Realtors Give Back in Many Ways

Jennifer Bossout donated $1,000 to Carthage Backpack Program.

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A Critical Moment in Time

Word Inequality cut with scissors to two parts In and Equality, gray background, top view

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Take The Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL

Randy Young

Stepping outside your home into the fresh air is exactly what some people need to de-stress during these uncertain times. Backyard picnics, outdoor movie nights, and star gazing with immediate household members are excellent ways to shake off the negative effects of isolation while staying safe. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is encouraging New Yorkers to get outside and enjoy nature safely during the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19. Summer is a great time to go for a walk or jog, take a hike, ride a bicycle, or go fishing or horseback riding. You can also go boating or enjoy the scenery of state lands. Just as you should wear sunblock to save your skin from harmful UV rays, DEC asks that you protect yourself and others from COVID-19.  

Take the Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely and Responsibly: 

  • pledge to respect the rules and do my part to keep parks, beaches, trails, boat launches, and other public spaces safe for everyone.  
  • will stay local and close to home.  
  • will maintain a safe distance from others outside of my household.  
  • I will wear a mask when I cannot maintain social distancing. 
  • accept that this summer, I may have to adjust how I enjoy the outdoors to help keep myself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing my plans to visit a public space.  
  • will be respectful of others by letting them pass by me if needed on a trail and keeping my blanket ten feet apart from others on the beach.  
  • will move quickly through shared areas like parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas to avoid crowding.  
  • IfI’m not feeling well, I will stay home.   

Of course, not everyone has a yard, and eventually, we all want to truly get away. Researching local trails and parks to find hidden gems near your home can be part of the fun. It can also give you an opportunity to plan for alternatives. When I was able to get away myself, it was a weekend with a perfect weather forecast. I expected the well-known and popular hiking and camping areas to be crowded, so I pulled out a map of state lands in my area and found three trails I’d never visited before. Each one had trailheads located along the same highway. I planned to look at the parking area of each trail as I passed it; and if I saw more than a few cars, I planned to move on to the next one. 

    Fortunately, when I arrived on that late Friday afternoon, the first trailhead was empty so I pulled in. The trail ran along a beautiful stream through a changing forest of hardwoods and evergreens. While hiking and camping for two days, covering several miles, I didn’t see another person. 

    If the parking lots had been packed and resulted in the need to change my plans, DEC has online resources to help. DEC info Locator is an interactive map that lets users access information about opportunities for outdoor recreation across the state. Whether you’re looking for activities on land or water, you can pick your activity and favorite area and you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. 

    And if you decide to stay in, DEC’s Adventure NY initiative has launched #AdventureAtHome, a virtual way to bring New Yorkers weekly content for inspiration about enjoying the outdoors close to home. Each week, DEC features online content on topics such as, paddling, hiking, viewing wildlife, birding, and camping. Sign up online for DEC’s “Find your Adventure” newsletter to be delivered right to your inbox. 

    Now that you have pledged to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL, what will you do and where will you go? 

Taking Care Of Business

Sarah O’Connell

As I write this, we are in the fifth month of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses in the North Country region have gradually been reopening through the four phases under specific guidelines and with many restrictions. 

    However, for businesses that deal with health and wellness, many are still not allowed to reopen yet due to the level of physical contact or proximity that is part of their normal customer interaction. 

    As the North Country region entered Phase 3, massage therapy businesses were allowed to reopen, as were hair salons and some other personal care services. As we all struggled with the isolation and anxiety produced by the crisis, this was a much welcomed development for those who needed the comfort and care that was beyond essential survival. At the same time, the operators of these businesses had to prepare rigorous safety plans for the state of New York and develop schedules and strategies to minimize risk to their customers. 

    On the other hand, physical fitness businesses like fitness centers and group yoga classes continue to be under additional scrutiny due to the risks inherent in gathering people together in activities that might increase transmission of the virus. Some exercise-related businesses have pivoted to offering virtual or online classes, particularly those with certain instructors who have a dedicated following who are willing to pay through an online payment portal to participate in a Zoom or similar digital meetup. 

    While doctors’ offices and medical clinics were open all along for emergency visits or telemedicine, dentists were not generally allowed to open until June 1 except for emergency situations. However, many of our local providers have noticed that their patients are delaying some appointments like routine checkups until later on in the year. The procedure for entering a medical office often involves waiting in one’s car until called, answering questions about recent health issues, possible contacts with ill people and travel outside the area, and undergoing temperature checks. 

    Some mental health providers who already offered online or telephone counseling have been able to continue to offer that support and have even expanded their customer base due to need. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has gathered a pool of volunteer mental health counselors to handle calls from people feeling especially stressed or anxious during the pandemic. (1-800-950-6264). It can also offer connections to local resources. 

    As with all businesses reopened or reopening in the various phases that the state allows, the key to getting customers, clients or patients to return is to demonstrate clear and well-thought out approaches to providing as safe an experience as possible. Surveys and anecdotal evidence have shown that many people are still very wary of venturing out into situations that might expose them to the virus. Reports of uneven or absent compliance will only delay the process of economic recovery. Recent spikes in infection were directly related to unsafe gatherings during July 4th celebrations leading to the reclosing of some area businesses. Enforcement of the safety guidelines needs to be universal to bolster the confidence of the general public. 

    As of this writing, the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) program was still open and the application window for PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans was open until Aug. 8. Go to www.sba.gov for more information. The SBDC advisors are here to help you through the application process and beyond. We are also available to help you with any other business needs, whether it’s ideas for recovering, marketing, or opening, expanding or buying a business. We are available by phone and email and can have video sessions as well. As the JCC campus begins its reopening process, we will keep you informed if and when we can resume in-person appointments. 

    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 

Food Distribution Programs And Webinar Series See Great Start

Jay Matteson

The impact of the shutdown of our economy to dampen the impact of the COVID 19 disaster has hit every single person. Businesses have temporarily and permanently closed their doors. Many people were temporarily unemployed or lost their jobs. There were significant disruptions in our food supply system. As we have heard many times. We are living in an extremely rare time where a global pandemic has impacted every single person in the United States and had a devastating impact on our economy. Many people, in the low income to middle income sections of our population, began experiencing challenges in finding food. 

    At the national level, we saw President Trump, the U.S. Congress and the United States Department of Agriculture work together to create the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). One section of the CFAP used federal funds to begin buying food products from farms and food processors and working through local food distributors to provide free food to people in need. This program is a success. Jefferson County Economic Development has worked with American Dairy Association Northeast to set up the logistics of multiple food distribution events. Our largest to date saw 1,800 vehicles at Salmon Run Mall go through the distribution program. There have been events at Salmon Run Mall, Jefferson Community College and Clayton Arena. Every vehicle, while supplies last, receives at least two gallons of milk, a box of precooked meat products, a box of produce, and a box of dairy products. Unfortunately, the demand is greater than the supply of food boxes and they run out before the milk. Renzi Food Service based in Watertown, Glaziers packing in Potsdam, and Upstate Niagara Dairy Cooperative, provide the aggregation and distribution assistance. HP Hood in LaFargeville provides some of the dairy products in the boxes. 

    At the State level, Governor Cuomo, the state Legislature and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets created the Nourish NY program to help ensure local food banks have enough food on their shelves to help local people, and also provide food distribution events. State funds are used to purchase New York state food products to give to food banks and distribution events. Lucki 7 Livestock Company in Rodman, Sharps Bulk Food in Belleville and Great Lakes Cheese in Adams have participated in the Nourish NY program providing locally produced food to food banks as far away as Long Island. 

    Because so many food products and businesses from Jefferson County are involved in the two food distribution programs, we are roughly estimating a total economic impact of the two programs to date of $18 million as the dollars coming into local companies and farms for the purchase of food products ripples throughout Jefferson County and NNY. This is a nice “charge” to our local economic engine, with agriculture as its foundation.  

Agriculture Webinar Series Off to Great Start 

    Jefferson County Economic Development started a monthly webinar series in June inviting speakers to participate who have an opportunity to look at agriculture through a broader lens than we might experience locally. We call the webinar series, “Road to Recovery, The Path to 2025 Farmers’ Luncheon Series”. On Aug. 27, we have Mr. Thomas Sleight scheduled to speak. Mr. Sleight is former chief executive officer for the U.S. Grains Council and has traveled the world working on foreign trade programs and opportunities benefitting U.S. agriculture. 

    The Farmers’ Luncheon series is a live webinar scheduled for the fourth Thursday of every month at 12 p.m. The webinar is not a typical slideshow presentation with questions at the end. Instead, I sit down at the table, remotely, with our guest and have a conversation about the various topics we wish to discuss. The program is highly interactive, and the audience can submit questions in real time which I try to include into the discussion. To learn more, visit www.agricultureevents.com 

Public Service Commission Extends NY-Sun Program

Chris Baiamonte

In spite of the seemingly cataclysmic budget pressures New York State is under in light of additional expenses and crimped revenue related to the pandemic response, its long-term commitment to achieving its renewable energy goals, as articulated in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), shows few signs of wavering. On May 14, the Public Service Commission issued an order (Case No. 19-E-0735) granting the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) petitions seeking an additional $573 million to fund the New York-Sun (NY-Sun) solar energy program through the year 2025. 

    NYSERDA’s petition, filed last November, sought funding to extend the NY-Sun program for an additional two years. It had been scheduled to end in 2023. The NY-Sun program was created in 2014 by the governor in order to provide state subsidies to solar projects around the state, with the initial goal of adding 3,000 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity. It has thus far helped finance nearly 1,000 MW worth of solar energy generating capacity, with another 1,000 MW in the pipeline. The goal articulated by the CLCPA for distributed (typically, rooftop) solar energy capacity is 6,000 MW by 2025. Initial funding for the expansion will use untapped NYSERDA funds and additional funding potentially coming from the Clean Energy Fund. 

    About one fourth of the new funding will go towards Community Adder incentives for community solar projects located in the National Grid and New York State Electric and Gas Corporation utility territories (Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation soon to be added). The Community Adder is an incentive-based successor to the Community Credit component of the Value Distributed Energy Resource tariff. PSC also approved additional adders for projects involving storage, system resiliency, value to disadvantaged and affordable housing communities, and projects to be sited on brownfields, landfills, or parking lots. 

    PCS’s order granted the proposal contained within the petition to use at least a quarter of the newly allocated funds on programs focusing on benefitting customers with low- or moderate-income customers. NYSERDA dubs this new effort the Framework for Solar Energy Equity (FSEE). FSEE will attempt to, among other things, incent projects sited on affordable housing, certain homeowners who install rooftop solar panels, energy storage projects, and expand on NYSERDA’s existing Solar for All program, which offers discounts to low-income New Yorkers on their energy bills through participation in a community solar project. 

 Questions and Updates 

    Please do not hesitate to contact the Wladis Law Firm if you have any questions about the above information. We will do our best to provide you with updates and will be available to answer questions as circumstances change. 

Chris Baiamonte primarily focuses on civil litigation, counseling individual, corporate, and municipal clients on resolving disputes ranging from environmental liability to shareholders rights to creditor–debtor suits. He also works with clients to navigate various state and federal regulations relating to areas such as environmental protection, employment, and civil rights. Contact him at 315-445-1700.

Charity Begins at Home: Loving a Community Inside and Out

Malcolm Goodridge, left, great-grandson of George C. Boldt Sr., with the first recipients of the George C. Boldt Scholarship at Boldt Castle in 2019.

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How COVID has Impacted 2020 Tri-County Real Estate Sales

Lance Evans

The first six months of 2020 have been an up and down roller coaster for real estate.  After being slightly down in 2018, overall property sales (including residential, land, multi-family and commercial properties) in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties were generally higher in 2019. This lead to optimism that 2020 would also be a good year.  

     In 2019, tri-county property sales totaled more than $370 million with residential real estate sales topping $335 million. In terms of units sold, residential real estate (single family homes and condominiums) makes up eighty to eighty-five percent of real estate activity for Realtors in the tri-county area.  

    The first quarter of 2020 was strong with overall sales up 7.6 percent for members of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and more than 31 percent for members sold by St. Lawrence County Realtors.  Similarly, residential sales were up 12.7 percent for the Jefferson-Lewis Realtors and about 30 percent for St. Lawrence County members.  

    With the mandatory shutdown of the industry in mid-March, real estate came almost to a halt.  In early April, real estate professionals were allowed to start limited activity including virtual showings and remote transactions.   In person meetings, including showings and open houses, were prohibited.  This severely limited how real estate could be done in the state and area.    

    One thing to keep in mind is that after a purchase contract is signed, the average length of time until the sale closes in New York State is normally sixty – ninety days.   This means that a number of the second quarter closed sales were from contracts signed in the first quarter.   

    Until a property closes, it is considered “under contract” or pending.  While time to closing is not tracked, the “days on the market,” or DOM, (the number of days from when a listing contract is signed until the purchase offer has been accepted by both parties) is noted.  

    During the second quarter (April 1 – June 30), members of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors sold 15 percent fewer properties overall compared to 2019 and residential sales were down almost 20 percent. For the first six months, sales of all properties are down about 6% and residential sales are down about 7 percent. While the median price of properties dipped for the first six months, the DOM dropped by more than three weeks for all properties and two weeks for residential sales.  

    The story was similar with members of the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors.   After the first quarter surge of more than 30 percent for all property sales, the second quarter dipped by about 27 percent to bring sales down by six percent for the period of January -June.   The median price went down also and DOM rose slightly.  

    Residential sales for St. Lawrence County members also dipped in the second quarter by 33 percent after being up in the first quarter by 30 percent. Overall, residential sales are down almost 12 percent compared with 2019.   The median price is down slightly and DOM is up about three weeks.  

    Real estate has picked up since our area entered phase two of reopening in late May.   In June and July about 220 residential properties listed by St. Lawrence County Realtors went under contract compared to 198 for the same period in 2019.   Jefferson-Lewis members have also been busy with about 350 pending listings for June and July compared to the 213 in 2019.  Agents are also reporting more properties being listed and are busy with showings.  

    Another sign of increased activity is that it is taking longer to schedule an appraisal or home inspection after the property goes under contract.   Appraisers work with the lenders to be sure that a property is worth the price in the contract.   Meanwhile, future property owners want to make sure there are no surprises or hidden flaws in the property and employ a home inspector.   Due to the increased activity, both of these professions are in high demand.  

    As of now, our area has survived the COVID pandemic fairly well.   For the most part, our residents have stayed healthy.  If this continues, real estate should be able to recover and the year will finish up strongly.   This will be good for everyone as real estate is one of the prime drivers of our economy. 

Milk is Back!

Jay Matteson

For too many years, fewer and fewer Americans were drinking milk. There were many more choices for consumers to quench their thirst than ever before and honestly, the dairy industry had not done a good job of keeping up with marketing their product in a modern, exciting manner. The old white jug had lost its appeal. The previous administration in the White House changed the school lunch program removing whole and 2% milk options and forcing schools to offer only skim milk. This change reduced the desire by children to drink milk. 

    Then the Coronavirus disaster set in. Food service businesses closed their doors. According to an April 3, 2020 article written by P.J. Huffstutter on Reuters website, the closure of food service businesses – restaurants, schools, and fast food restaurants sent a shock wave through the dairy industry. Plants that manufacture dairy products used in food service are not easily converted to retail manufacturing. With the onset of Coronavirus shutdown of food service businesses, the outlook for dairy initially was very dark. American diets typically consisted of 35 – 40% food service purchases. Dairy products are extensively used by food service to add flavor and nutrition to many products. The Virus also disrupted distribution systems and plant workforce. Dairy cooperatives told their member farms to dump their milk because there became a tremendous glut of milk on the market. Dairy Farmers of America estimated at one point that 3.7 million gallons of milk a day was being dumped. 

    At the same time, people did not know what to expect when told to shelter at home. Store shelves emptied of food, paper products and milk! People were buying two gallons at a time and freezing it, just in case. It appears that consumers turned to what they knew was very healthy, satisfying and comforting, milk. According to an article published online on June 15, 2020 on the AgDaily website, from March 9 to March 22, 2020 fluid milk sales increased by 45,000,000 gallons compared to the same period in 2019. Plant based beverage sales in the same period increased by approximately 7.9 million gallons. This was huge news for American dairy farmers. 

    Those of us in the agricultural industry saw the initial demand for fluid milk and were hopeful, but worried that after the initial run on the grocery stores, consumers would return to old habits. Consumers, however, appear to want nutritious and tasty milk and dairy products back in their diets! Ag Daily reports that from March 23 to May 31, 2020 fluid milk consumption increased by nearly 60,000,000 gallons compared to the same period in 2019. Plant based beverages increased by just over 10,000,000 gallons. Also noticed was consumers were trending to whole and 2% milk. Many enjoy the taste and satisfaction of whole milk compared to skim milk. 

    It appears, when difficult times arose, the American consumer came back to a food product they knew was wholesome, nutritious, and tasty – milk. In Jefferson County, we saw two dairy farms begin bottling their own milk. Next Generation Milk from Grimshaw Farms and Old McDonald’s Farm Milk from North Harbor Dairy Farm were an instant hit. Both operations had difficulty keeping up with demand. When a very local option became available to consumers, they swung quickly to supporting local dairy as much as possible. I can personally testify that my 19-year-old son will travel out of his way to make sure we always have milk from both farms in our refrigerator. Most times, he pays for it! 

    The dairy industry will still have challenges with balancing supply and demand fluctuations. Our dairy farms are coming off five years of difficult prices for their product. But if the demand for dairy continues to grow as people realize what they have been missing, perhaps we will see a brighter future for our dairy farms and the American consumer. Thanks to consumers, we see a path out of this current quagmire we are in. We are looking out to 2025 and building a path forward. 

    Welcome home, America! 

2020: In A Class By Itself

Rande Richardson

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  — Nelson Mandela 

The Class of 2020 will forever hold a chapter in the book of COVID-19. Students have been deprived of the experiences and joys of many things a complete senior year brings: awards ceremonies, spring sports records, friends, proms, yearbook signings, graduation. The ceremonial rites of passage for their hard work in the classroom, on the athletic field, on stage, and with other extracurricular activities will not be the same. 

    We are all a product of a variety of influences. In the mix of nature and nurture, we are largely shaped by our education. Who we become includes lessons from a variety of influences including parents, family members, coaches and other community role models. We have all had teachers or professors who were instrumental in shaping us. Some took a special interest in our success or believed in us in a way that changed the direction of our lives. In recognizing the loss of the senior year, it heightens our appreciation for the way our school experience advances us to the next stage of life. Our community’s educators are due a special thanks for continuing to develop young minds and souls even from a distance. 

    Education is an investment, and one of the most critical we can make. Since its roots in 1929, the Northern New York Community Foundation has held education high on its list of priorities. Through those 90 years, more resources have consistently been directed toward education than any other area. Community Foundation donors have enabled substantial investments in educational programs, institutions and education-focused nonprofit organizations. For a decade, youth philanthropy programs have educated the next generation about civic service and community needs and resources. Scholarships have helped many thousands of local students as they began or continued their educational journeys, including nontraditional students and those pursuing studies in trade, vocational, and technical fields. Some of those students have remained in the north country, joining our local workforce and helping to meet its needs. Others have chosen to bring their talents elsewhere. Each has contributed to making our world a better place. 

    We are fortunate to partner with many schools in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties to provide long-term stewardship of precious scholarship dollars. Many of those schools have also established educational foundations so donors can support learning beyond scholarships to include every facet of education, including the arts and athletics. We have worked alongside community groups to build educational resources for members of the military and their families. The people of our region have a tradition of generosity that has helped change and shape lives, and, ultimately, made our communities stronger and our workforce better equipped. 

    While in many ways the Class of 2020 was shortchanged, they have been given enhanced valuable life lessons that will serve them (and us) well. The Class of 2020 is one of adaptation, resiliency, flexibility, persistence, resourcefulness, patience, appreciation, tenacity, grit, determination, discipline and strength. They are better equipped for whatever may come their way. You have learned how to learn and find solutions to unexpected challenges. 

    The greatest gift an educator can receive is knowing the difference they have made in the lives of their students. The words, “you changed my life” or “because of you” are music to the ears and a testament to what a good teacher can accomplish. To the class of 2020 and all who have shaped them, know that what you do with adversity and challenges will define your character. Just like the teachers and others who brought you here, your impact will be significant, life-long and lasting. You have the opportunity today to inspire and shape a better tomorrow as you lead our community, society and the world. That is a reason to celebrate and be hopeful. In case you haven’t noticed, we need that now more than ever.