May 12, 2007

‘Don’t seal the deal; keep hands on wheel’

Homer students in school’s SADD club deliver message of safety on day before prom


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer     
Member’s of Homer High School’s SADD Prom Patrol, from left, Brittany Hill, Cassidy Barry and Emily Phelps make their presence known by raising awareness about prom safety in the halls between classes Friday.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Of course students get excited for their prom night: it’s the chance to inject a little extra glamour into school life, maybe have a nice dinner, and kick off the shoes and dance during one of the most memorable nights of a young person’s life.
But there’s also the chance that students might engage in risky behavior that they wouldn’t ordinarily be a part of.
Student members of the Homer chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions and the Homer Student Government spent the day as members of the Prom Patrol, giving their peers good reasons to think clearly on prom night tonight.
“I think it’s mostly peer pressure that does it,” said prom patrol senior Mary Phelps.
Tenth-grader Hope Chanbrowne thinks it might be because seniors see the prom as their last fling with their classmates.
“Students feel they can get away with it at the prom,” Chanbrowne said as she stood with a group of fellow prom patrollers.
Instead of a school-wide assembly on driver safety, abstinence and safe sex, and the dangers of alcohol, nearly 20 members of SADD’s Prom Patrol picketed in the hallways, made informational announcements throughout the day, and used “guerrilla factics” to promote a safe and healthy evening.
“It’s definitely getting their attention,” said prom patrol senior Jeffrey VanOrden.
English teacher and Homer SADD advisor Mike Massenzio said that rather than an assembly, this format allows students to take a more active part in prom safety education.
“They’re doing this all day. They’re going in and out of classrooms,” and quizzing the students, Massenzio said.
“Instead of the change period bell, they’re hearing a prom safety fact.”
“It’s more interesting than having this through the assembly,” agreed junior Brittany Hill, a prom patroller.
“It’s something different,” echoed fellow Prom Patrol member and sophomore Cassidy Barry.
Over the loudspeaker system, prom patrollers read off the “trivia,” which included explaining why alcohol is the beverage most associated with an increased risk of passing on sexually transmitted diseases (because it lowers inhibitions); the importance of knowing your prom date in advance; watching your drink to avoid a chemical “spiking;” and keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you when driving.
“There are choices to make, and we hope they make the right ones,” Massenzio said.
After the announcements, a picket line of SADD members began shouting safety slogans and marching in the halls as their classmates and teachers rushed around them.
“Don’t seal the deal! Keep your hands on the wheel!” reverberated around the school while the SADD members held their placards up high.
Sophomore prom patrol member Emily Martin said that although some of the younger students treat it as a joke and might even jeer at the faux-protesters, she thinks “we’re going to get into their head.”
Martin’s certainly taking it seriously.
“After the protest your voice hurts so bad, ‘cause you’re screaming “Think! Don’t Drink!”
Prom patroller Cody VanOrden, a sophomore, said that “this really shows that SADD is not some group that sits around saying, ‘Yeah, destructive decisions are bad,’” VanOrden said as he took a break in the prom patrollers’ temporary command center in a conference room in the library.
“It shows that we’ll actually do something.”
Throughout the year, SADD publishes “The Potty Pages,” which are hung near the toilets in the restrooms and dispense wisdom, statistics and healthy choices in a place where students can’t avoid them.
Massenzio said the students also promote awareness of a different topic each month.
Senior Elizabeth Rawson, who was not a part of the Prom Patrol, said some intoxicated students tried to attend the prom last year and were removed, and although she thinks this year won’t be drastically different, the SADD members are getting their message across.
“It works. It’s better than an assembly where you just sit there and fall asleep,” Rawson said as she walked to class with Eli Kabat, a freshman.
Both students are attending the prom.
“My dad’s chaperoning it; even if I wanted to make a destructive decision, I couldn’t,” Rawson said with a laugh.


City public works crews begin busy paving season

Staff Reporter

The city Department of Public Works has a full-plate of projects this construction season that will change traffic patterns throughout the summer.
Street reconstructions will continue, funded in part with state money as well as a three-year bond issued by the city in 2005.
The reconstruction of the box culvert carrying Otter Creek under North Main Street will redirect traffic as that road is closed.
A nearly $4 million sewer project will also begin this season to reconstruct sewers throughout the city.
Department of Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi said projects that had to be held over into this year due to last summer’s rainy weather have already been finished.
“We completed last year’s projects, such as Valley View Drive, Wheeler Avenue and River Street. They received their final top course … this past week,” Bistocchi said Thursday. “We have also put down a binder course on Franklin and Duane streets, off of Tompkins Street, and we hope to put the top course there with the availability of a paver that we rent from Suit-Kote.”
The asphalt on Greenbush Street between Port Watson and Elm streets has been milled, and Bistocchi said city workers also would begin water main and valve replacement and storm sewer maintenance. New York State Electric & Gas will replace the street’s gas lines, which should be a six-to-eight-week process.
“Greenbush Street will not be paved until sometime late summer or early fall,” Bistocchi said.
The funding for the roadwork comes from $195,000 in state Consolidated Highway Improvement Program funding, and a $600,000 bond the city issued in 2005 that is spread over three years. Bistocchi said about $150,000 of the bond would be used in this, the final year.
The bid opening for the North Main Street box culvert reconstruction is slated for May 29, and construction is scheduled to begin after school has recessed for the summer.
“We are going to remove the existing structure and create two dead end streets,” as the culvert is installed, Bistocchi said. “If we start it July 1, then we figure we can have it done by Sept. 1, weather permitting.”


Officials may push sale of Buckbee site

Real estate agent says he may be close to a deal for _the long-vacant facility.

Staff Reporter

The successful revocation of Empire Zone benefits from the owners of Riverside Plaza has prompted some county officials to discuss taking a more active role in addressing neglected commercial properties, with the long-vacant Buckbee-Mears facility first on the list.
Meanwhile a real estate agent marketing Buckbee-Mears, which is listed through Yaman Real Estate for $12 million, said Friday that a sale may come soon, which would negate the need for local intervention.
Linda Hartsock, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp./Industrial Development Agency, suggested to the Legislature’s Agriculture/Planning Committee Thursday that Buckbee Mears, which has been vacant since summer 2005, could become “the next big challenge” for the IDA.
Although she stressed that the concept is “very preliminary,” Hartsock recommended setting up a coalition with representatives from the county, the city and the IDA to look at ways to obtain local “site control” of the Buckbee-Mears facility.
The 330,000-square-foot facility, which lies on a 50-acre lot on Kellogg Road, is owned by India-based International Electron Devices Ltd.
IED has been elusive when local officials have tried to contact it regarding owed taxes — the city is owed $493,538 in back taxes and water and sewer fees, Mayor Tom Gallagher said Friday — and hazardous chemicals that were left on the site when the facility closed.
“Unfortunately the owners are showing no stewardship,” Hartsock said. “Just like we forced the issue with Riverside Plaza, I think we need to try to be proactive rather than wait on an absentee owner.”
The committee agreed, and after the meeting Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward) said she intended to appoint Legislator Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville) if a coalition or task force was formed.
“We really need to try to do something, or else I could see it just sitting there 10 years, deteriorating,” Brown said.
Hartsock said she intended to bring the issue up at a meeting Monday of the BDC/IDA, and she envisioned a coalition or task force that would look closely at ways to exert more control over the site locally.