2015 In Review: December – Scriba Board Votes To Abolish Elected Highway Superintendent Position

Peter Myles

Peter Myles

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

The Scriba Town Board voted Dec. 2 to approve a local law to abolish the position of elected town highway superintendent. The town supervisor would be empowered to appoint someone to the position, with confirmation of the town board. The proposal will go to a publc vote later.

The board meeting room at the Scriba Municipal Building was filled to capacity; dozens more stood along the walls and spilled out into the hallway. Many left the meeting disgruntled over the board’s decision.

The board’s action comes after it was revealed that the newly elected highway superintendent, Michael Barry, concealed his DWI arrest from voters this past summer and fall. Barry was arrested on July 26 for DWI in the town of Brutus, Cayuga County.

All Scriba residents are eligible to vote. The time and place of the vote are yet to be determined, according to Kevin Caraccioli, town attorney.

The local law is subject to a mandatory referendum which is allowed to occur at a special election, but not less than 60 days after the local law is adopted, he explained. Therefore, a date for the special election  is expected to be in early February, he added. It would then be sent to the NY Secretary of State for filing and at that point, becomes effective immediately.

Oswego Awarded $732,250 in Regional Economic Development Council Consolidated Funding Application Process
The city of Oswego Community Development Office submitted two applications for consideration in the 2015 Regional Economic Development Council Consolidated Funding Application round.

The two projects awarded are the City of Oswego Waterfront Feasibility Study, and the other was the West Side Wastewater Sewer Rehab project.

The city of Oswego was awarded $132,250 through the CFA process from the Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to engage in a Waterfront Feasibility Study to assess the economic and development opportunities driven by market analysis for city-owned properties within the waterfront area to advance the preparation of strategies for community and waterfront revitalization.

The city of Oswego was awarded $600,000 through the CFA process from the Office of Community Renewal’s Community Development Block Grant Program as part of a co-funding initiative with the Environmental Facilities Corporation to rehabilitate Area 2 of the West Side Wastewater Sewer as part of the ongoing consent decree order.

“The waterfront feasibility study will provide the city of Oswego with a tool that identifies the highest and best economic and development use for city-owned properties within the waterfront area to prepare an action plan and strategy to create a waterfront corridor that will not only enhance the city of Oswego but also have a regional impact into the CNY area,” said Justin Rudgick, community development director.

The $600,000 award from the NYS CDBG program for the Area 2 West Side Wastewater Sewer rehab project will help lessen the financial burden that the city of Oswego needs to endure in order to comply with the Consent Decree Order, Rudgick added.

Legislators Approve 2016 County Budget
After a two-part meeting, the Oswego County Legislature approved the 2016 spending plan. The budget contains a tax hike of 2.8 percent. That was down from 3.9 percent at the start of the meeting.

The vote was pretty much fell along party lines.

The tax levy was down 14.7 percent from 2015, according to County Administrator Phil Church.

Legislator trimmed the budget down (about $2 million) from $195,409,729 to “$194 and change,” he added.

Legislators in the Minority felt more cuts could have been made to lower the budget even further. Several proposed reductions were offered by Legislator Frank Castiglia. None of them were approved.

The county also took $500,000 from its savings to help balance the 2016 budget.

That, according to Mike Kunzwiler, Minority Leader, is a very big mistake.

Raiding Peter to pay Paul will come back to hurt the county in the next couple of years, he said. The county could be faced with a huge tax hike as well as several layoffs, he warned.

Oswego Police, Fire Departments Welcome New Officers
The Oswego City Fire Department increased its ranks by two and announced two promotions on Dec. 3.

During the same ceremony, the Oswego City Police Department welcomed six new officers. Police Chief Tory DeCaire acted as the MC for the ceremony.

“I really appreciate of all (Mayor Tom Gillen’s) support and his service at these ceremonies the past four years. He has sworn in more than 15 professional law enforcement and new firefighters. We really appreciate that,” he said.

Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie recognized the honorees from both departments.

“It is a great day for you and your family and your friends,” he said. “And, thank you Mayor Gillen for your understanding and support during these most challenging years. Although many difficult decisions were made, I appreciate the support you had for our department and the many open and honest discussions that we had.”

Within the ranks of the fire department:

Christopher Stupp was promoted to the rank of captain. Douglas Crouse was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

Sworn in as firefighters were Nicholas Cherchio, who was accompanied by his uncle – retired Oswego firefighter Gary Richardson; and Kelley Davis, who was accompanied by her husband, Kevin (who was sworn in this part March).

Then, the police department welcomed a half dozen new officers.

Sworn in as police officers were: Ryan McIntyre, Scott Verburg, Daniel Balloni, Morgan Backus, Matthew Moshier-Feeney and Chelsea Giovo.

Central New York A Big Winner
Central New York was named one of the winners of the Upstate Revitalization Awards.

“I am glad Central New York is the recipient of one of the $500 million awards. Many local residents and agencies worked hard to put the best plan forward for our region and I am glad local efforts paid off.  I am hopeful the infusion will jump start businesses and spur investments in our backyard toward long-term and sustainable job creation. Winning the Upstate Revitalization Award is very positive for our region and a good step to rebuilding our economy. To further build upon the economic growth this plan sets to achieve, and for the overall growth of our region’s economy, I will continue to fight for lowering taxes and removing onerous regulations imposed by the state,” said Assemblyman Will Barclay.

Zelko Kirincich, Executive Director & CEO Port of Oswego, added, “The future for jobs and upstate manufacturers is a lot brighter today thanks to Governor Cuomo and the Upstate Revitalization Initiative.  We are excited about moving forward with the Central New York Economic Development Council and all our public and private sector partners in the region to make a multimodal inland port a reality in our region.”

Council Hikes Water, Sewer Fees
“This is positively something that I didn’t want to be the last thing that I did as mayor,” Tom Gillen said. “But, we’re caught between a rock and a hard place.”

With Council President Eric VanBuren absent, Gillen was forced to cast the deciding vote whether to increase water and sewer rates for Oswego taxpayers.

The voted tied with three ‘yes’ (councilors Pat McLaughlin, Mike Todd and Shawn Walker) and three ‘no’ votes (councilors Fran Enwright, Billy Barlow and Ron Kaplewicz). The mayor voted ‘yes.’

The add-on resolution, which was presented at the end of the meeting, would help raise the $1.5 million necessary for the bond payments for the city’s required water and sewer improvements.

It was recently discovered that the city didn’t have sufficient funds in the sewer enterprise fund to cover the cost of the upcoming work.

Gillen called the hike the reasonable thing to do rather than burdening the incoming administration with the controversy.

Councilor Todd agreed.

“I apologize for it. I’m not happy with it. But, we don’t have any option,” he said.

Novelis Partners with Cayuga Community College
Novelis, the world leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, Dec. 17 announced a long-term commitment to the Cayuga Community College’s Fulton campus to launch an Advanced Manufacturing Institute, including an industrial maintenance technician program and an advanced laboratory and training center.

Funded in part by an $80,000 endowment by Novelis, the Institute’s mission will be to equip students with manufacturing skills to develop a robust talent pool that will be required to fill the many jobs expected to be brought to the Central New York region.

Novelis and other manufacturers are facing an urgent need in identifying and recruiting qualified personnel as these companies seek to grow in the region.

An industry research report from Deloitte Manufacturing Institute concluded that the average time to fill an open position for skilled production coworkers in the U.S. has now reached 70 days.

In light of this employment gap, Novelis’ commitment to Cayuga Community College will include a newly developed internship program incorporated into the requirements for the industrial maintenance technician program.

“We anticipate needing to fill upwards of 250 operating technician and maintenance technician positions at our Oswego plant over the next five years as a result of growth and anticipated retirements,” said Chris Smith, plant manager at Novelis Oswego. “This new facility at Cayuga Community College will provide career pathways for local applicants seeking careers in manufacturing while enabling our Oswego plant to continue to support the needs of our North American automotive customers.”

“We are grateful to Novelis for this critical investment,” said Brian Durant, president of Cayuga Community College. “Novelis has been a strong partner in our state, and together, the Advanced Manufacturing Institute will benefit our faculty, staff, students, and community for years to come.”

Oswego Harborfest Names Peter Myles New Executive Director
OSWEGO – Peter Myles was named as the new Oswego Harborfest Executive Director.

Myles, a veteran educator-administrator with 34 years of professional experience within the Oswego City School District, will officially commence his new duties in January.

Of his appointment Myles said, “I see Harborfest as a tremendous community  and regional event. I am retiring after 34 years and really wanted to continue to be involved with the community and this is a very exciting avenue to take. I appreciate the confidence of the Oswego Harborfest Board of Directors and I look forward to working with what I perceive as a very dedicated staff.”

The annual event is something special to Myles.

He said, “My wife and I have attended Harborfest regularly, but more importantly it provides a great family event. My family comes together and the Grucci fireworks have always been a highlight for us.”

Myles realizes that there are financial challenges in regards to continuing the Oswego Harborfest celebration.

He said, “There are always financial challenges for non-profit organizations. The effort to put this festival together is monumental and involves not only our staff and board of directors, but we the support of businesses, municipalities, organizations and of course individual members.”

Oswego School Board Considering Changes in Polling Places
Oswego City School District voters might see a substantial change in the process in May 2016.

Prior to the start of the Oswego City School District Board of Education meeting, the board heard an extensive presentation from Oswego County Board of Elections Commissioner Richard Atkins.

Atkins presentation was entitled “Transitioning to Optical Scan Voting in School District Elections for 2016” and covered the spectrum of the current voting process as well as possible modifications that could streamline and consolidate the annual budget vote and board member election.

For several years the district has been interested in reducing the the 10 polling places as there is a voting site for each ward of the city of Oswego as well as the towns of Scriba, Minetto and Oswego.

Atkins recommended a possible reduction of poll sites and expanding hours of the vote.

He also asked the board, “What will you do when you can no longer use the lever machines that expire in 2015?”

Continuing he said, “I am not here to run your elections. But, I’ll be glad to assist you in running elections with electronic voting machines. You do have options including paper, buying your own electronic machines, buying your own machines and equipment to produce your own ballots and finally the Board of Elections will provide machines and produce the ballot to run your own operation.”

With the electronic machines being used in general elections for nearly a decade the public is familiar with the process and the voting in the school district will be the same as how it is done in the general elections.