December 6, 2006

Former C’ville fire station to be used for regional training

Fire Training

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Mark Schroeder, Cortland County’s deputy fire coordinator, center, points out to firefighters what flames and heat are doing during a controlled burn at the county’s fire training center on Health Camp Road on Sept. 2, 2004.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — A Cortland County regional training center for local fire departments may soon be in the works at the Route 13 site of the Cortlandville fire station.
As part of an agreement that dates back to a grant received by the town around 2000, the Cortlandville Fire District has agreed to allow the county to use a 3,844 square-foot building on Route 13 as a training center for all emergency responders.
“Apparently there was a grant that their fire department received where one of the conditions was that they give control of that space to the county to be used as a training center,” County Administrator Scott Schrader said. “It was just never finalized until now.”
The county would absorb insurance, utility and maintenance costs under the proposed five-year lease agreement, which was forwarded by the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee to the Budget and Finance Committee Tuesday, but would have unfettered access to provide training for area firefighters.
“We’re required to do a certain amount of training, but this county currently doesn’t have a training center,” said Bob Duell, fire and emergency management coordinator for the county.
The county has roughly 600 firefighters who need various levels of training, Duell told the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, and they are required to do at least 450 hours of training annually.
“We’ve been doing our classroom training at the Public Safety Building, but we lost that room to the new 911 center, so we need a new location and this place is perfect,” Duell said. “It’s a good location, there’s room outside for when we need to work with trucks, and there’s space for a classroom.”
As part of the agreement, the county will also perform renovations on the building in order to create a new classroom space for group instruction.
Duell estimated that this would cost the county about $18,000, and suggested that the cost of heating the building would be about $4,000 annually.
Schrader, who was not present at the meeting, agreed with Duell afterward, saying the cost to the county would be around $20,000.
Committee members, although they were supportive of the proposal, were hesitant to pass it without solid figures on the cost to the county.
“I think it’s a great idea I just think we need to know a little more about how much it’s going to cost us,” said Committee Chairman John Daniels. “We need something like this and I think that would be a great place for it.”
Ultimately the committee accepted the agreement, contingent upon detailed costs being available for the Budget and Finance Committee, which meets Dec. 14.
The building is used for storage and for some types of training, said Cortlandville Fire Chief Dave Denison.
Cortlandville has constructed a two-story house structure for hands on training and has other elements in place necessary for a training center, but will appreciate a county-funded facelift, Denison said.
“This is going to allow us to finish off more of the inside of the building and make it better for training, especially having a classroom space,” Denison said. “Our intent was always to use it as a county training center and really it should not only benefit the county but Cortlandville as well.”
Denison stressed that the agreement between Cortlandville and the county would money.
“It’s a great example of pooling our resources — they have the need for the space, we have the property, and together we can try to keep the cost down for taxpayers,” he said. “It’ll be a whole lot cheaper than it would be for the county to go out and purchase or build a facility.”
Duell agreed.
“It’s certainly a good opportunity in lieu of having to build a $400,000 or $500,000 training center,” he said.
Ideally the training facility would serve as a central and unchanging resource for local fire departments, Duell said.
“Right now we’re doing training all over the county, and we’re running into problems where if we have to bring two departments in together for something, where we hold the training becomes an issue,” he said. “We all believe bringing all the departments to one place will generate a lot of camaraderie and enthusiasm — it’s something this county needs.”



Man ordered to pay $74,000 for Wickwire fire

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A city man who admitted setting fire to a Wickwire warehouse in late 2005 has been ordered to pay nearly $74,000 in restitution over the next five years.
County Court Judge William F. Ames sentenced Harlan Ward, 21, current address unknown, to time served and five years probation, on Tuesday, along with restitution payments of $1,000 per month for the next five years.
Following the completion of those five years, Ward is then expected to pay one final payment of $13,939. The court ordered $73,939 in restitution.
“He’s going to do the best he can,” said Ward’s attorney, Randolph Kruman, when asked after sentencing how his client is going to come up with the money. “I think the judge, the DA and the probation department are willing to work with him.”
Kruman added that he does not think Ward is employed, but said he is enrolled in a vocational program through Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES.
Any restitution payments would pay court costs and reimburse Verizon, whose equipment was damaged by the fire, and property owner of the property at 190 Main St., 190 Development.
During sentencing, Ames told Ward the crimes he has pleaded guilty to should mandate state prison time. Ames said, however, that he would agree to the nine months Ward has already served in County Jail — along with the restitution and probation — as punishment for several reasons including: Ward’s “limited intelligence,” a positive pre-sentence report, the fact that Ward has cooperated with the police, the fact that he is not the one who lighted the blaze and because the victims agree to the sentence.
“I think that common sense would indicate that someone involved in this kind of arson should do some state prison time,” Ames said. “It appears you didn’t set the fire, others did. You also have no prior record … All through the pre-sentence report there are comments about what a nice person you are.”
Ward pleaded guilty to third-degree arson and third-degree burglary, felonies, on Aug 8.
City police arrested Ward on Dec. 8, 2005, after he told police that he and his mother’s boyfriend, Everett MacIntosh, age and address unknown, set the building on fire Dec. 4, 2005, because the family was being forced to move out of their home at 4 Crawford St., which was adjacent to the Wickwire building at 190 Main St.




County: Home health program threatened

Cortland, St. Joseph’s hospitals each make bid to set up their own home health program

Staff Reporter

A bid by two area hospitals to become state certified home health agencies could jeopardize the county’s home health care program, county officials are warning.
County Administrator Scott Schrader and Jackie Gailor, director of the county Health Department, will travel to Albany Thursday to speak against the applications of Cortland Regional Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, located in Syracuse, to become CHHAs.
Cortland County is the only CHHA locally, and provides home health services to county residents who are referred from CRMC and other health care facilities.
Should either CRMC or St. Joseph’s, or both, receive certification, the county would be hard pressed to continue its program, Schrader said.
“They have the potential of putting our certified home health agency out of business,” Schrader said. “We won’t be able to afford our program after both hospitals finish cherrypicking the cases that offer the best reimbursement.”
About 80 percent of total referrals to the county’s CHHA come from CRMC, Gailor said.
CRMC Marketing Director Tom Quinn said  the hospital had been approached by the state Department of Health this spring about setting up a CHHA.
“The impetus came from the state itself, and I think their feeling was that it’s important for residents to have more than one provider of home health care services,” Quinn said. “Our motivation here is the desire to make sure that residents of Cortland County have consistent access to HHC services when they’re needed.”
In January 2006, because it was short-staffed for the early part of the year, the county had to ask CRMC to assist with handling home health care referrals, something that has been done once before, in 2003, in the 40 years the county has had a CHHA.
Gailor said staffing issues were being handled, thanks to a new nursing contract approved in May that allows the county to offer more competitive salaries to nurses, and that the county typically has no problem handling all of the area’s home health needs.
Because it ceded some cases to CRMC, Cortland County will see a shortfall in revenue of $300,000 to $400,000 in 2006, Schrader estimated, but generally the county’s loss has been negligible — about $81,000 in 2005 and about $28,000 in 2004 — considering the CHHA also serves as the first line of defense in case of a widespread emergency, he said.
“I’m concerned about our ability to respond to emergencies without a CHHA,” Schrader said, noting that emergency response plans call for CHHA employees to be out working in shelters and responding to health needs. “If we have to rely on the public sector, how can we respond to these emergencies? We need a public stopgap.”
Gailor said she had spoken to officials in Broome County, which does not have a county CHHA, who said problems arose during disastrous flooding this summer.
“They were saying, ‘Thank God we had the nursing students on hand (at Binghamton University), because there was no one else there to help,’” Gailor said.