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Volunteers shunted aside as county department takes over part of Ste. Marie

Part of the museum space at the Ste. Marie Among the Iroquois’ visitors’ center, pictured, on Onondaga Lake Parkway will be given to the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District for office space, effective late this winter or early this spring.

Part of the museum space at the Ste. Marie Among the Iroquois’ visitors’ center, pictured, on Onondaga Lake Parkway will be given to the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District for office space, effective late this winter or early this spring. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— Burger also said he hoped OCSWCD’s presence would draw attention to the historical site.

“We also have our tree and shrub sale coming up on April 19,” he said. “The pickup will be at the Salt Museum. The neat thing is, with our presence in the central part of the county, it will attract visitors to Ste. Marie and the Salt Museum. Everybody benefits.”

Consolidation: The way to go

Jim Rhinehart, former chair of the Onondaga County Legislature, headed up the drive to house the OCSWCD at Ste. Marie. He said he believed the site would prove a good fit for the department, on whose board he served before retiring from the legislature Dec. 31.

“They’ll be sharing with the Friends group,” Rhinehart said. “They don’t use the building in the winter, and we thought they could share the space there. They could get some remuneration from Soil and Water to offset their costs, so it would be a good fit.”

Rhinehart said the Ste. Marie visitors’ center building provided an ideal space for the OCSWCD, which was looking to move out of its current building in Lafayette to a more central location.

“We looked at combining them with the fish hatchery, but there just wasn’t enough room there,” he said. “We looked at the administrative offices at Highland Forest, but the ski patrol is using those, and it’s kind of out of the way, and it’s an old building, so that wasn’t looked at positively. The Ste. Marie facility is a good location. It’s centrally located. There’s plenty of parking there. The building is in good shape. And consolidation is the way we have to go. Our taxes in Onondaga County are already too high.”

Burger agreed.

“I believe it’s a good use of financial resources,” he said. “Consolidation is the way of future. By partnering together, it helps all agencies become stronger and more financially viable.”

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