STERNBERG: Blame Businesspeople For Downtown

COLUMN

Blame Businesspeople

For Downtown Woes

Richard Sternberg

In response to last week’s editorial regarding Cooperstown purchasing the old CVS building … What rot! I can only believe that this is either sarcasm or your newspaper trying to roil the waters for the sake of selling more newspapers.

It is not the position of a very small municipality that struggles to put together a balanced budget every year while maintaining an adequate reserve, to be buying up public property for the sake of commercial development, especially on spec. What is the village now, the People’s Republic of Cooperstown? Where is the money to come from?

Your comments on village government having finished up everything that needs to be done is spurious and so incorrect that I can’t seriously think you didn’t know this.

The streets are not largely rehabilitated; we have 12 miles of streets, many of which could be fixed or even replaced. In fact, we have a five-year plan of repairing streets because we are unable to finance it all at once.

Also, there is a great deal of infrastructure to maintain, replace or consider upgrading due to its age and potential life span.

The wastewater treatment plant will require at least $2 million of village money. Doubleday Field upgrade is still about $1.5 million from being fully funded, and in three years, the Cooperstown
volunteer fire department will want to replace its 25-year-old aerial ladder truck at an expected cost of $1.7 million.

Who knows what we will need to do with our approximately 100-year-old water and sewer pipe systems?

You say borrow to buy the CVS building but we are already extended in the bond market. You suggested a purchase, if the owner would be willing to sell which there is no current indication of, which I estimate would be approximately $1.5 million. The alternative is to take up the rest of $14,000 per month which is what CVS is currently paying. Where is the money to come from? Fire three of our 19 full-time employees? Close parks? Forego street improvements?

You state in your editorial that the village mayor and trustees would immediately answer a
question about purchasing CVS with the comment “We can’t … We have to issue an RFP (request for proposals) and give a contract to the highest bidder, and then do whatever he/she likes.”

When did you ask any of the trustees about this question? You certainly didn’t ask me or discuss with me and you and I talk very frequently. How dare you try to put words in our mouth. This is yellow journalism of the worst time.

There are potential solutions to the problem of empty storefronts on Main Street, but this is primarily an issue for the business community with the assistance but not ownership of the problem by local government.

A person or group could put together a committee to explore options and put together a business plan. This should be spearheaded by a local businessman or woman, preferrably someone who’s expressed interest in the problem of declining commerce on Main Street.

You personally should do this. You put together a conference last year on municipal governance. Take the lead on this problem also and do the necessary and significant amount of work on this issue.
That’s what the problem with you and many people. You complain about something then walk away from it rather than work on a solution. Then when a solution is suggested you complain that it’s no good. “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.”

I, and I would presume most if not all of the trustees, would be willing to serve on such a committee but purchasing, financing, rehabilitating and running a profitable business is not a mandate or province of small-town government. Our job is to deliver municipal services and to keep them cost-effective.

I’m told that we’re doing a good job of this by many members of the community including those of diametrically opposed political principles. Most times when government tries to do something such as getting involved in private business issues and other things out of their purview, they screw it up.

This project primarily is your job Mr. Small-town Businessman.

Richard Sternberg,

retired Bassett Hospital physician,

is a Cooperstown villages trustee.


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