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2016 In Review: July 2016 – Black Bears, $10 Million, Dramatic Rescues and Harborfest

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

Black Bear Spotted In Oswego
A woman was driving to her job in Oswego around 11:15 a.m. in early July when she spotted a black bear. At first she thought it might be a statue.

The bear had been going parallel to Hawley Street when it ran in front of her car near Ellen and Hawley streets. It stopped and stared at her for a minute before running off through backyards.

At that time there had been several reports about the bear sightings.

Black bears sightings across Upstate New York increased in 2016. They were seen in Fair Haven and Mexico as well.

Oswego Health Named Among the Healthiest Companies in America
Oswego Health, which consistently advocates for residents to improve their health status through programs and educational materials, has itself been recognized by a national wellness company for the health of its employees.

The health system is being honored as one of the healthiest companies in America by Interactive Health, a national leader known for its personalized wellness solutions.

Oswego Health is one of 154 companies across the country being recognized for helping employees make significant and sometimes life-saving changes to improve their health.

Interactive Health provides wellness programs to approximately 2,000 companies across the country, which represents a range of professions. Staff members utilizing the company offered health insurance plan developed personal health scores based upon health screenings and their health-related habits.

Oswego School Board Names Officers For 2016-17 School Year
In a brief reorganizational meeting July 1, the Oswego school board appointed its slate of officers for the 2016-2017 school year.

Lynda Sereno was elected as president. Tom DeCastro was elected as vice president.

Prior to the meeting, Aimee Callen and James Bell took the oath of office.

The pair was elected to full three-terms on the board this past May.

The board then acted on various housekeeping items for the upcoming school year.

Oswego’s Annual Fourth Of July Parade Attracts Thousands
Families and friends packed both sides of West Bridge Street for Oswego’s annual 4th of July Parade.

Temperatures settled into the mid 70s with a light breeze, making it perfect to sit by the side of the road under clear blue skies and watch the parade go by. The parade came up West Bridge Street at 1 p.m. and headed east, passing large cheering crowds as it did so.

Many people have been attending the annual parade for years. For some it is a tradition to arrive several hours before the parade and stake out their favorite spots using lawn furniture and blankets. There is an unwritten parade law that you don’t disturb a location someone has already claimed.

Tony Tuso of Oswego has been coming to the parade for more than five decades. “We always sit in the same place,” he said from his vantage point in the southeast corner of East Park. “It’s a great place to watch the parade. You can see it all, and it’s cool and shady.”

While Oswego had hosted many parades on different occasions, it was during 1964 that friends and fellow Jaycee members Bill Green and Bill Gregway decided that Oswego needed a bigger event than just a fireworks display to celebrate our nation’s birthday. Thus the tradition of the Oswego Independence Day Parade was born.

Gov. Cuomo Announces Oswego To Receive $10 Million In DRI
On July 14, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Downtown Oswego was selected as the winner of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative in Central New York.

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative, first laid out in the Governor’s 2016 State of the State address, 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 plan aligns with “Central NY Rising” – the region’s successful Upstate Revitalization Initiative blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development.

The winner was selected as part of a competitive process by the state’s Central New York Regional Economic Development Council and will receive $10 million in state funding to revitalize the local neighborhood and generate new opportunities for long-term growth and prosperity.

“New York is working to generate opportunity in every corner of this state and with the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, we are building on that progress,” Governor Cuomo said. “Through this funding, we are giving Oswego the opportunity to invest in its rich historical, cultural and scenic assets and transform its downtown into an economic anchor for the entire Central New York community.”

Oswego Mayor William Barlow Jr. said he was “just ecstatic ”

“A lot of hard work was put into the application  We needed to make sure that everyone looking at the application and the governor understood how much energy and potential this city has. I think we did a good job. Let’s hope things keep moving forward  we have to keep the momentum going,” he said.

Barclay: $10 Million for Port City Will Build on Oswego’s Waterfront, Commerce, Lend to Job Creation
Assemblyman Will Barclay released the following statement on July 14 after it was announced by the Governor that Oswego is the recipient of the $10 million Central New York Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant.

“I am thrilled Oswego will receive this funding. This will enable Mayor Barlow and city leaders the opportunity to invest in downtown and along the picturesque waterfront to create jobs, attract tourists, and improve the quality of life for residents.  I am confident the city will make the most of this award and leverage this grant to the betterment of the local economy. Further, I am pleased that Oswego County received such an award and I look forward to seeing the planned development be built.”

Cuomo: $14 Million Route 104 Project Under Way
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the $14 million project to rehabilitate approximately 4 miles of Route 104 in western Oswego County was under way.

This project was announced during last year’s Central New York “Capital for a Day” as one piece of a comprehensive 47-point plan to advance Central New York through investments in infrastructure, housing and higher education.

“Route 104 in Oswego County is a critically important commerce route in Central New York, connecting Interstate 81 with rail and port facilities, farming communities and SUNY Oswego,” Governor Cuomo said. “By advancing this project, we are not only improving the long-term viability of road infrastructure, but also drastically improving safety for the large volume of bicyclists and pedestrians who use this busy corridor daily.”

Hope For FitzPatrick
Exelon Corp., owner of Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station, was in talks to buy and continue operating the adjacent FitzPatrick plant, which will shut down six months from now if the deal fails, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.

An agreement could be announced soon, said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because neither Exelon nor FitzPatrick owner Entergy Corp. had authorized public statements.

Exelon’s acquisition of FitzPatrick would be contingent on state approval of new nuclear subsidies proposed by staff of the New York Public Service Commission, the source said.

The potential last-minute rescue of FitzPatrick heightens the stakes for the PSC, which is conducting an expedited review of ratepayer-funded subsidies worth $480 million a year to keep the four Upstate nuclear reactors running.

Both Exelon and Entergy have said their Upstate nuclear plants are losing money because of low wholesale power prices resulting from cheap natural gas.

Exelon notified the commission last month that it might close the Nine Mile 1 reactor in Oswego County and the Ginna reactor in Wayne County next year if the state does not guarantee subsidy payments by September.

Entergy announced last November that it would close FitzPatrick, which loses roughly $60 million a year.

NAPA Super DIRT Week Moves to Oswego Speedway in 2016

NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week, Oct. 5-9, would move to the historic Oswego Speedway in 2016.

Oswego, a historic paved, half-mile track 35 miles north of Syracuse, will be covered with dirt for the first time since 1952 to accommodate the Napa 300 and all of the week’s events and festivities.

“With support from Governor Cuomo, the State of New York, and incredible fans and sponsors, we are excited to write a new chapter in the history of Racing’s Biggest Party,” said DIRTcar Racing CEO Brian Carter. “We’ve developed a great relationship with John Torrese and his team over the past several months, and Super DIRT Week is going to be a lot of fun at Oswego this year.”

In addition to assisting with the three-week process of covering the track with some 9,600 cubic yards of clay, the State of New York and DIRTcar are also making improvements to the grandstands and camping facilities at Oswego. The investment in the speedway will not only benefit NAPA Super DIRT Week but future use of the facility, including Oswego’s “Classic,” the third largest motorsports event in New York behind only the NASCAR weekend at Watkins Glen and Super DIRT Week.

“We’re thrilled to have the event here,” said NAPA Syracuse Sales Manager John Provo.

The format and schedule for NAPA Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway remained the same as previous years with on-track action every day from October 5 through 9 at Oswego, including a return of Friday Night Lights.

Oswego Native Rocks On in Ithaca

The Small Kings have been playing together for 16 years, in one form or another. Now, they have kicked it up a notch, according to a member of Oswego’s Frostbit Blue.

“Hey, I’ve got me a boy in a rock band!” proud father Tom McCaffrey told Oswego County Today.

Guitarists Frank Raponi and Jeff McCaffrey and bassist Mike Levy played their first gig together as Cosby, Nils and Stash at Ithaca’s Moosewood Café in 2001. Then, they performed for several years as the Marty Withers Band, featuring a wide variety of cover songs as well as some original music.

Joel Blizzard, inspired by their musical interactions, took up drumming and was pulled into the group as soon as he was ready.

They soon changed their name to The Small Kings and shifted their focus toward original music. Above all, the four are friends first and band members second.

Jeff McCaffrey is an Oswego native, now living in Ithaca.

The Small Kings released its second album, “Into Gravity,” on July 22 with a debut performance at the Grassroots Festival.

Into Gravity features special guests of note. Making keyboard contributions on two songs each are Colin Smith of Gunpoets and solo artist Benjamin Costello. Costello is a former member of The Small Kings, who also appeared on their first album.  And, Tom McCaffrey of Frostbit Blue, father of lead singer/guitarist Jeff McCaffrey, makes “a stunningly tasteful appearance” on the song Tailgating.

“They have really upped their game the last two years or so,” Tom McCaffrey said. “They have become more serious, professional. There is so much musicianship in the group.”

Harborfest 29 Kicks Off In The Port City

The 29th annual Harborfest was greeted by warm temperatures and partly cloudy skies – with hundreds of people, young and old, ready to celebrate.

Opening night’s music started at 5:15 p.m. on the NRG Lakeview Stage with Avalanche, the US Army Band followed at 7 p.m. by Prime Time Horns. There was a slight intermission at 8:30 p.m. for the opening ceremonies.

Pete Myles, Harborfest’s executive director, said things were “fantastic.”

“Things are going very well. We have some great weather and the crowds are big,” he said. “It’s a great opening night.”

However, Blues Traveler, scheduled to take the stage shortly after 9 p.m. didn’t appear until nearly 10 p.m. Some disgruntled fest-goers left the stage area early.

“I really have to thank the community and everybody here for the support we have had the last 29 years,” said Chena Tucker, president of the Harborfest Board of Directors. “This is a grassroots festival and we can not do it without our board and all the volunteers. Thank you so much!

Oswego Mayor William Barlow Jr. welcomed the enthusiastic crowd to the 2016 edition of Harborfest, the largest “family reunion” in the Northeast. He also thanked all the sponsors and volunteers.

He then introduced a special guest, former Oswego Mayor John Sullivan who was one of the driving forces behind the genesis of Harborfest.

“I’m thrilled and honored to be here to join you tonight. You know 29 years ago we stared Harborfest with four magic words,” Sullivan said. Mayor Barlow joined Sullivan in a countdown and then, in unison, they proclaimed, “Let the fun begin!”

Sgt. Krysta Waters, from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, sang the National Anthem.

Hundreds March In 29th Annual Children’s Parade

Hundred of youngsters, their friends and families, marched from Breitbeck Park to the Novelis Family Park (West Park) in idyllic weather.

The annual Children’s Parade is considered by many to be the official start of Harborfest. The parade drew an estimated 600 participants, from infants to adults.

The temperature was in the lower 80s.The humidity crept higher during the march. To ensure everyone stayed safe, the Oswego Health Sun Patrol passed out sun screen to the marchers as well as those along the parade route.

As in years past, the parade route was lined with people; many of them cheering and taking pictures of the marchers as they went past.

Residents, Dogs Rescued From Burning Building
The Oswego Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire with trapped occupants at 8:16 a.m. July 31. Upon arrival, OFD command reported heavy fire conditions in the front of the two-story multiple-occupancy and confirmed victims in a second story window.

Power lines were dropping in front of the residence as crews arrived.

Truck company firefighters quickly placed a ladder at the second story window and were able to remove a 4-month-old boy, a 7-year-old girl and an adult male to safety.

Engine company personnel worked to knock down the fire in the front of the residence and the main ambulance crew geared up and entered the rear of the structure to conduct a primary search where they rescued a dog to safety. A second dog was rescued from the upstairs apartment.

All of the fire victims were checked and released at the scene.

“The home did have working smoke alarms, but at this time we are unsure how many and their locations,” Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie said.

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