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2014 In Review: In September – It Was A Smooth Opening for New School Year

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

Thousands of students headed back to the classroom in September to start another new school year.

“There’s a positive atmosphere all around the district today,” said Superintendent of Schools Ben Halsey. “All the students are smiling; we have a friendly and welcoming staff, it’s just a great opening day. I hope we can keep this energy going throughout the entire year.”

The first to arrive to begin the 2014-15 school year were Oswego High School and Oswego Middle School students as they departed their buses shortly before 7:30 a.m.

Just about an hour and fifteen minutes later, the five elementary schools came to life as hundreds of students arrived at each. From the youngest students, who were anxious about attending their very first day, to the veteran teachers of 35 years or more the new year brought a new beginning.

“I’m excited to be back,” said eighth grader Dane Richardson. “I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends again and am looking forward to getting to know my new teachers this year.”

Bill Crist Tapped to lead United Way Board

Executive Director of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, Melanie Trexler announced that Bill Crist, superintendent of Schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, will officially take over the reins as president of the agency’s board of directors at the United Way’s 2014 / 2015 Kickoff Breakfast, September 10.

Crist followed out-going United Way Board President Kathy Fenlon. He praised her for her work with United Way and the support she has offered him.

“Kathy’s leadership over the last two years has been remarkable. She has served as committee member, board member, executive board member and president. I am especially grateful to her for extending her tenure and assisting me during my transition back to central New York this past spring. It has truly been a pleasure and honor to work with Kathy over the years in the spirit of helping Oswego County. She is one of a kind!” said Crist.

Crist, a former superintendent of the Oswego City School District, has been actively involved with United Way for more than a decade serving as a board member since 2003 and playing a major role in several sub committees including By-Laws, Campaign, Golf, and Strategic Planning.

AmeriCorps Helps Drive Bookmobile

AmeriCorps members experience the tremendous reward that comes from helping others. They gain skills while receiving a modest living allowance and earning an education award to help pay for college, grad school or pay back qualified student loans.

Denecia George is an Oswego AmeriCorps member who served at the Oswego Bookmobile this past summer. She completed her first term of service with AmeriCorps and is looking forward to starting a second term.

This past summer she was responsible for recruiting and organizing the Bookmobile volunteer staff. Her duties did not end there.

Denecia and bookmobile staff helped many Oswego County youth find reading materials that encouraged and intrigued many of the children.

The Oswego Bookmobile was founded in 2011 to combat an alarming trend. Testing indicates that economically disadvantaged children in the Oswego City School District are significantly less proficient in reading than their more affluent peers.

Oswego Princess’ Wish Comes True

Sadie and Layla Wilson, twin daughters of Meghan and Mike Wilson, were treated like royalty in September – and the best was yet to come!

Sadie is currently in treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and goes to Upstate Golisano’s Children’s Hospital. She wishes she could go to Disney World and meet the princesses.

The twins, dressed in matching princess outfits, rode around the Port City in a trolley car playing “princess music,” courtesy of Great Lakes Trolley. Then, upon arrival at the Kingsford House on West Third Street, Sadie and Layla were greeted by a “royal court” who escorted them to a carriage for a few photographs. Shortly after that, they family was ushered inside for a royal decree announcing that Sadie and her family will be going to Walt Disney World in November.

“If this was all,” their mother said as the girls sat in the carriage, “we’d all go home happy. They’ve been having the time of their lives all day!”

The third floor of the Kingsford House had been transformed into a royal ballroom and was jam-packed with dozens of the twins’ friends and family.

They were seated in two huge chairs in the center of the room and Terry Baum, one of the “wish granters” made the official proclamation.

“As you know, this family’s gone through a lot. We’re thankful for everybody that’s come today,” she said, her voice starting to crack with emotion.

“Stop it, Terry!” Meghan reassured her. “We talked about this.”

As the proclamation from the Make A Wish Foundation was read, the girls sat in their chairs with their parents behind them. “That’s right,” Meghan said to Sadie. “We’re all going to Disney World!”

“Thank you,” Sadie said as she smiled and applauded from her chair. Her twin was more boisterous in her response.

“Sadie’s been the patient. But Layla’s been through just as much. I’m glad they made this about both of them,” Meghan told Oswego County Today. “It’s just been a magical day. Layla is the more out-going of the two, probably because she’s not the one always being poked (by doctors).”

Sadie said she is “very, very excited.”

United Way Kicks Off 2014-15 Campaign

The United Way of Greater Oswego County kicked off its 2014-2015 campaign in September.

“I can’t thank you enough for all the support you’ve given the United Way and your fellow community members,” Executive Director Melanie Trexler told the large crowd.

“We have the easy job, we’re here to support you,” she said to the many representatives of the member agencies in the audience. “You have the hard job. You have to make those tough decisions. I’m here to honor, recognize and thank all of you for what every one of you does to make our community a better place.”

Two words are the essence of the United Way of Greater Oswego County – Impact and Results.

For this year’s campaign, they are focusing on three of the county’s most pressing issues, ending hunger, the success of children and youth, and the overall well being of families.

“As we kick off our campaign, we do so with a firm commitment to bettering our communities right here in Oswego County. Our focus has never been clearer, our goals never more defined,” Trexler said. “With your support and the community’s, we can and will have a positive impact on the future of Oswego County.”

Court Gives DA Opportunity To Be Heard On Thibodeau Motion

On Sept. 18, the Hon. Daniel King, Acting Oswego County Court Judge, issued a scheduling letter permitting the Oswego County District Attorney’s Office to file a full and complete response to the CPL 440.30 motion filed by Gary Thibodeau on or before October 10, 2014.

The court was permitting the People to respond to both the original motion filed by Thibodeau’s attorneys on July 30, 2014, as well as the Supplemental Affirmations filed on August 26, 2014.

On September 17, 2014, Oswego County DA Greg Oakes wrote the court and explained that the People had never received a scheduling order from the court after the motions were filed.

DA Oakes advised the court that his office had contacted the Oswego County Court Clerk’s Office on at least two occasions in August asking for a scheduling order.

At one point, a clerk advised DA Oakes that the court would address the matter in September.

On August 29, DA Oakes wrote the court asking that the prosecution be allowed to file its response on October 10, 2014.

CPL 440.30, the statute that governs this type of motion, does not provide a specific time frame by which a prosecutor must respond.

In the letter, the court recognized the DA’s Office provided a reasonable explanation and a proper basis for allowing the motion response to be filed on October 10, 2014.

Oakes said, “It appears there was just a misunderstanding.  As a matter of fairness, both sides deserve to be heard. I am grateful that the court is giving us a full opportunity to address all of the issues raised in the motion.”

Oswego Council Looks To Quiet River Sirens

In the fall of 2011, Brookfield Renewable Power implemented enhanced safety tools and warnings for anglers who recreate on or near the company’s Varick Hydropower Dam on the Oswego River. These new tools and warnings supplement the already existing system of warnings, which included signage and a Fishermen’s Alert System, among other features. However, one safety feature in particular was causing a headache for residents and councilors alike – the sirens.

At a meeting of the Administrative Services Committee, Councilor Mike Todd said it was time for the city to act on the citizens’ complaints about the warning sirens used by Brookfield to alert anglers to rising water in the Oswego River.

He proposed a resolution removing the authorization the city granted the power company a few years ago to post the entire section of river and instruct the police department to enforce the noise ordinance (regarding the sirens).

The city has been trying to work out a resolution to this issue for several years now, council vice president Eric VanBuren agreed.

Brookfield is regulated by the FERC, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission. It’s a federal agency. Their sirens operate under a separate jurisdiction from local and state municipal law, he pointed out.

“So, we can’t actually enforce the noise limit … we can’t hit them with a duration limit or send our police down there to fine or ticket the company or a representative of that company for the sirens,” VanBuren said. “That’s our first hurdle and probably the hardest one to overcome. The FERC has to give them the recommendations for what they can operate within.”

VanBuren said he agreed with Todd in that Brookfield’s actions have had a negative impact on the local fishing and those businesses that cater to fishermen.

Oswego School District Eyes Creation Of Regional School

The Oswego City School District entered into a partnership that it hopes will create a “regional school,” Superintendent Ben Halsey said.

“We have partnered with eight other districts; the Oswego County BOCES, Cayuga Community College, as well as three major manufacturers (Novelis, Huhtamaki and the Fulton Boiler Company) to apply for a state grant that has been made available for the funding of a tech regional high school,” the superintendent explained.

It is from a pot of money created by Gov. Cuomo two years ago. There have been very few of them (grants) awarded across the state.

The concept is that by partnering together with CCC and the industries, if they are awarded this money, the county would have a small regional high school for students. It would be a total of 50 students per grade level – spread throughout the entire county.

The school would be housed at the new BOCES complex when its renovations are completed.

It’s joint in that Oswego is not the only school district that is providing this program, he said.

“It is very early in the stages. We have all sat down together to apply for the funding for the establishment of this. The funding would be providing for the planning, for the hiring of an executive director of this institution who would work with all of us as partners,” he said. “A board would be created with members from each of the school districts and BOCES as well as administrative heads of each of those companies.”

The application had just gone out, Halsey said, adding he wasn’t certain as to when they will hear the results of their application.

St. Luke, Michaud Reach Tentative Agreements With Union

Officials at St. Luke Health Services in Oswego and Michaud Residential Health Services in Fulton announced Sept. 19 that tentative contract agreements had been reached with Service Employees International Union (SEIU 1199) Upstate.

SEIU 1199 represents service and maintenance employees at both facilities. St. Luke and Michaud are affiliated not-for-profit, community-based healthcare organizations.

Details of the tentative agreements were not available, pending final approval by the St. Luke/Michaud Board of Directors and ratification by union members.

The new three-year agreements were reached after numerous negotiating sessions over six months aimed at finalizing a contract for employees in the collective bargaining units at each respective facility. The previous contract agreements expired July 31.

Oswego Looks To Terminate River Deal With Brookfield

The Common Council voted to revoke Brookfield Renewable Energy’s authority to police a certain area of the Oswego River near the High Dam.

In late November 2011, the mayor was authorized to execute an enforcement authorization agreement with Brookfield Renewable Energy Group (Erie Boulevard Hydropower LP) regarding real property located on the Oswego River. The deal contains a termination clause that permits either party to terminate the pact upon a 30 day written notice to the other party.

At the council meeting, Mayor Tom Gillen was authorized, on behalf of the city, to notify Erie in writing of the city’s intent to end the agreement in 30 days.

According to the council, Erie has consistently taken actions against fishermen in the Oswego River that exceeded the authority granted in the enforcement authorization agreement.

Such actions are “detrimental and injurious to the commerce in the city relating to the fishing industry,” councilors said.

According to a letter by Steven P. Murphy, licensing manager for Brookfield, the company is implementing some changes and improvements.

Subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval, Brookfield is prepared to implement these changes and to further evaluate the effectiveness of these options in the field, Murphy said.

The plan doesn’t come right out and say they will change anything, only evaluate, Todd said.

The council later opted not to have the mayor terminate the agreement in light of Brookfiled’s new proposals.

Oswego Zonta Honors Cooper-Currier

On September 26, the Zonta Club of Oswego honored Diane Cooper-Currier, executive director of Oswego County Opportunities, with its prestigious Amelia Earhart Woman of Achievement Award.

Event co-chair Kristine Bushey noted how special the evening was.

“This dinner is our spotlight event for the Zonta Club of Oswego. We relish the opportunity to pay tribute to a woman who works so hard to improve the lives of families in our community,” she said.

In a program featuring representatives from the offices of Senator Patty Ritchie, Assemblyman Will Barclay and Congressman Dan Maffei, as well as Mayor Tom Gillen and Dale Currier (director of the county’s Emergency Management Office), many comparisons were made between Cooper-Currier and Amelia Earhart who both started off as social workers and went on to be leaders and inspirational figures.

Also present at the annual dinner were OCO staff and board members, six past Amelia Earhart award winners, friends, family and many community members.

In receiving her award, Cooper-Currier spoke about poverty and the effects it can have on people. She also spoke about her drive to help guide people in the process of transforming their lives.

But for her, the award was more about those around her.

“This award is not about me. It is about the 550 employees who work for OCO and serve those who are impoverished in the community,” Cooper-Currier said.