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Heading into harvest season, we cannot forget the fact that many of our farmers are facing tough times. That’s as true across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions as anywhere else throughout New York State and the nation.
Turning it around requires action at every level of government and within the agricultural industry itself. Many responses are underway. Many more are needed.
At the state level, lowering the cost of doing business in New York would be helpful. So would regulatory reform, enhanced consumer awareness, and ongoing, overall strong support in government for pro-farm policies, programs, and services.
The last thing New York State can afford is to stop investing in programs and services vital to the future of farming and agriculture. Recall that back in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed deep cuts in state funding for numerous ag-related programs and services. In fact, the governor has made similar proposals for the past several years, and they make no sense. If enacted, the governor’s agricultural cuts would do great harm to many rural, upstate communities.
We have to keep New York’s priorities straight. This includes continued strong support for the agricultural industry and our farmers. This year I was grateful to join many upstate Senate colleagues to ensure that, once again, we said “No” to Governor Cuomo. The Legislature rejected the governor’s call to cut or eliminate millions of dollars in funding for programs and services that have become fundamental to the future of agriculture in New York State.
We rejected proposed cuts for initiatives, programs and services like the Wine and Grape Foundation, Farm-to-Seniors Assistance, Tractor Rollover Prevention Program, FarmNet (Farm Family Assistance), and the Diagnostic Lab at Cornell University. Additionally, the governor proposed to cut or eliminate funding for other vital Cornell research and study programs invaluable to the dairy industry among other critical agricultural challenges including food safety research and study, disease detection and prevention, honeybee die-off, invasive species, pesticide use, and rabies prevention and treatment.
Since 2011, Senate Republicans and I have led the fight to restore more than $50 million in budget cuts proposed by Governor Cuomo, increase funding for many programs and services, and spearhead new initiatives. Among others, I have been particularly grateful to reach across the aisle to work closely with legislative colleagues and the Cuomo administration, particularly the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, to position New York State at the forefront of a revitalized industrial hemp industry that has the potential to diversify our agricultural economy, generate revenue, and create jobs. We are moving forward to ensure that the development and growth of the industrial hemp industry will provide valuable new economic opportunities and a competitive edge for Southern Tier and Finger Lakes farmers and agribusinesses.
The 2018-19 state budget also provided a badly needed increase in funding for NY FarmNet, which was founded in 1986 by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University as a lifeline for farmers to help them weather the crisis of a struggling farm economy. This mission remains as necessary as ever before. Every farmer here at home and across New York should know that FarmNet is available as an important source of free, confidential assistance. Just call 1-800-547-3276, or visit https://www.nyfarmnet.org.
Another of this year’s critical actions increased, for the first time in decades, the school lunch reimbursement rate. K-12 school districts purchasing 30 percent of their lunch ingredients from New York farms will be eligible to receive a state reimbursement of $0.25 per meal—four times the amount currently provided per meal. The budget also doubles state funding for Farm to School grants.
We are fortunate to have a nationally leading agricultural industry, one that is a mainstay of our culture and economy. We need to keep taking every step that we can to ensure that famers will always have the opportunity to keep their land in farming and to create new opportunities for future farmers.
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Hiawatha Island… The name alone brings to mind a land of legends and visions from a long-ago era. Did the legendary Hiawatha ever frequent its shores? Not likely. But, it is believed the Iroquois nation once used the island as part of their homeland. Artifacts found in its soil from bygone eras have been donated to the collections at both Binghamton University and the Tioga County Historical Society museums.
The Big or Great Island, as it’s been called, comprises 112 acres in a beautiful tranquil setting. A few miles east of Owego proper, it’s surrounded on all sides by the Susquehanna River flowing west. Once a bustling retreat for locals and tourists alike, it contained a beautiful three-story hotel and meandering sylvan paths with the island’s dock reached by steamboats throughout the summer months.
Earliest records for the island note that Britain’s King George III issued a mandamus (a writ directing a lower court to perform a specific act) dated January 15, 1755, deeding land, including the island, to the Coxe family in exchange for their territory in Georgia, the Carolinas and the Bahama Islands. By 1821, the Coxe family had surveyed and divided the land into small farms with the Big Island designated as lot no.120.
Moving to Lounsberry in 1969, I did not pay much, if any, attention to Hiawatha Island during my high school years in Owego, NY. However, about 15 years ago, I discovered a [supposed] ancestral tie that piqued my interest in the island’s history. My earliest genealogical research found a McNeill family paper filed at both the Tioga County Historical Society in Owego and the Schoharie County Historical Society at the Old Stone Church in Schoharie, NY. This paper claimed that a Ruth McNeil, b. 1782 in Weare, New Hampshire, was the daughter of my John C. and Hannah (Caldwell) McNeill of Weare, Londonderry and New Boston, New Hampshire. Ruth was noted to have married Matthew Lamont(e). (Note my specific use of one or two “L’s” in the McNeil versus McNeill name.)
This is where due diligence pays off in checking all genealogy sources yourself. The person filing that family paper did not reply to my inquiry in 2002. Digging deeper, I found and purchased a McNeil family history from the Montgomery County Historical Society in Fonda, NY simply to see if that family held clues to my own. However, that historical writeup is about the family of John and Ruth McNeil of Vermont who lived in Fulton, NY, with that genealogy listing a daughter Ruth who the researcher was unable to trace further.
From personal extensive research on my own McNeill family, it is proven that John C. McNeill and Hannah Caldwell married May 8, 1781, that their first daughter, Betsey, was born December 5, 1781, and that she was adopted by Hannah’s childless older sister, Elizabeth. In checking late 19th century census records for Matthew and Ruth LaMonte’s children, they note their mother was born in NY, not NH. With the above John and Ruth McNeil’s family history listing a child named Ruth of whom nothing more was known, I felt there was sufficient circumstantial evidence for Ruth (McNeil) Lamont to be their child rather than a daughter of my John C. and Hannah (Caldwell) McNeill. Furthermore, John C.’s family did not contain the name of Ruth in any older or younger generations as does the Vermont McNeil family. Of additional interest, my earliest ancestors and their descendants consistently spelled their name McNeill while John and Ruth’s descendants consistently used McNeil.
Matthew and Ruth LaMonte removed from Schoharie County to Owego, Tioga County, NY in the early to mid 1820s. The second registered deed to the Big Island, dated June 23, 1830, is to Matthew and Marcus LaMonte. Matthew was the husband of Ruth above. Their son Marcus had at least three children: Abram H., b.1831 on the island, Susan Jane b. 1834 (as a teacher, one of her students at the Owego Academy was the young John D. Rockefeller), and Cyrenus M., b.1837. Cyrenus purchased the Big Island in 1872 just before its commercialization commenced in 1874 with picnics and summer events.
The earliest known birth on the Big Island was that of Lucinda (Bates) Lillie, born August 16, 1800. It is also known that various squatters took up residence on the island, particularly when owners were absent, making good use of the fertile river-loam farmland.
Another tie of note to the island is that of Ezra Seth Barden who was born in 1810 at Lee, Massachusetts. In 1833 he brought his young bride, Catherine Elizabeth Jackson, to Owego where they set up their home on the Big Island. She just happens to be a second cousin of U. S. President Andrew Jackson.
The LaMonte family had their main farm directly north of the island where Rt. 17C runs near Campville. They retained a few acres on the island after selling the rest in 1831, selling that small balance of acreage in 1834. From my previous research, the LaMonte family operated a ferry across the river to the island. In 1840, with her five children, Mrs. William Avery Rockefeller (the former Eliza Davison) removed from Moravia, NY to Owego, renting a house on the LaMonte farm. One of her sons, John Davison Rockefeller, Sr., 11 years old at the time, often worked for pennies a day on the LaMonte farm. Born July 8, 1839 in Richford, NY, John D. Rockefeller, world-renowned founder of Standard Oil Company, went to the Court Street Owego Academy, was tutored by Susan Jane LaMonte at her home, and often kept in touch with her on his returns to Owego as an adult. Another student of renown who taught at the Owego Academy was Benjamin F. Tracy, Secretary of the Navy under President Benjamin Harrison.
The former Owego Academy at 20 Court Street is an old brick building still very much in use, nicely remodeled, repainted, and well kept over the years. It was in this Federal style building (built in 1827-28) where I began my secretarial career in 1972 as a high school senior. I worked part time, then full time after graduating high school, for Lewis B. Parmerton, Esq., gaining valuable knowledge from his experienced secretary, Kathy. My desk was at the second window to the left of the front door on the first floor, looking out on two tall buttonwood (sycamore) trees which are now gone. The basement then housed the N.Y.S. Department of Motor Vehicles where I obtained my learner’s permit and driver’s license.
I will also never forget the sale of a particular old building on Front Street along the river’s edge to Pat Hansen. After all paperwork had been completed and signed, and Ms. Hansen had left, Mr. Parmerton stood in the office with us two secretaries, shaking his head, “I don’t know what she wants that old building for.” Little did he, or Kathy and I, realize then, but Pat Hansen turned her building into the extremely successful store, “Hand of Man,” spurring on the revitalization and growth of Owego’s Front Street businesses which continues to this day! I love poking around in the “Hand of Man,” enjoying the delicate and gorgeous one-of-a-kind gifts.
But, among the antiques in the Parmerton office was an oil painting of the Owego Academy, with two young sycamore/buttonwood saplings which stood in front of our office windows. I cannot find a copy of this painting in an online search. The building’s tin ceilings were high and ornate. There were beautiful fireplaces, an old Seth Thomas pendulum clock, an 1850 map designating every road and building in Tioga County, and Mr. Parmerton’s office/library was lined with bookshelves filled to the high ceiling, rolling ladders needed to reach the upper shelves. The floors were wooden, uneven and squeaky in places, with a beautiful dark wood banister going up the stairs to the second level.
In fact, taking the stairs to the upper floor, I had occasion to enter the office of two elderly attorneys, the Beck sisters. I remember Rowena Beck, the first woman lawyer in Tioga County. The sisters’ grandfather was Professor Joseph Raff who, in 1875, composed the Blue Tassel Quadrille for the start of a new season on the Great Island. Of further interest, Sedore notes that Raff was the brother of Joachim Raff, an accomplished orchestral composer, who just happened to be “a personal friend of Franz Liszt and Hans von Bulow.” (Sedore, p.23) Small world indeed! Little did I then know the history I was working amongst!
When speaking of the island’s early years, one must also include reference to Joseph Shaw DeWitt, or “Old Joe” as he was otherwise known. Coming from Binghamton to Owego about 1841, he was an actor, fireman, businessman and restaurateur. On the side, he made and sold cough drops in a box which looked much like the Smith Brothers box, along with cream candies, and beer. He owned a restaurant on Lake Street, but it was at his hotel on Front Street in Owego which began the greatest period of Hiawatha Island’s history. Here, on August 5, 1873, a number of businessmen met to form a stock company with the purpose of building a steamboat intended for trips on the Susquehanna River between Binghamton, NY and Towanda, PA. They approached Cyrenus McNeil LaMonte, who had purchased the Great Island in 1872, and thus began the island’s “most flamboyant years.” (Sedore p.5)
The Owego Steamboat Company had its first boat ready by the end of February 1874. The “Owego” was 75 feet long, 26 feet wide, capable of carrying 200 passengers. Unfortunately, she did not have the most auspicious start to her career. Putting the “Owego” into the river with 20 men aboard on April 6th was the easy part. All too soon, however, they realized her paddlewheels were too light and frequently simply stopped moving. But, that was easy enough to rectify – a man lay down on top of each wheel house, pushing the paddle wheels with his hands to keep them working! What a job that must’ve been!
Having finally gotten the “Owego” into deeper water, things only went downhill from there. As they tried to bring her back to shore, someone misjudged and she stopped with a sudden thud on hitting the embankment. This sent several of the men sprawling flat out on the deck. Deciding to take the flatboat to shore (towed behind for emergency situations), the men got safely onto this small boat – only to find it couldn’t handle their weight, and it promptly sank. With chagrin, their only option left was swimming to shore, likely glad it was the middle of the night with few fans around to observe the indignity of it all.
Sixteen days later, though, the “Owego” was steaming to Binghamton and back, and the Big Island was being cleared of brush where a dance hall and restaurant were to be built. “Old Joe,” the first caterer, fed all picnickers who came to the island for its opening day on Wednesday, June 10, 1874. Professor Raff’s cornet band provided entertainment on the “Owego”. Ever the entrepreneur and entertainer, “Old Joe” was ready for customers wearing Indian feathers and war paint on his face, and dubbed his restaurant “Hiawatha’s Wigwam.” Hiawatha Grove was the name for the eastern end of the island and of the train station on the opposite north shore (off Rt. 17C near Campville). Soon, though, the Big Island began to be known by the name of Hiawatha Island thanks to the showmanship of everyone’s favorite businessman, “Old Joe.”
Over the ensuing nearly 20 years, the Hiawatha House hotel was built and eventually expanded to three stories with a dance hall, restaurant, and honeymoon suites, with its front balconies overlooking the river. Gravel strolling paths were made, with small “arbors” built along the paths to sell confections, cigars and lemonade. Games were played on the lawns of the island, and scull races were held on the river. Clam bakes were also quite popular, as was the dancing held until the early morning hours, keeping the steamboat busy at the dock. Many businesses and churches from local and numerous outlying communities soon found it a popular picnic destination spot over the years.
In 1875, a new and better dock was built. It was 75 feet long with thirteen 16-foot-long piles driven to a depth of 10-1/2 feet. Sedore comments that nine of these original piles are still visible when the river level is down. This was another boom year for the island. In September, the “Owego” was sold with plans in the works for a new steamboat, the “Lyman Truman,” bigger and better at 120 feet long. She was launched March 9, 1876 from the riverbank just west of the Owego bridge, taking far longer to do so than expected. She broke the ropes as she lurched forward, gliding about a mile downstream before being stopped and held in place. Her engine and boiler were not yet completed; sadly, these, too, met with misfortune. The day before the “Lyman Truman’s” launching, the boiler exploded while being tested in a machine shop on Hawley Street in Binghamton. Parts flew upward and outward, some landing 500 feet away, another part embedded itself into the roadway, severing a gas pipe with noxious fumes filling the air. Two people were killed instantly, a third soon died from his injuries, and ten others received various light to severe injuries.
By mid May, the “Lyman Truman” had a new boiler in place, just in time for the island’s full season. This was 1876, our nation’s centennial year, and celebrations were being held everywhere, with the island no exception. A great loss, however, was the passing of “Old Joe” in April, but the island’s summer calendar moved forward. The Hiawatha House hotel had just had its third floor added and was ready for the grand opening on June 7th of Hiawatha Grove on the Big Island. About 2000 people came for the July 4th centennial celebrations on the island. Even with a brief heavy shower, everyone was in high spirits. The Declaration of Independence was read along with prayer, a song, and a lengthy speech. Croquet and various lawn games were played, and bands provided music for dancing couples, along with a great deal of delicious food being consumed by those enjoying the day’s events.
Every year, travel to the island was enjoyed by thousands. There were other steamers like “Helen,” “Welles,” “Glen Mary,” “Dora” and “Clara,” with the “Marshland” in use for the 1884 season after the “Truman” had been sold. In 1883, the crowds virtually disappeared with the “Lyman Truman” having been sold, as complaints began surfacing of island/hotel mismanagement in 1882. Now, with the “Marshland” operating in 1884, business picked up again with its 4th of July celebrations reportedly being better than ever with 3000 tickets sold for the day! People were coming from as far away as Elmira, Carbondale, PA, Auburn, NY, Waverly, Candor, Cortland, and, of course, Binghamton, Owego and Nichols. The Grand Army Association held its annual reunion of Civil War veterans with tremendous crowds attending. In fact, by the end of the 1884 season, “the Hiawatha House hotel register [showed] that…people had come to the island from twenty-six states and nine foreign countries.” (Sedore, p.85)
In August 1887, Cyrenus LaMonte sold the Big Island, now known as Hiawatha Island, to Dr. S. Andral Kilmer and Company of Binghamton who later sold his half to his brother, Jonas M. Kilmer, in 1892. Apparently, Kilmer had stated he hoped to build a sanitarium on the island. Though the 1888 season was a great success, the island was never again used as a summer resort. The Big Island’s greatest days were unexpectedly silenced forever.
The Kilmers made no announcements or promises for opening the 1889 season. The steamboats were leased or sold. Boats were not allowed to dock at the island by the Kilmers, and no one was allowed entrance to the island to observe how their work was coming on the new sanitarium. “The 1889 season came and went without the usual excursions to Hiawatha House and the grove. There was no dancing, bowling or billiards. Hiawatha was closed to the public.” (Sedore, p.111) Though small groups were occasionally allowed entrance to the hotel, the demise of the island’s success was obvious. Instead, the Kilmer family used it as their private family retreat.
Sedore includes an 1890 photo of the Hiawatha House (Sedore, p.121, fig.32). Near the dock at the river’s edge, she stood tall, an elegant lady in white, an impressive four stories, with first and second floor balconies, and fourth floor dormers. In 1900, the island was sold by Jonas Kilmer, and a succession of various owners filed through the property in the ensuing decades. Hiawatha House was taken down in 1932 after falling into disrepair as other outbuildings either burned or collapsed with age. Aerial photos from 1900, 1937, and 1955 show how few trees remained on the island. From the highways today, it’s hard to tell what the interior of the island looks like beyond its border of trees along the river’s edge. It has been used during the 20th century for private family retreats and camping to dairy farming.
I also recall that Hiawatha Island went on the auction block on August 20, 1988 following financial difficulties by its then current owner. Inquiries about purchasing the island came from Japan and the Arab countries, with an ad in the Boston Globe bringing ten phone calls in two days. Having heard a local land developer intended to purchase the island to strip-mine it, the Historic Owego Marketplace, Inc., also known as the Hiawatha Purchase Committee (a non-profit group of Owego business people), decided to purchase the island to protect it. They barely managed the successful bid at $351,000; yet, with a 10% buyer’s premium, the total purchase price was $386,100. Ultimately, the final cost was over $700,000 with interest payments and other expenses.
Numerous people, volunteers, and businesses came together to help raise funds to pay off the purchase price, an accomplishment many thought impossible. A good number of fundraisers were held, with Noel “Paul” Stokey (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) coming to town to give a concert. After four years, the fundraising group was able to pay back those who had kindly loaned money to the purchase committee. An annual “Walk Through Time” was held on the island along with a Native American Pow-wow.
When the Hiawatha Purchase Committee paid off their debt for the purchase in 1993, they turned their ownership over to the Waterman Conservation Education Center in Apalachin for perpetual conservation. The purchase committee insisted on restrictions to keep the island in a natural state forever, and that the name would always be Hiawatha Island. Waterman Center’s director, Scott MacDonald, has said, “From a naturalist’s standpoint, we preserved a very unique piece of land for the community. It truly is the ‘jewel’ of the river.” (Life in the Finger Lakes.com) “The Waterman Center plans to use the island for education classes on Native American civilizations, conservation, wildlife, and perhaps archeology.” (Sedore, p.220) In 2006, a family of bald eagles was actually spotted living on this now-protected island! And, I’m sure that many more eagles have made the island their home since then.
What a legacy the Hiawatha Purchase Committee has left us for the future. In allowing the island to rest without commercial traffic, its use strictly limited under conservation guidelines, this gem of the Susquehanna once again shines in its natural state.
BOOK SOURCE: Hiawatha Island: Jewel of the Susquehanna by Emma M. Sedore, pub. Tioga County Historical Society, March 1, 1994.
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Chemung County Legislator Marty Chalk pleaded with county officials to find ways to improve their relationship with the City of Elmira during Tuesday night’s presentation.
At a meeting of the Legislature’s Budget Committee on Tuesday night, Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli and Deputy County Executive Mike Krusen presented a proposal to change the way sales tax revenue is shared among the county, the City of Elmira and the remaining towns and villages. If approved by the legislature, the proposed changes would remain in effect for six years. A video of the presentation can be viewed here.
In order to discuss the proposal, it is important to have a basic understanding of how sales tax allocation currently works in Chemung County. Most of this information can be found in a report by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) that was released in January, 2018 and can be found here.
The current sales tax rate in Chemung County is 8%, comprised of a 4% county sales tax (the “local share”) and a 4% state sales tax. Prior to enforcement of the Financial Restructuring Plan in 2015, the county retained 62.5% of the local share, and 37.5% was given to its municipalities, including the City of Elmira.
Today, three years after the Financial Restructuring Plan went into effect, the county retains 74.2% of the local share, with just 26.6% going to its municipalities. In other words, sales tax revenue going to the municipalities has decreased by 10.9% at the same time the county’s portion increased by 11.7%.
To compare this data in dollars rather than percentages, the county retained an additional $3,500,000 of gross sales tax revenue before accounting for the value shared service agreements since 2015, while revenue flowing to its municipalities decreased by the same amount, figures set forth in a letter from Krusen accompanying the CGR report (included in the link above.)
As their revenue streams have decreased, many municipal officials have stressed the need to revise the current sales tax allocation formula regardless of whatever offset they may have received through shared services. However, as I described in detail in a blog post last week (found here), county administrators have been adamant that changes to the sales tax plan are unnecessary – until now.
Indeed, in the letter accompanying the CGR report, Krusen states that the county did not intend to make any changes to the sales tax plan until at least 2019 in order to allow for further studies of the current plan’s efficacy:
“Since 2018 marks the last scheduled sales tax formula adjustment and the full impact of these modifications need further observation and monitoring it would not be prudent to consider any further adjustments to the County sales tax formula that is current law. There should be an extended period for additional review of impacts to municipal services, property taxes and reserve accounts to determine the full impact of formula adjustments.
This review function can best be accomplished through the development of a Council of Government structure that creates a financial review sub-committee. The review committee support function can be housed in the County Treasurer’s office. Such expanded responsibilities should be funded by the County with agreed upon financial metrics jointly developed by all municipalities and reported out by the year end after the proceeding years fiscal results have been evaluated. The first report would be available in the fall of 2018 covering results from 2017 and 2018 the last year of the formula adjustments would be reported in the fall of 2019.”
Shortly thereafter, in an article published in the Star Gazette just after the CGR report was released entitled “Chemung County sales tax shift working, Elmira still sinking“, Santulli stated:
“CGR took a snapshot of how we are doing today. The health of governments is the story, except the City of Elmira, Towns and villages have fund balances that are more than adequate. This is a positive and to their credit.”
Then, on July 12, 2018, Krusen published an Op-Ed in the Star Gazette entitled “Facts about Chemung County’s Tax Plan” wherein he stated:
“The (sales tax) plan has been effective in that it has provided greater financial stability to the county and lowered excessive municipal fund balances. Our governments continue to work more cooperatively and have held the line on spending. Much credit goes to our local government leaders for answering the call to be even more resourceful with taxpayer monies.
While the decision has not pleased everyone, it is clear that this plan has increased cooperation and has created greater opportunity to work together and provide public services more efficiently. Now that is a plan we should all be able to get behind.”
To the surprise of many, the proposal by Santulli and Krusen calls for increasing the amount of sales tax revenue going to all municipalities except for the City of Elmira by 3.4%, a reallocation that would remain in place, according to their plan, for six years.
The proposal does not call for any increase of revenue going to the city, but instead extends the length of time for the city to reimburse the county for various shared services agreements. The city currently owes the county $2,769,292.00, and is required to pay it off in installments over the next four years. The proposal does not change the amount the city owes, but instead allows two extra years for it to pay off the debt.
The disconnect causing confusion for many people is straightforward. Why should Chemung County give additional revenue to its towns and villages – most of which the county claims are fiscally healthy – while the City of Elmira is in obvious fiscal stress and could use all the help it can get?
An example of the root of this disconnect stems from a proposal the county made last spring for a quasi-Council of Governments (qCOG). Instead of creating a body that would serve no purpose other than to foster inter-municipal cooperation, the county’s plan called for having a pot of money that towns and villages could apply for if they were in need. The catch is that towns and villages could only apply for the money if they decreased their reserves to match that of the county (15.5%) because, according to the county, most towns and villages simply have too much money in the bank.
In response to a critique I offered of the qCOG, County Treasurer Joe Sartori wrote a Your Turn piece in April, 2018, found here, where he stated:
The “catch” Mrs. Sonsire refers to is that before receiving funding, a municipality would have to be truly in need. They could not be hoarding excessive amounts of the taxpayers’ money, nor could they waste reserves in a frivolous manner. These are not unreasonable requirements when you consider that we are talking about the taxpayers’ money.
Herein lies the problem.
The level of reserves held by the towns and villages has not changed dramatically since last April, yet the county now proposes giving them 3.4% more in sales tax revenue.
As Treasurer Satori aptly pointed out, taxpayer money should never be dispensed without solid rationale. That rationale is precisely what seems to be missing here,
The undeniable reality is that many of our towns and villages are, in fact, experiencing financial troubles.
Take a look at the Town of Elmira. From 2016 to 2017, the Town of Elmira spent 34% of its reserves on operating costs. Even so, it maintained a 41% fund balance, well over the county’s 15.5% rate that allowed the county to avoid raising taxes for the 14th straight year:
Slide #5 from Tuesday night's presentation
Even though a 41% fund balance may sound high, the fact is that the Town of Elmira, like many other municipalities, is facing increasing fiscal stress.
At its regular meeting this July, the Elmira Town Board confirmed it needs to move away from relying on reserves to cover operating expenses (i.e. deficit spending), and disclosed that, if nothing changes, taxes will increase in 2019:
Excerpt from the Town of Elmira Board’s Minutes from July 16, 2018. A copy can be found here.
Of note, Neil Milliken, currently serving as the 7th District Legislator, has this to say on his campaign website in defense of the way sales tax is currently distributed, found here:
“Rather than simply raise resident’s property taxes to compensate for lost sales tax revenue (the quick and easy option), the County instead instituted a creative plan which improved cooperation between local governments, increased efficiencies long term, and decreased wasteful spending. All this, with ZERO increase in your County and Town of Elmira taxes!”
Unfortunately, unless something changes, a tax increase in the Town of Elmira is exactly what will happen next year.
A second example is from the Town of Veteran. Like the Town of Elmira, the Town of Veteran shows a healthy fund balance of 55% on the graph above, also well above the County’s 15.5%.
However, shortly before Tuesday night’s presentation, the Town of Veteran Board held a budget meeting where the possibility of a tax increase for 2019 of up to 133%(!) was discussed, due in large part to the same problem facing the Town of Elmira – its revenue stream has been diminished. Minutes from the budget meeting were not kept, but this information has been confirmed Anthony Pucci, a candidate for legislator in the 1st District, who was present.
I have pointed to the fiscal stress of other municipalities in previous blog posts, but will briefly recap them here:
*In 2016, Town of Horseheads Supervisor Mike Edwards attributed the town’s new tax levy directly to the sales tax plan, as shown here.
*Southport Town Supervisor David Sheen, now a candidate for Chemung County Deputy County Executive, announced that plans for infrastructure projects and buildings are on hold, and Southport taxes will likely go up in coming years as a direct result of the way sales tax revenue is distributed, as shown here.
*The Town of Chemung laid off its entire highway department earlier this year, a move Chemung Town Supervisor George Richter stated was made necessary in part because of the lack of sales tax revenue, as shown here.
*Elmira Mayor Dan Mandell along with Elmira Manager Mike Collins has been adamant that despite offsets from shared service agreements with the county, the sales tax plan has had a significant negative impact on the city’s finances, as shown here.
The bottom line is that the the County can’t have it both ways.
If the towns and villages are not experiencing fiscal stress, then, as Treasurer Sartori said in his Your Turn last April, the county should not “give away” tax dollars:
“Win or lose, I would like to invite Mrs. Sonsire to spend a day in the Treasurer’s Office next January, prior to the foreclosure deadline, to see the human toll of excessive taxation. To see the people trying to stave off foreclosure by entering into last-minute installment agreements. She could ask these people if they are okay with municipalities holding their tax dollars in reserve. She could get their thoughts as to whether the county should give away their tax dollars without requiring reasonable restraint with regard to spending.”
If, on the other hand, the towns and villages need help – as so many people have pointed out – then the county should be commended for trying to find a solution.
But where does the City of Elmira fit in to all of this?
The one thing everyone seems to agree upon is the City of Elmira remains on the brink of a financial crisis. Even with a 17% property tax increase along with a hike in sanitation fees, major structural changes must be made to the city’s budget and revenue for it to survive, let alone thrive.
Despite this situation, the county’s proposed sales tax plan does not call for any increased revenue going to the city. It is clear that allowing two additional years to pay its debt to the county will help, but it simply doesn’t go far enough.
This aspect of the proposal leads back to the disconnect. If the towns and villages are, for the most part, fine, why help them? Instead, the entire 3.4% sales tax increase should go the city to help place it on stable footing and avert a major financial disaster.
Again, if its true the towns and villages need help, the county should just say so. At least the proposal would then make sense and we could figure out a fair way to allocate resources among all of the municipalities that need help.
Why lock the plan in for six years?
In 2013, Chemung County felt its financial future was so bleak that it needed to take money from the municipalities and the City of Elmira. This year, sales tax revenue is (thankfully) up, exceeding predictions by almost 5%.
However, as with any economic marker, sales tax revenue can be volatile, and today’s booming economy that is fueling it at least in part could take a downward turn at any time.
Entering into an agreement that lasts six years is riddled with risk. The 2013 plan was not implemented until 2015, meaning we have only been under it for two years yet changes likely need to be made. Why not agree to a shorter period such as two or three years to see how things go?
Why October 15th?
At the presentation, Santulli and Krusen were clear that their proposal is off the table if the city does not agree to it by October 15th. In the absence of an agreement, the current plan will expire, resulting in even greater harms to the city than it currently faces.
However, in the letter from Krusen attached to the January CGR report and cited above, the county had planned to simply extend the current agreement out for one or two years to gather additional data about how things were working.
Is there a reason why a deal this important needs to be rushed? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to be thorough as opposed to expedient?
Public input is the way to go
Finally, even though the legislative chambers was filled to near capacity on Tuesday night with elected officials from the city and other parts of the community, as well as most of the candidates running for local office this fall, no questions or comments from the audience were allowed. Santulli explained at the start of the presentation that it is standard practice to not allow such audience participation during committee meetings.
Under these circumstances, i.e. the coupling of an issue this important with an expectation that the legislature could be asked to vote on the proposal as early as next week, allowing questions and comments from people seeking to better understand the changes and its underpinnings would have been appreciated by those in attendance.
Nonetheless, the county can call for a public hearing on their proposal so that elected officials and people trying hard to understand what it means can have their questions answered. Anything short of that leaves the community disenfranchised on a decision that could impact all parts of our county for the next six years.
Christina Bruner-Sonsire is an attorney in Elmira and candidate for Chemung County legislature.
We aren’t quite into actual autumn, but we are definitely into a fall schedule again; choir rehearsal, committees, etc. The golden rod along the roadsides and the vegetable gardens are beginning to look a little tired too. The light mists of August have turned into very foggy September mornings. The birds are flocking for their trek south, cutting down on the seed we use, until the winter birds return.
Our porch is nearing its finish. The construction process has triggered “house stories”. The first day our contractor came (he has worked on this house often and knows its idiosyncrasies) he sighed deeply and jacked one corner of the porch floor up because it was way lower there than the other three corners. He couldn’t change the concrete base, but was able to make the ceiling almost level and he will make the floor level over the concrete. We are quite used to the amusing, if frustrating, quirks of this old house, and are fortunate to have made the acquaintance of several people who lived here in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, who can tell us the whys and wherefores.
This particular structure came to life in the mid-to-late 1800s, with one room over a dug-out, stone-walled basement. It was a tenant house for what used to be the large farm next door. Over the decades, other rooms were added. The living room, with bedrooms above turned it into a 2-story edifice. Possibly the bathroom, beneath the stairs, was added soon thereafter. Then a shed was bolted onto the back of the house and a concrete floor poured. We’ve been told that the day was very hot, and that the individuals attaching the shed were cooling themselves with vodka ---- frequently. Becoming impatient, they put the shed on the slab before one corner was entirely dry. Thus when we moved in, one could roll a marble from anyplace in the room to that one corner. We have since corrected the floor, but the room has interesting ceiling lines.
We learned from a lady who lived here in the 1930s and early 1940s that down the road, in the acreage now known as Cornell’s Arnot Forest, there was a prison camp during WWII. The people who lived here got to know some of the guards, and the guards then came on weekends for home-cooked food, music and a bit of partying. We’ve tried to carry on that tradition of good times and an open house. Bob Benson wrote a book that he entitled “Laughter In The Walls” and I think there’s that in our walls too.
During our tenure, we have added a back entrance with a laundry room (where I type these essays), another bedroom, a second bath, several gardens and probably way too many trees. One of our sons remarked that our additions make the house look rather meandering. Well, some houses are built all at once; have simple and congenial bones and classical lines. Others, like ours, are put together rather like Frankenstein, in bits and pieces, often from other structures. That’s how old farm houses evolved, additions as the need arose. It is good to remember that “a home is not for other people; it is for every day and it is for you.” * If it is filled with love, enjoyment of life and one’s own precious things, it is sufficient.
If the walls in our house could talk as well as laugh, they would have many an anecdote to share. Our current dining room was a multi-purpose game room when our sons were home, so there might be echoes of kittens, dogs, “Risk” battles as well as numerous forays into the fantasy world of “Dungeons and Dragons”. In its current life, the walls would report on re-runs of Mash, share diverse conversations from dinner-times with friends, and reflect all the sparkle, glow and good cheer of 12th Night parties.
Besides the memory of many a good tete-a-tete, the living room would probably spill piano, flute and vocal music from its corners and crannies. There’s been many a Spencer Singers rehearsal around our piano, and there was both piano and flute practicing a few years ago. Even now, when our granddaughters are here, the piano gets a little workout. This room is also where I play CDs, listen to NPR and drink a cup of tea while sitting in a pillowed corner of our very seasoned couch with a good book.
The kitchen would send out the aromatic bouquets of lasagna, soups, ginger cookies, chocolate torte and popcorn. There might be a trace scent of my experiments with lentils, daylily buds, milkweed pods, tofu and carob. There would also be wispy remnants of canning steam due to years of preserving tomatoes, peaches, pears, relish and jellies. Certainly there’d be a breath or two of my cough syrup (termed witch’s brew by a son); a combination of white pine needles, cherry bark, red clover and honey. And thanks to those same boys, there also might be a lingering whiff of motor oil left from the occasional carburetor in the sink.
The bedrooms would resound with grunts of Orcs, wisdom of Ents and adventures of Hobbits since the last stories I read to our middle-school sons (before they outgrew being read to) were from the Tolkien Trilogy. And there might be a few terse complaints about enduring shiny stars on the ceiling, brilliant blue paint on the walls, having to absorb music by Van Halen and “The Boss”, and putting up with loud voices at all hours. They’d emit sighs over boys who came in very late at night and left their smelly socks around before collapsing in deep slumber. And they might speak highly of the many good friends, over the years, whose fate it was to sleep in those beds. It is fun to remember the situations and happenings. Every home has stories; they are our ---- and your ---- personal kernels of history.
And speaking of stories, when several of us in the same twenty-five-year age span get together, we are all too apt to find ourselves sharing tales about our doctors, complaining about being awake at 2 AM, and expressing our irritations at whatever it is that ails us. While I think we probably should find other topics of conversation, I also feel that it is good to be comfortable in talking, at any age, about what is going on in our lives. We can very often help each other along. I saw a pertinent comment recently (no idea where it came from): “We are all a little broken. But the last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same.” In other words, it’s good to be honest about life’s troubles with those we can trust to care. But at the same time, we must never feel diminished because we aren’t who we were, or don’t meet our own standards of perfection. Whether it is depression, chronic sleeplessness, difficulty in getting around, being unable to polka around the room or drive a car anymore, those things are not who we are. Disabilities are annoying, but they have no impact on how valuable we can be to our friends, family and the world around us. When things begin to make us feel that we are not enough --- perhaps we need to recite this old Scottish prayer: “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us!” Those monsters can be negative thoughts and skewed perceptions that prey on our minds just as much as the night mares to which the poem refers.
Now that we are in September, it is really important to take notice of the natural world around us before flying snow flurries blot out our landscapes. September, October and November can be the most beautiful time of the year with crisper, less humid air and the many scents of autumn. “The golden rod is yellow; the corn is turning brown; the trees in apple orchards with fruit are bending down……..from dewy lanes at morning the grapes sweet odors rise; at noon the roads all flutter with yellow butterflies. By all these lovely tokens, September days are here, with summers best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.”** I wish for you all the beauty of fall to temper your hard days, to fill you with appreciation of the world around and to just give you peace and energy for the months to come.
*-Alexandra Stoddard – American home-decorator and life-style philosopher.
**-a few verses from “September” by Helen Hunt Jackson. 1830-1885. American poet and activist for better treatment of Native Americans.
Carol may be reached at: email@example.com.
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Things have been rather peaceful here on Wipjibber Mountain this Summer, other than the sound of griping as the farmers try to get the hay in between rainfalls. It’s been so wet here this year that folks don’t need to dress up those little statues of geese in their front yards anymore, what with the real geese out there holding umbrellas.
Well, there was some excitement in town after a few of the local boys gave the town quite a scare last month. It seems the McCaney boys and Pete Crabbe decided to go whitewater rafting in the crick after several days of rain. Pete says they were doing fine until they slammed into a tree trunk and fell off the tire tube. Pete ended up downstream a ways, the current so strong it ripped his swimsuit clean off. Stark naked, he ran to get help while Jimmy and Billy held on to Cal Hendrick’s barbed wire fence, which Jimmy later reported woulda took his head clean off had he not ducked underwater. Unable to see Pete, they screamed for help, attracting Cal’s dairy herd, which weren’t much use.
Cal grabbed the first thing he could find, which happened to be his logging chain, and led by a bare bottomed Pete, run to the crick to drag the two out. His first attempt to throw them the chain missed... sort of.
His following attempts more successful, Cal managed to drag the boys out of the water on to dry land. He gave the trio a good talking to, and they begged Cal not to tell their folks. But it was already too late as the site of a naked teenage boy pounding on the back door gave new meaning to “flash flooding” for Cal’s wife and town gossip, Onalee.
Not counting Onalee’s nervous condition being set off, the boys were fine and casualties few other than a few stitches on Billy McNaney’s forehead where Cal’s logging chain hit him.
Two of the three were the source of further consternation in town when "Mooch" Mitchell showed up at the Urgent Care Sunday last hollering he'd been poisoned and needed his stomach pumped. Doc, somewhat irked by being dragged away from the race on the waiting room TV, told Mooch to calm down and tell him what happened first.
It seems while their folks were off in Millport visiting family, the boys were left home to stack wood. Mooch stopped to see if they wanted to go fishing and declined requests to lend a hand so they could. After an hour they boys figured it was time for lunch so they went in, followed by a now eager Mooch Mitchell.
As they fried up a couple cheeseburgers Mooch mentioned he was feeling a little peckish himself. Jimmy offered to make him a burger, but would Mooch go back out to the woodlot and grab his water bottle while he cooked it? The prospect of food heightened Mooch's ambition, and he did.
The three sat down on the porch and dove into their meal, the McNaney boys' intently watching as Mooch ate his own. With about two bites left, Billy burst out in laughter and screamed, "It's a GainesBurger!!!! Harharhar!!!"
Well, Mooch thought it was a joke, but on further examination found that the "meat" was indeed a little queer looking. Spitting out the mouthful he had, he dropped his plate and bolted for there Urgent Care, convinced he'd been poisoned.
Well, Nurse Crandall talked the boy down in short order, assuring him he hadn't, in fact, been poisoned. She gave him a glass of water and a popsicle before sending him home, cautioning him to be more careful about who makes his sandwiches in the future. Doc further advised him to avoid walking past the fire hydrant in front of the Methodist Church on the way home, just in case.
The set of articles in this story were located in The Elmira Telegram and The Star-Gazette, Elmira, N. Y. If anyone is offended by this article due to proximity of location or relationship to those in this story, please contact me. I find the article very interesting. It not only tells the sad story of this family but also gives us a snapshot of a families life back in 1917 in the Town of Chemung. - Mary Ellen
The stories were transcribed verbatim. Special Thanks to Mike Tuccinardi for uncovering this unusual piece of history of the town.
Elmira Star-Gazette Wednesday January 10, 1917
Murder in Second Degree Charge Against Bentley
Evident That District Attorney Is Convinced William Bentley Did Not Premeditate Slaying of John Albee – Victim Buried in Cayuta but Son Does Not Care to Attend.Murder in the second degree will be the charge against William Bentley, the aged slayer of John Albee, so stated District Attorney Personius this noon.
“I am going to put all the facts before the grand jury,” continued the district attorney. “When the grand jury sits on January 22 I shall summon all the witnesses before them and after they have told their stories I shall leave the matter in the hands of the grand jurors.”
“The stories told by the witnesses conflict on a number of important points. After listening to each of the witnesses I cannot now say which story is correct.”
Coroner Hammond this afternoon said he would hold an inquest either Friday or Saturday.
Attorney Michael O’Connor representing William Bentley, today said he had no statement to issue regarding his client other than he issued yesterday when he said the public would get a different impression of the case when all the facts are knownDIDN"T WANT TO GODavid J. Albee did not express a desire to attend the funeral of his father, which was held this afternoon at the homestead in Cayuta. He remains in a witness cell in the county jail.
It is said that David Albee has been on two occasions in a hospital for the insane and received treatment. Those who have recently talked with the young man were impressed with the evidence that his mind is not as clear as it might be.
District Attorney Personius, his assistant Attorney Leo Waxman, Sheriff Hoke and a stenographer were present this morning about two hours while Mrs. William Bentley related her version of the affair in detail. The statement made by Mrs. Bentley was recorded by the stenographer and later will be transcribed. As soon as Mrs. Bentley left the district attorney’s office she was interviewed by Attorney Michael O’Connor representing the defendant.
It was learned today that the bruises on the right side of David J. Albee’s face were not caused by the encounter with William Bentley on the night of the slaying, but were inflicted on Saturday afternoon. It was while William Bentley and David Albee were driving home from Springs Corners, Pa., where they obtained liquor, that Bentley struck his horse a blow with his whip, the horse darted forward and David fell from the wagon, injuring his face."DID HE CRY 'HALT'?"Information also comes in a round- about way that William Bentley is claimed to have warned Albee to halt before the shot was fired. This is a matter which probably will be brought out at the coroner’s inquest.
William Bentley has told his version of the case for the last time, until he is called to the witness stand in his own behalf. Attorney O’Connor after talking with Bentley yesterday advised the prisoner not to discuss the case with anyone. The man has told his story to the district attorney and to his lawyer. Mr. O’Connor does not wish him to discuss it with anyone else.
The fact that District Attorney Personius will place only a charge of murder in the second degree against the prisoner shows that the authorities are satisfied that there was no premeditation before the shot was fired.
Attorney O’Connor today was unable to say whether he would be able to offer bail when Bentley is arraigned before Judge Swartwood.Elmira Star-Gazette Thursday January 25, 1917
William Bentley Is Given Liberty
Walks From Jail a Free Man Today
No Indictment For Killing Albee
Chemung Man Weeps When He Hears of His Release –
Says He Had No Reason to Kill His Old Friend and
Blames the Victim’s Son for What Happened –
Intends to Leave Whiskey Alone – Hopes to Save His HomeWilliam Bentley, of Chemung, walked from the county jail shortly after 1:30 o’clock this afternoon a free man. The grand jury which considered his case reported at 10:30 o’clock this morning to Justice Kiley in Supreme court that they had found no indictment against the man who killed John Albee, of Cayuta, two weeks ago last Sunday morning. Thus did William Bentley satisfy the grand jurors that the shooting was an accident.
Shortly after the grand jury reported, Bentley was visited in his cell in the county jail. When informed that he would shortly be a free man the tears flowed from Bentley’s eyes and for a few minutes he sat weeping on the edge of the steel bunk he has occupied for nineteen nights and days.Recovering himself he arose and said, “I had no reason to kill John Albee. We had always been close friends and if there was any way to bring him back to life I would be only too glad even to give my own life for him. When it was said that I stood and waited for him to come down the stairs and then shot him it was a lie. It was that woman, that Mrs. John Albee, that was the cause of all the trouble. She has been to my home several times and made trouble. When I was living in Lockwood she came to my house to see her mother, who is my wife, got drunk and had trouble with a man named Miller. Some time ago she left her home in Cayuta and said she was going to Binghamton to see her daughter, who was sick, but she came to my house at Chemung, went over to the hotel and got drunk and the hotel keeper brought her to my house along in the night.”
“She wants to get my home from me in Chemung which was deeded to me by Aunt Martha Rorick. That’s what the trouble was about that night. She has fixed it up with the Crispins to get hold of the place and sell it to them, for Crispin wants to buy it. I took Aunt Martha to keep for the place and she deeded it to me if I would keep her. She has been sick since I took her and I have had to pay doctor bills and in lifting her I got a bad hernia so that I now am not able to lift hardly anything. The night of the trouble she wanted me to let her take Aunt Martha and keep her and have the home where I live. She did not want to pay me anything for keeping Aunt Martha for two years and I have gone on and improved the place, hauled stone to lay a foundation and improve the house and I have set out fruit trees and done a lot of work about that place. She is the one who is responsible for all this trouble and she goes free.”OTHER TROUBLES
“I don’t blame that David Albee for anything. He is not just right. On that night when I went to the top of the stairs before the shooting he jumped from bed and I guess he would have punched out one of my eyes, if his father, John, had not got out of bed and stopped him. John pulled David off me. They said I was not upstairs, but they found my hat up there after it was all over. The district attorney found it and that proved that I was upstairs. Some of the others said I was not up there. If John Albee had come down stairs first there would have been no shooting, for he would have kept David off me, but David grabbed me and pulled my coat over my head. That’s the reason I did not see John or know the shot had struck him when the gun went off. John would have stopped that fight if he had been down stairs before David. Let me tell you, David is responsible for his own condition now, so I don’t blame him.”
“What about leaving whiskey alone, now that you are out of this trouble?” was asked Bentley.
“I said that if I get out of this trouble whiskey will never bother me again. This has been enough.”
Attorney Michael O’Connor, representing Bentley, was pleased when the grand jury reported no indictment against his client. “I was satisfied that when all the facts were told Mr. Bentley would be freed,” said Mr. O’Connor. “From the very first I was convinced that the unfortunate shooting was accidental.”
Mr. Bentley this afternoon started for his home in Chemung to join his wife. He intends to pay for keeping Mrs. Rorick during the time he has been in jail. Bentley will live at his Chemung home for a time at least.
At no time has any formal charge been placed against Bentley who is now in his sixty-third year. Brought to this city from Chemung by Sheriff Hoke within a few hours after the shooting he has been held in the county jail on an open charge.
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Sometimes, our best inspiration comes from the most unlikely place! I often enjoy relaxing in the evenings with Ed by watching reruns of M*A*S*H. Though not overly fond of some of the show’s escapades, I especially prefer Corporal Walter (Radar) O’Reilly and the latter years with Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce’s new surgical partners, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, and Major Charles Emerson Winchester, III, as well as their commanding officer, Colonel Sherman T. Potter, and Major Margaret Houlihan. The show and its characters seemed to have evolved from a certain nonsense to one of moving and memorable themes. As the varied characters offer a wide array of human egos and emotions, I find the wisdom of humanity expressed well in many of the shows.
Recently I saw an episode that has always held a special place in my heart, one that I consider the arrogant Major Winchester’s best. After operating on a wounded soldier, able to save the young man’s leg with his surgical expertise, Winchester tries to encourage his patient further. Explaining that, although he’ll have permanent nerve damage to three fingers of his right hand, it won’t be too noticeable. Angry, the soldier is reduced to tears and despondency, telling Winchester that his surgical efforts weren’t good enough. His hands were his life… he was a concert pianist!
With determination, Major Winchester approaches the 4077th’s company clerk, Corporal Max Klinger, handing him a list of sheet music to pick up in Seoul. Later, with music in hand, Winchester wheels Private David Sheridan into the Officers’ Club and positions him in front of the piano. Despite his patient’s disgust, Winchester attempts to encourage the young man’s gift to make music. Angry and resentful, Sheridan wants none of it.
Unshaken, Winchester shares the story of a pianist from another time who’d lost the use of one hand. Placing sheet music for a one-handed pianist in front of Sheridan, he asks, “Don't you see? Your hand may be stilled, but your gift cannot be silenced if you refuse to let it be.”
Private Sheridan scoffs at his surgeon: “Gift? You keep talking about this damn gift. I had a gift, and I exchanged it for some mortar fragments, remember?”
With great feeling, Winchester responds: “Wrong! Because the gift does not lie in your hands. I have hands, David. Hands that can make a scalpel sing. More than anything in my life I wanted to play, but I do not have the gift. I can play the notes, but I cannot make the music. You've performed Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin. Even if you never do so again, you've already known a joy that I will never know as long as I live. Because the true gift is in your head and in your heart and in your soul. Now you can shut it off forever, or you can find new ways to share your gift with the world - through the baton, the classroom, or the pen. As to these works, they're for you, because you and the piano will always be as one.” (from the TV series M*A*S*H, “Morale Victory”, 1980)
Just as Maj. Winchester tried to help Pvt. Sheridan understand, we’ve each been blessed with a special gift, a talent. We can hide it, misuse it, or use it to benefit others... we have a choice. Though we may not see our gift as the blessing it is, Jesus’ brother James acknowledged that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:17a) Even the Apostle Peter encouraged us by writing that “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4:10 NIV)
We can encourage a friend with our words or any of our special gifts, like the gift of our time. When we make wise use of our talents and training, we truly are blessing the recipients of our gifts. In faithfully serving others, may we one day hear our Lord say to us just as he told the young man who grew his financial gift: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV)
You’ve A Gift Within
Linda A. Roorda
You’ve a gift within your heart to be shared
To love your neighbor as you do yourself
But much more than this is humble service
Sharing devotion from depths of true love.
Seek out the hurting, the ones bewildered
In a world of turmoil, in the midst of grief,
At a loss for words, not knowing where to turn,
Be an anchor bringing peace to their soul.
Be generous with praise, speak truth with wisdom,
Carry the burden to lift the heavy heart
Encourage and esteem, strengthen with hope
Humbly meeting each need on your path.
Lift up the oppressed, release from restraints
Enfold in your arms those wounded by life.
Show mercy and grace, forgive the offense
Come alongside to guide wavering feet.
For out of confusion and cries of the soul
In walking a line tween query and quest,
Comes peace that calms and joy that rebuilds
From the gift within your heart that was shared.
04/06/18, 06/30/18, 07/22/18
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of author.
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by Erin Doane
On August 4, 1904, a 14,920-pound siege gun arrived in Millport. The artillery piece was made by the Fort Pitt Foundry in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for use during the Civil War. The army shipped it to Millport from Liberty Island, New York to serve as a monument to the local soldiers and sailors who had served in the war.
Dozens of men from Millport served during the Civil War. Many enlisted in the 50th New York Engineers. Company G was almost entirely recruited from village. The regiment built roads, battery position, forts, and bridges. It was attached to the Army of the Potomac and saw action at Yorktown, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Rappahannock Station. The men of the 50th were at Appomattox Court House to witness the surrender of General Lee and his army.
In 1883, veterans of the war established Post 416 G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) in Millport. The post was named for Private Wilson Dean who was a member of Company A, 89th New York Volunteers. He had enlisted in Catharine in 1864 at the age of 27. He was captured in Cold Harbor, Virginia and died at Andersonville. In 1904, members of the Wilson Dean post arranged to create a monument to honor its namesake and all the others who had fought during the war.
The siege gun was brought to Millport on a flat rail car which was shunted onto a Pennsylvania Railroad siding. From there, it was up to the people of the village to get the gun to its final location in the Millport Cemetery. The cemetery was almost a mile from the railroad siding and some 400 feet up a steep dirt road. The cannon was moved onto a low wheeled rig provided by the Reeves Machine Works. It took ten teams of horses and additional men hauling on ropes to move the piece to the cemetery. People cheered the workers along the way and, after several pauses to rest, the gun was placed on a concrete base in the northwest section of the cemetery near the graves of several Civil War veterans. Its barrel was pointed toward the south.
The monument was officially dedicated on October 13, 1904 at a daylong celebration. At 11 o’clock in the morning, G.A.R. members and other citizens marched to the cemetery. Post commander R.B. Davidson delivered opening remarks which were followed by the singing of a patriotic song and a prayer by Rev. E. Burroughs. Several young Millport girls then pulled strings which let the drapery that had been covering the cannon fall way. The crowd sang another patriotic song then listened to an address given by Dr. Robert P. Bush, a distinguished orator from Horseheads and a Chemung County assemblyman.
The festivities did not end there, however. At noon, the G.A.R. members and their guests returned to the village and had dinner at the Baptist Church. At 1:30pm, additional dedication exercises and speeches took place at the masonic hall. Sherman P. Moreland of Van Etten gave the keynote address. There was then a reception held to honor the surviving members of the famous 48th Regimental Band. There was singing, addresses, music, and stories by veterans. Coffee and hardtack were served at the close of the evening.
For almost 90 years, the cannon stood guard over the Millport Cemetery. Over the years, however, the monument suffered from the effects of weather and the occasional vandal. The concrete base had begun to crumble, and the gun and pyramid of cannonballs, which had been painted silver at some point, were looking worn.
In the summer of 1991, Duane Hills, commander of the Elmira Sons of Union Veterans, and a crew of his men went to the Millport cemetery four time to restore the monument to its former glory. They patched the concrete, removed graffiti, and repainted the gun and cannonballs. On October 13, 1991, they hosted a small ceremony to rededicated the memorial. At the conclusion of the event, fifteen men dressed in Union uniforms fired a rifle volley in honor of those who had served during the Civil War.
Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. To read more of their blog, go to http://chemungcountyhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com
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If someone told you that you could go back in time to a day of your choice and change it, would you?
I asked one of my sisters that question and she immediately answered "No, I have no regrets". "I'm not talking about regrets" I said, "Is there any one day or incident that you would change if you could"? Her answer remained a firm "no".
For me one moment in particular came to mind, a snowy day in January, 1978. "I would have left the laundry soap in the car" I told her. "Regret is a waste of time" she said. I didn't see it that way at the time but Sis was right, I was talking about regret.
January, 1978, was a very snowy month and another storm had hit the area two or three days prior to that day so there was still a foot plus of snow on the ground. I was unloading the car after shopping for our second son's first birthday celebration. Maintainence for the apartment complex where we living had still not cleared the sidewalks so I was being careful. All bags were in the house except for the laundry soap.
"Leave it" my husband said, "I'll bring it up later".
I should have listened.
While carrying that single bottle back to the apartment I slipped and fell. I don't know what happened because I didn't feel anything. There was enough snow to cushion my fall and all I was aware of was the loud pop I heard echo through the apartment buildings. Evidently, that was the sound of breaking bones. When I tried to get up I found I couldn't move. I tried a couple of times but I just couldn't move and I didn't know why. Luckily someone saw me fall and my struggle to move and the next thing I know Hubby's kneeling by me telling me not to move. My ankle was shattered and the two bones above the ankle were broke.
I can still see the faces of my two little boys watching from the bedroom window as I was loaded into the ambulance. Their tears broke my heart.
In the operating room they told me my toes were where my heel should have been. I was in a cast up to my hip from January until July and then a cast from the knee down until September. That was nothing compared to the fact that I missed my son's first birthday.
To add further insult to injury, two weeks prior to the accident I had interviewed for a position as a nurse at the Elmira Psych Center. The call that the position was mine came while I was in the hospital so I had to decline the offer.
Thinking about the four surgeries, bone grafts, many, many casts and knowing I have not had a pain free day in 40 years because of that accident I was positive. "Yep, the laundry soap would have stayed in the car that day", that's the moment I would have changed.
But then I started thinking about how my life and that of my family's might have been different if I changed that moment all those years ago.
Working at the Psych Center meant I wouldn't have taken the various jobs through the years working with several different lawyers, which in turn eventually led me to my last position as a Court Clerk. I would have met and worked with different people. I wouldn't have met my youngest son's wife who also worked at the same municipality. If I hadn't met her my son wouldn't have either and we wouldn't have the two wonderful grandchildren they gave us including our only granddaughter.
So many little things that would have changed that I couldn't even realize or the effects those changes would cause.
If I had been able to accept that position at the Psych Center I believe that eventually the home we bought would have been a different home. Our boys would have grown up in a different neighborhood, met different friends, probably worked at different jobs. It's also possible my other sons may not have met the wonderful women they would eventually marry.
So many things probably would have changed, some minor but some could have been major and definitely life altering, possibly not at all positive. Changes that could have been much worse than a few broken bones.
The difficulties we have dealt with through the years resulting from that snowy January day have made us the family we are now. My sons grew up seeing their father cooking, cleaning, doing dishes and laundry every time I was recovering from another surgery or was in a cast. He has always been and continues to be my helpmate. To this day he's always concerned about me falling. I'd like to believe that in some small way my sons are the caring, loving, hands on husbands and fathers they are because of the example set by their Dad through the years.
I will admit to having many "why me" moments through the years and will probably have more of them in the years to come. I try to keep to myself during those moments because I will admit to sometimes being a bit irritable. Hubby always knows when I'm having a bad day. On the plus side I always know when it's going to rain or snow and that can come in handy. I have often joked that in a past life I was a very mean, unpleasant diva ballet dancer who is paying for her actions in this lifetime.
Was that day just a random accident or did things happen exactly the way they were supposed to happen? A long time ago someone once told me that everything happens for a reason and I've come to believe that is true. I was wrong when I told my sister I wasn't talking about regrets because that's exactly what I was feeling. Regret for a choice I made on that long ago day and the consequences of that decision.
I will admit Sis had more wisdon than I did at that time. Regrets are a waste of time and I now try not to let that emotion into my life. Despite the daily aching joints and difficulty walking most days, I wouldn't change that day or any other. All those days, moments and choices through the years have led me to where and who I am right this moment. It may not be a perfect life but it has been and continues to be a good life shared with those I love most.
If offered the opportunity to go back in time and change any one day or moment of my choice my answer would also be a firm "no thank you".
Have you ever had one of those moments? What would you do?
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You know how you’ve always talked about the things you would do if you “only had the time”?
What if suddenly you found you had the time to do them?
Would you sit on your couch all day, swiping aimlessly at the screen of your phone, reading the mindless drivel on Facebook? Look at pictures of other peoples’ meals and political views all day?
Would you argue with complete strangers and pseudo-celebrities on Twitter about things that really, in the grand scheme of things matter little?
Would you sit around all day watching TV, as the world and time goes on?
Shut off television. Deactivate your social media accounts and put your phone on silent mode. Those texts will wait. Better yet, shut it off for the day.
Get up early and get dressed every morning. No lounging all day in your pajamas. Go for a walk and see the world. Find inspiration in the world, the REAL world, around you like you used to. Hang out with your kids and do something with them. They’ve needed you and have been waiting for this moment as well.
Schedule time for those creative endeavors you’ve half assed all these years. Write, play music, paint… CREATE!
Get to those projects around the house you’ve wanted to do and do them well.
Do what you love, re-learn how to be the person you once were. The person you’ve always meant to be.
You have time. But you won’t always.
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