August 1, 2012

Cortland County "dangerously close to exceeding their constitutional tax limit"

These have been difficult years for local governments, but I didn't realize the challenges were hitting this close to home:

Eight local governments are dangerously close to exceeding their constitutional tax limit -- Cortland County, Binghamton, Gloversville, Jamestown, Lackawanna, New York City, Village of Herkimer and Village of Lyons. If a local government exceeds this limit, which is different from the property tax cap, state aid is withheld. Since the limit is calculated as a percentage of the five-year property value, more local governments may face this dilemma.

Binghamton is also there, and that largest of all New York State municipalities, New York City. Hopefully this won't create large problems for Dryden's neighbor.

(Cortland County is at 92.37% of their limit. New York City is at 95.09%, according to the linked report.)

Posted by simon at 11:30 AM Comment

Broadband duopoly heading toward monopoly

Because having Time-Warner and Verizon selling each other's services is a great way to make sure no more broadband infrastructure gets built.

Fortunately, in Dryden we've taken steps to add some much more local competition, and it sounds like it's slowly coming on line. However, that still doesn't make me happy to have any part of Verizon working with any part of Time-Warner Cable.

(And yes, I know that article is from May. I'm behind on everything. I found that story here.)

Posted by simon at 5:03 PM Comment

August 3, 2012

Homeowners insurance doesn't cover drilling

I think Energy In Depth Marcellus, the gas company PR site, must have posted this article hoping that people would only read the "our policies have not changed and we won't cancel policies because of leasing or drilling." Its conclusion is pretty bleak for people whose land is fracked:

Nationwide's policy or treatment of this issue is common practice within the insurance industry, as traditional homeowners or farm owners insurance policies generally do not include coverage specific to the unique processes and activities of the oil/gas development process.

In the end, this "story" isn't about one insurer. Rather, it's about reiterating what is common insurance industry practice that traditional homeowners or farm owners policies generally do not anticipate or insure against the specific activities associated with oil and gas exploration.

Or, to put it more briefly - "You're on your own. Insurance companies aren't interested in covering the risks of gas drilling for what we make on small-scale policies."

Whether or not that's a change, it's definitely a story everyone going into this should know. These are not household-level risks, even though they involve households.

Posted by simon at 7:02 AM Comment

Greek Peak files for Chapter 11

They couldn't find new financing after their previous lender was seized by federal regulators, and Greek Peak ski resort has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

They say that this won't affect operations, and season tickets will still be honored. Let's hope that all works out. It's a major employer, not too far from Dryden, and I suspect a fair number of those season ticket holders live in Dryden.

The Journal also has a photo gallery of the Dryden Lake Festival, and I'm pretty sure this Ithaca gold medal winner grew up in the Town of Dryden.

Posted by simon at 7:21 AM Comment

August 8, 2012

Gas drilling ban at a year

"My mom always told me one good thing and that's always to use common sense when you're making decisions, and this one was, in my estimation, a common-sense decision. So, it had nothing to do with politics."

That's Town Councilman Steve Stelick on the Town Board's passing last year's amendments to zoning that make clear gas drilling is not welcome here. (You can see more of that August 2nd, 2011 meeting here.)

Posted by simon at 8:19 AM Comment

Cuomo to use Broome County as fracking laboratory?

We're still in the "here's what might possibly be coming" phase, but Tom Wilber is usually reasonably cautious. Here's what he hears might be Governor Cuomo's plan to start Marcellus Shale fracking in New York State:

Timing and location: Permitting could begin later this year - pending some legislative unknowns that I will discuss in a minute. As previously reported, a ramp-up phase of 50 wells or less for the first year would begin in Broome County and adjoining counties along the Pennsylvania border, which overlie some of the richest parts of the Marcellus Shale. The first wells would likely be cited in areas closest to the Millennium Pipeline.

There's far far more there on the details of the permits and a wide wide variety of unresolved issues - many of which will require legislative action.

Update: More on assorted speculations here.

Posted by simon at 2:28 PM Comment

August 10, 2012

Seward's opponents on ballot

State Senator Jim Seward now formally has two opponents after the state Board of Elections certified their petitions.

Seward will now have a Republican opponent, Jim Blake, in the primary and a Democratic opponent, Howard Leib, in the general. Seward also has the Conservative and Independence lines, so he will be on the ballot in November no matter what happens in the Republican primary.

Posted by simon at 10:30 AM Comment

August 13, 2012

Empty office buildings

This article on empty office parks in Chicago and the challenges of reusing that space reminds me once again of the mostly-dead NYSEG building on the 13/366 intersection.

Posted by simon at 8:22 AM Comment

August 15, 2012

"Shortly Determine"

The DEC seems to be inching toward that late summer SGEIS release they'd suggested earlier. It's climbed to 4000 pages, and the DEC Commissioner still seems convinced he has science on his side.

I'll have to see what the geology section now says before concluding whether or not the DEC actually paid much attention to science. The last round was pretty awful, in ways I suspect would have landed it in "reject" or "major revisions" if given any kind of scientific peer review. In this case, of course, Governor Cuomo seems to be the only 'peer' who matters, though I won't be surprised if citizens and the courts beg to differ.

Posted by simon at 10:35 AM Comment

August 16, 2012

150 years ago, heading off to war

Though the Civil War started in 1861, massive enlistment drives grew in 1862. Many Tompkins County residents spent that summer listening for news and deciding whether to join the army. George Goodrich wrote:

Chapter XVIII.

The War of the Rebellion.

...It will be difficult for succeeding generations to realize with what anxiety and interest the investment and capture of Fort Sumpter and the subsequent progress of the war were watched by the people of Dryden in common with the inhabitants of all of the states of the North. No railroads or telegraph then served to deliver the war news within the town of Dryden. The only mail which was then received was brought by the daily stages from Ithaca and Cortland, meeting at Dryden village at noon. The New York daily papers of the morning would in this way reach Dryden the next day at noon, when the first news was obtained, unless, as was frequently the case, a messenger was dispatched by private contributors to Cortland, the nearest railroad and telegraph station in those times, to bring back the latest news late in the evening. Those who remember how anxiously the tidings of war were watched for, will call to mind with what feelings of disappointment the frequent stereotyped response was received, "All quiet on the Potomac."


The early campaigns of the Union forces in Virginia were not successful. Such disasters as the battle of Bull Run served to convince the people of the North that greater efforts had to be made. War meetings were held in all parts of the county, attended with bands of music and patriotic speakers. At these meetings liberal contributions were made for the aid of the families of such as should go to the front. A senatorial war committee was appointed, of which our late townsman, Jeremiah W. Dwight, was the member from this county, and a local town committee was selected, consisting of Luther Griswold, Smith Robertson, Charles Givens, Thomas J. McElheny, and W. W. Snyder.

In the summer of 1862 the 109th regiment was organized, Company F. being largely made up of Dryden volunteers. It was mustered into Service August 28, 1862, but was kept on guard duty for the first year and more. Its first fight was in the terrible battle of the Wilderness when more than one hundred of its men were left upon the field of battle. Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor and the battles before Petersburg followed in quick succession, in all of which this regiment made a gallant record, but suffered severely, so that when they came to be mustered out of the service in June, 1865, there were only two hundred and fifty men left of the twelve hundred which first went into the Wilderness.

In October, 1862, the 143d regiment, of which one company was made up mostly of Dryden men under Capt. Harrison Marvin, was mustered into service. Although this regiment did not see such severe service it had an honorable record and its roll of honor bore the following inscriptions: Nansemond, Wanhatchie, Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Resaca, Dallas, Kenesaw Mountain, Culpepper Farm, Peach Tree Ridge, Atlanta and Savannah.

Goodrich, George B. The Centennial History of the Town of Dryden, 1797-1897. Dryden: Dryden Herald Steam Printing House, 1898. Reprinted 1993 by the Dryden Historical Society. Pages 52-55.

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

Posted by simon at 8:59 AM Comment

Town of Dryden Industrial Development Agency to vanish

I had thought it was gone a while ago, but apparently Governor Cuomo signed legislation today ending the Dryden IDA (and 122 other local agencies and authorities).

Posted by simon at 2:19 PM Comment

August 20, 2012

Living Civil War History this weekend

I posted last week about the tense summer of 1862, 150 years ago. This coming weekend, you have a chance to what those those young Dryden residents of long ago would have found when they first arrived to go off to war.

The press release is fantastic, with a detailed schedule. I can't improve on it, except to say that this is brilliantly tied to Dryden history despite being in the Town of Ithaca. Definitely, please come explore.

An Opportunity This Weekend to Live the History of the Civil War This weekend will provide the opportunity to experience what life was like 150 years ago, as the Tompkins County Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission sponsors "The Civil War: Living History," a two-day-long demonstration of life in Civil War times.

Members of Company E of the 148th New York Volunteers will set up camp at the property of the Ithaca Veteran Volunteer Firemen's Association, 638 Elmira Road in the Town of Ithaca. (Look for the banners.) On Saturday, August 25 and Sunday. August 26, from 10:00 to 5:00 each day, the men of the Company, and those who accompany them, will demonstrate how people lived, coped, fought and died, and the causes of that war.

The soldiers will call roll, drill, cook, and perform period music with a sing-along. Staff from the Tompkins County Public Library will be there to tell stories of the era, and the Civil War Commission will connect each visitor with a soldier from the county who served in the 137th NY battalion, a Civil War nurse, or a member who enlisted in the United States Colored Infantry.

The program is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Tompkins County Tourism Program. County Historian Carol Kammen, co-chair of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, stresses that the purpose of the Living History event is not to glorify war, but to remember it and learn the lessons of another day. "While the Encampment Weekend will be entertaining and educational, this demonstration is meant to serve as a reminder of what soldiers sacrifice in wartime, what it takes to prepare for combat, what it is like to be left at home, what patriotism means," Kammen states. "The weekend is planned to help us empathise with those of the past, and to stir our imaginations: to make history come alive."

The event is free and everyone is welcome--to spend the day or just an hour or two. Company members will be in uniform, and there will be others in period dress. The Encampment will take place rain or shine, but not if there is thunder and lightning.

150 years ago, in August 1862, the call went out throughout the Union for volunteers, and men lined up in every town to serve. At that time, the 148th New York Volunteers formed in Geneva, filling its ranks mostly with young men from Seneca and Ontario Counties, but also including two men from Tompkins County.

The current Company E of the 148th is known around the country for the authenticity of its reenactment, and appears frequently at Civil War battlefields and days of commemoration. The Company is coming to Ithaca at the invitation of the County Civil War Commission. Below is the schedule of the Company's events this weekend:

Saturday, August 25:
10:00-10:30: Roll Call & Manual of Arms
10:30-11:00: Children's Games - Civilians
11:00-11:30: School of the NCO, The Corporal- Ray Derby
11:30-12:00: Cooking Demonstration - Civilians
12:00-12:30: Lunch, Discussion of Soldiers' Rations
12:30-1:00: Free Time
1:00-1:30: Shooting Demonstration
1:30-2:00: Civilians Craft Projects (to continue through the afternoon)
2:00-2:30: School of the Musician, The Bugle - Jim Goloski
2:30-3:00: Civil War Camp Music
3:00-3:30: Bayonet Drill
3:30-4:00: Children's Games - Civilians
4:00-4:30: Equipment & Uniforms of the Infantry
4:30-5:00: Shooting Demonstration

Sunday, August 26:
10:00-10:30: Roll Call & Manual of Arms
10:30-11:00: Children's Games - Civilians
11:00-11:30: Reading of the Articles of War - George Shadman
11:30-12:00: Cooking Demonstration - Civilians
12:00-12:30: Lunch, Discussion of Soldiers Rations
12:30-1:00: Free Time
1:00-1:30: Shooting Demonstration
1:30-2:00: Civilians' Craft Projects (to continue through the afternoon)
2:00-2:30: Chaplains of the Civil War, The Bugle - Marty Hillman
2:30-3:00: Civil War Camp Music and Civil War Games: Horseshoes and Baseball
3:00-3:30: Camp Inspection Discussion
3:30-4:00: Children's Games - Civilians
4:00-4:30: Equipment & Uniforms of the Infantry
4:30-5:00: Gun Cleaning/Shooting Demonstration

Two other events will be associated with the Living History weekend. On Saturday, beginning at Noon, the Ithaca Veteran Volunteer Firemen's Association will hold a chicken barbecue, and on Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m., there will be a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Joseph Sidney Camp #41 of the Sons of Union Veterans, proceeds from the sale of food to go to these organizations.

The Civil War Commission urges all to experience the Living History weekend to go back in time to consider the hard decisions and experiences of people who lived in Tompkins County 150 years ago, in a nation at war with itself.

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Tompkins County Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration Commission.)

Posted by simon at 7:29 PM Comment

August 25, 2012

Shoulder color

Update: Angelika reports that they've started painting at least some of it already. Never mind.

Ellis Hollow Road got worse and worse for years because residents weren't thrilled about the County Highway Department's plans to widen it in a major rebuild. I'd heard echoes of the stories even when I first got involved in Dryden politics almost a decade ago, and plans seemed to come and go.

It sounded like that all wrapped up a few years ago with a compromise: the road would be widened, but the shoulders would be paved with a different color of asphalt. That would make the road surface visually smaller to drivers, who usually respond to such things by driving more cautiously. It would also give other users of the shoulder, notably bicyclists and pedestrians, a space that looked more their own.

The paving took eternity, pausing over a winter, but when it was done the newly widened road had black shoulders. No different asphalt, no special paint.

Where the shoulder widens
Where the shoulder widens (or narrows, depending which way you're going).

Definitely still a black shoulder.
Definitely still a black shoulder.

I've heard that the highway department is eventually going to paint the shoulder, a treatment that likely won't last nearly as long but would at least kind of sort of fulfill the commitment they made years ago. I've also heard an argument that it's a waste of money.

I'd very strongly encourage the highway department to at least paint the shoulder as a sign that they remember a promise made to residents who weren't otherwise happy with their work. Tompkins County residents seem to be questioning the value of ever faster ever wider roads more regularly, and battles with communities over county roads that pass through them seem to be a more and more common fact of life.

If Tompkins County wants its highway department to have any credibility whatsoever in those future conversations, that highway department needs to demonstrate that it will actually live up to the promises it makes.

Posted by simon at 5:42 PM Comment

Civil War encampment continues tomorrow

All I can say is wow. A free event, open to the public, and still open tomorrow, Sunday, August 25th, from 10:00am to 5:00pm. Yes, it's a little south of Ithaca on Route 13, but it's definitely worth the trip. (The cannon may not be there. Everything else will be.)

Firing the cannon.
Firing the cannon.

Hardtack chowder.
Hardtack and corn chowder anyone? (I liked it.)

Line of tents, line of soldiers.
Line of tents, line of (re-enactor) soldiers.

I've also posted a much much larger gallery of photos.

Posted by simon at 6:01 PM Comment

August 27, 2012

Protesting fracking - in Albany

There were at least a dozen Dryden residents in Albany today, including two families, joining the Don't Frack New York! rally and march.

Sungiva settles into the crowd.
Sungiva settles into the crowd.

One of my favorite protest signs was completely simple: the New York State flag.

Excelsior at the opening speeches.
Excelsior at the opening speeches.

The march was slow and steady, moving from the Corning City Preserve on the Hudson River over I-787 and the railroad tracks on the pedestrian bridge, then through the streets of Albany to the State Capitol, with a special pause at the Department of Environmental Conservation.


Once we reached the Capitol, people settled in to listen to speakers. I was happy to see a few state employee IDs among the crowd, I think people taking their lunch during the event. At one point my ears perked up, noticing a familiar voice: Martha Robertson, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature and representative from the western half of the Town of Dryden. She even (wisely!) kept it short and to the point.

Speakers platform.

The strongest conversation I had, though, wasn't during the event. We stopped at a diner in Duanesburg, and sat in a booth next to two people talking about today. They recognized us from the march - I suspect because of Sungiva and Konrad - and asked where we were from. They were delighted to hear Dryden, and said Dryden was really leading the way. At first I thought they meant the craziness with the Anschutz lawsuit, but they meant more than that - that Dryden was willing to take a stand with a ban and stick with it. Unfortunately, they were in a town where the conversation wasn't going so well.

I'm delighted to live in a town that makes people excited for all the right reasons. I just wish there were better ways to share more than inspiration.

I've posted a gallery with a lot more pictures, including pictures of the Dryden folks I saw there. (And apologies once again that they all came from my cell phone, which is a generally lousy camera for this kind of thing.)

Posted by simon at 11:13 PM Comment

August 28, 2012

Five arrested in Dryden

I was a little surprised to find police activity lighting up my Facebook feed last night, but by the time we drove down West Main Street, everything seemed quiet again. Five men were arrested when what started as a noise complaint turned into arrests for illegal weapon possession and burglary.

Posted by simon at 5:31 PM Comment