All posts by Ashley M. Casey

Ashley M. Casey is the assistant editor of The Valley News. Previously, she was the associate editor of Today's CNY Woman magazine. She has also written for The Finger Lakes Vacationer. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 with a degree in communications and Spanish.

Fulton woman warns of scam

By Ashley M. Casey

Although it hasn’t deterred her from entering any more contests, Fulton resident Fanny Knapp wants to let community members know about a Publishers Clearing House-style scam she discovered last week.

Knapp, 85, has entered several of the real Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes a few times a year for the last two or three years, and has purchased a few of their magazines and other items, but she has never won anything.

Last Thursday evening, however, she received a call informing her that she had won a cash prize.

The caller, who claimed to be an employee for Publishers Clearing House, told Knapp to call (702) 516-5521 and ask for “Michael Best.” Knapp called twice, but the line was busy both times.

Finally, “Michael Best” called back and asked Knapp to send in a $50 gift card to claim her prize. She became suspicious.

“He asked me how far I live from Walmart, and I thought, ‘That’s a strange question,’ because Publishers Clearing House already knows where I live,” said Knapp.

She said she receives six to eight letters a month from Publishers Clearing House. In addition to sales offers, the letters include “sweepstakes facts” that outline the rules of the sweepstakes and how winners will be contacted.

“It says in the letter … the winners will be contacted by mail,” Knapp said.

She realized it was a scam and took note of the phone number. Knapp called The Post-Standard in Syracuse to share her story and was also interviewed by WSYR. She said she alerted the media so that “somebody else might not fall for it.”

Publishers Clearing House’s website has a page called “Fraud Protection” that explains how to spot a possible scam. It says winners of major prizes — that is, $1,000 or more — are only notified in person.

Winners of smaller prizes are contacted by mail. Publishers Clearing House does not call winners beforehand. The site also warns people not to send money to claim a prize, as Knapp was asked to do.

Despite her encounter with a scammer, Knapp said she still plans on entering for Publishers Clearing House’s sweepstakes prizes, though she won’t be spending money on the company any time soon.

“Earlier this month, you got a prize if you ordered something, so I ordered some shears,” she said. “I won’t order anything else this year.”

For more information on how to avoid a sweepstakes scam, visit info.pch.com/consumer-information/fraud-protection.

Oswego couple are “Petal Pushers” at Rose Parade

By Ashley M. Casey

More than a decade ago, when Hannibal High School music teacher Shirley Terrinoni worked in the Mexico School District, she added an item to her “bucket list”: decorate a float for the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day.

Shirley’s inspiration was her then-coworker, history teacher and travel writer Sandra Scott, who had volunteered with the Petal Pushers to decorate the massive, flower-covered floats.

Since then, it had been a dream of Shirley’s to do the same.

“She’s always wanted to go there. She filled out the online application. When we got accepted, she was pretty excited. I heard her scream,” said Shirley’s husband, marketing strategist Jim Terrinoni.

“I was very excited because I didn’t think they would take everyone (who applied),” Shirley said. But with thousands of volunteers and several floats to decorate, the Petal Pushers will take all the help they can get.

“We’ve done volunteering for about five years,” Jim said. For the Race Across America (RAAM) transcontinental bicycle race, the Terrinonis would travel to Parkersburg, W.Va., to operate a time station from 2003 to 2008.

Once the route changed and different volunteers were involved, they stopped going.

“It was some of the same people, but it wasn’t that core group,” Jim said.

After years of California dreaming, the Terrinonis, who live in Oswego, finally made their trip to Pasadena a reality.

They made the cross-country trek and stayed in Pasadena for a week before New Year’s to help the Petal Pushers.

The Petal Pushers are made up of 4,000 volunteers, ranging from ages 13 to 96, who gather to decorate seven floats for the Rose Parade.

The most famous of these floats is the one sponsored by Lutheran Hour Ministries in St. Louis, Mo. It is the only Christian float in the Rose Parade.

This year’s theme was “Dreams Come True,” and depicted a church with a grove of trees.

Jim recalled Petal Pushers coordinator Dick Gast joking, “I realize for some of you that putting a single rose on the Lutheran float would be like going to Mecca.”

The Terrinonis were two of the lucky few assigned to work on the LHM float, though they worked on others as well.

Shirley also worked on the “closer” float, or the parade’s final float, which was a giant football covered in palm bark.

“We were fortunate that we ended up on a float that most people wanted to be on,” Jim said.

They were assigned the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift. In some cases, the following evening shift worked through the night to get the floats finished.

“You wouldn’t think that it would happen, but every night when you leave and you know how much has been done, and there’s a second shift that comes in, in the morning you’re truly amazed at what was accomplished. Each person doing a small amount adds up quickly,” Shirley said.

Every surface on the float needed to be covered in flowers, seeds or other plant material.

“I’ve watched the Tournament of Roses Parade many times, and I know that they always tell you that everything has to be covered,” Shirley said. “But until you’re there, you don’t truly realize they mean everything from the trailer hitches to the grates that are over the engine exhaust outlets … All of those have to be covered one line at a time in seeds. Every space has to be done.”

“The judges go through it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure there wasn’t anything that wasn’t covered — not even a half-inch space,” Jim said. “Sometimes, you can’t even look at it because it’s so overwhelming.”

Despite the week of hard work, Jim said that working on the floats was “an enormous amount of fun” and the float designers’ “creativity is mind-boggling.”

“I witnessed the total experience. I’m glad I was there from the beginning when there wasn’t anything on the float to when it was totally finished,” Shirley said of their weeklong stay. “I think if I’d only been there one day, I wouldn’t have gotten the whole experience.”

Some of the families the Terrinonis met had been Petal Pushers for more than a decade.

“I would recommend it to anybody,” he said. “It is definitely a family affair. Outside of Disney, I have never seen … such a diverse population.”

“I would truly love to do it again,” said Shirley, “if I have the chance.”

Would Jim do it again?

“I’m open to thinking about it because it was a good experience. The people were so friendly,” Jim said. “We’ve traveled and done a lot of things, but never anything like this.”

Chicken processing company opens in former Birds Eye plant

By Ashley M. Casey

Pakistan-based poultry processing company K&N’s Foods USA, LLC, has settled into the former Birds Eye Foods plant.

The company kicked off its new residence in Fulton with an inauguration ceremony Jan. 3. The plant, which Birds Eye vacated in December 2011, is located at 607 Phillips St.

The new plant is expected to add 183 jobs to the city over a course of three years. Although production will not begin for another two months or so, K&N’s  already has employed 44 people in Fulton, 35 percent of whom are former Birds Eye employees.

K&N’s will receive about $1 million in Excelsior tax credits from New York state in exchange for its promise to create jobs.

“It is much better as an elected official to come to an opening than a closing,” Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, said at the inauguration ceremony. “It’s great to have K&N’s step into that vacancy.

Founded in 1964, K&N’s processes halal chicken products such as chicken nuggets, patties and kebabs. “Halal” is an Arabic term that refers to food prepared under  Muslim dietary standards, which prohibit pork and alcohol and require certain methods of slaughtering an animal for meat.

K&N’s Foods is a popular brand in the global halal trade — which generates $700 billion annually — but the Fulton plant will be the company’s first step in entering the North American market.

“There’s a huge Muslim population here (in the U.S.),” said Khalil Sattar, founder and chairman of K&N’s Foods. “There is literally no halal exports from the U.S.”

Sattar said the company has “explored” some market options and are close to hiring a salesperson.

After reviewing several possible sites, including one in Buffalo, K&N’s decided on Fulton because of its proximity to Canada and available facilities.

But it was the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) that solidified the decision.

It was a matter of “who would be more willing, ready and responsive” to K&N’s needs, Sattar said. He credited L. Michael Treadwell, CEO of IDA, as the “game-changer” in the decision.

“We were seriously looking in Buffalo, but things started changing when Mike entered the picture,” Sattar said.

Production at the Fulton plant is still about two months away, pending approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sattar said the USDA has already visited the plant once, and the packaging is already prepared for the first batch of products.

“If we succeed, it means economic development (for Fulton),” Khalil Sattar said.

FULTON FAMILIES: A school of fish: The Westons just keep swimming

The favorites – Bob Weston used to tell each of his three daughters — Cindy, Alison and Kelly — that she was his favorite. It wasn’t until later that they found out they were all his favorites.  Photo courtesy of the Weston family
The favorites – Bob Weston used to tell each of his three daughters — Cindy, Alison and Kelly — that she was his favorite. It wasn’t until later that they found out they were all his favorites.
Photo courtesy of the Weston family

Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of stories about Fulton Families. The monthly series tells the stories of families that have either lived in Fulton for ages or perhaps only a short while — but the common bond is that they love the city and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. If you know of a family we should highlight, please email Debbie Groom, Valley News managing editor, at dgroom@scotsmanmediagroup.com.

By Ashley M. Casey

It’s well past Christmas, but Bob and Sandy Weston’s tree is still decked out in the living room. It’s not a Christmas tree anymore, though — it’s a celebration tree.

“The bulbs come down (and) we put pictures, we put cards, birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, any kind of card that we get from friends and from family we put on the tree,” Bob said. Continue reading

Chicken processing company moves into former Birds Eye plant

The familiar blue stripe of the former Birds Eye plant has gone red for K&N's Foods, the plant's new occupant. Valley News photo by Ashley M. Casey
The familiar blue stripe of the former Birds Eye plant has gone red for K&N’s Foods, the plant’s new occupant.
Valley News photo by Ashley M. Casey

By Ashley M. Casey

Pakistan-based poultry processing company K&N’s Foods USA, LLC, has settled into the former Birds Eye Foods plant. The company kicked off its new residence in Fulton with an inauguration ceremony Jan. 3. The plant, which Birds Eye vacated in December 2011, is located at 607 Phillips St. in Fulton.

The new plant is expected to add 183 jobs to the city over a course of three years. Although production will not begin for another two months or so, K&N’s has already employed 44 people in Fulton, 35 percent of whom are former Birds Eye employees.

K&N’s will receive about $1 million in Excelsior tax credits from New York state in exchange for its promise to create jobs.

“If we succeed, it means economic development (for Fulton),” said Khalil Sattar, founder and chairman of K&N’s Foods.

Founded in 1964, K&N’s produces halal chicken products such as chicken nuggets and kebabs. “Halal” is an Arabic term that refers to food prepared under Muslim dietary standards, which prohibit pork and alcohol and require certain methods of slaughtering an animal for meat.

Look for the rest of this story in the Wednesday, Jan. 8, edition of The Valley News.

January is Stalking Awareness Month

By Ashley M. Casey

The U.S. Department of Justice defines stalking as “a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”

Each year, 3.4 million Americans are victims of stalking. Most of them are between the ages of 18 and 24, and 80 percent of them are female.

While often difficult to prosecute, stalking is a major crime related to domestic violence.

Oswego County Opportunities’ Services to Aid Families (SAF) program is recognizing January as Stalking Awareness Month.

SAF is providing educational events and resources on stalking, domestic violence and how to maintain a healthy relationship — or how to escape from an unhealthy one.

(See the next issue of The Valley News for the list of Stalking Awareness Month events.)

“In terms of stalking, we offer a variety of legal services,” said Sarah Stevens, who works with SAF. “We assist victims in obtaining orders of protection, compensation or updates on a criminal case.”

SAF also provides free professional training sessions for employers who want to teach their staffs about domestic violence.

Stalking behavior takes a variety of forms. A stalker may follow his or her victim near their home or workplace, call or text them repeatedly, or threaten the victim and his or her loved ones and pets.

Stalking behavior can spread online as well, through unwanted emails and social media contact, or by tracking the victim’s whereabouts through “check-in” information on sites such as Foursquare or Twitter.

“We also talk a lot about Internet safety and stalking,” Stevens said. She suggested that if you are being stalked online, “change your phone numbers and your Internet passwords.”

While not all stalkers are violent, some may escalate their harassment to property damage, physical harm or worse. More than three-quarters of women murdered by their intimate partners were stalked beforehand.

According to the National Institute of Justice, only 15 percent of stalkers were prosecuted for their crime. Of that number, only 40 percent were actually convicted of stalking.

Oswego County First Assistant District Attorney Mark Moody said statutes for stalking are more specific than what most people would consider in the broader definition of stalking.

The statute requires a pattern of behavior that is “likely to cause reasonable fear of material harm to someone’s health, safety or property.”

“There are other charges that can be brought,” Moody said. “For example, if your tires are slashed, the (perpetrator) will be charged with criminal mischief. We might not be able to show there was a repeated course of conduct.”

Moody said some victims report only one incident to the police, but never return to report additional incidents which would point to a pattern of stalking.

“If we can’t prosecute this (particular incident) because the evidence isn’t sufficient enough to make an arrest, that doesn’t mean that’s the end of the case,” Moody said. “If you have another incident, go back to the police.”

To aid law enforcement in prosecuting stalkers, victims must document the crimes as best as they can.

“A detailed journal is probably the No. 1 way if they want (the stalker) prosecuted,” Stevens said.

“You document a pattern of behavior, the course of conduct that the statute requires,” Moody said.

Both Moody and Stevens said friends and family are important in helping a victim of stalking stay safe.

“If it’s an abusive relationship that has ended or (you) are trying to end, it’s important to create a safety net around you,” Moody said.

Stevens also offered suggestions for supporting victims of stalking.

“Believe them,” Stevens said. “Don’t ask judgmental questions. Respect their privacy and don’t tell others things the victim has asked you not to tell.”

Friends can help victims develop a safety plan or seek resources as well.

“Call our hotline if (you’re) not sure what to do,” Stevens said. “Being a nonjudgmental listener is the best option.”

SAF provides shelter for those who feel too unsafe to go home, as well as free “911 phones.” Stevens said the cell phones SAF gives out are not activated with cell phone plans, but they can still dial 911 in an emergency.

For more information about OCO’s resources for domestic violence victims, visit oco.org or call the Crisis and Development Services division at 342-7532.

What do I do if I am being stalked?

If you are in immediate danger or feel that your life is being threatened, call 911. Other important numbers: OCO’s 24-hour Abuse & Assault hotline, 342-1600; Fulton City Police Department (non-emergency) 598-2111.

Obtain an order of protection and keep a copy with you.

Keep a dated journal of each stalking incident (e.g., “Dec. 30, 11 p.m.: Stalker showed up uninvited at my home” or “Jan. 2: received flowers from stalker”). Save voicemails, letters or unwanted gifts as evidence. This documentation will help if you choose to press charges against your stalker.

Inform your family, friends, neighbors and employer that you are being stalked and ask them not to share information about you if the stalker approaches them.

Be careful of what you post on social media. Your stalker may try to use information about your location and activities against you.

More from the Common Council meeting

The Common Council and the Mayor pose for one last photo in 2013. From left to right: Council President and 5th Ward Councilor Norman "Jay" Foster, Mayor Ronald L. Woodward Sr., outgoing 1st Ward Councilor Alan Emrich, 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Knopp, outgoing 4th Ward councilor Carm Cavallaro, outgoing 3rd Ward Councilor Pete Franco and 6th Ward Councilor Larry Macner.
The Common Council and the Mayor pose for one last photo in 2013. From left to right: Council President and 5th Ward Councilor Norman “Jay” Foster, Mayor Ronald L. Woodward Sr., outgoing 1st Ward Councilor Alan Emrich, 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Knopp, outgoing 4th Ward councilor Carm Cavallaro, outgoing 3rd Ward Councilor Pete Franco and 6th Ward Councilor Larry Macner.

By Ashley M. Casey

Outgoing councilors say goodbye

Three councilors acknowledged the end of their terms on the Fulton Common Council after the Dec. 26 budget hearing. First Ward Councilor Alan Emrich, Third Ward Councilor Pete Franco and Fourth Ward Councilor Carm Cavallaro thanked their fellow councilors, Mayor Ronald L. Woodward Sr. and the public in their statements.

“I think we were a very, very strong team,” Cavallaro said. The new Fourth Ward councilor will be James R. Myers.

Franco addressed the difficulties of creating the 2014 budget in his statement.

“It’s been a contentious year for the budget,” Franco said. He added that the Fulton Public Library could have lost $100,000, but the council brought the cut down to $50,000.

Franco thanked his constituents and said that longtime former Third Ward Councilor Bob Weston had encouraged him to run in the first place. Ryan M. Raponi will succeed Franco as Third Ward councilor.

Emrich said that he made each of his votes on the Common Council “for what I feel is in the city’s best interest,” including his dissenting vote on the budget. Emrich will be succeeded by Tom Kenyon.

The mayor thanked the three outgoing councilors and extended his best wishes for their futures.

“Carm, Alan and Pete: I’ve enjoyed working with you the past two years,” Woodward said. “You came in at the hardest time for the city of Fulton.”

 

Ethics committee tweaked

One member of the city ethics committee, announced at the Dec. 4 meeting, has stepped down.

Charles Marks will be replaced by Jhoram Dilk, who will serve until Dec. 3, 2016. Woodward explained that Marks gave up his position on the committee so he could be appointed to the fire and police commission instead.

Franco inquired about training for the ethics board members. Woodward said the city would ask the state about training opportunities.

 

FHA position created

In preparation for its transition from public to private, the Fulton Housing Authority sought the Common Council’s approval of the creation of the position of deputy executive director.

“This position will help us facilitate the transition from public housing to private,” said FHA secretary David Fontecchio. “(It) will remain a permanent position after the transition.”

The transition is expected to take three years and will cost $25 million. New York state has pledged $6 million, and an investor has pledged $19 million. The FHA receives no money from the city of Fulton.

 

UPDATED STORY: Fulton city budget passes 5-1; Knopp elected council president

Common Council President and 5th Ward Councilor Norman "Jay" Foster addresses the council.
Common Council President and 5th Ward Councilor Norman “Jay” Foster addresses the council.

By Ashley M. Casey

After an emotion-filled public hearing, the Fulton Common Council approved the 2014 budget by a vote of 5-1. 

The single dissenting vote was made by outgoing First Ward councilor Alan Emrich.

The property tax rate is set to increase 15.22 percent, bringing taxes to $19.66 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from $17.06 per $1,000 in 2013.

About two dozen people attended the public hearing Dec. 26. Several citizens spoke out against the $50,000 cut to the Fulton Public Library, which Mayor Ronald L. Woodward Sr. said could be picked up by taxes collected by the Fulton school district. (See sidebar story.)

Linda Rossiter, a librarian at the Fulton Public Library, listed several benefits of the library, including activities, crafts and homework help for children, and services for job-seeking adults.

“In times when money is extremely tight, your public library becomes one of your best assets,” Rossiter said. “(This cut) is not acceptable to nearly all of your community members.”

In a Jan. 2 phone interview with The Valley News, the mayor explained the city’s reasoning behind raising the pay of the city’s department heads, except for acting fire chief Paul E. Foster III.

Foster is paid per union contract negotiations, as he was deputy chief when Woodward appointed him acting chief.

“They mirror what the unions do,” Woodward said. “The department heads, along with the union, took a cut in pay over a three-year period.”

As for DPW Commissioner Dan O’Brien, who also heads the water and sanitation departments, Woodward said he is doing “the job of two people.”

“He is paid less than the last person who had that job eight years ago,” the mayor said.

At the public hearing, the mayor announced the budget will eliminate a cleaner position in the Municipal Building, but the employee is considering an offer to remain as a part-time or seasonal worker.

A clerical position in the clerk/chamberlain’s office is being transferred to the water department as well.

Legislator-elect Frank Castiglia Jr., 25th district, addresses the Common Council.
Legislator-elect Frank Castiglia Jr., 25th district, addresses the Common Council.

Legislator-elect Frank Castiglia Jr. said  city officials need to “think outside the box” to ease the budget’s strain on the community.

He had several suggestions regarding city employees, including a 32-hour work week, city residency requirements and making all new hires part-time or seasonal employees.

However, Castiglia acknowledged it was too late to make many changes to the 2014 budget.

“Table this budget right now, go into an executive session, reconsider,” Castiglia said. “Go with last year’s budget because I know you don’t have time to go with anything else. Come up with something we can live with.”

Emrich also suggested the council to enter executive session to discuss it further, but the rest of the council and the mayor declined.

Council President and Fifth Ward Councilor Norman “Jay” Foster questioned Emrich’s “no” vote and asked what ideas Emrich had for the budget.

“You say no to that, but you don’t have any ideas,” Foster said. He also claimed that Emrich had been absent from three meetings in the last year, while Emrich said he had only missed one.

Emrich stood by his decision in his final statement as councilor.

“Every time I’ve voted yes or no, I’ve done it for what I feel is in the city’s best interest,” Emrich said. “I hope that other people will feel inspired to go with what is not necessarily the most liked answer.”

Foster later apologized for his “outburst” toward Emrich, saying, “I care very much for Fulton. I want the very best for it.”

At the Jan. 1 reorganizational meeting of the Common Council, Second Ward Councilor Dan Knopp was elected the new council president.

Second Ward Councilor Dan Knopp and outgoing Third Ward Councilor Pete Franco listen at the Dec. 26 public hearing for the 2014 Fulton city budget.
Second Ward Councilor Dan Knopp and outgoing Third Ward Councilor Pete Franco listen at the Dec. 26 public hearing for the 2014 Fulton city budget.