Editor’s Note: Anne Geddes Atwell, Otsego town supervisor or town board member for the past decade, is retiring from her municipal responsibilities at year’s end. She provided this summing up of her tenure.
By ANNE GEDDES ATWELL, Supervisor, Town of Otsego
As 2015 ends, so does my second term as Otsego town supervisor. This completes 10 years of service on the Town Board. It’s been gratifying work, if sometimes frustrating, especially since some press coverage during this election season may have left the impression that the Town Board was in turmoil. That has not been the case, though some tensions and even harassment by a couple of members of the Planning Board may have suggested so.
To set the record straight, and to acknowledge the fine accomplishments of the Town Board over recent years, I offer you this account of important successes that been to the direct benefit of you, the Town’s citizens and tax-payers.
Encouragement of Business The outgoing Board and the Supervisor brought final resolution to an urgently important project in a Town of Otsego Business district: The Cooperstown Intermodal Transit Center project, best known as the Linden Avenue Extension. Disagreement between the Village of Cooperstown and our Planning Board had held up completion for several years and put us in real danger of losing a roughly a three million dollar grant and of incurring further thousands of dollars per day as penalties for delaying the contracted construction. As citizens now know from their use of the Avenue extension to Route 28, it is a tremendous convenience and had made dropping off our children at school much easier and safer.
Ethics Policy The outgoing Board and Supervisor made ours the first serving board to pass and enforce an important ethics policy for local elected officials: The policy regarding both accepting pay while representing clients before the board on which the public official served, and prohibiting public officials participating in deliberations concerning their own proposed projects before the board on which the public official served. That, it would seem, would be self-evident; but occasional past practices have shown that was not.
Environmental Advances The outgoing Board is the first board in any jurisdiction around Lake Otsego to enforce and secure compliance with NYS Public Health Law and the Watershed Supervisory Committee Regulations, thus helping ensure clean drinking water for Cooperstown. The Board also enacted a local law banning the disposal of brine and other gas-industry wastes within the Town of Otsego.
The Board also approved publishing a Request for Proposals to move Town facilities towards total use of solar energy. It seeks proposals that would link us in a joint venture with other local governments, and with schools, churches, and other institutions that recognize solar power as integral to their own futures.
Property Rights The outgoing Board and Supervisor were the first political body to take on publically the New York State Department of Transportation as it moved to seize private property along Lake Otsego for road improvement. We strongly argued that, beside the ethical considerations, such seizures would strongly impact property tax assessments. The latter argument, along with an extra-ordinary citizens’ effort, carried the day, and DOT backed off its plans to reconstruct State Route 80 by claiming private land and demolishing existing homes.
Tax Fairness This Board and Supervisor completed a full revaluation that restored fairness and equity in distribution of tax obligations among residents and businesses. It did so by eliminating inequities that arose as more affluent landowners and business brought legal actions to lower taxes, thus shifting a heavier tax burden to those with lesser means.
Wage Fairness Successful renegotiation of the CSEA union contract resulted in balancing taxpayer concerns with the interest of our dedicated and deserving Town Highway Department employees.
Court Consolidation The outgoing Board accepted and completed consolidation of the Cooperstown Village Court and the Town of Otsego Court. The combined court, now housed in Fly Creek, frees for Cooperstown much-needed office space and eases parking problems for any court visitors.
Guidelines for Public Comment The Board recently adopted public comment guidelines. Based on Cooperstown’s, these guidelines are helping improve civility at board meetings.
And yes, we are fiscally sound!
In sum, I leave office taking great satisfaction in what the Board and I have accomplished together. It has been an honor and pleasure to work with them, and I am very glad that the majority of them will be continuing to serve with the new Supervisor. In Meg Kiernan they will have valuable past experience, I know. I wish them and Meg continued success in serving this area, so loved by all of us.