Category Archives: Valley Viewpoints

Valley Viewpoints: Oswego orphanage

by Frank Fisher, Florida

Regarding the story in The Valley News, Dec. 13, 2012 headlined “State Residents should have access to records,” refers to government records. Access to minutes is also discussed; it is unclear whether the minutes of meetings refer only to government meetings.

The story also refers to a program for the Centennial Celebration of the Children’s Home. Was there a program? I only have heard about the visitors’ log.

Mr. Robert Freeman doesn’t address the issue of access when neither organization (holder of the records and creator of the records) were ever owned by the government, or when the records are more than 150 years old.

The story assumes government ownership. The Oswego Orphan Asylum was the original name of the Oswego Children’s Home. It incorporated as a non-profit business in 1851. It was never owned by Oswego County or any government body. My understanding is that the Oswego Historical Society is also a non-profit business.

My letter to Oswego legislators was discussed in the story Oct. 6, 2012. All my information about the records is what I have been told. I have never seen them.

The original request to the historical society was for a copy of the information contained in the ledgers for the years 1951 – 1956; the years I was in the home, but the historical society reported it does not have that ledger or ledgers and their ledgers end at 1945. The location of the ledger(s) for the years 1946 through 1956 is unknown. If it is found, I would like access to it. Later, I learned the historical society also has a visitors log, which includes the Centennial celebration.

My requests with justification arguments for release of the information were made. The two outstanding requests are for:

1.) A copy of the names and information contained in the ledgers for the month of February 1851.

2.) A copy of the names and information in the visitors’ log for the day or days of the Centennial celebration.

Remember the children

As a parent who has suffered the loss of a child, I truly cannot say I know what the parents of the Newtown children that lost their lives are going through.

How horrific to have your child ripped away from you by someone that only public opinion will probably give you a definition of.

Where does a child look for protection? It is not them who have created this world that we live in. How are we going to protect them now? What are we going to do to protect them?

Pretty big question when you think about it; what is going to keep our children safe when they are not with us, their guardians?

I can hear it now, everybody’s opinions on what they are going to do about it, with no avail. This time of despair for the people involved with the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy has opened everyones eyes, whether it be to the point of fighting back tears every time it is on the news, or just in passing conversation.

I feel that if you have an opinion, please voice it; it may be the only way to save our children now and in the future. This problem needs to be rectified so that parents and children can feel safe.

Take time to remember Jesus Christ, who died for all of us (Luke 22:19b), and take time to remember all of the precious little souls that will never be forgotten and will forever be in our hearts and in our Father’s house (John 14:1-4).

Only through faith we can all find some kind of peace.

Linda Parkhurst

Valley Viewpoints: CROP Walk report

by Lois Mirabito, Fulton CROP Committee chairperson

The Fulton CROP Hunger Walk for Church World Service was held Oct. 14 and had 99 walkers.

They walked either the Golden Mile or 5 kilometer routes and raised over $8,300 for their efforts.

The Greater Fulton Area Council of Christian Churches wishes to thank the Fulton community  for their support, especially during these difficult economic times.

Many people and organizations helped in making our walk a safe and successful event.

The organizational committee, the churches, the crossing guards, police department, Oswego County Ambulance (Mentor’s), service clubs who donated toward the incentives and businesses with gift cards toward refreshments all pitched in and helped to make our walk  meaningful and productive.

Even the weather cooperated as the rain clouds cleared by noon and all walked in dry weather!

Twenty-five percent of the monies raised will return to  the greater Fulton area to support SNAP (Senior Nutritional Assistance Program) and four food pantries including the Oswego County Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, Believer’s Chapel and Dexterville Community Services food pantries.

We look forward to next year’s walk Oct. 6!

Valley Viewpoints: YMCA and seniors

by Chris Iven, Fulton YMCA

RSVP and the Fulton YMCA share a common goal: to strengthen our community.

That’s why we’ve been so grateful to work with members of RSVP over the years. We know that by helping seniors stay healthy, we’re strengthening the backbone of our community.

To solidify our partnership and to help more seniors, we invite you, your friends, and every RSVP member to become members of the Fulton Family YMCA.

Many people don’t realize that the Y has so many programs dedicated to the health and well-being of seniors. We have aqua aerobics and water walking in our warm pool.

We have Silver Sneakers, chair yoga and regular yoga in our activity room. We have friendly staff eager to help you get the most out our fitness center and gym.

All of our programs, including our free monthly senior social, are designed to connect you with a supportive community — friends who will help you stay strong.

Your membership fee, in turn, will help the Y stay strong. The price is a worthwhile investment in yourself and your community, and here’s some more good news.

Chances are fair that your insurance carrier will cover the cost of your membership! And if not, you may still qualify for a reduced-price membership based on your income. At the Y, everyone is welcome, no matter their financial situation.

Valley Viewpoints: Fulton zoning board

by Vincent T. LaQuire, Fulton

I attended a Fulton zoning board meeting Dec. 13 in city hall. I left baffled at the board’s ruling.

It was a two-to two-tie or plainly stated, a bust, for Tom Tetro in his attempt to make improvements to Fulton — not only by keeping another house in the city to fall into ruin but by actually paying $3,500 in back taxes due with his purchase. A shame it failed!

Tom stated that he intended to make improvements including a new roof — along with other improvements if the city would allow a variance in the zoning to allow a two family house, which he was one month late in applying for.

I have lived next to this house for 40 years and in the last two it has been unoccupied and has fallen into disrepair.

It is like the city-owned house up the street at 118 Division St.

It is starting to collapse after 12 years of no one living there but the rats, squirrels, pigeons, and occasion drug party and copper thieves.

I applaud the two board members that voted to have 112 Division St. back on the tax roles and improved, especially the kind lady sitting on the board who asked for further review and another vote once the original vote failed.

I also wish to acknowledge my respect for the  other two members who were adamant on following the code for the district — even though I disagreed with their decision.

I can only hope the common council will now see fit to alter the zoning board’s decision, and redistrict the first block of Division Street as R1 as Huhtamaki is no longer is interested in moving south.

The city needs all the properties it can get to help defray the costs of keeping it running.

I would imagine if the board had passed this that two families looking for housing would have a great place to call home, as Tom Tetro is a landlord that keeps his properties up and keeps his tenants appropriately monitored.

My wife and I have personally seen Tom at his properties almost on a daily basis. I respect Tom and wish the board had given him a chance to keep another house on Division Street from becoming another rat-hole in Fulton.

I would imagine that the taxes he was willing to pay would have covered the city’s cost of removing the other eyesore at 118.

It was a win-win for the city: back taxes paid, future taxes paid, and city residents having a new HUD home.

Alas, if the rules are not changed, drive by 112 Division St. and watch decay in action. How long before the snow will break its back?

Valley Viewpoints: Safety of children

by Gregg Heffner, Commissioner Oswego County DSS

This letter is in response to the “Dollars and Sense” submission by Marilyn Nye in the Dec. 12, 2012 edition of The Valley News.

As the commissioner of Oswego County Department of Social Services and the past director of services for the department, I have worked hard to bring focus and efficiencies to the contracted services offered to children and families in our community.

We focus specifically on the safety of children while maintaining commitment to positive outcomes and stabilization of the biological family as a critical part of the work we do at the department.  Our goal is, and will continue to be, keeping children at home with their families while supporting the family members in achieving their personal goals and those goals identified by the department and Family Court as essential to preservation of this family unit.

As Ms. Nye states, the Youth Advocate Program is one of the contracts in our services structure. There are many more.

YAP has done a fine job for the department and has worked with Oswego County families for many years successfully. But, they are not the only service we offer and they are not the only service of this kind.

We have at least four other contracts providing similar services with several contracts working at a greater level of intensity with families in crisis. We have multiple contracts due to the volume of families we serve and the diverse needs of those families.

It is important to note that contracted services in Oswego County work as a supplement to the work done by Oswego County caseworkers. It is our county caseworkers that lead the charge in helping keep children safe and families stable. There would be no services structure without them.

The Oswego County Legislature has been steadfast in its commitment to control the tax levy for county residents. That has been true since my arrival at the county and is represented in the work I have done with the legislature on the 2011, 2012, and 2013 budgets.

As a department head, I have been charged with holding the line on spending at the Department of Social Services in order to achieve the goals of the legislature, while maintaining services that are appropriate to the needs of the families we serve.

I assembled my management team this year to determine if and where cuts could be made to maintain the tax levy at 2012 rates. In our review of contracted services, it was apparent that some services were under-utilized with the department paying for empty slots.

Reducing those contracts was the easiest part of this assignment.  The process also required management at DSS to re-visit the mission of the department, making sure our service structure matched the mission without expanding it beyond the needs of the community.

In some contracts, we were providing services not required by Child Welfare regulations (Social Services Law) at partial expense to the county tax payer.  We carefully considered the need for those services and the consequences should the service be reduced or modified.

We have always considered the safety of children in this process as has the legislature.  An important note is that the department did not “cut” programs as Ms. Nye suggests. We did reduce contracts and, in several cases, eliminated contracts, while bringing the services back into the department. What this means is our caseworkers will be doing the work that was contracted to community providers at a reduced cost to the taxpayer.

Those services funded through the department who are able to bill Medicaid were eliminated — although we will continue to refer individuals and families to them to ensure their financial viability.

Ms. Nye indicates in her letter that the cuts were immediate. In fact, they were not immediate.  Contracts that were reduced or eliminated were continued at their current funding levels through the end of 2012. We needed this time for the transitioning of staff in that program, but more importantly to assist families in completing service or being transitioned to another provider.

Those programs needing to lay off staff are being offered employment related services through the Department’s One Stop Center in Fulton.

Core services will continue to be provided to children and families in need in our county. Specialty services such as mental health and chemical dependency treatments will be referred to in county providers who have the ability to bill Medicaid, Medicare, or other commercial insurance providers.

Collaboration of effort will be the focus for future contracts with our area agencies, but duplication and layering of services is not a reasonable option moving forward.

State and federal dollars to the counties are dropping. The future of block grants that cover areas such as preventive and protective services, foster care, and child care are uncertain. A shifting of a larger part of the financial burden for services and assistance programming to the counties has been occurring over the last few years.

Unemployment in Oswego County increases the likelihood that more of our residents will qualify for cash assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid.

This creates a tremendous burden for county residents with the legislature maintaining a commitment to not shift this burden to the taxpayers. The county’s primary strategy for holding the tax levy is to hold and possibly reduce the county’s overall operating budget.

The Department of Social Services is just one of the county’s departments that made cuts for 2013. Other Departments shared in that burden.

The landscape for social services is changing, politically and financially. Services will continue to be restructured at DSS with a focus on engagement, efficiencies in operation, productivity, and a clear commitment to outcomes.

Agencies in our community will need to bring their “A” game to the table to ensure that families will partner, participate, and benefit from the services provided. They will need to be creative and flexible in their implementation of services to ensure that families will get a return on their investment as well as Oswego County.

These are indeed difficult times. But, there can be a productive marriage between best practice and cost effectiveness, while providing significant benefits to families. I will continue to be committed to this strategy.

Valley Viewpoints: Budget cuts

by Frank Castiglia, Fulton

It’s the second week in the month of December and it’s time to see “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

And yes, the honorable mayor of Fulton is telling us doom and gloom about the city budget.

Every year for at least the past four years, he has said almost the same thing. He is struggling with the budget and doesn’t know how he is going to do it without raising taxes. He says how the city is down to the bear bones with budget cuts. Then he comes up with a plan that is lower than the one he projected and everyone thinks he has done a wonderful job.

Well, just like all those movies that I mentioned, they are fairy tales and so is his story. Yet, we hear it every year and do nothing about it.

I’m going to now explain how the budget could be reduced and save the city money without reducing the workforce.

I’m going to try two forms of learning: Rote Learning, which is learning through repetition, and Hypnopaedia Learning, which is process of learning while asleep.

I haven’t had a chance to see the proposed budget yet. It won’t be out until the week of the budget meeting, but it should have a reduction in police cars (two police officers per car) cutting the fuel costs 1/2 and maintaining 1/2 as many cars.

Maybe the budget will include cell phone costs and have over $900,000 dollars of overtime. Reduce the number of workers on the yard waste crew (use them elsewhere); the waste is in the idling of a dump truck for up to six hours with a driver inside.

Let’s see how much we can save: cell phones, $10,600; fuel for police cars, $25,000; and maintenance of cars, $10,000. That’s $45,000 — and we could save more gas if we didn’t drive the four-wheel drive SUV all year round.

What about the yard waste crew? We can save $12,000 by having a three-man crew, $1,400 in fuel savings and $56,000 if the city cuts overtime for nonpublic safety personnel by 20 percent,  and   $130,000 in public safety personnel overtime costs.

If you add up these savings you come up with $244,400 — just what he says his budget gap is. Surprise, surprise.

Now everyone knows that the sale of the Birds- Eye plant is almost a done deal and when you add in the taxes and revenues from that and the income from the sewage treatment, again the gap is bridged.

Also, the fact that we are going to gain the income from not having to pay taxes on the waste treatment plant or least get a refund from Granby, again the gap will be made up. Surprise, surprise.

Now how do we raise money if we don’t make these cuts or these cuts have already been made and there is still a gap you will ask. Well, here is a big one.

We have the same problem we have had for at least 10 years now. That is 15 percent of the population cost us almost 90 percent of our public safety budget.

We have 680 rental properties that currently have rental permits in the city of Fulton (that doesn’t include the Towers, Mills, or Pathfinder Court. Now a rental permit cost $30 per unit for five years. That means it cost a landlord up to an avg. $25 a year (that is if they have multi-family houses). So a owner of one of these rental units makes a gross income of around $9,600 (two-family unit), $14,400 (three-family unit)$24,000 (multi-family), if you add all the rental properties up in the city of  Fulton you will come up with around $272,000 a month or $3,264,000 a year That is 1/5 of the city’s budget.

Now about 75 percent of that money is public assistance money. What I am suggesting is that we charge $500 for a rental permit for two year that would bring $340,000 of income into the city every two years. It could be more if the city charges extra for each unit over two that is in each building; say $100 extra with a max of $500 extra. That would bring in about another $36,000.

Like I said. almost 75 percent of the income the landlords get is taxpayer money and we should be able to get some of it back to help pay or bills.

This will not go over real big with the landlords of this city but it’s time we stop having to pay while they make money. This added revenue would again close the budget gap and then some. Surprise, surprise.

I said I would use two methods of getting my point across. Well I have repeated most of these to the common council for almost three years so through Rote learning I hope to have this sink in.

The other is Hypnopaedia learning —  this is because most of the times when I start talking at the common council meeting some of them fall asleep. Either way, I hope this gets someone other than the DPW, police, fire and landlords’ attention.

Last of all: To the fine person that wrote me a nice letter last month, I wish you would sign it next time so I can add you to my Christmas card list. I always sign my letters I put in the paper.

Also, please take a course in reading and listening comprehension. I never have said the city works jobs are easy; I only have said in order to save their jobs, we should use them wiser. Also, I love Fulton or I wouldn’t want to save it.

Valley Viewpoints: Who took Christ out of Xmas?

by Al D. Squitieri Sr., Fulton

It’s the same story every year. Long before Thanksgiving, we are hit with commercials every few minutes.

We watch. We listen. We buy. Surrendering to commercialism. With passiveness and indifference, we allow the true story of Christmas to deteriorate into commercialism. Like Mark Twain’s weather, everyone complains about it, but no one does anything about it. Merchants are advertising their Xmas sales on TV and local papers, and have even been bullied into using the secular term “Holiday Tree.”

I have often seen church marquees with that evil spelling of Xmas. Shame on you Pastor, that’s the enemy’s plan — Lucifer the fallen angel is attempting to take the glory from the one for whom it was named. It’s more than a matter of semantics. It’s an impossible attempt to remove the spirit of Christ from His Holiday.

Schools have their Xmas parties and plays, all depicting Santa Claus and Rudolph, but even that will come under fire, but Jesus has already been removed. In most cases, not even a word to our children about the personage of Christmas. We have surrendered our kids to the red-suited, jolly old giver of gifts, who has become the patron saint of the holiday, known as Jolly ‘Ol Saint Nick, given the glory due the Son of God, given him all the attributes belonging to the true Savior. He knows all, sees all, flies unhindered, comes down fake chimneys and judges the naughty and nice.

We may have a “Xmas” program at church, and perhaps one at school, but it’s unlikely it will include a manger. Will your child bring home a picture of Christ? It is now considered illegal to worship or even mention the name of the personage of Christmas, for whom the holiday was created. Is it any wonder that our kids talk about their superheroes such as Spiderman, Batman and Pokémon. They can tell you more about how Superman saved the world than they can about the One who came to save those that are lost.

A babe in swaddling clothes — hardly the impact of a superhero costume. His contemporaries were expecting Him to come as a conquering hero to save them from the Roman yoke. He came to save mankind from more than the tyranny of an earthly kingdom and a greater form of bondage: Satan and his yoke of sin. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus came to give us freedom from sin’s hold, drugs, alcohol, perversion, fear and loneliness, which is prevalent this time of year, with the lonely seeing gloom instead of glitter. “Whom the Son sets free, he is free indeed” (John 8:36).

It is the ultimate offense to leave Christ out of Xmas. A violation that can only be undone by those who call ourselves Christians, which is was about 90 percent of the “religious” in this country.

Stop using this Christ-less spelling, while accepting a commercialized Christ-less celebration. Unlike Twain’s weather, we can do something about it. We can nurture the spirit of Christmas in our hearts by preventing the evil one and his followers from stealing mankind’s greatest day.

Stand up Christian and be counted. We’re being denied our Christian rights, replaced by those rights given to all other religions. In spite of what our President is telling the world, we are a nation born Christian, not Muslim, not atheist.

It was founded not on the Koran, but the Bible. Don’t listen to his reasoning about offending someone. It is you, the Christian who should be offended.

Put up your Christmas tree and don’t be afraid to say “Merry Christmas.”

Take a stand for Christianity, put Christ first, in your country, your life and your Christmas.