News of Otsego County


The Partial Observer: What Are We Doing? Activity at Averill Road Property Questioned
Aerial photograph of land on Averill Road owned by the Templeton Foundation. Photo provided
The Partial Observer by Douglas Zamelis, Esq.

What Are We Doing? Activity at
Averill Road Property Questioned

It’s common knowledge Templeton Foundation seeks to build a large housing development on its property on Averill Road in the Village of Cooperstown. The village zoning law requires a special permit prior to construction and state law requires that prior to granting approval, the Board of Trustees must assess and mitigate the project’s environmental impacts.

Because the project is in an historic district and would alter more than 2.5 acres, it’s presumed to have a significant impact and require an Environmental Impact Statement. The village zoning law does allow a certain amount of tree removal, but state law (6 NYCRR 617.3) logically prohibits a project sponsor from “segmenting” a project into smaller stages to fly under the regulatory radar, or from commencing any physical alteration until environmental impacts have been identified, reviewed, and mitigated.

In January, the Board of Trustees identified several significant impacts but granted the special permit without requiring an EIS. My clients, owners of the residence across Averill Road, were forced to challenge the approval in court. Because they had no defense, Templeton and the village promptly capitulated and agreed the special permit was null and void. But a week or so ago, heavy equipment arrived at the project site and the project’s footprint was quickly cleared. Not a single hay bale or silt fence was deployed to keep the exposed sediment from making its way to Otsego Lake. No new special permit had been granted and the village’s website confirms Templeton hasn’t even resubmitted an application. After our urgent inquiry, the village claimed Templeton was only doing some limited tree removal for the purpose of ascertaining depth to groundwater and suitability for geothermal. Knowing such can be done with a small rig towed behind an ATV, we remained skeptical.

Two days later, our aerial photography confirmed Templeton had cleared the project’s entire footprint, including the road to the proposed water tower, without a proper environmental review or special permit. Templeton violated state and local law with the village’s knowledge and that’s bad enough. But that there’s brand new, multi-acre, clear cut on top of Irish Hill without a single hay bale, silt fence, or other stormwater control to prevent the sediment and nutrients from getting into the lake is environmentally reckless and socially unconscionable. Controlling the harmful algae bloom in our lake will require a multi-pronged approach, but denuding a lakeside hilltop and irresponsibly allowing the disturbed soil and nutrients into our lake is surely not one of them.

That this was done with the village’s knowledge and consent shocks my conscience, and should shock the conscience of anyone who relies on or appreciates Otsego Lake.

Don’t take it from me–look at the site plan and our aerial photography, take a walk or ride up Averill Road and see it for yourself, and then contact village officials and let them know what you think.

Life Sketches: Retired Poultry Farmer Recalls ‘Roger’s Colossus’ in Face of Avian Flu Epidemic
Life Sketches by Terry Berkson

Retired Poultry Farmer
Recalls ‘Roger’s Colossus’
in Face of Avian Flu Epidemic

Recently, Roger and Diane Vaughn—who operated the only small commercial poultry farm situated along the Route 20 corridor between Albany and Syracuse—retired. Theirs was one of about 15 remaining egg-laying operations in the state. At one time, there were 15 small farms like theirs within a 15-mile radius.

Then, the average setup consisted of about 300,000 birds, which made the Vaughns’ flock of poultry look rather paltry. Nevertheless, this small operation, in spite of Diane’s help, required Roger, an octogenarian, to put in a 70-hour week caring for his hens and delivering their bounty to stores and restaurants within 25 miles of the farm. Their eggs were also sold retail and wholesale out of a small shop in close proximity to the coops.

It was ironic that with every detail about the Vaughns’ 2,000 chicken operation painting a diminutive picture, a colossal egg was laid by one of their Rhode Island reds. The gigantic brown egg weighed in at 5-1/4 ounces, more than twice the weight of an extra-large egg, which averages about 2-1/4 ounces. It was 3 and 1/32 of an inch long and had a girth of eight inches. The ovate giant couldn’t even fit on their antique egg grader.

Since 1964, when Roger and Diane came to live and work on his family’s farm, more than 82 million eggs have sold directly or gone out for delivery.

Roger said, “This was the biggest egg the farm had ever produced.” He thought he knew which hen had dropped the football. “She was always laying larger eggs,” he said. Without a time-consuming search for a tell-tale “natural” episiotomy, there was no way of knowing for sure.

For Roger, coming home followed a degree in poultry science from Cornell University and later an army stint during the Vietnam era as company commander at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York.

Roger and Diane eventually took command of what was originally called Vaughn’s Hatchery from his parents, who had been stationed there since 1932. The change from a hatchery to an egg-producing farm took place back in the late 50s, when the market for hatched chicks dried up almost overnight. Roger thought that the age of specialization was responsible for the change. The pace of dairy farming had stepped up so much that to have chickens for home use was considered an unnecessary distraction. Back when Sidney and Katherine, Roger’s parents, were running the place, a spring order of 50 hatchlings each was the norm from surrounding farms.

According to Roger, 75 percent of the eggs consumed in New York State were shipped in from out west, where grain is cheaper, or from tax-advantaged states like Pennsylvania. The reasoning was that, “the price of eggs was very competitive, so why bother raising your own?”

The answer may have been ORGANIC. People were paying more than triple for eggs that could be labled organic. Free Range Charlie, an egg aficionado from Brooklyn, touted, “egg cartons containing an assortment of naturally colored eggs: green, blue, brown, orange, pink from naturally fed, free range chickens had great appeal. Voila! You have organic eggs at designer prices!” But for many, the quality of the egg in regard to the color of the shell remains debatable. Also, washing eggs as the Vaughns did, removed a water soluble protective coat which then required refrigeration. In many other countries, unwashed and unrefrigerated eggs are still put on the market.

Maybe Roger’s Colossus celebrated a relatively new and expanding age of poultry specialization and the growth in popularity of back-yard chickens in light of the specialty egg business. Of course, for most people, a good fresh egg is all that matters.

The recent epidemic of avian flu has killed millions of chickens and caused prices to fly the coop, soaring to unprecedented prices—ironically, shortly after hard-working Roger and Diane retired.

Back when the big egg was on display in a storefront in downtown Richfield Springs, bets were on concerning the possibility of it being a “triple yolker!”

Desert Dispatch: Hiking Offers Temporary Distraction from the Difficulties of Today
©AZ Plant Lady
Calliandra eriophylla, commonly known as fairy duster, is a low spreading shrub which is native to deserts and arid grasslands in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico.
Desert Dispatch by Richard deRosa

Hiking Offers Temporary Distraction
from the Difficulties of Today

While hiking the last few days, we have seen the first blush of spring blooms, aided by more rain in these parts than we have ever experienced at this time of year. Fairy dusters, lovely pale pink flowers, are popping up everywhere along the trails we hike. Brittlebush, whose bright yellow blooms are a staple of the desert landscape, are also getting into high gear. A birding guide I recently spent a morning with observed that this is the first real winter Tucson has weathered in quite some time. Lucky us. Good thing we packed some woolies, although forgetting any sort of rain gear suitable for hiking was not terribly prescient of us. During our first few days here it rained quite a bit. Neither of us is quite sure why we neglected to pack rain pants and, despite having exactly what we needed back home, we hightailed it to a local outfitter and bought two pair—not too cheap, I might add. Believe it or not, we never took them out of the bag and returned them the next week since the weather took an abrupt turn for the better. We figured, what the heck, save some cash and take our chances. So much for the wisdom of hasty decisions.

Last night it rained buckets, but the sun is out now so hope is on the wing. The good news is that perhaps all this rain will prompt all those wonderful desert wildflowers to put on their glorious parade of color and variety while we are still here. Few sights are more compelling than a hillside blanketed with golden poppies glistening in the desert sun. The forecast is for a bit more rain this week, and then it looks as if warmer, drier weather is right around the corner. We get periodic texts from friends back home alluding to how “nice” the weather has been. Makes one wonder about the rationale for cross-continent treks to escape the cold. For a variety of reasons, we have decided to stick it out at home next year. Sciatica, not an ideal companion on long drives, has something to do with it, but also a bit of homesickness spiced up by a disinclination to worry too damn much about the house and all that could go awry. Although I know that worry is its own worst enemy, knowing in this case helps very little. The prevailing notion is a few short forays to warmer climes; time will tell.

One of the drawbacks of one’s mental life is the inability to completely detach oneself from ancillary issues. Hiking, for me, is a lot of things, among them is getting away from it all. That has been difficult to do lately. I feel a strong, life-long obligation to keep up on “important” news events of the day. I was raised that way, so I guess my mother and my teachers did a good job in that regard. I try to get this stuff out of my head early on; some days it works and on others it takes quite a while. If you watch any newscasts at all—and they have become increasingly hard to stomach—it is rare not to hear about a new or ongoing investigation of some sort. More often than not an analysis is provided by a pundit who invariably describes him or herself as a “former prosecutor.” Seems to be an infinite supply of these guys. One wonders just how many investigations a society can accommodate. The possibilities appear to be endless. We have been described as a litigious society; investigations appear to be its endless cohort. Each network must have a filled-to-the-brim warehouse of “former prosecutors” at the ready to comment on every pending investigation, in-process investigation or potential investigation.

I am not sure what the answer is. For sure, miscreants of all ilks need to be held accountable. It just seems as if we spend an inordinate amount of time policing one another and precious little time obviating the need to do so. For starters, we need to solve the gun problem. And, until we do, tragedies like that at Michigan State will be the rule rather than the exception. That is a real shame. Hikes only alleviate the worry for a short time. There have to be better ways for us to live our lives.

Noteworthy: Opioids: Examine the Risks, Benefits, Alternatives
News from the Noteworthy: LEAF

Opioids: Examine the Risks, Benefits, Alternatives

Pain. It’s an unfortunate, often highly impactful, fact of life. Some pain is in the moment, like stubbing your toe or accidently touching a hot surface. Some pain can be lasting, such as back, knee, nerve and neck pain. Because of these things, most people will need a version of pain control at some point in their life. There may even be a point where a medical provider suggests an opioid (such as Percocet or OxyContin) to manage pain on a short-term basis.
Opioids have been the focus of much media attention and public information for about the last 10 years. They are credited with sparking this country’s most devastating addiction, overdose and death crisis in known history. And although nearly every person walking the planet is aware of this, how much do we, as a culture, actually know about the medication? Let’s start with a few important things:

1) Opioids can be an effective, short-term pain management tool for many people.

2) Opioids may not be the most effective form of pain management.

3) Opioids can quickly create tolerance, causing reduced effectiveness within a relatively short period of time (days to weeks).

4) Any exposure to opioids increases the risk of long-term use, dependency, addiction and/or overdose.

5) Even when taken as prescribed by a medical provider, opioids can create physical dependence or addiction.

6) There are effective alternatives to opioids that carry less risk.

Because the medication can be effective short-term, a medical provider may offer an opioid prescription for such things as surgical pain or more serious injuries. Should this happen, it is excellent practice to have a discussion with that provider about the risks, benefits and potential alternatives to opioids. So, here are a few tips:

Talk to the doc: If your medical provider suggests an opioid for short-term pain, here are some good questions to ask. (This article does not contain medical advice. These are conversation starters.)

• What is the lowest effective dose I can take?

• Are there alternatives to this medication that may help me manage pain?

• What are my specific risks related to this medication?

• Should I be concerned about interactions with other medications, supplements or alcohol?

If you are seeing a medical provider about a long-term or chronic pain issue, here are some common alternatives to opioid pain medication that you may wish to inquire about:

• Over-the-counter medications

• Non-medication pain management tools such as exercise, therapeutic massage, acupuncture, counseling, weight management, yoga, tai chi and stress management

• Physical therapy

• Other prescription medications (non-opioid)

Pain is not a simple inconvenience. It can be a seriously impactful quality of life issue in the lives of many. And, often, it is a quality of life issue that is invisible. We can’t necessarily see when an individual is in pain. People who are in pain often suffer in silence because pain can be too often minimalized by people in their lives. It is not minimal—it matters.

What is important to know is that pain management has come a long way. Medical providers have a wide arsenal of tools at their disposal to help. An opioid may be the best option in the moment, and it may not be. The discussion is everything. Providers, more than anyone, know the reality of pain and its impact on overall health. They are our allies in helping us to get better and feel better.

The next time you get to talk to your provider about any pain you might be experiencing, write your list and expect to be heard.

Julie Dostal is executive director of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism & Addictions, Oneonta.

Bassett at 100: No Easy Answers for Complex Challenges
Bassett at 100 by Dr. Tommy Ibrahim

No Easy Answers for
Complex Challenges

New Developments for FoxCare Fitness

Dear Friends, Neighbors and Colleagues,

Our patients and communities are at the center of everything we do, as you have been for more than 100 years. We believe that the best way to do this is as a local, independently governed health system. With this goal in mind, it is vital that we are always looking at where there may be inefficiencies in our operations or redundancies in services.

Like our colleagues in healthcare around the country, we are navigating a complex set of challenges without easy answers. This is especially true for rural hospitals and health systems that grapple with seemingly impossible decisions. Over the past few weeks, you may have seen some of the news out of Bassett Healthcare Network. As we continue this transformative work, you may be wondering how these changes improve healthcare for our patients and make our community healthier.

First Impressions: Beekeepers’ Association Shares Responsible, Healthy Practices
First Impressions: Steve Davis

Beekeepers’ Association Shares
Responsible, Healthy Practices

The Leatherstocking Beekeepers’ Association recently held its Introduction to Beekeeping class at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown. Thirty-five enthusiastic attendees were treated to a wide variety of beekeeping topics. The LBA is a local group of primarily backyard beekeepers dedicated to responsible, healthy beekeeping. Our activities include educational programs, social events, outreach programs, lending of equipment and mentoring. Established in 2015, the organization has included members from Otsego County and beyond. Our numbers include anyone from Master Beekeepers to “new-bees.”

Partial Observer: Fate of Home Rule, State Budget Now Depends on State Legislators
The Partial Observer: Adrian Kuzminski

Fate of Home Rule, State Budget
Now Depends on State Legislators

On March 1, the Otsego County Board of Representatives stood up for their constituents in what could be an historic vote. In a welcome show of solidarity, the board voted unanimously to oppose key provisions of Governor Hochul’s proposed New York State budget for 2024, which would concentrate state power at local expense while trampling our constitutional right to home rule. This newspaper, reflecting public concern over this issue, has in effect endorsed the County Board’s action by calling for the need to reaffirm home rule as defined in Article IX of the state constitution.

Noteworthy: Plan for Aging, Advance Directive Vital for Seniors
News from the Noteworthy: Helios Care

Plan for Aging, Advance
Directive Vital for Seniors

Over the last couple of weeks, two well-known public figures have selected to seek hospice services. One is former President Jimmy Carter and the other actor Tom Sizemore. Sadly, Tom Sizemore just died with a relatively short hospice stay, while President Carter remains on hospice. We at Helios Care believe that the longer one is on hospice, up to six months or more, the greater the benefits of the multidisciplinary approach to the patient and the family. We provide nursing, social workers, chaplains, and home health aides to support patient and family, as well as bereavement support for the family following the passing of their loved one.

Noteworthy: DDAM Promotes Inclusivity, Equitable Workforce
News from the Noteworthy

DDAM Promotes Inclusivity,
Equitable Workforce

Every year in March, we take time throughout the month to recognize people with developmental disabilities as members of our community, coworkers, family and friends for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Developmental disabilities can occur at birth or become present over the development age and can include autism and ADHD, cerebral palsy, learning, language, and intellectual disabilities. You may know or work with someone who has a developmental disability. Today, we live in a much more inclusive society, thanks to the actions of self-advocates and advocates of persons with developmental disabilities, as well as policy changes, and the evolution and growth of organizations like Springbrook. However, there will always be spaces and places that can grow in the scope of their inclusion and diversity, and an equitable workforce is a great place to start.

Citizen Science: False Alarms in Science and the Media: Examining Cause and Effect
Do gas stoves cause asthma in kids? The answer is complicated.
Citizen Science by Jamie Zvirzdin

False Alarms in Science and the
Media: Examining Cause and Effect

When we moved into a house in 2018, I was delighted by the 1970s appliances that came with it, particularly a gas stove. Not only did it have an enormous oven underneath the range, but also a smaller oven hanging above. Two ovens and a gas range! What luxury!

Alas, the gas stove has since struggled and the one remaining oven that works keeps making the fire alarm go off. Last month, I was about to start the search for a new one when the headlines rolled in: Science Finds Gas Stoves Cause Asthma in Kids! U.S. Government to Outlaw Gas Stoves! Random Guy on Twitter Says the Government Shall Never Take His Beloved Stove!

It’s tiring, really.

NOTEWORTHY: Community Foundation Reaches Granting Milestone
News from the Noteworthy

Community Foundation
Reaches Granting Milestone

The Oneonta Warming Station is now at the First Presbyterian Church, 296 Main Street. Guests should walk up the drive toward the back and look for pink signs for the entrance. The Warming Station opens at 5:30 p.m. each night.

In three short years, $500,000.00 in grants and awards from the Community Foundation of Otsego County have gone to Otsego County nonprofits. This major milestone was marked by a $15,000.00 award to Catholic Charities of Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties for the Oneonta Warming Station. The Community Foundation of Otsego County was founded in 2019 by a group of 15 local citizens who share a vision and believe in the potential of a community foundation. CFOC is dedicated to enriching opportunities for all residents of Otsego County.

While in the midst of the initial $2 million Founders fundraising campaign, COVID struck. CFOC rose to the immediate challenge, gathering and distributing more than $200,000.00 to county nonprofits and businesses hit with unexpected and unbudgeted costs related to the pandemic.

STERNBERG: AFB Vaccine: It’s the Bee’s Knees
Life in the time of COVID

AFB Vaccine: It’s the Bee’s Knees

The announcement of probably the most important medical breakthrough of this year was made on January 7. It had nothing to do with COVID. In fact, it had nothing to do with human diseases. Dalan Animal Health, a company in Georgia, announced that they had successfully produced a vaccine to protect bees from a disease called American Foulbrood which had been conditionally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is the first vaccine approved for use in insects. In my opinion, this trumps the importance of any other medical announcement so far this year, including information on COVID and other human diseases, because preventing the die off and extinction of many bee species is critical for enabling the growth of a majority of the world’s food supply.

American Foulbrood is a highly contagious and destructive bacterial disease that affects honeybees. It is estimated that bees are responsible for 75 percent of all crop pollination. It is caused by a spore-forming bacterium, Paenibacillus larvae, which can remain dormant in honey and beehive equipment for years before infecting a new colony.

Dog Charmer: Not Taking My Own Advice as Jeffrey Joins the Shelby Household
The Dog Charmer

Not Taking My Own Advice as
Jeffrey Joins the Shelby Household

Jeffrey, looking deceptively well-mannered as he rests next to Paula Jean.

I recently heard a cute tip, or recommendation, for older people when it comes to travel: “In your 60s, go-go; in your 70s, slow-go; in your 80s, no-go.” Well, considering myself, I’d change the formula to go-go in your 70s, slow-go in your 80s and no-go in your 90s.

When it comes to dogs, though, I have to revert back to 60s, 70s, and 80s for mid-sized and large “four-leggeds.” It’s probably been well over 20 years since I lost count of all the “older” people who asked me about getting a dog, who I told to get a small dog. And for good reason. I’ve witnessed—and been privy to—way too many catastrophes, when the “not young” owner suffers a broken hip or arm after being accidentally tripped or pulled down by the exuberant 8-month-old, 60 pound “whatever” dog. In addition to the negativity of the owner’s healing time, these situations sometimes end up with the dog in a shelter, or worse.

HAWTHORN HILL: Forget the Beltway, Rethink Stale Assumptions, Consider Course Alterations
Hawthorn Hill by Richard DeRosa

Forget the Beltway, Rethink
Stale Assumptions, Consider
Course Alterations

My January 12 essay ended with these words: “Forget the Beltway.” Given the embarrassing shenanigans of the past few months, that sentiment still holds true. The fact that many years ago it took 133 votes to elect a speaker in no way negates the atrocity of it all. I used to excuse the political conundrums that we continually embroil ourselves in as just more evidence of the messiness of democracy. That just does not cut it anymore. There has to be a better way. For instance, the fact that any side holds a statistically insignificant margin of victory over another that then enables it to exercise such undeserved power over the other is in no way defensible, either on moral grounds or any rudimentary sense of fair play. The world the founders lived in and imagined does not exist. Our system of governance has not kept pace with the exigencies of the world we now live in. I wish I had the answers; I do not. But one thing—based on some experiences of late, as well as recent readings—I do know for sure. There are better ways to skin this cat. And I believe (and this surprises me, because it is antithetical to what I have believed most of my life) we would be much better off, despite the pitfalls of any system of governance, expecting far less from the circus the Beltway has become, and look more to ourselves for solutions to common problems. There is, and always should be, a role for central government.

LIFE SKETCHES: Made in the Shade: There’s More Than One Way to Curb a Rooster
Life Sketches by Terry Berkson

Made in the Shade: There’s More
Than One Way to Curb a Rooster

Clever thinking plus antique lampshade equals crisis averted. (Photo by Terry Berkson)

I once had this beautiful tropical fish that was mutilating and eating up the rest of the fish in the tank. It looked like he would have to be flushed down the drain, but before doing so, I tried threading a piece of dental floss through his tail with a sewing needle to create a drag that would slow him down when chasing after the other fish.

“Isn’t that cruel?” my wife, Alice, asked when she saw the streamer trailing.

“It’s better than flushing him,” I told her.

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