January 12, 2008


CHS students writing story of R&B Ink Peppers

Writing group forms at high school that will print bimonthly publication of student work


Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
Cortland High ninth-grader Demmarie Boreland examines her piece of candy as she writes in detail about the aspects of it, including its taste, sound, smell and looks. Boreland and Peter Zayac, left, are members of the R&B Ink Peppers writing club at the school. 

Staff Reporter

The R&B Ink Peppers seems a strange name for a writing group, but to the four students who helped form it, it not only makes perfect sense, but also shows off their creativity.
The R&B comes from the group Rock Bottom Remainders, a group of writers that turns into musicians for an annual concert and includes Stephen King, said Peter Zayac, a Cortland High School 10th-grader.
The ink is the most obvious: the group stays after school Thursdays for an hour and a half to write.
And the peppers part is a tribute to the English department office, which displays a collection of things relating to hot peppers, including hot sauce and posters, Zayac said.
“This gives you inspiration,” Zayac said about the group.
Leading the group is Amanda Triplett, who teaches 10th-grade English and is a writer in her spare time. She said fellow English teacher Brian Bosch is helping with the group’s bimonthly publication, “Words Less Traveled,” which will debut in February.
“I would say they’re an emotional group,” Triplett said. “The main reason we’re getting together is to create a new appreciation of creative writing.”
Thursday the group was focusing on spontaneous writing around the color red, the first theme of the publication.
Triplett had them write about their experience with Atomic Fire Balls or Cherry Now and Laters, a chewy candy similar to taffy.
“Writers write a ton of junk before they write something amazing,” said Triplett, coaxing students to read their work when finished with the exercise.
Ninth-grader Demmarie Boreland described the small air bubbles in the Now and Later, its ridges and its stickiness.
Meressa Darling, another ninth-grader, described her fire ball and how the intensity of it grew until she was “atomically on fire.”
The students said a love of writing brought them to the class.
“I love to write,” Darling said. “I write all sorts of stories at home.”
She said the group always does something fun. One time they started off with a word, “random,” and then someone added another word, “raw,” and another person added “eggs.” Then they wrote about random raw eggs.
Boreland said she has been working on a novel and has written eight chapters in two months. She plans to write 25 chapters.
“Whatever comes, I write,” said Zayac. He said he likes thrillers and science fiction with a psychological element.
Triplett said there is a literary magazine that students can submit to called “Musings,” but there had been no group in which students _could motivate each other and critique each other’s work.
She said there was a need for such a group — in just two months the group has increased from four students to 26.
She said the students would also be hooking up with the SUNY Cortland project, the Big Read, which is a national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts.
It is designed to encourage reading across the country and across the age spectrum. Many libraries received grants to encourage reading and some colleges, such as SUNY Cortland, also received grants. 
The group is also gearing up for a write-a-thon Jan. 26. Triplett said students would write from 2 to 7 p.m. and then watch the high school production of “Rumors,” by Neil Simon. Some of the students in the writing group are in the play. She said the group will use this as a fundraising event and asked students to get pledges for their writing that day.
“People should be very supportive because you’re doing writing,” she said.
Tenth-grader Alyssa Ladd said she has already collected $56 from nurses and teachers in the _district.
Triplett said she would like the group to take on a community focus with perhaps people in the community contributing pieces. She would also like to see the publication go online, also with community contributions. Triplett said she invited one mother with an interest in writing to the write-a-thon.




City Common Council to hear winter fest plans

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Freestyle ski demonstrations would make a return to downtown Cortland on March 1 during the first annual Chill-A-Bration, if city officials approve the winter festival.
Approvals for the event are on the agenda for the City Common Council’s meeting Tuesday.
Kevin Morrin, director of marketing for Greek Peak, said the ski resort would be involved in the festival by bringing in snowmaking guns, building a ramp for instructors and residents to go down and setting up a tent with information on Greek Peak.
“We can do it even if its 60 degrees, we just have to bring a lot more snow,” Morrin said.
In the early 1980s, the city hosted a Winter Magic Weekend in February, where thousands lined the streets and instructors from Greek Peak, Labrador Mountain and Song Mountain ski resorts conducted freestyle ski demonstrations on West Court Street.
The event lasted for approximately three years and according to Cortland Standard articles, did not continue because no one took charge of organizing the event.
Lloyd Purdy, the executive director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, said the idea for a 2008 winter festival came out of a 40 Below brainstorming session.
Purdy said a 16-member task force has looked at past and current winter festival events within the county, such as Homer’s WinterFest and the Winter Magic Weekend.
All the details about the Chill-A-Bration have not been finalized. Purdy will be asking the City Common Council on Tuesday for permission to use the city-owned portion of Courthouse Park for the location of the event, place public signs advertising the event and sell beer.
Purdy said the task force has been working on the event for three months and after he presents the plans to the Common Council Tuesday, he will share the extent of the collaboration.
“It’s amazing the groups that have come together for this exciting event,” Purdy said. “The Downtown Partnership is just one group that has helped spearhead this event, but certainly not the only group involved.”



Grant to expand diabetic care locally

Family Health Network awarded $250,00 to increase program for county’s 1,400 diabetics

Staff Reporter

Diabetics in rural parts of Cortland County will have access to more preventive care this year due to a large grant to a local health care provider.
The $251,148 two-year grant from the New York State Health Foundation will be used to increase primary care for Family Health Network’s 1,400 diabetic patients in and around Cortland County, said FHN Executive Director Julie Bodën Schmidt.
“Sixty-two percent of the cost for diabetes patients is hospital care,” Schmidt said.
That can add up to large Medicaid payouts: a year of kidney dialysis costs $50,000, and foot amputations and coronary bypasses each run at about $40,000, Schmidt said.
To keep diabetes sufferers out of the hospital, Schmidt said FHN is constructing a comprehensive program to provide primary and preventive care in Cortland County.
One way to do that is to take steps to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics, she explained. Blood sugar is typically measured by monitoring the concentration of hemoglobin A1c in a patient’s bloodstream, which in severe diabetics can be 10 percent or more.
The normal range for hemoglobin A1c is 4 to 5.9 percent.
“With each percentage point dropped, you find a 35 percent decrease in complications and a 25 percent decrease in mortality,” Schmidt said.
FHN will use the state health grant to help diabetic patients reduce blood sugar levels by encouraging good nutrition, exercise and self-management.
“Our goal is 7 percent,” Schmidt said. “That level usually will keep patients out of the hospital.”
The mortality rate for diabetics in Cortland County is almost 50 percent higher than the state average, Schmidt said.
The county has the third lowest statewide rate of diabetic patients performing daily blood sugar self-monitoring and the third highest statewide rate of diabetics reporting foot sores that take more than four weeks to heal.




Homer village budget raises tax levy 8%

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The village’s proposed 2008-09 general fund budget would decrease spending by 2 percent but increases the amount to be raised by taxes by 9 percent.
The village is holding a public hearing on the proposed budget at 6 p.m. Monday in the senior center of the Town Hall.
The increase in the tax levy mainly results from the village proposing to use less reserve money to lower taxes than it did last year, said Village Clerk Lou Anne Randall. The proposed _$2.3 million general fund budget, a 2 percent decrease from this year’s budget, would increase the levy to $1.2 million.
The tax rate for people living in the part of the village in the town of Homer would increase by 9 percent, from $8.79 per $1,000 of assessed value to $9.57.
The tax rate for people living in the part of the village in the town of Cortlandville would increase by 14 percent, from $8.61 per $1,000 of assessed value to $9.78.
Proposed spending cuts include $18,000 less for clerk/treasurer salaries, $17,000 less for police equipment and $14,000 less for street maintenance employee salaries.
Under the proposed 2008-09 general fund budget, revenue _is expected to increase by 5 _percent, from $2.08 million to $2.19 million.
Expected revenue increases include $6,250 for fire protection service revenue, $10,700 for youth recreation services revenue and $2,400 more in parks and recreation charges.
Mayor Mike McDermott could not be reached Friday afternoon to discuss the cuts or expected revenue increases.
The main reason for the proposed tax levy increase is the _village appropriating less fund balance.
The village spent $261,000 in fund balance during the 2007-08 budget year, while it proposes spending $100,000 in the 2008-09 budget year.
The village is trying to build back up its reserves, Randall said. According to the proposed 2008-09 budget, the village has $100,000 in remaining fund balance.




Monday meeting first in series detailing city assessment process

Staff Reporter

The first of many public information meetings on the city’s reassessment project is scheduled Monday at the East End Community Center.
City Assessor David Briggs said the 7 p.m. meeting would inform city residents on the project, give a timetable and discuss letters residents will be receiving in the mail.
Photographs and drive-by examinations of the city’s 5,099 properties have already been completed for the project.
Inventory mailers, which will list the physical characteristics of each residence, will be sent to property owners in coming weeks to verify the information.
Briggs said the mailers would help the city retain the correct characteristics of each property to assess the value.
More meetings will be held before the city sends out reassessments to each property, and then another two to three informational meetings will be held after the reassessments have been received to discuss the findings of the project.
Briggs said in 2007 the average city parcel was assessed at 70 percent of its market value.
The new assessments would first be taken into account within the 2009 city and county and 2008-09 school tax levies.
The purpose of the reassessment project is to provide equitable assessment for all properties throughout the city based on the current market value, Briggs said.
The cost of the reassessment project is $60,000.
Briggs said after the reassessment is complete, the city will be reimbursed approximately $25,000, $5 for each parcel, by state.
Briggs said the last citywide reassessment was completed in 1995.