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COLUMN: Removing non-government functions to alleviate tax burden

— Over the past year, the County Legislature has moved away from several non-governmental functions that had begun to require substantial taxpayer subsidies. As my first year on the County Legislature comes to a close, I would like to provide an update on three of these positive developments.

The OnCenter is now under the management of SMG, a national events promotion firm. This new arrangement is in its early stages, but we have already seen the new organization use its national profile to get results. SMG recruited from within their vast organization, promoting Kelly Carr as general manager to replace Terri Toennies, who recently accepted a position as general manager of the L.A. Auto Show. Carr has been with SMG since 2004, most recently as director of sales and marketing for the Albuquerque Convention Center in New Mexico. In the coming months and years, we are confident that SMG will have similar success attracting national entertainment to our venues with their exceptional contacts and resources.

Early last year, I talked about the new lease we approved with the Chiefs for use of Alliance Bank Stadium. The most significant part of the lease was the purchase option it contained presenting the Chiefs with the opportunity to take ownership of the stadium itself, and to get county government out of the baseball business. Late in 2012, the Chiefs approached the county to ask for an extension of the purchase option and the legislature voted to extend the original two-year option period by an additional two years in order to give the baseball organization more time to put a funding plan in place.

Finally, in December the legislature voted to begin a complex process to transfer Van Duyn nursing home to Upstate Services Group. In order to create the flexibility needed to accommodate financing and timing needs, the county took the first step of transferring the property to the Onondaga Civic Development Corporation, a county-created entity designed to facilitate economic development. We will be leasing the property back from OCDC while Upstate Services Group navigates the bureaucratic process of obtaining all of its necessary approvals from the State. Once the NYS Department of Health issues Upstate Services Group a “Certificate of Need,” a second and final transaction will take place as OCDC transfers the property to its new owners. We are hopeful that the final transaction can proceed by the end of the year.

In the economic times we are living in, it is more important than ever that governments make every effort to alleviate the burden of taxes. These three efforts are excellent steps toward limiting county government to only its most important and appropriate functions. I am looking forward to finding more ways to streamline operations in the coming year.

Derek Shepard represents the 13th legislative district, which includes the towns of Van Buren, Elbridge and portions of the Town of Camillus. Derek welcomes constituent feedback; he can be reached by email at shepard@twcny.rr.com or by phone at 352-0110.

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