Granby residents opposing gravel mine expansion

By Colin Hogan

A group of Granby residents is asking state regulators to prevent the expansion of a gravel mine on county Route 85.

Syracuse Sand and Gravel, which owns the pit, has asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for permission to expand the mine’s pond size from 32.1 to 46.6 acres.

About 60 residents living in the vicinity of the mine, though, sent a petition to the DEC saying that even at its current size, the operation is harming their properties with water pollution and unacceptable levels of noise and dust.

Christine Bassett, of county Route 85, said this is just the latest in an ongoing struggle she and her neighbors are having with state regulators over the mine’s operations.

“They have been very non-communicative. We were calling the DEC complaining about dust, they said ‘don’t call us anymore’ and instead gave us a point person with the company. They have not called us at all or communicated at all with us on this problem, and it’s a major issue,” Bassett said. “It’s like the louder we get and the more we protest, the more we get deflected.”

In a letter to the DEC, which accompanied the petition, residents say they are “strongly opposed” to the proposed expansion, citing a variety of impacts the operation has already caused at its current size.

Topping the list is that the assessment made of nearby residents’ water wells, which was performed in October 2012, is not current, and does not reflect the status of their drinking water.

The letter — which is signed by Bassett and fellow county Route 85 residents James Kush and Lynn Lyons — states that if Bassett’s well were to be examined today, it would show “evidence of substantially increased sediment in water.”

For the last couple years, the Bassetts have had to change their in-house sediment filter “at least every two weeks.” Prior to that time, they only had to change it every couple months, according to the letter.

Bassett, who has lived in her home for 35-plus years, describes her filter as “usually jet black with sediment” after two week’s time lately. She said in prior years, before it needed to be changed so often, it would come out only “slightly gray.”

Another nearby household, owned by the Lyons family, reported on Dec. 20 that their water supply has been “discolored with a visibly yellowish hue,” according to the letter.

The letter also states that the water assessment failed to take into account wells of many households located downhill from the mine.

The residents also “protest the current and ongoing lack of dust control” on trucks traveling from the mine.

“Dust and rocks dragged by the trucks from the bed onto county Route 85 (and into our yards and homes) have been unresolved and increasing problems for year,” the letter states.

In response to earlier complaints about the dust, DEC officials told Syracuse Sand and Gravel it needed to install a truck wheel wash at the site. Granby Town Supervisor Ed Williamson said it was his understanding that the wheel wash was supposed to be installed by the end of January.

Syracuse Sand and Gravel Supervisor Tim Harrison said Monday that the wheel wash is currently on site, but has not yet been installed. He said the company was told by the DEC to have it installed by March, and is waiting to do so until the air temperatures aren’t so cold.

“Even if we installed it right now, you can’t run it, because the water would freeze,” Harrison said.

Harrison noted that, because the ground is currently frozen, the trucks aren’t carrying nearly as much dirt on their wheels. The pit’s activity has also been very slow in January, with only about 20 truckloads leaving all month, he said.

Harrison said the company and the drivers who travel from the mine adhere to the state’s laws on covering loads to manage dust.

“It’s really an open law, and it’s the driver’s discretion whether they tarp loads or not,” Harrison said, adding that a cover is usually only necessary when hauling sand.

“The only loads in question would be when we haul sand out of there, and all those loads get covered,” he said.

A request for comment to the DEC’s regional office was not returned as of press time Monday.

Williamson said he has also sent a letter to the DEC requesting that, in keeping with his residents’ wishes, any permit issued stipulate that the mine not operate on weekends or outside of the hours 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays; that drivers be required to keep the roads clean; and that truck traffic on town roads be as limited as possible.

He said he is also wary of the company digging below the water table.

Williamson called the matter “a tough situation,” saying he has strong sympathy for the affected residents, but also noting that “business is progress.”

FCSD 2012 capital project to wrap up this spring

By Colin Hogan

Fulton City School District’s two back-to-back capital projects remain on schedule, with the 2012 endeavor likely to wrap up this spring, according to district officials.

With the exception of work around the entrance way at Fairgrieve Elementary, and few last-minute punch list items, the $8.8 million 2012 project is “pretty well wrapped up,” facilities director Jerry Seguin recently told the board of education.

Major components of that project include the replacement of the stage curtain, lighting and rigging at the Education Center; a partial roof replacement at G. Ray Bodley High School; technology upgrades and new computer facilities at both Fairgrieve and Volney elementary schools; security upgrades, asbestos abatement, ceiling tile/grid replacement, removal of classroom lockers and new ductwork/relief fans at Fairgrieve; and a partial roof replacement at Volney.

Seguin said the entrance way work that remains at Fairgrieve is the installation of some ceramic tile and the display cases that are placed near the entrance. He said the tile should arrive in time for workers to install it over the February break, and the display cases should be set for installation in March.

“We were hoping to get that started over Christmas break, but had some delays in getting the materials. The plan is to start installing them during the February break,” Seguin said. “We’ll get everything wrapped up as much as we can during the break so we can close that up and then put those cabinets in during second shift.”

When the referendum on the project was passed in December 2012, district officials anticipated it would be completed by spring of 2015. Seguin said that projection should hold true.

The $4.4 million 2014 project — which includes roof replacements at Granby and Lanigan elementary schools, a gym floor replacement at Lanigan, a new athletic storage building and the replacement of locks on classrooms and offices across the district — is also moving mostly according to schedule, Seguin said.

The replacement of the Lanigan gym floor and the new athletic storage building have both been completed, Seguin said, and the plans for the roof replacements are currently being reviewed by the state education department.

“The roof projects are still pending SED approval, but that’s expected at this point. We’re still on the original timeline. If that keeps up, we should be done with the roofs over the summer,” Seguin said.

Superintendent Bill Lynch said he anticipates SED will finish its review of the plans sometime in early February.

The installation of the new locks throughout all schools, however, is lagging behind a bit.

Seguin said the bids for the lock replacements are in and “look good” but are still in the process of being reviewed.

“We’re a little behind on the installation of lock sets. We thought we would be able to get those in earlier, but we’ll start working on them during second shift. It still looks like we’re going to be able to do all of that before school’s over, but it’s going to be tight, because there’s probably a 10 to 12-week lag time once they order the materials,” he said.

As they work on replacing the locks, Seguin said they may find some doors need to be upgraded or replaced. Still, he said the lock replacement looks like it may end up costing about 3 percent less than the original estimate stated.

State aid is covering about 96 percent of each project’s costs, with the district relying on capital reserves to fund about 3 percent, and the remaining 1 percent coming out of the tax levy.

 

Walter D. Scruton

Scruton OBWalter D. Scruton, 75, of Oswego, formerly of Hannibal, passed away Tuesday at the Syracuse V.A. Medical Center. He was born in Oswego, a son to the late Walter S. and Beryl M. (Weber) Scruton and lived most of his life in Hannibal. Walter graduated from Hannibal High School and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was a design engineer with Atlantic Inland Design in Syracuse for several years. Walter enjoyed being outdoors, fishing, camping and sitting beside the campfire. In addition to his parents, Walter was predeceased by his brothers, Carl Leonard Scruton, who died in 1992, Gary L. Scruton, who died in 2001 and Thomas E. Scruton, who died in 2010; a sister, Joyce J. Santore Johnson, who died in 1988 and by a son-in-law, Mark Hudson. Walter is survived by his son, Walter D. “Skip” Scruton, Jr. of New Smyrna Beach, Fla.; three daughters, Eileen Sharkey, Kimberley Scruton and Michelle Hudson all of Oswego; four sisters and one brother as well as several grandchildren. There are no calling hours or funeral services. At Walter’s request his body was donated to SUNY Upstate Medical University for the advancement of medical research. Foster Funeral Home, Hannibal has care of arrangements.

 

Grace M. Smith

Smith OBGrace M. Callahan Smith, 90, formerly of Kellogg Rd., Hannibal, passed away on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at Michaud Residential Health Services. She was born March 2, 1924 in Syracuse, a daughter to the late Joseph and Maude Myrto Callahan. Grace retired from Hannibal High School as a lunch aide and was a communicant of Our Lady of The Rosary Catholic Church. She enjoyed her crafts.  Along with her parents, Grace was predeceased by her husband, Robert J. Smith, Sr. in 2010; son, Robert Smith, Jr. in 2009; daughter, Dorotha Bennett in 2014 and son-in-law, David Shoults in 2011.

She will be greatly missed and forever loved by her four children, Joann (Michael) Mays of Kansas, Mary Jean (Larry) Swiger of Tennessee, Hazel Shoults of Oswego and Joseph Smith of Hannibal; 16 grandchildren; several great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

Calling hours and a service were held Friday at Foster Funeral Home, 837 Cayuga St., Hannibal. Spring burial will be in Hannibal Village Cemetery.

 

Nancy M. Coulter

Coulter OBNancy M. Coulter, 87 of Fulton and formerly of Texas, passed away Monday.  Nancy had worked at several area diners. She enjoyed playing bingo, playing cards and visiting friends. Nancy was predeceased by her husband, Richard L. Coulter, who passed away in 1993 and siblings, James Scardella, Santo Scardella, Anthony Scardella, Palma Cardinalli and Josephine Patane. She will be greatly missed and forever loved by her children, Debra Duncan of Linden, Texas, Dennis (Cheryl) Coulter of Oswego and Robert Coulter of Texarkana, Ark.; sister-in-law, Edna Scardella; six grandchildren, Jessica, Crystal, Thomas, Christopher, Cameron and Cade; five great-grandchildren, Dominick, Armando, Jose, Samuel and Abigail; several nieces and nephews. A calling hour and service were held Friday at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay St., Fulton. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to American Cancer Society, 6725 Lyons St., P.O. Box 7, E. Syracuse, NY 13057.

 

Helen E. Polin

Polin OB.Helen E. Polin, 92, of Louisville, Ky., passed away Friday, January 16, 2015 at Baptist Health.

She was a native of Raymondville, N.Y., and a homemaker.

Preceding her in death were her parents, George H. and Alice L. White Tyo; her husband, Samuel Polin; a sister, Marie Kohler and a brother, Joseph Tyo.

Survivors include her daughters, Donna Zaborowski and Bonnie Wademan; brothers, Alfred J. Smith (Margaret) and Peter M. “Bud” Smith (Joan); grandchildren, Jacqueline Zaborowski, Anthony Dain (Sandee), and Randy Zaborowski; as well as her great-grandchildren, Derek, Corey, Nicole, Margaret and Andrew.

Her funeral service was held Thursday at Ratterman & Sons Funeral Home, 3800 Bardstown Road, Louisville. In accordance with her wishes, cremation followed her service.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the charity of the donor’s choice in her memory. Online condolences may be directed to www.ratterman.com.

 

Judith “Judy” Stevens

Stevens OBJudith “Judy” Stevens, 79 of Volney passed away Sunday Jan. 18 at home. A native of Mexico, she had lived in the Fulton area since 1953. Judy had worked at Nestle as well as A.L. Lee Memorial Hospital. Judy cherished the time she spent with her family. She will be dearly missed and forever loved by her husband of 61 years, Stanley; sons, Gregory, Doug (Dranee) and Brad (Laura); seven grandchildren; six great-grandchildren.  A memorial service was held Friday at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay St., Fulton. There are no calling hours. In Judy’s memory, contributions may be made to American Cancer Society, 6725 Lyons St., P.O. Box 7, E. Syracuse, 13057.

 

Audit calls school’s violent incident reporting into question

By Colin Hogan

A recent audit conducted by the state comptroller’s office found 79 incidents of alleged violence in the Fulton Junior High School that auditors say were not correctly reported to the state, a finding district officials say they “respectfully disagree with.”

The audit — which was actually conducted on the state education department’s system for reporting violent school incidents — used Fulton Junior High School as one of seven test schools, and examined how compliant those schools were in reporting violent or disruptive incidents under the state’s Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting (VADIR) system. In doing so, auditors determined that during the 2011-12 year, there were 79 incidents the school didn’t find to be reportable with which auditors disagreed.

Fulton reported 289 incidents that year, but should have reported 368, according to auditors. For instance, the school reported 23 assaults with a physical injury that year, while the auditors say they identified 64 incidents that would be considered VADIR reportable.

District officials were quick to point out that the auditors’ tabulations only took into account the initial reporting of an incident by a teacher or staff member, and not the administration’s follow-up investigations, which often resulted in new understandings of what happened.

“The auditors took whatever was written in the referral form from the source staff member and determined everything from that,” said Superintendent Bill Lynch. “We keep track of incident referrals and then the administrator would investigate what happened. Through the investigation they may clarify what actually happened and determine a different consequence than the state would recommend based on the initial referral.”

FJHS Principal Ryan Lanigan said he and the school’s assistant principal follow up on every incident referral to determine the whole truth of what happened.

“Whenever a referral is written (by a teacher or staff member), we have a process that we go through. That referral is brought to the main office where myself or the assistant principal read the referral and follow due process. We meet with the student. We meet with other students who may be able to shed light on what’s occurred. A lot of times, that changes our understanding of what’s happened, and we may find that it wasn’t quite the offense it sounded like at first. We take everything into account before we decide what the consequence is,” said Lanigan.

School officials say only looking at the number of incident referrals without taking into account the follow-up investigation paints a skewed picture of violent incidents being underreported.

“The audit was very black and white,” Lanigan said, “there’s no grey in there. They don’t take into account our intervention process, how we use PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports — a U.S. Department of Education supported approach to disciplinary actions in schools). We go through that process diligently.”

The audit states that most of the schools examined misclassified incidents in their internal records “generally as categories that were considered less serious.” Both Lanigan and Lynch say they disagree with some of the ways the VADIR system requires incidents to be reported. For instance, Lanigan said “if a student were to flick another student with a rubber band and leave a welt, under the VADIR definition that’s considered an ‘assault with injury.'”

The audit also stated that Lanigan told auditors “the school does not record or report summer incidents.” Lanigan said Wednesday that statement misrepresents what he was telling the auditors, which was that there weren’t any incidents over the summer to report. The audit’s results confirm that there weren’t any reportable incidents at the school during that time.

Based on their results, the auditors recommended a review of prior or subsequent years to determine if the school should have ever been designated “persistently dangerous,” a designation the district would, by law, have to notify parents of.

In it’s response to the comptroller’s office, the district stated that the auditors’ assessment of the severity of incidents and appropriate consequences is “fundamentally flawed” for not considering the full context of an incident, or other factors like the school’s system of interventions, or “the presence of emotional and behavioral disabilities which require alternative approaches when responding to behavior infractions.”

In August, Lynch and Lanigan presented the audit’s findings to the board of education. Board President David Cordone said Wednesday he agreed that the incidents referenced in the audit don’t seem to have been placed in the full context. He said that, based on what was presented to them, the board was satisfied with the administration’s response to SED, and that he believes officials in the junior high and other schools are working hard to meet the state’s expectations.

“I think, obviously, there is an interest among everyone be sure that our school district is safe. If there’s anything (administrators) needed to learn here, based on the update we were given in August, I believe that’s occurred.”

Lanigan said he and other administrators will be doing more to make sure that their follow-up investigations of incidents are as well-documented as the initial referrals, and said he “can see how the auditors might draw their conclusions” if they’re only looking at the referral form. However, he maintains that the school already has a very diligent incident documentation process that he is proud of.

“I pride myself on how well documented we are, and I completely disagree with the perception that this is building isn’t a safe environment,” Lanigan said.

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