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Gary Herzig

Isn’t It Time For City To Act, Or Get Out Of The Way?

Editorial for October 5, 2018

Isn’t It Time For City To Act,

Or Get Out Of The Way?

You know, of course:
Creativity is making something out of nothing.
Or, better, recognizing potential where nobody else does.
The scoop in last week’s paper is a case in point: A group calling itself The Market Street Alliance is proposing a distillery in the former Oneonta Ford building, that dreary, long-empty, black-painted hulk at the foot of Chestnut Street, across from Foothills.
But that’s just the beginning: The idea is to make it a centerpiece for a downtown Oneonta transformed into a beverage center, with breweries, wineries, even mead-makers. (Yes, mead, that honey-based brew quaffed by King Hrothgar and his knights.)

Peachin
Herzig

The local CPA and investor in the prospective distillery, Johna Peachin, got the idea from a visit to her son in Walla Walla, Wash., where she participated in a
monthly Sip & Stroll event.

At the Walla Walla – “twice as nice,” promoters say – Downtown Foundation, Events Manager Cindy Frost says her region is
being marketed these days as
“The New Napa Valley.”
There are over 100 wineries in the Walla Walla valley, and three-dozen wineries have tasting rooms in the downtown, attracting top-tier restaurants and hotels there.
Last summer, the foundation came up with the idea of the Sip & Stroll, which has just finished its second May-to-September season.
One evening a month, the wineries waive the fee on their tastings, and about 100 people have been buying $10 tickets to partake. Many participants, of course, then buy a glass or two, shop, dine, etc., making it worthwhile for the downtown establishments.
The evening’s a magnet, which is what every downtown wants.
The $1,000 revenue is used to promote the event, Frost said.

The Freeman’s Journal – If entrepreneurial Market Street Alliance can revive Oneonta Ford as a distillery, fine. But what if in can’t? “My concern is the building will sit as it is for very many years to come,” said Mayor Herzig.


Peachin said she and fellow investors have a sales agreement with the Twelve Tribes, the religious community that owns the adjacent Yellow Deli.
She mentioned Ken Wortz, an owner of Kymar Distillery in Charlotteville, Delaware County, as an investor. And landlord Brian Shaughnessy and businessman Al Rubin accompanied her to the July 26 Otsego Now meeting where the original pitch was made.
The timeliness may not be great – just a few days before this news broke, Peachin had exploded negotiations between the Town of Oneonta Fire District and City Hall. City officials may not be too interested in accommodating her right now.
Still, the idea is intriguing.

Hold on a minute.
As outlined on this week’s front page, City Hall and the DRI (the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative), see the Oneonta Ford site as THE prime prospect for Artspace.
Artspace is that Minneapolis-based national entity that has been creating combinations of housing and studio space for artists across the nation since 1987. (Check www.artspace.org; very exciting.)
The colleges are active partners, seeing Artspace as a way to attract students; City Hall, as a way to keep them here after graduation. Doesn’t downtown Oneonta as an art magnet sounds much more enticing than Oneonta as a beer and liquor magnet, which, to a degree, it already is?
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig low-keys it: It’s the preferred site, but if the Twelve Tribes has another deal, the DRI, the most exciting news for the City of the Hills in a century, will just look somewhere else.
Come on. Are we serious or aren’t we? The state has already committed $3.5 million to cleaning up the Oneonta Ford property and building something new there, with more – likely – to come.
Enough dithering. Common Council should man and woman up, condemn what’s been an eyesore and a hazard for decades, pay the fair market value, and get started.
The Peachin group may make it work; but it may not.
If it doesn’t, the site could be locked up for decades to come. Our great-grandchildren will be seeing the same mess we are today, only moreso. Does anyone want that?
If Peachin’s creativity spurs City Hall – finally – into action, she certainly will deserve the community’s thanks and
appreciation.

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Seward Announces $1 Million In Grants For Damaschke Field

Seward Announces

 $1 Million In Grants

For Damaschke Field

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, announces $1 million in funding for improvements to Damaschke Field, including replacing the grandstand at a press conference this afternoon in front of the historic Oneonta ballpark.  Behind him are Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig and Oneonta Outlaws owner Gary Laing.  “We need to preserve historic features,” said Seward, who brought home a separate $1 million grant in May for Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field.  “We also need to prepare for the future.  Some upgrades are badly needed.”  About 1/3 of the money – it was obtained through  the state’s State and Municipal Facilities Program – will be required to raze the grandstand, whose steel girder are rotting.  Laing said there are a “lot of good ideas” on how to replace it that will be coming into focus in the months ahead.    He called the grant “absolutely incredible.”  A tour of the grandstand followed, including a cramped shower room, which home and visiting teams used to share.  (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
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A Good Idea From Fire Commissioners: Dissolve, Let Town Negotiate OFD Pact

Editorial for August 31, 2018

A Good Idea From

Fire Commissioners:
Dissolve, Let Town

Negotiate OFD Pact

The Freeman’s Journal – A packed house at Oneonta’s Elm Park Methodist Church in April 2017 urged town Board of Fire Commissioners: Renew the fire-protection contract with city’s paid Oneonta Fire Department. Sixteen months later, talks are still stymied.

When one least expects it, a breakthrough.
The Town of Oneonta’s Board of Fire Commissioners has voted, 3-2, to set a hearing to consider dissolving. The vote could come at the end of the hearing, scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Elm Park
Methodist Church.
Good idea. About time.
If the fire district is dissolved, a “fire zone” continues to exist within the town, so coverage will continue. The Town of Oneonta would assume responsibility for negotiating with the city. That’s good too.
There’s probably no one better than Town Supervisor
Bob Wood, previously a longtime fire commissioner himself, to bring talks with the city to a sensible conclusion.
For more than two years, negotiations have gone nowhere on extending the contract with City Hall for professional fire protection for the town’s Southside, and neighborhoods beyond the city’s East and West ends.
Only state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma
imposing a two-year settlement in January 2016 assured businesspeople and homeowners coverage as negotiations continued.
The two commissioners objecting to dissolution are the newcomers, Al Rubin and Michelle Catan, who since their election last December have been foiled in efforts to get the talks moving again.
The three in the majority bloc, chair Johna Peachin, veteran commissioner Fred Volpe and Ron Peters, who is associated with Peachin’s accounting firm, have not responded to city Mayor Gary Herzig’s requests for negotiations, the mayor says.

As noted here before, Coccoma imposed a regimen that allocates one-third of the costs of the city’s Oneonta Fire Department (OFD) to property owners in the town fire district; the remaining two-thirds would be covered by city taxpayers.
An independent consultant agreed to by both sides came up with roughly the same formula.
Still, no movement.
The majority bloc has been tangled up in the issue of revenues created by the OFD’s ambulance squad, which generates about $1 million of the fire department’s $4 million budget.
In effect, those revenues – insurance payments generated whenever a city ambulance carries a patient from either the city or town to Fox or Bassett – pay down the total, meaning there’s less for city taxpayers and fire-district property owners to split.
The bloc believes the way it’s being done is illegal, but so far hasn’t found anyone with authority to agree.
Again, if an “i” or two needs to be crossed to bring everything up to Hoyle, Bob Wood has the understanding to figure it out amicably with Herzig.

There are implications for the future.
For one, a town can’t operate its own fire department under New York State law, an option the fire commissioners have been threatening to pursue in negotiations with City Hall.
However, if it came to that, the town could create a town-wide fire district that could do so, a lengthy process – but slower is probably better. Plus, that may never happen and shouldn’t – the town and city’s fates are linked.
Arguably, given the $1 million contribution from townsfolks, it makes sense for a liaison to be brought into discussions with Common Council on policies regarding the OFD. Perhaps Al Rubin, who has tried to be an honest broker since joining the fire board, would be a good prospect for this role.
Regardless, it’s time to move forward. If the majority-bloc fire commissioners have concluded they can do no more, it makes sense to leave the scene.
The Oneonta Town Board is more sensitive to what the public wants – only a handful or two of voters turn up at Fire District elections – and the public has said it wants the standoff resolved.
With Wood at the helm, along with town board members of good will, an end to a worrisome situation may finally be within reach.

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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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Autumn Cafe Cuts Ribbon On Deck Bar

Autumn Cafe Cuts

Ribbon On Deck Bar

After reopening The Autumn Cafe in January, the Carrington family cut the ribbon on the newly renovated outdoor bar on the back deck of the restaurant this afternoon. “It’s all still a work in progress right now,” said owner Wayne Carrington. “But you can see the general direction that we’re headed in.” From left, Judy Carrington, Rebecca Carrington, Dorthy Carrington, Wayne Carrington, Rachael Lutz Jessup, Michelle Catan, and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig. (Parker Fish/AllOTSEGO.com)
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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, APRIL 5
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, APRIL 5

Urban Renewal Panel

14-19eventspage

COMMUNITY PROGRAM – 5:30 p.m. Panel on “Downtown Renewal: Community Economic Revitalization” featuring panelists Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz, Sociology Chair Dr. Alex Thomas, President/CEO Otsego Co. Chamber of Commerce Barbara Ann Heegan, more. Presentation followed by audience Q&A. Free, open to the public. Otsego Grille, Morris Complex, SUNY Oneonta. Call 607-436-3498.

SENIOR PLAY – 7 – 9:30 p.m. CCS produciton of “Almost. Maine.” Auditorium, Cooperstown High School. Call 607-547-8181 or visit www.cooperstowncs.org

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Chamber Cuts Ribbon On Main Street Shop

Chamber Cuts Ribbon

On Main Street Shop

The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce welcomed another business to Oneonta’s Main Street today, cutting the ribbon on Bargain Baby, a toddler oriented consignment shop. From left, Nica Hurlbert, 9, Otego, Katie Seamon, a representative from state Sen Jim Seward’s office, Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, owner Kaylea Cetnar, and husband Brian Cetnar, holding the couple’s one year old daughter, Kali. (Parker Fish/AllOTSEGO.com). 

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, MAR. 25
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, MAR. 25

Urban Renewal In Oneonta

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RENEWAL DISCUSSION – 2 p.m. Panel discusses trends of urban renewal policy, past & present, locally & nationally, with Hartwick College prof. Carli Ficano, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, SUNY-O pres. Nancy Kleniewski. Oneonta History Center, 183 Main St., Oneonta. Call 607-432-0960 or visit www.oneontahistory.org

YOUTH PROGRAM – 2:30 p.m. Learn to distinguish between real archaeological discoveries, and pseudo-scientific hoaxes. Cooperstown Village Library. Call 607-547-8344 or visit www.facebook.com/VillageLibraryOfCooperstown/

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Oneonta Heights Cuts Ribbon On Latest Housing Complex

Oneonta Heights Cuts Ribbon

On $15.9M Housing Complex

Cutting the ribbon on this afternoon’s grand opening of Housing Visions’ latest apartment complex, Oneonta Heights, are, from left, Darren Scott of New York State Homes & Community Renewal; state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford; Rebecca Newman, Housing Visions president/CEO; Mayor Gary Herzig; tenants Christina, Romello, and Jayda Drayton and Wesley Hunter, Jim Wright and Czhaira Simpauco; Ben Lockwood, Housing Visions, and Andrew D’Agostino, Community Preservation Corps. The $15.9 million complex features 60 units for families and seniors and even has its own bus route. “This is the first step in addressing our housing problem.” said Mayor Herzig.  “Seventy five percent of families in Oneonta pay over 30 percent of their income on housing, and that is not sustainable.” (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
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State Comptroller In County For Democratic Fundraiser

State Comptroller In County

For Democratic Fundraiser

Mayors Jeff Katz, Cooperstown, at left, and Gary Herzig, Oneonta, right, pose with state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli at a fundraiser Sunday afternoon at the Town of Springfield home of Francesca Zambello and Faith Gay.  About 70 Democrats attended the event, to benefit DiNapoli’s 2018 reelection campaign.
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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103