2016 In Review: In June – Oswego Seeks DRI Funds, Fort and Safe Haven Progress to National Status

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

Mayor Outlined Oswego’s DRI Proposal

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in his state budget $100 million in state grants for revitalizing downtowns through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which will be allocated across the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Council.

The city of Oswego was competing for the $10 million allocation for the Central New York REDC.

“It is my pleasure to announce that the city of Oswego successfully submitted its proposal to be considered for the Downtown Revitalization funding and we hope to take full advantage of this extraordinary opportunity provided by Governor Andrew Cuomo,” Mayor Billy Barlow said at the start of June.

Oswego’s DRI proposal addressed all of the key components of the guidelines and carried the message that Oswego is ‘building on momentum.’ The investments made in the city in the past, as well as ongoing efforts are positively changing the community including Downtown Oswego and near-downtown neighborhoods block-by-block and building-by-building, the mayor said.

Building on the momentum of substantial recent investments, the city has preliminarily identified 6 potential key anchor projects specifically in downtown Oswego that are ripe for development which would result in an estimated nearly $50 million of additional direct private sector investment, and provide the opportunity to create and retain approximately 200 jobs.

Free Public Wi-Fi Proposed Throughout Downtown Oswego
Mayor Barlow announced June 2 his proposal to implement free public Wi-Fi throughout downtown Oswego, highlighting the need of internet access in order to modernize downtown and make it more attractive to residents, visitors and the SUNY community.

“In an effort to enhance our downtown, modernize our community and assist our local small businesses, I am proposing to implement free public Wi-Fi throughout our downtown. This will further attract our residents, visitors and college community to not only visit downtown, but actually socialize and congregate downtown. In restaurants, coffee shops and community areas, people look for access to the internet and providing this service is nothing short of providing an essential community amenity to help add to our re-surging downtown, “ the mayor said.

The city of Oswego continues to help promote and enhance the downtown Oswego area as it competes for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative and capitalize on the recent growth of downtown in recent years.

Heavy Metal Thunder Powers ARISE’s Ramp Program
ARISE revved up its annual Ride for Ramps program in June. Members of ARISE and dozens of volunteers hosted the fundraiser with assistance from Lighthouse Lanes and Oswego Speedway.

Last year, in honor of the 25th year of the ADA proclamation, more than 100 motorcycle enthusiasts and around 80 motorcycles joined in to help raise funds for the ramps program. This year, the number of motorcycles was down slightly to about 60.

“This is the only program in the state of New York like this,” said James Karasek of ARISE. “When people go into nursing homes, hospitals, they go to rehab, on their discharge papers, because of the change in the medical law, if the patient goes back within 30 days for the same condition, they don’t have to pay the hospital. Now they are putting on their discharge papers, may be discharged upon accessible access to home environment.”

ARISE has installed many ramps to ensure more and more people do have access to home environment, Karasek said.

“Last year, we installed two ramps for children who were under the age of 12,” he added. “That’s your support that allows us to do that. We did a total of 31 projects last year; including 21 ramps and several tear downs and seven repairs when we went out to some of the first ramps that were built and upgraded them.”

Six years ago, Karasek said he cooked hot dogs and hamburgers for six riders.
“Look where we are today,” he told OCT. “This is just amazing. This is truly amazing. We appreciate the support of the riders and all the volunteers. I have a phenomenal group of people helping me. And, to the ones that have been here every year, God bless you!”

Oswego School Board OKs A Pair Of Contracts
The Oswego School Board approved a pair of contracts at June’s meeting. One was for the coming school year and the other for 2017-18.

The board ratified a memorandum of agreement – CSEA contract (effective July 1, 2016) and approved extending the contract of Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey for the 2017-18 school year.

As per the superintendent’s contract, every June is when he’s evaluated, board president Kathleen Allen said.

“It is for the 2017-18 school year. It is not for the upcoming school year,” she explained. “To get somebody (from the outside) to come here, we would have paid an extra $30,000. But we knew what we were going into budget wise. Dean accepted that contract knowing what he’s in for.”

The vote was 6-1 with Brian Haessig voting no. He said he agreed with the other board members, except for the timing of the extension.

There would be no salary adjustment until the corresponding school year.

The vote was unanimous on the CSEA contract.

“It’s a one-year pay freeze. It’s not a hard freeze. It’s just a pay freeze; they still get steps and stipends,” the superintendent explained.

That made three out of four unions that have agreed to pay freezes. Negotiations continued with the teachers’ union.

SUNY Oswego Achieves Historic Milestone in Fundraising Campaign
“With Passion & Purpose: The Campaign for SUNY Oswego” achieved a historic milestone in its five-year journey by surpassing the $40 million announced goal.
This is the largest announced campaign among all SUNY comprehensive colleges — Oswego’s peer schools — and nearly double the college’s last campaign goal of $23 million.

“We set out on our journey five years ago to secure the resources we need to prepare students to contribute to the common good,” SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley said. “As a public institution, we pride ourselves on keeping the doors of education and possibility open wide to all who seek higher education and a better life.

“To support that mission and to keep college affordable and within reach, we laid out an ambitious plan to raise $40 million,” she said. “I am thrilled to announce that we have achieved that milestone, and we thank each and every person who helped us reach this moment. We are continuing to build momentum and have our sights set for an even stronger finish by the campaign’s end on June 30.”

Scouts, Elks Retire Flags At Fort Ontario
Most people believe the right way to retire an American Flag is to burn it – whole. However, that is not entirely correct. In mid-June, historic Fort Ontario hosted several representatives of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Oswego Lodge #271 as well as a large contingent of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

They conducted a U.S. flag retirement program outside the entrance of old fort Ontario.

Prior to the ceremony, the scouts explained the proper means of retiring a flag as well as many facts about the flag. Lecturing Knight Nelson Metz and other members of the Elks assisted the scouts in the flag retirement ceremony.

The proper way to retire a flag is to cut it into four pieces, Metz explained. Three sections of the stripes are cut apart. The field of white stars on the blue background is removed intact.

“That represents the Union,” Metz said. “Nothing should ever cut that apart.”

Mayor Barlow Outlines Port City’s Paving Schedule
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow asked residents in the city of Oswego for their patience and understanding as road paving and construction will take place in many different areas of the city, starting on June 20 and lasting throughout the next month.

“We have an extremely aggressive paving schedule for the next month and I would like to make the residents aware of the road construction and ask for their patience, as we work through the neighborhoods and main roadways,” the mayor said. “We will do our best to notify our residents ahead of time, but please be aware of temporary ‘No Parking’ signs that may appear on side streets and consider alternate routes around the identified road work.”

“We are starting on west Tallman, Ellen and Murray streets on Monday the 20th and will be executing the schedule over the next few weeks,” he said.

House panel passes Katko’s bill to study national park status for Fort Ontario in Oswego
A bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Katko to study whether Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum in Oswego should be added to the national park system is headed to the House floor for a vote.

The House Committee on Natural Resources approved the Fort Ontario Study Act June 16, which clears the way for consideration by the full House.
Katko, R-Camillus, introduced the bill in December and testified in support of the measure at a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands meeting in May.

“This legislation takes the first step in preserving the legacy of a historic gem in our community,” Katko said.

Fort Ontario was utilized during several wars, including the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War and War of 1812. In the final years of World War, it was transformed into a refugee camp and provided shelter for nearly 1,000 refugees, most of whom were Holocaust survivors.

The federal government transferred the site to the state in 1946. The fort is now a state historic site.

“(Fort Ontario) already draws visitors from across the nation and its designation as a national park would preserve the history of this site and continue to boost our region’s growing tourism-based economy,” Katko said.

Oswego District, OCTA Ink New Deal
The Oswego City School District and the Oswego Classroom Teachers Association agreed on a new one-year contract on June 21.

The deal includes a wage freeze, Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey announced at the school board meeting.

“Never in the history of our district have we had all four collective bargaining agreements ratified before the expiration of those contracts,” he said. “Never before in the history of our district have all four agreements been settled with salary freezes for all members. It’s the first time that every employee in this district has taken a freeze (for the 2016-17 school year).”

This says that “everyone understands the financial situation we’re in,” he added.
“We ratified the agreement today (June 21). The final ballots were being tabulated as the (board) meeting got under way, actually,” OCTA president Roger Sprague told Oswego County Today. “The OCTA realizes the district and the community are facing a difficult financial situation and we wanted to do what we could to help. Along with the wage freeze, adding the steps, and taking the moratorium on grad classes we helped the district realize a substantial savings.”

Oswego High School Class of 2016 Told: ‘Strive To Be Extraordinary’
After 13 years of school, it took 21 minutes to turn the OHS Class of 2016 into freshly minted graduates.

The first diploma was presented at 10:55 a.m. and the clock above the SUNY Oswego Campus Center’s ice rink clicked to 11:16 a.m. as Alexander J. Zalenski received his diploma.

Valedictorian Jenna Ballard said she was excited. “I’m happy and a bit nervous, too,” she told Oswego County Today. “It’s kind of hard to believe (graduation) is actually here.”

Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey said 36 years ago today, that he  sat in (the graduates’) your seat.

“From kindergarten through your senior year, many of those friendships will stay with you for a lifetime,” the member of the Class of 1980 told the Class of 2016. “Your lives will be filled with blessings, challenges and opportunities. Be resilient when times are tough.”

“Your words are powerful. They can inspire others, but just as easily cause harm,” Dr. Heidi Sweeney, principal told the graduates. “Many people will offer you advice. But develop and follow your own internal compass.”

Clare Donovan, Class President, said, “It seems like we were just naive freshmen starting at OHS.” She recalled rumors of a third floor and the horrors of “Freshmen Friday.”

Jacob Gerber, salutatorian of the Class of 2016, pointed out that salutatorian “is basically like a super fancy term for second best. He congratulated valedictorian Jenna Ballard for her immense success.

“The things she has done in academics are extraordinary and nearly exceed my expectations for what any student could possibly achieve,” he said.
“Congratulations to all of you for your success. The Class of 2016 now looks on to the future. I know that everyone is capable of being successful. My advice to this class is that whatever you choose to do, strive to be extraordinary.”

Breitbeck Park Transformed Into ‘Julian’s World’
Breitbeck Park was alive in June with music, a children’s parade, food and plenty of family-friendly activities.

In 2015, Julian Ross couldn’t go to DisneyWorld — so a cadre of volunteers brought DisneyWorld to Oswego.

Julian Thomas Ross, 10, came into our lives on May 15, 2005. He was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma on August 4, 2011. He was just 6 years old. On August 8, 2015, Julian was called home.

Julian was in the hospital and unable to attend last year’s event. His mother, Kristi, shared the activities with him via a video chat on her phone. This year, she shared the 10-year-old’s final wishes with the hundreds that descended on Breitbeck Park.

It was a simple, yet powerful, wish. “Help others.”

“Julian had very much wanted to go to DisneyWorld. But he never made it. So, I had a crazy idea, if he can’t get there, let’s bring DisneyWorld to him – we can turn Breitbeck Park into Julian’s World for the day,” said organizer Ruth Wallace. “Now I want to continue the even in his memory.”

Two hundred balloons were released at the start of the event, to send messages to Julian in Heaven.

Julian’s mother thanked everyone for coming out to remember him.
Last year, Julian picked the SPCA to donate funds to “because he just loved animals. “This year, we chose for him. The Beads of Courage Program was very, very important to him,” his mother explained.

There is a bead for every procedure that these kids go through. Julian had more than 2,500 beads on his string over the course of four years and he was mighty proud of them.

Depending on who you donate to, only about 4% of the funds go to childhood cancer research, Wallace pointed out. The rest is for adults.
Several young children were invited on stage to share what they’d have on their bucket list. Some said they didn’t know. One said, “Save all the dogs that are in shelters.” Another replied, “Save the people suffering cancer.” And, one said, “More than 4%!”

Entergy Identifies, Stops Flow of Lubricating Oil From FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant
On June 27, Entergy personnel at its James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba identified the source of oil released to the site’s discharge canal and stopped the flow.

While this oil contains no PCBs, is non-radioactive, non-hazardous and has low potential health effects, any unintended release to Lake Ontario is not in accordance with Entergy’s standards. A preliminary investigation has determined a tank that stores lubrication oil overfilled due to an apparent equipment failure.

A pipe that acts as an air vent from the tank exits onto a building roof. Excess oil flowed through the vent pipe and pooled on the roof, then apparently migrated to a roof drain and eventually into Lake Ontario.

Equipment that discharges water to the lake was turned off, and there was no apparent ongoing release of oil.

“We are taking appropriate actions to mitigate the environmental consequence from this event and working closely with appropriate local, state and federal agencies,” said Brian Sullivan, FitzPatrick’s site vice president and Entergy’s top official at the site. “We have identified the source of the oil, stopped the leak and put protective absorbent material and barriers in place to help mitigate additional oil from reaching the lake. Environmental protection is a hallmark of our operations, and we are taking all appropriate actions.”

Site personnel and environmental contractors were cleaning up the lubricating oil from the building and working within the discharge canal to absorb and contain any oil that reached the canal, which flows to Lake Ontario.

CMOO Launches Build, Play, Grow Campaign
A two-story Cloud Climber, water table, aluminum factory and other familiar sites are about to become a reality in the heart of Oswego.

The Children’s Museum of Oswego (CMOO) kicked off its Build, Play, Grow Campaign in June with more than $275,000 in gifts and pledges already received.
CMOO also announced its leadership team for the campaign.
The honorary chairpersons for the fundraising effort are Mayor Billy Barlow, Barb and Bob Bateman and Deborah and Michael Stanley.

“I am excited to see CMOO be a major part of our downtown revitalization,” Mayor Barlow said. “This is the type of project that will motivate community involvement and bring people into our community.”

“We are off to a great start,” said Jillian Shaver, executive director, CMOO. “We’ve had some local families and businesses that have really stepped up. They’re excited about this project. Everyone is committed to make sure
our Children’s Museum has a permanent home. The civic and community leaders that are helping us with this campaign are doing an exceptional job of garnering community support for our project.”

The Build, Play, Grow Campaign stems from the museum’s strategic plan to expand exhibits and provide year-round learning and recreational opportunities for the benefit of children, families, educators and caregivers.

Katko: Safe Haven Progressing Toward National Park Status
Congressman John Katko visited Safe Haven June 30 to discuss the progress being made to designate it (and Fort Ontario) as a national park.

“I didn’t know, all those years ago growing up playing hockey right over here against Oswego High School and Bishop Cunningham when I was at Bishop Ludden that over here was a fort. I just thought ‘Fort’ was the name of the rink,” the Congressman said. “Over the years, as I got to know this area better, I’m really in awe of what it represents.”

When he got elected to Congress, he made it his mission to try to elevate the Fort Ontario and Safe Haven to National Park status, he said.

Oswego’s Safe Haven housed “the guests” of President Franklin Roosevelt “is a very unique part of American and world history,” said Safe Haven Board President George DeMass.

“I know the presence of those 986 refugees are here with us today,” he added. “Less than 100 are left (alive). But their presence is felt here today.”

Standing in front of the Safe Haven site, with local leaders, community members, elected officials and stakeholders at Fort Ontario and Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter on the steps behind him, Katko outlined progress on legislation that he introduced to advance the designation of the site towards National Park status.

“I am so proud of (Safe Haven). It is one of the great pieces of Jewish heritage in this country, and indeed the world,” Katko said. “When I was in Israel last year, I mentioned it to some of the folks in the Israeli Cabinet and they were really fascinated by it.”

In addition to the swift movement in the House on his legislation, Katko requested in April that the National Park Service conduct a reconnaissance study to assess the best way to preserve the site.

On June 30, Katko announced that the NPS granted his request and will begin the reconnaissance study in 2017.

“ I am very excited. We’re on our way to achieving our dream. It’s because of the great people behind me that we have this opportunity. There is no question that this historic site deserves to be preserved and protected as a national landmark. I’m happy to announce that the National Park Service has agreed to complete a reconnaissance survey of Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum,” said Katko.

Fort Ontario and Safe Haven are “a great jewel of our area,” he added.

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