2015 In Review: November – Entergy to Close FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant

Billy Barlow

Billy Barlow

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

Entergy Corporation announced Nov. 2 that it will close the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba, in late 2016 or early 2017.

The company said its decision to close the plant is based on the continued deteriorating economics of the facility. The key drivers cited by the company include significantly reduced plant revenues due to low natural gas prices, a poor market design that fails to properly compensate nuclear generators like FitzPatrick for their benefits, as well as high operational costs.

Entergy told the operator of the electric grid, the New York Independent System Operator, and to the New York State Public Service Commission that it will retire the plant at the end of the current fuel cycle.

Entergy and New York State officials worked tirelessly over the past two months to reach a constructive and mutually beneficial agreement to avoid a shutdown, but were unsuccessful.

County Leaders React To Impending Closure Of FitzPatrick
Oswego County received the difficult news Nov. 2 that Entergy plans to close the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear plant near the end of 2016.

Our first thoughts today are with the employees, families and businesses that will be impacted, Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner and Oswego County Administrator Philip Church said in a joint statement to the media this afternoon.

The plant closure and decommissioning process will take well over a year.

Although jobs may not be impacted until late 2016, Oswego County is initiating steps to begin developing coordinated re-employment and re-training services with the Department of Labor, Workforce Development Board and the Division of Employment and Training.

Oswego County residents who are affected by the plant closure will not be left out in the cold, the county officials said.

“This community appreciates the hard-working people who may be impacted, and we want you to know we support you,” they said in the joint statement. “We urge federal, state and Entergy officials to continue dialogue, and to not stop working to find a way to keep FitzPatrick operating.  Entergy has acknowledged that their reasons for closing the plant are a flawed energy market design, low costs of natural gas, and high operating costs. It is our hope that our state and federal governments will take a close look at these issues and develop solutions that will keep existing nuclear power a viable and integral part of New York State’s energy industry.”

Judge Ends Heidi Allen Kidnapping Hearing, Rejects New Witnesses
A judge wouldn’t hear any more testimony over Gary Thibodeau’s request to overturn his conviction in the 1994 kidnapping of Heidi Allen.

Acting Oswego County Judge Daniel King denied a request from Thibodeau’s lawyer, Lisa Peebles, to present more evidence related to one of three new possible suspects, Michael Bohrer.

The decision ended a hearing that began in January. More than 52 witnesses testified.

King told Peebles and Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes he expected to issue a decision the larger question of whether to overturn Thibodeau’s conviction and grant him a new trial.

Peebles had asked King to let her recall Bohrer as a witness to answer questions about his criminal past, the details of which were not available when he testified in January. She also asked that she be allowed to call Bohrer’s brother, John Bohrer, and a Milwaukee woman the two men tried to drag into their car in 1981.

“Just because defendant argues that Michael Bohrer engaged in suspicious and criminal activity in 1981 that could be considered as a possible fact pattern underlying Heidi Allen’s abduction, the court will not speculate on that hypothetical scenario and deem it relevant or admissible,” the 20-page decision said.

Oswego College President Elected Chair-Elect of AASCU Board
Deborah F. Stanley, president of SUNY Oswego, was elected chair-elect of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ board of directors during the association’s annual meeting on Oct. 27.

She will serve as chair in 2017.

Stanley just completed a three-year term as secretary-treasurer on the AASCU board, which included service on the board’s executive committee.

“Deborah Stanley’s selection as chair-elect of the AASCU board of directors is a testament to the regard in which she is held by her colleagues,” said AASCU President Muriel Howard. “In her three years on the board as secretary-treasurer, President Stanley has demonstrated her commitment to our mission and values and to the public purpose of public higher education.”

AASCU’s nearly 420 public colleges, universities and systems are located throughout the United States and in Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Barlow declares victory in Oswego mayoral race
“Running a positive campaign means something. Tonight’s victory is a testament to where we, the residents of the Port City, are headed together. From the start of this campaign I have been focused on bringing fresh ideas and energy to Oswego and those efforts have paid off. I want to thank my family, friends, and all the campaign volunteers for their efforts during this campaign. Most of all I want to thank all the voters that came out and made their voices heard.
I look forward to getting to work as mayor of Oswego,” mayor-elect Bill Barlow said.

“Official results will take a few weeks before we certify,” Dick Atkins, a county elections commissioner, told Oswego County Today.

The mayor-elect’s voice cracked with emotion as he thanked his mom, dad and sister for their support.

“They put up with this grueling campaign all summer long. My mom and dad came from very humble beginnings,” he said. “They allowed me to work in their business, expand our family business. Their life is the epitome of the American Dream. Mom and dad, I can’t thank you enough!”

In the Port City, Republicans have a firm control over the 2016 Common Council; headed by a Republican mayor, Barlow, and five of the seven councilors.

Caitlin Reynolds (First Ward) and Pat McLaughlin (Second Ward) are the two Democrats.

Filling out the Republican ranks are: Nate Emmons (Third Ward), Shawn Walker (Fourth Ward), John B. Gosek (Fifth Ward), Eric VanBuren (Sixth Ward), and Robert Corradino (Seventh Ward).

Oswego School Board Accepts Superintendent’s Resignation
The Board of Education of the Oswego City School District received, and accepted, the written resignation of Superintendent Benjamin Halsey, according to Board President Kathleen Allen.

Halsey, who unofficially informed the board last month of his intentions, is planning to accept employment as superintendent at another school district in New York State.

Under the terms of an agreement with the board, Halsey’s last day of work was October 23. He was on leave of absence, with pay and benefits, through November 13.

“The board thanks Mr. Halsey for his efforts and wishes him success in his new position,” Allen added.

Halsey will be going to the Pioneer School District (NY).

Oswego’s Palange Inducted Into NYS Field Band Conference Hall of Fame
William Palange retired from the Oswego City School District in 2010, completing a career spanning nearly 35 years as a music educator.

Palange was inducted in the New York State Field Band Conference Hall of Fame on Nov. 1 at the NYSFBC Championships. The Marching Buccaneers placed fourth in their division.

For more than 24 years, Palange was conductor of the Concert Band, Wind Ensemble and director of the Marching Buccaneers while in Oswego.

A native of Camillus, Palange completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Miami (Coral Gables, Fla.) where he was principal trombone in the UM Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Fredrick Fennell.

During his tenure in Oswego (1985-2010), the Marching Buccaneers were Bands of America finalists in the West Virginia, East Tennessee and Hofsta University regional competitions.

Oswego Pauses To Honor Its Veterans
Just as they have done for nearly a century, Port City veterans, their friends, families and others gathered to pay tribute to those who have gone before them – especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The crowd, of more than five dozen, in Veterans’ Memorial Park Wednesday morning stood by reverently as the appointed hour neared. The temperature was around 50 degrees, but a cold wind was blowing in off the lake, the harbinger of things to come.

Veterans’ Day is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour; that’s when the (World War I) truce was declared, according to LTjg George Hoffman, USNSCC, of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corp Truxtun DDG-103 Division in Oswego.

A chaplain offered the Veterans’ Day prayer and the flags at the center of the park were lowered; the Oswego City flag was first. It was solemnly folded. The Prisoner Of War flag was next. Then, the American flag was retired as well.

The flags were dutifully presented to Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen.

“Today we honor our veterans who have sacrificed both in war and in peace to protect America and the American way of life,” Hoffman said. “We are here to honor our brave men and women who have proudly served this great nation, for they are the fabric from which our flag has been woven.”

This year marked the 97th anniversary of the first Armistice Day observance.

“We take this for granted what we have here. It’s a beautiful day, a beautiful city – what a view. But it comes with a price and that’s what we’re here to celebrate today; the people who made this happen,” Mayor Gillen told the crowd. “Our veterans are a big part of our community and may we always be humbly grateful to those brave Americans who suffered and sacrificed for the freedom of all of us.”

The mayor offered “a simple but heartfelt message” to all veterans – “Thank you very much.”

Change in Leadership Announced for Oswego City School District
The Oswego City School District Board of Education announced that Dr. Dean Goewey, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, will take the position of superintendent left vacant upon Ben Halsey’s recent resignation.

After careful consideration and a thorough interview process with Dr. Goewey, the board determined that Dr. Goewey’s appointment will best serve the interest of the district, while maintaining a continuity of leadership.

Dr. Goewey is a long-standing member of the district’s administrative team and has performed admirably in his role as assistant superintendent.

He was a finalist for the position of superintendent when Halsey was selected and has been the acting superintendent during much of the Halsey tenure.

Dr. Goewey came to the Oswego City School District in 1991 after seven years as a first grade teacher in a neighboring Oswego County school district.

After serving as a literacy specialist at Kingsford Park School for 10 years, he served as an elementary principal in Oswego schools for 13 years before being appointed assistant superintendent in 2014.

Dr. Goewey Appointed To ‘Dream Job’
The Oswego City School District Board of Education signed a contract Nov. 17 with Dr. Dean Goewey – approving him as the new superintendent of the Oswego City School District.

Dr. Goewey, the former assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, took over following the recent resignation of Superintendent Ben Halsey.

The board announced Nov. 10 that Dr. Goewey would be the new superintendent.

He was unanamously appointed to a 3.5-year term, starting  Nov. 18 through June 30, 2019. His annual salary will be $153,000, retroactive effective to Oct. 26.

Hundreds Rally To Support National Monument Status for Fort Ontario, Safe Haven
The key to the Port City’s future could very well lie in its past. A public rally to support a process leading to national landmark status for two key Oswego heritage sites drew hundreds to the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center.

“The phrase ‘you are history’ has somewhat of a negative connotation to it,” said Jeff Grimshaw, chairman of the Fort Ontario National Landmark Committee. “However, for us it is a positive. We are history.”

Congressman John Katko opened the event, designed to increase community support to have Fort Ontario State Historic Site and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum elevated to National Monument status and into the National Park Service.

“My God, this is a story that must be told,” Rep. Katko agreed of the fort and Safe Haven. “It’s something that’s such an under-appreciated thing in our county, I think. And, it’s such a big, big part of our history. We got to really do something about it.”

The fort has been a military post from the French and Indian War through the war in Afghanistan, and was the site of the only Emergency Refugee Shelter in the United States for victims of the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.

“It’s amazing to me that it’s the only fort in United States history that played a part in every war since the French and Indian War,” he said. “That is beyond cool!”

However, when he talked to the National Park Service about Fort Ontario, they were less than thrilled – “Forts are forts,” they said. He started to explain about Safe Haven, and their interest grew.

“So, for anybody who is working on this project, for Safe Haven or the fort itself, God bless you. You’re preserving a part of our nation’s heritage that needs to be preserved,” he told the large crowd. “That fort is something special.”

“The fort itself is just walls; Safe Haven is just a building. It’s the people who lived in them, the people who fought and died – that’s what Oswego’s all about,” Mayor Tom Gillen said. “That’s why you’re here tonight. You’re here to celebrate the people who made this city what it is today; who made this country what it is today. What we’re trying to do is get the word out that Oswego is not just a hockey town. It’s a town full of real people who care, for centuries; we’ve played a part in the history of this country.”

“We’re going to make this happen,” Mayor Tom Gillen said. “It’s too big of a thing not to.”

Steel Beam From World Trade Center Bound For Oswego
Thanks to the New Jersey Port Authority and the John D. Murray Firefighters Museum, Oswego is home to its own 911 memorial.

This privilege of owning one of the last steel beams of the World Trade Center belongs to the John D. Murray Firefighters Museum, which intends to design and construct a small park forever memorializing the victims of the world’s worst terror attack in New York City on September 11, 2001.

The transfer of the beam took place during a ceremony at John F. Kennedy Airport at Hanger 17 on November 18. The beam went from JFK to the John D. Murray Firefighters Museum for storage and viewing by the public until a fitting memorial can be designed and constructed.

The 56”-tall, 1,500-pound exterior box beam was part of an exterior wall and will reside with honor and dignity at Oswego’s Eastside Fire Station in view of the museum.

Oswego Lights Up For The Holidays
It was  beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Oswego, except maybe for the lack of snow. The Port City officially lit up for the holidays on Nov. 28.

Hundreds of people throughout the day enjoyed Light Up, Oswego, a community-wide, all-day event that welcomed the holiday season in Oswego at myriad locations.

Santa greeted hundreds of youngsters at the Lake Ontario Conference Center during the Toys for Tots Day of Sharing event and then hundreds more in City Hall during the afternoon, to ensure everyone stayed warm this year.

Those attending the Toys for Tots event brought a new, unwrapped toy to donate. All donations go to help families right here in Oswego County.

More than 300 children took the opportunity to have a personal chat with Santa and ensure he received their ‘wish list.’

Hundreds more met him later at City Hall.

November 28 was also Small Business Saturday.

Several downtown area Oswego restaurants and businesses were open throughout the day. Visitors enjoyed many holiday shopping and dining specials. Shoppers were out in force, especially along West First Street.