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County unveils settlement with Inergy
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, May 10 -- Schuyler County officials have reached an agreement with Inergy Midstream that resolves a property tax appeal and "provides financial certainty for Schuyler County and its residents," says a press release from county officials..
Inergy had protested the assessed value of its Seneca Lake natural gas storage facility located in Watkins Glen, seeking a reduction to $15 million from $29 million.
According to the release, "The taxing jurisdictions have agreed to an incremental reduction over a three-year period that will result in local property tax payments in excess of $1.7 million per year by Inergy Midstream, money that will support critical government services and strengthen our local schools."
It quoted Legislative Chair Dennis Fagan (pictured at right) as "explaining the rationale for the settlement " this way: “The Real Property Tax system is predicated upon parity among all taxpayers. Our position from the onset was that we would vigorously defend any action that sought to unfairly shift the property tax burden. Through the course of our review of data associated with this action, we are in agreement that a reduction is in order to maintain equity in assessments.”
The local taxing authorities, the release said, "have agreed to an incremental reduction over a three-year period to a final assessment of $22 million. Inergy had originally sought a reduction from the current assessed value of $29 million to $15 million. The agreement stipulates no refund of prior payments and will result in a $3 million reduction in 2013 followed by subsequent reductions of $2 million over each of the next two years."
Said Town of Reading Supervisor Marvin Switzer: “We are appreciative
of Inergy’s recognition of the fiscal duress facing our local governments
and their sensitivity to the adverse impact a significant
Added the Legislature's Fagan: “This action helps to ensure the
retention of our local workforce and
“The revenue certainty from this settlement," said Fagan, "and the potential future tax revenue expected from Inergy’s Finger Lakes LPG storage project, is invaluable at a time when our budgets are stretched.”
Inergy Midstream weighed in, too, with Ron Happach, Senior Vice President, saying the company “strives to be a responsible business owner in the communities in which our employees live and we operate. We share the same vision for Schuyler County as our communities and neighbors – quality schools, a strong economy and a pristine environment.”
Photo in text: Legislature Chair Dennis Fagan (File photo)
Beverly Stamp: 'Woman of Distinction'
Longtime ambassador of NY grape and wine industry honored in Albany
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, May 5 -- Beverly “Bev” Stamp, co-owner and operator, with her late husband LaMont “Monty” Stamp, of Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, was honored by State Senator Tom O'Mara in Albany Tuesday as a New York State Senate “Woman of Distinction.”
Stamp, a longtime ambassador of New York State’s nationally and internationally renowned wine and grape industry, represented O’Mara’s 58th Senate District at a statewide awards ceremony in the Legislative Office Building in Albany.
"Over the course of the past three decades, no one has done more
than Bev Stamp to promote the excellence and quality of New York State’s
wine and grape industry," said O'Mara in a press release beforehand.
"She’s a beloved ambassador for New York State wines. She’s
given the industry her heart and soul, every step of the way, as the industry’s
growth has unfolded as one of New York’s great success stories.
Bev is one of the Finger Lakes region’s true treasures. I’m
extremely grateful for this opportunity to recognize her contributions,
honor her commitment and pay tribute to her community service as a ‘Woman
The Senate's annual "Women of Distinction" program allows senators statewide to select one honoree from their respective legislative districts for this distinguished, statewide tribute.
Donna Gridley, President of Women for New York State Wines and co-owner, with her husband Louis, of Gridley Vineyards on Bluff Point (Yates County), nominated Stamp for this year’s “Woman of Distinction” award.
Gridley noted that Stamp is one of the founding -- and still active
-- members of Women for New York State Wines. Founded in 1981 as the promotional
arm of the New York State Wine Grape Growers, the group’s original
members were the wives of vineyardists whose goal was to increase
Gridley said, “"Bev is truly deserving of this honor. We are all blessed to know her and her compassion for the industry. She’s our ‘energizer bunny’ with her boundless energy and ideals for the New York wine and grape industry."
In 1988 the Stamp family established Lakewood Vineyards Winery. The award-winning farm and winery have been widely recognized by numerous industry organizations and community associations for quality and excellence – including the 2011 “Conservation Farmer of the Year Award” from the Schuyler County Soil & Water Conservation District.
Stamp has been active in numerous local projects and associations, including the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and the Watkins Glen-Montour Falls Zonta Club. Zonta International is a worldwide service organization of business and professional executives working to improve the status of women. She lso currently serves on the Reading Town Board.
Photo in text: Beverly Stamp (Photo provided)
Legislators' group offers scholarships
Special to The Odessa File
Planning Board OKs restaurant, Food Locker plan, delays action on apartments
WATKINS GLEN, April 18 -- The Watkins Glen Planning Board Wednesday night gave final approval to a restaurant at the Frog Hollow Marina and to short-term rental units in the old Seneca Frosted Food Locker building, but took no action on a proposed apartment complex on property behind the Elks Lodge along Rt. 14 on the north end of the village.
The Frog Hollow restaurant, called the Oar House, will be a Tiki Bar-styled building with a full bar. It will have two permanent walls, and two removable ones, will seat 65-75 people, and will be open to the public.
The Frosted Food Locker plant (pictured at right), owned by a group of men including project manager Dan Bower, will have seven townhouse units available for short-term rental by individuals and families. The structure will have five garages. Two parking spaces will be available for each unit. Work on the building involves removal of the floors and roof and demolition of part of the walls, where renovation is deemed impossible.
The proposed Seneca Terrace Apartments near the Elks Lodge -- a plan first brought to the board in conceptual fashion in January -- attracted a turnout Wednesday that brought the meeting room in the Municipal Building to capacity. Most were concerned with traffic that the complex will generate on Partition Drive and along Monroe and Jackson Streets. Those are access points in the absence of access directly from Rt. 14.
One resident asked the developer or a representative, along with board members, to meet on the site in the near future to walk through the property and explain the project further. It was anticipated that such a tour might occur before the next Planning Board meeting, set for May 15. The board has 60 days in which to take action on the apartment plan.
O'Mara seeks increase in methamphetamine penalties
Bill targets manufacturing, possession and sale of drug
Special to The Odessa File
ELMIRA, April 10 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) -- pointing to the increasing frequency of methamphetamine-related arrests across the region -- has introduced legislation in the Senate to significantly increase the criminal penalties for possessing, selling or manufacturing the dangerous and highly addictive drug.
“We need to ensure that our laws are keeping pace with the goal of putting meth manufacturers and sellers out of business in New York State,” said O’Mara (pictured at right). “The addiction, violence and tragedy that are the byproducts of the rampant production and use of methamphetamine pose unacceptable risks to our neighborhoods, threaten the safety of police officers and first responders, and burden local systems of health care, criminal justice and social services.
“Regional law enforcement officers continue to do outstanding work to protect our communities. I’m hopeful that these tougher new laws will help in the prosecution and punishment of meth crimes, and as a deterrent. We can’t allow our region or anywhere else in New York State to serve as a safe harbor for meth labs, meth addicts or meth pushers.”
According to a 2009 report from the Rand Corporation, the economic cost of meth use in the United States reached nearly $24 billion in 2005 and could go as high as $48 billion.
Legislation introduced in the Senate by O’Mara would:
-- further outlaw the operation of meth labs (S.3639) by increasing the criminal penalties for the possession of methamphetamine manufacturing material and the unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine, implementing a series of increasingly severe felony offenses.
O’Mara stressed that meth manufacturing involves the use of highly explosive, flammable and toxic chemicals, and that meth labs pose a significant public health and safety threat, especially if they’re located in residential neighborhoods; and
-- in a similar fashion, increase the criminal penalties for the possession and/or sale of methamphetamine to bring the penalties more in line with the penalties for possessing and/or selling cocaine and heroin (S.3289/A.3528).
The legislation has been introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Erie County) and is co-sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R-C, Corning).
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Supporters of the protesters gather outside the Reading Town Hall after the court session.
2 protesters plead to trespass, pay fines
READING CENTER, April 4 -- Two of the 12 people arrested on March 18 and charged with trespass for blocking a gate at an Inergy facility along Route 14 north of Watkins Glen pleaded guilty Wednesday night in Town of Reading Court. Each was fined $250 plus a $125 state-mandated surcharge.
Katarina Andersson, 22, a voice student at Ithaca College’s Conservatory of Music, and Darmaye “Crow” Marley, 53, of Hector, pleaded guilty before Town Justice Raymond H. Berry and paid the fines with money provided by what Andersson described as a "community" of citizens concerned with Inergy's proposed storage of liquefied petroleum gas in old salt caverns far below the surface of land on the western side of Seneca Lake ... and by extension with the drilling technique known as hydrofracturing, or fracking
A third person charged with trespass, Nathanael Miller, 26, of Ithaca, has secured an attorney, Lance Salisbury of Ithaca. His case was adjourned until May 1 to give the court time to submit paperwork to the attorney.
The court session followed by two weeks another one in which three other protesters appeared before Berry: Dennis Fox, 20, of Middle Island; Kathleeen C. Alvey, 22, of Ithaca; and Jack Ossont, 69, of Himrod. All three pleaded guilty to trespass and were fined. Ossont paid with a credit card, while the other two asked for additional time to raise funds.
Other sessions are expected to follow in the coming weeks. Melissa Chipman of Hector, Michael Dineen of Ovid and Sandra Steingraber of Ithaca are scheduled to appear before Berry on April 17, and James Borra of Hector, Marjorie Rodgers of Elmira and Richard Jones of Belfast on May 1st.
Among those present Wednesday to show support were Joseph Campbell of the Gas Free Seneca Group, and two of the "Seneca 3" arrested last September in another protest: Jeremy Alderson and Susan Walker. Alderson's case is still pending, while Walker served a 15-day sentence for refusing to pay a fine.
Campbell, noting that neither the September protest nor the latest one had anything to do with Gas Free Seneca's efforts -- “we’re about public education” -- said his group is nonetheless "sympathetic" to the efforts of those charged in both protests.
Alderson, just before Wednesday’s hearing began, asked the only member of the media present where all the other media were. “People are getting arrested,” he said. “What does it take to get coverage?”
After the session, the evening’s defendants and more than two dozen supporters gathered outside the town hall to discuss the proceedings. Among them was Andersson, who had been given an opportunity to make a statement in court -- but had not done so, whereas Marley had (saying she had protested out of an “urgent concern for all forms of life that co-exist on Seneca Lake”).
“I wasn’t prepared to be asked,” said Andersson. “I
was told he (the judge) had shut down any statements before. “
She said she wants to complete her studies and secure a job, but added: “I’m from Ithaca, so fracking (she has said she sees salt-cavern development leading to fracked-gas storage) is very important to me. I want to stand on the front lines in solidarity.”
Photos in text:
From top: Defendants Katarina Andersson, Crow Marley and Nathanael Miller after Wednesday evening's court session.
Palmesano: Budget 'missed opportunities'
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, March 29 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) says the new state budget -- while possessing positives -- "represents some missed opportunities to provide a better business climate" and delivers "a devastating and unacceptable cut to our state’s most vulnerable New Yorkers – the developmentally disabled." .
Palmesano said he applauds “the long overdue increase in funding to improve our local roads and bridges through the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), the increase in funding for our schools and libraries, and a tax cut for our state’s manufacturers.
“The additional $75 million for CHIPS for our local roads and bridges represents a 20 percent increase above last year and will provide a much needed boost to our local communities to help them maintain and improve their local infrastructure.”
However, he added, “a number of policies in this budget do not represent being ‘Open for Business’ in New York. The business community and job creators are not looking at our slogans, they are looking at our actions.”
Of even greater concern, he said, "is the immense damage this budget will have on our state’s most frail and vulnerable New Yorkers – the developmentally disabled."
The governor’s executive budget proposed $120 million in cuts, or 6 percent, to not-for-profit agencies that provide services to the developmentally disabled. The adopted state budget provided only a $30 million restoration. Palmesano said he and his colleagues in the Assembly minority called for a complete restoration of funding, but that an amendment along those lines was struck down on the Assembly floor.
“We have a responsibility to set priorities when developing a budget," Palmesano said. "Caring for our state’s developmentally disabled New Yorkers is a commitment we should honor. Unfortunately, these cuts will be devastating to the services and quality of life for our state’s most vulnerable New Yorkers. It is absolutely unconscionable how we can adopt a budget that provides a $420 million tax credit for ‘Hollywood’ film production in New York, yet provides an unacceptable cut to those we have an obligation to protect.”
Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photo)
O'Mara rips Cuomo
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, March 27 -- Governor Andrew Cuomo came under fire Wednesday from State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) for failing to more fully roll back his cut to the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) in the final 2013-14 state budget.
(pictured at right) said that both the Senate and Assembly had
called for rejecting and fully restoring the governor’s proposed
$120 million, or six-percent, across-the-board reduction to OPWDD –
the lead state agency overseeing state assistance to programs and services
for people with
Among organizations affected will be The Arc of Schuyler, headquartered in Watkins Glen.
The governor would only agree to a $30-million restoration, or just one-quarter of his original cut. Cuomo administration officials have continued to argue that the reduced funding will only impact administrative costs at OPWDD.
“It’s one of the major disappointments of this year’s budget," said O'Mara. "The final restoration is not enough and it jeopardizes care for one of our most vulnerable populations. I will keep working with many of my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to do anything and everything we possibly can to offset the impact of Governor Cuomo’s unreasonable cut.
"I share the concerns of local service providers across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions that this cut goes beyond addressing administrative waste and inefficiencies. It’s a direct threat to the programs and services that are the lifelines for people with disabilities and their families, and that’s not right.”
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara.
Counties to see hike in CHIPS funds
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, March 26 -- Area counties will see significant increases in state support for local roads and bridges under the 2013-14 New York State budget being enacted this week, according to State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R-C, Corning).
A breakdown of county figures as a result of this year’s state-level increase of $75 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) was released by Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders Monday at the Capitol.
“After five years when state support for local roads and bridges
remained stagnant, this year’s recognition of CHIPS funding will
make a significant difference for localities, local economies and motorist
safety statewide,” O’Mara and Palmesano said in a joint statement.
“The improvement and
O’Mara and Palmesano said that area counties will receive the following increases in CHIPS funding under this year’s transportation budget, which was approved by the Senate and is scheduled to receive final Assembly approval on Thursday:
-- Chemung County: CHIPS funding will increase from $3,327,649 last year to $4,087,491 in 2013-14, an increase of 22.83% or $759,841;
-- Schuyler County: funding will increase from $1,728,590 to $2,139,391, an increase of 23.77% or $410,800;
-- Steuben County: funding will increase from $8,193,287 to $10,151,319, an increase of 23.90% or $1,958,032;
-- Tompkins County: funding will increase from $3,460,858 to $4,271,054, an increase of 23.41% or $810,196; and
-- Yates County: funding will increase from $1,994,253 to $2,477,899, an increase of 24.25% or $483,646.
Palmesano, who also represents part of Seneca County, said that Seneca County’s funding will increase from $1,780,302 to $2,205,941, an increase of 23.91% or $425,639.
In early March, O’Mara, Palmesano and a bipartisan group of legislative colleagues joined county and town highway superintendents and other local leaders from throughout the state to call for increased support for local roads and bridges. They noted that local roads and bridges account for 87% of the roads, 52% of the bridges, and 48% of the vehicle mileage logged in New York State. A recent report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, "Cracks in the Foundation,” called 32% of New York’s local bridges deficient and 40% of local roads fair or poor, and getting worse.
CHIPS provides the bulk of state aid to counties and towns for the maintenance and improvement of local roads and bridges.
Site of the planned 7-unit townhouse building offering short-term rentals.
Watkins Glen Planning Board sets hearings on 3 projects
WATKINS GLEN, March 21 -- The Watkins Glen Planning Board gave preliminary site-plan approval to three projects -- one conditionally -- Wednesday night and set public hearings for each one. Those will be held at the board's next regular session on April 17.
The projects are the planned Seneca Terrace Apartments above the Elks Lodge off Route 14 on the north end of the village; the Watkins Glen Holding LLC's planned demolition/renovation of the old Seneca Frosted Food Locker building next to Captain Bill's, with an eye toward establishing seven short-term-rental townhouse units there; and a restaurant on the Frog Hollow Marina property off Fairgrounds Lane on the south end of the village.
Before addressing those three matters, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the proposed Black Berry Inn Bed and Breakfast at 209 Sixth Street. Nobody spoke at the hearing, and it was given final approval, with clearance to move forward with an opening. The facility will rent out three bedrooms, with a maximum of two occupants per room.
The Frosted Food Locker plant, owned by a group of men including project manager Dan Bower, anticipates removal of the building's floors and roof and demoliton of parts of its walls where renovation is deemed impossible. Bower told the board he has been in consultation with neighboring business owner Mark Simiele (Captain Bill's and the Seneca Harbor Station Restaurant) regarding parking, access to the lake side of the Food Locker building, and use of Simiele's land to access water and sewer lines.
The project envisions seven townhouse units available for short-term rental by individuals and families. The building will have a total of five garages, and will provide two parking spaces for each unit.
The board gave preliminary approval and set a public hearing for its next session, which starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17.
The Seneca Terrace Apartments plan -- first brought to the board in conceptual form in January -- attracted a number of neighborhood residents concerned about the traffic it will generate on Partition Drive and along Monroe and Jackson Streets. Those are access points in the absence of access from Route 14. The board had some concerns of its own, and asked for revisions while giving conditional preliminary site-plan approval. A public hearing will be held at the April 17 session.
The restaurant, called the Oar House, will be a Tiki Bar-styled building with a full bar, and will be built on the Frog Hollow property. It will have two permanent walls, and two removable ones, will seat 65-75 people, and will be open to the public. It too gained preliminary site-plan approval leading to an April 17 public hearing.
Wright Report: Code Enforcement Officer Gordon Wright said progress is being made on a number of other projects in the village, including: four apartments above Jerlando's; two loft-styled apartments being constructed by David Lisk in a building on the east side of Franklin Street near the north end; an extension at the Cargill plant to house its new boiler; apartments being constructed on the second and third floors of the House of Hong building; a new sun room planned on the side of the Colonial Inn; and the four apartments and 12 townhouses (under the name Water Works) being built at the village's former Water & Electric Department facility on Salt Point Road.
Photos in text:
Top: Plans for the Seneca Terrace Apartments were presented to the Planning Board. The plans were upgraded from initial conceptual drawings shown the board in January.
Bottom: Dan Bower addresses the board. He is project manager of the planned townhouse project in the old Frosted Food Locker building
Arc of Schuyler represented in Albany
Special to the Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, March 15 -- This week family members, staff, and self-advocates from The Arc of Schuyler traveled to Albany to thank State Senator Thomas O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano for opposing the 6% Medicaid budget cut proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
This $120 million cut for non-profit service providers of supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities would have an extensive impact. Agencies throughout the state may face potential layoffs that will create critical staff shortages and fewer services – or no services – for persons with disabilities.
The Senate and Assembly recently passed resolutions approving their own house bills. Both include provisions which -- if agreed to by the Senate, Assembly, and Governor and enacted as a final bill --would restore $120 million to the budget.
Service-coordinator and family member of a person with a developmental disability, Jill Drehmer, was one representative of The Arc who thanked Assemblyman Palmesano in person.
“It means a lot that Assemblyman Palmesano and other legislators are supportive and have taken action to stop these cuts,” Drehmer said. “I’m in the process of trying to adopt a child with a developmental disability and I want to make sure that he or she has the same opportunities as everyone else.”
Drehmer was joined by self-advocate Jamie Asbury and Jamie’s sister-in-law, Dorothy Asbury, as well as Arc board member Larry Tanner.
“The Governor wants people to work,” Tanner expressed to both Assemblyman Palmesano and a representative of Senator O’Mara’s office. “But these cuts could take jobs away from me and other people with developmental disabilities who depend on agencies like The Arc to provide work and training."
The Arc of Schuyler is a non-profit organization that provides hundreds of people in Schuyler County with a lifetime of supports. NYSARC, Inc. and its chapters have been dedicated and committed partners of New York State for 60 years, providing a range of services including residential, employment, service coordination, and programs for children to seniors.
Photo in text: From left: Dorothy Asbury, Jamie Asbury, Jill Drehmer and Larry Tanner at the State Capitol to thank Assembly Palmesano and Senator O'Mara for opposing the 6% budget cut. (Photo provided)
Schuyler, Yates counties seek study funds, eye shared services or maybe even merger
WATKINS GLEN, March 12 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night did what the Yates County Legislature had done earlier in the day -- unanimously approved a resolution seeking a $100,000 grant from New York State to finance a study that might determine the feasibility of the two counties sharing services, consolidating some operations or even merging.
The resolution, offered by Chairman Dennis Fagan, said "potential remedies to reduce the costs of Yates and Schuyler County government" -- plagued by tax-levy increases under the yoke of state mandates -- "may lie in cooperation to deliver services, consolidation of departments, or any other measures that achieve efficiencies through collaboration."
Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn and his counterpart in Yates County -- Sarah Purdy, who was present at Monday night's Schuyler meeting along with Yates Legislator Bill Holgate (pictured below right) -- were even more to the point afterward, when they said even a merger of the two counties is among the possibilities to be considered.
That would be unprecedented in New York State, both administrators conceded, and is "a long way off" in a process that will move slowly. Even if the grant -- 10 percent of which would be locally funded, split 50-50 by the two counties -- is approved, a study wouldn't be completed until the autumn of 2014, Purdy said.
"Where that would take us," she said, "we don't really know. There's no reason that a consolidation of some services isn't possible. We'll go wherever the study takes us. If it takes us far enough to consolidate a lot of services, we will consider if it makes sense to merge."
But, she added, "We need to take this in phases. We're not jumping right to merger."
There is no provision in New York State for a merger of counties, both O'Hearn and Purdy said. But O'Hearn said the similar size of the two counties and similar demographics make the two compatible for an efficiency effort. "We'll look at every option," he said. "Until proven otherwise, nothing is off the table."
Yates County has a population of 25,000, and an annual budget of $40 million. Schuyler County has a population of 18,300, and an annual budget of $43 million.
"There are a lot of logistics, even to consolidate" operations between counties, Purdy said, although such consolidation is not unprecedented. As Legislator Glenn Larison pointed out at Monday's meeting, Schuyler and Chemung counties share a Sealer of Weights and Measures.
The two administrators said they have been discussing applying for a study for several months. "We don't really know what's totally possible," Purdy said. "But we're willing to take a look, leave no stone unturned. We might turn those stones right back over, but we'll take a look."
The two counties have previously shared -- but no longer do -- a Veterans Services Director. "And if we did before, people will ask why not now," Purdy added.
And if the grant request -- which must be filed by Wednesday -- does not yield the study money, will the two counties give up?
"Even if there's no grant," said Purdy, "we've started discussions. There's no reason not to continue them."
Added Legislator Holgate: "There's willingness on both sides."
The Legislature also:
-- Unanimously adopted a Local Law that calls for changing the elective County Treasurer's position to an appointive Director of Finance. Several people -- citing constitutional issues -- opposed the move, which will be put to a vote of Schuyler County residents through a Proposition placed on the November ballot.
-- Unanimously approved a resolution opposing the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013 that was hurriedly adopted by the State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo. A number of resolution supporters were on hand at Monday's session.
-- Approved a resolution to hire the accounting firm of Bonadio & Co. for one year at $10,000 to audit Occupany Operators -- motels, B&Bs and the like -- in "the belief that such reviews will find current operators not complying with the Room Tax Local Law." Former Legislator Paul Marcellus (pictured at right), who owns and operates the Colonial Inn on North Franklin Street, told Legislature Chair Dennis Fagan that "you are possibly dragging a wide net for little return" and that the move "could possibly have a bad effect," generating "ill will" among the many honest operators in the area.
Marcellus illustrated with a story about a coffee stand run by a married couple at The Windmill. They employed their two college-age sons, and after expenses, their season-long profit was $4,000. But with two weeks left in the season, along came a state representative who asked if they carried Worker's Compensation to cover their two employees -- the two sons. The mother said she and her husband, as parents, looked after the safety of their boys, but that didn't matter to the state rep, who made the couple pay $900. "I would be thrilled to see a resolution relating to the folly of that," said Marcellus, "right up the chain."
The Bonadio resolution, he suggested, is another instance of excessive government. "It strikes me as not wise to do. You say it's not punitive, but boy, I don't know...
-- Accepted a low bid of $735,249 from Silverline Construction, Inc. for replacement of the Mill Street Bridge in Odessa. There were five bids, in all, said Adminstrator O'Hearn, with two of them in excess of $1 million each. The Legislature also approved a resolution authorizing "the issuance of up to $1,690,000 (in) bonds ... to pay costs of various capital items" -- including the Mill Street Bridge and five miles of repairs on County Rte. 16 in the Town of Orange.
-- Authorized advertising for bids for the sale of the Dog Pound on VanZandt Hollow Road in anticipation of the relocation of its services to the new Schuyler County Humane Society facility on Marina Drive in Montour Falls.
Photos in text: Legislature Chair Dennis Fagan and Legislator Doris Karius; Yates County Legislator Bill Holgate; and former legislator Paul Marcellus at Monday's meeting.
Calling for increased road aid
State Senator Tom O'Mara, front center, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (to the right of him) and legislative colleagues were joined on the staircase in The Well of the Legislative Office Building in Albany Wednesday morning by orange-clad county and town highway superintendents from throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide. As final state budget negotiations kick into high gear, the group called for greater state support for local roads and bridges. At a press conference, the legislators noted that Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding has remained stagnant since 2008. They want an increase of $100 million, from a proposed $363.1 million to $463.1 million.
NYSARC: This budget cut can't stand
DELMAR, NY, March 5 -- NYSARC, Inc., the nation's largest nonprofit agency serving people with developmental disabilities, is urging the Legislature and the Governor to approve a final budget deal restoring $120 million in State funding to programs and services for people with developmental disabilities.
The reduction is a result of a 6% across-the-board cut which was contained in the Governor's budget. When federal funds are included, the cut is $240 million.
"These cuts are catastrophic," said NYSARC's executive director, Marc Brandt. "They are in addition to the nearly $350 million in cuts developmental disabilities services have sustained over the past three years."
Agencies throughout New York State -- including The Arc of Schuyler -- care for 126,000 individuals with developmental disabilities. It is the largest system of its kind in the nation.
Brandt said that "We expect that many agencies will sharply curtail service and some may face closure" as they are unable to meet payroll and pay for goods and services.
"Many of these agencies serve vulnerable people, some of whom are medically frail, many of whom require 24-hour care. We don't know what will happen with them. Many, particularly adults, have no families to step in should an agency fail. This is a recipe for disaster for this population."
Furthermore, Brandt added, "the staff that provides hands-on care are already stretched to the breaking point from prior year cuts and a staggering onslaught of regulations."
"Seventy percent of all agency funding goes to pay these individuals. Simple math will force these employees to absorb layoffs, shortened hours, and increased medical costs.
"Now, these cuts will push many of these staff beyond the breaking point. Many of people they care for will find their quality of care eroded and be exposed to far greater health and safety risks.
"The Governor's Justice Center was aimed at enhancing the health and safety of the people we serve. We strongly support the Justice Center. However, we can't help but note that these cuts will undermine the primary aim of the Justice Center -- to safeguard the people we serve.
"When New York State elected to build a large system of community-based care for people with developmental disabilities, it accepted a moral responsibility for decent care. Some argue that a system this large should never have been built. But over decades, New York State built it. That reality won't go away. The State must continue to own up to its clear moral obligation to provide decent care to tens of thousands of people with developmental disabilities and their families. The State must eliminate this cut."
The Arc of Schuyler: Contact your representatives. Forum.
County Atty. opinion: Gifford can run
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 26 -- County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi says that in his opinion, there is no prohibition against incumbent Schuyler County Legislator Thomas Gifford (R-Montour Falls) running for one seat on the Legislature while holding another seat that doesn't expire for another year.
And Rossi said he "doesn't anticipate that the State Board of Elections would contradict" that opinion should Gifford's candidacy be challenged. But nobody appears to be doing that.
County Election Commissioner John Vona, a Democrat, says "as far as I know" Gifford's run "is legal," and there is no plan to contest it. "Even if we did, the State Board would hand it back to us and we would have to research it," said Vona. "But we can't find anything" that would preclude it.
Gifford announced last week that he is seeking the seat from District 4 in the redistricted Schuyler County election landscape. Redistricting is being phased in over three years, creating a situation where Gifford is holding a seat through 2014 in the old District 2 while a resident of the new District 4 -- where Jim Howell has also announced his candidacy.
"There is nothing in the law" to suggest that Gifford should not be allowed to run, Rossi said. "He meets the eligibility requirements to run. If elected, he could simply resign from his old seat and assume the duties of a Legislator from District 4. If he loses, then he serves out his old term" through 2014.
If Gifford won the District 4 seat, said Rossi, the Legislature "could appoint someone" to fill the unexpired portion of his original term, although "I'm not certain if they would be compelled or mandated to." If it did not appoint someone, the Legislature would continue with its traditional eight-member level, a number that was to grow to nine in 2014 to cover the final year of Gifford's old term. The membership level would return to eight the following year.
"I haven't talked to Tom about this," said Rossi, "but I imagine his thinking was that if he doesn't do it now, then he is out" until the election of 2017. Each new district will be represented by just one person, with each term for four years.
The redistricting situation "is complex because of staggered elections and the plan being phased in," said Rossi, "but my review of the law" shows "there is no prohibition. (Gifford) meets the eligibility to run."
Photos in text: County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi (top) and Legislator Thomas Gifford.
Some of the nearly 50 people who turned out for the committee meeting.
OKs resolution opposing
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 25 -- The Schuyler County Legislature's Public Safety / Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously Monday morning in favor of a resolution opposing the State's passage of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act -- a gun control law enacted on Jan. 15.
Nearly 50 people filed into the small confines of the Legislature chamber to support the resolution, which was crafted by Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman and County Clerk Linda Compton (and can be found in its entirety here). The vote followed a brief presentation by Yessman, and drew applause from the audience.
"I told people there is no opposition (among Schuyler legislators) to this resolution," Yessman said before the meeting started, "and that they didn't need to be here. But ..." And he motioned to the crowd squeezing into the room. Committee Chairman Phil Barnes noted that petitions with 300 signatures opposing the SAFE Act have been received
The gun law, Yessman told the gathering, "is an action that infringed on our rights" and one that was passed hurriedly, "in a way not done before. I think the county needs to move forward and take action on this." Some other counties, including Chemung, are passing similar resolutions.
After the vote, Yessman noted that another bill in the Legislature would "require owners of firearms to obtain insurance" of not less than $1 million "to protect against willful and negligent acts." But he said insurance companies have indicated they won't insure against "willful and negligent acts," so even if such a law is passed, "you can't get insurance." The bill, he added, "might die by itself, but we need to take a stance."
The committee gave its blessing to a resolution yet to be written on that issue by Yessman. It and the anti-SAFE Act measure will now go to the Legislature Resolution Review Committee on March 6. Final legislative approval is expected on March 11.
Legislator Glenn Larison told the audience before it dispersed that he was pleased to see so many people turn out in force on the gun issue, "but I'd like to see you at a meeting when we discuss the budget, too."
Yessman noted that he will be holding a public meeting on March 19, from 6-8 p.m., at the Odessa-Montour High School auditorium to present information on the NY SAFE Act.
Photos in text:
Top: Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman at Monday's session.
Bottom: Committee Chairman Phil Barnes.
O'Mara rips Cuomo on Utility Tax
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Feb. 23 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats), a member of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, Friday criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo for failing to take action on his own to reject a five-year extension of a “staggering” energy tax first imposed on New Yorkers in 2009.
O’Mara (pictured at right) said that he and his Senate Republican colleagues will continue to push for the proposal’s rejection during final state budget negotiations with the Assembly and the governor over the next several weeks.
“We’re going to do everything we possibly can to hold Governor Cuomo to his ‘no new taxes’ pledge to New Yorkers," said O’Mara, who’s serving on the Senate’s budget subcommittee on economic development and taxes. "We were hopeful that he’d take this early opportunity to back up the words with the actions. Higher taxes like this one are tough on consumers and make it harder and harder for New York’s businesses, farmers and manufacturers to stay competitive. So we’ve got work to do over the next several weeks to convince the governor and Assembly that this staggering tax was a bad idea four years ago and the worst thing we could do is to make New Yorkers keep paying it for another five years. It’s already taken billions of dollars out of the state economy.”
O’Mara and his colleagues were joined recently by statewide business leaders, farmers and consumer advocates to urge Cuomo, as part of the 30-day amendment period when the governor can unilaterally make changes to his proposed 2013-14 state budget, to remove his proposal for a five-year extension of a nearly 600-percent hike in the Temporary State Energy and Utility Service Conservation Assessment, commonly known as the 18-a assessment.
Cuomo released his 30-day budget amendments in Albany Thursday night and did not remove the proposed utility tax extension.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Gifford shifts gear, seeks new board term
MONTOUR FALLS, Feb. 19 -- Schuyler County Legislator Thomas M. Gifford (R-Montour Falls) has announced his intention to seek re-election -- which normally would result in a straightforward press release noting his years of service, background and platform.
But in this case it also raises a question: Can a person holding one seat on a legislative body run for another on the same body when the term of the first seat is not yet expiring?
Gifford, in fact, has a seat on the Legislature through 2014 -- a seat he earned under the longstanding three-district system of elections in the county. But an eight-district system was passed last year and will be kicking in on a staggered basis that won't be completed until the end of 2015.
Part of the approved redistricting included a year (2014) in which the Legislature would have nine legislators instead of its normal eight, in order to accomodate the final year of Gifford's currently elective term. And Gifford had made it known he did not intend to seek re-election once that term expired.
But now he has shifted gears and plans to seek election from the newly formed District 4, running against the already announced Jim Howell. Another race will occur in the newly constituted District 1, where incumbents Barb Halpin and Glenn Larison will be vying for a single Legislature seat.
Schuyler County Republican Party Chairman Phil Barnes said that Gifford "changed his mind" by deciding there are a number of continuing initiatives in the county that he wants to help oversee.
"If he wins" against Howell and any other candidates who might run, Barnes said, Gifford would resign his current seat. And if he loses, "he would still have another year on his current term."
Board of Elections Commissioner Joseph Fazzary, when asked about the situation, said he isn't sure Gifford can run for a seat on the board while holding another, unexpiring seat on it. "I'll be talking to some people with the State Elections Board," he said. "I don't know if there is a precedent for this. Perhaps he can do it; I'm not sure. I'll get a little better handle on this in the next few days."
Gifford has been a member of the Legislature for 14 years, and served as chairman for 12.
“There is no question that the County is facing unprecedented challenges in the coming years, largely as a result of the fiscal crisis our state is in," Gifford said in the press release announcing his election bid. "However, locally we have accomplished a great deal and we continue to see growth in our tourism industry and agriculture sectors and I believe we are well positioned to meet these challenges successfully.
“I am proud to be a member of a legislative body that
has taken a fiscally conservative approach in balancing the delivery of
largely mandated services against the cost to our taxpayers. I am respectfully
asking for the opportunity to continue to contribute to the many positive
things that are happening in our county.”
He holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Elmira College, is a graduate of the Institute of Banking and the Pelatier Institute of Good Government, and is a retired Vice President of Fleet Bank with more than 30 years in the banking industry.
Legislature moves toward replacing treasurer's position
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 12 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night took a step once again toward eliminating the elective post of County Treasurer and replacing it with an appointive position by giving preliminary approval to the first Local Law of 2013.
A public hearing on the matter will be held at the next Legislature meeting -- at 6:30 p.m. March 11. Should the legislators then approve the measure -- which provides for a Director of Finance to replace the Treasurer -- then it will be placed before the voters as a referendum in November.
The issue arose last year, as well, but an effort to place it on the November ballot failed when it was discovered the placement had to be made at least 60 days before the balloting. At the time of the discovery, it was 57 days until the balloting.
Last year's effort called for the title of the appointed officer to be that of Comptroller. This time around, the title is Director of Finance. In either event, it would shift the control of the office from the State to the County.
County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi said that under the existing format, the County has "no constitutional authority ... to establish qualifications" for the post, nor to control the person in that post. "But under Municipal Home Rule Law," he added, "there is room to eliminate the elected position" and replace it with the appointive one. "Then qualificatons can be defined locally and controlled locally. But it requires a referendum."
The current Treasurer, Gary Whyman, suggested the change last year. The Legislature, which had been at odds with the previous Treasurer, decided to pursue the issue -- only to run afoul of the missed filing deadline.
"This year," said Legislature Clerk Stacy Husted, "I made them do it early."
In other matters, legislators:
--Approved a resolution directing County Administrator and Budget Officer Tim O'Hearn to produce a preliminary budget the next time around that meets the state tax cap. O'Hearn had submitted a preliminary budget last year that was well above the cap and left resulting reductions up to the legislators. This time, the cutting will be done before it reaches the legislators, who will then add and subtract as they see necessary.
--Appointed JoAnn Fratarcangelo as the Commissioner of Social Services, effective March 18, at an annual salary of $75,000. The job now includes the duties of the Youth Bureau Director. Also approved: a contract with Bonadio & Co., LLP for Medicaid fraud/abuse detection services.
--Authorized the creation and filling of a temporary full-time Correction Sergeant/Jail Supervisor position in the wake of the current supervisor's indefinite suspension.
Photo in text: From left: County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi, Deputy Clerk Jamee Mack and Clerk Stacy Husted at Monday's meeting.
Larison announces re-election bid
Special to The Odessa File
ODESSA, Feb. 8 -- Four-term legislator Glenn Larison has announced his decision to seek another term on the Schuyler County Legislature.
Larison is running for the seat representing the Towns of Cayuta, Catharine and the Village of Odessa, the new District 1. Larison reaffirmed his commitment to work diligently for the county in all aspects of government.
During his time as a legislator, Larison has served on a variety of committees both internal and external to county government. On behalf of the Legislature, he was appointed as the legislative representative for:
* The Inter-County Association of Western New York. In his current term he served as president of the association, which has membership from 19 counties of Western New York. The association, representing over 3.5 million residents, works collaboratively in sending to the State resolutions that support this area.
* New York State Association of Conservation Districts. He continues to serve a director for this agency, which supports local Soil and Water regulations.
* Soil And Water Conservation Board of Schuyler County.
* Southern Tier Transportation Committee.
* Finger Lakes Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc.
* Office For The Aging Advisory Council of Schuyler County.
* Forest Practice Board
He has also worked with the Schuyler County Chamber of Commerce, RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), and the Transportation Committee for Schuyler County, and served on the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Board and the Community Service Board.
Larison said he wants to continue working with other Schuyler legislators on budgets that are:
He said he will also work hard "to continue existing partnerships with other county, town and village governments to coordinate services providing both fiscal and service benefits while enhancing the quality of life for all constituents."
Photo in text: Glenn Larison
Glen Board OKs Community Center rates
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 5 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Monday approved new rates for use of the Clute Park Community Center and Lakeside Pavilion, and gave its blessing to renovations of five of the 10 removable village docks along the canal.
The Center's new rates include a full-day fee of $450, up from $400, with non-profits charged $200, up from $150.
Community classes, such as Zumba class and dog class, will be charged $20, up from $10, with a security deposit of $250 (unchanged).
Use of the full pavilion will be $125, up from $100, while use of half of the pavilion will be $100, up from $75. The security deposit remains at $75.
Rental of Lafayette Park will remain at $25, as will its electric rate and security deposit. The full-season vendor fee there is going to be $300, up from $250.
The new rates take effect on March 1.
The village boat docks -- which are removed from the water each winter -- are in disrepair, the board said, and in need of refurbishment. The board accepted a bid of $3,800 per dock from OSM Off-Shore Marine of Dundee, and decided to have five of them done with money from capital reserve. The other five will be refurbished in the future.
The board also:
--Received an annual report from Village Justice Nicholas Dugo showing that court traffic was down from the previous year, as were fines, fees and surcharges. The court handled 1,165 vehicle and traffic cases in 2012, down from 1,510 in 2011. However, the number of penal law cases rose to 194 from 123, and civil and other cases remained at virtually the same levels.
Photo in text: Deputy Mayor Scott Gibson, right, speaks to village trustees Tony Fraboni, left, and Paul Clifford before the start of the meeting. Mayor Mark Swinnerton was absent, having not yet returned from attending the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
Legislature seeks bridge replacement bids
WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 15 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night approved a resolution that authorizes the county to advertise for bids for construction of a Mill Street replacement bridge in Odessa.
The bridge, on a side street joining the downtown district of Odessa with its northern residential neighborhood, has long been a target for replacement. It has been red flagged by the state for repairs a couple of times, and pedestrian traffic was banned on it two years ago.
Funding, the resolution specified, is available in the 2013 county budget.
In other business, the Legislature -- in a brief session:
--Approved a resolution, necessary every two years, asking the state to continue a 1% increase in the sales tax in Schuyler County, a measure first adopted in 2000;
--Approved various one-, two-, three-, four- and five-year appointments to boards, committees and agencies.
NY gun-control legislation
Criticizes lack of public input; says state-by-state approach ineffective
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Jan. 16 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) voted against far-reaching gun control legislation advanced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and approved by the Senate, 43 to 18, late Monday night.
The Assembly approved the legislation Tuesday, and it was then signed by the governor into law.
O’Mara (pictured at right) released the following statement.
“As a parent and as a public servant, I was as outraged and as saddened as anyone by the recent events in Newtown and Webster. I agree that as a nation we must respond to the societal breakdowns that lead to these unimaginable acts of insanity and evil.
“A federal policy is the most effective and ultimately meaningful response to the mass shootings that horrify every decent human being. We know that a state-by-state approach only perpetuates ineffective public policy.
“I’m especially discouraged that legislation as far-reaching as this in New York State was put together behind closed doors, with no formal public input or hearings on the final product, and through a questionable legislative process driven by a rush to be first. Too many legislators attempted to seize this politically powerful moment to push through parts of a long-held, liberal, extreme gun control agenda that will not make New Yorkers safer.
"Those of us who have long opposed this agenda successfully rejected
a number of the most extreme proposals and ensured that this measure will
at least include important, practical and common sense
“I’m a lifelong sportsman and a strong defender of the Second Amendment. I’m also more than willing to be open-minded about reasonable and potentially effective public safety initiatives. New York was already recognized by responsible gun control advocates as one of America’s strongest gun control states.
“Today’s constitutionally dubious action in New York State goes too far to infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding, responsible, reasonable, decent, stable and respectful citizens throughout my legislative district and statewide.”
Palmesano: Gun-control law is 'disservice'
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Jan. 16 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I – Corning) Tuesday cast his vote in opposition to legislation which a press release from his office said was "rushed though the Assembly and Senate without public hearings, review or input, while restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."
Palmesano, in a statement, said:
“Governor Cuomo, in the past, has advocated for openness and transparency in government when considering major legislation. However, the legislation passed today failed that test and was printed and hurried to a vote without any public hearings, review or input.
“The tragic events of Newtown, CT and Webster, NY have certainly impacted us all. As the father of two school-aged children I agree we need to do more to address the violence facing our society today. However, I also believe an issue as important as this, and its implications to the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, needed and deserved to have a deliberative and open process of public review and comment. The victims and their families of these horrible crimes deserved nothing less.
"Unfortunately, this did not happen and I believe we’ve done a disservice to the victims of crime and the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
effort begins, targets dollar squeeze
WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 10 -- Government and school leaders interested in establishing a public dialogue aimed at meeting today's fiscal challenges through shared effort met Tuesday at the Schuyler County Human Services Complex and emerged with a unified statement of intent.
In essence, it said the parties involved -- County Administrator Tim O'Hearn (pictured at right), Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan, Village of Burdett Mayor Dale Walter, Bradford School Superintendent Wendy Field, Bradford School Board President Adam Monell, Odessa-Montour Superintendent Jim Frame, O-M School Board President Debra Harrington, Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips (pictured below), and two Cornell University facilitators, John Sipple of the New York Center for Rural Schools and Rod Howe of the Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI) -- agreed that something needs to be done to counter the economic squeeze that threatens the delivery of services.
And in order to be successful, they decided, whatever action is taken needs to be done in cooperation with one another. The shape and extent of that cooperation remains to be seen.
In a statement crafted by the meeting participants, the situation was described like this:
"Faced with increasingly difficult financial challenges as growth in expenses continues to outpace revenue streams, and expectations placed upon our educational institutions and governments continue to expand, it is becoming certain that our current method of operating is not sustainable absent systemic change.
"In an effort to be pro-active, local governments and school districts in Schuyler County would like to explore different models of governance. Discussions are in the early stages between local government and educational leadership concerning bringing our local leaders and community together to explore opportunities within Schuyler County to improve the delivery of public and educational services at reduced costs. The concept of regional governance is a key area that we desire to explore and is a position also supported by the (Schuyler County) Council of Governments.
"As fiscal pressures increase, we are finding that municipalities are much more inclined to consider that which previously would have seemed impossible, i.e. increased shared services, consolidations and mergers. Local leaders realize that we can no longer conduct business as usual and that if we don’t take a proactive approach to chart our destiny, the State of New York through tax cap legislation will surely do so for us.
"An outcome of the aforementioned initiative has been the formation of a steering committee consisting of representation from all three County school districts and Schuyler County Council of Governments. This group has conducted its first meeting, which was facilitated by Cornell University representatives and has resulted in a consensus of the group to continue its efforts to research options associated with alternative forms of administration and governance. It was also agreed that the process should be data driven to best determine objective and realistic options for leaders and the community to consider as we face our future.
"It is our hope that through collaboration and a unified vision for a strong and vibrant community, these efforts will produce change that is both sustainable and replicable throughout the state."
The matter will be aired by the school superintendents at their upcoming School Board meetings, and pursued at the next meeting of the Council of Governments.
Photos in text: County Administrator Tim O'Hearn and Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips. (File photos)
S. Tier gets $91.1 million in
Watkins projects include planning for treatment plant relocation
ALBANY, Dec. 20 -- The Southern Tier region will be awarded $91.1 million and the Finger Lakes region $96.2 million under the second round of funding through the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils initiative.
Among those grants is one for $300,000 for "Schuyler County, in partnership with the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, Schuyler County IDA, the Village of Watkins Glen and the Village of Montour Falls to conduct planning and preliminary engineering and environmental investigation to decommission the Watkins Glen and the Montour Falls Waste Water Treatment Plants and consolidate the two systems into a state-of-the-art 'Green' Waste Water Treatment Plant located south of Glen Creek in Watkins Glen."
Local authorities have said that movement of the treatment plant from its current location near Seneca Harbor Park is key to development of the Seneca Lake southern shoreline.
A total of $738 million in economic development awards to support 725 specific regional projects statewide were announced Wednesday in Albany following a report from the Cuomo administration’s Strategic Plan Review Committee, which analyzed and ranked the strategic blueprints for each of the 10 regions statewide that competed for this second round of state economic development aid.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said, "For the second year in a row, the Regional Councils have been on the forefront of rebuilding New York State's economy. For too many years, top-down economic development policies have failed communities across the state and not truly invested in the unique resources and strengths of each of New York's regions. Now a new, bottom-up approach is in place that brings local communities together to chart their own economic destiny. The second round of Regional Economic Development Council awards will deliver funding for critical projects and investments in communities across our state, helping put New Yorkers back to work and rebuilding our economy."
Added State Senator Tom O’Mara: “The Southern Tier and Finger
Lakes regions stand out this
Highlights within O’Mara’s district for the Southern Tier Regional Council, which received $91.1 million for 62 projects, include:
-- $3 million for the expansion of Corning Incorporated’s manufacturing
facility in the Town of Erwin;
Highlights within O’Mara’s district for the Finger Lakes Regional Council, which received $96.2 million for 76 projects, include:
-- $2 million in support of a small business revolving loan fund for
the nine Finger Lakes counties (which include Seneca and Yates). The Pathstone
Finger Lakes Enterprise Fund will provide essential credit to microenterprise
and small businesses, particularly in underserved rural and urban communities,
accelerating economic growth and community development;
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature established New York's 10 regional economic development councils as part of the 2011-2012 state budget. The councils are aimed at putting in place a more locally based approach for distributing state economic development aid and guide the development of local economic development strategies that will compete for state assistance. The first round of funding was awarded last December.
O’Mara’s 53rd Senate District includes Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and part of Tompkins County, all of which fall under the Southern Tier Regional Council, and Yates County, which is included in the Finger Lakes Regional Council.
Watkins Glen board
approves several key village measures
OKs Comprehensive Plan, union deal, camping rate hike, police-study bid
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 4 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night approved a Comprehensive Plan that was months in the making, okayed a four-year contract with its Teamsters union employees, backed an increase in the camping rates charged at Clute Park, and selected a firm to study the possible consolidation of the Village Police Department within the Schuyler County Sheriff's Department.
The Comprehensive Plan, approved following a public hearing, is a 34-chapter, 150-page document developed over several months. Mayor Mark Swinnerton thanked the village Planning Board and Cooperative Extension planner Rocky Kambo for their extensive work in pulling the document together and incorporating useful and foresightful ideas from other, earlier plans such as Watkins Glen Tomorrow back in 1981.
The document is key, he said, to obtaining state funding for major projects -- the most important being the relocation of the sewage treatment plant. Moving that facility -- which is along the southern shore of Seneca Lake -- would open up lakefront development options.
"That's what sparked the need for this (document)," said Swinnerton. "The state was talking to us about the treatment plant, and asked us what kind of official plan we had, and we said it was three pages long. And they said, 'Uh, no, we don't think so.' So that was the catalyst for the plan."
The document was written by The Laberge Group, which held public sessions designed for public input on the issue. The plan now stands as an operational document, Swinnerton said -- "the point of development for all the projects we're working on."
Contract: The board approved a four-year contract with those members of the village workforce who are members of the Teamsters Union. It is retroactive to June, and calls for a 0% increase in pay in 2012, then 3% in 2013, followed by 2% in 2014 and 3% in 2015.
Police Study: The board awarded a contract for a study of the possible consolidation of police services -- blending the Village Police into the Sheriff's Department -- to the Center for Governmental Research at a cost of $45,000, which includes $1,800 for a subcontractor and $1,200 for travel expenses. The other bids ranged from $24,900 to $55,000.
CGR was selected from five bidders, and Swinnerton said it was the choice of all six members of a steering committee: Village Police Chief Tom Struble, Sheriff Bill Yessman, village trustees Scott Gibson and Tony Fraboni, and county legislators Dennis Fagan and Phil Barnes.
They will now meet with CGR, collecting data and studying village departments and the needs of Watkins Glen.
"The Village Board," said Swinnerton, "is very clear that even if this makes fiscal sense, it has to be done without a loss of services." If it meets that goal, he added, then "it would probably be put to a public referendum."
Camping rates: The board approved a new rate structure for the Clute Park campground, increasing its camping charges to bring it more in line with other, similar facilities in the state. "We're not the highest now, but we're not the lowest," said the mayor. "We have something special here" in a campground close to the water and close to town, "and our price needs to reflect that."
Accordingly, the day fee at sites with electricity, water and sewer services has been increased to $50 from $43, the weeklong rate to $300 from $260, and the monthly rate from September through June to $800 from $700. July and August rates have been set higher, at $1,000 each, up from $725.
The board also:
--Is redesigning its website because the site is, in the words of the mayor, "outdated and antiquated." The redesign will be handled by inCommand Technologies of Corning, which "does a lot of work for municipalities. They understand how municipalities are set up. They will work with the departments, figuring how each needs to improve" its presence on the site.
--Reserved the Clute Park lakeside facilities on August 2, 3 and 4 for the annual Schuyler County Italian American Festival at the request of festival organizers.
--Received a police department report that showed there were 126 incidents answered in November, including seven motor vehicle accidents and 21 violations of criminal law.
Photos in text: One of the conceptual renderings of possible future downtown improvements under the Comprehensive Plan; trustees Paul Clifford, left, and Scott Gibson at the meeting.
Chairman Dennis Fagan, center, listens to a speaker during the public hearing on the budget.
Legislature bypasses tax cap, shifts chargebacks to towns
MONTOUR FALLS, Nov. 14 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Tuesday night approved a Local Law permitting it to exceed its state tax cap of 3.38%, and approved a shift of $400,000 in community college chargeback costs to the towns.
Both votes were 6-2, with Barbara Halpin and Doris Karius opposed.
Legislators did not vote on the 2013 budget -- which calls for the same tax rate as in 2012 ($8.37 per $1,000 of assessed value), but shows a 5.46% increase in the tax levy. That vote is expected at the next monthly meeting, in December.
Chairman Dennis Fagan said the legislators chose not to vote on the budget Tuesday so as to make clear that the tax cap move occurred first, and also to look "at possible avenues for adjustment" in the spending plan. Those would include any "new revenue sources or consolidations" that might be brought to their attention.
"But I don't expect any major changes. The Legislature met its goal to hold the tax rate" at the 2012 level. "That was our primary goal."
The shift of chargebacks to the towns was for 2013 only, with the expectation that a reduction in the amount of sales tax forwarded from the county to the towns would occur the following year. The sales tax move was precluded this year by a law requiring six months notice to municipalities of such a change. That could have been bypassed if all of the towns agreed to it, but they didn't.
The $400,000 is less than half of the $845,000 charged to the county as its share of tuition payments for the students in Schuyler County attending community colleges in the state.
Halpin and Karius were in lockstep in their opposition to the tax cap measure and the chargebacks. Halpin said the legislators should cut the budget to a point within the tax cap, and she complained that the chargeback maneuver was not equitable. Karius was opposed to the cap measure based on "many phone calls" against it.
Halpin's husband, Jim Halpin, criticized the Legislature for bypassing the tax cap, calling it "a slap in the face to county taxpayers ... You're not doing your job." He said that in economically challenging times like this, the Legislature should "cut programs and lay people off. We can't afford this. It is unconscionable."
Attorney Stewart McDivitt opposed the tax cap move, saying that in any business, "you've got to learn to live with what you've got. I had a downturn in my business, and reduced expenses. If that means you've got to cut programs, that's what you've got to do."
And former legislator Angeline Franzese said that shifting chargeback costs to the towns "is no better than the state" shifting costs to the counties. "You're digging a deeper hole. You used up your fund balance, and now you're going to the towns. The county taxpayer is the town taxpayer, and will pay either way. Keeping the tax rate the same with all the revaluation in the county is not acceptable."
County employee Sue Brill, on the other hand, commended the legislators for exceeding the tax cap, telling them they "didn't have a choice. The state has forced it."
David Crea suggested that the Legislature treat state mandates as "suggestions you can turn your back on," but Fagan said that "unfortunately, the state controls the purse strings," and that if the county did what Crea suggested, "it would take over our programs and administer them. Nobody wants that."
The comments and votes came after a 45-minute presentation regarding the budget presented by County Administrator Tim O'Hearn.
Photos in text:
From top: County Administrator Tim O'Hearn talks about the budget.
Second and third: Attorney Stewart McDivitt and Jim Halpin.
Chairman Fagan is interviewed by TV after the meeting.
Schuyler lawmakers prune proposed 2013 county budget
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 25 -- The Schuyler County Legislature's Management and Finance Committee agreed Wednesday to several cost-cutting measures as it struggled to reduce expenditures in the 2013 county budget.
The committee decided to remove $400,000 of the county's $845,000 share of community college chargebacks from the line items, with the intention of shifting the cost to town governments. Town chargeback payments have been discussed at several meetings, as have the basis for the individual towns' payments. Those "should be based per student enrolled in each town," a county official said.
And the committee decided to reduce by 15% the annual payments to two contract agencies: the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) and Cooperative Extension. The amounts to be cut are $28,500 and $27,000, respectively, the official said.
Meanwhile, anticipated revenues to the Sheriff's Office and Treasurer's Office were increased as part of the budget adjustments that left about $65,000 yet to be trimmed in order to bring the tax levy increase down to a target of 6.1 percent or lower. The tax rate at that level would be roughly equal to the rate in the 2012 budget.
Another workshop session on the budget is set for 9:15 a.m. Monday in the Legislature chambers in the County Office Building. The budget proposal will likely be turned over after that to the full Legislature for its Legislative Resolution Review Committee session on Nov. 7.
The Legislature will hold a public hearing on the budget on Nov. 13 at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls, along with a hearing on the Local Law that would permit the county to exceed its tax cap limit of 3.38%. The budget could be approved that night, although the deadline is not until Dec. 20.
State OKs Watkins Glen grant for police department study
Focus will be possible consolidation of Village PD into Sheriff's Office
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 17 -- New York State has approved a $49,500 grant to the Village of Watkins Glen for a study into the possible "consolidation" of the village police department into the Schuyler County Sheriff's Office.
The Police Restructuring Study grant was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo this week as part of $4 million in grants "that will help 21 municipalities find new ways to reduce local government costs and save taxpayer dollars through consolidation and reorganization."
Watkins Glen Mayor Mark Swinnerton last year announced the planned study, which was contingent on acquiring a grant. The Cuomo announcement, he said, now opens the way for the village to issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) to find "a third party to figure out if it's practical, whether consolidation as a whole makes sense."
There are "at least two (consulting) firms interested," he said, including one in New Paltz that "has completed police consolidation studies" elsewhere. At issue will be the need to maintain the $400,000-a-year Watkins Glen Police Department.
"It makes economic sense" to consolidate, said Swinnerton, "but there is the question of a potential loss of services. It's important to maintain or better police coverage for the Village of Watkins Glen. The Board made it clear from Day One" that if any services were lost or if response times were not maintained, "it didn't feel it would go ahead with it."
The only strategical change that will be considered, he said, is the possible consolidation of the village police into the Sheriff's Office -- likely with the number of village officers reduced from the current level. The police force includes Chief Tom Struble, five full-timers and a varying number of part-timers.
"The whole study will essentially look at consolidating with the county," Swinnerton said. "Of course, of interest is where the county is with its budget shortcomings. We haven't discussed this (consolidation) with them recently, but will in the near future."
As for a timeline, the mayor said he hopes the study -- to be started in early November -- will be completed by April. If the Board ultimately decides it would like to pursue consolidation, "there would be a public referendum scheduled to see if the community supports it."
Photo in text: Watkins Glen Mayor Mark Swinnerton (right) and Deputy Mayor Scott Gibson at a recent Village Board meeting.
Schuyler legislators take step toward bypassing tax cap
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 10 -- The Schuyler County Legislature, during an often contentious monthly meeting Tuesday night -- approved by a 7-1 margin a Local Law that would, if approved following a public hearing next month, allow it to bypass the state tax cap.
Legislators, with only Barb Halpin opposed among them, thus took a first step toward an action that Chairman Dennis Fagan says they want the county's eight towns to adopt, as well.
That desire, he said, was behind a move being considered by the Legislature to shift some of the county-paid Corning Community College chargebacks to the towns -- a proposal that drew the ire of former Town of Cayuta Supervisor David Reed, who said towns have steadfastly been meeting their budget obligations within the tax cap limitations. But with the chargebacks ($22,000 in Cayuta, and $196,000 in Hector), he added, they now face an inability to do so.
Said Fagan: Payment of chargebacks by the towns is just shifting the payment by taxpayers "from the right pocket to the left pocket. The governor and his media group are taking credit for the tax cap and ignoring the promises made for mandate relief." As a result, "counties and school districts are paying ... If we put some of the (CCC) charges onto the towns, it will force them to surpass their tax caps" and thus send a message to Albany -- "a unified voice screaming ... that they've got to have effective mandate relief."
Attorney Jim Halpin, in attendance at the meeting along with a dozen other area citizens, said the strategy outlined by Fagan was "fatuous."
Former legislator Paul Marcellus -- owner-operator of the Colonial Inn and Motel on North Franklin Street -- was outspoken, as well, saying that with full-value assessment and continued tax hikes, "I resent my taxes being doubled. Remember there comes a point that duress is placed" on local businesses "because of taxes."
Legislator Barbara Halpin was outspoken against bypassing the tax cap, saying it would only give the Legislature "the ability to not make the tough decisions." Referring to a county cap level of 4% -- a figure that County Administrator Tim O'Hearn later told a reporter was 3.38% -- Halpin said: "We are actually allowed a 4% increase anyway, so why we want to do this is beyond me. Somehow we have to find a way to cut spending. (But) I'm sure (the Local Law) will get passed and you'll probably see your tax levy go up more than 4%."
O'Hearn was scheduled to take the next step in the process this morning (Wednesday) when he presented his budget proposal to legislators at a meeting of the group's Management and Finance Committee.
O'Hearn said Tuesday night that the county faces a shortfall of $2 million in the new budget. He has said the tax levy hike in his proposal would be in the "double digits."
Photos in text: Legislator Barb Halpin and County Administrator Tim O'Hearn at Tuesday night's session.
Howell urges schools to sit down and talk
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 10 -- Jim Howell, a longtime Schuyler County Watershed Inspector and now Inspector Assistant, and a member of the Schuyler County Hall of Fame, took the occasion of a County Legislature discussion of finances and budgets Tuesday night to shine the spotlight on local school districts.
Howell said he had been at a recent luncheon meeting of the Schuyler County League of Women Voters, during which Watkins Glen School District Superintendent Tom Phillips declared a growing need for districts such as his and Odessa-Montour to share services and sports programs as part of an increasing statewide trend toward consolidation.
"I left there very discouraged about the fuure of our school districts," Howell said of the League luncheon, noting that O-M Superintendent James Frame, although scheduled to attend it, had sent his regrets instead. Also present for the League event was Bradford Superintendent Wendy Field.
Howell -- who lives in the O-M district -- said he contacted Frame the next morning to ask why the superintendent hadn't been at the luncheon, and was told "he just couldn't make it. And I understand that."
Howell noted that Phillips, in his luncheon talk, had "eloquently" outlined how his district "had made many efforts" to get the O-M administration "to sit down" for shared services and consolidatoin discussions, with O-M resisting such sessions. "They feel like they're doing it right in Odessa," said Howell..
But he thought that the tax rate might say otherwise. "It's $12 per $1,000" of assessed value in the Watkins Glen district, he said, "while O-M's is $17 per $1,000. They're really hitting us in the pocketbook.
"I'm appealing to all legislators who encounter School Board members to encourage them to sit and talk about increasing shared services, perhaps moving toward merger or consolidation."
Photo in text: Jim Howell (File photo)
O'Hearn paints bleak picture
Will unveil budget proposal as Legislature eyes tax-cap override option
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 4 -- County Administrator Tim O'Hearn is scheduled to present his proposed 2013 Schuyler County budget to the Legislature at a budget workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 10, but this time his annual presentation will be a little different.
In the past, says O'Hearn, he has prepared budgets fairly close to the final mark -- subsequently adjusted in various ways by legislators, but not in any fashion that seriously impacted his proposals. This time, he says, he has done what he can and will have to leave further, difficult solutions to the lawmakers.
His preliminary budget proposal, he said, would require what he described as a "double-digit" increase in taxes -- well above the tax cap, and a level he realizes the Legislature will strive to significantly reduce.
"The outlook is less than stellar financially," he said -- a situation created by a lack of state mandate relief, significant increases in the county's cost of Child Protective Services, increases in health care and pensions, and the existence now of a state tax-levy cap. The matter is made more difficult, he adds, by a fund balance reduced already to a point where further drawdowns "would, in my estimation, create cash-flow issues."
While there is a fund balance of $3.5 million, O'Hearn says, only $200,000 of that falls under the heading of uncommitted.
The situation is so bleak, he said, that county legislators will consider passing legislation that would give them the option of overriding the tax cap, designated at 2% but in actuality about 4% for the county this year based on various state formulas and the fact that Schuyler stayed underneath the cap last year.
Municipalities around the state are considering -- and many are adopting -- such override options as a precaution. Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan echoed that sentiment Wednesday, saying "it makes sense to pass (such) legislation." Legislators will accordingly take the first step toward the cap override option at their monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9. If a resolution to that effect is approved, a public hearing will be held in November, followed by a final Legislature vote.
The Child Protective Services cost increase in the upcoming budget stems from the Family Court system largely altering the placement of juveniles from foster homes to more expensive group settings. That is beyond the county's control. O'Hearn told the legislators last summer that while the county spent $86,213 in juvenile placements in 2011, it expects to spend more than $700,000 this year and $1.2 million in 2013.
Health care and pensions, he has also said, will each increase by about $300,000 in 2013.
The situation in Schuyler is not as bad as in Yates County, he says, where the chief executive is proposing a 31% increase in taxes. "But it isn't pretty," he says of his budget proposal. "It preserves existing programs, such as they are; they are already whittled to the bone. We've done everything we can to reasonably manage the situation, but now we've run out of road."
How the legislators choose to trim back the spending plan, he said, will be up to them -- whether by cutting various of those programs or in some other fashion.
Legislator Barb Halpin is calling for the cuts. At a Resolution Review Committee meeting Wednesday, she urged a hold on taxes. "You have to cut," she told her fellow legislators, "and you probably have to cut programs."
Nathan Hand pleads guilty to Manslaughter in Bennett case
Sentencing set for April, after the Alice Trappler trial
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 20 -- Nathan Hand, 25, accused of Second Degree Murder in the shooting death of Daniel Bennett in the Town of Dix in April, pleaded guilty instead to First Degree Manslaughter Thursday morning in Schuyler County Court.
Hand, represented by Public Defender Wesley Roe, entered the plea as part of an agreement that will get him a 19-year sentence should he fully cooperate with authorities in the prosecution of Alice Trappler of Addison, charged with Second Degree Murder in connection with the shooting.
Hand testified in court Thursday that his stepbrother, Thomas Borden -- Trappler's ex-husband -- shot and killed Bennett in the victim's home in the Town of Dix at 11 p.m. on April 19. Police have said the murder weapon was a .12-gauge shotgun.
Hand also testified that he was present with Borden at the shooting, and that the pair -- before leaving for Bennett's home -- had received a phone call from Trappler. There was no indication in court as to what was said in that phone call.
Trappler was connected to Bennett through a personal relationship. The pair produced a female child, the custody of whom was being contested in Steuben County Court before the murder. Officials said a custody hearing had been scheduled for April 20, the day after the murder.
Borden was killed in Jenkintown, Pa., on April 23 when he was struck by a train while fleeing from police who wanted him for questioning in the Bennett case.
Hand's plea agreement was predicated on his continuing cooperation, which thus far has included testimony before a grand jury. He also waived his right to appeal his conviction, has to pay restitution to the Bennett family if there is any ordered paid, and must take part in a supervised 5-year post-release program when his sentence is completed. The Second Degree Murder charge against him will be dismissed, said District Attorney Joe Fazzary.
If Hand violates the conditions of the plea agreement, then Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris can sentence him to the maximum Manslaughter term of 25 years. Manslaughter, First Degree is a Class B felony.
Morris meticulously asked Hand a series of questions at Thurday's court session, making sure the defendant understood that in pleading guilty, he was waiving his right to a preliminary hearing and to a trial. Hand said he understood.
Hand has been held in Schuyler County Jail since his April arrest, and will continue to be held there pending his sentencing. He has not applied for release on bail, and is not expected to in keeping with the spirit of the plea agreement, a spokesman in the DA's office said.
Fazzary said Hand would prefer to go straight to sentencing and to prison, but that the plan calls for him to be kept nearby for now as a means of assuring his continued cooperation.
Trappler's case is on the schedule for a March trial, said Fazzary. Among the charges she faces are Second Degree Murder -- which carries a sentence of 25 years to life -- and Conspiracy to Commit Murder.
Fazzary made a point after Thursday's court proceeding to praise the "absolutely fantastic police work" done by the state police and Sheriff's Office in cracking the case quickly in April.
Photos in text:
Top: Nathan Hand is led down a stairwell and through hallways on his way from the courtroom back to his jail cell.
Bottom: District Attorney Joe Fazzary speaks to the media outside his office after the court session.
Property upkeep draws fire at Watkins Glen Board meeting
Local Law OK'd; will cut speed limit to 20 on side streets
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 18 -- How the village appears to visiting tourists and a parking jam on South Monroe Street dominated conversation Monday night at a meeting of the Watkins Glen Village Board.
The board also gave approval to Local Law No. 2 of 2012, a document governing traffic within the village. The law, among other things, sets a speed limit of 20 miles an hour, down from 30, on "village-controlled streets" -- basically side streets and north-south roads such as Decatur Street. It will take effect on December 1st.
Resident Ralph "Pete" Van Horn started the discussion when he complained about the unsightly nature of a neighborhood property that he said was negatively affecting the value of his own. That led Lou and Vickie Perazzini, owners of the Lake Valley Legends Bed and Breakfast at 115 North Glen Avenue, to say that poorly kept properties in the village pose a threat to the image of the village and, thus, to the continued success of tourism here -- as does a propensity by shop owners to close before evening.
They said that visitors staying at their B&B have frequently expressed an interest in shopping downtown after dinner, only to find that little is open. Trustee Scott Gibson responded by saying that business owners had probably tried later hours in the past without success, but that with "tourism exploding, maybe it's time to try it again."
Mayor Mark Swinnerton said he would be meeting with Rebekah LaMoreaux, president of the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, and would broach the subject with her, with the hope that she might pass along the suggestion to business owners. The Perazzinis were also urged to contact the Chamber.
The thrust of the discussion, though, dealt with unsightly properties, with suggestions that there are likely ordinances on the books to force owners to meet community standards.
Mayor Swinnerton noted that oftentimes residents don't give a second thought to how their community might look, because they are used to it as it is. But he said his wife recently noted accurately that "we have to look at Watkins Glen with fresh eyes."
Trustee Kevin Smith said that Code Enforcement Officer Gordon Wright had been researching old ordinances regarding a case involving grass clippings in the street, and had found one from 1946 calling for a $100 fine. "I think this is an avenue we might pursue," said Smith. "It's hard to believe we've never had the subject broached before. We should have Gordon continue" researching old ordinances with an eye toward those dealing with property upkeep.
"I don't think there's any disagreement on the board," said Gibson, "but we have to decide how far to go with it. There's no excuse for not having a bucket and a mop." He said that while some people don't see upkeep as important, it "can have longlasting effects on the community."
Village resident and former village official Amedeo Fraboni said complaints regarding property have come up repeatedly over the years, and that there is one way to deal with it effectively: use existing laws to go after those violating community standards. "Alert the taxpayers you're gonna do it, that you're gonna dig up the laws and enforce them, and then go at it."
In the past, he said, the complaints "stopped here," meaning at the Village Board, because "nobody (on the board) wanted to ruffle any feathers. You all gotta agree to do it."
Said Swinnerton. "It does start with us."
Added Gibson: "If we need to pass new laws, we should look into it."
Parking: The board also heard concerns from South Monroe Street residents regarding an absence of enough parking on that street.
Swinnerton told them he would have village Streets Superintendent Don Perry and Police Chief Tom Struble assess the situation "and we'll try to resolve it."
Local Law: The new law regarding various aspects of traffic in the village was passed unanimously following a public hearing at which a letter was read from resident Robert Groll, 103 Willow Drive, opposing the reduction in the speed limit to 20 miles per hour on "village-controlled streets." Groll said 20 mph is "too low," and that he would prefer to see the existing speed limit enforced.
Trustee Kevin Smith said he had suggested 25 mph as the limit, and still had reservations about 20 mph on Decatur Street, which is used heavily. Swinnerton said that during school hours, the speed limit on "75 to 80 percent" of Decatur is actually 15 mph -- suggesting, therefore, that the speed-limit adjustment there will not be a major one.
Following the hearing, the board, noting it had taken into account the concerns about the new limit, decided to go along with it as recommended by Chief Struble. The board chose Dec. 1 as the start date to give the village time to notify residents of the change and to secure and install new signs.
The new law replaces one from 1977, incorporating amendments and additions regarding such things as parking, pedestrian crosswalks and traffic-control devices. The document, 19 pages long, is available for perusal at the Village Clerk's Office.
Photos in text: From the top, at Monday's meeting: Mayor Mark Swinnerton and trustees Scott Gibson and Kevin Smith.
A veteran receives a discount-program card during a session at the Schuyler County Human Services Complex. Facing the camera, from left: Judy Stanton of the Chemung County Clerk's office, who was operating the card-making machine; Schuyler County Clerk Linda Compton, and Chemung County Clerk Katie Hughes.
Merchants return the favor
Provide discounts in Chemung, Schuyler to veterans under new program
MONTOUR FALLS, Aug. 17 -- About 30 veterans strolled into the Schuyler County Human Services Complex Thursday and strolled out again with a special card in hand: a Return the FAVOR (Find and Assist Veterans of Record) card that enables them to receive discounts from participating merchants in Schuyler and Chemung Counties.
The County Clerk's offices in both counties are playing integral roles in the program, which provides a card at no fee to any honorably discharged veteran who presents a DD Form 214 discharge paper.
A growing number of merchants are joining the program as a way of thanking the servicemen and servicewomen who have returned home -- as a way to, as the program says, Return the Favor. Each of the two counties will give a decal to participating businesses for them to post in their windows, alerting veterans that those businesses have discounts for them. The merchants will honor cards from both Chemung County and Schuyler County veterans.
Chemung County has distributed about 75 cards thus far. Those cover a small percentage of the 7,341 veterans registered in the county. Schuyler County has now distributed about 50 discount cards. There are currently 1,803 veterans registered in the county.
But the program has barely begun. County Clerks Katie Hughes of Chemung County and Linda Compton of Schuyler County, along with Joan Scott, the director of the Schuyler County Veterans Service Agency, and Robert Bly, director of Veterans Services in Chemung County, at first tried word of mouth through American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars groups. Now they are expanding the word through the media.
"What a wonderful way for our business community to honor our veterans for their service," said Hughes. "Another benefit is this: By filing their separation papers at the Clerk's office, veterans and their families will always be able to locate these important documents."
Added Compton: "Our veterans epitomize the concept of service to our country. I am thrilled to partner with Chemung County and our local businesses in recognizing and paying tribute to our veterans."
Forty-one counties in the state have similar programs, Compton added, although it's not known if any others are partnering for it like Schuyler and Chemung.
Many businesses in the two counties have been receiving a letter asking if they would like to participate in the program. The discount or offer by a merchant, restaurant or service company is not determined by the counties, but is of the owner's own choosing.
Both County Clerk offices have been using a single software-driven card-making machine, with Hughes and an assistant, Judy Stanton, venturing twice to the Human Services Complex to aid in Schuyler's effort. However, Compton said Schuyler will have its own card-making unit within two months.
Compton and Scott said the program -- in addition to providing discounts -- will also serve to draw in veterans who might not yet be registered with the Veterans Service Agency and thus could be missing out on a number of beneficial programs. Those programs include VA life insurance and health care, vocational rehabilitation, home loan guaranties, local real property tax exemption, burial benefits, and VA compensation for service-connected disabilities.
There are 28 businesses signed up for the discount program in Chemung County, and 16 in Schuyler County.
The Schuyler participants include The Halpin Law Firm, Sunset on Seneca B&B, Lake Valley Legends B&B, Pampered Chef, Professional Land Surveyor, Watkins Glen Veterinary Hospital, Schooner Excursions, Over The Top Cupcakes & Treats, Glen Mountain Market, Maria's Tavern, Jerlando's Pizza, Sunset View Creamery, The Great Escape Ice Cream Store, The Wildflower Cafe/Crooked Rooster Brew Pub, Watkins Glen Supply, and the Hector Wine Company.
The Chemung participants include the Audiology Center of Elmira, Benchmark Audio, Bouille Electric, Brian's Custom Flooring, the Cottage Gift Shop, Culligan Water, Dave's American Lifetime Muffler, Denny's, Ear to Hear, Ed's Heads Portable Toilets, Giuseppe's Restaurant and Pizzeria, Hills Valley and Streams, Home Necessities, Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, John's Equipment Rental, Attorney Joshua C. Navone, Knights Inn, Legends Bar & Grille, NuWay Auto Parts, Oldies But Goodies, Parkside Apartment, Pastricks (Screen-Hogan Inc.), The Purple Iris, Rita's Ice, Rocky's Auto Sales, Rodabaugh Optical, the Turtle Leaf Cafe, and Wade's Jewelry.
Discounts vary greatly. The Schuyler County and Chemung County websites have lists that include the discounts and the addresses and phone numbers of the businesses. Those sites also contain application forms for merchants and veterans. The Chemung County information can be accessed at www.chemungcounty.com. The Schuyler County information can be accessed at www.schuylercounty.us.
Photos in text: Chemung County Clerk's Office employee Judy Stanton and the card-making machine; a blank version of the discount card issued to veterans; and Joan Scott, Director of the Schuyler County Veterans Service Agency.
Government, school leaders vow to fight assessment reduction for Inergy, Walmart
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 15 -- Town, county and school leaders agreed Tuesday at a meeting at the Schuyler County Courthouse to share the cost in opposing an effort by Inergy and Walmart to cut in half assessments on property each company owns -- Inergy in the Town of Reading and Walmart in the Town of Dix.
Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips (pictured at right) said the meeting of leaders from the county, Village of Watkins Glen, school district and Towns of Reading and Dix resulted in agreement by each party to share the cost of the legal effort, which is heading Aug. 17 to New York State Supreme Court.
The requested cuts by both Inergy and Walmart were rejected at the town grievance level, prompting the court action by the two firms.
Inergy is seeking a reduction of $15 million from a current assessment of $29,282,201. That applies to property purchased last year by Inergy from NYSEG in the Town of Reading.
Walmart is seeking a reduction of $6,775,000 from its assessment of $12,400,000 on the land and store it owns on Fourth Street in Watkins Glen. That section of the village lies in the town of Dix.
Present at Tuesday's session were Phillips, County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, Watkins Glen Mayor Mark Swinnerton, Reading Town Supervisor Marvin Switzer and Dix Town Supervisor Harold Russell.
O'Hearn (pictured at right) has said the assessment authority in such cases lies with the towns, but that the county is a party in providing "assessment services. We are a strong partner."
The county would also be impacted by the reductions -- along with the school district, village and towns -- through a loss of tax revenues.
Phillips has said the school district would lose $270,000 in revenue. The amount lost by the county, according to one published report, would be $167,000, while the village would see a reduction of $40,000. Figures for the towns are not clear, but would measure in the thousands of dollars.
Phillips and O'Hearn said the group will probably seek an outside attorney -- what one county official has referred to as a "hired gun" -- to help county and town attorneys on the case.
The Aug. 17 date in State Supreme Court is expected to be procedural, both O'Hearn and County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi have said. The case could take months to run its course, they have indicated.
Photos in text: School Superintendent Tom Phillips (top) and County Administrator Tim O'Hearn.
Legislators move to make Treasurer's post appointive
Redistricting also headed for November ballot
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 8 -- The Schuyler County Legislature -- which last year was openly critical of the County Treasurer's office -- is moving toward a referendum seeking to change the post of treasurer from elective to appointive.
The legislators will act on a resolution Monday night that would introduce Local Law No. 6 of 2012 that proposes to abolish the elected office of Treasurer and replace it with an appointive office of Comptroller.
The resolution was introduced without comment at Wednesday's Legislative Resolution Review Committee meeting that serves as preparation for the monthly Legislature session.
After Wednesday's meeting, Chairman Dennis Fagan explained that the change was suggested by current Treasurer Gary Whyman, who defeated then-incumbent Treasurer Margaret Starbuck for the post last November. That election was preceded by open animosity by the Legislature over operation of the Treasurer's office.
The proposed change will go on the ballot in the general election in November, and would -- if approved by voters -- take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Legislators would appoint someone -- likely Whyman (pictured at right), said Fagan -- to a three-year term that would coincide with the time remaining on the current four-year term. After that, he said, the appointment would be for four years.
"We have to do what we feel is in the best interest of the county," the chairman said, noting that the change would eliminate the chance of anyone winning the post strictly on the basis of public popularity.
The legislators will introduce another Local Law Monday night that could lead to establishment in 2014 of redistricting in the county -- replacing the current three-district layout with a new eight-district plan. A public hearing will be held at 6:50 p.m. on the matter, which has been under discussion for months.
The plan, which goes to the voters in the November election, attempts to establish districts with roughly an equal number of inhabitants, based on the most recent U.S. Census. It would be implemented gradually from 2014 to 2016.
The Legislature would, for the most part, remain at its current number of members -- eight -- although there would be nine for a one-year period as part of the phase-in process. The process includes letting each legislator complete his or her current term.
Photos in text: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan at Wednesday's session (top); and Treasurer Gary Whyman (in file photo).
O'Hearn: tough budget ahead
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 8 -- Schuyler County Adminstrator Tim O'Hearn said Wednesday that the county Legislature will have "difficult decisions" ahead as it grapples with establishing a 2013 county budget.
O'Hearn said that significant increases in the county's cost of Child Protective Services, health care and pensions will put Schuyler officials in the tough position of trying to pare down expenses -- and thus the tax levy -- to a point "that the taxpayer can bear."
He said he would be presenting a budget proposal in the next 30 days to legislators, but declined to speculate on what tax increase, if any, that there might be.
"I don't want to predict" what the tax levy situation will be, O'Hearn said. "But it will be a difficult budget year" in which the Legislature will strive "to mitigate cost increases." But some of them -- most noticeably in Child Protective Services, where the Family Court system has largely altered placement of juveniles from foster homes to more expensive group settings -- can not be controlled. O'Hearn said that while the county spent $86,213 in juvenile placements in 2011, it expects to spend more than $700,000 this year and $1.2 million in 2013.
Health care and pensions, he added, will each increase by about $300,000 in 2013.
"Program and people are all that we have left to adjust," O'Hearn said. "The Legislature is faced with some difficult decisions."
O'Hearn commented on the request by Inergy and Walmart for reductions in their property assessments, a matter raised Monday night at the Watkins Glen School Board meeting by School Superintendent Tom Phillips -- who said the changes, if permitted, would reduce school district revenues by $270,000.
Inergy is seeking a reduction of $15 million from a current assessment of $29,282,201. O'Hearn said that applies to property purchased last year by Inergy from NYSEG.
Walmart is seeking a reduction of $6,775,000 from its assessment of $12,400,000.
O'Hearn said an Aug. 17 date in State Supreme Court is expected to be procedural. "It's just a formality. We won't appear on the 17th. It moves the case into the system" -- a process that could take months to run its course.
O'Hearn stressed that the towns in which the properties lie are the assessment authorities in the case, and that the county "provides assessment services. We are a strong partner. We will help in facilitating the response to the suits."
Photo in text: County Administrator Tim O'Hearn at Wednesday's meeting of the Legislative Resolution Review Committee.
Soccer field complex plan draws fire at Board session
ODESSA, July 24 -- The proposed Chemung Valley Soccer Association (CVSA) soccer complex off Church Street drew opposition Monday night from several residents at a meeting of the Odessa Village Board.
The Board last month unanimously approved a zoning change that cleared the way for the CVSA to purchase a 16-acre hayfield in the village for the proposed development of the complex. That sale, by property owner Steve Bannister, is pending.
The zoning change was from residential to open space, which allows for public recreation. But the matter is far from settled, needing to go through the Planning Board process before the CVSA can move ahead with the development.
Present at Monday's session were residents who circulated or signed a pair of petitions opposing the project. About 20 signatures were gathered.
Denise Letteer, who lives across the street from the proposed access road -- which is currently a path between the DeCapria and VanSkiver homes on the south side of Church Street -- said that while she loves sports, she believes increased village traffic created by the complex will work to the detriment of Church Street residents.
A nearby Merchant Avenue resident, Shirley Young, said she was concerned about traffic too, about "what kind" of people "might be coming into our village" and about "added problems such as stealing and noise. I feel (the complex) should be someplace else."
Speedway resident Tracy Gavich (pictured at right) took opponents to task for trying to "build a wall" around the village to stop "every single thing from coming in. That's why business leaves. We've lost everything on Main Street. If we keep blocking things, the village is gone."
CVSA representatives James Nolan of Montour Falls and David Kelly Jr. of Burdett were on hand, with Nolan telling the residents and the board that they are "open to work with the public, to hear their comments. This is a community project for our local children."
Nolan (pictured at left) and Kelly, who are coaches and members of the six-region CVSA board, are expected to take the project next to the Planning Board, which will review any site plans and work with the Association and affected landowners in an attempt to fashion a project that meets with everyone's approval.
"We need meetings to talk about it," said Mayor Keith Pierce. "I understand what people are saying. Probably nobody wants (the soccer fields) in their backyard."
But he took issue with circulation of the petitions before any discussions were held -- other than at last month's public hearing, which only a couple of Monday's participants attended. Although the June session was advertised through legal notices, those who missed it said they didn't know about it. (A report on that meeting can be found on the Sports page.)
If the project ultimately gains approval, Nolan and Kelly have said they envision a likely startup date of autumn 2013.
The CVSA is a not-for-profit organization that provides soccer training and competition for youths in various age brackets between the ages of 6 and 14 in the counties of Chemung, Steuben and Schuyler. It is broken into six regions: Schuyler County, Elmira North, Elmira South, Big Flats, Horseheads and Corning. Games are played on weekends.
The organization, which has about 100 teams with players from 56 different schools, has been operating for 28 years, but these would be the first soccer fields that it owns. It has rented or leased -- from schools or at city or village parks -- all this time, but is looking now to effect a cost savings in that area across the long term.
Schuyler County teams have, in fact, been playing and practicing on the soccer fields at B.C. Cate Elementary School in Montour Falls -- fields notorious for their soggy and often unplayable conditions.
By owning a complex of fields, Nolan and Kelly have said, the CVSA would qualify for various grants that could help finance such things as field mowers and the purchase of soccer equipment that currently constitute a large part of the annual budget.
Photos in text:
Top: Possible layout of the soccer field complex, as presented to the Village Board. The red line is the property line.
Bottom right: Tracy Gavich
Bottom left: James Nolan
Sheriff's Office installs medication drop box
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, July 4 -- The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), has placed a permanent medication drop box in the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office on 10th Street in Watkins Glen.
Authorities said there is 24-hour access to the drop box, and no questions are asked.
According to Sheriff Bill Yessman, Prescription Drug Collection Days, held twice annually, have been so successful in collecting unwanted medications that the everyday drop box was adopted to try and expand on that success. By collecting unwanted medications, he said, people have an alternative to flushing them down the toilet and contaminating ground water.
The Sheriff said this will also reduce the amount of prescription drugs available for abuse and sale, which are problems in the county.
Cuomo: air-conditioning available for NY residents with low incomes, medical problems
Cooling initiative offers relief in heat waves
ALBANY, July 3 -- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is reminding residents of assistance available for low-income New Yorkers whose health issues pose a medical emergency during extended periods of hot weather.
In order to protect vulnerable New Yorkers, New York State has set aside $3 million in funding through the federally-funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
"The late spring and early summer have already brought several heat waves, which can be life-and-death matters for New Yorkers with serious medical conditions," Governor Cuomo said. "Senior citizens and children are especially susceptible to heat-related illness, and this initiative provides low-income homes with much-needed air conditioners so that New Yorkers have the assistance they need to stay cool and healthy."
"Summer heat can be dangerous for many New Yorkers," said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. "I strongly urge eligible families and seniors to take advantage of this program to help keep their homes safe and comfortable."
"Working with our non-profit partners across the state, we are happy to provide some relief to those needy New Yorkers with medical conditions," said Darryl C. Towns, Commissioner/CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), which administers LIHEAP. "But if you find yourself without air conditioning and in a true heat emergency this summer, please do not wait: head to your nearest local cooling center."
Eligibility for the program is determined by:
1) LIHEAP low-income guidelines. (For a four-person household, the maximum
gross annual income to qualify is approximately $49,500.)
Households that have a working air conditioner or have received one from the State in the last 10 years are not eligible.
The cooling program is administered by HCR with funding provided from the federal Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) funds, through the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). HCR's network of 63 local Weatherization agencies will provide delivery and installation of cooling program services, and funds have been allocated to ensure coverage in each of the state’s 62 counties.
These agencies will accept applications, determine eligibility, and oversee the installation of the air-conditioning units. Under the terms of the grant, one air conditioner will be awarded to an eligible household or dwelling unit, with installation and labor included. Grants do not include an additional HEAP cash benefit to cover the cost of operating the air conditioning unit.
The organization overseeing Schuyler County grant funds is the Economic Opportunity Program of Chemung and Schuyler Counties, Inc. It can be reached at (607) 734-0795.
S. Tier coalition gets $1M for green sustainability planning
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, June 25 -- – A coalition representing Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung, Tompkins, Tioga, Broome, Chenango, and Delaware counties has received $1 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to create the Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Plan – a comprehensive smart growth plan for regional sustainability.
This plan is part of the Cleaner, Greener Communities program, an environmental initiative announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo last year.
The coalition, comprised of Tompkins County, the Southern Tier East Regional Planning and Development Board, and the Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board, will develop a smart growth plan that encompasses the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) area. Tompkins County will lead the planning process for the region.
“Establishing a sustainable growth plan for the Southern Tier is a smart choice now that will ensure a brighter future for our communities,” said Tom Tranter, President & CEO of Corning Enterprises and Regional Council Co-chair. “This funding will go a long way in developing a strong, strategic plan that creates jobs and economic opportunities while also recognizing the need to be cognizant of our environment.”
“Protecting the environment is protecting our future. As our region continues to build and grow we must be mindful of how it affects the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we live on,” said David Skorton, President of Cornell University and Regional Council Co-chair. “By developing and implementing a sustainable growth plan for the region we can be energy efficient and reduce pollution while also increasing job and economic opportunities that improve the quality of life for our communities.”
The development of a comprehensive regional sustainability plan is the first phase of the Cleaner, Greener Communities program and -- according to its proponents -- is intended to provide resources that each New York State region can use to develop its own vision, goals and objectives for a sustainable future, identify actions needed to achieve that future and outline metrics to measure success. Only one award was made in each region of the state.
“This funding is an excellent opportunity for the Southern Tier Region to develop a plan that improves environmental quality by reducing air, water and land pollution and improves quality of life through smart growth and sustainable development,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO of NYSERDA.
Once the plan is developed, additional funding will be available from the Cleaner, Greener Communities program on a competitive basis to implement projects that support the goals of the plans. Projects must create opportunities for achieving carbon reductions, energy efficiency savings and/or renewable energy deployment while enhancing job creation, economic investment and development consistent with the region’s sustainability and REDC strategic plan.
For further information about the Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Plan, and to help rate the project’s draft goals or suggest strategies, visit the project website at www.cleanergreenersoutherntier.org or contact Leslie Schill at the Tompkins County Planning Department, 607-274-5560 or by email at email@example.com
Planning Board handles several requests
WATKINS GLEN, June 19 -- The Watkins Glen Planning Board Wednesday night gave final site-plan approval for one bed-and-breakfast facility, and preliminary site-plan approval to another.
Gaining final approval was the Cassidy House Bed & Breakfast at 601 N. Decatur St. owned by Connie Fern Miller. Approval came following a public hearing at which nobody spoke.
Gaining preliminary approval was the ARMS Bed and Breakfast owned by Catherine Powell at 330 Franklin St.. A public hearing on it will be held at the next Planning Board session on July 18.
The board also:
--Gave preliminary approval to Jeff Parmenter for expansion from three apartments to four at a residence he owns at 208 Seventh St., and installation of a parking area behind the structure. A public hearing on the plan will be held at the July 18 Planning Board session.
--Gave preliminary approval for measures including construction of a 64-by-120 foot storage and office structure at Frog Hollow Marina, the former Ervay's Marina. Work has been ongoing under general contractor Nick Kelly since the facility was purchased last year by Ed Woodland. A public hearing on the latest moves is set for the July 18 Planning Board meeting.
--Discussed some problems involved in the traffic flow at the new pumps in front of the Tops Friendly Markets grocery on Franklin Street. Code Enforcement Officer Gordon Wright said the building owner and Tops management are discussing the matter. The chief problem, board members said, appears to be a traffic blockage when, say, a motor home operator pulling a car fills the tanks of both vehicles, edging ahead into the parking lot's exit lane in the process. Vehicles have also driven into the pump bays from the wrong direction, despite signage.
2nd meeting set on Comprehensive Plan
Special to The Odessa File
ODESSA, June 21 -- A continuation of the June 20th Public Visioning Meeting designed to lead to a Comprehensive Plan in the Town of Cathaarine and the Village of Odessa will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 27 in the Town of Catharine office, 5182 Park Road, Odessa.
Organizers are encouraging anyone who was unable to attend the meeting on the 20th to attend on the 27th to provide their input into the Comprehensive Planning process. The meeting is for all interested parties in the Village of Odessa and the Town of Catharine.
The meetings are designed to help a Joint Comprehensive Plan Subcommittee convened by the two municipalities develop a plan that accurately reflects the needs and interests of the community. Broad public involvement is crucial, organizers say, to ensure that the Comprehensive Plan serves as a guiding document for future development.
The plan is being developed based on survey input from 2011.
The mission of the committee is to develop a comprehensive plan to provide a foundation for sound municipal policy decisions which will maintain and enhance the quality of life over the next ten years.
The 15-member committee consists of the Catharine and Odessa Planning Boards, and other community and business leaders.
Direct any questions to Julie Johnstone (firstname.lastname@example.org), Comprehensive Plan Intern, or Tim Hicks (email@example.com), Chair of the Catharine Planning Board.
Sheriffs launch Yellow Dot program
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, June 12 -- Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman and the New York State Sheriffs’ Association are partnering to offer Yellow Dot, a free program that provides vital medical information to first responders.
According to Yessman, the Yellow Dot Program is an effort to better serve and protect the citizens of Schuyler and other counties. The program was launched in 30 counties across the state this week.
Yellow Dot, he said, is designed to help first responders provide life-saving medical attention after a crash or other emergency.
“When you can’t speak for yourself, Yellow Dot can speak for you,” said Peter Kehoe, Executive Director of the Sheriffs’ Association.
The Yellow Dot kit contains a medical information card and a Yellow Dot decal. Participants complete the card, attach a recent photo, place it in the glove compartment of their vehicle, and place the Yellow Dot decal on the rear driver’s side window.
First responders arriving at the scene of an emergency will be alerted by the Yellow Dot decal to look for the medical information card in the glove compartment.
“The Yellow Dot Program will save lives by giving first responders access to vital medical information and saving time,” said Sheriff Yessman.
Funded by the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, the program is a free service available to individuals of all ages. Yessman’s office will distribute Yellow Dot kits to the public. You can also have a kit mailed to you by visiting www.nysheriffs.org/yellowdot.
The New York State Sheriffs’ Association, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation, formed in 1934, for the purpose of assisting sheriffs in the efficient and effective delivery of sheriffs’ services to the public. It comprises all of the elected and appointed sheriffs of New York State.
Yellow Dot was started in Connecticut in 2002 by People’s United Bank. Originally developed for senior citizens, the program can be used by anyone of any age.
Hydrofracking concerns aired at session
WATKINS GLEN, May 22 -- Concerns about hydrofracking were aired to the Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night by a member of the Schuyler County Environmental Management Council, who urged the board to write letters opposing such drilling to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Frank Spena said members of the Management Council are concerned about the effect on Seneca Lake of any hydrofracking that might be done in the area. "If they started contaminating the water supply, gosh, what a disaster," he said.
Spena asked how the Village Board feels about hydrofracking -- a process used to extract natural gas from shale -- and was told by Mayor Mark Swinnerton that in "my personal opinion, I'm not for fracking." The mayor said the problems encountered by such drilling in Pennsylvania are "concerning," as is the "irreversibility" of contamination.
However, he noted that government leaders around much of the county "don't feel it's an issue in the near future because of the depth of shale" below Schuyler -- a depth purportedly too shallow to allow effective drilling. The thinking is that any drilling in the region will be to the south and east, well away from Seneca Lake.
Spena said he was "concerned too about air pollution" connected to the fracking process, adding: "I don't know how far (drillers) have to be" away from the Watkins Glen area "not to affect us." And he expressed worries about increased truck traffic -- a concern echoed by Swinnerton, who called it "a major issue."
A decision by the DEC on allowing hydrofracking in New York State is due by the end of the year, Spena noted, and toward that end "I'd like to see you send a letter" to Cuomo and the DEC Commissioner opposing the practice.
The Village Board, said Swinnerton, hasn't "taken a stand ... but we will discuss it."
The Environmental Management Council is composed of appointees from the county's 12 municipalities along with five at-large members. The council also has representatives from the county Planning Commission, Soil and Water Conservation District, Watershed Department, Planning Department and Legislature. It meets the second Wednesday of each month at the Schuyler County Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.
In other business, the board:
-- Received two bids for recycling in the village in the coming year. One bid was from the current contract-holder, Casella Waste Systems of Elmira, in the amount of $1,805 per month for bi-weekly pickup. Cardinal Disposal of Dundee provided two figures: $2,000 a month for once-a-month pickup, and $2,500 a month for bi-weekly collection.
The board, said Swinnerton, will consider the bids and announce its choice on May 31.
Photos in text: Mayor Mark Swinnerton (top); Frank Spena
Left: Montour Falls Public Works Department workers Mike Hughey (left, Foreman) and Mike Thomas (Machine Equipment Operator) near a storm drain marker installed in a parking lot. Right: A storm drain marker. (Photos provided)
Glen, Montour install storm drain markers
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, May 20 -- The Public Works Departments in the Villages of Montour Falls and Watkins Glen, along with the Rural Stormwater Coalition of Schuyler, Chemung and Steuben Counties, installed storm drain markers last week to complete a project that was started months earlier in the Village of Odessa.
The Rural Stormwater Coalition is a group coordinated by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD).
The circular, steel disc markers are labeled with a jumping fish and have the words "No Dumping Drains to Stream" or "No Dumping Drains to Lake" inscribed on them. The purpose of the discs is to remind residents that storm drain inlets often connect to natural waterbodies, so the stormwater runoff that enters them needs to be as clean as possible.
“We are glad to participate in this program along with the other villages,” said Mark Specchio, Superintendent of Public Works for Watkins Glen. “All of the street, parking lot and roof runoff in Watkins Glen ultimately enters Seneca Lake and we want to remind folks of this.”
Added Elaine Dalrymple, District Field Manager of the Schuyler County SWCD and a member of the Rural Stormwater Coalition: “Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that doesn’t soak into the ground but runs off from rooftops, over paved areas and lawns, picking up debris, chemicals, motor oil and other pollutants. Stormwater can flow into a storm sewer system or directly into a lake, stream, river or wetland, potentially contaminating the water we use for swimming and fishing.”
The purpose of the Rural Stormwater Coalition, made up of local agencies
and municipalities, is to develop coordinated, educational and implementation
projects to reduce stormwater runoff in the three counties.
The 8D plan endorsed by legislators.
Legislators OK 8-district plan
WATKINS GLEN, May 15 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night unanimously backed a plan to redistrict the county into eight districts, with one legislator from each.
Because the decision won't change the current number of legislators, no public referendum is necessary. County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi will prepare a Local Law for the Legislature's consideration at next month's meeting.
The vote Monday was 7-0, with Legislator Stewart Field absent -- although Chairman Dennis Fagan said Field was not opposed to the redistricting plan selected from among several options.
County Planner Rocky Kambo went through a number of alternative plans, devised after an earlier redistricting meeting at which plans with 7 and 8 districts -- and one with five districts and two at-large legislators -- failed to forge a consensus. This time, Kambo presented a 5-district plan, and three different 8-district plans. The one selected was designated 8D.
The county currently has three legislative districts. The change was prompted by new population figures and a wish to improve complex voting laws.
The district plans were all drawn based on population. Census numbers show that two of the three current districts are under-represented.
All of the legislators spoke in favor of the 8D plan, which would divide the Town of Hector into three different component voting districts, divide Odessa along town lines, and divide the Towns of Dix and Tyrone. It met the criteria of keeping population variation among the districts within 10 percent.
Spectators present voiced support of the 8D plan, although a couple indicated they preferred the 5-district option. Town of Hector supervisor Ben Dickens said he liked the 5-district plan better, but was okay with 8D. Support was also voiced by Jim Howell, Mark Rondinaro and Alan Hurley.
Photo in text: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan.
O'Mara-sponsored legislation takes aim at cyberbullying
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, May 2—State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) announced Tuesday that he is sponsoring legislation in the Senate known as the “Internet Protection Act” to combat cyberbullying.
“Cyberbullying has become one of the great tragedies of the Internet age,” said O’Mara. “Numerous national studies tell us that upwards of 40 percent of students have experienced some form of cyberbullying at least once, and they feel helpless in the face of it. Victims of anonymous cyberbullies need protection. We’re hopeful that this legislation can be helpful to the overall effort to deter and prevent anonymous criminals from hiding behind modern technology and using the Internet to bully, defame and harass their victims.”
O’Mara joined State Assemblyman Dean Murray (R,C-East Patchogue), who’s sponsoring the legislation in the Assembly, and other Assembly co-sponsors at a press conference in Albany Tueday to unveil their legislation (A.8688/S.6779).
The legislation proposes to combat cyberbullying by allowing the victim of an anonymous website posting to request that the post be removed if the anonymous source is unwilling to attach his or her name to it. Under the legislation, website administrators, upon a request, would be required to remove anonymous web postings unless the anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate. All web administrators would be required to place a clearly visible contact number or e-mail address on their site to receive removal requests.
“While the Internet is a wonderful resource for social networking,
sadly it can also be used to anonymously bring harm to others,”
said Murray. “My legislation addresses the dangers of cyberbullying
and protects the victims of this offense. By demanding these online abusers
According to the Cyberbully Research Center, past studies have shown that nearly 42% of middle school students have been bullied online at least once. The Center has also reported that cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to young people who have not experienced it.
The O’Mara-Murray legislation has been referred to the Codes Committee in the Senate, and the Government Operations Committee in the Assembly.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (right) with the Internet Protection Act's Assembly sponsor, Dean Murray, at the press conference. (Photo provided)
Cuomo representative Barbara Fiala during her power-point presentation.
Cuomo rep gets an earful
WATKINS GLEN, March 10 -- A representative of Governor Andrew Cuomo presented her boss's vision for a future New York Friday, and then took comments from a small audience in the Schuyler County Legislature chambers in the County Building.
The comments were not as rosy as her report.
Barbara Fiala, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, presented -- with an accompanying power-point display -- a regional discourse on the governor's "2012 Executive Budget and Reform Agenda," touching upon such items as streamlining government, mandate relief, reducing the local impact of Medicaid (increases to county's have been capped); and improving Education (where a teacher evaluation system has been pushed by her boss). Hers was one of a dozen such meetings being conducted around the state by various members of the Cuomo team, seeking input.
When she was done with the report, the comment session turned in the other direction: a bit critical.
Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips opened with a complaint, backed by figures he quoted, that the 21 districts in the regional GST BOCES have seen a loss of millions of dollars in state aid in the past three years, and that districts are reducing staff and increasing class sizes, and in many cases reducing athletic opportunities. He also said the governor's proposal to distribute $250 million in state aid on a competitive basis is inequitable, and that there are other inequities in aid between rich and poor districts. He said the governor "continues to tout 4%" as the amount of this year's state aid increase, "when in fact, at Watkins Glen, it's 1.35%."
"What plan does the Governor have to address these gross inequities?" Phillips asked.
Fiala said she was "at a disadvantage. I assume your numbers are correct, but I can't be sure without checking. ... I'd like you to send me the statistics so I can give you a broader explanation."
Other officials on hand included Schuyler Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan and Schuyler Hospital President Andy Manzer, both of whom expressed economic concerns. "I applaud the governor's efforts to rein in spending," Fagan said, but he called Cuomo's efforts to limit Medicaid costs to local governments "tepid" and added: "We simply can't afford to conduct business as usual. We're going broke."
Manzer, meanwhile, said he was "extremely disappointed with (the governor's) State of the State" message, saying that there is "no reason for our young people to stay here, other than family." As for health care, "there's only so far we can go," he said, "with the underlying reimbursement mess."
Other speakers included area resident Alan Hurley and Watkins Glen High School senior Alexander Rundle, the latter representing the student-run SOS (Save Our Schools) group that has been lobbying for changes in the governor's budget proposal. The group, which has specifically taken aim at the $250 million in competitive aid, is particularly upset with the loss of 15 positions in the planned 2012-13 school district budget.
Rundle presented Fiala with a letter to the governor expressing the group's outlook and wishes. Fiala said she would pass it along to Cuomo.
Photos in text: Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips (top) and Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan address Barbara Fiala during the session in the Legislature chambers.
County legislators and officials posed for their annual group photo Monday night. Legislator Mike Yuhasz was absent. Seated from left: Legislator Barbara Halpin, Deputy Clerk Jamee Mack, Clerk Stacy Husted, and Legislator Doris Karius. Standing from left: Legislator Phil Barnes, County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi, Legislators Stewart Field, Tom Gifford and Glenn Larison, Administrator Tim O'Hearn, and Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan.
Grant sought for police consolidation study
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 14 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night approved a resolution supporting a co-application with the Village of Watkins Glen seeking a grant to study the feasibility of consolidating the Village Police Department with the Schuyler County Sheriff's Office.
The application will go to the New York State Department of State, with the village as the lead applicant "and responsible for all local share costs," the resolution read.
The "obvious goal" of consolidation, said Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan, "would be to save money." It would, he said, follow in the wake of several shared-service initiatives with the village that have proved successful. "But the study might show it's not feasible," he added.
The consolidation idea surfaced in late September, when Watkins Glen Mayor Mark Swinnerton questioned the need to retain the $400,000 department. He stressed that such a move was only in the idea stage, and that if consolidation were adopted "we would want to retain as many positions as possible" among the current village force, shifting them to the Sheriff's Office. The village force includes Chief Tom Struble, five full-time officers and a varying number of part-timers.
--The new County Attorney, Geoffrey B. Rossi (right), was on hand for his first session since being appointed last month. He fills a vacancy created by the retirement in mid-2011 of James P. Coleman. Dennis Morris served as Acting County Attorney before being elected County Judge.
--Watkins Glen High School students Alex Rundle and Rob Rondinaro, representing a group called S.O.S., sought the legislators' support in a drive to combat the competitive aspect of some state aid to education, and to possibly get enough aid reinstated to retain a number of teachers being laid off next year at WGHS. (See story on Schools.)
Photos in text: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan (top) and County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi.
Fagan re-elected chairman
WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 4 -- Dennis Fagan was re-elected chairman of the Schuyler County Legislature Wednesday morning at that governing body's first meeting of the new year -- its organizational session.
Fagan was named to his second year at the helm without oppositon and in a unanimous vote of the legislators.
In other action, three measures dealing with the appointment of a County Attorney to succeed Dennis Morris were tabled. They were designed to name a County Attorney, an assistant and a confidential secretary, but the county has not yet found a successor to Morris, who was sworn in earlier in the week as the new Schuyler County Judge.
Interviews of prospective candidates are under way, officials said.
The Legislature also approved the appointment of incumbent Stacy Husted to a four-year term as Clerk to the Legislature and incumbent Jamee Mack as Deputy Clerk, and Marian Boyce as the County Historian, succeeding Barbara Bell, who retired. Wesley Roe, named Public Defender in 2011, was appointed to a full four-year term.
The session was preceded by the swearing-in of Fagan and Legislator Stewart Field -- both re-elected in November -- and Gary Whyman, who won election as the new Country Treasurer in that November balloting.
Photos in text:
Top: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan signs the oath of office after being sworn in for another term as legislator by County Clerk Linda Compton (left). Also sworn in was Legislator Stweart Field, standing behind Fagan. The two men were re-elected in November.
Bottom: Gary Whyman is sworn in as Schuyler County Treasurer by County Clerk Linda Compton.
Watkins buys back Salt Point building, plans apartments
WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 4 -- The Village of Watkins Glen has bought back the old Electric and Water Department Building on Salt Point Road from the Magee Point Associates development firm owned by Bill Benedict, but still plans on having upscale apartments in the building.
Mayor Mark Swinnerton announced the purchase -- and the price, $825,000 -- at Tuesday night's meeting of the Village Board. The village sold the building several years ago for $225,000 to Benedict, who gutted it in preparation for the installation of apartments and an eatery.
Swinnerton said that while the buyback price "was a tough pill to swallow," it was preferable to running up litigation bills that could have surpassed it. Beyond that, retention of the building eliminates the need for the village to purchase a new water intake building -- the lowest cost of which appeared to be $1.2 million.
The village government in previous years had decided on the new intake building as the course to follow, but bid estimates for the construction came in much higher than anticipated -- first $2.3 million and then $1.8 million -- until it tentatively decided on a pre-cast structure that would have brought the cost down to $1.2 million.
In the meantime, Swinnerton said, the delay in getting an intake building led the village to inhabit the Electric and Water Building -- which has long served as the intake point -- past the July 15, 2011 date it had promised to vacate. Benedict therefore filed a notice of eviction, and the matter ended up in court, and legal bills mounted -- $60,000 in the past six months.
"So we negotiated to buy back the building," said Swinnerton -- and beyond that the village has "lined up another developer with whom we will cohabitate." The developer, he said without identifying him, will pay fair-market value for the property, occupying about two-thirds of it and developing upscale apartments or condos, with access by the residents to boat slips on the Seneca Lake waterfront the building faces.
Negotiations with the new developer are not yet complete, he said, but the entire process will be aided by a New York State revitalization grant recently extended to cover the new plans for the structure.
Benedict, Swinnerton pointed out, had every right to institute the litigation against the village, and every right to make a profit, inasmuch as he held the property for years and invested a good deal of money in preparation work. As it is, the mayor said, the building is "ready for new construction."
"I'm sure Mr. Benedict was happy to walk away from it," he said. "The village didn't get out of his way. And I'm happy to get the deal we got and move forward. The board is happy, too -- it was a unanimous decision to buy it back.
"It had become a daily issue we had to deal with, what with the lawyers and everything. We're glad to have it behind us."
Photo in text: Watkins Glen Mayor Mark Swinnerton at Tuesday night's board meeting.
New Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris, right, is sworn in by his predecessor, J.C. Argetsinger.
Morris sworn in as Judge
WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 3 -- "Hear ye, hear ye. Schuyler County Court is now in session."
The words from longtime County Judge J.C. Argetsinger initiated the formal portion of a gathering of about 100 people Monday in the Schuyler County Courtroom on hand to see Dennis Morris sworn in as the successor to Argetsinger.
The swearing-in was preceded by a prayer offered by Rev. Beverly Karr-Lyon of the First Presbyterian Church of Watkins Glen, who intoned:
"Gracious God, hear our prayer for public servants and elected leaders, especially today for Dennis J. Morris as he is sworn into office as Schuyler County Judge.
"Fill him with your spirit to judge rightly, to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with his God. As he seeks your wisdom and truth, grant him the courage to always do what is right."
Argetsinger then spoke to the audience -- scores of people seated in chairs and in the jury box, and standing in the back of the room. He pointed out that Morris was joining "17 predecessor judges" who are on display in paintings and photos on the wall of the courtroom. "I can say with certainty," said the judge, that Morris will serve "well and honorably" in keeping with the example that those previous judges have set.
Former County Judge and State Supreme Court Justice William N. Ellison was also present -- in robes alongside the robed Argetsinger and Morris. "I'm pleased to be back at the old bench," he told the audience.
"It is said by some," he noted, "that a judge is a lawyer in a robe. I could not disagree more. The people elect the judge -- decide who they want to put their future in. He is the People's Choice."
He said there are three requisite qualifications "for a good judge." They include "knowing the law and basing his decisions on it," being "entirely impartial," and "standing ready to give his time" and wisdom "to all parties who appear before him in court. Dennis Morris measures up to those three criteria. I know he will end up, God willing, to be one of our outstanding judges."
Argetsinger then passed the judge's gavel to Morris and administered the oath of office. It was followed by a standing ovation.
Morris, elected to a 10-year term in November in a race against District Attorney Joe Fazzary to succeed the retiring Argetsinger, addressed the gathering briefly, thanking his supporters and those who had helped set up the party preceding and following the oath of office. There was plenty of food on hand on two tables near the rear of the courtroom.
"I'm stunned by the size of the crowd," Morris said, standing behind the elevated bench and surveying the audience. "I've had the opportunity to meet the last seven judges of Schuyler County Court ... and I'm honored to have the chance to live up to my predecessors."
Morris signed a written oath in an official book provided by County Clerk Linda Compton, and then signed a larger sheet prepared for the occasion -- a giant, informal Oath of Office that he urged everyone present to autograph "as a keepsake" he wanted to carry with him into his term of office.
Before he presides at any cases -- the County Judge oversees County Court, Family Court and Surrogate Court -- Morris was to leave today (Tuesday) for a weeklong judges' school run by New York State at a site in White Plains.
Photos in text:
From top: County Judge Dennis Morris with his wife, Julie, and daughter Jessi; Morris is congratulated by retired Judge William Ellison; outgoing County Judge J.C. Argetsinger and Morris celebrate after the oath of office was administered.
From left: Former Sheriff Michael Maloney signs Morris' informal Oath of Office autograph sheet; former Watkins Glen Mayor Judy Phillips chats with a friend at the gathering; Morris addresses the audience present for the swearing-in.
The gavel passes from one judge to the next -- J.C. Argetsinger (left) to Dennis Morris.
Legislators end year with brief meeting
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 29 -- The Schuyler County Legislature held its year-end meeting Wednesday morning, and it was a short one.
The legislators considered, and passed, just nine resolutions, and none of them were major. There were no committee reports, and no administrator's report.
However, Legislature Clerk Stacy Husted suggested to the five members present that a contract with the Chamber of Commerce that designates the Chamber as the Tourism Promotion Agency for the next 15 years be studied further before Chairman Dennis Fagan signs it.
"Probably a little more thought should be given to the balance between the two parties," said Husted, referring to the county and the Chamber, which previously had entered into one-year pacts. Fagan agreed, and the others followed suit.
The legislators also gave verbal approval to the removal of soda from the menu of the upcoming annual County Recognition Luncheon, at which county workers are recognized for years of service. Husted raised the matter, saying there had been suggestions to exclude soda from the menu due to diabetes and obesity concerns linked to the drinks.
The Recognition Luncheon is sponsored by the Legislature.
Photos in text:
Top: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan presiding at the year-end meeting.
Bottom: Stacy Husted, Clerk of the Legislature.
Legislators approve budget
Plan sets 2.1% increase in tax levy; Halpin votes no
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 13 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night approved a 2012 budget by a vote of 6-1, with Barbara Halpin opposed.
Halpin had convinced her fellow legislators on Nov. 14 to table a budget vote scheduled that night, and legislators met on Nov. 30 in a workshop setting to consider amendments that might reduce the tax levy. The plan adopted Monday calls for a 2.1% increase in the levy (it had been 2.23% before the workshop), and a tax rate of $8.37 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from this year's $8.17.
The vote came after some testy words from Halpin and Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan -- the former criticizing the lawmaking body for instituting a tax hike "in a year in which we could have done without one" through job and program cuts, and the latter taking the state to task for its failure to institute promised mandate relief. He pointed to a large increase in pension costs as part of the problem facing legislators, and urged approval by the state of a gradual takover of Medicaid costs now borne by counties.
The spending plan drew fire from a handful of onlookers, including former Legislature Chair Patricia Hastings, who said that "people are hurting out there" and told legislators "there are ways you can cut the budget, absolutely." She pointed to non-mandated contracts, including one with the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, as a place to start -- amending or eliminating them. "The only obligation you have is the safety and welfare of the people," she said. "You can get out of contracts. The state is not your problem; you're the problem for the state."
After the budget was approved, Mark Rondinaro -- who recently ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature -- urged its members to focus in the future on "what's necessary" in budgets, "to the exclusion of everything else."
Among the cost-cutting measures approved by legislators Monday was cancellation of a Physically Handicapped Children's Program that helped provide medication reimbursement for children from a handful of county families at a cost of $5,000 a year to the county. It was cut, Fagan said, "on the recommendation of the department head because of minimal use."
Barbara Kelly, mother of one of the children, asked the legislators before the vote to reconsider the move and retain the program. But it was voted down 5-2, with Phil Barnes and Stewart Field in favor of retaining it. Kelly blasted the vote afterward, saying she was "disappointed. I think we need to speak up for our weak, overall -- particularly children."
Added her husband, former Watkins Glen Village Trustee Nick Kelly: "When I was on the Village Board, we would never cut children's programs. Two of you have a heart; the other five do not. Some things you can cut, and some things you shouldn't. Our kids are all we've got."
In other business, the Legislature:
--Set its year-end meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28.
--Set the 2012 organizational meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4.
--Approved a Local Law -- to some criticism from a resident in attendance -- that sets salaries for county officials as follows in 45 days: Highway Superintendent $66,389; Deputy Highway Superintendent $53,567; Chief Assistant District Attorney $76,472; Assistant District Attorney $29,221; Undersheriff $56,680; Commissioner of Social Services $74,278; Personnel Officer $48,763; Real Property Tax Director $78,766; Deputy County Clerk $40,124; County Administrator $108,202.
Photos in text:
From top: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan; Legislator Barbara Halpin; County Attorney Dennis Morris, standing, confers with County Administrator Tim O'Hearn before the session. Legislature Clerk Stacy Husted is at left.
Legislator Barbara Halpin (left) and Sheriff Bill Yessman at Wednesday's workshop.
Legislators pare $8,600 from budget
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 1 -- Schuyler County legislators met in a workshop setting Wednesday morning in an attempt to whittle what Legislator Barbara Halpin considered "fat" from the proposed 2012 county budget.
After a series of cost-cutting (and some cost-adding) proposals were completed three hours later, all that had been removed, on balance, was about $8,600 -- bringing the proposed tax-levy hike down from 2.20% to 2.14%.
The workshop was the result of Halpin's complaints at a Nov. 14 meeting that the Legislature -- set to vote that night on the budget plan -- had not exercised enough effort to keep the tax levy from rising. She said that night that she had $136,000 worth of cuts in mind.
Wednesday's session featured mostly low-keyed discussions on the need for certain budgetary levels -- in such areas as equipment, supplies and overtime in various county departments. Responding to questioning were department heads.
A testy exchange occurred between Halpin -- who was eyeing cuts affecting 14 line items in the Sheriff's Office budget -- and Sheriff Bill Yessman, who said he had "kept my spending flat the past two years, to the point where we're holding things together with duct tape ... Every department head in the county worked hard on the budget. We kept cost down. There is no fat in the budget."
Halpin said she sympathized, "but everyone out there (in the county) is holding things together with tape. We all have to give a little. I'm not picking on you, although some might say I am, considering the number of line items ... If you'll stand here and say you need (the funds), I'm okay with that, until next year when I find you didn't need them."
Ultimately, the only person to vote in favor of the cuts was Halpin.
A move to reduce election-related budget items saw Election Commissioner John Vona tell the board: "If you want to cut it, go ahead. But we will continue to buy what we need to hold elections ... Everything we do is mandated."
A subsequent discussion regarding a budgeted increase in election advertising showed it was needed for an increased number of elections. Finally the legislators settled on trimming $1,000 from the department's conference expenses.
A motion later by Chairman Dennis Fagan -- seconded by Halpin -- to trim $5,000 from the Central Data Processing budget was defeated 4-3.
Other budgetary matters were approved, while some were discarded without a vote or a second.
In the end, the $8,600 reduction amounted to a comparative drop in the budget bucket. Each of the measures approved at the workshop will be voted on in resolution form by the legislators at their next regular session, on Dec. 12, with an eye toward possibly approving the budget that night.
The $42.4 million spending plan had envisioned a tax levy of $10,080,143, which is now -- after Wednesday's workshop -- at $10,071,470.
Photos in text: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan (top) and Election Commissioner John Vona.
Legislators table budget vote
MONTOUR FALLS, Nov. 15 -- What started as a lone voice against a tax increase resulted in a delay Monday night in the vote by the Schuyler County Legislature on the proposed 2012 budget.
Legislators decided 5-3 to table the vote, which had been scheduled for Monday following the annual budget report by Administrator Tim O'Hearn to a gathering of about 40 people in a meeting room at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.
The move came after Legislator Barbara Halpin, outspoken in her opposition to a tax increase -- the budget currently envisions a levy hike of 2.2 percent -- and seemingly alone in that opposition, urged further discussion of the spending plan in a workshop setting, and a delay in the vote until a future meeting.
The Legislature, she pointed out, has until Dec. 20 to approve a budget. The budget vote on Monday's agenda, she said, was the result of haste by the Budget and Finance Committee, comprised of four of the eight legislators.
"They had a goal" of a tax hike under 3 percent, she said, and when they reached it, "they said 'that's it.' But I do not understand how the Legislature can increase taxes on the people of this county. The goal should be to decrease taxes on an annual basis." Rising taxes, she said, are driving some residents out of the area and the state.
Halpin complained that she had not had a proper opportunity to propose some cost-cutting measures, a contention that drew debate from other board members. But in the end -- on a motion by Legislator Doris Karius and a second by Halpin, and much to the amazement of onlookers expecting a budget vote -- that vote was tabled and a workshop scheduled for the morning of Nov. 30. The next regular meeting is Dec. 12.
Siding with the tabling measure were Phil Barnes, Karius, Stewart Field, Halpin and Chairman Dennis Fagan. Opposed were Tom Gifford, Glenn Larison and Mike Yuhasz.
Halpin, asked afterward if she was surprised by the fact that the budget vote was tabled, said "Yes, I was." She added: "I'm very appreciative of the five votes" to "take a little more time and slow this down."
She said her proposals for the workshop contain $136,000 in cuts, and that she is awaiting word on the possible impact of fees for some services. But those reductions won't totally eliminate the tax increase, she said -- voicing the hope that other legislators might have some reduction ideas of their own. Ultimately, she said, program cuts would have to be embraced in order to avoid a tax hike.
O'Hearn's report early in Monday's meeting stressed how the budget is driven by state mandates, and how promised mandate relief had not materialized.
Photos in text:
Top: County Administrator Tim O'Hearn explains the budget as part of the annual budget hearing during Monday night's Legislature meeting.
Middle: Legislator Barbara Halpin discusses why she is opposed to the budget. She does not want any tax increase.
Bottom: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan at Monday's session.
Dennis Morris, right, addresses family, friends and TV reporters Tuesday night as his wife, Julie, listens at his side.
Morris defeats Fazzary for judge post; Whyman tops Starbuck for treasurer
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Nov. 9 -- The first-time campaigner defeated the seasoned campaigner Tuesday as Dennis J. Morris outpolled District Attorney Joseph G. Fazzary for a 10-year term as Schuyler County Judge.
Meanwhile, Gary J. Whyman, who won the GOP primary in September, defeated incumbent Margaret Starbuck, 2,476-2,138 in the race for County Treasurer. And incumbent Stewart Field won re-election to the Schuyler County Legislature, defeating challenger Mark F. Rondinaro 842-733. A second available District 1 seat went to incumbent Legislature Chairman Dennis A. Fagan of Tyrone, who as the sole candidate from a District 1 town outside of Reading (where Field and Rondinaro reside) earned the seat despite polling just 554 votes.
Morris, who had never run for office before, defeated Fazzary -- experienced in campaigns for the DA's job and in a failed run for the State Supreme Court -- by a 402-vote margin, 2,677-2,275.
"I'm stunned," said Morris at a party at caterer Carol Bower's place -- scene of many other parties over the years, but perhaps none quite as loud as the moment in which campaign treasurer Diane Carl announced that WETM had just called the election in favor of Morris.
A cheer went up among the 30 friends, family members and campaign workers present, who then started chanting "Den-nis! Den-nis! Den-nis!"
WETM reporters Jenelle Tortorella and Chuck Brame arrived at that point after leaving a Fazzary party at the Seneca Lodge in Watkins Glen. They were greeted with the cheers, and with a speech by Morris to his supporters.
"You're making me blush," he said, and added: "I guess it's time for a speech. You all know I'm kind of a history buff. Some say when Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown, they sang "The World Turned Upside Down." I wish I knew that song ... but that's exactly what this feels like."
Morris told his audience that he was "proud of this campaign, and I'm proud of all of you. The voters reacted to our campaign, and I'm glad they reacted this way."
Then, after a pause, he concluded: "Oh my gosh, I've got a challenge ahead."
"Compared to what you just did, it will be easy, " called out a campaign worker, which drew a loud laugh from the gathering.
"I'm really exhilarated," Morris told Tortorella in a subsequent taped interview. He said he was hoping to uphold the judicial legacy of Schuyler County Judges who went before him, wanted to thank the voters for showing their faith in him, and said that while he was "very happy," he was also "exhausted. It's been a long campaign."
The campaign had its start in February, when he first thought of the possibility, bounced the idea off his wife, Julie, and then off friend James Coleman, who for years was County Attorney while Morris was Assistant County Attorney. Morris knew Fazzary would likely be running, and checked with a couple of other attorneys to see if they would be tossing their hats in the ring. They weren't, so he did.
He started his campaign ahead of Fazzary, posting Morris signs -- complete with a photo portrait -- along the roadways. "I had to get my picture out there early," he said, "because nobody knew me."
After that, he said, it was a matter of getting across his main message -- that the job of County Judge was not just about criminal cases, in which Fazzary had excelled. It was about Family Court and Surrogate Court experience, too -- courts in which he had spent a good deal of time over the years.
The message apparently struck a chord, judging from his narrow Republican Primary loss to Fazzary and, now, his General Election victory.
"I appreciate the fact that the voters listened," he said. "This really is stunning."
In addition to Whyman's and Field's victories, the county had some notable town races:
Catharine: John VanSoest was re-elected supervisor, defeating newcomer Michael Hines 271-79. And incumbent councilmen Ronald W. Hoffman (303 votes) and C. Michael Learn (283) turned back a challenge by Ron Havens (159).
Cayuta: Christopher Arnold -- a cousin of Dennis Morris -- won election as supervisor, defeating Terry F. Gardner Sr. 89-68. In the race for two council seats, Karen A. McLean (93 votes ) and Kathleen C. Cleveland (83) outpolled Anne M. Johnson (42) and William Barrett (39). Meanwhile, Angela S. Knapp defeated Debra A. Barrett 96-61 in the race for town clerk.
Dix: Incumbent Justice Alan E. Gregory won re-election, defeating Ronald G. Alexander 608-334. And Scott A. Yaw (678 votes ) and Robert DeNardo (571) defeated F. Joe Hammond (493) in the contest for two council seats.
Hector: Incumbent Supervisor Benjamin R. Dickens edged challenger Robert J. Fitzsimmons 825-805, while incumbents Clifford D. Yaw (1,065 votes) and Marie A. Stevens (801) turned back a challenge from Bo Lipari (748) and Donald C. Beckley (396).
Orange: Jocelyn M. Harrison outpolled Henry Taylor Jr. 205-68 in the race for supervisor.
Reading: Gary B. Conklin (417 votes) and Robert J. Everett (268) turned back a challenge by Charles M. Peacock Jr. (224) for seats on the town council. And Alice W. Conklin defeated Rita A. Osborne 283-238 in the race for Town Clerk.
Tyrone: Gary Jackson, recently appointed as supervisor and running a write-in campaign, defeated Alan Hurley 256-121 in the race for supervisor. In addition, Tom Allen (232 votes) and Geraldine Petris (220) won seats on the town council, defeating Joe T. Sevier (209) and Fred Erdle (156); Deborah L. Tyler won the town clerk's job, defeating Michele M. Gee 341-89; and Paul H. Ernhout defeated Matthew M. Stiles 305-118 for the highway superintendent's post.
Photos in text:
From top: Dennis Morris smiles as his friends and family cheer at the news that he has won; Morris with friend and advisor James Coleman; Morris gets a congratulatory kiss from his wife, Julie; and the judge-elect talks to a friend.
Friend joins Farm Bureau 'Circle of Friends'
Special to The Odessa File
BIG FLATS, Oct. 28 -- Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R-Big Flats) has been selected by the New York Farm Bureau to join its “Circle of Friends” based on his support of New York Agriculture and the Farm Bureau.
“I appreciate being recognized as a supporter of New York Agriculture because I am exactly that,” said Friend. "As we work to find out how to gain a footing in this economic uncertainty, we need not look further than agriculture. Ranked behind Maine, New Jersey and Connecticut in agriculture production, New York has the means to increase its regional position by simply cutting red tape and making sure we aren’t marginalizing independent farmers.”
New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said the "Circle of Friends award is based upon each legislator’s voting record on issues of importance to New York agriculture and other evidence of legislative support, including sponsorship of bills that The Farm Bureau has either supported, or opposed, throughout the Legislative Session.”
“In the Southern Tier," said Assemblyman Friend, "we have ample opportunity to take a major step forward in agriculture and would directly benefit from doing so. The Governor is grandstanding next to big-name corporations in his effort to bring in tech jobs throughout the state while we have an industry ready to take off with the passage of some basic legislation.”
The “Circle of Friends” award is not an endorsement, and is based only on the 2011 Legislative Session.
Greenhouse Gas Initiative session set
Special to The Odessa File
ODESSA, Oct. 28 -- Americans For Prosperity New York will present an outline of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) at a meeting sponsored by the Odessa Tea Party at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2 at the Odessa Municipal Building.
The outline will be presented by Steve Lonegan, New Jersey State Director, and Lisa Thrun, Grassroots Chair New York.
According to organizers, the RGGI is the first mandatory U.S. cap-and-trade program for carbon-dioxide to be introduced. RGGI was established in December 2005 by the Governors of seven Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York andVermont. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maryland signed on in 2007. RGGI sets a cap on emissions and allows sources to trade emissions allowances.
Lonegan and Thrun will detail the points of RGGI that will affect everyone, and also provide answers to such questions as: why are electric bills higher in NY than most other states, why is it difficult to get new business in NY, why are many businesses leaving NY, which organization is our biggest threat, who is making big money from the discredited global warming threat, and why did New York lose 22,700 jobs in August?
A section of Route 79 on the east end of Burdett was closed to traffic for hours.
Shooting suspect surrenders
Joseph V. Esposito charged with 2 counts of Attempted Murder
BURDETT, Oct. 17 -- A suspect who allegedly shot at passing cars -- including that of Sheriff William Yessman and Undersheriff Breck Spaulding -- surrendered to police at 2:20 p.m. Tuesday in Burdett.
Joseph V. Esposito, who was firing a rifle and possibly two other weapons from a residence along State Route 79 in the village, has been charged with Attempted Murder, First Degree, Reckless Endangerment, First Degree, and Menacing of a Police Officer -- all felonies. He was taken into custody after a two-hour standoff with police.
Esposito, 25, was talked out of the house by hostage negotiators rushed to the scene as emergency personnel descended on this normally quiet little village.
According to published reports, Esposito's mother, Kimberly Otts of Montour Falls, said her son was high on methamphetamine Tuesday before firing what police said were "random shots" at passing vehicles on Route 79. Police were not certain how many such shots were fired, nor how many vehicles might have been hit, and were asking anyone with related information to contact them.
Sheriff Yessman was driving by in his blue Durango, not in uniform -- and not aware of any difficulties in Burdett -- when he heard what sounded like a gunshot and felt something strike his car, although he could not find any bullet holes or marks afterward. A forensics team will examine the underbody of the car for possible damage, he said.
The Sheriff pulled over "in the parking lot of a hair salon a hundred yards east," and was approached by two women who said their car had been struck by a bullet, flattening a tire. The sheriff said that after determining that the incidents were not just the result of target shooting gone awry -- he called for police units.
When Spaulding arrived, coming in from the east, his car was hit twice -- leaving a knick in the windshield and a 5-inch-long hole in the hood, on the driver's side. He dove from the vehicle while it was still moving and retreated to safety behind a building. The vehicle rolled off the road and came to rest on the bank of a yard.
Just before Spaulding arrived, a Trooper Cross and Deputy Andrew Yessman had reached Burdett and were sent by the Sheriff to interview residents in the hope that they could determine the source of the bullets. As they approached one home, the sheriff said, they encountered Esposito coming out of it, heard him yell "That's far enough," and saw him make a move that revealed a rifle in his hands.
"They went for cover," said Sheriff Yessman, adding that when Spaulding -- approaching in his vehicle to deliver a patrol rifle and protective vest to Trooper Cross and Deputy Yessman -- was fired upon, Deputy Yessman fired two rounds at Esposito and retreated. Esposito also fired a shot at Trooper Cross, the sheriff said.
Police blocked State Route 79 in the village on the east and southern ends, and set up positions near the house -- identified as belonging to a relative of Esposito's, and across from the post office on Route 79. Esposito was alone in the house, authorities said -- dispelling rumors that a hostage had been involved.
An emergency command center instructed Watkins Glen School District officials in the early afternoon to adopt alternative transportation for students leaving school at 2:15 who might normally be dropped off in Burdett. Traffic was rerouted around the village -- and was still being rerouted well after the incident was concluded as authorities investigated at the crime scene.
During the two-hour standoff, negotiators talked to Esposito, convincing him to unload his three weapons, the sheriff said. "The negotiators did a hell of a job," he added.
In the minutes leading to the surrender, police on an emergency channel noted that the suspect was seen in the house: "Got a visual," said one officer. "The subject is in the house, looking out the lower left window." Then, a few moments later: "Be advised, he's at the front door window."
Esposito subsequently stepped out onto the front porch, retreated inside, was instructed to take off a t-shirt and another shirt he was wearing, stepped back onto the porch, walked to the roadway and surrendered.
Sheriff Yessman said that while Esposito has done no prison time in the past, he had been found guilty recently of criminal sale of a controlled substance. He was awaiting sentencing.
"We were lucky" that nobody was injured or killed in Tuesday's incident, said the sheriff. "That's the big thing, that this ended as well as it did."
Photos in text:
From top: The house where Esposito was; the five-inch-long bullet hole in the hood of Undersheriff Spaulding's car; Sheriff Bill Yessman; and a police helicopter conducts an aerial sweep during the investigation that followed Esposito's arrest.
Left: A postal vehicle is inspected for possible bullet damage. Right: Undersheriff Breck Spaulding.
Undersheriff Spaulding's car came to rest here after he dove from it. The photo was snapped from the parking lot of the Post Office.
O'Mara named to 'Circle of Friends'
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Oct. 13 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) has been named a member of the 2011 New York Farm Bureau "Circle of Friends" -- an honorary organization formed in 1990 by the state’s leading farm advocacy organization to recognize state legislators who strongly support agriculture.
The Farm Bureau, which represents more than 35,000 member farm families, recently notified O’Mara of his selection.
In a letter to O’Mara informing him of the tribute, Farm Bureau President Dean Norton wrote: "The New York Farm Bureau Circle of Friends legislative award is based upon your voting record on issues of importance to New York agriculture, as well as other evidence of legislative support during the 2011 legislative session. Membership is reserved for only those who actively support the farm families of New York State.”
O’Mara said that he was honored to receive the recognition for
his consistent support of New York’s No. 1 industry. He noted that
the farm economy generates more than $4 billion worth of annual economic
activity statewide and provides a livelihood for hundreds of thousands
"I’ve always been proud to stand up for our local farmers and for a regional and statewide agricultural industry that’s been such a tremendous foundation of upstate New York’s culture and economy," said O'Mara, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "It’s a vitally important industry across hundreds of communities and remains a fundamental building block of a strong future.”
Does consolidation await Watkins Police Department?
Study will determine need of village force; county could take it over
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 25 -- Mark Swinnerton sees the writing on the wall. It says "cut."
In this era of a 2% property tax cap, annoying state mandates and a trying economy, Swinnerton -- the mayor of Watkins Glen -- and his fellow Village Board members are embracing any possibility that will get them through increasingly trying budget deliberations.
This year, they cut the seemingly sacrosanct Summer Recreation program held for decades at Clute Park. That helped save $20,000. But with the challenge of fashioning a budget becoming ever more difficult, they are looking now at the possibility of paring a much larger program held sacred in recent years -- the one called the Village Police Department.
Swinnerton has announced a move to hire a New Paltz consulting firm to study the need of maintaining that $400,000-a-year department, and the possibility of "consolidating" it. That word -- "consolidation," bandied about in recent months along with "shared services" regarding all things governmental -- could be the end result of the study, should the study see that as a necessary direction.
Swinnerton will meet this week with the New Paltz firm to kick-start the study, which has the blessing of the village trustees, Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, and County Sheriff Bill Yessman.
Those latter two are involved because the study could enunciate the preferred route be one in which a reduced number of village police officers be wrapped into the Sheriff's Office, with the village paying a "shared services" portion of the county law enforcement cost.
But this all comes with limiting words from Swinnerton such as "perhaps" and "it's being considered" and a cautionary note, should consolidation be embraced: "We would want to retain as many positions as possible" among the current village force.
That force currently includes a police chief, Tom Struble, and four full-time officers, including a sergeant, Steve Decker, along with a varying number of part-timers (currently 11) to fill weekend slots and to work festivals. A fifth full-timer is scheduled for employment in January, replacing one who left some months ago.
At the top of the pyramid is, of course, the chief, whose salary, perks and mandated retirement funds amount to about $80,000 a year. The department budget, Swinnerton said, is "just over $400,000."
That department figure, he surmises, could conceivably be trimmed by a substantial sum if the study finds that the county could absorb the village police function (and some of its personnel, with the village helping out on cost), and if the Village Board went ahead and pulled the trigger on it, so to speak.
"For every $10,000 reduction in the budget," Swinnerton said, "that's a 1% reduction in the tax value. So if we reduced our police cost in half, for instance -- paid $200,000 to the county instead of spending $400,000 as we do now -- that could yield a possible tax savings of 20%.
"With all the other increases we're up against," he said, "that's very significant. We have to consider it."
The study, he said, will likely be financed through grant funding from the state. "That's not a problem," Swinnerton said, "because New York is pushing these. There are all sorts of consolidation studies going on. The consultant can help us find a grant."
The study, Swinnerton added, "is village-led, but the county is receptive to it. It's a consideration, to see if it does make sense -- if it's a way to not increase taxes, and perhaps reduce them, with service equal to (what we have now) or better. It may or may not make sense for our municipality, and whether it meets the needs of the county has to be determined -- if the department can be absorbed into it."
The mayor said he "sat down" with Chief Struble recently "regarding the next budget. He's looking at ways to shrink his costs, because it's a large budget. But the department has mandated state costs. He's looking at maybe some part-time officers in lieu of full-time."
As for the more extreme step of consolidation, the mayor added, "we certainly don't want to lose our police department. But this is something that must be considered." Should it be adopted, "we would want to retain as many positions as possible, but there is the potential for some to be eliminated."
The ultimate goal, Swinnerton said, would be law enforcement coverage of the village at the level it currently has. And in that context, "perhaps the study will show it's best to retain the department."
There is the matter of the 2% tax cap, though, and the mandates, not to mention the strains that a shaky economy bring. So ... consolidation for now is a possibility.
"We have to consider it," Swinnerton said again.
Photo in text: Watkins Glen Mayor Mark Swinnerton at a recent Village Board meeting.
Glen board OKs fire truck financing
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 20 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night authorized the issuance of serial bonds for the purchase of a fire department pumper truck approved late last year.
The truck, being constructed by Four Guys, Inc. out of Meyersdale, Pa., is being purchased at a maximum cost of $457,752. The bond issue has the same maximum. The truck was ordered after the board approved the purchase last November.
Monday's resolution is subject to permissive referendum -- a public vote that could be forced by petition. If there are no petitions filed within a 30-day referendum period, then the truck financing will proceed as scheduled.
In other business Monday, the board:
--Approved a 2% wage increase for the village's Teamster workers under a wage reopener. The increase is retroactive to June 1. It covers eight workers in the water, sewer, parks and streets departments. The current three-year contract expires on May 31, 2012.
--Accepted a bid from ACP LLC of Dundee for curbing on South Street between Franklin and Decatur Streets. This follows the installation of a storm sewer in that area to combat flooding. Curbing work is expected to begin soon.
Photo in text: Trustees Scott Gibson (left) and Kevin Smith (right) flank Mayor Mark Swinnerton during session Monday in the board's new meeting room in the Municipal Building.
Fazzary claims victory in Primary for county judge
Whyman defeats Starbuck; Rondinaro tops in District 1
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Sept. 14 -- District Attorney Joe Fazzary claimed the Republican line on the November general-election ballot Tuesday, defeating Acting County Attorney Dennis Morris 963-836 in the GOP Primary Election.
However, Morris -- who will also be running as an independent (as will Fazzary) -- claimed a line on the ballot by defeating Fazzary 24-16 in Conservative Party voting.
"I'm slightly disappointed," Morris said after the results were in. He and friends were monitoring results from his home. "I was ahead early, and it was looking good. I was very optimistic for a while."
Nonetheless, his showing was strong enough so that "I'm definiitely going on" with campaigning for the general election. "There are 6,000 voters with a chance to vote who didn't have a chance tonight," he said, noting that there are about 11,000 registered voters in the county -- including 5,000 Republicans, 4,000 Democrats and 2,000 others.
"I started from zero, and look where we are," he said. "It felt so good to be in the lead. It felt so good. Now I'll have to keep trying. We'll keep plugging."
Fazzary and his supporters were gathered at Seneca Lodge, closely monitoring the results. Among those on hand were State Senator Tom O'Mara and his father, John, and Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips.
Fazzary, looking at the vote totals written on a board nearby, shook his head. "It's not great, but it's enough to be on that (Republican) line. If (Morris) is going to win, he'll have to do it on an independent line."
He said he thought his margin of victory would increase with the counting of about 110 absentee ballots.
As for his immediate plans, Fazzary said he would take a couple of days off and then "continue to work as hard as I can" to secure votes. "I've had a lot of great support, but I'll have to get Democratic support in the general election, too. And I think I can do that."
Challenger Gary Whyman amassed 978 votes to incumbent Margaret Starbucks' 754 in the race for the Republican nomination for County Treasurer. Starbuck -- who will be running as an independent, also claimed the Conservative line on the November ballot, 27-12.
That campaign has been marked by criticism from the entire Schuyler County Legislature directed toward Starbuck. Whyman, after his victory, referred to that criticism obliquely when he said: "I'm not running to hurt anyone. I'm running to improve matters in the county. I'm grateful for all the support I've had, and hope the voters in November continue to see this as a chance for positive change."
Challenger Mark Rondinaro received the most votes in the District 1 race for two seats on the Legislature, polling 273 to incumbent Stewart Field's 220 and incumbent Dennis Fagan's 209. However, Fagan will be a candidate on the Conservative Party line. And since Rondinaro and Field both live in the Town of Reading, and there is a local law that prohibits the selection of two residents of the same town when another town can be represented from the available candidate pool, Fagan can return to the Legislature even if outpolled in November. He resides in the Town of Tyrone. All he would require would be a single vote, after which -- a Board of Elections spokesman said -- he could be appointed to the Legislature, where he has been serving as chairman.
That scenario could be upended, the spokesman added, if either Field or Rondinaro were to move to Tyrone or Orange.
Field, present at the Seneca Lodge party, said he had taken his Primary race for granted, but would not treat the general election the same way. Since Fagan will almost certainly regain his Legislature seat, said Field, his own reelection will require him to defeat Rondinaro at the polls.
A tightly contested race for two seats on the Cayuta Town Council saw Kathleen C. Cleveland receive 40 votes, with a tie for second at 26 between Thomas J. Russen and Karen A. McLean. David A. Reed was fourth with 22.
Another tie occurred in the Cayuta Town Supervisor race, with Terry F. Gardner Sr. and Brandon K. Theetge each receiving 29 votes.
And in the Town of Tyrone, Deborah L. Tyler easily earned the Republican nomination, outpolling Michele M. Gee 119-40.
Photos in text: From the top, at the Fazzary gathering at Seneca Lodge: Joe Fazzary, Gary Whyman, and State Senator Tom O'Mara (left) and Legislator Stewart Field.
Cole-Scott OK'd as veterans agency head
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 13 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night unanimously approved Joan E. Cole-Scott as the Schuyler County Veterans Service Agency director, effective with the retirement Sept. 30 of longtime agency head Philip C. Smith.
Cole-Scott has been serving as a Veterans Service Officer in the agency. The legislators, in appointing her director, increased that post's part-time hours to 25 from 20 per week. Accordingly, Cole-Scott's annual salary will be $26,000.
Legislator Phil Barnes said before the vote that he had received "quite a few responses to this" with a general concern that veterans' services could be adversely affected if the office is operated with just one person.
"They're wondering what happens when (Cole-Scott) is on vacation," he said, suggesting that support staff be hired.
"We're in a real tough budget," said Chairman Dennis Fagan, who added that when Cole-Scott returns from trip out of town that legislators ask what her needs might be. But even so, he seemed to suggest, the agency might be short-staffed out of necessity.
"We're going to have a lot of people unhappy" with the next budget, he said. "We're going to be walking a fine line" in the coming year -- no thanks to the state and its refusal to enact mandate relief.
Fagan later said that budget difficulties will be partially alleviated by sales tax revenues, which in the first of two reporting periods for August "exceeded both (August) reporting periods last year." The sales-tax total for the year, he added, is 14.4 percent above the budgeted amount.
Since "the state in all its wisdom has given us no relief on mandates" and has imposed a property tax cap, he said, the sales tax increase is "critical" for offsetting property tax increases.
In other business, the legislators:
--Heard pleas from representatives of Gas Free Seneca and lakeside residents concerned with energy issues.
Gas Free Seneca spokesman Joseph Campbell (pictured at right) requested that the legislators ask the State Department of Environmental Conservation for a quantitative risk analysis of the planned Liquid Propane Gas storage in salt caverns owned by Inergy Midstream LLC of Missouri, owner of U.S. Salt. The storage is being planned by Inergy to the west of Seneca Lake, employing deep caverns and a large above-ground brine pond near the junction of Routes 14 and14A.
Other residents said they feared that hydro-fracturing, or fracking, by energy companies seeking natural gas in the Marcellus Shale could ruin tourism and the wine industry and contaminate wells and possibly Seneca Lake.
Chairman Fagan, himself an engineer, tried to allay those fears, saying there are geological factors that mitigate against fracking in most of Schuyler County -- that the process instead would see "heavy plays in counties bordering Pennsylvania," specifically Broome, Tioga, Chemung "and possibly Southern Steuben."
As for the LPG storage, he said the Legislature has "no approval process on this project" -- that the DEC is the determining agency. He has, however, asked Inergy for traffic expectations related to the project "and growth potential." Inergy has not yet responded, he said.
Photos in text; Legislator Phil Barnes (standing) confers with Legislator Glenn Larison (foreground) before the start of the meeting; Gas Free Seneca spokesman Joseph Campbell addresses the Legislature.
Here are the Schuyler County Primary Election candidates
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 1 -- The Schuyler County Board of Elections has provided the following list of candidates contending for various nominations in the county in the Primary Election set for Tuesday, September 13.
COUNTY OF SCHUYLER
OFFICE: COUNTY JUDGE
OFFICE: COUNTY TREASURER:
OFFICE: LEGISLATOR DISTRICT 1:
TOWN OF CAYUTA
OFFICE: COUNCIL MEMBER
TOWN OF TYRONE
OFFICE: TOWN CLERK / TAX COLLECTOR
BOARD OF ELECTIONS
It is hereby Certified. Pursuant to the Election law of the State of
New York that the persons listed hereon have been nominated as candidates
for the respective offices shown to be voted for at the next Primary Election
to be held in this county on the 13th day of September, 2011.
John L. Vona and Joseph Fazzary
POLLING PLACES – SCHUYLER COUNTY, N.Y.
CATHARINE: TOWN OF CATHARINE,
5182 Park Rd, Odessa, NY 14869
Please note the following polling
places have been relocated:
John L. Vona and Joseph Fazzary, Commissioners
Lipari seeks seat on Hector Town Council
Special to the Odessa File
HECTOR, Sept. 12 -- Robert "Bo" Lipari has announced he is running for a seat on the Hector Town Council.
Lipari, in a press release, issued the following statement:
"I have called Hector home for 31 years and plan to stay here for the rest of my life. Today, Hector's water, roads, and growing wine and tourism industries are threatened by a fracking industry invasion that will devastate our natural resources and destroy our local economy.
"Tourists will not come to an area where roads are clogged with hundreds of huge trucks, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They will not come to see a landscape dotted with hundreds of drilling pads, storage facilities, and pipeline. And how can the growing reputation of our fine Finger Lakes wines be sustainable when chemical leaks, spills and industrial accidents contaminate our soil and water?
"There is much to do in Hector, and if elected I will work with fellow council members to solve the many budgetary challenges facing Hector and its residents today. In addition, I will introduce and work to pass a ban on heavy industrial activities, such as fracking, in the Town of Hector."
Lipari's website is www.protecthector.org.
Photo in text: Robert "Bo" Lipari (Photo provided)
Fitzsimmons seeks Hector supervisor post
Special to the Odessa File
HECTOR, Sept. 11 -- Bob Fitzsimmons, former Schuyler County Legislator (1989-1998), has announced he is running for the post of Town of Hector Supervisor.
Fitzsimmons, winner of five previous legislative votes in Hector, will face incumbent Ben Dickens on November 8.
Fitzsimmons said he is returning to politics because he is concerned about the health and welfare of the Town.
“Fracking corporations are at the gate. I want Hector safe and healthy, and these corporations are a threat to our environment and to our economy,” Fitzsimmons said. “We have a responsibility to defend our hometown, and I am the right person for that job. I also have years of experience on highway and budget issues and I am a strong leader.”
As a county legislator, Fitzsimmons served on the Highway, Budget and Finance, and Human Services Committees.
Fitzsimmons has lived in Hector for many years. He and his wife Mindy bought the house he grew up in and raised two children there. He is a retired school administrator and program coordinator who has worked for schools in Schuyler and Tompkins counties. He is also a former co-owner of the Hector Farm Market, now the Stonecat Café.
He is a graduate of Watkins Glen High School and holds a BA from Buffalo State and an MA from Empire State College.
Photo in text: Bob Fitzsimmons (Photo provided)
Gas Free Seneca president Joseph Campbell addresses the Watkins Glen Village Board.
LPG storage opponents point to petition, seek Board support
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 7 -- A capacity crowd was on hand Tuesday night in the newly renovated Watkins Glen Municipal Building as Gas Free Seneca -- a group opposed to the planned propane storage facility on the west side of Seneca Lake -- asked the Village Board to support its cause.
Group co-founder and president Joseph Campbell pointed to a stack of petitions he brought with him that he said contain 4,000 signatures of people opposed to the project. The signatures were not all from local residents; some, he said, were from tourists since the project could affect them, too.
Gas Free Seneca is making the rounds of meetings, seeking governmental backing, as it continues its fight against the project -- which is still under review by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The Gas Free group plans to approach the Schuyler County Planning Commission and the Schuyler County Legislature in the coming days.
Citing increases in truck and train traffic, the influx of "potentially explosive" materials, an open brine pond with a potential for "catastrophic failure" that "could easily impact Watkins Glen's potable water for days or even weeks," the need to preserve the "character of the village" in order to bolster tourism, and a lack of acceptable emergency preparedness, Campbell told the board that "there is no right way to do a wrong thing," and that Gas Free Seneca believes the propane storage plan "is the wrong thing."
The plan calls for the storage of propane -- largely for winter heating -- in salt caverns deep beneath the surface to the west of Seneca Lake. The issue was aired months ago in a pair of meetings -- one held by opponents at the Watkins Glen High School auditorium, and one by Inergy (the U.S. Salt plant owner that is proposing the expanded storage facility) at the Watkins Glen Community Center.
The Village Board, for its part, took a cautiously neutral stance Tuesday, with Mayor Mark Swinnerton praising "the passion" of the Gas Free group and saying the board wants to learn more about the situation, starting with a DEC public hearing set for 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the WGHS auditorium.
"I wouldn't miss that for the world," said Swinnerton, who noted that having been raised here, lake water "runs through my veins" and he takes the matter of environmental safety seriously.
Trustee Scott Gibson said that while the board is sympathetic to the Gas Free concerns, "there is a lot of information out there. You can read anything on Inergy and how that's the way to go, or you can read anything about Gas Free Seneca and how that's the way to go. They can't both be right." The board, he added, has to look at what's best "for the community" and thus, at this point, "is not prepared to take a position ... It's difficult to take a position. Probably all you'll get from the board is a neutral statement."
The county Planning Commission has already recommended that the Town of Reading -- which has jurisdiction in the matter -- issue a special use permit for the project. Town officials have indicated they will, and last month blocked Gas Free representatives from discussing the matter at a trustees' meeting. By going to the Village Board, the Planning Commission and the Legislature, Campbell has said, his group hopes to convince them to help change the town's mind.
"I can't tell you how refreshing it is to talk to a government body that actually listens," he told the Village Board.
Other speakers included David Crea, a chemical engineer at U.S. Salt who proclaimed himself "the loyal opposition" and who disputed the Gas Free contention that increased truck traffic would disrupt tourism. Most of the propane, he said, would be delivered in the winter for home consumption, not during the summer tourist months.
He also said the "catastrophic failure being bandied about" regarding the brine pond is "not realistic" considering safeguards built into the pond -- which, he noted, would be full for only brief periods.
Byron Thompson, a longtime employee at the U.S. Salt Plant, president of the plant's union and a local firefighter, said he was attending all such meetings as Tuesday's and listening closely to both sides, and would continue to do so because "I care for my (fellow workers') safety down at the plant just as (Gas Free Seneca) is concerned about the safety of everyone."
He said that while LPG has been stored in area salt caverns for years without problems, "we need more input" like that offered at Tuesday's session -- input from both sides.
"Let's look at all the aspects," he concluded.
Note: The meeting was the first in the new Village Board meeting room on the second floor of the Municipal Building -- a structure closed for renovations for half a year until recently reoccupied. The meeting room -- with an occupant capacity of 65 people -- was the former village court, which has been relocated to an adjacent room.
An open house was held in the building for two hours prior to the start of Tuesday's board meeting.
Photos in text:
From top: Watkins Glen Village Board member Scott Gibson, Mayor Mark Swinnerton, and chemical engineer David Crea at Tuesday's board meeting.
Byron Thompson, a longtime Salt Company employee and a local firefighter, addresses the meeting.
Congressman Tom Reed, left, and Assemblyman Chris Friend at the Hector Town Hall meeting.
Critics rap Congressman at heated Hector town meeting
HECTOR, Aug. 29 -- Congressman Tom Reed was figuratively pummeled Saturday when he met with constituents at a town hall meeting in the Town of Hector office.
Reed, facing an unhappy group of area residents who filled the meeting room and the hallway leading to it, was criticized by audience members upset with his stand on hydrofracking -- a practice he says he supports as long as it's determined to be safe -- and his failure to take a stand durng the period in which Rt. 414 resident Adam Foster was detained by the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.
Reed also was unpopular, although mildly by comparison, for his position on the proposed Liquid Propane Gas storage expansion on the west side of Seneca Lake -- a project that would include construction of a large brine pond near the junction of Rt. 14 and 14A north of Watkins Glen.
"I know nobody here wants it," Reed said of hydrofracking -- a controversial system for extracting natural gas from shale formations, in particular (in this region) the Marcellus Shale. "Let's talk about it."
But the audience didn't want to discuss it. They were staunchly anti-fracking, and expressed themselves along those lines.
Reed explained that he was a local lake resident -- on Keuka Lake -- with children who play on its waters. Acccordingly, he said, claims that "I want to destroy all of that is not accurate. Let's do (fracking) cleanly, safely and responsibly."
A woman from Pennsylvania -- a landowner named Libby Foust -- said that Reed has only to look toward Pennsylvania to see that fracking is not safe. "People who signed up wish they hadn't," she said. "Our farm is ruined. I could tell you horror stories; they are just so wide ranging ... houses are gone, families are gone, water is destroyed. It's bad; all bad."
"I hear you," said Reed, "but there are two schools of thought. All of your points need to be addressed, with regulatory oversight of the gas industry. We need reasonable regulations."
A man in the audience countered, loudly and heatedly: "You're either for clean water or against clean water. You are in favor of the natural gas industry ... It's immoral. If you can't find the conscience to protect our water, you're not the representative for us."
Reed responded by saying "I am who I am ... I'm a supporter of the industry, of natural gas and everything that goes with it."
"You're for dirty water," the man said.
"It's not accurate to say that," said Reed. "Why in America can't we have both? We need to solve our problems. I'm not going to take a stance and say 'Hell no, never no."
Another audience member said that fracking "will impact winery and tourism" -- that those two businesses and the natural gas industry "cannot coexist. It will kill us. We have a very fragile ecosystem. We can't disrupt the environment."
Reed then said the matter is really a state issue, and that "I can say to Chris (Friend, a state Asssemblyman at Reed's side at the meeting), 'Let's explore this.' Then we can see where it goes.
"Prove it's safe first," said another audience member. "Once the bad guy is in the front door, he does the damage. Don't let him in the front door."
The LPG debate
Reed said that inasmuch as the proposed storage expansion of Liquid Propane Gas by Inergy on the west side of Seneca Lake is a local issue, and one being thoroughly reviewed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, he has taken no stand. "I'll defer to them," he said.
When pressed by an audience member to express a personal philosophy on the issue, Reed said "I don't know enough about the project to know if it can be done safely. If it can, and they can take care of the identified issues, then okay."
When asked how he would feel if such a facility were near his Keuka Lake cottage, he responded: "I've thought about it" -- has envisioned a brine pond on the hillside above his cottage. "And I feel the same way and came to the same conclusion."
A man in the audience said that truck traffic and the brine pond "are not what tourists look for. It will negatively impact business. It will destroy millions of dollars brought in by tourism."
Answered Reed: "My goal is 'Why can't we do both?'"
That brought derisive hoots from the audience.
The Water Chanter
While the debate raged within the building, a lone woman was outside, softly striking a Native American drum and chanting an Algonquin song: "Nibi Wabo."
Crow Marley of Hector -- a musician -- said she was "singing to the water. Women are the water keepers. It is up to the women to keep the water safe and clean." (Nibi means water, she explained, while Wabo refers to the act of being held protectively.)
"I do this every morning," she said. "I pray like this. Anyone can protect the water, any woman" -- although, she conceded, "you can teach the water song to a man."
The song, the chant -- handed down to her (along with her first name) by an Algonquin tribe in Canada -- "tells the water that we're in alignment with it."
"I came here today because the issue is water," Marley said. "I am a water keeper, given the job by the indigenous population (of Algonquins) in Maniwaki, Ontario."
Nearby, on a rock, sat a handful of burning sage. "It's a calmative," she said.
"Maybe you should take some inside," an observer suggested. "It's pretty heated in there."
"No, they're too angry," said Marley.
The Foster case
A woman in the audience raised the matter of Adam Foster, a Rt. 414 resident who was detained and beaten by UAE officials after being accused of stealing police handcuffs -- an item he said he found in a parking lot and which was discovered in his baggage when he tried to leave the country in January. He was working in the UAE -- in Dubai -- as an engineer for a Buffalo firm.
The woman said that Reed's office had not helped free Foster -- who served a short jail term after being found guilty and who returned home upon his release. A grass-roots letter-writing campaign raised public awareness of Foster's plight, and likely helped secure his release.
Foster's father, Don, was also present Saturday, and addressed Reed emotionally, saying that the Congressman had not helped when Adam was detained, and had not called Adam in the months since his release.
"My son is home, no thanks to Washington and no thanks to you," said Foster.
Said Reed: "It is my fault for not calling you. I know my staff worked on this problem. If there was a mistake, it was my fault. Saudi Arabia is a ... I'm not going to go there. I'm just going to say I'm sorry."
After the meeting, as Foster stood on the far side of the lot outside talking to a friend, Reed strolled from the Town Hall and approached him. When he reached Foster's side, the Congressman once again expressed his apology. Foster nodded, tears forming in his eyes, and said that if it had been Reed's son being held and beaten, then the Congressman "would have been up on Barack Obama's bench, screaming for his release."
Foster then asked if Reed knew that an English tourist, Lee Bradley Brown, had been killed while in custody in "the same jail where my son was beaten. Did you know that?"
"No, I didn't know," said Reed. "I'll remember the name. Lee Brown."
"Lee Bradley Brown," said Foster again.
"Right," said Reed.
Foster then told Reed how he had gotten no help from the U.S. Embassy in the UAE, when all he wanted to know was the whereabouts of his son. "He was moving around constantly," said Foster, "because he thought they might want to kill him. The embassy was no help."
"I'll take this back to Washington," said Reed, and check into it. "Again, all I can say is I'm sorry."
"Yeah, you can say that," said Foster.
Photos in text:
Top: A sign in the audience told the sentiment of the majority there.
Second: Congressman Tom Reed formulates a response to a question.
Third: Crow Marley of Hector chanting outside the Hector Town Hall.
Fourth: Don Foster criticizes the Congressman for his failure to help Foster's son, Adam, when Adam was imprisoned and beaten in the United Arab Emirates.
Reed answers a question while an audience member patiently awaits his turn to ask one.
Watkins Planning Board gives go-ahead to Tops pump project
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 18 -- The Watkins Glen Planning Board gave final site-plan approval Wednesday night to the Tops Friendly Markets plan to install gas pumps in the parking lot fronting the Watkins Glen Tops store.
The unanimous approval came following a public hearing at which nobody spoke.
Lou Terragnoli, Tops Senior Director of Corporate Development, told the board that preparations for the project will lead to the start of construction by the end of the year, with completion anticipated in the late winter or early spring.
The project, under discussion for several months, calls for installation of four pumps at two islands under a 60-foot-long canopy near the center of the parking lot fronting the Tops and CVS stores in the plaza on South Franklin Street. The pumps will be adjacent to the entry-exit lanes running from and to Franklin. There has been talk along the way of the possible addition in the future of another island east of the canopy, in an area now designated as three parking spaces.
The pumps will be fed by two 15,000-gallon gas tanks placed underground along the western edge of the parking lot.
Present with Terragnoli Wednesday night was Brian Bouchard of the CHA (Clough Harbour & Associates) engineering firm that has been involved in the project from the outset.
In other business, the Planning Board:
--Approved a modification in the plan for a new Raw Water Intake Building for the village. The modified plan -- calling for a 14-by-42-foot, pre-cast concrete structure -- was made necessary when a previously envisioned larger structure drew bids higher than expected. The board had delayed approval at last month's meeting in the absence of Code Enforcement Officer Gordon Wright, who it wished to consult upon his return from vacation.
--Heard from Wright that he has recently issued three certificates of occupancy -- to the renovated Municipal Building, which houses village offices and the village police and court; to Garcia's Mexican Restaurant on East Fourth Street, which opened last week; and to the Orient Hibachi Buffet, a Chinese-Japanese restaurant on North Franklin Street, across the street from Savard's Restaurant in the space previously housing the Video Tech store and Dan's Dugout.
The Orient Hibachi Buffet has long been in the works, delayed on occasion by a language barrier between the owners -- who are headquartered in the New York City area -- and Wright. The owners, Wright has often told the board, are not strong in English, and have not been employing a regular English-speaking site manager.
But the end result, he said, is a restaurant that might pleasantly surprise customers. He gave no indication as to when the facility will open.
Photos in text:
Top: An early drawing of the proposed pumps in the Tops parking lot, with traffic flow indicated by lines running in from Franklin Street and around to the pump islands.
Middle: Tops Senior Director of Corporate Development Lou Terragnoli.
Bottom: Watkins Glen Code Enforcement Officer Gordon Wright.
Watkins Municipal Building Open house set for Sept. 6th
Village board tackles resolutions, issues at lengthy session
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 16 -- An open house will be held in the newly renovated Watkins Glen Municipal Building on Tuesday, Sept. 6, Mayor Mark Swinnerton announced at Monday night's meeting of the Village Board.
The open house will run from 5-7 p.m., followed by a Village Board meeting at 7 p.m. It will be the first such session held in the renovated structure -- and in the new board meeting room, located on the second floor in the space previously occupied by the village court.
The court has been moved to an adjoining room. Work on both rooms has been ongoing since village office workers and police moved into the building last month. The first court session in its new setting is set for this Saturday.
The board, meeting Monday in the Shared Services Building on Decatur Street -- its gathering place since the renovation project began in December -- dealt with several issues across three-and-a-half hours. The board:
--Put off approval of additional cameras for the new security system at the Municipal Building until it can be determined what the needs are.
--Approved a request from Holly and Dan Weed to set up their maple products trailer at Clute Park for a $50 fee.
--Approved a request by a group of Clute Park campers who want to build, at their own expense, a race track for remote control cars instead of using the camp roadway. The campers proposed a locale near the south end of the soccer field, but trustees designated a spot to the north of the field.
--Received a report showing that the Village Police Department answered 253 incidents in July, including 31 motor vehicle accidents and 52 criminal cases.
--Received a report from the Village Fire Department showing that 147 calls were answered in July.
--Approved the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) as lead agency in pursuit of a $15,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to refine key elements of the Lakefront Management and Development Strategy. The village is committing up to $7,500 to the project, contingent on the grant and on matching funds from other local sources..
--Mayor Swinnerton indicated a willingness to check with the New York Conference of Mayors regarding the payment to, and responsibility of, public officials. This was an issue raised by resident Amedeo Fraboni, who said he was "not pointing fingers" but takes issue with public officials who don't attend meetings for which they are being paid.
--Trustee Wayne Weber urged, and Swinnerton appeared to back, a look at limiting parking to two hours along East Fourth Street east of the first block. That was prompted by a complaint regarding excessive parking by an individual alongside Lafayette Park.
--The board listened to an explanation by Rose Marie Kleinspehn, who is leading an attempt to establish a Titanic Festival in Watkins Glen in April 2012 to observe the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the passenger vessel Titanic. The Southern Tier lost a couple of residents aboard the ship.
Kleinspehn said an initial planning committee of three people had been expanded in December to 10 members, but that any efforts for the festival had thus far come up short -- just $500 raised when $5,000 is needed. The celebration, she said, could if realized include a tour to a local cemetery where a mausoleum sits in honor of one of the two lost residents, and to Millport, where the other one had lived. There might also be a celebration at the Community Center, she said, complete with dioramas, and with Titanic-like smokestacks on the roof.
Swinnerton cut into Kleinspehn's account to ask what it was she wanted of the village, given that it can't provide financial support.
"You can help by endorsing it," she said, "by saying it's a good idea. It's tough raising money with other fundraisers going on."
She had, Kleinspehn said, called actress "Debbie Reynolds' studio out in California this morning" in the hope that she might persuade the actress to come to Watkins Glen for the festival and a possible airing of Reynolds' Titanic-themed film "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" at the Glen Theater -- one of "two or three Titanic films" that Kleinspehn hopes the theater might run.
"I don't think it's going to happen," Kleinspehn said of her request to the actress, adding that the planning committee had told her that "we need (the $5,000) by the end of August, or (the festival) won't happen."
Swinnerton and Trustee Scott Gibson said they're both history buffs and appreciated Kleinspehn's enthusiasm for the project, with the mayor suggesting she talk to the service-oriented Watkins-Montour Lions Club, to which he belongs. "I'm sure they'd love to have you come to a meeting and talk," he said.
Photos in text:
Top: Mayor Mark Swinnerton at Monday's session.
Bottom: Rose Marie Kleinspehn, with Street Department Supervisor Don Perry in the background.
On hand for the Senator's visit: Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan and Schuyler County Farm Bureau President Stephanie Bergen.
'We will solve our problems'
Senator Schumer visits Schuyler, discusses various issues
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 11 -- U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer says that while this country "gets off track sometimes, I'm optimistic we will solve our problems."
Schumer, visiting community and government leaders and speaking to the media Wednesday afternoon at Reisinger's Apple Country -- a you-pick farm off Ellison Road above Watkins Glen -- discussed the state of the economy and other national issues, and pushed for government backing of an energy-boosting process on farms.
That process employs a methane digester -- present on some New York farms and being developed at Bergen Farms locally -- that allows dairy farmers to use natural waste to produce their own energy and makes available extra energy for the utility companies' grids.
"It would produce cheaper power for the farm," said Schumer about an expansion of the practice, "and would provide clean power for other people. And it would help reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil and natural gas. I will do all I can to make installation easier" through a proposed program of tax breaks, "and will push this" at a coming symposium on reducing the use of foreign oil.
Schumer also commented on the ongoing stock market turmoil and the recent showdown on raising the debt ceiling.
"Thank God we didn't default," he said, "but we came really close." The end result, he added, was the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, and a loss of consumer confidence.
"That's very, very dangerous for our economy," he said. "We should never, never risk defaulting again. We have to start focusing on jobs and on getting the economy going again. And the only way to do that is in a bipartisan fashion."
He suggested that one path would be to "provide some help for our infrastructure," employing construction workers to rebuild it.
He declined "to point fingers" at who or what was responsible for the debt ceiling showdown or the credit rating downgrade, but added: "No one group should say" that their way is the only way. "That's a very bad way to govern."
In a discussion with the community and government leaders after most of the media departed, Schumer touched on hydrofracking, Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the need to reduce spending, the size of this year's fruit harvest (healthy), and a Department of Transportation proposal that would require a commercial license for any farmers driving a farm vehicle one mile on a public road.
Of that DOT plan, Schumer scoffed. "We will stop that," he said, adding that government agencies sometimes "come up with wacky ideas and don't know how farms work."
Among local leaders present were Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan, Legislator Glenn Larison, Watkins Glen Mayor Mark Swinnerton, Chamber of Commerce President Rebekah LaMoreaux, Montour Falls Mayor John King, the Cooperative Extensions's Danielle Hautaniemi and Brett Chedzoy, Schuyler County Farm Bureau President Stephanie Bergen, and New York Farm Bureau Area Field Supervisor Lindsay Wickham.
This was Schumer's 13th annual visit to Schuyler County -- and each time he has visited a different locale.
"I'm told," he said, "that I set a record for visits here by a Senator, and that I set it a long time ago."
Photos in text:
Top: Senator Schumer at the podium set up in a pavilion on the Reisinger Apple Country property.
Middle: Schumer receives a bottle of wine from Jim Hazlitt of Sawmill Creek Vineyards.
Bottom: Schumer answers a question from the media during the news conference portion of his visit. He later fielded questions from area leaders.
Left: Chamber of Commerce President Rebekah LaMoreaux. Right: Lindsay Wickham, New York Farm Bureau Area Field Supervisor.
Senator Schumer is offered some fruit by Reisinger Apple Country's Conlon Wysocki.
Schuyler to post audit online
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 9 -- Schuyler County legislators agreed to a suggestion Monday night that the 2010 audit of the county's financial operations should be posted on the county website.
Mark Rondinaro, a candidate in the Republican primary for legislator from District 1, asked legislators why the audit -- critical of some procedures in the County Treasurer's office -- was not posted online. Legislators agreed there was no reason why it couldn't be, so Administrator Tim O'Hearn said it would be within a few days.
Rondinaro (pictured below) is running against incumbents Dennis Fagan, the Legislature chairman, and Stewart Field in a race for two seats. The district includes the towns of Orange, Tyrone and Reading.
A finding in the audit that alarmed legislators was the revelation that the county -- expecting (based on an inaccurate report) a $1 million increase in its fund balance -- ended 2010 with $2.5 million less than they thought they had in fashioning the 2011 budget. A total of $750,000 has been used from the fund balance in each of the past two years to help offset property tax increases.
"The good news," said Fagan, "is a record increase in sales tax revenue" that will help to mitigate the fund-balance problem.
In other business, the Legislature:
--Accepted a bid of $48,840 from John H. Cook Jr. Painting Contractor of Elmira to paint the cupola atop the County Courthouse. The project is "imminent," said O'Hearn.
--Voted to seek bids for upgrades at Seneca Harbor Park, to be financed through grants. The bids will be opened on Aug. 26.
Photos in text: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan (top) and Legislature candidate Mark Rondinaro.
Phil Smith receives honor in setting shared by his friends
Presented with Senate Veterans Hall of Fame induction certificate
WATKINS GLEN, July 28 -- Two dozen friends and family members were on hand Wednesday morning to applaud Philip C. Smith upon presentation to him of a certificate denoting his selection to the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame.
The certificate was handed to Smith by State Senator Tom O'Mara in the Schuyler County Legislature chambers six weeks after a similar ceremony in Albany attended by Smith along with his son, Philip J. Smith, and two daughters, Maureen Colunio and Deborah Betz.
This time, family, friends, veterans and fellow Veterans Service Agency workers could witness the presentation -- a replay of that former one.
"Veterans like you," O'Mara said to Smith in presenting the certificate, "give us the freedom we have in this country."
Responded Smith: "There were many (soldiers) who didn't make it back, who made the ultimate sacrifice. They're the ones we should be honoring."
The two dozen people attending Wednesday's ceremony rose at its conclusion to give Smith a standing ovation.
The State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame was established in 2005, designed to honor New York veterans whose service in the United States Armed Forces is accompanied by service to the community and accomplishments as a civilian. It includes veterans representing Senate districts throughout the state. Smith was nominated for the honor by his children.
Smith, a decorated Korean War veteran, had a long career in local politics, including a stint on the Odessa-Montour School Board and a lengthy tenure (23 years) on the Schuyler County Legislature, including seven years as chairman. For the past 15 years, he has served as director of the county Veterans Service Agency, helping connect area veterans with the local, state and federal services and benefits available to them.
For a further account of his career, see the story that ran upon his induction into the Veterans Hall of Fame in mid-June here.
Photos in text:
Top: State Senator Tom O'Mara, left, presents the Hall of Fame certificate to Smith.
Bottom: Smith receives a standing ovation at the completion of the ceremony.
Planning Board members Amedeo Fraboni, left, and Joe Fazzary at Wednesday's meeting.
Tops gas-pump plan moves ahead
WATKINS GLEN, July 21 -- The Tops Friendly Markets plan to install gas pumps in front of its Watkins Glen store moved forward Wednesday night when the village Planning Board set a public hearing on the issue for its next meeting, Aug. 17.
If there is no significant objection at the hearing to the plan -- which calls for the installation of four pumps on two islands under a 60-foot-long canopy near the center of the parking lot fronting the Tops and CVS stores -- then the board might proceed that night to final site-plan approval, said Board Chair Joe Fazzary.
Once Tops has that approval, it can proceed with the project.
Before scheduling the public hearing, the Board was told by Lou Terragnoli, Tops Senior Director of Corporate Development, and Brian Bouchard of the CHA (Clough Harbour & Associates) engineering firm that a sticking point with the board -- six parking spaces near the pumps that would have posed an exit problem for Tops shoppers parking there -- had been removed from the plan.
The board -- after deciding Wednesday that the project poses no negative environmental impact -- asked Terragnoli, Bouchard and CHA vice president James Trasher for a signage plan and a supporting letter from the store's landlord by Aug. 17. The board is also awaiting input from the Town of Dix and the county on the pump project.
The board also heard from representatives of Hunt Engineers on the latest proposal for a new Raw Water Intake Building for the village. The plan was made necessary when a previous plan for a larger structure drew bids higher than expected.
The new structure would be made of pre-cast concrete, and measure 14 by 42 feet. Savings with this kind of construction will come largely in the area of labor.
The board, expecting to approve the plan as an amendment to the original concept it backed a year ago, put off any action until its next meeting so it can touch base on it with village Code Enforcement Officer Gordon Wright upon his return from vacation.
Photos in text:
Top: Planning Board members Tony Fraboni (background) and Tom Merrill.
Bottom: CHA's Brian Bouchard addresses the Planning Board.
Humane Society of Schuyler awarded $76,000 grant
Special to The Odessa File
MONTOUR FALLS, July 20 -- The Humane Society of Schuyler County’s shelter consolidation project has received a $76,000 grant from The John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation.
The Humane Society recently launched a $350,000 capital campaign to renovate the former Kurtz Enterprizes buildings just off State Route 14 in Montour Falls. The cost of the overall project is approximately $600,000.
The organization currently provides spay/neuter services and limited cat sheltering at the facility it owns on County Rt.10 in Alpine. In 2009 The Humane Society also assumed management and operation of The Schuyler County Animal Shelter at the request of the Schuyler County Legislature. The shelter, located several miles west of Watkins Glen, is limited in condition and capacity.
“Our ability to fully and efficiently address the needs of the animals and the residents of Schuyler County is significantly restricted by the size, condition and remote locations of these two disparate facilities” said Georgie Taylor (pictured at right), Society President. “The current capacity of only 16 small runs does not meet the needs of Schuyler County and has necessitated that we board dogs in a private facility rather than euthanizing healthy, adoptable dogs.”
The John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation is a private foundation established for the purpose of improving the welfare of animals of all kinds with a focus on dogs and cats, the promotion of veterinary programs and the protection of wildlife.
The funds from the Wiederhold Foundation will be used to purchase the kenneling system for the new shelter. “We are truly honored to have been invited to submit a proposal and to have been selected as a recipient of this prestigious grant,” said Taylor. She added that housing will consist of 24 kennels of appropriate size and will be divided into sections to house adoptable, incoming dogs and dogs in isolation, "minimizing the risk of disease and decreasing stress to the animals" -- thus improving their adoptability.
When renovated, the new facility will provide low cost spay/neuter services, sheltering and adoption services for both dogs and cats under one roof and serve as a single, centrally located resource for the entire community. “We anticipate that given the highly visible location, we will see a significant increase in the number of adoptions, a decreased time in shelter and an increase in our volunteer base,” said Taylor.
The target completion date is December of this year. “To date we have raised a little over half of our goal of $350,000," said Max Neal, honorary chair of the capital campaign. "We are thrilled with the community support thus far, but additional donations are still needed to make this project a reality.”
The Humane Society of Schuyler County is a 501 c3 not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancing animal welfare in Schuyler County since 1957. For more information or to make a tax deductible donation, contact the organization at PO Box 427, Montour Falls, NY or call 607-594-2255 or visit the website at www.schuylerhumane.org.
Photo in text: Humane Society President Georgie Taylor (Photo provided)
The proposed Odessa improvement strategy.
Downtown improvement ideas unveiled for Village of Odessa
ODESSA, June 30 -- Odessa government leaders weighed a proposal Wednesday night for improvement measures that might be undertaken by the village -- and saw some aspects that might be utilized.
But the chances of the Village Board adopting this plan or another scheduled to be put forth on a date to be determined are remote, said Mayor Keith Pierce.
"This is a perfect world kind of plan," he said. "It's a pipe dream. We're not going to start tearing houses down."
The proposal was unveiled at an Improvement Strategy meeting at the Municipal Building attended by about 15 village residents who heard Dan Leonard of the Peter J. Smith planning firm of Buffalo outline it. He was introduced by Brian Williams of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED).
A similar meeting was held in Burdett, where plans for improving that downtown were also discussed. No information was immediately available on the Smith firm's proposal for that village.
The Smith firm's Odessa strategy called for the elimination of three buildings near the south end of Mill Street and installation of parks there; and the removal of a couple of houses and a gas station east of Merchant Avenue and south of Main Street, to be replaced by future businesses.
It suggested placing business parking behind the retail establishments on the south side of Main, and installation of trees on both sides of the downtown thoroughfare. It envisioned a circular-shaped crosswalk placed on Mill Street and across Main from Mill.
There would also be ravine overlooks at three locations, two west of Mill and one east. A walkway from the smaller of the two parks abutting Mill Street would carry pedestrians across Catlin Creek.
There would also be streetscape enhancements in the form of stylish benches and light poles.
While Mayor Pierce was skeptical of the proposal as a whole, he explained that the village gains something by entertaining the plans: a shot at grant funding for improvements such as painting the overpass and securing signs for it that would welcome visitors to Odessa. Short-term fixes like that -- or like upgrading the sidewalks or clearing out the ravine to the north of Main Street -- are feasible.
"But with this proposal," he said, "they're looking at widening the road. I don't know how they'd do that. It doesn't seem like there's room.
"But," he added, "there are some ideas that could be used."
One extra thing suggested by the Smith firm, said Village Clerk Kristi Pierce, is an engineering study to determine the structural integrity of buildings close to the edge of the ravine.
The studies were urged by SCOPED in an attempt to enhance the business communities of Odessa and Burdett -- to bring new economic vitality to both villages.
Drawing in text: Proposal's Odessa park area, looking west on Main Street.
Glen Board deals with water, smoke and Code Red issues
WATKINS GLEN, June 22 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board, in a three-hour session Tuesday night, received bids higher than expected for a new Raw Water Intake Building, considered pleas to limit smoking in parks and in the doorways of buildings in the business district, rejected a Girl Scout request for a payment waiver for use of the Clute Park Pavilion, and heard that the Municipal Building renovation project is nearly completed.
It also decided to find the original deed giving LaFayette Park to the village, with an eye toward determining what uses it permits. This came after a complaint from a nearby resident about too-loud music coming from the park during a religious gathering there.
And it put off for further study a move toward a high-speed notification system called Code Red.
Raw Water Intake: Bids totaled more than $2.1 million for the Intake Building, with General Contracting and Plumbing bids pushing the overall total well above the budgeted $1.7 million. The Intake project, necessitated by the general breakdown over time of infrastructure, was put on hold while, as Mayor Mark Swinnerton put it, "we look at the design and see where (the cost) is being driven up." A special Board meeting was set for 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 5, to further deal with the issue.
In a loosely related matter, Trustee Scott Gibson said he had met with representatives of the Towns of Dix and Reading to discuss uneven sewer rates, and that a study is needed to analyze the rates with an eye toward amending the system. The study cost would be $15,000-$25,000, divided by the municipalities. "Reading is on board," he said, although he wasn't sure about Dix.
"I don't see how our (sewer) rates can not go up," said Gibson, looking ahead. "We have too many things on the horizon" -- a reference to infrastructure wear. That infrastructure, he said, "keeps getting older and older and older, and finally the piper will come calling, as it did for the Raw Water Intake Building."
Smoking: The board heard from representatives of the Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness group, who urged a ban on smoking in Clute Park, and from a woman complaining in a letter about smokers partaking of the habit on the sidewalk outside a youth center below her daughter's apartment. Smoking also took place in a nearby doorway, said the woman, who wondered if the board could ban such activity.
Board members noted that there was a smoking policy adopted in 1990, but that it was so out of date that it permitted smoking in village buildings if it didn't offend anyone. State law has since superceded that, but the local law needs to be revised, the board said, with an eye toward the possibility of incorporating bans on smoking in parks, on ballfields, and perhaps in entryways. In the meantime, the issue of the sidewalk smoke could be settled by the property owner, it was suggested -- either by signage or by asking the smokers to relocate to a smoking area behind the building.
Waiver rejected: The board rejected a request from the Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways for waiver of a $75-a-day charge for use of the lakeside park Pavilion. The usage will occur during a summer program from July 18-22 for girls K-12 "in the Watkins Glen community."
Trustee Gibson said the board had "denied a hospital request" in the recent past "for the same reasons: the cost of routine maintenance, trash pickup, energy usage, all the things that go into the operation" of such a facility.
"My daughter is a Girl Scout, and I respect what they do," said Gibson. "But this would be a direct cost to the taxpayers of the village." Besides, he added, the charge is "a nominal, reasonable" one.
Renovation Project: Clerk of the Works Dale Walter summarized the progress of various aspects of the Muncipal Building renovation project, which has been going on since December, and said the target date for village employees moving back into the structure is July 8. He said he would be providing a walk-through for village Code Enforcement Officer Gordon Wright Monday morning. Trustee Wayne Weber plans to attend, as well.
The board, in a related matter, approved the purchase of a new canopy for the front of the Municipal Building to replace the old one, which has holes and has faded. The cost of the new one is $2,151.52.
Lafayette Park: The board received a letter from a resident near Lafayette Park, Jane Kissel, complaining about loud music from a Sunday concert conducted by Freedom Village. She asked if there wasn't a prohibition against either religious organizations or profit ventures using the park, and was told no, there isn't. But Kissel said she thought the document deeding the property to the village -- "from Mr. Watkins" -- did limit its usage. The board said it would locate that document.
"We will find the document and research it and use it as a starting stone," said Mayor Swinnerton.
Code Red: This high-speed, web-based notification system can be used by the village in a number of ways, said Swinnerton, suggesting it could alert residents when approaching snow will require plowing and the attendant need for odd-even parking; could announce missing children or adults; could signal emergency situations such as water-main breaks, boil-water orders and the like "in minutes"; could alert residents to traffic diversions; and could be utilized for other applications not yet thought of.
Trustees Wayne Weber and Kevin Smith expressed a reluctance to act right away on purchasing the service -- from Emergency Communications Network of Ormond Beach, Florida -- for a trial period running from October through May for $2,673. Both pointed to the cost in a financially tight year, and to the need to get feedback from department heads on what uses they might derive from the program.
"I think it's an excellent tool," said Smith. "There's value in it. But I haven't seen any feedback" from the department heads.
"We trimmed the budget back this year," added Trustee Gibson, agreeing with Weber and Smith, "so we need to discuss this internally, discuss where we can get the money."
Swinnerton said he might add the subject to the agenda of a meeting with department heads at 7 a.m. June 28.
Photos in text:
Top: Trustee Kevin Smith (left) and Mayor Mark Swinnerton at Tuesday's session.
Second: Trustee Scott Gibson.
Third: Cassie Coombs, program coordinator for the Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness group, urged the board to consider banning smoking in public areas. She said such a move would promote a healthy environment, and eliminate the pro-smoking influence of adults on youth. The board is considering a new smoking policy.
Fourth: Mayor Mark Swinnerton reacts to a comment.
Fifth: Trustee Wayne Weber
Map of pump plan. Inset at top left shows traffic flow from Franklin Street, toward stores and back around twoard pumps. The spaces at issue are to the left (or north) of the pumps.
Planning Board orders parking space change in Tops proposal
WATKINS GLEN, June 16 -- The Watkins Glen Planning Board and Code Enforcement Officer Gordon Wright told Tops Friendly Markets representatives Wednesday night to reduce the number of parking spaces in their gas-pump installation proposal for the Franklin Street lot fronting the store.
The change calls specifically for the elimination of six parking spaces that Wright said were illegal since Tops had turned a parking aisle behind those spaces into an access route for vehicles approaching the planned pumps on two islands near the Franklin Street entrance.
"We're talking about eliminating six spots," Wright told Lou Terragnoli, Tops Senior Director of corporate Development. "If you don't do that, you have a problem."
Wright explained that the spots were existing spaces which would -- after installation of the pumps -- pose a risk for store customers trying to back out into what has long been designated a parking aisle, but would now be a "designated assigned route" for vehicles approaching the four pumps.
Beyond that, he said, a customer who might run into the store for a quick purchase could find himself or herself -- if in one of those six spaces -- unable to move forward because of a car parked immediately ahead, and unable to back out because of vehicles (possibly cars or campers with trailers) blocking the way.
"Any parking space needs a 25-foot aisle behind it," said Wright. "It's a standard law, and you changed" the amount of consistently available space. "I'm trying to help you. I'd rather get it straightened out now before the County (Planning Commission) sees it, or other agencies."
Terragnoli, along with an engineer from the CHA engineering firm of Syracuse, agreed to meet with other company personnel this morning (Thursday), amend the plan accordingly, and send it by email to Wright so he can immediately forward it to the state Department of Transportation and the state Department of Environmental Conservation for review.
Planning Board Acting Chair Amedeo Fraboni and other board members said that aside from that parking-space problem, they favor the Tops plan -- which comes before the board again in July for a SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) and for possible preliminary site plan approval. It would then go to the County Planning Commission and then back to the village Planning Board for a public hearing in August. If all were to go well there, then final site plan approval would likely be granted.
The plan calls for installation of four pumps on two islands under a 60-foot-long canopy near the center of the lot fronting the Tops and CVS stores. They would be adjacent to the entry-exit lanes running from and to South Franklin Street. There is a possibility of another island east of the canopy, in an area now designated as three parking spaces.
The pumps would be fed by two 15,000-gallon gas tanks placed underground along the western edge of the parking lot.
In other business:
--The board decided not to grant immediate approval for the requested sale of an abandoned stretch of road on Orchard Avenue adjacent to three properties. The Clifford family has asked to buy it from the village.
The board, which has been working on a village Master Plan, decided to hold off on any approval pending a determination as to whether the roadway "fits into the Master Plan. If we have no use for it, then we can let it go," said Fraboni.
--Wright told the board that work is progressing on the proposed Chinese-Japanese restaurant on Franklin Street across from Savard's Restaurant, but that communication is still proving difficult. He said that NYSEG, which is installing a larger gas line to service the restaurant, has been having trouble with the language barrier. There has been no regular English-speaking site manager.
The same problem -- communication -- exists in the installation of wiring for a kitchen fire suppression system. Beyond that, Wright said, "everything else checks out."
Photos in text:
From top: Planning Board Acting Chair Amedeo Fraboni, Code Enforcement Officer Gordon Wright, and a glimpse of the affected spaces (in red) on a map marked by Tops' Lou Terragnoli during the meeting.
Legislators okay WGI permits
WATKINS GLEN, June 14 -- The Schuyler County Legislature gave the final go-ahead Monday night for the Phish Concert, Wine Festival and NASCAR race at Watkins Glen International, approving Public Entertainment Permits for those events.
The measure passed with one abstention -- from Legislator Phil Barnes, who is head of security at the WGI track. It also passed without comment, although County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, speaking afterward about the concert, noted that county leaders are "looking forward to it. It's a nice addition to our tourism sector."
The Phish Concert takes the place this year of the IndyCar race run at the track for the past few years. A cap of 60,000 attendees has been set by officials for the event, being held July 1-3.
The Finger Lakes Wine Festival is set for July 15-17, and the NASCAR race on the Aug. 12-14 weekend.
In other business, the legislators:
--Authorized the advertisement for bids for reconstruction of the County Road 4 bridge over Sawmill Creek. The project will be 95% reimbursed, 80% by the federal government and 15% by the state. The project design is completed.
--Acknowledged the appointment of 78 election inspectors for one-year terms.
--Approved the appointment of Erich Herzig to the Schuyler County Planning Commission, filling the unexpired term of Susan Knapp, who resigned.
--Approved a resolution asking New York State to "appropriately disburse the $192 million" collected through the 911 Cellular Surcharge for emergency management services. Schuyler County currently "receives an inappropriate amount of reimbursement," the resolution said.
Photos in text: Legislator Stewart Field (top) and Chairman Dennis Fagan (bottom) at Monday's monthly session.
Watkins Board signs on to USDA geese management plan
WATKINS GLEN, June 7 -- Goose droppings and a possible solution to the problem were aired Monday night at the Watkins Glen Village Board meeting, as the board approved payment of up to $2,500 toward elimination of some of the offending Canadian Geese.
The elimination -- to be accomplished by the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- consists of a roundup of "as many geese as possible," said one village official. The geese will then be transported to Syracuse for "humane euthanasia." Indications were the roundup will take place this month, during geese molting season.
The geese -- which have become essentially non-migratory, with the occasional 20- or 30-mile trip to other areas in the region for undisturbed nesting -- have become more aggressive toward the human population and toward other birds, said village board members and guest speaker Kate Bartholomew of the Environmental Management Council.
And at the same time, while efforts to curb the population through the sterilization of some eggs has met with very limited success, the increasing amount of feces left by the geese has posed a growing health risk, officials say. In particular, Bartholomew pointed out, the problem exists in the village parks, at Seneca Harbor Park, at the high school and in the waterways.
Up until the USDA started its program last year, the cost to round up the geese was prohibitive, Bartholomew said. The USDA instituted a first-year cost of $1,500 plus $5.50 per bird, and changed it this year to $2,500 with the per-bird cost covered by grant funding.
Trustee Scott Gibson said the state has set a desirable goal of a population in New York of 85,000 geese, compared to the current "quarter million."
"Canadian Geese are important," he said, "but their natural predators are gone, and we need to do something. They are more aggressive ... and do create health hazards." Since they are such a nuisance, he said, "I will vote in the affirmative" to contribute to the USDA program.
"There are deer hunts every year, set up because there are too many deer," Gibson added. "That's because the natural selection process isn't there; it's gone." This roundup, he said, follows essentially the same philosophy.
The $2,500 sum might not be necessary in total; it could be reduced if other entities, such as the Village of Montour Falls, provide funding. Montour Falls, said Barthlomew, has indicated it would, although the school district declined. Contributions might also come from other landowners.
In other business, the Village Board:
--Turned briefly to the policy of smoking on village property. Trustee Gibson said the issue has been raised locally, and that the board should discuss it at its next meeting.
--Heard from Fire Chief Dominick Smith that the fire department answered 49 calls in May, bringing the number to date this year to 244. He said 79% of the calls were answered within 2-4 minutes.
--Heard from Police Chief Thomas Struble that police answered 172 incidents in May, including 12 motor vehicle accidents. They made nine penal-law arrests, and dealt with 114 vehicle and traffic cases.
--Approved the hiring of four full-time lifeguards for Clute Park this summer, along with two part-timers. The full-timers are Adam Rice and Steven Combs (co-head lifeguards), Casey Holland, and Nick Cocca. The part-timers are Haleigh Wixson and Abby Cocca.
Photos in text:
Top: Mayor Mark Swinnerton, left, and Trustee Scott Gibson at Monday's meeting.
Bottom: Police Chief Thomas Struble makes a point.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, center rear, poses with Middle School students on hand during the Afterschool Program. Some of them were using Netbooks as an extension of their school work.
Gillibrand visits Glen School, sees wireless project progress
Senator helped secure grant to expand program to WGHS
WATKINS GLEN, June 4 -- One percent of the United States Senate came to Watkins Glen Friday afternoon.
And that one percent was 100 percent in favor of a high-tech educational system that she is helping to expand from the Middle School to the four grade levels of the High School.
Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the country's 100 U.S. Senators, arrived at the Middle School early -- almost unheard of, most observers of politicians' appearances said -- and then visited the Afterschool program in a classroom where students were working on their handholdable Netbook computers. Such devices are key to the help she has provided the district.
Then she visited the cafeteria, and talked to students planning a dance in the school gym that night that would raise funds for future Afterschool events. She then spoke to a gaggle of TV reporters, stepped outside to greet some students there, and then said her goodbyes and departed for her second stop in the area, at Salient Management Company in Horseheads. That firm develops and manages software to save money and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in Medicaid and Medicare.
Gillibrand was instrumental, Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips says, in helping the district secure a $170,000 grant from the Federal Communications Commission on March 9 that is enabling the district to expand its handheld computer project, both in the size and power of machines for the students, and in the number of grades utilizing them.
The district, a year-and-a-half ago, started using MLDs (Mobile Learning Devices) that were essentially converted cell phones designed to be used for class assignments and homework. Those were distributed by Verizon to 5th and 7th graders at the Middle School, a project expanded later to the 6th and 8th grades.
But those handhelds didn't provide enough programming -- weren't "robust enough," in the words of Phillips -- and so the district turned to something that was: Hewlett Packard Netbooks, which are small laptops, handholdable but much harder (said one student during Gillibrand's visit) to lose than the old MLDs were. When Gillibrand asked several students which device they preferred, they unanimously answered "the Netbook."
With the grant, said Phillips, the district will be able to replace the MLDs at the Middle School level with Netbooks, and expand the program to the High School, where -- after all -- the youngest students had already experienced the Verizon handheld project while at the Middle School. It made sense, district leaders felt, to enhance and follow through with the intended goal of the project: to improve the online skills of the students and better prepare them for the increasingly computer-dependent job market of the future.
And so the grant was sought in competition with school districts and public libraries throughout the country. Gillibrand provided her backing, and the FCC ultimately picked 20 grant recipients, with the Watkins Glen district among them.
"I'm so impressed," said Gillibrand. "These students are really learning to use 21st Century tools ... they will need in the marketplace. You are creating a workforce."
Gillibrand also was on hand to see in action the Afterschool program, which is federally funded through a 21st Century Learning Community 5-year grant currently in its third year. The first stop, in the classroom with Netbooks, was part of that program. Other participants were in the cafeteria, and some were outside, playing sports. After talking to the students in the cafeteria preparing signs for the dance that night, she commended them.
"We do events like this in Washington all the time," she said. "It's good experience. I hope you have fun tonight."
When the 5-year grant is nearing completion and the school district applies for a 5-year renewal, Phillips said, it will turn once again to Gillibrand, and remind her of what she saw Friday.
"She really stepped up for us" on the FCC grant, he said, adding of her visit: "I loved it. We couldn't have asked for a better visit. She was able to see for herself" something in action -- the Netbook project -- "that she advocated for."
Or, as Gillibrand herself explained when asked by one student what, exactly, her job as Senator entailed: "I travel all across the state listening to the concerns and worries of the people, and then I fight for those people in Washington. It's a great privilege to get to serve as Senator."
Photos in text:
Top: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand greets Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips upon her arrival Friday afternoon at the Watkins Glen Middle School.
Second: Senator Gillibrand answers TV reporters' questions.
Third: The Senator stepped outside, behind the Middle School, to greet some Afterschool Program students. From left: sixth grader Aran Holland, fifth grader Kaitlyn Valla and Gillibrand.
Bottom: Gillibrand poses with Rebekah LaMoreaux, president of the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce.
Senator Gillibrand talks to Afterschool students preparing signs for a dance that evening.
When students in the Afterschool Program using Netbooks were asked to find out, through Google, how long Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been a U.S. Senator, she wrote her name on the board to help them. The correct answer was two years.
Alexander will run for Dix Justice post
WATKINS GLEN, May 30 -- Ronald Alexander, retired Director of the Schuyler County Probation Department, has announced he is seeking the post of Dix Town Justice in the November election.
Alexander, an independent, will run under the Listening Party banner. The justice post has long been held by Republican Alan Gregory, who says he will seek re-election, and hopes to have the GOP endorsement again this year.
Alexander worked for the Probation Department for 37 years, the final 20 as director, before retiring in 2008.
During his tenure as director, he served for 20 years on the Schuyler County Youth Board, was a member of the Watkins Glen Youth Commission, and served as Secretary and then President of Area 1 of the New York State Council of Probation Administrators.
According to a campaign press release, Alexander "also was the architect of the Schuyler County Drug Court concept and served as Coordinator of the Schuyler County PINS Diversion Program, which provided youth and families with referrals and an alternative to the Family Court system. He also developed the Electronic Home Monitoring system as an alternative to incarceration where seen as appropriate by the court system. He was also integral in developing Schuyler County Families First, which is comprised of several key agencies in the county serving youth and families."
Outside of his career-related achievements, the release noted, Alexander served as President of the Schuyler County Chapter of the American Cancer Society and coached in the Schuyler County Cinderella Softball League for 20 years, also serving as the League President for four years. He recently concluded his third season as coach of the the Dundee High School Junior Varsity softball team.
Town of Dix Planning Board OKs Fun Park expansion plan
WATKINS GLEN, May 25 -- The Town of Dix Planning Board gave final site-plan approval Tuesday night to the proposed expansion of the Seneca Grand Prix Family Fun Park on Rt. 414. The vote was 3-0, with member Phil Barnes abstaining because a relative lives near the park.
About 20 area residents were on hand at the meeting, but there was no exchange between them and the board, other than when one asked the maximum decibel level allowed in the town ordinance.
"There are no public questions on this," said Planning Board Chairman Mike Pierce, effectively shutting down any discussion.
The approval by the board clears the way for construction of an outdoor go-kart and motorcycle track in an outdoor stadium setting at the rear of the 18-acre Fun Park property. The facility already has two go-kart tracks, along with a putt-putt golf course, bumper boats, an arcade and a volleyball court. It is owned by a group led by former National Hockey League player Jason Bonsignore of Rochester, who was present at Tuesday's session.
Bonsignore said afterward that he hopes to have the putt-putt golf operating next week, the go-karts and other holdover activities by mid-June, and the new track -- with bleachers and sound berms among its features -- in time for NASCAR weekend in mid-August.
"It depends on money," he said, noting that he has some tied up in vintage motorcycles that he is trying to sell. "If we can get it ready in time for NASCAR" and the attendant race crowd, "I'll be happy" he said. "If not, I'll be disappointed."
Bonsignore also owns the Champion Speedway in Owego and has operated other tracks in Greene and Batavia, NY, and in California.
The Seneca Grand Prix Fun Park was built in 1987 and operated for nearly 20 years until problems led to its closure for two seasons. It was bought two years ago by a Horseheads businessman who renovated much of the property and reopened last summer, leading to the purchase by Bonsignore's group.
The Planning Board had given preliminary site plan approval to the expansion last year, but had run into some vocal opposition in recent weeks from residents near the park concerned with noise, dust and traffic issues they expect as byproducts of the go-kart and motorcyle track, which will be at the heart of an outdoor stadium with bleacher seating. The stadium will be called The Seneca Speedway Stadium.
After Tuesday's meeting, some of those opponents gathered outside the Town of Dix offices, commiserating. One of them, Ben Laughlin, said he would be consulting with a Real Estate lawyer in order to file an Article 78 proceeding, as he had promised at an earlier meeting. Such an action would ask a judge to determine if the Planning Board -- in reaching its decision -- followed all of the rules it is supposed to follow.
Another resident, Rodney Phelps, said he is advancing a plan to relocate to Florida by two years and putting his house on the market in the next few days.
The board decision came after Chairman Pierce and board members Kirk Smith and Mike DeNardo went over specifics of the plan and raised concerns -- and twice had Bonsignore approach them from his audience seat to discuss matters pertaining to the original map he had submitted, once regarding fencing and another time to discuss a berm and the positioning of loudspeakers.
The board found no issue with dust -- the track will be watered by pond, well and a public water source -- or lighting, but said the Code Enforcement Officer should check after three weeks and six weeks of operation on the noise level, and to determine if the grass driveway that will handle customer traffic is up to the task or will be worn down and become "a flood runoff."
Board members specified that the track shall close at 10 p.m. "and be dark" by 11 on weekdays, and shall close at 11 p.m. and be dark by midnight on weekends.
As for traffic, it was decided that if it is ever heavier than anticipated, law enforcement can direct the egress from the track at evening's end. DeNardo suggested the cost be borne by Bonsignore, but Smith said he didn't think troopers or deputies would charge because it "is part of their job."
Photos in text: From the top, Planning Board member Mike DeNardo, Fun Park owner Jason Bonsignore, and Planning Board Chairman Mike Pierce at the meeting..
Police bust in on meth lab
TOWN OF DIX, May 19 -- Police, executing a search warrant at 6:15 a.m. Wednesday at a suspected methamphetamine lab in the Town of Dix, broke up what District Attorney Joe Fazzary said was "by far the biggest" meth operation he has seen in Schuyler County.
Fazzary said the bust at 1334 Roloson Hollow Road interrupted individuals who were "cooking meth at the time." Arrested and charged with a Class A felony -- Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, 1st Degree -- were Chad T. Speicher, 27; Shawn P. Rickard, 38, and John A. Barton, 30, the residence owner. They were each arraigned and remanded to jail without bail.
A press release from the Schuyler County Sheriff's Office said that a "large quantity of meth was located at the property." Fazzary expanded on that by saying it was "a huge meth lab" -- centered in a 15-by-20-foot shed, but with related paraphernalia, drugs and guns located in other structures on the property.
"It will take two days to go through everything," he said. "The place was a complete and utter dump" with dozens of 4-wheelers and lawn tractors, and "two barns filled with junk."
The meth operation -- one of "four or five" raided in Schuyler County in the past year and a half -- "was as big as it comes" in the area, Fazzary said. "It was by far the biggest I've seen here," he added. "And a DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agent covering a much larger region said it's one of the biggest he's seen."
Authorities haven't given an indication of the size of the lab's output or of the amount of drugs and guns found on the property.
Whatever the amounts, the bust was "real good for the county," said Fazzary. "It took a major lab out of operation."
He said the Class A felony carries prison time ranging up to life.
The investigation -- which Fazzary said originated in his office -- was a joint effort with the Schuyler County Sheriff's Office, State Police, Watkins Glen Village Police and the DEA.
The Montour Falls Fire Department and Schuyler Ambulance stood by during the search and the clean-up operation. Hazmat personnel were also involved.
The Village Board meeting drew an audience of 15 onlookers Monday night.
Glen board OKs new budget
Tax rate down slightly; recycling bids opened
WATKINS GLEN, May 17 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night approved a 2011-12 budget that calls for a slight decrease in the tax rate.
The spending plan has a tax levy of $1,074,384, and a tax rate of $8.0585 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, down from the current year's $8.108 per $1,000.
Adoption of the budget followed a public hearing that had almost no comments. However, Amedeo Fraboni, a meetings regular, did issue one observation when asked for it.
"You haven't raised taxes, so evidently you did what you were supposed to do," he said. "So I haven't got much to say."
In crafting the budget, the board, among other measures:
--Increased anticipated sales tax revenue by $20,000;
--Added $1,500 in safety inspection fees, since an assistant Code Officer is doing more inspections;
--Added $70,000 in anticipated campground receipts, based on actual receipts from 2010-11;
--Eliminated the Summer Rec program, which cost $20,000, partly funded ($2,000) by the Youth Program, with contributions from the Village of Burdett and Town of Hector.
--Reduced the expenditure lines of most village departments.
In other business, the board on Monday:
--Listened as Clerk Donna Beardsley opened bids for recycling in the village for the coming year. The bids came from four businesses -- Cardinal Disposal, Arrowhead Disposal, Feher Rubbish and Solid Waste Systems -- and were in two categories: monthly cost with a monthly pickup, and monthly cost with a biweekly pickup. The low bid was $1,750 for biweekly pickup, while the high bid was $3,250 for biweekly pickup.
The bids were sent to Public Works Superintendent Mark Specchio for review, and he will make a recommendation that the board can vote on at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 31.
--Assured a South Avenue resident that plans are underway to deal with the flooding experienced by residents of that street whenever there is significant rainfall.
--Heard an update on the progress in the Municipal Building renovation from Clerk of the Works Dale Walter, who said there still is no set completion date.
--Heard Park Manager Michelle Hyde say that campground reservations are "about on a par with last year, which was the busiest in 15 years."
Photos in text:
Top: Clute Park Manager Michelle Hyde confers with trustee Wayne Weber before the start of Monday night's meeting.
Middle and bottom: Mayor Mark Swinnerton and Clerk of the Works Dale Walter.
Dix 'special meeting' leaves residents scratching their heads
WATKINS GLEN, May 12 -- The "special meeting" held by the Town of Dix Planning Board at midday Wednesday concerning the proposed expansion of the Seneca Grand Prix Family Fun Park on Rt. 414 had attendees wondering afterward why it was called at all.
The session was an outgrowth of a Planning Board public hearing on April 26th at which two dozen residents of the area around the Fun Park expressed opposition to the expansion of the facility under new ownership -- expansion calling for a new stadium-style outdoor track for motorcycles, ATVs and karts.
Residents expressed concern at the April 26 hearing about noise, late-night disruptions, dust and traffic backups on 414.
The public hearing had been part of a process that included preliminary site plan approval last year and may involve final site plan approval in the near future. The Wednesday session had been billed by board chairman Mike Pierce as a "special meeting," but he was never clear on what exactly the meeting would entail.
As it turned out, not much.
After board member Kirk Smith had read aloud six letters Wednesday from Owego area residents in support of Fun Park owner Jason Bonsignore's Champion Speedway operation there -- each letter, coincidentally, specifying that the Speedway does not create dust or noise problems -- Pierce announced that the board was going into executive session with Town Attorney David English. There would be no further public meeting that day.
The 10 or so residents on hand filed out quietly, gathering outside to discuss what had just happened.
"That was odd," said one. "The whole reason they had us come was so they could read letters to us? All of those letters were from people who go to the Owego track."
"I'm confused," said another.
"I'm not," said Ben Laughlin, who lives adjacent to the Fun Park and had announced at the April 26 meeting that he intended to File an Article 78 proceeding against the board if it approves the Fun Park plans. Such an action would put the decision before a judge to determine if the Planning Board had followed all of the rules it is supposed to follow.
"I knew when I threatened the Article 78 that they'd be hush-hush," he said. "This thing has dragged out since a year ago. Now they have their attorney in? They're doing damage control."
And those letters? One of them noted that the track expansion would "go over well in Watkins Glen," while others suggested Bonsignore's Owego facility is a boon to the area -- the unspoken suggestion being that the Fun Park expansion could be a boon to Watkins Glen, too.
"Oh, I'm sure they're concerned about us here at Watkins Glen," Laughlin said sarcastically.
Planning Board member Phil Barnes, who abstained from any action or discussion on the issue -- he said his daughter and son-in-law live near the Fun Park, posing a conflict -- declined to discuss the matter on the record after joining the attendees outside while the executive session was going on inside. "I'm not going to let my dogs off the porch," he said, deflecting questions.
Photos in text:
From top: Planning Board Chairman Mike Pierce, foreground, with board member Phil Barnes in the background; board member Kirk Smith jots down some notes; resident Ben Laughlin.
Schuyler expands smoking ban
County office properties are smoke-free; vote follows debate
WATKINS GLEN, May 10 -- The Schuyler County Legislature, with one dissenting vote, Monday night approved a smoking ban on county office building properties.
The "no" vote came from Glenn Larison, who debated resolution proponent Phil Barnes on the desirability of the measure.
"This is an imposition," said Larison, "on our employees on a short break who are addicted" to cigarettes. "I think it's a bad law. I don't like it."
But Barnes said he has gotten largely favorable response concerning the ban from around the county -- and from governments in other counties considering such a move.
Prior to Monday's vote, smoking was prohibited within 50 feet of county buildings, but Barnes said the limitation wasn't being followed. "But now," he said, "it will be simple peer pressure" that keeps smoking at bay. The resolution says the ban will "prohibit smoking for employees and public on any campus of any county building."
That includes the County Office Building, the Shared Services Facility and the Mill Creek Center in Watkins Glen, and the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.
Legislator Barbara Halpin weighed in with this: "Smoking kills. Why would we not do everything possible to keep people alive?"
County employee Charlotte Dickens opposed the move, however. Speaking in the public portion of the meeting, she said it would be "another incident of taking away personal freedom. Smoking outside is not harming anyone."
Chairman Dennis Fagan, just before the vote, concluded the comments: "There's no doubt about the effects of second-hand smoke. It's time to institute this."
The ban took effect immediately.
In other business, legislators:
--Conducted two public hearings at which nobody spoke -- adding four properties to Schuyler County Agricultural District #3 and establishing the county treasurer's salary through 2015 at $53,576, adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. Legislators Barb Halpin and Doris Karius voted against the salary measure.
--Approved a permit for Watkins Glen International to host a three-day music festival and the annual wine festival in July, along with the annual NASCAR race in August.
--Appointed Sarah Chicone as the Montour Falls representative on the Schuyler County Planning Commission, succeeding Sharon Wiedemer, who resigned.
--Approved the appointment of Rachael Boruchowitz as an interim, "less than full-time" Assistant County Attorney to fill the vacancy created by the retirement, effective May 31, of James P. Coleman from the County Attorney's post. Boruchowitz will be paid an annual salary of $30,000 while holding the position, effective from June 1 to Dec. 31 "or until such time as a new County Attorney is appointed."
Photos in text: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan (top) and Legislator Phil Barnes at Monday night's meeting.
Hearing set on Watkins budget
Tentative plan shows 5-cent drop in tax rate
WATKINS GLEN, May 3 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night set Monday, May 16 -- the night of its next meeting -- for a public hearing on a tentative 2011-12 budget that calls for a small decrease in the tax rate.
The board unveiled a spending plan calling for a tax levy of $1,074,384 and a tax rate of $8.0585 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The tax rate last year -- the village's first under full valuation -- was $8.108 per $1,000.
In other action Monday, the board:
--Heard Village Clerk Donna Beardsley remind everyone that the village is holding a Dumpster Day on Saturday, May 7 from 8 a.m. to noon in the parking area between the Community Center and the canal. Acceptable items include household appliances, TVs, gas grills, hot water tanks, computer monitors and keyboards, plastic, wood, metal, furniture and mattresses.
Not allowed: Hazardous waste, construction debris, computer towers, clothing or household garbage.
The Dumpster Day is free of charge and for village residents only. Those utilizing the service should have proof of residency available.
--Heard Fire Chief Dominick Smith outline a program being instituted through a grant that provides trust-based funds for firefighters -- those who meet certain service specifications -- upon their retirements. It is called a LOSAP, or Length of Service Award Program.
--Approved a payment of $3,000 for enhanced imagery of the village in a county-run aerial photography program. The aerials will cover Schuyler County, with any municipality that wishes enhanced views of its territory contributing the fee.
Photos in text:
Top: Mayor Mark Swinnerton (left) and Deputy Mayor Scott Gibson at Monday's meeting.
Bottom: Trustee Wayne Weber.
Schuyler passes $150,000 in prescription program savings
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, April 30 -- Schuyler County residents have collectively saved over $150,000 at the pharmacy counter with a discount prescription drug program sponsored by Schuyler County government in 2010. More than 4,000 prescriptions have been filled saving participants an average of 60%, or $34.29 per script filled.
Schuyler County partnered with ProAct, Inc. to provide financial relief for residents who are uninsured or underinsured and needing to fill prescriptions. Participants can also use the discount cards to obtain discounts on vision, hearing and LASIK services. The program was made available through ProAct, Inc. at no cost to Schuyler County or to participants.
Anyone who doesn't currently have a card is encouraged by the county to visit the ProAct website and print their own card (www.NYRxDiscountCard.com). The card cannot be used in conjunction with another insurance program in order to discount co-pays or deductibles.
There are currently 41 participating counties across New York State that have exclusively endorsed the ProAct program. Those counties have collectively filled more than 1.5 million scripts, amounting to $48 million in savings.
"We are all well aware that oftentimes, public service projects cost counties time and money," said Stacy Husted, Clerk of the Schuyler County Legislature. "This program has enabled Schuyler to make an immediate and sizable impact on the struggles faced by many of our uninsured and underinsured residents, at no cost to us or the participants."
There are no enrollment forms, no membership fees, and no age or income requirements. The discount card can be used at any pharmacy in the area and at more than 55,000 nationwide. Cards are available at many local pharmacies and at various county departments: the County Clerk's Office, the Health Department and Social Services.
ProAct, Inc. is a Pharmacy Benefit Management Company based in Central New York and a division of Kinney Drugs.
Residents included, from left: Floyd Hull, Gordon Bauman and Ben Laughlin. Hull said traffic would be a major problem; Bauman cited noise and dust; and Laughlin circulated the petition.
Residents oppose expansion of Grand Prix Fun Park on 414
Racing-stadium plan raises noise, dust, traffic concerns; Special Meeting set
WATKINS GLEN, April 27 -- Two dozen residents of the area around the Seneca Grand Prix Family Fun Park on Rt. 414 aired their opposition Tuesday night to the expansion of the facility under new ownership -- an expansion that calls for a new stadium-style outdoor track for motorcycles, ATVs and karts.
The occasion was a Town of Dix Planning Board public hearing on the project, part of a process that included preliminary site plan approval last year and possible final site plan approval in the near future. The Planning Board has scheduled a special meeting for 12 noon on May 11 to further discuss the issue.
If approval is granted then or later, it will not set well with the residents on hand Tuesday -- nor, presumably, with the rest of the 86 people who signed a petition opposing the plan. Those 86, said one person close to the petition, were all residents in the vicinity near the track. Nobody approached to sign it had declined the opportunity, the person added.
The park, built in 1987, operated for nearly 20 years until problems led to its closure for two seasons. It was purchased two years ago by a Horseheads businessman who renovated much of the property and reopened last summer. Among its features are two go-kart tracks, a miniature golf course, bumper boats, an arcade and a volleyball court.
A new ownership group led by former National Hockey League player Jason Bonsignore of Rochester plans construction of the new outdoor stadium, with bleacher seating and a berm to cut down on noise. The stadium, to be known as The Seneca Speedway Stadium, will primarily feature European Speedway Motorcycle Racing -- popular in Europe and California -- on Fridays under the lights at 8 p.m., according to a press release sent out in early March.
It is that kind of promotion -- in a fashion that residents consider putting the cart before the horse -- that had those at the meeting Tuesday wondering if the Planning Board had given Bonsignore the go-ahead before he had passed the various hurdles necessary to an expansion project.
The residents' complaints dealt primarily with concerns about noise, and dust, and a heavy increase in traffic that could back up vehicle flow on Rt. 414 on event nights. One mother of a 5-year-old said she was concerned for the child's safety in light of the increased traffic and the drinking that she -- and others -- presumed might be taking place at the stadium.
One resident suggested a possible Article 78 suit that would put the matter before a judge to determine if the Planning Board had followed all of the rules it is supposed to follow. Another was concerned by a statement by Bonsignore in one publication that indicated he and his fellow businessmen hoped to put 2,000 people in the stadium seats.
Town Board member Scott Yaw urged the Planning Board to consider matters of dust, smoke, odors, fumes and noise in its deliberations, and urged safety first where an onsite pond is concerned -- making sure it is barricaded so no young children wandering around the grounds can end up falling into it.
The Planning Board refused to respond to any questions, with member Kirk Smith, who was controlling the flow of comments, explaining simply that "This is a public hearing" -- meaning that only the public would be heard.
Bonsignore was standing in the back of the room, near the exit, and commented near the end of the session by saying "there are a lot of good concerns, and understandable." But he said he was "bothered" by statements that had "no basis in fact," such as one comment that the Champion Speedway in Owego, which he owns, has no residences nearby, and for a reason: the noise.
That's not so, he said. There are residents near that track, he said, and they all live in harmony with the track. He also took exception to the reference by a couple of speakers about the "motocross" that they said would be taking place at the Seneca Grand Prix. Not so, he said. There is no motocross planned. As for references to BMX races, he said, those will be non-motorized bicycle races.
Concern over installation of a hockey rink in the future was also overstated, he said. What he plans is a "synthetic sheet for community skating." And in reference to a news article that indicated the stadium project was "a done deal," he said he had told the journalist writing that article that the project didn't have the final go-ahead.
When the last resident had taken his or her turn speaking, the meeting turned to another subject without the board chairman, Mike Pierce, saying anything about the public hearing being over. And when he was told he should announce its end -- and did -- he was asked by one resident if the Speedway Stadium issue would be discussed later in the meeting. It would not, he said.
Finally, board member Phil Barnes told Pierce he had to explain to those at the meeting what the next step in the process would be. "Tell them what's next," he said. Several in the audience responded by saying "Thank you."
Pierce then said there would likely be a Special Meeting well before the Planning Board's next regularly scheduled meeting, and that the board would be consulting its attorneys. It was unclear whether those attorneys would be present at the Special Meeting, or what exactly would be discussed at that session -- or whether the board would respond to any questions asked of it by residents who might be in attendance.
Word later Tuesday -- after the Planning Board had adjourned -- was that the 12 noon time on May 11 had been agreed upon.
Photos in text:
Top: Planning Board chairman Mike Pierce, right, with vice-chair Mike DeNardo next to him, and board member Phil Barnes in the background.
Middle: Track owner Jason Bonsignore.
Bottom: Dix Town Board member Scott Yaw.
From left: Planning Board members Kirk Smith, Phil Barnes and Mike DeNardo.
Say goodbye to the fire siren
Watkins mainstay is coming down from the Municipal Building roof
WATKINS GLEN, April 20 -- The longstanding -- and very loud -- Watkins Glen fire siren is being mothballed -- taken from the roof of the Municipal Building and turned over to Civil Defense in the person of County Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Kennedy.
The issue of the siren, discussed at the first meeting of the newly constituted Village Board at its April 4th meeting, came to a head at the April 18th meeting when a report by Dale Walter, Municipal Building renovation project Clerk of the Works, indicated the siren would be removed soon. Removal was scheduled for this week, but put off a week by the weather, Walter said.
Mayor Mark Swinnerton, contacted after the meeting, said the siren "is deemed not needed" -- the opinion, he said, not only of the Village Board, but of both the fire department and Kennedy. Firefighters, he noted, now can be contacted immediately by cell phones or minitors (portable monitors).
The siren, originally designed to warn about such things as natural disasters or air raids, has been used for years to call firefighters to the scene of various emergency events -- in a deafening way that has drawn complaints from merchants and visitors. With the village dependent on tourism, it was pointed out at the April 4 meeting, it made little sense to alienate the eardrums of visitors just to maintain an outmoded tradition.
Accordingly, the 3 foot-by-3 foot siren, a heavy apparatus, will be removed by crane while other, renovation-related equipment is being craned into place atop the Municipal Building roof. The siren "will probably be surplused out" by Kennedy, said Swinnerton.
Also on the roof is a brass curfew bell -- not used in recent years but still operational, say village officials. It will be removed and transferred to the fire department for display.
Meanwhile: Swinnerton said he had written Cargill Salt last week about the possibility of that firm reinstituting its traditional noon whistle six days a week, but hasn't heard back. The company stopped blowing its whistle -- once a tradition in the morning, at midday and at the close of work -- because of complaints from neighbors. The village at its April 4 meeting agreed to handle any related complaints from the noon whistle blowing.
Photo in text: The siren and the bell sit atop the Municipal Building, but not for long.
Montour Falls Board looks at $8.23 tax rate
MONTOUR FALLS, April 19 -- The Montour Falls Village Board held a public hearing Monday night on a tentative budget with a tax rate of $8.229 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, down from $12.637 per $1,000 last year.
The difference is the result of full valuation of village property, which was part of a countywide process. While taxes on some properties may stay about the same or go down, others will go up, depending on the valuation figure on each given parcel.
The board plans to vote on the budget, with possible minor changes, at its May 2 meeting.
In other business Monday, the board:
--Decided in favor of adding "Veterinarian" to Special Uses in the Core District (Main Street) in the wake of interest shown by a veterinarian in using the old Office for the Aging building. The matter goes to the County Planning Commission next, with a public hearing to follow on May 16. Any specific renovation project would have to go through the Village Planning Board.
--Set Saturday, May 14 as the next Spring Trash Collection Day at the Town of Montour Highway Barn. No hazardous items, electronics, tires, recyclables or garbage will be accepted.
--Discussed again the vacancy in the office of Department of Public Works Superintendent. The duties are being performed by a foreman. The office has been vacant for over a year.
--Decided to put a timer on the Shequagah Falls lighting, so that it turns off each night at 1 a.m. Board members agreed there was no need for it to be on at that time of night.
Glen Board axes Summer Rec
Village budget gap prompts action; will 'revisit' program next year
WATKINS GLEN, April 19 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night voted 3-0 to eliminate the longstanding Summer Recreation program, with an eye toward "revisiting" it next year.
Mayor Mark Swinnerton cast the necessary third vote after a motion by Trustee Kevin Smith and a second by Scott Gibson drew "yes" votes from both men and an abstention from Wayne Weber. Trustee Greg Coon was not present.
The possibility of the program's termination was raised two weeks earlier, at the first board session run by newly elected Mayor Swinnerton, who had run for office with newcomers Smith and Gibson. The specter of a difficult budget season and a declining attendance in the program set up Monday's vote.
It was put into dollar terms when Swinnerton said the village is looking for ways to cut costs after finding -- following the first time through the budget -- a gap of $273,000 caused by state pension increases, insurance hikes and workers' compensation fees, among other things.
"That's $273,000 we have to find in the budget," he said. "We need to look at every penny, and get this (deficit) down. So we're going to pull the Summer Rec program now, with the board's approval."
Gibson noted that the program, a longstanding tradition that once boasted about 300 kids, was down to 90 last year, including just 29 from the village. The cost was $21,000, with $2,000 coming from the Division of Youth, and contributions from Burdett and the Town of Hector.
"We would be asking village residents to support a program with just 29 village children," he said. "That doesn't make sense with this shortfall."
"This is the last thing we want to cut," said Swinnerton, "and unfortunately it is the first thing we're going to cut."
Added Gibson: "The plan is to shelve it this year. It doesn't mean it goes away forever. This is not an easy choice; it really isn't."
Then came the motion, the two ayes and the abstention. Swinnerton, noting that "this requires the vote of the mayor," took several seconds to gather his thoughts. Then he said:
"My vote will be to pull the Summer Rec program for 2011. We'll revisit it for 2012."
The board also approved Swinnerton's mayoral appointments, which included:
--Donna Beardsley as Village Clerk-Treasurer, Registrar, Cemetery Commissioner, Bingo Commissioner and Historian;
--Part-time police officers David Novinsky, Robert Brill, Robert Minichello, Anthony Tostanoski, Kyle Hatch, Daniel Eberhardt, Isaac Marmor, Christopher Cady, Trevor Field, Daniel Jacobson and Richard Pierce;
--Zoning Board of Appeal members Roger Hugo, Kathy Fragola, Walter Hollien, David Wyre and Mark Stephany;
--Housing Authority members George Baldassare, Carol Kunzmann, Steve Gillette, Ken Wilson and Craig Olafson;
--Planning Board members Joseph Fazzary (Chair), Amedeo Fraboni, Anthony Fraboni, John Bond and Tom Merrill;
--Raymond H. Berry as Acting Village Justice.
Photos in text:
From top: Mayor Mark Swinnerton and Trustees Scott Gibson and Kevin Smith at Monday night's board meeting.
Legislators approve pact with CSEA workers
WATKINS GLEN, April 12 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night gave its blessing to a new five-year contract retroactive to Jan. 1 with 150 CSEA workers.
The pact, county officials have said, will save Schuyler an estimated $1.2 million over that period due to changes in health insurance co-pays and deductibles. The 150 workers will receive pay hikes of 1.5% each year beginning in 2012.
The meeting also featured discussion of the recent mailing of tax delinquency notices to all 1200-plus property owners in the Town of Montour. (See story below.)
Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan described the incident as "an embarassing situation that never should have happened." It could have been avoided, he added, with "two phone calls ... It truly is a lack of common sense, and I'm truly befuddled."
County Administrator Tim O'Hearn said that property owners who paid their taxes will not appear on a published delinquency list, and that the county will pay for the mailings.
Tax bill snafu upsets residents
All Town of Montour property taxpayers hit with delinquency notices
WATKINS GLEN, April 4 -- An apparent breakdown in communication has led to the distribution by the Schuyler County Treasurer's Office of Delinquent Tax Notices to every property taxpayer in the Town of Montour and some in the Town of Tyrone who had paid their tax bills.
The notices were sent out Thursday, and have prompted a stream of phone calls by residents to the Treasurer's Office.
"It's unfortunate, and regrettable," said County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, who said it was a situation that seemingly begs finger-pointing but which, in fact, was the result of "a lack of communication on the part of both offices" -- the Treasurer's and the Town of Montour's.
O'Hearn explained that the county tax bills contain the town tax bills, as well, and are collected by town clerks. At a given point, he said, the towns submit copies of the receipts -- of the paid bills -- certifying collection of taxes for each parcel. It's a system that's worked in the past, but clearly didn't this time.
The Town of Montour, he said, claims that the county has notified it in the past when it was ready for the receipts, but did not this time -- "although, if I were them, I'd be sending in receipts weekly." The end result: no receipts were submitted to the county by the town.
In the case of the Town of Tyrone, O'Hearn said, a portion of its receipts were submitted in February. The remainder were submitted Thursday, too late to head off delinquent tax notices for the property owners represented by that latter group of receipts.
With no marked-as-paid bills -- no receipts -- from the Town of Montour, he said, delinquency notices were sent out as required by law. "Did the Treasurer's Office do anything wrong? No." But, he added, a phone call to the town might have helped when it was noticed that the number of delinquencies was incredibly high.
"Unfortunately," said O'Hearn, the incident has resulted in "ill will among the residents who paid their taxes, and between two layers of government. There are a lot of confused and angry tapayers out there, and rightfully so. There are a lot of people who pay their taxes religiously. It's a big deal to them."
Callers are being told by the Treasurer's Office that they needn't worry -- they will not go down as delinquents if they have proof of payment.
"We tell them that if they have a receipt or cancelled check, to disregard the notice," said County Treasurer Peggy Starbuck, "although some of them are saying 'I think I'll hang onto this," or indicate they might call the Town office. The number of tax parcels in the Town of Montour, she said, totals about 1,200.
One news organization calling O'Hearn about the bills said it had heard the Town of Montour was delinquent in paying its tax bill, but "that's absolutely untrue," he said. The town has time yet to submit payment. What it failed to do was send in receipts confirming tax payments by the owners of each parcel in the town.
Cost of the delinquency mailings is another matter, he said, and "could be an expense that is not recoverable by the county," although the Treasurer's Office might be considering whether "to pass it to the town. It was money spent unneccesarily.
"Nobody wants to point fingers," he said. "The bigger issue is what to do to make sure this doesn't happen again. I suppose there are a number of ways the process can be refined."
Mark Swinnerton signed an oath of office before running his first meeting as mayor.
The Swinnerton years begin
Summer Rec, Cargill whistle, fire siren discussed; new mayor signs oath
WATKINS GLEN, April 5 -- The incoming majority -- Mayor Mark Swinnerton, Deputy Mayor Scott Gibson and Trustee Kevin Smith -- had promised to hold detailed, question-filled meetings once they took office, and they weren't kidding.
The first meeting of the newly constituted Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night was full of discussion, and questions, and reports ... and lasted three hours, not counting the executive session that followed it.
And it was a night filled with talk of some significance: a possible end to the Summer Recreation program that has served the village kids and those from outlying areas for decades, the apparent reestablishment of the whistle at Cargill Salt, but only at noon Monday through Saturday; and the possible removal of the village fire siren.
It was also swearing-in night, in the sense that Swinnerton, Gibson and Smith signed oaths of office in an official ledger. The three were swept into office in the March 15 village election, unseating incumbent Mayor Judy Phillips and trustees William Smagner and Nick Kelly. The other two trustees are Greg Coon and Wayne Weber.
Summer Recreation: With the program -- which in days gone by would attract 300 youths -- costing $20,000 a year and attracting diminishing numbers (84 last year), the board considered the possibility of pulling the plug on it. Funding has come chiefly from the village, with contributions from the Division of Youth, the village of Burdett and the town of Hector.
Each of the trustees expressed fondness for the program, and discussed possible project-saving measures, including a fund-raising effort that might include local businesses and service organizations. The board tabled any decision until it has a chance to delve into the upcoming budget, with Swinnerton cautioning that -- in light of tight economic times -- the program still could fall victim to the budget-cutting axe.
Village fire siren: The board discussed eliminating the siren, and seemed to lean in that direction, but wanted first to consult Fire Chief Dominick Smith, who was out of town. The consensus at the meeting was that the siren is a very loud nuisance in a time when firefighters can be alerted by other means: cell phone, monitors and the like.
Said Trustee Greg Coon: "I'd love to see it gone."
Cargill whistle: The traditional whistle, terminated in the past couple of years, will apparently be reinstated with a letter from Swinnerton to Cargill officials assuring them that any complaints about it could be directed to village officials. The whistle, which used to blow at 7 a.m., noon and 3:30 -- signaling to workers the start of the workday, lunch, and the workday's end -- will, under Board terms, blow only at noon on Mondays through Saturdays. A village spokesperson said the whistle was terminated by Cargill, without village input, a couple of years ago upon complaints from neighbors.
The decision was preceded by a letter from Tony Vickio, read aloud by Swinnerton. Vickio wrote that the whistle was "a time-honored tradition ... sounding a message. When it sounded, the community was one."
Vickio has circulated a pro-whistle petition that attracted hundreds of signatures, but Swinnerton said Cargill officials felt that such an effort wasn't necessary -- that the whistle would blow with the assurance from the village that village officials would handle any complaints. Only Trustee Wayne Weber opposed the move.
In other business, the board:
--Heard a report from Dale Walter, the Clerk of the Works for the Municipal Building renovation project, which is scheduled for completion in June. He noted that the police department, which had been slated for placement in the back or the building, will instead be in the front as before, providing a visible police presence. Offices for the mayor and village clerk, slated for the front of the building, will instead be in the rear.
--Heard Police Chief Tom Struble say that the increasing price at the gasoline pump is pushing his department above its budgeted gas fund. "We've taken a big hit," he said, "but we can't stop patrolling."
--Heard Swinnerton ask Village Clerk Donna Beardsley to initiate contact with personnel involved in running cable-access Channel 5 with an eye toward the eventual videotaping of Village Board meetings for broadcast on that channel.
Photos in text: From top, trustees Scott Gibson, Kevin Smith and Greg Coon.
Among family members on hand with Joe Fazzary for Wednesday's announcement were his wife Susan and son Georgio.
Fazzary enters judge's race, vows 'old fashioned' campaign
WATKINS GLEN, March 31 -- Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph G. Fazzary declared his candidacy Wednesday for the Republican nomination for Schuyler County Judge.
He will square off against Assistant County Attorney Dennis Morris in the September primary, with the winner advancing to the November general election. Morris announced his candidacy on March 28th. There are no other announced candidates.
The County Judge post, currently held by J.C. Argetsinger, is for 10 years. Argetsinger, in the fourth year of his second term, is being forced from the job by a state-mandated retirement age of 70.
Fazzary, in a press conference on the steps of the county courthouse, said his platform would be the same as the first time he ran for the DA's post -- "hard work, dedication, even-handed justice," and an ongoing effort "to make Schuyler County a safer place to live."
His wife Susan and children Georgio and Isabella were at his side for the announcement, which was preceded by an introduction by Schuyler County Republican Party Chairman Phil Barnes.
Gathered on the lawn in front of the steps were representatives from TV and print media, and scores of Fazzary supporters, starting with family members and including a cross section of local political and business representatives.
Among those present was Matt Hayden, who is the county's Chief Assistant District Attorney -- a man who will watch Fazzary's campaign with heightened interest since it could so strikingly affect his own career. Should Fazzary win, Hayden -- a Democrat -- would be in line for a possible gubernatorial appointment to the District Attorney post. He would, under those circumstances, run in 2012 for a four-year term in the DA's office, he said.
Fazzary, who has served as DA since 1998, and was an Assistant DA from 1993-97, pointed to his extensive courtroom experience as invaluable for the role he now wants to take on. "To be a good judge," he said, "you have to spend a lot of time in the courtroom, and I've done that. And you need to know how to research law," another area in which he said he has extensive experience.
"We have a tradition of fine judges in Schuyler County," he said, a list he would like to join. But first comes the election -- a hurdle for which, he told the crowd, "I need your support. I can't win it alone."
He pointed to his failed effort to win a seat on the New York Supreme Court in 2007, when his campaign was spread over 10 counties. This time, with just one county, he plans to "run an old-fashioned campaign," going door to door and attending suppers, "dragging my family along and probably gaining another 20 pounds."
That kind of visibility and effort, he said, is essential. "I know that's how to win an election."
Photos in text:
Top: Joe Fazzary, right, shakes hands with Schuyler County GOP Chairman Phil Barnes, who had introduced the candidate.
Bottom: Chief Assistant DA Matt Hayden.
Among those present for the Fazzary announcement were Schuyler County Legislators Dennis Fagan, left, and Stewart Field.
Morris is a candidate for Schuyler County Judge post
WATKINS GLEN, March 28 -- Dennis Morris of Montour Falls, a longtime Schuyler County attorney who has served as Assistant County Attorney since 1992, has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Schuyler County Judge.
Morris, 58, who has practiced law in the county for 32 years, is seeking the post currently held by County Judge J.C. Argetsinger of Montour Falls, who will be retiring from the position on Dec. 31 under mandatory retirement-age regulations. The term of office will be 10 years.
Morris is expected to have competition for the Republican nomination from Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph Fazzary, which would force a September primary election to determine the GOP nominee in November. Fazzary has not yet made any formal announcement of candidacy.
Morris, a Schuyler County Assistant District Attorney from 1986-89, said he recently filed documents with the New York and Schuyler County Boards of Elections registering a campaign committee.
In Schuyler County, the County Judge presides over three courts -- Family Court, County Court and Surrogate's Court.
A lifelong resident of Schuyler County, Morris grew up on on a family farm owned by his parents, Dorothy and L. Hollier Morris, and graduated from Watkins Glen High School in 1970, Grove City College in 1974 and the University of Akron Law School in 1978. He was admitted to the New York State Bar in January 1979, and has practiced law in the county ever since.
From 1982-96, he served as Village Attorney for Odessa and Burdett, and as Town Attorney for the Town of Dix. He is a former president of the Schuyler County Bar Association and a past representative to the New York Bar Association House of Delegates.
He and his wife, Julie, and daughter, Jessi, live in the farmhouse on Skyline Drive built by Morris's great-grandfather, A.J. Morris, in 1879. The Morrises are members of the First Prebyterian Church of Watkins Glen.
Outside of the legal arena, Morris is a musician. After college, he became a volunteer instructor and later a board member of the Squires and Pages Junior Drum and Bugle Corps. During that 10-year period, the Squires won four state championships.
Since then, he has served as coach for the Dundee, Trumansburg and Horseheads Marching Bands and Colorguard.
He is also a member of the Farm Bureau and the National Rifle Association.
Photo in text: Dennis Morris and the Schuyler County Courthouse.
Reed fields questions, concerns at Town Meeting in Schuyler
WATKINS GLEN, March 26 -- Congressman Tom Reed visited the Dix town office in Watkins Glen Saturday for the seventh in a series of Town Meetings he's been holding around the 29th Congressional District.
Reed, a first-term Republican, was joined by State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Chris Friend. Also on hand were Schuyler County Republican Chairman Phil Barnes, county legislator Glenn Larison and Watkins Glen Mayor-elect Mark Swinnerton among an audience of more than 40 area residents.
Reed said the major issue facing Congress is the rapidly increasing federal debt, which he said is "not sustainable" and "will destroy America from within" if not brought under control. "We're fighting for America for the next generation," he said.
Other subjects discussed included:
--Ethanol production and the attendant removal of corn crops from the food distribution network for that production. One visitor insisted the ethanol effort should be discontinued -- and Reed agreed, saying there is a movement afoot in Congress to debate the issue.
--Hydrofracking. Reed said that while he doesn't want "our backyard" ruined by unsafe drilling practices, he believes -- "from what I've read" -- that the process "can be done safely and responsibly," and "we need to move to the next level. We can't drive our policies based on fear."
--Obamacare. The health plan pushed through Congress last year was repealed by the House, Reed noted, but not by the Senate. "Outright repeal is highly unlikely," he said, although "there are problem areas that need to be put back on the table. We need to make sure the health debate continues on."
After his visit to Schuyler County, Reed was scheduled to go to similar meetings later in the day in Canandaigua and Gates.
Photos in text:
Top: Congressman Tom Reed answers a question at the Town Meeting.
Bottom: Among those on hand for the session was Watkins Glen Mayor-elect Mark Swinnerton, right. Attorney Stewart McDivitt is in the background.
Assemblyman Chris Friend, left, and State Senator Tom O'Mara were also at the meeting.
Watkins Village Board holds low-key session as two trustees say goodbye
WATKINS GLEN, March 22 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board conducted a brief and low-keyed meeting Monday night, minus its mayor and with the next mayor and two trustees-elect in the audience.
Mayor-elect Mark Swinnerton and trustees-elect Scott Gibson and Kevin Smith observed the session, which dealt with only minor housekeeping issues.
The session was led by Deputy Mayor Greg Coon in the absence of Mayor Judy Phillips, who has been on vacation -- a cruise to Hawaii -- since before her election defeat to Swinnerton on March 15th. Present were two trustees who lost their bids for re-election -- William Smagner and Nick Kelly. They were attending their final session as board members.
The Swinnerton team will be sworn in when the board meets again on April 4th
Among action taken Monday night, the board:
--Approved a request by organizers of the Farmers Market to use Lafayette Park again this year, on Fridays from 3-7 p.m. from May 27 to Oct. 28, with Sept. 9 off during the Grand Prix Festival. Last year, there were 14 regular vendors during the peak period of July and August.
--Approved a request by Joe's Hots to set up again this summer selling hot dogs at Lafayette Park. The fee will remain the same as last year.
--Approved May 7 as the date of the next Dumpster Day outside the Community Center off of 4th Street. It will run from 8 a.m. to noon.
--Acknowledged that the annual St. Jude's Bike-a-thon will be run from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on May 21 at the high school.
Outgoing trustee Kelly told Swinnerton, Gibson and Smith: "Good luck to you guys." And Coon said he wanted to say a "thank you to Nick and Bill and Judy for their years of service to the community." To the Swinnterton group, he added this: "It'll be fun bringing you on."
Photos in text:
Top: Watkins Glen trustee Greg Coon, who serves as deputy mayor, ran the meeting.
Bottom: Nick Kelly, who attended his final meeting as a trustee. He was defeated in a re-election bid in the March 15th village election.
At the Legislature meeting ...
Caricatures of legislators and county officials on hand at the Monday, March 14 meeting of the Schuyler County Legislature. The drawings were done during the session by artist Jon Haeffner. Top, from left: Legislators Michael Yuhasz, Dennis Fagan and Glenn Larison, County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, and Legislators Phil Barnes and Barbara Halpin. Bottom, from left: Legislators Doris Karius and Tom Gifford, County Attorney James Coleman, Legislator Stewart Field, Legislature Deputy Clerk Jamee Mack, and Legislature Clerk Stacy Husted.
Watkins Glen trustee candidates Scott Gibson, left, and David Wyre Sr., center, chat with mayoral candidate Mark Swinnerton before the vote count was announced.
Change sweeps into Watkins
King defeats Kelley in Montour Falls; Pierce edges Parker in Odessa
WATKINS GLEN, March 16 -- Two incumbent mayors were ousted in Tuesday's Schuyler County village elections, and another nearly was.
Incumbents Judy Phillips in Watkins Glen and Donna Kelley in Montour Falls lost their re-election bids, while incumbent Keith Pierce in Odessa narrowly survived a challenge from a write-in candidate allied with the group that forced a village dissolution vote last December.
The only mayor who cruised to victory was Dale Walter in Burdett. He garnered only 25 votes, but was running unopposed.
The message was clear. Watkins Glen residents wanted a change in the way their village government is run, and they got it.
The team led by former trustee Mark Swinnerton swept into office in decisive fashion, with Swinnerton (a Republican) outpolling Phillips (a Democrat) for the four-year mayor's job, 324-186. Richard Scuteri (defeated by Swinnerton in the GOP primary) received 66 votes, and write-in candidate Kevin Thornton was named on 17 ballots.
Swinnerton running mates Kevin Smith and Scott Gibson, seeking two available Village Board seats, unseated incumbents William Smagner and Nick Kelly -- with Smith receiving 299 votes, Gibson 262, Smagner 236, and Kelly 155. A fifth candidate, Republican David Wyre Sr., registered 121 votes. Smith and Gibson were running with Swinnerton on the Listening Party line, while Smagner (a Democrat) and Kelly were running on the People's Choice line.
"I'm speechless, to say the least," said Swinnerton after the votes were announced. "I can't believe it wasn't closer. It speaks to the need for change, and believe me, we hear the voters' voices loud and clear. We will continue on with the pledges we made to them.
"Now," he said, "we're anxious to get started." The team will take office on the first Monday of April, at a board meeting that night.
And their first order of business?
"Budget, budget, budget," said Swinnerton. "We're going to take it apart and work on it from the bottom up. We are going to do our best to steer the ship down the avenue we set."
Village trustee John P. King, a retired business executive who has served on the Village Board for one year, defeated incumbent Mayor Donna Kelley 149-109 in what many observers had thought would be a closer race that perhaps favored Kelley.
But King, who campaigned door-to-door through much of the village, showed strength that carried him into office. He will begin his two-year term next month. The board will then have to appoint someone to fill the unexpired portion of his trustee term.
Also elected were two trustees -- incumbent Jim Howell and newcomer Ellen Mathers -- who ran unopposed. Mathers received 185 votes, and Howell 184.
Incumbent Mayor Keith Pierce, at odds the past year with a group of residents intent on dissovling the village government, defeated a member of that group, Edward A. (Andy) Parker, who was running for mayor as a write-in candidate. The vote count was a close one, 69-58.
Parker, for whom flyers were being distributed quietly to selected voters in the village, was pulled into the public spotlight Sunday when local media discovered his stealth candidacy and interviewed him about it. Although Parker said he was no longer interested in pursuing dissolution, his candidacy rekindled the issue in the minds of some voters, and sparked a turnout at the polls far larger than had been expected a week earlier.
Incumbent trustees Robin Thoman and Shawn Crane were re-elected unopposed, each receiving 112 votes.
There were several write-in candidates, with Sally Hill receiving five votes and Lyle Goossen three for trustee, and trustee Timothy Hicks and former Deputy Mayor Rita Decker one each for mayor.
"I knew it would be close," said Parker, who was on hand at the Municipal Building when the vote count was announced. "Had it tipped the other way, I would have wanted to prove to the voters that they had made the right choice. I hope (Pierce) feels the same way" about his narrow win.
"Getting rid of apathy," Parker added, "was the most important part" of his mayoral challenge.
Mayor Pierce, celebrating at home with Thoman and Crane and trustee Peggy Tomassi, said he was "thrilled with the turnout, and grateful to the village residents who gave us the go-ahead to continue the things we've been working on. We're moving forward."
Incumbent Mayor Dale Walter ran unopposed for re-election, along with incumbent trustee Linda Arcangeli and newcomer Judy Mangus. Walter received 25 votes, Arcangeli 24 and Mangus 19. Write-in trustee candidate Diane White fell short with 11 votes.
Photos in text:
From top: Incumbent Watkins Glen trustee William Smagner, right, congratulates trustee-elect Scott Gibson after the outcome showed Smagner had been defeated; Montour Falls mayor-elect John King with his wife Lorna (photo provided); Odessa write-in mayoral challenger Andy Parker.
Left: Mayoral candidate Richard Scuteri, left, talks with Village Justice Nick Dugo before the vote outcome was announced. Right: Margaret Swinnerton, wife of the mayor-elect.
DMV plan will promote organ donations
WATKINS GLEN, March 10 -- The Schuyler County Legislature was briefed Wednesday on a plan designed to ease the process for individuals wishing to consent to eye, tissue and organ donations in the event of their deaths.
Amy Davis, the Community Education Coordinator of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network of Rochester, outlined the donation consent process to the legislators at their monthly Legislature Resolution Review Committee session. The Finger Lakes group is an organ procurement organization that Davis said is trying to make organ donation "a societal value."
The plan involves the Department of Motor Vehicles, where a simple consent form will be available for signing and placement in the signer's wallet. Eventually, Davis said, plans call for the names of such potential donors to be placed into a computerized registry. The DMV is a perfect spot for the program, she said, since anyone with a driver's license will visit it periodically.
In the past, the DMV was utilized for distributing intent forms that could be circumvented by family after the passing of the person who registered. With the new consent form, permitted by a 2008 law, the matter will be taken from the family's hands
Davis told legislators that there are currently 110,000 people on the waiting list for donations, and that New York has 10% of them.
County officials hope to have the program in place at the DMV by April 1. April will be designated by the Legislature as "Donate Life Month" at its next regular session.
Photo in text: Amy Davis of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, left, with Schuyler County Department of Motor Vehicles license clerk Helen Davis and DMV supervisor/assistant deputy clerk Scott Little. T-shirts like the one shown will be worn by DMV employees at work on Fridays in April, "Donate Life Month."
From left: Watkins Glen mayoral candidates Judy Phillips, Mark Swinnerton, Richard Scuteri and write-in Kevin Thornton.
The nominees are lined up ...
4 seeking mayor's job in Glen; 2 vying in Montour Falls
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Feb. 8 -- The independent nominating petitions are in, the caucuses and a primary have been held, and the slates are in order for the March 15 village elections.
The races shape up like this:
Running for a 4-year term as mayor: Incumbent Judy Phillips (Democrat and People's Choice); Mark Swinnerton (Republican and Listening Party), Richard Scuteri (The Concerned Taxpayer Party) and Kevin Thornton (an announced write-in candidate).
Running for two 4-year trustee seats: Incumbent William Smagner (Democrat and People's Choice), incumbent Nick Kelly (People's Choice), Scott Gibson (Listening Party), Kevin Smith (Listening Party), and David Wyre Sr. (Republican).
Running for 4-year term as Justice: Incumbent Nicholas Dugo (Republican and Listening Party)
Running for 2-year term as mayor: Incumbent Donna Kelley (Republican and Taxpayers Interests) and trustee John King (Spirit of Montour)
Running for 2-year term as trustee: Incumbent Jim Howell (Republican) and Ellen M. Mathers (Republican)
Running for 2-year term as Mayor: Incumbent Dale Walter (Citizens Party)
Running for 2-year terms as trustee: Incumbent Linda Arcangeli (Citizens Party) and Judy Mangus (Citizens Party)
Running for 2-year term as Mayor: Incumbent Keith Pierce (Independent) and, as a write-in candidate, Edward A. (Andy) Parker.
Running for 2-year terms as trustee: Incumbents Robin Thoman and Shawn Crane (both Independent)
Photos in text:
From top: Watkins Glen trustee candidates Scott Gibson and Kevin Smith, and Odessa mayoral candidate Keith Pierce, the incumbent.
From left: Montour Falls mayoral candidates Donna Kelley and John King, and Watkins Glen trustee candidate William Smagner.
In Odessa, there is a contest for the mayor's job, after all
ODESSA, March 13 -- The uncontested race for mayor of Odessa is a contest, after all.
While incumbent Mayor Keith Pierce will be the only name on the ballot for the post -- he is running as an Independent, as are incumbent trustees Robin Thoman and Shawn Crane -- there is a now-announced write-in candidate for the top spot: former village trustee Andy Parker, full name Edward A. Parker.
"If I'm voted in as mayor, I will accept it," said Parker, who was recently aligned with the committee that petitioned for a vote on dissolution of the Odessa village government. That move went down by a better than 2 to 1 margin on Dec. 7.
He has not actively been campaigning, he said, although he prepared a fact sheet (see below) for those circulating flyers about him. He says that to the best of his knowledge, "no one else is seeking write-in votes" for the mayor's post, nor for the trustee seats.
Parker says he is not running to try to force another dissolution vote. "That would be a waste of time," he said, explaining that the village "is not remotely ready for it. It can't happen without the approval of the village residents. It would just be voted down again. So let's do something else."
He said that in our rapidly changing times, and with the economy continually shaky, "a village can't afford to stay the same. It's either moving forward, or it's going to be dropping behind."
He envisions an upgrade of properties, preferably through construction of a sewer system to replace the septic fields crowded on mostly small village lots. On a vast majority of those, he said, "there's not room for new septic systems. They wouldn't make code."
If the sewer system isn't feasible, he said, the village could strive toward a development plan that enhances property values -- with an eye toward turning the village into "a sweet little bedroom community."
"People," he said, "would like to see their housing values go up."
He said the impending closing of the Village Take Out restaurant is regrettable from a historical standpoint, since the building dates back to the 19th century, but that he is "cautiously optimistic about the transfer" to the Dandy Mini Mart company. "They are a community-minded organization," he said.
He said it was unfortunate that the dissolution movement "got so ugly. Probably we should have done something like this," working within the system instead of against it. "In retrospect, I didn't want dissolution as much as I wanted to shake enough branches to show that people can talk if they want to. To a degree, that did happen."
But now, he said, he's looking at the bigger picture.
"From where I sit, the world is changing around us. Big changes are looming on the horizon, whether we want to admit it or not."
And among those changes, he suggested, could be mandates similar to the one issued by the state Department of Health in the late 1990s, when he was on the Village Board and Betsy Austin was mayor. At that time, the Health Department "forced us into our new water system. They said if we didn't do it, they would shut our water off. Mandates can be incredible motivators.
"Am I happy the village water doesn't taste as good as it used to?" he asked, referring to a period before that directive. "No, I'm not. But I am happy to have water."
Andy Parker prepared a fact sheet that is being distributed in the village by supporters urging his election as mayor. Among its details are these:
--Priorities for Odessa: (1.) Complete budget disclosure with breakdown of all expenses; (2.) Take steps to create more opportunities for residents of village to have a voice in the future of their community; (3.) Downtown Sanitary Sewerage System / Make Village Friendly for New Business Development.
--Odessa-Montour graduate 1982. Class president. Highest SATs in his class.
--Alfred University graduate 1986, a BS in Ceramic Engineering.
--Employed Corning Inc. from 1989-97 in Process and Project Engineering. Direct accountability for budgets, timelines, reporting, team communications and presentations.
--Currently self-employed in IT and Internet Marketing field, and spending time as a caregiver for his father.
--Odessa volunteer firefighter for two years around 1990. Resigned due to work conflicts.
--Village trustee in the late 1990s, serving unexpired portion of the term of Roger Swartwood after Swartwood moved from the village.
--Several years worth of Odessa Old Home Days committee work. Served in several capacities, including parade coordinator, Sound System Set-Up.
--Currently represents the village on the Environmental Management Council.
--Why now? "I spend most of my time in the Village as a caregiver for my father. This gives me the time needed to be an effective mayor. I believe that the priorities I have listed above are not being done well today, and I would like to try to improve them."
Photo in text: Edward A. "Andy" Parker (Photo provided)
Humane Society receives the Montour ZBA ruling it sought
MONTOUR FALLS, Feb. 10, 2011 -- The Montour Falls Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously Wednesday night that the animal shelter-veterinary clinic proposed by the Humane Society of Schuyler County in the Kurtz Enterprizes building on Marina Drive does, in fact, qualify under zoning definitions as a clinic/shelter instead of a kennel.
The finding -- reached without public debate and after a power-point presentation by Humane Society project director Mark Taylor -- clears the way for the Society to pursue a Special Use Permit for the project.
Had the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) ruled the proposed business a kennel, the Humane Society would not have qualified under village zoning law for establishment at that locale, and would have had to seek a variance from the ZBA, an often difficult task to achieve.
The matter had been referred to the ZBA by a village code enforcement officer seeking clarification.
The Humane Society will now approach the County Planning Commission, meeting tonight at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls, and the Village Planning Board again. The Planning Board took public opinions on the project at its last meeting. The visit to the County Commission is necessitated, Taylor said, because the Kurtz building is within 500 feet of a state highway.
Wednesday's session, chaired by Mike Stamp, moved quickly, with Stamp saying that while it was a public meeting, he did not wish to make it a public hearing other than to view Taylor's presentation. But even during that, he cautioned Taylor that the board was not seeking opinions, only facts -- and that the decision on the definition would be based solely on those facts.
Following Taylor's presentation, Stamp asked for comments from the board -- made up of members Jim Ryan, Joyce VanVleet and Carol Gifford.
There was little response, and then Stamp said that having recently researched the matter, the difference between a clinic/shelter and a kennel appeared clear to him -- that a kennel was for boarding animals for pay from individuals, while a clinic/shelter was for sheltering, treating and finding homes for dogs and cats brought in by county personnel, and for providing veterinary services. The Humane Society is trying to establish the latter, he said.
A vote followed, with all four ZBA members saying that the proposed clinic/shelter was, in fact, exactly that.
The Humane Society, while seeking clearance for the project, has not purchased the property. It is seeking village approval first, said Taylor, and then will determine the financial feasibility of that site against expansion of its current spay/neuter clinic on County Rt. 10 in the Town of Catharine. It received clearance for the Rt. 10 clinic expansion late last year from the Catharine Town Board, but with a list of conditions that Society President Georgie Taylor has said would make the project significantly more costly.
Photos in text: Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Mike Stamp (top) and Mark Taylor, Humane Society project director, at Wednesday's ZBA meeting.
Aerial view of Marina Drive.
Board listens to mostly positive opinions on Montour Falls animal-shelter proposal
MONTOUR FALLS, Feb. 3, 2011 -- The Montour Falls Planning Board Wednesday night fielded opinions from nearly three dozen area residents on the proposed purchase of the Kurtz Enterprizes building on Marina Drive by the Humane Society of Schuyler County for a combined animal shelter and spay-neuter clinic.
The opinions were, with a few exceptions, positive -- and, in some cases, enthusiastic.
The major exception was the opinion expressed by Montour Falls Fire Chief Tom Carson, who said he had "concerns" about the detrimental effect of such a facility "on the money brought in by the (Montour Falls) Marina." He felt that some seasonal campground residents might take exception to the shelter's barking dogs and end their seasonal attendance.
Carson also said that taking the Kurtz property off the tax rolls -- the Humane Society is a non-profit -- "doesn't sit well with me."
Several of the nearly 40 people in attendance were concerned about the barking that might go on among the 24 dogs the shelter could house -- although the Humane Society's Mark Taylor, project manager for the proposal, said in a presentation preceding audience remarks that the shelter would have state-of-the-art soundproofing and sound-mitigating features.
In answer to a question from the audience, Taylor also said that there are -- on the 80 seasonal sites at the campground -- a total of 42 dogs registered for summer there. That is 18 more than the two-dozen the shelter would house -- the unspoken conclusion being that if 42 dogs that presumably bark have not been an issue, why would 18 fewer dogs be an issue? He also noted that there are but a handful of campers within 500 feet of the Kurtz building.
Taylor, in his presentation to the group, outlined the history of the Society's spay-neuter effort, which since 2001 has resulted in 6,000 such treatments, and the adoption of 830 cats and 100 dogs. One result has been a "stabilization or elimination" of "many colonies" of feral cats.
He outlined how the Society had, at the request of county leaders in 2009, taken over the old (1950s-era) animal shelter on Van Zandt Hollow Road, a building that is short on space, service and appeal. Building a replacement there would not be feasible because of spongy soil, he said -- adding that the locale lacks, with its remoteness, the central location the Society is seeking and which the Kurtz property would provide.
Taylor also touched on a key element to be considered by the village's Zoning Board of Appeals when it meets on Feb. 9 -- whether the proposed shelter falls under the definition of an Animal Hospital or Veterinary Clinic, either of which is listed as a "permitted special use" operation under the Village Zoning Ordinance. Those definitions are listed in the photo at right, snapped during Taylor's powerpoint presentation.
Another meeting of note is one at which the Schuyler County Planning Commission will consider the proposal on Feb. 10. Montour Falls Planning Board Chairman Terry Stewart said the Commission is not likely to make a yes-or-no ruling, inasmuch as its function is normally advisory.
Should the Zoning Board of Appeals find no fault with the Humane Society's proposal, the issue will go back to the village Planning Board at its March 2nd meeting.
"I don't know if we would vote on it in March or not," said Stewart, expressing concern that summer Marina residents won't have the same chance to comment on the proposal as Wednesday's night's attendees did.
"I'm not sure what their response would be," he said, "but I'd hate to have to rush to have this done, and miss something."
He explained, however, that if the ZBA gives its blessing, and there is nothing substantial either from the county Planning Commission or from statements by area residents, the Planning Board "can't arbitrarily say no" to the project.
Wednesday's comments were heavily in favor of the project, with some people simply expressing support and others extending their remarks -- one suggesting the clinic could serve as a learning tool for high school students volunteering to work there, and another speculating that a successful, upscale operation could prove to be a magnet for other businesses to move in.
One woman said the argument that taking the Kurtz property off the tax roll would be a burden on the village doesn't hold water. "There are things that will be happening in Watkins Glen," she said, referring to planned housing and restaurant projects and proposed waterfront development. "What happens in Watkins Glen will spread to Montour Falls," she said, suggesting that an improved housing and building climate would easily outpace the loss of property taxes at the shelter.
In any event, said Taylor when asked, the amount of taxes being discussed amounts to just over $1,200 a year.
Positive comments also came -- among others -- from the following:
--Former County Legislator Paul Marcellus, who said the Kurtz property "is a perfect location, in my mind ... I hope you expedite approvals."
--Dog groomer Chris Betts and his wife Diana, residents of Clinton Street -- not far from Marina Drive -- who said they support the plan. "I think it's going to be done well," said Mrs. Betts.
--Antoinette Di Ciaccio, a former village trustee, who said the shelter "will most likely be successful in a highly visible location" such as the Kurtz site. "I totally support it."
Aside from Fire Chief Carson's, the only purely negative responses came from one attendee who said she "liked what Tom Carson said," and from a couple who wrote that they object to the plan.
Should the Humane Society gain the village approval, it must then decide whether to go forward with the Kurtz site -- negotiating for its purchase -- or to proceed with a previous plan for a shelter behind the Society's spay-neuter clinic on County Rte. 10 in the Town of Catharine.
The Society gained approval for that Catharine shelter from the town board late last year, but the board put a number of conditions on it -- among them the purchase of a piece of property behind the spay-neuter clinic from Dr. Frank Fielder. But Dr. Fielder recently died, which makes that negotiation and purchase "problemmatical," according to Taylor.
The Society purchased the spay-neuter building in 2006 from Dr. Fielder, who had operated his veterinary clinic there. Taylor said the Society paid $55,000 for the building, and then spent another $70,000 on upgrades.
Photos in text:
From top: Humane Society project manager Mark Taylor; the definitions in question as the Zoning Board of Appeals studies the proposal; former county legislator Paul Marcellus; and Planning Board Chairman Terry Stewart.
Odessa voters say 'No' to dissolution of their government
ODESSA, Dec. 8, 2010 -- Voters in Odessa issued a resounding "No!" Tuesday in balloting to determine if the village government should be dissolved.
The vote was 154 against dissolution, and 74 in favor of it.
The balloting was forced by a petition filed by a small group of residents determined to eliminate what they saw as an unnecessary layer of government.
However, a Working Group comprised of a cross-section of officials in the county found in a study that the overall effect of dissolution would be increased costs and reduced services.
The outcome of the vote was read aloud at Village Hall -- site of the voting -- by election inspector Sandy Montgomery. It was greeted with loud cheers by most of the dozen people on hand to witness it.
Village trustees Peggy Tomassi, Robin Thoman and Shawn Crane were on hand -- as was Mayor Keith Pierce, in firefighter garb after returning from battling a garage fire in the Town of Catharine.
"I'm very happy the people came out and voiced their opinions," said Tomassi.
Thoman said she was "very excited. This was the biggest voter turnout we've ever had. I'm impressed with the amount of people who turned out."
A total of 239 village residents voted. Eleven of the ballots were voided. A normal turnout at an Odessa election is 35 to 40 people.
There are 393 registered voters in the village, which means that about 61% cast ballots.
Mayor Pierce said he was "very pleased that it's over."
When asked what positives might have come from the experience, he said the biggest one "is how many people took part in it" by casting ballots. "It's hard to get people interested in local government," he added. "But this time they got involved."
Asked if he thought the vote was an endorsement of the job he is doing as mayor, Pierce thought a moment, then said: "I don't know if it's that or common sense. It made no sense to dissolve the village government."
Photos in text:
Top: Village resident Don Flatt is interviewed by WENY-TV reporter Daryl Kirkland-Morgan after he cast his vote.
Bottom: Odessa Mayor Keith Pierce.
One of three maps displayed Wednesday night with specific project goals.
Lakefront plan offers dozens of Glen development strategies
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 2, 2010 -- Behold the future.
Or at least a concept of the future, Watkins Glen style.
In what was described as "a roll-out" of a Lakefront Management and Development Strategy, consultants from the Laberge Group of Albany Wednesday evening outlined a comprehensive proposal for dozens of projects that would change the makeup of the Seneca Lake waterfront. The 300-page plan contains five dozen specific goals.
The presentation at the Watkins Glen Community Center was actually in two phases -- the first to about 35 members of the public, and the second to members of the Watkins Glen Village Board and Planning Board.
That last gathering was key, said Kelsey Jones, executive director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, which spearheaded the study back in January.
"The next step is to get people on board," said Jones, a reference to the need for the Village Board to give its backing to the project concept.
Mayor Judy Phillips said the Development Strategy has "some good ideas. Some are realistic, but some I'm not so sure about; they're rather extensive. But this is just a starting point."
Accordingly, she said, the matter will be channeled to the Planning Board, which in turn will make a recommendation to the Village Board.
But in considering backing the plan, said Laberge spokesman Ben Syden, village officials need to realize "this is a vision, not a site development plan." Accordingly, it can be altered, parts rejected, sites changed.
Even SCOPED's Jones concedes that some of the design guidelines "will scare people." An example might be the proposal to eliminate the parking lot at Seneca Harbor Park and replace it with "a great lawn area with pedestrian paths." SCOPED's Charles Peacock said another feature of the park might be a low-lying section that could be filled with water in the winter for ice skating.
Parking relinquished at the park could be made up with construction of two parking garages, the plan envisions -- one between First and Second Streets across from the Harbor Hotel, and one on the west side of North Franklin Street, in an unused area that used to be part of the Clifford Motors property.
Mayor Judy Phillips expressed caution about the garages, saying "I can't see the village going into the parking lot business," which prompted Syden and a colleague, Nicole Allen, to say there were other financing and managerial options available.
Another idea would be to move the Treatment Plant from its current location along the waterfront to another locale, possibly along the canal, although Jones said that idea comes with a host of questions. "Can it be moved?" he asked. "What is the infrastructure and cost? It might not be realistic. There is a land area (suitable) along the canal, but it might not work."
The extensive plan incorporates lakefront development from the area of Captain Bill's on the west to Tank Beach east of Clute Park. It envisions commercializing Clute Park, including a waterfront restaurant, a salt museum, and retail outlets across the road, where camping units set up each summer..
Necessary to the development's success, Syden and SCOPED representatives said, would be a unified commitment of various stakeholders that could lead in turn to grants to fund the various improvements.
The full plan, organizers said, will be placed online at www.scoped.biz. Copies can also be found at the SCOPED office, 2 N. Franklin St.
On hand to hear Syden's presentation in addition to Mayor Phillips were Village Board members Wayne Weber, William Smagner and Greg Coon, Village Clerk Donna Beardsley, and Planning Board members Tom Fitzgerald and Kevin Smith.
As the Planning Board and then the Village Board study the report, Syden said, they should keep in mind the need to "remain flexible" -- that there are "pressures that will change the funding and the players" with some regularity.
"This is a blueprint," he said. "You are the resources. Here's the plan. You can make it happen."
Photos in text:
Top: Ben Syden of the Laberge Group addresses members of the Watkins Glen Village Board and Planning Board.
Middle: Illustrations of the various projects were on display at the meeting.
Bottom: Watkins Glen Mayor Judy Phillips was on hand to hear about the development proposals.
Proposals in the area near Walmart and the canal.
Map with proposed projects at the east end of town, along Rt. 414 at Clute Park.
Report conclusion: Dissolution would increase government costs slightly, reduce services
Click here to see the report.
ODESSA, Nov. 6, 2010 -- A report compiled by village, town and county leaders on the expected effect of the proposed dissolution of the Village of Odessa government concludes that such a move would cost taxpayers more and provide less.
The Dissolution Scoping Working Group decided after several meetings in September and October that if dissolution is approved in a vote on Dec. 7, "the overall cost of government to residents in the affected municipalities would increase slightly while services to village residents would decrease."
"It appears," it adds, "that dissolution of the village would resutlt in an overall increase in the property tax levies of the affected municipalities" -- an increase "driven by higher personnel costs at the town level."
A pair of informational meetings on the subject have been set for Wednesday, Nov. 10 -- one at 1 p.m. in the Village Municipal Building, and the other at 7 p.m. in the Odessa-Montour High School auditorium. The public is welcome. Speakers will include Wade Beltramo of the New York Conference of Mayors.
The Working Group included Town of Montour Supervisor Dave Scott, Town of Catharine Supervisor John VanSoest, Schuyler County Real Property Tax Service Director Tom Bloodgood, County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, Cooperative Extension Planning and Community Development Director Danielle Hautaniemi, Odessa Clerk-Treasurer Kristi Pierce, former local assessor Randy Deal, Odessa Mayor Keith Pierce, and Odessa Village Board member Tim Hicks.
The group was formed after petitioners in Odessa forced a vote on dissolving the village government, an action allowed under Article 17-A of New York State General Municipal Law.
Petitioners have maintained that dissolution would lead to reduced taxes. That is in and of itself true within the village, the report indicates, but when taken in context with other increasing charges (particularly water), costs to village residents would increase while services such as curbside recycling and brush pickup would be eliminated. And snow removal -- taken over by towns -- would no longer be a priority within the village, but rather on a list that followed in importance the need to clear country roads for school-bus usage.
And the removal of the village government would lead to higher taxes outside the village in the towns of Catharine and Montour, the report concludes.
"This portrait," it says, "reflects an increase in water rates, a reduced tax levy for village residents and a tax levy increase for properties outside the village within the affected towns."
The report provides a chart with the various levies currently in play for a median-value residence in each of the two affected towns, and projected levies after Dissolution. The figures -- which do not include water -- show increases outside the village and decreases within. Those decreases would amount to $141.95 inside the village in the Town of Catharine and $236.55 inside the village in the Town of Montour.
But the decrease inside the village in the Town of Catharine -- where the vast majority of the village lies, accounting for 211 of 247 water connections -- would be offset by increased water costs in a water district that would succced the current water distribution service provided by the village. The annual increase in water would be $178.56, the report estimates.
A Dissolution Fact Sheet being mailed to village residents this weekend specifies that a more detailed analysis of the effect of Dissolution on the local fire department -- the Odessa Hose and Chemical Company, "which is currently administered by the village" -- will be required because that subject "is the most complicated." But it notes that "transitioning from village ownership to an independent company adds increases to insurance, maintenance and administrative costs, estimated at $26,000 annually."
The Fact Sheet also notes that the "cost of village transition, including legal, appraisal and consulting fees, would likely be in excess of $30,000, contingent upon a variety of as yet unknown factors."
The Fact Sheet goes on to say that "the existing municipal buildings and property would likely be sold as a result of liquidation" under Dissolution, adding that "in the absence of public sewer, redevelopment may be problematic."
The report itself concludes: "All of these aspects should be considered by the electorate prior to casting a vote in the referendum. Regardless of the referendum outcome, the buildings, landscape, and people will still be present on December 8th -- and our common problems, whether aesthetic water quality or a depressed business environment on Main Street, will also still be unsolved. This vote allows the electorate of the Village of Odessa to determine the municipal structure best suited to meet these needs."
Click here to see the report.
Andrew Cuomo makes a point during his speech in front of the Montour House.
Cuomo stumps in Montour
Hydrofracturing opponents protest
MONTOUR FALLS, Aug. 19, 2010 -- New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo swept into Montour Falls Thursday afternoon and decried the state of the state before venturing onward for more of what he described as a combination vacation-campaign tour.
Cuomo, the state Attorney General who is the leading contender for election to the governor's mansion in November, was greeted at his stop in front of the Montour House by a crowd estimated at 120 people, including a couple dozen there in opposition to Marcellus Shale drilling known as hydrofracturing, or "fracking."
A Cuomo aide pointed out that the candidate has come out neither in favor of nor opposed to the drilling, instead taking a middle-of-the-road approach while the possible perils of such drilling are considered during a moratorium in the state.
Cuomo also encountered protestors earlier in the day during a campaign stop in Ithaca, the aide said.
The Attorney General basically ignored the signs in Montour Falls, as well as a couple of shout-outs urging "No fracking!" and "Save our lakes!" Three different sign carriers were moved to the far side of the street before Cuomo's arrival on a directive from a state trooper, but a couple of them gravitated back onto the roadway fronting the Montour House -- Main Street -- by the time of the candidate's arrival.
Cuomo did answer a reporter's question about hydrofracturing at his Ithaca stop, comments aired on TV later. "If there's an economic advantage to it, we should pursue it," he said. "But not until we know it is environmentally safe."
Cuomo was introduced in Montour Falls by Mayor Donna Kelley and by one of his three daughters traveling with him, Mariah. The other two, Cara and Michaela, were seated in the front row of folding chairs placed on the sidewalk and roadway.
Kelley in her remarks said the state government "is getting worse as the days go on," and that it needs "strong leadership" that Cuomo can provide.
Mariah Cuomo said her father "will do great things for the state ... he fights a good fight and he wins. He'll clean up Albany and get the state's finances in order."
Cuomo, after referring to Montour Falls as "breathtakingly beautiful," echoed his daughter by saying he would "clean up Albany and restore trust" with the people of the state, and would "get our fiscal house in order ... The answer isn't Raise State Taxes, Raise State Taxes, Raise State Taxes."
He said he was "experienced at getting things done," and that the "state will change when the people demand it change. This campaign is not about me; it's about we."
Politicians "will listen," he said, "but the people have to speak" instead of just getting angry and giving up. "We will be the Empire State again," he added, "the greatest state in the nation."
After workng his way through the crowd, shaking hands and signing a couple of baseballs, he jumped back aboard his campaign vehicle (a motor home) and headed toward the nearby Watkins Glen International racetrack grounds, where he toured the Media Center and was driven around the track a couple of times in a car owned and operated by Scott Welliver.
Photos in text:
From top: Some of the fracking protestors and their signs; Mayor Donna Kelley (left) and Mariah Cuomo (right); Andrew Cuomo speaks briefly with Assembly candidate James Hare; Cuomo poses with County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, left, and Kelsey Jones, executive director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, in Victory Lane at the Watkins Glen International racetrack. (Photo provided by WGI)
Andrew Cuomo, in passenger seat, is driven around the WGI track by Scott Welliver. (Photo provided by WGI)
Cuomo is framed by a backdrop of the New York State flag, which was unfurled by a strong wind.
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen, 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
Odessa Officials, Offices
Village Board Members
Pictured below, from left: Mayor Keith Pierce and Village Board Trustees Robin Thoman, Shawn Crane, Thomas Letteer Jr. and Sally Hill.
Mayor: Keith Pierce
Trustees: Robin Thoman, Shawn Crane, Thomas Letteer, Sally Hill
Village Clerk: Kristi Pierce, 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100
Department of Public Works: Mark Candido
Village Justice: Ronald Goossen
Municipal Building: 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-3792
Dutton S. Peterson Memorial Library: 106 First St., Odessa, 5942791
Montour Falls Village Offices
Mayor: Donna J. Kelley.
Trustees: Philip J. Smith, James Howell, James P. Ryan, Ellen Mathers
Village Clerk-Treasurer: Suzanne Casselberry, P.O. Box 812, 408 W. Main St., 535-7367
Deputy Clerk: Alyssa Hammond
Village Garage: 535-9580
Village Justice: Donald Spaccio, 408 W. Main St., 535-7362
Town of Catharine Offices
Supervisor: John Van Soest
Town Board: Ronald Hoffman, Wayne Chapman, George Tanner, C. Michael Learn
Town Clerk: Carmella Hoffman, 594-2273; office at 106 Grant Road, Odessa
Town Justice: Richard Lewis, 594-2273
Town Assessor: Daniel Bizzell, 535-8118
Highway Superintendent: Larry Reynolds, 594-3382
Historian: Carol Fagnan, 594-2062
Village of Watkins Glen Offices
Mayor: Mark Swinnerton
Trustees: Scott Gibson, Kevin Smith, Tony Fraboni, Paul Clifford
Village Clerk: Donna J. Beardsley
Village Justice: Nicholas J. Dugo
Code Enforcement Officer: Gordon D. Wright
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara. -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend
-- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga