lowville

WRVO News File Photo

A plant in the North Country that produces the famous Philadelphia-brand cream cheese has triggered a mandatory water conservation order in the Village of Lowville, and the issue may have been a result of a misunderstanding between village leaders and the owner of the plant.

When Kraft-Heinz announced in 2015 that the company would make a $100 million expansion of its Lowville plant, the village's mayor Donna Smith says they were aware that it would require more water. But Smith says there was a discrepancy on how much they would choose to use in a given period of time.

David Sommerstein / NCPR File Photo

The battle lines are drawn over a lawsuit that could reshape agriculture in New York state. Civil rights advocates are suing to give farm workers the right to form unions and bargain collectively. The state’s largest farm lobby has signed on in opposition, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo would not. The case centers on an incident at a dairy farm in Lewis County.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Advocates for farm workers are trying a new route to gain the right to form a union and be allowed benefits afforded to other laborers in New York. They are suing the state government. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he agrees with the farmworkers and won’t be defending the law in court.

For decades, migrant farmworkers and their advocates have tried to get a law passed to place the laborers under the protection of the state’s labor laws, giving them the right to form unions, and collectively bargain with their farmer employers for better working conditions.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

Two weeks ago, more than 150 workers at the Climax Packaging plant in Lowville were told not to come to work the next day. The plant was closing immediately and everyone would lose their jobs. Thursday, a job fair in Watertown attracted many former Climax workers looking to get back on their feet.

It was hard to find a place to park outside the Bruce Wright Memorial Conference Center. Inside, people milled around a room sometimes stopping to introduce themselves to a local employer looking to hire.

Tug Hill Commission hires its first female director

Feb 2, 2016
Tug Hill Commission

Last week, the Tug Hill Commission hired its first female executive director.

The Tug Hill is full of tiny isolated towns and villages spread out across the plateau. Supervisors of these towns are dealing with populations so small, they’re sometimes the only person on the job.  To handle anything from grant writing to balancing their town's budget, they sometimes reach out  to the Tug Hill Commission for advice. 

Lewis County officials embrace solar energy

Dec 2, 2015
U.S. Department of Agricuture / Flickr, Creative Commons

Lewis County is now looking to solar to help save on energy costs. County officials expect the new solar project to generate enough power to supply half the energy needed to run the municipal hospital and county offices.

Lewis County plans to fill a nine- acre parcel of land behind the Public Safety Building in Lowville with enough solar panels to produce two-megawatts of energy. Chairman Mike Tabolt, head of the Lewis County Board of Legislators, is negotiating with Greenskies Renewable Energy to develop the solar array.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) visited the home of Philadelphia brand cream cheese in Lowville Wednesday. While parent company Kraft-Heinz was in the midst of closing plants nationwide last week, the company recently it would hire 100 new workers at the plant.  Schumer told those already employed their jobs are secure.

Inside the Lowville cream cheese plant, the sweet heavy scent of cream is ever present.  Down a hallway, a  group of workers in blue uniforms and clear plastic caps spill out of a full room to hear from Schumer. 

Lowville Cream Cheese Festival

When Kraft-Heinz announced last week it would close seven of its factories nationwide, one factory in New York got better news than the rest. The company proposed a plan to expand its cream cheese plant in Lowville and hire more than 100 new employees over the next five years.

The Kraft plant in Lowville, which makes the famous Philadelphia brand cream cheese, currently employs 340 people.

Lewis County Manager Liz Swearingin says back in June, when Kraft announced it was merging with Heinz, county officials got on the phone with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

David Sommerstein / NCPR

For more than a decade, undocumented Hispanic workers have been indispensable on dairy farms across Upstate New York. The immigrants live largely invisible lives and rarely stray off the farm to avoid detection by federal agents. They are also less likely to report abuses.

Stefanik campaign

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) was in Lewis County Wednesday to hear concerns from residents in Lowville. The biggest issue on the minds of people there was the price of milk.  

Coffee and boxes of donuts were passed around the Lewis County Municipal Building for an event Stefanik calls “Coffee with  your Congresswoman."

Steve Craiger is a retired airman. While sipping on a cup of coffee with cream, he said he came to ask the Congresswoman what she plans to do to help farmers who are struggling with the drop in milk prices.

Worker Center of Central New York

Farm workers and activists are planning a protest this morning at a dairy farm in Lowville. They want to draw attention to the alleged abuse of a worker at the hands of a farm supervisor.  Rally organizers say many undocumented Hispanic workers face physical abuse, substandard housing and wage theft on dairy farms across the state.

Cuomo encourages snowmobilers to visit the Tug Hill

Feb 20, 2015
governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo has waived the registration fee for out of state snowmobiles during the weekend of March 7th. Cuomo made the announcement in Lowville Thursday before heading out on a snowmobile tour through the Tug Hill.