April 10, 2007

Hospital planning $25M expansion


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
The parking lot for the outpatient surgery entrance at Cortland Regional Medical Center is shown at the corner of West Main Street and Homer Avenue. The hospital is considering a $25 million expansion at the site.

Staff Reporter

The Cortland Regional Medical Center is considering a $25 million project to build a three-floor surgical and obstetric unit at the corner of Homer Avenue and West Main Street.
The hospital has wanted to expand its surgical and obstetric offerings for the last few years and is looking for a way to do that, said hospital spokesman Tom Quinn. The site is now a parking lot.
“It’s part of our overall effort to be more responsive to community need,” he said.
That could involve the new facility, or it could mean expansion to the hospital’s current obstetric and surgical facilities, he said.
Cortland Regional Medical Center has 15 maternity beds and 123 medical-surgical beds, according to the state Department of Health’s Web site.
Quinn said the hospital is talking with the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency to see if it can get enough bond financing for a new building project.
Linda Hartsock, executive director of the Industrial Development Agency, brought up the hospital’s interest in bonds at the IDA’s meeting Monday afternoon.
She said this morning it will probably be months, if not a year, before the hospital submits a proposal for the bonds. First, the hospital must apply for a Certificate of Need from the state Department of Health.
A Certificate of Need is required from the state for all health care facilities that propose construction, acquisition of major medical equipment, changes in ownership and the addition of services.
Quinn said he does not know when the hospital will apply for the certificate.
Quinn also was unsure how much of the new facility would be split between maternity and surgical care, adding that the size of the building and a construction timeline have yet to be determined.
The possible expansion is the latest in a series of building projects the hospital has undertaken in recent years at its Homer Avenue complex or satellite locations nearby:
l A dialysis center was completed last month at 3993 West Road in Cortlandville. The building was constructed for the medical center and will be operated by Syracuse-based St. Joseph’s Health Center.
l A 12,000-square-foot, two-level addition created a new Emergency Services Department at a cost of $11 million in 2004. This construction was followed by a reorganization of other facilities in the building.
l Cortland Regional in October 2003 completed an expansion of its outpatient diagnostic imaging services that added 2,000 square feet to the building that opened in 1996 at 4005 West Road. Renovation work cost $130,000 and equipment cost $2 million.
l A nursing and rehabilitation center was built adjacent to the hospital in 1993.



Schumer at Cortland American Legion:

‘Level the playing field’ for all military benefits

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Jeremy and Amber Morsch have lived the military life and have seen the differences between benefits received by members of the regular armed services and those of the Reserve and National Guard.
A member of the active duty Army for six years, Jeremy Morsch served in Kosovo before spending four years in the National Guard; Amber served in the National Guard, was activated to be sent to Iraq but never went. They both live in Cortland.
“I get all the active duty benefits, but for my wife, who was in the Guard …” Jeremy Morsch said.
“A lot of animosity with the active duty,” Amber Morsch said. “I’ve had a claim denied.”
The uneven disbursement of benefits for regular members of the armed services and the Reserve and National Guard units brought Sen. Chuck Schumer to Cortland Monday, where he introduced the Morsch family as well as Lt. Josh Kinne with the Army Reserve in Ithaca.
“Why are we here? Very simple,” Schumer told about 15 people at the American Legion post on Tompkins Street. “We believe that our brave guardsmen and women and reserves deserve the same benefits as active duty personnel.”
Schumer hopes to “level the playing field” by equalizing the benefits between the two tiers of the American military — and to eventually increase benefits across the board.
“The world has changed a little bit — the Guard and Reserve are called on in ways they have never been called on before,” Schumer said, pointing to the more than 500,000 Guard and Reserve troops that have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, and make up 45 percent of the force fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are 88,500 reservists currently mobilized, and 1,680 of them are from bases in New York, the senator said. More than 22,000 veterans, from all levels of the military, live in Central New York, with 3,800 living in Cortland County.
However, Guard and Reserve members get left behind when it comes to benefits, and Schumer pointed to the differences in education stipends, proximity of medical treatment to the soldiers’ homes and the disparity in the rate at which claims are denied between active duty soldiers and reserve soldiers.
For example, Schumer said, a reservist who is attending school and participating in full-time training receives a stipend of $297 a month until deployed, while active duty soldiers receive $1,097. Once a reservist is deployed for at least three months, these benefits are increased, but Schumer said that even after serving in a war zone, the benefits are not equal to those of an active duty soldier.
Schumer said he would introduce legislation to double the education benefit as a start, and then eventually equalize it with that of the regular soldiers’.
Although active duty soldiers often are treated on the bases near their homes, Schumer said that Reserve and Guard veterans often have to drive much farther to see a specialist or receive care at a Department of Veteran’s Affairs hospital. And if they wish to be treated at a hospital close to home, they would have to give up their military benefits to do so, he said.
Schumer hopes to correct that with his legislation and create a new system that would allow Reserve and Guard members to be treated at a hospital near their homes.
Schumer hopes also to begin doling out reimbursements to reservists and guardsmen for traveling to training or weekend drills.


IDA seeks funding for C’ville business park

Staff Reporter

A regional planning director is hopeful the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency will receive a $2 million federal grant by September to help get the Finger Lakes East business park up and running sometime next year.
The park, which is 260 acres and located on the north side of Route 13 between Gracie and Bennie roads, needs $4.1 million in funding for infrastructure and property purchase costs for the northern half of the park.
David Bottar, executive director of the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, told the Industrial Development Agency board at its meeting Monday that he is optimistic the park will be awarded $2 million in federal Economic Development Administration money.
His board has assisted the IDA with the funding application.
The $6.7 million project has already received $450,000 from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that will be used for water and sewer lines.
Cortlandville Town Supervisor Dick Tupper, who attended Monday’s meeting, said the town might be willing to pay between $300,000 and $400,000 to help extend sewer and water lines a couple of thousand feet to the site.
He said the town would be able to justify the investment to the taxpayers if a business was already planning on moving onto the site.
IDA Executive Director Linda Hartsock said Monday that a group of private investors, whose name she would not disclose, is talking with various hotels chains to try to bring one to the site.
She added she is meeting with the chief executive officer of Shell, who has expressed interest in the business park, this week. Shell is a worldwide group of oil, gas and petrochemical companies with interests in biofuels, wind and solar power and hydrogen.
Hartsock said remaining money for the $4.1 project could be sought through a number of sources, including a $750,000 state Office for Small Cities grant and/or grant money through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Bottar said this morning an access road would be built along the northern border of the property. National Grid might pay a portion of the cost to connect the site to power lines, he added.
Hartsock said the Industrial Development Agency is asking for anywhere between $100,000 and $250,000 through a National Grid grant program. Fiber optic telecommunication lines would be installed at the same time the power lines are, she said.
Hartsock said it is important for the Finger Lakes East project to get full funding soon, as the purchase option on about half the property is only good until June 2008.
Hartsock said the purchase option is for $600,000, and is with landowner Richard Osbeck, who owns 143 acres of the site. Gutchess Lumber owns 112 acres of the site, Hartsock said, and the Industrial Development Agency is waiting to purchase that land until it sells parcels from Osbeck’s half to businesses.
Then it can use that revenue to buy the property, she said.


Police officer countersues Homer village

Staff Reporter

A county police officer who was ordered to pay the village of Homer nearly $10,000 filed a countersuit Monday against the village for damages totaling $9,269.65.
Cortland County Sheriff’s Department officer Josh Parente is suing the village for unpaid overtime, unpaid vacation time and travel costs he says he incurred while working for the Homer Police Department, according to court documents.
Parente also filed a motion Monday to have the decision against him thrown out.
“He never got a notice that would have given him the opportunity come to court and be heard,” said Parente’s attorney, Mary Rain.
State Supreme Court Justice Phillip R. Rumsey ruled in favor of the village in March after Parente failed to appear in court to argue his case. Rain says that Parente did not show up because the village did not send a letter notifying him that it was going to file for a default judgment.
Rain said that in most cases the notice is not required, but because Parente’s case is over a contract dispute, the village was obligated to notify him 20 days prior to the court appearance.
Village Attorney David Perfetti was not available to comment about the case this morning.
The village filed a lawsuit against Parente and Cortland County in September, claiming he had violated a contractual agreement when he left the job with the village to work for the Sheriff’s Department.
The suit claimed Parente, who worked for the village from January 2003 until May 2005, was obligated to work for its Police Department for three years after it paid for his training costs and tuition at Mohawk Valley Community College.
The village also sued the county claiming it violated state Municipal Law when it hired Parente.
Rumsey ruled on March 5 that Parente owes the village $9,538.39, or 60 percent of the costs, based on a formula in the department’s employee handbook.
“Plaintiff (the village) has established, through the affidavit of its Chief of Police, that Parente acknowledged having received, read and understood the provisions set forth in the Employee Handbook, including the schedule for reimbursement of training costs should he terminate his employment within the first three years, and that he ‘agreed’ to those terms,” Rumsey said in his decision.
Rain is arguing that the decision should also be thrown out because the handbook is not a valid contract.
“Because the employee handbook could be changed at the discretion of only the employer, it created a contract which was excessively unreasonable, overreaching and one-sided,” she argued in the motion.
As of this morning no date has been scheduled for the two attorneys to argue motions in the case.