By Assemblyman Will Barclay
Snowfall totals that came with the historic arctic storm earlier this month made national headlines.
Erie and Wyoming counties reported 80 inches of snow. Parts of Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego counties reported more than 30 inches and as many as 50 inches.
Unfortunately, 13 deaths have been attributed to the storm.
Following the storm’s wake, the Governor made his way to Buffalo and announced that meteorologists did not predict the storm well and residents were not prepared.
While some may not have been prepared for the snow totals, it’s doubtful it had anything to do with the lack of weather predictions.
Following Cuomo’s statements, meteorologists cited reports well before the storm that predicted there could be much as five feet of snow because of the amount of cold air blowing over the warm lakes.
I recall reading local meteorologists’ reports days ahead of time that explained in detail why conditions were ripe for record snow totals.
Still, the Governor used the opportunity to promote the new $18 million “NY Advanced Weather Detection System” that will consist of 125 stations that provide data on air, wind, soil and radiation.
The information collected will be relayed to the public.
New York already has 27 stations operated by the National Weather Service throughout the state.
In light of the fact that the National Weather Service is currently providing what most would say is excellent service in New York state, does New York really need to spend $18 million for its own weather detection system>
Most people affected by severe storms would rather have that $18 million spent on helping them recover from the storm.
Indeed, here in central New York, our municipal budgets are often stretched during time of high snowfall because of snow removal costs.
If anything, $18 million would be better used to provide our municipalities assistance with these costs as opposed to using the $18 million on a duplicative weather detection system.
Further, as has been demonstrated time and time again, despite best predictions, the weather will still happen and unfortunately causes damage at times.
Spend surplus on Infrastructure
The State Budget Office estimates there is close to a $5 billion state budget surplus, due to large settlements with banks and financial institutions.
The Governor is expected to propose his budget in January and lawmakers have until April to negotiate and pass a budget.
While we have a long way to go before the final budget passes in the spring, happily, there seems to be a consensus forming that this settlement money should be used to invest in infrastructure like roads and bridges, as well as water and sewer maintenance.
This is a good policy because this is a one-shot revenue infusion that should not go for reoccurring state operating expenses.
Last week, the Mayor of Syracuse set forth a list of priorities she would like to see if Syracuse, like Buffalo, was able to obtain $1 billion from the state.
She proposes much of the money to be used to upgrade Syracuse’s aging water and sewer system.
I am sympathetic with her request (even though I would prefer that she advocate for a more regional approach).
According to several reports, New York needs to upgrade its water and sewer systems and, in fact, one report claims that to sufficiently upgrade our systems would cost $36.2 billion over the next 20 years.
With the $5 billion surplus, it is not unrealistic to ask that a significant amount of that money be spent on infrastructure in Central New York.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.