News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.


bob wood

Energy Task Force Goal: To Avoid Us Vs. Them

Energy Task Force Goal:

To Avoid Us Vs. Them

To the Editor:

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.

The Otsego County
Energy Taskforce
Leadership Committee

Southside May Become Center of Renewable Energy

Town May Follow City’s Suit

Southside Could Become

Geothermal Energy Center

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/

Energy Taskforce Sets Out Ambitious Plan in First Meeting

Energy Taskforce Sets Out

Ambitious Plan in 1st Meeting

Barbara Ann Heegan, right, studies her notes in preparation for the first meeting of the county’s new Energy Taskforce had its first full-member meeting in Town Hall on Wed., Feb. 27. Members and advisers bring a wide range of expertise, including the energy sector, economic development, conservation, academia, and governmental agencies.Most of the 21 members and 15 technical advisers attended, with a few calling in online, due to weather.  (Jennifer Hill/AllOTSEGO)

by JENNIFER HILL • Special to

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.

Fortin Park Becomes A Tobacco-Free Zone

Fortin Park Becomes

A Tobacco-Free Zone

Oneonta Town Supervisor Bob Wood and Town Clerk Cheryl Shackelton, left, stand with Deyanira Cisneros and Bonnie Peck, right, from SUNY Cobleskill’s Research Foundation, who presented them with several signs this morning at Town Hall. The news signs will soon be hung in Fortin Park in Emmons, proclaiming the area a tobacco-free zone. That means no cigarettes, vaping and or chewing. The signs are part of the Advancing Tobacco Free Communities program , funded by a grant from the state Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Control. “Ten years ago I owned a grocery store that sold cigarettes,” said Wood. “If I was to own a grocery store today, I would not sell tobacco at all. (The town) is glad to get ahead of the advancing tobacco technology to protect our youth.” Although the signs throw a little bit of a misconception – vapes are to be shown as crossed out and are therefore banned from being used in these areas, even though vapes don’t contain tobacco, as you can in this Vape Starter Kit. Perhaps nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco that smokers crave, should be the slogan for the poster instead, reading ” This is a nicotine-free zone”. It is a shame to completely ban vapes, as those used with a weed e liquid that gets you high can actually have many health benefits to those using them. A blanket ban makes it easier to enforce, though. (Ian Austin/
Town Board: Unanimous No On Compressor Station Grant

It’s Unanimous: Town Board

Rejects Gas Decompressor

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

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.

Public Hearing 11/14 On New Fire District

Public Hearing 11/14

On New Fire District

Agreement Wood, Herzig Reached

Ups Ratepayer Fees By 1.8 Percent

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Bob Wood

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.




Council, Town Board Must Adopt Agreement

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Town Supervisor Bob Wood and Mayor Gary Herzig met this morning to propose a five-year fire contract, with the town paying $1.15 million in 2019.

“It wasn’t a difficult thing,” said Wood. “The current contract of $1.1 million had no formula in place, so we looked at a modified version of the old formula to come up with this number.”






For Now, Negotiations With City

For OFD Protection In Town Over

Town fire commissioners, from front, Fred Volpe, Chairman Johna Peachin, Ron Peters and Al Rubin, engage in tense conversation in a packed room at Elm Park Methodist Church this evening before voting, 3-2, to dissolve the entity they represent, the Town of Oneonta Fire District.  (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

“Every person here was willing to negotiate.” said Town board member Pat Jacob, “Don’t blow it up and make it terrible for the people who live here.”  Behind her is fellow board member Trish Riddell-Kent.

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.

Again, Fire Board Will Try To Dissolve; Town Says It’ll Sue To Stop It

Again, Fire Board Will

Try To Dissolve; Town

Says It’ll Sue To Stop It

Supervisor Wood Says 12-15 Months Needed
To Allow For Orderly Transition Of Duties

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Town Supervisor Bob Wood said the fire commissioners are having a “temper tantrum.”

ONEONTA – Failing to vote to dissolve last night in the face of objections from the audience, the Town of Oneonta’s Board of Fire Commissioners is planning to meet again tomorrow evening to try again.

The commissioners have scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday at Elm Park United Methodist Church, and may take two actions:  One, pass a proposed $395,000 budget; two, dissolve.

Town Supervisor Bob Wood said a few minutes ago it seems like the fire commissioners are having “a temper tantrum.”

And, Wood said, if the commissioners vote to dissolve, the town will sue them, seeking through an Article 78 proceeding to prevent such an action for 12-15 months, to allow an orderly transition.

Fire Commissioners To City: Let’s Talk

Fire Commissioner

To City: Let’s Talk

Al Rubin, commissioner for the Town of Oneonta Fire Commission, stands and addresses Common Council this evening, encouraging the City to talk with him to negotiate a formula for long-term fire coverage. Despite being elected to the position, talks between the two have been stalled, due to the chair of the fire commission not supplying the paperwork authorizing Rubin’s position to negotiate. (Ian Austin/


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.”

A Good Idea From Fire Commissioners: Dissolve, Let Town Negotiate OFD Pact

Editorial for August 31, 2018

A Good Idea From

Fire Commissioners:
Dissolve, Let Town

Negotiate OFD Pact

The Freeman’s Journal – A packed house at Oneonta’s Elm Park Methodist Church in April 2017 urged town Board of Fire Commissioners: Renew the fire-protection contract with city’s paid Oneonta Fire Department. Sixteen months later, talks are still stymied.

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
Methodist Church.
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.





Move Would Put Town-City Contract

In the Hands Of Oneonta Town Board

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

ONEONTA – With its fire protection contract with the city stymied for three years now, the Town of Oneonta fire commissioners have set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at Elm Park Church on dissolving the fire district.

Town Supervisor Bob Wood, a former fire commissioner himself, today said, as he understands it, the commissioners could dissolve that evening by a 3-2 vote.

With chair Johna Peachin and commissioners Fred Volpe and Ron Peters supporting that idea, there appears to be the necessary majority, Wood said.  Commissioners Michelle Catan and Al Rubin favor negotiating a new contract with the city, he said.

Oneonta AAA Finds New Home On Southside

Oneonta AAA Finds

New Southside Home

AAA celebrated the grand opening of its new location on Oneonta’s Southside with a ceremonial ribbon cutting this morning.  Participating were, from left, Nicole Roe,  Jane Murphy,  Vikki Bellinger, Laima Kauger, Stacie Medowcraft,all of Oneonta; Adrianna Lewis, Utica, Jamie Reynolds, Oneonta, Carol Morris, Utica, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, Kevin Morgan, Oneonta, Patti Artessa, Utica, incoming branch manager Stacie Harvey and Daniel Butterman, both of Oneonta; Otsego Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan, current branch manager Deb Leach, state Sen. Jim Seward’s representative Catherine Mosher, Oneonta Town Supervisor Bob Wood, Karen Lang, Otsego County Chamber, Gary Lang, Oneonta Outlaws and AAA Regional Manager Ed Welsh. “Our company is committed to Oneonta,” said Welsh. “AAA has been in Oneonta for over 100 years and we’re not going anywhere. We plan to be here for a long time. We may be a national organization, but we hire strong, local, hometown folks.” (Ian Austin/
New Year’s Day Swearings-In Set In Oneonta, Cooperstown

New Year’s Day Swearings-In

Set In Oneonta, Cooperstown

ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig, Town Supervisor Bob Wood, county board reps and local elected officials will be sworn in for new terms at 1 p.m. Monday, Jan 1., at Hartwick College’s Shineman Chapel.  The new county Democratic chair, Kim Muller, will emcee.

Meanwhile, that morning, the new county treasurer, Allen Ruffles, will be sworn in at 11 a.m. at the county courthouse in Cooperstown by county Judge John Lambert.

Snow Falls as Santa Lights Oneonta Tree

Hundreds Brave Snow As

Santa Lights Oneonta Tree

With Oneonta Town Supervisor Bob Wood to his left, and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig to his right, Santa Claus admires the City of Oneonta’s Christmas Tree just after it was lit this evening in Muller Plaza.  As if scripted in a movie, snow began to fall just as the tree’s lights came on for the very first time.  Christopher Brashear, pictured at right, and the Klipnocky Clangers handbell choir played holiday tunes to help get everyone in the holiday spirit.  After the lighting, Santa occupied his cottage and began hearing youngsters’ Christmas wishes.  (Parker Fish/

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