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January 29, 2011

Reporter's Notebook: Congregation, community react to church burning


Daily Star

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College students formed an impromptu band to play during a recent service of the First Baptist Church in Walton.

The church at the corner of Towsnend and Platt streets burned to the ground in a fire earlier this month. At the Jan. 16 service, the first after the fire, the congregation met at Walton High School. The service was marked with prayers, scriptural messages and music. Only a collection plate and basket survived the flames because they were in a safe, members said, and a project to create a memory book of photographs and memorabilia is under way.

Rebekah Bartlett, 21, a student at Houghton College, had plans before the fire to be home in Walton for a weekend of rest and relaxation, and she invited friends to join her. The nine students, who are musicians by interest or major, chose to play "Be Thou My Vision."

Bartlett, 21, said she was shocked to hear about the fire when her father texted her the news.

"At first, I was worried about the congregation," she said after the Jan. 16 service. "I feel so much better being with everyone."

Bethie Martindale, 19, a Houghton student from the Scranton, Pa., area, said she was impressed by the outpouring of support from the community and the lack of anger among church members.

"Their example really touched me," she said.

SUNY Cobleskill will present in May an acclaimed livestock-handling facilities designer, who last year was portrayed in a biographical film that told an enlightening story about autism.

Temple Grandin will speak at the Albany's Palace Theatre at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, according to a media release from the State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill. Her appearance is part of the college's centennial activities.

Grandin, named last year as one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World, is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University.

Diagnosed as a high-functioning autistic child, Grandin is the author of "The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's," as well as a consultant to the livestock industry, the release said. Grandin, a past member of Autism Society of America's board of directors, lectures to parents and teachers on her experiences with autism.

She has appeared on many television shows and been featured in magazines. The HBO film "Temple Grandin" was a seven-time winner, including as best Made-For-Television Movie, at the 62nd Emmy Awards in August.

Tickets to the May event cost $12 and can be purchased starting Friday at the Palace Theatre's box office at 19 Clinton Ave., through Ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000.

Wood harvested from College Camp of SUNY Oneonta is destined to become furniture, lumber, flooring or firewood, among other products, a forestry consultant involved with the project said.

About 600 trees will be cut down at College Camp to thin the woods and as a precaution against infestation by the emerald ash borer, officials at the State University College at Oneonta said earlier this month. College Camp is owned by Oneonta Auxiliary Services.

The highest-quality wood will be exported to China or Europe for veneering, David George, owner of Empire State Forestry Service Inc., said. George reviewed about 60 bids for standing trees at College Camp, and after harvesting, the wood will be taken to mills.

Double Aught Lumber Inc. in Candor submitted the highest bid of $40,040 and received the contract for the project, George said. The harvesting was expected to take three or four weeks, depending on weather, he said.

Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller has changed his tune.

Miller said when he came to Oneonta seven years ago to be president of Hartwick College he didn't see why the Foothills Performing Arts Center was proposed when the community had other local resources, including college facilities. The original plans for a $37-million complex were too big for a community the size of Oneonta, he said.

"I was a naysayer," Miller said recently.

But project size was reduced, and a small group of supporters created an $8 million asset in downtown Oneonta, he said.

In December, Miller took on the role of interim chairman of the Foothills board. The center, which has been renamed to Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center, has been struggling to finish construction of its theater and to survive financially. This week, Miller said progress has been made on the fundraising side, prompting optimism for the future.

"A Foothills success will be a big flag for Oneonta to fly," Miller said.

Denise Richardson can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 213, or at drichardson@thedailystar.com.