December 22, 2007


City library named historic site

Cortland Free Library will be on state, national registers of historic places


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced Tuesday that the Cortland Free Library will be added to state and national registers of historic places. The designation, expected to be finalized shortly after the new year, will open opportunities for state grants.

Staff Reporter

The timing could not be more fortuitous for the Cortland Free Library to be added to the state and national registers of historic places.
The library applied for the designation in July and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced recommended its addition Tuesday, along with 29 other properties across the state.
The Cortland Free Library building was begun in 1927 and completed the next year, and its creation was shepherded by some of the most illustrious names in Cortland’s history.
The designation will open up the opportunities for state grants.
These benefits come at an important time, since the city of Cortland cut nearly a quarter of its library funding at a Common Council meeting Tuesday, deciding on a $158,000 allocation instead of the $208,000 that the library had requested.
“It’s the shining star amongst all this gloom,” Library Director Kay Zaharis said Friday. “We can preserve the integrity of this building.”
The application for addition to the register was the outgrowth of another grant application meant for repairs to the library’s leaking roof.
The estimate for the roof repair was $90,000, and the library applied for $45,000 in matching funds through the state Department of Education’s $14 million Public Library Construction Grant program — the grant awards from that program would likely be announced in January, Zaharis said.
In order to qualify for that grant, Zaharis said the library had to have at least applied to be placed on the historic places register.
The masonry along the brick and limestone parapets on the edge of the library’s roof is crumbling, and water has begun running down the exterior and interior walls; there is also a large leak in the center of the building. At times, the humidity causes large chunks of plaster to dislodge.
But that is not the only project in the works at the library. The ramp at the front entrance, added in the mid-1970s, is crumbling and was temporarily closed after it was cited by the city Code Enforcement office at the end of the summer.
Repairs could cost more than $50,000, and Zaharis said simply repairing the ramp would not solve existing accessibility issues. About 70 percent of the library’s collection of fiction is on the second floor, inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. An elevator at the Children’s Room entrance on the Court Street side of the building allows for wheelchair access to the basement alone.
“We’ve talked about maybe putting in an elevator that could access more levels,” Zaharis said.
The elevator could be added to the building’s eastern side, in the back of the parking lot off Church Street, Zaharis said.
This would allow the library to replace the ramp with an entrance similar to the wide, single flight of stairs the ramp replaced.
Zaharis said the library is also looking into a fundraising campaign for some of these improvements
Nick Esposito, a library trustee, is researching grants and other funding sources as a result of the anticipated historic designations and has applications in the works, Zaharis said.
The library was reminded of the historic nature of the location last year, said Zaharis and Assistant Director Jan Dempsey, when workers installing the wiring to fully computerize the library had to bore through a 38-inch wall in the Children’s Room.
The library had been constructed on the foundation of the second county courthouse and the basement was part of the jail before the building was destroyed by fire in 1919.
Cathy Jimenez, a spokesperson for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said the state Historic Preservation Board reviews nominated properties quarterly.
“They met and decided that the Cortland Free Library would be a great addition to the state and national register,” she said.
Jimenez said the nomination is being forwarded to the state historic preservation officer, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash.
The next step is for Ash to sign the designation, which Jimenez said should come soon after the holidays. Then it is sent to the National Register of Historic Places, which almost always accepts state recommendations.
The qualifications for the properties include being at least 50 years in age.
“Typically, they’re either associated with specific events or distinctive architectural characteristics of a time frame, or a person who’s significant in history,” Jimenez said.
Much of Main Street, Central Avenue between Main and Church streets, and the eastern end of Tompkins Street, are in the State and National Register of Historic Places and the city’s Historic District.
More than 115 properties are within the Historic District, according to the Cortland Downtown Partnership.
Individual properties such as the County Courthouse and Courthouse Park, the Court Street fire station, and the Post Office on Main Street are also on the state and national registers.
There are 90,000 historic buildings, structures and sites throughout the state listed on the National Register of Historic Places, either individually or as components of historic districts.
City Historic District Commission Chair Linda Kline wondered why the library was not included when the Main Street and Tompkins Street historic district was incorporated in 1982.
“I’m thrilled that it is on the register and that it will remain and be preserved,” Kline said Friday afternoon. “I hope that we can continue to add to that list, not only in that area, but Cortland has many, many historic residences that I think people now appreciate.”



Group working to insure children

Staff Reporter

A group of area volunteers is working with county officials to raise the level of Cortland’s youth enrollment in the state Child Health Plus insurance program.
Volunteers from Moving in Congregations, Acting in Hope, or MICAH, are holding meetings with local lawmakers and administrators in an attempt to determine the best ways to get eligible Cortland children and teenagers enrolled in Child Health Plus A, a Medicaid program, or Child Health Plus B, which is subsidized by the state Health Department and is meant for children who are not eligible for Medicaid.
Between 7.8 and 9.2 percent of Cortland County’s children and adolescents do not have health insurance, said Kristen Monroe, commissioner of the county’s Department of Social Services.
MICAH co-founder Mary Lee Martens said the group was working to meet with local clergy, social services personnel, medical providers, business leaders and board of education members, as part of its “Cover Cortland’s Children” campaign.
“We want to build cooperative relationships with them,” Martens said. “We really want to be able to identify who the children are (who are eligible for coverage).”
Marten said a significant number of parents with eligible children ultimately balk at the paperwork requirements for health insurance enrollment.
“We know that we lose a lot of people who start the application process,” she said.
Celeste Schueren, the county Health Department’s coordinator for the facilitated enrollment program, said while there are not any unusual documents required for enrollment, replacing lost or missing paperwork, especially for children born outside the county, can prove to be an obstacle for parents.
A birth certificate is normally required as proof of a child’s citizenship, Schueren said, and replacing lost birth certificates for children born outside Cortland County or New York state usually involves fees that range from $10 to $40, plus any charges for having the document mailed.



McGraw woman files suit against village

Staff Reporter

A McGraw woman is suing the village after repeatedly being denied copies of complaints made to the village police and other village agencies against herself and her children.
“It’s my civil right to get these police complaints,” said Karen Mabry, of 14 Clinton St.
The Article 78 lawsuit was filed with the Cortland County Clerk on Tuesday, requesting that the state Supreme Court overturn the village’s decision, denying Mabry the information she had requested in person and in writing under the Freedom of Information Law, and turn over the requested complaints.
FOIL outlines which documents citizens have the right to access from government and public agencies.
“We want every police report made against Karen and her children,” said Ronald Benjamin, an attorney from Binghamton who is representing Mabry. “Currently she is being criminally prosecuted for allegedly endangering the welfare of her child. And there are some other issues that lead me to believe this could be racially motivated. She and her children are being singled out; that’s what it appears. If that turns out to be accurate, then a civil action suit will follow.”
Benjamin said they want to view the complaints made against Mabry, who is black, and her children, to see if they are frivolous complaints or complaints that the police would normally not take action against.
The requests for the complaints were made after Mabry was charged with one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, on July 31 after her son got in trouble by the village police for riding a moped in the street. She was charged because he was not wearing a helmet, Mabry said.
Also, the police confiscated the moped and have yet to return it.
Along with a state helmet law, a local helmet law was passed in the village of McGraw on Nov. 6. The village law, like the state law, requires children under the age of 14 riding a bicycle or skateboard to wear a helmet.
Violation of the law is punishable by a fines and/or community service.
Mabry is scheduled to appear in Cortlandville Town Court on the endangering charge on Jan. 16.




Among local candidates —

Rumsey received most donations

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — State Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey earned and spent the most money of any Cortland County candidate running in the Nov. 6 general election, according to the most recent filings with the state Board of Elections.
Rumsey, who was re-elected to a second 14-year term, received $112,000 for his campaign and spent $152,000, according to campaign finance filings from various periods this year, including the most recent early December filings.
Rumsey took out a loan to cover the difference and isn’t planning on having his campaign committee solicit contributions or hold fundraisers to pay off the loan.
The next highest earning and spending candidate living locally was County Treasurer Don Ferris, who lost his race for re-election against Pat O’Mara.
He received $6,600 in contributions and spent that same amount. O’Mara received $6,300 in contributions and spent $3,700.
Rumsey, who earned the second most of all Sixth District Supreme Court candidates and spent the most, received his largest contributions from Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford), lawyers and local politicians, while most of his money went to radio and television ads.
Contributors interviewed said their donations had nothing to do with gaining favor with the Republican judge or influencing his decisions. They gave to support a good judge and friend and ensure the county kept a Supreme Court judge seated locally, according to donors.
Friends of Senator Seward, a group that raises money for Seward, gave Rumsey $16,000.
Duncan Davie, a Seward spokesman who between him and his wife gave Rumsey an additional $2,000, said Seward and Rumsey have known each other for a long time.
Rumsey served as legislative counsel to Seward from 1987 to 1993, the two are friends and Seward thinks Rumsey is a good judge, Davie said.
“He has the highest regard for the Supreme Court judge and his abilities on the court,” Davie said of Seward.
More than 20 lawyers gave to Rumsey’s campaign, including John Ryan and John Folmer, who have both known Rumsey and his family since Rumsey was a child.
Rumsey’s mother was Folmer’s father’s secretary, while Rumsey eventually joined Ryan’s law practice. Both have cases that go in front of Rumsey.
“He’s like a brother,” Ryan said. “We’re very close.”
Ryan donated $4,500 to Rumsey’s campaign, Rumsey’s second biggest contribution, while Folmer donated $1,075.
Both men said they do not believe there is a problem for lawyers to donate money to judges they appear before.




Principal takes BOCES job

Staff Reporter

After nearly three years in his hometown, Cortland’s Executive Principal Steve Woodard’s, 40, horizons expand when he becomes director of career and technical education and new visions at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES in Auburn on Jan. 2.
Friday was his last day at Cortland Junior-Senior High School in the position of executive principal, a job he has held since January 2005.
“It’s time for a change and timing is everything in this field,” said Woodard. He said he had been looking for a new challenge. “I’m excited about it.”
Woodard said like the executive principal position at Cortland, the new position will be year-round, but he said the nature of the job is different. “I should have more time with family,” he said.
Woodard said among his accomplishments were the “adoption of teaming at the ninth grade and the Link Crew.” Teachers work as a unit in ninth grade now, just as they do at the seventh and eighth grade levels. The Link Crew is a student-mentoring program in which juniors and seniors are paired with ninth-graders and transfer students.
Woodard said he has also expanded dual credit and Advanced Placement classes at the high school. He said he could not name all the classes that have been added but there have been several, with one or two new classes a year.
“The average senior graduates with 13 credits for college,” he said. “Some have more than 40 credits. … It’s a real feather in their caps.”
Woodard said his salary is around $98,000 at Cortland; he was hired at a salary of $88,000 in 2005. His starting salary at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES will be $92,500, said Kent Brandstetter, president of the school board there.
The Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES Board of Education voted to formally hire Woodard Thursday night. Brandstetter said Woodard replaces Bill Speck who became the BOCES district’s superintendent.
Woodard informed the city Board of Education of his intention to leave at its Nov. 13 or Dec. 11 meeting in executive session.
Woodard started his career at St. Mary’s School as a physical education teacher, but was in this position less than two years. He also taught in Moravia and Dryden before becoming director of athletics, physical education and health at Dryden in July 2000. He then became high school principal in Groton in 2001 and executive principal at Cortland Junior-Senior High School in January 2005.
Woodard said the administrative staff at the junior-senior high school has been great to work with. “The staff as a whole has been a real pleasure to work with,” he added. He said they always put children first. “The kids here in Cortland are in great hands.”
Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring said Ron Barry, a former junior high school principal at Cortland, would fill in as interim principal starting Jan. 2 and a search for a permanent replacement will begin. He said Barry went on to become the high school principal in the Jordan-Elbridge district and is now retired.
“I think he was well liked and just moving on for his own career, as far as I know,” said Tom Brown, president of the Cortland Board of Education. “I think he was liked by the students.”
“I’m sad to leave but excited about the opportunity,” Woodard said. “I’ve always been a big supporter of BOCES,” he said.