News of Otsego County

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The Freeman’s Journal

DEWEY: Reelect Democratic Slate In Village

LETTER from JEANNE DEWEY

Reelect Democratic

Slate In Village

To the Editor,

Our world has changed significantly since March 18, 2020, when the Cooperstown village elections were originally scheduled. Until last month the Village Board was unable to meet in person, due to the pandemic, so monthly meetings took place via Zoom and were streamed live on the village website. They are also archived on the village’s You-Tube channel.

MacGuire Benton probably didn’t know a pandemic was heading our way, but last year as a first-time board member he had the foresight to recommend the Village Board record all meetings and stream them. His goal was to improve the Board’s transparency and accessibility to everyone.

He headed the task force which researched his idea, and advanced a proposal to video stream all monthly meetings. So, if you’ve had the opportunity to see the Cooperstown Village Board in action over the past several months, you have MacGuire Benton to thank.

This coming Tuesday, Sept. 15, the Village of Cooperstown will hold its elections for mayor (2-year term), and two trustees positions (each 3-year terms).

As a trustee, I have had the privilege of working closely with Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh for the past two years, and with Trustees Joe Membrino and MacGuire Benton for the past year. They each bring different strengths and ideas to the board, and I firmly believe this benefits Cooperstown.

Ellen has vast knowledge of Cooperstown’s history and has been an integral part of the Village Board since 2011. She is a detail person, and has a deep understanding of the village’s inner workings. (They are far more complex than most people imagine!) She has been an effective leader, moving Cooperstown forward and continuing the progress of the past several years.

Joe has a background in legal public service, specifically pertaining to water rights. The Water & Sewer Board has been fortunate to have his expertise for the past seven years. Joe is also chair of the Finance Committee, which benefits from his attention to detail and fiscal responsibility.

MacGuire is a 2016 CCS grad, dedicated to ensuring Cooperstown is an accessible, transparent and welcoming community for all, now and into the future. His enthusiasm, innovative ideas, and Millennial perspective are a benefit to Cooperstown and to the Village Board.

It is no secret that Cooperstown’s population is shrinking as well as aging. MacGuire’s perspective as a young person who is dedicated to staying in his home town and making sure it is an attractive place for future generations is unique to the Board.

He is curious, eager and interested in understanding how different issues facing the Village will affect Cooperstown and its residents. He has made a point of seeking out the ideas and concerns of his constituents and sharing these with the board.

As a small village in rural Upstate New York, Cooperstown has its challenges, particularly now, but with the thoughtful, forward-thinking planning of the current mayor and trustees, I believe Cooperstown’s future is bright.

Join me in voting for Mayor Tillapaugh and Trustees Membrino and Benton on Sept. 15, to continue the positive momentum of the past decade.

JEANNE DEWEY
Cooperstown

MacMILLAN: Vote Newcomer Robbins As Trustee

LETTER from DR. ROGER MACMILLAN

Elect Newcomer

Robbins As Trustee

To the Editor:

I wish to strongly endorse and support the candidacy of Mary Margaret Robbins for village trustee in the coming election.

A certified and licensed pharmacist, many will recall her from the years she spent working at the CVS pharmacy when it was located on Main Street. Having been a resident of Cooperstown for many years, she has the vision and dedication to conserve our heritage.

Despite her most recent health challenges, Mary Margaret has consistently had a smile on her face. Helping her in that regard has been her loyal companion and supporter Dodger, whom she rescued from our animal shelter. She is thoughtful, approachable, intelligent, and a good listener of all opinions –
NO hidden agendas!

Mary Margaret is fully aware of the significant local issues that demand our village’s government attention. She is a focused candidate possessing the common sense to work together in seeking appropriate solution.

DR. ROGER MacMILLAN
Cooperstown

THIS WEEK’S NEWSPAPERS The Freeman’s Journal • Hometown Oneonta Sept. 17-18, 2020
Otsego Deputy On Leave After Gun Goes Off

Otsego Deputy On Leave

After Gun Goes Off, Girl Injured

By LIBBY CUDMORE• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. wants to assure the public that the law applies to everyone – even cops.

“Police officers are not above the law,” he said. “They have a responsibility as well.”

A yet-unnamed Otsego County Sheriff’s deputy has been placed on administrative leave after state police reported a child and adult were injured when the gun he was carrying in his pocket accidentally discharged while he was dining Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Grape and Grog in Camden, Oneida County.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, Troop D, based in Oneida, was attempting to schedule an interview with the deputy, who has retained legal counsel. His name has not yet been released and charges have not yet been filed.

“The sheriff’s department has been cooperative throughout the whole investigation,” said Trooper Jack Keller, Troop D public relations officer.

According to Keller, the deputy was seated at a table when he accidentally discharged one round from a handgun he was carrying in his pants pocket.

“We’re still trying to determine why the gun went off,” said Keller.

He said the bullet exited through the bottom of the deputy’s pocket, through his wallet, and ricocheted off the concrete floor.

Though it was initially believed that the girl was injured by a concrete chip, investigators now say she may have been struck by the bullet.

“The little girl was at the table next to his with her back to him,” Keller explained. “When the gun went off, the bullet may have gone past her elbow and her right hip, then struck the ground.”

He said that the woman sitting next to her, who was also injured, described that she felt “like her foot was on fire. She thought it was fireworks.”

Both injuries were minor and treated by EMS at the scene.

According to Devlin, a second off-duty deputy was also at the scene, but has not been charged or put on administrative leave.

The weapon was not a department-issue weapon, said Devlin. “We encourage our deputies to carry even when off-duty,” he said. “We’re police officers 24/7, and there are situations we are expected to respond to.”

For a deputy to carry while off-duty, he said, the weapon has to be an inspected, approved firearm, and the deputy has to qualify to use it, just as he would his service weapon.

And above all, he stressed safety when carrying a loaded weapon. “Firearms should be properly secured and carried on a person,” he said.

The deputy will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of the state police investigation. He is also currently under an internal review from the Sheriff’s Department.

 

BERKSON: Whistling Woodchucks! Back Again
GUEST COLUMN from TERRY BERKSON

Whistling Woodchucks! Back Again

Not that they ever left. They just take a long winter nap while their heartbeat slows from 80 to an incredible five beats per minute and their body temperature drops from 99 to 37 degrees.

Punxsutawney Phil projects a good productive image with his weather predictions but Digger Dan, the name I give to the critter whose been tunneling into my barn every year, is another story.

One morning last spring, I was carrying a bale of hay before the light of sunrise and stepped in a hole that swallowed my leg up to my knee. I dropped the bale and limped out to the wood pile to secure a piece of 4-by-4 to pound into the hole – knowing well that The Digger would soon find another entry into my space.

The battle has been going on for several years. A friend lent me a trap that I set up by an outside hole, but the wary animal never goes near it.

One time I dropped a woodchuck bomb into the hole in the barn floor and covered it with a Frisbee that I held in place with my foot. Surprisingly, the Frisbee blew off the hole with considerable force.

I was puzzled because woodchucks usually have at least two entrances which would vent the pressure created by the bomb. Maybe Digger Dan’s body blocked the tunnel like a cork in a bottle creating enough pressure to blow the Frisbee and my foot off the hole.

Anyway, Digger didn’t perish and I didn’t try a bomb again for fear I’d burn the barn down. Of course, I had my 22 loaded and ready to rid myself of the trouble maker, but this woodchuck is a strategist and always positions himself in hard to shoot places.

One time I was gun-less and rounding a corner of the barn with a bucket of water when I ran right into him. We were both startled and to my surprise the wise guy whistled at me.

It was a harassing whistle that made me angry – the first note of the notorious three-noted wolf call that guys in Brooklyn use when they see a nice-looking girl. It’s not very macho to be whistled at by a woodchuck.

I duplicated the sound on the piano. The note is a “D,” the first letter of two words I’ve been
using to describe the enemy.

For several years an Amish farmer was taking hay off of our place. I often worried that one of his horses would step in a woodchuck hole like I did – and break a leg. So, I put sticks with flags on them to mark where the holes were.

When the farmer saw my markers he laughed and assured me that even when covered with cut hay, the horses could sense where the holes were.

I found this hard to believe but, luckily, on our farm no horse ever broke a leg pulling a hay wagon.

My friend George Gardner who has the same invasion problem sicked his very willing Jack Russell terrier on a woodchuck and the dog followed the varmint into a hole – so far that he got stuck and George had to dig the dog out with a back hoe.

So, the war goes on. Besides filling holes, I’ve plugged some of Digger’s relatives while on their way to my vegetable garden but shots at him are always taken from an awkward position and he just about gives me the razz before heading underground.

Recently, a lucky shot surely creased the hair on Digger’s head. Now, he must be taking me seriously because, lately, he ain’t whistling.

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

FLEISHER: Vote In Election ’20

LETTER from P. JAY FLEISHER

Vote In Election ’20

To the Editor:

America is on the brink of an election that will have serious implications for the future of our Country, and indeed our democracy.

I write this out concern for our immediate future, and also because I am equally concerned about the America my 6-year-old grandson will inherit. He deserves the same freedoms we all experienced growing up in a country that valued human dignity, clean air and water, and the freedom to enjoy a society free of hate and prejudice – a place that values human life and a profound respect for those who gave their lives so we could live free – in America.

All I ask is that my fellow citizens exercise their right to vote.

Remember – young American men and women died for your right to vote. Don’t disrespect their sacrifice by letting this opportunity pass. I am not advocating in favor of any candidate, but rather for the future of America – the America of my grandson.

“We the people” – you and me – we are the ones for whom those words were written at the birth of our nation.

If there was ever a time America needed you, it’s now. Show you are a responsible American by voting on
Nov. 3.

P. JAY FLEISHER
Oneonta
Editor’s Note: Voters, you may already ask for absentee ballots by letter (Board of Elections, The Meadows, 140 County Hwy. 33W, Suite 2, Cooperstown NY 13326); email (voteotsego.com)
or phone (607-547-4247).

Helping People Captured ‘Distinction’ For Honoree

MALLORY DELANEY MET CHALLENGE

Helping People Captured

‘Distinction’ For Honoree

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Mallory Delaney was named a “Woman of Distinction” for
testing more than 1,000 patients for
COVID-19. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

ONEONTA – For certified Physician’s Assistant Mallory Delaney, medicine isn’t about talking to a patient.

It’s about listening.

“You want to get people to feel like they’re in the driver’s seat,” she said. “No matter what road they’re going to go down.”

For example, she said, it was easier to get patients to wear masks if they knew it would keep a parent or elderly relative safe. “You have to be collaborative with patients,” she said.

“It’s figuring out what they’re scared of or looking forward to, and working with them from there.”
Delaney, who works at the Bassett Heathcare Clinic at 125 Main St., was named one of this year’s state Senate’s “Women of Distinction” during a ceremony last week, where she was presented a plaque by state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.

“It’s really a remarkable honor,” she said. “But I can’t help but think that this year, all the women in healthcare should be Woman of the Year!”

“I would not be here without the dedication of our healthcare workers,” said Seward, who battled COVID earlier this year. “Normally we put out a press release asking for nominations but, this year, I thought it was important to name a woman in healthcare who gave exemplary service during the pandemic.”

Delaney was recommended to him by now-retired Bassett Healthcare Network President/CEO Bill Streck. “The more I read and heard about her, the more convinced I was that she was an excellent choice,” said Seward.

A native of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Delaney did her undergraduate at Penn State and her physician assistant’s program at Duke University.

“I always knew I wanted to do something in medicine,” she said. “Then I did the LIFE Geisinger program in Scranton, working with elderly and frail populations, and I thought that it might be a direction I wanted to go in.”

She worked at Our Lady of Peace convent, taking care of elderly nuns. “It really taught me to be collaborative with patients,” she said.

In 2014, she moved to Oneonta for the job at Bassett.

It was that bedside manner that helped when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and Delaney found herself outside all day every day, in snow, in sleet, in rain, administering “drive-thru” COVID tests in the parking lot.

“When we first started, I joked that we should just go ahead and put up decorations for the Fourth of July,” she said. “And the other nurse said that there was no way we’d still be here! We had to keep our sense of humor.”

Before rapid-testing and saliva tests were available, patients had to sit, often in the cold, and have a swab shoved deep into their nostrils. “I would tell them to think about some-thing in the future they were looking forward to,” she said.

If one was particularly nervous, she could reassure them with her own experience. “I told people that I had it done and it wasn’t even the worst part of my day,” she said.

In all, she estimates she did well over a thousand tests. “For awhile, we were doing 300 tests a month,” she said.

She lives in Oneonta with her cat, Charlie, who she adopted from the Susquehanna SPCA. She volunteers with the shelter, and plays flute at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, where she is also a parishioner.

And when she got the call that she had been chosen to receive the Woman of Distinction award, she was at the bedside of an elderly neighbor, assisting her with her end-of-life needs.

“True to form, she was tending to someone’s needs,” Seward said.

STERNBERG: Getting Closer To Vaccine. Then What?
LIFE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

We’re Getting Closer To A

COVID-19 Vaccine. Then What?

Sternberg
Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

It appears that we are getting closer to the development of vaccines for COVID-19.

There have been some missteps in the process, including the development of an unexplained illness in one participant in the U.K. study of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. This required a halt to the study for about a week while the data was being reviewed. The study is progressing again at this time.

There are multiple other studies. Some of the vaccines are further along than others.

It’s not going be enough to develop one vaccine. The number of doses that can be produced quickly is limited. It is currently estimated the first batch will be limited to perhaps 10 million to 15 million doses in the United States, according to the National Academy of Medicine. This is why it’s important to have multiple vaccines available so they can be produced in tandem.

So, the question comes back to triage, which is something we first discussed six months ago. In this case, in what order are the vaccines going to be rolled out? Who is going to get them first? Where are they going to be distributed first? Right now, this is a matter of heated opinion.

• In my opinion, and solely in my opinion, I feel the following distribution order should be performed:

• One, frontline healthcare workers who are dealing with patients with COVID-19, or can reasonably expect to come into contact with patients and other affected people with COVID-19. This would include people working in hospitals, nursing homes, emergency medical services, and clinics.

• Two, other essential workers at high risk of being exposed to patients, or people who have
COVID-19 or are positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

• Three, those with two or more risk factors, including age.

• Four, health care and essential workers at any risk of exposure based on their job.

• Five, those with only one risk factor.

• Six, children.

• Seven, adults older than 25.

• Eight, young adults.

My only exception to the above is that I would withhold vaccination for all those who have refused to social distance, wear a mask, have publicly proclaimed that the pandemic is a hoax, or have attended illegal mass gatherings.

At the rate that we can expect vaccinations to roll out, at best we will probably only get the first and possibly some of the second group inoculated within the next three to six months.

With the development of more vaccines by different companies, we might be able to get the entire United States vaccinated within nine to 15 months.

This of course does not discuss the problem of whether money or fame puts you at the head of
the line.

As many of us have noted, professional athletes have been getting tested at will so they can go back to their sports. Other people have to wait or had to use tests that are not instantly available.

We can predict a similar occurrence with who gets the vaccine first. Should VIPs have priority? Should their families? Should the vaccine be equally available in countries which develop it versus non-developed countries?

Just as it was a mad scramble for supplies when lockdowns first began, there’s going to be a mad scramble for the vaccines with people trying to find reasons to be put at the head of the line.

Ultimately there’s going to have to be some pre-existing protocol, or decision-making process in place to sort this out.

As I said above please contact me with your thoughts on these issues. I will make your responses the subject of a follow-up column.

Orchard, Overlook, Sledding Hill Return To Huntington Park

Orchard, Overlook, Sledding Hill

Return To Huntington Park

By LIBBY CUDMORE• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Tina Winstead, executive director, Huntington Memorial Library, unrolls plans from the original Huntington Farm, which landscapers from Stimson used to create the new plan. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

ONEONTA – When she saw the new plans for Huntington Park, it was like falling in love.

“I’m so head-over-heels for the fruit orchard,” said Tina Winstead, Huntington Memorial Library executive director. “That’s what Henry did,” Henry Huntington, the 19th century railroad magnate from Oneonta who donated the mansion and property that today makes up the library and grounds.

On Thursday, Sept. 10, Stimson Landscape Architects, Cambridge, Mass., presented its plan for Huntington Park during a Zoom meeting.

“This really is a bright spot in a difficult era,” said Huntington Memorial Library executive director Tina Winstead. “It’s a design I believe Henry Huntington would be proud of.”

The planning began five years ago, but recently ramped up when $420,068 in funding for the redesign was made available from the state department of Parks and Recreation.

According to Winstead, when Stimson was hired, she was asked for previous blueprints, postcards and photos of the park to help guide the design, and when they came back, they had revived the orchards, the lilac walk, the “pinetum” – a collection of conifers along the edge of the upper park – and the rotunda.

“The rotunda really was here in 1919,” she said. “I like to think that Henry planned it. Stimson was very excited about the whole overlook idea.”

It’s not the only piece of forgotten history to be reinstalled. Stimson revived the sledding hill, which was fenced off and planted with shrubbery in the 1990s.

“Everyone talks about the sledding hill!” said Winstead. “And once we get all that cleared off, you’ll have such a beautiful view of the hills behind Main Street.

At the meeting, plans were detailed for Phase One of the project, which included the Playland and the Literary Garden.

The Playland would incorporate spaces at the top and bottom of the hill, including a labyrinth, a small play area, and a 40-foot long slide built into the hillside. “It’s a very unique element that will draw from all parts of the town,” said Glen Valentine, principal. “And to get to the top of the slide, there will be a rock scramble, which gives kids an opportunity to explore the hillside.”

“The slide was very unexpected!” said Winstead. “But my charge was for Stimson to do something remarkable that would bring families to the park. It could be a huge draw.”

The library doesn’t want a full playground, she said, for liability reasons, and hopes the public would weigh in on the slide on the survey, linked from the library website. “We really want people to either be all for it or not,” she said.

Stimson associate Sean Kline, an Oneonta native, said bluestone would be incorporated into the design, including the overlook and the rock scramble. “Table Rocks is my favorite spot in Oneonta,” he said. “It gives you an amazing context for the city and the materials of the region.”

The gardens, said Valentine, would function as a series of “outdoor classrooms,” each with specific plantings, such as a pollinator garden or an herb/medicinal garden.

There would even be a “literary garden,” which the library could change yearly to tie to a particular theme. “One year it could be colonial plants or a World War II ‘Victory Garden’,” he said.

In all, the full redesign would include a performance space in the lower part of the park and orchards in the arboretum at the top, similar to the ones Huntington had on the family farm the library is built on.

Additionally, the library received $122,000 in Library Construction Aid to install new lampposts to match the ones on Main Street.

Winstead said the park could get underway as soon as this spring, with completion by the summer.
“They really brought back the elements of the park that Henry wanted,” she said. “It feels very right.”

STAMMEL: Don’t Walk Away From Education

LETTER from ANDREW STAMMEL

We Shouldn’t Walk Away

From Educational System

To the Editor:

The prosperity of Oneonta is inextricably intertwined with the success of its colleges. The fact that SUNY Oneonta’s reopening did not succeed as planned and hoped is a tragedy for our community in a year that challenges us all.

The shutdown is devas-tating for our students who have looked forward to their college experience; heartbreaking for the 1,000 SUNY employees who have worked since March to keep our students safe and provide a semblance of a college experience; frightening for our local business-owners; disappointing for residents who appreciate the vitality students bring; and challenging to taxpayers whose governments have just lost a large source of non-local revenue.

Some anxious residents have opined that with the sacrifices we have all made this year to keep the virus at bay, any increase in population density was unacceptable, be it from tourists, weekenders, or students.

I have elderly and vulnerable friends and family locally and can understand and empathize with this perspective.

The good news is that at this early stage, the outbreak appears to have been contained to students, due to the quick and decisive actions of SUNY, the rapid deployment of state resources, cooperation of community members, and ongoing heroics of our underfunded County Department of Health. Out of hundreds tested, no employees have tested positive and there’s no evidence of community spread yet.

While SUNY Oneonta began the school year with 97 percent of classes online, it joined the majority of colleges across the country in developing a hybrid plan that would allow for some level of in-person experience. This reflects a very American “can-do” attitude that with science and problem-solving, we can engineer our way around unprecedented challenges.

“Monday morning quarterbacking” is also an American pastime and the failure of the reopening has led to a misguided and gratuitous blame game by some local politicians and media (not this paper, to my knowledge). Kudos to those elected officials, administrators, and others who have maintained a positive forward-looking attitude, looking for collaborative solutions to protect folks and rebuild trust and relationships between the college and community.

In my conversations with contacts at several colleges, it’s clear to me that SUNY’s planning began earlier and was at least as collaborative, thorough and transparent as other institutions. From March – July, planning efforts invited input from all members of the college community and resulted in hundreds of pages of draft and final planning documents.

A proposed plan was submitted to and approved by the state and has been posted on the college web page for about two months. If your elected official is now one of the furious finger-pointers, ask them how they proactively contributed to crafting a safe reopening plan over the past six months or if they waited to retroactively criticize.

Any successful reopening will rely on three elements. Yes, a good plan must proactively be crafted (and no plan is perfect). Second, there needs to be widespread compliance with the plan and adherence to social distancing by students and employees. Finally, there is an element of luck or God’s will, whichever your persuasion.

Was an infected person a biological “super-spreader”? Did the wind or humidity contribute to spread on a given day? Did a bystander witness a party and report it to authorities in time? While humans like to believe our plans dictate results, much will be out of our control.

Every local college has had some level of outbreak already. This year may prove that for demographic and situational reasons, a residential college experience during a pandemic is unlikely to succeed.

Experience has shown the largest outbreaks are occurring in residential settings (nursing homes, jails, military, summer camps, sports teams, and colleges). Additionally, young people across the country have proved to be the least like to adhere to social distancing.

Despite the risks, does it mean we should not at least try to reopen our educational system? That is a question for every school and community. As K-12 schools across our area consider various reopening scenarios, I urge them to learn from our lessons. Be clear-eyed and accept that we are in a global pandemic and the virus is seeded throughout our area and outbreaks will occur as social distancing is lessened. Craft your outbreak prevention and response plans with care and humility. And finally, have the wisdom and strength to acknowledge when a situation has escalated beyond your control and shut it down, accordingly.

We all mourn the loss of normalcy this year and hope for a swift return to our old lives. Until that time, the best way to protect your loved ones and community is to wear masks, social distance, and practice good hygiene.

ANDREW STAMMEL
Town of Oneonta
County Representative: District 4
Town of Oneonta
Stammel, SUNY Oneonta
Title IX coordinator, said he submitted this letter from the perspective of
an elected official and private citizen,
not as a SUNY spokesman.

Sterling Legacy Suggest: Are City Managers Needed

EDITORIAL

Sterling Mayor’ Legacy Suggest:

Are City Managers Needed?

Maybe it’s apocryphal, but the story’s told of a former mayor of Oneonta who, elected decades ago, discovered some department heads were taking hour-and-a-half lunches to work out at a local gym.

The mayor gave everybody raises, at the same time advising the department heads: Game over, be back at your desks in an hour.

That worked for six months, then the particular department heads starting slipping, the story goes, and soon things were back to how they’d been at the outset.

If true, that underscores the need for a boss, on site, every day at City Hall – and at every other business, for that matter. The buck needs to stop somewhere.

That said, the City of Oneonta’s experience with the current city-manager system of government – next year it will be in place a decade – just hasn’t worked out as hoped.

So that Mayor Gary Herzig is again suggesting revisiting how City Hall governs itself – and
it’s effectiveness in general – is worthwhile, and timely.

The idea of an executive director, implementing mayoral and Common Council policies, makes sense. Pairing that job with, for instance, finance director (or the most apt department head) makes further sense.

As it happens, the third city manager in a decade, George Korthauer, retired last February, just a month before COVID-19 arrived, requiring extraordinary leadership, which Herzig provided – to no one’s surprise, really, given his almost four-year track record.

It’s the Curse of Competence – a job expands to the talents of the person holding it. (Or shrinks.) Even a city charter like Oneonta’s, calling for a “weak mayor” form of government, can’t keep a good person down.

Meanwhile, the Village of Cooperstown also professionalized its government, creating a village
administrator, but leaving the elected mayor and board of trustees assisted, but fully in charge.

Over the years, City Hall has been blessed with many such good persons. Or maybe it’s an Oneonta thing; the city is welcoming to newcomers and comfortable for natives.

There never seems to be a shortage of qualified people, wanting to give back.

It’s not just Herzig; there’s been a succession of capable mayors.

The mourned Dick Miller, a former corporate executive and Hartwick College president; John Nader, now SUNY Farmingdale president; Kim Muller, a SUNY administrator; the venerable David Brenner, a SUNY associate vice president and author, who also chaired the county Board of Representatives.

The trail of talent goes back to the 1960s, when Sam Nader, now 101, set the mold, gaining a statewide reputation for acumen, and bringing a New York Yankees farm team to Damaschke Field.

It can’t be an accident.

By contrast, the three city managers to date just didn’t catch fire. Mayor Herzig is right in concluding it’s time to at least review, and perhaps rethink, a well-intended undertaking that fell short of its goal.

Putting artificial limitations on talented local people, smart, experienced, ambitious about their native or adopted community, must be a mistake.

One caveat: The current city charter was a hard sell, but – in the end – the deal was clinched. On Nov. 7, 2010, 76.08 percent of voters approved it, 1,177 cast aye ballots to the nays’ 370.

A new charter revision effort must earn credibility. The new document must be likewise sold to the public, as the last one was. If it indeed corrects flaws in the 2011 document – as it can and should – that shouldn’t be a heavy lift.

If it includes major changes, Oneonta citizens must be convinced they are indeed improvements. Then, put to a vote, the revised charter passed, and establish a firm foundation for a future that may very well be better guided by leading citizens.

SUNY Infections Ebb, Bring Crisis To End

SUNY Infections Ebb,

Bringing Crisis To End

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – As this week began, only 158 SUNY Oneonta students and residence assistants were left on campus. In a normal year, that would have been over 3,000 of the 6,000+ enrollment.

“At present, there are only three SUNY students in isolation on campus,” Diane Georgeson, Oneonta Public Health officer, told Common Council during her report on Tuesday, Sept. 15. “There are 52 in isolation off campus.”

The majority of the students staying on campus, Mayor Gary Herzig said, had applied to stay because they do not have “acceptable living conditions” at home.

On Sunday, Sept. 13, the campus reported no new cases of COVID-19. Tuesday, Sept. 15, the Otsego County Health Department reported only two cases, after a week of largely single-digit reports, and after peaks of 120 on Sept. 4 and 107 on Sept. 2.

“We’re seeing a significant decline,” said Georgeson. “And we are cautiously optimistic that there was no community spread.”

Campus spokesman Kim MacLeod declared “success,” and credited “swift actions of discipline, rapid testing of all students, immediate contract tracing that led students to be isolated and quarantined.”

The county Health Department (DOH) has termed what happened a “large outbreak.” Looking back, county Public Health Director Heidi Bond said this week, “We did not expect the degree of how fast it happened.”

Georgeson said that studies have begun to determine whether the infection was from “a different strain” of the virus. “The majority of the infected only got mildly sick and recovered quickly,” she said. “We saw such a rapid spread and apparent ready transmission, but little illness.”

Of those that got sick, she said, only three had pneumonia, and “a few” went to the emergency room with severe symptoms, but none were hospitalized.

The final numbers were firming up, the DOH and SUNY Oneonta’s tallies were still far apart. Monday, the DOH was reporting total positive cases at 684; the campus put the number at 723.

These divergences were said to result from different reporting cycles.

When 105 cases were reported overnight Saturday, Aug. 30, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras visited that Sunday afternoon and closed the campus for two weeks; he returned the following Thursday, Sept. 3, and announced it would close for the semester.

“A lot of students left campus immediately,” said Heidi Bond, the county public health director.
Nearly 3,000 students were screened over Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 5-7, and large-scale quarantines and isolations followed, according to MacLeod.

At that point, she said, the county DOH initiated tracing – determined who the infected students may have come into contact with. Once students who were infected were released from isolation, they are free to go home and “there is no need for further contact,” she said.

However, students can continue to have access to faculty, telehealth and telecounseling services, MacLeod said.

Across the valley on Oyaron Hill, Hartwick College was reporting 15 confirmed cases on Tuesday, Sept. 15, but were confident enough that students were returning to classrooms the following day.

“Face-to-face, personal instruction is a pillar of Hartwick’s educational mission, as it has been for 223 years,” said Hartwick President Margaret L. Drugovich.

“Our students have made it clear that they want to return to the classroom, and the vast majority have demonstrated they can and will honor the rules we’ve put in place to control the spread of COVID-19,” she said in announcing classes would resume.

Is City Manager Needed?
AFTER DECADE, MAYOR HERZIG TO ASK QUESTION AGAIN

Is City Manager Needed?

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA –Oneonta’s third city manager, George Korthauer, retired from City Hall on Feb. 7.

A month later, on March 13, Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202 went into effect, declaring a state of emergency in New York State in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic threat.

In the past six months, Mayor Gary Herzig, under a City Charter that gives him largely ceremonial responsibilities, led the effort that kept in-community infections – not including SUNY Oneonta’s “large outbreak,” now ending – to an average of eight a month.

Given that the city man-ager’s $110,000 salary is about 4 percent of the tax levy, Herzig said, he intends to again revisit whether a city-manager form of government, as now constituted, is the best way to govern 14,000-population Oneonta.

He said he planned to start that conversation perhaps as soon at the Common Council’s Budget Committee meeting Wednesday, Sept. 16, but certainly soon after.

And he would like a decision by the end of the year, so savings and likely lower expenses could be reflected in the 2021 budget. (This year’s budget is slightly more than $17 million.)

“I still support having an administrative position supervising day-to-day operations – a staff person, a non-political person,” he said, perhaps an executive director instead of a full-fledged city manager.

Herzig took charge from the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, but in the past month, with the community worried about the colleges reopening, he racheted up police enforcement of mask wearing and social distancing in public places, cancelled evening bus service from the campuses, and issued a “Welcome to Students” letter outlining expectations.

When widespread partying was evident when students returned Aug. 21, he alerted the Governor’s Office, setting the stage for what happened when the “large outbreak” followed: Chancellor Jim Malatras shut the campus for two weeks, and Cuomo deployed a state Virus Testing SWAT Team to the city.

In an interview Monday, Sept. 14, the mayor said, “I didn’t do this all by myself.”

“Our department heads just were amazing in the way they stepped up and provided leadership,” he said. “That was the only way to move through this crisis – and they did it. They filled the leadership void as a team.”

Personnel Director Katie Böttger and City Engineer Greg Mattice assumed day-to-day management, directing the department-head team, he added.

When it was approved on Nov. 7, 2010, the idea of professional management of City Hall won by a 1,177-370 margin. But one decade and three city managers later, dramatic change for the better hasn’t been evident.

“I was an early supporter and still support the concept of having an administrative position supervising the day-to-day operation of the city,” said Herzig.

“But I think the overwhelming number of people in Oneonta who voted to support it, including myself, didn’t recognize it would drastically change our form of government.”

Under the council-manager form of government, Council members’ role is limited to “just being legislators,” he continued. “They are asked not to participate providing input on local government operations.”

There are day-to-day decisions Council members should help make, he said: “What roads are being fixed. How staffing is organized. What priorities are set operationally. In a community this size, most people would want their elected Council members to be involved.”

As for his job, “whether the people want a ceremonial mayor going forward, or a mayor who has the ability to set direction and in control of of city operations, is an open question.” He said he hasn’t decided whether to run for a third two-year term next year.

Herzig said he’s intrigued with combining day-to-day administration with another existing function – with finance or personnel, for instance. “I believe Cortland has been very successful doing that,” he said.
Since six of the eight Council members had only served two months before “we went into Zoom … They haven’t had the opportunity to really dig into this.”

“In the next week or two,” he said, “I’ll look for opportunities for a whole discussion with Council members around where we are now, and what are the different options.”

The mayor expressed the view that a referendum is only necessary if powers are being taken away from elected officials; Herzig said they would be enhanced. “Changing the job description would not require a public vote as far as I know,” he said, in reference to the city manager’s job duties.

He said he would be guided by City Attorney David Merzig’s opinion. In 2016, charter revisions endorsed by a committee chaired by former Mayor John Nader foundered when SUNY New Paltz’s Gerald Benjamin, the state’s foremost expert on local government, said he believed those changes were substantive enough to require another public vote.

KAVANAGH: Good News? The Truth Will Do

LETTER from KENNETH KAVANAGH

Good News? The Truth Will Do

To the Editor:

Consider this hypothetical.

You go to your doctor. You have stomach pains that linger and simply won’t go way. After examination he tells you not to worry, you’ll be fine.

The pain continues and weeks later you get a second opinion. This time it’s not couched with “good news.”

How would you feel about that? Your regular physician did not want to cause any upset. The physician offering the second opinion wanted only to be frank and candid, thereby making a plan to initiate toward recovery.

I believe we all know the answer. Trump did not want to “scare us.” Really? Was it us or his beloved stock market that he wanted to calm and pacify.

He doesn’t want to scare anyone, yet he has no reluctance whatsoever in telling tall tales of tanks coming down Main Street, stock market crashes and rampant crime.

The hypocrisy is just overwhelming!

KENNETH J. KAVANAGH
Cooperstown

ASHWOOD: Barber’s Farm Skills Helpful To 51st

LETTER from MARY ASHWOOD

Jim Barber’s Farm Shows Skills

Helpful To 51st Senate District

To the Editor:

No one could argue that we aren’t living in interesting times. And in interesting times, we need representatives to our government who will help us through.

In just a few short weeks, the 51st District will choose its state senator, a position that has been held by Jim Seward for the last 34 years. And Jim Barber is who I want to represent us.

One only need visit Jim Barber’s family farm to know that a person who can keep a farm like this afloat and growing in these economic times is someone who could help our 51st District to do the same.

And like his farm, his well-designed website also reveals a truth about who he is: he clearly lays out his ideas and plans about taxes, the environment, the opioid crisis, the health care system, education, and as you can imagine—small businesses.

Jim’s proposed plans make sense for where we are now. They are realistic ones that would help everyone wherever they lie on the political spectrum.

He is a man who knows how to listen, knows how to look at his district around him, knows how to bridge gaps. This is what we need to move forward.

MARY ASHWOOD
Cherry Valley

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