Ellen Abbott

Reporter, Syracuse

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County.  Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 

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Onondaga County is cracking down on employees who pile up overtime pay which ultimately push their pensions higher. Reducing these payments could save the county millions of dollars in the long run.

The Central New York SPCA is bracing for an influx of cats. Officials estimate more than 200 cats and kittens will be dropped off at the center in the next two and a half months. Spring is the time of year cats begin breeding and this year’s early warm weather is causing animal shelters to prepare ahead of schedule.

When state lawmakers approved the budget this week, they restored a program that's vital to many senior citizens. Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage, known as EPIC, helps low and moderate income seniors with co-pays for prescription drugs not covered by Medicare Part-D. When it was defunded last year, seniors were forced to pay 25% of the costs of prescriptions. This made necessary prescriptions unaffordable for some.

Pharmacists at drug stores like the Gifford and West Pharmacy in Syracuse ran into a lot of problems when EPIC stopped helping seniors pay for prescription drugs. Gifford pharmacist Jim McLaughlin encountered many patients who had high co-pays and were forced to pay.

"It ends up costing more. Patients go without their medications and their symptoms start to come back, or they end up being hospitalized," McLaughlin said.

Flu season is peaking this week in Onondaga county, a month behind schedule. This year's flu bug is a particularly mild one. According to federal figures, this year reports the fewest cases since the 80s.

"I think that we're peaking now, which is a late peak, but our numbers were still going up as of last week... but very, very low numbers, not anything I'm concerned about," Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Morrow said. "But it is not over yet."

Morrow tracks flu numbers every year. She says that the mild winter could have something to do with lower numbers.

Fred Vigeant / WRVO

Innovative programs from eight Central New York SUNY Schools were on display in Syracuse Monday.  It was part of the "Power of SUNY Regional Showcase", that let schools from across the area share projects.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Back in the 1950s, the height of technology in libraries was explained in this piece produced by the Brooklyn Public Library,  "Another eye opener was the central registration department. here they have the most modern equipment.  There are have swivel chairs gliding along tracks, sweeping clerks from one end of the files to another."

The redistricting process in New York State is in the home stretch.  A second round of hearings finishes up this week after the release of legislative district lines that many called political attempts to keep incumbents in office.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The old Empire Fresh food processing facility in Oswego will soon be humming, packaging apples for schools and retail. 

CenterState CEO in Syracuse is trying to get more companies in Central New York to do business outside the area.  Syracuse is one of four metropolitan areas in the U-S that are working with the Brookings Institution to increase exports over the next five years.  As part of two initiatives, they are asking local business for data about their exports, and encouraging them to look at more business opportunities outside the area.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The records of outpatients at Upstate University Hospital are entering a new digital world.  The hospital has started installing a new electronic medical records program that will among other things, allow patients to access all their medical records on their computers or smartphones.  Hospital President Dr. David Smith says this is a transformational moment in medicine.

As New York State tries to dig out of a two million dollar deficit, ARISE Executive Director Tom McKown has an idea.  Privatize many of the services currently done by government workers.  He says groups like ARISE, which serves the disabled population in Central New York, and other non-profits can fill the gap if government went out of business.

Look for more steady modest growth in the Central New York economy in the coming year.  According to numbers crunched by CenterState C-E-O,  2011 was a reasonably strong year for local businesses, with the economy growing slightly faster than the national average.  The downside though was that the number of jobs created  still lagged when compared to the national economy. Gary Keith, Regional economist for M&T Bank, thinks that could change this year.

The Occupy Syracuse encampment has 8:00am this morning to clear out of Perseverance Park in Downtown Syracuse because of public safety concerns over the use of propane and other heating devices.  Occupiers like John Gray believe City Hall wants them gone for other reasons.

"They want to shut us down because Stephanie Miner runs on rich people," said Gray. "You run a campaign, you run a campaign run by rich folks. She's having a dinner in a few days where someone has to pay $1,000 to have cocktails with her. That's a problem."

Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing that New York State quadruple the amount of solar energy it uses for power in the next year.  

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

A big step towards keeping the Air One Helicopter in the skies of Central New York has been taken. The Onondaga County Sheriff's Department has won the federal approval to charge insurance companies for medical transports.

Occupy Syracuse is marking its first 99 days at Perseverance Park on South Salina Street.  And folks who are carrying the message of Occupy Wall Street expect to keep their tents and lean-tos up for the long haul, despite a potentially cold and snowy winter.

"Our passion will keep us here pretty much through anything that I can see coming, weather-wise," said Caitlin Shanahan, a 20-year old from Mattydale who's been living there since October 3rd.

With $11.5 million dollars at stake, the Syracuse City School District did some last minute negotiating with its teachers and principal's unions, in the hopes of getting some state funding reinstated.  

2011 has not been a good year for Congress. Just last week, the House narrowly passed an extension on a payroll tax cut. Earlier this year, a government shutdown was avoided after a battle over the debt ceiling. 


2011 has not been a good year for Congress. Just last week, the House narrowly passed an extension on a payroll tax cut. Earlier this year, a government shutdown was avoided after a battle over the debt ceiling. 

2011 has not been a good year for Congress. Just last week, the House narrowly passed an extension on a payroll tax cut. Earlier this year, a government shutdown was avoided after a battle over the debt ceiling. 

Most people do not have a positive view of Congress. A recent Gallup Poll shows Congress with just an 11% approval rating.

As 2011 comes to a close, WRVO spoke with central and northern New York's Congressional representatives. 

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Almost three-thousand Central New York families found some Christmas help at the Annual Salvation Army Christmas Bureau in Syracuse Thursday.  That's 400 more families than needed help last year, a nearly 15% increase. 

The debate continues in Washington over the extension of payroll tax cuts. House Speaker John Boehner says the tax cut legislation, expected to come up for a vote Tuesday, will not pass. 

Eileen Krupka's father has suffered from Alzheimer's Disease for the last six years.  He's like many other's with the progressive neurological disease of the brain he wanders, in fact 60-percent of Alzheimers or dementia patients wander and its a worry for the Krupka family, who live in Baldwinsville.

We have a lot of water around us. and he seems to be fascinated by the water and that's a huge concern

The organization that investigates police brutality by the Syracuse Police Department could be coming back to life.  Syracuse Lawmakers December 19th will decide whether to approve a revised law that solves some of the issues that have plagued the Citizen's Review Board over it's 17 year history. 

There won't be any charges filed in New York State against former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine in the wake of an investigation by the Onondaga County District Attorney's office. District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says the statute of limitations precludes that.  

Ellen Abbott

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick held a news conference in Syracuse Wednesday, where he announced that his office is ending its grand jury investigation into sexual abuse allegations against former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine.

It was a rare yes vote on a gambling issue in the Onondaga County Legislature Tuesday.  The prospect of a convention center hotel makes the possibility of a racino more palatable to lawmakers.

A plan to ground the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department's Air One helicopter was scrapped by county lawmakers Tuesday.  Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against a proposal to sell the airship as surplus. 

Construction is starting on Loguen's Crossing in Syracuse, a redevelopment project located on ten acres of the former Kennedy Square Apartment complex off East Fayette Street on the city's east side.  COR Development is joining forces with the Upstate Medical University on the job.  And COR president Steve Aiello says it changes the whole neighborhood.

The Syracuse Police Department has changed some policies regarding allegations of sex abuse that come into the department, in the wake of the Bernie Fine investigation.  Fine is the former assistant S-U   Basketball coach who is accused of sexually molesting three young men, at different times since 1990 .   Police Chief Frank Fowler says an initial allegation came into the department in 2002, from Bobby Davis, a former Ballboy with the team.  Fowler says in a brief conversation, Davis told a detective he'd been molested in 1990 at Fine's home.