2016 In Review: In September – Super Dirt Week Prep Was In High Gear

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

SUNY Oswego Enrolls Most Culturally Diverse Student Population Ever

“I Am Oz” is a statement familiar to most students, faculty, staff and recent alumni of the State University of New York College at Oswego. It is the inclusive and welcoming statement that has been the opener for acknowledging and learning about the broad ethnic and cultural backgrounds of students, faculty and staff at the institution from every background.

This fall, the college welcomed to campus more than 2,100 new students and the college celebrated its most culturally diverse (defined as students who self-identify as Hispanic, Asian, African-American, Native American, Pacific Islander or in more than one category) student body in the college’s history — 25.8% of the total undergraduate and graduate population including a record-setting 33.8% of the first-year class, up 3.2% from last year’s first-year class and an 80% increase from 2010.

Each of these students is now a part of “Oz” and, together, they are transforming and shining the light on Oz.

The “I Am Oz” campaign includes infusing diversity topics into new student orientation programs; diversity and inclusion training for faculty, staff and students; hosting nationally known speakers during the federal heritage months; and developing programs specific to the culture being celebrated such as the “I Am Oz” diversity portrait project: aligned with the federal heritage months.

Oswego Hospital Awarded Accreditation from Joint Commission
Oswego Hospital earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Hospital Accreditation by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards.

The Gold Seal of Approval is a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to providing safe and effective patient care.

Oswego Hospital underwent a rigorous, unannounced four-day onsite survey in May.

During the review, a team of Joint Commission expert surveyors evaluated compliance with hospital standards related to several areas, including emergency management, environment of care, infection prevention and control, leadership, and medication management. Surveyors also conducted onsite observations and interviews.

“I would like to commend the staff for achieving this important accreditation from The Joint Commission, said (former) Oswego Health President and CEO Chuck Gijanto. “The surveyors indicated it was the strong professional and personal commitment of the physicians and staff to provide excellent high-quality care, which led to this being one of the most positive surveys in hospital history.”

The Joint Commission has accredited hospitals for more than 60 years.

Abold Steals International Classic Victory from Fuel Starved Shullick
The finish of the 60th annual Budweiser International Classic 200 at Oswego Speedway was fitting of an anniversary special as Jeff Abold pounced on a fuel starved Dave Shullick Jr. with one lap remaining and held off a hard charging Michael Barnes to claim the biggest win of his career, worth $15,000.

Abold, who had fallen to as far as 14th position in the field, made a late race rally to pull into the runner-up spot at lap 184, putting himself in prime position to take advantage of Shullick who began to sputter out of fuel on lap 198.

Using the outside of the Speedway, Abold stole the lead out of turn two on the final circuit, holding off Speedway champion Michael Barnes into turn three to speed away to his second career Oswego Speedway win and his first Budweiser International Classic 200 victory.

“My family has been coming here for a lot of years,” said Abold, in Turning Stone Resort Casino Victory Lane. “I saw a blue car slowing down and there are so many of them I wasn’t sure who it was, but I figured it out and just did what I had to on the final lap. This is something you dream about doing your entire life.  This won’t sink in until next year’s Classic.”

Barnes finished a mere half second behind Abold at the finish to earn the A.J. Michaels Runner-Up Award while Otto Sitterly, Shullick, and Davey Hamilton Sr. finished the top five positions. Pole sitter Mike Muldoon earned sixth with Dave Gruel, Dave Danzer, Joe Gosek, and Brandon Bellinger in the top ten spots.

Fort, Safe Haven Nearing Federal Status
On Sept. 6, H.R. 4204, the Fort Ontario Study Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Congressman John Katko to advance the designation of Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum in Oswego to National Park status, unanimously passed the U.S House of Representatives.

U.S. Reps. Richard Hanna (NY-22) and Louise Slaughter (NY-25) joined Representative Katko as cosponsors of the bill.

The legislation commissions a special resource study of Fort Ontario to evaluate the site’s national significance and determine the suitability of its designation as a part of the National Park system. This study is a prerequisite for receiving National Park designation.

Following the bill’s passage, Representative Katko said, “Fort Ontario is a historic gem in our community. The fort has been involved in nearly every major American war from the French and Indian War to World War II. What’s more, it served as the nation’s only Emergency Refugee Camp, providing shelter to over 980 refugees fleeing the Holocaust. Today, Fort Ontario and Safe Haven draw visitors from across the country. Like so many in our community, I am incredibly proud to have this piece of history in our backyard, and I’m grateful for the local champions who have worked tirelessly to preserve the site. I’m honored to have this bill pass the House and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to take up the bill that Senator Gillibrand has introduced so that we can get this important, bipartisan measure to the President’s desk.”

“I would like to thank Congressman Katko for the extraordinary work that was put into making this bill a reality. The impact of this bill in the city of Oswego, Oswego County, and Central New York will be historical,” said Jeffrey Grimshaw, on behalf of the Fort Ontario National Landmark Committee. “The honor that this will bring to the long list of souls pre-dating the founding of the United States is immeasurable. The recognition of the value the refugee population contributed to the development of Oswego will be memorialized for generations to come.”

Oswego Students Return To The Classroom
Thousands of students returned to the classroom in the Oswego City School District.

“Freshmen First Day (Thursday) has been going very well,” said Dr. Heidi Sweeney, Oswego High School principal. Friday (Sept. 9) is the regular opening day for all OHS students, she added.

“Grades 9-12 will report and follow their provided schedules. New students are allowed to leave a few minutes prior to the bell to give them a head start on finding their next class,” Dr. Sweeney explained. “We are excited to see everyone back in school!”

Things were going smoothly at the elementary level, also.

Renovation Projects Being Completed Daily at Oswego Speedway
Improvements to the historic “Steel Palace” Oswego Speedway were progressing smoothly in advance of the 45th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week on October 2-9.

With just under four weeks until DIRT cars take the 0.625-mile oval, crews are scattered around the grounds of the Oswego Speedway freshening up the 65-year-old facility.

One of the most aggressive projects is the Lakeview Grandstand that oversees the back stretch of the speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, crews had been removing old rusted-out seats and overhauling them with new steel to accommodate 6,622 fans.

As work continues on the grandstands and uplifting of the facility, crews have also been busy cutting in new roads throughout the Oswego Speedway grounds for easy access to camping and amenities such as bathhouses. Additionally, electric and plumbing crews have been actively working on equipping select areas and camping with permanent electric, sewer, and water.

Just over 400 truckloads of the estimated 600 truckloads of clay that it will take to cover the speedway have already been transported to the grounds of Oswego Speedway.

Transformation of the asphalt oval into a dirt track would begin as soon as the Race of Champions Modified event at Oswego Speedway was complete.

“We are excited to write a new chapter in the history of Racing’s Biggest Party,” said DIRTcar Racing CEO Brian Carter.

Fire Damages East Side Oswego Home
The Oswego Fire Department was dispatched at 6:40 p.m. to a residential structure fire located at 160 E. Fourth St. This fire was in a 2-story, single-family dwelling, with neighboring homes just a few feet away.

The fire was reported to 911 from several neighbors, stating that flames and black smoke could be seen billowing from the home.

The incident commander arrived on the scene at 6:43 p.m. and communicated to the responding units the location of the closest hydrant and that this was in fact a working fire.

The ladder truck company and engine company both also arrived on the scene at 6:43 p.m. and went to work stretching hoselines. Firefighters made entry with the hoseline, located the seat of the fire in a room on the first floor, and quickly knocked down the bulk of the fire.

Other personnel searched the structure for trapped victims, and worked to ventilate the thick smoke and high heat from the building.

Firefighters removed wall and ceiling material to expose hot spots, and the fire was declared under control at 7:04 p.m.

The residents were home at the time of the fire, and were able to escape without injury. According to fire officials, two adults and one child live in the residence and are being assisted by the American Red Cross at this time.

SUNY Oswego Student Recovering from Mumps Virus
The Oswego County Health Department has reported that a SUNY Oswego freshman has contracted the mumps virus.

The student began showing symptoms a few days earlier and was diagnosed and treated at the college’s Mary Walker Health Center on Sept. 12. The student was immediately isolated to prevent the spread of the disease on campus.

Health officials from the county and SUNY Oswego are working with the New York State Department of Health to investigate the case and locate any individuals who had close contact with the student.

“Mumps is a contagious viral illness that can be spread by those infected through coughing, sneezing, talking, and sharing eating utensils or cups,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang. “Several college campuses across the country have reported mumps outbreaks this year. Most students got their mumps, measles and rubella vaccine as children. The vaccine may start to lose its power among some of them when they reach college age.”

Oswego Man Gets 2nd Chance At Life Thanks To Generous Organ Donor
Cardiac surgeons at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital performed a 200th heart transplant surgery, providing a 48-year-old father a second chance on life.

Transplant surgeons Juan Lehoux, M.D., surgical director of the Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation, and Sunil Prasad, M.D., performed the six-hour life-saving procedure Aug. 24 and Stephen Waite Jr. of Oswego is recovering at Strong Memorial Hospital.

“Every transplant provides a new beginning for our patients and is an incredible achievement for the entire team of doctors, nurses and support staff,” said Prasad, chief of Cardiac Surgery.

“We work closely with patients and their families every day, and when a moment like this occurs, it  reminds us how many lives we’ve helped change,” said Leway Chen, M.D., M.P.H.

For better or for worse

“I feel like a new man today,” said Waite. He and his wife, Christine, are “so grateful, because it’s been a long and tough road getting here.”

It’s especially poignant because they celebrated their 25th anniversary Sept. 21, having endured sickness and health.

“It was late at night when doctors told me they had a good heart for me,” said the father of two young men. “It was exciting to know I will get a second chance.”

Today, he is eager to return to his Oswego home to “sleep in my own bed and get back to normal.”

Oswego Resident Is Recovering from West Nile Virus
The Oswego County Health Department reported Sept. 23 that an Oswego resident is recovering from West Nile virus.

The resident was hospitalized and is now recovering at home.

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

Residents of all ages were advised to continue to protect themselves from mosquitoes until the first hard frost occurs.

New Youth Court Members Ready To Dispense Teen Justice
Sixteen students from around the county became the newest members of Oswego County’s Youth Court. Only seven were able to attend the ceremony. Some illnesses and sports commitments prevented the remainder of the class from attending.

Oswego County Family Court Judge Kim Seager administered the oath at the Oswego County Courthouse on Oneida Street as members of the graduates’ families looked on, many of them taking photographs.

The new members were presented with graduation certificates. The others will receive theirs in the future, according to Brian Chetney, director of the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau.

Youth Court is “a recognized community diversion program aimed at keeping young offenders out of Family Court,” according to Chetney.

It’s a national program that is more than  40 years old; it’s 33 years old this year in Oswego County, Kristen Slimmer, Youth Court co-coordinator, said.

Oswego’s is the second oldest program in New York State, she added.

Oswego Council Hikes Rental Permit Fee
In late September, the mayor’s proposed rental fee permit hike was approved, 5-1-1. Council president Shawn was cast the lone nay vote and Councilor Robert Corradino abstained.

Mayor Billy Barlow said his proposal will help hold “landlords accountable and pressure them into maintaining their property and treating their tenants fairly.”

The new rental permit fee is $150 for a three-year period, five times more expensive than the current $30 fee.

It became effective as of Oct. 1.

The fee was last increased (to $30) on Aug. 22, 2005.

Super DIRT Week Open for Business
In less than 80 days, the Oswego Speedway underwent a major overhaul for NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week, with renovations that would typically take crews a year to complete.

Since the “New Stage” was announced on July 14, construction crews have been scattered throughout the Oswego facility putting in 10- to 12-hour workdays to transform the timeless Oswego Speedway in advance of the 45th Annual NAPA Super Dirt Week.

Crews worked vigorously to complete all of this work in record time. One of the most aggressive projects was the Lakeview Grandstand that oversees the backstretch of the racetrack. More than 200,000 pounds of steel was used to upgrade the stands to accommodate 6,622 fans.

The Black Lot campgrounds were completely renovated with new plumbing and electricity for more than 90 spots, and gravel now levels the grounds on which it sits.

Oswego Speedway, traditionally a 5/8-mile asphalt oval, had been covered with approximately 9,600 cubic yards of clay for the festivities. Grooming of the new “Clay Palace” had been ongoing for weeks in order to give the racers the best possible surface for this monumental event.

Several new roads – including Big-Block Boulevard, which connects campers to newly added amenities, including the bathhouses – were carved and readied for race traffic. More than two miles of fencing was used along the perimeter of the 86-acre facility to create an open gate atmosphere.

Fans who have previously attended pavement races at the historic Oswego Speedway will find it difficult to recognize the facility.

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