Sheriff’s Department changes responsibilities from top down


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland County Undersheriff Herbert Barnhart, left, talks Wednesday with police dispatcher Chip Elwood in the county Public Safety Building. Barnhart began his duties as undersheriff July 31, leading a series of promotions that involved a total of seven Sheriff’s Department officers.

Staff Reporter

There have been a lot of changes in the Cortland County Sheriffs Department recently, all of which have been prompted by the departure of Undersheriff and Capt. Marty Coolidge.
Coolidge’s retirement opened two positions at the top of the department’s chain of command as well as created three promotions and two opportunities for lateral movements within its ranks.
Before leaving, Coolidge filled the undersheriff and captain’s roles for about a year and half, but now those jobs have been split, making former Sgt. Herb Barnhart the undersheriff and former Lt. Glen Mauzy the captain of the road patrol and the criminal division.
 “In my point of view it was a very difficult thing to do,” Mauzy said about Coolidge holding two positions. “The undersheriff has duties related to the sheriff and he would be the replacement of the sheriff if the sheriff ever had to leave town — pretty much overseeing the whole function of this department.”
Sheriff Lee Price wouldn’t comment on why Coolidge was filling two roles, but did say that by replacing him with two men instead of one the department will run more efficiently.
“I guess I don’t have to answer that,” he said when asked why Coolidge was in both positions for a year and a half. “I think that they (Mauzy and Barnhart) are both very capable of handling the positions they are in. The whole transition I think is going well. I think things are going to get a lot smoother.”
As the commander of the road patrol and criminal division, Mauzy does not have to deal with the administrative issues that his predecessor did, allowing him to focus on his favorite thing, catching criminals.
“My main function is to supervise the road and (the) criminal bureau, which is enough,” Mauzy said. “I love chasing bad guys, that’s my gig.”
Mauzy said that he hopes the split in responsibilities will make the workload more balanced, as well as help the department nurture existing programs that may not have been getting much attention.
“I don’t want to ever say that he (Coolidge) couldn’t perform the duties. He did it even beyond my expectations,” Mauzy said. “The problem is that there may have been some programs that we couldn’t initiate just because there wasn’t enough time in a person’s day. I think now we can progress further and we can now implement new programs.”
Among those programs, Mauzy expects to see the department’s Web site to receive more attention. He hopes the page that he called “stale,” will function as a better source of information for the community.
In a somewhat unprecedented move from sergeant to undersheriff, Price appointed Barnhart to second in command.
“I can’t think of one that I’ve ever seen here,” Mauzy said about the skip from sergeant to undersheriff. “I think he (Price) made a fantastic choice. Herb has been here almost 22 years.”
Barnhart said that in his new position his main focus is to help the officers under him as well as Price.
“Basically it’s most of the duties I have been doing, overseeing the jail and the 911 center,” Barnhart said. “I’m here to assist him (Price) in any way that I can, the guys in any way that I can, and help the community.”
In addition to Mauzy and Barnhart, five other officers have seen job changes since Coolidge’s retirement on July 29.
Lt. Russell J. Phelps kept the same rank but moved from the road patrol, where he has worked for the last six years, to the criminal division.
Lt. Mark Helms, whose father was with the department, has been promoted from sergeant of the road patrol division to the lieutenant of the same division, succeeding Phelps.
Sgt. Edward Lake was moved within the criminal division from fraud investigator to succeed Helms as a criminal investigator.
“He was truly specialized. His primary duties were fraud investigations,” Mauzy said of Lake. “He was a tremendous asset to that program.”
Also, Sgt. Robert Derksen has been promoted from road patrol sergeant to Department of Social Services investigator to succeed Lake, while Michael Winchell was promoted from officer to sergeant.
“He’s going to do a fantastic job,” Mauzy said of Winchell. “What we look for in a supervisor is the image they portray and Mike has demonstrated his character.”
In his first supervisory job with the department, Winchell said he is excited about leading the three officers in his section.
“The biggest thing is to get the guys out there and try to boost some morale,” he said. “I’ll be checking their paper work and responding to personnel complaints and making sure the job gets done.”



Town gives Sweeneys ultimatum

Neighbors had won lawsuit challenging   decision to allow the business to stay put.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Sweeney’s Pest Elimination has until Oct. 1 to move from 1465 Ayers Road in the town of Homer to a new location at Route 281 next to Korey’s Place diner in the village.
Otherwise, the town will instruct Code Enforcement Officer Bruce Weber and Town Attorney Patrick Snyder to go before state Supreme Court Justice Philip R. Rumsey and seek a contempt order, Supervisor Fred Forbes said after an executive session at Wednesday night’s board meeting.
This morning, Forbes explained the board’s reasoning.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense financially to initiate something that’s going to solve itself within 30 or 45 days,” he said. “But if it’s not resolved by Oct. 1, then we feel the Sweeneys have had sufficient time by that point in time and we will enforce the state ruling.”
Kelly Sweeney, whose husband, Mike, owns the business, expressed her happiness with the decision at the meeting.
“Thank you very much,” she said. “We appreciate your patience.”
Mike Sweeney said this morning he is content with the decision, too.
“I’m fine with the decision ‘cause we planned on being out of there way before Oct. 1.,” he said.
Jude Niederhofer, one of Sweeney’s neighbors, who at the meeting had called for immediate legal action against Sweeney, said the ruling is the same old same old.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Niederhofer said. “It’s the way it’s been going since the beginning. In other types of situations there wouldn’t be so much consideration. People get thrown in jail. If you’re breaking the law, you should be accountable for it.”


Gas station expansion approval delayed

Staff Reporter

The city Planning Commission decided Tuesday night that plans to expand the Cortland Mobil Mart gas station and convenience store at 152 Clinton Ave. were not ready to be considered for approval.
Property owner Rich Palmer would like to rebuild in the southwest corner of the lot the current station rests on, closer to the Jiffy Lube next door.
He said he has been talking with Ed Wolack, a developer from the state of Maine, who recently opened a Dunkin’ Donuts in Cortlandville, about possibly locating a Dunkin’ Donuts within the building.
The proposed building would be 3,000 square feet, have a light-blue roof and discrete signs, said architect Brian Buttner of Applied Design Research Associates of Freeville.
Commission members felt that the proposed building itself was tastefully designed.
The proposal has yet to be reviewed by the county Planning Department.
Traffic congestion, Tioughnioga River concerns from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and pending action by the state Department of Transportation all need to be addressed before the board could approve the site plan, commissioners said.
They told Palmer and Buttner that the questions associated with the project would have to be clarified before approval could be considered.
In October, the underground tanks, gas pumps and the hoses will be replaced. Palmer said after years of gas stations being neglected, ExxonMobil is willing to help station owners pay for improvements, which is also why he would like to update the building itself.
The intersection of Clinton Avenue, Pomeroy Street and River Street was a source of concern for commissioner Bill Kline, who felt that the expansion of the gas station and the possible addition of a food franchise would increase traffic at an already busy intersection.
Buttner said that while the current station has three entrances, under the proposed plan the center driveway would be eliminated and there would only be two entrances.
The state Department of Transportation is looking into an expansion of the intersection already, and so any development of the site would be coordinated with the DOT, Buttner said.
The DEC would also have to approve the expansion of the parking lot, which would approach the edge of the West Branch of the Tioughnioga River as it runs along the north side of the property.
“It’s a challenging site,” Buttner said after the meeting. “We’re looking into issues that go beyond the site itself.”