December 18, 2007


Clock tower plan gets final city approval

Clock Tower

Image courtesy Holmes King Kallquist & Associates Architects, LLP
Revised rendering of the proposed clock tower building on Main Street.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The proposed clock tower building on the corner of Main and Tompkins streets received its final approval from the city Monday.
Construction of the three-story building would likely begin in May, said owner John Scanlon.
The city Planning Commission reviewed the proposal at a meeting Monday evening.
More concerns from residents were heard during a public hearing Monday preceding the commission’s second review of the clock tower proposal.
The predominant concerns surrounding the building involved parking. Scanlon said there would be 19 parking spaces on the property, and the two upper floors of the three-story red brick building would be devoted to a total of 26 bedrooms.
Commissioner Jo Schaffer was concerned about parking for both the businesses that would be located on the ground floor of the building and the tenants of the apartments above.
Scanlon said that before the Squires Building was lost to fire in April 2006, the total number of apartments in that building and in the house next door, also owned by Scanlon, totaled 38 bedrooms.
Developments in the central business district, such as the clock tower, are not required to provide parking.
Scanlon said he offers two tiers of parking permits for his tenants, one for the lot next door and one in a separate lot elsewhere. Residential tenants would not be parking in the lot next door to the clock tower during the day, Scanlon said, and there are plenty of daytime and overnight spots in the municipal parking lot at the nearby Cortland Youth Center on Port Watson Street.
The building next door — the boyhood home of renowned inventor Elmer Sperry — would be demolished to make way for an expanded parking lot. Two plaques would be installed on a brick monument fronting the sidewalk along south Main Street, commemorating the building that no longer resembles its original form.
The 21,000-square-foot clock tower building should cost between $3 million and $3.5 million, and after it has been built, the state will kick in up to $2 million through a state Restore-NY Communities grant for up to half of the construction costs.
Now that the project has the approval of the Planning Commission, Scanlon said the approved plans would go back to the state to ensure that everything in the plans still fits within the original grant application.
Scanlon said he hopes construction would be complete before next winter.




College heads laud proposal on higher education

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Presidents of local colleges are glad a state commission report released Monday addresses the needs of higher education, such as facilities and faculty, and recognizes the importance of providing a college education.
The New York State Commission on Higher Education proposal would guarantee free college tuition for current seventh- and eighth-grade students who meet high school graduation requirements and math and English language standards.
Tompkins Cortland Community College President Carl Haynes did say the program would form a relationship with school districts that should benefit and strengthen the community college. The program would target students who live in high-need school districts and proposed Education Partnership Zones.
“The concept is there, but there is not a lot of detail,” he said of the new program.
SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum said the plan to have colleges work with local school districts to help students prepare for college shows the state is recognizing the need for and importance of higher education.
“Over the years there has been a disinvestment in SUNY and CUNY,” said Bitterbaum, noting the state has put in too little investment in state colleges.
“It was a very comprehensive report addressing needs in a very macro way,” Haynes said this morning.
Haynes said his one concern was in the Tuition Assistance Program.
“Support for part-time students is inadequate,” he said.
Last year the state Legislature made a requirement for students to attend college full time for one year before being eligible for part-time assistance. The report recommends this be studied for three years before any change is recommended.
Haynes said he testified before the commission this fall in Buffalo to support TAP aid for part-time students, even those who have not attended college full time.
“I’m very excited,” Bitterbaum said. “I have not read all 85 pages (of the report).”
“What I do know sounds terrific,” he said.
Some of the appealing recommendations to Bitterbaum included the addition of 2,000 full-time faculty; investing in the physical structures on State University of New York and City University of New York campuses, including Cortland; establishing the $3 billion Empire State Innovation Fund for research; and investing in core facilities, such as the libraries.


Groups filling growing toy need

Charitable organizations say holiday demand for donations is up

Staff Reporter

While rising energy prices are causing financial hardship for many families and increasing demand for holiday toy donations this season, most area agencies say they are on track to provide for needy families.
The Cortland Salvation Army Corps on Main Street in Cortland had 176 families apply for its toy donation program, an increase of 30 families over last year, said Capt. Danielle Dorchak.
“We were a little worried at first, but it doesn’t look like we’re low on toys,” she said.
Dorchak said she believes the increase in demand for toys is due to the Corps’ efforts to increase awareness of its program in the community.
Dorchak and her husband, Capt. Scott Dorchak, are the Cortland office’s co-pastors.
“This is our third Christmas here, and we’ve really worked on getting the word out there,” she said.
In addition to distributing toys to families who signed up for the program, Dorchak’s office will also hold an overflow distribution on Friday to provide for families who could not complete the application process by the Corps’ deadline.
The Salvation Army will be continuing to accept donations at its south Main Street office until that day.
Sister Kathleen Heffron works with the Cortland-Chenango Rural Services office, which provides food and children’s clothing to needy families in Cincinnatus and Willet.
Demand for her services has been up since August, most likely due to rising energy and heating costs, she said.
“The heating situation we have and the gas prices are just crunching people,” she said.
Area churches provide clothing donations sorted by age group, and Heffron’s office distributes complete outfits and meals to families who apply for aid.
“We leave the toys up to the parents,” she said. “They know what their kids want.”
Norm Stitzel, commandant of Marine Corps League Detachment 221 in Cortland, works with the national Toys for Tots program based in Quantico, Va. The program organizes the collection and distribution of Christmas toys for children.
Nationally, donations are down and demand is up, Stitzel said.




Traffic, design concerns hold up Tim Hortons proposal

Planning Commission again tables plans for Clinton Avenue restaurant and coffee shop

Staff Reporter

The city Planning Commission decided Monday to once again hold off on voting on the proposed Tim Hortons restaurant on Clinton Avenue after receiving more complaints from neighbors.
The comments during a public hearing for the Tim Hortons proposal centered around the traffic impact on the adjoining residential neighborhoods and the site location itself.
Alan Edgecomb of 3 Cleveland St. was concerned about noise and emission pollution from the cars in the drive-thru lane along the southern edge of the property.
Fellow Cleveland Street resident John Wells pointed out that there are already several vacant commercial buildings in the area and said he does not want to see another corporation’s building taking the place of homes.
The design of the 2,300-square-foot building also irked Planning Commission member Wes Pettee, who had asked for revised plans, possibly including awnings and features more akin to the two multi-family homes — at 137 and 141 Clinton Ave. — that are being demolished to make way for the Canadian-based coffee, doughnut and sandwich chain.
Project engineer Joe Durand of TDK Engineering said the company would not be willing to alter the design of the building, citing rising costs for the asbestos abatement related to the demolition of the two homes.
Vinyl or wooden siding isn’t cost effective, and the corporation wouldn’t green light its use.
Pettee pointed out that the project is located within the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, a multi-municipality initiative that is meant to spruce up the areas abutting the Tioughnioga River.
Jack Krisanda, real estate manager for Tim Hortons USA, pointed out that as one continues along Clinton Avenue toward the center of the city, the historic and aesthetic character actually degrades. Both he and Durand said they felt the clean lines of the brick-facade restaurant would be an improvement in the area.
The commission sent them back to the drawing board.
Schaffer and other commissioners requested elevations of the building showing how it would look with landscaping in place, as well as more plantings to try to soften the impact of the building.
Schaffer also asked for plans featuring gooseneck lighting to illuminate the signage, rather than the backlit plastic signs in the current plans.



Marathon plans first caroling  parade

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — The village will be holding its first Christmas caroling party and parade on Friday evening, and is looking for participants and volunteers.
People are needed to carol from atop a wagon, participate in the parade and provide goodies for a party afterward. People can call event organizer Connie White at (607) 849-3960 if they’d like to help or have questions.
Doug Chidester and Matt Mauser, village electric department employees, came up with the idea for a caroling party and parade.
They suggested the idea to White, and she liked it.
“Gee, there’s all this stuff for kids — all the churches have kids programs, and schools have kids programs,” she said. “Where do adults have a chance to get together and sing Christmas carols?”
The event will include Santa and Mrs. Claus leading a decorated wagon full of carolers through the village.
“It’s going to be all lit up,” Chidester said about the wagon.
He said the wagon will be limited to people age 14 and older, for safety reasons.
The wagon can hold up to 20 people at a time, and if enough carolers show up, they can be rotated during the course of the parade, he said.
Children, families and others can follow the wagon, whether it is in cars, on wagons, on horses or on foot.
The parade will begin around 7 p.m. at the Village Green, and go across the bridge to Mill Street, then Tannery Street and then Academy and Front streets.
Depending on the event turnout, the parade may go to Cemetery Hill, White said. The parade will stop as it passes by groups of people, she said. “If we get an audience, we’re going to stop,” she said.
Peter Gerber, a musician, will lead the carolers. Others involved in organizing the event include Charlene Hill and Lonnie DeGraw, who are providing hot chocolate and cookies at a party open to the public after the caroling parade that will likely be at the Marathon Presbyterian Church on East Main Street.
More food and drink donations are being sought.