By PARKER FISH • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – The topic of OH Fest – SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College’s collaborative spring event – led to a heated exchange between 3rd Ward Council member David Rissberger and 5th Ward Council member Dana Marie Levinson two weeks ago at a Common Council meeting.
Talking led to shouting between the two until Mayor Gary Herzig stepped in to bring order to the discussion. Two weeks later, Rissberger apologized at last night’s Council meeting for his conduct, yet reaffirmed his belief that OH-Fest should be held off city property. It is currently held in Neahwa Park.
“What is reported every year in center city is an alarm bell; people are crying ‘uncle’. It doesn’t matter which ward we live in; if people in 3 or 4 wards feel under siege and we cannot maintain families in those wards, the entire city loses,” said Rissberger in a prepared statement that he read during the public petitioner section of the Common Council meeting.
“We all have a goal of maintaining working families in Oneonta…Having multiple house parties with heavy drinking on the front lawn and a Marti Gras open container atmosphere during OH Fest is not going to incentivize any family with children to want to move into the neighborhood.”
Levinson also apologized for her conduct at the last Common Council meeting when the discussion over OH Fest continued later in the meeting.
OH Fest XIII saw 10 arrests, 10 medical transports due to alcohol poisoning, and 52 police calls, according to the emergency services report. Many people have growing concerns over the city’s support of the event, citing public intoxication, excessive drinking, and outdoor parties as just a few of their main concerns.
“My neighbors witness a steady increase in the level of inebriation throughout the ward as the day progresses and most are afraid to ask their student neighbors to lower the volume because they do not know how they or their friends will react when under the influence,” Rissberger said.
In the interest of time, Mayor Herzig encouraged council members to hold their discussions about OH Fest until the next Operations, Planning and Evaluation Committee meeting on May 29.