January 17, 2007

Missing Onondaga County man found dead in Preble


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Law enforcement and TLC Emergency Medical Services personnel gather around a partially submerged 2005 Ford Focus in a stream off Route 11 in Preble. Police said they found a Alfred M. Fitzpatrick, 79, of 3564 JC Ave., Marietta, dead in the car this afternoon after he went missing Tuesday night.

Staff Reporter

PREBLE — Police said they found an Onondaga County man dead in his car Wednesday afternoon after he went missing Tuesday night.
Alfred M. Fitzpatrick, 79, of 3564 JC Ave., Marietta, was found dead in his 2005 Ford Focus just before noon Tuesday in a field in Preble, according to the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department.
A passing motorist saw the car about 100 yards east of Route 11 and notified the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department. The car was in the middle of a field partially submerged in a stream that appeared to be a few feet deep.
No tire tracks could be seen in snow leading from the road to the car.
An Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department helicopter was on the scene with State Police, TLC Emergency Medical Services ambulance services and investigators from the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department.
As of 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department was not releasing any information about the investigation into the crash.
Sgt. John D’Eredita, of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, said Fitzpatrick’s neighbors contacted police at around 8:20 p.m. Tuesday after he failed to return from the Amber Inn at 2424 Otisco Valley Road, Marietta, approximately 14 miles northeast of the crash site.
Fitzpatrick was last seen at around 5 p.m. at the restaurant, where he routinely eats dinner and returns home at around 6 p.m., police said.



City officials tell council of buildings’ shortcomings

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — As the Common Council begins to consider a multi-phase building project that could include a new fire station, city officials Tuesday night gave a lengthy list of building problems at City Hall, and in the police and fire stations.
About 40 people, many of them city and emergency personnel, attended the work session, the first of a series of public sessions planned by the council.
Fire Chief Dennis Baron, Police Chief Jim Nichols and city Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano detailed the deficiencies of the main fire station next door to City Hall, the police station in the basement of City Hall and maintenance problems of City Hall.
Although council members had toured the fire station on Saturday, Baron said, a foot-by-foot assessment would be necessary to outline all of the station’s shortcomings.
Three questions are now before the council, Mayor Tom Gallagher said:
l Should the Police Department and City Court take over the entirety of City Hall — which would be dubbed the “justice center”?
l Where would administrative offices be moved to if the former were the case?
l Should the Court Street station should be renovated and expanded or replaced by a new building?
“Obviously, if we did do it, we’d have to do it in phases, with the least amount of financial impact to the taxpayers. And it’s going to take a lot of people sitting around the table making decisions,” Gallagher. “And the last thing is, we can do nothing.”
“We can’t do that,” Alderman Nick DeCarlo (D-4th Ward) responded. “We’ve done that too long.”
Even if the council decided that it would not institute a building project, critical maintenance needs of City Hall — estimated at about $1.5 million — as well as the current fire station — estimates for the roof repair alone are upwards of $800,000 — would have to be addressed.
By the end of the meeting, it became clear no headway could be made without first determining the exact space requirements of the fire department, which Gallagher identified as the “linchpin” of these long-needed facilities upgrades.
Damiano cited the possibility of moving city offices into the current main fire station if a new station is constructed as one possibility to consider.
Alderman Amy Cobb (D-3rd Ward) indicated that she would be willing to address the larger needs of the fire department, as well as the absolute minimal maintenance repairs.
It is nearly impossible to provide proper separation between various aspects of law enforcement and ensure safety in the cramped quarters of the police department, Nichols said.
While the state has cited the department for its prisoner holding facilities, Nichols said he said he was more concerned that someone would sue the city over an injury or other problem caused by the deficiencies. The necessary improvements to the cellblock are estimated at about $600,000, he said.
Meanwhile, the state Office of Court Administration has recommended that the space occupied by City Court on the third floor of City Hall be improved, which Damiano said would involve essentially doubling the size of the court’s center of operations and relocating third-floor administrative offices.


Buckbee-Mears plant listed for $12 million

India-based owner is selling the property, which has been vacant since June 2005

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The India-based owners of the long-vacant Buckbee-Mears TV parts manufacturing plant on Kellogg Road have at last put the property up for sale.
Yaman Real Estate has listed the 50.6-acre property and the 330,000 square-foot building on its Web site, with an asking price of $12 million.
Jim Yaman, owner of Cortland-based Yaman Real Estate, said plans to market the plant are still preliminary, but did acknowledge that one of his agents, Chris Boeres, had managed to contact the owners of the property and convince them to put it on the market.
“There is still a lot of details to work out, but we’ve had contact with the company and we’re looking forward to this,” Yaman said, declining further comment.
The property is owned by International Electron Devices, which purchased the building in October 2004 for $10 million after it closed in June of that year.
IED reopened Buckbee-Mears — which produced components for color television sets — briefly from March through June of 2005, but the plant since has remained closed.
City officials have had difficulty contacting IED since the closure, and according to Linda Hartsock, executive director of Cortland County Business Development Corp./Industrial Development Agency, just the fact that contact has been made is a step in the right direction.
“I’d say it’s definitely a good first step that they’re responsive to at least opening the door,” she said.
Hartsock has been coordinating in recent months with a global marketing company that was trying to convince IED to put the facility up for sale. She said she had passed contact information for that company along to Yaman Real Estate.
“There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done in terms of what’s available for sale, what assets have judgments against them, but I think this is a very positive sign that IED seems to be interested in moving forward,” Hartsock said.
Mayor Tom Gallagher agreed.
“I’m very pleased to hear there’s some activity,” Gallagher said. “Obviously the possibility of another business moving in there and bringing jobs to the area is a plus for the city.”
However, there is still the issue of back taxes owed for the property, Gallagher noted, along with an ongoing effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove hazardous chemicals being stored at the site.
The property owners owe more than $290,000 in back taxes to the city, county and school district, and an additional $24,879 in water and wastewater bills.
Presumably any new property owner would be responsible for those taxes if those bills are not paid by IED, Gallagher said.
Meanwhile the EPA is still working to receive authorization to enter the building to secure thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals being stored there, according to EPA spokesman Ben Barry.
Yaman said his company would attempt to work with the EPA to resolve that issue.
The Buckbee Mears property has an assessed value of $3.1 million, according to city assessor David Briggs.
The facility was built around 1975, Briggs said, and major additions including a new production line were added in 1994.



New sites suggested for county public health facility

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Although the county is still in the process of closing on properties for a proposed public health facility on south Main Street, some county officials, spurred by initial public opposition, are looking at other sites for the facility.
The county Legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee will discuss other property options Thursday, according to committee Chairman Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward), one of which will be the site of the former Wickwire building, owned by the McNeil family, located further south on Main Street.
“Basically I went out with (County Administrator Scott Schrader), we looked at the McNeil property, we looked at some property in Cortlandville, and it looks like there’s property all over that could work,” said Van Dee, who did not want to discuss the other properties he had looked at. “I know we want to get a building up, but it doesn’t have to be tomorrow. I think we need to sit down and take a look at all our options.”
At its Dec. 21 meeting, the Legislature voted to acquire 2.46-acres of property for $894,000, with the intention of replacing the Moose Lodge on south Main Street with a            30,000 square-foot facility that would house both the health department and the mental health department.
The project carries an estimated price tag of $5.5 million, about $3 million of which could come from the county’s tobacco settlement bonds.
Early reaction to the proposal was negative, as residents of the neighborhoodsurrounding the proposed site vocally expressed concerns about the large parking lot behind the building and the affect the facility would have on the neighborhood.
This prompted city and county elected officials to dial back their support for the project, including Van Dee, who has said he plans on calling for a reconsideration of the Legislature’s initial vote at its Jan. 25 meeting.
“I represent these people and their interests and it’s clear that they don’t want this, and I’ll do my best to do their will,” Van Dee said. “I’m certainly not going to ram something like this down their throats if they don’t want it.”
Still, proponents of the facility say the county can and would answer the concerns of the residents.
“It’s always been our intention to work with residents in that neighborhood, and we wouldn’t want to put anything up there that was going to upset people in that area,” said Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown, who noted that drawings of the facility and the proposed parking were preliminary, and did not reflect the extensive planning process that would need to go into such a project.
“Could we have handled it better to start? Probably, but I think that as we go forward we’re going to be working with the public every step of the way,” Brown said. “There’s always going to be one or two people you can’t please no matter what you do, but for the most part I think the concerns of all the neighbors can be addressed.”



Council seeks law to regulate cat clinics

Staff Reporter

The Common Council, citing a lack of state regulation for cats, asked its lawyer Tuesday night to draw up proposals for legislation that would authorize the city to regulate cat clinics by special permit and inspections.
The decision was spurred by the September discovery of about 280 cats in two buildings on a Wheeler Avenue property owned by the nonprofit group Purr Fect World Inc.
Although a former veterinary office in the back of the property was allowed to operate as a spay and neuter clinic under a pre-existing, non-conforming use ruling by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals in 2004, the multi-family home in the front, which held nearly 60 cats, was in violation of city code.
Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano said the city contacted the state Department of Agriculture and Markets for assistance, but the department was unable to provide any.
“Cats, as far as the Department of Ag and Markets is concerned, don’t exist,” although the state does handle dog registration, Damiano said.
Retired veterinarian Bill Cadwallader, of Homer, who acted as a consultant during the seizure of the animals from the 7 Wheeler Ave. property, urged the city to adopt legislation that would not allow the situation to occur again, Damiano said. Corporation Counsel Larry Knickerbocker said the seizure of the cats was the only instance of this type of problem that he had ever seen.
He said special permit would likely be required in advance of the opening of such a clinic and could be based on the city’s public health code.
In order to allow for inspections of the premises, Mayor Tom Gallagher said a new provision would likely have to be written into the city’s contract with the SPCA.
When Alderwoman Sue Feiszli (D-6th Ward) asked if the regulation concerning cat clinics or kennels would affect private pet owners, the council’s consensus was that they would not change the current ordinance. The ordinance allows city residents to keep up to three dogs and five cats in a private residence.
Alderman Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) initiated the discussion at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, referencing an impending action to remove 20 cats from a Cortlandville residence, as related to him by the SPCA.
Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) linked the discussion to the Liverpool Village Board’s recent attempts to redefine the meaning of “kennel” in order to put more teeth into its own _ordinances.
The Liverpool action was spurred by removal of 150 cats from a home owned by _the board president of Purr Fect World, Lisa Alderman.
Gallagher said that once the code office or the Cortland County SPCA — which has a contract with the city for animal control services — discovers violations, the matter is referred to the court system.
During a work session previous to Tuesday’s regular council meeting, Police Chief Jim Nichols told the council that Sweeney’s Pest Elimination would once again be using sound-emitting devices to drive crows out of infested areas within the city on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, after dusk. This time, Nichols said, the targeted area would be the College Hill neighborhood.
The service costs approximately $500.
The company has been hired several times in recent years to roust the crows from different sections of the city during the winter.



Cortland security firm sold to Va. company

Staff Reporter

A large Norfolk Va.-based security company has acquired a Cortland company that produces high-tech security products.
WetStone Technologies, at 17 Main St., was purchased by Allen Corporation of America, which is ranked by Deloitte & Touche, an information technology consulting company, as the third-fastest growing technology company in Virginia.
Allen Corporation CEO Carl von Sternberg declined to reveal the purchase price.
WetStone Technologies’ office will remain where it is, the firm will keep its name and 18 employees and continue its current focus, company officials at WetStone Technologies and Allen Corporation of America said Tuesday. It will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Allen Corporation of America.
The purchase is part of Allen Corporation of America’s plan to acquire small, specialized companies that provide cutting-edge technologies to public sector markets, according to a press release issued by the company.
Barbara Johns, contract manager and manager of administration for Allen Corporation of America, said the purchase of WetStone Technologies is “step one” of that plan. WetStone is the first small firm Allen Corporation of America has purchased, she said.
WetStone Technologies develops software to detect and prevent Internet attacks and fraud.
Von Sternberg said the proliferation of cyber crimes places a burden on both American businesses and government.
WetStone Technologies has developed a number of security products that Allen Corp. will benefit from.
Those include The Stego Suite, a software bundle that investigates, detects, analyzes and recovers digital stenography — or shorthand writing; Gargoyle Investigator, which detects malware — or any program or file that is harmful to a computer user; and Digital Evidence Time Stamping, which lets investigators find digital evidence by generating timestamps that are cryptographically bound to the data.
Kelly Ivey, director of marketing for WetStone Technologies, said _the company will not change its _focus from the products it already produces.
The company will also continue to perform research and development for a broad range of government, law enforcement and private sector organizations, including the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, she said.
Ivey said WetStone Technologies’ contracts with the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome are a big reason why the company will not be moving. She said the company also depends on interns and employees from nearby colleges and universities.
“It really works out nice for them to come on board and for us to stay local,” she said.
Ivey declined to reveal WetStone’s annual sales figures.
In the press release, Chet Hosmer, founder and CEO of WetStone, said WetStone will benefit from the merger. Allen Corp’s expertise in enterprise IT management, instruction design and training delivery and logistic software will help the company with its research and product design, he said.
Allen Corp’s presence in the Washington, D.C., area will allow WetStone to provide local access and instruction to a large percent of its government customer base, he said.
Allen Corp., which was founded in 1991, has 125 employees. WetStone Technologies was established in 1997.