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County To State: Deal With Meaningful Budgetary Reform

OSWEGO, NY – The county’s Economic Development and Planning Committee this week passed a pair of resolutions in support of Fort Ontario and Selkirk Shores.

Both resolutions will be brought before the full legislature at Thursday evening’s meeting.

The meeting is slated for 7 p.m. in the County Building, East Bridge Street.

The New York State fiscal crisis has prompted the governor and others to make drastic decisions with regard to potential savings in their operating budgets, according to Legislator Morris Sorbello, committee chair.

One such decision was to close or minimize operations at various state parks and historic sites. In Oswego County, Fort Ontario and Selkirk Shores have been targeted.

Oswego County residents and visitors have enjoyed the public swimming beach at Selkirk for several generations. Until very recently, this beach was the only public swimming area on the Lake Ontario shoreline within Oswego County.

The resolution also points out that many local businesses rely on the activity generated by the day trips that families make to the park for the sole purpose of using the beach. And, others rely on the activity generated by the visitors who come to the park to camp each season.

If the beach is closed, legislators fear that many local businesses will fail or at very least be forced to reduce employment at their respective operations.

For more than 250 years, Fort Ontario has been part of the Port City. It has served as a military facility and, currently, as an educational site.

Oswego’s fort has become a preferred location for re-enactors from around the world and annually draws thousands of visitors to the city and county for that purpose.

County officials describe it as “perhaps the anchor of our cultural-heritage tourism resources and attractions as nearly 150,000 people use the grounds each year. It is the most visited historic site in the entire Central New York region.”

The use of the fort grounds and buildings as the only emergency refugee center in the entire country for victims of the Nazi Holocaust during World War II raises its status to national prominence, they added.

Besides being a state park, Fort Ontario is also a military burial grounds, Legislator Louella LeClair pointed out.

It has been estimated that it would save the state “around $32,000” to close Selkirk beach and “around $110,000” to close the fort, according to Phil Church, county administrator.

It really isn’t a lot, he pointed out, when you’re talking about a $12 billion deficit.

“In the past couple of years, we have had a ‘fat tax’ on soda and stuff that gets everybody riled up and focused on that; and the bigger bottle bill that gets everybody riled up and focused on that,” Church said. “This year, it is closing parks and historic sites. That’s done, I believe, so that work is not done as it should be on meaningful budgetary reform in New York State.”

So besides just stating opposition to the plan, the county’s resolution includes a “whereas” that encourages state leadership to focus on meaningful budgetary reform and systemic changes that need to take place to solve New York State’s budget problems right away, the county administrator pointed out.

The vast majority of closings, Church added, are taking place in Upstate New York.

“In downstate, they’re simply reducing the hours of operations,” he said. “Does anyone see a pattern here?”

The committee recommended the entire legislature request that Selkirk and the fort be removed from the list of proposed parks and historic sites to be closed.

Copies of the resolutions will be forwarded to the governor, the commissioner of NYS Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, as well as several other state officials.

2 Comments

  1. Actually, with the loss of tax revenue, are we really ‘saving’ much at all. The merchants who get some tourism from the sites, may now have to apply for social services assistance (because as we know, in Oswego there aren’t ANY alternative jobs!), so what savings are we truly talking about here?

    And, ahem, as the ONLY site for Holocaust Refugees in the US, the uniqueness of this tourism destination CANNOT be understated! What the State might rather do, is PROMOTE these sites internationally, and generate tax income, rather than short-sightedly close them.

    IMHO.

    Debbie Engelke
    Time & Again Books & Tea
    Oswego
    one of those merchants in Oswego that gets an occasional visitor because of our Fort (and the Haven Museum)

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