June 2, 2007

Hijinks on the high seas of McGraw

Students race cardboard boats on pond during high school’s annual field days


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer     
The crew of the Black Pearl, from left, McGraw Junior High School science teacher Abram Johnson and students Pat Leach and Jesse Wildman, try to right their capsized vessel Friday during cardboard boat races at McGraw field days. Four boats, which students made during technology class, squared off in the races. The crew of the winning boat received the coveted cardboard and duct tape trophy. 

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — Cardboard, heavy plastic and duct tape were the main ingredients in the boats lying on the beach of Recreation Park’s pond Friday, signaling the start of the much awaited technology class race to discover the fastest cardboard boat.
One of the highlights of McGraw High School’s field days, the races started at 1 p.m. and after three heats, a winning team pulled its boat to shore. The four boats were made during technology class.
Technology teacher James Sanderson told the teams the rules. First, they must push themselves into the water, then paddle around a white buoy about 100 feet away and pull the boats all the way out of the water to win.
“My name’s Jesse and we’re going to win,” said Jesse Wildman, one of three crew members of The Black Pearl. “We figured out the buoyancy,” he said, adding, “We have a treasure map.”
Wildman also had a cardboard shield to fend off water balloons thrown by spectators and competitors, but the team left that behind because there was not enough room in the boat for it.
But alas, his prediction did not come true. Wildman said because he weighed less, he would get in first, in the shallow water. Last to try to get in was science teacher Abram Johnson who said he had “lost weight just for the race.”
He struggled to get into the boat, tearing out a cardboard flag the team had in the rear of the boat. The boat started sinking.
“Mr. Johnson is still not in the boat,” Josh Hempstead, a senior, announced over a microphone. He provided commentary throughout the race.
By this time the other team, the Cluckers, were near the white buoy they had to go around before heading back to shore. They too had some trouble. While the boat held up, their paddle design was not working out. Each team did get some lumber, enough to use for handles on the paddles, but the cardboard paddle part was tearing away from the handles.
“Mr. Johnson, help them out there,” business teacher Pam Coombs shouted from the bank of the pond as she watched the team flailing around. At that point he was more-or-less in the boat. Johnson flopped back out and started pushing the boat.
The Cluckers did take on a lot of water, mostly from other students throwing water balloons and buckets of water into the boat as it tried to navigate around the far end of the pond.
“The paddles were our biggest mistake,” said Brett VanAtta, a senior. Matt Towers, a teammate in 11th grade, agreed.
“I don’t think we’re going to make it,” Towers said of the boat competing again against the winner in the second round.
Then Team NJN and the Contenders squared off next and there was little competition. The boxy, square Contender did not look like it had a chance compared with the sleeker Team NJN, but the Contender pulled ahead.
“The Contender seems to be a pretty good boat,” announced Hempstead after its competition capsized when trying to go around the buoy.
The Contender easily won, evading most of the water balloons and buckets. Other team members were senior Matthew Clark and English teacher Roy Pratt.
“I think we should go out there and tow them in with our boat,” said Andrew Rulison, a senior and one of the Contender teammates. He said no one had thought the boat would work.
While Wildman was wringing out cardboard and Team NJN was pulling its boat out, the final race started between the Contenders and the Cluckers.
“We have two people on the Cluckers boat and one of them is a rudder,” said Hempstead, soon after announcing, “They (the Contenders) seem to be on just a joy ride now. The Cluckers are still having problems.”
But there was trouble brewing near the finish for the Contenders. A group of students tried to sink the winning boat as it approached the finish. Pratt jumped out and pulled the boat most of the way to shore and the other members helped push at the very end.
Sanderson presented the cardboard and duct tape trophy to the winning team.
“I honestly was surprised,” Sanderson said of the outcome. This was his first boat race. “The first group to go down in the water I thought would win,” he said, noting that the team’s outrigger design had a point on the bottom which should have made it faster and more stable, but the support on the other side gave way.
Clark said the team would keep the trophy in Pratt’s room.



Woman charged with murder of niece

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — A Dryden woman now faces murder and sex abuse charges, after being accused of holding her 2-year-old niece’s head under water in a bathtub in May. The girl died a day later as a result of her injuries, authorities said.
Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson announced the new charges Friday during a news conference at the State Police barracks in Dryden.
Wilkinson said her office on Thursday filed charges of second-degree murder and aggravated sexual abuse, felonies, against Marie Manos, 34, of 758 Ringwood Road, Apt. 2.
Preliminary medical results show Grace Elaine Manos died of “asphyxia, blunt force trauma, drowning and sexual abuse,” Wilkinson said.
Manos could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the murder charge.
Wilkinson said the investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected. She said full autopsy results won’t be available for a few more weeks.
Manos was originally charged with first-degree assault, a felony, when police found the child unconscious at Manos’ home on May 15.
Wilkinson would not discuss the details of the case but did say when Manos was arrested in May that Manos held the girl’s head underwater “in an effort to force her to stop struggling.”
Manos was a regular babysitter for the child, who is her brother’s daughter, police said. Wilkinson declined to say whether authorities believe the sexual abuse was ongoing.
“We are looking into that,” Wilkinson said of the possibility of ongoing abuse. “I’m not going to get into the details of the sexual abuse.”
Wilkinson said the case is out of the ordinary, particularly because the person accused is a woman.
“Statistically that’s a bit unusual,” Wilkinson said.


Moose Lodge suit against county in court

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — If the apparent skepticism of the presiding judge is any indication, the county may soon again be looking at purchasing property along south Main Street, this time by court order.
Supreme Court Judge Phillip R. Rumsey heard arguments in the Moose Lodge’s lawsuit against Cortland County on Friday at the County Courthouse.
Rumsey did not immediately make a decision in the case — his office was unsure when one would come — but he appeared unconvinced by County Attorney Ric Van Donsel’s argument that the Legislature had the right to overturn its original vote to purchase the Moose Lodge for $250,000.
Rumsey seemed concerned with the rights of the Moose Lodge as the other half of the purchase agreement, pointing out a number of times to Van Donsel that, in spite of a number of different arguments, “there still was a contract.”
Van Donsel argued that, despite a vote to purchase the Moose Lodge property on Dec. 21, the Legislature’s rules of order allowed it to reconsider the purchase at its Jan. 25 meeting.
The vote to reconsider led to a “re-vote” on the original resolution to purchase, and that subsequent re-vote failed.
The ability to reconsider is available to legislators to change “hasty actions,” allowing the Legislature to “protect the taxpayers,” Van Donsel said.
The motion to reconsider must come within a month after the original vote, Van Donsel said, and the Moose Lodge should have been aware of this option and not assumed that the contract was formally accepted until that time period had passed.
By this logic however, Rumsey pointed out, the Legislature’s rules trump the power of the contract.
One of those rules, its ability to “rescind” — another way the Legislature can revoke a vote that, unlike a “reconsideration,” carries no time restrictions — could put the other party in a perpetually uncertain position, he said.
“So your argument is that, right up until the date of closing, (the county) can rescind?” Rumsey asked.
Van Donsel suggested that hypothetically, once the sale reached a certain point, with a “significant effort” by the sellers to submit paperwork and move forward with closing, a rescission would no longer be a possibility.
Rumsey remained skeptical.
“The sellers have to question at what point have they made enough of a significant effort that they don’t have to worry about rescission,” Rumsey said.
The lawsuit asks that the court either order the county to go through with the purchase or simply pay the Moose Lodge the full price of $250,000.
To date, only one of the other five property owners involved in the total $894,000 south Main Street land deal have filed suit against the county.
The suit, from the owners of Robbins Tobacco, also claims that the county had broken a binding contract, and requests that a judge either order the county to purchase the property for the agreed-upon $300,000, or pay $120,000 in damages.


Planning Commission to look at moratorium

Staff Reporter

The city Planning Commission decided Tuesday that it would try to schedule a meeting for mid-June to discuss a proposed moratorium on the construction of multi-family housing in residential zones in the city.
The commission had been asked by the Common Council to discuss and decide what recommendation to offer to the council regarding a moratorium that would halt, for an initial 180-day period, approvals and permits for the development of any multi-unit properties, including new construction or the conversion of existing homes.
The moratorium is targeted at the R1, R2, R3 and R4 residential zones.
The city’s lawyer, Larry Knickerbocker, said whatever recommendation the Planning Commission offered would be non-binding for the Common Council, but a recommendation from the commission was necessary before the proposal could be forwarded to the county Planning Department for its input.
The moratorium proposal would then be given back to the Planning Commission, which would make a recommendation that the Common Council would be free to follow or disregard.
Commission Chair Nancy Hansen said she believes the moratorium is a good idea.
“I think it would perhaps give the city some time to study the issue a little bit more, hopefully,” Hansen said Friday afternoon. “Kind of having all the things come together at the same time, if you will, so we’re not looking at things one at a time. I don’t know how the commission will view it, it’s up to them — but I think it’s probably a good idea.”