January 27, 2007

Cortland VFW enters its 75th year

Veterans in Post 2354 span wars from World War II to latest Iraq conflict


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer     
From left, Cortland VFW Post 2354 members Edgar Fish, Nick Polanko and Tony Perfetti trade stories at the bar. The VFW celebrated its 75th anniversary Jan. 18.

Staff Reporter

For 75 years, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2354 in Cortland has served its members and the community, and continues to seek out new members among the younger soldiers who have only recently served overseas.
The post celebrated its anniversary on Jan. 18.
Quartermaster John Lansdowne, 82, is a World War II veteran who became a member of the VFW in 1943 while home on leave, and became a life member in 1974.
Lansdowne said the organization has about 150 life members, and about 160 continuous members who have consistently paid their dues over the years.
There is no exact record of how many social members belong to the VFW, although they’re an important part of the organization.
“Right after World War II, we had between 1,200 and 1,500. It was one of the biggest memberships in New York state,” Lansdowne said from inside the post headquarters on Main Street.
Lansdowne has recruited about 40 new members since the war on _terror began several years ago, and Lansdowne said the membership has been able to hold fairly steady, despite the passing of older members.
But the latest conflict won’t produce as many veterans as in the past, said Edgar Babcock, of Cortland.
“A lot of those (local) guys are on their fourth tour — they haven’t had time to sign up,” Babcock said Thursday. “They keep using the same troops, so when they do come back, you’ll only have a handful.”
More than one million American troops have served overseas since Sept. 11, 2001.
The VFW post received a flag from the 615th Military Police Company that had flown over Baghdad, Iraq, on Nov. 11, 2006 — Veterans Day.
Junior Vice Commander David Hobart, of Cortland, a veteran of two tours in Vietnam, said that his life membership in the organization helps to fund its work.
“I’m proud to be a member of this organization,” Hobart said last week as an antique car club dinner was being set up in the post’s dining room. “It does a lot for the community, and we’re trying to promote activities that help veterans and their families.”
A member of the ladies auxiliary, Stephanie Howe, of Cincinnatus, sat at the other end of the bar, nursing a ginger ale last week while her mother, Patty Gallow, of Cincinnatus, bartended, and her grandmother Evelyn Gallow, of Cortland, a 60-year social member, sat nearby.
“I come here to hang out with my family,” Howe said. “It’s nice and quiet.”
World War II veteran Nick Polanko, of Cortland, said he’s been a continuous member for about 10 years, having joined right after his tour of duty but dropping out of the organization for a while.
“What I like most about the club is that we’ve got a lot of good people here,” Polanko said last week. “I’ve got a lot of good buddies, we reminisce about the war … I’m here every afternoon. I just like it here, that’s all.”


City school district wants parental involvement

Staff Reporter

In response to the state’s review of the city school district’s special education program, district administrators are trying to bolster graduation rates and lower dropout rates by creating partnerships with parents and other initiatives.
To launch the new effort, Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring plans to host a meeting with parents at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Spring said all parents in the district are welcome to attend and no topic was off limits. He said parents could bring their concerns and compliments to the meeting.
“We are looking at a lot of reaching out to parents in an ongoing manner,” said Judi Riley, assistant superintendent for pupil and personnel services for Cortland schools. “We are going to be implementing parent focus groups really focused on the special education process.”
Riley added that parents would be involved and invited to meetings of the Committee on Special Education. At those meetings, questionnaires and surveys would be conducted, which Riley said would give the district feedback on the role parents play in the process and areas in special education process they would like to know about.
The state Education Department initiated a Special Education Quality Assurance Review at the Cortland Junior/Senior High School because the school’s special education students fell short on two of the state’s three standards.
State standards dictate that dropout rates for special education students should be below 18.9 percent and the graduation rate should be above 37.3 percent. For the 2004-05 school year the Cortland Junior/Senior High School had a dropout rate of 43.8 percent and a graduation rate of 18.8 percent.
“We need to do better,” Spring said. “We need to do a better job by those kids.”
The state Education Department’s Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities will conduct the state review process. The process would include, but is not limited to, a review of school records of selected students with disabilities, classroom visitations and staff interviews.
City school administrators said the district is not only tackling issues facing special education students, but also those facing students in the general education population.
Jeremy Boylan, the district’s information officer, said parental involvement should not stop at special education students.
Riley said the spectrum of the focus groups would be widened and it would not only address the district’s special education program, but would also apply to general education students as well.
Spring said that the district is in the process of contacting and interviewing students who have dropped out to figure out where things went wrong.
The district wants to improve its graduation rate overall, Spring said.
Spring said in the 2004-05 school year approximately 42 children moved or dropped out of the Cortland Junior/Senior High School. Spring said because the state changed the way students who dropped out were counted in 2004, the district’s dropout rate increased. Before 2004, he added, students who received a GED diploma or an Individualized Education Program diploma were counted as graduates, but now, they are counted as dropouts.

Virgil restaurant closes its doors

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — The only year-round restaurant in town has closed after a tough two years and an even tougher third year.
Jeremiah’s Place and Creed, at 2175 Route 392, just couldn’t survive at its off-the-beaten path location, said Doug Leach, the restaurant’s owner.
“We said we just can’t maintain it at this level of business when only 10 people might come out to eat dinner 11 miles away” from Cortland, Leach said.
The restaurant, which had five employees who were all family, closed at the end of last week, he said.
Leach said if development at Greek Peak ski center and in Virgil as a whole had taken off as quickly as many predicted it would several years ago, things would be different.
Leach said he made the mistake of listening to all the hype about the water park, new condominiums, new businesses and hundreds of new homes just around the corner.
“There isn’t a water park and there isn’t all those things,” he said. “If there were little dots in the map in that area, if there were more businesses, then I’m sure we would have survived.”
Leach said it may have been wise for him to have waited a few more years before opening.
Al Kryger, president of Greek Peak, agreed Leach may have been too premature.
“I had an opportunity to buy that restaurant and I didn’t,” Kryger said. “I didn’t because I know these things take time to get off the ground, particularly when it’s a new thing and a new area.”
Kryger said Greek Peak has been planning the convention center, condominium, water park and spa project for the last three or four years.
He said the search for financing has caused the project to take a while to start, but that is normal in this area.
“It tends to take longer than if you’re trying to do the project in a traditional tourist area,” he said.
He said if all things go as planned, construction on the project will begin in spring and the new facilities will open to the public in December. Site preparation began last year.


County considers satellite DMV office

Staff Reporter

Local car owners frustrated with the ordeal that often comes with a visit to the county’s motor vehicle office in the Cortland County Courthouse may soon have other options.
The county’s County City Towns Villages Schools Committee on Thursday discussed setting up a roving satellite motor vehicle office, which would make licensing and registration services available in areas outside the city.
The County Clerk’s Office, which operates the motor vehicle office, would essentially dispatch employees to set locations outside the city on set days, allowing residents options other than the main office where, committee members noted, parking is a problem and there is often an extensive wait.
“I really sympathize with the people coming through our office,” County Clerk Betsy Larkin said after the meeting. “First they have to find parking, then they have to go through security — it would make it hard for anyone.”
Larkin said that setting up satellite offices would primarily be a benefit to county residents, but she also hoped that it would encourage more residents to use county motor vehicle services rather than mailing their paperwork to the state DMV or going to offices in other counties.
The county receives 12.7 percent of the revenue from all motor vehicle business that passes through its office, she said.
The cost of a satellite motor vehicle office to the county would be about $35,000, Larkin said, but a majority of that cost — about $31,000 — would come from the purchase of a portable photo machine.
If the county decided to limit photo capabilities at its satellite locations, it could cut the cost to about $3,000, allowing it to experiment with the effectiveness of different locations.
The county would need municipal agreements for each location — committee members suggested municipal buildings or police barracks in areas such as Marathon, Homer, Cortlandville and Cincinnatus — but otherwise it wouldn’t take much to get the offices up and running, Larkin said.
The committee unanimously agreed with the concept, and Legislator Larry Cornell (R-Marathon and Lapeer) said he would present the proposal to the Personnel Committee, which he chairs.
The concept would then require full legislative approval.