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Onondaga County Legislature to vote on raising age for buying tobacco

Although the Onondaga County Legislature will soon vote on a proposal to change the legal age for buying tobacco products, the chair for the Cayuga County Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee said he hasn't heard of similar discussions in his area.

Onondaga County will vote Dec. 5 on whether or not to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 19 to 21. The law would also bar people under 21 from buying electronic smoking devices. The legislation would amend a law passed in 2009 that changed the minimum age for buying tobacco products in the county to 19.

Joe DeForest, the chair for Cayuga County's Health and Human Services committee, said he hasn't heard any local discussions on the topic. He said he has mixed feelings on the issue. While he wouldn't encourage anyone in his family to smoke, he argued that if one is old enough to vote or serve in the military, then they should be old enough to buy tobacco products.

"In this day and age, anyone should know it's bad for you," DeForest said.

A 2013 community health assessment and improvement plan from the Cayuga County Health Department said the percentage of adult smokers in the the county as of 2008 to 2009 was around 22 percent. The current legal age to buy tobacco in the county is 18. According to a community health assessment and improvement plan from the Onondaga County Health Department, revised in September 2017, around 21 percent of adults in Onondaga County smoked as of 2013 to 2014. 

The Onondaga County Legislature's health committee endorsed the proposed law Monday. Legislator Danny Liedka, who has been the chair of the county's health committee for six years, said this kind of legislation has been considered many times before, but there have been struggles with abolishing the current law's exemption for military members.

Active duty 18-year-old military members can buy tobacco in the county, as of the 2009 law. The proposed legislation would remove the military exemption.

Liedka said a military official had spoken to the committee at a meeting about the exemption, saying the military prefers personnel to be in top physical condition and doesn't encourage tobacco use. The Legislature also received a letter from the U.S. Department of Defense on the issue the last time similar legislation was considered in the county. Liedka said the department outlined those same points.

He said research cited the number of active military members ages 18 to 21 in the county is around 200. Those people may not be in the county currently due to military commitments, he said.

Liedka said he had held reservations about similar proposals in the past due to the military exemption, but has since changed since his mind after doing some research.

He said people at the age of 19 are impressionable, and that cutting down the number of new smokers in the area ultimately benefits the community.

"If we make it harder for them to get their hands on the product, that's our goal," Liedka said.

Though Liedka said he tries to focus on facts instead of his personal opinions when considering legislation, he said he is not of fan of smoking by any means. He said both of his parents died from smoking, and that he tries to be mindful of issues involving veterans —  such as with the current law's military exemption — as his father served in the U.S. Marines.

Liedka said the proposed law would only impact the point of sale aspect of tobacco products, but wouldn't ban smoking overall.

"It's just going to stop a little bit more people from getting their hands on the product," Liedka said.

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'People together': Salvation Army's Thanksgiving dinner in Auburn brings in the crowd

AUBURN — Smiles could be seen in between bites of turkey at the Auburn Salvation Army's annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

Dinner plates were filled with food by smiling volunteers at the event. Timothy Donovan, co-chair of the Salivation Army Advisory Board, said he expected around 200 dinners would be served in the packed basement of the building Thursday afternoon. Hundreds of separate meals were sent out earlier in the day by volunteers to senior citizens and others. Leftover food will go to Chapel House, a homeless shelter in Auburn.

Maj. Carmen Campbell, who has been with the Salvation Army in Auburn for almost six months, said people were in good spirits.

"The community's beautiful and they come together and they support (each other)," Campbell said. "This would not have happened without them."

Chef Richard Taradejna, who has been volunteering at the dinner for seven years, said 50 turkeys, 350 pounds of potatoes and 150 pounds of squash were prepared for the event. Taradejna, a professional chef with 30 years of experience, said he greatly enjoys volunteering for the event over the years. He said preparation for the dinner began Monday. 

Taradejna's son, Andy Wilbur, who has performed various duties for the dinner for five years, said the event has "a sense of family," despite the fact that not everyone is related.

Kathy Jurczak and her mother, Lottie Jurczak, have been meeting at the dinner together for the last couple years. Kathy, who lives in DeWitt, said they never need a big turkey so they come to the event. The two said they try to spend time together fairly often. Lottie enjoys meeting a variety of people at the dinner every year, and said dinner guests and volunteers are often smiling and are kind. She said the volunteers often walk by to ask if she or Kathy need anything.

"They're all so friendly over here," Jurczak said.

Richard Hoag, a volunteer, said he enjoys working the dinner.

"I just like seeing people get together for the Thanksgiving holiday and spend time with their friends and loved ones," Hoag said. "It brings people together."

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Skaneateles players celebrate after defeating Cleveland Hill Saturday at Union-Endicott High School in the NYSPHSAA Class C semifinal. 

DEC issues eight-year permit renewal to Seneca Meadows landfill

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has renewed Seneca Meadows landfill's facility operating permit for eight more years, two less than the landfill had applied for and eight more than some residents had hoped.

The Solid Waste Management Facility permit was issued on Oct. 31, and allows for the fulfillment of airspace permitted by the DEC in 2007, according to a release. It also now covers the landfill's tire recycling facility.

"Following a rigorous review of Seneca Meadows Inc.'s (SMI) permit application for the renewal of its Solid Waste Management Facility permit to continue operation of the Seneca Falls landfill, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has determined the application to be in compliance with all State rules and regulations governing waste management practices and all operations at the facility fully protective of public health and the environment," the DEC said in a statement to The Citizen on Monday. "The renewed permit includes several new conditions to reduce odors and ensure proper facility management."

The DEC said those measures are included in the landfill's already existing Comprehensive Odor Control Plan and include things like installation of horizontal gas collection lines and additional surface emission monitoring. The landfill will be required to submit monthly updated odor complaint log charts and summaries. The DEC also stipulates that Seneca Meadows will pilot an off-site odor assessment program. 

"DEC will continue to provide strict oversight of the facility, including an on-site monitor, to ensure all conditions of the permit are met to protect public health and the environment," the DEC added.

But some local residents don't think that's enough. 

Douglas H. Zamelis, an attorney out of Cooperstown, represents the Concerned Citizens of Seneca County Inc. and Waterloo Container Company, a close neighbor of the landfill. 

"The permit renewal shows who DEC is protecting, and it's clearly not the good people of Seneca County," he told The Citizen in a phone interview Monday. 

Prior to the permit renewal, Zamelis sent a letter to the DEC's Region 8 headquarters on Aug. 17, objecting to a permit issuance. Following a Freedom of Information Law request, Zamelis said he'd found the DEC had over 2,000 written odor complaints. The landfill, he wrote, often concludes investigations of these reports with "'Odor equipment check and adjusted', which addresses the problem no more effectively than the Wizard of Oz twisting knobs behind the curtain."

When asked about what next steps his clients may be pursuing regarding the permit renewal, Zamelis said he is not able to comment at this time.

Kyle Black, district manager of Seneca Meadows, said the permit renewal was great news for the team.

"They work hard every day to operate our facility with the excellence and precision that has earned us national recognition," he said in a release. "As always, we will work in full compliance with State and federal regulations." 

According to Seneca Meadows's application, in 2015 the facility served 47 counties in New York, including some Cayuga County municipalities. It also received trash from some places in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Canada. The landfill takes in about 6,000 tons of trash per day.