January 2010 – A New Year Gets Started; February Warms Up

OSWEGO, NY – The following are just a few of the stories that made news in and around the Port City the past 12 months.

The Oswego Common Council got reorganized on Jan. 1.

In a brief session, councilors voted to appoint Dan Donovan (R-Fifth Ward) as the presiding officer of the council for 2010. He served in that capacity for 2008 as well as 2009.

The aldermen also approved Shawn Walker (R-Fourth Ward) as the council’s vice president. He was also the VP for 2009.

Donovan thanked his fellow councilors for voting for him and welcomed Catherine Santos (Third Ward) and Ronald Kaplewicz (Seventh Ward) to the council.

On Jan. 3, Judge James McCarthy was sworn in as a Justice of the New York Supreme Court by retiring Justice Robert C. Hurlbutt.

Judge McCarthy had served the people of Oswego and the State of New York as City Attorney, Oswego City Court Judge, Oswego County Court Judge and acting Supreme Court Justice for the past 14 years.

The ceremonies were held at the Oswego County Courthouse, witnessed by a room filled with Judge McCarthy’s friends and family.

The 2010 Oswego County tax bills had a whole new look.

Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann put out a call for a “citizen-friendly” tax bill, charging the Legislature’s Consumer and Community Affairs Committee and several county departments with the task of developing a new format.

“The document should be a consistent design with clear wording, so that people will know exactly what they are paying for and to whom they are paying it. This information is now plain in the new bill,” he said.

The new design featured lines for county, town, and other local taxes, an explanation of the generic tax rate, and examples of state-mandated services and how they affect local taxes.

“The most important thing is that it is easier for our residents to understand the breakdown of their bill,” added Leemann.

Even though any decision was still months away, at best, nearly 20 people let the Oswego school board know how they felt on Jan. 5.

At its December meeting, the board heard from a committee that examined what options the district had if it sold the Education Center. The option that was at the forefront of discussion was closing Leighton Elementary and relocating the district’s offices there.

That didn’t sit well with the parents of Leighton students who spoke at the Jan. 5 board meeting.

Mary Pryor noted that student achievement has been improving in the district. However, if Leighton students have to be added to classes in other elementary schools, the larger class sizes could put that trend in jeopardy.

Leighton was targeted due to its proximity to the high school and the convenience that would provide the administration, she said.

“That’s not an acceptable reason!” she told the board. “Administrators’ convenience should never take precedence over what is best for the children of this district.”

Tara Weisman also questioned why Leighton, the largest elementary school, was being considered for closure. It is three times the size of the Education Center, she pointed out.

Marguerite Clark served on the Relocation Committee.

“I can honestly say that I do not agree or support the options that were presented to you,” she said. “I feel we were not given enough information to make a fair and accurate decision. I firmly believe that the options you were presented are flawed.”

“There is no action that will take place this evening,” Superintendent Bill Crist agreed. “This is an opportunity for the board to discuss the report and also assure you that there will be subsequent opportunity for you to be involved in this process as well.”

The elementary school remains open.

“Oswego Reads” was formed with the goal to create a community wide experience that can be enjoyed by all segments and all ages of our community by embracing the same book (“Three Cups of Tea” written by Greg Mortenson), according to Laura Ryder, the Oswego City School District’s director of literacy.

This tome was selected because of its message, according to Bill Riley, of the rivers’ end bookstore, who is participating in the program.

“It’s talking about a world that’s succeeding through education as opposed to war,” he said. “The message is let’s achieve peace.”

“This is a huge initiative. The actual community read will kick off in the fall of 2010, September. It will be a two-month community read with various events throughout those two months,” Ryder said.

Community events and activities were held to promote literacy, discovery, sharing and dialogue of the issues and themes presented in these books.

The Oswego County Legislature started off 2010 pretty much like it did 2009. They just added five brand new legislators to the mix.

Barry Leemann was again named chair of the legislature and Jack Proud the vice chair.

Fred Beardsley was selected as majority leader and Linda Lockwood as whip.

On the minority side, Mike Kunzwiler and Doug Malone retained their position of minority leader and whip, respectively.

“I know you got some real nice people to work with,” retired legislator Clayton Brewer said during a brief presentation to recognize his 30 years of service to the legislature.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of that 30 years. I appreciate what every legislator here has done with me and worked with me over the years,” he said.

Legislators also approved former Oswego City Common Councilor Dick Atkins as the new Democrat Elections Commissioner for the county.

He replaced Bill Scriber who left to take a position at the Port of Oswego Authority.

Also in early January, the State Health Department was reportedly investigating a complaint involving the Oswego Fire Department’s ambulance service.

Paramedics allegedly refused to transport a female patient to the hospital and the woman was forced to call a private ambulance service.

By the time she got to the hospital, she reportedly needed emergency treatment.

Oswego Mayor Randy Bateman told Oswego County Today on Jan. 8 that he just learned of the situation the previous day.

“I don’t know where it started. I’m told that the state Health Department is investigating an incident,” he said. “I’m not aware of the details or the circumstances. So, I can’t comment on anything until the investigation is completed and I get informed of the facts.”

A few days later, it was reported that three other similar complaints were also being investigated.

About two weeks after the New York State Department of Health started investigating the department’s ambulance service, action was been taken against two firefighters as the probe continued.

The local Regional Emergency Medical Advisory Committee suspended two Oswego firefighters; one an EMT- Critical Care and the other a paramedic.

A retired teacher who lives in Oswego won a $4.1 million payday playing a slot machine called Wheel of Fortune at The Venetian casino in Las Vegas within the last few days, it was announced Jan. 12.

The woman kept her name private.

She was playing the Wheel of Fortune Super Spin MegaJackpot game, which provides massive payouts for the luckiest few.

The woman had been playing that evening, left the machine, then came back with $40 to try one more time.  That’s when she hit the jackpot.

A soldier stationed at Fort Drum was acquitted of assault charges after being accused of injuring a college student.

On Jan. 12, an Oswego City Court jury found Kevin Flanagan (of New Hampshire) not guilty.

The Fort Drum soldier had been charged with assault in connection with a fight in November of 2008 in which a SUNY Oswego student who was seriously hurt when he struck his head on the pavement.

Flanagan was accused of punching Angel Moreno of the Bronx during a fight outside an Oswego pizza shop.

The fight reportedly began after an argument about then President-elect Barack Obama.

Witnesses told police the incident between the two groups of young men Flanagan and Moreno were with started over derogatory comments by someone in Flanagan’s group about Obama, which escalated into a physical confrontation.

Flanagan said he was just defending himself.

The Fulton man accused of the road rage death of an Onondaga County man in 2009 was scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 28 in Cayuga County Court. According to a spokesperson for the Cayuga County DA’s Office, a grand jury on Jan. 20 returned a 15-count indictment against William L. Levea, 79.

The most serious charge he was facing is second-degree murder.

On Nov. 20, 2009, police allege that Levea repeatedly rammed his car into the rear of a pickup truck driven by Christopher J. Spack, 41, of Camillus. Spack reportedly lost control of the vehicle along Route 370 in Cato and was hit by an oncoming truck. He was thrown from his vehicle; he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Levea was being held without bail in Cayuga County Jail. He was facing 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.

On Jan. 20, a jury returned a guilty verdict in the trial of Robby Guppy.

The 19-year-old Fulton man allegedly beat and burned his infant daughter in 2008.

In Oswego County Court, the jury said he was guilty of four misdemeanor counts – three assault and one endangering the welfare of a child.

However, the jury said he was not guilty of second-degree assault, the only felony charge he faced.

Guppy was sentenced on March 1.

Oswego Warms Up In February

OK, so the temperature didn’t make it out of the teens and the windchill made it feel like 5 below on the first weekend of February.

That didn’t stop hundreds of area residents from shaking off the winter doldrums and coming together to “Warm Up” Oswego.

The YMCA adopted the festival in 2006 in order to raise money to renovate the Armory and to create more programs.

Maggie Henry celebrates her birthday in May.

But, in 2010, the big milestone in her life came in early March. That’s when audiences nationwide saw her name in the credits of a major motion picture.

“I will have some artwork in a movie, ‘Remember Me’ (coming out March 12). I worked with the art department, specifically the prop master and set designer, to create props for the main character’s artistic younger sister,” she sad in early February. “There are a few scenes where my sketches may be in a closeup!”

She now has a whole new understanding of how many people it takes to get a film onto the big screen, she added.

Her name was listed in the “Special Thanks” part of the credits.

Science students at Oswego High School commenced a new era in February.

For years, the high school science rooms were out-dated. However, several years ago the voters approved a capital project which provided new science facilities for the district.

As the 2010 portion of the school year commenced students found themselves in modern, up-to-date surroundings.

The four-classroom addition to Oswego High School was the second major physical change during 2010.

Previously, the OHS cafeteria had been renovated, which not only resulted in massive improvements, but increased the efficiency and surroundings for students and staff.

An Oswego High School graduate was murdered in her Boston-area home in early February. Police said her husband admitted to the killing.

Christina Foote Mulgrave was stabbed many times by her husband, Craig, police allege. She died in their apartment in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

She graduated from Oswego High School in 1982.

She worked as a nurse and had moved back to the Boston area a few months ago after marrying Craig Mulgrave in Las Vegas. She wanted to be close to her adult children from a previous marriage.

The Boston Herald described Craig Mulgrave as a “layabout.” He was unemployed.

It was announced in February that historic Fort Ontario was among several sites around the state that were targeted to be closed or see reduced operation under a proposal by the governor to help close a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall.

Closing state parks, such as Fort Ontario, to help reduce the state’s budget deficit is a short-term fix for the state and a long-term headache for communities, some Oswego residents said.

Plans were under way to hold a save the fort rally as soon as possible.

At the Feb. 23 school board meeting, Oswego School Superintendent Bill Crist proposed closing Frederick Leighton Elementary School and transforming it into the new education center.

Crist explained that the school’s Pre-Kindergarten through grade five students would be relocated to the other four elementary buildings. And, the sixth graders would join the seventh and eighth graders in Oswego Middle School, in the four additional classrooms that will be completed this summer, Crist said.

Bonnie Finnerty, OMS principal, was able to reconfigure her school in a way to allow for the introduction of the sixth grade, Crist said. The elementary principals were working on a similar plan, he added.

The plan was never implemented.

Donald C. Beauchene, 77, of Oswego, a former chief of the Oswego Fire Department died in late February from injuries suffered in a two-vehicle crash on Route 104 in the town of Oswego, state police said.

He was airlifted to Upstate University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a few hours after the crash, troopers said.

Beauchene joined the department as a firefighter in 1956 and retired as chief in April 1990.