June 12, 2007

‘Helping out however I can’

Homer soldier in his 50s signs up for second Iraq tour


Photo provided by David Romprey
David Romprey, 51, rides in the .50-caliber machine gun turret of a Humvee in Mosul, Iraq, in July 2006. Romprey spent a year in Iraq as a part of the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion out of Mattydale, doing rebuilding and infrastructure work in the northern part of the country. On Monday he signed up to serve  another term in Iraq, beginning this fall, with the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion out of Warwick, R.I.

Staff Reporter

When David Romprey decided to rejoin the Army in 2005, he was nearing 50, and had been out of the military for 19 years.
Still, as he watched American forces become increasingly engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, Romprey felt he had something more to contribute.
“I was hearing every day how they needed people, so finally I went in and saw the recruiter and said, ‘How can I help?’” said Romprey, now 51, who lives on Brake Hill Road in Homer. “A lot of us older guys have been signing up and I think it’s because you’ve got to feel some responsibility for these young kids who are still relatively untrained and unsure of themselves.”
Romprey spent a year in Iraq as  part of the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion out of Mattydale, doing rebuilding and infrastructure work in the northern part of the country. He received a $15,000 enlistment bonus.
He returned to this area in March, but on Monday he committed to serving another term in Iraq, beginning this fall, with the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion out of Warwick, R.I.
“I miss the camaraderie and the routine of it … every day you’re up early and you’re working hard until it gets dark,” Romprey said. “I feel a strong sense of duty to my country of course, but just as much I feel a duty to my fellow soldiers … I want to be there with them, helping out however I can.”
Sgt. John DeLore, who served with Romprey in the 403rd, said Romprey stood out in Iraq for his concern for the “lower enlisted.”
“He always made sure all the men were getting taken care of, and they were doing what they were supposed to be,” DeLore said. “He’s a very caring and compassionate guy … with the local nationals, too. He was always worried they weren’t getting stomped on by their own government, trying to get them to stand up on their own.”
Romprey expressed misgivings about the war in Iraq and questioned the reasoning behind putting soldiers in harm’s way, but he also said that his battalion’s mission, which involved working with Iraqi nationals to rebuild infrastructure in the country, was a just one.
“I had a very good feeling about helping the Iraqi people, about keeping the lion (the Iraqi insurgents) away from their door,” he said. “The cultural differences (between America and Iraq) are huge, and the last thing I wanted to see was our culture influencing theirs, but we’re doing an awful lot of good over there.”
The Civil Affairs motto is “To win hearts and minds,” and Romprey said he and his unit made an effort to form productive working relationships with Iraqis interested in improving their country’s infrastructure.
Because he’s worked extensively in construction stateside, Romprey oversaw a number of construction projects including building shelters, hospitals, sewage systems and police stations while in Iraq, he said.
Unfortunately, one project that stood out in his mind was a large police station in Mosul — a city about 250 miles northwest of Baghdad — that was destroyed by a car bomb soon after it was constructed.
“One day it’s there, a half million dollar structure, then the next day it’s blown up,” Romprey said. “It gets discouraging at times, but you just have to get to work building it up again.”
The insurgency in Iraq was well-organized and ruthless, Romprey said.
Whenever his unit had to move from one area to another, it had to be extremely cautious of roadside bombs and, as the gunner positioned behind a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on the back of his unit’s vehicle, Romprey was responsible for monitoring all traffic behind the convoy for vehicles carrying explosives.
“You look for a truck that’s really weighed down, and you can’t let any vehicle get too close,” he said.
Romprey recalled one incident when an unknown vehicle came too close, when he had to first point his 9mm pistol at the driver, then throw a rock through its windshield to get the vehicle, which wasn’t carrying explosives, to back off.
“I’m proud of that one because I did it without firing, and without anyone getting hurt,” he said, noting that he had received commendations from the Army for his handling of that particular incident.
Although he received a number of medals and awards for his service and various actions, Romprey said he was proudest of the fact that everyone from his battalion, all of which returned to the United States this spring, made it out alive.
“We had some injuries, but that’s it, and that’s the most important thing,” he said.
When discussing his decision to go back to Iraq this fall, Romprey said he has had trouble adjusting to civilian life, and spoke about the continued need for experienced soldiers, noting that the divorce rate is high for young soldiers who are being deployed numerous times for extended terms.
DeLore, who himself had a 10-year break in service before rejoining, said he and Romprey had discussed at length their reasoning, and that it boiled down to “an overwhelming sense of patriotism” and a desire to “help the young kids over there.”
“David’s a pretty straightforward character,” DeLore said of Romprey. “He’s very open and honest, and he wears his emotions and patriotism right on his sleeve.”




Dryden board cuts teacher’s job to part time

Business position among dozens cut to save money

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The Board of Education on Monday cut a business teacher to part time, along with three additional instructional positions and 28 co-curricular and coaching positions.
The move came despite a plea from another business teacher not to cut the position because the teacher holding the job will not stay if it is made part time.
Restoration of positions will be considered again at the June 25 meeting, when decisions will be made on how to use about $79,000 in unallocated surplus funds. Besides the teacher positions, other things being considered are bus garage repair, putting money into the capital reserve account that has $106,000 in it, or putting money toward the school lunch fund, which as of the end of April was $204,947 in the red.
Business teacher Linda Bruno said she appreciates the board retaining the teacher as a part-time position, working six-tenths of a full-time teacher’s hours, but said the position would not pay enough to support the teacher’s family and she would have to pay $600 to receive medical insurance. The teacher, Nichole Gunn, just received tenure approval, effective for the next school year.
“She wants to stay here, but has no choice financially,” said Bruno, adding there have been seven business teacher openings within commuting distance and Gunn has interviewed for some of the jobs.
Bruno also said there are 55 students who want to take business classes but cannot do so because the classes are full.
Bruno also pointed out that Gunn had been the yearbook advisor and that co-curricular position was cut in the budget. Bruno said neither she nor the other remaining business teacher have the training for the yearbook, which was sold out this year, in part because it was printed in full color.
Dryden Faculty Association President Mary Ellen Bossack, also an elementary counselor, said the board should reconsider all the elementary club positions that had been cut with the budget because the only elementary positions funded now were the band and chorus.
She said the six club advisors had been left unfilled when the elementary schools were under construction, but it was with the idea the positions would be filled again once the buildings were renovated. She said the board should consider at least restoring four of the positions.
Board member Karin LaMotte said she did not realize the board had not funded the Junior Honor Society, at least on a local basis, without the ties to the national organization.
Board member Chris Gibbons suggested the business teacher cut from full time to part time be removed from the list of cuts, but board member Kathy Zahler said perhaps other teacher cuts, such as the home economics teacher, should also be reconsidered. The list also abolished the instructional positions of an elementary teacher and a teacher aide.
Board Clerk Linda Carr added that cutting the positions reflected what the board told voters it would do. Gibbons argued that the budget does not commit the board to spending as mapped out.
“Why not discuss this?” asked board member Jeff Bradley. He said positions have been added during the school year if the need arises.
Board member Margaret DeGaetano said other choices should also be considered such as co-curricular and home economics.

Abolished and Reduced Positions

* elementary teacher
* business education teacher reduced to part time
* home economics teacher reduced to part time
* teacher aide
* junior varsity cheerleading (football) coach
* cheerleading (football) assistant coach
* cross country track coach
* cheerleading (basketball) assistant coach
* varsity boys swim diving coach
* golf coach
* six elementary co-curricular advisors
* Dryden Elementary School musical director
* DES K-2 art show coordinator
* DES 3-5 art show coordinator
* Middle School newspaper co-curricular advisor
* MS photography co-curricular advisor
* MS National Junior Honor Society co-curricular advisor
* MS musical choreographer co-curricular advisor
* High School foreign language (French) co-curricular advisor
* gymnastics co-curricular advisor
* HS Illusions co-curricular advisor
* HS flute choir co-curricular advisor
* HS trombone choir co-curricular advisor
* HS Quiz Team co-curricular advisor
* HS Science Envirothon co-curricular advisor
* HS cross country skiing co-curricular advisor
* HS drama director co-curricular advisor
* HS drama assistant director co- curricular advisor
* Thespians co-curricular advisor
* HS yearbook co-curricular advisor
* MS/HS art show coordinator co- curricular advisor
* four MS/HS art show facilitators co-curricular advisors


Soybean plant sprouting spinoff companies

Staff Reporter

POLKVILLE — With the announcement several weeks ago that an oilseed crushing and biodiesel plant will be coming to town in the next year, several companies are interested in relocating to the area to do work associated with the facility.
One of those companies is a firm based at the University of New Hampshire that wants to move into the former Dad’s Dog Food building, at 45 N. Fulton St. in Homer, to do research on soybean meal.
Linda Hartsock, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp., said the company, which would employ three to six people, is requesting $3,500 in “Grow Cortland” money to move equipment to the Homer location. The money, a loan, would turn into a grant once the company achieves certain investment and employment thresholds.
The BDC is scheduled to vote on whether to award the money at either a special meeting next week or at its next regular board meeting July 9.
The University of New Hampshire firm could not be reached Monday.
The $15.3 million biodiesel facility planned by Morrisville State College is expected to be up and running within the next 14 months.
Another company, Ithaca-based e2e Materials, wants to start an operation on the site of the biodiesel facility, just west of CNY PowerSports on Route 11, as long as it can secure proper grants from the state.
Patrick Govang, company president, said e2e Materials would take the warm soybean meal, a byproduct from the biodiesel production, and prepare it into a soy protein. The company uses soy proteins and other natural fibers to make  skateboards and furniture.
Those materials contrast with the petroleum- and formaldehyde-based composites that many of the products have historically been made with, he said.
Govang said he is not sure how many jobs his company’s expansion would create. The company is also interested in doing research on the soy meal, he said, though that would take place at its Ithaca location, at 239 W. Cherry St.
Govang said currently the company gets its soy products from large agricultural companies in the Midwest.

Board waits on zoning change for Homer condo proposal

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The village Planning Board meeting lasted just a few minutes Monday night, with the board asking the developer of  24 condominiums proposed off Creal Road for more paperwork.
Developer Elaine Olson, who wants to have the project zoned Planning Development District-Residential from its current R-1 residential designation, was missing a letter from the county Soil and Water District.
The letter signed off on the project’s storm water plan, dimensions on one of the buildings and the sequence in which landscaping areas would be created.
If Olson provides the Planning Board with the paperwork by the board’s next meeting on July 9, the board will be able to send the project to the Village Board, with or without a recommendation on whether the zoning change should take place.
At that point the Village Board will send the project to the county Planning Board, which will review the project and make recommendations.
Then the Village Board will hold a public hearing, before voting a second and final time on the zoning change.
A handful of neighbors opposing the project attended Monday night’s meeting, though they were not allowed to share their thoughts as the meeting was not a public hearing.
Bill and Mary Ann Ramiza, of 24 Burgett Drive, live just east of the project’s proposed location one-third of a mile south of the corner of Creal Road and Route 281. After the meeting they said the project does not fit in with the single-home character of the neighborhood, as each unit would contain two homes.
They moved to Homer two years ago to get away from condos encroaching on their single-family home neighborhood in New Jersey, they said, only to be faced with a similar prospect in Homer.
The couple said they are skeptical that the bigger units will sell for $300,000, as Olson is expecting.
“If I were to pay $300,000 I would want my own home,” Mary Ann Ramiza said.
Dusty Stillman, of 21 Bedford St., said he is glad that Olson has modified her plans to limit an access road from the development to Bedford Street to emergency use, though he and about 50 neighbors he has spoken with still have numerous concerns about the project.