Category Archives: Other News

County’s solar farm project moving forward in Volney

By Matthew Reitz

The Town of Volney will hold a public hearing on August 4 to take comments on a site plan review for a large solar power system submitted by SolarCity Corporation.
The solar farm, along with a similar project at the county’s highway garage on state Route 104 in Scriba, is part of an effort by Oswego County to become more financially and energy efficient. The efforts began several years ago when a task force was created to research opportunities for the county to use environmentally friendly technology in ways that could save money, according to county administrator Phil Church.
The two projects are expected to save the county $355,897 in 2017, with increased savings in following years reaching up to $400,000.
The Volney site is located west of the Bristol Hill landfill behind the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation facilities, and will sit on over nine acres of county-owned property. Officials say the proposed 2-megawatt solar farm will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of over 400 average homes.
County Legislator Linda Lockwood said certain project details still needed to be worked out, but the endeavor is “still in the works” and moving forward.
“I know it’s coming,” Lockwood said.
Church said the project documents have been signed, and the county hopes to finalize the planning process and break ground later this year.
“I want it done before the snow flies,” Church said.
He said the county has entered into a 20-year contract with SolarCity in which it will purchase power at a fixed rate that is less than current utility prices. The panels will be installed on county-owned property, but SolarCity will own and maintain the system throughout the terms of the lease. Church said the plan will “guarantee savings” without putting any additional stress on county taxpayers.
Based in San Mateo, Calif., SolarCity is one of the nation’s largest developers, financers and installers of solar power products.
Church said the county has installed smaller solar projects in the last few years that have worked out well, including systems at Camp Hollis and the Bunner Street facilities in Oswego, but this will be the county’s first experience with a large-scale solar farm.
Volney’s planning board will hold the public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on August 4, directly preceding the regularly scheduled planning board meeting.

Cleanup efforts to continue at contaminated Fulton site

By Matthew Reitz

Fulton officials took action last week to continue a decade-long cleanup effort of gasoline-contaminated soil at a site on N. 5th Street.
The Common Council agreed to amend a 2006 contract with the state Department of Environmental Conservation that will extend the original agreement to complete what the mayor called “ongoing cleanup.” The original contract was part of a DEC Brownfield Cleanup Program that called for a joint venture, funded by the state, in which the city would conduct investigation and/or remedial activities at the site of 60 N. Fifth Street. Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the Brownfield cleanup projects often take extensive time and effort, which deters some municipalities from participating in the program.
The city acquired the property through tax foreclosure in 2003, and demolished a single-story concrete block building on the site in 2004. During the demolition, the city discovered a 700-gallon underground storage tank containing approximately 200 gallons of gasoline product. The storage tank was removed, but it became evident gasoline had leaked into the soil.
Woodward said the building was most recently a maintenance garage for a small business. In the past, the site had also been used as a brass and metal works facility, a foundry, an automobile paint shop, an automobile warehouse, and a construction materials warehouse.
A 2007 report prepared for the City of Fulton and Oswego County by ENSR Corporation spelled out a work plan to move forward with the cleanup. Woodward said the city “did the remediation” work that was recommended for the site when it removed the gasoline-impacted soils and brought clean fill in to the site.
“We took out all the bad dirt and brought in new,” Woodward said.
As part of the cleanup, the DEC also required the city to put monitoring wells on the property, and the results of that monitoring now indicate more work needs to be done.
“It turned out the ground water on the site was contaminated,” Woodward said.
The findings necessitate further cleanup, but the path forward it not yet clear. City officials are waiting for the DEC to instruct them on how to proceed with the project.
“There will be an added phase,” Woodward said, “and we’re waiting on what they want to do.”
The city also changed engineers “a couple times” throughout the process, causing further delays, according to Woodward.

Fulton native charged in Rochester-area murder

Soble mugStaff Report

A former Fulton woman has been arrested as an accomplice in a Rochester-area murder.
Jessica Soble, 34, is facing a second degree murder charge for her alleged role in the stabbing death of 39-year-old Jehon Gervalla late last Thursday at a Motel 6 in the town of Gates.
Police say Soble was an accomplice to Donovan Zuhlke, 26, of Rochester, who reportedly stabbed Gervalla once in the chest, causing his death.
The district attorney told local media Soble faces the same murder charge as Zuhlke “because she was in the motel room and was a ‘knowing accomplice,'” according to 13WHAM in Rochester.
According to Gates police, the two suspects were acquaintances who had met only days before the killing.
Police discovered Gervalla’s body after they had been called in for a welfare check. They believe the killing took place some time just after 11 p.m. last Thursday.
According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, both suspects were clearly pictured on the motel’s security camera. Police believe their motive was to rob the victim.
Gervalla was reportedly a refugee from Kosovo who moved to the United States in 1999. Police said he did not know either of the suspects.
Soble was arrested Saturday afternoon at a trailer in Oswego County, the Democrat and Chronicle reports, and Zuhlke had been apprehended from a home in Rochester by a police task force earlier that morning.
Both were scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing in Gates Town Court Thursday, though no further information was available by press time.

Skate park plans moving forward in Fulton

Local skateboarders, BMX bikers and scooter riders gather in Fulton's Van Buren Park where they're pursuing plans to build a skate park. Nicole Shue photo
Local skateboarders, BMX bikers and scooter riders gather in Fulton’s Van Buren Park where they’re pursuing plans to build a skate park.
Nicole Shue photo
By Nicole Shue

Friends of Fulton Parks and a group of volunteers from the community are moving forward with plans to establish a skate park at Van Buren Park.
A few dozen skaters, BMX bikers, scooter riders and supporters of the idea gathered earlier this month at Van Buren Park to get signatures on a petition for the project. While Friends of Fulton Parks has approval from the city to move forward at the Van Buren site, a petition that shows strong community and grassroots support for the project is needed to obtain funding.
Kelley Weaver of FOFP has volunteered to do the grant writing for the skate park. Several of these grants exist specifically for the creation of skate parks in low-income areas and are designed to enrich the lives of young people.
“Friends of Fulton Parks is involved in this (project) because our mission is to improve opportunities for recreational activities in the parks. Hundreds of members of the community have expressed their support for a skate park, and we have partnered with them primarily in the grant-writing process,” said Weaver.
Van Buren Park is located on North Sixth and Van Buren streets. The skate park would be built in the parking lot behind the tennis courts, which is currently vacant. Coordinators say the spot is nice because it’s tucked away from neighbors, the street and motorists.
Joe Arnold has dreamed of having a concrete skate park in Fulton for years. Arnold, a graduate of G. Ray Bodley High School, now works at the Fulton Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) with children. He sees the park as a recreational opportunity for children and teens. Arnold and his friends currently have to drive to Hannibal or Oswego to access skate parks.
“A skate park in Fulton would allow people to ride their boards in a safe place, without fear of getting into trouble by the police for skating in parking lots,” said Arnold.  “Young people in this city need something to do. We’re not using the swing sets and slides.”
Ed Scrimale, a junior at GRB, is a student-athlete who plays basketball and football. In the summer months, he and his friends enjoy skating and biking as a hobby. Scrimale said that while he’s never been arrested for skateboarding, he is often targeted as “suspicious.” According to Scrimale, he has been stopped and given warnings by local police for skating in the street.
Scrimale said police recently told him that his riding was disrupting the flow of traffic. Without a designated skate park, Scrimale and others have few options other than to skate on the road. Van Buren Park is up the road from Scrimale’s home. He hopes the skate park will be built so that he can meet other kids who share his interest and skate in a place free from traffic.
“Skateboarding shouldn’t be a crime, I don’t want to have a record (for our choice of transportation),” he said.
Unlike Scrimale, GRB senior Ryan Harrington doesn’t play a team sport. Harrington enjoys skating because a team isn’t relying on him to score a goal or bring home a championship title. Skating with his peers who are stronger skaters has helped him get better and has built his self-esteem, he said.
“In skating I feel like I’m a part of a little community,” Harrington said. “We just want to get active and be outside — not punished for doing what we love.”
Dan Merlino, a 2012 GRB graduate, said that, as a sport without coaches, skateboarders learn tricks by either watching videos or interacting with other skaters. He grew up idolizing skaters Ryan Williams and Chris Hart.
Bill Dix, of the GRB class of 2015, agreed that skaters encourage one another. He said skating has taught him responsibility and respect.
“What we ride is what we own,” said Dix.
The development of a skate park has met some resistance, particularly on the Friends of Fulton Parks Facebook page. Some people have argued that other Fulton parks should get improvements and updating before another park is built.
Others, like Joe Arnold’s mother, Roxanne, say that a skate park in Fulton is exactly what the city needs.
“These kids work hard at this,” said Roxanne Arnold. “These young people are our future; it’s a sport just like anything else.”
Weaver said FOFP has had a very positive experience working with the skaters.
“Our experience in working with these young people is all positive; they have shown courtesy, respect, honesty, and tolerance. They deserve the same from all of us,” said Weaver.
FOFP is looking into the idea of renting equipment for the park. After petitions are signed, an official funding website will be set up. Matching funds are needed for the skate park grants to prove that the idea is both viable and sustainable. The organization is accepting all ideas for possible fundraisers.

Fulton veteran honored, shares WWII stories

World War II veteran John Halstead, of Fulton, receives a certificate of recognition from U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Lorenzo Villescas during his 96th birthday party Sunday.
World War II veteran John Halstead, of Fulton, receives a certificate of recognition from U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Lorenzo Villescas during his 96th birthday party Sunday.
Halstead2By Matthew Reitz

A Fulton man who was on the front lines of the European Theatre in World War II was recently honored by local U.S. Army officials in celebration of his 96th birthday.
Sgt. John Henry Halstead, of Fulton, celebrated his birthday Sunday and was presented with a certificate of recognition from Sgt. 1st Class Lorenzo Villescas.
At age 96, Halstead says he is still enjoying life, staying positive and maintaining a sense of humor — something he says got him through a lot in life.
“Every minute, every hour, every day is good,” he said. “Everything I say is for humor, laughter, appreciation, thankfulness, caring, loving and joy.”
Halstead was the youngest of four brothers who grew up on Academy Street. He said his three older brothers served in the Pacific during the war, while Halstead entered the front lines in Europe as part of the Army’s 84th Infantry in the early 1940s.
He served as an infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge, and what he remembers most about the epic battle was the extreme weather.
“On the front lines it was 60-below, and when the snow melted it poured rain for 10 weeks, and then it went to 85 degrees,” Halstead said. He said he thought “all the stuff in the air from the war” may have helped cause the rain. There were “quite a few” soldiers who had never been in such weather, he said, and “it was so cold they passed on.”
“There were many things that froze—cars, planes, everything, but I had an air-cooled machine gun that still worked,” Halstead said.
Even the journey from the United States to Europe was trying, Halstead said. He recalled the voyage across the Atlantic by ship, in which the “40- to 60-foot waves were the only safety against submarines.” Waves that big made the troops feel like they were traveling in “a little row boat,” he said.
Today, Halstead stresses that positive thinking, a sense of humor and being thankful for what he has helped keep him alive throughout the war.
“That’s why I’m still here,” he said. “If you don’t have that you’re not even alive really.”
He believes the soldiers who maintained a sense of humor were better equipped to survive and cope with the horrifying conditions they experienced in one of the war’s bloodiest battles.
“We’re the only ones that are really alive with all our humor, appreciation, laughter, thankfulness, loving and kindness,” he said. “It’s true. The others are the walking dead—insane.”
Like many, he said he didn’t enter the war with ill will toward anyone, but “staying alive” was his goal, and his job as an infantryman was to “just do the fighting.”
“I don’t hate anybody, but if they shoot at me I’ll shoot back,” he said.
After the war, Halstead spent several years in Europe working counter intelligence and, after one particular incident, spent an extended period of time in a French hospital being nursed back to health.
“They didn’t even think I was alive,” he said. “I had a temperature of 92 degrees.”
It was during his time in Europe after the war that he met his wife, Gertrude. After 53 years of marriage, his wife, a native of Stuttgart, Germany, died at the age of 91 in early 2014. The Halsteads have a son, Dave, with three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Halstead later attended San Diego State University to study psychology. He entered law enforcement and spent three decades as a probation officer. Halstead moved back into the Fulton area a little less than two years ago. He said it was “good to see all the very wonderful family” on his birthday, and reminded everyone they’re only as old as they think.
“Your age and your health is right in your mind,” he said.

Granby fire officials commission facilities study

Fire district holding series of public meetings throughout process

By Matthew Reitz

The Granby Center Volunteer Fire Department’s First Fire District has hired Heuber-Breuer Construction to conduct a feasibility study on the department’s buildings, vehicles and equipment.
Fire Commissioner Peter Holmes began a public forum last week by introducing Sean Foran, executive project manager for Heuber-Breuer. Foran said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the process with the community and “make sure everyone understands it’s a process that we believe should be a community effort.”
Foran stressed that the process was just beginning, and, presently, he has little information about what the district needs.
“We don’t have any answers right now, but we have a lot of questions,” Foran said.
He noted that he was beginning the process with a “truly unbiased outlook,” and without any preconceived notions or political connections.
Foran said his goal is to help the fire department meet the needs of the community and find the most cost-effective way to do so.
Some residents questioned why the study was being done now and how it was being paid for. Holmes said the fire commissioners decided to have the feasibility study done now to ensure the district doesn’t reach a point where it has a building and equipment that don’t meet its needs. Holmes said the study will cost $24,000 and will help the district identify needs and plan for the future. He brought “some safety issues” to the attention of his fellow commissioners several years ago, and the board recently voted to move forward with the study.
“Whatever it leads to, the information will be valuable,” Holmes said. He said the money for the study “didn’t come out of this year’s budget,” but from funds that have been saved over time.
Fire Commissioner Tim Carly said he didn’t want people to think the fire commissioners are coming to the public to say they want a new building. Foran said the current building, built in 1962, looked to be in decent shape. Carly said the commissioners want to be as fiscally conservative as possible, but they know they have a problem to address.
“We don’t know what the answer is,” Carly said. “That’s why we’ve hired this company to come help us with the discussion.”
Foran said one of the more serious problems is the size of the engine bays. He said there have been numerous accounts of firefighters being crushed by vehicles in their own stations because the bays are not large enough and visibility is poor. Fire officials said in the past the district has had to spend extra money to get trucks custom built to fit into the existing bays.
A series of three public meetings will be held to gather information and keep residents informed. Meeting minutes and other pertinent information will also be posted on a website that will be updated throughout the process. According to Foran, the final product of the study will be a Facilities Master Plan for the First Fire District that will be available online once it is completed.
The next public outreach meeting is scheduled for September 3, and the study is scheduled to be complete by December 2015.

Sharon Vina Whelsky

Sharon V. Whelsky, 69, of Fulton, passed away on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at Seneca Hill Manor. She was born on June 2, 1946 a daughter to the late Harold and Vivian Durant. Sharon worked as an industrial nurse at Birds Eye Foods, Inc. in Fulton. She will be greatly missed and forever loved by her husband of 50 years, Edward Whelsky; two children, Cheryl (Tim) Gregory of Walworth and Edward (Dorie) Whelsky of Oneida; several grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. A graveside service was held Friday, July 24, 2015 at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Fulton. The family would like to sincerely thank the staff at Seneca Hill Manor for their love and care for Sharon over the last 13 years. For those wishing donations may be made to Seneca Hill Manor, 20 Manor Drive, Oswego, NY 13126, in memory of Sharon. Foster Funeral Home, Fulton has care of arrangements.

Fulton investing in energy efficiency at city facilities

By Matthew Reitz

Fulton officials are moving forward with a project to make energy conservation improvements to the city’s facilities.

Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the $465,000 project will focus mainly on Fulton’s municipal building, which is one of the city’s major energy consumers. According to Woodward, the energy savings will eventually pay for the costs of the project. He said the heating and cooling system has not been replaced in many years, and those costs are significant for the city.

“Heating and cooling — that’s the biggy,” Woodward said. He said the current system at the municipal building “has about 38 mixing boxes in the ceiling that don’t work anymore which will all be replaced.”

City Clerk/Chamberlain Dan O’Brien said the bulk of the money will go toward improving the performance and efficiency of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. O’Brien said the new system will cover the police, fire and city offices, and an updated control system will likely provide the most significant savings.

“It’s going to have an updated control system so that when the building is not in use things will ramp down,” O’Brien said.

Woodward said the automated controls would be a significant improvement, and the project will also include motion sensor lighting to help conserve energy. He said the project will be contracted out through Honeywell.

O’Brien said the city will be able to remove the municipal building’s cooling tower because the new system does not require it.

As part of a separate project, the city will install LED lighting throughout the municipal building. That work will be completed by the city, according to Woodward. O’Brien said the city is currently comparing the available grant and rebate programs in hopes of get reimbursed for those costs.

“We’re hoping that what we spend on the LED lighting we’ll get reimbursed for,” O’Brien said.

The Common Council approved a $465,000 bond resolution for the energy projects Tuesday.

Other news

The common council passed a resolution that will allow for the purchase of a new garbage truck. The city has set aside $100,000 for the new truck.

O’Brien said one of the trucks the city is currently using is “constantly going through repair,” and a replacement is needed.

“It was time to cut our losses and move on,” O’Brien said.

Woodward reappointed Louella LeClair to the Fulton Housing Authority Board. He said once the Pathfinder Courts facilities are transferred to their new non-profit LLC, which is expected to happen this summer, this position will be eliminated.

“It’s gone (after that point),” Woodward said. “The city won’t be appointing them (any more).”