June 13, 2007

Legislator Kay Breed will not seek re-election


Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — One of the most outspoken Republican members of the Cortland County Legislature has decided not to seek re-election, and candidates from both parties are lining up to replace her.
Kay Breed, a representative of Cortlandville, said Tuesday that she would not seek re-election, citing frustration with “the lack of direction” by the Legislature during the last two-year term.
Meanwhile, Gene Waldbauer, a member of the Cortlandville Planning Board, has announced his intent to run for Breed’s seat as a Republican, while Mary Claire Pennello, a longtime educator and the mother of Matt Pennello, who lost to Breed by six votes in the 2005 election, is seeking the seat as a Democrat.
Breed, who served two, two-year terms as a legislator, said she was tired of “beating my head against the wall.”
“My biggest concern of all is that people who sit on the Legislature are just not asking questions,” Breed said. “Meanwhile every time I ask a question, people act like it’s unimportant … People say things like, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to block things,’ but I’m not, I’m trying to get answers before we decide.”
Breed was critical of the current leadership in the Legislature, and of County Administrator Scott Schrader.
“I think Mr. Schrader is trying to usurp some of the legislative powers — I ask for a follow up on figures and facts, and I never get it,” she said. “I think we just have very weak leadership right now, there doesn’t seem to be any direction on where we’re going.”
Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward), when told about Breed’s comments, said she felt the Legislature has made progress, especially financially.
“We’ve been able to keep taxes under control, we’ve gotten the finances under control, and we’ve improved our Constitutional Tax Limit, so I think this Legislature has certainly moved forward,” Brown said. “If Mrs. Breed has made suggestions that haven’t been accepted by the Legislature, that’s because one legislator doesn’t make all the decisions, and in those cases the other members didn’t agree with her.”
Waldbauer, who has been a member of the Cortlandville Planning Board for three years, said that he’s looking forward to talking with constituents in the area, learning about the issues.
“I’ve got to educate myself, learn what the people are most concerned about, so I can truly represent them,” Waldbauer said. “This is the first I’ve really talked about it with anybody, but I’m excited, I think I can do a lot.”
An account manager for commercial air conditioning company Trane, Waldbauer was born and raised in Cortland before moving for 10 years to the West Coast with his wife, Rhonda.
The Waldbauers and their two children moved back to the area five years ago, he said.
If elected, Waldbauer said he hoped to bring an open mind to the Legislature.
“I always have an open mind, an ability to look at both sides of an issue, and I think that’s important,” he said.
From the Democratic Party, Pennello jokingly called running “a family tradition,” after her son Matt’s narrow loss to Breed in 2005.
“I have three sons, and I want to be able to help develop the strongest possible county so that they have a future here and they don’t feel like they have to leave,” Pennello said.
A former teacher and administrator, Pennello said she wanted to focus on helping Cortlandville develop infrastructure for its ongoing economic development, and on making sure businesses that come to the town are responsible.
“There’s an awful lot of potential out here in Cortlandville that I believe has not been tapped, but we need to make sure the businesses that do come here fulfill their responsibility,” she said. “I don’t want it to become like a dumping ground.”
The Cortland County Democratic Committee will formally nominate candidates for positions Thursday night.
Yesterday was the first day potential candidates for all elected offices in the county could seek signatures on designating petitions, which are to be filed between July 16 and July 19.




C’ville asks Wal-Mart to revise facade plan

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The town Planning Board saw revised plans Tuesday for a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 13 and, although board members felt the new design was an improvement, asked Wal-Mart’s architect to submit another round of revised plans with a different color scheme.
The project engineer also reviewed revisions to improve the storm-water management system, which will necessitate further review at the county and state levels.
Since his last appearance before the Planning Board at the end of May, Wal-Mart architect Steve Thompson, of Rochester-based Bergmann Associates, said he had been trading different designs via e-mail with colleagues around the country.
“We talked about breaking up the elevation into some smaller villagescape-type elements,” Thompson told the board, adding that he was trying to get Wal-Mart to increase his budget for the facade to allow for more brick to be incorporated.
Decorative windows, a series of smaller facade elements reminiscent of separate storefronts, and alcoves and awnings broke up what the board members had previously considered to be a bland storefront.
Board member Chris Newell said he felt the new design was certainly an improvement, but board member Nick Renzi described the color scheme as “too garish,” and appropriate for “the entrance to an amusement park.”
Renzi asked that any new design be kept to a minimum of three colors instead of the various shades of pastels and the ubiquitous “Wal-Mart blue” behind the store’s main marquee.
In addition to recommending the replacement of the blue background with more brick, Wal-Mart engineer Steve Cleason, of Rochester-based APD Engineering, approached the board members’ table and sketched in some building material and additional color modifications that seemed to please board members.
Cleason said he would get back to work, and would try to send updated designs to the Planning Board members for their perusal as he proceeded.
The site plan was sent to the county Planning Department for its review at the end of May, but the recent revisions to the storm-water management system will also have to receive the approval of the county Planning Department, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and receive recommendations from the county Health Department and the town’s engineering firm, Clough Harbour & Associates.


Most local schools see better scores for math

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Most local schools are improving scores in the state math exam, especially when comparing scores as students go from grade to grade.
The State Education Department announced test results in grades three through eight Tuesday, noting statewide improvements across the grades.
In general statewide, 73 percent of students across grades three through eight achieved the math standards, compared to 66 percent last year. To achieve the state standards, students’ scores must fall within Level 3 or Level 4. Scoring ranges from Level 1 — shows serious academic problems — to Level 4 — exceeds the learning standards. Level 2 means students meet part of the learning standards.
These results were released much earlier than last year, the first year six grades were assessed rather than just fourth and eighth grade. Last year the results were announced in October. The tests are taken in March.
“We’re pleased with the gain we’ve seen this year from last year,” said Superintendent of Schools Steven Hubbard, adding there is “room for improvement.”
Marginal increases were seen from students going from third to fourth grade and from seventh to eighth grade, but some of the other grades saw large increases. The largest gain came from students going into sixth grade from fifth grade, a jump from 47 percent meeting standards in fifth grade to 77 percent meeting standards in sixth grade.
Some of the programs that help boost achievement at Cincinnatus include full-day pre-kindergarten, new math textbooks and review books that are aligned with the assessments, staff development through BOCES, modeling class quizzes and exams after the tests and incorporating test-taking skills and strategies in the classroom, Hubbard said.
Larry Spring, superintendent of schools at Cortland, said improvements in math are being made.
One big increase at the district occurred from fourth grade last year to fifth grade this year, a 10 percent increase from 78 to 88 percent. That also represented a 23 percent jump from last year’s fifth-graders to this year’s fifth-graders.
Spring said by keeping track of data internally from scoring the tests within the district, teachers could tell which children need help. He said in general, there is only a 1 or 2 percentage point difference between the state and local numbers.
“The overall passing rate doesn’t mean much on how we are going to respond,” Spring said.
Superintendent Bruce Sharpe credited staff and students for the high number of students scoring at levels 3 and 4.
“I’m aware that there are a couple areas we want to look at,” he said, noting the district would continue to work with staff and students to improve in those areas.
The district did see fewer students at Level 1, except in sixth grade where 26 percent of students were placed in Level 1 compared to 17 percent in 2006. Also, the percent of students achieving a passing score dropped from 61 percent when these students were in fifth grade to 43 percent as sixth-graders.
Sandy Sherwood, elementary principal, said consistent programs and reading strategies as well as keeping a careful watch over changing state has lead to consistency.
At Dryden, all elementary grades (grades three through five) met the standards with 81 percent or more this year. Last year, only fifth-graders in the elementary school achieved below 80 percent with 71 percent meeting the state standards.
At the middle school, eighth graders lagged behind in achievement with only 65 percent of them meeting standards. That was an improvement from last year’s eighth-graders at 61 percent, but it also represented a decline in achievement from last year’s seventh-graders who scored 75 percent.
Superintendent of Schools Brenda Myers said the district is working on a multi-year initiative, with a concentration on beefing up work on communications and problem solving. She said one of the new approaches will be offering a math curriculum camp this summer from grades pre-kindergarten through nine.
Groton increased achievement when comparing at the same grade level from 2006 to 2007 figures, but when comparing the same set of students moving from grade to grade, fourth, fifth and sixth grades showed declines, whereas the students going into seventh and eighth grade showed improvements. The class improving the most was sixth-graders going into seventh grade, from 31 percent passing in sixth grade to 76 as seventh-graders.
Generally Homer students improved this year as they moved from grade to grade. Only from third to fourth was there a dip of 1 percentage point, from 73 to 72 percent meeting standards.
This district improved in all grades when comparing by grade levels and by comparing students as they move from grade to grade. The biggest jump comparing the same student group was from third grade into fourth grade, a 28 percent jump.
The district made significant gains at the middle school level as students moved from grade to grade. The most extraordinary gain came at the eighth grade level, where nearly 41 percent of students scored at levels 3 and 4. As seventh-graders, only 12 percent of student had done so.
At the elementary level achievement declined as students moved from third to fourth and fourth to fifth grades.


County considers $9 million landfill expansion

Staff Reporter

A proposed $9.1 million expansion of the Cortland County landfill was backed Tuesday by the Highway Committee, but the project sparked discussion about whether the county should remain in the landfill business.
The committee voted in favor of moving forward with the construction of two new landfill cells, which would increase the county’s capacity to handle waste for the next 25 to 30 years, according to Highway Superintendent Don Chambers.
The landfill’s current capacity will be exhausted in two to three years, Chambers said.
The committee approved both a $340,000 contract with Barton and Loguidice, P.C., to provide engineering design for the expansion, and a resolution instructing the county treasurer to secure bonds for $9.15 million to pay for construction.
The two new cells would consist of a total of about 13.9-acres of space, which would increase the area of the landfill to about 60 acres of the total 540-acre property, located on Town Line Road in Solon.
The landfill takes in about 22,000 tons of garbage every year, at a rate of $60 per ton, County Administrator Scott Schrader said.
The two new cells would be able to accommodate a total 660,000 tons, Schrader said, bringing in, at the current rate, about $39.6 million over the expected 30-year life of the cells.
If the current annual operating budget of $925,000 is maintained, the revenue after expenses would equal approximately $12 million, Schrader said, which would come close to matching the original $9 million bond, plus interest.
“We may, at some point have to look at raising tipping fees, but that would depend on how our operational costs look, and on the interest rate for the bond,” Schrader said.
While committee members generally agreed that moving forward with the expansion was a good move, they did discuss whether the county should consider capping its landfill and allowing larger, private landfills to handle the county’s trash.
Legislator Dan Tagliente (D-7th Ward) said he had been asked many times by constituents why the county is in the landfill business.
“People have asked, why not just let the garbage go out of the county?” Tagliente said.
Schrader said that, first and foremost, the county is ultimately responsible for its garbage.
“If you get out of the landfill business, that does not absolve the county of the responsibility of dealing with its hazardous waste,” Schrader said.
If the haulers take their trash to a private landfill that winds up getting cited as a superfund site, the county would have to share in the responsibility for that pollution, Schrader said.
Similarly, if a hauler’s preferred destination fell through, and it suddenly needed a local place to bring trash, the county would be unable to start a new cell in time to satisfy the need.