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.

CNY Arts Center offering a variety of classes in January, February

By Ashley M. Casey

Those who are interested in dabbling in different forms of art are in luck in January and February.

CNY Arts Center is holding a class series called “The Art of Self-Expression,” featuring writing, cooking and studio art.

Local author and CNY Arts Center Writing Coordinator Jim Farfaglia will be teaching the writing portion. Culinary Arts Coordinator Diane Sokolowski will be teaching cooking and Studio Arts Coordinator Kendra Matott will lead the studio art section.

The first session, to be held Jan. 4, will present a 40-minute introduction to each section. After that, participants may choose one or two of the three sections to pursue for the next three sessions.

“We’re looking at this as a way to build their artistic muscle,” Farfaglia said. He likened the program to New Year’s resolutions, a way to delve into something new.

“A lot of people say they want to try art, but they’re unsure of what genre to try,” he said. “We’re trying to get them to at least try it and see if they like it.”

Farfaglia said his writing assignments would include a short story based on a picture and memories of school and vacations.

Matott said her studio art sessions would include a mix of traditional and unconventional techniques. She said she would teach still-life drawing basics, but her students will also draw with their feet and their non-dominant hands.

There also will be a basic Photoshop demonstration.

“It’s a really great opportunity for people to dabble in different types of art,” Matott said. “This is a great opportunity for someone who’s interested in trying a whole bunch of things in a welcoming environment.”

The Art of Self-Expression will be held 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 4, 8, 11 and 25 at CNY Arts Center, 357 State St., Fulton. There will be a February session as well. The class costs $40 per person.

“Gift bags” for the class series are available for sale at the ARTs in the HeART Gallery at 47 S. First St., Fulton. You may also sign up at or call 592-3373.

Showcase your work

The next CNY Open Mic Night will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, at the ARTs in the HeART Gallery. Artists of all genres are welcome to display their talents for the community.

“We hope that the people who take our classes will decide to share at that event,” Jim Farfaglia said of the event.

Want to make your own maple syrup? Here’s how!

By Ashley M. Casey

As a child, Rich Finzer hated maple syrup.

His grandfather in Tupper Lake used to send Rich’s parents a gallon of “Fancy” grade each Christmas. After just a taste, Finzer swore off the stuff until adulthood, when he stopped by a roadside stand in New Hampshire and picked up a bottle on a whim.

“There had been a total change,” recalled Finzer, “and I loved the stuff.”

Although he once turned his nose up at the sticky-sweet amber breakfast condiment, Finzer is now the award-winning author of a book on how to produce maple syrup.

“Maple on Tap: Making Your Own Maple Syrup” was released Dec. 15, 2012, by Acres USA, a publisher that mainly focuses on organic and sustainable farming.

Finzer’s sugaring journey began a little more than two decades ago, when he bought a farm in Ira, where he now lives (just over the border of Oswego County). He decided to try his hand at his grandfather’s pastime.

“The first year went very badly,” he said.

But Finzer and his friend and sugaring partner, the late Paulie Bartkowiak, didn’t give up. Their persistence paid off in 1995, when they won a blue ribbon at the New York State Fair for their medium amber maple syrup.

More than 20 years after that first botched attempt at making syrup, Finzer has snagged the Independent Book Publishers Association’s 2013 Benjamin Franklin Award Gold Medal in the Crafts/Hobby/How-To category. “Maple on Tap” is the first Acres USA book to win an IBPA award.

“In the 25 years that Acres USA has been in business as a publisher, none of their books had ever won an award,” Finzer said. “The greatest kick is they initially rejected it.”

Finzer, who is a retired technical writer for firms such as IBM and Bristol-Myers Squibb, began his writing career as a cub reporter at a weekly newspaper in Cortland, in 1970. In 2007, he branched out into freelance writing. More than 1,100 of his pieces have appeared in print and on the Web.

He is also the author of two novels, “Taking the Tracks” and “Julie & Me.”

Finzer said his book offers a variety of methods for tapping trees, and offers superior — and cheaper — sap collection and storage methods.

“What sets it apart from other books about sugaring (is that they) don’t have my credentials. They don’t have a blue ribbon,” he said.

The book’s path to publication was a rocky one. His sugaring partner passed away in 2011, the first graphic designer and editor quit, and Acres USA had to print the book in China because of overbooked printing schedules.

Finzer recalled his new Texas-based editor, Fred Walter, told him, “Rich, I have never seen a book as snake-bit as this.”

Despite all the bumps along the way, “Maple on Tap” was ready for sale just before last Christmas. Sales have been trickling in since then, and Finzer has been featured in The Post-Standard, The Palladium Times and The Nashua Telegraph (of Nashua, N.H.).

For now, Finzer is taking a break from writing, though he said he is considering writing a screenplay in the future.

“I’m resting on my laurels,” he said.

 Where to buy the book

For a signed copy of “Maple on Tap,” write to Rich Finzer at 13070 White Cemetery Road, Hannibal, NY 13074. The price of the book is $15.95, plus $5.90 for priority mail shipping.

“Maple on Tap” is also available at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, and

Amateur historian preserves Fulton in online newspaper archive

By Ashley M. Casey

First-time visitors to might be taken a little off-guard when they see a playful animated goldfish and neon text on the home page.

These quirky elements belie the vast project the site contains: more than 25 million newspaper pages collected by Tom Tryniski, a retired Fultonian.

In 1998, Tryniski developed an interest in old postcards. A friend lent him his mother and grandmother’s collection of postcards depicting the booming days of Fulton’s business past. His scope spread to old photographs and newspapers too.

“I scanned them in and I put them on a real simple website … on a redirect out of Russia,” Tryniski said.

At the time, his internet service provider would not allow the bandwidth for a commercial website with an American domain.

Since retiring from Harland Simon in 1999, Tryniski has devoted his own time and money to digitizing and uploading records of the past using a simple scanner, several PCs, and word recognition software that makes the newspapers searchable.

He invested in a microfilm scanner for $3,500 to expand his collection.

“I produced over four million images with that scanner,” he said.

In 2001, Tryniski approached then-publisher Vince Caravan about creating archives for the Valley News.

“I took a box every three or four days and I hand-scanned them with a flatbed scanner that was slow as molasses,” Tryniski remembered.

He moved on to scanning the Fulton Patriot and other area newspapers. Now he’s tackling more East Coast publications.

In March 2013, online news outlet ReasonTV released a video comparing Tryniski’s work to the Library of Congress’ “Chronicling America” collection.

Using $22 million in grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Chronicling America has digitized nearly seven million pages. That’s about $3 per newspaper page in costs to taxpayers., which includes archives of the Valley News, the Palladium-Times, the Brooklyn Eagle and other newspapers across New York state and beyond, has 25,084,000 pages online, available for free.

The site also averages six million page views per month, twice that of Chronicling America’s.

Tryniski said that the feedback he receives about is very positive. Many people use his archives for genealogy research, or just to reminisce about “things they haven’t seen in years and years.”

Reading the newspapers he has collected has been a learning experience for Tryniski.

“I’m finding a lot of nice information about Fulton in the ‘30s and ‘20s,” he said, adding that the technical aspects of this pastime keep him on his toes as well.

He also assists site visitors in their research. “Not only do I get to help someone, but I get to learn myself,” he said.

Tryniski said he has no time for other hobbies. The scanning process keeps him incredibly busy, which he enjoys.

“I find it hard to focus on two things at once,” Tryniski said. “I’m only good at one thing at a time.”

Tryniski has created multiple backup copies of his archive just in case.

“I’m not going to let it drop off the internet if something happens to me,” he said.

As for what’s next for Tryniski, the piles of newspapers and photos in his house should keep him busy for years to come.

Novelis plans expansion; will add jobs

By Ashley M. Casey

Global aluminum rolling and recycling company Novelis will invest $120 million in the Oswego plant, the company announced Tuesday.

The investment will install a third aluminum automotive sheet finishing line and expand recycling for scrap metal.

“It’s a pretty big deal for us because the automotive market and aluminum (sheeting) is really growing,” said Fiona Bell, senior manager of external communications for Novelis.

Bell said Novelis took a “studied approach” in examining the automotive market and customer feedback before deciding on the Oswego plant for the expansion, which will add 90 jobs.

“It’s a wonderful investment … and it’s good for the community,” Bell said. “It shows our commitment to the Oswego plant.

Novelis received support from New York state and a grant from Empire State Development, the state’s chief economic development agency. Bell also credited the County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency (IDA) for its support in the project.

“We’re also upgrading our recycling abilities,” Bell added. “About half the aluminum (we use) ends up as scrap metal. We’re installing technology and processes to take back that scrap … and reprocess it.”

The aluminum Novelis processes is used in manufacturing doors, hoods, fenders and other parts for cars.

The new recycling initiative will make a car built by Novelis aluminum “a more sustainable product,” Bell said.

The company will invest an additional $85 million for a similar expansion at the Nachterstedt, Germany, plant.

Renovation project vote Feb. 4 in Fulton school district

By Ashley M. Casey

The Fulton City School District board of education Tuesday approved several renovation projects with a proposed cost of $4.4 million.

The public will vote on the projects Feb. 4.

The district’s main priority is the replacement of the roofs at Lanigan and Granby elementary schools, which will comprise the majority of the cost. The roof renovations would take place in the summer of 2015.

The gym floor in Lanigan also must be replaced, as it has tested positive for mercury. Superintendent Bill Lynch said New York state’s laws regarding mercury disposal are so strict that the district may have to take the materials out of state.

Other items in the project include replacing the locksets in all classrooms and offices, paving work at Granby and the construction of an athletic storage building.

The district will sell bonds of up to $4.25 million to finance the capital project.

A public hearing regarding the renovations will be held at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 29, at Lanigan Elementary School.

Also on the agenda

** Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Chris Ells reviewed the district’s fall sports season. A total of 414 students participated in modified, junior varsity and varsity sports, up 29 from the 2012 fall season.

Several student athletes qualified for NYS All League Honors, and Connor Goss, of the golf team, is set to compete in the state quarterfinals in May 2014.

Ells highlighted the cheerleading team’s activities as well. He said New York state does not yet classify cheerleading as a sport, but Fulton’s 27 cheerleaders are preparing for the Love to Cheer competition, which will take place Feb. 8 at G. Ray Bodley High School. The school will host more than 300 cheerleaders from 24 schools.

** Executive Director of Instruction and Assessment Betsy Conners reviewed the district’s updated procedures for students in need of Academic Intervention Services (AIS).

The district has updated the academic standards for AIS students to better reflect the Common Core. AIS intervention now begins as soon as the students in need are identified instead of waiting until the following semester to start services.

Conners said that the parental notification system for AIS has also become more detailed.

In other business:

** Lynch thanked Volney interim principal Mike Egan for stepping into the role over the past few months. Lisa Garofalo has been chosen to take over as principal at Volney starting Jan. 6. “I truly appreciate the opportunity,” Egan said. “It is a very fun building.”

** The next school board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14, 2014, at the Education Center.

Taxes up, personnel cuts to come in preliminary Fulton city budget

By Ashley M. Casey

Fulton Mayor Ronald L. Woodward Sr. announced Tuesday the Fulton Common Council has worked out a preliminary budget for 2014.

The $16,279,089 budget includes a 27 percent tax rate increase and elimination of city employees.

The budget in 2013 is $15,452,097. The tax rate is $17.06 per $1,000 of assessed value.and tax He stressed many changes are still to come before a final budget is presented for a public hearing. The date for this public hearing will be announced later.

Under the current version of the budget, taxes would increase 27.864 percent, bringing the tax rate  up to $21.78 per $1,000.

People owning an average house assessed at $60,000 would pay about $283 more in taxes in 2014 if this budget became the final budget.

But, Woodward said while taxes will definitely increase in 2014, this rate is by no means the final rate.

“The public has to realize that myself and the council members live here and pay property taxes,” the mayor said. “We don’t want to pay more either.”

The mayor and the Common Council held a budget workshop Dec. 7 to outline the 2014 budget. They found the city’s assessed value has decreased by more than $10 million, revenue is down $305,490, expenses are up $826,992 and there is no fund balance for the new year.

Of the increased expenses, $526,186 comes from health care benefits to city employees, most of them public safety workers.

“This is the biggest contributing factor to the depletion of the fund balance,” Woodward said of the skyrocketing health care costs.

Although the city has cut 10 percent of its workforce during Woodward’s term as mayor, more personnel cuts are to come.

“We will not get through this budget without staff reductions,” he said.

The mayor declined to discuss which positions were on the line.

“They’re very difficult (decisions). It’s a human thing. They’ve all got lives and have to make ends meet,” Woodward said. “Do you do what’s best for all people, or a few people?”

The impending renegotiation of the fire department, police department and CSEA union contracts will pose an additional financial challenge to Fulton in 2014. The contract negotiations are expected to take much of the year.

Fortunately for Fulton, the state’s Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments will be offering recommendations for the fiscally stressed city next year.

The public hearing date will be announced at a community development meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the Fulton Municipal building.

The Common Council is holding a budget workshop immediately after the community development meeting.

City completes first round of budget talks

By Ashley M. Casey

Mayor Ronald L. Woodward Sr. announced Tuesday that the Fulton Common Council has worked out a preliminary budget for 2014. He stressed that many changes are still to come before the budget is presented for a public hearing, the date of which is to be announced.

Under the current version of the budget, taxes would increase 27.864 percent, bringing the tax rate up to .021789. Woodward said this rate was by no means the final rate.

The public hearing date will be announced at a community development meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the Fulton Municipal building. The Common Council is holding a budget workshop immediately after the meeting.

See the rest of the story in the Saturday, Dec. 14, edition of The Valley News. Call 598-6397 to subscribe.

FULTON FAMILIES: Fulton will always be home base for the Schremps

Hometown hero – A sign on Route 481 shows Fulton’s pride for professional hockey player Rob Schremp.Photo courtesy of Jerry Schremp
Hometown hero – A sign on Route 481 shows Fulton’s pride for professional hockey player Rob Schremp.
Photo courtesy of Jerry Schremp

Editor’s note: This is the third 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 will be 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

By Ashley M. Casey

Entering Fulton on Route 481, there is a red, white and green sign — G. Ray Bodley colors — bearing the silhouette of a hockey player. It reads “Welcome to Fulton: Hometown of Rob Schremp, 1st Fultonian in the NHL.”

Rob Schremp’s athletic success is no fluke. The entire Schremp family — and their dozens of relatives — are known throughout Fulton for their involvement in the city’s sports world. This involvement keeps them tied to their community and to each other. Continue reading