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Cayuga County may appeal order to pay former jail inmate $300K

Cayuga County may appeal a court decision and order requiring it to pay over $300,000 to a former county jail inmate.

Richard T. Andrews, an Auburn resident, was arrested, arraigned and remanded to Cayuga County Jail on May 2, 2009, according to a state Supreme Court decision filed on Nov. 2. 

Andrews had a prescription for Xanax, a kind of controlled substance called a benzodiazepine. The jail denied Andrews his medication, substituting it with another, the decision said. Four days after being incarcerated, he suffered withdrawal symptoms including multiple seizures, which appeared to have caused shoulder fractures and dislocations.

Cayuga County Judge Mark H. Fandrich ruled that the county "breached its duty to provide adequate medical care to plaintiff during his incarceration/detainment," and ordered it to pay approximately $61,000 in medical expenses and about $244,000 for past and present pain and suffering.

The Cayuga County Legislature will consider a resolution this month to hire the Law Firm of Frank W. Miller to appeal the Nov. 1 order and judgement. Miller has represented the county throughout the lawsuit, which began as a notice of claim in June 2009.

Kevin Kuehner, of the Kevin Kuehner Law Firm in Syracuse, represents Andrews. He said the county had filed a notice of appeal on Nov. 21, but no other action had been taken since.

"Twice they've (Cayuga County) tried to get the case thrown out so far, and twice both the local judge, Judge Fandrich, and the appellate division have agreed that it should not be thrown out," he said. 

Cayuga County Attorney Fred Westphal did not return The Citizen's request for comment Monday.

In an email to The Citizen, Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould said because the resolution and appeal are pending, he could not say much.

"I can say that I am very pleased that the Legislature is considering the appeal of this decision," he wrote.

The resolution will first go before the Legislature's Government Operations Committee. That meeting takes place around 6:15 p.m. following the Legislature's 5:30 p.m. Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting on Wednesday. Both meetings will be held at the Fire Training Tower, 14 Quarry Road, Auburn. 

If the resolution passes that committee, it will move to the Ways and Means Committee, and then potentially the full Legislature.

Playoff-starved Buffalo Bills fans stay hopeful

AUBURN — Buffalo Bills fans filled a local sports bar on Sunday to welcome their team back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. 

Fans decked out in red and blue Bills gear watched the game on over 25 television screens at Kosta's Bar and Grill, located at 105 Grant Ave., Auburn.

Fans were emotional, to say the least.

“When your team makes it to the playoffs after you've been waiting for 18 years, yeah, you're definitely going to cry,” James Northrup said before the kickoff. “I think we have a good chance today,” he said.

“I'm a real fan,” said Charisse Mead, who has been a Buffalo Bills fan since she was 10 years old. Her dad loved the Bills, so she learned to cheer for them as a child. Lucky for her, her husband Jeff's dad was also a fan of the Bills: “He'd call, and we'd talk about football for about half an hour before he would ask to talk to Jeff.”

“We are diehard Bills' fans,” Matt Snyder said of himself and his friends Pat Capella and Randy Newman. They were all at Kosta's last week when the Bills qualified for the playoffs, so they came back to watch Sunday's game at the same bar for good luck.

Capella was “very excited” for the game, because the Bills' loss in 1999 was a “heart breaker,” he said.

“We're hoping for a win, anything can happen,” Newman said.

After such a long dry spell, fans largely agreed that the Bills' new coach, Sean McDermott, was to thank for getting them to the playoffs this year.

“The new coach is more disciplined, means more business, and I think that carried over to the players,” Jeff Mead said.

“That's what they needed,” Charisse said, nodding in agreement.

Some fans, like Northrup, thought the Buffalo Bills learned to “believe in themselves” again, and others said they just “got lucky” this year.

With the game tied at halftime, some fans were more nervous than others.

“I'm fine right now,” Charisse said, “it's like we're starting over.” 

“I'm feeling a little shaky,” Newman admitted.

“We were predicting to get blown out, so I'm happy we're still in it,” Snyder said.

Cheering and excitement filled Kosta's all game long -- every pass completion, call in favor of the Bills and solid tackle elicited an uproar from the fans. As the game and the buckets of Budweiser went on, the cheering only got louder.

“This game is going to give me a heart attack,” Charisse said to a friend.

The final minutes of the game, some fans showed a bit more apprehension by biting their nails, or covering their faces with their hands.

The game did not end the way fans had wanted, but for the most part, they were still hopeful.

“They ended the dry spell,” Newman said.

“I don't give up on my Bills, we got this," Northrup said.

“I'm excited. I'm proud, I'm a proud Bills fan, we made it,” Justin San Martin, Northrup's friend, said.

“I knew it was going to be a big defensive battle,” Charisse said, “I''m sad, but they're on an upswing … It's just the beginning.”

DEC identifies hunter rescued from Owasco Lake

FLEMING — A Wayne County man was taken to the hospital Sunday afternoon after falling into Owasco Lake.

Duck hunter David Seal, of Savannah, fell into Owasco Lake and was rescued by Joseph Whiffen, his hunting partner, before being transported to Auburn Community Hospital, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said.

While out hunting waterfowl, Seal overturned into Owasco Lake from a kayak while retrieving a duck. Seal was not wearing a life jacket, and did not have one in his kayak, said Lt. James Reitmeier of the state DEC Police.

“I believe the hunting partner rescued him, and brought him to shore,” Reitmeier said.

Whiffen was able to get to shore and find a canoe, owned by someone else, to take out and rescue Seal.

Cayuga County dispatchers received a 911 call at 4:17 p.m. and the Fleming Fire Department were the first responders at the scene.

Once Assistant Chief Chris Lawton, of Fleming Fire Department No. 1, was on the scene, he estimated it took Whiffen about 15 minutes to bring Seal to shore with the canoe.

Whiffen was unable to get Seal into the canoe, "so he hung on the side of the canoe until he got to shore," Lawton said. “It was an extended rescue.”

Once on shore, just north of the intersection of West Lake Road and Wyckoff Road in Fleming, Seal was transported to Auburn Community Hospital in a Fleming ambulance. Whiffen refused medical attention. 

On the scene, state Environmental Conservation Officer Scott Angotti said Seal was, “hypothermic, but think he's OK.”

"Definitely hypothermic, conscious, breathing, talking," Lawton said.

The Fleming Fire Department, Owasco Water Rescue, and an AMR ambulance in addition to Fleming's No. 1 ambulance responded to the incident and the scene was turned over to the DEC police Sunday evening. The DEC police released Seal's and Whiffen's names on Monday afternoon, but neither the DEC or ACH shared information on Seal's condition.

Brutus secures REDC grants

Brutus has been granted a combined $360,500 for two town projects through New York state Regional Economic Development Council awards program.

Brutus’ grants, among 110 additional projects awarded in the program's Central New York region, include an Aqueduct Park project and a study of the feasibility of a shared municipal building with the village of Weedsport.

Aqueduct Park Pier and Spillway Reconstruction Project

This project was granted $352,000 by the REDC’s Environmental Protection Fund Grants Program and will restore the historic Centreport Aqueduct. The restoration is an essential piece to a larger Erie Canal rewatering project, which also received a REDC award, led by Port Byron and shared with Brutus and Mentz. The aqueduct’s collapsed piers and spillway will be repaired and reconstructed, wood foundations will be stabilized with new planks, and the stilling basin upstream from the spillway will be reestablished.

“I can’t express the interest in our park because of the aqueduct,” Town Supervisor James Hotaling said. Many visitors walk up the bridge to admire the aqueduct and the moving water, "It's a very attractive piece to the park,” Hotaling said.

Brutus has received requests for weddings in the park because of its natural and historic beauty.

Since Brutus as a town doesn’t have the resources to take care of the park on its own, Hotaling said, when notice of the grant came through, Hotaling thought: “Wow, this is great news for us.

“We want to take ownership and maintain what we have and keep it presentable and safe,” Hotaling said. “Grants will help us to move in a direction of historical preservation and recreation and tourism.”

Hotaling added, “we need to keep active and look at these opportunities to provide growth in our communities.”

The preservation of the Erie Canal is important because of its history, and this project plays an important part in the overall goal of rewatering the canal all the way back to Port Byron, Hotaling said.

The possible influx of tourism and industry that could come from the project is exciting for Brutus as the town's industry presence isn’t as strong as it was in the past, Hotaling said.

Part of the rewatering project includes an extensive trail connection project that will lead from the aqueduct to the village of Weedsport, the high school, pass by a subdivision on Hamilton Road, a senior care center, and lead to Port Byron with plans to expand further in the future. This will be a wide-paved trail with plenty of passing room for bicycling, rollerblading, strollers and walking.

The estimated cost of the Aqueduct Park project is $500,000, which includes the $352,000 grant as well as some funding state Sen. John DeFrancisco helped acquire previously. Some aqueduct improvements are already underway from this previous grant, and it's anticipated that once the paperwork and contracts are completed, the rest of the Aqueduct Park project funded by the REDC grant will be implemented in the spring.

Shared Municipal Building Feasibility Study

This project was granted $8,500 by the REDC’s Local Government Efficiency Grants and will fund a study discerning the feasibility of creating “a building to be shared by the village and town that will also house the courts,” Hotaling said.

“We don’t have a facility built to meet all our needs,” Hotaling said. Brutus and the village of Weedsport are each facing severe space deficiencies with their current buildings; the village building also has some structural and mechanical problems.

“We just don’t have the space any more to provide service to the people,” Hotaling said. The town and village courts especially need more space. A lot of New York State Thruway traffic violation cases go through both courts due to their location, but their facilities aren’t big enough to continue providing a good justice system and safety, Hotaling said.

“We need to do homework, and find out our costs and savings,” Hotaling said. “We will find this in our study.”

Hotaling hopes the study will be completed toward the latter part of the year, and after “fact finding costs,” working with consultants, and looking into three potential locations with consideration to water, sewage and historical presentation, “taxpayers themselves have to weigh in.”

Once the study is completed, the plan will be represented to the town and village. If the people are “on board,” the plan will be presented to the state and Brutus will apply for another grant to help pay for the building itself, Hotaling said.