New design evokes old clock tower


Property owner John Scanlon provided this artist’s rendering of a possible design for a new building at the corner of Main and Tompkins streets. The four-story structure would have a brick facade and steel structure, Scanlon said.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Designs for a new clock tower building at the corner of Main and Tompkins streets would recapture much of the look of the former building.
The property’s owner, John Scanlon, said this morning the new clock tower building would have a brick façade and a steel structure.
“It’s a four-story building, and we do feel, of course, that it’s architecturally similar to the building that was there,” Scanlon said. “We certainly want it to be a landmark and an icon for the public. It’s obvious that there haven’t been any large brick structures built in downtown Cortland since, I don’t know, probably the turn of the century.”
The 19th-century Squires Building was ravaged by fire in April, and the ruins were razed several days later.
“The primary issue is how architecturally similar to a building of that era can we afford to do,” Scanlon said.
The estimated cost of the project is about $8.1 million, and Scanlon said the scope and outcome of the design, which is being worked on by Syracuse-based Holmes, King and Kallquist Associates Architects, is very dependent upon state grant money.
The city and Thoma Development Consultants applied for about $4.6 million in Restore NY Communities Initiative Program grant money to assist in the construction. That funding had only become available in mid-August.
The city expects to receive word about the grant application sometime in October.
“The timing on that was very good, and it has left all of us who are involved with this optimistic, but cautiously optimistic,” Scanlon said. “The more people who are willing to contact their representatives and elected officials, as far as what the old building meant to them and the city of Cortland … in my opinion, that would improve our chances.”
Some previous tenants, as well as possible new ones, have spoken with Scanlon and are interested in using the first-floor as retail space, as was the case in the Squires Building. The second, third, and fourth floors would most likely be residential, but Scanlon said office space is a possibility if a prospective tenant shows interest.
“This is an initial concept that we’ve been using to work with in trying to meet the needs of possible tenants. The final design will be slightly different,” Scanlon said of the artist’s rendering of the building. “I just wanted to give people an idea of what we’re thinking, and hopefully this is a concept that we can get behind and support.”



County DSS commissioner optimistic about new law

Staff Reporter

Legislation signed into law by Gov. George Pataki Friday that would allow Child Protective Services workers easier access to children in need could have made a difference in the troubling neglect case that shocked Cortland County in March.
The discovery of a severely malnourished 5-year-old and two neglected siblings at a home on Union Street in March was part of the impetus behind the law, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Jim Seward (R-Milford) and Ray Meier (R-Western) and passed both bodies of the state Legislature in June.
“This law certainly could’ve helped us, because it hands us the process of gathering information in those rare instances where our hands are tied and a parent won’t cooperate with us,” Department of Social Services Director Kristen Monroe said of that particular case. “It wouldn’t have answered all of our difficulties, but it’s clear we did not have all of the information in that situation, and therefore I think this law could’ve helped.”
CPS caseworkers tried a number of times to access the home on Union Street, but were denied access by the children’s mother, Judy A. Gratton, who has been charged with several felony and misdemeanor drug and endangerment charges. The charges are still pending.
The new legislation doesn’t change the process for entering a home, aside from a provision that ensures a judge is available 24 hours a day for securing a warrant, Monroe said, but it does allow caseworkers easier access to children outside the home.
“What I’m most excited about is that it allows caseworkers to apply for access to children in new manners — it allows us to observe the physical condition of the child or do an interview with the child in a safe and neutral setting,” Monroe said, noting that a lesser standard of proof is necessary to get court orders for this type of access. “It allows the judges to tailor a response on a specific case-by-case basis, so we can take the least invasive steps possible and still get the critical information we need.”
Meier, who is running for the congressional seat in the 24th District, which includes Cortland County, said the Cortland County case was a big reason he pushed the legislation.
“About the time of the Cortland case, there were a number of cases across the state where the people involved told us that they felt it was too difficult to get access to the child,” Meier said. “We had a resolution from the Cortland County Legislature requesting legislation, and I’m glad it’s done, because it should give CPS workers one additional tool.”
The new law will go into effect 120 days after its signing.



Real estate agents meet with state over TCE in Cortlandville

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — When levels of the dangerous chemical trichloroethene, or TCE, were found in some homes in the Lamont Circle neighborhood, many residents worried the discovery would lessen the value of their homes.
Cortland County real estate agents met with state scientists at the Cortland Country Club Thursday and received assurances that did not have to be the case.
Bill Wertz, a scientist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and Henri Hamel, with the state Department of Health, assured the county Board of Realtors that health risks from the low levels of TCE found in the Lamont Circle neighborhood were minimal.
Furthermore, they said they would give the same assurances to any potential homeowners or buyers with concerns.
The DEC began testing in the Lamont Circle neighborhood in February, and in early August announced that approximately 20 homes had high enough levels of TCE to warrant testing. Another 50 homes required further monitoring, and the rest of the neighborhood required no further action, the DEC said.
Wertz told the real estate agents that all but three of the 20 mitigation systems, which are essentially radon treatment systems that suck soil vapors out of the ground and distribute them into the open air, had been installed in homes.
The three remaining required more additional work due to obstructions in the homes’ basements, Wertz said.
The DEC will return to test the homes in November.


Officials await test to see if dead crow in Cortland has West Nile

From Staff Reports
The Cortland County Health Department is awaiting confirmation from the state Health Department that a dead crow found in Cortland has the West Nile Virus.
The crow was found on Sept. 8 off south Main Street near Beaudry Park, said Audrey Lewis, the county’s Environmental Health director.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation completed an initial test on the crow, determining it might have the virus, she said. The county Health Department should find out whether the crow has the virus within the next week, Lewis said.
The possible West Nile Virus-related case follows other cases that were confirmed last week.
The county Health Department announced Wednesday that three dead crows found in the village of Homer tested positive for the West Nile virus.
The birds were found near the area of Clinton Street, South Main Street and North West Road. In addition to the three crows, a bird was found Aug. 15 on Hart Drive in Cortlandville, which brings the total of confirmed West Nile cases to four in the county this year. That does not count the pending city case.
This is not the first incidence of a deadly mosquito virus in Central New York. In August, traces of West Nile Virus were found in Tompkins County and Eastern Equine Encephalitis was found in Onondaga County.
In 2006, the Health Department has recorded no human infections of the virus. It was reported that since 2000 there have been 193 human infected cases statewide.