audit. State auditors told me that they try to audit Towns on a seven-year schedule. We had gone nine years without an audit. Although we’re waiting for the final report, we were told at the Auditor’s review that only a few procedural issues were found with no major discrepancies. Said the lead auditor, “If every town was run as well as this one, our job would be easy.”
Know that the Team in the Town of Cicero has done and continues to do an outstanding job for you.
Health and Safety – Cost
You’ll remember that our Health and Safety program earned me the New York State PERMA Safety person of the year award in 2017. Not only did we become the model for Town Safety Programs in New York State, but we reduced our Comprehensive Insurance premium from $420,000 per year to $135,000 in just three years. We reduced our additional insurance costs by $66,000 annually for a total savings of $351,000 per year. Added to the additional cost initiatives that we implemented, we’ve reduced the Town’s operating costs by over $450,000 per year. That’s an every year savings.
We added a new audio recording system this year to Town Hall. For the first time ever, one can listen to Town Board meetings at their leisure. Our agendas and meeting minutes continue to be posted on the Town Web site for those who prefer to read them. Combined with our redesigned and interactive web site, our Facebook page and our presence on Nextdoor, I say to those who remain uninformed of Town business, “Heal thyself.” Of Course, one can always contact the Supervisor or any Department Head with questions or concerns.
Internal Controls – Codes
We instituted written policies and standard operating procedures to assist team members in making decisions ethically and without bias. We have rewritten Town Code where deficiencies and conflicts were discovered and instituted a committee chaired by Town Board member and Attorney Jon Karp to analyze our codes and make recommendations to the Board with revisions. We had a thorough analysis done of our computer functions and network and then made significant improvements to protect our people and your personal information. We also made important security enhancements to our buildings. The actions we took not only make people safer, they reduce the Town’s liability.
Our County Executive will tell you that Cicero is the County leader in proactively maintaining our Sanitary Sewers and in removing fresh water from our Sanitary Sewer System. To date, we’ve removed over 22 million gallons of fresh water from our sanitary sewer system. This is important for the continued growth of Cicero. Keeping clean water out of our Sanitary Sewer System is not only good for the environment, but it saves us money and supports continued growth.
We continued to be aggressive with our Business development goals in 2019. As you know, it takes a combination of fiscal responsibility and revenue growth to support an expanding community.
This year we have:
New: Starbucks; United Rental, A second location of Barks & Rec ; Computer Repair & Exchange; Echo Motors; Camping World RV Service Center; Chipotle
Coming: Bear Creek Restaurant (Old Burger King, Renovation Underway); Bull Street Solar Farm Project; Convenient MD; Island Hollow Apartments Phase II; Rocklyn Management (New 4,974 s.f. Retail Building constructed, awaiting tenants); Little Caesars Pizza (Former Meadows Custard Shop, Planning Approved)
Expanding operations: SRC Tec (60,000 s.f. addition under construction); Five Star Equipment (New 25,000 s.f. facility under construction); Syracuse Utilities (New 4,500 s.f. office building; Venesky Office Building (1,090 s.f. office expansion underway)
We have also been in negotiation for about two years with a substantial employer who has committed 190 new jobs to Cicero. Onondaga County Business development and the new Town Administration will pull this deal through by April 2020.
Parks and Recreation – Seniors
This year our Canteen celebrated 20 years of service to our community and to our children who would otherwise go to an empty home after school or end up walking the streets. This program serves over 400 children annually and is funded by grants and sponsors from our business community. Our Senior and Veterans outreach program remains strong. Our part time Senior and Veterans advocates have helped dozens in our community get benefits and help with heating, home repairs and medical costs. Our programs have been used as the model for other Towns in Onondaga County.
After years of promises and studies, we put shovels in the ground and made progress that people can see. A new sea wall, sidewalks, lighting, curbs and trees are just a few of the improvements we’ve made.
Long term plans have been updated and revised, additional grants have been applied for and, thanks to the assistance of Onondaga County and our County Executive, progress will be ongoing and measurable.
Our goal is to make the Hamlet of Brewerton a destination; a place where people want to go. Brewerton is not just the gateway to the Town of Cicero, but the gateway to Onondaga County as well.
Home Values – Safe Community
We’ve made Cicero a place where people want to live, and where businesses want to locate and expand.
Our Assessor tells me that we experienced the largest percentage increase in home values in the County last year. The average home went from $150,000 to $180,000 in just one year. More people want to live in Cicero than there are homes available. In 2018, we were rated among the top three safest cities in New York with populations over 25,000, and ranked number 12 out of 50, and number two in Onondaga County for best place in Upstate NY for Young Adults. These statistics were not an accident. They are a result of a conscious effort to make Cicero among the most desirable communities in Central New York.
In summary, we did what we set out to do. Our plan was to prepare Cicero for a higher level of success and I believe that we’ve done just that. Policies are in place; relationships have been reestablished and we’re poised to obtain a level that we haven’t experienced before. My sincerest hope is that you and your families have a healthy and prosperous new year.