March 21, 2007

Cortland students gain feel for working world

Seventh-graders spend day at 35 area businesses, learning about career options


Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
Cortland Junior High seventh-graders Octavia Lewis, left, and Siera Dunn work on a floral arrangement with employee Sara Ostrander, right, at Shaw and Boehler Florist as part of a job shadowing program. Students visited various Cortland County businesses for their home and careers class.

Staff Reporter

Jenna Gregory toured the Cortland County Jail on Tuesday, while fellow Cortland Junior High School student Octavia Lewis tried her hand at making floral arrangements at Shaw & Boehler Florist.
The students were among 120 seventh-graders taking part Tuesday morning in the school’s job shadowing program, Eyes on the Future.
The program has been in existence at the school for the past 10 years. Jill Pace, who oversees the job shadow program, said students are placed in approximately 35 local businesses.
“It allows students to get a chance to see what it is like in the real world,” Pace said.
The students get information on career options and some of the job opportunities and basic information about the job, said David Tanner, a supervisor at the 911 dispatch center.
But Tanner said he also hopes they get a little better understanding of how the particular agency or the division they are shadowing actually works.
Cory Broyles said he learned how the different divisions in the Sheriff’s Department operate.
“I think that you know what they really do instead of just what people say they do,” Cory said. “You know what it is going to be like when you get older and have to find a job.”
Cory said that being a police officer may be in his future, but he is not sure.
Some of the companies that participated in the program were Shaw & Boehler Florist, Price Chopper, J.M. Murray Center, Applebee’s and the Cortland Youth Bureau.
Pace said some students gain hands-on experience at the businesses.
“Students at Price Chopper made cookies and fruit bowls,” Pace said.
Octavia Lewis, 13, spent her morning at Shaw & Boehler Florist.
“I think it’s kind of cool,” Lewis said. “I think they should try to schedule at least two days out of the year.”
Pace said that to schedule multiple days would be too difficult. She said seventh-grade students have other opportunities to be involved with similar programs such as the student intern program and the school to work program.
“It’s tough to set all this up for all you kids,” said Cindy Henderson, social worker for the Cortland Junior/Senior High School. “It’s a lot of places, it’s a lot of kids. It’s hard to coordinate.”
Lewis and Deanna Keenan, 12, said job shadowing is something that might impact some students’ careers.
“If you like a certain job, you will probably go into something like that,” Keenan said.
“You’ll have some experiences of what the job is like,” Lewis said.
Steven Besler, the owner of the flower shop, said he has been a part of the program since its inception.
“We feel like it’s been a benefit for them to be able to come in and get the experience of job programs,” Besler said. “For them to see what the work environment’s like working with people.”
At the flower shop, students washed vases, separated card holders and filled the flower holders.
“They are doing all the little menial things that go on with a business,” Henderson said.
Besler said he would teach the students how to make a flower arrangement.
“I think they get an understanding of different kinds of jobs,” Henderson said, “different opportunities, different careers, owning your own business and working somewhere.”
Pace said students and businesses were matched randomly. She said the program was a three-day unit. Students are first taught job interviewing skills, how to fill out an application, budgeting, levels of education and how that correlates with salary, Pace said. The second unit is the job shadowing and the third would be a thank-you note written by the students to the businesses.



Local village election results revealed

From staff reports
CORTLAND — Incumbent Homer Mayor Mike McDermott’s successful re-election bid and a contest between two incumbent trustees seeking the McGraw mayor post were among highlights of Tuesday’s local village elections.
Incumbent Mike McDermott said he was surprised and thrilled to have won the village race for Homer mayor by about 150 votes.
“I really want to thank the voters for having the trust and respect to give me another term,” he said.
McDermott, who celebrated the victory with snacks at the American Legion in Homer, said he is looking forward to working with the town to consolidate town and village services and come up with a way to keep sex offenders away from schools and child care centers.
Gordon Wheelock, who lost the race, said he will still keep himself busy working at the fire department and volunteering in the community.
“I’ll keep my nose in things,” he said.
Robert “Razz” Freeman won the McGraw mayoral election by a vote of 62 to 46 over Allan Stauber.
Sandra Harrington county board of elections clerk said there were three absentee ballots and write in candidate votes have yet to be counted.
Stauber said he would continue as trustee and he would not comment on whether or not he would seek a mayoral or trustee seat in the future.
Freeman said he won the campaign because of community and family support.
“The support of the taxpayers who I have been helping out over the last three years and family and friends who have helped with the campaign,” said Freeman. He said he has helped people in times of flooding.
He said as mayor he would try to curb the flooding problems and make them smaller.
“Any taxpayer that has issues bring it to the board and we’ll try to help them out any way we can,” Freeman said.
The following are unofficial results of Tuesday’s elections:
Incumbents Nancy E. Parkhurst and Trustee Linda Randley ran unopposed for two-year terms. Village officials were not available this morning to provide vote tallies.
Incumbent Trustees Lloyd Purdy and Rachel Dickinson ran unopposed for two-year terms. Vote tallies were not available this morning.
Mayor Reba Taylor, a Republican, ran unopposed for her sixth two-year term.
Four candidates ran for two trustee seats, and incumbent Republican Randy Sterling and Democrat challenger Lisa Valentinelli won over Republican incumbent Robert Witty and Democrat Elizabeth Gutchess.
Valentelli received 165 votes; Sterling, 162 votes; Gutchess, 154; and Witty, 151.
Incumbent Republican Dennis Toolan ran unopposed for mayor and four candidates ran for two trustee seats
Toolan received 181 votes. Winners of the two-year trustee terms were Republicans Jeffrey Evener, with 163 votes, and Elizabeth Conger, with 147 votes. Democrat Linda Bonavia received 146 votes and Democrat William Hogan received 87.
All of the terms are for two years.
Democratic McDermott received 298 votes to Republican Wheelock’s 147.
Two trustee seats were up for election. Incumbent Republican Genevieve Suits received 311 votes, Republican Andrew Brush 245, and Democrat Alexandra Salce received 234. Absentee ballots have yet to be counted.
The positions each carry a two-year term.
Democratic Mayor John Pitman, ran unopposed, and received 55 votes.
The winners of two trustee seats were two Republicans — incumbent William McGovern and Patria McConnell, who beat Democrat William Whitmore. McGovern received 39 votes, and McConnell received 37 votes. Whitmore received 31 votes.
Each seat carries a two-year term.
Freeman won the mayor seat with 62 votes to Stauber’s 46. Stauber ran on the Citizens Party ballot line and Freeman won on the Freedom Party ballot line.
Stauber has one more year left on his two-year term. Jeffrey Sherwood of the Citizens Party was the only candidate running for the two open trustee seats, and received 88 votes.


Court date set to decide whether Riverside Plaza owner is in contempt

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The owner of Riverside Plaza has failed to obey a court order to turn control of the plaza over to a receiver, refusing to hand over rents, setting up another company to collect them and threatening to cut off utilities, according to accusations in court documents.
A March 28 hearing will decide if the owner is in contempt of court. Penalties include a fine, imprisonment or both.
The receivership order filed Jan. 31 appointed William Colucci, director of the Syracuse-based Pyramid Brokerage Co., as receiver of the plaza, which according to court records is owned by 81 and 13 Cortland Associates. Pasquale Cipolla is the principal partner of the limited partnership, which was set up by the Buffalo-based Bella Vista Group.
Cipolla said this morning he does not intend to go to the March 28 hearing. His failure to appear for the hearing could result in arrest and imprisonment.
“They’re wrong,” he said. “I’m not gonna be in court.”
Anthony Hanly, a lawyer at Syracuse-based Costello, Cooney and Fearon, who is representing Colucci, said he has spoken to a lawyer representing Cipolla. Hanley said the lawyer told him he is looking to file an order to contest Colucci’s application for a contempt order.
He would not provide the lawyer’s name, saying the lawyer has not yet filed an order.
Colucci contends in court papers filed March 9 that Cipolla has refused to acknowledge the receivership order. Colucci sent Cipolla a copy of the order, talked with him about it three times, sent him letters and met with him at the plaza on Feb. 20, according to court papers.
“He ordered me off the property and denied that the Receivership Order applied to him,” Colucci says in court documents.
Foreclosure proceedings by Chase Commercial Mortgage Securities Corp against 81 and 13 Cortland Associates prompted the receivership order, which gives Colucci authority to collect rents and manage the property while the plaza is in the foreclosure process.
The bank claims 81 and 13 Cortland Associates has fallen behind on payments on a $4.5 million mortgage.
“He has failed and refused to turnover tenant security deposits,” Colucci says of Cipolla in court papers. “He has collected rent and other sums due from the tenants at the Mortgage Premises and has sought to divert tenant monies owing from Pyramid and my Receivership.”
Cipolla said this morning he is not having his company collect tenants’ rents, and instead telling tenants to send the rents to the receiver.
Cipolla would not respond to any more allegations or discuss the case further.
Colucci cites a letter Cipola had sent to tenants directing them to send rent to P. Daniel C. Inc. in Bowmansville, which he claims is a newly formed company managed by Cipolla’s wife, Mary Ripper.
Cipolla also tried to pursue H&R Block to ignore the order and pay a full year of rent directly to him at a discount, Colucci contends.
Elaine Lyon, office manger of H&R Block in the Riverside Plaza, said Tuesday Cipolla may have offered a discount but H&R Block has no intention of sending rent to Cipolla.
The nearly 300,000-square-foot Riverside Plaza retail complex off Clinton Avenue, owned by 81 and 13 Cortland Associates since 1985, is assessed for $3.7 million.


Grant application targets city’s South End

Staff Reporter

The city will be applying for $650,000 in state grant money that would be directed toward improving the South End, for which a strategic plan has recently been completed and posted online.
The Common Council authorized the mayor to sign the grant application at its meeting Tuesday night. The council also discussed a city tax exemption for seniors and at its meeting.
The 2007 Community Development Block Grant application includes $100,000 for single-family housing rehabilitation, $175,000 for multi-family housing rehabilitation, $75,000 for multi-family homeownership, $50,000 for microenterprise assistance, $18,000 for funds to pay for overtime hours for city code officers to work in the South End, as well as $40,000 for public improvements to streets and sidewalks.
Improvements to the sewer and water system on Pierce Street and improvements to the water system on Winter Street have been allocated $75,000 in the application. This would also include repaving Pierce and Winter streets, and South Avenue, with the grant paying for materials and rental equipment and the city footing the labor bill.
Installation of sidewalks and planting of trees on the south side of South Avenue would be included in the grant. The work would cost $20,000.
The full text of the South End Strategic Plan draft is available online at
At the insistence of Alderman Jim Partigianoni (D-7th Ward), the council discussed the city’s senior citizen tax exemption, which is also given to low-income disabled.
Council members talked about how cost of living increases in Social Security checks could push some people over the current $20,000 income cap on eligibility.
Right now, those who make $14,300 or less a year can receive a 50 percent tax exemption, continuing until those who make between $19,101 and $20,000 receive only a 20 percent tax exemption.
Under Partigianoni’s alternative plan, increments allowing for 15, 10 and 5 percent tax exemptions would be added to the top of the current income ranges, meaning that a senior or disabled person who earns between $21,801 and $22,700 would receive a 5 percent exemption.
City Assessor David Briggs had recommended the increase to Partigianoni, who said he had been told that the impact on the other city taxpayers of implementing this program would be minimal.


Pothos pleads guilty to drug possession

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A local businessman pleaded guilty to drug possession Tuesday under an agreement with the state Attorney General’s Office that he serve a fixed sentenc of five years in state prison.
Vasilios K. Pothos, 57, of 292 North End Road, German, pleaded guilty in Cortland County Court to one count of fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a felony.
Pothos, known as “Billy the Greek,” admitted that on July 7 he gave cocaine to an unnamed person at his home in Chenango County knowing that the drugs were going to be taken to the town of Taylor in Cortland County.
Assistant Deputy Attorney James Mindell, of the state Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, said after the plea that his office could have charged Pothos with more crimes but chose not to under the plea agreement. He said when officers from the county Sheriff’s Department and the State Police raided Pothos’ home in November, they found between 2 to 3 ounces of cocaine and an illegal handgun.
“He was selling some small amounts of cocaine, approximately $2,000 to $3,000 worth,” Mindell said.
He would not comment on what lead police to the arrest or whether Pothos is part of any other investigations throughout the state.
He said his office handled the case because the crime took place in more than one county.
Pothos, who told the court that he was born in Greece, where he lived until adulthood, was originally charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance when police raided his home on Nov. 10.
During the raid police confiscated several cars from First Choice Auto Sales, a business owned by Irene Pothos, Pothos’ wife.
Under the plea agreement, Pothos will also have to turn over several of those cars to the state.
County Court Judge William Ames allowed Pothos to be released under the supervision of probation until his May 8 sentencing date.
Ames said that although he does not typically release a person who is facing state prison time he would release Pothos based on Mindell’s recommendation.
“I think it would be unlikely for him to flee to Greece leaving his family behind,” Mindell told the court. “However I am going to ask that he surrender his passport.”
Pothos has been in County Jail since his arrest on $250,000 cash bail.
Ames also reserved his right to reject the agreement pending a pre-sentencing report and informed Pothos that if he failed to appear for sentencing, or was arrested again, his plea would stand and he could face any lawful sentence.
The maximum sentence under the charge is 15 years in prison.