Category Archives: Featured Stories

Polar Express gift shop pulls into Dillon Middle School

Submitted by Oswego County BOCES

The Polar Express rolled into the Phoenix Central School District on Friday Dec. 20, bringing with it plenty of Christmas cheer.

Students at Emerson J. Dillon Middle School had the opportunity to shop for family members as they perused a wide selection of gifts that were donated by staff and community members.

The annual event, which began more than a decade ago by the school nurse and school psychologist, has transformed into a gift-giving extravaganza, said school psychologist Jill Lunn.

“It started out with just a few kids who came down and teachers had brought a few things in for those couple of kids to wrap and take home to give to family members,” Lunn said. “(Since then) they have expanded it and asked for donations from all the staff. Each team nominates children to come down to shop. Every year it gets a little bit bigger and we get more and more and more (donations), which is wonderful.”

Although the donations were a bit scarce at the beginning of December, Lunn said a final push helped send the donations over the top, guaranteeing at least 205 students would be able to bring a gift home for family members.

“Monday there wasn’t nearly as much stuff, so I sent out an email to staff and said that we have more kids than ever … and they rallied and they brought in so many things,” Lunn said. “We have a lot of community members who donate. What’s incredible too is some of our families who could probably use a little help around the holidays also give.”

For student Love Phillips, Polar Express was a chance to provide a good Christmas for her three brothers and parents. That feeling of giving, according to Lunn, was what the initiative was all about.

“We wanted to do something a little different and let the kids know what it feels like to be able to give, and very rarely do we get a student who asks for something for themselves,” Lunn said.

While the shopping was a major part of the event, faculty and community members were also on hand to wrap each gift.

“Certainly we couldn’t do it without the community volunteers, district administrators (and) the teachers that donate. They give up their planning periods and their lunches to help wrap. It’s teamwork. It takes everybody,” Lunn said.

Packed house for Oswego City budget hearing Dec. 23

By Debra J. Groom

The Oswego Common Council unanimously adopted a budget for 2014 Monday night that will raise taxes by about $4.46 per $1,000 of assessed value for Oswego taxpayers.

That is much less than the original budget proposal that was going to raise taxes more than $8 per $1,000.

Also, the budget adopted Monday night reinstates 15 jobs that were going to be cut from the Department of Public Works and keeps Gallagher Pool open. Three positions in the codes enforcement office still remain cut in the adopted budget.

Also, the new budget includes 10-day unpaid furloughs for all city workers. Common Council President Ron Kaplewicz said this will have to be negotiated with employee unions, but he said it will be made clear to them that if furloughs are not taken, then job cuts will have to be made.

It was standing room only at the council chambers at City Hall as about 120 people showed up for the public hearing on the budget Monday night. A fire department official was counting poeple are they filed in to be sure the number did not exceed the fire code limit.

Twelve people spoke, many about keeping the codes enforcement office and DPW workers.

Barry McConnell, representing Local 200 United of the Service Employees International Union, told the council it would cost only 68 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to keep the 15 DPW workers on the job.

“I guarantee they will serve day after day, week after week and month after month,” he said of the workers. A huge contingent of SEIU Local United 200 employees were in the council chambers for the one-hour budget hearing.

Resident Sue Matthews told the council they have to continue pressing state officials for mandate relief.

Most local governments and school districts face mandates given to them by the state that they have to pay for and local officials say these mandates are too much of a drain on their budgets and taxpayers.

Cliff Wahrendorf told councilors they should try to come up with a way to obtain a user fee from properties that are tax exempt but still rely on city services.

Mayor Thomas Gillen and many councilors have said these properties, owned by city, state or county entities or nonprofits, receive snow removal, police and fire protection from the city but provide the city no payment in return and this is another drain on the city budget.

A couple of speakers also talked about raises being given to the police department and two councilors were serve as president and vice president of the council.

Common Council President Ron Kaplewicz explained the raise for him and vice president Mike Myers were approved nearly a year ago — at the 2013 reorganizational meeting in January. So these were not new raises

For the police, he said during police contract negotiations in the spring, it was found the city was losing a lot of young officers who were leaving to go to other departments where the pay was higher.

Kaplewicz said councilors decided lower pay scales had to increase to keep these younger officers in Oswego.

“After 10 years here, they could move to Fulton and make $10,000 more,” Kaplewicz said. “So we bumped the base salaries.”

Gillen’s preliminary budget increased taxes about 82 percent – from $10.03 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $18.25 per $1,000. Owners of an average house assessed at $70,000 would pay $575 more in taxes in 2014 than in 2013 if cuts weren’t made.

The adopted budget raises taxes about 44.7 percent — from $10.03 per $1,000 to $14.49 per $1,000. This means owners of an average house assessed at $70,000 would pay about $312 more in taxes in 2014.

 

Hannibal school district emergency communication system goes live

Submitted by Oswego County BOCES

After several successful test runs of the Hannibal school district’s new emergency communication system, the notification tool has gone live.

The system, Global Connect, uses cloud-based technology that allows the district to call, email or text important information to parents, staff, board members and others. It can hold up to five different contacts per person.

“The way we’re going to start using it is as just a mass communication system, just in case there’s a school closing or emergency situation or if we wanted to notify people of anything that is coming up at the school,” said director of technology Matt Dean. “It’s more of an emergency notification tool than something for daily announcements.”

Test calls went out to administrators, staff and parents/guardians in late November.

Dean said all parents/guardians who are listed as a student’s emergency contact person should have received a telephone test call during the week of Nov. 25.

Those who did not receive a call are asked to email their contact information to globalconnect@hannibalcsd.org.

In addition to districtwide alerts, Global Connect has several other unique attributes, Dean said.

“It has the capabilities to notify just the football players if practice times have gone from a 4 p.m. start to a 5 p.m. start, or if it’s changed to a different location,” he said. “As long as the information is in our student information system or is in a spreadsheet I created … and that information is up to date, then they will get a phone call and notification.”

The system also can track calls to see if the call was answered, if a message was left or if a number was invalid.

It has the ability to survey each person on the contact list as well.

“The poll question is a nice feature,” Dean said. “We can generate a report and get a printout of how many people answered the question and what their answers were.”

With communication a primary objective of the district, Dean said Global Connect will satisfy that goal, as it provides a mass audience with instantaneous, accurate information — without jeopardizing anyone’s contact information.

New restaurant opens on Oswego Harbor

Alex’s on the Water, a new restaurant and bar located at 24 E. First St., Oswego, is open for business.

The restaurant is adjacent to the Best Western Plus Captain’s Quarters on the lower level of the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center.

It is owned and operated by the Broadwell Hospitality Group, an Oswego-based hospitality company.

“We are very pleased to introduce Alex’s on the Water to the Central New York restaurant and dining scene,” said Alex Broadwell, Broadwell Hospitality Group’s director of marketing and accounts. “Alex’s truly offers amazing food with an incredible view.”

“We could not be happier with the tremendous feedback we have received about the restaurant, menu, and our waterfront setting,” she added.

Alex’s on the Water is located along the Oswego River overlooking the Historic Oswego Harbor on Lake Ontario.

An expansive exterior patio with seating, a full bar, fireplace and docking accommodations is also available.

Alex’s on the Water is open Monday through Sunday at 4 p.m., and Executive Chef Thomas Waite presents a diverse and expansive menu of starters, small plates, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, seafood, chicken, steak vegetarian and gluten-free entrees.

In addition, the restaurant also has a large specialty drink menu, wine and beer list, as well as dessert menu available for their patrons.

For additional information on Alex’s on the Water, visit its website at AlexsontheWater.com or like the restaurant at Facebook/Alexsonthewater.

Alex’s on the Water is available for walk-in dining or by reservations at 343-7700.

Broadwell Hospitality Group also oversees the management and operations of the Best Western Plus Captain’s Quarters Hotel, Quality Inn & Suites Riverfront Hotel, Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, Alexandria’s Premier Lakeview Weddings, Bayshore, GS Steamers and the Captain’s Club.

Grant allows Oswego Pre-K to expand

Submitted by Oswego school district

The Oswego City School District recently learned it would be the recipient of the Expanded Half Day Pre-kindergarten Grant.

The funds received would allow the district to add an afternoon class of Universal Pre-K at Kingsford Park School and expand a current morning class at Leighton Elementary to full-day.

“The UPK teachers and staff strive to create a warm and nurturing environment for all our 4-year-olds,” said Cathleen Chamberlain, assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum.

“The goals of the program are to meet the individual needs of four-year old children in the areas of social, academic, language, emotional and physical development,” she said.

The afternoon class at Kingsford will run from 12:45 to 3:15 p.m. and follow the regular school calendar. Transportation can be provided home; however, it is the parent’s responsibility to get the children to school.

This program will begin sometime in January. To qualify, a child’s birthday must fall between Dec. 2, 2008 and Dec. 1, 2009.

“We currently have a few openings for the Kingsford class,” Chamberlain said.

“If you are interested in placing your child in that class or have any questions, please call the curriculum Office at 341-2013. A registration packet will need to be filled out and returned to us,” she said.

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.

Valley Viewpoints

Discrepancies in Leotta documents

Recently, City of Oswego officials acknowledged the economic impact the city’s $87 million consent decree has placed on Oswego residents.

This decree stemmed from a federal and state court action, against the city, for dumping sewage into the Oswego River.

Non-compliance, with the provisions of the decree, could result in further court actions and penalties. The City Engineer is responsible for the correct implementation of this work.

With the possibility of a further increased tax burden on the residents, you would expect that a competent person of good moral character would oversee this project.

Consider this: on May 6, 1969, an Application for Examination or Employment (AFEOE), for City Engineer, was filed with the City of Oswego Civil Service Commission by Anthony A. Leotta. On the application he indicated that he was licensed as a professional engineer in New York state.

However, a state Education Department document indicated he was not licensed, in New York, until 3/20/75.

On Nov. 13, 1971, a survey map, for a parcel of land in the city of Oswego, was signed: Anthony A. Leotta, P.E. Oswego City Engineer. A complaint was filed with the state Education Department Aug. 31, 1974, concerning Leotta holding out to be a professional engineer when he was not licensed, in New York, at that time.

The rules of the Board of Regents required that “All complaints, notwithstanding their origin or the department, person or office which receives them, are to be forwarded immediately to the Executive Secretary of Professional Conduct” (Section 17.2).

This was done Sept. 16, 1974.

“In the month of December 1974 there was an investigation conducted here by the Division of Professional Conduct…”  The only discernible result was Leotta finally obtained a license in this state.

Subsequently, the state Education Department realized Leotta stated on his AFEOE he was a licensed PE in New York state. He was not.

Another investigation was launched. As part of this process the city furnished the state Education Department with a copy of Leotta’s AFEOE — this document did not indicate that he was licensed in the state of New York.

The city of Oswego had presented two different Leotta AFEOE’s, on various occasions, claiming both were correct city documents. Incredulously, the spurious application, sent to the state Education Department, was on a form that was printed in 1972 — Leotta was hired by the city in 1969.

According to a mayor’s office document dated Oct. 31, 1975: “…the investigator ruled that since the original application was returned to the Civil Service File, that there would be no warrant to prosecute regarding Mr. Leotta.”

George M. Clark

Oswego

 

Legislator thanks Meals on Wheels drivers

I just wanted to take a moment to shout out a special thank-you to the drivers involved with the Meals on Wheels program.

The recent stretch of snow that added several inches to several feet in some places is always a hardship thrown into the mix of delivery of food to the senior citizens in need of such a service.

The impassable areas, driveways and walks that have not been cleared due to health, age or disability issues become that much more of a task in this wonderful program.

Kudos to the those that show up in the accumulating snow and load up their vehicles and take off in order to make sure others are taken care of.

Thank you so very much for every inch that you tread, in order to feed others.

May you have a GREAT holiday!!!!

James Karasek

Oswego County 

Legislator

 

Recipe for change

It’s that time of year.

Yes, this time of year everyone is exchanging recipes. I have one that everyone (well, those that care)in Fulton will want.

A Recipe to save a City:

1. Everyone who receives a pay check from the city shall live inside the city limits. (Right now we have firemen that make over $100,000 a year and they don’t live in the city.) No grandfather clause, one year to comply.

2. Require the fire department to work three 8-hour shifts shifts (will require four crews of eight per shift — minimum manning of five per shift). Save on OT and comp time.

3. Require two police officers per car (saving on cars and gas)

4. Require DPW to work three shifts (with garbage collection at night). This will save OT.

5. Require two men per truck on the garbage collection — this will save the jobs for this department.

6. Put the city on a four-day work week — eight hours per day. A 32-hour work week. (For all but fire and police)

7. All but department heads should be part-time seasonal (this is new hires only)

8. Increase rental permit to $600 for three years. ($200-for 2nd unit, $100-for 3rd unit, $50-for 4th, max at 4). This will bring in an added revenue of around ¾ million dollars every three years. (Add inspectors every three years on a seasonal part-time basis)

9. Put some bite into the bark of code enforcement. (Make code violators pay a processing fee, not a fine — if not paid, add to water bill)

10. Put the highway department on three shifts also. (Hire part-time seasonal workers for snow plowing and removal) — save money on OT

11. Make all city workers (DPW-Highway-Water) same job class and pay rate — this will save money and jobs.

12. Require, I repeat, require the state pick up their fair share of retirement cost. This increased after 9/11 but that was 12 years ago

13. Request a three-year waiver of tipping fees for all garbage sent to county landfills by city of Fulton DPW trucks.(This will save the city money and therefore be able to save the DPW workers-jobs)

Now I know that in most recipes you can leave out some of the ingredients and the outcome may be almost the same. In this recipe the only things that must stay in are items #1, 2, 3, 4, 6,8,12 and 13.

I would try this recipe before I accepted any money from the State. If you add state money into the recipe you then would wind up with S.O.S.

Frank Castiglia

Fulton 

 

New Granby councilor thanks voters

My name is Eric Clothier, your new town councilman of Granby.

I would like to thank those of you who voted for me. Together we can all make a difference. I will do my best to make changes for the people, keep taxes where they should be and maintain the roads as they should be maintained.

Getting elected is only the first step. We need your help to push forward and strive for what is best for Granby. You can do this by attending the meetings and making your voices heard. Please help me in making Granby a better place to live.

Thank you.

Eric Clothier

Granby

 

Thanks for festive music

Once again, we and many members of the Fulton community enjoyed the annual Fulton Community Band Christmas Concert in the G.R. Bodley auditorium.

The music provided by the Fulton Community Band was highly entertaining and enjoyable. At some point during the concert, Fulton’s little drummer boy, Jim Myers, presented director Carol Fox with a gift from band members.

He also took the opportunity to mention how overworked he was using a variety of different instruments in playing one particular song. Carol’s response was, there was a reason why percussionists are located at the back row of the band.

During the evening’s performance a special musical arrangement was dedicated to Jack Walsh and Muriel Allerton who passed this year.

The Roamin’ Catholic Choir, led my Delores Walrath, helped put us in the Christmas mood with a number of Christmas carols. And, finishing out the evening’s concert were Mary Hamer running up and down the aisles with the Hamer sing-a-long group trying to keep up.

President of the Fulton Music Association, Steve Chirello, did his usual great job in welcoming all to the concert. Thank you to Tom Nami and Rob Lescarbeau for their technical assistance.

Bob & Sandy Weston

Fulton

Porky & Buddy discusses leaving dogs out in the cold

Dear Porky & Buddy,

You recently wrote about Section 353-b of the Agriculture & Markets Law which basically requires that all dogs left outdoors have to be provided with a dog house.

I am writing to say that I personally think that law is ridiculous. I have a purebred Siberian Husky, Scarlet. She is three years old and I am here to tell you that SHE WANTS NOTHING TO DO WITH A DOG HOUSE!

She loves cold weather, the colder the better, and never ever wants to come in the house, much less a stupid dog house.

Am I really breaking the law by not having one for her?

Ken

 

Dear Ken,

In a word, yes. Quit complaining and go out and get Scarlet a dog house, or better yet, install an electronic door in your house so she can come in any time she wants.

You might be surprised what good company she is, as Huskies are notorious for adoring their humans and really should not be left alone by themselves for long periods anyway.

The bottom line is this: We love the New York dog shelter law.

Maybe you don’t think it’s necessary, but we hear of dogs that have simply frozen to death, alone on a chain with no food or water, in a blizzard.

And in the summer they die of heat stroke or dehydration.

That should not happen to dogs!

The shelter law has very specific requirements and it is easy to enforce (much easier than the anti-cruelty laws, which are very vague). It has saved a lot of dogs from a miserable life outdoors.

Furthermore, it specifically requires owners to provide shelter for their dogs that is appropriate to their breed, physical condition and the climate.

It does not require you to force Scarlet to go in the dog house, just that you have it available for her.

You love your dog, we assume. It’s not too much to ask and in a very severe storm it could save her life.

Porky & Buddy

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. 

Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego.

Call us at 207-1070 or email us at ochscontact@hotmail.com.