June 28, 2007

Summer thunderstorms cause power outages, 281 car crash


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortlandville firefighters work to clear a fallen tree that a passing car crashed into on Route 281, just south of Royal Motors in the Cortland Waterworks during an afternoon storm Wednesday. Homer fire fighters along with a backhoe from the Cortlandville Highway Department aided in the removal of the tree. Four people were rescued from the car.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Three city residents suffered minor injuries Wednesday after crashing into a downed tree during a thunderstorm on Route 281 in Cortlandville.
State Police said this morning that Charles Fisk, 52, whose address was listed as PO Box 343, Cortland, was traveling south at around 3:45 p.m. when he crashed into a tree that had fallen across the road from the west shoulder. Police said Fisk drove into and under the tree due to poor visibility during the storm.
Fisk was uninjured in the crash while his three passengers suffered minor injuries and were transported to Cortland Regional Medical Center for examination. His car was destroyed, police said.
Tracy Storie, of Virgil, said she came upon the accident while traveling south on Route 281 but did not see what happened. She said she immediately called 911 on her cell phone.
“I got out and talked to them,” she said, while standing outside her van in the rain. “I told them help was on the way.”
Police said Fisk was traveling with his girlfriend, Norma Shortsleeve, 40, of 19 Union St. Police said Fisk’s brother Thomas Fisk, 42, and Thomas Fisk’s girlfriend, Catherine Barrett, 49, both of 1 E. Main St., Apt. 6, Cortland, were also in the car.
All three were treated and released from Cortland Regional Medical Center, a hospital official said this morning.
Charles Wiseman, of Gap Mills, W. Va., was in a tractor-trailer behind Storie just after the crash. He said he also got out in the downpour to see the passengers in the car were all right. Wiseman said he tried to open the passenger’s side door of the car but that he was only able to pry it open about 6 inches.
Meteorologist Mike Evans, of the National Weather Service in Binghamton, said this morning that severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for Cortland County from 2:23 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Evans said the hot and humid temperatures in the area, which reached into the 90s, caused the storm.
“A few rounds of storms went through the area yesterday,” he said this morning.
Those storms also caused power outages in Harford and in Cortland and Preble, Evans said.
According the National Grid Web site, power had been restored to houses in Cortland County by early this morning, except for one in Preble. Officials from National Grid could not be reached this morning about other outages reported during the storm.
Cortland city fire officials said firefighters responded to two calls for downed power lines during the storm — one on Water Street and one on Brown Avenue.
Officials said they responded to the Water Street call at around 4 p.m. where the storm knocked power, cable and phone service out to two houses for around two hours. A third house also lost cable and phone services for around the same amount of time.
Evans said some areas surrounding Cortland County, including Norwich and Binghamton, also had minor power outages and hail.
Evans said there is a possibility of scattered thunderstorms, especially south of the city, for the rest of today. He said the weekend should provide clear and cooler temperatures in the mid- and low 70s.



Marietta looks for qualified workers

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Marietta Corp. has launched a large-scale search to fill the more than 200 new jobs while it installs five new production lines in an _$8 million expansion project to handle four new long-term contracts.
James Gallagher, Marietta’s vice president of human resources, said at this point he could not identify the companies Marietta will serve through the new contracts, but that all the agreements are for at least five years.
Two of the contracts are with leading consumer packaged goods companies while the other two are with leading national hotel chains.
The regular-sized shampoos, conditioners, soaps, body washes and other personal care products Marietta produces are sold under popular brand names worldwide in such stores as Wal-Mart and Target.
In the short term the company is looking regionally to find 200 workers with at least two-year degrees to fill new job openings.
Gallagher said the company is looking beyond Cortland, in Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Ithaca, and all the places in between, to try to get the line technicians, but is concerned it won’t find enough.
Gallagher said ideally the company would like to hire 200 line technicians to man five high-speed, state-of-the-art, computer-controlled production lines the company is adding at its Central Avenue facility, though if it cannot find enough line technicians it will also hire line operators, and then give the line operators necessary training to handle the job.
Gallagher said he would like to hire all line technicians because they have at least two-year degrees and are better qualified to control and maintain the high-tech operating lines.
Marietta will pay line technicians between $17 and $25 an hour while it will pay line operators between $9 and $15 an hour.
Gallagher, like the Manufacturing Association of Central New York and economic development groups, acknowledge that the region lacks qualified manufacturing workers.
In the long term, the company is working with local educators and government officials to try to retain qualified workers in the area, he said.
He said in the coming months the company will make announcements about new programs it has with local educators to get trained workers.


South End housing project trumpeted

Mayor calls $8.2M in low-income housing boost to community morale

Staff Reporter

A groundbreaking on the city’s south side this morning signaled the official start of the $8.2 million Cortland Crown Homes low-income housing rehabilitation project.
City and county officials, representatives of project developer Syracuse-based Housing Visions, and project financiers used golden shovels to fling ceremonial dirt off a small pile deposited in front of 164 south Main St. for the _occasion.
Mayor Tom Gallagher described the project as a “much needed boost to the community’s morale,” and said that he hoped it would spur more investment in the neighborhood by residents and businesses.
“This program is critical to the city’s need to create affordable, quality housing,” Gallagher told the crowd of about 30 that had gathered in the muggy overcast outdoors.
As a result of the lead-based paint and asbestos mitigation that has been conducted on three buildings since the early spring, senior development manager Ben Lockwood said on Wednesday that an additional building is going to be torn down and rebuilt.
Now, five buildings are being demolished and three are being rebuilt, while another five are being rehabilitated, resulting in about 30 units that would be available to low-income tenants who fall below 60 percent of the state’s median income level.
In light of problems discovered during the asbestos and lead abatement, Lockwood said the apartment building at 1 Frederick Ave. is going to be demolished and rebuilt, and not simply rehabilitated.
“We had some environmental issues with it, and to fix the environmental issues, the cost to fix it versus building a new one was about even,” Lockwood said Wednesday, adding that lead and asbestos abatement has only begun at 162 and 164 Main St. and 1 Frederick Ave.
“The building will be better constructed. It’s not something we intended, but it is something that has to happen.”


Wal-Mart pharmacist could face murder charges

Druggist at C’ville store killed two Rochester men in head-on collision.

Staff Reporter

A man believed to be a Wal-Mart pharmacist in Cortlandville could be facing murder charges after driving the wrong way down a Rochester-area highway while high on cocaine, officials said Thursday.
He crashed head-on with another car, killing two men and injuring a teenage girl.
Herman H. Bank, 37, of 257 Ridge Road, Horseheads, who is a registered pharmacist, was charged with two counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, a felony, and one count of driving while ability-impaired by drugs, a misdemeanor.
Police said he drove the wrong way down Interstate 590 in the town of Brighton on May 27. Police said Bank hit and killed Henry Rivera Jr., 18, of Irondequoit, and Pedro Hernandez, 20, of Rochester.
Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Rodeman said Wednesday that the case is pending a grand jury indictment, which could bring murder charges. Rodeman said Bank was high on cocaine at the time of the crash and State Police officials said prescription medications were found in his car.
Police said Bank was traveling south in the northbound lane on the interstate in his Mercury Sable at around 1 a.m. on the day of the accident when he hit a Nissan Altima head-on driven by Rivera.
Police said Hernandez died at the scene while Rivera died later that day of his injuries.
Ashley Bleier, 16, also of Irondequoit, was in the car with the two men at the time of crash and suffered head injuries, police said.
Bank broke his legs in the crash and was hospitalized for several days, police said.
Rodeman said Wednesday that Bank tested positive for cocaine after the accident.
According to the state Department of Education Web site, Bank is a registered pharmacist and Rodeman said he believes Bank is employed at the Wal-Mart on Route 13 in Cortlandville.
Wal-Mart officials would neither confirm nor deny if Bank is a Wal-Mart employee, calling it a “personnel issue.”



Dryden school board OKs spending $200,000 budget surplus

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The Board of Education, after much discussion Monday, approved allocating $210,803 for a variety of items, from adding $75,000 to the capital reserve fund to paying $22,165 in bus garage repairs.
This still leaves an undesignated fund balance of $600,000, which traditionally carries over from year to year.
The other expenditures the board agreed to make were: $35,000 for fiscal and educational consulting, $35,000 for a new cafeteria cash register system, $15,000 for additional attorney fees, $15,000 for supplies and $13,638 for cabinets and possibly other furnishings.
Some board members wanted to put money into reducing the deficit in the cafeteria fund by paying for the health insurance portion representing family coverage, which would be about $59,000 for all employees in the district having family coverage. Thus, the only cost charged to the lunch fund would be the individual portion of each cafeteria worker’s health insurance. Board member Brian June did not have enough support for this proposal.
As of the end of May the deficit was $234,000, said Teresa Carnrike.
“We do need to tackle the lunch thing,” agreed board member Chris Gibbons.
Board member Brad Rauch said the deficit should remain as a reminder that it needs to be fixed. “I don’t see the crisis,” he said. Board member Karin LaMotte also did not like the idea of putting the money into the cafeteria.
Kathy Zahler, another board member, suggested the board hire a consultant to look into the issue. Board member Margaret DeGaetano agreed that would be a good idea.
LaMotte suggested increasing the amount proposed to go into the capital reserve account from $50,000 to $75,000. She said having a small project every year made sense and was good public relations. “It gives money back to the people. They have to vote to take it out. It’s a pretty cool deal.”