July 6, 2007

Campground owners raise stink over Suit-Kote

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Recently announced plans to expand two local asphalt plants owned by Suit-Kote Inc. drew criticism from the owners of the Yellow Lantern Kampground during a Town Board meeting Thursday night.
Campground owners Sandy and Vittorio Panzanella cited odor problems and health concerns as reasons why the town should not allow any expansion of the facility without the appropriate measures.
The Panzanellas sued the town and Suit-Kote in 2001 to halt the construction of chemical storage tanks at the Lorings Crossing site, which had been rezoned two years earlier. Although the case was lost locally, it was forwarded to the State Supreme Court, which found in favor of the plaintiff based on a matter of procedure.
The asphalt production company reapplied for the zoning and received it.
“I see we’re starting it all over again with Suit-Kote, and we have not yet solved all of the problems since the last expansion,” Sandy Panzanella said.
Town Attorney John Folmer asked Panzanella if the smell had ever been less noticeable since Suit-Kote installed odor mitigation systems in response to past concerns — she said no.
When Suit-Kote operations manager Dick Schutz appeared in front of the town Planning Board on June 26, he said the company was working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation in improving the odor capture systems in use at the two sites.
In addition to affecting the campgrounds business because the odor is so strong, Vittorio Panzanella said he was concerned about the effects of the fumes on the neighbors’ respiratory systems.
“I don’t understand why Suit-Kote gets everything they want,” Vittorio Panzanella said.
The board decided that Code Enforcement Officer Tom Williams would be available to investigate and possibly inspect Suit-Kote’s facility the next time the Panzanellas report the strong odor of petroleum, and Town Board member Ron Rocco said he would like to accompany Williams.
“We understand your concerns and will take it under consideration,” Town Supervisor Dick Tupper responded.
The configuration of some asphalt cement storage tanks at the Polkville site, approved by the Planning Board a few years ago, is being revised — a single 6-million-gallon tank would replace two smaller asphalt storage tanks.
Total storage capacity would be about 15 million gallons spread among about a half-dozen tanks.
At the Lorings Crossing site, additional emulsion storage tanks would be added to the facility.



Firefighter accused of sexual comments to sixth-grader

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — A Cortlandville fire captain is scheduled to appear Monday in Town Court on criminal charges after being accused of making sexual comments to a young girl who was on a school field trip to the fire station in May.
Capt. Robert E. Gallinger, 33, of 821 Lamont Circle, Cortlandville, was arrested June 13 on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and second-degree harassment, a violation. He is accused of making several sexually suggestive comments to a 12-year-old girl on May 8 during the field trip to the fire station on Route 13.
Capt. Glen Mauzy, of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, said this morning he was unsure why the arrest information was not released to news media. He said the incident was reported on May 26 to the Sheriff’s Department.
Mauzy would not comment on whether other children who were on the field trip reported seeing or hearing the incident the girl reported to police.
Gallinger told the girl that she “has an athletic body” and that she “looked good in her jeans,” according to paperwork filed with the Cortlandville Town Court.
Gallinger also rubbed the girl’s back, followed her around the fire department property off Route 13 during the field trip and told her he would call her later on her phone, the paperwork said.
The girl’s father told the Cortland Standard that during a conversation among several students on the field trip, Gallinger used the girl’s cell phone to call his own cell phone to get her number.
The girl was at the station with her sixth-grade Smith Elementary School class. Students were assisting the department in landscaping efforts around the fire station property.
Cortlandville Fire Chief Wayne Friedman could not immediately be reached for comment about whether internal action was taken as a result of the complaint.
Gallinger could not be reached for comment.
Cortland Superintendent of Schools Lawrence Spring said this morning he was aware of the alleged incidents but he was unaware Gallinger had been arrested.
Spring said the student reported the incidents to a teacher the day of the field trip and the school notified the parents the same day.



School audit faults Homer

Staff Reporter

HOMER — A state audit of the school district’s financial operations found procedural problems in the business office, but no material discrepancies, instances of fraud or misuse of district funds.
The audit by the state Comptroller’s Office examined a period from July 1, 2005, through Dec. 11, 2006.
It looked at whether the Board of Education had established adequate controls over certain financial activities.
The audit faulted the board in failing to have proper approval and auditing procedures for handwritten checks penned in the business office.
Payments for items such as insurance claims and driver education refunds were paid with little or no oversight and some claims could not be audited due to a lack of documentation, according to the audit.
Specifically, it discovered 67 claims totaling $4.4 million were disbursed with little or no oversight and 30 claims totaling $65,000 contained no evidence they were reviewed by the district’s claims auditor.
Homer Board of Education President Forrest Earl said in a response letter to the state that procedures have been implemented to eliminate the need for manually processed checks. Those claims are now processed with computer-generated checks, he said, which the audit also looked at and found no fault with.
The audit also found inconsistencies in the duties of the district’s treasurer, payroll clerk and accounts payable clerk, which can increase the chance of accounting errors. In addition, poor oversight existed of the treasurer’s electronic signature.
Earl said the district has made changes in response to the audit.
A separate staff member now opens payments sent through the mail and logs information about them prior to the treasurer processing the checks, he said, and the payroll clerk’s payroll must be certified by Mike Delair, the district’s director of business and finance.
“Most of the changes were implemented while the audit was being conducted as the state auditor noticed areas where we could improve,” Earl said Wednesday, noting most changes took place in January.
With the electronic signature, Earl said the district uses the Central New York Regional Information Center in Syracuse to authorize disbursements by attaching the signature to district checks.
Many school districts do what the Homer district does, he said, lacking staffing to print and stuff checks and relying on the Regional Information Center do it.
The state said the district needs to address the risk represented by the treasurer’s electronic signature residing at the Regional Information Center.
Earl said he is not ready to comment on how the district will address the electronic signature issue.