McGraw residents clear creeks to prevent flooding


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Bradley Fuller carries debris from Trout Brook in McGraw Sunday morning, followed by Corey Jenney and Jessica Giamichael. McGraw residents cleaned area creek beds Sunday, hoping the work would help prevent more of the flooding the village has been experiencing.

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — Fed up with extensive flooding that has made swimming pools of their basements and yards the past two years, more than 50 residents of McGraw got together Sunday to do what they could to take matters into their own hands.
“Everyone knows we’ve been hit hard by the flooding, but we’ve got a lot of people stepping up to help out,” Mayor Jay Cobb said at Sunday’s cleanup of the village’s creeks. “We’re just going in, seeing what we can do by hand, trying to get the creek beds cleaned up as best we can.”
Decked out in waders and high rubber boots, residents met at the pavilion on Clinton Street at 9 a.m. before breaking up into groups and dispersing throughout the village.
“I understand we can’t control the weather when it rains like it has, but the last couple of years have been too much,” said Elm Street resident Sally Sprouse, who said she was lucky to have avoided the worst of the recent flooding. “I see what my neighbors are going through and it’s got to stop. It just can’t happen anymore.”
People cleaned up three creeks running through McGraw — Mosquito Creek, Trout Brook and Smith Brook.
“We’re focusing on all areas of McGraw, not just one, because the water can come up over any of our creeks,” said resident Connie Neff.
Neff, with a home on East Academy Street, was hit hard by the most recent flooding July 28, when high water rose over the bridge at the end of East Academy Street and flowed into nearby yards. The town of Cortlandville decided last week to remove the damaged bridge.
One crew on Saturday focused on removing dead trees from along the banks of the creeks, Neff said, so that, hopefully, future high water won’t be diverted out of the creek bed and into the community by trees clogging the waterway.
Many residents have complained that state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations — which, according to Cobb, protect Trout Brook and require permits in order to place heavy machinery in the other creeks — have contributed to the increased flooding.
“I remember years ago when I was a kid watching bulldozers … in the creek clearing things out, and we never had these problems then,” Neff said.
The DEC has had permit requirements for the dredging of creeks with heavy equipment for years, said spokeswoman Diane Carlton, who noted that heavy dredging has actually worsened flooding issues in some areas.
“It may be solving the problem in your immediate area, but it’s only going to make things worse downstream,” Carlton said.
Cobb said the village has received permission to bring heavy equipment into certain areas of the creeks, but the amount of creek bed available will be limited.
“We’ve got to do whatever we can, because the village of McGraw simply doesn’t have the money to go through this every year,” Neff said.
The public infrastructure in McGraw was hit hardest in the late-June and early-July flooding, and Cobb said the village was working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine how much aid it would be eligible for.
As of today, FEMA representatives had tallied nearly $300,000 of work needed to repair public buildings and infrastructure in McGraw, said Brenda DeRusso, assistant fire emergency management coordinator for the county, and that number was expected to rise.
Individual home damages were far greater in the July 28 flooding, as at least 55 residents reported damages, according to Village Clerk Susan McNeill.
Because that flood occurred after the federal disaster declaration period of June 27 through July 10, those residents are not eligible for federal aid. They are encouraged, however, to call the state’s assistance hotline at (888) 769-7243 to determine if any help is available, DeRusso said.
Sunday’s cleanup lasted until the late afternoon, Cobb said this morning, and a great deal of refuse and debris were removed from the creeks.
Residents may find some debris along their creek sides that wasn’t dragged out to the road, Cobb said.
“If they do find debris on the banks, we’re asking them not to push it back in,” he said. “Just try to push it to the curbside so we can get it picked up.”
Cobb was hopeful the residents’ enthusiasm Sunday would ultimately carry over and become an annual event.
“About 60 people, the first year out, that’s a pretty good showing,” he said. “We’re gonna try to shoot for spring of next year try to get in there and do something before summer hits.”
Both Neff and Sprouse said Sunday that they looked forward to an annual cleanup, not just to help protect their homes, but as a way to bring closer together an already tight-knit community.
“A lot of us haven’t seen each other since school let out in June, and I think this is a great way to get everyone together to do some good for the community,” Sprouse said.



Motorsports event benefits community and riders\


Photo by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Joe Mullen helps his son Ray, 14, of Philadelphia change spark plugs and put radiator coolant in his 85 cc motocross bike before racing Saturday.  Mullen finished second overall in the youth bracket.

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — Dozens of dirt bikes raced through the woods on Saturday as riders weaved around a sapling or a stump behind Logan Thoroughbred Horse Rehabilitation Farm on South Cortland-Virgil Road.
The riders were competing in an American Motorcycle Association-sanctioned event, with four-wheelers taking charge of the track on Sunday.
About 60 adults and roughly a dozen youth riders participated in Saturday’s event, which drew families with RV’s and tents to a field about a quarter mile off the road.
Of the 14 miles of horse trails on the property, eight miles were converted and cut on Walter Logan’s farm in Virgil for the second time this summer, after a previous Atlantic Grand Prix event was held there July 8-9.
Logan, who raced competitively for 25 years, said the event was more a trail ride than a full motocross event.
“The whole idea behind this when we came up with it was not necessarily racing. It’s more of a recreational trail ride with a competitive component,” said event organizer Dale Freitas of the Atlantic Grand Prix series. “Everywhere we go we try to find a different cause to help out.”
Freitas said in addition to the Logan farm being one of the best tracks in the Northeast, the series has one of the lowest injury rates in the country.
“Our courses are really, really safe,” Freitas said as he stood near the finish area of the event.
The youth riders circled the track on their bikes, donned in multi-colored protective clothing and hunched over their handlebars, coaxing as much speed out of their machines as the terrain would allow.
Volunteers on four-wheelers were staked out on the more difficult turns, and Carl Simerson and his son Zach, 8, of Whitney Point, watched over a corridor of slippery rocks that had been moistened by the intermittent rain throughout the day.
“They’re definitely tentative over the rocks,” Carl Simerson said as he and Logan watched another youth clattering across the stones. Both Carl and Zach Simerson would be racing in Sunday’s event.
“We do a lot of riding on our own. This is our first sanctioned race. He (Zach) has been riding as long as he could climb on one (an ATV), and basically so have I,” Simerson said.
The AMA sanction carries benefits with it, Logan said. In addition to ensuring the event is insured, it attracts more riders and national exposure.
Proceeds from the race were donated to Logan’s farm, where thoroughbred racehorses past their prime are rehabilitated before being given to responsible owners. The Virgil Fire Department was on hand to sell snacks and drinks throughout the day, and Freitas said when the series comes into a community, he does his best to include local organizations.




Church keeps Holiday in Homer fees

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The Holiday in Homer Committee decided July 31 to keep vendor registration fees for the canceled Holiday in Homer Crafts Festival.
And the decision to keep the fees has upset some of the vendors.
For the first time in the event’s 25 years, the Homer Congregational Church canceled its annual craft fair.
On the morning of July 22 — the day of the event — heavy rain resulted in standing water through electrical lines — a hazard, said Anna McConnell, treasurer of The Holiday in Homer Committee. The electric lines had been laid across the village green to provide power for vendors.
After calling some long-term vendors for advice, the committee decided to keep the $35 fees that the more than 100 vendors had paid to set up at the festival. It also decided not to refund advertising fees.
The committee sent a letter to the vendors telling them of its decision. It said preparations for the event cost about $7,000, incurring a “significant burden” on the church. McConnell later said the vendor booth fees and vendor advertising fees did not cover the cost of the event.
The event was not rescheduled because artisans and crafters set their schedules well in advance, the letter stated. And the vendors have their schedules booked for the rest of the summer, McConnell said.
Several people complained to the church, McConnell said. One of them was Tim Robideau, a vendor who sells woodworking, furniture and accessories.
Robideau said Thursday he understands why the event was not rescheduled. And he understands why the church wanted to be reimbursed for event preparation costs. But he does not like that the committee did not give the vendors the option of donating their money. In addition to the $35 fee, he paid a $5 advertising fee, he said.