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News of Otsego County

Coronavirus

WALLER: Point – Give Federal Largesse To You, Me
ISSUE & DEBATE

POINT: Give Federal
Largesse To You, Me

Editor’s Note: This is citizen Bill Waller’s recommendation in a March 29 letter to the Cooperstown Village Board on how to spend its expected share from the $1.9 trillion Biden Stimulus Plan.

BILL WALLER

Dear Mayor Tillapaugh and the Board of Trustees;

I read with interest statements relating to the benefits coming to Cooperstown from the recently enacted American Rescue Plan (ARP). According to press accounts, this could be nearly $350,000.

In reviewing the proposed 2021-2022 Village of Cooperstown Budget, I did not see any amount referencing the ARP disbursement. This is entirely understandable since the act has just passed, well after all the budget discussions held by the Board of Trustees.

As this is budget enactment time, I would like to express my opinion as to how these funds should be spent when they arrive.

…I would like to make a radical proposal: Give it back to the residents.

In this year’s proposed budget $1,779,194.00 is listed as the expected income from Village property taxes. I would urge adoption of the budget and then when the ARP funds are received, issuing a rebate check to our Village taxpayers. I would propose 10% of the taxes levied be sent back to every Village property owner as COVlD Relief. This would only cost $177,919.40.

While this may seem a radical proposal, I remind you that no one opposed the $600 and $1,400 checks mailed from the Federal Government. I feel that no matter how small an individual’s Village COVlD Relief may be, it will be well received. It would also be innovative, creative and will reward our Village residents for their endurance during the past year. And other than the massive error on the part of Otsego County Government resulting in 20% tax rebates a few years ago, when has a local municipality rewarded their residents by sending some of their money back?

ARP regulations stipulate that the funds cannot be used to reduce taxes, but they can be used to “offset the impact to households” caused by the pandemic. This would be a fair way to lessen the impact.

I know the Village Board could find many ways to spend the ARP money, giving some of it directly to residents would have a big impact.

Creative minds could even come up with a letter accompanying the relief check noting worthwhile community projects very willing to accept the resident’s donated refund if they so choose.

I hope you will consider my proposals at this opportune time as part of your budget discussions.


COUNTERPOINT: Village
Suffered Real Losses

… and this is Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch’s April 5 response:

Mayor Tillapaugh

Dear Bill,

Thank you for your letter of March 29 pertaining to the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and your recommendations to the Village of Cooperstown on the use of the funds which we will receive.

…On March 23, Congressman Delgado held an information meeting concerning the ARP and provided more accurate funding information. He indicated the exact amount of ARP funds which the Village will receive is unclear at this time.

The U.S. Treasury will be determining the distribution of funds and will be providing that guidance to New York State, which will receive the funds for townships and Villages. The state will dispense them to the respective township which will in turn remit them to Villages. Our share will be based on our population percentage within the township.

One half of the funds will be provided this year and one half 12 months after the legislation is signed. General estimates at this time indicate we may receive approximately $120,000 within the next several months and a similar sum next year.

In budget year 2020-21, the Village of Cooperstown had an $800,000 decrease in revenues – from paid parking, sales tax, chips, and Doubleday Field rentals.

In reviewing the proposed 2021-22 VOC Budget, hopefully you realized that the Village Board did indeed fund an additional full-time police officer. We made this public safety commitment to our community, even though the funds we ultimately will receive from the ARP are only a fraction of the lost revenues due to the pandemic.

As for returning funds to taxpayers, the Village has not increased the property tax levy of $1,779,194 since 2013. Eight years of no increase in the tax levy is our support of Village property owners.

Uncle Sam, Font of Plenty, Thanks To Printing Presses

EDITORIAL

Uncle Sam, Font of Plenty,
Thanks To Printing Presses

Ain’t Uncle Sam great! At least his ability to print money.

After the year-long COVID pandemic, which cost Otsego County government $10.6 million, the federal government is sending it $11 million.

That’s $400,000 in profit, from the greatest pandemic in 100 years.

The beauty of it is county government, under the guidance of brainy Allen Ruffles, the county treasurer, had already taken steps to stem the bleeding.

The Ruffles Plan, incorporated in the 2021 county budget, borrowed $4 million at historically low interest rates, then fast-tracked road work this spring — the one area where Albany is still providing reimbursement.

When all is said and done, the county reps may be able to consider a wish list, one being an energy-efficiency upgrade at all county buildings.

The only downside is 50 percent of the money is coming this July, 50 percent next July. There’s many a slip…

Nationally, of course, the so-called American Rescue Plan cost $1.9 trillion, with no new revenue stream to pay for it.

Ain’t Uncle Sam great! He can simply print more money.

NORTHRUP: While U.S. Soldiers Fought, Families Confined At Home

LETTER from CHIP NORTHRUP

While U.S. Soldiers Fought,
Families Confined At Home

To the Editor:

Racial animus against Asians, including snide remarks about the “Kung Flu,” has no place in America.

My father-in-law, Al Prather, was a lieutenant in the 442nd Infantry Regiment during World War II. Most of the enlisted men were Japanese Americans, most of the officers were not.

Many of the families of the Japanese-American soldiers were imprisoned in detention camps, as a form of racial profiling – the United States government assumed that they might be traitors: including the mothers, sisters, fathers and little brothers of the enlisted men of the 442nd.

When it came time to ship out overseas, the military attached the 442 to the 36th Texas Division and sent them to Europe to fight the Nazis, under the impression that Japanese Americans would have no qualms about killing Germans. They did not.

In one of the most famous battles of the war, “The Rescue of the Lost Battalion,” the 442 fought to save the survivors of the 141st Regiment, mainly Texans, who were surrounded in the Vosges Mountains near the German border.

In saving their Texas comrades, over half of the Japanese Americans were killed or wounded in less than 30 days.

Their valor was recognized with more Congressional Medals of Honor than any regiment in the war. All this while their families were in prison camps back in the US. The general understanding of their valor was that they fought as well as they did to make a point: that Japanese Americans are courageous, hard-working, loyal Americans. Not people to be belittled or mocked. Even by politicians.

CHIP NORTHRUP
Cooperstown

STERNBERG: The Doctor Will View You Now

LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

The Doctor Will View You Now

erna
Richard Sternberg, retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective weekly during the COVID-19
threat. A village trustee,
he resides in Cooperstown.

On a recent morning, I had a first visit/consultation with a physician from Columbia-Presbyterian in New York City. In going to the city and back to Cooperstown, Columbia presents a special challenge to me.

It is a difficult facility to maneuver through under fully normal conditions and these times aren’t normal. It would have required driving about four hours each way and maybe even an overnight stay. Both the physician and I chose to do a telemedicine visit.

Most of you already know about telemedicine.

It was starting to be used by patients who had to travel long distances to see a doctor, especially if there was a satellite clinic where the transmission could be accommodated. Now, with the advent of multiple video options, the patient can be anywhere, from home to half the world away.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, many large practices, including hospital-based ones, decided video and telephone appointments were better than nothing. What they found out was that many times they were equal, if not better, than an in-person visit.

Probably the one thing holding back telemedicine use was the refusal of insurers, especially Medicare and Medicaid, to pay for such visits. These visits take the same, if not occasionally more, of the physician’s or mid-level provider’s time. Reimbursement, when given, was less than the equivalent amount of time for an office visit.

With the onset of COVID, insurers were forced to accept the value of telemedicine, given the lack of options if as many people were to be seen as before the pandemic. As an emergency measure, tele-visits were being approved. They still are, even when an in-person option exists.

32 Million From $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Headed Our Way

32 Million From $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Headed Our Way

Biden Makes Us ‘Whole’, Ruffles Says

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Ruffles

After a year of hemorrhaging losses, the Biden Stimulus Plan will make Otsego County government “whole,” according to County Treasurer Allen Ruffles.

“That’s what I would think,” Ruffles said, after reviewing the news he was planning to deliver when the county Board of Representatives met Wednesday, April 7, for its monthly meeting. “It would make us whole.”

In all, county government, towns, villages and school board are expecting about $32 million from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID Stimulus Plan, signed into law March 11.

In January 2020, before the COVID-19 emergency, the county had put $4.8 million aside in savings. Soon, “that was gone, kaput,” he said. In the year since, the county gave up another $5.8 million in sales, occupancy and property taxes.

Total: $10.6 million. That means the so-called American Rescue Plan means the county will come out ahead by $400,000.

SUNY Helps Public Get Vaccinated
SUNY Helps Public

2,000 Flyers Distributed By Students

SUNY Oneonta students Barbara Lewis and Eddie Lopez designed the 2,000 leaflets being distributed to the public. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Over 50 SUNY Oneonta students have joined forces in an effort to spread the word about the availability of COVID vaccinations to communities across Otsego County.

“We organized this within days” said Linda Drake, director of the college’s Center for Social Responsibility & Community, which organized the effort. “Students made schedules in 24 hours and we have every mobile home park and low income housing development from New Berlin to Sidney. It’s been great service to our community.”

STERNBERG: A&D, OPT, Other Transportation Services Step Up

LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

A&D, OPT, Other

Transportation Services Step Up

erna
Richard Sternberg, retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective weekly during the COVID-19
threat. A village trustee,
he resides in Cooperstown.

I and multitudes of people, from the President of the United States on down, have tried to convince people to get vaccinated when they are eligible, and to maintain basic public health precautions; wearing masks properly, washing hands and surfaces frequently, and maintaining social distance. Only about 60 percent of the adult population has followed these recommendations and a similar percent say they will get vaccinated.

If this continues, we may never get to go back to things the way they were, because enough of the population will remain vulnerable and the virus will still circulate and mutate. Once it mutates enough, it will defeat the immunity provided by most of the vaccines.

So, to the people who refuse to follow the best practices to eliminate COVID as a continued threat to normal, social, life, if you are not going to get the shot for some reason you picked up through rumor, learned on the internet or because of political position, maybe you will try to protect yourself, friends and family. If not, it is hurting you where it really matters, in the wallet.

HOWARTH: Accelerating Brain Drain Cuomo’s Greatest Failing

LETTER from JIM HOWARTH

Accelerating Brain Drain

Cuomo’s Greatest Failing

To the Editor:

Speculation and opinions on Andrew Cuomo’s need to resign have been frequent topics in this newspaper.

While the allegations of the Governor’s sexual abuses, as well as his COVID-19 policies, have been horrible, they are just that – allegations. Guilt and culpability need substantive proof. I believe the facts will come to light in the Attorney General’s investigation and provide direction for the Governor’s future.

One facet of the Governor’s tenure is not in doubt and does not need investigation.

His economic policies have been calamitous for the state.

Since he took office, about 1.4 million people have left the state – “voting with their feet”. The pace quickened last year.

According to estimates from the Census Bureau, 126,355 residents left New York between July 2019 and July 2020.

New York State – particularly Upstate – is headed towards a demographic of a small, wealthy elite – impervious to economic woes, a shrinking middle class, and a growing disadvantaged underclass. Many jobs and opportunities in the state have moved too – to Texas, Florida and Tennessee.

There is a template for opportunity and growth. The gaps in taxation and regulation between New York and the growing states can be narrowed. A good job in a stable economic environment is not just about money. It is an important part of keeping a society viable.

I was born in New York State, went to college here, and had my first full-time job here – in Cooperstown. I love the state’s history, its land, and even its weather – most of the time. I would like to see a state that attracted and retained people who wanted to start families and businesses. I am hopeful that voters will see an opportunity to change direction in 2022, when this governor’s term is up.

Andrew’s Cuomo’s economic policies provide a clear lesson of poor leadership and an example of a course not to take.

JIM HOWARTH
Cooperstown

COVID? It Could Have Been Worse

ALBERT COLONE RECOUNTS FAMILY’S STORY

COVID? It Could Have Been Worse

Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has Albert Colone, founding president of the former National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, musing about the immigrant experience, when times were REALLY tough. This is the first of two columns on the immigrant experience of his grandparents, Frank and Lucia (Valentini) Colone.

AL COLONE

COVID-19, which hit America hard starting in early 2020, turned our worlds upside down. I haven’t been able to hug my grandchildren since early February 2020 on my last visit with them. So here we are hunkered down, adhering to the virus protocols, playing it safe and staying healthy.

So, what do you do to maintain your sanity?

I reflect on stories surrounding the trials and tribulations of my ancestors to understand the struggles they plowed through in their lives.

Remember, they were handicapped by not having all of today’s quality-of-life assets, no cell phones, computers, the luxuries of travel from automobiles to airplanes, prepared foods, safe housing, money and all of assets that we enjoy, and perhaps take for granted, today.

Do you hear where I’m going with this? Let me share with you some of the storied struggles of the early lives of my grandfather and grandmother.

Springbrook Tells Staff: Get Vaccinated, Get $500 Bonus

Springbrook Tells Staff:

Get Vaccinated, Get $500 Bonus

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

With 35 percent of its employees not yet vaccinated, Springbrook is offering a $500 enticement to encourage them to get the COVID-19 vaccine shot.

“This is important, this is safe,” said Springbrook CEO Patricia Kennedy. “It’s going to get us back to where we want to be, being with the people we want to be with and doing things we want to do.

That’s my message for all our employees and the community.”

There’s a distinction between new employees we put in place in January.”

As for the residents on the Milford Center campus, 95 percent have been vaccinated.

THIS WEEK — April 1, 2021
Otsego’s COVID Numbers Spiking Again

Otsego County’s COVID
Numbers Spiking Again

With 59 Cases in Two Days,

Week-long Tally Hits 212

Otsego County’s Department of Health is warning residents to continue to take precautions as the number of positive coronavirus tests in the region have spiked again. There were 28 positive cases reported by the DoH on Wednesday, March 31, and 31 positive cases reported on Tuesday, March 30.

There are also seven people hospitalized with complications from the virus.

The DoH notes that there have been 212 new positive cases reported in the past week.

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