February 26, 2007

4 vying for 2 Dryden trustee seats

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — Village elections are set for March 20, and candidates are vying for three spots.
Republican Mayor Reba Taylor is running unopposed for her re-election. She is finishing up her fifth, two-year term as mayor.
Taylor, a retired assistant supervisor at Cornell University who is 60, also served one year as a village trustee before becoming mayor in 1997.
Taylor said a goal for her next term would be to get the village’s new sewer plant built and operating. The current plant is at capacity, she said, and the project would allow new businesses to move into the village and town and additional housing developments to be built.
“Everything good for the village and the town hinges on getting the sewer plant up and running,” Taylor said.
The village will hold a public hearing Thursday on its proposal to raise sewer rates. The money from the rate increase would help fund the project.
Taylor said she hopes construction on the new plant can begin at the end of the year or beginning of next year. Construction of the approximately _$6 million plant would take 18 months to two years, she said.
Taylor said some of her proudest accomplishments as mayor are helping get new drainage, sidewalks and curbing for the village, helping put new water mains along a handful of streets and helping get a $400,000 housing rehabilitation grant for the village.
Taylor has lived in Dryden for about 30 years and is married.
The position of mayor pays $7,000 annually.
Two village trustee positions are open with Robert Witty and Randy Sterling’s terms coming to an end. Both men will be running for re-election, while Lisa Valentinelli and Elizabeth Gutchess will also be running for election.
The top two vote-getters will win the seats.
Robert Witty, a Republican who is 58, has served as a village trustee for three years. He was appointed as trustee three years ago, and then elected into the position. He serves as deputy mayor.
Witty, president and chief financial officer of the CFCU Community Credit Union, served as chairman of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce in 1995 and was chairman of the Empire Corporate Federal Credit Union from 1998 to 2000.
Witty said he has used his financial experience to help Taylor craft budgets and assist the village in bonding at least $6 million for the upcoming sewer plant project, he said.
Witty said a goal of his is to get the village’s two water towers repaired. He has lived in Dryden for about 35 years, is married and has one child.
Sterling, a Republican who is 55, was appointed as trustee six months ago after Mark Strom resigned from the position.
He said he ran for office against Strom two years ago but was defeated by three votes.
Sterling has been a police officer in the city of Ithaca for the last three years. He also served as a part-time Dryden village police officer from 1978 to 2002.
He has also been involved in coaching soccer, baseball and active in the Dryden Baptist Church, he said.
Sterling said if he is re-elected he will continue helping the village negotiate with its police bargaining unit.
His experience as a policeman should prove valuable, he said.
“I know what’s reasonable and what’s not,” he said.
Sterling has lived in Dryden for 30 years, is married and has three children.
Lisa Valentinelli, a Democrat who is 41, is also running for a trustee spot.
She said she has not held a political office, though she has helped local Democrats and Independents run for office.
Valentinelli, the principal of the MacCormick Secure Center, a jail for juveniles, said she has a number of goals for the village. Those include getting village residents more involved in village government, creating more activities for young people and bringing more businesses downtown.
“When we were little, we walked down Main Street and you had everything right down there,” she said.
Valentinelli said she has lived in Dryden since she was 3 months old. She is not married and has one child, she said.
Elizabeth Gutchess, who is also running for a village trustee seat, could not be reached after repeated phone calls.
The position of village trustee has a two-year term that pays $1,500 annually.



County committee to hold first meeting

Staff Reporter

A bi-partisan committee formed by Cortland County Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward) to “explore opportunities existing and regarding the South Main Street land deal and the space needs of the County of Cortland,” will have its first meeting Tuesday.
The committee, which will meet at 7:30 a.m. in Room 304 _in the County Office Building, will be made up of the following legislators:
John Daniels (D-Cortlandville); John Steger (R-Preble and Scott); Larry Cornell (R-Marathon and Lapeer); Dan Tagliente (D-7th Ward); Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward); and Mike McKee (R-Cincinnatus, Freetown, Taylor and Willet).
Brown said she hoped the committee would select a chairman, hold its meetings in public and report back to the Legislature by its March 22 meeting.
While she said she’d leave the scope of the work to the committee, Brown said she expected its focus would be the county’s space needs — space for a public health facility, a new jail and a motor vehicles office have been most often discussed — and a closer look at possible uses for the properties along south Main Street, over which the county faces a possible legal challenge.
“We haven’t really heard publicly yet what the needs are for these facilities — all we’ve heard is from the people who are opposed to what we proposed — and we need to hear that information so we can look realistically at what we need to do,” Brown said.
The Legislature’s Jan. 25 decision to go back on an initial vote, in December, to purchase $894,000 of property along south Main, Williams and Randall streets has been challenged by attorneys for property owners involved in the deal, who say that the original decision to purchase represents a binding contract.
Brown said she has asked County Attorney Ric Van Donsel to request that attorneys for property owners involved in the deal — four of six property owners have indicated that they will file suit — hold off on filing a lawsuit until after the Legislature’s March 22 meeting.


Sewer work focus of Dryden hearing

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The Village Board of Trustees plans to host a public hearing Thursday on a proposed plan to increase the village’s sewer rates. The hearing was originally set for Feb. 15 but canceled due to snow.
The rate increase would help fund a new sewer plant, which is estimated to cost $6 million.
Built in 1964, the sewer system is running at its capacity of 500,000 gallons of wastewater processed daily and it is at the end of it’s 40-year lifespan, said Mayor Reba Taylor.
Sewer rates are determined by water consumption.
For the village, the first 1,250 gallons cost residents $37, the next 13,750 gallons cost $2.35 per thousand gallons, the next 25,000 cost $2.75 per 1,000 gallons.
The minimum fee of $37 would not change under the new rate structure. There would be an increase of approximately 22 percent for additional water usage. The next 13,750 gallons would cost $2.90 per 1,000 gallons, for example.
For the Cortland Road Sewer District, which serves part of the town of Dryden, rates are: the first 1,250 gallons cost residents a minimum of $46.25 and the next 13,750 gallons cost $2.94 per thousand gallons.
For this district, the cost of the first 1,250 gallons would not be affected by the new rates but rates for additional usage would increase by about 22 percent. After the initial 1,250 gallons, the following 13,750 would cost $3.63 per 1,000 gallons, for example.
“The cost (of the sewer plant project) would be spread out,” said Mary Ellen Bossack, a village trustee. “It won’t be all at once.”
She also said only a fraction of the cost of the sewer system would be funded by an increase in sewer rates. She said the rest would come from bonding.
Taylor said she did not know how much the village would have to bond for because new cost estimates have to be made. Hunt Engineering, the town’s engineering firm, is verifying figures, including capacity, done by the village’s engineer, PLS.
Village Clerk Debra Marrotte said current rates do not completely fund the sewer cost as this year $650 had to be taken from a fund balance. She said the budget also could not support transferring the usual $50,000 to a reserve account for the sewer project. Only $25,000 was set aside this year.
The rate increases would generate about $50,000 more in income from 676 village users and 39 customers in the Cortland Road Sewer District.
Taylor said the funds received from the proposed increase would go to the reserve fund. She said that eventually that money would most likely go to engineering costs for the sewer system.
Other than bonding and borrowing, Taylor said she would look to the State Revolving Fund, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help fund the project.
Taylor said about five years ago the project was estimated to cost between $4.5 million and $5 million, but now the project would be about $6 million for a plant with a 600,000-gallon daily capacity. Taylor said the cost has escalated because of inflation on the cost of materials.
Taylor said the state Department of Environmental Conservation had already approved the project, but the delay of the project is because the Cortland Road Sewer agreement has not been signed and also the village of Freeville may be interested in joining the sewer system.
Bossack and Taylor said they were unsure of when the project would begin, but Taylor said she hoped it could start by or before spring 2008.
“The more we delay, the worse the cost will be,” she said. “We have a responsibility to the residents, we have to get it going and get it done.”


Groton Spring St. bridge slated for reconstruction

Staff Reporter

GROTON — Tompkins County officials said Friday that the county plans to replace a bridge in the town of Groton this summer.
County Superintendent of Highways Bill Sczesny said the bridge crossing the Owasco Inlet on Spring Street will undergo complete reconstruction. The project work will go out to bid within the next few months after Sczesny receives paperwork on final approval from the county. It is expected to cost $530,000.
“I have to have the financing in place before we can proceed,” he said.
County officials said Friday morning that an authorization was passed by the Tompkins County Legislature on Tuesday allowing them make a funding agreement with the town and village.
The village and the town are each expected to pay $53,000 for the cost of the construction, while the county will foot the other 80 percent of the bill, Sczesny said.
“We’re going to be sharing the cost with the village and the town,” he said. “The county is going to pay $424,000.”
Sczesny said the 35-foot deck of the nearly 65-year-old bridge, along with its headings, will be replaced by private contractors.
The deck and the concrete on the bridge have begun to crack, Sczesny said.
The project should start in early spring and be completed by fall, Sczesny said.