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Fulton’s Birds Eye Plant To Close In December

UPDATE:  Barclay, Ritchie React To Birds Eye Closure

Assemblyman Will Barclay (R,C,I – Pulaski) and Senator Patty Ritchie (R,C – Oswegatchie) today said they are disappointed that the owner of the Fulton Birds Eye plant has announced the company will close the plant in six months.

“I am saddened and deeply disappointed by the company’s decision to close the Fulton plant,” said Senator Ritchie. “My first concern is for the workers and their families who are directly impacted by this announcement.”

Birds Eye“While Fulton has suffered damaging blows to its manufacturing over the past few decades, we need to keep in mind that the Birds Eye plant offers a lot of advantages to any company smart enough to see the advantages the city offers,” Senator Ritchie said. “Fulton is home to an experienced work force. It is close to Central New York’s productive vegetable growers. And it is a relatively short distance from the largest concentration of consumers in America. Together we can use these assets to help market this plant.”

“This announcement is a tragedy. I’m troubled and concerned about these jobs being lost and the facility’s future,” Assemblyman Barclay said. “When Pinnacle Foods announced it was acquiring the Birds Eye Plant in December 2009, I heard from several workers who were concerned about what this would mean to their livelihoods. My office reached out to Pinnacle Foods with a letter, questioning what this would mean for the Birds Eye Processing plant and what the plans were for the facility so central to Fulton’s economy. I also welcomed a meeting with Pinnacle. Sadly, we never received a response to either request.”

Under Birds Eye, the plant saw many upgrades, including expansions that more fully automated production so that it could expand its food lines.

According to reports, about $5 million was invested in the plant under Birds Eye’s ownership.

Barclay said with these upgrades, he is hopeful the plant and property will be attractive to a prospective buyer — a buyer that will supply good-paying jobs to our region that already has a skilled workforce.

“I’ve been in touch with local officials and am working with Senator Ritchie and her office to move quickly to replace the jobs that will be lost with this closure. I will also do all I can to work through state and local agencies to see that this process is made simple for any prospective buyer,” added Barclay.

“Assemblyman Barclay and I have reached out to Lt. Governor Robert Duffy, who is leading Governor Cuomo’s economic development efforts, to urge him to bring together the full force of New York State’s job creation and preservation services, including tax credits, low cost power, business assistance and workforce development programs,” Senator Ritchie said. “This should be the newly established regional economic development council’s first priority when it is called into session. We will work with the New York State Labor Department and other agencies to assist the workforce with benefits and retraining opportunities the state provides in these cases.”

Senator Ritchie and Assemblyman Barclay said together, they have reached out to the New York Power Authority, the state Empire State Development, the Oswego County IDA, plant owner Pinnacle Foods, Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward, New York Farm Bureau, Oswego County officials and others to discuss the announcement.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE BELOW:

FULTON, NY – After more than 100 years in Fulton, the Birds Eye Foods plant will cease to exist at the end of the year.

Plant officials announced this morning (April 15) that the facility will close its doors for good in December.

Employees got the news at a meeting at the Fulton War Memorial.

Layoffs will start in August.

The company’s vice president called Fulton Mayor Ronald Wooward at 8:10 a.m. today to give him the news personally.

“He told me it wasn’t profitable any more for them to operate the plant here in Fulton,” the mayor told Oswego Country Today.

Fulton has been hit hard economically the past 10 years or so, he added. They have lost Nestles, Lee Memorial Hospital, and now Birds Eye, he pointed out.

The plant employs about 250 union workers and 30 management workers.

“It’s devastating. My heart goes out to those employees and their families,” Woodward said. “We will have to look at what the impact of all this is going to be financially and try to find ways so that it doesn’t hurt our taxpayers too badly.”

Congressman Bill Oweens has already been in contact with the mayor. He said there is funding available for the displaced owrkers for for job training and other assistance.

The mayor said he talked with the company vice president for 20 minutes.

“He told me this decision had nothing to do with the city of Fulton or the state. It was business decision,” the mayor explained. “Most of their vegetables come fromthe Midwest; they have millions of dollars in transportation costs. It just made more sense for them to relocate the operation to the Midwest. Nestles did the same thing.”

There have been some businesses that have expressed at least an interest, in coming to Fulton.

Woodward said he asked the vice president if the city could market the Birds Eye property.

“He said he was open to the idea (as long as it wasn’t a direct competitor),” the mayor said. “We will get back in touch with the people who’ve shown an interest in coming here.”

“I know exactly how those employees feel. I was the last person out of Nestles,” he continued. “We have to move forward, fight the fight. If we don’t, if we just give up, then shame on us.”

Oswego Schools Set Emergency Closing & Delay Procedures

OSWEGO, NY – The  season for inclement weather has arrived and  once again the Oswego City School District is preparing for emergency closing and delay situations.

As in the past, a variety of communication venues will be used in the event that school is closed or delayed.

The district desires to make a decision to close or delay by 5:30 a.m. and as always this message will be delivered through the numerous communications outlets.

The School Messenger system has been a tremendous addition to the communication between home and school.

The district will once again be implementing this service for delays, closings or other emergency situations.

To assist the Oswego community, the district officials have indicated that in the event of any emergency situation there is a complete information network available for residents, staff and students.

In the event of inclement weather, that might be clearing, the Oswego City School District will initiate the plan for a two-hour delay.

However, adverse conditions will result in schools being closed.

The area media continues to cooperate with the Oswego City School District to provide up to the minute information in regards to emergency closing or delays.

Early morning television viewers can find out about school delays and closings on Central New York television stations.

The Syracuse television stations that will broadcast information about the closing or delays include WSYR-TV9, WSTM-TV3, WTVH-TV5 and YourNewsNow.

Once again a variety of radio stations will carry the emergency closing information.

Residents can tune to radio stations who have volunteered to supply the community with this important information.

Announcements and notices will be broadcast on  Y94 (94.5 FM), WBBS (104.7 FM), HOT107.9 (107.9 FM), WSYR (57 AM), WHEN (62 AM), WNTQ (93.0 FM), WAQX/95X (95.7 FM), WTKW (99.5 FM), TK99 (105.5 FM), and K-rock (100.9 FM) and WRVOFM (89.9).

However, the World Wide Web will also be an avenue for information about school closings as the Oswego City School District officials will update the home page www.oswego.org as the need arises.

The local media websites will also have the updated information in regards to delays and closings.

Local residents can also call 341-2000 for information about closings and delays.

In the event that there is an emergency closing all Oswego City School District buildings will be closed.

Also, all after school activities will be cancelled.

Because of so many issues involving the health and safety of students, community and staff there can be no exceptions to this.

Parents and students continue to have many outlets for information in regards to emergency closing and delays of Oswego’s schools.

It is the goal of district officials to keep the community informed and the students safe.

Oswego Superintendent Unveils Budget Plan With 2.5% Tax Levy Hike, 59.4 Job Cuts

OSWEGO, NY – Superintendent of schools Bill Crist presented his proposed spending plan for 2010-11 to the board of education Tuesday night.

The $74.4 million budget increases the tax levy by 2.5 percent – and includes moving the central offices into the Leighton school building. Leighton’s students would be dispersed to the other four remaining elementary schools and Oswego Middle School.

The middle school would become a 6-8 facility, which is widely recognized and accepted for delivering middle level education, Crist said. That would allow for the students to enter high school better prepared, he added.

Oswego High School would remain 9-12.

The plan would also cut 59.4 full-time positions, district wide, not just those at Leighton. Thirty-seven of those would be teachers and two would be administrators, he said.

The remaining 20.4 would be support staff.

Retirements have the potential to change the way staff reductions play out, the superintendent noted.

“Over the next few years, it’s going to be a difficult budget season,” the superintendent said.

Our district has been a very proud district in terms of providing small class sizes and programs in technology, music and the arts that are recognized statewide even nationally in some cases, Crist noted.

“As we cross the bridge into the financial situation of the state, we recognize that our state is in the state of chaos and flux with regard to funding and being able to support not only schools but many other programs and agencies,” he said.

The county is facing double-digit unemployment, he added.

The district is also grappling with increases in health insurance and estimate it to be about 15 percent, he said, adding that ERS (employee retirement system) and TRS (teacher retirement system) are expected to be 23 percent and 32 percent, respectively, higher in terms of increases.

“We’re looking at a budget gap of about $5.5 million. It doesn’t come easy to find ways to close that gap,” Crist said. “I’m proposing we redistrict our elementary program and in so doing utilize four of our elementary schools as a K-5 configuration.”

That’s a recognized and accepted model for delivering elementary instruction, he pointed out.

The reconfiguration committee, with the understanding that the Education Center is for sale, unanimously spoke of Leighton being the school of choice should the Ed Center sell, the superintendent said.

“We’d populate the intermediate wing of Leighton Elementary School with the district office. The primary wing of the school would include our entire Pre-K program as well as an integrated preschool education program that would deal with students with special needs. That would be a county-wide program,” Crist explained.

Some of the other classroom space that would be available would be used for BOCES work study program, basically for high school age students.

One option could save the district more than $2 million, but it would gut programs and increase class sizes. So he decided to present the four elementary school model budget that saves a bit less ($1.852 million) but is a savings that will be compounded over the years, Crist explained.

“It’s a rollover savings that occurs annually,” he said.

Crist explained why Leighton was picked as the school to close.

Supporters say it is the largest elementary school and should therefore stay open. Crist pointed out that Leighton’s size offers opportunities for it to be used for more than just district offices.

Other reasons include its proximity to the high school, there would be a reduction in traffic congestion, it allows for the possible of a site for an alternative school and more.

“It’s an emotional decision to look at breaking away from a neighborhood (school) concept,” he said. But, there are many other schools that no longer exist in the city because of changes over the years, he added.

“Our district has lost 948 students in a 10-year period,” Crist said. “It would be irresponsible of me as a superintendent to not look at our declining enrollment, our eroding tax base and the economic crisis in our state and not do this. It screams at me that we have to look at other ways and more efficient ways to do what we’re doing.”

He said he plans to use some of the district’s surplus and a responsible use of reserves to help close the budget gap.

The 2.5 percent tax levy increase would mean that taxpayers who own a home assessed at $100,000 (with STAR) would pay $37.70 more for the year, or $3.14 a month, Crist said. For a home assessed at $70,000 it would be $21.55 or $1.80 a month, he added.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, more than a dozen residents spoke out during the public session opposing the closing of Leighton.

They urged the board to save Leighton and said investing more in elementary education would benefit the students in their high school careers. Closing Leighton would create over-crowding in classrooms, create higher transportation costs, and other problems, they said.

OHS freshman and former Leighton student Jeremy Galvin said it would be difficult for students to learn in classes with 30 students; he received applause from the huge crowd when he wondered if the administrators would be able to function efficiently in an office with 30 people.

The board is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget April 13; taxpayers get their chance on May 18.

A public hearing on the budget is set for April 6.

Oswego School Superintendent Proposes Closing Leighton

OSWEGO, NY – Oswego School Superintendent Bill Crist has proposed closing Frederick Leighton Elementary School and transforming it into the new education center.

At the school board’s budget workshop tonight (Feb. 23) Crist explained that the school’s Pre-Kindergarten through grade five students would be relocated to the other four elementary buildings.

And, the sixth graders would join the seventh and eighth graders in Oswego Middle School, in the four additional classrooms that will be completed this summer, Crist said.

Bonnie Finnerty, OMS principal, has been able to reconfigure her school in a way to allow for the introduction of the sixth grade, Crist said. The elementary principals have also been working on a similar plan, he added.

“Given that, it appears we can reduce staff to as point without impacting programs significantly at this point,” he said. “It would allow for the district to move forward then in a more efficient manner. It allows the district to not be attached to state aid numbers that are going to continue to fluctuate. We know now that our state is not in a solvent condition … I don’t see that correcting for at least the next two to three years.”

The district still doesn’t know what the impact from Nine Mile one and two will be on the budget, he added.

“Six, seven and eight at the middle school, I like that concept,” Board President Sam Tripp said.

But, he was a bit concerned about the number of students that would be at the school.

Historically, Crist said, the school had at one point just under 900 students. The school will have an addition this summer, he continued.

“We confident we can add the sixth grade into our present middle school,” he told the board.

Board member John Dunsmoor was irked at getting such a proposal at the meeting without having had time to study it beforehand.

“To show up at a meeting and have this thrown at me, I’ll take Whitey’s stand on this one,” he said of fellow board member Dave White’s instance of having material prior to the meetings so that they can at least have an idea of what they are discussing.

“I’ll think about it. I’ll hash is out, but I don’t like it,” Dunsmoor continued. “Our problem isn’t our buildings. To maintain a building and then mothball it; now we’re going take the Ed Center and put it in the whole building down to Leighton? That’s nuts! We don’t need the whole Ed Center down there. We need the print shop back where it was, we need the food services back where it was. We used to have a little building down at the corner of (West) Utica (Street) and Hillside (Avenue) that housed the Ed Center, about the size of the portables because we didn’t have so many things in it. We don’t need a whole lot of space to move this Ed Center.”

“This is just one option that we came up with,” Finnerty said. “There are other options.”

White agreed with Dunsmoor.

Contacting Oswego County Today from Florida, White said it is a little late in the budget process to throw a major proposal like this on the table.

“They knew the position we were in (financially),” White said. “Now, we have no choice. We have to have the right information to make sound decisions. We can’t just have something like this sprung on us.”

White added he still proposes the district should take a look at what is the least it needs to provide educational services, and then add on from there as revenues allow.

The district is facing a potential $5.5 million budget gap, Crist said. That would mean a 2.54 percent tax levy increase.

“It’s painful to even suggest it; it’s painful to even recommend it. But, when you look at a $5.5 million budget gap with a state that has given no indication that they are going to provide any assistance to us today, tomorrow or down the road the next two or three years – that’s a concern,” the superintendent said.

“I wish we cold say the situation is going to be solved by what’s on the horizon at Nine Mine one and two. But I can’t bank on that right now, either,” Crist continued, referring to the tax negotiation going on with the owners of the nuclear power plants.

“We’re not going to save any money by closing a building and throwing the staff out. They’re all going to relocate to the other buildings,” Dunsmoor said. “If you redistrict to get closer to the 25 (class size), that’s serving the same purpose.”

“John, we looked at trying to get to more efficient class sizes as (board member) Fran (Hoefer) has suggested,” Crist said.

“That doesn’t mean relocate a whole school,” Dunsmoor countered.

“The reason we’re having this problem is that whenever anything progressive is proposed, there’s massive opposition,” Hoefer noted.

“Before we people out on the street,” board member Tom DeCastro said there is another, extremely unpopular, option to consider.

Eliminating all after-school activities has the potential of saving the district millions. He wasn’t proposing the move, he only wanted people to be aware of the option, he explained.

Crist said his plan doesn’t eliminate programs, “it provides for efficient operation, more efficient than we’ve done. It provides class sizes that are appropriate but not over-crowded … and the special services that makes Oswego unique.”

Penn Traffic To Close Oswego P&C

OSWEGO, NY – The Penn Traffic Company announced today (Nov. 14) that it will close its Oswego store next month.

In a press release issued earlier today, the company said it would also close its Lebanon, NH store.

According to the press release, Penn Traffic anticipates the last day of operations (for each of the stores) will be in early to mid-December.

A source in Oswego said the last day would be Dec. 6, adding that Price Chopper would move into the location.

Price Chopper has entered into an agreement with Penn Traffic to purchase the store assets and has announced its intention to operate stores in both locations, according to the press release.

Greg Young, Penn Traffic president and CEO, said the decision to discontinue operation of the Oswego store “is consistent with Penn Traffic’s ongoing effort to balance its responsibility to customers and employees with its need to continue to improve the financial stability of the company.”

The Oswego location has approximately 70 employees. Some of them heard the news this afternoon at work, the source said.

Price Chopper Confirms Deal

Price Chopper Supermarkets officials confirmed the company has agreed to purchase the assets and take the assignment of two leases from The Penn Traffic Company, for P&C stores in Lebanon and Oswego.

This news comes on the heels of the Price Chopper’s recent acquisition of a 37,000 square foot former G U Family Market in South Burlington, VT., the grand opening of which is scheduled for Nov. 18.

The 66,000 square foot Oswego store is located on Route 104 East and will serve to replace the chain’s existing 50,000 square foot store (located at 293 State Route 104) which will remain open until the transition to the new store has been made.

Company officials plan to make a $2.7 million capital investment to remodel and upgrade the facility with the expectation of grand opening the store under the Price Chopper banner in the spring of 2009.

“Despite this challenging economy, Price Chopper is a healthy, American-owned, family-managed company that continues to grow,” said Neil Golub, Price Chopper president and CEO.

Oswego Schools Set Emergency Closing And Delay Procedures

Submitted Article

OSWEGO, NY – The inclement weather hasn’t arrived yet, but once again the Oswego City School District is preparing for emergency closing and delay situations.

As in the past a variety of communication venues will be used in the event that school is closed or delayed. The district desires to make a decision to close or delay by 5:30 a.m. and as always this message will be delivered through the numerous communications outlets.

This year the district communication between school and home has been enhanced with the addition of School Messenger.

As schools are closed or delayed an automated system is now in place that will provide contact with every students’ home.

It is hoped that this effort will allow working parents to make the necessary arrangements for the care of their children.

To assist the Oswego community, the district officials have indicated that in the event of any emergency situation there is a complete information network available for residents, staff and students.

In the event of inclement weather, that might be clearing, the Oswego City School District will initiate the plan for a two-hour delay. However, adverse conditions will result in schools being closed.

The area media continues to cooperate with the Oswego City School District to provide up to the minute information in regards to emergency closing or delays.

Oswego County Today.com will publish the announcements as soon as they’re received.

Early morning television viewers can find out about school delays and closings on Central New York television stations.

The Syracuse television stations that will broadcast information about the closing or delays include WSYR-TV9, WSTM-TV3, WTVH-TV5 and News10Now.

Once again a variety of radio stations will carry the emergency closing information.

Residents can tune to radio stations who have volunteered to supply the community with this important information.

Announcements and notices will be broadcast on Y94 (94.5 FM), WBBS (104.7 FM), HOT107.9 (107.9 FM), WSYR (57 AM), WHEN (62 AM), WNTQ (93.0 FM), WAQX/95X (95.7 FM), WTKW (99.5 FM), TK99 (105.5 FM), and K-rock (100.9 FM) and WRVO FM (89.9).

However, the World Wide Web will also be an avenue for information about school closings as the Oswego City School District officials will update the home page www.oswego.org as the need arises.

Local residents can also call 341-2000 for information about closings and delays.

In the event that there is an emergency closing all Oswego City School District buildings will be closed.

Also, all after school activities will be cancelled.

Because of so many issues involving the health and safety of students, community and staff there can be no exceptions to this.

Parents and students continue to have many outlets for information in regards to emergency closing and delays of Oswego’s schools.

It is the goal of district officials to keep the community informed and the students safe.

Goldberg’s To Consolidate Stores

OSWEGO, NY – A long-time anchor fo downtown will soon be gone.

Goldberg’s Furniture officials have announced plans to consolidate its stores by the end of the year.

The company’s stores in Oswego, Auburn, and DeWitt will close as of Jan. 1.

Goldberg’s remaining location, North Syracuse, will then become a “superstore.”

Company officials say the move is being made in the face of rising fuel costs,increased competition, and the general state of the economy.

Employees from the three stores will be offered jobs at the North Syracuse site.

Goldberg’s Vice President Mark Pregent couldn’t be reached for further comment today.

The family run the company was established in 1910 “as a retail and furniture store on the North Side of Syracuse,” according to the company’s Web site http://www.goldbergsfurniture.com/

They have had a presence in Oswego for decades.

The Goldberg’s location in Fulton was closed just a couple of years ago.

Oswego School Reconfiguration Committee Presents Recommendations

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego School Board heard a proposal that would close Minetto Elementary while adding grades 5 and 6 to the middle school.

In an effort to provide a positive plan that is good for the community and the students of the school district, after months of research, the Reconfiguration Committee presented its recommendations to the board on Tuesday night.

members of the reconfiguration committee
Members of the reconfiguration committee present their recommendations.

According to presenters Sandy King and Marcia Burrell-Ihlow, the committee has been meeting since November of last year and there has been a genuine attempt to balance excellence with efficiency.

The committee is asking the board to consider the creation of four elementary schools that would house pre-kindergarten to fourth grade.

Burrell-Ihlow told the board that Oswego Middle School, currently a seventh and eighth grade building, would become “two schools within a school” under the plan.

Students would be divided in a fifth and sixth grade set up as well as the separate seventh and eighth grade configuration, she explained.

An addition would be proposed for a fifth and sixth grade wing at Oswego Middle School; no mention of the construction cost was included in the presentation.

The addition would be at the west end of the building near the new student drop-off area.

The target date for implementation would be in the fall of 2011.

Redistricting would be necessitated for the elementary schools.

The boundaries for each school would be easily identifiable and provide a more convenient means for transportation.

Many factors have influenced the recommendation. Currently New York State curriculum is based upon pre-kindergarten through fourth grade and fifth through eighth grade. With the implementation of this recommendation class sizes would be reduced.

There would also be the ability to departmentalize in every fifth and sixth grade.

Another advantage would be the ability for staff collaboration opportunities and the new middle school realignment would provide opportunities before students’ transition to high school.

“There are factors influencing this recommendation included a projected decline in enrollment, the capital project review of facilities and transportation concerns,” explained Burrell-Ihlow.

The Reconfiguration Committee faced a major task, but a major part of their work dealt with the board policy for closing facilities.

According to the board policy any recommendation must take into concern age and condition, enrollment and demographic patterns, fiscal ramifications, capacity, impact on staffing and student safety, historic value and a relationship to a long range plan.

As recommended by the capital project committee the Minetto Elementary School is in need of extensive infrastructure repair.

Approximately $4.7 million is required to fix the high needs concerns. That money could be saved for use elsewhere if the plan is implemented, the committee members said.

There was some concern over mixing younger students with older students at OMS.

However, research has shown that, “The behavior of the seventh and eight graders

actually improved when including fifth and sixth (graders) on the bus,” Burrell-Ihlow said.

And, they would be separated for most if not all of the school day, she added.

In the area of enrolment the district, over the last nine years, has experienced a decline of 100 or more students per year (with the exception of 2002).

Looking at current and projected data the district could lose more than 1,000 students over a nine-year period. Currently the district has lost 785 students over eight years.

This year, there are 4,327 students in the district and this is a significant decrease from the 5,112 in 1999. The projected enrollment for 2010-11 is 3,955.

Financially, the closing of Minetto would result in a 50% decrease in utility costs, allow $4.7 million of the current $48.2 million capital project to be reallocated, Burrell-Ihlow said.

Other benefits, according to the committee, would be to provide long-term savings on utilities and insurance, provide a potential of the building sale to offset local cost of

capital projects and reduce 40,000 square feet of school space.

The committee never intended to cut staff, Burrell-Ihlow said.

The capacity exists for absorbing the students, staff and programs from Minetto into a reconfigured elementary school model, she said.

Joining Burrell-Ihlow and King on the committee were Veronica Baker, Peter Colucci, Cathy Chamberlain, Jack Fields, Fred Maxon, Mary Ann Schultz, Maggie Tiballi, Mary Volkomer and Chris Warner.

A public forum regarding the recommendations will be conducted at the Oswego Middle School on Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. where community input will be welcome.

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