BASEBALL AUTHOR – 2 p.m. Presentation on ‘Designated Hebrew’ presented by co-authors former New York Yankee Ron Blomberg and his biographer, Dan Schlossberg. Book chronicles Blomberg’s baseball story at a time when the sport was changing and his struggles during. Free, registration required. Presented by Baseball Hall of Fame. Visit baseballhall.org/events/virtual-author-series-dan-schlossberg-ron-bloomberg?date=0 for info.
ELECTIONS – 9 a.m. – Noon. Vote in your town and village elections. Fire Hall, 24 Chestnut St., Cooperstown.
COVID-19 TESTING – 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Get free rapid testing for Covid-19. Pre-registration required. Oneonta Armory, 4 Academy St., Oneonta. 607-547-4279.
COOPERSTOWN – Three decades of striving ended today as the Otsego County Board of Representatives, 11-2-1, created the position of county executive.
In a half-hour of give and take, it was clear that, despite and lopsided vote, starkly contrasting outlooks remain.
“You talk about planning,” said county Rep. Keith McCarty, R-East Springfield, and longest-serving board member. “You can’t plan when you’re going to get a flood. You can’t plan when a bridge is going to go out. You can’t plan when a road washes out – we’ve had two of them on the east side of Otsego Lake. You deal with it.”
Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, who is finishing his first term, took on the rebuttal: “Our talents are hamstrung by a lack of coordination, a lack of planning, a lack of overall coordination.
It’s pretty clear to everyone by now that the sale of Otsego Manor in Jan. 27, 2014, was a mistake.
That was punctuated with numerous exclamation marks Wednesday, Sept. 12, when Focus CEO Joseph Zupnik and his chief financial executive, Daniel Herman, pleaded guilty before Otsego Town Justice Gary Kuch in the Fly Creek courtroom.
Under a plea agreement, Zupnik and Herman admitted to only one of the eight counts against them, one involving patient M.P., left in a chair for 41 hours over Labor Day Weekend 2016. The specifics, as detailed by the Attorney General’s Office, appear at right.
More serious, in that death resulted, may have been the count involving Robert Banta, former longtime county Soil & Water
Conservation District chairman, so admired that the district’s headquarters on Route 33 is named in his honor. Admitted to Focus, he fell twice the first night there, and died at Bassett Hospital a few days later.
Some may wish the penalties were harsher – avoiding jail time by their guilty pleas, Zupnik and Herman will be sentenced Oct. 10 to a term of community service, plus fines and expulsion from administering nursing homes that get federal Medicaid funding. Further, these criminal convictions should have nursing home owners who are inclined to cut corners to think again.
Still, should the responsibility for the Focus fiasco – the widely recognized deterioration of care for some of our county’s most vulnerable citizens – be left at that?
Retired banker Bill Dornburgh, a member of the county Health Facilities Corp. set up by the county Board of Representatives to shelter itself from attempts to block Otsego Manor’s sale, recalls telling Zupnik that the sale price – $18.5 million – was too high, that Focus could never cover its investment.
Dornburgh voted nay on the sale to Focus. So did two other members of the Health Facilities Corp. – Dr. Don Pollock, the retired Bassett physician, and Carol Kirkey, whose husband Terry passed away at what was still Otsego Manor in February 2013.
But the four others voted aye: county Reps. Kay Stuligross, Democrat, and Don Lindberg, Republican; Kim Muller, former Oneonta mayor and, until the end of this month, chair of the county Democratic Party; and Oneonta contractor Rick Eastman. They are certainly public-spirited citizens to take on a thankless job at no remuneration; nonetheless, they must take some responsibility for what turned out to be the wrong decision, predictably so. Dornburgh was right.
Was there simply no corporation or institution in our vast United States of America capable of effectively administering our county nursing home?
On May 15, 2013, the county representatives voted unanimously for the creation of the Health Facilities Corp., which allowed them to wash their hands of the 4-3 vote to sell Otsego Manor to Focus the following Jan. 27. Shouldn’t those men and women bear some responsibility for the eventual outcome, too?
Most of the county reps then have now moved on; the two most directly involved, Stuligross to retirement near Philadelphia, and Lindberg to election as Worcester town supervisor.
Likewise, Republicans Jim Powers, Pauline Koren and the late Betty Ann Schwerd have left the board, as have Democrats Rich Murphy, since passed away, and Beth Rosenthal, John Kosmer and Linda Rowinski.
Three remain in office today: Republicans Ed Frazier and Kathy Clark, and Democrat Gary Koutnik.
It’s been noted here before that the very nature of the Otsego County Board of Representatives – 14 members, elected by a couple of hundred people from individual districts, yet making decisions for all of us – shelters individual reps from accountability.
You can snub your nose at the 60,636 of us as long as you keep the few hundred neighbors in your camp.
The decision to sell the Manor affected all of us; yet no one – except, thankfully, Zupnik and Herman – have paid any price. This is one reason why a county executive is being considered: to centralize accountability, and thus, responsibility – blame AND credit.
Now, that barely exists.
Still, Frazier, Clark and Koutnik are up for reelection next year. If the electoral process is working at all in Otsego County, they should be challenged, and the challenger should ask: Who lost Otsego Manor?
Licensed real estate broker for 20 years. Managed, owned and operated DeMulder Real Estate Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate for 14 years in Cooperstown, New York. Served as Chairwomen of Otsego-Delaware Multiple Listing Service, and served on the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce.
Charter member of Middlefield Taxpayers Association, served on Town of Middlefield Planning Board, 8 years on Cooperstown Central School Board served 2 terms as Town of Hartwick Supervisor, and currently serving on the Town of Hartwick Conservation Advisory Committee, and the annual Hartwick Clean Sweep Committee
FAMILY:Widowed, five children, 12 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT:
I believe in home rule, and the government providing those services that are not practical for our citizens to provide for themselves.
Local communities are the best stewards of their own natural resources; in promoting small businesses, regeneration of family farms and promote a sustainable economy with good paying jobs and affordable housing for the middle-class families.
I have spent my adult life in Otsego County raising a family of five children, who graduated from Cooperstown and have gone on to be successful in their lives and are assets to society. I credit their success to having a wonderful education from Cooperstown Central School and the family-friendly environment in Otsego County.
After raising my family, I went back to school and became a licensed real estate broker, operated then owned Demulder Realty Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, in Cooperstown for 14 years.
During this time I served all of Otsego County. Our county is a “masterpiece of nature”. Most important is that your elected officials must be dedicated to “protect and preserve” our clean fresh air and water for future generations.
We must provide the environment to create a sustainable economy. We must provide for post-secondary education to prepare our youth to obtain good paying jobs.
We must create the environment for affordable year around housing for all middle-class families, while allowing the tourism industry to survive as one of our major industries.
Once elected, I know what the role of a good public servant should be and I will be there