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Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Skaneateles' Patrick Hackler is The Citizen's Football Player of the Year. 

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Soil and water district asked to keep Owasco Lake inspectors into 2018

The Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District will decide this month if it will keep the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program for a while longer, after efforts to transfer its ownership have been delayed. 

The Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council, a nonprofit corporation created in 2010 by the city of Auburn, town of Owasco and Cayuga County, was meant to oversee the inspection program. It was not administratively able to do so at its inception, so the district has been overseeing it in the interim.

In August, the council decided it was ready to run the inspection program, and made plans for a Jan. 1 transfer. The watershed council and the Owasco Town Board voted to do that, but the Auburn City Council has delayed voting, making the intended deadline unlikely. 

Ed Wagner, chair of the watershed council, sent a letter to the district's Chairman Ray Lockwood dated Nov. 21, "asking to postpone the transfer of the Program to a date, at minimum, three months after all approvals from the necessary parties are obtained."

"We appreciate how unsettling the delay in the transfer may be for the District and your employees who work on the Watershed Inspection Program and we apologize for any hardship that this has created," Wagner wrote. 

Doug Kierst, executive director of the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District, said he had received the letter and would be sharing it at the district's board meeting at 10 a.m. on Dec. 13. 

City Manager Jeff Dygert said there was some language in the watershed council's bylaws that needed clarification. For example, the bylaws refer to "directors" and "members," he said, and there's ambiguity as to what their roles and responsibilities are. The city would like to make it a "stronger document," he said.

Dygert also hopes that all the involved parties can sit down and discuss logistics of a transfer. After that meeting, the plan is to hold a public meeting and discussion, whether at city council or elsewhere, about the change.

City Councilor Jimmy Giannettino Jr. said the city understands and supports the intent of the transfer.

"I understand a lot of work has been put in, and I respect that, and I don't want to jeopardize that," he said. "I just want to make sure we're all comfortable moving forward."

Dygert said he is "fairly confident" the district will work with everyone to keep the program moving ahead.

"If they decide on the 13th that's not the course they're going to take, we'll have to regroup relatively quickly and figure out how to handle that," he said. "I think everybody is just trying to become more educated, and make sure the choice that gets made is appropriate. ... Everybody feels a great deal of responsibility for what's going on in the watershed."

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Fishing on the pier at Emerson Park on Owasco Lake.

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Holiday items featured at Cato craft show

CATO — Bonnie Spoor loves seeing the wide eyes and thrilled smiles from people when they see her wreaths and other plant decorations at the Community Bazaar and Craft Show in Cato.

Spoor said she enjoys making her decorations. She said her mother, Connie Smith, made some of the smaller items. Spoor said making her items is fairly expensive, so she doesn't make a huge profit off it, but she believes the joy she's seen her items bring people makes the endeavor worth it.

"I just want to make sure that they're happy for the holidays," Spoor said.

The annual show, at Cato-Meridian Elementary School and Recreation Center, featured more than 100 vendors. Items such as jewelry, soap, cookies and a plethora from Christmas items packed the school, while children could also visit Santa Claus.

Brian Radcliffe's table featured a small tree with various wooden carved ornaments, such as a heart, two puzzle pieces, an angel, a snowflake and a gingerbread man with a leg missing. His son Mason, 6, who made small crossbows of different colors, was with him. Brian began his ornament-carving hobby five years ago, and he eventually began taking his wares to different shows.

He helped Mason make the crossbows. Mason will keep $6 for every $8 crossbow sold, while Brian said he'll use the remaining money to buy more wood for the crossbows. Mason said he planned to buy toys with his share, but Brian reminded him that the holidays were coming up and that he could buy gifts for people. Briefly frowning and slumping his shoulders, Mason relented and said he'll buy presents.

Brian said he has glad he and his son could spend time together over their shared interests.

"Hopefully one day he'll take this over," Brian Radcliffe said.

Christine Smith and her granddaughter, Mackenzie Pollock, were among the various people darting through the hallways for potential buys. Smith, with packages of Christmas cookies in hand, said she comes to the bazaar every year hunting for goods. Mackenzie, 10, bought items for her teachers, including a scarf and Christmas thyme. Smith said she likes the selection the event offers. She said she had been searching for Christmas wreaths, which she eventually found at Spoor's section.

"There's all kinds of neat things (here,)" Smith said.

Ann Titus was at the event with a menagerie of novelty hats with designs such as a unicorn, the symbols for comic book superheroes Batman and Superman and the main character from the movie "Trolls." 

Titus said she started making novelty hats four years ago, after she made a hat with a monkey on it for her niece and a hat featuring a cat for her granddaughter. Eventually people started asking for hats and she continued from there.

Titus said she believed part of the appeal of the event was the promise of locally-made items.

"(People) want something homemade, they want something different, they want something unique," Titus said.

Kelly Rocheleau / Kelly Rocheleau, The Citizen 

Mason Radcliffe, 6, hands a customer money at the table he and his father Brian Radcliffe operated at the Community Bazaar and Craft Show at Cato-Meridian Elementary School and Recreation Center in Cato Saturday.

Eye on NY

The Senate passed its tax plan early Saturday, but there is still a major step in the process before legislation is sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Now that the Senate has acted on its tax overhaul, congressional leaders can form a conference committee to negotiate a final agreement. While the House and Senate bills have many similarities, there are some differences between the two proposals.

The Senate plan would repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, a provision in the 2010 health care law known as ObamaCare that requires individuals to purchase health insurance coverage. The Congressional Budget Office projected that 13 million more people will be uninsured by 2027 if the individual mandate is repealed.

There are also differences in how the proposals would enact a corporate tax rate cut. In the House plan, lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent would take effect in 2018. The Senate plan calls for the tax rate to be decreased beginning in 2019.

Tax cuts for individuals would be permanent in the House bill, but not in the Senate plan. The Senate's proposal wouldn't reduce the number of income tax brackets, while the House would lower the number of brackets from seven to four.

U.S. Rep. John Katko, who voted for the House bill last month, wants to be engaged in the tax talks by serving on the conference committee. It's a long shot because he doesn't serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the lead tax-writing panel in the chamber.

There are parts of the Senate bill Katko, R-Camillus, doesn't support. After a roundtable discussion with business leaders Monday in Syracuse, he was asked about the Senate's push to allow drilling in a section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

The proposal to allow drilling in the refuge is linked to the Senate tax reform plan. It's a provision that Katko doesn't support, but he added that he has to "look at the bigger picture."

He recalled how President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, and House Speaker Tip O'Neill, a Democrat, negotiated deals on a few hot-button issues — immigration reform, Social Security reform and taxes.

"You gotta have give-and-take," he said. "Do I want drilling there? No. But do I also think it's critically important that we get this tax reform? Yes."

As the Senate finalized its plan last week, Katko's position was criticized. Activists organized rallies against the tax plan. Graduate students protested a provision in the bill that would consider tuition waivers as taxable income. The change, if adopted, could increase taxes on graduate students by thousands of dollars.

Teacher unions also held rallies throughout upstate New York. Educators marched outside Nottingham High School in Syracuse Wednesday to protest the tax plan.

The tax proposal would eliminate most credits and deductions, including a $250 deduction for teachers who buy supplies for their classrooms.

"Teachers have constantly been expected over the years to give all that they can give, and we do. And we spend thousands of our own dollars," said Megan Root, president of the Syracuse Teachers Association. "We're asking for a $250 tax deduction and it's pathetic that we're not even respected enough to be given that."

Katko addressed the loss of the deduction for teachers earlier in the week. He said that while teachers can deduct up to $250, the net benefit is $37.

"The average teacher will get a sizable tax cut exponentially more than that, perhaps as much as $1,000 or $1,500 a year," he said. "You gotta keep it all in perspective."

As House and Senate leaders iron out the differences between the two plans, Katko will face pressure from both sides of the debate. Tax reform is supported by several business leaders in his district. But there is also strong opposition to the proposal.

The final tax plan must be ironed out, but Katko outlined what he wants to see in the conference report.

"Tax cuts for a vast majority of my constituents (and) lowering the costs for corporations and businesses so they can create jobs," he said. ​