November 28, 2007


Homer class collecting school supplies for children in Iraq


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Students in Marilee Comerford’s career and financial management class at Homer High School pack school supplies that will be shipped to Comerford’s daughter, a soldier serving in in Iraq. She will then pass them out to Iraqi children. From left are Josh Iloff, Corey West and Sarah Metzger.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Since her daughter’s military police unit was deployed to Camp Bucca in Iraq in August, Marilee Comerford has come to understand challenges facing the area’s children.
Her daughter, Roberta, has told her many of the children lack school supplies and are scared of the American troops.
Comerford, a teacher at Homer High School, and students in her fifth-period career and financial management class are collecting school supplies to send to the children in response to a request by Roberta Comerford’s unit.
The unit, which was based in Kingston before deployment, will distribute the supplies.
“It’s to say we don’t want you to be afraid of us,” Marilee Comerford said. “We can help you.”
The eight students in her class packed boxes Tuesday with items they have collected so far. Items include pencils, notebooks and crayons.
Students have been in contact with Roberta Comerford, 40, since the beginning of the school year, sending her e-mails and asking her about herself and her life in Iraq.
“She said she never hurt anyone …,” said Sara Metzger, 17, a senior. “We asked her that.”
Comerford, a 1985 Cortland High School graduate and Syracuse resident, has been in the New York Army National Guard for 14 years. She was promoted to major soon after her arrival at Camp Bucca, which is in the southeast part of the country near the city of Safwan, that has a population of about 25,000.
“It’s like the size of Homer and Cortland,” said Derek Renninger, 15, a sophomore.
Comerford runs police-type operations in and around Camp Bucca, which is a holding facility for security detainees. She is also in charge of investigating any incidents involving the detainees.
When Comerford is not in Iraq she’s a police sergeant with the North Syracuse Police Department. She is also working on her Ph.D. in public administration from Walden University, which is in Virginia.
Comerford has told the students which types of supplies are needed. They include supplies for grade school children that don’t require electricity to use.
Students have collected donations from people they know, and asked students, teachers and staff throughout the school to help out with the effort.
The class hopes to send at least 50 boxes. A first shipment should be made in a few weeks, and further shipments will be made throughout the rest of the school year.
Students have also written to companies, such as Big Lots, Wal-Mart and Staples, asking for donations, and are waiting to hear back. “We introduced ourselves and what were are doing,” said Cory West, 17, a junior.
Marilee Comerford said the students have a business plan, budget and marketing plan for the project.
Some of the students have family members serving in Iraq.
Metzger’s father, Curt, is back in the United States after serving twice in the Air Force in Iraq, Renninger’s friend drives a convoy in Iraq and Eli Kabat, 16, a sophomore, is seriously considering going into the military, following in his grandfather’s and uncle’s footsteps.

Items requested for Iraqi children

Items requested by a group of Homer High School students to be sent to Iraqi school children include pencils, colored pencils, safety scissors, markers, chalk, erasers, notepaper, rulers, folders, manual pencil sharpeners, construction paper, crayons, single subject notebooks and any other basic classroom items.
The Homer students are also accepting cash donations to cover postage costs. Each box costs about $9 to send, and Marilee Comerford’s fifth-period career and financial management class hopes to send at least 50 boxes.
Donations are being accepted all year at the high school main office and Cortland Floorcraft at 4357 N. Homer Ave. Ext., where Comerford’s son works.
Comerford can be reached at (607) 749-7246, ext. 4223, or mcomerford@homercentral .org.




Biodiesel plant gets first look

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The proposed biodiesel plant on Route 11 in Polkville received a very preliminary review at a town Planning Board meeting Tuesday night.
Steven Eckler, the senior managing scientist with project engineering firm O’Brien & Gere, said the size and configuration of the buildings would likely change between Tuesday’s sketch plan review and the full site plan review that would be held at the board’s Jan. 15 meeting.
The Empire AgriFuel soybean crushing and biodiesel production facility would be located on about 11 acres of land to the south of Route 11, about a quarter mile east of Exit 10 of Interstate 81.
“The 100-year flood plain extends a little through the site in the southeast corner, and we’re hoping to adjust the site plan so we can avoid that,” Eckler said this morning.
The roughly 30,000-square-foot seed crushing plant would be located on the eastern part of the site and is eventually expected to crush about 600 tons of soybeans each day. Initially, the plant will crush only about 200 tons per day.
The biodiesel plant would be about 38,000 square feet and would produce 20 million gallons of the fuel per year when it reaches full capacity. The plant will only produce about 5 million gallons at first.
Between 20 and 25 jobs are expected to be created by the development.
The $15.3 million biodiesel facility is expected to be up and running sometime next year. The facility will be the first oilseed and biofuel processing plant in the state. Empire AgriFuel is a limited liability company set up by SUNY Morrisville to build and run the facility.
The on-site operations would be split into two facilities, one for the soybean seed crushing component and the other for the actual biodiesel production.
Planning Board member Nick Renzi pointed out that last year’s sale of biodiesel nationwide amounted to about 250 million gallons, meaning that Empire AgriFuel could eventually produce 8 percent of the biodiesel consumed domestically.
Renzi said he was concerned about the amount of traffic that would be generated by the plant’s operations. He was satisfied to learn Empire AgriFuel would construct a railroad siding from an existing spur servicing the nearby Suit-Kote asphalt manufacturing facility and that most of the raw materials and finished product would be transported by rail.




Snowmobile riders encouraged to register by Friday

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The state, New York State Snowmobile Association and local snowmobiling clubs are encouraging snowmobilers to register their vehicles by Friday to ensure the clubs will get sufficient funding to build and maintain trails.
Any snowmobile operated in New York state must be registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Vehicles must be registered in person, either at the Department of Motor Vehicles or at certain snowmobile dealers, according to County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin.
Many snowmobilers belong to snowmobile clubs, and Cortland County has five, according to James Jennings, executive director of the New York State Snowmobile Association.
The five clubs maintain the county’s approximately 300 miles of trails. New York state as a whole has 11,000 miles of snowmobile trails.
The more snowmobiles that are registered by Friday, the more grant funding clubs will receive this year from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation, according to Eileen Larrabee, a spokeswoman for the state agency.
The office bases funding on the number of  snowmobiles registered by Friday, registration trends from previous years and miles of trails, she said. Knowing many people have already signed up for registrations helps justify larger chunks of money, Larrabee said.
As of Nov. 15, 24,000 snowmobiles statewide had been registered since Sept. 1, the day after snowmobile registrations from the year before expire. Jennings said at that point last year 40,000 were already registered.
Jennings did not have figures from previous years, or those figures for Cortland. Larkin also did not have those figures for Cortland.
Last year clubs statewide got $3.6 million from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation, and Cortland County clubs received $72,000, Jennings said.
Both of those numbers are below what they were during the 2005-06 season, when the state provided a total of $4.7 million in snowmobile funding and Cortland County received $129,000 from that amount.



SUNY proposes increasing tuition and adding faculty

From staff and wire reports
A 5 percent tuition hike the SUNY Board of Trustees proposed Tuesday would help SUNY Cortland add full-time faculty, reversing a trend toward part-time staff, the college president said this morning.
SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum called the tuition increase request reasonable. He noted it would be the first increase in five years.
Bitterbaum said tuition, which is expected to fund 1,000 new faculty positions throughout the SUNY system, is set by the state Legislature and he did not know if it would approve the measure. “We hope they will,” he said.
Bitterbaum said it was too early to tell how many new faculty members would result at the local campus.
“This would be very exciting for us. We’ve had to rely more and more on part-time faculty,” he said. But, he added, “We’ve been excited before and been disappointed.”
Pete Koryzno, director of public relations at SUNY Cortland, said there are 313 full-time faculty, including librarians, visiting faculty and lecturers and 255 part-time faculty. Bitterbaum noted that lecturers who are full time are not required to advise students or do research and the college employs around 48 of them.
The proposal would raise in-state tuition to $4,570 per year from $4,350. The increase is part of a 2008-09 budget request.
“We’re really trying to bring the state university up to where it should be among the nation’s leaders,” SUNY Interim Chancellor John Clark said.
SUNY officials argue the tuition increase would be modest compared to past years and prevent large jumps in tuition. The last increase in SUNY tuition was 28 percent in 2003.
Richard Austin, an accounting major at SUNY New Paltz, said students were more likely to struggle with the large expense of books at the beginning of each semester than the tuition increase.
“Obviously, since I’m paying tuition, it’s not a good thing for me personally,” Austin said. “But I understand the need for an increase.”
Clark also said students would see an immediate benefit from the tuition increase as faculty is added. “Every dollar” would be committed to that purpose — rather than going to other projects or new facilities that wouldn’t be complete until current students have graduated, Clark said.
The system is asking the state for $2.4 billion for the next fiscal year’s operating budget — a $287 million increase. That money would go to all state schools, community colleges and teaching hospitals. SUNY would cover any additional costs by eliminating unnecessary spending and through philanthropy.



Traffic an issue in coffee shop proposal

Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Dec. 17 on plan to build a Tim Hortons on Clinton Avenue.

Staff Reporter

The city Planning Commission is proceeding cautiously in its consideration of a proposed drive-thru restaurant abutting a residential area off Clinton Avenue.
The commission will accept public comment regarding the proposed Tim Hortons restaurant on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Cleveland Street at a public hearing at 5:15 p.m. Dec. 17, with a rescheduled regular meeting to follow.
Neighbors of the proposed development presented some of their concerns to the commission at a meeting Monday. Cleveland Street residents are worried about the effect the Tim Hortons would have on neighborhood traffic.
Some neighbors expressed the same concerns when interviewed Tuesday.
Ben Field of Cleveland Street said he objects to the location of the Tim Hortons so close to his home. Standing on the porch of his home and looking at the spot where the restaurant’s entrance and exit would be, he explained that the street is narrow and many families on the road have children.
“I’d just as soon not see it around,” Field said.
The project would have to receive the approval of the city Department of Public Works and the state Department of Transportation; the former for the proposed curb cuts and driveway off Cleveland Street, and the latter for the entrance and exit off Clinton Avenue.
Ed Jones of Cleveland Street lives directly behind the store’s proposed drive-thru location, and said he understands why some of his neighbors are upset because of potential traffic build-up on the narrow street. But he and his wife, Laura Jones, both said they would like to see some business development in the city.
“Progress is good, as long as it’s not going to be a danger,” Laura Jones said.
Virginia House lives right next door to the proposed location of the Cleveland Street entrance and exit and is very concerned about vehicles pulling in and idling next to her home at all hours.
“I’m between a rock and a hard place,” House said. “They can’t have people driving past my property like that.”
The proposed location is zoned General Business, and is to the east of a now-closed and vacant restaurant — formerly the Golden Skillet Restaurant and a Waffle Works — and across the street from the Kost Tire Auto Care shop.