Jefferson County

Julia Botero / WRVO News

It’s been a long time coming, but the town of Orleans, in Jefferson County, is on its way to fresh drinking water. The state announced this week they will provide the town with $3 million to help build a pipe to bring clean water to homes from Alexandria Bay.

Jefferson County Legislator Phil Reed said he thought he’d never see the day when Orleans, a tiny town between Clayton and Alexandria Bay, would finally get help, 

“Because we kept hearing from people, maybe next year, maybe next year, maybe next year. It was very frustrating to say the least," Reed said.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

There are more than 150 abandoned homes in Watertown.  A report put out by the city assessor finds homes in the city can be empty for months, even years, before the bank takes them over.

Vacant homes have become such a problem in Watertown, the city council has had trouble wrapping their head around what to do.

Brian Phelps, the city assessor, visited hundreds of empty homes and poured over stacks of paperwork to figure out why these homes were abandoned.

 “As many vacant homes as there are, are as many individual stories.”

Julia Botero / WRVO News

The Pokemon Go craze sweeping the nation has hit Watertown. The city’s Public Square usually doesn’t see activity in the evening but recently, downtown is flooded with young people. They’re all staring at their phones, playing an augmented reality game that has them hunting for cartoon monsters and points. WRVO'S Julia Botero went to see what all the fuss is about and sent this audio postcard.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Organizers of the Jefferson County Fair have barred a gun rights group from raffling off three guns to fairgoers this year.

Bob Simpson, lead organizer of the fair, said he's standing by the decision. He said had the group, SCOPE, intended to educate people about guns, rather than give them away, organizers would have rented a booth to them.

"Guns right now are a very controversial item. People are either for guns or against guns. We felt it was a very controversial issue that we didn’t want to participate in at the fair." 

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

Jefferson, Lewis and parts of St. Lawrence Counties are in the early stages of a drought. Areas of central and western New York are experiencing much worse conditions. Mike Hunter with the Cornell Cooperative Extension says the corn crop is fine, for now. But hay has taken a hit so far this summer.

Mike Hunter spoke to WRVO by cell phone from the middle of a corn field in Ellisburg, in southern Jefferson County, the driest place in the county right now. 

"You could kick the dust in the cornfields right now and the dust would fly in between the corn rows."

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Church leaders in Watertown held a rally on the Public Square Tuesday in response to the recent shootings across the country. The crowd of nearly 100 came to pray and listen to clergy speak about the importance of accepting one another regardless of race, background or faith.

Cars thundered by as people passed out water and searched for shade under the trees. Church leaders from congregations across Watertown took turns addressing the crowd.

Rev. Jeffery Smith, First Baptist Church’s first black pastor, organized the rally.

Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

Jefferson County lawmakers have voted not to grant tax breaks for big solar and wind projects. County leaders say large-scale alternative energy farms do not provide the county with enough incentives to justify a tax deal.

Legislature Chairman Scott Gray said wind developers are approaching towns in Jefferson County not expecting to pay their full share of taxes. 

“You’re asking the property tax payers of this community to subsidize a project. So we want to make sure there is something in return for those taxpayers’ investments."

Julia Botero / WRVO News

A nonprofit in Watertown will receive $1.7 million to open a resource center for recovering drug addicts and their families. PIVOT is one of six non-profits throughout New York state to receive funding to help stop the heroin crisis in their communities.

Anita Seefried-Brown, who works with PIVOT, said the center is a culmination of everything she and the community have worked for since heroin first hit Jefferson County hard.

Meredith Turk / NCPR

A monument that celebrates Fort Drum’s relationship with its surrounding community was revealed at a ceremony in Watertown’s Thompson Park on Friday.

The four-sided granite monument depicts the 10th Mountain Division's history starting with World War II and ending in its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tom Doosin, an Air Force veteran who lives in Henderson, next to Lake Ontario, was there.

Missile Defense Agency

 

If you’ve ever wondered what happens at a place full of huge missiles, Nathaniel Gill with the Missile Defense Agency said on the outside it’s pretty quiet, but indoors computers pick up signals from everything being launched into the air all over the world. If a threat was on its way to the U.S., a ballistic missile kept underground will shoot into the air.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Ben Peyton lives on Fuller Road in Adams. His home is surrounded on both sides by wide green corn fields. Those corn fields are owned by a dairy farmer, Mike Hill. He runs Hillcrest farms. Peyton points across the road from this driveway.

“The manure pit will be located just on the eastern side of that,” Peyton said.

Peyton and his neighbors want Hill to pick another site. The proposed pit will sit above the Tug Hill aquifer.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

A German-owned manufacturing company in Watertown will expand its facility and add jobs to its workforce. Roth Industries only plans to add 12 jobs as of now, but any job growth in Jefferson County is positive news.

Roth Industries is in the plastic processing business. That means they use heat to mold plastics into different forms -- like into those orange rectangle-shaped traffic barriers at highway construction sites. They also make oil storage tanks and other products.

17th Annual Jefferson County Survey of the Community

A survey released this week by Jefferson Community College asked a sampling of county residents what effect they think the increase in the minimum wage to $12.50 an hour will have on their lives.

Research Director Joel LaLone says, while half of those surveyed said the increase would have no impact, 23 percent said it would make their standard of living worse.

Empire League

It looks like the Watertown Bucks are back again this season as the city's own professional baseball team. For a few months last year, it looked like the Bucks were gone for good after the North Country Baseball League folded. Now, the Bucks are in a different league and its manager is determined to keep America’s pastime in Watertown for good.

Jason Smith / WRVO News

Oswego County Administrator Phil Church is a shipwreck diver and photographer in his off time. These days, he's bringing his hobby to work. Church is coordinating an effort between Oswego, Jefferson, Cayuga and Wayne counties and the city of Oswego to have the southeastern part of Lake Ontario designated as a national marine sanctuary. There are only 14 in the world and Church said Oswego has a good case to join that list.

Sarah Harris / NCPR

Across the North Country, wind energy has forced communities to ask tough questions about what they stand to gain or lose from the industry. Most recently, the town of Clayton, in the Thousand Islands, has barred all wind development for six months. The move came after developers showed renewed interest in building the Horse Creek Wind Farm. Clayton's moratorium gives town leaders time to consider ways to protect their interests.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

The Hounsfield Town Planning Board voted unanimously last night to allow Dollar General to build a store on Route 3, near the village of Sackets Harbor. Residents who both oppose and support the development came to the meeting to voice their opinions Tuesday evening. After a heated exchange of viewpoints, many residents walked out. Others stayed and interrupted the board’s review of the Dollar General's site plans.

Catherine Loper / WRVO News

The Jefferson County town of Hounsfield, near Sackets Harbor, may allow a Dollar General store to move in later this year, despite opposition. The town's planning board will meet Tuesday to consider a proposal to build the store at the intersection of Route 3 and County Route 75.

More than 100 residents have signed an online petition to stop the development.

Lei Han / Flickr, Creative Commons

This week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded more than $42 million to homeless housing programs across New York state. Organizations in Watertown, Geneva, Utica and Syracuse will receive funding. The effort to bolster housing nonprofits is part of the nation’s strategy to prevent and end homelessness.

Maureen Cean, who leads Transitional Living Services of Northern New York, based in Watertown, said housing programs have changed their strategy over the years.

Lawrence Sinclair / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants the state to get half of its energy from renewable sources in the next 15 years. That has wind developers eyeing the farm land along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.

One energy company has revived an interest in constructing a wind farm in Jefferson County that would extend across the towns of Clayton, Orleans, Brownville and Lyme.

Residents are divided over the idea of wind in the Thousand Islands. Local environmental groups are weighing in too.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

North Country voters got a chance to ask Ohio Governor John Kasich questions Friday in Watertown. The presidential candidate's town hall event attracted more than 500 people.  The crowd ranged from older voters, to high school students gearing up to vote for the first time. 

Outside the Bruce Wright Memorial Conference Center in Watertown Friday morning, the mood was calm as people waited in line to see and hear from Kasich in person. There were no protestors at this event, but a few supporters made sure to wear red hats reading Kasich 2016.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

Two weeks ago, more than 150 workers at the Climax Packaging plant in Lowville were told not to come to work the next day. The plant was closing immediately and everyone would lose their jobs. Thursday, a job fair in Watertown attracted many former Climax workers looking to get back on their feet.

It was hard to find a place to park outside the Bruce Wright Memorial Conference Center. Inside, people milled around a room sometimes stopping to introduce themselves to a local employer looking to hire.

Bill Olsen / Nanos Clarkson University Research Collaboration

The Jefferson County town of Henderson paid $20,000 for researchers from the Nanos Clarkson Research Collaboration to determine what affects -- positive or negative -- a wind farm on Galloo Island might have on their lakeside town.

The residents who showed up at Henderson’s fire hall Monday night wanted answers. Most live in the lake-side town year round, a few made the drive from their winter homes. They were there to know what to expect if a developer constructs a 31-turbine wind farm 11-miles off shore on Galloo Island.

Researcher Stephen Bird summed up the findings.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), sporting protective ear plugs to block out the whirling of machines, shakes hands with workers on the factory floor of New York Air Brake in Watertown. It's the senator's first visit to the company, which has made brake systems for the railroad industry for over a century.

As Schumer pauses to study the heavy metal contraptions that make trains stop and slow down, company officials explain what he’s seeing. 

A think tank out of Albany has analyzed census data that show the number of New Yorkers has increased by 2.2 percent over the last five years, a jump of almost 418,000 people. But population growth in the New York City metro area makes up for the regional trend in upstate New York, where statistics show the area losing thousands of residents between 2010 and 2015.
 

Brit Hanson / North Country Public Radio

Bedbugs, those creepy crawly pests that embed themselves into mattresses and furniture, are a problem in big cities across the country. The bugs have managed to find their way to smaller cities in the North Country.

Watertown is now dealing with the pests and the stigma that comes with them.

Back in September, a friend told me she was dealing with a serious bed bug issue. Her name is Kris Rusho and I gave her a call a few weeks ago to get the whole story.

North Country Baseball League Facebook page

The sun refuses to set on professional baseball in Watertown. After the North Country Baseball League folded late last year, a new corporate-sponsored league is taking its place. The Watertown Bucks will open another season throwing their first pitch at the city fairgrounds this summer.

Eddie Gonzalez is a professional baseball player who coached one of the Watertown Bucks' biggest rivals — Road City. As he watched his team take the field every day, he remembered his own struggles trying to make it big in baseball.

Dimitris Kalogeropoylos, Flickr Creative Commons

In the state of New York, more than 2,000 people died of heroin overdoses in 2014. The highly-addictive drug is surging in nearly every county in the United States. Its negative effects are becoming harder to hide. Last week, a fender-bender in Watertown brought the reality of heroin abuse in the North Country into every day life.

Sixty-two year-old Randy Petrie was waiting at a red light in Watertown when he was rear-ended by a pickup truck. Lt. Joe Donoghue with the Watertown City Police heard the call at 2:30 p.m.

Petroglyph / Flickr Creative Commons

Eight skunks in Jefferson County have tested positive for rabies this winter. County Health officials say this is number is unusually high. They're urging more pet owners in rural areas across northern New York to vaccinate their pets to stop the spread of the fatal disease to humans.

Faith Lustik remembers the first time this winter she got a call about skunks. Two were spotted in a Watertown neighborhood acting strangely.

"One of the skunks actually chased a woman and she subsequently was bitten by it," Lustik said.

Rande Richardson / NNY Foundation

A prominent social club closed its doors last year after more than 100 years as a Watertown institution. Everything in the building from the bar stools to the kitchenware was sold at auction in December. The Black River Valley Club was a second home to its members, and the last remnant of Watertown's gilded history. WRVO's Julia Botero recorded memories of the club’s heyday and took a tour of the building on auction day.  
 
In this audio postcard, you'll hear from auctioneer David Johnson and former club members James Hearsey, George Couch, Deb McAtee.

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