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NCPR News Staff: David Sommerstein
News Reporter and Producer

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Andrea Malik applies a BTI treatment by a beaver dam in Colton. Black fly eggs need running water to hatch, so they're an easy target. Photo: David Sommerstein
Andrea Malik applies a BTI treatment by a beaver dam in Colton. Black fly eggs need running water to hatch, so they're an easy target. Photo: David Sommerstein

Hate black flies? Hug this woman.

It's one of the cruelest fates dealt the North Country. The snow's gone. The warm sun's finally back. And just when we're dying to bask in spring, the black flies begin to swarm.

A couple dozen towns in the North Country try to take a stand. They treat thousands of miles of streams to kill the nasty, biting bugs. It's all done by hand, dozens of people slogging miles through the deep woods to deliver a bacteria that's fatal to black flies: Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or BTI.

One woman in St. Lawrence County has dedicated almost 30 years of her life to battling the black fly. David Sommerstein profiled her in 2007.  Go to full article
Architects' rendering of Old Snell and Congdon Halls. Image: Clarkson University
Architects' rendering of Old Snell and Congdon Halls. Image: Clarkson University

Potsdam takes baby step in historic building redevelopment

Clarkson University has picked two developers to give 100-year-old historic buildings in Potsdam a new life. The announcement is the latest step in turning Old Snell and Congdon Halls into a mix of upscale apartments and public space, including the home of two arts and culture groups.  Go to full article
Doug Huntley, superintendent of Queensbury Union Free school district. Photo courtesy Doug Huntley
Doug Huntley, superintendent of Queensbury Union Free school district. Photo courtesy Doug Huntley

Should schools teach career-specific skills earlier?

Monday at St. Lawrence University, officials, educators and community leaders will gather for the 12th annual North Country Symposium. This year, the day-long conference will focus on sustaining the North Country's schools and ask how education can be more tightly woven into the fabric of North Country life.

One of the keynote speakers believes students need to begin pursuing the skills they'll need for a career earlier. Doug Huntley is superintendent of the Queensbury Union Free school district near Glens Falls, and a former superintendent of Massena Central schools.  Go to full article
Inside, the growing season starts simply and peacefully enough, with Dan Kent seeding celeriac, shallots, and onion, and Megan starting flowers like delphinium and cosmos. It's snowy and sleeting outside, but pretty cozy in the greenhouse. "It's not bad work, honestly," says Dan. Photo: David Sommerstein
Inside, the growing season starts simply and peacefully enough, with Dan Kent seeding celeriac, shallots, and onion, and Megan starting flowers like delphinium and cosmos. It's snowy and sleeting outside, but pretty cozy in the greenhouse. "It's not bad work, honestly," says Dan. Photo: David Sommerstein

"We struggle early, finish strong": Lessons learned on a Lisbon farm

With highs in the 40s all week, it looks like the weather has finally broken. It's springtime in the North Country. But it could still be weeks before the soil is warm enough to plant crops. Farmers are starting seeds now. They're planning. And they're worrying.

All this year, David Sommerstein is sending monthly stories from one organic vegetable farm, Kent Family Growers in St. Lawrence County. He'll follow the seasons, the crops, the labor, and the business of making a living being an "eat local" farmer. This time of year, all the action's in the greenhouse.  Go to full article
The former E.J. Noble Hospital and Kinney Nursing Home. Last year, Canton-Potsdam Hospital purchased the assets of both. Photo via <a href="http://www.fdrhpo.org/health-care-services/ej-noble/">Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization</a>
The former E.J. Noble Hospital and Kinney Nursing Home. Last year, Canton-Potsdam Hospital purchased the assets of both. Photo via Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization

Gouverneur's nursing home to close

The nursing home in Gouverneur announced Tuesday it will close on May 7th. The facility has 40 beds. 22 patients currently live there. Rebecca Faber, spokesperson for the Kinney Nursing Home board of directors, says the facility faced "irreversible financial challenges". "There have been annual losses of an average of $208,000 per year over a ten-year period," Faber says. "It's just not sustainable any further."  Go to full article
Alcoa workers at a press conference in 2007 during which the company promised to maintain 1065 jobs. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Alcoa workers at a press conference in 2007 during which the company promised to maintain 1065 jobs. Photo: David Sommerstein.

Alcoa reduces Massena workforce to 750

Alcoa has reached an agreement with New York State to keep its low cost power contract and proceed with a plan to build a new modern potline at its East plant in Massena.

But in the interim, the aluminum giant will reduce its workforce to 750 jobs, below the 900 job threshold it promised three years ago.  Go to full article
The grounds of the Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg. Photo: Lizette Haenel.
The grounds of the Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg. Photo: Lizette Haenel.

Young farmers, Ogdensburg get help in state budget

State Senator Patty Ritchie says the new state budget will help young farmers just getting started. The deal includes one million dollars for grants to help beginning farmers start or expand an agricultural business.  Go to full article
Canton Central School. Photo: Lizette Haenel
Canton Central School. Photo: Lizette Haenel

Is budget boost enough to save North Country schools?

Schools are digesting news of a $1.1 billion increase in state aid in the budget deal announced over the weekend.

State Senator Patty Ritchie says that's the largest increase in five years, which includes $20 million extra for schools within her 48th Senate district in Jefferson, Oswego, and part of St. Lawrence Counties.  Go to full article
The crew of Coast Guard Cutter <em>Neah Bay</em>, homeported in Cleveland, works to keep the <em>CSL Laurentien</em> moving during an escort in eastern Lake Erie March 27, 2014. Photo: courtesy USCG
The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay, homeported in Cleveland, works to keep the CSL Laurentien moving during an escort in eastern Lake Erie March 27, 2014. Photo: courtesy USCG

Relentless winter's ice delays St. Lawrence River shipping

Three U.S. Coast Guard cutter vessels are to help with annual ice-breaking operations in Thunder Bay's harbour on Lake Superior--the far end of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Canadian Coast Guard crews and their icebreakers are leading the effort after the harsh winter produced what are being called "unusually heavy and persistent" ice conditions.

The annual opening of the Seaway is one of the signs of spring in the North Country. But as with pretty much everything this year, winter is still having its way with the calendar.

The Seaway is holding its opening ceremony to welcome commercial ship traffic between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean this morning near Buffalo. But it's had to delay the opening of the St. Lawrence River part of the Seaway for three days until Monday due to ice.

David Sommerstein joined Martha Foley to discuss the annual debate over the Seaway's opening date.  Go to full article
Clarkson president Tony Collins and the Golden Knight welcome the team with high fives. Photo: David Sommerstein
Clarkson president Tony Collins and the Golden Knight welcome the team with high fives. Photo: David Sommerstein

Clarkson Golden Knights bring championship trophy to Potsdam

The Clarkson womens' hockey team came home to hugs and cheers yesterday. The Golden Knights defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers for the North Country's first Division I national championship.

Hundreds of fans met at Cheel Arena in Potsdam.

Senior and most valuable player Jamie Lee Rattray and her teammates passed the NCAA trophy on their home ice. "Coming home today and coming through the whole North Country,"Rattray told the crowd, "these girls are so proud to bring it back here. We have a such a great community here and I couldn't be more excited to bring this back to Clarkson. Thank you."

David Sommerstein was there and captured the sounds of the celebration (click "Listen" to hear the story.)  Go to full article

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David Sommerstein, NCPR's roving St. Lawrence Valley/Fort Drum/Tug Hill reporter, began his career in radio, strangely enough, as a high school Spanish teacher in Buffalo. While drilling verb conjugations and teaching a love for Latino culture during the day, he sat in as a late night jazz and Latin DJ at Buffalo's NPR affiliate, WBFO. The radio bug bit, and David found his way to southern Colorado/northern New Mexico (the Taos/Santa Fe area) where he was Program Director, Music Director, Volunteer Coordinator, and "Just About Anything Else You Can Think Of" Director at NPR affiliate KRZA. Since joining NCPR's news department, David has reported from the chilly deck of a St. Lawrence icebreaker, the power-chord filled stage of the High School Rock Band Festival, and the tense Albanian street market of post-war Kosovo with soldiers from Fort Drum. David also gets to fulfill his passion for music of all kinds when he spins world dance and groove music on editions of The Beat Authority. E-mail

Recent David Sommerstein stories carried by NPR: