September 11, 2007


County considers backup 911 center

Recent failures at dispatch center prompt $100,000  proposal to convert C’ville Fire Station into second 911 center.

Staff Reporter

Three recent failures at the county dispatch center, believed to stem back to an Aug. 24 electrical storm, have prompted county officials to consider setting up a secondary dispatch center for emergency situations in Cortlandville.
The former Cortlandville Fire Station on Route 281 already has some of the needed infrastructure to become a secondary dispatch center, primarily the ability to “tone,” or directly ring the alarm of area fire departments, the Legislature’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee was told this morning.
To outfit the facility with three dispatch consoles, the capability to network with the county’s computers and radio capabilities could cost approximately $100,000 County Administrator Scott Schrader said.
However Schrader, Sheriff Lee Price and Fire Coordinator Bob Duell stressed that the county cannot afford to have significant gaps in its dispatch services.
“We have to do everything we can, we can’t miss a call if our system goes down,” Duell said. “I think you have to have a backup to everything, especially something like this, and it probably needs to be done as soon as possible.”
On Aug. 24, a lightning strike knocked the dispatch center out of service for about one hour and 45 minutes, Schrader told the committee.
The 911 system went out again Saturday for 10 minutes, Duell said, and Monday for 40 minutes.
The county has preventative measures such as lightning arrestors set up to deal with lightning strikes, Schrader said, but the lightning apparently infiltrated the building not through typical power lines, but through telephone lines.
“Honestly I think it caused more damage than a direct hit would have,” Schrader said.
The two other recent systemic problems are believed to be related to the lightning strike, Schrader said, and the county is working to repair glitches in the system.
The county has asked the vendor who sold the county its new dispatch machines, which were installed earlier this year, to look at ways to mitigate the problems.
Financially, the repairs will likely be covered by the county’s insurance, Schrader said.
“I’m not necessarily concerned about another lightning strike, but it’s clear that there’s a need for a backup system,” Schrader said.
When the system goes down, the city currently serves as the backup public-safety answering point, Schrader said, however the city does not have toning capabilities, or the ability to do computer aided dispatch.
Because there is no toning capability when the dispatch center is down, a call goes out to all fire departments to man their radios for any instances of emergencies.
During the Aug. 24 storm, Price said he and Duell stationed themselves in the communications tower on Tower Road and relayed calls from the city to the various fire departments via radio.
“It’s a rudimentary method that can work for a very short term, but if we have a situation where we need a backup station for a couple of weeks, that’s not going to get it done,” Schrader said.
The potential secondary center in Cortlandville would be unmanned, meaning there would be a brief hole in dispatch services while county dispatch officers were in transit, but the center would have all the necessary capabilities that the primary center has, Schrader said.
The committee agreed that it was worth looking at a secondary site in Cortlandville, and asked Schrader to develop a plan outlining how the project would work and how much it would cost.



Code would base number of units on density

Committee revising city code suggests change based on dwellings per square foot

Staff Reporter

A committee is proposing the city adopt new regulations setting the maximum number of residential units on a property based on the square footage of the building. The figure would vary in different zoning districts.
The code revision committee charged with revising the city’s Code of Ordinances reviewed density standards for each of the city’s four residential zones at a special meeting Monday evening. County Planning Department Director Dan Dineen presented city code officials, commission members and two concerned residents with the criteria.
If the proposal were to be adopted, four and a half dwelling units per acre would be allowed for every 10,000 square feet of property structure in an R-1 district; nine units per acre would be allowed for every 10,000 square feet in an R-2 district; 12.5 units per acre for ever 10,000 square feet in an R-3 district; and 16 dwelling units per acre for every 10,000 square feet in an R-4 district.
Although similar standards had been in place in the set of codes adopted in 1978, the square footage basis for density disappeared during the last revision process that concluded in 2004, Dineen said.
Since then high incidences of student housing in the city and the perception that student housing is encroaching on single-family residential neighborhoods, as well as issues surrounding multi-family housing in general, have spawned a public outcry against the conversion of single-family homes to student apartments.
In part, the purpose of the code revisions is to correct mistakes and close loopholes that have become apparent since the last revision.
Commission members felt the addition of the density requirements was overlooked during the 2004 revisions, and that the criteria would be a useful addition. In the last code, parking and setback requirements had been used to limit the density.
The committee, which has been meeting regularly for several months, also read through the statutes governing its own site plan review of projects. Using bits and pieces adopted from state guidelines, the committee reviewed proposed revisions and amended language and redundancies to streamline the code.
For example, rather than laying out specific guidelines for allowable roofing materials on specific types of roofs, the committee realized that this could be included in a preceding paragraph requiring that “all exterior materials shall be harmonious with the building itself and the surrounding neighborhood.”
Planning Commission member Bill Kline and assistant fire chief and director of code enforcement Chuck Glover also stressed the need for a less extensive site plan review process for simple building projects, such as a deck for a private home.



Student housing projects receive variances

Staff Reporter

Two apartment developments on Groton Avenue received variances from the city Zoning Board of Appeals Monday afternoon.
On the corner of Groton Avenue and Woodruff Street, developer Jim Reeners needed a variance to allow for a front yard setback that did not meet code and for overnight parking in a floodway for the 10-unit, roughly 10,000-square-foot building proposal he presented to the city Planning Commission at the end of August.
The apartments, which would be set up as suites, would each house three students for a total of 30 students.
The proposal includes a front porch that crosses into the minimum setback for the site, but Reeners said that not only does the porch fit in with the surrounding structures, but that a wheelchair ramp on the front of the building would encroach upon the setback regardless.
The project includes three properties: 110, 112 and 114 Groton Ave.
The building closest to Woodruff Street, 114 Groton Ave., would be renovated and built into the overall structure, while the nearby house at 112 Groton Ave. was torn down within the last three weeks to accommodate the bulk of the new building. Reeners said this morning that the basement of 112 Groton Ave. will be included in the new building.
The house at 110 Groton Ave. was already demolished when Reeners purchased the property, and that lot will be used for parking.
A house on Woodruff Street would be renovated and would house a caretaker and two graduate students, Reeners said, but he is waiting to move forward on that project until the 10-unit apartment development is approved.
Meanwhile, developer Emanuel Pothos received a lot size variance for an eight-person apartment development at 70 Groton Ave.
Although the lot coverage is greater than that allowed in the R-4 district, Pothos is providing enough parking spots for every tenant in the building (only six spots are required under the code), which the Zoning Board of Appeals decided was a worthwhile overuse of the lot.




Dryden to hire interim school supt.

District hopes to hire replacement for Mark  Crawford by October.

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The district is looking for an interim superintendent to replace Superintendent of Schools Mark Crawford while the board searches for a permanent replacement.
Crawford announced his resignation at the Aug. 28 Board of Education meeting after having signed a three-year contract Aug. 27 as district superintendent with the Hamburg Central School District in Chautauqua County.
Applications for interim superintendent at Dryden are due Sept. 17, Board of Education President Anderson Young said at Monday night’s board meeting.
He said Ellen O’Donnell, Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES district superintendent, helped with posting the notice of vacancy.
Anderson said the board decided at the Aug. 28 meeting to hire an interim by October so it could spend more time searching for a permanent replacement.
Anderson said he hoped the board could interview and select an interim superintendent as early as possible in October.
Crawford is scheduled to leave for his new job in Hamburg after the interim superintendent is in place.
The Hamburg Board of Education unanimously appointed Crawford, a Hamburg native, for the position at a special meeting Aug. 13, according to information posted on the district’s Web site.
Crawford succeeds Peter Roswell, who retired Sept. 1, after nearly 10 years as superintendent.
Assistant Superintendent Gordon S. Kerr is serving as acting superintendent in Hamburg until Crawford takes over sometime in October.