2011 In Review – Human Case Of EEE Confirmed In August

OSWEGO, NY – Here’s a glimpse of the some of the news from the past 12 months.

The Oswego County Health Department confirmed Aug. 12 that an Oswego County child has contracted the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.

“EEE is a rare but serious viral disease that is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes,” said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, Oswego County public health director. “We are in mosquito season, so residents have to continue to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Staying away from areas where mosquitoes concentrate and limiting outside activity at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active are two of the best personal protection measures people can take.”

Residency Restrictions Implemented

Out-of-town landlords need a local agent or manager for their property before they can rent them, according to changes to the city code approved in early August by the Common Council.

Landlords who live more than 25 miles away from City Hall are now required to have either a manager or an agent that lives within 25 miles of City Hall, according to Mayor Randy Bateman.

At the public hearing on the amendment prior to the council meeting, two people, local landlord Lee Walker and GOP mayoral candidate Dave White spoke in support of the change.

The changes will apply to those landlords who live more than 25 miles away from City Hall and began at the end of the month. Those with existing rental permits are grandfathered in – until they have to renew their permits.

The property manager shall be designated to act as the owner … to receive and respond to notices from the city of Oswego and to receive service of process on any action or proceedings brought by the city of Oswego against the owner.

According to the change, the property manager must live or do business within 25 miles of City Hall and must provide the city with a local address and telephone number. The manager could be a tenant.

There is a need to have a contact locally, Councilor Connie Cosemento said. If there is a local agent designated; then the city can serve the local agent, she said, adding it would save the city tremendous amount of money trying to track down and serve out-of-town landlords.

Child Stricken With EEE Dies

In mid-August, the Oswego County Health Department confirmed that the Oswego County child who was ill with Eastern Equine Encephalitis had died.

“The loss of a child is a tragedy that no family should have to endure,” said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, public health director. “Our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies go out to the child’s family.”

This tragedy raised questions about conducting aerial spraying to control mosquito populations. Oswego County was working closely with the New York State Health Department and the consensus was aerial spraying would not eliminate EEE in the county.

The county said it would continue to collect data, monitor conditions and evaluate all factors to formulate future decisions.

Dr. Norfleet said, “One of the factors that led to that decision includes the lower mosquito infection rate this year. Another consideration is that spraying will only eliminate a portion of the mosquito population for a limited time and not completely eradicate the problem. Spraying is more effective when used in a concentrated area where EEE has been detected and helps to prevent the spread of the virus. However, this year, EEE was detected within the same week in many towns around the county.”

The county eventually did conduct spraying. There had been a growing public outcry in favor of spraying in the wake of the child’s death.

Council Debates Clearing The Air At Farmers’ Market

In mid-August, Council President Ron Kaplewicz requested a discussion regarding a smoke-free farmers’ market. He said he has talked with the chamber director and the mayor about the idea. He said he also went to the market to see what was going on there.

“Depending on who you were talking to, there were definitely different opinions on the subject,” he said. “A couple of vendors that I did talk to one thought it was a good idea, another didn’t care much whether it did or didn’t. Another woman thought it would be a great idea.”

Technically, they only have control over the (closed) street and not the sidewalks for the market, explained Beth Hilton, executive director of the chamber.

She talked with a few downtown merchants. One found it an interesting concept and another was vehemently opposed to it, she told the councilors.

“My biggest concern would be enforcement,” she said. “I did contact the State Farm Market Federation. They were not aware of any outdoor markets that were part of the federation that were smoke-free.”

The council voted the following week to encourage smokers to refrain from lighting up at the market.

The Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County, with the support of the city of Oswego, the Oswego County Health Department and the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, announced the market will be a tobacco-free event starting Aug. 25.

According to a resolution passed by the Oswego Common Council, “from this date forward:” no tobacco products are to be used between the farmers’ market barriers.

“The decision to create a tobacco-free zone at the Oswego Farmers’ Market helps create healthier spaces in Oswego, which in turn creates a healthier community,” said Kaplewicz.

The tobacco-free zone was designated in the area between the farmers’ market barriers, including sidewalks, on West Bridge and West Oneida streets as well as the Civic Plaza between City Hall and the John O’C. Conway Municipal Building during the hours of market operation.

Developer’s Hotel Plan Draws Opposition

Also in mid-August, the Planning and Development Committee sent a businessman’s request for a zone change to the Planning Board for its advisory opinion for the proposed change.

His plan to develop a hotel there, however, drew objections from some owners of existing hotels.

Tony Leotta, city engineer, requested that a petition filed by Chris A. LaBarge for a change in zone from R-3 Residential District to a B-1 Neighborhood Business District regarding 134 and 140 E. 13th St.

The property is adjacent to Ruby Tuesday, he noted.

LaBarge said he looking to buy the property from Steve Thomas, “pending rezoning.”

The proposed project would be an 81-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites (behind and to the north of Ruby Tuesday).

He said he has discussed the plan with some of the nearby property owners and several issues and concerns were raised, “of which, I think in most cases, we provided reasonable solutions to the adjoining properties’ concerns.”

One resident at the meeting said, “A hotel might be a great thing, just not in my back yard. Maybe you want it in your back yard (committee chair) Mike (Myers).”

Attorney James Eby spoke on behalf of the owner of the Days Inn, a motel located near the site of the proposed hotel.

“He bought it in 2004 and has done a nice job in cleaning up the area,” he said. “He wants you to understand he is very much opposed to this for a number of reasons.”

The council took no action on the issue the following week. And, again this fall, the resolution failed to get council approval.

Oswego Approves 2012 Spending Plan

At its meeting on Aug. 22, the Oswego Common Council approved the 2012 City Operating Budget by a 5-2 vote.

Voting no were councilors Shawn Walker and Bill Sharkey.

The amount of the 2012 tax levy is $6,994,999. Taxes are due and payable in two installments (on the first day of April and the first day of June). The rate is $8.980 per $1,000.

There is no property tax increase. But residents are facing a 34 percent increase in sewer fees.

“The reason you have a zero percent increase year after year is because some of that (sewer) money is being transferred in; it certainly is not smoke and mirrors, that is part of the budget process. That just happens to be the way this process works,” explained Council President Ron Kaplewicz. “Someone will say that means we get more money to spend. Yes the city does have a little bit more money, but we’re able to do it within a budget that allows us to keep a zero (tax rate) increase.”

The city is required to have the water/sewer service self-sufficient by 2012, he said. It is a requirement under the consent decree, he added.

Opposition To Shaman

Members of the county’s Health and Human Services Committee heard an update regarding the local sale and abuse of synthetic “designer” drugs, artificial cannabinoids and other currently legal products, including Happy Shaman.

On Aug. 31, representatives from Farnham Family Services and Oswego Hospital gave presentations on the drugs and their affects on the users.

The meeting and discussion tied in well with National Substance Abuse Recovery Month, according to Phil Church, county administrator.

“The Health Committee started dealing with this a couple of months ago with the issue of ‘bath salts’ that weren’t really bath salts,” he noted.

The committee unanimously passed a resolution asking the state and federal government to ban or better regulate the sale of the substances in question.

According to the 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.”

The resolution concluded 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.