News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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Editorial

Let Young Entrepreneur Bring Nick’s Diner Back To Life

Editorial, July 13, 2018

Let Young Entrepreneur

Bring Nick’s Diner Back To Life

Here’s the choice: The nearly complete restoration of Oneonta’s historic Nick’s Diner can go forward, with better than even chances it will succeed. Or, almost complete, it can be allowed to remain vacant, eventually deteriorating to the point it will be razed or removed.
That’s the choice: Something – maybe something good. Or nothing.
Better than even chances because the prospective owner, Rod Thorsland, is from a restaurateur family that has successfully operated the former Pondo’s restaurant in the Sixth Ward and thriving Pondo’s II in Colliersville for many decades.
Given his own experience and the expertise around the Sunday dinner table, would Thorsland – himself, he’s been in the restaurant business since age 16 – assume the significant responsibility of reviving Nick’s and the related debt without confidence he can make it work?

Parker Fish/The Freeman’s Journal – When it meets Tuesday, July 27, Common Council should grant the routine approval of Rod Thorsland’s CDBG grant application, and let the young entrepreneur complete the renovations at Nick’s Diner and reopen the historical Oneonta restaurant.


Under debate in the City of the Hills is whether Common Council should approve an application to the state Office of Community Renewal for a $230,000 CDBG – a federal Community Development Block Grant.
Applicants for CDBGs must submit a “pre-application” to the OCR. Thorsland has, and it’s been approved. So it’s likely the final application will fly right through.
If so, Thorsland will complete the purchase of the diner from Ed May, the local entrepreneur who took on its renovation. Then, within six weeks, the final touches can be done and the venerable Oneonta icon reopened.
“Tour it,” Mayor Herzig advised in an interview, “because it is an absolutely beautiful restoration that keeps the feel of the old railroad car, but at the same time is a state-of-the-art diner, beautifully designed, brand new kitchen, energy efficient.”
Usually, Common Council would simply rubber-stamp a pro-approved application. But a handful of objecting residents showed up at its June 19 meeting, and a few more last Tuesday, July 3, successfully delaying action. Mayor Gary Herzig now hopes for a vote this coming Tuesday, the 17th.

The main objection seems to be: Why should Thorsland get the money? Answer: Why not? CDBGs are designed to help entrepreneurs, close the “gap” between initial cost and possible success.
In Thorsland’s case, he will have to invest $320,000 beyond the CDBG. He has skin in the game. The CDBG simply enables him to shoulder significant risk and provides the prospect of a lot of hard work.
In recent years, the city has directed $1.5 million in state and federal money to promising projects, some which make it, some which don’t. Why not Thorsland, whose prospects don’t seem that daunting? (Among other pluses, Oneonta has been yearning for an old-fashion diner since the beloved Neptune was razed at the end of 2013.)
Further, any entrepreneur who wishes can also seek a CDBG. Call Mispa Haque at City Hall’s Office of Community Development, 607-432-0114, and ask for an application, or email her at mhaque@oneonta.ny.us.
If any of the objectors want money to try something, call her.
The other issue is whether Nick’s can create 15 jobs, as promised.
Thorsland is undeterred: He’s planning a seven-day, 24-hour venture, so he has to fill 21 shifts. Pondo’s II, a daytime operation, has 12 fulltime employees and much shorter hours.

If nothing else, a new Nick’s will improve the western gateway into the downtown, where each summer hundreds of families approaching from Cooperstown All-Star Village get their first impression of the city’s downtown, Herzig said.
When businesspeople ask for help, he continued, Community Development Director Judy Pangman doesn’t decide if the project is worthy; she connects them with the program that might help them.
Until now, Common Council hasn’t decided if applicants are worthy – simply that they qualify to apply.
“If you come to us, no matter who you are, we will identify what assistance you can apply for,” Herzig said, adding: “I don’t want politicians picking or choosing.”
Amen.

Bagnardi’s Shoe Repair, anyone?

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Homer Osterhoudt, Citizen: A Life Of Service, Leadership, Joy Is An Example To Us All

Editorial, July 6, 2018

Homer Osterhoudt, Citizen

A Life Of Service, Leadership,

Joy Is An Example To Us All

Homer Osterhoudt with son Darrell at the 2016 Hall of Fame Induction, his 70th.

Interviewed as his 100th birthday last January, Homer Osterhoudt remained full of life and curiosity, enthusiastically reporting deer peering in the window of his Woodside Hall room most evenings.
His back, which had carried
Cooperstown’s mail on a 10-mile
route daily for many of his 34 years at the Cooperstown post office, had begun to bend, but he was as warm and pleasant as always, as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
While waiting for him to return to his room from lunch, his caregivers praised his courtesy and calm. He was uncomplaining as the inevitable approached, perhaps a testimony to his Baptist faith.
The inevitable arrived Saturday, June 30, and Homer Osterhoudt, one of Cooperstown’s first citizens – none were more beloved – made his final departure from the community that had been his home for a century.

Many knew of Homer through his connection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which goes back to the very beginning. At 19, he was running a cement mixer in front of the post office on Main Street for Bedford Construction of Utica. The cement he produced, he would remember fondly for the rest of his life, was used in every single part of the original building.
Then, he thought the Hall of Fame would be “a little museum on Main Street” – so did Stephen C. Clark, his granddaughter attested when she and Homer participated in a panel discussion in the Bullpen Theater during 75th anniversary commemorations. Both, it turned out, were wrong.
Still, Homer must have had an inkling of great things to come during the first Induction in 1939, when he photographed Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and other immortals in the first class. Those many photos are now in the Hall’s collection, a permanent memorial to a curious and lively mind.
Since, there have been 74 Inductions – during World War II, the practice lapsed 1940-34 – and Homer reported his was proud to have attended all but three. In recent years, what frequenter of Inductions doesn’t remember Homer, under his bucket hat, with a “I was here on June 12, 1939” sign around his neck.

His obituary on the front of this week’s edition further reminds us that his Induction record was just a small part of a small-town life well lived.

Hall of Fame photo – Homer Osterhoudt rides in the Hall of Fame’s 75th anniversary parade in 2014 with two others who were at the first Induction in 1939: former Hall director Howard Talbot, who has since passed away, and Catherine Walker of Hartwick.

He maintained friendly relations for decades as a long-time member of the Cooperstown High School Alumni Association, serving as its president. He was, of course, eventually a Native Son – his birth, in Oneonta, forestalled that until he reached age 50 – serving as president of that signature community organization.
He was active in his church, locally and as vice president of the Otsego County Baptist Men’s Association; (one of the three Inductions he missed, he recalled, was to attend an annual state Baptist conference.)
He was more than a postal carrier, (although he credited the miles he walked daily, in part, for his long and, until and healthy life): A career-long member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, he once was president of the Southern Tier District.
All of these community and professional leadership roles underscore that Homer Osterhoudt lived a full life of service, leadership and caring.
That final quality was passed on through his and wife Marion’s only child. The care and attention son Darrell and his wife Priscilla devoted to tending the beloved man in recent years, frequently commuting back and forth from their home in Springfield, Va., was an example the rest of us can only hope to duplicate.

A life well-lived: What was Homer’s secret?
At his 100th birthday party Jan. 14 in the Baptist Church’s community room, Ina Phillips of Hartwick, who worked at a downtown law firm during Homer’s years delivering mail, recalled, “He always came down the street with a smile.”
Asked about his father’s cheerful outlook, son Darrell replied, “Maybe that’s his secret.”
It’s a secret we’d all do well to emulate. Meanwhile, we can only reflect in awe and appreciation on a happy life well lived.
Goodbye, friend to us all, and thank you.

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Focus Indictments Put All Nursing-Home Operators On Notice

Editorial, June 29, 2018

Focus Indictments

Put All Nursing-Home

Operators On Notice

Now we know, lives indeed may be at stake.
Two top executives of Focus Ventures have been arrested on eight counts involving two residents of the county’s former nursing home, Otsego Manor. (The county sold the Manor to Focus in January 2014, for $18.5 million, and Centers Health Care bought it from Focus in January for an undisclosed sum.)
Five of the counts are “endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person.” The other three are “willful violation of health laws.”
Two patients were involved. The first, identified as M.B., was a celebrated case. She was left untended in a wheelchair throughout Memorial Day Weekend 2016. Several nurses and aides faced criminal charges as a result. The second, now known to be Robert Banta, longtime chair of the Otsego County Soil & Water Conservation board; the conservation center on Route 33, Town of Middlefield, is named in his honor. He fell on June 17, 2015, the night he moved into Focus, hit his head, and died a week later.
Arrested and arraigned May 31 in Otsego Town Court in Fly Creek were
Focus CEO Joseph Zupnik and Daniel Herman, a
partner in the company.
The company that operated Focus Otsego, CCRN
Operator, was also charged.

On the one hand, there’s hope in this piece of bad news, hope that nursing-home operators can’t recklessly cut staff and not be held responsible for deadly consequences.
Two weeks before, another piece of bad news, that Centers, Focus’ successor, had unilaterally raised “private pay” rates from $320 to $510 a day, the highest in New York State – Long Island and New York City included – caused a sense of despair. (Since, Centers has rolled it back to $410.)
With federal reimbursement policies forcing public nursing homes into private hands, can nothing be done to ensure the new private owners provide satisfactory care to our most vulnerable fellow citizens?
Recently, Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, vice chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives and chairman of its Human Services Committee, wrote a letter in response to an editorial urging the county board take more responsibility for the former Otsego Manor.
Having sold the Manor, he said, the county board no longer has responsibility for what happens there. This is not to beat up on Koutnik: His opinion is widely shared among county representatives.

The Zupnik-Herman arrests prompt us to repeat our point, and expand on it.
At the very least, the county board should have a representative at every meeting of the Centers (formerly Focus) Family Council. Medicaid regulations require nursing homes that accept federal reimbursement to have such councils. It is the only opportunity for the public to be briefed and ask questions of administrators.
Our state senator and assemblymen should do the same. And certainly, Congressman John Faso, R-Kinderhook, or any Democrat who might defeat him this fall should follow suit – after all, federal reimbursement policies forced the county to sell excellent Otsego Manor to profit-powered entities.
Since, who hasn’t heard stories with dismay about the degradation of service locally?

Regardless, the Zupnik-Herman indictments are excellent news, whatever the resolution of the court case.
The indictments, by the state Attorney General’s Office, send the message loud and clear: Top executives of nursing-home corporations may be exempt from the common decency in the search for profits, but they aren’t exempt from the criminal code.
What’s needed is whistle-blowers, not just private citizens, but the officials we elected to take care of us, who have greater clout in forcing action than the rest of us.
(In this case, that might indeed have already happened; if so, bravo.)

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EDITORIAL: In 40 Visits, Brian Flynn Earns Democrats’ Support

Editorial, June 22, 2018

In 40 Visits, Brian Flynn

Earns Democrats’ Support

If for nothing more than the knowledge he’s gained about Otsego County and its issues in 40-some visits over the past year, Brian Flynn is the logical
candidate for local Democrats to support in the party’s 19th Congressional District primary Tuesday, June 26. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.
Absent someone actually from Otsego County – Cooperstown’s Erin Collier was an attractive entry, but it appears she got involved too late to gain sufficient traction – we need a candidate in a Hudson-Valley-heavy field who cares about Oneonta and Greater Cooperstown.
We also need a congressman who’s strategic, and Flynn has proved he is: By focusing on Otsego, plus Schoharie and Delaware, while others ignored us, he may have carved out the relatively few votes, perhaps as few as 4,500, to win in the seven-person race.

Parker Fish/The Freeman’s Journal – Brian Flynn, seen here with fellow Democratic hopeful Erin Collier at the debate earlier this month at Cooperstown Central School’s Sterling Auditorium, deserves county Democrats’ support in the June 26 primary.

Flynn has also sought out key local folks for his campaign staff, including the brainy Leslie Berliant, who ran for county rep from the Town of Middlefield last fall, and MacGuire Benton of Cooperstown, former Otsego County Young Democrats’ president. Clark Oliver of Oneonta, Benton’s successor at the YDs, was also on the staff for a while.
And Flynn’s also courted and largely won over most of the county’s top Democrats, from county Rep. Gary Koutnik, Oneonta, the ranking Democrat on the county board, to activists Deb Marcus of Oneonta and Melinda Hardin of Cooperstown, to the potent Sustainable Otsego leadership.
(Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, referred to Jeff Beals by a cousin’s wife – no, Beals is not the mayor’s cousin – has been the odd man out in supporting the Woodstock teacher-by-way-of-the-CIA.)
Flynn, while he’s only lived fulltime in the 19th for less than two years – with wife Amy and children Bo, 14, and Heddah, 10 – he has roots, and family roots. He has owned that home in Hunter in Greene County’s ski country for the past 13 years (and bought the property 15 years ago, after a fire, and rebuilt it.) And his grandfather was a bartender and grandmother a chambermaid in Catskill hotels. The Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural Center in East Durham, on the road from Cobleskill to Catskill, is named after a great uncle.
Moreover, he’s got the energy, the brains, an engaging personality, the high-level contacts – his partner in Schlossberg:Flynn, an investment firm, is Caroline Kennedy’s husband, Ed – and the money – both he and big-firm lawyer Antonio Delgado have raised almost $1 million – to win, and this should matter to Democrats.

Whether it should matter to the rest of us remains to be seen, as Flynn and our current congressman, Albany veteran John Faso, R-Kinderhook, sharpen their focus on the issues from the end of June to November.
As we’ve noted here before, Faso would be unobjectionable in normal times; he’s done what a congressman who wants to make a difference would normally do: Get key committee posts, cleave to the party line, but break with the party when sensible, on the merits and on the politics, to do so.
Both of these candidates could
capture the middle, and thus win.
But as Nov. 6 approaches, if it appears – as historical precedence suggests it might – that the House of Representatives will be recaptured overwhelmingly by the Democrats, then a switch to Flynn might make sense.
For now, Brian Flynn, who has gotten to know Otsego County, and vice versa, is the clear and best choice for local Democrats.
A strong turnout – even better, one that clearly is the clear factor in his nomination next Tuesday – would
lock in that relationship for the
benefit of both.

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EDITORIAL: ISN’T IT TIME FOR A CHANGE?

Editorial, June 15, 2018

ISN’T IT TIME

FOR A CHANGE?

Elect Len Carson County Sheriff.

Able, Proven Public Servant

Would Change Conversation

ELECT LEN CARSON SHERIFF Distinguished Firefighter, Businessman, Veteran

When you think about it, with the amount of baggage both Republican and Democratic designees for county sheriff are carrying, 2018 would be a great opportunity for a third person to run as an independent.
You may have a favorite candidate of your own, but how about someone like Len Carson, the Oneonta Republican who narrowly lost reelection to his seat on the Otsego County Board of Representatives last November despite distinguishing himself as bright, level-headed and forward-thinking during his tenure.
Just that term – “an Oneonta Republican” – speaks to his ability to reach across party lines in the Democrat-dominated city.
He’s a veteran – an able president of the Oneonta Vets’ Club – a distinguished firefighter and EMS leader, who in retirement from the Oneonta Fire Department founded DC Marketing,
the electronic billboard company.
And still a young man – in his 50s – he remains creatively involved in civic life as a future-looking member of the Oneonta Airport Commission.
As a former county rep, he knows his way around county government, and,
as former chairman of the county board’s Public
Safety Committee, the sheriff’s department.
Plus, in the turmoil in the sheriff’s department of his final year, he no doubt learned more about its inner workings than he wished.

There are positives for Carson in the negatives.
Incumbent Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., the Republican nominee, while often serving ably, has been embroiled in controversy for 18 months now, unable to resolve serious allegations surrounding his son, Ros.
Ros was accused of threatening an “incident” at Milford or Oneonta schools so he, unhindered, could commit suicide in front of a supervisor critical of him.

Devlin
Fernandez

It might happen, but it’s conceivable the case will still be hanging out there on Nov. 6, when voters go to the polls. If so, would you want to vote for Devlin?
The Democratic designee, retired state trooper Bob Fernandez, has an albatross hanging around his neck: As county board chair, his wife, Kathy Clark, R-Otego, did significant damage to the welfare of her constituents, evident dramatically in the past few days when two top executives of the county nursing home – privatizing it was one of her signature achievements – were hauled into court on felony charges of endangering patients.
Plus, some Republicans believe that Clark led the charge against Devlin to open the way for her husband’s candidacy? With that nagging question, would you want to vote for Fernandez when you go into the polling booths Nov. 6.

The positives for Carson are also in the positives.
While defeated for reelection by a mere five votes, Carson left office squeaky clean. He was generally admired by his colleagues, and very well may have been elected county board chairman if only three voters had cast ballots the other way.
There’s plenty of time to run as an independent. The independent candidate would have to collect a mere 795 signatures. He and his no-doubt many supporters could begin circulating petitions July 10, and submit them by Aug. 14-21.
Plus, a three-way race means someone could win with perhaps as little as 35 percent of balloting; a quarter of the county’s population lives in Carson’s home city.
Very doable.

We have a president who’s seeking to drain what he calls “the swamp” of Washington D.C. – Godspeed! But we have a little swamp here, and – arguably – both Devlin and Fernandez are part of it.
Let’s drain our little swamp. Elect Len Carson sheriff of Otsego County on Nov. 6, 2018.

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EDITORIAL: Amy Schumer Proves It –

Editorial, June 8, 2018

Amy Schumer Proves It

Cooperstown-Oneonta Market

CAN Support Top Acts.

Study Should Underscore That

Amy Schumer filled Foothills.

Amy Schumer’s almost-instantaneous sellout performance Tuesday, May 29, at Oneonta’s Foothills Performance Arts Center proves it: There is a demand for top-rated entertainment in Otsego County.
The remaining question: What’s the price point?
As Schumer proved, $20 – a true bargain – is fine. So is probably $30. Maybe $40. Certainly, at $50 a seat there will probably be some audience erosion, but how much?
At $20, Foothills grossed an estimated $14,000. At $40, it would have been $28,000, not a bad gate, plus bar sales.
It was quite a story. Foothills Manager Bill Youngs looked up from his desk the Friday afternoon before and there was Amy Schumer herself, one of the nation’s top comics (and a niece of our U.S. senator, Chuck Schumer.)
Having recently moved to the area, she wanted to do a benefit in four days, to test out the material in her upcoming “Amy Schumer And Friends” national tour.
Youngs and his office manager, Geoff Doyle, rose to the occasion, setting up an online ticket office in short order and getting the word out over social media. Overnight, the 650 tickets were sold. (Well done, guys!)
The line that evening extended up South Market Street almost to Main, an unprecedented sight in the City of the Hills. Since Gordon Lightfoot reopened Foothills in 2010 to great excitement, there’s been only one other sellout.
Now, no doubt, Youngs and his board members are sharpening their pencils and looking at their performance list to see how Amy’s hit evening might be duplicated, and triplicated, and quadruplicated … and so on.

Still, the whole question of what Greater Oneonta, and that includes Cooperstown, can afford in the way of entertainment is still up in the air, despite notable successes in the market. Another example: retiring Catskill Symphony Orchestra maestro packed SUNY Oneonta’s Dewar Arena April 28 for his final concert.
That question mark looms lately in the mind of anyone who may walk past the historic Oneonta Theater, and to see its front doors plywooded over despite the best efforts of its owner, Tom Cormier, over a decade.
Happily, Mayor Gary Herzig can report, FOTOT – the Friends of the Oneonta Theater – in collaboration with the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, has been awarded $60,000 from the city’s Downtown Redevelopment Fund to answer that question.
FOTOT/GOHS has contracted with New York City’s Webb Associates, the foremost arts-center consulting firm in the country, to finally conduct a market survey to determine how much entertainment Greater Oneonta can afford, and what type.

Foothills declined to participate in seeking the city grant, but Mayor Herzig says it’s now agreed to provide consultant Duncan Webb whatever information he may need to come up with a sound conclusion on the arts scene as a whole.
“That’s important,” said Herzig, “because you can’t talk about restoring the Oneonta Theater without talking about Foothills. They have to work together. They have to have a defined market niche. We’re not looking to build up one at the expense of the other.”

The queue of fans waiting to get into the Amy Schumer concert at Foothills Tuesday, May 29, demonstrates quality entertainment can fill theaters locally. Photo by Hannah Bergene

Webb is expected to start work in early July – very exciting, particularly since City Hall, leveraging $10 million from the Cuomo Administration in Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) funding, now has the money to act on Webb’s best recommendation.
“That’s exactly what we need to know,” Herzig said. And right now, we don’t.

According to Herzig, in addition to a market survey, the $60,000 will be used to determine what it will cost to renovate the historic theater back to its original glory. (Cormier put a new roof on it, so – fingers crossed – damage won’t be structural.)
“The outcome of this study may be there’s not enough support in Onoenta. Or the engineering study may say it just costs too much,” Herzig continued. “FOTOT understands this could be the outcome.” But at least everyone will have given it “their best shot.”
The mayor – and all arts fans, who enjoy Foothills today and enjoyed the Oneonta Theater, even under its latest struggling incarnation under Cormier – have to hope both very different facilities can finally thrive, particularly with the 2008 recession fading and a sense that better times are arriving.
As a good omen, Herzig points to Catskills Hospice contracting with ZZ Top, the beard-toting, guitar-driving band that’s been packing houses for almost a half-century now, to perform at its annual fundraising concert Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Sixth Ward Athletic Club field.
Tickets, he pointed out, will be as much as $250, and it’s sure to be a sellout.
It’s a benefit concert, sure. But a sellout would again show the draw of top quality, as Gordon Lightfoot and Judy Collins and Loretta Lynn did almost a decade ago now.
In the baseball region, let’s say with some confidence: If we book it, they will come. It being quality, which entertainment fans will certainly appreciate and, we can hopefully anticipate, support.

 

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EDITORIAL: While Security Challenges Grow, So Does High-Tech

Editorial, May 31, 2018

While Security Challenges

Grow, So Does High-Tech

Community Bank’s security camera in Southside Oneonta captures a suspect, left, who looks a lot like images captures after two “skims” in Pennsylvania.

Ten years ago, we might have said, if high-tech can’t solve security problems, its future is limited. Today, high-tech is the King Kong that dominates everyone, and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future.
That doesn’t mean security problems have gone away. If anything, they are more daunting and they are inescapable.

A case in point happened here in Otsego County Saturday, May 19, when a “skimmer” was discovered on an ATM at the Community Bank drive-thru on Southside Oneonta. This device was placed by someone with mischief in mind over that slot on an ATM machine where you slide your credit or debit card.
The “skimmer” will read the information on the magnetic strip on your card, and a little micro-video camera will send it to the person who put the “skimmer” in place, who can then use the data to access your credit information or to make purchases fraudulently.
It turns out, the “skimmer” was placed late on the evening before. The ATM itself diagnosed something was wrong, alerted the repair technician and turned itself off. When the technician arrived the next morning, he quickly figured out what had happened and alerted state police at Troop C, Sidney.
As it happened, the security camera caught an image of the man who placed the “skimmer,” and he looks very much like the man who placed one at another Community Bank branch in Scranton, Pa., in early February, and at a nearby PNC Bank branch in Kingston, nearby Scranton, about the same time.
The photos have been widely circulated, first in the Scranton Times; last week in Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal. And no one’s called with an identity yet, so it’s possible that the suspect’s wearing a disguise.
The baseball hat helps. He’s wearing thick-rimmed glasses, and it looks like he may have a false nose.
If you Google “skimmer” devices, you’ll find they look pretty slick. It seems like they actually fit over the ATM slot and unless a customer doesn’t look closely, he or she wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

This kind of thing – and the FBI’s “router alert” issued on Memorial Day advising computer users to restart their machines to side-track Russian trackers – has to concern everyone about the dangers of participating in our brave new technological world?
In reality, high-tech is ubiquitous. There’s no opting out.

A skimmer, foreground, fits right over a real ATM, background.

As it happens, though, Community Bank – and the banking community, generally, no doubt – has been preparing for this and all sorts of other mischief.
One of community’s vice presidents, Hal Wentworth, quickly issued a statement advising customers of something called “Visa’s zero-liability policy” in cases of fraud or unauthorized use of accounts. When this sort of thing happens, it seems, the credit-card company’s customers are protected.
Wentworth asked anyone who suspects a data breach to alert the bank. The investigator, Capt. Scott Heggelke, said no one has come forward, so it looks like customers are in the clear.

Meanwhile, if any other problems occur, or if anyone thinks they recognize our friend with the baseball cap, call state police at 607-432-4844 and perhaps at least this specific situation will be resolved.
Even so, King-Kong will remain.

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EDITORIAL: Who’ll Protect Us From Centers?

Editorial, May 25, 2018

Who’ll Protect

Us From Centers?

News that Centers Health Care has raised the private-payer rate at the former county-owned Otsego Manor from $300 to $510 a day – $186,000 a year, the state’s highest – is almost too sad to contemplate.
Gary Koutnik, county board vice chairman and chair of the board’s Human Service Committee, reacted with the standard response: Since the once-excellent facility is privatized, what happens at Centers, nee Focus, is no longer the county board’s business.
That would not be satisfactory, except – given the Balkanized nature of the county board, 14 reps chosen from tiny constituencies – the county board can be non-responsive and get away with it.
Even given that reality, washing their collective 14 sets of hands is not satisfactory.
Within the bowels of county government, someone needs to develop expertise to do what can be done to ensure our elderly’s health needs are being met.
Right now, the only oversight at Centers is a volunteer family council.
Knowledge is power, and county government needs to assign someone to develop the knowledge to assure the least damage possible is done to the most vulnerable

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EDITORIAL: Hail Doubleday! Historic Ballfield To Be Reinvented For 21st Century Fans’ Needs

Editorial, May 25, 2018

Hail Doubleday! Historic Ballfield To Be
Reinvented For 21st Century Fans’ Needs

Smart new bleachers and a multi-purpose building with rise behind the now-deteriorating third-base line.

Too much discussion about Doubleday Field in recent years has centered on how it
was once considered the Birthplace of Baseball, and now isn’t.
That’s not a productive conversation.
Let’s stipulate that boys played baseball in Phinney’s Field in the mid-1800s, as boys did across the country. Let’s stipulate that Abner Doubleday was at West Point in 1839, when he purportedly invented baseball here. Let’s stipulate that, yes, something with a bat and ball was played as far away as Poland as long ago as the Middle Ages.
No matter. Doubleday Field has played a central role in Cooperstown becoming the locus of the National Game, which in turn led to the founding of the National Baseball Hall of Fame here instead of Hoboken, which in turn fueled Otsego County tourism, which in turn led to the youth baseball camps that now underpin our cornerstone local industry.
In announcing a $1 million grant the other day toward $5.8 million in renovations, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, caught the personal dimension of that living history. He remembered seeing Mickey Mantle hit a single there, (although a pinch-runner took it from there.) One of the Wounded Warriors told him, with awe, the other year: “Babe Ruth sat in the dugout where I’m sitting now.”
In short, Doubleday Field IS historic.

So the renewed interest in renovating Doubleday Field is as welcome as it is overdue.
In addition to Seward’s Million, another $3 million is expected any day from the Empire State Development Corp., (which this week announced the opening of The Wick, a boutique hotel in

Mayor Tillapaugh showed this slide to the MVREDC to dramatize how obscure Doubleday Field is from Main Street, something the planned entryway would remedy.

Hudson, a $10 million project – the state DOES do this sort of thing, as it should.)
The resulting Doubleday Field – with a green swath leading from Main Street to the main entrance, a historic exhibit beneath the grandstand, and a multi-purpose building (offices, restrooms, a pressroom and space for public gatherings) – will cement this national icon further in community life.
Cooperstown’s new mayor, Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, immediately began promoting the project on taking office April 1, winning the endorsement of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Commission – necessary to receive the grant – just days after taking the oath.
She appointed her predecessor, Jeff Katz, as president of the Friends of Doubleday, which will assure continuity as things move forward.
Tillapaugh has a sensible priority list: As soon as the money is in hand, no matter how much, work will begin on the most important things first. No waiting.
This should assure that something – fingers crossed that is will be largely complete – will be in place in time to celebrate Doubleday Field’s centennial properly, sometime next year or in 2020.
Hail Doubleday!, (wherever or whenever baseball emerged from the primeval maw.)

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EDITORIAL: The Right Leader, At The Right Time?

Editorial, May 11, 2018

WERTENBAKER LAND

TRUST PRESIDENT

The Right Leader,
At The Right Time?

From the fields at the end of Graves Road, Cherry Valley, recently acquired by Caleb Wertenbaker’s Glensfoot farm, no human habitation is visible.

People generally recognize Otsego County’s geographic schizophrenia. (Schizophrenic, in the best possible way, of course.)
To the south, there are 10 Interstate exits – 11 if you count Sidney’s – largely undeveloped (except Exits 14-15, at Southside Oneonta), ideal for commerce, manufacturing, distribution and other job-creating uses.
To the north is the pristine Glimmerglass watershed, a national environmental icon, surrounded by pretty hamlets and villages, most of them in sad states of deterioration. (Wouldn’t Westford and Westville, to pick two, be delightful with an influx of young families and new incomes?)
Jobs on the highway. Homes amid lovely hills and valleys. An ideal future to contemplate.

The Otsego Land Trust, which achieved its goal of bringing 10,000 acres under conservation easements by 2010 (a little late, but no matter), is an important piece in achieving the happy equation: When the jobs inevitably arrive (fingers crossed), entities like the Land Trust, it is to be hoped, will have ensured sufficient protections are in place to avoid ruination.
So how nice, on the one hand, is it to reflect on Princeton, N.J., developer Harry Levine’s successful conclusion of 12 years as Land Trust president, and his succession by Caleb Wertenbaker, a ninth-generation member of a family that has tended Glensfoot farm in Cherry Valley since the 1790s. (Currently, Todd Gohde is managing production of certified organic hay there.)
Glensfoot now encompasses some 1,200 acres, and Wertenbaker underscored the importance of the Land Trust’s mission the other day during a walk on rolling hills at the top of Graves Road, the latest 500 acres added to the family’s holdings, now being placed under conservation easement.
At the top of a meadow, less than two miles from busy Route 20, and half that from the Village of Cherry Valley, there was no sign of human habitation in any direction, only fields, forest and blue sky.
“It’s always been here and will always be here,” said Wertenbaker, who since graduating from Oberlin in 1996 has made a living in set design in New York City and Boston, escaping up to these parts whenever he can.

Levine
Szarpa


Harry Levine, by all accounts, has been an activist Land Trust president. Foremost, he raised staffing from a sometimes half-time executive director to five professionals, including the latest executive director, Pat Szarpa, about to mark her first anniversary. She served for six years as executive director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, based in East Aurora, the Buffalo suburb, before moving to Cooperstown in 2012.
To the heartfelt thanks of many, Levine and the Land Trust board stepped up and saved Brookwood Gardens, 23 acres on Otsego Lake a mile north of Cooperstown, from falling into private hands and, thus, lost to the public forever. A businessman, though, he was particularly concerned about the P&L.
Making Brookwood financially sustainable requires $25,000-40,000 a year, depending what Land Trust overhead is assigned to it, Wertenbaker said. Shortterm, Levine had lined up a handful of donors to keep Brookwood going.
But it’s no surprise that Szarpa, when asked for her three top priorities, listed Brookwood as one of them. Some of that will be generated by giving a franchise to Brent Baysinger’s Canoe & Kayak Rentals of Portlandville to enable canoe rentals at Brookwood.
Additionally, the northern half of the property, the deteriorating home there razed, the two bridges over Leatherstocking Creek repaired, will soon be reopened, enhancing weddings and other uses on the southside – and, meanwhile, available for birding and other passive uses.
For the Land Trust to flourish, the general public has to care, and Szarpa is working with the national Land Trust Alliance “to create strong images so we can tell our story,” an outreach effort in its early stages. Plus, she is preparing for reaccreditation and taking other steps to make sure the organization is as strong as it might be.
(Plus, expect additions to the “Blueway,” a trail of publicly accessible sites from Deawongo Island in Canadarago Lake to where Oak Creek meets the Susquehanna, (near the site of David “Natty Bumppo” Shipman’s cabin.)

Whereas Levine, out of necessity, took the lead, Wertenbaker inherits a more mature organization, and sees his role as helping the Land Trust work. “I’m not going to be the driver. I’ll play a leadership role, but ‘leading from behind’,” he said. “The day-to-day business is 100 percent in the hands of the staff.”
As a set designer – and, mostly recently, as creative services director for productionglue, a New York City events company – Wertenbaker as manager helps “creative projects and creative people” accomplish their goals, rather than his agenda. “What I want (in the Land Trust) is a group of people to work together on a common goal.”
The right leader at this particular time, wouldn’t you say?

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