Regional Coverage

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.

More than 2,500 low-income families in Onondaga County are getting their holiday stockings filled today. Families have been filing through the OnCenter in Syracuse for the Salvation Army’s yearly Christmas Bureau.

Theresa Johnson of Syracuse is unemployed this Christmas and is happy that for the Christmas bureau program that provides gifts and food for families like hers.

North Country scraping its way out of blanket of ice

Dec 23, 2013

Updated at 3:40 p.m.

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.

Some big changes are coming to the Court St.campus of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. It involves the sale of the campus, and moving a shrine to recently canonized St. Marianne Cope, who began her ministries as a Sister of St. Francis, in Syracuse.

The current campus on the corner of Court and Grant St. on Syracuse’s north side dates back to the 1860s, when a new order of Franciscan nuns bought the property. Over the past 150 years it’s been home to a convent, school, chapel and a day care, among other things.

Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse are hoping to build on the success of government consolidation projects in the past to make more moves to modernize or consolidate government in the future. How the two biggest government entities in central New York will do this is isn’t quite clear, but they say they want to get the conversation going.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney used a snowy day in Syracuse to illustrate the idea of government inefficiency.

School closings and delays

Dec 17, 2013

This list will be updated throughout the morning.

Cincinnatus: 2 hour delay

Cortland: 2 hour delay

Gouverneur: 2 hour delay; no AM Pre-K

Homer: Closed

Marathon: 2 hour delay

McGraw: 2 hour delay

Onondaga: 1 hour delay

Watertown: 2 Hour Delay

Fifth and sixth graders at Granby Elementary School in Fulton got the chance to meet and ask questions to several current and former service members Monday morning, during the school's "Take a Vet to School Day" event. Members of the Army and Navy gave students a look into their lives in the military, including what they did overseas, where they've been stationed, and in one case, what their favorite gun is to shoot.
 

School closings and delays

Dec 16, 2013

This post will be updated throughout the morning.

The state attorney general’s recently created animal protection initiative has led to the shutdown of two illegal puppy sale operations.

The state’s top prosecutor says two dog sellers bought puppies for cheap or got them for free and then “flipped” the dogs for a profit.

One seller from central New York, Carissa Seaman of Cleveland, N.Y., agreed to stop selling dogs. The attorney general says he got a court order to stop a separate puppy-flipping operation, run by Stephanie Arcara, near Buffalo. Neither woman had a license to sell dogs.

A small conference room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Syracuse was recently transformed into a world of poverty. A simulation run by the Syracuse anti-poverty group Visions for Change gave 100 people a chance to see what it is like to walk in the shoes of the poor helping those participating learn a valuable lesson.

A pretend corner market was a busy spot in the simulation, but it wasn’t the pretend food or prescriptions drawing the most interest. It was the bus passes.

"Do you want a weekly bus pass?" a woman asks. "Yes, please."

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. 

New York state is ramping up its message to homeowners, urging them to reapply for the STAR Tax rebate if they haven’t done it yet. The deadline is the end of the month to get in on the tax break.

Looking at a map of the counties in New York state, Teresa Frank of the state’s Real Property Tax Services office, says a majority of homeowners in each county have reapplied for the property tax break, and there is a bit of a trend.

Ski season gets underway

Dec 12, 2013

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.

Syracuse police have cracked an almost 30-year-old murder case using a combination of high tech DNA and intensive police work. The arrest of a Georgia man who had long been a suspect in the investigation of the death of his estranged wife, is the latest success in the Syracuse Police Department’s cold case unit.

Authorities say Ronald Meadow will be arraigned on second-degree murder charges in Syracuse later this month, in connection with the death of his estranged wife, Colleen Meadow, who was found strangled to death in her northside apartment in March 1985.  

Last updated Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 5:05 am.

Cape Vincent tells state: we want decision on wind farm

Dec 10, 2013

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. 

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

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

Syracuse-area Congressman Dan Maffei is introducing legislation to crack down on people tampering with electronic probation devices and to hold federal probation offices more accountable.

Maffei is introducing the Federal Probation System Reform Act, which he says will make it a federal crime to tamper with an electronic monitoring device, and establish a nationwide standard for responding to bracelet alerts.

New York's U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wants the investigation into the crash of an Air National Guard unmanned drone to be made public.

The Air Force is investigation the crash of an MQ-9 Reaper into Lake Ontario last month while on a training flight with the 174th Air Guard Wing, based out of Syracuse. Training flights resumed two weeks after the incident.

Schumer, a Democrat, says that's alright since most drones are safe.

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.

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.

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.

Closing church auctions not only items, but memories

Dec 3, 2013

As ringing bells herald this Christmas season, another city church has gone silent. The West Genesee  United Methodist Church in Syracuse has closed its doors, and last week it auctioned off its contents.

New York state's Workers' Compensation Board has started a sweeping effort to examine the system, and look at how it could more effectively meet the needs of injured workers and employers. It's in the midst of holding sessions where injured workers can express their opinions.

The second of three sessions was held yesterday in Syracuse, and allowed injured workers to chime in on the discussion in central New York. Fidel, Alejandro Velacqueis Perez was among those telling stories.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday focus on spending for holiday gifts, a burgeoning movement is hoping to create that same kind of fervor when it comes to making charitable donations. Tomorrow has been dubbed Giving Tuesday in the world of non-profits.

Matt Seubert, Development Director of Enable and Transitional Living Services in Syracuse had never heard of Giving Tuesday when it started last year.

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.

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.
 

Shoppers hitting the stores on this Black Friday expect it to be crowded, since there will probably be more people than ever at central New York’s biggest shopping venue.

A year ago, the expansion to Destiny USA was still in its early stages, with storefronts not yet filled. This year, there are 80 or so more stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues than there were a year ago, according to Mall Manager Rob Schoeneck. That’s already meant more shoppers than in the past.

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