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Oswego mayor and Port Authority battle over new grain tower

Jason Smith
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow says a grain storage tower being built by the Port of Oswego Authority will block views of Lake Ontario and the Oswego Lighthouse

The Port of Oswego Authority has billed its new grain storage tower as a significant improvement to their operations, but Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said the chosen location for that facility is being built is having the opposite effect on the city.

When those working on the project put up the exterior of the storage tower on the east side of the city this week, it became apparent to residents that the structure will block viewing access to Lake Ontario from multiple vantage points on that side of the city. Barlow said it destroys Oswego's "viewshed."

"For as disappointed as a lot of the people are, I think even worse they are in complete disbelief that somebody somewhere thought that this was a good idea," Barlow said. 

Port Authority Director Bill Scriber said in a statement that their plans have been public for more than a year and that Barlow was briefed in 2019 about this tower, which will have the capacity to store 14,000 metric tons of product.

"As a state authority, we went through all legal channels and posted information on this and other projects on our website and our social media in advance," Scriber said in a statement.

But Barlow said he never saw these plans and because the Port is on state property, they weren't subject to city zoning and planning requirements.

"I feel like this could have been more thought out, it could have been vetted by the public," Barlow said. "Even though you’re exempt, it doesn’t mean you should ignore the entire public sentiment behind the project and the use and how appropriate the actual development would be. The reason that they didn't do that is because they knew the viewshed would come up."

Barlow said he is exploring what legal actions if any he could take to stop further construction.

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.