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Prison City selects Auburn location for new brewery

The lineup of suspects was long, but Prison City Pub & Brewery has selected an Auburn location for its new production facility.

Brewery co-owner Dawn Schulz said Tuesday that the facility will be built at 197-199 North St. The 2.13-acre property, at the corner of North and Standart Avenue, was formerly the home of Jam-O's Car Wash, which was demolished this summer. Prison City is buying the property from the Kyle family, Schulz said.

Schulz said she and her husband, Marc, considered more than a dozen sites in Auburn and another dozen outside the city, as far as Rochester and Ithaca, for their brewery's new facility. But the North Street site won out for several reasons. Being in Auburn, it has city utilities like water, electrical and sewer. And by building the brewery from scratch, Schulz said, Prison City's need for those utilities can be met precisely.

"Retrofitting a building to become a brewery wouldn't be as beneficial to our manufacturing process," she said. 

That stretch of North Street is also high-traffic, Schulz said, averaging almost 13,000 vehicles a day. The traffic light at the site will provide easy access to the facility. And the size of the property will allow Prison City to create about 70 parking spots, she added.

More than the tangible benefits of the site, however, staying in Auburn was important to Prison City's identity, Schulz said.

"Prison City doesn't really make sense outside of the Auburn area," she said. "We really love this community."

The facility's construction will be contracted to the Kyle family's KyleCroft Development, Schulz said. Likely to be titled Prison City Brewing, it will be about 20,000 square feet, with a little more than half of that space dedicated to beer production. The facility will also include a 4,500-square-foot courtyard, titled The Yard, as well as a tasting room, kitchen, office space and dining/event space.

About 20 to 25 full-time jobs will be created by the facility, Schulz said. At first it will open for customers on weekends only, though that could change as Prison City assesses demand. Staff will also brew there during the week, she added.

The facility's brewing system will produce about 10,000 barrels annually, Schulz said, though she noted that it will take Prison City some time to master the system to reach that figure. There will also be a "foeder forest" of the large wooden barrels for aging sours, stouts and other beers, and a line for bottling them. A canning line, meanwhile, will package the brewery's popular hoppy beers, like its critically acclaimed Mass Riot India pale ale.

Releases of Mass Riot and other Prison City beers have routinely attracted lines of people outside the State Street brewpub. The demand for brewer Ben Maeso's beers led the Schulzes to announce their plan to build the production facility in the summer of 2016. The brewery opened in December 2014 with a 2.5-barrel system, and has since expanded into the basement of its space with more fermenters to raise its annual production to about 1,000 barrels. Schulz said the opening of the facility will allow Prison City to dedicate the brewpub's system to small-batch beers and research and development, but otherwise, the downtown space will remain as is.

The Schulzes at first looked to open the facility at 39 Genesee St., the former Nolan's Sporting Goods, as an anchor tenant of the city's Riverside Regional Public Market. As the market project stalled, the Schulzes began searching elsewhere, including 4022 Technology Park Blvd. in Auburn, before selecting the North Street site. 

During that time, Prison City was designated to receive $900,000 in state funding through the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council. Schulz said those funds may be reimbursed to Prison City over the next five years based on the money it spends to build the facility and the number of jobs it creates.

Schulz said Prison City will submit its plans for the facility to the city planning board in December. She hopes to break ground in the spring and open by fall 2019. Though that timeline may seem "aggressive," Schulz said, it follows years of planning and working with architects and engineers to make Prison City's expansion happen.

"We're excited to move forward with a location," she said. "We feel like we've done so much research on so many locations that now it's time."

Gallery: Prison City IPA release draws hundreds

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Cayuga County Legislature approves 2019 budget with $40.61M tax levy

AUBURN — A marathon session of the Cayuga County Legislature Tuesday ultimately ended with the passage of a 2019 operating budget with a total tax levy of $40.61 million.

The approved budget includes a total tax levy of $40.61 million, a 2.06-percent increase over 2018, with a fund balance draw of $838,475. To reach the lower levy, Legislators made $133,919 worth of cuts from the previously approved preliminary budget.

The preliminary budget had a total tax levy of $40.75 million, a 2.4-percent increase over 2018, with a fund balance draw of $806,975. Both the total levy and fund balance use of the preliminary budget were the result of cuts, primarily from new staffing positions, made from the county administrator's tentative budget.

The most significant cuts approved Tuesday came from the removal of a new Human Resources Department position, a new IT Department position, and a $25,000 reduction in the Cayuga Economic Development Agency's budget on top of a reduction already included in the preliminary budget.

Legislator Timothy Lattimore, R-Auburn, proposed the reduction for CEDA, saying it was his belief that the county did not have sufficient grant writing capabilities for economic development and was not getting its money's worth with CEDA.

"We can do it in-house better and cheaper," Lattimore said.

However, Lattimore did not offer an alternative for how to use the cut funds — the money was simply returned to the tax levy — prompting concern from several legislators over whether cutting the money would actually help economic development.

"We can't be supportive of [economic development] and cut it," Legislator Keith Batman, D-Springport said.

The budget passed after a nearly four-hour discussion that included a break for parties to caucus, the late arrival of the Legislature chair, an overturned vote and numerous instances of confusion over rules of procedure.

During a public hearing portion, Rebecca Spooner joined a crowd of residents attending the meeting to ask for the county to restore funding to the county's nine public libraries.

Spooner, a patron of Moravia's Powers Library, was one of several speakers, and noted how much she and others like her relied on the library to help with homeschooling. Other speakers noted how libraries often function as a community center, act as the only way to access the internet in rural areas, and more.

Legislator Tucker Whitman, R-Sterling, said he didn't believe any of the legislators did not support libraries, noting that he was home-schooled himself, but thought it had previously been made clear during the 2018 budget process that the county would not continue with funding the system so libraries would seek alternative means of funding.

"The thought is they have a way to generate revenue in one place where we can vote it up or down," Whitman said.

There was some debate over whether that was the Legislature's previous intent, but Whitman amended a motion by Legislator Joseph DeForest, D-Venice, to restore $31,500 of funding so the money would come from the fund balance instead of the tax levy.

While Whitman attempted to make it clear in the resolution that the Legislature would not be providing more funding in the future, acting County Attorney Chris Palermo said that could not be done. As well, several legislators, including DeForest, pledged to continue funding the system when voting in favor of Whitman's amendment.

Police: Auburn sex offender abused child he fathered with minor

An Auburn man and registered sex offender is facing criminal charges for abusing an infant he fathered with an underage girl, the Auburn Police Department said.

On May 4 at around 9 a.m. police were dispatched to the emergency room of the Auburn Community Hospital to investigate child abuse, according to an APD press release. Upon arrival at the hospital's emergency room, patrol units, detectives and Child Protective Services saw a 9-month-old boy with recent extensive unexplained bruising and rug burns on the majority of his body.

The babysitter who brought the baby to the hospital said the baby had been dropped off to her by the baby's 17-year-old mother, police said. The mother said she had left the child with her boyfriend, Eugene H. Scott Jr., 37, on the night of May 3 to the following morning. Scott told investigators that he accidentally caused the injuries, but evidence did not support his claims, police said.

During the investigation, police concluded that Scott was the biological father of the baby, and that the child was conceived while the mother was a minor, the APD said.

On Monday, Scott was arrested at the Cayuga County Jail on an indictment warrant. He was arraigned in Cayuga County Court Tuesday on charges of second-degree assault, third-degree rape and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was remanded back to the jail without bail. Police said additional charges are forthcoming. The child has been placed in foster care and has made a full recovery.

Scott was already serving a sentence at the jail for an unrelated conviction. According to records, Scott was charged with petit larceny in separate instances in May and August and had been charged with two counts of failing to register as a sex offender in May 2017.

Scott is a Level 2 sex offender, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. The state's sex offender registry said Scott was arrested and convicted of second-degree sexual assault in Texas for having intercourse with a 15-year-old girl in 2002.

According to the state Department of Corrections, he was convicted in Wayne County in 2013 for fourth-degree grant larceny and was released on parole in 2015.

Police ask that anyone with information on the case or similar contact with Scott call Auburn Police Detective Bryant Bergenstock at (315) 258-9880 or (315) 253-3231. Callers may be anonymous.

County health board fines Owasco farmer for septic violation

AUBURN — The Cayuga County Board of Health Tuesday issued a fine against the owner of Melrose Farms in Owasco for a septic violation in the same structure he was also cited for illegally housing workers in.

The board unanimously voted in favor of a $1,000 fine against Joseph Tidd, with half refundable if he complies with the order to fix the septic violation.

Tidd was first cited by the town of Owasco in February for housing workers on his dairy farm in a structure that lacked both a permit to be built and a certificate of occupancy. Workers living there said it was filled with cockroaches and rats and hazardous conditions like foul water and exposed electric wiring.

At the same time, the Cayuga County Health Department also cited Tidd for not having an appropriate septic system for the structure. According to the health department's letter to Tidd at the time, human waste was being directed to a manure lagoon on the property.

The health department gave Tidd a month to either remove or fix the violation. But, according to Cayuga County Environmental Health Director Eileen O'Connor Tuesday, the septic issue essentially became moot once the structure was deemed unsafe for occupancy, as no waste was being generated if people were not living there.

However, Tidd was caught violating the order in September, having been housing workers in the structure even after February's citations, according to an employee who came forward in a letter to describe the living conditions.

Following that revelation and additional citations from the town, the health department ordered Tidd to remove all plumbing fixtures from the structure or install a brand new system, as well as remove the septic tank from a recreational vehicle kept near the structure.

At a Cayuga County Board of Health hearing on Oct. 30, the hearing officer recommended no fines against Tidd after it was confirmed he had complied with the most recent order.

On Tuesday, however, the board itself decide to "throw the book" at Tidd, specifically wording the resolution to note the "egregious nature" of his repeated violations.

"When someone consistently shows poor moral character and an unwillingness to adhere to the law, that rubs me the wrong way," board member Ralph Battista said.

The wording of the fine, which essentially levies a $500 fine since Tidd has already complied with the order, was done to remain consistent with the board's normal style for fines.

Additionally, O'Connor said, while the health department focuses more on compliance rather than punishment, the department usually does recommended for hearing officers to include fines. That the hearing officer did not recommend a fine from the October hearing was an oversight likely caused by staff miscommunication, O'Connor said.

Prior to the board's vote, Marty Fefer, with the Worker's Center of Central New York, an advocacy group that has worked on behalf of multiple workers at Melrose Farms, asked the board to reconsider the hearing officer's findings.

Fefer referred to Tidd's repeated violations and deceptions despite being given several opportunities to fix the problems, and asked the board to consider the dangerous health effects Tidd's actions had on the workers and their families he housed.

"It's life and death for these people," Fefer said.

Tidd was scheduled to appear in Owasco Town Court Monday for a hearing expected to determine what fines he would face for violating the town orders, but the case was adjourned to Dec. 10.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is also investigating Melrose Farms for potential clean water permit violations. In an email Tuesday, a department spokesperson had no update on the investigation.

Tidd, who was not at the Board of Health meeting Tuesday, could not be reached for comment.