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Newly appointed Asst. Fire Chief Timothy Foster, right, shakes hands with Fire Chief Brian Knapp while Mayor Gary Herzig looks on. (Kevin Limiti/

Common Council
discusses COVID, budget,
approves new asst. fire chief

By Kevin Limiti • Special to

ONEONTA The Common Council approved the new Asst. Fire Chief, Timothy Foster to a round of applause Tuesday, Aug. 17, after some discussion about tabling the potential appointment until the situation with the COVID delta variant became more clear.

The council was briefed on the situation with the coronavirus variant, a mutation that is steadily causing higher rates of infection City Health Officer Diane Georgeson said while fully vaccinated adults can acquire and transmit the virus but it is spreading much more quickly in places with lower vaccination rates.

Otsego County has a 56% total vaccination rate, which is close to the national average but lower than the state average. Georgeson said the public was receiving “different messages” about the vaccines, including some saying the vaccines are dangerous. However, Georgeson said only 36 total cases from vaccines have resulted in deaths and it is overwhelmingly safe and effective.

“This is certainly not where we wanted to be at this time and not where we expected to be at this time,” Mayor Gary Herzig said. Herzig said the most effective way to combat the virus was by getting vaccinated and that having low vaccination rates “buys time” for the virus to continue to mutate.

SUNY Oneonta Chief of Staff Danielle McMullen spoke about the college’s plans for the fall semester, which included having a vaccine clinic on campus at the Student Health Center on Wednesdays and Fridays. McMullen also talked about plans to have a public health reporting group, which would include Heidi Bond from the Otsego County Department of Health as well as Hartwick College and others, to talk about what they are seeing in the community.

Herzig said last semester was a “tremendous success” but this coming one could be more challenging with the relaxing of COVID restrictions.

The Community Advisory Board document, which was in the process of being reviewed by a committee led by mayoral candidate Mark Drnek, was completed with the final report being given out to the council within a week. A public hearing is expected in the first week of September.

Other items approved by the Common Council include:

  • An agreement, authorized by the mayor, for transit services from Oneonta to Sidney on Oneonta Express Route 6;
  • The removal of “No Parking, Anytime” signs from Tilton Avenue and Grove Street;
  • Mayoral appointments to the Public Arts Commission, Planning Commission and Environmental Board;
  • The purchase of an ambulance for an estimated $328,000;
  • The purchase of a Volvo loader for an estimated $132,260;
  • The purchase of tractor with snow blower for an estimated $125,000;
  • The purchase of a pipeline CCTV camera van for an estimated $25,000.




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