July 26, 2007

Firefighters conduct simulated training in former restaurant


Photo by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland firefighter Nyal Hostrander, left, waits as Cortlandville firefighter Mike Biviano helps another firefighter to exit from a  smoke-filled building at 148 Main St. Tuesday.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Disoriented, overheated and out of breath at times, firefighters from three local fire departments Wednesday night crawled through blinding simulated smoke in the upstairs the former Shamrock restaurant of 148 Main St.
Although they weren’t battling a real blaze, the firefighters from Cortland, Cortlandville and Homer fought through intense simulated conditions as part of three weeks of training coordinated by the city fire department.
“The smoke is non-toxic,” Municipal Training Officer Capt. Erik Verfuss said. “It’s a lot more realistic.”
Verfuss said paid and volunteer firefighters for the city, along with volunteer firefighters from Cortlandville and Homer fire departments have spent two nights and several days training in the empty building and will continue to do so on and off for eight more days through Aug. 8.
Wednesday, Verfuss was coordinating primary search and line training, where firefighters fought their way through smoke filled rooms, laying out hoses from fire trucks and simulating a search effort for people caught in the smoke of a would-be fire.
“They’ll use 100 feet beyond the 200 feet,” he said, explaining that the firefighters practiced adapting extra hose to reach into a larger than average building.
Firefighter Maureen Moffitt, of the city’s volunteer staff, said she is new to the department and the training has been a positive experience.
“It’s pretty intense but I like it,” she said.
Verfuss said the size and complexity of the building has provided a perfect training opportunity for the departments. He said the department only gets a vacant building to train in about once a year. He said the building is currently owned by Syracuse-based Housing Visions and that it is scheduled to be torn down after the training is concluded.
“We’ve been hitting the training real hard,” Verfuss said.
Verfuss was unsure when the building will be torn down and Jim Hoy of Housing Visions could not be reached for comment this morning.
The building, which originally was a Victorian house with additions made to the front and back, has large spaces totaling 11,600 square feet that firefighters had to learn to navigate in the dark and heavy smoke, while searching for victims, he said.
While walking through the smoke with several firefighters yelling to one another around him, CFD Capt. Scott Buchanan explained that the conditions could get even more intense in a real fire.
“It’s a safe environment but it raises the anxiety levels,” he said.
Verfuss said instructors also isolate and spin firefighters in circles in the heavy smoke, forcing them to become disoriented and to find their own way out of the house by following hose lines back to fire trucks. He said the training prepares firefighters who might become lost in a large building during a real fire.
Verfuss said the building has several rooms and several layers to the roof that will create additional obstacles when the firefighters conduct ventilation and roof operations on July 31 and Aug 1.
“We’re trying to get everyone working together and mixing crews,” he said, pointing out firefighters from different departments and different experience levels are using the opportunity to training together.
Verfuss said after the structured drills are completed on Aug 1., firefighters will go through three days of “scenario” training on Aug 2, 7 and 8.
During those days the firefighters will arrive on scene without knowing what to expect and be forced to deal with whatever situation the instructors have created for the evening, he said.



Hospital making room for expansion

Six homes will be torn down for a parking lot along Homer Avenue

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Plans to build a parking lot along Homer Avenue should alleviate parking problems at Cortland Regional Medical Center in the short term, and play a role in larger plans to expand the hospital next fall, a spokesman said this morning.
CRMC wants to place a parking lot along Homer Avenue, spanning five properties between 114 and 126 Homer Ave., all properties owned by the hospital, according to Director of Marketing Tom Quinn.
“We purchased those properties with the intent of using them to alleviate some of our parking issues, both present and anticipated,” Quinn said.
Increased use of the hospital, particularly outpatient services, has created a demand for more parking, Quinn said, and the potential for expansion of surgical and obstetric services at CRMC would create a greater need for parking in the foreseeable future.
CRMC is considering building a new wing that would expand surgical and maternity care at the corner of Homer Avenue and West Main Street, an area now used for parking.
The project carries a roughly $25 million price tag, and the hospital has been in discussion with the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency regarding bond financing.
“We’ve made the decision that we want to go forward (with the expansion) … but we’re still solidifying plans for what we want to do specifically,” Quinn said.
The hospital is finalizing plans in order to apply, possibly by the end of this year, for a certificate of need from the state Department of Health, Quinn said.
If that certificate is granted and other needed approvals and bid processes go through without delay, the hospital is hoping to begin construction of the expansion by fall 2008, he said.
Work on the new parking lot should begin this fall, Quinn said, likely with the demolition of six unoccupied houses on the five hospital-owned properties.
Quinn was not sure at this point how large the lot would be or how many spaces it would contain, and he said a construction timeline had not yet been set.
Although hospital-owned property is tax exempt, city assessor David Briggs said the five properties have a total assessment of approximately $365,000.


School aide questions firefighter’s behavior

Staff Reporter

After pleading not guilty earlier this month, captain Rob Gallinger of the Cortlandville Fire Department remains on administrative leave from the department after being accused of making inappropriate comments to a sixth-grader during a school field trip in May.
Gallinger, 33, of 821 Lamont Circle, Cortlandville, was charged with one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and one count of second-degree harassment, a violation, on June 13.
Cortlandville Fire Chief Wayne Friedman said the department put Gallinger on administrative leave immediately after his arrest. Friedman said Gallinger has been with the department for around 10 years and that the department has never had a prior complaint about him.
“Absolutely not,” Friedman said when asked if Gallinger had prior disciplinary problems.
Gallinger was accused of making the remarks to the girl when her parent’s filed a complaint to the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department in May.
According to recently released police statements a teacher’s aide said she saw Gallinger acting inappropriately during the field trip on May 8. The Sheriff’s Department released the statements Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.
Margaret S. Riley, 51 — who has worked as an aide at Smith Elementary School for 18 years, according to her police deposition — told police she saw Gallinger touch the girl’s back and attempt to arm wrestle her while she was with a class on a field trip to the main Cortlandville fire station on Route 13.


Marietta planning factories overseas

Staff Reporter

Marietta Corp. plans to build its first factories abroad — one somewhere in Central Europe and the other in China.
David Hempson, senior vice president of business development for the Cortland-based company, said over the last three months people on the Cortland office’s management team have been traveling to different locations in those two places to figure out the best places to build the factories.
Currently the company, which makes trial- and sample-size  shampoos, lotions and soaps, and retail health and beauty products, subcontracts all its overseas production with eight factories: three in China, one in Thailand, one in Egypt, one in Turkey, one in Brazil and one in Malaysia.
Hempson said the company’s customers prefer doing business with companies that don’t outsource production.
“That’s what our customers are looking for, they’re looking for us to use a quality control system that in essence replicates the robust quality systems we have in the U.S.,” Hempson said.
Marietta owns all of the U.S. factories that manufacture its products.
Hempson said the company is looking to build factories in China and Central Europe because they are the company’s fastest growing markets.



Virgil approves subdivision of 300 acres along Van Donsel, Holler roads

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — The town Planning Board unanimously approved the subdivision of about 300 acres of land on Van Donsel and Holler roads into eight parcels at its meeting Monday evening.
About 180 acres on both sides of Van Donsel Road, south of Route 392 and east of Timmerman Hill Road, will be subdivided into six parcels, two of which are 3 acres in size, one of which is 5 acres, one of which is 12 acres, another that is 40 acres and another that is 117 acres.
Meanwhile, about 124 acres on the west side of Holler Road and the north side of Route 392 — just across Route 392 from the 180 acres — will be subdivided into two parcels: one that is 19 acres and another that is 105 acres. Gerald Power, the applicant, who lives at 1376 State Route 392, said he will be soon be selling the 117 and 105-acre parcels, to a farming family, though he declined to reveal the family’s name.
He said he also intends to sell the three smallest parcels on Van Donsel Road, which are located on the west side of the road, right away.
He expects to put the remaining three parcels up for sale within the next few years, he said.
The land slated for subdivision was part of his family’s 500-cow dairy farm, which Power said he has gradually gotten out of over the last three years for economic reasons.
The county Planning Department, which reviewed Power’s applications last month, recommended Power get septic system and water well construction designs and written approval from the town highway superintendent regarding adequate driveway site distance and design of roadway and driveway drainage for the new parcels.