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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Twelve Tribes

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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Twelve Tribes Investigated For Child Labor Practices

Twelve Tribes Investigated

For Child-Labor Practices

Inside Edition’s expose of Twelve Tribes child labor practices is available on Youtube.

ONEONTA – An investigation into child-labor practices has been opened by the state Department of Labor into the local sect of the Twelve Tribes group following a report by Inside Edition that showed children working in a cosmetics factory on the Common Sense Farm in Cambridge.

An “Inside Edition” investigative report, which used hidden camera footage gathered by a former member of the Twelve Tribes, aired Friday, June 1. In it, children as young as six years old are allegedly working on the farm and in the factory, which produces cosmetics for the organic Acure and Savannah Bee lines.

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EDITORIAL: It’s Decision Time. But Is There The Will?

Editorial, May 5, 2018

It’s Decision Time.

But Is There The Will?

Gary Herzig

Question: Can Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s administration make tough decisions?
For one thing, whether or not to condemn the Twelve Tribes’ blighted Oneonta Ford property has been hanging fire since before Herzig took office. He’s now in his second term.
There is state money in hand to demolish what is a public hazard and state money to prepare the site for new construction. All that’s hanging fire is a tough decision.


Now, the April 30 deadline to clear out the venerable but – city inspectors have found – dangerous Oneonta Hotel is passed. Where’s the decision that’s been promised for months?
City Hall’s Board of Public Service declared the property unsafe in January 2017, 16 months ago. And still the building is occupied, and businesses are functioning on the ground floor.
You have to ask, what’s City Hall’s liability –and that of local taxpayers — if a fire or some other misfortune were to happen?
It’s past time to make a tough decision. Question: Can the Herzig Administration make it?
Question 2: Common Council has barely debated any issue publicly in months. Where are the Council members?

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Governor Sends $417,000 To Raze Oneonta For Hulk

Governor Sends $417,000

To Raze Oneonta Ford Hulk

ONEONTA – The Cuomo Administration today announced a $477,915 allocation to be used toward the demolition of the former Oneonta Ford building at Chestnut and South Main to make way for the new Susquehanna Regional Food & Beverage Hub.

Concidentally, at an Otsego Now hearing this morning on taking the property by eminent domain, spokesmen for its owner, the Twelve Tribes, testified $150,000 offered for the property is insufficient; the governor’s announcement came this afternoon.

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Otsego Now, Twelve Tribes Spar Over Oneonta Ford

Otsego Now, Twelve Tribes

Spar Over Eminent Domain

At a public hearing this morning, Lee Beane of the Twelve Tribes argues Otsego Now is offering too little for the Oneonta Ford building, site of the future “food hub.”   Listening behind him are Otsego Now CEO Sandy Mathes and lawyer Joe Scott. Hodgeson Russ LLP, Albany. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – As the plans for the Mohawk Valley Food & Beverage Innovation Center move forward, negotiations for purchasing the former Oneonta Ford building have grown tense.

“We’ve engaged in good-faith negotiations with the owners,” said Otsego Now CEO Sandy Mathes. “We’ve shared info, appraisals and environmental issues that need to be remediated.”

But with the option of eminent domain on the table, a packed public hearing was held this morning at the Otsego Now offices.

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