Category Archives: Featured Stories

Christmas event tonight for some OCO consumers

By Debra J. Groom

For the second year, it will be a Merry Christmas for people in the transitional living programs at Oswego County Opportunities.

Tonight, 40 people, some homeless, some struggling with mental illness or drug or alcohol problems, will gather in fellowship to share in the goodness of the season.

They will eat a tasty meal, talk, sing holiday songs and even laugh. And everyone will receive a Christmas gift.

Betsy Copps, director of information and compliance and corporate compliance officer for OCO, said the community comes together to make this a special Christmas treat for these OCO consumers.

OCO Transportation Services is providing a bus to transport 22 consumers and staff from Arbor House and the Chemical Dependency Transitional Living Apartments.

The person driving the bus is doing so for free.

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church is donating space and the use of its fellowship hall and kitchen for the dinner.

Lakeview Lakes is donating table settings, including plates, bowls, cups, saucers and utensils for the meal.

OCO staff is donating its time to be hosts and servers during the dinner while employees who can’t be there are baking pies, cakes and cookies for everyone’s sweet tooth.

And to top it off, a group from Calvary Baptist Church has donated bags of gifts, such as food, hats, games and Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards, so all can share in the season.

“Money is so tight right now that it’s wonderful that people want to donate for this,” Copps said.

Copps said Oswego County Opportunities offers a variety of transitional living options for people or families suffering through chronic homelessness, coping with mental illness or overcoming a chemical dependency.

The problem is, these people often are forgotten at the holidays.

“Some people don’t have home and family support in place,” she said. “Some may not have a place to go for the holidays. This provides a human connection. They can enjoy being together and feel cared for.”

Oswego County Opportunities provides a variety of transitional living options for individuals or families experiencing one or more of the following situations:

Chronic homelessness; learning to cope with mental illness; overcoming drug or alcohol dependency; youth homelessness.

The agency operates apartments as well as residences where consumers in need of these services can receive the necessary supports to successfully make the transition back into the community.

Supports include counseling, goal planning, life skill development and improvement, job readiness training, literacy services, connecting and referring to medical and professional services outside OCO, case management, advocacy, victim assistance and crisis intervention.

OCO serves about 175 consumers annually through these types of programs.

As of Monday, no cause yet determined in Sorbello onion farm fire


By Debra J. Groom

Two days after a devastating fire at the Sorbello and Sons onion farm in Granby, crates of onions and the building were still smoldering.

These photos were taken Thursday Dec. 5 by Duane St. Onge.

The fire occurred at about 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3 and destroyed the large barn at the farm.

Morris Sorbello said the barn was actually three parts connected by tunnels. Nearly the entire crop of onions was being stored in the building.

Sorbello said Monday (Dec. 9) investigators still are combing through the piles of burning crates and onions trying to determine the cause of the fire.

The area was still smoldering Monday morning — in fact, Sorbello said the fire department was called out again Sunday night when a 3- to 4-foot high fire erupted.

Once the investigators are done with their work, Sorbello will begin disposing of the piles and piles of burned crates and onions. He hopes to be able to bury them in a huge hole on his farm.

“It’s the most economical method,” he said.

The crates, which are made of wood, and the onions would decompose in the ground.

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.

Alternate side winter parking in effect as of Dec. 11 in Oswego

Mayor Thomas Gillen said the city’s “Alternate-Side Parking Restriction” will begin at 1 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11.

During this time, parking on city streets must be done on an odd-even schedule. This means on an odd numbered day, for example Dec. 15, parking must be done on the odd side of the street, such as the side where houses numbered 103 and 107 are located. On even numbered days, such as Dec. 14, parking must be done from 1 to 6 a.m. on even numbered sides of the street.

This is in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other permanent parking restriction that may apply.

Simply remember — On even calendar days, park on the even side of the street, and on odd calendar days, park on the odd side of the street.

If parking a vehicle for the night prior to midnight, be sure to park where parking is regularly permitted and on the correct side for the next day (1 to 6 a.m.)

And be aware of instances where the last day of the month and the first day of the month are both odd-numbered days.

Permanent signs have been installed in the downtown area (West Bridge Street from Water Street to West 2nd Street, and West First Street and West Second Street, from West Oneida Street to West Cayuga Street) indicating “NO PARKING -1:00 am to 6:00 am.”  Please note that these “NO PARKING” signs are just for the posted hours, 1 to 6 a.m. and not intended for any other time of the day.

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

Application pulled for third nuke plant at Nine Mile Point

UniStar Nuclear Energy has withdrawn its applications to build a third nuclear reactor at Nine Mile Point in Scriba,  according to the Associated Press.

The company submitted an operating license application in September 2008 to build what would have been Nine Mile 3. But just over a year later UniStar submitted a letter requesting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to temporarily suspend the application review.

The AP reports the company told the NRC it was withdrawing the application because Nine Mile Point 3 was not selected for federal loan guarantees.

Fulton Common Council hears concerns about city’s “moderate fiscal stress”

By Ashley M. Casey

Three people spoke during the Fulton Common Council public forum Dec. 3 to express their concerns about the state Comptroller’s recent audit of the city of Fulton.

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli deemed Fulton in “moderate fiscal stress” after the city’s available fund balance dropped 84 percent.

“As CEO, the mayor’s managing the city well. The council’s making good budget decisions. The chamberlain’s handling the money well,” said Dennis Merlino. “I can’t imagine there’s anything else to cut.”

Merlino asked if the state would be willing to accept budget cuts on state mandates, but Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr.  explained the bulk of Fulton’s budget covers benefits for city employees.

He said in 1986, such costs comprised 40 percent of the city’s budget; today, they make up 70 percent.

“The lucrative laws for public employees that the state has put into place have got to change,” Woodward said.

He added he would ask the state’s Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments if there are any legislative solutions, but said state leaders are out of touch with the financial challenges small cities such as Fulton are facing.

“They mean well, but I don’t think the people who sit at the top really know what’s going on,” Woodward said. He said he and the council are striving to improve Fulton’s situation, adding, “That’s why we ran. That’s why we live here.”

Woodward said other cities are facing similar issues, such as Oswego, Owego and Syracuse.

Josephine Farrell said she had written a letter to the state suggesting improvements for local budget cuts, but received no response. She asked the mayor if the comptroller’s recommendations were of any value to the city.

“Were they anything you couldn’t have come up with on your own?” she asked.

The mayor said no.

Woodward said the state suggested that city offices shut off their computers at night to save on energy costs, which the city already does.

Fulton may be eligible to apply for grants or loans of up to $5 million through the Local Government Performance and Efficiency Program as part of the Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments assistance.

The newly elected 25th District county legislator, Frank Castiglia Jr., said he was wary of the possibility of accepting money from the state.

“It’s okay to dance with the devil and listen to what the devil tells you during the dance, but if you let the devil take you home, then you’re in trouble,” Castiglia said. “I know the council wants to save the city, but what’s it going to cost the taxpayers?”

Woodward said the Financial Restructuring Board’s review process would take six months, and the incoming Common Council would vote on the state’s recommendations.

Ethics Committee appointees

In accordance with a New York state mandate, the Common Council has created an ethics committee of five members.

Donald Ross, Josephine Farrell, Charles Marks, Dena Michaels and Dennis Merlino were appointed to the ethics committee.

Third Ward councilor Peter Franco spearheaded the yearlong committee development process.

“These were the best (people) to start it off,” Franco said after the meeting. “They’re upstanding citizens, pillars of the community and involved in the community.”

The Common Council and the ethics committee have drafted an ethics document based on a state model. The committee will meet periodically. Meeting dates have yet to be determined.

“They will entertain complaints about any (city) employees, elected officials, appointed officials,” Franco said. “They will investigate the complaint, find out if it’s valid, and recommend remedies for that.

The committee members will serve staggered terms of one to three years to keep “continuity of members,” Franco said.

Woodward called the ethics committee “wonderful,” and several councilors expressed their gratitude to the appointees for taking the time to devote to the new committee.

Also on the agenda

The council approved a Resolution of Respect for late Valley News publisher Vince Caravan. “The Mayor and members of this Common Council share a deep sense of loss with the family of the late Vincent R. Caravan and do, with the deepest regret, take official notice of the loss of this very special man,” the resolution read.

The mayor declared 2013 as Tree Growth and Care Year, and the council approved the decision to apply for grants from the DEC for tree maintenance and pest prevention.


Oswego police add K-9 officer

The Oswego City Police Department is pleased to announce the addition of its new K-9 unit consisting of Officer James LaDue and Crixus, a 2-year-old Dutch Shepherd donated by the State Police.

The pair recently completed a New York State Police 20 week Basic K9 Handler training program in Cooperstown, where they were trained in tracking, building searches, handler protection and narcotic detection.

Additional funding for the program including food, equipment and veterinary bills have been supplemented through forfeitures acquired by the Oswego City Police Anti-Crime Team.