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.

Valley News sales exec McManus honored

Allyson McManus
Allyson McManus

By Ashley M. Casey

Longtime Valley News sales consultant Allyson McManus will receive the Sales and Marketing Excellence Award (SMEA) at the Central New York Sales and Marketing Executives’ Crystal Ball banquet in April.

McManus, a lifelong Fultonian, has been with The Valley News for 21 years and is the publication’s senior salesperson. She is one of 12 SMEA recipients from across the region.

SMEA awardees are nominated by their respective places of employment and must meet criteria that include understanding the customer and the market, representing a company in a positive light and getting involved in the community. A Central New York Sales and Marketing Executives (CNYSME) committee carefully reviews each nominees’ credentials to ensure that the chosen winners are experts in their field.

“Not only has Allyson exhibited a very high level of professionalism and steadfast tenacity, she has been a true team player,” said Rich Westover, associate publisher of sales for the Scotsman Media Group, which owns The Valley News.

Westover said McManus has been instrumental in training new sales staff members and generating “new ways for The Valley News to better serve its readers.” McManus originated the idea of the newspaper’s monthly Fulton Families series, which highlights prominent families from around the city.

“We’re very proud of Allyson,” Westover added. “Her award underscores the quality of specialists working at The Valley News and Scotsman Media Group.”

McManus will accept her award at the 38th annual Crystal Ball, held April 10 at the Syracuse/Liverpool Holiday Inn.

The banquet will also honor 2014 Crystal Ball recipient Howard Dolgon, who is owner, president, CEO and team governor of the Syracuse Crunch hockey team.

For more information or to purchase tickets to the Crystal Ball, call 876-1868 or email info@cnysme.org.

 

Zone changes reduce nuisances in Fulton

By Ashley M. Casey

At the March 18 meeting, the Fulton Common Council approved two public hearings for residential zone changes in the Fifth Ward.

Properties enclosed within North Sixth, Ontario, Erie and North Seventh streets, and North Third, Oneida, Seneca and North Fourth streets block are both currently zoned as Residential R-2, which allows multi-family units.

The city seeks to change the zones to R-1A, which requires more than 50 percent of the properties to be single-family units.

Mayor Ronald S. Woodward Sr. told The Valley News the zone change will eliminate disturbances that occur in multi-family rental properties, which have contributed to the “deterioration of certain neighborhoods.”

Woodward said most of these problem properties are located in the Fifth and Sixth wards on the east side of the city.

“They generate a lot of police calls, a lot of ambulance calls, a lot of fire calls,” Woodward said.

“When one of these calls is generated, first responders have to stay until the ambulance comes. … If you’ve got somewhere else where the emergency services are needed, they’re tied up,” he said.

Woodward said city first responders received 69 calls from one resident in this area alone in 2013, and the person has called 17 times already this year.

The mayor said once more homes are filled with “working families,” the problems associated with these renters will go away. But he stressed it will take time.

“They weren’t (created) overnight, and they won’t go away overnight,” Woodward said.

Of the 33 properties between the two blocks in question, nine contain two or more families. After the zone change, these homes will be grandfathered in.

If a multi-family residence becomes vacant for more than a year, however, the property must be converted to a single-family unit or demolished.

The hearings will be held at the next Common Council meeting, at 7 p.m. April 1 in the Common Council chambers at the Fulton Municipal Building, 141 S. First St.

 

Other business

• The Common Council struck a discussion of the East Side Pool from the agenda.

Mayor Woodward said even if Fulton applied for a grant to cover the cost of the engineering study, the city would not be able to match the funds required.

“The council is not going to vote for that study because they know there’d be a 25 to 50 percent match that they’d have to bond for, and they’re not going to do that,” Woodward told The Valley News. “We’ve got to just quit spinning our wheels over it.”

Woodward said at the council meeting that the city has asked New York state’s Financial Restructuring Board about alternative funding sources for the pool study.

• A public hearing for a proposed local law that would prohibit feeding wild animals and waterfowl on public property will be held at the next council meeting, April 1.

“We’ve had quite a problem downtown with people feeding seagulls,” Woodward told the council.

He said the seagulls have made messes on cars and a mural on the Fulton Savings Bank building on South First Street.

Feral cats have been an issue, and people have been feeding geese at Stevenson Beach as well.

“The DEC frowns upon it. They claim if the feeding stops, the waterfowl will seek more remote areas for wild feeding,” Woodward said.

• Carolyn Mosier has been appointed to fill the Fulton Public Library Board of Trustees position vacated by Elizabeth Mirabito.

Mosher’s term will expire Dec. 31, 2015.

School districts ponder veterans exemption

By Ashley M. Casey

Although the March 1 deadline to grant a partial property tax exemption to wartime veterans has passed, local school boards are mulling the decision for 2015.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a law in December 2013 giving school districts the same power as municipalities to authorize a property tax reduction of at least 15 percent to district residents who served in the armed forces during a time of war.

The Fulton City School District board of education first discussed the issue at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Director of Finance Kathy Nichols and Superintendent Bill Lynch told board members that based on data from Oswego County, veterans or their spouses own 774 parcels of land in the Fulton district.

Under the new law, $13,851,354 could be exempt from the district’s assessed value if the board authorizes the veterans’ exemption.

“We had received notification (of the law) in early February,” Fulton board president David Cordone said. “There wasn’t a lot of time for us to investigate … the majority of the board felt we didn’t have enough information to vote for the March 1 deadline.”

If boards did not pas a resolution to grant the exemption by the March 1 deadline, they can consider the matter again next year.

Cordone said the Fulton board decided to gather more data in order to “be prepared to vote next year.”

“It’s up for discussion, but we need community input,” said Erin Hess, president of the Hannibal school board. “It’s really not so much for the board to decide — it’s up to the community.”

Hess echoed a concern that Fulton board member Christine Plath voiced in February.

“The only big question about it is the exemption gets picked up by other taxpayers, so it’s up for debate,” Hess said.

In February, Plath told her fellow board members she didn’t “see how certain households (in the Fulton district) can handle an increase in the tax rate.”

“It is going to be an impact (on the other taxpayers),” Mexico school board president Jim Emery said.

“With, for example, the STAR program, the state reimburses the districts. With this … it leaves it up to the district to shift the cost to other taxpayers. It puts the school board in an unenviable position.”

Emery said Mexico and other rural, lower-income districts would have a harder time distributing the cost of the veterans’ exemption to other taxpayers.

Across the state, school board members seem to have their reservations as well.

According the New York State School Boards Association, 69 percent of board members in an informal poll opposed the veterans’ exemption.

“School board members strongly support our veterans, but they believe that reimbursement for the veteran’s exemption should be covered by the state rather than by other local taxpayers,” school boards association Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer said in a press release.

“The law as is presents school boards with a dilemma,” Kremer said. “If they adopt the exemption, that would increase taxes for other taxpayers in their district. If they do not adopt the exemption, they could be viewed as not being supportive of veterans.”

In Oswego County, several municipalities have authorized a similar property tax reduction for Cold War veterans.

In 2009, the county legislature passed “Cold War Veterans Property Tax Exemption Act,” which granted a basic 15 percent reduction to veterans. Combat veterans receive an additional 10 percent exemption, and those with service-related disabilities receive even more.

Donna Kestner, director of the Oswego County Veterans Service Agency, said the following municipalities granted exemptions to Cold War vets: city of Fulton, Amboy, Minetto, Oswego Town, Palermo, Parish, Sandy Creek, Schroeppel, Volney and Williamstown. The city of Oswego and Scriba have not approved the exemption.

“I think it’s excellent,” Kestner said of the potential exemption from school districts. “I’d love to see our vets get school tax exemptions.”

Kestner said she could not make it to the Fulton board meeting Feb. 11 but thought the Fulton board was “in full support of the veterans, and I appreciate that.”

“Some places, they’re not as supportive as they are here,” she said.

Volunteers sort Girl Scout cookies for ‘emergency drill’

By Ashley M. Casey

Blowing snow and bitter winds didn’t deter the Oswego County Health Department on Wednesday as they unloaded and sorted 26,500 boxes of cookies for about 25 local Girl Scout troops.

About 30 volunteers from several county departments processed the cookies at the Oswego County Highway Garage in Scriba as a practice run for distributing emergency supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).

This was the second year the Girl Scouts and the county teamed up for the Strategic National Stockpile drill.

The SNS is the nation’s collection of vaccines, medicines and other supplies that state and local governments must be able to distribute to the public in case of a health emergency such as a massive flu outbreak or bioterrorism attack.

“We’ve been asked by the state to demonstrate our ability (to distribute the supplies),” said Diane Oldenburg, senior public health educator for the Health Department. “It was a way to test our capabilities that goes beyond sitting around the table … with ‘paper’ scenarios.”

Volunteers wore color-coded vests — yellow and red for picking boxes, silver for quality assurance and orange for inventory control — over coats and scarves in the chilly garage.

Oldenburg said a health department staff member is involved in Girl Scouts, so the county contacted local Girl Scout leaders with the idea for the drill. Last year, volunteers handled 30,000 boxes of cookies at the drill.

County volunteers had to work quickly to break down pallets stacked high with Thin Mints and Tagalongs, sorting out the orders for area troops.

“It’s not an empty box. It’s got a little more value — it’s something that can be damaged, so it makes it a little more realistic,” Oldenburg said.

Girl Scouts NYPENN Pathways Community Development Manager Judi Knowlton and several local “cookie moms” were on hand to help as well.

“It saves us from having to get the volunteers, and it gives the county the practice they need, so it’s a win-win,” Knowlton said.

Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said Wednesday’s weather — which led to school cancellations and traffic woes across the region — did not affect the drill.

“The weather is not a factor,” Huang said. “When the real (emergencies) happen, we don’t know what the conditions will be.”

Fulton girl leads all-star bowling team to state title

Mikayla Guernsey, right, with teammate Kate Ely.
Mikayla Guernsey, right,
with teammate Kate Ely.

By Ashley M. Casey

G. Ray Bodley High School senior Mikayla Guernsey led the Section III all-star girls’ bowling team to victory at the state title championship March 2 on Long Island.

Section III girls won over Section VI by 53 pins with a score of 5772. The boys’ Section III team came in third place behind Sections XI and VIII.

Guernsey, 17, averaged a score of 213.33 over six games at Babylon Lanes in West Babylon, N.Y. Hers was the highest average of the six girls on her team and of the whole girls’ championship.

Guernsey’s fellow Fultonian and all-star teammate, Kate Ely, a junior at G. Ray Bodley, averaged 158.50.

Another Fulton junior, Kyle Denson, averaged 174.16 with the Section III boys’ all-star team.

“It was really, really cool … getting to compete against other people we don’t usually compete against (and) meeting new people,” Guernsey said of the state championship.

“We knew we had a really good chance, but I didn’t think we were going to win,” she added. “I was surprised — we were very happy.”

As a graduating senior, Guernsey said she will miss her teammates and the “close bonding” they have shared over her high school career.

“We’re all close friends, so I’m going to miss that a lot,” she said.

Guernsey’s father, Mike Guernsey, said the Fulton bowling coach is Mike Tryniski of Lakeview Lanes.

Mikayla Guernsey, who has been bowling since age 5, said she plans to study accounting at Robert Morris University in Chicago, Illinois.

She said the school is known for its bowling program.

Fulton administrators present first budget draft

By Ashley M. Casey

Fulton City School District administrators presented the first draft of the 2014-15 school budget at the March 11 board of education meeting.

The budget is expected to increase by 2.66 percent to $66,992,685 from the 2013-14 total of $65,259,100. The first draft projects a 1 percent local tax levy increase.

Superintendent Bill Lynch said there is a $1,280,378 shortfall in revenue. Lynch said he is hoping local legislators can lobby for additional aid from New York state to bridge the gap, rather than increasing the tax levy.

Lynch said the district is aiming for a “status quo budget” to maintain current student programs and services and only increasing to cover costs.

“Our mission is educating our students and supporting our staff … and the lion’s share of the budget goes to support that,” Lynch said,

The board will review a second draft of the budget at the April 8 meeting.

Construction update

Director of Facilities, Operations and Transportation Jerry Seguin updated the board on the various renovations across the district.

As part of the 2012 capital project, the district is renovating several classrooms, information technology infrastructure, heating and air conditioning, and computer labs in Volney and Fairgrieve elementary schools.

Over the summer, the district will replace the roofs at Volney and G. Ray Bodley High School, as well as the Education Center’s stage curtains and lighting.

As for the recently approved 2014-15 capital project, Seguin said the district has submitted a proposal for the Lanigan Elementary School gym floor and lockset replacement projects. These repairs are expected to take place over the summer.

The Granby Elementary School roof is expected to be replaced during the summer of 2015.

Technology update

Director of Technology Stephanie Maturo reported on several advancements Fulton schools have made on the technology front. The district has spent $987,524.56 on technology this school year alone.

Maturo said one of the main achievements was increasing the number of interactive whiteboards in core area classrooms to 217. In 2011, the district had only 32 interactive white boards.

Maturo said she has ordered more mobile technology carts for the schools.

“We’re really trying to shift the idea from a computer lab being a static place that you go to something being integrated (in the classroom),” Maturo said.

She also said the district successfully used the SchoolMessenger phone and email alert system for the Feb. 27 early dismissal.

“Even though some of the parents received (the alert) multiple times, dismissal went a lot more smoothly with less calls in to the buildings,” said Executive Director of Instruction and Assessment Betsy Conners.

The district has seen a huge uptick in activity on its two wireless networks. An average of 759 mobile-ready devices (such as laptops, tablets and smartphones) access the networks per week, and 2,680 such devices are in use this year. In 2011, only about 1,600 devices used the network.

Maturo said the district’s technology goals for the next school year are to install wireless networks at Fairgrieve and Volney, update software, prepare the network for computer-based assessments and introduce Schoology, a learning management system to improve “flipped” classroom-based learning.

Other business

  • As part of Music in Our Schools Month, musicians from Carrie Foster’s fifth-grade band performed “A Little Bit of Swing” for the board.
    Music teacher Debra Farden said 1,100 Fulton students will be performing at various music events in March.
    Volney principal Lisa Garofalo then led the fifth-graders in singing “Happy Birthday” to Farden and Foster, as they both recently celebrated birthdays.
  • Longtime board member Rosemary Occhino-Pilawa announced her resignation from the board, effective March 31. She cited her planned move from Fulton as the reason for her resignation. Occhino-Pilawa began serving in 2009.
  • The next regular school board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. March 25 at Fairgrieve Elementary School.

Women’s History Month: Fascinating women in Fulton’s past

By Ashley M. Casey

Those looking to celebrate Women’s History Month need look no further than our own backyard.

With the help of Sue Lane from the Friends of History, The Valley News has uncovered some fascinating ladies who have called Fulton home.

 

Edna Skinner

Best known as Kay Addison on the classic TV show “Mister Ed,” actress Edna Skinner was born in Washington, D.C., May 23, 1921. Her family moved to Fulton, where her father Eugene was the president of Sealright Co.

As a child, Edna suffered from chronic asthma and was not expected to live to adulthood. Her health bounced back under the care of a Lake Placid doctor, and she went on to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.

Edna starred as as Ado Annie in the original Broadway production “Oklahoma!” and signed a contract with MGM in 1946.

She also helped sell more than $5 million worth of war bonds to help fund the United States military in World War II.

In 1964, Edna retired from acting and became a world-renowned expert on fly fishing. She wrote more than 280 articles on the subject.

According to variety.com, Skinner “was employed by two fishing equipment manufacturers, for whom she and her companion of more than 40 years, photographer Jean Fish, traveled more than 485,000 miles on fishing trips and to various sports shows.”

Edna Skinner died of heart failure on Aug. 8, 2003, in North Bend, Ore.

 

Betty Ford

Before she became First Lady, Betty Bloomer married William Warren in 1942. The couple moved to Fulton, where William worked for Sealright as a salesman.

The Warrens lived at 409 E. Broadway for nearly a year. Their Fulton neighbors remembered them as “an attractive couple, fun-loving, and an asset to the community,” according to a 1976 newspaper clipping from the Friends of History.

Betty worked on a production line at Birdseye during her time in Fulton.

After five years of marriage, Betty and William divorced. In 1948, Betty married Gerald R. Ford, who became President of the United States upon the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974.

Betty famously struggled with addiction to alcohol and painkillers, which led her to found the Betty Ford Center to treat recovering addicts.

She died at age 93 of natural causes July 8, 2011, in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

 

Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook

Fellow Syracuse University graduates and early 20th-century feminists Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook rekindled their college friendship when they both taught at Fulton High School in the early 1900s.

The two women lived together for most of their adult lives and championed women’s causes, including the right to vote and fair labor legislation. They volunteered overseas during World War I, tending to wounded soldiers.

According to the March 24, 1919, edition of The Fulton Patriot, Dickerman spoke in front of the New York State League of Women Voters at a conference in Syracuse.

She was later chosen by the Democratic Party as the first female candidate for the New York State Legislature. She lost to Thaddeus Sweet of Phoenix, N.Y.

Cook was Dickerman’s campaign manager and served as executive secretary of the Women’s Division of the State Democratic Committee for 19 years.

Cook and Dickerman befriended Eleanor Roosevelt through their political activities and helped build the Stone Cottage at Val-Kill, which was part of Roosevelt’s Hyde Park, N.Y., estate.

The three women had a falling out in the late 1930s, but Dickerman and Cook continued to live at Val-Kill until the 1945 death of Eleanor’s husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Cook and Dickerman moved to New Canaan, Conn., where Dickerman was the educational programming director for the Marine Museum.

Cook passed away Aug. 16, 1962, and Dickerman died in Kennett Square, Pa., on May 16, 1983.

Fulton school budget firming up; winter break renovations on track

By Ashley M. Casey

Voting on the Fulton City School District’s 2014-15 budget and electing three board of education members will be May 20 at the elementary schools, the school board announced at its Feb. 25 meeting.

A public hearing on the budget will be at 7 p.m. May 7 at the Junior High School.

The terms of board members Fred Cavalier, Barbara Hubbard and board president David Cordone expire June 30. The new terms would last from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2017. Lynch said it was too early to say if these members would be running again or if there would be any other contenders.

Another issue expected to appear on the ballot is the Fulton Public Library. Lynch said he and Cordone met with library representatives Feb. 10 to discuss increasing the amount of library tax the district collects and a possible charter change for the library.

“Currently, we collect $190,000,” Lynch said. “They are going to ask for an additional $100,000.”

The library also wants to change its charter from a municipal library to a school district public library.

“They are not part of the school district, although they are a public school district library,” Lynch said of the proposed change. “We have nothing to do with the library building (or) staff.”

Lynch said this arrangement is common, citing examples in Liverpool, Baldwinsville and Oswego.

The library will have to submit the proposition to the board by April 1, and will have to collect 200 signatures from qualified district voters by April 30.

February break renovations on track

Lynch told the board renovations begun during the February break at Fairgrieve and Volney elementary schools have gone according to schedule.

The renovations are part of the 2012 capital project

Asbestos abatement is continuing upstairs at Fairgrieve and the sixth-grade wing is closed.

Volney is on track for abatement and renovations outside the third-grade classrooms.

“The project is … moving along as it’s been planned,” Lynch said.

Another project that had to be moved up is the replacement of floor tiles in the social studies wing at G. Ray Bodley High School.

“We originally planned to do the work this summer,” Lynch said.

The floor tiles contain asbestos and are peeling up and coming loose.

Lynch said a solvent used to remove the loose tiles left a “quite pungent” citrus odor in the building, but changes in ventilation have reduced the odor.

Classes using the affected rooms have been relocated, and the tiles are expected to be replaced during April break.

GRB proposes college prep course

Bodley High School Principal Donna Parkhurst presented to the board a plan for a college readiness course in collaboration with Cayuga Community College.

The semester-long class, called “Cayuga 101: Foundations for College Success,” would be open to students in grades 10 through 12 and would teach time management, organization, study skills and other qualities needed to succeed in college.

“This past December, we sent three teachers to be trained (to teach this),” Parkhurst said. “They were so excited.”

Parkhurst said GRB could definitely offer two sections of the class, but would like to add a third. This would open the class to 150 students.

“Current enrollment has to drive what teachers we can pull,” she said. The school would redistribute class sizes in less busy departments, such as U.S. history and business, to free up teachers for the Cayuga course.

School board member Christine Plath, who teaches part-time at CCC, said she has met students who have taken similar courses before.

“Students say it is very helpful to them. Students that don’t have time management and study skills are lost and don’t know what to do,” she said.

Parkhurst said students would earn three college credit hours and the cost of the “On Course” textbook would be included in GRB’s budget.

Coming up

  • The eighth annual High School Art and Photography Invitational is on display in the Community Room at the Fulton Municipal Building (141 S. First St.) 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1 (today), and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 2. It will showcase artwork from Fulton, Hannibal, Oswego and Phoenix schools.
  • The next school board meeting is at 7:30 p.m. March 11 at the Education Center (167 S. Fourth St.).