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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.

Thanks to those who helped with festival

To the Editor on Oct. 5:

The 9th annual Falls Harvest Festival has come and gone. We hope you enjoyed yourselves on September 26 with the craft, farm and food vendors we had set up for your enjoyment. We would like to begin by thanking all of our wonderful volunteers as this festival would not be here without them. These volunteers' support and ideas really made this festival what it has become today. It is wonderful how so many people are willing to come out and help this community to make sure Montour Falls residents and tourists are able to enjoy a wonderful day on Main Street.

We would like to extend a huge thank-you to the volunteer firemen at Montour Falls Fire Department, as they had taken time out of their day to help set up and take down the festival, taking care of all of the 200 hay bales' delivery, set up and removal. We would like to thank the Hayes farm for the donation of their hay bales for the day. Thank you to Jeremy Edmister and FAST Recovery for the use of their equipment and manpower.

We would also like to thank the Village of Montour Falls for all their help in making this festival possible, as well as the Main Street Businesses for their understanding and support of the festival. Everyone enjoyed the free outdoor concert by Black Diamond Express.

Winners of our scarecrow contest sponsored by Chemung Canal included "Sally at the Spa," "The 3 Stooges," "Ariel" and "Rock Crowe." Winners of our pumpkin-carving contest sponsored by Heavily Brewing Company included "Cinderella's Carriage," "The Pope," "Crack Kills," “Pirate Ship” and “Army Tank.” The event wrapped up with fireworks over the falls sponsored by Welliver.

We would like to thank all of our sponsors including Welliver, the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart, Visions Federal Credit Union, the Village Bakery, The Village of Montour Falls, the Montour House, the Falls Motel, Star Embroidery & Graphics, Schuyler Hospital, Sal’s Bar and Grill, the Montour Falls Fire Department, Lakeside Veterinary Services, John King, Jeff’s On-Site Services, the Heavily Brewing Company, Galcan Development Corporation, Finger Lakes Health Care FCU, Cronk Press, Chemung Canal Trust Company, and Cannioto Builders.

This event is brought to you by Watkins Glen Promotions. Watkins Glen Promotions is a 501-C3 corporation operated by a board of volunteers focused on the planning and management of quality special events in Schuyler County. Located in downtown Watkins Glen, the organization also hosts the popular annual Cardboard Boat Regatta Race, the Grand Prix Festival and Village Christmas.

Watkins Glen Promotions

Thanks from Defense for Devon ...

To the Editor on Sept. 27:

The Defense for Devon Foundation would like to thank the community for two memorable events in 2015.

The first annual Defense for Devon Memorial Golf Tournament was held July 18, 2015 at the Watkins Glen Golf Course ....

The complete text of this letter from the Defense for Devon Foundation can be found by clicking here.

Donations can be directed to Schuyler

To the Editor on Sept. 24

As workplace campaigns begin for United Ways in the region, we remind our friends of United Way of Schuyler County employed outside the county that you always may designate your donation to be received by our organization.

With assistance from the folks at United Way of the Southern Tier, United Way of Tompkins County and other United Way organizations, employees may participate in payroll deductions and designate their donations to be directed to Schuyler County. Those donations will support the Schuyler County 2015 campaign goal of $123,000 to assist 22 health and human service organizations serving your Schuyler County neighbors.

We thank all who currently participate in in-house campaigns, and we encourage employees whose businesses participate to donate by using the payroll deduction plan. We would be more than happy to explain the process or answer any questions or concerns anyone may have.

On behalf of the hundreds of Schuyler County residents who benefit from your generosity, thank you.

Peggy Scott
Executive Director
United Way of Schuyler County

Thanks to Labor of Love supporters

To the Editor on Sept. 21:

Dear Labor Of Love Supporters,

Thank you all so much for your marvelous support of our can drive/bake sale. We exceeded expectations!

So many of you kindly saved your cans and bottles and delivered them to us that we could have easily doubled our staff and still kept everyone busy! Many people donated wonderful homemade goodies for the bake sale and even more wonderful people purchased them all! I will reward each and every one of you for your support by no longer sending you weekly email reminders!

The entire Labor Of Love committee gives its heartfelt thanks to you.

Jo Pat Wright

US Salt: The generator wasn't destroyed and the plant wasn't harmed

To the Editor on Sept. 9:

While running our diesel back-up generator during Monday’s routine maintenance of a production generator, the back-up generator’s engine overheated when excess oil leaked from an engine ring. Despite media reports, the electrical generator wasn’t destroyed, the plant wasn’t harmed, and the plant was placed back into normal operation the same day. We’ll repair the engine, but it doesn’t affect our manufacturing operations.

When the plant has a problem, the problem does not magically run up the hill and put the gas storage operations at risk. The natural gas storage operations were not affected by Monday’s incident, and the propane storage project would not have been impacted. (As for Ms. Kowalski’s question, a similar problem experienced by the propane storage facility would not result in any brine discharges into the lake, as brine gets pumped into containment ponds when it’s not feeding the plant for salt production.)

Gas Free Seneca claims the proposed brine ponds will overflow after heavy rains, and that gas storage and tourism have not co-existed for six decades. Gas Free Seneca pretends to know more about Seneca Lake than Dr. John Halfman and five decades of data showing the lake hasn’t been affected by our cavern operations. Now, we’re hearing Gas Free Seneca suggest a back-up engine problem at the plant spells disaster for gas storage operations a mile away.

Only the clueless, or those who want to scare people despite the truth, would suggest this incident somehow proves the propane storage facility would fail or create a catastrophe. Our employees, the community and businesses looking to invest in Schuyler County deserve more than unsupported fear mongering.

Mitchell Dascher
President, US Salt

Fire suggests risk; Cuomo appealed to

To the Editor on Sept. 8:

On a busy Labor Day, tourists, boaters, and residents were alarmed by large amounts of smoke and rescue vehicles at Crestwood's US Salt plant on the western shore of Seneca Lake. Evidently, a large generator caught fire. Thankfully, no injuries were reported, but the generator was destroyed.

"Crestwood is proving itself to be a bad neighbor, one that certainly cannot be trusted to operate and maintain the largest gas storage and transport hub in the northeast," said Joseph Campbell, President of Gas Free Seneca. "Even the most well engineered facilities in the world have failed, and this project, with all of the risks associated with it, is too problematic for it to be approved."

The recent generator fire is just another example of how equipment failure, human error, and natural disasters make storing and transporting gas by Crestwood a bad idea,. They keep promising us that it will be perfectly safe, but their track record suggests otherwise. We urge Governor Cuomo to do the right thing and deny permits to Crestwood.

Mary Anne Kowalski, President of Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, said that the fire leaves many unanswered questions: “How did the fire start? What would a similar incident mean at the LPG plant? Could brine be discharged into the lake?”

To learn more about the myriad of problems associated with this project, people are invited to attend the annual SLPWA Dinner on September 16th at the Belhurst Castle in Geneva (at 6 p.m.), where the topic will be “Why LPG Storage on Seneca Lake is a Bad Idea.” Tickets are available. To learn more about it, check out Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/697892160341959/

Yvonne Taylor
Co-Founder and Vice President, Gas Free Seneca

Start-up businesses getting a leg up

To the Editor on Aug. 28:

Shark Tank, The Profit, Restaurant Impossible, and other small business-related reality television series have great entertainment value; they offer some wisdom, and in many cases, stimulate our interest in starting a small business. These TV episodes are, however, just that: TV episodes.

To create a real economic system that supports our small-business growth efforts, we need a regular, sustained support system. The resources we need in Schuyler County are business leaders who can mentor our budding entrepreneurs and advise our small niche businesses as they strive to grow their new business.

The Schuyler County small-business community will soon have access to a number of seasoned serial entrepreneurs to fill this role. These are business leaders who have successfully started and sold multiple business ventures. Each of the serial entrepreneurs is experienced in starting, financing and growing successful businesses. The Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) has joined with Jeff and Valarie Snider and Sam Maggio, local entrepreneurs, to bring the resources of the Southern Tier Startup Alliance (STSA) to Schuyler County.

The STSA's purpose is to provide support to entrepreneurs starting and growing businesses in the Southern Tier. Similar to SCOPED, their main objective is to help increase the number of jobs in the region by diversifying the employment base and strengthening the economy.

There will be an introductory meeting and first session What Makes a Great Start-Up Business Idea?" on Wednesday, September 16 at the Harvest Cafe & Lounge, 224 West Main Street in Montour Falls, from 6-8:30 p.m. The session will be led by Brad Treat, Entrepreneur in Residence for the STSA. This is a perfect session for those individuals who have an idea for a small enterprise, are thinking about applying for a patent, have a small business with explosive growth potential, or who want to purchase an existing business. This is the first of a regular schedule of sessions.

Our goal is to create year-round sustainable wage jobs that have advancement opportunity within our area. Please let others know about these entrepreneurial resources we are bringing to our neighborhood. To reserve a space, please email Anne Mace at Anne@FLXGateway.com or call 535-4341.

Judy McKinney Cherry, CEcD
Executive Director, SCOPED
Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development

Clinics were rewarding opportunity

To the Editor on Aug. 28:

The Schuyler County Health Check held its last public clinic on July 30. Due to the success of the Affordable Care Act in New York State, most of our patients have been enrolled in health care coverage.

Affiliated with the Health Ministry of the Southern Tier, SCHC has been in operation since September 2004, when it was founded by Dr. Mrugendra Mehta, MD and Dr. Richard Castor, DDS in response to a genuine need for a free medical clinic in Schuyler County. Over the years, the clinic has served more than 1,100 Schuyler County residents who were in need of health care but not eligible for Medicaid or able to afford coverage.

More than 50 volunteers made up of Schuyler County doctors, nurses, physical therapists, registrars and board members generously donated their time to this worthy cause. A special thank you to our largest benefactors, The First Presbyterian Church of Watkins Glen and United Way of Schuyler County.

This has been a rewarding opportunity to serve our community and we are thankful that we have been able to transition our most deserving patients to the care of primary care physicians in the community.

For anyone in need of assistance with care or access to insurance, you can leave a message at 607-535-8145 with your name and phone number and we will assist you.

Kathy Miles
Director, Schuyler County Health Check/

320 backpacks were distributed

To the Editor on Aug. 28:

With the support of Excellus BlueCross / BlueShield and the local community, Catholic Charities collected and distributed 320 backpacks and school supply starter kits to children and teenagers in Chemung and Schuyler Counties. Catholic Charities’ Back to School Giveaways were held at Schuyler Outreach on August 20 and The Samaritan Center on August 22. In addition to supplies, approximately 40 kids received fresh, new haircuts for the school year.

We would like to thank the following businesses and people for a successful Back to School event: our local drop-off locations -- Famous Brands, The Hi-Lites, The Montour Falls Moose Club, Parmenter Tire, Auto & Truck Service, Schuyler Hospital Primary Care Center, Quinlan’s Pharmacy, Watkins Glen Public Library, Chemung County Library District, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chemung County, Farmers Insurance, Mr. Panosian’s Famous Shoes, Sweet Frog, The Purple Iris Boutique, and Treu Office Supply & Furniture; those who collected and prepared for the Giveaway -- First Presbyterian Church of Hector, Odessa-Catherine United Methodist Church, The Arc of Schuyler, local vacation Bible School classes, various individuals, and all our Schuyler Outreach volunteers; and Brandi Crissinger from Tops N Bottoms, Brooke VanAlstine from Absolute Transformation, and Karen Cannon, Katie Sophia and Shawn Mleczynski, who all provided children with haircuts.

Catholic Charities

Seneca Santa, Inc. says 'Thank you'

To the Editor on Aug. 4:

Deepest gratitude to Kelly Field, President of the Schuyler County Adult Softball League, for donating monies raised from the 3rd Annual Charity Softball Tournament to Seneca Santa, Inc. Special thanks to Jessica Cecce for suggesting that Seneca Santa be this year's beneficiary.

It takes many people to achieve success with tournaments such as this and we are extremely grateful to the sponsors, umpires, DJ, scorekeepers, raffle donors and solicitors, and all the players who made it possible.

Seneca Santa, Inc. has been an integral part of the Schuyler County community for over seventy years. The longevity of the program speaks highly of the continued support and generosity of hundreds of people like Kelly Field and the Schuyler County Adult Softball League.

On behalf of the many children who benefit from Seneca Santa, Inc,. thank you so very much.

Peggy Scott, President

Plans for NASCAR, Phish fest traffic

To the Editor on Aug. 4:

On Sunday, August 9, 2015, we expect a large volume of traffic on County Route 16 because of the large influx of cars coming to the race circuit.  As a result, it is necessary that we use County Route 16, as one-way traffic with three lanes of traffic going from State Route 414 to Gate 2 of the Race Track, and two lanes of traffic from Townsend Road to Kuhl Winner Way.  There will still be one lane of traffic from Bronson Hill Road to Townsend Road.  This will start at around 6:00 a.m. and last until 2:00 p.m. Beginning at 9:00 am, Kuhl Winner Way will be a one-way road southbound from County Route 16 to Gate #5, and northbound from Bronson Hill Road to Gate #6.  It was necessary to make this a part of our traffic pattern due to the growth of persons attending the event, as has been seen over the past several years.

If you are attending church services, shopping or going to Watkins Glen, and you live along this route, it is advisable if you live between C.R. 17 and Meads Hill Road, you travel west in the traffic to Meads Hill and go north to State Route 329 and into Watkins Glen or left on Meads Hill to Wedgewood Road to State Route 414.  Then you can turn right for Corning or left to Watkins Glen or Montour Falls. Persons living between Meads Hill Road and the track are requested to get into traffic and go to Townsend and then take the Watkins-Townsend Road to Watkins Glen.

At approximately 2:00 p.m. on this Sunday afternoon, there will be only one-way traffic on County Route 16 with three lanes coming from the race track towards State Route 414 (traffic light) and then traffic will proceed two lanes down into the Village of Watkins Glen. This traffic is expected to last for more than 3 hours. There will also be one-way traffic, two lanes, going down Kuhl Winner Way from gate #6 to State Route 414. There will also be two lanes of traffic going from gate #5 and #4 on Kuhl Winner Way to County Route 16. All traffic coming off from Kuhl Winner Way will be three lanes and diverted in Townsend to County Route 16, County Route 19 or the Watkins-Townsend Road, preferably through the State Park, to the Station Road and down into the Village through Steuben Street.
We will have stationed an ambulance and a fire truck near the race track during the egress period for the safety of the residents in that area. Sheriff's patrols also will be in the area should there be any problems.

We apologize for any inconvenience this traffic pattern may cause you, but it is necessary for us to move a large volume of traffic in the shortest period of time for the safety of everyone.

Please remember, weather plays a large part in traffic volume, so if the race is postponed the traffic patterns will begin earlier, and there may be race traffic on Monday.

On Thursday, August 20th there will be an influx in traffic due to the Phish Music Festival at WGI. We expect traffic on County Route 16 and Meads Hill Road that should be cleared up by Friday evening. Monday morning, August 24th will also see an influx due to spectators leaving WGI. There are no set traffic patterns during this event. Deputies will be at major intersections to assist with traffic flow.

Kuhl Winner Way will be closed from Thursday morning, August 20 until 6:00 a.m. Monday morning, August 24.

If you have any problems, please call me at 535-8222.

Sheriff William E. Yessman Jr.

I would recommend seeing this production because of the cast

To the Editor on July 29:

I have had the privilege of spending the last few months with an incredible group of young actors rehearsing for our upcoming production of RENT the Musical this coming weekend. Each show we do at Dream Barn Productions reminds me of the amazing talent we have in this area, and this cast brought a whole new level to our growing company.

While we normally focus on kids ages 6-18 with family productions, usually comedy to an extent, this time we took a huge step to a more mature and emotionally charged production with 15- to 22-year-olds. We are a learning company, so with this show we needed to dive deeper into actor development. Teaching emotion is one thing, but they needed to fully understand the complex roles they were playing.

To add to our in-house education with this cast, I took them to NYC. We spent a day in the Lower East Side where RENT takes place. Went to the address of the apartment shared by Mark and Roger….went to Tompkins Square Park where a protest for GMO arrived while we were there….explored the sites, sounds, smells, and people. Then the cast also had a private Broadway rehearsal-style workshop with Mamma Mia actor Christopher Hudson Myers! This trip was in May as we were starting rehearsals; this was a great foundation to start working from.

Each cast has a special place in my heart; this group is even deeper. Most of them I have been working with for years, even before creating Dream Barn Productions. The experience of watching them grow up, enhance their talent, and build confidence is priceless. Between the cast and crew I have five recent Odessa-Montour graduates (Manley Gavich, Dana Roberts, Sarah Norton, Frank Wood, and Ryan Lambert) who will be heading off to college shortly after the show. Add in other O-M grads (Morgan Stermer, Tyler Walrath, Tyler Little, and Jordan Little) and our next generation (Phebe Wickham, Kasey Lenzner, John Coates, William Yeater, Hannah Rosier, and Logan Barrett), and we've created a memorable experience. It is bittersweet for me. While RENT is an incredible musical, I would recommend seeing this production because of the cast.

You do not want to miss seeing this group perform together!

Additional information about the show, the cast, etc is listed below.

Tracy Gavich

Based on Puccini’s beloved opera La Bohème, RENT follows the ups and downs of a year in the life of a group of impoverished, artistic friends living in Manhattan’s East Village. Mark, an aspiring filmmaker, struggles to find his place in the world; his roommate Roger, an HIV-positive musician, wonders how he will leave his mark before he dies. Mimi and Angel look for true love as they face the harsh reality of life as HIV-positive young people, while the businesslike Joanne seeks fidelity from her wild-child performance artist girlfriend Maureen. The group’s dreams, losses, and love stories weave through the musical’s narration to paint a stunningly raw and emotional portrait of the gritty bohemian world of New York City in the late 1980s, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

Director/Choreographer Manley Gavich
Acting Coach – Tracy Gavich
Vocal Coach – Renee Riley, Morgan Stermer
Lights – Frank Wood, Ryan Lambert
Hair, Costume, Staging – Jordan Little, Hannah Rosier
John Coates - “Mark”
Manley Gavich - “Roger”
Dana Roberts - “Mimi”
Phebe Wickham - “Maureen”
Tyler Little - “Joanne”
Morgan Stermer - “Angel”
Logan Barrett - “Collins"
Tyler Walrath - “Benny”
Various Ensemble roles – Kasey Lenzner, Sarah Norton, William Yeater
Special Guest Star – Mike Lenzner as Mr. Gray

Friday, July 31st @ 7:30pm
Saturday, August 1st @ 2:30pm
Saturday, August 1st @ 7:30pm – SOLD OUT
Sunday, August 2nd @ 2:30pm

Tickets are $10 each, general admission. The show has a PG-15 Mature rating. It is not intended for young audiences.

The Dream Barn Theater is located at 4991 County Road 14 -- the former Catharine United Methodist Church.

I too would be standing at the gates

To the Editor on July 21:

In response to Mr. Crea’s letter, Seneca Lake is surrounded by many counties – not just Schuyler. Seneca Lake is part of the Finger Lakes; it does not stand alone, especially in this regard.

If I were retired at this point in my life, I too would be standing at the gates of Crestwood, but right now I need to show up every day at the workplace. Seneca Lake is enjoyed by many. Why keep harping on who is trying to protect it?

Patti Schimizzi
Watkins Glen

All data tells a story

To the Editor on July 20:

After the 13 arrests of today, the tally comes to 339 arrests, and the distribution of home locations is this:

About the arrestees…..
3 of 7 are from Tompkins County….
2 of 7 are from quite distant parts….
1 of 7 are from other counties surrounding Seneca Lake….
1 of 7 is from Eastern Schuyler County (Tompkins spill-over)….

….and one lone person, arrested twice, is the only protester-arrestee local to the Project Site!

A professor once taught me “All data tells a story. It is your job to understand and interpret the story.”

This data says: The farther you are from active LPG and Natural Gas Storage sites, the more prone you are to being suckered-in by Gas Free Seneca’s ‘Mythical Constructs’!

David Crea
Watkins Glen

(Mr. Crea is a US Salt Chemical Process Engineer. He is a data-wonk, and says he does his studies "as a private citizen, independent of Management," and that he is "in no way to be taken as a Crestwood spokesman.")

Business Park to play role in festival

To the Editor on July 14:

What will RVs be doing in the Schuyler County Business Park?

Magna Ball, the 3-day music festival featuring Phish, will be held August 21st through August 23rd on the grounds of the Watkins Glen International Speedway. This event, last held in 2011, will bring visitors from throughout the region and nation to enjoy our beautiful area.

With weekend passes commanding $225 per person, the economic benefit of this event should be quite notable. The estimated 30,000-40,000 patrons of this 3-day festival will rent rooms, pitch tents, pull travel trailers, travel in or rent RVs or maybe find a long lost friend to couch-surf with. In 2011, the sales tax revenue to Schuyler County was estimated at $500,000, with expectations of higher revenue this year.

One of the Phish vendors will be using the Schuyler County Business Park as a location to stage the RVs before and after the music festival.

Stay tuned for news coming from The Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED). In late August, we will launch our new website, blog and Project Seneca logo.

Judy McKinney Cherry, CEcD
Executive Director,
Schuyler County Partnership

Fine Arts Boosters plan Chicken BBQ

To the Editor on July 13:

The Odessa-Montour Fine Arts Boosters will be having a yummy chicken barbecue at the Montour Moose Club on State Route 14 this Sunday, July 19 beginning at 11AM until all the chicken is gone.

A full chicken dinner with baked beans and salad is $8, and just a half chicken is $6.

Mrs. Kim Laursen

New activities added to Festival

To the Editor on July 13:

This year the Schuyler County Italian American Festival Committee has added many new activities to our already fun-filled weekend, and we want to share the information with the community. The festival dates for this year are July 31, August 1, and August 2nd, 2015.

We will be using the Community Center as a site for some of our new activities on Saturday and Sunday. The Community Center will be transformed into L' Osteria, which means marketplace in Italian. L'Osteria will feature Italian foods and baked goods, and a Bistro offering local wines which can be purchased by the glass or bottle. Plenty of tables will be available for you to sit and enjoy your food and beverages and there will also be room for dancing to Italian music.

A Homemade Wine and Homemade Sauce competition will be held in L'Osteria. The wine competition will be held on Saturday and the Sauce competition on Sunday. Returning this year after a long hiatus is a large wall "Map of Italy" where people of Italian descent may place their family name and information on the map. Photos are most welcome, too, of your ancestors from Italy. Also at L'Osteria will be some new merchandise vendors. So come shop, eat and enjoy a little bit of Italy!

Finally, we will be hosting a Battle of the Bands on Sunday, August 2 at 12 noon. The first-place winner will receive a cash prize of $200, and $100 will be awarded to second place. For more information, email Kristen Bacon @ coke630@yahoo.com

Applications and rules for all contests noted above can be located on the “Contest Applications and Festival Forms” page of our website at www.watkinsglenitalianamericanfestival.org or can be picked up at either the Hi-Lites office or Watkins Glen Post Office.

We look forward to seeing everyone at this year’s festival!


Italian American Festival Committee

We don't want more consolidation

To the Editor on July 10:

Just when it seems like things are going good, the other shoe drops. Over the years, I, the Odessa-Montour school district and others have researched the idea of merger, despite what was said at the Watkins board meeting concerning Mr Phillips' attempts.

The reason why a consolidation process has not elevated is because all the real evidence shows that it would not be good for the O-M district. We have had experts present information, the research has been done, and merger of the districts does not make sense for us, especially with Watkins. The two districts are not compatible fiscally. The damage a consolidation could do to the students, community and economy are not outweighed by the short-term increase in funds the districts would receive.

Consolidation should be a last-ditch effort for struggling districts, which O-M is not at this point; I can not say for Watkins. The damage consolidation has on students and teachers, the increased violence, the loss of identity, and decreasing academics is not worth the consideration. It seems, however, that Watkins officials did not attend the meeting with Bruce Frasier or have not read the reports our board considerd before they laid this issue to rest. They did their research and found that it does not make sense, fiscally or personally, to consider consolidation at this point.

As far as the state forcing consolidation, that is just funny. I do not think they will ever gain enough support to force districts to merge, and if they did it would be focused at schools that are struggling, not districts like ours, which always passes a good budget that protects its taxpayers with little to no tax increases. I am sorry if Watkins is struggling, but it would be unfair for them to expect us to lose the identity and environment that makes O-M so great just to satisfy their desire to receive a short-term windfall that would not serve any long-term function.

I am slightly frustrated that people continue to throw around consolidation as if getting that money makes everything okay. We have an amazing school and I do not see why anyone would want to change that for a few years of extra aid, which would then convert to less than what the schools get separately. It does not make sense.

I think this is one of the reasons merging sports was and is so hotly debated. Everyone knew once we allowed one sport to be merged it would only be a matter of time before they went after our other, more successful sports. Merging football is a good thing for both schools. It allows both schools' kids an opportunity to play a sport they love. That does not mean we want to merge all sports. Sports that can be fielded and maintained by each school should be allowed to continue like they are.

In general I believe Odessa-Montour parents want their kids to have opportunites that are not available, but to keep our athletics intact. Watkins Glen could have at least waited to see how football went before it started going full bore toward consolidation.

Christy Rumsey

Thanks to all emergency personnel

When heavy rain triggered flooding in Schuyler County on June 14, 2015, emergency personnel responded to 120 calls on 911 while dispatchers fielded an additional 853 calls at the communication center. All nine county fire departments were activated, and mutual aid was provided by Yates, Steuben, and Chemung County. Additionally the county and all town highway departments and the Village of Watkins Glen DPW responded, as did the Red Cross, New York State Department of Transportation, State Police and Sheriff. The following letter was sent by Schuyler County Legislature Chair Dennis Fagan to first-response agencies.

To Emergency Responders:

I am writing on behalf of the Schuyler County Legislature to express our sincere appreciation for your agency’s response during the recent flash flooding event within the County. As you are aware, the sudden storm of June 14th caused widespread damage and resulted in a countywide declaration of a state of emergency.

Your response to the call for mutual aid helped ensure a far better outcome than might otherwise have been realized. While we suffered a major loss, that loss was substantively reduced through your efforts and hard work. Your immediate response and assistance, without question, resulted in reducing the extent of loss to property while ensuring no loss of life.

I speak from first-hand experience, in observing the immediate response from the command center, in stating that all agencies responded professionally and in a coordinated fashion. I was extremely proud to witness the dedication and commitment of all of the responders no matter what role they played. The days following the storm were equally challenging as we switched from response to recovery, and once again the same level of commitment and dedication was evident as teams worked to restore our infrastructure and maintain public safety.

In Schuyler County we are fortunate to have a solid, well trained network of responders. While we never want to experience disasters or emergency when planning for same, it is heartening to know that in the event of an actual emergency, we are ready and battle tested. Your professionalism and dedication is unparalleled, and as a community we can take great comfort and security from this.

Thank you again for your efforts on our behalf, and more importantly for your daily commitment to protecting the life and property of our residents.

Dennis Fagan
on behalf of the
Schuyler County Legislature

Callanan really cared about the corps

To the Editor on June 29:

It was but a line in his obituary, but the passing of Jack Callanan has been noted with reverence by those of us who grew up in and marched with the Squires Jr. Drum & Bugle Corps. Mr. Callanan did not merely serve on a corps Advisory Board. He was very active as the President of our Board of Directors for several years in the 1970's, helping to guide the Squires through an unprecedented period of growth.

He really cared about the corps and we respected him greatly. He was a great role model for some impressionable young people. To have someone of Mr. Callanan's standing in the community lead us and believe in us was huge. We never would have achieved the success that we did without his quiet, effective work on our behalf.

His kids joined the corps and he followed them in with both feet... and all of us were better for it. On behalf of the Squires Alumni, thank you Jack Callanan.

Steve Rondinaro

A Waterfront Festival Letter of Thanks

To the Editor on June 26:

WOW….again, amazing efforts to bring the Watkins Glen Waterfront Festival to fruition. Due to the horrific flooding and the clean-up effort that was required I just didn’t see how we could ask the Village and County crews to make room in their schedules for a Waterfront Festival and a crazy cardboard boat race. But make room they did, and by Friday evening Mike Morse of Pro Audio Consulting and his crew were once again showcasing Seneca Harbor Park Marina with a beautiful light show. Mother Nature got involved and showed off her “lighting” abilities with one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen. Huge thanks to our Harbor Lights sponsor, The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, supported by Hazlitt 1842 Vineyards, Lakewood Vineyards, Seneca Excursions, Seneca Harbor Station, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, and the Village Marina Bar & Grill, with harbor lighting support from many marina boaters.

On Saturday, a gentle breeze from the south cleared the Cardboard Regatta Start-Line, and the race was on. We capped the entry number this year to 50 boats, and it worked out perfectly. As the last boats took to the start line, light rain began to fall. Excellent entries…crazy teams…lots of laughter, and a good time was had by all.

We thank the Watkins Glen Fire Department, Watkins Glen Village Police and the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Safety crew for keeping us safe. We thank the Watkins Glen Public Works Department and the Schuyler County Buildings and Grounds crews for everything they do; and the announcers of the Cardboard Radio Network, and Festival announcer Michele Benjamin, for keeping us informed. Hats off to the entire Schamel Family and Harbor Masters Baerry and Terry. Huge thanks to the Freedom Village crew for all their efforts.

Kudos to the Dundee Sports Boosters for getting the boats to our superb team of Regatta Starters: Steve Brace, Shawn Brace, Wyatt Sutterby and John Cornish. And, of course, the entire film crew for BIG FOX TV. Bill and his posse were everywhere capturing this crazy event for posterity and of course for their broadcast.

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 2015 Class of Cardboard Sailors of the Seneca Harbor Park Marina!

Caryl Sutterby
Watkins Glen Waterfront Festival Event Chair

Renewable energy project to offset costs

To the Editor on June 25:

Lakeside Veterinary Services, based in Montour Falls, NY is pleased to announce the installation of a 10K watt Solar System on our Veterinary Clinic. The solar array will offset 75% of the building’s electrical energy needs.

We are happy to be the first commercial application of Solar in the downtown area of Montour Falls. We would like to share this story with your regional audience: as a way to promote renewable energy systems, and as an example of how small businesses can offset future costs associated with fossil fuel resources. A picture of the installation accompanies this letter

This solar installation was made possible in part by a rebate program through NYSERDA, and through the efforts of Renovus Solar, based in Ithaca, NY.

The Veterinary Clinic developed out of a major rehab from a building that sat empty for a decade until 2012.

Paul Bartow
Building Manager
Lakeside Veterinary Services

My Place needs funds; closing possible

The following letter was submitted to The Odessa File on June 15.

Dear Schuyler County Community:

The only licensed not-for-profit child care center in Schuyler County -- My Place: A Play and Learning Center -- is facing severe financial challenges. Your help is needed now. As you know, quality child care is an essential resource for growing families, and growing families are an essential resource for the economic vitality of our community.

All kinds of families are using My Place for excellent care. The center employs a terrific staff of 13, and provides safe and engaging care for kids aged 6 weeks to 12 years. My Place has been committed to providing affordable care for working families with income-based tuition, part-time options, and extended hours. In addition, there is drop-in care and a part-day preschool program.

Over the past two years, the dynamics of childcare have changed throughout New York State. Universal Pre-K and afterschool programs have expanded, making care for older children more affordable and accessible to many families in our local community. Maintaining affordable care for infants and toddlers, however, has become a challenge. My Place’s revenue was budgeted to primarily come from preschool and school-aged enrollment, thus supporting more staff intensive infant and toddler care. Those older kids now go to school-based programs, and My Place’s enrollment -- and much needed revenue -- has subsequently decreased. Even with our financially secure families subsidizing the cost for financially challenged families, the current model requires additional help.

My Place is at risk of closing over the next several weeks. Imagine having to tell families who are trying to move to Schuyler County that there is no licensed childcare center. Centers throughout surrounding communities are facing similar struggles to stay open. Many of them, however, are able to keep their doors open due to the generosity of local employers, businesses, individuals, and community partners. We need to generate the same support here in Schuyler County, so that My Place can remain the thriving foundational structure for families that live and work here at home.

If you are a local employer, business owner, member of a community organization, or individual who is able to contribute to our current campaign, we urge you to consider a donation to My Place, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Similarly, if you are a community member or leader with an idea about how to maintain the fiscal integrity of our center, or address current barriers to enrollment, we welcome your input.

Please contact My Place, via phone call to our director or link on our website, referenced below.

With urgency and gratitude,

My Place Parents

My Place: A Play and Learning Center
08 W. Broadway Street, Montour Falls, NY 14865
Phone: 607-535-8908; Fax: 607-535-4199

Let's combat abuse, neglect of elderly

To the Editor on June 11:

“My World…Your World… Our World – Free of Elder Abuse.” Throughout the world, abuse and neglect of older persons is largely under-recognized or treated as an unspoken problem. Many of our elderly neighbors endure suffering every day. They are the victims of financial exploitation, neglect and physical or emotional abuse. This month, we are partnering with our Departments of Social Services and our wider community to raise awareness about this issue. More importantly, we are asking that members of our community partner with us to identify and resolve the challenges of abuse for vulnerable elders.

It is up to each and every one of us to do our part in raising awareness. Elder abuse has no limits as to who it affects – it could even one day happen to you. If you have concerns about the needs of an older person, call us at one of the phone numbers below for a confidential discussion about the help that is available. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15, 2014. You can play a role locally to end elder abuse!

Chemung County Protective Services for Adults 607-737-5487
Chemung County Department of Aging and Long Term Care 607-737-5520

Schuyler County Protective Services for Adults 607-535-8338
Schuyler County Office for the Aging at 607-535-7108

Steuben County Protective Services for Adults 607-664-2000
Steuben County Office for the Aging at 1-866-221-7324

Pamela M. Brown
Director, Chemung County Department of Aging and Long Term Care

Tamre Waite,
Director, Schuyler County Office for the Aging

Patricia Baroody
Director, Steuben County Office for the Aging

Running for the County Legislature

To the Editor on June 9:

I would like to declare my Democratic candidacy for the Legislature for District 8, which is the Town of Orange and part of Tyrone. I am running because I believe it is time for a change. I believe I can bring a new perspective to the government of Schuyler County.

I retired from county service after 21 years in the Department of Social Services and the Youth Bureau. I also am an active certified volunteer mediator for the Community Dispute Resolution Center and serve on the Administrative Board for the Montour Falls United Methodist Church. I have been a substitute teacher in both the Odessa-Montour Central School District and the Watkins Glen Central School District and a counselor for troubled youth in both OMCS, WGCS, and Bradford Central School. I was a partner in running The Victorian Bed and Breakfast for 10 years with my parents. I have been active in 4-H and served on the Board of Directors for Cornell Cooperative Extension. I have a long history of service to Schuyler County and believe I can continue my service on the Legislature.

I look forward to meeting with the residents of District 8 in the coming months and listening to their concerns. Check out my group on Facebook.

Sandra Rhodes
for Tyrone/Orange in 2015

Perhaps we can shift the focus ...

To the Editor on June 5:

Once again Mr. Dascher is distributing inaccurate information and personally attacking those of us who have concerns about Crestwood’s plans. At least Crestwood is finally admitting that there are real risks involved in the project. Rail transport is only one of several risks we should be considering when evaluating this proposed project.

The Quest Quantitative Transportation Risk Analysis states on page 54, “By application of the distance traveled over the gorge and the number of railcars per year, a derailment rate for Finger Lakes LPG railcars as they pass over Watkins Glen Gorge can be calculated. The resulting probability, based on 1,785 loaded railcars per year, is one chance in about 205,000 per year.”

In Table 7-1 on Page 47 of the same report the odds of early fatality are compared for different risks. On page 49 the report states that this probability decreases the further one is from the rail line until at 1,100 feet the odds are zero

In plain English this means that for the population as a whole, most people will not be within the zone of foreseeable danger for very long, reducing their chance of harm. Small comfort for residents who live and work in our county. While the possibility of an accident may be relatively low, the severity of the consequences to local residents are significant. The possibility of loss of human life, along with harm to our community and local economy, requires that our county legislature zealously protect the taxpayers we serve.

Now that Crestwood has at least acknowledged that there are risks, perhaps we can shift the focus of the conversation to evaluation of those risks, the relative costs and benefits of this project and minimizing the risk of any emergency that might result.

Michael Lausell
Schuyler County Legislature

Derailment odds: astronomically low

To the Editor on May 28:

It’s clear that Mr. Lausell did not carefully read or does not understand the Quantitative Transportation Risk Analysis prepared by Quest for Crestwood’s propane storage facility. Quest, a recognized national expert in quantifying risk for energy projects, calculated that a railcar has a one-in-360,000,000 chance of derailing on the Watkins Glen gorge bridge. It’s misleading to suggest something with astronomically low odds – and one in 360,000,000 qualifies as astronomically low to me – presents a “foreseeable, inescapable danger.” But why let the truth get in the way of a good scare?

I cannot wait to see how “one fourth of the Schuyler County Legislature” zealously protects taxpayers and the community from far more probable dangers, like airplanes falling from the sky, lightning strikes and other natural disasters.

Mitchell Dascher, US Salt

Gas storage permits should be denied

To the Editor on May 28:

"New York State’s Routes 5 and 20 are steeped in history: They started as foot trails established by Native Americans thousands of years before the American Revolution. Today, New York’s famous, historic east-west corridor offers a road trip with lots of high-adrenaline adventure: think hiking under waterfalls, biking, hang-gliding, hot air ballooning, and more. Foodies can enjoy farm-to-table dining options, a Cheese Trail and Sweet Treat Trail, and cooking classes at the New York Wine and Culinary Center. And, as if cheese and dessert trails weren’t enough, there’s a Finger Lakes Beer Trail — the region’s new hot spot for brewers and distilleries that utilize local fruit and grain. Cruising through at the end of summer? Don’t miss the Great New York State Fair."

We could not agree more. As owners of a multi-generational family business that supplies so many of the farm-to-table restaurants, cafes, wineries, independent retailers and grocery stores with wholesome, transparently sourced local products, we rely heavily on preserving the Finger Lakes’ clean agricultural economy that has drawn such praise.

Interest, investment and advocacy for local and regional food systems have reached all-time highs. With New York State investing heavily in its agricultural economy, the USDA focusing on food hub formation in concert with groups such as the Wallace Center/Winrock International and RSF Social Finance, there is certain to be dynamic discourse and development in the ways that we procure and interact with our food supply for years to come.

Texas-based Crestwood Midstream’s proposal to store methane, propane and butane in the abandoned salt caverns along Seneca Lake would bring a kind of industrialization and threat to all that we, and our fathers before us, have worked so hard to accomplish. Their proposal would not only impact Schuyler County, it would change the culture that all of us in the region work in concert to create. We simply cannot afford to jeopardize the rich, vibrant Finger Lakes Community that has taken generations to develop, and would take only one catastrophic accident to tear down. Barring any accident, the above-ground infrastructure required for such a facility is not compatible with the bucolic nature we have in the Finger Lakes. Further, there is science to suggest that there is communication between the caverns and the lake bottom- a drinking water resource for over 100,000 people. The lake is already exceeding EPA salinity guidelines for infants and individuals with sodium restricted diets. Permitting such massive scale industrialization for a finite project such as Crestwood’s outright disaffirms the very character that we have arduously and collectively developed, threatens our safety, and our drinking water, and is simply unacceptable.

We join the hundreds of other businesses, along with the now 24 towns, counties, villages and cities throughout the region, in strongly and respectfully asking that all permits be denied for gas storage on Seneca Lake. We urge government officials to consider the requests coming from their constituents who have played a part in making the Finger Lakes the world-class tourist destination that it is today—not a Texas Gas Corporation.

The Co-Owners of Regional Access:
Asa Redmond, Anna Redmond,
Simeon Redmond, Dana Stafford and Adrienne Stearns

We can speak out against handout

To the Editor on May 23:

Many upstate farmers know that New York’s fracking ban protects agricultural livelihood. Staying in the farming business means keeping gas companies out of vineyards, crop rows, and livestock grazing areas.

Of course, some landowners bought into the gas companies’ false promises of opportunity. But the low odds of a few striking it rich through horizontal gas leases don’t outweigh the huge costs. I’ve seen what’s happened to my parents’ farm in a fracking state. Trees are dying, water is running out, and jobs are drying up.

Congressman Reed pretends to keep the fantasy alive through his so-called “Defense of Property Rights Act.” Mr. Reed wants to force all of us to make entitlement payments to the few landowners who hoped to strike it rich. Not only is his proposed law unconstitutional, but it would raise taxes and expand government – the very opposite of what he says he supports. We can't afford that and he should know better.

Mr. Reed has announced a Town Hall meeting at the Big Flats Community Center at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 26, to promote his plan. We can show up to support our farmers and our agricultural heritage, and speak out against this unfair, one-sided handout.

Leslie K. Danks Burke

Note: Leslie Danks Burke is an attorney, and sits on the Agriculture subcommittee of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council.

A differing view on arrest costs

To the Editor on May 19:

You have recently published complaints that the Seneca Lake defenders protesting at the Crestwood facility are acting in a way that costs the county money. I agree that my tax dollars could be better spent, but I believe the finger of responsibility for these expensive arrests and trials of protesters points right back at county law enforcement leadership. These folks -- the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and the town Justices -- all have discretion in acting. They use that discretion routinely, but are not doing so in this situation. Why is that?

Consider the common example of folks driving 35 mph in a 30 mph zone. We all know that there is very little chance we would be stopped and charged with such a violation. Now I'm sure there are many reasons why the Sheriff’s department does not arrest these lawbreakers. But among these is surely the practical fact that ticketing such violations would aggravate a whole lot of people, including otherwise happy and spendthrift tourists. And, after all, 35 mph is not especially unsafe compared to 30. So the Sheriff’s office exercises discretion -- and generally ignores these frequent violations of the law.

But when 15 people in blue carrying signs show up in front of Crestwood and make it inconvenient for a pickup truck to enter one of the three gates, the Sheriff’s cars arrive quickly, indeed. Has the Sheriff ever suggested to facility manager Barry Moon that the trucks take the slightly longer route to the east gate -- which has never been blockaded?

And now District Attorney Fazzary, having reneged on the agreed-to dismissals of 84 pre-existing trespassing violations, has vowed to “prosecute every one" of those and future cases. But he routinely acts very differently with respect to other violations. If you have ever sat through one of our town court sessions you know that Mr. Fazzary and his staff regularly make deals with defendants that turn large offenses into smaller ones. In one instance I saw a gentleman charged with burning down an old trailer have his potential felony reduced to a misdemeanor and a $250 fine. That was a pretty good deal for him compared to the cost of having the thing hauled away. The “interests of justice” being served by such deals are mostly that they save taxpayers money by avoiding lengthy trials. I am all for this sort of practical discretion, but the disparity between the treatment of trailer-burners and peaceful protesters is very evident.

And finally, of course, the Town Justices who hear these cases have the ultimate authority and the ultimate discretion -- and they use it routinely. But Justice Berry, the only one thus far to have actually been involved in sentencing Seneca Lake defenders, handed out maximum jail time and fines to those who pled guilty to trespassing. Only after a private and probably illegal session with the District Attorney did Justice Berry change his approach. He switched to handing down only fines, and only maximum ones, and assigning “judgments” against those who could not or would not pay.

It is easy in Schuyler County for burning trash to be ignored, for a speeding ticket to be turned into a broken headlight, and for a judge to reduce a fine and say “don’t let me see you back here again.” Why, then, must a peaceful protest against a dangerous and just plain stupid scheme on the part of a huge out-of-state corporation result in automatic arrests, relentless prosecutions and unwavering maximum fines?

When Seneca Lake defenders such as myself have received notification of pending trial we got a letter saying “the people” were ready to proceed. It is not at all clear that Schuyler County law enforcement leaders are acting in the interests of the people.

Daryl Anderson

I too have had enough of protesters

To the Editor on May 18:

Thank you, Ms.Wagas, for putting into writing the same thoughts many of us who live in Schuyler County have. I am in full agreement with all that you wrote in your recent letter to The Odessa File. I too have had enough of these protesters not only wasting the time of our law enforcement in Schuyler County, but also in wasting our tax dollars on fruitless arrests.

In a recent online article I read, Sandra Steingraber, a key force in the “We Are Seneca Lake” movement, was quoted as saying: “Our civil disobedience is always done politely, and in as much cooperation with police as possible. We don’t want to make their jobs harder.” Really, who is she trying to kid?? Then why the continued protests which lead to law enforcement involvement?

This group most certainly makes the job harder for law enforcement. They are causing the Sheriff’s Department to waste their time, energy, and resources and this negatively impacts all of us. I echo Ms. Wagas’ statement: “enough is enough!”

Kara Gleason
Watkins Glen, NY

McCarthy is clear choice for Board

To the Editor on May 17:

For the upcoming School Board race, there is one clear choice for me. Kelly McCarthy has shown time and time again that she is dedicated to the children of this school district. Not only in her community volunteer efforts, but in her advocacy for students at the School Board meetings.

If you are looking for an informed individual to represent the interests of the school district, then Kelly is that choice. Kelly does not spend time haranguing the district or Board members when something needs to be done; Kelly finds out the best way to get things done.

Kelly has shown integrity in her years on the School Board. Going forward I feel confident that she will be able to intelligently and diligently weigh the needs of the students and teachers with those of the taxpayers.

Jannica Moskal

Vote for change in Glen school district

To the Editor on May 16:

My name is Kristina Hansen and I am running for a seat on the WGCSD Board of Education. I have had children in the WGCSD for the last 13 years, and I am very familiar with the current issues that face this district, as I have attended almost every board meeting the last 4+ years.

The education system in New York State is currently in the middle of a political standoff. In addition to guiding and overseeing the implementation of local policy, current board of education members must also be savvy advocates and protectors, keeping children and teachers at the forefront of all decisions. With your support at the voting booth, I will be the voice at the table supporting a collaborative culture of decision-making based on research and best practice.

One primary concern is that WGCSD needs to take control of its curriculum. The sudden implementation of the low-quality EngageNY curriculum modules have been detrimental to teacher and student morale, with scripted lessons and a one-size-fits-all methodology. As a parent I want my children to engage in high-quality learning that supports creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, research and informational literacy, communication and collaboration, social and emotional intelligence. The abrupt manner in which teachers were required to implement these modules is in direct conflict with the stated BOE policy #4200 that states “the Board encourages instructional staff to create individualized, flexible curriculum guides and original instructional materials.”

I am perplexed why the current and past BOE members are not listening to the teachers, as many teachers have come before the board with negative feedback regarding these "modules." Teachers are concerned, they know the narrow "module" curriculum is not engaging students, and it is not teaching the mastery level skills kids will need to pass the new common core regent exams. One specific comment from a teacher was that “implementation of common core modules is doing a disservice to students.” After watching my daughter struggle to stay engaged after 4 months "close reading" one book, I can only describe these ELA modules as "death by book." The joy of teaching and learning is disappearing from our classrooms.

The new CC aligned regents are high-stake tests – your children will not graduate without passing them. The current state tests given in grades 3-8 present alarming data; only students scoring at levels 3 & 4 are considered proficient, with a direct correlation to future regents scores. This is potentially disastrous to WG students; 2014 state tests report 29% of students proficient in ELA, and 24% of students were proficient in Math.

U.S.News & World Report recently issued its school district rankings. I randomly chose10 districts that ranked in the top 100 out of 663 total districts in New York State. Not one of them uses the EngageNY module curriculum. It is time to press the pause button. Let’s listen to the WG teachers. I believe teachers when they sound the alarm on curriculum, and I trust them to do an excellent job developing creative, responsive, and engaging materials. This curriculum concern is just one of many issues that would benefit from a more collaborative, thoughtful process.

It is time to vote for change in Watkins Glen. Our students, our teachers and our community deserve better.

Kristina Hansen

There's plenty of reason to 'holler'

To the Editor on May 15:

My colleagues and I are determining the relevant issues in this public debate. We received the US Salt letter, that was sent to over 400 other local representatives.

When I met with US Salt last year I asked, will a tank car falling off the Watkins Glen State Park trestle rupture? My concerns were dismissed. Legislator Harp and I petitioned for party status at the DEC issues conference and can quote from the Quest Risk Analysis prepared for US Salt, at page 54, “the outcome is a fireball.”

So excuse us for “hollering” as one fourth of the Schuyler County Legislature petitions for full party status before the DEC. A fireball in the center of our very popular Watkins Glen State Park is a concern we must raise. Just as the incident on Franklin Street on March 7, 2015, when a truck overturned, may create a fireball that will incinerate downtown Watkins Glen, and possibly even the Watkins Glen Fire Department that is expected to respond.

We raised an important public policy issue completely ignored by the DEC brief that US Salt promotes. Should invitees to a state park be exposed to a foreseeable, inescapable danger? Now we must ask the Administrative Law Judge for leave to file a response explaining that the DEC did not even address our claim.

It is clear neither US Salt nor the DEC will present these issues before Judge McClymonds, to assist in sorting fact from fiction. We may get blown out of the water by legal maneuvers, but we might be able to sleep at night, knowing that we “hollered a lot.”

Michael L. Lausell
Schuyler County Legislator
District III

PS: I welcome your opinion. Contact me at mlausell@co.schuyler.ny.us or follow me on twitter at: #mike4ny

I'm sorry, but enough is enough

To the Editor on May 14:

First let me state that I am not an employee of Crestwood nor do I know anyone that I know of that works there. I feel that I have been quiet on the Crestwood topic for long enough. I really don’t care if the project is approved or not. I think that the proper authorities are reviewing the proposed project and they will make a decision on the safety of it. That is their job, not mine.

As to the protests, I am a firm believer in free speech and fully support the First Amendment. We all are aware of the protesters' feelings towards the project. They have made their point, now I urge them to move on. There is a way to protest peacefully and legally without costing the taxpayers money. I have seen protesters up there holding signs and getting their point across without sending all of our police up there to arrest them. I cringe at the thought of some person needing serious help and our police cars are tied up on arrests that serve no real purpose at all. It is not stopping Crestwood’s daily operation, it is only delaying it briefly and then they go about their business.

I visited the We Are Seneca Lake web page this evening and realized that of the 21 arrested on May 13, only two were even from our county. That is less than 10%. We are left paying for other counties' protesters? I can’t speak for the rest of our county residents, but this does not seem fair to my husband and me.

The protesters seem to like themes on the days that they are prepared to be arrested. The one theme that stands out to me was in December when I was driving by and had to explain to my two young children why Santa Claus and his elves were being placed in police cars. Was the point in that to make a mockery of our family traditions? If so, I congratulate you because it seemed to work skillfully.

I would like to urge all of my fellow taxpayers to have a voice. I will not urge you one way or the other about the Crestwood project because you all have opinions and that is your right. What I urge you to say is that you have had enough of protesters wasting our money on arrests that do not further any point. I’m sorry, but enough is enough.

Mia Wagas
State Rte. 14
Rock Stream

Gas Free Seneca hollers a lot

To the Editor on May 13:

Gas Free Seneca and others have been running up and down the countryside trying to get communities to agree with their position that reopening our propane storage facility is a bad idea. GFS now criticizes us for mailing a letter to these and other communities highlighting the positions on our project taken by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Staff. The transcript and written brief from which we created these sound bites can be verified by everyone, and since this marks the first time that NYSDEC Staff has made their views known publicly, we think community leaders should hear what the State’s gas storage experts have said when being asked to condemn our project.

For the record, NYSDEC Staff did not agree with ANY of the points raised by GFS or its experts, just like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected all of their points on our natural gas storage expansion. GFS doesn’t like what they heard, though, so they accuse us of misrepresentation, say the regulators don’t know what they are doing, and claim the regulators are colluding with us. We’d like to say we’re surprised, but GFS has been pulling this act for years.

We understand that opponents of our project have been doing most of the talking. That’s precisely why we felt it important to call out what’s been said by NYSDEC Staff, the State’s technical experts overseeing the 29 underground gas storage facilities in New York today. Again, with the NYSDEC Staff’s views now available, communities can see for themselves what the State’s experts think about our project and GFS’s claims.

To paraphrase an Al Gore quote, when you have neither the facts nor the law on your side, holler. GFS hollers a lot.

Mitchell Dascher
President, US Salt

I support O-M incumbents, Parmenter

To the Editor on May 13:

I’d like to take this opportunity to voice my support for the two incumbents and one first-time candidate running for seats on the Odessa-Montour School Board.

As many of you know, being elected to a school board is an honor but also a huge commitment in time, energy and patience. A board seat also demands all of the reasonableness and sensibility one can marshal. It is a job that requires a skillset, but foremost it necessitates a passion to ensure children obtain an educational foundation that will position them to compete successfully in life.

If you serve on a school board in Schuyler County you are part of running one of the county’s largest enterprises, so you must be business savvy, have a working knowledge of state and federal education laws and policies, be able to understand a multifaceted budget, and be an effective communicator, visionary, good decision maker and ethical.

Over the last 15 years as I’ve attended school board meetings and watched concerned parents address issues that affect their children I’ve also observed board members thoughtfully search for solutions that work best for the whole student body. A school board member must see and understand the problems from every perspective, every point of view and make a decision that benefits all children while continuing to move the district forward. Those qualities are apparent in Rob Halpin and Karen Rock.

Rob is an O-M alumnus and the current board president. His calm demeanor, advanced education and good decision-making skills position him as the ideal candidate to continue leading the district. Karen Rock is a long-time, experienced and knowledgeable O-M board member. She thoughtfully considers difficult problems and in the face of heated debate addresses uncomfortable situations respectfully, honestly and openly. Her character speaks of courage and graciousness while facing challenges from neighbors and friends.

My third endorsement is for newcomer Jeff Parmenter. I am convinced Jeff is exactly the right candidate at the right time for this board. As running the district becomes more complex, it is imperative we have young leaders who have the education and skills needed to keep O-M competitive. Jeff has a four-year business degree and is part of managing a successful multi-location family business. Jeff is well spoken, composed under pressure and fully aware of the obstacles facing our small district, as well as an O-M alumnus.

It is clear to me these candidates will work to provide a healthy learning environment for our children, so please consider the qualifications I’ve mentioned and vote on May 19.

Charlotte Wright-Mosher
Odessa-Montour taxpayer

Seeking singers for Memorial Day

To the Editor on May 12:

If anyone would like to join us in honoring our Veterans on Memorial Day by singing in the Memorial Day Community Choir, please come to the Odessa Methodist Church this Sunday and next, May 17 and 24, at 3 p.m. to rehearse "Battle Hymn of the Republic" to be performed at the Veterans Memorial Park on Route 228 outside Odessa on Monday, May 25 at 11 a.m. If unable to come to rehearsal, but interested in participating, please contact me at 607-594-6565 to get a listening CD and music.

Kim Laursen

McCarthy, Schimizzi are well-qualified

To the Editor on May 11:

I have been on the Watkins Glen School Board for 12 years, and in that time I have seen a lot of candidates for the Board come and go. This year, we have two candidates running for office who I believe are particularly well-qualified to be great School Board members: Kelly McCarthy and Barb Schimizzi.

I have worked with Kelly on the Board for the past three years. Kelly has a real understanding of how to balance opportunity for children with financial responsibility to taxpayers. Rather than request the District add a lacrosse team to the budget, she supplied proof of community support for lacrosse by leading a group of parents in countless hours of fundraising to cover the teams' costs for the initial years. Kelly's integrity and intelligence make her an outstanding Board member.

Barb is one of those rare people who regularly attend Board meetings. I have spoken with her often after a Board meeting. She has a sincere interest in what is happening in the school, and asks intelligent and incisive questions. I am always impressed by her positive attitude and how she presents the issues. Barb doesn't recite a laundry list of what's wrong, instead she identifies an opportunity to make something better and offers ideas on how to accomplish that -- a hallmark of someone who will help move the District forward.

These two candidates share the leadership qualities that make for great Board members, and I encourage the voters of the Watkins Glen Central School District to join me in voting for these two (along with the budget) on Tuesday, May 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the High School.

Michael D. Myers

A thank you to the new Village Board

To the Editor on May 5:

A sincere thank you to the new Village Board of Watkins Glen for voting to support continuation of the new sewer plant project with Montour Falls. You have demonstrated a sincere belief in moving our community forward. Together we all will make Watkins Glen a vibrant and important leader; showing how communities can work toward common goals and needs.

I am confident now to be remodeling our Tasting Room on Franklin Street, and feel good about the commitment from our new Village leaders.

Ted Marks
Atwater Estate Vineyards & The Tasting Room

Rondinaro: I'm running for Legislature

To the Editor on April 29:

I wish to announce that I will be running for the Schuyler County Legislature in 2015, in the newly formed Legislative District 7. This district is comprised of the areas of the Town of Reading outside of the Village of Watkins Glen (Reading election district 1), and the greater part of the Town of Tyrone, east of the lakes (Tyrone election district 1).

The current Reading Legislator, Mr. Stewart Field, Jr., has decided to retire at the end of this term and I will be running to fill his position. I am proud to say that Legislator Field has agreed to endorse my candidacy and I am very grateful to him for his support.

As regular readers of The Odessa File are no doubt aware, I have had an active voice in local politics for the last four years, especially focused on elucidating conservative principles and protecting constitutionally guaranteed rights. I have been a regular fixture at meetings of the legislature over the past four years, and have been very active in public participation before the group. I believe that our legislature's adoption of a term limits law last year was in large part due to my continued focus on the issue. I have also been very vocal about asking that any reports produced for the legislature be made publicly available on the Schuyler County website, which helped earn our county the highest rating in the state last year on the Empire Center’s “SeeThroughNY Local Government Website Report Card.”

I have also been involved in many other local organizations, including the Schuyler County Republican Committee, the Town of Reading Planning Board, the board of directors of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County, the Schuyler County chapter of the Shooters’ Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) and the Odessa TEA Party group. I am an owner/employee of Lakewood Vineyards, where I am responsible for accounting and technology management.

My platform will again be focused on increasing transparency and citizen involvement in the legislative process. I believe that our legislature has made great strides in these areas over the last four years, and I look forward to being a part of this process. I will release my detailed platform in the near future, but anyone who would like to contact me in the interim to discuss my candidacy or to offer help with my campaign (which would be deeply appreciated) can call me at 607-398-0648 or email me at rondinaroforschuyler@gmail.com. I look forward to meeting with many of the residents of the district in the next few months, and encourage everyone to contact me with any questions about my candidacy or the issues facing our county.

Mark Rondinaro

Prom weekend: Don't drink and drive

To the Editor
on April 25:

On Friday, April 24, the Watkins Glen Sadd Club’s adviser, teacher Margaret Swinnerton, put on a mock car crash at the school to encourage students to stay safe, make wise decisions, and avoid drinking and driving on Prom Saturday. Since fatalities have been known to occur involving students driving after Prom, Friday’s event was well-timed for Watkins Glen students who have Prom tonight (Saturday). The heart-wrenching fake accident made students think and consider what could happen to themselves and their friends.

As a student, it is amazing to see the measures our local school district takes to ensure and express how much it cares for the well-being of every student. From experiencing today’s event it is easy to see how easily one decision can affect an entire community. With firefighters and a response team flooding in with cops, a helicopter and ambulances, the talk of a bad incident occurring from drinking was compelling and effective.

The message I want others to take away is to not put themselves in bad situations that can affect their lives as well as others. It is foolish and dangerous to drive under the influence. Prom is supposed to be a good day to remember; don’t make it a bad day by getting behind a wheel while drunk. Have fun, but don’t be reckless. Don’t let one bad decision ruin your future.

Tamijah Lawton-Stone
Watkins Glen High School senior

Seeking cemetery cleanup assistance

To the Editor
on April 25:

The Mecklenburg Union Cemetery Association invites you to "adopt a plot." We are in need of volunteers, with their own mowers, to assist in cleanup and mowing of the cemetery grounds (right) in downtown Mecklenburg. In the past we have had the assistance of work teams from Camp Monterey, which was closed in 2014.

Trustee Tom Kobela has outlined sections of the cemetery for "adoption" and a suggestion would be to do maintenance mowing three or four times for seasonal upkeep. Tom can be contacted at 387-5671 should you wish to help out the Mecklenburg community. Other questions regarding the cemetery can be directed to President Gary Fisher at 387-5804.

Please note that The Mecklenburg Union Cemetery Association will hold the annual meeting of lot owners, trustees, and interested persons at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at the Mecklenburg United Methodist Church, Turnpike Road, Mecklenburg, NY.

The Mecklenburg Union Cemetery Association

Libraries contain wonderful resources

To the Editor on April 20:

With National Library week recently ended, I would like to take time to remind everyone that our libraries are available 52 weeks a year. I encourage each and every one of you to take advantage of the wonderful resources available that are waiting for you when you step inside your local library. We are extremely fortunate to have these opportunities available in most of our towns and villages in this area.

I enjoyed serving as this year's Library Ambassador for Friends of Watkins Library (FOWL). If you are interested in joining our group, you can get an application from me or at the Watkins Glen library. Just see any of our wonderful librarians and they will help you out. Also you can check out the website @ www.watkinsglenlibrary.org.

Skip Ferris

Lifting meet yields local 1st-place finishes

To the Editor on April 18:

Here are the results of AAU New York State Powerlifting meet held in Clyde NY April 18th.

All records and placements are based upon age and weight.

Jeremey Brown (pictured at right) received best lifter of the day with a Bench Press of 385 pounds and deadlift of 570 pounds, first place.

Wyatt Brower had a Bench Press of 185 pounds and deadlift of 335 pounds, first place.

Rhett Brower had a Bench Press of 160 pounds and deadlift of 265 pounds, first place

Nate Farnsworth had a Bench Press of 150 pounds and deadlift of 260 pounds, first place.

Nancy Loughlin had a Bench Press of 105 pounds and deadlift of 200 pounds; both are state records, first place.

Elexis Ameigh had a Bench Press of 85 pounds and deadlift of 195 pounds; both are state records, first place.

Ralph Diliberto

Photo in text: Jeremey Brown at the powerlifting meet. (Photo provided)

Hosting is a life-changing experience

To the Editor on April 16:

If you’ve ever wondered how to host a youth exchange student, the Watkins-Montour Rotary is here to answer that question.

My husband, Tim, and I wondered for a long time how we could host a foreign student, and when I joined Rotary in 2005, we were so excited! Here was the answer! Since then, we have hosted 10 students in all (and counting). Students from Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Taiwan. We continue to keep in touch with the majority of our students (our international kids), and have seen several of them when they returned to visit the U.S. When we “win the lottery,” we will have many new countries to visit and homes to stay in.

What makes hosting a youth exchange student so rewarding? Well, for one, they become one of your children – for now and forever. They teach you about their culture and share foods and traditions and clothing and language with you. In return, we help them with their English (at which they become quite proficient), introduce them to American experiences, share American holidays, and – as if they were a tourist – show them around to all of our favorite attractions locally and throughout NYS – and beyond, if possible. They generally are excited to soak in anything new – new sports, new activities, new people, new states or countries (i.e., Canada).

Just think about sharing the experience of a foreign student’s first Halloween, American Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year’s Eve, 4th of July – and also prom, school trips, sports or other activities they’ve never tried before, shopping malls, American restaurants and foods, New York City, semi-professional hockey or baseball games. And, if they’re from the southern climates – their first snow!

You learn so much not only about this new member of your family, but also about yourself and your family. And you certainly learn just how much American slang we all rely on to communicate!

This summer, the Watkins-Montour Rotary will be bringing in two new exchange students – a boy and a girl – and we are now seeking host families. Each family hosts for 3-4 months only, so the student moves around to experience how different families live. You provide room and board, rides to school and activities, parental oversight. Rotary pays the student a stipend for expenses.

So, if you’ve ever wondered … it’s time to take the first step. Contact me at mbenjamin4@stny.rr.com to find out more.

Michelle LaDue Benjamin
Watkins-Montour Rotary
Proud Youth Exchange Host Mom

Thanks for supporting O-M baseball

To the Editor on April 15:

As a junior high school teacher and coach at Odessa-Montour Central School, I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank parents and local businesses for participating and donating their time, energy and financial contributions to the Odessa-Montour Baseball Program.

On Sunday, April 12, the Varsity Baseball team offered a chicken BBQ in order to raise funds for the program. The program is in need of new equipment. Our student-athletes worked diligently at serving the food to make it a success.

We are writing to express our deepest thanks for the recent donations and generous gifts from Jerlando’s Restaurant and the Blue Ribbon Diner. With their gifts and moral support we were able to continue our mission as teachers, coaches, and student-athletes. With their financial contributions they have demonstrated their deep commitment to our work of education, athletics, and growth of the Odessa-Montour community.

Thank you for encouraging the players in our community to participate in functions that will help bring about school spirit and teamwork.

Marc Kimmerly
Social Studies Teacher/Coach

WGFA statement on Opting Out

To the Editor on April 11:

State testing begins next week, and with it comes a big decision. To test or not to test. This is a very important and personal choice for many families.

Many of you may be aware of the “Opt-Out” Movement taking hold across the state. The movement is a response to the overuse of standardized tests in Math and ELA for students in grades 3-8. The tests are used by the state to evaluate students, to judge teachers and to compare school districts. Parents have the right to decide whether it is in their child’s best interests to refuse to sit for 6 days of standardized testing throughout the month of April. We respect the rights of parents and guardians who refuse state testing. Individual teachers are unable to advise parents about their right to refuse 3-8 state tests. However, the Watkins Glen Faculty Association wants to share information to help you become better informed about the options available to your family.

Those who choose to refuse upcoming state tests for their children should know that their child should face no disciplinary repercussions for their non-participation. Refusing the test does not affect academic placement in remediation services or grade-level promotion. Families have the right to insist on opting out of state exams regardless of whether their district has planned for an alternative learning activity during testing. Some districts allow students to read or complete school work elsewhere on campus. Other districts, however, require students to sit and stare at the tests despite your refusal. Parents have the right to submit a letter informing their school of their intent to refuse state testing for their child.

The Watkins Glen Faculty Association supports parents’ rights to refuse if the standardized tests are not in their child’s best interests. We disagree with sit-and-stare policies, and encourage the development of alternative learning environments for students whose families refuse state testing.

The over-reliance on standardized testing of students does not encourage the kind of education that we strive to provide to the children of this community. The state’s misguided use of these tests to evaluate teachers, principals and school districts creates incentives to narrow the curriculum to a one-size-fits-all, test-prep education. Our children, our schools, and our communities deserve better.

Travis Durfee
President, Watkins Glen Faculty Association

For more information about parental rights and test refusal:

NYSUT Q&A on Opting Out :
A list of common questions parents have about the concerns with state testing

NYSUT Fact Sheet on Opting-Out of State Tests :
This attempts to clear up the misinformation by reviewing the federal requirements for participation in the state assessments and potential consequences of opting-out for districts, students and teachers.

NYS Allies for Public Education :
This comprehensive site guides you through the steps of opting out, contains letter templates, flyers, policy guides, and videos to help you understand test refusals. Here the movement is explained in a simple video.

Also, by New York State Allies for Public Education :
An explanation about how districts do not automatically lose funding if many families choose to opt-out.

--Travis Durfee

Thanks for addressing immediate need

To the Editor on April 9:

Schuyler Head Start would like to thank this year’s Leadership Schuyler graduates who teamed up with Catholic Charities of Schuyler County to conduct a food drive at Walmart in Watkins Glen. The class collected donations of food items from shoppers, then donated the food to Catholic Charities in an effort to relieve childhood hunger in Schuyler County.

The day culminated with a delivery of all food donations to Catholic Charities’ Schuyler Outreach Food Pantry. Catholic Charities then contacted Schuyler Head Start because they knew we could ensure that some of these food donations would be delivered to families directly who may not have access to the pantry.

Leadership Schuyler is a program that strives to help our community leaders and local businesses strengthen their knowledge of community issues, facilitate positive problem-solving techniques, and encourages them to take active leadership roles. Businesses and local leaders recognizing the needs of our community is the first step in that direction. There is an old saying that people cannot roll up their sleeves to get to work if they are too busy wringing their hands.

So thank you again, Leadership Schuyler and Catholic Charities, for recognizing and addressing an immediate need of childhood hunger in our county. I am hopeful that through future ventures between businesses and nonprofit collaborations we can continue to work together on creatively solving issues facing our families that help lead them to self-sufficiency.

The success of the children depends on these efforts.

Michele Gimbar
Executive Director
Schuyler Head Start

Reducing underage drinking is critical

To the Editor on April 9:

Each April since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues.

This year's theme, "For the Health of It: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction," is aimed at educating people about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism, particularly among our youth, and the benefits of providing early education to give kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives.

Alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous—both to themselves and to society, and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors, even for those who may never develop a dependence or addiction.

Adolescence is a time of heightened risk-taking as a young person’s brain continues to mature until age 25. Therefore, they may not be fully prepared to anticipate all the consequences of alcohol use, such as the swift and devastating effects on the developing brain, or being in a car with a driver who has been drinking.

Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for America's youth, and is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined.

Reducing underage drinking is critical to securing a healthy future for youth and requires a cooperative effort from parents, schools, community organizations, business leaders, government agencies, the entertainment industry, alcohol manufacturers/retailers and young people themselves.

For more information see:

-- Fact Sheet on Underage Drinking: https://ncadd.org/images/stories/PDF/factsaboutunderagedrinking.pdf
--Drinking Too Much Too Fast Can Kill You: https://ncadd.org/images/stories/PDF/DrinkingTooMuchTooFastCanKillYou-NCADD.pdf
--Council on Alcoholism & Addictions of the Finger Lakes—
http://www.councilonalcoholism.net Schuyler office: 607-535-8264.

Council on Alcoholism & Addictions
Mill Creek Center
Watkins Glen

Sonrise Service set; singers sought

To the Editor on March 24:

The Schuyler County Council of churches will sponsor the 81st annual Easter Sonrise Service on Sunday, April 5 at dawn at the South Entrance to the Watkins Glen State Park.

I will direct the choir, and am looking for singers. Rehearsals will be this coming Sunday, March 29, at 3 p.m. at the Montour Falls Methodist Church, and the following Saturday, April 4, at 3 p.m. at the Park.

Music and CDs will be provided. Please join us as we make a Joyful Noise! For more info, you may contact me at 607-594-6565.

Mrs. Kim Laursen
music teacher
Odessa-Montour Central School

It's been an honor and a privilege

To the Editor on March 20:

To the residents of the Village of Watkins Glen, it has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your Mayor and Deputy Mayor for the past four years. We have enjoyed our community service and found great pride in all that we have accomplished.

We are extremely proud of the fact that our Waste Water Treatment Plant that is under a consent order from the DEC for polluting Seneca Lake, our drinking water and our public swim areas, will be replaced and relocated off our beautiful waterfront with a “state of the art” facility. This project will benefit our environment, our Village, the Village of Montour Falls, and our County for generations to come. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we are so proud to have played a role in bringing this project to fruition.

We wish the incoming Board all the best and hope they find serving the public as rewarding as we have.

We would be remiss if we didn’t thank those who came out and voted for us on Election Day. Your support is very much appreciated!

Mayor Mark Swinnerton
& Deputy Mayor Scott Gibson

Little League's work is still not done

To the Editor on March 20:

In the wake of the recent election, the Board of Trustees of Schuyler County Little League would like to say THANK YOU to Mayor Mark Swinnerton and the Board of Trustees at the Village of Watkins Glen.

Very recently our league was in dire financial trouble. Thanks to Mayor Swinnerton sharing our vision for growth at Clute Park South, we were able to not only build a new field but also to build a stronger and even bigger league (with growth to almost 230 participants last year).

Unfortunately, our work is still not done. We still need to continue what we started down there with the new field. We welcome in the new Mayor of Watkins Glen and the new Trustees and wish them all the best. It is our hope that the new Mayor and Trustees will share our passion for promoting youth sports in our county. I hope they keep in mind, as Mayor Swinnerton did, that Youth Programs are part of what makes a Village attractive to prospective residents and adds value to this already beautiful community.

Matt Walters

Gallery accepting exhibit entries

To the Editor on March 19:

The Franklin Street Gallery is accepting entries for our spring exhibit, Family Tree. The gallery will host an artist’s reception from 5:00-8:00 p.m. on Arbor Day, Friday April 24th. Deadline for entries is April 14th.

The first 50 patrons attending the reception will receive a free sapling tree from the National Arbor Foundation and our reception sponsors.

The exhibit is open to all media including: painting, sculpture, photography and mixed media.

Only Finger Lakes artists are eligible to participate. This is a judged exhibit where Best in Show and Honorable Mention receive awards (lots of kudos) and cash prizes.

To learn more, see http://www.arcofschuyler.org/images/pdf/family%20tree-call.pdf

Contact me at the gallery if you have any questions.

Cynthia Hill
Gallery Manager
Franklin Street Gallery

Wyatt Brower (left) and Jeremey Brown competed successfully at the New York State powerlifting meet. (Photos provided)

Glen lifters excel at powerlifting meet

To the Editor on March 3:

These are the results from a New York State powerlifting meet held in Rochester on Saturday, Feb. 28.

--Jeremey Brown set two state records with a bench press of 365 pounds and a deadlift of 550 pounds. He was named best lifter of the day.
--Nicole Chaffee set two state records with a bench press of 175 pounds and a deadlift of 265 pounds.
--Elexis Ameigh set two state records with a bench press of 80 pounds and a deadlift of 175 pounds.
--Nancy Loughlin set two state records with a bench press of 100 pounds and a deadlift of 165 pounds.
--Wyatt Brower took first place with a bench press of 180 pounds and a deadlift of 315 pounds.
--Wrett Brower also placed first with a bench press of 140 pounds and a deadlift of 250 pounds.

All the records were set according to age and weight.

These athletes left it all on the lifting platforms and represented the Watkins Glen School District with dignity and class.

Ralph Diliberto

Excelling at SUNY Cobleskill, eyeing IC

To the Editor on March 3:

Hello. I have seen you put stuff on here about area school alumnis in the past and wanted to catch you up on my daughter Maia's accomplishments at SUNY Cobleskill, where she is in her first year.

She was on Dean's list for her first semester with a 3.8. She also just competed at the NEAC swimming championships and placed second in all three of her individual events (the 50 Free, the 100 Back and the 100 Free) as well as leading two relay teams to second place, the 200 Free Relay and the 800 Free Relay. She was named to the All Conference Second Team for all five of these events. The team was in second place overall.

In this her first season she broke three individual Cobleskill swim records, the 50 Free, the 100 Back and the 100 Free, which was a 25-year-old record she broke by swimming a 57.62, almost two seconds faster than the record. She had PR's in all of these events throughout the season, lowering her 100 Back time by more than 3 seconds. She also was part of a 200 Free Relay record for Cobleskill.

She recently applied to Ithaca College and was accepted to the Math Education program; in addition she received the President's Scholarship worth $20,000. She looks forward to swimming with the Bombers next year. I believe she has lived up to the honor of being a Top Drawer 24 honoree. Thank you.

Christy Rumsey

Pippin set for March 12-14 run at O-M

To the Editor on March 2:

March is " Music in Our Schools Month," and we have an amazing production of "Pippin" being presented at Odessa-Montour school from March 12-14 at 7:30 p.m. and a Saturday matinee on March 14 at 2 p.m. Twenty-five senior high school students have been working long hours since New Year's with me and choreographer Manley Gavich to prepare this "show within a show" recounting the tale of Pippin, eldest son of King Charlemagne of France.

From the opening choral number "Magic to Do" to the unexpected finale featuring 10-year-old Ben Campbell as Theo, you will enjoy upbeat songs like "Corner of the Sky" (sung by actors John Coates and Logan Barrett as Pippin), "Simple Joys" (sung by Leading Player Manley Gavich and Emma Raymond) and "Right Track."

Pippin's grandmother Berthe (Brownwyn Stermer, Maggie Coates) will lead the audience on a
delightful sing-along of "Time to Start Living," and Pippin's stepmother Fastrada (Cheyenne Barrett, Dana Roberts) will amaze you with her cunning rendition of "Spread a Little Sunshine." King Charlemagne himself (Joseph Raymond) sings "War is a Science" to explain his amazing prowess on the battlefield, and Pippin and his lover Catherine (Rosemary Peckham, Sarah Norton) do their sweet "Love Song" in beautiful harmony.

Tickets are available at the door beginning at 6:30 performance nights for $7 student, $8 senior citizen, and $9 adult. "Pippin" is presented with special permission from Music Theatre International of New York, NY.

For more information, you may call the school at 607-594-3341.

Mrs. Kim Laursen
Music Teacher
Odessa-Montour Central School

Thanks to Arc dinner vols, supporters

To the Editor on Feb. 21:

For those who braved the cold, there was plenty of warmth and plenty of pasta at The Arc of Schuyler’s 3rd Annual Spaghetti Dinner. The fundraiser was held February 16 at the Montour Moose Lodge #426 in Montour Falls.

The event raised more than $2,000 through ticket sales and donations, funds that will help The Arc of Schuyler provide important services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in our community. A big thank you goes out to everyone who worked hard to make this dinner a success and a lot of fun!

The Montour Moose and The Arc have partnered to hold a fundraiser dinner for more than 30 years – a huge commitment - and the organization has helped raise thousands of dollars for The Arc. I want to especially thank Jay and Crystal Banks, our leaders for this event, Mike Donnelly, and the many Moose volunteers who helped us in the kitchen and with the cleanup. We sincerely appreciate the generosity of the Moose and look forward to the continued partnership.

The students of the Watkins Glen High School Interact Club always do an outstanding job – working hard, working fast, and working with a smile on their face. It was great to see a group of students that included youth with disabilities and their family members helping at this year’s event. Not only did they volunteer, the Club made their own donation to support The Arc! Thank you to all the students and to their advisor, Nancy Ruda.

Finally, a sincere thanks to everyone who joined us for dinner, stopped by for a take-out meal, or made a donation to The Arc. Even our 50/50 raffle winner, Tom Weidemann of Montour Falls, donated his winnings back to The Arc to support a very important mission. It might have been a simple thing to enjoy a spaghetti dinner, but your support means a lot!

The community involvement at this event is fantastic! We look forward to welcoming all of you and your friends at the 4th Annual Spaghetti Dinner next year. Thank you.

Don Stocum,

Note: Don Stocum is postmaster of Watkins Glen and an active volunteer in Schuyler County, serving on The Arc’s board of directors and as chair of The Arc’s fundraising committee.

I've been propane supportive, but ...

To the Editor on Feb. 8:

Until now I have been generally supportive of the LPG storage project. I reasoned, what better place for propane than a mile down. And, I don't want to be a hypocrite, I've used propane all my life. After all, It's a rural fuel and we are surely rural.

However ...

In summertime, the shallow brine ponds will be full and stagnant, as the caverns are at capacity with the propane awaiting wintertime deployment. Many things happen with warm stagnant waters. Green algae thrives in less saline water (our lakes), but halobacteria flourish as salinity and summertime temperatures increase. The brine waters will take on pink and red tints and give off putrid odors. It is also only a matter of time before Brine flies (Ephydra Cinera and Ephydra hians) are in abundance. It is their rapid breeding and short life cycle that contributes to putrid odors on the shores of bodies of inland salt water. For my friends and neighbors who are proximal to this project or downwind, we can only hope that the company can and will chemically manage the proliferation of insects and odors.

I've never been to a DEC "issues conference," but this project has so many aspects that directly affect us as a county and community, that I believe I will go and listen. The Feb. 12 issues conference may well be our last chance to weigh in and to have questions answered and assurances given!

Paul Marcellus
Concerned Village of Watkins Glen Resident

I fully support the proposed storage plan

To the Editor on Feb. 7:

I make my living in the local tourism industry. The lodging establishment I own is located just down Route 14 from the site of Crestwood’s proposed propane storage facility. As someone who relies on the beauty of the Finger Lakes region to drive visitors and customers to our area, let me say without hesitation that I fully support the proposed storage plan.

Of course, safety must always be paramount. However, history, science, and regulators all tell us that this type of facility will be safe. Propane has been stored safely in the Finger Lakes region for decades. The New York State Geologist and Army Corps of Engineers have both approved plans for the Finger Lakes LPG facility. Additionally, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has said that salt cavern walls have the structural strength of steel, and has approved similar facilities in this same salt formation on multiple occasions.

Unfortunately, there is a vocal minority of individuals that would like you to believe otherwise. The author of a Letter to the Editor published on this site earlier this week was the latest to ignore the facts about this project. I, however, join thousands of residents, businesses, and organizations throughout the Finger Lakes region and across New York State who support this facility and believe that misinformation should not get in the way of a project that is safe and will provide important economic benefits to our communities.

By the way, if anyone is interested in learning the facts, they should go to the project’s website at www.nypropaneadvocacy.com.

Jim Franzese
Owner, Longhouse Lodge
Watkins Glen

Let's support Jordan with money, arms

To the Editor on Feb. 6:

Three cheers to Jordan for stand.

ing up to ISIS by attacking their camps etc. and also for executing the two prisoners that they held.

I hope that we support Jordan with the money and arms that they need to defeat ISIS.

Tom Augustine
Watkins Glen

Thanks to all who helped Seneca Santa

To the Editor on Feb. 5:

A giant thank-you to everyone who made Seneca Santa, Inc., 2014 happen. You provided a gift package for 317 children from 151 families.

Whether it be monies, time, or talent, it really is next to impossible to list all the names that contribute to this wonderful program. From the folks who participate in the Hazlitt Winery annual fund raiser, to the people who make handmade hats and mittens or encourage donations through their churches, to the volunteers who man the stations and order supplies, and to the folks who show up every year to bag, none of it would be possible without them.

Special mention and personal thanks go out to Hazlitt Winery, the Watkins Glen Presbyterian Church, Tracie McIlroy and the students from the Watkins Glen High School, Mary Coykendall and her Girl Scouts, Bill Kennedy, Jen Geck and the firemen and women who deliver, Frank Dudgeon, Brandon VanHorn from the Glen Dairy Bar, Josh Johnson from the Glen Theater, Bill Tague from Jerlando's, and Advanced Family Chiropractic for their contributions.

I sincerely hope that each and everyone of you know what an impact your donation has on the hundreds of children who receive a Seneca Santa package. You make it possible for Santa Claus to come to Schuyler County every year. On behalf of all those children, thank you and God bless you always.

Peggy Scott

A tragic reminder of LPG's dangers

To the Editor on Jan. 30:

Yesterday’s massive explosion of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) that leveled a children’s and maternity hospital in Mexico City brought unspeakably horrific images of mothers fleeing with newborns and rescue workers searching for babies under the rubble of what had been, just moments earlier, a place of safety and healing.

One nurse and two infants lost their lives; 60 people were injured; 39 people remain hospitalized; 18 are listed in critical conditions; and half of the victims are babies. One infant was burned over 80 percent of its body.

Gas Free Seneca and We Are Seneca Lake express our sorrow and deepest condolences to the victims, families, first responders, and the health care professionals who oversaw a hasty evacuation in the moments before the blast, and, in the attempt to save lives at their own peril, were nevertheless forced to leave behind babies in their care.

We express our admiration for the Red Cross, which promptly sent 23 ambulances and 40 rescuers to the scene.

While details of the blast are still emerging and we are waiting to learn more, this accident, prompted by a gas leak, is a tragic reminder that these fuels carry inherent dangers and that the risks of burying hundreds of millions of gallons of LPG in the old salt caverns beside Seneca Lake are too great.

We recommit ourselves to our ongoing efforts to stop Seneca Lake from serving as a mass storage depot for LPG and call upon Governor Cuomo, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to join us in these efforts. There should be no possibility that the horrific scenes in Mexico City will be replayed in New York’s Finger Lakes.

We Are Seneca Lake
and Gas Free Seneca

An ongoing effort to scapegoat teachers

To the Editor on Jan. 28:

Governor Cuomo is no friend of public education. In fact he’s a schoolyard bully. And like any bully he needs to belittle and attack others to feel empowered. His recent education proposals are a very real and terrifying threat to our students, teachers, schools and democracy.

As a public school parent I am honestly offended by the way Mr. Cuomo speaks about my child’s teachers. Recently, while driving in the car, my six-year-old was exposed to Mr. Cuomo’s bullying tactics when he said, “But we have teachers that have been found guilty of sexually abusing students who we can’t get out of the classroom.” Immediately, my daughter wanted to know what it means to sexually abuse a student and why someone would do such a thing.

Mr. Cuomo’s words are part of an ongoing effort to vilify and scapegoat our children’s teachers. His rhetoric is obscene and nauseating, as is his related proposal to have teachers, based on accusation alone, suspended immediately without pay. In essence: a guilty verdict without the fundamental right of due process.

This is but one component of Mr. Cuomo’s anti-public-schools agenda. Other weapons in his bullying arsenal include withholding school funding until all of his demands are met, like increasing the emphasis on mandatory state testing, narrowing the curriculum to teach to those tests, and further decreasing local control of our schools by our democratically elected school boards.

His reckless, dangerous, and anti-democratic war on teachers is a war on my children and yours. Stand up and fight back!

Liam F. O'Kane
Ithaca, NY

Letter had erroneous statements

To the Editor on Jan. 28:

The Ryan McHugh letter of January 25 is ample evidence of why Technical Professionals at NYS DEC should deal with the issues related to Upstate's 30th energy-storage facility, and NOT members if the general populace. It contains erroneous statements galore, which I will correct here.

1. The cavity at Well 30 which had the rock-fall in 1967 was NOT "closed in the '60s" as is stated, but rather continued in service for LPG storage until 1984. Nor is the claim it "is already damaged" valid. A rock-fall is merely a rock-fall and is "normal," and has no bearing on the cavity's mechanical integrity.

2. Said cavity is NOT being reopened to store "liquefied propane, butane" as claimed, but ONLY Natural Gas, as recently permitted by FERC. Again, it cannot be "the same cavern that was closed in the ’60s" as-claimed, because it was NOT closed in the '60s!

3. The gas-compressors are not "incredibly loud."

4. The claimed "incredible amount of trucks are needed to transport materials to and from the facility" is one of Gas Free Seneca's favorite "Mythical Constructs" and is patently false. The same LPG demand will cause the same number of truck trips, no matter the origination point. But current market projections indicate most LPG volume will be transported in and out by pipeline, advancing to the terminals near Harford Mills/Ithaca and Selkirk/Albany.

5. The claims involving Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) are not even valid, but were mere items of discussion at one time. The facility will enter Reading's property tax base and thus help the whole county.

6. McHugh presents as if the 7,000 'tourism" jobs were of equal economic stature to the 8-10 "LPG" jobs, but they are grossly dissimilar. Full-time vs part-time; skilled-worker rate versus minimum wage; with benefits versus no benefits; those are your differences. One pays a mortgage and supports a family, the other doesn't -- and might even draw unemployment or welfare benefits.

7. McHugh urges people to write the Schuyler County Legislature, implying they are the regulatory agency. They are not, but the professionals at NYS DEC are.

Only the screwed-up politics of New York state is what has prevented this facility from already being in service several years. Probably a suitcase full of money well-placed in Albany would have greased the skids, but that is not the way it should be done, and the delay is certainly evidence it was NOT done!

If you ever wonder why the majority of younger people have to find jobs in other states (where prosperity DOES exist), there is no better example than this 5-years-delayed project to show the dysfunction of New York state.

I am currently in Idaho, where the low costs and relative prosperity compared to New York are painfully obvious. Since I have seen "the other side of the hill," I gladly tell anyone who will listen, that for them to find cheaper education and better opportunity now, GET FAR OUT OF NEW YORK! A New York Strip Steak here is $10-$12. Education in the Philippines is 1/6th the cost inside New York, and that is with the air fare included!

David A Crea, PE
Town of Reading, Salt Point Road
Watkins Glen, NY

Risk to tourism is not worth taking

To the Editor on Jan. 25:

In 1992 a gas storage facility in Houston started to leak, until it eventually exploded, killing two. In 2001, gas leaked from a salt cavern storage facility in Hutchinson, Kansas, causing explosions as far as 7 miles away. A salt cavern collapsed in Louisiana in 2013, which has since grown to a 29 acre-wide sinkhole. A salt cavern in New York’s Finger Lakes region was closed in the ’60s because a 400,000-ton rock had separated from its ceiling. Now in 2015, it is the goal of Crestwood, a Houston-based energy company, to reopen an abandoned salt cavern in Schuyler County, New York, to store liquefied propane, butane and natural gas. In fact, it’s the same cavern that was closed in the ’60s.

There are dangers to storing gas in salt mines, but even if there weren’t, we still shouldn’t allow Crestwood to be here. The compressors that are used to store gas are incredibly loud, plus an incredible amount of trucks are needed to transport materials to and from the facility. As it stands, the Seneca Lake tourism industry employs around 7,000 people and brings in over $40 million in state and local taxes each year. Crestwood’s plan will only create about 8-10 permanent jobs, and the Texas-based company will not have to pay any taxes on the gas they store here in New York either. Instead, the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) was given the one-time payment of $290,000, while a payment of $440,000 will also be made to the county and school district annually.

As the noise and traffic increases, the beauty of this area will decrease. The risk of losing the tourists who come to enjoy the splendor of the Finger Lakes is not worth taking, especially when all we’re getting is a yearly $440,000 payment. Using salt caverns as storage facilities has a history of catastrophe, and the salt cavern Crestwood is going to use is already damaged. Not only that, but by allowing Crestwood to be here, we are also taking the risk of our neighbors’ losing their livelihoods. These are risks we should not be taking. If you agree, please take the time to call or write the Schuyler County Legislature.

Address: 105 9th Street #6, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Phone: (607) 535-8100

Ryan McHugh

Jefferson Village is a great place to live

To the Editor on Jan. 18:

I moved into the Jefferson Village about 5 months ago and I want to say it is a very nice, clean, safe and secure place for seniors to live. There is plenty of free parking and is also handicapped accessible.

It is in a good location -- one block from the lake and about a block from the business district Plus Schuyler County Transit stops by here several times a day.

The rent, which is subsidized, is based on your income, and is very reasonable, as is the heat bill which is from the village electric.

The office staff is very helpful and easy to deal with. Beth, the manager, and Anna, the case worker, are more than willing to assist with any questions we may have. John, the maintainance man, keeps the place in good condition and fixes any problems that may arise. Melida, the housekeeper, keeps the place clean -- which includes the common areas (community rooms, laundry room -- one on each floor -- and the trash/recycle area, also one on each floor).

With the way some of the rents are in town, and the condition of some of the apartments I've seen, we are fortunate that the viillage provides this as a place to live. It is so much better than my last place.

So if you are a senior citizen and looking for a nice place to live, give the Jefferson Village Apartments a try.

Tom Augustine
Jefferson Village Apartments
Watkins Glen

Let's not lose chance with CCC branch

To the Editor on Jan. 18:

More than 100 years ago, Charles Cook and Montour Falls lost the race for being the site of Cornell University. Let's not allow history to repeat itself by missing the chance to locate a branch of Corning Community College at the recently removed Shepard Niles building.

Kate Sirrine

O'Mara isn't alone in being recorded

To the Editor on Jan. 18:

The incident with Senator Tom O’Mara being "baited" and surreptitiously recorded is the third instance I know of where Gas Free Seneca members or sympathizers have pulled that stunt.

The first instance was done to me alone at their 2nd “Kayak Flotilla” in 2013, on the deck at Marina Bar & Grille, where I was sipping a Bloody Mary and watching the kayakers get into the water to see how many fell out (as did happen at the first Flotilla). A so-called “reporter” from the Ithaca PBS Radio Station came over and asked for some comments “from a Crestwood spokesman.” He casually set a recorder upside-down in the middle of the table, but at no time advised me that the thing was running. Nevertheless, I suspected it.

I explained to him that I was not a Crestwood spokesman, just an interested private citizen, and he could have my private citizen comments, but that was all he’d get. He proceeded to ask me a few questions, and I proceeded to tell him what a worthless exercise it was to organize these “Kayak Flotillas,” but I was thankful for the humorous diversion they were providing that afternoon. I spoke perhaps 4 or 5 minutes, then he had enough and left.

Shortly thereafter, his recording (barely audible -- the guy flubbed the job!) was posted by Gas Free Seneca on their Facebook Page, in some misguided attempt to embarrass me. It was removed after a few days. But I am reminded that I still need to speak to that so-called reporter’s boss about his underling’s “ethical shortcomings.”

Then about 3 months ago, (Crestwood representative) Barry Moon and I were giving a short presentation to the Government Affairs Subcommittee of the Yates County Board of Supervisors. As we sat at a table preparing, some idiot came and set a super-sensitive microphone up on the floor directly behind and between us, as if we didn’t know what they were up to. They also had a camera trained on us and videotaped us the whole time. We had nothing to hide, and I don’t know what they expected to accomplish except perhaps intimidate us.

So, the lesson is: Gas Free Seneca’s leaders, members and sympathizers not only exhibit hypocrisy from using gas and LPG themselves, while trying to deprive others of it, but they will stoop to chicanery and unethical conduct to try to intimidate opposition, or just a person like me who works to “keep them honest.”

I applaud Mr. Ted Marks for recognizing their duplicity, though it took quite a while to get overwhelming evidence, as the O’Mara incident provided.

David A. Crea, PE (Chemical)
Watkins Glen

Video was particularly relevant

To the Editor on Jan. 17:

Ted Marks’ vigorous defense of State Senator Tom O’Mara misses the mark widely in one respect -- criticizing Gas Free Seneca for reposting a link to O’Mara’s videotape-conversation-turned-rant published by a newspaper, The Albany Times Union.

After the Times Union published the video and explanation, the video was republished by a journalistic Who’s Who of newspapers and news websites across the nation. For a few moments last week, Tom O’Mara was probably more infamous than Justin Bieber.

Gas Free Seneca was simply doing what it has been doing since its inception -- providing information about the dangerous gas storage project at Seneca Lake and the people who support and oppose it. In this case, O’Mara’s belligerent comment in the video “I've had enough of you and your kind” (made in reference to opponents of the Houston, Texas-based company’s gas storage project) made the video particularly relevant for Gas Free Seneca to provide as information.

Michael J. Fitzgerald
Watkins Glen

We now know O'Mara's position

To the Editor on Jan. 17:

Mr. Marks' comment is misdirected regarding the news stories about Senator O'Mara's recent outburst that was caught on video.

For the record:

Gas Free Seneca did not create the Tom O'Mara video.

Gas Free Seneca did not orchestrate the creation of the Tom O'Mara video.

For the past four years Gas Free Seneca has reposted news articles pertaining to the gas storage issue on Seneca Lake on a regular basis. This situation is no different.

What is different this time is we now know Senator O'Mara's position on the issue. Gas Free Seneca, and scores of Senator O'Mara's constituents, have repeatedly asked the Senator for his assistance in stopping this threat to the Finger Lakes region. Up until the release of the video in question, Senator O'Mara claimed to be "neutral" on the gas storage projects. We now know his position and it is not one of neutrality. Senator O'Mara supports the gas storage projects proposed for Seneca Lake. We felt obligated to let people know this.

We believe it is unfortunate that the video has become such a divisive issue for some. We also believe it is most important for all of us to keep our focus on doing what we can to keep the gas storage threat at bay. That is our plan. We hope it is yours as well.

Yvonne Taylor, Joseph Campbell, and Jeff Dembowski
Co-Founders, Gas Free Seneca

Disgusted with secret-recording tactic

To the Editor on Jan. 14:

The only "thing" Tom O'Mara might have done wrong is some of the language. I certainly would not have given this underhanded sneaky person four minutes of my time in a darkened parking lot, with my wife in the car, and not knowing who this nut-case was. I compliment Tom for first saying who he is (Like the person didn't know? He just wanted to get Tom's name on the recording) and then starting to let the person talk at all, under those circumstances. Notice the set-up person didn't identify himself.

Knowing that this was secretly recorded and is now being so published by the Anti-LPG community makes me very upset with their tactics. While I too am concerned about the safety and possible effects the proposed facility could have on our area, I am disgusted that this group feels this is the way to accomplish their goals. If they didn't have something to do with it, then why are they making sure we all know about it?

You have lost my respect, Gas Free Seneca, as a group that possibly cares about our community and have become self-absorbed in your own personal agenda. You have totally lost track of realizing, as Martin Luther King says, working together we can do it. I sure hope we can now.

Ted Marks
Atwater Estate Vineyards

Editor's Note: Mr. Marks refers to an incident reported on a blog site of the Times Union newspaper of Albany, information of which was later disseminated through emails by Gas Free Seneca.

Thanks for spreading the joy

To the Editor on Jan. 13:

Catholic Charities of Schuyler County is honored to be a part of a community that cares for its neighbors in need.

This past holiday season we had the opportunity to work with many businesses, churches and individuals to combat poverty and help those in need work towards self-sufficiency.

We are especially grateful to those who helped us make hundreds of families’ holidays a little brighter in their own way: Boy Scouts’ Food Drive; FiberArts in the Glen Mitten Drive; 1st Annual Turkey Trot sponsored by Exercise Enterprise; Odessa-Catharine United Methodist Church’s 15-week canned food challenge; Dandy Mini Mart collecting donations; Seneca Santa gift bags for students made possible by Hazlitt’s; St. Mary’s Youth Group for making stockings; The Glen Theatre and its guests donating hundreds of food items; Watkins Glen Interact Club hosting a teens’ personal care drive; Corning Community College’s Hat/Mitten Drive; Walmart; Montour Falls Moose Lodge; Labor of Love; Cargill for donating food items; Tioga Downs for donating turkeys; St. Mary’s of the Lake for allowing us to use their space; Watkins-Montour Rotary for donating gifts; The Elks Club; Fund for Women and O'Susannah's Quilt Shop and Upstairs Inn for hosting a Giving Tree for First Step Clients; Odessa-Montour Interact Club and National Junior Honor Society Students; Area Churches; the Mobile Work Crew and Volunteers assisting with the Christmas Giveaway Week.

I am also profoundly grateful for our dedicated volunteers and committed staff who worked with local businesses and individuals to adopt 116 families and provide Christmas gifts for hundreds of families. We could not reach so many children and families in Schuyler County without working together. Thank you for giving of your time, energy and resources to help us meet the needs in our community.

We look forward to expanding these partnerships as we prepare to face the challenges ahead in 2015. Thank you for your support and compassion.

Debra MacDonald
Agency Director
Catholic Charities of Schuyler

Photo in text: From left, Jessie Ketter (Catholic Charities staff), Susann Dugo (FiberArts), and Nancy Brand (Catholic Charities staff) with donations from the FiberArts in the Glen Mitten Drive. (Photo provided)

It's time for the Fagan era to end

To the Editor on Jan. 5:

The Schuyler County Legislators need to do the right thing for our community and elect a new chair at their morning meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 7.

Whether you are for or against the proposed gas storage project in Schuyler County, it's clear that Chair Dennis Fagan has effectively galvanized the growing opposition to the proposal by Crestwood of Houston with his relentless support of the project while also shutting out community dialogue.

I doubt that galvanizing and strengthening the opposition to the gas storage project was ever his intent. But it illustrates his political incompetence so clearly that it should be difficult for his legislative peers to endorse his leadership for one more year.

How could they possibly re-elect a chair who:
• Acted on behalf of the community by officially supporting this major a project without ever consulting the community or the Legislature.
• Railroaded a controversial resolution through the Legislature without due process.
• Clearly violated the New York State Open Meeting Law when he locked 128 residents out of the hearing to debate the controversial resolution.
• Refused to recuse himself from voting on the flawed pro-gas resolution, which would have deflated much of the controversy surrounding the resolution.
• Continues to publicly state that the November election for the Legislature proved a mandate of support for gas storage when he knows that the numbers prove the opposite --- that Phil Barnes won on a split vote and more people voted against him than for him. And that the trustees of the Watkins Glen Village Board also voted against the gas storage --- the board who represent the same population as District 2, Phil Barnes.

I ask the County Legislators to take a stand and select a new chair with a working knowledge of democratic rules of order, who believes that if you follow the procedures set in place for representative government, the end result will best serve the community.

It’s time to end the Fagan era by choosing a new chair to lead our community and to start the healing process. And let it begin on Wednesday.

Sylvia Fox

Sam Argetsinger was a philosopher, poet, essayist, farmer and social activist ...

To the Editor on Jan. 4:

In Jim Whiting's memoir, Analecta, Jim describes his experience of starting a student newspaper at Watkins Glen High School. He took the idea to Lucy Viglione and The Student Standard was born. I had the privilege of co-editing the paper with Sam Argetsinger (1952-2014) in 1969-1970, our senior year.

I first heard of Sam's passing on December 31st, the fifth anniversary of the death of my sister Betsy. Ironically enough, that morning I dreamed of letterpress halftone block cuts, which was what was used at the time to produce photos in The Student Standard.

Sam was the Wendell Berry of Schuyler County, philosopher, poet, essayist, farmer, and social activist. The following quote by Berry could have been written by Sam Argetsinger: "Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do."

"Blessed are they which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit , that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." (Revelation 14:13--KJV)

RIP, Sam.

Tim McKee

Conti is coaching basketball in NC

To the Editor on Jan. 3:

Shelly Conti was appointed head varsity coach of the Sanderson High School girls basketball team in Raleigh, NC. Sanderson plays in The Capitol 8 conference, which competes in class 4A.

Shelly is a 2000 graduate of Watkins Glen High School and a member of the WGHS Sports Hall of Fame. She played Division 1 basketball at Towson University in Maryland and at Lemoyne College in Syracuse.

Shelly is a special education teacher at Brassfield Elementary School in Raleigh. As of right now the team has a record of 5 wins and 8 losses. The team is very young with 2 seniors and 8 sophomores. One of her seniors has committed to play Division 1 at VCU University in Richmond, VA on a full-ride scholarship.

The team recently played in an 8-team Christmas Tournament in Raleigh and finished 4th. The tournament was won by St. Basil's Academy out of Philadelphia. We thought maybe Shelly’s ex-teammates and friends might like to know what she is up to. We have attached a picture of her coaching at last week's tournament.

Sally and Sante Conti
Shelly's parents

A firm believer in combining programs

To the Editor on Jan. 1:

As a student at Odessa-Montour and a proud athlete, I would like to add my opinion to the recent letters concerning the combining of Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour sports programs.

I was raised in Montour Falls and have grown up as an Odessa-Montour Indian and have participated in sports around the area for many years. This will be my 8th year swimming for Glen Gators swim club and my 2nd year swimming on a varsity level for Odessa-Montour. I have also played CVSA soccer when I was younger and will be playing varsity soccer in the coming year.

From my personal experience I have never had conflicts with any of the Watkins Glen athletes. I have been friends and teammates with Watkins Glen students since I have been small, and there has never been an issue over this “rivalry.”

I’m a firm believer in us combining sports programs. Odessa-Montour has always been a small school with a big spirit, but a big spirit doesn’t win you games, meets, matches etc. I competed in our first swim meet against Watkins Glen in December. The meet came down to the last race to make or break it, and we weren’t able to pull it off because we were exhausted after a full meet with only 11 swimmers compared to Watkins Glen’s 17 swimmers.

We give it everything -- we have at each meet -- but swimming is a sport that requires not only talent but also numbers. Odessa-Montour has struggled to have the number of players needed to be competitive or even compete at times. Swimming already competes with basketball in the winter, which has always been a popular choice for many athletes at Odessa-Montour, and this leaves us with a smaller selection of kids swimming. This happens with a lot of sports at Odessa-Montour; it isn’t just swimming, but also football, tennis, golf and wrestling.

I would like to agree with my friend Brandon Pike and say I would rather win with Watkins Glen than lose alone. I believe it's time for change, and Odessa-Montour needs to be willing to look into this at least and give it a chance. I am here representing the students at Odessa-Montour who want bigger opportunities, who crave championship titles, and I would join with Watkins Glen.

Alec Betts
Student Athlete of Odessa-Montour Class of 2018

Data analysis shows county culture clash

To the Editor on Dec. 31:

It is not marked on any map, but there is apparently a dividing line running up the middle of Seneca Lake. The real-life data-set provided to me by the group “We Are Seneca Lake” indicates this. This data-set is the "arrestees" (aka “Seneca Lake Defenders”) who have blocked the Crestwood Gates to supposedly stop an expansion of natural-gas storage capacity at the Seneca Gas Storage facility on the west shoulder of Seneca Lake.

See complete letter by clicking here.

David Crea, PE
Watkins Glen, NY

Watkins Glen students would rather
win with Odessa than lose alone ...

To the Editor on Dec. 28:

As a student of Watkins Glen, I would like to say that I take offense to the accusations that were brought up on this Forum page against Watkins Glen, its coaches, its faculty, and its students.

This opportunity that we have is a very positive one and could lead to opportunities for the teens of Watkins and Odessa to progress not only concerning athletics, but also socially. Our schools are a mere 6 miles apart yet many of the students at either school do not know many if any students from the other on a personal level. Yes, there may be conflict between the students, but there is conflict between students inside of each of our individual schools. The idea that we should halt this endeavor of creating more opportunities for our students due to the possibility of conflict is frankly preposterous.

From my personal experience I can say that I have never had a conflict with a student of Odessa-Montour that was based solely on the fact that we go to different school districts. I have swum with Odessa kids in Gators and I have played Small Fry with them. Through this mixing of students I have had the opportunity to forge friendships that far outlast the sports season.

As Coach DeBolt had previously said, the Watkins and Odessa swim teams shared a bus up to a swim meet and there was no animosity whatsoever between the kids. Heck, while at the meet the teams would cheer for one another. I am sure that the boys swim team from Odessa can vouch to the validity of that statement.

By looking at the forum and being a student at Watkins Glen I have come to the conclusion that the only people who have negative feelings towards this are a small percentage of the folks from Odessa, and none from Watkins Glen. I can confidently say that the students of Watkins would rather win with Odessa than lose alone.

I think we all need to just take a chill pill and cool off before tapping away at our keyboards producing only negative statements. As all kindergarten teachers say: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Happy Holidays, and Have a Prosperous New Year!

Brandon Pike
Student Athlete of Watkins Glen and Class of 2016

From left: Sadye Halpin (co-adviser), Olivia Scata, Angela Hess, Samantha House, Dana Roberts, Emelia Paulisczak, Méchel Wead, Paxtyn Brown, Logan Barrett, and Holly Campbell (co-adviser) with gingerbread houses. (Photo provided)

NHS holds a gingerbread competition

To the Editor on Dec. 20:

On Saturday, December 6th, the Odessa-Montour High School cafeteria was filled with a scent ubiquitous to the holidays -- the sweetness of gingerbread. The O-M chapter of National Honor Society hosted its first-ever gingerbread house competition. Over a dozen creations were on display in four different categories -- students in grades K-2, 3-6, and 7-12, and also a family/community category.

Those in attendance were encouraged to vote for their favorite entries by making monetary donations, and a gift card was awarded to the winner in each group. The winners included Brennan Mathews (grade 2), Abigail Gunning (grade 3), Paden Grover (grade 7), and the Harrington family (in the family/community category).

The organization also hosted a bake sale. Proceeds from the event will help the National Honor Society with future endeavors in the school and the community.

The organization wishes to thank the Odessa-Montour community for its support of this new venture. We were very pleased with the turnout, and hope to expand on the event next year.

Holly Campbell
National Honor Society Co-Advisor

A note of thanks

To the Editor on Dec. 20:

The family of Frances Bulkley wants to express their thanks to the dedicated staff of the Seneca View Nursing Facility (unit 2) for the loving, professional care that they provided for our mother, Frances Bulkley, who resided there until she passed away recently.

These wonderful people care for our elderly relatives day and night, every day of the year, regardless of the difficulties experienced due to the diminished abilities of the people they care for. They do it with kindness and compassion. And they do it with genuine heartfelt concern for the well-being and happiness of the people to whom they are assigned.

We have witnessed their actions during the countless hours that we have spent visiting our mother. We mourn the loss of our mother, but we will also miss our Seneca View “family” as well. Thanks again.

The Family of Frances Bulkley

Head Start is seeking alumni

To the Editor on Dec. 20:

Schuyler Head Start is looking for alumni (children or parents) to find out how Head Start may have impacted their lives as part of a 50-year anniversary celebration. Call to speak with Ruth Prince at 535-6814.

Kristine Morseman, Program Coordinator for Schuyler County
Literacy Volunteers of Chemung & Schuyler Counties

We should avoid negativity

To the Editor on Dec. 16:

In response to the letter from Christy Rumsey, I would like to state that I take offense to her assertion that if students from O-M were to join a WG sports program they would be treated unfairly or poorly by the coaches and staff here at Watkins Glen. She stated, “We will be treated by some as unwanted guests,” and “we will need unbiased representatives (from O-M) to speak for their children.”

She is speaking of future imagined mistreatment as fact. The coaches, teachers, and staff at WG are professional and would never treat a child in their care inappropriately no matter the child’s address. It is wrong to assert otherwise. The only serious problem I see is parents making accusations and extrapolating a negative meaning from everything, even as talks are in their infancy and nothing has been made public at this time. Facts are important.

Mr. Phillips stated that in the case of football we would be the “host” school. This terminology is correct as WG has an intact and successful program. What is at issue is allowing students from O-M to join this intact program if that sport was not available at their home school. That is not a merger. It would simply allow students from another district to participate here at WG. Mr. Phillips must think in terms of insurance, liability, the law, facilities, staffing, and what is in the best interest of our district and its students. In this case WG is the host school. If an agreement also allowed WG students to join a sport such as tennis at O-M that was not offered here, wouldn’t O-M be the host school in that case? These are just facts, and facts are important.

The students from WG and O-M play sports together until 7th grade. They play Small Fry football, Little League baseball, morning basketball, CVSA soccer, swim Glen Gators, and even cheerlead for football together. I have coached baseball and soccer in these countywide programs and the students get along just fine with each other and the coaches. As a varsity coach last year, my team shared a bus with the O-M team and by the end of the day the kids were intermixed in their seats and talking up a storm. Three of the O-M athletes played Little League baseball for me previously. It was a positive experience.

Nothing may come of these talks. It’s important to wait until the facts are presented and the resulting policy proposed. Voter input may be required depending on the proposition. In the interim I do think it’s important to avoid negativity and accusations.

Len DeBolt

Kids need people they know and trust

To the Editor on Dec. 16:

One last response. To me it is obvious that the person who responded is/was from Watkins, just saying. No one has said that there is a plot, or that I do not think coaches try to be fair, but years of experience have showed me that there is a natural lean toward students you already know versus the ones you do not. Many of us have sat back and watched as our kids were called many names, including some Watkins students' favorite name for our children, slowdessans. That is a fact. I am sure this happens on both sides, but I can only speak to what I have heard and what my children have told me. We have also watched as coaches have looked past this, calling it “just kids being kids.”

Well maybe it is, but it does not take away from the fact that this general behavior is what makes this process hard. Athletes on both sides are going to need help to acclimate and stop this behavior that has been allowed for too long. We will not be able to continue status quo. I have no doubt the administrators involved in this are well aware of that, but my point was that everyone needs to be more sensitive to issues that face this process. This will not be a seamless transition; there will be bumps. If it goes anything like the speakers from last spring said, most of the athletes will choose not to play as part of another team. Hopefully some will change their minds, but many will not. It may have been a little easier with new uniforms for all the athletes; that way they would all be even. It would be even easier if they had a coach they know there to make it more familiar, one encouraging them to take a chance.

To answer another thing, I am not from Odessa originally but moved here to get my children out of Ithaca. I do not have a rival mentality about Watkins. I only know what my children tell me, but I did listen carefully at last spring's meeting about this subject and heard numerous athletes talk about how they have been treated by other students and even adults, so I think it is naïve to say that it is a parent issue. Trust me, this is not my issue. I listen carefully to what my children have to say. I support them, and anyone who knows me or my children know they are some of the most responsible children out there.

There are real issues between some students and there needs to be representation on both sides until there is felt to no longer be a need. To say otherwise is just plain ridiculous. Our children need to know they have someone there for them until enough time goes by that they begin to build trust. This will not happen overnight, especially now that it is obvious we will not be getting new names and uniforms for at least a year. There is no reason that we should not be able to have a coach or assistant coach there, other than they want their own people, which I understand, but we want to protect our people too. It should involve some compromise, but we will see.

In closing, I want to make sure it is clear that I am not concerned about playing time. I am concerned about getting O-M students to believe and trust that they will be treated fairly, and the best way for that to happen is for them to have some people they know and trust in the equation.

Christy Rumsey

The kids will get a fair shake

To the Editor on Dec. 15:

I'm responding to the concerns of Christy Rumsey (and any parents who share her concerns) in regard to some of the statements made by Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips about merging the football programs of Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour.

I think too often we get caught up in the words people say while looking for something to get upset about. The bottom line is this: All of the kids will wear the same uniform. You won't be able to tell who is a Watkins kid and who is an Odessa kid when they take the field. Any coach at any school is going to put the eleven best players on the field to give his team the best chance of winning.

The idea that coaches sit home at night, plotting to bench certain players and start others based on where they are from or who their parents are is absurd. People have been concerned about it forever, and it makes no sense. The catalysts behind these concerns are almost always parents who don't think their kids are getting a fair shake. As someone who has coached at the youth and high school level, I can honestly say the toughest part of the job is keeping parents happy.

The best thing any parent can do for their student athlete is to make sure they are at every practice on time. That's the key. Once that happens, everything else falls into place. If your child isn't starting or getting what you feel is adequate playing time, the problem is not the coach, I promise you. It's the effort of the student athlete both in practice and in games.

Ask any coach in any sport and they'll all tell you the same. I'd rather bench my friends' kids and win than bench the best players and hardest workers and lose. If your kids show up on time and work hard in practice, they'll get a fair shake.

Jesse Scott
WGHS Class of 1997

Disaster Preparedness Course offered

To the Editor on Dec. 12:

The Watkins Glen Fire Department in conjunction with the American Red Cross will be hosting a Disaster Preparedness Class for the public. The class is free and will be held at the fire station on January 15th at 6:30 p.m. The class should last around an hour and a half. The class is good for all ages.

This class is designed to help prepare the general public for a disaster. It will provide citizens with the right tools to make the right decisions when a disaster happens. It will also arm citizens with the very basic tools to help their local emergency service in the event of a disaster. This class is very important and I hope that the citizens of Watkins Glen and Schuyler County take this opportunity to come and learn. To sign up for the class please email me or call.

Judson Smith
Watkins Glen Fire Chief

It won't work if O-M athletes are 'guests'

To the Editor on Dec. 12:

Once again I feel the need to inform the public about the happenings at O-M. At last night's School Board meeting the motion to authorize the superintendent to pursue opportunities for football with Watkins was approved. This is a motion that most of us who follow sports issues closely were prepared for. As I stated recently on this forum, it was a move that appeared inevitable.

However, recent comments made by Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips have made it harder to believe that O-M and WG can come together and work out a viable solution. Mr. Phillips was recently quoted in the Review as saying: “The coaching issue is personnel, so that would be driven by the host school employment contract."

I find this statement to be almost offensive. First of all, the statement uses the term “host school.” I thought this merger would be equal, in which case there would be no host; it would be a collaboration, an equal partnership. It is disturbing to me to see such an unfortunate term used so early in the process. So if we are not the “host” school, then are we the guest? This immediately puts our students at a disadvantage. If we will be guest, than we will be treated by some as unwanted guests -- not appealing, if you ask me.

As for the coaching issue, please clarify to me why each school cannot provide a football coach to represent the interest of each school, especially in the beginning when it will be difficult to meld together two recently rivaled student populations. I would think a coach from each school, paid for by their respective schools, could work together to build the program until all parties feel there is no longer a need. It would be the only way parents would feel their children had an unbiased representative to speak for them in a new and unknown system. To say even before meetings and negotiations that it is a non-negotiable point is making it clear who will call the shots. This to me is not a “willingness” to share services.

Originally, this was an issue I felt would never work. But with the troubles that O-M has had fielding a large enough team, it became apparent that football was not going to happen. At that point I felt it was in the best interest to pursue opportunities for our children to play football somewhere, even if that is not really the optimal situation.

Now I am once again uncertain if a merger is really possible without our children getting the short end of the stick. When Watkins is willing to split it down the middle and have a partnership maybe, but not as long as we will always be the guest that they are “hosting.”

Christy Rumsey

There are 29 gas and LPG facilities in NY

To the Editor on Dec. 6:

From all the hullabaloo about the Crestwood projects, you’d think this was the first time ever that gas or LPG had been stored in the ground, one way or another.

What probably only a relatively few people know is that there are 29 -- yes, 29! -- operating gas and LPG storage facilities in upstate New York, split as 26 Natural Gas, and 3 LPG storage.

This nicely-done map from NYS DEC shows where they are located:

This, and a descriptive, factual overview of this industry, can be found on the web at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/35817.html .

What, you say you had no idea there were 29? Where is all the news about fires, explosions, leaks and injuries that are reputedly connected with these places?

Well, it is not surprising that people don’t know there are 29 energy-storage facilities because…..you just DON’T hear anything at all about them in the news, unless they have perhaps donated to some local Scout group or the like! Yes, these facilities sit there, unobtrusive and unnoticed, and just do the job that society has the need for, while employing people, paying the taxes and bills, and distributing what is left to shareholders/owners.

Their employees are well-trained, just like you’d expect an intelligent facility operator to be for a high-tech, high-value plant, handling high-value flammable materials.

And those same people, if need be, can be trained emergency responders as well, and naturally fit in to buttress the local volunteer fire departments. But mostly, they just live, perform their jobs, hunt and fish, raise families, pay the mortgage and tax bills, and get up and do it again the next day. Just like responsible citizens are expected to.

So the next time an anti-carbon-energy sympathizer tries to make you think the Crestwood facility is a terrible idea, unsafe, unneeded, a blight on the land, will scare away the tourists, and will blow the village away, etc., just ask them: “Why then, have these 29 facilities not done that already, if they are so terrible? Are you stretching the truth into a lie……to delude me? Shame on you! And by-the-way, you DID drive here and use gasoline, didn’t you? And by-the-way, just how do you stay warm in the winter, and obtain your food, supplies and mail? Where is your horse?”

Hypocrisy, when exposed to reality, can melt like the Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the North.

David A. Crea, PE (Chemical)
Watkins Glen

Note: Mr. Crea is a US Salt technical professional employee who is involved with their brinefield and wells management, but who says he wrote this as an interested citizen-observer, not as a spokesman for Crestwood or US Salt.

I won't stand on the side of fanaticism

To the Editor on Dec. 4:

I have sat back and watched this whole thing unfolding over the last months and beyond, unsure of how to approach it or think about it. I have done some research and can find information that supports both sides of the overall argument, as well as information like in the letter here in the forum that makes it clear that there are just as many other dangers to the lake from other business ventures. To argue that point though is futile, as both sides feel strongly about what they believe and I applaud them for their persistence to stand behind what they believe.

What I really want to address is the protest itself. I have never been one to shy away from a debate over something I feel strongly about, I have done so several times right here on this very website, but what I do not really understand is this constant disrespect for the town and the law. I understand civil disobedience and the need for it when human rights are being violated or unjustly withheld, but at this point I believe the protesters are working against themselves.

See complete letter by clicking here.

Christy Rumsey, RN, MSN-Education

Groups do not represent everyone

To the Editor on Dec. 2:

I have been following the ongoing protest stories. I read them and have my own opinions about them. One thing stands out for me, though. Each group, whether they be protesters, non-protesters, residents or non-residents, whether they agree or disagree, consistently like to say they are speaking for everyone. That is the part of this whole issue I find most frustrating.

No one knows what I am thinking, and I have the ability to speak if I choose. None of the groups can possibly be speaking for everyone, yet that is what they each claim to do. It's a little like the Holiday season. I celebrate Christmas, but I don't tell everyone to have a Merry Christmas. Why? Because I know that not everyone around me celebrates Christmas, nor do I expect them to just because I do.

The various groups, whatever they think, are wanting everyone to think like they do, so claim that they represent everyone. Well, simply put, I'm not everyone and no matter your opinion, stop saying everyone is included. Speak only for yourself or for the group you represent.

Marlana Beardsley

We have an imperative to take a stand

To the Editor on Dec. 2:

I was arrested yesterday for trespassing outside the gates of Crestwood, the Texas-based company attempting to turn Seneca Lake into the “gas storage hub of the Northeast” by storing LPG in the salt caverns on Seneca Lake. I feel passionately about my patients and Seneca Lake, and the preponderance of evidence is that the Crestwood project is a public health risk of an unacceptable magnitude. I am not willing to stand by any longer while the air quality deteriorates and the watershed is threatened.

As a Physician Assistant, I provide medical care for all kinds of folks with all kinds of ills. From simple problems to complicated, from troublesome to devastating. In the past few years it has become clear that the threat to the air and water by industrialization of this area may cause an explosion in the severity and frequency of certain health issues. Around New York State, many medical societies and medical institutions have publicly declared their position against fracking in this state based on health risks. We, as a medical community, have an imperative as gatekeepers and protectors of health to publicly take a stand against the LPG project, which carries similar and unique risks.

See complete letter by clicking here.

Paula Fitzsimmons, P.A.
Hector, Schuyler County

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
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
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

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
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.


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

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
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

Survey link

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

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
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
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



The Pulse of the Neighbors

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Charles Haeffner
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