Category Archives: Other News

Burst pipe leaves Pratt House with extensive water damage

Pratt House Display Manager Alec Seymour points out one of the many areas of flooring in need of complete replacement after a burst pipe recently left the museum with extensive water damage.  Colin Hogan photo
Pratt House Display Manager Alec Seymour points out one of the many areas of flooring in need of complete replacement after a burst pipe recently left the museum with extensive water damage.
Colin Hogan photo

The John Wells Pratt House, one of Fulton’s most revered historic sites and the home of countless archived local relics, is recovering from extensive water damage after a pipe recently burst inside.

Leaders of Friends of History in Fulton, which runs the museum, say they believe the pipe bust sometime Saturday, Nov. 22, and the flooding was discovered the following Monday.

According to Pratt House Director Sue Lane, a valve in the building’s water heater that governs how much water to send throughout the system malfunctioned, over-pressurizing the pipes and radiators on the upper floors to the point that some burst.

“We basically had a swimming pool on half of the second floor,” she said.

But it could have been a lot worse, Lane is quick to point out. The flooding was discovered Monday by the museum’s cleaning lady, who had actually come in a day early to do her work.

“It’s like these things happen for a reason. The lady who does our cleaning wasn’t scheduled to come in, but came in anyway, and she was the one who caught it,” Lane said. “She saw the ceilings and the walls running with water, so she called me right away. When I got there I started calling everybody and their brother to come get started with mops, buckets, shop vacs or whatever we could use.”

After volunteers got the situation under control, professionals were brought in to begin the cleaning and recovery process.

The flooding has left several rooms in need of serious restoration. Walls, ceilings and floors throughout the museum, including those in the exhibit rooms, will need to be completely removed, cleaned inside, and replaced. In such an old historic building, Lane is certain it will be a complicated process that requires special workmanship and attention to detail.

“It’s hard because, we don’t want to change anything, but we have so much that needs to be replaced now. We have ceilings that need to be redone, walls that need to be stripped down and put back up, all the wood floors upstairs are going to have to be pulled up and replaced because they’re completely ruined,” Lane said, “so we’re going to need find a special carpenter who’s worked with old houses and knows how these things need to be done.”

Among the hundreds of items damaged are relics from Fulton’s old factories, antiquated newspaper clippings, photographs and volumes of historic documents, to name only some. The water also damaged an entire room full of historic clothing items, which FOH is working with a Syracuse-based dry cleaner to have restored.

However, in a seemingly miraculous stroke of good luck, none of the flooding reached the rooms that currently house the 18 decorated Christmas trees on display for the organization’s annual Parade of Trees. Lane said this year’s event, which will continue to run in spite of the damages, marks the most trees the museum has ever had on display.

“The one bright note is that the water didn’t touch any of the trees for the Parade of Trees, and we were able to do enough cleaning that it won’t interfere with that,” Lane said. “It was kind of like Mrs. Pratt put her hand out and said ‘you can ruin this side of the house, but not this side.'”

Despite the mess, FOH leaders are still counting their blessings that there wasn’t more damage.

“I keep saying, while it’s certainly bad, it could have been a lot worse,” Lane said.

The Parade of Trees continues until Friday. Lane said she plans to wait until it’s finished to begin holding fundraisers or other events to help with the restoration.

“With all that’s happened, we’re trying to make the Parade of Trees a priority. The organizations that do the trees have done such a wonderful job, and this is the most we’ve ever had. So even though all this is going on, we certainly don’t want to take away from all of their hard work. We’re going to be positively focused on the Parade of Trees for now, then get focused on the house.”

The museum can be found on S. First Street in Fulton, and has been on the National Register of Historic Places for 15 years.

Doris S. Perkins

Perkins OBDoris S. Perkins, 68, of Hannibal, passed away on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at home. She was born March 2, 1946, a daughter to the late Norman H. and Laura A. Beckley Starr. Along with her parents, Doris was predeceased by her husband, Timothy in 2013, two sisters, Arlene VanVorst and Rose Hammond and one brother, Robert Starr.

She is survived by her four children, Norman Merrill of Hannibal, Maxine Merrill-Hines of Fulton, Raymond Merrill of Volney and Michael Merrill of Hannibal; several grandchildren and great-grandchildren; one sister, Maxine (Tom Blowers) Barrett of Oneida; brother-in-law Paul (Marge) Goodwell of Williamson and as well as several nieces and nephews.

Calling hours and a funeral service were held Thursday at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay St. Fulton.

Fire damages trailer in Pennellville

12-3 PennellvilleFire LN

Colin Hogan photo

Several agencies responded to a fire at the Blue Jay Lane mobile home park in Pennellville Monday. Firefighters were able to knock down the blaze in less than a half-hour from when the call was made at 10:54 a.m. No one was transported away from the scene for injuries, according to the Oswego County E911 Center. Several agencies responded to the incident, including fire departments from Pennellville, Phoenix, Clay, Central Square, Palermo, Cody, Caughdanoy, Volney and Brewerton, as well as New York State Police.

Nutrition standard changes put FCSD food services in red

By Colin Hogan

Changes in the types of foods school districts are required to serve their students left the Fulton City School District’s food services in the red last year, district officials say.

During the 2013-14 school year, FCSD’s student breakfast and lunch programs ended up operating on a $110,000 deficit. District officials say this is largely because changes in state and federal guidelines that mandate what types of food are served, and how big the portions are, caused more students to bring in their own lunches, rather than opt for what the school was serving.

FCSD Food Services Director Terry Warwick said those changes, which were mostly implemented during the 2012-13 school year, included keeping meals to a certain number of calories, lowering sodium levels, making sure whole grains are the primary ingredient in grain-based foods served, and requiring students to take at least one portion of fruits or vegetables with breakfast.

“Basically, when the portion sizes were cut and certain things became mandatory, that’s when thing started going downhill.” Warwick said. “It was like students everywhere just boycotted it.”

Patty Barbar, the director of food services in the Phoenix Central School District and president of the Oswego County School Nutrition Association, said the effect the new standards have had on school food service programs is endemic, not just in Oswego County or New York state, but the entire nation.

“If you look at school districts nationwide, everyone is struggling,” Barbar said.

Reports by the federal government show this to be true. An audit by the the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released earlier this year shows that about 1.2 million students across the nation stopped buying school lunches after the standards were implemented in 2012-13. Prior to that, participation in school lunch programs had increased steadily for almost a decade, the report shows.

Barbar calls the drop in participation an “unintended consequence” of what was otherwise a well-intentioned policy change.

“The law, in theory, was a great idea,” Barbar said, “but the unintended consequence has been that food services all over the U.S. are losing money.”

And it’s not just the result of lower participation. Barbar said once the new standards were enacted, the prices of many of the required products soared.

“When the guidelines came down, and everyone in the country had to buy these things, prices skyrocketed,” Barbar said. “Even by combining forces (with other food service programs), and trying to gain better buying power, we still can’t save nearly as much as we thought we could.”

Both Warwick and Barbar say their districts had been serving foods that mostly aligned with the new standards long before the policy changed.

While a school district’s food service programs typically run on a combination of their own revenues and state and federal funds, when they fall into the red, the district has to cover the gap with local tax dollars.

“The school districts only help fund us when we’re in the red, and districts, as you know, don’t have extra money to spare,” Barbar said. “So we need to be able to support ourselves and, up until about two years ago, we were doing awesome.”

The situation has left food service directors like Barbar and Warwick with a difficult choice:

“We’re put in this situation where we have to cut costs — and I can’t cut the quality of food, that’s not an option —so we end up having to cut staff, which really hurts our customer service,” Barbar said.

This past year, regulators have lighted the standards a bit, allowing districts to serve portions that are a little bit larger than they had been the year before. In Fulton, that has helped bring back some participation in the school lunch program, but Warwick said the numbers still don’t compare to years prior to 2012.

“This year it’s been better. We’re not losing a ton of meals, but we’re not really gaining a ton either,” she said.

Accomplished author, businessman shares life lessons with local students

Fred Sarkis was 12 years old and working 15-hour days on his family’s fruit and vegetable truck when he learned three important life lessons from his immigrant father.

The lessons of enthusiasm, education and integrity, or “The Golden Rule,” each stemmed from his personal daily experiences he shared with his father.

Author Fred Sarkis shares a laugh with Volney Elementary student Angel Ortiz during his recent visit to the school. Photo provided
Author Fred Sarkis shares a laugh with Volney Elementary student Angel Ortiz during his recent visit to the school.
Photo provided

It was the 1930s, and America was feeling the crippling effects of the most significant economic challenge of its history, the Great Depression, while even more uncertainty loomed with the realities of a second World War.

Sarkis, a Rochester native who is now 88, is the founder of the Yes Pa Foundation; author of “Prisoner of the Truck” and “Yes Pa”; and a World War II Navy Veteran. He is also the motivational speaker for the foundation’s instructional program, which he shared recently with students in Bill Cahill’s sixth grade classroom at Volney Elementary School.

It was Sarkis’ eighth annual visit to Volney Elementary, and he once again provided the lessons learned from his own personal adversities, and the harsh disciplines of growing up as kid during the Depression era.

According to Sarkis, his Lebanese-born father, an uneducated “huckster,” wanted more for his eldest son, and offered three important teachings that would shape him, and his life journey.

A self-proclaimed “prisoner” of his father’s fruit and vegetable truck, Sarkis would use the time working on the truck as a study center, educating himself by the light of his lantern.

The lantern has now become iconic within the Yes Pa Foundation, and Sarkis’ learned lessons are now shared at over 500 schools throughout the country, as well as in numerous prisons, and other educational settings.

Cahill, along with fellow team teachers Daniel Bartlett and Stephanie Zimmerman, have worked with Sarkis for years, introducing his Yes Pa program to their students, while building a curriculum around Sarkis’ lessons.

Pictured is Sarkis with Volney Elementary School student Destiny Miller. Photo provided
Pictured is Sarkis with Volney Elementary School student Destiny Miller.
Photo provided

“The enthusiasm that stems from the Yes Pa curriculum and Fred’s visit is incredible,” said Cahill. “We always welcome the opportunity have Fred work with our students, and have him teach them the importance of establishing goals, character traits, personal accountability, and other keys towards happiness and success.”

“The smiles are contagious from both Fred and the students as a result,” he added.

Sarkis tells the story of how his own lack of enthusiasm selling strawberries at age 12 led to a confrontation with his father and, in turn, led to the three powerful five-minute lessons.

“My father would have my eight-year-old brother and I go door-to-door selling strawberries out of the back of the truck,” Sarkis said. “I began every sales pitch with the words ‘you probably don’t want to buy any strawberries, do you ma’am?’ which resulted in very few sales compared to my younger brother.”

According to Sarkis his father’s advice on taking a smarter, more positive and enthusiastic approach to the sale was something he embraced.

Sarkis explained, “my father’s approach was ‘these strawberries were picked early this morning on a farm in Webster. See how fresh they are. They are only 10 cents a quart or three quarts for a quarter. Do you want one or three, ma’am?’”

According to Sarkis, it was this simple change in approach that shaped his success going forward.

At age 16, Fred graduated from a business school, first in a class of 70. At age 17, earning five times more than the minimum wage, he bought his mother of eight children a home on Park Avenue in Rochester. At age 18, during World War II, he enlisted in the Navy. After discharge, at age 20, he worked full time while attending the University of Rochester at night focusing on business courses.

He started a coffee vending business at age 24 and, with his brother Joe’s help, expanded it into a full line of vending machines and an automatic cafeteria. He later expanded into the management of employee cafeterias for major corporations including Xerox and Eastman Kodak.

At 34, he became a multi-millionaire, and invested in numerous high-risk investments — including a major ski area and a lakeside village in his hometown of Canandaigua which, today, although he is no longer involved, employ hundreds of people and provide recreational service to thousands.

It was 15 years ago that Sarkis founded the Prisoner of the Truck Foundation, now called the Yes Pa Foundation. Since then, through the assistance of volunteer regional and national educators, over 500 schools throughout the United States (including Volney Elementary) have downloaded this character education program that uniquely connects the parent, or mentor, with the teacher and the child.

“Growing up, I was small, knock-kneed, pigeon-toed, dark-skinned and a prisoner of my father’s truck,” said Sarkis. “Feeling bullied, I lacked confidence, self-esteem and many character traits that kids struggle with today.”

“It has been my personal and foundation’s mission to help and serve others to overcome their own inhibitions or obstacles, offer advice on how to embrace failure, admit mistakes, learn from it, and move on to reach their full potential, strive for greatness, and achieve a lifetime of goals,” he added.

Oswego County sends highway crews and equipment to Buffalo

Oswego County is lending some of its snow removal expertise and equipment to the City of Buffalo to assist in the removal of this week’s massive lake-effect snowfall.

County Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner approved a request from the State Office of Emergency Management Thursday afternoon for additional snow removal assistance. “We’re used to these types of events and are certainly happy to help them out,” said Chairman Gardner.

County Highway Superintendent Kurt Ospelt said a loader, three 10-wheel trucks and a service truck went to Buffalo Friday morning.

“We expect them to be in Buffalo for about three days,” he said.

More than a foot of lake-effect snow fell Thursday night in sections of Oswego County.

New nuclear plants siren system to be tested soon

Sirens in a new public warning system being installed by Exelon Generation and Entergy Nuclear will be ready for testing soon, and residents may hear individual soundings of sirens in the coming weeks.

Full testing of the new sirens will be announced by Exelon Generation when a schedule is established, officials reported. Before that schedule begins, as installation of each siren is completed, the individual sirens will be tested audibly to ensure functionality.

“Residents of the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone may hear sirens sounding as part of the installation testing anytime during the next few weeks,” Dale A. Currier, director of the Oswego County Emergency Management Office, said. “This is a normal part of the installation process.”

The project is a joint effort by Exelon Generation, which operates Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station, and Entergy Nuclear, which owns and operates the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant, to upgrade the public warning system. It includes replacing 37 existing sirens and installation of two new sirens, as well as battery backup-power in the 10-mile radius around the nuclear power plants.

The system is operated by Exelon Generation and serves both of Oswego County’s nuclear facilities; however, it can also be called upon by county emergency management authorities to provide notification in any type of emergency.

The warning sirens are one of several methods used by county emergency management authorities to provide notification of emergencies. In an emergency, the sirens would be sounded prior to an Emergency Alert System message on broadcast stations participating in the Oswego County Emergency Alert System, which would tell people why the sirens sounded and what they should do.

“The sirens are not a signal to evacuate,” Currier stressed. “People should always consult an EAS station to hear instructions by Oswego County officials on what they should do.”

The new sirens will sound at a volume similar to the old ones. There will be a change to the frequency of testing and details will be shared on these changes. Until the new system is fully tested and approved by federal officials, the existing system will remain in place.

“We appreciate Exelon Generation’s and Entergy Nuclear’s commitment to public health and safety and the investment they’ve made in the new system,” Currier said. “The new sirens will enhance our ability to warn people of an emergency.”

Residents who have questions about the siren activations should call the Oswego County Emergency Management Office at 591-9150.