October 22, 2021

Tell us your top stories of the year

Click here to rank your stories

Never mind that auld acquaintances thing. Every year about this time, editors tell reporters to list their best stories of the year.

Partly, that’s because nobody can ever get a source in the week between Christmas and New Year’s and these stories fill space. Mostly, however, it’s a good time for journalists — and a community — to assess the year with cool heads and figure out where a community really is headed.

This year, we want you to tell us what you think. Here are our candidates for biggest news of the year. Email us your rankings of the top 10 at news@cortlandstandard.net, or click here to rank them on our online survey.

We’ll tell you what your neighbors think later this month, as we tell you what we think, too.


Heroin comes to roost: After watching heroin use sweep the nation, the drug finally roosts in Cortland County. Eight overdose deaths in 2016 cause concern and program changes in 2017. Public officials begin to treat addiction as a health issue, not a crime issue.

Floods: Moravia sees two major floods in July. One storm drops up to 3 inches on Cortland County, causing nearly $1.8 million in damage in Harford and Virgil, damage the Federal Emergency Management Agency won’t help repair.

Great graffiti spree: Two men are charged in a four-month spray-painting spree in downtown Cortland. Jacob A. Vassalotti, 21, of Cortland, and Mark E. Southworth, 22, of Cortland, both faced felonies.

Arson plea: Brian Bermudez accepts a plea in October following a 2016 fire that killed a neighbor. He was making meth that started the fire Sept. 2, 2016, in a historic building in downtown Homer, killing Dewayne Block, 81. Bermudez will be sentenced Jan. 4 to five to 15 years in prison.

Hit by car: Sidney McGowan, a 20-year-old SUNY Cortland student, crosses Tompkins Street about 6 p.m. Nov. 11 and is struck by a vehicle. Police cite darkness and heavy traffic as contributing factors, but calls are renewed to improve safety on Tompkins Street.

March snow storm: Cortland County closes — streets, roads, schools businesses (except us) — March 14 when 25 inches of snow blanket the area. It is one of the worst storms in the county since the Blizzard of 1993 dropped 38 inches.


Homer village returns to town hall: After a seven-year absence, Homer’s village offices will return to Homer Town Hall. The $350,000 to $400,000 project would renovate the century-old building after years of negotiations, debates and studies.

Dryden development: Debates over development are central to Dryden. A commercial solar energy facility and proposed natural gas pipeline lead to an acrimonious campaign season, where Democrats sweep town elections.

Cortlandville lawsuit: Cortlandville business owner Gregory Leach loses his appeal in June of a 2016 ruling that the town improperly granted permits to let him expand his business, Leach’s Custom Trash Service. Later, a judge annuls permits granted in January following the first ruling. Leach, a town board member, recused himself from votes and discussion of the project.

Democrats win in Cortlandville: For the first time in more than 50 years, a Democrat wins town office in Cortlandville. Doug Withey wrests a seat on the Town Board from incumbent Greg Leach. Democrat Lenore LeFevre defeats Robert DeMarco to become town justice.

Nonprofits on Homer Avenue: Developer David Yaman and a consortium of nonprofits announce a $5.5 million plan in November to fill a Homer Avenue plaza with day-care programs, apartments for abused women, historical exhibits and a year-round farmers market, re-developing an underused property.

Mullen Office Outfitters to close: Fritz Mullen, 94, announces in November the pending closure of his store, Mullen Office Outfitter, which has been a fixture on Cortland’s Main Street for 104 years.


Cortland wins $10 million: Cortland wins a competitive, $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces in October. The grant would fund yet-to-be named projects that could bring another $50 million in investment and lay the groundwork for a generation of economic development.

Cortland Regional Medical Center announces affiliation plan: Cortland County’s largest private employer, 740 workers, announces a plan in September to affiliate with Guthrie healthcare of Sayre, Pennsylvania. The four-hospital, 45-site health network would invest $41 million into the 162-bed Cortland hospital, which lost more than $10.4 million last year.

McNeil and Co. Inc: Construction accelerates on a $7.2 million project by McNeil and Co. Inc. to re-develop seven buildings on Main and Church streets to protect 100 jobs and allow for corporate growth.

Crescent Commons: Construction begins in September to turn the former Crescent Corset building on south Main Street into a $16.3 million mixed-use building with 47 apartments and 104,000 square feet of commercial space.


Eight new legislators elected: One resigns; three choose not to run; three lose primary races and two lose in the general election (one who lost a primary, too). When tallied, the Cortland County Legislature will see eight new legislators — nearly half its number — starting in January.

Flow control implemented: Ending (and beginning) years of debate on easing an $800,000 deficit in solid waste operations, the county Legislature approves in August a law requiring trash haulers that collect Cortland County trash to use the county landfill, bringing in an estimated $650,000 a year.

Jail design picked: Twenty-five years after it opened, and 20 years after it began housing more inmates than it had capacity for, debate on renovating or replacing the Cortland County Jail comes to a head. A committee picks a 148-bed, $49.8 million facility. However, a months-long delay adds millions to the cost.


Cortland considers school space: The Cortland City School District, facing $37 million in renovations, considers space needs, including developing a middle school and closing an elementary.

Truxton Charter School denied: On its fourth attempt to get the state Board of Regents to consider its application to create a charter school at the former Hartnett Elementary in Truxton, the application is denied. The school’s organizers promise a fifth try.

TC3’s new president: Carl Haynes retires Aug. 31 after 48 years at Tompkins Cortland Community College, 23 years as president. Orinthia Montague replaces him.

Ruscio retires from Homer: Nancy Ruscio announces her retirement as Homer Central School District superintendent, a position she has held since 2011.

Sherwood leaves Dryden: Dryden Superintendent leaves Sept. 1 to become superintendent of the Herkimer Board of Cooperative Educational Services.


Todd R. McAdam is managing editor of the Cortland Standard. He can be reached at tmcadam@cortlandstandard.net