Payne Horning


Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.

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In his annual address, Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said the state of the city this year rests on recovering from the COVID-19 health crisis. But, that won't stop officials from moving forward on several major projects such as efforts to further transform the city's waterfront area along Lake Ontario.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

When Kamala Harris is sworn in today as the nation's first female vice president, it's a milestone that will not go unnoticed in central New York. It's a day that Sally Roesch Wagner, a women's suffrage movement historian and founder of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, has been waiting for, for a long time. Though, Wagner said it's been a much longer wait for Gage, who was a 19th century suffragist.

Vice President Mike Pence Twitter

For his final speech in office, Vice President Mike Pence delivered an address in Watertown Sunday at the Fort Drum military installation. Pence, whose father was an Army veteran and whose son and son-in-law are currently serving in the U.S. military, thanked the soldiers for their sacrifice. He gave special credit to Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division for their service in Afghanistan.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Dining out in central New York, like elsewhere in the country, looks very different this year. The fallout from COVID-19 has changed the landscape of the industry here, putting some eateries out of business and forcing others to reinvent themselves. Conditions could improve for some restaurants in downtown Syracuse soon, now that New York state is lifting the restrictions on indoor dining in the city. But even with that change, many restaurant owners are still figuring out how to navigate in these uncharted waters, hopeful that 2021 will mark the end of this difficult period. 


NUAIR, the nonprofit organization overseeing drone testing and development in central New York, has a new president and CEO. Ken Stewart, who formerly worked with General Electric aviation, will be charged with taking the region's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-testing site and 50-mile drone corridor to the next level.

stnorbert / Flickr

For the first time, most New York employees now have access to paid sick leave. 

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Syracuse's Hancock International Airport usually enjoys a bump in traffic during the holiday season, but travel restrictions and recommendations from government officials not to travel has taken a slice out of that business.

Payne Horning

Central New Yorkers are accustomed to seeing plenty of ice at this time of year, but they've never seen it like this: a new drive-thru display at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse features upwards of 80 sculptures carved from more than 150,000 pounds of ice blocks.

United New York Ambulance Network Facebook

The federal government is directing more than $1 billion worth of COVID relief funding passed earlier this year to offset losses incurred by ambulance providers. It's welcome news in New York.

Syracuse Stage

Winter 2020 may be remembered as the year the holiday season went virtual. Central New York is finding a way to keep the spirit alive this year, in spite of the pandemic.

State Sen. Patty Ritchie

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is closing three state prisons, including the Watertown Correctional Facility. The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) said the decision to shut down Gowanda Correctional Facility, Watertown Correctional Facility, and the Annex at Clinton Correctional Facility is the culmination of years of progressive criminal justice reforms that have reduced the state’s inmate population to its lowest level in 30 years.

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For years now, Watertown leaders have been wrestling with how the city can afford a state-mandated second city courtroom, a problem they say originated in Albany. Now, the issue no longer exists thanks to a fix that also came from Albany.

In 2013, New York state increased the number of city court judges in Watertown from one full-time position and one part-time to two full-time judges. Former Watertown City Councilor Mark Walczyk said they never asked for that change nor the bill that came along with it.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Lake Ontario is hovering at its long-term average and two feet below where it was at this time last year, but it's not the same elsewhere in the Great Lakes. Some of the lakes are two or more feet above their long-term averages, presenting a risk of flooding in Lake Ontario next spring.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

The Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, an international government body that helps regulate water levels in the two bodies of water, has been cut in half - decreasing from 12 members to six. It's the latest response the International Joint Commission that oversees the board has made since historic flooding along the lake and river in 2019.

Jane Corwin, chair of the Commission's U.S. section, said this is an attempt to make the board more agile.

WRVO News File Photo

Upstate University Hospital's Chief Nursing Officer Nancy Page said the fatigue among her staff is palpable.

"Any medical healthcare assistant is used to dealing with peaks and valleys in volume, but this is certainly a peak that none of our healthcare assistants have ever seen," Page said. "And, not knowing when it's going to end. It would be like if you think - I can get through anything for the next two months, but we don't really know that. That's what makes the word overwhelming come to mind for me."

Oswego County Health Department

Coronavirus cases around central and northern New York continue to rise rapidly. Onondaga County reported 235 new cases Sunday. Oswego County has broken the record for daily cases twice in the last four days, and hospitalizations in New York have reached more than 3,300 for the first time since May. 

City of Watertown Planning and Community Development / Facebook

The Watertown City Council recently named a new city manager, ending a months-long search and, potentially, what has been a years-long saga to find a steady presence for that office.

Kenneth Mix, who has served as the interim city manager since January, will stay on the job for at least another two years - the longest contract Watertown's city charter permits. The council unanimously selected him for the role, citing the 30 years Mix has worked for the city, which includes time as the head of Watertown's planning department.

Literacy CNY

Classes came to an end last month at Literacy CNY, a nonprofit that helps adults in central New York learn how to read, nearly 60 years after the nonprofit got its start.

Lake Ontario is only 4 inches above its long-term average and forecasts predict that water levels will continue to decrease over the next month, yet some are concerned about flooding over the winter and spring. Lake Ontario is downstream from the rest of the Great Lakes, all of which are well above their long-term averages. 

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Watertown leaders are ready to make an offer to one of the candidates who interviewed for the city manager position, a development that comes shortly after the city released a report which sheds more light into why Watertown's former city manager resigned earlier this year.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

For the first time in more than 100 years, the annual Salvation Army holiday fundraiser is getting underway early. Officials with the charitable organization say the pandemic is stretching its resources and services thin.

Sarah Miller-Locke, director of Empire State Division of the Salvation Army, said talk about the holiday campaign usually doesn't start until after Halloween, but like with so many other things in 2020, this year is different.

The Office of Assemblyman Brian Manktelow

Last month, New York state reduced the number of days a nursing home must be free from Covid-19 in order for families to visit from 28 days to 14, which the NYS Department of Health said will open up access to 500 of the state's 613 nursing homes. But, a group of upstate lawmakers say there are still too many barriers in place. 

Port of Oswego

New data show that shipping on the Great Lakes has taken a hit this year due to the pandemic. From April through the end of August, cargo volumes in the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is the gateway to the Great Lakes, was down 8% compared to 2019's figures. That's according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce, a binational organization that represents marine industry stakeholders.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente

On Halloween night in 2019, parts of the Mohawk Valley were inundated with flash floods, resulting in millions of dollars in damages to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. Ahead of the anniversary of the devastating storm, local leaders are taking steps to prevent a repeat. 

Utica Mayor Rob Palmieri's administration recently invested $250,000 on executing the flood mitigation plan it crafted last year including repairing and replacing pipes and improving drainage infrastructure. 

Port of Oswego

U.S. businesses that deal in aluminum, including some here in central New York, are praising the Trump administration's recent decision to not impose tariffs on Canadian aluminum, however, they argue that the president's policies have been disruptive.

Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division / Flickr

An annual economic report shows that the Fort Drum military base outside Watertown continues to have a seismic impact in Jefferson, Louis, and St. Lawrence counties. Between the 19,000 military and civilian personnel, the base employs directly and 5,000 jobs off base that it supports indirectly, it's estimated that Fort Drum had a total economic impact of $1.7 billion in Fiscal Year 2019. The value-added portion of that impact accounts for 11.6% of the region's GDP.


New York state announced this week it is easing visitation rules at adult care facilities. Families can now visit their loved ones who are in assisted living facilities if there has not been a case of COVID-19 there in at least 14 days, down from the previous requirement of 28 days.

WRVO News (file photo)

According to a survey of more than 200 people in Syracuse, long-standing issues facing the community like housing, food, and employment have been made worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of respondents who say they struggle to pay rent has doubled since March and more than half say they have experienced some kind of change in employment, including losing their jobs or seeing reduced wages.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

With some schools in central New York reopening for in-person classes over the next few weeks, county health department officials are working with districts on what to do if staff or students contract the coronavirus. Many districts that are allowing children back into the building have elected for a hybrid system - half of the students come to school in person on Mondays and Tuesdays while the other half come in on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be reserved so staff can complete a deep clean of the building.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO News File Photo

In the past year alone, Fulton has experienced a tremendous amount of change: the city won $10 million from the state to revitalize its downtown, elected a new mayor for the first time in more than a decade, and started the process of building a series of multi-use trails throughout the city. Mayor Deana Michaels said that's why now is the perfect time to start writing a new narrative for the community.