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Oswego County’s Cut Of The Pork Barrel: $600,000

A stage at the Oswego County Fair.  A road striping machine.  Preschool programming.

These are just three of the things that will be built, bought or invested in in Oswego County because of what critics call “pork barrel” spending and supporters call “member items”.

State Senator Darrel Aubertine (D-Cape Vincent) received $1 million for projects in his three-county district.  Oswego County got the largest chunk of that money, $398,000, for 17 projects. The member item money was approved just a couple of weeks ago, after the Senate power struggle ended with Democrats remaining in control of the chamber.

The four Assembly members who represent parts of the county spent approximately $211,000 in member item money in Oswego County, according to figures released in May.  Assemblyman Will Barclay’s $153,000 in local spending was the largest chunk of that.

Aubertine’s spending power more than tripled in one year.  In 2008, he got just $300,000 for member items.  The difference?  In 2008, Aubertine was part of the minority, which got about 10% of the $85 million available.  In 2009, Democrats took (and ultimately retained) control of the Senate and its lucrative barrel of pork money.

But Aubertine also received the lowest amount of pork barrel funds of any Democrat, according to one analysis.
Until just a few years ago, it was impossible to find out where all of the money went.  The then-leader of the State Senate, Joe Bruno, grudgingly made member item information available — as a document of several thousand pages, with no index and no easy way to find what your Assemblyman handed out.  That practice continues today.  The Assembly’s member item list for 2009 is 4426 pages long.

Critics howl about member item money.  They say that the grants are not competitive, can be used to reward friends and punish enemies, and there’s little accountability.  All of Assemblyman Barclay’s member items say the same thing — the money will go “for services and expenses”, whatever that means.  The other three Assemblymembers and Senator Aubertine each provided more specific explanations for how the money will be spent.

Aubertine’s two largest grants, $50,000 each, both landed in Oswego County.

The Fulton Public Library is in line for $50,000 to help with the renovation of the library, including building its first-ever elevator for the four-story Carnegie building.  And the town of Constantia received $50,000 to help build a salt and sand storage facility and to help make improvements to Scriba Park.  Aubertine’s other grants:

Agricultural Society of Oswego County, Inc.. $20,000
for the construction of a stage at the Oswego County Fair and the “Special Times for Special People” and “Progressive Agriculture Safety Day” programs
American Legion Raymond Faulkner Cook Post 858 $10,000
offset costs associated with improvements and expansion of the Post building / Community Center
ARISE Child and Family Service, Inc. $20,000
to purchase materials for the construction of residential access ramps which will assist individuals with mobility challenges who reside in Oswego County
City of Fulton $25,000
To purchase a road striping machine for the City’s Traffic Department’s use, and landscaping/beautification projects.
Fulton Public Library $50,000
To offset costs associated with ongoing renovation and accessibility improvements to this historic building.
Heritage Foundation of Oswego County, Inc. $20,000
Funds will be used to offset repair costs which are essential to the structural integrity and preservation of the Foundation’s historic headquarters.
Literacy Volunteers of Oswego County, Inc. $10,000
To purchase software and materials related to the “Everyday Life Education Project” for teens and adults.
New York Agricultural Land Trust $20,000
Funds will be used to offset costs associated with farmland protection projects and activities in the Central New York region.
Onondaga-Oswego Chapter American Red Cross $20,000
Funds will be directed to the Oswego Branch for the purchase and installation of a Card Access system to improve security and operational efficiencies, and for program expenses.
Parish Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. $18,000
Funds will be used for personal safety and fire fighting equipment.
Pulaski Day Care Center, Inc. $25,000
To offset costs associated with preschool programming.
Town of Constantia $50,000
To offset costs associated with the construction of a salt/sand storage facility and improvements to Scriba Park.
Town of Granby $20,000
Funds will be used to offset construction and improvement costs to the proposed Court and Town Record Storage building.
Town of Scriba $20,000
To offset costs associated with improvements to the Scriba Town Park.
Town of Volney $10,000
Funds will be used to offset costs associated with water district extensions.
Town of West Monroe $20,000
To offset costs associated with improvements at the Town of West Monroe Park.
Young Men’s Christian Association of Oswego, New York $40,000
To offset costs associated with essential building maintenance and repair work at the Oswego YMCA Armory.

Member items from Oswego County’s Assembly members, with the explanations made available on the forms released for public view:

Assemblyman Will Barclay:

$15,000 to the Greater Fulton-Oswego Chamber of Commerce
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR SERVICES AND EXPENSES.

$70,000 to the City of Fulton
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR SERVICES AND EXPENSES.

$38,000 to the Operation Oswego County
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR SERVICES AND EXPENSES.

$15,000 to the North Country Public Library System
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR SERVICES AND EXPENSES.

%15,000 to the Onondaga County Public Library System
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR SERVICES AND EXPENSES.

Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava:

$5,000 to the Agricultural Society of Oswego County, Inc
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR THE INSTALLATION OF ASPHALT WALKWAYS
BETWEEN THE BARNS TO INCREASE HANDICAPPED ACCESS, POUR
CONCRETE FOR THE HOG EXHIBIT AREA, AND UPGRADE THE ELECTRICAL
SYSTEM IN CAMPGROUND AREA.

$4,000 to the VFW Cable Trail Post 8534, Lacona
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR THE PURCHASE AND INSTALLATION OF A CHAIR
LIFT TO FACILITATE HANDICAPPED ACCESS TO THE FACILITY.

Assemblyman Robert Oaks:

$5,000 to the Onondaga-Oswego Chapter American Red Cross
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR EMERGENCY SERVICES.

Assemblyman Dave Townsend:

$5,000 to the American Legion Post 915
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR REMODLING THE POST KITCHEN.

$10,000 to the Constantia Volunteer Fire Department
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR RENOVATIONS OF THE FIRE HALL FOR
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBILITY.

$14,000 to the Town of Hastings
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR PURCHASING A FIREFIGHTERS MOBILE
REHABILITATION UNIT.

$10,000 to the Town of Schroeppel
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR MAKING CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS TO TOWN
HALL.

$5,000 to the Williamstown Library
FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR REHABILITATING THE LIBRARY.