BALDWINSVILLE — As 2022 comes to a close, let’s reflect on the notable events, people and news of the last year:
Economic ups and downs
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the boom in the housing market continue to impact the local economy.
A young entrepreneur from Baldwinsville is closing a chapter of his career and a staple of the Central New York maple scene. Cedarvale Maple Syrup Co. announced in January that it is turning off the taps after 45 years in business.
Michael Spicer, a 2017 graduate of Baker High School, took over Cedarvale’s operations from founder Karl Wiles while still a student at Hamilton College in 2019. Despite increasing sales nearly 250% in the last three years, Spicer said he is unable to finance the purchase of the 265-acre property in the town of Onondaga.
“Since boiling my first batch of pure maple syrup on my mom’s stove, I learned the power of connection through food. From there on, I made it my dream to connect with as many people as possible through maple syrup. While that dream lives on in my heart, I’ve reached a point where I must take a step back,” Spicer wrote in a Jan. 12 post on Facebook.
Skyrocketing gas prices were especially burdensome to volunteer drivers for Baldwinsville Meals on Wheels, according to Executive Director Donna Metz.
B’ville MOW delivers meals five days a week to about 106 clients, many of whom are elderly, disabled or homebound. Metz said many of the organization’s 94 volunteers are seniors themselves.
B’ville MOW’s routes cover 30 miles in the Baldwinsville area as well as Phoenix, Warners and Jacks Reef. B’ville MOW also delivers meals to the Clay Senior Center and is looking into expanding to the Jordan-Elbridge area.
“I’m really scared what these gas prices are going to do to our program,” Metz said.
While the housing boom has been beneficial to those selling their homes, it has caused home values to skyrocket, leaving many taxpayers with sticker shock when they received their 2022 property assessments. Faced with backlash from angry homeowners, the towns of Salina, Lysander and Van Buren all voted to end full-value property assessments starting in 2023.
“The way assessments are done in New York is crazy and the state needs to do something to fix it,” Salina Supervisor Nick Paro said. “When there’s taxing entities [like school districts] that cross town lines, that causes inequities.”
A small group of village residents held a last-minute write-in campaign to make a statement about Baldwinsville’s election process in March.
“We had no expectation of winning, but our goal was really to get people talking,” said John Tonello, who received 40 write-in votes for mayor. Tonello is also the chair of the Baldwinsville Planning Board.
While the village does the “bare legal minimum” of publishing public notices about upcoming elections, Baldwinsville could do more to publicize the March election, said Donna Freyleue, who received 46 write-in votes for trustee.
“The deadline to file petitions was Feb. 7. That was never publicized. Lo and behold, the only people on the ballots were the incumbents and the hand-picked successors,” Freyleue said. “They rely on a very, very small turnout. I think that’s a shameful state of affairs.”
Mayor Dick Clarke, who easily retained his seat as mayor with 160 votes, expressed disappointment that the write-in candidates did not address him or the village board directly with their concerns.
“I’m a little dismayed that they said we’re secretive,” he said, adding that he welcomes calls and emails from constituents.
Unlike the villages of Elbridge, Solvay, Camillus, East Syracuse and Tully, Baldwinsville has long been resistant to moving its election to November, where it would fall under the Onondaga County Board of Elections’ purview. In the villages that have moved to the fall, turnout has increased by as much as 900%, according to Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny.
“If it’s lower-cost for the village and professionally run elections and also a higher turnout, I don’t understand what the drawback is,” Czarny said.
The Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District is finally seeing some progress in its years-long battle against water chestnuts in the Seneca River and Cross Lake areas thanks to hand-pulling and mechanical harvesting.
This year, NYS Sen. John Mannion secured $100,000 in the state budget to combat water chestnuts, and Onondaga County is matching that figure.
According to a 2021 OCSWCD report provided by Onondaga County Legislator Ken Bush Jr. (13th District), Soil and Water removed over 1.6 million pounds — 819.37 tons — of water chestnuts from the waterways last year. Paid and volunteer hand-pullers collected 45,740 pounds.
“It is an endless, endless challenge. … It’s a terrible environmental and economic situation. People cannot get out of their docks. You can see the plants clogging up the water,” said Bush, whose district includes Van Buren and Elbridge, home to the Seneca River and Cross Lake.
Baldwinsville-raised painter David Smart gave the neighbors a scare when an American flag appeared on the historic mural at Pagoda Hill Farm over the Independence Day holiday weekend.
“I tinted the primer for July 4,” Smart told the Messenger as he wrapped up a hot afternoon’s work on the mural in July.
Pagoda Hill Farm now belongs to Zach and Amy Manchee, who co-own the B’ville Diner with Amy’s parents, Jim and Laura Orlando. The Manchees purchased the property in 2019 and have spent the pandemic restoring the farmhouse that was nearly destroyed in a 2018 fire.
“It’s something we want to pass down to our daughter, along with the diner,” Zach Manchee said.
The Manchees’ gift to their daughter was once a gift to another little girl: Neenah Hamill. George Hamill had a mural of the pagoda painted on his barn in the 1870s because his daughter, Neenah, was homesick for her city of origin: Shanghai, China.
Smart said he grew up on Downer Street and remembered seeing the pagoda as a kid. The mural has been repainted several times over the last one-and-a-half centuries.
“Much of the original was gone. A failed restoration in 1979 caused the painting to deteriorate faster. Thank God for the new owners giving me the opportunity to restore a relic that has ties to Ernest Hemingway, has a national bestseller (‘View from Pagoda Hill’) written about it, and will now stand the test of time with the months of prep and planning I put into this,” Smart wrote in a Facebook post Aug. 5.
Arguably, the biggest news of 2022 was Micron Technology’s announcement that it will build a massive semiconductor chip plant at White Pine Commerce Park in the town of Clay.
“This is our Erie Canal moment. Just as the original Erie Canal did centuries ago, this 21st century Erie Canal will flow through the heart of Central New York and redefine Upstate New York’s place in the global economy for generations to come,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
Micron will invest as much as $100 billion over the course of two decades to build the “megafab.” The project will create 9,000 direct jobs for Micron and over 40,000 jobs in related industries in the community.
To create a pipeline for its workforce, Micron is forming partnerships with K-12 schools as well as the area’s colleges and universities. The company also plans to set up training centers to recruit and educate employees from different socioeconomic, racial and cultural backgrounds.
In addition, Micron pledged to spend 30% of construction expenses on New York State Certified Minority/Women Owned Business Enterprises and Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses.
President Joe Biden visited Syracuse to celebrate Micron’s announcement. He delivered remarks Oct. 27 at Onondaga Community College.
“I hope you feel what I feel standing here today: pride,” Biden said. “Pride in what we can do when we do it together to build a better America … proving to the world that our best days are ahead of us.”
Just over a year into his tenure as Baldwinsville Central School District superintendent, Jason Thomson was arrested Oct. 7 for driving while intoxicated.
According to the Baldwinsville Police Department, Thomson was spotted crowd-surfing in the bleachers at the Oct. 7 homecoming football game. Videos and photos of Thomson circulated on TikTok and Snapchat. Students attending the game reported to district staff that they suspected Thomson was intoxicated. Later that evening, a BPD officer witnessed Thomson driving without a front license plate and making a turn without using his turn signal.
Thomson, 48, was arrested and charged with the following: driving while intoxicated, driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level greater than .08%, failure to utilize a turn signal and no front license plate.
Baldwinsville Police Chief Mike Lefancheck said Thomson’s blood alcohol level was .15%, nearly twice the legal limit of .08%.
In an emergency meeting Oct. 10, the Baldwinsville Board of Education voted to place Thomson on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. In November, the BOE voted to press disciplinary charges against Thomson, including misconduct, insubordination, incompetence, neglect of duty and unprofessional conduct.
Thomson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, driving while ability impaired, in Baldwinsville Village Court on Dec. 14. He was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay a fine of $500 plus a surcharge of $260. Thomson’s license was to remain suspended for another three months.
2022 in high school sports
Sports Editor Phil Blackwell rounded up the highlights for the Bees:
• Lacrosse: In a rare feat for any high school, Baldwinsville’s boys and girls lacrosse teams both won state Class A championships on the same day in June. On Long Island, the boys Bees won their first-ever state title defeating Northport 10-7 as, at SUNY-Cortland, the girls Bees also played Northport — and also won, 15-9, earning a second state crown to go with the one they earned in 2000.
• Cross country: Baldwinsville earned another state championship in boys cross country thanks to senior Solomon Holden-Betts. Having finished second by one-tenth of a second to F-M’s Nolan McGinn in the Section III Class A race one week earlier, Holden-Betts returned to Vernon-Verona-Sherrill’s course in November and, in 16 minutes, 6.9 seconds, earned the individual state Class A title.