Cortland County legislators are considering adding $50,000 in 2022 to the highway department’s budget to improve Dwyer Memorial Park.
The money would come from the county’s Occupancy Tax reserve — a resolution the county Legislature first approved in August 2019, but it was a one-time deal.
“We’ve got the new concrete and pavilion, and luckily with the fireplaces most of them are getting done by volunteers,” said Highway Superintendent Charles Sudbrink. “But once the park is the way the Legislature wants it, I don’t think it’ll be a huge dollar amount to maintain it. It’s just getting it there.”
For the past few years, the highway department has made leaps and bounds, Sudbrink said, but now that it’s running out of money, the best it can do are baby steps.
“What’s happened in the past is the budgets get tight, and what do they do? They take it from the park,” said Legislator Linda Jones (U-Homer), who has organized several renovations at the park, including repainting the original circus wagons and recruiting volunteers to restore more than a dozen stone fireplaces. “If we could get the funding to get that park in tip-top shape, it’s going to be really easy for Charlie to do a maintenance budget.”
For the past two years, only one fulltime employee has maintained Dwyer Park, but this year that employee is needed at the county’s other facilities and is spending less time at the park.
“I just want one full-time position up at the park that’s totally funded,” Sudbrink
Committee Chairman Christopher Newell (U-Cortlandville) asked Sudbrink whether a full-time position could be added to the highway department’s budget plan for next year.
“That’s kind of why I wanted to talk to the committee about this — I’m getting a little nervous because I’m shorthanded,” Sudbrink said. He hopes to have legislators’ support when he submits an official request for additional full-time positions.
However, it shouldn’t stop there, Jones said.
“I think it’s more than that, I think it’s long past due that the park had an adequate budget to maintain it and take care of it,” Jones said. “It hasn’t had that in a lot of years. In the last four years, Charlie has done a lot with his highway crew, but it’s more than just a full-time employee — we need a budget for the park.”
In recent years, the highway department has had nearly $100,000 of its budget allocated to the park, but a portion of that money went toward FICA, retirement, telephone bills, utilities, insurance and other expenses, Jones said.
“You start subtracting things like FICA and telephone, and you total it up and see what’s left to maintain that park — it’s not much,” she said.
As the Highway Department completes its larger projects, maintenancewon’t be as costly, Sudbrink said, but for now, it’s about coming up with the money.
The Highway Committee voted, 4-0, to allocate $50,000 per year from the county’s occupancy tax reserve for rehabilitation, repairs and improvement projects at Dwyer Park, starting in 2022. Legislators Kelly Preston (U-Homer), George Wagner (R-Marathon, Lapeer) and Eugene Waldbauer (R-Cortlandville) were absent. The full Legislature will consider the resolution Sept. 23.
“It’s time — I hope this Legislature is finally on board to fund that park the way it needs funding,” Jones said.