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Downtown manager eager to tap potential

By COREY PRESTON
Staff Reporter

Lloyd Purdy doesn’t officially start work until June 1, yet already he’s accumulated a 2-inch stack of business cards of business owners and civic leaders from throughout the community.
“I call it my traveling Rolodex,” said Purdy, who will officially start his full-time position as downtown manager for the Cortland Downtown Partnership on Thursday.
Purdy will hopefully have an office by mid-June, complete with an actual Rolodex, on the first floor of the Beard Building at 9 Main St.
Purdy’s been on the job for more than a month, meeting with community members and getting an idea of what the city wants from its downtown manager.
“Everyone I’ve met is so supportive and so dedicated to making downtown a success, it’s really been inspiring to me,” Purdy said. “That’s been the best part of the job over this first month.”
Originally from central Florida, Purdy, 30, lived for five years in Austin, Texas, where he worked in marketing and event production for a nonprofit organization. Three years ago, he moved to Freeville to support his wife, Georgiana, who, with a doctorate in microbiology, had the opportunity to research tuberculosis at Cornell University.
Purdy has since received two master’s degrees, one in public administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, and the other in landscape architecture from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He also was recently elected to the village of Freeville Board of Trustees.
After finishing his master’s, Purdy considered jobs at municipal consulting firms in Beacon, Dutchess County, and in Bethesda, Md., but ultimately he decided on the downtown manager position.
“I was intrigued to work with the Downtown Partnership because it was a much more holistic, much faster paced opportunity,” Purdy said. “And it was also more rewarding on a personal level.”
Downtown Cortland has a great deal of potential, Purdy said, with a number of unique businesses and active civic institutions that he believes can add up to a downtown that will attract people and improve the surrounding area.
“You can find merchants downtown that you can’t find anywhere else,” Purdy said. “One of the biggest challenges of this job will be finding a way to coordinate all the good things that are happening downtown and leveraging them into a healthy, active and vibrant downtown experience.”
Purdy has already begun to take on that challenge by immersing himself in the various events scheduled for downtown for the remainder of 2006.
For instance, Purdy is actively working with business owners and organizations such as the East End Community Center and the Youth Bureau to turn the annual sidewalk sale, scheduled for the last weekend in July, into more of a festival.
He is trying to develop a number of events and activities to complement the usual sales aspect of the event.
“As downtown manager, one of my jobs is to make connections between the businesses, the city and civic organizations to make these events a real community experience,” Purdy said. “I also have to take care of the nuts and bolts needed to make those things happen.”
Karina Murphy, who does the booking for the summer concert series that runs Thursday nights and Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons on Main Street, said Purdy’s help with “nuts and bolts” has been invaluable.
“There are always little hurdles you have to go through when you’re organizing things like this, and people in the business community don’t always have time,” said Murphy, who owns the Blue Frog Coffeehouse on Main Street. “Having someone whose job it is to take care of those things really helps, especially someone with a lot of energy like Lloyd.”
Purdy’s energy and enthusiasm have earned him a reputation in his first weeks on the job.
Mayor Tom Gallagher described Purdy as energetic and aggressive.
“He’s really got a good feel for the community considering how short a time he’s been here,” Gallagher said.
Mike Anderson, president of the Downtown Partnership, said that Purdy’s energy was one of the reasons he was hired.
“He’s got plenty of energy and he’s channeling that energy well right now,” Anderson said. “He’s also got a lot of good ideas for this community.”
Anderson said the downtown partnership was hopeful Purdy would ultimately become a resource for businesses interested in moving into the downtown area, someone able to match businesses with available properties.
According to Purdy, that process has already begun. He said he’s heard from a handful of businesses interested in moving into the city, and from local developers hoping to do work downtown.
“People know that being downtown is good for business,” Purdy said. “Hopefully I can match businesses with the open spaces and encourage the right mix of commercial, professional and residential development.”
The April 11 fire that destroyed the Squires Building was an early initiation into helping find spaces for businesses. Purdy and the Downtown Partnership helped relocate most of the displaced businesses.
Purdy has also been active in ensuring that First Night, the city’s New Year celebration, will go on despite the loss of the building, although the city is still trying to determine from where the New Year’s ball will fall.
The Squires Building fire, which served as Purdy’s unofficial starting point as downtown manager, was, in a way, an encouraging beginning to his new job, he said.
“The tremendous outpouring of emotion during that week is a testament to the community’s concern for its downtown,” Purdy said. “That’s a great foundation to build upon.”

 

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County delays decision on gas tax cap

By JEREMY BOYLAN
Staff Reporter

Cortland County has yet to decide if it will follow the state’s lead and cap local sales tax on a gallon of gasoline.
The county has until June 16 to decide.
“We need to be responsible to our towns and villages,” said Legislator Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward). “We need to show them the positives and the negatives of this plan and get their feedback.”
Legislators heard that feedback after a legislative session Thursday night at a meeting of the Cortland County Towns Villages and Schools Committee.
“We realize that it’s a gamble,” said Virgil Town Supervisor Jim Murphy Jr. “But the state has made that gamble, and if other counties are doing the same thing, then we need to at least take a look at it.”
The state recently agreed to levy a 4 percent tax only on the first two dollars of a gallon of gas. If gas is $2 per gallon, the tax is 8 cents. With gas prices now near $3 the tax would be 12 cents, but after the state cap takes effect June 1, the tax will remain at 8 cents, saving drivers 4 cents per gallon.
The county has the option of capping its share of the tax as well. The county tax rate is also 4 percent. The county would not tax gas  beyond $2 a gallon.

 

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Municipalities want bigger share of sales tax

By JEREMY BOYLAN
Staff Reporter

Negotiations over the distribution of Cortland County sales tax revenue began last night as officials from the city, towns and villages argued for a larger piece of the pie.
At a meeting of the Cortland County Towns Villages and Schools Committee, officials discussed the negotiation process for the current three-year contract, which expires Nov. 31. The committee comprises representatives from each organization. This was the committee’s first meeting of the year.
“We want to provide the most inclusive process that we can during these negotiations,” said County Administrator Scott Schrader.
The county now receives 65 percent of sales tax revenue. The city of Cortland gets 17.5 percent. The remainder is split among the towns and villages.
The towns and villages percentages are based on each municipality’s assessed value.

 

 

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