February 19, 2008


Activities increase for winter break

Organizations expand hours, offerings to help keep students busy


Bob Ellis/staff photographer   
Drew Cottrell, right, holds a football as he waits his turn to pass during a quarterback and receivers clinic held Monday at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex. With students and teachers on vacation all week, parents and students have scheduled a variety of activities to stay busy.

Staff Reporter

Cortland residents Danielle Porter and her husband, Brian, scrambled to find day care for their two children this week during winter break.
They turned to a friend and family member to watch their 11-year-old son, Matthew, and 6-year-old daughter, Megan. Their friend has the children the first half of the week and Danielle Porter’s aunt the second half.
“It was definitely a last-minute thing,” said Danielle, a full-time employee at McGraw Medical Office whose children attend Parker Elementary School. “I couldn’t believe vacation came so quickly.”
With children off from area schools this week, working parents like the Porters are dealing with children who need either day care or activities outside the home to keep them busy.
Between 10 and 15 extra children are enrolled in day care at the Clayton Avenue YWCA this week, said Terry Freelove, supervisor of YWCA’s school-age day care program.
The number of children this week at the center ranges from 40 to 65 each day.
“We swim, we bake, we do arts and crafts, and we do a lot of physical games,” Freelove said, adding that it is important to keep children’s minds and bodies active during their week off.
Many children are going to the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex this week to participate in special sports clinics or to ice skate.
As of noon Monday between 200 and 300 school children had walked through the center’s doors, according to Sue Covington, office manager at the complex. That compares with no school age children when school is in session.
“A lot of people are here because they’re visiting family and they need something to do,” Covington said. “Parents like it because they (the children) are inside, safe and playing something organized.”
Homer brothers Drew Cottrell, 11, and Nate, 10, and Thomas Austin, 14, also of Homer, were among about 50 regional children who participated in one of two special football passing and receiving clinics at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex Monday.
“I’m pretty much just working on getting more velocity on my throws,” Drew said between passes Monday.
His mother, Tara, who took this week off from work, said the clinic is a nice way for her boys to have something to do this week without going overboard.
“This clinic is perfect,” Cottrell said. “It’s just one day for a few hours. It’s nice to have something to do but also have some downtime.”
On Monday, Cortland residents Hannah Bistocchi, 14, and Kelsey Quail, 13, entertained themselves by ice skating at the sports complex.
They also plan to shop and sleep over with other friends.
Other activities for teenagers this week can be found at the city Youth Bureau, which has extended hours. Usually the bureau opens to teens at 3 p.m., but this week is opens at noon.
“It’s just a real comfortable place,” Assistant Director Cecile Scott said. “Kids can hang out with friends, listen to music, and we do have a band practice room that a lot of kids can use, which the parents enjoy because they’re getting the whole band out of the house. We also have drum lessons and guitar lessons every week free of charge.”
Scott, who said the center also has board games and ping pong, said the center might offer cross-country skiing and sledding later in the week if there’s more snow on the ground.
A trip to the Skaneateles Community Center’s Splash Facility, which includes a hot tub, pool and two-story water slide, is planned for Thursday. Teens can still sign up, Scott said.
“That might give a family an idea of something to do,” Scott added. “It would be a fun thing to do this time of year.”




Council vote: Conifer opponents or back-tax bundle

Staff Reporter

With still so many public concerns and some unanswered questions, the Common Council will vote tonight on whether to grant a low-interest loan to Conifer Realty, which has proposed a low-to-moderate income housing project on Pendleton Street.
The vote on the $150,000 loan will take place during the council’s 7 p.m. session after a public work session on the project at 6.
At the work session, representatives from Conifer will give a presentation on its proposal and then answer any questions council and community members may have.
Mayor Tom Gallagher said the council also would discuss all the positives and negatives the $10-million project would pose to the city.
Several aldermen agree the project has advantages, such as payment of back taxes and filling the need of quality low-incoming housing. But they also still fear there are many unanswered questions that need to be addressed.
“I have been doing a lot of research the last few weeks and there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I do not feel comfortable making a decision without those answers,” said Alderwoman Susan Feiszli (D-6th Ward). “I am honestly looking for more reasons to accept this project than reject it because I know there is a need for affordable housing in this community. The bottom line is at what price are taxpayers willing to pay for this?”
Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) wonders if taxpayers would bear the burden of inflation costs if Conifer were granted a proposed payment in lieu of taxes agreement.
Quail said with a set tax, and with inflation increasing each year, taxpayers would be covering the costs for the Conifer development.
“If costs inflate by 5 percent, not counting the first year, over a 15-year period they would be paying $225,000 less,” Quail said. “As costs escalate, that means city taxpayers will have to cover those costs. I’m concerned about that.”
Under the proposed PILOT agreement, Conifer would pay $21,000 a year in city, county and school taxes for 15 years on the 56-unit low-to-moderate incoming housing complex.
When the agreement is up, the annual tax would raise to $24,000, which is based on total gross income and expenses, not the property assessment value.



Harford man arrested after 4-hour foot chase

Staff Reporter

A Harford man who has been running from police since September was arrested Saturday after a 4-hour foot chase involving several police agencies, about 20 officers, five road blocks and a helicopter.
John A. Marsh, 42, of 1011 Burvee Road, was charged with fourth degree grand larceny, discharge into state waters without a permit and discharge causing a condition in contravention of water quality standards, felonies; and petit larceny, criminal trespassing, timber theft and two counts of resisting arrest, misdemeanors.
Lt. Charles Yaekel, with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said DEC officers went to Marsh’s home several times Friday attempting to apprehend him on warrants issued in September, but were unsuccessful.
Saturday morning, about 10 DEC officers and three officers from the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department and five state troopers helped the DEC set up five roadblocks and search for Marsh.
Yaekel said at 11:30 a.m., a vehicle approached a roadblock on Babcock Hollow Road and Marsh jumped out of the passenger-side door and ran into the woods.
A perimeter was set up around the area and a State Police helicopter from Syracuse flew in to assist in the search. After a short struggle, DEC Officer Greg Herz caught Marsh at approximately 3:30 p.m. in the woods in Harford.
Yaekel said the charges against Marsh stem from incidents last spring, when Marsh allegedly stole timber from other people’s properties. Once the DEC received the complaints, an investigation and search of Marsh’s property led to the additional charges.
Police said Marsh’s toilets run into a stream, which is only allowed if you have a permit from the state.
Marsh was arraigned in Virgil Town Court and remanded to the Cortland County Jail in lieu of $2,500 cash bail. He was still in jail this morning.