Editor’s Note: Here is the text of a letter to the community sent out a few minutes ago by David Bliss, chairman, Otsego County Board of Representatives.
SAFER AT HOME
A Message from OTSEGO COUNTY BOARD OF REPRESENTATIVES
“Be prepared, not scared.”
This is an unsettling time for our country and our community, as we are in a public health emergency due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Your elected leaders and public health officials are working around the clock to slow the spread of the virus and provide care to those who need it.
It is important to remember that we need to be prepared, not scared. However, we know that some of you perform essential duties that are critical during this time. This important work may require necessary interaction with the public and we thank you for your work and dedication.
Cooperstown Central School, Regents Diploma;SUNY Oneonta, BA in History with a minor in Economics, BS and MS in Social Science Education; NYS Real Estate Brokers License with over 225 hours of Continuing Education credits; NYS Professional Coaching License with over 120 hours of Continuing Education credits
Owner/Operator of 300-acre organic farm (1983-present), NYS Real Estate Broker (1995-present), CCS Girls Varsity Softball Coach (2001-present).
Town of MIddlefield: Zoning Board of Appeals (2 years), Town Board (2 years), Town Supervisor (24 years). Otsego County Board of Representatives (2016 – present)
Member of the Board of Directors of The Farmers’ Museum and of the Otsego Land Trust; Member of Cooperstown Rotary Club, Rotary International Youth Exchange (host family and youth counselor).
American Legion Baseball, Cooperstown Sports Booster Club, Youth soccer and baseball, Fetterman Award Winner, Oneonta Daily Star and Utica Observer-Dispatch Coach of the Year Awards.
Married 34 years to my wife Kim, a teacher in Richfield Springs Central School. Three adult children: Rachel, Eric and Ethan, and one granddaughter.
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT:
As Abraham Lincoln said “The legitimate object of government is to do for people what needs to be done, things that they cannot do for themselves: the making and maintaining roads and bridges, providing for the helpless, providing schools, and the forming and maintaining of the military, police, and civil departments.” I believe in doing so we provide everyone the opportunity for personal liberty and economic success.
MAJOR ISSUES FACING OTSEGO COUNTY:
Investing in our infrastructure including roads, bridges, communications and high speed internet. In the past two years we have made significant progress and the foundation has been put in place to continue at an even more rapid pace. We need to complete the process of determining the duties and responsibilities of a county manager and fill the position. Although many NY counties have a manager/executive, research shows their duties and authority vary greatly. We need to find the right fit for Otsego County. Reroute XNG trucks so they travel Interstate Highways to the fullest extent possible. Continue to look for ways to save money through shared services, a process that has saved the county tens of thousands of dollars in the past year. Addressing the opioid epidemic.
My well documented record of public service has been one of honesty, fairness, transparency, open communication, low taxes, investment in people and infrastructure, as well as environmental stewardship. I keep an open mind on issues and listen to all sides without confrontation, therefore I have excelled at building bipartisan consensus to better serve residents. As a result, I have been endorsed by leading members of the Republican, Democrat and Independence parties.
As with any job, there is a steep learning curve for a someone new. I was better prepared than most because of my 24 years as Middlefield Town Supervisor. In my short tenure on the board I have spent time listening to, and learning from, our county employees and department heads as well as town and county board representatives, gaining their trust, confidence and support. I have been tagged as the quiet leader of bipartisan reform by the Freeman’s Journal newspaper. We have a great deal of talent in our county and we have made significant progress in just 21 months. More importantly, the foundation has been put in place for further progress at an accelerated rate. I ask for your continued support to implement these programs for your benefit.
COOPERSTOWN – Democratic unhappiness over how state Sen. Peter Oberacker was replaced on the county board spilled over at today’s reorganizational meeting.
County Board Chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, was reelected, but the vote was 10-3, plus one abstention. And not before Bliss was criticized for partisanship, poor communication and a lack of vision.
“The people of the county deserve a county chair who puts the good of the county above party and does not work the rules for partisan advantage,” said Michelle Farwell, D-Morris, one of two reps speaking out against Bliss’ reelection.
The other was Jill Basile, D-Oneonta, who said, “We saw our lack of transparency, partisanship and poor communications in the appointment of the District 6 representative,” Jennifer Mickle, R-Town of Maryland, who succeeded Oberacker.
COOPERSTOWN – Reach out and be inspected, so you can reopen, county Board Chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield today advised operators of gyms and fitness centers.
“Normally we don’t issue permits to these establishments, so the Health Department may not be aware of every facility looking to reopen,” said Bliss. “We need them to contact us so we can work with them and get them open as soon as possible and make sure they are in compliance and help any way that we can.”
The businesses should e-mail business name, specific business type, location and owner’s name (and contact person) to the county Health Department at email@example.com (and meet other requirements detailed below.)
COOPERSTOWN – If your phone rang in the last few minutes, it may have been Dave Bliss with this message:
“This is David Bliss, Otsego County Board chair, with a reminder that we all must take personal responsibility to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Governor has ordered only essential businesses can be open. No social gatherings for any reason. Wash hands and limit trips to essential activities only, keeping 6 feet of physical distance from others. Fines may be imposed for violations. Stay home, save lives, Stop the spread. Call 2-1-1 or visit our website or Facebook page for more information.”
The message was distributed via the phone by Hyper-Reach®. Click below to listen.
COOPERSTOWN – While “deeply troubled” by Governor Cuomo’s announcement that Upstate ventilators will be seized for downstate patients, county board Chairman David Bliss today said he’s been assured local health-care believe they can participate without jeopardizing local care.
“We have been assured that if those circumstances begin to change, health-care leaders will inform the board and we will collectively take the necessary actions to insure the levels of service required for the residents of our region,” Bliss said in a statement released this afternoon.
COOPERSTOWN – Otsego County’s Coronavirus Task Force is encouraging people travelling here from greater New York City and other areas hard-hit by COVID-10 to notify the county Department of Health and to self-isolate for 14 days.
“You and your families have a critical role to fulfill in halting the rapid spread of the coronavirus, which can be dangerous, even fatal, especially to the elderly as well as people with underlying health conditions,” county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield/Cherry Valley said in a statement released Friday evening.
COOPERSTOWN – At 10:54 a.m. today, county Board Chairman David Bliss issued a State of Emergency for Otsego County, effective immediately, and remaining in effect for the next 30 days.
Also issued was an order in support of the state and county Health Departments’ recommendation on Friday to close schools, which local school superintendents have already announced.
Public Health Director Heidi Bond and her staff have “been working overtime to keep up with the latest information,” Bliss said, and he encouraged citizens, if they have any questions, to first check www.otsegocounty.com/
COOPERSTOWN – Otsego will now have a county administrator. Now, the question is how to fit the new job into the current system, and how to adjust the system for the new job.
“We have a few things to iron out,” said county Rep. David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield/Cherry Valley, in an interview as he enters his third one-year term as Otsego County board chairman.
For instance, who’s in charge when the county administrator is out of town or sick? Perhaps the board chairman, the chairman said.
Now, county Treasurer Allen Ruffles, due to return at the end of this week from a year’s National Guard deployment in Djibouti, and his assistant, Andrew Crisman, have put together two county budgets now, and well, Bliss said.
The new administrator – “we have an optimistic timeline: six months” – will take the lead on budget preparation, but should take advantage of Ruffles and Crisman’s experience and expertise, Bliss said.
The position of clerk of the board, now held by Carol McGovern, provides services to the county reps that must be meshed with the county administrator’s.
Foremost, Bliss said, the county board has only added one single job, no more.
During the county administrator debate, county Rep. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, issued a letter to the editor reporting that Greene county executive’s budget quickly ballooned from one person to a $350,000 staff.
That’s not going to happen here, and existing clerical staff and others will be repurposed to avoid budget creep, the chairman said. As needs arise, “maybe somebody would be transferred,” he said. “We’re not anticipating any new positions.”
He affirmed he is assigning the task of recruiting the first person to fill the $150,000 job to the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, the board’s new vice chairman.
Perhaps IGA will seek a consultant to assist the search, but maybe not, Bliss said. He expects Kennedy, who is on the board of directors of the state Association of Counties, will be able to tap into NYSAC’s expertise as the job search ensues.
He cited other issues he expects to pursue:
• The Energy Task Force: “If we keep the politics and activism out of it, there’s a lot of room for common sense.”
• The county jail, now undergoing extensive repairs: the question of replacement, renovation or building an addition will be studied. And bail reform must be taken into account. “If the population stays low,” Bliss said, “maybe we can get along.”
• A consolidated highway garage: The county is in talks with BOCES to replace the building on Linden Avenue, Cooperstown, with a new one at the Area Occupational Center in Milford. It would be more centrally located, and BOCES mechanics students could be trained to keep the fleet in repair.
• Trane: The county has contracted with the national HVAC company for $2.3 million in energy-efficiency upgrades on all its buildings, from headquarters on Main Street, Cooperstown, to 242 Main St., Oneonta, the former city hall. The deal was structured so that savings would cover the costs.
Who gets the praise for professionalizing Otsego County government?
Foremost, probably county Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick.
The idea caught fire with her, evident in her close questioning of SUNY New Paltz Vice President Gerry Benjamin, keynoter at “County Manager v. County Executive,” a forum on the idea Dec. 14, 2017, at Springbrook’s new community center.
In the months that followed, she became the first local county representative ever recruited to New York
State Association of Counties’ board, and tapped her new connections – Executive Director Steve Acquario and his network – in two years of study by her Intergovernmental Affairs Committee that led up to this week’s vote.
She did the heavy-lifting, but the concept would have gone nowhere without the consensus-building chairman, David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, who took the helm in January 2018, just as Kennedy’s effort began. Bliss has smoothed the way for a lot of progress, with this effort potentially foremost among them.
Kennedy’s IGA committee members: from the majority Republicans, Schenevus’ Peter Oberacker;
from the Democrats, Fly Creek’s Andrew Marietta, Gilbertsville’s Michele Farwell and Oneonta’s Liz Shannon. They attended a second monthly meeting 20 months in a row, absorbing the expertise Kennedy brought before them. They were sold.
Some credit should go Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, an Administration Committee member who little doubt votes nay. He engaged in the issue, and – as the grain of sand in the oyster – his challenges no doubt made the resulting concept stronger.
Of course, none of this happened overnight. Kay Stuligross, now retired outside Philadelphia, marshalled a League of Women Voters’ push for a county manager in the 1990s. That motivated her to run for the county board, where she served admirably for more than a decade.
The great Dave Brenner, former county board chairman, then Oneonta mayor, is also a scholar, and he prepared an exhaustive study in 2008 on the county board’s behalf that endorsed the county manager idea.
At the time, the board was particularly divided – Otego Rep. Ron Feldstein had cobble together a Democrat-dominated majority by enticing Worcester Republican Don Lindberg to accept the chairmanship.
Everyone was furious at everyone else, and Brenner sagely advised bringing a county manager into that turmoil would guarantee failure. Wait for a better day, he said, and so we have.
This has focused on praise, but some will look to blame the very same innovators. Praise – and hope – are more apt today. But the county representatives are embarked on a meaningful and – word of the year – potentially fraught experiment.
Surefootedly, Bliss, Kennedy et al can make it work, but success isn’t inevitable. Prudence, limits, economy, restraint, diplomacy are qualities needed in the months ahead.
COOPERSTOWN – Carl Frank Bliss, 98, a WWII veteran who flew for his country, for love and for sport, passed away peacefully in his home in Encinada, Calif., with loved ones by his side, on Dec. 10, 2018.
Born on the family farm outside Cooperstown on Nov. 3, 1920, (or as his favorite hat said, “Born in the USA a long, long time ago”), to Claude and Anastasia (Cramer) Bliss, Carl was a brother to Claud E. Bliss Jr., Clyde G. Bliss, and Ann C. “Sis” Grover.
In his early years, he learned the values of hard work and good humor, delighting his beloved younger sister with motorcycle rides around their property to speed up (and add amusement to) their long list of farm chores.
He was a graduate of Cooperstown High School, class of 1937. Growing up with more work than wealth, Carl developed a set of do-it-yourself skills that would last him a lifetime.
He took those skills with him to the Army Air Corps, where he received formal training as an aviation mechanic in Tonopah, Nev. From there, Carl served his country as a crew chief, seeing combat in the Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace and Rhineland campaigns of the World War II European Theater.
COOPERSTOWN – Carl Frank Bliss passed away peacefully in his home in Encinada, Calif., with loved ones by his side, on Dec. 10, 2018. He left the world a better place than he found it 98 years earlier, dedicating his long life to service to his family, community and country.
Carl will be remembered for his deep love for the people in his life, his practicality, his entrepreneurial spirit, his mechanical inclinations and for his steadfast personal authenticity more beautiful than any sunset he ever witnessed from the cockpit of his plane. His legacy will forever inspire everyone who knew him best to emulate and hold dear the myriad of virtues he practiced every day.
COOPERSTOWN – His predecessor, Kathy Clark, R-Otego, again voted nay, but county Rep. David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, was reelected nonetheless for a second year as chairman of the county Board of Representatives.
Clark was joined by her vice chair when she led the board, Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, making the vote 12-2 for Bliss. Bliss’s vice chairman, Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, was unanimously reelected to that post.
COOPERSTOWN – Sandra Jane Bliss, 70, a teacher and the first director of the Mohawk Regional Teacher’s Center, died peacefully Monday evening, Aug. 27, 2018, surrounded by her loving family at her home on County Highway 33 following a courageous battle with cancer.
Sandy was born in Cooperstown on Nov. 12, 1947, the daughter of Claud and Anna Bliss. She graduated from Cooperstown Central School in 1965 and SUNY Oneonta in 1969, received her Masters in Education from SUNY Cortland in 1974, and began her 40 year teaching career at Frankfort-Schuyler Central School in 1969.
COOPERSTOWN – A breakthrough has been agreed to in the case of county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.’s son Ros, a correctional officer at the county jail who has been under suspension since January 2017.
The sheriff has agreed to recuse himself under Section 72 of state Civil Service law, which will allow county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, to order a medical examination of the son, Bliss confirmed a few minutes ago.
The examination could determine whether the younger Devlin can return to work, or could open the way for his eventual dismissal.