June 20, 2007

Storm knocks down trees, power lines


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
New York State Department of Transportation worker Cory Smith pushes a broken limb from the road after using a chainsaw to cut it. The pine tree fell across Route 281 near the Cortland Country Club in Tuesday afternoon’s storm.

Staff Reporter

Almost immediately after a particularly loud thunderclap Tuesday afternoon, the tree in Yvonne Higgins’ front yard toppled onto her house at 20 Wadsworth St.
“It hit the top of the roof, the peak of the roof, and did some damage,” Higgins said this morning, thanking God that the home was mostly spared. “There was no leakage in the roof — we have a beautiful antique window on the side, and it wasn’t smashed, no windows were smashed, but there is real damage on the peak.”
The thunderstorm that took down tree limbs throughout the city between 2 and 4 p.m. Tuesday mostly rolled across the central and northern parts of Cortland County, said meteorologist Priscilla Bridensteine with the National Weather Service in Binghamton.
“It looks like down around Marathon, they didn’t get much of anything,” Bridensteine said this morning.
The National Weather Service didn’t have any confirmed data on wind speed or the amount of precipitation accompanying the storm.
“I would imagine that if they’re bringing trees down, they’re around 60 miles per hour, but nothing confirmed as to wind speeds,” she said.
Alberto Bianchetti, a spokesman for National Grid, said this morning that he was unable to provide the number of customers who lost power, but he said that about 21 customers in the Solon area who were still without power would have service restored by noon today.
“We’re basically mopping up from what we had overnight,” Bianchetti said. “The storm affected almost our entire service area, from the southwest corner all the way up to the Albany area.”
County fire control reported that limbs had fallen throughout the city, but no major incidents occurred.
City Assistant Fire Chief Charles Sherman said this morning that the city fire department responded to eight storm-related calls Tuesday.
In addition to the damage to the Higgins’ home, a tree fell on a house on Pearne Avenue, Sherman said.
A tree also fell across power lines on Otter Creek Place, and a tree branch brought down the primary power lines near 98 Maple Ave.
Sherman estimated that power was restored within a couple hours.
“The rest of them were tree branch here, tree branch there,” Sherman said this morning.
Meanwhile, Higgins said her home was still without power as of 9:30 this morning, and that the family had contacted the city about having the tree removed.
Because of some medical costs, the Higgins had allowed their homeowners insurance to slip, and she said they didn’t have the money to pay for the removal of the tree.
“My husband (Barry Higgins) believes the tree is the city’s. It’s not on our property — He knows where the property lines are,” Higgins said. “What’s going to come out of this, we do not know.”
Higgins said that the home has been in her family for more than 80 years, since her mother moved there in 1920 at the age of six.




City backs study of Route 281 detention pond

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The city has decided to partner with the county and examine installing a detention pond on Route 281 that would curb flooding in the city.
Common Council members unanimously approved funding half of a $20,000 engineering study on the matter, despite concerns the city could not afford to build the pond even if the study recommended it.
The County Legislature will likely approve paying for its half of the study at its June 28 meeting.
The plan had the backing of several residents at Tuesday’s council meeting and the support of 101 city residents who signed a petition that was presented to the council.
Alderwoman Sue Feiszli (D-6th Ward) and county Legislator Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward) — both members of a joint subcommittee on flooding — encouraged action, referencing unprecedented flooding in the city within the last three years.
At the recommendation of the flooding subcommittee, the Cortland County Legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee approved funding half of the joint study at the end of May but Tytler pulled the resolution for the full legislature until further discussion with the city could be had.
C&S Engineering has provided a quote of $20,000 for the study.
City Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano stressed that the study is meant to determine the size and cost of building a detention pond. The pond would reduce flooding downstream, and any solution is likely to cost a few million dollars, he said.
“There’s no question that a detention pond will help,” Damiano told the council, but he stressed that no financial help had as of yet been pledged by anyone other than the county and the city.
The state Department of Transportation has offered to include construction of the detention pond, which would be west of the Country Inn and Suites between Route 281 and Luker Road, in its construction bids for the Route 281 expansion. The detention pond would have to be ready for construction by November in order to be included.
The DOT already is planning to build a lined retention pond in that area.
Tytler said that in her conversations with the DOT, the agency indicated a willingness to use state contractors in constructing the detention pond, but any costs would ultimately be born by local municipalities.
Cortlandville had been asked to fund a third of the study because it surrounds the city and both creeks pass through it, but Town Supervisor Dick Tupper said the town was uninterested because it did not receive the full amount it had asked for when the county sales tax disbursements were negotiated last year.
Tytler encouraged Cortland County residents to contact town officials and to encourage Cortlandville’s participation in the study.
Mayor Tom Gallagher was concerned about spending the money for the study if the cost of the detention pond would be unaffordable.
He also questioned the actual amount of acreage available in the proposed location, the high price of land in a prime commercial location and whether the state would participate to any significant degree.


County working on list of DMV sites

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A special legislative committee Tuesday reviewed criteria for a new motor vehicle office, hoping to narrow a long list of potential sites by its next meeting.
The committee is looking at ways to address the county’s numerous space needs and has opted to first focus on the motor vehicles office, which is now in the County Courthouse basement.
Committee Chairman Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward) said that based on conversations with County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin and her staff a new office needs:
*at least 2 acres of space able to accommodate a 4,000-square-foot, single-story building;
*access to public water, sewer, and other utilities;
* location within the city or the town of Cortlandville;
* space for up to 50 parking spaces; and
* proximity to other county services and law enforcement agencies for security purposes.
Tytler asked county Maintenance Supervisor Brian Parker to look at the 11 possible sites he presented to the committee in executive session at its last meeting, and eliminate those that do not have adequate space or connection to public utilities.
Parker said he would give a shorter list to the committee before its July 3 meeting, and Tytler said she was hopeful a request for proposals from real estate agents would also yield results by then.
“Ideally I’d like to narrow it down to two or three good options so that we can then bring it to the Legislature, bring it to the public, and decide what the best possible location is,” she said.
Although the committee agreed on the primary criteria in looking for a site, some variables were still on the table, such as security.
One of the primary criticisms of the current DMV office is that residents have to pass through courthouse security and a metal detector for business as simple as dropping off old license plates.
Still, the added security at the courthouse is helpful at times, said Anthony Camilli, director of the motor vehicle office.
“There are certainly times when people get riled and of course it’s good to have security right there,” Camilli said.
The committee held off on deciding whether a drive-through window, which could handle certain types of DMV business, would be necessary at the new location.
Tytler asked Camilli to work with Larkin to develop an analysis of how much business a drive-through window would be able to handle, and whether it would be worth the cost.
Tytler also said she was awaiting an analysis from Larkin regarding where the DMV’s business comes from, and whether a site closer to Tompkins, Cayuga or Onondaga counties could draw the most outside business for Cortland County.
The committee agreed, however, the motor vehicle office should be in a high-traffic volume, high-visibility area.