2014 In Review: In October – Records Were Made To Be Broken – The Next Day

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

The state record set Oct. 4 at the Great Pumpkin Fest in Oswego was short-lived. It was broken the very next day – by a familiar name.

Karl Haist of Clarence Center pulled off a pumpkin double play over the weekend. His 1,725.5-pounder placed first in Oswego on Saturday. On Sunday he set a new state record at the World Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Clarence with a 1,969-pound entry.

Not only was his Oswego pumpkin the winner, but it was also the new New York State record.

“I’m kind of surprised. I knew it was real big but I didn’t think it was this heavy,” Haist told Oswego County Today. “It feels good to have the state record, too!”

Haist isn’t any stranger to the winner’s circle in Oswego.

In 2011, he had the number 1 squash at 1,124.0 pounds. In 2012, his pumpkin came in at number 3 at 1,349.5 pounds and he also had the number 2 squash at 940.0 pounds.

DA Files Countermotion In Heidi Allen Case

The Oswego County District Attorney’s Office filed documents challenging a defense attorney’s claim that would exonerate a man convicted in the 1994 disappearance of Heidi Allen.

A federal defense attorney filed a motion in July theorizing that three men were responsible for the kidnapping and killing of Allen – and the convicted man, Gary Thibodeau, was not among them.

Over the summer, investigators conducted multiple searches in the town of Mexico for evidence connected with the case. However, nothing new was reportedly found.

The defense’s motion is an attempt to give Thibodeau a new trial.

Central Square Assistant Named New OHS Principal

The Oswego School Board approved a new principal for Oswego High School in October.

Erin Noto assumed the duties of principal at OHS effective Oct. 27 at a starting salary of $90,000. Her tenure date is Oct. 27, 2017.

The vote was 6-0-1 with Board President Kathleen Allen excused.

Noto was assistant principal at Central Square High School and had been for a couple of years, according to Oswego Superintendent Ben Halsey.

She worked in the Mexico School District and “she has taught and been a leader down in Charlotte, NC, for a number of years. So she brings experience with that urban education. She grew up in Mexico, so she knows this region,” he added.

“Because of those experiences and her experience in a high school like Central Square, very similar to ours, represented herself very well through the screening process,” Halsey told Oswego County Today.

Oswego Council Eyes Changes For Public Space Requests

Anyone looking to use public space or services in the future had better make sure their bills are paid up. There is nothing that says if you want to use public services, your taxes have to be paid, First Ward Councilor Fran Enwright said.

“We’re getting requests all the time to use public space. But if you go back and do some research, you’ll find some property taxes haven’t been paid in two years,” he said. “Water bills haven’t been paid for a year and a half. And yet they are expecting us to go out there and go ahead and supplement them. So, I disagree with that. I feel that we should stop this practice.”

Everybody that comes in with a request to use public space or any city services should show proof that their taxes are current, he said.

“I mean not just what they have with the city but with the county,” he added. “That’s what I’d like to propose. We’re all struggling here. We had our taxes go up and we’re carrying a lot of these people on our shoulders so they can supplement their own interests.”

“It’s not difficult. But it’s just may not be same day turn around,” Deb Coad, city chamberlain, said of determining tax payment status.

Acting City Engineer Tony Leotta said the council should include a revocation clause in the use of public space resolutions.

“That way if the use is granted, but you discover their taxes aren’t paid, it can be revoked,” he explained.

The Assistant City Attorney worked with the councilors to ensure the proper language would be included in the proposed resolution.

Oswego Opts To Market Great Lakes Veneer Site

The Common Council approved amendments to the City of Oswego Foreclosed Property Disposition Procedure Policy. They voted to bring back Resolution #420-B dated Sept. 22, 2014, onto the floor for council reconsideration. It had authorized the mayor to execute an agreement of purchase and sale of 375 Mitchell St., formerly owned by Great Lakes Veneer, to Jeff Holbrook for $490,000.

In October, councilors resolved not to sell the property to Holbrook.

Instead, in accordance with the city’s updated Foreclosed Property Disposition Procedure Policy, “the property shall be appraised by a qualified appraiser of commercial property and shall be listed with the Fitzgibbons Real Estate for sale for its fair market value pursuant to the policy and procedures of the city of Oswego for foreclosed property disposition.”

The mayor was authorized to execute all necessary documents for listing the property for sale. The final acceptance of any purchase offer shall be made by the Common Council.

Roker Shines National Spotlight on Oswego

Hundreds of students lined up outside SUNY Oswego’s Marano Campus Center Oct. 16 in the chilly fog and sporadic showers. Many of them arrived several hours before the guest of honor. Some even gave up a night’s sleep to ensure themselves of a spot at the head of the line so they could catch a glimpse of one of the college’s most famous grads – Al Roker.

He returned to campus to do some live broadcasts as part of the Today Show. At 5:30 a.m., he broadcast his “Wake Up with Al” show on the Weather Channel from the college TV station. Then, it was out into the main hallway for Today Show (7 – 9 a.m.).

The huge crowd clogged the hallway. Some stood on chairs, counters or whatever they could find. Dozens more watched through the glass doors from outside.

Several hundred students, area residents and alumni, many waving signs and photos featuring the guest of honor, crowded around Roker. Many took selfies, with the 1976 grad in the background. Throughout the morning, Roker mingled with the crowd for some up close selfies as well as signing dozens of autographs.

During Roker’s broadcast, dozens of signs were held up behind him. The messages ranged from “Oswego Loves Al  Roker,” “Once a Laker Always a Laker Welcome Home, Al” to “Hi Mom – Send $.”

Roker shared a short video of a tour he took around campus and downtown – including one of his favorite haunts during his college years … the Oswego Sub Shop.

“Yes, this is the Al Roker Sub! It’s got plenty of ham!” he joked as he took a bite of the sandwich that bears his name.

Kirby Socker may be just a freshman at SUNY Oswego, but the Baldwinsville native has a clear view of the job she wants after graduation.

“That’s my goal. I’m just a freshman, but my dream job is getting a job on the Today Show,” she told Oswego County Today.

Dozens Of Volunteers Resurrect East Park Playground

Several Oswego DPW workers and dozens of Novelis employees gave up their Saturday to help rebuild the playground in Washington Square (East Park).

“More than 40 volunteers pitched in from around 9 a.m. to noon,” said Sixth Ward Councilor Eric VanBuren. “About half that number is working the afternoon shift. We really appreciate their help.”

Theresa Shutt was one of the volunteers from Novelis.

“I really enjoy helping out,” she said as she dumped a wheelbarrow full of wood chips on the playground area. “This is going to be a nice playground once we get done with it.”

Eloisa Orta enjoyed trying out some of the new playground equipment during a break in the construction.

The east side youth climbed on one of the spinning cups and then took a turn on the teeter-totter with Amy L. Birdsall, the city’s Zoning and Planning Director, on the other side.

“It’s going to look really nice when it’s done,” VanBuren said. “It’s a big change; a big change from what it was.”

“It looks nice now,” Eloisa exclaimed. “It’s fun! I want to come back again and play some more!”

Port City Names Street In Honor Of Former Alderman

For 20 years, John Canale could be found in the Council Chambers of Oswego City Hall. Now, even though he’s long out of office, the former alderman still has a place at City Hall.

The street between City Hall and Pathfinder Bank was officially unveiled as John M. Canale Drive. A large group of city officials, friends and a posse of mayors, past and present, turned out to honor the former alderman who’ll turn 91 in January.

At one point the group broke into an impromptu rendition of God Bless America.

With a little help from current Mayor Tom Gillen, Canale yanked the cord to officially unveil the street named in his honor.

“Years ago, when they were building the Civic Plaza (between City Hall and the Conway Building) this gentleman was calling it ‘Sullivan’s Folly,’” former Mayor John Sullivan said. “And I just want to tell you, it gives me great pleasure to see him here today smiling looking at Sullivan’s Folly; and I’m smiling looking at Canale Alley! So, if you live long enough and smile long enough, everything works out.”

Mayor Gillen reminded everyone that Canale was Veteran of the Year for 2014. Canale was an athlete, politician, teacher and author, the mayor added.

“He is a Jack of many trades. I want to recognize John for his contributions to our city and I think it’s appropriate that we named a street for him right in front of City Hall. It’s where he’ll be remembered the most,” Gillen said.

“It’s not Sullivan’s Folly, it’s Sullivan’s Dolly as far as I am concerned,” Canale told his former political foil.

He thanked all the politicians and friends for attending the ceremony. Among them were Bill Hogan and Len Maniccia, two members of Canale’s Battle of the Bulge Veterans’ organization.

“I want to thank my wife first for all the support she’s given me. And the thirty-two hundred and two residents that supported me for two decades. Without the loyalty of my wife, who’s number one, and the thirty-two hundred and two residents, I never would have made alderman of the Third Ward,” Canale said.

Marching Buc Selected For Army All-American Band

Years ago, Kylie Pelkey, as a new member of the Marching Buccaneers’ color guard, was assigned an umbrella to practice with. She woke up recently to find she was an All-American.

The 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Tour recruited the Marching Buccaneer to the Army All-American Marching Band’s color guard.

Pelkey thanked the Army for giving high school students the opportunity to be part of the band.

“It’s like mind-blowing. When I saw that I got accepted, I was like, ‘No way!’ I just woke up and I checked my email and said, ‘I don’t think that’s real.’ But it was real and I was like …” she told Oswego County Today as she made an exaggerated shocked expression. “I started out spinning a little umbrella. It was so awful. And now I am an All-American and it’s sweet!”

Last year around this time when OHS Band Director Scott Ciesla approached her about auditioning for the Army band, she said, “I don’t think I can do that. There’s other guard girls that tried and didn’t make it.”

The OHS senior said she started out ‘very low’ and “here I am now!”

She hopes her accomplishment puts some pressure on the juniors in the band to have the courage to audition and keep the tradition going next year.

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio will be televised live on NBC, from the Alamodome on Jan. 3, 2015. The band will perform at halftime.

Since 2007, Pelkey is the 13th Marching Buccaneer to be selected for this honor.