Category Archives: Oswego News

Oswego city budget public hearing at 7 tonight (Dec. 23)

By Debra J. Groom

Oswego residents will get their last chance to comment about the proposed city budget at tonight’s public hearing.

The hearing is at 7 p.m. in the Common Council chambers at City Hall. The council may vote to adopt a budget after the hearing, or, if more changes need to be made, could meet later in the week to adopt a budget.

So far, the council have whittled the budget down about $4 million, which has knocked about $4 a $1,000 off the proposed tax rate increase.

“They have taken my budget and edited it,” Mayor Thomas Gillen said. “They were pretty strong with the red pencil.”

With Gillen’s preliminary budget, taxes were set to increase 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.

But cuts have been made.

Gillen said some jobs that are vacant will not be filled. Fifteen positions are being cut in the Department of Public Works. Three people are being laid off in code enforcement. The city also is looking at unpaid two-week furloughs for city workers.

To date, the tax rate has been cut from $18.25 per $1,000 to $14.39 per $1,000.

Gillen said he isn’t happy with the layoffs.

“People are unhappy with the tax increase. I understand that,” he said. “But I think their anger may be clouding the decision making process.”

Common Council President Ron Kaplewicz, R-7th ward, said this is going to be a tough year to get through a budget.

“The options are: raise taxes, cut people or cut programs and services,” he said. “We’re looking at what we need to do for 2014. This is like tough love. We’re just beginning to take a hard look at how we do business.”

Some of the primary problems affecting the budget:

** A loss of assessed value in the city of about $50 million. When the city loses assessed value, other taxpayers have to make up that money to keep the services and programs going.

** An addition of about $400,000 for health insurance changes due to the federal Affordable Health Care Act.

** $300 million in city property that is not on the tax rolls. Kaplewicz said some of these properties, such as the hospital and the YMCA, obtain services from the city but do not pay taxes.

Gillen is worried cutting the Department of Public Works will leave the department short if the city is hit with a huge snow storm. He said people who have come to Oswego from other places “marvel at the way we remove snow” and he wonders if there will be enough people to keep snow off the roads if people are laid off.

There are 81 budgeted positions in DPW, but three positions are vacant so there are 78 employees right now.

Kaplewicz said part of the city’s problem is it didn’t raise taxes for so long that now, it has to have a huge tax hike to keep up with increasing costs. He said for 15 years, “tax increases were almost negligible.”

“I believe that was a mistake,” he said.

Another chance to learn about Oswego County’s muck farms Jan. 6

The Oswego County Farm Bureau will be hosting a series of Coffeecake Meetings on the first Monday of the winter months at 1 p.m. at the Mexico branch of the Oswego County Federal Credit Union on Route 3 (5828 Scenic Avenue).

The first will take place at 1 p.m. Jan. 6 with special guest speaker, Jim Farfaglia, author of “Of the Earth — Stories from Oswego County Muck Farms.”

Farfaglia also has agreed to do a book signing and will have books available for purchase.

These meetings are free and will be open to the public as well as Farm Bureau members. As the name implies, light refreshments will be served.

Future meeting speakers will include Josh Hornesky, a resource conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Host families needed for foreign exchange program

The Greenheart of Cultural Exchange, a locally-run organization which promotes cultural understanding, academic development, environmental consciousness and world peace, is in need of good host families for students in January.

LindaJo Germain is the director of the program. Germain also is looking to expand the number schools which host foreign exchange students as well. For more information, contact Germain at 561-1068.

25 years later, campus remembers 2 SUNY Oswego lives lost in Pan Am 103 bombing

By Debra J. Groom

It began like any other winter’s night in Oswego.

Brisk air, snow, shoppers rushing around trying to finish their Christmas preparations. Most students had left the SUNY Oswego campus for their vacations at home.

Some locals may have been heading to Syracuse as the S.U. Orangemen were playing Western Michigan in a home basketball game that night in the Carrier Dome. Others may have been attending holiday parties.

Then came the horrifying news. A terrorist bomb had blown up a plane over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 on Pan Am Flight 103 were lost.

It was Dec. 21, 1988 – 25 years ago today.

As bits and pieces of information trickled in that night, the news became more and more grim for Central New York’s collegiate community.

On that plane were two SUNY Oswego students returning home from their semester studying in London. Lynne Hartunian, from Niskayuna, who was set to graduate in 1989, and Colleen Brunner, of Hamburg, on course to graduate in 1990, were both communications majors. Reports state the friends had stayed in England after classes ended to visit some other countries. They were sitting together — Lynne in seat 44D and Colleen in seat 44C – as they ventured home on Pan Am 103.

The Boeing jet, called the Clipper Maid of the Seas, also carried a Colgate University student and 35 Syracuse University students returning home from their semesters abroad.

Like the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 terrorist attacks, most everyone who was in Central New York Dec. 21, 1988 remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news about Pan Am 103.

One is Fritz Messere, who was chair of the communications studies department at SUNY Oswego.

“When I first heard the news, I called the International Studies office,” he remembered this week. “I talked to Jose Perez, the director of International Studies. I said we know there were Central New York students on that plane. Were any of them ours?”

“I was hoping to hear the answer ‘no,’” he said.

Then the SUNY Oswego community found out the bad news.

“They were both liked very well. I remember one professor, Professor David Glick, called me in great distress. We were all terribly saddened.”

“I wrote notes to the families immediately,” Messere said. “And then we all wondered ‘what do we tell the students when they return to campus?’”

Betsy Oberst today is associate vice president for alumni relations and stewardship at SUNY Oswego. Twenty-five years ago, she also was working in the alumni office. She said at first, it was difficult to tell if any SUNY Oswego students were on Pan Am 103.

“We had 12 to 13 students studying in London that semester and they all came home on different flights,” she said. “It was devastating to learn we had lost two students.”

With few students still left on campus, the immediate impact with students was slight. She said unlike today with email, text messaging and Twitter, news did not travel as quickly from person to person.

And while Central New York was immersed in the tragedy because of the deaths of the SU, Colgate and SUNY Oswego students and a married couple from Clay, Oberst said it was possible for students who lived farther away to not even realize SUNY Oswego students were killed in the attack.

“Some may not have found out until they returned to campus in January,” she said. A memorial service for Brunner and Hartunian was held in Hall Newman Center after the new semester began.

“I remember so many people showed up that kids were standing in the parking lot unable to get in,” Oberst said. “The campus TV station videotaped it so they could watch.”

Both Oberst and Messere said Brunner and Hartunian were well liked on campus and involved in many activities. According to written reports, they both were members of Alpha Sigma Chi sorority on campus, a sorority devoted to helping others.

Brunner and Hartunian are remembered with a memorial in Penfield Library, complete with photos and a recounting of their time at SUNY Oswego, Messere said. Oberst said they also are remembered through the Alumni Association. In fact in 2014, the Class of 1989 – Hartunian’s class – will have a special ceremony remembering her during their 25th year reunion.

The Alumni Association also is still is touch with their families, Oberst said.

“It is definitely an event that had a tremendous impact on Central New York,” Messere said. “It was a terrible day.”

 

 

 

Step One PeeWees lose 1, win 1 in recent action

The Step One Creative Peewee independent hockey team continued its strong play recently against Thousand Islands and the Rochester Grizzlies.

Step One Creative lost 2-1 at the Alexandria Bay Ice Rink against Thousand Islands, and then captured an exciting 2-0 win at home against Rochester.

Step One is 10-3-2 on the season.

Thousand Islands 2 Step One Creative 1

In a great hockey game at both ends of the ice, Thousand Islands came out on top 2-1, holding off a late rally from the Oswego team.

Thousand Islands held a 2-0 lead into the third period before Step One Creative forward Derek Morgia took a pass from Ryan Moshier and navigated full ice through the Pirate defense to pick up the lone goal.

Step One Creative goalie Tyler Wallace had 20 saves in the close contest.

Step One Creative Peewees 2 Rochester Grizzlies 0

The following day on home ice at Cullinan Ice Rink, Step One Creative squared off against the Rochester Grizzlies, in what would turn out to be another close and hard fought game.

Step One Creative and Rochester would combine for 15 penalties in the contest, with both teams having multiple two-man advantage opportunities in the game.

After both teams battled through a scoreless first and second period, Step One Creative forward Spencer Stepien scored what would be the eventual game winner off a feed from Brandon Graham.

After a scramble in front of the Rochester net minder, Stepien scored on a backhand to make it 1-0.

The Bucs would add another goal with just seconds remaining in the game, when defenseman Dylan Reitz scored on an empty netter from nearly full ice to secure the win. Rochester had pulled their goalie and had a 6-on-3 advantage just before Step One put the game away.

Wallace had 13 saves in the win, and Step One had 28 shots on net.

“These were two outstanding hockey games for our team,” said Step One Creative Assistant Coach Bill Cahill. “We matched up very well with both opponents.”

“After losing a tough one to Thousand Islands, our kids came out and battled at home against Rochester, and took advantage of some opportunities in third period to get the win,” he added.

The Step One Creative Peewee coaching staff includes: Head Coach Dave Morgia, and Assistants Bill Cahill, Bob Graham and Rob Raby.

Game results and schedule are available online at www.eteamz.com/peeweebucs.

County legislators adopt budget for 2014

By Debra J. Groom

The Oswego County Legislature adopted the 2014 county budget Thursday night by a vote of 17 to 8.

Three Republican legislators joined the five Democrats in voting against the spending plan.

Those voting ‘no’ were Michael Kunzwiler, Amy Tresidder and Jacob Mulcahey, Democrats from Oswego; Douglas Malone, D-Oswego Town; Daniel Farfaglia, D-Fulton; Margaret Kastler, R-Lacona; Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski; and Daniel Chalifoux, R-Minetto.

The legislature also approved amendments totaling about $177,000 before adopting the final budget. The final budget totals about $197 million.

The tax levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — increased $17,894 with the amendments. The tax rate will be $7.19 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared to $7.10 per $1,000 in 2013.

One of the items included in the budget amendments was the new contract between the county and the Oswego County Deputies’ Association.

The contract added about $124,000 to the budget. The deputies’ contract covers 62 full time and 23 part time deputies.

The legislature approved the contract  retroactive to 2012. It covers years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Deputies received no raises for 2012, 2 percent increase for 2013 and 2 percent increase for 2014. The old contract expired Dec. 31, 2011.

During discussion on the budget prior to the vote, Malone tried to get an amendment to the budget passed to not fill any positions currently open. But the measure failed, with only Malone, Kunzwiler and Farfaglia supporting it.

Kunzwiler, who is the minority leader, said he was going to oppose the budget because he doesn’t believe there was enough input from the Democrats in putting together a final budget. He also chastised the way the budget is written as a whole.

“I hope we can start (on the next budget) on Jan. 1,” he said. “We should do a study from day one. I have grave concerns on our reserves and where we’re going in the future. I think a lot more could be done when it comes to dialog.”

The new budget also includes $26,000 for a pilot project brought to them by District Attorney Gregory Oakes. Oakes proposed spending the money to hire an outside lawyer to handle all of the county’s appeals of felony convictions.

He told the legislators currently, one of the assistant district attorneys in the county DA’s office handles the appeals.

Oakes said if this lawyer instead spends all her time on prosecuting felony cases in county court, cases will be able to move through the system at a quicker pace, alleviating the amount of time defendants are spending in the county jail.

Oakes said this could lead to fewer people in the county jail at any one time.

Sheriff Reuel Todd has had problems for the last two years with overcrowding and has had to send inmates to other jails at $90 a day per inmates and transportation and overtime charges for the deputies taking the inmates to other jails. One year, this amounted to about $1 million.

Oakes said he wants to try the program this year and if it doesn’t save money, it will not be renewed for next year. Legislators approved the request.