March 22, 2007

Quest for Queendom

24 girls will vie for the title at Maple Festival


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Sandi Jennison helps contestants in this year’s Maple Fest Queen pageant learn their steps March 14 at Marathon High School, while being accompanied on piano by band director Corinne Toenniessen.

Staff Reporter

Marissa Kinter can remember going to the Maple Festival pageant in Marathon as a little girl, admiring the talented contestants dancing, singing and answering questions on stage.
She wanted to be just like them, she said.
“It’s always been a dream to be up there with the girls,” she said.
Kinter, 14, a freshman at Marathon High School, finally will get her chance at Friday night’s 37th annual Central New York Maple Festival Queen Pageant; she is one of 24 girls running for queen.
The event, which kicks off the Maple Festival, continues to bring together a variety of participants for a variety of reasons, this year’s contestants and past participants say.
The Maple Festival will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday throughout the village of Marathon.
The queen will be selected at the end of Friday’s pageant, which begins at 7:30 p.m. and is sold out. Three judges will give the girls scores in three areas — beauty, poise and personality, said Laurie McDonald, a member of the pageant committee.
She said the judges, none of whom know the girls, will determine the girls’ scores in those areas by watching them dance, sing, walk across the stage and speak to the audience, which has been the case since the pageant started 37 years ago.
After the first round the group will be narrowed down to four girls. They will meet with the judges in private to answer questions about their lives, maple syrup production and other topics. After that, the girl with the highest score is made queen, with the rest runner-ups and court members.
The girls vying for queen are in grades nine through 12 in the Marathon school district.
This year’s contestants and past participants say they were motivated to run for queen by the event’s tradition, the fun they had preparing for it and the chance it gave them to shine, overcome stage fright and learn about themselves.
Amber Hines, 18, a Marathon High School senior vying for the title, said her family largely inspired her to do the pageant.
“My mom was first runner-up,” she said. “All my family and distant relatives have done it.”
Chelsea Griep, 18, a TC3 freshman who was queen last year, said like Hines, her older relatives also encouraged her to join the pageant. Griep was watching the girls practice last week.
“It’s a fun tradition for me, because two of my cousins won and my aunt won,” she said.
Griep said her cousin, Hannah Griep, a junior, is vying for queen this year.
McDonald, who made the Maple Queen court in 1975 and 1976, said the event also has become a tradition in her family, with her daughter, Emily, winning queen in 2005, one of her sons, Ben, 18, a senior, serving as an usher at the pageant and her husband, Richard, taping the event.
She joked that her family had no choice but to participate.
“It was pretty much a stipulation,” she said.
Amy DeChellis, 18, a senior, said she’s running for queen for the third year in a row largely because she has so much fun preparing for the pageant. She said she loves that this year’s theme is “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” She loves Cyndi Lauper and has seen her in concert.
“Even though I can’t sing, I just love to go with the flow,” she said.
Alexandra Askew, 21, a senior at Syracuse University who was queen in 2003, watched her sister, Rachel Askew, and the other girls practice last week. She said she had so much fun doing the pageant in high school, and still gets the same thrill from watching others do it now that she’s in college.
“It’s the highlight of my year,” she said.



Absentee ballots to decide race in Dryden

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — Two days after the village elections, the winner of one of two trustee seats is still undecided as the Tompkins County Board of Elections awaits the final absentee ballots.
With 21 absentee ballots counted Wednesday, and as many as 12 yet to arrive, Republican Randy Sterling has won a seat with 181 votes.
Incumbent Republican Robert Witty has a one-vote lead for the second trustee seat, with 169 votes to Democrat Lisa Valentinelli’s 168 votes. Democrat Lisa Gutchess has 158 votes.
After the polls closed Tuesday, the incomplete and unofficial results had Valentinelli with 165 votes; Sterling with 162 votes; Gutchess with 154 votes; and Witty with 151 votes.
Thirty-six absentee ballots were not included in those election night figures. Twenty-four of the ballots had arrived as of Wednesday and when the counting of those began, the potential winners changed.
One ballot was mailed after the March 19 deadline and was voided. After 21 absentee ballots were counted, Witty picked up 18 votes, Sterling received 19, Valentinelli received three and Gutchess received four.
Simon St. Laurent, town of Dryden Democrat Commmittee chair, said Valentinli still has a small but “unlikely chance of winning.”
Mayor Reba Taylor, who ran for re-election unopposed, received an unofficial count of 212 votes.
Taylor said that she anticipated the close election.
“I was very concerned that it was going to be a popularity vote,” Taylor said. 
Election Commissioner Elizabeth W. Cree said there were 36 absentee ballots in Dryden, 21 of which were counted. She also said there were two military ballots yet to be counted because they are being challenged by the Democrats. She said the challenge stems from a box that remained unmarked on the envelopes, which asks a voter if he or she is a member of military services, spouse or child. Cree said Democrats have three days to take legal action and if no action is taken, the election commissioners can open the ballots.
Cree said more military and absentee ballots may come in, so there won’t be an official winner announced until Tuesday.
Valentinelli and Witty were unavailable for comment this morning.


High temps, rain spur flood watch

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Weather forecasts for high temperatures and rain have once again prompted a flood watch for the area through Saturday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Lovejoy said this morning that a cold front with a band of showers will be moving into the area tonight.
“The high temperatures this afternoon will be in the mid-50s, and then tonight it will be in the low 30s and then tomorrow it will be in the upper 40s,” Lovejoy said. “So it doesn’t get a chance to shut off very much, except in the very early morning. So you’re getting probably 20, 22 hours above freezing every day.”
Cortland County Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator Brenda DeRusso said she has received three scenarios from the National Weather Service, but that she expects the flood watch to be “just a little, minor thing.”
“The most likely scenario being most of the snow melting over the course of three days with a half an inch of rain,” which would cause the Tioughnioga River to rise near its _8-foot flood stage, DeRusso said.
“If most of the snow melts within two days, with half an inch of rain, would take it to 9 feet, or above flood stage … If the snow melts over one or two days, with an inch of rain, it will bring it to 11 feet.”
The heaviest rain will be tonight, with showers continuing into Friday.
“If we can get through today and tonight with a minimal amount of rain, then I think the rivers and creek beds might be able to handle it,” DeRusso said.
It’s National Flood Safety Awareness Week, and DeRusso recommended that those who’ve had flooding problems in the past should visit


Cortlandville holds off on zoning approval

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Although the Town Board had the opportunity to vote on amendments to the town’s zoning code following a public hearing Wednesday evening, some issues with wording in the document have pushed the likely approval to the next board meeting on April 4.
The board did, however, approve the applications for state grants for the Brockway-Homeville museum complex and a town-wide housing rehabilitation program for the elderly.
The environmental group Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment, or CAPE, presented several concerns it had with the zoning revisions. They included matters of grammar, semantics, and objections to certain technical aspects of the document.
The group has also put itself on record saying that the revisions to the zoning qualify as an action that will have a significant environmental impact, feeling that the full State Environmental Quality Review process needs to be undertaken in this matter.
Lot coverage requirements, green space regulations and zoning designations have all been altered within the amendments to the current town code.
Speaking on behalf of CAPE, Robert Rhodes, of Cortland, pointed out problematic language in the amendments, and in many of the instances, town attorney John Folmer made a note and agreed to clarify the language.
Rhodes was also displeased with the definitions of some of the language used in the zoning amendments, questioning the exact definition of “aesthetics,” and taking issue with the need for such words as “adequate,” and “significant,” instead of providing clearly defined limits. CAPE has also taken issue with some of the lot coverage guidelines within certain aquifer wellhead areas.
At the beginning of the public hearing, town Planning Board member Nick Renzi spoke in support of the revisions as drafted and said he thinks “it’s probably the most forward thinking amendment for a community our size in New York state.”
Folmer said that he would be reviewing and correcting some of the language in the code revisions, and that he would also look into the SEQR requirements and determine if the Type I threshold applies, necessitating a more thorough environmental impact study.
Also at the meeting, Ann Hotchkin, a program manager at Thoma Development Consultants, presented the details of a $400,000 application for a town-wide housing rehabilitation program for the low-income elderly, through the state Community Development Block Grant program.
Out of 82 responses, Hotchkin said that about 29 households qualified as substandard housing and also met income eligibility requirements.
Thoma Development figures the average rehabilitation would cost about $20,000, and that a total of 16 houses could be completed.
Hotchkin expects to hear back from the state at the end of August or in early September.


Administrator testifies at Northwoods trial

Staff Reporter

During nearly three hours of testimony Wednesday in the trial of a certified nurse’s aide accused of neglecting a nursing home patient, the education director at Northwoods Rehabilitation and Extended Care Facility testified that employees receive training on the definitions of abuse and neglect.
She could not say whether the defendant, Steven Nadeau, specifically received that training.
“In truth and in fact you don’t know what Steven Nadeau was told about abuse and neglect do you?” Edward Menkin, Nadeau’s attorney, asked Donna Reynolds, the facility’s education director.
Reynolds responded “yes.”
Nadeau, 39, of Cortland, is accused of neglecting to give a resident proper oral care, range of motion treatment, and turning and positioning treatment — which avoids bed soars — several times through January, February and March 2005.
Investigators contend that after failing to administer treatments, Nadeau then filled out Medicare records stating he had conducted the services to the patient when he had not.
Reynolds, who said she has been the education director at the facility since 2003, testified that every new employee is given an orientation packet that contains definitions of abuse and neglect as well as the procedure on how to report problems or potential problems.
Prosecutor Ralph Tortora, an attorney for the state Attorney General’s Office, submitted a 2007 copy of that manual into evidence during Reynolds’ testimony.
During cross-examination Reynolds testified the current manual has been changed since Nadeau was hired in 2001, and that because she was not the education director when he was hired she did not know how it was changed or what information Nadeau was given.
When Menkin asked if the employees at the facility are instructed that if they don’t do their jobs they could be charged with a crime, Reynolds answered “yes” but could not specify when the facility started advising employees of that.
When asked if it was since Nadeau and four other employees were arrested for neglect in January 2006, she responded, “There is more emphasis on it … within the last few years … I can’t answer that.”
Nadeau is charged with 15 counts of first-degree falsifying business records, a felony, and 15 counts of willful violating health laws, a misdemeanor. If convicted he could be sentenced to as many as four years in prison for each of the felonies and one year for each of the misdemeanors.
In addition to Reynolds’ testimony, several investigators testified from the Attorney General’s Office. The investigators told the court that they viewed hundreds of hours of videotape taken from a hidden camera that was put in the resident’s room that Nadeau is accused of neglecting. They said they kept logs of people who entered the room and left the room, detailing what care was given to the patient.


McGraw school board president claims ‘unethical behavior’

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — Shortly after polls closed in Tuesday’s election, the wife of one mayoral candidate called for her husband’s opponent to step down from his mayor seat.
During Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting, Michelle Stauber, the McGraw Board of Education president and wife of Allan Stauber, accused Robert “Razz” Freeman and village Police Officer David Tobias of “unethical” behavior.
Michelle Stauber said both should resign from their village positions. She contends they misused the village police vehicle on three occasions that she has been a witness to.
“The three things were the village police vehicle being used to transport a village employee (Willie White) back and forth to breakfast and Mr. Tobias was the cop,” she said. “The second one was Mr. Tobias using the vehicle for personal use. He had his son riding in the vehicle. And the third one was Mr. Freeman getting a ride to work.”
She said that if she doesn’t hear that an investigation is being launched in the next two weeks due to her allegations, she will file a complaint with the state Comptroller’s Office.
The board said it would talk to the village attorney about her accusation. Freeman said he would not comment until the accusations by Michelle Stauber were looked into.
Stauber made the allegations before she found out her husband lost the election to Freeman.
She had further accusations to make against Freeman at Tuesday’s meeting. She said that on March 13 Freeman, the deputy mayor, headed an illegal board meeting.
“It wasn’t advertised,” she said. “Every meeting is supposed to be advertised once they have a quorum.”
She was also accusing Freeman of leaking executive session material to his friends.
“There were pictures that were out today to slander Allan that were given in executive session and should stay in executive session,” Michelle Stauber said. “Also we have been targeted by Mr. Tobias once my husband raised complaints in executive session. So, it’s my belief that Mr. Freeman told him that my husband was complaining about him.”
Michelle Stauber said the pictures were taken last summer, showing toys strewn on their front lawn, and they were used to make political fliers.
“They are trying to make it seem as if Allan’s house is a dump,” she said.
Michelle Stauber said Tobias sent Code Enforcement Officer Bruce Weber “to our house to find something.”
“We didn’t get cited or anything, there was nothing,” she said. “He just said there was a complaint that came from the village office.”
Michelle Stauber said her husband went to the village office to ask who filed the complaint.
She said Village Clerk Susan McNeil told her, “‘I don’t know of a complaint filed, but Mr. Tobias asked for Mr. Weber’s phone number.’ So that’s how we know it was Mr. Tobias.”
McNeil confirmed Michelle Stauber’s statement, but she added that she does not think Freeman misused the police vehicle.
“I just think he (Tobias) gave him (Freeman) a ride because it was a cold day,” McNeil said.
“I just want to make it very clear that I like this village, I love this village, but there is misuse and abuse that has been going on that needs to stop and it has been going on for a long time,” Michelle Stauber said. “That is why I am asking for an investigation to be done. They will find out to the extent that this goes.”
Stauber said she was not the only person willing to sign the complaint form. A complaint has not been filed and no one has signed the form.
“The more people I talk to about it, the more people are willing to put their complaints of the abuse,” she said. “This isn’t a one-person thing.”