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

Legal Services of Central New York

Due to the spread of the coronavirus, New York state's court system is "on pause," not taking any new case filings except for emergency matters. A nonprofit that offers legal services to low-income residents in central New York is also reorganizing its efforts to serve its clients' most pressing needs.

Now working remotely, the staff of 40 attorneys at Legal Services of Central New York is helping people get access to resources such as food stamps, healthcare, and housing.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County officials say the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county is now at 13 after six new cases were reported overnight. One of those who tested positive worked at America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses located at 3401 Erie Boulevard East in DeWitt. County health officials say anyone who visited the store during the following days and times may have been exposed: 

Payne Horning / WRVO News File Photo

In response to the temporary shutdown measures taken by U.S. automakers, Novelis, the aluminum manufacturing plant in Oswego County, is closing part of its production line effective today. The shutdown is scheduled to last only until the end of the month, at which time company officials plan to reevaluate the situation. Employees will be paid in the two-week interim according to Leila Giancone, head of communications for the Oswego plant.

As he was preparing to retire from Congress, Richard Hanna, who represented the Mohawk Valley from 2011-2017, said his greatest failure in office was not fitting into the divisive party politics that had come to control Washington, D.C.. He bemoaned the party extremism and endless campaign cycles.

Hanna's friend Hedy Hage said that gamesmanship was antithetical to who Hanna was - someone who had risen from humble beginnings in a single-parent household to become an accomplished businessman.

Payne Horning / WRVO News File Photo

After suspending the obligation for Catholics to attend Sunday church, the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse felt compelled to go one step further according to its Director of Communications Danielle Cummings.

Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division / Flickr

A part-time employee at Fort Drum has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual, who lives in the Albany area, was most recently on base last week. They worked at the Education Center, an adult learning center, which has since been closed and cleaned. Fort Drum personnel are currently trying to find out if the worker had contact with any other people while on base, who will need to be quarantined for 14 days. 

WRVO News (file photo)

When the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY) gathered for its first-ever summit on cyber security last week, participants found a new item on their agenda that addressed a different type threat that's currently facing the private sector. 

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday the state will ban all gatherings with 500 or more people in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Cuomo said the ban would start for most places at 5 p.m. Friday. Venues of under 500 people can only be filled to half their capacity. The ban does not apply to schools, hospitals, nursing homes and mass transit.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

The recently released "count the cost" survey of 379 households in New York found that the average loss per home from the flooding along Lake Ontario's shoreline in 2017 and 2019 is $95,000. And the authors of the survey say it's not just those at the top who are suffering. Half of the households who participated in the survey earn less than $125,000 and 70% of those who responded say they do not have the resources to protect against another year of flooding. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

New York is pouring millions of dollars into shoreline communities along Lake Ontario to improve their resiliency against another potential year of flooding, but work is underway in Oswego to do much more than just protect what the city has now.

The city is taking advantage of $6 million in new state funding to not only reinforce one of its piers but also to convert it to a pedestrian-friendly boardwalk. And the city is using another $6 million to elevate portions of its marina as well as add a restaurant and landscaping there.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was part of the coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate who voted this month to limit President Donald Trump's ability to order offensive strikes against Iran, one of the few times the senator found herself in the majority in the Senate. She said her Republican colleagues, who control the chamber, are not standing up to Trump, citing their acquittal of the president in the impeachment trial and the lack of criticism over Attorney General William Barr's order to lower a recommended criminal sentence against one of Trump's political allies.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Newly released data shows telemedicine, which is health care treatment provided by phone or secure video chat, is increasingly being used for behavioral health services, such as treating mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders.

Housing and Homeless Coalition

The 2020 Point In Time Count, the annual count that tracks how many homeless people are living in each county of the country, found 613 people were experiencing homelessness in Oswego (52), Cayuga (132), and Onondaga (429) counties last month, which means they were living outside or in emergency shelters or transitional living facilities. Megan Stuart, director of the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Central New York, said that's down 16 percent from last year.

Veronica Volk / WXXI News (file photo)

The international body that helps regulate water levels on Lake Ontario and in the St. Lawrence River is forecasting a return to flood-level heights this summer.

Officials released a record amount of water from Lake Ontario through the Moses Saunders Dam last month and into the beginning of February. The issue is there's also a record amount of water flowing into Lake Ontario from the Great Lakes system.

Bryce Carmichael with the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board said it's hampering the board's efforts to avoid a repeat of 2019's unprecedented flooding.

Oneida County

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied individual assistance to residents in Oneida County where last year's Halloween storm damaged 1,100 homes, County Executive Anthony Picente said it was shameful.

Rep. John Katko

Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is introducing legislation aimed at combating sexual harassment in public housing, an effort that was inspired in part by a lawsuit that was filed against an Oswego landlord.

New York State Zoo at Thompson Park

Thompson Park Zoo Executive Director Lawrence Sorel, who is the latest in a long line of executive directors there, said one of his first priorities on the job was to develop a strategic plan. The last one adopted by the zoo board was made in 2005.

"So, clearly it was overdue," Sorel said. "You can’t make progress, you can’t know where you’re going until you set some kind of path in front of you."

Payne Horning / WRVO File Photo

After Lake Ontario reached new heights in 2017, the state and many homeowners invested substantial amounts of money rebuilding the breakwalls and other barriers along their shorelines - only to see much of it washed away again in 2019. North Country state Assemblyman Mark Walczyk says it's time for a new strategy.

"We need to streamline the process and solve it today so we don’t continue to lose our shoreline," Walczyk said. 

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Syracuse University said it has identified one individual who may be responsible for a bias-related incident on campus, but there have been more than 20 racist and anti-Semitic incidents reported since November and new ones continue to be discovered.

Jason Smith / WRVO News (file photo)

With unprecedented flooding along the shoreline of Lake Ontario in two of the last three years, many communities have been reeling on how to respond and how to prepare for the next round. Enter the Great Lakes Coastal Resilience Index. It's a free self-assessment guide for communities to understand how prepared they are for coastal flooding and other weather events such as ice storms.

State Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome) said he has been approached by a number of doctors from the Mohawk Valley to the North Country who say many upstate communities are currently unable to recruit and retain healthcare workers.

"You’re seeing more shortages in many areas, primarily in primary care but also in the specialties too, and that is a concern and will be a challenge," Griffo said.

WRVO News File Photo

The New York State Comptroller’s office says the number of school districts in the state that are in fiscal stress has increased from 26 to 33. In its annual report, the office looks at several measures to assess a school district's budgetary solvency including its fund balance levels, operating deficits, cash-on-hand, and reliance on short-term borrowing.

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.