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Mohican Flowers hosts Grand Opening!

Mohican Flowers hosts Grand Opening!

Hanna Bergene and Henry Bauer stand in front of the newly reopened Mohican Flowers. They both run the shop, which their families helped to revamp in a ‘fantastic family affair.’

The grand opening of Mohican Flowers is underway!

After months in which Hanna, boyfriend Henry Bauer, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins helped to revamp this local landmark, local residents can once again purchase their flowers from this local business. And it’s not only flowers anymore. Bergene has invited local artisans to put their wares for sale in the shop and there is everything from pottery from Cooperstown Pottery and Beiko Ceramics to jewelry by Karen Katz.

The weekend has seen a steady stream of people and the opening will run through 2 p.m.

James F. ‘Jim’ Tongue, 80 Owned & operated The Cupboard

In Memoriam

James F. ‘Jim’ Tongue, 80

Owned & operated The Cupboard

Jim Tongue

COOPERSTOWN – James F. “Jim” Tongue, a true man about town and well-respected Cooperstown businessman who for many years owned and operated The Cupboard on Main Street, passed away following a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease Tuesday night, June 15, 2021, at his home on Walnut Street with his beloved wife and best friend, Barb, his daughters, step daughter and sister-in-law at his side. He was 80.

Governor Cuomo announces most COVID restrictions will be ending

Governor Cuomo announces
most COVID restrictions will be ending

STAFF REPORT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday, June 15, that he will ending most COVID restrictions affecting businesses, after hitting the threshhold 70% of New Yorkers vaccinated with at least one dose.

As a result, concerts, sports, nights clubs and other businesses can return to normal operations without the need for social distancing, masks or limits on capacity.

“It means we can return to life as we know it,” Cuomo said at a press conference in front of One World Trade Center in Manhattan. “We have the highest vaccination rate in the country.”

Businesses can now set their own rules on vaccine passes and social distancing.

Separately, the city of Oneonta announced that all public buildings will be open to the public again as of Monday, June 14.

State Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, said he welcomed the news but was critical of Cuomo in a statement.

“Is he lifting the state’s emergency declaration and ending his extraordinary powers?” Oberacker said. “Once again, the governor makes grand claims and leaves everyone scrambling to sort out the details.”

 

 

LEVINE: Foundation stresses needs of community

LETTER from HARRY LEVINE

Foundation stresses
needs of community

HARRY LEVINE

The Community Foundation of Otsego County is up and running and wants you to join us as one of our Founders.

We are OF the community, FOR the community, and want to do everything in our power to improve the quality of life for all residents of Otsego County. We also want to live by our values which include taking direction from the community we serve.

The concept of forming a philanthropic organization to serve one’s community is not new. There are over 750 community foundations across the nation. Successful foundations exist in New York counties to our north, east, south and west. The essential difference between a community foundation and a more common private foundation is that we are a public enterprise. Our funding is from our public and our responsibility is to our public – our friends and neighbors.

Many of the successful community foundations in our region of New York have taken decades to grow to the level where they are able to make a difference. Small but sure steps. One dollar at a time, invested so that spending was limited to earnings at the rate of 4 or 5% per year. The early emphasis was on asset building.

This is an important strategy and one that we are working on too. But we want to make a difference NOW. How can we do that?

Our approach is to raise seed capital that we are willing to invest in our community instead of in the stock market. Thus, our Founders Campaign is to secure $2 million. These funds will be used over the next five years, while our other strategy (accumulating investment assets) is pursued to secure our future sustainability.

Ours is a modern model. It borrows from the world of venture capital and private equity. It is founded on the bedrock confidence that our community will support our work. It is responsive to today’s needs.

The formation of Community Foundation of Otsego County is a vitally important step in the health of our county. It is an opportunity for neighbors and friends to join together to work smartly to address issues that need addressing.

We hope that many of you decide to join us as Founders. The amount of your support is up to you. We want broad participation. We have made it easy to join us. Send us a check. Make a five-year pledge (to match our five-year business plan). Donate appreciated stock or real estate. Use your credit card or Pay Pal.

Set up a monthly or annual payment program. Go to our website to get more information (cfotsego.org). Or simply mail us a check to P.O. Box 55, Springfield Center, NY 13468.

How are we doing so far, you ask? Well, our goal is $2 million. Today, we are 90% of the way to that target. Our entire board has joined as Founders as well as more than 100 others.

And are we making a difference now? Absolutely yes!

Our COVID Emergency Fund disbursed $200,000 in 27 awards. We have helped families put food on their tables, provided shelter to homeless individuals, supported over 100 small businesses and much more.

In 2021, we have allocated another $200,000 to meet challenges facing our community.

Please visit our website for details on our award programs.

Will you join us as a Founder? This is a once only opportunity to be part of a group of like-minded friends and neighbors dedicated to creating a force for good in our community.

We deeply believe that caring together makes us stronger together.

Please join us.

Help wanted: Businesses struggle to find workers

Help wanted

Businesses struggle to find workers

By MICHAEL FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Help wanted signs can be seen throughout Otsego County, including this one at Kwik Fill in Oneonta. (Michael Forster Rothbart/AllOTSEGO.com)

ONEONTA — A blue and white sign stands in the grass at the entrance to Southside Mall in the town of Oneonta: “JOBS! Cooperstown All-Star Village APPLY NOW.” In either direction, along the mile-long commercial strip from Wal-Mart to Home Depot, at least eight stores advertise available positions.
Outside Home Depot, in the afternoon Monday, May 17, two employees in masks help an older customer with curbside pickup, loading 2×4 boards over the passenger seat into his Buick sedan. The store has more than 70 employees and is now hiring people for eight positions, mostly part-time.

“We’re short six people, now that the college students just left,” said the older employee, who declined to be identified.

Otsego Looks Outdoors
With Another Tourism Season In Doubt

Otsego Looks Outdoors

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Lori Paparteys and her dog, Bailey, pose during their Otsego Octet Ultra Challenge. Paparteys and Bailey completed the trail challenge in one day.

With tourism dealt another pandemic-related blow last week, Otsego County’s leaders are increasingly turning to outdoor adventures to lure visitors.

“We’re actually in the process right now of trying to launch a massive campaign to tout our outdoor adventure,” said Cassandra Harrington, executive director of Destination Marketing Corporation, which promotes tourism in Otsego and Schoharie counties.

Harrington said the tourism news has been mostly dismal in the week since Cooperstown Dreams Park announced it would require all teams playing at the park’s summer tournaments to be vaccinated for the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty of getting vaccinations for children and a hard refund deadline has left dozens of teams in a catch-22, leading to hundreds of reported cancellations.

23 fifth grade students from Milford Central School also completed the Otsego Octet Challenge from Otsego Outdoors.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s winter announcement that it was moving its postponed 2020 Induction Weekend to a virtual event, had already crushed pre-pandemic hopes for a record sized crowd for Derek Jeter’s induction.

However, the reopening of the baseball parks, Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary and Cooperstown All-Star Village in West Oneonta, was a big pillar of the county’s hopes for a renewed summer of tourism. All-Star Village has not announced similar vaccination requirements for its teams, but the Dreams Park changes make its June opening unlikely, Harrington said.

“Now that the bottom fell out with Dreams Park, our accommodations are dealing with a flood of cancellations,” she said. “So, we really need those outdoor visitors more than ever.”

Tops, Price Chopper Set For Merger

Tops, Price Chopper Set For Merger

Can Both Cooperstown Supermarkets Survive?

By Jim Kevlin • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Price Chopper patron
Pete Gambino exits the Cooperstown store.

It looks like the Cooperstown area, which hosts both a Price Chopper and a Tops Friendly Market, will be an oddity with the merger of the two supermarket companies that was announced Monday, Feb. 9.

The two companies have “a footprint that’s almost perfectly contiguous,” with minimal overlap, Price Chopper/Market 32 President/CEO Scott Grimmett told the Albany Times Union.

With Price Chopper at Chestnut and Walnut in the village, and Tops 3.8 miles away in Cooperstown Commons, that wouldn’t be the case in Baseball Town, particularly since the corporate merger appears to end all competition in Otsego County north of Greater Oneonta, where the Price Chopper in Emmons competes with Hannaford, Aldi’s, BJ’s and Walmart.

“Right now, there are no plans to close any stores,” said Jonathan Pierce of Pierce Communications, Albany, which is handling press queries.

The only other supermarket in Northern Otsego is in Richfield Springs, also a Price Chopper.

Pierce said the merger is being examined by the Federal Trade Commission to assess its impact on the competitive picture.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Virtual Tour Of Hamilton Exhibit 01-20-21
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20

Virtual Tour Of Hamilton Exhibit

14-19eventspagePRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION – 46th President Joe Biden to be inaugurated in Washington DC.

VIRTUAL TOUR – 2 p.m. Zoom meeting featuring walk through of exhibit ‘Hamilton’s Final Act: Enemies and Allies’ with manager of arts education Kevin Gray. Free, registration required. Suggested donation $5. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org

Lemisters’ Downtown Dynasty Ends With Rudy’s Liquor Store
Family Cooperstown Mainstay Since 1952

Lemisters’ Downtown Dynasty

Ends With Rudy’s Liquor Store

Last September, Rudy’s Liquor Store proprietor
Fred Lemister reflects on what would be his final 9/11 window display at the 143 Main St., Cooperstown, establishment. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Among other things, Fred Lemister was famous for decorating the front window of Rudy’s Liquor Store, which he and his wife Karen operated for 48 years.

His final window – the Lemisters sold Rudy’s to Matt Dennison and Joe Festa at year’s end – was the simple crèche you may have noticed walking by 143 Main St. this Christmas season.

A perennial was Fred’s Titanic window. “I’m a Titanic buff,” he said, also noting the local connection: Arthur L. Ryerson, president of Ryerson Steel, Chicago, who owned a summer estate on Otsego Lake, died in the sinking, although his wife Emily and four children rode on Lifeboat Four to safety.

“The one that meant the most to me was our 9/11 window,” said Lemister, himself the celebrated responder to 9,400 calls in a half-century with Cooperstown’s EMT squad. “I always found it extremely hard to put up. Tears would come to my eyes thinking of the young men and women who passed away on that day.”

The Lemister family has been a force on Main Street since 1952, when Andrew Lemister, Fred’s father, bought Sherry’s Restaurant in the three-story red brick block “at the light” where Mel’s at 22 is now.

In 1970, a few years after his father’s passing, Fred’s mother Evelyn married Rudy Omerzu, a local painting contractor.

Fred and Karen Lemister last February when EMTs from around the county honored his 9,400 calls over 50 years, and her sacrifice
that enabled his responsiveness.

Looking for a less strenuous occupation for her new husband, Fred’s mother and her son approached Cyril T. George, who had opened the liquor store, called George’s, in the late 1960s.

George also operated the Hitching Post at 149 Main, next door to the liquor store, where Alex’s Bistro is now, and he offered mother and son a two-business deal: Buy the restaurant now (1970), and the liquor store at a future date.

On Aug. 7, 1972, the Lemisters did buy the liquor store, renaming it Rudy’s, although things didn’t turn out as anticipated. That Christmas, Rudy Omerzu suffered a fatal heart attack while bowling at the Bowl-A-Rama (today’s Price Chopper).

So Fred, his mother and Karen found themselves running three establishments: Sherry’s, the Hitching Post and – keeping the name in Omerzu’s memory – Rudy’s.

In 1989, an electrical fire in the kitchen damaged the Hitching Post, and former Bruce Hall partner Richard White bought and renovated it for his daughter Ellen Weir’s Homescapes.

It became a restaurant again in 2007.

In 2018, the Lemisters sold the former Sherry’s property to restaurateur Brian Wrubleski, who operates Mel’s at 22 there.

So the Rudy’s sale, which includes the building, signals the end of a 67-year family and Main Street legacy.

In an interview, the Lemisters said they plan to put their Eagle Street house on the market in the spring. Son Andy lives in Jacksonville, Fla., and daughter Kim Knapp, near Orlando, so the parents are looking at the St. Augustine area, in between.

The four grandchildren are also a draw: Andy’s twins Addison and Andrew (A.J.), and Kim’s Makenna, 10, and Kassidy, 8.

In addition to the window displays, the Lemisters’ landmark Rudy’s is remembered for Bassett hound Barclay, who in the early days greeted patrons at the door.

When he passed away, the Lemisters commemorated him with a front window display of Bassett hound memorabilia.

“For 14 and a half years, he was the ruler,” Karen remembers.

15 Years Of ‘Citizens’ Prove: WE Can Overcome
Editorial

15 Years Of ‘Citizens’

Prove: WE Can Overcome

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
William Shakespeare

Cherry Valley Town Supervisor Tom Garretson was this newpaper’s first “Citizen of the Year” in 2006.

Can it be 15 years since The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta, (after its founding in 2008), have recognized a Citizen (or Citizens) of the Year in the final edition of the 12th month?

In 2006, Cherry Valley Town Supervisor Tom Garretson, digesting information brought before him on industrial-scale wind turbines, changed his mind and led the charge to block them. That took guts and flexibility.

In 2020, Heidi Bond is a worthy successor. Like Garretson, she didn’t expect the worst epidemic in a century to explode upon us. But, like Garretson, she rose to the occasion, deploying her limited staff and doing what needed to be done, including long hours of hard work many days on end.

When called for a comment, but not yet knowing who had been chosen, county Rep. David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, said, “Your Citizen of the Year should be Heidi Bond.”
Of course, she is. Greatness was thrust upon her, and she was ready.

That is the case in several of the 42-some people who have been Citizens of the Year. (Several years, more than one person was chosen, the peak being Oneonta’s 12-person Charter Commission.)

But that idea: Not expecting a specific challenge, regular citizens can still be prepared, discovering that, through training, discipline, energy, intelligence and mental toughness, they can rise to the
occasion and overcome the challenges at hand.

That certainly applies to Heidi Bond, but also to Adrian Kuzminski (2010), who led the anti-fracking movement; Cooperstown then-mayor Carol Waller (2007), who led the village through a trouble-free record turnout to Cal Ripken’s 2007 Induction, to Pastor Sylvia Kevlin (2017), who responded to the fiery destruction of the Milford Methodist Church with the declaration, “We will rebuild.” And her congregation did.

Some achieved greatness in a more conscious way: Hartwick College President Margaret Drugovich (2016), who raised a record $32 million, launched numerous innovations and renovated the campus. Is it any surprise that she largely succeeded in limiting the COVID spread on Oyaron Hill?

Or former Oneonta Mayor John Nader (2009), who, required to resign when he was promoted to SUNY Delhi dean, put the pieces in place for the renovation of the former Bresee’s Department Store into a reborn downtown anchor?

Or state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford (2013) – he is retiring this week after representing us in Albany for 34 years – whose hiring of a hard-driving economic developer and the elevation of the IDA to Otsego Now grew out of two “Seward Summits” on economic development and a personal determination to help his natal county better succeed at job creation?

It’s interesting that some of the Citizens, chosen with high hopes, didn’t quite work out.

The new team of Kathy Clark, Kay Stuligross and Linda Rowinski (2012) on the county board helm was heralded as a “return of amity,” but it didn’t turn out that way.

Entrepreneur Tom Cormier’s plan (2010) to revive the Oneonta Theatre as a concert venue was an exciting one, and had traction for a few years before collapsing.

Arguably, the Oneonta Charter Commission was visionary in professionalized governance (2011) through creating a city-manager position. But three failed or iffy city-manager tenures later, the City Fathers and Mothers are looking for a greater role for elected officials.

Still, these have been learning efforts. While economic developer Sandy Mathes’ energy didn’t prevent his forced departure, his successor – the more low-key Jody Zakrevsky – has been able to move Mathes initiatives forward. Plus, Mathes – and Seward – underscored the importance of jobs, jobs, jobs.

Not all promising initiatives succeed. As John Kennedy declared in his Boston brogue: “Why do we go to the moon? Not because it is easy – but because it is HAWED.”

One thought: Over 15 years, Otsego County – north and south – has been operating as more of a unit, with much more communication and collaboration between Oneonta and Cooperstown.

At first, it made sense to have separate Hometown Oneonta and Freeman’s Journal Citizens of the Year. No more, with Senator Seward, the Hager family (hops yards in Pierstown, Northern Eagle’s new brewery in West Oneonta), Stacie Haynes, serving distressed animals countywide, with Oneontans working at Bassett, and Cooperstonians at the colleges, a single county agenda made more and more sense.

Another thought: While eight of the first 10 Citizens were men, six of the last nine were women.

That brings to mind a quibble: In the recent efforts to fill state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s county board seat, both Republicans and Democrats declared it should be filled by a woman.

Folks, that battle’s been won; we can knock it off. The “little ladies” are beyond needing a leg up. They’ve fully arrived.

With MacGuire Benton’s election to the Cooperstown Village Board in a hard-fought race, and county Rep. Clark Oliver’s elevation to county Democratic chairman, it seems the county’s gay community is also claiming its proper place in our public life.

Fifteen years of recognizing our fellow citizens’ strivings to achieve, to solve problems, to realize visions, to meet challenges, demonstrate that imperfect human beings can do great things, whether they pursue us or are thrust upon us.

As COVID’s first anniversary approaches, the 42 Citizens provide reasons for pride and hope.

WE can overcome.

 

►FROM GARRETSON TO BOND, GREATNESS PURSUED

2006

Tom Garretson: Cherry Valley town supervisor led opposition to industrial-scale windmills.

2007

Carol Waller: She proved to be Cooperstown’s “Little Mayor That Could” during record attendance at Cal Ripken Induction.

2008

• Hometown Oneonta: The Centennial Committee – Tom Klemow, Kevin Herrick and Mayor John Nader – which organized city’s 100th-anniversary celebration that ended in a knock-out parade.
• The Freeman’s Journal:
Penney Gentile; her son Chris’ death in a Holy Thursday car crash spurred her campaign to make drivers’ education mandatory in state’s schools.

2009

• The Freeman’s Journal: Reinventing 22 Main – Mayor Joe Booan, Trustees Eric Hage, Willis Monie Jr., Neil Weiller. Republicans took control of Village Board and vowed clean-sheet look at Cooperstown government.
• Hometown Oneonta: John Nader, who resigned as mayor when he was promoted to SUNY Delhi provost (he is now SUNY Farmingdale president), but not before the Bresee’s renovation was assured.

2010

• Hometown Oneonta: Tom Cormier – Entrepreneur bought Oneonta Theatre, launched
promising revival.
• The Freeman’s Journal: Adrian Kuzminski, activist led
local fight against fracking.

2011

• Hometown Oneonta: 12-person City Charter Commission recommended professional city manager, got idea through referendum. Dave Rissberger, chairman; John Dudek, Martha
Forgiano, Karen Geasey, Tom
Kelly, Larry Malone, Steve Londner, Sarah Patterson, Paul Scheele, Kay StuliGross, Kathy Wolverton, Laurie Zimniewicz.
• The Freeman’s Journal: “Farmers of the Future” – Hartwick beef farmer Chris Harmon’s profile launched monthly profiles of
futuristic farmers over 2012.

The 12-member Oneonta Charter Revision Commission (2011) created the city-manager position there.

2012

New amity on county Board of Representatives hailed as County Reps. Kathy Clark, chairman, Kay Stuligross, and Linda Rowinski took over leadership.

2013

Jim Seward, “Building a
Consensus on a Properous
Future,” as former Greene County Economic Developer Sandy Mathes prepared to lead
county effort.

2014

The Hager Family, “Reviving the Golden Age of Hops.”

2015

“Fighting The Scourge: They Opened Four Fronts Against Heroin Tide”: County Judge
Brian Burns, now Supreme
Court judge; Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner, LEAF executive Julie Dostal; District Attorney
John Muehl

2016

Hartwick College President Margaret Drugovich: “Beacon on Oyaron Hill,” as record $32 million fund drive came to a successful conclusion.

Hartwick College President (2016) completed a record $32 million fund drive.

2017

Pastor Sylvia (now kEVLIN): “Gethsemane & Back,” as new Milford Methodist Church building was rising after fire razed former church that March.

2018

Stacie Haynes: “For The Love Of Misty,” a childhood pet who nurtured a love of animals, and inspired drive to build new Susquehanna Animal Shelter,
now rising on Route 28, Index.

2019

Meg Kennedy: “The Kennedy Method,” where county board vice chairman, first local rep to serve on NYSAC board, built momentum behind county-manager system.

2020

Heidi Bond: “General in the
COVID-19 Fight.” The county’s public health director led
contact-tracing, much more to limit disease’s spread.

Cases Surge; Vaccinations, Too
Hawkeye, Mel’s Closed For Now

Cases Surge; Vaccinations, Too

By CHRYSTAL SAVAGE & LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Dr. Lewis Brinton, Fly Creek, Little Falls Hospital ER doctor, receives the first Moderna vaccine administered by Bassett Healthcare Network. Director of Pharmacy Kelly Rudd gives the shot. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

The good news: Residents and staff at Cooperstown Center are receiving the Pfizer vaccine, as have 900 Bassett Healthcare Network employees, who have so far received the Moderna vaccine.

The bad news: Five more people have died from COVID-19 this week, a weekly record, bringing the year-end toll to 17 deaths in the largest spike this month.

“They have all been sick for a while and were all hospitalized,” said Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director.

Three were men, two women, all over age 55, and all had been hospitalized. One of them, said Bond, got sick after being exposed to someone who caught the virus at the Copper Fox in Oneonta.

“This person didn’t go to the bar, but they contracted the disease through secondary spread from someone who did,” she said.

Additionally, cases reached staff members at both Mel’s at 22 and The Otesaga’s Hawkeye Grill, leading to both shutting their doors until after the New Year.

“Until recently, we have been very fortunate that our Mel’s at 22 community has not been affected by COVID-19,” wrote Mel’s owner Brian Wrubleski in a Facebook posting on Christmas Eve.

“Last week one of our servers tested positive,” he continued. “In accordance with the best practices from the Department of Health, we have decided to remain closed until the New Year.

“This will give us time to make sure that all of our team members are safe and healthy before returning to serving you.”

Said Bond, “We don’t require businesses to close if a staff member tests positive for COVID. But we do recommend they close for at least 24 hours for cleaning.”

She was “unaware” of similar restaurant closures elsewhere in the county, although previously, Applebee’s, the Latte Lounge, Red’s Ale House, the Red Jug Pub and the Copper Fox, all in Oneonta, closed temporarily after COVID cases were reported among patrons and staff members.

At Centers, residents and staff began receiving the vaccine on Tuesday, Dec. 29.

“Seventy-six percent of residents received their first vaccine today,” said spokesman Jeffrey Jacomowitz. “We are anticipating all residents that have consented to the vaccine to have both doses by February.”

Walgreen’s is assisting with the vaccine distribution. “Thus far, neither residents nor staff has had any adverse reactions following administration of their vaccine,” he said.

At Bassett, Karen Huxtable-Hooker, Public and Media Relations Director, said that the network is awaiting a “formal invitation” from the state Department of Health to begin using the state’s prioritization schedule for vaccine distribution going forward.

But despite the rapid increase in vaccinations, Bond doesn’t expect cases themselves to decline any time soon.

“Any time now, cases from Christmas gatherings are going to start coming in,” she said. “We’ve already had some people who reported symptoms before the holidays, but gathered anyways.”

Those who have been identified as being in contact with a positive COVID case during the holidays are instructed to quarantine inside their home for 14 days, as they may only be eligible for a test if they begin showing symptoms.

“That means that you do not gather for New Year’s Eve, you do not leave the house for anything,” she said.

Your Favorite Business Needs YOU To Survive

Your Favorite Business

Needs YOU To Survive

Sure, local governments and school districts can close their doors and send thousands of employees home Friday, March 13 – tax revenues will ensure they get paid.

Private enterprise is different. Your favorite diner or restaurant. That lively boutique or gift shop. They need your continuing support – in many cases, to simply survive.

Same goes for local institutions we rely on. The Catskill Symphony Orchestra had to cancel its Cabaret Concert Saturday, March 14, at SUNY’s Dewar Arena. Last year, that concert raised $47,000. Helios Care delayed its March 29 Epicurean Festival to the fall, forgoing $70,000 for now.

Click on the “Coronavirus Cancellations” icon on www.AllOTSEGO.com, and you’ll feel wistful not only about the fun delayed, but the support lost by our many cultural institutions.

If no one’s moving around, buying things or doing things, it won’t be long before our local economy will begin shedding staff. It’s simply addition and subtraction, P&L.

So, as individuals, let’s do what we can. Order takeout from local restaurants. Don’t wait to up your memberships to local institutions and organizations. Stay 6 feet away from the nearest fellow shopper, but don’t abandon local business to amazon.com.

It matters. Even for the longterm health of our schools.

MORGAN: Downstate Controls, Doesn’t Care About Upstate

Column by Tom Morgan for November 9, 2018

Downstate Controls,

Doesn’t Care About Upstate

Tom Morgan

Yawn.
Upstate’s recovery from the Great Recession is the weakeast of any U.S. region. According to a recent study. You can examine all the nooks of Upstate’s economy. Most every one is daubed with lackluster. Papered with anemic. Writ large with blah.
Yawn.
Upstaters grew accustomed to this long ago. Our motto should be “We’re Number One at being Number Fifty!”
Most of us know what would help revive Upstate. Lower taxes would. Fewer regulations would. Fewer mandates from an out-of-touch Albany bureaucracy would. A much slimmer state government would. Because the slimness would suck less money from Upstate taxpayers. The slimness would reduce the number of state government fingers in Upstate pies.
We tend to lead the nation in taxes and regulations. We lead the nation in making life difficult for businesses large and small. Don’t you wish we could lead the nation in something else?
There is one move that would help Upstate.
Getting rid of downstate would.
Yawn.
The idea excites few. Lethargy pervades. (Maybe we lead the nation in lethargy too?) This is because upstaters know downstaters in the legislature would never allow us to split. And downstaters call the shots.
In other words, the guys who know and care nothing about Upstate decide Upstate’s fate. A good example of this is that Greens in the Big Apple are major voices in blocking fracking in our Southern Tier. Can you imagine Upstaters blocking projects on Staten Island? Upstaters opposed to tree-culling in the Hamptons? C’monnn.
Downstaters really do know nuttin’ about upstate. This is more than a laugh line at a party. Folks in Glen Cove and Oyster Bay really think Jamestown is only in Virginia. Utica really is another country to denizens of Commack. Syracuse and Binghamton are Fuhgettusville to dwellers of Brooklyn.

Oh yeah? Well, vice-versa to you too, buddy! Really. I mean, tell me all you know about the latest problems in Amityville and Islip.
Truth is, we don’t know and we don’t care that we don’t know. We feel so little allegiance to each other.
We New Yorkers have scant connections. We have no state TV or radio network. No statewide newspaper. And Upstate doesn’t even get its fair share of the state’s greatest industry: corruption. We don’t get no respect.
Splitting the state in two would work. Surely it would.
First, we would have less corruption in government. Because no new state could ever compete with the sleaze that oozes up the Hudson to Albany from the City and Long Island. Downstaters are simply too practiced in corruption for us.
Second, an Upstate government would be sensitive to Upstate issues and challenges. Its legislators and bureaucrats would more likely know how to locate Canandaigua without GPS.
Third, a separate Upstate might well end up with two political parties. As now composed, New York State has one.
Two parties, competing ideas? Hey, it might work!
This column goes to some heavies in the Big Apple. At this point I could write that they are all slobs. None of them would respond. Because none of them will have read this far. As soon as they saw the word “Upstate” they fell asleep.
A prime minister of Canada once mused that living in the attic of the U.S. was like sleeping with an elephant. The big fellow kept the bed warm, but when he rolled over…
This is the predicament of Upstaters.
If we all voted the same way and organized and outright demanded…
Oh, forget about it. Yawnsville. It would never work. We have met puny and he is us. Even in the corruption business. We could all contribute to raise a mountain of money to buy off the downstate legislators and governor. Yeah, but it would flop. Those birds are too accustomed to the big bribes. They would laugh at our paltry efforts. Not that they wouldn’t take the money.
From Tom…as in Morgan.
Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta financial adviser and syndicated columnist, lives in Franklin. His new novel, “The Last Columnist,” is available on amazon.com

Uncreative? With Full Plate, That Might Be Just The Thing

Editorial for October 12, 2018

Uncreative? With Full Plate,
That Might Be Just The Thing

‘I’m not creative,” Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky told the Otsego County Board of Representatives at its October meeting on the 3rd, as he began to deliver an “economic update” on the economic-development organization’s 2018 accomplishments.
While lacking creativity, Zakrevsky continued, he said he has the capacity to embrace someone else’s ideas and carry them to fruition.
Credit Zakrevsky with self-awareness and frankness, both virtues. Thinking about it further: The ability to carry great ideas forward may be just what’s needed right now in the local economic-development realm.
Zakrevsky’s predecessor, Sandy Mathes, was eminently creative; many of his initiatives are moving. Slow and steady implementation now might indeed win this race.

Among other things, Zakrevsky shared this very good news with the county board: Otsego Now has issued $11 million in bonds to Corning to expand its Life Sciences Plant in Oneonta; in return, the nation’s foremost glassmaker has committed to keeping 175 quality jobs in the city for at least 15 years.

The Freeman’s Journal – Saying “I’m not creative,” Otsego Now President Jody Zakrevsky planted himself in the Otsego County Board of Representives’ chambers last week and made a convincing case that slow and steady can win some economic- development races. Visible, from left, are county Reps. Stammel, Shannon and Clark; Clerk of the Board McGovern, Board chair Bliss and county Rep. Frazier.

Several other initiatives Zakrevsky shared with the county reps are important to pursue, such as a $750,000 grant sought toward Custom Electronics’ $2.2 million production line of futuristic self-recharging batteries. That’s 50 prospective jobs.
The batteries are used at disaster scenes, but also at movie shoots, to allow crew
to easily move sets when on location.
Of course, better batteries – in effect,
power storage – are essential as we shift
to renewables.

Another big challenge, of course, is moving forward redevelopment of Oneonta’s former D&H railyards; six site plans have been developed over the past few months. Also new, Otsego Now has gotten the state to designate a big chunk of the railyards as a new type of “opportunity zone,” providing tax breaks to prospective employers.
Also, Zakrevsky said, he is working with an unnamed “existing manufacturing company” on a 40,000-square-foot plant in the Oneonta Business Park (formerly Pony Farm) that promises to create 300 new jobs, with construction due to begin next year. He pointed out that 10 buildings in the park (only one owned by Otsego Now) are occupied, and only three available lots remain.
The Route 205 corridor through the Town of Oneonta is underway, necessary before the state DOT can upgrade that sometimes-congested stretch. And an airport study – Zakrevsky said consultants have promised its completion by Dec. 23 – may pave the way for county participation, as is proper, in what’s been a City of Oneonta facility.
There’s a lot more, including comprehensive master plan updates in Cooperstown, Richfield Springs and lately Schenevus.

Zakrevsky also heralded the creation, finally, of a one-stop shop for economic development in Otsego Now headquarters on the fifth floor of 189 Main, Oneonta.
Michelle Catan of the state Small Business Development Center has been joined in recent months by the Otsego County chamber; Southern Tier 8, the regional planning agency, and CADE, the Center for Agriculture, Development & Entrepreneurism.
If you remember, the keynoter at the second “Seward Summit” in November 2013, Dick Sheehy, manager/site selection, for CMH2Mhill, an international industrial recruiter, said a one-stop shop is an essential prerequisite to economic development.
Of course, putting loosely related entities on the same floor doesn’t, in itself, mean a one-stop shop exists. But at least proximity makes a tight, broad, comprehensive economic-development recruitment effort possible. Be still, beating hearts.
As we’re now all aware, if we’ve been paying attention, our county, from Greater Oneonta to Cooperstown, lacks sufficient natural gas and electricity even to meet current needs, much less recruit new employers, and Zakrevsky has become the lightning rod for that undertaking.
Otsego Now is seeking $3.5 million toward a natural gas decompression plant in Pony Farm, and its president has taken the brunt of criticism – and legal threats – from anti-gas adherents. He has to be unapologetically tough to keep that moving forward, and his board members need to get behind him publicly in a united front.
Regrettably, Sandy Mathes left too soon. But we have to move forward regardless.
From the railyards to Oneonta’s $14 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (the state’s DRI) to the potential 300-job distribution center at Schenevus, another Mathes initiative, Mathes left Zakrevsky plenty to do.
To the degree that slow and steady wins the race, Zakrevsky, who is reaching retirement age within a few months, can do a lot. His report to the county Board of Representatives was, simply, promising. Amid fears economic-development had been set back a generation, there’s reason to believe our economic-development challenges can, to some degree, be met.
Let’s go for it!

Isn’t It Time For City To Act, Or Get Out Of The Way?

Editorial for October 5, 2018

Isn’t It Time For City To Act,

Or Get Out Of The Way?

You know, of course:
Creativity is making something out of nothing.
Or, better, recognizing potential where nobody else does.
The scoop in last week’s paper is a case in point: A group calling itself The Market Street Alliance is proposing a distillery in the former Oneonta Ford building, that dreary, long-empty, black-painted hulk at the foot of Chestnut Street, across from Foothills.
But that’s just the beginning: The idea is to make it a centerpiece for a downtown Oneonta transformed into a beverage center, with breweries, wineries, even mead-makers. (Yes, mead, that honey-based brew quaffed by King Hrothgar and his knights.)

Peachin
Herzig

The local CPA and investor in the prospective distillery, Johna Peachin, got the idea from a visit to her son in Walla Walla, Wash., where she participated in a
monthly Sip & Stroll event.

At the Walla Walla – “twice as nice,” promoters say – Downtown Foundation, Events Manager Cindy Frost says her region is
being marketed these days as
“The New Napa Valley.”
There are over 100 wineries in the Walla Walla valley, and three-dozen wineries have tasting rooms in the downtown, attracting top-tier restaurants and hotels there.
Last summer, the foundation came up with the idea of the Sip & Stroll, which has just finished its second May-to-September season.
One evening a month, the wineries waive the fee on their tastings, and about 100 people have been buying $10 tickets to partake. Many participants, of course, then buy a glass or two, shop, dine, etc., making it worthwhile for the downtown establishments.
The evening’s a magnet, which is what every downtown wants.
The $1,000 revenue is used to promote the event, Frost said.

The Freeman’s Journal – If entrepreneurial Market Street Alliance can revive Oneonta Ford as a distillery, fine. But what if in can’t? “My concern is the building will sit as it is for very many years to come,” said Mayor Herzig.


Peachin said she and fellow investors have a sales agreement with the Twelve Tribes, the religious community that owns the adjacent Yellow Deli.
She mentioned Ken Wortz, an owner of Kymar Distillery in Charlotteville, Delaware County, as an investor. And landlord Brian Shaughnessy and businessman Al Rubin accompanied her to the July 26 Otsego Now meeting where the original pitch was made.
The timeliness may not be great – just a few days before this news broke, Peachin had exploded negotiations between the Town of Oneonta Fire District and City Hall. City officials may not be too interested in accommodating her right now.
Still, the idea is intriguing.

Hold on a minute.
As outlined on this week’s front page, City Hall and the DRI (the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative), see the Oneonta Ford site as THE prime prospect for Artspace.
Artspace is that Minneapolis-based national entity that has been creating combinations of housing and studio space for artists across the nation since 1987. (Check www.artspace.org; very exciting.)
The colleges are active partners, seeing Artspace as a way to attract students; City Hall, as a way to keep them here after graduation. Doesn’t downtown Oneonta as an art magnet sounds much more enticing than Oneonta as a beer and liquor magnet, which, to a degree, it already is?
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig low-keys it: It’s the preferred site, but if the Twelve Tribes has another deal, the DRI, the most exciting news for the City of the Hills in a century, will just look somewhere else.
Come on. Are we serious or aren’t we? The state has already committed $3.5 million to cleaning up the Oneonta Ford property and building something new there, with more – likely – to come.
Enough dithering. Common Council should man and woman up, condemn what’s been an eyesore and a hazard for decades, pay the fair market value, and get started.
The Peachin group may make it work; but it may not.
If it doesn’t, the site could be locked up for decades to come. Our great-grandchildren will be seeing the same mess we are today, only moreso. Does anyone want that?
If Peachin’s creativity spurs City Hall – finally – into action, she certainly will deserve the community’s thanks and
appreciation.

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