March 15, 2007

New chill curbs minor flooding


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Afternoon traffic contends with minor flooding on Copeland Avenue in Homer Wednesday.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Only minor flooding appears to have accompanied rain Wednesday and this morning. And falling snow today — with more expected Friday — should stem any further melting.
After consulting with the National Weather Service this morning, Brenda S. DeRusso, Cortland County’s assistant fire and emergency management director, expected the Tioughnioga to rise one to two feet above the flood stage (which is about 8 feet) by tonight.
“We are over flood stage right now, the last reading we had was at 8.6 (feet in the Tioughnioga),” DeRusso said. “Given the amount of rain that we got between four and six this morning, the river will probably rise another foot or two and I think that we’re probably going to crest right around 10 feet.”
The National Weather Service office in Binghamton had predicted between 1 and 1 1/2 inches of rain Wednesday through this morning.
Meteorologist Brian Lovejoy said this morning that the county had received between three-quarters of an inch and 1 inch of rain as of about 8 a.m.
“There’s a batch coming in from Western New York right now, and that’ll be another quarter of an inch, so altogether, you’ll be looking at between an inch and an inch and a half,” Lovejoy said, adding that he expected the rain to stop by about noon.
Although Lovejoy predicted that dropping temperatures — into the 30s — would result in a mix of scattered snow and rain showers later in the afternoon, fat, wet snowflakes began falling in the city shortly before 9 a.m.
The temperature should hit the lower 20s overnight tonight, and Lovejoy said that a coastal snowstorm on Friday is being studied by the NWS today, but he did not have any estimates as to the amount of snow expected to accompany it.
The National Weather Service’s flood watch will remain in effect until this evening, Lovejoy said.
When the river reaches about 10.5 feet in Cortland, DeRusso said, the water can spill over onto Cortland Street in Marathon within several hours.
The Marathon Fire Department has sandbags on-hand, but hasn’t filled any yet, volunteer Tony Melfi said this morning.
“Even if the worst-case scenario should happen and they have to use the sandbags, they should be fine,” DeRusso said, adding that the mayor, schools and fire department were prepared.
City Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi said this morning that there were not any flooding problems in the city, and that he would continue to check weather reports.
Kellogg Road was closed between its two intersections with the railroad tracks shortly after 9 a.m. due to water from the adjacent Tioughnioga River spilling over onto the roadway, and the county Highway Department had not disclosed when the road might be opened again.
In addition to Kellogg Road, DeRusso said that highway departments had reported problems along Maybury Road and Cold Brook Road, especially towards Truxton.
Fortunately, DeRusso said that she’s only received word from four residents with basement flooding.
Although none of her neighbors had experienced any similar problems, Joyce Brown, of Route 26 in Willett, said this morning that she had gotten about 1 1/2 feet of water in her basement since Wednesday night and had some property damage.
“Not my furnace, thank God,” Brown said. “I have a sump pump down there, and I’m ordering another one … I seem to be on the downside of it; there’s a big hill behind my house.”
Although she’s flooded in the past, this is the worst Brown said her property has ever seen.



Local cases of Internet fraud on rise

Staff Reporter

Tyler Frisbie was trying to sell some guitar equipment on the Internet last month.
He thought he made the sale when a man named “Scott” from Omaha, Neb., sent him a check for more than what he was asking.
“Scott” wanted Frisbie to send back the difference. Shortly after Frisbie sent the money, Frisbie found out the check was fake, and that instead of making $775, he owed the bank $1,300.
“The dude had the nerve to e-mail me back and say he was going to sue me,” Frisbie said, adding that “Scott” was upset that Frisbie didn’t send the guitar and guitar cabinet he was selling before finding out the check was fake.
Frisbie’s case is just one example of countless Internet scams that people fall victim to every day. According to the Attorney General Office’s Internet fraud is the highest reported type of fraud in the state. In 2006 the Attorney General’s Office received 8,292 complaints of Internet fraud. Credit card and debit fraud came in second with a reported 6,138 cases.
“I think people are comfortable with the Internet and they are not using proper discretion,” said Lt. Paul Sandy of the city police, who is investigating Frisbie’s case. “People should be wary, particularly if it involves large sums of money.”
Sandy said his department deals with numerous Internet scams, which have become increasingly prevalent over the last five years.
He said his department has had 25 to 30 reported cases in the last six months, adding that the scams are difficult to investigate because of the distance and anonymity the Internet provides.
Check scams similar to Frisbie’s also target businesses. Chris Newcomb, the day manager at the SUNY Cortland Alumni House at 29 Tompkins St., said that in January she received an e-mail from a man who said his name was “Harry” and that he lived in England.
“Basically they were from the U.K. and wanted to book the house for a month,” she said.
Newcomb said “Harry” wanted to book rooms for 26 days for four guests during the month of April and that he was willing to pay $5,000 more than what the rooms cost, asking that the business return the difference.
Newcombe said the Alumni House did not fall for the scam and that it’s not the only one they have been confronted with.
Internet scams are not just limited to selling goods over the net, Sandy said. His department has also received complaints in which people were “hired” to cash checks and allowed to keep a certain percentage for payment only to find out the checks were fakes. Other scams also involve people posing as bank or eBay representatives looking for personal account information, he said.


DA files appeal in Homer gun case

Staff Reporter

The Cortland County District Attorney filed a notice of appeal Wednesday in the case of two Homer teens charged with violations after allegedly shooting classmates with a toy gun in the school parking lot in May.
The case has already been dismissed twice, once in County Court where the teens were originally charged with felony assault, and once in Homer Town Court where they were charged with the violations.
“All this is, is a notice of their intent to file an appeal. Whether they file the appeal I don’t know,” said Randolph Kruman, an attorney for one of the teens.
Kruman said he was unsure how long District Attorney David Hartnett had to file the appeal in the case, adding that if Hartnett chooses to file the appeal it will be heard in County Court.
Hartnett would not take a phone call this morning seeking comment about how long he had to file the appeal or whether he intended to do so. He said through his secretary that he had no comment.
The two Homer High School students, Terry Elwood, 17, and Zachary Walter, 18, were indicted on multiple felony and misdemeanor assault charges in August for shooting six other students with an Airsoft gun in the parking lot of the high school in May.
The gun the teens allegedly used is made of plastic, has an orange tip and shoots blue plastic BBs.
County Court Judge Julie Campbell dismissed the charges in November after ruling that none of the alleged victims were injured.
Following the dismissal Hartnett wrote a letter to Campbell requesting she reconsider her decision, to which she responded that she was not willing to change her ruling.


Committee rejects dispatcher positions

Staff Reporter

When a request by the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department for two new dispatcher positions goes before the full Legislature March 22, it will likely see significant opposition.
The Budget and Finance Committee voted 6-1 against the proposal this morning, with many committee members saying they would support one added position, but not two.
Because the resolution was supported by the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on March 6, by a 3-2 vote, it will still go before the full Legislature, but many Budget and Finance Committee members expressed concerns about the cost of the new positions, and questioned the need.
“I’m just not sure if we need two positions right now, especially since we’re going to be moving another position back to dispatch,” said Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward), referring to one dispatch position that has been used for reception but will be moved back to full-time dispatching at the end of the month.
“If down the road we need an additional person, we will definitely take a look at it, but at this point I think we should try it with one new position plus that additional person,” Brown said.
Sheriff’s Department officials say that, since the county took over handling dispatch for the city in 2004, upping the number of dispatchers required on a shift from two to three, the dispatch center has been short-staffed.
The two additional positions, plus the position moved from reception, would bring the total number of full-time dispatchers available to 15, along with one supervisor.
One key benefit of the additional positions would be additional time for the supervisor to focus on supervisory responsibilities, rather than on dispatching.
The supervisor, with the additional available full-time help, could focus more on supervisory responsibilities.
The cost of the two new positions for this year would be approximately $61,575, County Administrator Scott Schrader said, while over the course of a full year the two positions would cost the county $85,000.
While the new positions would save money on overtime costs, the savings would not offset the total cost of the positions, Sheriff Lee Price said during this morning’s meeting.
However, the need outweighs the cost, he said.