October 11, 2007


Crews to raze south Main St. building Monday

Asbestos concerns have delayed the demolition

Main St Build

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
The owner of an apartment building next to the former Shamrock restaurant at 148 Main St. has raised concerns about asbestos removal from the building.

Staff Reporter

Neighbors’ concern over asbestos removal and disagreement over how to conduct the cleanup have delayed the demolition of the former Shamrock restaurant at 148 Main St.
The demolition, which is part of a the $8.2 million South End housing revitalization project, is scheduled to begin Monday and should last several days.
The former Shamrock is less than 6 feet away from the walls of a nine-unit apartment complex at 146 Main St., owned by Rachel Tolmachoff of Soda Springs, Calif.
Tolmachoff and residents of the building were worried about the health effects of the asbestos, and Tolmachoff will not allow asbestos testing inside her building.
The state Department of Labor has said the asbestos would be contained within the confines of 148 Main St.
Housing Visions Inc., the nonprofit corporation that is using federal tax credits to fix up the properties, initially wanted to conduct testing inside Tolmachoff’s building before, during and after the demolition.
The company would also have covered the windows and doors with plastic sheets and constructed covered pathways for tenant’s to use throughout the demolition, which would last several days.
Oswego-based contractor Seabird Environmental is performing the demolition.
One of Tolmachoff’s tenants, a 19-year-old woman with a 17-month-old child, moved out of the building because of concerns over the demolition.
“The bottom line is that I refuse to allow any asbestos testing inside my property if they’re not going to give me indemnity for it,” Tolmachoff said Wednesday.
Housing Visions would not sign an agreement with Tolmachoff unless it included either inside air testing on her property or a release that would ensure the company could not be held liable for any future asbestos-related issues on Tolmachoff’s property.
An agreement couldn’t be reached.
Housing Visions obtained a variance from the Department of Labor that would allow the demolition to proceed, with or without Tolmachoff’s cooperation — which means the protections on her property will likely not be installed.
The variance is necessary because the two buildings are within the required minimum distance of 25 feet usually required for asbestos abatement projects.
“We are hiring the proper people, we’re talking with the right personnel to make sure that this project does get done properly,” Housing Visions Vice President Betsy Dunlap said.
Outside air testing will accompany the demolition, Dunlap said.
The asbestos on the property is mostly contained in the basement and after the building is demolished, the rubble would be put into a pile and soaked with water.
Department of Labor spokesperson Maureen Murray said these controls would ensure the containment of the asbestos.
The demolition had originally been scheduled for the beginning of the month.
The date had initially been pushed back to allow for an Oct. 2 informational meeting for Tolmachoff’s tenants, and was delayed this week in response to Tolmachoff’s objections.
The Cortland Crown Homes project will see the rehabilitation and new construction of eight apartment buildings in the south Main Street neighborhood, resulting in a total of 30 low-to-moderate income rental units.
The former Shamrock restaurant building is the last of the demolition work scheduled, with buildings at 5 Union St. and 1 Frederick St. having been taken down already.
The company hopes to have a new nine-unit apartment building on the former Shamrock site enclosed in time for winter so that work can proceed inside throughout the winter season.
Housing Visions President Ken Craig said the company won’t know if the building would be enclosed by the time snow flies.



Missing man returns home

67-year-old gone since Monday being treated for dehydration

Staff Reporter

HOMER — A Homer man who had been missing since Monday morning walked back into his home at 7 Prospect St. early this morning. He was taken to the hospital, where he was being treated for dehydration.
Philip L. Leet, 67, was reported missing Monday afternoon. The Homer Police Department said he was at the Budget Inn on North Homer Avenue.
A woman employee at the hotel who declined to give her name confirmed that Leet stayed in a room for three nights. The woman added that Leet was a very quiet man who caused no trouble and said he was waiting for his car to be fixed.
He checked into the hotel by himself.
He returned home riding his bicycle at about 6 a.m., his stepdaughter Stacy Denger said this morning. Leet appeared disoriented and disheveled, said Denger’s husband, Rob.
“This is so out of character, and I’ve heard that over and over again,” Denger said. “Some combination of things happened that … I don’t know.”
Leet had last been seen by his wife, Carol, as he left their home in Homer on his bicycle about 9 a.m. Monday morning. He was spotted later that day at the Wilson Farms convenience store on North Main Street in Cortland, and then he was seen heading over the Port Watson Street bridge heading east sometime late Monday afternoon.
“I can’t thank the Homer Police Department enough; they couldn’t have helped us more,” Denger said. “They jumped on this, they pursued it.”
Homer police and fire departments, the Cortlandville Fire Department, the Cortland County Volunteer Emergency Search Team and state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers conducted the search, while other area police agencies were told to be on the lookout for Leet.
The search initially centered on the hills above McGraw, near a cabin that Leet was the caretaker for that seemed a likely spot to begin the search.
Stacy Denger said the search Wednesday afternoon began to concentrate on the sides of roads leading toward the cabin area.



Committee begins new hiring search for BDC/IDA spot

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A search committee will meet Friday to review the first round of resumes to fill the position of executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency.
The 11-person committee, made up of members of the BDC and IDA along with local political and business leaders, will look at 21 resumes from applicants looking to replace Linda Hartsock.
Hartsock left the position Sept. 24 to take a job as regional director of Empire State Development’s Central New York Office.
Committee members praised Hartsock’s work during her eight-year tenure, but said they would be open-minded during the search to candidates with different skills.
“I think there’s a realization among the group that Linda Hartsock brought lots of different skill sets to the job, but that everybody’s different,” said Garry VanGorder, who is director of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the committee. “We may not find someone with similar skill sets, but we can certainly find someone equally capable of doing a good job.”
Karen Niday, who is serving as interim director of the BDC/IDA and also serves as Empire Zone coordinator for the county, said she looked forward to new blood in the position.
“There’s really no one way of doing it when it comes to a job like this,” Niday said.
Paul Slowey, who chairs the BDC/IDA, has said previously that a candidate with more real estate development experience — considering the BDC/IDA’s efforts to market a business park on Route 13 and potential plans to eventually acquire and market the former Buckbee-Mears facility on Kellogg Road — might be one specific criteria to consider for Hartsock’s successor.
“I think what we’re looking for may be tailored by what we have in front of us,” Slowey said.
Slowey reiterated he was not sure how long the search would take, but has said previously that he would like to have someone in place in time to start work at the outset of 2008.
The applications have come from up and down the East Coast, he said, adding that he has not yet reviewed them closely.
Total, the BDC/IDA has received 31 applications for the position, about a third of which are from local applicants.




Oregon author visits McGraw classroom

Sixth-, seventh-graders learn about wolves and process of writing books they have read

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — Briahna Reynolds liked conversing over a Web cam last spring with the author of two books her class read, but it was even better seeing him in person Wednesday, she said.
“I didn’t expect a ponytail,” said Reynolds, a seventh-grader at McGraw Junior/Senior High School. “And with just seeing his face you didn’t realize he was that tall.”
Reynolds was among about 30 sixth- and seventh-graders who met Oregon author Brian Connolly on Wednesday.
The seventh-graders, who read Connolly’s two novels and helped Connolly with one of them last year, and the sixth-graders, who are now reading his work, looked at Connolly’s pictures from Yellowstone National Park, listened to his stories about wolves and asked him questions about his books, life and writing.
“How do you get the collars on the wolves?” asked sixth-grader Ryan White, referring to collars biologists put on wolves to track their locations.
For the last few years, sixth-grade teacher John Pinto’s reading groups have read “Wolf Journal,” a novel about a boy who fights to save a wolf and the tranquility of nature.
Pinto’s reading group last year read the transcript to Connolly’s second novel, which is titled “Hawk” and about a boy fighting to save a group of wolves. They gave Connolly corrections and suggestions over a Web cam in May. In the published version of “Hawk,” Connolly thanks the students, Pinto and SUNY Cortland education professor Beth Klein, whose students worked on the books with the McGraw students.
The seventh-graders received a signed copy of the book Wednesday, and the sixth-graders will receive one later this year once they’ve finished “Wolf Journal.”



County continues search for psychiatrist

Staff Reporter

The county is considering contracting with a second employment agency to assist in its search for a staff psychiatrist for the Department of Mental Health after the first agency failed to yield any results.
The contract, forwarded Wednesday to the full Legislature by the Health Committee, would pay FCS Psychiatry Recruitment Services up to $24,000 for producing an acceptable full-time psychiatrist for the department.
The county has already contracted with a similar company,, with an agreed upon fee of $28,000 upon the placement of a permanent candidate or a daily rate of $125 to $200, plus a daily $50 fee, for a temporary doctor.
The company, which was retained in August, has not produced any viable full-time candidates, said Mike Kilmer, director of administrative services for the Mental Health Department.
Kilmer said after the committee meeting that he very recently received a couple of names from LocumTenens for possible temporary candidates, but he had not yet had a chance to look closely at them.
The contract with FCS asks for either two installments, one when the psychiatrist signs a contract and the other when the psychiatrist begins work, of $11,000 apiece, adding up to a $22,000 fee, or 12 installments of $2,000 apiece, adding up to $24,000.
Neither company requires that the county pay anything until the company provides a psychiatrist and, should the county find a doctor on its own, it would not owe either company anything, Kilmer said.
Kilmer said recruiting materials for a list of psychiatrists in New York state would likely be sent out by the county this week.
The Mental Health Department has been without a full-time psychiatrist since April, when a Syracuse doctor turned down an offer to work for the county for $205,000 annually, followed by the resignation by the doctor who had previously been working, under contract, full-time hours for the county.