The top five most-read stories of the work week.
Sheriff's office: Cayuga County man reported missing
A town of Victory man has been reported missing, the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday.
Gregory A. Dechick, 43, of 11656 Route 38, was reported missing from the village of Cato at approximately 2:30 p.m. April 1 "by a person close to him," according to a news release. He was last seen at a bank in Weedsport earlier that day, the release said, and has not been seen or heard from since. The news release said "many investigative leads have been followed up but none leading to any information regarding the whereabouts of Dechick."
The release said Dechick has brown eyes and black hair, is 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighs around 175 pounds and had a full beard and mustache when he was last seen. He was last seen wearing an orange and camouflage baseball cap, a camouflage jacket and "rubber muck-type boots," the release said.
"Family and friends are concerned for his well-being and they, along with the Sheriff's Office, ask for the public's help in locating him," the news release said.
The investigation is ongoing and those with information can contact Detective Justin Leszczynski at (315) 258-3868 or the main sheriff's office line at (315) 253-1222. Anonymous tips can be left on the office's webpage at cayugacounty.us/155/Sheriffs-Office.
The Elephant and the Dove: Inside the new Mexican restaurant in Skaneateles
SKANEATELES — The decor of The Elephant and the Dove is as enticing as anything on its menu.
The new Skaneateles restaurant, opening Thursday, takes its visual inspiration from the Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It also takes its name from the husband and wife, who were described as "an elephant and a dove" due to the contrast between their statures: Rivera tall and overweight, Kahlo diminutive and fragile.
The portrait of Kahlo at the top of the stairway to the second floor of the restaurant is but one way it evokes her surrealist style.
Designed by Thom Filicia, a member of the cast of the original "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," the colorful 7,500 square-foot-space is a feast for the eyes. Large golden flowers bloom from the walls, and every surface, from the pillows lining its seats to the cages holding its candles, is richly patterned and textured, suggesting a certain authenticity.
But what gives the restaurant that authenticity is its food. Executive Chef Albert Herrera, previously of Avicolli's in Syracuse, has conceived a menu that General Manager Patrick Lischak described Tuesday as "hometown Mexican cuisine." Staples like tacos and enchiladas are there, but they're filtered through Herrera and the family recipes he grew up with.
"People are going to see some dishes they're used to, and some dishes they're not used to, that are a little more authentic to Mexican cuisine," Lischak said.
One highlight is Herrera's posole, a slow-cooked pork stew with hominy that the chef's grandmother made on Sundays, Lischak said. Depending on the amount of spices or lime juice used, its flavor can range from hot to sweet. Another highlight is chiles en nogada, a chili pepper stuffed with pork, raisins and more, and served with a walnut cream sauce.
Both items were popular at tastings put together by The Elephant and the Dove's owners, Adam and Kim Weitsman, as they prepared to open the restaurant, Lischak said. Also owners of The Krebs down Genesee Street, the Weitsmans wanted their second restaurant to both bring the Mexican food they love to Skaneateles and make that food affordable.
"Adam runs a blue-collar business (Upstate Shredding), so he wants to offer the experience of walking into a beautiful restaurant, sitting and eating a meal for $10 to $12 a dish," Lischak said.
The most expensive item on The Elephant and the Dove's menu is a 12-ounce steak for $24, Lischak said. Three tacos, meanwhile, are $9 to $12, depending on which of the six options is ordered. They include shrimp, steak, pork and a rotating catch-of-the-day taco that will use fresh, available fish. The menu is 22 items, Lischak continued, and will change "when it needs to."
Affordable as it is, Lischak said, the restaurant's Mexican fare isn't prepared cheaply. Herrera and his staff makes all of the tortillas, sauces and other components from scratch.
"We're trying to make it our own and set the tone for Mexican food in Skaneateles," Lischak said. "Because it hasn't been seen here before."
The Elephant and the Dove took the same approach to its cocktail menu. Its five original specials include a hibiscus habanero drink, as well as a margarita that substitutes the traditional orange liqueur with salt water. And instead of salt on the rim, there's a tahini spice that pops against restaurant's green cocktail glassware, Lischak said.
Other drink options include house-made sangria, Mexican and local craft beers, and Scorpion Bowls, a 96-ounce glass skull for groups that want to share a cocktail. Wine is less of a focus at The Elephant and the Dove, Lischak said. The restaurant carries a basic selection, but The Krebs already serves a Wine Spectator award-winning program, he noted.
The general manager said the restaurant was designed to drive business with its bar, which is the centerpiece of the first floor when patrons walk in the Genesee Street entrance. There are some tables surrounding the bar, including an area with no speakers for more conversational dining. But the main dining area is the skylit second floor, where the kitchen is also located. (A dumbwaiter delivers food to the lower floors.) Six of the seats on the floor are located at an exhibition counter facing the kitchen, which Lischak expects to be popular real estate.
"We hired a very lively kitchen staff," he said. "We want the guests being able to interact with the staff at any time, and them having the knowledge to answer questions that might come their way."
Diners who prefer privacy can opt for a room on the lower level with the only table at The Elephant and the Dove that can be reserved. It seats 12 to 14, Lischak said. Also on the lower level is a takeout kiosk with its own entrance at the back of the restaurant. And delivery will be available this summer to the Clift Park docks, Lischak said. Food can be ordered online or by phone.
The Elephant and the Dove's private room also has its own music system. That may come in handy Thursday through Saturday nights, as the restaurant will have a resident DJ performing those nights. The DJ, whose booth location is still being determined, will set the mood of the restaurant with the music he spins, Lischak said.
"We want that fun atmosphere. Not loud, but upbeat," he said. "Where people come in, relax and have good drinks and good food."
Pizza in the plaza: Longtime area restaurateur opens first Auburn location
Iginio Labaro has opened pizza shops outside Auburn over the past 35 years. Now, after circling the city all that time, he'll open his first shop there this month.
Located in Auburn Plaza on Grant Avenue, Mamma Maria New York Pizzeria will open as soon as April 16, Labaro said. The date depends on the installation of his fire suppression system, he said.
But a delay of a few days won't be much after the decades Labaro has spent looking at opening an Auburn location. He's been close a few times, he said, only for his plans to fall through.
He couldn't have been waiting for a better spot, he said. Additionally, the plaza has been missing a pizza restaurant since GJP Italian Eatery closed in late 2016.
"This plaza is the best spot in the city," said Labaro, of Locke. "It's always full."
Labaro said he was told about the location, formerly Hoopla! Frozen Yogurt, by friend and Winton Antiques owner Jerry Vevone. The two know each other from Weedsport, where Vevone ran The Winton Shoppe and Labaro opened one of his New York Pizzeria shops. He also opened locations in Cato and Moravia, the latter 35 years ago, he said.
The first New York Pizzeria goes back even further: Iginio's father, Giovanni, opened it in Mohawk 50 years ago. And it was Giovanni who established the recipes and approach to the restaurant business that have set the shops apart, Iginio said. New York Pizzeria uses the same dough recipe and low-gluten flour today that it did in 1968, he continued, in addition to Indelicato's sausage, California tomatoes and "the best cheese money can buy," he said. The shop also makes its own bread for hot Italian sandwiches like chicken Parmesan, among other menu items.
Mamma Maria New York Pizzeria will also serve cold subs, as well as salads, calzones and stromboli, and desserts like cannoli and tiramisu. Eventually, the shop will also offer Italian pasta dishes.
Labaro said the restaurant will seat about 28, and he is hiring 10 employees to staff it.
He returns to the business less than six months after selling the Moravia location of New York Pizzeria, which he owned and operated with his cousin Sal. After opening it 35 years ago, Labaro sold the shop for the first time to Sal, and it continued changing hands. About five years ago, however, its owners had to close, Labaro said. But he and Sal couldn't stand to let that happen.
"And in my old age I said, 'What the hell?' I'll go back into business," he said. "It was a very good business down there. It was a shame for that place to be closed."
Labaro had also sold his New York Pizzeria locations in Cato and Weedsport. So when he wanted to open the Auburn shop, he needed a new name. He took Mamma Maria from his wife, he said.
After a few decades in the restaurant business, Labaro knows how rough and tiring it can be, he said. But he's ready to bring Auburn the pizza shop he's long wanted.
"We'll do our best to satisfy customers," he said. "If they're not happy, there's no sense in selling food to them."
Port Byron village board votes not to renew school's SRO contract
PORT BYRON — The village of Port Byron spontaneously voted against renewing the school resource officer contract with the Port Byron Central School District Monday night — something the district and parents have been seeking renewal of for weeks.
Unless something changes, June 30 will be SRO Frank Ryan's last day. On March 25, parents and district representatives asked the village to renew the SRO contract. The support for the renewal followed the district's announcement that its attempts to engage the village to make updates to its SRO contract were ignored.
PORT BYRON — Parents and representatives from the Port Byron Central School District asked t…
Currently, the school district pays SRO Ryan directly. The Cayuga County Civil Service Commission has since asked the district and the village to change the current arrangement, which is set to expire June 30, so that the village pays the officer. The commission reported to village Mayor Ronald Wilson that the school never reported having an SRO, which meant the district wasn't complying with civil service rules.
The Port Byron Central School District has grown increasingly concerned over what it feels i…
When opening the public to be heard portion of Monday's meeting to about 17 community members, Wilson asked that those with nothing new to add "just keep your mouth shut."
"I would really like to stress that this has turned into a thing about personalities and not really about positions. Really, all that we're asking the village to do is to negotiate with us to approve a position for an SRO for the school district," district Board of Education President Melinda Quanbeck said. "What we need is to be able to reassure that we can protect the students."
If the village isn't willing to negotiate, she said it would still be better for the school to know that so it can come up with a solution. She noted that while the contract doesn't expire until June, it isn't currently operating legally.
"What I find here is disrespect," said parent and school employee JoAnn Mapley. "The fact that you just disregard the safety of our students, my child, so flippantly I don't agree with that."
"Well if you read the Facebook crap that's out there," Wilson said, "it's been insulting to the village, it's been insulting to the village board, it's been insulting to me."
Wilson said nobody has asked to be on the agenda with enough time to do so. He also only got one email asking to have a sit-down meeting to talk about the issue, but said in response to a question that he never replied to the email.
"I'll be here until this is resolved and I'll speak every single time as is my right," said Angelee Hitchcock, a parent, teacher and union president. "This has gotten out of control."
After about 15 minutes of discussion, Board member Jeff Girvin said "we should just end this," then immediately made a motion not to sign the contract with the school for the renewal for the 2019-2020 year. When asked why, he cited liability to the village. Wilson agreed liability was a big concern.
Board member Patrick Fenton seconded the motion and said he, and all the board, believe there should be an armed officer at the school but that the relationship with the school isn't working. State troopers can get to the school in two minutes, he added.
"The school has tons of options on their own without the village being involved," he said.
Without the village as part of the equation, school district attorney Matthew Fletcher said an officer in the school could carry a gun, but could not "exercise police powers in that capacity."
"Personally, I think the school has been big bullies in this whole thing," Girvin said. "How many times will you constantly use 'the kids, the kids'?"
Board members Mary Jump and Jeffery Emerson both said they were willing to enter negotiations with the school. When it came time to vote on whether or not to renew the contract, Jump and Emerson opposed while Fenton, Girvin and Wilson passed the motion.
"Right now, it's dead," Wilson said in response to a question on if voting to not renew the contract meant that the board was also not interested in negotiating a new contract.
"So if something happens to one of our kids, we can come back and blame it on you? You can live with that on your shoulders?" Kim Blaisdell asked Girvin.
"I got more blood on my hands than you'll ever understand," Girvin replied.
"It would just be really nice to hear from the village that ... it was interested in finding a solution," said Trista O'Hara.
Family patriarch pleads guilty in connection with Auburn meth lab bust
AUBURN — In November, police raided Thomas Hutton Sr.'s 54 Orchard St. home and found numerous people engaged in making methamphetamine.
Hutton Sr., 54, was the first to be arrested. Thursday, he was one of six people involved in the meth bust who pleaded guilty to their crimes in Cayuga County Court. Of the six, he is one of two defendants who will likely face prison time.
AUBURN — Seven of the eight people arrested in connection with the Auburn meth lab bust in N…
Hutton Sr. pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, in full satisfaction of his indictment. As part of his plea, he admitted to possessing about 4 ounces of meth oil.
In light of the plea, Judge Thomas Leone said he would likely impose the agreed-upon sentence of five years in prison and five years post-release supervision. The maximum time he could serve in prison for his crime is 10 years. Held in Cayuga County Jail in lieu of $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond bail, Hutton Sr. is due back for sentencing May 30.
Codefendant Raymond Cox, 37, of 68 Orchard St., is also facing prison time for his involvement in the meth lab.
Cox pleaded guilty to fourth-degree (reduced from second-degree) criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class C felony. He admitted possessing meth. In exchange for his plea, he will likely be sentenced to three years in prison with two years of post-release supervision with the possibility of a shock camp or a drug treatment order. The maximum sentence is 5.5 years. He is held at the county jail on $5,000 cash, $10,000 bond bail and is due back for sentencing May 30.
Jonas Hutton, 22, of 8 Throop Ave., Auburn, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor plea-deal offer and was sentenced for his involvement with the meth lab.
Jonas pleaded guilty to two of the nine charges he faced. He pleaded to fifth-degree (reduced from second-degree) conspiracy and second-degree criminal possession of meth manufacturing materials, both class A misdemeanors. He admitted to planning and having conversations with other codefendants and participating in attempts to make meth as well as possessing manufacturing materials.
Jonas was sentenced to three years of probation for each charge, which will run concurrently. Jonas' brother, Thomas M. Hutton, 28, pleaded guilty to the same charges and was also sentenced to three years of probation in March. In February, codefendant Shaun Cronin, 40, also pleaded guilty to fifth degree conspiracy and second-degree criminal possession of meth manufacturing materials.
AUBURN — A man pleaded guilty this week to his involvement in a meth lab bust in November — …
Three other codefendants will likely receive a five year probationary sentence in exchange for their involvement with the meth lab.
Theresa Hutton, 24, of 117 Main St., Port Byron; Breanne Lunn, 32, of 11 Garden East Lane, Hannibal; and Timothy Rathbun, 35, of 8270 W. Loop Road, Montezuma; all pleaded guilty to fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class D felony — reduced from second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance — to satisfy their indictments.
Theresa confirmed she knowingly and unlawfully possessed meth oil, Lunn admitted to participating in the alleged making of meth activity and Rathbun admitted to knowing meth was in the house and being present while codefendants made or attempted to make meth, knowing it was illegal.
While the maximum sentence is 2.5 years in prison, Theresa, Lunn and Rathbun will likely each be sentenced to five years of probation. Leone also explained conditions of post-release supervision to each of them in the event that something goes wrong and any of them end up spending time in prison. All three are due back for sentencing June 27.
Heather Hutton, 45, of 8 Throop Ave., also appeared in court Thursday. Her next court appearance was adjourned to April 25 but Cayuga County Assistant District Attorney Joshua Bennett said a possible plea-deal would involve Heather pleading guilty to fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, lessened from the initial second-degree charge.
Also in court
• An Auburn man pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine.
Robert Rogers, 50, of 15 Madison Ave., pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree criminal possession of narcotic drugs with intent to sell, a class B felony. His plea satisfied two uncharged counts of felony criminal sale of a controlled substance.
Rogers said he was pulled over in his car soon after leaving his home on Feb. 28 and told by police there was a warrant on his car and home. He lived at 69 Chapman Ave. at the time. He admitted having about .5 grams of cocaine on his person and intended to sell it. Senior ADA Brittany Grome Antonacci said a total of about 1.5 grams of cocaine was found, some of which was in his home.
In exchange for his plea, Rogers will likely be sentenced to two years in prison and two years post release. His sentence will likely be executed with a drug treatment order which means most of his sentence will be served as parole supervision. Rogers was also required to forfeit his car and about $3,450 cash.