Higher gas prices affect boaters

Sales of new boats have fallen 15 percent to 25 percent, local sellers say


Bob Ellis/staff photographer     
Eric Rumsey, left, and Brian Sherman clean a pontoon boat at Forest Fisheries in Homer on Friday. Ed Vernum, owner of Forest Fisheries,  said new boat sales have dropped by about 15 percent to 20 percent at his store since last year. In his six years at Forest Fisheries he has never seen that, he said. He attributes it to higher gas prices.

Staff Reporter

Martin Knobel used to cover the tab when his family members rode his Sea-Doo. But now that gas prices are high, he asks them to pitch in.
“It kind of started last year and this year,” he said. “I got a lot of relatives.”
Knobel, 47, of Homer, is one of a growing number of area personal watercraft riders and boaters who have altered their spending and riding habits since gas prices increased last fall.
Besides asking friends to chip in, water aficionados are buying fewer new boats and more used boats than before, local shop owners say.
Gas prices in Cortland ranged from $2.99 to $3.09 a gallon Tuesday, according to That compares with a state average of $2.470 a gallon one year ago.
Ed Vernum, owner of Forest Fisheries in Homer, said new boat sales have dropped by about 15 percent  to 20 percent at his store since last year. In his six years at Forest Fisheries he has never seen that, he said.
“This is the first year we haven’t had an increase in sales,” he said.
On the other hand, sales of used boats have increased, he said.
“The only thing I can think of is discretionary income is lower than usual,” he said.
Rita Sue Randolph, owner of Otisco Lake Marina, has seen the same trend. New boat sales have fallen by 25 percent, she said, whereas used boat sales have increased by almost 50 percent.
Also, more people are buying replacement equipment, such as motors, for their boats, she said.
“It’s about making what you’ve got last,” Randolph said.
And some people are also making more of an effort to stop for gas on the way to the lake instead of at the lake, she said.
“I suggest that they get it at a gas station,” she said. “I’m more expensive.”
Those changes have allowed people to continue their passion, she said.
Jeff Hart, owner of Ithaca Recreation Sports, agreed people are still finding a way to get on the water.
“They’re gonna have fun and they’re gonna pay for it either way,” he said.
But they are cutting costs by buying cheaper boats. Sales of high-end boats have dropped by 10 to 20 percent while sales of mid-priced boats have increased by 25 percent, Hart said.
Sales of personal watercraft such as Jet Skis, which are less costly than boats, are on an upward swing, he said.
“Everything goes in cycles,” Hart said.
While Hart has seen a drop in sales of high-end boats, Forest Fisheries’ Vernum said his sales of those boats have remained steady. That’s because people who typically buy boats that cost more than $50,000 are typically pretty well off, he said.
“I don’t think those have taken a hit,” he said. “People buying higher end products are not affected by gas prices.”
Russ Teeter, 71, who has a boat on Little York Lake, said regardless of what boats people are buying, they are still getting out on the water.
“Because summer is so short,” he said. “There are 20 to 25 pontoon boats (out) all the time.”




Few answers to McGraw flooding woes

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — Carrie Kenney and her husband, Jim, have been without hot water at their East Academy Street home since Friday, when floodwaters ruined their combined furnace and hot water heater.
They’ve been boiling water on the stove to give their three children baths, and that process will continue until they find a way to purchase new equipment.
“With all of the other expenses we have to take care of right now, we don’t have $3,000 to drop on a new heater,” Carrie Kenney said at a Village Board meeting Tuesday.
Approximately 35 residents, many frustrated, packed into the McGraw Community Building and pressed the board for solutions to recurring flood problems.
The board was forced to admit that, in many cases, its hands are tied.
“As a board we know there’s a lot of frustration out there, we’ve heard it all,” said Mayor Jay Cobb. “Unfortunately, we’re a mile square village, our tax base is not high. We’ve got to get the funding and get the right equipment in here before we can do anything.”
Much of the community’s frustration came from those living on or near East Academy Street, which suffered heavy flooding during Friday’s rainfall of 2 inches to 3 inches.
“It’s impossible because we’re all losing money paying for all the stuff we’ve lost, and meanwhile the values of our homes are going down,” said Larry McConnell, who lives on Church Street. “Nobody’s gonna want to buy our houses if they see us in the news every day with flooding.”
McConnell and many other residents called on the board to either fix or close down and destroy the bridge running over Smith Brook.
“They’ve got to put a barricade in front of that bridge quickly, because it’s not safe,” said Scott Giamichael, an East Academy Street resident who noted that, aside from a large crack at the center of the bridge, other safety issues include a 3-foot sinkhole on one side, culvert and guardrails held together by straps on the other.
“That’s not gonna stop the flooding, but it’s gonna save someone from having a nasty accident,” he said, “and it’s gonna save the village the cost of a lawsuit.”
Residents also pointed out the gas pipe running beneath the bridge, and the fact that school buses routinely use that road during the school year.
“I want to know what’s stopping us from closing the bridge and just making Academy a dead end,” Academy Street resident Paul Osinski asked the board.
This morning, Cobb said the bridge would be closed today and remain closed until the state Department of Transportation could inspect it.
Village Attorney John T. Ryan Jr. said he wasn’t sure of the process for closing the bridge permanently, but said it likely would have to be approved by the state.




Two culverts in Truxton among 10 deemed ‘poor’

Associated Press Writer

ALBANY — Two culverts in Truxton and eight others across the state are rated “poor,” according to records obtained from the state Department of Transportation.
Seven of those 10 remain open despite “considerable deterioration” to some or all of each structure, including one in Truxton.
The Associated Press requested inspection records after floods on June 28 overwhelmed a culvert, slashing open an interstate highway and killing two truckers who drove their rigs into the chasm. The culvert was rated a 5, or “good,” on the state’s scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being the best.
The seven culverts rated “poor” earned scores less than 3. They include structures in Oswego, Oneida, St. Lawrence, Cattaraugus, Cortland and Steuben counties.
A rating of 3 “means it really needs to be replaced,” said Levon Minnetyan, a civil engineering professor at Clarkson University. “They really start replacing them when they are at 4.”
A score of 3 indicates “considerable deterioration of some or all” components of the structure, whether a bridge or culvert, according to the state DOT.
DOT officials said that even with a rating of 3 or less, some structures may still be safe for most vehicles to cross. In other cases, a structure with an overall good rating may be closed if one part is in dire need of repair. When a structure is rated 4 or below, the state begins to take corrective action.
“Obviously if someplace were dangerous we wouldn’t have people driving there,” DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Post said.
The DOT said there are 10 locally-owned culverts the DOT inspects that are rated less than 3. One running under Sprouse Road in Truxton, Cortland County, was shut because of flood damage. Two others, both in Schenectady County, were closed before the flooding.
The DOT ordered a culvert under Sprouse Road in Truxton closed when it was in the town on July 12, according to Highway Superintendent Jeff Reakes, but Reakes hadn’t heard anything from the state regarding another culvert on Robbins Road that is rated poor but remains open.
“That bridge has had a poor rating since I got here,” said Reakes, who has been with the highway department for 10 years. “We’d love to have a new one in there, but how could we ever afford it?”
The Robbins Road culvert is safe to drive on and is fairly structurally sound, Reakes said. He did not know its rating.
The big issue is that its three-pipe design is outdated, which creates voids in the bridge that can be filled with water during flooding, he said.
“There’s really no way to fill those voids or to compact them without taking the whole thing apart,” he said.
Repairs to the bridge are on the highway department’s schedule for this year, Reakes said. The wing walls will be replaced, he said, and heavy rock will be placed to help keep the water out of the voids, he said.



Residents press city for flood solution

Staff Reporter

Residents of the Otter Creek Watershed presented a petition to Amy Cobb (R-3rd Ward) demanding that the city “take immediate steps to identify and mitigate the conditions that lead to … widespread inundation.”
Cobb read the petition aloud at the Common Council meeting Tuesday night, and then urged city officials to find out why the flooding was so severe.
Development in the surrounding communities may have increased the flooding Friday, officials told the council. Department of Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi said that the ground had been saturated and the creeks already half full before the storm hit due to the especially wet summer.
“The (storm sewer) system was adequate, it handled the water as fast as we could get it into the river. The system was not plugged.”
But Bistocchi told the council that something had changed the way that rainwater drained into the city.
“The water that was introduced into the city was not city water,” Bistocchi said after explaining how Otter Creek, which he said had rarely flooded severely before last year’s April flood, had begun to jump its banks almost two hours after the 2 inches to 3 inches of rain had stopped Friday.
Bistocchi cited the construction of the Starr Road Community Park in Cortlandville as one possibility of what might have changed.
“It used to be a rolling hill that was open, agriculturally,” Bistocchi said, in contrast to the tiered and compacted baseball fields that are being constructed. “It will run (off) more water than it will absorb.”
Craig Smithgall, an engineer hired by the city, recommended that Cortland make sure drainage issues surrounding proposed projects in adjacent municipalities are addressed.