MORRIS — More than 40 residents of the village met with police sergeants for an hour-long meeting Thursday, Aug. 6, in Guy Rathbun Community Park to express concerns about residents of a house near the Otsego County fairgrounds, with some residents saying they fear violence will result.
Sgt. Kevin Nasworthy of Troop C, Oneonta Barracks, of the New York State Police and Otsego County Sgt. Kris Solovitch met with the residents, most of whom lived on or near Mechanic Street, where a large group of people are living in a house at 12 Mechanic St. in apparent open conflict with the rest of the neighborhood.
The meeting was scheduled for the Morris Fire Department hall, which is next door to the park, but that room only holds 55 people before social distancing was taken into account. When it was no longer possible to space people out within the hall, the decision was made to hold the meeting outside, where people sat in family groups and almost everyone wore masks.
Nasworthy said he has received at least 12 or 13 complaints tied to the house in the past month, although no charges stemmed from any visits.
Among the residents of the house is Kenneth Cravotta, 36, who is listed on the state's sex offender registry for a 2006 incident where he forcibly touched the sexual parts of a 15-year-old girl.
According to The Daily Star, Cravotta was charged with failure to register as a sex offender in 2013 while he was living in Cobleskill.
According to State Police reports, Cravotta was arrested June 7, along with Stephanie M. Goodsill, 25, of Morris, and Candis R. Burnette, 26, of Cobleskill, for felony grand larceny for allegedly stealing more than $1,000 worth of groceries from the Richfield Springs Price Chopper.
In December, according to Daily Star records, Cravotta and Goodsill were among six people charged with filling a false police report, alleging they saw someone breaking into the Mechanic Street house. A similar charge was attributed to Cravotta in Sharon Springs early in 2019, according to Daily Star records.
Attempts to find a phone number for the house or for Cravotta and Goodsill by press time Thursday were unsuccessful.
Neighbors described a litany of offenses they ascribed to Cravotta or other residents of the house, with Nasworthy and Solovitch sometimes having trouble keeping up with all the potential charges or able to explain how to redress grievances for those problems, some of which were as recent as that afternoon, according to the residents.
Morris Mayor Mike Newell, who lives several blocks away, told the police officers when he had gone to the location to complain about loud music, "Kenneth" pointed a gun at him. Newell said he defused the situation and later admitted he did not report the incident. His wife, Deb, told The Daily Star she asked him to report it, but he refused to based on a sense of bravado.
"I just want my quiet little town back," she said.
Other neighbors complained about unattended children, not all of whom live in the house, including some who seem to be around Cravotta, the possibility of drug creation in or tied to the house, loud music at all hours of the night, shot-out windows and mirrors in the neighborhood, an unleashed pit bull, the use of guns to menace neighbors and an air of retaliation that hangs over the neighborhood when people complain about the problems coming from the house.
Nasworthy urged the crowd to put everything on paper, even noise complaints, and let the town justice issue summonses. This suggestion got limited traction with the crowd, with one person saying they doubted the occupants would appear in court or pay fines.
Town of Morris Animal Control Officer Liz Fish said she had made two recent visits to the house because of complaints about the dog.
"The first time she gave me the typical f*** yous," she said. "The second time, she came up with five guys around her.
"I don't get paid enough for that," Fish said.
Limited shift sizes and large territories in Otsego County and in Troop C's coverage area mean that a squad car can't always be down the street when problems happen in Morris, the officers said. Still, they said, they would do what they could, stepping up patrols and making sure their officers are aware of the ongoing problems.
The residents seemed to come around to the officers by the end of the meeting, as the police took in more of the scope of the problem and the solutions became more detailed. Many residents stayed after the main meeting had broken up, offering help, photos, descriptions and further anecdotes about the problems.
Still, the anger was at times overflowing, and Nasworthy at one point urged the crowd not to take up vigilante justice.
Neighbor Michael Virgil, the former Superintendent for Morris Central School, told the police it was clear what they needed to do.
"More patrols overnight," he said. "These people are good at intimidation and people here are scared. We are telling you about the problem. If it continues this way and if Mike (Newell) gets in their face or I get in their face, somebody could get hurt.
"We're asking for your help here," he continued. "That's still your job, I think."