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2012 In Review: In October, Former First Lady of Oswego honored with Eleanor Roosevelt Award

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

The Eleanor Roosevelt Award was established to recognize the women of Oswego County who exemplify the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Martha Hammill was selected as the first recipient of this award for her outstanding contributions to this community in the spirit of Eleanor.

Her commitment to serving the community started early with her church youth group, which she served as president.

She graduated from Nottingham High School and SUNY Potsdam, where she met her husband more than 50 years ago. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

Martha started teaching at a Montessori Nursery School and spent 35 years teaching fourth and fifth grade. At SUNY Oswego, Martha developed an oral history project for fifth graders, with interviews of grandparents compiled and published as a book for each child and grandparent.

As a teacher she served as a union representative for the Classroom Teachers Association, team leader for Intermediate Grades, was Teacher of the Year 1983, and established the Laurie Godfrey Writing Award which is annually awarded to a fifth grader at Leighton Elementary School.

She also supervised student teachers for SUNY Oswego Education Department.

She has served on the Oswego City Democratic Committee, chaired the Campus City Relations Committee and served on the boards of the Oswego County Opportunities, Oswego Maritime Foundation and the Oswego Opera Theater.

Martha was an integral part of husband Terry’s campaign for mayor of the city of Oswego and assumed the many responsibilities of First Lady of Oswego for eight years.

Oswego County to Share in New $150,000 State Fund to Help Combat Disease Carrying Bugs

Governor Cuomo signed legislation sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie, that boosts state payments to counties, including Oswego, to help in the fight against EEE, West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

The new law, S.7340, which was sponsored in the Assembly by Syracuse-area Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, provides up to $100,000 in additional state reimbursement for aerial mosquito control spraying over state land.

In 2011, about 20 percent of lands that were treated by the county to eliminate mosquitoes were owned by the state.

“I have been working for the past two years to show Oswego County that it’s not alone in its fight against EEE, which has already claimed the lives of three local residents, including Maggie Sue Wilcox in 2011,” Senator Ritchie said. “This additional funding is just part of a multi-pronged approach I have taken, in conjunction with state and county officials, to raise public awareness and prevent further injury and death from EEE. I want to thank the Governor for recognizing the serious danger that EEE and West Nile Virus pose to Oswego County residents, and across the state, and for taking this action today that reaffirms the state’s commitment to eliminating these deadly diseases.”

Right now, the state reimburses counties for only about half the cost of mosquito treatments, and only when the state Health Commissioner declares “an imminent threat to public health.” The new law increases the reimbursement rate to 100 percent over state –owned land, which makes up a large portion of the potentially infected regions of Oswego County.

Residents Let Councilors Know What’s On Their Mind

Approximately six dozen people crowded into the Council Chamber at Oswego City Hall to vent their frustrations, ask questions and make suggestions. Several also complimented the administration and various city departments for doing a good job under tough conditions.

The town hall meetings work out very well because they bring a lot of things to the attention of the councilors, explained Second Ward Councilor Mike Myers.

There were several questions regarding quality of life issues.

One of the captains of the Neighborhood Watch encouraged residents to keep themselves safe and work in pairs. She cited the police for the help they give the program and residents.

City officials also heard about rentals allegedly with more than the allowed number of unrelated people living there, parking problems and dangerous / abandoned structures.

Several residents complained about the lack of parking in many city neighborhoods.

That is a problem that is being addressed by the city, Mayor Tom Gillen said.

Another concern was the so-called “drunk bus” that drops off large groups in neighborhoods; they are usually headed to a house party in the area, pointed out Betty Gray, coordinator of the Oswego Neighborhood Watch group.

The council will seriously consider all the issues brought up at the town hall meeting and likely schedule another one sometime in the future Council President Ron Kaplewicz said, adding that it is very helpful for the councilors to hear what’s on the public’s mind.

Mission To Help Area Homeless Charges Forward

By: Emily Bradshaw
Since the legislature meeting in September where I spoke about the lack of a homeless shelter in Oswego, things have been very busy for me.

I have also started a personal care item collection to make into personal care bags that will be distributed to the homeless through Oswego County Opportunities, the county Department of Social Services and the schools. I have spent countless hours writing and mailing letters asking for donations from area dentists and businesses for personal care items.

And boy have they responded with great generosity!

Other businesses have donated personal care items or gift cards so I could purchase the items needed.

Donations will be coming in from the Oswego Youth Court members and the Oswego High School Marching Band.

My goal is to make at least 300 personal care bags by the end of October, which is a big goal but I am not afraid to go big. (She easily surpassed that goal and is still going).

If you would like to donate personal care items you can email my mom at [email protected] to arrange pick up or they can be dropped off at Oswego Middle School.

Oswego High Senior Musician Invited to U.S. Army All-American Bowl Band

It has almost become tradition that an Oswego High School musician or musicians are invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

For the sixth consecutive year OHS will have representation at the January event in San Antonio, Texas.

On October 17, a team of U.S. Army representatives arrived in Oswego and set the stage for the formal announcement. Military and school district officials joined together to welcome senior clarinet player Joseph Bertonneau to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Band.

Bertonneau joins a long list of talented Oswego High School alums who have participated in this event.

Sitting before all of his fellow students Bertonneau was joined by Executive Principal Brian Hartwell, Marching Buc Band Director Scott Ciesla, Sgt. Jenn Cook, and U.S. Army veteran Eric Schaerti.

Bertonneau said, “This is an honor to be part of such an elite group. I feel this will be a good experience and I am looking forward to it.” He noted he knew some of the previous participants and that they told him, “It was a lot of hard work, lots of practice and lots of memorization.”

New Legislator Takes Oath Of Office

Legislator Shane Broadwell recites the oath of office for the District 17 seat on the Oswego County Legislature as his wife, Elisa, holds the Bible.

Hon. James W. McCarthy, State Supreme Court Justice, swore in the new legislator at the October legislature meeting.

Legislator Broadwell represents portions of the city of Oswego and the town of Scriba. He will fill out the term of the late Mary Flett.

School District Settles With Oswego Harbor

At its meeting October meeting, the Oswego City School District Board of Education adopted a resolution approving the stipulation of settlement and order settling all of the pending tax certiorari proceedings with Oswego Harbor, LLC, for tax years 2006-2007 through 3022-2012. The resolution passed unanimously.

In the litigation, Oswego Harbor (NRG) had asserted that the tax assessment value of the power plant property was too high for all of the years pending.

Prior to agreeing to the terms of the settlement, the city and the school district hired an appraiser to advise them on the valuation of the plant property for each of the tax years pending. After consultation with the appraiser, the city officials and school district officials agreed to end all of the legal challenges, to avoid future legal and appraisal expenses and to eliminate the potential tax refunds and interest for all years in litigation.

The terms of the settlement provided that the assessed value will be reduced from $128 million to $70 million for tax years 2011-2012, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.

The assessment for all previous years will remain unchanged.

The impact of this settlement on the school district will be a loss of approximately $1 million of tax revenue during the 2012-2013 school year.

The school district, through its prudent financial planning, will absorb this impact through the use of its tax certiorari reserve fund, district officials said.

Their first payment ($687,807) was due by Oct. 31, according to James Southard, the district’s interim business manager. The second payment is due on or before Feb. 28, 2013.

“It’s a stable rate for this year and next year, 12-13 and then 13-14,” he explained. “And then, 14-15, it fluctuates.”

According to the agreement, “The agreed upon reduction in assessed value shall not constitute an admission by any of the parties that this assessed value is the true full market value of the property; rather, the agreed upon reduced assessment was derived by the parties for settlement purposes only.”

“We’re glad that this is concluded at this point,” Superintendent Bill Crist said. “It seems to be the best resolution of a very difficult and involved and drawn out process.”

Oswego Council Approves Law To Exceed State Tax Cap

The Oswego Common Council 6-0-1 to approve Local Law No. 3 of the 2012. Councilor Mike Myers was excused.

The local law authorizes a property tax levy in excess of the limit established in General Municipal Law section 3-c. The council and mayor pointed out a tax hike isn’t necessarily imminent in the Port City. This was just a precautionary measure, they said.

However, not everyone is so sure the new local law is a good idea.

“I know, sometimes, it is necessary to spend money to save money,” Sue Matthews, of Scriba, told the council, but she added she didn’t believe the law was really needed.

She pointed out how power companies, such as the Oswego Steam Station, are negotiating in an attempt to get their property taxes lowered.

“Nobody else gets to negotiate their property taxes,” she said. “Property taxes are based on the value of your property, not your income. I’m really against negotiating property taxes.”

Approving the law was “the prudent thing to do,” according to Council President Ron Kaplewicz.

This way, he pointed out, if the city inadvertently exceeds the state’s figure, they won’t be penalized.

“In a perfect world we wouldn’t need this. But understanding the dynamics of the process, this is a smart thing for us to do so the taxpayers aren’t hung out to dry at some point because somebody didn’t (get the figures) right,” he explained.

Also, if the city does, for some reason, need to exceed the cap it can now do so legally, he added.

Councilor Mike Todd pointed out that unfunded state mandates continue to cause problems for city budgeters.

“If the cost of state mandates cost more than 2 percent we’d be forced to come up with that by cutting services to keep underneath that 2 percent (unless the law was approved),” he said.