2016 In Review: January – New Year, New Oswego Mayor

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

On a snowy cold and blustery New Year’s Day, William J. Barlow Jr. was sworn in as Oswego’s new mayor.

“Having the honor of being the mayor of this city is the opportunity of a lifetime. I am humbled, thankful and grateful to the residents for this opportunity,” Barlow said in his inaugural speech Friday (Jan. 1). “To the residents of the city who placed their trust in me, thank you and I promise to work passionately and enthusiastically every day and always make the right decisions for the right reasons.”

Former mayors Terry Hammill, John Gosek and Tom Gillen were among the huge crowd that also included many local, county and state officials.

“It is an absolute honor and privilege to sit at this desk before you here today as mayor of the city of Oswego,” Barlow told the jam-packed Council Chamber.

He thanked Mayor Gillen and his administration for allowing for “a gracious transition.”

“Mayor, thank you for your service and dedication to this city,” he added.

The out-going mayor received hearty round of applause in appreciation.

Being mayor of Oswego isn’t something he takes lightly, Barlow said. “The challenges are many. The problems are great,” he acquiesced. But, so are the opportunities, he added.

“Our community is strong and resilient,” the mayor emphasized. “Today is a fresh beginning and new life in City Hall.”

Walker Tabbed To Lead Council In 2016
At the organizational meeting of the Common Council, Shawn Walker (Fourth Ward) was appointed president of the council.

Robert Corradino, (freshman Seventh Ward councilor) was named vice president.

The rules of the council state that an additional compensation of $5,000 per year for the council president and $2,500 for the vice president be paid to those two councilors.

As council president, Walker will assume the mayor’s duties in his absence; and, if he becomes incapacitated for any reason, he would take over as the acting mayor.

Oswego Hospital’s First Baby of the Year
Oswego Hospital welcomed its first baby of 2016 on New Year’s Day. Adarina Pytlak was born at 3:30 a.m. to proud parents Jennifer Moshier and Alex Pytlak. She weighed five pounds, one ounce and measured 18.5 inches long.

Maternal grandmother is Lynda Feeney, while paternal grandparents include Casey and Andrea Pytlak-Wehunt along with the late George Pytlak. Joining Adarina at home are Madison and Matt.

The birth added a new member to the Oswego Health family, as Moshier is a registered nurse in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Fire Damages Scriba Business, Owner Found Dead
On January 1, at about 9:45 p.m., the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office and Scriba Volunteer Fire Department were called to a reported fire at May’s Polynesian Motel and Mini Mart located on State Route 104 in the town of Scriba, just east of the city of Oswego.

An occupant of the motel had called to report a heavy smoke odor.

When the first units arrived, fire was discovered on both ends of the motel building and on the southwest corner of the convenience store. The two buildings are not physically connected.

Scriba Fire Department members had to force access to the convenience store. Once the fire was suppressed, an interior search located the body of the business owner, Steven May, 48, of the same address. No other victims were found.

The occupants of the motel room were evacuated and assisted by Red Cross volunteers.

The Oswego County Fire Investigation Team was called to investigate the origin and cause of the fire.

Firefighters Battle Huge Blaze In Oswego Town
Several fire crews battled a massive barn fire in the town of oswego overnight Jan. 2 into Jan. 3). The blaze was reported around 8 p.m. at the Dunsmoor Onion Farm on Route 104.

There were several explosions reportedly heard by area residents.

Nearly a dozen fire departments were called in to fight the fire; and more than 100 firefighters. A massive fire operation, exterior firefight only, was under way all night.

They called in mutual aid from as far away as Cayuga County and Onondaga County.

The barn and warehouse were on fire. The roof had completely burned off and most of the structure reportedly collapsed.

They were having problems getting water there.

The blaze was under control around 11:30 p.m., but but crews remained on site well into the morning hours. It took about 15 hours to finally clear the scene.

While official fire investigators had yet to determine the cause of the fire on Jan. 3, one employee provided his own insight as to what caused the devastating blaze to start.

“The fire started from our work truck that was getting fixed. There was an oil leak in it with a few minor things wrong. There was a spark in the motor and started the fire which no one knew about, so the truck exploded. My boss went to check it out and one part of the building was on fire. So, when the fire department showed to put it out they used water which made it worse and in our building there are about a dozen fans or more to keep the onions cold, so when they opened up the doors the fire broke lose,” explained Joel Soto-Gonzalez, a seasonal employee with Dunsmoor Farms for a few years.

Another Fire In Scriba
Volunteers from the American Red Cross were meeting Jan. 3 with a family displaced by an overnight fire on Middle Road, Scriba.

Red Cross assistance typically includes vouchers for temporary housing, food and clothing as needed, and Disaster Mental Health volunteers are available to help with the emotional aspect of disaster.

The family had a place to stay last night, so they did not require immediate assistance.

County Legislature Gets Organized For 2016
OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature got off to an historic start in 2016. Pulaski Legislator Shawn Doyle organized an effort for all legislators to bring in family bibles or old ones from their district to be sworn in on during the Jan. 5 reorganizational meeting.

The three new legislators were sworn in individually and then the 22 incumbents took the oath collectively.

“I’m a little overwhelmed to be up here. I’m certainly excited and very thankful for everyone that’s allowed me to get to where I’m standing today. Thank you so very much,” new Legislator Tom Drumm (District 16) said.

The bible he used was the John and Mary Donahue Brown family bible. Their granddaughter, Doris Brown Allen (1921-2014) served on the Board of Supervisors in the 1940s for Oswego City.

“My bible represents those of us who have come to Oswego because of our fate or faith, depending on how you want to look at it, to establish our roots. We don’t necessarily have a bible with our roots already established here; but we are here to establish roots,” new Legislator Heather DelConte (District 18) said.

“The bible I used is actually my father’s bible. It’s the bible he brought with him when he came to Oswego. It’s this bible and our faith that brought us to Oswego,” new Legislator Tim Stahl (District 20) said.

Returning Legislator (Terry) Wilbur brought the Malone family bible. “It would have covered two legislators,” Doyle quipped pointing to the seat formerly occupied by Doug Malone. “We have a brand new legislator (Stahl), who also brought his family bible.”

Kevin Gardner was re-elected as the chairman of the Oswego County Legislature. Fellow Republican Linda Lockwood was re-elected vice chair.

The Republicans re-appointed Shane Broadwell as majority leader. Roy Reehil was named majority whip for 2016. On the other side of the aisle, Dan Farfaglia and Jake Mulcahey were named Minority Leader and Minority Whip, respectively. Later in the year, Mulcahey announced he wouldn’t seek re-election at the end of his term.

Members Of The Public Speak Out Against Rate Hikes
At the Jan. 4 Administrative Services Committee meeting, Councilor John Pat McLaughlin requested discussion regarding the water rates for the city of Oswego. The floodgates were open for more than an hour as dozens of residents berated the councilors.

In 2015, the out-going council voted 3-3 (with former mayor Tom Gillen’s yes vote breaking the deadlock) to raise the water and sewer rates. Councilor Eric VanBuren was excused.

“You don’t vote on something until you look into it and know what all the facts are,” one speaker said. “This is ridiculous. If this is the way we’re going to operate, we’re in big trouble.”

“The city is fast becoming a city where taxpayers, especially retired taxpayers, can’t live,” another speaker added. “Some of us are paying an arm and a leg now,” he told the councilors.

Several of the speakers urged the committee to rescind the increase. That would have to be done at a full council meeting, not at the committee level, Councilor Eric VanBuren explained.

Mayor William Barlow said he’s been in contact with Congressman John Katko on the matter to arrange a meeting. He has also talked with the regional representative for Gov. Cuomo and has a meeting scheduled; he also talked with Sen. Charles Schumer’s representative for the area and he will come to Oswego for a meeting.

“I also had my city attorney reach out to the DEC to schedule a meeting to talk about the underlying problem, which is the Consent Decree,” he said. “They need to better understand the problems were faced with. They need to realize what (the Consent Decree) is doing to the taxpayers.”

Coalition Of Community Leaders Join Fight For Upstate Energy Jobs
A rapidly growing coalition of more than 60 Upstate New York elected representatives, business leaders, members of organized labor, economic development organizations and community leaders Jan. 7 sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling on the state to do whatever it takes to help protect energy jobs in Upstate New York.

The new coalition has been organized by the County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency which is leading the fight to keep the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba open.

“The potential closing of the FitzPatrick Nuclear plant will be devastating to the area and the fight to keep the plant open is our top priority, however this fight is about more than just one plant. The future of energy production in Upstate New York is at stake,” said County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency CEO L. Michael Treadwell. “We want to acknowledge the fact that Governor Cuomo has started to take steps to address this crucial issue, but with the legislative session about to begin in Albany, we need immediate action on a number of issues that are vital to protecting energy jobs in Upstate New York.”

The coalition asked New York to: make changes to existing energy policy to ensure that nuclear power is appropriately recognized for its baseload capacity and reliable contribution to the state’s energy grid; incentivize nuclear power the same as other carbon-free energy sources as part of the state’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and, solve the congestion issues that have plagued New York’s electric transmission system for decades so power can get from where it is produced, to where it is consumed.

According to a 2015 report by the Brattle Group, Upstate New York’s four nuclear plants annually account for nearly 25,000 jobs, $3.16 billion GDP, $1.7 billion in electricity savings, $144 million in tax revenues, and 16 million tons of CO2 emissions avoided valued at $700 million – all for the benefit of New Yorkers.

Edward Lisk Receives the Highest Honor in Band World
Also in early January, it was announced that Oswegonian Edward S. Lisk received the highest honor and recognition in the band world on December 17, 2015, at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago.

The Academy of Winds and Percussion Award is presented to those whose contributions are determined to be so outstanding that they deserve and warrant honor and recognition.

The National Band Association established the Academy of Winds and Percussion Award for the purpose of recognizing those individuals who have made truly significant and outstanding contributions to furthering the excellence of bands and band music.

The Academy of Winds and Percussion Award is a nine-inch silver figure designed to be the “Oscar” of the band world. The award is literally a “Who’s Who” list of the greatest leaders involved in the band movement during the past five decades.

The recipients of the award include an international cross section of important individuals representing all aspects of the band world, who have rendered remarkable service to bands.

Lisk is an internationally recognized clinician, conductor, and author.

SUNY Oswego Receives More Than $1 million To Help More Complete Degrees
In the SUNY-wide competition for project grants from the SUNY Investment and Performance Fund, SUNY Oswego will receive $1,025,000 for two projects, Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher announced Jan. 11.

One of Oswego’s winning projects focuses on helping students who encounter mathematics as a barrier to academic success, and the other partners with Jefferson Community College to build an alternative path to college for students who are not accepted at Oswego.

In addition, Oswego is partner to a third project, funded at $575,000, to establish a cancer study and care center at Upstate Medical University.

Oswego’s SUNY Excels/Tomorrow Plan Advisory Group generated the college’s proposals. The group is made up of 54 faculty, staff, students, administrators and College Council members and chaired by President Deborah F. Stanley.

“These projects grow out of efforts we have already been pursuing with notable results,” Stanley said. “This welcome infusion of resources will allow us to prove and formalize programs that other campuses can then replicate to help even more students finish college and go on to successful careers. We are grateful to the governor, the Legislature and Chancellor Zimpher for their vision in providing this additional support that will benefit New York citizens and communities.”

Oswego’s Ciesla Receives National Band Director Award
The  U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Committee and the National Association for Music Education announced Jan. 12 that Scott Ciesla, director of bands at Oswego High School, was the recipient of the 2016 National Band Director of the Year Award.

The announcement was made at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Awards Show in San Antonio, Texas.

“The U.S. Army is proud of its distinguished musical history and legacy for producing great leaders,” said Mark S. Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for marketing. “Band directors play an important role in the positive development of America’s youth; they are accomplished and respected leaders, who like our Army Soldiers, base their leadership on a set of core values. We congratulate Scott on being recognized as Band Director of the Year and thank him for his dedication.”

A member of the New York State School of Music Association, and of the National Association for Music Education for 10 years, Ciesla has been a director of bands at Oswego High School since 2010 and is presently in his 14th year of teaching.

Oswego High School is the only school in the country to have a student earn the honor of being accepted into the U.S. All-American Marching Band every year since its inception in 2008. There have been a total of 14 students in 9 years who have earned the right to be called U.S.Army All-Americans.

Ciesla is deeply honored and excited to receive such a prestigious award but noted that this award is not about him. “It is really about the Oswego City School District, the Oswego music program and its students, parents, community, K-12 music faculty members, past directors, and the marching band staff members who have helped these students grow in the outstanding leaders, musicians, and performers that they are today. Oswego is truly a wonderful place to work and I am very proud of our program and honored to represent this wonderful community!” Ciesla said.

Backus  To Forgo Run For Congreess
Michael Backus, Oswego County Clerk, said Jan. 15 regarding New York’s 22nd Congressional District:

“After much thought, consideration, and prayer, I have decided to forgo a campaign for Congress and instead seek a second term as Oswego County Clerk this fall.

“First, I must thank my family, friends, and supporters who were nothing short of spectacular as we considered this opportunity. My wife, Andrea, my parents, in-laws, coworkers, friends, and supporters time and time again were there to help me think through what it would take to run for Congress. This decision came down to what is best for my family.

“There is no perfect time to run for Congress. There is just the right time. When
Maddy and Joey are a little older perhaps we’ll revisit running for higher office; but right now we’re happy right where we are.

“Second, there is still work to be done in Oswego County. One thing I wanted to do during this process was elevate the stature of my home county within this congressional district. No successful candidate for Congress can now ignore Oswego County. If they ever do, they won’t be in Congress long.”

Local Teacher Seeks Seat on NYS Board of Regents
A local man hopes to give this area something it hasn’t had on the NYS Board of Regents – an advocate.

According to John Sheffield, the NYS Board of Regents has two positions open: Merryl Tisch’s At Large position and Anthony Bottar’s spot. Bottar is the regent for the 5th Judicial District, which includes Oswego County as well as Onondaga, Oneida, Jefferson, Lewis and Herkimer counties.

“On January 3, someone reached out to me, asking me to throw my name into the hat and make a case for a regent position,” Sheffield told Oswego County Today. “It was really humbling because I really admire and respect the person. Then others also contacted me about it.”

In the week that followed, much occurred. He didn’t know a teacher could run. However, it turns out teachers can; principals, superintendents and school business officers can’t. The application deadline has passed, but more teachers might have jumped in, he noted.

The long-time teacher in the Central Square School District contacted several people that he trusts around the state and they all said, “John, you have to do this,” he said. “The support was overwhelming. So, I ran it by my wife and kid for their support. I couldn’t do it without the support of my school district (Central Square).”

There are monthly meetings in Albany once a month – back to back, Monday and Tuesday. If you’re going to be a regent, you have to be at these meetings.

Being a NYS regent is not a paying position …there is no financial gain.

“After additional discussion with, and encouragement from, my wife and adult children, I felt that this is a call I cannot ignore,” he said.

“I spoke to every BOE member with my proposal to submit my name for a Board of Regents position. I also had a face to face meeting with my superintendent. I informed them that I could not pursue this unless I had their support and the support of the community,” he said. “They voted unanimously to support me.”

He reached out to the other districts as well.

Oswego County Receives Approval to Proceed With Establishment of Land Bank
The County of Oswego was informed Jan. 21 that the Board of Directors for New York State’s Empire State Development Corporation has approved the county’s application to establish a land bank as part of its efforts to combat the decline of housing stock and housing values throughout their various communities.

New York State’s Land Bank Program was signed into law by the Governor in July of 2010. Governmental entities that are approved by ESD are authorized to create a not-for-profit corporation whose purpose is to facilitate the return of vacant, abandoned and tax delinquent properties to productive use.

Oswego County will join a very small group of proactive municipalities across New York that have chosen to use this highly effective tool to address dilapidated, distressed or marginal properties that are impairing neighborhoods and diminishing property values in otherwise healthy communities.

Oswego County Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner said, “Those of us who live, work and raise our families here appreciate all that we have to be thankful for. However, like many other aging industrial areas, we also know that there are challenges that we face when trying to encourage others to call Oswego County their home. The quality of our neighborhoods and the housing stock in general is something that we can have some influence on.  The Land Bank is the perfect tool to help us do so.”

Oswego County Legislator Shane Broadwell, the lead organizer of the Oswego County Land Bank initiative said, “The growing number of abandoned properties in Oswego County is a burden on our economy that is steadily weakening our housing market. No single factor caused those abandonments, but about a year ago we identified a tool that could provide our county with solutions and we immediately sought to implement it. Today, I am thrilled to announce that New York State has approved our application to form an Oswego County Land Bank. Land banks are strengthening neighborhoods in many counties across New York State and today we join them to begin the important work of revitalizing ours.”

Council Tables Charter Change Resolution
The Port City’s winter parking ban remained in effect in January.

At a public hearing in late January, more than a baker’s dozen residents shared their thoughts on how the city should handle the winter parking situation. Some favored the 1-6 a.m. parking ban, some thought the alternate parking policy wasn’t that bad; most believed the city needs to explore more options.
After nearly an hour of public comment, the councilors discussed the proposed amendment to the Code of the City of Oswego, Chapter 257, Vehicles and Traffic Ordinance, Section 257-27, Winter Parking Restrictions, for about a half hour.
When all was said and done, councilors voted unanimously to table the resolution pending further discussion and public input.

“Nothing happened; they tabled the resolution. They tabled not amending the charter,” Mayor William Barlow told Oswego County Today following the meeting. “So, my executive order carries through until I lift it.”
Mayor Barlow issued the executive order on Jan. 11 instituting the winter parking ban (as of 1 a.m. Jan. 12 on all streets in Oswego. Barlow’s executive order supersedes the alternate side winter parking policy currently stated in the city charter.

Barclay Proposes Legislation to Support FitzPatrick
In late January Assemblyman Will Barclay introduced two bills in his continued effort to support the nuclear power industry and keep the FitzPatrick nuclear power plant operational.

One bill would provide a temporary tax credit for the FitzPatrick plant (A8688).
The other bill (A9033), among other things, expands New York State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to include nuclear power.
Currently, New York’s Renewable Portfolio Standard only includes solar and wind generated power but excludes nuclear power even though all three types of generation do not emit CO2.
This bill also makes nuclear power plants, like its solar and wind brethren, eligible to receive proceeds obtained by the state through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“This legislation would put nuclear power on par with other zero-carbon power producers. Nuclear power is a clean, efficient, and reliable energy resource for New York State. It is time for New York State to recognize the importance of nuclear power and support the industry like it does with other zero-carbon power producers. My legislation accomplishes this and also will go a long way towards keeping the FitzPatrick Nuclear plant operational,” said Barclay.

Fire Damages West Side Oswego Apartments
The Oswego Fire Department battled a difficult structure fire Thursday evening (Jan. 28) in an apartment house at 194 W. Fifth St.

Firefighters remained on the scene through the morning tending to hot spots and pumping water from neighboring basements.
Firefighters were dispatched to the blaze at 10:03 p.m., after an occupant called 911 stating that an electrical outlet was on fire.

When fire personnel arrived on the scene minutes later, residents were evacuating the structure with the help of Oswego Police Department officers.
Fire department personnel entered the three-story, nine-unit apartment building, located an active fire on the second floor and worked to extinguish it with multiple hoselines.

Other firefighters searched the third floor of the structure for any trapped occupants. Fire crews then had to pull the sheetrock ceiling and wall material to expose hidden pockets of fire.

Fire officials found that the fire had advanced to the attic space and believed the roof supports were comprised, forcing personnel out of the structure.
Crews then battled the fire from the exterior, dousing the building with water from ladder trucks. Additional handlines were deployed to the neighboring houses to keep them from catching fire.

The fire was declared under control after about 2 hours, and crews remained on the scene to continue to douse the building with water.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury at the fire and was checked and released. No civilian injuries were reported.

Grassroots Effort Ensures Oswego Lighthouse Shines Into The Future
Dozens of local volunteers have put in hundreds of man hours to ensure Oswego’s lighthouse stands tall atop Lake Ontario’s water for years to come. Members of the Oswego Common Council recently heard a report of the group’s labors in 2015.

Mercedes Niess (director of the H. Lee White Maritime Museum) of the Oswego Lighthouse Committee presented the annual Oswego Lighthouse update.
“We lease the Oswego Lighthouse from the city of Oswego. Our mission is to conduct a restoration of the lighthouse. We are very proud to tell you of our accomplishments. A lot of the volunteers who worked on the lighthouse are sitting right behind me (here in the Council Chambers),” she said.

They began interior restorations, using volunteers, in 2013.
Ted Panayotoff, chair of the Oswego Lighthouse Committee, headed up a group volunteers for the quick boat trip from the museum out to Oswego’s iconic West Pierhead Lighthouse during the good weather last year.

From May 27 to October 15, they made 31 working trips to the lighthouse.

They had 32 individual volunteers help during last year and put in close to 782 man hours of work. Additionally, more than 150 man hours of work was performed on shore; repairing windows and things like that.

50 Years Ago – Historic Blizzard Paralyzed Central New York
The folks from New York City down through the Mid-Atlantic States were still digging out from a recent blizzard. Ask anyone around here, however, and they’ll tell you things were much worse in Central New York 50 years ago.

On Thursday night (Jan. 27, 1966), the snow began to come down heavily. By Jan. 28 it was a full-fledged snowstorm.

Everyone in the “Snow Belt” coped. We had weathered snowstorms before.
In fact, on Saturday, Jan. 29, there was a break in the weather. The storm had let up. No big deal. The area and its residents had survived another bout with Mother Nature’s snow machine. They always had, and always would.

Then, all hell broke loose on Jan. 30!

It seemed as if someone had put the region into a blender, added plenty of snow, and turned it on high – it was a blizzard people still speak of in awe-filled voices 50 years later.

By some accounts, when it was all over, the city was bombarded with more than 101 inches of snow. The exact figure is impossible to say since the winds were so fierce there was no way to get an accurate record of the falling snow.

The only thing that’s known for sure is that the area was paralyzed. By Jan. 30, an estimated 51 inches of snow (more than 8.5 feet) had fallen on Central New York.

Everything from birthday parties to church services and everything in between had been canceled.

On Wednesday, Feb. 2, 1966, Oswego Mayor Ralph Shapiro offered some encouragement to a snow-weary city.

“The city is beginning to see daylight,” he said of Oswego’s struggle to shake off the effects of a coastal storm that combined with a lake-effect storm that brought the area to a standstill for several days.

According to news accounts, the mayor was tired and hungry after coordinating all emergency efforts through the Port City’s police department for the better part of Feb. 1-2. He conservatively estimated the economic loss to the community for the two-day period to be more than $1 million.

Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments section.

1 Comment

  1. You failed to mention “The Oswego Five” you know the five legislators that failed to have their “Oath of Office” cards signed and registered in the required by law by 30 days after taking office. How they had their State Representatives circumvent the law and allow them to be re-appointed without having to run for office in 2016. Proving that it is not what is right but who has the votes to change the law to suite the majority.You failed to mention that these 5 are legislators that in one way or another support the minority caucus. You failed to mention that the oversight of their cards not being filed could have been a political spanking and a wake up call as to holds all the cards. Also you failed to mention the fact that s Sub-Committee formed to look into the formation of a County Wide Fire District unanimously voted to apply for a grant to do a feasibility study but it was voted down in the Public Safety Committee. Now the state wants just that idea and other consolidation ideas followed through with. Ideas like a County Wide School District and a Municipality willing to look into Dissolving.

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