March 23, 2007

Cincinnatus man accused of killing infant

Staff Reporters

A Cincinnatus man was arrested Thursday on charges that he killed the 16-month-old son of his live-in girlfriend, according to the Chenango County Sheriff’s Department.
Jason Allen Sherman, 24, of 5223 Piety Hill Road, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault, both felonies, in connection with the Nov. 10 death of Marshall Lee Barber Jr. in the town of Pitcher.
The infant was found unresponsive in his bed at 109 Loomis Lane at about 7 a.m. and was transported to Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, where he was pronounced dead by emergency room doctors.
An autopsy was conducted, and the cause of death was listed as blunt head trauma and asphyxiation. The death was ruled a homicide.
Sherman, who is not the child’s father, was indicted Wednesday following an investigation, said Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride.
Sherman was to be arraigned with a lawyer this morning in Chenango County Court, he said.
He is being held at the Chenango County Correctional Facility in lieu of $500,000 bail or $1 million bond.
The Chenango County Sheriff’s Department investigator in charge of the case was unavailable for comment this morning, as was Sheriff Thomas Loughren.
Carol Traver, of Binghamton — the mother of the boy’s father, Marshall Barber — said this morning that she is outraged that Sherman may have killed her grandson.
“How do you discipline a kid by hitting him like that?” she said. “You tell me that. He should be hung for murder.”
Traver said all she really knows about the incident is that the baby’s mother, her son’s ex-girlfriend, was in the shower at the time of the incident.
Traver said she met Sherman about a month before the baby died, at her sister’s house.
Traver said Sherman was working on a farm in Pitcher until the incident happened, as far she knows. She said she does not know if he had a prior record of abuse.
She said her son, 28, who lives in Binghamton, had dated the child’s mother for about six years, and had another child, who is now 5, with her before the 16-month-old who recently died.
Traver said the family lived together in Binghamton before the couple separated around March 2006.
Traver said she and her son had not seen the baby since that time. She said her son has seen the 5-year-old, who is in foster care, since the incident.
Traver said Marshall Jr. was a very cute child.
“We call him Mr. Bubble because when he was like 2 months old he used to lay on our lap and blow bubbles,” she said.
She said that since the incident her son has been depressed. She said he does not talk a lot about what happened, but she can tell.
“My son has started drinking more; he’s lost a lot of weight.”



County land deal remains unresolved

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The status of the county’s ill-fated land deal along south Main Street remained in limbo Thursday, and while many looked toward an April 3 special legislative session as an opportunity to discuss a solution, indications were that any decision would bring as many questions as answers.
The special legislative committee examining the aborted deal formally presented its findings Thursday to the full Legislature.
A meeting just prior to the legislative session, committee Chairman Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward) walked all but five of the 19 legislators through the committee’s findings.
The county has been sued over its decision to back out of the $894,000 deal for nine properties along south Main, Randall and William streets.
The properties were originally to have been used for an estimated _$5.5 million county facility that would have housed the county’s Health and Mental Health departments.
Owners of the Moose Lodge, who filed suit last week, claim the county’s original decision to purchase the property represented a binding contract, and are asking the county to go through with the purchase.
Three other property owners involved in the deal have also challenged the county’s decision, and more lawsuits may be forthcoming.
The county could purchase all or some of the properties to try to avoid a lawsuit, and then either scale-down the project or try to resell the land, Tytler said, speaking for the committee, or it could not purchase the properties and either try to negotiate a settlement or simply let the courts decide.
Many legislators were unsure of how the county should proceed, with a number saying they wanted to consider the options prior to the April 3 special meeting, which was moved from April 5 to accommodate legislators’ schedules.
“I’d hate to see us spend more money on a lawsuit, especially if at the end of it we have to buy the properties anyway,” said Legislator John Daniels (D-Cortlandville). “But then on the other hand, I don’t think buying them and going with a downsized version of the project is something I’m interested in either. It’s a tough situation.”
Legislator Tom Williams (R-Homer) said that he could not support purchasing the properties without a master plan regarding all of the county’s land needs, including new space for the Mental Health Department, the motor vehicles office and the County Jail.
“I’d be hard pressed to vote for a piece of it without a competent master plan,” Williams said.
Regarding a potential lawsuit, Williams said he felt the county may have made a mistake, and “sometimes you have to pay for a mistake.”
Williams stressed during the meeting that ultimately any land purchase should stem from a master plan that has been developed by the Legislature as a whole.
“I think, when you factor in the jail, we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars, and I think all legislators should play a role, if they want to, in determining how we proceed,” Williams said.
Tytler suggested setting up a committee or some formal planning process that would include input from various Legislative committees and could be open to any interested members.
Tytler said that she personally would support purchasing the Moose Lodge and the Robbins Tobacco property, with the intent of looking at a scaled down project.
“I don’t think we should be taking residential property, but I think if we purchased those two parcels, we could then look at how they would meet a need for the county,” Tytler said.
Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward) said that he was not supportive of purchasing the properties, stressing that he was confident that the county attorney could successfully defend the county’s decision in court.
If the Legislature decided to purchase the property, however, Van Dee insisted that any purchase should again go through the committee process.
Meanwhile Legislator Newell Willcox (R-Homer) suggested that purchasing any of the land could prompt further lawsuits from residents of the Randall and Williams street neighborhoods, whose vocal opposition was instrumental in convincing legislators to revoke the deal.
A few of those residents were on hand at the meeting, and they continued to stress that they did not support any sort of project on the site.
This prompted Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward) to leave the meeting, saying she had heard these complaints before, which prompted outrage from the residents.
Brown said afterward that she had hoped that the meeting would be focused on the recommendations of the committee, and that she was well aware of the residents’ concerns.


Legislature OKs additional 911 dispatcher

Staff Reporter

The Legislature Thursday approved one of two new dispatch positions requested by the County Sheriff’s Department, with the caveat that it would take another look at staffing in the dispatch center down the road.
The new position, which will cost $50,375, including benefits, annually, was approved unanimously after Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Chairman John Daniels (D-Cortlandville) amended his resolution for two positions to a request for just one.
Daniels said that the lack of support from the Budget and Finance Committee, which voted 8-1 against two positions on March 15, prompted his decision.
“That’s the one thing I just kept hearing, that people were more comfortable going with one position for now,” Daniels said. “I didn’t want to see them have to wait another month to get started on training the one, so I figured let’s try it with one, get him trained, and then we’ll see where we stand.”
The new position will be accompanied by an additional dispatcher position, which will be created at the end of March from the retirement of a person who now works in the department’s reception area.
This will bring the total number of dispatchers from 12 to 14.
Sheriff Lee Price had requested a total of 15 dispatchers to fill the required three shifts throughout each 24-hour period.
County Administrator Scott Schrader has said in the past that the holes in the shifts can be effectively filled with part-time employees, but after a presentation on the need for more full-time dispatchers from the Sheriff’s Department at the March 6 JPS meeting, Schrader said he’d support adding one position.
Fire and Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Duell said during the legislative session that filling shifts with part-time employees can be difficult.
“A lot of these part-time employees have other jobs, so if you call and need them to come in at midnight, they’re not going to be able to,” Duell said, also noting that extensive training is required for each dispatcher, part or full time. “It’s no typical part-time job.”
Price said after the meeting that the new dispatcher, and the one hired to fill the hole left by the retiring reception worker, would require 400 hours of training before any impact was felt.
Price also said he was grateful that the Legislature had agreed to provide the one position.
“I think this is going to help with morale, it’s going to help with the workload, and it’s going to give the people of Cortland County better service from their 911 center,” he said. “They’ve asked me to try to make this work and I’m going to work very hard to try to oblige them. It should make a big difference.”