Jefferson County

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.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan toured Fort Drum Wednesday for the first time since becoming a state lawmaker in 2002. Flanagan was elected Senate majority leader in May when former leader Dean Skelos resigned due to his arrest on federal corruption charges. Flanagan's visit was part of a day-long tour of the North Country. 

Jefferson County

The Watertown International Airport will soon have a longer runway. A federal grant for the project will pave the way for larger jets.

The runway at the Watertown Airport will be extended by a 1,000 feet thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. Right now, American Airlines, which operates two flights a day from Watertown to Philadelphia, switches from a 50-seat jet down to a smaller propeller plane in the winter. With the longer runway, American Airlines will be able to stick with their larger planes all year. 

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Coyote Moon Vineyards in Clayton is the first winery in the North Country to put their wine in a can. With canned wine, no corkscrew or wine glasses are required. Just throw the wine in a cooler or bag and when you're ready to drink, just pop the top. 

Amy Wort, from Governour, says in her experience, when she first introduces people to wine in a can, they're skeptical.

"When I’m at parties people are like what is that? I'm like, it's wine. And they’re like in a can? Yes, try it!” Wort says.

Jay Colesack visibly recoils at the thought of drinking canned wine.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

City councilman Joe Butler and incumbent Jeff Graham earned the most votes in Watertown’s mayoral primary. Both candidates will go on to compete to be Watertown's next mayor in the November general election. 

At the end of Thursday, results showed Butler with a total of 903 votes, inching ahead of incumbent Graham by just one vote in the non-partisan race. Graham says this means the upcoming general election for mayor will be exciting.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

In Watertown, two candidates are challenging incumbent Jeff Graham to be the city’s next mayor. Thursday’s primary will narrow the race down to two candidates who’ll go on to compete in the November election.

What Councilman Stephen Jennings lacks in political experience, he says he makes up in vision. Jennings has served on the city council for two years. He went to school in Albany but has lived in Watertown for 20 years working with the city’s public health department.

Liz Truskowski

Eight thousand acres of pristine wetlands just north of Watertown in Jefferson County are open to visitors until Sunday. For most of the year, the Perch River Wildlife Management Area is off-limits to the public. The area is a breeding and nesting ground for threatened and endangered birds like bald eagles and black terns.

kristen_a / Flickr

Primary voting day for New York will be held on a Thursday this year instead of the traditional Tuesday. 

This change is important for the city of Watertown. Voters are expected to choose which mayoral candidates will move onto the general election that day. Watertown city officials hope the date switch won’t keep people from the polls.

With two of the Tuesdays in September falling during the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,  Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved changing the primary voting day to Thursday, September 10. 

Watertown Airport

A new building and hangar at the Watertown Airport has opened to serve the growing needs of the local business community.

There are two parts to the Watertown Airport just outside the city -- there’s the commercial side where passengers board the two American Airlines flights to Philadelphia each day, and there’s the side that caters to private businesses. Jim Nabywaniec is a Jefferson County legislator who helps oversee projects at the airport.

Julia Botero

Eating locally grown vegetables and driving a hybrid car – these are ways to limit your  carbon footprint. A family in Lorraine, a small town near Adams in Jefferson County, has gone a lot further. They’re building a house made out of old tires and recycled wine bottles.  It’s called an Earthship and there are houses just like it all over the world.

WRVO / File Photo

Updated at 2:20 p.m.

The official press release from Fort Drum confirms the post will lose 28 military positions.  Today's announcement from the Army does not include any reductions to civilian employees. A source says that announcement will come in the fall.  The reduction of the size of the Army is expected to be completed by fiscal year 2017.

Updated at 11:30 a.m.

Julia Botero / WRVO file photo

The Pentagon is expected to announce major cuts across the entire Army Thursday morning. Local officials and those who live in Fort Drum’s surrounding communities are waiting anxiously for news on what specific cuts will be made to the base.

Julia Botero / WRVO News


When Steven Winkler’s hogs are full grown and ready for slaughter, he loads them into his truck on his farm in Rodman and drives 70 miles to a processing plant in Rome. From there, his pork is shipped to stores in Syracuse. 

“I’m very loyal to the customers and the processes I utilize down there. They do a great job.  But this is my home,” Winkler said.

Winkler wants to sell his meat close to home and he wouldn't mind a shorter trip to place that can make that happen.


The Adirondacks and the St. Lawrence River are top-notch destinations for people looking to fish and boat in the summertime. The Black River, which winds through Lewis and Jefferson counties, doesn’t enjoy that reputation.

Towns along the river want to change that, but they have a big job ahead of them. For a century the river has been used for industry, not tourism. Now, the river is the process of a transformation. 

Julia Botero / WRVO News

The race for mayor in Watertown is heating up. Three candidates have thrown their hat in the ring to run against incumbent Jeff Graham in November's election. 

Stephen Jennings, Joseph  Butler and Mayor Jeffrey Graham work together on a weekly basis. Both Jennings and Butler are city council members.  Both believe the city needs a new leader at the top.

“There is no vision to me. That is my great frustration and I feel that the things I envision are not going to be enacted in this current council. I think we need a change,” Jennings said.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

A group from Jefferson and Lewis Counties has helped set a new world record... by planting a whole bunch of trees in just one hour.  Groups all over North America joined in the challenge in their communities. More than 200,000 trees were planted in nearly 30 different places across the continent. 

At the Sand Flats State Forest in the Tug Hill, people were racing to get new saplings into the ground.

Zach Hirsch / NCPR

This summer, Army officials say they’ll pull the plug on a post-traumatic stress treatment program for Fort Drum soldiers. It’s the program at the River Hospital in Alexandria Bay, about a half hour away from the base. Under the Army’s orders, it’ll be replaced with mental health services on Fort Drum.

North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) says she’s urging the Army to reconsider.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Clayton welcomed a slew of new visitors last week. A luxury cruise ship on its maiden voyage from Montreal stopped at the town’s docks. The ship was filled with nearly 200 tourists from France, and most on board were seeing the Thousand Islands for the first time.

The MS St. Laurent drifted down the St. Lawrence River and came to rest in Clayton just around 9 on Thursday morning. The ship is an eye-catcher, docked in the center of the village, its royal blue hull contrasting with the colorful row of Adirondack chairs facing the river,  

David Sommerstein / NCPR

Wind farms have been popping up in rural areas of Northern New York. Wind energy  doesn't burn fossil fuels or emit greenhouse gases.  But while wind farms  may be a positive step for the environment in one way, they also can kill birds and bats.  Now, the company behind a wind farm in Copenhagen is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine how to prevent deaths of these winged creatures before they occur.

401(K) 2012 / Flickr

We all know that every time we buy something in a store we pay a percentage of the cost of that item in tax. That sales tax goes toward helping the county pay for anything from road repairs to staffing the local police departments. For the past two years, the money that Jefferson County earns through sales tax has been in a slow decline. County legislators are getting worried after seeing an even bigger drop at the beginning of the year.

Linda Garett / Fort Drum ACUB Program

Fort Drum has grown tremendously over the last decade. There are more soldiers working – and training – on its grounds. Fort Drum planners have been concerned new development just outside the base may come into conflict with that training mission. The base is paying property owners to keep their land undeveloped. A family dairy farm in Rutland, just south of Fort Drum, has struck the largest deal yet.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Maj. Gen. Jeffery Bannister has officially become the new commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, after a change of command ceremony on post Wednesday. 

Soldiers and a small audience stood at attention as the 10th Mountain Division band honored outgoing commanding general Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend with ruffles and flourishes and a gun salute.

Brian Hoffman / via Flickr

Watertown was the coldest place in the lower 48 states yesterday, reaching -36 degrees on President’s Day morning. 

But around lunch time it had warmed up to a balmy -3 degrees.  It’s the kind of temperature that car engines hate. Still, people were driving around in their cars. But a few brave souls were out on foot.

Kate O'Connell / WXXI

Crude oil from the Midwest is moving by pipeline and rail across the U.S., including parts of the North Country.  Some companies are interested in shipping oil to East Coast refineries by way of the St. Lawrence River.

At a conference organized last weekend by the Thousand Islands-based group, Save the River, environmentalists and state officials voiced concern over the potential of a catastrophic oil spill.

Watertown is hosting the first Snowtown Film Festival this weekend. It's one of the few indoor events in a series of winter activities that are part of this month’s Snowtown USA festival. Fourteen films with winter themes will be screened in a full day marathon this Saturday. A majority of them are written and directed by local filmmakers.

Julia Botero / WRVO

President Barack Obama officially declared the war in Afghanistan over at the end of 2014, but he also promised to send more U. S. troops to the country to train Afghan security forces. The Army has not identified who those soldiers will be, but leaders with Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division are confident they will be among the first to head back to Afghanistan.

Jefferson County Community Services Office

The Pentagon may spend millions towards suicide prevention programs for our military. But smaller-scale programs meant to help those outside the military also exist around the nation. WRVO's Julia Botero speaks to Timothy Ruetten from the Jefferson County Community Services Office about a coalition of mental health agencies, school officials and nonprofits  that work together to make sure they're up to date on the best ways to reduce and prevent suicides in Jefferson County.

Julia Botero / WRVO


Since 2001, more active-duty American soldiers have killed themselves than were killed in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama acknowledged the soaring suicide rate in the United States military in a speech in North Carolina last summer. Obama said, "We have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans. As a country, we can't stand idly by on such tragedy, so we're doing even more.”

Julia Botero / WRVO

If you drive into downtown Watertown now, the first thing you won't see is Mercy Hospital.

“It look like a bomb went off. Ground zero," says Watertown resident Sean Johnson. He was walking by the debris that used to be Mercy Hospital. Developers plan to turn the site into a mixed use building with apartments on top and retail and commercial space below.

“That's great. Reuse the property to something like that. It will help Watertown get back on track and get business downtown," said Johnson.


Sheriff-elect O'Neill selects undersheriff

Dec 8, 2014
Julia Botero / WRVO

Jefferson County Sheriff-elect Colleen O'Neill has selected retired state trooper Sgt. Brian McDermott as  her new undersheriff. O'Neill made it a point during her campaign that, if elected, she would work to restore the department's tarnished reputation caused by allegations of sexual  harassment in 2012.  

O Neill, who also retired from the New York State Police, says she has known McDermott throughout his career. She says she trusts him and his ability to bring respect back to the sheriff's department through hard work and honesty.