Watertown

Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

Watertown's local fire union endorsed two candidates for city council this year, neither were the incumbents who have been on the council for the past three years while the city and union battled over a new contract. 

Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

Watertown will no longer pay overtime costs in the city's fire department that are caused by sick leave, the latest development in the bitter feud between the union and city government.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Several seats on Watertown's city council are up for grabs this election, but the outcome of the vote could have more of an impact on the city's mayor.

City council candidate Ryan Henry-Wilkinson says after years of legal battles between the city and its firefighter union, he's campaigning on restoring public trust in city government. Henry-Wilkinson hopes to help accomplish that by changing Watertown's form of government to a strong mayor system replacing the city manager by making the mayor a full-time position.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Several projects that are underway in Watertown to transform the city's downtown are getting a major boost. The city has won New York's top prize in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) competition for the North Country, and the $10 million that comes with it.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

The Watertown City Council adopted a resolution Monday night opposing several wind farms that are under development near Fort Drum. Mayor Joseph Butler says the wind turbines would interfere with military base's radar system, impeding its training operations.

“We’re in a position where we don’t want to weaken the strength of the mission readiness at the base, we want to enhance it,” Butler said. “So we’re just making a statement to express our support that we’re not anti-wind, we’re priority Fort Drum.”

Gino Geruntino / WRVO News File Photo

Oswego is offering up to $400,000 to individuals, business owners and or organizations that can help the city combat poverty. It's part of the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI), which aims to help 16 cities improve the lives of their lower-income residents.

Two Watertown head shops under fire for carrying 'designer drugs'

Aug 31, 2017
Office of the Attorney General

Head shops in Watertown are coming under scrutiny this week, as the New York Attorney General's office announced charges against two stores.

When you think of a head shop, you might think of a store that sells rolling papers or pipes. But Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told reporters gathered in Watertown Tuesday that several local shops have branched out — selling products that contain mind-altering substances. Those include salvia, nitrous oxide, or concentrated hemp oil.

Payne Horning; Google Images

Earlier this year, Watertown opted to go on a road diet. The city adopted a complete streets policy to make its roads more accommodating for all users. That means adding new lanes for bicyclists and expanding pedestrian crosswalks.

City planner Geoff Urda says there’s been some backlash from residents because vehicles now have less room to maneuver. But Urda says that does not mean cars are being devalued.

Sarah harris / NCPR

Thousands of law enforcement officials and community members gathered at Fort Drum Saturday afternoon to mourn the loss of New York State Trooper Joel Davis.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Hundreds lined the streets of downtown Watertown Saturday for the funeral procession of New York Ttate Trooper Joel Davis, who was killed while responding to a domestic abuse call last week. 

Payne Horning / WRVO News

New York state has announced what projects it will fund as part of the $10 million prize Oswego won last year in the state's Downtown Revitalization Competition.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

A record amount of rainfall this year has been one of the contributing factors to Lake Ontario’s high water levels and the damage along its shoreline. But all the rain has at least one benefit for the city of Watertown.

WXXI News File Photo

It's another wet week in much of central and northern New York, offering no relief to those experiencing flooding along Lake Ontario and in the area.

The National Weather Service says rainfall in the region is several inches above average this year, for the month of May especially. Last month was the second-wettest May on record for the Watertown area and the third-wettest in the Syracuse area.

But National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Welch says that's not the main cause of the flooding many communities in the region are experiencing.

Katie Keier / Flickr

Several central and northern New York legislators are praising the state's new budget as a win for the region's schools, but they say it was a hard-fought battle that is not over yet.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Officials from the Thompson Park Zoo in Watertown are asking the city and Jefferson County for more financial support. They say it may be necessary just to keep the zoo open.

Former zoo board member Peter Schmidt says the past ten years have not been easy. The zoo has operated at a loss eight of those years and cycled through six executive directors. That has put needed upgrades and projects on the back burner. Now, Schmidt says, the zoo is at a crossroads.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Watertown leaders are pressing forward with their goal to transform the city's downtown area despite losing out on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) competition last year. Plattsburgh ultimately captured the $10 million grant in the North Country region. But Watertown officials say that's not stalling the city's momentum.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

A third of the city of Utica lives below the poverty line, including 47 percent of its children. That is the starting point for the city's new poverty reduction initiative task force. At its first public forum last week, those involved with the project revealed that the problem is even worse for African American children, 72 percent of whom are affected.

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The viewers of Channel 7 evening news in Watertown will soon say goodbye to a familiar face on television. For 20 years, WWNY-TV anchor Brian Ashley has delivered the evening news every weeknight. Ashley is moving on to join the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization as its new leader.

Ashley began his broadcast career in radio while living across the border in Canada, where he's from originally. He moved onto TV in 1994 to host the evening news on Channel 7 alongside his wife, Ann Richter.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

This year's drought has left wells dry across the region. After some rain, farmers are wondering when their groundwater will be replenished. 

The good news is groundwater levels are higher than they've been in months, Cornell University hydrologist Todd Walter told farmers and agriculture leaders in Watertown Wednesday.

David Sommerstein / North Country Public Radio

The Burrville Cider Mill just outside Watertown embodies everything people love about autumn. They have warm cider donuts, crates full of fresh apples and lots of decorative gourds for sale. If you visit the mill in the mornings you might get the chance to watch apples pressed into cider.

WRVO's Julia Botero and David Sommerstein of North Country Public Radio visited the cider mill on a crisp fall day and filed this audio postcard.

The Burrville Cider Mill is open every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. this fall. They make cider on weekend mornings and on Tuesday and Thursdays.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Empty and abandoned houses, known as zombie homes, are a big problem in the North Country. The State Attorney General has awarded a total of $13 million to cities and towns across the state to help tackle the problem.

Watertown City Planner Mike Lumbis says right now the office is notified about a new vacant home in the city only if a neighbor complains about it. The $150,000 grant will allow Watertown to create a database of all the homes that are empty or going into foreclosure. That database will have information on the homeowner, Lumbis says, usually a bank.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

A new law in Watertown will now require landlords to register their rental properties with the city. More than half of the homes in Watertown are rentals. Neighbors and city leaders say many of them are run down or empty. Some aren’t safe to live in. Watertown leaders say a list of property owners’ names and phone numbers will help stop the blight on neighborhood streets. 

Julia Botero / WRVO News

North Country residents struggling with heroin and opioid addiction have a new treatment option. A medication-assisted heroin treatment center in Watertown is taking its first patients.

Until last week, Credo Community Center in Watertown offered recovering heroin addicts only abstinence treatment – the cold turkey approach to overcoming their substance abuse.

Jim Scordo, Credo’s executive director, says he found it didn’t work for some.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

The Watertown City Council is considering a new law that would require landlords to register their rental properties with the city. Homes would then be subject to inspection every three years. Councilman Steve Jennings says the measure will help improve the city’s housing, but landlords say the measure goes too far.

Carl McLaughlin

After a decade of lobbying state and federal officials on behalf of Fort Drum, Carl McLaughlin, has announced his retirement.

McLaughlin began his work as head of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, or FDRLO, in 2004. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were just beginning.  Fort Drum was under threat of shutting down in a round of base closures. McLaughlin got news in his first week on the job from the Pentagon about the base’s 10th Mountain Division.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

There are more than 150 abandoned homes in Watertown.  A report put out by the city assessor finds homes in the city can be empty for months, even years, before the bank takes them over.

Vacant homes have become such a problem in Watertown, the city council has had trouble wrapping their head around what to do.

Brian Phelps, the city assessor, visited hundreds of empty homes and poured over stacks of paperwork to figure out why these homes were abandoned.

 “As many vacant homes as there are, are as many individual stories.”

Julia Botero / WRVO News

The Pokemon Go craze sweeping the nation has hit Watertown. The city’s Public Square usually doesn’t see activity in the evening but recently, downtown is flooded with young people. They’re all staring at their phones, playing an augmented reality game that has them hunting for cartoon monsters and points. WRVO'S Julia Botero went to see what all the fuss is about and sent this audio postcard.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Church leaders in Watertown held a rally on the Public Square Tuesday in response to the recent shootings across the country. The crowd of nearly 100 came to pray and listen to clergy speak about the importance of accepting one another regardless of race, background or faith.

Cars thundered by as people passed out water and searched for shade under the trees. Church leaders from congregations across Watertown took turns addressing the crowd.

Rev. Jeffery Smith, First Baptist Church’s first black pastor, organized the rally.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

A nonprofit in Watertown will receive $1.7 million to open a resource center for recovering drug addicts and their families. PIVOT is one of six non-profits throughout New York state to receive funding to help stop the heroin crisis in their communities.

Anita Seefried-Brown, who works with PIVOT, said the center is a culmination of everything she and the community have worked for since heroin first hit Jefferson County hard.

Meredith Turk / NCPR

A monument that celebrates Fort Drum’s relationship with its surrounding community was revealed at a ceremony in Watertown’s Thompson Park on Friday.

The four-sided granite monument depicts the 10th Mountain Division's history starting with World War II and ending in its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tom Doosin, an Air Force veteran who lives in Henderson, next to Lake Ontario, was there.

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