Weekly top reads: Auburn's Middleton scores 1,000th point, Moravia girls basketball wins, Moravia restaurant reopens
The Citizen's top 10 most-read stories of the week.
Three Cayuga County smoke shops hit with $150K in fines, tobacco licenses suspended
A trio of Auburn-area smoke shops have been fined, one for $133,000, and will have their tobacco licenses suspended for violating state laws regarding the sale of flavored vaping products and selling tobacco products to underage customers.
The Cayuga County Board of Health approved the fines and license suspensions on Tuesday. Panda Smoke and Vape in Aurelius received the most severe penalty — $133,000 in fines, a one-year suspension of its state tobacco retail license and a six-month suspension of its local license, effective Feb. 1.
Panda Smoke and Vape was found in violation of state laws prohibiting the sale of flavored vaping products and for selling tobacco products to an individual under age 21, the legal age to buy tobacco products in New York. The violations were committed on June 29, Nov. 5 and Nov. 8. The smoke shop also violated a state law requiring signs regarding tobacco product sales to be posted in the business.
It is the second time in five months that Panda Smoke and Vape has been slapped with a hefty fine. The health board voted in August to fine the shop $22,500 for selling flavored vaping products, selling tobacco products to underage individuals and not displaying state-mandated tobacco sale signage.
Auburn Express Smoke Shop on Grant Avenue has been fined $2,850 and will have its state tobacco retail license suspended for one year. The shop's local tobacco retail license will be suspended for three months beginning on Feb. 1.
Similar to Panda Smoke and Vape, Auburn Express Smoke Shop violated state laws by selling flavored vaping products and selling tobacco products to an underage customer. The smoke shop has a past violation. In August 2021, it sold tobacco products to an underage individual.
Another business, Auburn Express Smoke Shop Jr. on Columbus Street, must pay $16,750 in fines and will have its local tobacco retail license suspended for three months beginning Feb. 1. It will also receive two points on its state tobacco retail license record. A tobacco retailer will have their license suspended for one year if they get four points.
Auburn Express Smoke Shop Jr. violated state laws by selling flavored vaping products and sold tobacco products to an underage person.
Hearings were held in December to determine the penalties for the smoke shops. The owners of the businesses were invited to attend and testify at the hearings. According to summaries of the hearings, attorneys for Auburn Express Smoke Shop and Auburn Express Smoke Shop Jr. appeared at the hearings. Panda Smoke and Vape did not have a representative at its hearing.
Still no charges for driver in downtown Auburn crash
While Auburn police have located the driver involved in a crash around midnight Sunday on East Genesee Street, as of Monday afternoon the driver has yet to face any charges.
Auburn Police Department Deputy Chief Roger Anthony told The Citizen the department is still investigating the crash, and will have to wait "some time" for the results of a toxicology report.
The crash stemmed from an incident minutes earlier at Swaby's Tavern on South Street, police said. The driver, a man in a BMW, sped away from an incident at the bar down Genesee Street, lost control of the vehicle where the street curves near Seminary Avenue, and crashed into two parked cars at the beginning of East Hill. Anthony said a police officer witnessed the crash.
One of the parked cars was a Chevy Silverado that was flipped onto the sidewalk, covering the street in debris. A Subaru Legacy was also damaged. The BMW, its front end totaled, was found stopped in the middle of the street. The driver fled on foot and was gone when police arrived. Officers found him in the area shortly afterward, and he was taken to the hospital for evaluation.
The driver's name will be released when the investigation is complete, Anthony said. Another person has been arrested for his role in the incident at Swaby's: Michael E. Stanton, 25, of 48 Jefferson St., Auburn, faces charges of disorderly conduct, a violation, and resisting arrest, a class A misdemeanor.
East Genesee Street between Seminary Avenue and Route 38A was closed while the scene was investigated and cleaned up.
Welcome to the club: Middleton joins Auburn's 1,000-point group
Leah Middleton has joined exclusive company.
The Maroons' senior became only the sixth player in Auburn varsity girls basketball history to reach 1,000 career points on Friday night, in Auburn's 61-39 win over Central Square.
Middleton entered Friday's action needing nine points to reach the milestone.
She did so in the first quarter.
"I'm very excited for her," Maroons coach Al Giannone said. "She's come up through our program since she was really young. It's an accumulation of a lot of hard work on her part."
Middleton joins Sandy Harding (1,780), Leigh Aziz (1,101), Kelly Grinnell (1,178), Annie Giannone (1,557) and Stef Gera (1,126) in the 1,000-point club for Auburn girls basketball.
Because of a heads up from coach Giannone several weeks back, Middleton was aware that she was approaching 1,000, though unsure that Friday would be the night she reached the mark.
For her 1,000th point, Middleton led a fast break down the right side of the court. While two Central Square players pursued, Middleton took a side step and knocked down a mid-range field goal. Once Middleton scored her ninth point of the night, officials paused play and celebration ensued.
"It was a really special night," Middleton said. "All my teammates came on the floor and cheered for me, the JV team came over, and my parents started holding up posters and they brought out the balloons. They all made it really special.
"I had my suspicions (I was approaching 1,000). My parents aren't so good at keeping secrets. When it happened I was just really excited."
Middleton has been a member of Auburn's varsity team since her freshman year. Her growth has been a fun development to watch for Giannone, who is no stranger to seeing his players reach such milestones.
This one comes with a special anecdote, as Middleton wears the same jersey number -- No. 10 -- that Annie Giannone and Gera, the most recent members of the 1,000-point club, wore.
"It's kinda neat, this is the third player that's worn that number," Giannone said. "All three worked really hard on their game and were great teammates and played on great teams. And they are great kids too."
Middleton finished the night with 18 points, five steals and three assists.
She was the only Maroon to reach double figures in a balanced scoring night. BB Wilson was next with eight points, while Lexi Alberici and Booka Johnson had seven apiece.
Johnson added 10 rebounds.
As she looks ahead to the final quarter of the season, Middleton hopes her individual accomplishment isn't the last exciting memory of her senior season. The Maroons are in pursuit of another SCAC league title, and look to make noise next month in the Section III Class AA tournament, which they should receive one of the top seeds.
"I'm definitely looking to close it out on a high note," Middleton said. "We're looking for a league championship, so that would be really cool. And looking ahead to sectionals, we're trying to take it one game at a time. Hopefully we'll end the season with a bang."
Auburn (12-2) next plays Tuesday at Cortland.
Video: Auburn’s Leah Middleton scores her career 1000th point against Central Square
Driver of totaled car missing after accident in downtown Auburn
Police were searching for the driver of a car that appeared to have struck two parked vehicles on East Genesee Street in Auburn around midnight Sunday.
The car, a BMW, was empty in the middle of the street as Auburn police and fire personnel arrived at the scene.
The car appeared to have struck a truck, a Chevy Silverado, that was flipped onto the sidewalk, as well as a Subaru Legacy that was also damaged.
Auburn police began searching for the driver of the BMW as soon as they arrived. No one else appeared to be injured in the crash.
Traffic between Seminary Avenue and Route 38A was still being redirected as of 1 a.m.
No further information was immediately available from Auburn police.
This story will be updated.
Dessert shop, auto business granted variances by Auburn zoning board
A dessert shop and an auto detailing business were granted variances by the City of Auburn Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday.
The shop, Fruitys Treats, seeks to open in the former office of Ted Leader Real Estate at 92 Owasco St. The auto detailing business seeks to open at 56-58 Clark St., which is owned by Michael Morgan.
Both businesses were denied permits by code enforcement because they were prohibited uses under the properties' zoning, which is Residential-1 at 92 Owasco St. and Residential-2 at 56-58 Clark St.
Fruitys Treats will be operated byZekiya Moody, who approached Linda and Theodore Leader about opening the dessert business at 92 Owasco St., Linda Leader told the board. The Leaders, both real estate brokers, had used a space there as their office until the COVID-19 pandemic. The space has sat empty ever since, as the real estate business has mostly stayed remote, Leader explained.
"Nobody wants to come in and sit anymore at a conference table," she said. "Most clients, they want you to send them the contracts."
The property has a one-bedroom apartment that the Leaders rent to their daughter, but even with that rental income, maintaining the empty office space is costing the Leaders $3,170.87 a year, according to a financial hardship document they filed with the board. The space being empty also makes the property harder to sell and more vulnerable to vandalism, the Leaders said.
On the other hand, that area of Owasco Street has ample food businesses, such as Seafood Express and Giuseppe's Pizzeria. So another one not being allowed to open "doesn't make sense," Linda Leader said. The board's chair, Edward Darrow, agreed with her before putting the variance up to a vote. The variance was approved unanimously, and received no public comments.
"To me that whole street is peppered with retail," Darrow said. "Personally, I miss the corner stores I grew up with. I don't think it's a bad location for what the prospective tenant's looking to do."
The board was similarly receptive to Morgan, who was represented on the 56-58 Clark St. variance application by attorney Sam Giacona.
Morgan purchased the property in October and intends to continue using it as an auto detailing business. It has been an auto business for at least 50 years, he noted in his application, previously a gas station and dealership. Morgan plans "minor cosmetic improvements to the premises benefiting the surrounding neighborhood and improving the general view of travelers on Arterial West."
Giacona said that without the variance, Morgan would experience financial hardship in the form of a loss of about $3,700 a year.
The board approved the variance unanimously. No public comments on the application were recorded.
"I feel the unique character of the building in that neighborhood is not going to come of harm, so therefore aye," Darrow said.
In other news
An application to build additional storage units at a new Auburn facility was once again tabled at Monday's meeting.
Developer True Storage has applied for a variance to build four units with 84 lockers in front of a new location of self-storage brand CubeSmart at 325-327 Genesee St., a former P&C grocery store.
The application was tabled until the board's Feb. 27 meeting because attorney Joseph Camardo, representing True Storage, didn't provide financial hardship information in advance of Monday's meeting.
The board first heard Camardo present the application in October. The application was tabled in the following months because of the lack of the full board to review it at those meetings.
Camardo also told the board he would return in February with more statements from neighbors in support of the variance.
"This has been publicized five times so far and nobody's come up and objected to anything," he told the board, "but I'll be happy to go back and get some more letters."
New Auburn storage facility seeks approval for more units
The developer of a new Auburn storage facility is seeking approval from the city to build more units there.
Cortland man sentenced after string of Cayuga County larcenies
AUBURN— A Cortland man will be serving time in prison following a series of crimes that included thefts of snowmobiles, trailers and guns.
Tyler W. Hulslander, 27, with a previous address of 15 Brown Ave., was in front of Cayuga County Court Judge Thomas Leone for sentencing Thursday. He had been facing charges of first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, fourth-degree grand larceny, petit larceny and two counts of third-degree grand larceny before reaching a plea deal with prosecutors last fall.
Cayuga County Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Valdina said in court that Hulslander embarked on a "crime spree" in the county from late 2021 to early 2022, when he was found in a stolen pickup truck on Jan. 14.
John Price, Hulslander's attorney, noted that his client's pre-sentence investigation report shows he had accepted responsibility for his actions. When Leone asked Hulslander if there was anything he wanted to say, the defendant said he had pleaded guilty, admitted responsibility "and I just want to get this part of my life over and done with."
As part of a previous agreement when Hulslander pleaded guilty in October, he was sentenced to six years in state prison and three years of post-release supervision for the second-degree burglary count. For two counts of third-degree grand larceny, he was sentenced to two to six years in state prison and was also sentenced to two to six years in prison on the third-degree criminal possession of stolen property charge. For the fourth-degree grand larceny charge, Hulslander was sentenced to 1 and 1/3 to 4 years in state prison. All of those sentences are running concurrently.
The first-degree grand larceny and petit larceny counts were satisfied as a result of his plea. He will also need to pay $2,050 in restitution.
Huslsander was arrested in January 2022 when New York State Police checked a trespassing complaint reported in the town of Genoa. He was discovered in a pickup truck that had been reported stolen in Syracuse. The truck had guns and drugs inside and a stolen ATV in the back, police said at the time.
He was later tied to a burglary and theft at a hunting lodge, plus the theft of two trailers and a total of seven snowmobiles from multiple areas, including the town of Venice, authorities have said. Valdina said in court Thursday that all of the snowmobiles and both trailers have since been recovered.
Cayuga County crime spree expected to land Cortland man in state prison
A man is facing six years in prison after being convicted of multiple theft-related crimes.
Also in court:
• An Auburn man was sentenced to county jail time and probation on a charge involving the sexual performance of a child.
Cody M. Elmer, 23, was also before Leone in court Thursday, on a charge of promoting a sexual performance by a child. He was sentenced to six months of incarceration in the Cayuga County Jail followed by 10 years of probation.
• Erica T. Paoff, 25, with a most recent address of 8 Washington St., Auburn, was sentenced to five years of felony probation and ordered to participate in the drug court program for a third-degree burglary charge.
• Kyle Session, 36, was in front of Leone on charges of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and two counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. Session was sentenced to five years in state prison and three years of post-release supervision for one of the third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance charges.
• Kavita C. Singletary, 40, Rochester, was before Leone on charges of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. As a part of a previous agreement, the weapon charge was reduced to second-degree attempted criminal possession of a weapon. Singletary was sentenced to five years of shock probation with the first six months in the county jail for both the attempted weapon possession count and one of the third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance charges, with both sentences running concurrently. The other criminal possession of a controlled substance charge was satisfied as a result of her plea.
• Damien M. Wrana, 21, with a previous address of 127 Owasco St., Auburn, was also sentenced Thursday. Leone ordered five years of shock probation, with the first six months at the county jail. Wrana already served six months in jail and was released in December.
Dog rescued in Auburn house fire
A dog was saved from a burning Auburn house Tuesday morning.
The Auburn Fire Department said in a post on its Facebook page that firefighters were dispatched at 7:25 a.m. to a reported house fire at 94 Wall St. When firefighters arrived, they saw light smoke coming from the second floor of the structure.
"Crews entered the house for an interior attack and were met by zero visibility and high heat conditions," the AFD said. "Due to the maze-type configuration inside of the house, interior crews were not able to reach the fire room before the high heat forced them back out of the house. Exterior crews hit the fire from the outside, and then crews were then able to reenter the house and finish extinguishing the fire."
The house sustained fire and smoke damage upstairs while the downstairs portion of the building had water damage, AFD said. A dog was rescued from the home and no injuries were reported. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
Cayuga Cayuga 911 dispatchers said the fire was reported extinguished around 8:28 a.m.
Locking it down: Moravia girls basketball uses defense to hold off Weedsport
WEEDSPORT— It's been over two decades since Moravia girls basketball traveled to Weedsport for a regular season game, according to coach John Crossgrove.
The Blue Devils ensured their rare trip to northern Cayuga County was a victorious one.
Moravia overcame a seven-point deficit in the third quarter to come back and beat the Warriors 41-33 on Thursday night at Weedsport High School.
The performance was typical of the veteran Moravia squad, which has proven time and time again its comfort with winning a defensive battle. The Blue Devils capped their night by holding Weedsport to three points in the final eight minutes.
"This was maybe not our best defensive game but close to best, especially in the second half," Moravia coach John Crossgrove said. "I thought we conceded nothing to them. And emotionally— sometimes with high schoolers, controlling your emotions can be tough— I thought it was our best game. We played with an even keel."
While Moravia was the eventual winner, the middle portion of the game suggested a different outcome.
Made 3s from Allison Kehoe (to beat the first-quarter buzzer) and Jordan Smith had the Blue Devils ahead by seven early in the second quarter. From then until midway through the third quarter, the Blue Devils' offense struggled. That allowed the Warriors to take a one-point lead into halftime, which eventually grew to their own seven-point lead thanks to third-quarter 3s by freshmen Mallory Brown and Kayla Flask.
On the verge of a double-digit deficit, Moravia began to chip away at Weedsport's lead. The Blue Devils received a pair of baskets from senior Chloe Hanson, then later took the lead on Olivia Genson's breakaway layup.
Though Weedsport momentarily took back the lead, Moravia's defense took over. The Blue Devils held the Warriors to only six points in the final 12 minutes to earn the win.
"Sometimes you pay a little too much attention to the scoreboard, but there's no seven-point shots and you can't make that up in one play. That's what young kids sometimes try to do, but I thought we really did grind and make one play at a time," Crossgrove said. "It was great because the crowd was awesome and it was a pretty intense environment. They did a good job dealing with that."
Hanson finished tied for the team lead in scoring with Kehoe, as both finished with 10 points. Hanson added 12 rebounds to complete the double-double.
Brown totaled 13 points for the Warriors, and Morgan Flask figured in with 10.
Though she wasn't among the scoring leaders, two late baskets from freshman forward Caraline Wasileski proved crucial for the Blue Devils.
With around a minute left in the fourth, Wasileski drained an impressive hook shot to build Moravia's cushion to six points. On the next possession, the Blue Devils quickly swung the ball around the arc forcing the Warriors to chase. That left Wasileski wide open under the hoop, and she made no mistake delivering the dagger basket.
"We knew there was a good chance they would try to foul at that point," Crossgrove said. "We don't necessarily run a lot of plays, but we get in a certain mode of offensive mindset. We were in a regular mindset, but understood the situation that if someone comes open to make the play. They say the easiest play in basketball is to throw to the open teammate, and that's what we did. It was a pressure situation so it was nice to see them trust each other."
Moravia, now 11-3 on the season, entered this week's action ranked No. 23 in New York state in Class C. Between a solid victories over Weedsport (Section III's top record in Class C) and Southern Cayuga (ranked in Class D), and close losses to undefeated Union Springs and state-ranked Skaneateles earlier this season, the Blue Devils have proven capable of hanging with any team.
With only weeks remaining in the regular season, Crossgrove thinks there's still more out there for his group.
"I feel OK but there's always more to be had," Crossgrove said. "I think what makes me feel really good this year is that I don't have to preach that a whole lot. The girls I'm coaching really try to find ways to be better individually and as a team. If we keep that up it'll be a good long run for us."
Moravia is back at it Friday night when the Blue Devils host Groton. Weedsport next travels to Pulaski on Tuesday.
Gallery: Weedsport girls basketball hosts Moravia
Union Springs boys basketball again defies county rival Southern Cayuga
POPLAR RIDGE— Union Springs boys basketball's matchup with Southern Cayuga played out eerily similar to the teams' last meeting in December.
That game, which was the Cayuga County Holiday Tournament championship, the Wolves stormed out to a huge lead in the first quarter, only to fend off a feisty Chiefs team that didn't go down without a fight.
Union Springs built a double-digit lead in the first quarter, and managed to hold off Southern Cayuga for a 60-49 win on Friday at Southern Cayuga High School.
One of the few differences in this meeting versus the last was the environment. Holiday tournament games are played at a neutral site at Cayuga Community College. This game, for the Wolves, was a road game against a county rival in a raucous atmosphere.
According to coach Dan Cerro, that's the type of environment his team has thrived on this season.
"We just keep getting better and keep getting tougher," Cerro said. "I kinda think we play better. This team is still young. We get fired up with the crowd. As a player, I'd love this. This is fun. The crowd and everyone's right on top of you. That's high school basketball.
"The kids seem to respond to the bigger moments for some reason. We've played our better games in the big ones."
Damon Brown was the Wolves' leading scorer with 21, Collin Park finished with 19 and Aaron Johnson added 11.
Brandon Vanacore scored 13 for Southern Cayuga and Nate Thurston figured in with 12.
Union Springs held double-digit leads after the first and second quarters, and held Southern Cayuga scoreless through the first four minutes of the game until Thurston's free throws got the Chiefs off the schneid.
The Wolves never trailed through the 32-minute game, but the fourth quarter was too close for comfort at times. Thurston's 3-pointer with 6:30 to go brought the Chiefs within 10, 47-39, for the first time since the opening frame. He drained another 3 a few possessions later that cut the difference to six.
Union Springs ensured that its lead never shrank to a single score. With a minute remaining, Park drained a 3-pointer in front of the Wolves bench that put his team back in front by 10.
The Wolves hit all four of their free throws in the final minute to close it out.
"Collin hits that shot and it's kinda the dagger," Cerro said. "You can't ask for anything better than that on the road. I told him, 'Play confident, don't play arrogant.' It's good for him because he hasn't been shooting real well the last few games. I was happy for him to really close it out for us."
While Brown and Park did their usual damage on the scoresheet, Cerro was also complimentary of his role players. One in particular, the sophomore point guard Johnson, also made crucial plays down the stretch.
On consecutive Chiefs possessions in the fourth quarter, following Thurston's first 3, Johnson stole an inbounds pass that led to free throws and then forced a turnover at the other end. With four minutes left, he knocked down a wide-open 3 that helped provide some cushion.
Cerro referred to Johnson's style, in complimentary fashion, as "annoying" for opposing teams.
"He does the stuff that everyone used to do to us when I first got here," Cerro said. "To have that guy that, if you're not paying attention, gets a steal or gets a rebound. That steals like four possessions a game. The games are so close, four possessions is huge."
With February only days away, postseason play is on the horizon and Cerro has a positive outlook on his group. While he conceded "I don't believe we're the best team in the section," he believes Union Springs is capable of beating any opponent.
That's been proven in recent days. Earlier this week prior to beating Southern Cayuga -- a state-ranked team in Class D -- the Wolves gave defending Class C state champion Newfield everything the Trojans could handle in a six-point loss.
Union Springs has another test next week, as the Wolves travel to Moravia.
"We're growing as a team every game. We went down to (Newfield) a few years ago and got smacked around," Cerro said. "We got smacked early (in the last meeting) but fought back, which was different. Not many teams have players that can score or shoot the way we can. We're right in the pack of teams that can make some noise."
Gallery: Southern Cayuga hosts Union Springs in basketball doubleheader
Related to this collection
Auburn and Cayuga County neighbors: Obituaries for January 31
Read through the obituaries published in The Citizen
Auburn and Cayuga County neighbors: Obituaries for January 28
Read through the obituaries published in The Citizen
Auburn and Cayuga County neighbors: Obituaries for January 29
Read through the obituaries published in The Citizen
Weekday top 5: Cayuga County smoke shops fined, Auburn crash, dog rescued in Auburn fire
The Citizen's top five most-read stories of the work week.
Auburn and Cayuga County neighbors: Obituaries for January 30
Read through the obituaries published in The Citizen
Expensive homes on the market in Auburn and Cayuga County
These are some of the most luxurious homes on the Auburn and Cayuga County market.
Auburn and Cayuga County neighbors: Obituaries for February 1
Read through the obituaries published in The Citizen
What you missed this week in notable Auburn and Cayuga County crimes and court cases
This week's local crime and court updates from The Citizen.