2014 In Review: In May – State Budget Included Funding To Help Oswego County Fight EEE

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

At the start of May, State Senator Patty Ritchie announced the new State Budget included $275,000 to help Oswego County and Central New York “Fight the Bite” and prevent the spread of Eastern equine encephalitis, the mosquito-borne illness commonly known as EEE.

Over three years, Senator Ritchie has secured a total of $700,000 in additional state budget funds for EEE prevention.

“Oswego County is a hotbed for EEE, and it’s so important that we remain vigilant in our work to protect ourselves from disease-spreading mosquitoes and prevent any future tragedies,” said Senator Ritchie. “I’m pleased to have been able to secure this funding, which will go a long way towards raising awareness of this deadly virus and increasing prevention efforts.”

Five human deaths in New York since 1971 all have occurred in Oswego and Onondaga counties, while dozens of horses have succumbed to the virus.

Following the death of Oswego County’s 4-year old Maggie Sue Wilcox from the EEE virus, a few years prior, Senator Ritchie has been leading the effort to raise awareness of the disease and find ways to stop its spread.

Hundreds Help Raise Funds, Awareness Of Autism

The annual “Walk for Autism” drew approximately 250 people to Leighton Elementary School and the nearby Wilber Field to take part in the annual fun walk to benefit the Oswego County Autism Task Force.

“The number (of walkers) was down from past years. That has to do with the bad weather. But we can’t control that,” said OCATF president Theresa Familo. “The participants were just as dedicated as ever.”

Besides acting as a fundraiser, the event, sponsored by the task force, also focused attention on the plight of people affected by autism in Oswego County, Familo added.

Logen Collins wore a shirt that summed up the task force’s mission.

“I’m Logen. Don’t judge me by my behavior. You may miss something beautiful.”

Mock Crash Sends Sobering Message To OHS Students

Members of the Oswego High School junior class sat through a gruesome presentation to help stop them from making what could be a fatal mistake on prom night, graduation day and beyond.

A mock drunk driving accident was staged in the school parking lot. Several teens were “injured;” one young man was partially ejected from his vehicle; his severed arm was on the ground in front of the wrecked vehicle.

As the students gazed at the tableau of wrecked vehicles, shattered glass, bloodied victims and “dead” body in the parking lot they heard a grim pronouncement.

“Studies have shown us that it takes less than one second for you to die in a car crash,” said Cathy McPherson a member of the county’s STOP-DWI program, the narrator and guide for the viewers.

Buc School Dominates Budget Hearing

The public got to weigh in on the proposed $79.9 million school budget on May 6. The vast majority of the speakers focused on just one aspect of the budget – the closure of the Buc School.

The district was facing a budget gap and part of the process to close that included some changes to the district’s Big Picture School (the Buc School).

Eliminating the alternative school (all nine positions associated with it and associated costs) would result in a savings of $762,368, Superintendent Ben Halsey explained, adding that the program isn’t being done away with, just the “school” site in the Education Center.

One parent of a Buc student said “we have stood up here and poured our hearts out. I feel everything we’ve said has fallen on deaf ears.” She added that she doesn’t think the board knows exactly what it is doing to the Buc students by eliminating their school site and forcing them to return to classes in the middle and high schools.

Teresa Lazarek, another Buc parent, said the students were promised the Buc School would run for at least five years. And, now that’s it’s proven successful after two years, it is on the chopping block, she said, adding “That’s not fair. Ultimately, our children are being used as sacrificial lambs to solve your budget crisis.”

The superintendent said he reviewed the associated paperwork with the school and found no mention of a “five-year promise.”

“The finances just aren’t there for us to sustain it and increase it to what was in the original plan over the long-haul,” he pointed out.

Mary Beth Fierro, middle school principal, explained that the transition team was already working out the process and have spoken with the Buc students.

Oswego college student injured, air-lifted to hospital

Emergency crews responded to the scene of a pedestrian-vehicle accident on West Bridge Street near Hillside Ave. on May 9 during the Bridge Street Run. A SUNY Oswego student was reportedly hit by a trolley bus; then transported to a waiting helicopter in Fulton and flown to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse.

The victim reportedly suffered multiple injuries.

A second patient was transported by ground with lesser injuries.

Rescue crews were dispatched shortly after 11:30 p.m., according to the Oswego Fire Department.

Both reportedly recovered.

Police: No Criminal Charges In Trolley-Pedestrian Accident

The Oswego Police Department, after consultation with the New York State Department of Transportation and the Oswego County District Attorney’s Office, concluded the motor vehicle accident investigation report for the A-Bus trolley versus pedestrian accident that occurred on May 9 in the area of West Bridge Street at West Seneca Street.

The investigation determined that the operator of the trolley bus was traveling westbound on West Seneca Street and did make an improper left turn into an unmarked one-way turning spur, said spur intended for westbound West Bridge Street traffic to travel eastbound on West Seneca Street, and while the trolley bus was attempting to enter eastbound West Bridge Street traffic did strike two pedestrians that were crossing West Bridge Street, apparently diagonally from north to south, outside of a crosswalk.

No criminal charges were pending.

Police investigated overdoses

Oswego City Police and University Police at SUNY Oswego investigated three suspected heroin overdoses that occurred overnight, two in the city of Oswego and one on the college campus.

All three victims are students at SUNY Oswego. The campus victim died, authorities said.

The other two were treated and recovered at Oswego Hospital.

Relatives of all of the involved students were notified.

Oswego City Police and University Police worked together to determine the circumstances surrounding the incidents.

Arrest’s Made in Heroin Overdose Investigation

Two arrests were made as a result of the investigation.

Members of the Oswego City Police Department’s Anti-Crime Team arrested a 21-year-old Manorville, NY, man and charged him with the following: Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd degree- Class B Felony- 2 counts

It is alleged that on May 9 into May 10, he sold heroin to two separate individuals, one being a Bridgeport, Conn., man within the city of Oswego. It is further alleged that the two buyers are suspected to have ultimately overdosed on the heroin.

During the early evening hours of May 12, members of the Anti-Crime Team arrested the Connecticut man and charged him with the following: Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd degree- Class B Felony.

He allegedly on May 9 at approximately 6 p.m. did sell heroin, he had allegedly received from the first suspect, to an individual within the city of Oswego. That individual was located on the SUNY Oswego campus and ultimately died from what was preliminarily believed to be a heroin overdose.

Neither the accident nor the heroin incident was officially linked to the Bridge Street Run by authorities.

Oswego Council Votes To Ban Bridge Street Run, Bill College For City’s Costs

Oswego Common Councilors voted unanimously to ban the Bridge Street Run and bill SUNY Oswego for the event’s cost to the city.

The Bridge Street Run (bar crawl) takes place the Friday night before spring semester finals at SUNY Oswego. The event isn’t endorsed by the college or the city.

Councilor Mike Todd said Oswego was like a “war zone” Friday night.

The council passed a resolution authorizing the chamberlain to bill the college for overtime expenses incurred by the DPW, police and fire departments related to the Bridge Street Run. Preliminary numbers showed the bill to be $7,000 and $10,000.

Two incumbents, one challenger win seats on Oswego Board of Education

Voters returned two incumbents to the Oswego School Board and added a newcomer.

Earning seats on the Oswego Board of Education were incumbents Sam Tripp and Mike McLaughlin with 1,558 and 1,458 unofficial vote respectively. They were joined by Brian Haessig with an unofficial vote tally of 1,061.

The district’s budget also passed in all ten districts. The unofficial vote was 1,445 yes and 790 no.

City Tree ‘Grow Out’ Project Sprouts In Oswego

At a school board meeting, city councilor Eric VanBuren announced plans for a cooperative venture between the city and the Oswego City School District called “Grow Out.”

“I’d like to start a tree grow-out station in the city right near where Duer Street is, there is an access road for the DPW and there is a large field between Riley Elementary School and that road. I’d like to use a small portion of it just to plant 30 to 40 test trees to see if the project will work,” he told the school board.

The school district approved use of a small plot of land on the grounds of Riley School, along the Duer Street Extension, to grow trees. It was city-owned property but the city deeded it to the school district about seven or eight years ago, VanBuren noted.

There is still a backstop there, but he didn’t believe many softball games or practices are held there these days.

The plan began with a test bed, roughly 100 feet long by 12 feet wide where 30 to 40 oak, tulip, ginkgo and sycamore trees were planted. These trees range from two-foot tall “whips” to eight to 12 feet tall.

It is a lot cheaper to buy the eight-foot tall ‘whips’ and grow them (than a larger tree), VanBuren pointed out.

“We’d grow them, cycle them out and then we’d start using that station to grow more trees. Hopefully, we’d also find other areas in the city to expand on this so we could continue feeding the tree canopy,” he added. “If it does work, then those trees will be dispersed throughout the city in the public space and our parks.”

Port City Pauses To Thank Its Fallen Heroes

Once again, the Port City paused to honor and thank the men and woman who fought and died for our freedoms. Members of the area veterans’ and service groups spent the early morning visiting various parks and cemeteries paying tribute to our nation’s veterans.

A few onlookers, several with flags and cameras, lined the parade route from West Park to Veterans’ Memorial Park shortly before 11 a.m. A large crowd, many decked out in red, white and blue, ringed Veterans’ Memorial Park under the clear skies and warm temperatures greeted the group as it marched into the park.

Memorial Day is sacred to all veterans and families of veterans, according to George Hoffman Jr., the executive officer of the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps in Oswego, the master of ceremonies.

“We owe it to our fallen heroes to pause from our routine so that we may respectfully honor their lives and sacrifices for liberty and freedom. One day, just one day to remember the sacrifice of those who have gone before us,” he said. “Except for their service, we all would be facing different circumstances today. During World War II, American forces literally helped save the world from tyranny and oppression.”

County Announces New Operating Hours for Solid Waste Transfer Stations

Oswego County solid waste transfer stations would close one day per week beginning July 1, in a measure to reduce operating costs of the solid waste system. The new schedule was approved by the County Legislature at its May 15 meeting.

Under the new schedule, the Hannibal transfer station will be closed Mondays; Pulaski, closed Tuesdays; Hastings, closed Wednesdays; Oswego, closed Thursdays; and Bristol Hill, closed Fridays.

The new schedule will result in a cost-savings of approximately $189,845 annually through the elimination of vacant positions, re-assignment of solid waste staff and reduced operating costs, county officials said.

Mayor Vetoes BSR Bill Resolution

On May 12, the Common Council voted to authorize the city chamberlain to itemize the overtime costs to the city associated with the Bridge Street Run and bill SUNY Oswego. However, shortly thereafter, Mayor Tom Gillen vetoed the resolution.

The resolution had been brought to the council floor without the benefit of being discussed at the committee level, he pointed out.

“It is something we don’t want to rush into,” he said.

Working together with college officials to address the matter would be a better way to find the means to curb the rowdy behavior exhibited during the annual end of the semester pub crawl, the mayor said.

Third Ward Councilor Mike Todd, who sponsored the resolution, said he had promised the residents of his ward that he’d fight to improve their quality of life.

“But, after two and a half years, I have received little or no support from this administration. To say I was shocked and taken aback by the announcement of this veto would be an understatement,” he said. “In two and a half years as mayor, he has not issued a single veto on any issue, until now and I must wonder why.”