December 20, 2007


Gift card giveaway spreads holiday cheer

Fire Department delivers money for groceries to needy and random recipients throughout city.


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Rose Natoli received a holiday gift card Wednesday from Cortland Fire Department Cpt. Scott Buchanan  as the two talked about the season of giving in the common room of the Senior Apartments on Church Street in Cortland.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — After four years of donating money to area charities, the Cortland City Fire Department decided to give out grocery gift cards to needy families and random people throughout the city.
Fire Capt. Scott Buchanan walked the city streets Wednesday handing out the gift cards ranging from $50 to $100 to random people in diners, nursing homes, on the street and in the post _office.
“The fire station is responsive and professional,” Melissa Powell, 22, of Cortland, said after Buchanan gave her a gift card in the Post Office. “If this won’t help us, then we will be sure to give it to someone it will.”
The money the fire department used to buy the cards came from the annual Pumpkin run, which is held during the Great Cortland Pumpkinfest in October each year. The fire department began sponsoring the run about five years ago with other area businesses including Graph-Tech, the YMCA, Geared 2 Sports and Fidelis Care.
This year, the run raised $1,500, $200 more than last year.
“We are gradually getting more people involved,” Buchanan said.
Twenty-five gift cards worth $1,500 were delivered to needy families, Loaves and Fishes and random people around the area Wednesday.
“We just felt that in some way everyone is needy and people would appreciate this,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said he brought the idea to give some of the gift cards out randomly to the other firefighters who agreed on it.
“I just wanted to do something different rather than just picking off a list,” he said.
Randall Elementary School in the city gave a list of needy families, to whom the fire department will give gifts. Buchanan said the other city schools would not create a list due to policy and privacy concerns.
“You boys do a wonderful job,” Rose Natoli, 92, said as Buchanan handed her a gift card at the senior apartment towers on Church Street. “Your job is valuable to society.”
Natoli said she plans to spend Christmas with her daughter and granddaughter in Cortland.



After some question changes —

C’ville holds off on zoning approval

Town Board will review comments from public hearing Wednesday

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The Town Board delayed approval of a new zoning code Wednesday after some residents said they were concerned it contradicted recommendations of area scientists and the town Planning Board.
The decision, five years in the making, was pushed off to next year, following opposition heard during a public hearing that preceded the Town Board meeting.
“We had some people with concerns and when people come out to a public hearing they want to be heard,” said Town Board member Ted Testa. “I think they brought up some good questions and we want to review them.”
The Town Board also held a public hearing on state-mandated changes to the town’s uniform fire code that increase the frequency and intensity of inspections of public spaces.
The board approved the changes following the hearing at which no one spoke. A fee schedule for the inspections is expected to be set by resolution next year.
Among those who spoke out over the zoning amendments was Robert Rhodes of Cortland, a member of Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment, a local environmental group.
The group sued the town in 2005, challenging an earlier version of the proposed zoning ordinance that was later struck down in court on a technicality.
Rhodes said the town’s revisions in respect to lot coverage disregard advice given by area scientists, and the newly proposed 70 percent lot coverage in Wellhead Protection Zone 1b raises concerns of potential flooding.
“The advice given to you by area scientists indicates a need to be cautious about extensive lots coverage,” Rhodes said. “Since the town has not completed a full environmental assessment, there is no way to determine whether the proposed lot coverage allowances are adequate to prevent flooding ... it is very clear to us that lot coverage allowances ... are out of line with the Town Board’s claimed commitment to aquifer protection and flooding prevention.”
Nick Renzi, a member of the town Planning Board, also spoke during the hearing, pointing out afterward that he wanted the Town Board to communicate with the Planning Board on the changes recently made on the lot coverage.
The Town Board reduced the minimum amount of required green space allowed in a development. Renzi said he wondered why the board altered the Planning Board’s earlier recommendations for more green space, which the Town Board approved in 2004.


Dryden, union agree on police contract

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — After 15 months of negotiations, the Village Board gave final approval Wednesday to a three-year contract with the police department.
The agreement with the Dryden Police Benevolent Association, approved 4-0, gives police a specific dollar increase the first year, based on experience, and 3.5 percent raises in each of the second and third years.
For the first year, salaries will be increased by $3,000 for new officers and $3,000 for officers with seven or more years experience. union President Mackenzie Covert, a six-year veteran of the Dryden force, said the starting pay now would be $32,000 for a full-time officer; it had been $29,000.
The board would not reveal contract details until after the union signed the contract at 11 a.m. today. Taylor said negotiations with the union representative, Paul Mayo, a lawyer from the Elmira area, have been adversarial and she was concerned the contract might not be signed. She said she had tried to get the union side to sign it Wednesday night.
Ed Hooks, a lawyer from Ithaca, negotiated for the village and Covert signed it in his office.
The union ratified the contract last week, Covert said early this morning. “It was a really long process.” She said the contract would cover full- and part-time officers.
There are three full-time officers although there are six or seven full-time positions, said Taylor. Currently there are five part-time employees working for the village.
She said one of the issues was with salaries. “Where they were we can’t compete with bigger agencies,” Covert said, citing the Ithaca Police Department, the village of Cayuga Heights and the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office.
She said turnover has been a big problem and hoped the force would be more stable in the future with the contract. Currently there are three full-time officers, and the board also hired another part-time officer, Adam Langlois, Wednesday who will be working full-time temporarily. The board also accepted the resignation of part-time officer Filberto Nieves.
Mayor Reba Taylor said she was not sure the contract would reduce turnover among part-time officers because they are usually working full-time for another agency and would already be represented by that unit. She said while part-time officers would not be required to join the union, they would have to pay any union dues. 



CAPCO gives away toys, clothes to children

Staff Reporter

Parents and children found an array of Christmas presents when the doors to the Community Action Program of Cortland County opened at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Area businesses and churches had donated new toys, clothes, gift certificates and food to CAPCO’s Head Start Holiday Giveaway, which provided toys and clothes to about 200 Cortland County families.
“It’s a great opportunity for our families,” said Trudy Glendening, CAPCO’s family services coordinator. “It gives them something a little extra for Christmas.”
Donations totaled more than 200 each of new toys and complete outfits, and by the time CAPCO’s doors closed at 6 p.m., 125 of Head Start’s enrolled families came by to pick up gifts for their children.
Glendening said CAPCO’s family advocates would deliver gifts to families who couldn’t make it in during Wednesday’s giveaway.
After signing in at the front desk, parents were shown into a large room stocked with new dolls, robots, games and stuffed animals. One table held gift-wrapped outfits — one for each child enrolled in CAPCO’s Head Start program.
Leslie Truesdell brought her 3-year-old daughter, Jasmin, and 16-month-old son, Jaden, with her to look for gifts.
“It’s definitely nice,” she said, as Jaden held up a plastic drill he had found. “We bought a house this year, so Christmas this year is a lot tighter than it’s usually been.”
Both Jasmin and Jaden found toys they liked.
“He’s got his little tools; he loves tools,” Truesdell said. “And she’s got her baby stuff.”
Families could also register for several raffle drawings, including one for a 20-inch boy’s bicycle, a Build-A-Bear Workshop gift certificate and a free pizza, among others.
CAPCO holds the toy giveaway every year, Glendening said, and local businesses and churches have always been eager to help out with donations. The CAPCO staff creates a list of needed items, which are written on tags and hung on giving trees in participating establishments.




Homer housing project proposal reviewed

Staff Reporter

The county Planning Board Wednesday night forwarded a controversial apartment complex proposal in the village of Homer to the local Planning Board for a local determination.
Residents near the proposed project continued to lobby against it at the meeting.
Local developer Ken DeMunn is seeking a zoning map amendment to develop a 28-unit apartment complex off Route 281 and Route 41 in the village of Homer.
The 4.2-acre site would become a Planned Development District Residential overlay, with seven buildings — each containing four, two-bedroom units — and a common green space on the periphery of the development.
The village has to determine if the project meets the standards of a PDDR, which require that surrounding land is compatible with the proposed development; streets can handle the amount of traffic generated; utilities can provide adequate services; and that each phase of the development is undertaken so that the environment remains desirable and stable.
Nearby residents have opposed the development based on the impact on the neighboring residential properties off Route 41, especially a perceived increase in traffic.
Clinton Street resident Janet Steck submitted a letter to the county board, outlining her concerns with the project.
“Not only would the residents of the DeMunn project greatly add to the traffic on both roads but, of greater concern, the locations of the proposed project road’s openings would further complicate NYS 281 and NYS 41 intersection congestion and make the intersection more accident prone than it already is,” Steck’s letter reads.
Steck also said the designation of the area as a PDDR would constitute spot zoning.
County Planning Department Director Dan Dineen said this morning that the traffic issue would likely be a major concern of the state Department of Transportation, which is responsible for approving curb cuts on state roads.
“Obviously, they need the DOT permit — that’s probably going to be their major hurdle, to get their permit, considering that both of those driveways are so close to the intersection,” of Route 281 and Route 41, Dineen said.