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2011 In Review – Testament To Oswego’s Industrial Past Standing Tall In Greenland

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

While exploring the coast of Greenland last summer, Yves Hubert of Plougastel-Daoulas (a city near Brest, France), discovered a piece of Oswego’s history.

“I sailed along Greenland’s east coast this last August and landed in an old US military installation in the Ikateq Fjord,” he told Oswego County Today in early March. “Between 1941 and 1946, it was a weather station coded Bluie East 2 and a relief airdrome during the Bolero operation (conveying P-38 between Newfoundland and Scotland). Standing proudly, since 65 years, there is a FitzGibbons boiler.”

The wooden building that housed the boiler disappeared due to bad weather or reutilization by the Inuits (a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the region), but not the boiler, he pointed out. The boiler was built in 1941.

“We sailed from Iceland on an 18-meter ketch. The crew was 12. The crew was amateur sailors with the owner of the boat, an ex-merchant navy officer,” he said. “Ikkatteq (old spelling: Íkáteq) was a small village in the Sermersooq municipality in southeastern Greenland. It was abandoned in 2005.”

The skipper had sailed once from Iceland to Greenland and visited the US weather station, Hubert said, adding, “I’m a history buff and after I returned in France, I searched for its story.”

His search took him to the Port City and John G. FitzGibbons.

“It is interesting that Yves contacted me. I am the great-great-grandson of Patrick FitzGibbons, the man who started the boiler company in 1868 here in Oswego,” John said.

While his family left the direct ownership of the company shortly after 1900, John said he is very interested in the continued resurrection of the boilers.

“Over the course of a year, I still receive many calls from people, all over the country, looking for boiler parts and equipment for their FitzGibbons boilers that remain in daily use,” he said.

It’s not that uncommon for architects and engineers from Baltimore and Washington and other places to contact him with questions regarding the boilers.

His great-grandfather sold the boiler business in the 1920s, thus ending the family’s association with the boiler works, he said.

OCSD Budget Proposal – Job Cuts, Less Spending

On March 1, the Oswego Board of Education received a preview of the preliminary 2011-12 budget.

It included a reduction in spending and dozens of job cuts.

“The numbers look nice, but there are cuts here that I’m not going along with,” said board member Sam Tripp.

Judge Postpones Malone’s Sentencing

Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner postponed the sentencing of Joyce Malone until April.

Malone, who was convicted Jan. 24 in the shooting death of her husband, appeared in court March 7 with her attorney, James Eby. Several family members and friends also were present.

Eby explained that his client was undergoing treatment for an inoperable cancer.

An interruption in the treatments now, he said, “would be life-threatening.”

Malone, 70, was battling stage four lung cancer.

She was scheduled to return to court on April 8.

Pair Receive State Recognition For Saving Child’s Life

Assemblyman Will Barclay presented a pair of local heroes with NYS Assembly Resolutions honoring them for their life-saving efforts in January.

Lori Lawton, an Oswego City School District bus aide, and Jack Zeller, a bus driver for the district, were honored at the Transportation Center during a brief ceremony on March 11 attended by dozens of their friends, family and co-workers.

An earlier ceremony was planned but had to be rescheduled due to a snowstorm that day.

January 13 had been just another typical school day for seventh grader Dillon “D.J.” Gibson. It almost had a tragic ending.

Lawton, a line server at Oswego High School, also works for the district as a part-time bus aide and had the afternoon bus assignment that day.

Other students on the bus alerted her that DJ was choking on something (a piece of candy cane), she explained.

She ran back to him and saw that he was turning blue. She grabbed him by his right arm, pulled him up, put her arms around him and started to do thrusts on his chest.

Lawton was able to dislodge the obstruction in his throat.

The other students didn’t panic; they moved aside to provide her room, Lawton noted.

“I was just eating a candy cane and I started to choke,” DJ said in an interview with the district’s public affairs officer. “I knew what was going on and I was a little bit scared. But, it was really nice of her to do what she did for me.”

Zeller radioed 911 immediately for assistance, and was the line of communication between Lawton and emergency crews.

He pulled the bus over to the shoulder along Route 48 and “within minutes EMTs from the Minetto Volunteer Fire Department were on the scene. An Oswego City ambulance also responded and D.J. was transported to Oswego Hospital where he was treated at the Emergency Department and later released.

“When I heard the news of what happened on that bus, I thought about my own family. It could have been one of my kids on that bus,” said Barclay, the father of two young boys. “It could have been anyone’s child. Lori and Jack’s quick work saved a life. I am pleased to present this resolution to you today, on behalf of New York State, commending your quick actions as well as your coordinated effort.”

Rudy’s Opens For The Season

Rudy’s welcomed back dozens of its closest friends in March.

Even though the calendar said the vernal equinox wouldn’t take place for several more days, local residents know better. Spring returns when the historic little restaurant nestled on the shore of Lake Ontario at The Loop throws open its doors.

This year, customers were greeted with mild weather, albeit a tad rainy.

Cars usually begin lining up in front of the eatery more than 90 minutes before its scheduled 10 a.m. opening.

However, this year the first patrons didn’t actually arrive until 10:02 a.m.

Don and Bev Alton were somewhat surprised when they walked through the door and found they were the first customers for the new season.

“Wow, this is the first time we’ve been first,” she exclaimed.

Within a matter of moments the parking lot resembled a hot August night, rather than a chilly and damp March morning.

The restaurant goes through about 30 to 50 cases of its famous Texas hot sauce during the first week they open each year.

Most ate their meals inside while others carried their food in cardboard trays out to their vehicles. The pesky morning drizzle apparently was enough to dissuade people from dining outside at one of the picnic table overlooking the snowcapped icebergs remaining on Lake Ontario.

Camp Hollis Welcomes New Director

When the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau began the 65th season at Camp Hollis this past summer, there was a new administrator in charge of camp activities.

Kathleen Fenlon, director of the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau, said that Brandon Morey had been appointed coordinator of Recreation and Youth Development for Oswego County and will oversee all programs at Camp Hollis.

Morey is also responsible for the Oswego County Nature Park at Camp Zerbe in Williamstown, and other youth development activities.

An outdoor enthusiast, Morey has more than six years of experience in running adventure and educational day camp and overnight camp programs in New York State.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in recreation and leisure studies with a concentration in outdoor recreation from SUNY Cortland.

“Brandon brings a great deal of enthusiasm and practical experience to his job at the Youth Bureau,” said Fenlon. “He is responsible for overseeing the county recreational camping program at Camp Hollis and the Oswego County Nature Park at Camp Zerbe, and for making sure that the camp facilities continue to operate in compliance with all state and federal health codes.”

Camp Hollis offers a residential camp experience for youth ages 8 to 14, complete with swimming, nature hikes, arts and crafts, games, evening campfires and many more activities.

Morey succeeds former Camp Hollis director and youth specialist Jim Farfaglia, who retired in January 2011.

OMS Principal Moves On To Superintendent Position

Oswego Middle School Principal Bonnie Finnerty was one of two finalists in the search for a new superintendent at the Schroon Lake Central School.

In March, she was informed by the president of the Schroon board of education of the decision.

Finnerty was named OMS principal in July 2008.

She credits her staff, faculty and the students at OMS for the success the school has experienced the last few years.

Schroon is a town in the Adirondack Park, in Essex County.

The population was 1,759 at the 2000 census. The town is also known as Schroon Lake, which is actually a centrally located lake, and the name of a hamlet on the lake.

According to 2005 statistics, the school district has about 296 total students with an attendance rate of 95% and graduation rates in the mid-70 percent range.

Ticonderoga High School Principal Michael Graney was the other finalist.

Board of Education President John Armstrong said March 23 that board members stayed up late the previous night to choose Graney and Finnerty to head into round three of the interviewing process. They interviewed four candidates earlier in the week.

Finnerty was selected and joined her new school district in the fall.

District’s Tax Deal Challenge Dismissed

The Oswego City School District’s challenge regarding the tax agreement Oswego County and the town of Scriba have with Nine Mile Point Unit I was dismissed in March by the state Supreme Court.

According to Kevin Caraccioli, the town’s attorney, Justice Hugh Gilbert dismissed the district’s petition stating, “It should not have been filed as a challenge to the assessment set by the Scriba Board of Assessment Review.”

“I am pleased with Justice Gilbert’s decision,” said Scriba Supervisor Kenneth Burdick. “I always felt that the actions of the Town of Scriba were justified. This decision confirms my belief. I hope the parties can get back to negotiating a comprehensive agreement that will benefit the entire community.”

In his ruling, dated March 18, Gilbert said the assessment only can be challenged in a tax grievance petition. The school district can’t use this procedure to challenge the assessment, he continued. Only the property owner (Scriba) can file a tax grievance.

In 2010, the county, Scriba and the district negotiated a one-year tax deal Constellation Nuclear Energy Group, the owners of the power plant. Scriba and the county approved it; the school district didn’t.

The district began the challenge in an attempt to receive more tax revenue from the plant than it would receive under the deal.