Friday, July 25, 2008

Volunteer First Responders

This legislation may be a good sound-bite for co-sponsor NYS Senator Seward and Governor Patterson, but I can't imagine it's actually going to help our volunteer firefighters and EMTs. From the Ithaca Journal:

A bill [S4617A] that recently passed both houses of the state Legislature and was signed by Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday will give volunteer firefighters and EMTs expanded opportunities to secure health insurance... By allowing volunteer fire and ambulance companies to access the health insurance plan offered to municipal employees, volunteers will be able to purchase health insurance at a group cost.

Here's the full text of the bill:

AN ACT to amend the general municipal law, in relation to the establishment of a volunteer firefighter and ambulance worker health program.

The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

Section 1. Section 92-a of the general municipal law is amended by adding a new subdivision 7 to read as follows:

7. The provisions of this section shall apply for coverage of volunteer firefighters, as defined in section three of the volunteer firefighters' benefit law, and volunteer ambulance workers, as defined in subdivision one of section three of the volunteer ambulance workers' benefit law, provided however, that the total cost of participation by such volunteers and their families shall be borne by such volunteers.

Section 2. This act shall take effect on the one hundred eightieth day after it shall have become a law, provided however, that nothing in this act shall be construed to affect any existing enrollment periods in effect within any political subdivision.

That's it. That's the entire law. I'm hunting for Municipal Law Section 92-a. I suppose it has to do with who's eligible for municipal health insurance coverage. But it appears to me that six months from now, volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers can ask the Town to provide health insurance for which the volunteer will pay the full price.

First of all, Town of Dryden employees are all covered by Teamsters health insurance and we're only allowed to cover a limited number of non-Teamster members. Maybe we can work that out with the Teamsters.

Secondly, the Teamsters insurance is pretty expensive. I'll check the rate later today. But it's hundreds of dollars a month. I wonder how many volunteers who need insurance could afford that?

So, it sounds to me like it's up to local government again. Let's find out if providing health insurance would help in recruiting and retaining volunteers. If it will, let's figure out how to do it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Things Take Time...

On West Wing staffers referred to Friday press releases as "taking out the trash." Stories released on Friday don't get as much attention over the weekend as weekday stories. That seems to be the fate of Friday's story about the EPA's report on the public welfare threat of global warming. I heard about it on The News Hour. But PBS didn't post it on the website. This LA Times article is very similar to the PBS story. This NY Times article has a different perspective.

As I understand it, last year the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are air pollutants subject to federal regulation under the Clean Air Act. If the EPA finds they are a threat to the public, the court said, the agency is required to produce regulations to reduce the risk. Apparently, the EPA report found that indeed, greenhouse gases are a public threat but that the Clean Air Act is inadequate to address the issues. Incidentally, the report released Friday called "Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" triggers a 120 day period allowing for public comment.

All this relates to a comment Councilperson Makar made last week just prior to the Town Board meeting: "Why can't we get anything done?" (He might have said it louder than that.) His frustration surrounds a number of good ideas that have grown into proposals and stalled there. Several of these hinge on putting to use a substantial fund the town has accumulated from repayments of former HUD loans.

David did a great deal of research for these proposals last year. And Jason Leifer has joined in the effort to put together proposals for:
  • teaming with Tompkins County Area Development to make at least one substantial economic development loan,
  • teaming with AFCU in a program to make matching grants to small businesses
  • small grants to low and moderate income households to make home improvements related to energy conservation.
Given all the development work David did last year, you'd think seven months in 2008 would have been enough to get the programs off the drawing board. But, no. One of the obstacles is that we don't have a staff member committed to economic development or housing. So, all the work has fallen to board members who have other full time occupations because their town salaries are about $500 a month. Furthermore, the Town Board meets only once a month. In addition to these three programs, last week's agenda included at least ten other major issues and several less critical ones. We try, and often fail, to keep the meeting under four hours from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM. That doesn't leave much room for discussion and action.

(Crossposted at Five Wells)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dryden News

Congratulations to Ann Leonard and Friends of Hammond Hill State Forest. Ithaca Journal reports that they have received an $8,600 grant from the New York State Horse Council to repair Hammond Hill trails. I know they've been working on this grant for a while and I'm happy to see their efforts rewarded. It's a great example of residents accomplishing a project without government help (or hindrance.)

The Journal also reports plans for celebration of Freeville Fire Department's 100th Anniversary beginning with a parade at 11:00 and carrying on through fireworks after dark. It's another example of residents working to make the community a better place. The Town of Dryden provides financial support to the Freeville Fire Department (and the other three department in the Town of Dryden) but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the volunteer efforts of the people who respond to emergency calls, maintain the equipment and the station, participate in ongoing training and carry on the countless thankless administrative tasks needed to keep this service strong in the Freeville area.

More later, perhaps, on the four and a half hour town board meeting last night - my second consecutive thirteen hour day. For now, I'm going to go relax in the garden.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Population Trends

Ithaca Journal has an article this morning from Albany headlined:

Census: NYC grows as Upstate cities shrink
This is the kind of article Simon would have loved before he had so many more important things to think about. To the Journal's credit (and I can't remember if I've ever said that before) the subtitle is: "Ithaca one of few to grow" and they include a table of data from Tompkins County and the towns and villages in the county.

A look at the data shows that NYC grew by .3% since 2000 while Tompkins County grew by 4.7%. The increase is distributed throughout the county ranging from 11.1% growth in the Town of Ithaca to 1.1% and 1.2% respectively in the towns of Groton and Newfield.

It's interesting to me that the Village of Cayuga Heights (in the Town of Ithaca) grew by 12.3% while the populations of all other villages in the county remained nearly unchanged. That's a trend we hope to change as more towns adopt land use plans to encourage growth in villages and hamlets.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I really miss Simon's pointers to articles of interest in the Ithaca Journal. But since I'm forced to try to keep up with local news on my own, I must say the new Ithaca Journal format is much improved. From the front page, you can scroll down to "Communities" and click on Dryden for specific Dryden stories (though you get more if you actually search on "Dryden" or "Freeville."

It's worth mentioning that the Cortland Standard has better local news - but the website only gives you the headlines. You need the print edition for the actual news.

Reminder: A Recreation Masterplan Visioning Session will be held at the Varna Fire Station tonight at 7:30. We had a similar session last month at Town Hall but very few people from the west side of town attended. I know Town Hall seems like it's on the other side of the world for people in the south west part of the Town of Dryden. So, we're trying to make it easier for you to participate in long range planning recreation in the Town. Please come.

Reminder: This month's Town Board meeting is THURSDAY at 7:00 at Town Hall. We changed the dates of the July and August meetings to accommodate Steve Stelick's fierce loyalty to Wednesday night Music in the Park. If you're free tonight because you were planning on coming to the board meeting treat yourself to Music in the Park. Tonight it's Greg McQuade.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


I've been to a number of good meetings recently.

Last week town officials met with representatives of TC3, the Village of Dryden and neighboring property owners including Willowbrook and the fire department to consider development of a trail from the TC3 dorms to Neptune Drive. Lots of good ideas and concerns arose. Is it a nature trail or a way for TC3 students to get to the village or both? Will it reduce pedestrian traffic on Lee Road? Are there safety issues? How much will it affect wildlife habitat? No answers yet. But enough interest to pursue the idea.

Monday (usually my day off) I met with zoning and planning officials and the consultants working with the Planning Board on implementation of the Comprehensive Plan to review preliminary concepts involved in updating zoning ordinances. Again, lots of ideas and questions. How to preserve the rural character of the town without infringing on landowners rights? How to protect agricultural land and activities and encourage development in areas already developed.

Monday night Varna residents met with the Tompkins County Planning Department and Transportation Council to look at the Rt 13/366 Corridor Study. There are two approaches to dealing with Rt 13/366 traffic: land use policies to guide development along the corridor and traffic calming tools to enhance safety in populated areas like Varna. Residents are primarily focused on safety: traffic lights, sidewalks and speed limits.

Last night a small group met at the Dryden Cafe to talk about ways to address child health and obesity. Predictably the discussion focused on nutrition and recreation. Many existing programs and opportunities in Dryden were identified. The task ahead is to get more people to participate.