Feast in Freeville

The elementary school’s holiday event is still a hit after 34 years


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Kindergartner Kobe Bangs, along with his fellow Indians and Pilgrims, look over a turkey as they wait to be served their meal. Freeville Elementary School celebrated its 34th annual Thanksgiving meal at the school Tuesday.  

Staff Reporter

FREEVILLE — Teachers, volunteers and the students of Freeville Elementary School were treated to an early Thanksgiving feast Tuesday.
The school hosted its 34th annual Freeville Feast, complete with turkey and all the trimmings — applesauce, mashed potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce and stuffing, with a choice of chocolate milk or milk. The feast was held in the school gym, which is also the cafeteria and auditorium.
Suzanne Wixom, food service director of Dryden, said the Thanksgiving feast would be the only one some students would have.
“Lots of kids don’t get a real sit-down meal,” Wixom said. “Lots of kids don’t have a family Thanksgiving.”
Tami Natale, the school secretary, said the food was served to more than 200 people, including 103 students and 20 volunteers on 34-year-old china. Each child was outfitted with a knife and a fork.
“It is a tradition going back to make it in a family style,” Wixom said.
Natale said the students helped make the meal. She said they made the applesauce, peeled potatoes and helped make butter out of heavy cream.
“They are just so proud of themselves,” Wixom said.
Terry Stafford, food service specialist for Freeville Elementary, said five turkeys, plus the one she brought out to show the kids what a whole turkey looked like, were used for the meal. The whole turkey became part of the feast.
Volunteers, teachers and staff members of the elementary school walked around with dishes of turkey, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy serving the students.
“I think it is very special that we serve them, said Freeville Elementary Principal Audrey Ryan. “It shows that we recognize them as individuals.”
The children were looking forward to the meal since the beginning of the school year, Ryan said.
“The best thing about Thanksgiving is that you get to eat a lot of stuff,” said Skylar Ponton, 7, with a mouthful of stuffing.
The children wore headdresses and hats they made out of construction paper. Ponton was a Pilgrim amid a collection of American Indians. He wore a black Pilgrim hat, a pinstripe suede vest and tweed trousers.
Alanna Andrews, 7, sat next to Ponton. “I like turkey and stuffing best on Thanksgiving,” he said.
Mathew Krebs, 6, meticulously cut his turkey, his favorite part of the meal. “It is just so tasty,” Krebs said, putting a piece into his mouth.
As the new principal of both the Freeville and Cassavant elementary schools, Ryan experienced her first Thanksgiving at Freeville Elementary on Tuesday.
“It was very smooth,” Ryan said. “It had all been planned out. There wasn’t much I needed to do.”
Like Ryan, Judi Fields, a Freeville resident, was experiencing Thanksgiving at the school for the first time. Field has two granddaughters at the school so she decided to volunteer.
Katie Chechi, 7, said she was thankful for the Pilgrims.
“They are just so nice,” Chechi said. When asked how she felt about American Indians, she said, “They are good, too.”
Wixom said she had two children who went to Freeville and experienced the Thanksgiving feast.
“They just loved it,” Wixom said. “They loved all of it.”


County creates mortgage tax to cut overall levy

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The county’s Budget and Finance Committee voted Tuesday for a mortgage tax of 0.25 percent that county officials said could bring in between $200,000 and $300,000 in annual revenue.
The new tax, combined with some minor accounting changes and cuts in salaries, reduced the hike in the real property tax rate for the proposed 2007 budget from about 3.9 percent to about 3.44 percent.
The full Legislature will vote on the mortgage tax, and on a final budget, at its Nov. 30 meeting.
Currently, anyone taking out a mortgage pays a one-time, 0.75 percent tax on that mortgage, County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin, who’s office would officially receive the revenue from the tax, told the committee.
Of that money, 0.5 percent goes to the state and 0.25 percent goes to the municipality, but none goes to the county, Larkin said.
Raising the tax to 1 percent would provide additional revenue, while only placing a one-time strain on homebuyers, Larkin said.
“It’s a good way to collect money because people aren’t having to pay it over and over,” she said. “People might have to pay it twice in their lifetime.”
Committee members agreed that the mortgage tax was a solid way to reduce the tax levy.
“We’re talking about $250 for a $100,000 mortgage, a one-shot fee, so if we can pull in $200,000 or $300,000 per year, that helps us and it helps the rest of the taxpayers,” said Legislator Danny Ross _(R-Cortlandville).
Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward) agreed, saying that, while she was reluctant to implement new taxes, she felt the tax was a good way to generate revenue.
“My concern is, we’ve decided_to reduce the county’s share of sales tax revenue, and if we have to make that revenue up, I don’t want to put it back on property owners,” Brown said.
The county’s new sales tax revenue contract with its municipalities calls for the county to cede 4 percent of total revenues to municipalities, reducing its share from 56 percent to 52 percent, by 2009.
In 2007, the first year of the contract, the county will receive roughly $200,000 less in revenue, a number that will jump to about $800,000 by 2009.



Officer in DWI crash in rehab

Staff Reporter

An off-duty city police officer charged with DWI after hitting two women with his car was excused from a court appearance this morning after checking himself into an alcoholism rehabilitation program.
Mark Suben, Jeffrey “Chip” Stockton’s attorney, told City Court Judge Thomas A. Meldrim that his client has checked himself into a 21-day rehabilitation program and asked that his appearance be adjourned.
“On his own initiative he has undertaken a treatment program,” Suben told the court.
“There are a lot of things that are going to be clearer in a little while,” he later added.
After the appearance, Suben would not comment where Stockton is receiving treatment, but he called the accident “a tragic situation for everyone.”
“We’re praying for the victims,” Suben said. “There are a lot of issues here and the primary one is the health and recovery of the victims.”
District Attorney David Hartnett is prosecuting the case. He refuses to comment on ongoing cases.
Suben said he does not believe Hartnett’s involvement in the case creates a conflict of interest — in light of Stockton’s employment with the police department — and he doesn’t believe the District Attorney’s Office will bring in a special prosecutor to handle the case.
Stockton, 38, of 16 Frank St., a seven-year veteran of the department, was charged with first-degree vehicular assault, a felony, driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, and failure to exercise due care, a violation, after he made a left turn from Central Avenue onto Church Street and struck two 55-year-old women in the crosswalk.
Lynn Briggs of 65 Central Ave., Apt. 10, Cortland, is still listed in critical condition at University Hospital in Syracuse after she suffered multiple skull fractures and brain bleeding. Briggs’ family members told the Cortland Standard that doctors have given her less than a 50-percent chance of survival. Melody A. Benn of 65 Central Ave., Apt. 11, Cortland, was released from the same hospital on Monday evening after suffering bruising.
According to police reports, Stockton failed three of five field sobriety tests and admitted to having “a few beers.”
Stockton is scheduled to appear Dec. 20 in City Court.




Chief: City FD needs additional funding

Staff Reporter

City Fire Department officials came before the Common Council Tuesday evening during a special budget work session and explained the need for more personnel and more money for equipment and vehicles.
The fire department had requested $2,598,506 for its 2007 budget and Chief Dennis Baron had requested — although it wasn’t reflected in the requested budget figure — that the city hire four new firefighters. There are   35 paid firefighters in the department. A $2,385,876 budget has been proposed by the city Finance Department. It does not include any new hires, or new vehicle purchases.
In his requests for the city code enforcement office, director and Assistant Fire Chief Charles Glover had asked for another firefighter to join his staff, which includes a fire captain, a firefighter, and two civilians.
When the fire and code enforcement departments were merged in the mid-90s, city Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano said, the idea was to guarantee three extra daytime responders.
The members of the fire department who work in the code department respond to all daytime calls, Glover said.
Baron pointed out that hiring another firefighter to work in the code office would help the fire department by guaranteeing another daytime responder, thereby meeting at least some of the needs. Baron recommended hiring a full-time worker rather than a part-time worker, in order to ensure code compliance would be handled efficiently and consistently.
Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) asked Baron to provide council members with the cost of hiring another full-time firefighter. Glover also spoke of the need for expanded offices for the code office on the second floor of City Hall.
At recent budget work sessions, the various department heads have explained their requests to the council members. As Damiano pointed out, all of the budgets requests were for pressing needs.