News of Otsego County

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economic development

KUZMINSKI: Natural Gas, No! Renewables, Yes!… AND COUNTY CAN TAKE LEAD

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for August 10, 2018

… AND COUNTY CAN TAKE LEAD

Natural Gas, No!

Renewables, Yes!

Adrian Kuzminski

It’s recently been reported that Otsego Now, the economic development arm of Otsego county, is proposing a natural gas decompression station in Oneonta to help alleviate energy shortages that have plagued some businesses and institutions in the city.
Otsego Now is applying for a $3 million grant to help facilitate the project, which is estimated to cost $17 million.
Currently, SUNY Oneonta, Fox hospital, and Lutz Feeds suffer interrupted gas service during winter cold snaps when demand exceeds supply. Gas service is maintained for residential customers only by having these institutions inconveniently switch over to more expensive oil.
There has been talk of enlarging the existing NYSEG DeRuyter gas pipeline from Norwich to Oneonta. But Otsego Now Executive Director Jody Zakrevsky is quoted as saying that the estimated cost has ballooned to $100 million and may take a decade.
Zakrevsky estimates that the gas needed could be delivered to the proposed decompression station by two or three trucks a day for a couple of weeks a year.
This story leaves me scratching my head. Zakrevsky reports that natural gas is not only cheaper than oil, but that oil “pollutes more.” This ignores compelling evidence, first developed by Cornell University researchers, that natural gas is as much a polluting greenhouse gas as any other fossil fuel.
The pollution comes from cumulative seepage of methane during the life-cycle of natural gas production, from drilling to end-use. By the time the gas would get delivered to Oneonta – in what some call “bomb trucks” – the polluting damage would already have been done, starting back at the well-heads in Pennsylvania.
So why are we looking at the local energy scene solely through the lens of natural gas?
Why is there no serious consideration of non-fossil fuel alternatives?

This schematic of a decompression site is from the website of Algas-SDI, self-identified as “a manufacturer of products and systems for the reliable deployment of clean hydrocarbon fuels worldwide.”

We are facing a climate crisis. Our warm summer days feel good, but Arctic ice is melting, storms are getting more severe, and ecological instability is staring us in the face.
Under these circumstances, as I suggested in an earlier column, any proposal to expand the use of fossil fuels ought, at a minimum, to be accompanied by an equally funded parallel proposal to develop renewable energy.
We don’t have to rely on oil or gas. Efficient, low-cost heat exchange systems, which do not burn fuel, are now widely and cheaply available. The minimal electricity required to run such systems in our area comes from relatively clean hydro-sources.
Otsego Now might do better to forget the decompressor station and apply for a $3 million grant to convert residential and non-industrial systems from natural gas to heat exchange systems, and leave gas to those few situations for which it may be essential.
Somehow, there are always excuses why we can’t do renewables. Zakrevsky tells us that “weather and expensive batteries” are issues. Somehow the weather around here hasn’t stopped other solar projects from going forward.
As for the costs, here is where government subsidies, particularly from New York State, ought to come in. How much solar power is needed to make up for two or three gas trucks a day for a couple of weeks a year? How much solar power capacity can you buy for $17 million? How about a cost-benefit analysis?
For you pro-business people out there leery of borrow-and-spend, remember that’s how the Erie Canal, the railroads, the electrical grid, indeed America itself, mostly got built.
Neither government (socialism) nor business (capitalism) can do it by themselves. Government ought to be giving business the infrastructure it needs so that private enterprise can prosper, and it ought to make sure that the infrastructure we build doesn’t hurt the environment.
These kinds of decisions are too important to be left to a small agency like Otsego Now. What’s needed is comprehensive leadership – perhaps an Otsego County Energy Task Force – drawn from broad sectors of the community.
Other places are already doing it; just Google, for example, the “Tompkins County Energy Roadmap.”
Our Board of Representatives could take the lead in setting up such a Task Force for Otsego County, ideally composed of members from the colleges, businesses, non-profits, and other key sectors.
Once established, the Task Force ought to be empowered to make the decisions now left to Otsego Now. It should prioritize getting renewable energy subsidies, and be prepared to fight for them if they are not available.
Such a Task Force would be crucial in giving Otsego County a voice promoting its energy interests in Albany and beyond – something now sorely lacking.

Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy
professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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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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Southern Tier 8 Opens Oneonta Office

Binghamton Planners

Open Oneonta Office

Southern Tier 8, formerly known as the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board, announced this morning it is opening an office at Otsego Now, on the fifth floor of 189 Main St., Oneonta.  The agency has assisted CADE, the Hartwick College Craft Food & Beverage Center and other municipalities and not-for-profits across eight counties seek funding for projects ranging from economic development to water-quality testing.  Southern Tier 8 also unveiled a new logo and website at the press conference. From left are Southern Tier 8 Secretary Lolene Cornish and Executive Director Jen Gregory, Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky and Otsego Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Ann Heegan. The new office is set to open in early June. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
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DEAN: To Succeed, Otsego County Must Be Known

Column by James Dean, May 11, 2018

To Succeed, Otsego

County Must Be Known

Editor’s Note: James R. Dean, the Cooperstown village trustee, has been proprietor of New York Custom Curved Wood Stair Railings & Handrailings locally since 1973. In last week’s Part I, he analyzed out economic-development challenges we face. This week, Part II offers solutions.

James Dean

So what is the plan?
Almost everything that has been done so far to increase our population and business base, while very good, has not been enough to reverse our situation and we need to rethink what we need to do and how we need to do it.
As Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig often says, “We need more people.” I fully agree. Nothing changes in Otsego County without more people.
We need more people at the same time that we know we are in an imperfect situation for an ideal promotional effort. Knowing that, we should still move ahead to try to attract more people, businesses and outside money to Otsego County. The needed improvements will follow as our promotional efforts succeed.
Rebuilding Otsego County will not happen without a laser focus on promoting the big picture of “Otsego County New York” to the outside world. “Otsego County New York” are the four most important words that the outside world needs to hear from us. We need to reach out with public and private strategic messaging designed to capture the attention of people and businesses, that previously did not know about life in Otsego County New York.
Counties and businesses up and down the Hudson Valley, and elsewhere, are putting promotional and advertising money, and other resources into attracting new people and businesses to their area, and it is working. People are moving from the Hamptons to Hudson Valley where their money buys so much more.
I do not see that in Otsego County. To see what pride and promotional efforts of an area looks like, go to the Kingston area’s Luminary Media’s Arts and Culture website www.Chronogram.com.
Chronogram also has impressive print edition that is distributed free, in over 750 locations, from Stamford to Brooklyn, on both sides of the Hudson. It serves 51 towns and 9 counties in the Hudson Valley (see distribution). They are capturing customers, in a very organized way, while we are completely off the radar. Luminary media also has a real-estate advertising website http://upstatehouse.luminarymedia.com/, with similar print editions and equal distribution, reaching the same people. We have nothing like that here. How do we compete with that? At the very least we should try to be included in their orbit.

This image from Doug Decker’s 2015 video, “Oneonta, Life Enjoyed!”, depicts youngsters fishing. People would come to Otsego County if they knew about its charms, Jim Dean asserts.

People wanting to buy homes and property in Otsego County is a major component of deep, structural, long-term, local economic development. Zillow.com is a major real-estate advertising website that shows almost every home for sale in Otsego County (search Otsego County NY in Zillow). This is a tool that should be used to showcase Otsego County homes available for purchase. Local realtors already sponsor these Zillow ads and would handle most of the sales.
The Zillow interactive website platform is also an interesting model for a possible new, very visual, map based, all inclusive, fully interactive website, solely for the promotion of living and working in Otsego County New York. This new website could become the information destination for comprehensive and organized promotional efforts.
I suggest “OtsegoCountyNewYork.com” as the name for this possible new website. I have secured this name for possible future use. This new website would have click on/off layers for the major categories of interest in Otsego County like city, towns, villages, healthcare, churches, education, recreation, parks, businesses, shopping, real estate, restaurants, transportation, arts and culture, places to visit, etc. To see a simple Google Map prototype go to https://tinyurl.com/yaw5vm2t. Each similarly formatted layer would have mouse over icons that would identify the location, clickable points of interest that would open up with information, photos, audio, videos and/or “mini tours”. The purpose of this “master website” would be as a “central destination” for many outreach efforts for the “big sell” of all that Otsego County has to offer.
This new website would allow viewers to tour all of Otsego County on their own, at any time, from anywhere. This single focus new website would be fair and equal in providing information about all of Otsego County, from Richfield Springs to Unadilla (supported by volunteers from around the county, grants and donations) and would carry no paid advertising or preferential promotions.
Ideally, it would be developed and managed by a new, neutral entity, independent of any special or competing interests.
Quality of life is one of our major assets. Many people in other places have more money, but they do not have the quality of life, and they do not know where to look to find it. We want to paint our picture, and tailor our messages, to meet that need and welcome them to join us.
First, we sell them a forever home; then they help us build out the future of Otsego County. This applies to retired people, young creatives, entrepreneurs and self-employed people with businesses and families. Creating, and then conveying, a sense of pride of community and common cause will go a long way to helping Otsego County succeed.
I can think of no other publications that so beautifully portray, in pictures and text, so much of what we enjoy, need to convey, about Otsego County New York than “Otsego County – Its Towns and Treasures”, “Cooperstown”, and “Otsego Lake”, all three books published by The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown. Also “Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York – 200 Years of Health Care in Rural America” for the rich history of the first-class healthcare that has always been available in Otsego County New York.
Our problem, in my view, is not that people do not want to come here. Our problem, in my view, is that people do not know that we exist.
It is very important, in my view, for Otsego County local governments, businesses, schools, public and private organizations and interested individuals to work together, and to invest, in this common cause.
Rebuilding Otsego County is the collective responsibility of every person, hamlet, village, town and city in our county.

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Chairman Leaving Otsego Now Board

Chairman Leaving

Otsego Now Board

For Now, Hulse Succeeds Morgan

Devin Morgan

ONEONTA – Devin Morgan, Otsego Now chairman during the tumult that led to the resignation of the organization’s president, Sandy Mathes, in June, has resigned.

According to a letter sent to county representatives and fellow board members, his resignation is effective at the end of the year, and the current vice chair, Rick Hulse, will serve as acting chair until a decision on Morgan’s successor is made.

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Mathes Resigns At Otsego Now

BULLETIN

Mathes Resigns

At Otsego Now

ONEONTA – Sandy Mathes, who as CEO of Otsego Now revolutionized economic development in Otsego County over the past three years, has resigned.  He gave the 90-day notice required by his contract, the Otsego Now board learned this morning.

DEVELOPING STORY; CHECK BACK FOR DETAILS

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, FEB. 8
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, FEB. 8

What To Do In A Disaster

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DISASTER UNIVERSITY – 4:30-8:30 p.m. The Red Cross holds a training course for disaster relief. House fires to hurricanes, learn how you can aid your community in times of their greatest need. Registration preferred, walk-ins welcome. Alumni Hall, SUNY Oneonta. Info, Taylor Fanelli at (315)733-4666 or email taylor.fanelli@redcross.org.

CLUBHOUSE – 6-8 p.m. Baking night for teens 7-12th grade. Includes free food, give-aways, and, a judgement free zone where teens can relax with their friends. Unadilla Teen Center, 16 Watson St., Unadilla. Info, Blake Stensland @ bstensland@familyrn.org or Jon Ramirez @ jramirez@familyrn.org or call the Family Resource Network @ (607)432-0001

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, JAN. 22
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, JAN. 22

Public Discussion Of Oneonta

Downtown Revitalization Plan

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PUBLIC FORUM – 1 p.m. Share your thoughts on how the $10 million Downtown Revitalization plan should take advantage of the cities history to contribute to economic development. Greater Oneonta Historical Society, 183 Main St., Oneonta. Info, www.oneontahistory.org/upcomingevents.htm#More

SNOW TUBING – 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Park will provide snow tube with $5 tubing fee. No charge to enter park. Glimmerglass State Park, 1527 County Highway 31, Cooperstown. Info, www.thisiscooperstown.com/events/snow-tubing-glimmerglass-state-park

CHICKEN & BISCUIT BENEFIT – Noon.  Benefits Firefighter Tim West, Sec. Lt. in Hartwick Emergency Squad who is ill at this time.  By donation – Until food or people run out!   Hartwick Fire Dept. Company #1, Hartwick.  Info, Caren Kelsey, (607)-293-7530, Deb Clegg, (607) 293-6135.

THEATER – 2 p.m. Stuff of Dreams presents “Never Too Late.” Tickets @ Green Toad Book store or by calling (607)432-5407. Cost $15 adult, $12 senior and students, and $10 children 12 and under. Production Center of Foothills Performing Arts Center, 24 Market St., Oneonta.

LIBRARY LECTURE – Panel discussion on the impact of arts on the local economy. Info, www.villagelibraryofcooperstown.org/calendar Cancelled

CLICK FOR MORE HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103