November 29, 2007


Fire damages floor covering business in Cortlandville


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortlandville Fire Department Assistant Chief Kevin Whitney sprays water on a tractor and the rear of R.H. Osborne World of Floor Covering on Route 281, Wednesday afternoon, as Chris Buttino, kneeling, of Cortland Fire Department puts on protective fire gear, and Cortland Fire Department Captain Ed Beebe, right, inspects the damage.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — A tractor burst into flames behind R.H. Osborne World of Floor Covering on Route 281 Wednesday afternoon and the fire spread to the backside of the building, causing as much as $30,000 worth of damage.
The business is open today, and the fire-damaged side of the building and holes in the roof have been covered, according to the owner.
Cortlandville, Homer and the city fire departments responded to the fire at 12:37 p.m. after a sales associate called 911.
The fire was out within an hour.
“I was waiting on a customer when another customer came in and told me to come outside and look. When I went outside, the tractor was engulfed,” said Cheryl Nemecek, who works at the flooring store. “After I called 911, I heard something pop and the side of the building caught on fire.”
The sales associate and customers were outside when the building caught fire.
Cortlandville Fire Chief Wayne Friedman said the fire spread from the side of the building into the insulation between the roof and the ceiling.
Firefighters were cutting open the roof with chainsaws at 1:30 p.m. after the initial flames were put out to ensure that there was nothing in the insulation that could cause the fire to reignite.
Friedman said the cause of the fire is still being investigated but it is believed that there was a malfunction of an engine block heater on the four-wheel-drive Ford bucket loader tractor.
Nemecek said Wednesday she thought the store lost about 150 rolls of vinyl flooring and possibly some carpet, but owner Richard Osborne said this morning that none of the products had been destroyed.
Fire officials estimated the damage to the building to be between $20,000 and $30,000. The tractor is a total loss.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Nemecek added. “We were able to pull a lot of things out.”
The business will not be closed because of the fire, but is operating without electricity today because the building is still damp. Temporary coverings have been put over the damaged areas, and Osborne said he is still looking for a contractor to complete the repairs.
R.H. Osborne World of Floor Covering, which sells different types of flooring such as vinyl, carpet, hardwood and ceramic, has been located on Route 281 since 1982, but in business in Cortland for 35 years.
The business was previously located in what is now Plank Motors on Route 11, but Osborne said a fire forced him to move the business to Route 281.




Man killed, woman in serious condition after car accident

Staff Reporter

SCOTT — A Homer man was killed and his wife is in serious condition this morning after he lost control of a vehicle Wednesday night on Cold Brook Road.
The Cortland County Sheriff’s Department said Richard M. Bergman, 43, and Wendy V. Bergman, 48, both of 7041 Cold Brook Road, Homer, were traveling north on Cold Brook Road in a 1998 Volkswagen Bug at 11 p.m., when Richard Bergman, who was driving, lost control of the vehicle, skidding several hundred feet.
The vehicle then struck several small trees and became airborne before coming to rest at the base of a tree, police said.
The Sheriff’s Department said Richard Bergman, who was not wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Mercy Flight airlifted Wendy Bergman to University Hospital for internal and head injuries. Police said she was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.
The Sheriff’s Department said excessive speed was a contributing factor but the agency is still investigating the accident.
Police are waiting for a toxicology report to see if alcohol or drugs contributed to the crash.



Police seeking man who stopped student


Staff Reporters

City police are investigating reports of a suspicious man who stopped to talk to a young student and offered the student candy Monday evening on Wheeler Avenue.
City police said the man is approximately 25 to 35 years old, white with a slender build, red hair and a beard. Police said he was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and was driving a dark green minivan with tinted windows.
On Wednesday morning, a similar incident occurred in the village of Homer, city police said. This incident occurred at approximately 8:10 a.m. on Center Street and involved a motorist repeatedly passing a young student. The actions of the motorist alarmed the student, who alerted an adult once the vehicle left the area.
The description of the driver and the vehicle are very similar, which indicates the two incidents may be related, police said.
Homer police said this morning that they are on the lookout for the van and driver.
All area law enforcement agencies are aware of both incidents and working to identify and interview the driver.
Police are requesting anyone who may have information on either incident or the identity of the driver to contact them at the following numbers: Cortland City Police (607) 753-3001 and Homer Village Police (607) 749-2028.
The Homer Central School District sent a letter home with its students Wednesday afternoon to alert parents. The letter included tips for handling incidents when older strangers in vehicles approach young pedestrians.
“I guess you just consider it a teachable moment — our students reacted very well yesterday,” Homer High School Principal Fred Farah said this morning.
Homer police and the school resource officer, Trooper Robert Goehner, were both contacted immediately after the student reported the suspicious man, Farah said.



Towns question bill to limit trucks

Schumer bill would make some roads environmentally sensitive

Staff Reporter

Town officials in Scott and Summerhill see problems with a proposal to keep garbage trucks off state roads in the area by designating the highways “environmentally sensitive.”
They cite problems with deciding exactly which trucks will be banned, forbidding tax-paying residents from taking roads and determining the environmental damage from the trucks.
The designation stems from the concern that roads such as Routes 41, 41A and 90 run by lakes, and a potential spill of material into a lake could harm the environment.
The garbage trucks take the back roads to the Seneca Meadows Landfill in Seneca County to save on gas. Residents say the trucks are dangerous on the rural roads.
Sen. Charles Schumer has introduced a bill before the Senate that would require states to designate permanent routes for trucks carrying hazardous materials and the long-distance transportation of solid waste. It is before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce.
He met on Tuesday with New York City truckers, government officials and the district manager of the Seneca Meadows Landfill to talk about identifying those roads, and the idea of mapping out other economically feasible routes truck drivers can take. The group plans to meet again next week to continue to discuss the issue.
Contracts drawn up between New York City and garbage companies could require that drivers take the alternate routes.
Schumer has also said the state can step in and require designated routes for trucks with garbage, which in addition to New York City truck contractors would pertain to trucks with private contracts and from other parts of the state.
Scott Highway Superintendent Gerald Hapgood said at least 100 trucks a day take Route 41 through Scott.
While many of those are trucks hauling trash from New York City to the Seneca Meadows Landfill, many are also trucks being driven by local farmers and business employees. What’s to say what many locals are transporting doesn’t constitute hazardous material, he said.



Residents lay out city’s good, bad

First of three meetings on city comprehensive plan held to gather input on the document.

Staff Reporter

The citywide comprehensive plan is supposed to incorporate the hopes and concerns of city residents, and the first of three public meetings to do just that was held Wednesday night at Barry Elementary School.
About 20 residents gathered in the cafeteria of the school and compiled lists of what they believed the strengths and weaknesses of the community were.
The plan is being compiled by Thoma Development Consultants on behalf of the city with the assistance of a $54,000 state Quality Communities grant. The purpose of the comprehensive plan is to guide immediate and long-range development.
Wes Pettee, project manager for Thoma Development, stressed the implementation of the plan is not the city’s sole responsibility — organizations and residents need to work toward the plan’s goals.
The attendees split into three groups to catalogue the “positives” on large yellow sheets of paper, and after filling up several sheets, moved on to the “negatives.”
A few more sheets of paper later and the groups voted on what they thought were the most important advantages of Cortland and what were the most immediate concerns.
Positive attributes included good government services, such as the city Department of Public Works and police and fire services; the location of the city relative to Interstate 81, other large communities and recreational and natural resources; the historic architecture throughout the city; strong neighborhoods and a strong community atmosphere.
The negative attributes that were seen as important included deteriorating housing stock and rental property-related problems; high incidences of welfare reliance and a perceived inability to escape that system; an eroding city tax base due to nonprofits acquiring more and more property; public apathy; high taxes; and inadequate code enforcement.
The information will be combined with the data received at other public meetings and will be summarized and taken into consideration in the final draft of the comprehensive plan, to be completed sometime next year.
Fire Commissioner Vince Minella sees modern police and fire stations as priorities, and many others would like to see the entrances to the city spruced up.
Planning Commission member Jo Schaffer of Pearl Street hopes the city will increasingly welcome and include diversity.