August 06 , 2007

Expanded arts show wines, dines visitors

Staff Reporter

Classical piano, guitar and singing — some in Spanish — greeted visitors strolling through Courthouse Park Saturday during an expanded arts celebration now called Cortland Arts and Wine Festival.
About 60 artists had their artwork displayed, from paintings in watercolor, pastels and oils to three-dimensional pieces of furniture, glass, jewelry and garden sculptures.
One unusual form of sculpture incorporated eating utensils bent and bound together.
Artist Jared Troutman said he started making this sort of art during his freshman year of college in 1999. He uses pliers to shape the forks and spoons. “I’ve just used them as gifts,” he said, but his wife, Reagan, encouraged him to display the work this year. “She said, ‘You’ve got to get them out there.’”
Troutman said some children were playing with the pieces and “figuring” out what they looked like, such as a dinosaur.
“They’re good to photograph,” Troutman said. “You can get some great shadows.” In judging his own work, he said the better ones “can rest in eight different poses.”
One of the big attractions Saturday was Mercer’s Farms of Boonville, Oneida County, with its wine ice cream. Roxaina Hulburt, one of the owners and director of marketing, said she got the idea because others served wine over their ice cream, so she decided to try to put wine in the ice cream.
Steve Houseknecht, a sales representative from the company, said the process was difficult because alcohol has no freezing point. He said they weren’t trying to promote the wine industry, but rather were “trying to push an elegant, sophisticated flavored dessert.”
Dave Blatchley, project chairperson for the festival and a board member of the Cultural Council of Cortland County — the event’s sponsor — said the wine-tasting tent purposely was placed away from the artists, beyond the music tent, which was in the center of the park, and wine tasters had to purchase their tickets at the Cortland Youth Bureau Showmobile, located along a row of artists. Blatchley said that way, people had to look at the art. He said the food vendors also were placed among the artists for this reason. “Some people grumbled about that a little bit,” he said.
Caroline Szozda, general manager of Delevan Art Gallery in Syracuse, was judging the art work. She said that because of the diversity of the work, she was going slower than usual. She said she would first get an overview of all the work and then go back. One of the ways she judges is by the “stickiness” of the work — the work that draws you back. “I keep moving and looking,” she said.
David Beale, executive director of the Cultural Council, said that this year the art festival was juried — artists’ work had to be accepted into the show.
For the budding artist, the Downtown Partnership provided panels of plywood — painted white with historical scenes of Cortland penciled on them — for children to paint. The panels later will be displayed at 51 Main St., a building that burned in October 2005.
Maureen Staats, from West Seneca, was visiting along with her granddaughter, Bailey Duffy, 5, from Hamburg. Bailey was painting an animal on one of the panels.
“This is so wonderful an idea,” said Staats, noting she had stumbled upon the festival. She had visited the farmers market, which also had set up at Courthouse Park. “Everyone makes you feel you are part of the community.”
She said she planned to visit in December and would look for the paintings downtown.
A listener around 10:30 a.m. and at 4 p.m. might have had difficulty picking out the composer of the music. That is because Emmanuel Sikora was playing his own compositions on the piano.
An 11th-grader at Cortland High School this fall, Emmanuel said he participated because his father, John Sikora, was organizing the music portion of the festival.
“He could always use another musician to come up and play,” said Emmanuel. He said the weather was a bit windy for sheet music but noted he usually plays from memory, unless it is a recent composition.
“I love the arts and all the tents,” said Essie Vangeli, of Little York. “It attracts the older people, I think.” She was sitting near the music, listening as soprano singer Gina Sikora, John Sikora’s wife, sang in Spanish. “The rest of the family is in the wine-tasting tent,” she said. Vangeli said she saw a couple of pieces of artwork she planned to purchase.
Mike and Mandy Berry of Homer purchased a painting from Arlen Perkins Withey of Groton. “She’s always very dedicated to the arts and to the community,” Mandy Berry said of Withey.
Mandy Berry said this is the third piece she has bought from Withey. Berry likes the work because of the colors and the “preciseness” of her paintings, which she paints from photographs.
“I’ve followed her for a lot of years,” Mandy Berry said.
Withey said she has been painting for 30 years, creating around 200 paintings in oil on wood panels a year. Her son Nic Withey, also of Groton, participated in the show, too. Although he paints mostly in oils, he had several small watercolors in the show.
Blatchley said about half of those in attendance visited the wine tent, and based on 589 tickets sold to the wine tent, he estimated a total attendance of 1,200 to 1,500 people.
“I think it went fantastic — the weather, music, art and wine all came together,” he said.



Citation  issued for Brockway garage demolition

Staff Reporter

The garage at 19 W. Court St., which was deemed unsafe by the city Code Office several weeks ago, was taken down over the weekend after it unexpectedly began to collapse Friday, the owner said.
Owner John Del Vecchio said this morning that the garage on the south side of the property began to collapse against the side of the former home of industrialist George Brockway late Friday.
“When it first collapsed late Friday, the corner of the building was leaning against the back porch,” of the main building, Del Vecchio said. “If there weren’t kids playing in that play area behind the (YWCA), I would have left it. It was actually rocking.”
Unable to speak with the code office late Friday or Saturday, Del Vecchio said he brought his backhoe in Saturday to demolish the building without the required demolition permit.
Assistant Fire Chief and Director of Code Enforcement Chuck Glover stopped by the site and issued a stop work order on Saturday, Del Vecchio said.
“He told me to put it in a neat pile, a safe pile,” Del Vecchio said.
Glover said he responded to calls that had been made to the mayor’s office and police department, and arrived on-site Saturday to discover that 95 percent of the building had been demolished, with only one corner still standing. Del Vecchio was also trimming some trees on the property.
Glover said he issued the stop work order for all activity on the property, as well as a notice of violation, and told Del Vecchio to finish the demolition and fence off the pile of debris.
“Whenever I issue a stop work order, it has to be accompanied by a notice of violation,” Glover said. “It’s a legal step just in case we have to go to the big guns on this.”
Glover said he would contact the city’s lawyer regarding the matter, to determine the next step, although “it’s kind of a moot point because the building’s already down.”
Because he was not on site Friday to inspect the collapsing building, Glover said he did not wish to comment on Del Vecchio’s claim that the building began to collapse on its own.
After the building’s collapse, Del Vecchio said he removed the cupola from the peak of the garage for use at the top of the new apartment building he wants to build on the site.
The proposed project, now going through city site plan review, includes four apartments in the former house, and a new, two-story, four-unit apartment building in the back that would replace the dilapidated garage.


City wastewater plant upgrades on hold

Staff Reporter

A city sewer improvement project will allow the city’s wastewater treatment plant a small reprieve from making needed upgrades for several years, although work will have to be done at the Port Watson Street plant before too long.
Over the next year, the city will be lining its old, deteriorated sewers with a plastic-type material to prevent the inflow of stormwater into the pipes, in response to the state Department of Environmental Conservation citing the wastewater treatment plant for exceeding its daily sewage levels.
During rain events, the state said that stormwater is entering the wastewater pipes through holes in the metal at an unacceptable rate.
Harvey Davis, the wastewater treatment district manager, said needed upgrades to the plant would be put off in order to allow the sewer project to proceed and to ascertain if the improvement of the pipes would affect the effluent, which is the treated water that the plant discharges into the Tioughnioga River, part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is working with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition — a bi-state network of county natural resource professionals whose mission is to conserve the soil and water resources of the headwaters of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds — to conserve the soil and water resources of the headwaters of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.
According to the DEC, the Chesapeake Bay has been significantly degraded since at least 1980 from excess sediment and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, entering its waters. Primary nutrient sources are sewage, cattle manure, inorganic fertilizer and atmospheric nitrogen deposits.
“Depending on how successful the I and I (infiltration and inflow abatement project) is, that might reduce or increase the amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen being discharged into the river,” Davis said. “The DEC will then reevaluate the effluent quality of the city’s nutrient loading on the Chesapeake Bay and then they will determine what phosphorous and nitrogen limits we will have to meet. This evaluation will most likely take about two years.”
The bids for the infiltration and inflow abatement project, as the sewer work is titled, were opened Thursday, city Department of Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi said earlier this week, and there has been no bid awarded yet.
The three bids received are being reviewed by O’Brien & Gere, the engineering firm the city hired for the project, Bistocchi said.
In September, the Common Council issued $3.85 million in serial bonds for the work, and Bistocchi said the repairs to the sanitary sewers themselves would only cost about $2.5 million, with the rest of the funds helping to pay for upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant.
“We do have a completion date of 150 days, upon award of the contract,” Bistocchi said, adding he hoped the project would be completed by January or February. He noted that sewer flow is lower in the winter.