The Citizen's top 10 most-read stories of the week.
Police: Auburn home was being used as a methamphetamine lab
AUBURN — A home in Auburn reportedly being used to produce methamphetamine was raided by police Friday morning.
The Cayuga County Sheriff's Office said that the Finger Lakes Drug Task Force executed a warrant around 10 a.m. at 54 Orchard St. and found multiple people "actively engaged in the production of methamphetamine."
Adults and children were found at the scene after the raid by members of the Auburn Police Department and the sheriff's office. Some occupants in the house, including children, were transported to Auburn Community Hospital for evaluation but no serious medical issues had been found, police said in a news release.
Police said that Cayuga County Child Protective Services was assisting with the investigation and the drug task force was continuing its investigation Friday evening. Officials said they would not immediately release the names of people involved.
Orchard Street between Jefferson and Baker streets was blocked off for several hours as authorities dealt with the scene. The New York State Police's Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team helped handle the dangerous substances involved in the making of the drugs at the home, police said, adding that those in neighboring houses were in no danger.
"It's all contained in that residence," sheriff's office detective Lt. Brian Schenck said at the scene.
The Auburn Fire Department was also on the scene, along with the Auburn Police Department, the New York Environmental Conservation Police and Auburn TLC Ambulance. An animal control team was also present to remove a dog from the building. People in white hazmat suits, some in handcuffs, were being escorted in and out of an ambulance. Later, state police investigators in orange hazmat suits were removing materials from the building.
Anyone with information relevant to the investigation is asked to call Detective Rob Franklin at (315) 253-1132. People may also submit tips to cayugasheriff.com by clicking on the "leave a tip" tab. People may remain anonymous.
New $10 million Auburn welcome center to open next week
After weeks of anticipation, the Equal Rights Heritage Center in downtown Auburn has released its opening date.
The $10 million welcome center on South Street will host a grand opening at 10 a.m. Tuesday with a "special unveiling," according to a Friday news release. State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, Auburn Mayor Michael Quill and several state and community leaders will be present.
This long-awaited opening date announcement comes after a slight delay from city officials' original projections to be open by late October.
Quill had announced last week that the center was almost complete, but needed a couple more weeks to finish construction — which began in February. At that time, finishing touches, including a new statue of Harriet Tubman in the building's courtyard, were still in the works.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the project last year. It's being funded through the state's $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative for the central New York region. He said that the center will pay tribute to historical figures with area connections such as Harriet Tubman and William Seward, who lived in Auburn and fought for equal rights.
"We kind of like to say that the center is the welcome mat ... and Auburn (and) the region itself is actually the museum exhibits to go see," said Visitor Experience Manager Courtney Rae Kasper in October.
Kasper said that the center will be a hub for everything going on at the historical and cultural sites in Auburn and Cayuga County.
She described the center as an interactive experience, filled with exhibits detailing an overview of equal rights throughout the state, listening booths, a social justice video table and various iPad components. From the center of the ERHC, Kasper said there are large picture windows that highlight sites such as the Seward House and Memorial City Hall. The hope is the windows will spark people's interest and encourage them to experience the sites for themselves.
Following the opening, the center's proposed hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Auburn man arrested for chasing woman down Genesee Street
An Auburn man was arrested Tuesday for chasing a woman down the street in October.
On Oct. 26, a woman and her 3-year-old son were walking down Genesee Street when Drew Strong, 27, began running toward them and yelling at them, the Auburn Police Department said. The victim and her son were able to run into a nearby apartment to keep safe.
By trying to make contact with the victim, Strong violated a stay away order of protection that the victim had against him, APD said. Strong did not make contact with the victims and there were no injuries.
Strong, of 101 Quill Ave., Apt. 147, was picked up on a warrant from the incident on Tuesday and charged with one count of first-degree criminal contempt, a class E felony.
Auburn frozen yogurt shop closes
The Auburn location of Hoopla! Frozen Yogurt has closed after more than five years in business.
As of Monday, a sign in the door of the Auburn Plaza business said that it is permanently closed, and that the store is for sale. A post on the business's Facebook page said that the store, and all of its equipment, will be sold turnkey.
An email to the hooplafroyo.com address on the sign, as well as a call to Hoopla! corporate, were not returned.
Michael Wachs, of plaza owner Auburn Associates, said Tuesday that Hoopla! did not provide advance notice of the closure.
"We're sorry to see them leave, and we'll do our best to re-tenant that location with a merchant that will hopefully be well-received in the community," he said.
The Auburn Hoopla! opened in September 2013 as the third location in a frozen yogurt chain that began in Binghamton and continued in Cortland. A defining feature of the chain was its Hoopla Helps program, which made it easier for nonprofits to host fundraisers at the stores.
The Binghamton and Cortland locations have since closed. An additional five Hoopla! stores in Camillus, Middletown, New Hartford, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie were sold in April to SweetFrog Frozen Yogurt, of Virginia, and reopened as SweetFrog locations.
The Hoopla! website currently lists three locations: Auburn and the Rochester suburbs of Pittsford and Greece. The latter two locations remain open.
Cayuga County residents hired as bank assistant VPs
Generations Bank has hired a pair of Cayuga County residents into assistant vice president positions.
Angelica Reyes was named as assistant vice president-office manager position to manage company offices in Waterloo. She brings 10 years of experience in the banking and financial service industyr to the position.
A Union Springs graduate, Reyes lives in Auburn and is a board member of the Play Space program of ABC Cayuga.
The bank also has hired Lorraine Gibbs as an assistant vice president-contact center manager, a job in which she'll manager the bank's customer service operation at its Seneca Falls headquarters.
Gibbs has 20 years of management experience, with 18 years in customer service.
Gibbs also lives in Auburn and is a volunteer and donor with Unity House of Cayuga County and the American Cancer Society.
Generations Bank has 11 retail locations in the Finger Lakes region, including offices in Auburn and Union Springs.
Sheriff: Have you seen this man who used stolen credit card at Auburn Walmart?
The Cayuga County Sheriff's Office is attempting to identify a man who used a stolen credit card at Walmart in Auburn.
The public outreach is part of an investigation into thefts from several vehicles parked at Lakeview Country Club in Owasco. The stolen items included several credit cards, according to a news release.
The stolen credit cards have been used at several locations in Cayuga and Onondaga counties, police said.
A surveillance image provided by the sheriff's office shows an individual who used one of the stolen credit cards at Walmart in Auburn. The department said they are attempting to identify the man as part of its investigation.
Anyone with information about the case should contact Detective Nicole Stewart at (315) 294-8093. Tips can be left on cayugasheriff.com. Anonymous tips are welcome.
Auburn City Court Judge Race: Thurston wins over Buschman
David Thurston won the race for Auburn's City Court Tuesday night, defeating challenger Steven Buschman in a close contest that came down to about 250 votes.
Thurston, who appeared on the ballot under the Democratic and Working Families parties, took 3,875 votes to Buschman's 3,614, according to unofficial results provided by the Cayuga County Board of Elections, in the bid to replace Judge Michael McKeon, who is retiring after a 20-year career presiding over the city court.
With the results in, Thurston said he was still “trying to stand on two feet” after a tiring day and was still working to process the result.
“I think I'm still trying to to decompress before there's any type of celebration,” Thurston said. “So far, we're very happy with the results. We worked very, very hard with this campaign and we're proud of how we ran it.”
Already the associate justice at the city court, Thurston said he did not anticipate much change before taking his new office, and would be continuing to keep up with his work at the court in the meantime.
Although Thurston said he is already familiar with all aspects of the how the court functions and expecting a smooth transition, he said the more difficult task would be filling McKeon's shoes.
“Judge McKeon has been a tremendous asset to this community in ways not many people get to see up close and first hand as I've had the opportunity to do over the past nearly five years now,” Thurston said. “Getting the chance to emulate him is going to be very rewarding and hopefully I can live up to that challenge.”
Buschman, "a lifelong Democrat" who ran on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines after losing a Democratic primary, said he was not ready to concede Tuesday night, but said it would be unlikely for absentee ballots to change the result.
The two candidates both said they spoke in person after the results came to offer their respect for each other, which Thurston said was genuinely appreciated and "something of a lost art" in today's politics.
"I have nothing but respect for David and his father Earl and the way we conducted ourselves during the course of our campaign — with integrity and playing above board," Buschman said.
Despite the loss, Buschman said he still considered his campaign a success, as the primary reason he continued running after the primary loss was to give Auburn voters a choice regardless of party.
"So people got out and they voted, and that was one of the things I wanted to accomplish was to give people a choice. This was always about the community first, not myself," Buschman said.
In other local elections:
Running unopposed in the race for Cayuga County Sheriff, current department member Detective Lt. Brian Schenck was elected with 20,810 votes. Schenck will replace longtime Sheriff David Gould, who is retiring this year.
Similarly, Dr. Adam Duckett won his uncontested race for re-election for County Coroner, receiving 20,534 votes.
In the only race in the Cayuga County Legislature, incumbent Democrat Joseph Bennett easily won a special election that was required after he briefly resigned and was reappointed earlier this year to qualify for retirement benefits.
Bennett's opponent, Mikel Zank, remained on the ballot after losing a Democratic primary but did not actively campaign.
In Onondaga County, Sheriff Gene Conway, won a second term against Democratic challenger Mike Montes.
Ormie King: Meet a legendary Auburn veteran
Today’s story is a great one, and is appropriate for Veterans Day. I would like to tell you about a 1992 Auburn High School graduate, U.S. Army Col. David Church. He is the son of David and Cindy Church of Auburn and he has three siblings. David is a senior intelligence officer at the Pentagon, where he oversees the policy development of geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence to include support to cyber and electronic warfare, space-based surveillance, identity intelligence (biometrics) and all-source intelligence. To put it in terms we can all understand, he helps to keep us all safe by keeping track of the bad guys and letting our troops on the ground know where they are. Pretty impressive, eh? Here’s his story:
Col. David Church, 44, was born and raised in Auburn, and his parents still live here. He attended Herman Elementary School, East Middle School and Auburn High School. He lived on Button Street in his early childhood years, then Genesee Street later on during high school.
“I am grateful for my parents who taught us to respect God, authority and others, how to have a strong work ethic and to be appreciative of the simple things in life," he said.
While growing up, David delivered The Citizen for six years until the age where he could work. He attended St. Francis Church, and mentioned that he grew up in a big Italian family. They enjoyed many happy times together in which his grandmother was renowned for her savory meals. David ran track and cross country for AHS. He belonged to the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program in high school, in which he rose to the position of cadet squadron commander. He said his ROTC instructor was Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran Col. Joseph Latt, and he had a big impact on David. He said his vast leadership experience and community involvement through ROTC in high school was his preparatory ticket to West Point.
Currently, David and his wife, Jacqueline, live in Washington at Bolling-Anacostia Joint Base, with their 2-year-old adopted twins, a boy and a girl, Nehemyah and Nevaeh. The twins have been with them since they were 7 days old, and their adoption will be finalized this Nov. 17, through the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency and the D.C. circuit court. Needless to say, they are very excited. And they plan to be home in Auburn this Thanksgiving to share their joy with their family here. “The twins have been an ordained blessing for my wife, Jaqueline, and I,” David said.
David said he and Jacqueline, a fashion designer and business owner, have been together for 15 years. "I am grateful for her unconditional love and support as a military spouse. I will always be beholden to her for sacrificing her career for mine. For example, we have made three coast-to-coast moves in the last seven years. Arizona to D.C. to California and then back to D.C. She is the most selfless person I have ever known.”
David graduated Auburn High School in 1992, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1996, and graduated from the Army War College in 2017. He has master's degrees in international affairs, public administration and policy, homeland security and strategic studies.
“I was in the Air Force Junior ROTC in high school and wanted to be (an Air Force) fighter pilot,” he said. “But my eyesight did not meet the requirements. As a result, I turned to the Army in order to fulfill my childhood dream and Godly purpose of serving as a military officer.”
David received an appointment to West Point from then U.S. Rep. Frank Horton, and after four demanding years, he received his commission as a second lieutenant in 1996, with a bachelor's degree and a major in Portuguese. “West Point was challenging, but I had an inexplicable, internal passion to be there,” he said. “I knew it was my purpose at the time even though there were many days I questioned it. I just knew that when God tells you to do something, you obey it.”
He spent the next five years as an air defense artillery officer, working with the Patriot Missile system in Texas, Saudi Arabia and Korea.
In 2002, after he transitioned to military intelligence, he served in Bosnia as a company commander for a human intelligence and counterintelligence unit. David then served alongside the Singapore Air Force in Arizona at a U.S. Army Apache flight training detachment as the squadron intelligence officer. During this assignment, David trained Apache pilots how to identify ground threats on the battlefield.
Later, David served in Operation Jump Start (on the U.S.-Mexico border) where he was a task force commander of 600 soldiers and airmen in the Tucson, Arizona, area, partnering with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (2006-2008). “Working border protection was the most rewarding experience,” he said. “It was an eye-opening experience as I was able to witness firsthand the magnitude and scope of the illegal immigration quandary along the Southwest border. As I walked the terrain, I could not believe the bevy of illegal immigrants that crossed the border and filled the border control detention cells at the stations and the endless amount of illegal narcotics that poured into the US. I had no idea. This experience gave me a profound appreciation of the work our border agents tirelessly conduct especially in a post 9-11 era ”
Next, David worked as the operations officer at the Army’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, in which Army soldiers learned to operate and maintain unmanned aircraft.
In a subsequent assignment, David served as a battalion commander for a juman intelligence and counterintelligence battalion in San Francisco. The battalion was also a language unit comprised of soldiers who spoke a gamut of different languages.
As he accepted positions with increasing responsibilities, David was promoted to colonel in his current role as Chief of the Intelligence Disciplines Division in the G-2, where he oversees the policy development of the previously mentioned intelligence skillsets.
The Army G-2, where David works, provides timely, relevant, accurate and synchronized intelligence support to tactical, operational and strategic-level commanders that could save the lives of soldiers fighting on the front lines. “In today’s complex and uncertain world, we must know what our adversaries are doing every day, so we can help keep America and its assets safe,’’ he said. “That’s our job in the intelligence community. America’s contemporary threats are not only credible and grave, but they are diverse.
“The Army is a great career,” he said. “From my first day at West Point to here in the Pentagon, I know the Army was the right choice for me. ... The Army has also given me the opportunity to pursue higher learning to include several graduate degrees.”
That’s why he assists members of Congress in identifying and recruiting high school students who could be candidates for attending the nation’s service academies.
As a career professional soldier, David has served on congressional Service Academy Nomination committees. Since 2004, he has served on committees for members of congress in Arizona, California and Maryland to include former Sen. John McCain’s committee. He currently serves on the committee for U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton in D.C.
In closing, David said, “The Army has been very good to my family as a whole, along with the opportunities for higher education that it presented. The Army has not only taught me about life in general, but it has also taught me about myself. Furthermore, the Army is an education in itself, with exposure to so many different people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and acumen. The people are the foundation of the Army, and where its strength lies – this is what makes it such a formidable force across the globe and separates it from other armies.”
Thank you, Col. David Church, for truly being a Legend of Auburn!
Auburn man pleads guilty to burglary that led to police chase
AUBURN — In Cayuga County Court Thursday, an Auburn man pleaded guilty and was sentenced for his involvement in a burglary this spring.
James Bell, 42, of 124 Fulton St., admitted to entering a detached garage on Holley Street on May 30 with the intent to commit larceny. He pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree burglary, reduced from his initial indictment for second-degree burglary, a class C felony.
"I went there to steal," Bell said in his plea, adding that he knew it was illegal. Bell, however, didn't act alone in the case.
Bell, a second felony offender, named a handful of codefendants, among them Jerad Stiles, 29, and Aaron Peters, 32, who were also charged with dozens of felonies following the burglary which ultimately led to a brief police pursuit in Auburn on May 31.
Bell, under oath in court, said that during the burglary he and others entered the Holley Street property. He said he took about $165 and that other people left with guns, televisions and bags of other items.
"I wasn't thinking (about) what was wrong," Bell said. "I was trying to feed a drug problem."
Bell, who was not involved in the police chase, was arraigned July 12 on a five-count indictment charging him with second- and third-degree burglary, third-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree conspiracy and petit larceny.
Cayuga County Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Valdina said all of Bell's charges were satisfied by his plea to second-degree burglary.
"Mr. Bell did provide cooperation," Valdina said, "which is why we're agreeing to this outcome."
Bell's attorney, Norman Chirco, said Bell's primary goal is to address his drug addiction.
While the maximum prison sentence could have been 7 years, for his conviction of third-degree burglary, reduced to second-degree, Leone sentenced Bell to 2 to 4 years that will be carried out as a Willard sentence due to Bell's history with drugs and the significant impact they had on his conduct. An order of protection will also be put in place for the homeowner.
"I apologize." Bell said. "I just appreciate ... the opportunity to get my life together."
Philanthropist Bisgrove remembered as 'visionary' committed to Auburn community
Jack Bisgrove, one of Auburn's most prolific philanthropists, was remembered Monday, after he succumbed to cancer over the weekend, as a "visionary" who cared deeply about his community.
John "Jack" Bisgrove, Jr., 79, was the former president and CEO of Red Star Express Lines, a national trucking company that started as a family business in Auburn in 1932.
Before and after his retirement, Bisgrove dedicated himself to the betterment of the community, leveraging millions of dollars through a number of different organizations to support projects promoting childhood literacy, entrepreneurship, musical theater, local medicine and more.
Along with his brother Jerry, Bisgrove was a co-founder of the Stardust Foundation of Central New York. Despite an initial plan to operate for only five years to provide $5 million, the charity lasted for nearly seven years and distributed over $12 million, according to Guy Cosentino, the foundation's former executive director.
Describing Bisgrove as "truly a visionary man," Cosentino said part of why he was so successful as a philanthropist was his dedication to developing partnerships and building consensus between and within organizations.
The foundation's investment in Auburn Community Hospital to help retain a maternity ward was the perfect example of that ethos, Cosentino said. While many charitable foundations simply provide grants to recipients and walk away, Bisgrove would make sure the organizations were just as committed to succeeding as the foundation.
"His take, and his brother's take, was if you invest in people and projects, that meant the recipients would also be doing some of the heavy lifting," Cosentino said.
Besides helping keep the maternity ward, the Stardust Foundation had a number of landmark projects, including providing over 150,000 books to children in partnership with the Imagination Library, supporting the creation of the Cayuga Economic Development agency and helping the the Cayuga Community Fund.
In addition to the Stardust Foundation, Bisgrove was a driving force behind the foundation of the economic development organization Locate Finger Lakes, led by former state Sen. Mike Nozzolio.
"Jack lived an exemplary life. He cared deeply for his family, his faith and his community and there was no greater advocate for the Finger Lakes region, the area he proudly called home," Nozzolio said in an email.
One of Bisgrove's biggest focuses, Cosentino said, was helping children. In addition to work with the maternity ward and the Imagination Library, Bisgrove played a critical role in Blueprint II, a youth leadership program, and Champions for Life, which promotes "Christian virtues and character through sports, recreational programs," and more.
"He was the type of person who knew he might plant trees that he might never benefit from the shade from. He was there for the long term, it was all for the community," Cosentino said, later adding "Jack Bisgrove always had charity in his heart. He really thought people could do better if you helped them or encouraged them."