March 10, 2016

Not fair on Elm Street

DEXTER Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Bill Duca, of 146 Elm St., points to the light towers that shine in his windows after dark during softball season. Over the past several years, Duca has complained to his alderman, the mayor and the Youth Bureau to no avail.

Staff Reporter

Softball season is something to look forward to when the weather gets warm in Cortland, but for Elm Street resident Bill Duca, it’s something he has come to dread.
His beef isn’t with softball or the people who play it, though the basket in his garage filled with homerun balls he’s collected from his yard might lead one to believe he feels that way.
Instead, his issue is with the two sets of stadium-style lights used when the sun goes down, the bulbs of which extend high above the trees in Dexter Park and continue to blast light into his home whenever someone forgets to turn them off after games.
“It drives me nuts,” he said. “They’re lighting up the whole city block here, not just my house. It’s like daylight, you can’t get away from it.”
Duca, 87, said Wednesday he built his home at 146 Elm St. as an employee of Brewer-Titchener, Co. in 1957 and has lived there ever since.
He couldn’t remember exactly when the lights went up, but he recalled attending a public meeting in Dexter Park on the topic shortly after it happened. He and neighbors were told the lights would be in use twice a week and would be off promptly at 10 p.m.
“I don’t know if they had an automatic timer or somebody turned them off ... but they did go off at 10 o’clock, “ he said. “We never had a problem with ’em.”
And that’s how it was up until about five years ago when the ball games became more frequent and the lights stayed on longer.
“So the lights have been on (at) 10:30, 11 o’clock,11:30, 12 o’clock,” he said. “The latest they were ever on was at a quarter to three in the morning.”
Fed up, Duca said he attended a city Common Council meeting in 2012 to bring up the issue, which prompted city officials to come down and see for themselves.
“They came down, they looked at the lights and they said, ‘You won’t have to go through this next year,’ “ he said. “I went through all of 2013, just waiting, waiting. Nothing happened.”
Problems persisted through 2014. That year, Duca said he would call his representative, former Alderman Linda Ferguson, whenever the lights were left on over night.
“I can’t tell you how many times I called her during the 2014 season,” he said.
Duca said that was effective: he’d call and someone would get around to turning off the lights, but eventually, the frequency with which he would have to make these late night calls started to weigh on his conscience.
“Last summer, I didn’t call her,” he said. “I just didn’t have the heart to keep calling her up at night. So I went through ... last year of 2015, you never knew when they were gonna go off.”
Duca said he is not demanding the lights to be off promptly by 10 p.m. like he was promised all those years ago. He isn’t even calling for games to be moved or shortened. His request is simple: Make sure the lights are off when the park is closed.
Mayor Brian Tobin was one of the city officials who came to Duca’s house in 2014 and is familiar with the issue. He said he expects Duca and other residents to hold the city accountable.
“It’s a reasonable request, making sure the lights are off when they’re (softball players) done,” he said. “I appreciate his foresight in bringing this issue forward now before it’s a problem so we can hopefully address it before it becomes a major inconvenience for him.”
Tobin said Wednesday, he recognizes that sometimes games run long, which means the lights need to stay on a bit longer to ensure the safety of people who are cleaning up after a game or other events.
He added since Duca last visited the council, he has taken steps to let those who use the lights at Dexter Park know the city fully expects them to respect the residents in the neighborhood.
“I understand his concern,” Tobin said. “We will reinforce with the appropriate people this is not just an opportunity for people to recreate, but its also a neighborhood and the lights need to go out when they’re expected to be out.”

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