July 24, 2007

Program gives youths taste of full-time work


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Curtis Lunsford, 16, pulls nails from original hardwood flooring taken from the SUNY Cortland Alumni House on Tompkins Street. Lunsford is taking part in a county program that allows area youths to gain work experience.

Staff Reporter

The early morning alarm, the maddening daily commute, the exasperating boss and obnoxious co-worker … The “daily grind” is a burdensome necessity for most.
But for roughly 120 young people taking part in Cortland County’s Summer Employment Program, the chance to try their hand at a typical day job is an opportunity, both to earn a little extra income in summer months and to learn important skills and habits for full-time jobs in the future.
“I like working here,” said Curtis Lunsford, 16, a student at Cortland High School, who is working 20 hours per week through the program at SUNY Cortland’s Alumni House.
“I’ve never really had a real summer job, and I like working outdoors, working with my hands.”
Lunsford and Adam Ruddy, 15, also a student at CHS, have been working on gardening, maintenance, landscaping and other odd jobs around Alumni House under the supervision of Mike Stoll, who handles maintenance at the house on Tompkins Street.
Last Thursday they were stripping nails out of wood from a recently redone bathroom, preserving the wood for future projects, Ruddy explained.
“It’s old wood that you can’t find today, so I guess we’re going to keep it around in case anything else in the house has to be replaced,” Ruddy said.
Stoll said he has tried to teach Lunsford and Ruddy, who work four hours in the morning Monday through Friday, basic skills required for the job, along with good work habits and the demands of day-to-day work.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to go out looking for jobs next summer and say, ‘This is what I learned, this is what I did and this is why I’d be a good employee,’” Stoll said.
Students are chosen for the employment program based on family income, and age and interest specific to certain available jobs, according to Diane Wheaton, who administers the program through the county Office of Employment and Training.
Through the program, the county pays each participant minimum wage — the program received $130,000 in federal funding this year, Wheaton said — for working with a number of different employers throughout the community, including a handful of day care centers, human service companies and computer service businesses.
“A lot of kids, especially this year, come here for their first real job experience, because they’re too young to be hired anyplace else,” Wheaton said, noting that this year, about half of the youths in the program are ages 14 and 15, although the program accepts participants as old as 21.
“We’re fortunate to have great supervisors who really work to make it a rewarding experience for the kids,” Wheaton said. “And it’s a win-win for them, because they get some extra help on the job.”
At Walden Place Assisted Living facility on Bennie Road in Cortlandville, residents Kate Fry and Mary Klein lauded the work of program participant Mariya Linderberry in Walden Place’s dining area.
“They’re really very good, very willing to help,” Klein said. State representatives will be visiting Walden Place to review the county program this week, partially because of the success of the three young people currently working at the facility, said Executive Director Paula Currie.
“They’ve been so great that we’re using them to fill in when we’re short and really giving them some good work experience,” Currie said.
Walden Place Community Relations Director Lisa Lunas pointed to daily morning staff meetings as one source of job training.
“It’s a good way for them to get a feel for what it’s like to be part of a team in a work environment and participate if they have ideas or concerns,” Lunas said.
At Odyssey Networks on Groton Avenue, Brandon Hallstead, 15, said he already had experience working with computers and some previous job experience, but added that he had learned about customer service and picked up various technical skills.
He also was able to speak extensively about a new business strategy Odyssey has in the works.
“We get a lot of people coming in and asking if there was a way to get on the Internet — you know, people on a trip wanting to check their e-mail, things like that,” Hallstead said. “So they’re setting it up so we can have a couple of work stations for Internet access, just in case.”
Hallstead’s supervisor, Pat McCool, one of two employees at Odyssey, said participating in the county’s program for the past three years has been beneficial for Odyssey and the youths who have worked there.
“They get experience with different brands of computers and doing different things, and we get someone to help out with the stuff we get behind on,” McCool said.



City requires tougher review of apartments plan

Staff Reporter

The city Planning Commission decided Monday night that plans to build a four-unit apartment building behind a 1920s-era West Court Street home would set a major precedent for developers, if approved.
Local developer John Del Vecchio now will have to prepare an environmental impact statement for the expansion of 19 W. Court St. as part of the State Environmental Quality Review process.
The commission completed the long version of the State Environmental Quality Review, or SEQR, and the impact of the precedent that would be set by the project’s approval was identified as the only major result of the development.
The preparation of the environmental impact statement is an extensive process intended to identify and mitigate any major impacts that would result from development, and the site plan review will be put on hold until this document is ready.
A special meeting will be set sometime before next month’s regular meeting to determine the scope of the environmental impact study.
The commission has been meeting on the proposal since the end of March, and the three-hour long regular meeting Monday was the fifth time the commission had met regarding the project, including a public hearing.
Commissioners Jo Schaffer, Bill Kline, Tom Terwilliger and Nancy Hansen voted in favor of declaring that the project would have a significant impact on the environment, while Doug Van Etten voted against it.
Commissioner Joe McMahon had to leave the meeting before the vote was taken and Commissioner Wes Pettee was absent.
Schaffer said the addition of a large apartment complex, which is intended for student housing, would have a detrimental effect on the neighborhood’s density, directly contrary to the letter of the city’s 1991 Master Plan.
Kline said the development would result in the “irreplaceable loss of the character of the neighborhood,” as well as alter the existing state of the property.
The existing main building, constructed as a house for local industrialist George Brockway, contains three apartment units and office space, and Del Vecchio is proposing converting the office space into another apartment unit. A dilapidated garage in the back of the property would be demolished; in its place, a four-unit building, which would closely resemble the main house, would be built and joined to the original structure to form a unified complex.
Resulting in 24 bedrooms, the current version of the project has been scaled down from the previously planned 40 units in response to community outcry and the concerns of the commission members.


Riverside Plaza auction within months

Staff Reporter

The foreclosure of Riverside Plaza is moving ahead with the judge handling the case appointing a local lawyer to determine how much the company that owns the plaza owes its mortgage company.
Cortland attorney Patrick Snyder said he received a copy of a June 15 order from state Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey appointing him as “referee” about a week ago.
He said he can’t determine how much Riverside Plaza owner 81 and Cortland Associates L.P., also known as P. Daniel C., Inc., owes Chase Commercial Mortgage Securities Corp. until he gets documentation from the mortgage company.
Tom Kelly, spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, the business that operates Chase Commercial Mortgage Securities Corp, said he can’t say when the mortgage company will have the necessary documentation or around how much money it is seeking because the matter is pending litigation.
According to court documents, 81 and Cortland Associates L.P. fell behind on payments of a $4.5 million mortgage.
Snyder said he is not sure how long it will take to figure out how much Chase Commercial Mortgage Securities Corp. is owed once he receives all the documentation.
Steve Newman, a New York City lawyer representing Chase Commercial Mortgage Securities Corp., said once Snyder determines an amount, the mortgage company will file a motion for Rumsey to approve the referee’s determination and to schedule a foreclosure sale.
Rumsey will direct a sale of the property, and a notice of the sale will be placed in the local newspaper.
He said the process leading up to the sale could take three or four more months.
William Colucci, who Rumsey appointed receiver of the plaza in January, said he is unaware of any interested buyers since his job is restricted to managing the property and collecting rents. Colucci is a director of Syracuse-based Pyramid Brokerage Co.
Joe Cipolla, head of commercial property for the Bella Vista Group, a business just outside of Buffalo that set up 81 and Cortland Associates, a limited partnership, said this morning if a foreclosure puts his property up for sale he will try to buy it back.
He said he doesn’t know of any other interested buyers.


Demolition of Ames Linen building ends 100-year legacy

Staff Reporter

When the former Ames Linen building on Court Street is demolished within the next few months, it will mark the first time there has not been a laundry in that location in nearly 100 years.
The 15 Court St. facility is deteriorating, owner Donald “Bud” Ames said, and since the site is under consideration as a possible location for an expanded fire station, there is no reason to leave the building standing.
The price is negotiable, Ames said. The city is in the process of hiring an architect to determine the feasibility of either expanding the Court Street Fire Station or building a new station, and the former laundry is one of the sites under consideration.
A David Yaman Realty sign is posted on the building, but Ames said it is off the market.
Ames said he has contracted with Contento’s demolition service to take down the building at the company’s availability and once the proper permits have been received from the city.
“We’re waiting for the environmental survey, but we are not anticipating any issues because we’ve modernized the building in recent years,” Ames said.
The cost of the demolition is not set, he said.
Ames Linen completed the move from its Court Street location to 67 Huntington St. last year. The property on Court Street is 16,278 square feet, while 67 Huntington St. site is almost four times that.
The building was constructed for the Cortland branch of the Cortland and Homer Laundries Company, which moved from the corner of Clinton Avenue and Washington Street in 1909.
“It was built back in those days as what they called a family laundry,” Ames said last week as he looked at historical photos of the operation.
In the days before powered washing machines, families sent their laundry to these companies to have it laundered.
Donald and Harry Ames, Bud Ames’ father and uncle, purchased the business in 1935.
“The new proprietor,” reads a Cortland Standard article from June of that year, “who has several years’ experience in the laundry enterprise, stated today that he plans the necessary improvements and alterations to both the laundry and the block to make the plant up-to-date in every respect.”
They changed the name to The Cortland Laundry, and then changed the business model.
“My dad changed it over in the later 40s, when people started getting electric washing machines,” Ames said.