Category Archives: Fulton News

Fulton adopts 2015 budget after lively debate

By Colin Hogan

The city of Fulton adopted its $15.7 million 2015 budget Tuesday, but not without some conflicting input from city taxpayers.

City officials heard more than an hour and 20 minutes of input from taxpayers in a public hearing Tuesday, including one who repeatedly beseeched the common council to table their vote on the spending plan and make further cuts to public safety.

The budget reflects $15,710,583 in city spending for next year, up $114,395 from this year’s $15,596,188. The city anticipates non-property tax revenues will total $9,324,102 next year, with another $6,464,816 to be generated in property taxes, which city officials can be achieved by maintaining the current tax rate of $19.662 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. rebuts claims that the city didn't cut enough spending out of the 2015 budget during a public hearing Tuesday.  Colin Hogan photo
Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. rebuts claims that the city didn’t cut enough spending out of the 2015 budget during a public hearing Tuesday.
Colin Hogan photo

Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said prior to Tuesday’s budget hearing that the city was able to balance the budget without a tax increase largely through personnel changes. By consolidating positions, and re-hiring staff who are retiring this year as part-timers, the city is spending about  $200,000 less on personnel than it did last year, without any layoffs, Woodward said.

The city has also cut spending in several departments, including Parks and Recreation. Resident and planning commission member Dennis Merlino, who had previously requested that the city maintain its current appropriations for the parks, said Tuesday he understands those reductions had to be made.

“I see now that it just wasn’t practical or possible,” Merlino told the mayor and council. “But I am thrilled with the budget you have come up with – no tax increase.”

 Dennis Merlino addresses the board during Tuesday's public hearing.  Colin Hogan photo
Dennis Merlino addresses the board during Tuesday’s public hearing.
Colin Hogan photo

Merlino said it’s now up to the residents to pick up the slack as volunteers where the city has been forced to cut back.

“I would ask the people to step up and do their part. It’s time for each person to volunteer to do something that will help the city,” he said.

Merlino’s praise was matched by that of former city councilor Bob Weston, the first to speak at the hearing, who drew comparisons between Fulton’s and the city of Oswego’s budget to illustrate how efficient he felt Fulton’s is. Weston pointed out that, while Oswego has 55 percent more population, it’s budget is almost three-times as much as Fulton’s.

“I think you’ve done an excellent job on the budget. It was a difficult time. I know with all the retirements we’ve lost a lot of good people, we’ve had to make a lot of changes… all in all I think you’ve done a good job of controlling (spending) and making the cost-efficient operation of the city possible,” Weston said.

But others in attendance said there are still cuts that should be made, namely, in public safety. After praising city officials for “holding the line” on property taxes, Mark Aldasch, chairman of the Fulton Republican Committee, admonished them for not confronting what he called “the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”

Fulton Republican Committee Chairman Mark Aldasch implores the common council to table their vote on the budget and consider more cuts in public safety. Colin Hogan photo
Fulton Republican Committee Chairman Mark Aldasch implores the common council to table their vote on the budget and consider more cuts in public safety.
Colin Hogan photo

“I’ve got to be fair, you held the line (on taxes), but let’s talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The 800-pound gorilla in the room in public safety,” Aldasch said

Aldasch called cuts that had been mentioned for the police department, such as scaling back the number of patrol vehicles and having officers pay their own cell phone bills, “small potatoes,” saying that the only cuts that would have a significant impact would be reducing the size of the police and fire forces. He drew a comparison using the city of Oneida, which he says has a similar population, but only about 24 officers each in its police and fire departments, compared to Fulton’s 35.

Aldasch repeatedly asked the council to table its vote on the budget until it could do some research on how Oneida manages its expenses.

“I’m asking you to table this budget… Take some time and take a field trip to Oneida… Go to our ‘sister city’ and see what they’re doing differently that you’re not doing here, because the ‘same old same old’ isn’t cutting it,” Aldasch said.

Aldasch continued: “You know the 800-pound gorilla is there and you won’t look at it. You won’t look it in the eye and address the issue. I understand that there’s contracts coming up, contract negotiations you have to negotiate in good faith. Look at Oneida. That’s your comparable… they’re doing it with half. They’re not in this position.

“It’s no offense to firemen or policemen. I appreciate everything they do and I’m thankful for them. But I’m saying that if another city can do it, (Fulton can)… You have to make the tough decision, you have to do more. I’m asking you on behalf of the taxpayers. Be a hero. Fall on the sword if you have to, that’s your job.”

After about 22 minutes of Aldasch’s comments, in which he called the council and mayor “a bunch of wimps” for not making more public safety cuts, Woodward accused him of belaboring the issue for a political gain, insinuating Aldasch has intentions to run for mayor. Woodward said tabling the budget that night would be impractical, and that Aldasch is “bright enough to know that we’re not going to settle a contract before Dec. 31.”

Aldasch denied the accusation, and reiterated his desire to leave Fulton if he were able to sell his house.

“I want to move! I don’t want to stay here!,” he shouted, before saying that the council and mayor aren’t looking out for the interest of the public.

The escalation was abruptly stopped by Merlino, who yelled from the back of the room “as a member of the public, I implore the council to take the vote tonight.”

The need to confront public safety spending was a constant refrain among other speakers, too. Attorney Salvatore Lanza questioned the need for 35 firefighters and 35 police officers in a city Fulton’s size.

Attorney Salvatore Lanza addresses councilors on the 2015 spending plan Tuesday. Colin Hogan photo
Attorney Salvatore Lanza addresses councilors on the 2015 spending plan Tuesday.
Colin Hogan photo

“I think we could get by in Fulton with 24 or 25 police officers,” Lanza said. “Eight officers a shift. Two police cars on the east side, two cars on the west side — there’s four. During the day you’re going to need an investigator and maybe a deputy investigator, they’re working on cases to solve them — there’s six. Certainly they’re downstairs next to that window. There doesn’t have to be a police officer at the window… Most police departments you call 911 and they say ‘the officer will meet you at the police department.'”

Woodward later noted that a staff of 24 officers with eight on per shift, three shifts per day, doesn’t take into account weekend, vacation or sick day coverage.

Oswego County Legislator and Fulton resident Frank Castiglia Jr. asked the council to consider closing the west side fire station and selling to building to get it back on the tax rolls. It was later pointed out that the station is the only one with a big enough bay to house Engine No. 1. That door was custom fit after the manufacturer mistakenly made the truck larger than the city had requested. The modifications to the door were done at the company’s expense, Woodward noted.

Castiglia also suggested small cuts in other departments, but ultimately praised the city for keeping taxes level and for making tough decisions in drafting the spending plan.

“Whenever you have a zero percent tax increase, it’s a good budget,” Castiglia said.

The council unanimously adopted the budget immediately after the public hearing was concluded.

State St. UMC holding Christmas Bazaar

11-29 StateStUMC LN

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Street United Methodist Church will be holding its Christmas Bazaar and Auction, along with a cafe lunch on Saturday, Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a live auction at 2 p.m. One of the items featured in the auction will be this quilt that was sewn at Robin’s Nest Quilt Shop by participants in the Oswego Industries life program. The quilt was originally made and raffled off to benefit Friends of Fulton Parks. The winner, Ann King, gave it to her friend Janet Sellars, who then donated it to State Street church for its auction. The church is located at 357 State St., Fulton.

Photo provided

CNY Arts Center celebrates new CCC location, partnership

By Colin Hogan

Following months of anticipation and preparation, the CNY Arts Center Friday formally celebrated the opening of its new location within Cayuga Community College’s Fulton campus.

Representatives from both organizations gathered for ribbon cutting at the campus Friday morning to officially commemorate the new partnership, which leaders from both sides say will be mutually beneficial.

12-3 ArtsCenterRibbonCutting AE

“The exciting thing about this is that we’ve entered into a partnership for collaboration,” said CNY Arts Center Director Nancy Fox. “Their space, for us, is an expansion from our current space, and will help us offer more to our artists. And we bring the accoutrements of theater and galleries and all that we do, so hopefully that can enhance opportunities for their students, too.”

Fox said having the arts center on campus will help CCC achieve one of it’s own goals: “to bring the community to the college.”

“This will be another reason for people who might not normally visit the college to go and see all they have to offer,” Fox said. “(The college) made a determination that they wanted to really bring in the community aspect, and that’s our promise to them — to bring the community to the college. Our hope is that the people who have been patronizing the arts center will also get involved with the college.”

Other key things Fox said the center gains from the new partnership are a more visible spot in the community, better access to its facilities and parking for visitors.

While the arts center remains grateful for its last space, which was provided by the State Street United Methodist Church in Fulton, Fox said the new facilities provide an environment that will help both accommodate, and recruit, more artists.

“Our last space was wonderful, and we were very grateful to have it,” Fox said. “They (the church) really gave us a chance to grow, but with all we’ve been able to do, we started to outgrow that space. And State Street (UMC) is such an icon in the community and doing big things, so they really needed the space back, too.”

The first CNY Arts Center endeavor to debut in the new facilities will be its upcoming Kids Onstage production of “Wizard of Oz,” which Fox said is one of the bigger events the organization coordinates each year.

“Kids Onstage is our biggest program,” Fox said. “We have 35 kids in the production for the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ which is huge, and everyone’s excited about this new opportunity.”

Following that show, which runs the weekend of Dec. 12, the center will begin working on its spring program. Fox said the center has lots of interesting endeavors on tap for early 2015, which include cabarets, open mic nights, the family-oriented “Snow Day” event, classes and galley exhibits.

“We’re going to be able to both do more programs, and improve the programs we have been doing,” Fox said. “The new location will enable us to accommodate some programs that just didn’t work out at the previous space. There’s just tremendous potential in all of this.”

In addition to the gallery space at the CCC location, CNY Arts Center will continue operating its Arts in the HeArt Gallery in downtown Fulton.

To keep up on what’s happening at both locations, Fox said people should regularly visit the center’s website, www.cnyartscenter.com.

“We’re unique in that we are a multi-arts organization — writing, visual, performances — so to really keep track of what we have going on in all of those different aspects, people can go to the website, which we are going to try to keep up-to-date with everything we’re doing,” Fox said.

DOT: Broadway Bridge work to be complete by end of September

DSCN0305

The rehabilitation of the Broadway Bridge in Fulton should be wrapping up by the end of September, according to the state Department of Transportation

The estimated $12.2 million project, which began a little more than two years ago, was originally expected to be finished by the end of 2013. Transportation department officials say once it’s complete, the rehabilitated bridge, coupled with improvements made to the intersection of state routes 3 and 481 in 2012, will ensure an easy flow of traffic through the city for years to come.

On Friday, DOT spokesperson Gene Cilento said construction should be done by Sept. 30.

The project has entailed replacing the bridge’s entire super-structure, including the steel support beams and concrete deck. Significant repairs its sub-structure, such as the concrete piers and abutments, have also been made. Other parts of the project include the replacement of the short arch span on the bridge’s west side with a pre-cast box unit, new curbing and sidewalks, and a new decorative railing.

When the work is complete, the rehabilitated bridge will consist of two 12-foot travel lanes with two-foot shoulders in each direction, and six-foot-wide sidewalks on each side.

Work still to be done, as of Friday, included curbing and sidewalk installations on the south side of the bridge and the approaches; paving; painting road markings; the removal of the temporary walkways; setting and cleaning the drainage structures; and laying topsoil and grass seed on the embankments and roadside, Cilento said.

According to the DOT, the cost of the project remains mostly on-budget, totaling $12,273,371.

State Street UMC receives grant toward roof repair

8-20 StateStreetUMC

The State Street United Methodist Church in Fulton will be receiving some additional funds to help replace its roof and repair one of its bell towers thanks to the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

The conservancy announced last week that the church will be one of 22 across the state to receive the latest round of Sacred Sites Grants, which are awarded exclusively to historic religious properties.

 “Religious institutions anchor their communities,” Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy stated in a release on the grant. “They remind us of our history and provide vital social service and cultural programs today.”

The conservancy awarded State Street UMC the Robert W. Wilson Sacred Sites Challenge Grant of $35,000 to go toward the roof and towers project. This marks the second Sacred Sites Grant the church has received for the project, after being awarded another for $2,250 last spring.

The roof and tower project was born out of a three-year $250,000 capital campaign church officials launched around a year-and-a-half ago. In addition to the roof and towers, the campaign aims to raise funds for things like brick work and repairs to stained glass windows. Lately, though, church officials have found there is more urgency in getting the roof repaired.

“The one bell tower has rotten wood around the windows. It’s imperative that it be repaired. It doesn’t have to be replaced, only repaired. The roof is bad, too. Shingles are being blow off in every wind that we have,” said Barbara Camic, who helps coordinate the campaign. “Last fall, we repaired some leaks for emergency reasons, but there’s still a lot to do.”

Church officials estimate the roof and tower project on its own will cost around $190,000. This week, contractors will be returning bids that will give a more certain figure, Camic said. Of the $190,000, she estimates $70,000 would have to go toward the bell tower. The goal, Camic says, is for the church to line up a contractor quickly and have that work completed by winter.

Raising the money to cover the roof and tower project remains an ongoing effort. The capital campaign kicked off as a private effort among the church and members of its congregation. Camic said parishioners have been making pledges and donations since it all started a year-and-a-half ago. In May, however, church officials went public with the campaign, asking local officials to help publicize the endeavor, and hosting fundraisers to benefit the roof fund.

“State Street has a long history here and has been a pivotal place in this community,” Camic said. “We feel an obligation to fight for this not just for us, but for the community itself.”

Completed in 1894, the church has served a number of roles to the community over the years, Camic said. It was the first to launch a soup kitchen, which has since been taken over by the Salvation Army. In 1918, when a devastating flu epidemic struck the area, leaving the hospitals overwhelmed, State Street UMC opened its doors and began offering beds.

So far, between contributions from the congregation, local fundraising efforts and grant funds, a little more than half of what is needed to get the roof repaired has been raised. But a lot more help is needed, Camic said.

Upcoming roof fund benefits include a hair cutting/bake sale event Thursday beginning at 3 p.m., and a barbecue chicken fundraiser on Sept. 7. beginning at noon. Both events will be held at the church, 357 State St., Fulton.

 

 

 

Family, friends holding benefit in honor of Dylan Blair

8-9 DylanBlair

Dylan Blair lost his life in a car accident on June 17, 2014. A fundraiser is planned in hopes of offsetting some of the family’s funeral expenses. There will be a chicken BBQ for a cost of $10 per dinner. The even will be held from 12 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 7 at the Fulton Polish Home. There will also be raffles and a bake sale. Live entertainment will be provided by solo artist Tiger Vickery, Mike MacDonald and DJ Jason Hansmore of CNY Fusion. Chicken dinners will be provided by Fricken Chicken and Dennis Mayo. Pre-sale tickets are available at the Fulton Polish Home.

Fulton council clears way for lake dredging project

dredging

Accompanied by a round of applause from local residents last week, the Fulton City Council and Mayor Ron Woodward cleared the way to move forward with the Lake Neahtahwanta Revitalization Project.

The council passed a motion in its regular meeting Tuesday Aug. 5 authorizing the mayor to sign all documents pertaining the bids on dredging the lake, which were to be opened the following Friday.

The 750-acre lake is one of many in the region under swimming and other recreational restrictions due to a high presence of blue-green algae. Officials say between eight and 12 feet of silt have built up in the lake’s basin over the years, blocking the flow of cold freshwater from the springs that feed it and leaving the water stagnate.

By dredging the silt, officials say they can restore the water’s flow rate and temperature to a level that would mitigate the algae’s growth.

Fulton has received $100,000 in state grant funding to advance the project. Unlike Granby, which is commissioning its own dredging barge and doing the work itself, Fulton plans to contract the work out, at least in the short term. Woodward previously said that if the city doesn’t get the ball rolling on the project soon, it runs the risk of losing that money.

Officials had to hold off on moving the project forward during the early part of the summer, as the state will only allow dredging after July 15, which is considered the end of fish spawning season.

Woodward said once the project has been started by professionals, the city will look into having its own dredging barge built so it could potentially take over the work.

When blue-green algae blooms, it releases toxins into the air – known as cynotoxins – which pose a threat to people, pets and wildlife. Last month, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed a strong presence of the algae in the lake. However, at that time, the toxin level was below what is considered a serious health threat.

The city has already received the necessary permit from state regulators to do the project. The permit allows for dredging to take place over the next 10 years.

Thirteen bids were put out for the project. They were to be received that Friday evening. Woodward said no bids would be awarded though until early this week.

Upon reading the motion, around a half-dozen residents in attendance burst into applause showing support for the endeavor.

 

 

Debra A. Scherer, supervisor at Syracuse Plastics, Oneida Plastics

Debra “Deb” A. Scherer, 52, of Granby, passed away surrounded by her loving family on Tuesday, July 29.

She had resided in the Fulton area most of her life. Deb worked as a supervisor at Syracuse Plastics in Fayetteville and Oneida Plastics in Phoenix.

She was a member of Oswego Alliance Church in Oswego and Harmony Riders Horseback Riding Club.

Deb was predeceased by her father, Charles Phillips.

Surviving are her husband, David Scherer of Granby; four children, Marie, Michelle, Michael and Melissa; her mother, Rosemary Phillips; siblings, John (Tammy), Cherie (John), Dolores, Charles and Dale; 14 grandchildren; several nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles.

Calling hours are from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1 at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay St., Fulton. Services will be 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2 at the funeral home with burial at Mt. Adnah Cemetery in Fulton.