For the sixth time in seven years, the Cooperstown Graduate Program has coordinated with the Army Reserves to do field training in the Cooperstown area.
According to CGP Professor Cindy Falk, about 30 soldiers from Fort Drum, six cadets from Syracuse University and six CGP students from her Culture and Collections class worked together on training exercises over a three-day weekend, from Thursday, March 25, to Saturday, March 27.
“We did what we have been doing since 2015,” Falk said. “We just had to do it differently this year.”
To accommodate coronavirus restrictions, the group had a hard cap of 50, Falk said, and the soldiers, cadets and students were kept apart as much as possible to avoid any health issues.
Beginning Thursday, March 25, the soldiers – reservists from the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion’s Alpha Company in Syracuse – did classroom training, with a remote seminar from Bassett Healthcare Network officials and in person lectures from the CGP and Fort Drum officials.
On Friday, the soldiers and cadets worked on a mass casualty and evacuation drill.
Newly elected Village Trustee Hannah Bergene was already sold on Cooperstown.
But her first Induction Weekend working for the Chamber of Commerce – in 2015, the Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez year – she got sold all over again.
Baseball fans were jammed onto the front steps of Chamber headquarters in that yellow-and-white cottage at 31 Chestnut St., trying to catch a glimpse of their heroes passing by in the Legends of the Game parade.
“They were so in awe,” said Bergene. “They had waited all their lives to come here. We” – who live here – “take it for granted.”
She maintained that excitement for her five years at the Chamber, where she rose to marketing director under Executive Director Matt Hazzard, and for the past two years as social media director at Paperkite Creative, the Internet marketing firm.
Tuesday, March 16, Bergene and Trustee Cindy Falk, the deputy mayor, ran unopposed and received 139 and 136 votes respectively. Both are Democrats.
She ran, Bergene said in an interview Saturday, March 13, “because Mac asked me too” – Trustee Mac Benton, 23, who with County Democratic Chairman Clark Oliver, 22, have been recruiting young people here, in Oneonta and countywide to run for office.
The new trustee, her interest piqued by her work at the Chamber of Commerce, had considered elected office at some point, but “in my mind, it was years in the future.
“But why not? Why not get involved?” she asked herself. “The village needs young people to attract other young people here.”
Saturday I had one of those “It Takes a Village” moments.
I offered a ride to a friend to the vaccination clinic at the Clark Sports Center. Sitting with her in a folding chair on the gym floor, I remembered just how special our community is.
We have a teaching hospital right here in Cooperstown, we have an amazing recreational facility and, most important, we are blessed with people who care.
Our local community members helped spread the word about vaccine availability, assisted with online registration, provided rides, checked people in, gave shots, stood by in case of an emergency, and checked up on our friends and neighbors.
We live in a one-of-a-kind place that I am pleased to call home.
For the past nine years, I have been privileged to represent village residents on the Board of Trustees. This Tuesday, March 16, I will be running for my fourth term.
There is little hype about this election. My name and Hanna Joy Bergene’s will be the only ones on the ballot, and there are two open seats. There is no national election going on simultaneously and no COVID-induced change to the voting date as there was last year.
Honestly, it may seem like there is little reason to participate. But I am hopeful that in our remarkable village people still will make the effort to exercise their right to vote.
Polls are open noon – 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 16, at the fire hall, and absentee-ballot applications and absentee ballots can be picked up by 4 p.m. Monday, March 15, at Village Hall, 22 Main St.
The pandemic has been difficult on all of us individually and collectively. The village government is no exception to that – the last year has been trying, and the coming months will be critical as we begin to creep forward into a post-pandemic world.
I encourage you to take part in the democratic process as we enter this next phase, and I would greatly appreciate your vote on Tuesday the 16th.
My name is Hanna Joy Bergene and I am honored to be running for village trustee alongside our current trustee/deputy mayor, Cindy Falk in the village election next Tuesday, March 16.
Many in the local business community may know me from my time working at the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, Paperkite, Stagecoach Coffee and the Cooperstown Winter Carnival Committee.
I’ve called Cooperstown home my entire life. My parents, Gregory and Susan Bergene, both long-time employees of Cooperstown Central School District, taught me the value of a good work ethic and getting involved in your community from a young age.
As a village trustee, my goal is to make Cooperstown the best place it can be for all residents and businesses alike. I have thought long and hard, as well as asked a few close friends about what makes a great trustee. Some of the things that stood out to me are:
“I very excited,” Hanna Bergene, 29, above, said a few minutes ago as the Village Democratic Party caucused in the 22 Main ballroom and nominated her for one of two positions on the Cooperstown Village Board in the March elections. Also nominated for another term was Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, at left. In the foreground is Henry Bauer, who nominated Bergene. The new candidate, now social media manager at PaperKite Creative, had worked several years at the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce. Inset left, Trustee James Dean, who is retiring April 1 after a decade on the board, accepts an energetic round of applause after Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, right, praisefully reviewed his tenure. At center in Trustee Joe Membrino. Henry Bauer’s brother, Ben, was also introduced this evening as the newest member of the Village Democratic Committee, signaling, together with Bergene, the arrival of a youthful wave in local Democratic politics. It appears the Republican Village Committee isn’t fielding a slate this election so, absent an independent candidate surfacing, Bergene and Falk appeared headed for election. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
COOPERSTOWN – Following complaints that arose after last week’s snowstorm, the Cooperstown Village Board is once again debating snow removal from sidewalks in the village.
“There has often been a suggestion that the village take more responsibility for snow removal on sidewalks,” said Trustee Cindy Falk. “I think that those of us that have been involved in this discussion in the past understand that that needs to be done equitably.”
Cost is a factor, she said, and has stopped other municipalities in the past.
I grew up reading the newspaper much as you are now. There were no cellphones, no social media, and no 24-hour news networks. My worldview was shaped by rotary dials, printer’s ink, and
the 6 o’clock news.
I imagine many of you could say the same. Between 1990 and 2010, the federal Census showed that in the Village of Cooperstown there was an overall decline in every age group except for 50- to 59-year-olds. The sharpest decline (47 percent) was in the 30-to-39 age group.
My husband and I moved to the village with our young family in 2004, but our experience is far from the norm. The lack of young people in Cooperstown is a problem that we need to correct if our community organizations, schools and local government are going to thrive in the future.
This is where Trustee MacGuire Benton comes in.
I may not agree with MacGuire on every issue that comes before the Board of Trustees, but I always value his perspective. His experiences are often closer to those of my children and the graduate students with whom I work, the very people we need to help shape our plans moving forward.
For example, MacGuire saw the need to provide video access to village meetings even before the pandemic. In a desire to further government transparency and be more inclusive, he suggested policies last year that made the transition to online content easier when it became necessary due to the pandemic.
He recently pointed out the benefits of an official village Facebook page so that people do not have to turn to AllOtsego.com or Celebrate Cooperstown to get information about what is going on. Mac is committed to free and open communication and helping to make Cooperstown a place where young people of all backgrounds want to live.
On Sept. 15, something unusual happened: MacGuire Benton and Mary-Margaret Robbins – both eager to serve as village trustees – tied in a race for a seat on the board. Both have widespread support, each garnering 272 votes. And both undoubtedly love our Village and want what’s best for it.
However, if you are still undecided about whether to vote or for whom to vote in the run-off election on Sept. 29, I urge you to look to the future. Ensure there is a voice in village government that represents the next generation. Vote to re-elect MacGuire Benton noon-9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, at the fire hall, or by absentee ballot prior to the 29th.
COOPERSTOWN – Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk is alerting downtown merchants to the new HartBeat of Main Street Grant Program, which is offering grants of $5,000 to $15,000 to brick-and-mortar small businesses in commercial districts as they enter the next phases of reopening across the country.
The grants would be available to such businesses in downtown across Otsego County.
COOPERSTOWN – Though the Cooperstown Village Board had considered a late start or suspending it entirely, they voted that paid parking will go into effect on Memorial Day weekend as part of the $3.8 million budget approved during their monthly meeting.
Trustee Cindy Falk estimated that revenues will only be $100,000 for the year, down from $463,000 last year.
“It’s a huge punch in the gut,” said Trustee MacGuire Benton.
COOPERSTOWN – Paid parking could be suspended into the middle of the summer, according to Village Trustee Cindy Falk, who proposed the idea during a budget hearing streamed live over YouTube this evening.
“Our paid parking is closely aligned with visitors, and it’s a situation that’s impossible to predict,” she said. “I wonder if at this point, we should consider putting off paid parking until July 1 to give everyone time to get comfortable and for businesses to start re-opening.”
COOPERSTOWN – Cynthia G. Falk, Cooperstown Graduate Program professor (and Cooperstown’s deputy mayor), has been appointed to the National Historic Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board.
The purpose of the committee is to review nominations for National Historic Landmarks and make recommendations to the board.
COOPERSTOWN – Matt Phillips, CCS ’02, shared a poignant story of his family’s affection for Redskins (now Hawkeyes) football, and the 200 fans in the CCS high school auditorium applauded.
“If not for football,” said Phillips, today Clark Sports Center’s Activities & Group Reservations director, “I wouldn’t have come to school.”
Cooperstown varsity football has had bad years, for sure, but always rebounded. “My senior year,” he said, “we won one game. My senior year, we were undefeated.”
Today, his daughter Leah plays with the team, continuing a family tradition. “She even talks about playing in the NFL someday.”
The term “Life Births” – a term that floated through the room as the school board contemplated a wide round of cuts to the 2020-21 budget; the budget vote and school elections is May 19 – could trump the fans’ and others’ concerns.
“We are forced to make decisions that don’t feel great,” Superintendent of Schools Bill Crankshaw said that evening: In 2007, there were 1,048 K-12 pupils; today there are 850, a 19 percent drop.
“Life Births” are compiled annually by ONC BOCES Superintendent of Schools Nick Savin for all 19 school district in his purview, nine in Otsego County. Based on the number of births in a district any one year, he projects those numbers forward: for instance, babies born in 2015 will enter kindergarten this fall.
If fewer seniors are graduating in June than kindergarteners are arriving in September – and this goes on year after year – a school district is headed for trouble.
For the 2019-20 school year, CCS has 79 students graduating, and only 50 kindergartners entering, a 37 percent drop, by far the largest among the ONC BOCES schools.
“At base, if you want a school, you have to build housing,” CCS board President Tim Hayes said in an interview, “affordable, quality housing … Until we start to create places for people to live in the community, I’m worried about the future of the community.”
Hayes served on the task force that created the Village of Cooperstown’s new Comprehensive Master Plan, approved last fall, which – to some community concern – allows larger homes to be broken up into apartments.
If there are no exterior changes, sufficient parking and other standards are met, village Zoning Enforcement Officer Jane Gentile can simply issue a permit; a project doesn’t have to go through the H-PARB, planning or zoning boards, said Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, who has played a central role in the comp plan and resulting zoning code.
Apartment houses – the Railroad Avenue neighborhood, in particular, is designated as appropriate – still require a special permit from the Village Board, she said.
It’s only been a few months since the new zoning was approved, but Falk said she’s unaware of any house conversions or apartment complexes being proposed.
In the 1970s and ’80, Hayes said, homes were being built in the district, but in the 1990s “preserving open space was more important than building houses for people who wanted to live here.” Much of the surrounding towns of Otsego and Middlefield requires three-acre lots, he said.
That may be changing, Hayes said. In addition to Cooperstown’s new zoning, the Town of Hartwick has contracted with Delaware Engineering for a Route 28 study. The study wasn’t focused on housing, Falk said, but as survey results began coming in, housing needs were frequently mentioned.
With the largest employer in the county – Bassett Hospital, “a half-billion-dollar medical center” – just three blocks from Cooperstown Elementary, things should be different.
“Every day I see ads for employees at this medical center,” Hayes said. “We definitely don’t have enough housing for people who want to live here.”
At last week’s meeting, Hayes and Crankshaw repeatedly said no firm decisions have been made about football or anything else. The next of a series of “open budget discussions” is planned 6-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, in the high school library.
Savin, the BOCES superintendent, said that while CCS’ situation is the most dire this year, it’s not alone. “In Oneonta,” he said, “they seem to have some growth in the younger grades. Every other school in our region: They’re either staying flat or losing students.”
He continued, “In more schools, because we have declining enrollment, the school boards and communities are looking at more collaborative ways of keeping their teams. It’s appropriate, in my view.”
“That’s what the data does,” he said: “It causes the right kinds of conversations.”
PERFORMANCE – 7 – 10 p.m. Support Emergency Shelter program by Opportunities for Otsego while enjoying evening of music by Steve Fabrizio Band. Features light hors d’oeuvres, raffles, cash bar. Cost, $25 at door. B Side Ballroom, 1 Clinton Plaza Dr., Oneonta. 607-433-8000 or visit www.facebook.com/ofoinc/