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City of Auburn: Court Street parking lot will not have negative environmental impact

AUBURN — Auburn city councilors approved the environmental review for the Court Street parking lot Thursday without much discussion. 

Councilors unanimously voted to issue a negative declaration for the State Environmental Quality Review report during the Auburn City Council meeting. The report states the project will not have a significant negative impact on the environment. 

The SEQR was a point of concern in September when the project was first presented. Court Street resident and local attorney Roberta Williams spoke before the council in September and claimed the SEQR report was inaccurate and that expanding the parking lot would lead to additional issues with drainage and runoff. 

This led the city to pursue a long-form environmental review, which council approved at the meeting. During last week's city council meeting, on Feb. 22, city engineer Ken Tanner highlighted measures the city will take to minimize runoff and flooding issues, such as installing additional drains, planting trees and shrubs and building a new retaining wall. 

During last week's council meeting, City Manager Jeff Dygert said he has met with Court Street residents several times and feels the city has addressed all their concerns. 

"They seem to be OK moving forward," Dygert said on Feb. 22. 

When asked by Councilor Jimmy Giannettino when the construction will begin, Dygert said he is not sure, as the city is trying to coordinate the project with Cayuga County. The county is working on a project to re-do the storm sewer system behind the county office building, which is adjacent to the Court Street parking lot. The county Legislature approved that project during its Feb. 27 meeting.

The existing parking lot will be closed at times while construction is going on. 

"We're going to do our best to (keep the parking lot open) but there will be times when that's not feasible," Dygert said. 

In other news

• The council unanimously approved a $30,000 settlement between the city and waste management company Safety Kleen over collection of contaminated oil from the city landfill. 

The city had a contract with the company to collect used oil that residents would bring to the landfill. In 2009, Safety Kleen collected oil from the landfill that was contaminated with PCBs. The company sent the city a nearly $78,000 bill for costs incurred with collecting the oil. In 2013, the company filed a civil lawsuit against the city after they refused to pay the bill over questions about testing. 

The city no longer allows residents to dispose of used oil at the landfill. 

• There will be no city council meeting on Thursday, March 29, as it is the fifth Thursday of the month and the city will be closed Friday, March 30 in observation of Good Friday. 

New York celebrates first ever agricultural month, hopeful for future farmers

ELBRIDGE — The New York Farm Bureau kicked off its first National Agriculture Month promotion with industry leaders from across New York state Thursday in Elbridge.

New York has celebrated National Agriculture Day on March 20 since 1973, but the bureau is excited about expanding the celebration into an entire month as March was declared New York Agriculture Month by a state of New York Legislative Resolution adopted in Senate Jan. 30 and Assembly on Feb. 27.

"We think we deserve a whole month to celebrate the agriculture industry in our state," said Sandra Propkop, the bureau's promotion and education specialist. “It's something we should have done a long time ago.”

“It's important for all of us to come together like this and celebrate,” said Farm Bureau President David Fisher. “As most of us know, (agriculture) is the main economic engine that keeps rural New York prosperous.”

He celebrated good news for farmers, like new practices emerging every day as well as New York having “some of the greatest soils in the country, and an abundant water supply.

“At the same time, we are facing challenges,” Fisher said, mentioning food costs being at an all time low across the United States. “We need to be sensitive to those in need ... to stick together and be aware so we can help farm families transition and survive.”

Fisher said there are a lot of great young farmers who are creative, energetic, and innovative in finding new ways to do business and make profit.

“I think we need to be optimistic about the future for agriculture just for that reason,” Fisher said.

“I'm looking at the next generation,” said Richard Ball, commissioner of New York state Department of Agriculture and Markets. “I think we're in good shape. There are a lot of leaders in this room.”

“More than ever we need to share our story,” Fisher said, adding that if the community continues to work together, “I think we will all be very successful and agriculture will prosper.”

State Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Bill Magee read a resolution proclaiming March as Agriculture Month in New York. Magee jointly sponsored the resolution with state Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Patty Ritchie.

“Commemorating New York Agriculture Month provides the opportunity for all New Yorkers to better appreciate agriculture's breadth and beauty,” the resolution reads.

The community was also recognized for its involvement in agriculture.

Laura Littrell, of Montgomery County, was presented with the first place New York Farm Bureau Agricultural Youth Scholarship for $1,500 during the brunch for her involvement with her school, community and agriculture.

“The number of young people qualified and excited about agriculture is amazing,” Ball said.

“We encourage consumers, whether they be in New York or anywhere, to celebrate agriculture each and everyday,” Ball said.

Farmers being able to tell their stories and educate the public is important, Steve Ammerman, Manager of Public Affairs, said after the brunch.

“For people to appreciate farming, they need to understand farming,” Ammerman said.

Gallery: New York celebrates first ever agriculture month

Megan Ehrhart / Megan Ehrhart, The Citizen 

State Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Bill Magee reads a resolution proclaiming March as Agriculture Month in New York, at an event in Elbridge Thursday.


Skaneateles comedian, activist Barry Crimmins dies

Comedian Barry Crimmins, who went from a Skaneateles upbringing to a long career of entertainment and advocacy that earned him reverence by his peers, died Wednesday. He was 64.

Crimmins' wife, Helen, announced the news on his Twitter account early Thursday: "Barry passed peacefully yesterday with Bobcat (Goldthwait) and I. He would want everyone to know that he cared deeply about mankind and wants you to carry on the good fight. Peace."

Crimmins announced Jan. 27 that he was diagnosed with cancer. Helen, whom he married in 2017, has also been diagnosed with ovarian and cervical cancer.

The comedian's story was told by Goldthwait — a longtime friend Crimmins met at Under the Stone in Skaneateles in the late '70s — in the 2015 documentary "Call Me Lucky." Since premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, the documentary has won critical praise and several awards. It also headlined that year's Syracuse International Film Festival.

The next year, friend Louis C.K. filmed and released Crimmins' first one-hour special, "Whatever Threatens You." Crimmins also performed at Auburn Public Theater in February and September of that year. Those in attendance heard one of Crimmins' classic jokes about the village where he grew up: "Skaneateles is an Indian word that means 'beautiful lake surrounded by fascists." But, speaking with The Citizen in 2015, he also praised his childhood home: "I had the great fortune to matter-of-factly have been around so much beauty, and I've taken it with me all over the world."

Crimmins moved to Skaneateles with his family — his mother, Margaret, his father, Phil, and three sisters — when he was 6. After graduating from high school in 1971, he started performing stand-up comedy at Under the Stone and elsewhere. Later, he moved to Boston, where he began booking acts at clubs The Ding Ho and Stitches. With talents like Goldthwait, Steven Wright, Paula Poundstone and more emerging there, Crimmins was credited with starting a booming comedy scene and launching several successful careers. 

Crimmins' own comedy, which saw him rip into Ronald Reagan and the conservatism of '80s America, also shaped the style of political satire that would be popularized by Bill Hicks, Bill Maher, "The Daily Show" and more. As his career went on, Crimmins turned his comedy into activism, culminating in his 1995 testimony on Capitol Hill about child pornography being shared on America Online. Crimmins himself was sexually abused by a baby-sitter in North Syracuse when he was 4 years old.

"I think having suffered such an unjust trauma at such a young age — it made me sort of a tuning fork for agony," he told The Citizen in 2015. "If someone else was hurting, I crept up on it."

Since the release of "Call Me Lucky," Crimmins has used his story to comfort other victims of abuse, and to advocate for them, on Twitter. That compassion is one of many defining qualities being remembered there today by friends like Judd Apatow and Patton Oswalt. The latter called him "a blazing, hilarious soul."

Up to a week before his passing, Crimmins' voice on political matters was as uncompromising as ever. On Feb. 21, he tweeted: "Screw regulation: throw the Florida Legislature a delicious Tide Pod Buffet to celebrate its victory over grieving, traumatized high school students yesterday."

Crimmins, however, never got what he asked for most often on the social media platform: excommunication by the pope. But he was always mindful of his luck in life, as he told The Citizen in 2015.

"Part of my story is about this awful stuff that happened to me," he said, "but it's amazing how many great things have happened, too."

On the web

"Call Me Lucky" is currently available to watch on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and other services.

Teen charged with making terroristic threat against Cato-Meridian school district

A 16-year-old male has been charged with allegedly making threats against Cato-Meridian Central School District, Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould said Thursday. 

The charges stem from an investigation into threats made against the school district and "specific students in the district," according to a sheriff's office news release. The threats were posted to social media. 

Cato-Meridian cancelled afternoon and evening activities Tuesday after learning of the threats. A letter published on the district's website revealed that a student told administrators they were being threatened on social media. The sheriff's office launched an investigation after being informed of the threats. 

Superintendent Terry Ward said the individual who is accused of making the threats isn't a student at the high school. 

The sheriff's office said the teen, whose name wasn't released, was arrested at about 10:23 p.m. Wednesday. He was charged with making a terroristic threat, a class D felony. 

The teen was arraigned and remanded to the Cayuga County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond. 

Ward posted another letter to the district website Thursday morning informing the community of the arrest.

"I would like to thank everyone who cooperated with police," Ward wrote. "I would like also like to thank our High School crisis team for their work. Lastly, I'd like to thank the Cayuga County Sheriff's Department for their cooperation and partnership during this investigation."