January 1, 2005

Car chase in Dryden

This morning's Journal reports on a car chase that started near the intersection of Route 34B and Sheldon Road when the Dryden Village Police tried to stop a white Toyota pickup, which turned out to be unregistered. The driver took off heading north, crossed into Cayuga County, and was finally "stopped when stop sticks placed by police on the road punctured three of his vehicle's tires."

Tomorrow's Freeville Fire Department pancake breakfast (8:00am-11:00am) is listed, as are registrations for Dryden wrestling and volleyball.

The November report from the Tompkins County Health Department lists a number of actions in Dryden and Freeville.

Posted by simon at 9:58 AM Comment

January 2, 2005

1803 to 1812

I'm hoping to finish typing in George Goodrich's Centennial History of Dryden in 2005, though at my current pace that will probably be done around the end of the year. In this installment, Goodrich starts with an eclipse and then looks at the arrival of new settlers from 1803 to 1812, noting the tremendous population growth in this period.

There's also a strange paragraph at the end in which Goodrich extols the "superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race", but also argues that this superiority came from "the fact that it is made up of a union of different races having at no remote period the same common origin," and cheers on the further blending that has taken place in Dryden. I'm not really sure what Goodrich would have to say about the current ethnic composition of the town.

Chapter IX.

Events from 1803 to 1812.

One of the memorable occurrences of this time in the town of Dryden was the "Great Eclipse" which was witnessed June 16, 1806, when total darkness came on suddenly at mid-day, and the fowls went to their roosts as though it were night. This was the only total eclipse of the sun to be visible in this section of the country during the nineteenth century, and, as we may well imagine, it made a deep impression upon the minds of the local inhabitants, who, as we may safely say, were more superstitious and less informed upon those subjects than are we of the present age. It furnished a means of fixing dates, and old people in later years were accustomed to speak of things as having taken place before or after the "Great Eclipse," as the case might be. The immigation to the town was very rapid during this time, so much so that when the government census came to be take in 1810, it was found that the town of Dryden alone contained 1,893 inhabitants, considerably more than one-third of the number of the present population of the town.

We shall speak more particularly hereafter in connection with Dryden village, of the arrival of the Griswolds from Connecticut and the Wheelers from New Hampshire in 1802, and of Jacob Primrose and others who settled at West Dryden, when we treat of that particular locality. Thomas Southworth, a tanner and currier, originally from Massachusetts, and his son John, then ten years of age, located first at Willow Glen in 1806, and we shall have occasion to refer to them often hereafter in connection with Willow Glen, and Dryden village to which they afterward came. Rev. Daniel McArthur, from Scotland, settled in 1811, on the farm which was after his death owned and occupied by the late Ebenezer McArthur, who in his will (having no surviving children) devised it, subject to the life estate of his wife, to the town of Dryden as an addition to the school fund of the town.

At about this time a small company of emigrants from the north of Ireland, who had temporarily made a home in Orange county of this state, located in the South Hill neighborhood at a place which, from this fact, has since been known as the Irish Settlement. This colony included Hugh Thompson, who became a rigid and prominent member of the Presbyterian church in Dryden village, William Nelson, the father of Robert Nelson still residing in town, and Joseph McGraw, Sr., who in after years was known to the writer as an active, talkative, but quick-witted old man, displaying in his ready speech a rich Irish brogue. His son John, born in this "Irish Settlement" in 1815, became one of the most accomplished and successful business men which this or any other town ever produced, and his family will merit from us later a special biography. We here give the list of those, some of whom have not already been mentioned, who are known to have become inhabitants of the town before 1808, many of them being the ancestors of their now numerous descendants and of many of whom we shall again have occasion to speak when we come to mention the particular families or localities with which they are associated. The list is as follows:

Bartholomew, Jesse,Girvin, Samuel,McKee, Robert,
Barnes, Ichabod,Gray, George,Ogden,Daniel,
Brown, Zephaniah,Giles, Isaiah,Owens, Timothy,
Brown, Reuben,George, Joel,Pixley, Enoch,
Blew, Michael,Griswold, Edward,Palmerton, Ichabod,
Brown, Israel,Griswold, Abram,Rhodes, Jacob,
Brown, Obadiah,Grover, Andrew,Southwick, Israel,
Brown, Obadiah, Jr.,Hile, Nicholas,Skellinger, Samuel,
Bailey, Morris,Horner, John,Snyder, Jacob,
Bush, Peter,Hart, Joseph,Smith, William,
Carr, Job,Hollenshead, Robert, Teeter, Henry,
Carr, Peleg,Hoagland, Abraham,Van Marter, John,
Carr, Caleb,Hemmingway, Samuel,Wheeler, Seth,
Conklin, John,Jennings, Benjamin,Wheeler, Seth, Jr.,
Clark, Samuel,Jay, Joshua,Wheeler, Enos,
Callon, William,Jameson, Thomas,Woodcock, Abraham,
Cornelius, John,Lewis, Amos,Wickham, John,
Carpenter, Abner,Lewis, David,White, Richard,
Cass, Aaron,Legg, Matthew,Waldron, John,
Dimmick, Elijah,Luther, Nathaniel,Weeks, Luther,
Fortner, Lewis,Luce, Jonathan,Whipple, Ithamar,
Fulkerson, Benjamin,Mineah, John,Yeomans, Jason,
Genung, Benjamin,McKee, James,Yeomans, Stephen,

We may here properly refer to the fact that the population of Dryden, as well as of our county in general, was early made up of individuals from different, though nearly related nationalities and from localities widely separated. Ethnological scholars tell us that the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race is accounted for from the fact that it is made up of a union of different races having at no remote period the same common origin. The Saxon, Norman, Dane and ancient Briton were none of them especially distinguished as a nationality by themselves, but when united for a number of generations the result was the formation of the Anglo-Saxon race, who power and influence among the nations of the earth now surpasses all others, and whose language, it is now conceded, will in time become the universal language of the world. May we not in like manner expect great results from the development of a population whose progenitors included the McGraws, McElhenys, Nelsons, McKees and Lormors, emigrating from Ireland; the Lamonts, McArthurs, Robertsons and Stewarts direct from Scotland; the Snyders and Albrights, of Dutch, as well as the Dupee and DeCoudres families of French ancestry, while the great majority of the early settlers, the groundwork, so to speak, of the new society, were of the genuine New England Yankee stock of recent English derivation, many of them coming here from the very confines of the "Nutmeg State."

Goodrich, George B. The Centennial History of the Town of Dryden, 1797-1897. Dryden: Dryden Herald Steam Printing House, 1898. Reprinted 1993 by the Dryden Historical Society. Pages 28-30.

(The Dryden Historical Society, which sells this book, may be reached at 607-844-9209.)

Posted by simon at 10:27 AM Comment

January 3, 2005

Taxes around the county

The only explicit mention of Dryden in today's Journal is a quote from County Legislator Mike Lane, in an article about town and county tax bills going up, mostly showing an increase:

"I think we did a lot better than the last two years," Legislator Mike Lane, D-Dryden, said of this year's county budget process, "but I'm hearing from my constituents how hard this tax burden has been. We have to find a way to spread these assessments out a bit."

Among the towns, only Ulysses lowered its overall tax levy as well as its tax rate.

There's also advice from the SPCA on how to protect your pets from winter dangers.

Posted by simon at 8:02 AM Comment

January meetings

The Town of Dryden has updated the public notices page for January.

  • The Zoning Board of Appeals had a special meeting December 21st " to discuss current matters before the board" but has no meeting scheduled for January.
  • The Recreation Commission is meeting on Monday, January 10th at 6:00 pm, in the Dryden School District Office Conference Room.
  • The Conservation Board is meeting Tuesday, July 11th, at 7:30 pm. (They're still looking for two new members.)
  • The Town Board is meeting at 7:00pm on Tuesday, January 4th for an organizational meeting, and at 7:00pm on January 13th for a regular meeting. The agenda is not yet posted.
  • The Youth Commission will meet next on January 18th at 6:30pm.
  • The Planning Board is meeting at 7:00 pm on Thursday, January 20th.

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

Posted by simon at 12:28 PM Comment

January 4, 2005

New BOCES head, county legislator salaries

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES has named Ellen O'Donnell as its new superintendent. O'Donnell is currently the superintendent of the Chenango Forks Central School District.

An article on Tioga County notes that renewing your car registration by mail gives the state fees that would normally go to the county, so I'll be driving down to Ithaca in the future with mine.

The Journal's editorial takes up a new leaf. After last year's obsession with the county executive proposal, this year they take the issue of legislative pay and make it a reason to consider completely restructuring county government. They mention possibilities including a return to a Board of Supervisors system (which, with weighted voting, could make for some very strange politics), and ask "Would it be preferable for county legislative districts to radiate out from the city, so that each representative would have rural, suburban and urban constituents?" They also ask:

What about the size of the Legislature? Each of the 15 legislators theoretically represents about 7,000 constituents. But why 15 legislators? Would it be a serious dimunition of democracy if each legislator represented 14,000 people?

I think the answer to that one's pretty simple: yes, it would be a substantial diminuition. Dryden has two very active legislators of its own, and a shared legislator with Groton, and a lot of people still feel pretty disconnected. It may not be as problematic as, for instance, our state senate or congressional districts, where Dryden is very much on the edge, but I can't say I'd be thrilled to see anything that reduced our level of contact with legislators.

Posted by simon at 8:57 AM Comment

McLean activities

With the holidays, I almost missed an issue of the Dryden Courier. Fortunately, I picked one up today. (The new issue will be out tomorrow.) This past week's issue leads with a story about after-school programs for kids in McLean. 50 people showed up to an initial meeting about programs, and 25 kids came to a follow-up meeting. Cassavant Elementary School will be opening up for programs from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.

There's an article in the Groton section about Father Bernard Mumjalu, a Kenyan priest serving at the St. Anthony and Holy Cross churches for the next few months.

In state news, the Courier looks at a program for assigning ID numbers to students across New York State, which the Courier questions in its editorial.

In sports news, the Courier looks at the girls' basketball team and its 7-3 record for the season.

Posted by simon at 12:11 PM Comment

January 5, 2005

Montessori School, Varna Fire Company profile

In this morning's Ithaca Journal, Cathy Wakeman looks at the opening of the Integrative Montessori Nursery School, which will be having an open house Friday through Sunday:

The public is invited to visit and learn about this new classroom at 4 Thresher Place, off of Spring Run Road in the Yellow Barn area of Freeville. A multi-day open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, Jan. 7 through Jan. 9, or at other times by appointment. For more information, call 327-3063 or 844-8840.

In their continuing series of firehouse profiles, the Journal provides information about the Varna Volunteer Fire Company, though I think some of their information is out of date.

In an article about the difficulty of finding substitute teachers locally, the Journal quotes Dryden Central School District substitute teacher Steve Anderson.

Briefly in Tompkins notes that the Dryden Senior Citizens will have a meeting and lunch on Monday at the Dryden Fire Hall.

In county news, Dryden's county legislators split on an 8-7 vote over increasing legislators' salaries. Martha Robertson voted for it, while Mike Lane and George Totman voted against it. Lane was also elected vice-chairman of the legislature for a fourth term by a unanimous vote.

In its editorial, the Journal takes up the issue of broadband internet access for rural areas, a tough problem. I'd love to find a map of coverage in Dryden, but I've heard a few complaints that coverage is patchy.

Across the valley, but catching my interest, a developer is using five-foot balloons to show how high buildings in proposed construction will be when complete, to help evaluate the impact on the landscape.

Posted by simon at 8:52 AM Comment

Town board organizes for 2005, many side issues

Last night's town board organizational meeting was a lot like last year's, passing a huge number of routine resolutions, but there were some interesting bits, notably around investments, appointments, the abstract of bills, tax collection, and fire coverage in the Etna area. The audience for the meeting was pretty small - seven Lansing High School students there for an assignment and me.

During the approval of the town's investment policies, Councilman Marty Christofferson asked who decides how the town's investment decisions are made. The Town Supervisor has fiscal authority, but there isn't anything like the TC3 finance committee that Christofferson brought up as an example. There was some discussion of whether appointing depository institutions (the 1st National Bank of Dryden and Tompkins County Trust Company) limited investment opportunities. Supervisor Trumbull noted that Chase had been contacting him about the town's business, though Councilman Mike Hattery pointed out that "there are good reasons to use local banks, since the money turns over in the community." The board didn't take any action, but planned to look more closely at these issues over the course of the year.

The abstract included a bill that had been passed on at the previous meeting without discussion. Apparently Town Justice Valentinelli purchased 500 business cards for $170, and that had raised questions. The cost of cards is attributable to making a plate, which can be reused for future cards, and the justices did have money in the budget to cover it, but there was another problem: the name of the salesman on the invoice was fellow Town Justice Christopher Clauson.

Councilman Hattery was concerned about the precedent this might set, saying that "I think that we and people who are elected and appointed officials, who work for the town, should avoid any appearance of impropriety." No one knew if Clauson was actually getting a commission on the sale. Councilman Chris Michaels said that Clauson's name on the invoice had been a 'flag' to him. Hattery was also concerned that spending this much on business cards suggested that "for operating costs we're budgeting too much for the justice's function." The board approved the rest of the abstract minus this invoice, and left it to Supervisor Trumbull to sort out the issue of the name on the invoice.

Reviewing the abstract
The Town Board reviews the abstract.

After the abstract, Town Clerk Bambi Hollenbeck raised the issue that Tompkins County is contemplating taking over property tax collection from the towns. Plans sounded vague - it isn't clear when the towns would get their money from the county, who would get penalties, and more - but the Town Clerks, who just had a meeting, "are up in arms about it." Hollenbeck explained:

"I'm against it. One of the main reasons is that it's an example of the county taking local government farther away from the people. I get a good sense when the public comes in here, and sometimes I only see them when they come in to pay their taxes. It's a good opportunity for information... I think about all the problems we solve right here at the desk when people have problems with their escrow, or if they have two different banks paying the bill... [the county's] going to be dealing with 26,000 tax bills with a staff of what? I can see them collecting the money. I can't see them serving the public.... I think you'd better serve your residents."

The board made some modifications to the budget, mostly to do with bills that had been paid in the wrong period. Dawn Bogdan, the Town Bookkeeper, also expressed hope that the new budget program would be working in time to create reports for the February board meeting.

In the course of its appointments, the board added Joseph Lalley to the Planning Board. There was also some discussion about training, as the Planning Board has had three new appointments this year. The board was hopeful that Planning Board Chair Barbara Caldwell, Zoning Officer Henry Slater, and Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins could provide the board with a training session specific to Dryden laws.

The meeting closed with discussion of emergency services issues. Councilman Steve Stelick reported on a meeting of the fire chiefs that had created a joint call system for the Etna Fire Department's coverage area. Other departments will be toned out at the same time as the Etna department on calls. While Stelick described it as a temporary fix, he felt it was a big step toward a long-term solution. He cited incoming Varna Volunteer Fire Company Chief Natan Huffman as a big help in this project, and Neptune Hose Company's Ron Flynn received a lot of praise near the end of the meeting in a discussion of disaster preparedness.

Posted by simon at 9:58 PM Comment

January 6, 2005

Weather, State of the State

I was hoping to be in Albany today for a rally on reform, but the weather kept me home, so the Ithaca Journal's focus on the weather and Governor Pataki's State of the State address will have to do.

The only explicit Dryden mention I can find in today's paper is a listing for the Black Sheep Handspinners Guild Annual Rock Day, which will be at the Varna Community Center (map) on Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

On the weather, the Journal looked at preparations for this storm, which so far seems more bluster than anything, from both government and a individual perspectives.

The Journal has three articles on Pataki's State of the State speech, including emphasis on reform, and responses to it. One is the Gannett story on the speech itself, another looks at Pataki's mention of Ithaca's "experiencing strong economic growth," and a third looks at area lawmakers' responses. (If you want to hear or read the address directly, it's available from the state web site.)

Personally, I'll have more faith that Pataki's serious about reform when he stops doing things like trying to block the release of documents on how his administration tried to cover up incompetence at the Thruway Authority, but I suppose words are a first step toward possible action.

There's an article listing efforts in Tompkins County collecting assistance for tsunami relief.

The Journal's editorial looks at the payoff from the state's anti-fraud efforts and praises the SPCA's efforts to educate people about winter care for their pets, as well as new state laws defining dog owner responsibilities.

Posted by simon at 8:57 AM Comment

Dryden resident 5th most powerful person in Macintosh influence

I don't normally take lists of the top 25 or top 100 or whatever to be particularly meaningful, especially if they have anything to do with technology. Today, I stumbled over one that feels more meaningful than usual. It's a list that "Tracks Mac Industry Power and Influence". My employer is #16 on this list of 25, and a co-worker is #20, but Adam Engst of TidBITS is #5, the first person on the list who doesn't work for Apple Computer itself.

With his wife Tonya, and a small crew of other people, Adam publishes TidBITS, a weekly email newsletter, from the Ellis Hollow neighborhood. I remember reading it long ago in college, where it was pretty much a revelation of all cool things Macintosh. It still is. They're also publishing electronic books about the Macintosh now.

Posted by simon at 1:14 PM Comment

January 7, 2005

Etna fire coverage, schools out yesterday

Today's Ithaca Journal provides more information on the Etna fire coverage agreement that was discussed at Tuesday's Town Board meeting. The article looks at the agreement between the four Dryden fire departments as well as the new Mobile Response Vehicle that Dryden Ambulance is keeping on the west side of town on weekdays.

An article on yesterday's snow day talks to Dryden Superintendent Mark Crawford as well as a number of Dryden parents about how they dealt with school and childcare closings.

An article on plans for a SUNY tuition hike notes that it wouldn't affect TC3.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton is quoted in an article about some legislative process reforms the Assembly and Senate passed yesterday:

"The 14 new rules that have been agreed upon, so far, by both sides of the aisle will make for greater openness, transparency and involvement of rank-and-file Assembly members, and will also lead to more involvement on the part of the public and greater trust as well."

Interestingly, on empty-seat voting, an issue I wrote Lifton and Senator James Seward about, the chambers' decisions mirror the responses I received. Lifton opposed the practice, and the Assembly got rid of it yesterday. (At least they're requiring members to be present. The article doesn't say if fast roll-call voting is also disappearing.) Seward defended the practice (with badly misleading claims, I'd say) and the Senate left it alone.

The Senate did reduce the number of committee assignments for Senators and add additional time for floor debates. The Assembly adds more time to introduce bills, makes it easier for bills to reach the floor for a vote, adds a Tuesday session, and bars lobbyists from a hallway outside the chamber.

It's an improvement, certainly, but I can't help but think the chambers are doing as little as they can to claim that they're providing much asked for reform. The article notes that the Senate and Assembly leaders retain their immense power over staffing, and I'll be curious to see how much these changes affect the flow of legislation, especially in the Senate, where bills can still be easily blocked. It's probably time for another letter to our representatives. (The Assembly changes, in addition to doing more, were endorsed by both parties; the Senate changes were just the Republicans doing what they see fit.)

Update: The New York Times (registration required) has more on empty-seat voting, including discussion of the Assembly and Senate actions and coverage of the rally yesterday. (I wanted to go, but the weather... oh well.)

The Journal's editorial looks at the challenges facing the County Legislature, including emergency communications, the decline of US Airways and potentially our airport, the state's slashing of the county jail capacity, and continuing state pressure on county budgets. It notes that two Dryden legislators hold committee chairmanships - Martha Robertson at Health and Human Services and Michael Lane at Government Operations.

Posted by simon at 7:53 AM Comment

Lots more people doing this

I found a discussion thread about local blogging that includes a lot more sites that focus on a particular area. (I have a list, but it's much smaller than that one.)

My current favorite of the blogs I found there is The Tube City Almanac, about McKeesport, PA.

Posted by simon at 9:44 AM Comment

"Ask Amy" profiled

At Mayer's last night, I noticed a headline on The Atlantic about the "Ask Amy" advice column. I remember Amy Dickinson having a Freeville connection, and sure enough, it's an article about her. You can read the opening of the article online, or pick up the magazine for eight dense pages of positive profile.

A local highlight comes late in the article:

In Dickinson's home town for Halloween weekend, I began to understand where this ability comes from. Freeville, New York, where her ancestors settled in the years after the Revolutionary War, is the kind of place Garrison Keillor deadpans about, but whose complexities Thornton Wilder truly understood.

Though she lives in Chicago now (the column is syndicated through the Chicago Tribune), it's good to know that growing up here provides wisdom enough to provide advice to the world!

Posted by simon at 12:36 PM Comment

January 8, 2005

Ringwood Road fire

This morning's Ithaca Journal has a photo of Varna and Dryden firefighters putting out a fire at a workshop on Ringwood Road yesterday.

Briefly in Tompkins mentions the Dryden Senior Citizens' meeting and lunch at the Dryden Fire Hall this coming Monday, January 10th, at 11:30am, as well as a firewood lottery at the DEC.

There's an article on how changing state math standards may affect Tompkins County, as well as information on the county's more relaxed distribution of flu shots.

How they voted lists county legislator votes, including this week's split vote on legislator salaries.

On the opinion page, Craig Evans of Dryden sends a laurel "to everyone who supported and attended the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra's first New Year's Eve gala benefit." Anna Jensen of Freeville replies to an earlier letter from Endicott resident Sam Fantuzzo, in which he wrote that "I agree with Claudius Ptolemy that the Earth is the center of the universe and that the sun, moon and planets orbit the Earth." Jensen warns:

Back when the Earth was considered the center of the universe, someone who did not agree with the popular theories of the time would have been condemned for thinking on his or her own. Remember Galileo died for his heresy.

If we go back to these grand old times, realize that along with the moral high ground we would believe to return, we also get a lower life expectancy, less food supplies, sewage in the streets and fewer freedoms for non-white wealthy males.

Posted by simon at 9:16 AM Comment

"What happened to your house?"

There isn't a lot of traffic on 366 today, but I suspect a few people may notice the strange appearance of my house over the next few months.

House, minus much paint
1259 Dryden Road, missing most of its paint.

You can see the house on a more typical day if you want some contrast.

We've been doing the first major work on the house since the insulation and furnace replacement, with painting on both the outside and the inside. The house was a rental for a long time, and not much had been done to it since probably 1950. The outside had coat after coat of paint, and it was peeling pretty badly. The inside is similar, with many layers of wallpaper under white paint.

I'd touched up the outside paint a few times, without helping much, and some of the boards and and paint (in a slightly different color, unfortunately) had been replaced when we did the insulation. Repainting the house, if we wanted to make it last, was going to mean stripping the paint off, a much bigger task than I could manage.

After a lot of thinking about this and talking with friends, we contracted Perfect Painters to strip and paint the house. I was a little surprised to hear that they prefer to strip the house in winter and paint in summer, but when I saw the painters working under a tarp, wearing Tyvek suits and ventilators, it made a lot more sense than working in summer.

This week, the painters did the machine stripping. The process isn't complete - there's a lot of trim detail to work on, and the corners can't be stripped with a spinning disc, but it's a huge step forward. It'll stay looking like this for a few months.

On the inside, we 're having the livingroom painted. We'd refinished the floor (actually a subfloor) before we moved in. Chasing mice (now gone), I'd torn down some highly flammable acoustic tiles which someone had decorated with spackle patterns, then the furring strips for those, then part of the ceiling sheetrock. When we'd insulated, Performance Systems Contracting had finished tearing down the ceiling and put up new sheetrock, as well as patching a hole in the wall that led to a chimney for a wood stove. I'd tried to strip the walls myself, but had little luck - whoever built the place had put up wallpaper without painting first, and I couldn't tell the difference between the wallpaper and the paper that's part of the sheetrock. We put in a new floor last year - the subfloor was thin, bouncy, and generally a nuisance.

That was all an improvement, but the walls still looked awful, and the ceiling wasn't painted. The trim needs work as well. We asked Perfect Painters to take a look at that as well, and this week we started the long process of stripping, priming, and smoothing the walls.

Priming the livingroom walls
Ken and Scott prime the livingroom walls.

Today I'm sitting in a livingroom with walls that look smooth, trim that's been caulked for a better fit with the walls, a ceiling that's no longer bare sheetrock, and corners and edges that look clean. The transformation continues next week, with final paint and moldings, but it's already a huge improvement. Even though there's a lot to do on the rest of the house, it will be nice to have the center room of the house feel complete.

I'll be posting more pictures of the further transformation of the house as it happens, but for now, I've put up two galleries. One covers the changes to the exterior of the house, while the other shows the work on the interior.

Posted by simon at 12:32 PM Comment

January 9, 2005

Rock Day celebrates spinning

The Black Sheep Handspinners Guild celebrated Rock Day yesterday at the Varna Community Center. Vendors, speakers, and visitors braved sloppy winter weather to gather, and there were supplies of all kinds, spinning wheels, projects in progress, skeins of yarn, and finished projects all over the building.

Spinners at Rock Day
Spinners gathered for Rock Day

Spinning wheel maker Norm Hall was the featured guest, and people had brought a number of spinning wheels and other devices he'd crafted.

Norm Hall sets up a pendulum spinning wheel
Norm Hall sets up a pendulum spinning wheel.

I thought their turnout was amazing, but the organizers told me that it was only about half of the previous year, most likely thanks to the freezing rain and snow.

I've posted a gallery of pictures that gives a much better perspective on this than I can describe. Also, the Black Sheep meet at the Varna Community Center (map) from 11:00am to 3:00pm on the second Saturday of the month from September to May. (They meet in members' homes during the summer.)

Posted by simon at 10:17 AM Comment

Walking in a winter wonderland

I walked from my house to the Varna Community Center today, to meet friends for a fine pancake breakfast there. I brought my camera along, and got a nice set of pictures.

Trees covered in snow
Trees covered in snow along Route 366.

Posted by simon at 7:21 PM Comment

January 10, 2005

After school in McLean; tax issues

This morning's Ithaca Journal looks at a new after-school program in McLean, giving kids more to do in the hamlet. Lack of transportation keeps kids in the area after school, and there isn't a place for kids to hang out in McLean. The program will offer tutoring, open the gym, and have pizza on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

A Cornell study suggests that we may want to keep farmland in Dryden for very practical reasons - as other parts of the country use more water than they have rain, there could be a "potential shift back to areas like the Pacific Northwest or the Northeast where agriculture is sustained mostly by rainfall, not irrigation."

The Journal also looks at tsunami relief efforts in the county, and provides a list of local places to donate.

In their editorial, the Journal looks at the complexities around town use of sales tax funds, an area that doesn't get much attention but which is worth a closer look:

Each town or village in Tompkins County has the option of using its share of sales tax revenue in its budget. Towns such as Dryden, Lansing and Ithaca opt to apply their sales taxes to their own budgets. Other townships such as Caroline, Danby and Newfield choose to apply their shares of sales tax revenue to their county taxes.

When a town applies its share of sales taxes to its budget, the town property tax rate generally goes down, but the county tax rate goes up. That inverse relationship applies to towns that choose to apply sales tax against the county property tax bill. For example, the Town of Dryden, which elects to keep its share of sales tax dollars, has a county tax rate of $7.18 per $1,000 assessed property value. The Town of Danby, which credits its sales tax revenue to the county, has a county tax rate of $3.38 per $1,000 assessed value.

However, Dryden's town tax rate is $1.47 per $1,000 assessed property value. Danby, which applies its sales taxes to the county, has a town rate of $6.73.

Sales tax application also came up as an issue at November's budget hearing, in relation to Councilman Hattery's question about the division of the budget between Townwide and Outside (the villages) items. These choices play through on a number of levels. (Update: The Town applies sales tax to Outside accounts first, as state law apparently requires, so there's no separate tax for Outside residents.)

Also on the opinion page, Greg Kimbell of Dryden writes to point out that while alcohol-related accidents cause a disproportionate number of fatalities, alcohol was only "a factor in 2.7 percent of the accidents." Kimbell's conclusion:

"It's still clear that drinking and driving should be avoided, but I would like to ask you to do four things to reduce our pain, suffering, and woe: pay attention when you're driving, follow the basic rules of the road, avoid placing blame on a nameless and faceless enemy and assume responsibility for your actions."

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

January 11, 2005

ICSD Special education, state issues

There isn't much specific to Dryden in today's Ithaca Journal, but there is plenty of new that affects Dryden or some part of it.

The Ithaca City School District will be reviewing a report on its special education programs tonight. The article notes some ways in which Ithaca students vary from state and national averages.

I've mentioned green construction in Dryden here a few times (1 2 3), and Cooperative Extension, the Ithaca Green Building Alliance, and Sustainable Tompkins will be having a workshop on "Green Building Design" on Tuesday, January 18th from 7:00pm to 8:30pm at 615 Willow Avenue (map).

At the state level, the Senate decided not to try to overturn Pataki's budget vetoes. I believe, though I'm not sure, that the funds for a TC3 expansion were in there.

On a similar subject, the Journal's editorial hopes the state legislature can do better in 2005 than it did in 2004.

Posted by simon at 8:57 AM Comment

Dryden Barber Shop at Stafford Chevrolet

The lead article in this past week's Dryden Courier follows the move of the Dryden Barber Shop from its home in the Dryden Hotel to Stafford Chevrolet after a pipe broke in the Dryden Hotel. Several businesses offered proprietor Sylvia Short's barber shop a temporary home while the Hotel is repaired.

There are also a photo of the Dryden indoor track team and an article about last weekend's Southern Tier Classic meet.

Posted by simon at 12:36 PM Comment

Cynical optimism

I wasn't sure how seriously to take recent state Assembly reform, but this quote from NYCO gives me some hope:

Publicly pretending to reform is a big first step toward actual reform. So even the most cynical person has to see this as a good day, I think. A reform half finished is a reform that the majority powers that be can't use to their self-serving advantage. The next step is to enable/goad/force minority legislators to take advantage of the confusion.

I especially like that first line - "Publicly pretending to reform is a big first step toward actual reform." I'm feeling hopeful suddenly. We'll see how long it lasts.

There's a lot more worth pondering where that came from.

Posted by simon at 7:15 PM Comment

January 12, 2005

Events, ICSD special education

Today's Ithaca Journal Our Towns section mostly focuses on the other towns that share Wednesday, but the Briefly in Dryden section mentions two upcoming events:

  • TC3 will be holding Alumni Fun Day on February 5th, and free tickets are available to alumni who register by January 28th. "Mad Science: Marvels in Motion" will start the day with a collection of contraptions, and sports events and refreshments will be happening in the afternoon.
  • The Dryden-Caroline Drifters Snowmobile Club will be holding a Second Annual Breast Cancer Ride for Research on February 26th. The 60-mile all-girls ride will raise money for the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance.

The Monitor includes the headline "Ithaca man charged with Dryden burglary," but it sounds more like violating a protection order and assault.

The Journal continues its reporting on a consultants' review of Ithaca City School District special education programs, and includes an article looking at how the special education program runs.

The airport is contemplating hiring a consultant as it faces the challenge of US Airways' decline.

The Journal lists local tsunami relief efforts.

Looking beyond the Journal, today's New York Times (registration required) reports on an agreement with power plant operators announced by Governor Pataki and Attorney General Spitzer yesterday that will reduce emissions from many upstate coal-burning power plants. The plant nearest Dryden, AES Cayuga in Lansing, isn't mentioned, but former plant operator NYSEG, headquartered in Dryden before the plants were sold, is paying a $700,000 fine.

Posted by simon at 8:18 AM Comment

Tompkins County growing

I was just looking at 'Top 10' lists over at ePodunk (itself based in Trumansburg), and found this list of New York State county growth rates from the 2000 census to 2003. Tompkins is listed as the 3rd fastest-growing county, going from 96,501 to 101,411, a 5.1% increase. Cortland County was 42nd (of 63), growing 0.2%.

That 5.1% growth spurt may explain a bit about increasing housing costs in Tompkins County over that period. (Even in 2000, they were higher than surrounding counties.)

Posted by simon at 12:09 PM Comment

Dryden Tidbits site closes, railroads continue

After a year of quiet since the print version stopped appearing, the Dryden Tidbits website has closed. On the bright side, a new site, New York Railroads, showcases the amazing set of railroad information collected by Dryden resident Tom Trencansky, who used to run Dryden Tidbits.

Posted by simon at 5:42 PM Comment

January 13, 2005

Land purchase on tonight's Town Board agenda

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on the space shortage in Dryden Town Hall and a possible land purchase to build a new one which will be discussed at tonight's 7:00pm board meeting. They have a nice collection of pictures illustrating the problem, which is hard to miss if you visit Town Hall. The question of recreation land as part of the purchase keeps coming up:

Town Supervisor Steven Trumbull did say that the town hopes it will be enough land to house not only a town hall but also recreation fields and an educational nature trail through existing wetlands.

"This town is huge, but we have no land," Trumbull said.

This has led most notably to a lack of recreational facilities.

"There's been a shortage of recreational land for a number of years. There aren't enough fields for little league soccer, little league baseball, little league lacrosse," said Henry Slater, the town's senior code enforcement officer.

While I applaud the town's efforts to acquire more recreational space, this is the second time - the possible golf course was the first - that the current town board has moved toward acquiring land for recreation in the southeast corner of the town. Two important things are missing from this drive for more recreation space: a plan for recreation that's received public comment (hopefully integrated with the town's proposed Comprehensive Plan, which discusses this), and consideration of Town-supported recreation space elsewhere in the Town. The golf course seemed like a one-time reach at something that just happened to be coming up, but this marks a second time. Both times, board members have proposed paying for the purchase with reserve funds.

There's further discussion of Ithaca special education, looking at how special education in the district operates.

On the opinion page, the Journal's editorial praises local efforts to raise funds for tsunami relief. Groton School Superintendent Gary Smith (with the support of superintendents from districts including Dryden and Ithaca) writes about issues regarding testing mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind act.

Posted by simon at 7:48 AM Comment

Town Board agenda for tonight

The Town Board is meeting tonight at at 7:00pm at the Dryden Town Hall (map). The agenda has been posted. Highlights include:

284 Agreement
A budget listing which town roads will receive maintenance and repairs this year. The Highway Superintendent proposes it, and the Town Board considers it for approval. Update: this has apparently moved to February.
Dryden Mutual Annexation Petition
This sounds like further annexation of town land to the Village of Dryden is under consideration.
LOSAP Town Support for Village Proclamation
As I understand it, because the Dryden and Freeville fire departments are village departments, their incentive program has to be run by the villages, and the Town can make a contribution.
Land Purchase Offer
This is probably about the purchase of land for the Town Hall and possibly recreation, and hopefully won't be shunted to executive session as it has in the past.
Stone Circle School Speed Zone
This is near the intersection of Turkey Hill and Ellis Hollow roads, a problem intersection that has already had extra stop signs posted.

There's more, of course, but this gives some idea of what's going to be happening.

Posted by simon at 8:06 AM Comment

Interior painting completed

Today's the first day in a while that the house isn't busy with painters working on the walls. The exterior's been quiet since last week, as the rest of the stripping and painting won't start for a few months, but the interior's been busy. The livingroom paint is now complete, the bathroom was stripped and repainted, and all we're waiting for is some crown and shoe molding for the livingroom, which should be here soon.

Pattern over the sink, exposed.
A pattern above the sink, revealed.

It's strange but delightful to have smooth painted walls in here, and Ken and Scott from Perfect Painters did an excellent job. The room is pretty completely transformed. I've updated the gallery of interior photos.

Livingroom, painted.
Livingroom, painted.

We'd originally planned to have them work on the existing pine trim, but I decided to do that myself, as the finish seems to be alcohol-soluble, and french polishing should work. We'll see!

Posted by simon at 12:40 PM Comment

January 14, 2005

Town buys land for town hall, possibly recreation

This morning's Journal follows up yesterday's articles on reasons to buy land for a new Town Hall with a report that the Town Board voted last night to approve it. I'll have more detail on the conversation about this issue over the weekend (I talked too much!), but at least some of the conversation about possible recreation uses took place outside of executive session for the first time at a Town Board meeting.

County Legislator Martha Robertson is quoted in an article on the county's new prescription discount card. Robertson, the chair of the county Health and Human Services committee, was handing out cards and information at the Town Board meeting last night. The card is aimed at people who don't have prescription drug coverage, but the card may also be of use to a broader group:

"Medicare recipients should bring both the drug discount card and their Medicare card to the pharmacy and ask which discount is greater for the drugs they need to purchase," said Robertson.

The Caremark cards do not include the name of the card holder on them and are not specific to a certain individual, so cards can be shared between family members, friends or groups of people to purchase discount medications. They can also be used out of the Tompkins County area and even outside of New York state....

It is expected that Tompkins County consumers using the discount card in local pharmacies will save an average of 20 percent on drugs and those using the card with mail-order medications will receive an average discount of 50 percent on a three-month supply of drugs.

There's a profile of Red Cross volunteer Sis Johnson. They don't mention it in the article, but Sis also does a lot of volunteer work at the Varna Community Center.

The Journal follows up its articles (1 2 3 4) on Ithaca City School District special education with an editorial suggesting that "The district should continue to act decisively in its approach to this difficult process of special education reform by instituting the recommendations contained in the Hehir report in a timely manner."

There's also a letter from Caroline resident Milton Taam with a suggestion that could have benefits for Dryden, if it's possible:

In my part of rural Tompkins County, broadband Internet access is not available. As a solution, I am now considering a private radio link between us and a repeater on Connecticut Hill, a distance of 20 miles. Because of the considerable distance, this will involve a 100-foot antenna tower on my property.

A better solution would be for Tompkins County to allow its new emergency radio towers to be used for Internet access.

I don't know enough about the configuration of the emergency radio network to know if this is possible, but it's an interesting suggestion, especially since the county towers are being placed for maximum coverage rather than cell phone companies' target of maximum usage.

Posted by simon at 4:08 AM Comment

January 15, 2005

Gay marriage suit, prescription cards

Freeville residents Terri Niedzialek and Nancy Chapman attended a State Supreme Court hearing on the suit by 25 same-sex couples that seeks to remove New York State's limitation of marriage to a man and a woman. Hospital issues motivated them:

"Niedzialek said she has had battles with some hospital staff when they tried to prevent her partner from being by her side and making decisions because Chapman was not a blood relation. She prevailed, eventually, but knows such challenges to their five-year relationship will loom until laws are changed."

Dryden County Legislator Martha Robertson is quoted in a followup article on the county's new prescription drug discount cards, emphasizing that:

"the card is meant for individuals of all ages -- not just senior citizens."

Given the amount of time the Dryden Town Board gets to spend on sewer issues, perhaps they should follow the lead of the Town of Lansing, and put up a site dedicated to sewer plans. Well, probably not. Lansing's putting in a large new system, while Dryden is spending most of its time discussing existing systems. Still, it's interesting to see a town issue getting its own site.

Today's opinion page is filled with winners of the 18th annual Martin Luther King Poetry and Art Competitions, won by students from county schools.

Posted by simon at 9:59 AM Comment

Town hall and park lands

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the major issues at Thursday night's Town Board meeting was the purchase of land for the town hall, and the interest expressed by a number of board members in including recreation land in that purchase.

I don't oppose the purchase of the land, and think it may well turn out to be a good thing, but I'm very unhappy that the Town Board seems to find an opportunity each year to buy land out of the reserve fund and doesn't discuss it in meetings until the purchase is near or complete. Last year it was the golf course opportunity (which seems to have petered out), and this year it's recreation fields turning up in articles about the town hall land purchase but never discussed in meetings.

Possible land to be purchased
My best guess of the land the town may purchase for a new town hall and recreation.

In both cases I've enjoyed hearing Republicans express an interest in preserving wetlands, natural areas, and open space, but both times I've wished for more public discussion. Talking about what to do with a large parcel of land after you've bought it offers that public far fewer options than are available if you talk about what parcel you're buying and why.

(It might help if the public had more information about how much money is in the reserve funds, as spending those seems to be the preferred option in both of these cases - at least for the town hall, that part was planned. How much is left in the funds after these purchases? I need to do more research.)

Because reporting on myself is a nuisance, I've gone for transcribing that part of the board meeting from my recording. It's a lot, but it stays focused and I think is worth reading through. We started in Citizen's Privilege:

Simon St.Laurent: I just wanted to point to an item on the agenda here - I think it's the land purchase offer that was referred to in the Journal today - and say that I'd really appreciate some discussion of this that is not in executive session. It's been really strange attending all of these meetings, and then reading about these great recreation fields in the Ithaca Journal or the Dryden Courier but not actually hearing about it at the board meetings. So I think before you contemplate how much land you're going to buy and how much you're going to pay for it, it would be good to have a discussion of the 'why' in public so that the rest of the town can participate.

Erica Evans: I'm Erica Evans, Turkey Hill Road, and I want to speak about the same thing. I think that the Dryden town needs a better Town Hall. There's no doubt about that in my mind, but the playing field, and the rec field, and the nature trail, for the Town of Dryden... we have plenty of nature trails and we have rec fields and our highway superintendent says he doesn't have enough men to take care of the things that he needs to take care of now. How can he take care of more?

At the end of the meeting, when the board reached the land purchase offer, the discussion started up again, including a lot more people. All of the board members (Supervisor Trumbull, Councilmen Hattery, Michaels, Christofferson, and Stelick), Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins, Environmental Planner Debbie Gross, County Legislator Martha Robertson, residents Erica Evans and Ken Schlather, and myself all participated.

Steve Trumbull: Simon - I'd like to know what your concern is with this - I'm not going to get into a big debate about this, but...

Simon St.Laurent: Sure. I don't have a general opposition to the town having recreation land. I think they're a good thing, I'd like to see more of them; when I lived in the Town of Ithaca I used theirs.

But it seems like twice in the last two years we've had opportunities to purchase lands for recreation where the discussion was either in executive session or in the newspapers until fairly late in the process. We didn't actually talk about the golf course until it was quite far along, and in this case I've seen the Ithaca Journal had a two-line mention that there was a consideration of recreation in this purchase, and I called Bambi to ask if there'd been any action taken, because I left at the executive session, and there hadn't been anything of this, and suddenly it's in the paper. And then today's Journal has a really quite excellent article which I fully support with the pictures of all of you kind of stuck in different positions in the building and all of that... the reality of it is pretty obvious.

So my concern is that the town has been really clear about buying a new town hall and we need a bigger one. I think that's pretty clear. But there's no plan for this recreation stuff that I can find anywhere. Both the golf course and the town hall are kind of off the side of the Draft Comprehensive Plan discussion of recreation.

I'd love to see the town come up with a plan for buying property and doing something with it, but I really question this "Hey, we've got an opportunity here, let's buy it and use reserve funds to do it, and hey, this is all good." I think it needs a lot more discussion than that.

Marty Christofferson: I'd just like to say a couple things. One is, we've been talking about recreation ever since I moved into this town and there is mention of it in the Comprehensive Plan on what a shortfall there is.

Simon St.Laurent: Right.

Marty Christofferson: Two is, I think the intention of the board is not to do anything without having public input, but when we're negotiating land prices and purchases and things like that then sometimes you need to work in that arena in a confidential way, otherwise it can affect the purchase price. So I think we've had discussions and talked about working some way to find the best way to get a good price and to go through the process well so people have plenty of opportunity to comment.

Simon St.Laurent: I'm aware of those rules for executive session. I think, however, that you're violating the spirit of town government by keeping the discussion of the context in which you're making this purchase exclusive to those sessions. I think recreation is important, it's a critical issue that brought a lot of you to the board, it's a critical issue that gets people contacting me about Living in Dryden, but before you go ahead and buy park land, I think you have to a context for "Is buying park land something we're going to do throughout the town, is there a plan for particular parks, how do you want to coordinate this with other park systems in the town.

Steve Trumbull: I don't think this is an end - I think it's a beginning. It's been sitting on the docket for nine, ten, twenty years as far as the town hall's concerned. Nothing's been done - talk, talk, talk, talk. Nothing. We're trying to get something done. If we have to do this to get things kicking, to get some recreation land, that's what we want to do.

We don't have recreation land. Everyone says we've got recreation everywhere - we don't own recreation land. We do not have fields, or whatever we want to do with this, all right - that's our concern. It could be the beginning of something greater. We're not going to stop and say we're not going to buy land in the middle of the township, on the west side, for more. I personally think it's necessary that we do get some land to do this. That's my personal opinion.

Erica Evans: The rest of us in the Town of Dryden aren't going to come out to the Village of Dryden for recreation.

Steve Stelick: I don't want to speak for Steve here, but I think people have got to remember that this is something that's very short in time as far as talking about real recreation land and getting people that are actually involved. I see this as ... just the beginning. If you look at our Comprehensive Plan that's in place right now, we're talking about having a place up by Yellow Barn Road, that's in the comp plan, and I think there's one over in George Junior Republic... in the fields. I just see this as the beginning.

I don't see this as - everything takes a lot of time in this government, but it's a beginning. I don't see it as the end, I don't see us saying that just because we have picked this one side, to start, there are preliminary conversations with Ellis Hollow Community Center, about putting some fields down there, working with them. It's in its infancy, and it's going to take time. But I think this is a good beginning.

What we're taking here, once it's all out in the open, is there's a wetland over here that's considered endangered. We're looking to use that, work with the school district on it, we've talked with Thoma Development, there's some grant money that's out there, there to use to put a trail out there. To me, it's something that from the three-plus years that I've been on the board, it's one of the visions that I had - it's a beginning. But I don't see it as just being east-west north-south. It's just one part of this, but it's going to take a lot of time to flesh it out.

Erica Evans: Who's going to take care of it?

Steve Stelick: That's one of the things we have to consider.

Mike Hattery: I think that something we should clarify here is that something doesn't become parkland until it's dedicated as parkland. And so there's been a lot of discussions, but the key thing is that we're buying land for a town hall. The other relevant issue for the planning is we want to be good neighbors. This was a zoned residential area and so we want to make efforts both in reworking how the highway facility is oriented as well as in the construction of a new town hall that we provide adequate buffering and an easement for what is an existing zoned residential area.

Recreation opportunities is kind of a very second, minor consideration. The primary moving force is we are building a town hall.

Simon St.Laurent: I suppose you could say you're misquoted, but it certainly doesn't come off that way.

Mike Hattery: I wasn't quoted...

Simon St.Laurent: You weren't. I guess it's good to hear that you've been having these discussions, but how long have these discussions been going on and how much public - how much actual opportunity for public comment has there been in the time period of these discussions?

Mike Hattery: Well, I think this discussion has gone on before this current board. There's been public discussion about a new town hall for several years... I read about it in the paper.

Simon St.Laurent: Correct, but the recreation-specific issues of a town hall -

Mike Hattery: We're buying a town hall. That is the primary issue regarding this land purchase.

Erica Evans: Nobody's arguing against that.

Martha Robertson: Do you have maps of the site? I don't have any visual image of how much land you're talking about, and where the town hall would go.

Steve Trumbull: We can't tell, until we make the deal.

Martha Robertson: Can you tell us how many acres?

Chris Michaels: Martha, we haven't - it's hard to express how far away we are from making a purchase in the sense that we're still what we're going into executive session for is to figure out if we want to make an offer and on what terms...

Ken Schlather: Is there much of a difference in the size of the acreage needed if you had whatever you want for a town hall being good neighbors and all that, versus having that plus the recreation area. Because if the focus is on the town hall, then I guess part of the issue is - I mean if you don't have a comprehensive plan for recreation - if you don't have a recreation plan in place - then to say this is just a beginning, that's very nice, but I think you do have to be thinking about what are your priorities with respect to recreation. It might well be that the best thing to do is to do what you're proposing, but it's not really clear to the rest of the population here whether it is or not.

Simon St.Laurent: I guess the other thing that I'd like to see, and maybe should have happened after the golf course discussions, was that the town really does need to have a better idea of its policy for purchasing land for recreation that's discussed before the actual land purchases come up and you have to go into executive session. We lost that opportunity last year. It was definitely on people's minds, but as the golf course faded, I guess so did the rest of the discussion.

Debbie Gross: I have the map here from the Comprehensive Plan...

Steve Stelick: The Comprehensive Plan, you're talking about the one at George Junior and up by Yellow Barn Road, is that what you're talking.

Debbie Gross: It shows spots where there's a proposed community park.

Martha Robertson: Isn't it... the negotiation part is an issue of price. Wouldn't it be public information that you're looking at this particular spot, and it's five acres, and here's where the town hall will go - why is that executive session? The price is executive session, but not...

Mahlon Perkins: It's a function of the size of the parcel... [inaudible]

Martha Robertson: Right, but don't taxpayers have a right to know what you're looking at? Obviously if you're going to buy a small piece it's a smaller price, and a large piece, it's more money but that's not.

Mahlon Perkins: It's not as simple as that.

Martha Robertson: I don't think - people aren't asking what the price of this is going to be, I think people are asking what you're talking about doing.

Simon St.Laurent: I have another question, which this kind of raises, which is that I think the Journal was talking about buying this out of reserve funds for the town hall. Are those funds actually dedicated to the town hall, is there an issue if they're spent on recreation lands in conjunction with a town hall... I don't have any understanding of that, but I just want to be clear.

Steve Trumbull: There's a fund balance of money for the land. It doesn't say recreation land, just land.

Mike Hattery: And as I mentioned earlier, something doesn't become recreation land until it's dedicated. That would involve a planning process, that would be very open.

Steve Trumbull: If we don't turn it into recreation, at least we'd have some land, which we don't have now, and in the future, we could do something which everybody agrees on. We don't have the land at all to do things with.

Martha Robertson: But as Ken said, if the price is going to be more, if it's a bigger piece. If you spend money on a chunk of it for recreation, if you turn it into fields now or later, then obviously that would be money that is already used up, and couldn't go for a different priority - and I don't know how much is available altogether...

Mike Hattery: Of course. And the relative magnitude of that is also a judgment call.

Chris Michaels: I think you're making a... I'll go further than that. I know you're making an assumption about negotiations and the variables that can go into a real estate purchase that aren't always borne out in this situation. I think there'll be plenty of opportunity when we start talking about what we're going to do with those lands, and the plan.

In every one of our recreation projects we've brought in consultants, had lots public hearings, comprehensive plan, I really do believe that the town is looking at a very wide recreation program in terms of the things that have been on our agenda and what we've been spending our time on. We've been talking with Ellis Hollow Community Center, about the trails projects, these guys meeting and picking a trails consultant and looking at.. Jack's already looked at some landscape firms to look at some of those issues already.

There's been a lot of work put in as to what would a town hall site look like, and what would the town hall look like, and talk to, address, discuss for years now, and I think a tension is developing all of a sudden as we've been talking about this for years and years and years and now the town looks like we might actually be doing something. I appreciate that that comes as a surprise -

Martha Robertson: The surprise is not the town hall. The surprise is that you've made a decision - you're about to make a decision on recreational lands in an area where there are already school district fields, etc., it's not -

Chris Michaels: I think that's a mis-impression.

Martha Robertson: Well then, enlighten us.

Mike Hattery: It's exactly the way I stated it earlier. We're purchasing land - we are exploring the purchase of land - for the town hall and we want to make sure that that site is adequate for the kind of neighborhood that the land is being purchased in, so we don't have any undue impacts. In fact, it's more of an enhancement to a residential area. And because of - land doesn't always come in the size parcels that are the way you need it. Because of that, there may be an opportunity for other uses, and some board members would like that to be recreational.

Martha Robertson: May I ask what the status of the Ellis Hollow request is?

Chris Michaels: Last I knew, Rick [inaudible]

Steve Stelick: Basically, the request was $50,000 to upgrade the pool. That's been it.

Martha Robertson: And there was another part of that for fields, a separate request about fields.

Chris Michaels: As far as I know, we haven't done that. On my end, in talking to the representatives from the Ellis Hollow Community Center, I gave them the numbers and the people they should be contacting here [inaudible]. Are we ready to go into executive session?

The board went into executive session at this point, and about a dozen people stayed to see the result.

Mike Hattery: Whereas the Town Board has conducted an exhaustive search for a suitable site for a town hall, including all areas of the town and whereas ELM Acquisitions Corporation has indicated a willingness to entertain an offer from the town for land adjacent to the existing town properties on East Main Street, resolved that the supervisor is authorized to execute an offer for purchase of parcel from Elm Acquisitions Corporation for the construction of a new Town Hall building, and we have further resolved that within 30 days of acceptance of such offer, the Town Board will schedule a public meeting on the acquisition with appropriate notice to the public, and be it further resolved, that the financing of such acquisitions shall be solely from surplus funds.

This resolution passed 5-0 without further discussion, though there was a bit more after the vote:

Martha Robertson: Can I ask what the size of the parcel is?

Chris Michaels: You can ask. We'll hopefully have an offer and then obviously a public meeting where we'll discuss all that, the other sites we considered, and what our plans are as far as the next step for any planning: the siting of the hall and any other facilities.... once we have the terms worked out.

There will undoubtedly be more to discuss when the public meeting is called, though a big decision about where the town should buy land for recreation has pretty much already been made.

I'd also like to note one mistake I made, though the response of the board members suggests that they hadn't contemplated it closely either. I'd thought the current Future Park & Transportation Improvements Map (300KB PDF) from the Draft Comprehensive Plan showed all of the proposed town parks outside of the Villages, but there's actually an asterisk by the Town Hall inside the Village of Dryden boundary. Given that no Town Board member raised this issue, even when Debbie Gross offered them the map, I'd guess they hadn't looked at the plan to see if this project fit its expectations.

Update: By reader request, I colored the names of speakers to indicate Town Board members and town employees.

Posted by simon at 5:05 PM Comment

January 16, 2005

Barbecue in Dryden; water damage at Dryden Hotel

This week's Dryden Courier starts with a profile of a new restaurant in the Village of Dryden, the R&BBQ, which offers barbecue food in a Motown environment. The Courier looks over owner Chrystal Goodband's restaurant and Dryden sports background. I'll have to go try it!

There's also an article on the Dryden Hotel, which "will open again, but the timing is uncertain." The sprinkler system, designed to avoid a repeat of the 1993 fire, burst after a pipe froze on December 22nd. The wood paneling, bar, and mural are all damaged, and insurance inspectors are still making their calculations. They include a picture of part of the mural as it was.

There's also an article on the Dryden Grange exhibit currently at the Dryden Town Historical Society. Dryden sports get a brief mention as Megan Stuttle of Dryden took first place at the Southern Tier Invitational Indoor Track Meet last weekend, and there's a picture of Dryden sprinter Jason Pelletier.

Posted by simon at 10:01 AM Comment


I was happy to find email from a reader who'd waded through all of yesterday's transcript of Thursday night's discussion of the new town hall and recreation land. While I was delighted that the reader described it as "nice, very interesting," they also asked for some way to tell the names of Town Board members from the names of the audience. To make this easier, I decided to color-code the names. Town Board members and town employees now have colors, while audience members' names remained black.

(If the paragraph above doesn't show some green and red text, I'm afraid the color-coding won't work in your browser. It works now in Mozilla, Firefox, and Safari, and the versions of Internet Explorer I've been able to test.)

I'm not entirely sure what colors to use for some people's names. I tend to link our County Legislators' names to their web sites, so some people may be used to seeing Martha Robertson's name like this, for instance, but in this case I don't think she was exactly reporting from the county, so I left her name in black. I also don't know know quite what to do about elected officials who aren't members of the board, notably Town Clerk Bambi Hollenbeck and Highway Superintendent Jack Bush. They weren't involved in this conversation, so I guess I have a little time to think about it.

Hopefully this will make it easier to sort through long transcripts. I'm not going to go back and annotate old stories, but I'll use the convention going forward in regular stories and see how it goes.

Posted by simon at 3:22 PM Comment

January 17, 2005

Ithaca schools find outside funding

It's a quiet day for Dryden news, but the Journal has a few stories that affect parts of Dryden.

The Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) reports having raised $94,917 to support programs in the Ithaca City School District. You can see more about them at the IPEI web site. (The Dryden distirct has a similar organization, the Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund.)

The Journal has a listing of offices and services closing for today's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

On the opinion page, the Journal's editorial contemplates Martin Luther King Day. Guest columnist Sue Kirby writes a help wanted for the County Legislature's 2005 elections:

Help Wanted: 15 part-time positions opening on Jan. 1, 2006 for members of the Tompkins County Legislature. Desire to serve the public is a must. You must be at least 18 years old, a United States citizen and reside in the district in which you want to run. Time commitment is eight to 10 hours during the workweek and 15-20 hours doing homework at night, reading or going to meetings. To be a strong legislator, you need to be able to stand up for what is right, in your eyes. Pay is $17,000 to start.

This coming November, all seats in the Tompkins County Legislature are up for election.

Posted by simon at 8:05 AM Comment

January 18, 2005

Winter weather woes

The cold and snow are taking their toll on local driving. This morning's Journal reports 43 accident reports by 6:50pm yesterday, though none of them were fatal. A look at this morning's radar shows snow in a narrow diagonal strip from Lansing to Binghamton, concentrated in Tompkins County, and nowhere else in New York.

A re-published interview with Sheriff Peter Meskill about weather conditions and driving mentions last year's three fatal accidents on Route 13 in Dryden. The second half of the Journal's editorial talks about the dangers of plowing snow into the road and increased ticketing for it.

Posted by simon at 8:16 AM Comment

Planning Board to meet at 6:30pm Thursday

I mentioned earlier this month that the Planning Board would be meeting at 7:00pm on Thursday, but they've moved it up to 6:30pm. I can't be there (another meeting), but I wrote Town of Dryden Environmental Planner Debbie Gross to ask about the change, and she reported:

"Yes, it will be starting at 6:30. This is for a brief presentation by Lucente about re-subdivision of observatory circle. It is a sketch to see what the planning board thinks...not a public hearing (though public is welcome). There will be public hearings if this moves forward in the future.

"The remainder of the time will be focused on finishing touches on the comprehensive plan to get it ready for public hearing. We are all aiming to have it ready for a hearing in late February. After that it will move to the Town Board, and the public process will continue."

The meeting will be held at the Dryden Town Hall (map).

Posted by simon at 11:07 AM Comment

January 19, 2005

Coral reefs in Dryden; Foundation of Light

In this morning's Journal, Cathy Wakeman's Town Talk column visits a local business that grows coral, Reef Encounters. As Wakeman notes, their photo section is especially stunning, especially on a cold January day.

Wakeman also mentions a a 4-H spaghetti dinner, which will be held Friday, January 21st from 4:30pm to 7:30pm at the Neptune Hose Company. (map)

The Journal asks "Where can one find Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, neo-pagans, and Sufis all worshipping together?" and finds its answer at the Foundation of Light on Turkey Hill Road in Dryden.

The Dryden Fire Department is this week's profiled fire department.

County Legislator Mike Lane is quoted in an article about Northwest Airline's likely agreement to start service at the county airport:

"This is a wonderful milestone for Tompkins County," Michael Lane, D-Dryden, said before the Legislature voted unanimously on Tuesday night to authorize final negotiations with Northwest. "The economic well-being of Tompkins County is so tied up with the airport and our transportation facilities."

The Journal's editorial celebrates Northwest's arrival and looks at details.

There's a report of the response of county and state representatives to Governor Pataki's budget. The only Dryden elected official quoted is Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, who notes that "the devil is in the details." Two broader articles look at the budget, one examining its healthcare proposals, and another listing winners and losers.

On the opinion page, Dryden resident Carol Cleveland replies to an earlier letter, encouraging Schwartz and others with thoughts about the voting process in Ohio to read "the 102-page report from the informal hearings held by Rep. John Conyers' Judiciary Committee's Democratic members." Congressman Sherwood Boehlert has a guest column about methamphetamine production and use in upstate New York.

Posted by simon at 8:45 AM Comment

An hour at the State Capitol

I had to give a presentation yesterday outside of Albany, and drove there in the afternoon. I usually budget an extra hour if I'm driving someplace I'm speaking, and because of the weather, I budgeted two hours. Everything went smoothly, especially once I was past Syracuse, so I got to Albany around 4:00pm, when I was speaking at 6:00pm. I'd wanted to see the State Capitol for a while, so I took the exit for Empire State Plaza and went into its parking garage maze.

State Capitol in Albany
A view of the State Capitol in Albany, yesterday.

The Capitol is definitely a long way from the pictures of Dryden I usually show here, but I think in this case I can make an exception. For better or worse, what happens in this building often has a direct effect on what happens in Dryden. Most of the pictures I took were of the architecture, as the building (especially its staircases) is pretty astonishing.

Staircase at State Capitol in Albany
A staircase at the State Capitol.

I arrived as the Assembly was adjourning, so most of the pictures I have are of a few remaining people talking amongst themselves. When I found the entrance to the main chamber, I asked security folks for help, and wound up escorted to the chamber, where the guard, Chuck, took my picture up on the rostrum. He seemed to want to make sure I didn't stop anywhere along the way, notably Majority Leader Sheldon Silver's office. I don't think they knew I'd been handing out copies of the Brennan Center Report, but who knows?

Assembly Chamber
The Assembly Chamber.

After an hour of wandering, I thought I'd find our local legislators' offices and say hello, though time was running short. Fortunately, I ran into Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton by the elevators of the Legislative Office Building, and she let me take a picture.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton stops for a moment in the Legislative Office Building.

Assemblywoman Lifton gave me directions from the Empire State Plaza parking garage to my next destination, and then I was off into the delights of Albany traffic.

I've posted a lot more pictures in a gallery, if you're interested. Some of them are just architectural details, and some of them are of the very different architecture of Empire State Plaza, but the building is fascinating. It's worth a visit whether or not you like what goes on there.

Posted by simon at 1:47 PM Comment

January 20, 2005

Village of Dryden Caucuses

This week's issue of The Shopper includes notices from both the Dryden Democratic Committee and the Dryden Republican Committee that they will be holding caucuses on Tuesday, January 25th to select candidates for Village of Dryden Mayor and Village of Dryden Trustees. All terms are for two years this time.

Republicans will be meeting at 7:30pm at the Dryden Village Hall (map), and Democrats will be meeting at 8:00pm, also at the Village Hall. You must be a registered member of the respective party and a resident of the Village of Dryden to participate and vote.

The seats up in this election all belong to Republicans: Mayor Reba Taylor, Trustee Mark Strom, and Trustee Bob Wity.

Posted by simon at 7:43 AM Comment


County Legislator Mike Lane is quoted in an article on the Ithaca City School District's interest in a seat on the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency board, noting that because the IDA grants tax abatements, "We are directly affected by the outcome of the decisions made by the IDA." Lane prefers that elected officials rather than representatives of particular groups make up the board:

"I think an elected official will be more responsive to taxpayers. I do think elected officials are used to dealing with issue that affect people's tax rates and tend to be careful in taking actions that could increase taxes for people....

I really don't feel we should be declaring certain seats for certain groups. To be on the board, someone should have the background, the best interest of Tompkins County at heart, be broad minded, have some understanding of business and be willing to be flexible. I think we make a mistake when we say one group needs a representative."

On the opinion page, a Journal editorial welcoming the new drug cards quotes County Legislator Martha Robertson saying that "Savings can be up to 50 percent on certain prescriptions ordered through the mail."

Dryden resident Nancy Lee Koschmann writes to say that "I too grieve Bill Moyers' retirement, which comes at a time when our democracy is truly in crisis," and recommends that people listen to WEOS public radio for news and opinion.

Posted by simon at 12:34 PM Comment

January 21, 2005

Letters from Dryden

Most of the Dryden-specific activity in today's Ithaca Journal is on the opinion page, so I'll start there for the first time in a while.

Henry Kramer of Dryden writes to argue that New York (population 19.2 million) follow Connecticut's (population 3.4 million) lead and abolish counties, suggesting that:

"For municipalities, cooperative arrangements and use of consortia could be used to achieve economies of scale. For those who prefer sales and income taxes to property taxes, more of the tax burden would shift to statewide taxation."

Once Kramer gets past his visions of a government both more concentrated in Albany and more distributed among the towns, he arrives at what he no doubt thinks is a more likely suggestion:

"If we are not to do that, let's at least establish a strong county executive and a separation of powers concept for county government."

It's a nice style of argument. Put forward a bold but unlikely idea, and then make a more plausible suggestion at the end of the letter, without the burden of explaining its benefits. As is probably obvious from some of my earlier postings, I don't see much benefit to the idea.

Cathy Wakeman of Dryden writes in response to an earlier letter questioning the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004. Wakeman argues that:

"Our 'have it your way' society would like to entertain sexual relations as recreation and then is somehow surprised when an embryo or fetus or baby shows up.

Responsibility balances our rights. If a criminal violates the rights of a pregnant woman, he or she is responsible for both affected lives. "

On the news side, Groton and McLean firefighters reported to a silo fire in Groton, with mutual aid that included the Freeville and Dryden departments.

The TCAT bus system has a new manager, Joseph J. Turcotte, who has been the superintendent of transportation and administration in Charlotte, NC.

There's also an announcement that Better Housing of Tompkins County will be having group work camps to help low-income and elderly families this summer, from July 10th to 16th.

Posted by simon at 7:39 AM Comment

January Recreation Report

Recreation has been a smaller component of Town Board meetings lately, but I did request Recreation Coordinator Jennifer Staton's report (80KB PDF) to the Recreation Committee and Town Board. It looks at:

  • The upcoming Travel Basketball and Wrestling programs
  • The Recreation Partnership
  • A Club Dryden program to be held February 5th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at Dryden Central School
  • Reducing administrative fees for this year on Kiwanis Club
  • The ball fields going in on Wall Street in the Village of Dryden
  • A brochure in progress describing Recreation programs
Posted by simon at 8:18 AM Comment

January 22, 2005

Congressman Boehlert opposes Social Security privatization

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo reports that Dryden's Congressman, Sherwood Boehlert, isn't thrilled about the current discussion of Social Security in an radio interview with WAMC Albany:

Among other things, said Boehlert: "I've never been a gambler ... I don't want to gamble with Social Security trust fund moneys. And so I am very, very skeptical of the so-called plans to privatize. And I think a disservice is being done to a great many Americans by sort of sounding the alarm that everything's going to hell in a hand basket and we're going to be broke by 2018. That simply is not so."

Unfortunately, I can't get the clip to play, but I'll keep trying.

Posted by simon at 7:43 AM Comment

Dryden quiet as storm approaches

There's not a lot of Dryden-specific news in today's Journal, though there's plenty of news that affects us. We'll be sharing in the weekend forecast of snow and cold, and the current winter storm warning claims:




Fortunately, we're west of Cortland, so hopefully we won't see the worst of it.

There's also an article on projections of increased sales tax revenue for the county, and the return of Sunday hours at the Tompkins County Public Library after $50,000 in fund-raising.

The How They Voted feature lists county legislature votes. There's a funding agreement for Ringwood Road Bridge over Cascadilla Creek in there. Dryden legislators Martha Robertson and Mike Lane were on opposite sides a number of times, with Robertson favoring and Lane opposing a resolution "Advocating Certification of HAVA-Compliant Voting Machines and Related Election Law Improvements", and Robertson voting against several New York State DOT funding agreements.

The Monitor reports a Village of Dryden man arrested for drug possession in Ithaca, and a Staten Island man charged with DWI on Livermore Road.

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

January 23, 2005

A Dryden that never came to pass

As the Planning Board comes closer to completing the Draft Comprehensive Plan, it seems like a good time to reflect on the fate of the last plan Dryden did, the 1968 Dryden General Plan. Apparently it was never adopted by the town, but copies of it are available at the Dryden Town Historical Society and Town Hall. (Thanks to Town Clerk Bambi Hollenbeck for letting me borrow one of the copies, as it will take me a while to scan in 230+ pages.)

Unlike the current comprehensive plan effort, which focuses exclusively on the town outside of the villages, this plan included both villages.

For starters, I've scanned in the summary with map that came in a pocket at the back of plan. The map (which scanned in with some color variations) shows proposed zoning for Dryden, as well as some features that never were developed.

1968 General Plan Map
The map from the 1968 Dryden General Plan.

The most notable feature that appears on the map but not on the ground is a Route 13 bypass, starting from where 13 turns southeast near the airport, and reconnecting with the existing 13 at the Cortland County line. Along with the new road, the plan shows a "Possible Regional Shopping Center" at Pinckney and Etna roads.

1968 General Plan Map, closeup on Etna
The map from the 1968 Dryden General Plan's extra features near Etna.

TC3 hadn't been established yet, and the plan shows it next to Dryden High School.

So far, I've scanned in the following features:

I'll be scanning in more over the next few weeks. There's a stunning amount of detail - some lot-by-lot - in this plan, even if it didn't prove a great predictor of things to come.

Posted by simon at 4:27 PM Comment

January 24, 2005

Windmills, weather, and wish lists

This morning's Journal mentions a project I've heard rumored but not seen in print, the possibility of Cornell setting up windmills in Dryden and elsewhere in Tompkins County. The University is doing tests now in Dryden, "though Joyce declined to elaborate on where in the town they were looking."

This weekend's frozen and snowy weather gets an article looking at accidents, busy plumbers, snowmobilers, and skiing at Greek Peak.

On the opinion page, the Journal asked local town supervisors for their 2005 goals. Dryden Supervisor Steve Trumbull listed:

finish the $300,000 FEMA-funded project to restore eroded Virgil Creek banks near Lake Road. Other important town goals should be the adoption of a storm water management ordinance, a new town comprehensive plan, implementation of staff and volunteer boards' in-house service training, refinishing an employee policy handbook, the annexation of property off Route 13 near the A-1 restaurant for water lines and progress on a plan to extend a walking trail that borders Dryden Lake.

Posted by simon at 7:43 AM Comment

Historical and Regional Context, circa 1968

Continuing into the body of the 1968 Dryden General Plan, I've scanned the first two sections, an Introduction and Historical and Regional Context. For completeness, I'm including pictures and maps in separate files, as they tend to be enormous:

Regional Location
Regional Location: Dryden in the Ithaca-Cortland Corridor, 1968.

The brief history in the Historical and Regional Context (180KB PDF) is excellent, but some of its more current perspectives are especially striking. The Cornell aspect of this story still holds true somewhat, but the excitement over Cortland's industrial growth in the 1960s has since faded:

Dryden and its two villages are again on the upswing of a growth cycle which had a strong surge during the 1950 decade. This event corresponded to a general growth pattern for the surrounding region and especially for those communities close to Cornell University. The University is undoubtedly the force which has produced the greatest single effect on Tompkins County and its towns in this century. It is the resource that has replaced the timber and agricultural economy of the 1800's.

A substantial building program after the Second World War expanded the facilities of the University- and resulted in increased enrollments and an accompanying increase in faculty and staff. University housing policy encourages mobility of students who, along with new faculty and staff, are searching in ever widening perimeters for suitable places to live. This has had a great impact on Dryden and other towns within convenient commuting distance from Cornell. The recent trend toward expansion of graduate schools can be expected to heighten this impact since a greater ratio of faculty and support personnel will be required for graduate programs, and these students will be more likely to prefer family type housing accommodations in the suburbs than will undergraduates.

Another effect of Cornell expansion has been an increase in small university-oriented research and development industries which find it advantageous to use this area as a source of trained personnel, expert consultation and sophisticated research facilities. Without question the economy of the Ithaca area, with higher education at its base, is healthy and growing. Dryden has a key position in this regional development pattern as evidence found throughout this report will testify.

A second regional force which will undoubtedly have increasing direct and secondary effects on Dryden is the industrial complex which is gathering strength in the South Cortland valley. This area has experienced dramatic industrial development during this decade which shows no signs of tapering off. Even though this complex is in Cortland County and traditionally has had greater impact on the City of Cortland and other areas located to the east and north, it seems reasonable to assume that Dryden will become the place of residence of an increasing number of employees from this work center.

Plans to rebuild Route 13 as part of the Appalachian highway and New York's expressway system will tie the Ithaca growth center to the industrial complex in Cortland County with a controlled access, high speed highway. This type of improved transportation facility will greatly ease commuting and further enhance Dryden as an extremely desirable residential community. It will probably also make it attractive as an area for limited types of industrial and commercial activity.

It is apparent that Dryden is in the center of a polarized regional development picture. Forces for change will come from both the east and the west and could result in substantial changes in Dryden's physical environment and economic structure. The physical environment is the primary concern of this report and the plan which has been developed to guide change in the years ahead is based on an assessment of potential and the consideration of alternate ways by which this potential can be transformed into a pleasant and efficient community structure.

The changes to Route 13, shown on yesterday's map, were never completed, except for the stretch from Ithaca to Lansing that I refer to as "Ithaca's practice highway." Dryden has remained more isolated than these planners expected, and the industrial development to the northeast faded. Today's plan strikes much more cautious notes, seeing changes other than population affecting planning:

Although the population growth of the town between 1990 and 2000 was relatively small at 281 persons, the average growth per decade since 1960 has been about 1,540 persons. While the town's population has grown, however, the average size of households has shrunk. According to the Decennial Census of Population and Housing, the average size of a household in the Town of Dryden was 2.43 persons in 2000, a decrease in size from 2.47 in 1990. This trend in the declining size of households dates from the 1960s, when the average household size in the town was 3.39 persons. (38)

Posted by simon at 5:37 PM Comment

Zoning Officer and Town Clerk's 2004 reports

At this month's Town Board meeting, members mentioned annual reports from Henry Slater, the Zoning Officer, and Bambi Hollenbeck, Town Clerk. I put in a request for them, and was well rewarded. The Zoning & Building Department's 2004 report (232KB PDF) includes an overview of growth in the town, while the Town Clerk's report (38KB PDF) shows money coming into and going out of the Town Clerk's office, a good overview of fees paid into the town and where they go.

In the section "What Does the Future Hold?", Zoning Officer Slater discusses some residential development in progress and then writes:

Commercial Development does not offer much for the future which is consistent with recent trends. Commercial Industrial development tends to look to areas where municipal water and sewer services are available. There is not a lot of undeveloped commercial industrial area available where municipal water and sewer service is available. Where these services are available, land values are high.

Currently, residential development is the area which will be where tax base growth should be expected. Typically, 40 - 50 single family homes are built each year. 2004, for example, had 40 single family home construction permits.

With the recent big box retail boom within Tompkins County which should boost employment, should also provide an opportunity for residential growth. Residential growth will be dependent on many factors beginning with earning power. Typically, retail does not provide high earning potential. A direction toward affordable housing may be an area to explore.

Commercial, then residential, then the impact of the nature of commercial development locally on residential development. Slater also provides summaries of the year's work by the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board, Conservation Board, and Environmental Planner Debbie Gross. One piece of the Environmental Planner section is especially interesting in light of recent Town Board discussions on the purchase of land for a new Town Hall:

Assuming the Town is successful in completing the land purchase from Empire, Debbie will assume the lead role in utilizing the wetland area as a community conservation and wetland nature center.

The Zoning & Building report also includes 20 pages of project listings with anticipated costs. I haven't scanned those, but they're available from Town Hall.

The Town Clerk's report is more a balance sheet, but of $86,404.16 collected (no, that doesn't include taxes!), $62,691.58 remained in one of the town's fund, with $23,712.58 going to either Tompkins County or the State of New York.

Posted by simon at 5:54 PM Comment

January 25, 2005

Beyond Measure on "Best of High School A Cappella 2005"

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the Dryden High School a cappella ensemble Beyond Measure has a song, "Fever," on a collection CD, "Best of High School A Cappella 2005." The CD is not yet available, bit should be out soon, and Beyond Measure's next performance will be April 29th.

The Ithaca School Board will be examining redistricting tonight at 7:00pm at the district's administration building.(map). Four options will be presented, the first of which involves no change, the second of which optimizes bus routes, and the last two of which change start times and boundaries.

In state news, an article looks at Governor Pataki's proposal for giving county property tax relief to counties which don't raise spending. Apart from sounding complicated, it isn't clear if counties which receive mandates from the state to spend more money - on specific projects like the county jail or Medicaid more broadly - would lose their tax breaks. Dryden resident Henry Kramer sounds dubious about the idea:

"If you want relief, you have to give it to the people who pay taxes," Kramer said. "It is not about specific taxes. It is about total tax burden. If you shift from one tax to another, you don't change the total tax burden, just the form."

I also have to wonder how the state would evaluate whether "local governments keep spending below certain, prescribed levels." This sounds like a set of issues potentially as complicated as the notoriously manipulated school aid formulas. The claim is 3 to 3.5%, depending on the year - but while I like the idea of flexibility, what process determines that? Also, since it measures spending increases, and not total spending, it seems that counties who want to ensure they get these rebates from the state have an incentive to raise spending now, before the state is watching to take away rebates. Maybe the state should look instead at reducing its own impact on county property tax bills?

Posted by simon at 8:48 AM Comment

Senator Seward backs legislative reform, sort of

Only two months after bluntly defending the practice of empty-seat voting, State Senator James Seward is trumpeting its purported elimination on his web site.

No one other than the Senate's Republican Majority seems terribly impressed with the reforms passed yesterday. The Ithaca Journal doesn't seem to have reported on it. The Gannett story, available in the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin, notes that:

For instance, the Republican-led Senate didn't make it easier for those in the political minority to bring bills to the floor for a vote. Also, Democrats long-standing protests about grossly smaller staffs and office budgets were ignored.

Even the breakthrough on "empty-seat voting" was a partial one. Previously, once a legislator checked in for the day, he was counted as voting "yes" on every measure whether he is in his seat or not, unless he is there to vote "no." Now, senators will have to be in their seats to vote on the bills in the "controversial calendar" or those bills slated for debate. The rules won't change for voting on routine bills.

As NYCO's blog notes, the poor Senate majority "had to suffer through close to four hours of debate as Democrats alleged all manner of slights and unfairness." Democrats even proposed eight amendments to the reforms, but in classic Senate style they didn't even reach the floor of the Senate - "the Republicans who control the chamber shot them all down before they even made it to the floor for a full vote."

Maybe things have changed a little - NYCO's earlier comment that "Publicly pretending to reform is a big first step toward actual reform," gives me a bit of hope that things will continue to change for the better.

The Republicans' lack of interest in the project is especially odd, though, given their tenuous hold on the Senate, kept in place against demographic change in the state only by the severest of gerrymandering. (The T-bone steak-shaped map of Seward's district provides a good demonstration of that!) Given the potential of their losing hold of the chamber, I'd expect them to show more interest in ensuring that minority lawmakers have a voice.

Oh well. Time to think of what lovely reform issue to write our legislators about next. Both the Senate and the Assembly did address a few pieces around the edges this month, so maybe writing does have some effect.

Posted by simon at 12:29 PM Comment

January 26, 2005

Horses killed in accident on 38

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on an accident which killed two horses which wandered on to Route 38 Sunday night. The Dryden Fire Department replied, and the vehicle involved was towed away, but the people involved weren't injured.

Briefly in Dryden lists a lasagna dinner at the Varna United Methodist Church (map) at 4:00pm on Saturday, January 29th. Tompkins Cortland Community College will be having an Alumni Fun Day on February 5th, and the Lions Club (with support from the Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund) will be having a Club Dryden event for middle school students from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at Dryden Central School.

There's a picture of Tompkins County Sheriff Deputy Ryan Mayo patrolling Ellis Hollow Creek Road in an article on Caroline Town Supervisor Don Barber's call for more rural police coverage.

The Ithaca City School District Board discussed elementary redistricting with an overflow crowd. There's no mention in the article of changes for Dryden residents, but there isn't much detail. More information is (or will be) available at the District's redistricting site, though I don't see detailed presentations there yet.

At the county level, sales tax revenue has increased likely both due to new stores opening and higher utiility costs.

The Journal's editorial questions the sense of granting benefits to part-time elected officials.

Next door to Dryden, the Journal looks at the career of Welthea M. Marsh, president of the First National Bank of Groton from 1896 to 1901. The Groton Business Association will be posthumously awarding her their second annual Recognition Award in March.

Posted by simon at 8:47 AM Comment

Natural Features, 1968

The next section of the 1968 Dryden General Plan looks at a set of issues that haven't changed much since then: natural features, like hill slopes, watersheds, and soils.

The text files are a new feature. I can't get Acrobat to produce decent results with the typewriter-text (it puts a space between all of the letters), so I'm using a different program to produce an unattractive but functional text file.

Posted by simon at 7:16 PM Comment

January 27, 2005

Dryden opinions

Two Dryden residents write to express their opinions in today's Ithaca Journal. Peter Davies writes a guest column encouraging the Ithaca City School District to support rowing as a sport. Maureen Brull writes expressing her concern about Americans' "arrogant use of money".

There's another announcement for the Second Annual Breast Cancer Ride for Research, an all-girls snowmobile ride which the Dryden-Caroline Drifters will be holding on February 26th.

There's an article on work being done to improve phosphorous removal at the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Plant, a project which the Town of Dryden is involved in on behalf of its sewer districts.

A photo shows outgoing Ithaca Festival director Laurel Guy with the two new directors. Guy has left the Ithaca Festival to become program director for the Saltonstall Foundation of the Arts, on Ellis Hollow Road.

Elia Kacapyr reports that the Tompkins County economy fell a bit in December, despite increasing holiday sales, to give the county an estimated 1.6% growth rate last year.

Posted by simon at 8:28 AM Comment

Village of Dryden voter registrations

As Village of Dryden elections are coming up in March, I've been looking at voter registration data again. Here's my current snapshot of the Village of Dryden registrations:

PartyNumber Registered
Working Families3

"Blank" voters in New York are typically called "Independent" voters in other states, and the Independence party is an organization that endorses candidates, not just a gathering of independent voters.

Posted by simon at 8:57 AM Comment

January 28, 2005

Dryden schools consider fiber-optic line

This morning's Journal looks at a proposal to connect Dryden to fiber-optic lines for distance learning possibilities, and notes the resignation of Debra Cox, who is leaving her position as principal of Dryden Primary School for a job in the Tully school district.

Kevin Vallely, Dryden resident and UPS delivery man, is quoted in an article about how to stay warm when it's so cold outside.

The Journal's editorial revisits the Burger King at East Hill Plaza that was a source of concern for many Ellis Hollow residents, and quotes Tom Seeley of Hurd Road about the litter he finds along the road as he jogs.

Posted by simon at 8:46 AM Comment

January 29, 2005

Land use patterns, 1968

After examing Natural Features, the 1968 Dryden General Plan looks at land use patterns. The opening section of this describes Dryden as suburbanization was starting to affect it, but before many of the newer developments in town were built.

The next few sections include one of the more stunning features of this plan, a building-by-building map and usage listing for the Town of Dryden, Etna, and the Villages of Freeville and Dryden. I hope to have them up tomorrow. (Scanning the maps, especially when the necessary details are tiny, is a much bigger challenge than scanning text.)

Posted by simon at 9:48 AM Comment

Fall Creek flooding basements

While there's no mention of flooding in Dryden, water coming from Dryden is causing problems at Ithaca High School and Ithaca's Fall Creek neighborhood. The flooding is a combination of conditions in Cayuga Lake and conditions in the Fall Creek watershed that have jammed Fall Creek with ice:

The high lake level apparently is the product of warm temperatures early in the winter that brought with them increased rainfall. When cold weather finally hit and ice formed, the added water had no speedy escape route.

High lake levels have been compounded by similar problems in Fall Creek. When the temperatures dropped, the water in the creek froze, so that what came cascading over the waterfall was actually a thick slurry of water and ice chunks. When that clogged the lower part of the creek -- between the waterfall and Cayuga Lake --the water table in the Fall Creek neighborhood began to rise.

I doubt today's forecasted warmer temperatures will help much.

In other news affecting Dryden, a conservative Republican from Auburn is gearing up to challenge Congressman Sherwood Boehlert.

Posted by simon at 10:23 AM Comment

Boehlert on Main Street Partnership

I just noted that Brad Jones, a more conservative Republican, is preparing to challenge Congressman Sherwood Boehlert. Boehlert has long had conservative challengers in Republican primaries, and his recent stand on Social Security probably encourages them.

NYCO mentions a piece on moderate New York Republicans, and links to another WAMC story that includes comments from Congressman Boehlert on the Republican Main Street Partnership:

Former Congressman Amo Houghton of New York, now retired, started this because he felt very strongly that the moderates weren't really well organized, and yet he also had the feeling that the moderates really spoke for the majority of the American people. And you know, I thought he was right, because the extremes of the left and the right are usually rejected by the majority in favor of something that represents a compromise, a coming together of the two extremes....

When all is said and done, you can be so pure that you insist on having everything the way you want it, if you're on the left or the right. But if you put your feet in cement and refuse to give, you're never going to make any progress. Progress comes when people on the left and the right come together.

Another New York Republican seems to have annoyed conservatives this week, as the New York Times (registration required) reports that Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno "will boycott New York's Conservative Party conference on Monday, his aides said on Friday, as punishment for the party's refusal last July to endorse his re-election." Nassau County Executive (and Democrat) Thomas Suozzi, of Fix Albany, will be speaking there, however.

NYCO also finds that rules reform in the New York State Assembly may have practical results. The vote turned out the same in the end, perhaps, but the getting there was much more interesting.

Posted by simon at 10:52 AM Comment

January 30, 2005

Land use in Etna and the Town, 1966

After the introductory material on land use patterns, the 1968 General Plan goes into one of my favorite features: a building-by-building survey of the Town as a whole, with additional maps for Etna, Freeville, and Dryden.

The map for the Town as a whole includes some very tiny type, so I had to scan it at a higher resolution, producing a bigger file. This sample, at the western intersection of Routes 13 and 366, gives you some idea what it looks like:

Land use from 1968 General Plan
A piece of the map of Town of Dryden Land Use from the 1968 Dryden General Plan.

There's also a list of numbered buildings corresponding to the numbers on the map - #84, where Treeforms is now, is "Commercial (radio & t.v. sales & repair)", while #85 next to it is "Commercial (Boxcar) restaurant". Note that Wilcox Press wasn't there yet. You can get a pretty detailed idea of what was here (and what wasn't) in 1966, the year the field survey was done.

The Etna map doesn't come with a list of places, probably because the few non-residential locations are identified on the town map.

Posted by simon at 10:35 AM Comment

Hiking the Jim Schug Trail by Dryden Lake

Tracey and I went hiking today with friends down the very snowy Jim Schug Trail, mostly along Dryden Lake. It was a beautiful winter day, the snow lit by bright sun.

Skiers on the Jim Schug Trail
Skiers on the Jim Schug Trail

People were snowshoeing, hiking, skiing, and icefishing out on the lake.

Ice fishing on Dryden Lake
Icefishing on Dryden Lake

It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, but I'm not sure how best to describe it in words. Since they fail me, I've posted a gallery of photos.

Posted by simon at 8:43 PM Comment

January 31, 2005

Apprenticeships, Fall Creek

In today's Journal, Dryden resident Michael Creasy questions why building contractors wouldn't want to have apprenticeship programs in response to an earlier letter.

Downstream of Dryden, Fall Creek has started to recede after flooding this weekend, and there's a picture of an excavator smashing ice. I haven't heard of any recent problems with Fall Creek in Dryden, however.

Posted by simon at 8:10 AM Comment

Village annexation prospects, nurseries

I've been painfully slack in getting the Dryden Courier over the last few weeks. I bought last week's on the Tuesday night before it disappeared, misplaced it, and just got to the current issue tonight. There's still one more day to buy this one!

This week's issue takes a look at the prospects for parts of the Town of Dryden north of the Village of Dryden joining the Village through the annexation process. A single 21-acre parcel was annexed last year for a Department of Transportation site, and the water and sewer issues in the area are complicated. County Legislator Mike Lane has invited property owners in the area to a meeting in February to discuss annexation, and the Town and Village boards have scheduled a joint meeting to discuss a petition from the Dryden Mutual Insurance Company.

There's also an article on the Integrative Montessori Nursery School that opens on Thresher Place in Dryden this week, one of a number of them opening in Tompkins County recently.

The Fall Creek Watershed Committee is looking for volunteers to work on water quality monitoring, especially people who live near the creek and its tributaries.

In the sports section, there's a picture of Dryden High wrestler Rex Hollenbeck and team pictures of the girls basketball and boys wrestling teams.

Looking back at the previous (January 19th) issue, the Courier covered the purchase of land for the new Town Hall, suggesting that the parcel is 20 to 25 acres, and looking at both the need for a new town hall and the possibility of recreation fields. The Courier's editorial describes this as "a small step in the right direction," saying that "if the town board members are enchanted by the possibilities of creating ball fields and preserving a few acres of wetlands, well, one could do a lot worse." They also suggested that:

The town should develop and commit to a plan that includes all areas of the town as equally as possible in its services. It would be wise to begin a town board subcommittee to study that unfortunate dynamic in depth.

There was an article on Justin Armstrong, who is building a 30-foot cutter on Turkey Hill Road from materials he largely harvested and collected himself. He's hoping to launch the boat in the Atlantic in June 2006.

The issue also included a four-page review of the year 2004 in Dryden. It's kind of strange to read a year of news compressed into a brief read!

Posted by simon at 7:48 PM Comment