OSWEGO, NY – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited the Port of Oswego Authority Thursday afternoon for a tour and was updated as to how a federal grant will enhance security not only for the port but entire region.
Gillibrand, D-N.Y., met with Jonathan Daniels, executive director of the port, Bill Scriber, manager of administrative services at the port and Joe Orlando, Coast Guard senior chief among others.
The $160,400 grant will enhance security at the port through the placement of several hi-tech cameras. The funds were allocated to the port by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Gillibrand expressed her support for the upgraded security system at the port through the competitive Port Security Grant program.
The grant funding will help create a video surveillance system throughout the Oswego Harbor and Port of Oswego, providing an important security resource for area first responders and law enforcement, according to Scriber.
“We’re just a few miles over from Canada. You can get a pleasure boat come across from Canada, be here in less than 40 minutes, in Lock 8 and then in New York City in less than two days,” Scriber said. “Collaboratively with the (five) security offices in the area – Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Customs, city and county police – we cooked up an idea to do something a little bit innovative, a little bit new.”
That became the harbor-wide video surveillance system, which will be up and running within a year, Daniels added.
“It’s not only just here at the port, it’s the entire waterfront. We are all going to share the system, Scriber explained. “Instead of spending $160,000 on a Coast Guard system and then a Border Patrol system and so on, we put the systems all together and we share.”
“I am very pleased you were awarded the grant and am very privileged to support it,” the senator said. “It’s an example of a great idea getting funded and I am looking forward to seeing the implementation.”
“The port has been extremely successful in securing funding. We have been able to put the money, whether it is state or federal funding, to great use,” Daniels said.
The port will be working to put together the ultimate security plan now, Daniels said.
“We know what types of systems we want. Exactly where they are going to be stationed on site and how that integrates in still needs to go through the specifications and bidding process. The Port of Oswego is extremely serious about making sure that we have the recourses in place to understand there is a threat, identify that threat and then call in the professionals from Oswego PD who have the training in this type intervention so they know what they’re going to face before they get here. It’s a little bit different when you’re going aboard a vessel.”
Senator Gillibrand also cited the economic development importance of the Port of Oswego for the area. The international Port of Oswego is the only deep draft port on the American side of Lake Ontario, and services up to 120 deep draft vessels, 30 barges, 750 railcars, 7,000 truck shipments and more than 1 million tons of cargo on an annual basis.
For the first time, the port’s payroll is above a million dollars, Daniels noted.
“The growth we’ve had here the past several years is probably best evidenced by the rail activity,” Daniels told the senator. “In 2004 and 2005, we had a grand total of zero railcars. This past year, we handled in excess of 750.”
“That’s fabulous,” Gillibrand said. “That’s wonderful growth.”
Terry Hammill, chair of the port’s board of directors, presented the senator with a gift – designating her as “Honorary Harbormaster” of Oswego. It gives her the authority to pilot any vessel in the harbor, he noted.
“The number one issue around the state is jobs,” the senator said. “A lot of small businesses are looking for loans, access to capital, lower taxes. We really want to work on a bi-partisan basis in Washington and pass legislation that helps our businesses grow.”
She said she spent a lot of time Thursday listening and talking with various stakeholders about issues that would make a difference in their industries, she added.
The senator noted that the seniors she spoke with were concerned about Social Security and Medicare; “But they are also concerned about jobs too, for their children and grandchildren.”
Earlier Thursday, in Branchport, Gillibrand held an economic development roundtable focused on how to create jobs in upstate New York.
The listening session focused on federal policies and programs that help rural businesses succeed, including access to financing, small business technical training and new market opportunities, she said.
Later, in Waterloo, she held a “Senate at Your Supermarket” event where she met with constituents to discuss how the economic crisis and financial uncertainty is affecting their families and local small businesses.
As a working mother of two, Gillibrand said she understands the enormous challenges families across New York are facing and is committed to creating and retaining jobs, and fostering local economic growth across New York.
In Wolcott, the senator continued her statewide agricultural listening session to gather input for the next Farm Bill by hearing from local Finger Lakes Region farmers.
She also stopped in Auburn to visit Harriet Tubman’s home and the Home for the Aged that she established. Gillibrand has introduced legislation to create a National Historical Park to preserve and promote the life of Harriet Ross Tubman, the most famous “conductor” of the anti-slavery resistance network known as the Underground Railroad.