Archives for August 2019

FORMER FEDERAL CORRECTIONS OFFICER HEADED TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BARS

A former Federal Bureau of Prisons Corrections Officer was sentenced on Wednesday… in two seperate cases…. to a total of 120 months in prison… on the other side of the bars from where he is accustomed to being. 33 year old Carlos Ochoa of Puerto Rico, pled guilty and admitted to working with another person in Puerto Rico in 2017 to provide an armed escort for a shipment of cocaine in exchange for $5,000. At the time, Ochoa was working as a Federal Corrections Officer in Puerto Rico. He pled guilty to attempting to aid and abet possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. In the second case, which is closer to home… in the Northern District of New York, Ochoa admitted to accepting a $600 cash bribe in October 2012, in exchange for smuggling an iPhone to an inmate while he was employed at FCI Ray Brook. In that case, he pled guilty to bribery by a public official. When he is finally set free after serving almost 10 years in prison, he will then have to serve another 4 years of supervised release. Ochoa was also ordered to forfeit $17,840 and a 2015 Cadillac Escalade.

Chateagay Town Board Talks Wind

The Chateagay Town Board met on Monday, but town leaders put off taking any action on a proposed amendment to a local law governing development of a third commercial wind farm there. While some of the board members said they supported the amendment to allow taller turbines and increased setbacks, they also said they were not quite ready to commit to the changes. Some representatives of the company that wants to build the wind farm in Chateagay, Renewable Energy Systems, urged town leaders to move forward. But any change such as those being requested, would require a public hearing, then another meeting after the hearing… all followed by a state required 30-day comment period. Under current town law, the maximum height of a wind turbine is 500 feet. Renwable Energy Systems wants to see that height limit raised to 750 feet. They claim it would enable them to build more efficient turbines, which would make the whole thing more economically viable. Moving those taller turbines farther away from neighboring properties and major roads they say, would reduce the amount of noise coming from them, which is a frequent cause of complaints from many people who live near wind farms.

ALICE MINER TO BE HONORED AT 156TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

The Alice T. Miner Museum and the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute are teaming up in celebration of Alice Miner’s 156th birthday, with an event at Miner Institute on Saturday, September 21st from 1 to 4pm. Heart’s Delight Farm was one of Alice Miner’s favorite places, and it is seen as a fitting place to honor her with a family-friendly event that is free and open to the public. There will be animal-themed crafts and games, and donations will be accepted to support the Elmore SPCA. Light refreshments will be available. Visitors will be able to walk through the Heart’s Delight Farm Heritage Exhibit,
visit with Heart’s Delight Morgan horses, and view a short film about Alice Miner.

JONES SPONSORING BLOOD DRIVES

Assemblyman Jones invites North Country residents to give the gift of life… Jones says he will be hosting blood drives in Plattsburgh and Saranac Lake this week, and an additional drive in Malone in October. Jones’ drives will help supplement local hospitals, which typically experience a shortage of blood donations during the summer months. Jones said he encourages everyone who can to come out and do their part to help ensure patients in need can receive lifesaving blood. Blood donations are necessary for surgeries, cancer treatments, chronic injuries and traumatic injuries. A single blood donation can provide lifesaving treatment to up to three people. Jones will be holding the blood drives as per this schedule… In Saranac Lake on Thursday (tomorrow) from noon – 5pm at Adirondack Health; in Plattsburgh on Friday from 10 – 4 at UVM Health Network-CVPH; and in Malone on Wednesday, October 2nd, from 11 to 4 at Alice Hyde Medical Center. Details, such as who qualifies for donations, can be found at www.nybloodcenter.org. For more information, contact Assemblyman Jones’ office at 518-562-1986.

MASSENA HOSPITAL PUTS SURPLUS SALE UP TO THE VOTERS

At their latest meeting on Monday, the Massena Town Council unanimously voted to sell surplus Massena Memorial Hospital property to St. Lawrence Health System, and set up a mandatory referendum on Election Day… November 5th. Now however is the big questions… what will happen if that referendum fails to get enough voter support? Town attorney Eric Gustafson thinks he has the answer… Gustafson said there was a narrow window to have a special election outside of a regular election, and it would only require 182 signatures to force a permissive referendum. This is how he said it would work if it had to be implemented. If a petition is filed with a 15-day window, from 60 days to 75 days of Election Day, the council can have a proposition go to the electorate on Election Day. Because Monday’s meeting fell within that 15-day window, they have options now if it fails in November. But if the proposition does not pass, Gustafson said Massena is simply back to square one. Fears are though, if the referendum does not pass, then $28 million disappears and Massena Memorial Hospital closes.

MALONE RENOVATION PROJECT TO BE DISCUSSED AT PUBLIC HEARING

More details and fine print involving a planned major downtown renovation in Malone, is on the table and will be up for discussion tomorrow (Wednesday) when the village Planning Board meets. The public hearing is set for 6:30pm Wednesday, at the village offices on West Main Street. The discussion is expected to center around the proposal by Citizen Advocates’ to demolish most of the block between Harrison Place and Academy Street and replace the existing buildings with new apartments and retail spaces. One sticking point with that plan, is that some of the area proposed for redevelopment lies within the “scenic preservation district.” Citizen Advocates back in July, expressed their concerns about preserving the historical character of the buildings that would be demolished… including the fire-damaged Gorman Building, the Lynch Block, and Paddock’s Block. All of them are historically significant, dating back to the 1880s. While the planed renovations include efforts to preserve the historical character of the block as much as possible, many of the buildings are said to have structural problems, making any renovations simply impossible. On a positive note though, all planned new structures will be designed to replicate the original architecture when and where possible.

PINE RIDGE CAMPGROUND MAKES NATIONAL LIST

Just in case you missed it, the largest protected area in the lower 48 isn’t a national park. It’s the Adirondack Park and it’s right here in Franklin County. The total park area covers some six million acres… roughly the size of Vermont. And now, Pine Ridge Campground, which sits right along the peaceful banks of the Little Salmon River, has been named the number 6 spot in the nation on a list of best places to get away for a so-called ‘life detox.’ At just $28 a night, it offers guests the opportunity to fish, kayak, or just run along the shore of the Salmon River. Those who stay there can also head to the nearby St. Lawrence River for even more fishing action. The fact that it is removed from much of the hustle bustle of daily life for many city dwellers helps. For instance, the nearest town is Fort Covington, with a year-round population of only about 1,600. But there is still a lot to do. There’s a big outdoor pool and a baseball field, horseshoe pits, a basketball court, and giant Jenga. And don’t forget about the live music and outdoor dancing at night. And if a little rain falls during your escape to nature, don’t worry— you can head to the indoor recreation center and wait out the storm with board games.

FEDS RAID KEENE CAMP

Federal authorities raided a remote camp in Keene, and now two Vermont residents are facing federal charges and possibly up to 20 years in prison, after the fed say they were conspiring to sell marijuana out of their skateboard shop. At the same time many states have relaxed their marijuana laws, the federal government is reminding everyone that pot is still illegal nationally. 41 year old John Hazinga and 45 year old Samantha Steady own and manage the Ridin’ High Skate Shop in Burlington, Vermont. The couple was arrested and arraigned in federal court last Thursday. They pleaded not guilty. Van Hazinga is facing 10 criminal counts, including conspiracy to distribute marijuana; distribution, manufacture and possession of marijuana; and maintaining a residence used for storing, distributing and using marijuana. Steady is charged with six similar counts. The charges were filed after Burlington police began an investigation after being tipped off that some people at the skate shop had sold marijuana to a teenager. The same day that police searched the skate shop and the couple’s home in Vermont, the also searched a camp in Keene. At the three locations, officers seized more than 50 marijuana plants, 11 pounds of marijuana, and more edibles that police suspect are infused with THC. They also seized $67,000 in cash. Now, if the two are convicted on the federal charges, they could face up to 20 years in prison.

TOBACCO SMUGGLERS FACING FEDERAL CHARGES

Eight people…. seven of them hailing from Akwesasne…. are now facing federal fraud and money laundering charges for their part in what investigators say was a scheme to smuggle tobacco grown in the United States into Canada in an effort to avoid paying both U.S. and Canadian taxes. The investigation has been underway for the past three years…. after it was kicked off in the fall of 2016. That’s when they say a tobacco broker in Rochester was thought to be buying rag tobacco grown in North Carolina, and then selling it to several illegal cigarette manufacturers in Akwesasne. Those manufacturers are now accused of using the tobacco to manufacture untaxed tobacco products, and then using cars, trucks, snowmobiles and boats to smuggle the bulk tobacco into Canada. Those now facing a string of felony charges include Bernard Perkins of Rochester; Crymson Aldrich of Akwesasne; Crystal King of Akwesasne; Anthony Laughing Jr. of Akwesasne; Lawrence Mitchell of Akwesasne; Curtis Thompson of Akwesasne; Jonathan Thompson of Akwesasne; and Joseph Thompson… also of Akwesasne. Each truckload of illegal tobacco they are accused of smuggling, contained nearly 32,000 pounds of tobacco… valued at roughly $94,000. The buyers would pay for their purchases in cash. In total, Perkins… according to investigators… routed $13 million to a Miami-based tobacco brokerage firm.

DEVELOPER WANTS TO TURN FRANKLIN COUNTY MANURE INTO CA$H

A developer wants to make money in Franklin County by buying farmer’s manure…

(A company called Darling Transportation Solutions out of Schenectady says it’s eyeing Franklin County for a project that would transform manure into energy. Company representatives recently met with the Franklin County Solid Waste Management Authority to discuss methane gas. Darling already has a similar project up and running in New Hampshire, but the landfill they’re working with there may be closing within the next few years. Darling has applied with the New York tate Energy Research and Development Authority for business incentives. They expect to know within the next couple of months whether or not they’ll get funding. No decisions were made at the Franklin County meeting. The next step would be to do a feasibility study, which could take more than a year to complete. The solid waste authority plans to discuss the business proposal with the full Franklin County Legislature within the next few weeks.)