North Country

Joanna Richards

The Defense Department has named Fort Drum as one of four military installations to house a possible East Coast missile defense facility. 

Joanna Richards / WRVO

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says the nation’s workplace policies are out of date and don’t reflect increasing women’s employment – and their roles as family caregivers. Gillibrand was in Watertown yesterday to make the case for paid family and medical leave.

Students and reporters jostled in a student lounge as Jefferson Community College president Carole McCoy introduced the senator. Gillibrand told the crowd of several dozen that her legislation would provide financial security to people dealing with the birth of a child, or sick or dying family members.

DOT to determine scope of rooftop highway study

Jan 27, 2014

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in his budget address, $2.5 million has been allocated to analyze the Route 11 corridor in the North Country. But state transportation officials say they have not yet determined what kind of highway study they're going to do.

When Cuomo mentioned Interstate Route 98, aka the rooftop highway, between Watertown and Plattsburgh in his budget speech last week, he acknowledged a range of opinions on the decades-old idea.

Downed trees from ice storm will be turned into energy

Jan 22, 2014
Joanna Richards / WRVO

All the power lines have been fixed after last month’s ice storm, and the crystal coatings have melted off the trees, but there’s still a persistent sign of the damage: lots of downed limbs.

Yards in the northern half of Jefferson County are full of tangled branches, sunk in the snow. Extricating them is going to be a long process, but there’s a plan in the works to give them a new life as fuel.

Buyout could mean growth for Watertown employer Stream

Jan 14, 2014

There have been a lot of questions in the wake of an announcement that the Stream Global Services Watertown call center will be sold. The company that’s buying it says if anything, the sale should make workers optimistic.

North Country Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection in November -- surprising the political establishment and putting the seat for the 21st Congressional District up for grabs.

Clinic taking steps toward financial health

Jan 13, 2014
Joanna Richards

A clinic in Watertown that serves many needy children is taking steps toward better financial health after nearly closing abruptly in October.

Jennifer Gaffney

Travelers got back on the road yesterday afternoon after Interstate 81 reopened following the massive snowfall. Many spent an unexpected night in the north country – some in hotels, some in fire halls, some in the homes of strangers. The experience might have been a lousy advertisement for the climate here, but natives seemed to be at their best as Good Samaritans during the storm.

Catherine Loper / WRVO

The last portions of Route 81 between Watertown and North Syracuse are open again, after lake-effect storms closed much of the highway down.

Through the storms, hardy North Country natives have been helping stranded travelers. Many people spent last night in fire halls - the one in Adams took in 150 people. Watertown hotels right off the Interstate 81 exit were full, of both drivers and staff who couldn't get out, either.

Sarah Crisafulli

The lake effect snow warning for northern New York has been extended until Thursday at 1 p.m. as upwards of four feet of snow has fallen in some spots since Monday. A state of emergency remains in effect for 14 counties, including Oswego, Jefferson and Lewis Counties.

Forecasters predicted snow to fall at a rate of two to three inches an hour Wednesday morning in an area in the Tug Hill area.

Joanna Richards

The growth of Fort Drum and its fluctuating soldier population have always complicated the housing market around Watertown. But the Army post throws another factor into the mix: soldier’s housing allowances. They just went up.

As of January 1, the Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, rates across the military went up an average of 5 percent. In the Fort Drum area, it’s up around 13 percent. Junior enlisted soldiers have gone from receiving $948 per month to $1,071 per month, to cover the cost of housing and utilities.    

Joanna Richards

Governor Andrew Cuomo visited a newly expanded snowmobiler lounge in Lowville Monday to unveil a new ad campaign to promote winter tourism upstate. Cuomo says there’s new energy in the north country, thanks to increasing economic investment. He credits the efforts of both the region and his administration in making that happen.  

Money to expand drone hangar at Fort Drum

Dec 30, 2013
David Sommerstein

Not long after a military drone crashed into Lake Ontario in November, the program that aircraft belonged to is getting a boost with funding from the 2014 defense spending bill signed into law last week. The money will go toward expanding a storage and maintenance facility at Fort Drum.   

Joanna Richards

The lights are coming back on in Jefferson County after the ice storm left most residents in the dark for some period over the weekend. National Grid says it expects to restore power to nearly all customers by midnight tonight.

Sixteen-hundred field workers from as far away as New Jersey and the Ohio Valley are helping to make that happen. Despite the progress, the utility says some customers could be in the dark through Christmas.

Joanna Richards

The North Country Family Health Center, in Watertown, is still working to gain long-term financial stability after nearly closing in October. Now, another Watertown health care provider is getting a bailout to stay afloat. This time, it’s Family Counseling Service of Northern New York. 

Drum numbers likely dropping – but no cause for alarm

Dec 12, 2013
Joanna Richards

The Watertown area’s economy is heavily dependent on Fort Drum. With the federal budget sequester on and the Afghanistan war winding down, the numbers of soldiers assigned to the post and civilians working there is likely to decrease. But the outlook is more complicated than just doom and gloom.

Ski season gets underway

Dec 12, 2013
Joanna Richards

The winter sports season is underway in the north country. Thanks to the pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm, some skiers in Jefferson County got an early start this year. 

A snowboarder twists and slides to a stop at Dry Hill Ski Area in Watertown. He unclips his boots and dashes into the clubhouse to warm up.

Josh Askins and a friend cozy up to the big stone fire pit.  “We were snowboarding, then we came inside to sit next to the fire. It smells really nice,” he says.

Askins teaches snowboarding lessons here.

There were several big winners amongst the state’s Regional Empire Development Council, as five walked away with more than $80 million each, during the third annual set of awards announced Wednesday.     

Cape Vincent tells state: we want decision on wind farm

Dec 10, 2013
Joanna Richards

The town of Cape Vincent, in Jefferson County, has been divided over a proposed wind farm for a decade. The latest company to pursue the project is BP. But now, with a potential sale in the works, residents told the state power project siting board they’re getting impatient with the uncertainty. 

napaneegal / via Flickr

A proposed wind farm in Cape Vincent, in Jefferson County, has been in limbo since energy company BP said earlier this year that it's planning to sell off its entire wind power division.

Town officials have been anxious for news about the wind farm's fate since then. The review process that produced one tense public meeting after another came to an abrupt halt earlier this year.

Work begins on Watertown's Woolworth building

Dec 5, 2013
Joanna Richards

Work has begun to revive a long-vacant eyesore at the center of downtown Watertown.

David Sommerstein/NCPR

An Inspector General's report finds that Clayton's town supervisor is among dozens of current and former state prison officials who misused their work-issued vehicles at taxpayer expense. 

The report says 80 members of the Corrections Department leadership used their state vehicles mostly to commute to and from work for years. They did so with the blessing of former department Commissioner Brian Fischer. He continued to approve the practice long after a 2009 state policy shift meant to rein in such excesses.

Soldiers pitch in to help needy celebrate Christmas

Dec 1, 2013
Joanna Richards

The Watertown Urban Mission is busy around the holidays. Along with running its regular programs like the food pantry and thrift store, it also distributes warm winter coats and Thanksgiving turkeys, puts on a craft fair, and holds a sale of Christmas items. Fortunately, it's gotten some help from a small army of volunteers – literally.

Black Friday alternative at Watertown craft sale

Nov 29, 2013
Joanna Richards / WRVO

On Black Friday, people cram into stores, treating shopping like a full-contact sport. Others hold off for a calmer experience in front of their computer screens on Cyber Monday. But some people still want a fun, communal holiday shopping experience – minus the chaos.

Watertown's annual holiday craft fair is a good option for less competitive shoppers, or people searching for a few unique items. This Sunday, two floors of the Dulles State Office Building will fill with local vendors.

Work begins soon to bring Watertown landmark back to life

Nov 19, 2013
Joanna Richards

The state of Watertown's historic Woolworth building tells you a lot about the health of the city. And for years, the message hasn't been good. But the vacant eyesore is on track to re-emerge as evidence of the downtown's steady improvement.   

If you put a nose to the building's front window, you can see the story of decline. A big vault door surrounded by moldy clothing shows how a grand bank lobby gave way to a junk shop. And even that business is long gone. Water drips from the ceiling, pooling onto a mess of old merchandise on the floor.


Entrepreneurs in Jefferson County are going to have a harder time finding startup money, now that a loan fund meant to help them is running low. That's good news and bad news.

Here's the bad news: The Industrial Development Agency's micro-enterprise loan fund is down to about $31,000. That means the next successful applicant is going to drain it dry.

"At some point, someone is going to come to the loan fund for dollars for their business, and we won't have any to lend," says Don Alexander, IDA chief.

Winter crows invade Watertown

Nov 11, 2013
Joanna Richards

Every winter, Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror movie, “The Birds” gets a replay in Watertown. But not on the silver screen. Thousands of crows fly in from the countryside to roost overnight. The city's trying to evict them. 

Joanna Richards

Watertown's City Council contest pitted two fiscally conservative incumbents against two political newcomers who want city government to think more broadly about its role. The voters went for one of each.

Small business owner Teresa Macaluso led the pack by a comfortable margin to keep her seat for a second four-year term. She says good budget management will always be her top priority. "Without a budget, a balanced budget, we don't get any of the services that we want, things fall behind, and then before you know it, you're in trouble," she said. 

Joanna Richards

Watertown's City Council hopefuls got one final chance before tomorrow's election to make their case at a meet-the-candidates event last week. The four opponents advocate different roles for city government. 

The race pits two incumbents who see a limited role for city government against a pair of political newcomers with broader visions for what the council can do to improve residents' lives. 

Local food craze hits booze market, too

Oct 30, 2013
Joanna Richards

The local food trend in the North Country is starting to fill a new niche: alcoholic beverages. And not only are brewers and winemakers crafting their products there, but they're also taking advantage of the rural region to double the local appeal, with homegrown ingredients. Several of these businesses just opened in Jefferson County.