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2016 In Review: In December – Suggestions on How To Spend $10 Million; More Funds and Less Overtime

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

Oswego Residents Weigh In On How To Use DRI Funds
The Port City is looking for the best possible ways to spend $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative money.

Increased safety, better access to the waterfront, sidewalk improvements, better promotion of the historic districts, preserve and increase downtown parking, stimulate residential development and many other ideas were proposed.

In early July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Oswego was selected as the winner of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative in Central New York.

The DRI marks a comprehensive plan to transform local neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live and work, the Governor said.

To that end, nearly 100 Port City residents gathered at the McCrobie Building to lay the foundation for how that money might be put to use as well as it leveraging other funding and services.

Mayor Billy Barlow welcomed the crowd and thanked them for helping plan the city’s future.

The $10 million will leverage other state and federal funds, according to Steve Kearney, associate/senior planner for Stantec Urban Places Group, who will assist Oswego officials to design the plan.

There will be a follow up meeting in January, identifying the projects and funding opportunities, he explained. Then they’ll develop the implementation strategy. The goal is to make Oswego “an exciting four season destination to shop, live, work and play.”

City of Oswego Wins Big in REDC Grant Awards
The city of Oswego won just shy of $1 million in State funding for several key projects from the New York State Regional Economic Development Council awards Dec. 8.

The award includes a $245,077 grant for the installation of the Seneca Street Neighborhood Bikeway project, $68,000 to conduct a feasibility study for developing a multipurpose athletic center, $590,000 for Westside Waterfront improvements and $40,000 to develop a strategy to implement public art throughout Downtown Oswego as the city works to allocate the already awarded $10 million in Downtown Revitalization funding from earlier this year.

“I am so excited to be awarded even more funding from New York State to help us execute the vision we all have for the city of Oswego. This funding will only add to the significant amount of momentum we currently have as a community and will expedite our ability to develop along our west side river walk, add diversity and interest to our downtown, further progress our neighborhoods and work to provide new attractions for visitors and residents alike in the form of a multi-purpose athletic center,”Mayor Billy Barlow said.

FERC Approves FitzPatrick Sale to Exelon
FERC on Dec. 7 approved Exelon’s acquisition of the troubled James A. FitzPatrick nuclear plant in New York, rejecting a protest that its review should have included the impact of a state-mandated ratepayer subsidy.

Plant owner Entergy told New York officials that without the $110 million sale, the 882-MW plant would close at the end of January. New York regulators approved the transaction last month.

But consumer advocate Public Citizen, in a protest filed with FERC in October, complained that the companies omitted information on the zero-emission credit program New York had passed to prop up upstate nuclear plants, which the group argued made the application incomplete. It also said the subsidy itself distorts the New York market and violates the NYISO Tariff.

Entergy and Exelon said such a review was beyond the scope of FERC evaluation of the sale, which should be limited to whether it gave the buyer excess market power and if the sale was in the public interest.

The commission agreed.

“We will dismiss Public Citizen’s protest of the proposed transaction because the issues Public Citizen raises concern the ZEC program rather than the effects of the proposed transaction on competition, rates, regulation or cross-subsidization,” the commission wrote. “Public Citizen … focuses on the potential effects of the ZEC program on the NYISO market rather than the effects of the proposed transaction.”

Ritchie Secures $100,000 For Local Fishing Tournaments
As anglers across Central and Northern New York prepare for the upcoming ice fishing season, State Senator Patty Ritchie announced she has secured $100,000 in special funding to help support local fishing tournaments and increase tourism throughout Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.

“No matter the season, the Central and Northern New York regions offer top-notch opportunities for anglers to reel in their next big catch,” said Senator Ritchie. “Not only that, our region’s fishing industry also provides a big economic boost, attracting tourists to our area, helping to support small businesses and creating jobs. I am pleased to be able to provide this funding, which will help spread the word about our local tournaments and attract more anglers to our region.”

Funding will benefit a number of tournaments throughout Central and Northern New York, including an upcoming NYS Junior Bass Masters tournament, which will be held in Ogdensburg and the Bassmasters Elite, which will return to Waddington in 2017.

“Every year new visitors come to fish in our local tournaments, enjoying our premier Oswego County waterways and other recreational offerings in the region,” said David Turner, Director of Oswego County Community Development, Tourism and Planning. “The funding provided by Senator Ritchie will help us reach even more anglers and tourists, who will discover the fantastic fishing and recreational opportunities we have to offer, while supporting our local economy. We greatly appreciate her efforts in providing this funding that will be used to encourage even more people to visit Central New York.”

City Rescinds Town Sewer Deal
The Common Council rescinded Resolution No. 379 of Oct. 11, 2016. The action, in the opinion of City Attorney Kevin Caraccioli, could leave the city open to a lawsuit.

This fall, councilors had approved entering into a contract with Oswego Town regarding the Ontario Heights Water District for sewer connections to the city sewer system; in connection with a planned student housing site in the town.

However, since then some questions have come up about who is able to connect and whether council approval is required.

The two-year pact was to run from Oct. 1, 2016 through Sept. 30, 2018.

The mayor later vetoed the councilors’ action.

Legislators Approve 2017 County Budget
On Dec. 15 the Oswego County Legislature unanimously adopted a 2017 county budget with a zero percent tax increase.

County Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner (District 13, New Haven) praised the efforts of legislators on both sides of the aisle to come to consensus on the spending plan.

The 2017 adopted budget contains $199,612,919 in appropriations, with $42,565,838 raised through the property tax levy, which is $3.4 million less than in 2016.

The generic county tax rate is $7.70 per $1,000 assessed property value, which is unchanged from 2016.

“Each town will have a little different rate, depending on what their full value is,” explained County Administrator Phil Church. “So, things will vary from town to town.” Things like workers’ comp and community college charge-backs could also have a bit of an impact, he added.

The $199,612,919 budget’s tax levy will be $42,565,893 – the generic tax rate comes out to be $7.70 per thousand, the same as it was for 2016, Church said.

Gardner thanked the legislators “from both sides of the aisle” as well as all the department heads who worked to create the 2017 budget.

Oswego County History Books Arrive
The Oswego County Bicentennial Committee announced that the “Oswego County History” book was available, just in time for holiday gift-giving.

The commemorative edition represents the culmination of the county’s bicentennial celebration this year.

It arrived in Oswego during the week of December 12 and was distributed to various municipal historians, historical societies, and museums for sale.

“This nearly year-long project is the result an enormous collaboration between historians from all areas, elected officials, and community members,” said Oswego County Bicentennial Committee Chairman and Legislator Shawn Doyle, District 3. “Readers will enjoy a general summary of the county’s history as well as that of its various cities, towns, villages and hamlets.”

The 192-page book also contains histories of SUNY Oswego, Fort Ontario State Historic Site, and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter and Museum.

Colorful stories about the people and events that helped to shape Oswego County are also found in its pages.

For more information about the Oswego County History book, call 315-349-8322.

Mayor’s Veto Stands
A week after the Common Council voted to rescind its approval of a new sewer use contract with Oswego Town, a resolution to override the mayor’s veto of that action never made it to a vote.

At a special meeting, councilors approved waiving the rules of the council to bring the resolution to the floor for a vote.

However, they moved to an executive session before considering the resolution.

After nearly 20 minutes, they reconvened in public session – and voted to adjourn.

Therefore, the mayor’s veto stands and the contract with the town that was approved 7-0 on October remains in effect.

City Attorney Kevin Caraccioli didn’t participate in the executive session, Assistant City Attorney Tom Reynolds did instead.

“I thought that it was best Mr. Reynolds handled it, for a host of reasons,” he explained alluding to his position as Oswego Town’s counsel, as well.

Mayor Barlow Announces Sharp Decline In City Overtime Spending
Mayor Billy Barlow announced Dec. 22 that in 2016, the city of Oswego decreased the citywide overtime expense by nearly 30% in comparison to year 2015.

In 2015, the city spent approximately $1.3 million in overtime costs when combining all city departments compared to the $950,169 the city had spent thus far in 2016.

The most prevalent savings occurred in the Department of Public Works and the Oswego Police Department.

The Oswego DPW overtime is approximately $176,000 less in 2016 than in 2015 and the Oswego Police Department has spent almost $179,000 less in 2016 than 2015.

“As a city councilor and a candidate for mayor, I spoke to the amount of overtime the city generated and identified that expense as an area we needed to improve and a cost we needed to reign in. We focused on identifying what may be generating overtime and had to find ways to be more efficient and better manage our operations. My administration has worked on controlling overtime since January and made it a priority throughout the year,” Mayor Barlow said. “Moving forward we will continue to focus on managing our overtime and working on behalf of all taxpayers to control our spending and cut obvious waste in city government. We need to have the taxpayers’ interests at the forefront of our decision making and ensure we do our best to manage our departments.”

OFD Deputy Chief Retires
The Oswego Fire Department announced the retirement of Deputy Chief Peter Coffey after more than 21 years of dedicated service.

He served in both the United States Army as well as the US Coast Guard and was a dispatcher for Oswego County Fire Control from 1991 to 1995 when he was appointed a member of the Oswego Fire Department.

He was appointed lieutenant in March of 2003, captain 2008 and deputy chief in January of 2015.

Deputy Chief Coffey was a longtime member of the Oswego Fire Department Rapid Intervention Team serving as its team leader, a Hazardous Materials Specialist and team member, and a Special Operations team member.

He was also an active member of Firefighters’ Local 126 serving in several roles including its executive board.

Two Treated for Rabies after Encounters with Gray Foxes
Two people were treated for exposure to the rabies virus after separate  encounters with gray foxes in Oswego County in late December.

The Oswego County Health Department reported that the first incident took place on Christmas Day in the town of Palermo, where a gray fox bit a human.

The fox was not able to be tested for the rabies virus and the individual began post-exposure rabies treatment on Dec. 26.

In a separate incident on Dec. 27, a gray fox in the town of Hastings attacked and bit a human. The fox tested positive for the rabies virus on Dec. 28.

The victim was treated for exposure to rabies.

“Rabies is almost always fatal in exposed humans who develop the disease,” Jiancheng Huang, Public Health Director for the Oswego County Health Department, said Dec. 29. “Any encounters with a potentially rabid animal must be investigated as soon as possible to determine if a person or domestic pet may have been exposed to the rabies virus. Treatment can prevent rabies from developing in humans who have been exposed to the virus.”

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