2015 In Review: January – Council, Legislature Reorganize; Hospital Welcomes First Baby Of The Year

The roof of the Cahill building has begun to collapse in some areas

The roof of the Cahill building has begun to collapse in some areas

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

Oswego Hospital welcomed its first baby of 2015 at 2:16 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

Barry Lee Babcock was the hospital’s first newborn, weighing 8 pounds, 5 ounces. His length was 21 inches. Parents are Kawana Jefferson and Barry Babcock, of Oswego.

The Oswego Hospital Auxiliary presented the new family with several gifts to mark the distinction of being the first baby of the year.

Traffic Stop Results In Drug Arrests
On January 2, the Oswego City Police Department’s Anti-Crime Team with the assistance of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Custom Enforcement, and the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office helicopter unit (Air 1) conducted an operation that targeted the illegal possession of narcotics within the city of Oswego.

At approximately 9:15 p.m. investigators stopped a vehicle occupied by two people, on George Street just north of State Route 104 in the city of Oswego. A search of the vehicle resulted in the seizure of approximately 470 grams of MDMA, commonly referred to as Ecstasy, according to police.

The driver of the vehicle and passenger were arrested and criminally charged in U.S. Federal Court with one count each of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance. Both subjects were arraigned in the US Federal Court in Syracuse and remanded to jail without bail.

The total street value of the seized MDMA is approximately $22,500 to $30,000.

VanBuren, Walker Tabbed To Lead Council In 2015
Eric VanBuren (Sixth Ward) and Shawn Walker (Fourth Ward) were appointed president and vice president, respectively of the Oswego Common Council.

The rules of the council state that an additional compensation of $5,000 per year for the council president and $2,500 for the vice president be paid to those two councilors.

As council president, VanBuren will assume the mayor’s duties in his absence; and, if he becomes incapacitated for any reason, he would take over as the acting mayor.

Out-going president Ron Kaplewicz (Seventh Ward) said VanBuren was well-qualified to take over as the presiding officer of the council this year.

First Ward Councilor Fran Enwright acknowledged Kaplewicz’s leadership in helping the city through some tough times the past few years.

“I just want to thank Ron for everything that he’s done,” Mayor Tom Gillen added.

The rest of the council included: Bill Barlow (Fifth Ward) and Mike Todd (Third Ward).

Incoming councilor John “Pat” McLaughlin Jr. (Second Ward) was sworn in prior to the start of the reorganizational meeting.

His focus will be on improving the quality of life in the Second Ward, he told Oswego County Today.

“The first meeting was pretty simple; things went well. I’m sure we’ll be getting into some tougher issues as the meetings go on,” he said. “The main thing I want to do is take care of the ward and its residents and make sure trash pickups are being done, potholes are being patched and fix some of the bad sidewalks. Basically, do what I can to improve the quality of life.”

Grassroots Group Urges Council To Save Landmark
OSWEGO, NY – At the first Common Council meeting of the new year, Mercedes Niess continued to drive home the importance of caring for the former Cahill building.

In December 2014,  she shared a petition with more than 140 signatures “of people who want to urge the council to do whatever you can to care for that building.” At the January meeting, she presented more to the council. The total now stands at more than 600.

The petitioners want the city to secure the building and prevent further damage.

They include city residents, city property owners, business owners and others, she said.

“Furthermore, we ask that you do all that you can to seek out a developer that will preserve and restore this historic National Register of Historic Places building,” she said. “These signatures reflect the community’s desire to not only maintain the Cahill building but also the historic character of Oswego.

The group was pleased that a tarp has been placed over the roof of the building. But, also expressed dismay that it took so long for the city to take any action regarding safeguarding the historic site, she added.

She urged the council to do what needs to be done to move the city into the future, without losing its character.

“We also wondered, how did this building get to this point? We are not only concerned about this property, but other sites as well. We ask that the city create and follow through on plans to restore this building right here and other such sites so they won’t follow the path of the Cahill building,” Niess said.

The building was currently the center of litigation, Seventh Ward Councilor Ron Kaplewicz pointed out. A judge will decide exactly where the city stands with respect to the Cahill building, he said.

2015 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification Recognizes SUNY Oswego
SUNY Oswego, recipient five years ago of the prestigious Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, retained the designation on the new list of just 361 colleges and universities nationwide for 2015.

The tribute from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognizes colleges and universities that deeply intertwine community engagement in their leadership, curriculum, outreach programs, strategic planning and community partnerships.

The significant national laurel has helped drive Oswego to continue expanding student community service and service learning opportunities and participation, according to Christy Huynh, associate director of career services.

“The honor itself helps to remind us this is a priority,” Huynh said. “Community service and service learning have the support of the organization here from the top down, both personally and institutionally. It’s embedded in the culture of the college.”

Joshua Drake, a senior biology major, considers it a privilege to be a part of SUNY Oswego’s tradition of community service. He has volunteered for service projects since his freshman year, weaving volunteerism into the fabric of his college experience.

A December (2014) letter from the foundation confirmed that the Community Engagement Classification’s already high bar will continue to rise for institutions that aim to hold on to the designation in 2020, demanding “deeper, more pervasive, better integrated and sustained” community-service commitments.

Oswego County Legislature Elects Its Leaders For 2015
OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature got its house in order for 2015, and it looked quite similar to 2014.

Kevin Gardner was re-elected as the chairman of the Oswego County Legislature. Fellow Republican Linda Lockwood was re-elected vice chairman.

Wendy Falls was unanimously re-elected at clerk of the legislature.

The Republicans named Shane Broadwell as majority leader. Milferd Potter was reappointed majority whip for 2015.

Things stayed the same on the other side of the aisle with Mike Kunzwiler, of Oswego, and Doug Malone, of Oswego Town, retaining the positions of minority leader and minority whip, respectively.

“I welcome both cauceses’ support. Hopefully we can continue working together,” Gardner said. “Some of the debate we had today was awesome.”

The Republicans will be having a goals setting meeting soon and the chairman said he welcomed ideas and suggestions from not only the GOP but members of the minority as well.

“We need ideas,” he said. “Hopefully we can work together, keep moving forward and have a better year.”

Legislators Add Their 2 Cents Regarding Proposed 30 Cent Surcharge
OSWEGO, NY – A motion to request that New York State County Law 308 be amended to authorize a wireless surcharge within the county of Oswego generated a lot of debate before finally being approved mostly along party lines at the Oswego County Legislature meeting.

Funds from the $0.30 per month fee would greatly help the E-911 Center continue to improve its services to county residents and would treat persons with only a cell number as equitably as those with only a land line, the resolution said.

All but eight counties in the state already have a wireless surcharge in place and the county cannot implement one without first getting authorization from the state.

People are trying to save money, Legislator Frank Castiglia said, explaining why many are switching to cell phones only.

“And we’re just going to hit them with another fee, which is another tax?” he said. “People can’t afford it. There are people out there that are trying to save money and we’re not helping them.”

Legislator Daniel LeClair felt it was fair in that the cost would be shared by everyone in the county.

Legislator Roy Reehil pointed out the law this is based on was created years ago to help fund the Enhanced 911 system in the county. The fee was $0.35 for land lines. But, technology has changed and the number of people with land lines had dropped greatly, he pointed out.

“Is there anyone here who doesn’t have a cell phone?” he asked rhetorically. Legislator Jack Proud was the only person to raise his hand.

“There are other ways to increase revenues,” Legislator Jake Mulcahey said. “The way to improve Oswego County is to keep bureaucracy to a minimum, keep taxes, fines and fees as low as possible and to attract outside business. There are a number of ways that we can do that.”

Legislator Richard Kline said he has advocated for this resolution since he became a legislator.

“It’s a key component, the 911 Center is, to our health and safety of our county,” he said. “If we don’t support the 30 cent per month from cell phones, that money is going to have to come from somewhere else and it’s going to be the landowners. I’m sorry, but $3.60 per year is peanuts to help finance our 911 Center.”

The funds are needed to help maintain the 911 system, Legislator James Karasek noted.

Oswego Fire Department First Assistant Chief Retires
The Oswego City Fire Department announced the retirement of First Assistant Fire Chief Donald T. Dowd II. He was appointed as a firefighter on June 19, 1989, by Mayor John T. Sullivan Jr.

He rose quickly through the officer ranks and was appointed Lieutenant on June 23, 1996 and Captain on December 2, 2007. Dowd served as a temporary Deputy Chief from February of 2010 until his appointment as First Assistant Chief on June 30, 2010.

Assistant Chief Dowd was active throughout his career in a variety of OFD specialty teams including technical rescue, confined space, dive team, fire prevention and was an active participant in swift water and ice rescue.

“Having worked with Firefighter Donald “Duck” Dowd and new recruit Firefighter Donald “Donnie” Dowd was an opportunity that rarely happens but was a special time for me and I can only imagine how special it was for a father and son to be working together on the Oswego Fire Department. I respect and appreciate all of the positive contributions that First Assistant Chief Dowd made throughout his career. He was an aggressive and knowledgeable firefighter and line officer who would be in the center of whatever incident was at hand. His advice, thoughts and friendship during my transition to chief and our tenure together as administrators during some difficult times was a welcomed asset to myself and the entire department. I sincerely wish him a most sincere congratulations on an excellent career and a long and happy retirement,” Fire Chief Jeffrey McCrobie said.

Busy Night For Oswego Board Of Education; Athletic Director Resigns
The Oswego City School District Board of Education met on Jan. 12 and its vote resulted in a major administrative change.

In a unanimous vote (5-0-2 Kathleen Allen and Sam Tripp were excused), the board accepted the resignation of Athletic Director Michael Connors, effective on February 2. He was appointed, effective February 2, as a physical education teacher at Kingsford Park Elementary School.

Connors would receive a salary of $85,232 for the 10-month position, which is the identical salary he earned for the 12-month athletic director position.

Superintendent of Schools Ben Halsey indicated that with the wealth of experience and education Connors brings to the position that the salary is a “fair market value.”

Not only has he been a veteran physical education teacher in the Fulton School District, but has administrative experience for the past two and a half years in the Oswego City School District, he added

David Gryzka has served as the Oswego High School Dean of Students as well as providing support in the area of physical education. He was named as the interim Athletic Director at a salary of $73,868.

Halsey said Gryzka would be receiving the same salary as he did as Dean of Students. However, it was also noted that the district is moving back to the “traditional athletic director” as Gryzka will be involved in athletics as well as the physical education aspects of the position.

Oswego County Humane Society Settles Into New Home
OSWEGO, NY – The cat was out of the bag; or basement at least in this case. After years of being in the basement of the Oswego YMCA Armory, the Oswego County Humane Society found a new place to dwell.

The group relocated to 110 W. Second St. The new site offers more visibility and more parking.

“We are above ground with more modern clinic and office space and nothing will mildew,” Jo Piersma told Oswego County Today. “When we were in the basement at the Armory, we had a dehumidifier running just about all the time.”

It cost nearly $5,000 to move everything and make renovations for the clinic area.

“Those ugly yellow cabinets we got from an estate sale – but they serve their purpose,” Piersma said, adding there was still some equipment they hope to acquire in the future.

“We’re applying for grants from the ASPCA to upgrade some of this equipment and add some equipment that we don’t have now,” she said. “It cost a ‘pretty penny’ to put in new floors – but they are cleanable.”

Prior to surgery, the cats now have their own private waiting and recovery room.

“We do all of our foster cats, with the exception of those who are pregnant,” Piersma said. “About 60 percent of the cats that we do are from low-income families.”

2000 was when they formed their first board of directors.

“Our first office back in 2001 or 2002 was in the ‘pink building’ (currently owned by Warren and Lisa Shaw) over across the river. We were on the second floor there for several years. Then we moved to the YMCA Armory building (basement) in 2007. That’s when we established our in-house spay / neuter program. We needed the space for that; it was an ideal space for that because we had the huge sinks and everything. But, it was a little chilly,” she said. “So we knew that we needed to move out of that space eventually. We were lucky to have found this space. There’s pretty good parking all around us, it’s more accessible. But what we don’t have here is adoption space.”

Funds are tighter now at the new location. Costs have increased by about $500 per month. OCHS is looking for ways to increase revenues.

“One new initiative is our monthly giving program. In order to meet the increased costs of the rent and utilities for the new space, we are encouraging donors to become ‘Constant Companions’ by pledging a monthly gift. It can be a
small amount, even $10 per month adds up over a full year,” Piersma said. “The program helps us fund our work with regular income and helps donors budget their charitable giving.”

The Oswego County Humane Society can be reached at:
Phone: (315) 207-1070.
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.oswegohumane.org
Because People and Pets Are Good for Each Other!

Oswego Wins $225,000 Grant Award For Complete Streets Plan Along Route 104
The city of Oswego was awarded a $225,000 grant by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities initiative, to develop a Complete Streets Plan along Route 104, the city’s main corridor, that will seek to encourage more bicycling and an enhanced walking experience.

Mayor Tom Gillen and Planning and Zoning Director, Amy Birdsall, championed the grant application. The project will be facilitated through the City’s Planning and Zoning Department and a planning consulting firm will be retained in 2015 to prepare the plan.

The plan will determine the modifications needed to improve aesthetics, safety, and alternative transportation choices such as walking and biking while maintaining efficient, reliable vehicular passage through Oswego.

When instituted, the work is expected to save energy, reduce carbon emissions and reduce storm water runoff through the incorporation of elements such as pervious paving materials, trees and landscaping.

The Cleaner, Greener Communities program, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority seeks to create a more resilient, sustainable community while supporting the development of environmentally friendly public and private transportation.