J.M. McDonald Sports Complex seeks more funding

Panel supports $25K boost

Money would help plans to expand facility’s marketing efforts

Ice Rink

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Members of the Cortland Youth Hockey Squirt Travel Team skate around the net as they warm up prior to their practice at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex on Oct. 13. Hockey and other sporting events brought in families who spent $175,000 in the county over the last year, according to a presentation Thursday by Tammy Sciera, executive director of the complex.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Citing an ambitious plan to expand marketing within Cortland County and in surrounding areas, the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex is asking the county for financial assistance.
The Legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee endorsed a resolution Thursday that would give the Sports Complex $25,000 from the county’s occupancy tax revenue to help fund a major marketing campaign in 2007.
The full Legislature will vote on the resolution Thursday.
“This is our second year in operation and our budget was pretty tight, and usually when that happens marketing is the first thing to get cut,” said Tammy Sciera, executive director of the complex. “If we want to be successful though, what we need to do is increase our marketing and make a real push to let people know what’s available here.”
The complex wants to expand its marketing budget from $5,000 in 2005-06 to $40,000 in 2006-07, Sciera said.
The total budget for the complex will be about $740,000.
“We’re hoping to break even this coming year,” Sciera said, noting that the complex lost about $35,000 in 2005-06.
The boosted marketing budget will include a heavy emphasis on radio and print advertising not just in Cortland County, but also in the nearby Syracuse, Binghamton and Ithaca areas, Sciera said.
“We need to look at the people most likely to travel to this area for our events,” Sciera said. “We had over 200,000 visits this past year, which is a substantial figure, so we’re really excited about what this coming year will bring, and we’re hoping we can draw in more people from surrounding counties.”
Sciera gave a presentation to the committee stating that, through sporting events alone — such as sports camps, hockey, soccer and lacrosse tournaments and gymnastic and figure skating meets — families visiting the complex spent about $175,000 in the county.
That number does not include special events and ongoing activities such as weekly hockey games that bring people into the county, she said.
“One of the biggest areas we see a lot of outside impact is through the youth hockey,” Sciera said. “They do between five and seven games each day Saturday and Sunday, and its teams from outside the area spending the whole day here.”
Sciera’s presentation impressed the committee.
“They’re bringing in a lot of dollars for us and they definitely get my support,” said committee member John Daniels (D-Cortlandville).
Committee member Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville), the lone nay vote on the resolution, said he would like to see how much of the marketing budget was being focused on marketing outside the county.
“That’s what the occupancy tax is for, bringing in tourism dollars and I just felt that the plan for advertising outside the county was weak,” Ross said.
Much of the marketing for the complex will be focused locally, Sciera said, as the non-profit complex is looking to increase awareness within the county, and will be seeking local sponsorship, donations and volunteers.
“This is one of the quieter entities in the county right now, and I think people don’t completely understand the impact we’re making,” she said. “We want to create awareness because basically we’re a community facility that depends on how well the community supports us.”
Ross also said he was opposed to the resolution for $25,000 because in the past when agencies have asked for occupancy tax funds, the county has agreed to a portion of the sum requested.
“When everybody else asks for money, we always settle on something less and I don’t know why this should be different,” Ross said.
A majority of the county’s Occupancy Tax Fund $308,000 this year goes to the county Convention & Visitors Bureau, County Administrator Scott Schrader said.
The only other money awarded in 2006 is $10,000 earmarked for the new Brockway Museum, which was less than the $15,000 requested, he said.
Committee Vice-Chairman John Troy (D-1st Ward) said the money for the complex, if approved by the Legislature, would be well spent.
“They’re very deserving of the money,” said Troy, who noted he and his family often use the complex. “They’re bringing a lot of money into the county and it’s really a great facility for Cortland.”
The county has $33,000 available from the Occupancy Tax Fund, Schrader said.
The fund comes from an extra 5 percent tax on visitors staying in hotels in the county.



Buckbee cleanup on hold

Staff Reporter

Thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals will remain for the time being in the former Buckbee-Mears facility on Kellogg Road, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tries to get the plant owners to perform the cleanup.
India-based International Electron Devices Ltd. failed to abide by an ultimatum from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to remove the chemicals, said DEC spokeswoman Diane Carlton. The order, issued in an Aug. 2 letter, gave IED 10 days for the removal.
“We’ve had discussions with the attorneys for the property owners, but they said having everything out within 10 days was not something they were willing to do or could do,” Carlton said. “Our interest at this point is getting it cleaned up because there are health and safety issues there and we want to do what’s best for the community.”
The matter has been turned over to the EPA, which also plans on seeking contact with IED before stepping in to perform the cleanup.
“We intend to contact owners of the site next week to determine what their intentions are,” EPA spokesman Rich Cahill said. “Our legal department will contact their lawyers and determine if it’s appropriate that they do the cleanup with our oversight, or if we do it with our own contractors.”
Cahill could not say when a determination would be made or when cleanup would begin, but said cleaning the chemicals up was a priority for the EPA. “Obviously this is something we want to move on,” he said.
The city is concerned about the presence of the chemicals, but will rely on the state and federal agencies to handle the cleanup, Mayor Tom Gallagher said.
“My sense of urgency is based on the DEC and EPA,” Gallagher said. “Those guys are professionals, and we’re confident they’re gonna handle this the way it needs to be handled.”
The chemicals were discovered July 23 when city police responded to a burglary complaint at the facility.
On July 27, police, the city fire and code enforcement office, the EPA and the DEC inspected the site.
Among the chemicals found were kegs containing 5,456 gallons of sodium hydroxide, 5,390 gallons of nitric acid and 4,857 gallons of sulfuric acid, Carlton said, and four drums containing a total of more than 14,000 gallons of ferric chloride and three containing more than 4,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid.




C’ville zoning, storm water, PUD drafts done

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Proposed amendments to town zoning laws, storm water management criteria for developers and the revised Planned Unit Development guidelines are now available for public review following review by the town Planning Board.
The documents are available in the Town Clerk’s Office, Town Attorney John Folmer said.
The Town Board will now wait to see if any other entity would like to be lead agency on the project, said Supervisor Dick Tupper, before proceeding with the state Environmental Review Act process and the public hearings for each of the documents.
Planning Board member Nick Renzi said that it is likely no other agency will step forward.
“Those three documents are probably the most significant changes to codes (in many years), and when they’re released … I think it will be outstanding in terms of codes in communities the size of Cortlandville,” Renzi said Thursday. “Especially the storm water management. With all the rain events that we’ve had, it will be a vital part of the code.”
The zoning amendment will be subject to a separate hearing from the PUD and the storm water management plan, and Renzi said those hearings will most likely be held in September and October, respectively.
Renzi said that the PUD language has been substantially re-written and tightened up from its 25-year-old predecessor, and that big box stores will no longer be able to apply for PUD status in the future.
“It was written very loosely, and it allowed things to happen that weren’t consistent with a PUD,” Renzi said.
A PUD zoning designation allows for mixed-uses within a site, provided that the developer shows a benefit to the community.
Under the current language, the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter is a PUD, and will remain as such. The new language will not apply to the project.
“Wal-Mart has submitted to us a Draft Environmental Impact Statement,” Folmer said Wednesday. “They then gave it to us, and the Town Board is responsible for getting prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement under SEQRA. We are permitted, and we did, ask the applicant, Wal-Mart, to prepare on our behalf a Final Environmental Impact Statement.”
The town attorney will soon be reviewing non-technical language within a draft of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Supercenter, and Cortlandville’s engineering firm, Clough Harbour & Associates, has already reviewed the technical aspects and sent those back to the Wal-Mart developer with its recommendations.




County adds jobs over year

All sectors grow or maintain numbers

Staff Reporter

Cortland County’s job growth outpaced state and national rates over the last year, as its work force and jobs grew by 600, according to state Labor Department figures released Thursday.
From July 2005 to July 2006, the total number of private sector jobs increased by 3.6 percent, from 13,900 to 14,400. Within that category, the manufacturing, professional and business service, educational and health service and leisure and hospitality sectors saw the most growth.
Government jobs grew from 3,900 to 4,000 during that period.
Nationally, private sector jobs grew by 1.4 percent, and statewide they grew by 1.2 percent. Cortland County’s higher percentage — 3.6 percent — indicates its economy is doing very well, said Linda Hartsock, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Agency/Industrial Development Agency.
“It’s still about three times the rate of New York state so we’re outperforming much of upstate; surpassing most communities,” she said.
Karen Knapik-Scalzo, an economist at the state Labor Department’s Syracuse office, agreed Cortland is doing well.
“When we look at the growth rate, that is a strong growth rate for Cortland County,” she said.
Cortland County’s job growth _in the manufacturing sector was _significantly higher than job growth nationwide and statewide. Manufacturing jobs saw a 0.4 percent increase nationwide, a 3 percent decrease statewide and a 4.3 percent increase in Cortland County.
Hartsock said that even though Buckbee-Mears, a major manufacturing plant, shut down, such employers as Pall Trinity and Marietta Corp., as well as small manufacturers, have hired the displaced workers. Knapik-Scalzo added that a growth in machinery manufacturing in Cortland County has contributed to the increase in manufacturing jobs.
In Cortland County, the number of educational and health service jobs grew faster than all other job types — by 7.4 percent — from July 2005 to July 2006. That compares with _2 percent growth both nationally and in New York state.
That’s because regional employers have understood the population is aging, Hartsock said.
“Every 10 seconds a baby boomer will start turning 60,” she said. “If they continue to look for active lifestyles and expect to say vibrant and fit, there’s a demand in terms of health services.”
Those services include new medical devices and technology, she said.
Knapik-Scalzo said the number of nursing and residential care facility jobs has increased as demand for those services has increased.
Hartsock said jobs in the medical field typically pay well. That contrasts with jobs in the retail field, for example. Thus, Cortland County should not be too disappointed its retail sector saw no job growth over the last year, she said.
“The fastest growing areas are downstate because you are seeing a lot of retail, malls, strip stores, low-wage jobs without benefits,” she said.
Cortland County’s professional and business service and leisure and hospitality sectors saw 5.6 percent job growth over the last year. Nationally, those sectors grew by 2.8 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Statewide they grew by 1.8 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.
Knapik-Scalzo said growth in the scientific and technical services category of the professional and business services sector and the amusement, gambling and recreational category of the leisure and hospitality sector are largely responsible for the job growth in Cortland County.
So why all the job growth in Cortland County?
The main reason is the work force — the number of people eligible to work, Hartsock said. It grew by 600 over the year, which equals the number of jobs that were created during the same period of time.
The equal numbers explain why the county’s unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent.
Hartsock said the increase in the work force suggests Cortland County is starting to see population growth. The number of people living in Cortland increased by 21 from 2000 to 2005—from 48,599 to 48,622.
The number of households increased by 2,012 — or by 11 percent — from 2000 to 2005.
“Unlike a lot of upstate communities, we’re beginning to see population growth,” Hartsock said.
Hartsock said the relatively low cost of real estate, and marketing it to other communities, explain the increased number of households.
Despite Cortland County’s rosy economic picture, it should not be overly optimistic about the future, she said. Economists are starting to predict, for example, some “contraction” in terms of manufacturing orders and work force expansions at the national level, she said.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens locally in terms of national trends,” she said.