Proposed dog park in Watertown gets informal approval from City Council

After eight years of lobbying, arguing and sometimes irritating City Council members, Scott A. Gates finally received enough support Monday night potentially to get a dog park created in the city.

The majority of council members informally agreed that they are open to donating land for a centrally located dog park somewhere in the city.

However, they did not make a formal commitment to the project. They told Mr. Gates no city money can be used to build or maintain it.

They also made it clear that Mr. Gates must raise money for the project before they would consider donating the land.

Yet Mr. Gates said he finally believes the dog park will be built. “I’m on a cloud,” he said.

About 20 supporters joined him at Monday’s meeting, with five speakers contending dogs need a place to exercise and learn social skills with other canines.

Dog owner Carmella Longo said she hoped that the city and the dog park supporters could work together to get it built.

“All of us are on the same side,” she said.

In the past eight years, the five-member City Council vehemently opposed the city’s getting involved in the project. Mr. Gates recently met with council members Stephen A. Jennings, Teresa R. Macaluso and Joseph M. Butler Jr. to see if he could sway their support. The three said they did not oppose it.

With the council now open to the idea, Mr. Gates said he can go to businesses and individuals to obtain financial commitments to build the dog park. A local fence company, he said, has promised to donate material.

At this point, he doesn’t know how much it would cost or how big it would be; that depends on donations, he said. He has always wanted it to be built in Thompson Park, but council members would not agree on a site Monday night.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham told him that the council still has to agree on a site and what the project would look like, warning him that it could be difficult to find donors.

“I tell you it’s not going to be easy,” he said, “because there’s a lot of people there asking for money.”

It was always an uphill battle. Mr. Gates and council members sparred over the issue since he began attending council meetings in 2006. They pointed out that a dog park exists at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Jefferson County’s campus on Water Street.

At one time, Mr. Gates said he raised $225,000 from an unidentified donor, but council members would not budge. Several other communities in the region, including Plattsburgh, Potsdam and Canton, either have dog parks or are planning them.

When he first proposed the idea, his dog, Mia, accompanied him to the first three council meetings he attended, Mr. Gates recalled. Now 12, the dog suffers from Cushing’s disease and is going blind. The husky will not be able to enjoy the dog park if it’s built, he said.

“I’ll take her there one time and we can be there together,” he said. “She started this out with me. She’ll be there with me all the way.”

 

By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer

Inaugural mud run Sept. 27 to benefit nonprofits, scholarships

CROGHAN — Passion for helping fellow community members has inspired staff members at Farm Credit East to host the inaugural North Country 5k Challenge and 3k Fun Run on Sept. 27 at the Oswegatchie Educational Center, 9340 Long Point Road.

Beginning at 9 a.m. that day, participants may register for the muddy trail run with man-made and natural obstacles, all to benefit local scholarships, fill food pantry shelves and provide financial support for the New York FFA Leadership Training Foundation, which operates the educational center.

“All of the staff at Farm Credit are really involved in the community,” said Allyson R. Jones-Brimmer, marketing agent for Farm Credit East. “We had talked about a few different ideas, and the mud run looked like a lot of fun.”

According to a Farm Credit East news release, the organization offers loans and leases, and other “agriculturally-specific financial services for businesses related to farming, horticulture, forestry and commercial fishing.”

Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to attend the challenge and fun run, Ms. Jones-Brimmer said.

“It’s definitely a trail run, so (people) aren’t looking at a flat-road surface,” she said. “There will be some challenging parts.”

Since weather in the Adirondacks is unpredictable, she said, the potential for rain could make it “that much more fun.” If the day is more dry, however, she said the event could serve as a quick fall foliage tour.

Proceeds will benefit the Northern New York Community Foundation, specifically for the 10th Mountain Division Scholarship and the Douglas & Helen Murray Scholarship. Ms. Jones-Brimmer said many staff members are connected to the Murray family, and the family is a “farm family,” something to which Farm Credit East is deeply rooted.

Community Foundation Executive Director Rande S. Richardson said there is some support for specific scholarships, but “this one is particularly interesting because it isn’t benefiting their own organization.”

He said the Murray family scholarship will go to a student pursuing a career in agriculture/farming.

The Food Bank of Central New York, which serves 11 counties, including Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence, also will receive some of the proceeds for local food pantries and soup kitchens. Monetary support to the New York FFA Leadership Training Foundation will help youth experience leadership, growth and success, according to an event news release.

“It takes a few years to get something like this up and running,” Ms. Jones-Brimmer said. “If it’s fun, I think people will talk and come out next year.”

For the timed 5k event, the top male and female racer will each receive a $200 Visa gift card. Throughout the day, other participants will be randomly selected for various prizes. Recovery drinks and snacks will be offered after the race, and the educational center will have lunch for purchase.

For more information about the race, visit www.EZRaceReg.com, or www.Facebook.com/NorthCountry5k.

By Rebecca Madden, Times Staff Writer

Bernier, Carr & Associates names Lewis as CEO

Kevin E. Lewis, who came to the firm in 2013, will focus on strategic initiatives as CEO. Norm Johnston / Watertown Daily Times

Kevin E. Lewis was named CEO of Bernier, Carr & Associates on Thursday as the company announced changes to its leadership structure.

The architectural, engineering and land surveying firm, headquartered on Mullin Street, had gone nearly a year without a CEO following the retirement of Bernard H. “Bernie” Brown Jr. Mr. Lewis was hired by the company in September 2013 as director of business development. He previously served as the group president of Tetra Tech Architects and Engineers of Syracuse, where he worked for 10 years.

Mr. Lewis, 60, Cape Vincent, said Wednesday that job titles of other leaders won’t change under the company’s new structure, but the mission of its leaders will be more clearly defined because the firm’s two divisions will function as separate businesses guided by their own teams of employees. [Read more...]

Schumer seeks launch of manufacturing training at colleges

Community colleges across the state could launch advanced manufacturing programs next year if the federal government awards a $15 million grant to fund the plan.

During a conference call Wednesday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said he has urged the U.S. Department of Labor to award funding to the ­SUNY community colleges. The funding would enable colleges to launch certified degree programs in the field of mechatronics to serve manufacturers with hiring plans.

A total of 30 institutions partnered to apply for funding, including Jefferson Community College, Watertown, and North Country Community College, Saranac Lake. But while JCC supported the funding application, it wouldn’t launch a program, because no local manufacturers were identified that demand trained employees. NCCC, meanwhile, would launch a program to train employees for jobs at McCadam Cheese Co., Chateaugay, International Paper Co., Ticonderoga, and the Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake.

Mr. Schumer, D-N.Y., said studies show demand among manufacturers for trained workers will grow in the emerging field of mechatronics, which combines mechanical, electrical, industrial and computer engineering. From 2010 to 2020, SUNY estimated that about 20,000 jobs would be created for workers trained in the field. In the north country, 841 of those jobs will have to be filled by 2020, according to SUNY.

“We need the community college network in upstate New York working to provide people with skills they need to gain employment in these new industries,” Mr. Schumer said. “This program has our community colleges give them the skills so they can fill these jobs.”

Mr. Schumer said mechatronics training programs could be launched at community colleges as early as next spring, if funding is awarded this fall. He said those programs could train about 1,200 workers each year to be employed across the state. Those who complete training, for example, could be hired by manufacturers as maintenance and repair workers, industrial machinery mechanics and technical sales representatives.

Mr. Schumer said community colleges would partner with local manufacturers to develop training programs to meet their demands. Colleges would be awarded program funding based on their enrollment demands.

“The companies will tell colleges what they need, and the colleges will set up programs for them,” Mr. Schumer said, adding that manufacturers often don’t offer in-house training. “Some of the larger companies do it, but for smaller companies it’s harder to do, and this will help them grow and expand.”

A recent SUNY survey of 162 manufacturers found 97.5 percent of respondents said they expect to grow and/or hire workers in the next three to five years, Mr. Schumer said.

Thomas J. Finch, vice president for academic affairs at JCC, said that although the college won’t launch a program, it could do so in the future if manufacturers in need of employees with mechatronics training locate here.

“If one of those manufacturers want to locate near JCC, then we could look at being a more active partner,” he said. “This is a great program for the state, because some of our students don’t stay local and may benefit from it in the future” at a sister institution.

 

By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

Potsdam salon changes owners after 20 years

Emily R. Susice, the new owner of the Hair Studio, separates hair for highlights Tuesday at her salon in Potsdam. Melanie Kimbler-Lago/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — Though the faces will not change, nor the service, the Hair Studio, 8 Main St., has a new owner in Emily R. Susice, one of the salon’s longtime employees.

Buying the business last week from owner and founder Tina Wiley, Mrs. Susice plans to add manicures, pedicures and massage therapy to the list of services the salon provides.

Mrs. Susice, 29, who has worked as a hairdresser at the salon for 11 years, will be the second owner the business has had in two decades.

The Edwards native plans to expand salon offerings to include basic French manicures, spa pedicures and mini pedicures, which she said the business already is licensed to perform.

According to Mrs. Susice, stylists can choose to do manicures and pedicures to supplement their income. Paraffin wax treatments also will be made available, to soothe the cracked skin of hands and feet in winter.

In addition to caring for the extremities of its patrons, the salon soon will employ a licensed massage therapist to do full body massages in a private room set aside by Mrs. Susice, who will be interviewing potential therapists soon.

As she adds services, she also subtracts them, no longer offering any kind of tanning because of rising tax and insurance costs and changing regulations.

According to Mrs. Susice, employment at the salon will not change with her leadership. She said all of the hairdressers are self-employed, owning the booth that they work and getting 100 percent of their earnings.

“We work as a team. It’s not a competition between any of us,” she said.

Mrs. Wiley, previous owner and founder of the salon who has run the business since 1994, said ownership is a huge step for Mrs. Susice, who she said she has been grooming for two years.

“It’s time for new beginnings,” Mrs. Wiley said. “It’s just a passing of the torch to another 20 years of success at the Hair Studio.”

Stepping down, Mrs. Wiley will continue to work part time, and wants her customers to know she’ll still be there for them. She considers her staff family, many of whom have worked for her for more than a decade.

“I built this business as a family. I’ve never been an ‘owner,’” Mrs. Wiley said. “This is about us, and it’s going to continue being about us.”

By Alan Rizzo, Times Staff Writer

20 Under 40 nomination

To nominate a candidate for NNY Business magazine’s annual 20 Under 40 Awards, please either fill out the below form or download and print out the PDF version below. Completed forms can either be emailed to nnybusiness@wdt.net or mailed to: 20 Under 40, NNY Business, 260 Washington St., Watertown, NY 13601. Nominations must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 13.

NNYB_20U40_NomForm_2014

 

Congressional candidates weigh in on health care

Healthcare has proven to be a contentious issue in the race for New York’s 21st Congressional District, with all three candidates voicing displeasure with the Affordable Care Act, even as its provisions, once advanced as theoretical solutions, solidify into reality.

But the three candidates — Republican and Conservative nominee Elise M. Stefanik, Democrat and Working Families Party nominee Aaron G. Woolf and Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello — have very different takes on how to fix the nation’s healthcare system.

For Ms. Stefanik, it’s a full repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, though the candidate, a former White House aide who lives in Willsboro, also acknowledged she would be willing to look at “immediate fixes” to the law in the meantime.

“I’ve made very clear since the beginning of the campaign that I would have voted no on Obamacare,” Ms. Stefanik said, using the term favored by Republicans. “I support the repeal but I feel that it is important to put forth what a comprehensive health care package would look like and, in the meantime, talk about those immediate fixes.”

To that end, Ms. Stefanik put forward a series of proposals last week to replace the law or at least temporarily fix the parts of it she said aren’t working well.

In contrast to Ms. Stefanik’s position, Mr. Woolf’s refusal to say whether he would have voted for the law have become a mini-theme on the campaign trail lately, cropping up at events centered on entirely different topics, as during a news conference on women’s issues last week in Watertown.

But from Mr. Woolf’s perspective, it is a “hypothetical” question that doesn’t pertain to his plans to fix certain parts of the law.

“Everyone knows where I stand on this piece of legislation,” Mr. Woolf, a documentary filmmaker with a home in Elizabethtown said. “This is what we have before us. And I think one of the things that characterizes a lot of the way I approach the world politically is fixing what we have before us.”

For his part, Mr. Funiciello, a bakery and cafe owner from Glens Falls, railed against the Affordable Care Act, calling it “anti-worker.” He advocated for a single-payer healthcare system in which the government would pay for all medical services.

“I think the ACA, to put it mildly, is the most anti-worker bill that has been passed in the United States since NAFTA and GATT were railroaded through by the corporate parties,” Mr. Funiciello said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. “That one destroying our manufacturing base and this one forcing the working poor to buy for-profit health insurance. And the injustice and the brutality of that is that we are already supporting the healthcare infrastructure to the tune of 60 percent.”

Citing an article titled “Paying for National Health Insurance — And Not Getting It” published in Health Affairs by Steffie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein in 2002, Mr. Funiciello said that moving to a single-payer model would not be as onerous on taxpayers as previously thought.

The three candidates are running to replace Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who is not seeking re-election. As one of his first acts in office, Mr. Owens voted for the Affordable Care Act — a position he spent the following two election cycles defending.

Ms. Stefanik and Mr. Woolf both agreed on repealing the medical device tax but differed on most every other point.

For instance, Ms. Stefanik said she would look to protect those with pre-existing conditions by continuing to allow states to fund the “high risk pools” that provide insurance coverage for some individuals who do not qualify for other plans. The Woolf campaign attacked this idea as one that would return the health insurance marketplace to a system where working families suffer under high deductibles.

On purchasing health care across state lines:

“It would expand choices and lower costs. Right now in this district, especially in the Clinton County, Essex County area, even Franklin County, there are limited options. But if you go across to Vermont, there are many more options in the Burlington area, so again, I think it’s rethinking how we focus on a 21st century economy,” Ms. Stefanik said.

“I also think its reflective of people of our age group who move around more frequently as opposed to our parents’s or grandparents’s generation. It allows healthcare coverage to be portable in a way it hasn’t before but ultimately that will help lower costs for everyone because you’re allowing the free market to thrive,” said Ms. Stefanik, who recently turned 30.

In a statement, the Woolf campaign said that Ms. Stefanik’s proposal would hobble states with strong patient and consumer protections in favor of states with weaker protections, ignores the varying rates of healthcare costs by geography and fails to take into account the fact that the Affordable Care Act allows for regulated cooperation over interstate purchasing.

On addressing tort reform and reducing so-called “frivolous lawsuits”:

“The cost of medical malpractice liabilities are rising so high, it’s forcing the practice of defensive medicine at the physician base but also for hospitals, and it’s ultimately driving the cost up for consumers. I think the way you can address tort reform is having a cap on what those lawsuits, basically more protection for our physicians, I think, so they’re avoiding driving up those costs and practicing defensive medicine,” Ms. Stefanik said.

“I’m all too aware how easy it is to sue a physician and the pressures our physicians are facing, seeing patients for 7 to 15 minutes, it’s all that much easier for somebody to find an error,” Mr. Woolf said. “I think it’s facile to say ‘tort reform’ as just kind of a blanket statement. We need to cut down on frivolous lawsuits but we need to make sure we have a system of justice when things go wrong.”

The employer mandate:

“Basically it incentivizes businesses to not hire above the 50 employee number… I think we should be encouraging companies to grow. I’ve heard from a number of companies who are at the cusp who are not hiring those additional three or four people because they don’t want to be above the line,” Ms. Stefanik said.

According to Yianni Varonis, Mr. Woolf’s spokesman, Mr. Woolf wants to give businesses enough time to meet the employer mandate and would be open to delaying the implementation of the rule further.

Mr. Woolf would also like to extend tax credits offered to businesses with 25 or fewer employees who offer health insurance to those who employ between 25 and 50 people, Mr. Varonis said in an email.

Mr. Woolf also proposed creating another, more affordable category for individuals who are purchasing health insurance on a state marketplace — something that would, for instance, fall below the “Bronze” plan on the New York state exchange.

On the Affordable Care Act

“I believe that everyone should have access to affordable healthcare and Obamacare is not moving us in that direction. I think that’s become pretty clear to any candidate you speak to… That’s an important vote, it’s not a hypothetical. It’s a vote that actually came up in Congress and it’s a vote that our current member of Congress voted the day after he was sworn into Congress. It’s one of the top issues in this election cycle. I think it’s an important issue to stake where you are,” Ms. Stefanik said.

“I absolutely agree that people have a right to healthcare. I feel like, when you’re sick you should be able to go to a doctor. I think what we have to do is continually tweak and improve a system that allows that to happen. I think there are particular challenges with rural healthcare delivery, I think this district has particular challenges but I think what we have is a significant number of residents who were previously uninsured that now have quality affordable healthcare and that’s an important step,” Mr. Woolf said.

By Daniel Flatley, Times Staff Writer

High tunnel in Watertown shelters raspberries from elements (VIDEO)

Gail C. Millard stands at the entrance of his high tunnel, which has led to a bumper crop of raspberries for the Watertown grower. Norm Johnston / NNY Business

Gail C. Millard stands at the entrance of his high tunnel, which has led to a bumper crop of raspberries for the Watertown grower. Norm Johnston / NNY Business

Mother Nature needs to be tamed for raspberries to thrive in the north country.

And for Gail C. Millard, a high tunnel with temperature-controlled curtains built in the summer of 2012 has gotten that job done at Little m Farm off County Road 64 in the town of Watertown. The 66-year-old, who invested about $15,000 to build the tunnel, said he expects the harvest of its three rows of raspberry canes to be excellent this fall.

Since July, he has picked enough raspberries to fill 15 to 50 half-pints each week. Half-pints are sold for $3 apiece at his store, which also offers an array of fresh vegetables and fruits grown on the farm. Most of the raspberries are sold to members of a Burrville-based community-supported agriculture program called Miracles by the Acre.

Years of planning the tunnel have finally paid off for Mr. Millard, who said it has safeguarded the plants from the elements and tempered hot summer weather to create ideal growing conditions.

“We’re not harvesting a lot yet, but it keeps up with the product I’m selling right now,” said Mr. Millard, who operates the business with his wife, Ann M. “There was a steep learning curve, and it took a lot of work to do this.” [Read more...]

Plan for Honda dealership takes 90 degree turn toward I-81

Andrew R. Nevin, senior planner for the Jefferson County Planning Department, reviewed a site plan Tuesday for F.X. Caprara’s Honda dealership proposed at the corporate park off Bradley Street during the Planning Board meeting in the village of Clayton. Ted Booker / NNY Business

Andrew R. Nevin, senior planner for the Jefferson County Planning Department, reviewed a site plan Tuesday for F.X. Caprara’s Honda dealership proposed at the corporate park off Bradley Street during the Planning Board meeting in the village of Clayton. Ted Booker / NNY Business

The Honda dealership planned at the Bradley Street corporate park is expected to take a 90-degree turn, according to a site plan presented Tuesday during the Jefferson County Planning Board’s meeting at the town’s headquarters in the Clayton Opera House.

The 30,000-square-foot building would face Interstate 81, not Bradley Street, according to a last-minute change sought by F.X. Caprara Auto Sales, said Michael B. Lasell, owner of MBL Engineering of Sandy Creek. Mr. Lasell said during the meeting that F.X. Caprara hopes the change, which was made to attract more traffic from I-81 to the business off Bradley Street, will receive final approval Sept. 3 from the town of Pamelia Planning Board. The County Planning Board voted to recommend the site plan for approval after hearing a report about the dealership, which would be built next to the Exit 47 interchange off I-81 at the northern end of the corporate park planned in the town of Pamelia by Purcell Construction Co., Watertown.

“The owner is looking to rotate the building 90 degrees,” Mr. Lasell said, referring to Charles G. Caprara, co-owner of the F.X. Caprara franchise. “It’s a change we want to move forward with at the next town meeting, assuming they won’t require another public hearing and meeting.”

If the Pamelia Planning Board approves the site plan, F.X. Caprara will need only a 30-day traffic impact study to be completed by the state Department of Transportation for the project to move ahead, Mr. Lasell said. Obtaining that approval would allow Purcell to start building water and sewer lines to the parcel this fall, he said. F.X. Caprara will accept bids from contractors this fall for the construction of the building. It plans to open the dealership in March. [Read more...]

Construction starts on Precision Wash at

D.C. Builders of Watertown works on a new Precision Car Wash on Eastern Boulevard on Monday. The car wash will open in December with five bays. Justin Sorensen / NNY Business

D.C. Builders of Watertown works on a new Precision Car Wash on Eastern Boulevard on Monday. The car wash will open in December with five bays. Justin Sorensen / NNY Business

Construction workers have begun building a Precision Wash car wash outside Northland Plaza off Eastern Boulevard — a project that is expected to improve the look of the long-vacant parcel.

D.C. Builders of Watertown, the general contractor for the project, started construction about two weeks ago on the 3,300-square-foot building near State CS Employees Federal Credit Union, foreman Richard C. Clark said. Construction of the automatic car wash, which will have five bays and operate 24/7, is expected to be completed by December, he said. [Read more...]