October 30, 2007


Virgil man happy by design

Virgil man happy by design


Bob Ellis/staff photographer     
Bob Eckard stands near a smiley face that he mowed into his field off Timmerman Hill Road in Virgil. He has been cutting the smiley face and other designs into his land each year since 2004.

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — Sixty-one-year-old Bob Eckard let his feelings show after buying 9 acres of additional property three years ago at his Timmerman Hill Road home.
After an arduous multi-month process involving gas line issues, he was finally assured the land would not be developed. But it has not quite remained untouched.
Eckard, who owns Graphics Plus Printing, used his John Deere lawnmower to cut a giant smiley face over brownish weeds.
While he was at it, he mowed other designs, which resemble crop circles, around the smiley face. “I really did it half out of boredom,” Eckard said Monday from his home at 2014 Timmerman Hill Road.
It took him about an hour and a half to complete the original designs in 2004, which cover about 6 acres.
The overall look turned out well, he said.
“I’m a graphic designer by trade, but that didn’t have anything to do with it,” he said from his 13 acres of land, overlooking green landscape in all directions. “I got lucky.”
Since then Eckard has redone most of the designs, all while keeping the smiley face, he said Monday afternoon.
Every two weeks he mows the trails, and every night he or his fiancée, 43-year-old Nancy Constable, take their dogs for a walk on the trails.
The paths have turned out to be beneficial for the dogs — 8-year-old Shiloh, a collie mix, and 3-year-old Bailey, a black lab, he said.
“They keep them out of the deep grass and prickers,” Eckard said.
The walk usually lasts a couple of miles, which is the approximate length of all of the mowed paths, he said. The greenery is habitat for wild turkeys, deer, birds and even an occasional bear, he said.
The smiley faces and designs have gained attention.
Local freelance photographer David Blatchley noticed them recently from a light plane while taking aerial photos of Virgil. His pilot first noticed the patterns.
Blatchley, who ended up taking an overhead shot of the designs, said they caught him by surprise.
“Gosh, I don’t recall having seen anything like that before,” he said Monday. “Though I’ve seen it on TV, where people do it all the time.”
In addition to their visibility by plane, the designs can be seen from Route 392 near Virgil’s four corners and on South Cortland-Virgil Road about a mile from the designs.
“Coming up past Bennie Road on South Cortland-Virgil Road is where you can see it pretty good,” said Bernard Wade of 1200 Route 392.
Eckard wants to make the smiley face bigger next year.
“I’m going to double the size so the airliners can see it,” he said, noting light planes and helicopters frequently lurk about overhead, and people stop by with compact discs containing photos they have taken from above.
Eckard joked he has another idea for the designs.
“If I got creative I could sell advertising out there and sell designs,” he said. “I wonder how Coca-Cola would do.”




McDonald Complex to host Halloween Safe Skate

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Tammy Sciera was always looking for an alternative to trick or treating for her children.
Living in Homer on Route 90, she has to drive her children door to door and the weather is always a wild card.
“Living in the country and being a mother, I was always looking for something safe for my kids to do and I thought others were having the same challenge.”
As a result, Sciera has organized a Halloween Safe Skate at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex, of which she is the executive director.
She has enlisted the help of city and county police.
“Tamara approached me and asked if we wanted to do a safe night because there is nothing for kids to do,” said city police officer Charles Niederhofer, a member of the Cortland Police Benevolent Association, the union representing city police officers. “There used to be a parade through the city and hopefully this event will fill the place of the parade.”
The Halloween Safe Skate offers children and parents a costume contest, prizes and refreshments, with free admission. It is open from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Children can ice skate or play on the complex’s turf field.
Sciera said the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex, at 4292 Fairgrounds Road in Cortlandville, has offered the ice skating on Halloween night in the past, but for the regular public skate price of $4.
This year, the PBA and County Police Association of Cortland, a union representing county police officers, have sponsored the event, each donating $250 to make it free to the public.
Niederhofer said this is the first time the PBA and CPAC have worked together on an event. The money is going toward food, prizes, advertisements and admission costs.
“In the past we have had a Halloween skate but I felt like to offer this to the public we needed to make this free,” Sciera said. “Since Halloween tends to be an unsafe night for kids I just felt like this would be a safe alternative. I thought the police would support the idea and this would be a way to increase participation.”
Sciera said she hopes to have around 100 youths come to the event. Around 25 to 30 children have attended past Halloween skates, she said.



DeRuyter nurse suspended for giving out wrong pills

DeRUYTER (AP) — An elementary school nurse who mistakenly gave Ritalin to 15 kindergartners has been suspended indefinitely.
The nurse at DeRuyter Elementary School in Central New York thought she was handing out fluoride tablets on Oct. 18. The children noticed the difference in taste and immediately spit the pills out.
DeRuyter Superintendent Bruce Sharpe said the nurse was still being paid by the district. School officials have not identified the nurse. Sharpe said school officials sent home a note on Friday telling parents about the suspension.
According to school Principal Janice Ahlsen, the nurse confused two containers and gave a kindergarten teacher a bottle of Ritalin pills prescribed for one student instead of the fluoride tablets the district offers through a state dental health program.




County begins budget review

Staff Reporter

The Budget and Finance Committee discussed Monday plans to repair 10 roads next year through the annual budget.
The committee did not vote on any changes to the 2008 proposed $114 million Cortland County budget that cuts property tax rates 4 percent, but it did discuss some components of the budget in detail.
Roads on the list for some sort of work include: Kellogg Road in Cortlandville, Union Valley Road in Taylor, Cold Brook Road in Scott, Steger Road in Preble, Babcock Hollow Road in Harford, the McGraw-Marathon Road in Freetown, Cheningo-Solon Pond Road and Crains Mills Road.
In addition, culvert work is planned for East River Road in Truxton and North Tower Road in Solon.
County Administrator Scott Schrader said the big increase in highway spending is for the cost of surface treating for roads, from $278,000 in 2007 to $400,000 next year just for materials.
Schrader said the cost of oil is driving the material costs up for road projects. He said the culvert projects are more like bridge projects because of the amount of work involved.
Schrader said these projects are “one of the hidden liabilities of our county,” because roadwork has been neglected.
Schrader said the county has rated all county roads and those that were rated poor or fair are being targeted for projects.
The only personnel change made to the highway budget was abolishing the position of landfill attendant and making a position for a landfill equipment operator to more closely reflect the tasks done. Schrader said the attendant becomes an operator when others are on vacation.
The fuel budget was not increased from 2007 and remains at $650,000 for highway and $66,000 for Solid Waste. “We may have to revisit this, depending on the cost of diesel, said Schrader, noting the cost of gas had been dropping.
No change in the cost of disposing trash at the landfill is included in the plan, and there is a net profit, with $950,000 in expenses and $1.3 million in revenue from the landfill.
The recycling center is operating at a loss. When debt service is added, it costs $515,000 to operate and it will earn about $198,000 from selling recyclables.
Schrader said when the state pays $1.2 million for its share toward rebuilding the recycling center, the solid waste department will break even.