November 23, 2007


Some local residents cutting back on holiday spending this season


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jim and Kelly McGill of Marathon leave Wal-Mart in Cortlandville this morning with a cart load of merchandise. The McGills said crowds were not as heavy today on what is traditionally known as Black Friday, one of the busiest days of the Christmas shopping season.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Phyllis West is cutting back on her holiday spending this year by about 50 percent due to rising gas prices and higher taxes.
“I’m buying reasonable stuff this year,” she said, holding packages of sheets for family members in J.C. Penney this morning. “I’m not buying little trinkets.”
West, a Cortlandville resident who declined to provide her age, was among those taking advantage of Black Friday sales. The day after Thanksgiving has earned the name Black Friday because many stores count on this day to bring sales out of the red range and into the black, or profit, range.
West is among four out of 10 people interviewed this morning who plan to cut back on holiday spending due to rising costs.
Those numbers coincide well with a study conducted earlier this month by the Consumer Federation of America and Credit Union National Association that 35 percent of Americans plan to spend less money during the holiday season this year.
That number is 3 percentage points higher than the 32 percent of Americans last year who planned to spend less during the holidays, and it represents the biggest spending decline since the survey was first conducted eight years ago.
Nancy Burdick, 53, of Cortland, said, like West, she planned on cutting her spending back about 50 percent. That includes gifts for family, as well as food for herself, she said.
“I’m eating less,” she said. “I can’t afford brand names.”
Burdick said there is no one specific area where costs have increased — they’ve increased across the board, she said.
Reggie Maricle, 53, and Mary Jo Vosburg, 46, both of Cortland, said they do not intend to cut back on their holiday gift spending, which they anticipate will be about $500, though they anticipate cutting back on traveling due to the high price of gas.
Instead of traveling to malls in other cities they will do all their shopping close to home this year.
“I don’t mind the traveling,” Maricle said. Vosburg interjected, “‘Cause you never drive, I do,” she said, laughing.
Despite the relatively high percentage of people who said they would cut back on holiday spending this year, most will still spend as much they did last year, even if it’s tough financially.
“We try to spend less, but it never ends up that way,” said Tami Hanson, 21, of Cortland.
“People buy what they want for their family,” explained Hanson’s husband, Dustin, 28.
Autumne McKissick, 51, of South Otselic, said that is also the case for she and her mother, R. Laura McKissick, who together spend more than $2,000 on gifts for more than 100 family members.
“From the night after Christmas my mother starts putting a certain amount in her savings account for discounts,” said Autumne McKissick, who was shopping with her mother at Wal-Mart this morning.
Most people interviewed this morning spend significantly less than the McKissicks on holiday items, and less that the average amount spent nationally.
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation released last month, Americans on average will spend $817 on holiday-related items.
More than half of that money will be spend on gifts for family members, followed by $94 spent on holiday candy and food and $90 on gifts for friends.
Men interviewed this morning tended to spend less on holiday items than their female counterparts. They also said they get less satisfaction out of shopping.
“I try to get it done as soon as possible,” said David Camp, 16, of Cortland. “I don’t really like shopping.
Matt Partis, 19, of Scott, agreed. “I stick to the basics, like this place,” he said about Wal-Mart.
While early this morning big box stores were bursting with customers, downtown stores had a few people here and there.
Kitty Jones, owner of Spirit and Life on Main Street in Cortland, had just four customers between 6:30 a.m., when she opened, and 9 a.m.
She said at 9 a.m. that number was actually pretty high for her by that time on a Black Friday, though she recognizes business could be better.
“They’re in the big box stores,” she said about customers. “I know that’s where my sister would be.”
Chuck Sheridan, owner of Sheridan’s Jewelry on Main Street, said there is an advantage to smaller groups of shoppers. The atmosphere is less hostile, and people can get served better.
“We’re not trying to create lines,” he said, comparing the store with big box stores. “We like to cater to the individual.”
Linda Carpenter, 58, of Dryden, was one person who preferred that type of environment.
As she shopped in Spirit and Life this morning, she explained why she enjoys shopping downtown.
“I like to support the local economy,” she said. “I’d rather shop here before heading out of town.”




City firefighter a class leader

Staff Reporter

After 11 weeks of training, being elected class president and winning an award for professionalism at a state academy, 36-year-old Ken Thompson began working for the Cortland Fire Department this week.
“I believe the city’s investment in Kenny’s training will pay off very well for the people of the city of Cortland,” Fire Chief Dennis Baron said.
The city paid approximately $3,000 for Thompson’s training, something that is state mandated for firefighters.
Thompson and 17 other firefighters from around New York state graduated Nov. 15 from the New York State Fredrick L. Warder Academy of Fire Science in Montour Falls, where Thompson was elected class president and won the professionalism award.
“He helped get my message across as far as training and discipline,” said William M. Taylor, an instructor at the academy. “This was far and away the best class as far as control and discipline.”
The professionalism award is one of two awards that are given out per class at the academy. The other is an academic award offered to the recruit with the highest grades.
Thompson said early on in the training, he was voted class president, and then won the professionalism award after all the classmates voted him the recipient.
“I’m proud because it was voted on by the recruits,” Thompson said. “I remember Chief Baron saying to me before I left for the academy that Cortland firefighters put the “p” in professional. So getting that award kind of goes hand-in-hand with what he said.”
Chris Buttino, a 20-year-old volunteer firefighter for the city, paid to put himself through the training with Thompson.
“I talked with classmates and all of them thought that no one else could have done the job as well as he did. He acted as the liaison between the instructors and the class. He was essentially in charge of us,” Buttino said. “Ken always kept us focused.”
Baron said the department has had others win the professionalism award in the past, but he was uncertain about how many and when.
“This award tells me that Kenny made a serious effort to get as much out of this training as he could. The class recognized his manner, his intent and drive,” Baron said.
Buttino said he put himself through the program as a volunteer so that when he does decide to become a career firefighter, his name may go to the top of the list for having the training.
Baron said the number of firefighters the department hires annually varies.
“Sometimes we get one, sometimes two, sometimes none,” he said.
The training at the state academy, operated by the Department of State’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control, include fire suppression, technical rescue, fire equipment maintenance, incident command, fire instructor development, fire officer development, firefighter health and safety, dispatcher training and emergency medical technician.



Health, other concerns raised over turf fields

State Assembly considers ban on new fields while research is done on how they affect health and the environment.

Staff Reporter

A state bill that would impose a moratorium on selling and installing artificial turf could mean changing the plans for a $40 million city school project, which tentatively include an artificial turf field.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright, of Setauket in Suffolk County, proposes placing a six-month moratorium on installing synthetic turf pending a comprehensive public health study that would investigate both health and environmental impacts of using artificial turf in indoor and outdoor settings.
Laurence Spring, superintendent of city schools, said he was aware of the bill. He said he did not think a moratorium would delay a vote on the project since the project focuses on health and safety issues, such as new boilers, roofs and windows, which make up the majority of the project. The athletic field construction is slated to cost roughly $5.5 million.
Crumb rubber, which results from processing waste tires, is the specific component of concern in some new artificial turf fields.
The Assembly bill points out that crumb rubber can contain the following contaminants: arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, zinc, acetone and vanadium. Health effects associated with these contaminants include birth defects, cancer, nervous system damage and immune system suppression.
“Certainly if the state sees enough concern in the crumb rubber, we would be cautious,” Spring said. “It would be an easy decision for us.”
Spring said the only sport that can be played on the existing field is football. “We need to be able to get more sports on the field,” said Spring, noting it was a gender equity issue.
But to do that, the field has to be made wider, and one of the issues involved in widening Moiseichik Field is drainage.
Spring said with a synthetic field, a drainage system is put in so it does not matter if a stream runs under the field. He said if a grass field was put in, drainage and soil conditions would have to be studied. “It could cost almost as much as a turf field,” Spring said.
The superintendent said another concern is whether grass or turf would be better financially in the long term.
“It’s far from a done deal,” Spring said of going with a turf field. “There are some things we have to wrestle with still.”




Seward arranges  grants

Downtown Partnership gets $25,000 and the Cincy Fire Department receives $20,000.

Staff Reporter

State Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford) has announced two member items for Cortland County. One would continue funding the Cortland Downtown Partnership, while the other would help pay for the cost of a soccer field/helicopter landing pad at the new Cincinnatus Fire Station.
Seward announced the member items Wednesday.
The Cortland Downtown Partnership would receive $25,000 from the 2007-08 state budget. Director Lloyd Purdy said that this is the second of three disbursements that Seward had promised the partnership, the other having been received last year.
The member item would essentially pay for Purdy’s salary as director, he said, “so the other revenue we bring in from dues from merchants can go towards other programming.”
The downtown parking permit program also generates revenue for the partnership.
The partnership helps coordinate marketing for downtown area businesses; promotes downtown as a place to live and work; and runs the annual sidewalk festival, including this year’s popular Taste of Downtown food crawl.
The Cortland Downtown Partnership was formed in October 2005 when the Downtown Business Association and the Cortland City Improvement Corp. consolidated their efforts and decided to hire a manager.
Purdy was hired in April 2006.
“The hope is that after a couple years of support from the state, we can turn to the community to fully fund the operations,” Purdy said Wednesday.
“There are other ways to get funding, and we will have to look towards those in the future. We’re certainly very pleased that Senator Seward has the confidence in us again this year and sees the value in what we’re doing for this community.”
Purdy said downtown associations in other communities often generate funding from a special taxation district, which he would not like to see happen to fund Cortland’s partnership.
The Cincinnatus Fire Department would receive a $20,000 member item from Seward to construct a helicopter-landing pad to accompany the new fire station on 18 acres the department purchased on Route 26.
The property will include a soccer field that will also be used as a helicopter-landing pad. The soccer field will be used by Cincinnatus Central Schools.