October 19, 2021

County building gets new entrance

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Cortland County maintenance mechanics Tim Villnave, left, and Allen Pankhurst, assemble a counter Tuesday at the new main entrance to the Cortland County Office Building. A metal detector used at the second-floor entrance to the Department of Social Services has been moved into space once occupied by the Cortland County senior center in a $40,000 project to improve building security.

The room smelled of freshly cut lumber, with just a touch of paint. Maintenance mechanics Tim Villnave and Allen Pankhurst continued assembling a countertop Tuesday adjacent to a metal detector.

Entering the new entrance to the Cortland County Office Building, visitors will walk — or roll — down a ramp, past the counter and through the metal detector. A few feet farther on, they’ll leave what was once the Cortland senior center and have access to the rest of the building.

Off to one side, three small, windowless rooms were vacant. They’ll be used for interviews, or brief meetings that don’t require giving a person access to the building, another nod to security.

And it all cost perhaps $40,000, said county Maintenance Supervisor Chuck Miller, a fraction of the $1 million or more estimated for a similar project just a few years ago. That came because the county staff knew the building, knew the room had been the women’s gymnasium and had room above the ceiling they could use.

During a Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting Tuesday, Miller said maintenance workers were working with the Sheriff’s Office to make sure the metal detector was properly installed and creating a counter for the officers to use.

“We’re really in finishing mode,” he said.

Construction of the new entry way has been ongoing since August. The entrance change is part of a project to improve safety. Pre-coronavirus, people would enter the building and sign in with an officer before heading to whichever department they needed to. The new entrance would mean every visitor goes through the detector.

Miller said he believes the entryway will be finished before the end of November. However, that doesn’t mean it will see use right away. County Administrator Rob Corpora said it is likely the county will continue using the gym to screen people coming into the building.

“It’s going to be at least through the end of this year, probably a little bit longer, as long as the number of cases still remains high,” Corpora said. “It gives us a larger area to socially distance as well as keep people in out of the weather to keep them warm.”

Legislature Chairman Paul Heider (RCuyler, Solon, Truxton) said there are talks to keep using the gym into next spring and summer.

“Before we have a vaccine available, we’re not going to be able to thwart this COVID and I can’t see doing anything different until we have a vaccine,” he said.

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Managing Editor Todd R. McAdam contributed to this report.