Pataki in town to tour former clock tower site

Pataki 1

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
ABOVE: Gov. George Pataki talks with Cortland Fire Chief Dennis M. Baron at the site of the Squires Building on Friday.
BELOW: The face of the building’s clock, which firefighters salvaged after the April 11 blaze, is seen next to a city fire truck Friday.Pataki 2

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Gov. George Pataki walked along Main Street Friday on his way to the former site of the Squires Building, where he made a formal announcement of a $2 million grant to help rebuild the structure.
Flanked by state Sen. Ray Meier (R-Western), city Alderman Dan Quayle (R-5th Ward) and state Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford), Pataki thanked firefighters for their hard work.
The 31,000-square-foot clock tower building, which had been a fixture on Main Street since 1883, was heavily damaged by fire April 11 and torn down three days later.
“Too often we take for granted the people who answer our calls,” Pataki said of firefighters.
Pataki said he has a special appreciation for firefighters, as his father was one.
Pataki said he also had a soft spot for small cities, as he grew up in Peekskill, a small city in the Hudson Valley in which he served as mayor. Small cities have a special charm and character that enhances people’s quality of life, he said.
Pataki said he looks forward to returning to Cortland to see the new clock tower building up.
“I’ll say, ‘Hey, isn’t it great that Cortland has claimed part of its past as it rolls into the future.’”
The $2 million grant, first announced on Oct. 25, comes from the Restore NY Communities Initiative program.
That program, which was created in mid-August, is meant to help municipalities rehabilitate or remove obsolete or rundown commercial and residential properties.
The first round of Restore NY funding awarded $50 million for 75 projects around the state. Grant recipients must provide a 10 percent match through a financial contribution, in-kind contribution or a combination or both.
After brief speeches by Seward and Quayle, members of the crowd watched Pataki interact with those around him.
Chuck Coate, 63, of Lagrande, Ore., was visiting his son Jeremy, 36, of Cortland. Pataki is the first New York state governor he has seen since Nelson Rockefeller in Oregon in 1964, he said.
“You’d see him in a crowd and he’d stand out,” he said about Rockefeller.
Coate said he was in Cortland visiting his son the day the clock tower burned down. He remembers his son had to drive him to the airport but they initially couldn’t get past all of the fire trucks.
“Finally the police let him drive down the sidewalk to the next intersection,” he said about his son.
Coate said it’s great the clock tower building will be rebuilt.
“It’s a hopping town,” he said.






Plans for new building scaled back after grant

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The scale and cost of the project to rebuild the clock tower building will be reduced after the city received $2 million of the $4.8 million it had requested from the state.
“I’m not at all disappointed,” said building owner John Scanlon, who lives in Cortlandville. “We’ll make it work.”
The most recent design of the building shows a four-story brick building with a steel superstructure — instead of the original building’s wooden frame — that would cost $8.1 million.
It shows 12,000 square feet of retail/commercial space on the street level and 21 apartments on the top three floors.
The new building still would be made of brick and four floors, Scanlon said, but the depth of the building likely would be reduced, he said.
Scanlon said that as originally planned, retail stores would fill the first floor; the second and third floors would have apartments and possibly offices, he said.
He now has a new plan for the fourth floor — he wants to build a restaurant in it.
“That way all the community would have a place to meet there in the building. It would be more open to the public,” he said.
Scanlon said he will meet with Mayor Tom Gallagher and Syracuse-based Holmes, King and Kallquist Associates Architects at the beginning of the week to discuss possible changes to the plan.
The architects should draw up a new plan for the building within the next 10 days, he said.
Scanlon said he did not know how much would be budgeted for a new building at this point.
“It’ll be mostly looking at the total cost in relation to the grant money — if you take the difference, what you can financially justify,” he said.
Scanlon said besides the grant, the cost of a new building will be footed by a bank mortgage and his own money.
The building will be eligible for tax breaks because it is in an Empire Zone.
Scanlon said he hopes work on the building can begin next summer. Construction would take about a year, he said.



Cortland County to get soybean plant

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — SUNY Morrisville has narrowed down its search for a soybean crushing plant to Cortland County, university President Ray Cross said Thursday afternoon.
“It’s closest to the eastern edge of a soybean region,” he said about Cortland County. “And we need to be on a rail.”
Previously, the college was also considering a site in Madison County, Cross said, but that site is too far from the dominant area for soybean production — the Finger Lakes region.
Cross said the college is considering five options: moving into the former Homer Oil plant, building a plant in Preble off Route 281, building a plant on south Main Street in Cortland, building a plant on Route 11 in Polkville and building a plant at a fifth location he wouldn’t disclose.
Cross said the college will make a decision by Dec. 1. First, it must figure out how much each plan costs and where it will get its funding, he said.
“At this point, we don’t have a nickel,” he said.
The plant would crush soybeans grown by local farms and extract oil from the soybeans. That oil could be used in a crude state to power cars or heat homes or be converted into biodiesel form for those same purposes, Cross said.
If the college decides to convert the oil into biodiesel form, it eventually may look into building a biodiesel conversion plant in Cortland, he said.
The soybean crushing plant would help raise the price paid to local farmers per bushel between 25 and 30 cents, he said.
“The reason we want to crush is that it will help New York farmers,” he said.
The amount of oil produced will depend on the demand for soybean meal, which is also produced in the crushing process.
“We have to expand the soybean meal market in order to increase crushing,” he said. “That’s something we’re working on. We think that’s possible but not immediately.”
Cross said the college is looking for money from the state, private investors and grants for its crushing plant.
SUNY Morrisville has hired O’Brien & Gere, Syracuse-based engineers, to find out how much all the options would cost.
As part of that, the firm is figuring out how much it would cost to renovate the Homer plant so it wouldn’t emit odor.
The Homer Oil plant was established in 1989 to produce liquid oil and meal for livestock and from soybeans, which it crushed and cooked.
In 2002, a group of people — including Dorothy Eichenauer, of 60 Cayuga St., — complained about odor produced from the soybean crushing to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, claiming it caused health problems.
The odor, which smelled like burned cookies or peanuts, Eichenauer said, was worst when the wind blew in the direction of her house.
“We would wake up in the middle of the night and you’d wake up choking and there was nothing you could do,” she said. “It was awful, just awful.”
The DEC filed a lawsuit against the company, but when the company closed in 2004, the lawsuit was dropped.