You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Local
PUBLIC SAFETY
Union Springs mayor, fire chief in conflict over out-of-service fire hydrants

Fourteen fire hydrants out of 54 have been marked out of service by the village of Union Springs, but the fire chief and the mayor disagree on how imminent the potential danger is.  

The village is responsible for the maintenance and replacement of the hydrants, but Fire Chief Garret Waldron doesn't feel it is addressing them fast enough. 

"My concern is the public safety aspect of it, and the firefighters' safety," Waldron told The Citizen Wednesday.

At $2,000 to $3,000 for each replacement, Mayor Bud Shattuck said he's budgeted to replace three hydrants a year. While Shattuck agreed it's a problem, he questioned whether it was a public safety issue when there are 40 working hydrants in the village. After recently having a water infrastructure problem where village residents had to boil their water for several days, Shattuck is balancing costly projects and feels his hydrant replacement schedule is adequate, adding "I'm doing everything I can."

Bags have been placed on the ones considered out of service, so the department does not try to tap into one, only to find it doesn't work. But Shattuck said some were bagged because they were difficult to open, and not necessarily because they were broken. He's also hoping to bring an engineer in to check the 14, too, to see what needs to be done.

"There's a difference in whether they're not usable or can't open them," Shattuck said. "I just can't imagine with 40 of them within our community that there is not a way and a place for any house within the village to have a full service from the fire company."

Waldron said the concern came to head in December last year when the Union Springs Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school, caught fire. A couple of the closest fire hydrants were not working properly when firefighters searched for a second source of water. At the time, Waldron said that did not cause additional damage to the structure, but it did spur the department to test the hydrants in January.

Addressing that fire, Shattuck said one hydrant couldn't be opened and one didn't have enough water pressure, which he said "has nothing to do with our fire hydrants."

He also pointed out that when fire hydrants are replaced, the village has to shut off its water. That's something that requires planning, he said. It's been years since the fire department exercised the hydrants, Shattuck continued, and he is unclear why this has become an issue now, especially when there are other avenues to fight fires.

"What does a fire company do when there's no fire hydrants around?" Shattuck said. "Pull out tankers. That's what you do. There's other ways to think about how this affects whether it's a safety issue or not."

The whole village, Waldron said, is now set up to be a tanker operation if there's a fire. 

"A fire hydrant is ready for water flow right off the bat, compared to a tanker," Waldron said. "You have to rely on people driving and refilling and driving back to the scene. I'm very concerned about it myself."

With the Insurance Services Office meeting with Shattuck at the beginning of December, too, Waldron worries what the village's insurance rating will be. If the village gets a poor score, insurance rates could go up, he said.

Shattuck said he knew the Insurance Services Office was meeting with him, but he didn't know who they were and assumed "it had something to do with fire things. It will be a great chance for them to see what we've been doing," he added.


Local
top story
EDUCATION
Port Byron school district to rededicate field after football coaches following capital project

PORT BYRON — The names of two Port Byron football figures will once again be featured when the school district's stadium is renovated.

Gino Alberici and Ron Crowell worked together in the district decades ago as head football coach and assistant coach, respectively. In September 2013, the field was dedicated to Alberici and the press box was named after Crowell. When the district's stadium is renovated, those respective areas will be rededicated to the men.

District Superintendent Neil O'Brien praised the duo, who both retired in the early 1990s. Though they left before O'Brien started with the district, he said he has spent time with both of them and that their names hold a tremendous amount of respect in the community.

O'Brien said Alberici was known for being gregarious and charismatic in his football days, while Crowell was quieter and made sure "all the ducks were in a row." Those traits can still be seen in the men today, O'Brien said.

"They are salt-of-the-earth type guys," O'Brien said.

The stadium is a part of the district's $13 million capital project approved by taxpayers in August 2016. O'Brien said the district is hopeful the project will be approved by the state education department by December. From that point, the district hopes to start bidding and construction next year and have the project done by that September.


CRIME
Fake attorney gets prison for stealing $23K from NY inmates, families

An Albany woman who stole more than $23,000 from over 400 New Yorkers by running a fake law firm is heading to state prison.

Antonia Barrone was sentenced to 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree scheme to defraud. She was ordered to pay a $244,500 penalty and $23,427.70 in restitution.

According to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Barrone operated the NYS Prisoner Assistance Center and advertised herself as an attorney assisting prison inmates and their families with parole matters.

However, Schneiderman's investigation revealed that Barrone isn't a licensed attorney and her company did not employ any lawyers.

Barrone's clients were located across the state. She had customers in several counties, including Cayuga. When Schneiderman announced her guilty plea in October, he credited the state Board of Parole counsel's office for discovering the scheme.

"Deceiving vulnerable New Yorkers into paying for unlicensed legal services is reprehensible, costing them thousands each and jeopardizing their rights," Schneiderman said in a statement. "My office won't hesitate to prosecute those who defraud New Yorkers by practicing without a license."

Prior to the criminal investigation, the attorney general's Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit against Barrone in May accusing her of defrauding clients by claiming she was a practicing attorney.

In August, a judge ordered Barrone to pay nearly $270,000 in penalties and restitution. She was also prohibited from practicing law in New York and advertising legal services.

Another division of the state attorney general's office, the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, led the criminal investigation which found Barrone filed legal documents with forged signatures and fake notary stamps over nearly a five-year period. She also wrote letters for her clients using the letterhead of a fake law firm, "Stacchini & Barrone, Attorneys at Law."

The firm included the name of a licensed attorney who wasn't aware of Barrone's conduct.

Barrone's conviction is her second in the last year. In 2016, she was sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison on charges stemming from a high-speed chase.

With her recent sentence, she will serve a combined 2 5/6 to 7 years in state prison.


Eye_on_ny
POLITICS
From 'supporting him' to 'treasonous': Reaction to Katko's vote for GOP tax bill

U.S. Rep. John Katko has prided himself on being independent. As a Republican, he has split with his party on attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and voted against multiple GOP budget proposals. 

On Thursday, he didn't buck his party. He supported a major tax reform plan pushed by President Donald Trump and congressional Republican leaders that would consolidate income tax brackets, slash the corporate tax rate and eliminate most credits and deductions. He was one of 227 GOP members who supported the tax bill. 

Katko, R-Camillus, received some praise for his vote. Nucor, a steel manufacturer that operates a plant in Auburn, released a letter supporting the GOP tax bill. And the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, which also endorsed the GOP tax plan, said the congressman met with the group's board of directors to hear their feedback on the bill. 

"MACNY is supporting him and his vote for this bill," MACNY said in a prepared statement. "We look forward to continued work with Congressman Katko, his colleagues and our membership in crafting reform that provides businesses with real tax relief that results in greater growth and investment by our manufacturing members right here in New York." 

While Katko has his share of supporters, there has been a backlash against him after the vote. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been frequent critic of the Republican tax plan, said it's "treasonous" for any Republican to vote for the bill. 

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, also criticized Katko and other New York Republicans who supported the tax reform measure. 

"They chose to cut taxes for the wealthiest 1 percent of New Yorkers, while eliminating tax breaks for the rest of us causing harm to the very people who entrusted them to do what is right," he said. 

One of Katko's potential Democratic challengers slammed his decision to vote for the Republican tax plan. 

Dana Balter, a Syracuse Democrat who is seeking the party's nomination to challenge Katko in the 2018 election, called Katko's vote "disheartening and wrong."

"This bill provides tax giveaways to millionaires, billionaires and large corporations on the backs of millions of working families," she said. 

Balter added, "It is clear that John Katko's loyalty is to the GOP, Paul Ryan, Donald Trump and corporate interests, not the hardworking people of central New York." 

The CNY Solidarity Coalition, an activist group that formed after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, organized a rally Friday outside Katko's Syracuse district office. Similar protests were held before the vote, including two events in front of Katko's Auburn office. 

Katko told The Citizen this week that he decided to support the bill because "the vast majority of people in my district that are getting a tax cut are going to be middle class and working class people." He dismissed claims that the tax plan would largely benefit the wealthy. 

His vote came after he was initially hesitant to support the bill because of a provision eliminating the state and local tax deduction. A compromise was reached to allow homeowners to deduct up to $10,000 of their state and local property taxes. But the deduction would end for state and local income and sales taxes. 

With the change and other provisions in the bill, Katko opted to support the GOP proposal. 

"This is not perfect. I'd love to have (state and local tax deductibility) in 100 percent," he said. "But in the end, when you do the math for my district, it really is a good deal."