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Cliff Abrams: Ever watchful and minty fresh, too

There is a marvelous feature by Judith McGinn on Cliff Abrams in last week's Skaneateles Journal. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to dig it out of your recycle bin or go online to skaneatelesjournal.com/articles/2010/07/21/news/village/village01.txt.

I'd like to add a sweet note to McGinn's finely executed piece about the well-versed Skaneateles government watchdog.

When I went to cover the municipal board meeting last week, it was a lonely village hall without the usual fanfare or chairs set in place for an audience. Instead, seven very smart engineer types were sitting around a rectangle table covered in papers and maps discussing water flow and overflow, wattage, solar power, wastewater treatment, water meters, hydrant locations, groundwater, water usage returns, snow melt factors, percolation and pipe diameters. It was quite fascinating and foreign. What they are hoping to do is get the "institutional information" onto paper, so they really know where the village stands when it discusses deals with future developers and modifications to existing properties.

Previously, the village depended on costly outside engineering studies on a per-project basis. Or, worse, relied on information reported by engineers working for the developers.

"Institutional information" was explained to me as the knowledge hands-on-employees carry around in their heads, or knowledge passed down from previous employees, on the gut feeling of how the systems work and what it can handle based on their experience on the job. This board is interested in gathering and recording that data for planning purposes.

"We'll have this tool for capital improvements, we won't have to hire consultants, should save us thousands of dollars," said Bob Lotkowictz, Skaneateles Municipal Operations Director.

In the village hall that night there was also one chair taken out of the stacks for a lone observer. It was, of course, Cliff Abrams. He sat quietly for more than two hours drinking in the complex conversation, with only an occasional Starlite mint for distraction.

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