2015 In Review: April – Oswego Speedway Ranks Fourth Among America’s Favorite Tracks

Michael Barnes and Dave Danzer lead the 59th annual Budweiser International Classic 200 starting field to the green flag at Oswego Speedway. The race will air nationally on MAVTV on Thanksgiving night.

Michael Barnes and Dave Danzer lead the 59th annual Budweiser International Classic 200 starting field to the green flag at Oswego Speedway. The race will air nationally on MAVTV on Thanksgiving night.

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

For the third consecutive season, Oswego Speedway has ranked in the top five of Speed Sport Magazine’s My Favorite Track of North America poll, finishing in the fourth position overall.

Speed Sport’s survey was conducted in late February through early March with the response being twice that received during last year’s poll and 10 times greater than the inaugural poll in 2012.

For the fourth year running Rossburg, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, owned by motorsports star Tony Stewart, claimed the top rating with Virginia International Raceway, Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway, Oswego Speedway, and Wisconsin’s Road America completing the top five positions in the poll.

Once again, Oswego Speedway was voted as the top asphalt oval in Speed Sport’s poll with Knoxville and Eldora being dirt ovals and both VIR and Road America, road courses.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to once again be included in the top five of this year’s Speed Sport, My Favorite Track poll,” said Oswego Speedway PR director, Dan Kapuscinski. “This year’s poll response was the largest ever, so to remain in the top five and join such esteemed facilities like Eldora, Knoxville, VIR, and Road America in this honor, is fantastic. None of this would be possible without our amazing fans across the country that care so much about our facility and our sport of Supermodified racing.”

City, College Team Up To Quell End Of Semester Disruption
The end of the spring semester of classes at SUNY Oswego in 2014 was celebrated by some students, residents and visitors participating in the “Bridge Street Run.”

This unsanctioned, event in the city of Oswego was the source of many areas of concern, ranging from disruptive behavior to dangerous and unhealthy decision making, according to Mayor Tom Gillen.

“This year, the city of Oswego fully supported SUNY Oswego’s efforts to redirect the celebratory atmosphere by presenting the SUNY Oswego Ozfest on May 8. Our hope is that, by working together, we can develop this event into a dynamic and fun weekend that will take advantage of all that Oswego has to offer, while providing the structure and oversight necessary to help reduce the problem behaviors of years past,” the mayor told Oswego County Today.

Continuing through the end of the spring semester, Oswego City Police and University Police went door to door in neighborhoods with a high density of college residents to discuss the consequences of poor decision making and disruptive behavior.

Last year (2014), the Oswego Common Council voted unanimously to “ban” the Bridge Street Run.

According to Council President Eric Van Buren, “We know that we can’t stop someone from donning a white T-shirt and legally walking from establishment to establishment. Our intent, at the time, was to emphasize that we, as a city, do not and cannot condone some of the activities associated with the Bridge Street Run. However, our resolution should be seen as more than just a symbolic gesture, it should be viewed as a warning and a call to take notice for those who may still choose to participate in disruptive or unruly behavior that it will not be tolerated and violators could face ticketing, arrest, and if applicable, on-campus sanctions.”

New OzFest To Feature Premium Contemporary Acts
The SUNY Oswego Student Association planned a festival, dubbed OzFest, for May 8 that will conclude with a four-act concert headlined by Big Sean.

Starting at 7:30 p.m. May 8, in the college’s Marano Campus Center arena and convocation hall, the concert also featured Timeflies, B.O.B. and Mac Miller.

The event significantly quelled the rowdy behavior of the Bridge Street Run.

May 8 was the last day of spring classes at SUNY Oswego.

Dewine Ready to Lead United Way
When it comes to the future of United Way it’s all about helping others. That’s the vision of new executive director of United Way of Greater Oswego County Patrick Dewine.

A native Oswegonian, Dewine is well versed in the United Way’s mission and shares the agency’s vision of building stronger communities by ending hunger, helping children and youth succeed, and improving Oswego County’s overall health and well being.

“It all starts with education and collaboration,” said Dewine. “Untied Way has a tremendous impact on Oswego County. Programs funded through United Way and administered by our member agencies touch the lives of our neighbors and our loved ones. It’s important that we educate the community about the vital role that United Way plays in improving the quality of life in Oswego County.”

Dewine brings with him 15 years of business management experience. For many of those years, he served as campaign coordinator for Friendly’s Restaurant’s in-house campaign in support of United Way.

Heida Allen Hearing Prolonged Pending DNA Results
Prosecutors in the Heidi Allen hearing hoped to wrap up their final witnesses by early April.

However, a DNA test on a knife found in Michael Bohrer’s apartment in 2014 could take up to 30 days to return with results; further prolonging the hearing that could define the future of Gary Thibodeau, the man prosecuted for her disappearance in 1994. In May, it was reported that there was no DNA evidence on the knife.

Thibodeau has been behind bars for Allen’s abduction for 21 years. He and public defenders Lisa Peebles and Randi Bianco were looking to Acting Oswego County Judge Daniel King to overturn his 1995 conviction because of evidence they believe could implicate three other men: Michael Bohrer, Roger Breckenridge and James Steen.

King heard a handful of the prosecutions witnesses on April 7, including that of Darron Vecchio, the man that says he built the cabin off Rice Road where it was implicated early in the hearing Heidi Allen might be buried. Vecchio testified the cabin structure collapsed sometime in 1994. It was determined no human remains were found at the cabin.

But it could be up to 30 days before any more witnesses take the stand, including John Bohrer, the brother of Michael Bohrer.

Peebles filed a motion asking Judge King to consider him as a witness. She maintains John Bohrer’s testimony is crucial because it was discovered that John Bohrer was a resident in New Haven in 1994 during Allen’s kidnapping.

Peebles said John Bohrer’s living with Michael Bohrer in New Haven in 1994 is significant in the hearing, as it implicates a possible planned kidnapping that resembles the attempted abduction of a Milwaukee woman in 1981, for which Michael Bohrer was convicted.

Judge King ruled earlier in the hearing that Bohrer’s conviction at that time was only marginally relevant to the kidnapping of Allen.

Staff Reductions Threaten Oswego School Budget Plan
The Oswego School Board held a roundtable discussion regarding the budget process. While not a popular idea, board members admit, some staff reductions may be necessary if other option cannot be found.

The district had until April 24 to formulize the budget as it needs to be approved by that date in order to follow the requirements for the May 19 vote.

“We have some time. But there’s a lot of work ahead of us,” Superintendent Ben Halsey said. “We’ve got some work to do.”

“In this budget, the last time the superintendent and I presented it to you it was (almost) $85.4 million. This current budget draft 2 is at $86.3 million. It has gone up $946,455. The majority of that is due to positions that are currently vacancies that didn’t transfer in the negotiation module as a vacancy. Those positions are currently funded in the sub bucket,” Business Administrator Nancy Squairs explained.

They had to backfill the budget so the district didn’t lose those placeholders, she said.

So out of the $946,455 – it was about almost $700,000 of that is for positions that were vacancies as well as benefits that were added for those.

There are some large items that are primarily responsible for the budget increase, the superintendent noted.

Looking at the figures in the tentative spending plans that the superintendent has shared, board member Sam Tripp acquiesced that staff cuts are likely.

“We need a lot more information before making those kinds of decisions,” he said.

Any moves the district makes with staffing now, the students will notice it when they return to classes in the fall, the superintendent said.

Four People Rescued From Lake Ontario
Just after 7 p.m. on April 13, tThe Oswego Fire Department and the United States Coast Guard Station Oswego as well as the SUNY Oswego University Police,  the Oswego Town Fire Department and Border Patrol  responded to a vessel in distress on Lake Ontario between Rudy’s Lakeside Restaurant and the Penfield Library.

Four young adults set sail from near Rudy’s aboard an inflatable raft and became unable to control it and were floating in an eastward direction approximately one mile off shore.

Responders were able to reach the raft where the four were placed on the Coast Guard boat and transported to land.

There were no injuries, according to Oswego Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie.

“ The fact that these four set off in an inflatable raft on Lake Ontario with the water temperature in the mid 30s makes no sense. Add to the fact that there were no life jackets on them or on board, as well as the anticipated cold front and increased winds, I would consider them extremely lucky,” McCrobie said.

Someone on shore spotted them and called 911.

If not for that, the outcome could have been tragic, the chief said.

Oswego Council OKs Local Law Regarding Taxation
At its meeting the Common Council approved Local Law #3 of the year 2015, amending Chapter 224, Taxation, of the Code of the City of Oswego. It allows for the exemption from taxes that portion of an increase in assessment to residential buildings occurring as a result of capital improvement, according to the assistant city attorney.

“It allows people to invest in their homes, invest in their neighborhoods without any immediate repercussions as it pertains to your taxes,” Councilor Bill Barlow pointed out. “Hopefully this will encourage people to invest in their homes.”

He cited Tom Reynolds, assistant city attorney, and Sue Deary, city assessor, for their help in moving the program forward. And he cited (Oswego) county legislators Shane Broadwell and Jake Mulcahey “who spearheaded this for the county.”

The local law allows for the exemption from taxes that portion of an increase in assessment to residential buildings occurring as a result of capital improvement, according to the assistant city attorney.

According to the law: an exemption can be for no more than $80,000 in increased market value due to reconstruction, alteration or improvement. The amount of the exemption may be reduced below $80,000 but the cap can be no less than $5,000.

“We want people to invest in their homes and neighborhoods,” Mayor Tom Gillen said. “This is one way of helping them do that.”

More than just the homeowners will benefit from this, according to Seventh Ward Councilor Ron Kaplewicz.

There will be some contractors who’ll be happy to get a lot of work, he added.

AAA Recognizes Cities of Fulton and Oswego for Traffic Safety Success
AAA Western and Central New York recognized the city of Fulton, city of Oswego, and their respective police departments for their success in AAA’s Community Traffic Safety Program.

AAA’s Community Traffic Safety Program is an awards and recognition program for communities of all sizes nationwide that identify and address their local traffic safety issues.

The program considers basic crash statistics, presence of a traffic safety leadership group, projects, and their effectiveness.

The awards progress from Honorable Mention to Bronze, Silver, Gold, and to the highest level, Platinum.

“The purpose of AAA’s Community Traffic Safety Program is to recognize the leadership and applaud the efforts of communities that strive to advance the cause of traffic safety,” said Tony Spada, president and CEO of AAA Western and Central New York. “We are delighted to honor these municipalities for their continued vital and lifesaving work.”

Fulton received a Gold Award, given to communities that implement programs and projects that demonstrate superior effort at addressing local traffic safety issues.

Fulton has participated in the program for 13 years and is the recipient of five Platinum and eight Gold Awards in total.

Oswego received a Platinum Award, given to communities that not only demonstrate outstanding success in addressing local traffic safety issues, but show a clear trend of improvement over five years and/or provide data that is substantially better than the statewide data for communities of similar size.

Only 11 communities in New York State received Platinum honors.

Oswego Board Of Ed Adopts 2015-16 Budget
The Oswego City School District adopted a budget for the 2015-16 school year. The $82,847,754 spending plan was passed unanimously.

It contains a 9.77 percent tax increase.

At a special meeting, Superintendent Ben Halsey presented the board with a list of additional reductions (to be applied to the $83,742,675 budget draft they were working on).

The cuts included:

$525,000 in legal fees
$121,150 – Reading program (rollover from Title funds will be used)
$66,806 – Assistant Transportation Supervisor
$37,755 – Summer Workers
$11,700 – Memberships
$90,000 – Administrative Tuition
$30,288 – Middle School Intramurals (pilot program, not an existing program, cut includes fringes)
$20,000 – Consultants (from Business office function)
$2,000 – Contracts (transportation)
$15,624 – Reduce (OMS) Principal to 10-month position (includes fringes)

The total reductions – $920,323 – brought the budget figure down to $82,822,354.
However, $25,400 was added to restore field trips.

On the revenue side, Halsey proposed transferring $400,000 from the debt service as well as refunds from prior year expenses, refund of Medicare Part D and refund of current year expenses.

The refunds are anything the district has paid for last year or in previous years where OCSD has gotten a refund or a rebate in the current year, explained Nancy Squairs, district business manager.

For a $100,000 home owner, “they’re going to look at a $133.13 increase in their school tax bill,” the superintendent said.

Since the district is under its tax cap, that money will be refunded to the homeowners, the superintendent said, noting that this is the second year of the state’s two-year program.

Hundreds Help Raise Funds, Awareness Of Autism
the event, sponsored by the task force, also focused attention on the plight of Autism victims in Oswego County.

OSWEGO, NY – The annual “Walk for Autism” drew more than 850 people to Leighton Elementary School and the nearby Wilber Field on a sunny but mild Saturday afternoon. The event was sponsored by the Oswego County Autism Task Force.

Arianna Failla suffers from Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. Jennifer Failla walked with Pip, Arianna’s service dog. Anthony pushed his little sister in her stroller as the Central Square family made several laps around the track.

TSC is a very rare disease, Jennifer told Oswego County Today. It is among the leading causes of autism and epilepsy, she added.

“Arianna has tumors in her brain, heart and her kidneys and also her skin. She has epilepsy and autism and is developmentally delayed; she is 4, but is developmentally at a 2-year-old,” Jennifer explained. “She has seizures every day and has had five brain surgeries to help with seizures, but still seizes every day. She’s on many medications for the seizures, but may eventually need open brain surgery.”

Besides acting as a fundraiser, the event also focused attention on the plight of people affected by autism in Oswego County, explained Theresa Familo, OCATF board member.

For more information about OCATF,  call 349-3510.