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The Forum:

Please note: All letters submitted to The Forum are subject to editing by the publisher at his discretion. Editing will be done in regards to length, clarity, grammar, libel and good taste. The existence of this page does not give any letter writer free rein to publish anything that does not meet submission standards. This policy is in keeping with sound and longstanding journalism practices.

We stand in support of lake protectors

To the Editor on Nov. 24:

We stand in support for those brave individuals who have spoken out and stood at the gates of Crestwood here in Watkins Glen, Schuyler County. We cannot thank them enough for all that they have done and continue to do to protect Seneca Lake.

Our family has lived in this most beautiful and bountiful of regions for five generations now. We have been a part of the efforts which have made this region the premier tourism and agricultural mecca that it is today. Why would anyone want to risk all that so many of us have worked so hard to achieve? We must be stewards of this very sacred land of lakes and make every effort to keep Schuyler County and the Finger Lakes Region as pristine and natural as possible. We must ensure that our children and their children have the opportunity to live and thrive in this region, as we have. We must keep corporations, who have no connection to our regional history, with no concern for our health and safety, out of our region.

It is with the deepest respect for our tourism, agricultural, and hard working people of this region, that we submit this letter.

Phyllisa DeSarno
and Peter Widynski

Long live Seneca Lake

To the Editor on Nov. 24:

For the first 15 years of my life, my family lived less than two blocks from Seneca Lake, I spent every summer at Coach Lemak’s summer program until my involvement with the local drum corps, and after moving from 4th Street to Magee, still lived close to the lake. My brother had lakefront on Magee Point for a few years, so it’s safe to say my family has spent many hours on and around our magnificent lake.

Once I moved away from the area for a few years, I really came to appreciate the beauty our area has to offer, and more than once I would remark that the best part of the drive home was rounding the corner on Rt. 79 on Burdett Hill and that view…

I do not believe the amount of jobs that might be created by Crestwood will exceed the headaches of more truck traffic, the damage to our roads and never mind the constant worry of contamination to the environment. How about finding something substantial that will create jobs in that ghost town you call an Industrial Park (Corning Hill)?

Keith Slater does not represent me, nor does Phil Barnes or Dennis Fagan. I am thankful that there are peaceful demonstrations. I don’t really care if Crestwood is inconvenienced, but I also understand the County Sheriff’s office has their job to do.

Long Live Seneca Lake!

Patti Schimizzi

Take the time to learn the truth

To the Editor on Nov. 24:

Protest for purpose has a long and great tradition in this country. People who take the time to research, understand, ask questions, and enter dialogues with those they oppose before protesting are admirable. People who have determined that every other avenue is closed to them and then choose to protest – without breaking the law – should be vaunted. This is how change happens. It does not happen when people who protest are ignorant of the issues, take on passion projects just for the sake of protesting. These people should be criticized – not covered day in and day out by the media. Those who protest in order to create “an amazing show,” as Sandra Steingraber has described We Are Seneca Lake’s recent efforts, should be ashamed of themselves.

These “professional protesters” have been attracted to this area because of fracking. Fracking does not take place in New York, and the projects at the US Salt facility have absolutely nothing to do with it. Nothing. People are entitled to oppose fracking, but it has nothing to do with continuing the decades long safe practice of storing propane or natural gas in salt caverns near Seneca Lake.

See complete letter by clicking here.

Michael Gilbert
Himrod, NY

(Michael Gilbert is a member of the United Steelworkers District 4 and a long-time employee of US Salt.)

Seneca Lake is ... not to be sacrificed

To the Editor on Nov. 23:

On this Thanksgiving, far from home, we send our deepest gratitude to our family, friends and neighbors who carry on with the protection of our community. We thank those who come from their own communities and support us in our work to defend our lake, our health, our safety, and our livelihood.

We are deeply cognizant of the sacrifices of each protester and are moved to tears by the elders who stand so bravely to care for that which is right and good. Seneca Lake is a treasure. It belongs to our children and our grandchildren. It is not to be sacrificed.

Marie Fitzsimmons
Kirk J. Peters DVM

All it takes is one little crack or leak ...

To the Editor on Nov. 23:

I have three spectacular grandsons, 12, 10 and 4. I adore these boys and hope for a wonderful future for them. However, I've been wondering and worrying. The situation at Crestwood causes much alarm and yes, fear for my future and that of the boys, for all of us really.

Water is life, I think we all know that. How can it be that procedures at Crestwood can be allowed? I would ask that we all recall our early education: Science, mathematics, history, and literature. Science taught us the geology of the earth and what lies below where we stand: ecosystems and life. Mathematics taught us the basics of statistics and probabilities. Literature allowed us to journey with our early ancestors to the new world, a world of plentiful clean water, clean air and fertile soil. History has taught us that stewardship has always been a principle necessary for all to practice. Stewardship: the responsible maintenance and care of the earth and its environment.

Nothing is ever perfect. All it takes is one little crack, one leak, one accident ... let us think very clearly and remember nothing ever goes as planned all the time. I, for one, do not want to take a chance on my future, or that of the boys or for anyone. This should not be about politics and greed, but about the safety and quality of life.

So, let's simplify and review what we already know and say no to Crestwood, their politics, procedures and actions.

Debra Reid
Perry City

Protesters do not speak for community

To the Editor on Nov. 22:

I am a resident of Watkins Glen, and I have spent the last year or so in relative indifference regarding the gas storage issue. I have seen the protests and the arrests. I've read the letters to the editor. I may have signed something. I've even talked to neighbors and friends. Now people can talk about the silent majority, but they are silent for a reason, and I think I've figured it out. THEY REALLY DO NOT CARE!

Your average area resident does not feel that the project is a danger. They also don't think the project will improve their lives one way or another. They may have an opinion, but it is not a strong enough one to do something. They are like me, pretty much indifferent.

I have found myself starting to care about something, the anti-Crestwood protesters. The rest of my letter is addressed to them.

Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate and admire when people stand up for what they believe in, and that is what I am doing here. However, as a guest in our community (and face it, most of you are guests), how about treating us with a little respect? I've written down a few things you are doing that both bothers me and is more than likely not helping your cause.

1. Don't say you are standing up for me or the other members of our community. We could protest if we wanted to. We are not dummies; don't treat us like we are. Don't tell us how to think.

2. Don't assault and bully our elected officials. Don't mob and yell at them. They were elected because the silent majority wants them in office. Don't say they are not representing us. If we do not want them, we will vote them out.

3. Don't attempt to monopolize our village, town, and county board meetings. We are paying these people to do a job. They have more than your one issue on their plate.

4. Don't park on the side of the highway and cause dangerous traffic situations.

5. Don't block the entrance of a business. You are costing them money and making life hard for the workers.

6. Try to not get arrested. When you do, you are costing us money. You are hurting our community.

7. If you do get arrested, try and act sad about it. It comes across that you feel it's a big party worthy of pictures, hugs, signs and smiles. If you think I am exaggerating, take a look at the photos on this website. Please understand that it is not a game; it is dangerous work for everyone else.

8. I assume you know that the arrests are eventually going to lose the media's interest. Please do not find new and more interesting ways to cost our community money.

Thank you for your time,

Keith Slater
Watkins Glen

They twist words to strengthen argument

To the Editor on Nov. 21:

First of all, let me say that I won't engage in a war of words with Sylvia Fox. I don't know her, nor have I ever spoken with her. In her recent letter I think that she makes it very clear that she only had one agenda if elected as the District 6 Legislator. She makes several comments that I would like to address.

"And if Sheriff Yessman really believes, as he publicly stated, that diverting officers to arrest peaceful protestors at Crestwood will put the rest of us at risk, we had all better be afraid. What will happen if a propane truck rolls over on Route 14, or if there is a major propane leak, or a railroad car carrying LPG derails? He's just admitted we're not ready."

These are her words taken from her letter. Just like everyone else in this issue they twist words to strengthen their arguments. I have never stated that we are not ready to handle these emergencies. Emergency Services in Schuyler County are hard-working men and woman who protect their community. To say that they are not ready is an outright lie. If Ms. Fox doesn't believe that we are ready, maybe she should pick up an application and join the Fire Department or the Schuyler County Volunteer Ambulance Association . We have handled these types of incidents in the past and will do so in the future. An emergency is an unforeseen incident that in duration is short-term. These deliberate planned protests that violate the law every day are a totally different situation. We have to dedicate resources to deal with them on a daily basis, taking the Deputies and Troopers away from their normal duties which include patrolling
Schuyler County, keeping the residents safe.

"In a letter written to the Yates County Legislature in October (and published in The Odessa File), Mr. Fagan claimed that the incumbent legislator, Barnes, won the GOP Primary on a pro-gas storage mandate because of the 107 Republicans who voted for him. Apparently that means the approximately 1,400 remaining registered voters (and their opinions) simply don't count."

I went to the Schuyler County Board of Elections website (anyone can) and found that in the 2014 Primary Election for District 6 there were 186 votes cast. Phil Barnes received 107 votes, Angie Franzese received 78 votes, and there was one write-in vote. According to her that leaves approximately 1,322 people that didn't vote, or were not Republicans and couldn't vote. In the 2014 General Election there were 703 votes cast in the District 6 Legislative race. Phil Barnes received 313 votes, Angie Franzese received 204 votes and there were 186 write-in votes. If we use her number of approximately 1,400 other people, plus the 107 votes that Mr. Barnes received in the Primary, that makes 1,507 voters. If the true issue of the election was gas storage, then 704 voters didn't vote on this issue. Maybe we can assume that they really don't care one way or the other, so isn't this really the silent majority that everyone is speaking about?

From a letter to the editor written October 27, 2014 by Sylvia Fox, she states "My candidacy is about making the public -- the voters -- part of the team and representing the people in District 6".

I am now a target of the protestors because I feel a duty to keep the residents of Schuyler County, who I work for, informed of the effect of these protests on my agency, public safety and the costs associated with this activity. I have always made the voters who elected me, part of my team. My words are twisted by people like Sylvia Fox to strengthen their argument. I am one of the silent majority on this issue. I have and will remain neutral. When called to deal with these protests, we will continue to do our duty in enforcing the law.

Schuyler County is and will remain a safe place to live, work and raise our families because of the dedication of our Emergency Services workers who are ready to handle any emergency that may arise. Thank you.

William E. Yessman Jr.
Schuyler County Sheriff

Protests are reaction to the Legislature

To the Editor on Nov. 20:

There have been protests and arrests for trespass in the past few weeks at the Crestwood natural gas storage site in the wake of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s rubber-stamp approval of the project in favor of the Texas-based company -- which also owns U.S. Salt in Watkins Glen.

Although the arrests have been clogging the Town of Reading judicial system and impacting our county jail, County Sheriff William Yessman, Jr. is wrong to say the protestors are the problem, as he posted on his Facebook page and was quoted in WENY-TV.

The leadership of the Schuyler County Legislature is the real problem.

These protests are a citizen reaction to the misguided, misinformed and poorly thought-out actions by Schuyler County Legislative Chair Dennis Fagan and the legislature, starting at least four years ago.

Documents and emails confirm that Mr. Fagan was smoothing the way for this incompatible and dangerous industrial complex by Inergy/Crestwood as early as 2011, working on an agreement so that SCOPED would receive a payment of somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 rather than requiring Inergy/Crestwood pay substantially higher county taxes. And since then, Crestwood property has been reassessed downward, from its original purchase price of approximately $65 million to the current $24 million. Next year Crestwood expects to lower its assessment to $22 million.

And have the legislature and Fagan howled in protest?

No. They continue to kowtow to Texas and promote the project, ignoring every study of the dangers and problems – and ignoring overwhelming citizen opposition.

Outrage about costs to the county associated with the protests should be aimed squarely at the County Legislature and Dennis Fagan, who laid the groundwork for this confrontation between residents and an industrial project that has no business locating on the shore of our lake.

And if Sheriff Yessman really believes, as he has publicly stated, that diverting officers to arrest peaceful protestors at Crestwood will put the rest of us at risk, we had all better be afraid. What will happen if a propane truck rolls over on Route 14, or if there is a major propane leak, or a railroad car carrying LPG derails? He’s just admitted we’re not ready. And, by the way, Crestwood is not financially liable for related propane or natural gas disasters that happen off site. Nor is the company insured adequately – a fact it has told stockholders and potential investors and the SEC.

Schuyler County is the only county surrounding Seneca Lake that has voted in favor of this project. Its pro-gas resolution passed by only a single-vote margin in the legislature. Those against this project understand there is no gain to Schuyler County, only risk and negative impact, despite Dennis Fagan's and Legislator Phil Barnes’ claims to the contrary. Our communities are being asked to take all the financial and environmental risks for a multi-million-dollar corporation and we don’t stand to gain a thing.

None of us -- including Sheriff Yessman -- should be surprised that people from our region are pushing back against this terrible decision by the county legislature to promote this incompatible industry without our consultation.

And no matter how many times Mr. Fagan and Mr. Barnes declare that the primary and the recent election was a mandate for the gas storage project, they need to go back and check their fuzzy math.

Fifty-four percent of the voters in District 6 rejected Phil Barnes and his pro-gas storage stance. This constitutes a majority vote against the project, no matter what Barnes publicly declares.

Dennis Fagan also needs a quick civic lesson about representation.

In a letter written to the Yates County Legislature in October (and published in The Odessa File), Mr. Fagan claimed that the incumbent legislator, Barnes, won the GOP Primary on a pro-gas storage mandate because of the 107 Republicans who voted for him. Apparently that means the approximately 1,400 remaining registered voters (and their opinions) simply don’t count.

So don’t be surprised when these protestors feel their government has failed them.

It has.

Sylvia S. Fox
Watkins Glen

Paper has interesting take on wineries

To the Editor on Nov. 20:

I've been following the gas storage protests closely on The Odessa File. I noticed that a number of the names are involved with local wineries and one of the primary concerns that these protests focus on is clean water.

On that note, I stumbled across a paper written by a Harvard student back in 2011 for an Environmental Management of International Tourism Class taught by Megan Epler Wood, the current president of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative. I found the paper very interesting, especially the parts where it talked about the detrimental impact that the region's wineries have had on Seneca Lake over the past few decades.

I have no idea what grade the paper received, but all of the statements and claims are backed up with references, just as you would expect from any college paper. I thought it would be of extreme interest to the readers of The Odessa File, especially those with an interest in the gas storage controversy.

The paper can be found here: http://eplerwood.com/beta/images//Griffin%20-%20Seneca%20Lake%20Wineries.pdf

Jesse Scott
Watkins Glen High School, Class of 1997
Omaha, NE

Everyone who cares should be welcome

To the Editor on Nov. 18:

We might wonder why those protesting gas storage in the salt caverns near Seneca Lake are from places like Iowa and Oregon and Ohio. I live in Tompkins County and I even ask myself sometimes, why should I care about what is going on on the shores of Seneca Lake?

There are very strong local and regional reasons for these peaceful protests, like: the protection of drinking water, the protection of the wine and tourism industries, and the protection of residents from potential explosions, increased road accidents, polluted air and excessive noise. But, ultimately, the Crestwood gas storage project is a small piece in a very large puzzle of planned infrastructure to move fracked gas across the country.

Its intent is to connect the entire Northeast with a network of compressor stations, pipelines, truck traffic, and rail transport of gas. Similar networks are being proposed and created all across the country and world. And, due to the excessive leakage of methane inherent in unconventional gas drilling and gas transport, this is a very bad idea in the context of devastating climate change.

And climate change, which impacts us all, is what should make everyone who cares welcome here.

Kelly Morris
Danby, NY

Trying to cut county's tobacco use

To the Editor on Nov. 18:

There is no level of tobacco that is safe. Yet, 22.3% of Schuyler County citizens choose to smoke, according to the New York State Department of Health. The occurrence of adult cigarette smoking is higher in Schuyler County than the New York State (16.6 %) and National Averages (19 %). The majority of people do not smoke because of the dangers of tobacco use and availability of tobacco cessation. The medical research and tobacco cessation products encourage people to stop tobacco use; therefore it is not a drastic leap for a pharmacy not to sell tobacco.

When CVS Pharmacy changed their corporate policy and stopped selling tobacco products, the company rolled out the “Let’s quit together” campaign. Therefore, our local CVS Pharmacy in Watkins Glen also changed. When you walk into CVS Pharmacy, you see posters that say “Let’s quit together.” Smoking cessation products are behind the counter now. Tobacco products and ads are no longer in the store. Some employees have no-smoking pins on their shirts. As I spoke with staff at our local CVS, it was clear that the CVS Corporation had offered training to all levels of their staff on the importance of not smoking. An employee from the CVS said: “We received good feedback from the community, even though we lost our regular tobacco customers.” She added: “We even had a tourist looking for tobacco products and they purchased the nicotine gum instead.”

There is a small section of pharmacies that still sell tobacco in Schuyler County. CVS is the first corporate chain that is trying to decrease our communities’ use of tobacco. Whether or not the difference becomes a reality is up to Schuyler County’s citizens. There are resources available locally, to help people reduce their use of tobacco.

If you or someone you know is in need of support to decrease tobacco use, you can contact Schuyler County Public Health at 535-8140 for more information.

Elizabeth Henry
Public Health Specialist
Schuyler County Public Health

Thanks to all who helped with dinner

To the Editor on Nov. 16:

United Way of Schuyler County would like to thank everyone who attended, worked at, sold tickets, and supported in any way the annual spaghetti dinner held at the Montour Moose Lodge on October 13, 2014.

We raised over $4,100 that will go directly to the 2014 campaign goal of $123,000 to help support 23 health and human service agencies that benefit Schuyler County residents. There were 162 tickets sold at the door, 120 pre-sale tickets, and 175 take-outs for a total of 457.

None of this would have been possible without Mike Donnelly and the Montour Moose Lodge, the United Way board of directors, students from the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour Central School Districts, co-chairs Jeff and Amy Parmenter and their sons Phoenix and Drew, additional volunteers who show up every year -- including previous board members and spouses of current board members -- and members of the community who enjoy the dinner every year.

Please know your continued support is greatly appreciated and improves the quality of life for hundreds of your friends and neighbors who reside in Schuyler County. Thank you very much!

Peggy Scott
Executive Director
United Way Board of Directors

Speak out on Odessa football issue

To the Editor on Nov. 14:

I would like to once again put my two cents in on the subject of merging sports. I think in the case of football it may be time to look at options. With OM’s inability to field a working team it may be time to think about how these kids can still have a chance to play football if they want to. At this point there will not be any team. Now I know from the outpouring last year about this subject that there will be kids who would rather not play than play elsewhere, but I think this is where the administration needs to take a hard look and make sure the kids are represented and made a part of the process.

Last night at the OM Board meeting two options were presented with other options possible from Newfield as yet to be determined. And none of these options will be possible without approval from the other schools as well as our own Board of Education.

The first way it might be done is with a short-term commitment. This would be a year-to-year thing. If we wanted to do it this way we are looking at just sending our kids elsewhere to play on another school's team, whether it is Watkins or any other school. Without a longer term commitment no school will be willing to invest in a combined sport that represents both schools. Our players would be playing as Watkins or even Newfield players. This makes a lot of sense. Why would any school including our own invest time and money into creating mascots and colors and new uniforms for a one-year commitment? So that is why to me this is not a viable solution. If we are going to take this step we need to do it in a way that includes both sides and includes a commitment to stay the course and ride the waves. To deal with the issues that will most assuredly come as a result of combining, and make a commitment that says we will meet these issues and stay in it for the long haul. To do anything less will cheat our kids of the opportunity to feel a part of the process and engage fully in what has apparently become an inevitable course.

I am sure there are some who will say that this is not a good option and I definitely agree that it should be a last option, but it appears that at least with football there is just not enough interest to field a big enough team, so it would seem it is time to look at the best way our kids can play football if they want, but still be able to represent who they are. Being absorbed into another team for a school that is not your own is not an option and should not even be considered. The only choice is to go full speed ahead and do what is best for those kids who still want to play football.

I do want to make it clear though that this should only be considered for those sports that are not capable of fielding an adequate team. Many sports such as swimming and track are more individual in nature and can be successful with smaller numbers, and other teams such as volleyball, soccor and basketball have always had plenty of numbers. This should still be considered a last resort, but it appears, at least to me after listening, that that is where we are at with football.

Please write your board members and tell them where you stand on this subject, whether you would rather see the short-term commitment, even if it means our kids wearing another school's jersey, or if you would rather see the longer commitment that protects our kids and gives them a chance to be represented. Or would you rather see neither and would rather see the football team be cut than merge? Regardless of where you stand, you should let your board members know. They cannot make a decision that is fair without knowing what the people of the school and community want. So please speak out!

Christy Rumsey

Seeking Christmas adopters, donations

To the Editor on Nov. 13:

Catholic Charities of Schuyler County requests your help in sharing the gift of hope this Christmas season.

Catholic Charities makes the process very simple for donors. First, we get an idea of what size family you would be interested in adopting. Then we match you with a family in need and provide you with the individual, senior’s or family member's age, size, needs, and interests. You then select items for each family member and one or two household needs.

We ask that you purchase gifts and drop them off at Schuyler Outreach on December 15. Families will pick up their gifts the following day. We also ask adopters to bring ingredients for a Christmas meal for their adopted family as well as 3 days’ worth of meals (visit our website for a list of suggestions).

If you’d like to help in a different way, Catholic Charities is also requesting donations of new or gently used toys and gifts (no stuffed animals) for those families that are not adopted. Gifts for children, teenagers and adults can be dropped off at Schuyler Outreach on Tuesdays from 9am-2pm and 6pm-8pm, Thursdays from 7am-2pm, and Fridays from noon-4pm from now until December 8 (112 Tenth Street, Watkins Glen, NY).

Last year, Catholic Charities was able to adopt 120 families. Please help us adopt more families this year. We turn to you this season for your support and compassion.

If you are interested in adopting a family or volunteering to sort Christmas donations, please contact Jessie Ketter at 607-535-2815 or JKetter@dor.org.

Schuyler Outreach has been your local provider of emergency services for over 20 years. Schuyler Outreach provides emergency food and financial assistance with rent, utilities & prescriptions. For additional information, please contact Schuyler Outreach at 607-535-2815 or visit www.cs-cc.org.

Katie E. Rhodes
Development/Marketing
Catholic Charities of Chemung & Schuyler Counties

What a great season for WG athletes

To the Editor on Nov. 10:

What a season! I write to say congratulations to coaches and athletes at Watkins Glen High School for what can only be said was an outstanding Fall season! Girls X-Country wins Sectionals and places 6th in New York State. In Girls Swimming, Lexi Castellaneta captures the Sectional Diving title with a school-record point total that qualifies her to compete in the State Tournament. Katherine Meehan wins the Sectional title in Breaststroke, setting a school record, and the team finishes 2nd in Section IV.

The Boys X-Country finishes 2nd in Section IV, and Patrick Hazlitt finishes 3rd overall in the Section, qualifying for the State meet. The Watkins Glen Football team establishes itself as one of the top teams in the division and a force to be reckoned with in the future. And there were many other individual accomplishments that we all should be proud of.

These accomplishments do not happen in isolation. Thank you to the parents, grandparents, other family members and the community for supporting all of our athletes. Whether running to get a uniform that was left home, providing money for stops on the way home from events, or just being there supporting the athletes during the competitions, your presence makes a difference.

To our coaches, thank you for your continued commitment to our athletes. With your guidance, encouragement and willingness to go the “extra mile” for the athletes and the programs, we can and do accomplish many great things!

Tom Phillips
Superintendent
Watkins Glen School District

Since when is 20.8% a true majority?

To the Editor on Nov. 8:

New math? I am confused as to how exactly 45.5% constitutes a majority. 313 votes may have been enough to win an election, but it is certainly not a majority. 390 voters voted for candidates running on platforms opposed to Mr. Barnes’ stance on major issues facing District 6. That represents 54.5% of the voters, which actually is the majority.

Additionally, 313 of the approximately 1500 voters eligible to vote in the District 6 election constitute only 20.8%. How can 20.8% of eligible voters be referred to as a “true majority,” and aren’t legislators responsible to represent all of the residents of their district -- not just the ones who vote for them?

Kristy Perraut

I will be honored to serve as Treasurer

To the Editor on Nov. 8:

With deepest gratitude, I would like to thank everyone who supported me during my campaign for Treasurer; all your hard work and positive support was appreciated more than words can express.

I am confident that going forward, we will all work together to effect positive changes, not only within the Treasurer’s office but countywide, sharing our common goal of acting in the best interest of our county’s residents.

I will be honored to serve as Schuyler County’s Treasurer.

Harriett Vickio

Program helped raise awareness

To the Editor on Nov. 8:

October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Catholic Charities wants to thank the Schuyler Community for helping raise awareness about the issue of Domestic Violence.

On Saturday, October 25th -- in a program titled "Take a Hike, Domestic Violence" -- over 50 adults and children hiked the gorge to raise awareness about this significant issue. In addition, over 200 personal care items were donated by the participants. Catholic Charities accepts on an ongoing basis donations of women’s personal care items, diapers and wipes that will assist victims when fleeing abusive situations.

This free event was made possible by a generous grant from the Raising Dough for Kids Foundation and hosted by Catholic Charities of Schuyler County and the Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT). For more information or to make a donation, please visit the Catholic Charities’ website (cs-cc.org).

Katie E. Rhodes
Catholic Charities of Chemung & Schuyler Counties

Thank you, voters of District 6

To the Editor on Nov. 6:

Thank you, voters of District 6! Your overwhelming support is greatly appreciated and affirms my commitment to representing the true majority of this district. I am both gratified and humbled by the resounding message the voters have sent. I look forward to continuing to represent you for the next four years!

With sincere thanks,
Phil Barnes

Thanks to those who supported me

To the Editor on Nov. 4:

I would like to thank all those who came out on Election Day to support me.

Also, I wish to thank those who helped with my campaign in many different ways. May God bless you and your families. Good Luck to the winner.

Angie Franzese

House fire 'breaks my heart'

To the Editor on Nov. 3:

It breaks my heart to see what has happened to my beloved home in Montour Falls. When I bought it from the Bartons I promised them and felt a deep responsibility to maintain it for Montour Falls -- to love it, and let people see it; which I did.

I restored its furnishings back to its Victorian age as best I could with lovely pink antique sofas, yellow velvet Victorian chairs, a lovely square piano and many other period items or reproductions of same. Most things I bought in Watkins and Montour.

I filled it with my paintings and taught my trade to students there with great joy.

On its grounds I loved the hundreds of century-old Hostas, and I added thousands of tulips and lilies, and roses. The colonnade was festooned with wisteria. The coy pond held coy more than a foot and half in length, scores of yellow lilies and zillions of frogs.

When the time came that I had to sell it, I did so to Jill Drummond, who I felt would be able to keep it and maintain it as I had. Her untimely death changed all of that.

What has happened there since I do not know. I wish I could have kept it, but since I couldn’t I moved to a wonderful house in Odessa, and that too I fixed up and loved. Although not as stately as Barton’s House, it still was elegant and much more homey!

Now I live in Ithaca, where there are many artists like me. My home, I think, could fit into the living room of my house on Genesee Street. But some would say it is adequate for me. And, considering what many in this world have to deal with, I am grateful for what I have.

But I will never forget and never love more than what was once my cherished home in Montour Falls.

RIP 203. You will never be the same.

Joyce Stillman-myers

A further response on Election Eve

To the Editor on Nov. 3:

It is getting late, the night before Election Day, and I respond to Ms. Halpin’s letter due to the confusion I am hearing from voters regarding the facts in the race for Treasurer.

All pretty words aside, math skills and a basic knowledge of our accounting software do not make a person an accountant. My writing skills and skill at typing would never have made me a lawyer without a bit of schooling. To attack Ms. Starbuck’s training at this late stage of the campaign, when she has campaigned on her record of having attended Comptroller trainings, needs some actual facts.

I zeroed in on Ms. Halpin’s allegation of Ms. Starbuck “essentially defrauding county taxpayers” because this statement is inaccurate. The Comptroller’s audit was initiated due to a conviction for embezzlement in the Monterey Fire Department. The paper trail led to the Sheriff’s office, and from there to the Treasurer’s Office. The good news, no public funds were found to be missing – by anybody.

As far as the statement that the Democratic Party had the opportunity to back Harriet Vickio, she never approached her party, nor made any effort to identify herself as a Democrat. She appeared to be an independent until the record showed otherwise.

Michael Lausell
Legislator, District 3

Clarifications, and additional comments

To the Editor on Nov. 3:

I offer a few clarifications to Michael Lausell’s post. I am confused about what facts I misstated but I am happy to offer some additional comments.

After Michael suggested that everyone in the treasurer’s office take the training that he himself took, the legislature received a copy of an email from Harriett Vickio asking Michael for the contact information for the folks providing the training that he took and indicated an eagerness to take advantage of training provided, particularly as it would be held at the county. As to Harriett not taking the training until after the election, that makes perfect sense. Her focus now is to try to clean up some of the mess from the last 10 years so that the legislature can finally be in possession of accurate numbers while she waits to see the result of the election. I have no doubts but what she will avail herself of any and all training and will dedicate herself to accurate financial reports should she be elected treasurer.

As has been pointed out in the past, elected officials do not require any training or experience to stand for election and as is evident at all levels some elected officials respect their elected position enough to learn the job, get training where necessary, and apply the necessary time and resources to function in a competent and professional manner as expected by the electorate. Harriett Vickio came to Schuyler County with the requisite qualifications, including 7 plus years in the private sector, for her position as Purchasing Director. The position requires math skills but more importantly an ability to use the KVS software, her module being a part of the countywide financial software. During her 6 years with the county she has worked cooperatively with departments and the legislature and has availed herself of additional training. She has worked with other staff and the county auditors to facilitate the process for closing the books at the end of the year. She is professional and has a very respectable work ethic and is seen as a valuable asset to county government.

Michael makes the point that only $100 of allocated training dollars were spent in the last three years. It would have been more instructive had he reported on the expenditure of training dollars during Margaret’s tenure but it points out the fact that past treasurers, including Margaret, did not take advantage of available training. What Michael fails to point out is that you cannot force an elected treasurer to do anything they don’t choose to do. Margaret failed to get the necessary training because she chose not to and as an elected, not appointed, official there was no way to compel her to do so.

Michael barely mentions my comments on Margaret using her position to skirt the regulations that all other taxpayers must follow and then only in the context of my perhaps inappropriate use of the word "defraud"; he omits any mention of whether he views that type of behavior as inappropriate. Does that mean he condones that type of behavior from elected officials?

As for my knowledge of candidates hand-picked by the legislature, I maintain my innocence. Someone tapped Harriett to throw her hat in the ring. I don’t know who did but I was not involved in the process so the claim that the “legislature” hand-picked Harriett is patently false. After Harriett was endorsed by the Republican County Committee of course I circulated her petitions. I don’t understand Michael’s concern with “everything being in place.” Why would the Republican-controlled legislature not have everything in place? If the Democrat Party held the majority on the legislature, I would expect nothing less.

Michael’s comments about the discrepancy in the STOP DWI accounts point out exactly what has been the frustration of the legislature for the past 10 years, 8 of which Margaret was treasurer. At this point, many of the financial records of the county continue to be inaccurate. It will take commitment and time on the part of a new treasurer to finally provide accurate numbers.

Michael is absolutely correct that political rhetoric should not drown out the facts but that is exactly what is happening. The Democratic Party had the opportunity to support an individual of their own party who has a stellar record with the county and in three months has demonstrated her commitment to the treasurer’s office. Instead the Democratic Party chose to support Margaret Starbuck, whose record clearly indicates that she is unable to perform the functions of Schuyler County Treasurer.

Barbara Halpin
Legislator, District 1

Sylvia Fox: A breath of fresh air

To the Editor on Nov. 3:

Schuyler residents are witnessing an encouraging political story in the making. On Nov. 4th, voters in Legislative District 6 will chose a new representative, and it is entirely conceivable that they will choose write-in candidate Sylvia Fox.

Her campaign is a testament to the energy and heartfelt enthusiasm that motivates her actions. In less than two months, she has knocked on many doors, spread her message, and made the name Sylvia Fox well known in our community.

I accompanied Sylvia as she visited local voters, and how she engaged them in thoughtful conversation. She understands that running a local government involves risk analysis, financial accountability and above all open government – government that is respectful of the voters -- both in respecting their voices and respecting that they pay the taxes that allow government to function.

Her candidacy requires of voters the unusual step of writing her name on the ballot under the column for Legislative District 6. Because voting for a write-in candidate is foreign to most voters, Sylvia has taken the extra time to meet voters at their homes. Once they make the connection, it is easy to see them taking the time to write in her name on their Election Day ballot. As she has explained, “write Fox in the box!”

Some voters are concerned that in a three-way race between Sylvia Fox, Angeline Franzese and Phil Barnes, the outcome will be uncertain. I have accompanied her from the Village of Watkins Glen to the outer reaches of the district in Van Zandt Hollow. Over the last six weeks she has methodically covered the entire district, speaking with all voters that she found at home. From the enthusiastic response Sylvia Fox has received, she can duplicate Bob Lee’s successful write-in campaign for Mayor of the Village of Watkins Glen. It can be done.

Michael Lausell
Legislator, District 3

The rest of the story ...

To the Editor on Nov. 1:

In Legislator Barbara Halpin’s letter regarding the race for the Schuyler County Treasurer office, my name was cited in regard to candidate Harriett Vickio responding “affirmatively to legislator Michael Lausell’s recent suggestion regarding specific training.” This report completely misstates the facts.

When Treasurer Whyman resigned, members of the legislature approached me asking whether we could “rally around” a candidate. They had caught wind that the Democratic Party was going to endorse Margaret Starbuck, and they were looking for a candidate. When they found Ms. Vickio, I asked what her qualifications for the job were. I was told she had no preparation in accounting.

In September, I attended the Comptroller Accounting School, given twice a year for accounting staff that work in all the political subdivisions of New York State: counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts and fire departments. The week before the course was to begin, I asked Ms. Vickio whether she would be attending. Her response was she had considered it, was very busy, and would go after the election.

I attended the training, a course presented by the State Comptroller Office that every treasurer must report to. The course is an introduction to how entries should be made, reports prepared, and Annual Update Documents submitted. When I returned, I reported to the legislature that the training was excellent, and that all the staff in the treasurer’s office should attend. Our county has spent only $100 in the training line of the Treasurer’s office budget over the last three years. We are not utilizing this valuable resource.

I also reported to the legislature that the state training staff is willing to arrange training in our county. Ms. Vickio heard this and asked me for the contact information. That is the small piece of the puzzle that Ms. Halpin reports. The fact remains, Ms. Vickio has almost no preparation for this position, and whether through the conceit of her advisors or her complacency at the broad support she enjoys from members of the legislature, she declined to avail herself of the training that she desperately needs to learn the skills required of the position.

Ms. Halpin states further that she was never consulted on her position regarding Ms. Vickio before the Republican Party chose their candidate. Sworn independent nominating petitions from August 11th show that legislators Halpin, Fagan, Gifford, Barnes, and future legislator Carl Blowers, all circulated petitions for Ms. Vickio. Clearly this was part of a concerted effort that culminated in the Republican Party endorsing Ms. Vickio. (In full disclosure – former legislator Glen Larison and myself circulated independent nominating petitions for Margaret Starbuck.)

Deputy Treasurer Lisa Snyder became Acting Treasurer, and she swiftly named Ms. Vickio as her Deputy Treasurer. Ms. Vickio assumed her duties, while her position at the Purchasing Department was held open for her in case she lost the election, temporarily staffed by another county employee. The legislature voted an increase in the Treasurer’s salary to attract qualified candidates – even though we already knew who the two candidates were – and all was in place.

Ms. Halpin goes on to state that Treasurer Starbuck was “essentially defrauding county taxpayers.” This prompted an Editor’s note clarifying exactly what the allegations were.

This brings us to the concern I stated in my first letter to this Forum. No one should let political rhetoric drown out the facts. Is our financial house in order? Not yet. When Sheriff Yessman stated at the recent budget hearings that he believed he had $80,000 in Stop DWI funding available that the Treasurer’s office could not find, the amount was corrected last week to $32,000. Last Wednesday I asked Deputy Vickio and Treasurer Snyder to explain the discrepancy. Ms. Snyder said nothing, and Ms. Vickio said she was not prepared to respond to that topic. County Administrator O’Hearn responded with the usual, “the records were not up to date.” Let’s be perfectly clear, I am not alleging wrongdoing or misuse of funds, but in every private business I am involved in I can expect a more complete and detailed explanation.

We all must serve our county government with the dedication it requires. The majority of the legislature makes political hay of the lack of qualifications for the job, and then picks a candidate that fails to meet those qualifications. Our voters will choose who they want in the position of Treasurer. I have stated why reasonable minds may choose Margaret Starbuck.

Michael Lausell
Legislator, Dist. 3

District 6 voters can make a change

To the Editor on Oct. 31:

There is a real good reason for Didtrict 6 to vote November 4th. Schuyler County is in poor fiscal shape and financially getting worse. For 2012 Schuyler County with 18,500 people was labeled “moderately stressed.” For 2013 Schuyler County was rated “significantly fiscally stressed” by the Office of the State Comptroller. (Check website: wwe1.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/fiscalmonitoring/fsms.cfm)

What is Interesting is that Chemung County (88,000 people), Yates County (25,000 people) and Hamilton County (4,500 people) are all rated not fiscally stressed. All counties large or small face the same State Mandates. The State Comptroller’s Report indicates the important relationship of a County’s fund balance to its financial condition. It’s designed to alert a county to the existence of factors which threaten their financial well-being.

All Counties need to have money on hand for emergencies that may come up. If a county’s fund balance is depleted it means trouble for the taxpayers because in a deficit situation a county is forced to borrow and property taxes have to make up the difference. It is recommended that a county carry a fund balance equal to 10% of its total budget. Schuyler with a 2014 budget of $43 million dollars should have a $4.3 million fund balance. In 2006 the County had an $8 million fund balance. At the end of 2013, there was only $2 million. Yet, County spending and property taxes continued to increase.

Imagine it’s 2006. You are head of a Company with an $8 million surplus and things are fine. Now back to the future. It’s 2014. You are told by your auditor your surplus is gone and the company is in “severe financial stress.” After you tell the Board of Directors, how long will you keep your job?

It is time for a change. Currently 670 properties are listed as delinquent. In September 35 county properties were taken for taxes and auctioned off. My record shows I am an independent thinker, a fiscal conservative and I I listen to the people. I believe no one should have to live in fear of losing their home for taxes. When the County is “significantly fiscally stressed” so are its taxpayers.

We deserve better. Going out into our community I know many taxpayers are not happy with their increasing assessments and rising property taxes. District #6 voters can do more than complain. They have an opportunity to make a change on election day, November 4th.

Angeline Franzese
Conservative and “We the People”Candidate
for the Schuyler County Legislature

Complaints against Starbuck are petty

To the Editor on Oct. 31:

The article titled “Schuyler Financial Practices Slammed” in the October 10th issue of the Star-Gazette is based on an audit by the State Comptroller’s office covering the period from January 2011 to September 2013. Margaret Starbuck was County Treasurer in 2011 and Gary Whyman was County Treasurer in 2012 and 2013 and until he resigned in August 1, 2014.

I have read the Audit Report, and it appears that the main problem is a failure to follow improved accounting methods recommended by the state and to file reports on time. This problem has existed for many years before Mrs. Starbuck started as Treasurer in 2004. Fixing it requires additional staff. After Mr. Whyman took office in 2012, our County Legislature saw the light and provided some extra help and an improved software program.

Mrs. Starbuck is running for re-election in November. She has been nominated by both the Conservative and Democratic Parties. The complaints against her are petty and trivial. She has had 16 years experience in the office, 8 as a clerk and Deputy, 8 as County Treasurer. She deserves to be re-elected, and the Legislature should provide whatever additional staff is needed.

William C. Elkins

Vickio is the clear choice for treasurer

To the Editor on Oct. 31:

The county treasurer is perhaps the most important position in county government because, like any large business, the board of directors (in this case the county legislature) must know the financial situation of the county at any given time in order to make reasoned decisions. Despite the critical nature of the office it is an elected position, which means that the person elected does not have to know anything about public finance and accounting, does not have to educate himself or herself about same, does not have to show up for work or work any more hours than he or she desires, and has absolute and complete authority over the treasurer’s office.

While the treasurer position in Schuyler has always been an independent position, the expectation has always been that the elected treasurer works for the benefit of county government and therefore for the benefit of the citizens. In order to fulfill the obligations of the position, an elected treasurer would necessarily need to seek training where necessary, be willing and able to work with the legislature and all county departments and be committed to highly professional outcomes no matter the time needed to do so.

While it doesn’t seem practical to discuss other past treasurers who are not running for office, it is instructive to discuss any candidate who has previously held the position of treasurer and therefore has a record that can be examined. Such is the case with Margaret Starbuck. The auditor’s reports from her tenure speak volumes. Margaret served 16 years in the treasurer’s office, eight of them as Treasurer, and yet the audit reports at the end of her tenure were as dismal as those at the beginning. According to some accounts she attended most of the annual training provided by the comptroller’s office, but it seemed to have little positive effect on the outcomes of her office. Some have spoken of the need for the highest level of integrity in that office and I agree. Margaret used her position to avoid paying the down payment on her own real property tax installment agreement, essentially defrauding county taxpayers. (Editor's Note: The audit addressing this said: "We found that the previous Treasurer failed to pay any of the required $383 down payment on her own installment. Although this amount was added to her amortization schedule, she used her position to circumvent the requirements to avoid paying the down payment.")

Some have attempted to make the claim that the legislature is to blame for Margaret’s problems – she didn’t have enough staff; she didn’t get the proper training, etc. The truth is the legislature had no intention of adding staff to an office where the treasurer was not willing to do her job nor willing to get public accounting training when it was recommended by the auditors and included in her budget by the legislature. Near the end of her tenure Margaret was offered another part-time person in the office but refused the position because it was not full time.

It has also been alleged that the legislature has been involved in hand picking candidates. I can tell you that the allegation is false because, as a member of the legislature I was never consulted on my position on either Mr. Whyman or Ms Vickio. The chair of the Republican County Committee who sits on the legislature was likely involved in tapping both Mr. Whyman and Ms Vickio, as is his responsibility. To his credit, this time he picked a Democrat, certainly not because of her party but because she is a known commodity. The legislature is driven to support a candidate that can administer the office in a professional manner and deliver accurate numbers.

Harriett Vickio has worked for the county as the Purchasing Director for six years as well as positions in the accounting field in the private sector. She has demonstrated that she is an independent thinker, but is also a team player and is capable of using the financial software that is also used in the treasurer’s office. Since Harriett assumed the position of deputy treasurer she has demonstrated her ability to assume the treasurer position. I have requested information from her several times as part of the recent budget process and each time she immediately delivered exactly what I asked for. She has spent countless hours with other staff already attempting to correct inaccurate financial information. She and the other staff in the office have already set in motion necessary remediations to complete the action items set forth in the Corrective Action Plan that followed the Comptroller’s report. Harriett has also committed to acquiring the necessary training. She immediately responded affirmatively to legislator Michael Lausell’s recent suggestion regarding specific training.

This election for Schuyler County Treasurer is not a popularity contest and Margaret Starbuck does not deserve to get the position, as some believe. There is however a clear choice. Voters can choose the candidate who, despite all her years in the Treasurer’s Office, was still unable to create accurate financial reports and relied on our auditors, at significant expense to the taxpayers, to do her job; and used her position to bypass the regulations of that office for her own benefit. Or they can choose a candidate who has a solid record from her own endeavors and has already demonstrated that she can turn the office around and do it with competent personnel, not more personnel and at a decreased cost to the county taxpayers.

This election for county treasurer is not about the legislature having control over the treasurer but rather it is about the need to have a person in that position who can manage and oversee the financial operations of a $44 million enterprise that uses your money.

Please vote Harriett Vickio on election day for Schuyler County Treasurer.

Barbara Halpin
Legislator, District 1

Martha Robertson chooses us

To the Editor on Oct. 29:

My husband and I cast our absentee ballots for Martha Robertson before leaving the country to serve with the United States Peace Corps. As I read The Odessa File this morning (from our home in Northwest China, less than 200 miles from Mongolia), I felt an urgency to write home.

Our beloved community is threatened by Crestwood's plans to store LPG on the shores of Seneca Lake. Congressman Reed has offered no support to us as we have stood strong for our local businesses, our farmers, our wineries, our tourist industry, and most importantly, our children. He has ignored our pleas to protect our drinking water and our air.

He has ignored our pleas to keep our roads and railways safe. He has ignored our pleas to protect our local businesses.

He has chosen a corporate giant over the people of Seneca Lake.

Please choose Martha Robertson for our Congresswoman. Martha Robertson chooses us.

Marie Fitzsimmons

What I stand for goes beyond gas storage

To the Editor on Oct. 27:

I read your “Roiling the Campaign Waters” column from Oct. 23 with great interest – especially as someone who has covered the news as a journalist and not been the news.

But I challenge your interpretation – stated in two columns now – that my candidacy to become elected to the Schuyler County Legislature to represent District 6 is solely focused on the gas storage issue.

It’s not.

Yes, the gas storage project is an issue for the voters. And I’m against it. But what I stand for goes a lot farther than gas storage.

I am running because the chair of the Legislature acts without consulting us, the Legislature is giving tax breaks to multinational corporations without consulting us – and decisions are being made in secret.

My campaign is about the voting record of Phil Barnes, who has voted exactly the same as Legislature Chair Dennis Fagan more than a thousand times in the past four years. Barnes has only voted independently of Fagan twice – just TWICE – because, as Barnes explained at the League of Women Voters event, legislators talk about issues first and all agree on how they will vote.

So in his view, there’s no need for any public discussion. They vote as a team.

My candidacy is about making the public – the voters – part of the team and representing the people in District 6.

In a letter written to the Yates County Legislature and published in The Odessa File, Dennis Fagan claims that the incumbent, Phil Barnes, won the GOP Primary on a pro-gas storage vote 60 percent to 40 percent. What that statement says to me is that Mr. Fagan and Phil Barnes believe that the only people that count -- on the gas issue or any other issue -- are the 107 Republicans who voted for Phil Barnes in the GOP Primary.

Well, the rest of us count. And we care. And we vote.

No more speaking on our behalf without consulting us. No more corporate giveaways and then claiming that our county is broke. Or that it’s the treasurer’s fault. Or it’s all about the state mandates. Or that the problem lies with anyone – anyone – but the Legislature.

Please resist simplifying what I stand for as “She’s against the gas storage project.”

I stand for much more than that, and I believe the majority of voters already understand that nuance.

Sylvia Fox

I did not sit still and do nothing

To the Editor on Oct. 27:

I am grateful to the League of Women Voters for hosting the Candidates forum.

That night Mr. Barnes ended by saying I want to ask Mrs. Franzese what she was doing the years prior to becoming Chairman?

I did not have a opportunity to answer the incumbent’s question that night because time was up. I think it’s important that he has an answer. Prior to 1992, I was a minority member on the board. I was outvoted many times when it came to finances. It takes five votes to pass a resolution.

I had to watch the Legislature dig a deeper hole for our taxpayers. I did not sit still and do nothing. I tried to help and was outvoted. All that I could do was to document in the record when things could have been different. At the end of 1991, the Legislature had no fund balance left.

I have a copy of the letter sent November 8, 1991 by the board clerk to the County Attorney.
It reads:

“It appears that our 1992 County budget may be well over our constitutional tax limit. Would you kindly advise as to what our options are if this is the case, taking into consideration the fact that we are aware we are able to raise the constitutional tax limit within the guideline of the
statute, but that even in doing so it does not appear that we would be within our limits.”

That board had no choice left but to cut . In order to keep the 1992 budget under the taxing limit, they ended up raising taxes 9% , leaving a $300,000 deficit and laying off county employees. I had opposed the layoffs and suggested cutting elsewhere. That Legislature left the county at 99.8% of its taxing limit. The voters took action; several new legislators came on board in 1992 and I was elected chairman. The rest is history. Schuyler was restored to fiscal health. We kept the county operating and maintained infrastructure without raising taxes five years in a row to the county auditor’s amazement.

I care and have great interest in our community. I review each county budget to see how things are going. Since 2006, it’s like déjà vu all over again. Our community can’t afford to see history repeated.

This year 35 homes were taken for taxes and sold at a public auction. Now listed for unpaid taxes are 670 county properties. We can no longer afford the status quo. The incumbent’s voting record shows he has helped the county get significantly fiscally stressed..

The voters will decide the course of the next four years on November 4th.

Angeline Franzese
Conservative and “We the People”Candidate
for the Schuyler County Legislature

Legislators' Choice vs. People's Choice

To the Editor on Oct. 23:

Here we go again. We will be electing a County Treasurer on November 4th and once again a majority of the legislators have a hand-picked candidate they plan to install as Treasurer.

The county legislators seem to have a strong desire to control the Treasurer’s position. Last year we voted against changing the Treasurer position from an elected one to a Legislature appointment. The message: We want to have a say in who is in that position. The year before that, however, they were successful at shoehorning their hand-picked candidate into that same position. Unfortunately for them, their candidate, Gary Whyman, found he was unable to continue his duties, and resigned before his term was up. The deputy treasurer took over the position temporarily, and their next choice for treasurer was moved into the deputy position to get acquainted with the job. Now we’re back where we were two years ago. We have two candidates running for County Treasurer. One is the legislators' choice. The other is Peggy Starbuck, running to be the People's Choice.

Peggy has over 16 years experience in the Treasurer's office, including eight years as County Treasurer. She has an associate's degree in accounting. While in office she attended 7 of the 8 annual comptroller's finance schools offered, missing just one while recovering from surgery.

No one is saying that the legislators do not have a right to prefer one candidate over another. However, they didn't just wait to see who would run against Peggy Starbuck, they went out and beat the bushes until they found someone who could be talked into running on their terms. From then on they could have stood back and let the electoral process drum its natural course, but that is not what they are doing. They are doing and saying anything they can think of to stop Peggy Starbuck from winning this election.

The voters should choose the candidate they feel is most qualified for the job, and this is no small job. We voted to keep this an elected position; now let's exercise our right. There are many reasons to vote Margaret Starbuck for Treasurer, and you will undoubtedly hear them in the coming weeks as she has great community support. Vote for yourself, though, and do not let the election be manipulated by a few with their own personal agendas.

Their last "selection" for the office worked out poorly. Let’s choose for ourselves this time around. Vote Margaret Starbuck for County Treasurer.

Mindy Cooper

Boosters plan Guitar Workshop Nov. 8

To the Editor on Oct. 23:

At the Odessa-Montour Fine Arts Boosters meeting in September, we decided to proactively
do some fundraising toward the upgrade of our auditorium lighting system. One of the first things we are doing is to offer a Guitar Workshop to students in grades 7-12 and adults on Saturday, November 8, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Students will register and pay the $15 fee at 10 a.m. in the foyer of the O-M High School auditorium. They will then be divided into age and ability groups – beginners, advanced beginners, intermediate and almost pro. Clinicians will work with all students to learn one or two basic chords and a song to play at the culminating performance. Students can bring their own guitars or use any of the school’s 24 instruments. (The Fine Arts Boosters have agreed to buy new strings for the 10 that need them.)

Lou Cicconi will help anyone who is interested in electric guitar or bass. Tom Bloodgood will instruct the intermediate players, and Kim Laursen and Jen Kraemer will instruct beginners.

Lunch break will be from noon to 1 p.m., and the Boosters will offer homemade soups and
sandwiches to participants. Clinics will resume at 1, with the culminating performance at 1:30. Any of the guitarists who want to stay and play will be encouraged to do so.

Kim Laursen
President, O-M Fine Arts Boosters

Help pick up discarded cigarette butts

To the Editor on Oct. 21:

Fall is the best season to hike in upstate NY. All too often along trails throughout our community though, cigarette butts litter the grounds. Cigarette butts are not just litter though. They cause damage to habitats, landscapes, and ecosystems, while they pose a danger to children and wildlife, and consume tax dollars through clean-up.

One third of cigarettes sold end up as butts discarded into the environment. These butts are not biodegradable and the toxic materials are poisonous when ingested by people, including children, and by other living organisms. These discarded cigarettes can also ignite and cause destructive and deadly fires. More than 900 people annually die of fires in the U.S. Picking up these butts is also very costly, and taxpayers and local authorities bear this cost. The worst part of it all is that big tobacco companies blame the smokers and say that the responsibility to protect the environment from cigarette-butt pollution rests solely on the smoker.

Our Reality Check youth group at STTAC is planning a butt pick-up for the Great American Smoke Out in November. For information about joining them, contact us at STTAC at 607-737-2858.

Teresa Matterazzo
Community Engagement Coordinator
STTAC, Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness Coalition

The Legislature Chair seems frustrated

To the Editor on Oct. 20:

The Chairman of the Legislature made several assumptions in his response to my letter on sales tax which are not true. My only motivation for the letter was to prevent the legislature from adding to its financial problems. I am shocked by the writer’s response. I am running for a seat on the Schuyler County Legislature because people are not happy with our current county government.

My facts on the sales tax are accurate and were taken from the county’s website. Evidently, the writer has no intention of taking the sound advice given. In an attempt to discredit me, he makes several untrue assumptions that he wants the readers to believe.

The writer must be frustrated since his letter intended to influence the Yates County Legislature failed to stop them from passing their resolution “opposing gas storage in Schuyler County." In his letter to Yates County he forgot to mention that the Village of Watkins Glen, after much study, opposed the gas storage project on behalf of their constituents. I assume this is an example of one of the writer’s delicate balancing acts. I applaud and thank the Yates County Legislature for listening to what their public had to say; and for their overwhelming opposition to the storage project with a vote of 12 to 2 to keep Seneca Lake clean.

One can only assume by the writer's response that he may now be trying to influence the election outcome. In his letter he accused the writer (me) of “lacking an understanding of budgeting.” I can only assume he meant his kind of budgeting. I did not attack the county’s budget practices in my letter. I simply made a recommendation on the sales tax figure. I found his letter defending his own practices quite interesting. It shows his lack of understanding of “sound budgeting.” And demonstrates “a shocking mentality for public budgeting” which helps explain why our taxes have increased yearly; why our county ‘s fund balance is being depleted and why our county is now rated significantly fiscally stressed by the NY State Comptroller’s office.

I recommend that the writer check county history. He will find that the “delicate balancing act” type of budgeting did not work in the past. In 1991, the county’s fund balance was depleted down to $0 and the county was left with a deficit of over $300,000. The county had also reached 100% of its taxing limit. The legislature could not raise taxes and was forced to borrow in order to cover the deficit. The financial situation couldn’t get any worse.

In 1992, I became chairman. Using good, sound budgeting practices, we paid back the deficit and restored the county fund balance. We also maintained our infrastructure, completed a state mandated building addition, had an emergency bridge replacement to keep open what is now US Salt. For the writer’s information, this was accomplished by the legislature and the department heads working together. The county auditors were amazed at what the new legislature had accomplished without raising property taxes 5 years in a row.

Sales tax was up in 2011 because of the music festival at the track. The writer said they anticipated another music festival in 2012 so they budgeted $10.2 million. The county was short $600,000. He fails to explain why for 2013 they budgeted $10,2 million again. One can only assume they were still hoping for another music festival. The county was short $600,000 again for 2013 . The writer nicely points out the problem his kind of budgeting has caused; saying if they lowered the sales tax figure for 2012 and 2013 they would have had to raise taxes. For 2014 they put in $10.2 million again. At Monday night’s meeting he predicted sales tax will be up the last quarter of this year and the county may receive $10,000,000, leaving them just $200,000 short this year. Or he hopes? The sales tax figure in the 2015 budget is $10.2 million again. I assume the writer believes that if you budget it; it will come.

“It is only common sense when operating any business that you do not spend more than you take in,” is what I wrote. I did not say or imply that the county overspent its budget. The writer says that for 2013, the county had $930,204 left and for 2014 projects only $750,000 to be left of the budget. Things seem to be not as rosy a picture as he has painted.

I never said or implied in my letter that I advocate overtaxing property taxpayers or underestimating revenues to increase fund balance. That is not my way of budgeting. The writer’s way of over estimating revenues and hoping to cover spending will eventually bankrupt our taxpayers when the fund balance is gone. “Delicate balancing act” type of budgeting is simply gambling with our taxpayers' money and the future of our county.

The writer says the legislature has done everything possible to maintain a stable tax rate and that the county tax rate decreased over the past three years. I believe he wants the reader to think their tax bills will decrease. How was the county tax rate really decreased? Many of our homes and businesses had their assessments increased by the county at least twice in the past three years. Taxpayers beware: Whenever the total value of the county increases, the tax rate decreases and the amount the county can raise through property taxes increases.

Yes, raise the assessments and you lower the tax rate. A lower tax rate with a higher assessment equals a tax increase. Over the last decade the Legislature increased total spending from $32 million in 2006 to $42 million for 2014 and the tax levy increased from $8 million to $10 million. Currently 670 properties are being advertised for unpaid taxes. Also, 39 county properties were taken for taxes and sold at public auction this year.

I am amazed that a letter suggesting a second look at the sales tax figure written by a county taxpayer would warrant such a warm response from the County Chair. I guess maybe it’s because I am running for office.

Angie Franzese

Watch for an end-around run

To the Editor on Oct. 19:

Does anyone else long for a time when the foremost qualification to be any one of New York's County Treasurers was simply integrity? Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but didn't both Gary Whyman and Peg Starbuck serve as such?

I don't recall any impropriety alleged or so much as the assertion of a single dollar missing or misappropriated.

I appreciate Legislator Lausell's recent response in which he advocates that the will of the electorate be upheld and the agenda of the Legislature not continue to be doing away with the elected post of Treasurer.

No matter which of the candidates for Treasurer prevails in the upcoming -- but definitely should the electorate reinstall Peg Starbuck -- watch for an end-around run.

Our neighbor to the west, Steuben County, recently altered its form of government in becoming a "Charter County." Steuben has set the local precedent. Local governmental efficiency touts some advantages.

In becoming a "Charter County," the post of an elected Treasurer can be done away with, without public referendum of that single issue.

Additionally, executive powers which have traditionally been vested in our Legislature are given up by the Legislature and vested in a County Executive. A County Executive that can even overrule the Legislature's will in some instances.

I hope our Legislators choose to keep all the powers that they have traditionally held and honorably exercised.

Paul Marcellus
Watkins Glen

Lausell responds to Fagan's response

To the Editor on Oct. 17:

Chair of the Legislature Dennis Fagan responded to my letter regarding the County Treasurer’s office by stating my comments were irresponsible and deceptive. My letter was motivated by the responsibility I believe all County Legislators share to present the truth to their constituents. We are the Board of Directors of the county government, and our voters and taxpayers – as stakeholders – have a right to receive accurate information. I stand by every statement I made in my letter, and offered to clarify for other legislators any confusion at last Tuesday’s legislative session. No one had any questions.

I do appreciate when Mr. Fagan approaches a topic in a reasoned manner, as he did with the issue of our county budgeting and tax revenues in his letter to this Forum. At other times, his communication is much more biased. Readers can appreciate that his letter to the Yates County Legislature reveals his writing at its worst. In that letter, his desire to push approval of the proposed LPG storage facility in our county led him to state that a 60% victory by the pro-LPG candidate in a recent Republican primary translates into majority support for the project within the Village of Watkins Glen. He cannot expect us to believe 60% of all registered voters support the project. He means any voter that is not a Republican does not count in public debate.

Returning to the Treasurer’s office, the Review & Express quotes Mr. Fagan as stating “The comptroller indicated that Treasurer Whyman was receptive to implementing recommendations whereas Treasurer Starbuck was not.” These words are incorrectly attributed to the Comptroller. These words are from the Legislature’s response to the audit. I objected in private discussions with other members of the Legislature to this narrative, because implementation was in fact Mr. Whyman’s biggest downfall. By a majority vote, my voice was silenced.

For now, we can set aside the complaint by members of the Legislature that there are no qualifications for the post of County Treasurer. The voters of Schuyler County overwhelmingly rejected the proposal to convert the treasurer to an appointed position in the 2013 election. To continue to raise this issue is disrespectful of the will of the voters, indicating either a belief that the voters are misguided and misinformed, or a disregard for the clear message from the voters: They do not trust the Legislature to choose their treasurer.

Michael Lausell

In response to the budgeting critique

To the Editor on Oct. 16:

A recent letter to the Forum from a local political candidate questioned the County’s budget practices while implying that the County Legislature had adopted budgets that weren’t fiscally sound. While I understand that political campaigns often motivate individuals' positions or words, in this case I beg to disagree and would like to offer the following:

The writer specifically takes the County to task for an over budgeting of sales tax and then correlates that with an assumption that as a result we are “spending more than we take in.” A review of the financial statements (NYS Comptroller AUD filing 2012 & 2013) speaks otherwise. For the period in question, while the County budget did reflect an overestimation of sales tax, in the total budget (of which sales tax is but one line of a 140-page document) revenues exceeded expenses by $930,204. In other words we did not spend more than we took in. Additionally, in the current fiscal year, with one quarter remaining we are on track to further that trend with our budget officer conservatively projecting a $750,000 all funds operating surplus for this year alone.

As a result, not only has the County fund balance increased each of the last two years, it will do so again this year, which will result in our being removed from the list of significantly fiscally distressed municipalities.

With respect to the over estimation of sales tax, the writer fails to note that in 2011 we exceeded our sales tax projection by $778,518. This was largely due to the addition of a music festival to WGI that was a significant economic boom, not only to the County, but the entire region. In preparing the 2012 budget we anticipated that event being repeated the following year, but unfortunately that did not happen. We remain supportive of efforts to attract similar venues in the
future.

More importantly and directly to the thesis of the writer, the 2015 budget projection that she is advocating be revised, reflects a 0% increase in sales tax revenue over the 2014 budget and a 2% increase over what we are projecting to be the actual sales tax amount this year. Historically, in the last decade sales tax growth has averaged 2.6% a year. That being the case, I see no need to adjust the 2015 budget estimate.

On the subject of fund balance, the writer references the County’s low fund balance and advocates underestimating revenues as a way to increase reserves. While this is an option, it demonstrates a shocking mentality for public budgeting and helps explain why New Yorkers pay one of the highest property taxes in the nation. In balancing the budget, had the Legislature elected to reduce sales tax projections for 2012 and 2013, it would have been necessary to
either further cut programs and services or raise taxes to make up the difference.

As an example, if the $600,000 shortfall was covered by raising taxes, the tax rate would have increased by almost 5% or $0.40 per thousand of assessed value for our taxpayers. Given that the County did not overspend in any of those years, that additional tax money would indeed have gone to fund balance but at a significant price to residents. It is very simple to increase fund
balance if you are willing to overtax your residents as the writer would advocate. In contrast, the county tax rate has dropped each of the last three years and is proposed to decrease again in 2015 by over 1%.

It is interesting to note that the $8 million fund balance cited in 2006 was accompanied by a tax rate of $10.50 per thousand of assessed value. The proposed 2015 rate is $8.24/1000. I will take my lumps for being on a list, knowing that we have done everything possible to maintain a stable tax rate during this time while also maintaining services. I would much prefer that than to have increased taxes unnecessarily under the guise of being “conservative.”

This is not to imply that raising taxes is the first line of response to fiscal stress and our actions have proven this to be the case. During the referenced time period, we have cut our workforce by 10% and worked diligently to control all expenses. Shared services, department consolidations, increased draw down of state and federal dollars are but a few examples of efforts made by this Legislature, department heads and staff that have resulted in increased
efficiencies and reduced costs for critical services.

In addition to the aforementioned, we have aggressively worked to increase local revenues through leasing county space. We currently receive in excess of $250,000 per year in rental income through opportunities realized by renovating and developing office space and renegotiating park land leases. In each year, when it appeared that we were not going to realize our sales tax projections, budget corrections were made and the end result was that we came in under budget those years. That being said, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the significant efforts of all county staff to deliver the best services in a fiscally responsible manner. We are indeed fortunate to have such a committed and dedicated workforce.

In preparing public budgets, there is always a delicate balancing act between estimating the amount and cost of resources necessary to fulfill the mission, and the taxpaying public’s ability to afford these services. In County government that balancing act is further compounded by the challenge of delivering services on behalf of NYS, almost 90% of which are mandated and
beyond our control or influence. To have done so, decreased the tax rate, and increased reserves, should be commended, not criticized. The writer’s comments, beyond demonstrating a lack of understanding of budgeting, paint an inaccurate picture of County budgeting practice and outcomes.

I hope that my response helps to provide some balance and I understand that political contests often generate this type of hyperbole. I encourage all residents to gain firsthand knowledge of
these challenges by attending the next budget workshop, scheduled for October 23 at 7 p.m. at the Legislative Chambers. Beyond an opportunity to educate yourself about the process, this provides a forum for your voice to be heard as the Legislature deliberates funding for the upcoming year.

Dennis A. Fagan
Chairman, Schuyler County Legislature

There's time to adjust sales tax projection

To the Editor on Oct. 14:

As a business owner I know how important it is to have a balanced budget. It is simply common sense, when operating any business, that you do not spend more than you take in.

A local news story reported that Schuyler County's sales tax for one quarter was up 3% OVER LAST YEAR. Saying it in this manner makes it sound good to the taxpayers. The key words are OVER LAST YEAR. Not mentioned is the fact that the county for 2013 failed to receive $600,000 of the sales tax revenues that it had budgeted. When any revenue shortfall occurs, the county’s fund balance ends up covering.

The problem is the county’s fund balance has gone from $8 million (2006) down to $2 million -- leaving Schuyler County with a fund balance which is 50% less than what is recommended for a county with our size budget of over $42 million dollars. This is one of the reasons Schuyler County is now rated “significantly fiscally stressed” by the Office of the State Comptroller. The Comptroller's report is designed to alert municipalities to the existence of factors that are threatening their financial well-being.

Sales tax is an important revenue used to balance county spending. It’s the Legislature’s job to determine the amount of sales tax revenue to be put into the budget to balance spending each year. Most Counties take a conservative approach and budget no more sales tax than they received in the prior year. The Schuyler Legislature evidently does not believe in the conservative approach. The Legislature has overestimated Schuyler’s sales tax in the past three County budgets. This has added to the County’s fiscal stress. Check out the 2012, 2013, 2014 budgets on the county’s website (www.schuylercountyny.gov). You will find the following:

In 2012 the Schuyler Legislature put in $10.2 million of sales tax revenue. The County took in only $9.6 million -- leaving it a shortfall of $600,000 of sales tax. For 2013 the Legislature again put in $10.2 million of sales tax revenue. The County again took in only $9.6 million -- leaving the County $600,000 short of sales tax revenues. This adds up to $1.2 million dollars of sales tax revenue for the two years 2012 and 2013 which were never received.

$1.2 million is a lot of money for a County our size to cover. Yet, to my dismay for 2014 the legislature again put in $10.2 million for sales tax revenue. Based on the actual sales tax received I estimate the county could be another $500,000 to $600,000 short. Yet, what do you think they put in the tentative 2015 Budget for sales tax? Yes, you guessed …. $10.2 million again.

There is still time. The sales tax in the tentative budget can still be changed by the Legislature. If not, Schuyler County’s financial situation will only get worse. If the legislators want to build up the depleted fund balance, they need to use common sense.

Angie Franzese
Conservative & Independent Candidate
District 6

FERC story made me physically ill

To the Editor on Oct. 10:

No matter what side of the issue you fall on, the topic of storing methane or liquid petroleum in salt caverns adjacent to Seneca Lake tends to produce a very visceral reaction when discussed. I am no different; when I read the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) approval story, it actually made me physically ill.

Beyond the seemingly business-as-usual questionable politics (at all levels), it comes down to a handful of essential questions, as far as I can tell. What are the benefits to storing hazardous chemicals in these caverns (despite warnings from geologists with no vested interest)? Who stands to benefit and how? Does the benefit (to the community) outweigh the risks (to the community)?

The way I see it, the life blood of this region is the wine industry and our ever-increasing travel and tourism – supreme scenic beauty, ample fresh water, bus loads (and literally boat loads) of tourists who can’t wait to come back, world-renown wines, and so much more. Look around. This place is a treasure, folks. People come from around the world to experience it.

Regardless of the percentage of risk, if even the slightest, how can it possibly be worth it? You can have all the plans you think you need to react, but if (when) catastrophe happens, it’s “game over.” If the water becomes contaminated, the scenic beauty compromised, or the grapes tainted, we are done. What then? What is our legacy?

Who benefits? How do they benefit? Is it worth it (to the rest of us)?

When did the voice of the majority become insignificant? How did the importance of these basic questions cease to matter? And, yes, the fact that we have to ask these questions at all makes me sick.

Barbara Hubbell
Watkins Glen

In response Mr. Lausell's letter ...

The following letter was sent by Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan to The Odessa File in answer to a published letter from Legislator Michael Lausell critical of several aspects of county government.

To the Editor on Oct. 7:

I am writing in response to a recent post by Legislator Michael Lausell that is critical of the Treasurer's office. While I respect Legislator Lausell's right to state his opinion, I take exception to a number of misleading or flat-out inaccurate assertions he makes and would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight. In outlining key points to support his position, Mr. Lausell fails to elaborate on supporting details and selectively presents information that misleads the reader in furthering his agenda. The following is my rebuttal, or more appropriately additional information on each of the points (italicized) he mentions.

Dennis A. Fagan
Schuyler County Legislature Chairman

To see this letter in its entirety, click here.

Thanks to all who made tourney a success

To the Editor on Oct. 6:

The Hackers & Wackers Golf Tournmanet was held Friday, August 29 at the Watkins Glen Golf Course. All proceeds benefit United Way of Schuyler County and the 23 agencies it serves. Approximately $7,500 was raised.

We need to recognize and thank coordinator John Franzese and his committee of Sarah Matthews, Rosanne Doane, Mary Ellen Fraboni, and Terry Taney. Without them, the tournament would never have taken place. The Board of Directors is especially grateful to John for his determination in bringing back this tournament and doing an outstanding job the last three years.

We are also deeply indebted to the sponsors, supporters, and participants of the tournament. There are several golf tournaments held every year and people have to pick and choose which ones they will support.

United Way cannot match some of the prizes and incentives offered by other tournaments. But it can guarantee that the monies raised go directly back to the residents of Schuyler County and benefit hundreds of people. Profound thanks to everyone who makes this tournament a fun event while helping our friends and neighbors improve their quality of life. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Peggy Scott
Executive Director

Trouble in the County Treasurer's office

To the Editor on Oct. 2:

With a month to go until Election Day, I am concerned by public statements of how well things are going in the County Treasurer’s Office since the last treasurer resigned on August 1st. Election rhetoric should not drown out the real concerns that our community faces in regard to how our local government manages the funds our taxpayers entrust to their care.

As a newcomer on the Schuyler County Legislature, I am viewed as one who asks too many questions and shares too easily with the public, concerns over how the affairs of our county government are managed. I do so, not to assign blame, but to speak frankly on issues that are of utmost concern to all.

* The 2013 yearly independent audit of the Treasurer’s office has recently been posted to the Schuyler County website and it again identifies material weaknesses in the daily operations of the treasurer’s office.

* At the October 14th legislative session we will vote to approve the payment of $20,000 to cover significant unanticipated expenses involving the 2013 audit due to deficiencies in our accounting practices that had to be corrected by the auditors.

* On September 28th, the New York State Comptroller added Schuyler County to the list of counties in New York State under significant fiscal stress.

* In our budget meetings this week we continue to be hampered in planning for the 2015 budget by inadequate reports from the Treasurer’s office regarding our account balances.

To address these issues, we must work together. The full legislature was not informed that the Comptroller's staff was coming to the county to discuss the problems in the Treasurer’s office. Only by calling them beforehand was I able to meet with them.

We must add funding to the 2015 budget for training of the treasurer's office staff. The very small amount spent on training of staff over the last three years only hurts us. They should all attend the reasonably priced Comptroller Accounting School.

We must work closely with our accounting software vendor. In early July they suggested a small change that will improve the efficiency and accuracy of data entry. As of last week, it still has not been implemented.

We must accurately define our state of affairs and work together to deliver the finest local government possible.

Michael Lausell
Schuyler County Legislator, District 3

I will make sure open meetings are open

To the Editor on Oct. 1:

Meetings of the Schuyler County Legislature are open meetings by law. Open means not closed to any member of the public who wishes to attend. By a resolution of the Schuyler County Legislature; the public is also guaranteed the right to speak at the beginning of a meeting (30 minutes) and at the end (15 minutes) of each legislative meeting. This was one of my first resolutions passed as a legislator. We wanted to guarantee the people of our community an opportunity to give their input before and after a decision of the legislature is made.

The night the Schuyler County Legislature voted to support the Finger Lakes LPG storage project, it was difficult for me to watch people who came and wanted to speak unable to get into an open meeting. When the meeting room was full; the doors were closed, leaving many of the public standing outside. The same thing happened again at the July legislature meeting I attended. Again not everyone could get into the meeting room.

No one should be closed out of a public meeting of the Schuyler County Legislature. An open meeting means it is open to everyone.

According to the Open Meetings Law, the legislature should have adjourned and moved to a meeting facility that would allow everyone present the right to attend their open meeting. If elected November 4th as your legislator, you can be assured I would make the motion if necessary to move an open meeting of the legislature to a location where none of those who wanted to attend would be left standing outside. I will keep open meetings open.

Angie Franzese

Falls Harvest Festival has new kickoff

To the Editor on Sept. 28:

The Falls Harvest Festival is October 4, 2014. It is a family event filled with entertainment, activities, vendors, and food.

This year we are kicking off the event with something new: The Fierce Falls 5K Run/Walk sponsored by Visions Federal Credit Union, Welliver, and Parmenter, Inc. at 11 a.m. More than your average 5K run, this is a challenge run that begins at the She-qua-gah Falls Park and continues through the historic “Glorious T,” up the hill and past the falls. The route is full of obstacles that promise fun to everyone and a challenge to the most experienced runners. Families are signing up for the Fun Run, a shorter course for anyone who wants to walk or run on an autumn day. (For more information, google Fierce Falls 5K and go to the Facebook page.)

Festival activities starting at 12 noon include bouncy houses, a donut contest, and a host of activities at the Montour Falls Fire Department to kick off Fire Prevention Week. Several local restaurants will be cooking up their best harvest concoctions to compete in the Harvest Soup Contest. And of course, we will see many entrants for the pumpkin carving and scarecrow contests. The Lake County Players return this year with their very popular Ghost Walk.

Our entertainment lineup includes everything from live music to juggling and a poi fire show, all sponsored by the Montour Falls Fire Department, Harvest Café, and the ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes. Music begins at 12 noon and continues all day until the festival closes at 7:00 p.m. with fireworks over the falls.

You’ll see new booths from regional vendors, along with favorites including face painting and pumpkin carving demonstrations.

Be sure not to miss this day of fun, live street music and performances, and a street filled with vendors sharing the bounty of the Autumn harvest.

Janine Benjamin-Kuehl
Chair, Harvest Festival 2014

School Board congratulates Jim Frame

To the Editor on Sept. 28:

Last week OMCS superintendent Jim Frame advised the Board of Education that, after serving the District for nine-plus years, he will be leaving to accept the District Superintendent position with GST BOCES.

The bad news for OMCS is that the District will be losing one if its longest-serving and most dedicated and able superintendents. The good news is that Jim will be bringing this same ability and dedication to our BOCES District.

The Board congratulates Jim on his new position and looks forward to working with him during the coming transition period.

Robert L. Halpin
President
Odessa-Montour Central School District Board of Education

Anthem action made us all proud

To the Editor on Sept. 22:

On Saturday, September 20, the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour varsity girls swim teams participated in the EFA Invitational in Elmira. There were many other teams present from large schools to small schools. The swimming competition was awesome to say the least. Our Schuyler County girls competed at the highest level, leaving many in their wakes. The event was a success on many levels, in and out of the pool.

Notwithstanding the excellent swimming competition, something else took place at the meet that has compelled me to write this letter. At the beginning of the meet, like most other athletic events, the plan was to play our national anthem. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the public address announcer stated that there was something wrong with the system and “we are going to skip the national anthem.” The crowd slightly booed and then something happened that brought tears to the eyes of many parents and swim enthusiasts.

Our girls, and those of eleven other schools, belted out the Star Spangled Banner, in unison and in spectacular fashion, on their own initiative. To say the least, I was proud to be a parent of one of those girls and proud to be an American citizen. From the fastest to the slowest swimmer, these fine young women showed us all that they do, in fact, get it. Congratulations to the "Swimmin Women" of WG and the O-M varsity girls. You made us all proud on Saturday.

Joseph G. Fazzary

Legislature should videotape meetings

To the Editor on Sept. 22:

Our elected officials need to find better ways of keeping their constituents informed. All County Legislature meetings and public hearings are open to the public by law. Unfortunately, the meetings of the county legislature and their public hearing times are not always convenient for many of our community to attend. Some counties do videotape their meetings and public hearings and make them available to the public on their websites along with their written meeting minutes.

The idea of videotaping meetings has been brought up to the Schuyler Legislature by the public at recent meetings. The response is always the same from the Chairman of the Legislature. We are checking on the costs. I suggest the chairman meet with the Mayor of Watkins Glen. The Village Board of Watkins Glen does videotape its public meetings and public hearings. Anyone can go to Village of Watkins Glen website and watch Village Board meetings or public hearings at their convenience. I compliment the Village Board members for making their board meetings more accessible to our community and taxpayers. I would like to see Schuyler County do the same for us.

Angie Franzese

In response to the 'county-tax tango' ...

To the Editor on Sept. 21:

I would like to comment to Editor Charlie Haeffner’s recent article, “The county-tax tango.”

Having been appointed as Schuyler County Deputy Treasurer in August, I have had the opportunity to observe many processes and procedures in the Treasurer’s office, including those of tax collection.

I will be on the ballot in the upcoming November 4th election for Schuyler County Treasurer; should I be successful, I will be assessing many of these procedures and their impact to the County and its taxpayers to identify opportunities where improvements are needed, including those related to the tax collection process.

I would offer further assurance that come January 2015, all Treasurer’s office staff will maintain a courteous and professional manner that will be extended to everyone who may have interaction with the Schuyler County Treasurer’s office.

Harriett Vickio
Schuyler County Deputy Treasurer

Editor's Note: To reach "The county-tax tango," click here.

Catholic Charities thanks community

To the Editor on Sept. 19:

Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler is thrilled with the outpouring of assistance for our recent Back to School Drive.

Thanks to you, we were able to help over 500 children start the school year right. An example of this tremendous support came from Mr. Panosian’s, where parents came in to purchase school sneakers for their children and bought an extra pair for a child in need. We have amazing people in our community!

Special thanks to the following individuals and businesses for their support and to everyone who contributed: Cappy’s Cards & Gifts, Cabins to Castles Real Estate, Lori Coon, Culligan Water, Mike & Bonnie Donnelly, Famous Brands, Farmer’s Insurance, Fidelis Care, Food Bank, General Revenue, Glen Mountain Market, Polly Gutelius, Cathy Heroin, Jerlando’s, Labor of Love, Maguire Motors, Methodist Youth Group, Montour Moose Lodge, Mr. Panosian’s Famous Shoes, Elizabeth Parone, Purple Iris Boutique, Schuyler County Mobile Work Crew, St. Mary’s of the Lake, Tangles-Shanea Rinker, Top’s N Bottoms-Brandi Crissinger, and Treu Office Supply.

About Catholic Charities Chemung/Schuyler: Catholic Charities is committed to fighting the effects of poverty and its root causes through its work. Catholic Charities provides a number of needed programs and services in the community with a priority toward the poor. We work to ensure that people have food, clothing, shelter, medical services, and the ability to achieve a decent standard of living. For more information, visit cs-cc.org or call the Elmira office at 607.734.9784 or the Watkins Glen office at 607.535.2050.

Lindsay Winters
Catholic Charities’ Director of Development

Thanks to those who donated

To the Editor on Sept. 18:

This past June the Burdett community lost an inspirational matriarch, Ruth Given. Ruth served many roles in our community, including Fire Commissioner, and a member of the Village Board. It is due to her constant leadership and support of the fire department that we were able to purchase our first AED (automatic external defibrillator). This AED is currently located on our small rescue truck, BR1.

When Ruth passed, her family generously asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations would be made to our department in her honor. It has been our goal to purchase a second AED to keep on our engine, BE4, in the event that it was needed in an emergency involving one of our members. It is our honor to apply all the donations received in Ruth’s memory towards this second AED. We have also recently received a grant to assist in purchasing this unit.

On September 6, 2014, the second AED was put in service! We would like to thank everyone who sent donations to the Burdett Fire Company in memory of our beloved Ruth. She was well respected in our community and is truly missed.

The Burdett Fire Department

Thanks to all those who supported me

To the Editor on Sept. 10:

Thank you to all the Republican voters in Legislative District Six who supported me on Primary Day!

Thanks also to all of the people who allowed me to put up lawn signs, placed calls, and assisted me in so many ways! And thank you to my wonderful and supportive family who always work very hard for me in all my endeavors!

Phil Barnes

I ask for your continued support

To the Editor on Sept. 10:

I want to thank all who came out on Primary Day to support me. I ask for your continued support for the General Election November 4th.

All registered voters in District 6 will be able to vote on November 4th .

You will find me on the CONSERVATIVE line and on an INDEPENDENT line.

Angie Franzese

We need Angie Franzese on Legislature

To the Editor on Sept. 8:

I am writing to urge that Schuyler County citizens in District 6 get out and vote on Tuesday, Sept. 9 for a person with the competence to control spending and cut property taxes for all of Schuyler County.

Angie Franzese is that person.

I have known Mrs. Franzese for over 40 years. While Chairperson of the County Legislature, she managed to lead Schuyler in the direction of good fiscal health.

In light of all the recent audits and year after year increases to property taxes, it is time to elect Angie back into leadership. Schuyler County taxpayers need her.

I recommend that all voters in District 6 send a clear message -- that they want taxes reduced -- by electing Angie Franzese, a fiscal conservative.

Alan Hurley
A concerned Schuyler County Citizen

Seeking tutors and learners

To the Editor on Sept. 8:

September is National Literacy Month. The ability to read opens so many doors to opportunity. Unfortunately Schuyler County is not immune to illiteracy and its impact on adult's abilities to expand their horizons. Economic Opportunity Program of Chemung and Schuyler County has many programs that serve to help families overcome the obstacles of poverty. Kristine Morseman of Watkins Glen has recently accepted the position of Literacy Volunteers Coordinator for Schuyler County with the agency.

“In a small county such as ours poverty and illiteracy lie quietly in the community, but they are there and need to be addressed,” says Morseman.

According to Catholic Charities there are currently 14 homeless families in Schuyler County, yet many community members are unaware of this problem. Illiteracy exists here as well, and may be even more unnoticed -- yet needs to be addressed.

“We are not just looking for learners who need basic literacy skills or English as a second language," says Morseman, explaining that the goal is to instill "a level of literacy skills that will allow adults to be successful learning to budget and maintain bank accounts, continuing their education, and expanding their knowledge for personal interests in hopes that they will further contribute to our community with their special skills and talents."

To celebrate National Literacy Month and raise awareness, Morseman is calling out a challenge to Schuyler County.

"Our goal," she says, "is to recruit 10 tutors in 10 days from September 20 through September 30."

To become a tutor you do not need any special skills, just to be 18 years old, hold a high school diploma, and be willing to commit to tutoring 2 hours a week for one year. All training is provided free of charge, and the coordinator will work closely with all tutors and learners to assure they have everything they need for successful learning such as lesson plans and learning materials.

Be sure to keep on the lookout for special events during the volunteer drive at local libraries. For more information about becoming a tutor or learner, you can call 734-6174 EXT 244 or email kmorseman@cseop.org.

Literacy Volunteers of Chemung & Schuyler Counties

Candidates' responses are online

To the Editor on Sept. 2:

On Wednesday, August 27th, the Odessa Tea Party group held a candidate forum for candidates for Schuyler County offices running in the September 9th primary election. This year the group was pleased to host the Legislative District 6 candidates in the Republican party primary, incumbent Legislator Phil Barnes and former Legislator Angeline Franzese. We thank both candidates for taking time out of their busy campaign schedules to appear before our group.

As part of the candidate vetting process, all candidates appearing before our group are asked to fill out our Candidate Vetting questionnaire, which asks a series of questions relating to our group's core principles. We have made the candidates' answers to our questionnaire available online, in the hope that it might prove valuable to voters in the district. The document contains a table of the candidates' answers as well as additional sheets containing any clarifications of their answers that they wished to make. This document is available at http://1drv.ms/VO83ln.

A notable result from this year's questionnaire responses is that Angeline Franzese is the first candidate who has agreed with Tea Party positions on all of these questions. Ms. Franzese answered all 14 questions with "Yes" and answered none with either a "No" or an ambiguous answer. Mr. Barnes answered 5 questions with "Yes", 2 questions with "No" and 7 questions with an answer other than "Yes" or "No", and often provided an extensive explanation of his position on a question.

We invite all residents of District 6 to use this document while making your decision on who to support in the primary. We especially urge everyone eligible to vote in this primary election to please do so. Primary elections usually have very light turnout, and every single vote counts.

Mark Rondinaro,
for the Odessa Tea Party group

Meet the Candidate on Sept. 3rd

To the Editor on Aug. 31:

September 9th is the Republican Primary Day for District 6. The polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. Please remember to vote.

The polling place for Dix residents in the Village of Watkins Glen is at the Community Center at Clute Park. Reading residents in the Village will vote at the Reading Town Hall, 3934 CR 28.

All are invited September 3rd (from 7-9 p.m.) to a “Meet the Candidate Night” at The Glen Manor in Watkins Glen on 4th Street. Please join me for coffee and cake and an opportunity for me to hear your concerns.

Thanks.

Angie Franzese

Thanks for help on the petitions

To the Editor on Aug. 26:

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone carrying my petitions for Treasurer, as well as all those people who signed them, over the past couple of weeks. You all did an amazing job! Your hard work and continued support are deeply appreciated!

Harriett Vickio

Friends of Library honor Maria Dascalu

To the Editor
on August 19:

For a number of years the Watkins Glen Public Library has maintained a financial award to be given to a deserving student studying in the field of Library Science. Very few young people have gone into this important field and quite often the Library's financial "gift" is not awarded.

For the past year or so the Officers and Directors of FOWL (Friends of the Watkins Library) have been discussing the possibility of keeping this award active or looking for another way to honor a deserving young man or woman. At our annual meeting this past May it was decided to create a new award --- in place of the former award for Library Science -- and select a young person who has made a significant contribution to either the Watkins Glen Public Library or to the Watkins Glen High School Library. Both WG Librarian Harriet Eisman and HS Librarian Maggie Field will collaborate annually to select the award winner.

This year I'm proud to announce the very first winner of this new award (a monetary gift of $200 to honor someone for demonstrated interest in the Library and enthusiasm for reading): Maria Dascalu, who was selected as a representative of the Watkins Glen Public Library. In addition to being an avid reader and a very consistent visitor to the Public Library, Maria has volunteered countless hours to assist Mrs. Eisman and Mrs. Fowler.

Congratulations, Maria!

Brian J. O'Donnell
President, Friends of the Watkins Library

Photo in text: Brian J. O'Donnell, President of the Friends of the Watkins Library, presents a $200 check to Maria Dascalu. (Photo provided)

Middle School fireplace sparks memories

To the Editor on Aug. 15:

That picture of the Middle School fireplace (on the Home Page) was so nice to see. I remember the cupboards where, as kindergartners in Miss Abbott's class, our "wraps" were kept (I had never heard a coat called a wrap until then) ... and on the shelf above the hooks we stored our mittens and hats in flat cardboard boxes brought from home for that purpose. The fireplace wasn't the same brick then ... it was more like white plaster made in an arch over the fire area, as I remember, and we pretended it was an igloo when we studied -- and learned about -- Eskimos.

There was a closet with a door in that room, too, where Miss Abbott put me with big sheets of white newsprint and India ink and dip pen to make drawings that she mailed in to the Childrens' Activities Magazine art-page section. She must have thought I had some artistic ability at age 5. I remember feeling I was missing out on the things the other kids were doing and I had no idea what to draw ... so I looked at the bulletin board in the classroom that had a tree with birds around it and copied that.

Thank you for the sweet memories.

Linda McIntyre

Back to School Giveaway set

To the Editor on Aug. 14:

Catholic Charities is requesting your help preparing kids for a successful school year. We are in need of the following items: new or like new clothing, sneakers and backpacks and new school supplies. Items can be dropped off at Schuyler Outreach, located at 112 Tenth St. in Watkins Glen (St. Mary’s Center) from Monday, August 18 through Thursday, August 21 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Catholic Charities’ Back to School Giveaway will be held at Schuyler Outreach on August 21 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (must be a Schuyler County resident).

Monetary donations may be sent to Catholic Charities, 607 N. Franklin St., Watkins Glen, NY 14891 or made online at cs-cc.org. Please indicate Schuyler County Back to School Drive.

About Catholic Charities Chemung/Schuyler: Catholic Charities is committed to fighting the effects of poverty and its root causes through its work. Catholic Charities provides a number of needed programs and services in the community with a priority toward the poor. We work to ensure that people have food, clothing, shelter, medical services, and the ability to achieve a decent standard of living. For more information, visit cs-cc.org or call the Watkins Glen office at 607-535-2050.

Catholic Charities

Primary candidates to speak at meeting

To the Editor on Aug. 13:

The Odessa Tea Party group would like to invite everyone to our first event of the 2014 political campaign season. On Wednesday, August 27th at 7:00 pm, we will host a public forum for candidates running for Schuyler County offices in the September 9th primary election. This forum will take place in the Community Room of the Odessa Municipal Building at 300 East Main Street in Odessa, NY.

There are races in two of our newly established County Legislature districts this year. Legislative District 5 (the central and southern portions of the Town of Dix and the southernmost portion of the Town of Montour) has only a single candidate running for office, and therefore will not have a primary for this seat in either party. In Legislative District 6 (the northernmost portion of the town of Dix and the portion of the Town of Reading which is within the Village of Watkins Glen), there are no Democratic candidates running for this seat. District 6 Republicans, however, have two candidates running in this primary election, with current legislator Phil Barnes facing off against former legislator Angeline Franzese for this ballot line.

Both Ms. Franzese and Mr. Barnes have agreed to appear at this event. As this will be the only public candidate forum taking place during the primary season, it presents the best opportunity for Schuyler County residents to hear the candidates describe their positions and explain why they deserve to be (re)elected. There will be ample time for public questions after the candidates have made their statements. We encourage everyone, especially registered Republicans residing within the concerned County Legislature district, to attend this forum.

Please note that this is a date change from our regularly scheduled meetings on the fourth Tuesday of the month. We have rescheduled our August meeting to accommodate the candidates' availability and will return to our normal Tuesday evening meetings in September.

Mark Rondinaro
for the Odessa Tea Party group

Best chance to salvage our freedom

To the Editor on Aug. 13:

Having grown up in a country far different than what I observe today, I often wonder if America’s best days are over and we as a country have surrendered our souls to the socialists, progressives, fascists, or whatever they elect to call themselves today. We basically have a two-party system, Republicans and Democrats. The progressives exist in both parties but absolutely dominate the Democratic party. You seldom if ever see a conservative Democrat, which is much different than the 1950s or even in the 1960s.

Today, the Democratic party is all about big government, and with policies (whereby) many people have no drive to improve their lot in life. Many young people are content to exist on a day-to-day basis and blame any and all discrepancies on the greed of the wealthy people for not “spreading” their wealth. Many of the wealthy people in this country worked very hard for many years and sacrificed much “family time” to reach success. It is my belief that while all people are not born equal, they were all born with equal opportunity.

Every criticism of the current administration leads to a charge of racism. This is absolutely absurd, but seems to play out well in the press, to the point that it silences many from expressing their views. In my opinion the ACA (Obamacare) is a disaster, just as the VA Government-run health care system is. A recent article in The Leader referenced Senator Schumer addressing the shortage of physicians. Is anyone surprised? Now the Government is going to generate more legislation to address that. President Obama touted that the ACA was to address the 47 million people with no health insurance. Now the administration is bragging about getting 8 million people to sign up for the ACA. I guess we really do not know if they have “officially” signed up and actually paid for anything, but, not to worry. Meanwhile, it has been reported over 6 million lost their insurance because of the ACA and companies just dropped employee insurance packages that they had been providing. Cheaper for companies to push people to ACA.

My math isn’t very good, but I do not see where we have even begun to impact these 47 million people addressed in the campaign, but everyone’s health insurance is nothing but a disaster. Hopefully it will be repealed if we can get the progressives out of office, be they Republican or Democrat.

I encourage all veterans, seniors, landowners, and people who believe in the 2nd Amendment to get involved in getting our country back. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and do nothing. Get involved. Join a tea party. They are fighting for your rights. Attend a meeting and meet many good people who want our country back, and elect people who actually support our Constitution.

I encourage people to vote for Tom Reed for Congress and Astorino for Governor. Gov. Cuomo has got to go and needs to take his so-called “Safe Act” and Common Core with him. Stand up for capitalism. It is what made our country the greatest country on earth. 2014 is a very important election year, and may be our best chance to salvage our freedom.

Bill Card
Beaver Dams, NY

We must stay vigilant on O-M sports

To the Editor on Aug. 13:

Just a reminder to all that the next business meeting for the Odessa-Montour Board of Education is August 21st at 6 p.m.

At the last meeting many things were discussed, but in particular it was decided to look closer at combining sports and talk about putting a plan in place to avoid “what happened at the last meeting.” My hope is that this means they plan on including the public and keeping them informed or looking at ways to increase numbers and a more efficient way to get real numbers of signups, but until it happens I am skeptical. It was put on the list of future workshops and goals for the year.

Check the agenda on the O-M website to see what topics will be voted on at the next meeting; they usually post the agenda the Friday afternoon before the meeting. Come be heard if it is an issue you feel strongly about. I can tell you that general discussions do not have to be put on the agenda; only issues that will be voted on will be on there. So please do not assume because an issue is not on the agenda that they will not be talking about it.

To the 100+ students and parents that came to that June 12th meeting, just remember this is not over. We must stay vigilant so that the board knows what the students in particular want. We all hoped after that meeting that a clear message was sent, but I have to assume that because combining is still being discussed as an option, it was just put aside to make the crowd happy. Now that two new board members are in place, their goals are unclear, and the support we had at that meeting may have changed. I don’t know, as I do not have personal knowledge of what direction these new members are leaning. I do know that one of them brought it up to be put on the list for discussion.

Winter sports will be looked at very soon. Sports such as wrestling, bowling and boys swimming -- which have generally lower numbers than sports like basketball -- will be up for discussion about possible combining. Then it will be spring sports and then once again fall sports. No sports are safe necessarily. Any sport in which sign-ups fall below what they deem as an appropriate number will be targeted. I believe everyone needs to have their voice be heard. Whether you support combining or you are against it to the point where you would rather see no sports at Odessa, or something in between, speak out. I also strongly encourage Watkins students and parents to weigh in as this will also affect them. I am sure their board must also vote on whether to combine as well, so they should let the board know their thoughts on it.

I also want to send out a message to O-M students that you need to sign up for sports you want to play. You can no longer assume they will be there when it is time to play. If you do not sign up, it may be gone by the time you show up.

Christy Rumsey
Odessa

S.C.O.P.E. focus is on education

To the Editor on Aug. 8:

The Schuyler County Chapter of S.C.O.P.E. (The Shooters' Committee on Political Education) would like to invite everyone with an interest in firearms and Second Amendment rights to attend our next meeting. We meet monthly on the second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Moose Lodge in Montour Falls. Our current focus is on educating Schuyler County residents about, and organizing opposition to, the New York SAFE Act.

This month's meeting will take place on August 14th. Our guest speaker will be NYS Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (132nd district), who will speak to us about opposition to the SAFE Act within the legislature and the issues at stake in the upcoming election. S.C.O.P.E. is actively seeking to register voters for the upcoming election, as a massive voter turn-out from upstate gun enthusiasts is the key to sending a message to Albany to repeal this legislation.

We are also in the midst of selling tickets for a raffle to fund our educational activities. The prize to be awarded is a NY State SAFE Act compliant AR-15 rifle or $400. The cost is $5 for a single ticket or $10 for three tickets. Anyone desiring tickets may purchase them at the meeting or by contacting Mark Rondinaro at 607-398-0648. Finally, if anyone is in need of voter registration forms, we can supply them to you at the meeting as well.

Mark Rondinaro
Treasurer,
Schuyler County S.C.O.P.E.

District 6's GOP voters have a choice

To the Editor on Aug. 5:

There will be a Republican Primary for Legislative District 6 on September 9, 2014. The Republican voters of District 6 do have a choice. I am a graduate of Watkins Glen Central School, Geneseo and the leadership and Management Program at Virginia State University. I have worked for Roswell in Buffalo and for Cornell University. My husband and I have owned and operated the Villager Motel in Watkins Glen for over 28 years. I have been a member of the League of Woman Voters, the Regional Housing Council, the Watkins/Montour International Zonta Club, the Montour Moose Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Schuyler County Lodging & Tourism Association.

As a District 1 legislator, I served 5 years (1992-1996) as Chairman of the Schuyler County Legislature. In 1995 and 1996 I also served as chairman of the Chemung, Schuyler & Steuben Regional Planning and Economic Development Board. My leadership role in lobbying the state for Mandate Relief for Schuyler got me elected chairman of The New York State Association of Chairs of Legislative Boards in 1995. I chaired the first meeting between the Governor and the Legislative Board Chairs & County Executives to discuss the removal of state mandates from County tax bills. This is still far from happening.

In the meantime Legislators need to address spending they can control. That is one reason I am running again. I have been going out in District 6 and listening to the people; I have heard over and over again that increasing property taxes and the safety of our county are their main concerns.

Schuyler at the end of 1991 had reached its taxing limit set by the State Constitution. It ended the year with a $300,000 deficit and no cash in the bank. Things could not have been any worse for our county. At the January 1992 organizational meeting, I was elected the first woman chairman of the Schuyler County Legislature. During this same time the county had a state mandated $2.1 million building addition, an emergency replacement of our communications tower, several major local share Medicaid increases, numerous snow, flood and bridge emergencies. We maintained our infrastructure and I kept my word to the people I represented. During my five years as Chairman the 1991 deficit was paid in full, the county again had the recommended dollars in the bank to protect our taxpayers and property taxes never increased during those years.

My focus along with keeping a watchful eye on spending will be to listen to what the people of District 6 are saying. My platform is simple: I will protect our environment, support our growing tourism industry and other businesses, and encourage economic development to fill our industrial park.

Angie Franzese

Thanks to Freeman and co-sponsors

To the Editor on Aug. 4:

I would like to express my sincere thank-you to the groups that helped co-sponsor the Tyrone Open Meetings Forum on July 31.

I believe everyone who attended walked away with a little more knowledge on the two important topics: the Open Meetings law and Freedom of Information laws, which go hand in hand.

Special thanks to guest speaker Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government in the New York State Dept. Of State.

Also to: The Friends Of Tyrone, The Odessa Tea Party and the SCOPE Group.

Alan Hurley

Watkins fire unit earns $300,000 grant

To the Editor on July 31:

It is my pleasure to announce that the Watkins Glen Fire Department has been selected for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The grant is for the amount of $300,000 and will be used to fund new apparatus. The process of building the new apparatus is expected to take up to a year. The apparatus will be replacing a 1986 Auto Car Tanker/Tender that has been out of service since last October with major mechanical and safety issues. This will be the 5th grant award to the Watkins Glen FD from FEMA since 2007.

I would like to say thank you to FEMA for recognizing the need here in this great community, but secondly thank you to the line staff at the Watkins Glen Fire Department for continuing to work hard to offset the cost of the fire service to the taxpayer. A special thank you to Captain and past Chief Dominick Smith for facilitating this grant last year. Your hard work paid off. Last but not least, thank you to the public for your constant support and belief in us. We will give updates to the apparatus build as it gets under way.

Judson Smith
Watkins Glen Fire Chief

Help stop diabetes through Tour de Cure

To the Editor on July 29:

Help “Stop Diabetes” with your support of the Tour de Cure cycling event this summer.

This American Diabetes Association fundraiser will be hosted August 16 in Watkins Glen. Join hundreds of riders from every experience level as they pedal for prevention and treatment of diabetes.

The disease is growing at an epidemic rate, taking someone’s life every 17 seconds. Currently it affects more than 26 million children and adults – approximately 7 million of whom don’t even know they have it. In addition, more than 79 million American adults are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Tour de Cure promotes healthy living and raises critical funding for research, support and advocacy. Each participant raises funds to ride in routes that range from 15 to 100 miles.

Each year a growing number of diabetic “Red Riders” take part in the Tour de Cure as a testament to the ADA’s important work and the value of donations to the cause.

Be a part of the movement to stop the growing diabetes crisis. Register to ride or support another cyclist at www.diabetes.org/flxtour.

American Diabetes Association

I look forward to seeing a large turnout

To the Editor on July 28:

I am writing to let everyone know of a great event which is happening this week. Robert J. Freemen, Esq., the Executive Director of the NYS Committee on Open Government, is coming to Schuyler County. Mr Freeman will be speaking on Thursday, July 31 at 7:00 p.m. in the Tyrone Fire Hall at 3600 State Route 226 in Tyrone, NY. His topic will be a discussion of the requirements of the state Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws, and our rights as citizens under these laws.

Mr Freeman is an attorney and an internationally acclaimed expert in the areas of Open Government and Freedom of Information law, and we are very fortunate to be able to have him speak here. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his work in Open Government law; a brief biography of Mr. Freeman is available at: http://www.nysba.org/workarea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=43621

This meeting promises to be very interesting and highly educational. Mr. Freeman is an excellent speaker, and the information that he will be presenting is vital for all citizens who are interested in keeping government (at all levels) responsive and accountable. I look forward to seeing a large turnout for this event.

Finally, I would like to thank the event's sponsors, Alan Hurley, the "Friends of Tyrone" and the Odessa Tea Party group for arranging this event. Mr. Hurley in particular deserves a vote of gratitude for doing the legwork to bring Mr. Freeman here. Thank you very much, Alan.

Mark Rondinaro

I'm conducting a survey ...

To the Editor on July 27:

Hi. I was reading through The Forum a while back and saw that someone wondered what the kids thought about the possibility of OM and Watkins combining. I am completing my Bachelor's Degree and needed a project for a class called Communication Through New Media. So.... naturally I thought "Well, let's see." I have set up a Facebook page and a short online survey. I was hoping that you could share the links for anyone interested. The survey is anonymous. I am the only one who will see the actual answers. I will post results on the Facebook page, as well as updates and answers to questions. Thank you.

Kristy Perraut

Facebook link
https://www.facebook.com/CommunityInput

Survey link
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BZKBGJF

I hereby resign from the post of treasurer

To the Editor on July 21:

I wanted to send this to you so that you could post it if you wanted. This has been a very difficult decsion, brought about by family issues. The letter says it all.

Schuyler County Treasurer’s Position
Letter of Resignation

There comes a time for everyone when family events occur that bring about a change of life focus. I have recently endured such an event… and it has, and is still changing my focus.

Because of this change in focus, I am officially tendering my resignation, effective August 1st, 2014, from the position of Schuyler County Treasurer.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been exceptionally patient and understanding during my tenure here. I also want to express my great pride in the teams I have worked with and the forward strides we have made, and improvements that have been put in place for the future of Schuyler County.

I wish you all the very best in your future ventures.

Gary Whyman

Thanks to those who helped with banquet

To the Editor on July 20:

The Watkins Glen High School Alumni Association board of directors would like to express their thanks for another very successful annual banquet held at the Watkins Glen Community Center on Saturday, June 28th.

This banquet is, indeed, unique. It provides a forum for alumni from every year and guests to come together to celebrate and reconnect with fellow classmates and school mates. This year every decade from the '30's through the '80's had representatives in attendance. It is also unique because we recognize and honor distinguished alumni and award three scholarships totaling $5,000 to current graduating seniors.

Therefore, special thanks go to the class contacts who put forth an effort in locating classmates and informing them of the banquet. And we greatly appreciate those who support the banquet by simply attending. Those who choose to get together with just their fellow graduates miss out on the opportunity to pay tribute to our oldest and most revered fellow alumni. They also are denied the pride in witnessing the presentation of the scholarships to three talented and well deserving graduates who may one day come back and be recognized as distinguished alumni.

We would also like to publicly recognize and thank Famous Brands, Glen Mountain Market, Don Romeo, Michelle Hyde, and Bleachers for contributing their time and talents. We hope to see you June 27, 2015 for the 90th annual WGHS Alumni Banquet.

Peggy Scott
President

Congratulations on a job well done

To the Editor on July 20:

Bob Morin Jr. did the half ironman recently in Geneva, New York. (He is a Watkins Glen High School graduate.)

The race calls for a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, topped off with a 13.2-mile half marathon. He finished in 7 hours and change.

Bob came all this way from San Antonio, Texas with his wife Jill and two daughters, Ellis, 8, and Harper, 6.

Congratulations, Bob!

Bob Sr. and Marianne Morin

The Sham of Tax Relief

To the Editor on July 17:

Recently, the City of Corning hosted a coalition of local governments, school districts and businesses in which they called on state lawmakers to enact mandate relief for schools and local government. A number of recommendations were offered to ease the financial burden of unfunded state mandates including arbitration, pension, health insurance, and prevailing wage changes. While Corning Mayor Richard Negri, City Manager Mark Ryckman, and their City Council should be lauded for raising public awareness of the adverse impacts caused by unfunded stae mandates, there was no discussion of tax relief legislation which was passed in Albany this year and has been touted by the Governor at every opportunity. The Governor has done a masterful job of promoting this legislation as the vehicle for moving us away from being one of the highest taxed states in the country. Unfortunately, when one "peels back the onion" and considers the actual legislation, this is nothing more than a sham to our taxpayers, who deserve meaningful tax cuts as opposed to rhetoric.

(The complete text of this letter can be found here.)

Protesters' behavior was disturbing

To the Editor on July 17:

Shame on Who?

Putting politics aside, whatever side you are on, who you did or did not vote for, what you do or do not support, putting all of this aside for a moment. The performance of the Gas Free Seneca and Concerned Citizens of Schuyler County groups in the parking lot after Monday night’s Legislative meeting is nothing short of disturbing. It goes against the grain of human nature and mankind to treat a person or persons in such manner because they have a difference of opinion. What is even more disturbing to me is that these same folks who, as one person in attendance stated, are a “kind and friendly group,” are a far cry from that -- clearly evidenced on a video of Chairman Fagan as he left the County Building.

This video is now posted on YouTube in what is portrayed to be a proud moment for the groups. It is, in my opinion, painful to watch. To watch the protesters verbally and physically assault Mr. Fagan is just a disgrace. Those involved should be ashamed. I don’t know Mr. Fagan personally; however, while watching this video one can very quickly conclude that he is a man of integrity. He walked through this angry crowd with grace and dignity, never wavering from his stride.

The posting of the video is a twofold matter for me, one being that these groups have showed they have no respect for others or themselves and in my opinion lose all credibility by their disturbing behavior. And two, Mr. Fagan is an upstanding man with a great deal of integrity. So as painful as the video is to watch, it shows a true reality. I applaud Mr. Fagan, Chairman of the Schuyler County Legislature, for taking the high road. It takes a bigger man to walk away than to stand and fight.

Bonnie S. Howell
Montour Falls

The risk is acceptable: America needs companies who are in the LPG business

To the Editor on July 17:

Over the past few weeks, I've tried to read up and familiarize myself with the LPG Gas Storage issue going on in Watkins Glen. I no longer live in the area, but I am not ruling out the possibility of returning one day and again making it my home. As such, I thought it would be wise to read up on the local issues, specifically those pertaining to the environment and impacting our beautiful lake and surrounding waterfalls and gorges.

I read about a lot of protests against the LPG facility. I see that there are concerns over the safety of the water supply as it relates to the storage. I see that there are concerns about the semi-truck traffic that will coincide with the facility. I've also read about concerns in regard to pipelines that will be used in the project.

I'm happy to see so many people in my hometown concerned with environmental safety. It is something we should all be cognizant of while we walk this earth. You only get one life and one planet. I am, however, curious as to why all of a sudden there is this newfound concern for environmental safety now that an LPG facility is on the horizon.

(The complete text of this letter can be found here.)

 

Are they doing this for 8 jobs?

To the Editor on July 16:

I haven't followed the LPG controversy as closely as I should have, especially since I live so close (Watkins Glen).

I wonder if the Schuyler County Legislature has ever given a reason why they would like to put the people, the lake, etc. in danger.

Certainly they must have a reason other than the so-called promise of eight jobs.

Tom Augustine
Watkins Glen

Tea Party won't hold July meeting

To the Editor on July 17:

I am writing to inform your readers that The Odessa Tea Party group will not be holding our regularly scheduled July meeting, which would have been held next Tuesday, July 22 at 7:00. We will be meeting on August 26 for our Schuyler County Primary Election Candidate Vetting Forum and look forward to seeing everyone at that event.

Mark Rondinaro,
for the Odessa Tea Party Group

Legislature: Your action is disappointing

To the Members of the Schuyler County Legislature on July 15:

I live two miles downhill from the proposed storage sites. Dozens and dozens of propane trucks and semi tractor trailers barrel down past my home every day.

I was present in the Legislative Chamber last evening when you considered a resolution to rescind your affirmative resolution regarding the storage of liquid propane in the Town of Reading.

I am very disappointed that you have not heeded the warnings of those who are justly concerned regarding safety issues. The company's offer to provide safety plans after construction and operation have begun is a plan that no other business would possibly be allowed.

But I am more disappointed that you have not heeded the voices of wineries, lodging, restaurants and everyone else who depend on the presence of a million tourists every year. Our County is about to become the Napa Valley of the East Coast. The world is already coming to the shores of Seneca Lake to grow, make, sell and drink wine. This is our economy. God gave us this beautiful lake and this wonderful soil and Schuyler County is poised to be at the forefront of all of it. And this project risks everything. It would seem that only fools would make this gamble.

All of that being said, I am embarrassed at the behavior exhibited in the County Building parking lot last night. None of you deserve to be accosted and shouted at by anyone. We have a disagreement, a very serious one. But the behavior of a few persons stains all of us who disagree with your position. I cannot apologize for anyone else, but I apologize for their behavior and accept some responsibility for whatever I could have done to prevent it. It was unbecoming for all of us who want this propane storage project to fail.

The Reverend Michael Hartney
Episcopal Parishes of Schuyler County
Resident of the Village of Watkins Glen & the Town of Reading

Board should reconsider sub pay hike

To the Editor on July 11:

The phrase “penny wise and pound foolish” came to mind when I read about the Odessa-Montour BOE’s rejection of Scott Westervelt’s motion to increase sub pay. While I applaud Scott’s suggestion, as someone who still cares about the place I worked for many years, I’d ask the board to revisit this issue.

H. Ross Perot once famously said, “If you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys.” To get quality subs, O-M must raise the bar. Already, I’m willing to bet there are many days when there is a sub shortage. While most subs clearly aren’t subbing for the money, being ordinary people, who must at least consider the financial implications of the work they do, most are apt to go the districts within driving distance who pay considerably more (such as Horseheads).

Subbing can be rewarding, but also, at times, frustrating. Many of today’s young people aren’t inclined to work very hard, even for their regular teachers, and can often be less than pleasant to interact with.

As someone who subs every day school is in session, I understand the issues involved here quite well. Even though I now live and work in Florida, the educational climates and pressures here and in NYS are quite similar. In the best interests of the students, the subs, and the taxpayers, I urge the board to reconsider Scott’s suggestion.

Eric Claire

Please consider donation to Devon Fund

To the Editor on July 8:

A gathering and celebration will be held on July 12, 2014 to raise funds for the newly-formed Defense for Devon Memorial Fund. As we prepare for our first fundraiser, we would like to request your assistance in making this inaugural event a success. Your support can be in the form of either a prize or monetary donation.

The Defense for Devon Memorial Fund (The Fund) was created in loving memory of Devon Shaw who, after a courageous and inspiring battle against cancer for nearly four years, passed away on July 9, 2013. He was just 18 years old. Devon, or Big Dev as he was known to many, may have been small in stature but he was larger than life. His spirit and infectious sense of humor will be forever remembered, and it is through these memories that the community can begin to heal and make sense of this poignant loss.

The local community will come together on Saturday, July 12 from 3-9 p.m. at the Montour Moose Lodge to remember Devon and the lifelong lessons he taught us. We will join in fellowship and celebration to raise money to support a variety of programs including cancer treatment and prevention, plus caregiving and respite for families impacted by childhood cancer. The Fund will also award an annual scholarship to a Watkins Glen area student who displays the importance of family, friends, and community in his daily living.

The Fund is administered by The Community Foundation of the Elmira-Corning and Finger Lakes Area, Inc. (www.communityfund.org).

We are seeking donations of gift certificates or merchandise to help raise money through raffle prizes. Monetary donations will go directly to The Fund. Please consider what you can do to support this inaugural event. Your donation will help build attendance for the event, and your business will be acknowledged at the event and in media outlets throughout the community.

I will contact you shortly and will be happy to pick up your donation at your convenience. Should you have any questions or need further information, please contact me at 607-425-5027. Any support you can provide will be greatly appreciated!

Diana Crane
On behalf of the Defense for Devon Memorial Fund

We're concerned about bridge's safety

To the Editor on July 8:

Today a truck tipped over while crossing the newly rebuilt overpass at the junction of Route 14 and Route 14A north of Watkins Glen. I just wanted to let you know, as my family lives just north of the overpass and we have concerns about the safety of this bridge, especially with regards to propane truck traffic.

Brett and Mendy Thorsland
3975 Route 14
Rock Stream, NY

Please, let's restore English courses
that have been eliminated at WGHS

To the Editor on July 8:

At a time when English Language Arts skills are the very focus of the new Common Core State Standards it seems puzzling to think that the Watkins Glen School District would be doing anything other than supporting and nurturing the English courses that we currently have. However this is the changing reality for ELA students at Watkins Glen High School.

This past school year, before students had an opportunity to enroll in the advanced English 11 phase 4 class, the District decided to cut the course, which traditionally served as the prerequisite for 12th grade ACE English. As a result, the size of the other advanced English 11 course, AP English Language and Composition, has nearly tripled, which will surely impact the way the course is taught starting next year.

Furthermore, the advanced 12th grade AP English Literature and Composition course has been terminated for the 2014-2015 school year. This is especially disheartening for the thirteen students who had already signed up to participate. This is double the number of students who were enrolled in the course for the 2013-2014 school year.

12th grade AP English Literature has been a course that our District has offered for decades to our most academically sophisticated seniors. Historically it has had smaller class sizes due to the irrefutable fact that the course is incredibly challenging and rigorous; attracting the top ten percent of our most advanced learners. It is a course that is perfectly aligned with the new Common Core State Standards and is the epitome of college and career readiness. AP courses are widely accepted at state colleges and major universities and afford students and their families the opportunity to save money and time as they pursue their post-secondary education goals.

Consequently, as any senior or the parent of a senior can tell you, prospective colleges closely scrutinize a student’s senior year course load. College admissions officers look to see what higher level courses a school district offers and how many of those courses a 12th grade student has willingly elected to take. 12th grade students who demonstrate a willingness to take more challenging courses are undeniably more likely to be selected for admission over students who simply coast through their senior year.

By eliminating 12th grade AP English Literature we run the risk of making 11th grade AP English irrelevant, as it was considered the prerequisite course for 12th grade AP English. As it stands, the English Department will be losing four courses starting next year, including Public Speaking and Creative Writing.

I implore the members of the Watkins Glen Board of Education to restore the English courses that have been eliminated. Allow the thirteen incoming seniors currently enrolled in 12th grade AP English Literature and Composition, as well as those who wish to explore other English courses, the same opportunity many of their brothers, sisters, and other family members had when they attended Watkins Glen High School.

Surely, as a District we can come up with creative and innovative ways of addressing the needs of all our students without sacrificing the educational opportunities for many of our most advanced and academically gifted students.

Liam F. O’Kane
Acting Interim President
Watkins Glen Faculty Association

Reason enough not to vote for Reed

To the Editor on June 30:

If we can foolishly send $500 million to Iraq so they can squander it-again, why can't we extend unemployment benefits to our own people so that they can foolishly squander the money on things like food, utilities, clothing, etc.?

I know some unemployed people and they are not lazy people. They are people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and now can't find decent jobs. They simply want to provide for their families.

Tom Reed voted aginst extending benefits and that is reason enough for me not to vote for him. Maybe it's time for him to be unemployed.

Tom Augustine
Watkins Glen

Thanks for helping Spirit of Schuyler

To the Editor on June 26:

With deepest appreciation, the Spirit of Schuyler Board would like to thank everyone for their wonderful support during the Watkins Glen Waterfront Festival and Cardboard Boat Regatta:

Caryl Sutterby and Watkins Glen Promotions for choosing our organization as recipients of the proceeds for the People’s Choice voting stones, Maguire and the Watkins Glen State Park Gift Shop for their generous sponsorships and the Village Marina Bar & Grill for tent space.

And of course, many thanks also to our terrific group of volunteers who donated their time to the event.

It is this amazing support from all of our community that allows Spirit of Schuyler to continue its mission of assisting county residents in times of need.

Spirit of Schuyler Board

$6,200 raised for Catholic Charities

To the Editor on June 26:

Catholic Charities held its First Annual Garden Soiree on Saturday, June 21, at Lakewood Vineyards. This successful fundraiser raised $6,200 through silent and live auctions as well as ticket sales and sponsorships. These funds will support Catholic Charities’ efforts to end local poverty, increase self-sufficiency and help individuals and families grow and prosper.

Guests enjoyed dancing under the stars on the longest day of the year with The Unusual Suspects and An Artist’s Depiction. We celebrated the beauty of summertime and the good work that Catholic Charities does all year long.

The evening’s success is attributed to the following community-minded individuals and businesses: Dr. John Carozza, Corning Catering, Inc., Lakewood Vineyards, Mr. David Bartone, Mrs. Kathy Cole, West Wind Consulting, Plenty of Posies, Empire Access, Mr. Curt Connelly, The Unusual Suspects, An Artist’s Depiction, NYSEG, DL Group – Direct Mail Services, Mrs. Karen Schamel, Catholic Charities’ Staff, Board of Directors and the Schuyler Advisory Board. Thank you all for your support.

Katie E. Rhodes
Development/Marketing
Catholic Charities of Chemung & Schuyler Counties

Nothing to lose by filing claim for signs

To the Editor on June 25:

I read with interest the dilemma of the "lost signs" and the question of added expense to the Village of Watkins Glen. It appears that the signs were indeed lost in the fire and they were overlooked when filing the claim. This being the case, the village's agent should be able to file an "ammendum" or "supplement" to the claim and the village would be paid an additional amount for the loss of the signs. If later the signs turned up, the village would reimburse the insurance company. There is nothing to lose by pursuing this. The only thing that could be a possible issue is if too much time has passed since the loss. Again nothing to lose by trying. I'm surprised the agent hasn't suggested this? I've filed similar claims for my clients during my 42 years as an independent insurance agent.

John T. Senka

Thanks to Rotary for hosting fund-raiser

To the Editor on June 23:

Catholic Charities would like to thank the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club for hosting “Ribs and Riesling,” a very successful fund-raiser for Catholic Charities’ Schuyler Outreach Food Pantry. Due to incredible community support, the event raised $1,200 on May 22 at The Fontainebleau Inn.

This monetary support is essential considering that in the last three months, Schuyler Outreach and our network of food pantries served an average of 716 individuals each month – 186 children, 394 adults and 136 elderly persons. Says Nancy Brand, Director of Schuyler Outreach: “Our community may be small, but its support is huge! The need gets greater and greater, but it seems the support does too. I think that is the beauty of being a small community. We are aware of each other’s needs, and those who can step up to the plate do. Rotary is a huge support to our community, and we are grateful they are on our team!”

We are thankful for the support of the following business sponsors: Visions Federal Credit Union, Welliver, Water Works, Great Escape & Everything Ice Cream, E.C. Cooper, Inc., and Ergogreen, Inc.

With the community’s help, Catholic Charities will be able to supply families in need with nine tons of food. Through the gifts, time and support of our local community, together we are fighting the effects of poverty in Schuyler County.

For additional information about Schuyler Outreach, or about becoming a volunteer, please contact Catholic Charities of Schuyler County at 607-535-2050 or visit www.cs-cc.org.

Katie E. Rhodes
Development/Marketing
Catholic Charities of Chemung & Schuyler Counties

Consider participating in the parade

To the Editor on June 21:

This year marks the 35th year of the Schuyler County Italian American Festival, which will take place on August 1, 2, 3, 2014.

If you have a classic car, pets (horses, dogs, etc), club, or other group that you would like to showcase, consider participating in the parade on Saturday, August 2.

Contact me for details and to sign up. Leave a message at 535-4296 or email me at solevnik1@stny.rr.com.

Thank you.

Sue Olevnik
Parade Coordinator

Thanks to weekend sponsors, helpers

To the Editor on June 17:

The weather Friday night at the Watkins Glen Waterfront Festival was a showcase of what Mother Nature can stir up on Seneca Lake….from beautiful sunshine to a monsoon in 0 to 60. But even Mother Nature couldn’t prevent Mike Morse of Pro Audio Consulting and his crew from providing a beautiful showcase for Seneca Harbor Park Marina during the Harbor Lights event that evening.

Huge thanks to our Harbor Lights sponsor, The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, supported by Hazlitt 1842 Vineyards, Lakewood Vineyards, Seneca Excursions, Seneca Harbor Station, Seneca Lake Wine Trail, and Village Marina Bar & Grill. Mike and his crew from Pro Audio orchestrated a picturesque display with support from many marina boaters.

The sun came out Saturday morning -- Cardboard Boat Regatta day -- for just a few minutes… and then was replaced by clouds and a chilly wind that saw most visitors wearing hoodies and cool weather gear. Voting for most popular boat was conducted by the Spirit of Schuyler, a gregarious group of volunteers who raise money each year to support those in Schuyler County who are trying to support themselves. Over 70 boats registered for this year’s event. Though a large percentage of the boats finished the event, not all of those that crossed the finish line looked anything like what they did at the launch.

We thank the Watkins Glen Fire Department, Watkins Glen Village Police and the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Safety crew for keeping us safe. And we thank the announcers of the Cardboard Radio Network, Radar Ryan, Chris P Bacon and Mike Paz, for keeping us informed. Hats off to the Schamel Family and Terry and Lisa and the Freedom Village crew for all their efforts. Huge thanks to the Dundee Varsity Club, Kate and Katie and our superb starters Steve Brace, Shawn Brace and Wyatt Sutterby. And, of course the film crew for BIG FOX TV…Bill and his posse, who are everywhere…in the water and in the air capturing this crazy event for posterity.

While it takes a Village and a County to put this event on…there is a core group of hardy volunteers who are responsible for putting together this event year after year! You know who you are…please know that as always, it was a job well done.

Last, but never least, we thank the boat builders, the captains and crews! The real stars of the event! You come in all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds…yet you all gather on a Saturday in June, and give those of us who line the harbor a fantastic show…an afternoon of laughter…and a look at true determination.

From all of us, we salute you the 2014 Class of Cardboard Sailors of the Seneca Harbor Park Marina!

Caryl Sutterby, Event Chair,
Watkins Glen Promotions, Watkins Glen, New York

I'd be interested in a root-cause analysis

To the Editor on June 16:

I'm pretty far behind in this conversation, so I admittedly do not have all of the information in regard to the discussion about combining sports -- specifically football -- at the two schools.

That said, I'm beyond shocked that it's a discussion. I can only assume it's a money thing. It must be. No way can it be a participation issue. Football is still this country's most popular sport. I can't imagine high schools the size of Watkins Glen or Odessa-Montour not being able to round up 24 kids apiece (an average of 8 players from 10th, 11th and 12th grades) to field competitive small-school football teams.

I live on the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska. There are small towns the size of both Watkins Glen and Montour Falls dotting Nebraska countryside outside of the Omaha city limits. I don't know of any school in any of those towns that doesn't field a competitive football team.

If manning is in fact the case, I'd be interested in a root-cause analysis as to how it got to that point.

Jesse Scott
Watkins Glen High School Class of 1997

Tea Party meeting topic: Obamacare

To the Editor on June 16:

The Odessa Tea Party group would like to invite everyone to our next regular meeting on Tuesday, June 24 at 7:00 pm. We meet in the Community Room of the Odessa Municipal Building at 300 East Main Street in Odessa, NY.

Our June meeting will feature Dr. Michael "Mike" Morrongiello, who will be giving us a presentation on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and why it is the "wrong prescription" for solving America's health care issues. As a clinician, Dr. Morrongiello has an insider's understanding of what will and will not work in the health care arena, and is seeing the effects of this law in his practice regularly.

Dr. Morrongiello is a psychologist in private practice in Corning. He is the former Chairman of the Corning City Republican Committee and a current member of the Town of Corning Republican Committee. "Mike" has also written many articles that have appeared in the Elmira Star-Gazette and the Corning Leader.

Dr. Morrongiello gave this same presentation earlier this year to the Twin Tiers Tea Party in Chemung County, and it was well received, with attendees saying that the information presented was both interesting and valuable. We invite everyone to attend and become better informed about this boondoggle masquerading as health care reform.

Mark Rondinaro,
for the Odessa Tea Party Group

Someday we may need to look at options

To the Editor on June 15:

First of all I want to thank the Odessa-Montour School Board. Being a person who frequently attends board meetings, I know the hard work they put in. I have no doubt they want what they believe is best for our children.

Second, I want to say how brave those students were to get up and tell the board their thoughts and experiences. There was no "speculation" nor "misinformation" from them. They spoke from the heart and from how they have been treated and what they have learned.

Also I would like to say I know I spoke from facts, from spending time with these students at events, seeing what they go through. There would be fewer opportunities for our kids at this time if you combine two teams of 20. It could mean at least 10 students who would lose, when it is not necessary at this time. It was proven that we have plenty of students to make up a team; those were facts.

I can say that a student would never be moved up to varsity without first passing a rigorous maturity test that not all or even half pass. They must prove that they are physically and mentally prepared to compete in their chosen sport. Not a single person in authority would take a risk with an athlete's health. I know many students who have successfully played sports at the varsity level as freshmen with no added risk due to their age.

I can say that some day we may need to look at options if that is what is needed, but I believe it should be done with full transparency, with the public given an opportunity to engage and participate in the process -- and that both schools be represented with changes in uniforms, names and playing fields considered. I definitely think if a kid wants to play a sport that we don't offer, they should. I know we took on a swimmer from Spencer-Van Etten successfully. If the paperwork is done and the opportunity is searched out, any student at any school can play whatever sport they want. If Watkins is willing to take students from O-M, say for Indoor Track, it could be done. There is no need to combine at this point.

All our students can have all they want; they just need to seek out their desires. I just want my kids to be able to represent the school they love, with the people they consider their family.

Christy Rumsey

We can benefit from a shared program

To the Editor on June 14:

The crowd at the Odessa-Montour June 12th Board of Education meeting were pretty clear in their desire to stop playing football and swimming all together, if their only other choice is to merge those particular sports with Watkins Glen. Their speeches included a great deal of speculation and misinformation. The Board should not have been surprised by the emotional strings tied to sports, especially football. When considering a change in that program or sports in general, public announcements or public meetings specifically on those topics should be planned and advertised.

As for any proposal to change the sports programs at Odessa-Montour, my concern is that the lack of participation is causing dangerous team configurations. The young man who spoke to being put on varsity football because there were not enough students to organize a modified team was upsetting to me. A student with 4 to 5 years difference in age should not be playing on a full contact, varsity team. A student prematurely promoted to a varsity sport will never get the playing time to truly experience the sport or build his or her skills. In addition, putting 13-14 year olds on the same field with 17-18 year olds is risking the chance that a student will be permanently disabled from a high school sports injury.

Going forward I believe we can benefit from a shared program with Watkins Glen. I would publicly support an agreement where students were free to join each other’s already established sports team if the other school did not have an established team. For example, if Watkins Glen students were interested in tennis they would be welcomed to join our team. Or, if we had students interested in lacrosse they would be allowed to join the team currently at Watkins Glen. I would not, however, support maintaining teams (especially full-contact sports) in which neither school is able to field a full roster and therefore jeopardize the long-term health of students who are physically too young to be on a varsity team.

Wendy Shutter

County First Responders are prepared

To the Editor on June 12:

This letter is in response to the claim by Jeremy Alderson (at the June 9 County Legislature meeting) that ”Schuyler County can’t handle any emergencies. They have no equipment and no training.“

Schuyler County First Responders have been protecting this county for over 100 years, and in that time have always stayed abreast of the latest techniques and information.

Each organization in the county has kept pace to protect its own geographic area of responsibility. This includes countless hours of classroom and practical hands-on training.

(The Alderson statement) is no more than a kick in the teeth to men and women who every day put their lives, time and money into protection of each resident and business in the county, including the tourists who come here (and who, by the way, pay no local taxes to support this service but receive the same attention).

Each local area finances its local response units. This requires local money, and anyone concerned about that should step up to the plate and finance fire and ambulance so they don’t have to go out and raise funds to buy needed or updated equipment. This wasted time could be put toward continued training instead of working long hours on carnivals and other fund-raisers.

His statement is no more than a scare tactic by the group opposed to the gas storage facility so that residents of the county will think we can’t handle emergencies. The next time the local alarm sounds at 3 a.m. at -20 degrees, get up and see what your local responders are doing. Better yet, pick up an application and see if you can meet the challenges we face every day.

My qualifications are as follows: First Responder for 48 years, Past Chief of the Odessa Fire Department, Past New York State Fire Instructor, Past Emergency Management Coordinator Schuyler County, Past President and member of Schuyler Ambulance, Current Deputy Fire Coordinator Schuyler County, Current Deputy Fire Chief Odessa Fire Department, and Past Adjunct Instructor New York State Fire Academy.

What are Mr. Alderson’s qualifications in emergency response?

Richard Churches
Current and very proud First Responder

I'd rather lose as Odessa-Montour ...

To the Editor on June 10:

Hello, my name is Emelia Paulisczak and I am speaking as the team captain of the Odessa- Montour swim team for the upcoming season. I would like to give my opinion in regard to the suggested idea of combining the Odessa-Montour swim team with the Watkins Glen swim team.

I know that anyone can fight me with statistics and financial reasons why this could benefit Watkins Glen. Also how together we could be a “power team.” But in my reality it wouldn't even be a power team.

I have been on the varsity swim team at Odessa for the past three years; I will be going on my fourth year on the team. I joined the team when I was in seventh grade, the first O-M sports team I ever was on. One thing that I appreciated the most my first year was how much of a family we became. Going on my fourth year, our family has changed very much but I still love them and care about every single girl on my team, in addition to the ones who have graduated.

You might be wondering why I would point this out. What does it have to do with combining the schools anyway? This is why it matters. I know I could hold my own with a combined team, but there are girls that I care very much about on my team who would have a harder time achieving this. Winning doesn't matter to me as much as having my team, my family, and not seeing it get pushed to the side, its members unable to be recognized.

There are some special girls on my team who need the extra personalized push that would be lost if our teams combined. My team and I will always stick together as a team even if we are not swimming. We together have decided if this goes through, we would not swim for this newly combined team.

This reason has so much more to it than just not wanting to be on a team with the Watkins girls. We as a team want to keep the pride and integrity of Odessa- Montour alive. I have been swimming since I was nine years old and I am willing to sacrifice what I am passionate about for something I’m even more passionate about: my team and school.

I want to keep Odessa- Montour sports where they belong -- in Odessa. This is something very important to me and my team. We have worked so hard for what we have achieved -- and if we do this, if we combine, what will it all have been for?

Things don’t come easy for people at Odessa, but that’s what makes us who we are. I’d rather lose as Odessa than win as Watkins Glen.

Emelia Paulisczak

A restoration should be considered

To the Editor on June 10:

ALERT - Historical icon to be bulldozed in Montour Falls!

It has come to my attention that the Schuyler Reconstruction group plans to knock down the former Shepard Niles Factory. For 100 years Shepard Niles produced ship hoists employing hundreds of workers in a Montour Falls that bustled with life and progress. To relegate that part of our history to a few dusty black-and-white photos would do a great injustice to a community which tries to take pride in its past and distinguish itself in the present as more then just another small village with a waterfall .

Instead of a pave-over, a restoration of the buildings should be considered so that future generations of Montour Falls and visitors to our town have a tangible sense of the scope and importance of this factory .

Too old, too late? Remember the condition of The Montour House -- boarded up windows, crumbling brick, and holes in the roof -- which was repurposed into upscale apartments and a coffee shop.

A disrepect for the history of the town takes away the very foundation needed to support and direct progress today. Speak to the Village Board members, speak to the Mayor and speak to each other before we are staring at an empty field, shaking our heads and wishing we had done something.

Sarra Solomon

 

 

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