Make a Difference

In this blog I hope to be able to provide the latest County news and happenings.
Along the right hand side of the blog are links to My Views on specific county issues.
Also included are links to my email, other county, state and federal representatives, and some interesting pictures and postcards from the past.

We need to hold all of our County representatives accountable in these difficult economic times.
Please support and comment on this blog and together we can make Cortland County a better place to live.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11/21/07 - Lime Hollow Road DMV site rejected

(As published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel reporting)

A site on Lime Hollow Road won’t be among the possibilities for a Cortland County Department of Motor Vehicles location that will be presented Dec. 6 to the county Legislature.

The Legislature’s ad hoc space needs committee will choose between the final two possible sites at a 10 a.m. meeting.

The negotiated prices of the two sites under consideration were not released at a Tuesday morning meeting of the space needs committee but the committee did go into executive session to discuss the prices with County Administrator Scott Schrader.

Legislators first reconsidered a parcel off Lime Hollow Road in Cortlandville that had been initially tossed out as a possibility — some legislators had questioned why the property was not among the three that had been publicly disclosed as possibilities.

The MVE Homes property off Route 13 in Cortlandville had been among the final locations under consideration but it is now being sold to an undisclosed company.

The other two sites are located in the city of Cortland’s 7th Ward; one is attached to the BOCES plaza on Port Watson Street and the other is between Cleveland and River streets.

The chair of the ad hoc space needs committee, Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward), said Tuesday that the ultimate goal is to choose one site that would be voted on by the Legislature.

The committee decided that rather than sending the final choice through the Budget and Finance and General Services committees, upon which the same legislators serve, the whole Legislature should be presented with the final choice all at once.

Schrader said if the project’s design phase could be started and completed over the winter months, construction on the final site could begin with the start of the 2008 construction season.

The 2.2-acre site between River and Cleveland streets across from Hampton Inn has an asking price of $400,000 — that site has an existing Morton-type metal building that may be of use to the county.

The second site near the south end of River Street includes part of the BOCES facility parking lot. No price has been disclosed for the site. The purchase of an additional adjacent property would be necessary to make that site viable for the county. The owner of the adjacent property said recently he would sell.

11/21/07 - Proposals would lower election heads’ salary

Legislature has choice between two measures with $800 in salary difference between them

(As published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel reporting)

The Cortland County Legislature will have two options within just under $800 of each other when it considers the 2009 salaries of the county election commissioners at the Nov. 29 Legislative session.

The 2008 election commissioner salary would be $29,967, according to the draft of Local Law No. 2 for 2007.

The salary for the part-time position in 2009 would either be $27,176, as county Personnel Committee proposed last week; or $26,385 according to a resolution passed by the Budget and Finance Committee Tuesday morning.

Both proposals are based on 75 percent of the salary of pay grade level 10 in the county’s management compensation schedule — 75 percent is the proportion of a full workday that the election commissioners spend fulfilling their duties, according to an informal survey completed in 2004.

The lower salary proposal reflects that pay grade this year and the higher figure reflects 2008’s grade 10 pay.

Members of both committees have said that they support basing the numbers on the 75 percent of grade 10 salary because it shows that they’re not just picking an arbitrary figure.

Budget and Finance Committee Chair Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward) said that sending the two proposals to the full Legislature would give “all 19 legislators a chance to vote — I think that’s a good thing.”

Personnel Committee Chair Larry Cornell (R-Marathon and Lapeer) said that he supports the higher salary, while outgoing Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward) said that she supports the lower salary.

A provision in the law as it was originally presented to the Personnel Committee would have barred election commissioners from serving simultaneously as party chair, but the Personnel Committee decided to remove that portion of the proposed law and save it for further discussion next year within the context of the county’s code of ethics.

For 2006, Democratic Election Commissioner Bill Wood was paid $25,616 while Republican Commissioner Bob Howe was paid $29,967. Howe’s salary included longevity payments based on his 10 years in the position. Wood is in his second year as election commissioner.

The position had been removed from the county’s management longevity compensation plan last December in an attempt to equalize the salaries.

11/21/07 - Legislature to receive city sales tax request

(As published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel reporting)

The county Budget and Finance Committee has decided to forward the city’s request to reopen sales tax negotiations to the full Legislature, despite disagreements with the city’s method of broaching the subject.

Committee chair Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward) said the manner in which city Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano requested that the city’s poor financial state be taken into consideration and the 2006 sales tax agreement renegotiated was “a very poor way to conduct business.”

Damiano brought up the sales tax agreement and the citys difficult financial situation in a letter to the editor of the Cortland Standard that was delivered on Oct. 30 — a copy of the letter was also sent to Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown.

Van Dee said he was willing to put aside the manner in which it was received and instead concentrate on the request itself.

“I think that’s the proper thing to do,” Van Dee said, “for all 19 legislators to say ‘Yes, we will reopen the contract,’ or ‘No.’”

The measure passed without any opposition, clearing the way for Damiano’s proposal to be debated at the Legislature’s Nov. 29 meeting.

Still, Brown and county Administrator Scott Schrader pointed out that the county and town budgets have been either already drawn up or passed. Schrader said he believed there was little chance of any renegotiated contract having an effect on next year’s city tax rate.

Brown contended that the city should have realized that it was on the verge of a 9.8 percent tax rate hike and perhaps should not have sided with Cortlandville’s request for an extra 1 percent of the sales tax revenue last year.

Van Dee wondered if Damiano “trusted” the county at the time of the negotiations for the six-year agreement that went into effect at the beginning of this year.

Damiano asked in his letter that the county amend the sales tax agreement to give the city a larger percentage of sales tax revenue in light of its 9.8 percent proposed tax rate increase and a depleted fund balance.

Under the current agreement, the city would receive 18 percent of 2008 tax revenue while towns and village would split 27.5 percent and the county the remainder. The city would receive 18.2 percent in 2009, and the towns and villages would split the remaining 29.8 percent.

Monday, November 19, 2007

11/16/07 - DMV site options down to 2 on River St.

MVE Homes property in Cortlandville under consideration in process of being sold

(As Published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel reporting)

The Cortlandville site among consideration for the county’s Department of Motor Vehicles office relocation project is in the process of being sold, eliminating it as a potential site.

Now, only two of the proposed locations remain. Both are within the city’s 7th Ward, one between Cleveland and River streets and one in the BOCES plaza off Port Watson and River streets.

Carol Tytler, who chairs the county’s ad hoc space needs committee, said Thursday that the goal is to narrow the potential locations down and that the elimination of the MVE Homes site on Route 13 in Cortlandville as a possibility was just another step toward that goal.

“It was definitely a site worth considering,” Tytler said this morning. “I think all three sites were excellent choices and I am confident that the two remaining sites provide good options.”

Real estate agent David Yaman said Thursday that he could not reveal any details of the company that has negotiated an agreement to purchase the roughly 8-acre MVE Homes property, owned by Melvin and Phillip Simon.

Another company had been looking to purchase a 5-acre portion of the property, leaving about 3 acres for the DMV office, at a purchase price of $300,000.

The space needs committee identified three potential locations for the new DMV office, whittling down a much larger list to just the three possibilities that were presented to the full county Legislature at the end of September.

The two sites remaining on the committee list are on River Street in Cortland.

The 2.2-acre site between River and Cleveland streets across from Hampton Inn has an asking price of $400,000 — that site has an existing Morton-type metal building that may be of use to the county.

The second site near the south end of River Street includes part of the BOCES facility parking lot. There is no price set for the site. The purchase of an additional adjacent property would be necessary to make that site viable for the county. The owner of the adjacent property said recently he would be willing to sell.

The county has held three public meetings on the proposal. Although the first two meeting did not result in any significant comment from members of the public, about 30 showed up at the East End Community Center on Oct. 30, where only a few people objected to locating the DMV in the East End.

Another meeting had been planned for Cortlandville, but Tytler said it is canceled.

The criteria for a DMV office location include the need for a 4,000-square-foot building; about 50 parking spaces; public utilities; proximity to high traffic areas without being difficult to access; enough space for a drive-thru window; lack of environmental concerns; and distance from flood zones.

CCOB Generator and Beyond

As the generator project must be getting underway at some point, I wanted to share my email that I sent to the Legislature that got me fired up and write the blog entry "Unbelievable":

Email sent 8/13/07
CCOB Generator Specification

Good Afternoon.
I understand that the County is rebidding the emergency generator for the Cortland County Office Building, bids for which are due Wednesday 8/13.

I have a copy of the bid spec and would like to offer the following comments, which you may want to incorporate into the package:

1) If the generator is intended to serve as the emergency power supply for lighting, then the system must be able to start and transfer building load within 10 seconds per Building Code of New York State (BCNYS). This is not identified on the drawings.

2) Specifications indicate that the unit be equipped with a battery charger and jacket water heater. It should be included that the contract provide circuiting to these items from an existing building electric panel.

3) Remote annunciator is specified; the location of the unit should be identified and that it shall be installed and connected to the emergency generator by the contractor.

4) Startup should be performed in accordance with NFPA 110 - 2 hours at full load. See NFPA 110 Chapter 7 for additional requirements, but startup should be per NFPA 110.

5) Startup - I suggest that you include that the contractor fuels the generator for the test and then fills up to full capacity after acceptance. Note that to fill up the unit based on the parameters of 24 hours at full load is 24 hours x ~55 gallons/hour at full load x ~$3 per gallon = roughly $4000.

6) Automatic transfer switch - If the ATS will be located ahead of the building main service disconnect, it will need to be Service Entrance Rated. May also need ground fault depending on the method of installation. It is hard to see whether the ATS is 3 or 4 pole, need again to check the application here.

7) Last page of specification - Indicated that the County shall provide excavation for the conduit system. What about backfill and site restoration? What about core drilling the exterior wall and watersealing penetrations? Should clarify scope.

General Comment - I indicated to the Legislature when I spoke a few months ago the need to provide a drawing and a one-line (wiring diagram, so to speak) to depict the work. If you do not intend to do this, you should ask the contractor to submit this with the bid so it can be a record of a complete installation. "If it hasn't been written, it hasn't been said" - there is no way to enforce the contract without a clear document when it comes down to the actual installation. Things like my above comments will be left out and you will have to pay for them through a substantial change order. Having installation drawings and the one-line will protect the County and will show any deficiencies in the system to the Code officer and/or electrical inspector prior to the installation of the work.

And please remember the comment I made about the budget for the project from the project inception in 2006 - My guess is that you are still going to see generator and ATS cost in the $180,000 range, based on the specified size, without installation. I hope that the size of the unit is more appropriate to the actual building load and that the Utility company was contacted to provide demand data to assist in getting a. If you were to verify that a 600kW unit would meet the building demand, you may actually come in near the alloted $180K identified in the 7/06 minutes.

I appreciate the time spent revising the specification, it is a much better than the last version. If you have time to put out an addendum with the clarifications above you will greatly reduce field change orders.
Chad Loomis

I hope that the change orders are minimal and the contractor covered these items in their bid. I believe that the magnitude of these items could substantially increase project cost and I will try to identify the scope as quickly as I can before the work is installed.


I wanted to put out my view on traffic in the City of Cortland. Having lived in the City since 1993, and just outside the City prior, I have noticed that traffic over the last several years has been steadily worsening, particularly during rush hour.

I believe that a lot of problems with downtown stores and traffic has to do with a one-way Main Street. Although having a four lane (two each way) section of Church Street may alleviate some issue, there is no place to move around Main Street to the South - the college Hill is in the way. Generally a one-way street with access from either side wouldn't impact overall traffic patterns, but add in the Hill to one side, and lack of access from Church Street and the congestion with Groton Ave and Clinton and I think you'll agree that something should be done.

I'll bet anyone who reads this blog has been caught up in traffic issues anywhere around Main Street from 4-6 pm, such as Tompkins Street (backed up past the YWCA); Port Watson Street (backed up almost to Greenbush Street); Church Street (that darned double light at Elm and Clinton Avenue); Groton Ave (backed up to the parking lot and even to the Hollywood if it's really bad); and obviously Clinton Avenue.

So what do we do? I think we should study traffic patterns and as a minimum get the flow working better in that neighborhood. We need to make our City more traffic friendly, and prevent people from being frustrated with downtown. Our community has invested a lot of money into fascades and improvements to downtown, but if people can't get there because they are frustrated, it goes to waste.

I would be open to a two way Main Street again - I think it has some advantages in parking, and would help businesses. People driving down Tompkins Street wouldn't have to loop around Church Street, go over or around the Hill and approach from Groton Avenue, and Clinton Street wouldn't be the "funnel" for 75% of the traffic.

Couple that with better parking, and I think we could revitalize downtown.

Friday, November 16, 2007

8th Ward Map

I wanted to show all of my friends and constituents the area I represent, you can click the map to get a larger view. This map is also found on the City of Cortland website - it also has contact information for your City Alderman, Tom Michales.

11/15/07 - CITY NEWS - City struggles to deal with roosting crow infestation


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Crows roost in a tree on the former Rosen property, south of Huntington Street Wednesday afternoon.

(As Published by Cortland Standard, Aimee Milks reporting)

Aesa Kailas was walking home with friends last weekend after being downtown for Cortaca Jug-related activities when a large flock of crows flew out above them.

“One of my friends got pooped on,” Kailas said Wednesday evening as he loaded groceries into his vehicle, which was covered in bird droppings.

The city has had a crow infestation for the last four or five years in fall and winter. Each year, the Common Council has taken measures to scare away the birds from roosting by hiring Sweeney’s Pest Elimination.

Mike Sweeney said the company would use a loud device that launches out of a starter pistol. This would scare the birds to another area. Last year, the city paid $437 for the service, which Sweeney did three nights in a row. Sweeney said the cost fluctuates each year from between $300 and $500.

This year, however, Mayor Thomas Gallagher said there is no money in the city’s budget to hire someone to scare the crows away from the city. See Resolution #101 of 2007, to be adopted as Local Law #3 of 2007... I am never one to deny a person pay, but - for the Mayor to get an $11,200 raise before budget figures are released, and then a 10% City tax increase proposed? The City says they can't spend a couple of hundred dollars to try to eliminate the tons of crow feces that falls on city streets, cars, etc. in a week? How much does it cost the City to clean up their properties, let alone the taxpayers? If 1000 people go through the local carwashes and each pay $5 ONE TIME to remove crow poop, don't you think a few hundred dollars would seem like money well spent?

Instead of hiring Sweeney’s Pest Elimination, Gallagher said the Cortland City Police Department and Fire Department will be going through the neighborhoods where the crows are prevalent and using air horns and power lights to scare the crows away.

Gallagher said this will be done at the convenience of the city police officers and city firefighters and will be done until it is no longer effective or needed.

Dottie Thornton, a medical services clerk at the County Mental Health Clinic, said she washes her car every other day to try to get all the bird droppings off.

“It covers everyone’s car,” she said. “Sometimes it’s very hard to get off and you have to be careful not to chip your paint.”

She added that her co-workers are also fed up with the mess on their vehicles after work.
“We know there is nothing we can do about it. What are you going to do, it’s a part of nature,” Thornton said. “I love the bird but I hate the output.”

Lance Clark, a senior wildlife biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Cortlandville office, said the crows come to the city in the evenings looking for a place to roost.
“Cities tend to be a warmer, food rich environment with garbage and restaurants,” Clark said. “Certainly they are able to fend for themselves in the wild but it’s easier here. When they are in large groups they are also less likely to be killed by predators.”

Both Gallagher and Sweeney said there are not many more crows than in previous years. “There seems to be just as many,” Sweeney said. Last year, it was estimated there were approximately 15,000 crows in Cortland.

Clark said the crow problem is common in any city of any size and they will disperse when the winter weather breaks in March, the same time as when the birds breed.

Sweeney said he has not received any complaints from individual residents concerning the crows in the area, but added that it would be hard to help them anyway.

“There is not much you can do for the individual because the devices we use are so loud that we would need to publicize it,” he said.

Gallagher said residents could scare the crows away by shining bright lights or banging pots and pans. Clark also suggested laser lights and sometimes if one can get close enough, spraying the birds with a hose.

Causing bodily harm is illegal, though, Clark said.

Although crows are both state and federally protected, there is a crow hunting season in Cortland County which runs from Sept. 15 to March 15, Fridays through Mondays. Crow hunters do not need to be registered, but hunting inside the city is illegal, and no firearm may be discharged within 500 feet of any dwelling.

“There is no real human health concern” from crows, Clark said. “There will be a lot of dropping in the places they roost at night, which obviously contain bacteria like any other animal dropping. But I don’t know of any health concern to humans.”

11/15/07 - Criminal probe of Stewart Place home sale planned

(As Published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel reporting)

A local police agency will investigate circumstances surrounding the attempts of a local woman to buy a long-vacant property at 17 Stewart Place, a county official said Tuesday.

County Administrator Scott Schrader said District Attorney David Hartnett presented an update on the investigation to the county Legislature’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee in an executive session Tuesday morning. Schrader added that Hartnett disclosed the investigation would be handed over to a local police agency.

It is the policy of the District Attorney’s Office not to comment on ongoing investigations, Hartnett said Tuesday after the committee meeting.

Both city and county police said Wednesday morning that they were unaware of any investigation into the matter. State Police Investigator Jeffrey Hall said Wednesday afternoon that the State Police are not involved and would not likely be involved in such an investigation.

The property became a contentious issue in the county Legislature’s 5th Ward election race, in which legislator-elect Kathie Wilcox, a Republican, defeated incumbent Majority Leader Ron Van Dee.

Attorney Larry Knickerbocker is handling the case for the county due to a personal conflict for County Attorney Ric Van Donsel. Knickerbocker said Wednesday that at the request of the county Social Services commissioner, he was retained to “determine if any illegal activity had taken place” and to “determine what the factual underpinnings are in what was done with that property and when.”

“I don’t know if there’s any particular person or persons that they’re focusing on,” Knickerbocker said Wednesday morning.

The county’s Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by Van Dee, first considered waiving a $73,000 Department of Social Services lien on the property at its March 15 meeting.

Honestly here, where did this investigation begin and what is expected to be "uncovered"? Who asked for it and why?

11/15/07 - New salary proposal for officials

The county Legislature recommends lowering election commisioner pay

(As published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel reporting)

The county Legislature’s Personnel Committee recommended a new salary for election commissioners this morning, but will continue discussing whether to prohibit the commissioners from serving simultaneously as the chairs of their respective parties.

Local Law No. 2 for 2007, which would set the salaries for both commissioners at $27,176 in 2008, will next go before the Budget and Finance Committee for consideration.

Meanwhile, the Personnel Committee decided that including a prohibition limiting who could serve as election commissioner would be more appropriate within an ethics law, following the advice of the county administrator.

Legislator Don Spaulding (D-6th Ward) was the only Personnel Committee member to vote against the salary and he had proposed something closer to $15,000 at the beginning of the discussion.

“I think we’re going too fast on this,” Spaulding worried, nevertheless acknowledging that the Legislature would have to approve the law before Jan. 1 in order for it to take effect. “I still think that ($27,176) is too high to pay an election commissioner and I won’t support it.”

Legislature Chairwoman Marilyn Brown said she agreed the salary was too high but Brown and other committee members felt comfortable with basing the salary on the system that had been used to set the salaries for election commissioners in the past.

County Administrator Scott Schrader said that in 2004, he asked the sitting election commissioners to fill out a survey documenting the time they spent working in the position over the course of a month in the early spring.

Schrader said the surveys indicated election commissioners spent about 75 percent of a workday attending to their county duties. That portion was then applied to the pay grade of comparable positions in the county — grade 10, which includes the clerk of the Legislature and the director of fire and emergency management — to arrive at the salary.

11/14/07 - Airport expected to turn profit in 2008

Recent construction of 10-bay hangar attributed to $1,350 gain that could reach $20,000 by 2009


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Kris Sims of Groton refuels his Cessna 150 at the Cortland County Airport Tuesday afternoon. Sims was preparing for a flight around the county. The 2008 county budget forecasts the airport, which has long maintained a deficit, earning a $1,350 profit.

(As Published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel reporting)

The Cortland County Airport will likely move out of the red and into the black in 2008, for the first time in at least recent memory, county officials said Tuesday.

A new hangar completed this fall and another that is expected to be finished next fall should mean that the airport on Route 222 in Cortlandville will no longer operate at the expense of taxpayers, county officials said.

The county’s $114 million 2008 tentative budget predicts that the airport, which is operated by the county Highway Department, would generate a profit of $1,350 next year.

In 2007, the airport cost taxpayers $7,500 and $15,609 in 2006.

The airport’s proposed budget for 2008 is $210,200.

The improved financial condition of the airport can be attributed to a new $408,000, 10-bay T-hangar that the county finished building last month, said county Highway Superintendent Don Chambers.

“When we’re completed next year, there’ll be four T-hangar buildings on the property,” Chambers said Tuesday.

In September, the county received $405,500 from the Renew and Rebuild New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005. While $5,000 would go toward airport parking lot lighting, the remainder — along with a $45,000 county contribution — would be spent on the construction of a final T-hangar.

The other hangars on the property were likely built in the 1970s, Chambers said.

The hangars attract aircraft to the field, Chambers said, and more aircraft means more aviation fuel sales by the county.

Each 10-bay hangar generates about $25,000 in annual income, and although only a $1,350 profit is anticipated for next year because the final hangar would not be finished until November, Chambers said that the airport should turn a $20,000 profit in 2009.

Seven of the bays in the new county-built hangar have been leased, with two more leases soon to be signed. County Administrator Scott Schrader said the final lease would not be finalized until after the first of the year.

Schrader said that when he began his job in June 2003, the county was not “really utilizing that airport to its potential” and that it had been operating at a loss of around $30,000 in previous years.

“They (the Legislature) actually invested in an airport, and I actually think it’s going to be making dividends,” Schrader said.

Chambers said that now, the two companies that operate out of the airport, All About Flying and Seven Valley Aviation, are also thriving.

Schrader said the county should continue to make capital improvements to the airport, and hopefully would receive federal funding to do so.

However, once the final hangar is completed next year, Schrader said the county would “sit back and evaluate, first,” before proceeding with any new projects, such as possibly acquiring more land.

The county still has to clear some obstructions at the airport that the Federal Aviation Administration requested by removed. The last plan to get rid of them was rejected by the feds.

The Legislature approved a study of how best to remove the obstacles in July, to be completed by engineers MacFarland Johnson Inc. at a cost of $50,000.

The obstacles are primarily trees, but also a few antennae and utility poles that pose a problem for airplanes entering and leaving the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration paid for 95 percent of the study and the state and the county split the remaining 5 percent.

The need for the assessment comes after the FAA would not support a plan to mitigate obstructions surrounding the airport with a precision approach path indicator (PAPI), a system that guides planes in and out of the airport and past obstructions.

The study is complete and the FAA is reviewing the latest plan, Schrader said.

I appreciate the efforts of the Legislature to invest in the County airport. They saw that by spending a little money, they can actually turn a profit.

But they can approve a study for $50,000 to have an engineer to look at airport obstructions (County paid 5% or $2,500), but can't get secure funding for a master plan for the County?

11/13/07 - New county proposal — Election commissioners could be barred from leading political parties

(As Published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel Reporting)

At the urging of constituents and legislators, a provision that would bar county election commissioners from simultaneously serving as officers in a political party has been attached to a proposed local law that would set the salary for commissioners.

Some members of the Legislature’s Personnel Committee are confident the measure will pass that committee and possibly the full Legislature, but other committee members question the legality of barring the commissioners from serving as party officers.

The resolution is scheduled to go before the Personnel Committee at 8:30 Thursday morning.
Committee member Larry Cornell (R-Marathon and Lapeer), who made the motion to introduce the law, said it came at the urging of Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward).

“I personally don’t have a problem with them holding both offices, but there’s some legislators that have a problem with it,” Cornell said of election commissioners Democrat Bill Wood and Republican Bob Howe, who also serve as head of their respective political party.

Brown said she “can’t imagine” that any legislators would not see holding both positions as a conflict of interest.

“There has been a lot of comments from legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, and from the public, thinking that there is a conflict of interest between being a chairman and being an officer of any political party,” Brown said. “I felt that if they want to address it, we should address it now or leave it as is.”

Personnel Committee member Don Spaulding (D-6th Ward) said he believes a commissioner should not also serve as a party officer. Fellow committee members John Troy (D-1st Ward) and Tom Williams (R-Homer) said they understood the appearance of a conflict of interest in the Board of Elections Office.

“I could see where that could be an abusive situation, for the voters. There’s the potential for that, anyway,” Williams said of the dual roles. “And for me, it (the resolution) just makes sense. I try not to prejudge things — on something like this, I’ll love to hear the debate, I’ll love to hear the discussion, and then I’ll vote on that.”

Troy said he would likely support the measure, but worried about its legality over barring a commissioner from serving as a party _official.

“It’s really not a conflict of interest, but it’s perceived that way by the public,” Troy said. “I don’t have any problems personally with Mr. Wood or Mr. Howe in those positions, but the perception is out there and we should do our best to avoid that perception.”

Wood, who was appointed election commissioner in 2006, refused to comment.

Salaries to be set for commissioners

The proposed 2008 salaries for both Cortland County election commissioners would be $29,968 for the part-time position and although there is language in the proposal that would set the salaries for 2009, the monetary amount has been left blank.
The county is paying both the Republican and Democratic commissioners $29,967 this year, based on a state Supreme Court ruling handed down in a lawsuit against the county filed by Republican Commissioner Bob Howe and Democratic Commissioner Bill Wood.
Last December, the county set their salaries for 2007 at $26,384 in response to a request from Wood and Howe, who had asked that their salaries be equalized.
For 2006, Wood was paid $25,616 while Howe was paid $29,967. Howe was being paid more based on his 10 years in the position. Wood is in his second year as election commissioner.
The election commissioners then sued, saying that it was illegal to lower Howe’s salary midterm — Wood wanted the difference between his salary and Howe’s for 2006 paid to him retroactively. This was not included in State Supreme Court Judge Kevin Dowd’s ruling in September.
The position had been removed from the county’s longevity compensation plan last December.
The question on the table now involves how much the salaries will be set at in the future, which is going to be difficult since the two-year terms are staggered, and the salaries have to be equal and can’t be lowered midterm.
Personnel Committee members Don Spaulding (D-6th Ward), John Troy (D-1st Ward), Tom Williams (R-Homer) said that they felt the salary should be lowered.
“I definitely think it should be lowered a little bit,” Troy said Monday, not sure exactly what a figure would be but estimating that something near $20,000 would be appropriate.
“It depends on the person — they can spend more or less time in there. We’ll have some debate on that I’m sure.”
“I guess I’d like to see what we get for our money,” Williams said Monday. “I would love to see some documentation as to how much they’re working for the county.”
Personnel Committee member Sandy Price (D-Harford and Virgil) said she would like to hear the discussion of the salary question on Thursday before she would make a decision.

11/13/07 - Absentee ballots confirm Dafoe win

Election victory gives Democrats control of county Legislature


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Republican James Miller is consoled by his wife, Debbie, after election results were announced this morning. He lost to incumbent Democrat Steven Dafoe 235-215 after absentee ballots were counted.

(As Published by Cortland Standard, Ida Pease reporting)

Democrat Steven Dafoe won re-election in Homer’s 11th Legislative District seat, picking up 25 absentee ballots to James Miller’s additional 12 ballots during a count this morning. The final tally was 235-215.

With Dafoe’s win the county Legislature will remain in Democratic control by a slim 10-9 margin. The Legislature currently has 11 Democrats and eight Republicans and the current terms end Dec. 31.

Dafoe, of 28 Clinton St., Homer, had been only seven votes ahead of Republican challenger James Miller, with 210 votes to Miller’s 203 votes after last Tuesday’s tally, which did not include absentee votes.

Two absentee ballots were thrown out, one before being opened and the other because of a stray mark on the ballot.

“I have nothing to say,” Dafoe told the Cortland Standard after his win.

Miller, 44, of Greenwich Street in Homer, said he was disappointed.

Miller said he would consider his options for the future. “I’ll see what happens in two years.”
Miller, a salesman for Bus Parts Warehouse in Manlius, ran as a candidate who would attend legislative sessions _and committee meetings. He pointed out that Dafoe has missed several legislative meetings and even more committee meetings.

Miller also said, in an interview before the election, that he would work to bring more businesses to Homer and push for the county to adopt a master plan for its space needs.

Dafoe, 49, runs a tree service. He did not return calls requesting an interview before the election.

Legislative Republicans won two seats in the city of Cortland with Ward 2 going to Tony Piombo, a Democrat who ran as a Republican, and Ward 5 going to Kathie Wilcox. Democrats Ric Van Donsel and Ron Van Dee lost in Wards 2 and 5, respectively.

The Democrats did win one seat that is held by a Republican. Challenger Democrat Kathie Arnold, of Truxton, won against incumbent Merwin Armstrong in Legislative District 16 (Cuyler, Solon and Truxton).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

11/08/07 - Homer race awaits absentee count

Ballots will start being counted Tuesday in legislative race with 7-vote margin


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Board of Elections senior clerk Sandra Harrington validates election numbers and voter information this morning. The Board of Elections will count absentee ballots beginning Tuesday, which will decide a legislative race in Homer’s 11th District between Democratic incumbent Steve Dafoe and Republican James Miller. Dafoe has a seven-vote lead. The Virgil supervisor race will also depend on the absentee count.

(As Published by Cortland Standard, Ida Pease Reporting)

Absentee ballots in Cortland County will help decide the winner of a third state Supreme Court justice seat, and absentee ballots will settle at least two local races, one for a county legislator in Homer and the other for Virgil supervisor.

The county Board of Elections will start counting the ballots Tuesday.

The close local races are between incumbent Democrat Legislator Steve Dafoe in Homer’s District 11 and his challenger, Republican James Miller, and between Virgil supervisor candidates Democrat Craig Umbehauer and Republican John Kaminski.

The Homer race will decide which party controls the Legislature. Dafoe has a seven-vote lead and Democrats would have a one-seat majority if he wins, holding 10 seats and the Republicans nine. Dafoe has 210 votes and Miller 203.

There were 51 absentee ballots sent to residents in District 11 and 38 of those had been returned to the Board of Elections as of Wednesday. There were 27 absentee ballots sent out in Virgil and 17 of them had been returned, according to the county Board of Elections.

In the Virgil race, nine votes separate the candidates, with Umbehauer leading in an unofficial tally of 344 to 335.

In the justice race, absentee ballots from 10 counties will have to be added to tallies. The race is close between third-place justice candidate Joseph Fazzary of Schuyler County and Molly Fitzgerald of Binghamton who is in fourth place. The vote is currently 52,112 to 51,587.

Of the 724 total absentee ballots mailed out across the county, 508 had been returned as of Wednesday. The remaining must arrive by Tuesday and must have a postmark of no later than Nov. 5.

“It takes a few days,” said Sandy Harrington, of the process of counting the votes.

Republican Election Commissioner Robert Howe said the votes would probably be counted by numerical district. Harrington said votes in the close races are usually counted first.

A counting schedule would be set before Tuesday, Howe said, noting that sometimes citizens or candidates want to come in to observe the counting, which is open the public.

Election Commissioner Bill Wood refused to comment.

11/07/07 - Incumbents win contested council seats

(As published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel Reporting)

Incumbent city Common Council members with their names on the ballot held on to their seats after Tuesday’s election, according to unofficial results.

The results of write-in campaigns by two incumbent Democrats who lost their primary contests in the 2nd and 4th wards will not be known until the end of the week.

In the 2nd Ward, Democrat Clay Benedict received 248 votes. Incumbent Democrat Shannon Terwilliger waged an aggressive write-in campaign.

Running unopposed, Democrat Ken Dye took the 3rd Ward with 176 votes — incumbent Democratic Alderwoman Amy Cobb did not run for re-election.

Democrat Brian Tobin received 102 votes in the 4th Ward, facing off against incumbent Nick DeCarlo, a fellow Democrat who also pursued a write-in campaign after losing the September primary.

Incumbents in the 5th, 6th and 8th wards were returned to office.

Republican Dan Quail held on to his 5th Ward seat with 69 percent of the vote, receiving 226 votes while his challenger, Terrence Benn Mays, received 101 votes. Next year Quail will begin his fourth two-year term.

“You’re never going to win over every voter, but it certainly is rewarding to see the vote come out the way it did,” Quail said after the unofficial results were reported at county Republican Party headquarters on Port Watson Street.

Sixth Ward Democrat Susan Feiszli took home 251 votes — about 69 percent of the vote — beating Republican challenger Alan Jones, who received 113 votes.

Republican Tom Michales retained his 8th Ward seat with 220 votes, or about 62 percent of the total. Democratic challenger Shawn Smith received 134 votes. Michales will serve a third term as alderman.

“I’ve always worked hard for my constituents and this is the time that they come out and support me,” Michales said, accepting congratulations at Republican headquarters.

In unopposed elections for incumbents, Mayor Tom Gallagher won a third term with 2,050 votes; Alderwoman Val VanGorder (R-1st Ward) won a second term with 182 votes; and Alderman Jim Partigianoni (D-7th Ward) won a fourth term with 156 votes.

11/07/07 - Legislature control hinges on Homer race

Dafoe has 7-vote margin; Dems hold 10 seats, Repubs nine.

(As published by Cortland Standard, Ida Pease and Christine Laubenstein Reporting)

Whether Republicans or Democrats will lead the Legislature is in question, and the answer hinges on one race in Homer between incumbent Democrat Steve Dafoe and Republican James Miller in District 11.

If Miller wins, there would be 10 Republicans and nine Democrats. There are 11 Democrats and eight Republicans on the current Legislature.

When partial results Tuesday put Miller nine votes ahead of Dafoe, Miller and his wife, Debbie Butler-Miller, were full of excitement and relief.

“Every time the screen changed I looked away,” Miller said. “Finally (my wife) grabbed my back and said ‘You’re winning.’”

But minutes later more votes came in, putting Miller behind Dafoe by seven votes, 210-203.

“I’m only down by seven, it’s still pretty close,” Miller said Tuesday night. “I need 23 absentee ballots to win, and it can’t be a tie.”

At least 40 absentee ballots were sent out in this district.

Dafoe could not be reached for comment this morning.

Two key races among city legislators went to the Republicans. In Legislative District 2, Anthony Piombo beat Democrat Ric Van Donsel. Democrat Sean Clark currently holds the seat. Piombo, a Democrat ran on the Republican ticket. The unofficial vote tally was 223-185.

Piombo said this morning he was shocked that he won his race against Van Donsel, because he is a newcomer to politics and Van Donsel was a good candidate.

“Ric was a good opponent, and he ran a great campaign,” he said.

Piombo said his top priority as legislator will be addressing flooding problems in the 2nd Ward. When he campaigned door to door he could tell that was a huge problem, he said.

“We’ve got to figure out where the problem starts and we’ve got to fix it,” he said. “No one wants to move.”

In Legislative District 5, Republican Kathie Wilcox, of 62 Church St., ousted Democrat Ron Van Dee, of 7 Taylor St., with the vote standing at 170-155.

Election results for Cortland County, regional town races

The following are the unofficial results of town elections. Two council seats are open in each town except Cuyler, which has three. Democrats did not contest seats in Cincinnatus, Homer, Lapeer, Marathon, Scott and Taylor.

Supervisor: Dale R. Bates (R) 146
Clerk: Joanne C. Perkins (R) 153
Collector: Kay Ann Tracey (R) 123
Highway Superintendent: Robert K. Livermore (R) 153
Justice: Mitchell Eccleston (R) 157
Councilman: Guy R. Rundell Sr. (R) 128; Jonathan A. McKee (R) 147

Supervisor: Richard C. Tupper (R), 1,076; Nick Renzi (D) 916
Justice: Francis Casullo (R) 1,260
Clerk: Karen Q. Snyder (R) 1,323
Highway Superintendent: Carl A. Bush Jr. (R) 1,305
Councilman: Chris Farkas (D) 857; George Ottenschot (D) 924 Route 281; Theodore V. Testa (R) 983; John C. Proud (R) 1033

Supervisor: LouAnne Randall (R) 235; Steve Breed (D) 145
Clerk/Collector: Wendy Custer (D, R) 339
Justice: Karl Burdick (D) 144; Dean Northup (R) 237
Councilman (3 seats): Gary VanDee (D) 93; Harry Hulbert (D) 140; Peter Titus (D) 120; Keith White (R) 247; Nancy Corbin (R) 225; Russell Smith (R) 251

Supervisor: Mary A. Sumner (D) 1,479;
Cheryl A. Nelson (R) 1,297
Councilman: David Makar (D) 1,517; Joseph D. Solomon (D) 1,410; Walter M. Keeney (R) 1,285; Stanley T. Marcus (R) 1,300,
Justice: Christopher E. Clauson (R) 1,607;
Jason Leifer (D) 1,316
Clerk: Bambi L. Hollenbeck (R) 1,788

Supervisor: Mary K. Mackey (R) 96
Clerk: Dora Cross (D,R) 103
Collector: Patti Zering (D,R), 136
Highway Superintendent: Steven E. Stanough Sr. (R) 97
Councilman: Shelby Underwood (D) 52; Rebecca Stewart (D) 41; Robin L. Slocum (R)79; Byron T. James (R) 88.

Councilman: Kathleen Howard (D) 377; Colleen Gloster-Gray (D) 267; Richard B. Gamel (R) 461; Sheldon C. Clark (R) 487
Justice: Arthur D. Dawson (R) 526

Supervisor: Ray Marsh (D,R) 148
Collector: Diane Michaud (D,R) 155
Highway Superintendent: Ronald Carpenter (D,R) 144
Justice: Sharon Canfield (D,R) 144
Councilman: Charles Rowland (D,R) 138;
Daryl Cross (D,R) 146

Supervisor: Fred J. Forbes Sr. (R) 936
Councilman: Dan Weddle (R) 941; Brian Young (R) 909

Supervisor: Gary Cornell (R) 126
Clerk/Collector: Margaret Courtney (R) 129
Highway Superintendent: George Courtney Jr. (R) 32
Justice: Bonnie Hand 412; Richard James Edsall (R) 120,
Councilman: Irene Russell (R) 124; Steven Phillips (R) 119

Supervisor: Charles S. Adams Jr. (R) 233
Clerk: Doris A. Adams (R) 235
Collector: Kathleen E. Fox (R) 249
Highway Superintendent: Randy W. Ensign (R) 243
Justice: Eddie Daugherty (R) 242
Councilman: Thomas D. Adams (R) 228;
Donald B. Hines (R) 232

Supervisor: Elizabeth Pitman (D) 216
Clerk/Collector: Jane Davenport (D) 137
Highway Superintendent: Jeffrey Griswold (R) 314; Thomas Smith (D) 84
Justice: Lynn Webb (D,R) 355
Councilman: Catherine Edinger (D) 214; Kathleen Haynes Randall (D) 108; Peter Knapp (R) 246; James Doring (R) 214

Supervisor: Stephen E. McMahon (R) 193
Clerk/Collector: Susan F. Hubbard (R) 164
Highway Superintendent: Gerald R. Hapgood (R) 171
Councilman: Gerald A. Contento Jr. (R) 209; Vernon B. Finks II (R) 193

Supervisor: Cindy Monroe (D,R) 199
Highway Superintendent: James Wildman (D,R) 146
Justice: Rick Monroe (R), 154
Councilman: Bobby Hotaling (R), 178; Gerry Craig (R), 166

Supervisor: David H. Fuller (R) 61
Clerk/Collector: Marie Peri (R) 66
Highway Superintendent: James Smith (R) 67
Justice: Rollan Elwood (R) 72
Councilman: Jeffrey Smith (R), 69; Lymott Jordan (R), 66

Supervisor: Gregory D. Lockwood (R) 186;
Walter D. Schmit (D) 154
Justice: James J. Denkenberger (R) 237;
Donald L. McCall (D) 105
Councilman: Stephanie A. Potter (R) 211;
Gus R. Wehbe (R); 177;
Molly McCall McDermott (D) 140;
Brigette A. Ullrich (D) 131

Supervisor: Craig Umbehauer (D) 344;
John Kaminski (R) 335
Clerk/Collector: Bonnie P. Hand (R,D) 412
Justice: R. Scott Elston (R), 356; Roy E. Lewis (D), 336
Councilman: Ronald H. Anderson (R), 405; Michael L. Vail (D); 339; Jeffrey Breed (R), 321; Eric J. Trinkle (D);255

Supervisor: Alvin Doty Jr. (D,R), 123
Clerk: Anna Wilcox (D,R) 131
Collector: Laura Fox (D,R) 134
Highway Superintendent: Eugene Turshman (D,R) 132
Justice: Benno Spiehs (D) 132
Councilman: Joanne Brown (R), 122; Charles Sudbrink (D),79; Gregory McGowan (R), 61

11/07/07 - Cortland treasurer ousted

O’Mara upsets Ferris in county treasurer race

O'MaraBob Ellis/staff photographer

Pat O’Mara receives a hug from his sister, Connie Letts, of Horseheads, at Democratic headquarters Tuesday night after defeating Don Ferris for the county treasurer position.

(As published by Cortland Standard, Christine Laubenstein Reporting)

Democrat Patrick O’Mara ousted Cortland County Treasurer Don Ferris in Tuesday’s election, capturing 58 percent of the vote. O’Mara garnered 5,491 votes and Ferris received 3,992, according to unofficial results from the Cortland County Board of Elections.

A crowd of more than 30 people screamed in excitement and cheered “Patrick, Patrick, Patrick,” as results were announced at Democratic headquarters at 16 Church St.

“We need to have integrity, professionalism back in office,” said Tom Brown, one of O’Mara’s campaign managers. “He’s our guy.”

O’Mara said he had a feeling he was going to win the race, though he did not think he would win by as wide a margin as he did. The towns surrounding the city are more heavily Republican, he said.

About 36 percent of registered voters in Cortland County voted in the race, based on numbers provided by the Cortland County Board of Elections.

He credited his victory to strong campaigning, attendance at candidate forums and putting up signs and knocking on doors. Plus, he said, a lot of people know him from the city bar he owns, Paddy’s Pub, his eight years as a county legislator and other community involvement.

Still, the deciding factor in the race was probably setbacks in the Treasurer’s Office in recent years that included inaccuracies and missed deadlines cited by the state Comptroller’s Office.
“He (Ferris) was there but his office had problems,” O’Mara said. “But I don’t know how voters work.”

Ferris said he was surprised by his margin of loss. He helped accomplish a number of things as treasurer, he said, including improving the county’s bond rating, keeping the treasurer’s office under budget and improved earnings on its deposits.

“I feel like I can hold my head up and look in the mirror and not be ashamed of people on my behalf,” he said.

He suspected his campaign was unable to correct public misperception about his job performance. “People seemed to amplify the negative and downplay the positive,” he said.
Ferris, who owns Quali Graphics printing company in Homer, said he has not ruled out running for public office in the future, though he could not be more specific at this point.

O’Mara said one of the first things he will do as treasurer is try to have the state conduct an audit of the office and determine from that what things need attention.

He said he will also make an effort to work well with Democrats and Republicans alike.
“I’ve always been that way, and I always want to keep it that way,” he said.

O’Mara said around 10:30 p.m., soon after the announcement he had officially won, that he planned on going out for a cocktail at Paddy’s Pub with his family to celebrate his victory.
“I’m an early riser,” he said, noting he gets up every day at 5:30 a.m.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007





Saturday, November 03, 2007

11/2/07 - Senior citizen break passes in committee

County Budget and Finance Committee also approves $114 million budget

(As Published by Cortland Standard, Ida Pease reporting)

The county Budget and Finance Committee voted to support the $114 million tentative budget and send it to the entire Legislature for approval. No changes were made to the draft budget prepared by the county administrator.

Legislators Sean Clark (D-2nd Ward), Dan Tagliente (D-6th Ward) and Newell Willcox (R-Homer) were absent.

The committee also passed a resolution Thursday to increase the income eligibility for a senior citizen exemption from $10,500 or less to $14,300 or less to receive a 50 percent discount on county taxes.

This measure would cost the county around $34,000 from loss of tax money, said County Administrator Scott Schrader, and would not take affect until 2009, provided the entire county Legislature passes the resolution by March.

Cortland County residents will have a chance to weigh in on the tentative 2008 $114 million budget at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 during a public hearing. The Legislature will meet Nov. 29 to vote on the budget.

Legislators John Daniels (D-Cortlandville) and Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward) asked Schrader to see if the county could go up to $16,500 for income eligibility for the senior tax break. He said he would check, but typically the county does not have an exemption that exceeds those offered in municipalities.

The number of seniors who could take advantage of the current exemption has dropped from 173 in 2002 to 116 in 2007. The taxable value of the properties is $2,366,103. The total taxable value in the county for 2008 is $1.7 billion.

The city of Cortland have an income cap of $14,300 for its 50 percent exemption. Only one town, Preble, offers a higher 50 percent exemption for incomes up to $16,500. Most towns in Cortland County has an income limit of $10,500. Two school districts that exceed a $14,300 income limit are Dryden and Groton, both in Tompkins County, with a $19,500 and $16,500 exemption base, respectively.

The county exemption level has not changed since 1991, said Schrader. That exemption provided a sliding scale option that reduced the exemption to 20 percent with an income of $16,200. The new proposal would boost that cap to $20,000.

The committee did not pass a similar tax exemption to cover Cold War veterans from 1945 to 1991. Schrader advised against passing this exemption because it has not passed in the state Assembly yet. He said the committee could consider it once the state Assembly passes it. There are about 4,000 Cold War veterans living in Cortland County, with about 68 percent of them owning a home. The potential cost to other county taxpayers would be $28,000.

“I feel comfortable with it (the budget),” said Ron Van Dee. He noted the process has been different from the past when legislators were looking for every dollar they could cut.
The committee did not change mileage reimbursement or take away health insurance for legislators. Kay Breed (R-Cortlandville) had asked that the committee consider this.

Legislator John Troy (D-1st Ward) said, “I’m against doing away with it,” noting it would not be fair that some legislators who travel from a distance could not get reimbursed. He noted the cost is only $2,500 and also that there are only six who take the health insurance and the clerk of the legislature is included among the Legislators. The clerk position is a full-time position. The committee did pass a resolution that legislators must turn in mileage within 60 days. The county pays $5,120 per individual insurance policy a year and a family policy is $12,696.

11/1/07 - 8th Ward candidates concerned about taxes

(As published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel reporting)

The candidates for the 8th Ward Common Council seat each said the city’s tax rate is the issue they have heard about the most as they campaigned.

Both Republican incumbent Tom Michales and Democratic challenger Shawn Smith believe at least some level of consolidation — probably between the city and the town of Cortlandville — would alleviate some of the tax burden on city residents by helping to maintain existing levels of services, and that improved communication between the city and the county would allow the city to control the amount of property that is being taken off the tax rolls.

Smith said she is also in favor of trying to obtain payments from the county, hospital and SUNY Cortland to offset the cost of services to the tax-exempt entities.

Michales pointed out that the hospital and college are exempt, by law, from having to make any kinds of payments to a municipality for services.

Michales is running for his third two-year term on the council. He is a project safety engineer at ITS Testing Lab in Cortlandville.

Smith is a prevention education coordinator at the YWCA’s Aid to Victims of Violence office, and is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration through SUNY Binghamton.

Smith has been involved in recent Housing Confab meetings in the city, working on the project as part of her graduate program.

Smith said she would like to encourage homeownership by setting up programs to encourage employers in the city to assist new employees in buying a home, whether through down payment or closing cost assistance.

Also, she would like to see more grant programs to help moderate-income individuals to buy and maintain a home — many of the existing programs are targeted only at lower-income families, Smith said.

Both she and Michales support encouraging long-term loans to potential homebuyers, in the hopes that homeownership would increase.

In the end, though, Smith thinks only consolidation would give the city the resources to combat its growing financial problems.

Michales said that the city and Cortlandville are already working together on several fronts, including sharing equipment between the city Department of Public Works and the town Highway Department.

He worries that there would be opposition in Cortlandville to consolidation, especially considering the disparity in tax rates: about $4 for every $1,000-worth of assessed value in the town, compared to nearly $18 per every $1,000 in the city.

Michales predicted that only increased sales tax revenue in some kind of expanded municipality, offsetting property taxes, would be the way to convince Cortlandville to combine with the city.
In the meantime, he said he supports creating a fire district that would combine the fire departments.

10/31/07 - Few object to possible 7th Ward DMV site

County holds first meeting to detail pros and cons of three potential sites for new DMV, two of which are in the ward.

(As published by Cortland Standard, Evan Geibel reporting)

Only a handful of attendees at a public meeting Wednesday night objected to locating a new county Department of Motor Vehicles office in the 7th Ward of the city.

It was one of several meetings that the county is using to gauge public opinion relative to the new DMV location.

About 30 residents came to Wednesday’s meeting at the East End Community Center, where they reviewed the process of choosing the three possible sites with the help of a presentation given by Legislator Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward).

Although some residents favored locations that were not on the short list of three properties — mainly because of worries about the city’s ever-shrinking tax base — Tytler stressed that the county had already narrowed the choices down and was only seeking public input relative to those sites.

Two of the proposed locations are within the city’s 7th Ward; there is a site on the corner of Cleveland and River streets and one in the BOCES plaza off Port Watson and River streets.
The third location lies between Route 13 and Route 281 in Cortlandville.

The site on Route 13 is a roughly 3 acre parcel carrying an asking price of $300,000, while the 2.2 acre site on Cleveland and River streets has an asking price of $400,000. There has been no price set for the BOCES site yet, Tytler said.

The criteria for a DMV office location include the need for a 4,000-square-foot building; about 50 parking spaces; public utilities; proximity to high traffic areas without being difficult to access; enough space for a drive-thru window; lack of environmental concerns; and distance from flood zones.

The design phase of any new office has yet to begin as the county tries to pick the best site, Tytler said. Estimates for the cost of building the office are about $400,000 to $500,000.
The decision has not yet been made regarding whether the county would buy or lease the properties. The hope is that the DMV project would be completed in 2008.

After Tytler concluded a PowerPoint presentation detailing the process, she took questions from the audience.

Elsie Ferro of Denti Way asked about the effect of further diminishing the city’s tax base as the county purchases properties, leaving them tax exempt.

Tytler said the Cleveland Street site is assessed at $79,000 and that roughly $2,300 per year would be lost in city property tax revenue, should the county settle on that site.