As we wind down from a busy legislative session, this is an appropriate time to look back on the accomplishments of the Oneida County Board of Legislature's 2012-2013 term. In the past two years, the board passed legislation that will change the landscape of the county for years to come.
As county legislators and stewards of the taxpayers' money, we are always mindful of our responsibilities to the people of Oneida County. We can all agree that the top three priorities on our minds are jobs, taxes and public safety.
We began our 2012-13 term with thoughts of consolidation. Doing more with less makes government smaller and saves taxpayers money. Two examples of successful initiatives that increased board efficiency and saved money were reducing the number of board meetings to once per month and decreasing the size of the board from 29 to 23 legislators.
The Board of Legislators has been involved in many great things happening in the county that will change the quality of life for our citizens. The announcement of the Quad C at SUNYIT brings potentially 1,500 new technical jobs. This will create additional jobs in other areas such as construction, real estate, health care, restaurants, department stores, etc. The planned construction of a multi-use building at Griffiss Technology Park and Griffiss International Airport will enhance our airport and bring more businesses, services and jobs.
We are all excited by the recent announcement by Rep. Richard Hanna regarding Griffiss International Airport as being one of the six sites chosen as an FAA test site for research and development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). It is estimated that in New York state alone, this site will create approximately 470 jobs and will have an economic impact of $145 million. What a wonderful opportunity for an area that thought they would never survive the closing of Griffiss Air Force Base in 1995. This new addition on the former base will join other aviation businesses — Premiere Aviation Overhaul Center, Midair USA, Inc., and Million Air.
The Utica Memorial Auditorium is now be the home of the Utica Comets, a professional hockey team. We are seeing crowds of more than 3,500 at home games, a great boost to the local economy and to the general quality of life in Oneida County.
The signing of the landmark Oneida Indian Nation agreement will give Oneida County approximately $12.5 annually in gaming revenues along with a $2.5 million annual payment from the state share to settle back property tax claims. The Oneida Indian Nation employs more than 4,000 people, making the Nation one of the largest employers in Oneida County. After 25 years of litigation and not collecting any revenue – it was time to settle.
The floods of 2013 were devastating to many areas of our county. Three of our legislators spearheaded a $500,000 Flood Mitigation Legislation to help fund proactive flood control remediation. These funds are being used with additional funds provided by the state. We saw the benefits from grant money secured by the county in 2012 for Hallecks Ravine that helped South Utica avoid flooding earlier this summer. We will continue to seek more grant money to help fund flood control remediation projects.
Page 2 of 2 - Oneida County's future is bright with an upgraded financial rating, an operating surplus, a zero increase in the 2014 county tax levy, and the addition of many new jobs. When we all work together great things happen!
On behalf of the Board of Legislators, I would like to wish all families in Oneida County a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
Gerald J. Fiorini is chairman of the Oneida County Board of Legislators.