November 1, 2006

George Dentes, 1954-2006

This morning's Ithaca Journal leads with news of former District Attorney George Dentes sudden death yesterday while at work for the New York State Prosecutors Training Institute. Dentes grew up in Ithaca, served as Tompkins County District Attorney from 1990 to 2005, and was deeply involved in many Dryden cases.

The Journal's Managing Editor (and Dryden resident) Bruce Estes writes of his encounters with Dentes and the complex relationship between the newspaper and the prosecutor.

Calling hours will be at Bangs Funeral Home from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at Bangs Funeral Home (map).

Posted by simon at 8:06 AM Comment

Comparing candidates

This morning's Ithaca Journal also offers a "Meet the Dryden Town Board Candidates" article talking with Democrat David Makar and Republican Dan Tier. They explore issues from emergency services to community centers to commercial development.

There's more comparison on the opinion page, though I'm afraid that the tone and facts of some of the Republican letters are crossing some unfortunate lines. The worst of them is from Thomas Quinn of Freeville, which talks about how "Makar's idea of having full-time professional fire departments would result in a significant tax increase."

Sorry, but that's just plain false. David Makar talks regularly about the need to support our volunteer fire departments to avoid having full-time fire departments with their significant increase. The cost comparisons are obviously ugly, and worth emphasizing. Then, Quinn's conclusion that "Mostly, I am uncomfortable with a potential board member whose constituency seems to be from Ithaca," is nearly as cheerful, ignoring the large number of letters for Makar with Dryden addresses. (And perhaps Quinn would prefer to forget that many Town of Dryden residents have Ithaca mailing addresses?)

Patricia Quinn of Freeville writes a nicer letter than Thomas Quinn supporting Dan Tier, though she cites improving DSL availability - courtesy of Verizon or Frontier, not thanks to the town board - as a reason to support him.

Joyce Day of Dryden writes a letter supporting Tier which focuses on his skills and experience.

Finally, a notoriously cranky Dryden resident writes to endorse Makar:

Dryden is growing, and growth is bringing new challenges. We need town board members with energy, with a strong sense of community, and with financial experience. Makar brings all of those things and is ready to help build our community.

Yes, that cranky Dryden resident would be me.

Martha Ferger of Dryden writes to endorse Mike Arcuri for Congress.

For more candidate comparison fun, the opinion page of today's Journal has the sheriff's candidates answering what they would have done differently in the last two terms, with answers from Peter Meskill, Brian Robison, and Tim Little.

Posted by simon at 8:19 AM Comment

Stuttle farm perseveres

This morning's Cortland Standard has an article on the Lew-Lin dairy farm, looking at the challenges - and excitement - of passing a farm from one generation to the next:

Steven Stuttle could have stayed in Pennsylvania after college, but his family’s dairy farm brought him home.

"My heart's been here, and she knows it," said Stuttle, 34, looking at his wife across the kitchen table during a work break Thursday afternoon.

Lisa Stuttle, 42, moved to Dryden 10 years ago with her husband and although she had no farm experience, she said she’s come to embrace living on a farm, too.

"It's a more meaningful life," she said.

Posted by simon at 8:57 AM Comment

Missed opinions

While traveling last week, I seem to have missed reporting on a slew of opinions about and from Dryden, as well as a news story on an accident on North Road.

Among the many letters to the editor last Thursday were:

Posted by simon at 12:18 PM Comment

Democratic registration edge grows

I last looked at Dryden voter registration back in January, after the Board of Elections had expunged a lot of voters who hadn't voted in too long a time. That expunging had cost the Democrats 37 more voters than the Republicans, but recent registrations and losses have added 58 votes to the Democratic advantage over the Republicans. There are now 258 more registered Democrats in Dryden than Republicans.

PartyNumber (Jan 2006)Number (Oct 2006)Change
Blank (Independent)17291759+30
Working Families3031+1

The number of Blank (independent) voters climbed another 30 voters as well. In terms of percentage gains, "Other" climbed 50%, from 4 to 6, while Libertarians grew 33%, from 3 to 4. (One of those Dryden Libertarians is Congressional candidate Mike Sylvia.)

Now we have to see who comes out to vote next Tuesday.

Posted by simon at 12:58 PM Comment

November 2, 2006

Budget hearing tonight

The public notices page for November lists meetings for this month, including a budget hearing tonight at 6:00pm. (The print edition of today's Journal has a bit of information on the budget and the hearing as well, citing a $1.44/$1000 tax rate and a 4% increase in the tax levy. The highway department's growing fuel costs and a bridge on Yellow Barn Road mean an increase in that part of the budget of about 5%.)

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

Posted by simon at 8:04 AM Comment

More letters

This morning the Ithaca Journal has a two-page opinion section but still felt the need to list letters and publish them online. Unfortunately, all the letters for Town Board wound up in the online pile.

Dawn Potter - a Bethel Grove resident with an Ithaca mailing address - wrote to support Democrat David Makar.

There are three letters for Republican Dan Tier. Republican County Legislator Mike Hattery writes to support Tier, as does Daniel Hill of Dryden.

The last letter surprised me. There were complaints from Thomas Quinn and Jim Crawford about letters supporting David Makar with Ithaca addresses, which Makar has written about, finding two genuine out-of-Town letters. After that, I really didn't expect to see a letter for Tier from out-of-Town, even Cortland. Tom Parsons of Cortland writes a letter for Tier whose last paragraph starts shamelessly with an undeserved (and apparently unresearched) slam:

Unlike his opponent, Dan didn't just start volunteering in his community because he wanted to run for office.

It doesn't strike me as likely that Tom Parsons has met David Makar, seen him in action, or had a chance to evaluate his motives. I suppose I should get used to these below-the-belt tactics, since we see hit pieces and false claims pretty much every election season, but it's hard to lower my expectations. (And I'd rather not respond in kind.)

Looking at Dryden letters in other races, we have:

There's also a letter supporting Etna resident and Libertarian Congressional candidate Mike Sylvia from Christa Siering of Trumansburg.

In dueling guest columns, Democratic Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton writes about problems with a proposed school spending cap, while Republican challenger Jim Rohan questions the STAR rebate check and problems in the state's school funding mechanisms.

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

Examining Old 13

Last night's information meeting on the Route 13 & 366 Corridor Management Study was interesting, though I'm not sure how much was accomplished. It started with an overview of the objectives for the study, which echoed the invitation's emphasis on land use guidelines. (The study area includes Route 366 through Varna to the intersection with 366, then continues through the Village of Dryden on 13 and north to the Cortland County line on 13.)

Tompkins County Planning Commissioner introduced the session to a well-filled room, which was then led by Fisher Associates, the consultants preparing the report. They also introduced the advisory committee.

County Planning Commissioner Ed Marx introduces the session
County Planning Commissioner Ed Marx introduces the session.

After the introduction to the goals and the process, the crowd worked through an exercise rating lots of different buildings and complex for their layout, architecture, and general appealingness - though not their contents. There were three very different Burger Kings, for instance, some more appealing than others. In general I think I rated attractiveness as "less asphalt" - it's incredible how unattractive roads and parking lots are when you look at them.

After some discussion of the rated pictures, the crowd broke down into four groups with maps to review a wide variety of questions as they applied specifically to the study area.

Breaking into small groups around maps
Breaking into small groups around maps to discuss the area.

My group spent most of its twenty minutes on the safety hazards of the route, never really getting to land use or other preferred outcomes, but they did have a comment form for making suggestions later. As former County Legislator (and advisory board member) Mike Lane said, twenty minutes isn't nearly enough time.

It sounds like there will be at least one more public meeting before the report is delivered to the county, town, and village, and many steps between that delivery and any actual implementation. I'll report as I hear of anything developing.

Posted by simon at 5:32 PM Comment

November 3, 2006

Town Board passes budget; Brooktondale says no

The Dryden Town Board passed its 2007 budget last night, after discussion of tax collection, recreation, community centers, and the general openness of the process.

The Town Board has indeed held its required meetings and hearings, and made the budget available through printed copies at the Town Hall. It hasn't however, even done as much as it did two years ago in putting the budget up on the web site, and the document remains a pretty completely incomprehensible document. Figuring out what a line item means requires asking question after question. I suggested that the Board consider providing a budget for explaining the budget, since they're obviously putting zero resources into making this document useful for the public.

In more substantive changes, the board included $12,000 for a public audit, as the Town hasn't had one in years, despite a bookkeeper convicted of embezzling funds. They also added $12,000 for a town-wide recreation study. The highway budget is up, because of rising fuel costs and a bridge, and employees received a 4% cost of living increase, except that the Environmental Planner received a higher one as previously agreed.

The $25,000 that the Town Board allocated for community centers last year remained contentious, with $17,000 of it likely to remain unspent this year and next year's $25,000 line having no clear direction. County Legislator Martha Robertson asked the board whether community centers could apply for some of that remaining $17,000 this year and eventually was told that yes, the board would consider applications. (It's still not entirely clear how centers should apply for the $2,000 each they were allocated in an earlier compromise. Skip Thorne of the Etna Community Association was there with a letter from 2004 about the Etna playground, and that may work out.

In related questions, Robertson also asked about the OURS program, who had presented at the August board meeting. The Youth Commission is interested in working with them, but lacks a budget for that. After a lot of back and forth, Councilman Steve Stelick agreed to meet with them soon. The Board didn't want to change the budget - which would result in another public hearing - but did say they'd consider the project, along with others, in the contingency funds of the budget. (The town has $75,000 in its contingency budget, up from 2006's $62,980.62.)

Former County Legislator Mike Lane asked about the current combination of Town Clerk and Tax Collector, suggesting that the Town Clerk's job is underpaid but also suggesting that the Town look for cheaping options for handling tax collections, as the school districts use banks. He thanked the Board for their support of local libraries, and there was some conversation about the county's support of rural libraries, which seems to be safe for the moment.

While the Town stood firm on its "4% rule" with the four major fire departments in the town, they seemed surprised by a letter from the Brooktondale Fire Company which rejected their proposal. Brooktondale covers Dryden south of Snyder Hill Road, including Route 79. The company had requested $19,800 for the contract, while the town offered $18,570. The company returned with $19,000, still more than the 4% planned. The board didn't think they could change the budget without another public hearing, didn't sound excited about the prospect of making an exception, even a small one, and agreed to talk further with Brooktondale.

Posted by simon at 8:15 AM Comment

Baked good extravaganzas

Whether you're on the east side or the west side of Dryden, pies, cakes, and other fine baked goods will be readily available. In the Village of Dryden:

The Dryden Town Historical Society's annual homemade Pie & Bread Sale will be held next Saturday, November 4th, from 9 AM until ?? at the 1st National Bank of Dryden. Members can bring donations of pies or breads to the bank between 9 AM and 10:30 AM.

Dryden is home to some of the best bakers in the county so be sure to get there early for the best selection. (A word to the wise, in recent years we have sold out by 11 AM.) Hope to see you there!

In Varna:

On Saturday, the annual Holiday Craft Fair and Bake Sale will be happening at the community center. We would love to have your contributions to the Bake Sale. Some of the ladies are baking cupcakes and breads, but we would welcome your baked goods as well.

Baked goods should be at the center by 8:30AM on Saturday. Volunteers will be setting up and cooking on Friday evening, if you wish to drop off goodies then.

Whether you're looking to donate or to enjoy a tasty treat, there should be plenty of options.

Posted by simon at 4:52 PM Comment

November 6, 2006

Shopping spree, candidates

I never got to cover Friday's Ithaca Journal, which included a heartwarming story of a Cortland man's shopping spree for the Dryden Kitchen Cupboard. Dennis Wright won the spree - at Clark's Food Mart - from Dryden Rotary. Kitchen Cupboard got $299.36 worth of groceries, and Clark's gave a 10% discount.

Friday's opinion page included concluding letters from Dryden Town Board candidates David Makar and Dan Tier, Sheriff's candidates Tim Little, Peter Meskill, and Brian Robison, and Assembly candidates Barbara Lifton and Jim Rohan. Saturday, they published letters from Supreme Court Justice candidate Dennis McDermott and Etna resident and Congressional candidate Mike Sylvia

The Journal endorsed Peter Meskill for Sheriff Friday, and declined to endorse in the Assembly race Saturday.

Between Friday and Saturday the Journal writes about Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton defending a letter she wrote for Sheriff Peter Meskill challenging the value of voting for Tim Little, and then apologizing. (Unfortunately I recycled the copy of the letter I got without examining it closely, but the Journal has the letter.)

Saturday also had an extended article on former District Attorney George Dentes, who passed away Tuesday morning.

Posted by simon at 7:00 AM Comment

Candidate perspectives

The Dryden Courier has always done a great job of giving candidates for local office space to explain who they are and what they're hoping to accomplish, and I strongly recommend finding a copy if you haven't yet decided. The XtraMart/Sunoco on 13 usually has them, as do the Eckerd and the Mobil in the Village of Dryden. Town Board candidates David Makar and Dan Tier respond to questions from the Courier, as do Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and Jim Rohan. They don't include the similar piece from the Sheriff's candidates, but it's available on the Ithaca Times site, as is the story in the Courier on the sheriff's race.

The front page writes of the November 10th dinner at TC3 which will induct members into Rotary International, creating a new Dryden Rotary Club. There's also a piece on a new CD from Beyond Measure, the Dryden High School a capella group. Inside, there's an article on 10-year-old Zoe Sweetland, who's preparing to perform in the Nutcracker ballet, and an announcement of Dryden Seniors' November 13th lunch meeting.

On the opinion page, there's a letter from me supporting David Makar, and Etna resident Mike Sylvia has a letter from Christa Siering of Trumansburg supporting his campaign for Congress.

Reporter Matt Cooper's "Inside Dryden" column visits the Dryden High School library, and finds a number of graphic novels.

Posted by simon at 7:20 AM Comment

Veterans Day parade

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on Sunday's Veterans Day parade in Ithaca, and talks with Mary Cotterill of Dryden:

For Mary Cotterill of Dryden, who served as a medic in World War II, participating in the parade was a seminal experience. Cotterill said she was involved in the Army reserves until she was 60 years old, and she retired as a colonel. Throughout her life, Cotterill said she marched all over the United States for various national conventions.

There's also an article on a deer control session tonight at the Tompkins County Public Library, and Jay Gallagher's reflections on how hard it is to vote in New York State.

Posted by simon at 10:47 AM Comment

Sample ballot

If you'd like some idea what you'll be seeing in the polling place, the Board of Elections has posted a Dryden sample ballot. There are lots and lots of lines and eleven different positions to fill. There don't appear to be any propositions this year, however.

Posted by simon at 11:49 AM Comment

Dryden publisher offers Thanksgiving help

I like to get press releases like this:

Ellis Hollow-based Publishing House Releases New Book that Makes Thanksgiving Prep Easy


New Thanksgiving "how-to" book saves the day for harried cooks; published in Ellis Hollow

Ithaca, NY USA (November 6, 2006) -- It's easy to find Thanksgiving recipes, but much harder to find a complete set of tested recipes that go together to help real-world cooks in real-world kitchens make a delicious Thanksgiving meal without stress or last minute problems. Help is now at hand in the new book, "Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner," written by Joe Kissell, author of the Geeky Gourmet blog. The 104-page book may be ordered in traditional printed form ($19.99) or as an instant-gratification PDF download ($10) from

The book was published by an Eliis Hollow-based independent publishing house - TidBITS Electronic Publishing, which was founded in Ithaca in 1990 by Tonya and Adam Engst, both long-time Ithaca residents and Cornell alumni. Inspired in part by the many out-of-date computer books - including some of their own - crowding the shelves at the Friends of the Library Book Sale, in 2003 the Engsts combined the talents of a group of experienced technical writers and editors to begin publishing a successful series of technology-related electronic books, thus reducing the number of books that reach bookstores already partly obsolete. "Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner" is a departure from their normal technical focus, but proved to be an example of how the clarity and rigor of technical writing could be applied to a complex and stressful task in the real world. To learn more, visit

Editor in chief Tonya Engst commented, "Since Adam and I both grew up in Ithaca and have lived here as adults, we have a strong appreciation for locally grown, home-cooked foods, and it was pleasing to work with an author who also appreciated that home cooks would want to use fresh ingredients and not cut too many corners with prepared foods. Our author was unsure about suggestions for vegetarians at Thanksgiving, but - even though we're not vegetarian, lots of our friends are - we were able to help with an appendix on vegetarian and vegan options, complete with a recommendation of our favorite squash-polenta recipe from the 'Moosewood Celebrates' cookbook."

The book walks readers through all the steps: planning, shopping, preparations the day before, and finally cooking the turkey and trimmings on the big day. Detailed recipes are provided for traditional Thanksgiving dishes, from turkey and stuffing to cranberry relish and pumpkin pie. Appendixes cover special cases from allergies to vegans. A downloadable "Print Me" file provides shopping lists and schedules, as well as concise versions of the recipes to tape up in the kitchen. Readers are encouraged to modify the included shopping lists, schedules, and recipes to suit their holiday traditions. The downloadable version is a carefully designed PDF file with hot links for cross-references and mentioned Web sites, making it easy to navigate quickly; the print version is professionally printed and bound with a lay-flat binding.

For each book sold during the month of November, $1 will be donated to the San Francisco Food Bank, a non-profit organization (where author Joe Kissell has volunteered) whose mission is to end hunger in San Francisco. For more information about the San Francisco Food Bank, visit

For review copies, interview requests, or excerpts and recipes to publish, contact Tonya Engst,

It seems like there's business bubbling in every corner of the Town of Dryden.

Posted by simon at 8:04 PM Comment

November 7, 2006

Polling places

Apparently Democratic voters in Cayuga County - not too far to our north - are getting calls telling them to go to the wrong polling place. Cheerful. If you'd like to know where to vote here, you can safely visit the Board of Elections listing. To repeat it, polling places for each of the districts are:

  1. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  2. Freeville Fire Station - 21 Union Street, Freeville (map).
  3. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  4. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  5. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  6. Dryden Village Hall - 16 South Street, Dryden (map).
  7. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  8. Bethel Grove Church Activity Center - 1749 Slaterville Road, Bethel Grove (map).
  9. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  10. Reach Out for Christ Church - 318 Johnson Road, Freeville (map).
  11. Dryden Baptist Chapel - 138 Virgil Road, Dryden (map).

All polling places for Dryden are the same this year as they were last year. Polls are open from 6:00am to 9:00pm. If you're not sure what district you're in, see the district map (597KB PDF).

Posted by simon at 6:24 AM Comment

Vote for Makar, Meskill, and Garry

Every year brings a new crop of candidates to consider, and the Dryden sample ballot this year includes eleven columns of candidates. I'd like to focus on three local candidates, and the difference I believe they can make.

Working with David Makar has been a pleasure. He has tremendous energy, seems able to talk with pretty much anyone in town and listen to what they're saying, and is interested in seeing projects through to their completion. He understands the problems Dryden faces, especially the challenges of finding consensus from a cluster of neighborhoods with very different perspectives. Perhaps most importantly, he seems to me to ask the right questions, about how to get people involved, how to bring people into the conversation, and how to keep them talking once they're in. My letter to the Journal emphasized his interest in connecting all of Dryden, and I think he'll do an excellent job of bringing people together.

Sheriff Peter Meskill has been the Sheriff I always wished we had in Steuben County when I was growing up, someone who could organize a department and keep things running. The sheriff's department is like an iceberg: we all see the road patrol tip and read about crime-fighting, but there's an enormous amount of work beyond that visible tip that needs to operate. I appreciate the road patrol, but fear that his opponents' emphasis on that one aspect is going to create problems for the department as a whole. There are a lot of potentially expensive problems to be addressed, largely to do with the jail and the surrounding infrastructure, and I believe that Peter Meskill is the right man to deal with them.

Candidates for judge aren't allowed to say what they'll do from the bench, so I can't say precisly what Elizabeth Garry would do as New York State Supreme Court Justice. Despite that, I'm happy to endorse her. Her explanation of why she couldn't comment on specific matters brought with it a tremendous amount of commitment to the neutral position a judge should take. Her campaign has been extremely organized and she's worked well with others over its course, a good sign to me of things to come. The Judicial Candidate Committee rated her "HIGHLY QUALIFIED", the highest possible rating, and I'm impressed with her qualifications, including time spent working in the court and for the court.

Posted by simon at 7:19 AM Comment

November 8, 2006

A good night for Dryden Democrats

I spent most of yesterday driving and calling all over Dryden in the final election day push. I ended the night, as I usually do, at the District 2 polling place in Freeville. Why Freeville? Because it generally doesn't raise any false hopes of Democratic victory. It's a generally Republican district, and this year it was well-filled with Robison signs.

Last night I really didn't believe the results. Spitzer winning in Freeville seemed possible, but Arcuri? Elizabeth Garry? The results there for the sheriff's race and town board race were much much closer than I'd expected. It was a good start to a winning night.

David Makar won the Town Board race. I think the Board of Elections results have a typo in District 7. There's no way Dan Tier received only 28 votes in his home district, and I believe we had that recorded as 287. That doesn't change the overall result, though, which is (unofficially, by my calculation) Makar 2335, Tier 1859. (Update: The Board of Elections now shows Makar 2335, Tier 1887.) Congratulations, David!

Peter Meskill won the Sheriff's race. The Board of Elections shows Meskill with 13,871 votes to 9,026 for Brian Robison and 3,918 for Tim Little.

I heard that Elizabeth Garry won for State Supreme Court, but I don't know if that was for the county (which was clear) or for the entire district.

Mike Arcuri won Tompkins County easily and the district as well. Ray Meier had 5,910 here, but Arcuri had 9,274. Mike Sylvia, Libertarian of Etna, received 267 votes in Tompkins County.

Other winners include Eliot Spitzer for Governor, David Paterson for Lieutenant Governor, Barbara Lifton for Assembly, Alan Hevesi for Comptroller, Jim Seward for State Senate, and Aurora Valenti for County Clerk.

Posted by simon at 8:43 AM Comment

Dryden veterans; cursed mansion

Cathy Wakeman explores the stories of those Dryden lost in World War II today, visiting the WWII monument in the Dryden Village Green and reading More Than Names in Bronze, the book a team of researchers at the Historical Society assembled.

Wakeman also notes Mike Lane's upcoming "A Mansion Cursed: the McGraw-Fiske Home and the Chi Psi Disaster of 1906" presentation. The Historical Society announcment for that is:

Jennie McGraw-Fiske (1840-1881) was a member of Dryden's pioneer aristocracy whose lineage can be traced back to the town's founding. This is the story of Jennie McGraw-Fiske's fabulous home and the tragic 1906 fire that destroyed it as the Chi Psi fraternity house.

Some say the mansion was cursed. It had a short but celebrated life; built as a home overlooking Cayuga Lake by Jennie McGraw-Fiske who spared no expense in creating the most opulent residence in the region. Jennie filled it with artwork gathered from her travels around the world but died before realizing the completion of her dream. The mansion came to life a second time as home for Cornell's Chi Psi fraternity. Sadly, that too ended tragically when brave students and volunteer firemen died in the 1906 conflagration that shocked the country.

Join the Dryden Town Historical Society on Wednesday, November 15th, at 7:30 PM in the Dryden Village Hall to hear Michael Lane relive the glory and the tragedy of this legendary house.

As always, this program is free and open to all.

Saga Communications, which owns the Cayuga Radio stations on Hanshaw Road, is looking at buying two Cortland stations and giving one away.

There's also an announcement for a celebration of the life of TC3 GED instructor Richard Conlon, which will be held Friday at 10:30am.

Posted by simon at 5:16 PM Comment

November 9, 2006

Wilcox Press buyout?

The Ithaca Journal reported a few weeks ago that Wilcox Press had laid off 53 workers and was seeking refinancing. This morning they report on a possible buyout by Vanguard Acquisition Group. I can't find anything on the web about a company by that name, so if anyone knows, leave a note in comments, please.

The Dryden Rotary Club will celebrate their official chartering tomorrow with a dinner, having achieved their required 20 members.

Also, it's official: Elizabeth Garry won the race for a 14-year State Supreme Court term, defeating Republican Dennis McDermott 52-48.

Posted by simon at 8:21 AM Comment

Election, shopping spree

This week's Dryden Courier reports on David Makar's victory Tuesday night in the Town Board race, and Cortland resident Dennis Wright's shopping spree, which he won from Dryden Rotary, enjoyed at Clark's, and donated to the Dryden Kitchen Cupboard.

Inside, there's a report on the town budget hearing, including my complaints about the budget being available only on paper and basically impossible to read without the bookkeeper right there to answer questions. (Which she can answer, fortunately.) They also note that the tax rate is remaining the same, while the tax levy increases to $6.747 million from $6.475 million, and report on questions about community centers and youth activities. There's a bonus: a picture of Courier photographer Skip Thorne, whose name constantly appears in credits, rather than captions.

There's an article on Dryden resident Cam Viall's large scale cooking, including a recipe for fruit salad for 12. An article on farmland protection includes a photo of Lew-Lin farm, which just received money from the state to protect it from development. Matt Cooper also contemplates farmland protection and the shopping spree in his column, concluding by wondering which empty storefronts there are on West Main Street in Dryden. I suspect his correspondent meant these ones.

In Briefs, they note the Dryden Seniors' lunch on November 13th at the Dryden Fire Hall, as well as the presentation on the 15th about the Chi Psi fire of 1906, in which Dryden native Jennie McGraw-Fiske's mansion burned. The Salvation Army needs bell ringers in Dryden as well.

There's a picture of Cella Simons raking her lawn in Dryden, and group photos of the girls Volleyball team and Swimming and Diving team. In sports, they note the Dryden Boys Soccer team's loss in the finals, and the awards night tonight at 7:00pm in the Dryden high school gym.

Posted by simon at 5:17 PM Comment

Three years

Monday marked three years of Living in Dryden, with only occasional breaks in publication. (I now take Sundays off regularly, took a week off in September, and miss a day sometimes.) This is apparently article 1921.

There will be a lot of changes coming here soon. The site will be moving from its current host in California to Lightlink down in Ithaca, where I'll have my own server for the first time. That'll open up a lot of new possibilities, though the ones I hope to see initially are a new (prettier) design and a Dryden events calendar that anyone can update.

I've also been talking for a while about adding more voices to this site, and hopefully I'll find someone or a few someones in the next few months. It'd be great to have someone covering Dryden schools, or Dryden school sports, for instance, and a Dryden perspective on the Ithaca schools would be great too. (Why do Varna students go all the way to Caroline Elementary?)

We'll see how that works out.

Thanks for all your support, and there should be good things coming soon.

(If you have suggestions for the site, please leave them in the comments.)

Posted by simon at 5:36 PM Comment

November 10, 2006

Varna firm wins Chamber award

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce has given the David R. Strong Memorial Small Business of the Year Award to Varna financial planning firm Strebel Planning Group.

In letters, Peter Werner of Freeville complains about a change to the Ithaca leash law, while Arno Selco of Ithaca expresses concern about the Briarwood II project, a proposed development close to Dryden's western edge.

Posted by simon at 8:36 AM Comment

November 11, 2006

Holiday box donations needed

This morning, the Ithaca Journal reports that the Dryden American Legion Auxiliary is collecting boxes and cash for postage for its Home of the Brave Gift Box Drive:

In addition to cash donations, the auxiliary accepts completed shoeboxes and contents for the boxes. Recommended items include: baby wipes, lip balm, toothbrush covers, aloe vera lotion, shavers, cotton swabs, socks and deodorant.

Nonperishable food items such as beef jerky, chips in cans, chocolates, and individual drink mixes (hot and cold) are also welcome. Some servicemen and women have asked for magazines, puzzle books, Nerf balls, playing cards, sealable plastic bags, CDs and DVDs....

Drop off completed boxes or individual items at the Dryden Veterans Memorial Home Route 13, Dryden, during regular business hours.

The print edition of the paper notes that the Varna Methodist Church will be serving a lasagna dinner tonight. It's $7 for adults and $3.50 for children under 12.

The Salvation Army hopes to raise $70,000 in Tompkins County over the next few months.

Posted by simon at 11:18 AM Comment

November 13, 2006

RPM revs up

This morning's Journal notes that RPM Ecosystems' Dryden facility is on its way. Infrastructure is nearly complete, and the greenhouses - for rapidly growing trees - will be operational in March 2007:

the company is expected to create as many as 56 full-time low- and moderate-income jobs, a prospect that generated much community support....

The 159-acre regional nursery plant will be situated on Route 13 in the Town of Dryden, where native hardwood seedlings will be cultivated in 20 greenhouses. Marshall said one greenhouse will be capable of producing 250 seedlings a year.

Briefly in Tompkins notes that the Town of Dryden Conservation Board is looking for two new members.

On the editorial page, Jay Gallagher notes that the New York State Senate miraculously escaped the Democratic deluge this year, perhaps because:

certainly carefully crafted (a.k.a. "gerrymandered") districts, lax campaign-finance laws and the doling out of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to local projects at the direction of GOP senators also have had a hand in the survival of the Senate Republicans.

They also have an air of inevitability about them. Lobbyists tend to give more money in campaign donations to the side they think will win, and that side has been for decades the Republicans in the Senate (and the Democrats in the Assembly). That assumption, of course, makes it far more likely the Republicans will keep control.

I also haven't heard of any Assembly seats that shifted from one party to the other. (Update: Woops. Gallagher notes three, making that body 108-42.) I really wonder how much change Eliot Spitzer will be able to accomplish on Day 1 with a legislature so deeply entrenched in its seemingly eternal incumbency. I know New Yorkers are looking to him for reform, but genuine reform is going to require changing more than just the governor.

Posted by simon at 8:35 AM Comment

November 16, 2006

Advanced Design Consulting moving to Dryden

A recent commenter wished that "we could draw good paying jobs into our town", and that wish seems likely to be fulfilled. This morning's Journal reports that Advanced Design Consulting is planning to move to 48 acres north of the Village of Dryden. The move will bring 34 jobs from Lansing to Dryden, hopefully with an expansion to 70 next year, and prospects for 850.

The opinion page points out Cortland resident Dennis Wright's recent Dryden shopping spree for the Dryden Kitchen Cupboard as among "the actions of some local folks who show there are many good things to highlight in humanity."

In yesterday's paper, Kerry Nivison of Freeville writes to suggest a street named after George Dentes.

Posted by simon at 3:47 PM Comment

November 18, 2006

Cornell to pipe gas through Ellis Hollow

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that Cornell is planning to build a three-mile natural gas pipeline through Ellis Hollow to feed its central heating plant, which is expecting to increase the university's consumption of natural gas by a factor of 20. NYSEG's existing lines can't keep up, so Cornell will run a line to the pipeline through Ellis Hollow. The Towns of Dryden and Ithaca will have to approve construction.

The TC3 foundation was among grant recipients from the Tompkins County Foundation.

On the opinion page, former County Legislator candidate W. David Restey cites this month's election as evidence that a paper trail is needed for voting machines, while Richard Jorgensen of Freeville reports on Democratic breakfast chatter. Lansing resident Becky Vallely calls for late bus support for TC3.

Posted by simon at 10:15 AM Comment

November 20, 2006

If you can see this...

Then you're looking at data on the new server, hosted in downtown Ithaca, rather than the old server, hosted in California. It's good to bring Living in Dryden closer to home.

(I haven't found any colocation services in Dryden. Some day I'd like to host this from home, but for now...)

Posted by simon at 11:46 AM Comment

Arcuri "awestruck"

There isn't much in this morning's Journal about Dryden, except for a piece on our new Congressman. Michael Arcuri is in Washington, excited.

Posted by simon at 12:39 PM Comment

November 21, 2006

Dryden opinions

Dryden JV football gets a compliment from Deb Green of Auburn, while the recent Congressional races gets slammed by Peter Davies of Dryden on today's opinion page.

There's also an editorial on the role of local government in national issues by the Journal. I agree completely with their headline: "Town goverment: Local issues deserve passion", but can't agree with their apparent effort to build a wall between local and national or state government. I'd like to see a lot of the people who focus exclusively on national issues spend more time contemplating their local government, but see no reason to completely lock local government out of the larger conversation.

Way back when, Congressional representatives were actually accessible to their constituents. Now even state representatives represent vast numbers of people, and seem mostly to count faxes, letters, and calls. If people have to band together to make their voices heard to government, going through government seems like a reasonable way to do it, if not the first priority of local government.

Local governments certainly voice their opinions on matters that affect them and their constituents, and I don't expect that to change. Nor does it seem remotely likely that local government will turn into a lobby for the national views of a given municipality's constituents, forgetting about the fundamental work they need to get done.

Posted by simon at 12:52 PM Comment

Changes to Town Courts

It's not specific to Dryden, but will definitely affect Dryden - changes to the ways Town and Village courts operate: (Registration required for link)

The plan, announced here by the state’s chief judge, Judith S. Kaye, included some measures that critics of the courts have been recommending for years. Among them is a plan to require that the local courts - known as justice courts - begin keeping a word-for-word record of their proceedings, as every other court in the state does...

The judiciary's plan also outlined steps to increase training for the justices, to overhaul their testing, and to provide the courts with computers, which many now lack. The officials said they would begin a new program to monitor compliance with constitutional guarantees of the right to legal counsel, to require annual audits of each justice court’s books, and to increase the court system’s supervision of the courts....

The judiciary plan would not, for example, require that justices in the town and village local courts be lawyers, as they must be in every other court in New York.

Neither of Dryden's Town Justices (the Town and Village share two) is a lawyer. Town Justice Christopher Clausen is up for re-election in 2007, while Town Justice Joseph Valentinelli is up for re-election in 2008. They both seem to handle a lot of cases. I also wonder what effect this might have on the Town's budget for the courts.

Posted by simon at 5:04 PM Comment

November 27, 2006

Closing time to 2?

This morning's Ithaca Journal looks at the prospect of extending the closing time for bars to 2:00am in Tompkins County. The focus on the article is on college students, but I suspect bars out in Dryden would also stay open longer, given the option.

Catching up on the last few days of papers - yes, I took Thanksgiving off - we find:

Posted by simon at 8:38 AM Comment

Upstate's health

While I've been taking a Thanksgiving break, NYCO has been taking a hard look at upstate New York's past, present, and future and how it relates - and doesn't - to downstate and the rest of the country. I heartily recommend her Treasure bath on Wall Street, with its tough conclusion:

We’re often told that upstate depends on Wall Street for its very existence, but I find it hard to believe that will last long when it seems that not even downstaters benefit from it all that much.

After that, take a look at Spoon Theory, about how upstaters are hoping for a cure to their ills.

Posted by simon at 12:16 PM Comment

Melting slush

It looks like the keepers of the slushpork - borrowed money sent to state legislators' districts with minimal oversight or coherence - have finally surrendered to demands that they reveal what they're up to:

The disclosures will shed fuller light on what has long been a secretive process of doling out funds for pet priorities of lawmakers, which in the past has included money for cheese museums, ethnic clubs and fraternal organizations. Every year, legislators set aside money for such pork projects - $200 million in this year’s budget - in something they call the “007 fund,” a name that gives some indication of Albany’s view of disclosure.

But after a lawsuit led by The Times Union of Albany, a State Supreme Court justice ordered the Legislature last month to make the projects fully public, and the Legislature has decided not to appeal the suit to the state’s highest court.

That addresses my largest concern: that tracking these expenditures was far too difficult given their supposed public purpose. Perhaps next lawmakers can address the other huge problem this process creates: ever-growing debt.

Posted by simon at 2:25 PM Comment

November 28, 2006

Chimney fire on Ringwood

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on a chimney fire Sunday on Ringwood Road. Varna Fire Chief Natan Huffman advises readers to have their chimneys swept regularly to avoid the creosote buildup that caused this fire. The fire was put out quickly, with participation from the Varna, Slaterville, Freeville, Dryden and Cayuga Heights Fire Departments.

Briefly in Tompkins notes that the Dryden school board will be meeting tonight at 7:15pm in the district offices to discuss "a proposed $3 million project." The board site identifies it more precisely as "EXCEL Building Aid Funds and Building Maintenance Items".

You can find out how your county legislators voted, and then, after watching the legislative meetings on public access, switch to a new 'CW' channel on Time-Warner Cable, if you have cable. (I have Road Runner, but no TV cable.)

In Albany, it looks like it's apparently time for a state legislature wage hike, possibly 20%, now that the election's over. $79,500 plus stipends of $9,000 to $40,000 just isn't enough any more, apparently. (One of the possible advantages of "three men in a room government" could be fewer salaries to pay, but that isn't how it works.)

Posted by simon at 8:14 AM Comment

Have ideas for New York?

Governor-elect Spitzer's transition web site is collecting ideas from New Yorkers on how best to improve the state.

Have an idea? Let them know.

Posted by simon at 8:52 AM Comment

November 29, 2006

Nutcracker coming up

The Ithaca Journal has a new feature in today's Our Towns section: an Our Schools article written by Dryden senior Wesley Sanders. Sanders reports on the Jungle Performance at Dryden Middle School earlier this month, and notes that the Dryden Elementary School chorus will be performing a free musical version of "The Nutcracker" on December 7th and 8th.

There's also a report on Dryden schools contemplating how best to use some flexible state aid.

Posted by simon at 8:30 AM Comment

More on Dryden schools funding opportunity

I was delighted to find a more detailed report on last night's Dryden school board meeting in my inbox, from Kathy Zahler. There are some interesting possibilities here:

Tiffany covers the bare bones pretty well in today's Journal, but here are some specifics from last night's BOE meeting on the EXCEL "grant" from the state.

The state, in what may be either recognition of a serious need or just another way to expand the deficit, has specified a lump sum for every district, which may be used in one or more of these categories: Education Technology, Health and Safety, Accessibility, Physical Capacity Expansion, or Energy. Dryden's lump comes to $578,430, which, taken as the local share in a building project with the state chipping in the rest (Dryden is reimbursed at 81%), allows for approximately a $3 million project. Whatever project happens must be approved by the community via referendum, which would take place in March.

Highland/Christa, the team that brought you the K-5 renovation, did a presentation based on the five-year plan generated in 2005. Because there is still $500K left in the K-5 project, they recommended that the EXCEL project focus only on the middle school/high school.

Among the problems that had been discovered at the MS/HS in the last building review were roof issues; windows and doors that needed replacement; hardware that was inaccessible (for example, on doors); toilets ditto; HVAC issues, especially boilers past their prime; electrical and plumbing updates; need for a new security system (probably card swipe and cameras); replacement of the PA system and the master clocks and fire alarms; upgrading of the sprinkler system ($2 million just for that!); replacement of an electrical panel; repavement of the faculty parking lot; exterior sidewalks and stairs; a new ADA ramp for the MS entrance.

The total for all that came to about $11 million with incidentals built in.

Highland/Christa then presented two packages that approximately equaled the $3 million available for the EXCEL project. One included the roof, windows, doors, HVAC, new security system, PA, master clock, and fire alarms. The other, slightly more expensive package included the roof, HVAC, plumbing, security system, PA, and repavement/sidewalk/stairs/ramp.

Highland/Christa also presented long lists of things that the $500K left in the K-5 project might cover at those three buildings. All three still need roof work; security systems; master clock, PA, and phone updates. Cass and Freeville need gym lighting and ceiling work. DES needs storage, acoustic treatment in the small gym, and a partition in the large gym. The roof on Freeville is especially tricky, since it is made of slate, and Freeville was designated historical during the K-5 debate.

The BOE will be making decisions about what to do with the money over the next month or two. This is above and beyond the $100K that they are earmarking in the budget for building maintenance. (I believe they could spend that money just on roof work, but they have a plan this year involving the HS science labs.) They must have a proposition ready on the EXCEL project by January 22 to present a referendum in March. There will be more discussions, and the public is encouraged to jump in with suggestions/ideas as December progresses.

As for the no-tax-burden, that is partly true. Some suggestions may save money in the long run; e.g., replacing the boilers. Some may add money in the long run; e.g., installing a card security system. It is not clear to anyone whether the district will need to borrow against the state refund of 81%, thus incurring more debt, or whether it will delve into its fund balance. And although EXCEL is definitely a "use it or lose it" program, no one could tell me a real date by which everything needs to take place before Dryden loses the money.

(I do hope to have more Dryden schools reporting here over time. This is a great start - thanks, Kathy!)

Posted by simon at 12:56 PM Comment

November 30, 2006

Poisoning sentence

Henry Hanson was sentenced to time served for poisoning his landlord's milk in July. Police and prosecutors originally thought there was intent to murder, but the poison turned out to be oxybutynin chloride, a bladder-control drug. The court also issued an order of protection for the landlord and his son.

There's a lot more on Dryden schools' options for state EXCEL money, and the Ithaca schools seem to be looking at a smaller bond proposal than was suggested earlier this year.

Posted by simon at 12:22 PM Comment