August 29, 2007


Memories of tavern remain after building is destroyed


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland County Fire Investigation Team members Kim McMasters, left, and Ric VanDonsel, right, take measurements with New York State Fire Investigator Fred Bachner, of the former Brown Beaver Inn following Tuesday morning’s fire.

Staff Reporter

WILLET — In the early 1980s, Fred Standish and a friend were hunting in and around Willet when they came across the Brown Beaver Inn.
The building was for sale, and Theola Standish said her husband and the friend, who were visiting from New Jersey, decided to ask their wives if they would be interested in buying the bar.
Theola and Fred Standish owned the inn for 16 years, but their partners dropped out after only six months — Theola Standish said the other wife couldn’t handle some of the cussing, and that they weren’t “bar people.”
“When I was still living in New Jersey, I wondered, ‘What’s the name going to be?’” Theola Standish said Tuesday afternoon. “And then as soon as I moved in there, everybody said, ‘You can’t change the name!’”
But in the 175 years since the hotel was built on the corner of Routes 41 and 26 until the fire that destroyed it in the early morning hours Tuesday, it has changed names — and proprietors — plenty of times.
As of Tuesday afternoon, fire officials were still investigating the cause of the blaze, which began at about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday and was still smoking 12 hours later, with only one corner of the structure still standing before construction equipment began digging and dismantling the remains.
The building at the crossroads in Willet had always been a meeting place; starting in the 1850s and lasting through three decades town meetings were held on the property.
And Tuesday’s fire wasn’t the first, the original structure having been reduced to ashes in 1892 and rebuilt in a very similar style that same year by then-owner Franklin Smith, said Town Historian Shirley Pember.
The third floor served as a ballroom, while the second floor contained sleeping space and the ground floor was saved for drinking and eating.
Longtime Willet Fire Department veteran Dick Deiss said a fire in the middle of 20th century cleared out the third floor, which was removed in the early 1970s by then-owner George Oliver — who had employed Deiss part-time at the inn.
Dick Deiss’ son, Richard “Dick Jr.” Deiss, and his wife, Susan Deiss, have also worked at the inn in the past.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard it come over the scanner,” Susan Deiss said, with her father-in-law adding his agreement.
“I can tell you about a whole mess of good times we had in there, but none that are fit to print,” Dick Deiss said, laughing.
George Merchant, the building’s owner since 2000, said Tuesday afternoon that the collection of historic photographs lining the walls of the dining room and other memorabilia were destroyed in the fire, and his wife Arlene said that included in the collection was a map from the 1800s with Willet spelled with two t’s.
Although a register signed by movie star Clark Gable was destroyed in the most recent fire, Pember said there is still a historic register bearing famous author Mark Twain’s signature in existence, although she wouldn’t disclose who owns the artifact.



After being rebuilt last year —

Strip of Page Green Road flawed

County, contractor in dispute over who will pay for $500,000 reconstruction

Staff Reporter

A portion of the work completed on the reconstruction of Page Green Road last year will need to be redone this fall, county officials said Tuesday.
Due to issues with the quality of materials used, the portion of Page Green Road spanning from its intersection with Ely Road to its intersection with Congdon Lane, which was completed last summer, will need to be completely redone, County Highway Superintendent Don Chambers said.
“We’re seeing some pavement failure areas,” Chambers said. “The road has cracked some places and we’ve had to do repair patches on potholes that have developed.”
The quality of the materials used for the road — the asphalt and the granular subbase — don’t appear to meet specifications outlined in the county’s contract with contractor Contour Construction, Chambers said.
Contour Construction, which is based in Binghamton, has been directed to begin work on redoing that roughly 1 mile portion of road, likely by September, Chambers said.
The cost of reconstructing the road would be about $500,000 he said, but who is responsible for covering that cost is a matter of dispute.
The contractor is contesting that it is responsible for the problems, claiming the engineer for the project, O.M. Popli, is responsible for approving materials, said County Administrator Scott Schrader. Officials of O.M. Popli did not return a message left Tuesday on their answering machine.
Schrader said that the finished product meeting specifications is the responsibility of the contractor.
“The work’s going to get done regardless,” Schrader said. “The question is will it be done at an additional county cost or will it be the responsibility of the contractor.”
David Black, president of Contour Construction, was onsite on Page Green Road Tuesday, overseeing work being done further north on the road; however, he declined to comment.
Schrader said the issue could wind up in court if Contour Construction continues to refuse to pay for the additional work.
The county contracted with Contour Construction to complete Phase II of the Page Green reconstruction, which spans from just south of Saunders Road to Congdon Lane, at a cost of $3.4 million, Chambers said.
Eighty percent of the project is federally funded, 15 percent will be paid with state funds, and 5 percent of the cost will fall to the county, he said.



Moravia man pleads guilty to criminal contempt charges

Staff Reporter

A Moravia man pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony counts of first-degree criminal contempt.
Charlton J. Crandall, 30, of 17 Albro Road, will face 2 to 4 years on each criminal contempt count, as well as a 2 to 6 year jail sentence on a violation of probation, charges that stem from a 2006 arrest.
Crandall was charged with violating an order of protection on two separate occasions by calling his wife’s cell phone, driving by his wife’s friend’s home while she was there and visiting his wife’s residence. While at her residence, he is accused of breaking a window in the trailer and the windshield of her vehicle in July 2006.
In March 2006, Crandall was arrested by the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department for attempting to run his wife off the road on Feb. 24, 2006, on Route 13 in Cortlandville.
Crandall was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal mischief, first-degree criminal contempt, felonies, second-degree harassment, reckless driving, leaving the scene of property damage accident, failure to keep right, and moving from a land unsafely, violations.