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Police: Man arrested for firing weapon in downtown Auburn is NYPD officer (copy)

The Rockland County man arrested and charged with a felony after he fired a handgun in the direction of an occupied vehicle in downtown Auburn is a New York City police officer, Auburn police confirmed Monday morning.

Michael Cerrato, 29, of Pomona, was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, a class D felony, and second-degree menacing, a class A misdemeanor, police said.

According to an APD press release, Cerrato fired two rounds from a 9 mm Glock handgun, which he legally possessed, late Saturday night in the vicinity of Domino's Pizza on Dill Street. Police said Cerrato is currently employed as an officer with the New York Police Department. Police did not state why Cerrato fired the handgun near the occupied vehicle or why he was in the area. The shots did not strike the vehicle and no one was injured.

According to court documents, witnesses stated that Cerrato appeared highly intoxicated leading up to the incident. An employee at Domino's said Cerrato appeared "very sloppy and staggering" and had rested against the pizzeria's window before walking into the middle of Dill Street. Then, as a Domino's delivery man drove by, Cerrato allegedly opened fire. 

Officers converged on the downtown Dill Street block after a caller reported at about 11:25 p.m. that someone was shooting a gun into the air in front of Domino's Pizza at 19 Dill St. 

Police in several vehicles quickly swarmed the area. Police said that Cerrato was standing in the street when officers arrived on the scene and informed them that he did have a handgun.

Officers could be seen taking photographs and shining flashlights on the ground in the roadway and behind the restaurant. A patrol car blocked traffic from entering Dill Street at the intersection of North Street as officers investigated the scene down the road.

Just before midnight, yellow crime-scene tape was placed across Dill Street near Domino's as officers continued working at the scene.

Following his arrest, Cerrato was arraigned and remanded to the Cayuga County Jail.

Auburn police ask that anyone with information about the incident contact Detective Chris Coopper at (315) 255-4706 or (315) 253-3231. Callers can remain anonymous.

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CNY leaders tell Linda McMahon, U.S. small biz chief: Tax reform needed

SYRACUSE — A Cabinet-level official in President Donald Trump's administration heard from central New York business owners Monday about how the federal government can help them stay afloat and create more jobs. 

Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration, held a roundtable discussion with nine small business owners at the Tech Garden in Syracuse to highlight the ongoing push to reform the tax code and hear concerns about other issues, such as regulations and workforce development. 

U.S. Reps. John Katko and Claudia Tenney also attended the hour-long meeting. 

Trump and Republican leaders in Congress are advocating for tax reform. A bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was introduced in the House last week.

For businesses, the measure would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent and slash the tax rate on certain small businesses to no more than 25 percent — the lowest level since World War II, according to the House Ways and Means Committee. 

Lisa Conway, co-owner of Pioneer Warehousing & Distribution in Liverpool, noted the impact of the current tax structure on her business. The company has to hire accountants and attorneys, which can be costly. 

"I spend a lot of time figuring things out," Conway said. 

Other business leaders at the table agreed. Sherry DePerno, president of Advanced Tool Inc., a Marcy-based company, said 2016 was the most profitable year for her business. But it "took a nosedive" at the beginning of this year. 

Some of the business is coming back, but challenges remain.

"It's absolutely getting harder and harder to compete," DePerno said. 

One issue mentioned by several panelists is the workforce development gap. Many of the companies have jobs available, but there aren't qualified people who can fill the positions. 

Katko, R-Camillus, said there's a stigma attached to not going to college and pursuing other opportunities, such as apprenticeships or attending vocational schools. 

McMahon acknowledged that the paradigm must be changed. 

"Not only can you then create more people for the workforce, but they then have skills that they can start their own small businesses," she said. "We are really lacking in the skilled workforce." 

While business owners addressed other topics, tax reform was a major theme throughout the meeting. Ken Morse, CEO of North Point Defense in Rome, lauded Trump for the tax reform proposal. He believes the changes could boost small businesses. 

In her travels across the country, McMahon said every small business owner she has talked to has told her that if they had more money, they would reinvest in their businesses. 

"They can grow," McMahon said. 

The roundtable discussion in Syracuse was part of McMahon's Ignite Tour. She is visiting each of the Small Business Administration's 68 offices. The agency, which provides support to small businesses, operates at least one office in each state. 

Election Day 2017 arrives with town, Cayuga County Legislature, Auburn City Council races

After weeks of campaigning, dozens of men and women running for elected office in the Cayuga County area will hear from voters today.

The 2017 general election features races at the county, city and town level. In the local area, that includes at least four contested races for town supervisor seats, five head-to-head battles for Cayuga County Legislature and the high-profile contest for two Auburn City Council seats. There have also been multiple write-in campaigns mounted in local elections this campaign season.

In addition to choosing candidates for municipal offices, voters will make decisions on at least three ballot propositions. Statewide ballot questions are included this year on a New York Constitutional Convention, pension forfeitures for convicted state officials and a state forest preserve land bank program. There are also local ballot questions in a handful of local communities.

Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Polling places in Cayuga County and in the towns of Elbridge and Skaneateles are the same as the last general election. For questions about where to vote in Cayuga County, call (315) 253-1285 or (315) 253-1286. In Onondaga County, call (315) 435-8683.

'There's always hope': Scientist answers questions on harmful algal blooms

AUBURN — Greg Boyer talks about harmful algal blooms like they are people. They like warm water. They like to float, and they really, really like to eat.

It's people, Boyer said, that are feeding them.

Speaking before a scattered crowd at Cayuga Community College Monday night, the professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and director of the Great Lakes Research Consortium gave a similar rundown about toxic blooms as he gave in October to an audience at Skaneateles High School. 

Monday night's talk, however, focused more on Owasco Lake and was sponsored by the agricultural-centered water quality group, Partners for Healthy Watersheds. Through an anonymous online platform, audience members could send in questions for Boyer to answer.

When asked about why the toxic blooms are happening more frequently, and what has changed over the years, Boyer said no one was going to like his response.

"People," he said. "We simply, the demand for waterfront has become so much more. People are putting so much more pressure on the lake. Agriculture has become so much more intensive. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) have become so much more common. All this has to do with the need increasing of feeding people, the demand of the watershed. It's not bad. It's just saying OK what can be get by with 20 years ago just isn't appropriate for the demands right now. So i think that's really why we're seeing the increase."

And blooms are increasing. Boyer said this was the first time all 11 Finger Lakes were listed on the state Department of Environmental Conservation's harmful algal bloom notification page.

Some questions focused on nutrients and farming best management practices. Best management practices are generally water pollution preventions such as a vegetative buffer strip or a manure storage lagoon. 

Are today's enough? 

"No," Boyer said. "BMPs have to evolve."

Boyer said they are much better, however, than they were decades ago. He highly recommended farmers plant buffer strips, adding that radishes really like to take up nutrients. 

While farms have more to do, so do lake shore residents and property owners. Boyer said algae doesn't care what kind of nutrients it dines on. It could be from seagull and goose poop. It could be from dog poop. It could be from lawn fertilizer, septic systems or any other number of sources. Harmful algae are not picky eaters.

Fish, Boyer added, have evolved along with algal toxins. They don't die from the toxins as a pet or animal might, but he wouldn't recommend eating the fish, at least not a whole one. Studies have shown the toxins tend to congregate in the liver, so if a fish is cleaned well and filleted, Boyer said it might be OK, but "I don't like fish that much," he added.

While chlorine has kept algal toxins from Skaneateles Lake drinking water and carbon treatment systems have kept them from Owasco Lake's, Boyer said ultimately watersheds need to be cleaned up to tackle the source of the problem. 

"There's always hope," he said, but "it's probably not going to take you one year to fix it."

Michael Cerrato

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Sheriff: Owasco man arrested after 'landlord-tenant dispute'; victim says it was hate crime

The Cayuga County Sheriff's Office is investigating after a man and a 14-year-old harassed a family over a "landlord-tenant dispute" in Owasco, deputies said. 

According to a press release, at around 10:50 p.m. Sunday, tenants called 911 to report that two males had parked a tractor in their driveway and posted a large sign in their yard on North Road. The men were allegedly armed with a shotgun and fired a round before leaving in a vehicle. 

Sheriff's deputies and New York State Police responded and observed the vehicle in the area at around 1 a.m., the release said. At that time, officers tried to stop the vehicle, which took off on a short pursuit before crashing in a ditch on Town Hall Road. 

The sheriff's office said 50-year-old Eric Simmons, of Baptist Corners Road, Owasco, and a 14-year-old were taken into custody uninjured. The 14-year-old was then released to a parent. Simmons is a friend of the landlord, deputies said.

Simmons was arrested and originally charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon with a previous conviction, a class D felony, and second-degree menacing with a weapon, second-degree obstructing governmental administration and endangering the welfare of a child, all class A misdemeanors. He was initially released from the Cayuga County Jail Monday morning on $5,000 bail.

However, he was arrested again later on Monday after a court-ordered seizure of any and all weapons owned by Simmons determined he was in possession of numerous handguns illegally, according to a press release. He was arraigned on six additional counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Simmons is currently being held in Cayuga County Jail on $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond. 

One of the victims, Jeffery Richardson, posted about the incident on Facebook. Richardson, who is black, told The Citizen he viewed it as a hate crime as he watched two white males display a cut-out of a black bear on his lawn with a handwritten sign that read, "Get out." 

"All because I'm black living in a white neighborhood is what it comes down to," he wrote.

But sheriff's office Lt. Michael Wellauer said there is nothing to indicate that race was a factor. 

"This was a dispute that resulted over a rent payment," Wellauer said. "At this point in time, we do not have anything that indicates this was a hate crime. ... We will certainly follow this and address this anywhere it leads, but at this time we do not have any information that leads us in that direction." 

The investigation is still ongoing.