January 22, 2007

Home on the Grange

New hall is a symbol of hope for the future


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Longtime Grange members gather to try to identify members from an old photo Saturday during the open house of the new Cortlandville Grange. From left are Muriel Brooks of the Albright Grange in East Homer and Lucille Clark and Vicky Clark-Wood, both members of the McGrawville Grange.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The New York State Grange, based in Cortland, has been expanding beyond its agriculture roots in recent years in hopes of perpetuating itself. Saturday’s open house of a new local Grange building is a sign of that hope for the future.
The Cortlandville and Homer granges are sharing a building at 82 Cortland St., next to the Homer Elks Lodge.
Cortlandville Grange Master Shaun Sweeney last week said that local Grange members thought it was especially important to keep their organization active because Cortland is home to the state headquarters of the national organization, located on Clinton Avenue.
On Saturday, the new Grange hall opened its doors in Homer, welcoming members of the Cortlandville and Homer granges and other local Granges.
New York State Grange President Bruce Croucher said the _new Grange hall is “terrific.” The hall occupies a three-quarter-acre parcel.
“They have a nice functional building,” Croucher said. “It is not the Taj Mahal, but it is very functional and useful.”
Homer Grange Master Malcolm Proctor said the two Granges have been working to consolidate for about three years. He said that at year’s end they would like to have the merger of the two Granges completed.
Sweeney said the Cortlandville Grange is about 80 years old and he believes the Homer Grange is nearly as old.
The hall is 5,292-square-foot and cost approximately $275,000 to build. Sweeney said that was the same amount for which the 80-year-old Grange hall on Groton Avenue in Cortlandville sold in 2004. Homer is leaving its hall on Route 41 near the Homer-Scott town line, and the land will revert to a property owner.
Proctor said the new building was paid for in full, but they need to have fundraisers to pay the electric bills. Next month, the new hall will be host its first fundraisers — a pancake breakfast on Feb. 4 and spaghetti dinner on the Feb. 17.
The floor of the new Grange hall is covered with mint green and sand-colored linoleum. The white walls were sparingly covered with paintings done by Grange members.
Sweeney said the building is equipped with telephone, cable and Internet jacks. He added that the Cortlandville Fire Department donated the stove for the kitchen.
The hall was built by Finger Lakes Construction and designed by Interior Concepts.
Don Richards, general manager of Interior Concepts, said the hall turned out “fantastic.”
“We are honored to be a part of it,” Richards said. He added that the company also designed the Cuyler fire station.
Virginia Conner, secretary of the New York State Grange, said the organization began in 1867. She said there are now 270 Granges in 47 of New York’s 62 counties, including five in Cortland County.
According to the National Grange’s Web site, the organization, also known as the Patrons of Husbandry, is a fraternal organization that began with seven men in Washington, D.C. William Saunders was the first president of the National Grange and also designed the national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pa.
According to the Web site, nationwide, there are 3,600 Granges in 37 states with 300,000 members.
Sweeney said the Grange started as a place where rural families could socialize. He said Granges held dinners, dances and meetings.
He said the Grange also has a political purpose. Sweeney said if the residents in the community were facing an issue, legislators would not listen to just one person, but if they were to get together as a community, the lawmakers would pay attention.
In recent years, Granges have had to fight other activities for the time of their members.
The Cortlandville and Homer clubs combined have 133 members, with the Cortlandville Grange having 96 members, which Proctor said was low because of television, computers and employment.
“People don’t want to get involved anymore,” Proctor said. “It is the same thing with the churches. People say that they are Christians, but there are less people going (to church). There are less people in the Rotary, too.”
Sue Withers, the Cortlandville Grange secretary, said for the organization to build its membership, it needs to be more visible and include more people in its growth.
Lucille Clark, a member at the McGrawville Grange, said she joined the organization for “fellowship.”
This month is Clark’s 54th anniversary as a Grange member.
“This is something you can do with your family,” Clark said.
Proctor said he’s been a Grange member for 20 years. He said the organization started out as a grass roots farm organization, but it has now evolved into a community organization.
“It is a good place to find good people involved in the community,” Proctor said. “There is not much alcohol or smoking involved.”
Conner said as the farming communities have decreased, so has their membership, but she still believes it is a relevant organization. She added that when the Grange first started, the membership was mostly farmers, but now there are doctors and lawyers who are members.
Withers said she’s been a member of the Grange for 17 years. She said she joined the Grange because the members all have the same interests.
Judy Pierce, a member for 48 years, said the Grange is a place where you can meet a lot of nice people.
Pierce sat across a table Saturday from her 15-year-old granddaughter, Theresa Pierce, who said she was thinking of joining. Theresa is only a year younger than her grandmother was when she joined the organization.


A new owner has big plans for former Center City Mall

Staff Reporter

A new owner of the former Center City Mall building at 37 Main St. is working on bringing the building back to a thriving commercial space — one with shops for college students and offices filled with entrepreneurs.
A new hair and nails salon just opened up in the basement, a compact disc and tape shop is set to move in Feb. 1 and interested businesses and entrepreneurs are looking at available space on the building’s basement and second floors.
“We’re trying to fill it up,” said Bill Dallaire, who bought the 18,000-square-foot building from Wayne Torrey on Nov. 1. “There’s a lot office space available. My goal is to get at least 10 or 12 businesses back in here.”
Dallaire, 48, of Cortland, said he is trying to entice new businesses through touting the success of the Beach House Tanning Center, which he owns with Willy Withers, and low rents.
On average, the tanning center draws 250 customers a day, most of them college students, Dallaire said. During peak season — the weeks before spring break — up to 500 customers use the tanning beds each day, he said.
With groups of young people waiting for their turn to use a tanning bed, they could benefit from a building full of interesting shops, he said, while the shops would benefit from their business.
A case in point is the new salon in the building’s basement — Beach House Salon and Spa, which just opened up under Dallaire’s ownership with four full-time employees.
Rachel Goodrum, a 20-year-old full-time student at SUNY Cortland who runs the business, said the business has just what college girls from out of town need.
“It’s just kind of another way to pamper yourself,” Goodrum said.
Dallaire, who used to own Do it Yourself Garage (now Main Street Auto Repair) on south Main Street, does all the repair work in the building, and has opened up a lobby in the basement, put in a new floor and almost finished painting the lobby’s walls.
The hallway will bring the customer to the different businesses in the basement, including Sound City CDs and Tapes, which is moving from Groton Avenue and will open Feb. 1.
Once the basement fills up with other businesses — about 800 to 1,000 square feet for businesses remain — the building will feel more like it used to feel, he said, when it was known as Center City Mall.
“It was full of small stores,” he said. “That’s the kind of things I’m bringing back but I don’t have a name for it yet.”
The building’s first floor is full right now, with Diva’s of New York — a clothing and formal gowns store and Cortland Clipper, a barber shop, on the first floor with the tanning salon.
Lisa Boeres, who owns Diva’s of New York, said she’s glad Dallaire is trying to bring more businesses into the building, through she’s not sure they will thrive with customers’ habits today. People just don’t think to go downtown, she said.
“It’s an effort to try to do it,” she said about keeping a business downtown. “I try to it keep downtown, but it’s not necessarily the easy route.”
The second floor of the building just has one business — the Cortland Yoga Center — with about 6,000 square feet available for other businesses.
Dallaire said it would be nice to have some young professionals to move their offices onto the second floor. He said he would offer them relatively low rent, as he prefers to see their businesses succeed and last, as opposed to fail and leave.
“I’m trying to get more business,” he said. “It’s hard for young entrepreneurs.”
Dallaire said another goal of his is to fix up the front of the building and put up signs noting the building’s various businesses.
The building will host an open house for the public on Feb. 3, Dallaire said. The event will include a disc jockey and give aways.


22 computers stolen from Homer school

Staff Reporter

Three teens were arrested Friday, accused of stealing 22 Apple iBook laptop computers valued at $23,200 from Homer Junior High School, police said.
The Homer Police Department said this morning that officers had arrested Dustin L. Fitzpatrick, 18, of 5116 Foster Road, Cortland, for third-degree grand larceny and third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, felonies, and fifth-degree conspiracy, a misdemeanor. Fitzpatrick is a Homer High School student.
Police said Fitzpatrick, along with a 15-year-old and 14-year-old, stole the computers and a projector from the school sometime over the weekend of Jan. 13. Police would not release details of the crime.
The two youngest defendants’ names were not released. They were referred to Family Court, police said.
Principal Thomas M. Turck of Homer Junior High School said that the computers were in a locked computer lab when they were taken. He said he was unsure how the teens entered the room but that nothing was damaged during the break-in.
All the computers, which the school purchased in June of 2005, appear to be undamaged, he added.
Fitzpatrick sold three of the computers to acquaintances, according to police. Those three computers were also recovered.
Officials said they have not charged anyone else in the crime but that the investigation in still ongoing.
Fitzpatrick was released on $500 cash bail. He is scheduled to appear tonight in Homer Town Court.



Project will count homeless in county this month

Staff Reporter

A county-sanctioned coalition will be performing a week-long survey of the homeless in the community, beginning Thursday and extending through the end of the month.
The Cortland County Homeless Task Group hopes to use the information gathered to apply for funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that would help homeless children and youths stay in public schools and expand homeless assistance programs.
The survey data will be collected in two manners: a survey of the sheltered homeless, to be conducted with the help of various local service agencies from Jan. 25 through Jan. 31, and the unsheltered homeless will be enumerated in the late hours of Jan. 30 and the following early morning hours.
The sheltered homeless would fill out the surveys throughout the week after the service agencies identify and approach them. The unsheltered homeless would be located around the community on the single night, when volunteers check spots that the homeless are likely to frequent.
When the survey was conducted for the first time last year, it did not include the single-night unsheltered homeless count, and Rob Ferri, a member of the task group and Access to Independence architectural barrier specialist, said that about 75 homeless individuals were located.
Task group member Mary Beilby, a systems advocate for Access to Independence, said the information gathered would be used for the benefit of local government, as well as for applying for federal funding.
Beilby said that HUD asks the participating organizations to conduct the survey in the last week of January in order to help reduce the possibility of individuals being counted more than once as they move between communities.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are 744,313 homeless people across the country. Just over half are sheltered homeless, meaning they reside in emergency shelters and transitional housing, such as domestic violence shelters, residential programs for runaway/homeless youth, and any hotel, motel and apartment where vouchers are issued by groups such as the Salvation Army.
The unsheltered homeless are any adults, children and unaccompanied youths sleeping in places not meant for human habitation, which include streets, parks, alleys, parking ramps, all-night commercial establishments, abandoned buildings, roofs or stairwells, caves, campgrounds, vehicles and other similar places.
The Cortland Police Department and county police officers will provide protection for the volunteers who will be conducting the survey of the unsheltered homeless with areas and locations where these people may be found.