Jefferson County

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.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

A report put out by Fort Drum quantifies how much of an impact the base has on the North Country's economy. Based on military figures, the study says the base pumped more than $1.6 billion into Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties last year. 

Fort Drum is Northern New York's largest single-site employer.  More than 15,000 soldiers and close to 4,000 civilians work there. The payroll alone is more than a billion dollars. These numbers may sound staggering but last year Fort Drum pumped even more money  into the local economy. The total amount is slightly smaller this year.

Members of an anti-drug nonprofit  in Watertown head to Capitol Hill this week. The group wants U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer to help fight the heroin crisis and the ways its affecting Jefferson County. 

Since 2011, there have been 79 deaths caused by heroin and opiate overdose in Jefferson County.

Anita Seefried-Brown’s own son died of a heroin overdose a day after he turned  33. He left a young daughter behind.

She says addiction is a disease, and it hurts more than just friends and families of the addicted.

Jonathan Greenwald / Flickr, Creative Commons

At least every couple of years – in the middle of the winter – federal officials try to count how many people are homeless in the U.S.

Agencies who work with the homeless give out a survey called the point-in-time count, and that’s what’s happening all this week.

It’s bad timing in the North Country, according to advocates for the homeless. They say a lot of people are skipped over, leading to inaccurate numbers.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo has his way, New York’s minimum wage will rise to $10.50 by the end of this year, and to $15 an hour in five years.

It would be the highest statewide minimum wage in the country, matching the minimums in cities like Seattle and San Francisco.

Many small businesses in the North Country are having a hard time seeing this big raise as a good thing, even when they recognize how hard it is for minimum wage workers to get by now.

Watertown Dog Park Facebook page

For nine years, Watertown resident Scott Gates has pleaded with the city council to approve a dog park in Watertown’s iconic Thompson Park. But the city’s new mayor, Joe Butler, was very blunt with Gates at the most recent council meeting on Monday. Butler told Gates he had no interest in approving a dog park.

Gates acknowledges there are lots of issues in Watertown that need attention, and many think constructing a dog park isn't one of them. But Gates says he’s not asking for much.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Samaritan Medical Center  in Watertown will soon have a new maternity ward. Hospital officials are planning a $10 million expansion that they say will address the changing needs of the community.

 The hospital is now moving forward with their plan to transform the inside of that building into a wing of the hospital with its own entrance. The third floor will be devoted to a pediatric center and a new maternity ward. 

Samaritan Medical Center's CEO, Thomas Carman, says this means women in labor will have easier access to the hospital.

Watertown Police Department

The Watertown Police Department is asking for the public’s help in locating two missing teenagers. Katie Loffler and Austin Eggleson, both 16, were reported missing from the Jefferson County Children’s Home in Watertown last month. Police believe both are in Ogdensburg.

Lt. Joe Donoghue with the Watertown Police says the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services has responsibility over the two teenagers.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

An energy developer out of Albany is considering building a 32-turbine wind farm on Galloo Island, six miles offshore, on Lake Ontario. But residents in the Jefferson County town of Henderson, on the shores of the lake, say all they would get out of the project is a ruined view.

If you’ve ever visited Henderson you know that the homes along the harbor are big and beautiful, with sweeping views of Lake Ontario. The town is small and quiet. 

Julia Botero / WRVO news

John Rogers grew up adjacent to Butterfield Lake in Redwood. That’s in the Indian Lakes region in Jefferson County.  When his grandparents passed they left him 100 acres of pristine wetland and grassland. Now, Rogers has transformed his backyard into a tourist attraction.

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The candidates for district attorney in Jefferson County agree that heroin is the biggest issue facing law enforcement in the area today. The choice voters make on Tuesday may hinge on which candidate voters believe can put a dent in the heroin epidemic.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

This weekend is expected to be another beautiful one -- sunny with temperatures in the 70s.  For many that means getting in one last swim of the season. WRVO's Julia Botero takes us to her favorite swimming hole, about a half hour west of Watertown in Robert Wehle State Park near Henderson in Jefferson County.

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