July 5, 2007

Cuyler rallies town pride

Group sees July 4th celebration as chance to renew community


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer  
Janet Furlough, of Cuyler, stands with her son Max, 8, as the DeRuyter High School Band plays in the parade Wednesday during Cuyler’s Fourth of July festivities. The group Citizens of Cuyler organized the celebration after recent town controversy.

Staff Reporter

CUYLER — “A bunch of hillbillies” and “Cuyler trash” are two terms Corey Seamans and Mike Allen often hear about their town from people living in surrounding communities.
While those descriptions are far from accurate, they can’t entirely blame people, they said. People don’t have that much to judge Cuyler on. “It’s a dead town,” said Allen, 19.
That changed on Wednesday at the town’s Fourth of July celebration.
Allen and Seamans, 17, as well as dozens of other Cuyler residents attending the celebration in the town park, said it was the first time a large group of people gathered at the park in years.
Event attendees said they hoped the event prompts future community events that bring residents together and change the town’s image.
On Wednesday, Leon Hurlbert, 76, sat beneath an awning, protected from the rain, with his wife, Judi, 62, as a bluegrass band played before them and they waited for the next group to play, which included Leon Hurlbert’s brother, Kent, 66.
Hurlbert, whose great-grandfather first moved to Cuyler in the early 1800s, said it was so nice to see people gathered for a community event.
He remembered when decades ago everyone farmed and gathered at harvest time to exchange their products. Now people have to make that extra effort to get to know one another.
“They don’t have as much in common as they used to,” he said.
Jennie Robbins, 60, said another reason the town has had fewer events in the recent past is because the people who used to organize them have gotten older or have died. She said she is grateful to the Citizens of Cuyler, the group that organized Wednesday’s event, for having taken on the responsibility.
“Now it’s time for the younger generation to step up to the plate,” Robbins said, as her 12-year-old son, Alan, took in the bluegrass sounds beside her.
Over the last few weeks the Citizens of Cuyler, which consists of about 20 concerned community residents, cleaned up the town’s park. Kelly Jo Angell, 24, who helped with the effort, said a clean park makes all the difference in the world.
“The weeds were all as tall I was,” she said. “Who wants to bring your kids to that? You don’t know if glass is in there. It looks more welcoming now.”
On Wednesday, a handful of children played on the park’s playground under the rain, as about 40 adults and youths huddled under tents and enjoyed the music, chicken, hot dogs, homemade cookies and company. Earlier that day the town’s annual Fourth of July parade had taken place.
The town has had Fourth of July celebrations in the past, including a parade and chicken barbecue, but this year’s music was new.
Mike Allen, a member of Citizens of Cuyler, said he thinks the bigger celebration, which is expected to take place annually, will help bring back town pride after recent setbacks, including arguments at Town Board meetings and a town judge who was removed last week by the state for judicial misconduct.
The event, as well as other events planned for the future, including a harvest festival, will show others that Cuyler is just more than controversy, he said.
“They judged us without reading the book,” he said about surrounding municipalities.
People from out of town who attended Wednesday’s event — including visitors from New Woodstock, Oran, a hamlet in the town of Pompey, and DeRuyter — saw a brighter side of the town.
As Jacqueline Kelley, 81, of Oran, listened to bluegrass with her husband, Roscoe, 83, and sister, Joan Gronau, 78, also of Oran, they admired the rolling hills around them.
Unlike where they live, development has not encroached upon the farmland, they said.
“That hill over there would be full of these big homes,” Gronau said.



Fire station study to cost at least $20,000

Staff Reporter

City officials meeting with architects have learned that any study to examine the possibilities of expanding the nearly 100-year-old Court Street fire station or building a new one would cost at least $20,000.
The city has looked at comparable, newly built fire stations and found the cost has been somewhere around $3 million to $5 million. Recently, city Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano said, he and Mayor Tom Gallagher and Fire Chief Dennis Baron have identified and begun speaking with a handful of architectural firms with experience designing fire stations.
But, Damiano pointed out at Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting, the city does not have the funds budgeted to pay an architect — a $10,000 contingency fund already is being drained to pay for an Otter Creek feasibility study in conjunction with the county.
However, the bond payments for the recent south Main Street reconstruction project soon will be paid off.
“That project came in under budget, so there might be surplus funds,” Damiano said, adding that he would have to verify the availability first.
He should know if there is money available for the study by the Common Council’s July 17 meeting. The council would then draw up a request for proposals once the city has contacted a couple more architectural firms, Damiano said.
The fire station and especially the vehicle bays have long been undersized — requiring smaller, custom built trucks that still bang against the tops and sides of the bay doors — and the station doesn’t have adequate training and bunking space, among other deficiencies.
The tiny Franklin Street secondary station also is insufficient, and the city-owned former National Guard Armory on Wheeler Avenue, currently the base of the volunteer firefighters’ operations, is not an ideal location for a main fire station.
The former Ames Linen building on Court Street has been identified as a potential location for the expansion of the main fire station, as has another nearby site that the city has not disclosed.
Damiano said an architect would have to compile the specifications for the fire department’s needs, and the decision of whether to expand or build a new station would then have to be made.


GOP caucus backs keeping Howe as election official

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — After his appointment failed to pass the full Legislature last week, Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe was reappointed to the position Monday by the Legislature’s Republican caucus.
With members of the County Republican Committee on hand pushing for the reappointment, the Republican members of the Legislature voted 5-3 in favor of reappointing Howe.
According to state Board of Elections spokesman Lee Daglian, Election Law states that if the county Legislature does not appoint the commissioner recommended by the party committee, the right to appoint then falls to the respective party caucus.
Had the Republican caucus not voted to appoint Monday, the Republican Committee would have had to recommend another candidate, Daglian said.
The deciding vote at the caucus came from Legislator Merwin Armstrong (R-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton), who had voted against the reappointment during last week’s Legislature session, citing a concern with the fact that Howe, and his Democratic counterpart Bill Wood, hold both the position of election commissioner and chairman of their respective party committees.
“I changed my vote because I wanted to keep party unity, and I think Bob Howe is a good election commissioner,” Armstrong said. “My objection is that I don’t think the election commissioner should also be the party chairman, and I think I made that point last week, but I also think its time to move on.”
Armstrong was joined by Legislators Tom Williams (R-Homer), John Steger (R-Preble and Scott), Mike McKee (R-Cincinnatus, Freetown, Taylor and Willet) and Larry Cornell (R-Marathon and Lapeer), in voting to reappoint Howe, according to Minority Chairman Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville).
Ross, Kay Breed (R-Cortlandville) and Newell Willcox (R-Homer) voted ‘no.’
Both Ross and Breed said approximately 10 members of the Republican Committee lobbied strongly for Howe’s reappointment at the caucus meeting.
“They all tried to tell us why we shouldn’t do this to poor Bob, that at election time it wouldn’t look good for party and on and on and on,” Breed said. “I’m sorry but as far as I’m concerned it’s still wrong and I’m going to stand up and say that.”
Breed, during the Legislature meeting, listed three reasons for not supporting Howe’s reappointment, the first being that, as party chairmen, both Wood and Howe control campaign funding for legislators who are being asked to vote for them to become election commissioners, creating a conflict of interest.
Secondly, she said at the time, the two commissioners recently sued the county over differences in their salaries, and thirdly, there is an unavoidable “fundamental perception” in the community that holding both positions could cause a conflict of interest.
“I think Bob’s done a great job, don’t get me wrong,” Ross said. “But the problem is that even the possibility that something could happen, when you’re talking about the election commissioners, you just can’t have that, so I just don’t think it’s right to hold both those positions.”