By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN — The type of flooding that ravaged the Butternut Valley in July is going to happen again unless the county takes drastic action to help its towns fix inadequate and dilapidated infrastructure, a local expert told the Otsego County Board of Representatives at its meeting Wednesday, Oct. 6, in the county office building at 197 Main St. in Cooperstown.
Jordan Clements, district manager of the Otsego County Soil and Water District said the repairs done to fix the July damage to roads and bridges in the towns of Butternuts, Morris and Pittsfield is not enough to prevent a similar flood from doing similar damage in the future.
“It is like putting a Band-aid on a bullet wound,” he said.
The three towns and the Butternuts village of Gilbertsville sustained millions of dollars worth of damage when the Butternut Creek and its subsidiaries flooded Saturday, July 16. Gov. Kathy Hochul recently gave the region a disaster declaration, opening the possibility of residents and businesses to get low-interest loans from the state. However the damage was not in a large enough region of high enough dollar amount to draw FEMA relief help. That causes a major problem for the towns that suffered in July, Clements said, because they can’t pay for millions of dollars of repairs; the towns don’t even have annual budgets in the millions, he said.
Clements concluded Otsego County is going to have to invest heavily in infrastructure soon and if it does not decide to do it proactively, it will be forced again to do it reactively.
In other business Wednesday:
• Clements said Tuesday’s ag tour went well, with several Assemblymen and about five state Senators from downstate showing up to see Otsego or Delaware county farms.
• Cassandra Harrington, the executive director from Destination Marketing Corporation, and Josiah Brown, the CEO of New York’s Best Adventures spoke about the shifting focus of tourism. Brown said he liked to stress tourism marketing helps a community and its residents and is for them, and not for tourists. He said the old paradigm of work, live, play has been inverted so now people want to live where they play and the work follows.
• Susquehanna SPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes spoke during the board’s “privilege of the floor” section to inform the board recent rescues and how they portend for the county. She said more resources are needed, not just for her organization, but also within the county organizations she deals with. She said several recent rescues have been part of child welfare situations, including one house so overrun by cats, it was unsanitary for the children.
Haynes said there is a cat problem in the county, and therefore at the shelter, with a 500 to 1,000 spot waiting list, based on people asking for cat interventions. In addition to the child-welfare case, she said one man had ceded his house to his cats and had moved into a trailer on the property.
Haynes said the SSPCA needs help funding rabies prevention and also spay and neutering to help with the cat problem.
• New County Administrator Josh Beams made his first appearance at a county board meeting, Beams started Monday, after a two-plus-year process to define the role and find a candidate. After the meeting, Beams invited the county representatives to his office for pizza and salad.
• Public Safety and Legal Affairs Chair Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, Edmeston, Exeter, Plainfield, said he would appear at an upcoming Oneonta Common Council meeting to address Oneonta-based concerns about the county’s new EMS plan essentially double charging residents in Oneonta, which has its own professional EMS services. By contract, lack of services county wide has been tragic in some circumstances and harrowing in others. As a result, the representatives approved the purchase of two county ambulances with COVID relief money and the hiring of up to 20 EMS workers to staff backup services for county residents.