August 23, 2007


Virtual sporters gather in Cortland for geocaching


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Robert Lippman, Lime Hollow Nature Center geocache coordinator, left, and Lime Hollow executive director Glenn Reisweber look over maps at a trail head behind the visitors center on McLean Road. Lippman will be creating a geocaching group at the center.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A couple of years ago, Cortland City Police Officer Charles Niederhofer went to Suggett Park to look into a complaint that youths were hiding drugs in a tree.
“The capsule wasn’t very big, and when we opened it, a long piece a paper came out with all these signatures,” Niederhofer said.
So he signed it “found by the Cortland City Police” and put it back.
What Niederhofer had stumbled on was a cache, part of an adventure game for global positioning system users called geocaching.
Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is essentially a treasure hunt for GPS users. People worldwide hide what are called caches and share the locations of them on the Internet. Then, others hunt for the cache.
A cache in computer terms is information usually stored in memory to make it faster to retrieve. However, the term is also used in hiking and camping as a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions, according to the geocaching Web site at
The geocaching phenomenon has recently developed in Cortland County.
“A year ago there were only eight to 10 caches in Cortland, now there are over 100,” said Robert Lippman, also known as Papa Wood. “It has just exploded.”
Lippman, 35, geocaches with his wife, Amy, known as Mama Wood, who is also 35, and 2-year-old son Vincent, or Buglet. Together they are known as the Woodland Clan.
Lippman’s interest grew so much that he organized a geocaching meet and greet at the Lime Hollow Center for Environment and Culture Visitors Center. Approximately 40 people met Wednesday night, all with the same virtual interest.
“Geocaching offers a high-tech alternative for getting outdoors. This group here tonight ranges from amateurs to those who have found thousands of caches,” said Glenn Reisweber, executive director of Lime Hollow. “It exists primarily in the virtual world, so everyone knows each other by different handles.”
Reisweber has had an interest in geocaching for a long time and although he said he is not a rabid cacher, he has been doing it for three years with the Boy Scouts.
The purpose of the event was to meet fellow geocachers, share stories and get feedback on an interest in forming a group. One couple, Sandy and Joe Bergman, together known as Bergie201, traveled all the way from Sayre, Pa. to come to the meet and greet.
“If a group formed, the visitors center would sponsor the location. It would be a gathering place, just like for the bird club, which meets the second Tuesday of every month,” Reisweber said. “Rob would have the oversight of the group so it can be safe and fun and we can still do our mission, which is protecting, preserving the environment.”
The rules of geocaching are simple. A person finds a cache, takes something from it to keep, leaves something for someone else, and signs a logbook. Depending on the size of the cache, there may just be a log to sign.
“I have a big basket at home with all the things I have picked up,” Sandy Bergman said. “It’s a lot of fun, gets you outside and gets you some exercise.”
The Bergmans have been actively geocaching for a year and three months now and have found more than 720 caches.
Lippman said the best part about the sport is that it is good for the whole family.
Sarah Sears, 9, of Auburn, said she goes geocaching with her father, Greg, and 7-year-old brother, Sam. The Sears family is known as the Geospacial Exploration Team.
“Usually they are in the woods and I get creeped out,” Sarah said. “But some are at the parks and I get to play while daddy finds. When there are big caches we get to pick stuff out of it and play with it.”
Lippman said there are geocaching organizations in Syracuse and Binghamton, but none in Cortland or Tompkins counties.
“In the last year I have seen the interest blossom,” he said. “So this event is to gage that interest.”
Lippman handed out 17 different certificates to those who have reached milestones in caching. The Bergmans received one for their 600 cache finds as of May 28.



Lawsuit brought against county judge

Staff Reporter
Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The Cortland County Public Defender’s Office filed a lawsuit Tuesday against County Court Judge William Ames, asking for a higher court to review a decision on court-appointed counsel.
Public Defender Keith Dayton filed the suit because Ames took the county’s new conflict attorney off a custody case, essentially making Dayton’s office responsible for representing both the mother and the father in the case.
Ames, in a joint decision with County Court Judge Julie Campbell filed this morning in County Court, took issue with the county’s recently created conflict attorney position, saying it is invalid because it was created improperly.
“We question the legality of the legislation which created the conflict attorney’s office,” Campbell said.
Dayton filed the suit under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, which is a type of lawsuit used to challenge an action made by a state or local government official or agency. The action will send the case to state Supreme Court to be reviewed.
Dayton said he felt compelled to file the lawsuit because Ames put him in a conflict of interest by ordering him to represent both a mother and a father for a custody case in Family Court.
“I spent hours trying to determine why. It seems so baffling to me,” Dayton said. “The problem is that now I am in an unfortunate situation and in the ethical dilemma of not being able to represent both mother and father. I’m concerned of my own ethical responsibility and now I have to ask a higher judge not to make me do this.”
Dayton said when applicants apply for representation from a public defender, the office initially determines if the person is financially eligible. If they so, the office will take the case.
In a Family Court case, like a custody case, typically both parents apply for representation and up to this point in Cortland County history the Public Defender’s Office would take one side and pick an attorney outside of the office to represent the other side.
The conflict attorney position was created last year by the county Legislature to take those conflict cases, and ultimately save the county money.
Assigned counsel would still be utilized, but only in cases when there is a third conflict party.
The conflict attorney, Tom Miller, began working for the county Aug. 6, however Dayton said both Ames and Campbell have been superseding the assignment to the conflict attorney and sending cases back to the Public Defender’s Office, creating a situation like Dayton’s custody case.



Heavy traffic ahead in city

Police say to expect congestion as SUNY Cortland students arrive this weekend.

Staff Reporter

You just got out of work for lunch and you get in your car, ready to grab a bite to eat, but there’s one problem — you can’t get out of the parking lot.
Traffic in Cortland can be busy; but this weekend, as about 7,300 students return to SUNY Cortland, there will be a lot of congestion. Classes begin Monday.
According to the college Office of Residential Services, there are 16 residence halls that hold more than 3,000 students. The college-owned West Campus apartments on Route 281 in Cortlandville hold up to 240 students. Thousands of others live in other off-campus apartments owned by private landlords
Assistant University Police Chief Mark T. DePaull said in the intersections at Prospect Terrace and Graham Avenue, and Neubig Road and Broadway will be closed from 5 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and then Prospect Terrace will be reopened at 9 a.m. as a one-way street heading west.
All 19 university police officers and two city police officers will be directing traffic.
DePaull said this procedure has been going on for many years.
“Our heaviest traffic will be Friday afternoon,” DePaull said. “It’s best if the community drives around the campus.”
DePaull added that construction on campus will either be completed or temporarily stopped for the weekend so students can move in efficiently.
Gino Sonnacchio, supervisor of the city Department of Public Works, said he foresees no issues with the city construction projects causing any limitations for students and said community residents have gotten used to the work on the closed North Main Street bridge.
“When we first started there were some issues,” Sonnacchio said. “But after people got used to Arthur Avenue being used as a bypass and the road block, we stopped getting phone calls.”
The bridge on North Main Street is being replaced by Suit-Kote Corp. with a three-sided, precast box culvert, said Brian Renna, spokesperson for Suit-Kote, an asphalt manufacturing company based in Cortlandville.
The project began three weeks ago and is expected to be completed by mid-October.
DePaull said the university is not concerned with the construction project either.
“Most students take Exit 10 or 11 (of Interstate 81) and come down Port Watson Street or Clinton Avenue. So we foresee no problems,” he said.
DePaull said freshmen will be moving in on Friday and the returning students will be moving in Saturday and Sunday.
University police will essentially form a line of vehicles on Prospect Terrace to Broadway, allowing students to unload and then directing them to a parking lot.



Homer Oil building reopens for storage

Staff Reporter

HOMER — For the first time since it closed three years ago, a soybean processing plant that caused controversy among neighbors is seeing activity.
Since last week, trucks have brought raw soybean grain to the former Homer Oil plant to store and eventually distribute, said Michael Brown, owner of Homer Oil and Scipio Center-based Angeline Elevator Co., the grain distributing company that is running the grain out of the Homer facility.
The plant is located in the village, at 4 Center St.
Brown said Angeline Elevator Co., an entirely separate company from Round House Mill, his 20-employee grain processing company in Cortland, has started using storage facilities at Homer Oil as a result of obtaining a new customer.
Angeline Elevator Co. is storing grain in Homer and will ship it for the customer, he said.
He would not say who that customer is, where that customer is located or how much grain would be shipped. Currently, he said, the customer wants soybean grain but that could change.
The former Homer Oil site, at 4 Center St., was chosen for storage and distribution because of its location along the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway, he said. He said one of his four Angeline Elevator Co. employees is working out of the Homer plant.
“We had a man who was familiar with all our equipment and we moved him to Homer for a while,” Brown said.
Brown said he does not have any plans to resume soybean crushing operations at Homer Oil, though he has not ruled out that option.
He said the plant closed in 2004 because the business was not profitable, not because of a lawsuit filed by neighborhood residents claiming the plant’s odor caused them health problems and reduced their quality of life.
“As far as I’m concerned we could start up Homer Oil at any day,” he said. “It was never proven one way or another so our permits are in order.”
Mayor Mike McDermott said he welcomes renewed activity in the plant.
“I’m so glad because it’s nice to have business in this town, and they’re doing nothing illegal,” he said.
He would not comment on how he would feel if the business started crushing soybeans again, noting it has not happened yet.