Year end Feb.
1st — The NBT Bank teller was the first witness this morning in the trial of accused bank robber Brian J. Brown. Brown, age 31, of 717 Rutger Street, Utica, is accused of shooting Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Burger in the ankle while fleeing the July 29 robbery at the NBT Bank on Black River Boulevard. Burger had chased Brown down Route 49 and off onto Edic Road, where Brown jumped out of his car and fired at least three shots before fleeing into the woods.
2nd — What happened to the snow? That is the big question this morning after weather forecasters’ predictions for a massive snowstorm, producing a foot or more of snow, had area school superintendents canceling Wednesday’s classes Tuesday night and many businesses delaying the start of their work day. Only about five inches of snow fell overnight. National Weather Service Meteorologist Mitch Gilt complained that yesterday’s buildup for a major snow event was actually the result of a snowball effect from one weather agency to the next.
3rd — School lunch menus will offer less salt and more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain products as a result of a new federal nutrition bill, say Rome school district officials. In addition, new regulations probably are ahead for vending machines, school stores and "a la carte" items sold during the school day. State reviews of lunch nutrition standards are expected to be more frequent, said district Food Service Director Chris Whitmore and Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons. President Barack Obama in December signed the "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act" under an administration-wide effort to combat obesity.
4th — The Census Bureau has reversed its decision to show an expanded Oneida Indian Reservation on its 2010 Census map. Had the contested change gone through, the reservation would have covered about 307,000 acres in Oneida, Madison and Lewis counties instead of only the Oneidas’ 32-acre reservation off of Route 46 in the City of Oneida.
5th — Some local school superintendents are not only alarmed by proposed state aid cuts, but are wondering how and why certain districts were hit with much higher percentage cuts in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget plan. Holland Patent district officials, facing a 15.58 percent total aid cut that is the largest in Oneida County and 14 points above the lowest proposed cut for Waterville, are seeking to "see why certain districts...were hit so hard," Superintendent Kathleen Davis said.
6th — With the increase in popularity of electronically filing tax returns, now the preferred method by both the Internal Revenue Service and many tax filers, paper tax forms have all but disappeared. For those who prefer to file using pen and ink, look no further than your local library for paper forms, but also opportunities to try out the new electronic preparation. State and federal taxing authorities no longer mail forms to individual’s homes and forms are no longer available at post offices either. Instead, the forms are being sent to public libraries as a central location for taxpayers.
7th — A "carelessly" discarded cigarette is being blamed for starting a blaze that seriously injured one man and destroyed two downtown businesses on North State Street in Lowville. The man who suffered severe burns throughout his body, later identified as Joseph C. LaParr, 28, of Brantingham, was upgraded from critical to serious condition this morning, Sheriff L. Michael Tabolt said. Two others were sent to local hospitals for treatment, while several tenants were left homeless, fire officials said.
8th — Brian J. Brown was found guilty on all counts of two bank robberies and the attempted murder of Sheriff’s Deputy Michael I. Burger. The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for roughly four to five hours, and reached a unanimous decision. Brown, 31, of 717 Rutger St., Utica, now faces the possibility of 100 years to life in prison when sentenced in Oneida County Court in Utica on March 24. The bullet shattered his right ankle on July 29, and he remains on crutches following a recent surgery in New York City. Officials said the 40-year-old will never work as a patrol deputy again.
9th — A father and son snowmobiling to work on separate sleds along the Erie Canal Trail near New London crashed into a fallen tree shortly before sunrise today, sending them both to University Hospital in Syracuse. Oneida-based state police said Timothy Wandell, 42, and Steven Wandell, 21, were eastbound at about 6:52 a.m. when Steven struck a small tree that had fallen across the trail. He lost control of his sled and it hit a second tree that was standing off the north side of the trail. The snow kicked up by the first collision is believed to have blinded Timothy, who then hit the same fallen tree, troopers said. The two sleds then collided with each other.
10th — The lieutenant governor was in Oneida County Wednesday to pitch Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bleak budget proposal. Since Cuomo’s proposed $132.9 billion budget was unveiled Feb. 1, the governor and Duffy have been making public appearances around New York rallying support for it. Cumo aims to spend $3.7 billion less than the current budget, marking the first time in 15 years that a proposed state budget would spend less than the budget in place. It closes a deficit of some $10 billion without raising taxes or borrowing money.
11th — A serial rapist and murderer who was convicted for two separate deaths in 1976 and 1978 in Fulton County has been blamed for the 1972 rape and murder of 19-year-old Joanne Pecheone in Utica. But no charges can be filed, because John Hopkins killed himself in prison on March 11, 2000. He wa 46. District Attorney Scott D. McNamara announced this morning that Hopkins has been named as Pecheone’s killer after an exhaustive look at his record and his background.
12th — The fate of Oneida County’s four state prisons will start in the hands of a 17-member group that will identify which of New York’s prisons should close. It is proposed that each affected community would get $10 million in economic development aid as compensation. Rome has two correctional facilities and Marcy has two. Would the help go to those municipalities or be diverted to Oneida County?
13th — A yellow Labrador Retriever and Collie mix are the latest victims of neglect brought into the Humane Society of Rome on Lamphear Road over the weekend. Angel, the female lab, and Nemo, were nearly starved to death and suffering from frostbite when they were discovered by a Verizon employee at a residence on Westdale Road in Florence on Friday,
14th — Faster election results, though not necessarily complete, seem likely the night of Nov. 8 after the polls close in Oneida County. A return to a telephone-based system for compiling preliminary numbers is planned to avoid the long delays — and resulting criticisms — encountered last fall in releasing tallies before curious voters and anxious candidates went to bed not knowing who won and lost.
15th — The owner of dogs Angel and Nemo, who had been left out in the cold for several days at a vacant house on Route 69, has been charged by law enforcers with animal cruelty. Donald G. Grass, 37, of 11163 Route 13, was ticketed with the misdemeanor on Saturday after a Verizon employee found Angel and Nemo nearly starved to death and suffering from frostbite outside their home Friday afternoon, according to Sgt. Thomas Haumann. "I think he previously lived there and moved out, and left the dogs there," Haumann stated. The animals were found at 704 Route 69, Camden.
16th — The Rome school district will go ahead with plans to move Gansevoort Elementary School students to the former Fort Stanwix school for the 2011-12 year during a major renovation, based on feedback at a community meeting. Among steps offered by Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons is to staff a trailer at the project site to arrange for shuttling Gansevoort parents to Fort Stanwix as needed; he said "a number of parents" do not have vehicles and currently can walk to Gansevoort, 758 W. Liberty St., adding that some were concerned about how they would get to the Fort Stanwix school at 110 W. Linden St.
17th — As many as 90 Rome school district jobs would have to be cut in the upcoming 2011-12 budget, under possible moves outlined today by Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons in response to state aid reductions. That scenario would result even if there were no local tax increase, no change in current budget spending, and if the district used about $6 million of its undesignated fund balance which would nearly deplete that money, said Simons. The potential outcomes are based on an approximately $2.9 million drop in 2011-12 state aid for Rome in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed new state budget.
18th — Plan on riding a bus in Rome or Utica after April 24? Bring an extra quarter. In an effort to help close a projected $4.8 million dollar deficit, Centro is proposing a 25-cent per ride increase in both cities, effective Monday, April 25. The Syracuse-based transportation authority that runs buses in Rome operates six routes in the city and has a fleet of eight buses here. There are no service changes planned for Rome in the proposal.
19th — An extended family of eight have been left homeless after a large fire chased them out of their West North Street home into a very cold and blustery morning. Shoeless and dressed in only their pajamas, the eight sought shelter at a neighbor’s house while Rome firefighters rushed to the scene. Strong winds filled the street with dark smoke as the firefighters attacked from three sides of the two-story residence at 139 W. North St. Windows were shattered to ventilate the smoke and hoselines were used both inside and outside to try and get the flames under control.
20th — A snowmobile accident on North George Street at Vogel Park on Saturday night left one rider in critical condition at a Syracuse hospital. A second man aboard the sled that vaulted 41 feet through the air and then into a tree is listed in fair condition at University Hospital. Rome police said one snowmobile was carrying two adult males. Police have not determined which person was driving — Jeffery M. Badolato, age 35, of Gloversville, or Julius J. Deraway, age 40, of Lawrence Street in Rome. The sled is registered to a Frankfort resident, police said.
21st — The Oneida County Board of Legislators approved nine new staff positions for the county jail last week to support an agreement with the state over staffing at the facility in Whitestown. By a 26-0 vote, the lawmakers authorized eight corrections officers and one captain. Two guards will be hired in the short-term and paid with money from the department’s overtime account. The other posts will be phased in by July 2012, including adding two jailers and a captain later this year.
22nd — A high school junior from suburban Rochester was killed when his snowmobile crashed into several trees in Osceola. The death of 16-year-old Daniel J. DeSanctis was the second fatal snowmobile accident in Lewis County in four days, and the eighth so far this year in the region. DeSanctis was on winter break from Webster-Thomas High School in Monroe County.
23rd — Mayor James F. Brown and Common Council President John J. Mazzaferro are teaming up to run for office again, and there are plenty of challenges for the two Republicans to tackle. Brown and Mazzaferro made their joint announcement this morning at Rome Strip Steel, 530 Henry St. Brown will seek his third four-year term. Mazzaferro, who has been in office since 1980 and served under three mayors, is seeking a four-year term as well.
24th — Reductions in state spending must "start at the top...from the governor down" before such positions as teachers, librarians and corrections officers are cut, Mayor James F. Brown said today at a state budget hearing. Referring to "three levels of management" in the state corrections budget, for example, Brown cited salaries of over $200,000 and said "they have to be cut." He also called for a close look at various state authorities.
25th — RoAnn M. Destito is moving from the state Assembly to a cabinet position Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration, sparking speculation about who might take over the seat the Rome resident has held since 1993. Destito, age 54, of 308 W. Oak St., was picked as commissioner of the state Office of General Services Thursday afternoon by Cuomo. Both are Democrats. Destito’s nomination to the $136,000 post requires Senate confirmation. She will be the first woman to hold the commissioner’s job, and the second person from Rome.
26th — Political unrest in north Africa is priming fuel-market speculators and pushing the per gallon pump price for gasoline to more than $3.59 at some area stations. Ed Welsh, general manager of Central Region AAA, said the turmoil in Egypt and Libya could be behind the most recent price increase. The Utica-Rome composite price for gasoline was $3.42 per gallon, an increase of about 2 cents from Wednesday. A week ago, local consumers were paying $3.38 per gallon, while a year ago it was costing $2.85 per gallon, Welsh said.
27th — As they have done every year since Police Officer Joseph D. Corr was shot down in the line of duty on Feb. 27, 2006, his parents invited friends, family and area police officers to attend both the memorial mass and a candlelight vigil on the spot Officer Corr was killed. He was in pursuit of a thief behind the Byrne Dairy in Kirkland when the shot rang out at 8:26 p.m. Over 100 people attended the mass, and about two dozen held candles at the vigil.
28th — The Lee Town Board has added its voice to those seeking to prevent the proposed elimination of the state Tug Hill Commission. The board has approved a resolution urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to restore the commission’s funding in the proposed 2011-12 state budget at the 10 percent reduction included for most state agencies. The resolution urged that the commission be able to undergo the State Agency and Government Efficiency review "wherein its future may be decided via due process review" of all such commissions and agencies.