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.

Ways to Connect

Payne Horning / WRVO News File Photo

The very fact that incumbent Utica Mayor Rob Palmieri can run for reelection again is one of the reasons his opponent, Utica Common Councilor Joe Marino, is trying to unseat him. In a controversial vote two years ago, a narrow majority of the council voted to extend term limits for the mayor and city councilors from eight successive years in office to 12, thus enabling Palmieri to seek a third term.

Allison Crossman, Cody Horbacz, Jeff Smith / WRVO News

Unlike in previous elections, Watertown residents will have three choices in this year's mayoral election because of an unprecedented tie between the second- and third-place finishers in this summer's primary. 

The first-place finisher in that race was Jeff Smith. This isn't his first time running for mayor. He lost a close election in 2011. But he believes he is poised to win this time around largely due to his experience. Smith spent 12 years on the city council, two in the Jefferson County Legislature, and is a local business owner.

Michael Hennessy, Payne Horning

Anthony Picente, Oneida County's longest-serving county executive, is once again up for reelection. He hopes to remain in office to continue building on the progress he says the region is achieving. But his opponent says it's time for a change both in leadership and in the role government plays in Oneida County's future.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Watertown officials recently broke ground on a new pool in Thompson Park, but the project's future is already uncertain.

Mayoral candidate Jeff Smith says as he knocks on doors in the final weeks of the campaign season, one of the top issues for voters is the new $3.1 million pool, which the Watertown City Council approved in August in a narrow 3-2 vote. Smith has long been an opponent to the idea and says if elected, he would consider stopping the project when he takes office in January.

Veronica Volk / Great Lakes Today

The amount of water that officials on the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board are releasing from Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River continues to be above the usual outflows for this time of year. That's due to the fact that lake levels are still over the so-called trigger levels in the government's water management, called Plan 2014. When those levels are exceeded, the Board can deviate from the Plan, allowing for more water to be pushed into the river.

Michael Hennessy, Payne Horning

The candidates running for Oneida County executive are now out on the campaign trail after spending the start of their contest in the courtroom. 

Incumbent County Executive Anthony Picente and the Oneida County Board of Elections challenged more than 200 signatures gathered by Democrat Michael Hennessy. A state supreme court judge later validated enough of them to secure Hennessy's spot on the ballot. Picente appealed that ruling, but was unsuccessful.

Picente says he stands by that decision.


Local community members in central and northern New York will now be able to play an even larger role in shaping the proposed national marine sanctuary in Lake Ontario.


The Oneida Indian Nation is going to introduce drone technology to better protect and manage their land and environmental resources.

To launch this new effort, the Oneida Indian Nation is teaming up with NUAIR, a nonprofit coalition of private and public organizations overseeing drone testing in central New York. The plan is for NUAIR to use its expertise in the field to assist the Oneida Indian Nation in collecting and assessing data about its property.


The approach that the Watertown City Court uses to address some cases involving opioids has changed. It is one of 10 courts in New York to receive a $150,000 grant for a new opioid court.

Watertown currently has a specific drug court to handle cases involving illicit substances, but the administrative judge who oversees the Watertown City Court, James Murphy, says the problems posed by opioids are unique.

Payne Horning

Syracuse University is honoring a member of the Central Park Five, a group of African American and Hispanic men who in 1989 were wrongfully convicted of a rape and later exonerated in 2002. 

WRVO News File Photo

Schools in central and northern New York are among those included in a recent audit from the New York State Comptroller's office that reviewed how prepared school districts are for emergency situations. It found none of the schools met the minimum planning or training requirements of the state education department.

Gravitywave / via Flickr

In Oswego County, 22 samples of mosquitoes collected from the towns of West Monroe, Hastings, and Constantia this summer have tested positive for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEE), a rare but serious disease that causes inflammation of the brain. Two horses in the county have died from the bites.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Water levels in Lake Ontario may be on the decline, but some of the damage from record-high levels remains. The shoreline in many communities is being wiped away, threatening homes and businesses.

Some who live along the lake are trying to adapt by beefing up their shorelines. Given that these events are unprecedented, Roy Widrig with New York Sea Grant said many property owners and even contractors are making mistakes that can make their situation worse.

Sandy Creek Central School District

Several school districts located in rural areas of central and northern New York are participating in a nationally funded program to address and potentially overcome some of the biggest obstacles facing their students.

Beit Hatfutsut Museum / Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum

This week, Oswego celebrated the small but significant role the city played during World War II. It was the only place in America to serve as a camp for mostly Jewish European refugees during the Holocaust. Many say the legacy of this story is the lesson it can teach, one that's still very relevant today. 

Payne Horning / WRVO News

From arcades to bowling alleys to go-karts, Destiny USA doesn't look like your typical mall and management says that's because it's not.

"It's a destination primarily," said Nikita Jankowski, the director of marketing at Destiny USA. "It’s the largest shopping, dining, and entertainment venue in New York state. We eliminated the word mall because it’s way more than a mall."

Of its more than 250 stores, there are at least 16 that offer a break from shopping for those inside and more on the way. They range from escape rooms to a comedy club to virtual reality entertainment.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

Monday is the 75th anniversary of when 982 mostly Jewish European refugees arrived in Oswego. President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought them to the decommissioned Fort Ontario in 1944, where they lived for nearly two years to escape war-torn Europe.

To commemorate this historical moment, the city is hosting a celebration Monday that may be the last of its kind.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

A bipartisan group of representatives from New York is trying to pass legislation that would fund a study that could help states address the issue of rising water levels in the Great Lakes. 

The proposed Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study would be a collaboration between federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA and the eight states that are positioned along the five lakes. It would analyze weather patterns and lake level fluctuations.

Allison Crossman, Cody Horbacz

When businesswoman Allison Crossman and City Councilor Cody Horbacz tied for second place in the Watertown mayoral primary in June, officials looked to the Jefferson County Board of Elections for what to do after discovering that the city's election law doesn't address what to do in the event of a tie. The issue was that the board's Republican and Democratic commissioners were split on whether two or three candidates could advance to the general election, so they asked for someone to file a lawsuit so that a judge could resolve the matter.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

To counter the growing national threat of school shootings, the Oswego County Sheriff's Department is working to provide more protection for local school districts for the upcoming school year.

Many school districts in Oswego County partner with local law enforcement to provide a continual police presence in their buildings, but some districts outside of municipalities have not. That's why Christopher Todd, superintendent of CiTi BOCES, which is located outside of Mexico, says they jumped on an offer from the county sheriff's office to arrange for a school resource officer.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Stacy Alvord, the director of Oswego County's Department of Social Services, says she's never seen anything quite like the opioid epidemic in her 40 years of work in child welfare.

"In the last decade - five years, things have really  gotten scarier as far as  just how toxic these drugs are," Alvord said.

On the front lines of this battle are the caseworkers at Child Protective Services, who Alvord says are seeing an increase in violence in the community.

Allison Crossman, Cody Horbacz

The Watertown City Council passed a resolution last night recommending that the Jefferson County Board of Elections certify three names on the ballot for the November mayoral election. The goal was to help end an impasse created when two candidates, Councilor Cody Horbacz and businesswoman Allison Crossman, tied for second place.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

New York state will soon require large generators of food waste donate what they can to those in need and compost the rest. The mandate won't go into effect until 2022, but work is already underway in the Mohawk Valley to meet this new recycling challenge.

Bill Rabbia, executive director of the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority (OHSWA), says they do their best to make one last use of the trash that ends up in landfills by capturing the methane gas it emits to generate electricity. However, Rabbia says the system is imperfect.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

The primaries in New York state took place more than two weeks ago, but the results of the Watertown mayoral primary remain undecided.

Under city law, the candidates with the first and second-most votes are supposed to advance to the general election. Jeff Smith came in first. The problem is that City Councilor Cody Horbacz and businesswoman Allison Crossman have tied for second place.

Payne Horning / WRVO News File Photo

A commission assembled to analyze whether any changes are needed to the structure of Watertown's city government has finished its review.

The push for a commission to review the Watertown City Charter came after the last round of City Council elections when candidates questioned why Watertown needed both a mayor and a city manager. Cities like Oswego have lumped those roles into one full-time mayor position, chosen by the electorate. But in Watertown, the City Council chooses the city manager, which Councilor Ryan Henry-Wilkinson opposes.

Tom Hart / North Sandy Pond Resiliency Project

The record-high water levels in Lake Ontario this year are not just flooding shoreline communities, they're also permanently changing the landscape. The higher waves are accelerating erosion along New York's shoreline, threatening property owners and the environment.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Exelon, the company that owns and operates the nuclear power plants in Oswego County, has reached an agreement with the county on a $69 million tax agreement.

The Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement will provide a steady stream of revenue to the county through 2023. Each year, the Mexico Central School District will get $9 million, the county will get $4 million, and the Town of Scriba will get $500,000. That's about $2 million more per year than under the previous PILOT agreement.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

Many homeowners along Lake Ontario acknowledge that they took the risk of potential flooding when they built or moved into their properties on the shoreline, but the record-high levels from 2017 and 2019 are not something anyone prepared for. Even those who are trying to adjust to these new levels are struggling to stay above water.

In Pulaski these days, the rules for approaching the homes on Rainbow Shores Road are the same whether you're coming by boat or car, go slow so you don't leave a wake.

Tom Fazzio / Syracuse University

Following a promise to the U.S., China announced that it would treat all fentanyl as illegal in an effort to more tightly regulate how many variants of the drug are making their way out of the country. But Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica), who has seen opioids ravage his Congressional district that covers the Mohawk Valley, is skeptical.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

The Oswego Common Council unanimously passed a resolution at its meeting this week calling on the International Joint Commission (IJC), the international body that helps regulate Lake Ontario's levels, to suspend Plan 2014. It's the water management plan implemented three years ago that calls for higher lake levels. Those who live along the shoreline blame it for the record water levels seen this year and in 2017.