January 10, 2007

County recycling revenue increases


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland County Recycling Center foreman Randy Bishop uses a tow motor to transfer a bale of recycled cardboard from the center’s baling machine to be stacked and stored for shipment Tuesday.

Staff Reporter

The Cortland County Recycling Center earned nearly $30,000 in additional revenue in 2006, with high commodity prices throughout the summer and an influx of city recyclables.
The center ended the year with $139,091 in revenue, exceeding the $112,260 the county had budgeted.
“We brought in a lot more revenue than we expected, although the recycling as a standalone operation still runs in the red,” said County Highway Superintendent Don Chambers, who presented the information Tuesday to the county Legislature’s Highway Committee. “Recycling’s just not a moneymaking thing at this point, but we’re trying to get closer to that next year.”
Profitability for the recycling center would still appear to be far off, with total expenditures of about $270,000 in 2006 — much of which went to personnel, professional services and utilities — exceeding revenues by about $130,000. The expenditures for 2007 are projected at $308,000.
Still, Chambers said the landfill was a valuable resource for the county.
“We have a limited landfill area, and the more we recycle and send materials to be reused by the consumer, the longer the county can maintain the areas we’re currently filling,” Chambers said, referring to the county landfill on Townline Road in Solon.
Chambers said the budgeted revenue for the recycling center for 2007 has been upped to $160,000, in anticipation of a full year of receiving city recyclables.
Superior Disposal Services, which collects for the city, began bringing recyclables to the county landfill in August.
It previously had been hauling them to the Tompkins County Landfill.
Over the course of the entire year, Chambers estimated, the city recyclables could bring an additional $30,000 of revenue to the county.
“What’s great about this is, before the old recycling center burned, we were having trouble, coming up short. But now we’re actually adding revenue,” Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown said at the meeting.
The $2.9 million recycling center opened on Pendleton Street in May 2005. The previous center, which stood in the same spot, burned in October 2002.
Additional flow has also prompted the county to increase its contract for staffing through the J.M. Murray Center by about $25,000 in 2007, meaning increases in expenditures and revenues could ultimately be a wash.
However, if commodity prices go up again in the summer, as they did in 2006, Chambers said the county could exceed its budgeted revenues again this year.
“Commodity prices were just spectacular this summer and that really helped us,” Chambers said.
The center accepts glass, metal and plastic containers and paper and cardboard, bundles the materials by the ton, and sells them as a commodity.
Prices this past summer reached, for instance, between $75 and $85 per ton of corrugated cardboard, Chambers said, before bottoming out at $50 per ton currently.
Prices tend to get higher in summer months and lower in the winter, Chambers said, when there are simply more recyclables available.
“This is the time of year where you see a high flow level, probably because of the holidays, people just have more to get rid of,” he said. “There’s a higher supply out there, so you’d expect the price to drop.”

Family Video store OK’d on N. Main

The city Planning Commission granted subdivision and site plan approvals Tuesday for a Family Video rental store on North Main Street adjacent to Wilson Farms.
The development had received waivers for the subdivision and for parking space requirements at a meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals Monday evening.
The 5,000-square-foot Family Video store includes 49 parking spaces, which is less than the required one parking space per every 1,000 square feet of structure.
The video rental store will replace the Maryann’s ice cream store, and will feature a red brick façade and a green metal roof, said John Sciarabba, of Rochester-based LandTech Surveying & Planning.
The sidewalk between the parking lot of the two businesses and Madison Street will be improved during construction, and a concrete apron will be added, Sciarabba said.
During a preliminary appearance before the Planning Commission over the summer, Todd Bezenah, regional director for Family Video, was directed to add more green space to the proposal, and a nearly 11-foot swath of green space will act as a buffer between North Main Street and the parking lot.
As a condition of approval, the Planning Commission asked that motion sensors be placed on the corners of the building to discourage loitering, and, upon the recommendation of Feiszli, to install a dry well behind the Family Video building.
Bezenah also indicated that parents picking and dropping off their children at St. Mary’s School would still be allowed to park in the lot.
Evan Geibel


City OKs south Main St. housing plan

The $8.2 million project to rehabilitate buildings could get under way by next month. 

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The city Planning Commission approved a site plan Tuesday for an $8.2 million south Main Street housing rehabilitation project planned by a Syracuse company.
Cortland Crown Homes plans to demolish four buildings as early as February, once Syracuse-based Housing Visions, the nonprofit that organized the venture, receives approval from its financiers.
Jim Hoy, the director of construction for Housing Visions Construction, said the company is performing asbestos surveys the buildings that are unoccupied. Hoy estimated about half of the current tenants of the buildings have been relocated, originally about 30 families.
The site plan, as presented by Mel Moore of Syracuse-based Moore Landscape Architecture and project architect Erkki Alestalo of Dewitt-based Alestalo & Etzel Architects, calls for most of the parking for six buildings that will be gutted and rehabilitated and two newly constructed buildings to be located behind the structures or buffered from the street by green spaces.
The corner of south Main Street and Frederick Avenue will hold both green space and parking, in place of the yellowish-orange building on the plot now.
Moore said in an effort to minimize parking along the streets, there would be one parking space for each of the 30 units that the project will create.
The green space buffers were intended to also act as on-site drainage areas, Moore said, and are graded to that effect. Engineer Chuck Feiszli — who acts in an advisory capacity for the commission — requested the board consider asking the developers to install on-site dry wells or infiltration basins to minimize the impact on the city’s storm sewers, which he said are becoming “overwhelmed.”
He said the gravelly nature of the soil in Cortland made installing such measures fairly easy and inexpensive.
With the buildings at 148 Main St., 162 Main St., a carriage house behind 2 Argyle, and several interconnected structures between 152 and 156 Main St. being demolished but not rebuilt, the project actually has a smaller footprint than the current site.


Little York Pavilion needs porch work

Staff Reporter

The second-story porch that wraps around much of the historic Pavilion on Little York Lake is badly in need of an upgrade, members of the county Highway Committee were told Tuesday.
The porch has a load capacity far below the current 100 pounds per square foot required by New York state, county Highway Superintendent Don Chambers said at the meeting.
Some areas have a measured capacity as low as 13 pounds per square foot, Chambers said, with a majority of the porch also measuring below the code requirement.
“It’s been functioning for around 100 years, but it doesn’t meet the modern codes that are now in place,” Chambers said. “It’s not due to deterioration of any kind, it’s simply the way it was designed — there weren’t really building codes in place when it was designed.”
The county, which owns the pavilion, could opt to either perform a temporary fix that would bring the structure’s overall load capacity to a safe level of 40 pounds per square foot, or it could do an extensive renovation that would bring the porch in compliance with state code.
Chambers offered estimates on the cost of providing a detailed plan for both options from Liverpool engineering firm Barton & Loguidice, with the cost of the temporary repair plan estimated at $7,000 and that of the long-term plan estimated at $12,500.
The county could do the work on the temporary fix, limiting the cost of the project to the designs only, Chambers said, but the long-term renovation would require a contractor and extensive, not-yet-determined costs.
Ultimately, because the Pavilion is leased to Cortland Repertory Theater for performances throughout the summer, the committee agreed that the county should seek both a temporary fix and a more permanent solution.
Committee members discussed how often the porch is used by patrons of CRT, and agreed that the county needed to upgrade the porch permanently.
“To me, the potential of liability is so great, we just don’t have a choice,” said Legislator Newell Willcox (R-Homer).
Committee Chairman Dan Tagliente agreed, and asked Chambers to ask Barton & Loguidice for an estimate on the cost of engineering designs for both plans together, rather than just one or the other.
Chambers said the temporary renovations, which would need to be done this spring prior to CRT’s opening, could include temporary columns or reducing the span of some of the beams.
Countless older buildings don’t meet modern code, Chambers said, and the porch has been safe to date.
Providing the temporary increase in load capacity for this summer would be a precaution until the building could be brought up to code next year, he said.



Homer sets vote date for school project

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The Board of Education moved ahead Tuesday night with its plans for $16.5 million in district renovations by completing an environmental review of the project and setting a date for a public referendum.
The board voted unanimously to hold a public referendum for the project from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. March 6 in Room 58 of the high school. The vote will follow two months of education and dialog with the public about the project, board members said.
The project would improve security at all of the district school buildings, make the buildings more wheelchair accessible and make the facilities more modern and useful, board members said.
Project presentations will be given Jan. 16 at a fire department meeting and Jan. 17 at a meeting of the Homer Business Association. The Village Board heard a project overview at its Jan 2 meeting.
The board will gather feedback from those meetings, said board President Forrest Earl.
The board has sent out invitations to additional community groups to see if they would like presentations about the project.
Earl said the board is almost done preparing informational material to send to all district residents. The material will include layouts of district buildings and lists of the work that is going to be done.
Scott Ochs, a board member, asked Earl if the information would clarify that the project would not raise taxes. He said he was concerned people are not familiar with this point.
Earl said that the first thing on the back of the mailer is the project’s cost and a pie graph showing the sources of its financing.
Delair told the Cortland Standard in late November the district will cover about 10 percent of the project cost with money in its reserves and about $700,000 in projected state building aid. The state will pay the rest.
The board also voted unanimously to declare itself lead agency in the project, after consent from the state Education Department, and the village and town boards.
At the recommendation of Horseheads-based Hunt Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors, the board unanimously approved labeling the project a Type 1 action, saying it would not have a significant environmental impact.



Gratton testifies in her own defense

Staff Reporter

A woman on trial accused of starving her 5-year-old son told a jury Tuesday that the boy had “a sudden weight loss,” and she intended to seek help if his condition didn’t improve.
Judy Gratton, 49, took the stand in her own defense in County Court, where she admitted she did not take proper care of her three young children but claimed she never intended to hurt them.
She said her youngest son had only been sick for a few days when police raided her home on March 21 and found him in a cockroach infested playpen weighing 15 pounds.
Doctors previously testified that the child was near death at the time of Gratton’s arrest. They speculated the boy’s condition was the result of months of malnutrition.
“It wasn’t like I was trying to kill him,” Gratton said, crying. “I wasn’t going to just sit there and let him die. I’m not heartless. I planned on doing something. When they (the police) broke into my house, that kind of put a damper on that.”
Gratton is charged with first-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment, felonies, three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.
The mother of six — who has three adult children and three young children who were in her custody at the time of her arrest — said she tried to feed her youngest child but he would not eat, adding that she was afraid to ask for help.
“He wouldn’t hold down food,” she said. “I kept trying to feed him and he just kept spitting it back at me. I was too scared to (take the boy to a doctor). I was afraid I would be sitting where I am right now.”
Gratton told the jury she had a drinking problem that had taken control of her life and at the time of her arrest she weighed 89 pounds. She said she now weighs 134 pounds after not being able to drink in jail for the last eight and a half months.
Officers testified last week that there were several bags of dirty diapers and garbage throughout the house, particularly in the room where the child was found.
Gratton admitted her house was filthy, saying she is “not the best housekeeper.” She said she planned on cleaning up the garbage the day police arrested her and that there were cockroaches in the house when she moved in.