Jefferson County

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.

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.

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