January 15, 2008


Bakery adds story to developing museum


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jane Durkee Edlund listens as Jerry Antil speaks during a presentation at the Center for The Arts in Homer, Monday afternoon. Antil, whose father was an executive with Durkee Bakery, and Edlund, whose parents started the bakery in Homer, announced that a Durkee Bakery display will be part of the CNYLiving History Center, along with Brockway Museum.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Hugh Riehlman can still remember the smell of the bread from the once vibrant Durkee Bakery as he got off the school bus in Homer in the 1950s.
“It’s something I will never get out of my nostrils,” said Riehlman, the chairman of the Homer-Cortland Community Agency Inc., the group overseeing the development of a museum complex to house historical artifacts from around the area.
Monday, the HCCA along with relatives of those associated with the Durkee Bakery, announced that memorabilia, photographs and archival materials would be donated and displayed in a section of the Central New York Living History Center, which is scheduled to open sometime in 2009.
“Collections such as the Durkee collection will add further draw to the museum,” said Zack Becker, president of the Homeville Group, which is overseeing a portion of the museum complex. “We want to expand the museum to include some of the things that might be forgotten.”
The living history center plans to encompass exhibits examining the agricultural and industrial aspects of the region with Brockway Trucks, Ken Eaton’s Homeville antique military and rail history collection, antique fire trucks owned by Mahlon Irish of Homer, antique clocks made by Central New York clockmakers from the 1820s through 1850s, tractors from the Tractors of Yesteryear group, and now, items from the Durkee Bakery that will be displayed alongside the Homeville collection.
Jerry Antil, whose father was a partner in the bakery, handling the marketing aspects, said he is hoping to get a Peterson oven and original Durkee truck to place in the museum to go along with photographs, stories and other memorabilia collected and gathered in recent years.
“We have to follow the past to know the future. Jane and I are working feverishly to try and collect things,” he said, referring to Jane Durkee Edlund, whose father was Albert Durkee, partner in the bakery.
“We want to bring a feeling that we all came from a dynamic past. The Durkee Bakery made major contributions to families, bringing jobs. We want this to be a legacy.”
The Durkee Bakery began as a small cake shop in Homer in the 1920s. But in 1931, Albert Durkee and Michael Antil became partners and opened a larger bakery on James Street. The business eventually became one of the largest in the United States, introducing the name Duncan Hines into the baking world.
The Duncan Hines line was sold off to Procter & Gamble in 1955 and in 1957, the bakery purchased the former Beaudry wallpaper factory between Elm Street and Clinton Avenue and moved there in 1960.
The family sold the bakery in 1972 to a Midwestern firm and the bakery was abruptly shut down that October. The building is now the site for the East End Community Center.
Between 300 and 350 people were employed at the bakery in 1972, according to County Historian Jeremy Boylan.
Antil, who lives in Dallas, Texas, and works in marketing, suggested the HCCA bring in creative and interactive aspects to the museum complex, such as a simulator that children can go in to experience what it was like to drive a Brockway truck.
“All’s I am hoping is that you keep looking and digging to bring everything to life. Kids today want action. They want to know something, they want to learn,” he said.
Antil said that the museum has endless possibilities and could do wonderful things for the community financially, culturally and historically.
He cited a 2003 Historic/Cultural Traveler study by the Travel Industry Association and Smithsonian Magazine that found 81 percent of the 118 million U.S. adults who traveled in 2002 were considered cultural travelers and by visiting historic and cultural attractions, would stay longer and spend more money than other kinds of tourists.
“People who have an experience will tell at least seven people something good or bad about that experience,” Antil said. “And you know what that is called in the marketing field — word of mouth.”
Becker said the final design of the museum complex has not been completed yet and there have already been discussions on bringing in a simulator and other attractions to the museum, which is located on nearly 6 acres at the former A.B. Brown property on Route 11 in Cortlandville.




Tax breaks sought for 2 city projects

IDA spilt over agreements for clock tower building, Pendleton Street apartments

Staff Reporter

The developer planning to rebuild the historic Squires Building and the company proposing an apartment complex on Pendleton Street are seeking property tax breaks, and the local agency with the power to grant them is divided over whether it should approve the requests.
Local developer John Scanlon is seeking a 10-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement for his $3.5 million to $4 million project to rebuild the Squires Building at the corner of Main and Tompkins streets.
He wants a 10-year agreement in which he would pay no property taxes the first three years, 25 percent the next three years, 50 percent the next two years and 75 percent the last two years.
With a PILOT on the project, which is expected to be worth $1 million after a citywide reassessment, Scanlon would be paying $118,000 in property taxes over 10 years.
That is about 50 percent more than the amount of property taxes the empty lot is generating, Scanlon said.
Scanlon presented an informal request to the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency at its regular board meeting Monday.
Karen Niday, Empire Zone coordinator and former interim IDA executive director, recommended the IDA not approve a PILOT. She said Scanlon is already eligible for Empire Zone benefits, the first floor of the building would be retail, which PILOT’s typically should not go toward, and it is not guaranteed the 24 jobs his project is supposed to create would be new ones, she said.
It could start a bad precedent, she said. “Before you know it, the whole downtown is in a PILOT,” Niday said.
IDA Chairman Paul Slowey said he was skeptical of Scanlon’s request, but first wanted more financial information from Scanlon.
Scanlon disagreed with the board’s reluctance to grant the PILOT, saying the project would likely create new jobs and businesses. It would also contribute to downtown’s vitality, he said.
“People working there will be spending dollars in the downtown area, and also the tenants who live above,” Scanlon said this morning.
Scanlon said without the PILOT, he could face difficulty securing a loan and convincing the state he should get final approval for the $2 million grant preliminary approved for his project in October 2006.



Homer village OKs $2.3M  budget

Staff Reporter

HOMER—The Village Board unanimously approved a $2.3 million general fund budget for 2008-09 Monday evening that raises the tax levy 8.5 percent.
The vote came after a public hearing at which three people voiced their opinions.
Janet Steck complimented the board on a well-prepared budget  and commended it for working on a comprehensive plan with Thoma Development Consultants.
“I think it’s going to create a wonderful opportunity for the village to expand its tax base,” Steck said.
Meanwhile, Priscilla Berggren Thomas, library director for the Phillips Free Library on South Main Street, and Jane Nichols, a library board trustee, asked the board for more money for the _library.
Under the 2008-09 budget, the village is giving the library $30,000, the same amount it gave last year.
But costs have gone up significantly for the library, the women said, since renovations for the fourth and biggest phase of the library’s renovation project were completed in September.
Nichols said after the meeting that lighting and maintenance costs have almost doubled. Those higher costs can have a direct effect on the number of programs the library offers and people it employees, she said during the public hearing.
Trustees did not increase the funding.
“We would give the library more but we’re on a barebones budget,” Mayor Mike McDermott said.
Overall, the village cut spending by 2 percent from this year to next year.
McDermott said the Village Board met between 10 and 12 times to prepare the budget, and toward the end it was digging deep to cut pennies off the tax rate. He said every $1,000 cut equals a 1 cent drop in the tax rate.
Savings were made by not giving the police department a new vehicle; not replacing a full-time employee who retired; and not providing the water and streets departments with new equipment.
“This is the hardest one we’ve had,” McDermott said of the budget process. “There are so many things people wanted.”
The proposed $2.3 million general fund budget, a 2 percent decrease from this year’s budget, increases the tax levy to $1.2 million.




City hosts first of assessment meetings

Staff Reporter

City resident Tony Pace had his concerns about the 2008 reassessment project, but after attending the first of many public information meetings Monday night, Pace said he feels a lot better about the plan.
“I just wanted to understand the assessment project and get answers right from the person that is doing the work,” said Pace, 55, of East Court Street. “It’s a lot fairer of a process than I originally thought.”
Approximately 10 other residents joined Pace at the meeting at the East End Community Center on Elm Street, where City Assessor David Briggs explained the citywide reassessment and addressed any questions or concerns raised.
Pace asked Briggs how different types of properties are compared to one another, such as a two-family home and a one-family home.
“The state system we use has a property classification code for each type of property,” Briggs said. “So two family-homes are compared to other two-family homes; and three-family homes to other three-family homes.”
The reassessment is being conducted on all of the city’s 5,099 properties and is costing $60,000. All assessments are based on the market value of each parcel, and the assessor looks at both the grade and the condition of the property.
Briggs said in 2007 the average city parcel was assessed at 70 percent of its market value. Reassessing brings properties back up to 100 percent of the market value.
All exemptions would also be adjusted for the reassessment, Briggs said.
“It’s true that the national average of real estate is down, but not here in Cortland. We haven’t seen anything like that here yet,” Briggs said. “The 2006 to 2007 sales show about a 7 percent increase. One thing we don’t want to do is overestimate the value of the market.”
The new assessments will first be taken into account for the 2009 city and county and 2008-09 school tax levies, Briggs said in December.
After the reassessment is complete, the state will reimburse the city approximately $25,000, which is $5 for each parcel.




Cooper Tools gives Lime Hollow $5,000

Staff Reporter

The local Cooper Tools plant has donated $5,000 to Lime Hollow Center for Environment and Culture after receiving the money from its parent company for efforts to lessen the plant’s impact on the environment.
The money helped the nature center complete its visitor center conference room, which is now fully furnished.
The Cleveland Street plant has awarded the nonprofit at 338 McLean Road the $5,000 it won for a 2007 Environmental Excellence Silver Star Award from its parent organization, Cooper Industries, in April.
Cooper Tools did not have the cost of the new process available this morning, though the environmental and long-term financial benefits outweigh the cost, according to Chris Mullin, safety environmental coordinator for Cooper Tools.
Cooper Industries, which makes industrial and marine hardware, including pullies and clamps seen on fishing boats, had the choice of donating the money to any local conservation or environmental education effort.
Mullin said it was easy for the company to decide on Lime Hollow.
“Lime Hollow was probably the only nonprofit agency in the Cortland area that what they do has environmental impact,” he said.
The money went toward an Adirondack-style table that local craftsman David Mead made out of twigs, chairs, a computer video projection device, a white board, a sink area, a refreshment area, a refrigerator and a cherry wood floor.
The work was completed in December, a dedication ceremony will take place Monday and an open houses for businesses and nonprofit agencies will take place in the room in early February.
The room is now open to local business people and individuals looking to rent out conference space. It provides something that cannot be found elsewhere else in Cortland County, said Lime Hollow Executive Director Glenn Reisweber.
The space is smaller and more intimate than what is offered elsewhere, catering to groups no larger than 50, Reisweber said, and gives groups a chance to complement work with recreation.
“What we offer is a natural off-site setting, and the ability to hike trails and watch birds in the bird garden,” Reisweber said.