February 11, 2008


Firefighters compete in annual games

2008 Firefighter Winter Games held at Greek Peak over weekend


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Cortlandville firefighters, from left, Nate Krause, his wife, Veronic Krause, and Jeff Schussler, compete in the fourth annual Firemen’s Association of the State of New York Winter Games tug of war competition Saturday at Greek Peak. Firefighters from across the state  competed in the games, which were held Friday through Sunday.

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — Firefighters are accustomed to responding to fires at all hours of the day or night, but Saturday the call was for another reason — to play tug of war and other games like tube racing.
The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York hosted the 2008 Firefighter Winter games Friday through Sunday at Greek Peak.
Rebecca Franklin, president of Central New York Firemen’s Association, said this is the game’s fourth. The first three years the event was held at Lake Placid, she said.
“We wanted it back in Central New York,” Franklin said. “Participation increased by bringing it back to this area.”
Three of the 25 teams competing were local, two from Cortlandville and one from Virgil. Participants came from Long Island, northern New York and Western New York.
Three events were held at Greek Peak — a tubing race, tug of war and a snowshoe race. One of the Cortlandville teams, “Whack Attack,” won both the tubing and snowshoe race.
The Virgil team, which competed only in the tug-of-war contest, lost a close contest. Virgil Capt. Jamie Babcock had wanted a win on the local turf. “Hopefully we’ll take it,” he said before the second match. “We have some muscle here.”
Team members said conditions were getting icy after several tug-of-war matches.
“I haven’t done this in 20 years,” said Bob Walker, a Virgil firefighter
“We want Cortlandville,” Babcock said. “We brought the beef for this.”
But, as the Cortlandville team started to compete, the Virgil team started to shout at them in encouragement.
“Come on. Dig in. Don’t give up,” barked Babcock.
It wasn’t to be. Eventually all the team members went down. They were out of the running for first.
Then Virgil battled it out. Cortlandville returned the favor, cheering them on. The battle seemed to last at least 10 minutes.
“Pull, Virgil boys,” said Cortlandville firefighter Jared Gebel. One man fell but got back up and it seemed like the other team was going to go down. “Don’t give up. You got ’em. This is your turf. You got ’em.”
The other team rallied and pulled harder. The Virgil firefighters lost their grips.
“We tried,” Babcock said.
“I couldn’t hold it,” Walker said.
Ron Anderson, a Virgil firefighter and town councilman, said next year the team would have a new member. His wife, Shannon, just put in her paperwork to become a firefighter and she has snowshoes. He said then the team would compete in the snowshoe race. He said she also works at Greek Peak.
Snowshoeing turned out to be a bit easier, with Cortlandville making it look like a cakewalk.
After several firefighters lost a shoe or two, Mark Dominie, from the ski resort’s Nordic Center, shouted some new rules. “One shoe minimum has to be on. Put it on and drag it,” he said. He also told the firefighters they were to retrieve their own snowshoes. Dominie later added, when another reminder was needed, “It is a snowshoe race, after all.”
Kevin Olejar, a Cortlandville firefighter, said he lost just one shoe, but he admitted another teammate had retrieved it for him. His team, the “Attack Dawgs” was in second place, behind fellow Cortlandville firefighters on the “Whack Attack” team.
“We kept our snowshoes on the entire race,” said Jeff Schussler, a member of the Whack Attacks.
“And no, we did not practice,” said Leann Everts, another member of the winning group.
Cortlandville firefighter Jennifer “Skippy” Gomes said the snowshoe race was the easiest and the tug of war was the hardest because it took the most endurance. She said the tubing race required strategy to win.
Olejar said he could not participate in the morning events because he had an emergency medical training class. He said he would participate in Broomball Sunday morning at SUNY Cortland.
He said he participated in the games because he liked “being with all the brothers and fire departments across the state. And it’s fun.”
Olejar has been with the Cortlandville department since September and is participating in the bunker program, an opportunity for young firefighters who are going to college to stay in the firehouse. Olejar, who is from Lewiston, near Niagara Falls, said he is studying geography at SUNY Cortland. He said he and three other students are in the bunker program and they are on duty two nights and then off two nights.




Snow, wind cause problems on area roads

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Sunday’s frigid temperatures, snow and heavy winds caused dozens of accidents on area roads.
Mitch Gilt, a hydrometeorological technician with the National Weather Service in Binghamton, said snow and wind made for treacherous conditions Sunday.
“Yesterday a cold front went through,” Gilt said. “There were heavy snow and near whiteout conditions that caused a lot of vehicle accidents.”
Winds of 15 to 25 mph were measured in Binghamton, with gusts of 35 to 45 mph, he said.
State Police responded to a state Department of Transportation report about 12:50 p.m. Sunday of a tractor-trailer on its side on the southbound side of Interstate 81 in Marathon.
The driver, Mathieu Filiatrault, 27, of Quebec, Canada, lost control on the icy road and went off the western shoulder of the highway. His truck came to rest on its passenger side, and no one was injured in the crash.
The truck was still at the scene this morning, State Police said. Rick & Rich Towing in Homer said Sunday’s weather conditions prevented the company from removing the truck until today.
The truck rollover caused several other accidents.
An Ontario man, Bernard Boivin, came upon the accident as it was happening and stopped his car, only to be struck from behind by a vehicle driven by Jeffrey DeSantis, 18, of New Jersey. Due to white-out conditions, DeSantis could not see that Boivin’s vehicle had stopped until it was too late to avoid hitting it, State Police said.
On the northbound side of I-81 in Marathon, another tractor-trailer was involved in an accident and stopped in the driving lane. A bus carrying 18 passengers swerved off the road and into the eastern ditch. No one was injured, and the bus was eventually pulled from the ditch.
Eight more accidents were reported on I-81 in and around Marathon Sunday, and at least three cars went off the highway in Homer during the whiteouts caused by snow and high winds.
A New Rochelle woman driving on State Route 392 in Virgil at 12:10 a.m. Sunday and slid into a guide rail.
A Canastota man lost control on Telephone Hill Road in Cincinnatus as he was driving around a curve and slid across the oncoming lane of traffic and into the ditch on the eastbound side of the road.
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures were bitterly cold Sunday and this morning. A wind chill advisory was in effect until early this afternoon. Today’s high was expected to reach 14 degrees.
Another storm is forecast for Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning.
Gilt said the National Weather Service is expecting snow, sleet and freezing rain. A total of 2 to 4 inches of snow is expected Tuesday, with a high of 22 degrees.



Weather cooperates for Homer village WinterFest

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The snow was scarce and some events had to be canceled or changed, but the eighth annual Homer WinterFest continued Saturday with a bevy of activities at several locations for young and old.
Each venue was marked with a plywood snowman with the name of the event, such as pancake breakfast, chili cook-off or the one in front of Homer Elementary that simply said fun.
Inside there were activities for children, including a Wild West Show and World Drum Jam.
And, just about everywhere there was food — pancakes, soups, homemade pizza, baked goods, a pig roast, wine tasting, a clamfest and a chili cook-off.
The chili cook-off included 19 different chilies. People crowded into the dining room of Hobeau’s restaurant for a chance to sample and judge each chili. Sheila Quinlan, a member of the WinterFest committee who sold tickets to the event, said for four years the public has done the judging. “It gives us a chance to raise money for WinterFest,” she said.
Each participant gets three cards. Each card has a label — the spiciest, the best traditional chili and the best special chili — and participants are asked to write in the number of the chili they pick for each category.
Laurence Beaudry, owner of Hobeau’s, said he has had a chili cook-off for seven years during WinterFest.
“We’re trying to taste every one,” said Dennis Porter, from Greene. He said for the first time he and his wife, Sue, entered a chili. They had tasted a chicken chili entered a couple of years ago, liked it and set out to replicate it.
“We just enjoy it. It’s a day out — a nice time,” he said of WinterFest. He said the couple stay all day and also planned to go to the wine tasting, the antique show and the appraisals of antiques.
Phyllis Guest, a public health inspector, was also there with a thermometer. She said she tests each chili when it is brought in to make sure it is at the proper temperature and then periodically tests while there.
“It’s not my fault if someone gets sick,” she said. She said this year had the best turnout of chilies. Although she had not tasted any yet, she had a chicken chili with a thick consistency picked out as her favorite.




Library cuts topic of ward meeting

Second Ward Alderman Clay Benedict has scheduled a ward meeting Tuesday to discuss the city’s recent reduction in aid to the city library and to rally support for the library.
The ward meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the library at 32 Church St.
The library is in the 2nd Ward, which Benedict, a Democrat, began representing when his first term of office began Jan. 1. He encouraged the public to attend and was hoping for a big turnout.
Library Director Kay Zaharis plans to describe new programs and materials and tours of the library will be given.
The city in recent years has given the library $200,000 annually to help support its operations. Facing financial troubles and virtually no surplus to cover unexpected expenses, the city cut the amount to $150,000 for this year.
In response to concerns raised by the library, the city Common Council agreed Tuesday to advance the $150,000 payment to help the library as it works to adjust to a budget shortfall.
With a shortfall of about $1,000 a week, the library was considering several reductions in service, such as closing on more days, and increasing fees to its patrons.
Library officials are hoping to maintain its level of services with the help of $15,000 in donations that came after the library’s financial troubles became public.
Library officials are also considering creating a library taxing district with the same boundaries as the city school district.



City school board to meet at Randall Elementary

The city Board of Education will meet Tuesday at Randall Elementary School, instead of the Kaufman Center.
The meeting includes a report on the progress of elementary goals from the elementary principals.
The school construction project vote is from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Kaufman Center.
The project includes technology and security upgrades at all the school buildings and extensive work to enlarge the football field and convert it from a grass field to a turf field.
The board will reconvene after 9 p.m. at the Kaufman Center to count the vote.