August 16, 2007


Main Street Music Series gets boost from grant


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
McGraw native jazz guitarist Gabe Cummins, right, is accompanied by keyboard player John Anderson as part of Friday’s Main Street Music Series. This Friday’s perfomers will be Greenwich Meantime and Bayou Road Krewe, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Market Place Mall parking lot.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — At first glance it may not seem so, but the parking lot alongside Marketplace Mall produces “one of best sounds you’re ever going to hear at a live show,” according to Howard Lieberman.
Lieberman is one of the principal organizers of Cortland’s Main Street Music Series, which will finish up its fifth season Aug. 24.
“Usually with outdoor shows you’re talking about a wide-open area so the sound is all over the place, but with the walls on either side there to sort of channel the sound, it really is great acoustically,” he said. “I know talking to all of the performers we’ve brought in, they really seem to love playing there.”
This summer that unique sound has been introduced to a handful of more prominent regional and national acts such as Duke Robillard, Kinsey Report and John Brown’s Body at the Music Series, with the help of roughly $27,000 in grant money filtered through SUNY Cortland from the New York State Music Fund.
The funding is part of $500,000 grant awarded to SUNY Cortland in January to stimulate the growth of music and art in the community.
The two-year grant is being broken up among a number of performance venues and community groups, with one particular focus luring more prominent performers to Cortland.
The presence of those acts in the Downtown Music Series has drawn listeners from Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton, said Cortland Downtown Manager Lloyd Purdy, and have helped turn Cortland into something of a destination for music lovers.
“These bands have really helped us put Cortland on the map as a great place to come down and hear live music,” Purdy said.
With the assistance of senior volunteers from RSVP, Purdy has surveyed concertgoers at each Friday night Music Series event, and he said that at least one-fifth and as many as one-half — for the reggae group John Brown’s Body performance — of those surveyed at each show have come from outside Cortland County.
“We have seen a significant amount of out-of-towners here at the Music Series and at Lucky’s,” said series organizer Bob Catalano, who has also utilized the state grant money to bring national acts to his monthly Bring Back Blues concerts at Lucky’s bar, which he owns. “With bands like John Brown’s Body and Duke Robillard, they are both major acts with a national draw.”
Each Music Series event this year drew at least 1,000 attendees, Purdy said, with some of the higher profile performances drawing more.
Christine Anderson and her son, Kenny Palmer, both from North Carolina, were visiting family in McGraw and attended the Aug. 10 show to see Anderson’s nephew, Gabe Cummins, who performed on the same bill as Kinsey Report.
Anderson said the Music Series compared favorably to a similar summer series in her hometown of Newport, N.C.
“It was great, a really nice night,” Anderson said. “It was the first time I’ve heard Gabriel play in a long time, and the other band, the reggae band (Kinsey Report) was really, really good.”
Lieberman said that the added funding actually made choosing acts more difficult.
“With the increased budget comes a lot more requests, and choosing bands can become more and more difficult,” Lieberman said. “Our kind of aesthetic view was we wanted to find more original music instead of so called ‘cover bands,’ even though those are always popular. We wanted to expose people to music they don’t usually hear.”
Lieberman said he’s thrilled by the growing success of the Concert Series.
“I think we wanted to bring different music into Cortland for people to hear, plus it’s just fun to throw a big party for the city,” he said. “And when you think that a lot of communities have lost their downtowns, it’s nice to have a happening downtown.”
The grant money, which also allowed for increased marketing, particularly to areas outside the county will be available next year, Lieberman said, however after that the Concert Series will likely have to look for other ways to secure funding to lure a similar slate of bands to Cortland, such as seeking more local sponsors.
“The most important thing for me is we get to get people together and throw a party downtown,” he said.



Program to monitor aquifer water quality

C’ville, city and soil and water district will oversee testing

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — After months of quiet preparation, Town Supervisor Dick Tupper announced the organization of an area water quality protection group Wednesday evening.
The Otter-Dry Creek Aquifer Monitoring Program would keep track of the health of the aquifer in the town and city of Cortland, Tupper said after a Town Board meeting.
First proposed in February, Tupper said mounting criticism over the town’s alleged indifference to protecting the area’s sole source aquifer and the proximity of the first round of water quality testing in connection with the program prompted the announcement.
Now, the town and the county Soil and Water Conservation District will work together to determine the threats, if any, which might loom over the area’s water supply.
Mayor Tom Gallagher said this morning that the city is certainly willing to support and possibly help fund the project.
Using sampling data collected from existing groundwater monitoring wells, Tupper said the Otter-Dry Creek Aquifer Monitoring Program would collect, analyze and disseminate information regarding the state of the aquifer in the vicinity of the town and the city.
“All we’re looking for is someone to coordinate all this data and write up a report; so if the water quality is changing, we can track it,” Tupper said, sitting at a conference table in the Raymond G. Thorpe Municipal Building with Town Board member John Proud and  Pat Reidy, county Soil and Water Conservation District Water quality specialist.
The Soil and Water Conservation District will handle the collection of the data and the composition of an annual State of the Aquifer report.
Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Amanda Barber said this morning she has wanted a program like this for a long time.
“It’s just one of those things that kind of has to be driven by the community that will most benefit from it,” Barber said. “There’s been a lot of monitoring efforts over the years, and with the support of Cortlandville and the city, we’ve pulled everything together into a central location now.”
The first year of the program is expected to cost about $46,500 to implement, with the cost to drop to between $15,000 and $20,000 in the following years.
For the first year, the town and — Tupper hopes — the city will pick up $20,000 worth of the cost, the Soil and Water Conservation District would pick up $20,000, and the county Health Department would cover the remainder.
Tupper said that the town would finance the program, regardless of the city’s commitment.
The costs are higher in the first year because of the expense necessary to locate the testing wells to be utilized, and collect the preliminary data.
The first meeting of town, city, county, state and federal officials took place on Feb. 21, and has been meeting regularly since.
Tupper said the program was not made public earlier because “we didn’t want to make an announcement on it until we were ready to start the program,” seeking to avoid the controversy surrounding other water quality issues, such as the Wal-Mart Supercenter development.
“We don’t want any citizen influence. We want these scientists to go out, collect their data, and just report it,” Tupper said, emphasizing the commission will also be free of the influence of politicians. “This is just good statistical data so we can really map the aquifer.”
The commission would have no regulatory authority.
The county Soil and Water Conservation District was identified as the agency most qualified to handle the program’s implementation, Tupper said, and the first step was to locate the testing wells that would be used to compile future data.
Following the disclosure of environmental concerns surrounding the Smith Corona factory on Route 13 in Cortlandville in the 1980s, water quality monitoring wells were sunk along the length of the aquifer in an attempt to gauge any possible environmental damage.
Other wells, such as those near Top’s Supermarket on Route 281, were sunk to monitor the impact of large developments.
Now, Tupper said much of this data, if still collected, is scattered among businesses and various municipalities, limiting the ability to comprehensively study the condition of the aquifer.
But Reidy said these monitoring wells, of which there are about 50, were ideally suited to the purposes at hand: they were designed to monitor the aquifer, and the data that’s been collected since their installation would provide a baseline comparison to any future data.
About 30 monitoring wells will comprise the initial sampling pool, with between six and eight monitoring the town’s Terrace Road municipal well, between six and eight monitoring the town’s wells at Lime Hollow, and between 12 and 15 wells keeping track of the area near the city’s municipal wells.
Half of the wells would test for all of the testing parameters in the first year, and the other half would test for just sodium chloride (salt) and nitrate (often found in fertilizers and animal waste).
For the first year, every well would likely be tested four times, once for each season. In following years, the wells would be tested during one season annually, the testing period progressing through the four seasons each year. The materials to be tested include dissolved metals, organic materials and other dissolved chemicals.
Reidy said one round of testing should be able to be conducted this year.
An independent lab would test the sampling data, for quality assurance purposes, and an annual written report would be drawn up each year and distributed to the interested agencies, and would also be available to the public.
The Wal-Mart Supercenter project on Route 13 includes six monitoring wells with testing protocols developed by Reidy, and Tupper said future major projects would also likely include monitoring well requirements.
In following years, Tupper said the program could be expanded to include Polkville and Homer, which also rely on the aquifer for drinking water.



Bar association explores suit against county

Lawyers are determining if there is legal basis for lawsuit over county’s recent creation of conflict attorney position.

Staff Reporter

The Cortland County Bar Association voted Tuesday to examine the possibility of suing Cortland County over the creation of a conflict attorney position to handle cases that pose a conflict for the Public Defenders’ Office.
The Bar Association has not authorized a lawsuit at this point, Vice President Mark Suben stressed, but certain members will work on a volunteer basis to determine if there are legal grounds to file suit against the county.
Suben, who was speaking for the Bar Association because association President Ron Walsh Jr. serves as an assistant county attorney, declined to elaborate on what sort of legal arguments against the position could potentially be made, other than to say that members of the bar would “see if it was done properly, and if there’s any basis to proceed to the next step of a lawsuit.”
Conflict Attorney Thomas Miller began work in the newly created office Aug. 6.
The position was created by the Legislature last year to help curb rising costs incurred by hiring assigned counsel to handle cases that the Public Defenders’ Office can’t handle.
County officials are hopeful that the new position will save a net amount of approximately $75,000 annually — the attorney and staff will cost $125,000 annually, but should save $200,000 in assigned counsel costs, County Administrator Scott Schrader has said — but members of the Bar Association have questioned those numbers.
Attorneys Frank Williams and Ed Goehler, both of whom have worked as assigned counsel for the county, told the Cortland Standard in July that they felt a single attorney would not be able to handle the caseload that had previously been handled by numerous assigned counsel.
Assigned counsel will still be utilized, whenever the conflict attorney has a conflict


Clock tower to go up in 2008

Developer pushes back the start of construction while traffic plans decided.

Staff Reporter

Construction of a new clock tower building on the corner of Main and Tompkins streets won’t begin until 2008, as property owner John Scanlon continues to revise the traffic pattern into the site from Tompkins Street.
The project has been on hold since May, when the state Department of Transportation took issue with the configuration of the drive-thru lanes that would accompany a bank on the building’s first floor.
“We had proposed some changes that looked good to the DOT, but not the prospective tenant,” Scanlon said Wednesday. “So we’re modifying the plan to, I feel, accommodate everybody, and we’ll be presenting it to the Planning Board in the next few weeks.”
The next regular meeting of the Planning Commission is scheduled for Aug. 27, and the deadline for site plan submissions is this afternoon.
In addition to the unnamed bank, Scanlon is hoping to include retail, office and residential spaces in the proposed 7,000-square-foot, four-story building.
The city Planning Commission first reviewed the $4 million development of a multi-use apartment, office, and retail clock tower building in April, a year after the historic Squires Building on the site burned.
An adjacent building also owned by Scanlon just south of the property on south Main Street would be removed to provide parking spaces for about 15 cars.
The planned building would replace the historic Squires Building, also called the Clocktower Apartments, which was destroyed by fire on April 11, 2006.
The city was awarded a $2 million state Restore-NY Communities Initiative grant for the project in April, requiring a matching contribution from the property owner.
The estimated project cost is $4.5 million
“We’re hoping for the opportunity to at least get some sort of groundbreaking before the wintertime, but obviously, the bulk of the construction is going to be next year,” Scanlon said.
There are time restrictions that kick in once construction begins, but Scanlon said he believes the project, which should take just less than a year to complete, should be in the clear.



Dryden schools supt. resigns

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The superintendent of schools announced at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting that he is resigning to take a job with another school district.
Mark J. Crawford said this morning he will be leaving for a job in Hamburg, Erie County, where he grew up.
He signed a three-year contract Monday night with the Hamburg Central School District, south of Buffalo, to be its new superintendent of schools.
“Things are going really well here in Dryden. There is nothing negative pushing me away,” Crawford said. “It’s just the draw of family.”
Crawford, began working at the Dryden school district on July 1, 2004, with a starting salary of $120,000. In June 2005, Crawford received a 4 percent raise.
Crawford said he was approached by five different school districts and chose to apply in Hamburg for personal and family reasons.
“I am delighted to have been appointed the superintendent of schools in Hamburg, but in many ways I am sad to be leaving Dryden,” Crawford said.
For now, Crawford said, the Board of Education is working through his resignation.
“Fortunately at this time we have no big issues,” he said. “So we’re looking for a smooth transition.”
Crawford said he will be staying in Dryden through September and most of October until the board finds an interim superintendent.