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State Police are probing theft at Glenora

Special to The Odessa File

DUNDEE, Aug. 7, 2020 -- New York State Police are requesting the public’s assistance identifying a "person of interest" involving a recent theft at The Glenora Winery.

The manager of the winery told State Police that a black male with a gray beard entered the winery on Wednesday, August 5 at 11:30 a.m. The man was described as approximately six feet tall, slightly balding, heavy set and wearing a green shirt with tan khaki shorts.

The man, police said, walked around the store and ordered some wine at the front desk before grabbing a shirt and concealing an SPCA donation jar containing over $50 in donations. The man was unable to complete the wine transaction, as his credit card was declined multiple times. He then left the store with the shirt and donation jar still in his possession, ostensibly to use the ATM machine just outside the store. He proceeded to get in his car and leave.

Police were unable to get a video or a photo of the man, but while canvassing several other wineries nearby, investigators were told by the Miles Winery that they had a similar incident take place and saw the man leave in a gray Honda sedan.

State Police are asking that anyone with information regarding this individual call the New State Police station in Dundee at 607-243-5133.

Schuyler eyes generic drug price lawsuit

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 6, 2020 -- Schuyler County legislators are considering a resolution to join federal, state and municipal governments in suing the makers of generic drugs over alleged price-fixing.

The County Legislature will vote Monday, August 10 on a resolution authorizing County Attorney Steven Getman to join forces with Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, a New York City law firm “in the investigation and/or prosecution of any legal claim against manufacturers of generic pharmaceuticals and/or their executives based upon their actions in fixing prices, allocating markets, and engaging in other antitrust violations or other wrongdoing with respect to generic pharmaceuticals.”

According to Getman, the county will be investigating claims in several areas. These include possible overpayments of Medicaid reimbursements, increased health insurance premiums for county employees, and higher costs of pharmaceuticals purchased for use by county agencies, all based upon artificially inflated generic drug prices.

Various government agencies have already commenced suit, Getman said, alleging violations of state and federal antitrust laws and consumer protection statutes.

“In 2014, the Department of Justice began an investigation into the pricing of various generic pharmaceuticals,” Getman explained. “In the wake of the federal investigation, in 2017, the state attorneys general of 48 states brought a civil action alleging price fixing, market division, and other antitrust violations by 16 defendant pharmaceutical companies related to 15 generic prescription drugs.

“As alleged, the defendants' anticompetitive conduct falls principally into two categories. First, the defendants allegedly communicated with each other to determine and agree on how much market share each would control and which customers each competitor was entitled to. Second, competitors allegedly communicated -- either in person, by telephone, or by text message -- and agreed to collectively raise and/or maintain prices for a particular generic drug.”

The lawsuits, Getman said, now involve over 100 generic drugs and 21 pharmaceutical manufacturer defendants, including Teva, Sandoz, Mylan, Pfizer, Actavis, Amneal, Apotex, Aurobindo, Breckenridge, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Glenmark, Greenstone, Lannett, Lupin, Par, Rising, Taro Israel, Taro USA, Upsher-Smith, Wockhardt USA and Zydus.

“The key question in formulating a lawsuit is determining for which generic drug(s) each county has overpaid, and whether each was a direct or indirect purchaser of same,” Getman explained. “As noted, hundreds of generic drugs have been implicated. Each affected county or municipality can bring an action asserting overpayments for each applicable generic drug.”

According to County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, any lawsuit will be filed at no risk to the county, as Napoli Shkolnik will work on a contingency basis that will cover all costs associated with the lawsuit.

“By voting to go forward with possible litigation, the County Legislature hopes to lessen the burden to taxpayers and seeks to hold manufacturers responsible for any unlawful role in the high cost of generic drugs,” O’Hearn said.

Separately, three other New York counties (Greene, Schenectady and Essex) are already working with Napoli Shkolnik on a lawsuit likely to be heard in federal court in eastern Pennsylvania, and the state Association of Counties last month circulated a memo suggesting other counties consider joining the effort.

In addition to the generics case, Schuyler County has been working with Napoli Shkolnik to prosecute a pending action against the manufacturers and distributers of prescription opiates for damages to the county arising out of the fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opiates in and to the county.

The next regular meeting of the Schuyler County Legislature will be held in the Schuyler County Human Services Building, 323 Owego Street, Montour Falls, New York on Monday, August 10, 2020 at 6:30 pm. The meeting is open to the public and all required COVID-19-related safety protocols will be in place.

A copy of the county’s proposed resolution is available here:

Photo in text: Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman

O'Mara now ranking Republican member on the Senate Investigations Committee

Will help preside over upcoming legislative hearings on COVID-19 nursing home crisis

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, July 26, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) has been appointed the top Republican member on the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations as the committee prepares to lead upcoming joint Senate-Assembly hearings on the COVID-19 nursing home crisis.

O’Mara’s appointment as the ranking member on the Investigations Committee was made by new Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt.

O’Mara will also continue to serve as the top Republican member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He welcomed the new appointment to the Investigations Committee and said that he looks forward to the upcoming hearings on nursing homes, scheduled for early August, to try to lead efforts to examine the impact of the Cuomo administration’s COVID-19 response. So far, Senate Democrat leaders have resisted calls by O’Mara and the Senate GOP to use the committee’s subpoena powers to compel testimony from the governor and top administration officials.

Questions have been raised by Republicans over the Cuomo administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York State’s nursing homes, assisted living and long-term care facilities, where at least 10,000 residents have died over the past four months.

O’Mara has worked closely with local officials throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, particularly in Steuben County, which had a nursing home “hot spot” in Hornell.

“Simply settling for the findings of an in-house report on the COVID-19 nursing home crisis from Governor Cuomo’s own Department of Health is not good enough for those who have lost parents, grandparents and other loved ones," said O'Mara. "The Governor’s response to our calls for an independent investigation as ‘politically motivated’ is disingenuous and disrespectful to these grieving families. The seniors who have died and their families deserve to have an unbiased and independent inquiry into the actions of the Department of Health, and they should know if any mistakes were made. There is nothing political about uncovering the truth.”

Ortt stressed that O’Mara is well suited to represent the Senate GOP on the committee, pointing to his previous experience as the District Attorney in Chemung County, as a former Chemung County Attorney and as a former Assistant District Attorney in both Chemung County and Manhattan.

O’Mara is a graduate of the Syracuse University College of Law.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

Push to limit Cuomo's powers rejected

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, July 21, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and his Senate Republican colleagues Tuesday proposed a legislative amendment to put an end to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s current emergency powers to unilaterally enact state laws and regulations.

However, the amendment was unanimously rejected by the Senate Democratic leadership. A similar legislative amendment was also unanimously defeated when O’Mara and Senate Republicans proposed it when the Legislature met in late May.

Since early March, O’Mara said, Cuomo has issued 54 Executive Orders that have allowed the governor to unilaterally change nearly 300 laws.

“The governor," said O'Mara, "needed the ability to respond quickly to a rapidly changing crisis at the outset of the COVID-19 response. However, four months later it’s time to put an end to this government by executive order. The dangers and shortcomings of government by executive order have become clear. A legislative process without checks and balances goes too far and fails to be effective. Senate Republicans keep putting forth proposals to restore more balanced government, but the all-downstate, extreme-liberal Senate Majority is not serious about governing or checking the power of the governor. They are content letting Governor Cuomo do the dirty work.”

The Senate GOP amendment would have immediately stopped the governor’s unilateral emergency control. The proposal would have put New York’s disaster emergency control policy in line with other states that limit an Executive’s powers to 30 days and require the Legislature’s approval for continuing the powers.

The amendment would have also mandated that the Governor provide weekly reports to the Legislature during an emergency declaration to ensure accountability and transparency.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

Palmesano rips Cuomo on new regulations

Responds to governor's rules regarding bars, restaurants, wineries and breweries

Special to The Odessa File

CORNING, July 17, 2020 -- Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced new regulations banning bars, restaurants, wineries and breweries from serving alcohol to patrons who do not order food and are not being served food.

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) is outraged.

“This arbitrary and destructive action will further hurt small businesses that have already been crushed during the COVID-19 shutdown," said Palmesano. "If it was safe to have a glass of wine or a beer six feet away from other customers yesterday, what changed overnight? This is just the whim of the governor, who is obsessed with controlling nearly every aspect of everyday life in the state of New York.

"Under Phase IV for our region, the governor increased and set capacity limits at 50% for restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries serving food or beverages, and he is once again moving the goalposts in the middle of the game, even with our lower infection rates. This action is the latest example of the governor exceeding and abusing his emergency powers.

"This is why so many of my colleagues and I have been urging members on the other side of the aisle to join us in taking action to finally end the governor’s emergency powers that he’s consistently abused for months. Enough is enough,” said Palmesano.

Palmesano said this latest executive action could be particularly harmful for the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region, the center of the state’s multi-billion dollar wine, craft beverage and agritourism industry.

“Ironically, this is an industry the governor has boasted about and supported in the past," said Palmesano. "This new mandate will prolong the financial hardship and crisis. The small, family-owned operations that power the area’s tourism have worked hard to adapt to the changing regulations by the governor and can’t continue to absorb additional, costly mandates after losing months of business.”

Palmesano added that this action is being driven by reported violations of overcrowded bars in New York City and downstate New York.

“Once again," he said, "Governor Cuomo is instituting another ‘one-size fits all’ approach. The Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region is not New York City. We do not have the density or the infections that downstate has, and the small businesses and employees here, who have been following the rules, should not be hurt and penalized because of actions taking place in New York City.”

Palmesano also questioned the timing of the order.

"We’ve made progress here," he said. "Infection rates across the state are extremely low, especially here in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region. We need to continue to work together to protect public health, but this order is an extreme and unnecessary reaction. This is not the time to blindside these businesses and workers. This is the time we should be helping them, not hurting them even more than they have been. They made sacrifices. They followed the governor’s rules and shut-down orders, and they are just trying to survive and avoid an economic catastrophe.

"This is the worst possible time for the governor to mandate devastating new regulations. It’s arbitrary and it's just wrong."

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photo)

Results of Primary Elections unveiled

SCHUYLER COUNTY, June 24, 2020 -- Primary elections were held Tuesday, including on a limited basis in Schuyler County.

Results included:

President, Democratic Party: Joe Biden 241, Bernie Sanders 79, Elizabeth Warren 20.
Orange Town Council, 2-Year term, Republicans: Heather A. Waters 39, Richard M. Hendricks 30.
Orange Town Council, 3-Year unexpired term, Republicans: Maryann J. Friebis 42, Jocelyn Harrison 29.

O'Mara to Cuomo: Open up graduations

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, June 15, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) continues to join a chorus of voices from across the Southern Tier region calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to revise the state-mandated size limit for in-person high school graduation ceremonies.

In early June, the governor issued an executive order limiting in-person graduation ceremonies to no more than a total of 150 attendees.

O’Mara and other Southern Tier leaders stress that this state-mandated restriction leaves many school districts unable to conduct a collective gathering for their entire graduating school community.

O’Mara said, “I think that’s wrong. I believe we can and should trust school district administrators and regional officials to conduct safe graduation ceremonies. In my view, given all of the recent civil protest and unrest, these traditional high school graduation ceremonies for our young people to celebrate community, family, unity, achievement, and hope for the future are extremely meaningful and necessary this year. I continue to urge Governor Cuomo to recognize their overriding value at this time and place in New York State.”

The Watkins Glen School District, with that limiter in place, has opted to go with four graduation ceremonies on June 27 -- the only way it can permit the students' families to attend and celebrate the milestone.

In a letter Monday to the Horseheads Central School District community, Superintendent Tom Douglas wrote, “Our senior class is over 300 students. In order to meet that requirement and include parents and personnel to help us adhere to safety guidelines and run graduation, we would need several ceremonies. To date (Governor Cuomo) has not changed this arbitrary number -- (which is) not based on fact or data. He has allowed gatherings for other events and activities such as beaches and big box stores at 25% of the location’s capacity. We believe we can hold graduation safely using this guideline, but unless and until the governor changes his 150 limit, we are unable to hold one in-person graduation ceremony for this very special Class of 2020.

"Urge (Governor Cuomo) to increase the number of attendees at in-person graduation ceremonies using the same percentage limits being used for other gatherings at beaches, big box stores (Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot) and grocery stores: 25% or more of the actual venue’s capacity. If this reasonable request were granted, almost all districts in the state could hold one graduation ceremony that includes all graduates, two parents/guests, and the necessary staff on their football fields and meet social distancing requirements.”

Last Friday, county executives and county mangers from across the Southern Tier region -- including Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss, Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler, and Schuyler County Administrator Timothy O’Hearn -- also wrote to Cuomo calling on the governor to revise the guidelines.

In their letter, the county leaders wrote, “We are NY Tough and we are also Southern Tier Strong. We appreciate your leadership and flexibility through this unprecedented crisis. Given the Southern Tier’s positive healthcare data, we feel that we can accommodate larger graduations with the appropriate standards and precautions. Let’s work together to give the thousands of high school graduates and their families in the Southern Tier the graduations that they deserve.”

O’Mara and other Southern Tier leaders urge area residents who support their effort to call the governor’s office at 518-474-8390, or send an online message through the following web page:

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Governor Andrew Cuomo (File photos)

Beaver Dams man accused in stabbing attack

GENESEO, June 11, 2020 -- A Schuyler County man has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and first-degree assault after an incident Tuesday at the Geneseo Walmart.

Gregory Cunningham, 24, of Beaver Dams is accused of stabbng a woman multiple times inside the store -- a scene described by witnesses and Geneseo police as "chaotic."

The victm, 34, was treated and released from the hospital Wednesday, said members of her family.

One witness in a checkout line said she heard a woman screaming "at the top of her lungs" and that the victim, approached by a clerk, said "I'm going to die! I'm going to die! Somebody stabbed me!"

Geneseo Police Chief Eric Osganian said that when police arrived soon after, the suspect was quickly identified and was taken into custody without difficulty.

Another witness told an area TV station that the attacker struck with a four-inch pocket knife in the store's dairy section and that the victim ran through the store, "bleeding profusely" and saying "Please don't let me die. I have two small kids and a husband."

The police chief said drugs and alcohol don't seem to be involved, and that police are investigating Cunningham's background. None of the suspect's social media posts contained any suspicious behavior, Osganian added.

Police said it does not appear that Cunningham and the victim know one another.

Cunningham was arraigned Wednesday afternoon, at which time he pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond, and a mental competency exam was ordered.

Photo in text: Gregory Cunningham (Photo provided)

Local road, bridge work gets green light

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, June 11, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning), and Assemblyman Chris Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats) Thursday welcomed the announcement that the Cuomo administration is giving counties across the region the go-ahead to start this summer’s local road and bridge projects.

In a joint statement, O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend said, “We are pleased that the Cuomo administration has responded to our calls, together with the calls of industry and local government leaders across New York State, to move forward on this summer’s local road and bridge work. These critical projects had been on hold and the state’s delay was raising serious concerns that any prolonged slowdown would have severe economic consequences for local economies and lead to even more job losses. This infrastructure work will be a badly needed jumpstart for regional economies hard-hit by the COVID-19 response.”

Prior to the go-ahead, O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend were joined by transportation, construction, and local government leaders from across the state to urge the Cuomo administration to release the funding.

In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo on May 27, the lawmakers highlighted the importance of the work to local economies across upstate, rural New York. They urged the governor to immediately direct the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to release approximately $743 million in local transportation aid enacted earlier this year as part of the 2020-2021 state budget, including funding through several key programs including the Consolidated Local Streets and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), PAVE-NY, and Extreme Winter Recovery.

Palmesano named to legislative task force

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, June 11, 2020 -- Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay Thursday announced that Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) has been named as the Minority Conference’s representative on the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research & Reapportionment (LATFOR).

Every 10 years, following completion of the U.S. Census, New York’s election district lines are redrawn to determine boundaries for congressional and state legislative offices. The Legislative Task Force is made up of six members, including four legislators and two non-legislators. Each conference leader appoints one legislator, while the Assembly Speaker and Temporary President of the Senate each appoint one additional non-legislator.

“Redistricting is always a critical undertaking for New Yorkers and for the state’s electoral process,” Barclay said. “I have every confidence that Phil Palmesano will be a strong voice on this task force. His diligence, experience and knowledge will serve our Conference well as the panel conducts its work.”

“I am honored to represent our Conference as part of the Legislature’s redistricting efforts, and I thank Leader Barclay for the trust and confidence he has placed in me,” Palmesano said. “The redistricting task force plays an essential role in how voters choose their elected leaders and the makeup of congressional and legislative seats. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the panel and getting started on the job ahead of us.”

Palmesano was elected to the Assembly in 2010 and represents the 132nd Assembly District, which includes the majority of Steuben County, all of Schuyler and Yates counties and portions of Chemung and Seneca counties.

He was appointed Assistant Minority Leader in 2020 and is the Minority’s ranking member on the Assembly Energy Committee. In addition, he also serves on the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Corrections, Insurance, and Ways and Means committees.

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photo)

Anchor union leader admits embezzlement

Special to The Odessa File

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced Tuesday that Brian Arnold, 49, of Pine City, NY, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. to embezzlement of union funds. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan K. McGuire, who is handling the case, said the defendant served as Financial Secretary with Steelworkers Local Union 104M, which represents approximately 75 workers at Anchor Glass Container Corporation, from September 2015 to August 2018. As financial secretary, Arnold was responsible for collecting dues checks, recording all receipts, maintaining receipts and disbursement records, writing and signing checks, and preparing an accurate account of all money received and paid out to report monthly to the union membership.

Between April 2016 and August 2018, Arnold embezzled $33,224.15 in union funds. The defendant made unauthorized purchases with the union’s debit card; made unauthorized ATM withdrawals from the union’s checking account; and wrote unauthorized checks to himself from the union’s checking account.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Sentencing is scheduled for September 10, 2020, before Judge Geraci.

Montour Falls man pleads guilty in porn case

Special to The Odessa File

ROCHESTER, June 10, 2020 -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced Tuesday that Michael J. Truesdail, 39, of Montour Falls, NY has pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. to possession of child pornography involving prepubescent minors.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan K. McGuire, who is handling the case, said that on March 27, 2019, a federal search warrant was executed at the defendant’s Henry Street residence. A number of electronic items were seized including two computers, a hard drive, an SD card, and two thumb drives.

Officials said a forensic analysis recovered more than 8,000 images and 10 video files, some of which depict children engaged in sexual activity with other children and with adults.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Guyton.

Sentencing is scheduled for September 10, 2020, before Judge Geraci.

Palmesano to Cuomo: Drive-through graduation ceremonies are not enough

Note: Governor Andrew Cuomo, days after this article appeared, decided to permit stadium graduations, but with a limitation of 150 participants.

CORNING, June 4, 2020 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I -Corning) Thursday sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo petitioning him to allow high school seniors across the state to experience the culmination of their high school careers: in-person graduations.

Palmesano also signed on to a letter sent by his colleagues in the Assembly Republican Conference to the governor petitioning for the same thing.

Palmesano cited declining COVID-19 infection rates, particularly Upstate, and his strong belief that education officials could collaborate with public health leaders to ensure safe ceremonies.

“As I said and you know well," Palmesano wrote, "these kids have sacrificed and lost so many of the final opportunities and experiences of their senior year in high school. Experiences like class trips, sports, club events, athletic signings for college, yearbook signings, their proms and end of year fun and get- togethers. Governor Cuomo, they’ve missed out on enough.  Don’t take their high school graduation ceremonies away from them too."

Earlier Thursday, the governor announced that he would allow drive-through graduations. Palmesano said the proposal was inadequate.

“Our kids deserve a better send-off than that,” said Palmesano.

Palmesano’s letter concluded by saying:

“Governor, through your actions, you have the opportunity to deliver a strong message of perseverance to our high school seniors. Allow our seniors to have graduation ceremonies, celebrate their accomplishments and bring much-needed closure to their high school careers. They deserve this. We owe it to them and we should make it happen for them.”

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

Mayors in Watkins Glen, Odessa fly in face
of late ruling before Cuomo OKs reopenings

SCHUYLER COUNTY, May 29, 2020 -- The mayors of Watkins Glen and Odessa objected Friday to New York State's Thursday evening delay on Phase 2 reopenings by urging businesses to move forward as though the edict did not exist.

They were not alone. Government leaders from a number of locales in the affected Upstate regions -- the Finger Lakes, the Southern Tier, the Mohawk Valley, Central New York and the North Country -- were pushing back with sharp criticism of Governor Andrew Cuomo's waffling, with some urging businesses to open anyway.

Half a day later, Cuomo had reversed himself and given the green light for businesses to open under Phase 2 guidance and safety restrictions.

Both Watkins Mayor Luke Leszyk -- saying he was speaking from a personal viewpoint, and not an official one -- and Odessa Mayor Gerry Messmer took to Facebook to voice their objections to the state's Thursday night move -- before Cuomo gave the green light.

In a posting on his personal Facebook page, Leszyk wrote: "Despite the indecision of our governor and their lack of guidance I would say that we are officially in Phase 2 of reopening. I would like to include outdoor seating for our restaurants, though that wasn't included, but I feel makes sense. If any businesses get pushback or complaints I will take full responsibility. Watkins Glen is on its way to being back ..."

Leszyk said Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn called him early Friday morning to complain about the Facebook message, and asked him to retract it. Leszyk declined to do so. O'Hearn was particularly upset about the restaurant seating reference, the mayor said, and expressed the fear that if businesses did not comply with the state, the county might suffer consequences. (Leszyk added that he was not advocating outdoor seating at this time, but rather expressing a personal opinion.)

"He said I was putting the county at a big liability risk -- that we could go backward," said Leszyk. "But I am a citizen, and have the right to express my opinion. Businesses have to use best practices. Ultimately, the county runs the Department of Health and can come down and cite you and pull your permit, or the ABC can pull your liquor license. So business owners should keep that in mind."

But if any businesses chose to reopen despite the state edict not to, "I'd back anybody who does it," he said.

He wouldn't be doing so in an official capacity, he added, but "I won't be encouraging enforcement -- unless somebody was putting people at risk."

Odessa Mayor Messmer, meanwhile, wrote on the village's Facebook page that "Odessa is now in Phase 2 and all businesses in this category can open as planned. Use common sense, social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer, perhaps outdoor seating for our minimal venues, and all other businesses feel free to open up as well.

"I will assume responsibility and defend you. It's time to get things moving!

"The Governor's office is dragging their feet, and quite frankly, have no authority over Odessa or private businesses, so we will open using current CDC guidance and items as mentioned above, and any precautions you deem necessary as a business owner."

In a subsequent phone call, Messmer said the state "is backpedaling. People were counting on opening. The Governor can't keep jerking people around. He's acting like King Cuomo. I think it's bogus. He's showing a complete lack of leadership."

O'Hearn,meanwhile, confirmed that he was most concerned by Leszyk's reference to outdoor seating, and says he cautioned the mayor that whether he was speaking officially or not, "you can't separate the two" -- that if a mayor speaks, people think of him as the mayor.

He also cautioned that any businesses that felt compelled to open in the face of the latest state order should consult legal and insurance representatives before doing so.

"All I can say is we're not in Phase 2, according to the Governor," O'Hearn said at midmorning Friday -- about four hours before the Governor gave the go-ahead. "That's the best I can tell people at this point."

Despite what mayors were saying, he noted, rules regarding the pandemic are "driven by the state. We're being governed by Executive Orders, like it or not. This is not a home rule issue." He said mayoral objections were, accordingly, "great sound bites."

Then, at his 1 p.m. press conference, the Governor said that experts had studied appropriate data and that businesses were free to open that afternoon.

By then, most businesses in Watkins Glen had opted to remain closed. Leszyk said he hoped they would be opening Saturday.

Photos in text:

From top: Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk, Odessa Mayor Gerry Messmer and Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn. (File photos)

O'Mara, Palmesano, Friend seek release
of funds for local road and bridge work

Warn that prolonged slowdown on projects will have severe economic consequences

ELMIRA, May 27, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning), and Assemblyman Chris Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats) are calling on the Cuomo administration to give counties across the region the go-ahead to start this summer’s local road and bridge projects.

They said that the local transportation work remains on hold awaiting the release of state funding as well as the necessary state authorizations that counties are required to have before moving forward with projects.

In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the area state lawmakers highlighted the importance of the work to local economies across upstate, rural New York. They urged the governor to immediately direct the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to release approximately $743 million in local transportation aid enacted earlier this year as part of the 2020-2021 state budget, including funding through several key programs including the Consolidated Local Streets and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), PAVE-NY, BRIDGE-NY, and Extreme Winter Recovery.

They warn that the state cannot afford to risk the economic consequences of a prolonged slowdown in local road and bridge work.

O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend wrote in their May 27th letter to Cuomo, “As you know, over the past decade we have worked closely with county and town highway superintendents and local transportation leaders from throughout New York State to help lead the ‘Local Roads Matter’ advocacy campaign that has continually highlighted the fundamental role that this system plays as a foundation of local economies.

“Furthermore, we have appreciated working together with you and your administration to strengthen New York State’s support for local roads, bridges, and culverts through the CHIPS, PAVE-NY, and BRIDGE-NY programs, as well as other capital programs and initiatives like the Extreme Winter Recovery allocations that have made an enormous difference for the quality and strength of local communities and local economies, and to help ease the burden on local property taxpayers.

“Now that New York is beginning to reopen and as we all look forward to getting our local economies moving again, we believe it should be a top priority to maintain a strong state commitment to local transportation infrastructure as one effective and commonsense way to reinvigorate economic sectors that have been hit so hard by the COVID-19 response.

“To put it simply and straightforwardly, we do not believe New York State can afford to risk the consequences of a further prolonged slowdown in local road and bridge work.”

Since 2013, O’Mara, Palmesano, Friend and many of their legislative colleagues have joined county and town highway superintendents and other local transportation leaders from throughout New York to promote a stronger state commitment to local transportation infrastructure through the “Local Roads Matter” advocacy campaign.  Over the past seven years, largely through a series of “extreme winter recovery” allocations distributed through the CHIPS funding formula, and together with the PAVE-NY and BRIDGE-NY programs established in 2016, important increased state support has been provided for New York’s counties, cities, towns, and villages.

In their letter to the governor, O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend wrote, “We listened with great interest to your May 26th daily briefing during which you urged the federal government to fully recognize the importance, effectiveness, and common sense of infrastructure development as a surefire way to create jobs and stimulate the economy. We could not agree more -- and we could not agree more that it would be an equally important way for New York State to truly begin jumpstarting local economies upstate and downstate. While your May 26th briefing largely focused on downstate initiatives and projects, we are confident that you fully recognize that local transportation infrastructure projects remain the lifeblood of so many upstate, rural economies.”

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

Downtown Montour Falls shortly before the start of the Memorial Day service, with a flag raised by the village's Fire Department standing sentinel above Shequagah Falls.

Memorial Day service pays homage, but minus a keynote, bagpipes, band & crowd

MONTOUR FALLS, May 25, 2020 -- Memorial Day in the age of the pandemic brought significant changes to the observance Monday.

While gatherings that traditionally attracted crowds in Watkins Glen and outside Odessa were not mounted this year, one staged annually in Montour Falls was held -- but trimmed down.

The Village Board decided to honor America's war dead with a ceremony at the same locale at which one is held annually -- Shequagah Falls Park.

But in order to maintain social distancing, the event was not announced publicly, so only a relative handful of spectators showed up. Mayor John King was present to emcee the brief ceremony, while Village Trustee Jim Ryan read a list of the 34 veterans in the area who died in the past year.

There was the placing of a wreath by Mayor King at a memorial marker near the park's sidewalk, and a 21-shot salute by an Honor Guard from American Legion Post 676. Taps were played by Noah Brewster, an alumnus of Odessa-Montour High School.

There was no bagpiper on hand as in most years, nor a keynote speaker, nor a vocalist to perform the National Anthem, nor the O-M school band. And there were, by design, very few spectators. The event, Ryan pointed out, was only mentioned publicly in the Village Board meeting minutes, which apparently few people read.

Mayor King, who like Ryan was sporting a face mask, said safety concerns were paramount in the event's planning, but that the board felt the day merited a ceremony.

In his remarks, the mayor -- who lowered his mask to be heard above the noise of the falls --said Memorial Day was "a time to come together as one body to say Thank you, we are grateful" to those who have given their lives in service to their country.

Photo in text: The American Legion Post 676 Honor Guard was part of the service.

Left: Montour Falls Mayor John King presided at the ceremony. Right: American Legion Honor Guard member Jim Tobey after the service.

Left: A wreath was placed in front of a memorial marker during the ceremony. Right: Village Board member Jim Ryan reads the list of 34 area veterans who have died in the past year.

O'Mara to Cuomo: Deliver the resources needed to protect nursing home residents

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, May 20, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and members of the Senate Republican Conference Wednesday stepped up their ongoing calls for the Cuomo administration to take full responsibility for the COVID-19 nursing home crisis.

O’Mara said, “Governor Cuomo can’t just issue another directive or another unfunded state mandate out of Albany and leave this nursing home crisis to be addressed at the local level. Not now, when we have already lost thousands of seniors. Not now, when this virus remains an extreme danger to the elderly in nursing homes. Not now, when our localities, local care facilities, and local caregivers on the front lines are already overburdened, overwhelmed, and under pressure.

"It is long past time for Governor Cuomo to order his administration to take full responsibility for this crisis and deliver the resources necessary to protect this vulnerable population.”

O’Mara and legislative colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, have continued to pressure the Cuomo administration to play a larger and more direct role to protect nursing home residents and staff from COVID-19.

The governor has come under increased scrutiny for the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes where, according to recent state reporting, deaths total more than 5,000. GOP senators said that state-regulated nursing homes and other congregate care facilities throughout New York have for years continually faced budget cuts that resulted in staffing shortages, and that the COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated an already tenuous situation.

“The front lines of this nursing home crisis in Steuben County and other hot spots throughout New York have led to important shifts in state policies," said O'Mara, "but it has also highlighted the frustration at the local level with the response of the Cuomo administration and overall state policies. We repeatedly called for aggressive and decisive actions by the state Health Department to test, isolate, and prevent spread, but kept running into the roadblocks of existing state policies and directives -- and now that includes new, costly state-mandated testing that our rural facilities simply cannot afford or administer."

Some nursing home operators say they can’t comply with the latest state directive to test employees for COVID-19 twice a week. Facilities would have to pay between $75 to $150 per test, they say. According to some estimates, the cost for a nursing home in a rural upstate area to comply with the state’s testing mandate could total as much as $90,000 per week.  And if the employees were to quarantine awaiting results, as is usually required, they would only be able to work three or four days a week. Nursing homes also reported that state labs currently lack the capacity to process twice weekly tests, and many expressed health concerns for staffers over the repeated testing.

The state provided 320,000 testing kits this week to nursing homes, but that does not cover the two tests per week requirement for the entire workforce across the state. It remains unclear if the state will continue distribution at this scale.

O’Mara and his Senate GOP colleagues are calling on the Cuomo administration to immediately:

--Provide all necessary test kits directly to the facilities that have been scrambling to access them.
--Utilize the National Guard to assist in administering tests and cleansing facilities to provide critical relief.
--Use short swab or saliva tests.
--Provide PPE to nursing homes, long-term care and adult day care facilities.
--Create a long-term care specific staffing pool; and
--Create regionally based long-term care facilities for COVID-positive nursing home residents.

O’Mara has also joined legislative colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to call for an independent investigation into the COVID-19 nursing home crisis.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

O'Mara: Stay focused on public health

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, May 15, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) Friday welcomed the start of the Phase I reopenings across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions and urged area residents to continue adhering to public health requirements so that local economies can keep moving forward.

O’Mara said, “It’s very positive that we have reached this important mile marker on the long road back to reopening. It’s the result of strong regional teamwork and public outreach that will continue to serve us well throughout the important weeks and months ahead. This emergency has called for all hands on deck and we’ve responded. Now we want to keep pushing forward, reopening more of our local economies, and getting more workers back on the job as quickly as possible.

"We can’t risk any setbacks. That means, number one, we all have to keep listening to our local public health departments and their critical messages for keeping COVID-19 under control. We’ve achieved the beginning of this reopening because of personal responsibility and enormous sacrifices. Keep holding the line. We also need the Cuomo administration to help our regional reopenings move forward with greater clarity, common sense, and fairness, and I will continue working with area colleagues to keep pushing the state to recognize specific regional needs, concerns, and suggestions. This reopening is a badly needed first step but there’s a lot of work facing us to fix what’s broken and keep meeting the needs for assistance.

Since the beginning of the state shutdown in mid-March, O’Mara has maintained a “One-Stop” webpage on his Senate website,, that has gathered, in one place, links to a range of information and resources being issued by numerous federal, state, and local agencies and organizations.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Danks Burke: Let's focus on more problems

Special to The Odessa File

BIG FLATS, May 15, 2020 -- As the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions begin to reopen with the lifting of the COVID-19 pandemic "PAUSE," Leslie Danks Burke, candidate for State Senate in the 58th district, is calling out Senator Tom O'Mara for publicly announcing that the state should focus on public health demands and the need to get upstate back to work.

"I'm glad Mr. O'Mara is paying attention to the rapidly increasing death toll in nursing homes and the thousands of Southern Tier and Finger Lakes residents who are newly unemployed on his watch," Danks Burke said. "These tragedies demand real attention.

"My heart also lies with the children who aren't eating because schools are closed, with veterans who are struggling without easy access to suicide prevention programs at the VA, with innkeepers who've poured their life into businesses that they now see evaporating before their eyes, with parents facing their children each evening, knowing they can't help their own kids succeed in school because school's happening on the internet and there's no internet service or money to pay for it, with farmers who are selling their animals because they're facing bankruptcy. ... We have a lot more than two things that need attention."

Photo in text: Leslie Danks Burke

Feds launch op as Covid-19 fraud cases surge

Special to The Odessa File

lBUFFALO, NY, May 13, 2020 -- Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) recently announced the launch of Operation Stolen Promise, a national operation aimed at combatting COVID-19 fraud and other related criminal activity. The operation enhances collaboration with multiple federal agencies, along with business and industry representatives.

Surging criminal activity surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, federal officials say, requires an equally robust investigative response to protect the American public.

“The unfortunate reality is there are criminal enterprises actively exploiting Americans while they are at their most vulnerable,” said HSI Buffalo Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly. “But these heartless criminal groups should be forewarned that while some aspects of regular life have been temporarily paused, HSI and CBP are still actively and aggressively pursuing those who operate these illicit schemes.”

“CBP and HSI are partners in combating cross-border illegal activity,” said Buffalo Field Office Director Rose Brophy. “We will continue to work together to protect the public from those who are attempting to profit from this pandemic.”

Locally, HSI Buffalo special agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection-Office of Field Operations have seized approximately 6,000 fraudulent COVID-19 test kits, 3,400 N95 masks, and thousands of purported treatment pills to include Hydroxycloroquin Sulfate, Lainhua Qingwen Jianonang, Levofloxacin, Avelox, Chloroquin Phosphate, Azithromycin, and Chloroquine. More than $110,000 in illicit funds tied to COVID-19 fraud has been seized.

Criminal organizations that have historically engaged in financial scams, officials said, are pivoting to exploit the coronavirus pandemic and the associated stimulus package for illegal financial gains. These networks are smuggling and selling counterfeit safety equipment and prohibited testing kits, medicines, and hygiene products, as well as running illicit websites to sell their merchandise. In the coming weeks, HSI Buffalo anticipates that financial fraud scams involving financial relief, COVID-19 stimulus checks, and traditional boiler room criminal operations will increase. All these fraud scams impact and burden government public benefit agencies that are in the process of distributing aid and providing assistance.

As of May 4, HSI special agents nationally opened over 315 investigations nationwide; seized over $3.2 million in illicit proceeds; made 11 arrests; executed 21 search warrants; analyzed over 19,000 COVID-19 domain names; and worked alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection to seize 494 shipments of mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited COVID-19 test kits, treatment kits, homeopathic remedies, purported anti-viral products and personal protective equipment (PPE).

About that asymptomatic COVID-19 case

SCHUYLER COUNTY, May 12, 2020 -- Public health officials announced Tuesday that after several weeks without a new case of COVID-19 in Schuyler County, notification had been received of one new case in an asymptomatic individual.

The message from health officials Tuesday about the case -- the 10th in Schuyler County -- was as follows:

"We received notification of one new positive confirmed case of COVID-19 today in an asymptomatic individual. It is important to remember that as testing is expanded it is likely we will find more positive cases, especially asymptomatic cases (people who test positive for the virus, but don’t have any symptoms). While this may seem bad, it is good that these cases are being identified. It allows us to place individuals who test positive into isolation and put their contacts in quarantine to stop the spread of the virus.

"Contact tracing for this individual is currently in progress and we are in the process of identifying individuals who may have been exposed and putting them in quarantine. Based on our investigation so far, we do not believe the individual produced any public exposure risks (by) limiting unnecessary trips into public places and ... wearing a face covering when outside the home. We will provide additional details with tomorrow’s update after the contact investigation is complete.

"Please remember to wear face coverings in public, wash your hands frequently, and limit contact with people outside your home. The cloth face cover isn’t to protect you -- it protects other people in case you are infected and don’t know it yet. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you don’t feel sick. It is very important that we all continue these protective actions."

O'Mara to Cuomo: Fix New York State's broken unemployment insurance system

ELMIRA, May 9, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara Satuday joined his colleagues in the Senate Republican Conference to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to fix New York’s broken unemployment system.

O’Mara and his colleagues proposed a series of recommendations to remedy failures at the Department of Labor (DOL).

O’Mara said, “My offices have been fielding a flood of calls and emails from area workers who have lost their jobs and, for several weeks or longer now, have been unable to access and receive the unemployment assistance they need and deserve. It’s become a desperate situation and it’s past the time to get it fixed. The Cuomo administration needs to redouble the effort to get this essential aid to everyone who needs it to support their families and survive this public health crisis.”

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment has skyrocketed to 1.76 million New Yorkers, and constituents, growing increasingly hopeless, have frantically called Republican state Senate offices reporting that they cannot get proper or timely assistance from DOL, or that they filed nearly two months ago and have not received a single check. Tearful callers say they cannot afford to put food on the table.

While the State has reportedly spent nearly $88 million on high-end firm Deloitte to overhaul the DOL call system and for 200 firm employees, desperate unemployed New Yorkers still cannot get through or have legitimate filings stuck in the system.

Since DOL has been unable to fix or properly address these issues on their own, the Senate GOP is calling for the following immediate steps to be taken:

-- The Governor must streamline application certifications and allow applicants to “certify” upon application, while still providing appropriate safeguards to help ensure that benefits only go to eligible New Yorkers;

-- In addition to the 3,000 employees currently working phones, the DOL must collaborate with other state agencies to train thousands more of the state’s workforce, who are staying at home, to rapidly field calls and help New Yorkers file to receive benefits immediately;

-- The State Comptroller, who oversees payments, contracts, and finances in the state, should be empowered to provide Emergency Oversight and Assistance to DOL;

-- The Comptroller should conduct an immediate, fast-track audit of the DOL’s procedures and administration of the program; and

-- A State Legislative Joint Committee should conduct an immediate review and investigation into DOL’s failed handling of unemployment benefits throughout the pandemi.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

O'Mara to Cuomo: Focus on short-term

Warns ‘government by executive order’ has gone too far

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, May 7, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) Thursday urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to keep his administration’s response to the COVID-19 emergency “laser focused on the short-term public health demands of this crisis and the need to get upstate back to work. We can’t afford to draw attention and resources away from the immediate crisis by engaging now in grand and radical ideas to remake education and health care.”

O’Mara was responding to Cuomo’s announcements this week that the state will join forces with the Bill Gates Foundation to “reimagine” education in New York and with Google to transform the state’s health care system.

Both moves are raising concerns among O’Mara and legislative colleagues, as well as state education and health care leaders, that Cuomo could try to implement far-reaching changes without input from the Legislature, stakeholders, and the public at large.

Since the state shutdown began in mid-March, Cuomo has issued hundreds of executive orders that effectively allow the governor to make state law unilaterally. A recent Buffalo News report, for example, estimated that Cuomo has already authorized nearly $3 billion in spending on the COVID-19 response and some question whether the spending is being done with the appropriate, independent oversight.

According to O’Mara, expanding unilateral action by the governor is troubling.

“We have been witnessing state government by executive order," he said. "While I agree that the immediate COVID-19 response has demanded an ability to respond swiftly, Governor Cuomo is going too far too fast unilaterally and it raises serious and significant legislative concerns.

"The Cuomo administration needs to keep state resources and manpower laser focused on the immediate COVID-19 response. We need to weather this storm with fiscal responsibility and strict priorities. We do need to look ahead, but now is not the time to take state resources away from this public and economic emergency to pursue grand ideas and radical reforms for education, health care, or any other cornerstone of New York State’s long-term future. There will be a time for all of that.

"Now is not that time and it can’t be Governor Cuomo alone making those long-term reforms. It requires the involvement of the Legislature, education and health care stakeholders, and the public at large.”

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

O'Mara backs 'Reopen & Reset' strategy

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, May 5, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and his Senate Republican colleagues announced this week that they will be putting forth a “Reopen and Reset” strategy for the upstate regions they represent.

While Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to focus on plans for the calibrated, short-term reopening of local economies along regional boundaries, O’Mara and his colleagues want to also begin setting rebuilding priorities for post-coronavirus government in New York State throughout the coming year and into the foreseeable future.

O’Mara, whose 58th Senate District covers most of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, said that he and other state Senate Republicans are discussing and developing strategies for upstate’s post-coronavirus communities and economies focusing on several cornerstones, including the steady rebuilding of increasing numbers of economic sectors, regulatory and tax reform, and mandate relief, among others.

Said O'Mara: “Right now we are witnessing state government by executive order and that will need to change as soon as possible. I have stressed throughout the ongoing COVID-19 response that we also need to be ready, once we weather this storm, to start an open and full discussion on the best ways to move forward for this entire state, upstate and downstate. It is going to require a restructuring of New York government, strengthening the state-local partnership, and getting back to work rebuilding New York with the right priorities, long-overdue commonsense reform, and fiscal responsibility.

"I look forward to continuing to join my Senate Republican colleagues throughout the weeks and months ahead to put forth strategies and work to ensure that our upstate regions don't get left behind in the unprecedented rebuilding and restructuring effort that we're facing.”

One action O’Mara and his colleagues would like New York State to take immediately is to align the businesses on the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESD) “essential business” designation with that of the federal government’s essential businesses list. They argue that this move to more directly align New York’s reopening with the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “Opening Up America Again” guidelines would allow more small businesses, industries, and manufacturers to reopen safely.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

Palmesano, colleagues: Local governments should get federal assistance for PPE buys

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, May 5, 2020 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) and his Assembly Republican colleagues are calling for federal assistance to reimburse local governments for needed PPE's (personal protective equipment) purchased for volunteer emergency medical service (EMS) workers and volunteer firefighters.

They’re also seeking federal funding to cover lost wages for emergency volunteers forced to quarantine due to potential exposure to the coronavirus.

The lawmakers are also sponsoring a bill which would create the New York State Volunteer Fire Protection Emergency Reimbursement Account, a state fund that would reimburse volunteer fire companies, districts, departments and EMS for coronavirus expenses.

“Volunteer emergency service workers are the backbone of our rural communities," said Palmesano. "They have our backs no matter how dangerous the circumstances. Protecting them must be a bipartisan priority in Albany and Washington. We can’t ask them to continue their selfless service without providing them with the resources they need to protect themselves and their families.”

Palmesano joined his colleagues in sending a letter last week to President Trump, Senator Charles Schumer and the New York State congressional delegation urging federal action.

“Many volunteer emergency districts and volunteer fire companies host fundraisers to help balance their budgets," said Palmesano. "Obviously, they have been unable to host such gatherings. Even though our state revenues are strained, providing help for our volunteer emergency service workers must remain a priority. We also need the federal government to step in and provide additional assistance.”

Additionally, Palmesano is encouraging the federal government to ensure volunteer fire departments are eligible for disaster relief programs, including loans and grants.

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photo)

Town of Catharine Dumpster Day is May 16

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, April 30, 2020 -- The Town of Catharine will host a Dumpster Day on Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m. to noon for town residents only at the town barns.

Household items (NO GARBAGE), tires without rims, appliances, and scrap metal will be accepted.  The town will not be accepting electronics for recycling.

For more information, call 594-2273 or check out

O'Mara to Cuomo: Don't forget Upstate

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 20, 2020 -- At his daily COVID-19 press briefing at the Capitol Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of a “Reimagine New York Task Force” to begin working on restructuring New York State government in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cuomo said the new task force will be charged with developing plans for public transportation, housing, public safety, health care, social equality, and the use of technology.

In doing so, however, the governor explicitly stated that the task force will focus “primarily on downstate New York.”

State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) urged the governor to include the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and all of Upstate New York, in the planned restructuring of New York government.

O’Mara said, “I encourage the governor to keep looking ahead and recognizing that a restructuring of New York State government is at hand, because I’ve recently called for that very same post COVID-19 future for New York government. But it baffles me why Governor Cuomo would only include downstate New York.

"Upstate New York also deserves better public transportation, better housing, better public safety, better health care, better technology and all of the other areas the governor highlighted for the future of downstate New York. Believe me, from high taxes to unfunded state mandates, Upstate New York deserves and needs to be fully included in this ‘reimagining’ of state government. This restructuring is long overdue.

"Clearly, we will need to keep reminding the Governor and the downstate-controlled State Legislature that Upstate’s still here and there’s a few things we can imagine too I look forward to helping make sure we will not be forgotten moving forward.”

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara.

Palmesano, colleagues seek farm assistance

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 16, 2020 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) and his Assembly Republican colleagues sent a letter to the governor and Senate and Assembly leaders Wednesday seeking state relief for the state’s agricultural industry.

Farmers across the state, Palmesano says, are finding it immensely challenging to keep their farms operating as the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has cut demand for their products and slashed their revenues.

“The men and women who work tirelessly every day to feed our state and our nation deserve our assistance during this unprecedented crisis," he said. "Recently adopted policies advanced by the administration and Assembly and Senate Democrat Majorities have increased labor costs and imposed costly mandates and burdensome regulations on our family farms. These policies put our family farms in a vulnerable position even before this crisis.We need to take action to help our farmers get through this challenging time.”

Highlights from the Assembly Minority’s proposal include:

--Suspending DMV registration requirements for agricultural vehicles.

--Eliminating tolls, hauling permits and highway use fees for vehicles transporting agricultural products.

--Suspending the 60-hour overtime threshold and the 24-hour rest requirement for farm laborers for one year.

--Extending the Milk Producers Security Fund.

--Allocating new federal stimulus funds to Cornell Cooperative Extensions, which can assist in emergency service delivery.

--Allocating new federal stimulus funds to expand rural broadband.

--Providing state-funded vouchers for food banks to purchase agricultural products from local producers.

Efforts to promote state assistance come on the heels of Palmesano and his colleagues writing President Trump and top administration officials earlier this week seeking emergency federal aid for the state’s farm families.

“With 98 percent of farms in New York state being family owned, we should be working together to pursue every avenue we can to help farm families get through this crisis,” said Palmesano.

Area airports get $4.6 million in funding

Special to The Odessa File

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 15, 2020 -- Rep. Tom Reed has announced $4,638,156 in funding is being released to airports throughout his district. The funds are being released by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We care about making sure our airports have fair access to the funds they need to function,” said Reed. “Our infrastructure is of vital importance, and it is critical to maintain its capacity. That is why we were proud to fight for this funding and will continue to fight for the needs for our district and our region.”

The allocations are as follows:

--Canandaigua Airport: $30,000
--Corning-Painted Post Airport: $30,000
--Chautauqua County/Dunkirk Airport: $30,000
--Elmira/Corning Regional Airport: $2,494,192
--Hornell Municipal Airport: $20,000
--Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport: $1,775,964
--Chautauqua County/Jamestown Airport: $69,000
--Cattaraugus County-Olean Airport: $30,000
--Penn Yan Airport: $69,000
--Finger Lakes Regional Airport : $30,000
--Wellsville Municipal Airport, Tarantine Field: $30,000
--Dansville Municipal Airport: $30,000

This allocation is part of the Airport Improvement Program. For more information, visit

Palmesano, GOP colleagues petition Trump, Schumer for ag aid for NY's 'hurting' farms

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 13, 2020 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) and his Assembly Republican colleagues have sent a letter to President Donald Trump, Senator Charles Schumer and top administration officials urging them to push Congress to authorize a new relief package to help New York State’s agricultural industry.

They’re also pushing the officials to ensure that farmers are eligible for benefits previously appropriated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“Particularly here in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region, our family farms power our economy," said Palmesano. "Generation after generation, they feed their neighbors. They sell their products all over the world. It’s a tradition that defines us. Ninety-eight percent of all farms in New York state are family farms. They’re hurting right now, and we need to step in with the relief they need to continue operating.”

Palmesano and his colleagues want the federal government to ensure that farmers are eligible for disaster loan funding and are seeking federal reimbursement for any actions the state must take to support farm families. They are also seeking a larger state share of the aggregate CARES Act Funding.

Most importantly, the lawmakers are urging both houses of Congress to pass a new stimulus package that also provides critical assistance for New York's agricultural industry, an investment that will produce ripple effects across the economy.

“New York state is the global epicenter of this crisis, we’re one of the nation’s leading agricultural producers and our country isn’t going to have any sort of economic resurgence without thriving, fully-operational family farms," said Palmesano. "Agriculture is our state’s number one industry. That’s why we’re asking the administration and Sen. Schumer to make this a priority in Washington on both sides of the aisle.”

“Bad policies in this state made our farm families vulnerable to any crisis," he added. "Increasing their labor costs, crushing them with mandates and stifling them with regulations created a bad situation. Now, they’re in crisis. We need to do the right thing and provide them with the help they deserve before it’s too late.

“Remember, no farms, no food.”

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photo)

O'Mara, colleagues urge Cuomo to exempt essential state workers from wage-hike freeze

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 13, 2020 -- Members of the New York State Senate Republican Conference, led by Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Monday sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging the governor to immediately move forward with a scheduled salary increase for corrections officers and other state employees that New York has designated “essential” to the COVID-19 response.

The governor recently froze a scheduled 2% salary increase for a large segment of the state workforce including many workers on the front lines that the state has designated “essential,” including state corrections officers and other law enforcement officers, nurses and other staff at public hospitals, and direct caregivers in nursing homes and mental health care facilities, among others.

O’Mara and his Senate GOP colleagues believe that these frontline workers should be exempt from the governor’s freeze.

In their letter to Cuomo, Senate Republicans wrote, “Thank you for your ongoing leadership in recognizing the essential workers on the front lines throughout our communities who, day in and day out, night after night, are providing truly courageous, heroic, inspiring, selfless, and life-saving service. Their commitment to our common good has been remarkable. The very fact that those workers unable to work remotely are risking their personal health and safety to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers at large deserves and demands our recognition and, more importantly, support.

“Recognizing this service in these unprecedented times, then, we appreciate this opportunity to urge you to immediately provide an exemption for essential workers unable to work from home, and unable to take adequate social distancing precautions on the job, from your freeze of their scheduled two-percent salary increase. These include corrections officers, law enforcement officers, nurses and other public hospital staff, and direct caregivers in nursing and group homes, and mental health care facilities.

“Of course this list doesn’t cover everyone on the front lines, but we know who they are. It’s the least we can do to show our respect for and admiration of their personal sacrifices ... In short, we hope you will agree that New York needs to put actions of support behind our words of support for the state’s essential workforce working daily on our behalf.”

In addition to O’Mara, the following Senate Republicans signed the letter: George Amedore, George Borello, Phil Boyle, Rich Funke, Patrick Gallivan, Joseph Griffo, Pamela Helming, Chris Jacobs, Daphne Jordan, Andrew Lanza, Betty Little, Robert Ortt, Patty Ritchie, Sue Serino, James Seward, and James Tedisco.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

O'Mara: Final State Budget adds to burdens Upstate is facing from COVID-19 pandemic'

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, April 3, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) says the final 2020-2021 New York State budget negotiated and approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat majorities of the state Senate and Assembly unnecessarily and unfairly adds too many additional burdens for Upstate New York communities, economies, governments, schools, taxpayers, and workers.

With the state facing rapid and unprecedented fiscal upheaval, O’Mara said the final budget enacts too many actions that have nothing to do with the coronavirus response and threatens Upstate communities with fiscal and economic burdens and uncertainties even after the COVID-19 response is completed.

Over the past few weeks, O’Mara has called on the governor and state legislative leaders to adopt a streamlined budget that straightforwardly focused on the coronavirus response and continued meeting the state’s short-term obligations, and then state lawmakers could reassess the state’s fiscal condition later this year to move forward with a more comprehensive, balanced, and restrained financial plan with hoped-for additional federal resources.

The new state budget cuts and freezes a range of state aid, including freezing Foundation Aid to local school districts at current levels despite the state receiving $1.2 billion in federal stimulus school aid. It authorizes billions of dollars in new state borrowing that O'Mara said will burden future generations of taxpayers.

The budget does accept nearly $6 billion of federal stimulus Medicaid funding that fortunately, O’Mara said, was conditioned on the state not shifting additional Medicaid costs to counties. However, as one way around this cost-shifting restriction, the governor and the Democrat legislative majorities created a $50 million charge to counties for so-called “distressed hospital” aid.

The budget also gives Cuomo unprecedented powers to unilaterally revise the state’s fiscal plan throughout the coming fiscal year, including the authority to make additional cuts as he sees fit upon revenue deviations of as little as one percent.

O’Mara said that too many of the actions will hit Upstate especially hard. He added that the budget includes policies and other actions that should not have been acted on during the current coronavirus crisis or as part of the state budget at any time. These actions include new mandates on economic development projects receiving state incentives that will impose cost increases on many already-hard-pressed Upstate employers; taking away local decision-making, including bypassing local zoning, in the siting of future renewable energy projects like wind and solar farms; a permanent ban on the exploration and development of natural gas in New York State; and a ban on polystyrene (Styrofoam) single-use containers that O'Mara said will jeopardize thousands of Upstate manufacturing jobs while out-of-state businesses will still be able to send and sell products in New York State with polystyrene packaging.

O’Mara added that the budget eliminates a proposed small business tax cut while it continues a tax cut for the Hollywood film industry worth $420 million annually.

O’Mara further noted that while the final budget is full of non-budget policy moves, the governor and downstate Democrats largely ignored the need to reform the state’s controversial No-Bail law by failing to give judges the full discretion necessary to keep dangerous criminals off the streets.

O’Mara released the following statement in reaction to the 2020-2021 state budget:

“This is not the time for hard-edged politics and out of respect for the men and women on the front lines working around the clock to combat and control the coronavirus pandemic, I’ll be restrained in my response. All of New York has one priority right now. We must get this public health emergency under control. We will have plenty to say and do about this budget at the appropriate time moving forward. For now, the coronavirus response is paramount to having any hope of getting our feet back under us and finding some solid ground. Right now we all need to keep responding to COVID-19 with the seriousness and personal responsibility it demands.

“But Upstate does not get a fair shake in this budget. It is the product of one-party, downstate Democrat control of state government, period. It will add fiscal and economic burdens on top of a pandemic already falling hard on Upstate New York communities, schools, economies, governments, taxpayers, and workers.

“We could and should have enacted a budget that simply kept this state running and meeting its obligations throughout this emergency. Then, once we weathered this storm, we could get to work assessing the damage, determining who and what needs repair, better calculate the federal response, and have an open and full discussion on the best way to move forward for this entire state, Upstate and downstate. That would have been common sense. That would have been responsible. That would have been fair. That’s not what happened here.

“For Upstate, in addition to doing our part to beat the pandemic, we are going to have to confront picking up the pieces of this budget and that’s what we will do in the months ahead.  One thing is absolutely clear: Upstate needs to reclaim a voice in this state government.”

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

Schuyler urges potential visitors: 'Stay home''

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, March 30, 2020 -- As part of the effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Schuyler County officials are asking potential visitors to the county to follow state and federal instructions and stay home until our nation defeats the pandemic.

While Schuyler County officials say they welcome seasonal residents and visitors, Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a State of Emergency and Schuyler County has done the same.

"This has been done to protect both county residents and potential travelers during this unsettling and frightening time," the County said in a press release, adding:

"In normal times, Schuyler County emergency services and medical facilities are capable of providing excellent care. However, because Schuyler County is rural and has a population of approximately 18,000 people, its emergency and medical communities are limited in their ability to serve a large number of patients. Statewide, reports have surfaced that hospitals near New York City are already reaching capacity and workers on the frontlines are falling ill."

There is currently no travel ban in New York State, nor is there a state requirement that individuals coming back into the state or between counties within the state be quarantined for 14 days.

"However," the press release said, "travel between communities has been flagged as a factor in spreading the virus. For example, the state has seen reports of New York City residents retreating to their second homes in the Hamptons, stressing local hospitals and preventing local businesses from providing necessary goods and services.

"On Tuesday (March 24) the White House urged anyone who has been in New York City to self-quarantine for 14 days to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has become widespread in the city.

"In response to federal and state action, county officials will continue to focus efforts on decreasing population density, which has been proven to slow the spread of the virus."

Schuyler County Public Health Director Deborah Minor has alerted any visitor to follow the same precautions set forth for all community members:

--Stay home as much as possible.
--If you must go out into our community, practice social distancing by maintaining six feet from one another.
--If you are ill, isolate yourself and call your healthcare provider.
--Wash your hands often.
--If you have symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, seek testing.

Meanwhile, the press release said, Legislature Chairman Carl Blowers thanked county employees for their efforts in fighting the virus and members of the public for their forbearance.

"Together we will get through this and protect those at highest risk for serious illness," said Blowers. "Thank you for your understanding in these unusual times.”

O'Mara, Palmesano urge Cuomo: Take aid, don't pass Medicaid costs to the counties

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, March 30, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning), and Assemblyman Chris Friend (R,C,I) Monday urged Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat leaders of the State Legislature to accept more than $5 billion in federal COVID-19 response assistance and not enact a 2020-2021 state budget this week that requires county governments and local property taxpayers to pick up more of the cost of New York’s Medicaid system.

The lawmakers stressed that now is not the time for the state to begin requiring counties to cover a larger share of the Medicaid system that already costs taxpayers more than $70 billion a year.

In a joint statement, O’Mara, Palmesano and Friend said: “Governor Cuomo appears to be teeing up action later this week that will remove the cap on local Medicaid costs. That misguided action would leave our counties and local property taxpayers having to pay millions upon millions of dollars more annually for a Medicaid system that is already overburdening local budgets. That’s not fair. That’s not responsible Now is not the time to add to local burdens when this coronavirus pandemic is already shutting down local economies and leaving in its wake a future of fiscal uncertainty, at best, for county governments and local property taxpayers.”

Before the coronavirus crisis, New York was already preparing to deal with a state budget deficit of more than $6 billion, largely resulting from overspending in the Medicaid program.  In response, the governor reconvened a Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) late last year. The MRT recently issued recommendations for cost savings in the state’s Medicaid program, including the removal of the cap on the growth in local Medicaid costs first enacted by the state in 2012. The cap has produced more than $7 billion in savings for local governments

O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend said the COVID-19 pandemic is already putting an enormous strain on county budgets and with the inevitable loss of sales tax and other revenue that will result from shuttered economies regionally and statewide, many local governments could already find themselves on the brink of bankruptcy

The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) updated a report Monday estimating that the pandemic’s economic impact on local governments could be $2 billion.

The recently enacted (Phase III) federal response package is set to deliver approximately $5.2 billion in assistance to the state and local governments. The governor, however, remains critical of the federal response, contending that accepting the federal aid prevents the state from taking any of the short- and long-term Medicaid cost-saving measures recommended by the state MRT

According to Cuomo, it is more effective in the long run for New York to reject the one-time federal funding and begin implementing the MRT’s short- and long-term savings actions, including shifting a greater share of the cost of Medicaid back to the local level

O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend acknowledged there will need to be even greater federal COVID-19 assistance for New York, the hardest hit state in the nation.  They also agree that the previously approved (Phase II) federal assistance package prevents the state from shifting Medicaid costs to localities, which they believe is a positive move

Nevertheless, they argue that the governor and the Legislature can still accept the $5.2 billion in federal assistance and start moving forward with some of the MRT’s savings recommendations -- but not anything that shifts additional costs to county governments and local property taxpayers. Additionally, NYSAC estimates that by rejecting the federal assistance, local governments statewide stand to lose nearly $1.5 billion in federal aid, including $400 million for counties outside of New York City.

O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend said: “It is important for our local governments that the federal stimulus package affords that protection and prevents states from shifting costs to localities during this unprecedented crisis. That doesn’t mean New York State has to walk away from this urgently needed federal support. The federal government will need to step up more for New York State in the months ahead; however, we can and should put this initial federal aid to good use, begin moving forward with reasonable and necessary Medicaid cost savings for the long term, which we believe the state can absolutely do, and not pass more of the Medicaid buck back to counties.

"We need to enact a fair and responsible bare bones budget that addresses the coronavirus response, meets existing obligations, and doesn’t contain any pet projects or politically motivated policy moves unrelated to the deficit or the crisis. Once we have weathered this storm, we can get to work assessing the damage, determining who and what needs repair, and have an open and full discussion on the best way to move forward for the entire state, upstate and downstate.

The lawmakers pointed to 2009 and the federal response to the Great Recession, when then-Governor David Patterson accepted federal stimulus aid that contained similar restrictions and still moved forward with numerous state-level deficit reduction actions and cost savings.

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano. 

Odessa fire truck crashes; sole occupant OK'

Special to The Odessa File

ODESSA, March 25, 2020 -- An Odessa Fire Department pumper was involved in a motor vehicle accident on Middle Road in the Town of Veteran in Chemung County shortly after noon on Wednesday.

The fire department reported that the truck was being operated by a 23-year veteran firefighter when a portion of the roadway collapsed, causing the truck to go off the roadway. The driver, who was the sole occupant of the vehicle, was not injured. The pumper sustained substantial damage in the accident but was driven from the scene to a repair shop.

The Millport Fire Department, Erway Ambulance, Chemung County Emergency Management, Chemung County Highway Department and the New York State Police responded to the accident.

"We are thankful," the Odessa department said in a press release, "that the safety features built into this truck helped prevent our firefighter from being injured during this incident.

"The pumper truck will be out of service for repairs for an unknown amount of time. During this time fire protection in the Odessa fire district will not be affected as the Odessa Fire Department will be utilizing a pumper loaned to us by a neighboring fire department."

U.S. Attorney Kennedy: COVID-19 online scammers possess 'rotted hearts and souls''

Special to The Odessa File

BUFFALO, March 23, 2020 -- Cautionary messages regarding coronavirus-related scams on the Internet are making the rounds through various sources.

For example, in a press release out of Buffalo, U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. on Monday urged the public "to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or contacting the NCDF e-mail address:"

Added the press release:

"In coordination with the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of coronavirus fraud schemes.

“'My message to those who seek to exploit the pandemic for their own personal gain by stealing others’ money, or identity, or both, is simple,' said Kennedy. 'We have a treatment for you and that treatment includes prosecution and federal prison. While others may get sick from the virus, most will recover. Sadly, I am not so sure these predators will ever recover from their affliction -- as it seems to have rotted their hearts and souls.'

"Some examples of these schemes include:

--Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.

--Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

--Malicious websites and apps that appear to share coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.

--Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

--Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.

"In a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys issued March 19," the press release added, "Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen also directed each U.S. Attorney to appoint a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator to serve as the legal counsel for the federal judicial district on matters relating to the coronavirus, direct the prosecution of coronavirus-related crimes, and to conduct outreach and awareness activities. U.S. Attorney Kennedy appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rudroff to serve as Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator for the Western District of New York.

"The NCDF can receive and enter complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by all U.S. Attorneys, as well as Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud schemes. The NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.

"To find more about Department of Justice resources and information, please visit"

Beyond that, an area financial institution sent out this note.:

"Cyber criminals are opportunistic and historically have looked to exploit a variety of emergency situations. Sadly, the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is no exception. Cyber criminals are attempting to lure victims via phishing, fake mobile apps and online news stories, with the goals of stealing your credentials, installing malware like ransomware, committing financial fraud, and much more. Cybersecurity experts warn that as the outbreak continues to intensify, the volume of hacking attacks will likely rise.

"A common attack uses phishing emails containing links or attachments that claim to contain important information about the virus. Once opened, these can infect the PC with malware. Also, be wary of social media posts and pseudo-news articles about COVID-19 as well. For information, it is best to go right to an authoritative source. If searching through Google, make sure you are going to a reputable organization’s website for information. One major attack happening right now is the "Map of people who have tested positive," which appears to come from John Hopkins University, but it does not. The actual address for the John Hopkins site is:

"Sites or catch phrases actually in use now and to be wary of include those that start with the following or something similar:

--Someone in your immediate area has tested positive.
--Click here for a cure.
--Covid-19 tax refund.
--The virus is now airborne.
--Map of people near you with COVID-19

"These will change quickly when people do not fall for them, so please stay alert!"

O-Mara maintaining 'one-stop' webpage to help us access COVID-19 info and updates

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, March 20, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) wants area residents to know that he continues to maintain a “One-Stop” webpage on his Senate website,, compiling information and updates from state, federal, and local agencies and organizations on the COVID-19 public health crisis.

“This emergency calls for all hands on deck. Across local, state, and federal agencies and organizations, safety recommendations and response updates continue to be shared. Pay attention to them. To help facilitate this access, my office will maintain a "One-Stop" webpage to compile, in one place, a range of COVID-19 information,” O’Mara said. “The page doesn’t include everything under the sun, because the speed and volume of information being thrown at all of us can be overwhelming. I understand that. We are simply trying to point to sources of straightforward and commonly held information, recommendations, resources, and updates.”

O’Mara’s webpage provides links to the New York State Department of Health, which has also established a toll-free Novel Coronavirus Hotline (1-888-364-3065), the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), county health departments and offices for the aging, hospitals, food banks, chambers of commerce and other agencies and organizations covering O’Mara’s 58th Senate District.

Added O’Mara (pictured at right): “Above all, let's remember that there are health care professionals, emergency services experts, first responders, business leaders, educators, librarians, service organizations, government officials at every level, and incredible, incredible volunteers -- throughout the public and private sectors -- working around the clock to combat and control this threat, and provide diligent public outreach. I can only commend their commitment and dedication. To do our own part as individuals, then, practice the seriousness and personal responsibility that this emergency demands. Thank you for your cooperation. Thank you for staying strong, smart, and safe -- and we will get through this together.”

O’Mara’s “One-Stop” page can be found near the top of the home page on

State government offices, including O’Mara’s, have been advised to have staffs, as broadly as possible, work remotely until further notice. O’Mara said that constituents should continue to contact his offices in Albany, Bath or Elmira by email ( or by phone, and a response will be returned. The phone numbers for O’Mara’s offices follow: Albany (518-455-2091), Elmira (607-735-9671), and Bath (607-776-3201).

O’Mara said, “Throughout the challenging weeks ahead for all of us, my offices will continue to be available to constituents. Like everyone else, we will have to adjust and accommodate the ongoing public health and safety requirements and recommendations, and we will absolutely do our part. Nevertheless, we will be available, we will be monitoring the situation on the ground locally across the communities we represent, and no one should hesitate to reach out to us if they believe we can be helpful in any way.”

Schuyler County Sheriff's Office adopts procedural changes due to coronavirus

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, March 17, 2020 -- The Schuyler County Sheriff's Office issued the following explanaton Tuesday of changes in its procedures in response to the coronavirus pandemic:

"When calling 911 or our non-emergency number, you will be asked to provide a call back telephone number. A Deputy will most likely contact you via telephone before arrival to assess the need for an in-person interview. For minor reports, Deputies will likely provide you with the report number and complete the report without personal interaction.

"If needed, please be prepared to step outside of your residence to meet a Deputy in an open environment. This is consistent with the recommended social distancing to prevent the spread of illness.

"Additionally, the lobby to the Public Safety Building is now closed to the public. A telephone in the foyer will connect you with the 911 Center for walk in service. A Deputy will respond to interview you.
"We will continue to respond accordingly to emergency calls for service.

"The Civil Department will operate on an appointment-only schedule. No walk-ins will be allowed. Please call (607) 535-8226 during normal business hours to schedule an appointment.
We would like to thank everyone in advance for their cooperation, and we will return to normal operations as soon as permissible."

Photo in text: Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman speaks at a press conference Tuesday at which public health officials provided updates on actions being taken to inform the public and protect it and staff in the county from COVID-19.

State representatives, local highway officials rally in Albany for road-bridge-culvert funds

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, NY, March 4, 2020 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) and a group of state Senators and members of the Assembly Wednesday joined a statewide coalition of county and town highway superintendents and other local leaders to call for increased state support for local roads, bridges, and culverts.

Hundreds of local highway superintendents and highway department employees representing nearly every region of New York State have been in Albany this week for their annual “Local Roads Matter” advocacy campaign. As part of this effort since 2013, O’Mara, Palmesano, and many of their legislative colleagues have joined the local roads representatives to promote a stronger state commitment to local transportation infrastructure.

The group notes that overall since then, largely through a series of “extreme winter recovery” allocations distributed through the state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding formula, and together with the PAVE-NY and BRIDGE-NY programs established in 2016, important increased state support has been provided for New York’s counties, cities, towns, and villages.
Nevertheless, with Cuomo touting in his recent 2020-2021 proposed Executive budget that “New York State is forging ahead with the nation’s most aggressive $275 billion infrastructure program,” the Local Roads Matter coalition is again calling on the state to strengthen its commitment to local transportation by increasing CHIPS base aid for the first time in seven years.

Among other studies, they point to an October 2017 report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimating that locally owned bridges alone need at least $27.4 billion in repairs.  An earlier report from the comptroller called 32% of New York’s local bridges deficient and 40% of local roads fair or poor, and getting worse.  Last September, a new report by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation research nonprofit, found that 10 percent of bridges across the state are in poor/structurally deficient condition – the 12th highest rate in America.

According to TRIP, nearly 12 million vehicles cross a poor/structurally deficient bridge in New York State every day.

In a March 2 letter to Cuomo and legislative leaders, O’Mara, Palmesano and their Senate and Assembly colleagues wrote, “We believe that New York State’s investment in local transportation infrastructure must be a foundation of the nation’s most aggressive infrastructure program in order for this program to achieve its envisioned goals ... We once again stress that New York State’s direct investment in local roads and bridges through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) remains fundamental to the mission highlighted above. It deserves priority consideration in the final allocation of the record level of state investment the Executive proposes for the 2020-21 fiscal year. CHIPS is the key difference for local communities, economies, governments, motorists and taxpayers throughout the Empire State, including New York City and surrounding metro areas, and we should no longer ignore this fact. This session, perhaps more than ever before, we believe the opportunity exists to strengthen past successes and, most importantly, revitalize our investment to address the tremendous, still unmet needs and challenges facing the effective maintenance and improvement of local roads, bridges and culverts in every region of New York State.”

This year the group is calling for increasing state base aid for CHIPS by $150 million to a total of $588 million, noting that the CHIPS base level has remain unchanged at $438 million since 2013. The group also seeks the restoration of a $65 million “Extreme Winter Recovery” allocation that Cuomo eliminates as part of his 2020-21 proposed state budget and calls on the governor and legislative leaders to:

    -- Achieve the past practice of mutual five-year Capital Plans between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) with parity as a priority that benefits both upstate and downstate;
    -- Achieve upstate-downstate parity in the percentage funding increases proposed for the five-year MTA Capital Plan and a two-year DOT Capital Plan;
    -- Double PAVE-NY local funding from $100 million to $200 million annually; and
    -- Double BRIDGE-NY local funding from $100 million to $200 million annually, with additional funding for culverts.

    Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano at the podium during rally of highway representatives in the State Capitol. State Senator Tom O'Mara is left front, in an orange shirt. (Photo provided)

Senate OKs organ donation legislation

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Feb. 28, 2020 -- The State Senate has given final legislative approval to legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) to try to increase organ and tissue donations in New York State by giving New Yorkers the opportunity to register as organ and tissue donors when they apply for or renew a hunting, fishing or trapping license.

"It’s one of the most important life-saving actions that any of us can take. One donor can save up to eight lives and positively impact the lives of 75 others through eye and tissue donations,” said O’Mara, who has long supported legislative efforts to bolster organ and tissue donations. “We’re hopeful that this latest effort to make it easy for New York’s sportsmen and sportswomen to register as organ donors can make a real difference in bringing attention to and encouraging donations.”

The state Assembly two weeks ago unanimously approved the legislation (S7318/A7915), where co-sponsors include area Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning).

The measure now goes to Governor Andrew Cuomo for final action.

More than 400 New Yorkers die annually waiting for an organ transplant. Nearly 10,000 people are on the waiting list for transplants and more than 1,500 of them have been on the list for more than five years. However, according to the New York State Organ Donor Network, New York currently has the second-lowest donor registry enrollment rate in the nation. In total, only 11% of eligible donors are currently enrolled in the New York State Organ and Tissue Registry.

Schuyler County supports centralized arraignment plan for local criminal courts

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 12, 2020 -- The Schuyler County Legislature has endorsed a process for implementing a centralized arraignment program for after-hours arrests.

The vote took place on Monday, February 10. All legislators in attendance supported the measure.

According to a press release issued by County Attorney Steven Getman, the plan is supported by a number of county officials involved in the legal system, including Sheriff William Yessman, District Attorney Joe Fazzary, Public Defender Wesley Roe and Getman. It was developed with input from town and village justices and the New York State Office of Court Administration.

Under the plan, anyone arrested within the county when courts are no longer in session, and not given an appearance ticket, will be arraigned in the lobby of the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office in Watkins Glen, as opposed to a town’s jurisdiction. Town and village judges, prosecutors and public defenders will be placed on rotating on-call schedules for arrests made at night, on weekends or during holidays. There is state funding for implementing the plan, which will pay for the cost of installing a judge’s bench in the sheriff’s office lobby.

“Arresting officers must currently maintain custody of an arrestee until able to locate a local court and justice able to conduct the arraignment, which is a process that often consumes officer time and can result in the arraignment occurring outside of the times when the Schuyler County Public Defender is able to appear as counsel for the defendant,” the resolution noted.

“Those charged with a crime are entitled to the assistance of legal counsel at all important stages of their case including at the initial criminal arraignment,” it continued.

A centralized arraignment part, known as a CAP, is not mandated by the state, but many rural counties have found it to be the most effective way of ensuring compliance with the requirements for counsel at arraignment.

The plan, which will be implemented later this year, is what the press release called "the county’s latest effort to improve court efficiency, conserve law enforcement resources and protect the rights of criminal defendants."

Other efforts have included an intermunicipal agreement with Tompkins County for that county to assist in administering the Schuyler County assigned counsel plan to provide legal representation to indigent criminal defendants and certain family court litigants.

That agreement, prepared by Roe and Getman with input from Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn and representatives of Tompkins County, has -- the press release noted -- been praised by the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services as “a model approach ... consistent with statewide efforts to help municipalities identify opportunities for cost savings through inter-municipal cooperation, reorganization, and regionalization.”

A copy of the resolution supporting the plan is available here:

Palmesano rises in Assembly leadership ranks

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay taps Palmesano as Assistant Minority Leader

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Feb. 2, 2020 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) will be serving his colleagues and his constituents in a new leadership capacity. Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I-Pulaski) has tapped Palmesano to serve as the Assistant Minority Leader of the Assembly Republican Conference.

Palmesano will assume a greater role in managing internal operations, promoting Conference priorities, and fostering productive relationships with advocacy groups and members across the aisle.

“I’m grateful to Leader Barclay for the trust and confidence he has placed in me," said Palmesano. "I look forward to working with him and all the members of our conference in this new leadership role. I will work tirelessly to use this new responsibility and opportunity as another way to fight for the important priorities of the residents I have the privilege to serve in the 132nd Assembly District.”

“Phil Palmesano is among the most highly-regarded members of our Conference and has earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle," said Barcley. "He has done tremendous work for the people of his district and here in Albany and I’m pleased to appoint him as Assistant Minority Leader. His intelligence, experience and diligence will be valuable in this important leadership position, and I look forward to working with him to move our agenda forward.”

Palmesano has emerged as a leading voice in the state Legislature on issues ranging from transportation infrastructure, corrections, services for our state's most vulnerable citizens -- the developmentally disabled -- and promoting organ and tissue donation.

He will continue to serve as the ranking member of the Energy committee, in addition to serving on the Corporations, Corrections, Insurance and Ways & Means committees. He will also continue serving on the bipartisan Legislative Commission on Rural Resources.

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photo)

Shoreline redevelopment eyed

Village, county seek interest level through REOI as time nears for the old treatment plant to be decommissioned

WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 22, 2020 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board gave the go-ahead Tuesday night for the release of an REOI (Request for Expression of Interest) regarding a "Waterfront Redevelopment Opportunity" -- a redevelopment on the site of what will soon be the former Wastewater Treatment Plant on the southern shore of Seneca Lake.

The village, in partnership with Schuyler County and the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED), is -- according to the REOI -- "seeking expression of interest proposals from qualified developers to partner with us for a rare development" at the "opportunity" site -- two village-owned parcels upon which the treatment plant sits, and county land upon which the Village Marina restaurant sits on the edge of the county-owned Seneca Harbor Park.

The old treatment plant will go defunct with the activation in the near future of the joint Watkins Glen-Montour Falls treatment plant along the canal, across from the Watkins Glen school property. The new plant is scheduled to go online in a couple of months. The Village Board, in fact, approved the payment of invoices for that canal project Tuesday night in the amount of $927,852.72, bringing the total paid thus far -- with grants and loans providing the impetus -- to almost $23 million out of $32 million budgeted for the project.

The REOI will be released -- published -- today (Jan. 22) with responses due by March 17. It is in essence an effort to find out what interested developers might be out there -- a process that County Planning Director Kristin VanHorn, who was present at the Village Board session, called "exciting."

The move is the culmination of committee and public meetings, work by the Larson Design Group, and debate over what kind of development the public wants and might accept.

The responses to the REOI will not bind the village and county to any one developer, but could lead to some definitive plan and result.

According to the REOI, the project site "is composed of three extraordinary parcels on the Seneca Lake waterfront at the terminus of Porter Street in the Village of Watkins Glen. The parcels consist of a 0.438-acre parcel owned by Schuyler County currently occupied by the Village Marina restaurant and large charter boat launch. The other two parcels, with a total area of 1.274 acres, are owned by the Village of Watkins Glen and are currently occupied by the Village wastewater treatment plant."

Among the project objectives:

-- A year-round operation. It "must incorporate features that generate year-round economic activity and benefit village residents and visitors through all four seasons."

--A lease. "The Village and County are seeking a private developer with interest in entering into a long-term land lease agreement. The Village and County will retain ownership of their respective parcels and allow the selected developer to construct, improve and operate proposed commercial facilities on the property."

--Design oversight: "The Village and County will be involved in the design development process for all proposed improvements."

--Developer responsibilities: "The selected developer shall assume responsibility for operating all constructed improvement at the project site. This includes, but is not limited to, all construction costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, tenant rental administration and property administration occurring after completion of construction."

The REOI document goes on to explain that "upon decommissioning of the Village wastewater treatment plant, the developer shall be responsible for demolition of the facility and preparing the site as necessary to accommodate the proposed development."

Among "desired design parameters":

1. A multi-use multi-story commercial facility of 30,000-60,000 square feet "providing space for commercial enterprises including but not limited to specialty retail stores and/or restaurants and dining spaces."

2. A second-floor restaurant space.

3. A design "consistent with existing Seneca Lake waterfront architecture."

4. A first-floor breezeway "and/or walkway ... to allow public access to the waterfront."

5. Public Green Space: There should be as much as possible "to allow Village residents and visitors access to the waterfront. Landscaping in these areas is encouraged."

Among "required design parameters":

--A Waterfront Walkway "running the entire length of the project site that allows public access along the entire lake frontage."

--Public Gathering Areas. "Bistro seating and a public fire circle area are encouraged."

--Public Restrooms. "These may be located in the main building or in a separate building on site."

--Large Vessel Boat Launch. The developer must "maintain the location, function and access to the existing large vessel boat launch" between the Village Marina restaurant and the treatment plant.

The document says the village and county "recognize that public assistance may be needed to induce redevelopment of the site. The Schuyler County Industrial Development Agency is prepared to provide reasonable assistance to the selected developer based on demonstrated need."

The tentative project schedule:

Selection of a Developer: April 2020.
Developer Agreement Executed: June 2020.
Design Development, Permitting and Approval: June 2020-April 2021.
Demolition and Development Construction: Construction Season 2021.

The REOI, the document adds, "is intended to allow the Village an opportunity to gauge the financial viability and level of commitment of interested developers. The Village reserves the right to use this REOI process in place of a follow-up Request for Proposals when making a developer selection.

"The Village and project stakeholders," it added, "reserve the right to forgo any formalities and reject all Expressions of Interest."

Photos in text: From top: Deputy Mayor Lou Perazzini ran the meeting in the absence of Mayor Luke Leszyk; trustee Tony Fraboni; and trustee Nan Woodworth. Trustee Laurie DeNardo was absent.

Two charged in drug bust upon traffic stop

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Jan. 8, 2020 -- Two people were charged with drug and weapon offenses Tuesday afternoon following a traffic stop in Odessa.

The Schuyler County Sheriff's Office said that deputies stopped a vehicle on Railroad Street in the village at about 1:24 p.m. "after a Vehicle and Traffic Violation was observed."

According to a press release: "A Sheriff’s Office K-9 alerted to the presence of narcotics in the vehicle. A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed a quantity of methamphetamine, a set of brass knuckles and drug paraphernalia. Amber L Cosgrove, 38, of Pine Valley, is being charged with one count of Criminal Possession Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, a Class A misdemeanor, Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle in the Second Degree, as well as other traffic violations.

"Michael J. Depue, 45, of Elmira Heights, was also arrested and charged with one count of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a Class D felony, and one count Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, a Class A misdemeanor.

"Both parties were issued appearance tickets to appear in the Village of Odessa Court at a later date."

Annual photo

Members of the Schuyler County Legislature posed along with other county officials for the group's annual photo on Thursday, Jan. 2, following the Legislature's annual organizational meeting in the County Office Building. Front from left: County Attorney Steven Getman, Deputy Clerk of the Legislature Jamee Mack, Clerk of the Legislature Stacy Husted, and County Administrator Tim O'Hearn. Rear from left: Legislators Jim Howell, Gary Gray, David Reed, Michael Lausell, Carl Blowers, Mark Rondinaro, Van Harp and Phil Barnes.

Matt Hayden is sworn in as Schuyler County Judge by his father, Carl, while Matt's wife Denise and children Jack and Beatrice observe.

Matt Hayden sworn in

Starts his 10-year term as the new Schuyler County Judge

WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 31, 2019 -- With the paintings and photographs of past Schuyler County Judges overseeing the proceedings, and with well over 100 people filling the spectator area of the County Courtroom, Matthew Hayden was sworn in Tuesday afternoon as the new County Judge -- the start of a 10-year term in which he will preside in County Court, Family Court and Surrogate’s Court.

All manner of local dignitaries were present to observe as Hayden took the oath of office administered by his father, Carl, Chancellor Emeritus of the New York State Board of Regents and a man who, in remarks preceding the oath, attested to the pride he and his wife Cindy have in their son and in Matt’s wife, Denise, “for all they’ve accomplished together.”

The senior Hayden said that an independent judiciary is “one of the great achievements of American democracy” and of paramount importance, especially today with the stridency of partisan politics seemingly trying to impose its will in the courtroom.

“Party politics has no part in what occurs in this place, this courtroom,” said Carl Hayden, noting that independence of the courts from political interest “is the cornerstone of our freedom.”

“I can guarantee you,” he added, “that Matt will be independent. He was independent from the day he took his first step ... marching to his own drummer” -- for example, chasing snakes as a child when others would run from them.

When Matt decided to settle in Schuyler County, Carl said, “he chose well,” and once arrived, “went all in.” The county judgeship -- earned through a long campaign against three challengers -- has landed Matt “in the right place, at the right time, and in the right job.”

He then had Matt stand with his family -- Denise, son Jack and daughter Beatrice -- as the oath was presented by Carl and repeated, his hand held high, by Matt, who promised to “support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York” and “faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Schuyler County Judge, to the best of my ability.” When it was concluded, the room erupted in applause.

“I’m so honored to be standing before you at this bench,” said Matt, who then gave credit to his parents, his wife and children, other jurists before whom he has appeared as the Schuyler County Chief Assistant DA, “and my colleagues.”

Then Matt, in his judicial robe, came down from behind the bench and mingled, dispensing hugs and handshakes. One attendee after another came forward to shake his hand, while others went to the far side of the room where crackers, cookies, vegetables and shrimp were available.

The day was a celebration, and the room -- often a somber gathering place where justice is dispensed -- was party central for an afternoon, with cameras, for this day, allowed to record what was occurring therein.

Photos in text:

Top: Matt Hayden visits with Maggie and Calvin Coffey after the swearing-in ceremony.
Second: Judge Hayden engages in an animated discussion with former County Judge Dennis Morris. Morris's retirement opened the door to this past year's judicial campaign.
Third: Denise Hayden takes a picture, one of many being snapped in the courtroom.
Bottom: Carl Hayden, left, and Matt Hayden visit with Junior Specchio before the ceremony.

Judge Hayden visits with former Schuyler County Judge J.C. Argetsinger, left center, and Chemung County Judge Richard W. Rich, right, after the ceremony.

Schuyler projects share in REDC awards

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Dec. 19, 2019 -- Six Schuyler County projects will receive more than $1.2 million as part of the distribution of $88.9 million to 109 Southern Tier projects in New York State's annual Regional Economic Development Council awards. Three more projects shared jointly by Schuyler with other nearby counties total more than $300,000.

Statewide, more than $761 million is being distributed in this, the ninth annual round of the initiative. Since its 2011 introduction, more than $6.9 billion has been awarded to more than 8,300 projects.

The Schuyler County projects:

--The Village of Montour Falls will receive $750,000 for improvement to its wastewater collection system.

--Montour Falls will also receive $25,000 for a climate vulnerability assessment that includes the Catharine Creek levee system, and $15,000 for a street enhancement plan.

--The Seneca Lake Wine Trail will receive $150,000 for a tourism campaign aimed at building awareness of the region and visitation during winter months.

--The Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development will receive $185,000 for a Festival of Lights featuring nighttime, colorfully themed lantern figures. The festival's goal: to enhance tourism year-round.

--Watkins Glen International will receive $150,000 for an advertising campaign attracting out-of-staters to the track and region. It will focus on NASCAR travelers.

Schuyler will, in conjunction with Chemung and Steuben counties, also share $52,500 "to provide tools for communities to elevate and flood-proof historic stuctures," and $50,000 "to identify prime brownfield sites in need of revitalization and result in a guide for stakeholders to promote sites to developers, stimulating the local economy."

In addition, Schuyler will share $200,000 with Chemung, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins counties as the Southern Tier Network builds "redundant fiber optic loops" that, among other things, will "reduce the potential for internet outages."

The Legislature chamber sported a festive bow on each desk. From left: legislators Jim Howell, Carl Blowers, David Reed and Michael Lausell.

Sales tax, vetting process, and internet service dominate Legislature's meeting

WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 10, 2019 -- Sales tax, opposition to the state’s bail and discovery reform laws, questions about the county vetting process, and a discussion of the need for internet service in the western part of the county were all on display at Monday night’s monthly meeting of the Schuyler County Legislature.

The meeting -- the final monthly meeting for outgoing Chairman Dennis Fagan -- also saw the presentation to Fagan of a Certificate of Recognition by Clerk of the Legislature Stacy Husted. The reading of the certificate by Husted was met with a standing ovation by the other legislators and by members of the public in attendance.

Sales Tax: Fagan, meanwhile, announced that sales tax revenue through the first 10 months of the year was up $310,000, or 3.3%, over last year’s record take. October alone was up 6.4%. Fagan said the county should realize “close to $12 million” for the full year, nearly equivalent to the county property tax.

“It’s extremely important to us,” he said. “We want to continue to support economic development in the county, as well as tourism.”

Internet Service: That prompted a discussion on the need for internet service in the western part of the county -- particularly in Districts 7 and 8.

Fagan's sales tax report is “great news,” said attendee Paul Bartow, who ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature from District 7 in the November election. “It puts us in a good position. It’s time to start thinking about the outlying areas,” where “individuals are suffering greatly. Let’s get internet service out there. We can’t always focus on the county seat.”

That argument, echoed by county resident Alan Hurley, resurfaced again during the public-be-heard portion of the meeting, leading to some fireworks as Legislator Phil Barnes, frustrated that he seemingly couldn’t respond to Hurley’s nonstop debate style, complained that Hurley wouldn't "shut up!”

That prompted Bartow to chastise Barnes, who ultimately apologized, but then said to Hurley that “you don’t listen.”

The bottom line was that both Hurley and Bartow want more done for the residents on the west side of Seneca Lake -- with internet service a potential boon to self-employment, to sales tax (with the advent in the state of internet sales taxation), and thus to the quality of life.

Barnes argued that work is being done through a Southern Tier Network of several counties to establish that internet service, but that there are various obstacles that it takes time to hurdle.

The bottom line, said Fagan in bringing the conversation to a close, was that the county holds the same goal espoused by Hurley and Bartow: expanded internet service. “We’re trying to do that,” he said.

The Getman question: Hurley and Bartow also questioned legislators as to the county’s method of vetting potential hires such as County Attorney Steven Getman, whose history while employed in a similar capacity years ago in Seneca County was raised repeatedly during Getman’s campaign for Schuyler County Judge. He finished second in the four-person race, won by county Chief Assistant District Attorney Matt Hayden.

Barnes and Fagan said Getman underwent the normal interview and background-check process, with both saying that after being hired as Assistant County Attorney, he performed well, which in turn led to his appointment as County Attorney. With Getman present at the meeting in his capacity as County Attorney, the two legislators answered in careful and laudatory tones -- avoiding a discussion of what Getman might or might not have done in Seneca County. (Questions about a lawsuit in which Getman was named there years ago were raised during his run for judge, which prompted Getman, late in the campaign, to issue a statement decrying dirty politics.)

The discussion Monday night faded with neither Hurley nor Bartow pushing the matter hard, and Barnes and Fagan saying that even after any difficulties in Seneca County, Getman had served various villages and towns well. “They had no problem with him,” said Barnes, with Fagan adding that Getman had had to quit those jobs when Schuyler County hired him.

“He came highly recommended,” said Fagan, noting that the Seneca County experience “became a problem only when he ran for the judgeship” this year. “His work has been exemplary.”

The board also:

--Set its year-end meeting for Monday, Dec. 30 at 9 a.m., and its 2020 organizational meeting for Thursday, Jan. 2 at 9 a.m.

--Passed a resolution “imploring the state of New York to immediately amend or delay implementation of bail and discovery reform laws that will endanger the people of New York and reverse decades of bipartisan progress in reducing crime.”

The long and detailed resolution also says, in part:

“Whereas ... the State of New York (has) enacted sweeping criminal justice reforms including the elimination of cash bail for many specific enumerated crimes and the imposition of stringent discovery mandates on police and prosecutors, and

“Whereas, under bail reform beginning January 1, 2020, judges will be stripped of their discretion to set bail for many specific enumerated crimes, which means those suspected of committing these crimes can no longer be held in jail after their arrest, regardless of the strength of the case against these defendants, or the length of the potential sentence faced by these defendants, or the extent of the harm allegedly caused by these defendants, and instead these defendants will be released back in the general public, and

“Whereas, these crimes include those that result in the deaths of innocent people, including several subcategories of homicide and manslaughter, resulting in those responsible for these deaths being released back in the community of grieving families, and ...

“Whereas these crimes include Promoting an Obscene Sexual Performance by a Child, Possessing an Obscene Sexual Performance by a Child, Failure to Register as a Sex Offender, and Patronizing a Person for Prostitution in a School Zone, resulting in suspected child predators being released and returning into our community ....

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Schuyler County Legislature hereby implores” the state to amend or delay implementation, and “Be it further resolved” that improvements be implemented that include giving a judge “discretion to impose bail when appropriate.” It also called for increasing "the discovery timeline from 15 days to a minimum of 45 days”; a phase-in of the reforms in stages, and repeal of a provision “that makes the new discovery mandates applicable to violations of the Vehicle and Traffic Law.”

The legislators also urged “all counties in New York to urge their state representatives to take immediate action” on the reform issues.

Photo in text: From top: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan, Legislator Phil Barnes, and County Attorney Steven Getman at the meeting.

Counties awarded communications grants

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, NY, Dec. 8, 2019 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Assemblyman Chris Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) have announced that regional counties are among those statewide that will share $45 million in state funding to help enhance and support local emergency communications systems.

In a joint statement, O’Mara, Friend and Palmesano said, “These timely and important public safety and emergency response grants should make a great difference to local emergency response teams. Emergency preparedness, response and recovery are fundamental government responsibilities.”

Counties throughout New York State utilize the funding to undertake infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades. The assistance is part of the latest round of funding through the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant program, a competitive grant program supporting regional communications partnerships throughout New York.

The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services administers the program. To date, the state has awarded more than $500 million for interoperable radio communications and emergency services dispatching services.

O’Mara, Friend and Palmesano said that regional counties they represent as part of New York’s 58th Senate District, and 124th and 132nd Assembly Districts, are receiving the following awards through the grant program:

    -- Chemung County, $515,695;
    -- Schuyler County, $422,876;
    -- Seneca County, $410,827;
    -- Steuben County, $796,257;
    -- Tioga County, $385,432;
    -- Tompkins County, $656,292; and
    -- Yates County, $328,425.

Local counties prevail in tower-site appeal

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, NY, Dec. 8, 2019 -- Schuyler and Chemung Counties have again prevailed in their five-years-long court battle against an adjoining landowner regarding the counties’ use of the Terry Hill Emergency Tower site (and right of way), owned by Schuyler County, near Beardsley Hollow Road in Chemung County.

On December 5, the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division upheld the prior judgment affirming Schuyler and Chemung County’s continued right to use the site and related easement for emergency radio and voice communications.

The County of Schuyler was represented on appeal by Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman. Chemung County was represented by Syracuse attorney Gabrielle Figueroa. Elmira attorney Scott Moore represented appellant William Hetrick, the adjoining landowner.

According to court records, both counties had used the site for radio and voice communication for over 50 years. In 2012, the two counties began to update and replace the emergency communications tower at the site. Hetrick objected to the upgrade, arguing that it violated a restrictive covenant related to his land. In October 2014, the counties sought a declaratory judgment from Chemung County Supreme Court. The counties maintained that the use of the property was proper and necessary for public safety. Hetrick then filed a counterclaim. In March 2018, Supreme Court Justice Judith O’Shea ruled in the counties’ favor O’Shea held that the new tower and equipment were consistent with the deed language, as was continued cooperation between Schuyler and Chemung counties.

O’Shea’s judgment was unanimously affirmed in the Dec. 5 ruling.

“We are pleased with the appellate court’s decision,” Getman said. “A ruling against the counties could have eliminated a critical public service from Schuyler County.”

The site is the single transmission site for the entire Schuyler Public Safety Communication system, Getman explained. The county uses this system to dispatch nine volunteer fire departments, three ambulance services, multiple police agencies and local highway departments, he noted.

Various Schuyler County agencies assisted in gathering information and providing evidence to support the counties’ case during the litigation, including: Emergency Management Director William Kennedy, the County Administrator, the Clerk to the Legislature, the County Clerk, the County Treasurer, the Highway Department and County Buildings and Grounds.

Hetrick has approximately 30 days to attempt to seek leave to appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals.

High-speed chase ends in man's arrest

WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 1, 2019 -- A Beaver Dams man was arrested on two felony charges, a misdemeanor count and various traffic infractions Saturday night following a high-speed chase through Watkins Glen that veered north, south again into the village and up into the hills before he was apprehended.

Village police said Brandon S. Fuller, 28, was charged with two counts of Reckless Endangerment, both Class D felonies; one count of misdemeanor Unlawfully Fleeing a Police Officer, 3rd Degree; Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury Accident; Reckless Driving; Aggravated Unlicensed Operation in the 3rd Degree, and Driving While Intoxicated. He was arraigned in Watkins Glen Village Court and committed to Schuyler County Jail in lieu of bail. Additional charges are pending.

According to a police press release, the incident began shortly after 8 p.m. when Village Police responded to “a possible domestic dispute on South Madison Avenue in the village.

“Upon arrival, an officer came in contact with an unknown male subject in a black Ford pickup truck," the release said. "The male subject proceeded to start the vehicle and take off on the officer. The officer called out a pursuit and pursued the suspect South on South Madison Avenue, then East onto 6th Street as the suspect vehicle collided with another vehicle at the intersection with Franklin Street. (The suspect vehicle suffered heavy front-end damage; the second vehicle suffered heavy rear passenger-side damage. Only minor injuries were reported at the time of the accident.)

“After the impact," police added, "the officer lost sight of the suspect vehicle, but a witness pointed toward State Route 14 North. The suspect vehicle traveled at a high rate of speed North on SR 14 North, turning onto State Route 14A, then back southbound on State Route14, back into and through the Village of Watkins Glen at speeds of 80 plus MPH.

“The suspect vehicle then turned onto State Route 329, County Road 17, County Road 16 and State Route 414 South, where the pursuit continued until the suspect vehicle ceased to operate.” There was no word as to whether the vehicle ran out of gas or succumbed to the damage it had sustained in the Watkins Glen accident.

Village Police said they were assisted by the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, Watkins Glen Fire Department, Schuyler Ambulance, and Scotty’s Towing.

O'Mara: Dem 'reforms' raising red flags, weakening state's criminal justice system

O’Mara co-sponsors legislation to impose a one-year moratorium on the implementation
of new bail reform laws

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Nov. 22 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) has joined legislative colleagues, law enforcement agencies, county district attorneys, and others in calling on New York State to delay the implementation of several criminal justice reform laws set to take effect on January 1, 2020.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that these new laws will put public safety at risk,” said O’Mara, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We have heard direct testimony from the men and women on the front lines of law enforcement in our communities that these laws, as they stand, are unworkable and will jeopardize the safety of crime witnesses and crime victims, especially the victims of domestic violence.”

The actions, pushed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat leaders of the state Senate and Assembly, have raised alarms throughout New York’s law enforcement community.

O’Mara is currently co-sponsoring legislation (S.6853) calling for a one-year moratorium on the implementation of the new laws so that statewide public hearings can be held on the measures.

He has also continued to voice his opposition to the new laws reforming New York’s bail, discovery, and pretrial detention processes, commonly known as the “bail reform,” approved last March as part of the 2019-2020 state budget. Among other provisions, the new laws eliminate cash bail and pretrial detention for nearly all misdemeanors and nonviolent felony cases. O’Mara and other opponents believe that the move will result in the mandatory release of 90% of those arrested, regardless of their criminal history.

Judges will only have the power to set bail if they determine that a defendant is a flight risk. A defendant’s criminal history, or the fact that they may pose a clear physical threat to another person, can no longer be considered. O’Mara charged that it is creating a system of criminal justice in New York State that releases violent criminals back into the community without supervision and fully capable of threatening their victims, the victim’s family members, trial witnesses, and others.

Beginning on January 1, 2020, O'Mara said, judges will be required to release defendants from custody without bail for the following crimes:

    -- Manslaughter in the second degree
    -- Aggravated vehicular homicide
    -- Criminally negligent homicide
    -- Assault in the third degree
    -- Aggravated vehicular assault
    -- Making a terroristic threat
    -- Criminal possession of a gun on school grounds/criminal possession of a firearm
    -- Criminal sale of a firearm to a minor
    -- Arson in the third and fourth degree
    -- Money laundering in support of terrorism in the third and fourth degree
    -- Promoting or possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child
    -- Aggravated cruelty to animals, overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, animal fighting
    -- Unlawful imprisonment in the first degree
    -- Coercion in the first degree
    -- Grand larceny in the first degree
    -- Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and second degree
    -- Criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first and second degree, or near/on school grounds
    -- Specified felony drug offenses involving the use of children, including the use of a child to commit a controlled substance offense and criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child
    -- Criminal solicitation in the first degree and criminal facilitation in the first degree
    -- Patronizing a person for prostitution in a school zone
    -- Failure to register as a sex offender
    -- Obstructing governmental administration in the first and second degree, or by means of a self-defense spray device
    -- Bribery and bribe receiving in the first degree, bribe giving for public office
    -- Promoting prison contraband in the first and second degree
    -- Resisting arrest
    -- Hindering prosecution
    -- Tampering with a juror and tampering with physical evidence
    -- Aggravated harassment in the first degree
    -- Directing a laser at an aircraft in the first degree
    -- Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree
    -- Enterprise corruption and money laundering in the first degree.

Said O’Mara: “Where in the name of justice are New York Democrats headed? Governor Cuomo’s Parole Board has been releasing cop killers, murderers, and other violent felons all year long. Democrat senators are pushing legislation to grant parole hearings to dangerous inmates sentenced to life without parole, to let felons sit on juries, and even to have state taxpayers foot the bill to set up voter registration programs in state prisons. It is a dangerous and disturbing trend of rolling over backwards for criminals to radically redefine criminal justice in New York State at the expense of victims and their families and loved ones, communities and neighborhoods, and taxpayers.”

O’Mara participated in a public hearing in Albany in late October where a number of local district attorneys, including Chemung County District Attorney Weeden Wetmore, highlighted numerous fears over the upcoming changes, including their ongoing ability to protect witnesses and a lack of resources to handle ever-increasing caseloads. In fact, according to O’Mara, the new bail reform law stands as another, onerous unfunded state mandate on localities and local property taxpayers that Cuomo refuses to address or even acknowledge.

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York has estimated it will cost $100 million for extra staff and other resources for offices outside of New York City to comply with the new discovery laws.

In addition to the one-year moratorium legislation, O’Mara will also co-sponsor the following legislative proposals:

> S.6839 giving judges discretion to set bail in domestic violence cases;
> S.6840 allowing judges to consider whether a defendant poses a danger to the community when determining bail; and
> S.6849 repealing criminal justice reforms enacted in the 2019-20 state budget including bail and discovery changes.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

Map showing water lines and tanks around Watkins Glen. The intake is on the western shore of Seneca Lake, with water heading first to the Steuben Tank.

Watkins Glen aging water system upgrades carry a large price tag, but not all at once

WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 20, 2019 -- The Village of Watkins Glen is facing some long-term decisions as it tackles the need to upgrade its water system -- to the tune, a water study concluded, of up to $16 million.

MRB Group -- an engineering, architecture and grant-services organization hired by the village earlier this year to conduct a study of the needs of the Watkins water system following a call by the State Health Department to upgrade in the areas of monitoring and turbidity -- put that price tag on a multi-phase project it says the village, like many similar communities, is facing as its aged infrastructure reaches a point where band-aid fixes no longer will meet modern-day demands.

Three representatives of MRB Group presented their findings at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Village Board in Village Hall. They were Shawn Bray, project manager; Bill Davis, team leader; and Johanna Lang-Bentley, project engineer.

Bray outlined the circumstances leading to the study, including the state-ordered corrections; and Davis listed the various costs to fix everything in the system, which could total $16 million, although “it could be $15 million by the time you streamline.”

Mayor Luke Leszyk made clear afterward, though, that while he knows the price tag “will be a topic of concern” among village residents, “there is no way we will put that burden on the taxpayers, no way we will leap into a $16 million debt.” The village is currently nearing completion, jointly with Montour Falls, of a $32 million wastewater treatment plant on the canal, with Watkins and Montour splitting the cost 70-30. That project was made possible largely through loans and grants.

Leszyk said the village had “almost reached everything the Health Department wanted” regarding its water distribution shortcomings, and in fact just passed a Health Department follow-up inspection. The MRB study “gives us a plan for the future,” he said -- a list of things that will need addressing over a period of years.

The matter of cost had been raised by MRB’s Davis, who asked how a village the size of Watkins Glen would pay for all of the recommended fixes if it chose to tackle them soon. “It’s possible,” Davis said. “Not cheap, but possible.” What the village needs, he said, would be a zero-interest 30-year loan from the Environmental Facilities Corp., as well as grants from various -- often very competitive -- sources.

A “fall-back position,” he said, might be a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan, where a 38-year plan would come with a 2.4% interest, requiring “a higher user cost” than an EFC loan would create.

Various system needs, MRB said, include a new intake filter; a new Raw Water Pumping Station; a redundant 500,000 gallon water tank near the Steuben Tank, which is the nearest to the water intake; and replacement of some 20,000 feet of pipe. There are, Bray and Davis said, flow and pressure issues, aging water intake pipes, and an aging distribution system.

They urged the Village Board to take action toward the possible zero-interest loan and the various grant opportunities soon. If the grants don’t come through, Davis added, the village could choose to “go back and pick and choose” which of the needs should be addressed first.

And Bray said MRB would “circle back after Thanksgiving” to provide assistance in whatever direction the village chooses to move.

Leszyk, though, said that village supervisors will be drawing up a prioritized list of water system problems, to be addressed one by one over years, with the study serving as a focal point in the grant application process. “If we go for a grant on the intake” part of the system “or on the filtration system,” he said, “we can say the (needed) study is already done.”

The water intake and pumping station are on the west side of the lake, along Salt Point Road. The station draws the water out of the lake, and pumps it to the Steuben Street tank (where the main filtration occurs), which distributes water from there to the Padua tank and to residences and businesses. The intake is cleaned every year by a diver who clears away mussels that can clog it. Mussels, Davis told the Village Board, are less of a problem in the Finger Lakes than in the past, but still need addressing. The Steuben Tank is 26 years old; the Padua tank recent.

“Every municipality has aging problems,” said Leszyk, “many a lot worse than ours.”

Tuesday’s presentation by MRB was “the first time we had seen the study,” he said, “the first time we had seen the price tag. We knew it would be high because the study was comprehensive; took into account everything.”

But not everything will be addressed soon. Most items on the list, the mayor indicated, will have to wait their turn.

Photos in text: From the top: Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk at Tuesday's meeting; MRB's Shawn Bray and Bill Davis.

Info meeting set on Falls, Glen strategic plan

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Nov. 4, 2019 -- A public information meeting on Monday, Nov. 18 will provide community members with the Two Village Regional Economic Development Strategic Plan for Montour Falls and Watkins Glen.

The plan, says Amanda Arnold Rodriguez of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED), "combines community member feedback and ideas with past project reviews, professional data analysis, and future economic projections. The Plan uses the information to set realistic, attainable, and community-vetted goals and projects."

The plan's goals, she added, "will assist in maintaining successfully completed projects, supporting ongoing community and economic initiatives, and developing new projects and goals to enhance and sustain the growing and transitioning local economy in both communities and the combined region.

"We invite all community members to learn about the plan and provide their feedback on the plan before it is finalized and implemented."

The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the Watkins Glen Community Center, Boat Launch Road.

For more information, call 607-535-6862.

The Mill Street Bridge above Shequagah Falls as reconstruction neared completion. (Photo by Phil Barnes)

Ribbon-cutting marks bridge reopening

Special to The Odessa File

MONTOUR FALLS, Oct. 26, 2019 -- A ribbon-cutting was held on Friday, October 25 at 2:00 p.m. at the historic Mill Street Bridge -- spanning the gap above scenic Shequagah Falls near downtown Montour Falls -- as residents and dignitaries celebrated the reopening of the newly refurbished crossing.

“We are thankful," said Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, "to Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Transportation for including this project in the BridgeNY program. This is but the latest example of the collaborative partnership between the county and state. This has resulted in huge improvements to our infrastructure without burdening our local property taxpayers. We are proud and excited to reopen this fully restored historic structure!”

The ribbon-cutting included remarks by County Legislators Phil Barnes and Dennis Fagan, Montour Falls Mayor John King, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, State Senator Tom O’Mara, and representatives from the NYSDOT Hornell office, and also featured a ceremonial first car over the bridge as part of the ceremony.

The bridge is owned by Schuyler County, but located in the village of Montour Falls. The Schuyler County Historical Society provided the following details about the original ribbon-cutting celebrating the bridge’s initial construction:

Schuyler County Supervisors approved plans in the early 1940s for a new, larger Mill Street Bridge 12 feet longer than the previous bridge on a new location 20 feet west of the previous structure. The new bridge was officially opened in 1949. Earl Vedder, Marshall, led the participating groups: the Montour Falls Fire Department, the Legion Cadets’ band from Watkins Glen and the Drum and Bugle Corps, Montour Falls. Charles Parks, town superintendent, stretched a scarlet ribbon midway across the bridge. After the marching bands and the Fire Department lined up on the bridge, a car driven by George Barton Jr., and carrying his mother, Mrs. George Barton Sr., Mrs. Barton Jr., and Mrs. J. Lynn Gibbs drove on and came to a stop before the ribbon. Mrs. Barton Sr. and Mrs. Gibbs cut the ribbon and the car became the first vehicle to transverse the bridge.

Photos in text: Two stages of the project on the Mill Street Bridge. (Both photos by Phil Barnes)

Trappler's appeal application is denied

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Oct. 22, 2019 -- The New York State Court of Appeals has denied Alice Trappler’s application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals. This decision, says the Schuyler County District Attorney's office, effectively exhausts Trappler’s state court appeal remedies.

Trappler was convicted in Schuyler County Court in 2013 at a jury trial on charges of 2nd Degree Murder, Burglary and Conspiracy in the April 2012 shotgun slaying of Daniel Bennett in his Town of Dix home. She was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Bennett was the father of Trappler’s child and was supposed to be in Steuben County Family Court on a paternity matter the morning after he was murdered.

Trappler was charged with conspiring with Thomas Borden (her ex-husband) to kill Bennett. Through investigation, law enforcement determined that Trappler had provided the murder weapon -- a sawed off shotgun -- to Borden shortly before he killed Bennett.

Evidence against Trappler was presented at trial in the form of text messages between Trappler and Borden, and GPS coordinates. In one message Trappler told Borden, “Just talked to jeff…aholes been fishing till ju[s]t [sic] now.” Borden later tells Trappler, “Watching tv now mayb asleep in an hour.” Trappler responded, “Think we should stop txting ... towers traceable??"

GPS coordinates, the DA's office showed, proved that Borden was in the vicinity of Bennett’s home when this exchange occurred. In the early morning hours after Bennett was murdered and shortly before Bennett was to be in Family Court, Trappler texted Borden, “Wonder if he will show up this time lol.” During the investigation, Borden was located by police just outside of Philadelphia. He escaped from the clutches of the police and jumped in front of a commuter train, resulting in his death. Trappler proceeded to trial, where a Schuyler County jury found her guilty after deliberating a little over four hours.

Trappler appealed to the New York State Appellate Division, Third Department in the fall of 2018. Her appeal was denied in April of this year. In her application for leave to appeal that decision to the Court of Appeals, Trappler’s lawyer argued that the Appellate Division erred in affirming her conviction. Specifically, counsel argued that the Schuyler County Court should not have permitted the jury to hear testimony from Nathan Hand, a co-conspirator. He also claimed that the evidence was not legally sufficient to support Trappler’s conviction.

Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph Fazzary argued that there were no questions of law existing that would trigger the Court of Appeals’ authority to review the case.

Photo in text: Alice Trappler (File photo)

New law enhances voting opportunities

To the Editor on October 16:

All democracies gain strength when voter involvement increases. For this reason, the League of Women Voters of Schuyler County applauds our New York State government for the passage of the new Early Voting Law. The law greatly enhances voting opportunities by establishing a 10-day period during which we all may vote before the regular Nov. 5 Election Day.

Beginning on Saturday, Oct. 26, and through Sunday, Nov. 3, Schuyler County voters may vote in the Legislative Chambers in the Schuyler County Office Building at 105 Ninth St. in Watkins Glen. This is the only early-voting polling site in the county.

The New York State League of Women Voters is offering online information about the new law as well as dates and times for early voting in every county in the state. The site is

The Schuyler County Board of Elections has posted information about early voting at You also may call the Board Elections at (607) 535-8195 Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The Board of Elections website is at

We encourage all eligible citizens to register to vote and exercise this precious civil right in the 2019 election cycle.

League of Women Voters
of Schuyler County

Lewis running for Town Supervisor post

Special to The Odessa File

TOWN OF CATHARINE, Oct. 1, 2019 -- Richard J. (Rick) Lewis has announced he is running for the position of Supervisor of the Town of Catharine.

Born and raised on Oak Hill Road in Alpine, Lewis has been a resident of the town for more than 45 years. He is a Life Member and Commander of the Odessa American Legion.

Lewis was elected twice as Justice for the Town of Catharine, and says that by serving the community he developed "a unique understanding of the people that live here as well as the laws governing the operation of local government."

He says he "believes that the purpose of town government is to provide services to the residents that ensure safety, security, a sense of well-being and decent roads," adding that as a taxpayer, he knows "the importance of keeping taxes low and spending tax money wisely."

BS (Engineering), U.S. Military Academy, West Point.
MS equivalent (Management), U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
MS (Administration), Central Michigan University.

Lewis has 35 years of operational, supervisory and policymaking experience in small and large, geographically dispersed, highly diversified organizations -- including 20 years experience as an Officer in the U.S. Army. He says he is well versed in the budget process, always completing programs on time and under budget, and has awards and citations for supervisory and management skills. He has been inducted into the Sigma Iota Epsilon National Management Honor Society.

Applicable experience:
--Twelve years as a Program Manager in a Science and Technology firm overseeing multi-million dollar government programs.
--Ten years as a trained, certified Materiel Acquisition Manager for the U.S. Army (Research, Development, Test and Evaluation).
--Fifteen years as Commander/Chairperson/Leader/Organizer of Civic, Fraternal and Veterans Organizations that serve the local community.

Finally, Lewis says he "would work hard to resolve any issues that people might have, and would take any suggestion or problem seriously."

Photo in text: Rick Lewis (Photo provided)

Eslinger seeking Town of Dix Justice post

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 12, 2019 -- Democrat Brian T. Eslinger has announced he is running for the position of Town of Dix Justice on the November 5 ballot. He will also be running on an independent party line, “Fair & Balanced.”

The Town of Dix covers the Village of Watkins Glen (Dix 1 & 2), Montour Falls, Beaver Dams and Millport (Dix 3).

According to a press release, "Brian is known for his campaign last November against the eight-year incumbent Philip Barnes as he ran for the District 6 Schuyler County Legislative seat." Of a total of 985 votes, "Brian lost by only 4 votes. Both Brian and Phil received accolades for their civil and professional campaigns. They were based on the issues, and each candidate portrayed dignity and respect to each other."

Eslinger and his partner David own The Blackberry Inn Bed & Breakfast and Guest House in Watkins Glen.

"Brian’s core beliefs," the press release said, "are centered in family, faith, community and service. Brian served a two-year term as the Chairperson of the Schuyler County Lodging and Tourism Association; he is a member of the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, the New York Farm Bureau, the Finger Lakes Tourism Association, and the Schuyler County Democratic Committee, and served a four-year term on the Village of Watkins Glen Planning Board appointed by (D) Mayor Sam Schimizzi. In April of 2019 Brian was reappointed to a consecutive four-year term on the Village of Watkins Glen Planning Board by (R) Mayor Luke Leszyk.

"The role of a Town Justice is to serve the Law and the Community. Brian is committed to treating all people with respect and dignity. He will work closely with the resources of the State of New York Unified Court Systems and will do his due diligence to understand the facts and the law and be fair and balanced to all people."

Photo in text: Brian Eslinger (Photo provided)

Water-quality article on blog prompts
alarm in Glen, firm response from Board

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 3, 2019 -- The water in Watkins Glen, the village mayor declared Tuesday night, is safe to drink.

The need for such a remarkable assurance from Mayor Luke Leszyk came at a Village Board session in response to a blog by environmental writer Peter Mantius, a Watkins Glen resident, that reported on a University of Michigan study that included Watkins Glen and Montour Falls among communities whose water it said contains a questionable amount of toxins.

The blog reportedly went viral locally, although the turnout at Tuesday's meeting was sparser than some had expected -- and the public portion of the meeting was shorter than anticipated due to Mayor Leszyk's refusal to let it get out of hand.

Talking at the meeting's outset, Leszyk intoned that it was "a privilege, not a right" to speak there. "The Board isn't on trial here," he said, urging any speakers to "be brief," and adding: "Don't be rude, judgmental or disrespectful."

Those words were in apparent anticipation of questions and possibly demands regarding the article by Mantius, which can be read here.

It dealt with a complex set of test measurements that concluded, in its lead paragraph: "Public drinking water in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls and Seneca County contains elevated levels of the cancer-linked PFAS class of chemicals found in dozens of stain-repellent household products like Teflon and Scotchguard, recent tests show."

Mantius was present at Tuesday's meeting, and expressed surprise at the level of concarn voiced by some residents to his article. "I'm surprised this story created as much alarm as it did," he said.

That concession came after Leszyk -- responding when resident Barb Cook asked what the Board was "planning to do" regarding the reported toxin levels -- said he was "not going to go into great detail here." The board, he said, would be taking "a proactive" approach and conduct its "own tests."

He said the Board is "trying to get as much information as possible," and termed the blog information "concerning," although he added that the village has -- with the exception of results following the large August 2018 storm --been meeting Department of Health requirements. He said the water tested by the University of Michigan laboratory "did not come from our plant," and that he had no idea at this point what water source was utilized.

When asked by resident Stacy Gray if he is "positive the water is safe to drink" in Watkins Glen, Leszyk answered succinctly: "Yes, it is."

When resident Brian Eslinger -- a member of the village Planning Board -- suggested an assuring message should be published for the village residents, Leszyk said a press release would be issued "once we have more information."

He said he wishes the blog -- headlined "Tap Water in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, Seneca County Tests Positive for PFAS Chemicals" -- had "been more conservatively released," but said he can "understand the motivation" of writers who present facts in a fashion designed "to get people to move" on a given subject -- sometimes by utilizing "fear."

He said the village is working with the state Department of Health regarding "our own testing" and asked of the public: "Let us do our work here."

Mantius felt the Board was moving in the right direction, but urged that it not take Department of Health pronouncements on blind faith, saying the department has dragged its feet regarding water quality in the past (detailed in his article). "We need the DOH to take this seriously," he said, urging the Board to "hold (DOH's) feet to the fire."

Photos in text: Mayor Luke Leszyk (top) and writer Peter Mantius at Tuesday's meeting.

League session to focus on early voting law

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 1, 2019) -- The League of Women Voters of Schuyler County is inviting the public to a reception on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Atwater Vineyards, Route 414, Hector.

Kathy Smith and Elaine Schmidt from the League of Women Voters of the Rochester Metropolitan Area will speak about New York State’s new early voting law during the reception. The social event also is an opportunity to learn more about the goals of the Schuyler League, organizers said.

The reception will be from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Wine tastings, a cash bar and refreshments will be offered.

Reservations are requested by calling (607) 535-6680 or by emailing by Monday, Sept. 9.

A view of the construction site from a point on the Watkins Glen High School side of the canal. The wastewater treatment plant will serve both Watkins Glen and Montour Falls.

Work progresses on water treatment plant

WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 21, 2019 -- Construction of the upcoming wastewater treatment plant along the canal across from Watkins Glen High School is taking shape.

The facility, which will serve the villages of Watkins Glen and Montour Falls -- replacing Watkins' aged treatment facility on the Seneca Lake shoreline and Montour Falls' old and aging plant along Marina Drive -- is nearing completion after being developed for years.

The cost is $32 million, achieved through grants and loans.

The latest payment approved by a Joint Project Committee -- with representation from both villages -- was for a little more than $1 million, bringing the amount paid to just under $15 million.

Once the new plant is on line, officials of both villages will oversee demolition of the old treatment facilities, clean up the sites, and decide how to redevelop the properties with an eye toward economic development.

"Both sites," Montour Falls Mayor John King has said, "are prime waterfront locations that can be redeveloped for retail, hotel, restaurant and recreational uses, consistent with the long-term master development plans for our respective communities."

Photos in text: The new wastewater treatment plant construction site, in a view snapped from across the canal.

Scene from a video presented to the Town of Montour Board snapped at a festival similar to the one proposed for Havana Glen Park.

Montour Town Board mulls proposal for Chinese silk lantern fest at Havana Glen

MONTOUR FALLS, Aug. 14, 2019 -- The Town of Montour Board Tuesday night took under consideration a proposal for a Chinese-style silk lantern festival on the grounds of Havana Glen Park in the summer of 2020 and possibly in the late summer, autumn and early winter of succeeding years.

The festival -- featuring silk figures as high as three or four stories affixed to metal frames and emanating colorful lights in a theme format -- such as Cinderella or, perhaps, of local derivation, such as racing -- would be overseen by two partnering entities, All Parks Solutions (APS) and an organization called DDM.

Chinese lantern festivals have been successful in various parts of the world -- in California, Ohio and Tennessee in the U.S., and in Dublin and London among overseas locales. And such events date back some 2,000 years in China -- where the workers who create these festivals are recruited.

Lest anyone think of small lanterns draped along a walkway, think again: this is a huge display. In the words of one article covering an Ohio festival, “while they are called lanterns, they are really huge sculptures created by hand using silk fabric, steel frames, and tens of thousands of LED lights.”

According to on-line accounts, they are not only huge, but colorful and thematic -- sometimes reflecting the history and architecture of China, and other times reflecting American culture. They require a large space -- hence a park like Havana Glen -- and an infrastructure, and paved walkways so the visiting public can walk easily through the panorama of color and soft music without getting stuck in muddy terrain.

These festivals are normally located in larger population centers, but Judy McKinney Cherry, executive director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED), has envisioned this as something that can both play off existing tourist traffic, attract new visitors and succeed on its own smaller terms.

She introduced two people to the Montour Town Board: Lisa Ferraro, recently retired Chief Administrative Officer for Corning, Inc., who is on the SCOPED board and heads up its Business Attraction Committee; and Robert Montgomery of Ottawa, representing All Parks Solutions, a moving force behind these festivals. He addressed the board, explaining the festival and outlining its potential impact

The board, all present, includes Supervisor David Scott (pictured at right) and members T.J. Riley (left), Lester Cady, Donna Taber and Robert Simpson.

As agreed with SCOPED in their preliminary talks, APS would -- unlike in big cities, where it shares the risk and cost with the municipality in which it is setting up a festival -- shoulder the entire production cost. To do that, APS and DDM would pocket all recipts rather than split with the municipality, in this case the Town of Montour. But the town would benefit in other ways: assuming a good turnout at the festival, which initially would go from July to October, and in succeeding years from late summer to winter, there would be increased sales tax, and increased attendance at local eateries, motels and other businesses. Call it the ripple effect.

The proposal calls for set-up of the festival -- again, involving large metal frameworks covered with silk and lighted colorfully by thousands of LED lights, all in a theme -- next June, with the walk-through festival covering most of the park grounds and including the creek. The festival would last to October, with evening hours utilizing the lighting effect, going until 10:30 p.m. There would be an effort to attract local residents, tourists and -- through a regional marketing campaign -- visitors from surrounding counties.

If that pilot program proved successful, subsequent festivals -- each year with new structures, new theme and new lighting -- would start with a July setup and run from August until possibly Christmas and beyond.

Construction would be accomplished largely by about 40 Chinese nationals brought to the U.S. on work visas. They are artisans long experienced in silk lantern festivals. Once they are done, three or four would remain through the festival period to maintain it. During setup, said SCOPED’s Cherry, there would also be jobs for 15 or 20 local workers.

“I really, really think we can do this,” said Cherry, with the festival becoming what she sees as a winter destination, in essence expanding the tourism season by “building a cachet. They need to get the numbers, though” -- a steady and profitable turnout. The attraction -- at least in this region -- would be “extremely unique,” she said. “What does this mean for our future? It could be our calling card.”

She said while other sites in the area have been considered, Havana Glen Park is ideal because of its trees, infrastructure, walkways, creek, and off-the-beaten track locale -- all adding to the mystique of the colorful show. “An open field doesn’t work,” she said.

She said Montgomery’s APS outfit and its partnering DDM offer “a quality experience”-- a conclusion easily reached based on their successful track record. “It’s a spectacular opportunity for Montour Falls -- not just the Town of Montour,” Cherry added. “It could put it on the map regionally.”

Any nearby residents concerned by disrupting lights and music would find, she said, that what the festival offers is something “tranquil. It’s not designed to get you jazzed up. It’s for families” looking for a wholesome and inspiring experience.

The town board listened closely, asking questions and reserving judgment until further discussion by its members can be held. The town clerk, Deborah Riley, expressed concern about regular park visitors -- such as campers, or those using the pavilions -- being disrupted or displaced.

Both Ferraro and Montgomery said they would work with such people, perhaps getting them other camping sites at comparable prices.

Photos in text:

From top: Speaker Robert Montgomery; board members T.J. Riley (left) and Supervisor David Scott (right); scene from video presentation; SCOPED's Judy McKinney Cherry.

Saks accepts nominations from 2 parties

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 1, 2019 -- Watkins Glen attorney Jessica Saks has accepted the nominations of the Independence and About Justice parties in her bid to become Schuyler County Court Judge.

“I thank the Independence Party of New York for the confidence they have shown in me,” said Saks. “In addition, I will be eternally grateful to the dozens of volunteers who gathered the necessary signatures to form the About Justice Party and to the many more people who signed petitions to allow me to get on the ballot.

“I make only one pledge: that I will be fair, open-minded and impartial for the people I seek to serve,” she added.

If elected, Saks will become the first woman elected to a countywide judicial office in Schuyler County. She is facing Matt Hayden, Steven Getman and Dan Fitzsimmons.

Raised in Schuyler County, Saks is a graduate of the New England School of Law. From her law office in Watkins Glen, she specializes in family law, criminal defense and civil litigation.

She is the president of the Schuyler County Bar Association, a board director of My Place: A Play and Learning Center, a past member of the Nominating Committee for the Arc of Schuyler, and serves as the Attorney for Child Liaison for Schuyler County.

Further information can be found Saks's website at and on the Facebook page “Saks for Judge.”

Saks seeks to succeed Judge Dennis J. Morris, who retired in May.

Photo in text: Jessica Saks (Photo provided)

U.S. District Court rules in favor of Watkins School District in suit brought by Hansen

ROCHESTER, July 25, 2019 -- Eight months after the Watkins Glen School District and its former superintendent, Thomas J. Phillips, filed for a summary judgment in the case of Hansen vs. Watkins Glen School District et al in the U.S. District Court for Western New York, the court has come down on the side of the district.

The 21-page decision effectively short circuits, at least for now, hopes that Hansen had held to make the district pay, through its insurance, damages for an alleged violation of her civil rights, personified by her arrest by handcuff at the school on two occasions in 2016. An appeal is likely, though, says her attorney, Jacob McNamara of the Ithaca law firm of Schlather, Stumbar, Parks & Salk.

"We are looking closely at the court's decision and Ms. Hansen is likely to appeal it," McNamara wrote in an emailed statement. "The court never recognized the issue of whether Ms. Hansen's First Amendment rights were violated. The focus of this case was not only the original restriction that Superintendent Phillips issued to Ms. Hansen -- it was that the Superintendent issued a second, broader, more threatening restriction to Ms. Hansen when she complained about his actions to the Board of Education.

"This second restriction constitutes retaliation and reflected an issue that needed a jury's assessment. But rather than sending this case to a jury, the court took a material dispute between Ms. Hansen and Superintendent Phillips and, as a matter of law, sided with the superintendent's version of the facts.

"The court's decision to side with the superintendent's account about a material dispute is, most notably, why the court is in error and why this error should be redressed on appeal."

That could take another 18 months to conclude, he indicated.

The convoluted case stems from three actions by Hansen in 2016 and the district's response to them:

--Her attempt to gain access to a State of the District meeting run by Phillips with staff, and attended by a majority of the School Board members (with a resulting argument that the majority constituted a quorum and the meeting thus should have been open to the public);

--Her attempt to attend a public School Board meeting not long after, in the face of an edict issued by Phillips banning her from the school without his permission. She was arrested outside the school by Village Police when she arrived for the meeting and refused to leave school grounds; and

--Her attempt to watch a school tennis match without Phillips' permission (at which time she was arrested again by Village Police after refusing to leave).

She ultimately received a favorable ruling from then-Village Court Justice Connie Fern Miller, and brought suit against the village and school district. Phillips was named in the suit, although he was protected from potential financial harm through a resolution approved by the School Board -- standard, it was explained at the time, in such matters.

While no monetary terms were ever announced, sources have confirmed that the village settled out of court with Hansen, leaving her to pursue a ruling in U.S. District Court against the school district for a much larger sum of money. But the District Court has now -- many months after receiving the case and eight months after the motion was made for summary judgment -- rejected arguments brought by her attorneys related to First and 14th Amendment violations and a Monell Claim relating to a violation of civil rights.

The court's arguments included this:

--"Qualified immunity protects public officials when they make reasonable, even if mistaken, decisions."

--"There is no indication that (Phillips) was acting with anything other than his discretion."

--"There is no indication in the record that Phillips would have denied Hansen permission (to attend school functions) when she requested it. Indeed. the one time that she sought to attend a parent/teacher conference, Phillips gave her permission."

Phillips is quoted in an email as responding thusly: "Thank you to the school attorneys, the insurance company and their attorney and the School Board for ensuring the integrity of the district and the financial interests of our community."

Photos in text:

Top two: Hansen is confronted by Phillips and then arrested by Village Police upon her arrival to attend a public School Board meeting on March 21, 2016.

Bottom: Hansen is arrested by Village Police alongside the school tennis courts while attempting to watch matches there on May 4, 2016. (File photos)

Legislature, town officials agree to work on animal control pact with Humane Society

WATKINS GLEN, July 5, 2019 -- Members of the Schuyler County Legislature and Supervisors of a half-dozen towns in the county have "agreed to work together toward an agreement with the Humane Society of Schuyler County for dog sheltering services when stray dogs are recovered in any of the towns in Schuyler County."

The news, in a press release from Legislator Michael Lausell, follows a week in which such services in five towns were announced as being terminated while those towns turned toward a private entity for such service. A sixth town, Dix, was included in early reports with the other five, but said it was trying instead to reach agreement with the Humane Society.

"It is our shared goal that this agreement will be completed in the near future," said the press release. "In the interim, services will continue as they have, under the agreement between the towns, Schuyler County and the Humane Society. The County is continuing to fund and staff the animal control officer position through the Sheriff's department to capture and transport stray dogs to the local shelter."

The following elected officials attended the meeting Wednesday of the Legislature:

--David Scott -- Town Supervisor, Town of Montour
--Harold Russell -- Town Supervisor, Town of Dix
--Alvin White -- Town Supervisor, Town of Hector
--John VanSoest -- Town Supervisor, Town of Catharine
--Gary Conklin -- Town Supervisor, Town of Reading
--Donald Deroschers -- Town Supervisor, Town of Tyrone

--Schuyler County Legislators Dennis Fagan, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro, Jim Howell and Michael Lausell

--Schuyler County Sheriff William Yessman

Also present:
--Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn
--Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman
--Clerk of the Legislature Stacy Husted

Public Health cautions: potential exposure to Hepatitis A virus at Schuyler restaurant

Risk of infection low, but clinics planned in Montour Falls

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, June 25, 2019 -- People who ate at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant (3 N. Franklin St, Watkins Glen) between June 11 and June 21 were potentially exposed to hepatitis A, the Schuyler County Public Health Department announced Tuesday.

Most people do not get sick when an employee at a restaurant has hepatitis A, but there is still a risk, Public Health said in a press release, adding: "People who may have been exposed should receive treatment to prevent infection."

“While the risk of infection is low, anyone who may have eaten at the restaurant during this timeframe should check their immunization status and come to one of our clinics or visit their healthcare provider if necessary,” said Schuyler County Public Health Director Deborah Minor, RN, MPH.

As a result of this potential hepatitis A exposure, Schuyler County Public Health is advising anyone who ate food at the restaurant between June 12 and June 21 to receive a free hepatitis A vaccine during one of the upcoming vaccine clinics. The clinics will be held at the Schuyler County Human Services Complex, 323 Owego St., Montour Falls, on the following days and times:

  • June 26 from 2-7 p.m.
  • June 27 from 12 noon to 6 p.m.
  • June 28 from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

The hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin is only effective within two weeks of exposure to the virus, the department said, adding: "People who ate at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant between June 12 and June 21 (and have not been previously vaccinated against hepatitis A) should receive the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin as soon as possible. Pre-registration for the clinic is encouraged. Visit to pre-register. If you cannot pre-register, please bring your driver’s license or another form of identification.

"Those who ate at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant on June 11, may have been exposed but will not benefit from hepatitis A vaccine to prevent infection from this exposure ... are encouraged to monitor themselves and their families for symptoms for 50 days after consuming the food. Symptoms may include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark-colored urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain, or jaundice. If you have any symptoms, contact your healthcare provider and be sure to tell them that you may have been exposed to hepatitis A."

The owner and staff at the restaurant are complying with all recommendations from the state and local health department, the press release added. The restaurant is currently open and there is no risk to eating there at this time.

For more information:

From left: Watkins Glen Village Clerk Lonnie Childs, Treasurer Rhonda Slater, and Trustee Laurie DeNardo at Tuesday night's Watkins Glen Village Board meeting.

Village Board handles a variety of issues: stop signs, noise, brush and the WWTP

WATKINS GLEN, June 19, 2019 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Tuesday night dealt with matters involving stop signs, noise, filling pools, road disruption on Magee Street, the brush pile behind the Community Center, work on the new wastewater treatment plant, and the absence of a Code Enforcement officer with the departure of the old one.

The stop sign issue was raised by resident Barb Cook, who said a stop sign near her house was ill-placed, with cars often braking hard if stopping at all, and then screeching out again. Trustee Lou Perazzini noted that there are a number of such signs placed in previous years to control speed on streets, which he said "isn't the purpose of stop signs." He wants a study to determine the need for a number of them, particularly at four-way stops.

A suggestion that the speed limit on side streets be reduced was rejected since it recently was raised back to 30 mph from 20 when the state rejected reduced limits except in a school zone.

The noise issue was raised by resident Tony Compese, who said the Village Marina was projecting loud music late on the night of the recent Cardboard Boat Regatta -- prompting a debate over the right of the marina or any other business to "piggyback" on an approved special event such as the regatta or Vintage Weekend. Compese, concerned about other noise infringements -- as there have been in the past -- said he thought the matter was handled well last year with businesses alerted through a letter from the Code Enforcement Officer, Greg Larnard. But Larnard has "moved on" from his current job, village officials said, leaving such chores in limbo. But Mayor Luke Leszyk agreed with a suggestion that Larnard's old computer might be searched to find the letter form and a list of businesses it was sent to, so that the practice might be replicated.

The pools issue stemmed from a request from the fire department that its tanker might be used to fill the pools of department members, who would pay any cost for metered water used. That prompted a debate, with two village officials saying such permission would "send a bad message." Mayor Leszyk pointed out that "these guys are volunteers" and that such a service might be seen as "a reward for volunteering," although he added that he was "neutral about it." The board voted 3-0 against it, with Perazzini abstaining.

The brush pile behind the Community Center has been a point of contention with various contractors dumping debris from jobs there. The general sense of the Board was that it should be reserved for village residents -- and it was decided that a policy to that effect would be relayed to the contractors.

Work on the new Wastewater Treatment Plant along the canal opposite the high school property is making headway, with concrete pouring of floors planned on three different days in the near future. More bills for the $32 million project -- a facility shared by Watkins Glen and Montour Falls -- were approved by the board, as they had been by the Joint Project Committee at an earlier meeting. Those bills totaled $840,131.43, said Trusteee Tony Fraboni, bringing the total paid to date to $11,810,503 -- leaving a little over $20 million yet to be covered.

Magee Street, meanwhile, is undergoing disruption for surveying, engineering and renovation work. It was announced that the first block of the street will be closed soon for a two-week period as work intensifies.

Photos in text:

From top: Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk and Trustees Lou Perazzini and Tony Fraboni at Tuesday night's Village Board meeting.

Local meth 'Queenpin' draws probation

WATKINS GLEN, June 1, 2019 -- Julie I. Miller, 33, of Montour Falls -- after pleading guilty to the unlawful manufacture and possession of methamphetamine -- received a sentence from outgoing Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris Thursday of five years probation and forfeiture of $370 in cash found in her possession at the time of her arrest.

The District Attorney's office called Miller the local "Queenpin" of the meth trade for being "the major meth cook and distributor in Schuyler County at the time of her arrest" on June 14, 2018.

Her arrest, officials said, came after a search of her home found "methamphetamine manufacturing materials, a significant amount of methamphetamine, and scales and other drug packaging materials." She was charged with a B Felony, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 3rd Degree, and a D Felony: Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine in the 3rd Degree. She pleaded guilty on Feb. 7, 2019, with no plea bargain offered.

"At sentencing," the DA's office said in a press release, "Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew Hayden argued that the defendant should be sentenced to state prison."

It added that Hayden "described how her manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine was known to be poisoning our community." The defendant, the release noted, "acknowledged in a statement to law enforcement that she would cook methamphetamine almost every day and that she would sell methamphetamine from her apartment."

The Schuyler County probation department recommended incarceration, and Hayden agreed. The sentencing potential for the B felony offense, the DA's office said, "was up to 9 years in prison, with additional post-release supervision." It added that "during the sentencing, even the defense attorney acknowledged that his client was 'a prolific meth cook' " who "had previously failed while on probation. But (the attorney) also argued that because the defendant has sought drug treatment, and had been doing well while in treatment, that the court should sentence her to probation."

Judge Morris (whose term as County Judge ended, as long planned, with his retirement at midnight the same day) agreed with the defense attorney, sentencing Miller to 5 years probation, with the defendant forfeiting "the $370 in cash that she was found to possess when arrested."

Fitzsimmons seeking County Judge post

SCHUYLER COUNTY, May 20, 2019 -- Daniel Fitzsimmons became the fourth candidate to announce entry into the race for Schuyler County Judge Monday.

A press release announced that Fitzsimmons, a longtme Schuyler attorney, "has named a committee to advise and oversee his campaign": John P. Callanan Jr., David and Kate Lamoreaux, Paula Fitzsimmons, Marie Fitzsimmons, Paul E. Clifford, and Damir and Theresa Lazaric. It will be co-chaired by former Schuyler County Legislator Bob Fitzsimmons and local veterinarian Dr. Kirk Peters.

Previously announcing runs for the County Judge position being vacated soon with the retirement of Judge Dennis Morris were Matthew Hayden, Jessica Saks and Steven Getman. The election is in November.

Fitzsimmons, his press release said, "previously served eight years as a Judge in the Town of Hector and ran two successful campaigns with both the Democratic and Conservative Party nominations in 2010 and 2014. Fitzsimmons, a registered Republican, says he will request the nomination of each of the political parties. His Campaign Committee spans the political spectrum, including locally respected Republican, Democratic and Green Party members as well as independent and unaffiliated citizens from the fields of education, health care, industry and public safety."

Fitzsimmons, who was born and raised in Schuyler County, opened his law practice in Watkins Glen in 1996. In 2000 he started the Schuyler County Law Guardian Office, "which is responsible for representing the best interests of children in Schuyler County Courts," the release said, adding:

"The Law Guardian Program is administered by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court. The retired Director of the program, Jack Carter, said: 'Attorney Fitzsimmons was appointed the Schuyler County Law Guardian in 2000 and he remained in that position with the advice and consent of every Schuyler County Court Judge until his appointment as Principal Court Attorney in 2018. He also served as a Continuing Legal Education instructor where he wrote curriculum and trained hundreds of other attorneys.'"

In 2018 Fitzsimmons was recommended by the current County Court Judge to the position of Principal Court Attorney. That appointment was confirmed by the Sixth Judicial District. Fitzsimmons currently serves as the legal adviser to the Judge and Staff of the Schuyler County Courts.

Four generations of the Fitzsimmons family reside in Schuyler County, including Fitzsimmons' three adult children and one grandchild. In addition to his legal career, he is a Captain licensed by the United States Coast Guard. He currently serves on the Schuyler County Youth Board and is the Vice President of the Schuyler County Bar Association.

Photo in text: Dan Fitzsimmons (Photo provided)

Village updates set at May 20 League event

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, May 1, 2019 -- Burdett Mayor Dale Walter, Montour Falls Mayor John King, Odessa Mayor Gerry Messmer and Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk will describe exciting changes and events in their villages on Monday, May 20, at a luncheon hosted by the League of Women Voters of Schuyler County.

The public is invited. Reservations are due by Wednesday, May 15.

The luncheon will be at noon at the Montour Moose Lodge, Route 14, south of Montour Falls. The cost is $15.

Reservations are required by calling (607) 535-6680 or by emailing .

The luncheon will include a brief annual business meeting of the League of Women Voters. Information on the League’s activities and how to join will be available.

Community meeting seeks 2-village ideas

Special to The Odessa File

MONTOUR FALLS, May 19, 2019 -- The Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) in partnership with the Village of Montour Falls and the Village of Watkins Glen will host a  community meeting to gather community member ideas, project suggestions, and other comments about the futures of both villages.

"We encourage respondents to be creative and dream big," SCOPED said in a press release. "The community’s input will build on the planning efforts completed to date and will contribute to creation of a Regional Economic Development Strategic Plan.

Date of Meeting:
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Montour Falls Fire Hall, 111 Lee Street, Montour Falls

Prior to the meeting, the Online Interactive Program, found at, will be available through Friday, May 24 at 5 p.m. Community members having issues accessing the program can visit one of two locations for personal access and computer access -- the Montour Falls Library (406 Main St, Montour Falls) or the SCOPED office (910 South Decatur Street, Watkins Glen).

Community members who would like to attend the meeting, but are unable to, are encouraged to complete the online interactive program and contact SCOPED at 607-535-4341 for more information on how they can get involved.

For more information on the Two Village Regional Economic Development Strategic Plan, contact Amanda at 607-535-6862.

Appeals Court entertains Trappler appeal; Fazzary argues against drive for new trial

ALBANY, April 25, 2019 -- Schuyler County District Attorney Joe Fazzary stood before a five-judge Appeals Court panel Thursday in Albany and argued against a move by convicted murderess Alice Trappler for a new trial.

Trappler was represented at the hearing by Attorney Thomas J. Eoannou, who was given 10 minutes to argue on behalf of his client. "I believe a new trial should be ordered," he told the judges.

Trappler was sentenced in 2013 to 25 years-to-life in prison after being found guilty in a jury trial in Schuyler County Court of 2nd Degree Murder, Burglary and Conspiracy in connection with the April 2012 shotgun slaying of Daniel Bennett in his Town of Dix home.

Trappler was not present at the murder scene, but Fazzary -- through circumstantial evidence that included extensive text messages -- wove a prosecution that convinced the jury to convict.

Eoannou said the verdict should be vacated primarily because the prosecution "improperly admitted hearsay statements" -- a charge that Fazzary disputes. Eoannou also criticized Fazzary for failing to use a text -- "I wonder if he'll show up to court. LOL" -- in its full context in reference to a Family Court hearing involving Trappler and Bennett regarding the custody of their infant daughter. He said there was reference in that text exchange to the possibility of the hearing occurring: "We'll be ready for whatever he brings to court."

Bennett was murdered before the hearing could be held -- a fact that itself, because of the timing -- is one of the many circumstantial pieces that Fazzary insisted in his rebuttal paints an undeniable tapestry of conspiracy.

Eoannou also referred to testimony by Nathan Hand, present with the shooter, Trappler's ex-husband Thomas Wesley Borden, that showed the plan had supposedly been to beat up Bennett. But, said Eoannou, Borden "flipped the script" after drinking shortly before the murder and announced to Hand that he planned instead to kill Bennett. This showed, the attorney said, that Trappler didn't know the murder would take place.

Fazzary, who exceeded his 10 minutes by about five -- for the judges asked several questions regarding his arrival at conspiracy -- said Hand joined the plan late, and didn't know of the murder while Trappler did. He also pointed out a couple of times that the murder weapon was Trappler's -- given to her by a boyfriend -- and that when asked how it ended up in Borden's possession, Trappler said he must have taken it from her house, "but moments later said Borden had never been there."

When one of the judges seemingly pressed him on the matter of conspiracy, indicating she was having difficulty connecting the dots, Fazzary said the evidence "was overwhelming," and proceeded to tick off several aspects of the case that he said supported it. As the custody hearing had neared, he said, Trappler was "panic stricken" -- triggering the murder. And he said she showed "consciousness of guilt" when she urged her parents by phone to get to the boyfriend who had given her the gun, saying if he talked "it's my demise."

Trappler was the only person with a motive for murder, Fazzary insisted. Arriving at conspiracy was "not a leap of faith." In the end, he said, the jury -- having heard her testimony -- "didn't believe her and took just four hours to convict."

The Appeals Court -- the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, whose hearings are aired online -- will now take the Trappler issues under advisement, issuing a decision at an undesignated future date.

Photos in text:

Top: Handheld device shows District Attorney Joe Fazzary addressing the Appeals Court.
Bottom: Alice Trappler (File photo)

Bartow plans run for Schuyler Legislature

TYRONE, April 22, 2019 -- -- Democrat Paul Bartow has announced his candidacy for the office of Schuyler County Legislator from District 7, Tyrone and Reading.

Bartow is president of the Schuyler County Historical Society and a former educator at SUNY Oswego, Monroe Community College and James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA). Additionally, he operates Paul Bartow Carpentry, an individually owned business established in 1995 which focuses on design-build projects.

Bartow is a resident of Tyrone, having returned in 1992 after attending graduate school. He also attended the Watkins Glen Central School District before pursuing his undergraduate and graduate degrees in the Fine and Applied Arts.

Election Day is November 5th. Early voting begins on October 28th.

Photo in text: Paul Bartow (Photo provided)

Convicted burglar gets 12-year prison term

WATKINS GLEN, April 12, 2019 -- A 31-year-old Trumansburg man was sentenced Thursday in Schuyler County Court to 12 years in prison and five years of post-release supervision after pleading guilty to charges involving two daytime home invasion burglaries.

Justin L. Georgia had been indicted on two counts of Burglary in the Second Degree, Class C Violent Felonies. His guilty pleas were entered on Jan. 7. The cases were prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew C. Hayden. No plea bargain offer was made.

Georgia was sentenced by Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris, who could have imposed consecutive sentences of up to 30 years in prison, since each count carried a 7-to-15-year sentence, Georgia being a Second Violent Felony offender. He had previously served time in state prison on two other burglaries, from 2010 to 2017.

This time, the first burglary occurred in a home on Steam Mill Road in the Town of Hector on Feb. 20, 2018, "where the defendant kicked in a door and proceeded to ransack the house, stealing jewelry and currency," the DA's office said in a press release. Georgia was arrested on March 13, 2018, but freed on bail. On July 2, 2018, "he committed another daytime burglary of a home on Mount Road in the Town of Hector. At that home, the defendant stole jewelry and currency as well as various other items of value."

Hayden argued for a longer prison term -- with consecutive sentences -- but Judge Morris opted for concurrent sentences and the 12-year term. In addition to five years of post-release supervision, Georgia was ordered to pay $7,781.80 in restitution.

Leszyk takes oath of office as new mayor; Perazzini, Woodworth, Decker start terms

WATKINS GLEN, April 2, 2019 -- Luke Leszyk was sworn in Monday evening as the new mayor of Watkins Glen, as were trustees Lou Perazzini and Nan Woodworth.

The three won four-year terms last month, Leszyk outpolling trustee Laurie DeNardo and Perazzini and Woodworth outpolling Planning Board member Brian Eslinger. Woodworth was already a trustee, appointed last year to finish the term of Kevin Thornton following his resignation.

They were administered the oath of office by Village Clerk Lonnie Childs, who then relinquished the duty to outgoing Village Justice Connie Fern Miller for the swearing-in of the new justice, Steven Decker. Decker, a retired village Police Sergeant, ran unopposed in last month's election.

Both Leszyk and Perazzini were dressed in suits and ties for the occasion, with the new mayor assuring the audience -- about 40 packed into the board meeting room -- that the attire would in the future be more casual. He also expressed the hope that future board turnouts might be just as large as Monday's.

Following the oaths, County Planning Director Kristin VanHorn updated the board -- in particular its newest members -- on the Clute Park development plans, where the Stantec architectural firm has been selected to design the project. The project tentatively involves a new pavilion, new bathrooms and an ice rink, among various improvements, with funding from various grants totaling $4.8 million. VanHorn explained how the county is the lead agency, but that all matters will be channeled through the Village Board in what she called "a partnership."

Accordingly, she said, the county needs the village to sign off on a Notice to Proceed, which will serve as a commitment to Stantec as it develops its park plans. Leszyk said he would look over the paperwork and get back to VanHorn shortly.

The board also heard from resident Tony Compese, who urged the board to express its "concern" regarding the Woodstock 50 festival being planned for Aug. 16-18 at Watkins Glen International in the Town of Dix. He cited a "disruption of the normal tourist business" along with "stress on our infrastructure" as reasons for that concern, and said such an expression to the county "would help establish legal standing if we need it later" should something go awry with the festival.

Leszyk said "it goes without saying we don't have anything to do with" the festival, but "we can express our concern" while also examining a possible insurance agreement with the Town of Dix.

"They're probably still going to move ahead with it," Leszyk said of the festival. But such mass gatherings, he added, are "not as beneficial to us as people sometimes think."

Photos in text: Mayor Luke Leszyk (top) and trustees Lou Perazzini and Nan Woodworth are sworn into office.

Left: New village justice Steven Decker and outgoing justice Connie Fern Miller shake hands after Decker was sworn in by Miller. Right: County Planning Director Kristin VanHorn addresses the village board.

O'Mara: Budget is bad news for taxpayers

Adds Palmesano: It's the 'worst budget I've seen in my years in Legislature'

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 1, 2019 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) Monday said that the 2019-2020 state budget approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature’s Democratic majorities welcomes back “a tax-and-spend approach to government that’s bad news for taxpayers, job creators, and workers.”

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, meanwhile, called it "the worst budget I have ever seen in my years of serving in the state Legislature."

Since the beginning of the year, O’Mara has been calling for state leaders to make tax relief a priority in the new state budget. Instead, he said the budget adopted Monday relies on more than $1 billion in new taxes and fees to support significant new short- and long-term state spending. The new taxes will include a new sales tax on internet purchases that will affect all consumers.

O’Mara said the budget also sets in motion new state spending commitments that will become increasingly expensive, including a system of public campaign financing, electoral reforms like early voting, tuition assistance for illegal immigrants, and others.

And while O’Mara has long supported making the state’s two-percent local property tax cap permanent, which the new budget does, he said that New York continues to ignore the urgent need to roll back unfunded state mandates in order to give the cap any hope of ever producing property tax cuts for local taxpayers.

“Tax-and-spend government has been a disaster for New York State in the past and it’s about to make a mess of things again," said O'Mara. "We needed to stop taxing, spending, regulating, and mandating New Yorkers to death. Yet here we go again with a tax-and-spend approach to government that’s bad news for taxpayers, job creators, and workers, especially upstate.” He noted that the last time state government fell under one-party, Democratic control for two years beginning in 2009, taxes and fees were increased by $14 billion to support upwards of $14 billion in new state spending.

Added Palmesano: “This budget is, quite, frankly, the worst budget I have ever seen in my years of serving in the state Legislature. There are new, taxpayer-funded handouts for undocumented citizens and criminals. There is no property tax relief; in fact, the new freeze on STAR exemption benefits will actually increase school property taxes. There are new, costly mandates imposed on family businesses and local municipalities. At a time when assaults on correction officers are skyrocketing in our overcrowded prisons, the governor and Senate and Assembly Democrat  majorities doubled down on compromising public safety and agreed to close three more correctional facilities. And to add insult to injury, at a time when we’re pouring billions into the mismanaged MTA, we’re cutting funding for local roads and bridges upstate, while creating a $100 million per year taxpayer-funded campaign system. It’s disgraceful and unacceptable.”

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

O'Mara, Palmesano rip budget road funds

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 1, 2019 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) Monday said that the new state budget enacted by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature’s Democratic majorities “pulls the foundation out from under local roads and bridges throughout this state.”

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said: “It didn’t take long for Governor Cuomo and a State Legislature under one-party, Democratic control to show their true colors. In a state budget allocating hundreds of billions of dollars, including billions of dollars alone for downstate mass transit, state Democrats cut funding for one of government’s fundamental responsibilities, which is the improvement and maintenance of local roads and bridges. This budget delivers state government at its worst.  It pulls the foundation out from under local roads and bridges throughout this state. It turns its back on local infrastructure, local economies, local property taxpayers, and local motorists. It’s a disgrace.”

The final 2019-2020 state budget adopted earlier Monday includes no additional funding for CHIPS base aid and cuts the $65 million “Extreme Winter Recovery” allocation that O'Mara and Palmesano said "has made a real difference for counties and local highway departments across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide."

Earlier this year, over 600 local highway superintendents and highway department employees representing nearly every region of New York State rallied in Albany as part of the annual “Local Roads Matter” advocacy campaign. O’Mara and Palmesano have helped lead the campaign in the Legislature since 2013 and helped deliver funding increases over the past decade for local roads, bridges and culverts through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS).

This year the group called for increasing state base aid for CHIPS by $150 million to a total of $588 million. They also sought the restoration of a $65 million “Extreme Winter Recovery” allocaion enacted last year but not included in Cuomo’s proposed 2019-2020 state budget.

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photo)

Burdett 18-year-old faces several charges

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, March 22, 2019 -- Logan J. Teemley, 18, of Burdett, NY, was charged Thursday by the Schuyler County Sheriff's Office with a Class D felony, Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree, following a report of a house being shot on Lisk Road in the Town of Hector -- with other charges added later.

Teemley, the Sheriff's Office said in a press release, "was arraigned in the Town of Hector Court, where he was remanded to jail in lieu of $500/$1000 Bail/Bond. The investigation also uncovered other crimes it is alleged Teemley is responsible for, and as a result Teemley was also" charged with "Unlawful Imprisonment in the First Degree, a class E Felony; Coercion in the Third Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor, and Menacing in the Second Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor. Teemley was rearraigned in the Town of Hector Court and remanded to jail in lieu of $5000/$10,000 Bail/Bond."

Teemley is a senior at Odessa-Montour High School, a point alluded to when the Sheriff's Office added:

"Although the investigation has not involved any threats to the Odessa-Montour Central School, the Sheriff’s Office is working in conjunction with school officials to ensure the safety of the students. If any students or parents hear of any threats being circulated, they are urged to call the Sheriff’s Office as 607-535-8222. Tips can be left at 607-535-8224 or emailed to"

Photo in text: Logan J. Teemley (Photo provided by Sheriff's Office)

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

WATKINS GLEN, March 12, 2019 -- The specter of 1973's Summer Jam raised its head again Monday night at the Schuyler County Legislature's monthly meeting when area residents who remember that festival expressed fears of a repeat at August's proposed Woodstock 50 at Watkins Glen International.

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

ALBANY, Marach 7, 2019 -- A day after State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) joined legislative colleagues and local transportation leaders from across New York State for the annual “Local Roads Matter” rally at the State Capitol, the state Thursday announced $128 million in new state funding to repair local roads damaged this winter.

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, “The ‘Local Roads Matter’ coalition continues to make itself heard in Albany and we appreciate the opportunity to help lead their ongoing fight for greater state investment.  More than 600 county and town highway superintendents and highway employees travelled to the Capitol this week to help make the case once again for a stronger state-local partnership. It is the only answer to providing the local transportation infrastructure that our taxpayers, motorists, farmers, businesses, and communities deserve and need.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new extreme winter recovery funding to support 91 paving projects and repair approximately 1,000 lane miles of pavement statewide, including across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.

O’Mara and Palmesano said that $7.1 million is being provided for the following projects to renew nearly 100 lane miles of roads in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins, and Yates counties:

    -- $950,000 to resurface Rt. 366 from Route 13 to the Village of Freeville Line in Tompkins County;
    -- $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.

Over 600 local highway superintendents and highway department employees representing nearly every region of New York State have been in Albany this week as part of the annual “Local Roads Matter” advocacy campaign. As part of this effort since 2013, O’Mara, Palmesano, and many of their legislative colleagues joined local roads representatives and other local leaders from across New York at a rally Wednesday to call for increased state support for local roads, bridges, and culverts.

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
as it looks ahead to public vote on LOSAP

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.

And it might, Village Treasurer Rhonda Slater pointed out, if -- as the board hopes -- the public approves a proposed service award program for active volunteer firefighters in the Watkins Glen Fire Department.

The program, called LOSAP (Length of Service Awards Program), would financially reward firefighters “for the services they provide to the community,” according to a fact sheet distributed at the meeting.

Edward J. Holohan of Penflex, Inc. -- an Albany-area firm that provides actuarial and administrative services essential to the success of a LOSAP program -- outlined it, explaining how firefighters can earn $500 a year if they reach a designated number of incentive points. The money is placed by the village in an account, with the idea to grow it until the payout age of a volunteer: 60. The program would be overseen by the State Comptroller's Office.

The Watkins Glen Fire Department has about 40 members, but Chief Charlie Smith III said only about 13 respond to alarms regularly. If all 40 members earned the incentive, it would amount to $20,000 a year, but more realistically, Holohan said, the number earning the incentive will be smaller.

The tax cost of the LOSAP program on a home worth $100,000, said Mayor Sam Schimizzi, would be $13 a year or less -- possibly less than $10. He said the $500 incentive could under law be higher -- as high as $700 -- but “we wanted to get everybody on board, and see how it works.

“It’s a good thing in my view,” he added, and then to the general population sadded this: “Please vote.”

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.

Trustee Laurie DeNardo is running for mayor, having gained more votes than Schimizzi in a Democratic Caucus, while retired trooper Luke Leszyk is running on the Republican ticket. Brian Eslinger, a member of the Planning Board who barely lost a race for the Schuyler County Legislature in November, is running along with Woodworth and Lou Perazzini for two trustee seats.


The board also heard from Eslinger on the issue of short-term rentals. He said that only 20 owners of such establishments had met a 30-day deadline (from Feb. 1) for paying the newly required registration fee of $400 for two years. Under law, he said, others should not be allowed to book reservations until or unless they comply, and wondered what village officials might be doing to address the matter.

He was told that Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard was studying the issue, and that letters calling for compliance would likely be sent out soon.


Mary Churchill, who chaired the village Planning Board in the 1980s, pressed the board on the planned renovation of Clute Park, asking specific questions.

“Who holds tha land title to Clute Lakeside Park?” she asked. The village, said Mayor Schimizzi.

“Who is the lead agency in any work at the park/” The village, said Schimizzi.

“Who signs any contracts relating to work at the park?” The village.

“Is it possible to get a vote on the park renovations on the ballot for March 19? I’m asking on behalf of many residents who have asked about it.” I’m not sure, said Village Clerk Lonnie Childs, who promised to look into it.

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.

The two engineering/architectural firms considered the best among RFP (Request for Proposal) respondents will outline their proposals at those Wednesday sessions.


Schimizzi, at the beginning of the meeting, called for a moment of silence in remembrance of village resident Rocco Scaptura, who had died that morning.


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)
Middle: Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris (File photo)
Bottom: Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew Hayden (File photo)

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.

“These popular, successful, and safe fundraisers have long been held by fire departments, police clubs, and other groups across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and throughout New York State'" O'Mara said in a press release. "They are used to help raise funds to purchase badly needed equipment for volunteer firefighters, assist vital community charities, and provide scholarships to outstanding area students, among many other admirable initiatives."

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.

O’Mara, who said that he would continue urging his legislative colleagues to reject the measure, added, “These raffles are popular and safe. The legislation fails to note that raffle winners cannot claim any firearm as a prize without undergoing a background check.        
For New York State government, under the guise of gun control and safety, to prevent the Canisteo Gun Club and other clubs and organizations across this region from ever again holding a gun raffle to support these important community efforts would be big government at its intrusive and overreaching worst.”

The legislation (A1413) is sponsored by Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, a Brooklyn Democrat, and is currently in the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee. It has 29 Democratic co-sponsors. Similar legislation has not been introduced in the state Senate yet, O’Mara noted.

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.
Bottom: County Attorney Steven Getman. (Photos provided)

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.

The session, attended by about three dozen people, mostly from the Town of Dix in the vicinity of the Watkins Glen International racetrack, expressed concerns about the proposed Aug. 16-18 Woodstock 50 festival at WGI.

One, Charlie Ector of Townsend Road, said at first that he was “a little bit opposed to what may be going on at the racetrack” in August. Then, warming up, he said “we opened that can of worms in ’73” -- the year of Summer Jam, when an estimated 600,000 people flooded into the county for a weekend of concert music and left behind extensive damage.

"It’s like Pandora’s Box,” said Ector. “Once opened, you can’t close it again. There are people who live up there” near the track. “You shouldn’t just look at dollar signs.”

Another resident, farmer Gary Westervelt, said he too had experienced the fallout from Summer Jam, when “from Thursday on, there was no police protection” as the roads and fields in the area were overrun by concert-goers who left trash that “wasn’t cleared for two years.” He pointed to the “lawlessness” of that weekend as vandals “cut fences and burned hay bales. Lots of crops were destroyed” with “damages in the thousands of dollars. You should not have this concert.”

He pointed to the recent Phish concerts, where some residents had “raw sewage in their basements. Is this something we want in our community? I don’t think we should.”

When Westervelt wondered how concerts had returned to the track after being essentially banned after Summer Jam, County Administrator Tim O’Hearn jumped into the discussion, saying that such a ban was “a misconception” -- that in fact existing laws at the time (and since) have been strengthened to control mass gatherings.

“You can’t prohibit mass gatherings,” he said -- although any such gathering that fails to meet health and safety standards can be blocked. If a general ban existed, he said, there could -- for example -- be no NASCAR races at WGI. The Local Law was strengthened after Summer Jam, he said, and “more restrictions were put in over Phish.”

Byron Thompson, long involved in emergency services, said that WGI does “a fabulous job” with NASCAR weekends, but that a Phish concert brought people defecating and drinking “in our yard” and an encounter with a menacing driver. “Who,” he asked of the proposed Woodstock 50, “is gonna protect my property and especially my family? You really need to look at this and talk to people in the community.”

Verne Alexander, who lives on Route 329, said that while he understood State Police were going to provide security, and that a limited number of tickets would be sold (one report said 110,000), “it was supposedly limited at Summer Jam, too. What will you do if 600,000 show up? Five hundred troopers are not gonna stop them.”

When asked by another attendee if he could explain the Legislature’s role in all of this, O’Hearn said the promoter of Woodstock 50, Michael Lang, would need approval from the State Department of Health, from Emergency Services, and from State Police as well as from the Legislature, which is obliged to accept or reject the proposed festival no later than 45 days before its scheduled start. The festival plan will also require a State Environmental Quality Review by the Legislature to judge whether it would be environmentally sound.

He said he had been “tasked” by the Legislature to “coordinate discussion and gather information” regarding the proposed weekend -- and that the process is in its “early stages.” A public meeting where more information could be shared will probably be held in late March, he added.

The Legislature, he said, would take all gathered information into account before rendering its judgment.

When asked if there might be pressure brought to bear on the Legislature to approve the concert plan, O’Hearn shook his head. “Not so,” he said, reminding everyone that “we canceled the Phish concert” last summer after a massive storm and resultant flooding left health concerns that precluded the music. Fans were sent home before the concert -- being set up -- could begin.

“We want to assure people,” O’Hearn said, “that we’re taking this seriously” -- but that the process will play out, giving the promoter every chance to “prove he can do what he says.”

The meeting took a turn toward the personal when Legislator Phil Barnes -- who had told the Dix Town Board last week that information he had received indicated as many as three “high ranking State Police officials” would be at the Legislature meeting to discuss Woodstock 50 -- said that his “integrity has been brought into question” with word earlier Monday that there was no such presentation on the agenda. O’Hearn had said Monday morning in response to a county statement that State Police officials were not coming that he was aware “of statements made, but I have no control over them, nor a statement even. The agenda is what it is.”

Now Barnes, visibly upset, said that he had understood through meetings of various law enforcement officials that State Police officials did want to meet with the Legislature and had intended to do so -- but that the plan “went South” over the weekend when they determined that any such meeting should not be a give-and-take with the public, but rather an executive session with legislators.

Then he added: “I’m tired of being thrown under the bus. I’m just tired of being maligned ... I’m just an old cop looking for the truth. If you lose your integrity, you lose everything. I’m picking my fights.” Accordingly, he asked for an executive session at the end of Monday’s public meeting. When pressed by County Attorney Steven Getman as to what it would be about (for there are specific reasons for such a session), Barnes said: “About me ... How about that?“

Sales Tax: Legislature Chair Dennis Fagan said the final sales tax figures for 2018 are in, with the county total reaching $11,445,000, which he said was 6.9% -- “about three-quarters of a million dollars” -- above the previous year. “This,” he said, “helps us keep the tax levy down.”

Photos in text:

Topo Schuyler County Legislator Phil Barnes makes a point.
Second: Dix resident Gary Westervelt addressing the Legislature.
Third: Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn.
Bottom: Dix resident Charlie Ector talks to the legislators.

O'Mara: 'Restore critical upstate funding'

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Feb. 11, 2019 -- With local officials from across New York State at the Capitol Monday testifying before the state Legislature’s fiscal committees on the impact of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2019-2020 proposed state budget, Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) urged Cuomo and legislative leaders to restore a proposed cut to critical state funding for area municipalities.

In his 2019-20 proposed Executive Budget released last month, Cuomo calls for the elimination of Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) funding for most of the towns and villages across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide. AIM is the largest single source of state revenue sharing for these localities.

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.

Said O’Mara in a press release Monday: “Governor Cuomo’s surprising and unexpected proposal to eliminate state revenue sharing for towns and villages puts our local governments and local property taxpayers at risk. The state’s new Democratic legislative leaders should immediately reject and promise to restore this Cuomo cut. Senate Republicans will continue to stand up and speak out for our municipalities and local taxpayers. We will continue to oppose any state government actions that put them at risk. We will continue to wage the fight on their behalf. History warns, however, that some state Democratic leaders may not share the same level of commitment and that’s a major red flag at the start of 2019 state budget negotiations.”

It’s estimated that the Cuomo cut would, unless restored, result in the elimination of AIM for 1,328 of New York’s 1,465 towns and villages.

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.

O’Mara recently received the award in Albany as part of the annual Red Cross Advocacy Day at the State Capitol on January 28.

This year marks the first time the Red Cross has selected “Legislator of the Year” honorees. In addition to O’Mara, three members of the state Assembly were honored as part of the inaugural class: Assembly Majority Leader Crystal People-Stokes, Richard Gottfried, and John McDonald III.

According to the Red Cross, O’Mara and this year’s other “Legislator of the Year” honorees are recognized for their “unwavering support of our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.”

O’Mara has enjoyed a long association with the regional and statewide Red Cross, including as a past Chairman and member of the Board of Directors of the Chemung/Schuyler Chapter of the Red Cross, and a member of the cabinet for the “Sound the Alarm” fire safety campaign. He has been a strong supporter of legislation and other state-level initiatives and investments supporting the Red Cross.

Clara Barton founded the first chapter of the American Red Cross in Dansville, New York in 1881. Since then the organization's supporters, volunteers and employees have provided compassionate care for millions of people affected by disasters, support for members of the military and their families, health and safety education and training, and international relief and development, and have collected much of the nation's blood supply. More than 95 percent of Red Cross workers are volunteers.

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.

Said O’Mara: “Far from simply codifying the federal protections afforded to all women under Roe versus Wade, this new law is an extreme action by Governor Cuomo and a State Legislature now under one-party Democratic control. It continues to impose on all New Yorkers a radical left, liberal political agenda by significantly expanding abortion, legalizing abortion right up until a baby’s birth, authorizing non-doctors to perform abortions, and even outlawing current protections afforded to the pregnant victims of domestic violence. It is a disturbing, extreme, radical action that I strongly oppose along with many of my constituents and many, many New Yorkers.”

Earlier Tuesday, O’Mara joined his Senate Republican colleagues at a Capitol news conference to protest one specific provision of the RHA that eliminates criminal penalties for criminals who commit domestic violence against pregnant women, and to announce the introduction of legislation restoring the penalties.

Livia Abreu, an army veteran from the Bronx who was stabbed repeatedly by her fiancé during a domestic violence attack in May 2018, an attack that critically injured Abreu and killed her 26-week-old fetus, joined O’Mara and the Senate GOP.

The Senate GOP’s proposed “Liv Act,” named after Abreu, which O’Mara will co-sponsor, would establish the crime of assault on a pregnant woman by expressly recognizing that violence against pregnant women is a felony. Passage of this legislation, O'Mara said, would ensure that there would still be a criminal statute in New York that recognizes that violence done to a pregnant woman puts her reproductive freedom at stake.

According to O'Mara's office, 38 states currently have laws holding perpetrators accountable for violent attacks against pregnant women that result in the loss of their babies, including California and Massachusetts. It said another eight states, including Colorado, enhance existing criminal penalties for crimes committed against pregnant women.

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
in 'Big Pharma' opioid kickback scheme

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.

Michael Babich, who resigned as the company’s CEO in 2015, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy and mail fraud charges. The government alleges that, from 2012 to 2015, Babich and others conspired to bribe doctors to prescribe Subsys, a prescription opiate for managing severe pain in cancer patients.

Insys is one of the big pharmaceutical companies being sued by various New York State municipalities, including Schuyler County. In May of last year, Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman (pictured at right) filed a nearly 250-page Summons and Complaint for damages to the County arising out of the fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opiates in the County.

“This plea is potential evidence to Schuyler County,” Getman said. “A criminal conviction establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and, in certain circumstances, can establish civil liability for fraudulent activity.

“Under the plea, Insys paid doctors kickbacks in the form of fees to participate in speaker programs that were actually sham events,” Getman noted. “The allegation that Insys created a sham ‘speaker program’ is part of our complaint.

“Schuyler County’s lawsuit will move forward to seek reimbursement for expenses related to the opioid crisis as well as to provide the County with financial aid to fight addiction, overdoses, drug-related crimes and drug deaths.”

In 2017, the County Legislature voted to retain the firm of Napoli Shkolnik to work with Getman, as special counsel, to bring an action against the manufacturers and distributers of prescription opiates for damages to the County.

According to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, that lawsuit was filed at no risk to the County, as Napoli Shkolnik will work on a contingency basis that will cover all costs associated with the lawsuit.

“By going forward with litigation, the County Legislature hopes to lessen the burden to taxpayers and hold manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic,” O’Hearn said.

Schuyler County is one of several New York municipalities filing lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York are suing pharmaceutical companies for what they are claiming are deceptive marketing practices.

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.

A complete copy of Schuyler County’s Summons and Complaint can be found here:

Photo in text: Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman (File photo)

Italian American Festival future takes center stage at Village Board session

WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 8, 2019 -- The Watkins Glen Italian American Festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Aug. 9-11 this year -- an event at Clute Park that festival president Louis Perizzini said “will be something to behold.”

Somewhat ominously, he also painted it as the festival’s “last hurrah as you know it” -- a precursor to a year off while Clute Park undergoes project construction in 2020. As for 2021, he seemed to say at first that there might be no festival, but amended that to suggest “a smaller festival,” possibly at an alternate, undetermined site.

That was the mixed message Monday night delivered by Perazzini on behalf of the festival committee to the Watkins Glen Village Board -- which reacted with surprise; alarm at the suggestion that the festival might be moved, shrinking or even ended; and assurances that the festival committee would be included as much as it wants in discussions regarding the upcoming Clute renovations.

And therein lies another complex layer of the story. What, exactly, is going to happen at Clute, and when? What space might be left at the park for an event as large as the festival has been for years?

The festival committee's’s intentions were broached after a presentation by County Planner Kristin VanHorn to the Village Board -- an update on the plans at Clute, which call for $4.8 million in upgrades and enhancements. She said the RFPs -- Requests for Proposals -- have been received “for the whole shebang” from “local, state and even national firms” regarding the project. A local committee composed of village and county officials will review these on Jan. 15, she said, and follow with in-person interviews by the end of January. After that, “we’ll get an engineer on board for designs.”

There will be no construction until the autumn of 2019, she said, followed by construction throughout 2020, with “the park fully open in 2021. There will probably be one season of disruption at the park.”

This was followed by a cautionary note from Mary Churchill, who said she had formerly served on the Village Planning Board. She was concerned about the trees in the park and the fact that the land might prove unstable for heavy development since it was a landfill before it was a park. And regarding the proposal to replace the pavilion with a two-story structure with a restaurant on the second floor, she asked: “Why privatize the only public space we have?”

Mayor Sam Schimizzi responded that the Clute Park plans are “a concept right now; nothing’s for sure. And input is good. We’ll take it into consideration.”

VanHorn told Churchill that the committee too is concerned about the trees -- 125 of which populate the park north of Rt. 414. “The general consensus of the committee,” she said, “is to save as many as possible” and to replace each one lost with three new ones.

That all led to Perazzini, who told the board that the Clute Park plan as published on-line indicated the festival would not have the room it has experienced in the past, and that accordingly the festival committee was looking ahead with certainty only to 2019 -- although it would not disband, taking 2020 off and then determining, based on the ultimate Clute renovations, what it might do in the future.

“The park needs upgrading -- bathrooms, the whole shooting match,” he said. “That is no problem.” But 2019, he said at first, could be the festival’s last “because of the construction as we know it” -- as presented on-line. Or, Perazzini added, it could be the last in its longstanding configuration; that a reduction in size and possibly a move to another site might be in its future.

“The plan that came out is what the people think is going on” -- how the park will be developed, he said. The published plan includes not just the two-story pavilion, but a nearby ice rink as well.

“If not, you need to clear that up," he said. "You need to put out somehow that you’re still working on it.”

That prompted a question from Mayor Schimizzi: “Why can’t you continue in the park?”

To which Perazzini responded: “Nobody’s consulted us” regarding the park projects. And he pointed to a nearby table, said it was of finite size, and that the park space utilized by the festival for craft and food vendors was like that table. “We need to know what we have to work with,” he added. “We need to know where we stand; how small we need to go.”

While trustee Gary Schmidt said that “seven public meetings were held last year” regarding the park and trustee Laurie DeNardo said the Downtown Revitalization Initiative process -- which is providing some of the park funding -- included public meetings, Schimizzi took a different tack, reiterating: “Everything is in concept form. Nothing is final.”

VanHorn then reentered the discussion, saying the plan publicized is “a master plan, a guideline for development; just a plan” although “we don’t want to venture too far away” from it because of previous public support for it. The plan, she said, “helps guide the discussion” as the park project progresses.

Schimizzi suggested that a representative from the festival committee should attend the project committee meeting on the 15th, and “can be part of everything, as far as I’m concerned. The last thing we want is for the Italian Festival to stop.”

Perazzini said that with the 2020 construction, the festival and its committee can “take a little break. A year off is not going to break anybody’s heart. Hopefully, in 2021, we can get back to what it was ... or smaller.”

To which Schimizzi reiterated: “We don’t want to see the Italian Festival end.”

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

Special to The Odessa File

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.

The legislation (S9040/A11203) received near-unanimous approval by both houses of the Legislature in the closing days of the 2018 legislative session in late June. Following the Legislature’s action, however, numerous wine industry stakeholders sounded the alarm that if enacted, the new law will result in burdensome, unnecessary, unreasonable, and otherwise objectionable new requirements and costs.

The legislation was delivered to Cuomo on Monday, December 17.

Thursday, state Senators Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Pam Helming (R,C,I-Canandaigua), Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua), and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) urged the governor to reject the proposal.

In a joint statement, the legislators said, “It was never the intent of the legislation or its sponsors to create potential hardships for a growing industry which we have supported for years. However, it has become clear to us and to many others within the affected industries that the legislation as currently written will have unintended consequences including increased costs and lost jobs.

"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.”

Specifically, the measure calls for the establishment of uniform standards governing tastings of New York manufactured beer, wine, cider and liquor, as well as authorizing craft beverage producers to implement a new charge for tastings.

If enacted, the area lawmakers and industry leaders said, the new law would prohibit anyone under 21 years of age from handling open containers of alcohol, including during the production process, or from serving alcohol at on-premises tastings at wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries. Numerous wineries and craft beverage producers employ regional college students, for example, to work tastings and other events. This provision alone would lead to layoffs, limit opportunities for young workers, particularly those studying viticulture or pursuing a career in craft beverage manufacturing, and prove to be a significant and unintended hardship on producers.

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.

The two-hour meeting also saw the Board stymied as to what path to follow with the loss three weeks ago of a fire truck -- damaged when it flipped onto its side on the way to a barn fire outside Burdett.

And it heard from former mayor Bob Lee, upset with plans to alter Clute Park -- turning it, in his view, from cherished family destination into an operation robbing the public of a rare village-based green space.

The Zoning amendments

The Local Law tackled the growing issue of short-term rentals, attempting to bring them into compliance with all existing housing laws -- and imposing a $400 application fee every two years. Short-term rental owners present seemed unified in the belief that long-term rentals should be held to the same standards -- to as many details regarding building conditions as were being demanded of the short-terms.

“We’re not making these laws just for the hell of it,” said Mayor Sam Schimizzi. “We’re trying to level the playing field” following growing complaints of the virtually unregulated rise of short-term units.

As for applying similar standards to long-term apartments -- many of which, the short-term contingent insisted, are in disrepair -- Schimizzi said it’s “something we have to work on.”

When one such critic asked if there could be a minor word change in the document, she was assured by consulting attorney William N. La Forte that to do so would require the board to start again with advertising and another public hearing -- which it had already done before. The board clearly wanted the issue settled on this night.

“So,” said one woman, “whatever comments we’re making, you’re not making any changes.” Her accusation was met with a shrug by La Forte and Schimizzi.

The board, which tabled the issue at a meeting in September and again in November, had settled at that last meeting on the matter of commitments already made by short-term rental owners prior to attainment of a newly required permit -- application for which is required within 30 days. Any housing commitment prior to or during that 30-day window will be honored. And once the village has a permit application in hand, the short-term operator can continue unabated until and after approval is granted. Only a permit rejection would alter that.

But there were still questions about Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, electrical questions such as whether older houses would be held to the same hard-wiring regulations as new construction (yes, the board said, after some initial confusion), and when the board might turn its similarly detailed attention to both long-term rentals and, indeed, to every residence in the village. “This should be just a start,” said one observer.

The fire truck

Watkins Glen Fire Chief Charlie Smith III told the board the damaged engine, out of service since the accident, would be sent to its Pennsylvania manufacturer -- 4 Guys Fire Trucks -- this week, where a determination will be made as to whether the vehicle should be repaired or replaced. Also factoring in to that decision will be whatever action is taken by the insurance company, Perry and Carroll, which had an adjuster recently examine the truck.

Smith estimated the loss of the truck would run from 12 to 18 months, prompting Mayor Schimizzi to say the board needed “to act ASAP” to replace it, possibly by purchasing an available used truck from the Gang Mills Fire Department or, in the alternative, renting one by the day.

The other board members said they were not opposed to getting a replacement vehicle, although Trustee Laurie DeNardo pointed out that there was mutual aid available from other area fire departments.

“Yes, but they might be out on another fire” when one breaks out in Watkins Glen, Schimizzi noted.

That’s fine, said Trustee Tony Fraboni, “but we need to know where the money is coming from.” Added DeNardo in opposing any immediate action: “We don’t know what we’re talking about financially.”

“We have to do something,” said Schimizzi, noting that budget considerations would appear minor “if the town burns down. We can’t be waiting on the insurance company. I want to do something before our next meeting” -- possibly at an emergency session.

“One way or another, we need to replace that truck,” the mayor added, and raised the matter again later in the meeting, when the board was expressing its final concerns for the evening.

“My concern -- a big one -- is the fire truck,” Schimizzi said. “We’ll set up something, figure a way to pay for it.”

The former mayor

Bob Lee, who was mayor from 1986 to 2005, said he had heard that plans for Clute Park -- where grants, Downtown Revitalization Initiative money and other funding sources are expected to lead to a winter ice rink/summer splash pad and new climate-controlled pavilion with bathrooms and changing rooms (and possibly containing a restaurant) -- will rob it of its green-space charm.

“Put the grant money someplace else,” he said. “It’s a sin to take that green space away from the public. I will be very vocal about it. We need to fix the park up for the people who use it. That and Lafayette Park are the village’s only green spaces.”

Trustee Laurie DeNardo said that while it was true a restaurant was in the current plans, “we’re saving the green space.” She said she would gladly have a cup of coffee with Lee to discuss it further.

Added Mayor Schimizzi, in possible reference to the restaurant: “Just because it’s in the plans doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”

Lee also said he had heard that a village property owner along the lake was planning to charge the village rental for the lake intake -- but said the pumphouse there is village property.

“Nobody came to us to say anything,” said Schimizzi. “It’s my understanding that it’s village property. I don’t see how they could charge us rent.”

“Was this a street rumor?” asked DeNardo.

Since there was no further information, the matter was dropped at that point.

In other business, the board:

--Approved the use of the Community Center on January 4th by the school district for a fund-raising event for the girls varsity swim team.

--Heard park manager Michelle Hyde say the village would start taking reservations for camping spots in the park on January 4th.

--Approved a resolution naming the Village Hall Court Room in honor of the late Nicholas J. Dugo, a longtime Watkins Glen High School teacher who served as Village Justice for 28 years.

--Approved an updated Village Zoning Map to incorporate a greater contrast in colors to differentiate one zone from another.

--Approved Joint Project Committee invoices for the new Wastewater Treatment Plant in the amount of $828,646.63, bringing expenditures on the $32 million project to almost $8 million.

--Was given its first look at a proposed Local Law designed to strengthen animal protection rules. The board will review it and, should it wish, schedule a public hearing and enactment.

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 said he cannot officially announce his retirement until 90 days before the date, but that he wanted to give advance word -- including to the district office in Binghamton, which will likely provide visiting judges to cover his role between June 1 and the general election in November. In that election, the office -- which includes Surrogate’s Court and Family Court -- will be available again for a full 10-year term.

He said an alternative would be an interim appointment from June to November by the governor. But he said it hasn’t happened here since 1982 and that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not exhibited such a tendency.

Morris, who also has been serving as Acting Supreme Court Justice for two years, said coverage of other areas by visiting judges is a common practice -- that he has done so, including in Chemung County.

Morris, 67, when asked why he was retiring, said “it just seemed like it was time.” He said he notified the Bar Association last week.

“My intention was to let people know,” he said -- which includes anyone interested in running for the office. And according to word circulating, several people are considering such a run. He said he couldn’t comment on that, though -- a limit on politics being part of his job.

Once he retires, among his pursuits will be his artwork -- Civil War scenes (diographs) created by computer using toy soldiers as subjects on a tabletop created to resemble Gettysburg. He has sold many such works -- including at a re-enactment weekend at Gettysburg. He intends to go there again in 2019 after his retirement.

“In the past three or four years I haven’t been producing as many as in the past,” he said of his diographs, a situation he plans to correct. Examples of his art can be found at

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

WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 28, 2018 -- Watkins Glen Fire Chief Charlie Smith III has issued a statement regarding an accident Tuesday in which a Watkins fire truck ended up on its side alongside County Route 9 after its driver lost control of the vehicle on the way to a barn fire on the Dolphsburg Road.

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.

The DA's office said the conviction for Criminal Sexual Act in the Second Degree, a Class D Violent Felony, is based upon the defendant (older than 18) engaging in oral sexual conduct with a female victim who was 13 years old. The Sexual Abuse charges, it added, stem from additional sexual contact with that same victim without her consent.

The matter has been adjourned for sentencing, at which time the defendant faces a possible sentence of up to 7 years in state prison, with up to 10 years post-release supervision.

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.”

The water quality forum was held at Starkey’s Lookout in Dundee (5428 State Route 14).

O’Mara and Helming were joined at the forum by a panel of water quality educators and experts, and agriculture and environmental advocates representing the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, Cornell University, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Clarkson University, the Finger Lakes Institute, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the New York Farm Bureau, the Keuka Lake Association, and regional Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

The group identified challenges and shared information, data, and resources.

Harmful algal blooms (HABs), invasive species, non-point source pollution and other contaminants, flood and erosion control, habitat preservation, and water quality infrastructure highlighted the range of issues discussed by the panelists.

Senator O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee since 2015, said, "We know that the issue of water quality is here to stay. These challenges and crises have dominated the Legislature’s attention over the past several years during which I have served as Chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee. Water quality is one of the high priority challenges facing the future of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions. From harmful algal blooms to invasive species, and from non-point source pollution to water quality infrastructure, how we understand and proactively respond to these concerns is fundamentally important. It is important for drinking water, the tourism economy, and the recreational use of lakes and other waterways. I greatly appreciate this opportunity with Senator Helming to welcome the participation of so many water quality experts, educators, and concerned citizens. Their input in the days, months and years ahead will make the difference.”

Senator Helming, Chair of the Legislative Rural Resources Commission, said, “The Finger Lakes have experienced significant amounts of harmful algal blooms and invasive species in recent years. These contaminants threaten municipal water systems that many residents count on for their drinking water supply, and they pose serious dangers for local residents who draw their water directly from the lake. They also hinder the recreational uses of the lakes that draw countless tourists to our region. Even before I became an elected official, my family and I were involved in water quality monitoring on Canandaigua Lake, and protecting our water still remains a priority for all of us. As State Senator, I have been working diligently with Senator O’Mara, water quality experts, municipal officials, and community leaders to come together and find solutions for these problems. We must continue to address water quality issues in order to preserve the health of our people and our environment as well as to protect our economy and our tourism industry. I appreciated taking part in this roundtable discussion with Senator O’Mara and others to share information and resources as we continue to identify and address the water quality challenges before us."

Over the past several years, O’Mara and Helming have helped develop a comprehensive series of Senate initiatives to combat invasive species, address flood control, respond to HABs, and improve drinking water safety and the overall quality of water infrastructure in New York.

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

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 19, 2018 -- The Watkins Glen Planning Board followed a twisting, turning path before granting Final Site Plan approval Wednesday night to a mixed-use building being planned to replace the former Clifford Motors building at the corner of Franklin and West Second Streets.

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

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 17, 2018 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board listened for nearly two hours Monday night to residents who crowded into the board meeting room, then tabled a controversial Local Law designed to amend the Village Zoning Code “to provide for the regulation of short-term rentals in the Village.”

The hearing drew a standing-room-only audience that produced many speakers regarding the rentals, some pro and some con.
Throughout, everyone maintained their composure, a fact pointed out with something approaching admiration by one of the later speakers, Chelsea Roberts, executive director of the Southern Tier Regional Planning and Development Board.

She said the Village Board knows that “growth is coming to Watkins Glen,” a community with limited expansion possible geographically -- leaving, she seemed to suggest, the option of building "up" -- which, one would assume, means multi-level residential units. She said that upon reading the proposed Local Law, she “didn’t find it overly restrictive. It all seems reasonable.”

Opponents of the proposal in particular pointed to a planned permit fee of $500 every two years for short-term rentals. That, said several speakers, was restrictive to the point where those establishing short-term rentals as supplemental income -- as opposed to corporations operating them in absentia -- might be disinclined to pursue such a business.

Since such small businesses invest money in the renovation of buildings which, in many cases, were dilapidated, restrictive permit fees could mean that the buildings stay dilapidated and, perhaps, unsold. And, accordingly, worth little, repressing the tax base.

Beyond that, an attorney present, Josh Navone, termed the proposal seriously flawed and possibly litigious on constitutional grounds.

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.

Beyond that, one property owner on South Madison Street said of 13 buildings in her block, nine are now short-term rentals with room for 96 tenants. She said she supported the legislation, but said it ignored the matter of density. “Do you really want nine of these rentals in one block?” She also wondered if the Board wanted available housing “taken up” by short-term rentals village-wide. That, said a couple of others, is of prime concern, cutting into the number of family residences and, by extension, into school enrollment. The Watkins Glen school district has, for various reasons, experienced a significant decline in enrollment in the past 30 years.

Also of concern by various speakers were property setbacks, building height and size, and the desire to maintain neighborhood character.

At the end, the board said that while it believed rules and regulations were needed to control the growth of short-term rentals, they would table the law “until the next meeting,” in the words of Mayor Sam Schimizzi.

The mayor said the proposed $500 permit fee would “help pay for a part-time code enforcer” to supplement the efforts of current Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard. It might also help pay for related software. By collecting such fees, the village “wouldn’t have to raise taxes, though it is a tax. We’re just trying to do the right thing.”

When Schimizzi first suggested “we could hold off” on a vote, Trustee Laurie DeNardo said she was “not comfortable voting” for the law in its current form. Trustee Tony Fraboni said the situation -- a growing short-term rental wave -- was “not unique to Watkins Glen.” The proposal “might need a little tuning,” he said, “but we need something.”

After resident Phyllisa DeSarno said the board should “tell developers to give us the best they have, or go to Philadelphia,” Schimizzi said that “with developers there’s gotta be a balance. That’s why I ran for the board -- the only reason.” He was elected to a four-year term in 2015.

After the hearing was ended after nearly two hours, the board voted quickly to table the proposal -- to, as Schimizzi said, “tune it up a little bit, bring it back, probably at our next meeting.”

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."

After the hearing, the board also:

-- Approved an increase in Camp Rates at Clute Park, raising the daily rate to $60 from $55, and the seasonal rate by $50, to $2,450 from $2,400.

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

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 10, 2018 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night had a group of inquisitive visitors: 11 members of Boy Scout Troop 2674.

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.

"I feel communication from (and within) the board is severely lacking at times, especially when it comes to letting residents and business owners know what’s happening in difficult situations like we faced this past week. I think Mayor Schimizzi is a good, honest and fair man, but there are areas of leadership that need work.

"The DRI is a quandary for me. Some of the projects are good and others I don’t support at all. The real bottom line for me is why many of the funds from New York State were given for beautification projects when we have so many infrastructure problems in the village now. There is a tank at our water plant that could leak anytime. There are water main breaks regularly and many of our village streets are in terrible condition. I am also not in favor of the proposed apartment building project on the Jefferson Village lots. I think single-family homes are a much better alternative for the future. This is just the short list. I have heard many residents say, “Why does Franklin Street always get all of the attention of the village?” I think they know the answer.

"Over the last year I have also had health problems that I need to concentrate on, so this just seems the right time to move on.

"I have enjoyed meeting so many great people in this village and being able to try and help work toward the common good. Thank you for the opportunity. I wish you all the best of luck."

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.

At their respective meetings on Monday, August 13, county legislators voted to authorize an Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) permitting the consolidation of this position within the two counties.

The aim of the project is to work collaboratively while maintaining two distinctive health departments with shared leadership and integrated service delivery. Both departments will be governed by their respective legislatures and/or boards of health.

Said Yates Chairman Doug Paddock: “As we continue to seek efficiencies for our residents and taxpayers, this most recent move exemplifies the commitment of both counties toward improving service delivery while lowering costs.”

Schuyler Chairman Dennis Fagan added: "While we continue to struggle with unfunded mandates and their associated escalating costs, it is great to be able to partner with our neighbors to the north, to achieve real savings for our residents.”

Both Chairs expressed their appreciation to County Attorneys Steven Getman (Schuyler) and Scott Falvey (Yates) for their efforts in crafting an IMA that both Legislatures agreed upon.

The agreement, which now goes to the NYS Department of Health for approval, is in response to the announced retirement of Schuyler Public Health Director Marcia Kasprzyk, and the desire for further collaboration between the two counties.

According to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, while the combined savings approach $100,000 annually, the move will actually provide increased levels of service as each county shares departmental resources.

By combining some resources, functions, and staff in their health departments, the two counties provide services that enhance their role as public health facilitators and educators in their respective communities, including:

--Public health education
--Emergency preparedness
--Childhood Early Intervention Programs
--Residential sanitary inspections
--Flu clinics
--Rabies clinics

Added O’Hearn: “I commend both Marcia and Deb for their initiative in bringing this recommendation to their respective Legislatures. It is not often in government that such a collaborative and non-parochial approach to administration is achieved, and this is a testament to their professionalism and dedication to public health!”

This is the latest shared service initiative between Yates and Schuyler, who currently share a Director of Weights and Measures and Code Enforcement responsibilities.

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 Glenour 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

Note: The following notice was ultimately lifted on Friday, August. 24, 2018.

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.

Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel is located at 16 N. Franklin Street, Watkins Glen.

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:

  • People 50 years or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
  • People with cancer
  • People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure

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:

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

WATKINS GLEN, July 18, 2018 -- The Watkins Glen Planning Board handled four construction proposals Wednesday night, approving two Preliminary Site Plans and asking questions on two Concept presentations.

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."

The war has to do with the Walmart store out on Fourth Street, the colors being painted on its front wall (bright blue and bright orange), opposition to those colors, a village-directed stop-work order that has halted the painting midstream, and a Village Board meeting Monday night where it all boiled over.

It turned into a stare-down, more or less, with an attorney representing Walmart -- Leslie Mauro of the Corning law firm of Harter Secrest & Emery LLP -- telling the village trustees that the stop-work order is "unfair" and might well interfere with a planned Grand Opening celebration at the store, which is currently being renovated.

The whole matter seems to come down to email exchanges between Walmart and the village building inspector -- Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard, who issued the stop-work order after some complaints by area residents who recalled that the original Walmart construction included an understanding that the store would always retain earth-tone colors: muted and soothing. Not strident nor detracting from the area ambience.

Larnard was not present at Monday's meeting, nor immediately available for comment.

Trustees recalled such an agreement, too -- with Trustee Tony Fraboni saying that the lengthy approval process those years ago included an understanding with the Planning Board regarding just such an arrangement. "They probably wouldn't have approved it if they'd known Walmart wouldn't keep its word," he said.

But protestations to the contrary, said Attorney Mauro, the building inspector "was specifically asked in written dialogue" in May whether the colors could be changed, and told Walmart that "no specific approval was needed." Besides, she said, Walmart in its initial negotiations to build the store "would not have committed to no change forever."

Mauro, who said her firm "also represented the company when the store was first approved" following a lengthy and contentious debate, maintained that "none of the approvals mandated a certain color" and that when Larnard was asked about it, "we were advised there were no restrictions." There was "no mandate on keeping the colors" originally selected, she added.

She said half of the building had been painted when the stop-work order was issued -- although one village official said that certainly doesn't seem to be the case ... that not that much has been completed.

Mauro also said there was nothing in village codes to suggest such a restriction, and that none were "reflected in the approvals" of the store construction. "There was no agreement that there would be the same color for eternity."

Fraboni maintained that there was "a clear understanding with the Planning Board that the building would be and would remain" painted in earth tones.

"I hope to avoid a dispute," answered Mauro in what was clearly the middle of a dispute.

Trustee Laurie DeNardo said the village had been in touch with its attorney, David Ealy of Rochester, and was awaiting word back from him.

Added Fraboni: "There is a groundswell from people who remember the original agreement on earth tones. We're gonna have to work this out. There's going to be resistance from this end."

Answered Mauro: "There has been a substantial investment" by Walmart in materials and labor on the color change to date, with an added cost likely should the Grand Opening celebration be rescheduled from Aug. 17 due to the stop-work order.

Mayor Sam Schimizzi interjected that "we're not going to settle this today." but Mauro was insistent on the Walmart position, saying "my client is not willing not to do blue and orange. There's nothing in the code or in the design guideline against it."

Trustee Kevin Thornton weighed in by saying "being a good neighbor goes a long way, too."

Answered Mauro: "We're a good neighbor. We did due diligence. Now we're being told 'no.' It's unfair."

Trustee DeNardo echoed Fraboni when she said: "We'll have to work through it."

"I'm sorry this happened," added Mayor Schimizzi -- but with no offer to end the stop-work order.

"We are, too," answered Mauro.

After the meeting, one village official said that in addition to word from the village attorney, Ealy, the board was waiting to hear from Hunt Engineers, which played a role in the original agreement putting Walmart on the Fourth Street site.

As for Mauro, she had nothing to say as she exited the meeting, responding twice to questions from a reporter with a terse "I'm not allowed to talk to the press."

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.

One of the residents, a woman who lives across the street, said the music was so loud that "they might as well be at the foot of my bed."

The complainants said that Nickel's was in violation of a 2014 noise ordinance. Nick Thayer, who runs the business, told the board the law was pushed through two years after Nickel's opened and "without our input."

Trustee Tony Fraboni said there had been input -- in fact public hearings and "a great deal of outreach" by the village in the decision-making process. He said the village came down on the side of residents, as opposed to tourists enjoying the Nickel's night life.

Thayer suggested the village seek a compromise, perhaps splitting the ordinance into seasons, extending the time limit of 11 p.m. to a later time during the tourist season. Or, he said, it could make the permit application process easier when special events (like Wine Fest weekend) called for special nights.

He said that while he is willing to comply with the law, "I think you should change this anti-business stance ... where there is no problem other than noise." He wondered if he will have to "give up all of this business" on big weekends "for a couple of people."

A couple of trustees suggested sending out a letter to businesses, as the board did when the law was first enacted, reiterating the hours in which the music can be played.

Concluded Mayor Schimizzi: "We can't solve this tonight. For now, just adhere to the law. Just follow the law for now, and we're good to go."

In other business:

--Village Police Sergeant Steve Decker submitted his expected letter of retirement, effective July 21 after 22 years on the village police force. "And then I'll be back part-time on the 23rd," he said, putting in 20 hours a week at the department helm.

"I'll still be here," he said. "I'm not going anywhere."

Among others on hand in the department will be David Waite, a retired state trooper who has been serving through the department as the School Resource Officer at Watkins Glen High School. He has left that post.

--The board approved audit items totaling $554,514.53 that had been previously approved by the Joint Project Committee overseeing the planned construction of the new wastewater treatment plant along the canal between Watkins Glen and Montour Falls. That brings expenditures for the project to about $6 million of a total budget of $32 million, said Trustee Tony Fraboni.

--The board approved a resolution in support of an effort by County Planner Kristin VanHorn and SCOPED (Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development) Executive Director Judy Cherry to secure, through a U.S. Department of Transportation non-matching grant, up to $25 million for a project that would involve heated sidewalks along Decatur Street, up Steuben Street and along a walkway being developed on the waterfront.

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:

"This is truly a great day for our region and we thank everyone who helped make this day possible. Don't ever let anyone tell you that David can't beat Goliath. We raise a glass of Finger Lakes bubbly to all who have worked so hard in our region and offer a toast to Governor Cuomo and his administration for finally standing up for the people of our region and keeping us safe from this dirty and dangerous gas storage project."

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.

The legislation was also sponsored in the Senate by Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau), Chair of the Senate Health Committee.

The “Drug Take Back Act” (S9100/A9576, Chapter 120 of the Laws of 2018) will establish an industry-funded, statewide pharmaceutical drug take-back program. It advances a “product stewardship” approach to the challenge of disposing of unwanted medications.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers will be responsible for all of the costs of the initiative, including public education and awareness, as well as the collection, transport and proper disposal of unwanted drugs. The Act further requires chain pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies to provide consumers with on-site collection, prepaid mail-back envelopes, or other federally approved methods to encourage safe drug disposal.

O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "It's incredibly important to do anything and everything we can to complement and support the efforts of local law enforcement and other community leaders to combat prescription drug abuse. These efforts include National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days and other initiatives like this one to facilitate the collection and safe and responsible disposal of unused medications. This new law will greatly expand the number of permanent, locally based drop-off locations and be a very positive, cost-effective addition to the state's ongoing, overall strategy to protect our communities and local environments."

O’Mara noted that while law enforcement agencies have drop-off points and collection boxes -- and other government agencies conduct drug take-back days to help properly and safely dispose of many drugs -- additional efforts are needed. Other state-level initiatives to expand the number of permanent collection sites in communities are conducted on a voluntary basis, are limited in scope, and participation remains low.

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.

The unanimous reversal from a 5-3 vote 49 months ago was safety oriented, according to Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan -- adopted, added County Attorney Steven Getman, "after reports that one of the caverns may have leaks."

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."

A letter made public recently to the DEC from a subsidiary of Crestwood Midstream Partners -- which was planning the storage -- suggested that an underground cavern is "communicating” with one or more other caverns, meaning essentially that there appears to be interaction, with water from one reaching another through the soil, or fissures. If so, “it is not sealed tight” and poses a safety threat, said Fagan.

The decision Monday was met with thanks from members of the anti-storage movement present in the audience, including Yvonne Taylor of Gas Free Seneca and Ruth Young, an outspoken advocate of alternative forms of energy.

That was in marked contrast to sessions four years ago -- when opponents hotly contested the Legislature’s move, both on the night that project approval was adopted, and a month later when a move by Legislator Michael Lausell to rescind was voted down. The Legislature’s 2014 action was a rarity as a vast majority of the municipalities around Seneca Lake voting on the matter opposed the project, including the Village of Watkins Glen.

The storage project has been hung up for years now, and Fagan said he does not foresee it moving forward -- with or without the recent Crestwood letter. Politics have stalemated it in Albany.

The years 2014 and 2015 marked a period in which anti-LPG storage demonstrations were routinely mounted at the Crestwood gate along Route 14 north of Watkins Glen, and a period in which arrests were plentiful, clogging the nearby Town of Reading court.

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."

Among the speakers Monday was Jeremy Alderson, among those arrested in 2014. He was editor of the now-defunct No Frack Almanac (NFA) and, more recently, has published an NFA newsletter. He said that considering the dangers posed by the storage project -- to the environment and, in particular, to the lake -- “we should appreciate how fortunate we’ve been” in the failure of the project to gain traction.

Gas Free Seneca’s Taylor thanked Lausell for his “steadfast opposition” to the storage project, and added Legislator Van Harp to the mix. Harp had voted in favor of the initial resolution, but soon changed his opinion and has been on Lausell’s side since, vocal in his concerns about the project's possible environmental effects.

Stephenie Monroe, campaign manager for Lausell as he seeks to unseat State Senator Tom O’Mara in the November election, said the change in the county’s direction offers an “opportunity for technical training in the renewable energy field.”

And Lausell urged his fellow legislators to further discuss the dangers of the project and said, in words echoing those he uttered four years ago, that they have “no business promoting this project until we are fully educated” about it.

One voice of opposition was that of David Crea, who identified himself simply as an employee of US Salt. He said he was “a little disappointed that the Legislature bought into the anti-business stance” and that New York State “is a bad place to make a living.”

Fagan, in speaking to reporters afterward, said the Crestwood letter was brought to the full Legislature by Lausell, discussed in committee in June, and “voted on tonight. It comes down to a matter of safety. It’s as simple as that.”

And if the concerns of the letter were ultimately allayed?

“Well, we’ll come to that bridge at that point in time. It depends on all the details. No way would I be supporting a project unless it was absolutely certain that it was safe. I don’t even know if they’ve got approval to do the tests.”

To see the full resolution, click here.

In other business:

--Fagan reported that sales tax in Schuyler County to date this year has totaled $4,570,000, up $295,000 from the same point last year, a 7% increase. Beyond that, room tax revenues through the first two quarters are at $169,000, up $40,000 from last year, or more than 30%. The bulk of that room-tax money is directed to the Chamber of Commerce to promote tourism.

--The Legislature approved an increase in the salary of the County Highway Superintendent to $91,152, up about $13,000 to reflect a shift of Buildings and Grounds responsibilities to the Highway Department in a streamlining and cost-saving move.

--Approved Public Entertainment Permits for four events at the Watkins Glen International racetrack in the Town of Dix: the Finger Lakes Wine Festival (July 13-15), the NASCAR race weekend (Aug. 2-5), the Phish Concert (Aug. 17-19) and the Vintage Grand Prix (Sept. 7-9).

Photos in text: Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan (top) and speaker David Crea.

Rural transportation funding unveiled

ALBANY, June 26, 2018 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) Tuesday said that localities across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions they represent will receive approximately $8 million in combined state and federal funding for rural public transportation projects.

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, “Upstate rural populations rely on these local transit systems as absolute lifelines to get to work and back, secure educational opportunities, access health services, go to the grocery store, and access other needs and services. Investments to modernize, upgrade and strengthen rural public transportation systems are investments in economic growth, and community development and stability.”

The regional funding was announced as part of $57.7 million in state and federal funding for 136 rural public transportation projects statewide. The funding will go to support rural public transportation operations, purchase buses and related equipment, enhance coordination between local transportation agencies, and construct new transit-related infrastructure. Overall, $34.3 million of the new funding will be used for vehicle replacement and infrastructure renewal projects, and $23.4 million to support service operations. It is expected that the total investment will leverage nearly $85 million in rural transportation improvements across Upstate New York.

The following projects in localities represented by O’Mara and Palmesano will receive funding:

    Chemung County: $407,000 in operating assistance, and $109,000 for projects that support mobility;
    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.

Both resolutions were submitted to the legislature by the County’s Planning Department (Kristin VanHorn, Director), with assistance from the County Administrator (Tim O’Hearn), the Schuyler County Attorney (Steven Getman), the Clerk of the Legislature (Stacy Husted) and the County’s Community Development and Natural Resource Committee. The motions to pass each were made by legislator Mark Rondinaro (Town of Reading) and seconded by legislator Van Harp (Town of Hector).

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:

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.”

Barnes currently chairs the Management and Finance Committee of the Legislature. He is a retired Under Sheriff of the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office and is currently a Security Manager at AMRIC Security Consultants. Additionally, he represents the County as a member of the NY Western Region OTB Board of Directors, where he is the Vice Chairman. He is a member of SCOPED, an officer of the FLX Gateway Community Development Corporation, and a member of the Watkins-Montour Lions Club and the Community Services Board of Schuyler County. He is a regular participant in Spirit of Schuyler and other community service organizations.

Blowers boasts a distinguished career in private industry, retiring from Corning Incorporated as Vice President and General Manager of Advanced Materials and Process Technologies Division in 1997 after a 29-year career. Post retirement he served as Vice Chairman and principal of Jostens Incorporated through 2004. He currently owns and operates Hawk’s View Consulting, a private consulting firm. Blowers is involved in many community organizations. He serves as Chair of the Corning Community College Board of Trustees and as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Arnot Art Museum, and is the immediate past Chair of the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce. He is a past member of SCOPED, a charter member of the Project Seneca Steering Committee, and a member of the Schuyler IDA board. He is a graduate of Bordentown Military Institute, holds a B.S. degree in Finance from Boston College, and is a graduate of the Dartmouth College Executive Management Program.

Both Barnes and Blowers say their top priorities are fighting unfunded mandates, controlling property taxes, preserving natural resources, and promoting economic development and job growth.

“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 File

MONTOUR 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."

Pending the outcome of a comprehensive energy study which will make use of NYSERDA's FlexTech Program, which assists facilities owners with the cost of making investments on energy projects, the Village plans to renovate its Village Hall. In doing so, the Village would be able to reclaim the second floor, which is only used seasonally due to poor insulation and the high cost of heating.

To earn the Clean Energy Community designation, the Village completed the following high-impact clean energy actions:

--Adopted a Benchmarking policy to track and report the energy use of the Village's municipal buildings.
--Streamlined the local approval processes for solar projects through adoption of the New York Unified Solar Permit.
--Completed energy code enforcement training on best practices in energy code enforcement for the Village's Code Officer.
--Installed an electric vehicle charging station in a municipal parking lot near West Main Street in the Village.

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.

The launch is a key project in the village’s overall Waterfront Revitalization Program being undertaken with state and local support. Accordingly, State Senator Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano were present along with Watkins Glen and Schuyler County leaders.

"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.

Photo in text:
Among the speakers was Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan. (Photo provided)

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.
Middle: Burdett Mayor Dale Walter was the ceremony emcee.
Bottom: Among the dignitaries on hand was Burdett Fire Chilef Jason Kelly.

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.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “In New York State, we’ve focused on revitalizing our downtowns and investing in the communities that need it most. The Opportunity Zone Program will be a complementary initiative that helps to attract additional private investment to the hundreds of communities that Governor Cuomo has recommended for this designation.”

The federal program establishes Opportunity Zones, or low-income census tracts, to boost private investment in under-served urban and rural communities. These census tracts may receive funding from Opportunity Funds, which allow a wide array of investors to pool their resources to rebuild distressed neighborhoods.

The Governor may designate up to 25 percent of New York State’s low-income community census tracts as Opportunity Zones. The U.S. Treasury identified over 2,000 eligible tracts in New York State eligible for designation, with the Governor able to designate up to 514 Opportunity Zones by April 20, 2018. Final nominations were made by Governor Cuomo and submitted to Treasury on Friday, April 20.

For additional information on the 514 census tracts, visit Maps there show the two tracts in Schuyler are large sections of land in the western and southeastern portions of the county.

To accomplish the State’s goal of submitting the best Zones in a limited time-frame, ESD engaged in a process that included participation from the 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs), ESD’s Regional Offices, NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) and the Department of State (DOS).

"Locally," said the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, "Amanda Arnold Rodriguez (SCOPED's Economic Development Specialist) did an extraordinary job in getting the word out about this opportunity for Schuyler County. Her effort, combined with the many e-mails supporting the selection of census tracts in Schuyler, made this happen."

The 514 suggested census tracts, including the two located in Schuyler County, will now be reviewed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which has 30 days to review and approve the nominees.

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.

On Saturday, law enforcement agencies throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions established drop-off centers to allow people to anonymously dispose of unwanted prescription drugs between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. In Schuyler County, the drop-offs were at the Odessa and Tyrone Fire Departments.

O’Mara also strongly praised the inclusion in this year’s state budget of approximately $250 million in funding to continue enhancing and expanding the state’s heroin and opioid addiction prevention, treatment, recovery, and education services. He said the budget reflects input he and his Heroin Task Force colleagues have received at numerous local public forums they’ve conducted since 2014, including in Elmira and Penn Yan.

“The abuse of prescription drugs," he added, "is directly tied to and in many ways responsible for the burgeoning heroin epidemic. It’s incredibly important to do anything and everything we can to complement and support the efforts of our local law enforcement leaders to combat prescription drug abuse. These efforts include National Prescription Drug Take Back Day and other initiatives to encourage the collection and disposal of unused prescription drugs. This year’s increased budget funding goes hand in hand with other funding the Senate has fought for over the past several years to enhance the state’s awareness and education, recovery and treatment services.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control has identified the abuse of prescription medicine as one of the nation’s fastest-growing drug problems with nearly 15,000 people dying every year of overdoses due to prescription painkillers. In 2010, 1 in 20 people in the United States over the age of 11 reported using prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons in the previous year. Moreover, an estimated 70 percent of people who abuse prescription painkillers obtained them from friends or relatives who originally received the medication from a prescription. The problem is of particular concern, say law enforcement officials, with respect to young adults and teens.

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.

O’Mara and Palmesano have collaborated with local highway superintendents and other local officials from throughout New York State over the past several years to urge fairer and stronger state support for local transportation infrastructure. It has been a growing, bipartisan effort since 2013.

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.

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, “Beginning in 2013, the state’s recognition of the importance of CHIPS and parity in statewide transportation funding has made a significant difference for our local governments, local economies, local property taxpayers and motorist safety locally and statewide. We will continue to work with Governor Cuomo, our legislative colleagues and local highway superintendents and leaders across this region and state on this vitally important challenge and priority, but this year’s budget continues a stronger state commitment. The improvement and upkeep of local roads and bridges is a wise use of taxpayer dollars. Every additional dollar of state support means a dollar less that our local property taxpayers have to pay. It’s also an important investment in economic growth and job creation throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions."

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.

O’Mara and Palmesano said that area counties will receive the following 2018-19 CHIPS (including the Extreme Winter Recovery allocation) and PAVE-NY funding under this year’s budget:

2018-19 CHIPS Aid -- 2018-19 PAVE-NY -- TOTAL

Chemung County: $1,871,818.35 -- $376,284.66 -- $2,248,103.01

Schuyler County: $976,728.33 -- $196,538.46 -- $1,173,266.79

Steuben County: $5,072,386.98 -- $1,011,150.07 -- 6,083,537.05

Tompkins County: $2,309,936.92 -- $460,880.01 -- $2,770,816.93

Yates County: $1,338,380.82 -- $266,477.95 -- $1,604,858.77

Area cities will receive the following CHIPS and PAVE-NY funding:

Corning: $464,653.52 -- $91,689.44 -- $556,342.96

Elmira: $913,868.73 -- $180,783.68 -- $1,094,652.41

Hornell: $277,894.18 -- $55,304.08 -- $333,198.26

Ithaca: $502,360.69 -- $99,471.72 -- $601,832.41

Palmesano, who also represents a part of Seneca County, said that Seneca County’s 2018-19 CHIPS allocation (including Extreme Winter Recovery) is $1,169,727.20 and the county’s PAVE-NY allocation is $233,496.06 for a total of $1,403,233.26.

Funding breakdowns for regional towns and villages can be found on O’Mara’s website:

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 accused was charged with Arson in the Fourth Degree, a Class E felony, and is scheduled to appear in Town of Hector Court at a later date.

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.

The enabling resolution, passed unanimously, said "a cause of this increasing crisis is the overabundance of prescription opioids" that has "created a public health and safety hazard affecting the residents of the county, resulting in devastation to county families, a negative effect on the economy of the county, wasted public resources, and a generation of narcotic dependence."

By declaring the "public nuisance," said County Attorney Steven Getman, the county can pursue reimbursement of burgeoning costs through the courts -- through suits designed to hold the "responsible parties" -- which, Getman indicated, means the pharmaceutical companies -- accountable. Specifically, the resolution says it means "any person or corporation whose negligent, intentional, or otherwise wrongful conduct causes the incident resulting" in costs borne by the county.

The language of the resolution -- in particular "public nuisance" -- was a point of contention in emotional remarks issued by Elizabeth Grieco of Elmira, who lost her son Bryan, 25, to a drug overdose last June. Her statement:

"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.

The announced projects seek DRI funding totaling $16,301,330, and with other funding -- both private and through grants -- would total $55,964,004. All are located within the DRI project zone, which focuses largely on Franklin Street and the two parks, Clute and Lafayette.

Of the $16,301,330 in proposals, the state is expected to pick up to $10 million worth, and possibly less -- depending on which ones meet with final approval. There is one more meeting of the Local Planning Committee (Tuesday, March 13 at the Village Hall) before the proposed projects are finalized and submitted to the state -- no later than March 30. Selections are expected from the state in the summer, with signings and development plans to follow into 2019.

Wednesday’s session was broken into four segments as the projects were outlined under four headings: Downtown Living, Culture and Entertainment, Economic Development and Quality of Life. The accompanying charts give brief outlines of each project.

Each segment was followed by comments and questions from those present.

In sending along the electronic images of the charts (presented here) of the project proposals, consultant Simon Kates wrote:

“Please include a reminder that this list of projects is not final. At the Local Planning Committee meeting next week, the LPC will determine if there are any changes. It is possible that some of the projects discussed Wednesday night may come off the list -- and Wednesday's input (as well as input throughout the entire process) will help the LPC make those decisions."

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.
--Winter employment is tough to find.
--There is little to do here in the winter.
--There is a lack of diversity here.
--There are limited opportunities here after high school.
--Health care here is limited.
--There are limited career paths and limited upward mobility.
--It's a beautiful environment.

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.

Cherry, executive director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) and co-chair (with Village Board trustee Laurie DeNardo) of the Local Planning Committee of the ongoing Downtown Revitalization Initiative, made the comments in an update report on various village projects.

The amount of money she was talking about: more than $80 million, and that doesn’t count possible leveraged funds that could be offshoots of those projects.

A breakdown of what's happening in and near the village, as she outlined it:

WWTP: She pointed to the Wastewater Treatment Plant being built along the canal between Watkins Glen and Montour Falls -- to be shared by those two villages -- as $30 million of that $80 million.

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.

The treatment plant is the centerpiece for many ongoing projects now and in the future known under the collective umbrella as Project Seneca. The plant project -- under way now physically with construction of a road to the site from the “Yacht Club” setting along the canal near the Watkins Glen Community Center -- “has to work for everything else to happen,” Cherry said.

Completion of the plant is planned for mid- to late-2019.

Cargill: Another $30 million, Cherry said, is embodied in the plant expansion at Cargill, the salt manufacturer on the southern shore of Seneca Lake, as it embraces a new product line: the production of Potassium Chloride. That expansion includes the installation of processing equipment ”within our existing facility footprint,” according to Cargill, and explains what those traffic tie-ups along Fourth Street between Cargill and Walmart were all about last summer: "re-establishment of the eastern rail crossing" -- a line running to the eastern side of the plant.

Also involved, notes Cargill: “Development of a new brine gallery, upgrades to the brine infrastruture, warehouse expansion on the south side of the mill," and the installation of packaging equipment.

Cargill says it is investing in the new product line “to meet food customer demand.” The plant manager is Keith Klug (pictured).

According to Wikipedia, potassium chloride is “a metal halide salt composed of potassium and chloride. It is odorless and has a white or colorless vitreous crystal appearance” and “dissolves readily in water, and its solutions have a salt-like taste.” It is used in a number of agricultural, medical and scientific processes, and “in food processing.”

DRI: The state-awarded Downtown Revitalization Initiative, in which $10 million is being invested in local projects yet to be announced, was unveiled last summer and has been in the planning stage for months. The next public workshop at the Watkins Glen Community Center at Clute Park is set for March 7 from 6-8 p.m. A meeting of the Local Planning Committee will be held Feb. 15 in the Village Hall meeting room on the second floor.

A look at "Preliminary Project Profiles" can be found on the SCOPED website,

Business Park: Yes, after all these years, there is a facility planned at the Schuyler County Business Park up the hill along Rt. 414 -- one with a price tag of $4.4 million ... and soon. Cherry says the Business Park, owned by SCOPED, will see construction of a 20,000-square-foot facility this spring in which 5,000 square feet will house a beer and wine processing distribution business.

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.

Waste from the production of the beverages will be “scrubbed,” Cherry said, before being sent down the hill to the wastewater treatment plant.

The price includes $3,350,000 for construction and another $1,050,000 in other costs. There were five bids from general contractors, and the low bidder was Elmira Structures. The bid opening was in October, and the contract execution a month later. Construction and site work is expected in March or April, with “tenant fit-out” planned between June 15 and Sept. 30 of this year.

Watkins Glen State Park: As any passerby can see, there is an ongoing project at the entrance to the State Park along Franklin Street. Part of that project was installation of a parking lot across the street that stretches from Franklin Street to Decatur Street along 10th Street. The park project, announced by the state in 2016, totals $6.5 million and includes removal of the old parking area fronting the entrance to the gorge and a greening of the land there, with a couple of new structures (a welcome center and a “covered interpretive area”) to serve a public that -- with all of the other projects ongoing in Watkins Glen -- will likely continue to grow annually.

Other projects: There are the:

-- $500,000 being spent on the Kayak Launch at Tank Beach at the eastern end of Clute Park (at the curve on Rt. 414 leading out of Watkins Glen) with completion expected in late spring. This has been slowed by the need for regulatory approvals and over-budget bidding;
-- the $3 million Watkins Brewery Vacation Rentals in the overhauled Frozen Food Locker building on the north end of the Watkins Glen business district. It will remain a rental structure at least five years; then, under terms of grant funds, its units can be sold as townhouses.
-- The Route 14 Repaving Project set for this year, including improvement of the Northern Gateway (for which a grant of $300,000 was awarded). The state DOT project will include new curbing and various aesthetics along Franklin Street -- features such as planters, a water fountain and dog-walk bag dispensers.
-- Franklin Street Lighting, for which a $100,000 grant has been awarded by the State Dormitory Authority. It must be used for that very purpose.
-- $4.6 million in Clute Park projects, for which $2.4 million in grants have been awarded by the state, and $2.2 million is being sought through the DRI. The idea: "to create an overall park master plan" to make the park more enjoyable, with a new weatherized pavilion, a new bathhouse and a recreational ice rink/events site. Also envisioned: improved play areas and improved pedestrian walkways.
-- $1.8 million Inflow and Infiltration Projects which impact the wastewater treatment plant capacity. The I&I project in Watkins Glen is completed; the one in Montour Falls is expected to be finished in the spring.
-- $150,000 on a Catharine Valley Trail extension connecting the trail to the Montour Falls Marina. Bidding came in over budget, but Senator O'Mara found $50,000 in state funds to offset that.

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.

“So many veterans served our nation courageously and honorably, and then returned home to lift the lives of our local communities," O'Mara said. "The Senate Veterans Hall of Fame is just one more way to give a local veteran a well-deserved and well-earned expression of our gratitude and admiration.”

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).

The Senate established its Veterans Hall of Fame in 2005. It honors New York State veterans whose service in the United States Armed Forces has been accompanied by service to the community and accomplishments as a civilian. It pays tribute to veterans representing Senate districts statewide. Senators conduct induction ceremonies within their respective legislative districts and at the Capitol coinciding with veterans-related observances throughout the year.

This year’s Senate Veterans Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Albany is planned for Tuesday, May 15, to coincide with this year’s Memorial Day observances.

O’Mara is accepting nominations for this year’s 58th Senate District inductee until Friday, April 13. Nomination letters, which should include a short biography highlighting the nominee’s military and civilian service awards and achievements, can be e-mailed to

O’Mara has inducted the following area veterans into the Senate Veterans Hall of Fame:

    --Philip C. Smith, a highly decorated Korean War combat veteran and well-known figure in Schuyler County government and veterans’ affairs as the former director of the Schuyler County Veterans’ Service Agency;
    --J. Arthur “Archie” Kieffer, longtime Chemung County historian and a World War II combat veteran;
    --Steuben County native, former Painted Post Mayor, and World War II combat veteran Roswell L. “Roz” Crozier, Jr.;
    --Anthony J. “Tony” Specchio, Sr., a lifelong Watkins Glen resident and a fixture in civic and veterans affairs; and
    --P. Earle Gleason, a lifelong Yates County resident and the former, longtime director of the Yates County Veterans’ Service Agency

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).

The online Veterans Hall of Fame can be found on O’Mara’s Senate website,

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);
--A new Hector salt storage facility "to prevent runoff and contamination issues" ($352.414);
--Expansion of the Lucky Hare Brewing Company in Hector ($198,000);
--Improvements to the water treatment and distribution systems in Montour Falls ($750,000).

“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.

The decision came at a meeting Wednesday night of the Local Planning Committee, which meets periodically to discuss the process involved in securing funding from the DRI and to study projects that were proposed by the intital deadline, which was Nov. 20.

The committee meeting, overseen by state consultants and including local business and government leaders, was held in the Watkins Glen Village Hall. Counting the consultants, 19 people were seated at tables set up in a square in the building's meeting room on the second floor.

The extension was granted in an effort to receive more proposals and, in some cases, more details on proposals that met the first deadline. "We don't want people" who submitted those proposals "to think 'Our project wasn't any good,'" said one committee member, Ken Wilson. There were, in fact, 30 proposals submitted, on top of a number already in the mix that were proposed in the village's initial pitch to the state seeking the funding.

Added committee member Dennis Fagan: "If we get even one more (proposal) that's a good one, then it (the extension) is worth it."

Added committee member Tim O'Hearn: "I don't see any downside to it."

The session was a precursor to the second public workshop set for Wednesday, Dec. 13 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Watkins Glen Community Center on Boat Launch Road. "The purpose of this interactive design workshop," a flyer says, "is to get your input on potential DRI projects. Come share your vision for Watkins Glen." This will be the second of three public workshops.

Nothing was settled Wednesday night, for this is a lengthy process that will stretch well into 2018. The committee will meet several more times, starting with a session on Jan 10.

In addition to Wilson, O'Hearn and Fagan, its members include Ben Stamp of Lakewood Vineyards, Keith Klug of Cargill, Watkins Glen International's Jon Beckman, Middle School theater chief Eric Hollenbeck, Physical Therapist Amanda Smith-Socaris, Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director Brittany Gibson, Arc of Schuyler Executive Director Jeannette Frank, businessman Peter Honsberger, Watkins Glen Village Board members Gary Schmidt and (committee co-chair) Laurie DeNardo, Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development Executive Director (and co-chair) Judy Cherry, and County Planner Kristin VanHorn.

Consultants hired by the state and a state representative provided their expertise, offering the group information on earlier project proposals as well as a spreadsheet listing each of the 30 "open call" proposals that were received for this DRI project by the Nov. 20 deadline. The consultants included Simon Kates and Susan Favate, while Julie Sweet represented the NYS Department of State.

They pointed out to the committee that 1.) Not all submissions will be selected. 2.) Some projects may be combined into multi-site projects. 3.) Project details can be refined in coordination with applicants.

They also noted that a wide range of project types had been proposed among the 30, including "upper floor renovations, facade improvement, business development, building renovation, large-scale development projects, and open space. The largest DRI project request is $1.5 million."

Under the heading Project Selection Matrix, the consultants listed "six criteria for selecting projects for DRI funding":

Cost: Estimated cost to public- and private-sector partners and operating costs.
Community Benefits: Potential tax revenue and other anticipated community benefits.
Catalytic Potential: Potential to transform downtown, leverage additional funding, make a long-term impact.
Job Generation: Estimated employment and workforce development potential.
Feasibility: Capacity to implement, project readiness, site control, regulatory challenges.
Public Support: Demonstration of support based on Public Engagement Events and prior planning.

Discussion in the latter half of the workshop dealt with specific projects -- those which committee members liked, those they thought needed more detail, and those that seemed like non-starters.

There was also discussion of specific sites that committee members would like to see renovated or developed, and talk of which kind of attractions would be appealing to tourists.

One proposal, a mini-golf course, was rejected by several members who said one such course failed near the waterfront, and that such a project would not fit with the vision of the DRI -- would not be in keeping with the area's heritage or "in accentuating our strengths."

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.
Middle: Consultant Simon Kates makes a point.
Bottom: Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, a committee member, discusses a DRI point with the state's Julie Sweet.

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 District 2 race for the Schuyler County Legislature seat now held by Van Harp -- with Republican Harp leading Democratic challenger Joseph Campbell by four votes on election night --was down to a one-vote Harp lead as of Monday afternoon.

Campbell, who was trailing 295-291 on election night, has received 20 absentee votes and one affidavit vote, bringing his total to 312.

Harp has received 14 absentee votes and four affidavit votes, bringing his total to 313.

And it might not be over yet.

Election Commissioner Joseph Fazzary said that there is still the possibility that one or more military ballots could arrive. While they had to be postmarked by Nov. 6 -- the day before the election -- they have until Nov. 20 to arrive.

“But they very seldom come in after a week or so,” said Fazzary, noting that exactly one week will have passed on Tuesday since the election.

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.

The affidavit votes were key, since Harp received four of them and Campbell only one.

An affidavit vote occurs when a voter finds that his or her name is not carried in the poll book. The voter is allowed to cast a ballot, but the ballot is placed in a separate envelope and later researched by Board of Elections staff to determine if it is legitimate -- if in fact the voter is registered and had, for some reason (like inactivity) fallen from the poll book.

Six such incidents occurred in the District 2 race, and five were found to be valid votes. With Harp’s 4-1 lead in affidavits, their importance became paramount.

(Countywide, there were 30 such incidents, with 17 of the ballots found to be legitimate.)

If Nov. 20 comes and goes without any further military ballots, then Harp -- who has served one 4-year term on the Legislature -- will be certified the winner by a single vote.

Fazzary said a challenge is unlikely, since Harp and Campbell or their representatives have witnessed the vote-count process, and “neither side has raised objections to it.”

It is conceivable that Campbell -- should the vote-count stand -- might challenge it, but it would have to be done through a court.

If Campbell receives another vote, forging a deadlock, Fazzary -- who has never seen balloting this close locally -- said he isn’t sure what would happen because “it’s not provided for in election law.”

It’s possible that, in the event of a tie, that the governor might order another election, or the matter might be solved by appointment.

But first things first, meaning waiting until Nov. 20.

In other words, stay tuned.

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:

Project submissions should be emailed to Kristin VanHorn at by November 20, 2017. All questions should be emailed by November 13, 2017.

Visit 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."
--"Extend DRI area to Salt Point/Rt. 14 and get village water to them to spur more dense development."
--"Future development of WG will need to be on west side, so need water and sewer in town of Reading next to village."
--"Need to upgrade the water and sewer lines before you start putting more people into our community."
--"Parking is a very large problem."
--"Remember disabled, service workers, and needy."
--"Ask trucks from NYC with garbage to find different route than through town."
--"Traffic (truck) noise a hindrance to downtown living."

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.
Second: The project timeline.
Third: A chart at one of the evening's four stations in the Community Center.
Fourth: Post-It notes were affixed to the evening's charts by audience members.
Fifth: Consultant Simon Kates addresses the audience.

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 To learn more about blue-green algae blooms, visit the New York State Department of Health’s page about them:

For further information, visit Schuyler County Public Health online at 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.

The plan, which foresaw a three-story Best Western on the site -- at the corner of Franklin and South Streets -- had been granted three of four variances sought by the property owner, Bharat “Bob” Patel. But Larnard admits that he should have first directed the process through the Schuyler County Planning Commission instead of through the Village Planning Board (in May) and the Zoning Board of Appeals (on July 27).

“Basically, we screwed up, and gotta start over,” said Larnard, adding that Patel has said he will not continue with the site plan as envisioned, and “maybe not at all. It’s probably not right to say that it’s on hold; it no longer exists. We’re back to where we started."

If Patel “comes back with a plan, it will be a completely different site plan, a completely different everything.”

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.

The advisory County Planning Commission, on Sept. 14, rejected as unacceptable the variances granted by the ZBA, which included a reduced front setback on the Franklin Street side of the proposed building. There was also a variance in the two-story limit, permitting three stories (although, at 31 feet, it was, Larnard said, under the maximum allowed of 35); and a parking variance, with Patel short by about 7 spaces. The ZBA had rejected side variances on the north and south sides of the property.

The Planning Commission ruling came, however, after a press release Larnard issued in which he in effect said the village needed to review its process. He says now that the plan should have gone to the county first under a regulation requiring such action when the property is within 500 feet of a state road, in this case Rt. 14, Franklin Street.

“The ZBA needed the county’s thoughts and recommendations prior to making its decisions," he said Thursday. "It didn’t have them. Plus, we were required to let the residents at the ZBA meeting express their opinions.” But that was not permitted.

“My press release said in effect that I realized we screwed up. We were going to repeal everything at the next meeting, the date of which is yet to be determined. In between, Mr. Patel decided not to move forward with the project at this time. In effect, it’s dead in the water.”

And the woman next door to the property in question, Sandra Bartone, filed suit in State Supreme Court seeking a reversal of the variances granted by the ZBA. That hearing is Friday, and Larnard said in effect the court will likely do what the ZBA was going to do -- either vacate or repeal the variances.

“It will be taking care of it for us,” he said, and thus eliminating the need for a ZBA meeting on the matter.

Meanwhile, two members of the ZBA have resigned: chairman Mark Stephany and member Thomas Gossett. Neither resignation, said Larnard, appears connected to the controversy over the Best Western.

Stephany cited health and family concerns, and wrote his letter of resignation, Larnard said, “before my press release. In fact, he indicated he had hoped to stay on,” but couldn't. And Gossett had found it difficult to find the time to attend meetings.

Those resignations were approved Monday night by the Village Board.

“I know the timing looks peculiar,” Larnard said. “But I don’t think any of this (controversy) had anything to do with their decisions.”

Photo in text: Code Enforcement Officer Greg Larnard.

Bond hike, ZBA resignations mark session

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 19 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Monday night approved a motion to increase by $3 million the amount permitted under the bonding resolution for the upcoming water treatment plant, and accepted the resignation of two members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, including its chairman.

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.

Meetings meeting

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."

Police contract

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.
Bottom: Village Board members Gary Schmidt, left, and Kevin Thornton.

County rebounds from system hack attack

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 9, 2017 -- Schuyler County is looking to return to full functionality Monday, nearly two weeks after its computer system was compromised by what County Administrator Tim O’Hearn said was a “brute force” malware attack that threw county workers back to a paper recording and filing system.

“We are very dependent on technology,” said O’Hearn, added that he has long been a proponent of “paperless” government, "which is fine until something like this happens.”

The New York State Office of Cybersecurity has the lead in the investigation, assisted by the FBI. O’Hearn said the Cybersecurity office “has been phenomenal to deal with,” sending staff members on-site as well as fielding a team in Albany to probe and analyze the incident.
The forensic investigation is ongoing, and the state is expected to share its findings when it has something to report. For now, O’Hearn describes the attack as “a forced entry” from outside and random in nature, the malware “not let in by an employee.”

It occurred on Tuesday, Aug. 29, discovered when computers that day slowed to a crawl. They were taken off-line, and a massive restoration of files was undertaken, with a priority on the 911 emergency system, the treasurer’s office and the Board of Elections, which has a primary election coming up next week. (There is a town contest in Tyrone, and a primary for the county clerk’s job.)

The 911 system “was impacted, but never lost functionality,” said O’Hearn. “The dispatch center was never unable to respond.” That system is now being restored to its normal performance level.

While there was “no evidence of an extraction of data from the system, financial or otherwise,” he added, “it slowed down customer service” as county workers returned to operations of a bygone age -- a decade and more ago -- where paper reporting and filing was the norm. Meanwhile, the computer file system has been rebuilt and “the further spread of infection” eliminated.

“All file servers have been re-imaged,” he said, as the county has “followed state and federal protocol” and benefitted from an alliance with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), which contains Schuyler backup files that made the restoration effort easier -- "though very detailed and time-consuming."

State operations within the county offices in Watkins Glen and Montour Falls were not affected -- those at the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Social Services, the latter a county unit but one that works under a state system and “is pretty much an extension of state government.”

The attack “was bad luck,” said O’Hearn. “We’re seeing more and more of it as government becomes a bigger and bigger target.

“But we’re getting through it.”

And getting back fully on its computer system, it appears, come the start of the new work week.

Area counties in line for security grants

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Sept. 8 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara says that each of the counties he represents as part of New York’s 58th Senate District will receive public safety and security funding as part of a new package of $220 million in federal grants being distributed statewide to support local emergency response operations.

The federal “Homeland Security Grant Program” awards were announced in Albany. The grants will be administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) and go to support local emergency preparedness, response, and training initiatives.

“These timely and important public safety and emergency response grants will make a difference to counties and local first responders across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions,” said O’Mara. “Emergency preparedness, response, and recovery are fundamental government responsibilities.”

The homeland security grants are targeted to enhance county-level counterterrorism initiatives, and emergency preparedness and response capabilities, including training for first responders and equipment purchases.

The following grants are being awarded to the counties comprising O’Mara’s 58th Senate District: Chemung ($169,561), Schuyler ($54,984), Steuben ($129,963), Tompkins ($114,967), and Yates ($39,988).

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

Special to The Odessa File

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:

1. Reduce taxes by reducing state spending, which is the state’s “single greatest accomplishment.”

2. Invest in infrastructure. New York is spending $100 billion on infrastructure across the state, the most ambitious program in the United States right now. “We really are re-building and re-tooling this state for the future,” he said, with "new airports, new roads and new bridges."

3. A bottom-up economic development strategy, whereby local communities create their own plans and compete for state investment funds: the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
“Watkins Glen is interesting and has phenomenal potential," he said. "You have what most communities would die for. You have volume. You have traffic. ... People are coming. You have the reverse issue, which is all this traffic and all these people. They need to eat. They need to sleep. You just need the economic activities that capitalize on the volume that you have.”

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

Special to The Odessa File

MONTOUR FALLS, July 31, 2017 -- The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and Schuyler County Office for the Aging are partnering to promote seat belt use in Schuyler County. As part of that effort, the agencies are bringing the "Protect Your Melon" campaign here to raise awareness about the importance of wearing seatbelts.

The event features NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ross Chastain and his No. 4 Xfinity Series “Protect your Melon” racecar. Chastain was at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls on Tuesday, August 1 from 11 a.m. to 1p.m., setting up in the parking lot with his trailer, where he greeted and talked with visitors about the importance of wearing a seatbelt.

Chastain’s No. 4 Xfinity Series racecar is adorned with the words "Protect Your Melon" and the campaign’s logo. Chastain will be racing this week at Watkins Glen with the logo and other “Buckle Up NY” messaging affixed to his race car.

In response to older drivers in Schuyler County being involved in crashes or killed due to the lack of wearing a seatbelt, the Schuyler County Office for the Aging is collaborating with GTSC to provide attendees with helpful information related to the need for seatbelt use. Created though a partnership with JD Motorsports, Ross Chastain and the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, “Protect Your Melon” is centered on the annual “Buckle Up New York” seatbelt enforcement.

In addition to the event on August 1st, Chastain and his No. 4 Xfinity Series racecar will be at Watkins Glen State Park on Wednesday, August 2 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. That event will once again raise awareness about the importance of highway safety and wearing seat belts.

In 1984, New York became the first state in the nation to pass a seat-belt law, and its efforts to get drivers and passengers to buckle up has resulted in a steady rise in compliance over the last eight years, say state officials. New York’s compliance has consistently remained at or above 90 percent over that time frame, they have said.

For more information related to Chastain's appearances, contact the Schuyler County Office for the Aging at 607-535-7108.

2 in sex case sentenced; one gets 21-to-life

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."

Forney's trial was held before Judge Morris on May 22, and Bowen's before that -- on May 8th. They were retrials of a joint trial that occurred during January 2017, which had resulted in a mistrial due to a hung jury.

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

WATKINS GLEN, July 18 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board meeting Monday night served as a primer on such topics as a rebid on the planned water treatment plant and the response time of rescue personnel on overdose calls.

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.

Rescue caution

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

WATKINS GLEN, July 12, 2017 -- The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) held two public meetings -- on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning -- to outline to the public proposed improvements along State Route 14 in Watkins Glen in 2018.

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.

The project specifically proposes to:
--Resurface State Route 14 from Fairgrounds Lane to the State Route 14A intersection.
--Replace all sidewalks along Route 14/Franklin Street.
--Replace signals and improve pedestrian crossings along Franklin Street.
--Enhance the gateway and slow traffic for those entering from the North.
--Coordinate with improvements constructed this year by the Watkins Glen State Park.

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

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, June 22 -- Watkins Glen International (WGI) is once again among the 20 nationwide finalists in USA Today’s online Readers’ Choice competition to decide “America’s Best NASCAR Track.”

State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,I,C,-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,I,C-Corning) are urging area residents to vote for The Glen once a day, every day, on every Internet-capable device they have until the contest closes on Monday, July 17, at noon.

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, “Let’s deliver our support and keep voting every day to help Watkins Glen International once again take the checkered flag as the best NASCAR track in America. It’s a great opportunity to help keep the Finger Lakes region on the national map and to show our pride in The Glen as a favorite destination for visitors
from across the country, a cornerstone of our leading tourism industry, and a driving force for charity, community service, and economic development."

WGI won the designation the last time USA Today conducted the competition in 2015.

O’Mara and Palmesano noted Thursday that WGI is currently running in the lead for the 2017 designation.

The local legislators have long singled out The Glen for its unique contributions to American motorsports. WGI events annually generate over $200 million in economic activity across the region and account for more than 2,000 local jobs. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend in August is one of New York’s largest sporting events and attracts fans from all 50 states, as well as 16 different countries.

To vote in the “Best NASCAR Track in America” competition, visit O’Mara’s Senate website ( or Palmesano on Facebook at,
or go directly to the USA Today website:

Voters can vote once every 24 hours from every Internet-capable device they have.

Schuyler man convicted of meth sales

WATKINS GLEN, June 16, 2017 -- Michael L. Doane, 52, of 2355 Baker Hill Road, was convicted Thursday of three counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 5th Degree by a Schuyler County Court jury.

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

Special to
The Odessa File

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 Montour Falls Library and its director, Roxanne Leyes, for providng year-round learning opportunities for youths and adults in the county;
-- Tim and Michelle Benjamin for their dedication to youth through the Student Exchange program and theater groups;
-- Hannah Pastrick, former Runaway and Homeless Counselor at Catholic Charities; and to
-- Youth Bureau Director JoAnn Fratarcangelo.

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.
Bottom: Honorees Tim and Michelle Benjamin. (Photos provided)

2 men found guilty in Schuyler sex case

Special to The Odessa File

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."

Forney's trial was held before Judge Morris on May 22, and Bowen's before that -- on May 8th. They were retrials of a joint trial that occurred during January 2017, which had resulted in a mistrial due to a hung jury.

Both cases were prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Matthew C. Hayden.

Former assemblyman welcomed to Albany

Special to The Odessa Fil

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

Special to The Odessa File

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

Special to The Odessa File

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.

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, “It was our great pleasure to host the Watkins Glen state champs at the Capitol. We were grateful for the opportunity to introduce the Senecas to our Senate and Assembly colleagues and to help celebrate such a memorable and remarkable season. This team exemplifies the finest qualities of achievement, commitment to excellence, hard work and success, and they have made their school, their families, their community and our entire region very proud.”

The Senecas captured the program’s first-ever New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) basketball championship when they defeated Port Jefferson, 65-63, on Sunday, March 19 at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York. The game
was highlighted by a 16-point fourth-quarter comeback and by sophomore Hannah Morse’s buzzer-beater, a baseline floater to capture the state title and cap off a 22-2 season.

The team was led by Head Coach Alicia Learn, Assistant Coaches Scott Morse and Harold Chaffee, and Strength Trainer Ralph Diliberto. Team members are: Mikenna Ayers, Emilia Bond, Clara Chedzoy, Makenna Fraboni, Mariah Gonzalez, Taylor Kelly, Katlyn Kernan, Ryanna LaMoreaux, Kendra Larson, Hannah Morse, Amanda Pike, Julia Reilly and Jazmin Shea.

Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips and Athletic Director Rod Weeden accompanied the team to Albany Tuesday.

The Senate and Assembly Resolution adopted in the team’s honor reads, in part, “Proudly donning the school's colors of navy blue and maroon, family, friends, and the community at large loyally and enthusiastically supported the Senecas throughout their journey ... In a sport such as basketball, which demands athletic prowess, speed and agility, Head Coach Alicia Learn and her skilled coaching staff worked hard to hone the skills of this championship team, teaching these outstanding athletes lessons which will prove invaluable both on and off the court ... The Watkins Glen High School Girls Basketball Team has clearly utilized dedication, determination and teamwork in providing a lasting contribution to the spirit of excellence which is a tradition of their school.”

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

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, May 10 -- Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn has provided an update on the status of the County’s efforts to comply with the recently enacted County-wide Shared Services Initiative (Enacted by Part BBB of Chapter 59 of the Laws of the State of NY 2017).

“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.

Under the newly enacted legislation, local governments are under a tight timeline to develop a plan which must be submitted to the County Legislature by August 1st and voted on by the panel no later than September 15th. Between now and August 1st, O’Hearn -- as chair of the panel -- must conduct at least three public meetings to provide residents the opportunity to offer direct input as to any ideas or suggestions they would like to be considered by the panel. O’Hearn has scheduled the requisite meetings as follows:

May 17 at 7 p.m.
June 21 at 1 p.m.
July 12 at 7 p.m.
All meetings will be held at the County Legislative Offices, 105 9th St., Watkins Glen.

The shared service panel is scheduled to reconvene on May 25th at 7 p.m. at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.

The public is encouraged to attend any of the above meetings.

A full explanation of the legislation and other supporting documents can be found at:

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

TYRONE, April 1 -- About 130 area residents gave Congressman Tom Reed a piece of their minds Saturday afternoon in a town hall meeting in the Tyrone Fire Hall.

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.
Second: One of the many signs that appeared among the Tyrone audience.
Third: Reed makes a point.
Bottom: The subject of President Trump's taxes was raised.


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

Special to The Odessa File

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.

“This timely and important public safety and emergency response grant should make a great difference to local emergency response teams,” said State Senator Tom O’Mara. “Emergency preparedness, response and recovery are fundamental government responsibilities.”

Counties throughout New York State are being awarded a total of $45 million to undertake infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades. The assistance is part of the latest round of funding through the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant program, a competitive grant program supporting regional communications partnerships throughout New York. The
state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services administers the program.

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.

O’Mara said that the counties he represents as part of New York’s 58th Senate District are receiving the following awards:

-- Schuyler County, $398,500;
-- Chemung County, $566,034;
-- Steuben County, $862,857;
-- Tompkins County, $738,565; and
-- Yates County, $355,205.

New state budget will increase funding
to compensate direct service professionals

Special to The Odessa File

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.

The Senate and Assembly recently included $45 million in their respective “one-house” budget plans for the increased funding. Tuesday, at an advocates’ “Ring of Care” rally at the Capitol, Cuomo announced his support for providing $55 million in increased funding for the DSPs.

O’Mara applauded the announcement that the new state budget will help "appropriately adjust salaries" at not-for-profits that employ workers who provide state services for individuals with autism, serious brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities.

“This has been an absolute priority all along for me and many of my colleagues," said O'Mara. "We cannot afford to risk the health and well-being of people with disabilities because New York State fails to invest in a stable, long-term workforce of trained and skilled direct care professionals.”

Currently, many direct service professionals (DSPs) earn an average of $10 to $13 per hour -- just above the state’s minimum wage. Last year, the state implemented minimum wage increases that did not provide funding to account for the “compression factor” -- the need to increase the salaries for more experienced DSPs and supervisors in order to maintain the current salary gap with minimum wage workers. "Without new funding provided to the DSP employers providing services on behalf of the state," said a press release from O'Mara's office, "the salary gap would compound the existing high turnover rate among those providing these critical services, and would lead to significantly increased vacancies as qualified individuals sought less strenuous minimum-wage work."

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."

A new state budget is scheduled to take effect on April 1, the start of New York’s new fiscal year.

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

WATKINS GLEN, March 23 -- A Burdett area man was arrested Thursday afternoon following a bizarre vehicle stop in Watkins Glen. Police said his car rammed and disabled a village police car and struck three other vehicles before heading south on Franklin Street -- leading a chase that ended near his home.

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.

One of those vehicles, a Watkins Glen police car, sustained extensive damage to its right front corner as well as dents in both passenger-side doors. The right front tire was cantered in, so the car, being undrivable, was towed from the scene.

The incident began in Watkins Glen between 12:30 and 1 p.m., according to police, who said Covert ran a red light while turning from Fourth Street south onto Franklin Street. Witnesses said he then negotiated Franklin for two blocks at an extremely low rate of speed: "like two miles an hour," said another driver.

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.
Bottom: The Village Police car struck at the scene was hauled away.

Man indicted on perjury, contempt charges

Special to The Odessa File

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.

The indictment alleges that Kline lied during jury selection about having no prior criminal convictions and that he failed to disclose that the Schuyler County District Attorney’s Office had prosecuted his wife (Katharine Bartholomew) for giving a student a combination stun gun and plastic knuckles, and that in association with that, he failed to disclose that he was familiar with District Attorney Joseph G. Fazzary, who had conducted that trial against Kline's wife.

Bartholomew was employed by the Watkins Glen Central School District as a biology teacher when she gave a special needs student the weapon. She was acquitted in January of 2016 after a bench trial by County Court Judge Dennis J. Morris, who concluded that it wasn’t proved that she knew the item was a weapon. Although not convicted, she ultimately resigned her position as a teacher. It is alleged that Kline failed to reveal this relationship to the court, the prosecutor and the defense attorneys during jury selection (a fact, the DA's office said, that was material to the selection of jurors and unknown to the prosecution).

The indictment also alleges that Kline did not reveal to the court, when asked, that he had been convicted of a crime, when in 2006 Kline was convicted in Federal Court in Binghamton for damaging federal property. In that instance, he pleaded guilty to splashing his own blood on the Federal Courthouse, and then further smearing his blood on the building with his hand, in protest of the trial of several of his friends for committing a similar act in Tompkins County. Oddly enough, Kline’s protest and arrest were a result of the decision to retry his friends in Federal Court, after the previous prosecution of his friends in Tompkins County was declared a mistrial due to a hung jury.

Additionally, the indictment alleges that Kline intentionally disobeyed the lawful orders of Judge Morris during the deliberation phase of the Forney/Bowen trial. Kline appeared in Schuyler County Court on March 15 to be arraigned. The matter was adjourned for further proceedings to April 3.

Photo in text: Gary Kline (Photo provided)

Operation proposals sought for Arts Center

Special to The Odessa File

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.”

Strong consideraton, O'Hearn said, "will be given to proposals that envision events that attract large attendance and in so doing, serve to generate additional economic activity for the downtown business districts. Also important is creating a venue that provides access to community groups and organizations to accommodate public gatherings and meetings.”

The entire RFP can be found at

Responses are due no later than March 29, 2017.

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:

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.

Roche, a Painted Post resident, has more than 30 years of legal experience in Steuben County courts.

He is the leader of the Steuben County Public Defender’s Office, where he supervises a staff of 12 attorneys and also represents clients in County Court. He was previously a partner in the Painted Post law firm of Yorio and Roche, where he litigated cases, including several murder trials, in County Court, Family Court, and Supreme Court. He served as an Assistant District Attorney under DA John Tunney.

Roche is an active member of the community, having served on various boards and agencies, including United Way and the Family Service Society, and is currently chairman of the Corning Hospital Board and the Steuben County Industrial Development Board.

Roche was the chairman of the Steuben County Legislature for six years and the County Legislator for the Town of Erwin for 16 years.

“I believe my experiences have prepared me very well for this critically important role in our justice system,” he said.

The position of County and Family Court Judge is currently held by Judge Joe Latham, who will be retiring at the end of this year.

“I will work very hard to continue the tradition of fair and impartial judges in Steuben County,” said Roche, who thus far is unopposed.

O'Mara retains Environmental chair

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY Jan. 12 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), beginning his fourth term representing New York’s 58th Senate District, has been reappointed Chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and has also been named Vice-Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan announced the appointments this week at the Capitol. O’Mara has headed the Environmental Conservation Committee since 2015. He has been a member of the Transportation Committee since 2011.

O’Mara (pictured at right) said that he hopes to continue the Environmental Conservation Committee’s focus on numerous regional and statewide challenges including: soil and water conservation and quality; water infrastructure development and improvement; energy-related demands including the development and promotion of cleaner sources of energy; preservation initiatives impacting farmland, forests and other state resources; brownfields cleanup; solid and hazardous waste management; invasive and endangered species; and fish and wildlife

In additional to his chairmanships, O’Mara will also serve as a member on the following Senate committees: Agriculture; Banks; Codes; Energy; Finance; Insurance; Investigations and Government Operations; and Judiciary.

He will also continue to serve on the following special Senate task forces: Heroin and Opioid Addiction; Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases; and Workforce Development.

O'Mara's 58th Senate District is comprised of 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).

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

O'Mara sworn in for 4th term as Senator

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.

O’Mara was sworn in by New York State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

The 58th Senate District encompasses all of Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties, and a part of Tompkins County.

O'Mara was first elected to represent the region in 2010 and has been re-elected by the voters in 2012, 2014 and, most recently, on November 8, 2016.

O'Mara also announced this week that he would continue to operate district offices in Elmira and Bath, in addition to his office in Albany, in 2017.

He encouraged 58th District residents to contact any of his offices for state government assistance throughout the coming year.

"No one should hesitate to contact our offices for assistance, to address concerns, answer questions, help facilitate access to state programs and services, or even just as a sounding board for suggestions and ideas for better government," said O’Mara.

Contact information can be located on O’Mara’s website, He can be e-mailed at the following address:

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

The legislation (S8114/A10706, Veto #306 of 2016) would have phased in a state takeover of the full cost of indigent defense by 2022. It was unanimously approved by both houses of the Legislature in June and, in his last action of 2016, rejected by Cuomo in a late-night veto issued on New Year’s Eve.

“Governor Cuomo’s end-of-the-year, close-to-midnight veto," said O'Mara, "once again shows that he refuses to get serious about or make the commitment to meaningful mandate relief for local governments and local property taxpayers. When the tax cap was first enacted five years ago, the governor promised that it would go hand in hand with rolling back the heavy burden of unfunded state mandates on local governments, school districts and taxpayers. While there have been some important mandate relief actions since then, including long-term pension reform and the takeover of the growth in local Medicaid costs, not nearly enough has been done to ensure a future of long-term property tax reductions for local property taxpayers.

"We need a future defined by property tax cuts, not smaller property tax increases. The governor’s decision to reject this strong, unanimously approved, bipartisan legislation is another missed opportunity to begin truly turning things around for local property taxpayers.”

“This legislation," added Palmesano, "could have saved property taxpayers between $300 and $400 million dollars per year. Families, seniors, farmers, manufacturers and small-business owners would’ve felt this relief in a real way. The governor promised to deliver mandate relief when we instituted the tax cap. The legislature presented him with a commonsense, bipartisan plan, and he rejected it. He continues to break his promise. I hope that taxpayers are mindful of this veto when the governor goes on his public relations tour and tries to convince New Yorkers that is he committed to property tax relief.”

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

ELMIRA, Dec. 1 2016 -- Legislation sponsored by State Senator Tom O'Mara to establish a new "Upstate Transit Funding Board" within the state the Department of Transportation (DOT) has been vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

O'Mara (pictured at right) -- at the forefront of the issue of rural public transportation's future -- says that Cuomo's veto keeps thousands of Upstate residents at risk of losing a public transit system they rely on for many necessities.

O'Mara, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee and the Legislature's joint, bipartisan Commission on Rural Resources, said:

"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."

O'Mara and other supporters stress that fares alone are not sufficient to cover all the costs of providing public transit services and the systems must rely on annual state funding. He said that legislation creating an Upstate Transit Funding Board would ensure that discussions remain ongoing to continually identify sustainable funding options to provide for growth and stability in public transportation operating assistance and create additional opportunities for supporting mobility options for Upstate New York residents.

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:

The prior decision being appealed (and upholding the tax) can be found here:

Schneider’s motion papers can be found here:

The county’s opposition papers can be found here:

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.

Through prescribed fire, timber and wildlife management programs, the FLNF works year round to enhance wildlife habitat, including that for large and small game. Officials want to remind hunters and other forest users that the entire 16,000-acre National Forest is open for hunting, the only exceptions being trails and facilities within developed recreation sites. As with any recreational opportunity on the FLNF, all applicable state and federal laws and regulations must be followed. Below are some safety tips for hunters that may be helpful when planning to hunt on the FLNF:

Check weather reports before visiting the forest -- dress properly and be prepared for the worst possible conditions.

Tell someone where you will be hunting and when you will return -- be familiar with the area that you are hunting.

Wear blaze orange and try to be visible from all directions.

Check hunting equipment before and after each outing, and maintain it properly. Familiarize yourself with the operation of your firearm before using it in the field.

Carry a spare set of dry clothes. Use layering techniques to prevent moisture retention, while maintaining body warmth.

Always bring waterproof gear.

Have a first aid kit, flashlight, cell phone, food and water in case of an emergency.

Clearly identify your target before shooting to prevent accidents or fatalities. Fire only at clearly identified wildlife and know what is beyond your target.

Be alert when hunting near developed areas and trails. Other recreationists are in the forest as well.

For more information on New York State hunting regulations, please visit:

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.

"Joshua exited his vehicle and ran into a forest. Police continued to search for approximately two hours, but eventually determined that it was too cold to continue searching, since the temperature, with wind chill, was approximately twenty degrees below zero. The next day, searchers found Joshua Harrison’s body. It is undisputed that he froze to death. At the time that Joshua had run into the woods, he was dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, three t-shirts, jeans, and a pair of work boots."

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 facts alleged indicate that the officers’ pursuit of Joshua was a legitimate response to the fact that he was driving a car that had earlier left the scene of an accident, and that he had refused the officers’ demands to pull over.

"-- There is no allegation that the pursuit, in and of itself, was unsafe or resulted in injury to Joshua.

"-- 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.

"Strong agriculture is critical to the vibrancy of Upstate New York, and this year's hot, dry summer has created significant challenges to this crucial industry," Governor Cuomo said. "From Western New York to the North Country, New York's growers and producers are major drivers of our economy and the benefits they provide to the community are immeasurable. In these difficult times, we must ensure that they have full access to all the resources necessary for making a full 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."

O'Mara noted that he is planning an Agricultural Roundtable on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. at Prattsburgh Central School titled "The Impact of the 2016 Drought on Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Farmers." It will, he said, be an opportunity for the farming community "to discuss the potential short- and long-term impacts" of the drought. A number of farm service officials will be present.

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 primary counties included under this designation are in Western New York, the Finger Lakes, Central New York, and the Southern Tier. They include:

Western New York: Erie and Niagara
Finger Lakes: Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Wyoming and Yates
Central New York: Cayuga
Southern Tier: Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins

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:

Western New York: Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua
Southern Tier: Broome
Central New York: Cortland, Onondaga and Oswego
Finger Lakes: Orleans and Wayne

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.

A disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes emergency loans. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans.

The Farm Service Agency considers each emergency loan application based on the extent of production losses on the farm, and the security and repayment ability of the operator. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information. Contact information for the offices can be found here.

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."

State Commissioner Richard A. Ball: "The lack of rain we have been seeing this summer has been presenting serious challenges for farms in areas of the state. While it's too early to tell what the overall impact will be, forage, hay, corn, and grain crops to feed animals over the winter will likely be affected, so it’s critical that these counties be declared as disaster areas so they can apply for the assistance they may need. We will continue to survey farms across the State and encourage our farmers to reach out to us or to FSA if they have any questions."

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie: "This summer's unusually hot, dry weather has meant severely damaged crops and lost profits for hardworking farmers across our state, including many in the region I represent. In light of these recent, arid conditions, our farmers need help -- and I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing that. This disaster declaration is a start toward getting farmers the assistance they need to rebound from the devastating drought, and I look forward to the designation being expanded to other impacted counties so our farmers can continue to contribute to the growth of New York’s leading industry."

Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Assemblyman Bill Magee: "I thank Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Ball for their concern during this difficult and unpredictable time for farmers across the State. They have been working in partnership with our agricultural industry partners to help farmers stay informed and report their losses, ensuring they could take advantage of the federal assistance available in extreme circumstances like this."

New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton: "New York Farm Bureau is pleased that USDA Secretary Vilsack acted quickly and recognized the impact that this summer's drought has had on our farmers in New York. Many of our farmers in these affected areas are in need of assistance with feed, water and other resources. The declaration is the first step in working to get assistance to those farmers in their time of need."

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, along with its Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Farm Bureau, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Cornell Eden program, recommend that farmers affected by the drought should continue to document their conditions (pictures and video), and any losses. Farmers can also file a CCC-576 (Notice of Loss) with their local USDA Farm Service Agency.

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

--"civil disobedience" by the We Are Seneca Lake protesters that "has strained County law enforcement resources while adversely impacting public safety and County taxpayers."

"Whereas," the lengthy resolution read, "the Schuyler County Legislature considers the safety and well-being of its residents and visitors, preservation of natural resources, and the economic impact of tourism related industry and activity to be among its greatest priorities, and while originally satisfied that the proposed project would not adversely impact same, in the interest of being responsive and representative has sought modification from (Crestwood) to directly address concerns raised by opponents of this project."

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)
--Eliminating the brine pond on the lake side of Rt. 14, and "the construction of rail and truck transportation infrastructure," and transport by rail and truck; and
--"Providing resources to support community initiatives to monitor and improve Seneca Lake water quality."

"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
water and soil quality on area farms

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
farms to undertake agricultural water quality conservation projects, it was announced Tuesday by State Senator Tom O’Mara, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

The funding is being provided to 25 county SWCDs statewide through New York’s Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program. Forty-two projects, benefitting more than 120 farms, will share a total of $13.1 million in new funding. The projects being supported will assist farmers in addressing water quality issues in priority watersheds. The overriding goals are to prevent water pollution, reduce erosion and limit the amount of harmful sediments and other deposits in New York’s waterways. This year’s state budget increased funding for the program to $19 million.

“These are wise state investments to keep our farmers competitive and, at the same time, protect our natural resources for the long run and strengthen local economies,” said O’Mara, who also serves as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We’re investing in the longstanding and successful partnership between local farmers and local conservation
districts to achieve vital economic and environmental quality protection goals.”

Local conservation districts, including Chemung and Schuyler, work to implement plans in line with the goals of local farms and the needs of local watersheds.

Under this round of funding, O’Mara said that the:

> Chemung County SWCD is slated to receive $388,985 for the implementation of best management conservation practices to address agricultural water quality concerns on three farms in the Upper Susquehanna River watershed. The watershed ultimately drains to the Chesapeake Bay, where the EPA has assigned a Total Maximum Daily Load with the goal of reducing contamination in order to restore biological function.

> Schuyler County SWCD has been awarded $198,900 for the implementation of best management conservation practices to address agricultural water quality concerns on two
farms in the Seneca Lake watershed. The best management practices to be implemented include: livestock heavy use area runoff management systems and riparian buffers. These systems will keep nutrients, sediment and other pollutants out of the watershed while helping the farms remain economically viable.

Burdett man charged with meth manufacture

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.

Craig J. Church, 27, of 4482 Satterly Hill Road, Burdett, is charged with one count of Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine in the Third Degree (a Class D felony); one count of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (a Class A misdemeanor); and on alleged traffic infractions relating to excessive speed and driving without a valid driver’s license.

Church was arraigned in the Montour Falls Village Court and sent to the Schuyler County Jail in lieu of $5,000 cash bail or $10,000 bond.

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.

Those include:
--Operating as a major trafficker, a Class A1 felony that could bring up to a life sentence;
--Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, a Class A2 felony;
--Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance, 2nd Degree, an A2 felony;
--Two counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance, 3rd Degree, a B felony;
--Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine (5 counts), each a C felony;
--Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, 7th Degree, an A misdemeanor;
--Criminal Conspiracy, 2nd Degree, a B felony;
--Criminal Conspiracy, 5th Degree, an A misdemeanor.

DA Fazzary (right in file photo), while pointing out that Kennedy has three felony convictions on his record, asked County Judge Dennis Morris -- if setting bail -- to set it "at an appropriate amount or remand (to jail) at this time." Morris opted for the $75,000/$150,000 amount, and told Kennedy that if he does get out, failure to appear at a scheduled future date "is bail jumping" and will result in another felony charge. Kennedy was represented by Ithaca Attorney Jerome Mayersak.

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 only "disruption" at that March 11 incident, when Hansen was blocked at the front door by Phillips, "was wholly on the part of Superintendent Phillips."
-- The subsequent order by Phillips banning Hansen from district buildings without his written permission "curtailed (Hansen's) exercise of federal and state constitutional rights, including freedom of movement, assembly and speech."
-- Even if the Phillips order had legitimacy, it was "vague and ambiguous," and did not include the school grounds in its parameters, instead specifying buildings. Both of Hansen's arrests -- en route to the School Board meeting on March 21 and at a school tennis match on May 4 -- occurred outside.
-- The superintendent's order, if it had been allowed to stand, would have had "a 'chilling effect' on defendant's (and others') exercise of those constitutional rights ... "
-- "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 rights."


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.

Arrested again:

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.

The letter:

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.

Constitutional rights:

"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.

All eyes, and camera lenses, were pointing up toward the rock face and the flag -- shown at left from a vantage point across the gorge. (Photograph on left by Katey Cheplick).

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Carl Blowers, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Gary Gray, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro


Legislature Chairman

Carl Blowers, 535-6174 or 237-5469

Legislature Members:

Gary Gray, 292-9922

Van Harp, 329-2160

Jim Howell, 535-7266 or 227-1141

David M. Reed, 796-9558

Michael Lausell, 227- 9226

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro, 398-0648

County Clerk: Theresa Philbin, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Holley Sokolowski, 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 Anne Centurelli, Thomas Letteer Jr. and Sally Hill.

Mayor: Gerry Messmer

Trustees: Anne Centurelli (594-2304), Thomas Letteer (594-2296), Sally Hill (594-2539), and Aubrey Tomassi (215-2764).

Village Clerk: Pam Kelly, 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100

Department of Public Works: Steven Siptrott -- 607-857-6426

Village Justice: Ronald Goossen (594-2273)

Municipal Building: 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100, e-mail

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: Rick Lewis

Town Board: Ronald Hoffman, Jamee Mack, Glenn Bleiler, C. Michael Learn

Town Clerk: Diane Sidle, 594-2273; office at 106 Grant Road, Odessa

Town Justice: Ronald Goossen, 594-2273

Historian: Carol Fagnan, 594-2062



Village of Watkins Glen Offices

Mayor: Luke Leszyk

Trustees: Tony Fraboni, Laurie DeNardo, Nan Woodworth, Lou Perazzini

Village Clerk: Lonnie Childs

Village Justice: Steven Decker

Code Enforcement Officer: Darrin Stocum


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara. -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano -- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791