News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.


The Freeman’s Journal

What’s Fun In Otsego County: Virtual Theater, Celebrate Pride, Or Go Camping
What’s Fun In Otsego County

Virtual Theater,

Celebrate Pride,

Or Go Camping

Libby Cudmore is managing editor of Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and

It’s a virtual night at the theater as the Fenimore Art Museum presents the Glimmerglobe Theatre’s 2019 performance of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Friday, June 5, The Fenimore Art Museum.

Now that the weather is nicer, take a guided walking tour of Oneonta and learn the history of the Oneonta Hotel, The Fairchild Mansion and other buildings. Afterwards, tour some of the History Center’s past

Celebrate Pride 2020 in an online event with an opening ceremony,
speeches, musical performances and more, all with the theme “Colors of Pride.” 2 – 8 p.m. Saturday, June 6,

Make a delicious, old fashioned maple cake, just like they did in the Historic Village with a recipe from The Farmers’ Museum’s farmhouse cookbook.

Spend a night under the stars as Glimmerglass State Park and Gilbert Lake State Park open for camping. Please observe social distancing protocols; on beach, only wading allowed. Reservations,

First Friday goes virtual with themed cocktails, live music by Tyler Westcott of the band Folkfaces, an Art Talk, illustration instruction and more. 6 p.m. Friday, June 5, YouTube, mwpaimobi, Facebook, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute.

MORGAN: Common Sense Ain’t So Common 

Money Talk

Common Sense

Ain’t So Common

Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta investment counselor and national syndicated columnist, resides in Franklin.

’Tis early days, but what have we learned from the virus crisis?

One thing is that we don’t know what we don’t know. And we are often not certain about what we think we do know. For instance, we don’t know whether we should tell people to stay home, inside. Or should we encourage them to get out in the fresh air. Some experts say stay inside. Others throw facts at us
that refute this.

They show if you are inside with others you are far more likely to transmit or pick up the virus. They argue that the best place to be is outside. Where transmission is much less likely.

That is a pretty basic thing to disagree about. Especially after four months. Especially after decades of dealing with viruses.

This tops the list of things experts are not sure about. How far should we social-distance? Don’t worry about it, some experts tell us. Six-feet is best, say others. One expert told the world that 27 feet was ideal. I am guessing he lives in the Sahara.

Or in a cave.

Should we wear masks? Some say yes, some no. Some said no, but changed their minds.

Do lockdowns work better when enforced before the virus arrives? Or maybe after it has arrived? Or maybe not at all?

Are our virus death tolls accurate?

Or are they exaggerated? Some states apparently record virus deaths much differently than others.
Why is it that 80 percent of Minnesota virus deaths were in old-age facilities? But in other states the percentages were much lower? That seems odd.

And what is the death rate from the virus? What is the infection rate? Experts still disagree about these. And they change their figures every few weeks. Our Center for Disease Control has been all over the park with its figures.

We are lucky that most of their revisions are downward. That is, these days they think the virus is not as virulent as they thought earlier. The CDC’s latest figure for infection rates is 1 in 1,000 for those under 50 who are not in nursing homes. Their death rates are 1 in nearly 7,000 overall. But almost all of these folks have – or had – other serious health issues.

I hesitate to use the word “latest.” Odds are good that the CDC will change their figures before this is printed. And some experts believe the true figures are higher than the CDC’s. Some think they are lower.

Does the virus spread easily on surfaces? Some experts insist it does. And that we should spray and clean every surface near us every few minutes. Others reckon this is bunk. The CDC has basically said yes and no. Great.

A big lesson we have learned is that the virus is political. It affects Republicans differently than Democrats. Most Democrat-controlled cities and states report much different figures. From the New York Times front page: THE CORONAVIRUS IS DEADLIEST WHERE DEMOCRATS LIVE.
Counties won by President
Trump in 2016 have reported
just 27 percent of the deaths – even though 45 percent of Americans live in these communities.
This may explain why Democrat-controlled states tend toward lockdowns and restrictions. While Republican-run states tend toward measures to open up their states. This gets you into a chicken and egg situation. Maybe the lockdowns have made matters worse?
Of course, New York is wall-to-wall Democrat. And wall-to-wall virus, compared to other states. You probably have seen the comparisons between Florida and New York. The states are similar in many respects. Their governors took opposite courses in handling the crises. The results are opposite. Political folks will argue about this for years.
One lesson we have re-learned is that politicians
are quick to point fingers during a crisis. They instantly
blame leaders in the other party. But they rarely admit their own errors and misjudgements.

In the midst of this confusion, consider “deaths of despair”. That is, deaths by suicide, drug abuse, alcohol, beatings and abuse. I understand these are more numerous lately in areas with severe lockdowns. One expert tells us these “added” deaths are nearly as high as the virus deaths.
In the face of all this you might be tempted to fall back on a few old pearls. I am: The obvious ain’t so obvious. And common sense ain’t so common. We sometimes gallop off in all directions. And too often we don’t know our backside from second base.
Cliches to the rescue.

OMG! Retired Maritime Lawyer Steers Cooperstown Diner


Retired Maritime Lawyer

Steers Cooperstown Diner

Caspar Ewig, who moved Upstate after retiring from a maritime law firm in Yonkers, is running the Cooperstown Diner for the Hayfords. It opens Thursday for takeout. (Jim Kevliin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

The 13-ounce OMG! burger, written up in Time and other national magazines, will remain on the menu.

COOPERSTOWN – When Caspar Ewig met his wife, Patricia, in 1973, she had a condition for going steady with her.

“She told me that if we started dating, Cooperstown was in my future,” he said. “She spent every summer up here, taking horseback riding lessons from the Moffats and staying with her aunt on Pioneer Street.”

Now, 47 years later, he’s fulfilled that edict, taking over as the new manager of the Cooperstown Diner, which is reopening for take-out Thursday, May 28.

“I was looking for something to do and I saw the diner was looking for a manager,” he said. “I called Scott Hayford” – longtime owner Earle Hayford’s son – “and the rest is history.”

A native of Germany who was raised in Yonkers, Caspar and Patricia, the bookkeeper at his office, Hill, Rivkins LLP, married in 1977. She died in 2005.

A maritime lawyer, he worked at the firm until he retired in 2017. “I got to my 71st birthday and I was still ready to work, but they wanted me to retire,” he said.

Ewig will be offering “the bottomless cup”: For $15, you can drink all the coffee you want for a year.

The Ewigs had purchased a home on Route 166 near Cooperstown, where they planned to retire. “We’d go to the diner a lot when we came up to Cooperstown,” he said. “We’d get that
humongous hamburger!”

Meanwhile, their daughter Kathy has been living there with her son, Jason; her daughter Gabby, and Gabby’s twins, Sean and Amanda, are at SUNY Poly, near Utica, and SUNY Fredonia, respectively.

Ewig’s son, Fred, father of Emily, 11, and twins Rebecca and Ryan, 6, lives in Princeton, N.J.
Last October, Casper moved up from Jersey City and, in April, saw the listing for the new diner manager online.

“I’ve always enjoyed cooking,” he said. “Every church we ever attended, I always helped out with the cooking for luncheons and celebrations.”

After 9/11, he said, he got some restaurant experience helping a friend run her restaurant, Giovanni’s Atrium, in Brooklyn, while she took care of her ailing husband. “I thought I might like to cook,” he said.

The diner has been closed since the pandemic started, and Ewig’s used the time to study the menu and the operations. “I’m a big fan of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’,” he said. “The diner has a great reputation; right now it’s just about tweaking some of the offerings and making sure they all travel well for when people do take-out.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to put his own touch on the diner. “The breakfasts are always good, but the dinners left something to be desired,” he said.

To start, he’s going to add his specialty quiches to the menu. “I’m a big fan of quiche, so I’m going to make individual ones – spinach and ham and broccoli – in little four-inch pans.”

German specialties may soon follow. “The diner has very standard offerings, but I want to do some food that’s more interesting,” he said.

He’ll also offer a $15 “bottomless cup” – buy the mug and it will be filled free for a year every time you come in.

“The staff is very loyal and very eager to open up again,” he said. “There’s nothing better than having a staff who knows the place.”

And, he’s keeping the OMG! Burger – 13 ounces, and written up by Time magazine – among the offerings.

MORGAN: Our Vast, Throwaway Nation


Our Vast,

Throwaway Nation

By TOM MORGAN • Special to

Many visiting Europeans are stunned by the huge number of derelict and otherwise empty buildings we have. They ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

Most of our cities show signs of manufacturing blight. Especially northern and rust-belt cities. In this state, a city does not qualify as a city unless it can show several shuttered factories, an empty mall, vacant storefronts, office buildings half-empty.

Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta investment counselor and national syndicated columnist, resides in Franklin.

Maybe an armory. Many of our small towns suffer the same blight with old school buildings and industrial caracasses. Upstaters have grown up with the sight of them. To them they are as much a part of the landscape as maple trees.

European visitors are shocked by the same sight. This is because Europeans do not have enough spare space to allow this. They cannot afford it. So they knock down or reuse old buildings.

We, on the other hand, are rich enough to leave the bodies where they collapsed. Gilbertsville, where I graduated high school, is still home to the remains of a factory that failed in the 1930s.

We are in the midst of adding to the body count of unused buildings. Before the virus struck we were losing shopping malls. One big bank predicted we will lose 25 percent of our malls by 2022. About 9,000 stores closed last year. Many were in malls.

The Wuhan Virus will surely steepen the decline. Victoria’s Secret announced this week it will close 250 stores. Already shaky Macy’s reports sales are down 45 percent. Bell-ringers are warming up the muffled bells. JC Penney and J. Crew have filed for bankruptcy. Lord & Taylor is looking at liquidation. Neiman Marcus is bankrupt. Nordstrom is closing 15 stores. Etc, bloody etc.

Meanwhile, small businesses are vacating downtown and mini-malls. Many colleges and universities are shrinking because the pool of available students has shrunk.

Some may go under.

Office buildings in cities are somewhat empty. Because so many office workers are lately home workers. Facebook, Google and Microsoft say most of their workers will work from home until 2021. I have to believe many companies will simply occupy less office space in the future. How’re you gonna lure them back to the office, after they’ve seen home cooked lunches?

Don’t forget movie theaters. They are dark now because of the virus. Many will never reopen. They were already edging toward the abyss. The virus is jettisoning them into it.

Old line churches have struggled for years. This virus may have people on their knees. But the praying has been at home. Some churches will perish.

The country will see thousands of clinics, shops, florists and mom and pops of all types close. Wait. They are closed now. Thousands will not re-open. Banks that have cut their corps of tellers to the bone will – in many branches – saw through the bone.

Local governments will take similar measures. My county is cutting a million from its modest budget. It is closing one of its DMV offices.

My point is that this country is going to look like a cemetery for deceased buildings. Even when the economy grows healthy again. And I believe it will. We knew more of our economy would go online down the road. The virus has brought the road to us. Down the road is no longer down.

We are accustomed to seeing empty shops on Main Street. And empty factories here and there. And the odd shuttered shopping mall. Well, the view from the highway is not likely to improve.

If you were in charge of degree programs at a university I would suggest a new one. An MS in Building Re-use.

From Tom…as in Morgan.

‘Chateau de Weeds’ Turns Out To Be A Valued Habitat

‘Chateau de Weeds’

Turns Out To Be

A Valued Habitat

Patty, Joe Furlan’s Five Acres

On Crumhorn Now ‘Certified’

After Patty Furlan and her husband Joe bought 5 acres on Crumhorn Mountain, they were delighted when the National Wildlife Federation declared it a “certified wildlife habitat,” a property that helps fauna flourish. It includes this Fairy Garden. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

MARYLAND – When Joe and Elvira DiPeppi first bought the 5-acre property on Lichenburger Road, Town of Maryland, they nicknamed it “Chateau de Weeds.”

“Nothing was here,” said Patty Furlan. “But they did a lot of work, and they left me all these beautiful gardens and schematics.”

Furlan, who bought the house with her husband Joe in December, has a new title for it – National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat.

“It was our Easter present to the house,” she said. “A habitat is the best thing it could be.”

The Furlans’ “Chateau de Weeds” turned out to be a nurturing home for Mother Nature.

To be a Certified Wildlife Habitat, owners must provide natural food sources, clean water, cover and nesting/burrowing places for birds, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife to raise their young.

“It’s about promising to preserve the land for wildlife,” she said. “I got my love of birds and wildlife from my mother.”

In addition to registering, the couple made a $20 donation and received a plaque to put on their property.

Additionally, the gardens – the DiPeppis’ named them the Sacred Garden, the Holey Garden and the Sacrificial Garden – are part of the federation’s Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, aiming to provide habitat for the declining bee and butterfly populations.

“We call it the Holey Garden because of all the chipmunks,” Patty said. “And the Sacrificial Garden is for the deer!”

Patty Furlan shows off the plaque she and husband Joe received from the National Wildlife Federation
identifying their Crumhorn Mountain home as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

The Sacred Garden, meanwhile, is fenced-off in the center of the lawn, with a fairy garden off to the side and a planned vegetable garden in the back.

“I’ve always grown herbs, but it was in a one-bedroom apartment,” she said.

The rest of the land is forest, including a shallow shale cave and a long-forgotten rock wall. “The rumor is that there used to be a brothel up here,” she said. “The madam would go into town, lure men up and then kill them. But that might just be lore.”

She did, however, note that she did find an old foundation. “I’d love to have some forestry students come out and mark trails” she said. “We love to travel to state parks: But this year, this will have to be our state park!”

The Furlans aren’t just letting their land grow wild. “We want to put in willow trees to help soak up some of the moisture,” the wife said. “I don’t only want to maintain the property; I want to add to it.”

Other plans include building bat boxes to help control insects, and providing additional food for nesting seasonal species, such as hummingbirds.

“They got here early at the end of their migration, and they just sat down and ate,” she said. “When I went to refill the feeders, they were waiting there, like they were stalking me!”

As her gardens grow, she wants to expand flower boxes down the driveway and surprises outward into the forest.

“I want to hang picture frames, or maybe invite some art students to do some sculptures or carve a stump into something,” she said. “I love the idea that you could just be out for a walk and there’s some art hidden in the woods, making the woods more interesting than they are already.”

And she hasn’t ruled out additional protections for the property, including forestry and conservation easements.

“We like being in the woods,” she said. “If you can’t give me the ocean, give me the trees.”

Awaiting Seller’s Market, Realtors Use Technology


Awaiting Seller’s Market,

Realtors Use Technology

Want A House?  Take A Virtual Tour

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Betsy Shultis

ONEONTA – If lockdown has you feeling like the walls are closing in, you can look for a new house – without ever leaving yours.

Howard Hanna is offering virtual tours of listings.  Check out this Eggleston Hill home.

“The only way we can show homes is by doing it virtually,” said Betsy Shultis, Benson Realty. “We go into the house and give a tour either through Zoom or Facetime.”

In areas where internet service isn’t available, she said, realtors will film a video and post it on the home listing.

“I’ve had several inquiries on the internet for various properties,” said Rob Lee, a Benson Agency agent. “This is a time when people have the time, they’re driving by and seeing a property for sale, or they’re calling and inquiring about summer homes.”

After talking by phone or email, Lee sends a link to a virtual tour of the interior and exterior. “They also have the option to do a drive-by to complete the picture.”

Shultis prefers to give a personalized tour to each buyer. “Facetime is great because people can ask me questions about something they see in the house,” she said. “In one instance, my clients could hear the traffic in the background, which is important to a potential homeowner.”

Melissa Klein

Melissa Klein, manager of Howard Hanna, even offers 3D tours of their properties, similar to Google Earth. “You can ‘walk’ through the house,” she said.

And it’s worked.

“This area is really the sweet spot for people who, because of the virus, want to get out of Long Island, the city or even Westchester County,” said Klein. “The Catskills are getting crowded, and we’re not so far from the city that you can’t travel back down for a weekend.”

While realtors across the state have seen a significant drop in sales, Klein said that her agency, which has offices in Oneonta and Cooperstown, has seen a rise in pending sales.

“The majority of people looking right now are from out of town,” she said.

According to Lee, he’s seeing an uptick in buyers from downstate looking for summer homes. “They’re looking forward to the time they can come up and use it,” he said.

“They want space from other people,” said Klein. “They’re looking for a house with a few acres of property, not being elbow-to-elbow with anyone.”

Addi-tionally, the increase of telecommuting has given employees more flexibility about where they live. “Seeing that people can work from home is going to really affect commercial real estate downstate,” said Shultis. “So people are looking for year-round housing.”

“I’ve been getting inquiries about people who are interested in relocating,” said Lee. “They’re all renting now.”

And rates are very low, she noted. “If you’re doing a short-term loan, you could get an interest rate under three percent,” she said. “And our housing prices are already reasonable.”

All the contracts can be signed electronically, and buyers can put a clause in that allows them to withdraw their offer without penalties if a physical walkthrough doesn’t meet their standards.
“However, Shultis noted, housing stock is low. “A lot of people are waiting to list until after the pandemic,” she said. “Our supply is way down.”

But that just means it’ll be a seller’s market in a few months, said Klein. “If you’re thinking about selling your home, now is a good time to do it,” she said. “When all this ends, it’s going to be a very busy market.”

COLONE: ‘Reimagine Upstate’ Will Lead To Single Oneonta

‘Reimagine Upstate’ Will

Lead To Single Oneonta

A couple of weeks ago, Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal published my opinion piece, once again trying to promote the idea of consolidating the city and town of Oneonta. I submitted it to try and generate some meaningful debate on the issue. Surprisingly, the only subsequent reference I’ve seen was an unsigned comment in another paper. How can
this be?

Whoever submitted that comment, thank you for the notation “will someone gently remind Al Colone” that his longtime advocacy for merging was riding a “dead horse.” The word “gently” has become increasingly important as I’ve aged.

On the importance of consolidation, it was not only something which should have been done 10 years ago as the writer notes; it was seriously discussed some 50 years ago. Too bad, had it happened we would have been a much better Oneonta than what we have now.

The writer suggested the biggest hindrance against merging was in the notion the city has been looking to absorb the town to share the town’s prosperity. What prosperity?

The town’s once proud retail sector is and has been gradually evaporating, starting long before the virus; a prosperous Oneonta would have had Southside water 10 years ago, as well East End sewer; while they both have substandard housing, the towns’ neighborhood deterioration is far worse than that of the city and; the median household income of both are consistent with the poverty levels within Appalachia! What prosperity?

But the main reason for my letter was in trying to urge local leaders to move on consolidation before the state does it for us through a plan to “Re-imagine Upstate” and other issue “re-imagining; like our Upstate Education Systems!” It’s going to happen; neither the state nor federal Governments will be able to financially sustain the current over-kill of local governments.

We’ll likely see more County and regional consolidation. Townships are truly nonessential; they are inefficient! They don’t lead and are virtually obsolete. Upstate governance would function much better without them, positively supporting the quest for real prosperity.
I hope this letter has brought greater clarity to my views on the matter! Good wishes!!

City of Oneon

BOUND VOLUMES May 28, 2020


May 28, 2020


The following convictions took place before the Oyer and Terminer, which closed its session in this Village, on Thursday last. Bejamin A. Thompson, an Irishman, convicted of burglary, and sentenced to the State Prison at hard labor for life. At the time of passing sentence, Judge Woodworth intimated that there were doubts in his mind, whether Thompson had in fact committed the offence charged upon him, and that therefore, if he conducted himself well, it was probable a pardon would be obtained. Abraham Quackenboss, convicted of passing counterfeit money, and sentenced to the State Prison at hard labor for ten years – it appeared that this fellow was hardened in crime, and when sentence was pronounced upon him, he laughingly said, “I honor your judgment!” William Gannett, convicted of passing counterfeit money. He pled guilty, and threw himself upon the mercy of the Court – sentenced to the State Prison at four years hard labor.

May 29, 1820


The Binghamton Courier reports that the house of Mr. A.C. Angell was entered on Friday night by some person unknown. Mrs. A., being awake in bed, heard a slight noise, and aroused her husband, who made his way into the kitchen without a light, and discovering a person in the adjoining bedroom where slept his children, demanded to know his business there. Receiving no reply, he stepped a little back and seizing hold of a chair when the burglar did the same and an encounter ensued. At the fourth or fifth blow, Mr. A. floored his antagonist, and not knowing that he had made a finish of him, as he lay perfectly quiet without noise or motion, Mr. A. stepped to his room once again for a light. On returning the thief was gone, having failed in his object and received a sound drubbing.

May 26, 1845


The Great Democratic Victory in New York – The result of the Special Election in this state on the 17th shows an unexampled Democratic victory. The Democrats have carried the state by about 90,000! When the telegraph first announced that the City of New York had given a Democratic majority of over 50,000, the Republican press said, “The rural districts cannot overcome this large majority.” But it turns out that outside of that city, there is a Democratic majority of about 30,000 – and this notwithstanding the Republican reinforcement of say 8,000 colored voters. The Albany Argus says “New York was first of the Northern States to shake off the delusions and hallucinations by which American politics have been so largely affected since the breaking out of the late rebellion. The crimes, the frauds, and the various smaller “rascalities” inflected by radical politicians upon the State of New York upon pretense of “saving the nation” have been exposed by the Democracy and have been checked by the results of the New York elections of the last four years. The conservative elements all over the country have taken fresh courage.

May 26, 1870


Local: The lake water as it flows from the pipes in the houses of this village shows a temperature of 51 degrees, cold enough for pleasant drinking.
We have alluded to the fact that robins are not as numerous as usual this year. There are, however, many other birds, including one or two new varieties for this section.
Miss Chaffee of New York is visiting her Aunt, Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark at “Fernleigh.”
F.D. Dexter is in town this week tuning pianos. He will return next month as most of his patronage desire tuning in June. Orders for tuning may be left at the usual places, or addressed to Dexter the piano tuner at West Winfield.

May 30, 1895


A group of young women of the First Presbyterian Church met recently at the manse for organization purposes. Officers elected were: President: Katherine Bouton; Vice President: Barbara Hall; Secretary: Mrs. Frederick McGown; Treasurer: Mrs. Charles Hadcock; Chairman of the Membership Committee: Mrs. John Sill. The group will be known as the Service Guild and plans to meet the third Monday in each month.
Chief S.K.E. Sydney Smith and his son Hugh Smith, of Edmeston, had the pleasure of meeting recently and each spent a day on each other’s ship. This was the first time
father and son had met in three years, and the first visit since son Hugh has been in the Navy.

May 30, 1945


Federal Census Totals for Otsego County 21,636 (1800); 38,802 (1810); 44,856 (1820); 51,372 (1830); 49,628 (1840); 48,638 (1850); 50,157 (1860); 48,967 (1870); 51,397 (1880); 50,861 (1890); 48,939 (1900); 47,216 (1910); 46,200 (1920); 46,710 (1930); 46,082 (1940); 50,763 (1950); 51,942 (1960); 55,421 (1970). The 1970 total is a preliminary figure.  (Editor’s Note:  Census 2020 is underway, but the latest Census figures put Otsego County’s population at 60,244.)

May 27, 1970


Bernie Nonenmacher of Edmeston has been named Cooper Country Crafts June Artist of the Month. Nonenmacher contributes two very different crafts to the cooperative. She does black and white historical sketches and also constructs real fur-covered stuffed animals. Nonenmacher began drawing when she volunteered at the local museum. Taking many of the old, faded photographs, she tried to reconstruct how some of the older historical buildings might have looked. She has saved many historical scenes from extinction by converting the photos to black and white sketches.

May 31, 1995


Cooperstown Central School is planning two programs – on safety in schools and on cultural diversity. Parents and community members are invited to both. Dr. James Gabarino of Loyola University, Chicago, an author and expert on violence among children, will deliver a lecture on June 2. Funds for the event have been provided by the Clark Foundation and the Heilig Foundation. A panel discussion titled “Broadening the Horizon: Reconciliation across Differences” will also be presented June 8. The event is co-sponsored by the Cooperstown School District, the Village of Cooperstown and the Oneonta Branch of the NAACP. Panelists are Gretchen Sullivan Sorin, Ph.D and Cooperstown Graduate Program Director, Grace C. Olmstead, SUNY Oneonta, Dr. William S. Walker, SUNY Oneonta and Dr. Regina Betts, Vice-President and Political Action Chair of the Oneonta NAACP Branch.

May 28, 2010

STERNBERG: Social Distancing Works – Do It!


Social Distancing

Works – Do It!


One and one-half weeks ago Otsego County, as part of the Mohawk Valley Region, was allowed to begin reopening following almost two months of lockdown to try and prevent the spread and decrease the incidence of COVID-19.

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.

Reopening is something desired by pretty much everyone. As long as all reasonable measures would be taken to prevent further spread and it is reasonable, if not necessary, to start to remove restrictions and allow the economy to reopen.

One would think that the majority of people would be overjoyed
to have increased freedom, the ability to either go back to work or extend their working hours, and to come out and move towards getting normal life back.

It seems I am mistaken.

I try to walk half to one mile a day as part of my rehabilitation exercises. I chose to do this on Main Street in Cooperstown from Chestnut to River Streets. This area is relatively flat and has the benefit of having things to look at and the occasional bench to sit on.

The first few days that we were reopened, I found pretty much everybody either wore a mask or had one around their neck which they could then put over their nose and mouth when they came near somebody else.

It seems that each subsequent day fewer and fewer people even have masks with them and what’s worse fewer people fail to separate themselves as they pass others on the street.

On Memorial Day I was out and about. There were many more people on Main Street than there were a week ago. A majority were not wearing masks.

Twice I came across people walking their dogs who neither had masks nor gave way when they came near me. Additionally, I saw multiple people running both on the sidewalks and around the village and, while I agree that they frequently did not come into contact with other people, they occasionally did so. None of them even had masks around their necks.

I see businesses having difficulty enforcing distancing rules. I saw three gatherings of at least 20 people, none of whom were wearing masks and many in close proximity. Additionally, they were playing games and sports such as football and Frisbee.

If we don’t keep the numbers down and they start going up again not only will we not be allowed to advance reopening but we could have to go back to lockdown. Why people who most want to see us come out and return to normal are behaving badly is really beyond me.

I know that Americans like to say that nobody will tell them what to do. This is so obviously inconsistent with our normal daily lives, why is the simple action of social distancing and wearing a mask so important to violate rules and recommendations?

Multiple studies have shown that social distancing works. Wearing a mask is a part of that when one can’t be at least 6 feet apart. It’s clear that the governor telling people to do so seems in many cases to have a counterproductive effect.

Does it make a person feel good to stand up to the government? Is this worth the risk of spreading the disease to one’s loved ones? Of being disrespectful of others? Of leading to new restrictions?

In order to continue advancing to normal activity we must keep the number of new cases and deaths down. Social distancing works. Is that inconvenience too large a price to pay to avoid unnecessary deaths and worse restrictions?

Imagine Dining Out In Middle Of Street


Imagine Dining Out

In Middle Of Street

You may see Oneonta’s mayor on empty Main Street, but Gary Herzig is imagining the clink of wine glasses and smell of garlic. The city’s Strive & Thrive Committee is considering closing streets for outdoor dining a day or two per week this summer as a boost to restaurants, all subject to social distancing, of course. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – The hottest restaurant in Oneonta could soon Be … Main Street?

“One thing our ‘Survive and Thrive’ task force is exploring is shutting down streets to traffic for special dining events,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “We don’t have a plan yet, but we’re looking into what streets we could close when and how that would affect traffic downtown.”

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, restaurants are looking for ways to bring customers in to dine while maintaining social distancing.

“It will be a while before restaurants can fully reopen,” said Herzig. “They won’t be able to operate as they did previously, they won’t be able to have a full house. Having outdoor seating allows restaurants to operate at greater capacity, while allowing people to feel safer.”

Restaurants are slated for reopening under Phase Three of un-PAUSE – mid-June at the earliest – but Herzig said that no guidelines have been issued for what that reopening might look like.

Currently, the city does not require permits for restaurants to put tables out in front of their restaurants, so long as there is still five feet of sidewalk for pedestrians.

“We think it’s a great idea,” said Barbara Ann Heegan, president, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce. “Anything that can bring people downtown and let them see their friends and have that camaraderie from a safe distance.”

Jaclyn Origoni, who owns Latte Lounge with her husband Adrian, said she had reached out to Herzig about putting tables in Muller Plaza.

“We don’t have much room to expand, but putting tables there would benefit not only us, but the other restaurants on Main Street as well,” she said. “Dining outside is a safe way to support local businesses, but not create a risk in gathering.”

Heegan said that the Hill City Grill and WiseGuys Sammy’s have both expressed interest in putting out tables in front of their restaurants.

Heegan also floated the idea of encouraging diners to take their to-go dinners to Neahwa or Wilber Park. “We could put more tables down there, or people could just picnic, as long as they’re social distancing,” she said. “We could even have bands playing some nights.”

Baseball Movies, Farmers Markets, And A Bright 5K


Baseball Movies,

Farmers’ Markets,

And A Bright 5K

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Get your baked goods, fresh meats, eggs and more at the Milford Farmers’ Market, now open for the summer! 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, May 31, Curry Park, State Route 28, Milford.

The Franklin Farmers’ Market specializes in fresh produce and artisan crafts as they start their summer season. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, May 31, Franklin Farmer’s Market, 15 Institute St., Franklin. Info (615) 592-1337

Libby Cudmore is managing editor of Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and

SUNY Delhi English professors Kathryn DeZur, Shelly Jones, and Erin Wagner read their literary & speculative stories, followed by a Q&A. 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 28,

If poetry is more your scene, Bright Hill Press & Literary Center presents a virtual reading by Rainie Oet, author of three books of poetry, including a “Porcupine in Freefall.” 7-9 p.m. Thursday, May 28. Visit

Turner Classic Movies film host Ben Mankiewicz, discusses his favorite baseball films and reveals which one is his favorite. 11 a.m. Friday, May 29, Visit for info.

Dress up in your most colorful costume, grab some confetti and run/walk through your neighborhood to support Pathfinder Village in the virtual Splash Path 5K Race! Saturday, May 30, Visit for info & registration.

RUDY: 5 Traffic Signals Doing Job Of One

5 Traffic Signals

Doing Job Of One

To the Editor:

Until now, Cooperstown could be characterized as a quaint little village with one traffic light.
That one light, on Main and Chestnut, has multiplied into five: one one each corner and one suspended above the middle of the intersection.

Is this someone’s idea of a joke? Or just a case of Buy 4 Get 1 Free?


After Count Resolution, CSEA Changes Its Mind On Benefits To Laid-Off

After County Resolution,

CSEA Changes Its Mind

On Benefits To Laid-Off

The Otsego County Board of Representatives Wednesday, May 20, unanimously passed this resolution seeking to sweeten benefits to the 59 employees being laid off. The employees union, the Civil Service Employees Association, intitially rejected the offer, without explanation. By week’s end,
due to pressure from employees, county board Chairman David Bliss believes, the CSEA changed
its mind and accepted the offer.
Action Needed, And Responsible Majority Acted


Action Needed,

And Responsible

Majority Acted


Preparing to vote on 59 layoffs Wednesday, May 20, are, from left, top row, Chairman
Dave Bliss and Vice Chair Meg Kennedy; County Reps. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla; and Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta. Second row, Michele Farwell, D-Morris; Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta; Rick Brockway, R-Laurens; Dan Wilber, R-Burlington. Third row, Andrew Marietta, D-Fly Creek; Jill Basile, D-Oneonta; Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, and Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta. Bottom row, Keith McCarty, R-East Springfield. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, attended but had departed. (Screenshot from Facebook Live meeting)

Sometimes things have to be done. Imperatives, they’re called.

Such is the regrettable layoff of 59 county workers, a decision made May 20, a week ago Wednesday, by the Otsego County Board of Representatives. The layoffs go into effect Monday, June 8, the day county government is allowed to reopen.

The vote was 9-4-1, with the nays all Democrats: a veteran county rep, Andrew Stammell, Town of Oneonta, who should have known better, and three newcomers, second-term Michele Farwell, Morris, ditto, and newcomers Jill Basile and Clark Oliver, who are, well, newcomers facing probably the toughest decision they will make in their tenures.

Danny Lapin, also an Oneonta Democrat, had to leave halfway through the meeting – he was moderating a long-scheduled OCCA panel on adapting to a post-COVID-19 world. Asked, however, he said he would have voted nay, too. “I share the same concerns as Representatives Stammel and Farwell” – that the cuts made aren’t the best possible.

In listening to last week’s debate, and talking with county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, and the vice chairman, Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, the cuts were made after an exhaustive review. Department heads were asked for guidance. Kennedy’s Administration Committee met for several hours Wednesday, May 13, then for five hours Friday, May 15, to make the final decision.

All board members were welcome at these meetings, and all were emailed voluminous information and data that were the basis for the decisions, said Bliss.

He added that many of the layoffs are people who were determined “non-essential” – a terrible term – and thus were prohibited from working anyway. Also, they will be laid off in time to partake of “enhanced” unemployment, an extra $600 a week. (A separate editorial, perhaps.)

Plus, the CSEA, at first obdurate, has since agreed to additional sweeteners from the county board: Those laid off may return with their seniority and vacation time intact, and can choose to pay and stay on the county medical insurance through the end of the year. Civil Service Law requires none of this, Personnel Officer Penny Gentile told the board.

All in all, that’s a pretty sweet layoff, if any layoff can be.

“When you’re talking about the solvency of the county,” said Bliss, “you’ve got to do what’s right.” Not to edit him, but they – the county reps – have to do the best they can, with the expectation any decision this complicated – paring 10 percent of a 500-person staff in two dozen departments – won’t be perfect.

As county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, said, quoting Teddy Roosevelt: “Sometimes the right decision and the hardest decision are the same.”

Here are a couple of ways to analyze the nay votes.

One, the Republicans, in alliance with the one Conservative, control the county board, and there’s a responsibility that comes with control. They were elected to, and arguably they made the best decision they could, after an open and inclusive process.

And it’s not over: There are more tough decisions ahead.

Two, through bipartisanship. That, along with “transparency,” are two terms that often emerge between Democratic lips. This was a time for bipartisanship.

It’s interesting that two Democrats – Andrew Marietta, Cooperstown/Town of Otsego,  and Adrienne Martini, City of Oneonta – serve on the Admin Committee, went through the many hours of deliberations, and voted twice in favor of the layoffs, once in committee, then on the 20th.

County Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, then called for those who voted nay to come up with an alternate list, if they can do better. That’s fine in theory; but, frankly, the county board’s procedures were followed in getting to the 9-4-1 vote. It should stand, and likely will.

“We have to do everything we can to bring these who lost their jobs back,” said Lapin. By not making the tough decision, he, Stammel, Farwell, Basile and Oliver will have little leverage to accomplish that.

The decision will be made by those who took a deep breath and did what they had to.

Actually, County Treasurer Allen Ruffles has an idea that’s more interesting: Use this opportunity to review county government top to bottom, to see where efficiencies can be put in place.

For instance, bill paying and hiring is done across multiple departments. Why not centralize
those activities, bills in the Treasurer’s Office, hiring and personnel administration in a new Human Resources Department.

That would be the best of all worlds: Making layoffs as painless as possible, and streamlining county government so those who do return will reenter a leaner, more effective and efficient organization.

Everyone’s adapting to the “new normal,” and it isn’t going to be 100 percent comfortable for anyone.

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