North Country


Mon December 30, 2013
Regional Coverage

Money to expand drone hangar at Fort Drum

Trainees work on an MQ-9 Reaper drone at Hancock Field in Syracuse.
Credit 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.   

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Tue December 24, 2013
Regional Coverage

Lights, calm returning after ice storm, but some dangers remain

Jefferson County Legislature Chairwoman Carolyn Fitzpatrick praised emergency responders for keeping people safe during the ice storm during a Sunday afternoon press conference in Watertown.
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.

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Mon December 16, 2013
Regional Coverage

Counseling service latest Watertown health care provider to get a lifeline

The Family Counseling Service is the second Watertown health care nonprofit to get a financial bailout in recent months.
Credit 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. 

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Thu December 12, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Drum numbers likely dropping – but no cause for alarm

The 10th Mountain Division's Headquarters in the field during the division-wide Mountain Peak training exercise at Fort Drum, August, 2012.
Credit 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.

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Thu December 12, 2013
Regional Coverage

Ski season gets underway

Tim McAtee, owner of Dry Hill Ski Area in Watertown, says an early snowfall like this year's can get his business season off to a strong start.
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.

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Thu December 12, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Several regions win big at Regional Economic Development Council awards

Each region was given a portion of $715 million in state money for economic development.

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.     

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Tue December 10, 2013
Regional Coverage

Cape Vincent tells state: we want decision on wind farm

Cape Vincent Town Councilman Brooks Bragdon addresses state officials about BP's proposed wind farm at a meeting Monday night at Cape Vincent Elementary School. He's flanked by other town officials.
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. 

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Mon December 9, 2013
Regional Coverage

Meeting in Cape Vincent could shed light on wind farm's future

There could be a lot more if BP's proposed project moves forward under a new owner.
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.

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Thu December 5, 2013
Regional Coverage

Work begins on Watertown's Woolworth building

Work begins on the Woolworth building in Watertown's Public Square.
Joanna Richards

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

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Tue December 3, 2013
Regional Coverage

Clayton supervisor fingered in Inspector General's report for misusing state vehicle

Clayton Town Supervisor Justin Taylor
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.

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Sun December 1, 2013
Regional Coverage

Soldiers pitch in to help needy celebrate Christmas

Fort Drum soldiers take a break after carrying and unpacking boxes full of Christmas decorations at the Watertown Urban Mission.
Credit 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.

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Fri November 29, 2013
Regional Coverage

Black Friday alternative at Watertown craft sale

Drew Mangione, director of development for the Watertown Urban Mission, stands in front of a capital campaign sign during the nonprofit's busy holiday season.
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.

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Tue November 19, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Work begins soon to bring Watertown landmark back to life

An old doorway tells the Woolworth building's history.
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.

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Wed November 13, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Jefferson County entrepreneurs will have harder time finding startup funds

Business startup loans will be harder to come by in Jefferson County, as the Industrial Development Agency's micro-enterprise loan fund dries up.

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.

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Mon November 11, 2013
Regional Coverage

Winter crows invade Watertown

David Coleman, the Jefferson County Historical Society's caretaker, just installed the rug on the porch - after about 30 schoolchildren marched bird poop into the building during a field trip.
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. 

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Wed November 6, 2013

Watertown City Council: incumbent Macaluso, newcomer Jennings win seats in four-way contest

Teresa Macaluso, left, says goodbye to her final guests - her mother and sister - after a small election-day party at her home. She retained her seat on City Council.
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. 

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Sun November 3, 2013
Regional Coverage

Watertown council candidates get last word before election day

City Council Candidate Stephen Jennings tells a small audience at the Italian-American Civic Association in Watertown that he wants to get the city involved in improving deteriorating neighborhoods.
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. 

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Wed October 30, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Local food craze hits booze market, too

Sadie Wells helps a customer choose a beer at Skewed Brewing in Salmon Run Mall, Watertown.
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.

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Wed October 23, 2013
Regional Coverage

Head of Children's Clinic resigns in wake of financial upheaval

Dan Wasneechak has had a bumpy ride in the two months he's headed up the North Country Children's Clinic in Waterown. After announcing its temporary closure, then working on a deal to keep it open for now, Wasneechak will resign on Friday.
Joanna Richards

The head of the North Country Children's Clinic in Watertown says he'll resign after Friday. A spokeswoman for Samaritan Medical Center, which is temporarily operating the clinic, said Dan Wasneechak  submitted his resignation yesterday. She said he gave no reason for his decision.

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Fri October 18, 2013
The Upstate Economy

North Country communities awarded money for brownfields

Looking across Lyons Falls to the old Gould Paper Mill in Lyons Falls, NY.
Roy Saplin Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Three North Country communities were awarded grant money from New York state yesterday to address contaminated sites called brownfields.

The village of Lyons Falls in Lewis County received over half a million dollars to figure out a plan for 4 sites – including the old abandoned paper mill in the center of town.

Katie Liendecker is mayor of Lyons Falls. She says the mill is in pretty bad shape.

"Looking over at the paper mill you can see how some of the buildings have just collapsed. And thank goodness from our main street we’re not looking at that."

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Thu October 17, 2013

Children's Clinic, WIC funded for at least six months

The WIC program serves about 10,000 people from Watertown to Malone.
Joanna Richards/WRVO

Last week was a rough one for the North Country Children's Clinic in Watertown. As the non-profit confronted mounting financial problems, it announced that it had to close. Then, on Thursday, local lawmakers jumped in to keep the center open for at least another month. Now, the clinic says it has secured funding for another six months.

When the North Country Children’s Clinic announced its closure last week, it was really bracing for the worst.

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Tue October 15, 2013
Regional Coverage

Lawsuit against Watertown industrial polluter gaining momentum

The New York Air Brake industrial site in Watertown is the subject of an impending class-action lawsuit by current and former neighborhood residents who say past chemical dumping caused illnesses and birth defects.
Credit Joanna Richards

Current and former residents of Watertown's north side neighborhood have been building a public case against the company New York Air Brake, over former chemical dumping they say has made them sick. The law firm of famous environmental attorney Erin Brockovich has taken interest in the case. Now, a lawsuit is shaping up, and the state Department of Health is planning its own investigation.

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Fri October 11, 2013

UPDATE: North Country Children's Clinic gets last-minute rescue

The North Country Children's Clinic has had a tumultuous week. It announced on Tuesday that it would cease operations Friday, but a last-minute deal with Samaritan Medical Center and the state Department of Health will keep it open for at least the next month.

A last-minute deal was struck Thursday to rescue a long-standing health care safety net for needy north country children. The North Country Children's Clinic in Watertown announced Tuesday that it would close suddenly, at the end of the week, because of dire financial problems. Now, the clinic has gotten at least another month of life.

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Wed October 9, 2013
Regional Coverage

Children's Clinic closes temporarily under financial hardship

Dan Wasneechak didn't know how bleak the North Country Children's Clinic's finances were when he was hired as its chief in August. On Tuesday, he announced the clinic would temporarily close to try to resolve its fiscal issues.
Credit Joanna Richards

When Dan Wasneechak took the helm of the North Country Children's Clinic in August, he had no idea that less than two months into his tenure, he'd be announcing its temporary closure. But he did that yesterday afternoon, after a frantic week of trying to sort out the clinic's finances to keep it running.

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Thu September 26, 2013
Regional Coverage

New work space fills gap for small food producers

Christine Hoffman has just moved her jam and jelly business, The Spicy Wench, into the new shared-use commercial kitchen in Sackets Harbor.
Joanna Richards

A new commercial kitchen in Sackets Harbor is starting to help small food producers grow their businesses. The shared-use facility is the first of its kind in Jefferson County.

In a dining room full of chattering officials from local government, agriculture and economic development, people dug into the first products of the new kitchen: Christine Hoffman's pepper jelly and fruit jam.

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Fri September 20, 2013

North Country farmers tell lawmakers regs too big a burden

State senators listen to a farmer detail his frustrations with onerous government regulation at a forum Thursday in Watertown. From left are senators David Valesky, Patrick Gallivan, Patty Ritchie, and Kathleen Marchione.
Credit Joanna Richards

Farmers and agricultural industry leaders in the North Country had the ears of state lawmakers yesterday in Watertown. The forum, hosted by State Senator Patty Ritchie, was one of 10 being held throughout the state on the topic of regulatory reform in a variety of industries.

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Wed September 18, 2013
Regional Coverage

Sequester may mean more cutbacks at Fort Drum

Soldiers participate in a homecoming ceremony at Fort Drum.
Credit WRVO file photo

Fort Drum may be facing personnel cutbacks as a result of the federal budget reductions known as sequestration. The post submitted recommendations to the Department of the Army about how it would want to make the cuts, if needed.  

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Tue September 17, 2013
Regional Coverage

Former 10th Mountain Division soldier to receive Medal of Honor

Captain William Swenson, pictured during his 2009 deployment to Afghanistan with the Army's 10th Mountain Division, will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during combat there.
Credit Fort Drum

A former 10th Mountain Division soldier will receive the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during a 2009 battle in Afghanistan. 

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Fri September 6, 2013
Regional Coverage

Watertown meets primary candidates for City Council

From left, Stephen Jennings, Jasmine Borreggine, Jeff Smith, Teresa Macaluso, Rod LaFave, and Cody Horbacz listen as local media figures ask questions during a City Council primary Meet-the-Candidates event Thursday night at the Italian-American Civic Association in Watertown.
Credit Joanna Richards

Watertown is holding a primary election next Tuesday for two seats on the City Council. The election is non-partisan, so all six candidates are running for the chance to move on to the general election in November. A Meet-the-Candidates event was held Thursday at the city's Italian-American Civic Association.


The candidates weighed in on issues ranging from economic development, to fluoride in the water supply, to making Watertown a more welcoming place for dogs during the two-hour question-and-answer session. Several dozen people came to listen.

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Fri August 9, 2013

Cuomo promotes upstate tourism with visit to fishing tournament

Thousands of fishing fans are heading north to the St. Lawrence River this weekend for the Bassmasters Elite Series tournament, the top professional tour for bass anglers.

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo showed up to do some cheering of his own.

Waddington’s Whittaker Park has become a village of food and craft stands and tackle shops to accommodate the 10,000 Bassmasters fans expected this weekend.

The main stage is where the anglers weigh in their catch each afternoon at 3 p.m. And that’s where Cuomo took the stage, the championship trophy to his left.

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