Category Archives: Other News

Marcy A. Leroux Craven

12-20 Craven OBMarcy A. Leroux Craven, 64, of Fulton and formerly of Middleburgh, Fla., departed this life unexpectedly on Saturday, Dec. 13. She was born May 19, 1950 in Tupper Lake, the daughter of the late Maynard and Iona Leroux. Marcy was a 1968 graduate of J.C.B. High School in Phoenix and had once been employed by Western Electric in Syracuse. In April 1970, she married Bruce Hall in Tupper Lake. While Bruce was in the Navy, she experienced military life as they traveled to Guam, where they were both champion archers, Tennessee, Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville, Fla., where she had worked at NAS Jacksonville Naval base for several years. Marcy will be remembered for her joy of cooking, passion for horses and NASCAR as well as out fishing her brother-in-law. Her family was very close and shared great love for one another. She will be missed and thought of every day for the remainder of their lives and she will always have a spot reserved at the table for card night. Marcy is survived by her sons, Scott and Kevin Hall; sisters, Callie (Bruce) Benware and Laurie Leroux; brother, Gary (Vicki) Leroux; granddaughter, Alyssa Hall; nieces, Stacy (Buster) Hall and Nicole (Jason) Mace; great-nieces and nephews, Montana Hall, Cameron Hall, Cayleb Hall, Curtis Mace and Morgane Mace. A service was heldThursday, December 18 at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay St., Fulton. There were no calling hours. Burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery will be private in the spring.

Years of reserves depletion lead to tough tax hike in Schroeppel

By Colin Hogan

Schroeppel residents are facing a steep hike in the town’s property taxes in 2015, which some town officials are saying is the consequence of years of balancing the budget with fund reserves.

The $2,437,528 spending plan for 2015 will rely on $961,510 in anticipated non-property tax revenues, with the remaining $1,476,018 to be raised from the town’s tax levy. In previous years, the town used its reserves to help offset the tax levy, but officials say this year there simply aren’t enough reserves left to use, leaving a heavier burden on the taxpayers.

According to Deputy Town Supervisor and town board member Steve Hutchins, prior administrations used up more than $1.7 million in reserves to balance the town’s budget over the last five years. Now, he says, without any reserves left, the taxpayers will have to shoulder the burden themselves.

“(Property owners) are going to see a tax bill in January they’re not going to like,” said Hutchins. “The past administration spent every penny of reserves to keep taxes level. Now that there’s no reserves, guess where taxes have to go? Up.”

Hutchins, who assumed office this year, said he is “appalled” by how previous town leaders continued to deplete the reserves without making necessary tax increases, leaving the tax rate “artificially low.” He said tax increases could have been nominal and much more manageable for the taxpayer if they had been done responsibly over time.

According to the budget, Schroeppel’s tax rates for 2015 will be $3.0688 per $1,000 of assessed value for properties within the Village of Phoenix and $5.1566 per $1,000 for properties outside of the village. Those represent a more-than-30 percent jump in rates compared to 2014, when they were $2.2543 and $3.8630, respectively.

The average property owner in Schroeppel could see his or her town taxes go up anywhere from $75 to $250 as a result of the rate change, Hutchins estimated. A home assessed at $100,000 would see roughly a $130 increase, he said.

Hutchins said, in spite of their need to use reserves, town officials had actually lowered tax rates in 2012 and 2013, leaving a larger gap to close in 2015.

While the impending tax increase will keep the town operating, it won’t solve its reserves problem. Hutchins said the new revenue will cover the basic costs of operating the town, but most likely won’t add to the reserves. New York state recommends municipalities maintain reserves equal to about 10 percent of their budget.

“The budget we passed is bare bones. It’s the cost of running the town,” Hutchins said. “Those are the costs of having a highway department that plows our roads, and to keep the lights on in the town hall, and to have things like a community services program. This is what we need to budget just to have those basic things.”

This year, the town hired a new comptroller, Robert Peters, who has helped with the budgeting process. Hutchins said, with Peters on board, he hopes the town will begin formulating a plan to begin adding to its reserve funds again.

“We hired a new comptroller who is very good at what he does,” Hutchins said. “We’ll be working with him over the next 12 months and, yes, we will determine a plan to put reserves back in the budget.”

The 2015 spending plan doesn’t come without cuts, either. Hutchins said more than $200,000 in services and programs were eliminated from next year’s budget. After the board held several meetings with department heads, Hutchins said some items they intended to fund next year — such as $25,000 for bathrooms in a park, a used crusher for the highway department estimated at another $25,000 and funds for additional personnel in the community services department — all had to get turned down.

While Hutchins knows the hike will be unpopular with residents, he said he and the rest of the board are willing to take “a political hit” for making the necessary adjustments.

“Realizing there was no fiscally responsible way the town could provide the minimum level of services and programs within the 2 percent cap (on tax levies, mandated by the state) and maintain current levels of vital services and programs expected by the community, taking a political hit for exceeding the 2 percent cap is the price this board is willing to take in the adoption of the 2015 budget,” Hutchins said.

Teens convicted in Granby man’s murder sentenced

Staff Report

Three central New York teenagers were sentenced to more than a decade in prison each in Oswego County Court Monday for their roles in a February burglary and murder in Granby.

Glenwood Carr Jr., 16, of Lysander, and Michael Celi, 17, of Baldwinsville, were sentenced on a single count each of second-degree murder, and Zachary Scott, 19, of Van Buren, was sentenced on a count of first-degree burglary after the three broke into the trailer of Anthony Miller on Feb. 3 and fatally stabbed him for money and marijuana.

Glenwood Carr Jr.
Glenwood Carr Jr.

Carr was sentenced to a period of 17-and-a-half years to life in prison, Celi was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison and Scott was sentenced to 18-and-a-half years in prison, with five years of post-release supervision.

According to District Attorney Greg Oakes, the idea to burglarize Miller’s mobile home began with Carr, who claimed Miller owed him and his family money. Oakes said Celi immediately jumped on the idea and took ownership of the plan, providing Carr and Scott with ski masks. He also armed himself with a knife and armed Scott with a metal pipe.

Miller’s older sister, Lulia Brown, wrote a letter about how the events affected her life, which Oakes read aloud in court before the three teenagers were sentenced.

“My brother Tony would’ve given the shirt off his back if someone was in need. He was a good man. He didn’t deserve to die,” she said in the letter.

Brown said that Miller housed Carr and his father when they were homeless.

“He was like a son to Tony,” she said about Carr, “and this is the thanks my brother gets.”

Brown said all three of the teenagers were “friends of Tony’s, if you want to call them friends.”

Brown said in her letter that Miller had diabetes, and was too weak to defend himself from three teenagers.

“Zachary Scott: I say to you that you are a follower. You attacked a man that trusted you and allowed you into his home. I thank you for ‘manning up’ and accepting your plea deal,” she wrote.

Brown also said she knew Carr had a troubled past with absent parents, but she knew he “masterminded the whole, hideous thing.”

“I blame you for your stupidity. You knew it wasn’t right what you did,” she wrote. “Do yourself a favor and get an education in prison. Make something of yourself other than a menace to society.”

Brown then addressed Celi in her letter.

“Michael Celi: I say to you that I want to say I hate you, but I won’t stoop so low,” she wrote. “I hope your stay in prison is rough. I hope someone manhandles you like you did to my brother.”

Brown wrote about her intention to appear at Carr and Celi’s parole hearings in the coming years to argue that they should not be let out of prison.

Zachary Scott
Zachary Scott

At Scott’s sentencing, Judge Donald Todd admonished him for not using any leadership skills to stop the two younger defendants.

“He could have exercised some form of leadership over the two younger defendants,” he said. “They are young men, but they darn well know the difference between right and wrong.”

Scott’s attorney, Joseph Rodak, said Scott reflects on his actions “each day and wonders what he could have done differently.”

Scott told Todd that he wanted to “come home a better person.”

“You knew it was wrong, you knew it was stupid, when you realized Mr. Miller was home, nobody should have entered,” Todd said before handing down his sentence.

When Carr was sentenced, Oakes argued that the crime “began with Mr. Carr.”

“Murder was a consequence they anticipated,” he said, noting how the teenagers wouldn’t have arrived at the home with weapons and ski masks if they didn’t consider the possibility that Miller might be home.

“My client wishes he could take it back. From day one he has been remorseful,” said Carr’s attorney, Timothy Kirwan. “He did have a troubled life and mental health issues.”

Carr said he would live with the night’s events for the rest of his life.

“I’m sure you’re sorry, and I know you didn’t mean for it to happen, but you were involved in a crime that was wrong and dangerous. You came up with this idea because you believed this man owed you, your father and your uncle some money,” Todd said. “You owed him a hell of a lot more than he may have owed your family.”

Michael Celi
Michael Celi

At Celi’s sentencing, Oakes advocated for the full sentence offered in the plea deal of 21 years to life in prison.

“I get no joy or satisfaction from this request, but I am asking the court to impose the full sentence,” he said. “This whole thing is tragic because of the death and the three young men who threw away their lives.”

Oakes said Celi “fully anticipated this could go wrong in the way that it did.”

According to Oakes, when Carr and Scott both showed reluctance upon the realization that Miller was at his home, Celi demanded they go through with the burglary because he had already paid for the gas money to reach the trailer.

According to court documents, Celi attacked Miller with a hammer until the head of the tool fell off before stabbing him three times.

Stab wounds were “deliberate, these were intentional and these were meant to cause harm,” Oakes said. “He mouths the words of being sorry, he mouths the words of contrition, but I don’t know how serious they are.”

Oakes called into question how sincerely sorry all three of the teenagers were, considering reports that they stepped over Miller’s body as he lay on the ground, dying or dead, to grab items to steal.

“Mr. Celi shows a high risk of violent recidivism,” Oakes said.

Celi’s attorney, Anthony DiMartino, said Celi had taken responsibility for his actions when he pleaded guilty.

“My client has an alcohol usage problem,” he said. “Does that mean he’s not remorseful? It means he has a problem.”

Todd said he didn’t believe any potential alcoholism played a role in the murder.

“You were drinking, but I’ve never seen a bottle of beer break into a house,” he said.

Ultimately, Todd sentenced Celi to 20 years to life in prison instead of the maximum sentence of 21 years to life.

“I’m going to give you the one year off. I’m going to give you that chance,” he said. “It’s easy to lock up someone based on who they are now. I’m going to give you a chance to convince the parole board in 20 years that you’ve changed.”

Legislators pass 2015 county budget

Staff Report

The Oswego County Legislature passed the 2015 budget Thursday night, approving an almost $197 million spending plan with a 1.15 percent increase in property taxes — a far smaller hike than the legislature initially planned.

The county budget will be $196,850,567, which is $305,040 less than the 2014 budget and $700,000 less than the tentative budget for 2015.

The budget includes a tax levy of approximately $53.8 million with a tax rate of $7.49 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The levy in the draft budget released in October was $55.4 million and the rate was $7.72 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“I want to thank both caucuses. It wasn’t easy on either side of the aisle,” said Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner, R-New Haven. “Nobody wants to increase taxes. It’s a lot of better than where we started.”

“Unfortunately it had to be a slight increase. It was a good budget. There’s some things we’re pretty proud of,” added Gardner.

“I’m never happy with any tax increase,” said Majority Leader Terry Wilbur, R-Hannibal.

The budget passed without support from the Democratic legislators.

“I’ll be voting no on this budget,” said Minority Leader Michael Kunzwiler, D-Oswego, adding that many of his ideas for cutting the budget were rejected.

“There’s too many unknowns in this budget. It’s projected revenue we don’t know we have. I hope they’re right,” said Kunzwiler, referring to the idea that revenue from the nuclear plants could fluctuate due to ongoing litigation.

Members of the public expressed their concerns to the legislature regarding the budget in a hearing prior to the vote.

“I want to say that we in the libraries have a passion for teaching and service. Most of our salaries are below poverty level. We can’t cut anything. The expenses keep climbing. I’d like to encourage you to visits your libraries. See where your money is going,” said Beth Ripka.

Ed Taverni, a former teacher, was not happy with the way he has seen the county develop since moving here in 1977.

“Year after year services are taken away,” Taverni said. “I see our roads and public health getting worse. It’s putting everybody in a terrible situation,” said Taverni.

Wilbur said one of the merits of next year’s budget was that it did not rely significantly on the fund balance.

“We have a plan where we’re not relying on that. In next year’s budget it will be even less,” said Wilbur.

According to Church, the fund balance will be approximately $20 million, or equal to 10 percent of the budget, which could be put toward infrastructure projects and emergencies.

One of the primary concerns with the budget was the ongoing tax litigation with the nuclear plants. Payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreements with both the Entergy and Exelon nuclear plants have expired, placing both facilities back on the tax rolls.

The county is in litigation with both facilities, prompting an increase in legal fees in the county budget.

The county also budgeted an extra $400,000 for housing local jail inmates at jails in other counties due to overcrowding at the Oswego County Correctional Facility.

The final budget was also reduced by $700,000 in part due to a reduction in public assistance as a result of declining demand since August and new disability funds from the federal government, according to county officials.

Legislators also cut $109,000 budgeted for gas and oil to reflect the decrease in the price of gasoline.

Legislator Frank Castiglia, D-Fulton, made a motion to cut $33,500 of fringe benefits that the legislators receive including mileage reimbursement and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) that legislators receive to pay for minor medical expenses.

“There’s $48,000 worth of fringe services that should come out. What are we going to give up?” Castiglia asked.

Legislator Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski, defended the mileage reimbursement saying that the county has been paying compensation to legislators since the 1840s.

“I don’t know any part-time job that gets $14,000 in benefits,” said Castiglia said of the FSA.

Doyle replied that since no more legislators are able to receive health insurance, “I think it’s fair the only remaining people that have it.”

The motion failed to pass the legislature, as did a motion to eliminate the FSAs.

Kunzwiler added that he suggested that the county study its airport and staff to look for areas to cut, while Legislator Amy Tresidder, D-Oswego, suggested the county look to downsize the legislature to save money.

Legislator Doug Malone, D-Oswego Town, made a motion to eliminate all unfilled positions.

“We hired 21 people. I was in the legislature the year we voted to layoff 80,” said Malone, whose motion failed.

Church explained that he doesn’t believe that there are a lot of open positions. He pointed out that some positions fall under state and federal mandates, such as correction officers.

“That’s not good management,” Church said, explaining that it doesn’t take into consideration the nature of the positions and the services that they provide to the public.

“We have a very deliberate process on every position on whether to refill a position or not,” Church added, explaining that when a position becomes vacant, it usually takes at least four months to fill.

According to Church, the county has saved $2.1 million in that fashion.

All Saints kids celebrate Advent

All Saints Church Sunday School recently constructed Advent wreaths to use during the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas. A candle is lighted each Sunday of Advent and the last one on Christmas. Shown working on their arranging skills are primary class students Devin Johnson (left), Lily Wise (right) and Lily Johnson (foreground) with teacher Mary LaBeef. Photo provided
All Saints Church Sunday School recently constructed Advent wreaths to use during the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas. A candle is lighted each Sunday of Advent and the last one on Christmas. Shown working on their arranging skills are primary class students Devin Johnson (left), Lily Wise (right) and Lily Johnson (foreground) with teacher Mary LaBeef.
Photo provided

 

 

No tax increase in 2015 Fulton budget

By Colin Hogan

Fulton officials revealed the city’s $15.7 million proposed 2015 budget Tuesday which, in spite of an increase in spending, holds the line on property taxes.

City spending for 2015 would total $15,710,583, according to the proposed budget — up $114,395 from this year’s $15,596,188 in appropriations. General fund revenues would total $9,324,102 — up $140,669 from $9,183,433 in 2014 — with $6,464,816 to be raised from the property tax levy, which city officials say would be achieved at the same tax rate as 2014 of $19.662 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the biggest factor in establishing a balanced budget has been reducing personnel. In all, he said the city will be spending over $200,000 less than it did this year on personnel.

“Most of our way of balancing the budget was in personnel,” Woodward said. “We had some retirements that we didn’t fill, or where the person has come back to work part time.”

For example, after public works commissioner Dan O’Brien was appointed to replace retiring city clerk/chamberlain Jim Laboda, the city chose not to seek a new public works commissioner, and instead promoted one of the department’s supervisors to lead it. That eliminated one position in the public works department without any layoffs.

The city is also saving money on personnel by re-hiring some of the full time employees who are retiring this year, such as the personnel director, deputy clerk and dog warden, as part-timers. Woodward said this cuts the costs of those positions roughly in half, with less being paid in salaries and insurance, and without the expense of retirement contributions.

“In New York state if a person retires, they can come back and work on a part time basis as long as they don’t earn more than $30,000 a year. Of course, when these people retire, they’ve got a lot of years in and are making a higher wage. If you bring them back on a part time basis to fill the full time positions, you pay half the salary, you’re not paying retirement,  you’re not paying as much insurance and, because the salary is less, the amount of Social Security the city has to match is less.”

Employee benefits and retirements continue to be a growing burden in the budget. Next year, the city will spend $3,119,687 in medical insurance costs — an increase of $265,932 from this year. That comes alongside a $317,119 increase in fire and police retirement costs, from $1,230,597 to $1,474,134, and an increase of $84,384 in other state retirement contributions, from $243,102 to $299,737.

Last year, Fulton spent 9.68 percent of its budget on employee retirement costs. In 2015, that will grow to 11.29 percent, the budget shows.

Should the budget be adopted as is, spending on the fire department would decrease about 3.5 percent, from $3,017,868 to $2,913,451. The police budget would also shrink from $3,194,850 to $3,144,095, or 1.4 percent. Woodward said both departments are operating with less personnel, but noted that scenario can often increase the amount of overtime being paid.

City water appropriations would total $1,403,437, down $4,621 from 2014. Meanwhile, revenues are expected to reach $1,290,280, down $43,000 from 2014, leaving a difference $113,157 to be paid out of fund balances.

Sewer expenses would total $1,898,590, down $66,572 from this year, while revenues are expected to total $1,807,190, up $93,400 from this year, leaving $91,400 to be paid out of fund balances.

Davis-Standard, Universal Metal Works expansions to bring new jobs

By Colin Hogan

Plastics and rubber manufacturer Davis-Standard will be expanding its operations in Fulton — a change expected to bring some new jobs to the economically struggling city.

According to a release posted on the company’s website, Davis-Standard will be relocating “manufacturing operations from Bridgewater, New Jersey to Fulton, New York,” where it currently has a facility on North First Street.

To accommodate the new operations, Davis-Standard will be leasing space from the adjacent Universal Metal Works facility, which is also in the process of expanding.

On Monday, the City of Fulton Planning Commission granted UMW site plan approval to undergo a 20,000-square-foot addition on the south end of its 33,000-square-foot facility. Documents filed with the city show that about half of that space would be used by UMW to streamline its spray painting, assembly and manufacturing process, while the other half would be leased to Davis-Standard for the relocation of its blown film operations.

“They had a very good site plan. We deferred to Brace (Tallents, of Fulton’s code enforcement office) and he said it was a very thorough plan and couldn’t find any problem with it,” said Dennis Merlino of the planning commission.

Merlino said the planning commission has been working closely with Universal Metal Works President John Sharkey III and Vice President John Sharkey IV on the plans for the project, which is now expected to move forward promptly. On Nov. 10, the Sharkeys told the planning commission that they already have a lease and deposit from Davis-Standard, and that they would like to have the expansion completed by July 2015.

According to the special use permit application filed with the city, between five and 10 new jobs would be created locally by Davis-Standard moving its New Jersey operations to Fulton. Merlino said the planning commission has been told that future job growth is likely, as well.

“I, personally, am thrilled that they are expanding in Fulton. I think this is just the kind of thing Fulton needs most right now,” Merlino said.

Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the expansions are a good sign that businesses are still interested in operating in Fulton.

“I’m very excited about it. This shows there are still people interested in Fulton,” Woodward said, “and it’s going to create some jobs and bring some jobs here, which is what we need.”

Calls to leadership at both UMW and Davis-Standard’s Fulton facility were unreturned as of press time Thursday, but in the news release, Davis-Standard Vice President of Global Operations Allen Lee said the relocation will help the company’s manufacturing operations become more efficient.

“Having the largest, most focused global manufacturing footprint in the industry will ensure that we continue to deliver our brand of world-class products and support to our customers around the world,” Lee stated.

Retiring repairman makes Fulton history come alive

By Nicole Shue

The John Wells Pratt House Museum in Fulton will soon lose one of its most beloved employees to retirement. Alec Seymour, head of maintenance at the historic house, has decided to pass on the hammer.

Alec Seymour gives an upstairs tour of the John Wells Pratt House to Ms. Thompson’s class at GRB. Seymour will retire this year as the Pratt House’s maintenance person. He has spent countless hours promoting the Friends of History and working for the Pratt House museum. Nicole Shue photo
Alec Seymour gives an upstairs tour of the John Wells Pratt House to Ms. Thompson’s class at GRB. Seymour will retire this year as the Pratt House’s maintenance person. He has spent countless hours promoting the Friends of History and working for the Pratt House museum.
Nicole Shue photo

“It’s hard to let go. I’ve seen this place blossom and come alive,” said Seymour.

Seymour began doing maintenance on the house in the mid 1980s.

“I haven’t left since,” quipped Seymour, noting that with a house of its size, there is always a long to-do list.

Seymour moved to Fulton in 1966. He spent four years with the Air Force, and 34 years with a local telephone company. If you’ve visited the Pratt House in the last decade, Seymour was most likely your tour guide. Many Fultonians know him as man who collects antique telephones. He loves answering questions about his extensive collection, especially from students on his tours.

“Things like pay booths are a thing of the past,” said Seymour. “I have elementary kids visit that have never seen a rotary phone. That’s hard to imagine.”

Although his days of painting and scraping the old house are over, Seymour still plans to give tours “until they kick me out.”

Seymour enjoys seeing the relics that people bring in. When the house first opened to the public, just about any old treasure was accepted. Now the Pratt House primarily features objects with ties to Fulton.

“I always ask people questions about their items when things come in,” said Seymour. “There is so much to learn, and so many things still out there stowed away.”

Hundreds of old black and white photos have been donated to the Pratt House over the years. The problem is that most of the subjects in these photographs are unidentified.

“In the olden days people didn’t move as frequently,” said Seymour. “Now, pieces of Fulton are all around the country.”

Seymour recommends that everyone identify their old family photos by writing names and dates on the back. This is especially helpful when people come in with genealogy questions.

In addition to being a paid employee of the Pratt House, Seymour is also the exhibit chairman. Every year after the Parade of Trees, Seymour builds and changes the two downstairs displays. In the coming year, first responders and all things miniature will be featured.

“I like seeing the displays come together and tell a story,” said Seymour. “The Pratt House highlights what I think is impressive about the area. The house has a lot to give everyone. Fulton has a gem here.”

Seymour said that what really keeps the house going are the volunteers. Friends of History has over 200 members, with 30 regular volunteers. Every item that comes through the house is given a number and recorded. When an item moves from room to room, it has to be documented. Volunteers who do these tasks sit on the accession committee.

The Pratt House is currently looking for volunteers to help answer the phones, write letters, direct tours and do outdoor upkeep. The museum is open Wednesday to Friday.

Sue Lane, director of the Pratt House, said that in 2015, she is also looking to increase membership and member participation.