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Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Sumner Youngs and her son, Joshua Salisbury, 9, are raising money for five Buddy Benches for the Auburn elementary schools.

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Auburn schools' safety-focused capital project passes overwhelmingly

AUBURN — A $43.7 million Auburn Enlarged City School District capital project was passed by a large margin Tuesday. 

Voters approved the proposal 1,151-427. The project will focus heavily on safety and health measures as well as cover all seven instructional buildings and the administrative headquarters. The first phase of the two-phase project is set to cost $28 million, with the remaining cost covered in the second phase. 

The project originated from the results of a 2015-2016 state-mandated building condition survey. Residents also voted for the most recent capital project that encompassed each district building in 2011.

Eighty-five percent of the costs of the current project will be covered by state aid. The project will need a 1.98-percent tax levy boost, coming to $36 a year for a $100,000 home. The district hopes to open bidding from contractors by late 2019 and start construction by spring 2020. A 2023 start for the second phase is estimated with an eyed 2026 completion.

For security, the middle school and every elementary school, except Seward Elementary, will get secured entrances meant to stop visitors from reaching student areas without hitting additional security. Seward had previously received a more secured entrance, though it and Auburn High School are set to get some security updates through the new project. The middle school and each elementary school will get partial air conditioning and air relief systems, at an estimated $7 million cost. Various structural improvements are set to be made under the project as well.

District Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo said the district will be setting up a meeting with the project's architects to get a sense of when the plans will be finalized and sent to the state education department. He said he worries about making sure students and staff are safe and is thankful the community approved the project.  

"When you're talking about security and safety for children and health, you really can't put a price tag on it," Pirozzolo said.

District residents Phillip and Linda Brambley, who voted at Seward, said they voted against the project, though they noted they believe the improvements the project entails are necessary.

"We're on a fixed budget and we can't afford it," Linda said.

Resident Roxanne Whyte, who has two grandchildren who attend Casey Park Elementary School, said before casting her vote that she approves of the district safety improvements.

"Whatever helps the schools be safest, I'll vote for it," Whyte said.

Trump pleads on TV for wall money; Dems say he 'stokes fear'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged congressional Democrats to fund his long-promised border wall Tuesday night in a somber televised address that was heavy with dark immigration rhetoric but offered little in the way of concessions or new ideas to break the standoff that has left large swaths of the government shuttered for 18 days.

Speaking to the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued the wall was needed to resolve a security and humanitarian "crisis," blaming illegal immigration for what he said was a scourge of drugs and violence in the U.S. and asking: "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?"

Democrats in response accused Trump appealing to "fear, not facts" and manufacturing a border crisis for political gain.

Using the formal trappings of the White House, Trump hoped to gain the upper hand in the standoff over his demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He plans a visit to the border Thursday as he continues to pitch what was a signature promise of his 2016 presidential campaign.

He addressed the nation as the shutdown stretched through its third week, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers going without pay and some congressional Republicans growing increasingly jittery about the spreading impact of the impasse. Trump will visit the Capitol today to meet with Senate Republicans, and has invited Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to return to the White House to meet with him later that day.

He claimed the standoff could be resolved in "45 minutes" if Democrats would just negotiate, but previous meetings have led to no agreement.

For now, Trump sees this as winning politics. TV networks had been reticent about providing him airtime to make what some feared would be a purely political speech. And that concern was heightened by the decision Tuesday by Trump's re-election campaign to send out fundraising emails and text messages to supporters trying to raise money off the speech. Their goal: A half-million dollars in a single day.

"I just addressed the nation on Border Security. Now need you to stand with me," read one message sent out after his remarks.

In their own televised remarks, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of misrepresenting the situation on the border as they urged him to reopen closed government departments and turn loose paychecks for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Negotiations on wall funding could proceed in the meantime, they said.

Schumer said Trump "just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration."

In his dire address, Trump ticked off a string of statistics and claims to make his case that there is a crisis at the border, but a number of his statements were misleading, such as saying the new trade deal with Mexico would pay for the wall, or suggesting through gruesome examples that immigrants are more likely to commit crime.

Trump, who has long railed against illegal immigration at the border, has recently seized on humanitarian concerns to argue there is a broader crisis that can only be solved with a wall. But critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation.

Trump used emotional language, referring to Americans who were killed by people in the country illegally, saying: "I've met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I've held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible."

The president often highlights such incidents, though studies over several years have found immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.

Trump has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without getting congressional approval for the billions he's requested. But he did not mention that Tuesday night.

Trump was nearly halfway through his 9-minute address before he ever mentioned the border wall, describing it as a request from law enforcement rather than his own longstanding political pledge. He also suggested that his proposal to build the wall from steel, rather than concrete, was a concession to Democrats, although they don't see it that way.

Trump sought to put the blame on Democrats for the shutdown, which reached its 18th day, saying they "will not fund border security." In fact, House Democrats passed legislation the day they took control of the House that offered $1.3 billion for border security. And Senate Democrats have approved similar funding year after year.

Ahead of the speech, the White House sought to shore up GOP support on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of Republicans have been expressing unease with the extended shutdown. But GOP lawmakers were still raising concerns Tuesday, talking about disruptions in payments to farmers and troubles for home buyers trying to get government-backed mortgage loans.

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Auburn community voices feedback on DRI project proposals

AUBURN —  Written on a poster board in the Booker T. Washington Community Center were the words "need some improvement." This was how one Auburn community member described the city in three words. 

On Tuesday, the public was once again welcomed to participate in a Downtown Revitalization Initiative workshop to discuss potential projects that could revamp the downtown area.

Attendees were encouraged to answer questions like "what do you think Auburn's greatest asset is?" and "how would you describe Auburn in one word?"

Many members of Auburn's Local Planning Committee, who are tasked with sending the state officials a recommended list of projects, attended the workshop to hear public feedback on the 29 proposals requesting funding from the $10 million awarded by the state. 

In order to be considered, a project proposal must be placed within the DRI boundaries established by the LPC. Because many projects were adjacent to the original boundaries, the LPC redefined the downtown area to include their consideration. 

"It's intentionally a pretty small, concentrated area," said Kimberly Baptiste, a city consultant from the planning firm Bergmann Associates. 

"The goal behind having that small boundary is to have a greater impact in that downtown core rather than spreading out that $10 million across the whole city," she said. 

Additionally, project proposals must also be supported by a vision statement furnished by the LPC, one of the committee's four established goals and by an LPC-constructed strategy. 

These goals include increasing available housing, city promotion, beautifying public space and enhancing and preserving the city's architecture. 

One city-backed project proposing the construction of a new public safety complex was questioned during the public discussion portion. This new facility would house Auburn's fire department, an emergency operations center and an emergency management office.  

The new safety complex would be placed near the corner of Nelson and Seminary, about a half mile from the Market Street station. 

"What our hope was is that by putting that new fire station in the proposed location, it would help that neighborhood," Auburn City Manager Jeff Dygert said.

The current fire station, which stands at 23 Market St., has sparked some interest by private developers to give the building a new beginning, whether for housing or retail. However, no clear-cut plan for its future exists, Dygert said. 

He added that because of its historical significance, reutilizing the current fire station has been the intent "all along." 

At the December workshop, the public (along with the LPC at an earlier meeting) participated in an exercise that mimicked spending the $10 million on projects they thought were most deserving. On Tuesday, community members were given another chance to participate in the same exercise. Results from December's meeting were tallied, but because the LPC wanted to include Tuesday's numbers, the results were not disclosed.  

'Career con artist' sentenced for stealing vehicle in Locke

AUBURN —  A New York City man previously described as a "career con artist" by the district attorney's office was sentenced Tuesday for stealing a truck in Cayuga County by writing fraudulent checks.

In November, Heath Edmead was convicted by a jury of third-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree grand larceny for pulling off the scam in the town of Locke on June 20, 2014. Edmead had purchased a tractor trailer truck for $11,500 with two checks he knew were worthless. When the checks bounced, the victim reported the fraud to police.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Chris Valdina said in Cayuga County Court Tuesday that Edmead, 45, was probably one of the worst offenders he's ever seen in terms of financial fraud crimes.

Edmead, of 3037 Mickle Ave., Bronx, had a habit of purchasing vehicles with bad checks and would be long gone by the time the seller was made aware, Valdina said. Cayuga County may be the only county to hold him criminally accountable for his fraud cases all throughout the U.S., including Ohio, the Bronx and Florida, Valdina added.

Mario Gutierrez, Edmead's defense attorney, said he doesn't believe the crimes were deliberately planned and said Edmead asserts they were bad business deals.

"He's not a victim. This was not a bad business deal," Valdina said, saying Edmead often chose to "rip off" vulnerable people when he knew he could get away with it. Valdina saw no reason to depart from recommending the maximum sentence of 3.5 to seven years in prison.

For the conviction of third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, Judge Mark Fandrich sentenced Edmead to 3.5 to seven years in prison. For Edmead's fourth-degree grand larceny charge, a class E felony, Fandrich sentenced him to two to four years in prison. The sentences will run concurrently. Edmead was also ordered to pay $9,500 in restitution.

Fandrich said it was obvious Edmead was "an extremely intelligent" person and it is "a shame" he used his gifts to lead a life of crime and attempted to make a living by defrauding others with bad check schemes. He hopes Edmeads will choose to lead a better life once he's released from prison. 

Also in court

• An Auburn sex offender was designated as a level 3 sex offender for having sex with an underage girl.

Charles Williams, 25, who is currently at the Upstate Correctional Facility according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, was designated as the highest level sex offender for having sex with a 16-year-old girl in Auburn in October 2016.

Williams, a second felony offender, was sentenced in March 2017 to two years in prison and five years post-release supervision for his charge of third-degree rape, a class E felony. His release date is Feb. 15 according to DOCCS.

His total risk level score of 110 points accounted for deviant sexual intercourse with the victim, the age of the victim, his prior felony burglary conviction, history of alcohol and marijuana abuse, getting expelled from sex offender programming while incarcerated and having unsatisfactory conduct, including sexual misconduct, while confined.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Heather De Stefano said Williams had several instances of lewd conduct, such as masturbating in public.

Simon Moody, Williams' defense attorney, asked Fandrich to consider a downward departure from the scoring to designate Williams as a level 2 sexual offender, instead of a level 3. He asked in light of Williams' young age, the lack of "forcible compulsion" of the sexual allegations and the lack of mental health treatment provided to Williams.

His "inability to restrain himself ... is something that cries out for treatment," Moody said.

Fandrich denied the request to depart from the level 3 sex offender designation.

• A Weedsport man pleaded guilty to stealing merchandise from Home Depot to remodel his home. 

Michael Scharick, 41, of 10559 Egypt Lane, Weedsport, said he arranged a deal with a friend of his who worked at Home Depot. His friend knew he was renovating his house, and would provide Scharick materials in exchange for cash.

Scharick pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony. In exchange for his plea, if Scharick is able to pay the roughly $1,360 he owes in restitution prior to his March 12 sentencing date he will likely be sentenced to three years conditional discharge. If he hasn't paid his restitution by then, he will likely be sentenced to five years of probation.

Valdina said the Home Depot employee was charged with a misdemeanor but is paying more in restitution.

• An Auburn man currently incarcerated for previous burglary charges pleaded guilty to an additional burglary charge.

Travis Breedlove, 45, currently at Collins Correctional Facility, according to DOCCS, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree burglary, a class D felony, in court Tuesday. His indictment included three counts of third-degree burglary, a felony, and a misdemeanor count of criminal possession of stolen property.

Breedlove admitted to entering 265 Genesee St. in Auburn in October 2016 to steal items to support his drug habit, saying he is a recovering addict.

In exchange for his guilty plea, Fandrich promised to sentence Breedlove to one to five years in prison, which will run concurrently with his current sentence. His earliest release date on his current sentence is November 2019, according to DOCCS. At his March 12 sentencing, Breedlove will also be ordered to pay about $4,300 in restitution and an order of protection will be put in place for the victim.

• An Auburn sex offender, currently an inmate at Gowanda Correctional Facility, was sentenced to more prison time for failing to report a change in address. 

Roderick Henry, 42, asked the court to consider the gravity of his offenses, the nature of the crime and the impact on the community. In addition to a state prison sentence, he said he's lost his business and employees, and his daughter has faced threats at school.

"I've been ridiculed, publicly embarrassed," Henry said.

For failing to report his change in address, a class D felony, Fandrich sentenced him to one to three years to run after his current sentence, which according to DOCCS was for a previous conviction of failing to register his change in address.

"Mr. Henry apologizes for his actions," said Rome Canzano, Henry's defense attorney.