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2012 In Review: In December, Oswego Man Thanks EMTs Who Saved Him

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

Usually, a nice card and a box of candy will suffice as a thank you for postal carriers, trash collectors and many others for their services. But, how do you express your gratitude to someone who saved your life?

For Jim Favata, he had to meet them in person, look them in the eye and shake their hands.

On September 9, the Oswego Fire Department responded to a “man down” call at Lowe’s on State Route 104 East on Oswego. Upon arrival, they found a 56-year-old man unresponsive. Advanced life support was started as well as CPR.

After much medical care as well as rehab, a healthy Favata came to the Eastside Fire Station wanting to meet and thank the people who saved his life, including one of the responders who personally knows the patient from growing up in Oswego, according to Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie. They arranged a special luncheon on Dec. 12 for the meeting.

Favata and members of his family received a warm welcome from all the firefighters.

“I really don’t remember anything from that day. I guess I was walking out of Lowe’s, had my dog (a Pomeranian named ‘Maggie’) in the shopping cart, and I started having a rapid heart beat. Then it stopped and I guess I went down,” he said. He was resuscitated and didn’t suffer any brain damage, he added.

“Everybody says it was a miracle,” he said. “I’m very happy that Oswego Fire Department got there in time.”

He was in a coma for seven days. The first thing he said when he woke up was that he wanted to meet the first responders who saved him.

“He just had an attack where his heart began to beat really fast. He doesn’t even remember going to Lowe’s,” his wife, Chris, said. “He doesn’t remember the day before.”

“I have a new outlook on life,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy the rest of my life that I have. They gave me a second chance. Again, I’m grateful to the EMTs that saved my life.”

Four of the five responders were on hand to greet the Favatas.

Chris said she was at work that day.

“When I went home for lunch a couple hours before (the attack), he was fine. He was working in our kitchen, re-doing it, and he was fine; said he was going to go cut the grass. Apparently he did after I left,” she said.

Then, around supper time, she got the call at work regarding his attack.

“I just flew right to the hospital,” she said. “Got there about the same time as the ambulance did.”

It was weird because she was at work and he was at home, she noted.

“For some reason, he got in the car and went to Lowe’s,” she said. “If he didn’t, he would have been home alone and that would have been the end because I wouldn’t have been home for another hour and a half. He would have been definitely gone by then.”

Chances of survival are usually very low if a patient isn’t breathing on their own, Capt. Dave Engle said.

“We were fortunate here that CPR was started early enough that the time was able to be minimized. But this is still an extremely rare case and extremely gratifying. It is good to know that all the time and training that these guys put in has a successful outcome. We seldom see these kinds of outcomes,” he said.

2012 Was a Phenomenal Season for Lake Ontario Anglers

The “1985-2012 Lake Ontario Fishing Boat Survey: Preliminary Summary for April 15-September 30, 2012,” was released in December by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, showing that the tiniest Great Lake’s world-class fishery is getting better from year to year.

Specifically, the survey claimed, “Lake Ontario anglers experienced the fourth consecutive year of the best total trout and salmon fishing (i.e. 10th consecutive year of the highest Chinook salmon catch rates, 5th consecutive year of the highest rainbow trout catch rates, the 2nd and 3rd best years for brown trout and coho salmon fishing, and the 2nd consecutive year of lake trout catch rates comparable to those observed through much of the 1990s).”

What makes these highly desirable results especially noteworthy is they come at a time when angler fishing effort is down considerably, “a 19.4 percent decrease compared to the previous five year average,” according to the report.

Estimating the total off-shore fishing effort from mid-April through September at only “56,182 boat trips”, the survey breaks down the figures to 46,059 (82 percent) “targeting trout and salmon, which was the lowest estimated in the data series,…” and “6,203 boat trips targeting bass (11 percent of all fishing trips), the 2nd lowest on record.” The remainder of time was devoted to perch and other species.

The results are impressive:  “…estimated trout and salmon catch (196,625 fish) and harvest (107,456 fish) were comparable to previous five year averages.”

Investigation Into Welfare Fraud Results In 15 Arrests

On Dec. 6, the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office made arrests that stemmed from investigations into welfare fraud conducted by the Oswego County Department of Social Services that concluded in October.

It resulted in the arrests of 15 people and including the charges of 13 counts of Welfare Fraud, 3rd degree, a class D felony; 13 counts of Grand Larceny, 3rd degree, a class D felony; 2 counts of Grand Larceny, 4th degree, a class E felony and Welfare Fraud, 4th degree, a class E felony along with 11 counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing, a class E felony.

The total value of the benefits is equal to more than $109,000 which included Medicaid, Food Stamps, HEAP and Temporary Assistance.

Upper Level of Midtown Plaza’s parking closed for renovations

Mayor Thomas W. Gillen announced that the upper level of the Midtown Plaza parking garage, located on East Bridge Street between East First and East Second streets, has been closed as of Dec. 5 for renovations.

The upper level of the Midtown Plaza parking garage will remain closed until further notice, the mayor said.

Timebuyer Donates Vehicle To Young Cancer Patient’s Family

He slid into the driver’s seat comfortably and grabbed the steering wheel with both hands. His younger brother piled into the passenger’s seat. It was Julian Ross’ first new car. However, the seven-year-old will have to leave the driving up to mom or dad, at least for now.

“We’re helping the Ross’ take an item off the ‘Bucket List’ for their son, Julian, by donating the van they need for item #4,” explained Robin Hamm, director of marketing for Timebuyer, Inc.

The 2006 vehicle is valued at about $8,200 and is loaded with power windows, AC, two video screens mounted on the back of the front seats and much more.

The family had just returned from Philadelphia on Sunday following another round of treatments for the youngster.

Julian has been battling neuroblastoma for more than a year. He was diagnosed Aug. 4, 2011. On Aug. 4, 2012, a large benefit raised more than $15,000 to help the family cope with the enormous amount of bills.

Julian and his family make frequent visits to CHOP (Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia) for his cancer fighting treatments and he often has to be admitted to the hospital.

Bob Natoli, owner of Timebuyer, said he is more than happy to help the family.

“Life can be tough, we all know that. One of the toughest things that people go through is having a sick child,” he said. “Unless you’ve had a sick child, you really don’t know the pain involved. These folks are really up against it.”

“We really appreciate what the Natolis have done for us,” Julian’s Mom, Kristi said. “Our van is just rusted right out. We took him to Florida in it; it has no air conditioning, windows that only pop open on the side. So they pretty much sweated all the way down. The heat is finicky. It works sometimes and other times it doesn’t. So they bundle in blankets when we take it to Philly.”

Tops Friendly Markets Acquires 3 Big M Supermarkets

Tops Friendly Markets, a leading full-service grocery retailer in upstate New York, northern Pennsylvania and western Vermont, announced Dec. 6 that the company has entered into an agreement with the Farrugia family to acquire three Big M supermarkets.

Mike Farrugia, of the Farrugia family and current store(s) manager confirmed the deal.

“Actually, they have been interested in us for a while. It’s nothing that we pursued. They pursued us,” he told Oswego County Today. “It’s nothing that we ever really anticipated. We have four stores altogether and they are buying three of the four.”

The stores are located at 227 E. Main St., in Elbridge, 9 Mechanic St., Jordan, at 3385 Main St., Mexico.

“Every employee (at the Mexico store) is being hired; every single one,” Farrugia said. “And, hopefully it’s going to create new jobs as well.”

Oswego Council OK’s Sale of Parking Garage

At its meeting Dec. 10, the Common Council authorized Mayor Tom Gillen to execute all documents necessary to effectuate the sale of the Midtown Plaza parking garage, located on East Bridge Street between East First and East Second streets.

SRE Midtown Garage Acquisitions, which is associated with The Sutton Companies, owner of the Midtown Shopping Plaza, made an offer to purchase the parking structure from the city for $1,000.

The offer was contingent on the purchaser obtaining all necessary state and municipal approvals, receiving acceptable environmental test results and receiving an agreement to perform any repairs or demolition of the parking garage for no more than $175,000.

Louis Fournier III, president of The Sutton Companies, of Syracuse, said it is their intention to perform the necessary repairs so that it can be used on both levels (or demolish the parking garage and create parking on only one level).

Fournier said there are no concrete plans currently for the plaza.

“Buying the parking garage was the next logical move for us,” he told Oswego County Today. “We have our engineers looking at what can we do, short-term and long-term. We’ve restored an old one; we’ll figure out what to do with this one.”

He felt confident that they would be able to abide by the contingencies in the proposed agreement.

Public Shares Thoughts On Harborfest’s Future

Around three dozen people gathered Dec. 11 at the McCrobie Building to discuss Harborfest part, present and future.

“What we’re looking for is comments, plus or minus, about last (summer’s) Harborfest and if anyone has any ideas for next year’s Harborfest, we’d love to hear them,” Steve Fulton, the festival’s interim executive director said in welcoming the crowd.

Topics included funding, volunteers, transportation, entertainment and more.

“The feedback that I got about this year’s Harborfest was very positive,” Mayor Tom Gillen said.

Mike Howard, president of the fest’s board of directors, praised the volunteers and the small Harborfest staff for their work in creating a world-class festival.

“It’s a very limited staff and a lot of volunteers,” he said. “I think we had an excellent Harborfest last year and we have really big plans for Harborfest 2013.”

Chuck Handley, board vice president, agreed.

“Harborfest is funded by itself. It’s by sponsorships, by vendors, by membership,” he said. “The city and county are big partners in Harborfest. Without this support, there’d be no Harborfest. It’s a two-way street.”

Festival organizers will also continue to take advantage of technology. They currently have a Facebook page and will consider other things like apps for smart phones so that fest-goers can keep updated on what’s going on all over the festival.

They will also look for ways to attract more young people to the event.

Mercedes Niess, executive director of the H. Lee White Marine Museum, thanked fest officials for adding the marine museum to the trolley route.

“That was a huge boost for us,” she said. “I don’t think the public really understands what (Harborfest staff) produces with so little. It is unbelievable. There are festivals all over this country that are folding up and to the affect that this festival is still going on is really a tribute to all the work that the board and the staff do,” she said.

Parking was another issue the public was concerned with.

“We’re looking at actually bringing our parking in closer (to the festival),” Fulton said. “We’re looking at it. Everything will be reviewed.”

Oswego Council, Firefighters Reach Contract Extension Deal

After a lengthy executive session Dec. 19, the Oswego Common Council passed a resolution regarding a five-year agreement with the firefighters’ union.

The council approved authorizing the mayor to sign the extension effective Jan. 1, 2012, through Dec. 31, 2016.

“The Oswego Firefighters’ Association ratified a successor contract to our previous contract, which expired at the close of 2011,” confirmed John Geraci, association president.

It is a five-year contract with an economic package as follows:

2012 – 0% wage increase; 2013 – 0% wage increase; 2014- 0% wage increase with a one-time payment of $1,000 not compounded within any future wage increase; 2015 – 2% wage increase; 2016 – 2% wage increase

“We also took a reduction in the number of firefighters that could be off at any given time as well as a reduction in personal time off,” Geraci added. “There was no increase to the current percentage of health care we pay. We will also be changing to a 24-hour shift.”

Family Court Attendant Celebrates 90th Birthday, Retires

Things would be different when Oswego County Family Court opened on Dec. 17. “It will be quieter, that’s for sure,” quipped Thelma Borden.

“T,” as she is known to her family and multitude of friends, celebrated her 90th birthday Dec. 14 and retired from her position as a Court Attendant with the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office and the 5th Judicial District.

“’T’ has been actively working for us since Jan. 2, 1984,” said Oswego County Undersheriff Gene Sullivan.

Back then, Family Court was located in the county office complex on Bunner Street.

“T” said she remembers walking in and asking a woman what she was supposed to do.

“She said, ‘How the hell do I know? We have never had a bailiff before,’” “T” said.

“This is a little bit overwhelming for me. I can only imagine how it must feel for ‘T.’ Even when she told me she was going to retire on her 90th birthday I didn’t think it was actually going to happen,” said Hon. Eben Norfleet, Family Court Support Magistrate.

Judge James Tormey, chief administrative judge of the 5th Judicial District, sent a letter of recognition, which was read by Judge Norm Seiter. On behalf of the 5th Judicial District, he wished her a happy 90th birthday.

“T” started working with the court at the same time Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd began his tenure as Undersheriff for then Sheriff Charles Nellis, he said.

“She has just been a pleasure to work with,” Todd added. “She is usually the first one here in the morning and the last one to leave at night.”

He also presented her with a certificate of appreciation.

“Oh my!” she exclaimed. “Isn’t that something? You can all get one – if you live long enough!”

“The judge runs the court but ‘T’ made sure the court ran,” added Undersheriff Sullivan.

“Thanks for lots of lotsa, folks,” ‘T’ thanked everyone for their cards and gifts.

She read from one of her cards, “It says in red print: ‘It just won’t be the same around here without you.’” Lowering her voice she added: “No, it will be quieter.”

Hundreds Gather In Breitbeck Park To Mourn Sandy Hook’s Victims

Hundreds of Oswegonians gathered in the cold at Breitbeck Park on Dec. 19 to remember the lives lost recently at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

They crowded around the Bell Tower in the park to sing songs, pray and grieve together for the more than two dozen victims that they don’t know and yet are as close a family.

“It’s just so sad, so very sad. My heart breaks for the families that have to bury their young children at Christmas time,” said one woman. “We don’t know them. But, we mourn with them. It’s all one big family now; the whole nation is grieving together.”

Rebecca Smith, one of the co-organizers, agreed.

“We were expecting maybe 100 to 150. But now, there looks like so many more here tonight,” she told Oswego County Today. “We just started (organizing) this on Monday; just wanted to get a few people together and mourn. We are mourning as a nation.”

“It’s just horrible that something like this could take place,” event co-organizer Jackie Bruce said of the murderous rampage that left six adults and 20 elementary school children dead. “We hoped for a good turnout, but this is amazing. We just wanted to do something so that we could heal as a community.”

Betty Gray carried two balloons, a heart and a star. They were green and white – the elementary school’s colors.

“We must always remember them,” she said. “And, pray that nothing like this ever happens again.”

“The parents have our support. The families of all the victims, they have the nation’s support. They have the support of the Oswego community,” Smith told the crowd. “It’s so heart-warming that so many people care and feel the need for this vigil. I know, as a parent, how hard it was for me to let my daughter go off to school. I’m sure other parents had the same feeling.”

The event began with the reading of the 23rd Psalm. They had a moment of silence to honor the victims and then as each of the victims’ names was read aloud, many in the crowd rang small bells (a reference to the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” – every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.)

Julian Ross Made Honorary “Sergeant” by 10th Mountain Division Soldiers

State Senator Patty Ritchie, along with members of Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division, on Dec. 18 visited the home of Julian Ross, an Oswego County second grader who has been battling cancer for more than a year.

Utilizing her close ties with Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, Senator Ritchie arranged the visit after learning of seven-year-old Julian’s fascination with all-things military.

“It’s so important, especially during the holidays, to remember people like Julian, and let them know we care,” said Senator Ritchie.

During the visit, Julian was appointed an honorary “Sergeant” by members of the 10th Mountain Division.  Troops in attendance also presented Julian with gifts donated by soldiers and various groups at Fort Drum.

“I can’t put into words how thankful I am for the generosity of our 10th Mountain Division soldiers who took the time to make the trip to Oswego, as well as Fort Drum’s new Commanding General, Major General Stephen Townsend and his staff for helping to coordinate the visit to Julian’s home,” added Senator Ritchie.

Oswego County Officials Mourn Loss of Arthur Ospelt

Oswego County officials mourned the loss of a colleague who gave more than four decades of public service to Oswego County residents. Arthur Ospelt, District 12 Legislator and Vice Chairman of the Legislature, passed away Dec. 18, 2012.

Ospelt served in several leadership roles in town and county government. He is remembered as a strong and visionary leader who took great pride in the people and resources of Oswego County.

“His heart and soul were truly devoted to Oswego County,” said Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley. “Art truly was a larger than life presence in Oswego County. His knowledge of the county and his dedication to it was immeasurable. His accomplishments will continue to benefit our citizens for generations to come.”

Ospelt is best known for the development of Oswego County’s comprehensive solid waste management system.

In 1990, Ospelt was appointed Oswego County Administrator, a position he held until his retirement in 1996. After a four-year retirement, he returned to his passion of serving the public and was elected County Legislator from District 12 in Pennellville, a position he served from 2000 until his death.

County Legislators Approve Reapportionment Plan

The Oswego County Legislature approved its proposed reapportionment plan on Dec. 28.

The resolution received some opposition from both sides of the aisle and from a former member of the legislature. The vote was 14 yes, 9 no, 1 absent (Democrat Amy Tresidder), and 1 vacant.

The main concerns were that certain lawmakers didn’t want their current districts cut up and whether the plan was entirely legal.

The Reapportionment Committee’s goal was to bring all of the districts’ average populations to fewer than 4,900; using 2010 census data to establish the boundaries.

According to the law, populations in each district are required to be as close as possible to that figure, Dave Turner, director of the county Community Development, Tourism and Planning Department, explained, adding that it can’t be 5 percent above average or below average; 244 people over the average number or 244 people below.

Legislator Dan Farfaglia claimed the plan put forth by the Reapportionment Committee (Legislator Dan Chalifoux, chairman) was flawed and illegal.

He claimed he had a better plan, which he tried to introduce months ago at the committee level and failed for lack of a second to his motion. He also claimed the committee chairman had called him the worst new legislator he’d ever seen and told people not to pay attention to anything Farfaglia said because he was a Democrat.

Responding to the remarks, Chalifoux said they were “absolute lies.”

Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley said he didn’t want to turn the issue into “a character assassination.”

“This isn’t about finger-pointing and name calling and character assassination … and quite frankly, I’m not going to lower myself to that,” he said.