Village of Cooperstown Trustees Dr. Richard Sternberg, left, and Sydney Sheehan, right, flank Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh after the three took their oaths of office for their new terms.
Village of Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh this month embarks on her third two-year term leading the village, hopeful COVID’s worst is behind but proud of the work she, the Village Board of Trustees, and Village employees were able to continue throughout the pandemic’s worst months.
“Only now in retrospect are we seeing how all-consuming COVID management was for every person in this village,” she said in a conversation with The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta. “We had to just keep moving along as the guidance changed and the requirements shifted.”
“I’m very proud that we never laid off or furloughed employees during COVID,” she said. “We were told that we had to reduce the number of people in the offices so we had a number of people working remotely, but our Village street crews can’t get their work done from home. They were there every day doing the job the residents needed them to do.”
Looking at the financial costs to the Village, she said, “We lost well over $800,000 in revenue from parking, sales tax, and renting Doubleday Field but we were able to keep moving forward.” The Village kept pandemic protocol in place as crews completed two phases of Doubleday Field renovations, opened improvements on an $8.4 million wastewater treatment plant, and continued a Main Street beautification project that has Cooperstown prepared to welcome more visitors in 2022.
“I think we can focus on going forward now,” Mayor Tillapaugh said. “I’m really hopeful. Yes, we have BA-2 and other COVID variants to come, but we’re learning all the time more about how to handle them.”
The mayor also is looking forward to reconnecting with Cooperstown residents, whether through day-to-day interactions, participation in local government meetings, or through “Breakfast With The Board,” an initiative she announces in this week’s edition of The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta. (Note: See opinion columns for more.)
“The thing about COVID is that I really missed the communication with people in the village,” she said. “People would call and we’d all see each other out while we were walking, but I think there’s a little disconnect that we can repair. We’re returning to a time when I hope people will come back to participate in government.”
Along with the ‘Breakfast’ program, Mayor Tillapaugh will be convening a Community and Environment Committee as Cooperstown continues to take a leading role in environmental initiatives.
“We divested from fossil fuel six years ago,” she said. “Our wastewater treatment plant meets all the codes and standards set for 2025 in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and we’re showing that we have the infrastructure conducive for development in an environmentally smart way.”
Mayor Tillapaugh noted other items on the Village’s horizon, including housing, addressing the state’s new cannabis laws, and keeping Cooperstown a vital and welcoming attraction for visitors.
“We need to see more housing options and opportunities to facilitate the development of housing across all levels,” she said. “It may be something we can do just outside the village limits, but we do need to make it affordable to live here.”
As for cannabis, the Village Board of Trustees passively opted in to allow the opening of retail cannabis dispensaries in Cooperstown – a move that finds Cooperstown subject to regulations that the state’s Office of Cannabis Management will adopt and approve later in 2022.
“We need to be thinking about this now,” the Mayor said, noting her plan to convene a group to consider ‘time, place, and manner’ designations available through village zoning ordinances.
She’s eager to welcome new businesses to town, as well, noting the new Grand Slam Guitars and Dave & Adam’s Card Shop on Cooperstown’s Main Street.
“We need a well-rounded business district,” she said. “A lot of the stores here were able to pivot to on-line selling during COVID, and the people of Cooperstown were just fantastic in ordering so much take-out when the restaurants couldn’t open. We really rallied around the restaurants and I think all of us enjoy having so many great dining options to choose from right here in town.”
Mayor Tillapaugh took her oath of office at the April 4 meeting of the Village Board of Trustees, during which Dr. Richard Sternberg took his oath of office for his new term as Trustee and as the Board welcomed its newest member, Sydney Sheehan, to her first term of office. She replaces Jeanne Dewey, who chose to not run for reelection in 2022.
“I see everything we were able to do during COVID as a chance to move the Village forward,” Mayor Tillapaugh said. “I do think we’ll be back to 2019 levels for visitors; Dreams Park is coming back, the Hall of Fame is bringing back the Classics game, and we have the Hall’s Induction Weekend coming up in July. I think all of us in Village government are looking forward to good things ahead.”