Weekly top reads: Cayuga County prom for people with special needs, Auburn fitness class, Cayuga County crime stories
The Citizen staff
The Citizen's top 10 most-read stories of the week.
'Faith, hope and love': Cayuga County prom experience held for people with special needs
AURELIUS — In between dance moves, Frank Granato explained why he enjoyed the Night to Shine at Fingerlakes Mall.
"It makes me feel special," Frank said.
Frank and his designated partner for the night, or "buddy," Brooke Green, were among an estimated 750-800 people at the event in Aurelius Saturday, a prom experience for people with special needs, and the fourth annual celebration held by Auburn Alliance Church. Night to Shine parties were held across the country Friday but the Aurelius shindig was delayed a day due to weather. The events are sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.
The Cayuga County event also included an area where guests could get their makeup, hair and nails done and and their shoes shined. Each guest and their buddy walked down a red carpet upon their arrival as onlookers jubilantly cheered.
Chad Mitchell, the coordinator for the local event, noted the night took six months of preparation, but said it was worth the effort. He praised the various organizations that came together to make this night happen.
"Part of the mission of this event is to spread faith, hope and love to those who may be overlooked by the general community," Mitchell said. "We're here to serve the people with special needs within our community to let them know that they're loved and they're God's creations. God made them the way that they are."
A line formed for people to get their picture taken, with Tyler Wawrzaszek and buddy, Mandy Applebee, flashing their pearly whites for the camera.
At one of the stations, Taylor Campbell got her makeup done. Taylor, 15, said she wanted to achieve the look of Princess Tiana from the Disney film "The Princess and the Frog."
As she walked over to get her nails done, her mother, Katrina Taylor, looked on with a smile. Katrina said her daughter doesn't normally feel accepted at school. The Night to Shine, Katrina said, allows Taylor to be in an environment where everyone around her makes her feel included.
"This is where she feels at home," she said.
Harrison Mercado was a hurricane on the dance floor, spinning around and nailing his moves. His buddy, Kielan Whitner, often matched his steps. Close by taking pictures was Harrison's mother, Chris Mercado.
Harrison, 16, can form words but is still working on complete sentences, Chris said. One way Harrison can express himself is through dance. Chris said Harrison has relaxed over the last couple of years in ways he hadn't before. She noted concern about how he would feel about the red carpet welcome, but "he came running through." She was overjoyed to watch her son come into his own before her eyes.
"He's loosening up," Chris said as she gazed at Harrison with visible pride. "He's growing into himself."
Auburn man charged with forcing sexual conduct on 16-year-old
An Auburn man is accused of forcing a sexual act on a 16-year-old girl last month, Auburn Deputy Police Chief Roger Anthony said Thursday.
Jonathan James Moore, 21, is accused of using "physical force to force victim to perform sexual acts" on Jan. 2, Anthony said. Moore, 21, is accused of engaging in oral sexual conduct with a person younger than 17.
He was arrested Feb. 5 at his 22 Foote St. residence on a warrant issued Jan. 29. Moore established an online relationship with the victim, who doesn't reside in Auburn but would visit Moore at his home, Anthony said.
Moore is charged with first-degree criminal sex act, a class B felony, and the class E felonies of third-degree criminal sex act and third-degree rape. He is also charged with the misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of a child.
His bail was set at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond during his arraignment Wednesday in Auburn City Court. He was still incarcerated in the Cayuga County Jail as of Thursday afternoon.
Barber behind bars: Auburn's 'Mr. Paul' cuts hair at county jail
SENNETT — It sounds like any other barbershop.
One clipper gives way to another, a musical scale of motorized hums. The shearing of hair interrupts like bursts of static. And while some clients make conversation, others just murmur instructions.
For 50 years, these sounds would have located Paul Saltarello in Mr. Paul's Barber Shop, his longtime place of business on Owasco Street.
For the last several months, however, the now-retired Saltarello has been taking his clippers and scissors to a new clientele: the Cayuga County Jail.
The Cayuga County Legislature awarded Saltarello the contract to cut the hair of the jail's inmates in June. Saltarello beat four other bidders for the contract, succeeding Diego's Uppercuts in Auburn.
The Citizen met the 71-year-old barber Wednesday at the jail, where he arrives at 8 in the morning once a month with his briefcase of tools in hand. Saltarello typically stays there for five or six hours, fitting as many as 40 haircuts into his workday. For that reason, he waited until he retired to bid on the contract despite considering it while he was still running Mr. Paul's, he said.
"I was too busy to spend a whole day here," Saltarello said. "But I have more time now. And I want to continue hair cutting."
Sheriff Custody Officer Suzie Fiduccia escorts the barber through the jail. Wednesday, she took him to the program room in the blocks, commonly referred to as "the old part" of the 1988 jail. First in the chair was inmate Emmanuel Walls. Saltarello said the plastic or metal chairs at the jail are one of the biggest departures from the barber shop experience, where cushions set the client at ease.
Inmates can't ask Saltarello for any haircut they want. Mohawks, for instance, aren't allowed, Fiduccia said. And if there were no restrictions, Saltarello wouldn't be able to cut as much hair as he does. Still, he tries to be accommodating. So when he asked Walls if he liked his sides at 1/2 inch, and Walls asked if the barber could go shorter, he obliged. He reached for the 1/8 inch clippers.
Previous barbers at the jail weren't so accommodating, Saltarello said. They'd use one clipper and move inmates through their chair like Marines at Parris Island. But with Saltarello, they can get the same trendy high-and-tight they'd get outside their sterile gray confines. Most inmates appreciate that, he said. Some, though, get a little too particular about what they want.
"Even here, guys are still fussy about their haircuts," he said.
"I don't complain," Walls chimed in from the chair. "I like getting my hair cut."
Some people refer to Paulo Saltarello simply as "Paul." By birth he is "Paulo," the name his…
Inmates who have money in their commissary accounts pay for their haircuts, Fiduccia said. They cost $13 for men, $15 for women. Beard trims are $3. Inmates with no money can still get haircuts, but not beard trims. If they work in the kitchen, however, Fiduccia encourages trims. And all inmates have to sign up in advance for their time in Saltarello's chair so she can keep his day orderly.
"I always ask him if he wants to take a break, but he doesn't," she said.
Saltarello had no women's hair to cut that day. Currently, they comprise 15 of the jail's 130 or so inmates, Fiduccia said. The latter number is down from 180 to 190, partially due to the state's bail reform law that took effect this year. The officer added that women who are on their way to prison often ask to have their heads shaved so as to deny corrections officers the satisfaction of doing so there.
A few minutes after Walls left, another inmate entered.
Saltarello said he talks with most of his clients at the jail, though not at much length. Some he knows from outside. He doesn't care why they're in jail, he said, just that they're in his chair.
"When I do the haircut, I relate to the person," he said. "The same as it was in the shop."
It's with the inmates Saltarello sees more than once that he develops the most important rapport between barber and client. After brushing off the current inmate, who declined to sign a media release, the barber handed him a pocket mirror. The inmate looked over his tightly clipped sides and modest bangs. Hunching forward to leave the chair, he said with muted surprise, "It looks just like last time."
"See, I remembered," Saltarello responded.
After that inmate and a few others, Fiduccia escorted Saltarello to a newer part of the jail, where its kitchen and other workers reside. An inmate would sweep the clippings in the program room later. In the next room, the barber unspooled his towel on a table and laid out his tools there. The light in the room was brighter than that of the previous one, he noted with a satisfied grin.
Among the next inmates was William Burgdoff, who couldn't help spying some grays in the hair tumbling to the floor. Fiduccia said it could be worse: He could be going bald. Burgdoff agreed with a laugh.
Then, Saltarello offered some words of wisdom that appear to be his own, or at least not widely used. Either way, they sounded like words he's been saying to young men in his barber's chair for years.
"The hair on young men is like the ocean," he said. "It can be all waves, and then it can be all beaches, too."
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Macaron business to move into downtown Auburn space
Theresa Mendez is moving her business, Moonflower Macarons, from her home kitchen in Aurora to a commercial space in downtown Auburn.
The space, located at 10 Seminary Ave., will allow Mendez to make up to four times as many of the colorful but temperamental French treat, she told The Citizen Wednesday.
But she's also moving her macaron business into a commercial space because, from there, she'll be able to sell her product by an even greater order of magnitude.
Currently, Mendez can't ship macarons outside the state nor sell them from her home, according to the rules of her Home Processor Exemption from the state Department of Agriculture & Markets.
At the new home of Moonflower Macarons, however, she'll be able to do both.
"The most common questions I've gotten since I started the business have been, 'Do you ship?' and 'Where is your shop?'" she said. "So this answers everybody's questions all at once."
Mendez announced the move on her business's Facebook page Jan. 29. The 575-square-foot Seminary Avenue building was previously occupied by Arts in Motion Dance Center, which moved to 343 Clark St. in Auburn last year. Mendez said she hopes to have her commercial kitchen operating there and handling national shipping orders through moonflowermacarons.com by April or May.
If that goes according to plan, she'll open a boutique shop space with dine-in seating sometime in the fall. The shop will serve pastries like eclairs and cheesecakes in addition to macarons, as well as sustainable, fair trade tea and coffee from Octane Social House in Auburn, Mendez said. She'd like to add some removable trellises to give the shop a French garden feel, she added.
Theresa Mendez will earn a master's degree in English at the end of this semester. But on he…
Mendez is working with the Cayuga Economic Development Agency on the next phase of her business, she said.
"They've been really awesome at getting everything together that I need," she said. "If I didn't have that, I don't know that I'd be positioned to make this move."
Moonflower Macarons started as a part-time summer job in 2018, but now Mendez makes between 1,500 and 2,000 macarons a week, she said. The confections don't come easy, either: They must be dyed, mixed and piped by hand in order to achieve their vibrance, chewy texture and perfectly circular form. The treat's visual qualities make it a popular subject on Instagram.
Mendez said her sales increased fivefold in 2019, with most of that new demand coming from Auburn. She attributes that to her weekly presence at the Downtown Auburn Saturday Market at the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center and the Taste NY Market there. She'll return to the weekly market this summer, she said.
"Auburn has really been a driver for me making this move," she said. "Everyone there has been super supportive."
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Cayuga County under winter storm warnings as ice, snow pile up
A winter storm hitting much of upstate New York brought freezing rain and icy roads overnight, with quickly accumulating snow and heavy winds blasting the region during the day Friday.
Winter storm warnings have been issued into Friday night or Saturday morning for northern and southern Cayuga County, as well as all of the counties that surround Cayuga.
In southern Cayuga County, the National Weather Service warning runs through midnight Friday. Heavy mixed precipitation — including predictions of 10 to 14 inches of snow — as well as a 10th of an inch of ice and gusty winds are likely. Snowfall rates were reaching two inches per hour, with the agency saying that in some areas, rates of 3 inches per hour could be seen in the early afternoon. Snow was expected to become lighter by mid-afternoon.
"Travel could be very difficult," the weather service said. "Blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility this afternoon through evening. Scattered power outages possible this afternoon."
In northern Cayuga County, the winter storm warning runs until 6 a.m. Saturday. Snow totals are predicted to range between 5 and 9 inches, with 35 mph wind gusts.
The weather service said travel conditions will be difficult throughout the region, especially during the Friday morning commute.
The court did not have information as of Tuesday afternoon indicating that Deangelis made bail. His preliminary hearing is set for Friday.
Social network: Auburn fitness class sparked by an online community
AUBURN — As the year 2020 approached, YMCA fitness instructor Stacy Burns and her friends felt out of touch with their healthy habits.
Feeling they were lacking connection and support, Burns wondered how she could unite as many people as possible to start working out together.
"In this day and age, the best way to make that connection is clearly social media. Whether we like it or not, that's how you connect with people," Burns said.
In December, she started the Facebook page Reboot 2020 to see how many people she could reach and get interest from. The page currently has 244 followers.
"It just shocked me. It was like, holy cow, this is what we needed. This is what I needed," Burns said.
She wanted to continue the group's momentum by offering an eight-week exercise course, which she described as a "friendly little weight-loss challenge" for the new year.
The group's first workout, on Jan. 15, was attended by about 60 people. "It blew up in such a good way," Burns said. She leads the classes, which are open to people with any level of exercise experience, every Wednesday night at the Auburn YMCA at 27 William St.
"These are people that are on the same Facebook page together," Burns said. "To watch them get into the room and little by little each week start connecting that much more — I mean I really think there's going to be friendships made out of this."
When developing the course, Burns also asked her boss and YMCA Health and Wellness Director Laura Clary to allow people without YMCA memberships to join her class.
Clary said yes.
She was there for the first "final five" exercise Burns leads at the end of every class, when five minutes is set aside for the group to share personal struggles.
"I left there and I felt like I had been at a halftime football locker room talk by a coach. It was so motivating and dead on," Clary said.
Burns has also shared before and after photos of her weight loss with the Facebook group, and tries to show the people in her classes — who are mostly women — support with eye contact and motivation.
"I feel, as a previously obese person, I know how that feels to have somebody say 'I get exactly where you're coming from,'" she said.
To accommodate the different skill levels and amount of people involved in the classes, Burns designed the exercises around partner work, cardio, strength building and interval work.
She attributed the high turnout to the feeling of connection and support within the class. "Women just don't have that the way they should these days," she said.
"I'm far, far from perfect," Burns continued. "But I kind of like who I've become. And I want these women to get to a point where they can kind of like who they've become, too."
Future Catholic-based school secures Auburn location as registration begins
The future school, started by the Committee for the Continuation of Catholic Education, will be called St. Albert the Great Academy and is set to open in September. The Facebook page for the academy announced Jan. 30 that the school will be located at the former location of the SS. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic School on 134 Washington St., which closed in 2013.
The new school committee announced its plans to St. Joseph parents on the same November day the closure was announced by the Catholic Diocese of Rochester. The diocese said it will shutter St. Joseph in June amid declining enrollment and financial issues. St. Albert the Great Academy will serve students from pre-K through fifth grade.
New school committee member Erin Burroughs said Wednesday that the lease for the property, which is near the St. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church, was signed earlier this week. She said renovations were made to the building, such as installing a new roof and putting in new windows, shortly before it closed. As a result, the school doesn't require major renovations, Burroughs said, adding that the cleaning process has already begun with the church's parish.
Burroughs thanked the church's pastor, the Rev. Vasile Colopelnic, for offering the space.
"He was excited to have it utilized since it's been vacant, so he's happy to have a tenant," she said.
Burroughs noted the academy has made additional progress, with registration now underway and the school's website, stalbertthegreatacademy.com, launched on Feb. 3. An open house and public meeting will also be held March 5, following strong reception of a meeting in December for community members to discuss suggestions and identify initial needs for the school. Burroughs said they are hoping to showcase one or two classrooms during the open house.
Many of the school's desks will be donated by the parishes that own St. Joseph after the end of the school year. The parishes are set to donate other items as the academy assesses its needs, Burroughs said.
She also noted the school has an academic development team that will work on the institution's curriculum. A hiring team has also been established to get staffing in place, starting with bringing in a principal, Burroughs continued. She noted the academy is also developing before-school and after-school care at the building and monthly Mass will be held at St. Hyacinth Church on 63 Pulaski St., which isn't far from the school's location.
Burroughs said she feels good about the committee's initiative to open the school.
"I think that we've made some really great progress in a short period of time and I think we're on track with registration," she said.
Progress 2020: Cayuga County dairy farms unify in face of industry challenges
AUBURN — The Cornell Cooperative Extension has worked directly with 45 to 50 dairy farms in Cayuga County, Associate Director Daniel Welch estimated. Many of them are multi-generational farms.
"They’re very interested in stewardship of that land and making sure that land is going to be productive for farming for the next generation," Welch said. The extension has held workshops on soil health, agricultural pests and the trial results of using corn silage — a type of cow feed.
But Welch knows dairy farms face some issues too significant to tackle in a workshop. "There’s some structural changes that have been going on in the milk marketing, milk processing side of things that have been fairly acute here in the Northeast," he said.
Welch said global trade disputes have played into the more localized problem of milk surpluses and decreased milk prices. With a surplus of milk in the Northeast, Cayuga County Farm Bureau Director Ray Lockwood said there's uncertainty over where farmers will find a marketplace for their dairy products.
"The price of milk has been very depressed for the last five years," he said. "It's break even or less, you've used up so much of your equity to survive."
Kelly O'Hara, owner of Oakwood Dairy in Auburn, described dairy farmers as "price takers" — because they need to take whatever price milk is going for in the market. But member-managed Cayuga Marketing has helped some dairy farms in Central New York lower the costs of their marketing and production.
O'Hara's father was a founder of Cayuga Marketing, which 29 dairy farms across six counties use to sell their milk. The group was founded in 1986 by a number of farms "looking to collaborate, looking to build economies of scale, looking to build their quantity of milk that they were selling," O’Hara said.
Over the years, that collaboration has secured price incentives and premiums for dairy farms that pool their milk for sale through Cayuga Marketing. Oakwood is currently producing liquid milk with approximately nine other member farms for Fage yogurt, a deal that requires a level of production no one farm could meet on its own.
Dan McGarr, of McGarr Farms in King Ferry, said Cayuga Marketing does a "really good job" negotiating milk contracts. He described the marketing cooperative as a small group of mostly larger dairy farms. "It's proven to be a good source of supply for people, so we've been able to get a little bit extra in our checks, as opposed to being a member of one of the larger cooperatives," he said.
Cayuga Marketing originally sold its members’ milk to the Syracuse-based Dairylea Cooperative until the agency formed the local processing plant Cayuga Milk Ingredients. When Cayuga Milk opened in 2014, its location at 15 Eagle Drive in Aurelius decreased the fuel and labor costs associated with hauling milk to be processed — expenses that are always increasing, O’Hara said.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension has also administered the state's Dairy Advancement Program, which provides business and agricultural planning assistance to small and mid-sized dairy farms. Welch said the program could, for example, share the cost of a consultant if a dairy farmer wanted to come up with a business or nutrient management plan.
He said the extension also plans to reach out and gauge the needs of farmers "across products" for future programs. "There's still a lot of opportunities for dairy farms to be successful in the county," Welch said.
Ormie King: Celebrating Auburn-area couples ahead of Valentine's Day
With Valentine’s Day this week, it seems only appropriate to share some photos with you of just a few of the many great couples here in town! Don’t forget your Valentine this Friday!