Domestic violence program raising awareness


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer     
From left, YWCA Aid to Victims of Violence program advocates Betsy Wavle and Courtney Mills, Rita Wright, program director, Traci Pier, a client services coordinator, and Linda Shutts, a senior case advocate, hold stuffed bears they will be selling to raise money and awareness for the Aid to Victims of Violence program.

Staff Reporter

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month nationwide, but the YWCA’s Aid to Victims of Violence program has dedicated the next year to raising awareness about the problem.
One month isn’t enough, said program Director Rita Wright, and therefore Aid to Victims of Violence would be extending its “Break the Silence, Stop the Violence” campaign until the end of next October.
“We just believe that we need to raise awareness every day,” Wright said in an interview at her office in the YWCA building on Clayton Avenue. “It is an act of terrorism against individuals. As they (the Homeland Security Department) heighten their alerts, we should heighten our alerts and say, ‘This has got to stop.’”
The program will recognize different community agencies each month, Wright said, beginning with some of the people and organizations that first come into contact with victims of domestic abuse.
“We’re targeting front-line people this October, because they’re the first responders,” Wright said, adding that some of these groups were presented with “hugs and kisses” jars, filled with chocolate candy. “We take them to the law enforcement departments and the hospital to say thank you for supporting our programs. At the County Jail, the law enforcement officers work very closely with us, so that if a perpetrator is released, then we’re notified so that the victim will remain safe.”
The Aid to Victims of Violence program had started selling stuffed bears to raise funds for its women’s shelter, but stopped out of deference to a United Way fundraising campaign, which Wright said runs from September through October. The bear fundraiser will resume in November.
The Cortland Women’s Shelter is a nine-bed facility, and clients are expected to only stay 30 days, although they can stay up to 90 days if they have yet to find permanent housing for themselves, and any children they may have.
Wright and Linda Shutts, a senior case advocate with Aid to Victims of Violence, said it’s important that victims understand there are places for them to turn. As a victim of violence herself, Shutts didn’t know there were resources available to her until she approached her boss at Wal Mart in 2000.
“By the time that I talked to my boss, I was in fear for my life, and I felt that something was going to happen very soon,” Shutts said Wednesday afternoon in Wright’s office. “It took some time and some planning, but working with everybody here, they got me into the safe house.”
The thing that really saved her, Shutts said, was the simple act of someone reaching out and showing they cared for her. She was a member of a support group for two years before making the jump to facilitator. After another two years in that position, she was hired by the program.
“I guess they figured they were just not going to get rid of me,” Shutts said, laughing.
She still sees some of her old-self in the victims who come through the door.
“In so many cases, even though the picky little details might be different, they parallel what was going on with me,” Shutts said. “When I look back, I really wish that I had been able to recognize the warning signs and get away a lot sooner. Somehow you think you can make everything better, but it keeps getting worse.”



EPA issues Buckbee owners ultimatum

Owner of Kellogg Road plant has until Wednesday to offer cleanup plan for dangerous chemicals

Staff Reporter

With the current owners of the former Buckbee-Mears facility yet to respond to requests to take care of thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals stored in the building, the federal government has issued an ultimatum.
The Environmental Protection Agency has sent a unilateral order to International Electron Device, the India-based company that owns the facility, demanding IED begin work at the Kellogg Road plant and provide security for the chemicals by Wednesday, said EPA spokesman Ben Barry.
Attorneys for IED have requested a conference with the EPA, which will be held Tuesday, to discuss removal options, Barry said.
“We’ll meet with the lawyers and discuss the details of the order and what they need to do to secure the site,” Barry said. “They’ve stated that they plan to operate the site, and, if that’s the case, they need to go in and secure the chemicals, but we do not see any activity on the site whatsoever.”
The factory closed in July 2005 after opening briefly under its new owner.
Police, responding to a reported burglary at the plant in July, discovered the chemicals, which included thousands of gallons of harmful and dangerous substances, including hydrochloric acid, ferric chloride and sulfuric acid, and reported them to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. After investigating, the DEC gave IED 10 days to remove the chemicals before turning the case over to the EPA.
Since then, the EPA has been working to gain access to the site.
“In general, work has not really proceeded that much because the legal process for gaining access to these sites can be quite lengthy sometimes and unfortunately it can be complicated in this case with an international participant,” Barry said.
The EPA has sent an access agreement, which would give it authority to enter the building, to IED, he said. It has not received a response.
“There’s definitely concern on our part because there are a lot of caustic chemicals there — chemicals that need to be controlled and properly contained,” Barry said. “If the site is unoccupied and somebody were to break in and cause a leak, it could be very bad, so we need to be sure nobody is gaining access to the site.”
Mary Jane Peachey, a DEC regional engineer, said the DEC was assisting the EPA and the exterior security of the building was adequate.
“The site has been secured,” Peachey said. “The fence was repaired, the facility has been locked up — the company did do that much.”
City officials were not immediately concerned about security, saying the EPA had the issue under control.
“This is a matter for the EPA and the DEC and we’re leaving it in their reliable hands,” Mayor Tom Gallagher said.



In Liverpool, Purr Fect World president faces 180 counts of cruelty

Staff Reporter

LIVERPOOL — Purr Fect World President Lisa Alderman has been charged with 180 counts of animal cruelty in Liverpool, a village official said this morning. She faces similar charges in Cortland.
Alderman, 45, of 503 Third St., was charged with a 180 counts of improper confinement of an animal, an unclassified misdemeanor under the Agriculture and Markets Law.
Alderman was arrested Oct. 5 in Liverpool after the Central New York SPCA raided her two village homes. Officials said they found violations in the 503 Third St. address but none in an adjacent property at 505 Third St., which she also owns.
Chief Don Morris of the Liverpool Village Police Department said after the raid he did not think Alderman was living at either home, adding there were around 75 cats in the 505 Third St. address.
Village Court Clerk Joni Spraugue said this morning that according to court documents, the SPCA has taken 180 cats from the 503 Third St. house. The SPCA is holding those cats in Syracuse.
As of Wednesday, the CNY SPCA had spent $31,500 on the cats, said Cruelty Investigator Betsie Puffer. That figure does not include medical care costs, she said. Puffer did have the cost of the medical care.
Alderman is facing similar charges is Cortland after police raided a house owned by Purr Fect Word, a nonprofit organization of which Alderman is president.
Cortland city officials raided a spay and neuter clinic at 7 Wheeler Ave. on Sept. 1, taking 279 cats from the business and the house in front of it. Officials said they also found 23 dead cats in a freezer.
Since the raid, Cortland County SPCA official said they have euthanized 21 cats while several others have had litters of kittens.
The SPCA is holding those cats, which exceed 250 in number, at the Cortlandville Fire Hall on Route 281 in Cortlandville.
Alderman and her co-defendant Eugenia Cute, 51, a Purr Fect World board member who was living at the Wheeler Avenue address, are scheduled to appear at 1 p.m. today in City Court.
In Cortland, Alderman and Cute are each charged with 49 counts of failure to provide proper food and water to a harbored animal, an unclassified misdemeanor under the Agriculture and Markets Law.
Today’s hearing in front of Judge Thomas A. Meldrim will determine whether Alderman and Cute are required to put up a bond for approximately $105,000 as payment for what the city has spend to care for the cats taken from the Wheeler Avenue address as well as what is expected to be spent to continue to care for them for another 30 days.
As of last week, the city had spent approximately $68,000 in caring for the cats. City officials have estimated it costs about $3,000 a week for their ongoing care.




C’ville budget proposal hikes taxes 4.2%

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Town board members trimmed about $100,000 from a $5.7 million budget proposal for 2007 at a work session Monday, leaving a projected tax rate increase of 4.2 percent.
The new general fund budget is an increase of 9.6 percent over this year’s of $5.2 million.
The amount to be raised by taxes is $1,637,699, which is a decrease of 3.7 percent from this year’s tax levy of $1.7 million. The tax rate has increased from about $3.55 per $1,000 of assessed property value for this year, to $3.70 for 2007.
Supervisor Dick Tupper said the tax levy decreased despite an increase in the tax rate because the equalization rate for the town dropped from 100 percent to 97 percent, and the Cortland Regional Medical also bought three large parcels that are now tax exempt.
Supervisor Dick Tupper said the fees for sewer and water would be, on average, $30 to $40 lower in 2007 because the water and sewer district paid off three bonds this year. The sewer fees should be about $87 or $88 per unit, he said, and the water fees should be about $91 or $92 per unit.
The costs of employee benefits have been rising in recent years, Tupper said, and another 13 percent increase in the cost of health insurance was anticipated in 2007. Benefits for employees account for about 10 percent of the $5.7 million general fund budget, he said.
“We had a major cut last year in health insurance,” Tupper said, adding that unfortunately, much of those savings have returned via the higher health insurance costs in general.
A raise of about 3.5 percent for town employees would also take effect in 2007, Tupper said. Employee salaries account for about 22 percent of the total general fund budget, Tupper said.
“It’s important to us, especially in the Highway Department and the court system, that our salaries are competitive,” Tupper said.
Two existing half-time positions in the town clerk’s office and the town court will be expanded to full-time positions, Tupper said.
Although Town Justice Francis Casullo had tried to keep his budget down, as the 32nd largest town court in the state with more than $1 million in revenue this year, the court could use more assistance in the office, Tupper said.
The $1.6 million construction of a new town court at the Raymond G. Thorpe Municipal Building and the renovation of the existing structure also required adding another $157,000 to the budget, Tupper said. The town will use $500,000 in surplus reserves to fund part of the 5,000-square-foot expansion that will double the size of the building. The project also includes renovating the existing part of the building. The remaining project cost will be funded with a $1.2-million short-term bond anticipation note.
In order for the tax rate to fall to this year’s level, Tupper said another $60,000 to $70,000 would have to be trimmed.