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Save the Rain project approaches year end deadline well over budget

A massive project in Armory Square to help with the clean up of Onondaga Lake is scheduled to finish on time by the end of the year.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - A massive project in Armory Square to help with the clean up of Onondaga Lake is scheduled to finish on time by the end of the year.

The price tag though for the Save the Rain project is approaching at least $20 million over budget.

County lawmakers at their Tuesday afternoon meeting set a public hearing for Dec. 17 in connection with the increased cost.

The Save the Rain project was a proposal introduced in 2009 by then Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. Instead of putting a sewage treatment plant in the heart of Armory Square, she proposed building a system of underground collection tanks to collect overflow rainwater mixed with sewage.

The county says it had to pivot quickly from the original plan proposed. It started with a new project two years later that lawmakers knew at that time would be more expensive than budgeted.

The past couple of years, the Save the Rain project has raced towards the court imposed December 31, 2013 deadline and has picked up more costs along the way.

"We've got a better outcome because we didn't build a sewage treatment plant in downtown Armory Square,” said Deputy Onondaga County Executive for Physical Services Matt Millea. “We've invested money in green infrastructure projects throughout the city of Syracuse and this project is still cheaper than what was proposed for the sewage treatment facility that would have gone there otherwise."

"We're stunned by the amount of the overage, but we understand it was a confluence of bad circumstances and it is a project required by the court," said Mike Plochocki, (R) Onondaga County Legislature District 6.

The main contractor on the project has filed a claim of $10 million against Onondaga County, something the county is disputing, but if the contractor is successful it could end up pushing the cost overage closer to $30 million.

"It is a sizeable disagreement and we're looking to protect the taxpayer’s interest and the rate payer’s interest and we feel this is a cost that should be born by the contractor and we will adamantly fight that case in the appropriate manner," Millea said.

Millea says despite the cost overruns, the county is still very much ahead financially, environmentally and socially.

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