July 20, 2007

Potter mania strikes Cortland


Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
Clerk Jack Keck grabs a copy of the final Harry Potter book at Mando Books-The Local Bookstore on Main Street in Cortland.

Potter2Jamie Mullins, 9, dressed as Professor McGonagall, sits with other costumed Harry Potter characters at the Cortland Free Library Friday night. The library held a party to kick off the debut of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the last book in the series, which went on sale at midnight. The library quickly checked out copies it had.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — At the Harry Potter party Friday night at the Cortland Free Library, sisters Bailey and Gianna Marks already had a plan for later that night, after they’d secured a copy of the latest and last Harry Potter book from Mando Books–The Local Bookstore.
“I think we’re gonna read the first chapter together, and then I get it because I read really fast,” said Bailey, who noted she had reread books one through six starting July 14.
Bailey, 13, and Gianna, 8, who live in Virgil and were dressed respectively as Professor Trelawney and Katie Bell from the book series, were among a couple of hundred Harry Potter fans celebrating the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” Friday night, either at the party at the library on Church Street, at the party at The Local Bookstore on Main Street or at both. The library party ran from 10 p.m. to midnight, while the bookstore event was from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Partygoers, many of whom lined up to buy one of the 200 copies of the book at The Local Bookstore at midnight, said their devotion to the Harry Potter series stems the from the book’s magical setting, the creativity of the plot and the characters’ depth and resemblance to people we all know.
The Cortland Free Library felt like a magical place Friday, with Ron Weasleys, Hermione Grangers and Dumbledores moving around the library’s various rooms, waving the wands they had just made, walking beneath a Quidditch playing field and tasting butter beer, dragon snot and chocolate frogs, among other tasty treats.
“It tasted like butterscotch melted pretty much,” Kyle Agate, 9, of Cortland, said about the butter beer. “It’s better than the dragon snot — that just tasted like Sprite.”
Kay Zaharis, the director of the library, said library staff and three student volunteers spent several hours over the last week putting together the party. Many of the helpers, who researched games and scene ideas on the Internet, were huge Harry Potter fans themselves.
“They’re really detailed and intricate,” student volunteer Michele Stevens, 16, of Cortland, said of the books, noting she has read each of them seven times.
As the library party dwindled down shortly before midnight, soon after a game of Harry Potter jeopardy and a costume-judging contest, The Local Bookstore started filling up with people. The bookstore, at 33 Main St., also had treats from the book, in addition to a cauldron emitting mist.
Excitement filled the air as children, adults, males and females alike waited to get their hands on the seventh Harry Potter book.
Brian Lockwood, 41, of Cortland, and Jeffery Monahan, 19, of Cortland, were leaning over the cashier’s counter around 11:40 p.m. with several friends, cracking jokes about their obsession with Harry Potter and speculating on what the new book will bring.
“No, he’s not gonna die — it’s been in the news,” Monahan said of Harry Potter. He reached over the counter and gave a pat to a Harry Potter lookalike who had just signed his jersey. “My man right here is not gonna die.”
While many people at the parties Friday said they hope to read the newest book as fast as they can, CaroleAnn Davies, a Cortland resident who was dressed up in a purple wizard costume and in line with her similarly dressed nieces, Alayna Carr, 14, and Alessandra Cosimo, 12, both of Cortlandville, said she will do her best to read it slowly and savor it.
“It’s gonna be a struggle,” Davies said.
A Local Bookstore staff member this morning said the store sold about 120 of its 250 books overnight. By noon today, the store sold 15 to 20 more copies, he said.



State looks to recover taxes owed by Rascal’s

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The state will likely hold an auction on the equipment at a bar and restaurant on Groton Avenue within the next few weeks to recover tax money the business owes, about a month after the state seized control of the business.
Michael Bucci, spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, said the state seized Rascal’s, at 13 Groton Ave., on June 22. Jennifer Robbins, of Cortland, owns the business.
Bucci said the move was made because the business has not paid off tax debt owed to the state. He said by law he is not allowed to say how much the business owes.
He is, however, allowed to disclose new amounts Robbins owed in tax warrants at four different points over the last three years.
The state issued the business tax warrants, or liens, of $5,823 in December 2004; $5,836 in June 2006; and $5,617 in April for failure to pay enough sales tax. A separate tax warrant for $434 was issued in April for failure to pay the proper amount in withholdings tax.
Rascal’s could owe more or less than the $17,710 it was issued in tax warrants, Bucci said, depending on whether it paid off some of the taxes and how much interest is added on to the total bill.
Bucci said the business was finally seized on June 22 so the state could sell off its belongings to recover money it is owed. He said he was not sure what items would be auctioned in this particular case, but they typically include equipment, such as tables, chairs, plateware and silverware.
He said each year the state seizes “hundreds” of the several hundred thousand businesses in New York state.
“This is the last resort, we don’t like to do this,” he said.
Bucci said he cannot say exactly when an auction for Rascal’s will take place, but that auctions usually occur between two and six weeks after the property is seized.
He said by law a notice must be placed in the local newspaper two weeks before the auction announcing the day and time of the auction, and that has not happened yet.
He said up until the day of the auction Robbins still has the opportunity to pay off a large chunk of what she owes and work out a payment agreement with the state. In that case, an auction would not have to take place.
Bucci said after the auction, regardless of whether the state recovers all the money it is owed, Robbins can do what she wants with the business. He said in the case the state does not recover all of its money and the business does not pay it voluntarily, it will seize other assets, such as cars.
He said tax debts are never forgiven.
Ron Robbins, Jennifer Robbins’ husband, declined to comment about the matter. He said his wife was out of town and could not comment.


Proposal splits 165 acres in Solon into 15 parcels

Staff Reporter

A Delaware County land speculation company wants to subdivide two large parcels in Solon to be sold as lots for vacation or retirement homes.
Last week, the Cortland County Planning Board approved the conditional recommendation of an application by Unadilla-based New York Land & Lakes to subdivide a 67-acre parcel and a 97-acre parcel into 15 parcels, ranging from 5.2 to 30 acres in size.
The Solon Planning Board will review the project and is tentatively planning to hold a public hearing on it at its Aug. 13 meeting, board Chair Ann Swisher said Friday.
Going through the subdivision process is nothing new for the town, Swisher said.
“New York Land & Lake is one of many that we have had come to the Solon area,” Swisher said. “It’s a tedious process, and sometimes it takes months of review. There’s just a lot of red tape to go through.”
The land is along the south side of 4-H Camp Road, both sides of Syrian Hill Road and the north side of Harris Road, and totals nearly 165 acres.
New York Land & Lakes co-owner Robert Lesperence said Wednesday that the company and the land’s owners, Ernest and Josephine Kiraly, have entered into a purchase agreement. He expects that the land will change hands on Aug. 1.
Lesperence would not disclose the purchase price, and the Kiralys were unavailable for comment Thursday and Friday.
“We have it under contract; we haven’t closed on it yet,” Lesperence said, adding that a small abandoned farm on the estate is also being liquidated. “We’re dividing it into large-acre parcels for the typical thing that we usually do, which is to sell the land for recreational and weekend and second homes and that type of thing.”
Swisher said the town would not have to construct any new roads to service any developments.



Slate of Dryden Town Board candidates complete

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — Three political newcomers and one incumbent are running for two seats on the Dryden Town Board in November.
Democrat David Makar, of 1960 Slaterville Road, is the only incumbent and was elected in November to fill the second year of Michael Hattery’s seat, left vacant after he was elected to the Tompkins County Legislature.
Makar, 30, is a Web site developer and owner of 544 Productions, which he runs from his house.
He said he would like to see three main issues addressed in the town: making Dryden a leader in Tompkins County, making local government more accessible with better communication and looking at how Dryden is prepared for climate change.
Economic development has to be a focus, he said.
New businesses need help getting started and small businesses need grants and low-interest loans to grow, Makar said.
The need for water and sewer must also be addressed.
“We need the town and village and maybe Freeville to work together on a joint sewer plant,” he said.
He also said broadband access to the town needs to be addressed and how to provide it without running wires throughout the town, for example, by using cell towers.
Makar said he would like to continue having board meetings in the communities of Dryden, such as the recent one at Varna Fire Department.
He gave three ways the town could improve communications: improving the Web site to include goings-on, putting out a town newsletter and publishing an annual report that would include where income comes from, how the budget is spent and reports of department chairs. He said a newsletter is in the process of development.
“I would like to see the town be a leader in the next generation in some form of alternate energy,” Makar added.
Solomon, 39, lives on Lower Creek Road in Etna with his wife, Gretchen, and their 2-year-old daughter, Tala. A 1992 Cornell University graduate, he is a structural engineer at Hunt Engineers Architects and Land Surveyors, based in Horseheads.
Solomon, a Democrat, said he did not know the issues yet, but had entered the race after bringing his concerns about speeders on Lower Creek Road in Etna to the Town Board. He said motorists have gone off the road at a curve and into his property.
On Tuesday, Republican Stanley T. Marcus, of 1088 Yellow Barn Road, and Independent Walter M. Keeney, of 40 Sodom Road, announced their candidacy for councilman positions. Keeney will also run on the Republican Party.
Marcus, who serves on the town’s Conservation Board and on the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council, said he now has the time to serve on the board.
“I think everyone should do some public service,” he said.
Marcus, 66, noted that his political stance is more a mix of Democrat and Republican philosophy, with an interest in environmental issues and a belief that government should remain small.
“I don’t come in with any firm and fast points of view, except I do believe in promoting the environment,” Marcus said.
One thing he would like to see is the town working with the county on garbage clean-ups, providing bags at the Town Hall for residents who clean up the highways and other town properties.
Some of the issues he said he would be facing involved infrastructure, such as water and sewer systems and stormwater runoff.
“Recreation is a fairly big issue in the town,” Marcus said. “One issue that is going to come up is public trails in the town,” he said, noting he would want to make sure private rights are maintained and property is not taken by eminent domain.
Marcus said he would also like to see all town officials working together.
Kenney, 56, a metallurgical technician at BorgWarner Morse TEC, said he is still learning the issues. He has two daughters living at home, one a graduate student at Elmira College and one in 10th grade at Ithaca High School.
Kathy Zahler, media chair for the party in Dryden, said the Democrats did not endorse candidates for town highway superintendent or town clerk so Republicans Jack Bush and Bambi Hollenbeck will run unopposed.
Democrat Jason Leifer, of 17 Hunt Grove Road, will square off against Republican incumbent Christopher Clauson, of 432 Ferguson Road, for town justice.