January 12, 2007

Cortland joins nationwide effort

Protesters call for end to war in Iraq


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
From left, Kathie Arnold, Marlo Colletto and Caralea Arnold stand with signs outside the Cortland Post Office Thursday in protest of the war in Iraq.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Charlie Monteleone stopped at the Cortland Post Office late Thursday afternoon simply to pick up his mail.
He left an avowed activist.
“You people are doing the right thing,” Monteleone called out to more than 30 people rallying against President Bush’s proposal to send 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. “Next time … I’ll be here with you.”
Monteleone’s interest in the rally, along with a number of honked horns from passing cars and words of affirmation from passers-by, was exactly what organizer Ruth Grunberg said she was hoping for.
“It’s only from the grass roots that true change happens,” Grunberg said, acknowledging that a protest in Cortland was unlikely to have an immediate impact on policy in Washington. “Also I think this offers hope for people passing by who are probably feeling similar things — it lets them know they’re not alone, and next time maybe they’ll show up, or they’ll call or write a letter, do something to get involved.”
Thursday’s protest was done in conjunction with a larger protest, Grunberg said, with similar events held all over the country, including such neighboring communities as Oneonta, Ithaca and Auburn.
Grunberg and the other protesters, who came from across the county and a wide spectrum of age groups, marched up and down Main Street in front of the post office carrying signs calling for an end to the war, shouting anti-war slogans and even singing a few bars of “Give Peace a Chance.”
“We’re all just damn pissed off, and we’re tired of not having our voices heard,” said Beth Pass, who came to the rally from Ithaca. “How many times has this country told Bush that we don’t want this, and in how many different ways?”
Kathie Arnold, of Truxton, agreed.
“Everyone from the generals, to the American people, to the Iraqis, want the U.S. to withdraw, and it’s just absurd that we’re escalating,” Arnold said. “We should be working towards diplomacy instead of more killing.”
Arnold’s daughter Caralea carried a sign that said, “Democracy by example … not by gunpoint!” a sentiment that her friend and fellow protester Marlo Corletto agreed with.
“If we aren’t going to stop a war that the majority of the people are against, who are we to demonstrate democracy or to put it in place in other countries?” Corletto asked.
Caralea Arnold, meanwhile, pointed out the toll the war was taking on future generations.
“As a young person, I don’t want to be saddled with all the problems this war is creating, not to mention all the debt,” Arnold said. “I think the majority of the country agrees with us right now and we need to make ourselves heard — it’s worth the cold weather.”
While Corletto and the younger Arnold likely were relatively new to protesting wars, several of the protestors pointed out that this wasn’t the first time they’d gathered in front of the Post Office.
“A great many times since the mid-sixties, I’ve stood in front of the Cortland Post Office speaking out, hopefully it won’t need to be many more,” Robert Rhodes, of Cortland, said.
John Patrick Mackey, of Cortland, recalled the dedicated protests of Bill Griffen — a former SUNY Cortland professor and lifelong activist who died earlier this year — in the late 1960s over the Vietnam War.
“He stood in this very spot, week after week, in the dead of winter, and it was an inspiration for me,” Mackey said.
Parallels between the war in Vietnam and the current situation in Iraq were hard to avoid, Mackey said.
“Just in the way they talk about it, trying to use the word ‘surge’ when we all should be calling it what it is, an escalation,” he said.
Monteleone, too, equated the Iraq War with Vietnam.
“It’s been four years now, 3,000 (American) soldiers dead, their country is destroyed, its infrastructure is devastated — I don’t like to mention it in the same breath as Vietnam, but what’s the purpose of all this?” Monteleone said. “Now it’s just a mess over there, and it’s because the U.S. just can’t get out of the habit of trying to export democracy — people who want democracy, who are ready for it, are going to come looking for it. They don’t need us to push it.”



Wal-Mart in C’ville board’s hands

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Town Board members aren’t tipping their hands on an upcoming vote over an application for a mixed-use zoning designation for a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 13, citing the need to remain objective until after a public hearing.
The town Planning Board was unable to provide a recommendation to the Town Board following a 2-2 vote at a meeting Wednesday night, although the Cortland County Planning Board has recommended that a Planned Unit Development designation be granted for the 33.7-acre parcel that would contain the supercenter.
The site, which has been used as a polo field for many years, is currently zoned industrial.
Town Supervisor Dick Tupper said he expects the Town Board will schedule the required public hearing at its meeting Wednesday, and is required by the town’s zoning ordinances to act on the Planning Board’s recommendation — or lack thereof — within 45 days.
“This is an issue that’s brought forth a lot of public comments and a lot of interest, so it doesn’t surprise me,” Tupper said of the tie vote. “It is unfortunate that we didn’t get a definitive answer, but as I say, I’m not surprised. It’s a difficult issue.”
Tupper and Town Councilman Ron Rocco said discussion during the public hearing would be limited to issues specifically related to the PUD application, and won’t include comments relating to the proposal’s impact on the local aquifer or the economic impact of a new supercenter.
Neither Tupper nor Rocco would say how they planned to vote. Town Board member Ted Testa also did not want to make a prediction.
Testa said he supports the Planning Board’s decision, and has a great deal of respect for its members.
In addition to the public hearing, Testa said he would also take the advice of the town’s engineering firm, Clough Harbour & Associates, into consideration when he makes his decision.




Virgil increases transfer station fee

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — The Town Board approved increasing the annual fee it charges residents to dump garbage at its transfer station from $1 to $5.
The fee goes into effect today.
The board also reapproved a policy stating that garbage haulers would have to provide the transfer station with a list of all the clients whose garbage they transport to the station, and ensure those clients all have transfer station passes, which likely is not the case today.
Board members said those measures will help the transfer station bring in more revenue.
In, 2006, the town took in $289 in revenue from the sale of transfer station passes, which are photo identifications.
The town budgeted $550 in revenue from the photo IDs for this year.
Hand said about 750 of Virgil’s 900 households use the transfer station.
If all of those residents continue to use the transfer station this year, the town will earn $3,000 in net revenue, as it costs the town $1 to make each photo ID.
Board member decided Thursday that the revenue will be put into a special transfer station reserve fund, from which the town can get money for new equipment for the transfer station.
Board members, including Town Supervisor Jim Murphy, said the measures will also help ease the burden for Virgil residents who do not use the transfer station.
They won’t have to pay as much money in taxes, as a result of the increase in user fee revenue, as less money will have to be bonded for equipment.
Hand said this morning taxpayers pay about $1 per $1,000 in assessed property value on the transfer station.
In 2006, the town spent $40,000 on two transfer station employees, $73,000 on equipment for the transfer station and $45,000 in tipping fees.
This year, the town projects to spend $49,000 on transfer station employees and $59,000 on tipping fees. There will be no cost for equipment for the transfer station.




County seeks disaster declaration due to warm spell

Staff Reporter

Historically mild temperatures that are putting a strain on local ski resorts have prompted county officials to attempt to secure a state disaster declaration, and have apparently drawn the interest of the county’s congressional representative.
“It appears as though there are quite a few companies that have truly suffered substantial losses because of this weather,” said Brenda DeRusso, assistant coordinator of fire and emergency management for the county.
DeRusso is putting together an application for a Small Business Administration disaster declaration from the State Emergency Management Office.
This declaration, which would require certification by the governor, would allow businesses in the affected area to apply for long-term, low-interest loans through the government to help cover their losses this season.
Meanwhile Rep. Mike Arcuri (D-Utica) is scheduled to stop at Labrador Mountain ski center in Truxton at noon Saturday to discuss the issue.
What the congressman would be announcing has not yet been finalized, said Rick Bunnell, marketing director of Labrador Mountain, but Arcuri is expected to discuss the disaster claims and avenues for assistance that the local ski resorts and winter tourism businesses can apply for.
Receiving the SBA declaration requires the county to show evidence of at least five businesses that are seriously impacted, DeRusso said.
“Once they see the substantial losses we’re seeing here, I have no doubt we will receive certification from the governor’s office,” DeRusso said.
DeRusso has asked that businesses report revenue differences between this winter season and last using the period of Dec. 3 to Jan. 10 as a basis.
The difference for many businesses is substantial, she said.
For instance, Song Mountain has seen a 95 percent loss in revenue for that period, from $202,835 last ski season, to $11,008 this year.
CNY Power Sports in Cortlandville, which sells snowmobiles, reported a similar drop in sales, from $1,166,670 to $362,772, and has had to cut back on staffing significantly, DeRusso said.
Al Kryger, president of Greek Peak ski center in Virgil, said at the Virgil Town Board meeting Thursday night that his resort has only used 90 employees so far, as opposed to its usual 279.
He said the resort has produced $50,000 less in sales tax revenue than  it usually does and that local hotels were only 20 percent full during the Christmas season, compared to their usual 90 percent.
DeRusso said she would be submitting the application for disaster aid to a SEMO representative at a meeting Tuesday, and the application would then be forwarded to the governor for consideration.



Trooper given award for work in New Orleans after Katrina

Staff Reporter

New York State Trooper Calvin Thomas was working one of his 12-hour shifts in the hurricane-ravaged New Orleans in 2005 when he and a Louisiana trooper saw two men take goods from an apartment building and load them into two vehicles.
The troopers stopped the men and asked them to identify the residents of the apartment and they gave conflicting statements. A search of the apartment complex found two more men looting.
The Nov. 24, 2005, incident was outlined in a letter Lt. Mark P. Fournet of the Louisiana State Police wrote recommending Thomas for the agency’s Police Professional Excellence Award.
New York State Police Capt. Lawrence Jackmin presented Thomas with the award Wednesday on behalf of the Louisiana State Police. Of approximately 100 New York state troopers assigned to Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, only nine received the honor.
Thomas, who is stationed at the State Police barracks in Homer, and his temporary Louisiana State Police partner William Blackwell were on patrol in the Seventh District of New Orleans when they saw the two men taking items from the apartment building.
“They had their arms full,” Thomas said Wednesday. “They took mostly electronic equipment.”
Thomas, who spent 28 days in New Orleans, called the action that made him eligible for the award a “real good arrest.” “It didn’t happen too often down there that you caught someone red-handed doing that (looting).”
Jackmin said he was not surprised that Thomas received the award.
“We are very proud of him,” Jackmin said. “Cal is an exemplary trooper. He has done basically anything that we have asked him to do.”
Lt. Carl Saizan, of the Louisiana State Police, said of the New York State Police, “those guys did an extraordinary job for us. It was huge they came in and helped us when they did.”
Thomas said he has been told the troopers were sent to Louisiana to reciprocate the assistance Louisiana afforded New York in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
“The NOPD (New Orleans Police Department) was so overwhelmed with crime when this happened that they had to have assistance from the Louisiana State Police,” said Thomas, 36. “And then, they needed assistance from us because there was so much destruction and crime and property to protect that the New York State Police gave their assistance and went down there.”
Thomas said troopers volunteered and “the powers that be in Albany selected who they wanted of the volunteers to go down and represent the New York State Police.”
Thomas said he volunteered for service in the city because “it was an opportunity to see the city of New Orleans. And I wanted to help out any way I could.” For Thomas, being one the troopers chosen from all 11 State Police troops was an “honor.”