2012 In Review: In July, Harborfest celebrated its 25th Anniversary

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

Five people were injured in tractor-trailer accident on Route 104 in early July. A medical helicopter and five ambulances were called to the scene of the accident involving a tractor trailer and a car in the town of Sterling.

Five teenagers in a sedan were injured in the accident and transported to the hospital, including the 18-year-old driver, McKayla Kaestle, of Phoenix. Their injuries didn’t appear to be life threatening, according to state police.

Police say the driver of the tractor-trailer, identified as 52-year-old Marvin Beeman, was not injured.

The investigation revealed Kaestle did not see the oncoming tractor trailer when she crossed the intersection of State Route 38 and State Route 104. She was ticketed for failure to yield the right of way and for having a passenger under the age of 16 in her car without a seatbelt.

Port City Eyes Code Changes For Taxis-Buses

Also in early July, at a Planning and Development Committee meeting, Councilor Eric VanBuren requested a discussion regarding proposed code changes for taxicabs and buses.

The regulations would, among other things, define “bus” and set specific routes, put stricter restrictions on who could be a driver and increase license fees for the vehicles.

Lee B. Walker, owner of a local bus company, told the councilors the new regulations would cripple his business.

However, proponents of the changes see them as a means to crack down on under age drinking, loud house parties and other quality of life issues.

“I’ve had a large number of complaints about some of the things that have been going on with taxicabs; the lack of background checks was one of them,” VanBuren explained.

They looked at how other cities were handling similar situations, he added.

They also want to increase the related fees.

For the buses they are looking at restricting them to specific routes mainly in the First and Third wards and a small section of the Fourth Ward, VanBuren said.

“I’d rather have the kids transported than creating havoc in the neighborhoods,” Fifth Ward Councilor Dan Donovan said. “I don’t think I’ll be supporting this.”

The First Ward has a lot of the bus traffic, Councilor Fran Enwright said.

“I get phone calls, complaints about the bus dropping the kids off in a quiet neighborhood. Everybody I’ve talked to is in favor of a bus route.”

Later in the summer, the council passed a modified version of the resolution which dealt only with taxi companies.

County Committee Looks To Balance Districts’ Populations

Also in July, the Oswego County Legislature’s Redistricting Committee was looking to bring all of the legislative district’s average population to just fewer than 4,900.

The goal was to make district populations more equal and easier to manage not only for the legislators but their constituents as well.

The average population, using the latest census figures, is 4,884. The committee’s focus is on the five districts that are plus five percent and the six that are minus five percent.

Legislator Jim Oldenburg’s district (14) has the lowest population at 4,322.

Chairman of the Legislature Fred Beardsley’s district (9) is the highest at 5,635.

Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10 were in the plus group. Districts 13 and 14 were in the minus group. District 17 was in the minus group. District 20 was in the plus group, while districts 21, 22 and 23 were in the minus group.

If the plus and minus groups were lumped more closely together, it would make things easier to redraw boundary lines and shift populations to make things equal, Beardsley said.

The county approved an updated plan in late December.

Salvation Army Announces The ‘Oswego County Corps’

Oswego is now the ground zero for Salvation Army operations in Oswego County.

In early July, the Salvation Army announced it was realigning and expanding its programs.

Major Donald Hostetler, the divisional commander of the Empire State Division of The Salvation Army, said, “After much prayerful reflection and planning over the past year plus, we are aligning the Fulton Corps of the Salvation Army under the direction of the new officers in Oswego and also including two services units under their direction, to encompass the entire county under one umbrella. Over all, we are looking at this model for other communities, too.”

The Salvation Army first opened its doors in Oswego in 1893, and has been in continuous operation ever since. The first citadel in Oswego was officially dedicated on Aug. 1, 1920. It stood on the corner of West First and Cayuga streets.

The Salvation Army service units in Pulaski and Phoenix will now be incorporated into the new Oswego County Corps.

A service unit is entirely staffed by community volunteers. They provide emergency food, clothing, shelter and utilities to community residents, send local children to the Army’s Long Point Camp, provide back to school supplies and Christmas assistance.

The new officers in charge are Major James and Major Kathryn Purvis. They relocated from Elmira.

Funding To Relieve Jail Over-Crowding Sparks Debate

At its July meeting, the Oswego County Legislature approved transferring funds to cover the cost of boarding OCJ inmates in other county facilities.

The resolution to transfer an additional $200,000 prompted a lengthy debate about how to correct the problem without continually having to spend more money on it. Legislators debated the issue several more times during the year. This fall they came up with a plan that should alleviate the problem.

If the county built a new jail, the state would just send them more prisoners, Legislator Linda Lockwood said at the July meeting.

“The state is really putting us in a bind,” Legislator Art Ospelt agreed.

The state requires county jails to house state prison parolees who are rearrested. However, the state doesn’t pay the counties for doing that, Sheriff Reuel Todd told the legislators earlier this spring when the legislature voted to approve $200,000 for the Sheriff’s Office for the same problem.

They’re also considering alternatives to incarceration in some instances.

“It doesn’t help matters that state has been closing prisons,” Legislator Jim Oldenburg added. “That has contributed big time.” Oswego County has to take the state inmates and “that’s unfortunate for county taxpayers,” he said.

Anti-Nuclear Activists Walk To NMP For Vigil

A group of activists was undertaking a month-long No More Fukushimas Peace Walk around Lake Ontario to call attention to the presence of what they say are “dangerous, aging and polluted nuclear reactors (16 active and 2 shut down) around that ecologically precious body of water.”

They started July 12 at the Onondaga Nation and ended Aug. 11 in Buffalo.

The group of about a dozen marched from Breitbeck Park in Oswego out to the nuclear plants in Scriba. The walk was led by long-time activist and peace walker, Jun-san Yasuda.

“The Fukushima nuclear disaster had a terrible impact on the Japanese people,” she told Oswego County Today. “We are walking to bring awareness and educate people so something like that will never happen again.”

Two of the local reactors – Nine Nile 1 and FitzPatrick – are Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, the same style as the reactors that melted down during the Fukushima nuclear disaster, she pointed out.

Officials at the plants have maintained they are being operated safely and there is no danger.

Body Found In Lake Ontario In 1984 Finally Identified

The headless torso found in Lake Ontario in July 1984 was finally identified in late July. Authorities said it is that of a missing Amherst teen-ager.

In 1984 an Oswego County Sheriff’s Office marine patrol recovered the torso of a female on the waters of Lake Ontario several miles northeast of Oswego Harbor. The discovery had been made by a local fisherman.

The Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy and determined that the body was that of a murder victim. Despite investigative efforts, the body remained unidentified.

Over the years, the victim had been compared with numerous missing women from throughout the US and Canada. None of those leads resulted in a match.

Several years ago, Oswego County Sheriff’s investigators asked the FBI to attempt to recover DNA from the remains of the victim and compare them to DNA from missing persons and/or their family members on file in the Combined DNA Index System.

In 2012, the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office called sheriff’s investigators to ask that the victim’s DNA be compared with Nancy Jo Scamurra, a teen reported missing from Amherst, NY, on July 2, 1984.

Testing confirmed that the body recovered in the lake on July 14, 1984, is that of Nancy Jo Scamurra.

Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd said, “This positive identification and newly developed information has furthered this murder investigation. We know there are people out there with information concerning Nancy’s disappearance and murder. It may be something as simple as overhearing a conversation regarding Nancy. They may not even know the importance of the information.”

He asks those people to contact the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office at 1-888-349-3411 or at [email protected]

County Legislature Announces New Public Health Director

The Oswego County Legislature appointed Jiancheng Huang as the new public health director for the Oswego County Health Department during its July meeting.

“I am impressed with the dedication of the staff at the county’s health department,” said Huang. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity of promoting good health in Oswego County.”

Huang has several years of experience working as the director of the Maine Immunization Program for the Maine Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Prior to his term as director, Huang worked as an epidemiologist for the same organization.

A Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public health, Huang is a published practitioner and his resume also includes experience in biomedical research, service on various workgroups and committees at national and regional levels, and membership with national professional affiliations.

DOT, City Of Oswego Collaborate On Crosswalk Safety

Diana Graser, regional traffic engineer, and Scott Bates, of the New York State Department of Transportation, joined representatives of the city of Oswego, the Oswego Network of Entrepreneurs, ARISE, the National Federation for the Blind and the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce July 18 to follow up on a survey of pedestrian cross walks on Bridge Street –Route 104 presented to the NYSDOT in May.

Bates and Graser first presented the variety of traffic safety improvements that have been implemented in Oswego including longer crossing times for pedestrians and new improved signs with raised markings on arrows above crosswalk buttons that trigger pedestrian crossing signals.

Sabine Ingerson, executive director of ARISE, and Marie Kouthhoofel, National Federation of the Blind and NYSDOT met in July to evaluate a variety of pedestrian safety concerns.

NYSDOT has re-evaluated some intersections and determined that “Right on Red” is dangerous to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Oswego drivers should be aware that some intersections will no longer allow “Right on Red,” particularly at West First Street and East Second Street.

This change is necessary to make the crosswalks safer for pedestrians.

Bates told the group that new audible signals will soon be installed at West Seneca and Hillside Avenue, West First Street, and East First Street at Bridge Street before the end of the year.

The entire traffic intersection at East First and Bridge Street will be improved in 2013.

NYSDOT also has plans to install many more ADA compliant intersections throughout the city in 2013.

Happy Quarter Century – Harborfest 25th Anniversary Under Way

It was 9 o’clock on a Thursday as the regular crowd shuffled in; there’s an old man sitting next to me wearing his trolley pin. Well, that’s how Billy Joel would have written it if he was in Oswego for opening night of the 2012 Harborfest.

Warm, but not too humid, weather greeted Harborfest’s milestone celebration. Harborfest #25 opened with a few clouds overhead, a couple of pesky showers and hundreds of people young and old ready to make this the best Harborfest ever.

The music started at 7 p.m. with Changes in Latitudes (a Jimmy Buffett tribute band).

Many in the crowd were on their feet dancing and singing along.

Following a short (very short) interruption for the official opening ceremonies, Mike Delguidice and Big Shot (a Billy Joel tribute band) had everyone in a New York state of mind.

The group performed several of The Piano Man’s greatest hits.

The crowd continued to grow in front of the NRG Lakeview Stage as the night wore on.

There was more music and activities galore throughout the weekend.