Joanna Richards, NCPR

@JoannaKRichards

North Country Public Radio/North Country Reporter for the Innovation Trail

Joanna Richards came to the Innovation Trail from Louisville, Kentucky, where she worked as an assistant editor for the NPR series This I Believe and as a staff writer for local arts and entertainment weekly Velocity. Joanna moved to Watertown in 2008 to work as a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. She began working for WRVO and North Country Public Radio in 2011, covering the city of Watertown, Jefferson County and Fort Drum for both stations. Joanna graduated from Oberlin College in 2005, where she earned her bachelor's degree in English. 

Ways To Connect

Mark Kurtz/NCPR

Since Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel detailed his proposal for deep military cutbacks Monday, officials in Watertown have been trying to divine what that could mean for Fort Drum. They believe the Army post is well-positioned - but that doesn't mean it won't take a hit.

The military is already in downsizing mode as the war in Afghanistan winds down. But Hagel’s plan calls for deeper cuts, including shrinking the Army to its smallest size since before World War Two.

An important Watertown employer will be bought out by a larger company, but a spokeswoman says workers have reason to be optimistic about the sale.

The $820 million deal will merge Stream Global Services into Cincinnati-based Convergys. Both companies run customer service call centers for big businesses around the world.

Joanna Richards/WRVO/NCPR

Most people have heard of “navigators” for the new health insurance exchanges. They're the trained, impartial guides funded by the federal government to help people make more informed choices as they shop for policies. And then there are private insurance brokers...there's been less talk about it, but they, too, can help consumers sign up for plans.

On the exchanges' first days, both kinds of guides were busy on the front lines of this major policy shift.

Joanna Richards / NCPR

Agriculture advocates are welcoming progress on state legislation that would slow rising property taxes for farmers. The Senate passed a bill last week that tightens the cap on farmland assessment increases. Yesterday, that measure also passed out of the Assembly's Agriculture Committee.

The bill would lower the cap on farmland assessment increases from 10 percent to 2 percent per year.

Farm advocates held a conference call to applaud Albany's movement on the issue. 

Joanna Richards / NCPR

A once-idled coal plant on Fort Drum has been given new life. ReEnergy Black River is creating dozens of new jobs in the North Country – while maintaining a focus on the environment.

State and local officials gathered recently at the facility to celebrate its grand opening.

Over the past year and a half, New York-based company ReEnergy Holdings has retrofitted the plant on Fort Drum to burn biomass instead of coal. Its primary fuel will be wood chips, created from the waste of the nearby logging industry on the Tug Hill Plateau and southwestern Adirondacks.

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