June 26, 2007

C’ville seeks donations as park takes shape


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
Workers level an upper field Monday at Starr Road Community Park, which is under construction. The completed fields can be seen in the distance. The roughly $1.3 million park is expected to be completed this summer, and the town is still seeking about $400,000 in donations.

Staff Reporter

When people drive by the unfinished Starr Road Community Park, Town Board member Ted Testa said they slow down to check out the work that’s been done in the last five years.
Testa said he hopes they’ll be impressed enough to consider making a donation.
“In my opinion, this is going to be a showcase of Cortland County,” Testa said.
The third and final phase of construction should be finished over the summer, but town officials are still seeking donations to help finish the work.
Although the two Little League-sanctioned baseball fields will have to wait to see any action to ensure the grass takes root properly, as the league dictates, Testa said this fall soccer teams might break in the two multi-purpose fields that were built last year.
Vestal-based Procon Contracting has nearly finished its work at the 16-acre park, except for the soccer field on the second tier.
“We need to get out there and raise some more money, because the costs have skyrocketed here in the past five or six months,” Testa said Monday. “I’m a little concerned about the money now, for the final phase … People that had made a commitment, unfortunately, had to withdraw it.”
The cost of the park is nearly $1.3 million, with $900,000 in grants and community contributions raised so far, and town Supervisor Dick Tupper said  between $300,000 and $400,000 more is needed.
Tupper said a $50,000 state budget appropriation, arranged by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca), was being processed on Monday; state Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) will be in town and talking with Tupper and Testa about the park later this week.
“We’ve been raising money now for about four years, five years, and we’re into the final phases of it and some of our larger contributors — we’re still waiting on them,” Tupper said.
“We think there are some larger local businesses out there that we haven’t hit up. We’ve been kind of concentrating on the little contributions.”
Grading of the site began in 2005 and continued in the spring of 2006. Last year, two Little League Baseball fields and two multi-purpose fields were finished in the lower section, although Tupper said the grass has not taken root sufficiently in some spots.
“Ted and I went up and met with Procon and with Clough Harbour (& Associates, the town’s engineering firm), and it’s just been an awful spring to grow grass,” Tupper said. “From the road you can’t see it, but when you get on top of it, you can see some bare spots.”
Depending on the weather, Tupper said it would take another 30 days for Procon to finish the soccer field, and Testa said the roads and parking lot would be paved this summer.
After the roads, two pavilions and a bathroom building with a snackbar will be built with the help of in-kind contributions. Testa said lumber companies, electricians and carpenters have donated time and workers.
“Sometime in late July or August, we’re going to be able to provide eight or 10 more families in that area with water and sewer, too,” Testa said, as an added bonus from hooking up the park’s bathrooms.
The landscaping was eliminated from Procon’s contract to save money, and Tupper said the town would begin looking for the expensive tree donations soon.
Considering the regional nature of the donations, Testa said the park is going to belong to the larger community outside Cortlandville, as well.
The Cortland Youth Bureau is going to handle the scheduling of the fields, Testa said.
“I’m sure that arrangements will be made for some of the students to come down and play on the athletic field,” from nearby Cortland Junior-Senior High School, Testa said.
Town officials have repeatedly emphasized that this would be Cortlandville’s first professionally designed athletic park, and Tupper points out that the design has even taken a cue from the PGA Tour’s use of hills for spectators to sit upon.
“If you take a look at it, you’ll see that the upper field, there’s a beautiful sloping hill above it,” as well as above the lower fields, Tupper said. “When the fencing and the roads and the parking and the pavilions are put in, it really will be a spectacular park.”




State Police:

Missing man died of natural causes

Staff Reporter

ETNA — A McGraw man who was found dead in Etna in his delivery vehicle Sunday, nearly a week after he disappeared, died of natural causes after driving the van into a ravine near Fall Creek, State Police said this morning.
Robert Ralyea, 66, of 4865 Maybury Road, died of a heart attack after crashing off Route 366, according to an autopsy at Lourdes Hospitals in Binghamton conducted Monday.
Police believe Ralyea was traveling east toward Cortland when he had the heart attack and veered off the road.
Ralyea was reported missing June 18 after making a delivery to Bob Wrisley Auto in Newfield while working for Parts Plus in Cortlandville. It was the third of three scheduled deliveries. Wrisley was the last to see the McGraw man about 11:45 a.m. June 18, and he said Friday that Ralyea seemed fine.
After Ralyea did not return home, family, friends and police officials began an intensive search for the man, which included the use of a State Police helicopter, but were unable to local him until Sunday afternoon, when two members of the search party saw the vehicle about 60 feet off the road.
The van had rolled onto its roof, apparently after striking a tree, police said.
Police said Ralyea was able to free himself from the vehicle before dying near his van on a steep embankment near Fall Creek.
Family members have said that Ralyea had a history of heart trouble.


Developer trims apartment proposal

Staff Reporter

A local developer presented further scaled-down plans for a West Court Street apartment complex Monday that cut by nearly half the number of bedrooms originally proposed.
The Planning Commission reviewed the revised site plan Monday evening.
Developer John Del Vecchio signaled a willingness to work with the commission on further changes, asking for its guidance.
Commission members responded by pointing out problems of accuracy in the site plan.
“If I can have a list of things that the board would like, then I will do them,” Del Vecchio told the commission members and about 25 people in the Common Council Chambers in City Hall. “But I’m not going to go back and forth.”
In response, Commissioner Bill Kline said of the site plan: “There are a number of items that are not clear, not shown, and not acceptable.”
The project has drawn concern from neighbors who worry it would increase density in a predominately residential neighborhood.
The project now includes four apartments in the former house of industrialist George Brockway at 19 W. Court St., and a new, two-story, four-unit apartment building in the back that would replace a dilapidated garage. The latest proposal has a total of 24 total bedrooms.
In February, Del Vecchio had proposed a project with as many as 40 bedrooms, but cut it down to 30 bedrooms at the end of May.
Commission Chair Nancy Hansen said she was pleased with the smaller addition.
“I think it will reduce the density to some degree, and also to make it more appealing,” Hansen said after the meeting, and Commissioner Wesley Pettee agreed.
“Technically, he didn’t have to do that, and that was a good faith gesture on his part based on the community’s concerns and the Planning Commission’s concerns about the proposal,” Pettee said. “We are, I think, getting to the point where we’ve just got to complete the site plan, the details.”
The two-story proposed addition would closely resemble the existing building, which currently houses vacant office space and three apartment units.
In his fourth appearance before the commission during the site plan approval process, Del Vecchio said on Monday that he believes the reduction in size would eliminate a lot of questions and concerns about his proposal.
Del Vecchio presented the commission with requested materials, including detailed designs of two on-site retention ponds and retaining walls surrounding the parcel.
“Everything that our engineer (Timothy Buhl, of Locke) could think of that the board would want, we’ve submitted to the board,” Del Vecchio said.
However, the commission’s advising engineer, Chuck Feiszli, said the locations of trees on the site plan were not accurate, and that some trees would have to be removed to enable construction. Del Vecchio conceded that the plans appeared to be in error, but continued to contend that lines of trees on the southern and eastern border of the property, near the retention ponds and adjacent to the retaining wall, would be retained.
Del Vecchio said that Fire Chief Dennis Baron would visit the property after the foundation and grading were completed to direct any necessary tree removals, to allow for ladder access to the second floors of the buildings.
Kline said he would prefer if a portico on the west side of the property was not removed, pointing out that many properties around Cortland do not have that kind of access and that the canopy is historic and appealing.
Del Vecchio said it would allow better fire apparatus access to the back of the building. With tenants already occupying apartments in the building and the problems with access that the fire department has pointed out, Del Vecchio said he was looking out for his liability and the safety of the tenants.
“Are we concerned about an architectural element or safety?” Del Vecchio asked. “I’m concerned about safety.”
Pettee said he would like to see screening that would surround a trash container, as well as detailed lighting and landscaping plans. Hansen was concerned about the overflow of student-related refuse into the YWCA’s playground and parking lot on the south side of the property, and Del Vecchio said he would add a fence.
The commission also asked for more details about covered walkway between the buildings.