Safety Measures Sought Following September Tragedy; In October, City Eyes Marina Purchase

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

It was a bit breezy and chilly outside for opening day of the 2010 – 11 school year. Inside the schools it was warm and welcoming, despite the continuous hustle and bustle of workers finishing off renovation work.

Returning students exchanged hugs and high-fives at all the schools in the district as friends were reunited after the hot summer.

Oswego Superintendent of Schools Bill Crist echoed the students’ enthusiasm.

“It was an exciting day. Everyone’s enthusiasm was evident as we visited the schools,” he said.

Though construction continues throughout the district, the school buildings are ready to go for the new year and all the students are safe, Crist stressed.

According to Bill Foley, district clerk, approximately 4,100 students walked through the doors as the Oswego City School District commenced the 2010-11 school year.

A barge used to store corn at the Port of Oswego Authority broke loose from its moorings Sept. 5 and drifted a few hundred feet upriver. No injuries were reported.

Longshoremen used payloaders to tow the barge back to where it belonged.

Bishop Robert J. Cunningham and Christopher Mominey, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, announced the appointment of Joseph Lazarski as principal of Trinity Catholic in Oswego.

Lazarski is a resident of Oswego and a long time educator and administrator in both the Oswego and Baldwinsville areas, most recently as an adjunct professor at SUNY Oswego. Prior to this position, he served as the interim principal at Central Square School District in 2007 and the North Syracuse School District in 2008. For over eight years, he served as the principal of Ray Middle School in Baldwinsville.

Located at 115 E. Fifth St., Trinity Catholic School is for all students pre-K – 6th grade. For registration information, call (315) 343-6700.

The proceeds from the Oswego Lions’ annual “Cow Chip Bingo” will be used to support the scholarship in the memory of Harold “H” Dowd who passed away in September 2005.

“H” was a member of the Fulton Lions Club who was instrumental in keeping the Oswego Lions Club going when it was on the verge of disbanding in 1996.

This year’s bingo winner was Sheena Gates.

When Lions member Karen Hammond called her with the good news, she said “Karen, tell me you’re calling to tell me I won a thousand dollars.”

When Hammond said yes, Gates exclaimed, “You just made my freakin’ day!”

It actually took a little prodding by Hammond to get her former co-worker to buy a “deed.” Now Gates says she’s glad she did.

On Sept. 11, the Port City celebrated its prominent role in the Underground Railroad with the unveiling of a panel outside of the Oswego Public Library.

The unveiling was followed by a powerful performance delivered by storyteller Vanessa Johnson at a luncheon hosted by Bridie Manor. The event was sponsored by Pathfinder Bank. Dr. Judith Wellman, historian and former professor at SUNY Oswego, did much of the research for the event.

She said, “Oswego was an extremely important stop on the Underground Railroad. It was maybe the largest border trade port with Canada in the country at the time.”

“The Underground Railroad is one of Oswego’s greatest contributions to democracy and respect for all people in America and the world,” she added. “Democracy is a living entity and we have to make sure to keep it going.”

Oswego County has more Underground Railroad sites than any other county in the country, according to the National Register of Historic Places.

At its meeting Sept. 13, the Common Council agreed to the Stipulation and Order set forth by the NYS Department of Health Bureau of Emergency Medical Services regarding violations by the city’s fire department. The state mandated the city pay a $10,000 fine for those violations.

As a result of its investigation, the state determined that 38 EMS providers failed to complete pre-hospital care reports on 178 occasions. Also, OFD failed to maintain a treatment management record for patients who received advanced life support services on numerous occasions.

The city agreed to pay $2,000 of the fine within 30 days of the effective date of the Stipulation and Order.

The remaining $8,000 was suspended provided the fire department doesn’t violate the Public Health Law Article 30 or State Emergency Medical Services Code 10 NYCRR Part 800 within two years after the effective date of the Stipulation and Order.

The issues the department was cited for involve paperwork only and “patient care was never compromised,” Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie pointed out.

Most violations involved “cancelled en route” calls, where the crews were cancelled and never made it to the destination and returned to quarters, he said, adding the department has instituted new policies and procedures in response to this investigation.

Also on Sept. 13, the council approved authorizing the mayor to enter into a pre-possession agreement with Fowler Gardella Construction and Thomas Miller for property located at 1-7 W. Seneca St.

On July 26, the city received proposals from developers interested in the former Coleman’s property. The proposals were reviewed by a committee appointed by the mayor to seek a qualified developer to provide the highest and best possible re-use of the property located in Oswego’s downtown waterfront.

Based upon its review of the experience, schedule and purchase price for the property, the committee recommended Fowler Gardella Construction and Thomas Miller.

The developers are proposing to re-do the building, put apartments upstairs and their office in the middle floor and reopen a restaurant of some type on the ground floor. Then, they’d like to construct new townhouses on the adjacent property.

At the end of September, the operator of the Varick Hydroelectric Station in Oswego launched an investigation into the water release that preceded four fishermen being swept down the Oswego River. Two of the men died.

“I have been asked to lead this investigation, the internal investigation, into the events that preceded yesterday’s tragedy” said Jeff Auser, Brookfield Renewable Power’s Chief Dam Safety Officer.

The power company has initiated “a complete and thorough investigation,” he said.

“Brookfield takes it role of public safety extremely seriously,” he said. “We have several signs and audible sirens and barriers at most of our facilities. We do everything in our power to do the best possible job to protect the public.”

Mayor Randy Bateman organized a stakeholders meeting, including some of the fishermen, to see what people feel should be done as far as safety improvements for the area. Several follow-up meetings were also conducted.

Heavy, continuous rain on Sept. 30 caused flooding in many areas around the Port City and trapped more than a dozen anglers in the Oswego River.

About 17 fishermen were on or around an island near the Varick Dam on the west side of the river; the same general area where four others were recently swept into the river.

When the water level began rising rapidly shortly before noon, the fishermen retreated onto the island. They were rescued by members of the Oswego Fire Department. There were no injuries reported.

Parts of Utica Street, near Oswego High School were washed out. Flooding was so severe that West Utica Street at Hillside Avenue was blocked off for a time.

In October Great Pumpkins Abound, City Eyes Marina Purchase

At the October Great Pumpkin Festival, they saved the greatest great pumpkin for last.

After coming in second place in 2009 with 1,089-pound entry, Matt VerSchneider of Freeville (south of Cortland) earned the top spot in the 2010 Great Pumpkin Festival with a 1,283 pounder.

That would have even beat Alan Nesbitt’s 1,229.5-pound winner in 2009.

Andy Wolf lingered in the top spot with a 1,274-pound pumpkin. Nesbitt’s entry for 2010 was weighed next and settled in at 1,193.5 pounds.

Then, Walter Merriam’s pumpkin came in at 1,241.0 pounds with one entry left – VerSchneider’s behemoth.

Cracking the 1,000-pound plateau this year were:

VerSchneider – 1,283
Wolf – 1,274
Merriam – 1,241.5
Nesbitt – 1,193.5
Dave Clements – 1,104.5
Brian Staring – 1,010.5

Robert H. Chetney, 83, of 152 W. Seventh St. in Oswego passed away Wednesday Oct. 6, 2010, at St. Luke’s Health services.

Mr. Chetney retired from Oswego County as the Commissioner of Elections and served as president of the New York State Association of Commissioners of Elections.

In 1975, he founded Chetney Real Estate with his late wife, Helen, most recently serving as the broker and president.

During his successful real estate career, Bob brokered several commercial deals including Wal-Mart, Staples, and Kinney Drugs.

Bob began his political career by joining the Young Republicans for Eisenhower.

He served as legislative aide to former State Senator (H. Douglas) Barclay and Third Ward supervisor from the city of Oswego from 1968-1972.

In 1970, he was elected chairman of the Oswego County Board of Supervisors.

He was very proud of his Irish heritage. He was a past president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and for many years was host of the Irish-American hour on WSGO.

In October, the Oswego City School District began a new meetings format – committees.

The board used to meet every two weeks, but under the new system it meets once each month with preliminary committee meetings to set the agenda and to answer any questions board members may have.

Feelings on this new system are mixed.

At the Oct. 18 council meeting, the Port City and the Port Authority continued to work out a deal where the city would purchase the International Marina from the port.

Proponents see it as a money-making move that will enrich the city’s future. One alderman, however, sees it as “a pipedream” that has the potential to over-burden taxpayers and destroy the city’s future.

The reason why the port is looking to divest itself of the marina is because recreational boating isn’t its core mission – commercial shipping it, port director Jonathon Daniels explained.

“How much more debt is going to pile on to our taxpayers for pipe dreams and more nonsense that wastes taxpayers’ dollars?” asked Bill Sharkey.

“This is revenue. This isn’t just a service. This isn’t giving away city services,” Connie Cosemento said. “This is buying a business for the city to make money, and allow our own citizens to have more waterfront.”

DPW Commissioner Mike Smith also supports the purchase.

“It has the opportunity for numerous revenue streams,” he said. “It’s fairly self-sufficient as it is.”

At a special meeting Oct. 27, the Common Council voted 5 to 2 to move ahead with plans to acquire the International Marina from the Port of Oswego Authority. The price tag is $2.1 million.

Months of planning finally came to fruition on Oct. 28 as award winning and internationally recognized author and humanitarian Greg Mortenson captivated more than 800 Oswego Middle School and elementary age students at the Ralph M. Faust Theater for the Performing Arts.

He then turned his attention on the community as he appeared before nearly 2,000 in the SUNY Campus Center in the evening.

Mortenson, author “Three Cups of Tea” is focused on children. Providing youngsters in Afghanistan and Pakistan with an education is critical to their survival.

His work is based on the proverb that with one cup of tea you are a stranger, with two cups of tea you are a friend and with three cups of tea you are family.

The effort to bring Mortenson to the community was a coordinated effort involving Pathfinder Bank  President and CEO Tom Schneider, Superintendent of School Bill Crist, rivers end book store owner Bill Reilly, Oswego Director of Literacy Laura Ryder and a determined committee to provide this outstanding cultural event to the Oswego community.

Oswego’s students also agreed that they are here to help and generously donated a check for more than $8,000 as part of the “Pennies for Peace” initiative to build schools for children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mortenson said he hoped to come back to Oswego “under the radar” to spend more time with students.