February 09, 2008


Internet access problem in rural areas

County Legislature forming committee to look at issue, study grants


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Karl Klein talks Friday about frustrations he has with a slow internet connection using a satellite at his home on North Tower Road in Solon. There is a lack of high-speed internet options in rural areas of Cortland County.

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — SUNY Cortland biology professor Terrence Fitzgerald would love to have high-speed Internet access at his Virgil home. Instead, he has to settle for a slower dial-up connection.
He’s considered satellite Internet, but it’s expensive and not necessarily as fast as a digital subscriber line, or DSL, connection, which is unavailable in his neighborhood.
“I pretty much have to come into my office to do the work I need to do,” the Lash Road resident said.
His plight and that of those living in Cortland County’s outlying areas in parts of Virgil, Truxton and Solon has caught the attention of county_ legislators.
Legislator Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) said as she campaigned last fall she realized many people lack high-speed Internet access.
Arnold, Legislator Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward) and other county officials are creating a county committee to examine the issue and find ways to extend broadband access throughout the county.
A goal will be to apply for state funding to extend broadband Internet infrastructure locally, Tytler said.
Fewer than 25 percent of New Yorkers in rural areas have access to broadband Internet, according to Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Spitzer is pledging $15 million this year to the Universal Broadband Access Grant Program, which would provide money to municipalities and other entities for expanded broadband service. For every dollar the state provides, the applicant would have to provide $4.
Cortland County missed the deadline for this year’s grant funding, but hopes to apply for the funding next year, said Cortland County Planning Department Director Dan Dineen.
He said waiting until next year to apply for the grant would give the committee time to identify needs and meet with utility companies.
Broadband service can be expanded through the addition of special equipment in underserved areas that connect with a central office. The equipment increases the distance from the office that broadband covers.
Typically the offices provide broadband coverage to locations within a radius of 3 miles.
Verizon has centers in the city of Cortland, village of Homer and village of McGraw, whereas Frontier has centers in the village of Marathon, village of Dryden, Truxton, Virgil and Cincinnatus.
Representatives from both companies said it is pretty likely they wouldn’t build new central offices in the Cortland area, but that they might consider expanding the capacity of their offices in the future.
“It’s really something we don’t discuss because of the competitive environment,” said Cliff Lee, a Verizon spokesman.
Whether the companies decide to expand capacity depends on customer demand, they said.
Both Lee and Karen Miller, a Frontier spokesman, said their companies would be interested in meeting with members of the committee that Cortland County is putting together to talk about applying for a state grant.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good track record of working with local and state governments,” Miller said. “We’d be more than happy to work with them.”
Local residents say they hope the county committee will look into possibly bringing new Internet technology to the area.
Karl Klein is an Onondaga Community College computer science professor and Solon resident who pays $80 per month for WildBlue satellite Internet service because it is his only high-speed option.
He said he’s curious about the possibility of Google rolling out wireless Internet technology everywhere across the county, a goal it has _communicated.
Google is bidding on Block C of the Federal Communications Commission’s 700 MHz spectrum, which is being auctioned as a result of U.S. television stations moving off of it and converting to digital signals in February 2009.
“With a good plan the Cortland County Legislature could maybe make sure it’s rolled out here,” he said.
Fitzgerald said he’s curious about New Visions, a company in Syracuse that delivers high-speed Internet over electrical lines to municipalities such as the village of Solvay.
Carmen Branca, New Visions president, said he’d love to sit down with Cortland County officials and talk about bringing the company’s technology here. The company has recently partnered with National Grid.
“We’ve got a lot of calls from your area, from Cortland, Tully, Virgil …,” Branca said. “This (high-speed Internet access) is very important because if affects economic development. … You can’t recruit businesses if you don’t have the infrastructure.”




CRMC receives $200,000 grant

Money targeted for cancer registry and medication bar coding programs

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The Cortland Regional Medical Center received $200,000 Friday that will be used to support two patient care programs.
Sen. Jim Seward presented the grant, which will be used to support and staff the center’s cancer registry and medication bar coding programs.
“This is really going to go a long way to help people in this community,” said Cris Denniston, director of pharmacy at CRMC, who supervises the department to ensure and promote safe medication use within the medical center. “About 12 percent of hospitals nationwide have bar coding … it’s very expensive so we’re very fortunate to have this here.”
The bar coding system matches bar codes on medications with codes on a patient’s wrist band to ensure the patient receives the right dose, drug, and at the correct time.
At least 1.5 million Americans are sickened, injured or killed each year by errors in prescribing, dispensing and taking medications, according to a July 2006 study by the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit organization that advises health care organizations.
“The money is helping to add pharmacy staff. This is a huge project,” Denniston said. “Tentatively we hope to go live early summer. It’s a staged process.”
Denniston said one position is needed in pharmacy to ensure the bar code on every medication a patient receives is readable by a computer system and is kept up-to-date.
Nancy Fuller, director of health information management/cancer program administration, said the money would also be used to recruit and retain a certified cancer registry position and support the existing staff in the cancer registry program.
The program was implemented in November 2006 and is responsible for collecting, managing and analyzing data on cancer patients who are diagnosed and/or treated at CRMC.
“The goal is to be able to provide more services to cancer patients,” Fuller said of the program.




Truxton FD gets $57,000 grant

Staff Reporter

The Truxton Fire Department has been awarded a $57,000 federal grant that will allow it to replace all 12 of its air packs.
The grant will come through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.
Judson E. Vickery, a fire police captain at the Truxton Police Department, said he applied for the grant in April.
He asked for the air packs because the department’s current air packs do not comply with _the National Fire Prevention _Association.
Some of the packs are almost 22 years old, he said.
The new packs will better protect firefighters from hazardous fumes from plastics, composite glue and other building materials. The new packs will each come with two tanks like the current ones.
“There might be other chemicals or man-made hazards that with the old packs firefighters could have received injury from,” he said.
He said he anticipates the department will get the air packs in two or three months. The department will have to pay $3,000, which it will raise through fundraising and donations, for the local share of the $60,000 cost of the air packs.
Vickery said the department has received about $90,000 worth of combined state and federal grants, including a 2004 Assistance to Firefighters Grant to buy new turnout gear, since he began applying for them in 2004.
The $57,000 grant announced Wednesday is the biggest one the department has gained since 2004.
“This is the icing on the cake,” Vickery said.
The Truxton Fire Department has a $70,000 annual budget, Vickery said. Much of that money goes toward insurance, firefighter health benefits and truck maintenance work.




Investigator calls Manos trial ‘heart wrenching’

Staff Writer

DRYDEN — Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson said she was not surprised jurors found Marie Manos guilty of murdering her 2-year-old niece.
The evidence was certainly there for the charges, she said, but she was surprised the jury returned with its decision after only eight hours.
“There was a lot for the jury to consider,” she said. “It’s a hugely rewarding feeling to have gained the convictions.”
Wilkinson and law enforcement officials held a press conference Friday in Dryden to announce the verdict and discuss the case. Manos, 34, of Dryden was found guilty Thursday of drowning and sexually abusing her niece Grace Manos in May.
Manos was found guilty by a jury of 10 men and two women of two counts of second-degree murder. She faces a minimum of 15 years to life in prison for the crimes.
Manos remains in Tompkins County Jail and her sentencing is scheduled for March 12.
Wilkinson commended the police officers and other first responders who arrived on the scene of Manos’ Ringwood Road apartment in Dryden after receiving the 911 call, and the officers who conducted the investigation into the girl’s death.
“If she had been savable, they would have saved her,” she said. “Cases like this don’t come around that often, thank Heaven.”
Wilkinson said Grace’s parents, Jennifer and Marie’s brother Michael Manos, were thankful for the conclusion of the long and often difficult investigation and trial.
“Mike and Jen of course are very relived that this long process is at an end,” Wilkinson said. “This has been a very difficult time for them.”
She said the investigation involved examining evidence that was in many cases heart-rending, and by the time the trial began, she said she and her staff were logging 18-20 hour workdays.
“I’m delighted that it’s over,” she said.
Trooper Michael Burling, one of the officers who was first on the scene May 15, said the case was “heart wrenching.”
“Anything involving a child just digs into your psyche that much deeper,” he said.



City man sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to drug charge

Staff Reporter

The second of 18 people arrested in a November drug bust was sentenced to probation Thursday in Cortland County Court.
Timothy J. Allen, 32, of 1 Mildred Ave., Cortland, received three years of probation for fourth-degree _criminal sale of marijuana, a misdemeanor.
Allen pleaded guilty to the charge Jan. 3.
“He acknowledges that somehow he jumped off and got himself back in trouble with drugs,” said Edward Purser, Allen’s attorney. “But he has been sober since his arrest and put himself in family counseling. I _believe he should be given that chance to be a productive member of society.”
County Court Judge Julie Campbell went along with the probation sentence instead of additional jail time because she said Allen was responsible enough to get help after his arrest.
“The fact that you went and did this on Nov. 16, prior to taking a plea. That’s what makes this case different for me,” she said.
Allen apologized to the court and said he relapsed but is trying to get the help he needs.
“He has a young child and I think that light bulb came on here that that child means more to him than drugs,” Purser said.
In addition to the probation, Allen had his license suspended for six months and will have to pay $160 in court fees.
Joseph P. Spooner, 21, of 64 Madison St., Apt. 3, Cortland, was the first to be sentenced on Jan. 31 and received 1 1/2 years in prison for third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a felony. In addition to jail time, Spooner was sentenced to two years post release supervision.
Two of the 18 defendants were granted adjournments in contemplation of dismissal and will have their charges dismissed and file sealed in one year provided they do not get into any further trouble with the law.