March 1, 2005

Ithaca schools budget

Today's Ithaca Journal is practically silent on Dryden news. There's a discussion of the Ithaca school budget proposal to be unveiled tonight, which affects part of the town, but that's about it.

Posted by simon at 7:49 AM Comment

Land use totals, 1966

It's been nearly a month since I last posted pieces of the 1968 General Plan for Dryden, the never-adopted but highly informative complement to the current Draft Comprehensive Plan.

The newer plan notes:

Residential development, excluding residential development within the two villages, accounts for about 3,150 acres of land, or about 5.2 percent of the total land area in the town. Approximately 90% of dwellings existing in the year 2000 were singlefamily homes. According to the 2000 Census approximately 64% of all dwellings in the town were owner-occupied, compared to 51% for Tompkins County as a whole....

Hence the large majority of new homes built in the town of Dryden since 1960 have been built outside traditional centers of population. Comparison of the 1968 Dryden General Plan indicates that much of the development has occurred in the Ellis Hollow/Snyder Hill area, Yellow Barn/Ferguson Road area and south of Dryden village. (Map 2-5 [286KB PDF]) In addition the number of homes in the area of the town west of Caswell Road and north of Etna Road has grown from approximately 175 in 1968 to approximately 430 today, or an increase of 255 homes.

In 1966, according to the tables that conclude the land use section of the plan, residential use occupied 2.4% of the Town of Dryden's land outside of the villages. The tables are available in PDF (29KB PDF), plain text (2KB TXT), or rich text format (28KB RTF).

Looking ahead in the 1968 plan, they give the 1965 population of the town outside of the villages as 6382. The 2000 population outside the villages was 11016. That leads to a 72% increase in population since this survey was done, while residential land use increased 116%.

While Dryden is growing more than much of upstate New York, which seems to be facing sprawl without growth, Dryden's land use appears to have been outpacing its population growth.

Posted by simon at 8:12 AM Comment

New York State debt, 1990 to 2005 and beyond

I mentioned New York's debt and opaque process in a piece last week about the challenges New York is facing, spurred on by low attendance at Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton's Town Hall in Dryden. The New York Times reinforces some of those concerns and eases others in an editorial Sunday that's more optimistic about communications in Albany, and notes that one of those improvements involves disclosure of the state's debt:

[New York State Comptroller] Hevesi has opened a view of fiscal territory long closed to most New York voters. In a detailed report earlier this month, his office revealed that New York's debt had grown over the last 15 years from $14.4 billion to an estimated $49 billion. Until now, it has been almost impossible to calculate the size of the state debt because a lot of it is hidden in Albany's phantom government - the many authorities that are partly private and partly public.

Mr. Hevesi's report also underlined the difference between good and bad borrowing. It is reasonable to borrow for long-term capital improvements, for schools and other public structures. It is terrible fiscal policy to borrow for annual operating expenses, which is what the state did last year. Thanks to the new transparency in Albany, the public should now be able to see more easily which is which.

Debt is up, and revenue sharing with local governments is down, especially sharing with towns and villages. Counties briefly received revenue sharing to help with the costs of Family Health plus, but that disappeared in 2003.

Posted by simon at 8:50 AM Comment

Congressman Boehlert pushing for $7.15 minimum wage

Dryden's Congressional Representative, Sherwood Boehlert, tells the Auburn Citizen that he'll be pushing for a national $7.15 hourly minimum wage, following New York State's recent increase. Boehlert says he is doing this: prevent New York from losing businesses after joining a handful of states with an increased minimum wage.

Boehlert also said his legislation - which is still being drafted - will offer some form of tax breaks to small businesses to offset the costs of the minimum wage increase....

"We have some states, especially southern states, that haven't raised their minimum wages. They've actually been pirating companies away," said Sam Marchio, Boehlert's spokesperson.

Locally, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton supported the state measure, while State Senator James Seward opposed it. Boehlert hopes to have the legislation "ready by Congress' March 21 recess."

Posted by simon at 12:14 PM Comment

March 2, 2005

Dryden Hotel to reopen soon

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the Dryden Hotel will reopen sometime around April 1st, after repairs from water damage are completed.

Briefly in Tompkins lists several upcoming Dryden events:

  • The Dryden Town Board will be meeting tonight at 7:00pm at the Dryden Village Hall (map) in joint session with the Village Board to discuss an annexation petition from Dryden Mutual Insurance, which would like to join the Village to get municipal water.
  • The Dryden Town Board will also be meeting tomorrow night, Thursday, March 3rd, for an informational meeting about the "purchase of property for town hall." It will also be at 7:00pm in the Dryden Village Hall (map).
  • Sunday's Dryden-Caroline Drifters Chicks Ride raised $1,435 for the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance.

The initial Ithaca school budget would raise the tax levy 6.8%. Superintendent Judith Pastel says, however, that "This is not a budget that's ready to go to the community at all."

At the county level, County Legislator Mike Lane tried to get the county to reduce sales taxes on clothing and shoe purchases under $110, but his proposal failed on a tied 7-7 vote. There is also an article on the new county 911 center, just across the town line in Lansing by the airport.

Update: The print edition also includes Cathy Wakeman's Dryden Town Talk column, which prints a thank you letter to "the members of the Dryden and surrounding communities who have made so many sacrifices and supported our family with so many blessings," from David Moshier, who passed away February 7th.

There's also a listing of who voted how on the sales tax exemption resolution mentioned above. In Dryden, Mike Lane and Martha Robertson voted to reduce taxes on clothing, while George Totman voted against it.

Posted by simon at 8:50 AM Comment

March 3, 2005

Town Board meets tonight to discuss 47 acres

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the Dryden Town Board will be meeting tonight at 7:00pm in the Dryden Village Hall (map) for a public information session about the purchase of land for a new Town Hall and other possible uses. The Dryden Courier had reported on the prospect of 20-25 acres, but the parcel in question turns out to be 47 acres. The price of $100,000 the article mentions does sound awfully reasonable for 47 acres. The Journal notes:

The size of the parcel has led to talk of possible other uses for the land. Some suggestions include building recreation fields and a nature trail. Wetlands comprise about 20 acres of the parcel for purchase and could be the site of the trail. With the new town hall built, there's also discussion of moving the town garage offices into what would be the vacated offices.

Last night's public hearing on the annexation of Dryden Mutual Insurance property to the Village of Dryden was quiet, with no opposition expressed to the annexation and some discussion of larger annexation possibilities.

Dryden firefighters provided mutual aid at a house fire in Virgil, but the structure was a total loss.

In the Ithaca City School District, the superintendent's budget includes some staff increases.

At the county level, the Tompkins County United Way discussed a survey which found that 10% of Tompkins County residents have trouble paying for food. They also found that:

interviews conducted in food pantries in rural areas of the county showed that users were using the pantries on a regular basis. People who were interviewed were also hesitant to sign up for food stamps, she said. People interviewed in the city, however, were more likely to sign up for food stamps, but did not want to visit food pantries.

Posted by simon at 7:53 AM Comment

March 4, 2005

Town Hall prospects; snowmobile accident

This morning's Ithaca Journal has all kinds of Dryden news. There's an article on last night's informational meeting on the Town Hall land purchase, "a 47-acre parcel adjacent to the current town hall location for $100,000 from ELM Acquisition Corporation."

Near the Dryden VFW, there was a snowmobile accident that put a Richford man in intensive care. Getting to the accident scene was a challenge:

State police requested the Tompkins County Sheriff's Office Snowmobile Patrol to transport Marsh from the scene. Dryden firefighters told troopers they were concerned about the possibility for hypothermia and frost bite. An unidentified snowmobiler, who was at the VFW post, transported emergency personnel to the accident site, said state police.

Reporter Jennie Daley looks at Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull's monthly changes of his answering machine message, which go far beyond the usual "please leave a message" with poetry and songs. The Journal even has the February and March messages available online as MP3 files.

Briefly in Tompkins and Today's Events both list a spaghetti dinner tonight from 4:30pm to 7:30pm at Neptune Hose Company (map). It's "sponsored by Tompkins County 4-H Cultural Exchange Club to raise money to host 4-H friends from Larimer County, Colo. next summer."

A Freeville resident was involved in an accident in Ithaca after a bicyclist fell.

The TC3 Dean's List is available for Fall 2004.

Posted by simon at 8:12 AM Comment

March 5, 2005

Absentee ballots for Village of Dryden elections

This morning's Ithaca Journal is pretty quiet about Dryden-specific news, but absentee ballots for village elections are now available from the Tompkins County Board of Elections. Requests for mailed applications must be received by March 8th, though applications may be picked up in person until March 14th. The election is March 15th.

There's an extended article on Ithaca schools redistricting, and a report on a contract with Johnson Controls to make county buildings more energy efficient.

The opinion page includes a Dart and a Laurel from a Dryden resident to highway departments in the Towns of Ithaca and Dryden:

DART: From Peter Davies of Dryden. To the Town of Ithaca Highway Department and the Cornell grounds department, who have never seen a recent snowstorm, no matter how deep, that they couldn't melt away by throwing tons of salt at it. Salt rots your car, kills trees, grass and other vegetation and poisons our water supply. A LAUREL to the Town of Dryden Highway Department for the minimal use of salt and removing snow by frequent plowing. Thank you, Dryden.

Chris Sanchirico of the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance writes to say that "We at the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance (IBCA) are delighted that the Dryden-Caroline Drifters Snowmobiling Club is donating the proceeds from their 'Chicks Ride for Breast Cancer' to us," and clarifies what the IBCA does.

Dryden resident Peter Harriott writes a guest column on The Pitfalls of Privatizing Social Security Benefits, concluding that "Privatization of Social Security, whether partial or compete, would benefit the wealthy, but it would increase the deficit or decrease the retirement benefits for low- and middle-income families."

Posted by simon at 8:18 AM Comment

Peaceful hearing on Dryden Mutual annexation

The Village of Dryden Trustees and the Town of Dryden Board held a joint public hearing on Wednesday night to discuss the possible annexation of a parcel of land owned by Dryden Mutual Insurance to the village. Mayor Reba Taylor and Trustees Mark Strom, Dan Wakeman, and Bob Witty were there from the village, and Town Councilmen Steve Stelick and Mike Hattery were there from the town.

About seven people attend a hearing on annexing property
About seven members of the public attend a hearing on annexing property to the Village of Dryden.

County Legislator Mike Lane spoke, saying:

On February 8th, I facilitated a meeting of property owners, those owners north of the village that are located within the town sewer district to provide information to those property owners about issues having to do with water and sewer problems in that area, and also the potential of annexation.

I invited Mayor Taylor and Supervisor Trumbull, and also the Town Attorney and some other people were there, simply to answer questions. It was not an official meeting of either the town or the village. It was simply an informational session. There were a number of questions asked at that time. Some people indicated an interest in an annexation of the whole area, some people indicated that they were not interested in an annexation of the area, some indicated that they had a particular need. Mr. Baxter was there and spoke about the particular need that Dryden Mutual has presently to try to become part of the village.

I simply want it on the record that people are talking about that, and I think the communities need to come to grips with whether it makes sense to annex parcel by parcel, as needs arise, or whether it makes sense to annex the general area.

There were some figures given at the meeting, by the Town Attorney. I know some of those figures have been questioned since then as to whether they would actually apply. I would certainly like to have an opportunity to get better figures out to property owners up there.

Having said that, I'm not really speaking for or against Dryden Mutual's application here today, but I wanted to make everyone aware that that did happen.

Next to speak was Robert P. Baxter, CEO and General Manager of Dryden Mutual Insurance:

Quite simply put, my board is at a juncture in our planning for the future. We have been in this area since before the Civil War, and the board is committed to trying to remain here.

We've undergone substantial expansion of our business in the last five years - it's more than doubled - and we're going to have to expand our building at some point. We've been advised by the Department of Health that in our current situation we have to meet higher standards of water supply. We are on a well, we have met those standards, and are struggling to continue to meet those standards as recently as today.

In laying down our future in the community, we simply need access to public water. We have 45 full-time employees on site, and roughly 10 part-timers. We are looking to add in the next ten years certainly double what we have.

When it became clear that the Department of Transportation was going to be successful in getting a purchase offer on the land next to us - part of that is to get water for themselves - and they were annexed, that property adjacent, to the village. We realize that it would have been better for a group of us to be annexed at the same time, but none of our neighbors have any immediate interest in doing so.

Both the trustees of the village and the town ought to be also cognizant of the fact that we've just purchased... 4.26 acres that's in the village, adjacent to our property. I haven't closed on it yet; the offer is just signed. It hasn't been ratified within the board, and won't be so until March 22nd.

Mayor Taylor asked Baxter to identify the property Dryden Mutual is purchasing on a map, and asked if the audience had questions for Mr. Baxter. There were none. Town Councilman Steve Stelick read Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins' review of the annexation petition and a number of technical errors in it. Village Attorney David Dubow also mentioned a technical error he had already resolved.

Legislator Lane spoke again briefly after the legal discussion, saying:

I think the idea of annexation of the area north of the village makes a lot of sense for the planned, orderly development of the area, the commercial area particularly... It's very hard to see where the village stops if you're driving north when you come to the village line because of the development in that area. I think that there's a community of interest between the properties in the sewer district area, and this property is in that district, and also the rest of the village.

I think it's pretty obvious from the fact that there has been another recent annexation, which is adjacent to this. I think that's one of the things that needs to be looked at when you're deciding whether or not to approve an annexation is that community of interest... factor that needs to be present. I wanted to say I think it is.

Town Councilman Mike Hattery said that the Town had been looking into, with Senator Jim Seward and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, some "special legislation to try and resolve a larger-scale annexation and/or water district from the village," and both boards need to discuss this.

Both boards will be discussing annexation at future meetings, developing findings within 90 days.

Posted by simon at 8:29 AM Comment

March 6, 2005

Village sewer plant may block TC3 expansion; snowmobile benefit

This week's Dryden Courier leads with an article on roadblocks to TC3's expansion. Governor Pataki's veto of funding for it last year has stalled it, but even with the money, there's another large problem: needed repairs for the Village of Dryden sewer plant, which have resulted in a moratorium "on any increased inflow to the Village of Dryden's sewage treatment plant by out-of-village users." (The town and village boards held a joint meeting about this in April.) The current estimated cost of that work is $4.8 million. Mayor Reba Taylor and other town and village representatives went to Albany:

to ascertain Dryden's chances of finding state and federal money to fix their aging water treatment plant.

The chances, they found out, were next to zero.

This looks like it will be an ongoing discussion for the town and village, as Supervisor Trumbull estimates in the article that the town's share of the work is 36 or 36 percent, and the Draft Comprehensive Plan's maps 5-1 and 5-3 propose new development and water and sewer systems near the village.

The Courier visited the Dryden-Caroline Drifters on their Chicks Ride benefit for the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance, and has a picture of snowmobilers heading out of the VFW on the cover.

The Courier has two articles on the Dryden Central School District, one on the elimination of a principal's position at Dryden Elementary School and one on a preliminary budget.

In sports, Megan Stuttle and James Holman qualified for the state indoor track tournament, which will be held today at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

Posted by simon at 10:41 AM Comment

Information Meeting on Town Hall land purchase

Thursday's hour-long information meeting on the land purchase for the new Town Hall brought over 25 attendees to find out what the town's plans were for the 47 acres the Town is purchasing behind the existing Town Hall for $100,000.

Information meeting on Town Hall land purchase
Information meeting on Town Hall land purchase.

Zoning Officer Henry Slater walked attendees through the map. The town is purchasing part of a 73-acre parcel, including 20 acres of wetlands and about 26 acres of usable land. Those 26 acres will include a buffer separating the town's property from the rest of the parcel, which may eventually be developed for residential use, and contains several possible sites for a new Town Hall, which will likely be around 11,000 square feet. (The current town hall is 4,000 square feet, not all of which is usable.)

Map of Town Hall land purchase
Map of Town Hall land purchase.

ELM Acquisition Corporation will be retaining land further behind the proposed town hall area, as well as a strip for access from Route 392 along the eastern boundary of the Village of Dryden.

Town resident Robin Hadlock Seeley asked where the money for this was coming from, and Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins replied that the money for the land purchase was coming from surplus funds from last year's budget. The new town hall itself will be built with the roughly $2.5 million the town has been saving since 1989 for thiis project. (Using reserve funds requires a public hearing and may be subject to a referendum.)

There were a number of questions about the wetlands and what could be done with those. Town Environmental Planner Debbie Gross has been looking into the rules for things like trails and boardwalks, and found that they can be done, though it requires a lot of careful planning to avoid sensitive habitat and cautious use of materials, like the black locust instead of pressure-treated lumber that was used at the O. D. von Engeln nature preserve in Malloryville. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology was cited as another possible example.

The historical nature of the area came up a few times, as the Town offices and highway department building are on the former Dryden fairgrounds, famous for their huge (30,000+) crowds and 12-sided barn. County Legislator Mike Lane noted that much of the old racetrack and some old building piers still exist. (After the meeting I suggested making the new town hall 12-sided, but somehow I think a model or a marker is more likely.)

Environmental Planner Debbie Gross also discussed preliminary work the town is doing toward making the town hall more energy efficient. New York State, through NYSERDA, has programs for training architects working on municipal projects as well as grants that will cover up to 60% of the added cost of making new municipal buildings energy-efficient. Architectural work is just getting started, though a group of town employees and officials have toured the Lansing, Groton, and Virgil town halls, all of which are relatively recent.

Recreation came up a number of times, with one attendee suggesting that "I can fit quite a few soccer fields in there, maybe a baseball diamond." Town Councilman Mike Hattery was cautious about recreation purposes, noting the upcoming recreation study, and pointing out that the additional land is only adding 1 or 1.5% to the overall cost of the projects. Councilman Marty Christofferson saw the purchase as an "opportunity to get a large chunk of land" because "a small piece would cost close to what a big piece would cost," but the "main priority was to build a new town hall."

The purchase isn't complete yet, as the seller has to complete a survey of the land, but the initial contract is set up. When the board is ready to start work on the new town hall building itself, there will be additional public hearings and opportunities for comment.

Posted by simon at 12:41 PM Comment

March 7, 2005

Openings on Youth Commission, ZBA

In this morning's Ithaca Journal, Briefly in Tompkins and a second Briefly in Tompkins list some positions open to applications from residents of Dryden:

  • The Dryden Youth Commission, a joint commission between the Town of Dryden, Village of Dryden, and Village of Freeville, has an opening for a Village of Dryden resident.
  • The Dryden Zoning Board of Appeals has an opening.

  • "The Tompkins County Economic Development Loan Oversight Committee, an advisory board to the County Legislature, currently has a vacant seat for a representative of a micro-enterprise business." The committee meets four to six times a year, overseeing a revolving loan fund.

Dryden resident Rich Couch is quoted in an article about the first meeting of a new Tompkins County Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered Democratic club, suggesting a path forward for action:

"Endorsements are nice," said Dryden resident Rich Couch. "Endorsements with money attached are even better. Endorsements with money and volunteers are a dream."

There are three stories on Ithaca School District elementary school redistricting, which may have an effect on some residents of the western side of Dryden. One article looks at drawing elementary lines, one looks at the impact of this on open enrollment, and another looks at the possible changes to middle schools.

Near the edge of Dryden, the county will be holding a public information meeting to discuss the rehabilitation of Warren Road between Asbury Road and Route 13. The meeting will be held at DeWitt Middle School (map) on Wednesday, March 9th, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm.

On the opinion page, the Journal's editorial looks at the area's growing attractiveness as a place to retire, and the shifts this will involve: "Public policy must evolve with this population." It notes (among other towns) Dryden's 15% increase in senior citizens from 1990-2000 as an early indicator of the need for government to begin responding to a changing population.

Posted by simon at 8:00 AM Comment

March 8, 2005

March meetings

I'm late getting to this, but the public notices page for March lists meetings still to come:

  • The Recreation Commission is meeting on Wednesday, March 23rd at 6:00 pm, in the Dryden School District Office Conference Room.
  • The Conservation Board is meeting Tuesday, March 8th, at 7:30 pm. (They're still looking for two new members.)
  • The Town Board is meeting at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 10th for their regular meeting. The agenda is posted, and includes discussion of the County Youth Bureau and a Citizen's Privilege about wind power, as well as annexation and water districts.
  • The Youth Commission will meet March 15th at 6:30pm.
  • The Planning Board is having further discussion of the comprehensive plan" at 7:00 pm on Thursday, March 17th.

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

Posted by simon at 6:13 AM Comment

March 9, 2005

'Ger' sighted in Varna

I'm curious where this is, but there's a Mongolian-made 'ger' (also called a yurt) somewhere near Varna. It looks and sounds pretty stunning.

Posted by simon at 1:36 AM Comment

Golf course up for auction Friday

A letter in today's Ithaca Journal from Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull says that the Lakeview Golf Course is up for auction and the town still has hope:

that the Town of Dryden and the new owners of the golf course can work together to expand recreational opportunities that the area would offer in addition to golf.

The auction will be Friday, at 10:00am, at the Tompkins County Courthouse. The town had previously discussed buying the course itself.

TC3's Childcare Center received an award and $1,000 grant yesterday from the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

Cornell Cooperative Extension will be hosting a "Camp Night" to discuss camping with 4-H. The meeting will be held at at 4-H Acres (map) tonight from 7:00pm to 8:30pm.

The Ithaca school district still has an impasse in negotiations with its service employees. The Journal's editorial encourages Ithaca and other districts to set later start times for schools.

The Slaterville Springs Volunteer Fire Company, which serves the Bethel Grove area, is profiled and there's mention of a steak dinner they're holding on Saturday.

Also just outside of Dryden, the Tompkins County Sheriff's Department will be having a free child safety seat inspection on Saturday, March 12th from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the airport's Crash, Fire and Rescue building (map).

Posted by simon at 9:34 AM Comment

March 10, 2005

Wind power on Mount Pleasant?

This morning's Ithaca Journal includes a first look at Cornell's plans to put up to eight wind turbines on Mount Pleasant, near its current observatory. Cornell is "still in the study phase of this," and has put "a 50-meter weather station near the WHCU transmission tower." The project, which would provide 10-15% of the university's energy, would be large, nearly 400 feet high overall:

The turbines under consideration by Cornell would be 80 meters tall with a 40-meter blade length, meaning when one of the three blades is sticking straight up, it is 120 meters from the ground.

Lanny Joyce, manager of the engineering, planning and energy management at Cornell, said the turbines, which are the same as those used at Fenner Wind Farm and in Madison County, are expected to turn 10 to 15 rotations per minute.

I understand there will be an informational meeting at the Varna Community Center in April to discuss this.

Area schools had mixed results on state achievement tests, with Ithaca staying about the same but Dryden's results falling for its middle and elementary schools.

The Ithaca School Board will be having another elementary redistricting hearing tonight, starting at 6:00pm at Ithaca High School. Apparently their redistricting web site is down while "Modifications are being made".

The county Environmental Management Council heard from an expert on barrel burning of trash, and it sounds like the county Board of Health has moved to ban it, pending language drafting and a public hearing.

The Journal's editorial today talks about school funding fairness issues across the state. Freeville resident Charlie Hart writes about the recent ticketing of a driver who killed a pedestrian in Ithaca, saying that:

What the heck do you think is going to happen when you live in a community that sponsors such a thing as alternatives to incarceration where a person can commit a crime and doesn't have to worry about going to jail?

Strange. I can't say I ever thought of District Attorney Dentes as a soft-headed pacifist who wasn't interested in prosecuting crime. I don't always agree with the crimes Dentes does prosecute, but if his office doesn't prosecute a crime, my assumption is that there wasn't nearly a winnable case, however unfortunate and frustrating that may be.

Posted by simon at 8:53 AM Comment

Thoughts on upstate culture

It's not specifically about Dryden, and it starts out as ruminations about the 2006 New York governor's race, but NYCO has some powerful thoughts on upstate New York's past, present, and future which are well worth thinking about, even (maybe especially) if you violently disagree. An excerpt:

Upstate New York seems to be entering a point of no return which many people interpret as "decline," but I feel it is properly understood as "change." In truth, at the dawn of the 21st century, we are not in decline, but rather parting company from a good deal of the rest of the American economic prosperity engine. That doesn't mean that there aren't pressing matters of the local economy to figure out - as we can see in the woes of Erie County. What's happening in Erie County is in fact going to require some serious re-thinking. Upstate New York is on the down side of a boom that began almost 200 years ago. How to properly, sustainably downsize and yet maintain our values is the most pressing matter....

Economic fortunes come and go -- and come again. But once you throw your values down the toilet, it's very hard to get them back.

There's a lot to think about.

Update: NYCO continues this train of thought in another excellent piece looking at the variety, political and cultural, in upstate New York.

Posted by simon at 11:44 AM Comment

March 11, 2005

Etna man in high-speed chase

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that an Etna man faces 25 charges after a high-speed chase through Collegetown and along Route 366 Saturday night. Timothy Troy allegedly hit multiple vehicles, including a head-on collision, and was arrested the next day after officers traced his license plate.

A college student from Dryden is in Antarctica for a month on an "expedition to determine if events like the recent ice shelf breakups have occurred in the past 10,000 years or if these are unprecedented events." Perhaps Ashley Hatfield of Hamilton College liked Dryden winters so much she wants more? (It is summer in Antarctica, though.)

Ithaca schools will continue to support open enrollment through whatever redistricting they do, the board decided last night at a public hearing on elementary school redistricting.

The Journal's editorial questions the value of spacing assessments out over several years instead of doing it annually, arguing that the real problem is spending. They're right about the real problem, but having watched the Town Board create a new budget based on keeping the tax rate rather than the levy the same, I think it's fair to say that assessments play an important role in how governments make those spending decisions.

There's also a letter from Joseph Benedict of Ithaca, which questions an earlier letter from a doctor who "praised another doctor [Dryden resident John Ferger] for his stance on supporting abortion and his help for Planned Parenthood, asking "isn't this hypocritical?" Sometimes Ithaca Journal letters just leave me sputtering.

Posted by simon at 8:41 AM Comment

Is Dryden in an Onondaga land claim?

The Syracuse Post-Standard reports that the Onondaga nation:

will claim ownership of a 40-mile-wide swath of land stretching from the Thousand Islands to Pennsylvania in a historic lawsuit it will file today against New York, Onondaga County and Syracuse.

The Onondagas will ask a federal court to declare that New York illegally acquired the land in five treaties between 1788 and 1822, and they will ask for title to that land.

The disputed territory includes roughly 4,000 square miles - including nearly all of Syracuse, plus Oswego, Fulton, Watertown, Cortland and Binghamton. About 875,000 people live in the claim area....

While the lawsuit asks a judge to declare the entire area as Onondaga property, Chief Sid Hill stressed the nation will not sue individual property owners or evict anyone from their homes.

The Onondagas - a nation of 1,500 members who live on about 11 square miles just south of Syracuse - are not seeking monetary damages in this action.

The suit asks the court to declare that New York violated federal and state laws when it bought the Onondaga land, said Joseph Heath, the Onondagas' attorney.

Hill said the Onondagas hope such a ruling would force New York officials to bargain with them on compensation for the illegal sales and to compel New York to better clean up environmental hazards in the claim area - especially Onondaga Lake...

Elsewhere in New York, land claims have not hurt anyone's ability to buy and sell real estate, according to real estate professionals in those areas.

"Day-to-day, no one will see any difference," Heath said. "Certainly not until there's a judgment. Then the state has to figure out how we are going to resolve that."...

The Onondagas will face higher hurdles to reclaim title to the larger area - for thousands of square miles in Oswego, Cayuga, Cortland, Tompkins, Jefferson, Tioga and Broome counties. That represents almost one-tenth of all New York.

New York acquired this land - about 90 percent of the Onondagas' aboriginal territory - in a treaty signed in 1788, two years before congressional approval of Indian land transactions was explicitly required.

No Native American nation in New York has won a court decision covering territory acquired before 1790, said Locklear, who argued the 1985 Oneida case before the Supreme Court.

I can't find a map of the claim, but they do mention Tompkins County, and Cortland's not very far. I'll post more when I find out. The entire article is definitely worth a read in any case.

Update: Yes, part of Dryden (Etna and east?) is definitely in the land claim area, as shown in the map available here. The Onondaga Nation site has a whole section about the land claim with answers to frequently asked questions.

And thanks to NYCO for bringing this up!

Posted by simon at 11:47 AM Comment

March 12, 2005

Land claim, supporting troops

It's a quiet day for Dryden in the Ithaca Journal. They run an AP story on the Onondaga land claim I mentioned yesterday. (The New York Times (registration required) also has an article on the claim this morning.)

On the opinion page, there's a laurel from Bill Cornell of Dryden, whose son's involvement in a kidnap rescue in Iraq was profiled in February:

LAUREL: From Bill Cornell of Dryden. To all those people in our community who so enthusiastically support our troops, particularly the county employees of the Human Services Building. These folks have been sending large packages to the soldiers of B Battery 2BN-15FA 2nd Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Drum since last July. I would also like to thank The Ithaca Journal for publishing positive stories about our service men and women. This hometown support contributes significantly to high morale and thus, a safer environment for our troops.

Posted by simon at 10:08 AM Comment

Varna pancake breakfast tomorrow

The Varna Community Association will be having a pancake breakfast at the Varna Community Center (map) tomorrow from 8am-noon. $5.00 ($4.50 for seniors, $3.50 for children) gets you all the pancakes, bacon, ham, eggs, fresh fruit, coffee cake, and french toast you can eat.

Posted by simon at 10:20 AM Comment

March 13, 2005

Transportation spending

I've seen lots of news trumpeting Congressman Boehlert's transportation funding through upcoming legislation for other parts of his district, but can't seem to find anything about Tompkins County or Dryden. The main press release on Boehlert's site provides few details, so I've written the Congressman to ask what's happening here.

He hasn't answered my February or November letters, but this one seems like a softball with a hopefully straight answer. I'll post any replies I receive, of course.

Posted by simon at 12:04 PM Comment

March 14, 2005

Mike Lane on tomorrow's Village of Dryden election

County Legislator Mike Lane writes the Ithaca Journal today to endorse Jerry Carbo for Village Trustee in tomorrow's Village of Dryden elections:

Jerry Carbo is running for one of the seats, and is well qualified. He has impressive experience in law and accounting. Jerry, his wife and children have returned to our area, bought a house and have made Dryden their home.

As trustee, Jerry will bring a serious, balanced approach to village government. Times are hard for taxpayers. The need to support necessary public services must always be weighed against the sharp bite of increasing real property taxes. Jerry is a fresh face; he wants to take a fresh look at village finances and services to ensure they are being delivered in the most cost effective manner. Jerry will work hard for all of us. On election day, please vote for him.

Voting will be tomorrow from noon to 9pm on the second floor of the Dryden Village Hall (map). I'm a little surprised not to have seen an article from the Journal profiling candidates, but I've been out of town and maybe it was just in the print version? Or maybe tomorrow. (They did run a piece at the beginning of last month.)

(Last week's issue of The Shopper, which I just got to, includes ads for Carbo and for the Republican slate of Reba Taylor for Mayor and Mark Strom and Bob Witty for Village Trustee.)

There's also an article on the agenda for tomorrow night's County Legislature meeting, which will include two resolutions about the proposed emergency radio project.

Posted by simon at 12:01 PM Comment

March 15, 2005

Village elections today

This morning's Journal reports that there are elections today in the Villages of Dryden and Freeville. Polls will be open from noon to 9:00pm at the the Dryden Village Hall (map) and the the Freeville Village Hall (map). Freeville's election is uncontested, with Rachel Dickinson and Tom Lyson running for trustee. In Dryden, the mayor's race is uncontested, with Reba Taylor running for another term. The race for Village Trustee includes one Democrat, Jerry Carbo, and two Republicans, Robert Witty and Mark Strom, running for two seats.

Mayor Taylor suggests that "In small village elections, it might help draw out voters if there were more open debate." I'm hoping we'll see a lot more debate and involvement in local politics over the next few years, and I agree with her that there could be a lot more.

Freese Road will be closed from Wednesday to Friday at the Route 366 intersection for a line repair, which I'm guessing to be a water or sewer line.

The Dryden School Board is looking into ways of potentially saving up to $300,000 by bringing contracted services for GED preparation and vocational training back in-house. Those savings would come from both contracted expenses and transportation costs.

In the Ithaca district, the school board will be looking at redistricting tonight. I've heard from residents of Turkey Hill Road that their children will be moved under the previous plan, in addition to the residents on the eastern edge of Varna that I'd been aware of previously. Unfortunately the district's redistricting web site doesn't presently have any information, past or present. When that information is available, I'll write more. The board will be meeting tonight from 7:00pm to 9:30pm at the district's administration building (map).

The Journal profiles Dryden native John Cape, who was named Director of the New York Division of the Budget in February by Governor Pataki. Cape graduated from Dryden High School and TC3 before moving to Albany, where he started work at the Division of the Budget in 1980.

County Legislator Martha Robertson is quoted in an article about retiring Human Services Coalition director Marge Dill, saying that "she certainly has a deep commitment to the values of the human services community and to see that we take care of those who have the least among us."

Posted by simon at 8:58 AM Comment

Varna children shifted to Caroline under ICSD redistricting plans

It looks like I was wrong when I said that only the easternmost edge of Varna would be affected by Ithaca elementary school redistricting. Admittedly I was quoting the Ithaca Journal and the ICSD's maps weren't very clear, but it's pretty plain now that the change is much more drastic.

In the current elementary school map, children in the Town of Dryden attend Cayuga Heights (green) and Caroline (brown) elementary schools. I've heard of Varna children attending Northeast and Belle Sherman as well, though that's not shown on this map and may be open enrollment.

Current Ithaca elementary school districts in Dryden.
Current Ithaca elementary school districts in Dryden.

The rightmost edge of the light blue at the top is Sapsucker Woods Road, and marks the Dryden-Ithaca town boundary. You can extend that line south as an indicator of the town line.

There are three redistricting scenarios posted on the ICSD redistricting site:

In all of these maps, the Dryden portion looks like:

Proposed Ithaca elementary school districts in Dryden.
Proposed Ithaca elementary school districts in Dryden.

In this second map, the pinkish-purple is for Caroline. No bright green for Cayuga Heights remains in the Town of Dryden.

As I noted earlier, the Ithaca school board will be looking at redistricting tonight from 7:00pm to 9:30pm at the district's administration building (map).

Posted by simon at 12:01 PM Comment

Village candidate perspectives

I just got this past week's Dryden Courier, and should cover it while it's still available. It's also extra-appropriate today because it includes candidate questions and reponses for the Village of Dryden candidates. Polls will be open from noon to 9:00pm at the the Dryden Village Hall (map) and the Freeville Village Hall, although the Courier doesn't cover Freeville's uncontested races.

Dryden Republicans Mayor Reba Taylor and Village Trustee Bob Witty present their views in the Courier, as does Democratic Village Trustee candidate Jerry Carbo. Republican Village Trustee Mark Strom isn't in there.

On the front page, the Courier covers Dryden High School's upcoming production of Bye, Bye, Birdie, which they will present on March 17th, 18th, and 19th (this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) at 7:00pm. There's also an article on the town's purchase of 47 acres for the new town hall and other possibilities.

Harry Weldon starts his Anecdotes and Brevities column at the Dryden History House, where he receives a phone call about Finger Lakes history.

In sports, the Courier covers awards given to Dryden winter athletes, and names the Finger Lakes Newspapers Wrestling All-Star Team. Mario Clarke and Rex Hollenbeck are named to the team as Dryden students, but it mentions that there are three members from Dryden. I'm guessing Jared Barnes, whose school isn't named, might be the third.

Posted by simon at 12:15 PM Comment

March 16, 2005

Incumbents re-elected in Dryden, Freeville

Village elections held yesterday returned incumbents to their seats in both Dryden and Freeville. In Dryden, Mayor Reba Taylor and Village Trustees Bob Witty and Mark Strom were re-elected over new Village Trustee challenger Jerry Carbo, while in Freeville Tom Lyson and Rachel Dickinson won re-election to their Trustee seats.

Election inspectors read the tallies
Election inspectors read the Village of Dryden tallies.

Dryden turnout was around 18%, and the unofficial tallies were:

Dryden MayorReba Taylor (R)156
Dryden TrusteeBob Witty (R)136
Mark Strom (R)125
Jerry Carbo (D)90
Freeville TrusteeThomas Lyson18
Rachel Dickinson16

While I was hoping for better turnout in Dryden, Freeville's participation rate seems remarkably low. It's not that different from last year, however.

Update: The Village of Dryden numbers were later revised with additional votes.

I'll cover the rest of the Dryden news in today's Journal (there's a lot) in a following story.

Posted by simon at 8:32 AM Comment

Lakeview Golf Course bought by owner

After all the suspense about who would buy the Lakeview Golf Course at last Friday's auction, current owner George Szlasa, represented by attorney Mahlon Perkins, purchased the course at the auction for $359,900 on the first and only bid. [Update: The Journal had originally reported $395,900, but corrected it.] This resolves the golf course's future for the short term, but the long term is still in question, as the Journal notes:

While it is expected to open again for the 2005 season, how long it will be able to stay open is uncertain. For over a year, operations and maintenance at the course have been taken on by a corps of volunteers working primarily with donated funds.

Despite its problems, including having 18 holes squeezed into space that is more appropriate for nine, the course is loved by many in Dryden who have continually advocated for its revival as well as its preservation along the scenic Dryden Lake.

According to Trumbull there are still some potential investors interested in the property; so he said he's looking for the story of Lakeview Golf Course to continue.

In the Our Towns section, Cathy Wakeman reports on last weekend's indoor soccer tournament at the Dryden High School. She also notes the upcoming performance of "Bye, Bye, Birdie" at Dryden High School this Thursday through Saturday at 7:00pm, a Photo History Day at the Dryden History House (map) from 10:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday, and a list of Holy Week events, including an Easter sunrise service, at the Etna Community Church.

Briefly in Dryden lists three other upcoming events:

  • The Town of Dryden Recreation Department will be hosting an Easter Egg Hunt in Montgomery Park in the Village of Dryden on Sunday at 1:00pm. Specialty Trophies and Awards and Neptune Hose Company are sponsoring the event.

  • Holy Cross Church will be having McGilligan's Ball, an Irish dinner and dance, from 6:00pm to 1:00am at TC3 on Saturday. Tickets ($20 in advance, $23 at the door) can be purchased from Hill Drugs and Eckerds in the village of Dryden as well as at Regis in the Pyramid Mall.

  • Neptune Hose Company will be having a a "Kid's Easter/Winter Carnival" at the fire hall (map) this Saturday from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Egg hunts, games, crafts, and storytelling will all be happening.

In school news, the Ithaca school board discussed redistricting last night. Like the other Journal articles I've seen, this one doesn't mention the shift of Varna children from Cayuga Heights to Caroline. It does, however, mention that there will be another public forum on redistricting, to be held tomorrow, March 17th, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm at the Ithaca High School.

At the county level, the legislature discussed the proposed emergency communications network, with the Ithaca and Caroline Town Supervisors asking for more participation in the tower siting process.

There's also an article headlined "Wholesale/retail hiring forecast appears positive", about the Manpower employment survey for the second quarter of 2005, but the details are less positive than the headline suggests. Yes, 7% of companies plan to hire while only 3% plan to reduce payroll, but that's worse than last quarter's 10% hiring/3% layoff result, and Binghamton and Syracuse are both showing 30% hiring expectations.

Posted by simon at 8:56 AM Comment

SEIU Local 200 community outreach at VFW tonight

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 200, which represents workers at George Junior Republic, will be having an informational session tonight at the Dryden VFW from 5:00pm to 9:00pm. It sounds like community members are welcome to stop by, rather than a four-hour meeting.

Union members presented their concerns in last year's negotiations at Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton's town hall meeting last year. It didn't sound like a pleasant negotiation process, though it did seem to resolve eventually.

Posted by simon at 2:08 PM Comment

George Junior contract negotiations in progress

I stopped by the event SEIU Local 200 had tonight at the Dryden Veterans Memorial Home. One of the things that frustrates me about labor negotiations is that they're rarely considered news until there's a crisis, and I thought I'd see what was happening before it made (or didn't make) headlines.

George Junior Republic did sign a contract with Local 200 last year, but it was a one-year contract, which explains why this is happening again so soon. The same basic issues - healthcare and wages - are up for discussion, in a similar context. The New York State budget is squeezed again, and it's unlikely the state will increase reimbursements much. Healthcare costs are rising, and issues like prescription coverage are becoming more important.

Still, Bob Lucas, the local president, was "pretty hopeful that we can get a contract in on time." There isn't a whole lot of time, as the old contract expires midnight on April 30th, but there's some time. Lucas felt that the conversations were "more positive than all of the other other ones," having been through the negotiation process a few times in the nine years the union has been at George Junior. He noted that the school has been expanding, with new construction going up, and more boys coming in.

Teachers at George Junior, represented by the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), have been working without a contract since June, and only ratified that contract a month before it expired. They're on a separate contract which also needs negotiation.

Bob Tompkins, Education Director of SEIU Local 200, noted that in addition to negotiations with George Junior, the union was sponsoring a lobbying day in Albany to press the state for more funds to support the school and other human services agencies.

I did find a description of last year's contract results on the SEIU site:

On April 14, members at George Junior Republic in Freeville ratified a new one year agreement. These HSA workers won a 40 across the board wage increase and a lump sum payment of $200. Members were also brought into the SEBF health insurance plan. Improved holiday pay, tuition reimbursment, and premium pay for Support Staff round out the package.

I'll report again as developments happen.

Posted by simon at 10:12 PM Comment

March 17, 2005

Etna man faces steeper charges

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that Timothy Troy of Etna, accused of leading police on a chase through Collegetown and Dryden, may face more severe charges as his case is referred to a grand jury.

The SPCA will be having a St. Patrick's Day celebration today (map) from noon to 5:30pm, including "Celtic music, 'lucky' green punch, treats, and $17 off every adoption."

The opinion page has two pieces which may affect Dryden residents. The first, the Journal's editorial, is a general warning about benefit costs and government spending. The second piece is brighter, talking about how Farm to School programs can help both local farms and student nutrition.

Posted by simon at 8:43 AM Comment

March 18, 2005

Freedom of Information in Dryden

This morning's Ithaca Journal devotes its entire editorial page to New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), which gives citizens access to government documents at the state and local levels, complementing the federal government's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They have four pieces on the subject:

  • Their editorial provides an overview of FOIL, arguing that "while it is true that state and federal versions of a freedom of information law cannot alone make government perfect, they do make the public sector more accountable for the simple reason that it cannot hide information as well as it could in the past."
  • Dryden resident Kathy Zahler has a guest column about the importance of open government. She cites last week's Dryden Courier for its discussions of the Dryden Town Board and Dryden Central School District's questionable uses of executive session, and says:

    Dryden Town and School Board members may well believe that they have met these criteria, and perhaps they have. I don't know; I wasn't allowed in the room, and neither were you....

    We need to believe that our views carry some weight at the local level. The Open Meetings Law is not designed to inconvenience or embarrass legislators. It's there to let the rest of us retain some semblance of control.

  • The Journal asked local governments about the FOIL requests they had received over the last year. The Town of Dryden reported 32 formal requests, the Village of Freeville one, and the Village of Dryden zero. That last one bothers me, as I know I filed a formal request and got a document from the Village for this April story.

  • There's a piece on ways citizens use FOIL requests, including an example by Nick Bellisario of Dryden:

    Nick Bellisario of Dryden utilized the FOIL process when he was seeking a variance in order to build a mini-storage facility on Triphammer Road in Lansing. The project never came to pass, but Bellisario said that, at least, the Freedom of Information Law enabled him to obtain documentation.

    "It's good to have," Bellisario said. "We did go and made copies of everything that was going on. It definitely helped our lawyer get the information that he needed."

They also have three articles on FOIL, one introducing the FOIL law, one describing how FOIL can be used, and one describing the process for getting documents under FOIL.

Two Dryden events are listed in Briefly in Tompkins:

  • Dryden High School will be presenting a performance of "Bye, Bye, Birdie" tonight and Saturday at 7:00pm.

  • The Dryden Town Historical Society will be having a Photo History Day at the Dryden History House (map) from 10:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday.

Posted by simon at 8:12 AM Comment

Ask a simple question, get a quick answer

I wrote Congressman Sherwood Boehlert about federal transportation spending in Tompkins County this past Saturday, as I'd seen stories about spending elsewhere but nothing about what was happening here.

Boehlert writes:

As you will note, the bill contains $4.5 million for transportation projects in Tompkins County, which includes $2 million for pavement and roadway improvements to Peruville Road, and addresses a safety issue in the Village of Groton where fatalities have occurred. $2.5 million for rehabilitation of bridges in Tompkins County on the Ithaca Secondary Line is also in place. This will assist with increase of train service.

Congressman Hinchey, who represents the City of Ithaca as well as the Towns of Ithaca and Danby, also reports another $1.7 million coming to those parts of Tompkins County.

It's very nice to get a reply from my Congressman in a matter of days, and a marked contrast to my earlier (perhaps tougher?) letters in February and November, to which I've never had replies. I'd started to worry that maybe I shouldn't be sending letters to the Cortland office, but now I can see clearly that that's not the problem.

I've scanned in the full letter and accompanying press release, in two versions. You can read the clearer (126KB PDF) or selectable (243KB PDF) version.

Posted by simon at 12:46 PM Comment

March 19, 2005

Windmills? Maybe not

This week's Dryden Courier leads with an article on the windmills Cornell has proposed building on Mount Pleasant, which could provide 10-15% of the university's electricity. Neighbors are less than happy, and the Courier reports that 15 of them signed a petition opposing the windmills. The key paragraph on the windmills' future seems to be:

[Dryden Zoning Officer] Slater told a small group of residents that gathered at the Dryden Town Hall to protest the project that the zoning ordinances for the town, "do not recognize wind mills as a permitted use," and that the possibility of a variance was very slim.

An article later in the Courier (and available online through the Ithaca Times) looks at a different possibility for energy generation which Cornell is also exploring on Mount Pleasant, the use of grass pellets for heat. (I'll be reporting on this next week in greater depth.)

The Courier also reports on TC3 Professor and playwright Paul McCabe, whose play "Get Off" will be performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington after winning the Jean Kennedy Smith award, given to "the best college student-written script about the human experience of living with a disability."

The Courier's editiorial, "Let the Sun Shine In," celebrates Sunshine Week and freedom of information laws, saying:

At its heart this campaign shares these beliefs: Knowledge is the key to freedom; transparency is the enemy of tyranny; and an informed public will make intelligent decisions. Upon those concepts this nation has prospered. Each is now under assault. Their defense is our highest calling.

Posted by simon at 8:46 AM Comment

ICSD redistricting petition for Varna

After the piece I wrote on Varna children being shifted to Caroline Elementary School, I heard from Pat and Tom Brenna, who are circulating a petition (36KB PDF) opposing the shift.

They explain:

Pat and Tom Brenna of 32 Deerhaven Drive first circulated the petition for signatures on March 19, 2005. By this time, the ICSD Board voted to "take off the table" the "Stay-Put" scenario, thereby committing to redistricting by some scheme. This is the reason that the petition does not express opposition to redistricting itself, but rather focuses on the plan for Varna.

Although the Board has expressed unanimous support for continuing open enrollment, it has not guaranteed that children who, for instance, have attended a school for 5 years can complete their remaining year at that school.

For information on the petition, please email Tom Brenna <>. If you wish to add your name, please email Tom stating this and give your address, and your name will be added.

If you're interested in signing the petition, please let them know!

Posted by simon at 4:21 PM Comment

Planning Board recommends Comprehensive Plan

The Planning Board sent the Draft Comprehensive Plan to the Town Board on Thursday night, voting 6-0 to send it forward.

Unlike the public hearing, the board didn't take public input this time, instead focusing on earlier comments. Apart from some minor language changes, the largest issue was a concern about the trail map. The board had previously removed lines for non-railroad trails from the map, then added them back later. Dave Weinstein and Joe LaQuatra brought up removing the trails, particularly the one through Ellis Hollow, but Tom Hatfield persuaded the board to keep the lines, but adding a large "For Discussion Only" sign to the map, as these trails are a long way from implementation. Even if a particular trail was considered especially important it could take a decade or more to bring them to completion.

A group of residents was there to push for more protection for the Dryden Lake area, and board members suggested afterward that this was something that needs to be addressed in the zoning implementation more than in the plan itself.

Moving forward, the steps ahead include the Town Board having a public hearing on the plan, doing a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), and then deciding to adopt, modify, reject, or ignore the plan. They can send it back to the Planning Board if they want more work done as well. If the Town Board adopts the plan, it will be considered a key town document for things like discussions with the state Department of Transportation, but implementation will require the town passing zoning laws which reflect the content of the plan.

It's taken years to get to this point, and it will probably be a few years before the plan takes effect. Of course, it could, like the 1968 plan, be published but never adopted or implemented.

Posted by simon at 4:40 PM Comment

March 20, 2005

School report cards, freedom of information

Yesterday's online edition of the Ithaca Journal was late, and it looks like I got caught up in other stories, so it's time to catch up with yesterday's paper.

The Journal starts a six-part series on school report cards with a look at performance in the Ithaca schools. They also have a Q & A on School Report Cards, explaining what tests are used, who compiles the data, and what it might mean.

Two Dryden residents face DWI charges after incidents last week.

How They Voted lists votes at the last county legislature meeting, including one divided vote on spending $20,000 on training for the county administrator and others in negotiating with Motorola for the contract. The vote was 8-6. Among Dryden county legislators, Martha Robertson voted for it, Mike Lane voted against it, and George Totman was excused.

The Journal has two articles today on freedom of information laws, one on the limits of New York's Freedom of Information Law, and the other on hopes, if weak hopes, for revising the law to strengthen citizen access to information.

The Journal sends a laurel to the Health Planning Council of Tompkins County and the county legislature for the creation of the TompkinsRx card: "Fully 1,084 prescriptions have been filled for a total savings of $16,910."

Posted by simon at 8:32 AM Comment

How sweet it is to love!

About a year ago, I published a poem by John Dryden (1631-1700), namesake of this town. While I still wonder what he would think of this place after his years as a poet in England's turbulent 17th century, it seems like a good idea to publish his work occasionally as a reminder of where the town's name came from.

Ah, how sweet it is to love!
Ah, how gay is young Desire!
And what pleasing pains we prove
When we first approach Love's fire!
Pains of love be sweeter far
Than all other pleasures are.

Sighs which are from lovers blown
Do but gently heave the heart:
Ev'n the tears they shed alone
Cure, like trickling balm, their smart:
Lovers, when they lose their breath,
Bleed away in easy death.

Love and Time with reverence use,
Treat them like a parting friend;
Nor the golden gifts refuse
Which in youth sincere they send:
For each year their price is more,
And they less simple than before.

Love, like spring-tides full and high,
Swells in every youthful vein;
But each tide does less supply,
Till they quite shrink in again:
If a flow in age appear,
'Tis but rain, and runs not clear.

This particular piece was set to music by composer Henry Purcell in 1694. You can hear a sample of it (Windows-only, unfortunately) at Amazon. It won't be to everyone's taste, I'm sure.

Posted by simon at 9:45 AM Comment

More on the Onondaga Land Rights case

Although I haven't heard much more detail about the Onondaga Nation's Environmental and Land Rights legal action since I first posted on it, and expect this will take years or decades to sort out, I have collected a bit more information possibly worth sharing.

(I am not a lawyer, and none of this story should be construed as legal advice of any kind. My maps are approximate, and my understanding of the law in this case is the kind you get from reading lots of news stories, not from reading law books.)

County Legislator Mike Lane shared a letter that Tadodaho Sidney Hill had sent him and other county legislators on behalf on the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs. I've scanned it in, and you can read it in PDF, either clearer (180KB PDF) or selectable (319KB PDF). In it, Hill explains what the Onondaga are seeking through this legal action, and two paragraphs seem especially important:

What does the Nation want from this Case? In two words, justice and healing. For over 200 years, we have endured hardship and indignities from the unjust taking of our ancestral land. We have been confmed to a small reservation. We have suffered the painful loss of our traditional way of life. We no longer can eat the fish that come fiom Onondaga Lake or from other lakes or streams because industrial polluters have poisoned their waters. Our ability to hunt has been illegally restricted. The land itself is contaminated by hazardous waste sites, abandoned industrial dumps, and other outrages that impact on our health and the health of our neighbors. Where once our people walked along the shores of Onondaga Lake and met in a sacred conclave with the Great Peacemaker, there now exists oozing pits of industrial debris that ruin the land and add new toxic burdens to the waters.

The Onondaga Nation brings this action not to obtain a casino. A casino could never compensate for the years of injustice endured from New York State Administrations. We want our neighbors to know there is no intent to take action against citizens living in Central New York. There will be no actions to evict our neighbors from their homes as we know all too well the pain and suffering displacement causes.

The Onondaga Nation seems intent on differentiating their case from others by calling it a "Land Rights action" rather than a "Land Claim," I think to emphasize that they don't plan to actually seize the land or sue landowners, but the underlying legal mechanisms are the same.

As I mentioned before, Dryden is in a part of the disputed territory that is slightly different from previous successful New York State land claims, because the treaty in which the Onondaga ceded the land was signed before the Nonintercourse Act of 1790. Other parts were ceded after the federal government had barred states from negotiating these treaties on their own behalf, and the case on those will likely find standing easily. For Dryden and much of the rest of the case, however, the court will have to decide if the legislature's failure to approve the treaty until 1813 makes it a violation of the Nonintercourse Act.

Lane also did some research in local history books, and found a map on pages 24 and 25 of W. Glen Norris' Old Indian Trails in Tompkins County that shows a pre-Revolutionary War boundary between the Cayugas and Onondagas that is somewhat to the east of the boundary the Onondaga Nation shows on their maps. I can't just reproduce the historical map for copyright reasons (it was made in 1944), so I've put approximations of both the Ononodaga line and the Norris line on to a map I created for an earlier story.

Town of Dryden map
Town of Dryden map, showing two different Cayuga-Onondaga boundaries.

Norris' line in solid purple leaves much of Freeville and Etna out of the Onondaga area (marked by the dashed purple line), as well as parts of the Ellis Hollow and Yellow Barn Road areas. However, determining where the line really is will be a matter for surveyors, lawyers, and land title companies - Norris' earlier line is interesting, but doesn't necessarily have any connection to the terms of the actual treaty.

Norris also shows "traces of occupation" along the southern edge of Dryden Lake, on Hammond Hill, and in West Dryden, and a camp site on the north edge of Dryden Lake. Trails roughly follow present Routes 366 and 13 (old Route 13) from Varna to the Village of Dryden and on to Cortland, and other trails roughly follow Route 38 from Dryden to Harford and Irish Settlement Road.

NYCO also has more on the Onondaga story (and now more), as does Indian Country Today.

I'll post more as details become available, which I suspect will be a slow process.

Posted by simon at 2:09 PM Comment

County income tax possibilities

I mentioned an earlier Ithaca Journal article on the possibility of a county income tax to replace all or part of property taxes, but it seems like a non-starter for a lot of reasons, including the need to pass any such changes through the New York State Legislature and Governor.

While I don't think the income tax itself is going anywhere, the interim report from the Local Income Tax Study group (clearer 490KB PDF or selectable 1179KB PDF) has an incredible amount of information in it on distribution of income and property in the county.

For example, I knew that NYSEG was one of the largest property tax payers in the county, but I didn't know that their remaining holdings total $116,961,684, even minus the former Milliken Station properties they sold AES Energy, which are assessed at $142 million. Pyramid Mall is assessed at about $59 million, while Cornell University, which is tax-exempt, is assessed at about $53 million. There's also all kinds of information on property tax exemptions, broken down by town, and data on New York State tax returns for 2000, when residents claimed $1.9 billion of income and non-residents who work here claimed $476 million.

It's well worth a careful read, even if you have no interest in a local income tax. Thanks to Mike Lane for giving me a copy. (I don't tend to follow county politics closely, and haven't yet started asking them for their documents.)

Posted by simon at 3:08 PM Comment

March 21, 2005


This morning's Ithaca Journal spends its editorial on the difficulties of sustainable power including hydropower and wind. It doesn't mention Dryden, but in some ways it echoes recent resistance to windmills here.

Planner George Frantz, who has been the consultant on Dryden's Comprehensive Plan, has a guest column about house size and sustainability, announcing the Sustainable Tompkins Welcome Salon to be held tomorrow night from 7:00pm to 9:00pm at Cooperative Extension, 615 Willow Avenue (map).

Caroline resident Cindy Whittaker questions Dryden resident Peter Davies' understanding of road maintenance in a letter challenging his earlier laurel and dart about road salt.

In news, the one mention I can find of Dryden is in an article on South Hill Elementary School teacher Jane Koestler, who won $2500 from Best Buy for video equipment for student videos. The article mentions that Erin Peppel of Dryden Elementary also won this award.

Posted by simon at 2:52 PM Comment

March 22, 2005

More to come on windmills; ICSD redistricting tonight

Cornell University will be giving an overview of a wind power generation study to the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council meeting on April 13th, which starts at 7:00pm with the Cornell presentation around 8:00pm. The meeting will be held at the Tompkins County Transit Center (map). There's a bit of information about the study in the article itself:

A temporary (up to 24 month) meteorological station and tower will be placed on Dryden's Mt. Pleasant Road to record weather conditions. Cornell researchers will continue their study throughout 2005 regarding potential impacts on viewsheds, birds and related issues.

There's an odd bit of language in the next sentence, though:

This analysis of whether Cornell can utilize wind energy as a complement to the campus' other renewable and conservation energy efforts will entail regular communication with neighbors and the community.

The word "entail" makes it sound like Cornell is obligated to talk with neighbors, but not like they're enthusiastic about it. It's strange to see such strained language in what's more or less a public relations column for Cornell. I doubt it's an intentional slight, but it's strange to see.

If you're interested in seeing what's driving Cornell's interest in windmills, the article points to Cornell Sustainable Campus and the Cornell Utilities Department, which includes the Kyoto Task Team.

There's a lot of news affecting the Ithaca City School District today. It looks like an elementary school redistricting may be decided tonight, and there's a guest column question the transparency of the school redistricting process. It's been a tough story to report on, especially as maps of a variety of kinds have been posted on and disappeared from the ICSD redistricting site.

There's also a guest column supporting a proposed library tax referendum which could create an additional tax in the ICSD supporting the Tompkins County Public Library.

The Journal's editorial looks at the meaning of elementary school report cards. The Journal will be taking a close look at the Dryden district's report card on Friday.

Posted by simon at 7:18 AM Comment

March 23, 2005

ICSD redistricts Varna children to Caroline

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the Ithaca City School District voted 6-2 last night to implement a plan moving 23 students in Varna from Cayuga Heights Elementary School to Caroline. I need to take a look when new maps come out to see if that's the longest distance to an elementary school in the district; it feels likely to me that it is. (To see the change, you can look at maps here.)

In brighter news for the same area, the Journal has a profile of the Plantation, which reopened last year under new ownership. The article does a nice job of capturing the new and explaining the old, and I had a good lunch there yesterday.

The Community Calendar notes a public forum to be held by the Dryden Board of Education with Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton. The forum will start tomorrow night at 6:30pm in room C-13 of Dryden High School.

The Journal's editorial addresses road maintenance and plowing, raising an issue that has come up in recent letters. They're requesting input from readers.

In the printed version, opposite the editorial page, CSEA Local 855 has a full-page advertisement opposing the possibility of a county income tax, especially a tax that would affect commuters. Since it's not available online, here's their statement in full, verbatim:


As you may be aware, the Tompkins County Legislature has proposed the possibility of imposing an income tax on wage earners in thie County.

As representatives of the public employees in this County, CSEA Local 855 has gone on record opposing any such tax.

Many of our constituents are Tompkins County employees paid directly by the County. A tax on this population would be akin to handing an employee a paycheck and then taking back part of it to satisfy the tax - thus lowering the wage the employee had been promised.

The theory attached to this is the notion that significant revenue will be derived from this tax so as to significantly reduce (or eliminate all together) the property tax.

A basic inequity to the plan - besides the severe financial affect on each and every County employee - is that any such tax imposed on workers commuting from outside the County would lay the burden of paying for Tompkins County services (currently partially paid for by County resident Property Tax on people who already pay for the same/similar services in their own Counties.

These workers (estimated at 13,700 + /day) buy gas, lunch, dinner, clothing, car washes, autos and auto repairs, childcare, etc., etc. while in this County on a daily basis. By the way, they also pay sales tax on these items.

There is very little interest on their part to continue spending money in this County if an income tax is imposed. CSEA would support any such action and indeed lend any assistance it can to that effort.

Tell your County Legislative Representatives that an Income Tax/Commuter Tax on workers is a bad idea! It is punitive to many County residents (particularly those with lower incomes) and discriminates against non-resident County workers.

If you support the people who work in this County, CSEA and it's affiliates will continue to support you.

I don't expect an income tax to come to Tompkins County any time soon, but it feels unusual to see a civil service union addressing merchants in a call opposing a tax.

In other tax news, the County Library postponed a referendum for a library tax in the Ithaca and Lansing school districts.

Posted by simon at 8:49 AM Comment

March 24, 2005

Low Tompkins snowmobile accident rate

This morning's Ithaca Journal talks with the Dryden-Caroline Drifters snowmobile club in an article about Tompkins County having a lower rate of snowmobile injuries and fatalities than other parts of the state. There's a picture of Deana Madigan on her snowmobile, as well comments from Madigan and Dryden resident Thomas Miller.

TCAT and its union don't seem to be getting along, as the two sides negotiate a new contract for the new single-union/non-profit situation.

The Journal's opinion page is busy with Dryden news and opinion:

  • The Journal's editorial questions a recent arrest over an off-leash dog, but sees a bright side in that:

    The Tompkins County SPCA, a not-for-profit agency that receives some county funds, has stepped up to the plate and stated its determination to build its own dog park on land it owns near its Hanshaw Road headquarters.

    It's a pretty safe bet that local dogs will be romping in the SPCA park well before the city and state ever do the same downtown.

  • Joshua Ganger of Dryden writes to contest an earlier letter, saying that "Businesses cannot use the market as an excuse for utterly ignoring the morals of a community or society as Wal-Mart (and others) seems to think.... To say that the only obligation is to earn maximum profits ignores the widespread trend of ethical business practices prevalent in Ithaca as well as boardrooms of many of today's top companies."

  • Dorothy Manley of Etna writes about the Terry Schiavo case, claiming that "Terry Schiavo was not in a vegetative state. If she was, she couldn't have responded to her mom and dad as well as she did." (Manley also wrote about this case February 25th.)

Posted by simon at 7:58 AM Comment

March 25, 2005

Dryden schools face reading, student teacher problems

This morning's Ithaca Journal looks at two difficult issues facing the Dryden Central School District. The Journal has been reporting on state report cards for local districts, and today looks at Dryden. "Performance over time of Dryden fourth- and eighth-graders on the English Language Arts state assessment test has not been satisfactory for leaders in the district." Most of the article looks at ways the district is striving to improve student performance.

Dryden student teacher Matthew Sidle was arraigned yesterday for endangering the welfare of a child, "accused of helping the unidentified minor student leave her home at midnight of Jan. 27 and return three hours later." Sidle was terminated when the school found out, and reported the situation to the New York State Police.

In brighter news, the Journal has a profile of retiring Etna postmaster Judy Auble-Zazzara. I've been lucky to deal with her in renting the Etna Community Center and have seen her at Etna Community Association and Etna Community Church events. Auble-Zazzara has been postmaster since 1989, and plans to "jump back into community activities" after a vacation in Florida. There will be a celebration in her honor from 1:00pm to 3:00pm on Saturday at the Etna Post Office (map).

The Today's Events listing notes that Tompkins County Country Dances will be at the Bethel Grove Community Center (map) from 8:00pm to 11:00pm tonight.

Also, a number of new Dryden children are listed in a births list.

Posted by simon at 7:55 AM Comment

Grass as biofuel

On Monday afternoon, I went to see a presentation up on Mount Pleasant that may hold some promise for both agriculture and open space in Dryden. Cornell scientists have been working with various kinds of grass, working to find ways that grass can be burned in stoves for heat or in other systems for both heat and power. Wood pellet stoves have become fairly ordinary, and grass pellets can be made using similar technology.

Wood and grass pellets
Wood pellets and grass pellets

About 30 people attended the meeting, including Dryden's Zoning Officer and Environmental Planner, as well as people, largely farmers, from Tompkins, Tioga, Dutchess, Steuben, Broome, and Niagara counties. Jenifer Wightman introduced the session, which started with posters and stoves running. Then Professor Jerry Cherney, a forage specialist, gave a presentation about the mechanics and economics of using grass pellets as fuel.

The good news about grass pellets is that they're not that hard to produce, can use grasses grown with minimal (or no) care or fertilization, actually do better if they're left out in the rain for a while, and don't have a negative impact on greenhouse gas generation. It may even fit better with wildlife nesting patterns than regular hay fields. It's a great way to use marginal farmland, and a way to keep land in some kind of production that might otherwise grow back to woods. It's even possible to harvest land that's been somewhat overgrown and use that material to make these pellets.

Cherney also pointed out the disadvantages, however. Stoves built for wood pellets have problems with the higher ash content of grass pellets. While there are stoves built for corn, which has somewhat similar characteristics, stove manufacturers don't presently have much interest in burning grass, though some are working with the researchers at Cornell. Similarly, Cherney said, this isn't cool biotechnology or nanotechnology, and doesn't have a political lobby backing it up, so it's hard to find the funding needed to make this practical on either the production end (where pelleting devices are needed) or the consumption end (where appropriate stoves or other burners are necessary.)

A stove burning grass pellets
A stove burning grass pellets

One of the problems Cherney mentioned is also an opportunity - "No one is going to make millions from this." The economics of transporting grass argues against centralized processing, though the prices for the pellets and their energy should be comparable to hay despite fewer inputs. If this works, it's likely to be a distributed process, with mobile pelletizers and small-scall permanent systems running close to the fields, supplying customers who are relatively nearby.

I don't think it would be easy to get there, but it's at least a nice idea to think of farms in Dryden using their marginal land to produce grasses, harvesting them after the hay season is over, pelletizing them, and selling them to Dryden residents who use them for affordable heat. It could be a way to keep farmland in use, and keep money flowing within the community instead of out of it.

There's a lot more information about the process and the details of making grass pellet biofuels work in their posters and slides, which I've posted as a gallery. They'll also be having another session on Saturday, April 2nd. If you're interested, contact Jeni Wightman at 255-4230 or email

For more information, please see Professor Cherney's site, which includes a list of answers to common questions.

Posted by simon at 6:51 PM Comment

March 26, 2005

Golf course sale raises conflict of interest, other questions

This week's Dryden Courier has a must-read article on the March 11th auction of the Lakeview Golf Course, where it was purchased by its current owner, George Szlasa. It's definitely worth getting up now and going out to buy the paper if you haven't already. The paragraphs that generated the most shock in me are:

[Szlasa] was stunned the town did not make a bid, he said, because he knew exactly what the supervisor was authorized to bid.

"My attorney told me," he said.

Szlasa's attorney and the town's attorney are the same man, Mahlon Perkins, whose own house overlooks the golf course, sharing the same magnificent view of Dryden Lake with Hammond Hill in the background.

Perkins is out of town this week, but Trumbull said, "he's legal. He really is. A lot of people have asked about it."

Trumbull said questions have come up regarding Perkins' role, but nothing appeared compromised. Perkins, he said, attended executive sessions in which the purchase price was discussed, but had recused himself from participation. Besides, Trumbull said, "if that's what he was after, he didn't get what he wanted."

So let me get this straight. The public is kept out of discussions about a real estate purchase because news of the price might affect the sale of the land, but the town's own attorney then tells a client with a clear interest in the land the price the board has secretly agreed upon?

It's hard to write about this without sputtering. This makes a joke of the justification for having those discussions in executive session in the first place, and raises serious questions about whether Mahlon Perkins represents the town's interests.

Szlasa deliberately set his bid $100 below the amount Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull was authorized to bid, but Trumbull is "glad I didn't put the trigger.... It just didn't feel right," after the purchase of land for the Town Hall.

The future of the course remains in doubt. Szlasa says he has two potential anonymous buyers, and the article also mentions the possibility of his giving it to his son David to become an artists' retreat.

In an article on New York State issues affecting Dryden, the Courier reports that the New York State Assembly is considering a bill (passed by the Senate last year) that would allow towns and villages to initiate annexation proceedings, potentially simplifying the legal situation for annexations north of the Village of Dryden, though it's not clear that it will escape committee and pass. There is also the possibility of a law specifically aimed at Dryden. Town Board Member Mike Hattery also reports that the New York State Department of Transportation may not be building their highway facility in 2005 on land the Village of Dryden annexed last year.

The Village of Dryden is also facing some tough budget issues, though "figures were not accepted by the board as a tentative budget and not available for release." The costs of benefits and insurance, electricity, gasoline, tar, and oil are all going up.

The rest of the news in the Courier is brighter. Dryden High School student Ethan Cirmo gets a profile for his recent performance in "Bye Bye Birdie," as well as for his other performances on trombone and "the euponium, which is, essentially, a small tuba."

There's an article on County Legislator Mike Lane's announcement of his run for re-election, in which Lane said:

Residents in Tompkins County are facing spiking real property assessements and double digit tax increases. These are fueled by spiraling costs of unfunded state mandates for Medicaid, pension and health costs - to name a few. At the same time we are hard-pressed to keep up basic services, like county roads, sheriff's patrols, the community college and our library... We must always be studying, comparing, and looking for better ways to provide essential county services in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

There's an article on TCAT's looking over its ridership numbers after a 50% fare increase. Overall ridership is down 1.7%, but they also cut six rural routes.

In sports, there are articles on TC3's golf team, and Stacey Riker of Dryden makes the 2004-5 Finger Lakes Girls Basketball All-Stars.

The Courier's sister paper, the Ithaca Times, has an article on where Tompkins County trash goes.

Posted by simon at 9:27 AM Comment

March 27, 2005

'Woman from Dryden' and 1831 murder

In yesterday's Ithaca Journal, Tompkins County Historian Carol Kammen examines the 1831 murder of Fanny Clark in Ithaca by her husband, and mentions a Dryden link:

Then there was the added annoyance of the woman from Dryden: She had moved into the room next to the Clarks in the boarding house and was known to have a "bad reputation." Mrs. Clark became enraged when the "girl" appeared on the scene.

While state proposals for tax credits for volunteer firefighters have found mixed support locally, neighboring Congressman Hinchey and Senator Schumer are pushing a $1000 tax credit for volunteer firemen at the federal level.

On the opinion page, pet-related issues get both a laurel and a dart. The SPCA sends a laurel to "the 152 children who entered the Tompkins County SPCA's 'Dog Walk-a-Thon' logo contest." Anna Brewer of Dryden objects to "those who ignore leash laws," suggesting that "if you don't like the law, do something besides whine to the press to correct it." (Brewer responds in particular to this article and possibly this editorial.)

Posted by simon at 8:12 AM Comment

March Town Board minutes

Minutes are available for both the March 2nd hearing on the possible annexation of the Dryden Mutual Property to the Village of Dryden and the Town Board's regular meeting on March 10th, which I missed. The March 2nd minutes are fascinating because they're pretty much an exact transcript of what was said, a different (though I'm not sure better) style from the usual minutes. It looks like the Village Board uses a court reporter for their minutes, as it was a joint hearing.

At the March 10th meeting, the Board covered a lot of issues:

Youth Bureau Presentation

Tracey Kurtz of the Dryden Youth Commission and Linda Schoffel of Cooperative Extension gave a presentation on the programs funded by the Dryden Youth Commission. (That link seems to point to Recreation rather than the Youth Commission - I'm not sure what's going on.) Town Board member Marty Christofferson asked about where money goes and where it comes from. Cooperative Extension has two employees who work on Dryden programs, focusing on ways to:

reach out to the kids who most need those opportunities. The programs target middle school children, are run after school and participants are often referred by the Guidance Office and teachers. They look for kids who because of social skills issues or other factors are in need of opportunities for good youth development, but any child is able to attend.

Christofferson was concerned both that the programs may duplicate other offerings of the recreation programs and whether volunteers could do some work currently done by paid employees. Schoffel replied with a story we seem to hear constantly in Dryden: "it's a wonderful plan to have everything done by volunteers, but that is getting harder today." She also noted that some Cooperative Extension programs, notably 4-H and youth development, are led by volunteers. Cornell apparently pays for the benefits employees receive, lowering the cost of paid employees to the municipalities.

Windmill Opposition

A group of citizens used Citizens' Privilege to present their opposition to a wind farm Cornell has proposed on Mount Pleasant. William Openshaw presented his objections, and Marie Read read a petition (which is a pretty thorough summary of the objections) signed by 20 people. Zoning Officer Henry Slater said that after a review of the law with Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins, they "concluded that windmills and windmill farms are not a use permitted in the Town of Dryden at this time under the zoning ordinance."

Highway Department 284 Agreement

Highway Superintendent Jack Bush distributed his plans for road work this year, and Town Board members signed off on it. I'll get a copy of that and post it here.

County Briefing: Income Tax, Jail, Ringwood Road Bridge

County Legislator Mike Lane discussed the income tax proposal that a county study group had developed, emphasizing that this is a question of substituting one tax for another, not an additional tax, and that there are lots of reasons to believe it will never happen.

County Legislator Martha Robertson addressed complaints on the radio about the county's boarding out inmates rather than spending $20 million on a new jail. Unless the county is boarding out 52 inmates at once, the costs are lower than the costs of a new jail.

Robertson also noted planned 2006 reconstruction of the Ringwood Road bridge near Ringwood Court, and that the County has been talking with residents about detours.

Topographic Mapping

Following up on a proposal from Dave Putnam of TG Miller Engineers at the Feburary meeting, the board voted to have TG Miller create a topographic map from aerial photos of the property the board is purchasing for a a new town hall.


Recreation Coordinator Jennifer Staton reported on the boys travel basketball tournament at Dryden High School, which included 167 participants, the Easter Egg Hunt on March 20th, a survey for Town Board members from the county Recreation Partnership, and contra dancing which will be today from 2:30pm to 4:30pm at the Bethel Grove Community Center (map).

Golf Course Bid

During Citizens' Privilege, Gerry Ryan of Dryden asked if anyone from the town would be at the Lakeview Golf Course foreclosure auction March 11th, and Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull said he'd be there. The board authorized the supervisor "to submit a bid under certain conditions for the property identified as the former Dryden Lake Golf Club at the foreclosure sale to be held March 11, 2005." As the Courier reported, Trumbull didn't bid and the owner of the course bought it back for $100 less than Trumbull was authorized to bid.

Town Hall Land Purchase

Having held an informational meeting on the purchase of land for the Town Hall, the board passed a negative SEQR declaration for the purchase and ratified the purchase offer. Zoning Officer Slater reported that the building committee would start up again, and a site selection committee needs to pick the actual site of the building. Environmental Planner Debbie Gross has been working on energy efficient planning for the building.

Conservation Board, Forest Lands

Environmental Planner Gross also discussed with the board the planned work list for the Dryden Conservation Board and got a resolution from them supporting a joint grant application with the Towns of Danby and Caroline to manage and protect the forested area shared by the towns. (You can see the parts of Dryden included in a map I posted in an earlier article, where they're #9, the Forest Lands.)

It's All Here

Supervisor Trumbull proposed "Welcome to Dryden, It's All Here" as the slogan for the signs the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce will be posting on Routes 13 and 38.


Following on the hearing about Dryden Mutual Insurance's annexation petition and an earlier public meeting, the board discussed questions about larger-scale annexation in the area north of the Village of Dryden, including state legislation in progress that might simplify such things, and the question of who supports or opposes annexation.

Fire companies

Town Board member Mike Hattery asked if the Village of Freeville had had a meeting about the Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) for volunteer firefighters, and once is being planned. Town Board member Chris Michaels also brought up the emergency services consultant position the board had budgeted last November, and said that he was talking with the departments to determine requirements and create a position, which he thinks will be a permanent one.

Time-Warner Cable

Marty Christofferson raised the possibility of TC3 doing some local broadcasting (including of town meetings) on public channels, and noted that he'd asked Time-Warner what it would cost to provide Road Runner internet service to all of Dryden. They answered $1-2 million. Steve Stelick said that he has also been working with Time-Warner on their long-delayed franchise agreement.

Agriculture Committee

Mike Hattery reported that Ken Miller had asked that the agriculture committee formed to review the Draft Comprehensive Plan be made a permanent committee, and Supervisor Trumbull will be meeting with Miller about this.

Civil Service

After an executive session, the board passed a long resolution about Civil Service positions. I need to figure out what this is about.

The next Town Board meeting will be April 14th at 7:00pm, at the Dryden Town Hall (map).

Posted by simon at 9:00 AM Comment

March 28, 2005

A few arrests

The Ithaca Journal is mostly quiet on Dryden news today, but reports the arrests of two Dryden men, one for DWI in Groton and one for breaking windows in Ithaca.

In news just outside the town, there's an article on activity at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as spring approaches, including volunteer work done by citizen-scientists.

The Journal's editorial looks at the coming challenge of implementing Ithaca City School District elementary redistricting.

Posted by simon at 8:03 AM Comment

Land claim questions in Harford

NYCO's Blog looks at recent questions about the Onondaga Nation land claim, including a story about boundary questions in Harford, right next door to Dryden. The Harford story echoes some questions I showed on a map of Dryden, but I suspect she's right that there's "no such dispute, just speculation about a possible conflict between claims."

We'll have to see what the treaty itself says, and what lawyers, surveyors, and title companies make of it - and then the courts will have to figure out what it means.

Posted by simon at 2:36 PM Comment

March 29, 2005

Two-car accident on Yellow Barn Road

Last night's fog seems to have contributed to a two-car head-on collision that sent six people to the hospital last night on Yellow Barn Road. Dryden firefighters had to extricate both drivers, and a MedEvac helicopter couldn't help because of the fog.

A Freeville man was charged with marijuana possession after a traffic stop on Sunday.

In the Ithaca City School District, the board will be looking at ways to trim the budget in its meeting tonight from 7:00pm to 9:30pm at the district's administration building (map).

In county news, the Journal reports on a speech by County Legislature Chairman Tim Joseph to Ithaca Kiwanis in which he discussed the impact of state budget problems on the county, cutbacks they've required, and the county's decision not to spend money on a larger jail.

There are two letters from two Dryden residents today. One, from Noel Kurtz, suggests a shift from property taxes based on assessments to property fees based on simple criteria, as well as various cuts to spending. Maureen Brull of Dryden asks "When will we institute a mandatory death sentence to anyone who murders a child?"

The Journal's editorial looks at the quest for private funds to address things schools can't presently fund, saying:

Rather than wringing their hands and reciting sob stories to the school board, members of the Ithaca Public Education Initiative -- funded by generous individuals and businesses such as the Trust Company -- took matters into their own hands and created a new, hopefully ongoing, revenue stream to ensure educational extras.

That sounds great, so long as you have funding sources. One thing the Journal didn't mention was that similar things are happening on a smaller scale in the Dryden district, at the Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund.

Posted by simon at 7:59 AM Comment

Perkins issue on WHCU

I'm always happy to listen to Tom Hatfield, the Town of Dryden Republican Committee chairman, when he's on Casey Stevens' show on WHCU 870. Usually the conversation is about county news with a bit of Dryden - I picked up an item about a Town Republican fund-raiser there once.

Tom had a tougher ride today, specifically about Dryden issues. It sounds like Casey Stevens saw my entry about the golf course auction, in which one of Mahlon Perkins' clients tells the Dryden Courier that Perkins told him the price the town, another Perkins client, was willing to bid for the golf course.

I'm not sure how best to report on this, as Tom's had fun putting me in the story, so I think it's probably best just to transcribe it. I wish WHCU offered recordings on their site, as you really need to listen to this to get the full flavor. (I originally did a full transcript, but then it occurred to me that WHCU might not appreciate that. I've reduced my original version substantially, and feel that the newsworthy character of this information should keep it within the fair use provisions of copyright law.)

Casey Stevens: There are many things to talk about with Tom this morning, and yes, there will be a little bit of a controversy involved here, but also we'll talk about process in that. I am opening up a can of worms which has been open actually a couple weeks ago. The warring factions in the Town of Dryden (laughs) and I guess at this point what I'm trying to do is to try to get people to talk about this openly instead of on blogs and accusations back and forth. Not a "he said, she said" but we'll talk about that with Tom....[announcements, local news]

Casey: Tom Hatfield is my guest. He's on the Planning Board of the Town of Dryden and also spent what, six years?

Tom Hatfield: Eight years.

Casey: Eight years on the board.

Tom: Just state where you're going.


Casey: The blog. The blog says that there was a conflict of interest.

Tom: That doesn't surprise me, if you're talking about the blog that's written by the Town of Dryden Chair of the Democratic Party. [laughs]

Casey: And I'm sure that we'll probably end up with people saying look, they want to say their point too, but the issue basically came down to, let me see if I get this right, I'll try to squeeze it, was that the town wanted to put in a bid for the Dryden golf course.

...[much good information about foreclosure process]...

Casey: Now the Town of Dryden wanted to perhaps at least discuss putting a bid in on this golf course.

Tom: Well, my understanding is the town board authorized the town supervisor to bid up to a certain amount of money in hopes that perhaps it would be a bargain of some sort that would arise.

Casey: OK.

Tom: I don't believe the circumstances presented themselves in such a way that it allowed the supervisor to feel comfortable making the bid, and that was within his purview.

Casey: The Town Attorney was at that executive session.

Tom: That, I don't know. I wasn't at that meeting, of course, and had I been at that meeting, it was in executive session. Typically the Town Attorney would be invited into an executive session. In this particular instance the Town Attorney from day one recused himself, because the Town Attorney, in terms of Mahlon Perkins, represented the mortgagor and he made that clear very day one. From the very first time this issue came up with respect to the town, and the Town Board, to their credit, retained and hired, sought, other legal counsel in this matter.

Casey: But yet the Town Attorney knew the amount of money that the town could bid for that property.

Tom: That's very possible. Again, that's a fact I don't know. I understand there's a quote in the paper that the mortgagor said that his attorney advised him that the town, you know, may be in a position to bid. But you know, saying that the Town would bid versus may bid is a very significant difference. Again, the Town Board authorized the Supervisor to act in his discretion with Board authority, to bid up to a certain number, and I know from talking with the Town Supervisor from time to time that he and the Board pretty much strongly felt that this property should remain in private hands. I mean, you're talking about taking a fairly significant piece of property overlooking one of the most beautiful vistas in Dryden ...[more on golf course]...

Casey: Well, the appropriateness is though, the fact that you can't serve two masters,

Tom: Right.

Casey: And Mr. Szlasa, who owned the golf course, and who put the bid in, was told by the Town Attorney how much the town was authorized to bid. So, what he's doing, is he's serving two masters.

Tom: Is he? He recused himself from the process at the beginning.

Casey: But how could he be in the same room and then tell another client how much the town was going to bid for it? I mean that sounds to me, like what is this, but serving two masters and I wonder that these people aren't thinking that there's some kind of hanky-panky going on.

Tom: What people are thinking that? The mortgagor bid in the amount of his mortgage, the referee accepted the bid, the mortgagor now owns full and clear title to the property.

Casey: Quote "My attorney told me" - in other words, this attorney, who represented the town in almost any other aspect, who was at that meeting, then turned around and came to him and told him what was said in executive session. My understanding of an executive session is that you don't carry those words outside of that room.

Tom: Okay, again, I can't speak, cause I wasn't there

Casey: No, I wasn't either, but is that your understanding, that executive session, you keep quiet?

Tom: Executive session, you're supposed to keep quiet, certainly, but I know from eight years of experience that quite often it's not kept quiet. It was a major issue in couple of very controversial issues that we dealt with when I was on the Town Board where, you know, the executive session privileges were not honored.

Casey: Did ethics ever come up in that question?

Tom: No.

Casey: But ethics have come up now.

Tom: Well, you're saying they have.

Casey: Well, people are questioning professional ethics at this point.

Tom: What people?

Casey: Oh, obviously it's political.

Tom: Correct. Exactly the point.

Casey: But that doesn't demean it, that doesn't diminish it.

Tom: The Chairman of the Town of Dryden Democratic Party is raising the issue in hopes of creating some kind of political storm around this. And with respect to that, hey, that's fine.

Casey: Okay, so what I'm saying is that I think that the county, if the county was going to jump in and try to do politics on Alan Cohen and Ed Hershey, that the County Ethics Committee ought to now jump into Dryden politics and say maybe we ought to investigate this stuff too. Where is that ethics committee now from the Tompkins County Legislature?

Tom: Casey, that's a very interesting observation.

Casey: Tom Hatfield, my guest. 8:23... [weather, news, etc.]

There are lots of interesting issues here. Tom (with Casey's assistance), paints this as a controversy stirred up by blogs, I guess my blog in particular. I didn't have to stir very hard, as the heart of the matter is a quote in the Dryden Courier. I can't say I've had a lot of screaming headlines or editorials about it here, though I did point it out.

Tom also discussed the county jail expansion (or lack of it), the county executive issue, and the problem of low turnout for county elections. Tom said at one point said that he "cherishes every vote," and concluded by saying, "People, you got to go vote!" I'd be happy to work with him on improving turnout for local elections - that's one of the key goals of this site.

Posted by simon at 12:52 PM Comment

Recreation reports for February, March

Posting my story on the minutes for the March Town Board meeting reminded me that I hadn't kept up to date with some of my usual document publication.

The February recreation report (217KB PDF, or 735KB PDF selectable) is a bit outdated, but includes a lot of information on the very successful Club Dryden event that was held February 5th.

The March recreation report (36KB PDF, or 85KB PDF selectable) is briefer, but lists some events yet to come, including contra dancing, Kiwanis Baseball, lacrosse, a possible April 'battle of the bands', and continuing work on the Wall Street baseball diamond.

Posted by simon at 1:29 PM Comment

Supreme Court decision limits potential impact of Onondaga claim

The New York Times (registration required) reports that the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 today to overturn the decision of two lower courts and rule that the Oneida Nation cannot buy land outside of its reservation and treat it as having sovereign tax-free status.

While the ruling (135KB PDF) doesn't have any direct impact on the Onondaga Nation land claim which includes a part of Dryden, it does remove one set of concerns I've heard voiced, that a successful claim would allow the Onondagas to buy land and take it off the tax rolls.

Update: NYCO's blog has more on the decision, largely questioning it.

Posted by simon at 9:36 PM Comment

March 30, 2005

Helping education through recipes in memory

Cathy Wakeman's Town Talk column in today's Journal looks at "Heavenly Recipes," a cookbook dedicated to the memory of Michele Longo Ferris. The cookbook is available at Hill's Drugs in Dryden, and all proceeds will be dedicated to education. Wakeman also notes the memorial plates in many Southworth Library books, a reminder that people have left bequests to support their community library, and a Senior Citizen Appreciation Open House that the library will be holding Monday, April 4th, from 3:00pm to 6:00pm.

Briefly in Dryden is busy this week. Nominations for TC3 Service Tradition scholarships are being accepted through Friday, as are school transport requests for Dryden School District residents "who wish to have their children transported to a nonpublic school for 2005-2006." There are also openings on the Youth Commission (it's the Village of Dryden position), the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Conservation Board.

At the county level, the Journal reports on the ststus of county legislators' re-election plans. County Legislator Mike Lane, who represents the eastern side of Dryden, has announced his plans to run, saying:

"These are critical times... Residents in Tompkins County are facing spiking real property assessments and double-digit tax increases. These are fueled by spiraling costs of unfunded state mandates for Medicaid, pension and health insurance costs -- to name a few. At the same time, we are hard pressed to keep up basic public services ..."

County Legislator George Totman, who represents Groton and the northeast corner of Dryden, is also running for re-election, saying:

"I see no reason for not doing it as long as I am reasonable and fit... I have the time. Right now, county government is going through problems with finances. When the county needs some experience, I think it is a shame to walk away and put a brand new person in there who has never been involved."

The Journal couldn't reach County Legislator Martha Robertson, who represents the western side of Dryden.

The Ithaca schools are now considering changes to middle school feeder patterns after making changes to elementary school districts.

Just west of Dryden, Forest Home residents are trying to slow traffic, dealing with the 10,000 vehicles per day passing over its one-lane bridges and narrow streets.

The Tompkins County economy stalled in January, losing 1100 seasonally-adjusted jobs, though retail sales and help wanted advertising increased.

There's an article on the Supreme Court ruling that Indian Nations can't buy land and make it tax-free. As I noted yesterday, this removes one concern I've heard about the Onondaga claim affecting Dryden.

The Journal's editorial looks at the need for balance between traditional law enforcement and alternatives to incarceration.

Posted by simon at 7:13 AM Comment

Dryden school budget plans

I picked up the Cortland Standard last night, and it had the Dryden school budget article I've been watching for in the Journal, with plenty of detail.

The current budget plan includes cutting the Director of Technology, the elimination of a copy aide and a half-time music teacher, then adding an English and language teacher and a half-time reading teacher, plus a high school reading teacher funded through a grant.

Financially, the current budget means an increase of about 6% to $26.4 million, with an overall tax levy increase of 8.6% and a 5.7% tax rate increase.

Cortland Standard reporter Ida Pease includes a lot more detail and the surrounding discussion in her story, which unfortunately isn't available online, so go get a copy if you're interested and don't have one already. (If you're reading this after the March 29th paper has disappeared from newsstands, there's always the library.)

The board will be having a budget workshop April 4th, will likely pass a budget April 11th, have a public hearing May 9th, and will put the budget before voters on May 17th.

Posted by simon at 8:16 AM Comment

School board candidates, Dairy Day theme

This week's issue of The Shopper includes an ad from the Dryden Central School District, calling for school board candidates. Residents of the district who are U.S. citizens and have lived in the district for one year are generally eligible, though you can't hold an incompatible public office, reside with another board member, be a current employee of the school board, or have been removed from any other school district office in the past year.

If you meet those criteria and you're interested, call Linda Carr at the district offices, 844-5361 x602. You'll need to collect 29 signatures and submit your petition to the district offices by 5:00pm on April 18th.

Also, Dryden Dairy Day announces that will be held June 11th starting witih a 9:30am parade. The theme will be "The Cow", and the ad goes on to say "The cow represents the foster mother of all mankind." (I posted pictures last year.)

The Southworth Library also invites senior citizens to an open house at the library, Monday, April 4th from 3:00pm to 6:00pm.

Posted by simon at 5:20 PM Comment

March 31, 2005

Ithaca schools budget; freedom of information

This morning's Journal is light on news specifically about Dryden. Dryden residents who live in the Ithaca school district will probably be interested in an article on the ICSD budget's growth.

There's also an article on proposed legislation to strengthen New York's Freedom of Information Law. I haven't had much trouble with FOIL requests here, but I'm happy to see an interest in giving that law more teeth.

Posted by simon at 8:31 AM Comment

Highway Department 284 agreement

The Town Board passed the 2005 284 Agreement at their March meeting. The agreement lists the major projects the Highway Department will take on this year, as well as costs for each project.

You can see last year's agreement (686KB PDF), and I've scanned in this year's agreement (164KB PDF, or 253KB selectable).

The 2004 agreement specified $126,000 for general repairs and $414,500 for 36 specific projects. This year's agreement specifies $136,000 for general repairs (a 7.9% increase) and $511,350 (a 23.3% increase) for 17 specific projects.

I don't see either of the two most contentious projects from last year's meeting - "Genung Rd. & Snyder Hill Rd. - and leading to Ellis Hollow Rd., a distance of .7 miles" or "Hunt Hill Rd. & Midline Rd. - and leading to Ellis Hollow Rd., a distance of 2.46 miles" in the list. They were both delayed last year and other work done instead.

The largest project in this year's list starts at Yellow Barn 1.3 miles from Midline Road and goes to Foot Hill Road, followed by work on Mount Pleasant Road between Route 366 and Turkey Hill Road, and Snyder Hill Road between Besemer Hill and Quarry Roads.

Posted by simon at 8:51 AM Comment