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News of Otsego County

Common Council

Common Council approves CAB plan and Witzenberg as police chief, discusses county board EMS issue

Common Council approves CAB plan
and Witzenberg as police chief,
discusses county board EMS issue

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA — The Common Council unanimously passed a motion to approve and adopt the Implementation Plan for Police Reform and Reinvention, which was worked on by the Community Advisory Board and the subsequent council led review committee, Tuesday, Oct.5.

Mayor Gary Herzig thanked the CABRC members who worked for six months on creating the plan to implement the CAB’s recommendations, which was a response to a directive given by former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Herzig said he was impressed members of CABRC, which included mayoral candidates Len Carson, R-Fifth Ward, and Mark Drnek, D-Eighth Ward, voted unanimously on every single motion.

The motion paves the way for standing Community Police Review board, whose job will be to handle complaints about OPD.

Other business discussed included the recent County Board meeting that approved county-wide ambulance service. Council members were concerned Oneonta would pay double for a service they don’t use, as Oneonta already has its own ambulance service.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Celebrate the Autumn 09-30-21
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30

Celebrate the Autumn

14-19eventspage

HARVEST CELEBRATION – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Celebrate the harvest season in 1800s style. Walk around the historic village, learn from the historic interpreters and enjoy the activities fall activities from wagon rides, to corn shelling/grinding, and tinsmithing with the blacksmith, and more. Included with admission. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1450 or visit www.farmersmuseum.org/event/celebration-of-autumn/

Fully vaccinated students at SUNY Oneonta at 88%

Fully vaccinated students
at SUNY Oneonta at 88%

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA ⁠— COVID numbers for SUNY Oneonta have steadily improved with more students getting the vaccine.

Danielle McMullen, chief of staff at SUNY Oneonta, reported to the Common Council on Tuesday, Sept. 21, that 94% of students had at least one dose of the vaccine while 88% are fully vaccinated.

McMullen said SUNY Oneonta was doing “really well, when compared to other SUNY schools,” and credited the “strong messaging campaign” with the rising numbers of vaccinated students.

“Students came back to campus really wanting that in-person, robust experience,” McMullen said. There was a “spike (in COVID cases) that we anticipated” McMullen said who spoke of the erroneous notion that the vaccine is a “silver bullet” but they took a look at “a lot of data points including students social activity” and were able to make determinations on how they could improve their response.

McMullen called it a “testament of our campus coming together” and “being honest with the local community.”

Common Council holds public hearing on CABRC report

Common Council holds
public hearing on police report

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA — The Common Council held a public hearing for the long anticipated vote on the Community Advisory Board Review Committee report Tuesday, Sept. 21, created in response to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that police departments create a document of “best practices” by local law enforcement with input from the community.

Only two people spoke at the public hearing, both of whom were supportive of the council passing the report.

Daniel Driver said the report gave him “confidence in how hard the OPD works with few resources, but also cause for concern” and urged the council to consider more social services for those with mental health issues and addiction. He said that police officers were being put in a “untenable position where they have to arrest or interact with folks” who have some of those issues.

“There is a lot more to be done,” Driver said.

Steve Ludner offered “personal gratitude and thanks” for those who worked on CABRC and suggested the council “modify some of the wording” to make “clear that the Community Police Board will have options for community engagement.”

AllOtsego Report: Mayoral Election edition

AllOtsego Report: Mayoral Election edition

Staff Report • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

We interviewed City of Oneonta mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson for the AllOtsego Report Mayoral Election edition.

Click here to listen to our interview with Mark Drnek.

Democratic candidate for mayor, Mark Drnek, represents the Eighth Ward of Oneonta and is the owner of Sweet Home Productions and host of the syndicated radio show Blue Light Central.

Click here to listen to our interview with Len Carson.

Republican candidate for mayor, Leonard Carson, represents the Fifth Ward of Oneonta and is a former fire captain for the city as well as a former Otsego County Representative for District 13. He is also the co-owner of DC Marketing.

Common Council discusses COVID, budget, approves new asst. fire chief
Newly appointed Asst. Fire Chief Timothy Foster, right, shakes hands with Fire Chief Brian Knapp while Mayor Gary Herzig looks on. (Kevin Limiti/AllOtsego.com).

Common Council
discusses COVID, budget,
approves new asst. fire chief

By Kevin Limiti • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA The Common Council approved the new Asst. Fire Chief, Timothy Foster to a round of applause Tuesday, Aug. 17, after some discussion about tabling the potential appointment until the situation with the COVID delta variant became more clear.

The council was briefed on the situation with the coronavirus variant, a mutation that is steadily causing higher rates of infection City Health Officer Diane Georgeson said while fully vaccinated adults can acquire and transmit the virus but it is spreading much more quickly in places with lower vaccination rates.

Mayoral candidate Len Carson faces backlash over vaccine billboard ads
Billboards in the town of Oneonta owned by DC Marketing featured anti-vaccination messages last week. (Contributed).

Mayoral candidate
Len Carson faces backlash
over vaccine billboard ads

By Kevin Limiti • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA Len Carson, the Fifth Ward Common Council member and Republican mayoral candidate, received some heat at the council’s meeting Tuesday, Aug. 17, for approving billboard ads through his company, DC Marketing, that presented false information about coronavirus vaccines.

Jennifer Hill spoke at the meeting at City Hall, saying the ads were dangerous and strongly condemning Carson for his role in putting up the ads.

Len Carson

“It’s unconscionable that a member of the council and one who wants to lead the city to spread false information,” Hill said. “Mr. Carson did not come across as someone who would want to do that. I don’t know what changed.”

Oneonta Common Council has contentious vote on housing commission appointment, confirms new fire chief
New Fire Chief Brian Knapp shakes hands with Len Carson, right, with outgoing Fire Chief J. Michael Mancini, seated, attends the Common Council. (Kevin Limiti/AllOtsego.com).

Oneonta Common Council
has contentious vote
on housing commission appointment,
confirms new fire chief

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA In a two and a half hour meeting, the issue of housing was forefront as the Common Council struggled to come to agree on the choice of an out-of-city resident as part of the housing commission on Tuesday, July 20.

This appointment was narrowly approved, 4-3, with Kaytee Lipari Shue, Len Carson and Scott Harrington being the dissenting votes.

The motion to appoint Audrey Benkenstein, with the addition of Oneonta resident Peter Friedman, was brought up for a second time after being voted down during the last common council meeting, something that Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig told AllOtsego.com last week was “mystifying,” since Lipari Shue had pushed for a non-city resident to be on the Arts Commission.

The main point of contention was that Benkenstein was not a Oneonta resident. However Herzig pointed out her appointment was voted down “only minutes after approving a Cherry Valley artist” for the Arts Commission.

Herzig said the Arts Commission held real power whereas the Housing Commission was an advisory position, and therefore those appointed to the Housing Commission were not considered officials with any kind capacity to approve anything.

AllOtsego people: Mattice excited about new city role
New Oneonta City Administrator Greg Mattice,
center, and Mayor Gary Herzig present Parks
Director Lou Lansing the ‘Employee of the Quarter’ award Tuesday, July 6, at City Hall. (Kevin Limiti/Allotsego)

AllOtsego people: Mattice excited about new city role

By KEVIN LIMITI• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA — Oneonta native Greg Mattice has begun his new role as Oneonta’s city administrator.

Mattice began his new position July 1, leaving his job as city engineer.

Mattice, who said he enjoys playing basketball and spending time with his family, earned a degree in engineering from Syracuse University in 2009.

“We’re a small city,” Mattice said. “I do a lot of technical work.”

Mattice said that his main priority is going to be increasing communication throughout the various departments.

“The first step is to make sure everyone is on the same page.”

The city administrator’s job will to be to oversee the various operations and coordinate between different departments in the city. The common council voted last year to amend the position following several unsuccessful attempts at fielding a city manager.

The administrator position will have less autonomy than the city manager and will report to the council.
George Korthauer resigned as city manager in January 2020. City officials have said they had not had a good track record with managers and wanted to reform the position.

Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig said Mattice’s “knowledge and knowing people in the city” made him a great candidate. “He has a good vision for where the city needs to go in the years ahead. It was unanimously felt that he was the person who met the city’s needs at the time,” Herzig said.

Mattice had been the city engineer since 2015.

He said he was comfortable filling this role because he has “built good relationships with a lot of the department heads.”

“We work pretty closely with everyone,” Mattice said.

He said that he didn’t think he would be doing this sort of a job initially.

“I certainly didn’t get out of college thinking I’d be a city administrator or a city engineer for that matter,” Mattice said. “I think it’s just interesting and it keeps me on my toes. There’s something new every day.”

Mattice was a member of the Otsego County’s Energy Task Force and in 2017, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig gave him the key to the city in appreciation of his efforts in keeping the city safe during winter
storm Stella.

Editor Greg Klein contributed to this report. 

City of the Hills: July 8, 2021

City of the Hills

Concert series to begin Thursday at Neahwa Park

A summer concert series will begin Thursday, July 8, in Neahwa Park in Oneonta.
The series will feature performances every Thursday between 7 and 8 p.m.
The first event will feature the Driftwoods.


Common Council accepts grain grant

Oneonta’s Common Council passed a motion Tuesday, July 6, to accept a state grant of $180,000 for the Hartwick College Grain Innovation Center. The city’s plan is for the center to become part of the eventual Lofts on Dietz Street.
The council met in person at City Hall for the first time since March 2020, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Meetings had been taking place via Zoom and were broadcast on YouTube. However, the July change in state COVID laws opened the meetings up again.

First in-person common council since COVID celebrates recent achievements
Gary Herzig, left, and Greg Mattice award Lou Lansing the ‘Employee of the Quarter’ award for her work on parks in Oneonta. (Kevin Limiti/Allotsego.com).

First in-person
common council
since COVID celebrates
recent achievements

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA The Common Council met in person Tuesday, July 6, with an atmosphere of visible joviality and relief after spending a year meeting via Zoom.

“This is something we haven’t done in a long time,” Mayor Gary Herzig said, which elicited some appreciative chuckles.

Some of the agenda items passed included motions authorizing the acceptance of a state grant for the development of Hartwick College’s Grain Innovation Center, which would be located at the future Lofts on Dietz Street, as well as motions that appointed candidates to the recently formed Public Arts Commission and the Housing Commission.

Police review leaves behind serious debates

Police review leaves behind serious debates

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Oneonta’s Common Council will likely meet its self-imposed June 1, deadline to review, and change or adopt, the city’s Community Advisory Board’s recommendations for the Oneonta Police Department, Mayor Gary Herzig said Tuesday, May 17.

Among the topics being discussed are the status of no-knock raids in Oneonta, making statistics of crime and arrests available to the public and a review board to examine the high number of arrests of people of color.

“The city’s process has been very good. We’ve had input from a large number of community members,” Herzig said. “The council is researching our ability to implement those plans … I’m happy with the fact that we took the governor’s order to heart and out of it came a very robust report.”

Planning To Retire, Bob Wood Has High Hopes For Southside

Planning To Retire, Bob Wood
Has High Hopes For Southside

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Oneonta Supervisor Bob Wood is retiring. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

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.

Seward Lauded, Given Key To City At Common Council Meeting

Jim Seward Lauded,

Given Key To Oneonta

Mayor Gary Herzig,  lower left, presents retiring state Senator Jim Seward, R-Milford, with a Key to the City for his support of Oneonta over his 30 years as senator.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – Comparing retiring state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford to “Ghostbusters,” Mayor Gary Herzig lauded the Senator and presented him with a key to the city for his “timeless support” to the City of Oneonta.

“It was never quite ‘Who you gonna call,’ because usually, he called me first,” Herzig said. “And he always asked, ‘What do you need me to do?'”

Oneonta Law Requires Masks In Private Homes

Oneonta Law Requires

Masks In Private Homes

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – With a 5-2 split on party lines and one abstention, Oneonta Common Council Tuesday, Oct. 6, moved closer to applying the state’s “Mask and Face Coverings” law locally, potentially bringing it into everyone’s living rooms.

Echoing the state law, the local law that is now going to public hearing requires people to where masks in all “public and private indoor and outdoor locations” when they cannot socially distance.

“This law covers nothing that isn’t already covered in the Governor’s executive orders,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. The law is intended to enable OPD to enforce the provisions, now in Public Health Law, within city limits.

“Right now, it’s difficult to write a ticket because we don’t have a way to reference the executive order,” said Police Chief Doug Brenner, “This just makes it easier, like we were writing a ticket for littering.”

“The police aren’t going to go around knocking on people’s doors,” said Herzig. “If someone calls in a large, noisy party and the police find that there is not appropriate social distancing, this gives them the authority to ticket them under city law.”

Democratic Council members Luke Murphy, First Ward, David Rissberger, Third Ward, Kaytee Lipari Shue, Fourth Ward, John Rafter, Seventh Ward and Mark Drnek, Eighth Ward, all voted yes.

The nays were Republicans Len Carson, Fifth Ward, and Scott Harrington, Sixth Ward.

Democrat Mark Davies, Second Ward, abstained. “As an employee of SUNY, I need to recuse myself,”
he said.

“I disagree with that statement,” said City Attorney David Merzig. “The law will be applied to all citizens.”

Explaining his vote, Murphy said, “Two days ago, I was walking past someone on Main Street, and it was so busy that we couldn’t get six feet apart without going on someone’s lawn. Luckily we both had masks.”

“It’s about marketing,” said Drnek. “People don’t want to come to Oneonta because they have a perception that it’s unsafe, but when I wear a mask, and you wear a mask, we know it’s safe to shop, to dine, to visit local merchants. Our community needs to know it’s safe to be in downtown Oneonta.”

“I’ve taken more engagement on this than any other issue since I started,” said Carson. “And 99 percent of the people I speak to are totally against this.”

“I understand the importance of wearing a mask,” said Harrington. “But I spoke to a lot of people in my ward, and they feel like it’s an overreach, that they’re adults and they know the guidelines.”

“We have a public health law, and I never hear complaining about the masks,” said Rissberger. “But as soon as we’re about to solidify the law, people get upset, which makes me wonder if they’re really wearing the mask.

It’s no different than the seatbelt law or the car seat laws. If the public health law isn’t overreach, than neither is this.”

The law now moves to a public hearing, which will be held Tuesday, Oct. 20. Following the public hearing, Herzig will then have to sign the law.

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