March 09, 2007

Dialysis center to open by month’s end


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Dialysis nurse Deborah Gross checks a saline bag on one of the dialysis machines Thursday at the new Cortland Dialysis Center on Route 281 in Cortlandville. The center is a joint venture between St. Joseph’s Health Center and Cortland Regional Medical Center. The hospitals hosted an open house at the center Thursday. 

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Brownie Yacavone, 87, has spent about 1,528 hours in a vehicle for the last seven years making a 71-mile journey back and forth to the St. Joseph’s Regional Dialysis Center in Syracuse to treat his membranous nephropathy — a form of kidney disease.
Three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — Yacavone has had to make the journey to the dialysis center in Syracuse.
Now he will only have to travel a few miles  from his home on Vernon Drive to a new dialysis center opening on Route 281.
“It’s been one of the best things that has happened,” he said of Cortland Dialysis Center at 3993 West Road.
The dialysis center held a community open house Thursday. The center is a joint venture between St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and the Cortland Regional Medical Center.
Theodore Pasinski, president of St. Joseph’s Health Center, said the center would officially open its doors to patients at the end of March.
“I think it is long-needed,” said Sandra Attleson, a retired nurse. “We need to take care of our people with health problems closer to home.”
Tom Quinn, director of marketing for the Cortland Regional Medical Center, said the hospital was aware of the community need for a dialysis center and the best way to bring the services to the area is to partner with St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Brian Mitteer, president and chief executive officer of CRMC, said he and Pasinski talked about the facility approximately two years ago.
“Just over time we decided it made sense to develop a unit in Cortland,” Pasinski said. “Cortland (Regional Medical Center) really developed the land. They bought the land, they developed the land.”
Mark Waite, director of the Cortland Dialysis Center, said the building cost approximately $1.3 million.
Cortland Regional Medical Center purchased the land and renovated the existing building on the site, which was formerly the Rusty Nail Restaurant.
David Briggs, assessor for both Cortlandville and the city, said the hospital would not pay taxes on the facilities because of real property tax law, which states hospital-related properties are exempt from taxes.
Briggs said a house on the back of the property the hospital owns would be taxed because the hospital is not using it for medical purposes or for nonprofit services.
Briggs said total property taxes lost on the property was $27,000.
Quinn said St. Joseph’s is leasing the building from Cortland Regional Medical Center. The lease is opened-ended, he said.
St. Joseph’s will run the day-to-day operation of the dialysis center, Pasinski said.
Quinn said construction on the center began last summer. Pasinski said approximately 25 to 30 patients have already signed up to use the center’s facilities.
Quinn said there are 57 people in Cortland County who could use the center’s services.
Waite said the center could serve up to 40 patients per week without going to an evening shift. He said if an evening shift is added, the clinic could see 60 patients.
It will employ eight nurses, four of them on duty when the center is open, a clinic coordinator, part-time social worker and a dietician.
Doctors from St. Joseph would also be on call for the center.
The center has 10 dialysis machines, at a cost of $17,000 a piece, that are used to filter toxins and fluids from the body.
Every station is equipped with a dialysis machine, a burgundy recliner and a plasma screen TV.
“Their (patients’) treatment vary from three to five hours for three days a week,” said Deborah Gross, a nurse at the center.
Those in need of dialysis have had to travel to Syracuse, Binghamton and Ithaca for treatment, said Trisha Braman, another nurse at the center.
“It’s going to make their lives much easier. Dialysis is not an easy life,” she said. “This is going to do its part to help.”
Lorenne Cornell, a resident of Groton, said she wishes the facility were in the area 30 years ago when her sister had kidney disease.
“We used to go to Syracuse all the time, three times a week so I think it’s great for the people here” Cornell said. “She had three kidney transplants. I just wish they’d have something like this back then.”



Residents: No county project fits south Main

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — After abundant discussion about the proposed Public Health project on south Main Street, Legislator Carol Tytler asked a group of 16 downtown residents at a public forum Thursday night what sort of county project they would support in that location.
The answer was resounding: nothing.
“The No. 1 issue is location — this is just the wrong place,” said Gigi Peterson, who was voicing an oft-raised concern that the site is not large enough to house the Departments of Health and Mental Health, as was originally proposed.
“The people here just aren’t interested in a smaller facility, because we don’t think it will stay small,” Peterson said.
Thursday’s meeting was an effort by Tytler (D-3rd Ward) and the special committee she chairs — which was charged with examining in detail the county’s aborted land deal and its options as it moves forward — to get input from residents living in the areas near the proposed site.
While much of the comment reflected anger and frustration, both at the proposed project and perceived problems with the way it was handled, Tytler said she was pleased with the outcome.
“I think this was a great discussion and an important one, I’m just disappointed it didn’t happen last October,” Tytler said.
That residents weren’t given ample opportunity to weigh in on the project before the county first voted on it in December was a key issue for those in attendance.
Also important was the impact on the surrounding neighborhood, which residents praised as a safe, residential, family-oriented area.
Increased traffic, safety issues and the installation of a parking lot were all cited, as were new concerns, most frequently the fact that sex offenders receive services at the Department of Mental Health, and the prospect of air pollution and a lower quality of life.
“This is not just an ‘in my back yard situation’” Peterson said. “This is two blocks from a school.”
Those in attendance also harped on the removal of properties from the county’s tax rolls, and, when asked by Tytler to discuss an ideal south Main Street, most said they preferred commercial properties to governmental, and many suggested alternative sites for the health facility.
Tytler stressed that she understood that residents did not want any sort of county project on the site, but asked for suggestions of what might be acceptable, and she did receive responses ranging from a county motor vehicles office to a public housing facility and/or a public park.
“It boils down to a facility that’s of a scale the existing site would accommodate, and a function that would not require dramatic growth,” said Vince Minnella of 64 Church St.
Many in attendance expressed resentment that the county was looking at ways to salvage the project, or at least the property acquisitions themselves, due to a threatened lawsuit from some of the property owners involved.
“Now, to keep from getting sued, you have to find an alternate use for the property,” said Mike Dexter of 10 Cedar St. “I don’t think people want that, we don’t want a substitution.”
Tytler acknowledged that pending legal issues were a consideration, and said that County Attorney Ric Van Donsel would be addressing the committee next week.
A resolution will likely be brought to the floor at the Legislature’s March 22 session to purchase the property, Tytler said, and the special committee’s focus was not so much to make a recommendation as to provide all available information on each of the county’s options.
The committee, which met again this morning, would likely meet a number of times next week and likely present information regarding all options at a working session with legislators prior to the March 22 meeting, Tytler said.

Options outlined for project

At Thursday’s public forum, Legislator Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward) said the special committee she chairs hoped to present the full Legislature with information regarding a slue of options in terms of how to deal with property that some say the county is legally bound to purchase.
Those options, according to Tytler, may include:

  • Purchasing the property and going through with the original plan for a 30,000-square-foot facility to house both the Health and Mental Health departments.
  • Purchasing the property and placing on it some sort of scaled- down facility, such as the county’s motor vehicle office or a facility that only houses a portion of the county’s health services. This potentiality could also include reselling the residences on Randall and Williams streets included in the deal, Tytler said.
  • Purchasing the property and putting it back on the market.
  • Not purchasing the property, and responding to a possible lawsuit.
  • Not purchasing the property and negotiating a way for the county to get out of its initial purchase agreements and avoid a lawsuit.


Cincy man admits he assaulted baby

Staff Reporter

A Cincinnatus man who was scheduled to stand trial Monday on a 10-count indictment pleaded guilty in Cortland County Court Thursday, admitting he assaulted his ex-girlfriend’s 5-month-old son.
Under the plea agreement with the prosecution, Alan Blanchard, 22, of 281 Lum Road will serve a mandatory state prison sentence of no more than 3 1/2 years.
Blanchard pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree assault, a felony, saying that in October and November 2005 he shook the baby, causing broken bones in his face, hemorrhaging in his eye, bleeding around his brain and bruising throughout his body.
In addition to the prison time, Blanchard will be sentenced to three years of post-release supervision and a 10-year order of protection in favor of the victim.
County Court Judge Julie Campbell reserved her right to reject the plea at sentencing, pending a pre-sentencing report.
Blanchard, who was living at 5621 Piety Hill Road, Cincinnatus, with his girlfriend at the time of the arrest, said that on Oct. 29 and then again on Nov. 3, he was home alone with the baby.
He answered “yes” when Assistant District Attorney Karen Howe asked if he shook the baby on both dates with the intent to hurt the boy.
When asked specifically what happened on Nov. 3, Blanchard only said, “I caused injury.”
When he was arrested in November 2005, Blanchard told State Police that he often watched the baby at night while his girlfriend was at work.
“I picked him up off the floor and was holding him with my hands up under his arms and his feet dangling,” he said of the Oct. 29 incident. “I was very frustrated and said, ‘What’s wrong with you, why you keep crying?’ While I was asking him this I was shaking him. He cried and then calmed down.”
During the court proceeding Campbell took a short recess to call the victim’s mother. She said after the phone call the mother was aware of the current deal and that she was “on board” with the agreement.
Campbell said the boy’s mother told her that he has recovered from his injuries and has not suffered any long-term effects.
Blanchard was indicted in March of 2006 on two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, two counts of second degree reckless endangerment, all felonies, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.
Blanchard could have been sentenced to up to 25 years in state prison for each count if he had been convicted on the first-degree assault charges.
Blanchard is out of jail on $10,000 bond. He is scheduled for sentencing on April 26.


DEC details cleanup of Homer gas plant

Staff Reporter

HOMER — A handful of local residents attended a public hearing hosted by state and county officials for phase two of a project to clean up contaminated soil and groundwater at the former NYSEG Cortland-Homer manufactured gas plant.
Harold Atkinson, owner of Natoli’s Route 11 Market, which is next to the site of the cleanup, said the session was informative. Atkinson said he is not worried about any adverse effect from the cleanup.
He said that the cleanup would be more of an issue for Irving D. Booth Inc., which owns a building and parking lot on the site.
William T. Ports, a senior environmental engineer of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said to help with the cleanup part of the building at 216 S. Main St. in the village of Homer would be demolished to excavate 44,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil to a depth of 24 feet.
He said the remaining portion of the building is leased by Verizon and because of the economic value, the owner would like to keep it.
Walter Booth, owner of the building, said he did not know whether Verizon would have to vacate the premises during cleanup is not known.
“We are still negotiating on that,” Booth said this morning.
The site is approximately 2 acres in area and from 1858 to 1935, New York State Electric and Gas used it to produce manufactured gas for lighting and for heating homes and businesses.
The process resulted in byproducts such as tar, gas purifier waste, coal and ash being left at the site.
To remedy the problem at the site, Ports said the DEC had five alternative proposals for cleanup, which NYSEG will fund.
Ports said the most feasible proposal includes demolition of the southern part of the building, excavation and offsite disposal/treatment of non-aqueous phase liquid — organic contaminants that remain undiluted at their original bulk form in the subsurface — and contaminated soil. The cleanup would cost NYSEG approximately $12.4 million and the annual operating and maintenance costs associated with the site would be $11,300.
The other alternatives range from leaving the site as is to the most expensive alternative, which would cost NYSEG more than $20 million. It would provide 44 injection and extraction wells and a treatment system would be installed at the site to treat the extracted non-aqueous phase liquid, groundwater and residual waste.
Ports said public comments would be considered when the choice among the five proposals is made. While the project is in its design phase, Ports said, there would be additional public outreach. He said the design phase would take approximately one year to finish.
“Optimistically, construction would begin in 2008,” Ports said. “But just like at my house things can tend to take longer.”


Preliminary Cortland County bicentennial plans include bell ringing

Staff Reporter

Cortland County’s bicentennial in 2008 is fast approaching, and County Historian Jeremy Boylan presented some preliminary plans to the city’s Common Council Tuesday as a “heads up,” as well as taking a bit of input from the council members.
“Right now, we’re just in the planning stages,” Boylan told the council. “We’re trying to do one event to celebrate the bicentennial in each quarter. A lot of these events are going to be hosted, hopefully, here in the city, and so I wanted to keep the council here abreast of what we’re going to be working on.”
A parade is one likely event, but Boylan said the scheduling would have to be carefully worked out to avoid a conflict with the annual Dairy Parade, as well as the Brockway Truck Show that occupies Main Street for one day each year.
“We’d like to do a bicentennial dinner. I know the city, for its centennial, did a black tie dinner up at Corey Union (on SUNY Cortland’s campus) and everyone said that that went very well,” Boylan said. “So we’re going to do a period dress black tie dinner in Courthouse Park, under a tent.”
A countywide bell-ringing will hopefully sound on the day of the actual bicentennial, April 8, 2008, and Boylan hopes that all the churches would be able to “synchronize their watches.”
“We don’t have a set time yet, but everywhere in the county you’re going to be able to hear the bells chiming,” he said.
A Winterfest centered in Courthouse Park, similar to Homer’s annual event, is another hope, Boylan said.
“I know that there used to be an ice skating rink in Courthouse Park, years ago, so we’d like to try to bring that back.”
Another project would include a supplement in the Cortland Standard that would include “all the history of Cortland.”
Boylan asked that any city personnel who were interested in joining a subcommittee would do so, and offer any and all concerns and suggestions. There are still several “hoops” to jump through, Boylan said, including obtaining liability insurance, police coverage and cleanup.
Alderman Jim Partigianoni (D-7th Ward) suggested a beard or mustache competition for the black tie dinner, similar to one from 1958, which drew some quips from the council members and some interest on Boylan’s part.