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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Letters To The Editor

Search For ‘Unclaimed Funds’ Ends In Disappointment

Search For ‘Unclaimed Funds’ Ends In Disappointment

HOMETOWN ONEONTA/The Freeman’s Journal

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 18-19, 2014

To the Editor:

If you received the giant postcard from state Sen. Jim Seward’s office stating you may have “New York State Unclaimed Funds waiting for you! …There’s never any charges to search or file for unclaimed funds.” Don’t believe it. Don’t believe it.

I was surfing the Internet a while back and decided to look into that site. I put in the names of my mother and stepfather and, sure enough, their names came up saying that there were funds available.

To make a long story short I contacted my brother, since I had turned executorship over to him. He was the one that had to fill out the forms. We ended up going to the county seat and spending around $70 to get the forms needed. Also there was the money I spent in gas driving over to Sherburne and back a couple times.

The government would not tell us how much money was there until we bought and sent in the forms. I also sent a copy of my birth certificate, which it cost me $20 or $30 plus a three-month wait.

As we were getting the forms together we discovered my mother’s lawyer had never closed the estate. How is it the government did not required him to do this? He is now dead, so we would have to pay another lawyer to close the estate. There goes another $300 plus? So we sent in the paperwork we had.

They sent us a request for more documentation! At the time they told us there was a grand total of around $90! So we told him we did not want to pursue this matter any more. It was costing more money for form of proof than what we would get back. What’s the point?

So we requested a return of our documents. They have refused to return the documentation that we paid for. The documents belong to us as we paid for them. If they had any intelligence they would copy or check off receiving the documents and return the originals.

To me, it seems the whole affair was just another way for the government to get more money from us by having us purchase all these forms and documents from the government. If the documents where already part of government why did we have to purchase them again? Couldn’t they have just looked them up?

Another example of government incompetency and their lack of understanding that they are public servants. We pay their salary, they are not supposed to make life harder for us.

R. SCOTT DUNCAN
Hartwick Forest

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County’s Avarice Takes All, Not Just What I Owe

County’s Avarice Takes All, Not Just What I Owe

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 11-12, 2014

To the Editor:

I read your editorial (of Nov. 27-28) and it brought tears to my eyes. You have a clear understanding of my agony to redeem my home.

For 51 days before the auction I tried without success to keep the house OUT of the auction and pay what I owed. My pleas did fall on deaf ears and cold hearts.

Mr. Crowell had full discretion to remove any property from the auction but, alas, he chose not to. He didn’t want to “disappoint” any potential buyer by removing any properties out of the catalogue. That’s the best he could do?

To make matters worse, a co-worker (who once worked in the treasurer’s office and still has close ties) bid on my home and is now waiting, as I am, for the outcome. Imagine working 50 feet away from someone who can’t wait to evict you. I pray to keep my home, while they want to add it to their “farming operation.”

The avarice of the county to take everything I have rather than what I owe them is something that most of the citizens may not be aware of. So many people think I would get the balance after taxes were satisfied. You stated it correctly….the county keeps it all. Everything.

Thank you, sir, for your insight and kindness. Perhaps the board will be merciful and I will have peace again. I was at the Dec. 3 board meeting asking again to pay what I owe them. Perhaps a Christmas Miracle! We have to change this redemption policy and allow individuals to keep their homes.

MARIA AJELLO
Town of Richfield

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Katz: Our Own Rick Hulse Derailed Tourism Assistance

Katz: Our Own Rick Hulse

Derailed Tourism Assistance

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 11-12, 2014

To the Editor:

In the county budget vote of Wednesday, Dec. 3, a bipartisan group of Ed Lentz, Beth Rosenthal, Gary Koutnik, Linda Rowinski, Kay Stuligross, Craig Gelbsman and Janet Quackenbush voted to return $150,000 in bed tax revenues to the municipalities that generate it.

They recognized, unlike our own Town of Otsego/Village of Cooperstown representative Rick Hulse, that the town and city of Oneonta, Town of Hartwick and Village of Cooperstown bear a disproportionate burden of tourism costs. At the same time, those townships and municipalities account for 78.2 percent of the $1.4 million of the bed-tax revenue paid to Otsego County. Representative Hulse is the first county representative since I’ve worked to procure bed-tax money for Cooperstown who has publicly rejected us. Nancy Iversen, James Johnson, John Kosmer, Sam Dubben and Beth Rosenthal, Republicans and Democrats, have all stood with us and supported our needs.

As mayor of Cooperstown, I applaud those representatives who voted for redistribution of a portion of the bed tax. The village does not, and cannot, run simply as a small village of less than 2,000 residents.

As host to hundreds of thousands of visitors who flock to Cooperstown to see the Baseball Hall of Fame, Fenimore Art Museum, Farmers’ Museum and the Glimmerglass Festival (as well as Cooperstown Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary and Cooperstown All-Star Village in Oneonta), the village has to provide a level of infrastructure and services that go far beyond our own residents’ needs.

While the county happily collects sales and bed tax money that we provide, it returns nothing to us in roads, public safety and other services that we handle on our own through a full-time police force, streets department, water and sewer plants and so on. Cooperstown would welcome financial support of any kind and, had Representative Hulse voted yes, we would have gotten funds. His vote was the deciding one.

In the last few years, much talk has revolved around economic development for Otsego County and bolstering the infrastructure of those activities that draw people to the county. Tourism was clearly identified as one of our strengths and potential growth areas.

Ideally, the county would pursue an increase in the bed tax, in line with counties like Monroe, Albany and Onondaga, and redistribute that additional money directly back to the municipalities that generate it for their infrastructure needs.

Until that is accomplished, short-term help through a return of some bed tax to the municipalities that create it is the right thing to do.

I hope Rick Hulse succeeds in his publicly stated goal to create a process-driven, sustainable, long-term bed-tax-distribution plan. However, he could have easily voted for a short-term return of bed tax money to his district, while still pursuing a long-term plan. The two are not mutually exclusive. He said he supported bed tax for Cooperstown, but voted against it.

One doesn’t deserve credit for saying yes when voting no.

JEFF KATZ
Mayor
Village of Cooperstown

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48 Units Too Intense For Silver Creek

48 Units Too Intense For Silver Creek

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 4-5, 2014

To the Editor:

I am very concerned about Housing Visions’ planned development of the Silver Creek properties. I’ve always favored reasonable development of this area, but I have serious misgivings about the construction of 48 housing units there.

First, I worry about the stability of the hillside. Can it physically support this much construction? We know what heavy construction of the Wilber Park Apartments did to that hillside, resulting in a massive landslide into Wilber Park, much to the detriment of that park. I fear that the hillside above Silver Creek is similarly unstable and will result in another massive landslide.

Second, I am concerned about the greater volume of traffic 48 housing units will produce, both on the steep climb from the units up to Monroe, and on the traffic on Clinton, a dangerous street in the wintertime. And Monroe east of Clinton has a narrow, one-way bottleneck.

Third, because the cow path from SUNY-O onto upper Clinton provides students, faculty and city residents convenient walking access to and from the campus, Clinton has lots of foot traffic, a considerable portion of which is on the street itself because upper Clinton lacks sidewalks.

The result is that pedestrians’ only choice once leaving the cowpath is to walk on Clinton for the first 150 yards to Monroe, and many continue on Clinton below Monroe (where the increased traffic from the Housing Visions project will be traveling), both because they’ve started IN THE STREET and find it convenient to continue IN THE STREET.

That’s a problem now for those of us driving Clinton. Increased traffic from the proposed project will exacerbate that problem, especially in the winter when the sidewalks that do exist are often not shoveled or are icy and thus more dangerous than the street because the street is usually plowed and sanded.

Fourth, the Clinton-Spruce neighborhood is one of Oneonta’s finest because it is quiet and peaceful. Forty-eight housing units are as many units as now exist on Clinton and Monroe. That many new units are going to more than disturb that peace and quiet – for many, it will make residents’ lives at least uncomfortable and for some miserable. Why build so many units in such a quiet area, especially when other vacant and abandoned property is available in the city?

Oneonta needs new housing and the taxes from it. However, we do not need 48 new units above Silver Creek! Twenty or 24 would be a much more reasonable number. Moreover, there are many other vacant lots in Oneonta crying out for construction. In fact, there’s one right next to my house. The city could also negotiate with SUNY-O to buy the property at 109 Clinton with its abandoned six-plex apartment house. Those excellent one-bedroom apartments might be refurbished, or the building could be replaced with a reasonable number of units there.

These would be reasonable housing developments.

PAUL SCHEELE
Oneonta

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Why Did Leaf Pickup Break Down This Fall?

Why Did Leaf Pickup Break Down This Fall?

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 4-5, 2014

To the Editor:

In talking with friends and neighbors this fall, every one of them commented on what a poor job the village has done in picking up leaves this year. Comments ranged from “just plain terrible; very disorganized” to “it was poorly managed and haphazard!”

At three homes across the street from my house there were five piles of leaves that just sat there for over a month. I became so disgusted that I picked up and discarded all my leaves myself. Then, when it snowed, the village plowed the street and left a big pile of leaves on my curbside lawn.

One friend of mine has done some research on the number of employees working for the Village of Cooperstown compared to the other villages of the same size in Upstate New York. Cooperstown has more employees than every one of the villages in comparison and our village taxes are higher!

Cooperstown’s administration looks more and more like the way the federal government does things. Yes, bureaucracy is here.

STAN HALL
Cooperstown

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Oneonta, Cooperstown County Reps Should Support Sharing Bed-Tax Revenue

Oneonta, Cooperstown County Reps Should

Support Sharing Bed-Tax Revenue

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 4-5, 2014

To the Editor:

Thank you to your newspapers for the repeated suggestion that the county Board of Representatives should reform the occupancy or “bed tax.” It is inexplicable that the board seems set on ignoring this commonsense appeal, including several representatives whose own districts will suffer greatly.

Tourism is one of the primary industries of our County and is led by Cooperstown, the city and town of Oneonta, and the towns of Otsego and Hartwick. Those communities collect the overwhelming majority of the tourism-related bed tax and they also suffer the majority of the wear and tear and stresses associated with this increased tourism. It makes sense that a greater portion of the bed tax should be returned to these communities to repair their roads or otherwise expend the funds as their residents see fit.

Over the past several months, the reform effort was primarily led by Mayors Miller and Katz of Oneonta and Cooperstown and Supervisor Wood from the Town of Oneonta. The initial suggestion was to increase the bed tax from 4 percent to 6 percent with the new funds being returned to the communities that generate it. This increase likely would not have been noticed by our visitors and would not have taken any funds from County coffers. It was rejected by the board.

The latest reform effort would abandon the bed-tax increase but still require the county to return a share of the funds to the local communities. Both plans would benefit residents of Oneonta and Cooperstown and I am at a loss as to why their representatives would reject these proposals.

The Town of Oneonta government has petitioned its Representative, Janet Hurley Quackenbush, regarding the need for bed-tax reform but has so far not received a positive response. The Town of Oneonta would stand to receive in the neighborhood of $40,000 annually from bed-tax reform.

While this may not sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things, this sum would allow for a reasonable increase in funds to the Town Highway Department with ZERO property tax increase to local residents. Oneontans would experience better road quality with no increased tax burden. It’s win-win for them.

The final county budget workshop was held this past Monday the 3rd, and the Board appears ready to reject any proposals to reform the bed tax, purely along partisan lines. This should not be a Republican or Democratic issue. I strongly urge Representatives Hulse and Quackenbush to represent the interests of your constituents and not just your party.

To the readers, please contact your county representative to encourage reasonable tax reform. This conversation will likely continue into next year.

ANDREW STAMMEL
Member
Oneonta Town Board

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Thanksgiving and Hospice: Blessings Abound

Thanksgiving and Hospice: Blessings Abound

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Nov. 27-28, 2014

Editor’s Note: Lola Rathbone is president/CEO of the Catskill Area Hospice & Palliative Care.

Thanksgiving is about family, traditions and a time to be thankful for life’s blessings. Hospice, too, is about family, traditions and a time to be thankful for life’s blessings. Thanksgiving comes once a year. Every day we are privileged to offer a wide variety of “Thanksgivings” to our Hospice families.

Personally, one of my most memorable Thanksgivings was my father-in-law’s last Thanksgiving. We traveled to Hagerstown, Pa., just as we traditionally had for many Thanksgivings in the past. My father-in-law, a Hospice patient for eight months, was happy to be “home” to celebrate this special family holiday. He was in his comfy flannel PJs and his well-worn plaid bathrobe. He wanted to get dressed for dinner, so we helped him get – according to his term – “presentable.”

He requested his favorite Pennsylvania Dutch holiday treat, “hog maw” (cabbage, potatoes and sausage stuffed in a pig’s stomach and roasted to a deep golden brown). As awful as this may sound, it truly is delicious and filled the house with a mouthwatering aroma, he loved it! His wish was made possible because he was able to be “at home” because of the excellent care his Hospice Team gave him.

This experience inspires me to remember at all times that our Hospice is here to provide Hospice families with their “Thanksgiving,” regardless of what time of year it is. Our goal is to help patients and families “Feel Better” so they can “Live Better.” This can often result in people living longer than those who do not use Hospice.

Because so many people have caught on to using Hospice much sooner, they not only have the time, they have the “quality of time” needed to benefit from the opportunity of making their “Thanksgivings” possible. In life, we only get one shot at making these beautiful, lifelong memories – it is our privilege and commitment to everyone we serve.

Right now we are helping one of our patients plan a family reunion. His family is coming in from out of town. They will all get together for a wonderful dinner and a time sharing memories and creating new ones. What a blessing!
November is National Hospice Month, but we celebrate Hospice every day through the stories and experiences our Hospice families give to us.

We are here for you, to help you “Feel and Live Better,” and to help make your “Thanksgiving Wishes” come true.

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Highway Crew In Near-Poverty As Town Officials Get Raises

Highway Crew In Near-Poverty As Town Officials Get Raises

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Nov. 27-28, 2014

To the Editor:

Now is the time of year when towns approve their annual budgets for the coming year, and Town of Otsego residents should be aware of what was approved on Nov. 12. Raises have been awarded to some elected officials and part-time administrative employees, yet our hard-working, full-time, highway crew starts at a very low hourly wage, which has cost the town some good employees as they have sought better pay with neighboring Towns.

Our town clerk is scheduled to receive a raise to $26,339.00 per year for only 16 hours of work a week, plus a monthly board meeting! The assessor will receive $27,000 for office hours of one day a week for our town with a population of 3,900, compared to the Town of Oneonta at $20,808 with a population of 5229! The Town of Otsego’s part-time court clerk is to receive $23,000 PLUS an additional $4,000 for yet another part-timer to help process parking tickets for the Village of Cooperstown.

These raises come as a slap in the face to our full-time, year-‘round highway crew members who are living on the edge of poverty. One crew member spoke at the budget meeting, outlining our pay rates as compared to adjacent towns. It is pathetic that our men are paid a wage so low that they are forced live on the edge of poverty and elected officials and part-time office help receive huge wages.

The primary role of the supervisor and Town Board members is fiduciary. It seems their number one concern is the amount of solar panels needed on the Town Office Building and the relentless anti-hydrofracking drum beating. In light of all the recent court decisions defending home rule, you would think that they could clear their heads and think about their primary job – money management!

SHEILA ROSS
Fly Creek

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Left Alone, Yanks, Ukrainians Friends

Left Alone, Yanks, Ukrainians Friends

Edition of Thursday-Friday Oct. 9-10

To the Editor,

With all that is going on in the Ukraine, this may be of interest to World War II buffs.

My husband Jerry Waller was, for two and a half years, in the Eighth Air Force in England. Suddenly, a group from his squadron was sent by ship down the coast of France to Gibraltar and across the Mediterranean to Cairo. From there they went by truck and train across the Middle East.

They eventually got to the Ukraine. They were to teach our Allies about the bombers. However, The second night they were there the Germans bombed them. 200 planes were destroyed – but life went on.

The Ukrainians and Americans got along beautifully. Suddenly one day the Ukrainians were ordered out and Russians came in with instructions not to be friendly with the Americans. Sound familiar?

As the French say, “Le plus ca change, c’est toujours la meme chose.” (The more things change, the more it’s the same!)

NANCY WALLER
Roseboom

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Friendly Elephant Means No Harm, But Is What It Is

Friendly Elephant Means No Harm, But Is What It Is

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Oct. 9-10

To the Editor:

I want to make it clear that at the public hearing on Monday, Sept. 29, I was not speaking against Bassett Healthcare; I was speaking against the strange and needless effort of village officials to create an Institutional District in place of a Residential District.

I did note Bassett’s construction of a massive addition to the original hospital and its construction of two massive new buildings, and its acquisition of a large building that had been a museum and of a number of residential structures.

But I listed these significant actions as preliminary to my basic question: If Bassett could take such notable actions while in a Residential District, why did the village board want to create an Institutional District?

I do sympathize with Bassett’s neighbors (I am one of them) but I have never said that Bassett’s intentions were evil. I have compared it to a friendly elephant: It intends you no harm, but its natural functions and ambulations can cause you great misery.

WENDELL TRIPP
Cooperstown

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