Category Archives: Other News

Fulton, Granby announce plans for third year of dredging

The dredge owned and operated by the Lake Neatahwanta Revitalization Committee in Granby, pictured here from above, pulls sediment out of the lake over the summer. Volunteers who helped operate the machine this year included Lance Knapp, Ed St. Onge, Ray Hughes, Jason Lake, Aaron Arduini, Jim and Hank Latino, Jack Arnold, Mark Giovannetti, Mark Knapp and Fred St. Onge. Aerial photo by Fred St. Onge
The dredge owned and operated by the Lake Neatahwanta Revitalization Committee in Granby, pictured here from above, pulls sediment out of the lake over the summer. Volunteers who helped operate the machine this year included Lance Knapp, Ed St. Onge, Ray Hughes, Jason Lake, Aaron Arduini, Jim and Hank Latino, Jack Arnold, Mark Giovannetti, Mark Knapp and Fred St. Onge.
Aerial photo by Fred St. Onge
By Matthew Reitz

The dredging campaigns on both sides of Lake Neatahwanta have ceased operations for the year, but planning is already underway for a third year of dredging, according to local officials.
Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward, Sr. said the second year of dredging in the city—administered by The Lake Neatahwanta Revitalization Corporation—finished earlier this fall, but the Revitalization Corporation and the Lake Neatahwanta Reclamation Committee, which operates the dredging in Granby, are already making plans to continue the cleanup efforts next year.
“We plan on dredging again. We’re going to keep dredging until they let us open up that beach,” Woodward said of Stevenson Beach, which was closed in July 1988 after the Oswego County Health Department discovered high levels of fecal coliform of bacteria.
The opening of Stevenson Beach is a major goal Woodward said he’d like to see accomplished next year.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to stop addressing the issues on the lake, because we’re not, but that’s the first goal,” Woodward said.
A collaborative effort between both groups could be in the works to help remove the sediment lining the shores near Stevenson Beach. Granby’s committee has offered to help Fulton’s by performing the cleanup on the northeast shore of the lake where the beach is located.
“We can get most of that beach area cleaned,” Ed Williamson, who chairs Granby’s committee, said. “It doesn’t make any difference to us where we pump from. The whole thing needs to be done.”
Williamson said Granby’s committee took on the project so the lake could again “be an asset to the city of Fulton, as well as the town of Granby and the surrounding area,” and he hopes the committee can help get the beach area cleaned up.
“It’ll be a tourism asset,  (and boost) sales tax. That kind of stuff,” Williamson said of the lake. “Plus, it’ll give the people a place to go and enjoy life like we did when I was a young kid.”
According to Woodward, the dredge used by Groh Dredging and Marine Construction, the contractor used by Fulton’s committee up to this point, would leave the water in the area too deep for a beach. However, the dredge being used by Granby’s committee is able to create the proper depth. Woodward said there had been plans to clean the area by hand, but Williamson’s offer to use the committee’s dredge would help speed up the process.
The Revitalization Corporation, using Groh as a contractor, removed 10,000 cubic yards of sediment in 2015, about half as much as the 20,000 cubic yards cleared during the 2014 campaign. Woodward said the decrease was expected due to funding constraints. He said the organization spent all the money allocated for this year, and “the plan is to continue (dredging) as long as we can fund it.”
As for future funding, both organizations will receive a $100,000 grant to continue the cleanup in 2016, according to Woodward and Williamson. Woodward said donations from the community have gone a long way, but the project would be near impossible without the help of State Sen. Patty Ritchie, who has secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds for the endeavor over the last couple years.
“There’s funding for next year, but beyond that I can’t tell you,” Woodward said. “We have no idea what our budget, or the state budget, or anybody’s budget will look like.”
Rather than hire a contractor like Fulton, Granby’s committee opted to purchase the dredging equipment and conduct the work with volunteers. Williamson said there are about 15 people trained to use the equipment so far, but there are plans to train even more in 2016.
Granby’s committee did not spend the entire $100,000 grant it received in 2015, according to Williamson, but he expects the unspent money will carry over to 2016. He said the committee didn’t receive its contract until after Aug. 1, and there was “no way” it could have spent all the money before October when the dredging operation wrapped up for the season.
“I’m assuming we will just keep extending that out until we use the $300,000 (total),” Williamson said.
Williamson has reached out to the state Department of Environmental Conservation asking for permission to begin dredging in May next year, rather than the current July start date, but said he has not yet received a response. The DEC typically does not allow dredging until July in an attempt to avoid disrupting spawning fish. Williamson said if he doesn’t hear back from the DEC, the cleanup efforts will resume on July 18, and the committee plans to have two shifts operating next year.
“There will be a day crew and afternoon crew,” Williamson said. “They’ll work until dark on the lake.”
Progress on the lake hasn’t moved particularly quickly thus far, but it is making a visible difference, according to Woodward and Williamson.
Williamson said the operation in Granby has opened up several natural springs that feed into the lake, and the clean water coming in is helping improve the water quality.
Woodward simply said “everything you take out of there is going to improve that water quality vastly.”
In addition to the high levels of bacteria that closed the lake decades ago, blue-green algae has flourished over the years due to high temperatures and shallow water. The blue-green algae presents its own threat, as it can create what the DEC calls “harmful algae blooms,” which can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals, and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, and skin and throat irritation. The algae blooms also create unpleasant appearances and odors, and cause ecological problems, such as reduced oxygen levels that make it difficult for wildlife to thrive, according to the DEC.
Officials say built-up sediment is what caused the lake to become shallower and hotter which, when combined with high phosphorus levels, helped the bacteria and algae prosper.

Presidential run proving challenging for Fulton man

Webbershot2By Colin Hogan

While he was unable to raise the money needed to get on the ballot in certain states, Fulton’s Dave Webber, currently a candidate for President of the United States, is not giving up.
Webber, who registered with the Federal Elections Commission on Oct. 5 as a presidential candidate in the 2016 election, faced filing deadlines to appear on the ballot in four different states last month, but said Monday that weak fundraising and a lack of exposure in larger media circles kept him from hitting those goals. However, he still has a chance to appear as a write-in candidate in states where he’s not on the ballot.
Many know the 64-year-old Fulton man through his roles as vice president of the Fulton Little League and a highly-active American Red Cross volunteer. Upon announcing his candidacy in October, Webber, a former bank manager, said his career outside politics and Washington, D.C. are what make him a better choice than most others.
“I’m looking for people who believe that Washington needs to be changed and that someone like me, who is not a politician, can do it,” Webber said. “I’m not rich, just live comfortably in retirement… I worked my way through college (at Syracuse University) to help pay for most of it. I’m truly a person who is of the people, by the people and for the people, who has the intelligence and management experience to do this.”
Webber’s reasons for running center around a desire to see major changes in Washington. On Monday, he expressed disgust with the higher-profile candidates and President Barack Obama, saying the electorate continues to be left with no good option.
Among the issues he’d like to see addressed more by the current administration and discussed more as campaign topics are the nation’s continued struggles with veterans services, particularly the estimated 50,000 homeless veterans living in the country today, and a specific plan — not just rhetoric — on how the government will address the threat of the Islamic State.
A self-described “Main-Street-America guy,” Webber hopes to find financial support in his campaign through either a wealthy backer who believes in his message, small grassroots contributions or, ideally, both.
Along with his campaign Web site — which was recently moved to davewebberforamerica.weebly.com — Webber has launched fundraising efforts through GoFundMe.com, and is active on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
“I’m convinced that if people start hearing what I have to say, I will get the money and support I need. It’s just tough getting a foot in the proverbial door,” Webber said. “I want to keep moving forward, though, and I’m willing to go as far as the American people will take me.”

John A. Altman Jr.

John A. Altman Jr., 84, of North Volney, died Wednesday at Upstate Hospital with family by his side.  He retired from General Electric after more than 40 years.  John was a member of the New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers’ Association.  He was predeceased by his parents, Ruth (Youmans) and John A. Altman Sr.; sisters, Katy Bergman, Emily “Mike” Schmidt and Elizabeth “Pat” Fisher and a brother, Fred Altman Sr.  John is survived by his wife of 54 years, Dora Jean; children, Ruth (Ed) McDougall, Richard (Dawn) Simoneau and John (Rita) Altman III; several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; sisters, Freda “Fritz” Woodworth, Sister Christine Marie and Clara Gardner as well as many nieces and nephews. Calling hours were held Tuesday at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay Street, Fulton, with a graveside service afterwards at North Volney Cemetery,  county Route 4, North Volney. Donations in John’s memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, Central New York Chapter: 441 West Kirkpatrick Street, Syracuse, NY 13204.

Sandra C. Richardson

Richardson, Sandra C.Sandra C. Richardson, 67, of Oswego and formerly of Fulton passed away Saturday after a long illness. Sandy had worked for OCO as a cook for many years. She enjoyed going to the casino, playing bingo and spending time with her family. Sandy was predeceased by her husband, Dennis Richardson, who passed away in 2007. She will be greatly missed and forever loved by her children, Roy (Lee-Ann) Coe of Fulton and Tommy (Karen Rude) Coe of Oswego; grandchildren, Rochelle, Zachary, Courtney, Jordin and Megan; great-children, Richard and Gemma; sisters, Shirley Cable and Sheila Besaw; several nieces, nephews and cousins.
Calling hours will be 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, December 9 at Foster Funeral Home. A 6 p.m. service will immediate follow at the funeral home, 910 Fay St., Fulton.  In memory of Sandy, contributions may be made to OCO Nutrition Service, 239 Oneida St., Fulton, 13069.

Charles Lancaster

Charles Lancaster, 73, of Hudson, Fla. passed away on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015.
Charles graduated from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, then joined the Army in 1964. He later moved to Fulton, N.Y. He worked for many years as an engine mechanic.
Charles was preceded in death by his parents and several siblings. He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline Lancaster of Fulton; children Kathy Brannon, Christopher (Theresa) Dodrill, Connie (Michael) Catron; three step-children and several grandchildren.
Services will be held at a later time.

Donated canned goods to help nearly 350 families

Tim Archer of Catholic Charities and Tops Store Manager Mark Sledziona load 675 cans of vegetables into a truck to be delivered to Catholic Charities of Oswego County.
Tim Archer of Catholic Charities and Tops Store Manager Mark Sledziona load 675 cans of vegetables into a truck to be delivered to Catholic Charities of Oswego County.
By Matthew Reitz

A food drive sponsored by Tops and led by a local county legislator garnered nearly 700 cans of vegetables for Catholic Charities’ Christmas Baskets this year.
Catholic Charities of Oswego County Executive Director Mary Margaret Pezella-Pekow said county Legislator Jim Karasek and Tops reached out to the organization a couple weeks ago to set up the can drive, which kicked off a week before Thanksgiving with Karasek challenging the public to match his donation of 25 cases, or 300 cans.
Tops originally agreed to match the number of cans donated by the public, which were then to be handed over to Catholic Charities to supplement its annual Christmas Basket program. Karasek said when the public fell short of that challenge, donating around 75 cans, Tops, instead, matched his 300-can donation.
“We would have liked to have seen more from the public, but we’re happy with what we got,” Karasek said.
Tops Store Manager Mark Sledziona said the company tries to give back as much as possible, and was happy to match Karasek’s contribution.
“It’s important, and it’s part of Tops’ philosophy. Working here, living here, giving here. We just try to give back,” Sledziona said.
Pezella-Pekow said there are close to 350 families the organization is aiming to help through the Christmas Basket program this year, which provides several days of food for families in need. She said she appreciated the community’s effort.
“It will definitely help us,” Pezella-Pekow said of the approximately 675 cans the organization picked up at the Fulton Tops location Tuesday morning.
Pezella-Pekow said the organization runs the food pantry year-round, and is “always in need” of donations.

City overrides state tax cap

By Matthew Reitz

Before passing the city’s 2016 budget Tuesday, the Fulton Common Council adopted a local law to override the state’s cap on property tax increases.
New York State’s tax cap law was established in 2012 to limit the annual growth of property taxes levied by local governments and school districts. Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the override was needed in Fulton because of increasing costs and decreasing property values in the city.
Each year, the state sets the tax cap at either 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. This year’s cap, which was based on inflation, came in at roughly 0.7 percent. The recently passed 2016 budget will see property taxes in Fulton rise 4.34 percent.
“Well, our tax increase exceeded that 0.7 percent,” Woodward said. “Unless we overrode it, you couldn’t pass a tax increase.”
Municipalities throughout the state override the tax cap each year as a safeguard in the event their budgets may exceed the limit. Woodward said the city has overridden the tax cap each year since it was implemented in 2012, even in years where the city didn’t increase taxes. According to the state Comptroller’s Office, a resolution overriding the cap must be passed prior to approval of the budget, which the council did on Tuesday.
“We always do it—every year,” Woodward said. “Most municipalities and county governments do.”
Woodward said overriding the tax cap helps the city avoid potential penalties if there is a mistake in the budget. He
“The tax cap on its face — politically, for the people in Albany — is a great thing,” Woodward said. He added that more meaningful legislation from Albany is needed to truly help provide relief for taxpayers, because many state mandates are not properly funded, leaving that responsibility for the local taxing agencies.
The 4.34 percent increase will bring property tax rates up to $20.51 per $1,000 of assessed value, which adds an additional $0.85 per $1,000 of assessment from the 2015 rate of $19.66 per $1,000. The increase will amount to $85 on a property valued at $100,000, or $68 on an $80,000 property, which is closer to the city’s average.

Fulton adopts $16M budget for 2016

By Matthew Reitz­­

The Fulton Common Council unanimously approved the city’s 2016 budget Tuesday, which will increase property taxes 4.34 percent.
Over the course of three meetings, the council agreed to almost $400,000 in spending cuts, which brought a proposed tax hike of more than 10 percent down to the approved 4.34 percent increase. The tax hike is still significant enough to warrant an override of New York’s property tax cap, which the council unanimously approved following a public hearing.
The 2016 budget calls for total expenditures of $15,971,674, or a $261,091 increase from 2015. The city anticipates collecting $9.38 million in non-property tax revenue, up about $64,500 from the $9.32 million expected in 2015. Based on current property assessments, the city will need to collect $6,659,884 in property taxes to fund operations next year, which is an increase of $195,232 from the current year.
The 4.34 percent increase works out to be $20.51 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from the $21.72 per $1,000 that was revealed at the first budget meeting. Taxpayers will be billed an additional $0.85 per $1,000 of assessment from the 2015 rate of $19.66 per $1,000.
The increase will amount to $85 on a property valued at $100,000, or $68 on an $80,000 property, which is closer to the city’s average.
“Nobody likes the increase,” Fifth Ward Councilor Norman “Jay” Foster said following the meeting. “Everybody’s worked really hard to get it down. Budgets are not easy, and economically it’s still rough out there.”
The city will spend nearly 50 percent of all expenditures on employee wages, the overwhelming majority of which comes from the police and fire departments. Employee wages in both departments will combine to cost the city almost $5 million in 2016.
“The biggest cost right now is public safety,” Woodward said. “It’s no secret. We’re well aware of that.”
Woodward said the council is also well aware of the challenges it faces in trying to cut costs on public safety. He described the collective bargaining process as “an uphill battle,” and said “safety unions are not like regular unions.”
“If you don’t agree with the public safety unions, they have the right to go to what they call interest arbitration,” Woodward said. “That’s a three judge panel, and the average cost of that is about $50,000. I don’t ever remember us winning one — ever.”
Woodward said he believes the city is in a better position to “make inroads” because of its financial distress, but said “if we don’t do it now it will never happen, and we’re trying.” He said the unions are “well aware” of what the costs are and what needs to be done.
Frank Castiglia Jr. addressed the council to bring up what he called “two yearly requests,” which include the closing of the west side fire station and reducing the number of police patrol cars in the city.
A third issue Castiglia addressed was an increase of $70,000 in the fire department’s overtime budget, but Woodward said in 2014 and 2015 the city had to deal with overages in the department’s overtime costs.
First Ward Councilor Tom Kenyon told Castiglia that closing the west side fire department wouldn’t have any effect on the minimum staffing levels. Castiglia countered, saying the city could still save money on heating, lighting and water, and also could sell the building and get it back on the tax rolls.
“I’m talking about saving the taxpayers money by cutting down on the patrol cars, not cutting down on the police,” Castiglia said. “We need the number of police we have. That’s one thing I will never say — cut down on the police.”
Kenyon and Sixth Ward Councilor Larry Macner told Castiglia that if it was up to them, and the city was in better financial standing, they would hire more police to patrol the city.
Former councilor Bob Weston said the city is still struggling with many of the same budgetary issues that he dealt with when he sat in on his first budget meetings 16 years ago.
“We have a number of pensions that are very expensive,” Weston said. “In two years we’re spending almost half a million dollars in health insurance. How do we offset that?”
Total health insurance costs for the city are more than $3 million, up nearly $200,000 from 2015, and Woodward said “everyone is grappling with health care” costs, and he didn’t know how to control them. He said the city is self-insured, and similar policies from insurance providers would cost the city significantly more money.