Oswego

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Oswego's Common Council was recently presented with a petition seeking to add a five percent tax cap back to the city's charter, which was removed in 2011. The city of Oswego continues to deal with resident complaints about last year's 43 percent property tax hike, and struggle with balancing its budget.

Lawyer Kevin Caraccioli got more than 500 people to sign the petition. He says the tax cap would work in the same way as it does in school budgets, requiring city voters to approve budgets that surpass the tax cap.

Seventy years ago, nearly 1,000 European refugees came to Oswego to escape the Holocaust during World War II. Now the city's Safe Haven Museum is collecting and cataloging stories from those living in the city at the time, for what it calls the "Neighbors Project." The refugees, many of them Jewish, were housed at Fort Ontario from 1944 until 1946. The camp was the only one of its kind in the United States.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

The Oswego Common Council has voted five to zero to amend its taxi cab law, after working on it for more than a year. The law originally barred people convicted of felonies from driving taxi cabs within Oswego city limits, but sparked a lawsuit from the Workforce Advocacy Center, a group opposing job discrimination.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Many upstate New York municipalities are struggling with higher taxes and are scrambling to find additional revenue sources. The city of Oswego is no different and the mayor is trying several approaches to raise money.

Mayor Tom Gillen says the city is examining every nook and cranny of the budget to try to find ways to save money or bring in revenue.

Jason Smith / WRVO

It's been about six months since the city of Oswego launched a mobile app allowing residents to report problems directly to city departments. The app, which cost $5,000 to build and $2,000 to maintain, has had a reduced number of reports recently, but Common Councilor Eric VanBuren said it has still been helpful for the city.

VanBuren helped get the app passed by the city last fall and said there are more than 400 users of the program.  He said the app has been a good investment even though the winter season has reduced the number of reports received.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

It's been a tough winter so far this season, even for the hardiest of upstate New Yorkers. But what do all these snowy days and icy conditions mean for the area's rock salt supplies?

"We were fortunate to have a fairly good supply at the beginning of the season and we are still OK," says Oswego Department of Public Works Commissioner Michael Smith. "If winter lasts at a normal length or if we can say maybe through the next month we'll be out of the worst of it, we'll be OK with our salt and sand mix."
 

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Potholes aren't anything new for upstate New York drivers, but the sheer number of them this year is wreaking more havoc than usual.

Steve Pacer, with AAA of Western and Central New York, says calls to their roadside service because of pothole-caused flat tires have increased this year. Other weather related problems like dead batteries and cars stuck in snow banks have also increased this winter.

A group of up and coming actors are performing two plays rarely produced together as part of a nationwide tour stopping at SUNY Oswego. On Wednesday night, The Acting Company will perform Hamlet, then tomorrow the group of 12 repertory actors will perform Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead." The shows follow the same story line, but from different perspectives.

Josh Johnston, who fills several roles in the plays, says the group focuses on giving the audience universally relatable moments.

An Oswego County mother is taking a local head shop to court following her son's death after smoking synthetic marijuana he allegedly bought from the store.

Teresa Woolson, whose 19-year-old son, Victor, drowned in Lake Ontario after smoking a form of synthetic marijuana, wants the shop's owner, the drug manufacturer and the distributor held accountable.

In August 2012, Victor Woolson drowned in the lake soon after smoking "K-2 Avalanche," a form of synthetic marijuana he apparently bought from Xtreme Underground.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

UpdateAccording to published reports, the vote to unionize failed by a total of 14 votes. 

Earlier coverage:

Employees of Novelis Aluminum in Oswego are voting today to determine whether or not 600 employees at the plant will unionize.

James Ridgeway, an international union representative for the United Steelworkers Union, says workers from Novelis contacted him in mid-December to begin the unionization process, citing several changes that have occurred since Novelis purchased the plant.

Although it doesn't have a permanent home, for the last year the Children's Museum of Oswego has brought its exhibits to local events like Harborfest and the Great Pumpkin Festival. But last week, the museum's board of trustees set its sights on finding a fixed location in the city.

Oswego decides against employee furloughs

Jan 31, 2014
Doug Kerr / Flickr

The city of Oswego is making some changes to the budget it passed in December, by moving away from the city-wide furloughs it had previously imposed.

The furloughs included in this year's budget would have equated to about a four percent pay decrease to every city employee in Oswego. But now those mandatory days off aren't taking place, following the Common Council's decision to dip into the city's enterprise fund.

Port of Oswego receives new equipment

Jan 23, 2014
Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Sen. Charles Schumer was in Oswego Wednesday to announce that the city's port has received some much needed equipment.

Schumer helped port officials secure a new container reach stacker, along with a dump truck and two generators from the federal government's surplus equipment program. He says the reach stacker will help the port be more efficient and save money.

The Oswego City Common Council is pushing a more aggressive agenda to help prevent a repeat of last year's 43 percent property tax increase.

Common Council president Ron Kaplewicz says the prospect of another year with massive tax increases scares everyone at City Hall, and is prompting the council to get more creative with the decisions it makes and the revenue sources it taps.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Oswego's Common Council, mayor and department heads saw firsthand what Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2014 agenda will look like, during a recent presentation of his State of the State address at city hall.

The mayor of the city of Oswego says in general he supports Cuomo's budget plan for 2014, but the city's Common Councilors say rising costs and unfunded mandates make it hard to stay within the state's two percent tax cap.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

After losing several big name manufacturing plants in recent decades, Oswego County has been aggressively trying to lure new companies in, filling vacant facilities with new tenants. The most recent announcement was made in Fulton, where a Pakistan-based poultry processor has taken over the former Birds Eye plant.

Mayor Ron Woodward says new companies help combat his city's recent struggles tied to job loss.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

While out shopping for gifts for family and friends this holiday season, some charitable shoppers also reached for dolls, notepads and toiletries to pack into a shoebox for a child overseas. The shoeboxes not only give impoverished kids some necessities, but something less tangible -- hope.

Recently, hundreds of festive shoeboxes line the walls of Oswego Alliance Church. Volunteers take a couple minutes to stack each box, straightening out the red and green columns into one uniform wall. None of the boxes have shoes in them.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

The Oswego Common Council passed its 2014 budget plan last night, including a more than 40 percent property tax increase. But instead of the boos and anger seen last Thursday night, councilors heard cheers from the hundred or so people who watched the event.

In a seemingly surprise announcement to the crowd just prior to the vote, council president Ron Kaplewicz broke the news about the city's 15 Department of Public Works jobs that were placed on the city's chopping block.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Hundreds of residents from the city of Oswego packed the gym at Oswego Middle School on Thursday to voice their concerns about the city's proposed budget. The $34 million budget originally included a property tax increase of more than 80 percent. But the Common Council cut $2 million from the budget earlier this week, dropping the possible tax increase down to about 43 percent.

mtneer_man / Flickr

Although Oswego's residents are facing a nearly 82 percent increase in their property taxes, the city's lawmakers say there isn't much fat left to cut from the proposed budget. They say the changing economic atmosphere in the city is weighing heavily on this year's budget.

The city of Oswego is trying to regain what years of population decline and lost manufacturing jobs have taken away. According to Mayor Thomas Gillen, part of that reclamation means revitalizing the city's neighborhoods.

Gillen said the Oswego Renaissance Association is speaking with local banks to secure funding for small loans, grants or matching funds to assist homeowners in making needed repairs.

The money would also be tied to neighborhood development, encouraging neighborhoods to take on projects together.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Away from the hustle and bustle of Destiny USA and Great Northern Mall, mom and pop shops throughout the region are working hard to promote their own version of Black Friday -- Small Business Saturday.

The city of Oswego is no different. Bill Riley, owner of the River's End Bookstore, has embraced the event since its creation several years ago. His store is hosting two local authors on Saturday, including former political cartoonist Frank Cammuso and award winning author Laurie Halse Anderson.
 

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Following the tragic deaths of several high school football players across the country, the sport's rules and practices are being scrutinized. Recent rule changes are protecting helmetless players, and some coaches in the region say it's bringing common sense back to the game.

On a chilly evening, the Oswego Buccaneers varsity football team hustles down the field against the Nottingham Bulldogs, its quarterback lobbing a well placed ball to an open receiver.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

A small crowd gathered at Oswego's Veterans Memorial Park earlier today for a Veterans Day flag lowering ceremony and memorial dedication for members of the military lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The cold, rainy weather did not stop veterans and their families from attending the event, where the national, state and POW/MIA flags were lowered, folded and given to Oswego Mayor Thomas Gillen for safe keeping through the winter months. The flags will be raised again on Memorial Day.

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Two candidates from vastly different backgrounds are attempting to become the new voice of Oswego's 5th ward, after Common Councilor Dan Donovan's retirement. It's the only open Common Council race in the November 5 election.

One of those candidates is William "Billy" Barlow, Jr., 23, who is a small business owner and recent graduate of Arizona State University. Barlow, a Republican, says the city could benefit from making Oswego's downtown more vibrant and welcoming to out-of-town visitors.
 

Novelis commissions expansion at Oswego plant

Oct 25, 2013
Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Novelis' aluminum plant in Oswego commissioned a new $200 million expansion, and created 100 jobs for Oswego County. The addition of two new production lines increased the company's North American capacity for producing aluminum sheet for cars by 240,000 tons.

Plant manager Chris Smith says the expansion features two new aluminum automotive sheet finishing lines, which will increase the company's ability to provide lighter material to address the automotive industry's need to improve gas mileage in the cars they produce.

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Oswego Mayor Thomas Gillen and Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin are taking part in a six-week energy reduction challenge, developed by the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board and NYSERDA.

Energy Challenge Coordinator Samuel Gordon says the idea is to reduce wasted energy.

"It's really not about competing against one another to reduce energy consumption," Gordon said. "We're really competing against ourselves, because about 30 percent of the energy that we use in our homes is wasted."


While students attending SUNY Oswego continue to get settled this school year, the Oswego Police Department is using more officers and patrolmen to keep the city's quality of life high. Lt. Charles Searor says the department is also trying out a new proactive method of enforcing the law and teaching students the proper way to live in residential neighborhoods.

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A dispute is brewing in Oswego over who should get to use some docking space right in the center of town.

George Broadwell owns two hotels, a restaurant and a convention center along the east side of the Oswego River.

Last year, he says he complained to city and state officials about the number of tugs and barges mooring along the river in front of his establishments. Earlier this year, even more tug boats and barges were mooring along the 600 feet of space in front of his property.

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Rep. Dan Maffei observed a maritime exercise using unmanned aerial vehicles for civilian search and rescue in Oswego on Wednesday. Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard participated in the training.

Maffei, D-Syracuse, says the UAVs, called MQ-9 Reapers, used in the training rescue missions could save more time, money and lives compared to the current search measures.

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