2013 In Review: In November Democrats Make Gains In County Legislature

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

Four incumbent legislators were in danger of losing their seats, according to unofficial results in November.

Frank Castiglia Jr. (D) looked certain to unseat Louella LeClair in District 25. Joe Susino (R) was poised to upset Doug Malone (D) in District 20. In District 5 Roy Reehil (R) was ahead of incumbent Ronald Sakonyi (C). John Brandt (R) was lagging slightly behind challenger Richard P. Kline (C).

“I ran a good clean race,” Malone said. “I’m still confident that the votes will be there for me when everything is all accounted for.”

Susino said he was confident his slim lead was going to hold up. “I think so,” he told Oswego County Today. “The people have spoken.”

“Louella LeClair ran a spirited campaign and contributed so much to drive the debate in the Oswego County legislature,” Mike Backus, Oswego County GOP chair, added. “While I am disappointed she came up short, I believe she has left a significant mark on all the legislature that will continue to impact the debate going forward.”

Malone eked out a victory after the absentee votes were counted.

Billy Barlow topped Frank Clavelli Jr. in the race for the Fifth Ward seat on the Oswego city council. Incumbent Dan Donovan didn’t run for another term.

Lady Bucs Claim Volleyball Section Championship

Section III Class A volleyball champion Oswego was set to meet defending state champion Burnt Hills in early November in the regionals for the state tournament.

The Oswego girls defended the sectional title with a three-game sweep of Fulton. Fulton and Oswego met on the neutral E.J. Dillon Middle School floor in Phoenix where the Bucs won 25-16, 25-21 and 25-12.

With a full roster as injured players have returned to the lineup Coach Ron Ahart saw his team continue its success on the volleyball court.

The front line was solid as Erica Atkins finished with 11 kills, four digs and a block and Bella Winklestine also had 11 kills and two aces along with one dig. Marguerite Dillon was once again a force up front with two kills, six digs and a block.

Oswego carried the play throughout the night with a quick start. Fulton with a never-say-die attitude clawed back time and time again. But the Bucs regrouped, regained control of the flow and earned the victories.

Drone Crashes Into Lake Ontario

An unarmed Air National Guard drone crashed into Lake Ontario during a training exercise in early November, the military said.

The MQ-9 Reaper took off from Wheeler Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum, as part of a mission training pilots for the Air Force, Air National Guard Col. Greg Semmel said at a news conference. The crash occurred about 1 p.m. in eastern Lake Ontario about 20 miles northeast of Oswego, he said.

The drone was attached to the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing – the first fighter squadron to be converted from piloted F-16s to an all-drone force.

Semmel, commander of the 174th, said the cause of the crash was unclear and would be investigated by the Air Force.

“The mission was going as advertised, as briefed, up to the point that we did lose control of the aircraft,” he said.

Semmel said four Reapers are used “on a regular basis” for student pilot training out of Fort Drum. He said a student pilot was at the controls when the aircraft was lost.

Legislators Urged To Keep YAP In 2014 County Budget

The Oswego County Legislature approved contracting with Cayuga Centers of Auburn to provide MultiSystemic Therapy effective Jan. 1, 2014. It ends the Youth Advocate Program, which has assisted families in the county for more than 15 years.

Youngsters and adults shared their experiences with YAP in an effort to persuade lawmakers to save the program.

YAP has been around for more than 15 years, according to Stacie Roberts, program director. The national program has been in existence for more than 30 years, she added.

The MST intervention therapy focuses on increasing parenting skills and changing the behavior of violent and criminal youth. The therapists go to where the youth live, hangs out and attends school. “They are there when needed,” according to the resolution.

The cost of the program for 2014 would be $218,292.

However, several people, from 10-year-olds to adults, spoke out against the new program and in favor of retaining YAP.

Roberts asked the legislators to keep YAP in the county’s 2014 budget.

“It is an intensive service that works with 44 families at any given time from five to 20 hours per week,” she said. “The scope of our program is large and comprehensive; services are individualized and they include the entire family.”

For the months June, July and August, YAP had 357 safety interventions and 5,468 family interventions, she pointed out.

“If YAP ends, this is a huge void to be filled. This void cannot be provided for by any service included in the proposed 2014 DSS budget,” Roberts said, adding that funds (used for the program) would be allocated to additional therapy programs and into an after-school program for the Fulton school district only.

The district has partnered with DSS for three years for the program and after the three years end, they will need to find additional funding, Roberts said.

She quoted media reports in which DSS Commissioner Gregg Heffner said YAP has outlived its usefulness and should be replaced with services that more accurately reflect the emerging needs of our families. He also reportedly questioned the time YAP advocates spend with families.

“What will happen to the families who don’t meet the (MST) requirements for therapy but who still need the support?” Roberts asked.

Oswego Pauses To Honor Its Veterans

Just as they had done for nearly a century, Port City veterans, their friends, families and others hunkered down against the cold Lake Ontario winds and paid tribute to those who have gone before them – especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

A large crowd in Veterans’ Memorial Park stood by reverently as the appointed hour neared. The temperature was around 40 degrees. A brisk wind off the lake made it feel even colder and rain began to drizzle near the end of the ceremony.

Veterans’ Day is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour; that’s when the (World War I) truce was declared, according to LTjg George Hoffman, USNSCC, of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corp Truxtun DDG-103 Division in Oswego, and the commander of VFW Post 2320.

A chaplain offered the Veterans’ Day prayer and the flags at the center of the park were lowered; the Oswego City flag was first. It was solemnly folded. The Prisoners Of War flag was next. Then, the American flag was retired as well.

Representatives of the Oswego Navy Sea Cadets (Seaman apprentice Max Yonkers and petty officer Matthew Glenn) lowered and folded the American flag. The passed it on to Hoffman, a former Veteran of the Year, who then presented the flags to Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen.

“On behalf of the United States of America, I present these flags to you for safe keeping,” he said.

The mayor accepted the colors on behalf of the city. They will be stored over the winter and then returned to their place of prominence next spring on Memorial Day.

Independent Film, ‘Paths,’ Premier Scheduled In Oswego

OK, so their names aren’t as familiar as Pitt, Jolie, Redford, Spielberg, Howard, Witherspoon and other celebs. But Braun, Coty, Gill, Darrow and company may soon join the ranks of Hollywood’s elite.

The highly anticipated independent film, “Paths,” was scheduled to premier on Nov. 27 at the McCrobie Building on Lake Street. About a dozen local friends got together, had an idea and worked to make that dream become a reality.

Sparked from “no single identifiable source of inspiration,” but rather “a mutual interest in the creative fields,” according to the young filmmakers, comes a film about a Ben and Lucy as they take a chance together. “Paths” is a film about the moments in life worth taking advantage of; these moments potentially leading us to bigger and better things.

The film was shot throughout Oswego and “the bluffs.”

Other than that, the producers say they want to keep the locations concealed because they feel it would break the illusion the film creates if the locations are revealed.

“The only member of our team to have formal training in video production is our cinematographer, Mike Gill, who took a video production class at Cazenovia College last year,” director-producer-writer Taylor Braun told Oswego County Today.

The film was entirely voluntary and many friends from Oswego High School offered their time to “Paths” because they were interested in the storyline, she added.

Oswego Council Looks To Clear Parking Congestion Along West Mohawk Street

At its November meeting, the Administrative Services Committee moved ahead with plans to implement a two-hour parking restriction on a huge chunk of the street.

Third Ward Councilor Mike Todd said he had been getting complaints from residents along the street regarding the situation.

“They’re having trouble getting in and out of their driveways and when the winter comes, there’s no way for (the DPW) to plow the street because both sides of the street are being utilized,” he said.

A lot of the problem, he said, is hospital employees utilizing the street for parking. He said he has contacted the hospital about this and was told they’d get back to him; but they never do, he added.

Committee chair Ron Kaplewicz said he’d facilitate a meeting between city and Oswego Health officials soon to discuss the situation.

“The residents really want something done about this,” Todd said. “It is affecting the side streets, too. And, basically, the residents want it stopped.

Oswego Hospital wants to be a good neighbor and has been working with city officials to improve the availability of employee parking near the healthcare facility, according to a statement from Oswego Health.

“Earlier this year, the hospital demolished five buildings in order to build two new employee parking lots that added approximately 45 spaces. Oswego Hospital has future plans to add another 50 employee parking spots. Hospital administrators have met with Oswego City Mayor Tom Gillen and will continue to collaborate with him and members of the Common Council to resolve this parking issue,” the statement continued.

The parking restriction plan was put on hold pending the outcome of the meeting between OH and the city.

174th Attack Wing resumed training flights

The New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing resumed local area training flight operations on Nov. 25 from Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum.

MQ-9 operations were temporarily suspended following an MQ-9 aircraft that crashed approximately 20 miles northeast of the port of Oswego into Lake Ontario during a routine training mission November 12.

Colonel Greg Semmel, 174th Attack Wing Commander, was appreciative for the joint military and interagency civilian support given the wing as they responded to the incident.

“This has really been a joint response,” Semmel said. “From local first responders in the Sandy Creek Fire Department to the assistance of the Coast Guard and U.S. Navy and Air Force efforts to determine the cause of this mishap and prevent future issues.”

“Our decision to return to training flights is based on a careful review all facets of our MQ-9 flying program over the past two weeks, along with consultations with our training and technical experts and those from the Air National Guard and Air Combat Command,” he added.

The Air Force Accident Investigation Board was continuing to investigate the mishap.