McGraw library marks centennial


Bob Ellis/Staff photographer
Savanna Hotaling, left, and Becky Smith wear period dresses as they take a break during Lamont Memorial Free Library’s 100th birthday celebration Saturday at Recreation Park in McGraw.

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — Savanna Hotaling of Solon and Becky Smith of McGraw, both 15, looked as if they had walked off of the street of McGraw circa 1906.
Hotaling and Smith, both volunteers at Lamont Memorial Free Library, had dressed in period clothes at a picnic Saturday afternoon at McGraw Recreation Park to celebrate the library’s 100th year.
The anachronistic touches — the oversized, inflatable bouncy balls they sat on and their flip-flops — gave away which century it really was, but the stilts leaning against the bleachers behind them could have leaned up against the Lamont Library when it first opened with about 1,000 books on July 23, 1906.
“We researched on the Internet about what kind of games people played 100 years ago,” Smith said as she rested, the girls having tried their luck on the stilts. They were a bit toasty, wearing full-length dresses and petticoats on a hot, flawless summer day.
“It’s hard, I tried to go on them (the stilts), but my legs kept going apart,” Hotaling said. The girls tried their luck again shortly afterward, and seemed to be making progress.
A game of softball was going on behind Hotaling and Smith, since the national pastime has not gone out of style. Brightly colored hula-hoops, while not entirely historically accurate, stood in for the metal hoops that children used to roll with a stick.
Kathy Rutan of McGraw had collected some sticks for the activity, and helped oversee the games.
“Don’t poke yourself in the eye,” Rutan told a group of children as she handed out the sticks.
Hotaling and Smith also said there would be sack races for the children to participate in and the game Cat’s Cradle, which involves lacing string around the fingers of both hands.
Julie Widger, director of the Lamont Memorial Free Library, had applied for and received a grant from the New York State Council of the Arts Decentralization Program to bring music to the picnic.
Ramona Petrella, children’s coordinator for the library, said that a friend of hers made the period costumes for Hotaling and Smith.
“I do have one, but I’m not in it yet. I might be later,” Petrella said, noting that the girls seemed to be suffering a bit in the heat.
Beth McRae, a teacher at McGraw Elementary School, put on an old, beat-up denim hat and read a story dating back to 1907. McRae said that she had found the book under an old staircase in her childhood home.
As people sat enjoying either their own picnic food or the chicken dinners, the band Bounty played country, oldies and classic rock.
After lead vocalist Jim VanDeusen admonished the crowd, some in attendance lost some of their shyness and started dancing to the music under the pavilion where the band was set up.
As she stood talking next to the serving line, Petrella explained how the barbecue dinners that were being sold to benefit the library had come together.
“The Lion’s Club barbecued the chicken for us, and donated their time. The McGraw Baptist Church donated the salads, and the McGraw Methodist Church donated the brownies, and the fire department has donated the drinks,” Petrella said. “Dave Law (president of CNY Power Sports) donated the tent for us to use.”
A cake-decorating contest and auction had been scheduled, but only one cake, made by Chris Buerkle, had been entered. The cake, which was certainly first-place material, was a miniature replica of the library.
Petrella said that the cake would be given to Francis Montgomery, the great-grandson of Daniel Lamont, who had been invited to the picnic.
Lamont grew up in the home that became the Lamont Memorial Free Library; he would later become the private secretary to President Grover Cleveland and Secretary of War in the Cleveland administration.
Montgomery said that after his great-grandfather left Washington, Lamont settled in the village of Millbrook in Dutchess County, which is near Montgomery’s home in Clinton Corners. Montgomery’s grandmother, Francis Cleveland Lamont, had been Daniel Lamont’s third daughter.
Montgomery toured the library with his wife, Ida, and Widger.
The library recently completed a $334,000, four-year renovation project. It now has more than 13,000 books and other material throughout the house and its additions.
“I loved it, I love what they’ve done with it,” Montgomery said. “I’m delighted that there seems to be a focus on children, which I think is terrific. I can’t think of a better use.”
Gilbert and Mary Ingraham of McGraw had enjoyed the chicken dinners, and said that they regularly use the library.
“They make an effort to really make us feel at home at the library. It feels like a … family,” Gilbert Ingraham said from a motorized wheelchair scooter. “Especially for the handicapped.”
“Julie (Widger) has really done a fantastic job on it,” Mary Ingraham said.
The Ingrahams sat and enjoyed the music, getting a big kick out of how much fun people who were dancing were having.



~ Saturday article ~

County to auction off 33 foreclosed properties

Staff Reporter

The county is hoping to recoup nearly $200,000 in back taxes from foreclosed properties that will be auctioned off later this month.
Thirty-three properties will be on the auction block at 6 p.m. July 19 at the County Office Building.
While the county is not expecting a windfall from the auction, it should at least cover the outstanding tax liability the properties have built up over the years, said County Administrator Scott Schrader.
“The loss we might have from some of the less desirable properties should be covered by gains from the nicer properties,” Schrader said.
The back taxes owed by the 33 properties, some of which date back as far as 2001, add up to about $183,000 through the end of 2005, according to County Treasurer Don Ferris.
Ferris was hopeful the auction would net between $400,000 and $500,000.
“There’s about a half dozen parcels that I think should bring between $50,000 and $100,000, so it should bring in a fair amount of revenue,” Ferris said. “But at an auction you never know what’s going to happen.”
Two of the more desirable and habitable properties are a three-bedroom, 1,684-square-foot, one-story ranch house at 1284 Fisher Ave. in Cortlandville, Ferris said, and another three-bedroom, 1,152-square-foot ranch at 1107 Halstead Road in Cortlandville.
The auction will include many houses in various conditions, along with some empty lots, and even some of the less-desirable properties have been attracting interest, Ferris said.
“There’s some stuff that, frankly, I wouldn’t think people would be interested in, but unbelievably they are,” he said.
Haroff Auction and Realty Inc., one of three firms interviewed by Ferris and Schrader, will handle the auction.
Haroff set itself apart from the rest because it has experience handling about 10 similar county auctions, Ferris said.
The auction will be held live, but bids will also be accepted via the Internet.
“They were all offering similar services, but Haroff was ahead of the game in terms of live Internet bidding and credit card bidding,” Ferris said.
At least two of the properties being auctioned are still occupied, Ferris said, and although the residents have been notified of the foreclosure, it is the responsibility of whoever buys the property to deal with evictions if necessary.




~ Saturday article ~

South Main Street projects rejuvenate neighborhood

Staff Reporter

The ongoing revitalization of south Main Street has bolstered the appearance of the neighborhood and the hopes of residents while attracting businesses to the long neglected stretch of Main Street.
Recently completed improvements include fresh asphalt and new antique-style streetlights, and there are plans for new trees and imitation brickwork along sidewalks.
Residents are hopeful that the project will have positive consequences.
Sarah Homer of 178 Main St. and her mother, Pam Horner, said they’re both looking forward to seeing the sidewalks completed and the trees put in.
“That’ll be nice, it will spruce up the neighborhood,” Homer said.
“It’ll make it look better, and hopefully there’ll be more progress,” Horner said. “If you can do that part, it will get other people to make their homes look better.”
Lucina Doughty has lived at 160 Main St. since October.
“I heard that they are going to put in low-income housing, which I think is a good idea,” Doughty said, referring to the proposal by Housing Visions Unlimited to purchase nine properties on south Main Street.
Housing Visions Unlimited has applied for tax-credits from the state, which by enticing private equity would fund up to 70 percent of the project, called Cortland Crown Homes.
Ken Craig, the executive director and president of Housing Visions Unlimited, said that they expect to hear back from Albany toward the end of July or in early August.
The south Main Street improvements are reinvigorating business along the street where residential and commercial properties are mixed.
“All these interesting projects are coming together, because everyone sees real progress in that neighborhood,” said Linda Hartsock, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp.
Hartsock cited the impending move of Cayuga Press to the former Impact Sports building on south Main Street as one of the projects inspired by the renovation, although it is not a formal part of the project.
Barney Schug, vice president of Cayuga Press, said that the company hopes to close on the property in Cortland on Monday, and that the size of the former Impact Sports facility is what drew them to the location.
“We’re hoping that we can help continue what Linda and the rest of the people at the IDA have done by helping to bring up the neighborhood, increase it’s appearance, increase its traffic and help get it up with the rest of Main Street,” Schug said Friday.
Schug said that it will take some time before the company can move into the new 70,000-square-foot building, citing renovation work that needs to be completed.
The cost of the relocation is around $3.5 million and could bring as many as 75 new jobs, Hartsock said.