September 14, 2007


Request rejected after summer study

State finds that Dryden Middle-High School has no need for traffic light or turning lane


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Exiting school buses, passing traffic, and a pedestrian create a mess at the entrance to Dryden Middle School-High School on Route 38 during dismissal Wednesday afternoon. New York state turned down a request for a traffic light at the entrance.

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — Board of Education members are shocked that a state decision to turn down a request for a traffic light or turning lane at the middle school/high school was based in part on a traffic study conducted when school was not in session.
The board discussed at its meeting Monday a letter from Carl Ford, regional director of the state Department of Transportation’s Syracuse office.
Ford had informed the board that the DOT determined after an August traffic study that neither a traffic light nor a turn lane was needed on Route 38 in front of the middle school/high school.
Young noted during Monday’s meeting that the letter was dated Aug. 29. “When did they do the study?” he asked. “In the summer?”
Board member Kathy Zahler said the study must have been done in the summer.
Anthony Ilacqua, a spokesman for Ford, confirmed the study was undertaken in August and concluded by Aug. 29. Classes at Dryden Middle/High School began Sept. 5.
Ilacqua said the study did include a three-year history of accidents near the school, which found “no pattern of accidents that would be corrected by a traffic signal or turning lane.”
“We stand by the study,” said Ilacqua, adding the DOT could continue to monitor the area.
Kathy Zahler, a board member who acts as the district’s legislative liaison, requested the study on behalf of the board through state legislators. She said Wednesday evening she wrote to Congressman Michael Arcuri on March 8 and he replied March 14 and forwarded her request to the state DOT.
She said she plans to contact the DOT to request another traffic survey while school is in session.
“Route 38 gets backed up twice a day,” said Zahler, noting the problem was especially bad in the morning because a lot of commuters bypass Main Street in the village of Dryden by taking Route 38. She said people try to pass buses, and buses have to wait to turn into the driveways.
Lisa Stelick, director of personnel for the district, said Wednesday morning there are about 180 faculty and staff entering the grounds daily when school is in session. There are about 1,100 middle school and high school students, according to data reported to the state Education Department that is included on the annual school report cards.
Most students ride buses, drive or get rides with their parents. Superintendent of Schools Mark Crawford said 27 buses enter and leave the grounds twice a day and probably between 500 and 600 cars enter the school each morning. In addition, he said many tractor-trailers also travel Route 38.
“In our minds it’s a huge safety concern,” he said. He said in the three years he has been superintendent there have been no major accidents, but there have been several near misses. He said morning is the most critical time because commuters, buses and student and adult drivers are on the road at the same time. Crawford said Wednesday evening that the August study was “not legitimate.”
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said Zahler. She said the Newark Valley district did get a blinking light, but not until after a serious accident.
Zahler also noted that five or six years ago, the speed in front of the school was reduced to 35 mph. “We did get that, but it hasn’t alleviated the problem,” she said.
“We will continue to monitor it at the district level,” said Zahler. She said she might request another study from the state DOT and request it be done while school is in session.
Board member Christen Gibbons asked Monday night if the school resource officer, a member of the State Police, could help direct traffic on Route 38.
Crawford said the problem could be made worse because there are two entrances so two people would be needed to direct traffic or else the entrance not being controlled could become more dangerous.
The superintendent said the answer would have been to build a road from the school to Mott Road, north of the school, but that would have cost $500,000 because of underground springs in the area. The school had sought the town’s help in doing this several years ago and a second time about two years ago. The town decided this option was too costly.
“We were looking at it as a means of egress for an emergency, too,” Crawford said.



Planned museum changes name

Switch reflects goal to actively present diverse exhibits

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The group overseeing a local museum has settled on a name and is finalizing plans for the building.
This morning, Homer-Cortland Community Agency Executive Director Bill Breidinger announced the new name of what has been commonly referred to as the Brockway Truck Museum complex: the Central New York Living History Center.
Because the complex would house exhibits examining the agricultural and industrial aspects of the region, Breidinger said that the new name is more inclusive and appropriate.
The center will encompass the Brockway Truck Museum, military and other artifacts from Ken Eaton’s Homeville collection, antique fire trucks owned by Mahlon Irish, an assemblage of antique clocks and tractors from the Tractors of Yesteryear group.
The complex would begin actively courting “living history groups, re-enactors, re-enactments, and all manner of things that would come under that heading,” Breidinger said.
“We think that rolling that out is not only going to help our capital campaign, but it really clears our vision of what we want to do there,” Breidinger said. “If it works out like we hope it can, I think it will really work out tremendously.”
Meanwhile, the HCCA and architect Jeff Taw, of Syracuse-based Holmes, King, Kallquist & Associates, met Thursday night to go over the plans for the site.
HCCA vice president Hugh Riehlman said Taw presented the group with possible elevations for the front of the building, the entrance and the layout of the interior.
“Right now, we’re just working with the architect to get the final plans for the building,” Riehlman said this morning.
Tom Kyle, chairman of the HCCA’s buildings and grounds committee, said that other than the roofing work that is progressing on the 39,000-square-foot main building, the project is moving along slowly right now.
“What we need is a set of working drawings before we can proceed with our building permit, so that’s what the architect is completing now,” Kyle said this morning.
The demolition of the interior of the main building is already complete.



Election commissioners salaries again at issue

County Legislature fails to enact local law that set salaries at $26,384 by not properly advertising the law.

Staff Reporter

While the county awaits a judge’s decision on a lawsuit brought against it by its two election commissioners, the commissioners’ salaries again became an issue Thursday at a meeting of the Personnel Committee.
Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe informed the committee that a local law passed by the Legislature in December 2006 setting both his and Democratic Commissioner Bill Wood’s salaries at $26,384 was never officially adopted.
The Legislature passed the local law in response to the commissioners’ complaint that Howe and Wood’s salaries were unequal — a violation of state Election Law, Howe and Wood said — due to longevity pay based on Howe’s 10 years on the job versus Wood’s one.
The Legislature responded by removing the commissioners from the management compensation program that awarded them longevity pay, and setting their salaries at $26,384.
The commissioners then sued the county, claiming that it did not have the right to lower Howe’s salary, which had been about $30,000, in the middle of his two-year term, and that Wood, who was being paid $25,600, was owed retroactive pay to match Howe’s higher salary.
The case was argued in March before state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dowd in Norwich, however Dowd has yet to issue a decision.
Because the county did not properly advertise the creation of the local law, both Howe and Wood are being paid this year based on a $23,200 salary established by local law in 2001, Howe said. “I’m just asking that it be done properly,” he said.
County Administrator Scott Schrader said the problem with the creation of the law was that, while the county advertised the measure, it did not include the disclaimer that the law was subject to permissive referendum.
“Because the law changed their salaries mid-term, the county was required by law to let the public know that if someone gathers enough signatures, the law could be put to referendum,” he said.
Schrader said he became aware of the issue in February, and sent a memo to county officials and the Legislature indicating that the law simply needed to be advertised again, and if no petition was brought forth, it could be officially enacted.



County faces choice on health insurance administrator

Staff Reporter

The county is weighing whether to stay with its current health insurance administrator, which is accepted by more health care providers, or switch to a new one, which offers an annual overall savings.
The county Personnel Committee was presented Thursday with five responses to a request for proposals for a third-party administrator, the company that administers the health insurance plan for county employees and retirees.
Along with a proposal from the county’s current health administrator, RMSCO, the only other viable proposal, according to the Syracuse-based Benefit Consulting Group Inc., came from a company called POMCO.
POMCO submitted a $707,968 proposal for a three-year agreement, which is $122,000 less annually than RMSCO’s $829,859 proposal, County Administrator Scott Schrader told the committee.
RMSCO is accepted by approximately 89 percent of the top health care providers used by county employees, Schrader said, while POMCO’s network includes 79 percent of the those providers.
Additionally, making a switch to POMCO could bring significant administrative burden, Schrader and County Personnel Director Annette Barber agreed, as the approximately 750 individuals and families receiving health insurance through the county would have to be re-enrolled, and there could be glitches or changes in the administration of the plan.
For instance, when the county began using RMSCO in 2004, the company was more adherent to the county’s outlined coverage guidelines than the previous provider, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and the result was some county employees not getting the coverage they had received previously.
“The transition to RMSCO is over,” Barber said.
Barber, when asked which company she preferred, said she understood the interest in saving money, but she felt the county should continue with RMSCO to avoid administrative problems and hassles for county employees.