Archive for December, 2010

The (almost) top stories of 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Mid-way through my third year at The Evening Sun, I can say with some certainty that I’m familiar with the year-end routine. That’s why, when Jeff called a meeting to discuss our Year in Review stories, I was ready. Which basically means I’d killed a couple of hours the previous day sifting through all the stories I wrote in 2010.

It was no small task, considering they numbered over 400. And that’s not counting the 80 or so blogs I posted and roughly 50 columns I penned in the last 12 months. Think the ES is getting their money’s worth out of me?

I was pretty impressed with myself for narrowing it down to 10. But, of course, I’m not the only one writing for Chenango County’s hometown daily. Each of my fellow reporters went into that planning meeting with their own lists as well. As you can imagine, it took awhile for us to hash it all out.

It wasn’t a completely insurmountable task. And I’m happy to say no one was seriously injured during the fray. (Don’t listen to anything Brian tries to tell you. It was nothing more than a paper cut. I have no idea why he’s still whining about it.)

I’m happy with our final picks, but all of us thought there were stories which warranted at the very least an honorable mention. So we’ve all decided to blog about our “also-rans.”

Topping my list of was the State Parks saga. Hunts Pond and Oquaga Creek were two of the 41 state parks and 14 historical sites which received a last minute reprieve by the Governor David Paterson right before Memorial Day. Bowman Lake State Park was one of 34 facilities on a secondary list of potential closures, whose survival hinged on the transferal of $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to help cover the cost of operating New York State’s Office of Parks Recreation and Historical Preservation.

Thankfully, they all dodged the bullet, but there were weeks of uncertainty. And, of course, there’s no guarantee they won’t be back on the chopping block when budget time rolls around once more.

One story which blow me away this year was the Aeden Waterford scandal. The payroll services company, which had offices in Greene and Binghamton, went out of busineses in August. Soon after, former clients learned they owed in some cases thousands (and thousands) of dollars to the IRS in federal employment taxes. Taxes they believed they had already paid through Aeden Waterford. Now those companies – which number over a 100 throughout Broome, Chenango and neighboring counties – are having to pay for a second time. With interest and penalties, to boot. A federal investigation is underway, but Aeden Waterford’s owner, William Stiles, is still walking free.

Economic uncertainty has continued to reign in 2010. While things are definitely on the upswing, it is a slow steady climb up a steep slope. Jobless claims may be dropping, but there are still millions of Americans out of work.  For once, Chenango County seems to be bucking the trend ever so slightly. Several of our major employers announced the creation of large numbers of new jobs this year, including Agro Farma (featured in the top 10), Raymond and Unison. Other companies have also expanded, and we’ve seen plenty of success stories among our local small businesses. New ventures have been popping up all over the county as well, as entrepreneurs invest in making their dreams of business-ownership a reality. Other long-established companies have switched hands. It’s exciting, really, to see all this potential growth. And I hope 2011 will be even more prosperous for the many diverse businesses which call Chenango County home.

As I scrolled through my past articles, I was actually a little surprised by how much time I devote to writing about education. I cover 5 of Chenango County’s 9 school districts, so I guess that shouldn’t have been a shock. But this year – with the state’s fiscal crisis, each district’s budget woes and all sorts of other drama, and of course the good news stuff – I’d say at least half of what I wrote in 2010 pertained to schools in some way.

Budget cuts made our top 10 stories, but I felt there were other school-related topics which also warranted a mention. Like the narrow defeat of Oxford’s proposed $10.65 million Phase II capital project. After months of planning, the proposal was shot down in a voter referendum by a handful of votes.

Most of my other education related stories fall into three categories: the good, the bad and the ugly. The good includes all the stories we wrote highlighting student achievement and accomplishments in the classroom, on the courts and on stage (of which there were many, I’m happy to say.)

The bad? Basically everything coming out of Albany and Washington D.C. Reform isn’t a bad thing, but when it occurs at the same time as drastic aid cuts and doesn’t include mandate relief, it creates tough challenges for our local districts. Like raising the bar on the state achievement tests AFTER students had already sat for the exams. And the fact that Race for the Top will come at a much greater cost to schools than anyone expected.

As for the ugly, you can probably guess where I’m going to go with that: school boards. There is far too much drama in this arena. Some of it can be attributed to the tough decisions school leaders were forced to make, but not all. I like to think everyone who chooses to serve in this capacity is doing so for the right reasons. But sometimes I wonder if “must play well with others” should be in the job description. Things have been on a more even keel recently, for which I’m grateful. But with this budget season promising to be even more brutal than the last, it probably won’t be long before the kid gloves come off and people start duking it out across the table once more.

My favorite part of my job is the people I get to meet. There are so many people doing great things in our communities. Each one has a story to tell, and in most cases it’s an honor to be the one to tell it for them.

Who knows what 2011 will bring…

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Looking back on 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010
Brian Golden

Seeing as how I began my tenure here at The Evening Sun approximately three weeks prior to the start of 2010, selecting my favorite stories from the past year was, for the most part, a fairly simple task. I will admit to one undeniable fact – a year ago I had no idea what 2010 would bring, other than a number of significant changes to my personal life, and I can honestly say it’s been a surprising and enlightening experience, to say the least.

Considering the fact that I’ve attended every Chenango Blues Festival but one since its inception nearly two decades ago, I’ve got to start there. This event is truly a defining one for our community and draws thousands from throughout the county, the northeast and beyond (not to mention the quality of the musicianship year after year). On top of that, an opportunity to speak directly with some of my favorite blues and blues-influenced performers was an awesome experience. I’ve got to hand it to Eric Larsen and the rest of the Blues Fest Committee, they do a fantastic job year after year and this event is one we can all look forward to throughout the cold winter months.

On the same note, I’ve had the privilege to cover many of the other annual events which make this city and county such a fantastic place to call home. Colorscape, Gus Macker, Pumpkinfest, St. Baldrick’s and the Chenango County Fair – the list goes on and on. All provide an opportunity for local residents to really enjoy what our way of life is all about in a safe, fun, family-friendly atmosphere. Years ago, you wouldn’t have caught me within twenty miles of the hordes of people who attend these events, yet now I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

One particular story, one which struck me as simply amazing, was that of Richard W. Hamilton and a dog tag of his unearthed in the California desert by Vietnam Veteran Carl Virden. I spent a lot of time on this story of a World War II soldier, Hamilton, who just happened to be a Norwich native. During desert training in California under General Patton, a young Hamilton apparently lost his dog tags (I’ve often wondered just what the consequences for that were ever since I wrote the story), which were then discovered by Virden decades later, while he was practicing his metal detection skills. After a couple of weeks of research I finally found historical records of Hamilton, who had returned to Chenango County following the war to his wife and family. Ironically, it turned out Hamilton’s closest living relative was the mother of Linda Green, who works about fifteen feet away from me here in the offices of The Evening Sun. Unbelievable.

Historically speaking, I also had a chance to write numerous stories for the Chenango County Historical Society and the Rexford Street Museum. As a long-time history buff it was great to have an opportunity to learn so much about our local history and, over the last year, I’ve gained a tremendous appreciation for what that means to our community. CCHS Director Alan Estus has been a pleasure to work with throughout the year, and I’m definitely looking forward to 2011 and the many changes which are taking place at the museum, particularly the newly renovated Research Center. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out the museum’s new Pharmaceutical exhibit, don’t miss out, it’s truly incredible.

As a local musician for nearly twenty years, it was really great to meet, and write about, so many of our area’s exceptional singers, songwriters and instrumentalists. We have an inordinate amount of talent in our community, especially when it comes to the performing arts, and I loved being able to provide some exposure for these extremely talented individuals and ensembles. In addition, every chance I’ve had to cover the Purple Tornado Marching Band and Mary Mayo’s gifted choirs has been truly inspiring. As a former member of the marching band, jazz band, madrigal singers, mixed choir and symphonic and concert bands, I was so excited to revisit my old high school and write each and every one of those stories. It really took me back and it’s been a great experience.

Another favorite story – and probably the most humorous by far – our yearly downtown crow invasion, which has always been good for a laugh. I honestly don’t know what’s funnier – Warren with his laser pointer, the obnoxious Jurassic Park-like recording blasting over the downtown PA system or the random concussion shots that ring out at 6 a.m. (and sound like a bank robbery in progress). These pesky avian scavengers are just not that easy to get rid of I guess, but at least it provides a chuckle when things get stressful in the newsroom.

In addition, it’s been extremely gratifying covering our area senior citizens and local non-profit organizations. The Still Creating II event, held at the Council of the Arts, was especially cool, and I was so proud of my grandmother when her artwork was chosen as this year’s “signature piece.” All around, the artwork created by the seniors in our community was amazing. Covering the Chenango County United Way, Relay for Life and all of the other non-profits who do so much locally was also a pleasure and I hope the stories I’ve written have helped them out in some way.

In the end I have to say it’s been a fun and interesting first year here at our hometown daily and I’ve enjoyed the experience greatly. As a “born-and-raised Norwichian” I get quite a kick out of writing about the city where I grew up. And while there will always be bad news, no matter where one lives, it’s nice to know that, here in Chenango County, we have plenty of good news to balance things out. Happy New Year to all of our faithful readers and here’s to a fantastic 2011!

The good, the bad and the ugly of 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010
Tyler Murphy

Here are my personal picks of the good, the bad and the ugly stories of 2010, taken from the crime, court and emergency services beat.

All stories for the most part( a few headline modifications) appear as they did on the listed date of publication. Read everything if you want or just look around at the different bold headlines for something you find interesting.

Headline index of included stories:

The Good
Firefighter with disability serves as inspiration for volunteers
Good Samaritans save man from burning truck
New helicopter base in Sidney will cut emergency response times in half
Motorcycle safety reminders stir memories of accident

The Bad
Woman chases burglar from home, stands in front of his escaping car
Dismissed New Berlin Police Chief pleads to violation in assault case
Five charged in Oxford robbery police say never happened
Defendant in $25,000 cocaine bust pleads guilty

And the ugly…
Man punches Walmart employee after being stopped for shoplifting
Alleged panty thief released despite victim concerns
Drunk driver charged in connection to stolen vehicles, porn and handgun
Fight breaks out in front of funeral home, stops traffic

Enjoy! And Happy New Year!

The Good

Firefighter with disability serves as inspiration for volunteers
Published June 8

GREENE – In late April, Thomas Akshar stood before an applauding crowd surrounded by fellow firefighter graduates and told them they could accomplish anything themselves. It was a moment of which he had long dreamed.

The 22-year-old Greene Fire Department volunteer successfully completed the New York State Firefighting One Training Course with 20 other classmates and is now a certified interior fireman – despite only having the use of one of his arms.

The course involved a number of state mandated written exams, timed physical trials and hands-on evaluations. Many of the tests performed required participants to complete them without any assistance.

Paralyzed from his right shoulder down, Tom had to rely on his left arm and will power to accomplish such tasks as cutting a ventilation hole through a house’s roof with a chain saw, quickly setting in place a 25 foot ladder, dressing in his full turn out gear – bunker pants, boots, jacket, hood, gloves and helmet – in under 90 seconds and then putting on an oxygen tank.

In total, a firefighter carries with him around 75 pounds of interior equipment and has to be able to confront obstacles in the form of locked doors, blinding smoke, searing flames, unconscious victims and a depleting air supply.

“You have to look at getting things done differently. I kept playing them out in my mind as I watched the others do it. I’m trying to create a plan of action in my head: I do this, then I have to get this done,” said Tom. “Try tying your boots one handed and you’ll see the point. You can’t give up on things. If you can’t get your boots on, then you won’t be going anywhere. It’s that simple.”

On Jan. 2, 2003, Tom was traveling in the front passenger seat with his 14-year-old twin brother in the back seat. Tom’s sister was driving the car when it came over a small hill along County Road 30 in Afton and struck a patch of black ice. His sister lost control of the vehicle and Tom, who wasn’t wearing his seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle and slammed into a nearby tree ahead of the sliding car. A moment later, the car came up behind him and pinned him against the trunk.

With the car’s red paint smeared into his flesh and clothing, Tom struggled to free himself from the wreckage despite his fractured ribs and pelvis, a partially collapsed lung, spinal injuries and a crippled right arm. He slumped from the impact and amid the car’s debris and his own blood as he laid on the snow-covered ground, waiting.

“It seemed like I laid in that snow for hours just waiting to hear the sounds of those sirens,” he recalled.
Tom was taken to Wilson Regional Medical Center in Binghamton by ambulance because the emergency helicopter was unavailable at the time. He was to spend the next two and a half weeks in the intensive care unit.

Those emergency responders pulling him from the roadway that day were people who knew him and his family personally. He was a member of the Afton Fire Department’s High School Explorer group and eager to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, by 9 years, who was already a member of the service.
“It was weird because all the doctors were talking about if I’d be losing my arm or not and the decision wasn’t even up to me – it was my mom’s,” he said. “I told her ‘no, I want to keep it,’ though.”

Tom would go on to have surgeries at a number of different hospitals in a number of states. By April 25, 2003, he entered a recovery phase. Today he is able to move his right arm slightly after doctors successfully connected nerves from his pectoral muscles. “I tense my chest and my arms moves. It was strange at first,” laughed Tom.

Apart from the physical challenges he faced following the accident, Tom said one of the hardest things to do was let go of his childhood dream of being a fireman.

“When I was younger, 10, I think, my twin brother and I saw how much fun our older brother had suiting up to go our to a fire or an accident. It was very exciting, especially as kids. There was this big smile he had when he always went out, so I got into the Explorer program. When I had the accident, I thought that was the end of my dreams, basically,” said Tom.

Tom moved away from Afton to live with his father in Massachusetts in 2004.

“When I moved out to Massachusetts with my father, it was a big life change for me. He basically encouraged me that there was nothing I couldn’t do. He’d say ‘Hey Tom, go do this.’ And I couldn’t ever say no to him. I got my mind set that I can do it and I did it,” he said.

Tom came back to the area in 2009 for the sole reason of joining the local fire service.

“In Massachusetts there aren’t volunteers, only paid firemen, and I wanted to be a fireman,” he said. “We’d sit there and watch the trucks go by and every time I’d tell myself I needed to get back to it.”

“I always remember something my brother, Fred Akshar, told me after the accident. You can have anything you want in life. But the man upstairs deals you your cards for life and you have to play them, there is no folding.”

Tom thanked the Afton and Greene Fire Departments for their help in making his dream a reality.
“I owe a lot to the Greene department and Afton, but also to all the members of the FF1– the recruits. They’re the ones that helped me get through it. I don’t think I would’ve been able to go through with it without these guys and the instructors. They never told me I couldn’t do it. They’d say ‘OK, let’s see if you can do it.’”

Tom said sometimes he has his low points over his disability, but turns to those in his family and in the fire service for comfort.

“I go about my day just like everyone else – just sometimes it’s twice as hard,” he said.
“It’s better to joke about it,. There’s times to be serious in life and others to just laugh. You’ve got to be able to laugh at things,” he added, recalling his occasional nickname, “Lefty.”

Tom says every time he heads out to a call now, it reminds him of a second chance in life and he wants to make it count.

“I got a second chance at life and I want to prove to myself and to others what I can do. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter.”

“There a reason why I’’m here, why we’re all here on Earth. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.”
– – –

Good Samaritans save man from burning truck
Published: May 27

GREENE – Three men pulled a trapped dump truck driver from a burning wreck along State Highway 206 in the Town of Greene Wednesday after the ten-wheeler rolled down a steep embankment, landed on its cabin roof and burst into flames.

New York State Police reported at around 3:32 p.m. Wednesday, an Oxford man was traveling along 206 in the Town of Greene near the intersection of Quinn Road when he served to avoid an animal in the roadway and lost control of his dump truck.

The driver is not being identified by police, pending their investigation into the incident.
He was extracted from his burning vehicle by passing motorists and taken to Wilson Regional Medical Center in Binghamton before being transported to SUNY Upstate Medical University at Syracuse for burn treatments.

His condition was unknown Thursday morning, but emergency crews at the scene said he was speaking to responders and walking before being taken away by ambulance. He suffered burns and other injuries during the incident.

State Police reported the vehicle struck a guardrail and was sent tumbling end over end down a 45-degree embankment before coming to a rest on its roof, about 40 feet from the roadway.

Jonathan Tokos was in the oncoming lane when the accident occurred right in front of him.

Tokos was heading home in his Tri Cities Temperature Control van when he saw the dump truck swerve onto his side of the road.

“The dump truck came into my lane after he lost control. I slammed on my brakes and skidded over to side of the road. He over-corrected and went end over end down the embankment. He hit the guard rail and he went straight down the hill,” said Tokos.

Tokos got out of his vehicle and attempted to call 911 from his cell phone, but struggled to find service and was forced to pace up along the road to make the call.

“I got a hold of 911 and was trying to tell them where the accident was when someone else came running out of a house nearby screaming ‘It’s on fire it’s on fire.’ I had to tell the operator I needed to go and I hung up and went to get the fire extinguisher from my van,” he said.

Greene residents George Austin and Dustin Turner also came to the trapped driver’s aid as fire consumed the engine block and spread to the passenger side of the vehicle.

“When I came over 206, I could see smoke from a fire a couple hills away and thought it was a house fire,” Austin said. “I pulled up and they were hollering for a fire extinguisher and I threw mine out to them. I pulled over on shoulder of road and they were screaming, ‘A guy’s trapped and his truck is on fire.’”

“I saw it was becoming engulfed. We had to get that guy out of there. One man was already there trying to get him out and I figured we had to get him out of the truck even if it meant getting a little burned ourselves, so I ran down,” said Austin.

Austin ran down and joined Turner in his efforts to free the victim. As Tokos worked to suppress the flames with his extinguisher, Turner and Austin tried to pull the man through the windshield.

Tokos used up his extinguisher and the fire again began to engulf the truck. He ran back to his vehicle and retrieved a second fire extinguisher and again exhausted it, temporarily slowing the flames.

“He (the driver) was screaming ‘Get me out of here, get me out of here. It’s getting hot,’ so I doused him with the fire extinguisher. I tried putting the flames out again around the cab, but it ran out again and he was still stuck, so I started throwing dirt on the fire,” said Tokos. “It started spreading again real fast and became engulfed.”

Tokos took the last fire extinguisher from Austin and again suppressed the fire in the immediate area of the victim.

Tokos admitted he was starting to feel the situation getting desperate and after the third and last extinguisher ran empty, he ran back to his truck to get a saw.

“It was pretty scary. It was like nothing I’d seen before. I thought I was going to have to watch a man burn to death in front of me. I just wanted to suppress the fire. I ran back to the truck to get a saw. I was worried we might have to cut his leg off if we couldn’t get him out soon,” he said.

A few moments later the men pulled the victim from the fire. Tokos said the entire event lasted less than five minutes. Thirty seconds after they pulled the man out, the entire truck was destroyed by fire.

“If it wasn’t for my company mandating those extinguishers, I’m positive he would have burned to death,” Tokos said. “30 seconds earlier, and he would have hit me head on. 30 seconds later, and I never would have seen him. It’s amazing how God works.”
– – –

Motorcycle safety reminders stir memories of accident
Published April 20

NORWICH – As the warm spring weather entices residents to transition from their winter living rooms to engaging in outdoor activities, drivers will again see their highways becoming populated with motorcycle enthusiasts.

According to local law enforcement and safety officials, this transitioning period can be the most dangerous time of the year for riders who are dusting off their helmets and getting eagerly reacquainted with their hibernating motorcycle skills.

At the same time other drivers behind the wheel have to adjust to the seasonal appearance of motorcycles, they are more often than not the ones responsible for a collision between the two, according to the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Most crashes between cars and motorcycles involve turning left. If you are preparing to cross traffic or turn left, take a second look to make sure it is safe to proceed,” state the agencies on their web site, www.nysgtsc.state.ny.us.

Drawing from his law enforcement experience at local accident scenes and being a licensed motorcycle rider himself for more than three decades, Norwich Police Chief Joseph Angelino says he agrees.

“I don’t even know how many people have said they didn’t see them,” said Angelino, referring to car and truck drivers at a motorcycle accident.

“People pull up to a intersection and they look for, and expect, to see if a car or truck is coming and if they see a motorcycle, they pull out. People just aren’t used to looking for them; it’s an instinct.”

Angelino said the city had on average three to four accidents a year, most of those taking place at intersections. In 2009, the only recorded fatal accident in the city limits was a motorcycle accident.

Chenango County Sheriff Lt. Richard Cobb is the office’s sole certified Accident Scene Reconstruction Technician.

“People need to understand that a motorcycle is a very different kind of machine than other vehicles on the road. That seems obvious, but when people are driving they expect them to act the same as a car and they don’t. They’re lighter, faster, turn differently and have fewer wheels on the road’s surface. This means they have different stopping and acceleration times for example,” he said.

“The biggest problem is people just don’t seem to see them. They look up and see the SUV driving right in front of a motorcycle, they see the pick-up behind it but they won’t look carefully to see the motorcycle rider in between. Where at a glance they’d see the car behind that SUV, they might not see a motorcycle. You have to look for them.”

Ask Sherburne-Earlville High School Principal Keith Reed Jr. That’s exactly what happened to him.

On the clear sunny day of Aug. 22, 2008, Reed was traveling south on his 2005 Yamaha motorcycle along state Rt. 12 in Oxford at around 3:30 p.m. to visit his parents, who live in Salamanca.

At the same time, Randy Cooper was heading to Norwich from his Oxford home on Georgetown Road (County Rt. 4) in his friend’s F-150 pick-up truck. While at the intersection of Rt. 12 and Georgetown, Cooper waited for the passing traffic to clear so he could turn left onto Rt. 12.

“I remember there was a person in front of me who was turning right onto Randy’s road as he was waiting to pull out. I think maybe he was focused on that and didn’t see me behind,” said Reed.

“I was driving south on Route 12 and I’m not sure what happened I tried to veer to the left, I thought he’d see me, apparently he didn’t and caught me on the right side,” said Reed.

Cooper also recalled the accident. “Well, I was just getting ready to go the bank in Norwich. I borrowed a friend’s truck for a about a week, because mine had broken down.”

“I look toward Norwich, north, didn’t see him. I looked down south and didn’t see anything coming. He must have been in a blind spot, traveling along the guide wire or the tall grass. I just never saw him until he was about to hit the truck right in front of me,” said Cooper.

The bike struck the truck’s front tire and bumper and Reed was ejected, striking the truck with his body before being thrown from the impact. Both vehicles then burst into flames. At the time, Reed said he had no idea how extensive his injuries were.

“I had a page and a half of broken bones. My right leg broke in five places; my femoral artery was cut.”

“I blew out my left eye socket, my nose was basically gone and I had a broken jaw. Miraculously, I had no spinal cord injury or brain damage though – at least none I didn’t have before the accident,” joked Reed as he recalled the incident recently.

Reed was transported to Wilson Regional Medical Center in Johnson City by ambulance because the emergency helicopter was not readily available. After arriving, doctors put him into an induced coma that was supposed to last 10 days – but he wouldn’t wake up for more than four weeks.

Reed said during his stay in the intensive care unit, he flatlined nine times. He’s had 20 surgeries since the accident and countless hours of physical therapy. In September 2009, he was finally able to return to work full time.

“I remember the impact. I remember laying there, waking up and a lady behind me was telling me I would be all right. I remember being in the ambulance and listening to the radio and hearing about the injuries. I thought they were talking about the other driver, I thought he was going to die, but they were actually talking about me.”

“It was one of the worst things I ever went through. It hurt me, not physically, but mentally more than anything in my life,” recalled Cooper last week. He also said he was later ticketed by state police for failing to yield the right of way.

“It’s something I really regret. He (Reed) came down one day, afterwards, and told me no hard feelings. He went to shake my hand and I gave him a hug.”

Reed says he holds no hard feelings for Cooper and says the incident was an accident.
“A lot of good has come out of this accident – more good than bad,” said Reed. “I had two seconds to think about it that day before it happened; after that kind of accident, you do a lot of soul searching.”

Reed added that the outpouring of concern and compassion he recieved from loved ones and the community was inspiring. “I just can’t thank everyone enough,” he said.

“I’m a different person than I was before. You gain a new life appreciation. Something like this can hurt and it changes you. You can focus on the pain every day or let it remind you that you made it,” said Reed, who has not ridden a motorcycle since.

Cooper too says the day changed him forever. “Now it takes a lot of time before I make a turn to go anywhere. People should always be on the lookout because it only takes a second for something to happen.”

Safety Tips from the New York State Department of Motor vehicles for bikers.

• Always wear an approved helmet and eye protection. Helmets are required by law in New York State.
• Always wear high quality riding gear designed to protect the rider during a fall. This includes over the ankle boots, full finger gloves with padding in addition to jackets and pants with armor protection at impact points.
• Wear high visibility vests, garments with reflectorized features and accessories to boost your visibility to other drivers.
• Maintain your motorcycle properly. Insure all your lights and horn are working and both mirrors are adjusted. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have legal tread depth.
• Maintain a high level of awareness. Scan the roadway constantly for dangers and ride alert.
• Never drink alcohol and ride a motorcycle.
• Allow adequate space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Use the “two second” rule as a safety zone.
• Let other motorists know your intentions. Signal when you turn with your directional lights or hand signals. Also, flashing your brake light periodically before you stop will alert drivers behind you to be cautious.
– – –

New helicopter base in Sidney will cut emergency response times in half
Published: January 22

SIDNEY– Soon the chances of survival after a traumatic accident or other dire medical emergency will rise, thanks to a new helicopter base at the Sidney Airport. It’s expected to cut aerial response times to local emergencies in half.

“The average time to wait now for a Mercy Flight helicopter out of Marcellus or for a Guthrie Air helicopter out of Pennsylvania on average is at least 20 minutes. Soon though the ETA (estimated time of arrival) with the helicopter in Sidney can cut a line right through the middle of the county and be in Otselic Valley in about 12 minutes,” said Chenango County Emergency Management Deputy Director Matthew L. Beckwith.

The new helicopter service is part of the Air Methods Corporation’s efforts to expand into areas of New York State that have gaps in coverage, explained the company’s business manager, Jonathan Gryniuk. The company funded a needs assessment study of emergency aerial coverage in rural New York in 2009 which resulted in the company organizing two new sites of operation.

“We wanted to find areas where we could place aircraft closer to the communities in need,” said Gryniuk. “With crews already nearby we’ve basically cut down on half the trip it would take other responders to get there from outside the area.”

Currently Air Methods Corporation operates four existing Life Net of New York bases in Albany, Wallkill, Glen and Harris as well as operating the Guthrie Air helicopter in Sayre, Pa. The company recently announced that two new EMS helicopter bases would soon be operational in Hornell and Sidney by sometime in late February.

“The greatest benefit to this rural community is more rapid access to high level care than they have had in the past. Flight time from Sidney to Norwich is 15 nautical miles, or about a seven and a half minute flight,” Gryniuk said.

Those 10 extra minutes can become a life saver when transporting victims to the three main hospitals able to handle serious trauma patients. The closest level two trauma centers are the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, which is about a 21 minute flight and the Wilson Memorial Regional Medical Center in Johnson City, about a 22 minute flight. The closest level one trauma center is a 27 minute flight away at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, which is also the only pediatric trauma center in the region, explained Gryniuk.

“In the EMS world, what they have consistently figured out is that in the first, golden hour, statistics show that if an injured party or patients can get to a trauma center within that time, their chances of survival are much higher. After that hour passes, the chances of survival decrease significantly,” said Beckwith.

Beckwith said crews would often put the helicopter on “hot standby” when responding to a serious medical emergency and the first crews on the scene decide if there’s a need for air transport. The standing helicopter, already fueled and with crews prepared, could then leave the launch pad and arrive at an accident scene at nearly the same time crew were working to remove victims.

“Usually it takes about 10 to 15 minutes for our responders to get there and if it’s an accident, then they may have to extract a person from a vehicle. Cutting you out can take up to 20 more minutes. A recent accident in Oxford took over an hour to remove the victim. As these response times start adding up, you can see how a just a 10 minute window of time could become crucial in those first 60 minutes. What can literally happen is the helicopter service can be hovering over the scene at about the same time the crews are starting to cut people free,” said Beckwith.

Gryniuk said the company would be maintaining service at the Sidney site 24 hours a day, seven days a week and would be staffed by an EMS pilot, flight nurse and flight paramedic. He said the company was in the process of hiring four full-time positions in each of those three disciplines.
– – –

The Bad

Woman chases burglar from home, stands in front of his escaping car
Published September 13

GUILFORD – A woman arriving home in broad daylight surprised a burglar inside her home and chased him out, even attempting to block his escape by standing in front of his car while she called 911.

Chenango County Sheriff’s Lt. Richard Cobb said the defendant in the crime, 29-year-old Andrew J. Vandusen of Gilbertsville, ran over the woman’s foot with his car as he sped past her and fled the scene.
Cobb said homeowner provided a physical description of Vandusen and his vehicle that allowed a nearby sheriff’s patrol to locate him a short time later, traveling through the Town of Oxford.

Police charged Vandusen with second degree burglary, second degree reckless endangerment, second degree harassment and seventh degree possession of a controlled substance.

Police claim the victim returned home and at about 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon to find a burglar in her house.

Cobb said the defendant then fled past the homeowner to a parked vehicle outside. The woman followed him, ordering him to stop. After she tried to keep the car from leaving by standing in front of it, Vandusen allegedly swerved around the woman, rolling over her foot nearly striking her with the vehicle, said Cobb.

“She was hurt by the car, but she said she didn’t need medical attention. It was a minor injury,” he said.
Cobb said deputies searched Vandusen’s car after pulling him over and found the woman’s prescription drugs and other items taken from the home.

Police also charged Vandusen with fifth degree criminal possession of stolen property after investigators allegedly located additional items that had been reported stolen in a separate Guilford burglary case.
“A few days later, a gentleman victim called the station and identified some of the items as belonging to him,” said Cobb.

The man’s items were allegedly stolen from a storage building near his home in Guilford a few weeks earlier. Cobb said Vandusen could be facing additional burglary charges over the incident.

Vandusen was arraigned in Town of Guilford Court and remanded to the Chenango County Correctional Facility in lieu of $10,000 cash bail.
– – –

Dismissed New Berlin Police Chief pleads to violation in assault case
Published April 21

NEW BERLIN – Former Town of New Berlin Police Chief Richard P. Kellar pleaded guilty to a violation last Thursday, nearly 18 months since his arrest outside a South New Berlin bar for allegedly assaulting a 42-year-old patron while off duty.

Chenango County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 44-year-old Kellar at 1:30 a.m. Oct. 30, 2008 and charged him with third degree assault, a misdemeanor.

Kellar was the town’s police chief at the time and the original charge accused him of injuring a man during a fist fight outside of the Southtown Pub. The fight resulted in both of the victim’s arms being fractured, according to the Assigned Special Prosecutor Paul Tomkins of Binghamton.

In court last week, Tomkins said that according to doctor’s reports, the victim sustained those injuries after he fell during the altercation and that they were not a direct result of Kellar striking the man.
In a telephone interview with The Evening Sun in December of 2008, the alleged victim in the case said he was drinking at the time and interacted with a female friend of Kellar’s inside the bar prior to the fight. He asked not to be identified, citing fear of reprisal from law enforcement.

Tomkins confirmed the victim is involved in a personal civil lawsuit against both the Town of New Berlin and Kellar.

Kellar pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a violation, in Town of Plymouth Court before Justice Paul O’Connor last Thursday afternoon. He was sentenced to 150 hours of community service.

Tomkins said the case was handled as any other “bar fight,” but acknowledged that it took much longer than a typical assault case. The Chenango County District Attorney’s Office, New Berlin Town Court and Norwich Town Court all recused themselves from the case, extending its delays.

Tomkins said he had appeared in court eight times and filed several motions. “This case was handled no differently than any other case for an everyday citizen. It’s my belief that when this defendant went down to the bar, he was acting as a private individual and not in any official duty and was prosecuted as any private individual would be,” said Tomkins. “Some of the actions taken in the case to ensure it was treated without bias also delayed the proceedings longer than they would be typically.”

Tomkins also noted to the court that in addition to the sentence, Kellar had lost his job and was facing “ruinous” financial liability in relation to the incident.

Kellar’s defense attorney, Mark J. Loughran, had no comment on the case following the plea.
Kellar admitted in court to creating concern to the public by intentionally being loud and taking disruptive actions on the night of the incident.
– – –

Five charged in Oxford robbery police say never happened
Published January 20

OXFORD – Five people were arrested after police accused them of interfering with an investigation into a robbery at the Oxford Quickway – one they say never took place.

Saturday afternoon, the Oxford Police Department was contacted by three people from Norwich who reported a mugging that took place while they were pumping gas at the Oxford gas station.
Police Chief Richard Nolan said they investigated the incident for two days, interviewing witnesses, reviewing surveillance footage and actually locating the suspected thief.

But police ended up arresting the three people who made the complaint, saying it appears they created it out of a personal vendetta.

Police arrested 34-year-old Bobbi L. Conant, 30-year-old Gary L. Nichols Jr. and 18-year-old Sadie M. Migdal, all living at 23 Division St., Norwich, and charged them with third degree reporting of a false incident and making a punishable false written statement, both misdemeanors.

According to their original complaint, Conant was pumping gas and holding about $70 cash in her hand while the other two waited inside the vehicle. The three said a unidentified woman approached Conant and grabbed the cash from her hand and ran towards Main Street. An hour later, after returning to Norwich, they contacted police, said Nolan.

Nolan said the alleged robber had a personal relationship with the defendants that they never acknowledged during the investigation.

“They said it was an unidentified woman, but it now appears that indeed these individuals were very familiar with each other, even friends with each other. There was a certainly a personal connection,” he said.

Nolan also said police found evidence to suggest that the woman accused of the robbery actually traveled from Norwich to Oxford with the defendants and got out of the car at the Quickway following a personal dispute.

“No supporting evidence was discovered of any robbery at the location after reviewing videotapes and talking to eyewitnesses. We also received testimony from other individuals involved in this case that contradicted the defendants’ story, and then found evidence that led us to believe it was manufactured by the defendants,” said Nolan.

After taking the three into custody Monday, two other people were charged in the case after they went to the Oxford Police and began fighting with officers and refused to leave the police station.

Police charged a husband and a friend of the defendants with second degree obstruction of government administration after they allegedly began harassing officers as they attempted to process the first three defendants.

Sherman Conant, 48, of 23 Division St., Norwich, and JoAnn Beeching, 59, of 17 Prentice St., Norwich were both charged with hampering the investigation after refusing a police order to leave the area, said Nolan.
Bobbi Conant was arraigned in Village of Oxford Court and remanded to the Chenango County Correctional Facility in lieu of $2,500 cash bail.

Gary Nichols Jr. was arraigned in Village of Oxford Court and remanded to the Chenango County Correctional Facility in lieu of $1,200 cash bail. All other individuals arrested in the case were released.
– – –

Defendant in $25,000 cocaine bust pleads guilty
Published January 12

NORWICH – A Norwich woman charged in a $25,000 cocaine bust admitted to being a drug dealer last week and named her alleged co-conspirators in a plea deal with prosecutors.

Twenty-year-old Curissa Jenkins of 31 Hickok Ave., Norwich, appeared distraught in her early December court appearances leading up to last week’s guilty plea. She tearfully argued with attorneys and family members who urged her to cooperate with police as she sat in the Chenango County Supreme Courtroom awaiting an appearance a few weeks ago.

On Dec. 23, Supreme Court Judge Kevin M. Dowd approved a request by Public Defender Alan Gordon that granted Jenkins a temporary release from the Chenango County Correctional Facility, where she was being held on $100,000 cash bail, so she could go home for the holidays. She was ordered to return to jail by Dec. 26. After turning herself back in to authorities, she accepted the plea arrangement.

Jenkins pleaded guilty to fifth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a D class felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of two and a half years with one year of post release supervision.

Jenkins avoided the top charge originally filed against her by Chenango County Sheriff’s investigators, second degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a Class A-II felony, which could have carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison. Those are charges her one-time boyfriend and alleged co-conspirator, 28-year-old Michael Victor, still faces.

On March 27, the Norwich Police Department, with assistance from the New York State Troopers, Chenango County Sheriff’s Office and the Greene K-9 unit, forced their way into two separate apartments in the City of Norwich at 72 Plymouth St. and 31 Hickok Ave.

Police found Victor and Jenkins at their Hickok Ave. address and discovered a stash of illegal substances and paraphernalia at the Plymouth St. apartment.

Investigators at the time contended that the two kept two separate apartments in the city of Norwich – one where they lived and another allegedly used as a front to store and sell narcotics.

Norwich Police later discovered a storage unit in the Town of Norwich rented in Jenkins’ name. They found a 2004 Mercedes Benz coupe with three loaded firearms inside, a Tec-9 machine pistol with a large capacity magazine, a .357 revolver, a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol and $25,000 of wrapped crack cocaine inside the car.

“Ma’am at the time the warrant was executed, who was in the building with you?” asked District Attorney Joseph A. McBride in reference to her original arrest.

Jenkins responded by saying Victor and her little sister were in the home at the time police stormed inside.
“At that time, ma’am, you and Mr. Victor were selling cocaine in the Norwich community?” asked McBride.
“Yes sir,” answered Jenkins.

McBride noted to the court that investigators were seeking two defendants in the case, both of them brothers and both of them named Michael Victor.

“Just so it’s clear for the record, there was another Michael Victor involved in the ongoing sale of cocaine, but he was not present at the house, is that right?” asked McBride, which Jenkins confirmed with a yes.
“There was also another person who was involved with selling cocaine, it was the other Michael Victor’s girlfriend, a Miss Casie L. Brooks, is that right?” McBride asked and again Jenkins said “yes.”

Before the plea, police had not named the two other alleged co-defendants now sought in connection to the case. Brooks was indicted Oct. 28 for third degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a B class felony, and fourth degree conspiracy, an E class felony, for allegedly selling cocaine on Feb. 6 of 2009.

The Chenango County Correctional Facility reported Tuesday that Brooks was being held at the facility on $50,000 cash bail.

Gordon said Brooks’ boyfriend, the second Michael Victor named in the case, was still at large and believed to be in the New York City area.

His brother, Jenkins’ boyfriend, remains incarcerated at the county jail on $100,000 bail.

Following her plea, Jenkins was released and McBride said her sentencing would be completed after the co-defendant’s cases were resolved.

McBride said Jenkins agreed to forfeit all the seized property, including the sports car, with the exception of a few personal belongings that would be returned in the plea.

McBride also reserved his right, on the record, to bring back more severe charges if Jenkins failed to cooperate with investigators.
– – –

And the ugly…

Man punches Walmart employee after being stopped for shoplifting
Publish date Dec 2

NORWICH – A Walmart security employee was punched by a customer while intervening in a shoplifting Saturday.

The Chenango County Sheriff’s Office arrested 23-year-old Anthony R. Botte II of Harpursville and charged him with third degree assault and attempted petit larceny, both misdemeanors.

Botte was arraigned in Town of Guilford Court and remanded to the Chenango County jail in lieu of $2,000 cash bail. Police identified a codefendant, 21-year-old Manda L. Andreas of Harpursville, as Botte’s girlfriend and charged her with attempted petit larceny before she was released.

A statement from the sheriff’s office reported, “(Botte) was caught trying to shoplift at Walmart then punched the Walmart employee who stopped him from stealing items.”

Chenango County Sheriff Lt. Richard Cobb said the couple were attempting to conceal stolen clothing beneath their own clothes when a Walmart “asset protection” employee spotted the two. Cobb said the man confronted the two defendants inside the store and asked them to turn over the stolen merchandise.
“The confrontation was tense and following a brief verbal dispute, the incident became violent when one of the defendants attacked the employee, grabbing him and striking him,” said Cobb.

Cobb said coworkers and other customers in the area came to the man’s aid and broke up the fight. He said the 34-year-old employee received only minor injuries in the fray.

Botte is scheduled to appear in Town of Norwich Court Thursday at 4:30 p.m. to answer to the charges.
– – –

Alleged panty thief released despite victim concerns
Published October 20

NORWICH – A man accused of breaking into a woman’s home to steal her underwear was released without bail from the Chenango County Correctional Facility Friday at the strenuous objection of prosecutors and as the victim’s family expressed concern for her safety.

City of Norwich Police arrested 21-year-old Joshua D. Derouchie of 7 State St., Norwich, on Sept. 4 after they received a complaint that he was posting offensive images of the victim online.

Police said they discovered the posted images contained articles of clothing that were stolen from the victim’s home more than a year earlier.

Assistant District Attorney Michael D. Ferrarese told Chenango County Court Judge W. Howard Sullivan that Derouchie had admitted to breaking into the victim’s home on two of the three alleged incidents.
He also said the defendant told investigators he committed sexual acts with the clothing before posting pictures of the victim and her garments on the Internet. The ADA then said Derouchie encouraged others to commit similar sexual acts with the images online.

Derouchie was charged with two counts of second degree burglary and one count of third degree burglary, all felonies. One of the second degree burglary counts was listed as a sexually motivated crime and may require Derouchie to register as sex offender for no less than 20 years if he is convicted.

Defense Attorney Frank Revoir asked for his client’s release, saying he had already served 60 days since his arrest.

“This is a man accused of breaking into a woman’s home a year and a half ago and stealing undergarments, who was arrested weeks ago after he took pictures of the victim and her clothing and posted them online,” said Revoir.

Revoir pointed out that a number of people in the audience were there to support Derouchie, including the defendant’s mother.

“He cooperated with law enforcement and came into the PD before being charged. Again, he’s a young man that one and a half years ago he walked into the back door of someone he knew, into their home, which is still technically a crime,” said Revoir.

The defense attorney also said Derouchie was enrolled in college and working at the time of his arrest. Revoir said a number of people were willing to vouch for his client if Derouchie were released into their custody.

Ferrarese noted for the record that the DA’s Office “strenuously” objected to the release and said the victim in the case never shared any relationship with the defendant calling Derouchie, “a stalker.”
“We believe this obsession needs to be treated immediately,” he said. “The defendant has broken into a home, on more than one occasion, for the thrill of stealing underpants.”

Sullivan also asked Norwich Police Chief Joseph Angelino for his recommendation in court.

Angelino responded by saying, “He’s done a lot of damage by using the Internet and posting those photos. The genie is out of the bottle.”

Angelino recommended that if Derouchie was released, the court should deny him access to the Internet and computers.

Ferrarese said the victim in the case was “too horrified” to come to court. Sullivan asked her mother, who was in court, to speak on the family’s behalf.

“I’m here to tell you the biggest thing we’re facing right now is a fear for (victim)’s safety. I hope this court will protect her,” she told the judge. “I put my faith in your judgment to protect her.”

Sullivan responded, “You tell her we will, that we have.”

Sullivan issued an order of protection on the victim’s behalf, banned Derouchie from Internet use and told the mother he was looking at “an extended period of incarceration,” if convicted.

“But this is a country where people are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said Sullivan before releasing Derouchie to the custody of a relative in Oxford.
– – –

Drunk driver charged in connection to stolen vehicles, porn and handgun
Published October 12

NORWICH – New York State Police arrested an armed Norwich man for drunk driving Friday after he got in an accident with a stolen pick-up.

State Police Sgt. Elizabeth R. Wonka said the incident began Friday afternoon when a Town of Norwich resident complained that an unknown man in a pick-up truck was intentionally destroying his lawn. The victim told police the truck was spinning its tires and performing other erratic maneuvers.

“The trooper was investigating a criminal mischief complaint involving destroyed property; a resident complained a vehicle was in his yard, destroying it and ‘doing donuts,’” said Wonka. She added that the victim in the case did not appear to have a personal relationship with the defendant.

Before police could arrive, the suspect’s vehicle drove off. While investigating, police received a second 911 call, this time reporting a single truck roll-over on County Route 33 in the Town of Norwich.

Police arrived at the scene to find a pick-up resting on its roof and its tires covered in mud. Wonka said the investigation indicated the same driver was responsible for both incidents.

Police arrested the operator, 25-year-old Robert V. Shenise Jr. of Norwich, and charged him with fourth degree criminal mischief and driving while intoxicated.

Wonka said Shenise took an alcohol breath test and had a blood-alcohol level more than double the legal .08 limit. He was charged with another count of aggravated driving while intoxicated for having a blood alcohol level above .18.

Wonka said the pick-up truck involved in the accident was reported stolen and that Shenise was armed with a loaded .45 caliber handgun, which had also been reported stolen.

Police charged him with three additional felonies: fourth degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of grand larceny. He was also charged with a number of traffic infractions.

Chenango County Sheriff’s Lt. Richard Cobb said deputies were searching for Shenise the night before, saying he was caught on surveillance video allegedly stealing merchandise from Adult World in Norwich. Cobb said an SUV located in a gas station parking lot near the adult store was then stolen 20 minutes after the store theft. The stolen SUV was later discovered in the Town of Sidney.

“We believe this individual was responsible for both acts Thursday night and was again involved in additional incidents Friday,” said Cobb. Cobb said the office had an open warrant for Shenise’s arrest prior to his Friday arrest and more charges would be filed.

Shenise was arraigned in Town of Norwich Court and remanded to the Chenango County Correctional Facility on $50,000 cash bail. He will appear in Town of Norwich Court at a later date.
– – –

Fight breaks out in front of funeral home, stops traffic
Published March 12

NORWICH – Norwich City Police Officers were drawn into a family feud at a funeral home Thursday afternoon, arresting two people following a street brawl that halted traffic and involved a crowd of about 40 people.

Norwich Police Chief Joseph Angelino, who was the first officer on the scene, said mourners began trading blows with each other over a personal disagreement that involved several others grieving at the service at around 12:45 yesterday.

The fight was taken into the path of oncoming traffic from the sidewalk along Rt. 12 in the City of Norwich, in front of the R.J. Fahy Funeral Home, halting both lanes for several minutes.

Eyewitnesses, who did not wish to be identified, said the crowd followed the combatants into the street with some people taking sides in the altercation, others attempting to break it up and some just looking on or shouting. They reported seeing people wrestling on the ground, throwing punches and choking each other during the fray.

Angelino said it took three officers to pull the feuding parties apart and that police fought with people to gain control of the situation. One of the arrested men was pepper-sprayed by officers.

“Incidents like this are not unheard of, but they are rare. Periods of mourning are emotional times for people, but his incident was the most extreme I’ve seen,” said Angelino.

Police charged Keannu J. Spencer, 19, of 910 Reit Rd., Smyrna, with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Joshua J. Clifton, 29, Cicero, was also charged with disorderly conduct over the incident. Both men were released and will appear in court at a later date.

Police did not say what started the fight, except that it was a personal matter between the parties involving recent death of a loved one.
– – –

Editor’s Notebook: 12/30/10

Thursday, December 30th, 2010
Jeff Genung

• Welcome to my penultimate Editor’s Notebook for 2010. I’m calling just about everything “penultimate” today because I really, really like that word.

• Perhaps the biggest news of the day that didn’t make the paper was that we apparently ran out of coffee in the office this morning. I say “apparently” only because I’ve long since abandoned drinking the company-provided swill myself; I bring my own from home. But I well understand the importance of keeping the underlings caffeinated at all times – especially on deadline. “Overheard in the Newsroom” is a popular blog some of us follow on Facebook, featuring bon mots from the biz. A recent one advised, “Don’t think of coffee as an addiction; think of it as vaccine against being a bitch.” Ahem. Thank you, Pam Jones, for making that dangerous trek across the parking lot to steal some java from the Pennysaver. Crisis averted.

• The “Thumbs” thing kills me, it really does … as you can read in Melissa’s blog today. I spared them the torture last week because I always run “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” on Christmas Eve. Why I spared them for tomorrow, I’m really not sure – but it’s too late to go back now, I guess.

• Be sure to stop by your local newsstand tomorrow for our special “Year in Review” New Year’s Eve edition. Oh, and it’s also got our latest “DVD Patrol” team up with our friend The Toddster – highlighting our favorite movies of 2010. Clearly, the ES crew needs to get out to the movies more often judging by some of their dubious picks, but hey. And, I suppose it goes without saying, but I will just to say that I did – The Evening Sun’s offices will be closed Friday in observance of New Year’s Eve (but some of us will still be toiling away behind locked doors). Back to business as usual on Monday!

Thumbs thumbsthumbsthumbs THUMBS

Thursday, December 30th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Want to get the unadulterated opinions of the Evening Sun’s intrepid reporting staff on the week’s stories? Look no further than Friday’s page 4, under the heading, “Thumbs.” Thus called because each reporter gives their thumbs up and/or thumbs down to topics of the week.

Thumbs are something you either love, or you hate. Our readers love them – even when they disagree with the expressed opinion. In those instances, they often LOVE to take us to task on what they feel are our mis-guided notions on the topic of the day.

We reporters, however, hate them. Why, I’m not really sure. On the surface, you’d think we’d relish the chance to share our opinions on the topics we strive hard to be unbiased on in our news stories for the sake of journalistic integrity. The only other opportunities we have for this are in our columns and blogs. Well, that and our Facebook gripes, but that’s hardly “official.”

Maybe it’s that by Thursday, when we are called upon to write these pithy little pieces we’ve already put the topics out of our minds. Or perhaps that this forum, more than any other, seems to draw the wrath of those who don’t agree with our opinion. (Although I have to admit it’s funny when people call 30 seconds to complain they can’t figure out the identity of who wrote what “Thumbs” segment. I mean, seriously, is it that difficult to figure out who MS is?)

For whatever the reason, my co-workers and I struggle to write our Thumbs each week. Much to our esteemed editor’s chagrin, I might add. He can’t seem to comprehend why we – who profess to love writing and in fact do it daily – have such a hard time coming up with two paragraphs on subjects which we are already well versed.

Yet, without fail, the looming deadline finds at least some of us hemming, hawing, hunting and, yes, even sometimes negotiating for something to write about. Which is why we collectively heaved a sigh of relief today when Jeff informed us we wouldn’t be required to fulfill this portion of our job description – for the second week in a row.

The only problem? I’d actually already gotten a head start on the task. And I had a really good Thumbs Up, too. So I thought I’d share.

On Wednesday, I had the chance to watched members of the Central New York chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart honor Vet’s Home resident William Barden with lifetime membership in their organization. It was more than touching, particularly since Barden was so thrilled to finally become a part of this organization. “You dream about these things for years, and don’t expect them to ever happen,” he said, commenting that it felt like Christmas. How could that not put a smile on your face?

So my Thumbs up goes to Vet’s Home Activities Director Allan Hopson for helping to “connect the dots” and Nelson Fox, Joe Fraccola and Vincent Egresits of the MOPH CNY Chapter 490 for making this man’s dream a reality. He and all those who have sacrificed so much for our country deserve more than just recognition. They deserve more than just a simple “Thumbs Up.”

They deserve our undying gratitude.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Editor’s Notebook: 12/29/10

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
Jeff Genung

• No blog yesterday, because I took the afternoon off. Took advantage of a slow news day to use up some more of that use-it-or-lose-it vacation time. Now that I mention it, why am I here right now?

• Working on our special “Year in Review” edition for Friday, for one thing. My trusty staff and I brainstormed our “Top Ten” stories of 2010 last week, and you’ll get to read our picks on New Year’s Eve. Say what you will about our sleepy little burg, but we sure don’t lack for news.

• This week being a notable exception, of course. Faced with filling our “For the Record” page this morning, I remarked aloud, “No one’s even bothering to die this week!”

• Quite a bit of “30 Seconds” flack on that story we ran about the city considering a flashy LED advertising sign north of town. Prediction: It won’t happen. It was just an outside company making a presentation to the city council, folks. I’m pretty confident our city leaders would be just as uncomfortable as the rest of you with leasing city property for a tacky neon sign – advertising local businesses or not.

Random Monday musings

Monday, December 27th, 2010
Brian Golden

Some random thoughts on this chilly (more like frozen) Monday following the Christmas holiday…

OK, so I understand that some people take advantage of the week between Christmas and the New Year to go on vacation, visit family or whatever it is people who actually get out of town do, but I didn’t realize the entire city was going on hiatus. For the first time I can remember, I didn’t have a single e-mail in my inbox when I got in to work this morning. On top of that, I haven’t received a single e-mail all day – unheard of.

As to Christmas, my mom, Steve, Grammy and I had a wonderful Saturday morning and afternoon – opening presents, spending some quality time together and enjoying another in a long line of fantastic holiday meals prepared by one of the best cooks I’ve ever known, my mom.

With our Progress Chenango deadline just over the horizon, I’m feeling pretty good as it pertains to setting up interviews and working on the information I’ve gathered to date. However, if this trend of nearly-every-living-soul-in-the-city-going-into-hibernation (or wherever it is everybody disappeared to) well, let’s just say I’ll start feeling a bit nervous.

Speaking of nerves, these nightmares I’ve been having lately need to stop and stop right quick. I’m fairly certain they’re related to my continued effort to quit smoking (which is going quite well by the way) but that’s no consolation at this point. In addition, I’d really like to stop dreaming about work, especially those six to eight hours when I’m trying to rest up for the next day at the office. The alien invasion/vampire attack/jumping out of a perfectly good airplane dreams are just fine, just no more of the I’m-chained-to-my-desk-while-that-countdown-to-destruction-voice echoes over the intercom (probably Progress related, I’m guessing).

On a happier note, I received my share of tickets (10) for my performance with the Master Thieves on January 8 at the Westcott Theater, one of my favorite places to play. Great line-up of bands for our next jam and I’m excited that Jake from Dark Hollow will be joining my fellow Thieves and I until we find a new bassist. Should be a fantastic outing to say the least.

And those are my musings on this extremely cold, blustery, nasty winter day here at The Evening Sun. I think tonight’s agenda will include a hot dinner, a couple of blankets and a movie or two. Unless, that is, I get sucked into Book 12 of the Wheel of Time series, which I purchased with a $25 gift certificate I received on Christmas. Thanks mom and Steve!

Editor’s Notebook: 12/27/10

Monday, December 27th, 2010
Jeff Genung

• I know you await these little daily missives with bated breath, but don’t expect Tolstoy this week. Traditionally, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is pretty sloooow in The Evening Sun’s offices. Not only do you have the post-Yuletide stupor, but you’ve also got miscellaneous vacations, lots of pre-Progress planning and more than a few curiously silent phones.

• No longer silent, of course, are the ES Forums, which went back online today after an all-too-brief hiatus over the weekend. And already, less than eight hours into it, I’ve received three “reports” – i.e. users tattling on other users for some perceived offense. Yeah. You’re seriously making me rethink why we offer this forum on our website at all, folks.

• Coming up next week, to liven things up a bit, we’re starting a seven-part series on natural gas drilling called “Boon or Bust: What Does the Future Hold for Chenango?” A couple weeks ago, my intrepid reporting staff traveled to both Dimock and Montrose, Pa., regarded to be the “ground zero” for natural gas drilling in the region. They talked to a lot of people to get a first-hand account of what Chenango County may or may not look like down the road. I think you’ll be surprised by some of their findings. It’s good work. The series will run on Thursdays, starting Jan. 6.

Christmas miracles

Friday, December 24th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

You know those harried shoppers, reeking of desperation and despair, who brave the stores on Christmas Eve? Yep, that was me last year. And the year before. And the year before that….

But not this year. Nope, you won’t find me scurrying around in a frantic last ditch, last minute attempt to find something, anything for the last few people on my list. Why? Because this Christmas is one for the record books.

For the first time in the history of the world, I managed to finish my shopping before Christmas Eve. And get this, I’m even done wrapping! They always say this is the season for miracles. Well, this is mine.

I’m not trying to gloat, believe me. I’m just as shocked and awed as the rest of you. Just yesterday, I lamented in my column about having too many things on my holiday to-do list, and far too little time to do them in. But then the stars aligned and here I am, practically weeping with holiday delight. Maybe the big guy (either the one upstairs or at the North Pole) read yesterday’s edition of The Evening Sun, and took pity on me. I don’t know. And I’m not about to question my good fortune. I’m just going to bask in it for awhile.

Heck, I’m so suffused with Christmas glee that I don’t even mind being in the one half of one percent of the free world’s work force that has to work today. It’s only a half-day after all, and before you know it I’ll be back home enjoying this festive day with my family. (The other half of my Christmas miracle was that my brother Dennis, his wife Lisa and my niece Madison pulled in the driveway at about 9 last night. Right after I’d finished my wrapping.)

I’m anxious to get home to them all, but right now I’m merrily tapping away on my computer with my holly-festooned Santa’s hat on my head, sipping my morning coffee out of a holiday- themed mug and humming some classic Christmas tunes. Hoping, of course, that any minute now Jeff will come out of his office and tell us it’s time to go home. And, telling us to go ahead and take Monday off as well.

Now that truly would be a Christmas miracle. Or at least it would be if I wasn’t already using one of my precious floating holidays to take it off.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2010

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
Patrick Newell

– For a third straight week, a Norwich athlete will receive our weekly honor as athlete of the week. It’s no fluke either. While other area athletes are definitely putting up numbers worthy of consideration, it is hard to pass on the performance of our honoree tomorrow, who is racking up numbers against the best competition of any area boys team. Check out the article in Friday’s edition.

– The past two or three years, it has seemed that foul shooting on the high school level has taken a downward turn. You would think that a straight-on, wide-open 15-foot shot with no defender and no movement but your own would ensure a high level of success. Measuring this year’s statistics through the first four weeks of the basketball season, no team – boys or girls – averages better than 68.1 percent (Norwich), and for the girls, no team is shooting better than 64.8 percent (G-MU).

Here is the breakdown for each area team we cover in order of success rate:

Boys: Norwich, 68.1 percent (90-for-132); Oxford, 67.4 percent (60-for-89); Bainbridge-Guilford, 67.0 percent (61-for-91); Otselic Valley, 58.1 percent (43-for-74); Unadilla Valley, 56.9 percent (41-for-72); Greene, 54.5 percent (36-for-66); Sherburne-Earlville, 51.7 percent (46-for-89); and G-MU 43.5 percent (17-for-39).
Girls: G-MU, 64.8 percent (35-for-54); Norwich, 61.2 percent (87-for-142); Bainbridge-Guilford, 60.5 percent (46-for-76); Sherburne-Earlville, 55.4 percent (31-for-56); Unadilla Valley, 49.5 percent (54-for-109); Greene, 49.2 percent (32-for-65); Oxford, 44.4 percent (52-for-117); and Otselic Valley, 28.5 percent (8-for-28).

The facts are that only three boys’ teams average better than 60 percent from the foul line, and only four girls’ teams average better than 50 percent as a team. Norwich’s high rate can largely be attributed to its top-two free-throw shooters, Dennis Oralls and Kyle Edwards. Oralls and Edwards are a combined 54-for-63 on the season accounting for 47 percent of their team’s foul shot attempts. If you take those two out of the mix, Norwich is shooting, as a team, just 52 percent from the foul line.
G-MU’s girls lead the back on the strength of senior guard Tanya Barnes. Barnes has 28 foul shot attempts, better than half of her team’s, and is shooting 24-for-28, a nifty 85.7 percent. When Barnes is not at the foul line, the Raiders’ team foul shooting percentage dips well below 50 percent.
Overall, Chenango County’s girls shoot just 53.3 percent from the foul line, while the aggregate of the boys is 59.9 percent. Perhaps young cagers should spend more time practicing their foul shooting rather than spin moves, crossover dribbles, and long-range three-pointers. The statistics speak for themselves.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat