Police make “numerous arrests” through sobriety checkpoint

The Fulton Police Department, along with members of the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department, state police and SUNY Oswego Campus Police are cracking down on drunk driving this holiday season with some very successful sobriety checkpoints and patrols.
On Saturday December 20, 2014 the agencies conducted a sobriety checkpoint, which was immediately followed by active roving DWI patrols. Fulton police say the goal of the multi-agency checkpoint was to identify and arrest impaired drivers and other observed crimes or traffic violations, as well as raise public awareness about the dangers of driving while intoxicated.
According to Fulton police, “numerous defendants” were arrested or ticketed during the checkpoint and patrols for several different charges, including:
*Aggravated unlicensed operation in the second degree (class A misdemeanor) and four counts of unrestrained child (infraction) for having four children under the age of eight in the vehicle who were not restrained in a proper car or booster seat.
*Unlawful possession of marijuana (violation)
*Reckless endangerment in the second degree (Class A misdemeanor), reckless driving (misdemeanor), failure to comply (infraction) and several other traffic infractions for failing to stop at the checkpoint, which led to a low speed pursuit.
*Driving while intoxicated (Class A misdemeanor) and speed in zone (infraction).
The checkpoint was funded by a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, administered by the Oswego County Stop DWI Program.
Fulton police announced Tuesday they are planning another multi-agency checkpoint prior to the New Year’s holiday.

Granby residents concerned about proposed Hannibal mine

By Ryan Franklin

Several Granby residents expressed their concern with a proposed gravel pit in Hannibal that would sit on the border between the two towns during the town board meeting Wednesday.
Virginia Messerschmidt of county Route 8 said the gravel pit, which C.J. Ferlito Aggregate is seeking a 20-year permit for and would sit on the Hannibal side of Harris Hill Road, would lead to numerous problems for Granby residents.
Messerschmidt focused on the heavy truck traffic that would result from the mine, saying that it would lead to destruction of town roads and a burden on Granby taxpayers for their repair, a decrease in property values from the noise and dust, well water draining or contamination, and an increase in the already hazardous intersection of county Route 8 and Harris Hill Road.
“I’ve lived on this corner since 1980,” Messerschmidt said, “and have witnessed many, many accidents.”
Pointing to the gravel pit already on county Route 85, Messerschmidt said that the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which would oversee the new pit, has done a poor job of enforcing regulations.
“It would appear the DEC is lax in enforcing their own permits,” Messerschmidt said, citing numerous complaints from county Route 85 residents that trucks at that pit did not follow dust or time limits.
As part of the presentation, Messerschmidt requested that the board write a formal letter to the Town of Hannibal Planning Board opposing the pit, request a study from the Department of Transportation about the safety of heavy trucks on the proposed roads, and post signs for weight limits on Granby roads to discourage trucks from using them.
Town Supervisor Ed Williamson said that he had already requested the Mexico DOT office perform a safety study on the intersection of county Route 8 and Harris Hill, which he called “a deathtrap.”
Williamson also said that he attended Hannibal’s public hearing for the proposal and expressed that Granby did not want the pit to be approved, and that if it was, Hannibal should include in their stipulations to the DEC that the trucks should not be allowed to travel on Granby roads.
“Granby wants nothing to do with this permit,” Williamson said. “There is no reason they should have to travel on our portion of Harris Hill Road.”
Williamson promised the board would write a formal letter to the Town of Hannibal asking for the pit not to be approved. A public hearing extension to decide on the permit is scheduled in Hannibal for January 8.
The board also discussed a notification from the DEC that the 85 Riccelli Mine Pit was being allowed to increase its pond size from 32.1 to 46.6 acres. The board said they would request a bond to ensure Syracuse Sand & Gravel would have to repair or reimburse residents whose wells were damaged if that occurred.
A $45,000 transfer from the town’s general fund was approved to begin the Environmental Design Phase for the establishment of Water Service Area 6A, which would survey the roads for soil borings and other preparations. The resolution was made for the town to loan the money rather than a bank so that the interest rate required by law would be as low as possible, at .18 percent. 

Susan Marie Cunningham

Susan Cunningham, 64, of Fulton, passed away Monday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. She was born in Oswego on December 8, 1950 to the late Herbert W. and Thelma Cunningham. Early in her life Susan worked for Nestle Co. in Fulton.  Always focused on the happiness of her family and friends, she was known for her fudge and kindness. She lived every day to the fullest and encouraged others to do the same. In addition to her parents, Susan is predeceased by her brother, David Waldron. Susan’s memory will be forever cherished by her son, Daniel (Stephanie) Cunningham of Fulton; six beloved grandchildren, Jeffrey Rusaw Jr., A1C, Derrick Rusaw, Olivia Cunningham, Lillian Cunningham, Cayley Cunningham and Maximus Cunningham; extended family, Renee and George Sacco and their families. There are no funeral services. Calling hours are 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, December 23 at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay Street, Fulton.

Marcy A. Leroux Craven

12-20 Craven OBMarcy A. Leroux Craven, 64, of Fulton and formerly of Middleburgh, Fla., departed this life unexpectedly on Saturday, Dec. 13. She was born May 19, 1950 in Tupper Lake, the daughter of the late Maynard and Iona Leroux. Marcy was a 1968 graduate of J.C.B. High School in Phoenix and had once been employed by Western Electric in Syracuse. In April 1970, she married Bruce Hall in Tupper Lake. While Bruce was in the Navy, she experienced military life as they traveled to Guam, where they were both champion archers, Tennessee, Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville, Fla., where she had worked at NAS Jacksonville Naval base for several years. Marcy will be remembered for her joy of cooking, passion for horses and NASCAR as well as out fishing her brother-in-law. Her family was very close and shared great love for one another. She will be missed and thought of every day for the remainder of their lives and she will always have a spot reserved at the table for card night. Marcy is survived by her sons, Scott and Kevin Hall; sisters, Callie (Bruce) Benware and Laurie Leroux; brother, Gary (Vicki) Leroux; granddaughter, Alyssa Hall; nieces, Stacy (Buster) Hall and Nicole (Jason) Mace; great-nieces and nephews, Montana Hall, Cameron Hall, Cayleb Hall, Curtis Mace and Morgane Mace. A service was heldThursday, December 18 at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay St., Fulton. There were no calling hours. Burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery will be private in the spring.

Janet  H. Hawley

12-20 Hawley OBJanet  H. Hawley, 82, former Phoenix, town of Granby resident, passed away at St. Camillus Health & Rehabilitation Center, in the town of Geddes, on Sunday December 14, 2014. Born in Philadelphia, Pa., to her late parents, Verna (Muir) and William Holl on October 14, 1932, she later moved to Fulton and was a graduate of Fulton High School, Class of 1950. She then attended the General Hospital School of Nursing, Syracuse, graduating and earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She married her husband, Robert G. Hawley, in 1955. Janet was a polio registered nurse for three years. She then was employed by Dr. LaFrate, M.D., Fulton, as a pediatric nurse for 10 years. Janet went to work for Ray Middle School, Van Buren Road, Baldwinsville Central Schools, as the school nurse for 18 years, completing her career in nursing.

Janet was the past matron for the Order of Eastern Star, Elizabeth Chapter 105, Fulton; nurses alumni organization, Syracuse; she helped start a knitting club at the Phoenix Public Library; and was a member of the Granby Senior Citizens group.

She was predeceased by her husband Robert G. Hawley in 1986, after 31 years of marriage. Surviving are her daughter Debbie L. and son-in-law Kurt Stolar of Phoenix; her son, Robert W. “Crowbar” Hawley of Volney; her brother, William Holl of Queensbury, N.Y.; and two grandchildren, Bobby Hawley and Amanda Hawley.

Calling hours were Thursday December 18 at the Allanson-Glanville-Tappan Funeral Home, 431 Main St., Phoenix, NY 13135. After the visitation, a funeral service was held with the Rev. David C. Nethercott officiating. Burial followed the service in Riverview Cemetery, 70 Tappan Street, Baldwinsville, NY  13027.

Fulton adopts 2015 budget after lively debate

By Colin Hogan

The city of Fulton adopted its $15.7 million 2015 budget Tuesday, but not without some conflicting input from city taxpayers.

City officials heard more than an hour and 20 minutes of input from taxpayers in a public hearing Tuesday, including one who repeatedly beseeched the common council to table their vote on the spending plan and make further cuts to public safety.

The budget reflects $15,710,583 in city spending for next year, up $114,395 from this year’s $15,596,188. The city anticipates non-property tax revenues will total $9,324,102 next year, with another $6,464,816 to be generated in property taxes, which city officials can be achieved by maintaining the current tax rate of $19.662 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. rebuts claims that the city didn't cut enough spending out of the 2015 budget during a public hearing Tuesday.  Colin Hogan photo
Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. rebuts claims that the city didn’t cut enough spending out of the 2015 budget during a public hearing Tuesday.
Colin Hogan photo

Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said prior to Tuesday’s budget hearing that the city was able to balance the budget without a tax increase largely through personnel changes. By consolidating positions, and re-hiring staff who are retiring this year as part-timers, the city is spending about  $200,000 less on personnel than it did last year, without any layoffs, Woodward said.

The city has also cut spending in several departments, including Parks and Recreation. Resident and planning commission member Dennis Merlino, who had previously requested that the city maintain its current appropriations for the parks, said Tuesday he understands those reductions had to be made.

“I see now that it just wasn’t practical or possible,” Merlino told the mayor and council. “But I am thrilled with the budget you have come up with – no tax increase.”

 Dennis Merlino addresses the board during Tuesday's public hearing.  Colin Hogan photo
Dennis Merlino addresses the board during Tuesday’s public hearing.
Colin Hogan photo

Merlino said it’s now up to the residents to pick up the slack as volunteers where the city has been forced to cut back.

“I would ask the people to step up and do their part. It’s time for each person to volunteer to do something that will help the city,” he said.

Merlino’s praise was matched by that of former city councilor Bob Weston, the first to speak at the hearing, who drew comparisons between Fulton’s and the city of Oswego’s budget to illustrate how efficient he felt Fulton’s is. Weston pointed out that, while Oswego has 55 percent more population, it’s budget is almost three-times as much as Fulton’s.

“I think you’ve done an excellent job on the budget. It was a difficult time. I know with all the retirements we’ve lost a lot of good people, we’ve had to make a lot of changes… all in all I think you’ve done a good job of controlling (spending) and making the cost-efficient operation of the city possible,” Weston said.

But others in attendance said there are still cuts that should be made, namely, in public safety. After praising city officials for “holding the line” on property taxes, Mark Aldasch, chairman of the Fulton Republican Committee, admonished them for not confronting what he called “the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”

Fulton Republican Committee Chairman Mark Aldasch implores the common council to table their vote on the budget and consider more cuts in public safety. Colin Hogan photo
Fulton Republican Committee Chairman Mark Aldasch implores the common council to table their vote on the budget and consider more cuts in public safety.
Colin Hogan photo

“I’ve got to be fair, you held the line (on taxes), but let’s talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The 800-pound gorilla in the room in public safety,” Aldasch said

Aldasch called cuts that had been mentioned for the police department, such as scaling back the number of patrol vehicles and having officers pay their own cell phone bills, “small potatoes,” saying that the only cuts that would have a significant impact would be reducing the size of the police and fire forces. He drew a comparison using the city of Oneida, which he says has a similar population, but only about 24 officers each in its police and fire departments, compared to Fulton’s 35.

Aldasch repeatedly asked the council to table its vote on the budget until it could do some research on how Oneida manages its expenses.

“I’m asking you to table this budget… Take some time and take a field trip to Oneida… Go to our ‘sister city’ and see what they’re doing differently that you’re not doing here, because the ‘same old same old’ isn’t cutting it,” Aldasch said.

Aldasch continued: “You know the 800-pound gorilla is there and you won’t look at it. You won’t look it in the eye and address the issue. I understand that there’s contracts coming up, contract negotiations you have to negotiate in good faith. Look at Oneida. That’s your comparable… they’re doing it with half. They’re not in this position.

“It’s no offense to firemen or policemen. I appreciate everything they do and I’m thankful for them. But I’m saying that if another city can do it, (Fulton can)… You have to make the tough decision, you have to do more. I’m asking you on behalf of the taxpayers. Be a hero. Fall on the sword if you have to, that’s your job.”

After about 22 minutes of Aldasch’s comments, in which he called the council and mayor “a bunch of wimps” for not making more public safety cuts, Woodward accused him of belaboring the issue for a political gain, insinuating Aldasch has intentions to run for mayor. Woodward said tabling the budget that night would be impractical, and that Aldasch is “bright enough to know that we’re not going to settle a contract before Dec. 31.”

Aldasch denied the accusation, and reiterated his desire to leave Fulton if he were able to sell his house.

“I want to move! I don’t want to stay here!,” he shouted, before saying that the council and mayor aren’t looking out for the interest of the public.

The escalation was abruptly stopped by Merlino, who yelled from the back of the room “as a member of the public, I implore the council to take the vote tonight.”

The need to confront public safety spending was a constant refrain among other speakers, too. Attorney Salvatore Lanza questioned the need for 35 firefighters and 35 police officers in a city Fulton’s size.

Attorney Salvatore Lanza addresses councilors on the 2015 spending plan Tuesday. Colin Hogan photo
Attorney Salvatore Lanza addresses councilors on the 2015 spending plan Tuesday.
Colin Hogan photo

“I think we could get by in Fulton with 24 or 25 police officers,” Lanza said. “Eight officers a shift. Two police cars on the east side, two cars on the west side — there’s four. During the day you’re going to need an investigator and maybe a deputy investigator, they’re working on cases to solve them — there’s six. Certainly they’re downstairs next to that window. There doesn’t have to be a police officer at the window… Most police departments you call 911 and they say ‘the officer will meet you at the police department.'”

Woodward later noted that a staff of 24 officers with eight on per shift, three shifts per day, doesn’t take into account weekend, vacation or sick day coverage.

Oswego County Legislator and Fulton resident Frank Castiglia Jr. asked the council to consider closing the west side fire station and selling to building to get it back on the tax rolls. It was later pointed out that the station is the only one with a big enough bay to house Engine No. 1. That door was custom fit after the manufacturer mistakenly made the truck larger than the city had requested. The modifications to the door were done at the company’s expense, Woodward noted.

Castiglia also suggested small cuts in other departments, but ultimately praised the city for keeping taxes level and for making tough decisions in drafting the spending plan.

“Whenever you have a zero percent tax increase, it’s a good budget,” Castiglia said.

The council unanimously adopted the budget immediately after the public hearing was concluded.

Years of reserves depletion lead to tough tax hike in Schroeppel

By Colin Hogan

Schroeppel residents are facing a steep hike in the town’s property taxes in 2015, which some town officials are saying is the consequence of years of balancing the budget with fund reserves.

The $2,437,528 spending plan for 2015 will rely on $961,510 in anticipated non-property tax revenues, with the remaining $1,476,018 to be raised from the town’s tax levy. In previous years, the town used its reserves to help offset the tax levy, but officials say this year there simply aren’t enough reserves left to use, leaving a heavier burden on the taxpayers.

According to Deputy Town Supervisor and town board member Steve Hutchins, prior administrations used up more than $1.7 million in reserves to balance the town’s budget over the last five years. Now, he says, without any reserves left, the taxpayers will have to shoulder the burden themselves.

“(Property owners) are going to see a tax bill in January they’re not going to like,” said Hutchins. “The past administration spent every penny of reserves to keep taxes level. Now that there’s no reserves, guess where taxes have to go? Up.”

Hutchins, who assumed office this year, said he is “appalled” by how previous town leaders continued to deplete the reserves without making necessary tax increases, leaving the tax rate “artificially low.” He said tax increases could have been nominal and much more manageable for the taxpayer if they had been done responsibly over time.

According to the budget, Schroeppel’s tax rates for 2015 will be $3.0688 per $1,000 of assessed value for properties within the Village of Phoenix and $5.1566 per $1,000 for properties outside of the village. Those represent a more-than-30 percent jump in rates compared to 2014, when they were $2.2543 and $3.8630, respectively.

The average property owner in Schroeppel could see his or her town taxes go up anywhere from $75 to $250 as a result of the rate change, Hutchins estimated. A home assessed at $100,000 would see roughly a $130 increase, he said.

Hutchins said, in spite of their need to use reserves, town officials had actually lowered tax rates in 2012 and 2013, leaving a larger gap to close in 2015.

While the impending tax increase will keep the town operating, it won’t solve its reserves problem. Hutchins said the new revenue will cover the basic costs of operating the town, but most likely won’t add to the reserves. New York state recommends municipalities maintain reserves equal to about 10 percent of their budget.

“The budget we passed is bare bones. It’s the cost of running the town,” Hutchins said. “Those are the costs of having a highway department that plows our roads, and to keep the lights on in the town hall, and to have things like a community services program. This is what we need to budget just to have those basic things.”

This year, the town hired a new comptroller, Robert Peters, who has helped with the budgeting process. Hutchins said, with Peters on board, he hopes the town will begin formulating a plan to begin adding to its reserve funds again.

“We hired a new comptroller who is very good at what he does,” Hutchins said. “We’ll be working with him over the next 12 months and, yes, we will determine a plan to put reserves back in the budget.”

The 2015 spending plan doesn’t come without cuts, either. Hutchins said more than $200,000 in services and programs were eliminated from next year’s budget. After the board held several meetings with department heads, Hutchins said some items they intended to fund next year — such as $25,000 for bathrooms in a park, a used crusher for the highway department estimated at another $25,000 and funds for additional personnel in the community services department — all had to get turned down.

While Hutchins knows the hike will be unpopular with residents, he said he and the rest of the board are willing to take “a political hit” for making the necessary adjustments.

“Realizing there was no fiscally responsible way the town could provide the minimum level of services and programs within the 2 percent cap (on tax levies, mandated by the state) and maintain current levels of vital services and programs expected by the community, taking a political hit for exceeding the 2 percent cap is the price this board is willing to take in the adoption of the 2015 budget,” Hutchins said.

Teens convicted in Granby man’s murder sentenced

Staff Report

Three central New York teenagers were sentenced to more than a decade in prison each in Oswego County Court Monday for their roles in a February burglary and murder in Granby.

Glenwood Carr Jr., 16, of Lysander, and Michael Celi, 17, of Baldwinsville, were sentenced on a single count each of second-degree murder, and Zachary Scott, 19, of Van Buren, was sentenced on a count of first-degree burglary after the three broke into the trailer of Anthony Miller on Feb. 3 and fatally stabbed him for money and marijuana.

Glenwood Carr Jr.
Glenwood Carr Jr.

Carr was sentenced to a period of 17-and-a-half years to life in prison, Celi was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison and Scott was sentenced to 18-and-a-half years in prison, with five years of post-release supervision.

According to District Attorney Greg Oakes, the idea to burglarize Miller’s mobile home began with Carr, who claimed Miller owed him and his family money. Oakes said Celi immediately jumped on the idea and took ownership of the plan, providing Carr and Scott with ski masks. He also armed himself with a knife and armed Scott with a metal pipe.

Miller’s older sister, Lulia Brown, wrote a letter about how the events affected her life, which Oakes read aloud in court before the three teenagers were sentenced.

“My brother Tony would’ve given the shirt off his back if someone was in need. He was a good man. He didn’t deserve to die,” she said in the letter.

Brown said that Miller housed Carr and his father when they were homeless.

“He was like a son to Tony,” she said about Carr, “and this is the thanks my brother gets.”

Brown said all three of the teenagers were “friends of Tony’s, if you want to call them friends.”

Brown said in her letter that Miller had diabetes, and was too weak to defend himself from three teenagers.

“Zachary Scott: I say to you that you are a follower. You attacked a man that trusted you and allowed you into his home. I thank you for ‘manning up’ and accepting your plea deal,” she wrote.

Brown also said she knew Carr had a troubled past with absent parents, but she knew he “masterminded the whole, hideous thing.”

“I blame you for your stupidity. You knew it wasn’t right what you did,” she wrote. “Do yourself a favor and get an education in prison. Make something of yourself other than a menace to society.”

Brown then addressed Celi in her letter.

“Michael Celi: I say to you that I want to say I hate you, but I won’t stoop so low,” she wrote. “I hope your stay in prison is rough. I hope someone manhandles you like you did to my brother.”

Brown wrote about her intention to appear at Carr and Celi’s parole hearings in the coming years to argue that they should not be let out of prison.

Zachary Scott
Zachary Scott

At Scott’s sentencing, Judge Donald Todd admonished him for not using any leadership skills to stop the two younger defendants.

“He could have exercised some form of leadership over the two younger defendants,” he said. “They are young men, but they darn well know the difference between right and wrong.”

Scott’s attorney, Joseph Rodak, said Scott reflects on his actions “each day and wonders what he could have done differently.”

Scott told Todd that he wanted to “come home a better person.”

“You knew it was wrong, you knew it was stupid, when you realized Mr. Miller was home, nobody should have entered,” Todd said before handing down his sentence.

When Carr was sentenced, Oakes argued that the crime “began with Mr. Carr.”

“Murder was a consequence they anticipated,” he said, noting how the teenagers wouldn’t have arrived at the home with weapons and ski masks if they didn’t consider the possibility that Miller might be home.

“My client wishes he could take it back. From day one he has been remorseful,” said Carr’s attorney, Timothy Kirwan. “He did have a troubled life and mental health issues.”

Carr said he would live with the night’s events for the rest of his life.

“I’m sure you’re sorry, and I know you didn’t mean for it to happen, but you were involved in a crime that was wrong and dangerous. You came up with this idea because you believed this man owed you, your father and your uncle some money,” Todd said. “You owed him a hell of a lot more than he may have owed your family.”

Michael Celi
Michael Celi

At Celi’s sentencing, Oakes advocated for the full sentence offered in the plea deal of 21 years to life in prison.

“I get no joy or satisfaction from this request, but I am asking the court to impose the full sentence,” he said. “This whole thing is tragic because of the death and the three young men who threw away their lives.”

Oakes said Celi “fully anticipated this could go wrong in the way that it did.”

According to Oakes, when Carr and Scott both showed reluctance upon the realization that Miller was at his home, Celi demanded they go through with the burglary because he had already paid for the gas money to reach the trailer.

According to court documents, Celi attacked Miller with a hammer until the head of the tool fell off before stabbing him three times.

Stab wounds were “deliberate, these were intentional and these were meant to cause harm,” Oakes said. “He mouths the words of being sorry, he mouths the words of contrition, but I don’t know how serious they are.”

Oakes called into question how sincerely sorry all three of the teenagers were, considering reports that they stepped over Miller’s body as he lay on the ground, dying or dead, to grab items to steal.

“Mr. Celi shows a high risk of violent recidivism,” Oakes said.

Celi’s attorney, Anthony DiMartino, said Celi had taken responsibility for his actions when he pleaded guilty.

“My client has an alcohol usage problem,” he said. “Does that mean he’s not remorseful? It means he has a problem.”

Todd said he didn’t believe any potential alcoholism played a role in the murder.

“You were drinking, but I’ve never seen a bottle of beer break into a house,” he said.

Ultimately, Todd sentenced Celi to 20 years to life in prison instead of the maximum sentence of 21 years to life.

“I’m going to give you the one year off. I’m going to give you that chance,” he said. “It’s easy to lock up someone based on who they are now. I’m going to give you a chance to convince the parole board in 20 years that you’ve changed.”

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