November 8, 2007


Homer race awaits absentee count

Ballots will start being counted Tuesday in legislative race with 7-vote margin


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Board of Elections senior clerk Sandra Harrington validates election numbers and voter information this morning. The Board of Elections will count absentee ballots beginning Tuesday, which will decide a legislative race in Homer’s 11th District between Democratic incumbent Steve Dafoe and Republican James Miller. Dafoe has a seven-vote lead. The Virgil supervisor race will also depend on the absentee count.

Staff Reporter

Absentee ballots in Cortland County will help decide the winner of a third state Supreme Court justice seat, and absentee ballots will settle at least two local races, one for a county legislator in Homer and the other for Virgil supervisor.
The county Board of Elections will start counting the ballots Tuesday.
The close local races are between incumbent Democrat Legislator Steve Dafoe in Homer’s District 11 and his challenger, Republican James Miller, and between Virgil supervisor candidates Democrat Craig Umbehauer and Republican John Kaminski.
The Homer race will decide which party controls the Legislature. Dafoe has a seven-vote lead and Democrats would have a one-seat majority if he wins, holding 10 seats and the Republicans nine. Dafoe has 210 votes and Miller 203.
There were 51 absentee ballots sent to residents in District 11 and 38 of those had been returned to the Board of Elections as of Wednesday. There were 27 absentee ballots sent out in Virgil and 17 of them had been returned, according to the county Board of Elections.
In the Virgil race, nine votes separate the candidates, with Umbehauer leading in an unofficial tally of 344 to 335.
In the justice race, absentee ballots from 10 counties will have to be added to tallies. The race is close between third-place justice candidate Joseph Fazzary of Schuyler County and Molly Fitzgerald of Binghamton who is in fourth place. The vote is currently 52,112 to 51,587.
Of the 724 total absentee ballots mailed out across the county, 508 had been returned as of Wednesday. The remaining must arrive by Tuesday and must have a postmark of no later than Nov. 5.
“It takes a few days,” said Sandy Harrington, of the process of counting the votes.
Republican Election Commissioner Robert Howe said the votes would probably be counted by numerical district. Harrington said votes in the close races are usually counted first.
A counting schedule would be set before Tuesday, Howe said, noting that sometimes citizens or candidates want to come in to observe the counting, which is open the public.
Election Commissioner Bill Wood refused to comment.



Write-ins unlikely to affect election results

4th Ward alderman has received 42 write-in votes while his opponent gained 102

Staff Reporter

The write-in campaigns of two incumbent Democratic aldermen will likely have no effect on the outcome of those races, said county Election Commissioner and Republican Party Chair Bob Howe.
The unofficial counts of write-in votes are trickling in as the Board of Elections catalogs the tallies in each town.
Howe and Election Commissioner and Democratic Party Chair Bill Wood began the process Wednesday morning, and Howe said he expects the process would be complete sometime today.
“Any of the candidates who want to see the count of the race that pertained to them should call the board office,” to see when the count would take place, Howe said.
The absentee ballots will not begin to be counted until Tuesday, Howe said.
In the city’s 4th Ward, Democrat Nick DeCarlo received only 42 write-in votes, giving up his seat to fellow Democrat Brian Tobin, who received 102 votes in Tuesday’s general election.
The city’s 2th Ward write-in votes had not been counted as of Thursday morning, Howe said — write-in candidate Shannon Terwilliger (D-2th Ward) is opposing Democrat Clay Benedict, who received 248 votes in Tuesday’s election.
The incumbents had to wage write-in campaigns after the Democratic caucus endorsed other candidates for the election and subsequently lost the September primaries.
In the town of Solon, Howe said Fred Monroe received 122 write-in votes for Highway Superintendent, not enough to top James Wildman, who ran as both a Democrat and a Republican on the ballot and received 146 votes on Tuesday.
In Freetown, Diane Couch received 25 write-ins for the position of Town Clerk; Dora Cross, running on the ballot as both a Democrat and a Republican, received 103 votes.
Scott Republican Town Clerk Sherry Robinson received only 64 write-in votes, losing to Republican challenger Susan Hubbard, who received the town’s Republican Party endorsement at its caucus — Hubbard was included on the ballot and received 164 votes on Tuesday.
Incumbent Republican Highway Superintendent Gerald Hapgood was on Tuesday’s ballot and received 171 votes in Scott. Challenger Jeff Sanford received 72 write-in votes, Howe said this morning.



Drug bust finds city residents charged with sale

13 arrested after Drug Task Force raided five residences

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Thirteen people were arrested this morning after the Cortland County Drug Task Force raided five residences within the city.
The suspects, whose names were not available this morning, are being processed by city police on misdemeanor and felony drug charges all involving either the sale or possession of drugs, city police said.
The Cortland City Tactical Response Unit entered the five homes with search warrants at 6 a.m., looking for suspects in the Cortland County Drug Task Force’s investigation. Evidence was being gathered from the homes this morning, police said.
During the raid other people besides those being targeted were also arrested if drug contraband was found in their presence, city police said this morning.
City police were outside 37 Madison St. this morning as part of the drug raid. Stupke Towing hauled away a Cadillac from the home.
The arrests came after a lengthy investigation by the task force, which is made up of representative from the county’s District Attorney’s Office, Cortland City Police Department, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, State Police and SUNY Cortland University Police Department.
Six others were arrested during a bust on Friday, police said.
City Court had no record of any drug cases being processed since Friday, but three drug defendants arrested by city police were arraigned Friday in Cortland County Court.
Charged Friday with one count each of criminal sale of a controlled substance, a felony, were Nigell Johnson, 26, of 117 Homer Ave., Matthew Walters Jr., 25, of 6 Meades Place, and Shaquan Rose, 20, of 1243 Campville Road, Endicott.
All were sent to Cortland County Jail. Bail was set at $50,000 cash or $250,000 bond for Johnson; $25,000 cash or $250,000 bond for Walters; and $15,000 cash or $25,000 bond for Rose.
Rose is scheduled to appear at 1:15 p.m. today in County Court, but there is not scheduled court appearance for Walters or Johnson.
Details about the other three arrested were unavailable this morning.
City police said details on both raids will be released after the 13 people arrested this morning have been processed and arraigned.



Homer working out details of master plan

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Village residents want zoning that limits parking lots, requires chain stores to blend in with the village’s architecture and favors green space.
The opinions were given Wednesday evening at the second public input meeting for the village’s comprehensive plan. About 50 people attended the meeting, which was focused on zoning and land use issues, held at the Community Building.
They graded photos of other communities and Homer on a scale of one to 10, based on their preferences.
“I didn’t like all the parking lots because it makes it hard to walk,” Michael Stone said about many of the pictures of other communities. He said he and his family live in the village and can walk many places.
Village Trustee Genevieve Suits said a number of the pictures show development can be done in a controlled way. Chain stores, for example, do not have to be an eyesore.
“There were many national chain stores that were made to fit with the community rather than look like boxes with neon signs,” she said.
Mary Wagner agreed.
Required landscaping can make a world of difference in making new development appealing, she said. Others cited a preference for buried utility lines.
Wes Pettee, a program manager for Cortland-based Thoma Development Consultants, the company the village has hired to oversee a new comprehensive plan, displayed maps of current village zoning and described the allowable uses for each zone.
Input on how to change or not change zoning and land use regulations would come from a combination of public input meetings, a recently conducted survey of village residents and a steering committee appointed by the village, he said.
A comprehensive plan would be completed about a year from now containing the community’s vision, and any recommendations for zoning or other changes.
Some questioning and criticism was made during and after Wednesday’s meeting about the idea of a new comprehensive plan.
People wondered why a comprehensive plan was necessary  when the village is already a great place to live.
Pettee said an updated comprehensive plan provides a vision for the community that helps them secure grant funding and guide planning boards when they review project proposals.
Ann Hotchkin, a program manager for Thoma Development, said the village of Homer hasn’t updated its comprehensive plan since 1978.



Tompkins County approves budget with 1.6% tax rate hike

From Staff Reports
The Tompkins County Legislature approved the amended 2008 tentative budget at its meeting Wednesday night, setting spending for the year at $72.5 million and raising the tax rate by 1.6 percent.
The tentative budget contains a 1.8 percent increase in spending, up from $71.2 million this year, and would increase the total property tax levy by 2.9 percent, from this year’s $34.8 million levy to $35.8 million to be collected from property taxes in 2008 — slightly above the Legislature’s 2 percent levy increase goal.
The tentative tax rate of $6.87 per every $1,000 of assessed property valuation, an increase of 1.6 percent over this year’s tax rate of $6.76 per every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
With little discussion and no modification, the Legislature, by a vote of 8-4, adopted amendments to County Administrator Steve Whicher’s 2008 tentative budget and 2008-12 capital program, as recommended by the Legislature’s Expanded Budget Committee over the past month.
Legislators Kathy Luz Herrera, Greg Stevenson, Mike Hattery and Frank Proto voted no — Legislators Mike Sigler and Tyke Randall were absent and with the resignation of Legislator Dick Booth, the Legislature currently stands at 14 members.
The Legislature will take public comment on the tentative budget at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Legislative Chambers, 320 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca. The Legislature can still amend the tentative budget before the final adoption vote, scheduled for Nov. 20.
Meanwhile, Cortland County residents will have a chance to weigh in on Cortland County’s $114 million tentative 2008 budget at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 during a public hearing. The Legislature plans to meet Nov. 29 to vote on the budget.