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City Looks To Joins County In Opposition To Shaman

OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Monday night, the Common Council will consider a resolution to join forces with the county in opposing the manufacture and sale of synthetic drugs, such as Happy Shaman.

Last week, a county legislator urged the Common Council to approve a resolution similar to what the county recently passed.

“This is a resolution that was addressed by the county and we are being urged as the city council to do the same,” Councilor Connie Cosemento, chair of the Physical Services Committee, explained.

“Legislator Jake Mulcahey contacted me over the weekend and we decided that is was a good idea. Since the county already passed this resolution, we would just mirror theirs and urge our state representatives to pass the appropriate laws (to curb the spread of these substances),” said Mayor Randy Bateman. “It seems to be an issue in our community for sure as well as the whole county and rest of the state.”

Happy Shaman is a product that is marketed as an herbal incense blend.

Opponents say it is a type of synthetic marijuana; known on the street as “legal weed.” Many people aren’t using it as incense and are instead inhaling it using drug paraphernalia smoking it in cigarette form, they added.

“The sticky parts are with the wording, as these things are constantly evolving and changing,” Mulcahey told the councilors. “So, what we did was pass our resolution through Health and Human Services and move it to the full legislature, which passed it unanimously to move on to state and federal government.”

If the product is deemed illegal in one form, the manufacturers change the formula and remove the suspect compounds thereby making the product legal again.

There has been a large public response (against Happy Shaman), “far more than usual, Mulcahey said.

The county’s Health and Human Services Committee recently unanimously passed a resolution asking the state and federal government to ban or better regulate the sale of the substances in question, Mulcahey told the city councilors.

According to the county’s resolution: “Hospitals, health agencies and poison control centers are experiencing increased emergency room cases, illnesses, deaths and reports linked to the use and abuse of these substances by children and adults.

“Law enforcement agencies and courts are seeing increased crime in our local communities associated with the sale and abuse of these substances.

“Manufacturers and retailers of these substances often directly market them to children and teenagers through the Internet and by colorful, youthful packaging designs that include no warnings or adequate description of the ingredients and are deceptively sold as incense or aroma products.”

It urges federal drug enforcement, health, justice and commerce agencies and elected officials to “recognize the urgency of this matter and adopt effective regulations or bans on the manufacture, sale and possession of these substances and their future derivatives or successors by anyone in New York State.”

The resolution concludes by urging the NYS Legislature and governor to immediately pass meaningful and effective legislation criminalizing the manufacture, sale and possession of these substances and their future derivatives or successors by anyone in New York State.

For more information, Mulcahey suggested contacting Farnham.

Established in 1971, Farnham Family Services offers prevention services, school-based Student Assistance and treatment services to all residents of Oswego and surrounding counties. Anyone interested in learning more about Farnham can call 342-4489 or visit www.farnhaminc.org

At the county meeting, health officials said it isn’t fair to compare these products to alcohol. Alcohol is what it is, they said, whereas these products are being marketed as one thing but used as something else.

“Alcohol is labeled as alcohol and it is regulated,” according to County Administrator Phil Church. “Whereas, these other substances, sold as incense or stimulants, were mislabeled as bath salts. So a vast difference exists. Alcohol is identified as what it is. And, people know what it is. These substances are sold under labels that don’t clearly say what they are, ingredients aren’t clear, completely unregulated.”

Sales of alcohol are restricted to people of a certain age, added Health Committee chair Jack Proud.

“These drugs are intended toward youth; there is no regulation on this. It is necessary for us to begin to establish regulation,” he said.

Striking Union Workers Speak At County Meeting

OSWEGO, NY – About a dozen members of IBEW Local 97 attended Thursday’s Oswego County Legislature meeting.

A handful of them addressed the legislators during the public comment session following the regular meeting.

The union has been on strike at Nine Mile Point Unit I and II nuclear plants since 12:01 a.m. July 9.

Scriba resident Mike Bradshaw, a member of the local’s negotiating team, questioned the credentials of the managers currently operating Constellation’s nuclear plants.

His primary duty at the plant is testing safety systems, he said.

“Right now they have people out there they say are qualified to do the job that we’ve been doing for 25 years,” he said.

There is a thing called the training exemption form; which takes credit for qualifications that you gained outside the nuclear commercial operating industry, he pointed out, adding, “That means you can become qualified there without going through the accredited training program (the union workers have completed).”

One of the plants was built in the 1960s, the other in the 1980s, he said.

“I don’t want to sound all negative; Constellation Energy does good things for our community, provides great paying jobs to us … contributes to various events, charities,” Bradshaw said. “But there are 500 people out of work because two parties can’t come to a compromise. It’s a terrible thing for the community, our families and everybody. Any help we can get from this legislature to get the parties back to the table and come to a fair, equitable compromise would be appreciated.”

Ken Chirchiro has worked at Nine Mile for almost 20 years.

He said workers at the plant are now doing four days of 12-hour shifts.

“The crew that are replacing us consists of 13 people per crew, of these 13 people, 77 percent of them have never done my job,” he said.

Tim Logan, of Oswego Town, echoed the same sentiments as his co-workers.

“The reason for speaking here today is to ensure you legislators are aware of what is taking place at Nine Mile Point,” he said. “I feel, as do my brothers and sister of IBEW Local 97, that the plants are being operated by inexperienced and unqualified personnel.”

Union workers maintain their qualifications by attending board certified and continuous training, he added.

“Some of the personnel operating the plants have not completed this training, according to Logan. “We ask that you (legislators) do your part in protecting our community by requesting that the NRC audit the qualifications of these personnel and thereby assure the safety of the people of our community.”

“I represent the employees of Local 97 IBEW who are here today,” said Jim Card.

He also called into question the ability and training of the people operating the plants today.

“We’re not getting feedback (about the plants’ safety) from the NRC or anybody. We’re asking the legislature look into this,” he said. “Our 440 member are not receiving wages, which are not putting money back into this community.”

He said he doesn’t want to see a disaster Chernobyl or just recently in Japan happen in Oswego County.

“I know that’s pretty strong language, but when you got people working in there on four-day shifts, not being able to leave that plant, not knowledgeable of the operation of that plant … I’m very fearful of how this plant is being run,” he said. ”I’m asking the Oswego County Legislature to put pressure on this company to get back to the table where we belong. Please, do what you can to get us back to the table. We’re very willing to negotiate a fair contract, that’s all we’re looking for.”

The county is concerned about the situation, said Barry Leemann, chair of the legislature.

“We’ve written a letter to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, offering them office space if they needed it, asking them to check on the safety, making sure the security and safety of our county residents is not compromised,” he said. “We are concerned. We urge both sides to get back to the table.”

County Legislators Approve Moving Forward On Nuke Deal Without The School District

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature approved an intermunicipal agreement between the county and town of Scriba regarding Nine Mile Point Unit I and Unit II nuclear power plants.

The agreement allows the parties to continue with the appraiser without the Oswego City School District, according to Phil Church, county administrator.

Last summer, the county and town approved an $11 million tax deal with Unit 1.

Under terms of the pact, Scriba would have received $544,500, the county $4.1 million and more than $6 million for the school district. However, the district rejected the deal; the other two approved it.

The district filed a petition opposing the agreement. It was later dismissed by a Supreme Court justice.

The Scriba assessors set a value of $600 million, based on an appraisal of the plant by George Sansoucy LLC.

Thursday night, the legislature approved

They have retained the law firm of Duane Morris to represent their common interests in the property tax negotiations with Constellation Energy, the plants’ owner.

The district’s litigation against the town and county, which is presently on appeal, makes collective bargaining “problematic,” the resolution noted, adding, the district suspended the former intermunicipal agreement in December 2010.

According to Thursday’s agreement, the parties agree that the former intermunicipal agreement with the Oswego City School District is cancelled.

In a separate move, the legislators agreed to pay Sansoucy a fixed rate of $25,000, payable upon delivery of the draft summary appraisal report.

The fee shall be paid 65 percent by the county and 35 percent by the town.

Former legislator and current Oswego school board member Fran Hoefer addressed the lawmakers prior to the vote.

The recent power plant disaster in Japan proves “that nuclear power plants are extremely dangerous, extremely dangerous!” Hoefer said. “We have three of them in our back yard! These plants are all past their original life span.”

When, as a board member, he approved the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) for the power plant, it was one of the biggest mistakes of his life, he said.

In the 11 years since, Oswego County property taxes have skyrocketed, according to Hoefer.

Last year the district and the county hired one of the best nuke plant assessors in America to place a value on Nine Mile I, he said.

That value was $600 million and “the assessors in Scriba unilaterally reduced that value to $280 million. Why did they do that? Why did the Scriba assessors reduce a reasonable, fair, logical, expensive to obtain assessment by more than 50 percent?” he asked.

The legislature is in a position to significantly reduce the property tax burden on county taxpayers, he said.

“You people are in a position to make this county one of the most affordable places in New York State to live,” he told the legislators. “You people can reverse the out-migration of jobs and businesses in this county. But, instead, you’re all falling all over yourselves to give a property tax deal to a dangerous, foreign owned nuclear power company that is exporting the profits to France! What’s up with that?”

He urged them to set a fair valuation on the nuclear plants “and make them pay their fair share.”

“PILOT negotiations conducted behind closed doors, cloaked in secrecy, without public participation have put us in the economic decline we are currently facing,” Hoefer said. “Please put a fair value on our nuke plants and put them on the tax roll!”

Earlier Thursday, speaking for the district, Superintendent of Schools Bill Crist told Oswego County Today: “The Oswego City School District is still very interested in working with the town of Scriba and the county toward a mutual agreement with municipalities and Constellation Energy. We are optimistic that all parties will find common ground that will benefit the school district residents.  We have been in an intermunicipal agreement for approximately 18 months and we welcome the opportunity to work in the interests of all taxing jurisdictions in the future.”

County Officials Help Serve Meals At Dining, Activity Centers

HANNIBAL, NY – Oswego County Legislator Terry Wilbur (left) serves a meal to Mr. Kellogg at Oswego County Opportunities’ Senior Dining and Activity Center in Hannibal.

Lunch is served.

Lunch is served.

Wilbur and several other local officials from throughout Oswego County demonstrated their support for Oswego County Opportunities’ Senior Nutrition Services Program recently when they participated in the program’s Mayors for Meals Day by helping to deliver meals to OCO’s Senior Dining and Activity Centers in Fulton, Pulaski, Oswego, Mexico, Hannibal, Parish, Phoenix and Constantia, as well as to home bound seniors in Oswego County.

The event was part of OCO’s Senior Services’ annual March for Meals campaign.

For more information on OCO’s Senior Nutrition Services or the Senior Dining and Activity Centers you may contact Trinity Engle at 598-4712.

Oswego County Legislators Gather Input from Farmers

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature in cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County will host a series of “Agricultural Listening Sessions” to gather input on concerns faced by local farmers.

All information gathered from farmers will be relayed to the New York State Association of Counties Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Future of New York Farming.

Oswego County legislators Barbara Brown, District 8, Palermo; Amy Tresidder, District 16, Oswego; and Terry Wilbur, District 21, Hannibal were appointed by NYSAC to represent Oswego County on the 36-member task force and will attend the listening sessions.

The sessions will be May 3, at 7 p.m. at the Hastings Fire Barn; May 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Halfshire Historical Society, Richland; and May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Granby Community Center.

“The Blue Ribbon task force was organized to address the future of agriculture in New York State.
Legislators Brown, Tresidder and Wilbur are seeking input from the agricultural producers concerning the challenges they face in Oswego County,” said Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann. “We appreciate their time and effort, and the expert resources of Cornell Cooperative Extension, in organizing the meetings.”

Jonathan Schell, Agriculture Team Coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, will be the moderator.

All area farmers are invited to attend a session to have their issues heard by legislators.

In particular, the Blue Ribbon Task Force will examine pending legislation affecting farm operations in Albany and Washington, D.C.

Those with special needs should contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County at 963-7286.

Legislators Hear About Progress At DSS

OSWEGO, NY – The county’s health committee was updated recently regarding the progress being made at the Department of Social Services.

The number of reports of possible child abuse that come in each month from the state’s central registry has been on the rise.

From 2008 to 2009 there was a 20 percent increase in the number of reports.

“We are on target to stay at that level,” Fran Lanigan, the county’s DSS commissioner, told the legislators.

Communities have found that when there is a “high-profile incident” that the number of reports goes up and they stay up, she said inferring to the death of 11-year-old Erin Maxwell in 2008.

“In mid-2008 we very rarely had over 200 reports,” she pointed out. “They were under or well under 200 those months. Since late 2008, they have not gone under 200.”

The report on the department’s third quarter case review by the regional office was received in March. It highlights what progress they have made and the next steps for improvement in case practice.

“It says that we are continuing to move forward in identifying areas where we need to strengthen,” Lanigan said. “It points out we were struggling with making adequate assessment of safety within 24 hours. Things were moved around and changed, and as (the report) indicates, we are making some progress.”

“One of the things I have to say about last fall is that with the addition of staff and supervisors, things are improving. A number of those workers (last fall) were dealing with a tsunami of reports; meanwhile we had to have some of those workers earn the opportunity to become senior caseworkers,” Lanigan continued. “So now, they’re trying to finish up the cases that they were working, you have fewer hands to handle the volume of reports that are coming in, you have more reports coming in and fewer hands because now the senior workers are trying to lead a team in the right direction and get their new people on board and help the experienced people deal with the overwhelming circumstances.”

As a result of that, the department’s overdue reports number went up. The additional staff is currently helping lower those numbers, the commissioner said.

“A lot of times it isn’t that the work hasn’t been done, it’s that it hasn’t been put into the computer system,” she explained. “We are targeting overdue cases. Our goal is no overdue reports by the end of the year.”

“Are all of these cases that are being reported now justifiable?” asked Legislator Barb Brown. “Or, is it that the community is over-active because of what happened?”

“Every one is justifiable, because the state’s central registry takes it. They are the first screen and if there are any reasons to suspect that there is a circumstance, we go out,” Lanigan replied.

Historically, it takes communities about three years to recover and get onto an even operational playing field after a major incident, she added.

“I think we’re making all the right steps. We’re going in the right direction and I applaud the staff’s dedication,” she said. “You did not see staff up and leave. Often it is like rats from a sinking ship, so they say. The only person we had leave was a person who had planned to leave for educational purposes, and she’s now back. The staff worked very hard and diligently under not always ideal circumstances.”

“They were put under a lot of criticism that was not justified,” Brown agreed.

They still get it thrown in their face out in the field, Lanigan said of complaints about the Maxwell case.

As a result of the Maxwell incident, the county has formed a Child Protection Advisory Council.

The various community agencies and stakeholders together will work to improve communications between Child Protective Services and the public. The first 16 members were approved this spring.

The council is in the organizational phase, Lanigan added.

The group is coming together very well. They are beginning to work together as a community,” Lanigan said. “We’re on our way. I guess you could say we’ve taken our first baby steps.”

She also explained about the Enhanced Practice Court.

“A parallel activity that is occurring is the development of a best practice model court (Family Court) initiative that is co-chaired by the Family Court Judge and me in my role as commissioner. It basically is dealing with children in foster care. The goal is to improve the outcomes for permanency for children in alignment with federal and state mandates,” Lanigan explained.

The implementation team attended a conference and the second meeting of the advisory committee was held last week, she said, adding that Legislator Jack Proud, chair of the health committee, is also a member of this group.

A strategic planning event is being planned for the group.

“As far as staffing, I had mentioned two months ago that we have had some significant retirements. I am very pleased to say that the job of director of services was offered to Gregg Heffner and he accepted,” she said.

He comes with a wealth of experience in human services. Heffner most recently was clinical director of the Brownell Center, a mental health clinic in Syracuse.

“He is a new resident to Oswego County. He expressed that he wants to work in the community in which he lived,” Lanigan noted. “We are looking forward to having him start in April.”

County Considers Relocating E-911 Center

OSWEGO, NY – With a new radio system in the works, the county’s E-911 center is also considering other options.

The center has been housed on the top floor of the Oswego County Public Safety Center for nearly two decades.

Along with its new system, the center could possibly have a new home.

At Monday’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee meeting, Mike Allen, E-911 program director, sought approval to look at the possibility of relocating the center.

According to Allen, the possibilities include moving to an existing site or building a new center.

The move, he explained would be done in concert with the installation of the county’s new radio system.

“We have occupied the current site for the past 15 years, and it has been in continuous use, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he told the committee. “The space is getting old and tired. We’d like to look at the possibility of moving the center.”

The committee approved allowing Allen to reach out to engineering/architectural firms to get an idea of what it might cost, what the benefits might be and what are the possible cost-savings as well as other information regarding a possible move.

“I see that there is a building in Fulton that you are interested in. Any particular reason for that?” asked committee member Legislator Margaret Kastler. “Is there another place in the county that might be better?”

“I think that may very well be. While we have looked at several different options, we certainly should be looking at all of our options,” Allen replied. “I look at it as is there existing space somewhere in this county that could be better utilized as a new center. Does that mean we occupy existing space, do we seek out a new space?”

Allen noted they don’t even know if the Fulton site is currently available and if it could be retro-fitted to fit the county’s needs.

Those and other questions need to be answered before the county settles on a choice, he added.

“If we move forward with this idea, one of the things we’d have to do is review what we currently have and get a better grasp of where we need to be in the foreseeable future and then look at the options that are out there.”

Committee member Legislator Morris Sorbello suggested the possibility of having a mixed use site at the county airport.

They have had those discussions and the scope of the work should address all of those possibilities, Allen said.

Committee member Terry Wilbur asked if it was Allen’s hope to have the new center and the new radio system done at the same time.

“We have been wrestling with a lot of different issues, one of them being the logistics of swapping out a communications system in an operational 9-1-1 center. It’s a large undertaking,” Allen said.

There are some physical constraints and equipment constraints that they think they have tackled, he said. Ideally, if they had the room at the center, they’d be putting both systems operational in the same physical space, he added. That way, when the new system is ready, the old system could be pulled out at that time.

“We don’t have that option in our current location,” he pointed out. “That was one of the things that we were thinking about. Would this be an opportunity missed if we don’t do this; five years from now we’d admit we probably should have done that. That’s what I’m trying to find out, is this a viable option.”

Committee member Legislator Louella LeClair asked about the Joint News Center at the airport site as an option.

It’s not county property, Allen said.

LeClair noted the county could build a new center there because of its proximity to the other center.

There are a lot of possibilities there, but a lot of questions as well, Allen said.

“We need a tower site close to where we’re going to be so we can get our signal out. One of the problems that we’re having is some modifications that we have to make to our proposed tower site in the city of Fulton, which is a mile and a half away from the airport. There are some height restrictions because of the airport,” he said. “I would imagine that those same height restrictions would come into play if you’re going to have a center on that (airport) property.”

Money for the study and project would have to come from grants or other sources.

“There are a lot of options out there. There are grant opportunities for building and refurbishing 9-1-1 centers,” Allen noted. “That’s the purpose of this study, to look at our existing facilities and make some general recommendations on a structure and a location that would better suit our needs. And allow us to have a state of the art facility for the next 15 to 20 years.”

There are new revenue steams in the proposed state budget that could also be applied to the project, he added.

The state budget could contain about $50 million for 9-1-1 use, according to Phil Church, county administrator.

“Right now, I’m not sure if that’s for grants or if it will be allocated to every county. That’s one of the reasons that when Mike brought this to me, I said let’s start planning for the future because there might be some money there,” he told the committee. “This would be a great time to at least get started. So as the opportunities arise, we’ve already done some of the groundwork.”

In planning for public safety for the next couple of decades, you might not want to do it piecemeal, not just 9-1-1, he suggested.

There is an emergency operations center in the bottom of the Fulton (County) building, which is more or less a bomb shelter.

There’s not a lot of modern technology there, Church pointed out.

“I believe, right now, it’s not set up for long-term stay,” he said. “An option in this study might be a combination building, a 9-1-1 center and an emergency operations center. The study would look at those options and are we better off staying where we are. I would suggest a more comprehensive approach. If we’re going to do this, let’s plan for the next 15 – 20 years.”

Allen will report back to the committee as the project moves forward.

County Recognizes Outgoing Legislators

OSWEGO, NY – Before adjourning this month’s legislature meeting, Chairman Barry Leemann took a moment to recognize the legislators who won’t be coming back in 2010.

Some are retiring; others lost their re-election bids in November. They all served their constituents to the best of the ability, he noted.

The legislators will be invited to the county’s reorganizational meeting in January to be recognized.

The Oswego County Legislature bid farewell to its outgoing legislators at the close of its last meeting of the year. From left are Art Gearsbeck, District 6, nine years; Paul Santore, District 16, eight years; Phil Vasho, District 22, six years; Lee Walker Jr., District 15, two terms, five years; and Jack Beckwith, District 21, two terms, 12 years. Absent from the photo are legislators Jim Bryant, District 5, and Clayton Brewer, District 24.

The Oswego County Legislature bid farewell to its outgoing legislators at the close of its last meeting of the year. From left are Art Gearsbeck, District 6, nine years; Paul Santore, District 16, eight years; Phil Vasho, District 22, six years; Lee Walker Jr., District 15, two terms, five years; and Jack Beckwith, District 21, two terms, 12 years. Absent from the photo are legislators Jim Bryant, District 5, and Clayton Brewer, District 24.

Legislator Clayton Brewer has been a member of the legislature “for many, many years,” Leemann said.

However, he was unable to attend the final meeting of 2009 due to illness, he explained.

“He wanted to be here real bad,” Leemann said. “But, his family urged him not to come.”

Another veteran legislator, James Bryant, was also absent from the December meeting.

The chairman invited Legislator Art Gearsbeck to receive a complimentary nameplate and be recognized for his service. The legislator, however, declined the offer.

“I walked through these doors in January of 1986 as a 23-year-old man. I had come to witness my step-father, Paco Malone, become a legislator,” Legislator Lee Walker Jr. recalled. He was here until 1992 when he died. He was a Democrat and a Republican was appointed to take his place. As green as I was, I decided I wanted to run for his seat. And, I did and the rest was history.”

In January 1993 he walked through the same doors, this time as a new legislator. There were 36 legislators at the time.

He never missed a meeting.

“In 1995, I voted to reduce the legislature from 36 to 25. Lost myself a job over that one,” he laughed.

He said he’d like to see the current legislature reduced to around 15.

“I met a lot of good friends, on both sides of the aisle. When I left in 1995 it was Jack Beckwith I left. He’s being honored again tonight,” he said of the retiring Hannibal legislator.

Walker also recalled some of the battles he had over the years with Brewer.

“When I came back to the legislature in ’08, he sat there and was a little quieter. Of course, he was 80 years old,” Walker added. “He was a good guy, worked real hard. I hope to see him here in January because he deserves a standing ovation and he should be here to see that.”

Legislators Dan Chalifoux and Barb Brown served with Walker as well as his step-father, he said.

(Legislator) Art Ospelt used to sit up front, as the county administrator, Walker said.

“When I came on in 1993, Hollis Iselin was chairman of the legislature. We were in our caucus and we talked about not voting for him. How can I not vote for a 93-year-old man sitting up here,” he said.

“It’s been a nice run, a nice ride,” he said of his tenure with the county. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be back.”

Out-going Legislator Paul Santore said he enjoyed his eight years on the legislature.

“I know that I did what I thought was the right thing to do. Everybody didn’t always agree with me. But I did things for what I hoped was the right reason,” he said.

He enjoyed his time working with people and helping people, he added.

“Jack has really been an excellent legislator. We’re going to hate to see you go,” Leemann said.

“My father always said it doesn’t matter what you do in life – it’s how you do it,” Beckwith said. “I hope I’ve been a good politician.

Also cited at the meeting was Legislator Phil Vasho.

“I’ve been deeply honored to work with everybody in this room,” Vasho said. “I have a lot of respect for everybody in this room. I am going to miss you all. But, it’s time to move on. So, goodbye and good luck.”

The legislature will hold its reorganizational meeting at 2 p.m. on Jan. 7 in the Legislative Chambers, 46 E. Bridge St.

County Legislators Say ‘Yes’ To Budget, ‘No’ To Closing Hannibal Transfer Station

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature voted Tuesday night in favor of the 2010 budget – but not closing the Hannibal Transfer Station.

The county’s $185,334,375 budget for 2010 doesn’t increase taxes and includes no raises for the legislators.

Legislator Jack Beckwith makes an impassioned plea to keep the Hannibal Transfer Station open. Between 1,700 and 2,000 residents use the facility weekly, he said. Listening to Beckwith are, seated from left, legislators Doug Malone, Kevin Gardner, Jim Oldenburg and Fred Beardsley.

Legislator Jack Beckwith makes an impassioned plea to keep the Hannibal Transfer Station open. Between 1,700 and 2,000 residents use the facility weekly, he said. Listening to Beckwith are, seated from left, legislators Doug Malone, Kevin Gardner, Jim Oldenburg and Fred Beardsley.

The tax rate will be $7.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

A motion to return performance incentives for department heads for 2010 was defeated. They will, however receive their 3 percent raises.

This issue was marked by a lengthy debate in which some legislators said they had to make the cuts for the taxpayers. Others said they negotiated the deal in good faith with the department heads and should keep their word.

Legislator Jack Proud asked his colleagues how other bargaining units will look at the legislators in the future if (legislators) negotiate in good faith only to go back on their word when something becomes inconvenient.

At the public hearing prior to the meeting, nearly a dozen residents spoke on various budget topics including funding for libraries, a new position for the DA’s Office and the transfer station.

District Attorney Donald Dodd pointed out that violent crimes are up in Oswego County and the position would help his office more efficiently handle the casework.

It would increase the taxes, he admitted – roughly a penny a month for the average homeowner, he added.

He encouraged the legislators to make a motion, second it and debate and approve the position.

However, during the nearly two-hour budget debate that ensued, legislators never acted on the DA’s request.

A couple of amendments were proposed that would have cut slightly less than $600,000 from next year’s spending plan.

Legislator Art Gearsbeck sought to slice $200,000 in overtime out of the Solid Waste Department and $300,000 in overtime from the Highway Department.

The full legislature voted down both suggestions.

Only five legislators are using the county health insurance plan.

Legislator Mike Kunzwiler suggested eliminating health insurance for legislators; a measure that would decrease the budget by about $71,000.

He then sought to remove $20,000 from the $40,000 the IDA will use next year to profile (research to see if it is suitable for economic development) properties in the county in 2010

Both ideas were voted down.

“To say we can’t do better on this budget just blows my mind. If you can’t cut $20,000 now, what will you do when you have to cut a million?” he asked the other legislators.

Debate on the budget wound its way into a discussion regarding the closing of the transfer station.

In what some legislators said is a “business decision,” they were considering closing the transfer station; a move that would save the county more than $197,000 a year.

Legislator Doug Malone proposed a compromise resolution. He suggested keeping the transfer station open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and a half day on Saturdays.

Frank Visser, head of the county’s Solid Waste Department, “really wouldn’t be saving (any money).”

The resolution was defeated.

Bud Hubbard of Hannibal chastises the legislators for even considering closing the Hannibal Transfer Station. Speaking during the public hearing on the budget Tuesday night, he strongly encouraged them to keep the facility in operation. Listening are, far left, County Administrator Phil Church and Barry Leemann, chair of the legislature.

Bud Hubbard of Hannibal chastises the legislators for even considering closing the Hannibal Transfer Station. Speaking during the public hearing on the budget Tuesday night, he strongly encouraged them to keep the facility in operation. Listening are, far left, County Administrator Phil Church and Barry Leemann, chair of the legislature.

Legislator Shawn Doyle pointed out the county will be facing tough economic challenges in the next couple of years and needs to start making cuts to save money.

“I’m very sorry, Jack,” he said to Hannibal Legislator Jack Beckwith. “We have to start somewhere.”

He made a motion to close the station. It was seconded by Legislator Shawn Walker.

“I would never vote to close this transfer station,” Beckwith said. “If you want to vote to close them all, I would support it. But,  I would never close a transfer station on the other end of the county.  I am supposed to protect all of the people in this county, not just my people. I wouldn’t turn my back on your people, don’t turn your back on mine.”

When the role call vote was taken, the tally was 10 in favor, 13 opposed and two absent.

Legislators Continue Discussion On Slaughterhouse Proposal

OSWEGO, NY – Interest in Bion Environmental Technologies’ slaughterhouse and ethanol facility is on the rise in Oswego County.

Schroeppel has expressed an interest in the project that received a lukewarm response earlier this summer.

The company is proposing to build a huge beef slaughter operation somewhere in Oswego County.

The project, if accepted in the county, is still several years away, according to Legislator Art Ospelt.

“But, you’ve got to want them here before they even get started,” he told the county’s Economic Development and Planning Committee on Tuesday.

He said the project is a good thing, looking at the number of jobs it will bring the county.

Legislator Louella LeClair noted that she had met the chair of the St. Lawrence County Board of Supervisors and talked about Bion’s plan.

“She said if you people don’t take it, you’re crazy,” she said, adding it didn’t work out in St. Lawrence County but could be a boon in Oswego County.

It would be a benefit for county farmers, she said.

“I think that commercially that it’s a private sector thing, and that’s what we really need,” added Legislator Jack Beckwith. “Those 900 jobs are private sector jobs not related to tax dollars. I think that’s very important. I think it’s a great thing, I really do. There are a couple complicated things but I think we can fix it.”

There were concerns about water and air pollution due to the large amount of cattle that would be involved.

“I don’t worry about that. You have to get through the DEC and EPA and they have a lot of restrictions,” Ospelt said. “So (Bion) will have to comply with those regulations.”

Disease was another concern. But Ospelt noted he had talked with an area veterinarian who said the project was a good idea and didn’t believe the potential for disease would be a big concern.

The town of Schroeppel has been “very receptive” in terms of wanting to understand and learn more about the proposal, according to L. Michael Treadwell, director of Operation Oswego County.

“There has been no decision made in Schroeppel that it is going to be a project in Schroeppel,” he pointed out. “But, they have indicated an interest in the project. They are willing to continue to work with Bion to see if it will match with the community in terms of placing the facility in part of that community.”

About 40 people attended a town hall meeting in Schroeppel recently to discuss the plan.

“At this point and time, they are still very interested in pursuing a potential project in Oswego County,” Treadwell said of Bion. “But, as Art indicated, everything is still very preliminary.”

If the project becomes a reality, it would mean a large new market for county hay and corn farmers, Ospelt noted.

There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered before the county will take any action on it, Sorbello said Tuesday.

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