Bob Wood was dealt a winning hand when elected Oneonta town supervisor in 2008, and he played the hand well.
He announced his retirement last Friday, March 5 – 299 days to go until Dec. 31, he said – and expressed satisfaction that $12 million in projects – $3-plus million for a new town highway garage and $8-plus million for the long-awaited Southside water project – will be completed by the time he leaves office.
Of course, there are many other successes since 2008 that Bob Wood can point to – the expansion of the Browne Street (Ioxus, Northern Eagle Beverage) and Pony Farm commerce parks, the growth of All Star Village, Brooks BBQ’s bottling plant to be expanded and relocated in an East End shopping plaza.
But keeping the tax rate low – $10 per thousand for town, school, county and other property levies, as compared to $20 in the city – may be his foremost accomplishment. And that, arguably, led to everything else.
By the time he retires on Dec. 31, the Town of Oneonta’s municipal water system will be complete, and condos and houses on Southside Drive will be emerging, veteran Town Supervisor Bob Wood is predicting.
Simply, “the city does not have any more available land,” said Wood in an interview Friday, March 5, on announcing his retirement.
A handful of developers have already approached him with plans, he said, adding, “A lot of people are going to be happy on Southside Drive.”
The $8-plus million water system and a $3-plus million town highway garage, just completed behind Town Hall in West Oneonta, will allow Wood, supervisor since 2008, to leave office with a sense of completion, he said.
He also expects to see development on the town’s end of Oneida Street, where developer Eugene Bettiol Sr. was planning a hotel, plaza, diner and others attractions at the time of his passing in December 2017. Under new owners, that’s still alive, the supervisor said.
WEST ONEONTA – Supervisor Bob Wood doesn’t want to brag, but there really is something special about the Town of Oneonta.
“From my understanding, it’s the first time they’ve selected two trees from one community,” said Wood. “The rumor is they wanted it four years ago, but it wasn’t quite big enough.”
With the 75-foot-tall Norway Spruce on “Daddy Al” Dick’s Route 23 property due to be cut down at 8 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday), Oneonta is now home to not one, but two Rockefeller Center Christmas trees, centerpiece of a world-famous holiday celebration spanning the Great Depression, World War II and now, COVID-19.
“We’re very honored to have been selected twice,” said Wood.
Your June 20-21 editorial on the Otsego County Energy Taskforce ends with the sentence: “We’re all in this together.” We on the Taskforce Leadership Committee couldn’t agree more.
But the editorial’s main assertion that the business community has been shut out of the process is not based on fact and includes inaccuracies and unhelpful hypotheticals that need to be corrected.
Chief among these is the statement that the Economic Development subcommittee does not contain anyone from the business community. This is not true. We took considerable care to make sure that all of the subcommittees had members from the private sector contributing as members or advisors.
To imply that the CEO’s of the Otsego County Chamber and Otsego’s IDA are not able to represent the interests of the business community is somewhat remarkable since that is precisely their job.
We ARE all in this together – with the purpose of creating a practical actionable plan to address the current and future energy needs of Otsego County. This is our stated purpose, and the mission we adopted is to “address the needs of the community to become energy secure and resilient while making long-term progress in improving the health of citizens, economic growth and environmental sustainability.”
Because perspectives differ widely, we have gone to great lengths to avoid “us versus them” divisions. In the interests of the county and our taskforce, we hope you will cover our ongoing
work accurately and in good faith.
The impulse to “read tea leaves” or to proclaim the plan as “DOA” before it’s written only serves to magnify the divisions that we endeavor to mend.
MEG KENNEDY MICHELE FARWELL BOB WOOD LESLIE ORZETTI GREG MATTICE
The Otsego County
Jay Egg, CEO, Geo Egg, inset photo, speaks about heating Southside Mall with geothermal energy at a packed Oneonta Town Board meeting this evening in West Oneonta, as Town Board member Randal Mowers listens. “The writing is on the wall,” Egg said about future energy use. Municipalities and counties like Westchester are already declaring moratoriums on expanding natural-gas use while the state is green-lighting renewable energy. The Town of Oneonta is considering installing a geothermal heating system in Southside and other parts of the municipality, while the City of Oneoneta this week contracted with Geo Egg for a feasibility study on retrofitting a geothermal heating system in South Main Street. (Jennifer Hill/AllOTSEGO.com)
WEST ONEONTA – In the first convening of the 38-member Otsego County Energy Taskforce Town Hall Wednesday evening, County Board Rep. Meg Kennedy, a founder of the group, announced its end goal: an ambitious plan “that will address the current and future energy needs of Otsego County” by October 2020.
Calling the plan’s timeline “ambitious,” Kennedy said the Taskforce aimed to complete a draft of the plan by June 2020, have a public commentary period the following month, for a minimum of 30 days, and go through a SEQRA review of the plan that August, all before the Otsego Board would vote on adopting the plan in October of that year.
ONEONTA – At the urging of Otsego 2000 and 40 people who showed up at its monthly meeting, the Oneonta Town Board last night unanimously voted to oppose a $3.5 million state grant application for a gas decompression station at Pony Farm.
“No member of the Town Board is in favor of the decompressor gas station,” declared Supervisor Bob Wood at the start of the meeting.
WEST ONEONTA – The Oneonta Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, after which it can vote to create a new fire district, ending more than two years of uncertainty on whether 80 percent of the town would continue to be served by the city’s paid, fulltime Oneonta Fire Department.
Town Supervisor Bob Wood said he and city Mayor Gary Herzig took “an hour and half” of negotiation to reach a new fire contract between the town and city, an achievement that had eluded the now dissolved town Board of Fire Commissioners for more than two years.
ONEONTA – The Town of Oneonta Fire District is no more, (at least for now.)
As expected, Chairman Johna Peachin and her allies, Fire Commissioners Fred Volpe and Ron Peters, this evening voted for the dissolution, while the two new commissioners, Al Rubin and Michelle Catan, voted against.
Though no public comment was allowed – even Town Supervisor Bob Wood was denied an opportunity to answer a point the commissioners raised – more than 40 citizens crowded into the Sunday school classroom of the Elm Park United Methodist Church.
The vote ends more than two years of stalled negotiations after City Hall sought to raise the town Fire District’s payment for the services of the professional Oneonta Fire Department from $800,000 to $1.1 million.
By CATHY KOPLEN NARDI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Following two years of stalemate, the Town of Oneonta Fire Commission reached out to the City of Oneonta to re-open talks about the contract with the town Fire District.
“We feel the contract is very important,” said Town Supervisor Bob Wood said. “We would like to encourage you to talk, especially with Commissioner (Al) Rubin. He has expressed a strong intention in finding a formula that is fair, one we can go forward with.”
When one least expects it, a breakthrough.
The Town of Oneonta’s Board of Fire Commissioners has voted, 3-2, to set a hearing to consider dissolving. The vote could come at the end of the hearing, scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Elm Park
Good idea. About time.
If the fire district is dissolved, a “fire zone” continues to exist within the town, so coverage will continue. The Town of Oneonta would assume responsibility for negotiating with the city. That’s good too.
There’s probably no one better than Town Supervisor
Bob Wood, previously a longtime fire commissioner himself, to bring talks with the city to a sensible conclusion.
For more than two years, negotiations have gone nowhere on extending the contract with City Hall for professional fire protection for the town’s Southside, and neighborhoods beyond the city’s East and West ends.
Only state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma
imposing a two-year settlement in January 2016 assured businesspeople and homeowners coverage as negotiations continued.
The two commissioners objecting to dissolution are the newcomers, Al Rubin and Michelle Catan, who since their election last December have been foiled in efforts to get the talks moving again.
The three in the majority bloc, chair Johna Peachin, veteran commissioner Fred Volpe and Ron Peters, who is associated with Peachin’s accounting firm, have not responded to city Mayor Gary Herzig’s requests for negotiations, the mayor says.
As noted here before, Coccoma imposed a regimen that allocates one-third of the costs of the city’s Oneonta Fire Department (OFD) to property owners in the town fire district; the remaining two-thirds would be covered by city taxpayers.
An independent consultant agreed to by both sides came up with roughly the same formula.
Still, no movement.
The majority bloc has been tangled up in the issue of revenues created by the OFD’s ambulance squad, which generates about $1 million of the fire department’s $4 million budget.
In effect, those revenues – insurance payments generated whenever a city ambulance carries a patient from either the city or town to Fox or Bassett – pay down the total, meaning there’s less for city taxpayers and fire-district property owners to split.
The bloc believes the way it’s being done is illegal, but so far hasn’t found anyone with authority to agree.
Again, if an “i” or two needs to be crossed to bring everything up to Hoyle, Bob Wood has the understanding to figure it out amicably with Herzig.
There are implications for the future.
For one, a town can’t operate its own fire department under New York State law, an option the fire commissioners have been threatening to pursue in negotiations with City Hall.
However, if it came to that, the town could create a town-wide fire district that could do so, a lengthy process – but slower is probably better. Plus, that may never happen and shouldn’t – the town and city’s fates are linked.
Arguably, given the $1 million contribution from townsfolks, it makes sense for a liaison to be brought into discussions with Common Council on policies regarding the OFD. Perhaps Al Rubin, who has tried to be an honest broker since joining the fire board, would be a good prospect for this role.
Regardless, it’s time to move forward. If the majority-bloc fire commissioners have concluded they can do no more, it makes sense to leave the scene.
The Oneonta Town Board is more sensitive to what the public wants – only a handful or two of voters turn up at Fire District elections – and the public has said it wants the standoff resolved.
With Wood at the helm, along with town board members of good will, an end to a worrisome situation may finally be within reach.