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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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.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

In his first State of the County address, Oswego County Chairman James Weatherup announced that they can now move forward on a project to replace the county airport's on-site septic system with public wastewater services from the City of Fulton. It's the latest progress for the airport, which serves industries, businesses, and private pilots in Oswego and surrounding counties.

Weatherup says they hope to start work soon on the construction of a new hangar to house 10 airplanes. New York State is paying for part of the project with an $865,000 grant.

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.

WRVO News File Photo

The recently passed Green Light Act will allow undocumented immigrants in New York to apply for a driver's license with foreign passports, consular identification documents, and foreign driver's licenses. These changes won't take effect until December, but Seneca County Clerk Christina Lotz says as of now, she does not plan to comply.

WRVO News (file photo)

Oswego County businesses have long complained about the lack of a skilled workforce in the area. Local officials are now trying to address the issue with a workforce development program that could lower the unemployment rate and put Oswego County on the map.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a catalyst moment in the LGBTQ community's equal rights movement. Larger cities typically host events each June to commemorate the event, but the celebration is growing across upstate.

del Lago Resort & Casino

The New York Gaming Commission voted this month to allow wagers on sports games to take place at any of the four commercial casinos and tribal facilities in upstate. The gambling is restricted to in-person bets at a casino's designated sports lounge, as opposed to online or through mobile devices.

The approval was met with praise at the del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County, where construction on one of these lounges is already underway. del Lago General Manager Mark Juliano says the lounge will offer their customers a unique experience.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Starting July 1, Catholics in Oswego will merge their four churches into one because of the dwindling number of worshipers and limited resources in the community. Although many parishioners understand the need for the consolidation, several are unhappy with where the new faith community will celebrate mass.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

A coalition of New York property owners plans to sue the International Joint Commission (IJC), the international body that regulates water levels on Lake Ontario.

At the first meeting of the newly formed Lake Ontario Landowners Association, a crowd of more than 100 packed into a restaurant in Pulaski and cheered on the founder Jim Shea as he railed against the IJC and its board members.