Cortland loses a good friend

Charles A. Gibson was an active member and supporter of many local organizations.

Charles Gibson

Cortland Standard
Charles Gibson stands at the front gate of his manor house on Tompkins Street on Oct. 9, 2003, after selling the building to SUNY Cortland for use as its Alumni Hall.

Staff Reporter

Charlie Gibson moved through the fabric of Cortland. His involvement was total. He strengthened a community’s health, its education and its sense of its own self.
Gibson, who had retired from his position as senior vice president and trust officer with the First National Bank in Cortland, died Friday after a short illness. He was 79 years old.
He had lived at the bottom of the hill on Tompkins Street with the college perched above him for several years, and SUNY Cortland became one of the many institutions and organizations that benefited from his generosity.
Whether serving on the SUNY Cortland Foundation board of directors or just lending out a spare bedroom (there were a few in the former Wickwire mansion) to a guest of the college, Gibson demonstrated his commitment to giving men and women an education, said college President Erik J. Bitterbaum.
After opening his home to university functions “at the drop of a hat” for many years, Gibson sold it to the Alumni Association in 2002 for a very, very fair price, Bitterbaum said.
“He was big on preservation,” said John Finn, a longtime friend of Gibson. “He just couldn’t imagine it not being preserved, and he did everything he could do to make that happen.”
When Gibson moved into the home, his sister Margaret Gibson said, he found a light bulb hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen by its own wire.
“He restored the house on Tompkins Street — it needed a lot of restoring. And he did that because he wanted to preserve it, because it’s such a beautiful place,” Gibson said during a phone interview from her brother’s Cosmos Hill home. “He just turned everything around to where it should be. The details, no matter what, were always very important to him”
Gibson cherished decorating his house for Christmas, said Mayor Tom Gallagher, and it used to take him months.
“There was no question that he was a real gentleman. He was a friend of everybody’s in the community,” Gallagher said today. “And he also had a lot of pride in the community … Charlie was such a behind-the-scenes guy that a lot of people wouldn’t realize how much he’s done for the community. But those who were touched by him will realize how much of a loss this is for the community.”
For seven years, Gibson Manor also served as the home for the Harvest of Gold, the primary fundraising special event of the Cortland Memorial Foundation, said foundation executive director Debbie Nadolski.
For 18 years following the 1978 inception of the Cortland Memorial Hospital Foundation, Gibson served on its board of directors.
“Charlie Gibson was a generous man, with great foresight, who gave not only of his time but also his personal resources to help the hospital,” Nadolski said Monday. “He was very dedicated in his commitment to ensure quality health care in our community.”
The foundation’s planned giving program even bears his name — The Charles Gibson Legacy Society.
Ray Franco, interim vice president for Institutional Advancement, said that over the course of 10 years since Gibson first became involved with the SUNY Cortland Foundation, his relationship with Gibson moved from a working relationship to a friendship. Both members of Rotary International, they had become neighbors on Cosmos Hill Road after Gibson built a home there (which Margaret Gibson said he designed and engineered himself) in 2004.
“You know here’s a man who has talent, and who’s willing to take the time to invest himself into his community with the purpose of making it a better place to live,” Franco said yesterday. “Communities need more people like Charlie Gibson. There’s going to have to be a lot of people willing to step up to the plate.”
And Gibson found ways to bring his own passions to as many people as he could — The Charles A. Gibson Scholarship Fund at SUNY Cortland helped students travel abroad, something he himself enjoyed immensely, said Margaret Gibson. And his interest in music and the arts inspired his work with arts at Grace Episcopal Church.
“He always was in charge of everything,” Gibson said. “A strong man, strong willed, and if he saw something that needed doing, he would do it. That’s how our family was brought up — To always look out for others.”
Through his work with the Cortland Rural Cemetery and its Foundation Board, Gibson had done great things for the cemetery, said superintendent Andy Palm.
“He was a unique guy, and a wonderful guy,” Palm said Monday, “and I’m going to miss him. A lot of people are going to miss him.”




Buckbee owner may be close to marketing site

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — More than a year after the Buckbee-Mears facility closed, city officials are hearing whispers that the factory on Kellogg Road might soon be sold.
Although she has had no recent contact with owner International Electron Devices, Linda Hartsock, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp., said she had received indications that the company was considering selling the facility.
Hartsock has had almost daily communications with a global marketing company that has expressed an interest in marketing the site for IED, she said.
That company is waiting for a signature from IED, which is based in New Dehli, India, to begin seeking potential buyers, she said. Hartsock would not reveal the name of the marketing company, citing a confidentiality agreement.
“As I understand it they’re already beginning to put together the marketing materials for if and when they do sign a contract,” Hartsock said. “Unfortunately IED doesn’t have a history of making decisions quickly, so we’ll have to see.”
Like Hartsock, Mayor Tom Gallagher said he has not spoken with IED owners in some time.
“It’s been well over a year since we’ve heard anything from them,” he said. “The bottom line is, this is something we’ve got sitting on the tax rolls and we need to get somebody in there and get those taxes paid.”
IED owes the city $238,095 in back taxes, along with $24,734 in water and sewer fees.
Should IED decide to sell the facility, Gallagher said the city would welcome a new investor.
“Although people may see this as a negative, I’m looking at this positively as an opportunity for someone else to come in here and hopefully employ people in the community that need a job,” Gallagher said.

IED will clean up chemicals

The parent company of Buckbee-Mears has indicated to the Environmental Protection Agency that it will clean up dangerous chemicals at the Kellogg Road Plant, according to an EPA spokesman.
International Electron Devices has given the EPA assurances that it will handle the cleanup, said EPA spokesman Ben Barry, and is beginning to take steps to do so.
Thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals were left behind when the plant closed in July 2005.
“The PRP (potentially responsible party) has hired a contractor to dispose of the waste, and they’ve hired a subcontractor who is currently at the site inventorying the chemicals,” Barry said, also noting that IED had contracted to secure the site, which was burglarized in July, leading to the discovery by police of the chemicals.
“They’ve been cooperative and indicated that they want to work with us and get the facility in operational shape again.”
The dangerous chemicals found during the July 24 burglary included thousands of gallons of, among other substances, hydrochloric acid, ferric chloride and sulfuric acid.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation initially gave IED 10 days to clean up the site, before turning the matter over to the EPA.
Barry said the EPA expected to receive a cleanup plan from IED soon, although he wouldn’t set a deadline.





Survey of eighth-graders finds less risky behavior

Staff Reporter

A survey of Cortland County eighth graders found that risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use and sexual activity among young teens in the area over the past 10 years have generally decreased, but there is still a need for increased and constant education.
The Zero Adolescent Pregnancy (ZAP) Program presented findings from its survey of 528 eighth graders in all five county school districts to the Legislature on Thursday, and the group plans on using the results to better focus its educational efforts for area youth.
“There’s really no other survey like this in the county, so it’s a wonderful tool for us in determining how we shape our programming,” said ZAP Coordinator Cindy Grey.
The survey, which has been conducted every two years by the ZAP Program since 1996, found that the percentage of students who admitted to drinking alcohol dropped from 70 percent to 48 percent, that those divulging that they’ve had consensual sex dropped from 24 percent to 15 percent, and those claiming to have used marijuana has dropped from 30 percent to 13 percent since the first survey was taken 10 years ago.
“I think when you look at those trends, it tells us that the programs we’re doing are effective,” said Elaine Lambert director of the Jacobus Center for Reproductive Health, which oversees the ZAP Program.
Not all the numbers were down, though.
The percentage of students who admitted to drinking alcohol was up 6 percent above 2004, Lambert said, and the percentage of those having sex, although down from 2004, was still 5 percent above a low of 10 percent in 2000.
“I think that tells us that we need to continue with those efforts, and continue to make these kids understand what a risky behavior is and how it can affect them,” she said.
The most startling trend, Lambert said, was a drop in the number of students who said they had protected sex. Seventy percent of those surveyed in 2006 said they used protection, which dropped from a high of 82 percent in 2002.
“I think that really points out the need for comprehensive sexuality education,” Lambert said. “Obviously we’ll always teach that abstinence is the safest option, but we need to step up our efforts and make sure kids understand how important it is to use protection every time.”




Groton to buy church for village office space

Staff Reporter

GROTON — Village officials are on the verge of acquiring a new building for the Village Clerk and the Code Enforcement offices.
According to Village Clerk and Treasurer Chuck Rankin, the village plans on moving the two departments out of the Municipal Building on 108 Cortland St. and into the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rankin said that the move to 143 Cortland St. is expected to create more working and storage room for his departments as well as for the village police department.
Rankin added that the three departments currently share the Municipal Building but the move will leave the police department where it is, giving each department added space.
“Basically it’s going to move us out of here and free-up space for us and the police,” he said. “We have been cramped for space for many years.”
Rankin said that he couldn’t release how much the village paid for the building until the sale is finalized. Rankin couldn’t provide a timetable for that release.
“I’m not sure the agreement has even been filed yet,” he said.
Rankin added that he believes the new building is in good shape but that he is unsure how old it is.
“I don’t know may be 25 years old, plus or minus,” he said.
According to Rankin the village did not hire an engineer to inspect the new facility before the purchase and the move isn’t expected to happen for another year.