Winter weather and holiday travel plans resulted in a near-empty Oneonta Common Council meeting earlier this evening, where outgoing members Michelle Fraser, First Ward, Melissa Nicosia, Second Ward, and Dana Levinson, Fifth Ward, didn’t attend their final meeting as Council members. With Michelle Osterhoudt having resigned Nov. 30, that left only, from left, David Rissberger, Third Ward, City Manager George Korthauer, Mayor Gary Herzig, City Clerk Kerriann Harrington, Russ Southard, Sixth Ward, John Rafter, Seventh Ward, and Joe Ficano, Eighth Ward, in attendance, leaving the council without a quorum. Though Ficano and Southard, both outgoing, were honored by Herzig for their contributions, inset photo, a special meeting was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18 to address agenda items that could not be voted on tonight. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
ONEONTA – It’s unanimous. The $20 million budget for 2020 has passed.
The Oneonta Common Council voted tonight on the city’s 2020 budget and approved it unanimously.
Two weeks ago, the council met to discuss the initial proposal for the $20 million budget for 2020, which had included two full-time firefighting positions, a 10 percent sewer rate increase, and a 2.5 percent property tax increase.
After that proposal was largely rejected by the Common Council and the Mayor, they asked City Manager George Korthauer to adjust it.
The initial budget proposal had a $500,000 increase in payroll, including union costs and benefits for city workers.
Korthauer worked with Director of Finance Virginia Lee to bring that down to $250,000 by cutting several positions, including a full-time firefighter slot. “We’re trying to be very conservative,” said Lee. “The list is very long. It’s a constant review.”
To ensure that the fire department isn’t lacking, the new budget includes several part-time positions. In total, there are five new positions in the city that include public work such as street and infrastructure, as well as a new code enforcement position.
“Infrastructure has a life,” said Korthauer. “This Oneonta group is very talented. They handle maintenance and construction.”
“The city’s team is just wonderful,” added Lee.
Yet another expense in the initial proposal was a 10% sewer rate increase. This would cover the maintenance of pipes, operation of the wastewater treatment plant, and repairs to the sewer system.
The current plant, which is at least 40 years old, needs work. “It’s like a well-oiled machine,” said Korthauer. “We need to bring it back up to its original design.”
That cost would equate to a minor increase in water bills, but the common council expressed concern that this would weigh too heavily on city residents. “Cumulatively, it’s an impact on people,” said Russ Southard, 6th ward.
Korthauer was able to lower the sewer rate to 5 percent by putting off certain renovation projects until the following year.
The total of additional costs initially equaled as much as a 2.5 percent increase in city property tax, which Herzig and the council insisted be lowered. “I don’t want to see a 2.5 percent tax increase,” said Melissa Nicosia, 2nd ward.
Korthauer and Lee were able to lower the tax rate to 1.75 percent by cutting positions and lowering sewer costs, but also due to a new law passed earlier this year that requires out-of-state online retailers to collect sales tax on purchases.
A percentage of the corresponding tax dollars (anticipated to be 12.5 percent) ends up in Otsego County in the form of tax revenue, which allows the city to make budget adjustments without a burden on taxpayers. “We’ve never used a tax levy in the history of the city,” said Korthauer.
Mayor Gary Herzig also expressed his concerns for the city charter. “Our charter short-changes the people of the city. It needs to be addressed,” he said.
The current charter requires that the city manager present the budget proposal one week before the council is required to vote on it. “The council should be given more than a week. The budget is complex. It’s 150 pages long and not self-explanatory,” he said. “Give the council members three weeks to review the budget, not one.”
Additionally, the mayor would like to see a change in council voting. Currently, any change to the budget requires a supermajority of 6/8 council members. “One person’s opinion carries more weight than the majority…to me that is wrong,” he said. He hopes to address the charter starting in January.
ONEONTA – Council member Michelle Osterhoudt, Fourth Ward, has announced she’s leaving Common Council Nov. 30, a month before her term expires, citing family obligations.
She didn’t run for a second term, and will be succeeded by fellow Democrat Kaytee Lipari Shue on Jan. 1.
“While I have enjoyed my position and truly love Oneonta and the Fourth Ward, it is clear that my obligations to my job and family have been in conflict with my position on Council,” she wrote in a statement. “I have decided to share this decision with the media first – so that the message comes from me.”
I dare you to try to find another person alive who knows more about Main Street Oneonta businesses than Mark Drnek. Mark knows the first and last names of almost every business owner in Ward 8, where he is running for Oneonta Common Council.
He knows what they sell and to whom they sell it. He knows what their businesses depend upon, thrive upon, and what they need our city to do to make them more successful.
When I heard Mark was running for office, the first words that came to mind were “Oh, thank God!”
In all my years in Oneonta, I don’t think I’ve met someone as hard-working, creative, passionate and committed to our city as Mark.
Mark volunteered his time and resources in 2011 on some promotional videos for the city. While working with Mark, I was blown away by his creative ideas for attracting visitors of all ages, local and tourist, to Main Street.
Please vote for Mark. Great things will happen to Oneonta once he is in a position to serve our city.
I have known Scott Harrington since he was a boy. Now he is a responsible husband and father. He was raised by two hardworking people, Stan and Mary Jane Harrington. Scott saw first-hand the ideals of true volunteerism and dedication to the task at hand.
Unfortunately, Stan, a county representative for Wards 5-6, passed away at a fairly young age. Both he and Mary Jane Harrington gave to Scott a love for the Sixth Ward and dedication to perseverance. I know this full well.
I am writing to all registered voters of the Sixth Ward and asking each one to vote for Scott Harrington as their next Sixth Ward representative on Oneonta Common Council.
Scott sees the needs of the Sixth Ward and the City of Oneonta. His dedication to “sticking with it” will be a huge asset on the City Council.
Scott’s experiences have prepared him well to sit on the Common Council and make wise decisions. He is a former county representative, is a member of the city’s Zoning & Housing Board of Appeals, has nearly 20 years of public safety experience, and is facilities liaison at Hartwick College.
Scott Harrington has the ability and know-how to make people’s opinion count. Scott values people no matter how rich or poor you are, or how long you have been in the Sixth Ward. You can be assured he will represent you well, no matter what political party you align with.
Scott’s stated goals during this campaign reflect the concerns of those in the Sixth Ward, which shows that he will not be manipulated by those with a hidden agenda outside the Sixth Ward and outside the City of Oneonta. Scott has goals that have been publicly stated in regard to public safety, economic development, business growth, infrastructure, town hall meetings in the Sixth Ward, working with our two colleges, working with our YMCA in regard to programs for youth, and gaining revenue for the City of Oneonta without placing the burden on property owners.
Scott is very proud of businesses in our ward and aims to keep them here. Their stability and growth is of great importance to him. Improving the housing stock already in existence within the ward is a priority for him. He also aims to spearhead an effort to beautify entrances to the Sixth Ward.
Scott Harrington is solid and has the ability to stand up for what is right. He possesses a kind heart and is able to work cooperatively for the general good. Your vote for Scott Harrington will enable a good person to sit in the Sixth Ward seat at City Hall and represent you. Please vote for Scott Harrington on Nov. 5.
ONEONTA – Luke Murphy, an education coordinator at Hanford Mills Museum in East Merideth who lives on Main Street, Oneonta, confirmed a few minutes ago he is running a write-in campaign for the First Ward seat on Common Council.
Murphy said he decided to run on learning that the incumbent, Michele Frazier, a realtor, is planning to move to Delhi. Even though her name will be on the Nov. 5 ballot, she will be unable to serve, he said. Reached by phone earlier in the day, Frazier did not share those plans; a follow-up call was not returned this evening.
ONEONTA – It’s not just dogs that will benefit from the proposed Oneonta dog park.
“There are a lot of dog lovers in Oneonta,” said Common Council member Michele Frazier, First Ward. “People who love dogs meet each other at dog parks, it fosters community.”
The dog park, which has been proposed several times over the past few years, was once again brought to the table during the city’s Operations, Planning and Evaluations Committee meeting on Monday, Aug. 26.
ONEONTA – Mark Davies, Ward 2, and Kaytee Lipari Shue, Ward 4, will both appear on the Democratic ballot line for Oneonta Common Council this November after hammering opponents Seth Clark and Jerid Goss in today’s primary.
Both were endorsed by the city Democratic Committee.
Without write-ins counted, Davies received 95 votes to Clark’s five, and Shue got 49 votes to Goss’ 11. However, both Clark and Goss will run on the Republican and Independence lines in November.
COMMUNITY OF RESIDENCE: Center Street, Oneonta for over 30 years.
EDUCATION: Oneonta City Schools (’05) and Academy of Art University in San Francisco (advertising)
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Retail business leadership for over 10 years, most notably maurices at the Southside Mall for five years.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: City of Oneonta sustainability taskforce alongside Mark Davies. First United Methodist Thanksgiving dinner volunteer for several years. Represented maurices as a local Chamber of Commerce member. Coordinator of numerous drives and events as Store Leader of maurices benefitting local groups – focusing on women, children, seniors and animals.
FAMILY: I have a husband, Jared, who is also an Oneonta native, and a son, Henry.
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT: Council members should be elected to advocate for their constituents and ensure tax dollars are used to appropriately address community needs.
MAJOR ISSUES FACING CITY OF ONEONTA:
I think it’s important that we are finding purposeful solutions for the future, rather than making potentially short-sighted decisions. For example, the DRI grant is an important opportunity and it’s crucial that we think about how the decisions we make now will age in the community we want to build.
It’s critical that we focus on growing the local economy by encouraging quality job creation and by reducing the tax burden on homeowners.
We need to facilitate a symbiotic relationship between the City and the colleges. We are a college town – so the students are a vital part of our city’s character, but our year-round residents who have invested in our community deserve respect. This is a continual issue for the residents of my district, so it’s important that we set expectations clearly so that we are all participating in a shared vision for our neighborhood. We should also tap into the college community when it comes to growing industry in our area, as supporting students with jobs in their field after they graduate will help them view (and treat) Oneonta as their home.
I’m also passionate about increased communication and transparency between City Hall and city residents so that everyone feels involved in the processes that impact our quality of life.
MY QUALITIES: strong communicator, results focused, driven, organized, and genuinely optimistic.
When people I grew up with hear that I’m still in our hometown, a lot of them ask me why – and that is exactly why I’m running for city government. The perception among many is that Oneonta is a great place to grow up, but not a great place to stay. We raise great kids, and so many more move here to go to college, but then most end up elsewhere because there isn’t anything to keep them here long term. It’s hard to find housing. It’s hard to find jobs. “There isn’t anything to do.”
Our community has so much potential. We could absolutely be a destination for other families like mine to put down roots; to live, work, shop, dine, and proudly call Oneonta their home. In recent years, we have taken steps toward that potential, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m motivated to dig in, work hard, find solutions to our challenges, and be involved in these decisions that will shape the future of Oneonta.
As a lifelong resident of the Fourth Ward, you can trust that my perspective on issues will come from a place of deeply held personal understanding. I’ve been here through the ups and downs in our community, and I can relate to many of the concerns of my neighbors. Now, more than ever, city residents are voicing their opinions, hoping to be heard by those making decisions on their behalf – and I would be excited and honored to be their representative.
ONEONTA – Anti-gas activists from around Otsego County returned to Oneonta Tuesday, June 18, with the same message: The environmental review to allow redevelopment of the D&H Railyards is not detailed enough.
And Mayor Gary Herzig repeated the same response he has since a stormy hearing Tuesday, March 5 at Foothills: If someone shows up with a plan to actually do something, a more detailed environmental review will be done.
In an unusual change in procedure, no public comment was permitted at this Common Council meeting before a 7-1 vote was taken accepting the final GEIS (general environmental impact statement) the state requires of any prospective development.
Then, as expected in advance reports, the Concerned Citizens of Oneonta and allies as far away as Cherry Valley accused Common Council of ignoring the concerns they’ve been raising.
ONEONTA – Unhappy Concerned Citizens of Oneonta are expected back at tomorrow’s 7 p.m. Common Council meeting.
Common Council is expected to act on the GEIS – generic environmental impact statement – on the D&H railyards redevelopment, and Citizens’ email sent out Sunday says it “dismisses every single comment brought by the public.
“No changes were made at all. And the city is now trying to plow ahead,” it states.
ONEONTA — Mark Drnek, owner of Sweet Home Productions and the creator of the “Everything Oneonta” website has announced his candidacy for the eighth ward seat on Oneonta’s Common Council.
The seat is currently held by Joe Ficano, who announced that he would not seek re-election
In addition to his website and directory, Drnek is the host of a nationally syndicated radio program, “The Blue Light Central,” which is broadcast on nearly 2-dozen stations from Anchorage, Alaska to Asheville, North Carolina.