County spared worst of damage


Photo by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Workers from the Cortland County Highway Department walk along Texas Valley Road in Freetown Wednesday where a small stream dug a trench across the Stramba Road intersection.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Though Cortland County was among the areas declared state disaster areas Wednesday afternoon by Gov. George Pataki, county officials are thankful the county did not see the worst of the predicted heavy rains.
Cincinnatus, Marathon and Freetown were among the parts of the county hit the worst, according to County Highway Superintendent Don Chambers. Most of the roads in those areas have been cleaned up, and Chambers said the county did not see any widespread damage.
The past three days have been busy for highway crew workers who have been working around the clock to repair roads to reopen them to traffic, he said.
“There was primarily shoulder washouts and debris plugging the ditches and culverts,” said Chambers, who had crews add gravel to the affected areas to decrease the flooding. “We have most of the county road system up and going.”
Roads still closed as of this morning include Kellogg Road in Cortlandville, Cheningo Road in Truxton and Crains Mills Road off Route 13 in Truxton, Chambers said.
With the county considered a disaster area, Brenda DeRusso, the county’s assistant emergency management coordinator, said the county will seek federal disaster assistance to help with repairs.
DeRusso will be seeking ballpark assessments from the county, from all municipalities and from area fire departments for damages to public infrastructure such as public roads, schools and buildings.
If a countywide threshold of $142,881.06 is reached, the county will be eligible to be reimbursed for 87.5 percent of that number — 75 percent coming from the federal government and 12.5 percent from the state, DeRusso said.
The county has 72 hours, or until 5 p.m. Friday to submit its application.
“All of the highway superintendents, with the exception of Lapeer, have been through this before, so they know what I need from them,” said DeRusso, who noted that she has given a primer to Lapeer Highway Superintendent George Courtney, who is in his first year on the job. “I think it’s safe to say that we will more than exceed that qualifier.”
Damage estimates have not been calculated, and probably won’t be until after the Tioughnioga River recedes, Chambers said. Chambers said there is no “significant” flood damage so far.
After damage estimates are determined, Chambers said the county will use the county highway maintenance budget to cover the cost of any repairs.
It could take up to a week and a half to make all necessary repairs to the flooded roads, he said.
This flood did not have as big of an overall affect on the county as the April 2005 flood.
“It’s nowhere near as bad as last year’s, but there are particular towns that had problems,” Chambers said. “There are areas where flooding was as significant as last year, but it wasn’t as widely covered.”
The main flood problems in the county were clearing water from roads and pumping water out of residents’ basements.
Cincinnatus Fire Chief Jeff Peck said the fire department had to pump out between 15 and 20 basements Wednesday due to flooding. Lower Cincinnatus Road was under water after the Otselic River flooded and submerged several backyards and basements.
The Tioughnioga River crested at nearly 11 feet Wednesday night, and the Otselic reached almost 10 feet Wednesday morning, according to Bob Hudgins, a hydro-meteorologist technician for the Binghamton National Weather Service. Flood stage at Marathon on the Tioughnioga is 8 feet and flood stage on the Otselic River at Cincinnatus is 9 feet.
“The flood water was 2 and a half inches of what we were supposed to get so it kind of saved the town,” Peck said. “The water receded enough so we were able to stay ahead of the problems.”
Peck said the fire department used most of its own equipment to repair flood damages, with the exception of one borrowed pump from the Willet Fire Department.
All Cincinnatus roads were reopened as of this morning, Peck said. No injuries or serious damages were reported.
“Everything seems to be pretty much dry at the moment,” he said. “They’re talking thundershowers this afternoon but that is part of the course I guess.”
Isolated thunderstorms are predicted through the next several days, the Binghamton office of the National Weather Service reported this morning.
“It will just be shower-type activity, not widespread rainfall,” Hudgins said.
Staff reporter Corey Preston contributed to this article.



Owner rushes to move cars


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Vasilios Pathos sweeps water from the garage of First Choice Auto Sales on Route 26 in Cincinnatus Wednesday morning. Water from the Otselic River overflowed its banks, flooding the Cincinnatus area.

Staff Reporter

CINCINNATUS — Vasilios Pothos, owner of First Choice Auto Sales, purchased a trailer recently for the sole purpose of protecting his newly restored 1928 Ford Model A pickup truck from the elements.
Unfortunately he never figured the trailer would be sitting in two feet of water.
“It’s mint condition, just restored, so I’m worried of course,” Pothos said as his friend Gary Standish ventured out into the water on a tractor with his son Adam Standish to check on the condition of the antique truck. “There’s not much you can do now.”
Pothos and the Standishes spent four hours late Tuesday night moving about 30 cars from his shop at the corner of Routes 26 and 23 across the street to The Car Wash to escape the brunt of the flooding.
“I left at quarter to three and there was nothing, no water at all,” he said.
By 8 a.m. Wednesday, water from the flooded Otselic River had burst through a retention wall along the back of Pothos’ property and about a foot of water had seeped into his building.
“We had to pump it out, push it out, whatever,” said Pothos, who had cleared most of the water out by around 1 p.m. “I was sweeping with a broom just to get it out.”
While Pothos spent much of the morning working on the building, Standish was working on what he estimated was a 6-foot wide breach in the ridge, which separates Pothos’ property from the river.
“It was unbelievable it was coming so fast,” Gary Standish said.



Groton woman appears Friday on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’

Staff Reporter

GROTON — Monica Dykeman is anxious to talk about the results and collect the money from her stint on ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” but she has to wait until after the show airs at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I found the hardest part is not to tell anyone,” the Groton resident said.
It is especially hard to keep the secret from Groton Elementary School students, she said. She works at the school as a youth program manager for the Groton Youth Commission.
“The kids at school ask just about every day,” she said.
The call for the taping came last year while she was directing a summer day camp in the Head Start building across from Sykes Park in the village, a cooperative effort between the Groton Youth Commission and Cornell Cooperative Extension. After she was called, she said the high school gave her history books to study and she also studied the almanac and read newspapers daily.
Dykeman passed her test, which included a range of questions, but nothing she had specifically studied, to be on “Millionaire” on June 23, 2005. She was on a show taped in mid-October, after being delayed from a September taping because other tapings had been delayed because of hurricanes. She said at the time of taping, it was supposed to air in January. The show pays contestants 30 days after the show airs, she said.



C’ville OKs projects

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The town Planning Board approved plans Tuesday for a day care facility on Route 222, a park on Tompkins Street for use by the Youth Bureau and a construction supply store on Luker Road.
CAPCO-Head Start received a variance to allow it to open a day-care facility in the basement of the First United Methodist Church, Head Start Director Brian Rozewski said Wednesday.
“It’s exciting, because we have the walking trails that our families can take advantage of,” Rozewski said. “We have parent committee meetings once a month, so that will be a good place to hold them.”
The building’s basement has four small rooms, and Rozewski said once approval is received from the town Code and Zoning Office two of the walls will be knocked down and the space split two rooms.
A preschool class of 17 students will begin using the new facility next year, Rozewski said, and the following year a second class of the same size will be added.
Head Start’s home-based socialization program will also hold meetings at the church, Rozewski said. This program currently involves 48 families — workers go over lesson plans in the children’s homes, Rozewski said, and then the children meet every other week to socialize with one another.
The Cortland County Child Development Program also is looking to relocate some programs to the church, Rozewski said.
“In the future, we’re looking at putting a bunch of agencies under one roof,” he said. “The long-range plan is to collaborate with everybody to write grants to improve and expand existing facilities.”
Long-term plans might include the construction of a gym and perhaps another classroom, Rozewski said.
Rozewski hopes construction will begin by the second week in July.
The Cortland County Youth Bureau received a conditional permit Tuesday to hold programs and activities at a site near Uncle Louie’s Backyard restaurant on Tompkins Street. The property, which is owned by Joe Armideo of Homer, would host summer programs such as archery and arts and crafts.