March 05, 2007

Home show settles into Cortland venue

Home Show

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Roy Conant, an employee of Timberpeg, goes over plans with Lisa Hoeschele and her daughter Margaret, 10, of Cortland, for their new home project in Virgil at the Tompkins Cortland Builders and Remodelers Association Home Show at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex over the weekend.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — David and Roberta Reniff came to the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex Saturday to pick up some remodeling tips for their McLean home.
“We are looking for a little of everything,” Reniff said. “We are just looking at products.”
The couple were among hundreds at the annual Tompkins Cortland Builders and Remodelers Association Home Show. It was designed for people in all stages of homebuilding, remodeling or decorating.
More than 50 vendors and builders crowded the floor of the sports complex.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Roy Conant, regional director of Timberpeg, a national timber-frame home building company. “This is a great show. The folks coming by the booth are interesting and fun to talk to.”
Conant has attended approximately 300 home shows in his 33-year career with Timberpeg.
There was a lot to choose from at the home show.
The event Saturday and Sunday featured displays of kitchens, baths, windows, doors, lighting, fencing, outdoor furnishings and gazebos, appliances, landscaping, pools and spas, and fireplaces. Banks and other financial institutions were also on hand.
It was held at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex for the first time after years in Ithaca. The new venue drew praise from vendors and visitors.
The admission fee is used to fund scholarships for youths in the Cortland and Ithaca areas to continue their education in the building trades or for tools for their first job after graduation. The fees also pay for annual community building projects in the communities, including those sponsored by Habitat for Humanity.
On the other side of the Timberpeg booth, Jim Kehoe owner of K-Crete — specializing in custom concrete — said he is usually a fixture at the home show.
Kehoe said although he had no orders he was very busy throughout the day. He said there was interest from someone who wanted a driveway and patio done.
Laurie Coffin said she came to get ideas.
“We just purchased property in Hector and we are looking to build,” Coffin said. “We’re at the gathering-data stage.”
Patrons moved from station to station looking at everything from vacuum cleaners to whirlpools.
Michael Prouty, owner of Leonard Vacuum Cleaner and Co., sat surrounded by vacuum cleaners. Prouty said he was attending his first home show.
“We came to see what it was.” Prouty said. He said he would be back next year.
Marilynn Wesche, of Newfield, said she and her husband have attended previous home shows.
She said her husband is a retired carpenter. Although Wesche was just browsing, she and her husband were looking for landscaping ideas and seamless gutters.
Wesche said there was a difference and a welcome change with the home show being held at the McDonalds Sports Complex.
“It is nice,” Wesche said. “It is more spacious. It is an improvement on having it in Ithaca; there are more vendors here as well.”



Legislators back Spitzer’s school aid proposal

Staff Reporter

Overall, area state legislators are encouraged by Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s educational budget proposal, but some believe it could use a bit of tweaking before a final budget is approved by April 1.
Assemblyman Gary Finch (R-Springport) said he was “pleased” that education was one of the governor’s priorities.
“He acknowledged that we have a problem with the educational system,” Finch said.
Duncan Davie, chief of staff for state Sen. James L. Seward (R-Milford), said the senator supports the governor’s proposal because it brings additional funding to high-need districts.
Of the governor’s $120.6 billion budget proposal, $19.2 billion would be devoted to education. Over the next four years educational funding will increase by $7 billion.
Davie said right now state senators are looking at various portions of the budget in subcommittees and reviewing spending levels. He said Seward is on the education subcommittee. Davie said after the review process, the subcommittees would report to the Senate majority and reach a consensus. That becomes the basis for negotiations with bi-partisan conference committees, he said.
Davie said he expects open budget conference committees, used in the last couple of years, will lead to an on-time budget just as it has in the past. The fiscal year starts April 1.
Finch said the Assembly has one more budget hearing today and then the process would move to conference committees made up of Assembly, Senate and executive branch members.
He said there is agreement on the revenue of $120.6 billion with an additional $575 million generated from taxes on Wall Street bonuses people have earned.
Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R-Canandaigua) said Spitzer’s proposal was a “pretty good start, albeit an expensive one.”
Kolb said the Democratic governor’s overall spending plan was too high. He also said the governor needed to do more to address Medicaid reform.
Finch said on average New York state spends $13,750 on education per child and the dropout rates were “dismal.”
Although Finch was optimistic about the governor’s plan, he said he was unsure if “throwing money at the problem would fix it.”
With the governor’s proposal, school districts in Cortland County stand to gain an additional $6 million in state aid next year. The five districts in the county received $59.8 million in aid in the 2006-07 school year.
The Cortland School District received just over $20 million in state aid this year. If the governor’s education proposals are implemented, the district would receive $22.4 million.
The educational system should be revamped, Finch said, adding that it is based on an outdated schedule founded on an agriculture-driven economy.
“We need to have longer school days and a longer school year,” Finch said. “We don’t have the summers off so kids could enjoy themselves. We have summers off so kids could work on the farm.”
The additional funding comes with a price. There will be increased accountability placed on the shoulders of superintendents and board of education members. Finch said he supports increased accountability, but disagrees with “blame” being put squarely on the shoulders of superintendents and board members.


Wal-Mart project vote set for Tuesday

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Two and a half years after Wal-Mart first announced that it would be seeking a special zoning designation for a proposed Supercenter on Route 13, the Town Board will vote on the proposal at a meeting Tuesday night.
The  5 p.m. meeting at the Town Hall was moved up from Wednesday due to a scheduling conflict.
A public hearing for the Planned Unit Development designation was held Feb. 7 and drew about 100 people, with the comment during the roughly three-hour meeting split nearly evenly between those opposed to the PUD and those in favor of it. The town’s ordinances require that the board make its decision within 30 days of the public hearing.
The 33.7-acre parcel on Route 13 has been used as a polo field for many years, and was purchased by Wal-Mart in December for the construction of a 205,000-square-foot store. The lot is zoned industrial, and Wal-Mart had originally requested the designation be changed to commercial before deciding to apply for a PUD designation in July 2004.
The town’s commercial PUD ordinance requires that such a development include “an appropriate mix of uses,” and provides a community benefit, as well as allowing the town to have more input in the project design than a standard commercial development.
In response, Wal-Mart’s attorneys and engineers have said the convenience of having a wide variety of goods available under one roof is a definite benefit to the surrounding area, and that two outparcels on the site would provide a further mix of uses.
Meanwhile, the company has revised its stormwater management system numerous times and tried to mitigate other potential harm to the environment — due to concerns raised during the state’s Environmental Quality Review process — and pledged to dedicate an onsite access road to the town to offset the eventual dead-ending of nearby Bennie Road.
The opposition to the project, which is mainly identified with the community action group Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment, has contended that the Supercenter does not fulfill a community need and that there is no “appropriate mix of uses,” since Wal-Mart has been unable to identify what businesses would be eventually occupying the outparcels.
In January, the town Planning Board was unable to provide a recommendation regarding the PUD, due to a split 2-2 vote by the board. If the PUD designation is awarded, Wal-Mart will still have to comply with the requirements of the state Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as complete the site plan review with the Planning Board and receive an Aquifer Protection Permit.


Tompkins budget hearing draws few

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — Tompkins County officials hosted the first of three-community budget forums Saturday, initiating a new effort to gather public input at the start of the budget-making process.
While few people other than county Legislators and staff attended the meeting, county officials said afterward the effort was worthwhile to begin discussion of the 2008 spending plan.
“It was a good session,” said Marcia Lynch, public information officer for the county. “We are doing another session in Enfield and Ithaca. We’re hopeful there will be a good turnout. We had a number of people say the advance information from this (session in Dryden) was good. So there was a good level of public awareness.”
Lynch said the forum was proposed by the county’s Public Information Advisory Board to provide the Legislature with some very early input on budget issues.
“The tentative budget won’t be developed and proposed until August,” Lynch said. “This is really a first because the county for the past several years, and will continue to do this year, will have a community forum after there is a specific budget proposed. But at that point, citizens are just providing input, reacting to something that is already developed.”
She added that the input from Saturday’s and the two upcoming forums — March 10 at Enfield Elementary School and March 24 in Tompkins County Human Services Building — would be reviewed at the county’s budget retreat in April.
There are no budget targets for 2008, Lynch said. The current year’s $145 million budget raised a total of $34 million in local property taxes.
Saturday’s meeting was targeted at residents of Dryden, Lansing, Groton and Caroline.
County Administrator Stephen Whicher gave a presentation Saturday on the budget and how residents’ tax dollars are dispersed to different agencies throughout the county.
While the final schedule for creating a county budget has not been approved, the county administrator will present a tentative budget by early September, Lynch said.
The county Budget Committee plans to convene in several meetings as an expanded committee including all legislators.
The Legislature will probably approve a tentative budget in early November. A community budget forum would follow, and changes can be made based on input from that meeting and other information. In late November or as late as December, a final budget should be approved by the Legislature.