Kenyon to lead Common Council in 2016

Tom Kenyon
Tom Kenyon

By Matthew Reitz

FULTON—At its swearing in ceremony on Jan. 1, the Fulton Common Council elected First Ward Councilor Tom Kenyon as its president, and city officials urged unity following an evenly divided vote.
Newly sworn-in Second Ward Councilor David B. Ritchie nominated Kenyon for president in the first action the council voted on this year. After Kenyon, Ritchie and Third Ward Councilor Donald R. Patrick Jr. voted “yes,” while Fourth Ward Councilor Jim Myers, Fifth Ward Councilor Jay Foster and Sixth Ward Councilor Larry Macner, the 2015 council president, voted “no.”
That left Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. to cast the deciding vote.
Before deciding, Woodward noted that he “didn’t have a dog in the fight” and that he had worked well with both Macner and Kenyon in the past, but ultimately chose Kenyon for the position.
“I just want to say thanks to the council for the opportunity,” Kenyon said. “I want to thank everyone for coming tonight, especially my wife. She supports me all the time.”
Kenyon said he sought the position of council president because he feels he has the communication skills and time needed to get the job done. He also said, contrary to what some might assume, he works well with Woodward and other city officials.
In remarks following the meeting, Kenyon and others urged the council to work together to find solutions to the many pressing issues Fulton currently faces. Others on the council echoed his sentiment and congratulated him on being chosen for the seat.
“My problem out here today is we have two Conservatives, we have two Democrats, and we have two Republicans,” Kenyon said. “To get anything done, I think all six of us have to work together—with the mayor—to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
As council president, Kenyon said he will work with the mayor and others to continue developing the former Nestle property and attract businesses to the area. He said he expects to see a “domino effect” after Aldi is constructed, with businesses moving in to develop the site that has sat vacant for years.
“Right now, I can see things happening—I can see the light at the end of the tunnel that I didn’t see before,” Kenyon said.
Kenyon said he doesn’t anticipate any lingering animosity following the vote for council president, and he thinks city officials will be able to work together to do what’s right for the Fulton. If the council is divided, they “won’t get anything done,” Kenyon said. Woodward agreed with that, and added that the city had “a lot of issues.”
Myers and Foster both said they thought the council would continue to work together without issue, and Foster added “it’s all about the people and the city.”
Macner congratulated Kenyon on the post, and said it was a pleasure to serve the city as Common Council president in the past. He also urged unity, and pointed out the need to work with other levels of government, as well.
“What we have to try to do is work with the county, state and federal government,” Macner said. “We’ll get there.”
The addition of Ritchie and Patrick, and their more-than-50 years of experience working for the city, will be beneficial to the council, Kenyon said. He said he thinks they’ll bring fresh ideas to help the city save money and find new ways to attract businesses and job creators.
Along with drawing in business and pursuing ways to provide relief to local taxpayers, Kenyon said he would also like to see more recreational opportunities for Fulton residents of all ages.
“We’re working for the people,” Kenyon said. “I think all of us need to work together. We have to get this city going again.”

Fulton swears in new elected officials

Matthew Reitz photo Fulton City Court judge Hon. David H. Hawthorne swears in Common Councilors James Myers and Norman "Jay" Foster during the council's Jan. 1 meeting. Not pictured are councilors Larry Macner, Donald Patrick, David Ritchie and Tom Kenyon.
Matthew Reitz photo
Fulton City Court judge Hon. David H. Hawthorne swears in Common Councilors James Myers and Norman “Jay” Foster during the council’s Jan. 1 meeting. Not pictured are councilors Larry Macner, Donald Patrick, David Ritchie and Tom Kenyon.










By Matthew Reitz

FULTON—The city of Fulton swore in two new Common Councilors, accepted several mayoral appointments, and approved the sale of a city-owned property on Jan. 1 at the council’s first meeting of 2016.
Fulton City Court judge Hon. David H. Hawthorne oversaw the inauguration as he administered the oaths of office to recently re-elected Mayor Ron Woodward, Sr. and the six councilors, two of whom are new to the Common Council.
After choosing First Ward Councilor Tom Kenyon as the next council president, the council heard the mayor name several of his appointments, including the designation of Mary R. Earl as Registrar of Vital Statistics and Charles J. Smith III as Public Works Commissioner.
“It’s very good to have you aboard,” Woodward told Smith. “You’re doing a wonderful job right now.”
Woodward also appointed members of the council to each of the city’s standing committees. Kenyon, Second Ward Councilor Dave Ritchie, and Third Ward Councilor Donald Patrick will make up the city’s Audit/Finance Committee; and Fourth Ward Councilor Jim Myers, Fifth Ward Councilor Jay Foster and Sixth Ward Councilor Larry Macner were appointed to the Recreation Committee. Each of the councilors was named to the Legislative Committee and the Community Development Agency Board.
In his closing remarks, Ritchie thanked his family and others, and pointed out that the eight people sitting in the front of the room (the six councilors, Woodward and O’Brien) together have over 150 years of experience working for the city in some capacity. Patrick then followed Ritchie, and called for unity among the council. He said city officials need to work together to “bring things back to the way they used to be years ago.”
“We all want that,” Patrick said.
Patrick also used his time to thank his wife, his girls, and Trowbridge for supporting him in his newest endeavor.
“I retired yesterday from the city after 40 years,” Patrick said. “It’s been difficult. I had a difficult day yesterday, but I start a new job today.”
Before the meeting was adjourned, Woodward asked Kenyon to speak with each of the councilors about the possibility of using city-issued cell phones. Kenyon said the costs were low and the phones would help improve communication, not only among the councilors and their residents.
The council designated The Valley News as the city’s official newspaper for the upcoming year, and approved the use of $7,000 to provide financial assistance to the Fulton Historical Society. A resolution was also passed to authorize the mayor to sign an application for stop loss insurance with Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company of New York.
Among other mayoral appointments, Cathy Trowbridge was reappointed Administrative Assistant to the Mayor; Kurt Brown, Charles Marks, Alan DeLine, William Wood and David Miner were named to the Fire and Police Commission; Heidi Webb was appointed Secretary to the Planning Commission, Rita Kay Davies—Secretary to the Electrical Board, Joann Cavalier—Secretary to the Plumbing/HVAC Board, Kathleen Yahner—Secretary to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Peter Palmer—City Historian. More than 40 people were also named Commissioners of Deeds.
In a unanimous vote, the council authorized the mayor to execute the sale of the property at 415 Broadwell Avenue, which Woodward said was acquired through tax foreclosure in 2015. The property will be sold for $30,000.
The next meeting of the Fulton Common Council will take place on January 19 at 7 p.m.

Colleagues, friends remember Clayt Brewer

Brewer, ClaytonStaff Report

FULTON — Former Oswego County Legislator Clayton “Clayt” Brewer died Tuesday and was remembered by friends and colleagues as one of a kind.
Brewer, 87, a Fulton native, was a member of the legislature for 30 years before retiring in 2009. He served as the chairman for the Highway and Health departments and the Ways & Means committee.
Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus said he grew up around the county legislature and remembered Brewer as being the kind of public servant that was dedicated to his constituents.
“Clayt was a guy you knew was going to be looking at the issues in the right way,” Backus said. “He was always attentive to the issues and always asked the same question, ‘How does this help the people in my district?’”
That attentiveness to the needs of the people he represented also meant Brewer didn’t shy away from speaking plainly or working with both political parties to get things done, according to Minority Leader Michael Kunzwiler, D-Oswego.
“Even if you didn’t agree with Clayt he was always good to work with,” Kunzwiler said. “He would always work with you, he wasn’t afraid to say what he thought and he wouldn’t keep to one side of the aisle.”
Kunzwiler and Backus both said that Brewer’s long tenure with the county often cast him in the role of mentor.
“He was kind of like a teacher too, he gave you the nuances of the legislature,” Kunzwiler said. “Things like, ‘don’t go into another legislator’s territory and do something without working with them.’”
Outside of politics, Brewer owned and ran Brewer and Brewer going back to 1947. He was also a big racing fan and founded the Quarter Midget Race Track in Volney, nicknamed “Claytona.”
William Gannett lives in Dallas, Texas, but was born and raised in Fulton and will be attending Brewer’s funeral services based on his memories of Brewer’s generosity and kindness.
“You run across a guy like Clayt once in a lifetime,” Gannett said. “You just don’t find people like that today, just a real kind-hearted person.”
Brewer was the type of person that would tell you not to worry about it if you couldn’t afford something, and was always doing something for his community, according to Gannett.
Brewer was predeceased by his wife Mildred “Jeanie” Brewer in 2012, and is survived by their four children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Fulton, Oswego spend more on public safety than similar cities

By Matthew Reitz

Recent budget figures show that Fulton and Oswego spend more per capita on public safety than similar small cities in central New York.
Each of Oswego County’s cities has spent over $500 per capita on police and fire department expenses in recent years—considerably more than the cities of Oneida or Cortland. However, local officials say some of that spending might be explained by geographic and demographic differences.
According to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates from 2014, and recent city budget figures, Oswego has a population of about 17,988 people and spent about $529 per capita on public safety last year. That figure is slightly higher than the $521 Fulton spent in 2015 on its 11,648 residents.
According to their local officials, Cortland and Oneida spend far less per capita on public safety than Oswego and Fulton. Cortland, which is comparable in population to Oswego at 19,164 and also has a SUNY college campus, spends about $61 less per capita  at $468. The city of Oneida, which compares almost identically with Fulton in population, spends only about $373 per capita— about $148 less than Fulton.
Public safety costs have continually been a topic at budget hearings and council meetings in both Oswego County cities. Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. cites public safety expenses as a major financial threat to the city, and has made it known that he’s looking to cut those costs to stabilize the city’s finances. He’s said on a number of occasions that he’d like some concessions from the fire department.
“It’s because of the contracts,” Woodward said of the high costs. “There’s no doubt, everybody knows it.”
The Fulton Fire Department responds to about 2,300 calls each year, while Oneida officials say their firefighters get roughly 2,000 calls per year. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, the Fulton Fire Department has a minimum staffing level of eight people, which some city officials have said is too high. Oneida, on the other hand, has a minimum staffing level of five, but often employs six firefighters per shift, according to Oneida’s fire department.
Woodward and other city officials have talked about trying to decrease the Fulton fire department’s minimum staffing levels to cut costs, but interest-based negotiations are the only method the city has to adjust that. Woodward noted that the process is  particularly complicated because it is “dictated by the state of New York,” unlike private sector negotiations.
The fire department in Fulton does not have an ambulance corps, which is instead provided privately by Menter’s Ambulance Service. However, Woodward said the department still gets a lot of emergency medical calls, and many of them are “very important.”
Fulton Assistant Fire Chief David Eiffe said firefighters respond to most EMS calls, unless they are of low severity. Eiffe said within the last few years, the department made changes to the types of EMS calls it responds to, and now does not typically go out for Alpha calls, which are the least severe.
Eiffe said call volumes have stayed high, even without the department answering some of the less-critical calls. Fulton has a large elderly population, and that yields a higher number of medical calls, he said. The department also has to be prepared for emergencies in the Oswego River and Lake Neatahwanta, and the state Route 481 corridor is prone to a high amount of accidents, according to Eiffe.
Eiffe also pointed to changing demographics within the city as a reason for its call volume.
“Sometimes it has to do with demographics,” Eiffe said. “There are certain parts of the city that we rarely respond to for EMS calls, and then there are other parts of the city that we respond constantly to. A lot of that has to do with demographics.”
Eiffe said Fulton has seen a “significant increase” in substance abuse calls in recent years. He said the fire department first saw a rise in calls from the use of synthetic marijuana and, over the last year-and-a-half, has seen a large spike in heroin-related incidents.
Officials from the Oswego Fire Department estimate over 80 percent of the nearly 4,500 calls answered there each year involve the ambulance service. Assistant Chief Jon Chawgo said he believes Oswego receives so many calls due to things like its geographic features, as well as the socioeconomic status of the city’s residents.
“As the socioeconomic status of an area drops, the ambulance calls go up,” Chawgo said. “That’s one of the negative sides of public safety—the poorer the town, the more demand for public safety.”
Chawgo said one of the major difficulties in public safety is that the need and costs tend to be inversely proportional to the socioeconomic status of the area. In other words, cities that have more impoverished residents (and therefore a lower tax base) tend to have much higher public safety costs for the same reason.
“A lot of it’s as simple as: if you’re very poor and you don’t own a car, then the only way to get you to the hospital is via an ambulance,” Chawgo said. “It’s too bad, but that’s how it works out.”
Census data shows there is a large discrepancy in median income between Oswego County’s cities and their comparables. According to the census bureau, the average family income in Oneida is $46,958, while it’s $39,466 in Oswego and only $34,856 in Fulton. Cortland sits slightly above Oswego with a median household income of $40,229.
Oswego also has thousands of college students who occupy the city for most of the year. Chawgo said even though much of the SUNY Oswego campus falls outside city limits, many of the students live and socialize in the city. Lake Ontario, the Oswego River and the city’s fishing industry also present unique challenges to Oswego that lead to increased call volume and expenses.
According to the deputy Corland fire chief, his department, which does not have the waterfront concerns Oswego does, receives only about 2,200 calls per year — about half as many as Oswego.
Regarding police budgets, Fulton Police Chief Orlo Green said the majority of his department’s spending is contractually driven, and also said that Fulton and Oneida are not very similar from a policing standpoint. Oneida’s population may be comparable, but Green said the environment in Fulton is more urban and creates different challenges.
“For us here, when it comes to budget, it’s contractually driven,” Green said. “We have unique policing considerations here in the city of Fulton.”
The Fulton Police Department answered over 12,248 calls in 2014, according to Green, while Oneida  officials said their department only gets about 7,000 per year. Green said drugs are a major issue behind Fulton’s call volume. Not only have drug-related calls increased over the years, but those incidents lead to other types of crime, as well, he said.
“We definitively are dealing with more drug complaints now than we have,” Green said.
Oneida Police Chief David Meeker said his jurisdiction, like many others, has also seen an increase in drug activity, and also noted that it’s difficult to compare the two cities because of different policing challenges and the large discrepancy in call volumes­­.
In Oswego, the police department said it answers about 19,000 calls each year, which is slightly higher than the roughly 18,000 calls Cortland police said they receive each year.

Returning to Nuremberg: Fr. Moritz Fuchs reflects on his time guarding the U.S. prosecutor in the historic military tribunals

Well-decorated from his WWII combat, Fr. Moritz Fuchs of Fulton recently returned to Nuremberg, Germany, where he served as bodyguard to U.S. prosecutor Robert Jackson during the historic post-WWII military tribunals. Fuchs, 90, is one of only three witnesses to the Nuremberg Trials still alive today.
Well-decorated from his WWII combat, Fr. Moritz Fuchs of Fulton recently returned to Nuremberg, Germany, where he served as bodyguard to U.S. prosecutor Robert Jackson during the historic post-WWII military tribunals. Fuchs, 90, is one of only three witnesses to the Nuremberg Trials still alive today.
Robert H. Jackson, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who served as our nation's prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials, pins a medal on Fr. Moritz Fuchs of Fulton in this 1945 photo.
Robert H. Jackson, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who served as our nation’s prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials, pins a medal on Fr. Moritz Fuchs of Fulton in this 1945 photo.
By Colin Hogan

He is one of only three remaining witnesses to one of the most pivotal events in history and, this fall, Fr. Moritz Fuchs of Fulton returned to Nuremberg, Germany to help commemorate the trials that brought justice to some of the world’s most notorious war criminals.
When the Allied Forces declared victory in Europe at the end of World War II, Nuremberg — arguably the birthplace of Nazi power, which was mostly destroyed in the war — became the site of the historic prosecution of leading Nazi officials.
Convened in November of 1945, the Nuremberg tribunals put 21 high-ranking Nazi officers on trial for the atrocities committed under their regime, prosecuted by a coalition of legal advocates from the Allied nations. Eighteen of the defendants were found guilty, and three were acquitted. Eleven of those found guilty were sentenced to death by hanging, while the remaining seven were given prison sentences.
Representing the United States in the proceedings was prosecutor Robert H. Jackson, who was on hiatus as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Fuchs — a general infantryman who had been wounded by shrapnel in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, was hospitalized, then returned to the battlefield three months later—was hand-picked by his battalion commander to be Jackson’s bodyguard.
For more than a year, Fuchs was seldom away from Jackson’s side. He lived in Jackson’s designated home about seven miles outside of town, rode with him virtually everywhere (taking different routes into town each day) and sat nearby in the courtroom during the proceedings.
“I lived with him, rode with him, always knowing where he was and keeping track of who was trying to gain access to him,” Fuchs said.
This past year, Fuchs received an invitation from the City of Nuremberg to participate in the events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the trials. In November, the 90-year-old retired priest took a six-day trip back to Germany, with first-class travel and accommodations paid for by the city.
“They flew me out first class and took very good care of us,” Fuchs said. “It was all very impressive.”
This wasn’t his first time back, though. In 2010, Fuchs returned to Nuremberg to attend the dedication ceremony for the historic exhibit the city had curated on the upper floor of the famous courthouse.
Fuchs is one of only three remaining witnesses to the trials, along with a French court clerk and a German-born translator (whom Fuchs noted actually fought for the U.S. in the war.) While he’s quick to point out that he was only ancillary to the trials, what he witnessed both there and on the battlefield had a profound impact on the person he became.
“My experience during the war — seeing all the destruction that was caused — I could see that the quality of a person makes all the difference in this world,” Fuchs said.
As someone who has given a lifetime of service to God, and someone who heard first-hand of the atrocities committed by Nazi officers, Fuchs said he has no doubts he was fighting against true evil in the war. He recalls witnessing the apparent remorselessness of many Nazi officers in their testimony.
“My view falls under the same principle as (the trials): Might does not qualify you for right. Right is right, and the rule of law is ultimately important,” he said. “(One officer) admitted to the execution of some 90,000 people, and he talked about it just as calmly as if he was naming his grocery list.”
Jackson, on the other hand, provided Fuchs with a model for what represents good in the world. Historically, Jackson is regarded for more than just his role at Nuremberg. As a former U.S. Solicitor General, Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice, he is the only person in history to hold all three of those titles.
“He really was a great statesman. He knew what America stood for. He knew what the best of human life stood for, and he showed the atrocities in a clear light for what they were,” Fuchs said.
Fuchs uses many words to describe Jackson: “friendly,” “intelligent,” “well-read,” “practical,” “knew human nature well,” “admirable.” And when it comes to his favorite anecdote about the man, he can’t help but talk about their time hunting together.
One time while accompanying Jackson and some of his fellow advocates on a weekend hunting expedition, Fuchs ended up being the only one present to actually shoot a deer. Jackson was so delighted that it was his bodyguard who nabbed it that he field dressed the deer himself.
“He was pretty proud that it was his guy who shot the deer, and then he was the one to dress it!” Fuchs said. “So, you can see, he wasn’t just an academic. He was a very practical man.”
Jackson thought highly of Fuchs, too — so much so that he wrote a letter to Fuchs’ mother after the trials.
“He was so pleased that I was doing a good job that he wrote home to my mother and thanked her for not pushing me to come home sooner,” Fuchs said.
In fact, nearly a decade after the trials, Jackson was planning a trip to this area to attend mass at Fuchs’ church. Unfortunately, Jackson passed away before he could make the trip.
Prior to joining the war effort, Fuchs had begun studying engineering at Purdue. But after witnessing the contrast of the goodness exemplified by people like Jackson, and the evils exemplified by the Nazis, he decided to pursue the priesthood and enroll in seminary.
Today, when he looks back on the war and subsequent trials, he knows the allies did the right thing by prosecuting the German officers.
“I think they got a fair break,” he said. “There was more than enough evidence to show the horrors they had done. It was a fair trial, and that’s what was needed. “

Fulton officials lay out 2016 goals

By Matthew Reitz

Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. has laid out his objectives for the upcoming year, which include continuing progress on this 2015’s major projects with new partnerships.
“We want to develop the city and develop the Nestle site,” Woodward said when asked about his ambitions for 2016, “and of course continue with the lake cleanup.”
The city acquired the former Nestle properties through tax foreclosure earlier this year, and since then has been able to sell parts of the property to Spring Storage Park, Inc. and international supermarket chain Aldi. Though the sales will put the properties back on the city’s property tax role and hopefully bring much needed jobs to the area, Woodward said there is still a lot of work to do on the Nestle site.
“We’re selling off that corner piece (to Aldi), but we have a lot more south of that,” Woodward said.
In October, the common council moved forward with plans to demolish part of the 24-acre Nestle site, which was partially torn down in 2013. Infinity Enterprises is leading the demolition and cleanup effort at no charge to the city, but the company will retain the rights to all salvageable materials found on the site. The city will incur the costs of air monitoring during the asbestos abatement as part of that agreement, because Infinity cannot legally perform their own air monitoring, according to Woodward.
Aldi, who purchased part of the former Nestle site for $450,000 last month, is looking to begin construction on the site as early as April 2016, according to Woodward. The sale contract between the city and Aldi stipulates that the site must be “build ready” no later than July 1, and certain conditions must be met, which include subdividing the property, finishing the demolition, and providing permanent non-exclusive easements for the store to create the access drives.
Earlier this month, the common council agreed to extend the water and sewer lines at the former Nestle site on South Fifth Street in an attempt to help make the properties more attractive to prospective buyers, according to city officials. City Clerk/Chamberlain Dan O’Brien said the city has the materials needed for the water line extension, and that work will be completed by the city at a cost of approximately $35,000. The sewer lines will have to be contracted out, and the engineering and construction will cost approximately $135,000, O’Brien said.
Woodward said he expects the former Nestle site will continue to develop around Aldi, which he called “an anchor,” and having some of the properties back on the tax roll will help provide relief to the city’s taxpayers. He said there have been several parties interested in acquiring parts of the site adjacent to the proposed Aldi, but their interest in the properties is contingent on Aldi moving in. Woodward said the city has hired a real estate agent and is actively trying to sell the remainder of the properties to help further facilitate the development of the former Nestle site, which after over 100 years in Fulton closed its doors in 2003.
Local officials have already declared their plans for a third year of dredging on Lake Neatahwanta, and are optimistic that 2016 could be the year beaches reopen and the lake can once again be an asset to the city and surrounding areas.
Woodward said the Lake Neahtawanta Revitalization Corporation removed 30,000 cubic yards of sediment in 2014 and 2015, and plans to dredge again next year.  The opening of Stevenson Beach, which was closed in July 1988, is a major goal that Woodward said he’d like to see accomplished in 2016.
“We’re going to really try—and I can’t promise anything—but we’re going to really try to see if we can do something about opening that beach next year,” Woodward said. “That’s the goal.”
Sediment build up is believed to be what caused the lake to become shallower and hotter, which, combined with high phosphorus levels, helped bacteria and algae prosper. Officials believe removing the sediment—to open the flow of freshwater springs that feed the lake—will restore the water quality, and once again make the more than 700-acre lake a valuable resource for attracting tourists and businesses to the area.
A collaborative effort between the Revitalization Corporation and the Lake Neatahwanta Reclamation Committee, which administers the project in the Town of Granby, could be in the works to remove the sediment lining the shores near Stevenson Beach next year. Reclamation Committee Chairman Ed Williamson has offered to help the Revitalization Corporation by assisting in the cleanup on the northeast shore of the lake where Stevenson Beach is located.
According to Woodward, the dredge used by Groh Dredging and Marine Construction, the contractor used by the Revitalization Corporation up to this point, would leave the water in the area too deep for a beach, but the dredge purchased by the Reclamation Committee is able to create the proper depth. Woodward said there had been plans to clean the area by hand, but the offer to use the committee’s dredge would help speed up the process.

Looking back on 2015: A glimpse at some of the big stories covered in the Valley News over the last year

Fulton finds success selling off Nestle parcels, ALDI coming to town

After foreclosing on the property in early spring, 2015 became the year Fulton was finally able to do something about the dilapidated former Nestle complex.
Following the foreclosure, the city divided the 24-acre primary site into multiple parcels, three of which it sold off over the course of the year.
Former Nestle Building #30 on Fay Street was purchased by the Liverpool-based company Spring Storage Park for $90,000, along with an adjoining parcel with a parking lot on South Fourth Street for $10,000. Gary E. Spring, the company’s owner, said the properties would be used as a warehouse and a U-Haul rental location.
In November, global supermarket chain ALDI, Inc. agreed to purchase a significant portion of the property for $450,000, contingent upon the city carrying out the demolition of the existing structures and making other needed improvements to the site.
Fulton has contracted with Infinity Enterprises to do the demolition work and asbestos removal for the entire remaining site at no charge. Infinity will, instead, receive the rights to all salvageable materials.
The contract with ALDI stipulates that the site must be “build ready” no later than July 1, 2016. Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said he hoped to begin the demolition in December.
According to Woodward, in addition to putting the properties back on the tax rolls, the sales have covered the ­­cost of back-taxes owed on the complex.
Entergy annnounces closure of FitzPatrick
Following months of speculation and ominous public comments from officials, Entergy, the owner and operator of the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Facility in Scriba, announced its intention in November to close the 40-year old power plant which employs more than 600 full-time workers.
Lawmakers and state and federal officials worked feverishly to prevent the shuttering of the FitzPatrick facility and a large-scale grassroots community campaign to “Save Fitz” was organized, but efforts ultimately fell short, with Entergy officials repeatedly confirming the failure of all parties to make meaningful progress.
Entergy has claimed the FitzPatrick plant is unprofitable and going ahead with a scheduled refueling of the reactor would not make long-term fiscal sense. Without that infusion of nuclear fuel, the plant is likely to cease operations in late 2016 or early 2017.
Officials have valued the total economic impact of FitzPatrick on the region approaching $500 million annually. The plant contributes millions per year in tax revenue to the coffers of Oswego County, the town of Scriba and the Mexico School District and the announcement sent shockwaves through the county, sending budget-makers scrambling.
Assemblyman Will Barclay, Congressman John Katko and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer were among the most outspoken proponents of keeping FitzPatrick operational, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Public Service Commission to work with Entergy in hopes of forging a deal to stave off closure.
A massive rally featuring elected officials, community and labor leaders, friends and supporters of the FitzPatrick family gathered in Scriba in October, urging Entergy to reconsider its decision, and the county Industrial Development Agency launched a media blitz to raise awareness and put pressure on Entergy.
Despite all these efforts, Entergy remained steadfast in its commitment to decommission FitzPatrick. That process will likely be lengthy, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and workers will continue to operate the plant as normal according to NRC regulations.

Dredging of Lake Neatahwanta continues
Lake cleanup committees in both Fulton and Granby oversaw dredging efforts that local officials say are bringing Lake Neatahwanta closer to revitalization.
Fulton’s Lake Neatahwanta Revitalization Corporation, using a hired contractor, removed about 10,000 cubic yards of sediment from the lake in 2015 — half as much as the 20,000 cubic yards it had cleared during the 2014 campaign.
Mayor Ron Woodward Sr., who hoped to see enough progress to re-open Stevenson Beach this year, said the decrease in sediment removed this year was largely due to funding constraints holding the project back.
Rather than hire a contractor like Fulton, Granby’s Lake Neatahwanta Reclamation Committee opted to purchase its own dredging equipment and conduct the work with volunteers. Chairman Ed Williamson said there were about 15 people trained to use the equipment in 2015, and there are plans to train even more in 2016.Both organizations are expecting to receive a $100,000 grant to continue their efforts in 2016, according to Woodward and Williamson. They will also continue their community fundraising campaigns.
Local officials believe the 750-acre lake can once again be a valuable recreational resource for the greater Fulton area. The water was deemed unsafe by state and county health officials nearly three decades ago due to a high presence of blue-green algae, but officials believe removing built-up sediment will open the flow of freshwater springs that feed the lake and mitigate the algae’s growth.

Fulton’s public housing goes non-profit
A $24 million endeavor to upgrade the Pathfinder Courts apartment facilities began in 2015 and brought with it a major change to their operations.
The apartments were built as state-sponsored public housing in late 1960s and early ’70s under the Fulton Housing Authority (FHA). When they were first established, FHA’s operating expenses were, in part, funded by state subsidies for public housing authorities. In the late 1990s, though, the state discontinued those subsidies, leaving FHA to operate solely on its rental income.
FHA officials said this left them with no meaningful funding opportunities to make capital improvements to the aging properties over the years. In 2015, as they approached the end of those facilities’ 50-year mortgages, the housing authority decided to turn the properties over to a new not-for-profit entity, consisting of the same staff and administration who currently run the properties, which will operate them under a low-income housing model.
Along with the transition, officials announced upgrades to the buildings to the tune of $16 million. Those include new facades, repairing hazardous sidewalks, fixing drainage issues, providing outdoor lighting that meets safety guidelines, a new security system, upgraded fire alarm systems, better electrical service to buildings, new roofs and siding, better insulation, updated kitchen and bathrooms, and new furnaces and water heaters. The project will also do away with any asbestos-based materials within the facilities.
When adding in the cost of relocating residents for the construction period, asbestos removal, legal and bank fees, and other miscellaneous costs, officials estimated about $24 million would be spent on the endeavor, most of which is being pooled together from several state and federal resources.
Officials have estimated that only about $1.5 million of the cost would have to borrowed by Pathfinder Courts.
Under the not-for-profit model, the City of Fulton is no longer obligated to make Pathfinder Courts whole if it can’t meet its financial obligations.

Batstone performs on NBC’s The Voice
A young Fulton singer finally got his big break in 2015 when he appeared on NBC’s The Voice and advanced beyond the blind audition.
Josh Batstone was featured on the March 1 program in a 30-second clip singing “Amnesia” by Australian pop-rock band 5 Seconds of Summer. The clip then showed celebrity coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton vying to have the 18-year-old singer on their teams, with Batstone ultimately choosing Levine.
While his tenure on the show didn’t last the full season, downloads of his blind audition piece were quickly made available on iTunes for $1.29.
Batstone told the Valley News afterwards that “the coolest feeling ever” was seeing himself on the iTunes charts.

New president takes reigns at CCC
Following a search that lasted more than a year, Cayuga Community College announced in June that Brian M. Durant would come on board as the school’s president.
Durant, who at the time had been vice president for Academic and Student Affairs at SUNY Adirondack, officially began his position in August.
Durant replaced interim President Dr. Gregory DeCinque, who had served since November 2013. Durant said he felt the size of the college, the appeal of the location and the “modality” for students were attractive aspects of the job that drew him to the position. He said his primary goals for his first year to were to continue to build to college’s programs and local partnerships.
Since finding itself in a budget hole in 2013, CCC has gradually climbed back into fiscal solvency, and Durant’s tenure comes at a critical time for the college, as it seeks to modernize its facilities, curriculum and reputation.
At a board of trustees meeting in April, Finance Committee Chairman Joseph Runkle declared the college’s finances to be “in good shape” going into the 2015-16 budget year, a far cry from the financial exigency the college faced in 2013.

State funds help Centro avoid local service cuts
Faced with a $5 million budget gap, the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (Centro) narrowly avoided having to cut back services in Oswego County thanks to some last-minute additional funding from the state.
With flat revenues from state operating funds but increased expenses over the last six years, Centro was looking to stay afloat by slashing services throughout central New York. In Fulton, the company was planning to reduce the number of trips between the East and West sides of town each day, and possibly cut the Saturday service to Syracuse altogether.
At a Fulton community forum held by Centro officials in March, residents expressed serious concerns with the proposed cuts, many of which revolved around the notion that they would prevent seniors from leaving their homes.
On April 1, however, state lawmakers made a surprise announcement that an extra $25 million had been allocated for upstate transit systems in the state budget passed early that morning, which helped Centro close its gap.

Fulton adopts nearly $16M budget for 2016
The Fulton Common Council unanimously approved the city’s 2016 budget in December, which will increase property taxes 4.34 percent.
The budget calls for total expenditures of $15,971,674, a $261,091 increase from 2015. The city anticipates collecting $9.38 million in non-property tax revenue, up about $64,500 from the $9.32 million expected in 2015. Based on current property assessments, the city will need to collect $6,659,884 in property taxes to fund operations in 2016, which is an increase of $195,232 from this past year.
Over the course of three budget workshops, the council agreed to almost $400,000 in spending cuts, which brought a 10 percent tax hike that was initially proposed down to the approved 4.34 percent increase. Still, the increase was high enough to warrant an override of New York’s property tax cap.
The 4.34 percent increase works out to be $20.51 per $1,000 of assessed value. Taxpayers will be billed an additional $0.85 per $1,000 of assessment from the 2015 rate of $19.66 per $1,000.
The increase will amount to about $85 more per year on a property valued at $100,000, or $68 on an $80,000 property, which is closer to the city’s average, officials said.

FCSD begins search for new superintendent
In September, Fulton City School District Superintendent Bill Lynch announced that he would retire at the end of the 2015-16 school year, and the district began its process for finding his replacement.
Since that time, the board of education has brought on a consultant to assist in the hiring process, and collected input through an online survey to find out what community members are looking for in their next superintendent. The board also met with several groups of stakeholders, including but a parents’ group, community leaders, the teachers’ association, the administrators’ association, office staff and student groups. Board President David Cordone said that each of those groups would also provide two representatives to sit on an interview team that will get to meet with candidates and provide the board with an advisory opinion.
Candidate interviews were slated to begin in December, and Cordone was hopeful that the board would be able to announce the new superintendent in January 2016.
Lynch, 62, has served as the district’s superintendent since 2005.

County opts to close CHHA
The emergence of numerous, authorized alternatives to Oswego County’s Certified Home Healthcare Agency (CHHA), coupled with the program’s low enrollment and lack of state funding, ultimately led to its closure in the fall of 2015.
According to county Administrator Phil Church, the end of partial reimbursement from the state resulted in the agency no longer being cost-effective.
Church also said the rise of abundance in other home health care services, which usually offered better salaries than what CHHA offered its nurses, sparked an inability of the program to retain its workers.
As of Oct. 16, the county said CHHA would no longer be admitting new patients, citing services offered by Oswego Health, the Visiting Nurse Association of Central New York and the Rochester-based HCR home care as alternatives.

Donations keep One-Stop center open
Due to the ending of several federal funding streams, the county’s One-Stop Center – a job training facility – faced a $100,000 shortfall in the upcoming budgetary year that could have led to its closure.
Although the initiative was designed to be a one-time deal, county legislators offered to match up to $50,000 with money from the county’s unexpended fund balance if the same was donated privately in order to keep the center operating for at least another year.
Officials announced late in 2015 that the private donations did reach $50,000, prompting the county to donate a matching amount, thereby closing One-Stop’s budgetary shortfall.
Legislators have said they hoped the initiative would inspire businesses to continue to donate to the center, which provides various certification courses and other types of training to county residents looking for gainful employment.

Fulton man killed in stabbing
An early-morning stabbing at an October party in Hannibal resulted in the death of a Fulton man while his alleged attacker remains behind bars, charged with manslaughter.
Markee Cathcart, 19, of Phoenix, was charged in connection with the death of 23-year-old Sean Leonard of Fulton. Police allege an altercation occurred between the two men on October 24, which resulted in Leonard receiving a fatal stab wound to his torso.
Cathcart was arraigned in Hannibal town court and pleaded not guilty to killing Leonard. In his deposition, Cathcart said Leonard was intoxicated and started the fight, during which Cathcart inadvertently stabbed Leonard with a knife.
State police, along with emergency medical personnel, responded to a 911 call at the Kellogg Road residence in Hannibal where a stabbing was reported. Once on the scene, attempts to resuscitate Leonard failed and he was pronounced dead at Oswego Hospital.
Cathcart is still being held at the Oswego County Correctional facility on $50,000 bail or $100,000 bond, awaiting a grand jury hearing.

Land bank to help tackle blighted properties in county
Oswego County voted to create the Oswego County Land Bank Corporation earlier this year, which will allow vacant and foreclosed properties to be refurbished once the county’s application is approved by the state.
Created by New York state in 2011, land banks are incorporated bodies with strict guidelines imposed on them by the state that are meant to revitalize neighborhoods’ property values by purchasing and amending blighted buildings.
A finite number of land banks are permitted by the state, and must be approved via an application process.
Strict guidelines are imposed on the land banks regarding their operations, transparency and composition of their board of directors, which is set to include banking officials, legislators and people already invested in revitalizing the county’s housing stock if the state approves the creation of the Oswego County land bank.

EEE claims life of Oswego County resident
An unidentified Albion resident suffered a fatal diagnosis of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in early October, despite the county’s efforts to contain the infected mosquitoes.
Oswego County Health Committee Chairman Jack Proud, R-Mexico, said the county was investigating the possibility of adopting a regional approach to controlling infested mosquito populations in the future.
He said the county sprayed areas where EEE was found – typically Toad Harbor – as often as the state permitted.
Jiancheng Huang, the county’s Public Health director, repeatedly emphasized the need for county residents to take precautions – specifically by wearing long sleeves, utilizing bug spray and other precautionary measures – when outside.

Szatanek convicted of murdering teen
Steven Szatanek, 33, of Baldwinsville, was convicted Dec. 4 of killing Anna-Rose Shove, a 17-year-old girl visiting Brennan’s Beach in Richland with her family.
The jury deliberated a mere three hours following the two-week trial, ultimately finding Szatanek guilty of second-degree murder, a class A-I felony, for intentionally drowning Shove in Lake Ontario on Aug. 10, 2014.
Szatanek’s DNA was found under Shove’s fingernails, who was discovered floating in the lake with several facial injuries the prosecution argued Szatanek inflicted when he drowned her.
Defense attorney Paul Carey insisted the injuries could have been inflicted post-mortem and Szatanek’s DNA could have been transmitted through a hug.
Szatanek himself took the stand during one of the last days of the trial, admitting to sinking Shove’s purse in the lake, burying some of her other items while taking others, though he adamantly denied any involvement in her death. His sentence will not be handed down until February.

Deputy cleared in Constantia shooting
David Schwalm, 58, died May 8 after he reportedly pointed a loaded shotgun at a deputy who was responding to a check-the-welfare call at Schwalm’s address.
Mark Walton, a deputy of the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office, responded with other law enforcement officials to Schwalm’s home in Constantia after Schwalm reportedly called the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office expressing a desire to injure himself and possibly others.
Following more than an hour of failed phone negotiations, Schwalm reportedly left his residence with a garbage bag, a shovel and a shotgun. Once outside, he reportedly crossed paths with Walton and pointed the loaded weapon at the deputy, refusing to drop the weapon when ordered.
Walton fired five rounds from his service-issue rifle, hitting Schwalm a total of three times and inflicting injuries that later killed him.
The District Attorney’s Office as well as the sheriff’s department and state police investigated the incident. Evidence was presented to a grand jury, but no indictment was ever filed, as the jury decided criminal charges were not warranted.

State denies parole for Alan Jones
Parole was denied in June for Alan Jones, the local man convicted of killing his stepsister in 2009.
Jones was initially found guilty of second-degree murder for strangling 11-year-old Erin Maxwell with a rope. That verdict was later reduced to second-degree manslaughter. He has been serving a five- to 15-year sentence at the Wallkill State Correctional Facility.
Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes strongly opposed any release for Jones, calling his actions “horrific” and in a letter to the state parole board, said Jones was “undeserving of your mercy.”
Jones was also denied parole in 2013, with the parole board saying his release was “incompatible with public safety and welfare.”
He will again appear before the parole board in 2017.

Former Minetto fire chief pleads guilty to larceny
The chief of the Minetto Fire Department escaped jail time in August after it was discovered he stole or misused nearly $22,000 of department funds.
Joseph Smegelsky Jr., 35, pleaded guilty to petit larceny, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to a $1,000 fine and two years’ probation by Minetto Justice Kenneth Auyer. According to District Attorney Gregory Oakes, Smegelsky also reimbursed the department for improper purchases and cashed checks.
Among the charges leveled at Smegelsky were using a department credit card to purchase a firearm, machine parts and gasoline for personal use. Once the allegations became public, Smegelsky “fully cooperated” with the investigation, said Oakes.
Smegelsky was initially charged with grand larceny following accusations of financial impropriety by the state Comptroller’s Office. His continued employment at the Oswego City Fire Department drew controversy, but officials said there were no plans to change his status with the department.

Minetto couple convicted of grand larceny
David and Morgan Tetro, the Minetto husband and wife accused of swindling more than $100,000 from an elderly woman in their care, were both handed state prison sentences in October, convicted of grand larceny and fraud.
The Tetros claimed the money – taken from the estate of 87-year-old Irene Dennison – was simply the result of Dennison’s generosity. Prosecutors disagreed, saying the couple took advantage of the situation to line their pockets.
During the three-week trial, attorneys sparred over the admissibility of evidence and statements made by the Tetros. The prosecution pointed to David Tetro’s sizable gambling losses and Morgan Tetro’s proclivities for luxury fashion purchases as an “appetite for greed.”
The pair was ultimately convicted of grand larceny, offering a false instrument for filing and other charges. It took the jury less than three hours to render a verdict of “guilty on all counts.”
Judge Walter Hafner sentenced David Tetro to 6 1/3 to 19 years in state prison. Morgan Tetro received a term of 7 1/3 to 23 years in state prison.

Scriba man charged with manslaughter in toddler’s death
A Scriba man was charged in the February death of a toddler in his care, accused of shaking and throwing the two-year-old boy after losing control of his anger.
Edward Lewis, 21, faces charges of first-degree manslaughter, assault and endangering the welfare of a child as his court proceedings continue. Lewis was dating the boy’s mother and caring for Jeremiah Jones when the incident occurred.
Lewis initially denied to police using physical force against the boy but after nearly six hours of questions, he admitted his “anger just got the better” and his attempts to discipline Jones ended with throwing the boy to the ground where his head “bounced like a ball.”
Lawyers for Lewis have challenged the statements in the police report, as Lewis’ apparent confession came while Lewis was not under arrest and no lawyer was present.
Lewis is currently remanded to the Oswego County Correctional Facility – where he’s been since Feb. 7 – on $100,000 cash or $200,000 bail bond.

Scriba board passes controversial law in response to Barry’s DWI arrest
Town board members in Scriba took the unusual and highly controversial action of passing a local law changing the position of highway superintendent from elected to appointed following the arrest of superintendent-elect Michael Barry for DWI.
Barry was charged with his third instance of driving while intoxicated in July but, according to supervisor Ken Burdick, concealed those charges from voters and town officials.
Burdick and the board maintained they could not tolerate Barry’s actions and, following an emotionally charged public hearing, unanimously approved the change to the highway superintendent position.
Under New York state statute, such a town law is subject to a mandatory public ballot referendum. Scriba officials anticipate the special election – open to all registered voters in the town – will take place in February.

Thibodeau awaits ruling on kidnapping conviction
The hearing over Gary Thibodeau’s 1995 conviction of kidnapping 18-year-old Heidi Allen started nearly a year ago, with in-court arguments ending in April but both the defense and prosecutors leaving the Oswego County Court Clerk’s Office with back-and-forth filings throughout the summer and fall.
Allen went missing from the D&W Convenience Store in New Haven on April 3, 1994. Thibodeau was convicted without physical or DNA evidence but on a mix of eyewitness testimony and two jailhouse informants who testified he claimed to have knowledge of the crime.
But over the last several years, multiple individuals have claimed three other men made incriminating statements about kidnapping, killing or disposing of Allen, who at one point in the years leading up to her disappearance gave information related to drug use in the county to the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office.
The three new possible suspects — Roger Breckenridge, Michael Bohrer and James Steen — are all convicted criminals, but they deny any knowledge or involvement in the Allen case.
The defense tried establishing that Allen could have been killed because her status as an informant may have been made public when a sheriff’s office ID card was lost more than a year before she went missing.
The defense team, led by federal public defender Lisa Peebles, also tried to establish that the history of Michael Bohrer — who has multiple convictions of violent crimes against women — could peg him as a potential culprit in Allen’s kidnapping.
But Judge Daniel King recently agreed with District Attorney Greg Oakes that Bohrer’s prior crimes, which occurred nearly 30 years ago outside of New York, do not link him to the Allen case whatsoever.
King’s November ruling rejected multiple defense requests to hear testimony from at least 10 new witnesses, effectively ending the hearing.
King said in November he would “soon issue” a ruling, but as of press time, no decision on Thibodeau’s conviction had been released.
Thibodeau is serving 25 years to life in state prison.
Allen has never been found.

Volney mulling creation of another water district

By Matthew Reitz

Volney officials are exploring the possibility of establishing another water district in the town, and have scheduled a public hearing to gather community input on the matter.
The Volney Town Board recently authorized Canton-based engineering firm C2AE to begin consulting work on the proposed water district, which includes the preparation of maps, plans and reports showing the location of water lines and other project specifications.
Preliminary reports from C2AE were filed with the town clerk on Dec. 15 and, after reviewing the documentation, the board has decided to schedule a public hearing next month to take comments on the proposed project.
Town Supervisor Dennis Lockwood said the board began the process “about a month ago,” and plans to have residents vote on the matter in a referendum sometime in March or April of next year.
The proposed County Route 45/6 Baldwin Water District is expected to cost no more than $1,338,000, and the town will apply for financing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development.
Town officials hope to receive a $465,000 grant and a loan in the amount of $873,000 to pay for the proposed improvements. The USDA loan would have a 38-year repayment at a 2.625 percent interest rate, if granted.
Town officials say the estimated cost to the average property would be about $760 per year, which includes the cost of 180 gallons of water for daily usage. The proposed project will include, but is not limited to, an area located along parts of Baldwin Road, county Route 45, county Route 6 and Clifford Road.
Lockwood said several people within that area have asked the town to pursue water service, but it’s not yet clear how many parcels the new district will serve. The preliminary report has only looked at a specific area, but when C2AE is finished with the final report, that information will be available along with other project specifics and exact costs, he said.
The new water distribution system will include fire hydrants, meter pits, remote read meters and service lines to the curb box. Officials estimate the costs for a property owner to install a service line from the curb box to the user’s residence is between $600 and $800, depending on the length of the supply line.
There will be no hookup fee charged by the town.
Property owners connecting to the water supply would be required to disconnect from their current private water supplies.
“You can’t cross the two together, because you might get contamination,” Lockwood said. “A lot of these people want public water because their wells aren’t any good.”
Lockwood said residents can leave their wells hooked up to feed outside spigots and use that supply to “wash cars and water lawns.”
The town board will hold a public meeting regarding the County Route 45/6 Baldwin Water District at the Volney Town Hall at 5 p.m. on Jan. 6. The town’s first regular monthly meeting of 2016 will be held on Jan. 21 at 5 p.m.

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