News of Otsego County

Hometown Oneonta

Chiropractors: Lose Weight, Build Wells

Oneonta Chiropractors:

Lose Weight, Build Wells

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Drs. Shirley and Joe Rufrano pack ingredients for their “Transform In 21” weight-loss program. Registration fees go to building wells in Cambodia. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA –  Drs. Joe and Shirley Rufrano know that you can’t take water for granted.

“In a pandemic, not only is fresh water crucial for drinking, but for washing your hands as well,” she said. “We’ve always been passionate about safe water projects. But now, even more so.”

The owners of Southside Chiropractic are hoping to raise $50,000 from their “Transform in 21” weight-loss event to donate to Samaritan’s Purse “Oasis of Hope” project, which builds village wells in Cambodia.

“We were first introduced to the greater need for fresh water about 10 years ago,” said Joe. “And we realized that the best thing we could do to help people in need like this is to raise the resources to build wells.”

In addition to drinking, cleaning and raising food, access to water also increases access to education and protects children from predators, Shirley said. “Many children spend all day traveling to get water and they can’t go to school,” she said. “And often, they’re traveling alone and they’re not being watched – the degree of trafficking among these children is insane.”

The “Oasis of Hope” drills community wells, linking all the households in the remote
villages. Last year, they drilled 40 such wells, reaching 34,700 people in 25 villages.

According to Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization, it costs $18,500 to drill and connect a well; $5,500 for the well, $5,500 for the pipes and $7,500 for the storage tank and stand.

This year, the Rufranos gave a $5,000 donation, and soon realized that they could give even more – and potentially save lives.

“The spread of COVID is so much worse there,” said Joe. “It just broke our hearts, but we have the ability to increase our own donation 10-fold.”

Though the Rufranos have previously offered the 21-day “Transform” weight-loss project at different times of the year, this year – their 21st year is 2021 – they have taken the program nationwide in hopes of bringing in more people – and registration fees, which go towards the $50,000 goal.

“COVID has been so stressful physically and emotionally,” said Shirley. “This will help people reset. When you feel physically better, you can handle emotional challenges a lot easier.”

Because “Transform in 21” will be held over Zoom, the Rufranos can bring in health practitioners from across the country. “Our event was recently featured in American Chiropractor magazine,” said Joe. “It’s starting to get some attention.”

The event will focus on diet, wellness, exercise and whole food supplements, as well as inspirational messaging. “We’re taking our usual program to a whole new level,” said Shirley. “Every day we’ll talk about a different topic, such as anxiety or body image, and we’ll have different speakers who will give a nugget of information to transform people emotionally, physically and financially.”

They will also have testimonials from previous participants. “The winner of our last contest said her doctor took her off 21 different medications after only three weeks of the program,” said Joe. “She also lost 15 pounds in three weeks and is now symptom-free without any medication.”

And some lucky participants will get a “Detox Survival Kit” from the Rufranos, which includes supplements, essential oils and other supplies to help combat the cravings.

Vacant-Seat Controversy May Go On

Oberacker’s Vacant-Seat

Controversy May Go On

By JIM KEVLIN• Special to

Jennifer Mickle
Diane Addesso

SCHENEVUS –  After a week of political wrangling, two women – one Republican, one Democrat – have emerged as prospective successors to state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, on the county board.

The Republican is Jennifer Mickle, an Oneonta businesswoman who lives in the Town of Maryland, where she has chaired the town Board of Assessment Review.

The Democrat is Diane Addesso, former Worcester town supervisor who operates a graphic-design studio there.

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, who chairs the county board’s Administration Committee, scheduled a special Admin meeting for 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30, after Democrats called the process hurried and unfair.

“My goal in having that meeting,” she said Tuesday, Nov. 24, “is to allow the questions and answers for both candidates … even if it doesn’t come to a vote.”

She added, “The process did not allow both sides to be heard, and I’m trying to remedy that.”

What followed was set in motion Monday, Nov. 16, when Oberacker resigned from his District 6 county board seat.

The next evening, county Republican Chairman Vince Casale convened a meeting of District 6 Republican committee members, and they endorsed Mickle, Oberacker’s choice to succeed him.

Wednesday, reported the news, and Democrats responded with dismay that they weren’t briefed. “I had to read about it on,” one of the Democratic reps said at the Thursday Admin meeting.

That day, Admin Committee members and county reps in attendance from both parties participated in a Zoom interview with Mickle. The committee then voted 3-1, along party lines, to send her name to the full board at its next meeting Dec. 2.

That evening, the county Democratic Committee convened and selected Addesso as its choice to succeed Oberacker. And the next morning, Kennedy announced her decision to vet Addesso as well.

“Hearing from both sides, and giving the opposition ample time to field a candidate and vet them is the right and fair thing to do,” said Democratic County Chairman Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta, on hearing the news.

Casale demurred, saying both Republicans and Democrats knew on Nov. 3, Election Day, that Oberacker would have to resign. “The Democrats are acting as if they are victims to politics, when they are actually victims of their own ineptitude and lack of planning,” he said.

In an interview, Mickle, who operates United Student Rentals with her husband, Ron, and chairs the Northern Otsego Relay for Life Committee, said joining the county board would be “a wonderful opportunity. I’ve always believed in public service and giving back to the community. I hope my experience will not only be a benefit to District 6, but to the county as a whole.”

In another interview, Addesso said that, while Worcester town supervisor, she streamlined polling places from four to one. That, in addition to her predecessor buying a gravel pit as a savings measure, led to a state citation for good governance. Kennedy said she isn’t sure if the second Admin meeting will achieve anything concrete, since the committee has already recommended Mickle to the county board. The committee’s makeup is three Republicans, two Democrats.

An added wrinkle: With Oberacker having resigned, neither Republicans nor Democrat have a majority of votes. If no Democrat will vote with the Republicans, Mickle can be confirmed.

If that happens, County Attorney Ellen Coccoma has ruled the reps would have to petition Governor Cuomo for a special election, but there’s no guarantee he would OK it.

District 6 is considered a Republican district, so if Mickle had to wait until next November’s election, she might have an advantage.

The county Board of Elections reports there are 1,624 Republicans in District 6, compared to 789 Democrats.

However, there are other voting parties as well: Conservatives (72), Working Families (11), Green (13), Libertarian (15), Independence (225), non-affiliated (704) and “other” (3).

So Long Rocky! Tiny Owl Flies Free

So Long Rocky!

Tiny Owl Flies Free

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Rocky, the Saw-whet Owl, who – trapped inside the Dick family’s Norway Spruce – was transported to New York City, then to a Saugerties wildlife refuge, then set free Tuesday evening, Nov. 24. (Photo Credit: Ravensbeard Wildlife Center)

ONEONTA – Cooperstown artist May-Britt Joyce knows a muse when she sees one.

“I’ve been doing pet portraits for the Susquehanna SPCA,” she said. “But the Rockefeller Owl intrigued me; she was so sweet looking and so different.”

Rockefeller, the Saw-whet Owl found in “Daddy Al” Dick’s Rockefeller Center-bound Christmas tree, has captured the hearts of Otsego County – and the nation.

Nicknamed “Rocky,” the diminutive raptor was featured on CNN and in the Washington Post. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame made a figure of her.

She made international media, including Tagesschau, Germany’s oldest news broadcast. The requests for interviews got so big that Ravensbeard Wildlife Center hired a PR Firm, Karbo Communications, to handle Rockefeller’s press.

The fandom began on Wednesday, Nov. 18, when Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties posted on Facebook that it had received a phone call that a small owl had been rescued from the 75-foot-tall West Oneonta Norway Spruce after it arrived in Manhattan.

“These guys are so small and they like to hug right up next to the center of the tree,” said Kathryn Davino, Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society board member. “He probably just hunkered down, and then got caught in a cage of branches when they were wrapping up the tree.”

Nicknamed “Rockefeller,” – “or Rocky, to her friends,” Ravensbeard said – the owl, the smallest breed in the Northeast, has been eating “all the mice she can eat” and was reported to be in good health with no injuries.

“When we picked Rocky up she was struggling,” said Ellen Kalish, Ravensbeard Wildlife Center director and founder. “We believe it had been about three days since she ate or drank anything. The first order of business was to give her fluids and feed her all the mice she could eat.

“She was underweight so we assumed at the time she was male, as males typically weigh less – on average only 75 grams (2.6 ounces) – while females typically weigh a little more, about 100 grams (3.5 ounces). So it was a surprise to find out Rocky was a girl.”

It was initially reported Rockefeller would be released in Oneonta over the weekend, but that turned out not to be the case. She was released Tuesday night, Nov. 24, in a conifer forest
near Saugerties, as recommended by avian experts and researchers. She’s expected to continue her
migration south from there.

“People are adamant that she come back (to Oneonta),” said Davino. “While Saw-whet owls are found here, they are migratory, so to bring her back here, further north than Saugerties, would bebacktracking, and the travel would further stress her out. We have to think about what’s best for her.”

But Rocky’s discovery has inspired Davino to look into building a nest box in hopes of seeing a Saw-whet Owl of her own. “The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has instructions, as well as how to place them and where.”

They like to nest in coniferous groves near water, Davino said. “They’re rarely seen, but if you build a nest-box, you might see one of your own!”

But even before you build your box, you could own Joyce’s painting, which goes up for auction on Friday, Nov. 27, at the Family Tree Gallery, 171 Main St., Cooperstown.

Bidding starts at $50 and bids can be emailed to, with all proceeds going to the Susquehanna Animal Shelter.

“I grew up in New Jersey, so as a kid, I used to go to Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center,” Joyce said. “So I felt a real kinship with him.”

NYS SHERIFFS: 10 Per Table? A Step Too Far

10 Per Table? A Step Too Far

Editor’s Note: The New York State Sheriff’s Department issued this statement Monday, Nov. 23, saying local sheriffs lack the resources to enforce Governor Cuomo’s edict requiring
that no more than 10 New Yorkers celebrate Thanksgiving together.
This is an excerpt.

Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order which limits “non-essential private residential gatherings” to no more than 10 individuals.

That has caused great consternation among many of our citizens, who envision armed officers arriving at their doors to count the number of people around the Thanksgiving table.

Many Sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders have felt compelled to allay those concerns by assuring citizens that officers will not be randomly coming to their homes on Thanksgiving Day to count the number of people inside.

That would be neither practical nor Constitutional.

The Governor has responded by dismissing those serious concerns on the part of local law enforcement, saying, “Law enforcement officers don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will enforce.”

We find that comment ironic, and disingenuous, since the Governor has directed that his own State Police do not have to enforce the order. Apparently, it is another case of “do as I say, not as I do,” such as we have seen with many other political leaders.

He has also called sheriffs “dictators” for following the Constitution rather than his orders, which we also find ironic.

We do not know if the Governor’s limit on home gatherings to ten individuals is the right number or not. That is a decision for science, not us, to make.

We do know, however, that the Governor has attempted to foist upon local law enforcement an impossible task. How are officers to know, without violating citizens’ right to privacy and other Constitutional rights, how many people are in the home?

How are they to determine if the family gathering is to be deemed “essential” or “nonessential?” …All of those are serious questions which make it impossible for law enforcement to know how to legally enforce the Governor’s order. They are questions that could have been addressed if we had a functioning State Legislature, creating clear and enforceable laws after input from those who would be impacted by them.

Instead we are faced with an unenforceable dictate issued without any consultation with law enforcement or the public as to enforceability.

We believe that rather than issuing orders that cannot be practically enforced, and then blaming law enforcement when they are not enforced, the Governor would better serve the people of New York if he were to use his position to encourage citizens to use common sense and voluntarily adhere to the guidance of state and federal health officials…

We urge you to listen to our public health officials.

We urge you to limit your exposure to those outside your household as much as you reasonably can. If we all do that, we will sooner be able to get back to normal.

We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority to force you to do those things.

It is a matter of individual respon-sibility and we are confident that you will all voluntarily rise to the occasion.

COVID-19 Vaccine Due; Drugstores Prepare

COVID-19 Vaccine Due;

Drugstores Prepare

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

COOPERSTOWN – When the COVID-19 vaccine is available, Otsego County will be ready.

“Before the pharmacies could give the flu shot, we used to do a lot of the vaccinations,” said Heidi Bond, county public health director. “We are well aware of what needs to be done when we go into communities that may not have a lot of options for vaccinations.”

With the announcement that Pfizer, whose vaccine reportedly has a 90-percent rate of effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, is applying for “Emergency Use” by the Food & Drug Administration, Bond hopes healthcare workers and first responders could start receiving it as soon as mid-December.

“Front-line workers will be prioritized,” said Bond. “That includes healthcare workers and EMTs.”

And Pfizer isn’t the only trial that’s showing success.

Moderna’s vaccine was reported to have 95-percent efficiency, according to NPR, and the AP reported that the AstraZeneca vaccine,had also shown 90-percent efficiency and, unlike the other two, only required one shot.

In addition to the county Health Department, CVS pharmacies in Cooperstown and Sidney, and Kinney Drugs in Richfield Springs have stepped forward to offer their services in administering the vaccine.

“We’re excited to be part of the community effort to vaccinate against COVID,” said Autumn Koniowka,
pharmacy manager, Cooperstown CVS. “As soon as there is more information made available publically, we’ll start letting people know about the process.”

“When vaccines are authorized and made available to the general public, Kinney pharmacists will be able to administer them following federal vaccine prioritization guidelines,” said Rebecca Bubel, R.Ph. Kinney Drugs president, in a statement. “As we have since 1903, our employee-owners remain 100-percent committed to supporting our communities on the front lines. By working together, we can help bring this pandemic under control.”

Appointments would be scheduled in a similar fashion to their current program, with appointments made online or by calling the pharmacy.

In Oneonta, Walgreens, which has three locations in the city and town, has not indicated whether or not they will offer the vaccine, although they do offer flu and shingles vaccines.

Community partners are critical, said Bond, because otherwise, the Health Department staff could be
“a challenge.”

“We may find ourselves trying to prioritize between contact tracing and vaccinations,” she said.

But with the right resources, including the Health Depart-ment staff, supplemented by volunteers and nursing students, the whole county population – all 59,493 of us – could be vaccinated in three to five days.

The vaccine will be free, although providers may bill a patient’s insurance. Those without insurance will be covered by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund, according to the Center for Disease Control.

But it could still be “3-4 months,” warns Bond, before the general population can line up to get their shot, and much of that depends on how much of the vaccine is sent to the county at a time.

“The earliest I see it available to the general population is March or April,” she said.

COVID-19 Cases Triple In County

COVID-19 Cases

Triple In County

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Heidi Bond

COOPERSTOWN – Last Tuesday, Nov. 17, there were 37 new cases of COVID-19 reported.

In the seven days since, that number tripled to 126 by Nov. 24, with hospitalizations up two, from four to six, since last week, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health Director.

That makes the highest number of community cases – that’s not counting the 700-plus SUNY Oneonta outbreak – since the pandemic started in March.

“If our cases continue to increase the way they have, even taking the holiday out, we are facing unprecedented community spread,” she warned. “Now put in the holiday, and if we don’t take precautions, that number is going to continue to rise.”

Forty-one of the cases are already linked to a gathering of people eating and drinking at the Copper Fox Tavern in Oneonta, making it the largest community cluster.

“Reportedly, they were following all guidelines,” she said of the Copper Fox outbreak. “But patrons don’t have to wear a mask when they’re eating or drinking, so dining out is still a risky activity.”

Two more Oneonta bars have also reported cases, with one employee testing positive at the Beer Barrel Inn in the Sixth Ward. At the Red Jug Pub on Main Street, patrons who were at the popular college bar on Friday, Nov. 20 are being asked to quarantine and monitor their symptoms after an employee who worked that night tested positive.

First responders, including several in the Oneonta Police Department, and both residents and employees of both residential and nursing homes, have also tested positive in the last week.

SUNY Oneonta had a spike in cases, with 12 students and three employees testing positive before students returned home for the rest of the semester, while Hartwick College saw four cases.

By the end of the semester, SUNY’s numbers totaled 764, Hartwick’s, 71.

In all, Oneonta has 66 of the cases, the highest concentra-tion in the county. By contrast, Cooperstown, had numbers “too small to say,” according to Bond; “America’s Most Perfect Village” was singled out by Governor Cuomo at his daily briefing Monday, Nov. 23, for having the lowest numbers in the state.

However, to keep those numbers low, the Cooperstown Village Board this week voted 6-0 to return to meeting over Zoom, beginning at its Dec. 28 meeting.

“I know members who feel that, with the increase in cases, would like to return to virtual meetings for now,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch.

Bassett Healthcare restricted visitors at their hospitals to “only individuals considered essential to the medical care of a patient” – parents, birth partners and those with family members receiving end-of-life care, effective Monday, Nov. 23. Visitation is also suspended at the Fox Nursing Home.

And with the holidays looming, Cuomo issued an executive order banning gatherings of more than 10 people in an attempt to combat the spread. Sheriff Richard J. Devlin said he has insufficient resources and no plans to enforce the order.

“We’re having trouble handling police calls as it is,” he said. “We don’t need to be checking on people’s Thanksgiving dinners, and we won’t.”

He did say, however, if his deputies respond to a domestic or a fight, for instance, and guidelines are being flouted, they might issue tickets.

It’s a sentiment echoed by the state Sheriff’s Association, who issued a statement on Monday, Nov. 24 saying that they lacked the resources to enforce the order. (See text, page A5).

“We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority,” said the statement, which was unsigned.

“We have trust that our citizens will be responsible,” said Devlin. “And the governor’s executive order doesn’t have the teeth for us to even enforce or make arrests.”

But even if enforcement isn’t possible, Bond said that’s no excuse to pack a house full of out-of-town guests.

“My recommendation is not to have Thanksgiving with anyone you don’t associate with on a day-to-day basis,” said Bond. “There is so much community illness, and people are unintentionally spreading it, because they don’t know they have it.”

This Week, Nov. 26-27, 2020
BERKSON: Chickie’s Greatest Gift

Chickie’s Greatest Gift

Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His article have appears in New York magazine, the New York Daily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.

When I was 8 years old, the hero in my life was my cousin Chickie, who drove an oil truck and often took me with him on deliveries.

The job led him all over Brooklyn and, being somewhat of a scavenger, he often came home with a bike or a wagon or some other discarded contraption he thought would be useful.

We lived in Bensonhurst, in a 12-room Victorian that had been divided into apartments. I occupied the second floor with my dad, while Chickie and his wife and two babies lived on the first floor and my Aunt Edna and Uncle Dave and their sons Leo and Charlie lived on the attic floor.

There was also Mr. Bilideau, the boarder, who was a leftover from the time when my grandmother had rented rooms. There had once been a Mr. Yumtov as well, a man who liked to store smoked whitefish in his dresser. Mr. Bilideau was from Canada. He had a room on the second floor and shared the bath with my father and me.

Just about everyone in the house owned something that Chickie had brought home and thrown on the front porch. “I thought you could use one of these,” he’d always say.

In spite of the partitions, it was difficult for so many people to be housed under one roof without having feuds over hot water and noise and things disappearing from refrigerators. Half the time somebody upstairs wasn’t talking to somebody downstairs. Chickie, with his various street finds, was often instrumental in getting them back on speaking terms.

One year, about a week before Thanksgiving, arguments were running high when Chickie came home with a live turkey in a crate. “It’s a 27-pounder,” he announced to several of us who had gathered on the front porch.

I had never seen a turkey alive and up close like this. “Where’d you get it?” I asked, cautiously poking a finger through the bars. “Did it fall off a truck?”“Never mind,” he said. “There’s enough here for all of us.”

I was placed in charge of watering and feeding the bird, which to me looked like some kind of prehistoric monster. I had to lower the water pan through an opened hatch in the top of the cage.

“Don’t worry,” Chickie reassured me when he saw the concern on my face. “That big bird’ll never get through that little hole.”

I figured they must have put the turkey in the crate when he was small and kept feeding him.

So any hard feelings were put aside and preparations for a Thanksgiving dinner at one table were divided between Aunt Edna and Chickie’s wife Ann.

Aunt Edna would bake the pies – mince, blueberry and apple – while Ann would roast the turkey, make stuffing and gravy and prepare candied sweet potatoes, plum pudding and the rest.

Dad, who was working nights on his taxi, would supply the wine and cider and Mr. Bilideau would buy some fruit – and chestnuts, I hoped.

Meanwhile, Chickie had taken to calling the turkey Sylvester, and would spend time with it out on the porch when he came home from work.

He’d stick a fat calloused index finger through the bars and let the bird peck at it. “You’re gonna be a good turkey,” he’d say affectionately.

I was still afraid of the thing and hadn’t warmed up to it that much, but all the talk about how this bird was going to taste sent uneasy twinges through my wishbone.

Three days before Thanksgiving, Chickie came home with bad news. The butcher around the corner didn’t want to slaughter Sylvester. He tried other butchers and they refused too. It suddenly looked like we weren’t going to have turkey for dinner.

A Thanksgiving turkey brought peace to Terry Berkson’s boyhood home in Brooklyn.

We were all gathered in the kitchen trying to come up with a solution. Chickie had carried the crate into the house and put it on top of the stove. “I hear you just chop off his head,” he was musing.

Uncle Dave mentioned that Mr. Bilideau had grown up on a farm in Canada: Surely he’d know how to butcher the bird. “But what about cleaning it and plucking the feathers?” Aunt Edna protested. “That’s a real mess!”

All this talk about butchering must have been too much for Sylvester, too, because suddenly, impossibly, he was out of his crate, flapping his tremendous wings and scratching at anything in sight with his clawed feet.

Everyone scrambled out of the kitchen. Leo and I ran for the bathroom while the others headed for the hall. The last thing I saw was Chickie struggling to keep Sylvester from becoming airborne. I worried that the bird would take my cousin’s eyes out.

How was he going to squeeze Sylvester back through that small trapdoor? I could hear both of them swearing.

After what seemed like a very long time, Chickie announced that the coast was clear. We all crept into the kitchen and found that Sylvester was back in his box. He didn’t look much worse for wear.

“I was careful not to hurt him,” Chickie said.

Mr. Bilideau came downstairs and entered the kitchen to find out what all the commotion was about. When asked he said, “Yes, I’ll butcher the turkey if you have a sharp hatchet.”

He explained that the way to get the feathers out easily was to scald the freshly killed bird in a vat of boiling water. He would use the tree stump in the back yard for the first part of the operation and a lobster pot from the cellar for the second. The procedure would take place the next day after work. We were going to have turkey after all. Chickie stood there in the kitchen with his hand on the hatch door as Sylvester tried to bite through the bars.

The next morning when I left for school the bird wasn’t on the porch. He wasn’t in the cellar or out in the garage, either. Chickie’s Nash was gone from the parking place next to the house. Maybe he had come up with a brainstorm on how to get Sylvester butchered and avoid all the mess.

I was glad that Mr. Bilideau had been relieved of the job. With him doing it, I pictured us all sitting around chewing on feathers.

After school I ran home and eagerly waited for Chickie to return with Sylvester. I felt a little guilty about it, but I was kind of looking forward to seeing the bird stripped of his claws and feathers and head. I sat on the stoop as big wet snowflakes floated toward the ground.

Chickie pulled in the driveway right on schedule. He got out of the car with a large brown paper bag and walked up to where I was sitting.

“Is that the turkey?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. I looked in the bag. There was a bald thing with pockmarks all over it.

That Thanksgiving was one of the most festive I can remember. The table was so long we had to set it up in the hall. I noticed that Chickie, sitting at the head, was in especially good spirits.

In my mind, the feast with a golden-brown bird at the center seemed to exude a joyous radiance. Somehow I understood that it was our turkey, Sylvester, that had brought us all together.

Years later, on a cold November day, as we were on our way to make an oil delivery, I asked Chickie if it had really been Sylvester in the bag that afternoon. He chuckled as he shifted the Mack down to a lower gear.

Then he looked over at me and said, “Nah.”

HOMETOWN HISTORY: November 26, 2020


November 26, 2020

150 Years Ago

Highway Robbery – Early last Wednesday morning Mr. Moak, driver of the Schenevus Stage, was accosted by a suspicious looking individual near the Russel Bridge who asked for a tobacco chew. Mr. Moak said he did not use the weed, whereat the robber demanded of Mr. M. his money and the mail bags. His request was not acceded to by our modern John, who dismounted from his coach and struck the would-be highwayman with a stick of wood from an adjacent woodpile. The scoundrel dropped and the faithful guardian of the mail bags went his way rejoicing. Work is progressing slowly at the round house during the present cold weather.Lester and Theodore Emmons and Wm. H. Strait have purchased a lot containing 40 feet front and 100 feet back on Broad Street of E.H. Ford, on which they will erect a machine shop for the manufacture of the celebrated Firkin Head Cutter, and a general repair shop.

November 1870

After Downturn, Sale, Ioxus Returns

After Downturn, Sale,

Ioxus Returns To Expand

Building And Workforce

Ioxus’ headquarters, in the former National Soccer Hall of Fame, was built with expansion in mind. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Chad Hall

ONEONTA –  Ioxus was going strong, with manufacturing plants here and in Japan, and a growing reputation as producer of the best ultracapacitor in the world.

Then, in 2019 it hit a bump: Its best-selling product, uSTART, a “smart power system” that “dramatically increases the starting reliability of trucks and heavy machines,” had to be recalled.

“That set us back,” said Walton-born Chad Hall, Ioxus co-founder and senior vice president, interviewed last Thursday, Nov. 19, on the second floor of the futuristic former National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Suddenly, Ioxus was in trouble.

“The salesperson I dealt with at the time reached out and basically gave me a heads-up,” said Scottie Johnson, president of XS Power Batteries in Knoxville, Tenn. Ioxus’ major customer, XS had been selling the Oneonta ultracapacitors under its own private label for half a decade.

“’You may need to look for another supplier,’” the salesman told Johnson. “He mentioned, ‘By the way, you may want to throw your hat into the ring.’ So I did.”

March 30, XS bought Ioxus. Since, “we’ve been working hard to outline a new product offering and to revitalize some of the existing product offerings,” said Johnson.

Mark McGough, Ioxus president for the past decade, assisted with the transition. Then, in August, he joined Hartland Controls, manufacturer of electronic equipment in Rock Falls, Ill., as president/CEO.

Meanwhile, uSTART has been redesigned and customers restocked. “The previous customers we had have all come back,” said Hall, and Ioxus will be marketing the improved product in “Q1.”

Reached in Knoxville the next morning, Johnson, who had just returned from here the afternoon before, said, “It was a great visit. Everything is going very well.”

All of this has Hall, who helped develop the original product and the company’s name – Ioxus is associated with “power” in ancient Greek – is looking to the future enthusiastically.

“We need to grow our footprint” in Oneonta by another 30,000-50,000 square feet,” he said. “There’s plenty of room here; it was designed to be expanded. And we would want to do that here.” (In addition to headquarters at Stadium Circle, the company has a plant on Corporate Drive in the nearby Oneonta Commerce Park, and a third in Karatmatsu, Japan.)

The company also is planning to expand its workforce from 35 to the “mid-50s” in the first half of 2021, he added.

Virginia and South Carolina will say, “Hey, we’ll build to suit, free for five years,” Hall said. “It’s hard to compete with that.”

Nevertheless, he said, Otsego Now, the local economic-development group, has been working New York State’s system for the money that is available, and obtained a $1 million Excelsior tax-credit award.

Otsego Now President Jody Zakrevsky, who briefed Common Council on the project earlier this month, said the local IDA board approved a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement, which, once Ioxus buys the building, would phase in property taxes over 10 years.

The IDA (Industrial Development Authority) also gave the company a sales-tax exemption on equipment purchased, and an exemption from the mortgage tax when the building is purchased.

NYSEG has agreed to provide low-cost power to the plant, and the Oneonta Town Board has agreed to
take over and maintain Brown Street, as well as Stadium Circle, which leads to the plant. And the Otsego Chamber prepared a list of homes on the market that would be available to executives brought in.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s chief of staff, Mike Lynch, called Scottie Johnson to pledge the senator’s support.

“Given that we’ve been in a pandemic,” Zakrevsky said, “we’ve been very challenged. “April 1, I met with Scottie. There were just the two of us in the large conference room at Ioxus. Everything else has been done by emails and phone calls.”

He added, “the state has a major deficit. Most of the grant programs that would apply just don’t exist right now.”

Last time Zakrevsky visited Ioxus – incidentally, there are 100 framed patents in the lobby – there were two contractors preparing estimates on the construction.

“We are competing on a global scale,” said Hall. “And we want to stay in Oneonta. With Custom Electronics also making ultracapacitors – its president, Mike Pentaris, was Ioxus’ founding president – Hall called Browne Street New York State’s “Corridor of Capacitors.”

Community Foundation: Apply For 2021 Grants 

Community Foundation:

Apply For 2021 Grants 

COOPERSTOWN – Our COVID Fund has now secured $220,000 to address many needs arising out of the pandemic. We issued 25 awards to date and have about $40,000 remaining to distribute.

Next Up is our plan for 2021. Our board has authorized allocation of $200,000 to the 2021 Awards Round. “We need community input on how to focus our investing these funds,” said Harry Levine, foundation board president.

Twenty-five non-profits have received funding so far, beginning with a $5,000 grant on May 5 to Helios Care, the successor to Catskill Area Hospice, for PPE equipment.

“COVID awards used funds to address issues ranging from rewarding first line health professionals with gift cards to buy food from local restaurants to extending working capital grants (not loans) to small businesses to help them get back on their feet after shuttering this spring,” Levine said.

“…Over 300 donors supported this Fund demonstrating the we live in a caring community.”

This Week, Nov. 19-20, 2020
CCS Outbreak Hits Herzigs
Otsego COVID Cases Double, 5 Delaware Ones Sent Here

CCS Outbreak Hits Herzigs

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Mayor Gary Herzig takes a COVID test when the SUNY epidemic h

ONEONTA – In the past week, Otsego County doubled its November COVID-19, leaving Oneonta’s mayor and his wife among the newly quarantined.

With 37 new cases of the virus identified from Tuesday the 10th to Tuesday the 17th, the number of cases for the month rose from 46 to 83 in just seven days. Two from Otsego County were hospitalized, including a resident from a group home where 16 were infected after a staff member tested positive.

“The numbers are going in the wrong direction,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “And unfortunately, it’s a bit random, so that’s worrisome.”

Herzig himself is in “voluntary quarantine” after his wife Connie was exposed at Cooperstown Elementary School. She was deemed to be in “close contact” with a Cooperstown Elementary School teacher who tested positive for COVID on Monday, Nov. 16.

Herzig, who was substitute teaching at the school she retired from in 2018, is under required quarantine for two weeks.

“It’s something we’re all going through,” said the mayor, who was nonetheless able to attend this week’s Common Council meeting, held via Zoom.

Neither Herzig has shown symptoms or tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday, Nov. 17.

But more worrisome, said Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director, is that her team so far hasn’t been able to link — or contact trace – some of these new cases spreading across the county.

“People can’t figure out where they picked it up,” she said. “These are people who have no known exposure to someone who they knew had tested positive.”

Last week, an employee at Applebee’s in the Southside Mall tested positive, but Bond said that no patrons have come forward with positive tests, only a few “close contacts” of the patient.

And before that, staff and residents of two residential living facilities, one in Oneonta and one in Cooperstown, tested positive for the virus, marking small “clusters” of cases that could be traced.

“That’s what we do when we interview people,” she said. “We try to determine where they’ve been for the last two weeks.”

The good news, she said, is that the SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College outbreaks have quieted, with one case at Hartwick and three at SUNY in recent days.

It’s too early, she said, to determine how many cases will spread from the positives at Cooperstown and Greater Plains Elementary Schools, both which went to remote learning this week after positive tests.

In all, 218 people are in quarantine, with one hospitalized at Albany Medical Center.
Local hospitals, meanwhile, are housing patients from Delaware County.

“Delaware County doesn’t have any ICU beds,” Bond told the SUNY Oneonta COVID-19 Task Force during its meeting on Monday, Nov. 16. “Two of those patients are at Fox Hospital, and three of them
at Bassett.”

According to Karen Huxtable-Hooker, Bassett Health Network spokesman, no hospitals in Delaware County are critical-access hospitals and they don’t have any ICU beds.

“They routinely transfer critical-care patients elsewhere,” she said.

While Fox does not have a dedicated ICU, Huxtable-Hooker said they have sectioned off spaces to provide COVID-specific care.

“Not all patients who are hospitalized for the coronavirus need ICU care,” said Huxtable-Hooker. “Some respond to treatment quickly and fully recover.”

Numbers are rising statewide and nationally, especially as students prepare to head home for the holidays, a move that could cause cases to spike.

“Families bringing their kids back to the area need them to quarantine for 14 days,” she said. “It’s hard, it’s the holidays, and no one wants to quarantine away from their family.”

BERKSON: With A Slice Of The Shovel

With A Slice Of The Shovel

Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His article have appears in New York magazine, the New York kDaily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.

Recently, a friend brought some spruce saplings up to the farm for planting.

Luckily, my son was up for the weekend to lend a hand with the digging. We placed some near the house and then headed for the woods, which are thin on evergreens.

No sooner did I open a hole for the first seedling than I was back to the spring of 1966, in the forest near Rothenberg, Germany, where it looks a lot like the countryside around Richfield Springs. We were medics attached to the Seventh Army and out on maneuvers.

I pitched my pup tent with a guy named Hailey from Niagara Falls. He had already been in Germany for a year and could speak a bit of the language.

It was sunny and warm and after testing our unit’s drinking water I sat in front of our tent, reading Hemingway’s “The Old Man And The Sea”:

“Santiago was sitting in his boat with his palms raw and bleeding from the big fish that had raced the line through them at a cutting speed. He was thinking about the great DiMaggio and how he continued to play ball in spite of a painful spur on his heel.”

Then a cuckoo bird let out a call and I was back in the woods. I had thought the ridiculous sound only came from clocks made in the Black Forest – but here was a live bird in a nearby tree.

There was a dirt road at the edge of the woods and across the road in a field a farmer was plowing with horses. Occasionally the breeze blew his voice in my direction and I could hear that he used different words for giddy-up and whoa.

It must have been around lunchtime because in the distance a woman approached across the furrows with a lunch basket for her man. They greeted each other happily and I could hear their harmony of laughter. Even at the brash age of 22 I saw the beauty in the scene.

Hailey came by and asked me if I wanted to do some reconnaissance, which meant we’d be looking for a beer hall in a nearby village at the end of the dirt road. We would later sneak off to it after Sarge turned in that night.

Now, as we made our way through the woods we came upon some German farmers who were planting trees and we exchanged some pleasant conversation by way of Hailey’s knowledge of Deutsche.

I was already aware that after more than a decade of occupation, American soldiers weren’t exactly welcome guests in Germany. On this maneuver, which included armored tanks and huge trucks with trailers, the Army would have to pay $50 for every sapling we destroyed.

At one point, one of the farmers who was holding a shovel said, “Amerikanisch soldaten arbeit nicht,” which Hailey translated into, “American soldiers don’t work.”

Eager to show the man that he was wrong, I grabbed a shovel and a tree and started digging. Hailey captured the scene with his camera.

Now in my woods, I savor this moment of working alongside my wife and son. She captures the scene with her camera. These trees will be here long after I’m gone.

With the passage of time I’ve grown to be nearly as old as the fisherman Santiago – and hopefully, fruit of the farmers’ efforts will have fared better than the Old Man’s ravaged fish.

By now, those trees planted back in Germany must be 40 feet tall.

In Oneonta, Santa, Other Staples Virtual

In Oneonta, Santa,

Other Staples Virtual

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

David Cyzeski is bringing the motorized window display back to downtown Oneonta. Here he is seen assembling a wooden Christmas Carousel, complete with wooden gears, that will be on display in the window of his wife’s shop Theresa’s Emporium. “Everything is wood except for the motor,” he said. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA – For Common Council member Mark Drnek, it’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.

“We were in Brooklyn one time during the holidays, and all of a sudden, we heard music in the streets,” he said. “It was a game-changer.”

A similar 16-speaker system, designed by Carrie Schmidt of Bitbybit Solutions, was put in place for the downtown dining event and, come Black Friday, will fill Main Street with the sounds of holiday cheer, courtesy of the Pandora Christmas music station.

“We want to bring back that sense of community shopping downtown,” Drnek said. “We want to train people not to just go straight to Amazon.”

After Thanksgiving, downtown merchants will implement “Shop Small Weekends,” opening Saturdays and Sundays throughout the holiday shopping season.

“By not crowding it in one Small Business Saturday, we’re able to lessen the crowds and facilitate social distancing,” he said. “It’s a great downtown shopping experience.”

COVID-19 restrictions on large crowds forced Destination Oneonta to cancel the annual Santa parade, but that doesn’t mean Santa is skipping Oneonta entirely.

Instead, he will Zoom live from the North Pole to meet with kids – no bundling up or waiting in the cold required.

“Kids can sign up for a time to Zoom with Santa, and one of his helpers will let you into the chat,” said Katrina Van Zandt, Destination Oneonta’s director of membership and events. “Then you can visit one-on-one with Santa.”

Destination Oneonta is also looking for a way to record the chats so that the kids will be able to take them as a memento, Drnek said.

In addition to the Zoom chats, kids can leave letters to Santa in the mailbox at his cottage in Muller Plaza.

The annual Gingerbread House and Festival of Lights tree-decorating competitions will also be held virtually.

“This year’s theme is to build a traditional gingerbread house,” said Van Zandt. “You take a picture of yourself with it and post it on our Facebook page in each category.”

Though many categories – including Best Candy Use, Most Intricate and Tallest – are voted on by the board, there is still a chance to vote for the Viewer’s Choice, determined by who gets the most likes.

The Festival of Trees will be held much the same way, inviting homes and businesses to show off their elaborately decorated trees. “We want to see you, your pets, your families in the photo so we know it’s not one you found a picture of and submitted,” she said. “It’s hard to Photoshop yourself in!”
Both contests are live now, and winners will be announced on Dec. 10.
But there’s no Christmas without some holiday decorations, and the city will begin decorating downtown with banners and snowflakes this weekend. Destination Oneonta has purchased additional banners to promote the merchants and restaurants.

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