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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Payne Horning / WRVO News

Watertown City Manager Rick Finn has decided to step down after an investigation was opened alleging he created a hostile work environment.

The complaint was filed last year. Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith said the investigation, which was run by an outside firm, was completed last week. Smith said after meeting for several hours, the Watertown City Council came to the conclusion that the allegations did not meet or rise to the level of a hostile work environment.

Lance McCord / Flickr


Flu activity in New York is reaching higher levels than in previous years. It's the same case in Onondaga, Oneida, Oswego, and Jefferson counties.

In Oswego County, confirmed flu cases recently increased by 59 percent reaching a level that's more than double the amount from this time last year. Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said it's not just the uptick in flu activity that is concerning public health officials, it's also the type of flu that's being passed around.


Officials in Oneida County are hoping a highly anticipated drone project will get off the ground this year now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has included it in his 2020 agenda.

Cuomo said in his State of the State address that New York plans to invest $9 million into building the so-called Skydome. It's a proposed indoor drone testing facility that would be housed at the Griffiss International Airport in Rome. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said officials have been trying to make the Skydome a reality for awhile now in part because it would put the region on the map.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

The U.S. government will soon implement a new rule that makes it harder for able-bodied adults without dependents to get food stamps without working a minimum number of hours per month. With a low national unemployment rate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it must encourage those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to take steps toward self-sufficiency in order to preserve its resources for those in need.

Jeff Smith

Watertown's new mayor Jeff Smith hasn't held public office since his term on the city council ended back in 2013, but now that he's back and in the executive's seat he is wasting no time getting to work. 

Among Smith's top priorities as he takes office is finding ways to run city government in a more efficient manner, such as investing in equipment to fill potholes more quickly and looking at whether it might be more cost effective to have the city haul its own waste to the landfill rather than paying the county to do it.

ceedub13 / Flickr, Creative Commons

Now that the shipping season on the St. Lawrence Seaway is at an end and warmer weather has reduced ice buildup on the St. Lawrence River, officials in charge of regulating water levels in Lake Ontario are increasing outflows through the Moses-Saunders Dam. 

"This is a short window, just a temporary opportunity, but it’s a good one for us," said Tony David, a member of the international Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which helps manage water levels.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Before winning office in November, Deana Michaels had served on a couple of city hall committees and spent more than a decade at Pathfinder Bank's Fulton branch, but she had never held public office. It's one of the reasons why she says her first move as mayor will be to complete a full audit of how the city and its individual departments run before making major changes.

WRVO News File Photo

Watertown officials are hopeful that the New Year will usher an end to the long-standing contract disputes between the city and the local firefighter union.

The legal feud between the two has dragged on for five years now, but recently the city settled with the union over its violation of a contract clause that required keeping a minimum of 15 firefighters on duty at all times. 

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

The U.S. and Canadian governments plan to undertake a study to assess Plan 2014, the water management plan used to help regulate the water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) has introduced legislation in the House to name a Fayetteville Post Office after a World War II veteran from central New York. 

Fayetteville Mayor Mark Olson says when Katko's office reached out to him about whom to name the local Post Office after, the feedback was unanimous.

Rep. John Katko / Facebook (file photo)

The House of Representative's impeachment vote not only has political consequences for President Donald Trump, but also for the those who supported and opposed it.

Grant Reeher, Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute and a professor of political science at Syracuse University, doesn't mince words about the significance of this moment for both central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who voted against impeachment, and Mohawk Valley Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica), who voted to impeach.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

The Upstate New York division of the Salvation Army is asking the community for some extra help before the end of the year because of a sluggish start to their annual fundraiser.

Jeremy Miller with the Salvation Army Empire State Division blames it on the late Thanksgiving this year, which cost them about five days of bell ringing. Bad weather is another factor, as is changing consumer patterns.

"It's not like it used to be," Miller said. 'People are shopping online more and more and having it delivered."

WRVO News (file photo)

The St. Lawrence Seaway that brings in shipping business to the Great Lakes is about 27 feet deep. In certain spots, the Port of Oswego and the channel leading up to it are only 25-21 feet deep. You may not think that a few extra feet matter, but Port of Oswego Authority Executive Director Bill Scriber says it could make a sizable impact. 

Payne Horning / WRVO News

About a decade ago, Congress passed a law that criminalized the creation and distribution of videos depicting the torture of animals, but not the actual abuse itself. A new bill recently signed into law by President Donald Trump addresses that loophole.

Erin Zacholl with Helping Hounds Dog Rescue in Dewitt says the new law will aid their efforts to find new homes for animals in need.

Mohawk Valley Health System

After more than five years of planning, work is underway to start the construction of the Mohawk Valley Health System's new 672,000-square-foot facility.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Syracuse University is still on edge from a string of racist and anti-Semitic incidents on campus in the last month. As students returned this week from Thanksgiving Break, they gathered with faculty and administrators Wednesday for a community peace vigil.

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 / WXXI News (file photo)

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.