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NCPR News Staff: Joanna Richards

Watertown Correspondent

Joanna Richards grew up in Louisville, Kentucky but feels like a true north country native now that she owns winter boots rated for temps down to forty below zero. She worked for an alt weekly paper, as an associate editor for the NPR series This I Believe, and as a staff writer for an arts and entertainment weekly in Louisville, before moving to Watertown in 2008 to work as a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times.

She's thrilled to be working in radio again as the Watertown correspondent for North Country Public Radio and especially enjoys doing stories about intriguing local subcultures. Outside of work, she is a regional explorer, vegetarian cook, and regular volunteer for various community groups, as well as a voracious reader, aspiring pool shark and an orange belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. E-mail

Stories filed by Joanna Richards

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State health commissioner bans sale of synthetic marijuana

New York State has banned the sale of synthetic marijuana products. Marketed as "herbal incense" and sold under names like Spice and K2, the fake pot has been popular with people across the North Country, including Fort Drum soldiers. The post near Watertown recently announced it would ban soldiers from spending money at any businesses that sell synthetic pot. But as Joanna Richards reports, it now seems that won't be necessary.  Go to full article
Proposed site plan for waterfront hotel development in Clayton. Source: Town of Clayton website
Proposed site plan for waterfront hotel development in Clayton. Source: Town of Clayton website

Clayton hopes for riverfront transformation

People in the Thousand Islands village of Clayton are watching several projects that could transform an abandoned waterfront industrial site into a new community hub.

The site used to be home to Frink America, a snowplow manufacturer and a major employer in the small town. Before that, it was the village train station, where Golden Age vacationers would arrive to be ferried to luxury hotels on nearby islands.

The grand plan now in the works includes new docks, a pavilion, and a multi-story hotel. Joanna Richards has more.  Go to full article
Synthetic marijuana, packaged as herbal incense. Source: Wikipedia
Synthetic marijuana, packaged as herbal incense. Source: Wikipedia

Fort Drum moves to ban soldiers from businesses selling synthetic marijuana

Fort Drum recently notified several businesses that they will be put off limits to soldiers if they continue to sell synthetic marijuana, products marketed as "herbal incense" and sold under names like Spice and K2.  Go to full article
Holly Petraeus (right) and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand at the Fort Drum Commons. Photo: Fort Drum via Facebook
Holly Petraeus (right) and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand at the Fort Drum Commons. Photo: Fort Drum via Facebook

Senator Gillibrand, Holly Petreaus talk to Fort Drum soldiers about financial scams

President Obama has proposed a new mortgage relief program for membres of the military and veterans. Major lenders will review forecolusres or denials of re-financing. if wrongly foreclosed on, service members will be paid back their equity, and get extra compensation.

Service members are vulnerable to scams, bad deals, and complicated financing. Many are young and inexperienced in managing their finances -- and frequent moves can make them easy prey when they're feeling financial strain.

The problem is serious enough that an entire federal office is now devoted to protecting military families from financial fraud and abuse.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand brought Holly Petreaus, wife of CIA Director General David Petraeus, and head of to the new Office of Servicemember Affairs to Fort Drum last week. The office is part of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
About 200 people turned out to hear about the office's work.

Joanna Richards was there and has the story.  Go to full article

Report reveals problems at Fort Drum's Warrior Transition Battalion

A unit at Fort Drum charged with helping wounded soldiers transition to civilian life was given a scathing review in a report by the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office. According to the report, the Warrior Transition Battalion was seen as a "dumping ground" rather than a place to help soldiers heal. Medical recommendations were ignored, and morale was low, with some soldiers saying they'd rather be in jail or being "shot at in Iraq" than in the battalion. Joanna Richards reports.  Go to full article
Jennifer Caddick of Save the River. Photo: David Sommerstein
Jennifer Caddick of Save the River. Photo: David Sommerstein

Save the River chief Caddick to depart in June

Jennifer Caddick has led the environmental protection and education organization Save the River for the past six years. But she's announced now she'll be stepping aside. Reporter Joanna Richards stopped by the offices of the organization to speak with Caddick about the issues that have defined her tenure at the organization and what priorities a new leader will be facing as the group begins a new chapter.  Go to full article
The new hospice residential facility on Gotham St. in Watertown. Photo: Hospice of Jefferson County
The new hospice residential facility on Gotham St. in Watertown. Photo: Hospice of Jefferson County

New hospice residence to open doors soon in Watertown

Hospice groups provide care and comfort to people facing the end of their lives. Hospice of Jefferson County is about to take a big step forward in the kind of care it can offer dying patients -- a home.

Joanna Richards toured the new Watertown residence with CEO Stephen Lyman.  Go to full article
Col. Patrick D. Frank, Brigade Commander, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Photo: drum.army.mil
Col. Patrick D. Frank, Brigade Commander, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Photo: drum.army.mil

Fort Drum brigade commander says deployment has been tough, but successful

Fort Drum's 3rd Brigade Combat Team is beginning to come home after a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. The brigade, about 3,500 soldiers, was sent to an area just west of Kandahar City in southern Afghanistan, where few troops had been before.

They were deployed as part of President Obama's troop surge in the country. As the mission winds down, brigade commander Colonel Patrick Frank says his unit did a good job in a difficult setting. He spoke from Afghanistan with reporter Joanna Richards.
(CORRECTION: We originally reported that these troops were the first US soldiers in that region. Many comments on our story have challenged that assertion. We've contacted our sources at Ft. Drum for clarification and are still waiting for a reply. To the best of our understanding now, Col. Frank's unit was the first brigade level force to deploy there.)  Go to full article

Civilian liaison to Fort Drum says installation in good position going into BRAC round

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced last week that the military wants to close some installations as its reduces its force size and winds down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The process is called BRAC, for "base realignment and closure."

A spokeswoman for Fort Drum said the post isn't commenting on the announcement, but reporter Joanna Richards spoke with Carl McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization in Watertown, about how Fort Drum may fare as the BRAC process takes shape.  Go to full article

Funds some hoped would be used for new rooftop highway will instead go to Route 11 improvements

Proponents of a new rooftop highway in the state are angry after an announcement by the state Department of Transportation this week that the agency will use $6.3 million in federal money earmarked as part of the 2005 federal highway bill for improvements along Route 11. The I-98 supporters thought the money was supposed to be used for planning studies for the new highway. But the DOT says the language in the legislation allows the money to be used for Route 11 instead. Joanna Richards reports.  Go to full article

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