2012 In Review: In November, Appellate Court Reduces Killer’s Conviction

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

The Appellate Court held that, as a matter of law, the evidence before the jury was legally insufficient to establish that Alan Jones acted with the mental state of depraved indifference at the time he caused Erin Maxwell’s death. He was, however, guilty of second-degree manslaughter and was returned to county court to be re-sentenced on that charge – maximum of sentence of 5 to 15 years in state prison.

The court reversed Jones’ conviction for the crime of Murder in the Second Degree (Depraved indifference Murder) for causing the death of his 11-year old stepsister, Erin Maxwell, while in their town of Palermo home in 2008.

The case went back to the Oswego County Court. Judge Walter Hafner sentenced Jones on the reduced charge, which carries a maximum of sentence of 5 to 15 years in state prison.

Councilors Consider Alternate Street Parking Plan for Oswego

During a flurry of discussion at a Physical Services Committee, councilors debated the merits of alternate street parking.

The proposal was in response to the on-going discussion regarding the dearth of parking in the Port City, especially during the winter months, explained Council President Ron Kaplewicz.

“We are looking for some creative options for providing additional parking in some of our residential neighborhoods,” he said. “We are proposing, I consider it a fairly bold change, but certainly not one that isn’t used in other cities.”

The plan supercedes the current winter parking ban.

The recommendation from the parking committee deals with alternate street parking, the councilor explained.

The proposal was, beginning Dec. 1 (at the discretion of the mayor and if weather conditions warrant) alternate side of the street parking restriction is imposed.

You can park any vehicle on any (city) street or highway from 1 to 6 a.m. on even numbered side on even calendar days and the odd numbered side of the street on odd calendar days, Kaplewicz said.

“This will open up a great deal of parking in some of our crowded residential neighborhoods. This creates a whole new challenge for our DPW,” Kaplewicz added.

“Once this is imposed, it’s the kind of thing where you have to play hard ball,” he continued. “You have to have a zero tolerance policy because if we can only plow one side of the street one day we need to be able to plow the other side of the street the next day. If your car is left there, you forget to move it, you will be ticketed and towed.”

The system started in December.

Deepwater Ciscoes to Be Re-Introduced Into Lake Ontario

The “bloater” fish, a deepwater cisco, was re-introduced into Lake Ontario offshore of Oswego, bringing the fish back to the lake for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and partner agencies made the announcement at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center overlooking the Oswego River and Lake Ontario.

The group of more than three dozen was welcomed to the Port City by Mayor Tom Gillen.

“What we’re doing today and what this is the beginning of, is such a remarkable event,” he said. “What you are accomplishing here, restoring Lake Ontario, it’s pretty remarkable.”

The historic action is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes and is the culmination of several years of collaborative laboratory, hatchery and field research conducted by federal, state, and provincial agencies.

The last known fish was collected in 1983.

“Lake Ontario’s sport fisheries are a significant economic driver in New York State and were valued at more than $113 million in 2007,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “Re-establishing bloaters in Lake Ontario will diversify the fish community, adding stability to the lake’s ecosystem and sport fisheries.”

“The re-introduction of a native species doesn’t occur quickly, in fact, most natural resource managers never experience such an event,” said Ken Lynch, region director of the DEC. “This is truly an historic event.”

Electronic Monitoring System Will Alleviate Over-Crowding at Oswego County Jail

Oswego County legislators voted Nov. 15 on a proposal to allow the Probation Department to use a GPS tracking system and electronic bracelets to monitor criminals who are awaiting court action. The system can help alleviate jail overcrowding by providing around-the-clock tracking of offenders in their homes.

“In our continuing efforts to provide alternatives to incarceration for those offenders who can be safely maintained in the community, the Probation Department has been exploring the use of electronic monitoring equipment,” said Deborah Meyer, County Probation Director. “Electronic ankle bracelets and similar devices provide a cost-effective alternative to incarceration for individuals who wouldn’t normally be eligible for pre-trial release without an added ability to monitor them.”

County Legislator Linda Lockwood, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee, said the electronic monitoring program could have a significant impact on over-crowding of the county correctional facility, which has exceeded its capacity for the past several months.

When the jail is over capacity, the sheriff’s department must house offenders in facilities outside of Oswego County at a cost of $90 per day.

The proposed contract with Sentinel Offender Services would cost the county an estimated $4 to $9 a day per offender.

The probation department would initially lease 10 units and expand capacity as the need arises. The program would be funded through bail fees and existing alternatives to incarceration funds.

Probation officers would assess offenders to determine if they present a safety risk and are appropriate for pre-trial release monitoring. Ultimately it would be a judge’s decision to allow the offender to participate in an electronic monitoring program.

County Sheriff Reuel Todd said the cost of boarding prisoners in facilities outside Oswego County has exceeded $1 million since the beginning of 2012.

Cargo shipments through Seaway were up nearly 10% in October

North American commodities for the industrial and manufacturing sectors drove an uptick in tonnage numbers along the Great Lakes-Seaway System.

The St. Lawrence Seaway reported a 9.8 percent increase for total cargo shipments in October – 4.4 million metric tons – compared to October 2011. For the period March 22 to October 31, year-to-date total cargo shipments were 29.5 million metric tons, a rise of 1.4 percent over the same period in 2011, it was reported in November.

“In the General Cargoes category, shipments through the Seaway of iron, steel slabs, project cargoes and domestic general cargoes jumped nine percent over last year’s tally,” said Rebecca Spruill, director, trade development for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “This is excellent news for ports handling these higher value commodities.”

Spruill continued: “The Port of Oswego reported its seventh consecutive month exceeding 10,000 tons of aluminum shipped from Quebec, and the Port of Muskegon welcomed two additional ships laden with wind turbine blades destined for a wind farm project in Michigan.”

County’s 2013 Budget Adopted With Zero Percent Tax Levy Increase

The Oswego County tax levy increase for 2013 … is zero. Fred Beardsley, chair of the Oswego County Legislature made that pronouncement at the end of a nearly 90-minute session in late November.

“This was done with us starting out with a $5 million hole. I am very happy to say that working through this budget this has been accomplished by the whole legislature,” the chairman said. “It couldn’t have happened without both sides of the aisle working together. This budget could not have been achieved if it wasn’t for the cooperation that went on in this legislature.”

Leading up to the final vote legislators Mike Kunzwiler and Jack Proud (the minority and majority leaders, respectively) took turns offering and seconding resolutions that for the most part, reduced the budget.

Mayor – Fiscally Responsible Budget Will Keep People Safe

The Port City’s 2013 spending plan was also approved in November. It is a fiscally responsible budget that keeps residents safe, according to the mayor and councilors.

During a public hearing prior to the meeting, several people told the council what they thought of the plan.

Mayor Tom Gillen applauded those who spoke at the budget public hearing. “It shows the community cares,” he said.

His administration is committed to creating a budget that will ensure for the safety of the residents but is also fiscally responsible, he said.

Tough decisions had to be made by the budget committee, he said.

One thing that they all agreed on was that there would be no layoffs, he added.

“Going into this, we understood the financial confines that the city was in. After spending some time looking at last year’s budget and spending some time looking at the proposed budget, we looked for ways to work together. We’re hopeful that we can keep services intact, keep the west side station open and keep 12 firefighters on duty,” said John Geraci, president of the firefighters’ association.

“There’s no reason to close the west side fire station, unless the budget is not being held accountable; if they can stay within the budget. We’re simply asking the firefighters in particular to do a better job managing their overtime hours. That’s basically the gist of it,” Mayor Gillen said. “We think it is a fair and equitable budget for them. Actually, it’s more than was adopted last year, but it’s less than they requested.”