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2016 in review: Parks, animal abuse, mail changes

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Trevor Suk cuts a piece of wood to be used on a new playground that was being built in October at Montgomery Park on Elm Street in Dryden.

With three new parks and changes to mail service, 2016 was not a year for maintaining the status quoe in towns and villages.

C’ville plans for park, sports complex

In 2015, Cortlandville traded the 6.1-acre Citizens’ Park on Route 281 for 90 acres at the northwest corner of Gracie Road and Route 13 that Gutchess Lumber owned.
The town in 2016 began developing some pretty big plans for what to do with the land.

Cortlandville officials want to build a sports complex with six multi-use fields, four baseball fields, a maintenance and administrative building and walking trails connected to the Lime Hollow Nature Center’s trail network.

In November, the Town Board invited Cortland city and county officials to hear from Chicago-based consultants who prepared a feasibility study projecting the $10 million project would generate an annual income of $2.4 million, $7.3 million in economic activity and $770,000 in state and local tax benefits.

The town plans on spending this year getting the money to pay the cost.

Dryden volunteers build playground

In May, Dryden had just $12,000 to build a new playground at Montgomery Park. Five months later, it had 10 times that amount and hundreds of volunteers to do the work.

During the first week of October, volunteers spent money and labor to give kids a place to play.

“When I was a kid in school I remember watching a wooden playground being built thinking, I want to go help them build it, and now I am,” said Trevor Suk, a construction worker from Freeville, who did for free what he normally gets paid for.

Designers from Play By Design went around to elementary schools in Dryden to ask kids what they would like the playground to be.

Groton volunteers build playground, too The planning took 10 years; the construction just a few days. Groton kids now have a new place to play.

More than 140 volunteers filled Groton Memorial Park in the second week of October to assemble the playground.

The village received a $140,000 state grant and worked with Parkitects Inc., a playground design company in Lansing, to design and build the playground. The project improved the pool area with a new pump and bath houses. And it created the playground, which includes eight new swings and two play areas.

Karen Armstrong, Parkitects’ project manager, said the play areas are split, one for kids ages 2 to 5 and the other for kids ages 5 to 12.

The plan was 10 years in the making, said village Recreation Director Jennifer Jones. The volunteers kept construction ahead of schedule.

“It has been a long time coming,” Jones said.

Mail boxes restored in Preble

Preble residents now have a safe and accessible place to pick up their mail since their post office boxes were moved to the Preble Town Hall after months of uncertainty and dealing with federal bureaucracy.

Officials had been trying to move the boxes to Town Hall, where the U.S. Postal Service already has a part-time office, after the former location, Uncle Tom’s Family Grocery and Deli at 6785 Route 281, closed in May.

The boxes had been moved to a gas station on Route 281 in Little York, but residents had expressed concerns about safety and accessibility given heavy traffic.
After months of correspondence with Postal Service officials and intervention by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the town persuaded the federal agency in November to move the boxes.

143 alpacas found dead in Marathon

Investigator Bill Carr walked the farm on a dark night in March and found the alpaca’s body, frozen and stuck to the ground. Then another. And another. By the time his investigation was over, he found 143 dead alpacas at a Marathon alpaca farm, with just 20 survivors around them. They had starved to death.

The trial for the Marathon man accused of letting the 143 alpacas starve won’t begin until at least next month, nearly a year after investigators found the animals’ frozen corpses.

Dayton L. Wood pleaded not guilty in Marathon Town Court. Wood, formerly of 4000 McMahon Road — the alpaca farm he managed — was charged with 143 counts of animal cruelty, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

He remains free without bail. He refused a plea agreement in August that would have required him to plead guilty to all 143 counts and serve a year in jail, the maximum sentence.

Wood was accused of failing to provide adequate food or veterinary care for the herd he managed for farm owner Sam Groome.

When Carr, an investigator for the Cortland Community Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, gained access to the property March 10, he found the survivors. The necropsies showed the animals, 44 of which were pregnant, died of a combination of malnutrition and pneumonia, Carr said. Evidence suggests Wood stopped feeding the alpacas months before they were discovered March 10.

Groome had estimated the value of the herd between $600,000 and $700,000.

For more of 2016’s top stories, check out our year-in-review roundups.

Tyrone L. Heppard and Todd R. McAdam contributed to this report.

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