February 02, 2007

Bank heist halted

Police capture suspect as he leaves Tompkins Trust


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland Police Department officer Chad Hines searches the pockets of a bank robbery suspect Michael J. Bohn in the parking lot of the Tompkins County Trust Company branch office at the corner of Church Street and Clinton Avenue Thursday.  Looking on are, from left, CPD officer Ben Locke, CPD Sgt. Liz Starr, Cortland County Sheriff’s Department officer Mark Strom and CPD Detective Sgt. Rick Troyer.

Staff Reporters

CORTLAND — City police officers said they arrested an armed Rochester man early Thursday evening, just after he robbed the Tompkins Trust Co. bank at 33 Clinton Ave.
Police charged Michael J. Bohn, 41, of 232 Cobb Terrace, Rochester, with first-degree robbery and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, felonies; and first-degree criminal possession of stolen property and endangering the welfare of a child, misdemeanors, after a witness called 911 to report the robbery.
Police Lt. Paul Sandy said the witness had seen Bohn putting on a ski mask outside the bank.
Officers arrived at the bank as Bohn was leaving the building and took him into custody at gunpoint, police said.
Police said Bohn robbed the bank with a handgun and was in possession of money he had stolen, but surrendered peacefully.
Bohn had $15,669 on him when he was arrested, according to documents filed in Cortland City Court.
Around 5:10 p.m. in the parking lot of the bank, police could be seen standing around a tall, navy blue paper Gap bag Bohn had been carrying, a gun, gloves and a mask. An investigator took pictures of the objects.
Other officers stood around the man’s car — a gray Volkswagen — in the Econo Lodge parking lot just south of the bank.
Witnesses told police that Bohn entered the bank around closing time and pointed the handgun — identifed in court records as a fully loaded .44-caliber Magnum — at employees, ordering customers to lie on the floor.
Bohn ordered an employee to put money into a bag he was carrying.
Employees at Shaw & Boehler Florist, 31 Clinton Ave, and at Econo Lodge, said they did not see what happened. An Econo Lodge employee, who would not reveal her name, said the man had not been staying at her hotel.
She said the man must have parked illegally in the hotel’s parking lot just before going to the bank. Around 5:40 p.m., Rick & Rich Towing took away the man’s car.
Cortland County Jail officials said this morning that Bohn listed his occupation as teacher on jail documents. There is a teacher named Michael Bohn at Allendale Columbia School, a private school located in Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester, according to Chuck Hertrick, headmaster of the school.
Hertrick said this morning that Bohn was not in school today. He refused to say whether the school employee had the same address as the man arrested.
Rich Dolge, senior vice president of the Tompkins Trust Co., said this is the first time a robbery or an attempted robbery has taken place at the Cortland branch of the Tompkins Trust Co.
He said the company has had seven robberies at other branches since the early 1970s.
Dolge said there were four employees and two customers in the bank at the time of the robbery. He said the employees acted exactly as they were trained — do what the robber says.
“Obviously you can appreciate the emotional impact it has on everyone,” he said. “They’re doing fine.”
Sandy said that as part of standard procedure of a bank robbery investigation, the FBI has been notified.
“It’s obviously something we are looking into,” Sandy said when asked if Bohn was connected to other bank robberies.
Bohn appeared this morning in City Court, where Judge Thomas A. Meldrim ordered him held without bail in the Cortland County Jail.
A felony hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. Before then, a determination will be made whether he is eligible to be represented by a public defender. Attorney Randolph V. Kruman represented him this morning.
Assistant District Attorney Robert McGraw said this morning that Bohn has no prior criminal record.


SUNY Cortland panel discusses global warming

Staff Reporter

The day before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its study on global warming and climate change, SUNY Cortland held its own roundtable discussion on the subject Thursday.
Megan Bradley, 22, is one of the 92 SUNY Cortland students, staff and community members who attended the 8 a.m. discussion in the college’s Hall of Fame Room.
Bradley said global warming and climatic changes pose major consequences for future generations.
“I think it is a really important issue,” said Bradley, who is a geology major.
The discussion was spearheaded by two SUNY Cortland professors — Christopher Cirmo, chair of the college’s geology department, and Mary “Lisi” Krall, chair of the economics department — and Dave Call, a meteorologist with WSTM-TV3.
The discussion focused on the forces driving global warming, the long-term impacts, and the economic and political fallout of ignoring the issue.
Cirmo said there are many factors that control the weather, including the day-to-day changes in pressure and temperature across the globe.
Call said that to recognize global warming, the average temperature of the entire planet must be taken into account and not isolated areas.
“You can’t just look at the weather in one place,” Call said. “So far there’s been evidence that some parts of the planet are warming dramatically, while other parts of the planet are seeing relatively minor changes or almost none at all.”
He added that the warm weather the region had earlier this winter is not necessarily representative of global warming and the colder temperatures the area is experiencing do not signify that global warming does not exist.
He said that most of the warming has happened at the north and south poles, Alaska, Northern Canada and Antarctica.
The three panelists agree that carbon dioxide is linked to a change in temperature.
“Carbon dioxide is a great green house gas in terms of absorbing and emitting radiation,” Call said.
The U.S. consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil, a large source of carbon dioxide emissions, Krall said.
“We have about 5 percent of world population and we contribute to about 30 percent of the CO2 emissions,” Krall said.
Climate observation has shown the top 10 warmest years for the planet has occurred since 1990, Call said.
The effects of warmer temperatures could include more days above 90 degrees for New York, more rainfall, and sea level rise and expansion, Call said.
“In a lot of ways, we do have incredible short memories, we have this very recent occurrence of Katrina, which obviously is tied to how we have altered the environment of the coastal region there,” said Julia Ganson, a sociology professor at SUNY Cortland.
To staunch the growth of global warming, Krall stressed conservation, especially with vehicles.
“We have tremendous possibilities for getting from point A to point B with greater fuel efficiency,” Krall said. “I would advocate for a great deal of investment for public transportation.”



Last of cats are taken from ‘Kitty City’

Staff Reporter

The former Cortlandville Fire Station has finally ended its second life as a cat shelter.
The last 24 cats of the more than 270 seized from a Wheeler Avenue property in the city of Cortland on Sept. 1 left the Route 281 station Wednesday.
“Elvis has left the building,” Cortland County SPCA Executive Director Kathy Gilleran said Thursday, referring to the last cat, renamed Elvis for the occasion.
About 10 of the cats are at the SPCA’s regular shelter on McLean Road, and nine cats that were infected with feline leukemia are in the temporary care of an SPCA employee as new homes are searched out.
Five cats, four with leukemia and one with feline immunodeficiency virus, were placed in an animal hospice in Pennsylvania.
An Oct. 26 agreement between the city and Purr Fect World, the nonprofit clinic that had been operating at 7 Wheeler Ave., allowed the SPCA to take custody of the animals and begin to adopt them out. Purr Fect World retained ownership of the cats and agreed to pay for the continuing care, but on Jan. 30, the organization relinquished ownership of the animals and the responsibility for the costs of their care.
The last check signed over to the SPCA by Purr Fect World was dated Dec. 19, and shelter director Eden Avery said that the SPCA has paid more than $11,000 for the care of the animals since that date.
Although the city has said that these costs are not the responsibility of the SPCA, city Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano said the city would not be picking up these costs.
“If only for legal purposes, our position is going to be that effective Oct. 26, the judge interceded on behalf of the SPCA and had Purr Fect World funding the costs from that point forward, and so it was pretty much confirmed that Purr Fect World is responsible,” Damiano said this morning.
He continued, saying that this dispute would most likely have to be solved through civil litigation between the SPCA and Purr Fect World.
About $30,000 in donations for the care of the Wheeler Avenue cats had been spent on extensive veterinary care for the animals, said SPCA board President Suzanne Etherington.
“These cats were in rough shape,” Etherington said.
Gilleran said that 48 of the 276 cats found in the clinic building and the adjacent home, where Purr Fect World board member Eugenia Cute had been living, had to be euthanized. Four others died of natural causes while in the SPCA’s care.
Cute, 54, and Purr Fect World President Lisa Alderman, 45, of Liverpool, have been charged with 49 counts of failure to provide proper food and water to a harbored animal, an unclassified misdemeanor.
The case is still pending, and Purr Fect World is due to reappear in court on Feb. 5.
The city, which executed the seizure of the animals, had incurred about $68,000 in caring for the animals prior to the agreement with Purr Fect World, and city officials have said they intend to recover the full amount from Purr Fect World.
Including money spent by the city, the SPCA, Purr Fect World, cash and in-kind donations, the cats have cost about $150,000 since the initiation of their seizure.
As part of the civil agreement in October, Purr Fect World supplied a bond of $32,000 in an interest-bearing escrow account that would be either handed over to the city or recovered by the organization, pending the resolution of the criminal case.



Scholarship set up in memory of soldier

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The Homer Education Foundation has created an annual scholarship in memory of 1999 graduate Pfc. Shawn Falter, who died Jan. 20 while serving in the Army in Iraq.
Several people in the community contacted the foundation about setting up the scholarship, said Michael Falls, Homer Education Foundation chairman.
“We wanted to put something out there if people wanted to give,” Falls said.
Falls said the details of the scholarship have not yet been determined, but the Education Foundation would eventually speak with Falter’s family and members of the high school staff to set up parameters. The scholarship will help keep Falter’s memory alive, he said.
“It’s to really put into perspective for people the kind of person that Shawn was,” Falls said.
Doug Larison, superintendent of Homer schools, said some of the impetus behind the scholarship is students in the high school who have been raising money to do something for Falter. Larison said he believed the students would donate the money to the scholarship fund. He does not know much money the students have raised so far.
Falter was buried Wednesday in Glenwood Cemetery in Homer after a funeral and procession attended by hundreds of people.
Anyone interested in donating money to the scholarship fund may download a form at or pick one up at the district office. People can contact Falls at (607) 842-6212 with any questions.




Homer seeks business input on zoning

Staff Reporter

HOMER — A town committee that is updating zoning is asking the Homer Business Association to provide it with a list of businesses that would be affected by a proposed zoning map.
The map, which is available online at and will be available at the Town Hall next week, is the culmination of several years of work by the committee.
The committee has also created a proposed zoning document, which is also available at that site.
Some proposed changes include zoning for cluster housing developments in current agriculturally zoned areas, guidelines for where telecommunications can be placed and zoning for mixed residential and business use in Little York, said Dan Dineen, one of the committee’s members.
Dineen, director of the Cortland County Planning Department, said many of the changes reflect new trends in development that have taken place and issues that have arisen since 1958, the year the existing zoning law was written.
The proposed map and document are still subject to change in the coming months before a public hearing.
On Thursday, Larry Jones, head of the Homer Business Association’s subcommittee concerned with zoning, reiterated the subcommittee’s concerns about the proposed map.
He said the group’s biggest concern is that businesses will be zoned out of compliance under the new map. He said those businesses, of which he gave several examples, will not be able to expand once zoning is changed to residential or agricultural.
For example, a portion of Route 11 just north of Little York Crossing would change from business zoning to residential zoning.
Jones said Dave’s Archery & Sports Center is one business located within that portion. It would not be able to expand if it wanted to under the new zoning, he said.
Bruce Weber, a member of the town’s committee to update zoning, said there is a chance that portion could be changed back to business zoning since it is just adjacent to a business zone.
Under the proposed document, that business zone would be a lakeside residential/business zone, which allows for homes and certain types of businesses.
Those businesses would be rather quaint, he said, such as antique stores. He said businesses such as gas stations would not be allowed in that zone under the proposed zoning plan.