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Taking on traffic : Group focuses on safety along Tompkins Street

 

By COREY PRESTON
Staff Reporter

carCORTLANDVILLE — A group of local and state agencies on Tuesday detailed its ongoing efforts to make a dangerous strip of Tompkins Street safer for pedestrians.
Spurred by pedestrian fatalities, the Traffic Safety Project Team has already undertaken a handful of safety improvements on the approximately one-mile stretch of Tompkins Street that runs from Route 281 to the Cortland city line.
Increased lighting and signs, education for nearby businesses and residences and an emphasis on enforcement by local police will hopefully increase safety along the road, said Town Supervisor Dick Tupper.
The group, which included Town Board members, state and county police, the state Department of Transportation and various county agencies, also looked into decreasing the speed limit on Tompkins Street, installing mid-block crosswalks for pedestrians and placing guardrails along the road, but each was deemed either unfeasible or unlikely to have an impact.
Reducing the speed limit was a central focus early on, Tupper said, but a study done by the state Department of Transportation found that speeding was not an issue. Heavy patrolling by State Police and the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department came to the same conclusion, as, over a one-month period of directed enforcement, only 12 of 264 tickets issued were speeding citations.
“The speed limit wasn’t the issue,” Tupper said. “We explored every opportunity, every possible scenario to make it a little safer out there. Of course there’s no way to completely stop fatal accidents.”
There have been four pedestrian fatalities in the past three years on or near Tompkins Street.
In May of 2003, two pedestrians were struck by a speeding vehicle and killed on Tompkins Street just east of Fairview Drive in an accident.
In November of 2005, a pedestrian was struck by a drunken driver while walking home from a night of bowling at Cort-Lanes, and in July of 2005, a child was killed after darting into the roadway on McLean Road Extension, about 300 feet west of its intersection with Tompkins Street.
“We were primarily focused on the fatality accidents,” said State Police Capt. Larry Jackmin. “That’s really the impetus that brought us together.”
Increased lighting and signs have already been added along Tompkins Street, with nine new streetlights and nine bright green pedestrian signs placed along the street in recent months.
An increased police presence by State Police and the Sheriff’s Department would likely continue, Jackmin said.
“We’ve dedicated some existing patrol time to Tompkins Street, and we have allotted a certain number of hours of overtime that we can use to patrol the area through our aggressive driving program,” Jackmin said.
Tompkins Street was also recently added to the DOT’s Corridor Enforcement Project, which, according to Sheriff’s Officer Bill Bracken, should bring about a “wave” of police action Thursday through May 17 on Route 13. Heavy enforcement will now extend from the Bennie Road intersection to Route 281, and then northeast, down the stretch of Tompkins Street being looked at.
“We’ll be looking to write tickets for speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane change, pretty much any unsafe driving,” Bracken said. “And after that initial wave, we’ll continue that effort through the balance of the month as a follow up.”
The safety team will also emphasize education, said Angie Wyatt, chairwoman of the Cortland County Traffic Safety Board.
“We’re going to get into various schools to try and reach about 165 children who live in that area,” Wyatt said. “We’ve also discussed going door to door to talk to adults and also businesses in the area.”
Beyond lighting, signs, education and traffic enforcement, the state DOT is looking into the feasibility of placing a traffic light at the intersection of either Glenwood Road or Fairfield Drive.
A decision on whether or not a light is appropriate should come in about two months, according to Ray McDougall, an engineer for the DOT’s Traffic Engineering and Safety Group.
“We have to get some traffic counts to make sure the traffic volumes meet the criteria for a light,” McDougall said.
The town is also looking at putting sidewalks in along the road, Tupper said, although the cost of such a project made it unlikely at this point.

 

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Trash hauler’s debt mounts

By JEREMY BOYLAN
Staff Reporter

The village of Homer’s trash hauler, Almost Anything Trash Removal, has now racked up more than $57,130 in tipping fees at the Cortland County landfill and the county is saying enough is enough.
“The hauler made no payments in the month of April,” said County Administrator Scott Schrader.
Schrader sent a letter to Steve Whatman, owner of Almost Anything, advising him that he was going to request that the Legislature bar the hauler from using the landfill starting July 1. The county Highway Committee did not want to wait that long.
The committee gave Schrader approval Tuesday to notify Whatman that he may continue to dump at the county landfill, only if he pays tipping fees in cash. As of July 1, if Whatman’s balance is not paid in full, his service will be cut.
Whatman had suggested a payoff schedule of $250 per week, or $1,000 per month.
“It would take us 60 months to get payment from him at that rate,” Schrader said. “I don’t think anybody is interested in that.”
But Schrader agreed some type of payment schedule should be established. Schrader said he would work with County Attorney Ric Van Donsel to come up with an alternative.
“We will talk about other plans,” Schrader said. “Because if he goes bankrupt, we don’t get anything.”

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Courthouse renovations on hold as county seeks engineer


By JEREMY BOYLAN
Staff Reporter

Cortland County has still not hired an engineer for the Courthouse renovation project, but may some time this month.
A resolution naming Bell & Spina as the engineering firm was withdrawn from the floor of the Legislature in March, with legislators requesting competitive bids for the project. Now the Syracuse firm is not even in the running.
“I’m not necessarily pleased with the Bell & Spina proposal right now,” said County Administrator Scott Schrader at a Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting Tuesday.
Schrader said he is considering proposals from Bovis Lend Lease of New York City and JCM Architectural Associates of Syracuse.
“They both come highly recommended,” Schrader said. “It’s going to come down to the cost.”
The first phase of the project for which Bell & Spina was originally considered called for relocating the basement entrance of the courthouse to a now-closed main entrance that faces Courthouse Park, relocating security to that entrance and providing accessibility for the disabled. The New York State Office of Historic Preservation must approve the renovations because the building is on the state historical register. The estimated costs of phase one was about $200,000.

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Auto parts store, water training facility plans approved by city


By COREY PRESTON
Staff Reporter

A proposed Advance Auto Parts store and a water treatment training facility received site plan approval from the city’s Planning Commission Tuesday.
The 7,000-square-foot Advance Auto Parts building will be constructed on an approximately 1-acre plot along Cleveland and Pomeroy streets.
The store will have two entrances, one on Pomeroy Street and one on Cleveland Street, and 35 parking spaces.
The project has been reviewed numerous times by the city, as developers had to first seek a zoning change from residential to general business before requesting site plan approval.
The zoning change was fought by Paul and Kate Mendillo, who own property at 22 Cleveland St., adjacent to the proposed site of the store. Project engineer Alex Wisniewski said that the developers had tried to work with the Mendillos to alleviate their concerns.
“The main discussion has been buffering for the adjacent properties,” Wisniewski said. “Hopefully we did that with the row of trees.”
The approved site plan included a row of 8-foot high conifers along with a 3-foot berm for buffering.
Wisniewski wasn’t sure what sort of timeline Westlake Development, the developers for the project, had for construction, but he said that construction would start this year.
Joe Kane of Westlake Development was not available for comment.
The Planning Commission also approved city Water Superintendent Doug Withey’s proposed water treatment training facility, contingent on Withey producing plans for buffering for neighboring properties.
An 8,400-square-foot building will be built upon the foundation of the former Potter Trucking building, which burned in March of 2003. The building will have four classrooms, one larger classroom or workshop area, a lab training room and locker rooms.

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Marathon elementary school principal resigns


By ADAM SAMROV
Staff Reporter

MARATHON — Appleby Elementary School Principal Lynda Hart abruptly resigned earlier last  week from her job at the school, Superintendent of Schools Tim Turecek confirmed Tuesday.
Turecek said he could not comment any further on the resignation, saying that it was a personnel issue.
Robert Carsello, a longtime principal at Smith Elementary School in the city school district, will take over starting today on an interim basis while the district searches for someone to replace Hart.
On the Marathon school Web site this morning, there is a message welcoming Carsello into the school district.
“I’m just here to act as the interim principal for the rest of the year,” said Carsello, saying he couldn’t discuss the matter of Hart’s resignation because it’s a personnel issue.
Board member Floyd Parker said this morning that the resignation was discussed in an executive session at the last school board meeting on Wednesday, and that he couldn’t say anything about the matter.
Hart took over in September as elementary principal in the place of Lawrence Thomas, who left the district last summer to become the superintendent of the Otselic Valley School District. Hart was the principal at Palmer Elementary School in the Windsor Central School District before coming to Marathon. She could not be reached for comment.

 

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