Take the pledge


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
ABOVE: Stephanie Underwood has her face plastered with anti-tobacco stickers Thursday during the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout at Cortland Junior-Senior High School. BELOW: Paul Thomas, right, speaks with Cortland seventh-grader Kent Harvey as he shows him an MRI of a diseased lung. Thomas and Ken Munro, center, are lead radiology technologists at Cortland Regional Medical Center.Tobacco

Staff Reporter

Twelve-year-old Stephanie Underwood’s face was covered in stickers, “Tobacco is wacko,” “Kiss me, I don’t smoke,” “Too cool to smoke” and “Tobacco is a drug, too.”
Underwood was just one of many students at the Cortland Junior-Senior High School who took a pledge on Thursday not to become a smoker.
“Smoking does not make you look cool,” Underwood said. “It makes you immature.”
Thursday was the Great American Smokeout Day, which has been held on the third Thursday in November for the past 30 years. This year marked the 10th year since the Great American Smokeout was introduced to the school.
Susan Morando, cancer control coordinator for the American Cancer Society, noted in a press release that 22.3 percent of high school students and 8.1 percent of middle school students were smokers in 2004.
Director of Health promotion for the American Cancer Society Jan Chytilo said approximately 35,000 to 40,000 people die of second-hand smoking each year in the United States. The 35,000 to 40,000 people are usually afflicted with lung cancer or heart disease, Chytilo said. Tobacco use is also linked to cancer of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, kidneys, bladder and cervix.
At Cortland Junior-Senior High School on Wednesday, Marissa Sherman, 13, dropped her pledge card in a box, with a banner on top that read, “The greatest gift you can give yourself is freedom from smoking.”
“I think smoking is wrong,” Sherman said. “It kills everybody.” Sherman said her father smokes, but he does it outdoors.
A row of tables covered with pamphlets and simulations to prevent students from smoking lined a wall in the school’s cafeteria. There were X-rays and simulations of a healthy versus an unhealthy lung. The simulation lungs showed the breathing of a normal lung, one consumed with emphysema and one with cancer.
Susan McDermott, school community counselor for Cortland Junior-Senior High School, said the American Cancer Society was hosting Smokeouts all across the country.
“We wanted to bring it where the industries targeted,” said McDermott, who was the recipient of the 2006 Great American Smokeout Community Award from the American Cancer Society for Cortland County.
“We know how bad tobacco is,” she said. “We know that the tobacco companies are targeting youth. Smoking is a terrible addiction.”
Morando agrees with McDermott. She said smoking kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer.
“The reality is, it is a nasty, nasty killer,” she said.
McDermott had coordinated the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout for Cortland youths since 1996.
The Cortland Regional Medical Center was also awarded a Great American Smokeout Award on Wednesday. Jan Simpson manager of respiratory care services at the Cortland Regional Medical Center, was presented the award on behalf of the center.
Simpson said the facility implemented to changes to make it a smoke-free environment. Employees who smoked were given nicotine replacement patches, “to help them become smoke free.” She also said inpatients who smoked were provided with a respiratory therapist. The hospital also hosts a seven-week cessation class, called Tobacco Free for Life, Simpson said.
Lead technologist for Cortland Regional Medical Center Paul Thomas, said the reason he and his colleague, Radiological Technologist Ken Munro attended the event was to “open kids’ eyes to the hazards of smoking and the cause and effect of the habit.”
When asked why the majority of young people smokes? Simpson, Morando, Thomas and McDermott answered, “peer pressure.”
Underwood said that wouldn’t be an issue.
“I wouldn’t hangout with people who smoked,” Underwood said. “True friends wouldn’t ask you to smoke.”


Insurance hike may hit county employees

“We’re anticipating a $200,000 shortfall in our health insurance fund this year, and that’s something we need to make up.”

— Scott Schrader
County Administrator

Staff Reporter

County employees will likely see a larger than expected spike in their health insurance rates in 2007, due to an overflow of claims in 2006 that depleted the county’s health insurance fund.
The county Legislature’s Personnel Committee, at the recommendation of County Administrator Scott Schrader, voted unanimously to boost the monthly premium rate 23 percent for individuals using county health insurance in 2007, and to raise the premium for family plans 20 percent.
“We’re anticipating a $200,000 shortfall in our health insurance fund this year, and that’s something we need to make up,” Schrader said. “(The health insurance fund) stands alone, and any shortfall we have needs to be made up the following year. By the same token, any surplus could potentially lower rates, but that’s not the case this year.”
The total monthly premium for an individual will go from $387 in 2006 to $476 in 2007, while the monthly premium for a family will rise from $1,011 to $1,213.
A majority of the 698 employees and retirees with active health care plans pay 20 percent of their premiums, Schrader said, meaning most individual beneficiaries can expect an $18 monthly increase, while most family plans will see a $40 per month increase.
The premium increases will come at a total cost of $260,000 to beneficiaries, and about $700,000 for the county, Schrader said.
Schrader had originally budgeted for a 14 percent increase in rates for 2007, based on industry inflation.



Lansing company plans ambitious expansion in Dryden

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — An engineering company based in Lansing wants to construct a new facility in Dryden that would employ 90 to 100 people within a year, 350 to 400 people within five years and 850 people within 10 years.
Advanced Design Consulting has bought 48 acres of land across from Tompkins Cortland Community College with the hopes of constructing 12 buildings containing 340,000 square feet of laboratory and manufacturing space over the next decade.
Alexander Deyhim, president of the company, said the Advanced Design has about 15 contracts with the government and companies around the world to create new technology. A number of those contracts could lead to lucrative patents and product lines, he said.
“We call them eggs,” he said of the contracts. “These are like different eggs that are ready to hatch.”
The company, which started in 1994, is worth about $50 million to $200 million, he said. Deyhim said he foresees Advanced Design increasing its value at least tenfold over the next decade.
The company has applied for a special use permit from the town to begin construction of the first phase of the project, he said.
The first phase would involve a new 50,000-square-foot building with administration, laboratory and manufacturing space.
Deyhim said he hopes the town will approve the project within a couple of months; the company can begin construction in the spring and have the building open by the fall.
The second and third phases, which would take place five years and 10 years from now, respectively, would add 290,000 square feet to the company’s workspace.




Woman will register as Level 3 sex offender

Staff Reporter

A Cortland County woman convicted in 2004 of taking sexually explicit photos of a child while two others watched will have to register as a Level 3 sex offender when she is released from state prison in January.
Tabatha Pinkoski, 33, appeared Thursday in County Court for a hearing to determine her risk level to the community when she _is released from state prison on Jan. 4.
Pinkoski’s attorney, Diane Galbraith, and Assistant District Attorney Wendy Franklin presented arguments on Pinkoski’s sex offender risk assessment, including her risk to children, how her victims were hurt by the offenses and what level of responsibility she has taken for her actions.
County Court Judge Julie Campbell ruled in favor of Franklin, finding Pinkoski has not taken responsibility for her actions and “has potential to cause to harm to children in the community.”
Galbraith argued that her client should not receive extra points on her risk assessment based on her convictions of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, — thus keeping her at a Level 2 sex offender — because those convictions are not sex offenses.
“My client was not convicted of any sex offense with the other children, only of the one that the photos were taken,” she said.
Campbell denied the request based on case law, stating the risk assessment is not restricted to the crimes that Pinkoski was convicted of, and that she harmed the two other children by forcing them to watch the sex act she preformed on the third child.
Pinkoski was convicted of using a child in a sexual performance, promoting a sexual performance by a child, possession of a sexual performance by a child, all felonies, and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, on March 4, 2004.
Pinkoski took pictures of a 6-year-old in sexually explicit positions in 2000 while forcing a 5-year-old and 7-year-old to watch, Franklin said. Pinkoski also made the 7-year-old take some of the pictures while she preformed sex acts on the 6-year-old. Pinkoski is serving a three-year sentence in Albion State Prison.
City Police arrested Pinkoski on Nov. 2, 2000, after she attempted to develop the photos at the Wal-Mart in Cortlandville.




Public sparse at hearing on county budget

Staff Reporter

A public hearing on the proposed 2007 county budget lasted all of five minutes Thursday night, as only one county resident spoke on the proposal.
County legislators and officials generally agreed the lack of public comment was a reflection of a relatively tight budget that calls for a property tax increase of 3.9 percent that is in line with the current inflation rate.
“I attribute that to the reasonableness of the budget,” said County Administrator Scott Schrader of the seeming lack of interest in the budget, which he prepared.
“No one likes to have taxes increased, but people realize the cost of doing business every year and they understand that unless you have tax base growth to mitigate tax increases, you’re going to have to raise taxes to keep up with inflation.”
The proposed budget calls for an increase in spending of about $7 million, although a new accounting mandate that requires the county include in its expenditures the $10 million in sales tax revenue it distributes to municipalities pushes the total listed expenditures of $108 million about $17 million beyond $91 million spending last year.
Legislator Larry Cornell (R-Marathon and Lapeer) credited Schrader for coming up with a tight budget.
“I think he’s done a great job, he’s been right on top of this,” Cornell said, adding, “3.9 percent is basically the cost of living increase, and I think people understood that.”
Legislator Dan Tagliente (D-7th Ward) agreed.
“I think it’s a very tight budget, and I think there’s still going to be some cuts,” Tagliente said.
Still, at least one legislator was disappointed in the apparent lack of interest in the proceedings.
“I remember 12 years ago meeting in the auditorium and the place was full,” said Tom Williams (R-Homer). “I wonder if it’s public apathy, if they’re just saying, ‘Nothing more can be done,’ but now we have one person making a comment and I think that’s a shame.”
The one person who did speak was Virgil resident John Carroll, who attacked the Legislature for spending $408,000 of its fund balance on a new building at the county airport that would provide more rental hangars for small aircraft.
“No taxpayer I talk to wants to spend $408,000 on a frivolous expense like a hangar,” Carroll said.
The Legislature passed a resolution for the construction of the new hangar, which will have space for 10 planes, last month.
Legislator Newell Willcox (R-Homer), who could not attend the hearing, has suggested a number of times that the county bond for the hangar rather than use fund balance, but to this point the county has decided on the latter.
“We don’t want to go out to bond when we’ve got the money available,” said Tagliente, who chairs the county’s Highway Committee. “By the time we finish paying the bond, it’s going to cost us $800,000 when we’ll pay this money off with the rent we charge and the fuel we sell sooner than that.”
The county charges $200 per month to rent a hangar space at the airport, and also sells aviation fuel.
The overall budget will likely be discussed again at a Budget and Finance meeting next Tuesday, and any potential cuts to _the budget will be made by the full Legislature at its Nov. 30 meeting.