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Peace of Mind Dealer
Short-term rental operators cautioned
WATKINS GLEN, March 19, 2019 -- Watkins Glen Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard told the Village Board Monday night that only a little over half of short-term rental operators in the village have filed required applications under a recently enacted Local Law. That law requires registration and accompanying payment of $400 for two years.
Larnard said there are 60 short-term operators, and that 35 have submitted applications under the law, which went into effect in early February. Fourteen of the 35 have undergone inspections, and three have been granted permits by the Planning Board.
"Next," said Larnard, "will be a letter to operators" informing them of "the need to abide by the law, and if that doesn't get their attention," then the village will begin legal proceedings that could lead to "a fine up to $1,000 a day from when the law was put on the books. Those not complying are looking at quite a fine."
First warning letters will be going out this week, he said, with each operator being given "a chance to comply" before any legal proceeding is instituted. "If they're planning on operating a short-term rental at all, they need to reply," he concluded.
Woodstock 50 and the memory of 1973 dominate talk at Legislature's meeting
While nothing on the agenda dealt with Woodstock 50, the matter took center stage at the outset during the public participation portion of the meeting.
Tony Compese of Watkins Glen kicked off the discussion by questioning why promoter Michael Lang, as reported in an area newspaper, would be announcing a performance lineup and selling tickets for the festival if he didn't have the blessing of the Legislature -- which is among the government bodies that have yet to sanction a Mass Gathering permit for the event.
"It's still being looked into," said Legislator Phil Barnes, running the meeting in the absence of Chairman Dennis Fagan, who is recovering from hip surgery. "We're gathering facts, listening to people. There are a lot of pros and cons. There are so many details left undone at this time. It's truly a work in progress."
Added County Administrator Tim O'Hearn: By selling tickets, Lang "is proceeding at his own risk. He knows full well the requirements. I assume if he sells tickets then he's confident he can meet the regulations." Those involve health, safety, law enforcement -- a raft of rules from various departments like Emergency Management and the state Department of Health.
Compese responded by saying the county "may be inviting the wrong people and giving Watkins Glen the wrong image. It won't be beneficial to the other kinds of tourism we have here."
Legislators Mark Rondinaro and David Reed then reacted. Rondinaro said that "plans and contingencies" are being studied with the intent that Summer Jam "doesn't happen all over again." Other festivals elsewhere, he said, have demonstrated "it's not the same era. I think there's a difference between now and '73."
Reed said the Legislature has not voted to accept or reject the festival proposal. He said WGI has handled as many as 200,000 visitors in the past, "back in the days of open-wheel racing," so it can handle a crowd officials anticipate at 100,000. "My concern is the effect it may have on the residents and towns around it. We're not going to say yes or no until all our concerns are met."
John Cecci, a resident near the track, said that with 80 bands being planned for the three-day festival -- Lang's announced number -- "it will be mostly rap and hip hop. It's the wrong crowd. There will be no quiet time."
Gary and Regina Westervelt also expressed concern that if a fire occurs during the festival on their property -- their family experienced vandalism there in 1973 -- it could in turn set off a propane explosion that Gary said would be felt for "two-and-a-half or three miles."
Legislator Barnes responded by saying he "can't stress enough: it's a work in progress. It's tying up our own people," some of whom "want a decision tomorrow on whether it's a go or not. But there's not enough information yet to make a conscientious decision." The county has until 45 days before an event to issue a permit.
Grover White of Route 16 near the track then asked: "What are you gonna do when this blows up in your face? What are you going to do to protect us?"
"Duly noted," answered Barnes.
"It's not our liability; it's yours," White went on. "What are you gonna do with the other 200,000 or 300,000 who show up?"
Gary Westervelt then asked how large the liability insurance is, to which O'Hearn said it was "substantial," although he could not recall exactly how large. He said the applicant is WGI, which is "what the Legislature wanted" because after the festival "WGI will still be here."
Westervelt said that if the liability coverage were $10 million, "it's not much nowadays." It could dissipate "real quick if things go wrong" -- such as with that suggested propane explosion.
There was discussion of the police presence on festival weekend. It would be "both on site and off site," said O'Hearn, who added that part of the alarm being voiced by residents is "a fear of the unknown." A lot of that will be alleviated, he said, at a meeting at 6 p.m. on March 27 in the Performing Arts Center at the old Watkins Glen Middle School on Decatur Street, when various festival stakeholders answer questions from the public that thus far haven't been answered. The county "needs that information by then," he said. Until then, "we can what-if this to death."
Compese responded to O'Hearn's "fear of the unknown" comment by saying "I actually know the fears" involved in the festival proposal. "I've gone through it," he added. "I know exactly what I'm expecting. It isn't pretty."
Photos in text: From top: County Administrator Tim O'Hearn; Watkins Glen resident Tony Compese; county residents Gary and Regina Westervelt; and Legislator David Reed.
O'Mara, Palmesano hail winter road aid
-- $650,000 to resurface Route 417 from the Interstate 99 Gang Mills exit to the Interstate 99 Erwin exit in Steuben County;
-- $540,000 to resurface Route 417 from the Addison Village limit to just east of County Route 85 (Freeman Road) in Steuben County;
-- $1.3 million to resurface Route 417 from the Tuscarora town line to east of County Route 102 in Steuben County;
-- $850,000 to resurface Route 223 from Route 13 in the Village of Horseheads to east of Langdon Hill road in the Town of Erin, Chemung County;
-- $1.5 million to resurface Route 79 from Route 414 to Route 227 (excluding the village of Burdett) in Schuyler County; and
-- $1.3 million to resurface Route 14A from Lake Street to the Windmill Farm in Yates County.
Palmesano, who also represents a part of Seneca County, said that $1.0 million to resurface Route 96A from Route 96 (Village of Interlaken) to Route 414 in Seneca County is also included.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, in the center with the banner, and the Local Roads Matter coalition at the State Capitol rally on Wednesday, March 6. (Photo provided)
Watkins Glen Mayor Sam Schimizzi and Trustee Gary Schmidt share a laugh.
Village Board OKs Local Law on tax levy
WATKINS GLEN, March 5, 2019 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night approved a Local Law that will permit it to override the state’s 2% tax-levy hike limit if the need arises.
The issue will be on the ballot in conjunction with the March 19 village election -- at which the mayor’s seat is being contested, as well as two trustee seats. The only incumbent running is Nan Woodworth, recently appointed to the board to fill a vacancy.
Churchill went on to criticize the committee that is presenting two sessions Wednesday -- at 4 and 6 p.m. -- at the Village Hall board room on the Clute Park plans. The timing, Ash Wednesday, will prevent a number of religious residents from attending either session, said Churchill, while the locale could prove to be too small. The former Middle School’s auditorium would have been a better site, she suggested.
Photos in text: From top: Edward Holohan of the Penflex administrative firm; Trustee Nan Woodworth; and trustee candidate Brian Eslinger.
Charities to receive grant funds for homeless
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Feb. 27, 2019 -- Rep. Tom Reed on Wednesday announced $854,406 in grants to provide the Catholic Charities of Chemung and Schuyler with funding to assist homeless people.
“We care about helping people in our communities struggling with homelessness,” Reed said. “This grant enables the Catholic Charities of Chemung and Schuyler to continue their important work assisting homeless people in our area.”
Charles Nocera, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, said “On behalf of all the community-based organizations serving people who are homeless in the Southern Tier, I can say that we are collectively ‘relieved’ to learn that we will be able to continue providing much needed affordable and safe permanent housing.”
Tyrone man sentenced to weekends in jail after being found guilty of sexual abuse
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 22, 2019 -- A 33-year-old Tyrone man was sentenced Thursday in Schuyler County Court to weekends in jail and 10 years probation after being found guilty in a November trial of sexually abusing his 13-year-old stepdaughter, who officials say has intellectual disabilities.
According to the Schuyler County District Attorney's office, Shawn M. Wheeler's sentence handed down by County Judge Dennis Morris was significantly different from that recommended by Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew Hayden, who argued that Wheeler -- who is required to register as a sex offender -- should be sentenced to the maximum of 7 years in state prison with 10 years of post-release supervision.
The Schuyler County Probation department also recommended the maximum sentence, the DA's office said, adding in a press release: "The defendant has never taken responsibility for his actions, and he said nothing at sentencing."
The DA's office did not specify how many weekends in jail were included in the sentencing. The County Court office could not be reached for clarification.
The press release also said: "In arguing for the maximum sentence, Hayden declared that the defendant had targeted the victim due to her suffering from significant intellectual disabilities. He further argued that the defendant betrayed his position of trust, because the victim was (the defendant's) 13-year-old stepdaughter.
"Hayden," the release said, "described how as a result of this sexual assault the victim has been separated from her mother, and has been removed from her siblings, resulting in punishment above and beyond the horrors of the sexual assault. Hayden described the acts of the defendant, which included the defendant having the victim perform oral sex on him, as evil and heinous, and that the defendant deserved no mercy."
Morris found Wheeler guilty on November 29 of Criminal Sexual Act in the Second Degree -- a Class D Violent Felony -- and three separate counts of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree. The verdict stemmed from a four-day bench trial conducted earlier in November, prosecuted by Hayden.
Photos in text:
Top: Shawn M. Wheeler (Photo provided)
O'Mara rips legislation aimed at banning gun raffles; says it's government intrusion
Special to The Odessa File
ELMIRA, Feb. 21, 2019 -- Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) says he is strongly opposed to legislation introduced in the New York State Legislature that would prohibit volunteer fire departments, police clubs, sportsmen’s clubs, Elk, Moose and similar lodges, and other groups and organizations from holding gun raffles as fundraisers.
O'Mara also noted that a recent gun raffle sponsored by the Canisteo Police Club in Steuben County drew hundreds of participants and raised funding to support several worthwhile community endeavors, including programs to provide bike helmets for area children and to send local youth to conservation camps. This year, part of the proceeds from the raffle are also going to support the Nicholas F. Clark Scholarship Fund honoring slain New York State Trooper Nicholas F. Clark, a Canisteo native who was killed in the line of duty last July.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)
New Assistant County Attorney appointed
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 15, 2019 -- Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman has announced his appointment of Vinton Bovier Stevens, an Elmira native, as an Assistant County Attorney.
The appointment was unanimously approved by the Schuyler County Legislature at its February 11 meeting.
As an Assistant County Attorney, Stevens will join Getman in representing Schuyler County in civil litigation, family court prosecutions and related matters.
Stevens has been an attorney since 1999. Prior to joining the County Attorney’s office, he practiced law in New York City, Chemung and Tompkins Counties.
Getman said, “I am honored to have an attorney with Vinton’s education and experience join our office. I am confident that he will represent Schuyler County government effectively and ethically.”
Added Stevens: “I am proud to be joining County Attorney Getman’s office. Having known Mr. Getman and his staff for a number of years, I have been impressed with their integrity and commitment to the taxpayers, children and families of Schuyler County.
In addition to Getman and Stevens, the Schuyler County Attorney’s staff consists of attorney Kristin Hazlitt of Hector, as well as secretaries Maryann Friebis and Brandy Bower.
Stevens is a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Elmira, and attended college at the University of Rochester. He is a 1998 graduate of Temple University School of Law.
In addition to his attorney duties, Stevens serves as Vice Flotilla Commander of the USCG Auxiliary Flotilla, and as a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Ithaca.
The County Attorney is the legal advisor to all county officials, and prosecutes and defends civil actions by and against the county. In addition, the County Attorney prosecutes family court cases involving child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency and child support violations.
Photos in text:
Top: Assistant County Attorney Vinton Bovier Stevens.
Part of the group of residents on hand for Monday night's Schuyler Legislature meeting.
Summer Jam casts a shadow
Dix residents recount 1973 experience, caution Legislature; O'Hearn assures them concerns are being 'taken seriously'
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 12, 2019 -- Summer Jam raised its ugly head at Monday night’s Schuyler County Legislature meeting.
Photos in text:
Topo Schuyler County Legislator Phil Barnes makes a point.
O'Mara: 'Restore critical upstate funding'
Special to The Odessa File
Among those local officials present in Albany was Odessa Mayor Gerry Messmer, attending the New York Conference of Mayors' Winter Legislative Meeting. Messmer said before departing for Albany that he, along with 175 other mayors and municipal officials from across the state, would be advocating for their budget priorities, including a restoration of the AIM funding.
"Every dollar the governor takes away from small villages like Odessa is just another kick in the teeth from Albany," said Messmer.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)
Red Cross honors O'Mara's 'dedication'
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Feb. 6, 2019 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) has been named a “2019 New York State Legislator of the Year” by the American Red Cross of New York State.
Photo in text: American Red Cross/Finger Lakes Chapter Executive Director Brian McConnell, right, congratulates Senator Tom O’Mara following this year’s “Legislator of the Year” awards ceremony in Albany. The Finger Lakes Chapter covers Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties. (Photo provided)
Tipped-wage credit draws rally support
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Jan. 22, 2019 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) rallied with industry workers, family restaurant owners and fellow lawmakers Tuesday in an effort to protect the tipped-wage credit.
The credit, a press release from Palmesano's office said, is "a tax provision that helps workers earn a living wage while helping restaurant owners keep their doors open and their neighbors on the payroll."
Governor Andrew Cuomo has threatened to revoke the credit and "compromise the livelihoods of service industry professionals and restaurant owners alike," said the press release.
Tip credits allow restaurants to pay tipped employees less than the minimum wage as long as the tips make up the difference.
“Our message is simple," Palmesano is quoted as saying. "If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The tipped-wage credit helps hardworking service industry professionals earn a good living. Additionally, eliminating the credit for family restaurant owners would increase their business costs and jeopardize jobs for tipped workers at a time they’re already dealing with a very difficult economic climate.
"The last thing we should be doing is taking action that will hurt workers and job creators. If the tipped wage credit is eliminated, it will hurt the very workers they claim to want to help.”
Palmesano noted that if restaurant owners face increasing labor costs, they will have no choice but to lay off workers and pass costs on to consumers.
“In the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region," he said, " the hospitality and tourism industries are important sectors of our economy. We should be looking for new ways to reform regulations, provide tax relief and spark investment. Revoking the tipped wage credit would do exactly the opposite by hurting small business owners and employees alike.”
Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (underneath the "tip" on sign top right) rallies with lawmakers and restaurant industry representatives in Albany. (Photo provided)
O'Mara votes against 'extreme action' expanding abortion in New York State
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Jan. 22, 2019 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) has voted against legislation known as the “Reproductive Health Act” (RHA) approved Tuesday by the Senate and Assembly, and expected to be swiftly signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Palmesano blasts Cuomo's cuts to localities
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Jan. 22, 2019 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) expressed deep disappointment Tuesday with a provision in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget proposal which would slash millions of dollars in state aid for towns and villages called AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) funding. Over 1,300 municipalities would see their AIM funding slashed to zero.
Palmesano noted that the funding cut would total nearly $60 million.
“AIM funding is extremely important," said Palmesano. "Local government officials rely on AIM to help complete infrastructure projects, hire municipal workers and balance budgets. To threaten to revoke aid that they’ve come to rely on is irresponsible.”
Palmesano said the funding is particularly important for municipal officials attempting to provide needed services while shouldering unfunded mandates from the governor.
“We have a governor who consistently tells municipalities that they need to pay for new things without helping them foot the bill," the Assemblyman said. "It makes it very difficult for them to remain compliant with the tax cap. The last thing they need is a funding cut, particularly when the money is such a small allocation in the context of a $176 billion budget.”
Palmesano said he will work with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both houses of the Legislature to reverse the cuts.
“Budgeting is about priorities. The governor is sending a toxic message to public servants and property taxpayers,” said Palmesano.
Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano
Schuyler suit proceeds after guilty plea
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Jan. 12, 2019 -- The former chief executive of Insys Therapeutics Inc., one of the pharmaceutical companies being sued by Schuyler County and other area municipalities over prescription painkillers, pleaded guilty on Wednesday, January 9 to participating in a nationwide scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe an addictive opioid medication.
Also, in February 2018, New York State officials filed a lawsuit against Insys alleging that it deceptively promoted Subsys for unsafe uses and violated state law by downplaying the drug’s addictive risks.
Photo in text: Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman (File photo)
“If not, you need to clear that up," he said. "You need to put out somehow that you’re still working on it.”
In other business:
--Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard told the board he was busy preparing for implementation of the short-term rental regulations approved by the Village Board late last year. There are, he said, 104 or 105 such rentals, which will be covered by the amended Local Law once the state approves it. "We're waiting for New York to bless the law and send it back to us" so that "we can put it into effect," he said.
--The board approved a state-required Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy for the village.
--Trustee Nan Woodworth was present by Skype. She is visiting in Texas, but her disembodied head was present at the meeting on a laptop screen turned to face the audience and other board members. Village Clerk Lonnie Childs said Municipal Law requires visual contact if a member is to participate and vote at a meeting.
--The board received an update from 4 Guys Fire Trucks regarding the pumper damaged in a rollover near Burdett several weeks ago as it was en route to a barn fire. The 4 Guys letter explained that the pumper, now at the company's plant in Pennsylvania, has yet to be assessed -- and that because of a complicated work schedule, "it may be a year or more before the truck is completed."
The board also heard from Watkins Glen Fire Chief Charlie Smith III that a temporary replacement -- a used (2001) pumper truck obtained from the Gang Mills Fire Department for $78,000 -- is being readied and "will hopefully be running calls by the end of the week."
Photos in text: From top: The Italian American Festival's Louis Perazzini; Schuyler County Planner Kristin VanHorn; Mayor Sam Schimizzi; Trustee Nan Woodworth, present by Skype; and Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard.
Area legislators urge tastings-proposal veto
ALBANY, Dec. 20, 2018 -- A group of Finger Lakes-area state legislators Thursday urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto legislation that was delivered to the governor for final action this week calling for the establishment of uniform standards for tastings of New York manufactured beer, wine, cider, and liquor.
"We hope Governor Cuomo will agree that we cannot risk the positive impact state policies and programs over the past several years have had on our wineries and craft beverage producers. Working together on state-level tax and regulatory relief has helped spark remarkable growth for these industries throughout the Finger Lakes region and statewide. These regulatory and tax reforms, and other actions, have strengthened their economic outlook and position for the future. New York State cannot afford to take any steps to jeopardize this progress. Approving this legislation would be a serious step in the wrong direction.”
Photo in text: Governor Andrew Cuomo (File photo)
From left: Village Trustees Gary Schmidt and Nan Woodworth; Police Sgt. Steven Decker.
Watkins Village Board OKs Local Law designed to regulate short-term rentals
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 18, 2018 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night passed a Local Law amending the Village Zoning Code to regulate short-term rental properties -- the vote following a lively public hearing at which short-term rental owners made it clear they thought they were being discriminated against.
Photos in text:
From top: Former Mayor Bob Lee; Mayor Sam Schimizzi; Atty. William La Forte (right) and Streets Superintendent Don Perry; Fire Chief Charlie Smith III; Trustee Tony Fraboni; and Trustee Laurie DeNardo.
Morris will retire from bench on June 1
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 13, 2018 -- Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris has notified the Bar Association of his intent to retire on June 1, 2019, well ahead of the end of the 10-year term he won in a November 2011 election.
Morris, who lives outside of Burdett with his wife Julie, is a graduate of Grove City College with a Bachelors degree in History, and has a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Akron.
His most significant case likely came when he presided at the trial of Alice Trappler of Addison following the shooting death in 2012 of Daniel Bennett. Trappler was found guilty of orchestrating the murder, enlisting her ex-husband to kill Bennett in his Town of Dix home. Trappler had had a relationship and a child with Bennett. She was sentenced by Morris to 25 years to life in prison.
Photo in text: Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris. (File photo)
Officials warn of property-deed 'scam'
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 3, 2018 -- Schuyler County Clerk Theresa Philbin and County Attorney Steven Getman are warning homeowners to be aware of a property deed "scam" that may be taking place in Schuyler County.
“Reports have surfaced recently of a company soliciting homeowners in the area who recently have completed real estate transactions, asking them to pay $89.00 for records which contain public information about their own property,” Getman said.
However, according to Philbin, deeds for every parcel of land in Schuyler County are already recorded and kept on permanent record at the Schuyler County Clerk's Office.
“After a real estate closing the original deed is returned to the property owner or their attorney at no additional charge and if you ever need another copy, you can request one from the county clerk for as little 65 cents per page and often less than five dollars,” Philbin explained.
“All public records can be searched in the county clerk’s office through its indexes Monday- Friday frm 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.”
Philbin and Getman also warned that the assessment profile the company is trying to sell includes information that the homeowner does not need, and that could be obtained for free from the County’s Real Property Tax Division or other municipalities.
Currently there is no law against companies selling you your own information, or a limit on what they can charge.
Getman says the best way to protect yourself is to stay vigilant and informed.
"We want the residents of Schuyler County to be aware that the entities marketing such requests are not related to the County Clerk's Office or any other department inside Schuyler County government," Getman said.
If you receive anything in the mail about your property records that seems questionable, Philbin and Getman said that you can contact the county clerk or, in the event of possible criminal activity, local law enforcement.
The Schuyler County Clerk is responsible for all books, files and other necessary equipment for the filing, recording and depositing of documents, maps, papers in actions and special proceedings of both civil and criminal nature, judgment and lien dockets and books for the indexing of the same as directed or authorized by law
The Schuyler County Attorney is the legal advisor for county government and its various officials. The County Attorney prosecutes and defends civil actions on behalf of the county and county employees acting pursuant to their official duties.
Photo in text: County Attorney Steven Getman (File photo)
The Watkins Glen fire truck alongside County Route 9 as snow fell.
How the Watkins Glen fire truck rolled over
The accident occurred about 100 yards from State Route 79 outside Burdett, with the truck on its right side on the right side of the roadway. Smith, who on Tuesday had declined comment on any aspect of the incident, said this on Wednesday:
"At approximately 16:36 p.m. the Watkins Glen Fire Department responded mutual aid to the Burdett Fire Department for a barn fire with flames through the roof on Dolphsburg Road. The request was for a tanker with manpower to the scene. The tanker responded and shortly thereafter additional manpower loaded onto the fire engine (KE-30) for response.
"The engine traveled State Route 79 and made a turn onto County Road 9. Due to diminished visibility caused by weather, the engine was unable to successfully navigate the road. As a result, the truck went into the ditch and tipped over onto its side. The operator of the engine at the time of the accident is a 35+ year veteran of the WGFD. There were four crew members inside the vehicle at the time of the accident. All crew members were assisted out of the vehicle by the Montour Falls Fire Department.
"The Schuyler County Ambulance crew assessed all occupants of the vehicle and were all determined to be unharmed and released. The truck was inspected by the New York State Police. The scene was investigated by the Schuyler County Sheriff's Department. The truck was recovered by B&W towing. All other WGFD personnel responded to the fire and assisted with extinguishment."
Photo in text: Law enforcement was on the scene, investigating the truck crash.
Tyrone man found guilty on sex charges
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 29, 2018 -- Shawn M. Wheeler, age 33, of Tyrone was found guilty Thursday by Schuyler County Judge Dennis J. Morris of Criminal Sexual Act in the Second Degree, and three separate counts of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree.
The verdict stems from a four-day bench trial conducted earlier in November, prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew C. Hayden.
O-M 12-year-old's 'school shooter' comments draw Social Service ruling from Family Court
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 6, 2018 -- A 12-year-old Schuyler County boy who made online threats he was going to be a “professional school shooter” at Odessa-Montour's Hanlon School was placed in the custody of Social Service officials Monday by the Schuyler County Family Court.
The boy, whose name was not released because of his age, was found to be a “Person in Need of Supervision” in June of this year, based on allegations that he made statements constituting “a terroristic threat,” in text messages and in person, a felony if committed by an adult. Sheriff’s deputies charged the boy after being contacted by school staff who discovered the comments. County officials took immediate action to ensure that the boy had no access to firearms and that the threats were false.
The case was prosecuted for the county by Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman’s office. At Monday’s sentencing hearing, the prosecution recommended that the boy be placed in detention, due to the underlying charges as well as the boy’s failures to behave in school and cooperate with probation supervision since the June court date.
After reviewing the evidence, Schuyler County Family Court Judge Dennis Morris determined that the boy should be removed from the home for his own good. Therefore, Morris ordered the boy placed in the custody of the Schuyler County Department of Social Services for up to six months.
Assisting in the investigation and prosecution of the matter were the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department, Odessa-Montour Hanlon School officials, the Schuyler County Probation Department and caseworkers with the Department of Social Services.
Watkins Board weighs in on BID, tax limit
Says it wants to correct the record
As many are aware, the Village Board has been asked to consider enabling legislation that would allow the creation of a Business Improvement District (BID) to manage and promote our downtown. If created, the BID would be funded by a tax levy that would be limited to the businesses within the boundaries of that district. The affected business owners supporting this initiative recognize that they will be providing the funding, but in turn will have control of the expenditure of those funds as they relate to improving our business climate and in theory improving their respective business profitability. In reading recent letters published locally, it is clear that misconceptions exist relative to this topic, and while the Village Board has not taken a position on this proposed legislation as of yet, we feel it is important to correct misinformation associated with this initiative. You may have the perception or may incorrectly assume that the Village is in poor fiscal condition. In reality this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In the interest of providing accurate information, the following is our attempt to correct some misconceptions:
Recent reports that the Village is approaching its Constitutional Tax Limit are incorrect. While it is a rather complex calculation, a municipality’s tax limit is equal to 1.5% of its total assessed valuation averaged over a five-year period. In essence, every taxing jurisdiction in NY state must annually calculate and submit to the NYS Comptroller this number. In our Village’s case, we are actually at 31% of our taxing limit. Relative to other governments in NYS, 31% is a very respectable amount and generally the average is in excess of 50% among governments. We surmise that there may be confusion between Constitutional Tax Limit and the NYS Tax Cap, and in the interest of allowing for informed decision making, wish to clarify.
The NYS Tax Cap, which was initiated by Governor Cuomo and signed into law in 2011, is a commendable effort to contain the high cost of government in NYS and it has largely been successful. Under the tax cap legislation, municipalities (again, applying a complex formula) must stay within the calculated amount for each year’s tax levy or enact a local law overriding that cap should the governing board deem it prudent and necessary. The base amount of the calculation is a 2% increase, but local economic conditions, growth in tax base, and prior year surplus can all impact that percentage. While the Village has had to override the cap in past years, there have also been a number of years that we were well under the calculated cap. The takeaway here is this: Our levy isn’t determined by how much we are allowed to spend, rather it is limited to only what we need to spend. If our cap is calculated to be 3.5% and we come in at 1.5%, all the better!
With respect to the proposed Business Improvement District, if created, that may require the Board to adopt a higher tax cap limit for that particular year. However, this is to be expected and the additional tax burden is limited only to the businesses within the BID. Our residents are not impacted. The businesses within the district pay for the BID and receive the services. The owners of said businesses were invited to and engaged in multiple public meetings on the formation of such BID. The ultimate decision falls on the business property owners within the BID district.
In closing, the Village Board works diligently to be fiscally responsible to our residents and businesses alike. We respect the challenging fiscal times we live in and the responsibility associated with funding public services in NYS. With that in mind, we continually strive to be good stewards of the public’s money while seeking ways to improve our local economy. We offer this information to clear up any confusion related to our legal tax limit. Thank you.
--Watkins Glen Board of Trustees
Congressman Tom Reed, left, and gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro at the GOP rally.
GOP faithful gather as Molinaro visits Glen
WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 2, 2018 -- About four dozen Republican Party officials and supporters were on hand late Friday morning at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant for a rally in support of New York gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro.
The candidate was the center of attention as Congressman Tom Reed, State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano were on hand to sing his praises as he tries to unseat incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo in the Nov. 6 election.
It had the feel of a club, since Palmesano and O'Mara had ties to Molinaro in Albany (where he was an Assemblyman) before he moved on to his job as Dutchess County Executive in 2011.
"I taught hm everything he knows," said O'Mara. "We're very good friends. I was at his wedding, and now he has four children." The fourth is actually due any day now.
"You had nothing to do with that," quipped Molinaro, standing to the side, amid other spectators. The room was quickly filled with laughter, with O'Mara responding, with a smile: "This is degrading quickly."
O'Mara's remarks came after Molinaro's, for O'Mara arrived late after putting in another campaign appearance to the south. In fact, Reed showed up even later, just as O'Mara was wrapping up his remarks.
Molinaro was introduced by the first speaker, Palmesano, whose voice rose an octave or so as he neared his conclusion, fairly shouting out his introduction of a man "who doesn't just talk the talk; he walks the walk! I give you the next governor of New York State, Marc Molinaro!"
Molinaro, acknowledging the resultant applause, smiled at the assemblyman. "Who knew that Phil Palmesano had that much fire in him?" he said.
Molinaro said he has "spent every day of my adult life in public service, since I was a mayor at 19." Now 43, he was mayor of Tivoli, NY, at that early age, and then served in the Dutchess County Legislature and the state Assembly before being elected to his current post.
He said that there are "problem makers and problem solvers. I need you ... to be problem solvers, to show up on Election Day and send a message that we can't afford to continue with the policies that are strangling our independence. If we show up (at the polls), we win. By holding government accountable, we can have a state we can afford to live in. If elected, I will not let you down."
Reed, once he arrived, wondered how O'Mara had beaten him there, coming from the same stop earlier in the day in the Elmira area. He suggested that perhaps O'Mara had broken some speed laws, to which O'Mara replied: "No, I just know my district," an indirect slam that drew "ooohs" from the audience and a laugh from Reed.
The Congressman spoke in largely national terms, touting the most recent jobs report, which reflects a healthy economy; criticized his opponent, Tracy Mitrano -- they debated the night before in Olean -- and said the "silent voices of America will speak on Nov. 6" in favor of the Republicans, who "believe in the power of the American people."
After some photos and interaction with the audience, the Molinaro show was heading to Corning and then to Jamestown. "We're gonna be a loud voice for Marc Molinaro," concluded Reed.
Photos in text: From top: Marc Molinaro, right, with Schuyler County Legislator Phil Barnes, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 6; Molinaro greets Assemblyman Phil Palmesano; State Senator Tom O'Mara, foreground, next to the gubernatorial candidate; and area businessman Ted Marks posing with Molinaro.
Water Quality Forum held in Dundee
Special to The Odessa File
DUNDEE, Oct. 25, 2018 -- State Senators Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Pam Helming (R,C,I-Canandaigua) on Wednesday sponsored a public roundtable discussion, “The Future of Water Quality: A Discussion on Challenges, Crises and Responses.”
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Susan Kimmel and David Kimmel of Lakewood Development interact with the audience at Wednesday night's Watkins Glen Planning Board meeting in the Village Hall.
Planning Board OKs Franklin St. project
That building, said representatives of Lakewood Development, the current owner, will have to be demolished in its entirety due to structural defects, with the front rebuilt in a style similar to the one there now. It will house a coffee house run by former building owner Doug Thayer in the front as well as commercial office and kitchen test space, while the back of the building will hold 24 apartments on a total of three stories, the second story opening onto Madison Avenue.
Present to address the Planning Board were Susan Bacon Kimmel and David Kimmel of Lakewood. Susan Kimmel is managing general partner of Lakewood, which is part of the family of companies that form Two Plus Four -- a construction and property management firm from Syracuse which Kimmel serves as president. Two Plus Four also oversaw the renovation of, and manages, the apartment complex in the former Watkins Glen Middle School on Decatur Street. The pair outlined the project before a half-hour public hearing that they hoped would lead to Final Site Plan approval by evening's end.
But concerns, including one about a possible brownfield beneath the property -- a onetime motor vehicle service facility -- brought Planning Board Chair Joe Fazzary to say at one point that he thought such approval on this night was not feasible. That raised the ire of a couple of members of the public, who pointed out -- as Susan Kimmel had -- that there is a timetable in place on the project, with Oct. 19 a key application date in state-level competition for grant money.
Eventually, Fazzary relented, permitting the board to go through the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Revew) process, which resulted in an always desirable Negative Declaration -- meaning there were no known environmental impediments. But in order to grant Final Site Plan approval, Fazzary and other board members insisted on the condition that Kimmel provide letters from appropriate government agencies assuring that the project could move forward with proper oversight should concerns such as a brownfield actually be found -- and that the village, as lead environmental agency, would be apprised of any such developments.
Susan Kimmel told the board she would secure the necessary letters and assurances, and left with an approval that could prove key to those Oct. 19 grants. Those would be in addition to a $1 million commitment from the state through the local Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The apartment portion of the project calls for 24 units -- 20 one-bedroom apartments and four with two bedrooms. Parking is planned on the north side of the building, with an entrance to elevators there for residents. Another entrance would be installed from Madison Avenue.
The apartments will rent from $650 to $1,000 a month, aimed at young professionals who earn from $27,000 to $46,000 annually.
A point of discussion: village parking, an ongoing challenge, and more so with the addition of new structures downtown in the coming years. A parking garage was suggested somewhere downtown or even on Fairgrounds Lane at the south end of the village, but dismissed by officials as a non-starter -- described by one as "a money pit," or revenue loser.
After Final Site Plan approval was granted (after an hour and 20 minutes), the meeting moved swiftly, with one agenda item passed over -- a Preliminary Site Plan Review of a proposed apartment complex on Second Street. That was put on hold while a zoning variance was being sought. According to Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard, that project is "far from the final stage. There is a lot of work to do."
The board then decided to schedule an extra meeting, on Oct. 3, to hold a public hearing and presumably give Final Site Plan approval to the planned Seneca Cheese Company business at 29 N. Franklin St. And after a Concept Plan Review of the planned Glen Racing Grill at 107 Eleventh St., the board scheduled a Preliminary Site Plan review for the project on Oct. 3 -- as well as a public hearing and Final Site Plan approval the same day on a house demolition on West Second Street.
DRI Report: Judy Cherry, executive director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, updated the Planning Board on upcoming Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects approved by the state. Several projects will be coming before the board in two or three months, she said, while a couple "might not be going forward" due to environmental issues.
Photos in text: From top: Planning Board Chair Joe Fazzary; a drawing of the planned structure at Franklin and West Second Streets; and Code Enfrocement Officer Greg Larnard and Village Clerk Lonnie Childs at the meeting.
Resident Tony Compese addresses the Village Board. He was one of many speakers.
Board tables short-term rentals proposal after lengthy hearing; plans to 'tweak' it
This trend toward short-term rentals -- in particular Airbnb's -- is widespread, with efforts at strict control underway in larger communities such as Ithaca or, one person pointed out, Asheville, North Carolina. But Watkins Glen is unique -- dependent on tourism and thus obliged, some feel, to provide as much housing for those tourists as possible.
One speaker noted a rudeness in some such visitors -- a tendency toward loud parties and disrespect for long-term residents. Another said that the issue -- the fears and resentment of residents -- might be alleviated if visitors showed such respect. But still others maintained that visitors they have encountered have been unfailingly polite, and enthusiastic about the small-town, peaceful nature of Watkins Glen.
He said that "no matter what we do, we're not going to please everyone ... we're trying to find a happy medium. We have to be mindful of everybody."
Photos in text: Speakers included Brian Eslinger (top) and Phyllisa DeSarno (bottom). Some speakers addressed the board and the audience extemporaneously, and some with prepared remarks (middle).
Scouts from Troop 2674 pose behind Schuyler County legislators' seats after the meeting.
Scouts interact with Schuyler legislators
The troop, sponsored by the Elks lodge and meeting twice a month at the Watkins Glen Fire Department, are led by Rick Evans, who told the Legislature the boys were there "for a civics lesson."
The Legislature, after attending to nearly two dozen resolutions -- most minor in nature -- opened the floor to questions, and had each of the boys introduce himself. The legislators in turn introduced themselves, and thanked the boys for their interest.
Among the questions was one by Ben Swinnerton, asking how the Legislature decided which grants to seek. Several resolutions had dealt with the subject. He was told by County Administrator Tim O'Hearn that a key element is whether a grant has hidden costs. The Legislature "might not go for a grant at all," he said. "If it's not truly free, we're not interested."
Scout Aidan Thurston asked for the Legislature's position on the Tobacco 21 movement that would make 21 the age at which a person can purchase a tobacco product.
Legislator Mark Rondinaro said he personally opposed the movement, because "anyone capable of joining the military (at 18) is enough of an adult to make a decision" regarding the use of tobacco. Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan added that the county position on tobacco use itself is that for health concerns, its use is not permitted in county buildings and parks.
Another question: How long does it take a resolution to pass? The answer: Up to two months. "Nothing moves quickly," observed Clerk Stacy Husted.
Evans asked about the amount of the budget, which O'Hearn said consists of $49 million in expenditures, and $11 million in tax levies. The 2019 budget process is beginning now, with a preliminary budget expected in a couple of weeks, and passage in November.
Resolutions: Among the resolutions passed was one approving a bid by Economy Paving Co. Inc. in the amount of $1,095,590.15 for the rehabilitation of the Mill Street Bridge over Shequagah Falls above Montour Falls. It is 95% covered by federal funds.
The legislators also voted to seek bids for repairs needed in the Seneca Harbor Park stone breakwall.
Sales Tax: Chairman Fagan said that the latest available totals reported on Schuyler County sales tax revenue shows it up 8.9 percent from the same point last year through early August, or about $560,000. But the "catch," he noted, is the impact the county will feel from cancellation of the revenue-producing Phish concert at Watkins Glen International in mid-August due to the effects of the August 14 storm. Sales tax, he noted, is key to helping keep property tax increases in check.
Photos in text: From top: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan addresses the Boy Scouts; Legislator Van Harp thanks the Scouts for attending the meeting; and Legislator David Reed, after the meeting, tells the Scouts about a trip he took to Alaska.
Thornton resigns from Watkins Village Board
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 22, 2018 -- Watkins Glen Village Trustee Kevin Thornton has resigned from the Village Board, effective immediately.
Thornton cited several reasons, including a lack of "communication from (and within) the board" and a disagreement by him with some of the projects approved in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) funded and propelled by the state. He also mentioned health problems.
He read his letter of resignation at the outset of the Village Board meeting Monday, and promptly got up and left. The session was a contentious one regarding a proposed Business Improvement District and the effect of short-term vacation rental properties.
Thornton was elected to a four-year term in 2015. His vacancy can be filled by mayoral appointment good through the remainder of his term, which ends on March 31, 2019. Or the seat can remain vacant until a successor is elected in the March balloting and takes office on April 1.
The letter of resignation reads as follows:
"Mr. Mayor, Board of Trustees, employees and residents of Watkins Glen; It is with a heavy heart that effective immediately I resign from my term as Village Trustee. This wasn’t an easy decision and there are several reasons behind it.
Photo in text: Kevin Thornton at a recent Village Board meeting.
Schuyler, Yates to share public health director
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 18, 2018 -- In a move toward continued cost savings and increased efficiency, Schuyler and Yates counties have adopted resolutions authorizing the sharing of a Public Health Director between the two counties.
Photo in text: Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn (File photo)
State Health Department and Schuyler County cite health concerns, cancel Phish concert
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 16, 2018 -- The Phish concert scheduled for this weekend at Watkins Glen International has been canceled by state and county officials due to health concerns in the wake of Tuesday's storm and flooding.
"This week's severe storm created untenable conditions, including the inability to deliver clean drinking water to patrons and vendors as confirmed by test results delivered today," the state Department of Health and Schuyler County officials said in a joint statement. "Working collaboratively with Watkins Glen International and Phish, the county and state explored all options to allow the event to continue as scheduled."
However, "With a 14-county State of Emergency still in effect, the prospect of additional inclement weather, and a mandatory boil water order for the Village of Watkins Glen issued today, Schuyler County and the New York State Department of Health are unable to issue the required permits for this weekend's Curveball Festival."
It added: "While all parties acknowledge the inconvenience of this cancellation to patrons, we have a responsibility to act in the best interest of public health and safety for all. Phish and Curveball Festival organizers will be notifying ticketholders about how to obtain a refund."
Said WGI President Michael Printup: “Public health and safety is a concern for all events at Watkins Glen International. While we are disappointed Curveball has been cancelled, we understand and support the county and Department of Health’s decision."
Added Statae Senator Tom O’Mara (pictured at right): “I appreciate the hard work and perseverance of state and local health officials, concert promoters, and everyone at The Glen to try to find a way to give the go-ahead for Phish this weekend. Unfortunately, Mother Nature did not cooperate and threw a curveball of her own over the past several days. It’s disappointing for the band, the fans, and the community at large -- and I was looking forward to attending myself -- but it’s really the only decision that could be made for the overall sake of the public’s health and safety.”
Assemblyman Philip Palmesano said, “I share the disappointment of fans, Watkins Glen International, and the local community. But we appreciate the diligent efforts of state and local health officials, concert promoters, and Glen officials to try to find any way possible to give a green light to this weekend’s festival. Unfortunately, the cancellation is the only decision that can be made to appropriately and responsibly protect the public’s health and safety.”
The band, which was preparing to go onstage at WGI for a sound check, expressed its regrets for the cancellation in an announcement to fans:
"Dear friends, our Phish family:
"The four of us are writing this from directly behind the stage at Watkins Glen. We were about to walk onstage only moments ago for our traditional soundcheck jam for Curveball when we were told the heartbreaking news that due to the unsafe water conditions in the Village of Watkins Glen, our beloved festival is being canceled.
"We are still in shock. The entire site is already set up and ready to go after literally months of work by our beloved hardworking crew, many of whom have been here for weeks. Our families are here, our gear is set, our tents are up. We keep waiting for someone to come over and tell us that there is a solution, and that the festival can go on. Unfortunately, it is not possible.
"We are so terribly sorry for the inconvenience that this is causing so many of you. We hope from the bottoms of our hearts that at the very least this news will reach you before too much disruption takes place in your personal lives. We know that people traveled far, at great expense. We understand that people are missing work, and changing their schedules around ... we wish so much that there was some way that this wasn't happening.
"This summer has been absolutely joyous, with each gig building on the previous one, and we were all buzzing with excitement about Curveball. Please accept our deepest apologies for the disruption that this has caused all of you. We wish there was something else we could say.
"Thank you all from the depths of our souls for the joy that you continue to share with us every night. This has been the greatest summer we can remember. Travel safe and know that we are as heartbroken as all of you. We are standing back here behind the stage, at our party that we've been planning for over a year, and we have just been told that it won't happen. There's just nothing we can do."
Some 85,000 people were expected to attend the three-day festival, at which Phish was expected to play two sets.
Boil Water Notice issued for Watkins users
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 16, 2018 -- In the wake of the heavy storm this week and attendant water problems, a Boil Water Notice has been issued for the Village of Watkins Glen, and for the Dix and Reading Water Districts.
Officials urge that residents "bring tap water to a rolling boil, boil for one minute, and cool before using. Or use bottled water certified for sale by the New York State Department of Health. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth, and preparing food until further notice. It is likely that you will need to boil water for the next five days."
DOH warns of potential Legionella bacteria exposure from July 16-Aug. 1 at Glen hotel
The following press release was issued by the New York State Department of Health.
ALBANY, August 9, 2018 -- The New York State Department of Health announced today that individuals who were guests at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel between July 16, 2018 - August 1, 2018 and were in proximity to the hotel's pool and spa may have been exposed to Legionella bacteria.
The Department is working closely with the hotel to reach guests who were on site during the period of potential exposure. At the request of the State Health Department, Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel has closed their pool and spa to patrons as they continue to remediate the situation.
Legionella bacteria can cause a serious type of pneumonia called Legionnaires' disease. The bacteria can also cause a less serious illness called Pontiac fever. Legionnaires' disease is very similar to other types of pneumonia, with symptoms that include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Less common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and confusion. Symptoms usually begin two to ten days after being exposed to the bacteria, but it can take longer so people should watch for symptoms for about two weeks after exposure.
Pontiac fever symptoms are primarily fever and muscle aches; it is a milder infection than Legionnaires' disease. Symptoms begin between a few hours to three days after being exposed to the bacteria and usually last less than a week. Pontiac fever is different from Legionnaires' disease because someone with Pontiac fever does not have pneumonia.
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. People at increased risk of getting sick are:
In general, people do not spread the bacteria to other people. Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, and decorative fountains. People get infected when they breathe in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria.Any individual that develops symptoms that could be associated with Legionnaires' disease should share this information with their health care provider.
For additional information on Legionnaires' Disease, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/
Photo: The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel (File photo)
Schuyler may join suit against Interior Dept.
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Aug. 8, 2018 -- The U.S. Department of Interior may have underpaid Schuyler County for payments in lieu of property taxes on federal lands within the county.
In response, the County Legislature’s Legislative Resolution Review Committee moved on August 8 to authorize Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to file papers joining a federal class action lawsuit initiated by Kane County, Utah.
According to Getman, the United States Court of Claims has held that underpayments on federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs in Kane County and other local governments may have occurred during 2015 to 2017. The PILT Act is intended to compensate local governments for tax revenues lost from federal lands in their jurisdictions, and the costs of providing services to those lands, Getman said.
That could include the part of the Finger Lakes National Forest in the Town of Hector, Getman said.
“If court determines the county was underpaid under PILT agreements for lands in the National Forest, the county can recover additional money,” Getman said. “There is no cost to participate in the lawsuit and no disadvantage to the county to do so.”
According to County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, “any money collected would go to the county as direct revenue to offset the cost of services to the forest and lost tax revenue, in order to reduce the local tax burden.”
“Given the fiscal stresses placed on local governments by state and federal mandates, county officials have a duty to make sure that any funds due Schuyler County taxpayers come back to Schuyler County to pay for necessary services,” Getman noted.
County Treasurer Harriett Vickio has reported that the County received payments for the affected years as follows: 2015, $16,526.00; 2016, $17,244.00; 2017, $17,091.00.
Any additional amounts for those years obtained from the lawsuit would be calculated by the court, Getman said.
The measure now goes to the full legislature for a final vote on August 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Photo in text: Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman (File photo)
The red area marks the location, at North Franklin and Second Streets in Watkins Glen, where a mixed-use building with 24 apartments is being planned.
Planning Board fields 2 apartment plans, gives prelim OK to Arc, cheese projects
The board, which generally hears concepts first, then gives preliminary approval a month or more later, which in turn leads to a public hearing and then Final Site Plan approval, handled the four cases detailed below.
Photo in text: Map shows the layout of the proposed mixed-use housing complex and childcare center on East Second Street. The hand belongs to Hunt Engineers' Dan Bower.
1. Bob and Barb MacBlane's plan to establish the Seneca Cheese Company in the former Eyes on Seneca building at 29 North Franklin Street was granted Preliminary Site Plan approval. The matter will go to the County Planning Commission for review and then to a public hearing at the Village Planning Board session on Aug. 15. Barring any serious objections, Final Site Plan approval is expected the same night.
The Seneca Cheese Company will be a store that sells local cheeses, as well as local beers and wines, and trays of various cheeses that might be paired with beer and wine and enjoyed on site -- including on a second-floor deck. The building, now about 2,000 square feet, will have a second floor added -- one that will include a two-bedroom, year-round upscale apartment.
The Planning Board thanked the MacBlanes for the detail presented in their plan, which answered all questions raised at a June meeting.
The MacBlanes, who have been living in Horseheads, are moving to Burdett. Mr. MacBlane was until recently the Director of Physician Recruiting at the Arnot Ogden Medical Center and before that served in the same role at Robert Packer Hospital. Mrs. MacBlane is a pharmacist connected to the Gerould's store in Horseheads. The couple have two children, ages 18 and 19. They have summered on Seneca Lake at a home they purchased years ago.
Photo in text: Bob MacBlane at Wednesday's Planning Board meeting.
2. The Arc of Schuyler presented a Concept Plan with such detail that the Planning Board deemed it a Preliminary Site Plan and approved it. The plan calls for the Arc building at 210 12th Street -- across from its main building at 203 12th St. -- to be enlarged by 3,840 square feet.
The addition will be on lawn-covered land at the rear of the current 5,980-square-foot building, built in the early 1990s as a daycare center but, after five years, turned by The Arc into administrative offices and community-use rooms. The upcoming addition will also be designed for community use, with a large room and a number of conference rooms.
It is all part of a move being undertaken as the result of changes in the law that call for the integration of the general population and citizens with development disabilities who perform tasks such as packing foods at The Arc. Part of the Arc's programming, a social program, will move from the main building to the one at 210 12th Street.
The expansion plan will go to the County Planning Commission for review before a public hearing at the Village Planning Board meeting on Aug. 15. Barring any surprises, Final Site Plan approval will come immediately after that hearing.
Photo in text: The existing Arc of Schuyler building at 210 12th Street.
A rendition of the apartment complex envisioned for East Second Street. The childcare center is on the right.
3. The Planning Board viewed a Concept Plan prepared by Hunt Engineers regarding a proposed apartment building on East Second Street, across from the Jefferson Village apartment complex. The new building, which would include a childcare center, would contain 34 apartments -- two on the ground floor and 16 each on the second and third floors.
The building, the brainchild of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, would occupy what is currently a vacant lot, in an otherwise residential area. The INHS mission statement says it is "dedicated to helping people of modest incomes find -- and stay in -- high-quality housing throughout Central New York, a goal that benefits the entire community."
A spokesman said meetings have been held with neighbors, at least one of whom had specific concerns that Hunt has worked into its plans -- including a fence between the complex and that resident's property, and a repositioning of the building. "I think the plan is a real compromise with neighbors," the spokesman said.
The childcare center at the western end of the complex will have a parking lot immediately outside its doors, and entrance to a playground from the building's rear. A larger parking lot will be positioned on the south side of the complex.
The INHS and Hunt are expected to return to the Planning Board with a Preliminary Site Plan next month. It will incorporate alterations based on concerns -- parking spaces and building color schemes among them -- discussed by Planning Board members at Wednesday's meeting.
Photo in text: Planning Board Chairman Joe Fazzary.
The front of the mixed-use building as it will appear on North Franklin Street. Second Street is on the left.
4. The Planning Board heard an outline and saw drawings of a plan to eliminate much of the building complex at the corner of North Franklin and Second Streets -- running back to Madison Avenue -- that used to house Clifford Motors. The building in the front, at 107-111 N. Franklin, currently housing a Doug Thayer liquor store and a tasting room and brewery, will retain the tasting room and liquor store. Being added: a commercial test kitchen, where local farmers and other food-related business people can prepare samples of products they might hope to mass produce if found successful on a smaller scale.
But connected buildings to the rear will be razed and a new three-story apartment complex built there by Two Plus Four -- a construction and property management firm from Syracuse that also oversaw the renovation of, and manages, the apartment complex in the former Watkins Glen Middle School on Decatur Street. The new project, guided through the recent Downtown Revitalization Initiative with the help of the FLX Collaborative Group, attracted $1 million in DRI funds.
Susan Bacon Kimmel, president of Two Plus Four, told the Planning Board that further financing is being sought through other New York State sources. She said that the firm is operating under a fairly tight window in order to maximize its chances of further grants, and so is looking for approval soon. Acccordingly, her firm will be back next month with a Preliminary Site Plan. Should it gain that level of board approval, the proposal will be referred to the County Planning Commission for review, and then gain Final Site Plan approval after a public hearing the next month, assuming everything goes smoothly.
The apartment complex would have 24 units -- 20 one-bedroom apartments and four with two bedrooms. Parking would be on the north side of the building, with an entrance to elevators there. Another entrance onto the apartment building's second floor would be installed from Madison Avenue. Kimmel said Two Plus Four is "trying to attract young, upstart professionals" to the complex's long-term rentals.
Current plans call for significant green space in keeping with state grant regulations, but the Planning Board raised some concerns regarding parking -- there might not be enough -- and drainage, matters that will be addressed in the Preliminary Site Plan.
Photo in text: An overview of the plan at North Franklin and Second Streets.
Blue is seen now at the center of the Walmart strorefront, and orange at the northwest corner.
Village Board sees red as Walmart tries a blue-and-orange exterior color scheme
Walmart attorney: firm got clearance before project began"What we got here is a failure to communicate."
WATKINS GLEN, July 16, 2018 -- That line from the film "Cool Hand Luke" might sum up the Color War unspooling in Watkins Glen.
Or perhaps it will boil down to simply this: "Words matter."
Nickel's Pit BBQ:
Two nearby residents complained about noise after designated hours at the Nickel's Pit BBQ eatery on North Franklin Street -- in particular on weekends.
In other business:
Heating could be done through the use of treatment plant effluent, or through "deep earth source heat," geothermal in nature and under study at Cornell University.
Photos in text:
From top: Mayor Sam Schimizzi, Attorney Leslie Mauro, Trustee Tony Fraboni, Kristin VanHorn (left) and Judy Cherry, Nickel's Pit BBQ, Nick Thayer, and Sgt. Steve Decker.
DEC rejects proposed LPG storage plan
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, July 12, 2018 -- The top official in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Thursday rejected the proposed storage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in abandoned salt caverns along the western shore of Seneca Lake.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos denied the Crestwood Midstream energy firm's plan on the grounds the facility would have a "significant adverse impact on community character" both locally -- which means Watkins Glen and Reading Center -- and in the Finger Lakes region.
The decision came years after the proposal was first issued, and just days after the Schuyler County Legislature, reversing a vote four years ago in support of the plan, rescinded its initial resolution based on safety concerns raised in a recent letter by Creestwood itself. That letter dealt with a cavern that might be leaking.
Most municipalities along the lake, including the Village of Watkins Glen, had opposed the plan -- a plan that sparked frequent protests at the Crestwood gate located along Route 14 north of Watkins. There were, accordingly, hundreds of arrests over a period of time that clogged the court calendar in the Reading Town Court.
Gas Free Seneca, which steadfastly opposed the storage plan, issued a press release saying "the people of the Finger Lakes region are rejoicing at news" of the rejection.
The DEC, in a press release, said that "in evaluating the impact on community character, the Commissioner reviewed local land use plans, resolutions adopted by local municipalities in opposition to the project, and the area's development of tourism, the wine industry, and agriculture as economic drivers.
The Commissioner, the release added, also "determined that the record supported denying the project at this stage of the administrative process and noted four issues that raised significant concerns that would have otherwise required further adjudication: the proposed facility brine pond, integrity of caverns at the site, public safety preparedness, and availability of alternative sites ... as well as the need for the facility."
It concluded: "No further proceedings are required with the denial of this project based on community character."
Gas Free Seneca, in its press release, quoted its vice president, Yvonne Taylor, as saying:
Added Jeremy Alderson, who was editor of the now-defunct No Frack Almanac, had continued to publish a related NFA newsletter, and was among those arrested in 2014 while opposing the proposed project:
"This fight has dragged on for what, eight years? I am totally glad to be done with it and am ready to go back to just being an old curmudgeon on a farm. The victory belongs to all of us who fought for it and to everyone who benefits from it, including children and grandchildren who have yet to be born. Long may we enjoy it."
Photos in text: From top: DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, Gas Free Seneca's Yvonne Taylor, and project opponent Jeremy Alderson.
'Drug Take Back Act' is signed into law
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, July 11, 2018 -- Legislation sponsored by State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) to further combat the abuse of prescription drugs and prevent unused drugs from contaminating water supplies has been signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
From left: Speakers Jeremy Alderson, Yvonne Taylor and Legislator Michael Lausell.
Legislature -- citing safety concerns -- rescinds 2014 LPG storage resolution
WATKINS GLEN, July 9, 2018 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night rescinded its support -- issued in June 2014 -- of the proposed LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas, or propane) storage project in salt caverns near the western shore of Seneca Lake.
It repeals support, said Getman, "pending completion of future pressure testing and subsequent review and approval by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation."
Though not among the protest organizers, Gas Free Seneca was outspoken. "For years," said Taylor in a statement issued earlier Monday, "we've been saying that the unlined salt caverns under Seneca Lake were never engineered to store anything, let alone explosive gas. As more facts come out, Crestwood is losing support daily. It's time for Governor Cuomo to reject this proposal once and for all."
To see the full resolution, click here.
Photos in text: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan (top) and speaker David Crea.
Rural transportation funding unveiled
City of Corning: $214,000 in operating assistance;
City of Hornell: $536,000 in operating assistance, $274,000 to replace four transit buses, and $7,000 to maintain a vehicle lift;
Schuyler County: $485,000 in operating assistance, $124,000 to replace two transit buses, $91,000 for technology equipment, and $269,000 for projects that support mobility;
Steuben County: $403,000 in operating assistance, $41,000 for technology equipment, and $578,000 for projects that support mobility;
Tompkins County: $525,000 in operating assistance, $1.68 million to replace four transit buses, $420,000 for sixteen bus shelters, technology equipment, facility maintenance and construction, and $490,000 for projects that support mobility; and
Yates County: $86,000 in operating assistance, and $4,000 for new bus signs.
Palmesano, who also represents a part of Seneca County, said that Seneca will receive $150,000 in operating assistance, $393,000 to purchase five transit buses to expand services, and $18,000 for one bus shelter for RTS.
The Watkins Glen State Park's entrance area has gone from blacktop to green.
A ribbon-cutting concluded the dedication of the refurbished Watkins Glen State Park. State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey wielded the scissors.
Ceremony marks State Park renovation; Watkins' winning DRI projects unveiled
WATKINS GLEN, June 18, 2018 -- State and local dignitaries, park employees and members of the public gathered Monday morning at the Watkins Glen State Park's new amphitheater for a ceremony marking the dedication of the refurbished park's green entrance area.
The setting also served as the place to announce the state has settled on 14 projects selected re receive $9.7 million in funding under the Downtown Revitalization Initiative program in Watkins Glen. The village won $10 million in development grants and investments last year -- prompting a flurry of project proposals. A list settled upon by the Local Planning Committee (LPC) was sent to the state, which whittled it down to 14. A total of $300,000 of the $10 million went to accompanying costs, primarily for state-appointed consultants who helped guide the selection process.
Speakers at the hour-long gathering Monday -- in rising heat under an intense sun -- included State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey; State Senator Tom O'Mara; Finger Lakes State Park Regional Director Fred Bonn; State Parks Central Region Commission Chair Dave Banfield; Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce President Rebekah Carroll; Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development Executive Director Judy Cherry; Watkins Glen Village Trustee Laurie DeNardo, who served with Cherry as co-director of the LPC; and NYS Deputy Secretary of State for Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure Kisha Santiago-Martinez -- who announced the 14 DRI projects selected for funding (see list below).
Each speaker marveled at the facellift the State Park has undergone -- transformed from grim parking lot to a green landscape with features such as the amphitheater, information signs, a Visitor Center, a sculpture by Peter Jones, and gardens ... all leading to the world-famous gorge itself, which attracted more then 900,000 tourists in 2016 and is expected to top one million visitors this year.
The $7 million renovaton project, which includes a parking lot across Franklin Street and improved traffic signaling designed to curb gridlock experienced in past years, was part of an initiative spearheaded by Governior Andrew Cuomo -- whose presence at Monday's ceremony was considered a possibility but which didn't happen. He was present last August at the Watkins Glen International racetrack for the announcement of Watkins Glen as a DRI winner.
Of that DRI, Cherry said that "if we get this right, we should see $175 million of investment" in the area "over the next couple of years."
With the DRI, a new water treatment plant on the canal, the State Park renovation and other ongoing improvements under the umbrella of Project Seneca, "Watkins Glen is soaring," said DeNardo.
Added O'Mara: "There is so much going on here in Watkins Glen. It's great to be a part of it."
And this from Carroll: The State Park is "the sparkling gem of the Finger Lakes" -- a place where "Mother Nature meets Main Street."
Photos in text: From top: the State Parks' Fred Bonn; State Senator Tom O'Mara; the Chamber's Rebekah Carroll.
The 14 projects selected by the state to receive Downtown Revitalization Intiative funds, as detailed on Governor Andrew Cuomo's website:Implementing Year-Round Recreation at Clute Park, including design and construction of an ice rink/splash pad, lighting, entrance/driveway/parking, landscaping, signage, and related improvements. ($2,017,428)
Installing New Lighting on Franklin Street in coordination with NYSDOT repaving work. Funds will be used to install conduit and foundations and purchase new fixtures once the below-grade work is completed. ($1,500,000)
Improving East 4th Street for Pedestrians and Cyclists and Improving Connection between Downtown and Clute Park, a major corridor to encourage residents and visitors to walk or bicycle between the locations. Improvements will include wider sidewalks, landscaping and pedestrian-activated crossing at Boat Launch Road. ($1,034,565)
Redeveloping Captain Bill's Port of Seneca Lake to Improve Site Plan and Enhance Views, including construction of a two-story building to house Captain Bill's Seneca Lake Cruise Terminal. The project will allow the company to expand operations to include event space and include redesign of the site that will enhance views of the lake and draw visitors to the waterfront. ($500,000)
Renovating the Former VFW Building into a Full-Service Spa and Fitness Center for guests of the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, as well as other visitors and local residents. ($250,000)
Updating the Zoning Code to Address Short Term Rentals, Design Guidelines, Historic Districts, and Other Revisions, to encourage appropriate type and scale of development consistent with the village character. The changes will address the challenges of a short-term high demand seasonal rental housing market and update design guidelines. ($50,000)
Upgrading Lafayette Park with New Equipment, Lighting and Landscaping to build on recent private donations. The improvements include a permanent public restroom, signage, safety surfaces around the play area, lighting, perimeter sidewalks, and a new bandstand roof. ($276,047)
Redeveloping 109-111 North Franklin St. with Mixed-Uses to include additional ground floor commercial space and 24 mixed-income apartments on the second and third floors. The project will accommodate the existing brewery and restaurant on-site, and provide open-concept co-working space operated by FLX Works, including a shared commercial kitchen for hourly rental. ($1,000,000)
Installing Gateway and Wayfinding Signage to welcome visitors at four major gateways to the Village. Wayfinding signage will orient pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers while promoting local businesses and attractions. ($644,875)
Transforming Multiple Buildings and Sites in the DRI Area, including improvements to building façades, increasing upper story long-term housing, improving or expanding commercial space, and supporting new businesses. A local entity will administer the program providing five property owners with matching funds of up to 50 percent. ($1,039,585)
Revitalizing the Vacant Filling Station and Repair Shop at 15 North Franklin Street for commercial and residential uses. Improvements will include facade and roof renovations, interior improvements, and landscaping of this strategic northern gateway site. ($287,500)
Updating a Former School Auditorium as the Watkins Glen Performing Arts Center, a place for musical performances, live theater, and multi-media events. Improvements will include a new air condition system, construction of a dressing room, ticket and concession areas, new energy-efficient lighting and sound systems, a new screen, projector, and audio-visual equipment and historically appropriate signage. ($250,000)
Developing a new Mixed-Income Housing and Childcare Center on a vacant site owned by the Watkins Glen Housing Authority. Forty-two apartment units and a 5,000-square foot daycare center will be designed to fit into the existing character of the neighborhood. ($500,000)
Creating a Downtown Revitalization Fund to support small businesses and building owners to improve the built environment in the DRI area with competitive matching grants. Eligible activities include façade improvements; conversion of vacant upper-floor space to residential units; business expansion; and other site improvements. ($350,000)
Photos in text: From top: the state's Kisha Santiago-Martinez; SCOPED's Judy Cherry.
While Monday's ceremony was going on, tourists passed by, including the family here that stopped to study a display detailing Watkins Glen's Great Flood of 1935.
Partially installed steps will lead to the north rim Indian Trail. State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said that will be ready next year.
A circular planting area is surrounded by a walkway near the Visitor Center, which is on the left. Beyond that is the Gift Shop.
The State Park amphitheater, located to the right of the walkway leading to the gorge. Large cut stones provide seating.
Schuyler opposes Depot incinerator plan
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN June 12, 2018 -- Schuyler County is the latest local government to oppose the proposed “Circular enerG” garbage incinerator project at the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, Seneca County, New York.
Citing environmental concerns, negative effects on agriculture and tourism, and local opposition from the Town of Romulus and County of Seneca, the Schuyler County Legislature voted Monday, June 11 against the project, which would be the state’s largest trash incinerator. The vote was unanimous.
“The wine, craft beverage, agriculture, and agri-tourism industry is driving job creation and economic growth in the Finger Lakes,” the legislature held, further noting that, “trash incineration is not compatible with current or future economic development goals of the region, nor with New York State’s renewable energy standard.” Therefore, the resolution says, state and federal officials should reject the project.
In a separate vote, the legislature unanimously resolved to support legislation introduced by Senator Tom O’Mara, Senator Pam Helming, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, and Assemblymen Phil Palmesano and Michael Cusick, that would help block the facility. That legislation would prevent power projects that burn garbage from receiving expedited permitting through the “Article X” process. Instead, those projects would be required to conform with local laws, applicable environmental rules, and the state solid waste management permitting process.
Romulus Town Supervisor, David Kaiser, an opponent of the project, praised Schuyler County officials.
“I want to personally thank the Chair of the Schuyler County Legislature, Dennis Fagan, and his fellow county officials who worked to pass these resolutions,” Kaiser said. “If this incinerator project is approved, it will have a devastating impact on Romulus and the Finger Lakes region. Allowing a giant trash incinerator disguised as a power plant to move forward over local opposition is unfair to our residents and existing businesses.”
The Circular enerG facility would require the daily delivery of more than 1,000 tons of trash to the site, primarily from New York City, and withdraw 445,000 gallons of water daily from Seneca Lake. News reports indicate that a 260-foot smoke stack would emit chemicals that may be harmful to human health, and that the facility would be located near the Romulus Central School and the Hillside Children’s Center.
After the project met strong opposition from the community, the company asked for “Article X” approval from the state's Public Service Commission rather than the Town of Romulus in an attempt to bypass local review. Circular enerG also sued the town in a bid to overturn recent local zoning decisions blocking its construction.
Schuyler County joins county legislatures in Seneca, Tompkins, Yates and Ontario as well as the town boards of Romulus, Geneva, Lodi, Ovid, Seneca Falls, Varick and others -- and the Village of Watkins Glen -- in opposing the project.
The text of each Schuyler County resolution is available here: https://tinyurl.com/schuylerseneca
Photo in text: Legislator David Reed, center, makes a point while Legislators Carl Blowers, left, and Michael Lausell listen at the June 11 Schuyler County Legislature meeting.
Legislators Barnes, Blowers seek re-election
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, June 11, 2018 -- Incumbents Phil Barnes (R, Dist. 6) and Carl Blowers (R, Dist. 5) on Monday jointly announced their intent to seek re-election to the Schuyler County Legislature.
Barnes, who is completing his second 4-year term on the Legislature, said similarities of the two men led to their decision to run as a team in this year’s election. "Carl and I share a fiscally conservative philosophy and a true desire to better our community," said Barnes. "We are both proud of the accomplishments of the Legislature and excited about the future opportunities that present themselves."
“The past four years," said Blowers, " have been extremely rewarding as a Legislator, given the great success the County is enjoying. There is still much to be done to ensure the sustainability of current initiatives, and I would very much like to remain a part of this team. Continuing this service would be both an honor and a challenge to further the good work that is currently being done here.”
“While we have enjoyed great success as a County in the past four years," said Blowers, "much remains to be done. We are asking our respective constituents to allow us the opportunity to continue the great work that is being done in Schuyler County.”
Photos in text: Phil Barnes (top) and Carl Blowers.
Montour earns Clean Energy Community designation for drive to cut energy use
Special to The Odessa FileMONTOUR FALLS, May 21 2018 -- The Village of Montour Falls has been designated a Clean Energy Community by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), recognizing its leadership in reducing energy use, cutting costs and driving clean energy locally.
Announced by Governor Cuomo in August 2016, the $16 million Clean Energy Communities initiative supports local government leaders across the state by providing grants to eligible municipalities to implement energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable development projects in their communities. New York has a goal of having half of the state's electricity coming from renewable energy resources by 2030.
Montour Falls received the designation for completing four of 10 high-impact clean energy actions identified by NYSERDA as part of the Clean Energy Communities initiative. In addition, the designation gives the Village an opportunity to apply for $50,000 toward additional clean energy projects, with no local cost share.
Village Trustee Jim Ryan praised the initiative, saying, "These grants allow local governments to set the example for the rest of the community. We want to show our residents that we can use their tax dollars even more efficiently by conserving energy. We also want to show them that they don't need to choose between putting food on the table or buying LED light bulbs -- NYSERDA also funds programs that can assist many of our businesses and residents with conserving energy and saving money." Mr. Ryan was referring to the Smart Energy Choices Program.
"I commend the Village of Montour Falls for providing effective leadership in helping their community reduce energy use and costs," said Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA. "Communities in every corner of the state are realizing the environmental and economic benefits of clean and renewable energy and we appreciate their leadership and partnership in advancing Governor Cuomo's nation-leading energy strategy."
Added Mr. Ryan: "We are also exceedingly grateful for the assistance from the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Schuyler County, without which we could not have attained designation. The accessibility and expertise of Clean Energy Communities Coordinator Katherine Herleman ensured that we had someone knowledgeable helping us every step of the way. CCE Schuyler ensured we felt prepared to make both financially- and technically-informed decisions about the future of our community."
Village Mayor John P. King added that he is very supportive of clean energy not only in his community but also across but the whole planet: "We want to show everyone that we can move into the modern world while preserving the past and acknowledging our history."
Photo in text: From left: Montour Falls Village Trustee Jim Ryan, DPW Foreman Michael Hughey and Mayor John King unbox the EV charging station installed in a municipal parking lot behind the village's Farmers' Market park. (Photo provided)
Officials shovel ceremonial dirt at the Kayak/Canoe Launch groundbreaking. From left: Watkins Glen Superintendent of Utilities Lee Kent; Kristin VanHorn, Director of the Schuyler County Planning Department; Watkins Glen Mayor Sam Schimizzi; Watkins Glen Village Trustee Gary Schmidt; Watkins Glen Village Trustee Laurie Denardo; State Senator Tom O’Mara; Assemblyman Phil Palmesano; Schuyler County Administrator Timothy O’Hearn; Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development and CEO of the Schuyler County IDA; and Dennis Fagan, Chairman of the Schuyler County Legislature. (Photo provided)
Kayak/Canoe Launch ceremony held
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, May 18 -- State, village and county leaders were on hand Friday morning for an official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Kayak/Canoe Launch at the eastern end of Clute Park.
"Today is an exciting day for all of us here in Schuyler County as we have waited patiently to break ground on this exciting opportunity at Clute Park," said Village Trustee Laurie DeNardo, one of several speakers.
In attendance: Mayor Sam Schimizzi, Village Trustees DeNardo, Tony Fraboni, Kevin Thornton and Gary Schmidt; county Legislators Dennis Fagan, Carl Blowers, Mark Rondinaro and Jim Howell; and Friends of the Seneca Lake Byway President Janet McCue.
The Kayak Launch and other improvements will be built by Silverline Construction, with design and engineering by Hunt Engineers. The project is funded through a $500,000 NYS Department of Environmental Conservation grant, with additional funding from the county Legslature.
Completion is expected later this summer.
Dignitaries on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony toss shovelfuls of dirt.
Groundbreaking heralds coming of new Burdett Fire Station, with village offices
BURDETT, May 11, 2018 -- Ground was broken Friday morning in a ceremony marking the start of construction of a new Burdett Fire Station and Village Office complex along Route 79 on the eastern edge of the village.
The 11,000-square-foot structure will house five truck bays, a 2,500-square-foot Community Room, and various village offices. The cost is $3.3 million, $2.9 million of it through loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development arm, and $211,000 through a USDA grant. The village and surrounding municipalities served by the fire department are providing $120,000.
The station, replacing a small structure in the heart of the village that has long been thought inadequate, will sit on the front end of a 12-acre parcel purchased by the department. The back of the property has fields, separated from the station site by a tree line.
"We looked at other sites," said Mayor Dale Walter. "It took us 120 years" from the foundation of the department "to get here, so we wanted to make sure we'd do it right."
Present for the groundbreaking were various officials -- such as Schuyler County Legislators Jim Howell, Phil Barnes, Van Harp and Michael Lausell, and Hunt Engineer representatives Chris Bond and Chuck Franzese. Also on hand were State Senator Tom O'Mara and Sharon Murphy, representing the office of Congressman Tom Reed.
Bond said that Hunt, which designed the structure, was involved in a study 12 to 14 years ago, and that the project "went quiet for a while" before re-energizing three years ago, when Hunt signed a design contract. He said the department hopes for a November completion date, but that the construction process is beginning a little later than hoped, "so we'll see."
Rural Development spokesmen on hand said their office became involved about 18 months ago, and provided two loans -- for $2,669,000 over 30 years at 3.25% interest, with a supplemental loan for $300,000 at 3.5%. Plus there was the $211,000 grant. The USDA, said Rural Development Area Specialist Thomas D. Becker, is active throughout the state in providing financing "for housing, business and infrastructure. We have a $16 billion portfolio" in the state.
These particular loans come under Rural Development's Community Facilities Program.
The new building will be back about 120 feet from the road, down a slight slope, and will provide parking for about 100 cars. It calls for a bay area of 5,253 square feet, with a Fire Chief/Assistant Chief office, a pump room and a washer-dryer area at the rear; the Community Room; a kitchen; a shower room; a mechanical room; a conference room; a clerk's office, a records room and a storage room.
Mayor Walter said the structure was "a long time coming. This is a long-awaited groundbreaking." It culminated with the dignitaries on hand tossing shovelfuls of dirt from a pile near the front of the property -- surrounded by an area that has already been cleared in preparation for the start of construction.
Photos in text:
Top: State Scnator Tom O'Mara was present for the groundbreaking.
Hunt Engineers' Chris Bond next to a drawing of the fire station and its layout.
An overview of the planned fire station and parking area was on display at the ceremony.
Left: This sign facing Route 79 announces the site of the new Fire Hall. Right: Thomas D. Becker was on hand from USDA Rural Development, which provided loans for the project.
Schuyler has 2 of New York State's recommended Opportunity Zones
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, April 24, 2018 -- Empire State Development (ESD) has announced that New York State has recommended 514 census tracts to the U.S. Department of the Treasury for designation as Opportunity Zones, a new federal community development program administered by Treasury. Locally, Schuyler County has 2 recommended tracts.
O'Mara: Prescription Drug Take Back Day is important in fight against abuse, addiction
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, April 29, 2018 -- Saturday, April 28, 2018 was National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Law enforcement agencies across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions operated drop-off centers to allow for the safe and responsible disposal of unused prescription drugs.
State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), a member of the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, said this before the collection day: “It’s incredibly important that our local law enforcement leaders continue to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Their ongoing leadership in this overall effort to combat prescription drug abuse makes all the difference.” He noted that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in partnership with local police agencies coordinates the annual event across the nation.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)
The golden shovels held near the 1948 race marker symbolized the upcoming Route 14 road project through the village. Hands to shovels, from left, were DOT Regional Director Brian C. Kelly, Village Trustee Laurie DeNardo, County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, NYS DOT Chief of Staff Todd Westhuis, Chamber of Commerce President Rebekah Carroll, and Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan.
Ceremony marks upcoming road project
WATKINS GLEN, April 6 -- Village, county and state officials joined with state and regional Department of Transportation representatives Friday morning in front of the Schuyler County Courthouse to celebrate the upcoming reconstruction of Route 14 through Watkins Glen's downtown.
The officials, gathering in a spring snowstorm, spoke to a small group of DOT workers, media representatives and area residents, extolling the ongoing projects that look to bring Watkins Glen increased tourism in the coming years: the State Park renovation, the new water treatment plant along the canal, the $10 million state-driven Downtown Revitalization Initiative, and the Route 14 project.
That project will not only upgrade the roadway from the southern edge of the village to a point beyond its northern border, but will bring new sidewalks and lighting and signage -- a large project that will take place this year and next.
The keynote address at Friday's snowy gathering was presented by Todd Westhuis, the New York State DOT Chief of Staff, who extolled the road project as part of an overall move to revitalize the village. He was followed by Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, who said "the damp weather can't diminish the excitement" of the road project and all the other ongoing projects in the village.
Other speakers included Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan, Watkins Glen Mayor Sam Schimizzi, and Rebekah Carroll, president/CEO of the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce. Emcee was Brian C. Kelly, the DOT's Regional Director.
Also on hand were village trustees Tony Fraboni, Kevin Thornton, Gary Schmidt and Laurie DeNardo, and County Administrator Tim O'Hearn.
The ceremony concluded with Kelly, DeNardo, O'Hearn, Palmesano, Westhuis, Carroll and Fagan putting hands to golden shovels for a symbolic "ground breaking" -- although no ground was actually upturned. It took place next to the start-finish line of the first road race in Watkins Glen in 1948.
Meanwhile, traffic along Route 14 -- the soon to be improved Route 14 -- flowed by, windshield wipers pushing aside the snow.
Photos in text:
Top: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, his hair turning white with the snow, was among the ceremony speakers.
Middle: New York State Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Todd Westhuis was the keynote speaker.
Bottom: Among the village representatives on hand was trustee Kevin Thornton.
State unveils 2018-19 local-road assistance
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, April 5, 2018 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I- Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) say the 2018-2019 state budget maintains strong state support for local roads and bridges, and restores an “Extreme Winter Recovery” allocation for area counties, cities, towns and villages.
Earlier this session O’Mara and Palmesano helped organize a bipartisan group of 142 senators and members of the Assembly, nearly 70% of the entire Legislature, who joined county and town highway superintendents and work crews, and other local leaders from throughout the state to call for 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.
The 2018-19 budget provides $438 million in base funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS). The Legislature also restored a $65 million “Extreme Winter Recovery” allocation, and the budget includes $100 million of PAVE-NY funding for local roads distributed through the CHIPS funding formula.
Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.
16-year-old charged with Hector arsons
Special to The Odessa File
HECTOR, March 28, 2018 -- The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a 16-year-old male in connection with a pair of arsons.
The 16-year-old, whose name is being withheld due to his age, was arrested after an investigation into two structure fires. The fires, which occurred on March 24 and March 26, were both located on Williamee Road in the Town of Hector in the Mecklenburg Fire District.
The Mecklenburg Fire Department and the Schuyler County Emergency Management Office assisted in the investigation.
From left: Legislators Jim Howell, Carl Blowers, David Reed and Michael Lausell at Monday night's meeting.
Local Law to help recover opioid costs draws emotional response from mother
WATKINS GLEN, March 13, 2018 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night approved a Local Law declaring the opioid epidemic "and its effects on the county a public nuisance and establishing a cost recovery procedure" aimed at making "Big Pharma" -- the pharmaceutical industry -- liable for the costs the county has accrued as a result of the crisis.
"You obviously have never loved or lost someone who suffered from addiction. Although you talk about it, you do nothing but that. The government says they have this much money for this, so much money for mental health. I would like to know what the plan is. People are dying everywhere.
"I saw an article that said we are losing our children at a higher rate than from gun violence. I believe doctors are being strictly monitored as far as pain medication. Do you think that's enough? You need to work on extensive in-house rehab programs, tougher sentencing for drug dealers, and educate all of you people about this disease. Yes, disease! It's not a choice. Nobody wakes up one day and says 'I want to be an addict.'
"The nation needs to wake up! In 2016 , the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) was five times higher than in 1999. From 2000 to 2016, more than 600,000 people died from drug overdoses. On average 120 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. If you want to recoup your money, get it from pharmaceuticals. (But) start doing something for the addict instead of shunning them.
"As far as your platform this evening, what unreasonable interference has this had on your life? What substantial injury have you suffered? Each and every one of you. Because to be called a public nuisance, it would have to pertain to all. Why not say that people who have one kid, five kids who are on Social Service ... free food, free medical, money handed to them, rent ... are they a public nuisance?
"To put 'opioid epidemic' and 'public nuisance' in the same sentence, how dare you? What you are saying is that my son, Bryan Joseph Grieco, who died June 25th, 2017 of a heroin overdose, is the equivalent of dog feces on the curb that was never picked up. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!"
County Attorney Getman gently told the woman that she had misunderstood -- that they were not referring to drug addicts as a public nuisance; that the term was established in law and necessary to crafting a local law to try and recover costs. But he said that since it clearly offended her, "I apologize."
Grieco said later that she had attended the meeting after reading about the local law and the "public nuisance" tag attached to the epidemic. She said that while she lives in Elmira, as did her son, he has a 7-year-old daughter in Watkins Glen. Her son "fought really hard" against the addiction, she said, because "he wanted to be clean" for his daughter. But fentanyl-laced heroin proved his undoing.
She said, after listening to Getman's explanation about the offending term, that she understood the need to recover funds from Big Pharma -- but said more effort should be made for the treatment of those addicted.
Photos in text:
Top: Elizabeth Grieco speaks to Legislator Van Harp after the meeting. Grieco lost her son Bryan to a drug overdose in June..
Bottom: County Attorney Steven Getman makes a point.
Final Downtown Revitalization Initiative public workshop held; submission soon
WATKINS GLEN, March 8, 2018 -- The third and final public workshop regarding Watkins Glen's $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative drew about 90 people to the village’s Community Center Wednesday night to hear project consultants outline those projects they plan to forward to the state for consideration.
Photo in text: Consultant Susan Favate of BFJ Planning discusses the Downtown Revitalization Initiative at Wednesday night's workshop.
Students Conlin Wysocki, center left, and Pat Bannon discuss issues with (from left) Ken Wilson, Phil Cherry and Tom Gifford near the end of the meeting.
SCOPED holds its annual meeting, and gains fresh insights from WGHS students
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 27, 2018 -- A look back at 20 years of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, a look at the strides made in economic development in the area in the past year, and the expectations for the next few years were focal points of Tuesday's annual SCOPED meeting at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel.
And in a new feature, a dozen students from Watkins Glen High School were added to the mix for an inter-generational mingling of ideas -- and what a couple of them had to say perhaps surprised the assembled officials.
In addition to SCOPED board members, officials on hand included several Schuyler County legislators and John King, the mayor of Montour Falls, who outlined the progress being made in the planned construction of a regional wastewater treatment plant along the canal between Seneca Lake and Montour.
King said a road is currently being constructed to the site from the Yatcht Club south of the Watkins Glen Community Center property. The $30 million plant project -- more than a third of which is covered by grants -- has a target completion date of October 2019. It is considered key to ongoing economic development -- focused on tourism -- in Watkins Glen and the surrounding area..
Also on the program Tuesday was Fred Bonn, Finger Lakes Regional Director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, who outlined the ongoing $7.5 million project at the Watkins Glen State Park. It is designed to improve visitor experience, reduce traffic congestion and connect better with Franklin Street and the downtown. He said the project is running on time and on budget, adding that the lot across the street where Mr. Chicken once stood will be used as a staging area for tour buses, but might take "another year to fit out."
County Planning Director Kristin VanHorn discussed the upcoming Department of Transportation $5.5 million Franklin Street paving project, which will run from Fairgrounds Lane north to 14A and include new sidewalks and various extras such as water fountains. New lighting is also being planned, partially financed as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative in Watkins Glen. She also discussed the DRI, noting an upcoming public workshop in the Watkins Glen Community Center on March 7 from 6-8 p.m. as projects included in the DRI near finalization.
Ben Stamp, vice chair of the FLX Community Development Corporation, discussed that organization's role in securing the DRI funding as well as other CDC projects, but the presentation that prompted the biggest buzz came from those WGHS students.
The group consisted of eight seniors and four juniors selected from a group of 40 students who shared their ideas on the present and future of economic development in Schuyler County. The final 12 were chosen largely based on their ability to clear their schedules for the meeting. They were accompanied by Superintendent Greg Kelahan and High School Principal Kai D'Alleva.
Students present were seniors Alex Schimizzi, Amber Benjamin, Daniel Paradiso, Hanley Elliott, Sean Holland, Conlin Wysocki, Pat Bannon and Tanner Ryan, and juniors Isabella Fazzary, Kai Sutterby, Kishan Patel and Joe Chedzoy.
They brought with them a chart with their own and their fellow students' thoughts, with Fazzary (who wants to be an attorney) and Sutterby (who wants to be a surgeon, possibly orthopedic) acting as spokespersons.
Speaking calmly and yet forcefully, the two young women offered up such thoughts as:
--Summer jobs are hard to come by.
And the kicker:
--There are no large companies, and tourism alone cannot sustain growth.
Put another way by Sutterby:"The focus here is too much on tourism. We need to focus on bigger industries."
And put yet another way by Fazzary: "The focus on tourism doesn't keep people like us here," nor does it "encourage us to come back."
Coming after presentations that did, indeed, focus on tourism, the presentation was both unexpected, but not unwelcome.
"No, I didn't know what they were going to say," said one SCOPED representative. But that, she added, was the point of the "generational interaction" -- to hear opinions from an oncoming generation.
The session closed with gatherings at various tables featuring a mix of government and business officials with students, discussing issues of the day.
Photos in text:
Top: Watkins Glen High School juniors Kai Sutterby, left, and Isabella Fazzary spoke on behalf of the student group.
Middle: Montour Falls Mayor John King discusses the wastewater treatment plant and anticipated sewer rates.
Bottom: SCOPED Executive Director Judy Cherry.
Left: Fred Bonn, Finger Lakes Regional Director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. Right: Don Chutas of Cargill Salt, president of the SCOPED Board of Directors.
O'Mara, Palmesano urge Cuomo to include Keuka and Seneca Lakes on priority list
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Feb. 16, 2018 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) have urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to amend his 2018-2019 state budget proposal to add Canandaigua, Keuka, and Seneca lakes to a list of 12 priority lakes in New York State considered vulnerable to harmful algal blooms (HABs) threatening drinking water sources.
The governor’s proposed budget calls for $65 million in funding to establish a state program to provide assistance and establish action plans to combat HABs threatening the 12 priority lakes statewide. Cuomo has identified the following 12 priority lakes: Conesus Lake; Honeoye Lake; Chautauqua Lake; Owasco Lake; Skaneateles Lake; Cayuga Lake; Lake Champlain at Port Henry; New York portion of Lake Champlain at Isle La Motte watershed; Lake George; Lake Carmel; Palmer Lake; and Putnam Lake.
In January, O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, Palmesano, Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I,Ref-Canandaigua), and Senator Pam Helming (R,C,IP-Geneva) wrote to Cuomo urging him to include Canandaigua, Keuka and Seneca lakes on the priority list.
Their letter says: “As you stated in your 2018-2019 budget presentation, filtration systems for drinking water can cost billions of dollars. This is why we are supportive of the $65 million budget initiative to combat harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Upstate New York that threaten drinking water sources, upstate tourism in the Finger Lakes Region, and recreational use of lakes.
“However, your budget proposal falls short of fully supporting Upstate lakes and tourism as the twelve priority lakes listed in your proposal that are considered vulnerable to HABs is incomplete. You state that the reason these twelve lakes were chosen is due to their importance as critical sources of drinking water and their vitality to tourism in Upstate NY. Yet Seneca, Canandaigua, and Keuka Lakes are pivotal tourism centers, are largely used for drinking water, and have been left out of the priority lakes list eligible for funding.”
Over the past week, Cuomo has been announcing amendments to his original 2018-19 Proposed State Budget. He had until the end of this week to complete the annual 30-day budget amendment process.
O’Mara, Palmesano, Kolb, and Helming have warned the governor that not identifying Canandaigua, Keuka and Seneca lakes as priorities would unfairly jeopardize the Finger Lakes region: “It is imperative that our localities are equipped with support to combat algal blooms and there is awareness amongst residents and tourists of how to respond to these threats in the water if they should come upon them. The presence of HABs in our lakes will only increase if we are not proactive.
“As such, we respectfully request that you amend your proposal to include Seneca, Canandaigua and Keuka Lakes on the priority list for funding in your $65 million 4-point initiative to aggressively combat harmful algal blooms to target HABs. Anything less would be a disservice to the residents of the region and the valuable contributions the lakes play to the growing tourism and economic vitality of our area.”
Photos: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (top) and State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photos)
$80 million in projects under way in Glen
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 6, 2018 -- “Look at the money coming in. It’s huge. There’s a lot of money coming in,” Judy Cherry told the Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night.
A breakdown of what's happening in and near the village, as she outlined it:
That project, she explained, had overruns of about $6 million beyond its initially projected price tag. Half of the overrun, $3 million, was covered by “re-engineering,” she said, and $2.5 was provided by the state with funds originally earmarked for Camp Monterey, which the state closed. The other $500,000 was found by our State Senator, Tom O’Mara, from whichever financial wells such officials can dip into.
A look at "Preliminary Project Profiles" can be found on the SCOPED website, flxgateway.com
The park, the first study of which came in 1998 and for which land was broken years ago, will welcome a building with portable walls that can be moved to accommodate other businesses that lease space inside in the future. SCOPED will continue as owner (and landlord) of the building until a buyer is found.
Photos in text:
Top: SCOPED Executive Director Judy Cherry, right, with Village Board trustee Laurie DeNardo at Monday's board meeting. The two are co-chairs of the Local Planning Committee of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Second: Cargill plant manager Keith Klug. (File photo)
Third: Rendition of planned Business Park facility. (Provided)
Bottom: Rendition of Watkins Glen State Park renovation. (Provided)
O-Mara seeks Veterans Hall nominations
Special to The Odessa File
ELMIRA, Feb. 5, 2018 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) is seeking nominations for the New York State Senate’s “Veterans Hall of Fame,” an online tribute to the military and civilian lives of distinguished veterans from the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and throughout New York State.
O’Mara represents New York’s 58th Senate District encompassing Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties, and part of Tompkins County (the city and town of Ithaca, and the towns of Enfield, Newfield and Ulysses).
Other area veterans who are Hall of Fame members are Frank C. “Fritz” Pesesky, a veteran of World War II and former director of the Chemung County Veterans Service Office (2005); William K. Kastner, a Vietnam veteran and longtime director of the Steuben County Veterans Service Agency (2006); and Robert Laskaris, a highly decorated combat veteran and well-known figure in Chemung County veterans’ affairs (2008).
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)
At the Organizational Meeting
Members of the Schuyler County Legislature and other officials gathered for a group photo at the Legislature's annual Organizational Meeting held Wednesday morning, Jan. 3 in the County Office Building. From left standing: Legislators Jim Howell, Carl Blowers, David Reed, Michael Lausell, Mark Rondinaro, Van Harp, Phil Barnes and Dennis Fagan, who was re-elected chariman in a 7-1 vote. Seated from left: County Attorney Steven Getman, Deputy Clerk Jamee Mack, Clerk to the Legislature Stacy Husted, and County Administrator Tim O'Hearn. (Photo provided)
Schuyler to get $2.8 million in state grants
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 13, 2017 -- Schuyler County was awarded $2.8 million Wednesday as part of the state’s 7th annual Regional Economic Development awards. The Southern Tier will receive $67.3 million of the statewide disbursement of $755 million.
The $67.3 million covers 83 projects, including a four-season pavilion and a commercial-grade kitchen at Clute Park, where $800,000 was pledged last year by the state for bath houses. The new Clute grant, together with a feasibility study involving the "reuse" of the "soon-to-be-decommissioned" lakefront wastewater treatment plant, totals $1,319,362.
Wednesday's announcement also included funds for:
--Water-system improvement and upgraded bathrooms at the Town of Hector’s Smith Park ($204,206);
“We’re pretty happy the way things went today,” said Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development Executive Director Judy Cherry, emphasizing that the Clute award is on top of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding awarded Watkins Glen last summer and currently being developed into a plan of action. DRI projects being considered include further development of Clute.
Committee members gather in the Watkins Glen Village Hall for the meeting, which started a few minutes later.
Committee extends DRI proposal deadline, discusses those submitted; workshop ahead
WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 29, 2017 -- The deadline for submitting applications seeking funding under the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative awarded to Watkins Glen by New York State has been extended to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8.
Among the 30 proposals, some were detailed, while others lacked specificity. They included proposals to renovate the Franklin Street Gallery and Gift Shop, including residential conversion and facade improvement; renovation of the former VFW building into a full-service spa and fitness center; new housing and construction of a childcare center on 2nd and 3rd Streets; renovation of the Inner Peace Floats business on 4th Street and of the Madison Guest House on Madison Avenue; construction of an outdoor adventure and discovery center at Clute Park or along the canal; and renovation of the CarQuest building at North Franklin and 2nd Streets "with mixed uses."
"Preliminary Project Ideas" floated at the first public workshop session several weeks ago included: upper floor residential conversions; zoning revisions to address seasonal housing; Clute Park year-round recreation improvements; Watkins Glen Performing Arts Center upgrades; development of a Captain Bill's Seneca Lake Cruise Terminal; a "waterfront multipurpose pathway"; sidewalk upgrades and repairs; new street lighting on Franklin Street; "gateway development" that would include redevelopment of two sites at the northern end of the business district; and a Lafayette Park fountain and clock.
Photos in text:
Top: From left, committee Co-Chairs Judy Cherry and Laurie DeNardo, and Schuyler County Planner Kristin VanHorn.
Among the committee members at Wednesday night's meeting were, from left: Ken Wilson, Peter Honsberger, Jeannette Frank and Brittany Gibson.
Fire Chief: There was no gas detected during or after Veterans Day ceremony
WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 20, 2017 -- The Watkins Glen Fire Chief told the Village Board Monday night that he doesn't know what caused the collapse of three people at the Veterans Day ceremony in the fire department bays, but that it wasn't caused by carbon monoxide or other measurable gases.
Charlie Smith said that there were handheld detectors in use by several department personnel during the ceremony without any gas readings displayed -- as well as during a test afterward, with doors closed and the heating system turned up. That too produced similar non-readings.
Three people -- two boys and an elderly man -- collapsed in short order on Nov. 11 during the annual Veterans Day service normally run in front of the Schuyler County Courthouse. It was shifted to the closed fire department bays because of cold weather.
The two boys fell to the concrete floor during the keynote speech by Assemblyman Phil Palmesano. The older man fell ill shortly thereafter. All three were transported to the hospital, one of the boys with a fractured jaw. That boy's father later said the hospital found a high level off carbon monoxide in the boy's system.
At Monday's meeting, after Trustee Gary Schmidt noted that it was "odd that the two" boys "went down" and that he was "worried" about it, Chief Smith said "we tested the building" both during and after the ceremony, closing the building and "running all heaters on high" without any reading.
He later explained that any device that burns fuel -- such as the heaters -- has the potential to produce harmful gases.
Beyond that, he told the board, a couple of the bay doors were kept open for 45 minutes before the ceremony, after trucks had been moved outside, and that none of the trucks were running while sitting outside.
Responded Mayor Sam Schimizzi: "It's just something that happened. Nobody's at fault. It's just one of those things, I guess."
In other business, the board:
--Heard from Superintendent of Utilities Lee Kent, who said the power outage that plagued Watkins Glen for more than two hours on Nov. 11 was caused by a squirrel found dead on the ground near equipment with a burn mark alongside Cass Road. The incident, he said, will result in "a better plan in place for the next time" such a thing happens, including an operational battery backup. Toward that end, he is planning a meeting with the contributing Power Authority and NYSEG to discuss the matter.
--Heard that the Kayak Park at Tank Beach will go to bid soon. Development of a kayak launch had been planned for last summer, but was delayed for environmental reasons.
--Heard trustee Laurie DeNardo say that applications for 29 proposed projects had been submitted under the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), with a deadline of midnight Monday, and that they would be discussed, and eventually whittled down, through an open session of the Local Planning Committee and through the DRI meeting next month. The number of applications "was more than I expected," said DeNardo, co-chair of the local committee. The DRI is a program under which Watkins Glen is receiving $10 million in state funding and investments.
Photos in text: From top at Monday's meeting: Mayor Sam Schimizzi (left) and trustee Gary Schmidt; Fire Chief Charlie Smith; and Superintendent of Utilities Lee Kent.
Harp lead in Dist. 2 race shrinks to 1 vote
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Nov. 13, 2017 -- As Yogi Berra said: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
The Board of Elections can tell how many potential military votes there are because the process calls for a form to be downloaded and then mailed in. Sixteen were downloaded, but only two had come back as of Monday, and one of them was rejected because it was postmarked three days too late -- on Nov. 9.
But first things first, meaning waiting until Nov. 20.
Photos in text: Van Harp (top) and Joseph Campbell. (File photos)
Glen committee seeks DRI project proposals
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 31, 2017 -- The Watkins Glen Local Planning Committee (LPC) is seeking proposals for private projects to be considered for Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding.
The purpose of the Open Call for Potential DRI Projects, say committee members, is to hear from members of the community who have "potential transformative projects on private sites that provide economic and community benefits."
The village of Watkins Glen this past summer was awarded $10 million in state funding and investments as part of the statewide DRI program. The local project is in the planning stages now.
"This process," the LPC said of the Call for Projects, "will enable the LPC to fully vet private projects that could transform the downtown, in the open. Submissions should include capital/construction projects; demonstration of commitment of private funding sources; demonstration of the project’s transformative nature and potential community benefits. All submissions should include as much information as possible on potential projects in order to demonstrate that the idea is feasible and will have a meaningful impact on downtown Watkins Glen."
All requirements for submissions can be found in the Open Call for Potential DRI projects. A PDF of the Open Call for Potential DRI projects can be downloaded at this link:
Visit www.ny.gov/DRI for more information on opportunities for public input and the DRI planning process. You can follow the Watkins Glen DRI on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @WatkinsGlenDRI.
District 2 candidates for the Schuyler County Legislature. From left: Joseph Campbell, Van Harp and Steven Crout at the League of Women Voters forum.
Forum features county-level candidates
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 26 -- Candidates seeking county-level positions in the Nov. 7 election were featured on stage Wednesday night at the Schuyler County League of Women Voters' traditional Meet the Candidates Night forum in the Watkins Glen Elementary School auditorium.
About 50 people were on hand, including the speakers and various town candidates introduced by moderator Judy Phillips.
The contested Schuyler County Legislature race in District 2, part of the Town of Hector, features three candidates: incumbent legislator Van Harp, Joseph Campbell and town worker Steven Crout.
They drew several questions, most notably on their view of zoning, which "we don't have, to speak of," in the words of Campbell, who said the "hot-button topic" is being studied by a committee, "and I applaud that."
Harp said he is "principally against zoning ... but I don't agree with undisciplined growth. This is an opportunity for Hector to come out a winner on both sides of the issue" through a coordinated effort that takes into account all stakeholders, including developers.
Crout said there is "a need, but not necessarily a want, for zoning" but that "it doesn't need to be done now." He added: "It never hurts to be prepared for the future."
They also discussed Seneca Lake -- all were in favor of measures to secure its long-term health -- and the future of the vacant business park along Route 414 on the road to Corning. Crout said "I'm not sure what's going to happen there," while Harp said he had given a lot of thought to that land but had not come up with "much of an answer." Campbell called it a "boondoggle," but said he'd "like to see something growing there besides weeds."
The District 1 Legislature candidates -- John Van Soest and David Reed -- offered different approaches. Van Soest, supervisor in the Town of Catharine, said he is "no idealogue," and that if elected he will offer "values" he practices in his own family: he will be "hardworking ... humble ... honest, and I'll try to be kind."
Reed said he is an idealogue who follows "conservative principles, Republican values, Republican everything." He said he would enter the Legislature "with an open mind, but I'm not willing to compromise my principles, the way I think, for anyone. If (Legislature Chairman) Dennis Fagan or (Legislator) Phil Barnes think I will be a yes man sitting in the corner, they are wrong ... Everybody knows where I stand, and we can take it from there."
The District 4 (including Montour Falls) Legislature candidates -- incumbent Jim Howell and challenger Richard Ballard -- agreed with one another that the key issues for district residents are "jobs and taxes."
Ballard said he was also devoted to preserving the environment -- that this county had drawn him from New Jersey seven years ago because of its beauty. Howell touted the team effort of the Legislature in keeping taxes down -- citing the 2018 budget's zero increase in the tax levy and reduction in the tax rate.
Also speaking was Bill Yessman, the incumbent sheriff, who is running unopposed. He noted that there is a lull currently in the methamphetamine trade in the county because "most of the key players are in prison or heading to prison," and said that opioid overdoses, while present in Schuyler, "are not on the scale " of other areas.
Theresa Philbin, running for county clerk to succeed the retiring Linda Compton, said her major goal is to scan the office's existing documents -- of which "there are thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands" -- for incorporation into a database: to "update technology in the clerk's office and make it more available" to interested users. She said she is looking into grants to finance such a project.
And Michael Lausell, incumbent legislator from District 3 (North Hector) who is running unopposed, said he is a lifelong Democrat who believes "in the middle class, in furthering small business, and in the environment." He said "it's time to look at zoning along the Rt. 414 corridor."
Photos in text: From top: Sheriff Bill Yessman, County Clerk candidate Theresa Philbin, and County Legislator Michael Lausell.
District 1 Legislature candidates David Reed, left, and John Van Soest.
The District 4 candidates: Incumbent Legislator Jim Howell (left) and Richard Ballard.
Part of the power-point presentation outlined the evening's objectives.
Community meeting in Watkins sets table for Downtown Revitalization projects
Committee meetings, more public input ahead
WATKINS GLEN Oct. 19 -- More than 120 people were on hand Wednesday evening at the Watkins Glen Community Center as consultants hired by New York State outlined the parameters of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) for interested residents and local officials.
The DRI program administered by New York awarded Watkins Glen $10 million in state funds and investments for village projects yet to be identified and approved. The award -- announced in early August -- comes with "some strings," consultant Simon Kates of BFJ Planning told Wednesday's audience.
The meeting drew input from residents at five stations set up around the Community Center -- ideas that join many previously offered, such as lighting and sidewalk work, second-story renovations, Franklin Street facade improvements, Clute Park projects, and so on. The ideas are many. One station provided a review of the DRI vision and goals, while the others dealt with Downtown Living, Culture/Entertainment, Economic Development, and Quality of Life.
The vision chart, for instance, said: "The vision of the Watkins Glen Downtown Revitalization Initiative is to leverage the accessible Seneca Lake waterfront famous wine trails, vibrant arts scene, internationally recognized racetrack with a storied auto-racing heritage, and world class State Park for progressive community development that retains and enhances our unique character to sustain a year-round innovative and prosperous economy that is supported by our community."
Participants added post-it notes to each chart, as well as writing on the charts with Sharpies. For instance, where a picture of a dilapidated building is shown under the heading "New Development or Renovation," a note said "Pass an ordinance and force these people to repair their property." That particular property, the chart suggested, could be a mixed-use space but "is privately owned and not currently for sale." Added another Post-It: "Great location for a mini version of the Windmill."
Other notes included:
--"Fix the water run-off in downtown after heavy rains so businesses do not get flooded."
The focus in the planning stage, said Kates, will be "on capital projects that can be implemented in the short term."
He and fellow BFJ consultant Sarah Yackel led a power-point presentation that Kates admitted was "a lot of words," and a lot to digest, but essential in a process that any DRI community must embrace. But the audience was engaged and, according to Local Planning Committee Co-Chair Judy Cherry, provided many new ideas and proposals that will be distilled by the consultants and considered by the local committee at its second meeting, set for Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at the Village Hall. Committee meetings are open to the public.
"It was really heartening to see such an outpouring of interest" Wednesday night, said Cherry, who noted that the Local Planning Committee is composed of a cross-section of village officials, business people and other residents. They include Schuyler County Legislature Chair Dennis Fagan, County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, vintner Ben Stamp, businessman Peter Honsberger, Arc of Schuyler Executive Director Jeannette Frank, County Planning Director Kristin VanHorn, Watkins Glen International's Jon Beckman, arts entrepreneur Eric Hollenbeck, community leader Ken Wilson, village board member Gary Schmidt, physical therapist Amanda Smith-Socaris, and the Chamber of Commerce's Brittany Gibson. The other co-chair is village trustee Laurie DeNardo.
Cherry told the gathering at the meeting's outset that the DRI provides an opportunity for the community at large to decide on a course that will help Watkins Glen build on its foundation "and grow and evolve."
The goal, Kates said, is not just to spend $10 million, but to help boost the economic development of the village through leveraging that investment with others that might bring the impact to "$20 million, or $30 million, or $40 million. Some have mentioned $100 million, and that would be great." Projects selected, he said, will be chosen in part on how they fit into a larger mosaic and not just as "single projects on single sites."
The process, he explained, is a complex one best tackled with maximum community input. Accordingly, another public session like Wednesday's will be held at a yet-to-be-designated date in early December. The deadline for ideas is late November, so -- as one power-point chart said -- "the Local Planning Committee (LPC) can review submissions before presenting at the next public workshop." And a survey of the village will be conducted in January, all with an eye -- together with LPC meetings -- to formulating a document in 2018 that will serve, presumably, as a blueprint for the overall DRI project and, by extension, for further projects down the road that are proposed during this initial process.
In other words, planning will beget planning and, in the long term, development that is foreseen going far beyond the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Photos in text:
Top: Local Planning Committee co-chairs Judy Cherry, left, and Laurie DeNardo.
Constitutional Convention talk slated
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 2, 2017 -- Every 20 years, New York voters have the opportunity to voice their opinions on the need for a convention to amend or otherwise improve the state’s constitution. The question will be asked again on the November ballot.
The League of Women Voters of Schuyler County is offering an explanation of the proposed constitutional convention with a talk on Oct. 11 by Dr. Jim Twombly, associate professor of political science at Elmira College.
“The Politics and Process of New York’s Constitutional Convention Referendum” will be presented at 6:30 p.m. at the Watkins Glen Elementary School auditorium.
The talk is free and open to all.
Twombly earned degrees from Slippery Rock University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His doctorate included specialties in American politics and public policy.
He serves as chairman of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division at Elmira College and is a political analyst for Elmira’s WENY-TV and has appeared on many of the station’s news programs. Twombly is a member of the New York State Political Science Association, for which he served as chairman of the American Politics Section from 2013 through 2016.
Twombly’s courses include Congress, The Presidency, Political Parties, State and Local Government and Public Policy. His research interests include behavior of government officials, policy implementation, the presidency, political parties and political volunteers. He has co-authored articles appearing in the American Political Science Review, American Politics Research, Politics and Policy and Policy Studies Journal, and a book chapter in “Presidential Leadership and Civil Rights Policy.”
He is the author of a text, “American Presidency: The Progression of the American Presidency: Individuals, Empire, and Change.” Twombly has started work on a second book on unicameral state legislatures, and plans another on political scandal as pop culture.
Public Health unit warns about harmful algae blooms on Seneca and Waneta Lakes
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Sept. 26, 2017 -- Schuyler County Public Health is warning the community that harmful blue-green algae blooms have been identified on the east side of Seneca Lake in Schuyler County.
Blooms have also been discovered in Waneta Lake. “If you see blue-green algae blooms on the lakes -- avoid them,” said Schuyler County Public Health Director Marcia Kasprzyk. “These types of algae can cause health issues in people and animals.”
Blue-green algae is naturally present in lakes and streams. However, sometimes blue-green algae can form into blooms that discolor the water or make floating mats or scums on the surface of the water. This can occur when water is warm, shallow, undisturbed, or nutrient-rich.
Contact with blue-green algae can cause health effects in people and other animals if water with blooms is touched, swallowed, or if airborne droplets of water are breathed in, health officials caution. Large amounts of the toxins from some algae blooms can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, allergic reactions or breathing problems, and irritation of the eyes, skin, and throat.
If you see blue-green algae blooms: do not swim, fish, boat, or wade in those areas. Blooms can be reported to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, your local health department, or to email@example.com. To learn more about blue-green algae blooms, visit the New York State Department of Health’s page about them: https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/bluegreenalgae/.
For further information, visit Schuyler County Public Health online at www.schuylercounty.us/publichealth or follow Schuyler County Public Health on Facebook and Twitter.
The Seneca Clipper Inn, where the Best Western hotel was proposed, but no longer is.
Watkins Best Western plan 'dead in water'
'We screwed up,' says Larnard; any future plan on site will be 'completely different'
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 21, 2017 -- The plan for a three-story Best Western hotel proposed on land currently occupied by the Seneca Clipper Inn is “dead in the water, for lack of a better term,” says Watkins Glen Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard.
Patel, operating under Kishan Hospitality LLC, runs the 12-room, one-story Seneca Clipper Inn, the Budget Inn across Franklin Street, and the Relax Inn in Montour Falls. The Best Western plan called for the Clipper Inn to be leveled.
Photo in text: Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard.
Bond hike, ZBA resignations mark session
The bonding resolution of $25 million was increased by the board to $28 million as a means of permitting the project to proceed this fall instead of waiting for incoming funds expected with the new year.
Board member Tony Fraboni explained that the Joint Project Committee, with members from both the Watkins Glen and Montour Falls Village Boards -- the two villages are pursuing the new plant jointly -- were confronted recently with overbids of $6 million on the project.
"To keep it moving along," said Fraboni, the JPC "had to identifyy" funding sources to make up the difference between the initial $25 million estimate and the higher bids -- which are being rebid in November. The group "came up with $4.5 million in cost reduction" and $3.5 million in grants and in money obtained by State Senator Tom O'Mara.
So, said Fraboni, "we're gonna have it (the necessary funding) without passing on added cost to the users." But to avoid delay in the project, a $3 million increase to the bond resolution was needed in order to proceed in the fall with road construction and "the pile project -- the loading of the lot" -- that mark the first construction steps. The grant funds and O'Mara money would be available after Jan. 1.
The additional bond resolution money could be added to the total cost if needed, Fraboni noted, but that situation is not currently anticipated.
The four board members present -- Laurie DeNardo was absent -- voted in favor of the motion.
Zoning Board of Appeals
The board accepted letters of resignation, "effectively immediately," from Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Mark Stephany and ZBA member Thomas Gossett, and noted that there is no new meeting currently scheduled. There was no indication as to what prompted the resignations.
In place of Stephany and Gossett, the Village Board appointed Stacy Gray, who was present for the vote, and Roger Hugo, who was not. Gray, when interviewed afterward, said she did not know why the resignations occurred.
The new chairman of the ZBA, village officials noted, would be appointed through a vote of the five ZBA members whenever they next meet.
Village trustee Kevin Thornton announced that NYCOM -- the New York Conference of Mayors -- will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Community Center to discuss with village, town and county officials, and the public at large, how open meetings are conducted and what people attending them should know. It will also outline "what's expected from elected and appointed officials," he said. "It's worth checking out." And being in the Community Center, "there's plenty of room to fit lots of people."
The board approved a new contract with the Village Police Department covering the dates of June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2020. No details were divulged.
Photos in text:
Top: Watkins Glen Village Board member Tony Fraboni at Monday's meeting.
County rebounds from system hack attack
Area counties in line for security grants
From left with the $10 million check are: Watkins Glen Village Trustees Tony Fraboni and Laurie DeNardo, State Senator Tom O'Mara, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Watkins Mayor Sam Schimizzi, Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky, and Village Trustee Gary Schmidt. (Photo by Holly Baker)
Watkins Glen wins $10 million state grant, part of Downtown Revitalization Initiative
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 3, 2017 -- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced Thursday morning that Watkins Glen is being awarded $10 million in state funding and investments to revitalize its downtown. It is one of 10 awards statewide as part of a $100 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative, now in its second year.
The announcement, made at the Media Center of Watkins Glen International, came a year after Watkins Glen had fallen short of the prize when it was one of three finalists, against Elmira and Ithaca. Elmira was awarded the grant last year. The other finalists this year were Ithaca and Endicott, with presentation teams from each community making their pitches to a panel of judges recently during a gathering at Cornell University.
The Watkins Glen presentation was a virtual reality one, complete with goggles, that highlighted the village's economic strengths and its potential to ride those strengths -- with the proper infusion of funds and vision -- into a role as world-class destination. Specifics of how the money will be spent have yet to be determined, and will likely include consultants provided by the state. One goal is to leverage the $10 million in assistance into much more -- through private investments that can lead to more projects and more jobs.
More than 150 members of the community turned out to hear Thursday's announcement from Governor Cuomo, who started the session about a half-hour late while he toured the WGI track -- behind a pace car that he said "slowed me down." Also speaking were Commissioner Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of Empire State Development and Commissioner of the New York State Department of Economic Development; WGI President Michael Printup; Watkins Glen Mayor Sam Schimizzi, and State Senator Tom O'Mara.
Cuomo was introduced by Printup, who called the governor "a car guy" and "a great friend of the Glen,” and presented him with a custom-built racing helmet with "I Love NY 355 at The Glen" on it -- the name of the NASCAR race this weekend at WGI now that the state has joined as its sponsor.
Cuomo said said the state has "a three-point strategy" to develop its economy:
Whereas he thought the DRI contest might attract 20 or 30 applicants across the state's 10 designated regions, Cuomo said, "There were 104 applications for 10 grants of $10 million. It's harder to win one of these grants than to get into Harvard University.
"I'm here to tell you: Thanks to you and the great work that you did, congratulations! You have won $10 million.”
That brought a standing ovation.
“You did it!," said Cuomo. "Congratulations to all of you! The potential is here. You can feel it. It’s in the air.”
In his remarks that followed, Mayor Schimizzi said “What an amazing day at Watkins Glen. This was a huge win for the village and region."
After thanking people instrumental in the effort, and singling out County Planner Kristin VanHorn and Village Trustee Laurie DeNardo -- both members of the presentation team, he added: “We’re a small, close-knit community. We know how to get things done.” And he said the village leaders were looking forward to a “downtown that’s worthy of an international destination.” Finally, he thanked Cuomo for "helping us build a better future."
And Senator O'Mara, in remarks closing the presentation, called the $10 million prize "fantastic" and said it was "truly the best of the three plans that were presented." He noted the USA Today contest polls that Watkins Glen has recently won or in which it finished near the top -- as the favorite NASCAR track, favorite Wine Festival, favorite Waterfront Hotel and best State Park.
"We have a great region," he said. "We've got the assets. The DRI is targeting Watkins Glen, but it's really all about the region and building on its strength." And in closing, he addressed Cuomo: "Governor, show us the money, will ya?"
The check presentation followed, with dignitaries in different combinations posing with it.
Special guests included members of the Governor’s Regional Council, elected officials at the local, regional and state level, and members of the FLX Gateway Community Development Corporation who spearheaded the proposal process and led the presenting team. The presenting team members included County Planner VanHorn, who is also the FLX Gateway Chair; Village Trustee DeNardo; Jon Beckman, Vice President at WGI; Ben Stamp of Lakewood Vineyards, and Tim O’Hearn, Schuyler County Administrator.
Afterward came more comments.
“The FLX Gateway Community Development Corporation first and foremost must thank Governor Cuomo for this award and sharing in our vision for Watkins Glen," said VanHorn. "What Watkins might lack in size, we make up for in our endless ambition, and commitment to the future. Downtown Watkins Glen is a symbol of the local quality of life, economic growth, community pride and history. This funding will be the catalyst for transformational development which will allow Watkins Glen to become the premier small town in New York State. The FLX Gateway CDC could not be more excited and proud to work with the community and be part of this transformation.”
Added WGI's Beckman: “The Village of Watkins Glen is the gateway to multiple world-renowned attractions. As stewards of those icons we are honored to have helped deliver a transformational victory through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant.”
“We are thrilled," said O'Hearn, "to learn of our selection as this year’s DRI winner! It has been said that success is the art of preparation, and Watkins Glen has certainly been proof positive of this saying. Our community has spent the past decade preparing for this moment by collaborating and developing a vision for the future. The DRI award will continue the momentum that has been steadily building, and will be the critical link in transforming this community into a world-class destination while enhancing the quality of life for our residents and businesses. We thank Governor Cuomo and the Regional Council for their vote of confidence and look forward to the future with great excitement."
Said DeNardo: "It was an honor to be a part of this effort. The team was energized and worked so well together that I am confident the Village will have a renewal that each and every citizen will be proud of. I was especially moved by the citizen input for suggestions and needs that came during a public meeting at the Chamber."
Other Village trustees weighed in:
Trustee Kevin Thornton: "This was our second attempt at this and we learned much from last year. That's what is so special about Watkins Glen; we have tenacity, creativity and vision."
Trustee Gary Schmidt: "I'm very proud of the work that was done and the acknowledgment of the vision, purpose and transformational concepts that were recognized."
Trustee Tony Fraboni: "This is a great day for Watkins Glen and the area. Each and every citizen and business will benefit from this award."
From the local economic development perspective, Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director of SCOPED, added this:
“This effort met the Governor’s goal of having our community step in and get involved while stepping up to articulate a clear vision and defined path. We had so much support for this effort from the community. From the IT support to make the virtual reality technology work, to the community members who came to a public meeting to voice their concerns, vision and desires, to the staff that worked this project into their everyday work responsibilities, this was a grass-roots collective effort -- truly a collective effort. Our governmental agencies, private sector and non-profits all played pivotal roles in making this dream into a reality. Now the real work begins -- and Governor, we have our sleeves rolled up and we’re ready to get to work! Thank you again for helping Watkins Glen and the Southern Tier continue our effort. Ever Upward.”
Photos in text: From top, Governor Andrew Cuomo at WGI; Cuomo receives a racing helmet from WGI President Michael Printup; Watkins Glen Mayor Sam Schimizzi; State Senator Tom O'Mara; and Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky. (Photos by Holly Baker)
Driver Ross Chastain is greeting race fans, encouraging seat belt use in Schuyler
WATKINS GLEN, July 20 -- Two area men found guilty last month by Schuyler County Judge Dennis J. Morris on rape-related charges were sentenced Thursday by Morris -- one of them to 21 years to life in state prison.
Jeffrey A. Forney, Jr., 22, of 2260 State Route 414, Watkins Glen (pictured at right), drew that sentence after being convicted of two counts of Predatory Sexual Assault and one of Unlawfully Dealing with a Child. Predatory Sexual Assualt is a Class A felony that carries a minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a maximum of 25 years to life. Officials said Forney was charged with that crime because he had a prior sex offense conviction from 2013 for Attempted Sexual Abuse in the First Degree. Unlawfully Dealing with a Child is a Class A misdemeanor.
Forney becomes parole eligible after 21 years, but could spend his life in prison. The prosecution had sought a 25-years-to-life sentence. In a press release, the DA's office noted that Forney had 24 previous interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and spent three years in prison. He was released in June of 2015, two months before the August 2015 incident that prompted the latest arrest and conviction.
An accomplice in the August 2015 incident, Aaron G. Bowen, 24, of 1435 DeMunn Road, Beaver Dams -- found guilty by Morris last month of Rape in the First Degree, Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree, and Unlawfully Dealing with a Child -- was sentenced Thursday to "a determinate term of eight years in prison, with seven years of post-release supervision." The first two charges were Class B Violent Felonies, which carry a minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum sentence of 25 years. Unlawfully Dealing with a Child is a Class A misdemeanor.
The prosecution had sought at least 15 years in prison for Bowen.
Officials said the two men were charged relating to an incident on August 25, 2015 in which each had oral and vaginal sex with an 18-year-old female who was "intoxicated by alcohol to the point of being physically helpless." After the sexual assault, "the defendants drove the victim to Horseheads, where her body was found in a field by a Good Samaritan as he drove to work at approximately 6:30 a.m."
Both cases were prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew C. Hayden.
Photo in text: Jeffrey A. Forney, Jr. (Photo provided)
Village trustees Laurie DeNardo and Tony Fraboni listen to resident John Dahl.
Treatment plant rebid, area opioid issue highlight Watkins Village Board session
It also saw a public hearing on a new Local Law, and announcement of a replacement for retired Superintendent of Utilities Mark Specchio.
That latter is Lee Warren (Corky) Kent, a 10-year veteran of the Cargill salt firm, where he has worked as an electrician. Kent, who takes over the superintendent's role -- in fact, with a new title, Superintendent of Public Works -- on July 31, said he was "excited" by his new job.
The Local Law succeeds two previous ones dealing with revitalization of the waterfront and making the village eligible to apply for grant funding from various state agencies. There is little change from Local Laws of 2009 and 2016 -- consisting mostly of what Village Clerk Donna Beardsley called "tweaks" called for by the state. Nobody spoke at the public hearing, and no action was taken, but will be soon.
The rebid on the water treatment plant's general construction was needed when the previous bids came in too high. Village Trustee Tony Fraboni, a member of the Joint Project Committee (JPC), said the high bids resulted from confusion among the bidders regarding the specifics of site preparation. The plant is planned on land on the east side of the canal, across from the Watkins Glen High School property.
The part of the specs regarding the site prep will be rewritten to be more concise, and the bidding opened again, possibly in August. Fraboni said the delay will not affect the overall schedule of the project.
The board also approved the purchase of the nine acres at the site for $40,000 from the New York State Power Authority. Fraboni said the land used to belong to the Canal Corporation, which was going to give it to the village, but that ownership was shifted by the state to the Power Authority, which asked for $280,000, basing its appraisal on vacation lakefront property. Mayor Sam Schimizzi said the village "pushed back," the result being a reduction in the request to $40,000 -- which Fraboni indicated was still too high but "we thought we don't have time to fight it any more." The money, in any event, was already provided in the budget for the estimated $25 million project.
Fire Chief Charlie Scaptura, in his monthly report, said that department personnel have been undergoing rescue training dealing with the growing problem of opioid overdoses -- specifically heroin-based and fentanyl cases.
Carfentanyl -- which he said was designed as an elephant sedative that has made its way to large cities and now into the rural countryside -- provides a specific challenge to the health and welfare of rescue squads.
He told of a case in the Boston area in which a rescue worker got some of the carfentanyl powder on his hands and almost immediately went into arrest. He was brought back by the rapid application of Narcan, which combats fentanyl's effects.
He said future responses might take longer as rescue workers clothe themselves in long-sleeve shirts and long pants -- providing themselves with as much protection as possible. And on any call, he said, a tanker will be provided to wash down the scene "if there is a possibility of contamination" -- water serving as "a perfect antidote" in such cases.
"Eventually," the chief said, "the feds" might "take control" and send Hazmat teams instead of local rescue squads to such scenes.
In other business, the board:
-- Heard from resident John Dahl of Pine Street, who said work on that road -- dealing with infrastructure underneath -- has left the surface unsettled and treacherous. He also complained about a culvert that clogs where his driveway meets the road, ultimately breaking up his blacktop.
-- Heard from Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development executive director Judy Cherry, who reported on the presentation by a team -- including Village Board member Laurie DeNardo -- before a panel as part of an effort to secure $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds. Watkins Glen was a finalist along with Endicott and Ithaca. The team, said Cherry -- who served as a judge -- did an "exceptional" job with a virtual reality presentation. A decision is not expected for several weeks.
-- Discussed camper vehicles that park on village streets, instead of at campgrounds. Officer in Charge Steve Decker said no such vehicle over 16 feet long should be parked on a village street for more than 72 hours, unless part of a construction project.
-- Approved a resolution that will, in effect, enable the village to pursue additional grant funds to be applied to construction of the new wastewater treatment plant. The resolution noted that "$2.5 million of grant funding is needed to address a budget gap for this project." Said Mayor Schimizzi: "We're trying to get all the funding we can get. It can't hurt."
Photos in text:
From top: Mayor Sam Schimizzi, Fire Chief Charlie Scaptura and Village Trustee Gary Schmidt at Monday's meeting.
Chart shows some of the work planned at the Franklin Street-4th Street intersection.
DOT holds public meetings on Rt. 14 plan
The meetings were held at the Village Hall in Watkins Glen. An identical presentation was given at both meetings, followed by question-and-answer sessions that allowed residents and businesses the opportunity to discuss the project further.
Preliminary drawings were hung on the walls of the meeting room -- the village court -- and positioned on easels. They showed the envisioned project from its southernmost point, where Rt. 14 meets Fairgrounds Lane, to its northernmost point on the other side of the village, far up the hill from the business district.
According to the meeting emcee and project director, the DOT's Michael J. Griffin -- present with four other DOT representatives, all from the DOT's Hornell office: the project will begin in the spring, probably in March, and continue until the end of the school year before being suspended for the summer. It will resume when school is back in session in the fall.
It will be done step by step, with as little disruption as possible -- although Griffin said there will obviously be "hiccups." Accordingly, a team of DOT representatives will be on hand to coordinate with businesses and with residents along Franklin Street.
The project started as a repaving effort, but then expanded, he said, to include sidewalks and some traffic signals. As part of that, "all intersections will be brought up to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act."
A purpose of the project, he added, is "to try to improve how traffic moves through the community." That includes eliminating some parking spaces near the intersection of 4th Street, where "traffic can be gridlocked whenever a truck turns there." That will open a passing lane on the western side of Franklin Street in order to keep traffic moving. But the loss of spaces there will be "re-allocated" elsewhere, so that the total loss of parking spaces in that portion of the village will amount to "just four."
Also envisioned: signs along the original racetrack above and to the west of the village. These would identify specific points of the course, such as Townsend Corner or the Stone Bridge.
The overall DOT project will include a grant project for installation of a raised median at the curve on the northern end of the business district, where traffic often enters speeding. An effort will also be made from that point north to encourage slower traffic by vehicles coming from the north. That might include squeezing traffic down to one lane each way sooner that now exists on that downhill approach. It might also include signage and "visual tricks and operational tricks to slow people down," Griffin said.
As for the sidewalks, Griffin said they will not be entirely concrete, but include bricks near the curbing. This will be visually appealing, as well as making installation of future Walk of Fame plaques easier in the future. He said existing plaques will be replaced in the new sidewalks right where they now sit.
Because of the construction plan -- spring and then fall -- construction will include "long hours, 12 to 14 hours Monday through Thursday." There will be "impacts," he said, but added: "You have to break eggs to make an omelet."
When a section of sidewalk is being torn up and replaced, parking at that point will be suspended, with the parking area serving as a walking space for pedestrians, separated from traffic by a line of orange cones. There will be entry points from the walking lane to storefronts, he noted, although there "might be short periods" when store owners should urge customers to use the back door.
"There are gonna be some difficult times we have to work through," Griffin said, adding: "We want to limit the amount of disturbance at all times."
For more information about the project, contact Michael Griffin, Design Manager, who can be reached by telephone at (607) 324-8557; or by mail at 107 Broadway, Hornell, NY 14843.
Photos in text: From top: The DOT's Michael Griffin; Two of the 35 people present Tuesday evening study one of the charts; and Griffin explains the project.
Charts on easels and on the wall outlined the various aspects of the DOT project.
O'Mara, Palmesano urge online votes as WGI competes again in 'best track' poll
Schuyler man convicted of meth sales
Authorities said Doane sold methamphetamine out of his residence on three occasions, including on one occasion to an undercover police officer.
The cases were investigated by the New York State Police CNET (Southern Tier) division and its Special Investigation Unit (Rochester).
The prosecution called 17 witnesses (13 from the State Police) and entered 22 exhibits into evidence.
The jury took less than an hour to convict Doane. He faces up to 7 1/2 years in prison. The case was adjourned to August 3 so that a presentence investigation can be completed.
Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph G. Fazzary prosecuted the case.
Schuyler Youth Bureau marks 40 years
MONTOUR FALLS, June 13, 2017 -- The Schuyler County Youth Bureau recently celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a reception and ceremony at the Silver Spoon Cafe in the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.
The ceremony featured several guest speakers, including County Administrator Tim O’Hearn and Social Services Commissioner/Youth Bureau Director JoAnn Fratarcangelo, who highlighted the program's impact on the county and its youth.
Special recognition went to:
-- graduating Youth Court member Diana LaFever;
The event was a mixture of laughs and tears as stories -- including some from former Probation Director Ron Alexander (read by current Director Chris Rosno) and former Youth Bureau Director Lyman Flahive (read by his daughter, Chandra Flahive) -- were told, reaching back to the agency beginnings in 1977.
The evening, said one observer, "proved to be a solid testament to the Youth Bureau’s dedication and lasting impact to the youth in Schuyler County."
Photos in text:
Top: Youth Bureau Program Coordinator Adam Lawton with honoree Hannah Pastrick.
2 men found guilty in Schuyler sex case
WATKINS GLEN, June 2 -- Two area men were found guilty Thursday by Schuyler County Judge Dennis J. Morris on rape-related charges following bench trials in county court.
Jeffrey A. Forney, Jr., 22, of 2260 State Route 414, Watkins Glen, was convicted of two counts of Predatory Sexual Assault and one of Unlawfully Dealing with a Child. Predatory Sexual Assualt is a Class A felony that carries a minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a maximum of 25 years to life. Officials said Forney was charged with that crime because he has a prior sex offense conviction from 2013 for Attempted Sexual Abuse in the First Degree. Unlawfully Dealing with a Child is a Class A misdemeanor.
Sentencing has been set for July 20.
Aaron G. Bowen, 24, of 1435 DeMunn Road, Beaver Dams, was found guilty of Rape in the First Degree, Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree, and Unlawfully Dealing with a Child. The first two are Class B Violent Felonies, which carry a minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum sentence of 25 years. Unlawfully Dealing with a Child is a Class A misdemeanor.
Sentencing has been set for August 3.
Officials said the co-defendants were charged relating to an incident on August 25, 2015 in which each had oral and vaginal sex with an 18-year-old female who was "intoxicated by alcohol to the point of being physically helpless." After the sexual assault, "the defendants drove the victim to Horseheads, where her body was found in a field by a Good Samaritan as he drove to work at approximately 6:30 a.m."
Both cases were prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew C. Hayden.
Former assemblyman welcomed to Albany
ALBANY, May 18, 2017 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) was pleased to meet with his predecessor, Jim Bacalles, during Bacalles’ recent return to the Capitol.
“It was an honor and great privilege for me to welcome Jim back to Albany,” said Palmesano. “Jim is a true friend of this house. His commitment to our Southern Tier and Finger Lakes community set a standard for public service that we’re all striving toward to this day.”
Palmesano noted that he and Bacalles have maintained an excellent relationship over the years.
“Jim was my mentor and he’s still a very good friend," said Palmesano. "I worked for him from 1995 to 2004, and during that time I learned so much. He epitomizes what public service should be all about. I again want to thank him for his many years of faithful service to our community.”
Photo in text: Former Assemblyman Jim Bacalles, left, with Assemblyman Phil Palmesano. (Photo provided)
Municipalities fight Walmart tax claim
WATKINS GLEN, May 12, 2017 -- A preliminary conference has been scheduled for June 23 in the case of Walmart Real Estate Business Trust (“Walmart”) against the Town of Dix Board of Assessment Review and other affected Schuyler County municipalities.
In the meantime, attorneys for the affected municipalities, Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman and Town of Dix Attorney Robert Halpin, have served a demand to audit Walmart’s books and records to substantiate the retail giant’s statement of income and expenses.
In July 2016, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, filed suit alleging that their store in the Village of Watkins Glen was over-assessed. The current assessment values the property at $11,700,000. Walmart has claimed its property is only worth $7,500,000. In 2012, Walmart agreed that its property was valued at $11,400,000.
Because any such assessment reduction would adversely affect all real property tax jurisdictions in the county deriving taxes from the Walmart property, the affected municipalities -- the Town of Dix, the Village of Watkins Glen, the Watkins Glen School District and Schuyler County -- joined forces to fight Walmart’s claims.
According to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, “this continued collaboration among municipal partners is a testament to our resolve to ensure that all property taxpayers pay their fair share. If granted a reduction, Walmart would in effect be shifting its portion of the tax burden to the rest of our taxpayers.”
According to Getman, the June 23 preliminary conference will likely result in the court fixing a date for trial, as well as directing the parties to obtain appraisals and sales reports, and to exchange and file appraisal reports and sales reports.
In anticipation of that trial, the defendants have already served a demand upon Walmart to make its relevant books and records available for audit. That audit should be completed in approximately 120 days, Getman noted.
The Schuyler County case is being heard in Schuyler County Supreme Court with Hon. Dennis J. Morris presiding. Walmart is being represented by the Buffalo law firm Kavinoky Cook LLP. Halpin and Getman are jointly representing the affected municipalities.
Watkins girls basketball state champions visit Albany, honored with Resolution
ALBANY, May 9, 2017 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) hosted the Watkins Glen High School girls varsity basketball team at the Capitol Tuesday where the Senate and Assembly paid tribute to the team’s 2017 Class C State Championship.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano with the Watkins Glen girls varsity basketball team in the State Capitol prior to the team’s recognition during Tuesday's Senate and Assembly sessions. (Photo provided)
Shared Services Initiative meetings set
“In an effort to generate property tax savings by facilitating operational collaboration between local governments," said O'Hearn, "the new law mandates the creation of a Shared Service Panel (SSP) in each county. In Schuyler’s case we have had an active Council of Governments (established 2005) which mimics the makeup of the SSP. As such, the regularly scheduled COG meeting in April became the inaugural meeting of the SSP.”
O’Hearn, who under the legislation, is tasked with chairing the panel, said that all but one municipality attended the first meeting and that the group actively engaged in offering suggestions for possible future shared service opportunities designed to lower the cost of providing government services.
Photo in text: County Administrator Tim O'Hearn (File photo)
Congerssman Tom Reed addressed the Tyrone audience from a spot beside a fire truck.
Reed faces angry crowd in Tyrone session
It was one of four such stops by Reed during the day. He had already visited Tioga Central School to meet with almost 100 constitutents, and encountered about 250 people at Broadway Academy in Southport, near Elmira. After his Tyrone stop, he was heading to Avoca.
Each meeting ran an hour or more, and dealt with such subjects as the environment, health care, Russia's involvement in the U.S. election in 2016, President Donald Trump's taxes, and the ongoing investigations by House and Senate intelligence committees.
The folks on hand in Tyrone were heavily opposed to ongoing Washington politics, and to Reed's votes and expected votes on those various subjects. The event was punctuated by a standing ovation in reaction to a fervent plea in favor of Planned Parenthood -- for which Reed wants to see federal funding cut off -- and loud "boos" when Reed said he wanted to "stay on the side of privacy" when it came to Trump's tax returns.
Associates of Reed's said the contentious nature of the Tyrone visit was similar to those at the day's three other stops and at town hall meetings in recent weeks around the congressional district.
The first 20 minutes or more of the session -- the gathering was held in the bay area of the fire department -- dealt with the environnment, and the Trump administration's moves to reduce the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency.
"I'm not advocating closing the EPA," Reed said in answer to questions on his position, "but I do favor a reasonable role" in protecting the nation's air and water. "I come at it from a position of reasonableness." He said while he favored the development of alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar, "fossil fuel is part of" our country's future dependency.
He kept saying "we" when explaining his support or positions, and was asked if "we" meant the Republican party or a subgroup of it. No, he said, that was a habit he had -- which he has been chided for in the past -- of describing himself. "That's the royal we," yelled one man in attendance.
Reed pointed out that he believes in climate change -- unlike many of his GOP colleagues -- and signed on to the Paris Climate Change Accord although "I think it saddled America with too much" ... which was met with loud heckling.
Reed was verbally accosted a number of times -- in particular by one woman who said he should "be ashamed of yourself" for opposing Planned Parenthood funding when one of that organization's founders, birth control activist Margaret Sanger, was from Corning, just as Reed is. That was met by a standing ovation, but as he did on other subjects, Reed kept his composure, saying "I appreciate your concern" or similar bromides.
The crowd wanted explanations for his positions -- largely pro-GOP -- on rolling back environmental safeguards on coal, on steep budgetary cuts in the EPA and State Department, on the administration's proposed budgetary cutbacks on such social programs as Meals on Wheels, and on the cutback of regulations designed to curb the worst environmental impulses of big business. The budget, said one woman, is a work "that substitutes cruelty for compassion."
He defended his position on each, pointing out that he represents 717,000 people and can't reach agreement with all of them -- that opinions vary "180 degrees." He became more specific on the issue of abortion and how it plays into his opinion of Planned Parenthood, saying "it is not a political position for me," but instead one of a long-held belief in the sanctity of life, including that in the womb.
He was opposed to mandating a look at the president's taxes, saying that would begin a trip "down a slippery slope," but that he was in favor of the current investigations into Russia's interference in our election process, and that he would "let the facts control where I go on this."
Afterward, Reed shook hands and talked with a number of the constituents, including some who had verbally challenged him during the hour-long session.
Photos in text:
Top: Congressman Tom Reed speaks to constituents after the Tyrone town hall session.
Two more of the signs brought to the town hall meeting by area residents. About 130 people filled the bay area of the Tyrone Fire Hall.
Schuyler shares in communications funds
ALBANY, March 29 -- Schuyler County is among counties statewide that have been selected to share $45 million in state funding to help enhance and support local emergency communications systems.
To date, the state has awarded $275 million for interoperable radio communications and emergency dispatching services. Participation in the program has more than doubled since 2010, when the program was established.
New state budget will increase funding
ALBANY, March 28 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara Tuesdayday hailed an agreement between both houses of the Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide increased funding in the final 2017-2018 state budget to compensate direct service professionals (DSPs) for the work they do to support people with disabilities.
Added Assemblyman Chris Friend: "I'm glad the state is doing its part to correct the unintended consequence increasing the minimum wage would have on these government supported programs."
And Assemblyman Phil Palmesano said: "I applaud the governor for listening and delivering."
Photo in text: Governor Andrew Cuomo (File photo)
Schuyler County District Attorney Joe Fazzary, left, village police Sgt. Steve Decker and Chief Assistant District Attorney Matt Hayden at the scene after the incident.
Man arrested after fleeing Watkins Glen vehicle stop where police car damaged
Police said Norman B. Covert, 76, was in custody and facing numerous vehicle and criminal charges including Criminal Mischief -- that charge, they said, for driving his car deliberately into two marked police vehicles.
Officials said Covert was pulled over between Sixth and Seventh Streets -- in front of the Post Office -- and boxed in by a Village Police car driven by Sgt. Steve Decker, a Sheriff's Department car on the sidewalk and, just up the road, a state police vehicle.
After Covert had been cornered, police said and a video taken by a bystander at the scene shows, he moved his car forward into the village police car, likely leaving a dent. He then backed into the front bumper of a Guthrie van that had pulled up behind him after he was stopped. Next to the Guthrie van was a jeep that had also pulled up and stopped. Sgt. Decker and other police at the scene exited their vehicles and tried to get Covert to exit, the video shows, and then started striking his windows, one of which apparently was shattered since glass was later seen in a small area near where the car had been.
After about a minute and a quarter of those efforts, the video shows Covert's car moving forward forcefully, trying to get past the village police car and severely damaging it. It was not clear from the video whether the sheriff's car, located on the sidewalk nearby, was touched. Covert's vehicle then backed into the van again and, glancing off of it, struck the jeep, pushing it back; the impact tore the rear bumper off the Covert car.
The fleeing vehicle then backed at an angle to the far corner, where Sixth Street meets Franklin, and went forward in the left lane past the four other vehicles. One official at the scene said a state police vehicle out of the video picture was struck in a minor fashion at that point.
Officials said that Covert headed south at a high rate of speed toward Montour Falls, where he slowed as police approached -- but then accelerated again, turning up Skyline Drive toward Burdett and his home in that area. He was soon "taken into custody without incident," a state police spokesman said.
No one was injured in either the vehicle stop or in the chase, police said. Franklin Street between Fourth and Seventh Streets was closed, and traffic rerouted, for a couple of hours while the investigation -- led by state police -- was conducted.
To view a Facebook video of the incident in Watkins Glen, click here.
Photos in text:
Top: Village police officer David Waite carries the back bumper left behind from the Norman Covert car.
Man indicted on perjury, contempt charges
WATKINS GLEN, March 23 -- Gary Kline, 61, of Mills Road in the Town of Montour has been indicted by the Schuyler County Grand Jury on two counts of Perjury in the Second Degree and one count of Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree in connection with a recent trial in Schuyler County Court.
The Schuyler County District Attorney's office said the charges stem from Kline’s jury service, beginning in January, on a rape case that ended in a hung jury and mistrial. In that case, Jeff Forney and Aaron Bowen were tried for allegedly raping a physically helpless 18-year-old woman at Forney’s home in the Town of Dix. The defendants are alleged to have then dumped the victim’s unconscious body on the side of the road in Horseheads, in Chemung County.
The trial lasted nearly four weeks and will be re-tried in May. The perjury charges against Kline are Class D felonies which carry a maximum penalty of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison. The contempt charge is a misdemeanor which carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail.
Photo in text: Gary Kline (Photo provided)
Operation proposals sought for Arts Center
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 23, 2017 --The Schuyler County Legislature is seeking proposals from interested groups or agents for the management and operation of the newly acquired Watkins Glen Performing Arts Center -- formerly the Watkins Glen Middle School auditorium.
Control of the Center by the county comes as a result of the development of the former Middle School into a senior housing complex. According to County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, the Legislature, in securing a long-term lease on the facility, “did so with the intent of enhancing cultural offerings within the area while at the same time promoting increased economic development through attracting increased numbers of residents and visitors to events held at this venue.”
The purpose of the RFP, O'Hearn added, "is to establish the role of a private-sector business or not-for-profit organization in the creation and maximum utilization of a quality performing arts venue for the residents and visitors of Schuyler County.”
A Hunt Engineer layout of the planned Kayak Launch at the southeast corner of the lake.
Planning Board OKs Glen Resort, hears tentative plan on fast-food restaurant
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 22 -- The Watkins Glen Planning Board Wednesday night handled two public hearings, gave the go-ahead on the proposed hotel in the Chamber of Commerce building, heard plans for a Kayak Launch at the southeast corner of Seneca Lake, approved facade changes at an upcoming pizza shop, and considered the possibility of a fast-food restaurant on the vacant Pudgies Pizza lot.
The last first: the fast-food restaurant.
Kurt J. Charland of Bergmann Associates -- architects, engineers and planners -- was present representing Kashyap Shah, owner of the Franklin Plaza that houses the Subway shop and a Chinese restaurant, and used to be home to Pick-a-Flick. Shah, according to one Watkins Glen village official, is the franchisee of a Taco Bell in Painted Post.
Charland said Shah has an option on the vacant property at the corner of North Franklin and West 8th Streets that used to hold a Pudgies Pizza. It is next door to the Colonial Motel. Shah envisions a fast-food restaurant on the site, but Charland said "we don't know" which one it would be. Another speaker at the meeting -- who owns property near the site -- said it would be a Taco Bell, but Charland just smiled and said "People say lots of things."
What Charland was seeking was a preliminary sense from the Planning Board that it might be receptive to the plan, which he noted will require at least three zoning variances -- among them on regulations regarding drive-throughs and dumpsters. While the board expressed cautious optimism, it noted that any variances need to come from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which might be resistant if too many variances are sought. And Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard suggested that more than three might be needed in order to meet Shah's needs.
Charland's next stop, then, was to be the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Planning Board will wait on its decisions.
Next: The Glen Resort
This is the planned 17-room boutique hotel in the current Chamber of Commerce building at 214 N. Franklin Street. A wine and beer bar is also planned on part of the ground floor, displacing part of the Chamber operation. The building is owned by Jim Guild, currently in Florida and represented by a business partner Wednesday night who said the hotel will be "a great addition to the village."
The Planning Board held a public hearing on the project, but nobody spoke. It then gave final site-plan approval, meaning the project is free to proceed. "I guess you're on your way," said Planning Board Chair Joe Fazzary.
Work on the hotel is expected to begin in October as engineers, developers, facility officials and the Code Enforcement office grapple with the specifics. The target date for opening is April 2018.
Next: The Kayak Launch
The Planning Board gave preliminary site plan review to a planned Kayak Launch on the southeast corner of the lake, adjacent to State Route 414. Hunt Engineers representative Chris Bond outlined the plan, which provides for a launch dock and for parking on the lake side of the roadway.
Bond said he hopes that construction can start by Memorial Day, and that the project is ready for the summer traffic. The Planning Board set a public hearing on the matter for March 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Next: Atlas Pizza
This new pizza business will be opening in the former Procare building at 304 N. Franklin St., next to the Chemung Canal bank drive-through. Its owners were seeking -- and received -- approval by the Planning Board of facade changes that include signage in the front window and on the south side of the building, facing the bank.
When asked when the pizza shop might open, the Planning Board was told there was a delay due to the need to "tear up the sidewalk" in order to secure NYSEG gas service. Even so, it is expected to open soon -- in May, one Planning Board member said after the meeting.
Photos in text:
Top: A drawing of the tentatively proposed, unnamed fast-food restaurant on the former Pudgies lot. It would encompass 2,000 square feet and include a drive-through, greenery, 10 parking spaces and, in the northwest corner, a dumpster enclosure.
Second: Kurt Charland, who was speaking on behalf of Kashyap Shah regarding the fast-food venture. Shah holds an option on the property, but Charland said Shah "needs to feel comfortable" regarding zoning "before moving forward."
Third: The Chamber building at 214 N. Franklin St., where an upscale hotel has the green light to proceed with development.
Fourth: Planning Board members Tom Fitzgerald, left, and Joe Fazzary.
Bottom: The storefront at 304 N. Franklin St., site of the future Atlas Pizza.
Palmesano: Organ-donation law is in effect
ALBANY, Feb. 14 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) has announced that one of his priority bills from last year is now in effect. The law will expand the pool of eligible organ donors by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to register to become an organ donor.
Palmesano co-sponsored the legislation in the Assembly. It was signed by the governor during the summer of 2016.
“This law is about saving lives," said Palmesano. "Expanding the pool of registered organ donors means that more of our family members, friends and neighbors will get the transplant they’ve been waiting for. When New Yorkers head to the DMV to apply for their learner’s permit, they can choose to give the gift of life that day. This law is just our latest effort to encourage people to register by making it more convenient. We’re going to continue the fight this session.”
Aisha Tator, Executive Director of the New York Alliance for Donation, said, “In my years of working with the donation community, I have encountered countless young New Yorkers who feel strongly about registering as lifesaving donors. However, because they have been unable to register their consent to donate when they visit the DMV for the first time at age 16 or 17, they often do not have another opportunity to join the donor registry until they reach their late twenties. It only takes one organ donor to save the lives of up to eight people. With this change to the law, we can now allow anyone who wishes to make a generous, anatomical gift the opportunity to join the registry.”
Forty-seven states have similar laws on the books.
Palmesano said he and his colleagues still have a lot of work to do when it comes to encouraging more New Yorkers to register as organ and tissue donors. In 2015, more than 500 men, women and children died waiting for an organ transplant. Nearly 10,000 New Yorkers are on the waiting list. More than 1,500 of them have been waiting for more than five years. Twenty-eight percent of New Yorkers are registered organ donors -- "a dismal percentage," said Palmesano, "made worse by our state’s high level of need. Our donation rate currently ranks 51st in the country ahead of only Puerto Rico. The national average is 50 percent, and Montana, the nation’s leading state in organ donation registration rate, is at 87 percent.
“These numbers," Palmesano added, " are simply unacceptable, particularly when you consider the profound impact an anatomical gift can have. Donating at the time of death can save up to eight lives and impact up to 50 others. We can, and must, do better, and I’ll continue fighting to pass legislation that makes signing up for our registry more accessible for more people.”
Palmesano has seen firsthand how a donation can make a profound impact on an individual and their family. His sister was a two-time recipient. Palmesano donated his kidney to her in 2006.
To register as an organ donor today, you can visit your local DMV, call 1-866-NYDONOR, or log on to the New York State Donate Life registry at: https://apps.health.ny.gov/professionals/patients/donation/organ/DonorRegistration.action
Photo in text: Asssemblyman Phil Palmesano advocates at a press conference last year in Albany for the passage of the organ-donor law. (Photo provided)
O'Mara, Palmesano give annual update
WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 9 -- New York State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano paid their annual visit Thursday to a meeting of the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club at the Watkins Glen Elks Lodge.
The event was held in conjunction with the Schuyler County League of Women Voters.
The two men provided an update on state politics, touching on:
The budget: O'Mara said reaching consensus will be "a bit more difficult this year with a looming deficit" in the $152 billion spending plan.
Education: Spending, he said, "has been averaging a five-and-a-half percent increase" in recent years but "less this year" after the removal last year of the Gap Elimination Adjustment that had adversely affected school aid.
Minimum wage: The coming increase will leave "not-for-profits" like The Arc struggling to keep up unless the state increases the revenues it provides them.
Library funding: Proposed cuts are "ridiculous," said Palmesano, noting that libraries provide education, and should see an increase, not a decrease in funding.
Organ donation: Palmesano, a strong proponent, said New York lags behind all other states in that area. He urged everyone to consider donating their organs upon death, for such an action can lead to life-saving transplants.
Crestwood: O'Mara said that he has "no idea" when there will be a resolution on the proposed storage of LPG in abandoned salt caverns on the west side of Seneca Lake. His message to the state: "Let's come to a conclusion."
The Governor: "We're not on the best of terms" with Andrew Cuomo, said O'Mara, noting that the governor did not present his budget to the Legislature this year, a past tradition. "We're an equal branch of government and want to be treated that way," he added, noting that the Legislature has tried to be cooperative with Cuomo, "but that might end this year."
Federal policies: "It's too early to tell what impact" policies enacted by President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress might have on New York State. That is especially true, he said, of the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and any replacement.
Heroin and Opioid crisis: There are "positive advances" in the proposed budget regarding the battle against "a scourge that knows no discrimination," said Palmesano, "but we need to do more" -- from the state level down to the local level.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara, right, speaks as Assemblyman Phil Palmesano watches at Rotary session.
Roche running for Steuben judge's post
Special to The Odessa File
BATH, Feb. 5 -- Philip J. Roche has announced his candidacy for Steuben County and Family Court Judge.
O'Mara retains Environmental chair
Special to The Odessa File
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)
ALBANY, Jan. 5, 2017 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) took the Oath of Office in the historic New York State Senate Chamber on Wednesday, January 4 to begin his fourth consecutive two-year term representing the state's 58th Senate District.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara is sworn in by New York State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. (Photo provided)
O'Mara, Palmesano rip Cuomo veto
Call on governor to live up to his mandate relief promise
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, January 3, 2017 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano on Tuesday strongly criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo’s veto of legislation they co-sponsored in 2016 to provide mandate relief to local counties by requiring the state to take over the cost of legal defense services for the poor, commonly known as “indigent criminal
Palmesano also emphasized that the bill would have protected the civil liberties of vulnerable New Yorkers.
“Our constitution takes very seriously the right of every New Yorker to have fair legal representation," he said. "That right should never be compromised because an individual does not have the resources to pay for counsel and their municipality cannot provide the required assistance because it is financially unable to do so. The governor is shying away from the state’s responsibility to protect civil liberties.”
The bill was drafted following a legal settlement between New York State and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). The NYCLU sued the state in an effort to require it to pay for indigent legal services in five particularly under-served counties: Ontario, Onondaga, Schuyler, Suffolk and Washington. The NYCLU prevailed.
“The state is already paying for these five counties. What about other counties facing similar financial stress?" said Palmesano. "The governor had a chance to promote fairness, protect municipalities, provide property tax relief and uphold due process. He failed.”
Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.
Jury finds Elmira man guilty in burglary
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 19 -- A 31-year-old Elmira man was found guilty by a Schuyler County Court jury Friday of four charges in connection with an Odessa burglary.
Joseph G. Sindoni was convicted of Burglary in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle and Criminal Mischief. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney John Tunney.
According to a press release from the DA's office, "Sindoni was leaving the victim's Odessa home with a bag of stolen property when the victim came home. She was able to give the police a description of Sindoni, the truck he was driving, and the license plate number of the truck. She was actually on the phone with the Sheriff's Department while Sindoni was getting into the truck to leave."
Sindoni abandoned the truck in Waverly on his way to North Carolina, and disposed of "the bag which contained some of the victim's property near his sister's residence in Waverly. A concerned citizen turned the bag over to the Tioga County Sheriff's Department." A DNA analysis linked Sindoni to gloves found in the bag, the press release said.
Sindoni was caught in North Carolina, waived extradition and was returned to New York. The trial lasted five days, and the jury took barely an hour to reach the guilty verdicts. Sentencing is set for February. He faces a minimum of seven years and a maximum of 15 years in prison as a second violent felony offender.
Schuyler receives $2.5 million for projects
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 9 -- Schuyler County will be awarded about $2.5 million as part of the $60.4 million going to the Southern Tier in the 2016 Regional Economic Development Council Awards announced Thursday by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development said that Project Seneca -- the long-term vision to transform our immediate area into a more robust business and tourist destination -- received more than $1 million in development funds.
The awards, said SCOPED in a press release, "also included improvements to Clute Park, the Catharine Valley Trail, Watkins Glen International marketing initiatives and Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation projects."
The awards, said Judy McKinney Cherry, SCOPED executive diretor, "will take our county to a new level of transformation. Thank you to Governor Cuomo (pictured at right) for the support for Schuyler County."
The regional award was part of $700 million in subsidies presented to 10 regions in an annual development competition. The Southern Tier share was the smallest of the 10 amounts, missing out on five top prizes of $25 million each available to "priority projects."
According to a list provided by the state, the Schuyler County projects include:
--$1,091,500 for Project Seneca strategic planning and implementation. "Schuyler County," the list designation reads, "will prepare a regional strategic plan for Watkins Glen and Montour Falls and implement projects identified in the Watkins Glen Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. Capital projects include the rehabilitation of the Clute Park bathhouse, Catharine Valley Trail Connector extension and enhancements at Clute Park and Montour Falls Marina." The applicant was Schuyler County.
--$250,000 for an "ultrapremium wine production, warehousing and distribution facility" at the Schuyler County Business Park along Rte. 414 in the Town of Dix "that will focus on exports across the United States and internationally." It will be created by Fagan Engineers Land Surveyors. The applicant was SCOPED.
--$350,000 for a Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) project in which it will "purchase materials needed to stabilize streams and road ditches and repair and replace infrastructure. The project will create habitat, and prevent erosion and sedimentation and the associated nutrient deposition in nearby streams and lakes." The SWCD was the applicant.
--$50,000 for a Town of Dix Water and Sewer District extension study with funds used "to complete a Public Infrastructure Preliminary Engineering Report." The Town of Dix was the applicant.
--$20,000 for a Town of Reading-Town of Dix inflow and infiltration study in which the two towns "will complete an engineering study to identify sources of inflow and infiltration to the Village of Watkins Glen Wastewater Treatment Plant." The Town of Reading was the applicant.
--$119,000 for a Project Seneca Quality of Life Catharine Valley Trail Connector and Bridge that will, the state said, "create a pedestrrian bridge over the Catharine Valley Trail system, helping create a multi model system for bicyclists and pedestrians, connecting to the village parks in Montour Falls from the trail, and creating safer access for pedestrians acoss NY Route 14 on the State trail." The Village of Montour Falls was the applicant.
--$415,700 for facilities upgrades at Clute Park in Watkins Glen that include replacement of a "bathrooms/comfort station" that is "deteriorating from 50 years of use. The new facility will be designed and constructed for year-round use." The park is used by 70,000 visitors annually. The Village of Watkins Glen was the applicant.
--$150,000 for Racing Promotions, in which "Watkins Glen International will utilize funds to engage in a marketing plan designed to attract millennial travelers from Canada and Pennsylvania to the NASCAR weekend in Watkins Glen." Watkins Glen International was the applicant.
--Schuyler County is also included with Tioga and Tompkins counties in a $62,000 study involving the Cayuga Lake Watershed Plan. The Town of Ithaca was the applicant.
Photo in text: Governor Andrew Cuomo (File photo)
O'Mara rips Cuomo's transit board veto
Special to The Odessa File
"Over the past several years we've built a strong case for this action, which has been reflected in the fact that this year it finally received nearly unanimous legislative support. Governor Cuomo's veto ignores the realities facing the ability of our localities to provide a service our residents absolutely depend on for many necessities. We need to take steps to ensure the long-term operation and viability of public transportation systems throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and across Upstate New York.
"For thousands upon thousands of Upstate residents, these systems provide critical links to jobs, medical appointments, school, shopping destinations, and other necessities. Our public transit systems also stand as cornerstones of regional transportation networks vital to economic development, job growth, anti-poverty and housing initiatives, energy and environmental conservation. Governor Cuomo has put this challenge off for another day. That unfairly and unacceptably keeps Upstate public transportation systems at risk."
Appeals Court rejects hotel tax challenge
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Oct. 27, 2016 -- The New York State Court of Appeals has let stand a prior ruling that vacation rentals may be taxed along with hotels and motels -- upholding Schuyler County’s local hotel tax on vacation rentals and other tourist facilities.
The court issued the order Thursday, denying a motion for leave to appeal filed by Thomas Schneider, owner of “Seneca Lake Vacation Rentals,” and thus letting stand a June holding from the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, that the Schuyler County Treasurer properly applied the four percent local tax to those properties
In 2014, the Schuyler County Treasurer found that Schneider owed $6,100 in back taxes under the "Schuyler County Hotel or Motel Room Occupancy Tax Law.” Under that local law, Schuyler County imposes a 4% local tax upon the rent for every occupancy of a room or rooms in a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast or tourist facility having one or more rooms in the county. The purpose of the tax, officials say, is to promote local tourism and to enhance the local economy.
Schneider, a resident of New Jersey, had argued that his properties were exempt from the tax as “bungalows” under regulations of the State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance. He sued in state court to overturn the treasurer’s findings, but his lawsuit was dismissed. He then filed an appeal to the Third Judicial Department, Supreme Court, Appellate Division.
In the previous appeal, Schneider’s attorneys, Schlather, Stumbar, Parks & Salk argued that the properties could not be taxed because they are furnished and do not provide housekeeping, food or other common hotel services.
Representing the County Treasurer, Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman argued on appeal that the state exemption was specifically limited to state-administered taxes, not locally administered hotel or room taxes. The local tax, Getman said, more broadly defined hotels and motels to include “bed and breakfasts” and “tourist’ facilities,” such as bungalows.
In its decision, the Appellate Division ruled that the State Commissioner's interpretation does not apply to the locally administered tax. The court noted that other local taxes, including the City of New York’s, did not exempt bungalows and that the definition of "hotel" in the enabling statute was expansive enough to include bungalows such as the properties owned by Schneider. Therefore, the Appellate Division stated, the prior decision upholding the treasurer should be affirmed.
In addition, the Appellate Division rejected Schneider’s argument that the retroactive imposition of the tax against his property was unjust. Schneider had been operating his vacation rental business for approximately five years, but had never filed a tax return with the county treasurer’s office, due to his belief that the “bungalow exception” excused his doing so.
In July 2016, after the Appellate Division ruled against him, Schneider’s attorneys moved the Court of Appeals for leave to appeal to that court. The county attorney opposed.
On Thursday, the Court of Appeals issued an order denying Schneider’s request to appeal. It also imposed $100 in costs.
The Court of Appeals decision, Getman explained, means that the prior decisions upholding the county’s tax become final and binding.
Today’s order can be found here: https://www.scribd.com/document/329120066/Schneider-v-Schuyler-County-Order-Denying-Appeal-2016-10-27
The prior decision being appealed (and upholding the tax) can be found here: http://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2016/521671.pdf
Schneider’s motion papers can be found here: https://www.scribd.com/document/329120068/Schneider-v-Schuyler-Motion-Leave-to-Appeal-2016-07-14
The county’s opposition papers can be found here: https://www.scribd.com/document/329120067/Schneider-v-Schuyler-County-Response-2016-07-26
Forest Service provides hunter safety tips
Special to The Odessa File
HECTOR, Oct. 26, 2016 -- With rifle season fast approaching, Forest Service officials on the Finger Lakes National Forest (FLNF) are encouraging the public to use extra caution and to be visible and mindful of their surroundings in the coming weeks. Saturday, November 19 marks the opening day of the white-tailed deer hunt in New York, a lifelong tradition for many New Yorkers and visitors to the Empire State.
Suicide ends Predatory Sexual Abuse trial
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 13 -- The defendant in a Predatory Sexual Abuse trial in Schuyler County Court committed suicide by gunshot Wednesday morning in Montour Falls, bringing the trial -- which had been scheduled for closing arguments that day -- to an end. It also terminated plans for a second, related trial on Child Pornography charges against the same defendant.
The Schuyler County District Attorney's office, in a press release, said that Timothy R. Kelly, 57, of Watkins Glen was being tried on two counts of Predatory Sexual Offense Against A Child in a trial that started last week. Kelly had also been charged by a Schuyler County Grand Jury with "numerous counts of Possession of Child Pornography," which were severed from the Sexual Offense counts into a separate, future trial under a ruling by presiding Judge Gerald Keene.
Judge Keene, the Tioga County Court Judge, was handling the trial "due to a conflict for Schuyler County Court Judge Dennis Morris," the DA's press release said, adding:
"On Wednesday, October 5, 2016, a jury was empaneled after nearly 150 potential jurors were selected. The prosecution, handled by Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph Fazzary, presented its case from Wednesday through Friday last week. Fazzary rested his case Tuesday morning after calling 11 witnesses, including a sexual assault nurse examiner, two DNA witnesses from the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center in Albany, and an expert on child sexual assault from New York City. The defense called three witnesses on Tuesday, October 11. Timothy Kelly did not testify.
"(Wednesday) morning, shortly before summations were to commence, DA Fazzary was informed that he needed to immediately contact Schuyler County Sheriff William Yessman. Upon doing so, he learned that the defendant may have committed suicide. Fazzary took defense attorney James Baker of Ithaca to the remote scene where the suicide had taken place (off of Rock Cabin Road in Montour Falls). After the body of Timothy Kelly was positively identified by his lawyer, Fazzary and Baker returned to the courtroom to advise Judge Keene. The jury was discharged and both cases against Timothy Kelly were dismissed.
"Kelly's body was discovered by a bow hunter in the area after he heard a gunshot."
Suit against Corning, Schuyler dismissed
Special to The Odessa File
ROCHESTER, NY, Oct. 12 -- A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who froze to death after fleeing law enforcement officials.
Plaintiffs Charles Harrison and Kathryn Harrison filed a complaint claiming that the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department and City of Corning Police Department violated their rights and the rights of their deceased adult son, Joshua Harrison, in connection with a police chase that ended in Joshua Harrison’s death.
According to the Schuyler County Attorney's Office, court documents showed:
"On the night of February 5, 2015, Joshua Harrison was involved in a motor vehicle accident in the City of Corning that caused damage to another vehicle, and then fled from the scene. Corning police officers attempted to pull the car over. Joshua refused to pull over and kept driving. The officers pursued Joshua out of the City of Corning and into the County of Schuyler, where members of the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department joined in the pursuit.
The County Attorney's office continued:
"On November 25, 2015, Plaintiffs commenced their action. On January 22, 2016, the City of Corning Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. On January 25, 2016, the Schuyler County Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss. On March 8, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an opposition to Defendants’ motions to dismiss, and a cross-motion for leave to amend the Complaint. On May 24, 2016, the court heard oral arguments on the motions.
"Ruling Friday, October 7, 2016, Charles J. Siragusa, United States District Judge, held:
"-- The proposed Amended Complaint does not allege sufficient facts to plead a substantive due process violation by any defendant.
"-- The officers spent approximately two hours attempting to locate Joshua. The officers attempted to track Joshua through the snow using a canine officer.
"-- Joshua actively evaded the officers by hiding in wooded property. There was no indication of anything preventing Joshua from either surrendering to the officers, seeking shelter, or telephoning an acquaintance for a ride. The officers could not have suspected that Joshua would choose to risk freezing to death rather than face questioning concerning a minor traffic accident.
Accordingly, the County Attorney's office noted, "the court dismissed the complaint." It added that "the complete decision can be found here":
Schuyler among counties named drought-disaster areas
May be eligible for emergency loans; officials weigh in
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Sept. 1, 2016 -- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that 24 counties across Upstate New York -- including Schuyler County -- have been designated as a natural disaster area by the federal government as a result of this summer's drought.
These designations mean that farmers in those areas may be eligible for assistance, including emergency loans, from the United State Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball, state lawmakers and other farm leaders will be conducting on-site assessments of farms affected by the drought, while the state works closely with Cornell University expert hydrologists and climate professors to help understand and study the outlook for recovery.
Said State Senator Tom O'Mara: "I commend Governor Cuomo and the federal government for declaring 24 counties in Upstate New York a natural disaster area due to drought conditions. Many of the counties are in the 58th Senate District, which I represent. As I drive through my district every day, I see how this drought has negatively impacted many of my farming constituents. Although we've seen some rain recently, the majority of the growing season has passed, which leaves farmers with low performing crops this year. This disaster declaration is the first step in getting farmers who live and work here the help they need and deserve."
The disaster declaration is based on reporting of crop loss to the federal Farm Service Agency and a D3 designation by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The federal government declared 15 counties as primary natural disaster areas and an additional nine counties as contiguous disaster counties. In addition, several other counties in the state are also requesting primary disaster declarations.
The federal government also named nine counties in the Finger Lakes, Western New York, the Southern Tier, and Central New York as contiguous disaster counties. They include:
In addition, the Governor's office said, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets under Commissioner Ball will continue to work with its partners in monitoring the drought situation and its effect on New York farms in these and other counties across the State, including in the North Country, Capital Region and on Long Island. The Department will also tour affected farms in Western New York, the North Country and the Southern Tier.
Officials weighed in as follows:
United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: "Our hearts go out to the farmers and ranchers affected by the drought in New York. President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America's farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We're also telling New York producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood."
Photos in text: From top: Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Senator Tom O'Mara, and Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball. (File photos)
Fed grant, loan to help on WWTP project
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Aug. 29 -- Montour Falls will receive a $500,000 federal grant and a $695,000 loan to assist with relocating and rehabilitating the wastewater collection systems for Montour Falls and Watkins Glen as part of continued efforts to redevelop the area from the Seneca Lake waterfront in Watkins Glen to the village of Montour Falls, Congressman Tom Reed announced Monday.
“This is a great step forward for the people, the economy and the environment of Schuyler County and everyone near Seneca Lake," said Reed. "We care about helping everyone call the region home for generations to come and by investing in our wastewater treatment systems we are making it easier to achieve that goal.”
Reed's office said "the money is coming from Congressionally appropriated funds designated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development programs. The loan term is 38 years at 1.625 percent interest."
The project was originally developed in 2012 to encourage economic development and environmental preservation along Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen. Degraded infrastructure systems, including the wastewater treatment plants in both Watkins Glen and Montour Falls, are causing environmental concerns in the region.
"This latest award is a testament to the value of partnerships to accomplish what was previously thought to be the impossible," said Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn. "The new regional wastewater treatment plant is the first phase of Project Seneca and will be the largest initiative in County history. The vision and tenacity of local leaders coupled with tremendous state and federal support have made this possible. Schuyler County is extremely grateful for Congressman Reed’s support."
Photo in text: Congressman Tom Reed (File photo)
Palmesano applauds new law
Expands pool of eligible organ donors to 16-, 17-year-olds
Special to The Odessa File
ALBANY, Aug. 20, 2016 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) says he is pleased that the governor has signed into law a bill which will expand the pool of eligible organ donors by including 16- and 17-year-olds.
Palmesano co-sponsored the legislation.
“I applaud the governor for signing this important bill that will save lives," said Palmesano. "This legislation expands the pool of eligible organ donors by allowing people to sign up to make a life-giving choice when they turn 16. It puts us in line with 47 other states and gives hope to countless New Yorkers.”
Added Aisha Tator, Executive Director of the New York Alliance for Donation, a statewide non-profit dedicated to ensuring that every New Yorker waiting for a transplant receives one:
“On behalf of the approximately 10,000 New Yorkers waiting for a transplant, we want to thank Assemblyman Palmesano, his colleagues in the legislature, and the governor for taking this important step toward saving and improving lives through organ and tissue donation. With the passage of this legislation, New York joins 48 other registries, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, in allowing individuals under the age of 18 to document their wish to be an organ and tissue donor."
Palmesano noted that he and his colleagues still have a lot of work to do to promote organ and tissue donation in New York State. In 2015, more than 500 men, women and children died waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Nearly 10,000 New Yorkers are currently awaiting an organ transplant, more than 1,500 of whom have been waiting longer than five years. He said that while need is high, only 23 percent of New Yorkers are registered organ donors, placing the state 51st in the country ahead of only Puerto Rico. The national average is 50 percent, and Montana, the nation’s leading state in organ donation registration rate, is at 87 percent.
New York's numbers "are simply unacceptable," said Palmesano. "We can, and must, do better.”
It is particularly troubling, he added, because choosing to donate can make such a dramatic impact.
“A person who donates at the time of his or her death can save up to eight lives and impact up to 50 others,” said Palmesano.
“The issue of organ donation is very personal to me. My sister was a two-time organ transplant recipient, so I have seen firsthand how organ donation can impact someone's life. She was lucky to receive a transplant. Until I became a member of the state legislature I did not realize how abysmal New York's registration numbers were and how many people have been waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. This legislation is an important step forward to help save lives all across our state.”
Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano speaks at a press conference with other officials regarding the state's Organ Donor efforts. (Photo provided)
Crestwood alters storage plan
Would eliminate butane; opponents still not convinced
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 8 -- Crestwood Midstream announced Monday that it has notified the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that it is "voluntarily modifying its proposal to store propane" in abandoned salt caverns at its US Salt facility north of Watkins Glen -- reducing the amount of gas to be stored, among other mitigated measures.
But opposition groups -- Gas Free Seneca, the Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition (FLXWBC) and the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association (SLPWA) -- said in a press release that they still are not satisfied.
The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night approved a resolution supporting the revised plan at its regular monthly meeting, a press release from Crestwood said. The Legislature resolution -- passed 6-2, with Legislators Van Harp and Michael Lausell opposed -- noted that the Legislature, which in 2014 approved the storage plan, had obtained agreement from Crestwood on the changes due to oppositional circumstances:
--"well-organized opposition to the project based on perceived public safety threats centering around transportation and the overall scope of the project"; and
Those modifications, which the resolution said were agreed to by Crestwood, include -- according to a letter to Administrative Law Judge James T. McClymonds at the DEC from the law firm of DLA Piper:
--"Elimination of Butane; and Reduction of Propane Storage Capacity by Almost 30% from 2.1 Million Barrels to 1.5 Million Barrels (Only Propane Would be Stored in Caverns.) (See Letter to the Editor regarding this on Forum)
"Now, therefore, be it resolved," the related Legislature resolution says, that "through its submissions and compliance with all regulatory requests, including its most recent agreement to change the scope of the Project," Crestwood "has adequately responded to all legitimate community concerns and that the caverns to be used for LPG storage are well-suited for such use; and be it further resolved that given all of the information supplied to the DEC (in the past) supporting the Project and the time which has elapsed since the application was submitted and public hearings held, the Schuyler County Legislature hereby requests that the DEC finalize its review and make a final determination and issue the permit requested."
Gas Free Seneca -- in a joint press release with the FLXWBC and the SLPWA -- offered strong reservations and a critical suggestion, saying "private negotiations between Crestwood and the Schuyler County Legislature are not enforceable" and that it was urging Crestwood "to submit a formal amendment of its application so that the changed terms can be memorialized in binding permit conditions subject to review and comment."
The new Crestwood proposals, added Joseph Campbell, President of Gas Free Seneca, "are effective admissions that we were right about the original proposal all along: it's not safe, it threatens the Watkins Glen State Park, it's too noisy and ugly, and it's generally inconsistent with the character and brand of the Seneca Lake communities."
Beyond that, the press release said that in addition to negatively impacting Crestwood's property tax assessment and "the number of jobs created by the project ... the risk of cavern collapse, fire, explosion, pollution ... and a spike in the salinity of our drinking water all remain."
"So," said Campbell, "we are still being asked to accept the risks inherent in gas storage and transport, but with even less benefit to the county."
Added Will Ouweleen, secretary of the FLXWBC: "The bottom line is that the Finger Lakes Region does not need to be the sacrifice zone for gas industry export. It will not significantly benefit the region, (and) we are being asked to accept all of the risk with none of the reward."
Photos in text: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan (top) and Gas Free Seneca President Joseph Campbell. (File photos)
Note: A Letter to the Editor from Mr. Campbell takes exception to the propane storage reduction claim. Forum.
Senator Chuck Schumer speaks to officals outside the Schuyler County Office Building after the news conference. Board of Elections Commissioners Joe Fazzary, left, and John Vona are in the background.
Schumer visit touts legislation
Bipartisan federal effort targets 2 dozen synthetic drugs
WATKINS GLEN, July 29 -- U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, the afternoon after he had a front-row seat at the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, arrived at the Schuyler County Office Building Friday for a press conference announcing legislation he is helping push that would make nearly two dozen synthetic substances illegal.
The goal, he said, is to create "a federal hammer" to counteract the introduction of these drugs, including K2, before they spread farther. Their movement, he said, has been rapid, from New York City up to the Southern Tier. The legislation -- bipartisan in nature, he said -- would give local police agencies more tools to combat "this scourge," created by "chemists who cook up batches of synthetics from China and other places." It should pass quickly, he said.
On hand for the press conference, held in the Schuyler County Legislature's chambers, were various law enforcement personnel, including Schuyler County District Attorney Joe Fazzary and Chief Assistant DA Matt Hayden; Steuben County DA Brooks Baker; Watkins Glen Police Chief Tom Struble; representatives from the Chemung County DA's office and Schuyler Sheriff's office, and several other uniformed police officers.
As with many of Schumer's visits -- this was his 18th over the years to Schuyler County -- he brought with him a theme, and in this case a warning that such legislation is needed to combat the constantly shifting landscape of synthetic drugs, whose makers "have been a step ahead of" federal enforcement efforts for years. This legislation would make 22 chemicals -- including powerful forms of fentanyl -- illegal and thus easier to block.
"These dangerous, often deadly substances leave our emergency rooms bulging with stupefied users with zombie-like symptoms -- and this is a sign of what's to come if Congress doesn't act quickly," said Schumer. "Banning these drugs quickly will help the feds step up their game ... so that we can help stem the tide of synthetic drug use here in New York State and across the country."
Said Fazzary, who hosted the gathering: "I applaud Senator Schumer for being on the forefront of public safety when it comes to synthetic drugs like K2 and Spice. These chemically altered herbs and compounds are as dangerous, if not more, than any illegal substances that have been sold on the street in our neighborhoods for the last 50 years ... Adding these compounds to the federal ban list can only enhance public safety and will give law enforcement a greater tool to combat the surge of overdoses from these drugs."
After the news conference, Fazzary spoke outside the building to Schumer about the challenge faced by law enforcement in handling the multitude of arrests and court cases created by the ongoing protests over the proposed storage of LPG and current storage of methane in abandoned salt caverns west of Seneca Lake. Schumer, noting that the protesters are probably from outside of Schuyler County (most of them are), said he would look into it. Asked what that might mean, Fazzary said he wasn't sure, but that it might involve help from another source such as the state Attorney General's office.
From Schuyler County, Schumer -- who noted that he was seated in the front row of the New York delegation at the Democratic convention, and that the event "went very well" -- headed for Herkimer and another meeting with constituents.
Photos in text:
From top: Schumer makes a point while Watkins Glen Police Chief Tom Struble watches in the background; Schuyler County DA Joe Fazzary, left, and Schumer shake hands; Schumer passes by his picture on the Legislative Chamber's wall.
Court conducts 4 meth-bust arraignments
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, July 14 -- Four people involved in the three-country meth bust on May 4 and 5 were arraigned in Schuyler County Court Thursday. In addition, guilty pleas were entered in a separate meth case and in a burglary.
Ronald I. Lafever, 37, of Beaver Dams was arraigned by County Judge Dennis Morris on two counts of Conspiracy (a Class B felony and an A misdemeanor). Lafever, represented by counsel, entered a plea of not guilty and was remanded to the Schuyler County Jail in lieu of $5,000 cash or $10,000 bail bond. The District Attorney's office said the court also addressed charges of Manufacturing Methamphetamine 3rd Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 7th Degree against Lafever, the result of a search warrant executed at his residence on May 4.
Deanna M. Lewis, 33, of Montour Falls was arraigned on two Conspiracy charges (a Class B felony and an A misdemeanor). She is the wife of Jack Lewis, who was also arrested in the meth sweep. She is represented by Attorney Paul Corradini. The District Attorney's office said she also faces a felony burglary charge for an alleged theft from Walmart. Her cases were adjourned to August 18 for further proceedings.
Chelsa M. Hojnoski, 26, of Bath and Tammy L. Snell, 38, of Montour Falls were each arraigned by Judge Morris on two counts of Conspiracy (a B felony and an A misdemeanor). Both entered pleas of not guilty, and their cases were adjourned for further proceedings.
Nine other defendants from the meth bust were arraigned in county court on June 29.
In separate cases:
Eugene Gilbert, 52, of Syracuse pleaded guilty to Burglary 3rd Degree (a Class D felony) for his part in a theft from Walmart. He is due to be sentenced on July 28 and is facing 1.5 to 3 years in prison. The DA's office said Gilbert and a co-defendant entered the Watkins Glen Walmart in January and stole a significant amount of baby formula. They were apprehended by the Village of Watkins Glen Police Department shortly after the theft occurred.
Robert A. Stevens, 22, of Montour Falls pleaded guilty to Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine 3rd Degree (a Class D felony). This was unrelated to the large meth bust. Stevens and another man, Eric Storms, 43, were arrested in mid-March at a residence on CR 14 near Catharine Corners where a meth lab was discovered. Stevens is due to be sentenced on Thursday, July 21. He faces a prison sentence of one-and-a-half years.
SWCDs awarded state funds to assist
Special to The Odessa File
ELMIRA, July 12 -- The Chemung and Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) have been awarded a combined total of $587,885 to work with local
Special to The Odessa File
SCHUYLER COUNTY, June 29 -- The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a Burdett, NY man on charges relating to the unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine.
9 from meth bust arraigned
Not guilty pleas entered; bail set for 'kingpin'
WATKINS GLEN, June 29 -- Nine people swept up in a meth bust by police in early May were arraigned Wednesday in Schuyler County Court -- with bail set at $75,000 cash or $150,000 bond for the man District Attorney Joe Fazzary has called the case's "kingpin."
That man, Scott L. Kennedy, 39, of 44 Campground Road, Beaver Dams -- whose home police have said was an active meth lab and where meth manufacturing items and several vehicles were seized -- was in court in his orange Schuyler County Jail jumpsuit. He had been held without bail since a litany of charges were leveled against him.
Kennedy and each of the other eight defendants appearing Wednesday pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Seven of the eight beyond Kennedy face Conspiracy 2nd Degree and Conspiracy 5th Degree counts, which officials have explained means each is accused of possession of more than two ounces of meth. In addition, one faces a misdemeanor possession count.
Each was arrested in connection with a multi-day sweep in Schuyler, Steuben and Chemung counties following a five-month investigation led by a New York State Police Special Investigations Unit. Search warrants -- fueled with information derived by eavesdropping on the phone at Kennedy's Beaver Dams residence -- were executed on May 4.
In each case Wednesday, Fazzary mentioned "intercepted communications" used by authorities in building the cases. The cases of each of those arraigned Wednesday were interconnected, said Fazzary.
In order of their appearances in court, the other defendants included:
--Jack L. Lewis III, 38, of Montour Falls, also facing an unrelated violation of probation charge, and held in jail since his arrest. Bail was set by Judge Morris at $20,000 cash/$40,000 bond, covering both the meth and probation counts. Lewis was represented by Ithaca Attorney Joseph Joch.
--Bryon Schwartz, of Veteran Hill Road, Horseheads, represented temporarily by Attorney Matt Hughson pending appointment of regular counsel. Bail of $10,000 cash/$20,000 bond -- the bond was posted by Schwartz -- was continued at the same amount by Judge Morris (right) after DA Fazzary noted that the defendant had turned himself in.
--Tammy L. Palmer, 40, of Beaver Dams, represented by Ithaca Attorney Ed Kopko. Fazzary suggested bail of $10,000/$20,000, but after Kopko argued that his client was the mother of two and employed, and no flight risk, the judge continued her ROR -- whereby she is Released on her Own Recognizance.
--Melissa M. Whitney, 51, of Beaver Dams, represented by Lockwood Attorney Sarah Soutar. Whitney is out on bail, which the judge continued.
--Jamie L. Iocco, 38, of Corning, represented by Corning Attorney Christopher Tunney. Bail set by a lower court, which she posted, was continued. A request was made for a pretrial conference, but Fazzary said an immediate one wasn't advised. "We haven't talked about an offer yet, (so) I don't know that (a meeting) today would be very fruitful," he said.
That, in fact, pointed up the expectation that most of these cases will, in keeping with the norm, end up with plea bargains. Fazzary said well over 90 percent of cases in the state end up that way.
--Daniel M. Celelli, 46, of Painted Post, represented by Ithaca Attorney Robert Lalonde. Celelli has been free on his own recognizance, a status that Judge Morris continued without objection from the DA.
--Quinton Harrison, represented temporarily by Hughson pending appointment of regular counsel. He had posted bail of $12,500/$25,000, which Morris continued. The age and residence of Harrison were not immediately available.
--Terry L. Champion, 46, of Bradford, represented by Waverly Attorney Todd Miller. In addition to the Conspiracy counts, Champion faces a misdemeanor charge of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, 7th Degree. He was present in a drab green jumpsuit, courtesy of Steuben County Jail, where he is being held on other charges in lieu of $10,000/$20,000 bail. Judge Morris set bail on the Schuyler charges at another $15,000/$30,000.
Defendants from other cases related to the May 4th roundup will appear in court for arraignment on dates in July, Fazzary said.
Photos in text: District Attorney Joe Fazzary (top) and Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris. (File photos)
Judge tosses Hansen charge, says Phillips action 'not lawful'
Cites constitutional rights; lawsuit against district looms
WATKINS GLEN, June 13 -- Watkins Glen Village Justice Connie Fern Miller has dismissed a refiled misdemeanor trespass charge against Kristina Hansen, saying the order by Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips upon which it was based "did not have a legitimate basis" and is not "lawful," not to mention that it was "procedurally defective."
The charge was leveled against Hansen on April 28, as a followup to a violation-level charge that came with her arrest by Watkins Glen Village Police on March 21 as she arrived on school district property to attend a School Board meeting. She was met on the sidewalk by Phillips, who ordered her to leave. When she protested, he had her arrested by two village patrolmen standing at the ready nearby.
In her 12-page ruling, dated June 9 and made public June 13, Judge Miller found that:
-- Phillips should have let Hansen into a meeting March 11 that precipitated her arrest 10 days later. The March 11 meeting, with four School Board members present, should have been open to the public.
The ruling, said Hansen, "clearly debunks any claim of lawlessness on my part. It should be concerning to all citizens that I was arrested three times."
Hansen's attorney, Ray Schlather of Ithaca, termed the judge's ruling "very emphatic" and "a very clear statement about constitutional rights" and about the "ill-conceived, ill-implemented and unconstitutional" nature of Phillips' order leading to those three arrests.
While the charge in the third arrest -- which came May 4 when Hansen attended the tennis match on school grounds -- was dismissed by Miller on May 19, the judge had done so "without prejudice," meaning it could be refiled.
But "I can't imagine any further criminal charges" in the case now, said Schlather. "This ruling was a clear declaration of constitutional issues. If there is an attempt to enforce anything further under that letter -- or so-called order (issued by Phillips) -- we will add monetary damages and possibly punitive damages to our lawsuit."
That suit, notice of which was filed in mid April, is being brought by Hansen against the Watkins Glen School District, Superintendent Phillips, School Board President Kelly McCarthy, the Village of Watkins Glen and its Police Department, and in a minor fashion against the two March 21 arresting officers.
Schlather said he would be meeting shortly with Hansen to further discuss the suit, which he said was helped by Miller's ruling. "We are claiming in the suit that (Hansen's) constitutional rights were violated," he said. "Judge Miller has validated those claims.
"We will proceed full steam ahead."
How it started:
Hansen, a frequent district critic, tried to enter a meeting of school staff on March 11 at which Phillips was presenting an update on finances and jobs -- on the "state of the district," in the words of School Board President McCarthy, who attended that meeting with three other members of the Board ... which constituted a quorum of that seven-member body.
Hansen, stopped at the building's entry point by Phillips, made it into a vestibule separated from the building's interior by locked doors. She refused to leave until escorted by police called to the scene. Phillips later, in a written memorandum, effectively banned her from school buildings without his written permission -- which led to her arrest 10 days later as she approached the School Board meeting without such permission.
The charge lodged in that arrest -- a violation -- was later dismissed by Judge Miller "for facial insufficiency of the Accusatory Information." It was done so "without prejudice" to a refiling, which indeed followed. Hansen was re-arrested on April 28 on a trespass charge that had moved up a notch to a misdemeanor.
A motion to dismiss was issued that day by Attorney Schlather, but Judge Miller gave the prosecution, led by Seneca County District Attorney Barry Porsch, time to respond, which Porsch did at a Village Court session on May 19. Miller then said she was providing time for Schlather to respond if he wished, and that she would subsequently issue her ruling -- which she now has.
Hansen, meanwhile, was arrested a third time on May 4 when she attended the high school tennis match on Watkins Glen school grounds -- a charge dismissed by Miller on May 19, again "without prejudice," leaving the possibility (now doubted by Schlather) of a refiled charge. Again, the Accusatory Instrument in that case -- which also charged misdemeanor trespass -- was not drawn properly. Attorney Schlather explained at the time that the arresting officer, Jordan Walrath, did not have sufficient knowledge of the Phillips edict and did not accordingly supply a supporting deposition, presumably from Phillips.
Any forward movement that might have been entertained by Phillips or Watkins Glen police in that case appears to have hit legal shoals in view of Judge Miller's 12-page ruling. It takes to task the superintendent's order against Hansen -- issued after that March 11 confrontation -- as "not 'lawful,' in the manner of its issuance, its basis, purpose, scope or implementation."
About that March 11 session:
The ruling notes the attempt by Hansen to enter the school building near the district office on March 11, how she was met by Phillips at the outer door, and how he prevented her from entering beyond the vestibule. Inside the building, at the staff meeting she wanted to attend, were four School Board members.
"The Court takes judicial notice," the ruling says, "that the Watkins Glen School Board is comprised of seven members, and that four members at a meeting would comprise a quorum. The Court concludes, on the basis of the NYS Open Meetings Law and Education Law, that regardless of the declarations of Mr. Phillips and Mrs. McCarthy that the meeting was 'not open to the public,' it should have been. Ms. Hansen was within her rights in requesting and attempting to attend the 'State of the District' address scheduled to be given at this meeting."
The ruling added: "It is true that defendant, Kristina Hansen, circumvented the security system of the school building when she entered into the lobby area by following persons who used their 'key card' to open the outside doors. However, it is obvious to the Court that if Ms. Hansen had followed 'security protocols' by ringing a buzzer and using the intercom system 'to state the reason for her visit' (as described by both Mr. Phillips and Ms. McCarthy), her efforts would have been futile, as she would have been refused entry. While the Court does not condone her method of entry, under the circumstances, it appears that she utilized the only practical course of action available to her in her attempt to exercise her right to attend what should have been a public portion of the meeting.
"The Court expressly finds, based on statements of both Mr. Phillips and Ms. McCarthy, that no students were threatened or endangered by defendant's actions, as they occurred on a day when regular classes were not in session. As the surveillance videos clearly show, Ms. Hansen entered the lobby area of the school building without breach of the peace, disruptive behavior, or physical contact with any person. The only 'disruption' was wholly on the part of Superintendent Phillips, who can clearly be seen confronting Kristina Hansen in an aggressive fashion, flailing his arms, shaking papers in his hand, and repeatedly pointing to the door. In contrast, Ms. Hansen kept her hands at her side, spoke only when it appeared she was asked a question, and waited patiently for the police to arrive after she was denied permission to enter through the second set of locked doors."
She was escorted out by two officers, but not charged.
Phillips' letter to Hansen, sent by certified mail, followed, in which he stated: "If you have a need to visit a school or district office you must request permission from the Superintendent by stating the specifics of the need to come to the district, including time necessary to complete any business. Before coming to school, wait for the Superintendent to grant permission in writing. Written permission must be presented at the time of admittance to the building."
However, Judge Miller's ruling went on as follows: "The order/letter issued by Superintendent Phillips did not have a legitimate basis. It appears to have been an overreaction to a relatively benign infraction of school rules by a citizen who reasonably believed she had a right to attend" the meeting along with a quorum of the Board of Education. "Furthermore, the issuance of the Superintendent's letter/order was procedurally defective," failing "to comply with the requirements of Penal Law ... as it was not 'personally communicated' to defendant," but instead sent by mail.
"The letter itself," the ruling said, "is ambiguous and vague as to whether it purports to ban Ms. Hansen from 'school grounds' as asserted by Mr. Phillips in his Supporting Deposition, or whether it applies only to entry into a school building. Reading the letter as a whole ... it appears to restrict entry only in a 'school or district office' (i.e. a building) ...
"Per Mr. Phillips' Supporting Deposition, he confronted Ms. Hansen on March 21 at about 5:37 p.m. and had her arrested, on 'the grounds' of the High School. She had not entered into any building. Inasmuch as the conduct which led to defendant's arrest did not even violate the terms of the letter sent to her, the charge of Criminal Trespass, Third Degree, could be dismissed solely on those narrow grounds."
But there was more.
"The Court," Miller added, found that the prosecution failed to show that "enforcement of the order/letter issued by Superintendent Phillips" would not "unlawfully inhibit or circumscribe the defendant from engaging in constitutionally or statutorily protected conduct ... The blanket restriction issued by Superintendent Phillips was clearly unlawful in that it purports to bar Kristina Hansen for all times and all purposes from public school property. It does not matter that Mr. Phillips left open the possibility that she could be allowed into a school building with his written permission ...
"No citizen of the United States, the State of New York or the Watkins School District needs to ask 'permission' of anyone in order to exercise her constitutional or statutory right. Furthermore, no person in authority should have unlimited and arbitrary control to decide when 'permission' will be granted."
Judge Miller added that Hansen "unquestionably ... had a legitimate reason, purpose and business for being on school property on March 21," the day when she was arrested en route to the School Board meeting. She was, per the law, "licensed and privileged to be there," said Miller, "unless she defied a lawful order not to enter or remain." The Open Meetings Law, she said, is clear that "meetings 'of all (school) boards shall be open to the public.'"
The ruling continued:
"The letter/order issued by Superintendent Phillips unduly infringed upon defendant's protected statutory right to attend a school board meeting. It also curtailed her exercise of federal and state constitutional rights, including freedom of movement, assembly and speech. Furthermore, the order" -- if permitted to stand -- "would have a 'chilling effect' on defendant's (and others') exercise of those rights ...
"The charge of Criminal Trespass, Third Degree, pending against Kristina L. Hansen, is hereby dismissed on the merits. So ordered."
Photos in text: From top: Kristina Hansen and Attorney Ray Schlather; Attorney Schlather; Hansen's first arrest, on March 21 on her way to a School Board meeting; Hansen's third arrest, on May 4 at the WGHS tennis courts; School Superintendent Tom Phillips; School Board President Kelly McCarthy, and Schlather with the media. (File photos)
Van Etten man draws 4 years in meth case
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, June 10 -- A Van Etten man was sentenced to four years in state prison on June 9 after pleading guilty in Schuyler County Court to meth-related charges.
Jason A. Miller, 32, pleaded guilty to Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine in the Second Degree, a Class C Felony, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor.
In addition to the four-year sentence, imposed by County Judge Dennis Morris, Miller was assigned three years of post-release supervision.
Miller was arrested in the Town of Hector on Feb. 27 by the Schuyler County Sheriff's Department, which said a search of his vehicle resulted in the seizure of components of a meth lab and about $2,400 in cash. Miller forfeited the cash to law enforcement as part of his negotiated plea.
Reed: It's time to back Trump
But says the GOP nominee's words are 'problematic'
WASHINGTON, June 8 -- With the primary season over, Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning) -- in a press release from his office -- is calling on Republicans to unite behind presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump "to defeat Hillary Clinton." But while not stated in the press release, he is also calling Trump's remarks regarding a federal judge "problematic."
The press release makes no mention about the controversy swirling around Trump over what many perceive as racist remarks he made concerning Judge Gonzalo Curiel's ability -- as a person of Mexican descent -- to rule fairly in two class-action civil lawsuits brought against Trump University for (as one columnist put it) "allegedly using predatory marketing practices to sell worthless real estate classes." Curiel, born and raised in Indiana, failed to issue a summary judgment in Trump's favor -- although the motion in one of the cases is still pending.
Trump has said Curiel is "a hater of Trump" who is likely to rule unfairly because of Trump's calls for construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico. "He's Mexican; I'm building a wall," Trump has repeated several times.
The press release instead quoted Reed as saying that Trump's "history as a deal maker proves he can help us achieve" needed change, adding that it is time "to unite and move forward. With Donald Trump in the White House, we can work together" to reach "commonsense, fair solutions" regarding poverty, the economy, and jobs.
It also quotes Amy Hasenberg, Tom Reed for Congress spokeswoman, as saying: “Our nation and our district cannot afford to have anyone who has helped further the Obama agenda" -- a reference to Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and to the opponent for Reed's Congressional seat, Democrat John Plumb.
When asked by email whether Reed considered Trump's remarks about the judge to be racist -- many journalists and politicians have said they are -- and if the Congressman condoned them, Hasenberg referred to a story stemming from a recent conference call with reporters. It was written on the WBFO radio website -- WBFO being Buffalo's NPR news station.
"Obviously," Reed is quoted as saying, "the comments and the rhetoric are very concerning to me, just as we've expressed concern with other rhetoric that Donald Trump has issued. This is another example of something (where) we disagree with his tactic. As Donald Trump has demonstrated, he's his own candidate. We've always expressed some concern about his rhetoric, and this is additonal rhetoric that I have concern with. To challenge a judge based on his personal background is problematic."
Photo in text: Congressman Tom Reed (File photo)
Scalers Alvin Walker (white helmet) and Dustin Karius unfurl the American Flag in front of a rock face overlooking the Watkins Glen State Park gorge entrance.
Flag unfurling at Glen State Park signals opening of trails at 6 Finger Lakes parks
WATKINS GLEN, May 25 -- The American flag was unfurled along a rock face above the entrance to the Watkins Glen State Park gorge Wednesday morning to symbolize the opening of the park's trails and those in the five other parks in the state's Finger Lakes system.
The flag was unfurled by two members of the Finger Lakes State Park Scaling Team, a group of people charged each year with removing loose stones and growth from the rock walls of the park system to help ensure the safety of the millions of summer visitors to the region.
Head of the team is Sonny Howard of Watkins Glen, who said the idea for utilizing the flag as a symbol of the park openings came from photos in the 1930s that showed a flag fronting a rock wall near the gorge entrance. Back then, he said, the flag was left up for the tourist season, but the practice apparently ran into complaints about flag desecration.
Fred Bonn, regional director of the Finger Lakes state parks -- on hand for Wednesday's unfurling -- said the flag would be removed from its perch by day's end, and that there are no plans to leave it up any longer in the future, although he hopes to see the flag ceremony repeated as a symbol of the park openings and -- through the participation of scalers -- a reminder of the need for safety in the parks and the importance of heeding signage.
The two scalers -- among a team that has been working for the past six weeks to make the park system safe -- were Dustin Karius of the Hector area and Alvin Walker of Romulus. In interviews afterward, they acknowledged that the flag ceremony was "great," with Walker saying plans for it started last year -- on "how to rig the flag, who was going over ..."
"It was pretty simple," Karius concluded.
The ceremony, which attracted scores of onlookers, will be different in the future if only because the paved parking area where people gathered to watch will be changed in the next two years to green space, part of a $6.5 million state project which, said Bonn, will enhance the visiting experience.
The green space will include a small amphitheater and improved educational displays on the park's human history and natural and geologic features, including a touchable model of the gorge, and a new overlook at the base of the gorge where people with mobility challenges will be able to enjoy the waterfalls.
The entrance area will include a new visitor welcome center where park staff can provide information about the park, and where the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce will have a counter to provide information about other attrractions in the region.
Construction is expected to begin this summer, with the renovation complete in time for the 2018 tourist season.
Meanwhile, the focus was on the season-opening flag ceremony Wednesday, with three other members of the team atop the rock wall, 186 feet above the gorge entrance. They were helping guide the ropes used to control the flag.
"This has great potential for an annual event," Bonn said, noting that the Watkins Glen State Park alone had 860,000 visitors last year, and has "a good chance of setting a new record this summer."
A ceremony like Wednesday's, he said, "is a good oppotrunity to remind people that the parks are open" -- parks that include Stony Brook, Robert Treman, Taughannock Falls, Buttermilk Falls and Fillmore Glen, and which collectively attracted 2.2 million visitors last year.
Each has a rich history, and the flag ceremony, Bonn said, "is a great opportunity to recreate a practice" from that history, one from many decades ago.
Photos in text:
From top: Finger Lakes Parks Regional Director Fred Bonn with TV reporters; scalers Alvin Walker, left, and Dustin Karius; the back of a team member's t-shirt; and Scaling Team Coordinator Sonny Howard.
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp
Bottom row: Carl Blowers, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
David M. Reed
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482
County Clerk: Theresa Philbin, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
Odessa Officials, Offices
Village Board Members
Pictured below, from left: Mayor Gerry Messmer and Village Board Trustees Robin Thoman, Anne Centurelli, Thomas Letteer Jr. and Sally Hill.
Mayor: Gerry Messmer
Trustees: Robin Thoman (594-3703), Anne Centurelli, Thomas Letteer (594-2296), and Sally Hill (594-2539)
Village Clerk: 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100
Department of Public Works: Steven Siptrott -- 607-857-6426
Village Justice: Ronald Goossen
Municipal Building: 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Dutton S. Peterson Memorial Library: 106 First St., Odessa, 594-2791
Montour Falls Village Offices
Mayor: John King
Trustees: Philip J. Smith, James P. Ryan, Steven Lawton, Vincent Chicone
Village Clerk-Treasurer: Alyssa Hammond, P.O. Box 812, 408 W. Main St., 535-7367
Village Garage: 535-9580
Village Justice: Donald Spaccio, 408 W. Main St., 535-7362
Town of Catharine Offices
Supervisor: John VanSoest
Town Board: Ronald Hoffman, Wayne Chapman, Glenn Bleiler, 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: Bill Morgan, 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: Gregory Larnard
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 Phil Palmesano
-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates