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Equine encephalitis found in Hopkinton horse

First published: October 01, 2015 at 9:58 am
Last modified: October 02, 2015 at 10:15 am


CANTON - A horse from Hopkinton has tested positive for the Eastern equine encephalitis virus, commonly called Triple E, according to St. Lawrence County Public Health Director James O. Rich.

This is the third confirmed Triple E case in the state this year involving horses, with the others occurring in Franklin and Wayne counties, according to the state Health Department.

There have also been two human cases, one in Onondaga County and the other in Oswego County.

Mr. Rich said the state conducts its own mosquito surveillance activities and St. Lawrence County does not plan to initiate its own plan.

“Although it’s an extremely serious disease, it’s an extremely rare disease,” he said.

Last month, a horse from St. Regis Falls in Franklin County was identified as infected with the virus.

Mosquitoes infected with the EEE virus can infect people, horses and other mammals, some birds, reptiles and amphibians.

The Department of Health recommends that people take precautions against mosquito bites by wearing an effective repellent, long pants and sleeves. Residents should also ensure that window screens are in good repair and that standing water is removed to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

The risk of getting EEE is highest from late July through September. People at the greatest risk of developing severe disease are those over 50 years of age and younger than 15 years of age.

Last year, a horse owned by a Heuvelton-area Amish family tested positive for the disease. There is a vaccination for horses, but not for humans. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck and a sore throat.


St. Lawrence County Senior Health and Wellness Fair set for Thursday in Ogdensburg

First published: October 01, 2015 at 1:50 am
Last modified: October 01, 2015 at 1:50 am

State Senator Patty Ritchie is reminding seniors she will host her St. Lawrence County Senior Health and Wellness Fair on Thursday.

Held at a new location, the Richard G. Lockwood Civic Arena, located on West River Street in Ogdensburg, and running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the event will feature dozens of exhibitors offering wellness advice and health checks, entertainment and free flu shots, available with your Medicare or insurance ID. In addition, attendees will also be invited to enjoy a free lunch made possible through special funding secured by Senator Ritchie and prepared by the “future chefs” at St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES.

“Throughout the years, my Senior Health and Wellness Fairs have come to be known as events where our region’s aging population can get access to health checks, wellness tips, entertainment, lunch and more,” said Senator Ritchie.

In addition to exhibitors, law enforcement will also be on hand collecting expired or unwanted prescription medications from attendees. Senator Ritchie encourages those looking to safely and responsibly “shed the meds,” to look for the drop off table located near the entrance to the event.

Seniors who are interested in saving time and pre-registering for Thursday’s event can do so at or by calling (315) 393-3024.


New directional signs mark St. Lawrence County’s new wine trail; grand opening celebration set for Oct. 8

First published: October 01, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: October 01, 2015 at 1:50 am
This map designates three wineries and other points of interest along the 80-mile St. Lawrence County Wine trail. (Submitted)

CANTON — After more than a year of planning, the St. Lawrence County Wine Trail is ready to be uncorked.

This week, 93 directional signs are being installed throughout the county along the trail that begins near Black Lake’s Bella-Brooke Winery in Morristown, extends to Lisbon’s River Myst Winery and then to High Peaks Winery, Winthrop.

The 80-mile trail received official designation last year from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo after a bill was introduced by state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton.

There are 18 designated wine trails in the state, including the 1,000 Islands Wine Trail in Jefferson County.

Brooke E. Rouse, the county Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, said marketing the wineries together can help make the county a tourist destination for those seeking locally produced wine and other products.

“When you have a trail, it makes the wineries more of a destination,” Mrs. Rouse said Tuesday. “Our full marketing push hasn’t even begun and the wineries all saw increased sales this summer. They’re all expanding sooner than expected.”

Supplied by the state Department of Transportation, the signs were funded by a $35,100 grant from the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency.

A grand opening event for the trail is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. Oct. 8 at Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, 53 Main St.

Visitors will have a chance to meet with winery owners and see a preview of the new St. Lawrence Wine Trail website that’s expected to be launched that day. A new logo also is expected to be unveiled that day.

Mrs. Ritchie and Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, are guest speakers.

Colorful brochures are available from the chamber that include a map of the trail and a description of the three wineries. The brochure highlights several other attractions along the trail such as local orchards, stores, places to stay and eateries.

The map is also designed to attract visitors to the St. Lawrence Brewing Co.’s microbrewery in Canton.

According to the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, there are more than 400 wineries and 1,631 family vineyards in the state.

Mrs. Rouse said the wine industry in the north country continues to gain momentum.

“I think the wineries have benefited from the local food movement and value-added food products,” she said.


Proposed legislation would ban Great Lakes crude oil shipments, up pipeline regulations

First published: October 01, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: October 01, 2015 at 1:13 am
The Lena J is delayed near the coast of Carleton Island on Tuesday afternoon. Newly proposed federal legislation could prevent vessels from transporting crude oil on the Great Lakes and provide a ‘top-to-bottom review’ for pipelines on the waterways.

CANTON - Newly proposed federal legislation could prevent vessels from transporting crude oil on the Great Lakes and provide a “top-to-bottom review” for pipelines on the waterways.

The Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act, introduced last week by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan, also calls for new research on oil spill response, such as how to respond to a spill during the winter when ice covers the lakes, and increases access to safety information about pipelines.

The pair said in statements that they were inspired by a large spill in the Kalamazoo River.

“One can only imagine what a disaster it would be for a similar oil spill to occur in the Great Lakes, the world’s largest system of fresh surface water,” Sen. Peters said in a statement.

The pair also noted discomfort among maritime officials about the effectiveness of oil spill cleanup methods, such as oil dispersants, in times of cold water.

Among those advocating for the measure were Save the River, Clayton, which dedicated its winter conference to the topic earlier this year.

“Shipping on the St. Lawrence River has long been an all-risk and no-reward proposition, and crude oil on ships would greatly increase that risk to our environment, our economy and our communities,” D. Lee Willbanks, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

Tom Flanagin, spokesman for Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, said that the congresswoman was looking for ways to protect the lakes without limiting access to affordable energy, and that the proposal was under review by her staff and the Great Lakes Task Force.

Similarly, a spokesman for Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the senator’s office also is reviewing the measure. A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she is considering the proposal, and is committed to protecting area lakes and waterways.

Currently, no crude oil shipments are made by vessel on the Great Lakes, Save the River and lawmakers said. However, the possibility of Canadian companies shipping crude oil on the St. Lawrence Seaway was reviewed last year by the U.S. Department of State as a part of its examination of the Keystone XL pipeline project.


College costs make free tuition proposal appealing to JCC students

First published: October 01, 2015 at 1:12 am
Last modified: October 01, 2015 at 1:12 am
Ashley M. Seybolt, a computer information technology major, works on her laptop on Jefferson Community College’s campus on Monday.

WATERTOWN — Jefferson Community College students and the college president said possible free tuition for community colleges in New York would help students who struggle with the burdensome costs of getting a higher education.

According to reports from other New York media outlets, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is negotiating with the federal government to share the cost of making New York’s community colleges free for all.

Three calls to the governor’s office to confirm the negotiations were not returned.

The possibility of free community college would be tremendous news for students attending JCC, where tuition for full-time students can range from $4,176 a year for Jefferson County residents to more than $6,456 for in-state students who do not live in the county.

“We have so many students who go here, who rely on financial aid, or military support, and still have to take out loans to pay for school,” JCC President Carole A. McCoy said. “Free tuition would open up college for people who want to go but think it is out of reach. I think it’s important to reduce the cost for students to get a higher education.”

However, Mrs. McCoy said she is concerned about how the funding for it will work.

“The devil is in the details,” she said.

President Barack Obama has pushed for states to share the cost of free community college, with the state taking 25 percent.

Mrs. McCoy has concerns about how that will affect other costs the state incurs, including financial aid.

“I can’t help but wonder how it will be funded,” she said.

Jacob A. Doldo, who is in his second year at JCC and studying business administration, said going to school is expensive for him and he is racking up loans.

“I didn’t really want to come here at first just because the loans are so expensive,” Mr. Doldo said. “You got to do what you got to do.”

He said he takes out loans to cover his tuition, which is $2,500 a semester.

“I still work 20 hours a week just to get by and get gas,” Mr. Doldo said.

Marcus B. Colbert is retired from the Army, in which he served for 20 years, and now goes to JCC for business with help from the military.

“Veteran Affairs pays most of my tuition and the rest is covered by a stipend through my retirement,” Mr. Colbert said. “But a lot of students can’t afford to go to a community college even though it’s community college.”

Military benefits that pay for veterans to go to college last for 15 years from their last active duty lasting 90 days.

As of Sept. 29 there were 223 soldiers enrolled at JCC.

Tuition is not the end-all cost for Mr. Doldo; he also said his books cost him $900 this semester, which he has to pay for out of pocket.

“The Army pays for my books,” Mr. Colbert said. “But if you don’t have someone helping you out, books can be very expensive.”

Mr. Colbert said for one semester his books would have cost between $800 and $1,100 if he had paid out of pocket.

Students agreed that free community college is a good idea.

Scott F. Langdon, 43, who is going to JCC to become a chemical dependency counselor while recovering from a heroin addiction, said financial aid pays for his tuition.

Financial aid covers tuition for 1,786 JCC students, or 44 percent of the student body, in the 2015 fall semester.

“Free community college, if it happens, is something that would help a lot of students,” Mr. Langdon said.

He did have one concern about the possibility of free community college.

“On the downside, with all the students coming in it would be harder to get in the classes you actually need,” he said. “I don’t think it is a bad thing, because I think anything that helps someone out is a good thing.”

Mr. Langdon, who has been sober for 20 months, said he is grateful he was given the chance to get a higher education and to work at the Credo halfway house in Watertown, where he was in a program.

“I think free tuition would be great, because $2,500 a semester, $5,000 a year for two years, or however long it takes, that adds up,” Mr. Doldo said, when asked about the possibility of free community college tuition. “If I didn’t work over the summer I don’t know how I could have afforded that.”

He said he went to Paul Smith’s College last year and that cost him $12,000 a year.

“Most people can’t afford that. So even if people can afford to go to a community college, we’re all going to get smarter as a country,” Mr. Doldo said. “So I think it would be good, as long as it doesn’t hit the taxes too much.”

Mr. Colbert, who plans to continue his business education at SUNY Potsdam after JCC, said the added costs for school and the expensive student loans make free tuition an important initiative.

Mr. Langdon agreed. “I do think it will help a lot of people who are not eligible for financial aid, especially young people,” he said.


Ogdensburg moves to have Step by Step lawsuit over zoning dismissed

First published: October 01, 2015 at 1:06 am
Last modified: October 01, 2015 at 1:06 am

An attorney for the city moved Wednesday for the dismissal of a federal lawsuit brought by Step by Step Inc. over a denied request for rezone the former Lincoln Elementary School on Knox Street from single-family residential to that of a planned development district.

The not-for-profit organization that provides mental health services at 103 Ford St. is alleging in an action filed July 31 in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, that the city has intentionally discriminated against its patients in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Step By Step claims that once the City Council learned that the organization intended to provide housing to people with mental illnesses at the 1515 Knox St., property it purchased in November 2014, that the council departed from its normal procedures and “allowed illegal prejudices concerning the disability of SBS’s patients to influence its decision to deny SBS’s PDD application.”

Step By Step purchased the Knox Street property from the Ogdensburg City School District for $15,000 for the purpose of moving its outpatient mental health services to the site.

One of the things the organization is seeking while the legal action is pending is a preliminary injunction ordering the city to approve its request for a planned development. The city’s attorney, Paul V. Mullin, Syracuse, argues in a memorandum of law filed Wednesday on the city’s behalf that granting the request “would do far more than simply maintain the status quo during the pendency of this litigation.”

“In fact, if SBS’s motion were granted, it would result in SBS being granted substantially all of the relief it is ultimately seeking in this action (i.e. approval of its PDD application),” Mr. Mullin wrote.

Mr. Mullin contends that Step by Step is challenging the city’s zoning decision under two provisions of the Fair Housing Act and Americans With Disabilities Act, those provisions being intentional discrimination and disparate impact, yet “SBS has offered no proof in admissible form to substantiate its arguments that the FHA or ADA apply or that SBS is likely to succeed on the merits of those claims.”

He states the organization had proffered no evidence that proposed users of the parcel qualify as “handicapped” or “disabled” under either of the federal acts.

“Rather, SBS appears to take for granted that simply alleging that it intends to provide housing and services for ‘people with mental illness’ is sufficient to establish that the potential users and/or residents qualify under those statutes,” Mr. Mullin wrote.

Step by Step has maintained in court documents that if a preliminary injunction is not issued granting its planned development district, the organization will face financial harm in the future as it will face the burden of maintaining two buildings at the same time.

The organization claims that it may have to cut or downsize existing programs and may not be able to develop new programs or services without being able to occupy the Knox Street property.

Mr. Mullin counters that the claims of financial harm are “too vague” or “speculative” to justify the imposition of an injunction and contends that Step by Step helped create the financial risk itself by buying the parcel while knowing its intended use was forbidden by the city’s code.

Mr. Mullin is asking that the request for a preliminary injunction be denied and that the complaint be dismissed in its entirety.

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