Empower credit union employees clean up Voorhees Park

Employees from Empower Federal Credit Union West Branch in Fulton are volunteering to help prepare Voorhees Park for the summer.

As a community outreach project, they are working with the Friends of Fulton Parks and the Fulton Department of Parks and Recreation to install safety landing material at the Voorhees Park Playground during Earth Week. For information on how you can “Sparkle-a-Park” at other locations in Fulton, email friendsoffultonparks@gmail.com.

Fulton’s “Sparkle-a-Park” activities are part of the Oswego County Environmental Management Council’s Earth Week Cleanups and Projects, to be held across the county through May 4.

Fulton school district residents to vote on public library propositions

By Ashley M. Casey

The Fulton City School District board of education voted March 25 to include propositions concerning the Fulton Public Library on the May 20 special election ballot.

Library Director Betty Maute and Board of Trustees President Marian Stanton presented two propositions to the board.

One would make the library a school district library and increase the annual tax amount the district collects for the library to $350,000 (currently, the school collects $170,000 a year on behalf of the library).

The other allows school district voters to elect members of the library’s board of trustees.

“We have to have stable funding,” Stanton said. “When push comes to shove, the library gets shoved.”

Fulton resident Bill Pierce spoke against the library propositions during the evening’s first public forum.

He said he had heard a lot of “misinformation” about which taxpayers would fall under the new levy amount, and he opposed the original 1999 New York state law that allowed libraries to collect taxes through school districts as well.

“It should have nothing to do with the school system,” Pierce said.

Fulton Superintendent Bill Lynch explained that only property owners who live in the Fulton City School District will pay the tax.

“The levying of the library tax will not be related to zip code. It will be on those who live in the Fulton school district,” Lynch said. “The school district will have no responsibility for the library building, staff or budget.”

Stanton also said the library would not “impinge on their (the school district’s) functions.”

Lynch told The Valley News if voters approve these propositions, they will have more control over the library than they do now.

“The registered voters are going to elect the library board,” he said. “The library is saying, ‘You will now have a stake in the governance of the library.’”

Currently, the Common Council approves the mayor’s appointments of library trustees.

Although the school board has approved the propositions for the May election, ultimately, it is up to the school district voters.

Budget waiting for state aid

Superintendent Bill Lynch and Director of Finance Kathy Nichols introduced a second draft of the proposed 2014-15 district budget.

The numbers are the same as in the first draft: The budget is expected to increase by 2.66 percent to $66,992,685 over the 2013-14 total of $65,259,100.

Lynch reiterated the district will increase the local tax levy only by 1 percent over last year’s rate.

“I just don’t think the community is in a spot to be able to handle (more than) that,” he said.

The district still faces a shortfall of $1,280,378. The district is hoping to close that gap through analyzing its revenues and spending, receiving a portion from the BOCES administrative budget, state aid and a possible reduction in the Gap Elimination Adjustment the district must pay.

New York state is expected to complete its budget by April 1.

“We are a high-need, low-wealth school district … We are relying on aid from New York state,” Lynch said. “Foundation aid has essentially been frozen since the 2008-09 school year.”

He explained that for the 2008-09 year, state foundation aid covered 40 percent of total education costs. Now, that aid covers only 35 percent, shifting more of the burden to local taxpayers.

Nichols and Lynch will present a third draft of the budget at the April 8 board meeting. The board is expected to adopt the budget at the April 23 meeting, and district taxpayers will vote on it May 20.

Coming up

Public propositions for the May 20 election are due April 1.

The next regular meeting of the school board will be at 7:30 p.m. April 8 at the Education Center, 167 S. Fourth St.

The public hearing for the proposed school budget will be at 7 p.m. May 7 at the Junior High School, 129 Curtis St.

The vote on the school budget, library propositions and election of school board members will be May 20 at the elementary schools.

Fourth-highest vote getter in May 20 election will fill Occhino-Pilawa’s vacant board seat

By Ashley M. Casey

Rosemary Occhino-Pilawa’s term on the Fulton school board would have expired in 2015.

Now that she has resigned, the remaining board members have two options: appoint someone to take her place, or wait for the May 20 election.

Given that the election is less than two months away, the board is opting to wait.

“When we have the election in May, the person who is the fourth-highest vote-getter will be elected to fulfill Rosemary’s term (ending in 2015),” said Superintendent Bill Lynch.

The seats of David Cordone, Barbara Hubbard and Fred Cavalier are also up for election.

Lynch said the district has given out six sets of petitions to potential board candidates, but the exact number of people running won’t be available until the candidates return their petitions to the school April 30.

Candidates must reside within the Fulton City School District and need 100 signatures on their petitions to run for the school board.

The board will accept election results and swear in new members at the May 27 meeting.

Occhino-Pilawa says goodbye to Fulton

By Ashley M. Casey

School’s out forever for Rosemary Occhino-Pilawa.

After more than 40 years of living in Fulton and working with local schools, the former educator and school board member is bidding the city adieu as she prepares to move to Onondaga County with her new husband, engineer Donald Pilawa.

Occhino-Pilawa has resigned her position on the Fulton City School District board of education, where she has served since 2009.

She announced her resignation in a letter read aloud to her fellow board members at the March 11 school board meeting. She attended her final board meeting March 25, and her last day of service is March 31.

Occhino-Pilawa said her goals for her time on the board have been “to make a positive difference” and “to be transparent.”

“If I had just touched the life of one child (while) serving on the board, it will be positive,” Occhino-Pilawa told The Valley News.

Over her four decades in Fulton, Occhino-Pilawa has touched many lives. She taught at the now-defunct Erie Street and Phillips Street schools, Fairgrieve and Granby. She retired in 2003 after spending 19 years as a first-grade teacher at Granby. Her first husband was an educator as well.

Occhino-Pilawa said she ran for school board after her first husband, longtime teacher and the Hannibal district’s Fairley Elementary School principal Dr. Joseph Occhino, passed away in 2008.

“I needed to give back to the community that welcomed me and my husband and my children with open arms,” she said.

Originally from Gloversville, N.Y., Occhino-Pilawa was a reluctant transplant to Fulton in 1973.

“I was living a charmed life in Vermont, my first love,” she said of the state where she spent her college years. Occhino-Pilawa received her bachelor’s degree from Castleton State College in 1968 and did graduate work at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

The late Dr. Occhino took a job at the Erie Street School in Fulton. The Occhinos agreed to give Fulton a try for three years and planned to return to Vermont.

“When the three years came to closure, he said, ‘We’ll put our house on the market,’ and I said, ‘If you want to leave, you’ll have to leave by yourself!’” Occhino-Pilawa recalled. “Those three years have turned into 41.”

Because New York state did not honor Occhino-Pilawa’s Vermont special education certification, she became a substitute teacher and eventually an elementary school teacher. Her husband built his career as an educator and spent 27 years as principal of Fairley in Hannibal.

Dr. Occhino had been a strong supporter of the Ronald McDonald House, so to honor his memory, Occhino-Pilawa coordinated a recyclable “pop tab” collection to benefit the charity.

“It was so phenomenal,” Occhino-Pilawa said of the student and community response.

That year, the Fulton district collected more than 1,000 pounds of tabs from soda cans and soup cans. The donation was worth more than $600. McDonald’s sent Ronald McDonald to the winning school — Fairgrieve, with more than 500 pounds of pop tabs — to present a program on bullying and safety.

“Helping others is really what life is about,” Occhino-Pilawa said.

The district’s teachers’ association presented Occhino-Pilawa with a community award at its banquet that year.

“It’s very dear to my heart because my late husband endorsed the McDonald foundation,” she said.

The Occhinos raised three sons: Martin, Alan and Jason. Martin now lives in Connecticut, but his two brothers remain in Oswego County.

“This is a great place to raise children,” Occhino-Pilawa said. “If you ask (my sons), ‘Where is home?’ they’ll say it’s Fulton.”

Upon her marriage to Donald Pilawa Nov. 9, 2013, Occhino-Pilawa chose her new last name to reflect her family pride, both old and new.

“I hyphenated the name because of my three sons and I have seven grandchildren who all carry the Occhino name, and I’m very proud of it,” she said.

“I have enormous anxieties about departing,” Occhino-Pilawa said of leaving the city she’s called home since 1970.

At her final board meeting, her colleagues expressed their sadness and well wishes too.

“You are an inspiration,” said Christine Plath, whose daughter worked with Occhino-Pilawa as a student teacher.

“She made her the teacher she is today in Hannibal,” Plath said of Occhino-Pilawa’s guidance.

“You added laughter, candor and a heart of full dedication,” David Carvey said. “You will be sorely missed.”

Fulton YMCA begins annual fundraising campaign

The Fulton Family YMCA has launched its annual campaign.

Money raised will ensure that everyone in Greater Fulton has access to vital community programs and resources that support youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

“Throughout our community, most people know the Y, but there’s so much more to our Y than one might think.” said Fred Bulken, who is co-chairing the campaign with Jim Schreck. “The Y is more than a gym. It’s a cause.”

As a charity, the Y is dedicated to nurturing the potential of every child and teen, improving the nation’s health and well-being, and giving back and providing support to our neighbors.

Every day, the Fulton Family YMCA works to support the people and neighborhoods that need it most by addressing community issues.

YMCA programs fight poverty, boost academic achievement, nurture creativity, reduce drowning deaths, prevent diabetes, and strengthen families.

Through the generosity of donors, the Y offers financial aid to ensure that everybody can belong to the Y, regardless of their financial situation.

To support these community-strengthening efforts, Fulton Family YMCA volunteers seek to raise $35,000 through their annual campaign.

To learn more about how you can support the Y’s cause, please contact Lisa Pachmayer, interim executive director of the Fulton Family YMCA, at 598-9622, or lpachmayer@syracuseymca.org.

OCO holding elections for board of directors position April 1, 2 and 3

Oswego County Opportunities is holding its annual election for open seats representing the low-income sector on its board of directors.

Election will take place at several OCO program sites on April 1, 2 and 3.

Five candidates are participating in this year’s election, said OCO Executive Director Diane Cooper-Currier. Voters may choose up to five candidates on the ballot.

“Our corporate structure requires one-third of our board to be composed of members who represent the low-income sector, either through economic eligibility or employment or volunteer activities that serve low-income populations,” she said.

All Oswego County residents, with the exception of OCO employees, who consider themselves to low-income residents, are eligible to vote for participant representation on the OCO board of directors.

“It is a requirement that the low-income representatives be elected by their peers,” Cooper-Currier said. “We encourage our program participants and members of the community to stop at one of the sites and (cast) a ballot.”

Here is some brief information about each candidate:

John Zanewych is the owner of Big John Sales, Inc.. He is very active in the community and is a board member for the Oswego County Child Advocacy Center, Oswego County Habitat for Humanity and the Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

He believes his involvement with the Child Advocacy Center and Habitat For Humanity is very connected to the work of OCO and as a board member on all three organizations, he can make a strong link between them and their service to  low income people and those who struggle for stability and safety in their lives.

Karen Paterniti is the chief financial officer at Northern Oswego County Health Services, Inc. (NOCHSI).

NOCHSI is the county’s federally qualified health center focused on providing health care to the low income.

As an OCO board member, Paterniti would welcome the opportunity to better serve community members and look to strengthen the partnership between OCO and NOCHSI.

Carissa Seaton is a Head Start parent and has served on a Head Start Center Committee and the Head Start Policy council since September of 2012.

Seaton is an artist and has used her talents in this area to help others out through benefits and fundraisers.

She is interested in helping in the community and feels that serving on the OCO board of directors is a good way to do this.

Gidget Stevens is the director of assistance programs for the Oswego County Department of Social Services. This provides her with insight to the needs of the community, particularly the low income.

Stevens was in a low income environment and chose this line of work as a way to assist individuals to self-sufficiency.

She believes in the mission and vision of OCO and works with OCO on many committees and collaborations.

Jeanne Unger is the executive director for Farnham, Inc., responsible for overall operation and expansion of services related to chemical dependency treatment and prevention.

She serves on a number of professional committees and boards including the Governor’s Advisory Council on Alcoholism and several OCO advisory committees.

Unger has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in counseling and psychological services from SUNY Oswego. She resides in Oswego with her husband and children.

Voting dates are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, April 1 through April 3, 2014, at the following sites during normal program hours unless otherwise noted:

Oswego:

  • Oswego Reproductive Health, 10 George St. – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Crisis & Development – Midtown Plaza – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Oswego WIC, 10 George St., Suite 400 (April 3 only – 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.)

Fulton:

  • OCO Administrative Office, 239 Oneida St. – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Fulton Reproductive Health, Lee Medical Office Building-Suite 400
  • Fulton Senior Meal Site, Municipal Building – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Backstreet Books & Bistro, 201-203 Oneida St. – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Fulton WIC Site, Believers Chapel, 614 S. Fourth St. across from McDonald’s (April 1 only, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Phoenix:

  • Discovery Day Care/Head Start – County Route 59 (off Route 481)

Other Locations:

  • Senior Dining and Activity Center sites are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Constantia Senior Meal Site, St. Bernadette’s –County Route 49 (April 2 and 3)
  • Mexico Senior Meal Site, Presbyterian Church – (April 2)
  • Parish Senior Meal Site, Presbyterian Church – (April 3)
  • Phoenix Senior Meal Site, Congregational Church (April 2)
  • Hannibal Senior Meal Site, Community Library (April 2)
  • Sandy Creek Senior Meal Site, United Methodist Church – (April 2 and 3)

For more information, visit OCO’s website at oco.org.

Fulton police participate in Operation Safe Stop

The Fulton Police Department, along with law enforcement officers around the state, will participate April 3 in an Operation Safe Stop day.

During “Safe Stop,” police officers are in marked patrol units enforcing the New York State Traffic Law, which requires all vehicles to stop for stopped school buses with their red lights flashing.

Communication between the Fulton Police Department and the transportation department of the Fulton City School District has identified the times and locations where vehicles passing school buses have been found to be the most frequent. These times and areas will be the focus of enforcement efforts.

Operation Safe Stop seeks to promote school bus safety not only through enforcement efforts but also through educational efforts.

It needs to be reinforced to motorists that it is dangerous and illegal to pass a stopped school bus when its red lights are flashing.

Flashing red lights mean the bus is picking up or discharging students.

You must stop whether you are approaching the school bus from the front or overtaking it from the rear.

You must always stop for flashing red lights, this applies even on divided and multilane highways and on school grounds.

The first time fine for illegally passing a school bus is a $250 to $400 fine, 5 points on your license, and/or possibly 30 days in jail.

Operation Safe Stop is a cooperative project supported by the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, the New York State Education Department, the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, the New York State School Bus Contractors Association.

Oswego County health clinics set for week of March 31

The Oswego County Health Department offers a variety of services to all residents of Oswego County, including preventive health services, certified home health care, long-term home health care, certified hospice, and a maternal and child health program.

Walk-in influenza clinics are held weekdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. at the Nick Sterio Public Health Clinic, 70 Bunner St., Oswego for people age 19 and older.

No appointment is needed; walk-ins are welcome.

Children’s flu vaccine is now available every Tuesday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Oswego, and the third Tuesday of every month from 9 to 11 a.m. at the H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse, Pulaski.

The children’s flu vaccine is available at no cost to all children who qualify for the Vaccines for Children Program provided by the New York State Department of Health. For those who do not qualify, the cost is $37 for the inactivated vaccine.

Patients with private insurance, Managed Medicaid, Managed Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare, and Medicare Part B should bring their benefit cards with them to the immunization clinic.  No one will be turned away due to inability to pay.

The following services will be offered during the week of March 31 at the Nick Sterio Public Health Clinic, 70 Bunner St., Oswego.

OSWEGO:

** Adult Influenza Clinic: Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m., walk-in clinic.

** Immunization Clinic: Tuesday, April 1, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., walk-in clinic.

** Pregnancy Testing: Free pregnancy testing is available. Call 349-3391 to schedule an appointment.

** Sexually Transmitted Disease Testing and Treatment Services: Call 349-3547 to schedule an appointment.

** HIV Counseling and Testing Service:  Call 349-3547 to schedule an appointment.

Immunization clinics are held every Tuesday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at 70 Bunner St., Oswego, and the third Tuesday of every month from 9 to 11 a.m. at H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse, Pulaski.

For more information about public health services, contact the County Health Department, weekdays, phone 349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547.

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