December 1, 2004

Nearby trains

Wednesdays are usually pretty busy days for Dryden in the Ithaca Journal because of the Our Towns section, but this week's news there is mostly of Groton and Caroline. There is a piece on trains in Caroline, including some discussion of the Besemer station, right near the Dryden-Caroline boundary.

There is a Briefly in Dryden section, which lists continued openings on the Town of Dryden's Conservation Board, Youth Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals. It also notes that registration is open at the Town Recreation Department for wrestling for ages 5 to 14 and volleyball for grades 4 to 6.

The front page leads with an article about the arrest of 21 people in Tompkins and Cortland counties for cocaine trafficking, and I guess we'll find out in the future if any of them were based in Dryden.

The Ithaca City School District held a session on redistricting, and is apparently using computer models to calculate student populations and bus traffic in different areas as part of the process.

The Tompkins County Municipal Officers Association held a discussion about forms of county government that talked about county executives and other possible structures. I tried to go to this at its original date, September 28th, but it was cancelled when I got there, and I don't think I saw any notices for this date.

Posted by simon at 8:36 AM Comment

Senator Seward replies on empty-seat voting

Senator Seward's office was certainly speedy in getting back to my letter about empty-seat voting, though I can't say his response gives me much sense that he's interested in changing the process at all.

The senator writes:

Most of the votes for which legislators are recorded in the positive without their specific aye votes (so called "empty seat voting") are for what we term noncontroversial measures. The roll is called on each and every bill, and every member is considered a positive vote unless he or she stands up to request to be recorded as a no vote. In most cases, legislators are present when this occurs. It requires vigilance on the part of a conscientious legislator. The bills done under what we call a "fast roll call" are typically local bills that affect a town, a sewer district, or authorize a county to take some action. Sometimes policy measures are done this way when the change to a law is minor or there is no controversy. Legislators must be present to vote no, however.

By contrast, the Brennan Center reports that:

In the Senate, the Annual Journal of the Senate includes a record of which procedure was used for each bill. Out of the 308 major bills passed from 1997 through 2001, the Senate used a slow rather than fast roll call on only two occasions. On one additional occasion a “party vote” was taken in which votes were automatically tallied based on party affiliation.

Only two bills in the Senate were noncontroversial over a four-year period? That's impressive in itself, suggesting that very little difficult ever happens in Albany. I'll have to track down the Journal of the Senate of the State of New York for more recent years to see how they're doing lately. I haven't heard of any great change in how they do business, but perhaps...

I've scanned the Senator's full response, and you can read it in clearer (75KB PDF) or text-selectable (110KB PDF) versions.

Posted by simon at 2:32 PM Comment

Democrats and Reform

I've written a piece on why I think the Democratic Party should take reform as a core issue, including the need to reform places where we have control. The article isn't specific to Dryden, so I've posted it on my personal site, but it definitely informs the writing I'm doing here.

Posted by simon at 7:47 PM Comment

Victorian Winter Festival

I've mentioned Friday's Victorian Winter Festival a few times (1 2 3), but as it's coming up soon, I think it's time to put together a schedule integrating everything I've seen.

The earliest event I've seen advertised is a 10:00am story hour reading of The Polar Express at the Southworth Library. They'll be giving away a copy of the book.

The rest of the event seems to kick off at 3:00pm, with open houses at businesses from 3:00 to 7:00, a "Horse & Wagon" History Tour from 3:00 to 5:00pm, and chestnut roasting at Time Square.

The Dryden History House will also be open from 3:00 to 5:00pm, with exhibits on Bells and Blades (about sleigh bells and ice skates), the Dryden Grange No. 1112, The Fortnightly Club, Four Paintings by Miss Delilah Snyder, and You're Welcome Here: Hotels, Inns, and Attractions.

Victorian Christmas Carolers will be out from 5:00 to 7:00pm, while the Dryden Brass Ensemble will be playing from 6:30pm to 7:15pm.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive at the Village Green by fire truck at 7:00pm, and the lighting of the village Christmas tree will happen then. A reception at Neptune Hose Company from 7:30 to 9:00pm will close the evening with pizza and refreshments and activities for kids.

On Saturday, the Southworth Library will be hosting a "Victorian Musical Celebration of Christmas Past" at 7:00pm, featuring the Bells and Motley Consort.

If I've missed anything, please let me know.

Posted by simon at 10:59 PM Comment

December 2, 2004

Education money questions

The announcement earlier this week that a court-appointed panel would require the state spend $23 billion more on New York City schools has created all kinds of questions, including where the money will come from and whether poor rural districts will get the same kind of assistance. The Journal covered the state story yesterday, and today it talks to local superintendents about it, including Dryden's Mark Crawford:

"Lots of us have been talking about the need for equity throughout New York State," said Mark Crawford, Dryden Central School District superintendent. "From our point of view here in Dryden, we're concerned about equity for rural schools as well."

The Journal's editorial points to long-term problems in Albany as a key cause of the sudden bill:

After years of budget rigging and neglect by Democrats and Republicans in both the Legislature and the governor's office, the house of cards of school aid has fallen... It is a sad moment to realize that for many years, our past and present political leaders shortchanged school children who may never recover from their educational inadequacies...

When we pick up the tab for Albany's colossal fiscal mess, we will finally have the answer to the rhetorical question our state's politicians have used for 20 years to explain why the state budget is late.

That question has been: "Would you rather have a bad budget on time or a good budget late?"

We got neither.

The Journal also lists many of the 21 people arrested in yesterday's cocaine busts in Tompkins and Cortland counties. A Freeville resident was arrested in Georgia and a Dryden resident arrested in Pennsylvania, and another Dryden resident is in Cortland County jail.

The Varna Volunteer Fire Company was among companies responding to a fatal fire near Slaterville.

It doesn't mention Dryden specifically, but there's an article on a proposed open burning ban for the county.

Finally, a Mineah Road resident was arrested on charges of selling crack cocaine in the Tops parking lot in Lansing.

Posted by simon at 7:42 AM Comment

Angry Oklahoman apologizes

There's hope for the transportation projects struck from Sherwood Boehlert's earmarks after all, as Representative Ernest Istook (D-OK) has written Boehlert and other congressmen to apologize. Istook removed funding for their projects because they had supported Amtrak funding.

I still haven't heard back from Congressman Boehlert's office. I'm curious what he'll say in the end.

Posted by simon at 9:20 PM Comment

December 3, 2004

Passing schoolbuses; school assault

There's not a lot of Dryden news in this morning's Journal. Dryden school bus driver Becky Colbert writes about a large problem on her route along Route 13 from Irish Settlement Road to Pinckney Road. Motorists keep driving through her red lights and stop signs, endangering the children who need to cross the road to get home.

The Monitor repeats an item from yesterday about a Mineah Road resident being arrested on charges of selling crack cocaine, and includes a new item from Dryden High School, where on Tuesday:

A student was escorted to the high school office after reporting that another unknown student pushed him down and struck him with a belt three times in the back. Red, raised welts remained on the student's back. The incident occurred in the G wing of the high school.

Police have two suspects who have not yet been identified. The person with the belt was described as a 6-foot, white male wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. Any person with information should contact the New York State Police at 347-4440.

Update: I forgot to include this story on TCAT and its unions, which could potentially create problems for TCAT service around Dryden if it isn't resolved.

Posted by simon at 8:21 AM Comment

December 4, 2004

Drug busts, wood stove safety, jail

The Monitor reports on two cocaine busts in Dryden, one tied to an arrest earlier this week, and one marijuana arrest.

The Journal has an article on the fatal fire in Slaterville this past week, exploring safety measures needed to keep wood stoves safe. It notes that 5.6% of Dryden residents have woodstoves, fewer than many towns in the county (Danby has 23%).

A change in the state's formula for funding school buses promises to complicate finances for local school districts. Dryden school district officials are "looking at different options and will get into more specifics on what to do later in their budget processes."

On the opinion page, County Legislator Martha Robertson writes with Ulysses County Legislator Peter Penniman about their opposition to building a new jail now.

Posted by simon at 9:34 AM Comment

Horses, history, and Santa Claus

Yesterday's Victorian Winter Festival in the Village of Dryden was a lot of fun, with all kinds of activity from 3:00pm on. Chestnut roasting, open houses at stores, exhibits at Dryden History House, caroling, wine tasting, story reading, and Santa's arrival by ladder truck were just a few of the highlights.

West Main Street
West Main Street, decorated for the holiday.

I started out on the Horse & Wagon history tour, which took riders from the Southworth Library to the site of the old railroad depot while volunteers from the Dryden Town Historical Society (including Laurence Beach and Gina Prentiss) explained what had happened here in the last two hundred years.

Horse & Wagon history tour
Getting on the Horse & Wagon history tour at Southworth Library.

I found the Horse & Wagon history tour fascinating. It was especially interesting to me to see the village go by at a slower pace, a pace appropriate to the times being talked about. The rise of the automobile and the decline of railroads has transformed the Village in many ways.

A brass band was playing on the Village Green from 6:30 onward, and Santa Claus, as promised, arrived in a fire truck to the delight of a large crowd of children and adults, lighting the village Christmas tree and talking to children.

Santa talks with a child
Santa talks with a child.

After Santa's arrival, the crowd went over to the Neptune Hose Company, where food, drink, fun, and games were available.

I've posted a much larger set of photos from last night, as well as a set on the Southworth Library, where I got a library card last night.

Posted by simon at 10:39 AM Comment

December 5, 2004

Possible park-and-ride near NYSEG

On Tuesday, I went to a subcommittee meeting of the Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Committee (ITCTC) that discussed the possibility of building park-and-rides around the county to reduce the number of cars driving into Cornell University every day. They discussed three main possible locations: Pyramid Mall, the Southwest area of Ithaca, and the intersection of Routes 13 and 366 near the NYSEG building. They also talked about the possiblility of one near the Bethel Grove Bible Church.

Examining maps of trafficsheds
Examining maps of trafficsheds at the ITCTC meeting.

Dryden was well-represented in the room, with County Legislator Martha Robertson, Environmental Planner Debbie Gross, Jim Skaley from the Varna Community Association, and myself all there. Fernando de Aragon, Executive Director of the ITCTC led the meeting, and there were also three pepole from Cornelll and Dwight Mengel of TCAT.

Andrew Eastlick of Cornell had some amazing maps to show of where Cornell employees live, ranging from a map that included New York from roughly Utica to Rochester to Corning to Binghamton down to a map of central Tompkins County. He'd managed to map all but around 300 of Cornell's 10,000 employee addresses. He was using that map data to calculate "trafficsheds", which are kind of like watersheds but have cars instead of water.

Eastlick outlines the trafficshed coming in through Varna
Andrew Eastlick outlines the trafficshed coming into Cornell on Route 366.

Eastlick had analyzed permit holders from Cornell's free A lot and low-cost B lot to see which trafficsheds they fell into, reasoning that permit holders at these lots, Cornell's least convenient parking, would be most likely to take up a park-and-ride that would bring them in by bus. 540 permit holders (306 A, 234 B) are in the 366 trafficshed, while 394 of them pass Pyramid Mall, 533 pass the Southwest area, and 175 pass Bethel Grove.

There was a lot of discussion of bus routes, noting that they move much more quickly on the off-campus sections and slow down greatly on campus. TCAT's Dwight Mengel was happy that Cornell had ways to contact the drivers along these routes, as they might be able to get a clear idea of who would ride the proposed routes instead of having to experiment.

One issue that came up was the question of supporting development for a park and ride. While there are lots that are just lots in the middle of nowhere which do well, in general it's much easier to make this work if the location has some appeal of its own - childcare, coffee shops, etc. The Southwest and Pyramid Mall locations have some of this. There isn't currently much of this kind of business around the 13/366 location, though there's certainly room for commercial development. (I'm hoping the revived Plantation Inn is a good sign for development there.)

The committee will be meeting again in January, and will be assembling a survey to give to current parking permit holders. This is all preliminary, and there is a lot of organization to go and a lot of hurdles to be passed before it becomes reality, but it seems possible that Varna might have less rush-hour traffic at some point in the future.

Posted by simon at 9:50 AM Comment

December 6, 2004

Deer on the march

Dryden's number of accidents involving deer is up to nine this year from three last year, though it isn't clear if this year is high or last year was low.

On the opinion page, Edward Marx,Tompkins County Commissioner of Planning, describes the vision of the new County Comprehensive Plan, which the County Legislature will have a public hearing on tomorrow. The plan itself is available online and at local libraries and town halls.

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

December meetings

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

  • The Recreation Commission meets tonight at 6:00 pm, at the Dryden School District Office Conference Room.
  • The Zoning Board of Appeals meets tomorrow, Tuesday, December 7th, at 7:00 pm.
  • The Town Board is meeting at 7:00pm on Thursday, December 9th. The full agenda for the meeting is available. The Environmental Planner's report includes an update on the Agricultural Committee and the Comprehensive Plan.
  • The Conservation Board is meeting Tuesday, December 14th, at 7:30 pm.
  • The Youth Commission will meet next on December 14th at 6:30pm in the Freeville Village Hall.
  • The Planning Board is meeting at 7:00 pm on Thursday, December 16th.

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

Posted by simon at 5:05 PM Comment

December 7, 2004

Dryden resident arrested at Pyramid Mall; jail vote tonight

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on the quick thinking of an off-duty sheriff's deputy that led to the arrest of a Dryden teen for the theft of $53 from the Santa Claus photo booth at Pyramid Mall.

The County Legislature will be voting tonight on whether to build a new $20 million jail after last month's failure to pass a budget.

The Journal's editorial today encourages the legislature to end the debate and vote for the jail.

Posted by simon at 8:51 AM Comment

New York raises minimum wage; Seward dissents

It didn't make the Ithaca Journal, but the New York State Senate voted 50-8 yesterday to override Governor Pataki's veto and raise the minimum wage in New York. According to the Elmira Star-Gazette:

Under the measure, minimum wage increases from $5.15 per hour to $6 per hour on Jan. 1. It goes to $6.75 in January 2006 and $7.15 in January 2007.

Additionally, workers who rely on tips would have seen their minimum wage go up. Currently $3.30 per hour, the rate would hit $3.85 in 2005, $4.35 in 2006 and $4.60 in 2007. The wage increase would impact about 700,000 families.

Dryden's state senator, Senator Seward, voted against the measure, as he had when it originally came up in the Senate. Given his remarks at the Town Hall he held in Dryden in October, I can't say it's a surprise.

Update: The New York Times (registration required, time-limited) has a more in-depth report on the subject.

Posted by simon at 8:57 AM Comment

December 8, 2004

Victorian Festival; physical therapy; jail voted down

Cathy Wakeman's describes last Friday's Victorian Winter Festival and provides a list of holiday events yet to come in today's Ithaca Journal.

There's also a profile of Freeville physical therapist Richard Weiner, looking at a class he taught in Ithaca on the Feldenkrais Method.

The Ithaca City School District continues to discuss redistricting, though no plans have yet been drawn.

At the county level, the budget passed and the jail did not. The Journal doesn't give a breakdown of the 8-7 vote, but quotes County Legislator George Totman as supporting the jail project and County Legislator Martha Robertson as opposing it.

At the state level (and in the print edition only), the Assembly and Senate passed Rockefeller drug law reform. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton is quoted as "relatively pleased" with the legislation, saying:

"It's not everything we'd been hoping for, but it's a good beginning... It's right and sensible and good for everybody all around."

There's no comment from State Senator Jim Seward or Tompkins County District Attorney George Dentes, who has supported the Rockefeller laws strongly in the past.

On the opinion page, Amos White of Dryden calls for more assistance at the county recycling center, while Carol Cleveland of Dryden writes about accountability in electronic voting machines and possible fraud in the 2004 election.

Posted by simon at 8:52 AM Comment

December 9, 2004

County budget; schoolbuses

It's a quiet day for Dryden in the Ithaca Journal. There's an odd short recap of Tuesday's county budget vote that seems to repeat yesterday's article on the budget. I did talk with County Legislator Michael Lane yesterday, and he supported the jail and voted against the budget.

The Journal's editorial looks at the challenge given to local school districts by the state changing its school bus funding approach, and suggests giving TCAT a larger role.

Posted by simon at 8:41 AM Comment

An alternate approach to traffic calming

I've reported a few times on meetings about traffic calming (1 2), and today I found an article on a traffic-calming approach that's pretty different from what we discussed there:

Monderman and I are tooling around the rural two-lane roads of northern Holland, where he works as a road designer. He wants to show me a favorite intersection he designed. It's a busy junction that doesn't contain a single traffic signal, road sign, or directional marker, an approach that turns eight decades of traditional traffic thinking on its head...

Riding in his green Saab, we glide into Drachten, a 17th-century village that has grown into a bustling town of more than 40,000. We pass by the performing arts center, and suddenly, there it is: the Intersection. It's the confluence of two busy two-lane roads that handle 20,000 cars a day, plus thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians. Several years ago, Monderman ripped out all the traditional instruments used by traffic engineers to influence driver behavior - traffic lights, road markings, and some pedestrian crossings - and in their place created a roundabout, or traffic circle. The circle is remarkable for what it doesn't contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it's unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous - and that's the point.

Monderman and I stand in silence by the side of the road a few minutes, watching the stream of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians make their way through the circle, a giant concrete mixing bowl of transport. Somehow it all works. The drivers slow to gauge the intentions of crossing bicyclists and walkers. Negotiations over right-of-way are made through fleeting eye contact. Remarkably, traffic moves smoothly around the circle with hardly a brake screeching, horn honking, or obscene gesture. "I love it!" Monderman says at last. "Pedestrians and cyclists used to avoid this place, but now, as you see, the cars look out for the cyclists, the cyclists look out for the pedestrians, and everyone looks out for each other. You can't expect traffic signs and street markings to encourage that sort of behavior. You have to build it into the design of the road."

I don't think this approach has any chance with the New York State Department of Transportation, but making people think about what they're doing does seem like a reasonable way to improve safety.

Also on Wired, something that might help me add a current weather bit to Living in Dryden at some point.

Posted by simon at 12:57 PM Comment

December 10, 2004

Etna Fire Department discussion

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on the decision last night not to send the Etna Fire Department its 2004 contract yet. Fire issues were a large part of last night's town meeting, and I'll be reporting more on that part of the meeting this weekend. Briefly, Town Board members Chris Michaels and Steve Stelick are meeting with Etna and the other departments, working on ways to strengthen all of the departments, and trying to find an emergency services consultant to help with the process. They're also looking at changing fire company contracts to a two-year cycle, though it may not be possible to do it this year.

The SPCA will be having an open house tonight from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at their building (map).

The Journal has two editorials supporting two recent events in Albany that will effect Dryden over time: "a strong beginning" to reform of the Rockefeller drug laws and the legislature's override of Governor Pataki's veto of a minimum wage increase.

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

Varna pancake breakfast, holiday party

The Varna Community Association has two events planned for the next week, both at the Varna Community Center (map).

  • There will be a pancake breakfast on Sunday the 12th from 8:00am to noon. It's $5.00 for adults, $4.50 for seniors. Children 5-12 are $3.50, and children under 5 are free. I'll be helping serve the food.
  • The kids' holiday fun night will be held next Friday the 17th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. It's free, and will include cookies, games, decoration-making, and "a visit from your favorite elf." The party is co-sponsored by the VCA and TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) NY #1176 Varna.

The VCA is also having a food drive, so bring canned and non-perishable food if you can!

Posted by simon at 12:50 PM Comment

December 11, 2004

Two laurels

It's a quiet day for Dryden news. Today's Ithaca Journal just includes a few Dryden-related laurels. One thanks the people who rescued Sam Walcott from under tons of salt, and the other is from Linda Wagenet of Dryden, thanking "many wonderful local establishments and individuals who contributed to Hospicare and Palliative Care's Light the Landscape celebration!"

Posted by simon at 8:18 AM Comment

Visiting the SPCA

The Tompkins County SPCA had an open house last night. Tracey and I and a friend went over to see the new building and visit the cats and dogs. There were lots and lots of cats, and not as many dogs, plus a few rabbits.

cat at SPCA
A cat at the SPCA

dogat SPCA
A dog at the SPCA

If you'd like to see more, I've posted a gallery. Some of the pictures are of the building, others are of its temporary inhabitants. It's well-worth a visit.

Posted by simon at 12:45 PM Comment

Comment change

In what I hope is a temporary move, I've shifted comments to the email form instead of Movable Type's built-in functionality, which spammers have just plain assaulted. This means, unfortunately, that comments aren't public.

Posted by simon at 12:49 PM Comment

December 12, 2004

The Auburn Division, McLean to Freeville

A friend in Potsdam sent me a link to pictures of what remains of the Lehigh Valley railroad between Freeville and McLean, taken in 2003 and 2004 by Joshua K. Blay.

It's a very nice collection of pictures with special emphasis on bridges. There's also a lot of information on how the old tracks crossed through Freeville, and about what's become of the old right of way.

Posted by simon at 1:50 PM Comment

Emergency services issues at December Town Board meeting

I had a few questions after Friday's Ithaca Journal article on fire company news, which says:

Stelick and Michaels have long served as town liaisons to the emergency service providers and have found themselves wishing they had permanent, experienced staff to help them.

"They're in over their heads," Ron Flynn, chief of the Neptune Hose Company, said. "I commend the Town Board for recognizing they don't know enough to do it. And I've heard some scuttlebutt about going back to the distrust of the departments, but I don't get that sense at all."

Stelick said creation of the position would be a move toward the long-term process of eventually having one fire department in the Town of Dryden.

That last paragraph seems to have reignited some of the concerns described in the second paragraph, but so far as I can tell, it isn't what Steve Stelick actually said in the meeting.

There were a lot of emergency services discussions over the course of the meeting, and it seems to make sense to go through them in the order they happened.

Early in the meeting, Neptune Fire Hose Company Chief Ron Flynn introduced the three Dryden-based recipients of the Ithaca Journal's firefighter appreciation awards:

  • Chief Roy Rizzo of the Varna Volunteer Fire Company received the award of valor for "his heroic actions at the scene of a structure fire in Slaterville that unfortunately took the life of Bret Neff, Deputy Chief of the Harford Fire Department."
  • Captain Ken Vorstadt of the Neptune Hose Company received the firefighter of the year award for "his outstanding commitment and leadership within the organization, and his tireless involvement with the local Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scout troops within Dryden.
  • The volunteer of the year award went to Jennifer Wildridge, Flynn's "chief's saving guardian, my right hand person... she has extraordinary efforts behind the scenes, helping the organization run smoothly."

Award recipients
Award recipients Jennifer Wildridge, Roy Rizzo, and Ken Vorstadt stand while being honored at Thursday's Town Board meeting.

Next, Mike Raffe of the American Red Cross gave a presentation on disaster preparation in the Town of Dryden. I've posted a scan of his handout (200 KB PDF) explaining the Dryden Disaster Partnership Group, and he also handed out copies of a USA Today article, "Police, fire departments see shortages across USA," looking at some of the challenges faced by emergency services today.

Later in the meeting, Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull noted that a generator had been installed at the Beam Hill radio tower, and should help Neptune Hose Company as well as other communications served at the tower when power goes down. (The new generator should also spare firefighters driving out to the remote location when weather conditions are bad and other problems are likely happening.) Chief Flynn reported that propane for the generator was scheduled to arrive that Thursday.

Shortly afterward, the board discussed moving to a two-year contract cycle from the current annual negotiations. When Supervisor Trumbull asked for opinions on the idea, Town Board member Chris Michaels replied:

I have a strong opinion... Dryden Ambulance asked for a two-year contract and I thought that was a fantastic idea. And not only do I think a two-year contract is a good idea, because of the amount of time and effort that goes into negotiating it, and putting them off the election cycle, I think is a good idea. A lot of damage was done to a lot of people involved who were volunteering an awful lot of their time, and it was a very political process. Some things were held up because of an election and I'd rather not see that. I think it is important, it shouldn't be held over.... For those reasons I'm a big advocate of two year contracts.

Also... 90% of the budget relates to equipment for emergency services. I don't think it's that difficult to negotiate. The big question from our point of view is 'do we have the right equipment?' If we don't what do we have to do in the short term to tackle this... in the long term that's an agonizing process if you do it right. Two-year contracts are a good thing.

Councilman Steve Stelick pointed out that both Neptune and Varna had asked for two year contracts, after much negotiation. He hoped to bring Freeville in as well, and have numbers by the next meeting. Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins brought up a large potential problem: the board hadn't "advertised these as two-year contracts when you advertised [the budget]." Perkins will be looking into it. Councilman Marty Christofferson suggested getting the contracts out and adding the second year as an addition. (There's also an issue with OSHA reimbursements going from $5000 to $10,000, which has to be resolved.)

Next, the Town Board what Supervisor Trumbull called "the contentious issue of the Etna Fire Department situation." Board member Michaels suggested that maybe that wasn't the best way to describe it:

"My characterization of it would be that it started contentious and I didn't feel like it ended that way. I'd like to make clear that... whatever else might be floating around, this really boils down to a volunteerism issue. They have about ten to fifteen volunteers that will show up for a structure fire, and a number of pieces of equipment that they're trying to get to those fires. A very large percentage of the calls, though, are rescue calls during the day. The group of volunteers has these silly things called "jobs"... they may be working... not locally.

Some of the concern was the percentage of calls they've been able to respond to. Steve had printouts of the actual calls and we went through some of them with them. Their anecdotal information... a number of the calls they were unable to respond to were predominantly rescue service calls during the day that may be heavily mitigated by the flycar that has just gone in at Varna, and that will be the primary response.

I would like to make clear that whatever concerns we have in general, the volunteers that are showing up are putting out tremendous effort. We're reading articles, we're hearing from everybody that there are national statistics that volunteerism is down, paid staff is down, and the population keeps growing. Definitely they're hit by that.

On the positive side, they've had some very good new volunteers... pretty much every department has said the following. "We can get lots of new people in here, but when they really see what they have to do, and the paperwork that they're going to be doing. We have a lot of people who what they wanted to do was show up and use a fire hose and put out fires." A very large percentage of what they're doing, roughly 80%, is rescue calls. I think that the things the town is already moving in the direction of, responding to the rescue calls, will ease some of that burden.

Another issue that we may be able to take some future action on is the increased percentage of their calls that they respond to and that Dryden Ambulance responds to which are from people who - the comments they get when they show up and somebody reports stomach pain or flu symptoms is that DSS [Department of Social Services] doesn't provide a taxicab to go see the doctor, and what they're really calling for is a ride to go [to the hospital]. Our budgets are not going to be broken by picking up - by developing a program, even if we started paying for taxicab rides, that's another question - but we also have services in the community that already provide rides for senior citizens and whatnot.... some of the concerns there are that some of those require 24-hour notice. It might be worth seeing if they could make an exception to those policies for that kind of thing.

I think there's work that we can actually get involved in and encourage other community members to do to relieve some of the concerns we have in the department. They put in place with Freeville a joint response program for during the day. My understanding of what they agreed to with Andy is that Etna would get toned out, and then if they didn't respond within a certain amount of time then Freeville would get toned out.... I don't have enough details to know if that's really feasible; I'd want to look at the numbers a little more clearly, but it seems to me that the vast number of time when Etna is unable to respond during the day, as opposed to waiting for them not to respond, just toning out somebody else... and again the flycar here might be in agreement.

What Steve has asked and Ron has been instrumental in helping us with is trying to coordinate a meeting among the chiefs and involving whoever would be helpful to try to work out some of these and see what we can do... These things aren't just coming up for one of our departments. I think we're also seeing... where the town could benefit from having a consultant or somebody who could really attack a lot of little things that can be done that could have a big impact in terms of relieving some of the burdens on an already stressed volunteers.

I asked Steve for some numbers on the number of calls that they were making... these volunteers are still going on hundreds of calls a year."

Councilman Christofferson asked for an explanation of the numbers. He was concerned that "it looks like the total EMS calls were 66, and 37 of those were no response.... on fire calls, total fire calls, this is for an eight-month period, is 13 fire calls, and there were 7 no response." Councilman Stelick pointed out that motor vehicle crashes are counted as fire calls, and that:

"On the surface these numbers - there's a number of reasons these numbers are the way they are. Sometimes the responses are being done, properly or improperly, in their own personal cars. They're not able to tone out, tell somebody that they've made the call. In a lot of those calls, there were several of them that were DSS issues where they're making, they're going to a trailer park and somebody's needing a ride, like Chris said. You would be amazed... some locations are 80% of the calls."

Councilman Michaels noted that Etna had said the Freeville chief had purchased his own box for toning out on calls to indicate his response in his own vehicle. Freeville had also done work with the school to reduce false alarms.

Michaels suggested that the Etna department still had a core group of volunteers putting out a tremendous amount of effect, and they'd work to address concerns.

Christofferson was concerned about issues arising from Etna's audit earlier this year, asking "the only I thing I would say to look at in the meetings... is that when we got the audits back, there was some concern about who's responsible for all the points, and it might be all kind of like one family that does all the different. There's not a lot of checks and balances... no improprieties, but not a lot of checks and balances." (This reminds me that I forgot to post the Etna audit, though I posted the other audits, which were completed earlier, back in March. I've put it up in more easily readable (380KB PDF) and selectable (470KB PDF) forms.)

Michaels also brought up Etna's equipment, like their recent upgrade of 7 SCBA breathing units while having three people certified to use it. (They have a total of 20 units, but only upgraded 7.)

Steve Stelick summed a lot of things up in a long presentation, which I'll quote as much as I can here. (Transcription is not fun, but given the Journal's quote, I think it's necessary in this case.)

"I came up with a plan...after our meeting Monday night I spoke with Ron a couple of times, once at length.... I came up with a plan to look at this.

First of all, what we have is four fire departments, and I call this an evolutionary track. All of them are on the same track, some further along. The evolution starts with a viable department, and it goes down to where it can't cover calls any longer, which is a recruitment and retainment issue. Then it goes through absorption into existing fire departments and eventually we're talking about the light at the end of the tunnel which is known as a pure paid fire department.

Unfortunately, in Etna's situation they are much further down that track than any of the other departments, and we've absorbed a lot of information from all of these departments in the last three years and each one of them is on that track. They're all going... at different rates. In Etna's situation it's been allowed to fester because we had this 2% rule, where every year they got a contract with a 2% increase and it just continued on. We are partially the cause of this.

So what I've come up with is I've asked Ron... we're going to have a chiefs' meeting. The point of this is cooperation. Every fire chief and every fire department in the Town of Dryden is going to find this issue isn't limited to Etna, it's for everybody that's within the Town of Dryden. We're going to need a commitment from all of those departments.

One of the areas that I've seen that we've turned around is the lack of communication. There's a lot of pride out there and there's not a lot of communication. Since Ron has been in place as the chief at Neptune, we've started to turn that. This next meeting is going to be very frank and open and we'll be discussing problems. There isn't going to be any hiding anything.

The other thing is education. One thing we can learn from... Etna is that we can educate ourselves, the different departments, with what's happening to them, and how to avoid those kinds of problems. And then we can continue to follow up. That's going to happen is through the emergency services committee that we have, and... eventually having somebody in place with more knowledge than we have, working very closely with these guys to try and save this and keep it viable.

One thing I want to make clear is that it's not about money here. I'm not going to the table about who's doing what, who's not doing what, and who's going to get paid what. The issue right now is to cover and make sure there is adequate emergency services coverage. We know that's not the case right now, so I'm going to ask and get from everybody, especially Varna and Freeville... help and commitment.

The flycar is relatively new. It's only been in place about a month. One of the issues is that EMT coverage... that flycar is down there during the day, when we're weakest, so that should help us. We need to get that information out.

As far as recruitment and retainment, I've asked the chiefs of the fire departments... what we need to do is get a plan in place, that they provide, that they figure will work. We can tell them all we want, put money at something that we don't know anything about, but we need them to come up with a plan where recruitment and retainment are going to happen.

Ultimately I see us going down the road. But in the meantime, we'll put that information together, work together with Etna.... What we'll come up with is a temporary situation, a first alarm assignment, automatic mutual aid that will cover those weaknesses that we have currently. That's only a short-term plan. Long term plan is everybody at the table, coming up with ideas. These are the specialists, the people who are the chiefs of these fire departments to come up with something we have to do for the long-term viability of this department.

It's not going to be easy. There are a lot of issues, but the most important thing here is that it's out on the table, instead of what we've had in the past, which was innuendo, anecdotal, back door information is now on the table, and we're looking forward."

Chris Michaels also noted that there are a number of people who "get toned out for two departments, as a way of helping out." Marty Christofferson asked "Weren't there some folks from Etna who went to Varna?" which Varna Chairman Oliver Habicht acknowledged was the case. Christofferson then suggested "there's been some allegiances and some familes," but Chris Michaels argued that "those are interesting anecdotal things, but.. working with the numbers, and here are the responses, here are the times, what's the pattern. We're not trying to assign blame to people. The guys who are at the table are the ones who are showing up, obviously... it's the people that are receiving the services who aren't volunteering."

Councilman Stelick said that "It's there; we've broken the surface. Now we can go in and feel very comfortable. We went in with a lot of trepidation and I feel really good."

Councilman Hattery suggested that it was time to start looking for the emergency services consultant, to general agreement. Councilman Stelick said the chiefs had questions and suggestions, and Councilman Michaels suggested that they work on getting out an RFP (request for proposals).

It's still not certain how the financial end of this will be settled. Councilman Stelick suggested abiding by the planned 2004 contract, while Councilman Christofferson asked to look at actual expenses for the year. Chris Michaels felt more discussion was needed. There was some discussion of Etna's equipment, some of which is recent, and Michaels wanted to see a plan going forward.

Marty Christofferson asked "Does our contract... talk about something like this, where people don't respond to calls, or they don't perform what we expect?" Attorney Mahlon Perkins said "They are to provide fire protection." Christofferson then asked "But if they don't, at least in half the calls..." Michaels pointed out that the town hadn't signed a 2004 contract with Etna. Christofferson then expressed a concern:

"I support the fire departments 110%, and I support the core volunteers who have given all their service and all of their time, and in the worst weather and in the worst everything. But I look as this as if you're contracting with anybody to provide a service. It just doesn't feel right to me that you're going to pay something when you're not getting the service back. I know that you guys are in the middle of trying to make this thing better, and you don't need something to make it worse, so I'll go with you guys on whatever you decide. But it just seems to me that if something was to change drastically in that and we put $200,000 into this department, and then a year from now we kick ourselves in the head for doing that because we wish we had done Plan B, by beefing up Varna, beefing up Freeville, doing something different. I don't know what the solution is, but it seems to me like we might be throwing good money after..."

Michaels and Stelick suggested that the town needs to see where cooperation and communications lead. Christofferson clarified his position, saying that "if you guys came up with a new plan, and you needed a few bucks to make the plan work, there might be resources there."

Stelick hoped that cooperation would lower costs:

"because one of things that I hope to see out of this cooperation is instead of four departments working independently, and we've seen a change in that in working with Ron, we're starting to see globally what needs to be done for the Town of Dryden... I see a savings in that, that that's going to bring everybody to the table, and everybody putting out there saying 'this is what I want' and ultimately the board deciding we need that...or we don't need that. We are getting to that point now and this is a whole new process. There's more accountability from the Town Board. It's going to be slow."

Christofferson suggested associating the plan with the contract. Mike Hattery warned that "if the new contracts don't have more tight performance criteria, we'll be at the same place in 2005." Stelick suggested that the consultant could help with this.

At the end, Chris Michaels suggested that the fire companies might go the direction of Dryden Ambulance, mixing paid and volunteer staff: "adding a little bit of staff can go a long way." He also commended the chiefs for going a long way already.

The board will discuss the Etna contract again in January, after the chiefs' meeting.

Posted by simon at 5:33 PM Comment

December 13, 2004

Helicopter inspections

There's very little specific to Dryden in today's Ithaca Journal, but Briefly in Tompkins notes that NYSEG will be conducting helicopter-based inspections of their high-power lines (and we have many of those) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and possibly Thursday.

On the editorial page, the Journal looks at the pluses and minuses of deer, and Jay Gallagher writes that while Albany may have finally accomplished something this session, it was done using the same closed process as usual.

Posted by simon at 8:25 AM Comment

December 14, 2004

Wells fight continues for Freeville student

This morning's Ithaca Journal quotes Railey Savage, a 19-year-old from Freeville, in an article on the legal fight to keep Wells College from going co-ed. Savage wants to keep Wells a women's college because it is:

"populated by strong women who could be in leadership roles, who could be active members of their communities, who have found their voices. That's become really important to me, and I value and cherish it. And I want to keep it."

There will be a symposium on the Six Mile Creek Monitoring tomorrow from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at Cooperative Extension (map) in Ithaca. (I wrote about training for this project back in July.)

A Dryden resident was arrested Monday for violating an order of protection.

On the opinion page, Richard Westervelt of Dryden challenges arguments that the county's requirement of apprenticeship programs iin projects costing over $1 million will increase costs. He writes:

Every article has referred to the substantial cost increase related to this training program, which begs the question of what these increased costs are.

According to my sources, there is no cost from the state to have an apprentice program in a workplace. The rate of pay for an apprentice is much lower than the pay rate of the senior workers. And any time you have new employees, there are training costs, even if they are not in a state-approved training program.

In my opinion, a small group of people are taking cheap shots at an excellent training program that is available to everyone and improves the skills and employability of many members of the community.

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

December 15, 2004

Holiday party, youth sports, optimism for local economy

It's been a quiet week in Dryden, but the Journal reports that the Varna Community Association will be ending that week with a holiday party for kids, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm on Friday in the Varna Community Center (map). Also, the Dryden Recreation Department is taking registrations for wrestling, ages 5-14, and volleyball, grades 4-6, before January 7th.

The job outlook for Tompkins County is "moderately optimistic", according to Manpower's local survey.

Posted by simon at 8:54 AM Comment

December 16, 2004

Car fires and wood stoves

It continues to be one of the quietest weeks for Dryden news I've seen in a while. Maybe everyone has been completely focused on the holidays?

There was a car fire on Route 13 just west of Dryden, near the airport. No one was injured, but the car looks incinerated.

More broadly, the Journal has an article on the increased number of fires in winter, and an editorial on ways to improve wood stove safety in the community.

Posted by simon at 8:00 AM Comment


As it's the holiday season and the end of the tax year, I thought it might make sense to post a list of organizations in Dryden that could take donations. I believe, though I'm not entirely certain, that these are non-profit organizations, and therefore tax-exempt, but I could be wrong. Check with the organization if you have a question about that.

I've already posted a list of churches, and I'm sure they'd all happily accept donations, with the possible exception of Ellis Hollow Community Church, which closed last summer.

Other possible Dryden organizations for donations include:

  • Bethel Grove Community Center
    1825 Slaterville Road
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • Dryden Kitchen Cupboard
    Tompkins County Food Pantry
    800 Enfield Falls Road
    Newfield, NY 14867

  • Dryden Town Historical Society
    36 West Main Street
    P.O. Box 69
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Dryden Veterans Memorial Home
    2272 Dryden Road
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund
    Make checks out to Community Foundation of Tompkins County/DYOF
    P.O Box 1076
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Ellis Hollow Community Center
    111 Genung Road
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • Etna Community Center
    P.O. Box 425
    Etna, NY 13062

  • Neptune Hose Company & Dryden Ambulance
    26 North Street
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts
    P.O. Box 6607
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • Southworth Library Association
    P.O. Box 45
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Tompkins County SPCA
    1640 Hanshaw Road
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • Varna Community Association
    PO Box 4771
    Ithaca, NY 14852-4771

  • Varna Volunteer Fire Company, Inc.
    14 Turkey Hill Road
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • W.B. Strong Fire Company
    21 Union Street
    PO Box 129
    Freeville, NY 13068

  • Willow Glen Cemetery Association
    P.O. Box 299
    Dryden, NY 13053-0299

If you have additions or corrections, please let me know. I'm guessing I missed a few.

Sorry - comments closed because of massive spam.

Posted by simon at 3:07 PM Comment

December 17, 2004

Break-in at TC3 water tower

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on an intrusion at a water tower at Tompkins-Cortland Community College. Initial testing found no contaminants, but they're waiting for further results.

The Journal has a piece on fire safety and the elderly and a piece on establishing fire escape plans.

On the opinion page, Harry Applin of Candor writes about the proposed TC3 expansion:

Contrary to critics, TC3 isn't just building a "sports center." They want to move the sporting area that is in the middle of one building into a new and more user-friendly building and then convert the current sports area into more classrooms. The school was designed for 2,000 students, yet serves over 3,000.

So the choice is educate your children so that they don't need the prison space or let them drop out and waste your money in jail.

Posted by simon at 8:16 AM Comment

Looking for cemetery gates

While browsing The Shopper, I found this inquiry that seems worth repeating in the hope that somebody can find these:

INFORMATION WANTED: The entrance gates at the Willow Glen Cemetery in Dryden were removed in 1971 by Frank Stelick, and stored at his residence at 252 Dryden-Harford Road. In 1992, Rosemary Stelick sold the gates to an unknown person believed to be living in the McLean area. IF YOU CAN PROVIDE ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THE MISSING GATES, PLEASE CONTACT BOB WATROUS AT 607-844-8100.

I did an article earlier on the repainting and other work at the cemetery, and they were hoping then to restore the gates.

Posted by simon at 2:20 PM Comment

December 18, 2004

Dryden political opinions

This morning's Ithaca Journal is light on Dryden news but has two letters from Dryden residents.

Stephen Prentice of Freeville writes to complain that:

"It seems that the press believes that the hundreds of thousands of complaints filed by outraged citizens over the rampant raunch on television somehow don't count simply because the complainant belongs to an organized group... Whether we're talking about one complaint or 1 million, it all boils down to one issue: Are networks breaking the law by showing indecent content and will the FCC do its job to enforce the indecency laws?"

Murray Cohen of Dryden decries the use of the phrase "moral values" in current politics:

"Welcome to America's 1984 Newspeak. Having Moral values means depriving people with a different sexual orientation than yours the special happiness that only married people could know (and of the significant practical benefits that come with marriage)... And having perhaps the most significant moral value of all means affirming unprovoked, unnecessary wars as long as your children are far from harm's way as Iraq is from America. Our country is what it is an George Bush is undoubtedly its spokesman."

Today's Journal also includes some articles that are not Dryden-specific, but potentially helpful. There's one on tips for protecting families from fire, one on tips for preventing holiday fires, and one that looks at different strategies for dealing with holiday parking.

Posted by simon at 8:07 AM Comment

December 19, 2004

Varna holiday party

After his visit to Dryden a few weeks ago, Santa came to the Varna Community Center for a holiday party Friday.

Santa arrived at the center in style, towed by a tractor in a decorated cart. John Tottey put on a red nose for his role as chauffeur.

Santa arrives at the Varna holiday party
Santa arrives at the Varna holiday party

Santa and his elves sat for pictures with children and wandered the party ringing bells and taking requests for toys.

Santa with two fans
Santa with two of his fans.

Children got to take on a piñata, eventually releasing its candy.

The piñata yields its loot
The piñata yields its loot.

There was also a gingerbread village, which looked lovely at the start, and rather deflated by the end of the party.

Proud village
A proud gingerbread village.

Ransacked gingerbread village
A ransacked gingerbread village.

Posted by simon at 12:19 PM Comment

Welcome to Dryden...

The Dryden Courier has one of the best editorials I've seen in a long time, picking up on the possibility of "Welcome to Dryden" signs along Routes 13 and 38, and asking what the next line should be. Here's a small taste, but it's well worth finding a copy of this week's paper:

In the grand scheme of things, backing on Dryden's biggest claim to fame isn't going to work, either. Few know that Hammond Hill is home to a very rare species of salamander, but "Welcome to Dryden, Home of the Eastern Hellbender," might confuse a few people, local residents among them...

we could do something surreal and odd, like "Welcome to Dryden, A Paint by Numbers Community." That might give people reason to stop if only to ask what that means. At which point we could say we don't know and then try to sell them something.

Like paint sets.

On the front page, the Courier looks at the new weight room in Dryden High, a big improvement from the previous arrangement where equipment moved from place to place, including the bus garage. There's also an article on fire contracts in Dryden, reflecting the discussion at the last town board meeting. The contracts article also notes that the board is pursuing the purchase of 20 acres from Empire Livestock, though they haven't fixed a price. In a change from the plan I'd heard earlier, where the old Town Hall would be knocked down,

The land would be used for a new town hall and, possibly, recreation areas. The old town hall would be taken over by the highway department.

Posted by simon at 12:43 PM Comment

December 20, 2004

Elementary play, fire safety

This morning's Ithaca Journal online seems a bit scrambled, with headlines and stories fitting a bit more loosely than usual. This Week lists a performance of "The Mitten" at Freeville Elementary School tomorrow, December 21st at 7:00pm.

The Journal continues its series on fire safety with an article on chimney maintenance.

In county news, there's an article about the future of the airport, which the County Legislature will be discussing at their meeting tomorrow night. (The article is oddly mistitled, noting a change in the County GOP leadership, though that isn't in the article.)

Posted by simon at 8:48 AM Comment

December 21, 2004

TC3 water clear

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that no contaminants were found in TC3's water supply after a break-in last week. Initial testing had been negative, but these are more complete results.

At the county level, the Civil Service Employees Assocation (CSEA) has withdrawn from representing TCAT bus drivers, leaving the UAW as the sole union. While this makes TCAT's future clearer, this was the same dispute that kept TCAT from being formed as a public authority. This might have been better settled in June. It does sound like the transition to TCAT's new structure should proceed smoothly over the next few weeks.

Janet Frand of Freeville had two cocker spaniels achieve agility titles.

The Journal also continues its series on fire prevention with an article on smoke detectors.

Posted by simon at 8:12 AM Comment

December 22, 2004

Victorian Christmas, Kitchen Cupboard

This morning's Ithaca Journal catches up to the Victorian Christmas event the Village of Dryden held December 3rd, exploring how it and the wreaths along West Main Street came about.

Cathy Wakeman celebrates a warm fire and a cup of tea on a cold day, and looks at the Kitchen Cupboard and caroling in the Village of Dryden. She also notes Christmas Eve celebrations at Etna Community Church and Freeville United Methodist Church, as well as a free turkey and ham dinner Christmas day at the Dryden Veterans Memorial Home. A new Montessori nursery school in Freeville will be having an open house in January as well.

The Journal has a picture of a Winter Solstice gathering at the Foundation of Light on Turkey Hill Road.

At the county level, the legislature voted 12-1 to approve the County Comprehensive Plan. Dryden legislators Mike Lane, Martha Robertson, and George Totman all voted for the plan. The Journal quotes Robertson as pleased with the plan:

"I am delighted with this plan," she said. "I expect to use it as a resource."

On the opinion page, Constance Currier of Freeville writes to express her concern about new voting machines:

"For 200 years thousands of men and women have fought to make the right to vote open to all citizens; citizens have the right to expect transparently honest elections Anything else will bring about the death of the democracy that has made our country the land of opportunity."

Posted by simon at 8:47 AM Comment

December 23, 2004

Pipe leak damages Dryden Hotel

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the Dryden Hotel, rebuilt after a 1995 fire, suffered significant damage when a sprinkler pipe froze and leaked. The sprinkler system's apparent evacuation called Dryden firefighters, who turned off the sprinkler system and evacuated guests, but substantial damage had already been done to ceilings. The building was undergoing renovation.

At the county level, the New York State Corrections Commission has carried out its threat to remove all variances at the end of the year if the county didn't build a new jail, leaving the county with slots for 58 inmates instead of 103. There are currently 68 inmates, so some will likely have to be boarded out.

There's also a piece on the difficulties county charities are having raising funds this year.

Posted by simon at 9:50 AM Comment

December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas, You Old Building and Loan

This week's Dryden Courier leads with an article on Dryden's connections to the movie It's a Wonderful Life. They have a picture of John Bailey standing in front of George Bailey Insurance and an article comparing the claims of Seneca Falls and Dryden to be the Bedford Falls of the movie.

There's lots of other Dryden news as well. Also on the front page, the Dryden Central School Board is examining costs on upcoming elementary school renovations. Another article looks at changes to Dryden school policies, including school safety and facilities use. The Courier looks at the TC3 water tank break-in and resulting concerns about water contamination. There's a picture of Dryden police officer Kurt Soderholm loading a car with toys for the Cops, Kids, and Toys program. Marilyn Brooks of Dryden gets a profile - actually a "Holiday Salute" - for her work on Red Cross blood drives.

Posted by simon at 10:33 AM Comment

Privatizing the Inaugural

It's a very quiet day in the Ithaca Journal, but there's a letter from Katie Quinn-Jacobs of Dryden that hopes "every citizen in this 'democracy' becomes aware of the true cost, in terms of our civil rights, what guaranteeing a blemish-free spectacle for the Bush administration on inauguration day requires."

There's also a list of holiday closings.

Posted by simon at 11:29 AM Comment

December 25, 2004

Visiting Michelle Griffin

This morning's Journal visits Michelle Griffin, widow of Air Force Staff Sgt. Patrick Griffin, who was killed in the invasion of Iraq last year. Michelle, a Dryden native, may return here from Florida eventually:

Someday, she may move back to Upstate New York, as she and Pat had always planned. They always talked about the kind of house they wanted and where -- but it would be too painful to do it alone right now, Michelle said.

County Historian Carol Kammen has been named "Public Historian of the Year" by the Regents of the University of the State of New York. I've got a few of Kammen's books, including Plain as a Pipestem: Essays about Local History, where she talks about how to do local history, and it's very impressive work.

There's a list of how county legislators voted at Tuesday's session.

In the online letters, Thomas Trencansky of Dryden writes to thank organizers of the "Home of the Brave" project who sent 350 gift boxes to soldiers in the Middle East.

Posted by simon at 8:28 AM Comment

December 26, 2004

Fire map

The 1996 fire coverage map for Dryden (the last one compiled, apparently still in use by 911) turned up a few months ago, and I've finally gotten around to scanning it. If you want to see a larger (32x32 inches at 200dpi resolution) version, click on this map.

Fire coverage map for Dryden
Fire coverage map for Dryden

I'll be making a prettier version based on recent map data, but this may be useful if you want to know which company covers your house. All of the companies could use more volunteers, so if you're at all interested, give them a call or drop by!

Posted by simon at 9:39 AM Comment

December 27, 2004

Airport, TCAT issues

There isn't much news specific to Dryden today, but there's county news that could definitely affect getting in and out of Dryden. TCAT avoided a fare increase this year but is watching next year closely, while the airport is trying to add another carrier in addition to the twice-bankrupt US Airways.

In the "This Week" listings, the Foundation of Light will be having a Burning Bowl Ceremony on Friday from 5:15pm to 7:00pm. Just to the west of the Town of Dryden line, the Cayuga Bird Club will be having a dish-to-pass supper at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on New Year's Day at 6:30pm for participants in their Christmas bird count, much of which is in Dryden.

The Journal's editorial takes an optimistic look at the Tompkins County economy.

Posted by simon at 9:02 AM Comment

December 28, 2004

Freeville pancakes, ICSD redistricting

The only Dryden-specific event mentioned in today's Ithaca Journal is a listing for a pancake breakfast at the Freeville Fire Station, to be held Sunday, January 2nd, from 8:00am to 11:00am. All of the Dryden fire departments, along with others in the county, are noted in today's editorial, which suggests:

"During the holiday season, people often take time to think about their lives, their families and their communities. This would be an appropriate time to think about becoming a volunteer emergency medical technician or firefighter."

There are a timeline and article on Ithaca City School District elementary redistricting, going from a public hearing January 4th to a decision March 8th. An article on Cornell happenings notes that:

"The School Demography Program at Cornell's Institute for Social & Economic Research has been working with the Ithaca City School District in recent weeks. The partnership has produced substantial new data, including breakdowns on attendance zones at individual elementary schools. Other maps are being produced to illustrate district-wide data on median family income, open enrollment patterns, racial composition and families with school-age children.

They provide an email address to contact for further information, but I don't see any of the information at the CISER web site.

There's also an article on what local residents can do to help the relief efforts following the tidal waves in Asia.

Posted by simon at 8:46 AM Comment

December 29, 2004

Pay raises, energy choices

In this morning's Ithaca Journal, Dryden County Legislator Mike Lane argues for lower pay raises than those supported in a competing plan:

"Legislators work hard," Lane said. "You can't expect them to work for nothing. On the other hand, we have to come to a level at what a part-time legislator in Tompkins County has to be compensated at. At this point, I think the other proposal is a little higher than what I thought it would be."

Pay has been frozen for the last three years.

The Dryden Recreation Department is still accepting registrations for wrestling (ages 5-14) and volleyball (grades 4-6). There's also another listing for the pancake breakfast at Freeville Fire Station, which will be held Sunday, January 2nd, from 8:00am to 11:00am

There was a minor accident along 34B yesterday afternoon, caused by weather conditions.

New York State seems to have reversed itself on a plan that took traffic fine money from municipalities, with the Assembly, Senate, and Governor repealing legislation passed earlier this year that would have taken $23 million from municipalities and given it to the state.

On the opinion page, the Journal's editorial looks at the high cost of living in Tompkins County and encourages municipalities to "consider new solutions that would increase the stock of affordable homes without running afoul of the town's zoning or planning needs."

Jon Harrod writes an opinion column about choosing green energy in the Voice Your Choice electricity supply choice program. Harrod notes both NYSEG's "Catch the Wind" program, where customers pay extra to support wind power, and Sterling Planet's partnership with Agway Energy that lets residential customers purchase green energy directly. (Jon planned the energy improvements to my house, and I'm definitely inclined to trust what he says.)

The deadline for NYSEG's "Voice Your Choice" program is tomorrow, December 30th.

Posted by simon at 8:47 AM Comment

Lifton replies on empty-seat voting

Assemblywoman Lifton wrote back to my earlier letter on empty-seat voting. I find her reply much more promising than Senator Seward's reply - she doesn't try to defend the practice, and suggests that she's actually taking steps to reduce it:

I am opposed to empty seat voting. The current Assembly rules prohibit empty-seat voting, stating that members must be within the bar of the Assembly chamber in order to have their vote recorded. I, personally, have always followed that rule, and am usually in my seat both during fast roll calls and slow roll call votes.

It has become apparent to me through the recent discussions that some members have abused this rule, leaving the chamber area to go to their offices in the adjoining building or even to leave the legislative complex entirely. In our recent caucus meetings on reform issues, I urged that this rule be strictly enforced, as it should be. As part of the Steering Committee's current overhaul of the rules, I expect that we will be adopting a new rule on this matter that will clarify and strengthen this current requirement.

I've scanned the Assemblywoman's full response, and you can read it in clearer (49KB PDF) or text-selectable (67KB PDF) versions.

Posted by simon at 12:38 PM Comment

December 30, 2004

TC3 professor and husband injured in tsunami

TC3 Communications and Media Arts professor Christine Xaver and her husband Scott Weatherby, also a TC3 employee, were both injured in Sunday's tsunami. The couple was vacationing in Thailand while their son attended boxing camp. The Journal also published an email from Xaver with pictures.

An article on how to spend New Year's Eve mentions that:

Tompkins County Country Dances will host a New England Contra and Square Dance at the Bethel Grove Community Center on Slaterville Road, which is free and open to all. In fact, organizers say guests don't even need to bring a partner -- just a treat to pass around.

In county news, TCAT contract talks will be starting soon, and Ithaca College professor Elia Kacspyr sees continued if slow improvement in the county economy in November.

On the opinion page, William Tyler of Dryden writes that he:

was disturbed by the lead story in the Journal on Saturday Dec. 18 headlined, "Cornell survey shows support for restricting Muslims." The claim that "respondents who regarded themselves as highly religious supported restrictions on Muslim-Americans more strongly than those less religious," was especially troublesome to me.

Posted by simon at 9:56 AM Comment

December 31, 2004

Neptune fire department member receives award

The year seems to be going out quietly for Dryden. Today's Journal does mention Dryden a few times, though. Mike Hall of the Dryden Fire Department received the Ithaca Rescue Steamer and Chemical Co. No. 2's Chuckie Fletcher Award, "given to a person who exhibits the dedication that marked the life of Fletcher."

At the county level, there's an article on the likely re-election of Tim Joseph to the County Legislature's chair.

On the opinion page, the Journal's editorial wish list for 2005 includes "For the Town of Dryden and its volunteer fire companies: A rapid wrap-up of their contract negotiations." I think Etna is the only department in question, though the town was researching to see if they could go to a two-year contract next year with Varna and Neptune.

Also on the opinion page, Richard Friedman of Dryden writes to complain about getting ticketed for an expired inspection while parked in downtown Ithaca.

Posted by simon at 9:35 AM Comment

Catching up on library cuts, gains

Earlier this year, Governor Pataki vetoed funding for libraries and stymied an override attempt in the Assembly. Then, the Governor used discretionary funding to restore the cuts in Republican Assembly districts. Dryden is in a Democratic Assembly district, so the Governor did us no such favors.

It took a little while, but with the help of Assemblywoman Lifton's office, I managed to track down what that veto override cost local libraries:

  • Tompkins County Public Library - $10,587
  • Southworth Library - $72
  • Groton - $122
  • Cortland Free Library - $500

On the other side of the coin, Senator Seward announced special grants for the Tompkins County, Dryden, and Groton libraries - $40,000 to the Tompkins County Public Library for catalog access computers, and $1000 each to Dryden and Groton for operations.

I'd really like to think there's some rational process behind Albany's horse-trading, but once again I'm left wondering if it's time to shut down the state capitol and start over. It would probably take a while for the patronage system to sort itself out again. In the meantime, we might have a system that isn't all about handing out favors while pretending to favor fiscal discipline.

Posted by simon at 2:18 PM Comment