2015 In Review: October – Public Rallies To Show Support for FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant

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

Federal, state and local lawmakers gathered with a large crowd of FitzPatrick employees, their families and other members of the Central New York community to show support of the aging nuclear power plant.

In early September, Entergy officials said they would decide by the end of the year whether to close the James FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Scriba. Some said the decision would come a lot sooner.

The company’s CEO told stockholders Entergy may decide not perform the 2016 refueling outage at the plant; closing down FitzPatrick would be the alternative.

More than two thousand turned out at the Oswego County Highway Department Garage on Schaad Drive.

“We rally today to save FitzPatrick. But the rally is for much more than the FitzPatrick plant. It is for our community, it is for the 615 hard-working employees and their families. It is us thanking them for the impact they have made in our community, whether it for helping serve food to those in need, building homes, buying Christmas toys and clothes and volunteering in our community,” Assemblyman Will Barclay said. “Today’s rally is to stand behind the 615 employees and their families and say, ‘we support you.'”

Oswego’s Great Pumpkin Winner Crowned
It was a long day. But Steve and Jean Marley didn’t mind. The Clinton, NY, residents claimed the 2015 Great Pumpkin crown with a 1,543.5-pound entry.

While it wasn’t as hefty as Karl Haist’s 1,725.5-pound winner in 2014, Steve said it was a personal best.

“Oh yeah, personal best,” he exclaimed. “We did it as a team, teamwork. Personal best by 500 pounds.”

Haist was a close second this year with a 1,533.0-pound pumpkin.

“Our ground is as hard as can be this summer. I dug it out about a foot and a half,” Steve explained. “Then, I put my own mix of top soil in and watered it and babied it.”

A few other entries topped the 1,000-pound plateau.

Due to the size, the hardest part is getting the giant pumpkins out of the garden, one grower quipped.

Super Dirt Week Moves to Oswego County
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in early October that Super DIRT Week will move to the soon-to-be constructed Central New York Raceway Park in the Oswego County town of Hastings.

The facility on U.S. Route 11 is being developed by former DIRT Motorsports owner Glenn Donnelly.

The race track in front of the grandstand at the New York State Fair had been home to Super DIRT Week since 1972.

Oswego School Chief Plans To Step Down
The Oswego City School District Superintendent informally notified the board in October of his intentions of stepping down.

“I met with the board and informed them of my intentions,” Superintendent Ben Halsey told Oswego County Today. “I have been living apart from my family for two years, come this December.”

According to his contract with the district, he is required to reside within the district.

“Trying to relocate all of my family here has run into some obstacles,” he explained. “So, for personal reasons, I will be stepping down in order to get back with my family.”

No timeframe was established.

“I just informally let them know. I haven’t submitted a letter of resignation. It’s just about being open and transparent,” he said.

The board has been “very gracious” in allowing him to try to work through these issues, he added.

“I love working here. The potential in this district is tremendous,” he said. “But, family comes first.”

In October 2013, Halsey signed a three-year one-month deal, commencing Dec. 2 through Dec. 31, 2016.

$50,000 Earmarked For Emergency Response Training Center
As National Fire Prevention Week continued, State Senator Patty Ritchie announced that she has secured $50,000 for the Oswego County Emergency Response Training Center.

“From being on call around the clock to putting themselves in life threatening situations, our emergency responders go to tremendous lengths to protect our communities and keep people safe,” said Senator Ritchie. “This funding will help enhance training and make the brave men and women who put their lives on the line better prepared for the dangers they may face.”

“The safety of our community depends on the training that our emergency service providers are able to receive,” said Oswego County Fire Coordinator Don Forbes. “Our Emergency Response Training Center is an invaluable asset; preparing our responders with the hands on experience they need to save lives.”

A state-of-the-art training facility, the Oswego County Emergency Response Training Center helps firefighters prepare for interior structural fires, pit fires, motor vehicle fires, transformer fires and other types of emergencies.

In addition, the facility also features space for classroom instruction.

OHS Grad Named Principal Of Her Alma Mater
When Erin Noto stepped down as principal of Oswego High School earlier this year, the district didn’t have to look too far for a successor. At a special meeting, the board of education approved Dr. Heidi Sweeney to take the reins at OHS.

Born and raised in Oswego she graduated from Oswego High School.

She attended SUNY Oswego for her bachelors (and masters). Later, she earned her doctorate from Walden University and a CAS (Certificate of Advanced Study) from SUNY Stoneybrook.

A move to Florida was rather short-lived.

“We moved to Florida for a few years and came back. Didn’t like the weather; I really like winter,” Dr. Sweeney explained. “I missed it a lot. I missed the seasons. So my husband and I returned to Oswego to raise our family.”

She said she was “just fortunate enough after a few years” to have finished her masters degree in education and took over teaching for Pete Myles (currently the district’s personnel director) during his leave of absence that year.

“He was my biology teacher in high school,” she told Oswego County Today. “I have just been blessed since then to a part of the Oswego City School District.”

The appointment feels surreal, she noted following the board’s unanimous vote (members Sam Tripp and Tom DeCastro were absent).

“It’s an amazing idea to think that I am going to lead the high school that I graduated from,” she said. “To me that’s awesome. It’s a little surreal. It’s definitely a surreal moment for me.”

SUNY Oswego Observes Moment Of Silence
SUNY Oswego joined colleges across the country Oct. 8 in observing a moment of silence at 2 p.m. Eastern time to honor the victims of the previous week’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

The American Association of Community Colleges requested that student and faculty members nationwide show their solidarity with the UCC community.

The week before, the Oregon community college was the site of the third-most-deadly shooting on an American college campus. Nine died and seven were injured.

Close Call On The Oswego River
A life jacket and some quick thinking fishermen saved a woman from a dangerous situation Oct. 14 in the Oswego River.

The Oswego Fire Department was dispatched to the Oswego River at 8:16 a.m. for a woman floating down river, near the Varick Dam.

According to Oswego Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie, “A woman was wading near the Varick Dam. It appears she lost her footing while fishing, and floated approximately 400 yards before being helped by some fellow fishermen into a drift boat.”

The woman was assisted from the water, evaluated by Oswego Fire Department personnel and was released.

Officials on the scene stated that the life jacket and quick thinking fishermen saved the woman’s life.

Chief McCrobie said, “Without the protection of a life vest, this could have easily resulted in a tragedy. We appreciate the efforts of the other fishermen that assisted in the rescue.”

Oswego Mayoral Candidates Face Off In Debate
The three Oswego mayoral candidates faced a nearly full house at Oswego High School’s Faust Theatre.

Incumbent Tom Gillen was flanked on stage by Amy Tresidder, the Democratic candidate and Billy Barlow, the Republican candidate, as the trio fielded various questions about their age, economic development, housing, code enforcement and more.

“We need to take advantage of all our assets. We need to grow our community into a place that people want to stay,” Tresidder said. “It’s a great community. We have a lot of things that we can do. People deserve something in return for their taxes.”

“In the last four years we’ve seen a lot of change. We’ve seen dramatic change,” Mayor Gillen said. “We’re getting better all the time.”

“I wouldn’t run for mayor if I didn’t think that I could be the mayor that this city needs at this time,” Barlow said. “I feel like I’ve been effective (as a councilor) and I hope to be even more effective for the residents of the city should I be given the chance to be the mayor.”

Shipwreck Hunters Find Wreck of Steamer in Lake Ontario
The wreck site of one of the earliest propeller-driven steamships to sail the Great Lakes has been found in Lake Ontario more than 150 years after it sank in a storm, killing everyone on board, a team of New York-based shipwreck hunters said Oct. 20.

Jim Kennard and Roger Pawlowski, both of the Rochester area, said the wreck of the Bay State is in water hundreds of feet deep, about seven miles off Fair Haven in Central New York.

The Bay State departed nearby Oswego in November 1862 with a cargo of general merchandise destined for Ohio. But a storm turned into a gale, forcing the ship’s captain to turn back.

“That was the beginning of the end,” Kennard, who has been searching for shipwrecks since 1970, told The Associated Press.

The 137-foot-long, two-tiered ship vessel started coming part, losing sections of its upper decks to the high winds and waves before eventually sinking and leaving a debris field about a quarter-mile long on the lake bottom.

Seven passengers and between nine and 11 crewmembers were lost. Kennard said records of the exact number of crew weren’t kept, but the captain and at least four crewmen were from Oswego.

The Bay State, owned by a Cleveland, Ohio, company, was built in Buffalo in 1852, a decade after the first propeller-driven steamers joined paddle-wheelers on the Great Lake, the explorers said.

Bishop, DAs Agree On Sex Crimes Pact
On October 28, the District Attorneys for Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego counties held a press conference in Binghamton to announce that they had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Bishop Robert Cunningham of the Syracuse Diocese regarding the reporting of sexual misconduct of minors.

The document establishes a consistent policy and protocol for the reporting of sexual abuse by any member of the clergy and religious orders under the auspices of the Syracuse Diocese, regardless of when the incident was committed.

The memorandum states that when a Diocesan official learns or has reason to suspect that a member of the clergy or religious order has sexually abused a minor, the person disclosing the abuse will be strongly urged to report immediately and directly to the appropriate District Attorney’s Office.

The Diocese will also immediately refer the matter to the appropriate District Attorney’s Office for investigation, regardless of the age of the allegation, and regardless of whether the clergy member or religious is currently active.

The agreement also requires the Diocese to preserve any evidence of the incident and to coordinate with the District Attorney’s Office with respect to the preservation and collection of that evidence.

The memorandum explicitly states that the Diocese shall not conduct its own independent investigation of a complaint prior to reporting the matter to the District Attorney’s Office, other than a preliminary inquiry to establish that there is an allegation of conduct that rises to a sexual offense.

Under the protocol, once the District Attorney’s Office has been notified of the complaint or suspicion, the Diocese will take appropriate action with regard to the clergy member to ensure the safety of minors, including removing the individual from his or her assignment.

After the press conference, Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes credited all of his fellow prosecutors for their hard work on this important issue, but he singled out Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick for exceptional praise.

FitzPatrick Workers Told, Call To See If You Still Have Job
In late October, just before most of them left work, the employees of FitzPatrick received an email from management telling them to call a toll-free number to see if the decision comes over the weekend.

Employees had been waiting to hear the plant’s fate since Entergy Corp. announced it might close for financial reasons.

A toll-free line was set up because communicating the news to employees first is a “top priority.” Entergy executives had been in talks with New York officials to discuss possible solutions to FitzPatrick’s ailing financial outlook.