The Citizen's top 10 most-read stories of the week.
Historic Grounds: Downtown Auburn coffee shop has new name, owner, menu
AUBURN — Mark DiVietro had his eye on the former Riverbend coffee shop on Genesee Street for awhile.
He was certainly in a position to: DiVietro has worked at Silbert Optical for the past 25 years, and owned the eye care business for the past 10. It was around the time DiVietro took over Silbert from his father, Joseph, that Tim Bridenbecker opened Riverbend in Lattimore Hall. He had opened its first location in Fingerlakes Mall in 2004, and a third later in Auburn Plaza.
Working less than 100 feet down Genesee Street, DiVietro would often stop in the shop. He came to love the experience, he said Wednesday. Its atmosphere was as relaxing as its drinks were replenishing. So after Bridenbecker retired several years ago, and Renee Slayton took control of what she renamed Maggie's at Riverbend, DiVietro started to imagine what he'd do with the shop.
When Slayton started looking for a buyer last year, DiVietro got his opportunity. As of December, he is the owner of what's now Historic Grounds Coffee.
DiVietro, who also serves as Owasco town justice and president of the Auburn Downtown Business Improvement District Board of Directors, is leasing the space from the owners of Lattimore Hall, WCBB Holdings LLC, of Rochester. The coffee shop is managed day-to-day by Beth Murphy, but at Silbert, DiVietro is never too far.
He's already overhauled the menu: Coffee now comes from Coffee Mania in Cortland, Belgian waffle mix from New Hope Mills in Auburn and baked goods from Just Desserts in Auburn. The latter two are additions, DiVietro said. He's also emphasizing soups of the day and deli sandwiches, which Riverbend introduced about a year ago, but "no one knew they were there," he added.
Another highlight of the menu is Art's Delight, a frozen coffee drink dedicated to well-known Auburnian and former Riverbend regular Art Wenzel, who passed away in 2016.
Since December, DiVietro has also worked on his coffee shop's look. It's been repainted and gotten new furniture, and new tables to replace the booths near the windows should arrive soon. DiVietro also added an area with an electric fireplace and leather seats. All the changes have been made to open up the floor and enhance the overall experience, he said.
"It's nice walking in and seeing people relaxing," he said. "Coffee makes people happy."
DiVietro also hopes to add a newsstand area where basic items like pens, Band-Aids and aspirin are available — filling a need left by the closure of Cervo's News in 2016. Opening the space to book clubs and live music is also in the cards. And the storefront will be repainted and receive a new LED sign, DiVietro said. The Historic Grounds logo features "1848," the year Auburn became a city.
The shop's hours have already been extended to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. Saturdays. In the summer, DiVietro hopes to push them back further, and add café seating.
Though downtown Auburn is slated to add two more coffee shops in the near future — Octane Social House in the Nolan block and Sun Cafe in Auburn Public Theater — DiVietro is confident Historic Grounds fits in without competing directly with anyone. He thinks people will be happy to have somewhere to grab a quick deli sandwich — and the same cozy experience that drew him there.
"I just want a good experience," he said. "For people to walk in and feel relaxed, as a coffee shop should be."
'It's legit': Cayuga County businesses offering CBD in variety of products
Whether it's a tea latte, a cup of coffee, gummy bears, a vaporizer or a pain cream, cannabidiol products are on the rise in Cayuga County.
More commonly known as CBD, it's carried by a variety of Auburn retailers in different forms. All of them seem to agree on one thing: It works, and it doesn't have any negative side effects.
At this time, the Cayuga County Department of Public Health said that there is no countywide regulation of CBD products, nor a license needed to sell the products.
Luciana Torous, the owner of 3 Leaf Tea at 25 E. Genesee St. in Auburn, said she first learned about infusing teas with CBD at a tea expo in Brooklyn last March. At the time, she didn't know much about CBD and learned that it was legal in all 50 states, had anti-inflammatory benefits and could help people relax and relieve pain.
"People do get confused about it; there are some people that think it's marijuana," Torous said. "It's different biologically, industrial hemp from marijuana is structurally different. ... It's not going to affect your mental state in any way, but you're getting the benefits."
Industrial hemp is naturally high in CBD and only contains traces of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. CBD does not cause any euphoria or a high, as the distillation process removes the THC.
Torous left the tea expo inspired, and decided to bring CBD-infused teas back to Auburn. In her store, she sells CBD-infused matcha tea lattes that she makes by adding a CBD tincture. The tincture itself isn't flavorless, but it pairs well with the matcha and most people don't taste it, she said. In store and online, Torous also sells a powdered matcha infused with a CBD powder that is flavorless. In addition to the latte in store, she sells 900 mg bottles of the CBD tincture, as well as a topical salve.
"I've had the craziest testimonials," Torous said, saying she often hears people say they're sleeping better, their chronic knee or back pain is gone, or they've been experiencing less anxiety.
Rich DeChick, the owner of Vape Kult at 10 South St. in Auburn, also said that he's heard from people who use CBD that it has helped with their anxiety, pain, arthritis and even post-traumatic stress symptoms.
In his Auburn store, DeChick carries versions of CBD oil that can be taken orally or by vaping, as well as a roll-on pain relief product. Vape flavors include blueberry, pineapple and peach. However, DeChick runs another store in Fulton called Evolve CBD sells a much larger variety of CBD products.
He said CBD is the closest thing to the legendary snake oil that people used to say would cure any ailment — "but it's legit."
In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a form of CBD to treat rare forms of epilepsy. DeChick said that he gives CBD products to his cat — which has epilepsy — and he's noticed that the seizures don't happen as often, and are less severe.
Both DeChick and Torous said that there is no way to overdose on CBD, and effective dosages vary by person. But you can't take too much, and there are no known negative side effects.
In addition to Torous' tea lattes, coffee has also recently joined the list of beverages with CBD available in Cayuga County.
Serenity Wellness owner Robin Jackson now sells hot cups of CBD coffee in her store. People can also purchase packets or boxes of the instant CBD coffee, which include 5 mg of CBD per cup as well as chaga mushrooms, which have immunity and health benefits, Jackson said.
Located at 214 Seymour St., Serenity Wellness also sells a variety of CBD products from Hempworx and Bison Botanics. Products include THC-free oils, pain creams, pet oils and treats, CBD gummies, salve sticks and creams.
"I educate everyone who comes to the shop," Jackson said. "I make sure everyone leaves with instructions on how to use (CBD)."
Starting up again at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Serenity Wellness is a general illness and CBD support group led by Vin Gleason, who also a certified CBD distributor.
Gleason leads the support groups, in part, as a way to share his knowledge and testimony of CBD products. He said he connected with Jackson last summer and began using CBD products in July for an illness he'd been battling since the spring of 2017. He'd been on more than 100 days of antibiotics, wasn't getting better, and was eventually unable to work, he said.
After just two weeks of using CBD products, Gleason said he began to feel completely different. As someone who used to be a skeptic, Gleason said the Wednesday night support groups can also be a time for people to come and ask questions. If he doesn't know an answer, he will connect with people to find it.
"Everything started really changing in my life," Gleason said, adding he's back to working full-time and is able to exercise again. "I'm still in shock everyday."
Winter storm watches cover Cayuga County, 14 inches of snow possible
The National Weather Service has issued winter storm watches for portions of upstate New York for Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning.
All of Cayuga County is part of the watch, with the weather agency saying as much as 14 inches of lake effect snow could fall in some parts of the region. NWS issued the watches on Tuesday afternoon.
For southern Cayuga County, the agency said snow accumulations could range from 5 to 9 inches, with wind gusts up to 40 mph. In northern Cayuga County, snowfall predictions range from 7 to 14 inches, with same potential for wind gusts.
"Travel could be very difficult," NWS states. "Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commutes Wednesday through Friday."
For more weather details, visit auburnpub.com/weather.
Insurance company to close Auburn office, cut 37 positions
Nonprofit life insurance company WoodmenLife has announced that it will close its Auburn office in March, according to a representative.
Kerry Heinrich, director of marketing communications for the Omaha-based company, said it has decided not to offer new sales in the state of New York. As a result, it will no longer have independent sales representatives in the state after March 31. The Auburn office, located in the Plaza of the Arts on Genesee Street, is WoodmenLife's only one in New York. It opened in September 2015.
"In order to sustain long-term growth and continue providing high-quality service to our members, it was necessary to make this difficult choice," Heinrich said.
Heinrich declined to elaborate further on the reasons for WoodmenLife's choice.
The company has 13 full-time representatives, 19 part-time ones and five associates in New York who will be affected by the change. Heinrich said WoodmenLife will provide transitional packages for them.
Customers, meanwhile, will be served by the WoodmenLife team in Omaha. There will be no gap in coverage for customers, Heinrich said.
Police: Auburn woman stabbed man with butcher knife
An Auburn woman is facing criminal charges for allegedly stabbing a man Friday morning.
Amandalus D. Lane, 41, 101 Quill Ave., Apt. K60, was charged with second-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child. Auburn Police Department Capt. James Moore said Friday that officers were dispatched to a domestic incident at 12:19 a.m. at Oak Creek Town Homes.
A 48-year-old man had called 911 but the call had been disconnected, Moore said. Once the officers arrived at Lane's residence, they knocked on the door several times but received no answer. Moore said the officers noticed an open cell phone and butcher knife through a window and "felt the need" to enter the residence based on the circumstances.
Officers saw Lane and the victim, who had a stab wound from a butcher knife on the left side of his chest, Moore said. The man was treated at the scene and then taken for further medical treatment. A child was also at the scene.
Lane was arraigned at Auburn City Court Friday morning and released on her own recognizance. Her next day in court is Feb. 13.
Part of Auburn street closed after sewage overflow
AUBURN — For five and a half hours, sewage flowed from a manhole on Chapman Avenue Wednesday morning in Auburn, according to an alert issued by the state.
The street has been blocked off between crossroads Quill Avenue and Worden Avenue as crews work to make more permanent repairs. The section of the street will hopefully re-open Friday, said Auburn Municipal Utilities Director Seth Jensen.
According to the alert, root intrusion construction on Chapman Avenue for a replacement line was already in progress before the discharge was reported. Residents were cautioned to avoid the area. The discharge rate was estimated at 690 gallons per minute.
SENNETT — As one of 600 municipalities with a combined sewer system in New York, the city of…
Under the 2013 Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act, New York municipalities with publicly-owned treatment works or sewer systems must report any untreated or partially treated discharge to the state within two hours. Municipalities are required to report the same information to the public within four hours of the incident. The state alert for Wednesday's incident was issued at 9:20 a.m. and it said the event started at 2:05 a.m.
"From time to time, issues in that area have happened," Jensen said.
Wednesday morning's "brief overflow" was contained and maintained, said Jensen. Centro Bus, the Auburn school district and local emergency officers have been notified of the road closure.
Wet weather conditions — a common overflow instigator — led to the discharge. When sewers are met with significant amounts of rainfall or snow melt, they're designed to overflow into a waterbody. The state alert reported Oak Creek was affected by the discharge. Jensen said Oak Creek is not in the Owasco Lake watershed, so the city's drinking water supply was not jeopardized.
"Oak Creek runs underground from Chapman Avenue until it daylights just behind the (former) Walgreens building at the intersection of Genesee Street and Columbus Street," Jensen said.
From the intersection, the creek flows to Crane Brook, where it eventually leads to the Seneca River.
Heavy snow coming: Cayuga County under winter storm warning
The National Weather Service on Wednesday issued winter storm warnings for an area of central New York and the Lake Ontario shoreline that includes all of Cayuga County.
The warning was upgraded from a winter storm watch that was issued earlier, indicating more certainly that a major snow event will happen.
For southern Cayuga County and Onondaga County, NWS said the warning goes into effect from 4 p.m. Wednesday through 7 p.m. Thursday. About 1 to 3 inches of lake effect snow is expected through 4 p.m., with an additional 4 to 9 inches expected overnight into Thursday. Making matters more treacherous will be 40 mph wind gusts that will impact visibility and possibly knock down power lines.
The warning for northern Cayuga County runs from 3 p.m. Wednesday through 7 p.m. Thursday, with 6 to 11 inches of snow and 40 mph wind gusts predicted.
"A winter storm warning for heavy lake effect snow means significant amounts of lake effect snow are forecast that will make travel very hazardous or impossible," NWS states. "If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency."
For more weather information, including radar and long-range forecasts, visit auburnpub.com/weather.
Community vote on $43.7 million Auburn schools capital project
Voters in the Auburn Enlarged City School District will decide the fate of a proposed $43.7 million capital project that would include health and safety upgrades in each of its seven instructional buildings and the administrative headquarters.
District residents will be able to vote for the proposed project on Tuesday at Casey Park Elementary School and Seward Elementary School. Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo said if a person has gone to the Casey Park school for the district's annual budget vote in the past, they would cast their vote at Casey Park Tuesday. Those who have voted at any other school in the past would vote at Seward.
The proposed project would have two phases, with a first phase slated to cost $28 million and the remaining balance in the second phase. The proposal is the result of years-long process triggered by a state-required buildings condition assessment completed in 2015-16. The district's most recent capital project involving all district facilities was approved by voters in 2011.
While state aid would cover about 85 percent of the 2019 project's costs, it would require a 1.98-percent increase in the local property tax levy. For a $100,000 home, that comes to a $36 annual increase, Pirozzolo said.
Should voters approve the project, the district looks to open bidding from contractors by November or December 2019 and begin construction by spring 2020. The second phase is estimated for a 2023 start in the hopes of ending the endeavor by 2026.
Safety and security are set to factor heavily into the possible project, with the middle school and every elementary school except Seward receiving secured entrances that would prevent visitors from getting to student areas without running into additional security. Seward had previously gained a more secured entrance, though it and Auburn High School would receive some security upgrades through the new project, Pirozzolo said.
Every elementary school and the middle school are set to receive partial air conditioning and air relief systems at an estimated cost of around $7 million. While doors and windows had been opened at the building in decades past, allowing for natural air relief, he said, safety concerns require all of the windows and doors to be closed, so these new systems would allow for air relief during the hotter weeks of the school year.
Various structural improvements to the buildings are slated for the project, as well. Pirozzolo said preventive maintenance work is done in the school buildings daily, but the capital project is set to include multiple infrastructure costs that would be too expensive to cover through the district's annual budget. For example, replacing Owasco Elementary School's aging roof would cost $2.4 million, which is equivalent to an approximate 6.4-percent tax levy increase, he said. He noted the district receives 85-percent in state building aid for capital projects, and state building aid can only be used on capital project work.
To increase community awareness for the vote, the district has held three public hearings and run guest columns in The Citizen, Pirozzolo said. He said he has also done radio interviews and held presentations with various local groups about the project and the district has sent out postcards on the initiative as well.
Although the superintendent said he feels many people in the area are unaware of the impending vote, the discussions he has had have been supportive.
"People have been pretty positive and they understand the safety and security issues," he said.
'Just another player': Hlywa enjoying experience as Auburn hockey's lone female
Carrissa Hlywa fancies herself as just another hockey player.
She wears the same equipment and has the same routines, tying one skate before the other. She tapes her stick before every game, a regular part of preparation for a sport that requires attention to every detail. And when it's time to play, she plays.
What's dissimilar is that Hlywa is a girl playing in a boys league, the lone female member of the Auburn hockey team, and the first female to play with the Maroons since the early 2000s.
Her situation is unique, but Hlywa is enjoying the ride so far.
This isn't the first time Hlywa, a junior at Auburn, has suited up with the boys — after her introduction to hockey as a 3-year-old, Hlywa played on boys youth programs through Pee Wees (fourth grade) until deciding to transfer to various girls programs, which she's played on ever since.
In 2016, Hlywa was a member of the Syracuse Nationals 14-and-under team that won the New York State Amateur Hockey Association Tier I 14-U championship and advanced to the national tournament in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This year, in a search for better competition and "something new," Hlywa elected to play for the Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles in Buffalo, a 19-and-under team.
Because of Niagara's schedule — the season is split, running from August until the start of high school season in November, then reconvening for the state tournament in March — Hlywa needed a team to play for during the break.
Auburn does not have a girls team, so Hlywa explored playing for programs in Skaneateles and Ithaca, but was denied by both. She was accepted by Oswego to play on the Buccaneers' girls team, but would've needed to leave school early every day to make the 3 p.m. practices.
Seemingly out of girls hockey options, Hlywa turned to the Auburn boys team. Unsure of what to expect, in tryouts Hlywa was placed on a line with Maroons top scorer Johnny Malandruccolo and her brother Ty, a freshman. Low expectations for playing time quickly flipped.
"I thought, 'Oh, maybe I'll actually play,'" Hlywa said. "I was definitely not expecting to play because there's a bunch of good talent on this team and I'm a girl. I just had to work hard to get my spot."
Hlywa has maintained a position on Auburn's top line for most of the season after recording a pair of assists in her debut in a 7-2 win over Liverpool. On Friday against Liverpool, she scored her first career goal.
Entering the season with an open mind, Hlywa quickly learned she'd have to adjust her game with the boys. Physical contact is allowed in girls hockey but full bodychecking is not.
Hlywa says "it's definitely apparent" that some opposing players are reluctant to hit her, but she's still received her fair share of open-ice collisions. She welcomes the body contact if it comes, explaining that it makes her feel like just another player on the ice.
"No one wants to be the kid that hits the girl. I mean, 'Good for you, you wrecked a girl,'" Hlywa said. "I like when the kids don't back off. I got wrecked against Clinton, but it just shows that I'm part of the game and I'm another player."
Observing from the bench, Auburn coach Mike Lowe has seen Hlywa hold her own despite the switch to more liberal bodychecking rules.
"She's very strong, so it's not like the physicality bothers her at all," Lowe said. "She's had some good hits during the games and has popped right back up, no problems.
"In the weight room she fits right in. We work out quite a bit and she's strong. I don't know if she was concerned at all about the contact coming into the season, but she doesn't play like it bothers her."
For someone who has aspirations of playing college hockey, Hlywa believes her experience playing with the boys has improved her as a player, and she's noticed the difference when she's returned to her girls team.
"On my girls team I'm a goal scorer, but on the boys I'm just trying to do the little things like not cough the puck up and not get wrecked," Hlywa said. "We recently went to a tournament after Christmas in Boston (with the Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles) and I felt like I was more aware of what was going on and I read the game better. Say I got the puck along the boards, I'd look up and ... 'Wait, I can't be hit,' so I'd take a couple more strides."
As a rookie, one of Hlywa's pre-game jobs is stacking the pucks on the bench to be used during warm-ups. Then she'll join the rest of the team for off-ice stretching and stickhandling before heading to the dressing room to gather her gear.
Hlywa doesn't dress with the rest of the team, and instead she has a locker room to herself. She admits missing out on some of the camaraderie, but her status on the team helps negate some of that.
"I feel I do miss the funny conversations or some things like that, but we make up for it on the ice," Hlywa said. "I think it helps that I play and I'm an aspect of the team. I feel like if I didn't dress they wouldn't engage me in conversations as much as with me actually playing. I do miss out a little bit but it's fine."
Understanding personal conversations that high school-aged boys sometimes take part in, Lowe says that the players have been very respectful of having a female on the team.
"We've talked about it a little bit but it hasn't been much of a concern because the guys on the team have been very respectful. There hasn't been any issues that I'm aware of," Lowe said. "She fits in well off the ice and on the ice. Maybe having (Ty) on the team ... she known a lot of these guys for a long time through her brother and through playing hockey."
Having a sibling on the team has not only helped Hlywa fit in, but she believes it's created a better bond between the two.
"It's cool to actually play with him and be on a line with him," Hlywa said. "People just guessed I was good because I travel and I miss school for hockey, but he did the same. I think he definitely surprised the Auburn fans. It's cool for my parents because they get to be at one place and watch us both.
"At first he was the only kid I'd talk to so it was good to have him, and now he's just another teammate."
The same could be said for Hlywa. Despite the ponytail flowing out from the back of her helmet, she's just another skater out there.
UPDATED: Travel advisory lifted for Cayuga County
The Cayuga County Sheriff's Office has lifted the travel advisory that was issued Thursday morning.
A travel advisory is now in effect for Cayuga County, Sheriff Brian Schenck announced Thursday morning.
The sheriff's office said road conditions are challenging as snow and wind is causing drifting in open areas. A winter storm warning is in effect today.
Motorists are advised to use extra caution when traveling and allow additional time to get to your destination.