OTSEGO COUNTY FAIR – 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Come out for the 6 best days of summer featuring livestock shows, rides, games, food, the Demolition Derby, antique tractor pulls, a performance by the Otsego School of Dance and Performing Arts, much more. Otsego County Fairgrounds, 469 Mill St., Morris. 607-263-5289 or visit www.otsegocountyfair.org
The widely acclaimed TED talks are coming back to Oneonta with the theme of “Changing World.”
The event will be at 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24 .
Rebecca Ahmed speaking about the need to eliminate bias in zoom office culture.
Rachel Kornhauser will be giving a talk called “Climate Change and Sustainability in the Age of COVID.”
Gohar Petrossian will be speaking on “Why Justice for Wildlife Affects You.”
The final speaker will be Rosalia Rivera giving a talk on ending rape culture.
“We are thrilled to have TEDx back in Oneonta in 2021. We had to postpone our event for 2020, but we are back with four wonderful speakers ready to inspire us with new ideas,” Dan Butterman, co-founder and executive producer of TEDxOneonta, said in a media release. “We have amazing community support, and can’t wait to share these speakers and ideas with everyone.”
Tickets are $25 until Aug. 27 and $30 afterwards. Go to www.tedxoneonta.com for more information.
CHRISTMAS DECORATING – 2 p.m. Join the Cooperstown Christmas Committee to decorate Santa’s Cottage and the village lamp posts for the holiday. Decorations are provided. Bring your own gloves, ladders, mask. Main Street, Cooperstown. Reserve a pole by e-mailing email@example.com
OPENING RECEPTION – 3 or 4:15 p.m. Find beautiful works by local artists throughout ‘Small Works’ annual celebratory exhibit. Find works for sale to take home the same day for wonderful Christmas presents. Register for one of the free showings, only 50 guests allowed at a time. Roxbury Arts Group, 5025 Vega Mountain Rd., Roxbury. 607-326-7908 or visit roxburyartsgroup.org
WRITERS GROUP – 7 p.m. Friendly Zoom meeting for writers of all levels to share their works, participate in writing exercises with the Harris Memorial Library. Visit www.facebook.com/harrislibrary/ for info.
COOPERSTOWN – In a dramatic moment at the county board’s Zoom meeting a few minutes ago, County Treasurer Allen Ruffles received a new worst-case scenario showing Otsego County government stands to lose $22 million in tax revenues and state aid in the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus threat.
That would be double the current tax levy, meaning the county board would have to double the tax rate to continue funding government as is.
ONEONTA – Though she calls it “Small Talk With Jill,” it could become anything but little.
“I know a lot of incredible businesses, and I asked myself, ‘What can I do to help them?’” said Jill Morgan-Meek, owner of Transitions Consignment Boutique, 6 Dietz St.
Morgan-Meek, who took over the store from Cindy Staffin in 2014, has launched “Small Talk With Jill,” a weekly video series that highlights local business and cultural entities by inviting the owners to sit down with her – over Zoom, for now – and tell customers and potential customers what they have to offer.
“It’s been in the back of my mind for several years,” she said. “I want people to meet our shop owners.”
A native of Alden, Morgan-Meek moved to Oneonta from Rochester in 2013, when her husband Phillip took a job at Ioxus.
So far, she’s interviewed Underground Attic’s Elizabeth Raphaelson, Eighth Note’s Ruth and Fred Cleveland, the Scanlon Team, part of Oneonta Realty, and the Artisan’s Guild’s Deborah Blake.
Jill, who’s related to the Peet family, early Oneonta settlers, has gone beyond stores to cultural and religious institutions, including the Greater Oneonta Historical Society and the Milford United Methodist Church.
“In talking with Pastor Sylvia, I asked her for one word that inspires her, and she said ‘resilience,’” Morgan-Meek said. “I was so struck by that. Because resilience is more than hope. It says that we will get through this.”
“Small Talk” was inspired by “Follow Me Friday,” based in New York City and posted on talkradio.nyc. It’s hosted by social media personalities Joan Pelzer and Priya Nembhard, who highlight their favorite small businesses across the city and frequently invite Morgan-Meek as a guest. (In a recent show, she touted The Otesaga and other of her favorite dining spots.)
“It was allowing me to have this great platform to tell people in New York City about everything we have up here,” Jill said. “I thought, with so many people in the city who have second homes up here, I could be that ambassador for all our businesses.”
And with the loss college students and the prospective loss of much of this summer’s tourism, Morgan-Meek sees “Small Talk With Jill” as a way to attract business to stores’ online portals, or to bookmark a visit for when the city re-opens.
“People learn about us through tourism,” she said. “But now if they can’t come, we need another way to reach out and let people know that we are here and we are open for business.”
Because of social distancing, she conducts and edits the interviews from a home studio and releases them every on YouTube. “That way, the business can link to it from their page,” she said.
The show is also promoted through her Instagram and SupportOneonta.com
The temporary closure of her Dietz Street storefront has also given her a chance to improve her own online store. “I didn’t focus on it as much as I should have,” she said.
One of the items she recently put in her online shop is a pair of high-couture floral Daniel Storto gloves, made by the founder of The Glove Museum in Dorloo. “Maybe gloves will finally come back in fashion!”
COOPERSTOWN – Otsego County shouldn’t be waiting for Governor Cuomo’s permission to reopen as the coronavirus threat wanes, says county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus.
Oberacker, who is also running for state Senate, was the sole “nay” vote as a resolution asking the governor to reopen the county “safely and as soon as possible” passed the Board of Representatives today by a 13-1 vote.
“Why can’t we go to our governor and tell him: We understand it. We need to open. Here’s our plan to move forward,” said Oberacker in an interview after the meeting. “Let’s put together a structured plan to reopen Otsego County.”
The resolution the county representatives passed was less specific.
For Otsego County businesses (and local governments that depend on the sales taxes they generate), it was the week the iceberg cracked.
Just last Wednesday, May 6, the county Board of Representatives heatedly debated a mild resolution nudging Governor Cuomo to “reopen” Otsego County as soon as he could, please.
“Leave it to the professionals,” said county Rep. Jill Basile, D-Oneonta, in arguing against it, supported by fellow Oneonta Democrats Andrew Stammel, Danny Lapin and Clark Oliver.
The mild resolution passed 13-1, with the sole holdout, Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, the state senate candidate, saying, “Let’s put together a structured plan to reopen Otsego County” and send it to the governor.
That prompted response from his Senate opponent, Jim Barber, Schoharie, who that evening issued a press release accusing Oberacker of Ignoring “the science.”
A week later, the debate sounds quaint, because:
• At noon, Thursday, May 7, the New York State Automobile Dealers Association issued a press release: The governor had agreed that all auto dealerships statewide could open, as long as they followed a list of social-distancing precautions. “We’re back in business,” declared Country Club Automotive’s Tom Armao. (And auto dealers are the largest generator of sales tax in the county.)
• In his daily briefing Monday, May 11, Governor Cuomo surprised many by announcing three of the state’s 10 economic development regions, Otsego County’s Mohawk Valley among them, qualified for a Phase One reopening this coming Friday, May 15.
• Tuesday, May 12, Bassett Healthcare President/CEO Bill Streck announced the Cooperstown hospital is again offering its full menu of medical services, after restricting itself since the governor’s March 13 emergency declaration for the pandemic that never arrived. (Only four COVID-19 victims died locally in the course of the crisis.)
“It’s exciting,” said Al Rubin, Otsego County Chamber board chair as events built up momentum. “Now is the time for innovation and creativity.”
Otsego County was back in BID-ness.
The Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier economic development districts were only permitted to open up once they reached seven “metrics” of low infestation, hospital capacity, and testing going forward.
“We met all seven,” said Bliss, and he urged owners of Phase One businesses – factories, construction firms, stores wanting to do curbside pickup among them – to “certify” on forward.ny.gov that they meet parameters.
That means their plans to reopen would include social distancing, masks, hand-sanitizers and other measures to protect workers.
And three more “phases” are planned before all Empire State business and institutions can be operational again, although under “new normal” structures:
• PHASE TWO, effective Friday, May 29, covering professional services, finance and insurance, all retail and real estate.
• PHASE THREE, effective Friday, June 12, covering restaurants, hotels and other food services and accommodations.
• PHASE FOUR, effective Friday, June 26, covering arts, entertainment, recreation and education, although by then most local concerts, arts shows and fairs will have been cancelled, and schools and colleges won’t open until September.
In an interview, Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, who has been listening in on the daily calls with the Governor’s regional representative, said, “It still won’t be what we think is ‘out of it.’”
Social distancing and other measures will be with us for an uncertain time into the future. “It’s not bam, bam, back to normal,” she said.
If the Mohawk Valley region slips back and infestations return, “we stop right there,” she said. “We have to do it again” – i.e., starting living up to the “metrics” for a probationary period.
At Streck’s press conference, he, Bassett Hospital President Bill LeCates, Dr. Charles Hyman, the infectious disease specialist, Dr. Steven Heneghan, chief clinical officer, all underscored the need for people to maintain discipline.
But Heneghan was firm: If we fall off the wagon, we can get back on, although he didn’t use that metaphor.
We’d do like South Korea, he said: A flare-up there was met with rapid response, tracing and intervention. “It was extraordinarily effective.”
For his part, Bliss said the county’s COVID-19 Task Force – County Treasurer Allen
Ruffles, chair; Public Health Director Heidi Bond, County Attorney Ellen Coccoma and county Rep. Meg Kennedy, the deputy chair – did what they had to do.
By last week, the county had met five of the seven parameters, but by week’s end, it only had 16 of the 17 required “tracers.” Over the weekend, Bond hired another three or four. The task force will continue to do what it must, he implied.
He observed that the governor’s Un-PAUSE program is structured so that, if localities fail, they can take the blame; if they succeed, the governor can take the credit.
Nonetheless, he said, “This is the light at the end of the tunnel.” Then paused. “In the middle of tunnel. We still have a long way to go.”
ONEONTA – Since April, Laura Lincoln, director of SUNY Oneonta’s Office of Alumni Engagement, found she was getting a lot of calls from alumni with a puzzling question.
“People kept calling us and asking us if we had a jigsaw puzzle,” she said. “It’s amazing how many requests we’ve had, but it makes sense – everyone’s looking for a way to stay busy at home.”
She reached out to Tracy Dolan, Red Dragon Outfitters’ business manager, and found that, although they didn’t have a puzzle for sale, the two departments could partner to create one.
“Even working remotely, we were able to work together,” Lincoln said. “That’s what’s so amazing to me.”
With graphic designer Jonah Roberts, the two began planning what the puzzle would look like. “We were looking for photos that would instill nostalgia and pride for our alumni, but would also give them a sense of what the campus looks like today, especially since they can’t come see it,” she said.
“We had a lot of photos to choose from.”
The photos also had to be easy to take apart and put back together again. “We wanted the puzzle to be challenging, but not so difficult that it couldn’t be accomplished.
They selected four photos – the campus quad, Red Dragon Drive, the Hunt Union pond and the Welcome Center. “The Welcome Center is the newest building, and many of our alumni haven’t seen it,” she said. “People keep asking, ‘What’s that building?’ And with the Hunt Union, everyone has memories of those goldfish. It’s iconic.”
Those four photos were put together by the graphic design team, which sent it to Maryland Screen Printers in Baltimore, which turned it into the 18- by 24-inch, 500-piece jigsaw puzzle.
“It’s amazing that it only took two weeks to produce,” Lincoln said.
On May 5, SUNY Oneonta sent an email to all alumni announcing that pre-orders were available, and within two hours, 20 people had ordered one.
The initial pre-order was 100, but that was quickly exceeded, and 250 more were ordered. The puzzles will be mailed to customers by the end of May.
The puzzle is just one piece of an effort to keep alumni engaged with the campus while the campus is closed under COVID-19 quarantine, Lincoln said.
“We’re implementing a lot of virtual programs to keep our alumni engaged while we’re all at home,” she said. “We want to keep them connected to the school so that they continue to have pride in SUNY Oneonta.”
Other activities include the Red Dragon (virtual) Marathon, which challenges alumni to run or walk 26.2 miles between May 1 and July 4, uploading weekly results to the school’s website and submitting race-bib photos on entering the final stretch.
Also featured is a virtual reception for the 1889 Society, the college’s top donors, featuring a live Zoom conversation with President Barbara Jean Morris and members of the campus community to honor the college’s most generous donors. (Oneonta Normal School, a teachers’ college, was founded in 1889.)
“We’ve been getting a lot of comments about the puzzle,” she said. “People are really proud of the campus.”
ONEONTA – If lockdown has you feeling like the walls are closing in, you can look for a new house – without ever leaving yours.
“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, 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.”