County braces for flooding


Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
A Cortland County Highway Department grader clears debris from Taylor Valley Road this morning after overnight rain flooded culverts and ditches. More rain is on the way today, causing concerns about flooding from the Tioughnioga River and other waterways.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Heavy rains and flooding in the county Monday night were a preview of what could come today, with a prediction of back-to-back rainstorms, a weather official said.
“We are going to get hammered today, and we’re getting pretty concerned,” said David Nicosia, the warning coordinator meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Binghamton.
“Right now we’re in a flash flood watch for all of Central New York. We’re watching areas of heavy rainfall moving through eastern Pennsylvania, and it’s moving toward Cortland County and the Southern Tier.”
Up to 3 more inches of rain in the county is expected today, in addition to between 1 and 3 inches of rain that already fell, Nicosia said.
Solon, Freetown and Marathon areas accumulated between 2 and 3 inches, and the rest of the county saw about an inch, Nicosia said, citing radar reports.
County highway crews began clean-up calls as early as 9 p.m. Monday, according to Robert Buerkly, county deputy highway superintendent.
The biggest problem areas were in Taylor, Cuyler and Truxton, Buerkly said. Affected roads in those areas included Cheningo-Solon Pond, Taylor-Valley and Truxton-Tully roads.
No roads were closed, but the culverts and shoulders of several county roads in the affected areas were flooded, he said.
Culverts that run under the roads, ranging from 18 inches to 20 feet,   were backed up with debris and caused flooding, he said.
“We’ve been cleaning out the debris and trying the best we can to keep them clean,” Buerkly said. “There’s just too much water and that’s the biggest problem.”
Where Stramba Road intersects with East Freetown Texas Valley Road in Freetown, floodwaters had washed out a 3-foot gouge across much of the width of Stramba Road, as well as a 20-yard stretch on the shoulder of East Freetown Texas Valley Road. Stones and gravel were washed across the road.
Rita Johnson lives on East Freetown Texas Valley Road, and said the intersection often floods from heavy rains.
“It’s because they never fix the drainage on this road — it happens every year,” Johnson said. “It usually floods in the spring; this is the first time it’s been like this in the summer.”
With the possibility of severe storms coming through, Buerkly said keeping the culverts clean is “a never-ending process.”
The highway department had no official damage assessment from Monday night’s storm, but Buerkly said he had no reports of damaged homes or cars.
Six county highway crews were out this morning, and Buerkly said all crews would stay on standby all day to take care of additional problems brought on by more rain.
Any affected areas should be fully cleaned up by the end of the week, he said.
The biggest concern with the predicted rainfall is the Tioughnioga River, which is expected to exceed its 8-foot flood stage, by more than 3 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The river was about 6 feet this morning, and is predicted to reach as high as 11.3 feet between tonight and early Wednesday morning.
The river is at a moderate flood stage when it reaches 10 feet.
Route 11 in Marathon runs parallel with the river, and homes along the road should be prepared for _the possibility of flood damage, Nicosia said. Evacuation of these areas has not been ruled out, _he said.
“Marathon residents have to be watching the river very carefully and if there’s anything they can move to higher ground — do it,” Buerkly said. “There’s more rain coming, and it’s coming fast.”
Staff reporter Evan Geibel contributed to this report.


I-81 closure postponed to Thursday

Plans to close the southbound lanes of Interstate 81 between Exits 10 and 9 have been postponed to Thursday because of rain.
The work originally was scheduled for Wednesday.
“If the weather continues to be nasty, we’ll have to reschedule it again,” state Department of Transportation spokesman Anthony Ilaqua said this morning. “We want to give people as much notice as we can.”
The closure is planned for 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. while work is done as part of a project to replace the Hoxie Gorge bridge in Cortlandville, according to the state.
Traffic will be detoured off I-81 at Exit 10 in Polkville onto Route 11, according to the DOT. Vehicles will be allowed to re-enter the interstate at Exit 9 in Marathon.
The closure is necessary to allow workers to pour concrete for the deck of the new bridge. This portion of the project began when the bridge was closed Thursday.
The work is being done under a $14.6 million contract with Vector Construction Corp. of Cicero. The project began in August and will be completed by December 2007.
For more information on this closure and other real time driving conditions in New York state, check




Candlelight prayer vigil marks Day Against Torture

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Rain forced the ceremony inside Monday night, but thunder only added gravity to a candlelight prayer vigil in support of a Day Against Torture.
“I think that’s for emphasis,” the Rev. Dr. Janet Adair Hansen said of thunder that rattled the stained glass windows of the Unitarian-Universalist Church as she reeled off instances of torture from all over the world.
Around 40 Cortland residents attended Monday’s ceremony, which featured testimony about torture, music and prayers from members of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.
“There’s no ideology that makes torture all right,” said Hansen, who is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Cortland and a member of the Social Justice Cluster of Cortland Area Faith Communities, the group that organized the vigil. “It’s important for people of all faiths to stand united together.”
The vigil, which coincided with the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, was a chance for residents to increase awareness in the community of torture and to remind them of an issue that can be easy to overlook.
“Torture is easy to put out of your mind unless you have an event like this,” said Ruth Grunberg, who attended the vigil.
Spiritual, physical and emotional torture is going on all over the world, said Jacki Brazina, who attended the vigil with her husband, Steve.
In 2004, the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture in Britain treated 2,588 victims from nearly 100 countries, Hansen said.
The foundation provides emotional, psychological and physical care needed by victims of torture.




Dryden to cut cafeteria expenses

The district is trying to close a $152,000 deficit that built up over 10 years

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The Board of Education decided Monday to cut cafeteria staff during serving hours to reduce the deficit in the cafeteria fund.
The fund has a $152,000 deficit that has built up over 10 years, said Business Manager Teresa Carnrike.
The plan adopted Monday would reduce the hours of three food service workers who had been helping serve food, said Dave Bartholomew, food service manager. The staff time would not be needed because there would be fewer choices of meals at the high school and middle school.
Other options to reduce cost or increase revenue were also discussed, including reducing serving time of three staff at the three elementary schools and reducing the number of serving lines to one, increasing the cost of breakfast by 25 cents from the current $1, and charging the lunch program with only the individual portion of insurance for cafeteria employees. If an employee were on the family plan, the family portion would be charged to the district’s general fund budget.
All insurance comes out of the school lunch fund for employees, their spouses and children.
Raising the cost of breakfast would add an additional $7,700 in revenue if participation stayed constant, Carnrike said, and charging only the individual portion of insurance would reduce the lunch fund deficit by $55,000 and reducing staff further in the elementary schools would save $20,000 more.


William George Agency dedicates a residence

FREEVILLE — At a ceremony Friday, the William George Agency for Children’s Services dedicated a residence cottage to board member and school board President Robert Newman.
“This was dedicated to him as a thank you from the board of directors,” said Jeff Dailey, director of human resources at the agency. “He has been very passionate about his giving to the agency, and making sure that the children here have every advantage that children at public schools have.”
The Newman Residence is a 10-bed residence cottage, which Dailey describes as a “beautiful home.”
“Given the type of children who are there, it sets itself up very well for meeting their needs, as it relates as a living environment, and also as far as supervising them and keeping them safe,” Dailey said.
The agency is a private, nonprofit residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescents.
The building was completed in 2002 and has been housing students since shortly after its completion, Dailey said.
In addition to the residence cottage, other buildings on the campus named after Newman include the Newman Foundation, which houses the automotive and heavy-equipment shops, and the Newman Equine Center.
Daily described Newman as “a gentleman who has a passion for helping at-risk youth, and has worked tirelessly for them.”
Dailey said the William George Agency, formerly known as the George Junior Republic, will be dedicating two more residence cottages in the near future.


Bill lets hospital program expand

Staff Reporter
The state Legislature approved a bill Thursday that would allow Cortland Regional Medical Center to expand its adult day care program by 16 slots.
Up until now, the hospital’s Adult Day Health Care Program could only take up to 24 patients at a time. If Gov. George Pataki approves the bill, the facility could accommodate up to 40 occupants at one time, said Tom Quinn, marketing director for CRMC.
“It’s important because the program is significant to seniors,” said Duncan Davie, spokesman for state Sen. James Seward (R-Milford), who sponsored the bill along with Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca). “Many people who stay in their own home like to come to the facility for the day care program.”
The program is designed for adults who live at a private residence, and come to the hospital during the day from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, to participate in various activities in addition to receiving medical treatment, Quinn said.
“It’s a combination of nursing care and social care,” Quinn said. “It’s designed for people that live at home, usually with a caregiver, and this is an opportunity for them to utilize a program during the daytime.”
Program participants can do physical therapy or receive other medical treatments, and also take part in recreational activities including picnics, crafts and bingo, Quinn said.
“We do have a waiting list and we knew other people were interested,” Quinn said.