Federal funding wouldn’t only help Onondaga Co. avoid layoffs, it would open some Syracuse city pools

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and Onondaga County Executive have been visibly unified on their approach to coronavirus and that includes putting emphases on their need for federal funding to avoid dramatic cuts to services and their workforces.

This week, the Onondaga County Legislature will begin discussing what 200 people it will need to layoff if federal funding doesn’t help fill the more than $100 million county budget hole the government planned to spend this year.

Both Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse rely heavily on the few tax dollars added to the end of any sales receipt, revenue that has been obliterated by the economic shutdown.

In Syracuse, that hit will impact the Parks Department’s ability to open its eight pools, which costs nearly $750,000 between staff and maintenance.

“The longer we go without federal aid, the longer that discussion becomes a financial one as opposed to a health one. Our pools are expensive,” Walsh said at a recent briefing.

Walsh said, “Right now, I would suggest you ask the Senate and Congress what the status of the City of Syracuse’s pools are.”

The mayor says he’ll worry about the money, but in the meantime, he asked the Parks Department to develop a plan to reopen safely during the pandemic.

Commissioner Julie LaFave tells NewsChannel 9 that if money comes through, her plan is to open three or four pools. Citing a fluid situation, she would not name the pools being considered.

Social distancing would be enforce and mask wearing is a must everywhere except in the water.

The current plan calls for swimmers to register online for 45-minute slots, which allows 15 minutes for staff to disinfect everything before the next group gets in the water.

The pools still need to be cleaning, painted and filled with water and staff still need to be hired and trained.

Instead of opening this weekend, like in past years, it’s still nearly a month away. That’s if the money comes through.

Republican Congressman John Katko and Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand both responded to NewsChannel 9 with statements affirming their commitment to the need for federal funding directly given to local governments. In their responses, neither directly mentioned the city’s pools.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who’s also been supportive of the funding issue, did not respond to NewsChannel 9’s request.


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