Something deadly is going around Cayuga County, causing more drug overdoses and deaths than the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office and county coroner have seen in a while.
Coroner Adam Duckett said he saw four overdose deaths in the past seven to 10 days, all unrelated and spread across the county from Aurora, to Cato, to Auburn. It concerned him so much, he said, that he posted on his former campaign Facebook page to warn people.
"I am writing this post today because my investigators and myself have seen a rise in overdoses in our County this week and it has made me very uneasy," he wrote on Oct. 9. "I want to reach as many people as possible to warn them to BE CAREFUL. Something very lethal is being passed around right now and until we know what it is, PLEASE take this time to get HELP."
Despite the page's inactivity since January 2016, Duckett had more than 460 shares on the post.
Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould said the calls for drug overdose deaths were very quiet for months. In the past month, however, the problem has sprung up again and with a vengeance. Gould said the sheriff's office is working closely with the Auburn Police Department and New York State Police.
The four deaths were people in their 20s and 30s, he added, at a Cayuga County Legislature Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday night.
"We certainly want everybody, family members and everybody, to be alert that we don't know what is causing this sudden increase in possible drug overdose deaths in the last three weeks, but we're certainly working on it," Gould said. "It's very concerning. People have to notice if someone is having a problem with drugs, and it doesn't have to be heroin, if people are having a problem with drugs, family members, friends, they have to take the initiative to take care of these people to get them some place that's responsible that can help them."
What's frustrating for both Duckett and Gould is toxicology reports usually take between four and six weeks to come back. Until they do, the substance or substances killing people is unknown. District Attorney Jon Budelmann said at the committee meeting Wednesday night that one of the overdoses was not due to heroin, though he did not say what the lethal substance may have been.
Duckett said fentanyl, an opiod that may be mixed with heroin or sold as heroin, is still the No. 1 killer. The deaths, he added, are scaring drug users, so he's seen an increase in those turning to cocaine. While cocaine isn't good either, Duckett said it tends not to be as lethal as heroin.
"We really have to start getting this more attention again," he added. "We have to stay focused on working together."
Duckett and Gould encouraged those who may be struggling with drug addiction or those with loved ones struggling to reach out to Confidential Help for Alcohol and Drugs (CHAD) in Auburn or another drug treatment program.
In the meantime, the Cayuga County Legislature's Government Operations Committee listened to three law firms representing municipalities in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that sell opiods Wednesday night. After learning more about the case and the strategies of the various firms in executive session, the committee's majority decided to move forward with interest in the lawsuit, recommending that the Legislature consider the New York City law firm Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.
Legislators plan to discuss potentially joining the lawsuit at the Ways and Means Committee meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17 in the Sixth Floor Chambers of the Cayuga County Office Building, 160 Genesee St., Auburn.
Copper John Corporation, an Auburn-based archery accessories manufacturer, wants to expand its production and bring jobs back from China with New York state's help.
The company's plan is one of 38 priority projects endorsed by the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council. The regional council awards competition, which is in its seventh year, supports economic development projects across the state.
Copper John has applied for a $280,000 grant and $100,000 in tax credits linked to job creation goals. The company would use the funding to purchase new equipment and reconfigure its 11,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on State Street.
The project would allow the company to retain six existing employees and create 12 new jobs over a five-year period.
Doug Springer, who founded Copper John in 1999 with his brother Eric, highlighted a major element of the company's plan: to shift some production from China to its Auburn facility.
Copper John manufactures release aids for competitive archers and sights for bow hunters. Release aids can be attached to the string on a bow and the archer presses a handheld trigger to release the bow. Sights can be added to the side of a bow to help archers aim arrows.
The sights sell primarily in the North American market, where hunting is more prevalent. The release aids are sold in North America, Asia, Europe and South America.
Springer acknowledged the irony of where Copper John's products are manufactured and sold. The sights, which are made in China, are primarily sold in the United States and Canada. The release aids are manufactured in Auburn and sold all over the world.
The fastest-growing market for the release aids, Springer said, is China.
With changes in the market, Copper John wants to manufacture the sights in Auburn. The company began outsourcing production of its sights in 2009.
"If we get this grant, it would be great because we would be able to bring back some jobs from China," Springer said.
The state's support is critical to the project. Springer said without the funding, Copper John wouldn't be able to bring the production back from China and create additional jobs.
The funding would help Copper John redesign its factory floor and purchase new equipment. The company has had most of its existing equipment for 17 years.
"They are still in good working order, but to bring production back and still be competitive we would need different machines as well as better machines," Springer said.
The project excites the regional council and local economic development officials. Springer credited Bruce Sherman, an economic development specialist at the Cayuga Economic Development Agency, for suggesting that the company seek funding through the regional council.
Tracy Verrier, executive director of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency and one of the county's regional council representatives, called it "one of those feel-good projects."
"This is really a project that is reversing some of the trends that we saw back when a lot of companies started outsourcing their work," she said.
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AUBURN — Responding to new legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo requiring defense attorneys at all arraignments no matter the time of day, Cayuga County could set up a central hub in Auburn.
Lloyd Hoskins, executive director of the assigned council program, said off-hour arraignments could be held in the Cayuga County Mental Health Center on North Street in Auburn, with one judge on call during the normal working hours, and judges on a rotation schedule from about 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.
A defense attorney will be available 24 hours a day, seven days per week, he added.
So far the plan has been approved by the Cayuga County Magistrates Association, local judges, and the Cayuga County Bar Association. The next step, Hoskins told Cayuga County legislators at a Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday night, is to get the sign-off from law enforcement agencies.
"Our next meeting will be with law enforcement, which will include APD (Auburn Police Department), (New York) State Police, and the (Cayuga County) Sheriff's Office, because obviously they're going to be involved in the transports," Hoskins said.
Other possible plans that had been discussed included a few courts spaced across the county to be on call for off-hour arraignments. The difficulty some worry about with holding them in one location, is Cayuga County is about 75 miles long. That means if someone needs to be arraigned in Genoa or Fair Haven, law enforcement will have to drive them to Auburn.
There had also been concern at the end of last year for how the county would pay for off-hour arraignments. The state does not cover all of the county's indigent legal defense costs. Hoskins said he was able to secure grant funding to pay defense attorneys on call. The grant is expected to last for three years.
The specifics of the Cato-Meridian Central School District's possible capital project are becoming clearer.
The larger details of the project were discussed at a school board meeting Sept. 26. District Superintendent Noel Patterson said the project is currently set for a $5,470,000 budget. The project was also discussed at a board meeting earlier that month.
A board decision on whether to hold a public referendum for the project is set for the next meeting Oct. 16. If it passes, taxpayers would be able to vote on the project Dec. 12.
In addition to previously-discussed plans of replacing the district pool's dehumidification system, resurfacing the track and replacing a portion of the Cato-Meridian Community Recreation Center's roof, the front portico platform at the middle school would be reconstructed as well as light, sound and rigging upgrades for the auditorium.
The project would also include other items such as high school living room upgrades, exterior door reconstruction at the middle school and sidewalk reconstruction at all the schools.
Patterson said the district still doesn't plan to put any extra financial burden on the community. Everything the project includes would be eligible for state aid.
Patterson had mentioned some of the project's benefits. He said replacing the current track — which was originally installed in 2005 — would mean having to avoid patching it in the future.