City Officials, Former Alderman Spar Over Missing Fence

City Hall as it appeared in the 1940s

City Hall as it appeared in the 1940s

OSWEGO, NY – Oswego Mayor William Barlow Jr. said Monday night he authorized the iron fence surrounding City Hall be taken down. The fence was in bad shape with several missing parts on the West First Street side and it caused a safety concern, he said.

City Hall as it appeared in the 1920s
City Hall as it appeared in the 1920s

Several residents have complimented him on the move, he added.

However, a former city alderman questioned the mayor’s authority to make such a decision without council approval.

And, Dick Atkins said several residents have called him to express their displeasure at the fence being removed.

He said this is a case for the newly formed Oswego Ethics Board.

Kevin C. Caraccioli, city attorney, said Monday night that Atkins’ charges are “Much to do about nothing.”

The majority of the fence is being stored at the former Flexo site, the mayor said.

“I personally think it looks better with the fence gone. It was a safety hazard. You touch the fence and it would buckle,” he said. “I’ve received more compliments about the fence being gone than still being there.”

They will add some landscaping to the area, Barlow noted.

A railing along the west River Walk was also “in terrible shape,” and the mayor said he told the DPW to remove it as well.

Does every time the DPW does something they have to come to the council? He asked rhetorically.

“We didn’t sell the fence. We didn’t give the fence away. I didn’t take it home with me. At the end of the day if the city councilors tell me they need the fence back up … we can send out a RFP (request for proposals) and the council can decide if they want to spend 40, 50 or 60 grand on refurbishing the fence,” the mayor said. “Quite frankly, we intended to do that anyway. It might not be quick enough for some. We’re working on making City Hall look good.”

City Hall as it appeared in the 1940s
City Hall as it appeared in the 1940s

Getting the fence refurbished isn’t high on the mayor’s priority list. The city is in bad shape and there are a lot of other things that need to be done first, he explained.

Councilor Robert Corradino agreed with the mayor that “City Hall looks better without the fence.”

“This is the people’s house; this is the city of Oswego residents’ house. Just like the White House is our house,” he said. “I commend the mayor for being proactive and improving the looks in a cost-effective manner. That fence was in pretty bad shape. It was dangerous, it had missing sections and would be very costly to fix.”

Councilor Nate Emmons also stressed the safety issues regarding the fence. It especially posed a threat during the weekly farmers’ markets, he pointed out, when many young children are playing around it.

The fence, all the way around Second Street wasn’t in bad shape, Atkins said.

“The mayor thought the fence was an eyesore to City Hall. Now, if it were a safety hazard, it still falls on you (council) to decide if it were a safety hazard,” Atkins told the councilors. “It doesn’t fall on the mayor. You guys are in charge. I know he may think he is. But, he is not.”

It should have come through committee, the council should have done due diligence, they should have come up with a plan of what to do if it were a safety hazard, the former alderman said.

“I’ve got people calling me, talking to me and saying, ‘What happened to the fence, that beautiful fence?’ In 1980 City Hall was rehabbed. That’s a federal – state paid for fence and you got no authority from the state to deal with it,” Atkins said.

“Mr. Atkins is making much to do about nothing,” the city attorney said.

The Ethics Committee will do what it needs to, he added.

“But, candidly, this is the exact type of complaint that this board was not constituted to handle, this random nonsense,” he said. “Mr. Atkins’ complaint makes a mockery of the board of ethics.”

The board wasn’t formed for someone “who wants to pick a fight over nonsense,” he added.

“This is a waste of time, this is a waste of your time,” he told the councilors. “This remains a health and safety issue. The mayor was well within his rights to take action immediately.”

The city attorney then displayed several historical photographs depicting Oswego City Hall over the years – without any fence.


  1. Maybe they can sell the fence for scrap & apply the proceeds to the water/sewer rates?? I know….wishful thinkin’.

  2. Unilateral action by our leaders should never be questioned, right? He’s the mayor, so anything a mayor does is right. The same if our President decides something should be done, the President has the right to do it, and it should never be questioned, right? The mayor doesn’t like “his” fence, he should be allowed to tear down “his” fence, because it is his fence, not the people’s fence. Sure, he’s the mayor so it’s his City now, he owns it, not the people, so he can do whatever he wants with his City. He should never have to ask anyone for permission, he should never have to consult with Council, and he should never have to hold public hearings concerning his own personal private property, right?

  3. Wow……they have their priorities right. The city is dying, taxes have skyrocketed, people can longer afford to pay the sewer fees, welfare/public assistance people have taken over the city, people with jobs are leaving. The roads are terrible, drugs are rampant, housing prices are falling, and there is no future here. Oh….and wait until you hear about the underfunded city pension crisis that will be here soon! Yup….lets make a big deal about a fence. That will keep us busy so we don’t have to think about saving this city.

  4. Cranium is correct. I am looking to buy a house in the near future but not within Oswego City limits. This new mayor seems like he wants to make Oswego better and I sure hope he does.

    As far as that old fence goes, glad it’s gone. It made it look like , as the saying goes, an old ladies home! Atkins, sounds like his vote went to the wrong person and he is upset.

  5. I also agree with Cranium but… I take great offense to the terminology from a man I have known for 40 years… the new city attorney. Dick Atkins is a city resident, whether you like him personally or not, is not an issue. To be label as a problematic former council member with his “nonsense” is offensive. He pays the salary of all, same as you and I. If I were told that my concerns were “much to do about nothing” and “random nonsense”, as a city taxpayer, I would be gravely offended that my right, as a citizen was being maligned and ridiculed. I am sadly disappointed in the reaction to a concern brought forward, by the mayor as well as the city attorney. A concern is a concern…period!! I matter, Joe Smoe next door matters, Jean Bean across the river matters etc….
    I really don’t care about the fence one way or another. But I do care about the way human people are treated. And this is not acceptable by the people that are “in charge”. Respect gains respect!

  6. I also agree with Richard. As for Kelley, I could not of said it better my self. You both said just what I was thinking. Robert, Nothing will ever be done to lower the water/sewer bill. They will not even consider monthly payments. This bill will only go up. I hate it as much as everyone that lives here in the city. City Employee/ or employees screwed up and now as tax payers we have to suffer the consequences. I really do not think that there is anything that CAN be done. I admit I do not know for sure, just saying it seems like it to me.

  7. Really with the shape the city is in we are fighting over a fence. I personally like the look with out it.

    I would also like to see that park between city hall and the police station gone also. That was done for Mrs. Sullivan for her harborfest – harborfest is much smaller now – lets take the park out and make more parking spaces – maybe the downtown business area would strive again.

  8. Potter and Shelly Must be Hillary Supporters…Mayor, Council and Attorney… They are in Charge accept it !!

  9. I kinda sorta remember ‘pre-fence’ City Hall. I also remember pre-fence City Hall as almost derelict. There was no closed road between the then PO, and the City Building (before the fountain). I also recall the ‘hoopla’ over how high taxes would go to PAY for the new city mall…

    It will always be this way…residents rarely like change, but change we must. IF we can refurbish this fence, I DID think it was a pretty addition
    to the building. But missing teeth, and whole corners missing…not so much. Me, personally, I’d like to see the old Naval Militia Building refurbished before we fix the fence. THAT is an eyesore!!! And an embarrassment that city residents put up with every Harborfest. AS a historic building, however, I’d hate to see it just torn down. But someday, it might just FALL down…

    I loved the old photos showing that we didn’t always have the fence. Fences make good neighbors. In this case, not having one seems to be the issue!

  10. Why not just sell the entire building to the college? After all, they seem to have no problem making improvements to most of their buildings.

  11. I really dont know the mayor but to know mr Atkins and have liked what I have known but seriously ? this entire issue is foolish and if its worth the mayor’s time at all its to inform him there was a safety issue and the DPW is dealing with it . In the meantime the southbound lane of west first is still closed caused by an issue that has been known about for years. The rest of the city roads need help. The school board is looking at draconian cuts all while we pay 5 times the national average in property tax. I know the mayor is new and don’t expect him ….frankly to be able to do much so much is beyond local or his control …but I do expect him to do what he can and prioritize efforts for maximum benefit and complaining about the fence at city all is a foolish waste of time .

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