August 22, 2007


Pregnancy center to focus on helping teens in Groton

Nonprofit will stress  abstinence, explain options and provide clothing and toys


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Wendy Sirvent, of Groton, and Gladys Sirvent, of Tumansburg, sort baby clothing according to age and gender Tuesday. The two are part of a group of volunteers starting a nonprofit agency in Groton called the Groton Pregnancy Center.

Staff Reporter

GROTON — Wendy Sirvent vividly remembers what it was like to be pregnant at age 17.
“The most embarrassing moment is when you get morning sickness and have to run out of the classroom and everyone looks at you,” said Sirvent, 28, of Locke.
Sirvent’s experience as a teenage mother, as well as an apparent increase in the number of teenage mothers in the Groton area, has driven her to start a nonprofit pregnancy center in Groton to provide free services for expectant mothers, mothers and the public in general.
The center, which is taking shape at 121 McKinley Ave. and is expected to open within the next six months, will promote abstinence, a message Sirvent, who serves as executive director, and one of her fellow 15 volunteers say they didn’t get growing up.
It will also explain all options to pregnant mothers and provide support, pregnancy tests, baby clothes, toys and other items and referrals to adoption agencies, Planned Parenthood and area departments of social services.
Eight Groton High School students got pregnant over the last year, according to Sirvent.
“It seems like a very high number for such a small community,” she said.
Superintendent of Schools Brenda Myers could not be reached Monday afternoon.
Sixteen-year-old Stephanie Tallman, a junior at Groton High School, said from her observations the number of pregnant high school girls has gone up over the years. She suspects it is because abstinence is not pushed in health class and because having sex is considered the cool thing to do.
“It’s really hard with all the pressure,” she said.
Stephanie Tallman said she has made a commitment to wait to have sex until marriage in large part because of her mother, 32-year-old Groton resident Linda Tallman.
Tallman, who will serve as the center’s abstinence coordinator, accidentally got pregnant with Stephanie at the age of 19.
“I think we never heard that message: You can wait,” she said.
So far Tallman has taken 60 hours of courses from staff at the Ithaca Pregnancy Center, which is affiliated with Care Net, a national anti-abortion nonprofit with evangelical roots.
She will share the information with people who come into the center seeking support. For those who choose not to wait, she and the center’s four other mentors will give out information about the different types of birth control that are available.
They will not provide the birth control, but they will refer visitors to places that do, such as the Planned Parenthood center in Ithaca.
For those who are pregnant, the mentors, who have all been certified through 60 hours of courses by the Ithaca Pregnancy Center, will lay out all of their options: keeping the baby, giving it up for adoption or having an abortion.
Often pregnant teens forget they have the adoption option, volunteers said.
“Sometimes people don’t have the information on adoption because of a cultural attitude toward adoption of thinking birth mothers who give up their kids are terrible people,” said Anita Stevens, executive director of Family Connections, an adoption agency in Cortland that will collaborate with the Groton Pregnancy Center.
“But really it makes sense because they believe it’s in the best interest of the child.”
While the Groton Pregnancy Center will discuss abortion, it will not provide any abortion referrals.
Mentors insist they are not there to pressure girls one way or another.
“I learned we’re not there to judge them but to love them,” said mentor 70-year-old Marge Coe, who found out about the center through her church, the Groton Assembly of God. “The bottom line is it’s their decision.”
The church — which is next door to the pregnancy center and owns the building the pregnancy center is in — is letting the center use the space for free, Sirvent said. So far the center has raised more than $3,000 through various fundraisers, she said, and is looking for any possible state or federal grants it can get.
The center is welcoming donations of money, baby clothes, diapers, toys and other baby-related items, though until the center opens people must drop off the items at the church.
Other services at the center include free parenting classes with incentives such as free furniture, post-abortion mentoring, pregnancy tests and literature. Everything that takes place in the center is confidential. Volunteers hope the center will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and by appointment on Saturday.
Sirvent said so far the Groton community seems to have embraced the idea of a pregnancy center.
“A lot of people say we wish you were here a couple of years ago,” she said.



Landlords object to liability ordinances

By Corey Preston
Staff Reporter

A parade of local landlords appeared before the Common Council Tuesday to express misgivings with two proposed local ordinances that would have the potential to hold landlords liable for their tenants’ transgressions.
The two amendments to the city’s Code of Ordinances — one governing “nuisance parties” and the other front yard parking — were on the council’s agenda, and the landlords said they worried the council would vote on the ordinances without seeking community input.
Mayor Tom Gallagher said after the meeting that he had not intended for the council to vote on the ordinances, and the council agreed to hold a public work session to discuss the measures at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 18, prior to the regularly scheduled meeting.
“This is exactly what I was hoping for, some real public discussion, because I knew these folks would have some concerns,” Gallagher said after the meeting.
The nuisance party ordinance would allow police to shut down parties where a number of criteria are observed, including disorderly conduct, open alcohol containers, outdoor urination, underage drinking or unlawfully loud noise.
The ordinance would make it so that any “responsible persons,” which could include owners, occupants or tenants, can be liable and fined a maximum of $500 or imprisoned for 15 days.
The change in the front-yard parking ordinance would allow the code office to ticket property owners — currently just the vehicle owner can be ticketed — with a maximum fine of $100 and up to 15 days imprisonment.
Ward Dukelow, who was speaking on behalf of the Cortland County Apartment Owners Association, said the ordinances effectively made landlords surrogate parents to tenants, forced to monitor their tenants activities to avoid penalty.
“It’s difficult to understand how anybody else can be held responsible for (tenants’) activities,” Dukelow said.
Regarding the parking ordinance, landlord Steve Muka noted that it is difficult to get a tow truck to remove an illegally parked vehicle from private property because towing companies are concerned about liability.



Planning Board OKs Suit-Kote expansion

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The town Planning Board approved expansion projects at Suit-Kote’s two plants Tuesday, contingent upon the installation of odor abatement systems at Suit-Kote’s Loring Crossing facility.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation decided in early August to oversee the installation and operation of the absorption units, which are to be installed by next year.
The DEC will also work with the local asphalt manufacturer to see if any more can be done to relieve odor problems.
In recent months, the company’s neighbors have railed against the expansion of that production site, citing existing problems with strong odors.
The Planning Board conducted a detailed, three-hour review of the projects at the company’s Loring Crossing and Polkville facilities Tuesday, granting conditional permits for the proposed improvements pending Suit-Kote’s receipt of an air quality permit from the DEC in connection to the odor abatement at Loring Crossing.
The board also forwarded to the Town Board the accompanying aquifer protection permits with a recommendation for approval.
The plan for the Polkville facility entails a reconfiguration of tanks — a single, 6 million gallon tank for asphalt storage would be installed by this fall — and at Loring Crossing, seven emulsion tanks would be added in the fall as well.
Suit-Kote Operations Manager Dick Schutz said a changing market has negated the need for several smaller tanks at Polkville and that the final total storage capacity is within the permit granted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
This tank is the last item on the five-year modification plan for the company submitted to the town in December 2003.
“I don’t see the need for any more tanks like this for a long time … but I don’t have a crystal ball,” Schutz told the board.
However, the company has tried to anticipate future needs at Loring Crossing in response to the Planning Board’s request for a five-year plan for the facility at a meeting at the end of July.
Although the addition of 20 more tanks — many holding water or other benign substances — was predicted as a possibility over the next five years, the only immediate need is the construction of seven tanks for the storage of asphalt emulsion.
Schutz said Suit-Kote wants to increase its own production of the asphalt emulsion, a product it has had to purchase from another company.