November 6, 2007


Election plans to run the results of key local election races Tuesday night. For full election coverage, check Wednesday’s Cortland Standard newspaper.




Talks planned to merge parishes

Nine local Catholic parishes may become three

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — An impending reorganization of local Catholic churches would reduce the number of parishes in the area from nine to three, each served by a single priest.
A diocese spokesperson could not be reached for comment Monday or this morning, and details of the reorganization have yet to be decided.
Representatives of the local churches in Cortland County as well as DeRuyter and Whitney Point met with officials from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse on Oct. 23, when they learned that the nine existing church communities would be combined into three parishes but not which, if any, congregations would be discontinued.
The Rev. Michael Minehan, pastor of St. Mary’s in Cortland, said this morning no date has been set as to when the changes would be implemented, but that the diocese hopes to have received proposals from the church communities by the end of January.
“What they plan on doing is making sure each of those subgroups can be served by one priest in the future,” Minehan said this morning, stressing that no one knows what churches could or would be closed.
“Except for the breaking up into the three groups, there’s nothing that’s been decided at this time,” Minehan said.
The Rev. Daniel DeLorme, pastor of St. Margaret’s in Homer, said meetings would be held in November to begin discussing a future course.
Five representatives from each church community would come together with the representatives from the other communities in the newly created subgroups, DeLorme said.
“Anything else really would just be conjecture or rumors or guesses. That’s all we know,” DeLorme said. “It has precipitated a lot of gossip. It’s understandable that every place would like to remain open.”
The reorganization is part of a wholesale transformation of the diocese including, along with Cortland, parishes in Oswego, Oneida, Onondaga, Madison, Chenango and Broome counties. It is meant to ensure the church’s long-term viability in the face of changing demographics and financial and staffing challenges.
In November, representatives of the nine parishes in the Cortland Pastoral Care Area sent the diocese three recommendations for how they would like to see the local parishes restructured, two of which called for narrowing the nine churches into a total of three parishes, with one pastor for each, and one that called for consolidating all nine churches into one parish.
There are five priests serving the area now, two of them part-time.
The diocese has announced the reorganization of all areas other than Cortland and parts of Onondaga, Madison and Oneida counties to date, and a number of mergers and closings have been announced.
Larry Brickner of Marathon, who is a deacon with St. Patrick’s in Truxton and St. Lawrence’s in DeRuyter, believes that some of the smaller churches in the local Pastoral Care Area would be shut down and combined with the larger communities.
“The bishop has said that he wants to have one priest working under one roof,” Brickner said this morning. “The only thing that remains open to conjecture is what’s going to happen within those groups.”
Minehan said that although the “one priest, one roof” mantra has been floating around the diocese, it’s not official policy and there remains the possibility that the new parish subgroups would still consist of more than one church building.
“Last week, I heard a lot of rumors were floating around, and that’s always hurtful to the process,” Minehan said.
Brickner said the two churches he is involved with have been kept up to speed on the reorganization process because they believe they are in a precarious position.
“We’ve always told them (parishioners) that we were at risk, and we’ve continued to ratchet up the level that we would be talking about these things,” Brickner said.
People in his two churches are concerned and emotional about the potential changes, Brickner said, and he hopes that the rural parishes would continue to be well served.
“I empathize with how difficult a job they (the diocesan officials) have, but we’re saying that sustaining the Catholic Church’s presence in the rural areas is important, perhaps more important than keeping one more city parish open,” Brickner said.

Combined parishes proposed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse:

St. Margaret’s — Homer
 St. Patrick’s — Truxton
 St. Lawrence’s Mission —       DeRuyter
St. Mary’s — Cortland
  St. Anthony of Padua — Cortland
 O’Heron Newman Hall — SUNY Cortland
St. Stephen’s — Marathon
 St. Patrick’s — Whitney Point
  Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission — Cincinnatus



Project would extend water line to Polkville

City, Cortlandville applying for grants to add about 2,000 feet of water line from line owned by Intertek.

Staff Reporter

The city and the town of Cortlandville will be applying for state grant funding to help supply public water to homes and businesses in Polkville, a hamlet in the town.
Town Supervisor Dick Tupper said the cost of running a water line from the town’s existing system — about halfway up the hill that Route 215 ascends, across the Tioughnioga River from Polkville — would be prohibitively expensive at about $1.2 million.
“The city has a line under the river already, and we’re assuming that would be the easiest way,” Tupper said Monday.
The town would tie in to a 500-foot-long, 10-inch-diameter pipe that supplies city water to Intertek, ETL Semko.
Mayor Tom Gallagher said the company owns the line and it is primarily used for fire protection, such as sprinklers and hydrants. The company uses its own wells to supply the water needed for industrial operations, he said.
Gallagher said the hope is that Intertek would simply deed the line over to the town, and the existing line would serve as the first section of pipe leading to Polkville.
The mayor has spoken to the company, and Tupper said he believes it shouldn’t be a problem.
“To them, it was a line that was put in 30 years ago, so getting rid of it so they don’t have to do the maintenance on it makes a lot of sense for them,” Tupper said.
Tupper said the roughly 2,000-foot extension line would likely supply all of the businesses along Route 11 and the businesses surrounding Interstate 81’s Exit 10 — the number of residences in the area is relatively sparse, Tupper said.
He did not know how many new water customers the extension would create.
“That would take all of the land that’s across the street, where the Skyliner Diner was, and would make that prime developable land,” Tupper said.
Another consideration is that access to public water lowers fire insurance rates.
The lower insurance rates could become increasingly important with the development of a biodiesel manufacturing facility on Route 11 near CNY PowerSports and the associated businesses that Empire AgriFuel is expected to bring in.
“Empire AgriFuel is very interested, not because they’re a large water user, but because it makes a huge difference in the price of their fire insurance,” Tupper said.
The town’s engineers will make sure that the 10-inch line would be enough to supply Polkville, as well as whether there would be enough water pressure in the new line.
There are no cost estimates for the project.



Dryden town tax rate flat in budget

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN —The town has scheduled a public hearing on the preliminary $5.4 million budget for 2008 at 7 p.m. Thursday before the regular board meeting.
While the budget increases spending 10 percent — nearly $489,000 — it does not increase the tax rate, which remains at $1.44 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The proposed tax levy, or amount to be raised by local property taxes, for 2008 is $1,014,425, also a 10 percent increase from $922,336 this year.
Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull noted the biggest increase in the budget was for a salt storage shed, with an estimated cost of $450,000. Trumbull said the town was able increase the budget without increasing the tax rate by using fund balance to cover additional spending.
The total budget uses $1,758,262 in fund balance. Trumbull said there still is a fund balance of approximately $4 million to $5 million.
One of the biggest increases was for street and bridge maintenance and repair. The bridge allocation jumped from $75,000 to $130,000, a $55,000 or 73 percent increase. Street maintenance climbed from $168,000 to $367,500, a 119 percent increase.
Trumbull said the highway department budget did go overbudget a bit this year. “Some roads we didn’t get to. It’s a big town,” Trumbull said.
Another big jump was for medical insurance, which increased from $380,000 to $450,000, a $70,000 or 18.4 percent increase. Trumbull said one new employee was added to the budget in the highway department.
Allocations for Town Hall expenses were increased also, from $57,500 to $70,000. The town now has two town buildings plus the highway garage to heat.
Salaries of elected officials are as follows: highway superintendent, $59,086, up from $56,809; town clerk/tax collector, $41,621, up from $40,020; supervisor, $16,873, up from $16,224; two town justices, $17,538 each, up from $16,863; and four town board members, $5,909 each, up from $5,682.
The Dryden fire budget is up 4 percent to $823,291. The proposed tax rate is 40 cents per $1,000 in assessment. Five fire departments are supported in the contract: Neptune Hose in the village, Varna, W.B. Strong in Freeville, Etna and Brooktondale.
The proposed contract amounts for the five municipalities are: Neptune, $210,550, up from 201,000; Varna, $218,591, up from $186,811; Strong $150,650, up from $137,308; Etna, $130,000, up from $60,000 and Brooktondale, $21,000, up from $18,570.



State extends STAR deadline

The governor recently signed legislation extending the deadline for homeowners to apply for their 2007 Middle Class STAR Rebate Program check from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31.
In addition, acting state Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Barbara G. Billet said reminders about the program will be sent to about 600,000 property owners statewide who have yet to apply for their rebate check.
“This rebate program provides direct relief to middle class New Yorkers who need it most, and it is our department’s goal to reach as many homeowners as possible. We want all eligible New York homeowners to take advantage of this unique $1.3 billion property tax cut,” Billet said.
Between July and October, the Tax Department mailed more than 2.7 million notices and applications to property owners throughout the state who receive the basic STAR exemption on their school tax bills, inviting them to apply for a rebate check under the STAR program.
By the end of October, approximately 79 percent of households had responded by filing applications online or through the mail. Rebate checks totaling $685 million have been mailed so far to 1.8 million eligible households.
Seniors 65 years or older who receive the enhanced STAR exemption on their school tax bills did not have to apply. These homeowners got their STAR rebate checks automatically. The Tax Department mailed 630,000 rebate checks totaling more than $206 million to enhanced STAR recipients.
Rebate checks are calculated on a sliding scale based on income, with the maximum benefit going to all upstate homeowners earning $90,000 or less, and all New York City region homeowners earning $120,000 or less.
The difference in threshold levels corresponds to the difference in average regional incomes and cost of living. The benefit gradually diminishes as income exceeds these thresholds until a homeowner’s income reaches $250,000. Taxpayers earning more than $250,000 are not eligible for new relief, but will continue to receive their current STAR benefit.
Once a homeowner receives a notice, an application can be submitted by mail or online. The rebate checks are mailed to homeowners as their applications are processed. Online applications take less time to process, though generally people may expect their check several weeks after they submit their application. Enrolling online at will be the fastest way to receive a rebate check.
The Tax Department has updated information on its Web site,, or through the STAR hotline at (877) 678-2769.