December 28, 2007


First Night tradition continues


David Blatchley/contributing photographer
Fireworks burst over the Cortland County Courthouse during the 2007 First Night celebration. The annual event continues Monday night to herald in 2008. 

Staff Reporter

Cortland’s Main Street is set to host the ninth annual “First Night” New Year’s celebration, continuing a tradition started with the city’s centennial celebration.
“It’s probably one of the few opportunities in Cortland where people can get together and celebrate the New Year with their neighbors,” said Lloyd Purdy, executive director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership.
The event will feature disc jockey Cindy Ryan, a fireworks display by American Fireworks, and of course, the dropping of the “Ball of Lights” from the Cortland Standard building at the stroke of midnight.
Cortland Mayor Tom Gallagher said he will be performing the final countdown to the New Year.
Main Street will be closed to vehicle traffic between Court and Port Watson streets, Purdy said, and Ryan’s DJ booth will be set up in the Cortland Youth Bureau’s Showmobile, which will be placed in front of Bernard’s Clothier for Men on the corner of Main and Port Watson.
City Police Chief James Nichols said officers will close down the Court Street to Port Watson Street stretch of Main Street starting at 9 p.m., and vehicles parked in the area will have to be moved by 11 p.m. Drivers who leave their vehicles in the area after 11 won’t be able to move them until after the celebration is over.
In past years, the street has been shut down between 5 and 8 p.m., but downtown restaurant owners asked for it to be kept open later this year so families can plan on dining out on Main Street, Nichols explained.
“It’s a family affair,” Gallagher said. “It’s a chance for people to enjoy the amenities of the downtown business district, particularly the restaurants.”
Gallagher said several Main Street restaurants will be hosting private parties, extending their hours, or holding dinner specials for the First Night celebration.
Several taverns are getting state approval to remain open Tuesday past the 4 a.m. deadline to close.
At 11 p.m., police will also shut down the intersection of Tompkins, Main, and Port Watson streets, as well as the stretch of South Main Street from that intersection to William Street.
First Night has been largely successful in the past, Purdy said, so there was not much need for adjustments over last year’s event.
“It’s such a good tradition here that it almost plans itself,” Purdy said. However, he said, it’s still required a lot of work on the part of First Night planning committee members.
Amy Bertini, the city zoning officer who has sat on the First Night planning committee since the celebration’s inception in 1999, said funding for the event has been particularly tight this year.
“Our funding is getting very sparse, as any non-for-profit organizations will tell you,” she said. “That’s worrisome for us … it’s a sign of the times right now.”
With minimal advertising, Bertini said, First Night costs about $8,000 each year. Local corporate sponsors provide the event funding.
The First Night celebration began as Cortland’s kickoff party for a year of festivities in 2000 to mark the city’s 100th anniversary of its incorporation. This year will mark the county’s 200th anniversary, Bertini said. The event typically draws around 3,000 people.
“It’s a way to start the New Year off with a bang,” said Bernard Wineburg, owner of Bernard’s clothing store.
“We want to attract young and old,” he said. “It’s good, clean fun … the fireworks will go off, and everybody hugs each other.”
The celebration is a collaboration between the First Night Committee, the city and area businesses, Purdy said.
“Everybody pulls together to try to make this the successful event it’s been, without too many inconveniences to the community,” Nichols said.




A family affair —

Brothers to take ownership of Natoli’s market in Homer

Staff Reporter

HOMER — When Gary and Otis Brown wanted to move back to Cortland, they looked for a small business that they could invest in.
Otis’ father-in-law pointed them toward Natoli’s Route 11 Market, which had been on the market for some time.
“It’s the kind of establishment that my brother and I look for to frequent,” Otis Brown said Thursday afternoon. “We’ve always wanted to go to owner-operated businesses; that’s always how we’ve been.”
They’re now working beside Harold Atkinson, the owner for more than 15 years, learning the ins and outs of the grocery business. Although they do not own the store yet and likely won’t take ownership until mid-January, the Browns are just beginning to understand what running the market entails.
“You have to be flexible,” Gary Brown said.
“You can’t stand still,” Otis Bown said.
The two brothers, originally from Canisteo, Steuben County, graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2000. While in school, Otis Brown met his future wife, Kelley Nadge of Homer.
While Gary Brown moved to Charlotte, N.C., and then on to Nashville, Tenn., Otis Brown was a social worker with Catholic Charities in the Binghamton area.
The two enjoyed the Cortland area so much when they were in college that they decided they wanted to come back, in part so Kelley Brown could be closer to her family.
Jim Nadge, Otis’ father-in-law, suggested Natoli’s.
“We came up and checked it out and we knew at that point that it was what we wanted to do,” Gary Brown said.
In 1991, Atkinson bought the store from his uncle, Joseph Natoli, who had himself purchased the market in 1974 from its longtime owners, the Kniffen family.
The store had been for sale for a couple of years, as Atkinson had been thinking of moving on. He said people have tried to buy the building and not the store, and Atkinson was not willing to accept any offers that would not involve keeping the market right where it is.



Democrats select choices for key Legislative posts

Staff Reporter

The county Legislatures Democratic caucus chose its candidates, leadership positions on the Legislature Thursday night, putting forth Carol Tytler for chairman and naming Sandy Price as majority leader.
Legislator John Daniels (D-Cortlandville) had also been vying for the chairmanship, but Tytler (D-3rd Ward) was chosen by a secret ballot.
The Democrats did not discuss possible appointments for the county attorney and clerk of the Legislature, but have scheduled another caucus  to discuss the appointments and meet with possible candidates at attorney James Baranello’s office at 39 Church St. at 4 p.m. Monday.
Democratic Party Chair and Election Commissioner Bill Wood would not comment on the caucus selections this morning.
The Republican Party leadership has put forward its own recommendations: Legislator John Steger (R-Preble and Scott) for chairman, Patrick Perfetti of Homer for county attorney and former Legislature clerk Carletta Edwards for that position once again.
The Republican caucus plans to meet at 8 a.m. Saturday at Republican County headquarters on Port Watson Street to discuss these recommendations.
Tytler said this morning she shared her vision for the next two years and emphasized teamwork and communication as her priorities.
“For us as a Legislature, I think that one of the most important things that we can improve is communications — that’s vital to our success. All things flow from there,” Tytler said.
She addressed important countywide issues such as space needs, economic development, infrastructure, and inter-municipal cooperation, as well as an important concern of her constituents, flooding.
Tytler hopes to hold a strategic planning session with both legislators and county department heads, similar to one she attended after joining the Legislature in 2004, in order to prioritize the issues facing the county in the years ahead.
She seemed optimistic about her chances of emerging as chairman during the Jan. 3 organizational meeting of the Legislature, at which appointments for the leadership positions and other county positions will be decided by the full Legislature.



Grant helps fund recycling building

Staff Reporter

Cortland County received nearly $1.5 million in recycling grants through the state Department of Environmental Conservation to reimburse half of its $2.9 million recycling center, which opened in 2005.
The announcement of the grant award came Thursday and will help pay for the costs of rebuilding the 22,000-square-foot facility, purchasing equipment and parking area.
The county received the $1,492,077 through the DEC’s Environmental Protection Fund.
According to the DEC, the grant program provides up to 50 percent reimbursement to local governments for eligible project costs, limited to a maximum state share of $2 million.
“Municipalities send in applications but must join a long waiting list for funding. As funding becomes available, the state gives the green light to qualified projects,” said DEC spokesman Yancey Roy.
Don Chambers, county highway superintendent, said this morning that the county sent in an application for the grant money in early 2004.
“When you deal with the state, nothing is a sure thing. But we knew we were eligible,” said County Administrator Scott Schrader. “The program was designed to pay 50 percent of the costs for solid waste projects.”
Chambers said the nearly $1.5 million will be used to pay back the money the county borrowed to build the facility.
Schrader said the money will go into the county’s reserve for debt service and allows the county to eliminate its debt service costs from the operating budget.
“Now there will be a couple of years where we won’t have to pay debt service,” he said. “Because we don’t have to show those payments in the operating budget it will be reflected, theoretically, in lower tax rates.”
The facility is nearly twice the size of the prior recycling center, which was burned to the ground in October 2002 after a city man parked a stolen van over a pile of newspapers.
“We have had very good luck with the new facility,” Chambers said. “It runs very efficient.”