May 15, 2007

Virgil firefighters taking step up on health

Department has installed exercise equipment paid for with $15,000 state grant


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Virgil volunteer firefighter and high school senior T.J. Rosetti uses a piece of exercise equipment the Virgil Fire Department department recently installed with a $15,000 state grant. The equipment includes a treadmill, an elliptical machine, a rowing machine, a universal weight machine and medicine balls for stomach crunches.

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — After having had a heart bypass surgery 10 years ago, Dick Jenney is looking forward to using the fire department’s new exercise equipment to prevent future heart trouble.
“I’ll probably use it from time to time,” said Jenney, 63, of Virgil. “I’d like to lose about 20 pounds.
Jenney, a 36-year veteran of the fire department, is among the approximately 60 volunteer Virgil firefighters who can benefit from equipment that was installed last week as a result of a $15,000 member item secured by state Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford) in this year’s budget.
Other firefighters say they may not have had heart trouble yet like Jenney, but with heart trouble being the No. 1 cause of death for firefighters on duty, they want to do all they can to make sure it does not happen in the first place.
Heart disease causes 45 percent of the deaths that occur among on-duty U.S. firefighters, according to an article that appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine in March. That compares with 22 percent of deaths among police officers on duty, 11 percent of deaths among on-duty emergency medical services workers and 15 percent of all deaths that occur on the job.
While firefighting contributes to heart disease, often many firefighters already lack adequate physical fitness, have underlying cardiovascular risk factors and have coronary heart disease, according to the article.
Volunteer Jamie Olmstead, 45, of Virgil, said one reason for firefighters’ lack of fitness to begin with is their busy schedules. Not only do firefighters, especially volunteer firefighters, have full-time jobs, families and fire department calls, they also have on average 400 to 500 hours of fire department training a year.
“They just don’t take the time to stay in shape,” she said.
She said she is looking forward to using the new exercise equipment, which includes a treadmill, an elliptical machine, a rowing machine, a universal weight machine and medicine balls for stomach crunches, with her fellow firefighters, who should motivate her to get a good workout.
Virgil volunteer firefighter Mike TenKate, 31, made the request to Seward’s office for the money. He said the firefighters will surely motivate one another. They already do in the city fire department, where he is a paid firefighter, he said.
The city firefighters, who received more than $24,000 in exercise equipment through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, do various competitions, including a pentathlon — or race on a combination of machines.
Jamie Babcock, fire chief for the Virgil Fire Department, said hopefully the exercise equipment will help recruit more young people to the department. Like volunteer Brandon Anderson, 19, they may see a free access to equipment as a perk, he said.
“I don’t have enough money for a gym membership,” Anderson said Thursday.
Babcock said the department also hopes the emergency vehicle it received two weeks ago will  instill pride in the fire department and encourage more people to join.
The vehicle, a Chevrolet Suburban, cost almost $50,000. The money came from the fire department’s equipment fund, which is funded through a fire tax, Jenney said.
The vehicle is intended to free up the department’s heavy rescue vehicle, decrease wear and tear on the heavy rescue vehicle and save gas, among other benefits.



Commission OKs revised  clock tower

Staff Reporter

The city’s Historic District Commission approved revised plans for the new clock tower building at the corner of Main and Tompkins streets this morning.
The original plans went before the commission in April.
Commission members had asked property owner John Scanlon to elongate the steeple and eliminate some of the balconies on the building’s northern corner, as well as address the spacing of the building’s windows.
The building would replace the Squires Building, also called the Clocktower Apartments, which was destroyed by fire in April 2006.
The project still needs approval for its landscaping plans by the Historic District Commission, final approval from the state Department of Transportation and site plan approval from the city Planning Commission.


Road work season springs in county

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Its arrival as the weather warms is as tried and true as lemonade stands, the crack of a baseball bat and long lines outside ice cream shops.
It’s construction season in Cortland County.
The county Highway Department will be paving or reconstructing more than 30 miles of road this summer, said Highway Superintendent Don Chambers.
Along with the road work, the department plans to replace two culverts and a bridge, adding up to a total of _$3 million of work scheduled, as part of the county’s 20-year capital improvement plan. The season’s work should be completed by early fall.
“Basically we’re trying to work within the schedule of work we outlined in that plan,” Chambers said of the roads that will receive attention this summer. “It requires some flexibility based on the resources we have available, but everything we’re working on has been identified as a need.”
For instance, Chambers noted, Kellogg, Steger and Cold Brook roads all have received partial state multi-modal reconstruction funds and were moved forward on the calendars, while the replacement of a culvert on Divers Crossing Road in the town of Marathon and within a half mile of the county line, a long-needed improvement, finally will be completed after right-of-way acquisitions delayed the project last summer.
“That’s something we’ve needed for a number of years, it’s probably the structure in the most dire need of replacement in all of the county infrastructure,” Chambers said of the Divers Crossing culvert, which is about 10 feet wide and carries an unnamed tributary of the Tioughnioga under the roadway.
The replacement of the culvert should require Divers Crossing Road to be closed for five to six weeks, with work likely to begin in early August, he said. The cost is about $150,000.
The other foreseeable road closure will be on Highland Road in Lapeer, where the highway department will be replacing a bridge, Chambers said.


Homer decides to raze house next to Town Hall

Property will be used for parking lot, one-way road

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The Town Board unanimously decided at a special meeting Monday night to knock down a house it owns to the north of the Town Hall and put in a parking lot and one-way road.
The board had been mulling over what to do for at least six months, getting input from the public and trying to figure out the best option. The work is part of a $500,000 to $600,000 project to renovate the Town Hall’s interior and exterior, including fixing up its front portico, renovating its courthouse and putting in a wheelchair-accessible elevator at the northeast corner of the building.
The board has not yet determined when it will have the house, which was unoccupied when it purchased from the county in September for back taxes, knocked down.
The board suggested it would like to wait until after the courtroom has been renovated. Renovations to the courtroom are expected to start before the end of the summer and take four to five months.
All the work to the Town Hall is expected to take two years, board member Kevin Williams has said.
Barry Warren, a board member, said he initially was against the house coming down, but now realizes the need for parking at the Town Hall.
The current lot to the east of the building has about 30 spots, while there are about eight spots to the south of the building. A parking lot to the north would add about 20 spots.
Town Supervisor Fred Forbes, who made the motion to knock down the house, said by increasing parking at the Town Hall the town is increasing the potential use of the building.
Before the board’s decision, Mary Alice Bellardini, a former mayor who lives at 30 N. Main St., had reiterated her opinion that the house should not be knocked down. A parking lot would not be as aesthetically pleasing and could encourage neighbors to move out, she said.
Williams said he does not believe the parking lot would drive people away. He said he knows of numerous restaurants and businesses with parking lots that have houses on both sides of them.


State reps praise city grant efforts

Staff Reporter

Citing Cortland as an example of a community that has effectively used several state funding streams to revitalize areas such as the downtown business district, state officials from the new administration in Albany rubbed shoulders Monday with local officials at a reception at the Beard Building Gallery at 9 Main St. in Cortland.
Deborah VanAmerongen, the new Commissioner of the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, appointed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer in January, and Joseph Rabito, the director of the Office for Small Cities appointed by VanAmerongen in March, were visiting the regional director of the DHCR in Syracuse and stopped for a visit in Cortland.
“You guys are doing a lot of the stuff that we want to be doing across the state,” VanAmerongen said. “Cortland was particularly noted to us, because of the use that has been made of state funding for housing and community renewal, and they’ve been able to wed the resources of DHCR and the (Office for Small Cities Community Development Block Grant) money. It’s the kind of example that we want to foster, that kind of cooperation, in other communities.”
Deputy DHCR Commissioner Brian Lawlor said the renovations to Main Street buildings over the past two years are an example of leveraging state funding into a large-scale project.