February 12, 2008


Fire destroys historic Cincy house


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cincinnatus Fire Department Safety Officer Tom Terry looks over the smoldering remains of the rear of the house at 3012 Cincinnatus Road, Cincinnatus, Monday morning. The house, once used on the Underground Railroad, was a total loss.

Staff Reporter

CINCINNATUS — A fire Monday morning destroyed a home built in 1830 that the town historian said was part of the Underground _Railroad.
Flames quickly engulfed the house at 3012 Cincinnatus Road.
Cincinnatus Fire Chief Bob Burke said no one was home at the time of the fire but said he was told there were a dog and two cats in the residence.
“I don’t know 100 percent; we didn’t find anything,” he said about the animals. “The call came in at 10:19 (a.m.) and I was there in one minute. By the time I got there the house was totally engulfed. The fire started and then the wind just took it through the house. There was no controlling it at first.”
Burke added that the cause of the fire is undetermined and under _investigation.
Angel Linn, 19, of 2984 Cincinnatus Road, said she was sleeping when she heard a loud sound.
“It sounded like a shotgun,” she said. “I heard it again and opened the bedroom window and saw flames on the tenants’ front porch.”
Linn said she saw the porch roof collapse and called 911 to report the fire.
“When I was on the phone I saw the flames move and get bigger,” she said.
Linn said the owner is Frazier Venerable who lives on Long Island and rents out an addition on the home. She added that she also rents her property at 2984 Cincinnatus Road from Venerable.
Burke said the house was remodeled less than a year ago.
“It was a beautiful home. It’s a shame,” he said.
The American Red Cross of Cortland County met this morning with the husband and wife who rented the apartment, a Red Cross official said. The organization will assist with temporary shelter, clothing and food.
Nine fire departments helped extinguish the fire. Burke said the fire was under control after an hour, but was completely put out by 3 p.m.
“I grew up here. This was my childhood home,” said Rebecca Randall-Bates, with tears in her eyes as she watched the home burn. “I just can’t believe it. It’s just killing me; the history that is going up in flames.”
Cincinnatus Town Historian Lorena Perkins said to her knowledge it was the only home in Cincinnatus that was a part of the Underground Railroad.
Perkins added that it was one of the oldest homes in the town.
“It had additions to it since it was originally built,” she said.
Bildad Benson, who was born around 1771 and died in 1846 in Taylor, built the house in 1830. The property was then known as the Mann Farm before the Randall family bought it in the early 1900s.
Randall-Bates said her father sold the property in 1986.




City, developer review Court St. project

Planning Commission gives rundown of concerns with contentious development

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The city Planning Commission offered suggestions at a special meeting Monday to a local developer who has been at loggerheads with the board over his plans for a West Court Street apartment complex.
The commission told John Del Vecchio and his Marietta attorney Scott Chatfield that the major problems with his proposal include density, traffic and the visual appearance.
Chatfield told commission members that Del Vecchio was not expecting a decision on his site plan for the apartment building at 19 W. Court St. Instead, he was looking for guidance on what the commission wanted to see.
“Our principal concern is finding a plan that this board will find acceptable,” Chatfield said. “Give us some additional guidance as to what we might be able to do that may be acceptable to the board. We want to work with you not against you.”
Four of the seven commission members were at the meeting to offer their opinions on the proposal. Chatfield said he and Del Vecchio would go over the proposal and consider the members’ opinions and then present a final site plan at the commission’s next meeting on Feb. 25.
Currently, the proposal is to have three apartment units in the existing structure on West Court Street and then build an additional building to create six more units at the site where a garage once stood.
Nancy Hansen, chair of the commission, said she does not think anything above four units in the proposed new building would be acceptable.
“Six is just way too many,” she said.
Planning Commission member Doug Van Etten said he feels the commission and the public would be more at ease with the plan if the proposed new building were similar in size to the garage that once stood there.
Hansen said she wants the historical significance and appearance of the property maintained with the remainder of the neighborhood.
Landscaping, fencing along side of the YWCA and parking were other issues brought up.
Chatfield said they would consider all the issues, but could not guarantee what would be changed in the site plan.



Sheriff’s officers named lawmen of the year

Patrolmen discover, rescue state trooper who had crashed his car on way to call in Willet

Staff Reporter

Cortland County Sheriff’s Officer Kelly Ryan didn’t think anyone had survived the crash he saw in front of him in the darkened woods beside the road.
“I thought he was dead,” Ryan said. “The extent of the damage, it was unreal.”
Ryan and Sgt. Karl Altmann were on their way to a domestic disturbance call in Willet along with several other units from the Sheriff’s Department and State Police when Ryan noticed a vehicle off the road on Route 41 between Cincinnatus and Willet the night of May 19.
The car driven by Trooper Steven Bilodeau flipped several times on its way down the hill and came to rest 300 feet from the road in a marshy area thick with trees and underbrush.
“I knew it was a vehicle, but I didn’t realize it was a patrol car until I got down to it,” Ryan said. “It was engulfed in trees … I had to low-crawl in order to get to it.”
The two Cortland County Sheriff’s officers received the 2007 Lawman of the Year award Monday night at the Elks’ Lodge for their roles in rescuing the State Police trooper.
Both officers said they were not expecting to be named Lawman of the Year. Ryan and Altmann were nominated along with the State Police Investigator Jeffrey Hall and the City Police Department’s Officer Chad Hines for the award.
“We didn’t exactly prepare any speeches or anything, because we didn’t anticipate winning,” Altmann said to the law enforcement and court officials gathered Monday night at the Cortland Elks’ Lodge.
The night of the crash, Ryan and Altmann climbed down a steep 20-foot embankment on the side of the road and made their way to the overturned vehicle.
Bilodeau was unconscious and bleeding when Altmann and Ryan made it to his car, and Altmann couldn’t find a pulse on the trooper.
“He didn’t come to until I got the door open,” Altmann said.
As Altmann stayed with Bilodeau and administered as much first aid as he could, Ryan made his way back up to the road through the dark and the thick underbrush, where he found a fire truck that had stopped to assist.
He said he told one of the firefighters that they would need a chainsaw to make a path down to where Bilodeau was.
The firefighter had a chainsaw in his truck, but told Ryan that he did not know how to use it.
Ryan took the chainsaw and started clearing away the dense underbrush between the road and Bilodeau’s car at approximately 9:30 at night.
It took Altmann and Ryan a total of 22 minutes to pull Bilodeau safely from the wreckage and place on a backboard. Emergency workers from Cincinnatus helped carry the wounded trooper back to the road, where he was evacuated by helicopter and flown to University Hospital in Syracuse.
Bilodeau was back at work in August with the State Police in Homer after three months of recovery.




Dryden  school budget proposal $32.2M

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The Board of Education discussed a preliminary $32.2 million spending plan Monday that Superintendent of Schools James Lee is proposing as a budget starting point.
The plan, which will likely be revised, projects revenues of $32.2 million, an 8.9 percent increase.
The budget would increase spending 6.9 percent over the current $30.2 million budget. The budget assumes a property tax levy increase of 1.9 percent.
Lee recommends the budget include four new positions: an elementary teacher at a cost of $50,000; an elementary nurse at $45,000; a cleaner/custodian at $32,000 and a part-time clerical position for the maintenance department at $12,000.
The maintenance department has no clerical support, he said.
While these total $139,000, administrators had recommended $216,000 in additional staff positions.
A need to change three teacher aide positions to teacher assistants at an additional cost of $45,000 and an additional cleaner at $32,000 comprise the additional recommendations.
Board member Kathy Zahler asked if there was a nurse now at Cassavant and Freeville elementary schools.
Audrey Ryan, principal at Cassavant and Freeville, said a nurse from Dryden Elementary School comes a couple of times a week. She said the new nurse would travel between Cassavant and Freeville.
Board member Karen LaMotte questioned the need for another cleaner since no additional space has been added to the buildings in a couple of years. Lee said cleaners are not keeping up with the work.
Lee also identified the need for some curriculum coordination. He said a part-time position through BOCES at $40,000 would cost the district $8,000 after BOCES reimbursed the district the following year. He also allocated $100,000 for special education if needed and $78,653 for computer hardware that would put the district on a regular replacement cycle.
Lee also strongly suggested the board tackle and eliminate the cafeteria fund deficit.
He suggested the health and dental insurance for family members of individual employees be absorbed in the general fund, instead of keeping it in the lunch fund. Using a projection of a 5 percent increase, this would add $55,431 to the district budget in 2008-09.



Homer Planning Board backs zone change

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The village Planning Board recommended approval of a zoning change for a developer to build a 28-unit apartment complex just south of routes 281 and 41.
The recommendation for the project of local developer Ken DeMunn attaches conditions recommended by the county Planning Board.
Village Planning Board Chair Margo Yager said this morning the Planning Board voted 3-0 in favor of the zoning change at its meeting Monday.
Planning Board member Alexandra Mulvihill abstained from the vote because she recently joined the Planning Board, and Planning Board member Harold Peacock was absent, Yager said.
DeMunn is requesting the village change the zoning of a 4.2-acre parcel from B-2 general business, to Planned Development District-Residential.
The Village Board will vote on the zone change in the coming months, following a public hearing.
If the board votes in favor of the zone change, DeMunn would be required to submit to the Planning Board a detailed site plan for his project.
DeMunn’s eventual plans call for seven 36-by-60-foot apartment buildings that are 32 feet high on the property.
Each apartment building would have four units and each unit would have two bedrooms.
A two-way, 24-foot winding road would cut through the property from Route 281 to Route 41, separating four apartment buildings on the south part of the parcel from three apartment buildings to the north.