December 12, 2006

The Center for the Arts cleans up after collapse

center 4 arts

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Craig Handelmann, left, of Handelmann Construction in Homer, and Dan Darling, who works for Tom Niederhofer, clean debris from the bell tower of the Center for the Arts in Homer Monday afternoon. A wooden ceiling above the bell collapsed two weeks ago. A wooden wheel on which the bell pivots was broken in half during the collapse.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Crews are repairing damage caused to the Center for the Arts’ bell tower as a result of heavy winds on Dec. 2.
Tom Niederhofer, whose crew is making the repairs, said damage includes torn shingles, 15 fallen planks and a broken arm that rings the bell.
“Fortunately there was no structural damage to the building,” Niederhofer said. “It was mostly all cosmetic.”
The crew also is cleaning up debris and pigeon droppings that fell to the floor with the planks.
Daniel Hayes, executive director at the center at 72 S. Main St., said a large quantity of pigeon droppings fell.
“Right now they’re taking out just buckets and buckets of old pigeon droppings,” he said.
He said the planks, which serve to enhance the acoustics of the bell tower, had not been nailed down. “What happened was the wind caught the planks since they weren’t nailed to anything,” he said.
Niederhofer’s crew will nail the planks down above the bell to ensure they do not come back down, he said. The crew also will fix the shingles and the bell’s arm.
Hayes said he is not sure how much the Center for the Arts will end up paying Niederhofer and his crew for his work, but that it “shouldn’t be too much.”
The Center for the Arts was established in 2003 in the former Homer Baptist Church, which was built in 1893.
Niederhofer, who is on the Center for the Arts’ board of directors, said his crew began working Monday morning and should finish working in a couple days.
Insurance agents are already aware of damage to the shingles and bell arm, he said, and claims should be placed for that damage.
Hayes said once the site is cleaned up, the insurance company will return to the site to make sure all damage has been accounted for and give estimates for that damage.
Right now, the company has given no damage estimate, he said.
The Center for the Arts is insured for $1 million, board member Mike Pollack told the Cortland Standard soon after the incident.
Hayes said the center is lucky damage to the structure was not greater.
Passersby thought that was the case Dec. 2 when they saw a cloud of dust formed by pigeon droppings hitting the floor, he said.
“It made the appearance, apparently, when the first phone calls went into 911, that the bell tower was collapsing and on fire,” he said. “Fortunately neither of these two things were true.”



Judge rules Gratton confession admissible

Staff Reporter

A Cortland County judge denied a motion Monday requesting  that he throw out the confession of a woman who is accused of starving her 5-year-old son.
According to a decision handed down this morning, Judge William F. Ames found incriminating statements Judy A. Gratton, 46, made to police on March 21 are admissible as evidence against her in her pending criminal trial.
“Based on all the evidence presented, the court concludes that the People have met their burden of proving the voluntariness of the defendant’s written statement beyond a reasonable doubt,” Ames wrote. “Accordingly, the defendant’s statements may be used by the People at trial.”
Ira Pesserilo, Gratton’s public defender, argued at a hearing on Nov. 14 that statements his client gave to police should be not be used as evidence because his client did not have her glasses to read the written statement typed by city police Sgt. William Carpenter.
Pesserilo also questioned Gratton’s ability to read at all, and her understanding of her Miranda rights, after she spelled “can” and “write” wrong in a handwritten comment where she was asked to write, “I can read and write.”
Gratton is charged with first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment, felonies, and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, after police raided her home at 6 Union St. on March 21.
Police said the youngest of Gratton’s three children, a 5-year-old boy, was found in a crib surrounded by dirty diapers and garbage. Police said the boy weighed only 15 pounds.
Gratton also had two other children in the house, an 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.
On the day of her arrest, Gratton told Carpenter she knew the boy had Down syndrome, and that she only fed him baby formula.
“I know that I do not provide (the boy) proper nourishment,” she said. “I do not give him food that would sustain his growth even though I know I am supposed too.”
Police said after the arrest that the child showed no signs of motor, skills or speech abilities and had deteriorated muscle tissue.
Gratton is in the custody of the Cortland County Jail with a bail set at $2,500 cash. Her trail is scheduled to begin Jan. 2.




Historic Bean barn in C’ville gains $37,000 state grant for its restoration

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — A 111-year-old barn on Route 41, pieced together from remnants of the New York Central College and commonly known as the Bean barn, should remain standing now that a $37,633 grant has been awarded to the structure’s owners.
Carlton and Marie Vogt, of 4632 Route 41, received word Monday they received the funding through the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The money is part of the state’s Barns Restoration and Preservation Program.
Charles Melville Bean built the barn in 1885, using timbers, doors, staircases and the cupola rescued from the New York Central College, in what was then McGrawville, when it closed in 1861.
The Vogts submitted their application in November, after having applied for the program four times previously. This time, Cortlandville Town Board member and Town Historian Ron Rocco connected them with the town’s grant writer, Ann Hotchkin, of Thoma Development Consultants. Carlton Vogt credits the firm with securing the grant.
The Vogts received the full amount asked for in the application.
The program requires a 10-percent match from the property owners, and Vogt said the money could only be used for structural repairs.
Daylight filters in through several holes in the roof, and the foundation is crumbling and bulging outward. Vogt had hoped that the cupola, which was torn off the roof and lost when 1954’s Hurricane Hazel crippled the area, would be replaced, but that work would be cosmetic in nature.
“A lot of people would like to see it back up there, but it would have to be built from scratch. That’s not a problem, I could do that,” Carlton Vogt said from in kitchen, overlooking the western face of the barn as geese, peacocks and a lone duck wandered the yard Monday afternoon.
However, getting hold of a crane that would reach up to the roof of the 60-foot high, 60-foot deep, 60-foot wide barn would be a pricey operation, Vogt said.
The couple bought the farm nine years ago, and Marie Vogt raises more than 40 Boer goats in the Bean barn, along with two calves for lawn maintenance.
The kids, born last week, bounded around the ground floor of the barn as Carlton Vogt pointed out the original equipment still in place in the three-story barn, like an antique sluiceway to fill long-gone feeding troughs, pumps for spraying an orchard that has since dwindled to a few apple trees, and the remains of a chimney to ventilate a forge on the second floor.
Many of the main structural components still bear the telltale notches and holes of when they were part of the college, and cobwebs crawl up the sides of the walls, many of which are still insulated with sawdust, leading up to a rickety, severed staircase that ends at the patch covering the hole left by the cupola’s departure.
Hay has been stacked on one side of the barn to avoid the leaks in the roof.
Carlton Vogt said he could no longer keep up with the maintenance involved in keeping the barn in full-repair. He estimated that it would have to have been torn down within the next few years if not for the grant award.