Cream Cheese Festival canceled this year over concerns for COVID-19 pandemic

The 15th annual Cream Cheese Festival included the unveiling of a 60 ton cheesecake at the Lowville Fire Hall on Saturday in Lowville. The massive cheesecake is distributed to the festival-goers. Julia Hopkins/Watertown daily Times

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Your Digital Real Estate

Sarah O’Connell

My February column dealt with businesses that are dependent on the weather and how important it is to have a plan to deal with the uncertainty that comes when the weather doesn’t cooperate. I wrote quite a bit about the extremely high water levels last summer that affected businesses along the lake and river, and in that context, I also talked about the SBA’s disaster loan program.

And now, within weeks of me writing that column, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the north country, along with the rest of the world, found itself in a totally unprecedented situation that in terms of impacting and disrupting our lives makes a snowstorm feel like a single flake drifting down.

As of May 15, the north country is starting to gear up to reopen businesses through a series of phases. As long as the different criteria for positive tests, hospitalizations and testing levels stay stable, we can continue to on this path. I, along with many others, look especially forward to our beauty salons and barbers reopening. But these are very uncertain times, and we know that businesses will have to be operating differently for the foreseeable future.

It would have been unimaginable to plan for a scenario like this. Some of our small businesses had no option but to shut down entirely. Others, like restaurants, found a way to keep some staff and some revenues through meals-to-go offerings, and “curbside pickup,” like social distancing, has become part of our language. Other businesses pushed their online sales to help them get through the interruption.

This brings me back to the need to take advantage of your “digital real estate”. If your business already had a website, an email list and/or a social media presence, you have had the ability to stay in touch with your customers and to stay engaged with them, whether it’s sharing special store hours for seniors, providing a limited menu, offering Internet sales, letting people know about the safety precautions you’ve established or informing them when you are going to be able to reopen, and many businesses, even while closed, shared community news and events or offered words of support and encouragement. Many businesses are also offering comfort in the form of value-added content such as exercise classes, recipe tips, links to helpful sites and of course, cat videos. But if you didn’t already have a digital presence, you may have missed out on an opportunity.

Going back to my February column, I still contend that we Northern New Yorkers are resilient. We’re going to find a way to cope with whatever nature throws at us. It’s not too late to be thinking about how to invest in some digital real estate. The advisors at the Watertown SBDC

(well, working from home, remotely) are here to help you do just that.

Much of our advisors’ time from March through May has been spent assisting north country businesses with the two SBA disaster loan programs: the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The EIDL program is similar to past disaster loans except for the inclusion of the Emergency Advance grant that included an amount per employee and owner that did not have to be paid back. The PPP was a whole new creation, part of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), and has continued to be refined as time has passed. A key part of that also includes loan forgiveness (does not have to be paid back) if the funds were spent and accounted for in a very specific manner.

The funding for these original loans was depleted very quickly and the payouts have not been swift as the sheer number of applicants overwhelmed the system. They have subsequently been re-funded; at the time of this writing the EIDL was now being offered only to agricultural businesses and the PPP was being refined to address the needs of smaller businesses.

The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties. For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu. St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu

Diverse Terrain and Natural Settings in NNY Draw Golfers

Randy Young

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 6 covers five counties, all diverse in terms of their natural beauty and opportunities for recreation. Our weather in Northern New York is conducive to golfing in the summertime and we are fortunate to have several dozen golf courses in our region that each offer a unique opportunity for a challenging day on the links. The diverse terrain and natural settings draw local golfers and those enjoying a summer vacation near the water or the mountains.  

    Kelly E. Hale is an avid north country golfer and environmental program specialist in DEC’s Division of Environmental Remediation. “I strongly encourage people to play golf,” she said. “It is a lifelong sport. My grandmother played until she was 83, and that is my goal.”  

    Hale is the former captain of the St. Lawrence University golf team and currently plays on two leagues, the Clayton Ladies Golf League and the LaFargeville Ladies Golf League.  

    In our region, resident and migratory Canada geese also enjoy taking to the greens. Migratory geese pass through New York on their way north and south, stopping briefly each way. Resident geese do not leave the state and are here over the winter. DEC biologists estimate the current resident geese population in New York state to be about 200,000 birds. Based on the growing statewide severity of complaints, biologists would like to see that number reduced to fewer than 85,000 birds statewide.   

    Canada geese are a natural resource that provide recreation and enjoyment to bird watchers, hunters, and the general public, but sometimes, their presence creates challenges. These days, resident geese are nesting and feeding at some area golf courses in higher numbers than the past, which has proven to be a nuisance to golf course owners and the occasional golfer.  

    “Geese are grazers and love to eat lush, green grass,” said Andrew MacDuff, Region 6 DEC wildlife manager. “Also, most golf courses have numerous small ponds that make good nesting and loafing areas. There are also very few predators on golf courses compared to more natural landscapes.”   

    Once these birds make a golf course their home, problems can follow: Canada goose fecal matter carries harmful bacteria; the noxious odor of goose droppings can make some people ill; and there’s also potential for geese to harass golfers. Canada geese are territorial and will fight to protect their nests and eggs.  

    What are golf course owners to do? There are many ways to discourage geese from settling in an area. Persistent application of a combination of methods usually yields the best results.  

    “There are numerous methods to mitigate goose issues at golf courses from harassment and physical barriers to allowing in-season hunting,” said MacDuff. “It can be challenging to move them once they become established, but steady pressure should do the trick. If they are nesting, oiling or addling the eggs will often get them to leave.”  

    Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, Horticulture Educator, Susan Gwise said, “The best way to control geese is with trained dogs. But the dogs need to harass the geese on a daily basis.” Persistence can pay off. If not, DEC’s website www.dec.ny.gov features a section on “when geese become a problem” http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7003.html. In some situations, federal or state permits are needed.  

    How should golfers proceed? Hale has encountered her share of geese on the golf course. One specific incident cost her a stroke penalty. “I had to call for a ruling. My ball had rolled next to the pond. It was nesting season, and the geese were along the perimeter of the pond. I could not get close enough to identify my ball, because the geese were trying to protect their nest,” said Hale. “We all took caution, not to anger or get close to the geese. Since I could not identify my ball, I had to take a stroke penalty and continue my round.”  

    She advises golfers to take care around wildlife on the course. Always tread with caution and do not harass the wildlife. All Canada geese, migratory and resident flocks, are protected by federal and state laws and regulations. DEC shares management responsibilities with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

    Perhaps the best advice is to be aware of the potential for Canada geese on the golf course and not to let it affect your concentration on the sport. “A sport like golf is an individual sport, but you still have to help your teammates along the way,” said Hale. “Golf taught me a lot about patience, time management, camaraderie, and how important it is to think about your next shot, rather than dwell on the previous one.” 

Defining Courage

Lt. Col. Jamie Cox

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” Synonyms for courage include bravery, fearlessness, gallantry, guts, heart, heroism, intrepidity, valor and virtue.   

    In the first 54 years of my life, which was celebrated this past February, I had the opportunity to witness dozens of acts of raw, pure courage. The U.S. Marine aviator successfully landing a helicopter with an engine on fire and a cabin full of infantrymen on a ship at night. The female Navy corpsman who ran through machine gun and mortar fire to perform triage on me during the battle of Fallujah. Individuals of great integrity taking a stand in the face of overwhelming odds. The company CEO who prioritizes employees over profit.  

    In the 60 days since my birthday, I have witnessed more than a hundred acts of courage. Ordinary people in every community performing extraordinary acts that have changed the trajectory of Northern New York.  

    The stories that capture the headlines in the media beautifully articulate the heroism of our doctors, nurses, certified nursing assistants, police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians. Their sacrifice and courage in the face of this pandemic has inspired a nation.  

    In March 1945, Admiral Chester Nimitz, reflected on the battle of Iwo Jima, which was fought between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Japanese army, by saying, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”  I believe that quote – referencing the men who fought a horrific, bloody battle – runs deep in our north country blood.  

    Consider these snapshots of simple valor in our community:   

  • The cashier at Price Chopper supermarket, who only makes minimum wage, running her check-out register without a protective mask as everyone panicked to purchase food and supplies in late March.  
  • The gas station employee, who does not receive benefits, working without protective equipment to ensure that we’re all able to purchase gas and other necessities.   
  • The school bus driver and teacher who ran endless routes to deliver food to children and families – jumping out of the bus at every home to drop off meals with a wave and a smile.  
  • The school district superintendent who didn’t bat an eye when asked for $10,000 to help the North Country Library System provide online educational tools for children and parents.   
  • The agricultural small business owner who delivers his high-end, organic produce to food pantries and schools throughout Northern New York for free, and is keeping his employees working and paid despite no revenue coming in the door. 
  • The nonprofit company executive director who slashed her own pay to keep more of her staff from getting furloughed. 
  • The general manager of a local television network outlet who has donated significant airtime to public service announcements and is hosting a benefit concert on his own dime. 
  • The nonprofit employee who has continued to risk his health by providing critical services and food to more and more families each day. 
  • The young reporters from our news station and newspaper who are in the field every day to find uplifting stories to keep our morale high. 
  • The volunteer drivers, who put their health at risk by transporting residents without vehicles or the ability to drive to grocery stores or medical appointments.  
  • The guy in front of me at the store yesterday who purchased groceries for the elderly lady in front of him, and then carried them to her car. 

    Away from Washington, D.C., and Albany, patriotism comes in every shape and form. Love for the north country resides in our hearts, regardless of race, religion, or creed. While our economy struggles and residents are suffering, we are witnessing some of the finest acts of kindness and courage.   

    I hope and pray for the end of the pandemic and a healthy economic recovery.  But I know that when we get to that point – sadly – partisan finger pointing will return to our discourse, drowning out the heroics we’re witnessing today. I hope you’ll join me in taking a moment to recognize the special heroes during this crisis. 

Alternative Goals of Estate Planning

Timothy Lambrecht

When you think about creating an initial estate plan, you likely focus entirely on the need to create a roadmap for the distribution of your estate assets in the event of your death. While that certainly will always remain an important estate planning goal, you will undoubtedly include additional goals into your estate plan over time.  The following subjects should be at the forefront of your mind, depending on your own unique personal situation.   

Incapacity Planning  

    People typically associate the possibility of becoming incapacitated with old age, specifically with Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementia conditions. While Alzheimer’s is a leading cause of incapacity in elderly individuals, the reality is that you could suffer a period of incapacity at any age as a result of a tragic accident or debilitating illness. If that happens, who will take over control of your assets? Who will make health care decisions for you? In the absence of an incapacity planning component in your estate plan, a judge may be forced to answer those questions – and you may not like the answers.  Putting a power of attorney and health care proxy into place will allow you to appoint your own agent to act in your best interests in the event of incapacity.  

Probate Avoidance  

    Probate is the legal process that is required after the death of an individual. The primary purpose of probate is to identify, value, and eventually transfer the decedent’s assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. If the estate is required to go through formal probate, it can take months, even years, to get through the process. In addition, a lengthy probate can be costly, diminishing the value of the estate that is ultimately passed down to loved ones. Probate avoidance tools and strategies can help your estate avoid the need for formal probate.  The most common tool for probate avoidance is a Revocable Trust, otherwise known as a Living Trust.  By working with an attorney to establish a Revocable Trust and placing your assets in the trust, every asset that goes into the trust will avoid the probate process.  

Planning for Parents with Minor Children or Children with Special Needs  

    If you are the parent of a minor child, you undoubtedly want to make sure your child is provided for if something happens to you. Your minor child, however, cannot inherit directly from your estate. Simply leaving assets for your child in your will doesn’t ensure that your child will be well cared for in your absence. Instead, most parents establish a trust to protect their child’s inheritance until the child reaches an age where the child is more mature. As the creator of the trust, you appoint someone as the trustee to manage and invest the trust assets while your child is a minor. That same trust can then be used to stagger disbursements once your child becomes an adult, allowing your child to learn how to manage his/her inheritance before receiving it all.   

    In the event there are children with special needs that will inherit, a particular trust called a Supplemental (or Special) Needs Trust would need to be established.  The Supplemental Needs Trust allows the child to have the benefit of their share of the parent’s estate, but not have any risk of losing any public benefits that may be subject to assets tests, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid.  

Long-Term Care Planning  

    Long before you reach retirement age, you should start thinking about the possibility that you, or a spouse, will need long-term care (“LTC”). Specifically, you need to plan for the high cost of that care. With a nationwide average of over $100,000 per year for 2020, most people cannot afford to pay for LTC out of pocket – and Medicare will not cover LTC expenses. Medicaid can help with those expenses, but you must first qualify for Medicaid benefits. Medicaid uses both an income and an asset test that could be problematic if you failed to include Medicaid Planning in your estate plan well ahead of the time you need to qualify.  An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to guide you through the process of establishing certain trusts that can help protect your assets from Medicaid.  

    Reaching out to an experienced estate planning attorney is the first step in helping you accomplish your estate planning goals.  The sooner the process is started, the sooner you can rest assured that you and your family are taken care of. 

Timothy J. Lambrecht primarily focuses his practice on complex civil litigation, environmental law, and municipal law matters. Mr. Lambrecht is an experienced environmental law practitioner and litigator. If you would like legal assistance in an environmental case contact Attorney Lambrecht of the Wladis Law Firm at tlambrecht@wladislawfirm.com

Staying The Course: Navigating pandemic guidelines

Robert Peluso, manager at Thousand Islands Country Club on Wellesley Island, poses for a portrait on the golf course green. Sydney Schaefer/NNY Business

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Two Strokes Down But Still In The Game

Designed by Albert Murray, the Massena golf course opened in 1926. The 18-hole course at the Massena Country Club features 6,602 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 71. Christopher Lenney/NNY Business

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Small Business Startup: Hedge Witch Botanicals

Kate Castle, owner of Hedge Witch Botanicals.

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Outdoor Adventures With Your Pets

Teddy the cat wears a harness and leash to hike Shenandoah National Park.

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Progressive Dairy Farming

Alyssa Kealy

Dairy cattle are much larger than the typical companion animals, and they are more technically savvy. I am not saying that cows carry around smartphones, but they do interact with technology in their day to day lives. Technology in dairy barns is not necessary to keep the cows in touch with their friends (they prefer to socialize face to face or muzzle to muzzle), but to focus primarily on cattle health, comfort and production. 

    Here are several examples of technology you can find on progressive dairy farms: 

  • Fit Bits: Dairy cows wear pedometers and/or activity pendants around their neck. This tracks their activity, which can be indicative of overall health. If a cow’s device is showing abnormal activity patterns, such as she didn’t get up to eat, this can be a red flag for the farmer to give her a closer look. Activity monitoring is a proactive process because it allows those caring for the cows to see abnormalities before they become clinical symptoms of illness, which could prevent serious health issues or the need for treatment in the future.

    RFID (radio frequency identification) tags- These are the ear tags worn for identification; they are so much more than a monogrammed earrings. Today, ear tags have radio frequency that communicates with the farm’s dairy computer program, like Dairy Comp 305, to keep a profile for each cow with data like her breeding dates, any medical treatments, due dates, etc. as well as communicates with parlor systems to track milk production. Essentially, cows carry their medical records with them! 

    Moocall– This technology was designed specifically for cows about to give birth. A small meter gets fastened around the tailhead and based on contractions and muscle loosening; it will send a text the farmer when the cow is about to calf. With these alerts, farm staff will be able to respond to any needs of the mother and calf. 

  • Robotics: Some farms are taking technology to the next level and replacing manpower with robotics. Examples include robotic milking systems and feed pushers.

    Robotic milking systems- Cows can enter the individual stall at their leisure, are fed grain/supplements, and finished milking within minutes. Whether it is the snacks or the relief that milking often brings to the mammary system that keeps cows loitering around the robots, waiting for their next turn. Since manual labor isn’t needed for milking, this system gives farm staff even more time to focus on cow health and facility hygiene. 

    Robotic feed pusher- Cows can even have a robotic waiter help serve them food. Farms often feed once a day which means a big pile is distributed and meant to last throughout the day. Sometimes, as feed gets eaten and pushed along by muzzles, feed can get pushed just out of reach. Farms can use a skid steer to push the feed, or high-tech farms use a robot to travel along the feed area and push the food closer to the cows throughout the day, ensuring they always have access to fresh food. 

    Dairy farms that have larger cow numbers are turning to a different style of milking parlor, literally. Rotary parlors allow 100 cows to be milked at once on what is essentially a merry go-round equipped with milking equipment. Cows get on the rotary and go for about a 5-minute ride while getting milked, sanitized, and then meander back to their barn. This is a very expensive technology, however as farms grow and agricultural labor becomes sparser, farms are choosing technology to fill voids on the farm and ensure cows get the best, most efficient care, possible.