October 1, 2004

Keeping farms alive; McLean crossing guard

Today's Ithaca Journal explores the many issues around land-use planning and agriculture in Dryden. The article looks at farmers' concerns about disappearing ag land, their financial needs, and different possible ways of addressing the issue.

There's also an article on 14-year crossing guard Margie Albern, who helps kids cross the street safely at Cassavant Elementary School in McLean.

Elia Kacapyr reports that August was not a great month for the Tompkins County economy, as every indicator he uses except air traffic declined.

The College News article is accompanied by pictures of Dryden-related stories. One shows Bert Neff presenting a plaque to Dryden Eagle Scout David Ink, who planned and organized a memorial garden in honor of Bret Neff, the Harford firefighter who died February 23rd while on a call in Slaterville Springs. There is also a picture of the garden. The other shows the Board of Directors of George Junior Republic, which has renamed itself the William George Agency for Children's Services.

There are two letters from Dryden residents in the Journal today. The first, from Charlie Hart of Freeville, looks at the military records of the two main presidential candidates and argues that "War is not fun but at least these two candidates didn't run and hide and didn't need President Ford to give them amnesty." The other, from Joyce Kantor of Freeville, challenges Congressman Sherwood Boehlert's environmental record and concludes "Let's elect Jeff Miller to Congress."

Posted by simon at 5:37 PM Comment

October 2, 2004

Fire funds division approved

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the chiefs of the four Dryden fire companies have sorted out how to spend out-of-state insurance funds. The Neptune Hose Company will get 32 percent of the money, Varna Volunteer Fire Company and W.B. Strong each 27 percent, and Etna 14 percent.

TC3 is resolving a shortage of space in its Dryden dormitories by putting up students in a Holiday Inn in Cortland. Increased enrollments and limited space combined to to create a problem for the school.

Posted by simon at 5:19 PM Comment

October 3, 2004

Visiting a strawbale house

Several houses in Tompkins County were part of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's 2004 Green Buildings Open House. I didn't make it to the Tompkins County SPCA, which is usually more accessible than private houses, but I did get to visit two houses with solar and other energy-efficient features.

The first, on Ellis Hollow Road in Caroline, used solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling in a house of energy-efficient but otherwise relatively typical modern construction and design. Its solar panels powered the house and fed energy back to the electrical grid. The second, on Bone Plain Road in Dryden, was a more decisive break from ordinary construction, relying on solar and wind power and remaining entirely off the electrical grid.

Crowd at Earthwalk Farm
A crowd of visitors explores the strawbale house at Earthwalk Farm.

The home's owners and builders, Lynn and Suzanne McMannis, graciously answered all kinds of questions about the house, which is a work in progress. The house is built on a shallow frost-protected foundation, a design learned from Scandinavian construction. The floors are mostly stone collected from convenently piled hedgerows, though the kitchen will eventually have oak flooring. A massive stone chimney rests in the middle of the house. The walls are post-and-beam with strawbales filling the walls, giving it R-45 insulation. The most visible beam was salvaged from an Enfield barn, and the straw is local, one-quarter of it coming from their own property.

Chimney, wall, and beam at Earthwalk Farm
Chimney, wall, and beam at Earthwalk Farm.

A 600-pound woodstove used for both cooking and heating is at the center of the house. Most of the energy for the house comes in at its southwest corner, where the power from the six 120-watt solar panels and (84-foot tall) 1000 watt wind turbine come into regulators and a battery bank.

Power storage and management at Earthwalk Farm
Power storage and management at Earthwalk Farm.

The McMannis's have a 50-acre parcel complete with orchards, gardens, a woodlot, and pasture. They built a barn before building the house. Lynn McMannis made clear that his interest in building this way was political - he and his wife Suzanne had managed to reach a $25/month electrical bill in a more conventional house, but wanted to get entirely off the grid. They've paid for everything in cash, reinforcing the message that they're doing this for independence.

I asked what experience they'd had with building codes during construction, and Lynn said that they'd found the Dryden code enforcement officer, Kevin Ezell, helpful and interested. They'd been ready to make a strong case about why such a non-standard building should be granted an exemption from the usual expectations, only to find Ezell interested in seeing how the experiment would work out.

They have had a few problems. The power inverter, which converts the 24V DC coming from the battery bank to 120V AC, went down at one point and needed replacement, at a time when their largest AC appliance was the refrigerator. After delays in getting it repaired, they eventually bought a DC refrigerator and freezer. They're making as much of the house as they can run on the DC power directly rather than wasting 8% of their power in the conversion from DC to AC.

McMannis had some advice for those who want to build their own homes, noting that "a homesteader's best friend is a 5-gallon bucket," and pointing out how their choice of foundation had spared them major excavations. They've generally tried to use local materials and "eschew loud machines", but have compromised when it made sense - some plywood, insulation, appliances, and other pieces aren't all natural, and there were a number of power tools around.

I've posted a gallery of pictures if you'd like to see more of this fascinating home-in-progress.

Posted by simon at 12:07 AM Comment

September Town Board minutes

The minutes for both the September 9th and September 24th Town Board meetings are available.

I missed the September 9th meeting, so it's good to catch up. Highlights include:

  • A very quiet public hearing on increased costs for upgrading the Bolton Point water works, which were eventually approved.
  • Neptune Fire Chief Ron Flynn introduced a new Director of Operations for Dryden Ambulance, Clayton Bronson, and there was discussion of how to split the foreign fire insurance funds, which were just settled this past week.
  • Flynn and the Board also discussed putting a generator at the Beam Hill Tower and preparing for the local costs of the county's upcoming emergency communications system.
  • There was discussion of the town supporting an application for the state to purchase development rights from six farms in the town, with some questions about some of the farms being in areas where development is projected in the Draft Comprehensive Plan, as well as some of the farms crossing municipal boundaries into the Villages of Dryden and Freeville. The board voted to support the application, which was due October 1.
  • There was a lot of discussion during the County Briefing about the county budget, most particularly the Recreation Partnership and the jail. Both of those issues have seen county votes since then, adding funding for both projects, so I'll be curious to see how these go at the October meeting.
  • Attorney Mahlon Perkins reported that a petition had been filed requesting a referendum on the creation of the Royal Road water and sewer districts, and the referendum will be held with the general election in November.
  • Zoning Officer Henry Slater reported on progress on the site plan review for an expanded Highway Department barn. He also discussed conversations with Congressman Boehlert's office on the appeal of FEMA's decision to pull money from the Virgil Creek project. Boehlert's office believes the Town proceeded correctly, and got a commitment from FEMA to send someone to inspect the project in person when the appeal is received.
  • Environmental Planner Debbie Gross reported that the Cayuga Lake Watershed Intermunicipal Organization was running radio ads to let landowners know of their new obligations under stormwater regulations, the meeting with farmers that was scheduled for the 13th, and work with the county to take advantage of their offer to pay for an aquifer test well. She also talked about her ongoing discussions with property owners along the proposed trail connecting the Villages of Dryden and Freeville.

The minutes for the 24th correspond fairly well to my report on the meeting, minus the picture of everyone shoved into a small office.

Posted by simon at 5:46 PM Comment

Monkey Run, nature preserve

I went for a hike today with friends down the south side of the old Monkey Run Road (coming off Route 366 above Varna) and then west along a trail above Fall Creek that went through the nature preserve to the Cornell research fields along 366, then along the old railroad bed to the start of the hike. Here are a few highlight pictures, and I've posted a gallery as well. It's well worth a look. Fall Creek has carved itself a dramatic home.

Remains of the bridge at Monkey Run Road
Remains of the bridge at Monkey Run Road.

Fall Creek flowing past a steep embankment
Fall Creek flowing past a steep embankment.

If the pictures intrigue you, the actual trail is much nicer and well worth a visit.

Posted by simon at 5:53 PM Comment

October 4, 2004

Selling anti-depressants in school

This morning's Ithaca Journal is pretty quiet about Dryden, with the first mention of Dryden in the Monitor. A 15-year-old girl at Dryden High School was selling prescription drugs to other students, and she and a 14-year-old customer were arrested over the sale of sample packets of Lexapro, an anti-depressant. There was also a theft reported on Midline Road.

On the opinion page, Nicholas Hyduke of Dryden vents his anger at President Bush, suggesting that Bush "stay in office for four more years, during which time the president and his pals figure out how to return our national budget to the wonderful balance it was in when they took office, or we impeach him for breaking his oath." Hyduke wants that impeachment to be "the kind of spanking you get with your daddy's belt."

Posted by simon at 8:23 AM Comment

Lawnmower trouble

I seem to have read and enjoyed last week's Dryden Courier without reporting on its contents.

The lead story is about people in the Village of Dryden riding lawnmowers on sidewalks for transportation and the problems it causes. The mowers seem to have become a transportation mode rather than a grass cutter:

Moreover, the lawn tractors have had their cutting decks removed, privatized numbers painted on the side, and some of them take passengers, who sit somewhat idly, like smiling hay bales, in carts towed behind.

The village is contemplating a law to prohibit them, but needs to be careful not to prohibit motorized wheelchairs and similar devices.

Also on the front page, the Dryden Central School District has established a goals committee to develop a five year plan.

There was also an article on the SPCA's participation in Saturday's green homes tour, and a listing of Dryden and Freeville students attending Alfred State University.

In sports, the Courier profiles sisters Janessa and Jessica Bush, both of whom play on the Dryden varsity girls' soccer team.

Posted by simon at 12:23 PM Comment

October 5, 2004

Dryden graduate in Wells College protest

Several stories in this morning's Ithaca Journal touch on Dryden, so I'll start with a mention I didn't expect to see, given the article's setting up Cayuga Lake in Aurora. The Journal's contact among students protesting Wells College trustees decision to go co-ed is Railey Jane Savage, who graduated from Dryden High School last year. Nearly half the students are camping in or near the administration building to protest the decision.

The county legislature voted to add a sheriff's deputy to the budget for next year, after a vote to add three deputies was defeated and a vote to add two failed on a tie. County Legislator Mike Lane argued for additional deputies, saying:

"The Sheriff's Office is the prime law enforcement agency in my district. I have a real question about the safety of the people in the rural part of this county. I think we need more deputies."

Our formerly locally headquartered utility company, NYSEG, will be raising electrical rates by 15% in January for the 90% of New York residential customers on a fixed-rate plan. The fixed rate will go from 10.3 to 11.79 cents per kilowatt hour. NYSEG customers will have the option of changing electrical suppliers and plans before that increase, to plans where the price floats with the market.

Finally, the Journal's editorial looks at the difficult balancing act local governments face in budgeting.

Posted by simon at 8:37 AM Comment

October 6, 2004

Learning to ride the bus

Today's Ithaca Journal includes a story about Freeville Elementary School students learning about bus-riding etiquette while also getting a dose of local history and nature and visiting a farm. Local artist Pam Beck created the characters of frog Freeville Freddy, Betsy Butterfly, Buddy Beaver, and Harriet Heron. Students got to interact with these characters on a special excursion through the town.

There will be a tire collection day on October 16th at the Dryden Highway Department (map). The fee is $1 per tire, with no tractor tires allowed, and any tires larger than a 48-inch diameter need to be cut in half.

The Journal's editorial examines our broken state government's ever-more plodding pace, most recently delays in the budget and budget reform bills in the New York State Senate.

Posted by simon at 8:47 AM Comment

A missing article, and Seward tomorrow

It just occurred to me that there's an article I'd really like to see the Ithaca Journal, Dryden Courier, Ithaca Times, or anyone else local publish: interviews with our Assemblywoman and local State Senators on their feelings about reform of state government and its prospects.

Local editorial pages have spilled a lot of worthy ink this year on the subject, but I haven't seen much where a reporter really pins down our representatives on what's happening, what's not happening, and what they're doing about it personally.

Which reminds me: State Senator James Seward will be having a Town Hall meeting tomorrow, Thursday, October 7th at 7:00pm at the Dryden Village Hall (map). Seward is, after all, a member of a task force to study how the Senate operates and recommend reforms - never mind that Majority Leader Bruno put all of the Senate Republicans on the task force in one of Albany's stranger recent moves.

Posted by simon at 8:56 AM Comment

October 7, 2004

Tomorrow last day for voter registration

Tomorrow, October 8th, is the last day to register to vote in the November general election in New York State. If you haven't registered yet, you can go to the Board of Elections office (map) until Friday at 5:00pm. Mailed-in registrations must be postmarked no later than tomorrow as well. (If anyone in Dryden needs a registration form, you can call me at 256-5334.)

There will also be a last-chance registration session on Saturday, October 9th from 2-9pm at the Dryden Town Hall (map) and at other town and city halls in the county.

It's also time to think about absentee ballots. You can get an application at the Board of Elections office or online. Applications by mail must be sent by October 26th, and applications in person at the Board of Elections offices may be made until November 1st.

The Ithaca Journal reports a decline in the number of students scoring three or four on state math tests for Dryden fourth and eighth graders, while middle school scores for the state generally went up. In the Ithaca district, the number of eighth graders getting a three or four went up while the number of fourth graders getting a three or four declined.

There's also a notice for next Saturday's tire collection at the Dryden Highway Department (map).

Posted by simon at 8:31 AM Comment

October 8, 2004

Registration, TC3 scholarships, letters

The Ithaca Journal seems to have found yesterday a quiet day for Dryden. I didn't see anyone from the papers at last night's Town Hall with Senator Seward. WHCU was there interviewing him, but I don't see a piece on their site.

They repeat the piece from yesterday on voter registration and absentee ballots. It's important enough that I'll rerun what I said yesterday:

October 8th is the last day to register to vote in the November general election in New York State. If you haven't registered yet, you can go to the Board of Elections office (map) until Friday at 5:00pm. Mailed-in registrations must be postmarked no later than tomorrow as well. (If anyone in Dryden needs a registration form, you can call me at 256-5334.)

There will also be a last-chance registration session on Saturday, October 9th from 2-9pm at the Dryden Town Hall (map) and at other town and city halls in the county.

It's also time to think about absentee ballots. You can get an application at the Board of Elections office or online. Applications by mail must be sent by October 26th, and applications in person at the Board of Elections offices may be made until November 1st.

There is a piece on scholarships given out at TC3, including one to James Woernley of Freeville. There's also a mention of Eric J. Farino of Freeville completing U.S. Navy basic training.

On the opinion page, Steve Scott of Dryden writes to criticize Gannett columnist David Rossie for suggesting that ""kow-towing to Republican presidents by the Washington press corps became standard operating procedure." Scott sees a world where press conferences "have shown a press that's been mainly rude and insolent to the office of the president when it's occupied by a Republican."

From a different perspective, Kathy Zahler of Dryden writes to say that she is voting her conscience this year, as third-party supporters regularly encourage. She reports that after reading "The Bush Record" at the Sierra Club site, "my conscience tells me that Kerry/Edwards is the only sane choice for our nation, and for the planet we share."

Posted by simon at 8:34 AM Comment

School board doors too closed?

This week's Dryden Courier has lots of Dryden news, plus an editorial that looks at the Dryden Central School Board's most recent appointment, and color photos front and back.

The front page starts with an article on the unanimous appointment of Amanda Kittleberger to the Dryden Central School Board. The article notes that:

Discussions on the candidates were conducted during executive session and Kittleberger was the only name mentioned during the open meeting. There was no discussion of the candidates then, but after the vote, board president Rachel Dickinson said she was pleased to have a new member who knew a lot about the district.

The article also discusses the needs assessment Kittleberger was hired to do earlier this year (and will be doing through mid-November), and her background.

The Courier's editorial attacks the process by which this appointment, comparing it to a situation in Lansing and saying:

In Dryden, the issue is more troubling, as the issue in question was voted on at their last meeting. There, the denial of access is a done deal, as they say...

Later, on the side, [Board President Rachel Dickinson] defended the process of debating the merits of a new board member in executive session. Of course, Bob Freeman, who heads the Committee on Open Government would see it differently, she sniffed.

Not only that, the courts would too....

"Reliance on the portion of section 105(1)(f) which states that a Board in executive session may discuss the appointment... of a particular person... is misplaced," according to the New York State Supreme Court, (Gordon vs. Village of Monticello, Jan. 7, 1994).

I doubt we've heard the last of this issue.

Also on the front page, the Courier takes a look at Bethel Grove, a part of the town that's none too well connected to the town road system and often overlooked. Tony Hall looks at the event the Dryden Historical Society held in Bethel Grove last month and talks about the history of the southwesternmost corner of the Town.

There's also an article on TC3 creative writing professor Lisa Ford, whose screenplay is a semi-finalist in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Nicholl Fellowship Screen Writing Competition, and a brief article on the special election for the water and sewer districts on Royal Road, which will have seven possible voters.

The Land & People column looks at the many classical names of upstate New York, and how the naming of Dryden came from that same process.

The sports section looks at the Dryden boys' soccer team and its quest to reach the playoffs, a tough challenge at this point in the year.

Posted by simon at 7:41 PM Comment

October 9, 2004

County highway funding, accident laurel

County Legislator Martha Robertson is quoted in this morning's Ithaca Journal opposing a defeated motion to add $418,000 to the County Highway Department budget. The Journal notes that the "proposal failed by a 6-5 vote with four legislators absent," but doesn't list which legislators voted which way, or even which were present. The highway department budget already includes four new staff members, received had a $250,000 capital budget increase for road reconstruction earlier this month, and would have added to the $1.3 million already in the budget.

In Darts & Laurels, Ithaca resident Mikel Cary thanks everyone who helped him during a September 30th accident in front of NYSEG, including Dryden Ambulance, the county sheriff's department, and New York State Police.

Posted by simon at 8:44 AM Comment

Last-chance voter registration

There will be a last-chance voter registration session today from 2-9pm at the Dryden Town Hall (map) and at other town and city halls in the county.

(Yes, I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but this is the last day I can post this.)

Posted by simon at 10:27 AM Comment

October 10, 2004

Seward Town Hall in Dryden

New York State Senator James Seward held a Town Hall meeting in the Dryden Village Hall on Thursday night, addressing an audience of about twenty people, taking public questions, and then having private sessions afterward. (I've tried to be as complete as possible, making this a really long discussion, so I've highlighted a word or phrase in each paragraph if you want to browse rapidly.)

State Senator Jim Seward describes his district
State Senator Jim Seward describes the shape of his district.

Seward began by describing the shape of his district and how far he has to drive to meet people, an odd reminder of how severely the state has gerrymandered legislative districts. After the introduction, Seward turned his attention to recent legislative affairs, starting by saying that "any discussion of the '04 session has got to start and really end with the budget."

Seward noted that the budget didn't pass until August 11th, pointing out that a July 30th deadline set by the courts to resolve the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's lawsuit regarding school funding hasn't helped. While the CFE suit was focused on funding (or the lack thereof) for New York City schools, Seward felt that the issues it addressed should apply more broadly to "high-need low-wealth areas," including upstate. Seward would prefer to see the legislature in control of these issues than the 3-person panel appointed by the courts.

While Seward had few kind words to say about the budget (and said nothing about the fact that the Senate hasn't yet met to consider overriding Pataki's budget vetoes, continuing uncertainty), he was enthusiastic about the budget reforms currently being pushed through as a constitutional amendment. The legislature has passed it once, will (presumably) pass it again after the next election, and put it on the November 2005 ballot for voters to approve. The state will then have an independent budget office, start its budget process earlier, and have a fiscal year that starts May 1st, after the critical April 15th tax deadline, with a contingency budget in the wings. School aid will also be figured every two years rather than every year.

Seward gave an overview of the state's $101.3 billion budget, describing it as "pro-education," adding $750 million to school aid and giving districts a minimum of a 1.75% increase in operating aid. It also preserved the STAR program for property tax reduction, restored $200 million to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), and included capital aid for SUNY and CUNY colleges, including TC3's proposed expansion. While Governor Pataki vetoed the TC3 money, Seward said the legislature was "currently in discussions with the governor to take care of some of these worthy projects."

He brought up general concerns with the rate of increase in property taxes, saying that while New York's state tax level isn't unusual among states, adding local taxes, especially property taxes, makes it a high-tax state. He cited the need for Medicaid reform in particular, discussing a Senate Task Force that had proposed 41 changes but had only been able to enact a few. The state is starting to pick up the cost of Family Health Plus, saving Tompkins County $90,000 this year, and $720,000 next year. Seward also discussed issues in the state pension system, which has faced rising premiums as the stock market declined, and the prospects for other reforms Seward would like to see, including changes to the Wickes law mandating multiple contractors on government projects and liability reform. Seward would like to see an outright ban on unfunded mandates from the state.

Seward discussed some other financial issues, including the Empire Zone program, which they extended despite growing concerns of abuse and Assembly hearings on the matter. He noted that the legislature had added the CHIPS highway program back into the budget, sending $35 million to counties around the state, as well as funding for public health, nursing homes, and hospitals, with a doubling of the tax credit on insurance premiums for long-term care insurance. (Long-term care insurance helps reduce later Medicaid costs to the state.)

Seward also brought up the growing issue of reform in New York State government, saying he was pleased to be a member of the Senate Majority Task Force on Government Reform, "looking at opening the legislative process, look at all aspects of state government, address the issues of capital gridlock." He has previously supported measures for more citizen initiatives and referenda, as well as public disclosure of all legislative spending every six months.

Among the possible reforms Seward mentioned were the ending of voting without the member being present in the chamber, allowing half a committee to request public hearings without the approval of the committee chairman, more direct pathways for bills to go from committees to the floor. Seward also suggested "an idea just off the top of my head" for conference committees to proceed without the leadership having to create them.

After his presentation, Seward took questions from the audience. The first question, from Laura (whose last name I didn't get) was about the ever-growing cost of healthcare, noting that she was charged $23 for a plastic kidney-shaped basin for vomit during a hospital stay. Seward, who is the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Insurance, said he would look into it. He's more focused on insurance, but also interested in the underlying costs.

I asked the next question:

"I'm happy to hear that you're a member of the Senate Task Force on Reform, but my understanding is that every Republican Senate member is a member of that task force... so why should we take this as anything more than cynical election-year talk?"

Seward said he "didn't consider it such", while acknowledging that every senator was on the task force and pointing to Senate Majority Leader Bruno's press release. Seward continued that "sometimes the sun, the moon, and stars, you see them lining up so that something happens, and I see them lining up on this," promising a report by the end of the year - "the word has reached the capital loud and clear." The only especially promising thing he said (from my perspective) was that "we don't want to come back next year and say nothing's been done." We'll see, next year.

The next questioner, Karen Fuller, had tough questions for Seward about mental health. First she asked about the governor's vetoing $7.7 million for mental health from the state budget, and the prospect for overrides. Senator Seward replied that while they're taking a "non-confrontational approach" with the governor, he felt that mental health was a growing concern:

"When it comes to the mental health funding in particular... we've gone through a cycle of de-institutionalization, having people out in the community rather than institutionalized. My concern there is that people get released out into the community into what is sometimes what I call a "phantom" local system of... mental health services. Often there are huge waiting lists... In any event, if you just want to talk about the dollars and cents of it, it's much cheaper to have people in the community than maintained in an institution, and I think it's better for them as well, in most cases, with some exceptions obviously. I think we've got to beef up that local community-based system so we can take these people safely in the community."

Fuller also asked a question more particular to the insurance committee he chairs, and the watering down of Timothy's Law, which seeks to establish parity between physical and mental health insurance, by adding requirements that parity only apply in cases of a biological cause for the mental health issue, and not for cases where abuse or other social problems caused them. Fuller personalized the issue dramatically, reading from a homework assignment her daughter had written about her own problems and her own regular encounters with an insurance system - the state employees' system at that - which only seems to pay for short-term "stabilizing," not for the time needed to address issues longer-term.

Karen Fuller reads her daughter's writing to Senator Seward
Karen Fuller reads her daughter's writing to Senator Seward.

While encouraging Fuller to talk directly with his office and saying "I appreciate your testimony," Seward didn't answer the question of parity directly, instead citing a "balancing act" and the Senate's concern that parity would cause an increase in insurance premiums, "so great that people drop out of the insurance systems... we don't want to aggravate the uninsured problem."

Martha Ferger of Dryden asked whether it would be possible to tax soft drinks with a sin tax like those applied to alcohol and tobacco, as they seem to have real health risks and could be a good source of revenue. Seward said it was an interesting idea, an emerging issue.

Harry Dillo of Caroline (I don't think I got his name right) asked the Senator about the possibility of eliminating property taxes on houses as a source of school revenue, saying that "government is becoming the enemy of homeowners." Seward noted that the STAR program currently shifts $3 billion from property taxes to the state, but that half the $30 billion spent on education statewide comes from property taxes. While he'd like to change it, he thinks it won't happen overnight, though he sees "property tax as issue number one." The income tax rate would have to "go up so high" to fix the problem that it will take time.

Martha Ferger asked Senator Seward about his vote against raising the state minimum wage, which Seward said he'd rather see done nationally to avoid the state being disadvantaged. Ferger pointed out that most of these jobs are service jobs, and "no one will go to McDonalds' in Pennsylvania."

Seward replied that:

"My concern is - and this is what I'm hearing from employers - if we have the minimum wage too high here in New York... frankly, my fear is that there will be fewer employment opportunities, particularly for unskilled young people that they're going to get priced right out the market.

"Someone once told me that 'you don't set the minimum wage as a legislator' - he said Wal-Mart sets the minimum wage because whatever Wal-Mart or any other large employer may be paying, other employers have to match that, in order to attract anyone at all."

Seward also questioned the existence of minimum-wage jobs in Tompkins County, but audience members brought up examples.

County Legislator George Totman expressed similar fears, saying that:

"I'm against changing the minimum wage because I think it will hurt a lot of the young people and a lot of the older people. The reason I say that is my youngest son used to be manager of four McDonalds' stores, and I walked in there one day and saw a little old lady who used to work for me, cleaning tables and things like that, and she wasn't there really for the money. It was for something to do.

I've seen a lot of people, older people, at McDonalds, greeting people things like that - and if they change that minimum wage thing, those people will not have a job. The people we're trying to protect, we're going to misuse them by changing the minimum wage. If they were, like this lady back here says, they only get $5.15 an hour, she says she only worked there six months because she wanted to get something better, she can do that. But for a starter, for young kids, if they don't want to go to work for $5.15 an hour, they can take someplace else. But I don't think we should abuse our young and old people - the middle class people can find other jobs - but the young people and the old people need a job. Some people - it isn't always for money, but for something to do."

While admitting that "I'm surprised that you can get someone to come in the door for $5.15," Seward said he expected they "would quickly move up. The market, I would assume, would dictate that. Obviously, in this day and age, no one can pay rent, a mortgage, food, and raise a family on minimum wage." He said this was an issue they'd continue to consider.

Afterward, Seward met with people from the audience individually.

Posted by simon at 12:14 PM Comment

October 11, 2004

Energy costs, environmental committees

This morning's Journal has very little specific to Dryden, but does include an article on a subject that affects us and a letter from the town on that subject: energy.

Last week, the Journal published an article on a 15% increase in electricity rates for the 90% of NYSEG customers on the fixed-rate plan. Today, there's a letter from Robert Pass (identified as NYSEG, Town of Dryden) responding to that article. It doesn't appear to contest any of the claims made in the article, but explains the delivery/supply distinction on customers' bills, concluding with a note about how often the fixed-rate plan changes:

"Despite theses changes, effective Jan. 1, NYSEG's fixed-price option will again provide customers with price certainty: A frozen price for electricity delivery and supply for the next two years."

The Journal also reports today on the increases in heating costs forecast for this year, with fuel oil customers facing the stiffest increases.

Also, two county environmental boards are seeking new members. The Environmental Management Council and the Water Resources Council have positions opening in January 2005. Both have at-large seats available as well as seats with more specific purposes.

Posted by simon at 8:05 AM Comment

October 12, 2004

October meetings

The Town of Dryden has updated the public notices page for October. (I'm late posting this, I know.)

  • The Zoning Board of Appeals meets tomorrow, Wednesday, October 13th, at 7:30 pm.
  • The Recreation Commission met last night at 6:00 pm, at the Recreation Department Office (map). Sorry!
  • The Conservation Board is meeting tonight, October 12th, at 7:30 pm.
  • The Town Board is meeting at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 14th. The full agenda for the meeting is available. The Environmental Planner's report and the discussion items look interesting. Trails appear in both places, there are water issues, an item about "Brush/Tree Removal by NYSEG", and more.
  • The Youth Commission will meet next on October 19th at 7:00pm.
  • The Planning Board is meeting at 7:00 pm on Thursday, October 21st 28th (update) at the Dryden Village Hall (map).

Unless otherwise noted, all meetings listed here are at the Dryden Town Hall (map).

(Thanks to David Weinstein and Bambi Hollenbeck for updates on the date and location of the Planning Board meeting.)

Posted by simon at 8:48 AM Comment

Congressional candidate Miller coming Saturday

Congressional candidate Jeff Miller will be in Ithaca on Saturday, October 16th from 2:00 to 4:00pm, at the Mural Lounge in the Clinton House (map). The session will be a chance to hear from the candidate and talk with him about concerns for the district and the country.

(Miller is a Democrat running for the 24th Congressional District seat currently held by Republican Sherwood Boehlert.)

Posted by simon at 12:57 PM Comment

Hammond Hill trail restored

Ann Leonard, who organized the Hammond Hill Block Party in August wrote to report that the work is now finished:

The work on Yellow One is complete! The DEC has finished spreading gravel where we agreed it needed it, and now, all we need to do is exercise a small amount of patience for about a week to let the gravel settle and harden. Foot traffic is fine already, horses and bikes should wait so that we don't rut and chop it up. There is one spot where I am going to go move a teensy bit of gravel or dirt to cover a tree's roots where they cross the path, and fill a rut that travels down the middle of the trail in one spot, (this is not a criticism! just me being a fusspot) but the whole trail is really lovely now. No more mud!

It truly is beautiful. Come see it! =) I couldn't be happier with the results.

A huge thanks to the guys at the DEC for all their hard work. It is greatly appreciated, and yellow one is now a pleasure to travel on.

Revived Yellow One Trail
Revived Yellow One Trail in Hammond Hill State Forest.

Posted by simon at 8:00 PM Comment

Fall foliage

While visiting Yellow Trail One, I took a lot more pictures of fall foliage around the Hammond Hill area. Feeling adventurous, I drove down Star Stanton Road past the warning that the road was abandoned, and then turned south along a forest access road that eventually led me to Canaan Road in the Town of Caroline.

I was a little concerned that I was going to have another encounter with a tow truck, as my seven-year-old Saturn isn't really equipped for off-road adventures, but I made it. Even when it looked like I was genuinely in the middle of nowhere, there was traffic - I backed up to a spot where I could get off the road to let another car go by. Strange.

Along the forest access road
Along the forest access road.

I've posted my set of fall foliage pictures, including pictures along the Yellow One Trail.

Posted by simon at 8:12 PM Comment

October 13, 2004

Swimming in Dryden; voter registration up

Cathy Wakeman reports on the Dryden Aquatic Racing Team (DART), a competitive swimming program held at the Dryden High School Pool from 6:30 to 8:00pm four nights a week. She also notes that Friday will be busy at Dryden High School:

  • The Dryden Sertoma Soccer Program has a Spaghetti Supper from 5:30 to 7:30pm;
  • The Dryden High Drama Club will be presenting Romeo and Juliet at 7:00pm (and again on Saturday);
  • There will be a silent auction benefiting the senior class;
  • Dryden football will be playing Norwich.

Finally, Wakeman announces a community roundtable being held by the Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund on Wednesday, October 27th at TC3.

The Monitor mentions two DWI arrests in Dryden. One was on Route 13, the other on Fall Creek Road.

At the county level, voter registrations have climbed dramatically this year, with 5,000 registrations since April 1st. The table of voters in the print edition isn't included online, unfortunately, but my brief extract below may give a summary of some of the change:

Party199820002004% change
Total Voters45,86750,89154,29518.3%

Note that the totals don't quite work, as I've left out parties with fewer than 500 registrations (Conservative, Liberal, Right To Life, and Working Families), but you get a broad picture. (For the Greens, I can't calculate a percentage since they had no registrations in 1998, but it's definite a dramatic growth rate.)

Finally, on the opinion page, the Journal's editorial, suggests re-examining the structure of policing in Tompkins County. It's an interesting idea, though it has a strange counterpoint in the print edition's State Briefs about Erie County telling towns they have to pay for sheriff's service or have no policing.

Posted by simon at 8:47 AM Comment

October 14, 2004

Political days

As we get closer to the election, more and more of the news is political. The Journal today mentions Congressional candidate Jeff Miller's stop in Ithaca this coming Saturday, October 16th, at 2:00pm in the Mural Lounge in the Clinton House (map). I've also posted a flyer for the event (272K PDF) if you'd like more information. Miller will also be at the Brooktondale Apple Festival from 12:30pm-1:30pm.

The Journal's editorial, "A vote cast is never wasted," mentions the Town Justice election in Dryden this year, as well as the question of Tompkins County joining Off-Track Betting, before focusing on the national race. Their conclusion: "The only votes that are 'thrown away' are the ones that are not cast by eligible voters."

Posted by simon at 8:35 AM Comment

October 15, 2004

Dryden budget; Miller visit tomorrow

Ithaca Journal reporter Jennie Daley provides details on a subject that wasn't addressed directly at last night's meeting: the budget, and a likely 7% tax levy increase. Highway equipment, recreation, and a decline in state and federal aid are all cited as factors. There will be a budget meeting Monday, October 25th, at 5:00pm at the Neptune Hose Company (map)

Jeff Miller's visit tomorrow - at 2:00pm in the Mural Lounge in the Clinton House (map) - gets both a notice in the Journal and a letter from County Legislator Martha Robertson. Robertson writes that:

"Last spring PushBack, the bipartisan citizens' group that lobbies against unfunded state and federal mandates, met with Congressman Boehlert. We wanted to express our frustration with federal actions that raise our local property taxes. I fully expected a tough argument, but I wasn't prepared for the Congressman's patronizing aggressiveness.

"Of course, a politician's performance in one meeting with citizens is only a tiny part of how he serves his constituents. But I believe it can be very revealing of his basic attitudes about the people he is supposed to represent."

and promises that "Jeff Miller will bring openness and new ideas to Congress." For more on the event, see this flyer for the event (272K PDF).

Posted by simon at 8:39 AM Comment

October 16, 2004

County budget sorting out

The county budget is coming to a conclusion, but it sounds like a muddle. Capital spending issues, especially for the jail and highways, drove the budget beyond the 3% levy increase cap. $48,000 for a half-time prosecutor, which seems to be the same money that led to last year's "Dentes Snuffs Drug Court" headline, was added Friday, along with $200,000 more for highways. County Legislator Martha Robertson doesn't sound happy:

"I don't like the signal we are sending here," said Martha Robertson, D-Dryden. "You ask for sky and at least you will get Mount Everest."

On the opinion page, Dryden's Neptune Hose Company gets a laurel for helping put out a barn fire in Harford, and there's a piece opposing the upcoming referendum on Off-Track Betting in Tompkins County by Newfield County Legislator Daniel Winch.

Posted by simon at 9:39 AM Comment

October 17, 2004

Congressional candidate Jeff Miller visits

Congressional candidate Jeff Miller came to Ithaca yesterday and spoke to a group of us from the 24th Congressional District. (At one point we'd considered having the event in Dryden, as he was going from an event in Cortland to one in Owego, but since the district goes across the lake to Trumansburg and Geneva, Ithaca made sense as a meeting place even though it's in the 22nd District.)

Jeffrey Miller speaks
Congressional candidate Jeffrey Miller speaks while County Legislator Martha Robertson and Tompkins County Democratic Chair Irene Stein listen.

After a brief introduction by County Legislator Martha Robertson, Miller took the stage, and spoke bluntly. While noting that his opponent, Sherwood Boehlert, "may once have been a moderate Rockefeller Republican," Miller argued that his votes over the last few years - on the environment, on Medicare, and on abortion - had all shifted to better match the more conservative elements of the Republican majority in Congress. Miller felt he would be in a better position to represent the district's interests.

Some of the ideas he had specific to the district included a heavy emphasis on transportation, especially the I-81 corridor coming down from Ottawa, the "Silicon Valley of Canada", and high-speed rail along the Thruway corridor. He wants to shift Medicare and Medicaid costs off of local government, funding them through the income tax basis rather than property taxes. He pointed out that Boehlert had sent out a flyer championing his support for making President Bush's tax cuts permanent at the same time that his local school district was facing a tax revolts against the burden of property taxes, and Boehlert didn't seem to realize there was any kind of connection. He was also concerned that plans to make Rome airport a regional hub didn't have much hope of economic success, but was heartened by recent planning in the Syracuse area (707KB PDF).

County Legislator Mike Lane asked about the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the electronic voting machines going into many states. Miller started with his concerns that "a company that builds ATMs that will give you a paper receipt can't seem to come up with a paper trail for voting machines.... In Florida, after the hurricanes, I'm not so worried about people hacking the machines as the power grid going down." Miller admitted that "I may be old-fashioned, but I like the idea of indelible ink and paper... certainly the Canadians have survived with such a system." (Despite all the time I've spent with computers, and my finding the New York mechanical voting booths fascinating, I'll admit that I too would much rather see paper and pen.)

On one of Boehlert's strong issues, science, Miller did credit Boehlert - "he has delivered science dollars, that we can't deny" - but felt that Boehlert hadn't done much about the "Bush adminstration manipulating data, hiding research, squashing research."

Peter Davies of Dryden asked Miller about the Senate's recent passage of a huge set of tax breaks, including an end to duties on ceiling fans from China (a favor to Home Depot) and a NASCAR track being classified as a "production facility." Miller wants to see these new loopholes stopped and old ones closed. He suggested that Boehlert's support for making Bush's tax cuts permanent was his "one point economic plan." He noted that his (and Boehlert's) home county is asking the state for permission to hike its sales tax 1.75%, to 9.75%, as costs have become more local. He said of the Republicans that "they act like they never heard of the income tax," and that while "one of the great things about America is that you can earn as much money as you want," those who have the most do best when times are good and suffer least when times are bad.

Dan Konowalo of Lansing asked Miller about his plans for farmers, suggesting that he'd do well to address the problem of farmers paying $1.30-$1.40 for every dollar of services they receive. Miller agreed that farmers have tax problems, along with increasing energy and healthcare costs. He also wanted to see better ways for farmers to take advantage of the benefits of incorporation without putting their farm - often their home - at risk.

Miller also argued that Boehlert's last four primaries had left him in debt to the conservative wing of the party, as Boehlert had scrambled to bring in luminaries, most notably Newt Gingrich, and raise money where he could.

At the end of the questions session, Miller extended his best wishes to Boehlert, who is recovering from a triple-bypass operation, while noting that it had made for a strange campaign, with Miller and Conservative David Walrath showing up at events without Boehlert - or even a surrogate. He's hoping to finally see Congressman Boehlert again at events in the closing week of the race.

Posted by simon at 2:39 PM Comment

New York State slush funds move Dryden graves

The Syracuse Post-Standard has a special report on New York State slush funds, including a story that mentions moving 47 graves in a cemetery in Dryden. I suspect I'm happier about that than air-conditioning for a golf dome in Tonawanda, and I wonder if there's a connection to this July article in the Dryden Courier.

For a picture of how these funds - one each for the Assembly, Senate, and Governor - work, and where their borrowed monies come from, see this illustration (298KB PDF). It's pretty stunning - and remember, this money is borrowed without having to ask the voters to approve the borrowing, because it's creatively funneled through various Authorities. Since the spending for the money isn't specified in the budget, each member of New York's entrenched ruling triumvirate - Pataki, Bruno, and Silver - has their own private discretionary fund.

I'll watch for more on the Dryden cemetery.

(Thanks to NYCO's blog for the heads-up.)

Posted by simon at 7:37 PM Comment

October 18, 2004

Time at Toads

Once again, I've been slow getting to covering the Dryden Courier, though I enjoyed reading it last week. The lead article, "Restaurant Doubles as 'Freeville Central' for Locals" visits Toad's, on Route 38 in Freeville. It's not a restaurant review, but rather a look at a place where people come to talk, and of course eat!

There's also an article on students playing the LeMoyne College Stock Market Game at Dryden High School. The game lets students make bets on the stock market, though no real money is involved. They start with $100,000 with which they buy stocks. Last spring Dryden's best team made a 54.5% return on their investments at a time when most market indicators were down. Dryden teams have won the event four times since 1999.

In the columns, Harry Weldon describes a trip to Norwich he took with Dryden Senior Citizens.

(In case you're curious where to find the Courier, it's pretty widely available in the Village of Dryden. The furthest west I've found it is the Sunoco station on the overlap of Routes 13 and 366.)

Posted by simon at 8:46 AM Comment

More on NYS slush

The Syracuse Post-Standard continues its series on the slush funds of the governor, Senate, and Assembly by looking at the "give and take" of political contributions and money rolling out of Albany. Our State Senator Seward gets mentioned for steering $100,000 to a museum that's building a $200,000 replica of Governor Pataki's grandmother's Irish cottage.

One other piece of this story that I forgot to mention yesterday was a per-capita breakdown of where these funds go. Tompkins County received $313.42 per person. Neighboring Schuyler got $264.84 per person, Chemung got $61.11, Seneca got $49.49, Cortland got $15.84, Cayuga got $10.37, and Tioga got nothing. Tompkins County's total was $30,245,000, and its per-capita take was second only to Albany County, which got $837.04 per person.

While it's nice that the state is taking such an interest in Tompkins County, it might be better if they could do it within the bounds of more traditional accounting. The Post-Standard will have a complete list of 1720 projects tomorrow, so more details are on the way.

Posted by simon at 7:10 PM Comment

Water issues of all kinds

Although it's not yet clear what the cause of or the solution to water problems along Ellis Hollow Road might be, those problems were a major topic of discussion at last Thursday's Town Board meeting.

Charles Demotte discussed in Citizens' Privilege how increased activity since the quarry near his house changed hands four years ago seemed to correspond to changes in their water quality. They've installed a water filter, and have to change the filter every two months, more often when the water level is low. Demotte said that:

"We believe this is directly related to the extent of operations at the quarry.... because they do a lot of washing of stone, grinding and so forth, a lot of that silt is leaking into the groundwater. We're obviously very concerned."

Councilman Chris Michaels asked what color the silt was - Demotte said it was a gray clay silt. Michaels had seen a whitish lubricant at the quarry, where he is a frequent customer, but was glad that that didn't seem to be getting in the water. Demotte had seen that in drainage ditches, but not in his well filter.

Demotte addresses Town Board
Charles Demotte describes water problems before the Town Board.

Later in the meeting, the Board returned to Ellis Hollow residents' water difficulties. Harold and Janet Purdy described the problems they had had with something like "volcanic dust" in the last year and a half, after thirty-five years living there without problems.

Environmental Planner Deb Gross has been doing research, based on information Martha Robertson collected from responses to an ad she placed in the Ellis Hollow Gazette last spring, and has also been talking with the US Geological Survey. Gross would like to create a standard form for collecting information about water complaints and to talk with residents more actively. It didn't seem likely to the USGS that silt would be coming from the quarry itself, but but they couldn't rule out some connection. There was discussion about the washing ponds and the quarry's generally larger use of water over the last few years.

The initial answer seems to be to talk with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees the quarry's operating permit. In response to a question, County Legislator Martha Robertson noted that Ellis Hollow Road is scheduled for major work by the county in 2006.

Earlier in the meeting, the town approved a SEQR negative declaration for water tanks being built on Hungerford Hill Road off Ellis Hollow in the Town of Ithaca, and called a public hearing on the matter. There was also mention of changes in Bolton Point water rates to come.

The board also discussed questions of flow-testing with engineer Dave Putnam. Bolton Point hasn't done formal flow-testing (they only have records for three hydrants), but they do flush all the dead-ends once a year, "an unrecorded flow test." Putnam mentioned a flow model the town had built years ago that might help predict what flow would come through which hydrants. The model was apparently built before the Turkey Hill district was added. Stelick was concerned that the town didn't have more data, and didn't seem reassured by Putnam's report that there is no standard for how frequently to test, though Putnam's discussion of the advantages of concrete pipes and annual flushing was promising.

There was also a hitch in the eight-person special elections for the Royal Road water and sewer districts. According to Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins, the election commissioners, both Democratic and Republican, at the Tompkins County Board of Elections, have:

"I think contrary to specific provisions in Town law, have taken the position that they don't want us to appoint their inspectors, which we pay by the way, to be the inspectors here at the Town Hall thinking there will be too much confusion when eight additional people come here to vote. I've taken a hard line with them about it; I have a call in to the Deputy Commissioner of the State Board of Elections. I think they're being very unreasonable.... So I will keep you apprised."

Perkins didn't expect this problem to disrupt the election overall, and the Board passed a resolution appointing the BOE inspectors to be inspectors for the Royal Road election.

There was a brief discussion near the end of the meeting about the possibility of buying additional sewer capacity at the Cayuga Heights plant in case of Dryden's use growing. Apparently the town is using 7000 gallons right now and has 40,000 gallons of spare capacity, so there wasn't much interest.

Posted by simon at 7:59 PM Comment

October 19, 2004

Sample ballot, and other politics

Today's Ithaca Journal notes that sample ballots are available from the Tompkins County Board of Elections. The Dryden ballot can be viewed online here (46KB PDF).

There's an article on a variety of web sites pushing reform of New York State government, though my favorite isn't mentioned: NYCO's Blog, which regularly links these and articles from across the state. (She covers national politics, the old Erie Canal, and a lot of other subjects too.)

On the opinion page, the Journal encourages readers to visit the Attorney General's prescription drug price comparison site. Peter Littman of Dryden challenges Vice-President Cheney's comments at the vice-presidential debate, concluding that "Cheney's lie during the debate wasn't the first one he's told, and it wasn't the biggest."

Posted by simon at 8:32 AM Comment

Where the slush goes, and some of why

The Syracuse Post-Standard continues its series of articles on the Governor's, Senate's, and Assembly's borrowed slush fund money, concluding with a list of 1720 recipients since 1997. Highlights include:

The lists of recipients are broken down by region, and Tompkins County is unsurprisingly in the Finger Lakes Region. Cornell University got $25,000,000 (of $30,245,000 total for the county) in a single grant, along with $2.8 million in a variety of other grants. In Dryden, TC3 got $75,000, and the Willow Glen Cemetery Association got $80,000.

I've called Cornell and TC3 for more information about where the money went, but it may take them a while to respond. I was happy to call the Willow Glen Cemetery Association and get a straight answer from Brad Perkins, their president:

"the money was applied for to compensate the cemetery for relocating 47 graves and reconstructing that part of the cemetery because the DOT was moving a road on the west side of the cemetery."

(I'll have more on what's happening at the cemetery in a future article.)

My suspicion is that most of the money went to good causes, probably in large part to projects that fell through the usual funding cracks. The problem, of course, isn't with what the money was spent on, but rather where it came from: bonds issued by authorities to avoid state borrowing rules, and administered by the leaders of the Senate and Assembly, or the governor.

Posted by simon at 12:17 PM Comment

Stone Circle School open house Saturday

Tonya Engst writes to report that:

Stone Circle School is having a fall open house on Saturday October 23 from 1-3 PM, with a sample morning circle at 2 p.m. All are welcome to visit the 160-year-old school house, enjoy the unusual natural surroundings, and meet the teachers. Stone Circle School is a Waldorf-inspired elementary school for grades 1 through 5. The school is located at 399 Turkey Hill Road (map), and more information is available by calling 273-5184 or visiting http://www.stonecircleschool.org/.

Posted by simon at 5:54 PM Comment

October 20, 2004

New Dryden Intermediate principal, gift box drive

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on Sandra Sherwood, the new Dryden Intermediate School principal, who came to Dryden from Marathon this September.

In the Our Towns section, there's a report (with complete directions for how to participate) on the "Home of the Brave" gift box drive at Dryden Veterans Memorial Home. Donors should bring items, possibly in shoe boxes, with the top and box wrapped separately, and drop them off at the DVMH on Route 13, Monica Whyte at 3B Deibler Drive in Freeville, Willowbrook Manor, or Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES. Checks are also accepted, payable to the American Legion Christmas Fund.

This article doesn't seem to have made the online edition, so here are two key paragraphs on what goes in those boxes:

Some of the most requested items include writing paper and envelopes, batteries, and fun items like nerf balls and playing cards.

Other items Ferguson suggests are toilet paper, gel shaving cream, disposable razors, dental floss, toothbrush w/cap, deodorant, soap, baby wipes, cotton swabs, lotion, comb and brush, sun block, aloe vera gel, lip balm, eye drops, saline spray, q-tips, pain relievers, feminine hygiene products, throat lozenges, foot cream and powder, moleskin, laundry soap (single load size), chewing gum, hard candy, cookies, nuts, sunflower seeds, granola bars, trail mix, small bags of snacks, goggle style sunglasses, eyeglass wipes, duct tape (military green, tan, black, gray), electric tape, flashlights with a red lens and shoe polish kits.

The print edition also has a notice that the Zoning Board of Appeals is looking for a new member. If you're interested, call Henry Slater at 844-9120.

There's another article on redistricting in the Ithaca City School District, which could affect the southwest corner of Dryden. Cayuga Heights Elementary is mentioned in particular for crowding, and I know my immediate area sends its children there, though I can't find a simple map online of which areas go to which schools. The ICSD does a part of their site dedicated to redistricting.

The race for US Senator from New York State came near Dryden last night, as candidates debated at Cornell University. I went to it, but there wasn't a lot to report from a strictly Dryden perspective. Apart from one question about agriculture and the upstate economy, pretty much all of it was focused on national issues. I can't say the debate changed my mind about much, though it was very strange to experience an "audience must be silent" event.

Candidates at the senatorial debate
Candidates for senator Schumer, O'Grady, and Mills.

On the opinion page, the Journal's editorial discusses manufactured housing, while Maureen Brull of the Town of Dryden writes to say that "with all this clamor about whether Kerry's comments about Cheney's daughter were offensive, we have taken our eyes off the real issues facing this country, such as an immoral war, health insurance and loss of jobs."

Posted by simon at 8:39 AM Comment

The SlushMap

NYCO's Blog now has an amazing map of New York showing how much state slush fund money counties received, building on data from the recent Post-Standard series.

As she points out in the article about it, it's kind of odd that Tompkins County got got $313.42 per person while to our southeast Tioga County got zero. (Even if the single huge $25 million grant to Cornell is subtracted, Tompkins still gets $54.35 per person.)

As I said yesterday, the money's nice to have and likely going to good causes, but it's pretty clear that borrowed money distributed so as to reinforce the gridlock in Albany is a really bad way to fund projects.

Posted by simon at 7:17 PM Comment

October 21, 2004

Town budget meetings

The Town of Dryden's Public Notice page announces three upcoming Town Board meetings, two of which are explicitly budget meetings:

  • There will be a budget workshop Monday, October 25th, at 5:00pm at the Neptune Hose Company (map)
  • A budget hearing will be held November 4th at 7:00pm at the Dryden Town Hall [Update: The budget hearing has moved to the Village Hall (map).].
  • The board's regular meeting will be held November 11th at 7:00pm at the Dryden Town Hall (map).

The Planning Board is also meeting late this month, at 7:00pm on October 28th in the Dryden Village Hall (map).

Posted by simon at 8:53 AM Comment

Model rockets and water issues

This week's Dryden Courier leads with an article on model rocketry's role in the fifth-grade science curriculum at Dryden Intermediate School. Students start with a simple rocket blown off the end of a straw, then to Alka-Seltzer rockets, and finally to the hobbyists' model rockets with solid-fuel engines. Students both build and launch the rockets, learning math and physics along the way.

The water problems in Ellis Hollow also make the front page. Tony Hall quotes extensively from people who spoke at the last Town Board meeting, discusses the town's efforts to collect better information and work with the US Geological Survey, as well as talking with the Finger Lakes Stone Company. The company, which runs the quarry, says that their water use hasn't increased and that nothing they're doing likely has an effect on the water.

There's an announcement of a Dryden Town Historical Society presentation on the Dryden Grange, to be held the 28th at Neptune Hose Company. (I'll be posting that announcement in full later today.)

In sports, the Courier looks at the Dryden football team, which has had a tough few weeks and faces the defending state champions this weekend.

Posted by simon at 12:49 PM Comment

History of the Dryden Grange

A week from tonight, the Dryden Town Historical Society will be taking a close look at the organization behind Dryden Dairy Day: the Dryden Grange. Mary Hornbuckle sent this notice:

The Dryden Grange

The Grange is the nation's oldest national agricultural organization with grassroots units in 3,600 local communities in 37 states. It was formed in the years following the Civil War to unite private citizens in improving the economic and social position of the nation's farm population. The Dryden Grange 1112 has served the farming community in this area since 1907. It is one of only two town Grange units still in existence in Tompkins County (the other is in Enfield).

On Thursday, October 28, 2004, the Dryden Town Historical Society will join with the Dryden Grange in presenting a program about the history of this dynamic hometown agrarian organization. Frances Mary Schutt, a long-time Grange member, will lead the discussion focusing on the history of the Dryden Grange and the challenges facing it today. Grange related documents and photos will be on display and all past and current members are invited to share their memories.

Farming in the town of Dryden is changing and agriculture faces pressures from every direction. Granges across the country are shutting their doors. The Dryden community is fortunate to have a dedicated membership that keeps Dryden Grange 1112 strong and active. This program will appeal to all who have enjoyed the spirit of Dryden Dairy Day (an annual Grange event for the past 20 years) and the hometown atmosphere that makes living in the town of Dryden so special.

Join us on Thursday, October 28th, at the Dryden Fire Hall (corner of North Street and Neptune Drive, Dryden). The doors will open at 7 PM to view displays and the program will begin at 7:30 PM. The program is free and open to all and cider and donuts will be served.

For more information contact: Gina Prentiss (844-4691), Mary Hornbuckle (898-3461) or Frances Mary Schutt (844-8467).

Frustratingly, it conflicts with a Planning Board meeting that night. Decisions, decisions...

Posted by simon at 6:35 PM Comment

October 22, 2004

Village of Dryden projects

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on last night's Village of Dryden Board of Trustees meeting. The Trustees discussed possible grants for housing rehabilitation, sorting out issues with the Town regarding the Cortland Road Sewer District, and Christmas decorations. (The decorations committee is having an event tonight at Dryden Wines and Spirits (map) from 5:15 to 6:15pm.)

There's also an article on possible holes in the county's new emergency communications system. (None of the expected coverage gaps are in the Town of Dryden.)

Posted by simon at 8:17 AM Comment

October 23, 2004

Stone Circle School, letters

Today's Ithaca Journal is pretty quiet about Dryden. It notes today's Stone Circle School open-house from 1:00 to 3:00pm today (map), and there's a dart from Murray Cohen, who writes "The world might be better off without Saddam but it is a whole lot worse off with the terrorists his removal has spawned."

On the letters page, there's mention of an online-only letter from Dryden, but the letter itself doesn't appear to be posted. Update: They finally posted Janet Factor's letter, which responds to an earlier letter, saying that "Mr. Leed misses the point. The comparison is not between Bush and Hitler at the height of his power; it is between Bush and Hitler on his rise to power."

There's also a guest column from County Legislator Dooley Kiefer that supports the county referendum on allowing off-track betting.

Posted by simon at 11:52 AM Comment

First look at tentative Town Budget

I picked up a copy of the tentative budget at the Dryden Town Hall this week, and have to admit that it's nearly as opaque as last year's budget. I think part of it comes from its level of abstraction: the budget numbers here are department by department, with only one layer of detail explaining where the money goes. That's likely necessary to make it possible to budget, but it does make reading the thing more challenging.

Since I don't know the details of what I'm reading, I'm going to publish a list of highlights here, mainly a summary of tax rates from the front page today and a list of items that have changed substantially from the rest tomorrow. I suspect more information will be available at the town budget workshops and hearings over the next few weeks.

The main tax rate for the town, of $1.47/$1000 assessment, will remain the same. Since assessments have increased, this reflects a 7.1% increase in the tax levy. A few of the other tax rates have declined, notably the Dryden Fire tax, where the levy is down 5.3% after a 31.8% increase last year. (The rate declined 12% after a 21% increase last year.) Here's the list of easily categorized items:

FundLevy 2004Levy 2005Levy changeRate 2004Rate 2005Rate Change
Total General Warrant$846,790$906,9237.1%$1.47$1.470.00%
SF1 Dryden Fire$769,443$728,839-5.3%$1.596$1.410-12%
SL1 Varna Lighting$3,975$4,67517.6%$0.262$0.2776%
SL2 Etna Lighting$3,375$3,97517.8%$0.409$0.4326%
SL3 Meadow/Leisure Lighting$1,990$3,59080.4%$0.510$0.86670%
SM Ambulance District$224,539$246,0009.55%$0.385$0.3922%

My biggest general question with these numbers is with the way the town has separate lines for "Townwide" and "Outside" revenues and appropriations, where I believe "Outside" means outside the villages, but has a zero tax rate for "Outside". I'll have to ask, I guess.

(I believe that the Meadow/Leisure lighting district now has more lights, though I'm not certain of that.)

The water and sewer district calculations are more complicated because they divide costs across multiple factors, including units, acreage, frontage, pipe footage, and assessment. For these I've totaled up the amounts to be raised for the district (the levy) and calculated only a change in the levy. The rate changes will be lower.

DistrictTotal to Raise, 2004Total to Raise, 2005Levy Change
SS1 Sapsucker Sewer$1,200$1,92560.4%
SS2 Varna Sewer$9,520$14,80055.4%
SS3 Cortland Road Sewer$3,100$3,50012.9%
SS4 Monkey Run Sewer$86,597$90,3474.3%
SS5 Turkey Hill Sewer$56,656$62,73410.7%
SS6 Peregrine Sewer$1,493$1,70013.8%
SW1 Varna Water$5,325$5,6255.6%
SW2 Snyder Water$10,000$10,4504.5%
SW3 Monkey Run Water$88,520$90,4502.1%
SW4 Hall Road Water$385$47523.3%
SW5 Turkey Hill Water$52,275$62,17518.9%
Posted by simon at 4:15 PM Comment

October 24, 2004

Responses to Slush Funds

Today's Syracuse Post-Standard runs a followup article to the series on New York Slush Funds they ran earlier this week. Much to my surprise, I wound up quoted on the front page:

Down in Dryden, Simon St. Laurent writes a blog, an online diary about life in the Tompkins County town.

But this past week, St. Laurent's Internet diary has focused on Albany - on the slush funds Gov. George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno are using to pay for more than $1 billion in grants to favored Little Leagues, churches, private schools and multibillion-dollar corporations.

In The Post-Standard's series, "New York's Slush Funds," St. Laurent read how the state's three political leaders used money borrowed without voter approval to pay for 1,720 pork projects.

The series inspired St. Laurent to call a Dryden cemetery to ask what it did with an $80,000 Senate grant and to call Cornell University to ask about $25 million it received.

"Its the borrowing that bothers me the most," said St. Laurent, who edits books about computers. "I'm happy to have the state give Cornell or some hospital money. But it should be done through a pay-as-you-go member items."

To clarify, I don't mind odd budget items sponsored by members, but think they should have to go through the regular budget process, in public, not as gifts handed out by the leadership. They quoted me right - I just seem to have interpreted "member item" as "funding a member gets for a district," not as "a gift to a member for their district by the leadership," which is how it gets used later in the article. Also, the $25 million to Cornell seems to have gone to their Life Sciences Technology Initiative, though I haven't found anything more specific than that.

The rest of the article quotes people who know a lot more than I do, including one of the authors of the Brennan Center of Justice report on how to fix New York State legislative process (405KB PDF).

There's also an AP story on general frustration in the state with Albany.

They also have a series of articles on the race for the 24th Congressional District, with articles on Republican incumbent Sherwood Boehlert, Democratic challenger Jeff Miller, and Conservative challenger David Walrath.

Posted by simon at 10:21 AM Comment

Willow Glen Cemetery changes colors

I called the Willow Glen Cemetery Association earlier this week to ask about state funding they received, but also got to ask them about some recent changes: a new fence going up, painted maroon rather than the firehouse red of the rest of the fence.

Cemetery Association Brad Perkins confirmed that the entire fence would eventually be maroon, with cream on the picket tops, rather than the red and white combination they currently have.

New colors coming to Willow Glen Cemetery
New colors coming to Willow Glen Cemetery - cream tops on left will be standard across fence.

Contrasting the old colors with the new at Willow Glen Cemetery
Contrasting the old colors (right) with the new at Willow Glen Cemetery

Perkins also reported that with the addition of wider east and west entrances, the Cemetery Association will be restoring their main gateway to its original (narrower) configuration. If you'd like to make a donation to help with this work, send it to:

Willow Glen Cemetery Association
PO Box 299
Dryden, NY 13053-0299

Posted by simon at 10:59 AM Comment

October 25, 2004

A closer look at the budget

Looking past the front page, I went through the appropriations and revenues listed in the tentative town budget. There will be a budget workshop tonight, October 25th, at 5:00pm at the Neptune Hose Company (map) to discuss this tentative budget and turn it into a preliminary budget for the November 4th budget hearing.

Once again, it's hard to tell what this money is really for, but I went looking for items that had changed, following a rough '5% or $5000' rule. I've highlighted changes that seem especially large.

Here's a list of what I found in Townwide Appropriations:

  • Equipment for Justices is increasing from $3000 to $10,000.
  • The Town Supervisor's budget is increasing from $55,564 to $64,000. (Actual 2003 expenditure was $96,915.)
  • Personnel Services for Finance are increasing from $7155 to $8000.
  • Contractual expenditures for Engineering are increasing from $10,200 to $12,000. (They were $2,221 in 2003.)
  • The budget for elections is declining from $19,180 to $12,600. 2003 expenditures were $9787, so I'm guessing that the presidential election year forced a bump up this year.
  • Public Works equipment is going from $40,500 to $133,500.
  • Public Works contractual expenditures are going from $47,000 to $90,000.
  • General Government Support - Mapping is declining from $5550 to $4000.
  • Other Educational Activity's contractual expenditures are going from $0 to $1000. (They were $702 in 2003.)
  • Traffic Control's contractual expenditures are going from $5500 to $6000.
  • Project Impact's contracual expenditures are increasing from $0 to $500. (They were $514 in 2003.)
  • Personal services for the Superintendent of Highways are increasing from $144,657 to $119,049.
  • Street Lighting contractual expenditures are increasing from $8500 to $9200.
  • Programs for Aging contractual expenditures are increasing from $9000 to $9500.
  • Recreation Administration Personal Services are increasing from $35,900 to $48,500.
  • Recreation Administration Equipment is declining from $3000 to $1600.
  • Recreation Administration contractual expenditures are increasing from $3000 to $8800
  • The Freeville-Dryden Trail goes from $146,000 to $147,000, though I'm only mentioning this one because I wonder if it's the same money from last year being reallocated.
  • Youth Services contractual expenditures decline from $70,000 to $68,061.
  • Library funding increases from $10,000 to $10,500
  • Community Arts contractual expenditures fall from $9884 to $3600.
  • Employee benefits increase from $267,560 to $276,000.
  • Transfers to capital funds decline from $45,500 to $0. (They were $500,000 in 2003!)

In Appropriations, Outside, I find:

  • Zoning costs decline from $90,490 to $85,948.
  • Planning costs decline from $28,240 to $6500.
  • Mapping costs decline from $4000 to $1200.
  • Employee benefits fall from $90,920 to $78,920.

In Highway Appropriations - Townwide, I found:

  • Machinery costs are increasing from $533,500 to $665,500.
  • Employee benefits are increasing from $199,950 to $207,600.

In Highway Appropriations - Outside, I found:

  • Street Maintenance climbs from $281,500 to $291,000.
  • Road Construction climbs from $498,500 to $538,500.
  • Employee Benefits climb from $178,700 to $189,600.

Switching to revenues, in Townwide revenues, I found:

  • Real Property Taxes and Tax Items decline from $12,500 to $8,000. (I don't know what this line means, but it's much smaller than the main property tax line!)
  • Non-Property taxes increase from $175,749 to $262,000 on the strength of more sales tax revenue.
  • Clerk Fees increase from $1000 to $2000.
  • The Dog Surplus (?) declines from $1500 to $125.
  • Recreational charges fall from $42,685 to $20,000.
  • Recreation and culture (not sure how this is different from above line) falls from $39,780 to $20,000
  • Dog licenses increase from $8000 to $12000.
  • Sale of Property increases from $50,300 to $54,000
  • "Miscellaneous" increases from $0 to $27,825, with $2,825 in Gifts & Donations and $25,000 in Misc Revenues.
  • State Aid Per Capita climbs sharply from $13,473 to $42,440.
  • Federal Aid declines from $31,872 to $0.

In Revenues, Outside, I found:

  • Zoning Fees decline from $9500 to $3500.
  • Planning Board Fees decline from $500 to $0.
  • Interest & Earnings decline from $10,000 to $6000.
  • State Aid Per Capita declines from $25,000 to $0.
  • Federal Aid for culture & Recreation falls from $68,876 to $0.

In Highway Revenues - Outside, I found:

  • Sales Tax Received falls from $832,469 to $780,000
  • Interest & Earnings falls from $10,500 to $8000.

I'll cover districts in a separate article later today. I understand them even less than I understand what I've covered here.

Posted by simon at 8:26 AM Comment

Missing pumpkin arch

A nine-foot tall inflated lit arch with pumpkins along its sides was stolen from the Varna Community Center on Saturday night between 11pm and morning. There's a $25 reward for its safe return, and the sheriff has been contacted. If you see this arch (there's a reasonably good change it's unique in the county), contact the Varna Community Association at 272-2658.

Posted by simon at 12:46 PM Comment

Special District tentative budgets

Continuing with the tentative budget into the district budgets (fire, lighting, water and sewer), here are more details.

The fire protection budget comes as one big "Contractual Expenditures" number. It's declined from $701,145 in the 2004 budget to $649,839 in the 2005 budget. (Actual 2003 expenditures were $506,490.) I really wish this was broken down, and I'll be asking for more details. There's also a Worker's Compensation line for the district, which is climbing from $69,288 to $80,000.

The Varna and Etna lighting district expenditures and revenues are budgeted the same as they were in 2004, but the Meadow/Leisure Lane district's tentative expenditures are $3600, up from $2000.

In the ambulance district, contractual expenditures remain at $290,000, while worker's compensation rises from $14,539 to $16,000.

Across the water and sewer districts, "special assessments" have plunged to zero from as much as $44,260 in the Monkey Run Water District, while some costs have increased. I'm sure there's a general story behind the vanishing special assessments. Here's a list of items changing substantially.

  • In the Sapsucker Sewer District, contractual expenditures for Sewage Treatment and Disposal are climbing from $14,000 to $16,000. Sewer rents are projected to fall from $8800 to $6600. $1200 of Special Assessments are going away.
  • In the Varna Sewer District, $9520 of Special Assessments are going away, and sewer rents are declining from $28,500 to $25,000.
  • In the Cortland Road Sewer District, contractual expenditures for sewer administration are climbing from $1500 to $3000, and contractual expenditures for sanitary sewers are climbing from $121,000 to $125,000. $3100 in special assessments are going away, and sewer rents are declining from $121,000 to $93,500.
  • In the Monkey Run Sewer District, contractual expenditures for sanitary sewers are climbing from $10,000 to $18,500. Special assessments are falling from $43,298.50 to zero while sewer rents are increasing slightly from $9520 to $10,000.
  • In the Turkey Hill Sewer District, contractual expenditures for sanitary sewers are climbing from $4000 to $6000, while contractual expenditures for sewage treatment and disposal have increased from $2700 to $8000. An extra $5000 is going to principal (from $45,000 to $40,000) on bonds. $28,329 of special assessments are going away, though payments in lieu of taxes have increased from $4651 to $5528 and sewer rents have increased from $4642 to $8013.
  • In the Peregrine Hollow Sewer District, contractual expenditures for sanitary sewers are climbing from $2000 to $4000. $895 in special assessments are going away, while sewer rents fall from $1195 to $900.
  • In the Varna Water District, contractual expenditures for water administration climb from $700 to $2000. $3727 of special assessments are going away.
  • In the Snyder Hill Water District, contractual expenditures for transmission and distribution are increasing from $500 to $1000, while $6000 in special assessments are going away.
  • In the Monkey Run Water District, $44,260 of special assessments vanish while metered water sales increase from $1610 to $2297. A number of miscellaneous revenues fall from $700 total to zero.
  • In the Hall Road Water District, $385 in special assessments is going away. while metered sales increase from $6500 to $7000.
  • In the Turkey Hill Water District, $26,137 in special assessments have vanished, while metered water sales decline from $9489 to $8500.

Again, there will be a budget workshop tonight at 5:00pm at the Neptune Hose Company (map) to discuss this tentative budget and turn it into a preliminary budget for the November 4th budget hearing.

Posted by simon at 12:59 PM Comment

October 26, 2004

OTB in Tompkins?

Today's Ithaca Journal looks at the proposition to allow Off-Track Betting in Tompkins County that is on next Tuesday's ballot. They've had two opinion pieces on the subject in the last few weeks. This is the one part of next week's ballot for which I haven't yet made up my mind.

Briefly in Tompkins contains a number of Dryden-related items:

  • Bethel Grove Bible Church will be hosting a Post Abortion Healing Conference on Saturday from 8:30am to 5:00pm.
  • If anyone is taking Route 366 from Dryden to Ithaca, it may be good to know that Pine Tree Road will be closed tomorrow from 7:00am to 3:30pm.
  • Sample ballots are available from the Tompkins County Board of Elections. The Dryden ballot can be viewed online here (46KB PDF).

The Journal's editorial also includes election information. Today is the last day to postmark an application for an absentee or military ballot, though you can apply in person at the Board of Elections until November 1st and can return them to the Board until November 2nd. Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by November 2nd and received by November 9th, while military ballots must be postmarked by November 2nd and received by November 15th.

Posted by simon at 8:53 AM Comment

Democrats pass Republicans in Dryden registrations

Democrats have gained 239 voter registrations in the Town of Dryden since May, while Republicans have gained 99, giving Democrats a 138-vote lead in registrations. Voters with no party registration (Blank) have also increased 165.

PartyNumber (May)Number (Oct)Change
Blank (Independent)17201885+165
Working Families2026+6

There are now 8444 voters registered in the town, up from 7870 in May. Of those, 7415 of the same people were registered in May, so there's been some dropping of old names as well as adding of new ones. Of the 455 dropped, 120 were Blank, 166 were Democrats, 15 were Greens, 19 were Independence, 3 were Liberals, 131 were Republicans, and 1 was Right-To-Life.

I've put district-by-district registration counts up as a PDF (94KB).

Posted by simon at 8:15 PM Comment

October 27, 2004

New assistant principal

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that Edmund Walsh has been named assistant principal of Dryden Middle School, a newly created post. Walsh has taught English in the district for 25 years.

On the now-shrunken Our Towns page, Cathy Wakeman reports on Sertoma Soccer, upcoming meals at the Dryden United Methodist Church (November 2nd) and Neptune Hose Company (October 29th), and tomorrow night's Dryden Grange presentation from the Dryden Town Historical Society.

The Ithaca City School District continues to examine elementary redistricting, now looking at its effect on middle schools.

Briefly in Dryden notes that the Dryden Conservation Board is still looking for a new member, preferably one from the farming community.

Senator Seward has announced grants for the Tompkins County Public Library, Southworth Library, and Groton Public Library. The announcement on his site states that "The funds have been appropriated as part of the 2004-2005 state budget." I hope they came through the budget explicitly, not as slush fund items, paid with borrowed money granted by the Majority Leader's budgeted borrowing. I'm guessing (from the number of library awards listed recently on his site) that they're part of a regular state program.

Dryden boys' soccer won an overtime victory in the Section IV Class B quarterfinals yesterday.

The Monitor reports the arrest of a Dryden man for misdemeanor pot possession.

On the opinion page, the Journal endorsed incumbent Sherwood Boehlert in the 24th District congressional race, while former Ithaca City Councilman Edward Hershey writes supporting the OTB proposition on Tuesday's ballot in terms so overly simplistic that he may drive me to vote against it. When the county's considering it as a way to make money from its residents and reduce taxes for those who don't play, it's a situation that needs deeper consideration than "it has to do with freedom of choice." It's certainly good that "even if Proposition One passes, no resident of Tompkins County will be forced to place a single wager," but Hershey seems intent on ignoring that there will be community impacts from having OTB in town, not all of them positive.

Somehow I doubt OTB will open in Dryden, even if the proposition passes for the county. I'm still far from sure it'll be a good thing from Dryden.

Posted by simon at 8:46 AM Comment

Signs of the (political) times

Dryden is pretty well covered by signs about the presidential race, as well as signs for Congressional candidates Boehlert and Miller, plus the occasional Barbara Lifton sign. (I don't think I've seen signs for Jim Seward, but I'm not certain.)

These are a few of the more striking political signs I've found driving around Dryden the last few weeks, often on my way to deliver more ordinary signs.

George Bush is a reckless fool
George Bush is a reckless fool.

Love your neighbor, pray for your enemy
Love your neighbor, pray for your enemy.

Bush must go... four more years
Bush must go... four more years.

Study the issues... pray... vote your conscience.
Study the issues... pray... vote your conscience.

Once again, I think it's probably obvious that I don't endorse all of the positions displayed here.

Posted by simon at 5:43 PM Comment

October 28, 2004

Ellis Hollow silt, county planning

This morning's Ithaca Journal takes a look at the silt problems in Ellis Hollow that came up at this month's Town Board meeting. Jennie Daley talks with residents near the intersection of Turkey Hill, Ellis Hollow and Quarry Roads about their well problems, as well as with John Andersson, Environmental Health Director for the county Health Department, Deb Gross, Town of Dryden Environmental Planner, and Kevin Luce, General Manager of Finger Lakes Quarry.

There's also an article on a presentation about the county's comprehensive plan, a final version of which should be available by November for consideration by the Legislature in December.

Update: I forgot to note that the Journal's editorial endorsed Senator Charles Schumer and encouraged voters to vote against the OTB referendum.

Posted by simon at 8:18 AM Comment

October 29, 2004

Heating aid, county budget, opinions

There's not much Dryden news in today's Journal, but there's a fair amount that applies to Dryden in some way.

The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is starting up again for the winter, and the Tompkins County Office for the Aging is taking applications from those over 60 or on SSI or SSD.

The Journal reports that the Tompkins County tentative 2005 budget is available for review, and that a public hearing will be held on November 9th at 7pm at the Ithaca Town Hall (map). You can find the whole thing on the county's budget site.

In the same article, there's also a notice to people who have moved within the county that they should go to the polling place for their current address and vote by affidavit ballot.

There are two Dryden-related DWI incidents in The Monitor.

The Journal's editorial endorses John Kerry, and there are two letters from Dryden. John Steele of the Village of Freeville asks "Do you really feel that you can believe anything John Kerry says?" Jim Crawford of Freeville criticizes an earlier guest column on the OTB referendum and encourages people to "Vote 'no' on OTB next Tuesday, Nov. 2."

Posted by simon at 8:58 AM Comment

October 30, 2004

Dryden firefighters to receive awards today

At halftime during today's Cornell-Princeton football game, a number of fire fighters from the Town of Dryden and Bangs Ambulance will be receiving awards:

  • Captain Ken Vorstadt of Neptune Hose Company will be receiving the Firefighter of the Year award.
  • Jennifer Wildridge of Neptune Hose Company will be receiving the Volunteer of the Year award.
  • Chief Roy Rizzo of the Varna Fire Company will be receiving the Special Valor Award for his actions at the February 23rd incident that killed Harford firefighter Bret Neff.
  • Bangs Ambulance EMT Andrew Dean will be receiving the EMS award for spotting the February 23rd fire, coming to the scene, and for his efforts to save Neff's life.

The Board of Elections will be open this morning until noon, if you need to pick up an absentee ballot in person.

In Darts & Laurels, Paul Ferris of Dryden thanks "our hometown community of Dryden" for "the support, kindness, generosity, thoughts and prayers that you have all offered has given us great comfort during this difficult time with the passing of Michele Longo Ferris."

The opinion page, unsurprisingly, is full of letters about Tuesday's election. Dryden letters include:

  • Brian Richards of the Town of Dryden warns that "Senators Kerry and Edwards have rolled out plan after plan, but merely proposing plans does not translate into an ability to govern or lead."
  • Joyce Kantor of Freeville writes about the congressional race in the 24th district, challenging incumbent Sherwood Boehlert's record. She writes, "In 2002 conservative groups gave him a 90 percent approval rating (up from 61 percent in 1998). This is a moderate record? We need a representative who can judge issues on their merits. Let's elect Jeff Miller."
  • Linda and Buzz Lavine of the Town of Dryden argue that "Kerry has demonstrated integrity and intelligence. I believe he is a great choice: he is certainly the better choice."
Posted by simon at 7:53 AM Comment

October 31, 2004

Varna Halloween Fun

On Friday night, the Varna Community Center was overrun with bats, witches, knights, football players, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, bumblebees, and many more, as the Varna Community Association held a Halloween party.

VCA Halloween party
Halloween party at Varna Community Center

The kids got to paint pumpkins, bob for apples, decorate cookies, do a beanbag toss, and go on a hayride.

VCA Halloween party hayride
On the hayride at the Varna Community Center Halloween party.

At the end of the party, the kids got to take on a seemingly indestructible piñata, though it finally yielded its candy.

VCA Halloween party pinata
A witch attacks a ghostly piñata.

Posted by simon at 8:20 AM Comment

Decorating funds, wonderful schools, letters

This weeks' Dryden Courier takes a look at the Dryden Decorating Committee's efforts to raise funds, as they look for an additional $4,000 for wreaths to decorate village lightposts. The Village Board turned them down this time. There's also an article on psychologist Ellen deLara, who concluded after a four-month study that Dryden High School is largely a safe place, comparing favorably with other schools.

In the Letters to the Editor, Peter Davies of Dryden encourages readers to vote for change in Dryden's congressional representation, suggesting that Jeff Miller "is a forceful and eloquent speaker who will be our strong voice in Washington." Nicholas Nicastro of Dryden asks "What message might future presidents take from eight years of George Bush?" and concludes that:

"[Bush's] electoral success will inspire imitators who can pretty much count on winning the Presidency by pandering to social conservatives and evangelicals. The time is now to disabuse them of that notion."

The Courier's sister paper, the Ithaca Times, looks at redistricting in the Ithaca City School District, which will possibly affect the Varna, Ellis Hollow, and Bethel Grove areas.

Posted by simon at 2:47 PM Comment

Pie and bread sale next Saturday

For those looking ahead to life after Tuesday's election, the Dryden Town Historical Society has a treat planned for Saturday:

The Dryden Town Historical Society will hold their annual homemade Pie and Bread Sale on Saturday, November 6th, at the 1st National Bank of Dryden (Main Street, Dryden) from 9 AM until sold out (usually by 11 AM). Dryden is home to some of the best bakers in the state so come early or you'll miss out! For more information contact Mary Hornbuckle (898-3461).

Posted by simon at 9:28 PM Comment