December 1, 2006

Dryden tree lighting tonight, despite weather

The Village of Dryden tree-lighting will be tonight at 7:00pm, at the Village Green between the Methodist and Presbyterian churches near the intersection of Routes 13 and 38. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be coming in their usual fire truck. There will be music and refreshments, and several local businesses (plus the Dryden Town Historical Society will be having open houses from 3:00pm.

It looks like December is going to start with a bang, as a line of squalls passes through late this afternoon and the temperature plunges.

On the opinion page, Dryden County Legislator Mike Hattery argues that the real problem with local taxes is lack of fiscal discipline, and has little to do with state or federal government demanding more while providing the same or less. Right.... well, right-wing, anyway.

Caroline Supervisor Don Barber takes a broader view that includes unfunded mandates, one that helps explain why, for example, pretty much every county in upstate has faced higher taxes, not just those unfortunate enough to lack discipline. (Remember, Tompkins County residents pay lower per-capita taxes than Cortland County, and about the same as notoriously tight-fisted Chemung.)

In a third opinion on the subject, Allen Lambert skewers the Ithaca schools as seems to be his habit, and cheers on property taxes as a great way to raise money.

Posted by simon at 8:32 AM Comment

December 2, 2006

Another outrage at the Journal

I've complained about the Ithaca Journal for a lot of reasons, but this is definitely the craziest thing they've done. Fortunately, they've contained the damage to their print edition, keeping the dangerous photos and text off their online edition.

What did they do? They published a photo of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a police car, being hauled away. They even misspell the name as "Clause" in a caption about Charlie Miller and Emma Stowell watching their arrival. What's more, the paper suggests that those might not be the real Santa and Mrs. Claus, disclosing alternate identities for them. This qualifies as journalism?

Just kidding. The tree-lighting was very nice, though I think the threat of bad weather kept people away, and the Dryden schools cancelled some related activities.

Santa saying hello to kids at last night's tree-lighting ceremony
Santa saying hello to kids at last night's tree-lighting ceremony.

Also in the print edition, Dick Jorgensen of Freeville and his wife have a photo of themselves on Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks.

In Darts & Laurels, the Dryden Faculty Association thanks "the support personnel who do so much to help transport, educate and feed our children and those who keep our schools clean, safe, and our offices running smoothly."

Posted by simon at 9:57 AM Comment

December 4, 2006

Chimney fire in McLean

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the McLean and Dryden fire departments responded to a chimney fire along Fall Creek Road south of McLean.

On the opinion page, Dryden chimney sweep Betsy Cleveland talks about the importance of maintaining and cleaning chimneys.

There's also an article by Jay Gallagher looking at responses to Governor-elect Spitzer's calls for cleaner government.

Posted by simon at 8:49 AM Comment

December 5, 2006

December meetings

The public notices page for December lists a few meetings for this month, including a Youth Commission meeting tonight.

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

Posted by simon at 7:56 AM Comment

December 6, 2006

Watching for peace

In this morning's Our Towns column, Cathy Wakeman writes about a great way to spend the holiday season:

Instead of looking at gadgets and toys, we're trying on our Santa glasses and trying to catch folks who might make it on his list. We're on the look out for people being kind, helpful, joyful, peaceful - you know, the opposite of the frenzied shoppers we keep hearing about in the news.

Fortunately, she finds lots of those folks in Dryden, and lists a lot of upcoming holiday events.

In In our Schools, Matt Colbert reports on recent Dryden basketball losses to Lansing.

Posted by simon at 8:16 AM Comment

December 8, 2006

Memorial dedicated at former mansion

This morning's Journal reports on the dedication of a monument to three Ithaca firefighters who lost their lives in 1906 fighting a fire at Chi Psi fraternity. Why am I noting this Ithaca event, however worthy? Because the building where they were fighting the fire was created by Jennie McGraw-Fiske, who grew up in Dryden on North Street. Mike Lane told the story well last month, telling Jennie's own complicated story, the story of the house, and the story of the tragedy which killed four Chi Psi members as well as the three firefighters.

The Journal's editorial notes the Albany Times-Union's successful lawsuit to get the state Assembly and Senate to fully disclose their lists of borrowed pork projects, a subject I've been banging on for a few years here. They don't have nearly the detail that the Binghamton paper does, but it's good to see it in an editorial if not in a news article. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton writes a letter where she tries to separate herself from some statewide items credited in part to her, including a grant to NARAL.

That last bit seems extra strange to me. I know New York State government is overwhelmed by lobbyists, but why are they giving money to organizations whose stated purpose is lobbying and politics? I think of Planned Parenthood as a services organization with a political wing supporting that mission, but NARAL has always seemed pretty purely political.

Strange. At least the information is public now, so we can talk about it.

Posted by simon at 8:11 AM Comment

December 9, 2006

Senatorial pork

This morning's Journal is light on Dryden news, but there's an article on the money that state senators have been doling out from their share of borrowed pork. Unfortunately it's only in the print edition, and doesn't list pork for James Seward in any case. (Update: it seems to be online now, though there's still no detail of what Seward did with his $2.08 million.)

There's an article on Drug Court graduation, and one on the Ithaca Schools' efforts to reduce the costs of projects being included in a bond. (Playgrounds are looking extra-expensive.)

Carol Kammen looks back on farming in Tompkins County, noting that:

By 1910 the towns of Danby, Enfield, and Newfield had lost more than half their population, which had reached its peak in 1830. Caroline, Dryden and Lansing, over the period from 1830 to 1910 lost nearly half their population.

Most of the forests around here used to be farms.

Posted by simon at 10:19 AM Comment


While the sudden burst of plant growth in my backyard was a change, especially since so much less of it was grass, the permanent work we did this summer was mostly digging. Some of that was digging to plant trees and bushes, but the bulk of it was changing drainage patterns in the backyard.

In the past, water came rolling down Mount Pleasant, and sometimes turned the backyard into a pond an inch deep that concentrated near the bottom of the yard into a deeper stream. (See here to get an idea; that wasn't even taken near the peak.) It's meant a very wet basement at times, and all that water contributed very little as it passed by, except for some erosion. I'd built a little ditch to divert some of it, and there was an underground drain system, but neither worked very well or put the water where we wanted it.

One of this year's key projects was to change this, keeping the water around for plants to use while reducing erosion and creating happy homes for future plants. A few years ago, my neighbor had used a backhoe in his yard over the course of the summer, but we used shovels and (as you may remember) plowhorses for a day. (I didn't do nearly enough of the shoveling myself; Josh Dolan and a few of his friends provided most of this labor.)

What was once a sloping backyard is now interrupted with swales - ditches with berms on their dowhill side - and terraces. A huge swale stretches across most of the top edge of the back yard, catching the main flow of water where it comes down the hill. Other berms further down the hill catch and redirect water as well, though hopefully they won't have nearly as much water really flowing in. Most of the swales are filled with wood chips, and also act as paths when they aren't flooded.

Back swale
Back swale, partly filled.

A middle swale
Middle swale, partly filled with water and woodchips.

Most of the trees cut down earlier in the year found new use in berms and terrace edges, and those that remain will likely find that use next year. Also, a lot of the rocks turned up in plowing found use in erosion control.

Part of the fun of a project like this is that laying out and building the swale is only part of the work. Testing it, watching it, and modifying it is also critical to building an effective system. Water here comes in huge volumes occasionally, and we still haven't had a snowmelt for a real test. June's storms were enough to help us find some gaps in the system, especially on the eastern end of the back swale, where water rolled over the top and started some erosion until it was caught by the next swale down.

Josh fixed this by building with it, fixing the swale but preparing it to tolerate future erosion better. If the swale overflows - something that's always possible at this scale - then the water can go to the next swale down without creating new problems.

Back swale, modified
Back swale, modified to slow overflow water.

Another nice touch Josh added is a bar across the top swale that should keep the area nearest the water inflow wetter, while letting it overflow easily into the rest of the swale when necessary. It'll be a small pond, but it should be a nice place for some wildlife that we wouldn't get elsewhere in the garden.

If you're gardening in a flat area, this work may not be as important to you, but even there it may help keep water around. In any case, I'm very glad we started with this, and it should make going forward much easier.

If you'd like to see more, I've posted a gallery of photos showing construction, runoff, and revisions.

Posted by simon at 12:45 PM Comment

December 11, 2006

Community Development Block Grant in Village of Dryden

This past week's issue of The Shopper includes an ad from Thoma Development Consultants about a Community Development Block Grant that homeowners can use to rehabilitate their houses. "Priority will be given to those eligible applicants with the lowest income and greatest housing repair needs," though the ad shows a sliding scale for maximum income depending on the number of people in the household. The money can go for "Electric, Windows, Insulation, Flooring, Plumbing, Doors, Masonry, Carpentry, Heating, Roofing, Painting." If you think this might apply to you, call 607 753-1433.

The Town of Dryden also advertises wrestling and basketball programs, to be held at the Dryden Middle School. For more on that, call the Recreation office at 844-3303.

Posted by simon at 12:34 PM Comment

Sim Redmond teaches Dryden Middle School

This week's Dryden Courier watches the Sim Redmond Band perform a workshop with middle school students, exploring music and song writing. Also on the front page is a picture from the dress rehearsal of "The Nutcracker" at Dryden Elementary, which they performed last week, and an article on the Dryden schools' EXCELL grant money from the state.

Inside there's an article on bridge rehabilitation in Forest Home, just to the west of the Dryden-Ithaca line, and an editorial called "Put a Little Trust in Wind". I'll talk more later here about how I'd like to see residents use wind power, but I don't think I can join their enthusiasm for wind power at larger scales.

The 4-H Tompkins County Achievement Night recognized a lot of Freeville 4-H members, including Carrie Lampman, Sharon Lampman, Carrie Lampman, Jason Ruoff, Jesse Ruoff, Rachel Ashodwn, Marissa Ramos, Paige Yolman, Olivia Ramos, and Sean Gnau.

The police log contains an intriguing typo - an "inspired inspection". Either that's supposed to be "expired" or the inspector was very creative.

In Anecdotes and Brevities, Harry Weldon explores the old Bridle Road's path through Dryden, while Matt Cooper's Inside Dryden focuses on the Dryden school issues noted above and the holiday decorations. (There's a picture of the house on Route 13 with the lavish Christmas lights and figures.)

In sports, there's a report on Dryden wrestling's defeat of Lansing, as well as a a Dryden loss in basketball. Dryden diver Tara Brenner is the female Athlete of the Week.

Posted by simon at 12:40 PM Comment

Off grid, off gas

I wrote about my dream vehicle about a year ago, and I'd still really like to see a three-cylinder diesel hybrid. I don't plan, however, to hold my breath.

I do, however, have a new reason for wanting one. There's been a lot of talk about plug-in hybrids lately. At first I wasn't entirely thrilled about the idea, as electricity generation and transmission isn't exactly efficient or clean, and more or less shifts load from oil to coal or nuclear power.

Then, at the Town Board's hearing on the renewable energy ordinance, someone said that he'd shifted to be more in favor of windmills because of the prospects of plug-in hybrids. A windmill, even a small one, could generate power for a car while it sat at home, and spare the use of gasoline or other power for charging the batteries.

I like that idea, though I'd like to take it one more step. People have already figured out how to set up a Prius as a backup generator for a house. (Some assembly and electrical experience required.) Standardizing that feature, and making it so that the car can generate power for a house, opens up new possibilities.

Normally, an off-grid house could generate power for its own use and be charging the batteries in the car. If the house needed more power, the car could be used as a generator as well as a consumer. (Yes, it'd have to be outside.) Done right, the car could become part of the household electrical system, rather than just an emergency backup. The cost of gasoline would still, I suspect, encourage homeowners to conserve, but they could have a lot less fear about going off-grid.

This probably pushes my dream car out another five to ten years, but at least it's a possibility.

Posted by simon at 6:14 PM Comment

December 12, 2006

Fire District votes today

The editorial in today's Ithaca Journal notes that elections for fire commissioner are today, including an election in McLean. It's hard to argue with their suggestion that these elections really should be held on November's election day, when there's a chance of a sizable chunk of the public coming to vote. (I'd also like to see village elections held in November, though I know the odds are low.)

The SPCA's director reports on achievements and needs at the animal shelter.

The Monitor lists two DWIs in Dryden and a report of a woman who allegedly wouldn't pay for a taxi.

Posted by simon at 8:44 AM Comment

December 13, 2006

Dryden's jewels on Emerald Necklace

This morning's Ithaca Journal highlighted the Yellow Barn State Forest and Hammond Hill State Forest in an article on conservation efforts along the Finger Lakes Trail, as the County Legislature brings in a planner to help protect public land from development.

More specific to Dryden, the Journal reports on last Thursday's Town Board meeting, focusing on the many questions around sewage lines and monitoring in the Cortland Road Sewer District, north of the Village of Dryden. Sorting that out will make the Empire Zone area there much more attractive.

Dryden residents who live in the Ithaca City School District may get a dose of sticker shock from climbing estimates of repair costs being built into a bond.

At the state level, legislators are gathering for a last lame-duck session that could lead to:

deals on judgeships and other jobs for loyalists of Gov. George Pataki, pay raises for state lawmakers, more charter schools and civil confinement for the most dangerous sex offenders after their sentences end.

A lot of other projects are also in the final deal-making mix - but is there really any good reason to hold this session at all? Is there any good reason not to wait until the new Governor is in command?

The Journal's editorial takes on the legislative pay raise proposal in particular. It's an easy target, especially given that the low rate of turnover means that legislators basically get to keep whatever they vote for themselves.

I can imagine two good reasons for raising the salary significantly: to attract new blood, and to limit the potential for corruption by making sure legislators are comfortable enough not to bother. Given the legislature's record, however, I'm not expecting any improvement on either of those fronts, so maybe it would make more sense to cut their salaries substantially rather than raise them - in the hopes of driving a few of them out.

Posted by simon at 5:17 PM Comment

December 14, 2006

Arcuri to serve on Transportation and Infrastructure

New congressman, old committee. Michael Arcuri will be taking Sherwood Boehlert's old spot on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Posted by simon at 5:05 PM Comment

December 15, 2006

Dryden fire disputes to mediation?

Fire coverage in Dryden is a very complicated and frequently explosive subject. It's had major impacts on Dryden politics, and keeps the Town Board occupied. A lot of it stems from the challenge of supervising four departments, each covering a different kind of area with a different set of financial supports and priorities. I was surprised, though, to see this morning's Ithaca Journal report that the Town is asking a mediator to join the conversation. One thing worries me: the article contains no response from the fire companies. I'm hoping that just means the reporter wasn't able to reach them on the phone.

There's also an article on organic dairy farming, focused mainly on conversation with Vaugh Sherman of Dryden's Jerry Dell Farm about why it makes sense to go organic.

In the Ithaca school district, discussion of a possible bond plan continues.

There's also an article about problems and possible changes in New York's Town and Village court system.

On the opinion page, Joe Riggins of Freeville writes to say that changing the closing time of Tompkins County bars isn't likely to make a difference.

The editorial encourages readers to donate locally as a holiday gift, listing examples of local options. If you'd like to make your donations in Dryden specifically, I have a list of local organizations that would no doubt be happy to receive some help.

Posted by simon at 8:32 AM Comment

December 18, 2006

Electrical choices

Saturday's Journal was quiet on Dryden, but did address the mysterious, complicated, and generally useless results of one of the dumber ideas the state has had in a long time: letting customers choose their own power supplier. This isn't a case of going into a store and finding the cheapest and best product; it's more like having to read through a collection of contracts to figure out which identical product might possibly cost less under unpredictable circumstances.

I know that some municipalities have saved money by purchasing as a group, but that's not exactly an option residential customers have. Markets are great for some things, but wow - this is a set of choices I see no benefit to, and a lot of costs. Using less power helps, of course. David Makar, Dryden's soon-to-be-Town-Board member, has also posted advice on the process.

In good news, we may have choice among State Senator candidates in 2008, as Caroline Supervisor Don Barber explores challenging incumbent Jim Seward.

Posted by simon at 7:05 AM Comment

Influential student

This week's Dryden Courier leads with an article profiling Corey Earle, a Dryden High graduate just listed as a member of the "25 most influential Cornellians". Earle is president of the Glee Club, president of Quill and Dagger, and writer of a bi-weekly column on Cornell history for the Cornell Daily Sun.

They also report on the newest Dryden School Board member, Perry Dewey, appointed to replace Amanda Kittelberger until the May election. The article discusses the EXCEL money and whether it could figure into security upgrades planned a few years ago. The front page photo is of the Dryden Tech Prep class, at a "Plowing Your Way to Success" event at TC3.

The "This Month in History" feature inside the cover is expanded, with more news from Dryden than I feel comfortable reprinting here!

The editorial calls for holiday giving, citing Better Housing for Tompkins County, Foodnet, The Learning Web, the Community Dispute Resolution Center, the Women's Community Center, and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center as places to give.

There's all kinds of activity in the Dryden Police log.

In his Inside Dryden column, Matt Cooper catches up on holiday concerts, marvels at the metalwork in Southworth Library, and visits the Dryden Town Historical Society.

In sports, there's a piece on Dryden wrestler Anthony Jerome, who just won his hundredth match, and a report on Dryden's basketball season, with the boys climbing to 3-1 with a win over Moravia and the girls falling to 3-2.

Posted by simon at 6:18 PM Comment

December 19, 2006

Wilcox Press becomes Vanguard Press

The question of what would happen to Wilcox Press has been solved: it's transforming into Vanguard Printing, following a buyout by a company co-owned by a former Wilcox Press CEO. There's no word on the impact on jobs, for better or worse.

A Dryden High School gym teacher, Joseph Truax, has been suspended from teaching after an alleged incident of public lewdness in Cortland on Friday.

Posted by simon at 6:27 PM Comment

Storefronts stay empty

This week's issue of Tompkins Weekly takes a look at the empty storefronts in the Village of Dryden. It's been almost a year since the stores at the four corners all seemed to empty out, and Anthony Hall reports that it's not looking too bright:

At best, occupancy is spotty. In truth, it appears "grim," said one retail employee, who declined to give her name. And it appears more punishing yet, salt in the wound, you might say, after village mayor Reba Taylor just finished orchestrating a spending spress on the downtown area.

While most of the money went for infrastructure, including a new substructure for the West Main portion of Route 13, two large culverts and electrical wiring, almost $10 million has been spent in the past six years on a commercial district that is suddenly bereft of commercial business.

In a small town it is hard to find printable comments about landlords and money, but it also appears, after several conversations, that rent increases are not the primary factor for Dryden's retail predicament....

Both retailers and landlords point to the cyclical nature of a business district, but lament the problem of many businesses leaving all at once.

How can Dryden's downtown revive?

There's also an article on the continuing dreadfulness of NYSEG's Voice Your Choice electricity program, though the least kind thing they call it is "a daunting decision."

Posted by simon at 6:37 PM Comment

December 20, 2006

Life with cancer

There's actually so much Dryden news today that picking a headline was hard, but a new column on the front page gets it: Dryden resident Barbara Lang writes about her experiences with colon cancer, in what will be a monthly series of articles.

Cathy Wakeman's Dryden Town Talk examines progress on a skate park in Montgomery Park in the Village of Dryden. Wakeman starts with the sad beginning of the story:

In June of 2005, two improbable events occurred. First, on June 12, a local teenager addressed the village mayor with a feasible plan for change in our town's recreation program. He was willing to coordinate a group of young people and work with various industries and businesses to accomplish this project. In a more stunning event, he lost his life two days later.

Thanks to donations and a lot of work, the skate park should be reality this spring.

Vanguard Printing, formerly Wilcox Press, reports that they expect steady employment after their being taken over.

Wilcox Press sign in transition
Wilcox Press sign in transition.

There was a county-wide drug sweep that arrested 27 people, including one from Dryden and one from Freeville.

I get to agree completely with the Journal's perspective on shrouded state member items. They forget to mention that these things are paid for with borrowed money, to add injury to insult. Oh, and in nice timing, they note an FBI probe of State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno over a separate issue.

And in the Ithaca school district, the board has tentatively picked $56 million in projects for a proposed bond, and will be a releasing a report on equity in the schools.

Posted by simon at 12:46 PM Comment

December 21, 2006

Sailing away on Turkey Hill Road

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on Justin Armstrong's creation of the Penny Rover, a 30-foot sailboat he's building on Turkey Hill Road. The online version includes extra photos of this amazing project.

For Dryden residents in the Ithaca City School District, this article on the Equity Report Card may be interesting.

Posted by simon at 5:29 PM Comment

December 22, 2006

Accused Dryden teacher resigns

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the Dryden Physical Education teacher accused of public lewdness resigned.

TC3 grads have new opportunities at Niagara University, including study in Italy. Meanwhile, the fitness center at Dryden High offers fitness opportunities.

Sadly, it looks like no snow for Christmas.

On the opinion page, Cathy Wakeman writes of her disappointment in finding that the gingerbread village scene at Dryden Elementary had left out the Methodist Church. She and Town Historian Kim Gazzo built one on the spot, but Wakeman was unhappy that:

The modern American icons of McDonalds and Dunkin' Donuts were prominently displayed, while a 130-year-old building is denied entrance to the school out of a fear that has consumed our sensibilities.

The editorial reminds readers of the December 29th deadline for the NYSEG Voice Your Choice electricity program. While the Journal appears to brainlessly support one of the stupidest deregulation programs I've ever encountered, they do at least acknowledge that:

So along with grinches, fruit cakes and spoiled eggnog, here is Voice Your Choice to also dampen your [holiday] season.

Posted by simon at 9:22 AM Comment

Grants coming in to schools, Village of Dryden

This week's Dryden Courier has a picture of the snowless, and likely to stay snowless, Main Street in the Village of Dryden. The village may not be getting snow, but it's getting money through a Community Block Development Grant for home renovations, supporting improvements by people who can't afford the work otherwise.

There's also an article on the Dryden school board's work to figure out what to do with the $580,000 EXCEL grant.

Inside the front cover, there's a recipe for glazed almond squares from Diane Pamel of Dryden, along with an article on what she does for Christmas dinner.

The Varna Community Association added a clown to this year's Christmas lineup, and reporter Matt Cooper also talks with them about how the Association manages to hold events like these, with help from volunteers, donors, and the Town.

In his Inside Dryden column, Matt Cooper hopes for a not-so-white Christmas and the importance of egg nog.

In sports, there's an article on the Dryden Boys Basketball team climbing to 5-1 while the Girls fell to 1-3.

Posted by simon at 9:42 AM Comment

Holiday break

I'll be offline for the next couple of weeks, enjoying the holidays and trying to relax.

This site will be quiet, with comments off and no new stories for a while.

If you need your fix of Dryden stories, I recommend Five Wells, Dryden is Home, Dryden Democrats, and the new Stirred not Shaken.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Posted by simon at 9:50 AM Comment