Old Hoxie Gorge bridge is demolished


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jeff Chambers, of New Jersey company Protec, ducks for cover seconds before Vemtech of Wyoming blows up the northbound Interstate 81 bridge at Hoxie Gorge this morning. Chambers’ company monitored vibration and photographed the event. A new bridge carrying interstate traffic over the gorge is seen in the background. The new span, built between the old bridges, will carry southbound traffic once a new bridge is built in place of the old northbound structure.boom

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Bud McNally, 78, of Cincinnatus, helped build the northbound bridge over Hoxie Gorge in 1964 and 1965, and he watched it fall today, more than 40 years later.
“I didn’t think it would come down so soon,” he said as the bridge was collapsing. “It came down a little quicker than it went up.”
McNally was among 30 or so local residents who stood a few hundred feet from the bridge to watch the 700-foot northbound span of the Interstate 81 bridge come down at around 10:30 a.m. Before it was removed during recent work, the surface of the bridge had been 170 feet above Hoxie Gorge Road, McNally said.
The two-lane bridge dropped after explosive charges cut its span of steel arches, said DOT spokesman Anthony Ilacqua.
The bridge was knocked down as part of the DOT’s $16 million project to build two new bridges over Hoxie Gorge. The new bridges, wider than the twin spans they are replacing, will have wider shoulders. The new bridges won’t have the old spans’ graceful arches. Vector Construction Co., of Cicero, is doing the work.
Work on the new southbound bridge started in late summer 2005 and was finished this summer. It was built between the old bridges.
Construction on the new northbound bridge should start soon, said Ilacqua. Once it is built, the old southbound bridge will be knocked down, he said. It should be completed by late 2007, he said.
Northbound cars are using the new southbound I-81 two-lane bridge. Southbound cars continue to use the old southbound _I-81 two-lane bridge.
This morning, around 10 state troopers slowed southbound traffic at the Preble exit and northbound traffic at the Whitney Point exit to 10 to 15 mph, Ilacqua said.
Once traffic was cleared around the bridge site, DOT crews cut the bridge’s steel arches with explosive charges, and the bridge fell to the ground, Ilacqua said. After the crews inspected the northbound and southbound bridges to make sure there was no damage, state troopers allowed traffic to resume at the normal speed around 10:45 a.m.
Prior to the explosion, a handful of cars were lined up behind yellow tape on Matt Eaton’s property a few hundred feet away from the bridges. Families and friends had shown up to see the bridge come down.
Gary Davis of East Freetown and Debbie and David Welsh of Freetown, said they came to see the explosion after Eaton, a man with whom they have worked, called to invite them.
Prior to the explosion, the group was looking for the best place to witness it.
“We’re going to stand in the back of the truck and see what we can see,” Davis said.
Julie Feehan and Robert Feehan, of German, had taken their children — Shea, 10, Casey, 9, and Jaclyn, 6 — out of Cincinnatus Central School to see the bridge go down.
“Some experiences are something school can’t give you,” Julie Feehan said. Minutes later, a bang resembling a cannon blast sounded. Smoke filled the air as the bridge fell. 
“Cool!” Shea Feehan said.



Audit faults county treasurer

Staff Reporter

The quality of the job being done by County Treasurer Don Ferris may again be a point of discussion after an independent audit found two county accounts were still unbalanced at the end of 2005.
The audit by independent auditor Richard McNeilly also found that a number of county accounts were not centrally controlled by the treasurer, and that capital projects budgets were not being effectively managed.
Budget and Finance Committee Chair Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward) has asked that the committee meet as an Audit Committee Thursday to officially receive and review the audit with McNeilly.
Van Dee was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon or this morning.
Ferris, who was at the center of controversy in the fall of 2004 when the Legislature voted to censure him for a number of transgressions, including failure to maintain timely and accurate financial data, declined comment Tuesday, saying he didn’t want to comment prior to discussion of the audit at Thursday’s meeting.
County Administrator Scott Schrader said that there was reason for concern.
“I think there’s really two issues that cause concern, one is the lack of reconciliation — basically, in laymen’s terms, he’s not balancing the checkbook,” Schrader said. “The other issue is the capital projects and the lack of budgeting for them — my concern is I did a capital budget for them and they didn’t manage it.”
Financial records of each project were not kept from inception to conclusion, that more specific budgets breaking down aspects of larger projects should have been done and that grants received and the county’s local share of some projects were not detailed or controlled, according to a letter from McNeilly to the legislature outlining reportable conditions discovered during the audit
McNeilly, who looked at financial statements of Cortland County through Dec. 31, 2005, also found that the checking account used as an advanced account for capital project expenditures “was still not reconciled at year-end.”
A discrepancy of $8,578 was found in that account and a $1,550 difference was noted in the county’s health insurance fund, McNeilly’s letter said.
The checking account was reconciled before the audit, which was officially submitted to the chairman of the Legislature July 31, was completed, McNeilly’s letter said, but the failure to balance the accounts by year end was an issue worth mentioning.
“The timely reconciliation of bank accounts is imperative to the proper recording, processing, summarizing, and reporting of financial data consistent with the assertions of management,” the letter said.
In October 2004, the Legislature voted to censure Ferris on 10 counts, including making false statements to the Budget and Finance Committee, filing false reports with the state Comptroller’s Office, illegally signing a contract with the independent auditor, and hindering the auditor’s work by failing to keep timely and accurate financial data.
The Legislature also voted to ask Ferris for his resignation, but Ferris declined to do so, opting instead to finish his four-year term, which he won in election in November of 2003.
Budget and Finance Committee members Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville), John Daniels (D-Cortlandville) and Newell Willcox (R-Homer) all said today that they hadn’t yet had time to review the audit.
All three said they would reserve comment until they heard from McNeilly himself at tomorrow’s meeting.
“I’m hoping we’ll get most of the questions answered tomorrow,” Daniels said.



$8.1 million building planned for Squires site

Staff Reporter

The former site of the Squires Building on the corner of Main and Tompkins streets hopefully will see the rise of a $8.1 million building, and the city is asking the state for almost half of the total cost in grant money to rebuild a clock tower as part of the project.
“We have a concept already put together, but its clearly not the final plan, but it is what we’d like to see from the beginning,” John Scanlon, the property’s owner, said Tuesday afternoon. “However, we’re very dependent upon the grant in terms of the design we’ve come up with so far … though I’d like to say that’s not the case.”
The city will apply for $4.6 million to assist Scanlon in building a new clock tower at 112 Main St., which otherwise would not be feasible.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the Common Council authorized Thoma Development Consultants to apply for $4.8 million in grant money from the Restore NY Communities Initiative Program to rebuild the clock tower, and also demolish a vacant factory building on Huntington Street.
The application for the program had to be filed by Sept. 15, said Bernie Thoma, and the public hearing and the resolutions by the council had to be done within the following week.
The council had only heard a presentation regarding the initiative at its Sept. 5 meeting, and Thoma said the state had only announced the availability of the funding in mid-August.
In order for the funding to be applied for, the city had to either own the properties — which it doesn’t — or have an agreement with the property owners — which they do.
The funding is distributed under a reimbursement system, wherein the projects are completed and the money is then obtained from the state, Thoma said. The funding can only pay for up to 90 percent of a project, and each municipality could only apply for a maximum of $5 million.


City bonds for nearly $4 million sewer project 

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The city plans to spend nearly $4 million next year on sewer upgrades required by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the city Common Council voted unanimously to issue $3.85 million in serial bonds for the work, which Department of Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi said should hopefully be put out to bid by the end of the year.
Although a previously estimated cost of the work had been at just under $3 million, Bistocchi said rising material costs called for an increased estimate.
Although there will be an increase in the sewer rate, city Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano said the final increase won’t be available until budgeting is completed in October.
“The impact that the bond issue will have on the debt portion of the sewer rate will be an increase of 20 cents a unit,” Damiano said this morning.
The average family of four uses about 140 units a year, which amounts to a yearly increase of about $28 a year. However, Damiano said about half the city’s accounts are for minimal billing, which amounts to about 48 units a year, or an $8 yearly increase for a single or two-person household.
The city’s State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit only allows the wastewater treatment center on Port Watson Street to process 9 million gallons of sewage a day. Leaks in the sewer pipes allow storm water to enter the sanitary sewer lines, which has caused the plant to exceed this limit; in one month it reached an average flow per day of 14 million gallons.
The four components will be conventional sewer replacement, manhole repair or replacement projects, work on storm water drainage, as well as a process called “slip lining,” which will plug the leaks in the piping.
A flexible plastic lining is inserted into the sewer pipe and then heated using hot water, which hardens the lining and seals up the pipes from the inside.
“For the most part, each street has a manhole approximately 300 feet apart, so we’ll be doing it in 300-foot increments,” Bistocchi said.
Approximately 19,000 feet of sewer piping will be rehabilitated, said Craig Smithgall of CRS Engineering, whom the city hired to perform a $400,000 (funded by the DEC) study of the infiltration problems between 2003 and 2005. Much of the work will be around the Dry Creek and Otter Creek area, where the water table is higher.
The slip lining should last about 50 years, Smithgall said.


McGraw requests help to resolve local flooding

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — Fed up and frustrated, members of the Village Board decided at Tuesday’s meeting to send a letter to local, state, and federal agencies asking for help to address flooding in their village.
“It is a terrible problem that we have endured here for many, many years,” said John T. Ryan Jr., the village’s attorney.
Ryan said no government agency is willing to take responsibility for the flooding problems the village endures.
“We are not only in the village of McGraw, we are also part of the town of Cortlandville. We are not only in the town of Cortlandville, we are as much a part of Cortland County as any other place in this county. We are part of the state of New York and we are part of the United Sates of America,” Ryan said. “I am not unaware that there is flooding in many areas. I am aware that this village seems to get hammered time and time again and something has to be done about it.”
The board decided to write a letter to all local and federal agencies and representatives to ask for help.
The letter asks for the creation of a fund to hire civil engineers and ecological hydrologists to study the problem. The letter also states that the village and various municipalities, along with the McGraw Board of Education, state of New York and the federal government would help fund the solution.
In addition to the flood concerns, the board also passed a motion to limit the police presence at the schools. Village Trustee Allan Stauber said the police were at the high school for the first week of school.
“We are not traffic cops,” Mayor Jay E. Cobb said.
The Village Board voted to have the school district pay for police presence if it requests security or wants the police to enforce traffic rules. The board was not opposed to the police patrolling school functions.
“If the school requests it, then the school should pay if they stay for any extended period of time,” Stauber said.
The board is still undecided on how much the school district would pay.
“It depends on how long they wanted them to be there,” said Susan McNeil, village clerk. “I would assume it is their hourly rate.”
The board was in favor of a proposed 1-percent increase in sales tax share for the town of Cortlandville. The village is part of the town.
“It will increase over time,” said Cynthia Monroe, village treasurer. “ And the city and county will decrease.”
Monroe said Cortland County receives 56 percent of the local sales tax, the city of Cortland gets 17.5 percent and the towns and villages share 26.5 percent.
A meeting was scheduled for 1 p.m. today at 1 p.m. to discuss the extra 1 percent for Cortlandville.