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2016 In Review: In August Exelon Agreed to Assume Ownership of FitzPatrick

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

Health Department Reports Two More Cases of Rabies
The Oswego County Health Department Aug. 1 reported two new cases of rabies in Oswego County. A raccoon in the city of Oswego and a skunk in the town of Schroeppel have tested positive for rabies.

The raccoon was located on East Fourth Street in Oswego, in the neighborhood of Fort Ontario State Historic Site.

The skunk was found near county Route 54 in Schroeppel.

There have been five new cases of rabies diagnosed in Oswego County over the past few weeks.

The incidents are being investigated by the Oswego County Health Department.

“The rabies virus is widespread in Oswego County and across the region this summer, and we are continuing to receive new reports,” said Jiancheng Huang, Oswego County Public Health Director. “Historically, in years past, the rabies virus appeared in every town, village and city across the county. People should make sure that their pets are properly vaccinated and take precautions against rabies.”

Exelon To Assume Ownership and Operations Of FitzPatrick
Exelon Generation, owner of the nation’s largest nuclear fleet, has agreed to assume ownership and management of operations of Entergy Corporation’s James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba, the companies announced Aug. 9.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who asked the New York Public Service Commission to adopt a Clean Energy Standard benefitting the state’s nuclear power plants, helped facilitate the transaction.

In recent months, Entergy and Exelon began discussing a path forward that would allow the plant to continue operating beyond January 2017.

The CES, approved last week, will save thousands of high-paying jobs and spur hundreds of millions of dollars in short-term investments in energy infrastructure in upstate New York. Without the CES, upstate nuclear plants would have been at risk of closure.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement for the continued operation of FitzPatrick,” Exelon President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Crane said. “We look forward to bringing FitzPatrick’s highly-skilled team of professionals into the Exelon Generation nuclear program, and to continue delivering to New York the environmental, economic and grid reliability benefits of this important energy asset.”

Under the agreement totaling $110 million, Entergy would transfer FitzPatrick’s operating license to Exelon.

The New York Power Authority has agreed to transfer the decommissioning trust fund and liability for FitzPatrick to Entergy, and if regulatory approvals are obtained and the transaction closes, Entergy would then transfer the fund and associated liability to Exelon.

Hundreds Turn Out To Support Oswego Firefighters
Several members of the Oswego Fire Department, along with a couple hundred of their friends, held a public rally outside City Hall on Aug. 11 to raise awareness about the impending cuts to the department and the potential loss of services that may follow.

“We are supported here today by not only our members, local firefighters and their families from across Central New York, other unions and members of the public,” John Geraci, president of the Oswego Firefighters’ Association, told Oswego County Today.” They have “a ton of support,” he said indicating the huge crowd in Civic Plaza, adding that there were several pro OFD signs around the city.

The union leader takes umbrage at the cuts are justified due to firefighters padding their pensions by working overtime.

The real issue, he said is the city was trying to balance a million dollar deficit on the backs of the Oswego Fire Department.

Geraci said, “They can’t raise taxes, we understand that. All we’re asking is that is if the city’s in a crunch, you can’t make up a $960,000 deficit on one department; especially when the one department provides all the emergency services to the city of Oswego. And that one department is already taxed with the duties that we have.”

However, the city went ahead with the layoffs. Some of the newer firefighters left Oswego for jobs with the Syracuse Fire Department before the end of the year.

Lightning Strike Causes Second Fire In Oswego
Oswego Fire Department personnel were notified at 3:24 p.m. Aug. 13 of a building located at 19 E. Cayuga St. struck by lightning.

OFD personnel responded to the structure, a large mixed occupancy containing multiple businesses, apartments, and storage areas.

Firefighters surveyed the structure, looking for signs of heat or smoke, locating an active fire on the rooftop of the building in the northeast corner. The fire was quickly extinguished, and personnel went to work overhauling and searching for hot spots.

Fire officials reported finding a 4″ hole in the roof, and a charred section of roof approximately 5 feet in length, which was removed. No injuries were reported, and damage was limited to a non-structural section of the roof.

“Our personnel did an excellent job locating this fire and keeping it confined to a small area of the roof,” Chief Jeff McCrobie said. “This was also the second fire over the course of 4 hours today, and with increased heat and humidity, that makes for a difficult start to their shift.”

Mayor Barlow Ends Fire Department’s ‘Abusive Overtime’ Practice
Mayor William Barlow Jr. announced Aug. 16 the signing of an Executive Order that orders the immediate end to an overtime practice within the Oswego Fire Department that rewarded the most senior firefighters with overtime in direct violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the city and its firefighter’s union, according to the Mayor’s Office.

Mayor Barlow’s action was taken in light of confirmation that the fire department established a “Do Not Call List” in which junior members of the fire department were encouraged to sign off on all overtime opportunities which would then pass to those senior members within their last three years of employment before being eligible to retire, often with twenty years and full health insurance benefits and a pension equal to one-half of their last years of post-retirement employment.

“This blatant disregard for the taxpayers of the city of Oswego has come to an end,” Mayor Barlow said. “For too long the culture of the fire department allowed this pension padding to occur where firefighters were encouraged and allowed to take as much overtime in their last years before retirement thus increasing their pension benefits. I put an end to this practice.”

An investigation by the Barlow administration revealed that several firefighters in the last years prior to retirement made anywhere from a low of $15,000 in overtime up to a high of more than $42,000 in one year.

New Principal Named At Leighton
The Oswego City School District named Kara Shore as the new principal at Leighton Elementary School. She began her duties on Aug. 17.

She comes to the Port City from Cicero. She was employed at the Baldwinsville Central School District where she was the principal at VanBuren Elementary school.

“Right out of high school I went right into the United States Air Force,” she said.

She worked at NORAD, “We tracked Santa Claus (on his Christmas Eve journey),” she added. “That’s so fun.”

After leaving the military, she became a teacher and worked in the Syracuse City School District as a middle school special education teacher.

“I became an administrator about 10 years ago,” she said.

From there, she moved on to become a vice principal and worked in other SCSD schools.

Oswego County Legislature Approves Ban on Tobacco Use
The Oswego County Legislature recently passed Local Law Number 4 of 2016, which bans the use of tobacco products and e-cigarettes on county property.

This followed a public hearing that was held at 2 p.m. on Aug. 11, just prior to the Legislature’s August meeting at the H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse in Pulaski.

“This is a positive step forward that will benefit the health of our employees and residents,” said Legislator John Proud, District 7, chairman of the County Legislature’s Health Committee. “Studies show that smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, and e-cigarettes also emit pollutants. We need to be pro-active about tackling these important health issues.”

The law prohibits the use of all tobacco products and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) on all property owned or leased by the county. It took effect in September and “NO SMOKING” signs were placed in prominent locations near all property entrances.

Second-Oldest Shipwreck In Great Lakes Discovered
The second-oldest confirmed shipwreck in the Great Lakes, an American-built, Canadian-owned sloop that sank in Lake Ontario more than 200 years ago, had been found, a team of underwater explorers said Aug. 17.

The three-member western New York-based team said it discovered the shipwreck this summer in deep water off Oswego. Images captured by a remotely operated vehicle confirmed it is the Washington, which sank during a storm in 1803, team member Jim Kennard said.

“This one is very special. We don’t get too many like this,” he said He along with Roger Pawlowski and Roland “Chip” Stevens has found numerous wrecks in Lake Ontario and other waterways.

The sloop Washington was built on Lake Erie in Pennsylvania in 1798 and was used to transport people and goods between western New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario. It was placed on skids and hauled by oxen teams across the Niagara Isthmus to Lake Ontario in 1802 after being sold to Canadian merchants.

The 53-foot-long ship was carrying at least five people and a cargo of merchandise, including goods from India, when it set sail from Kingston, Ontario, for its homeport of Niagara, Ontario, on November 6, 1803. The vessel was caught in a fierce storm and sank. At least three crew members and two merchants were on the sloop. All aboard died.

Viking Ship To Dock in Port City
The H. Lee White Maritime Museum planned to host a replica Viking long-ship, the Draken Harald Hårfagre. The ship was slated to be docked at the north end of the West First Street pier in Oswego Aug. 27 and 28. However, it was delayed for a while.

The Draken Harald Hårfagre is a Viking long-ship built in the Nordic style of over-lapping planks and is a reconstruction of the “great ships” that were referred to in Norse sagas.

The ship left her homeport in Haugesund, Norway, in April 2016 and sailed across the North Atlantic with a mission to explore and relive one of the most mythological sea voyages – the first transatlantic crossing — and the Viking discovery of the New World, more than a thousand years ago.

“Throughout our project we have striven to create intercultural meetings and inspire people to go beyond the horizon in a modern Viking saga,” said Luke Snyder, expedition coordinator.

The Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre was in port Aug. 28. Several hundred people toured the ship.

Council Approves Budget; Firefighters’ Positions Cut
The Oswego Common Council voted unanimously to approve the budget for 2017 – effectively ending the careers of 15 new firefighters. One recent retirement won’t be filled.

The council did what it had to do considering the city’s financial crisis, Council President Shawn Walker said following the vote.

“It was nothing personal,” he explained.

The mayor originally proposed a $47.8 million budget with a tax levy increase of 3.87 percent.

Councilors sailed through and handful of amendments Monday night that brought the increase to less than 2 percent.

Nerds Row To Dragon Boat Victory
The Nerds got their ROWvenge. ROWvenge of The Nerds rowed to first place in the annual Oswego Dragon Boat Festival competition. Rock and Row was right on their tail, taking second place.

Cre8 Shenanigans stroked into third place followed by Friends of Oswego in fourth. The top fundraising team was C’s the Dragon.

Racing was held on Lake Ontario, next to Breitbeck Park. Teams of 20 paddlers, a drummer and steerer raced in authentic Hong Kong-style, 40-foot-long dragon boats on a 200-meter course.

The festival is a fundraiser for the Oswego YMCA. Money raised from the festival provides access to youth, families and seniors in the Oswego County community to YMCA programs such as Y Day Camp, SACC-School Age Child Care, swim lessons, membership, senior programming and more.

No practice paid off, quipped “Kaptain Nerd” Rene Ferris of ROWvenge of the Nerds.

“We practiced zero amount, we did the math. We did the schematics and, we hit the drawing board, the chalk board, and we figured out our stroke ratio, velocity – all that good stuff,” he told Oswego County Today. “What you couldn’t see (in our boat) from the shore was the laptops and Ipads.”

Oswego County Health Department Reports EEE in West Monroe
The Oswego County Health Department was notified Aug. 25 that the Eastern equine encephalitis virus was detected in bird-biting mosquitoes collected Aug. 19 on Toad Harbor Road in West Monroe.

Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said that the New York State Department of Health released updated test results regarding EEE and West Nile virus activity. Additional tests showed that the report of positive West Nile virus in the towns of New Haven and Albion earlier in the week was negative.

The state notified the Oswego County Health Department that no West Nile activity had been detected in Oswego County.

8-Year-Old Offers Her Savings To Limit Firefighter Cuts
Brooke Trevett, 8, saved about $30 for her puppy fund when she visited the farmers’ market with her mother and noticed a protest at City Hall.

“She asked what was going on and I just explained to her that the mayor had proposed to cut 16 firefighters because the city was facing about a million dollar shortfall in the budget,”  Brooke’s mother, Rebecca, explained.

The youngster then went to work on the problem; believing she alone could raise enough change to balance the city’s budget without those job cuts, her mother told OCT.

Brooke wrote a letter to the mayor and councilors and read it at the public session before the budget vote. She then presented the mayor her plastic baggie full of change.

West Nile Virus Detected in Oswego County
West Nile virus was detected in samples of mosquitoes collected in two Oswego County locations, the Oswego County Health Department reported Aug. 24.

The virus was found in bird-biting mosquitoes collected in the towns of New Haven and Albion, according to Director of Public Health Jiancheng Huang.

Huang said people need to be vigilant about using insect repellent and take measures to reduce mosquito habitats around their homes.

“It is fairly typical for West Nile virus activity to increase in late summer,” said Huang. “Recent rains may increase the population of the mosquito species that carry the West Nile virus.”

The mosquito population has been relatively low this summer due to the heat and dry conditions.

Huang noted that although it has been detected in neighboring counties, this was the first confirmation of West Nile virus this summer in Oswego County.

SUNY Oswego Surpasses $43 Million in Largest Campaign Among SUNY Peers
With Passion & Purpose: The Campaign for SUNY Oswego raised a total of $43,483,781, surpassing its most ambitious goal in college history by $3.48 million. This was the largest completed campaign among all SUNY comprehensive colleges, and the total is nearly double Oswego’s last campaign, which raised $23.8 million.

“Oswego has never been as strong as it is today. We are tremendously proud of what has been accomplished through this campaign, With Passion & Purpose,” said SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley. “We are grateful to the generous support of more than 16,000 donors representing alumni, employees, students, parents and friends who helped us surpass our historic goal. Their support is having a direct impact on the lives of our students and in the vibrancy of the communities where our graduates live and work.”

Most significantly, the success of the campaign has enabled the endowment to grow 163 percent from $11.5 million in 2011 to $30.3 million as of August 2016, adding financial stability and a predictable source of revenue that helps the college plan and build programs.

Oswego Seeks Vision For Waterfront Improvements
Nearly 100 people packed the ballroom at the McCrobie Building to hear potential upgrades to the Port City’s waterfront. Several members of the public expressed their vision of what the waterfront should be in the future.
Suggestions ranged from a beach to infrastructure improvements to activities and more.

They hope to come up with a plan by early in 2017.

The planning team, headed by the Community Development Office and Edgewater Resources, facilitated the first step in a community outreach process that shares ideas from other waterfronts and gather local feedback on what is working on the Oswego waterfront, what needs to be improved, and what the future of Oswego’s waterfront should look like, Justin Rudgick, community development director, explained.

“Oswego is a waterfront community that doesn’t behave like one,” Greg Wygant of Edgewater Resources said. He said his company was there to help Oswego come up with a viable action plan to improve its waterfront.

Edgewater wasn’t there to tell them what to do; they wanted to hear from the residents, he said.

“We want you to tell us what works, what doesn’t work. We want to help you improve and make your waterfront the best it can be,” he said.

He added that residents should support the efforts to create a national marine sanctuary on Lake Ontario and the push to make Fort Ontario – Safe Haven a national park.

More EEE Found Near Toad Harbor Swamp
The Oswego County Health Department reported Aug. 31 that the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus was found in a mosquito sample collected during routine testing on Toad Harbor Road in West Monroe.

The sample was collected Aug. 24 by the Oswego County Health Department in the same area that EEE was found the week before.

Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said that although mosquito numbers are low due to the dry weather, it is very important for people to continue to take actions that will minimize their risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.

“The EEE virus is present in our environment,” he said. “Residents need to remain diligent in taking personal protection measures and in reducing mosquito breeding sites around their homes until we receive the first hard frost.”

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