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News of Otsego County

Common Council

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.

BRENNER: Officers’ Dedication, Professionalism Have Earned City’s Support

LETTER FROM THE CHIEF

Officers’ Dedication,

Professionalism Have

Earned City’s Support

Editor’s Note: In this July 19 letter, Oneonta Police Chief Douglas W. Brenner expressed his concern about the“Say Their Names” photo display at the Westcott Lot. Nonetheless, Common Council unanimously approved the display Tuesday, July 21, and it was installed this past Sunday.

The Oneonta Police Department has always placed the needs and concerns of the residents and visitors to the City of Oneonta as its first priority.

Promoted to Oneonta police chief in 2017, Douglas W. Brenner has served with the OPD since 1998, after 12 years experience in the sheriff’s department and as a corrections officer. 

While not insensitive to the issues facing the nation and the world, the efforts of the members of the department are best focused on what we can do for our neighbors to make Oneonta a better place for everyone.

On the agenda for the regular meeting of the Oneonta Common Council for July 21, Item 9 is listed as a topic for discussion and pertains to a photographic display supporting Black Lives Matter to be placed on the fence at the head of the Westcott lot on Main Street.

I would be remiss not to express my concerns with a photographic display that could show members of law enforcement locally in a negative context.

The city is blessed to have residents and visitors who can freely express themselves in a respectable and constructive manner, which has been seen on at least two occasions in the recent past.

We enjoy good neighbors, friendships and any display that disrupts the community feeling and positive energy of the community serves no purpose but to divide, especially when the content of the display is in relation to incidents that did not occur locally and show all law enforcement, including members of Oneonta Police Department, negatively.

Any display that could have ramifications that are potentially divisive to the City of Oneonta, its residents and its businesses, is not an image that should be promoted.

In addition, as the chief of police, one of my top concerns is for the wellbeing of the members of the Oneonta Police Department.

Police officers throughout the nation are under attack for the disturbing and unlawful actions of a few other law enforcement officials from other agencies who they have no contact with, no allegiance to, any sympathy for, and no tolerance for such actions.

This has caused a national shortage of those who wish to serve their community. Oneonta is no exception to this shortage. The department currently has two unfilled patrol officer positions and two members who are eligible for retirement. The current civil service list is almost exhausted and there is no entrance exam scheduled for this year by the state.

Many other departments throughout the state are accepting lateral transfers, as are we, but are able to offer more advantageous working conditions.

If my officers sense that the City of Oneonta is not supporting their hard work, their dedication to community, their professionalism, their unwavering dedication to fairness by allowing a divisive display, the probability of losing more officers increases.

We at the Oneonta Police Department enjoy a positive relationship with our friends and neighbors in the city, and work very hard to promote good relationships with all members of the community in which we protect and serve. A display that intentionally shows all members of law enforcement in a negative light based on the actions of a few from well outside our area would be devastating to the morale of the finest officers I have ever had the pleasure to work with and lead.

As the chief of police and a lifelong community member, I would hope that all factors are taken into consideration before any display is permitted in the City of Oneonta. Our strength comes from ourselves, and the residents in the City of Oneonta are compassionate, respectful,
have concern and empathy for our neighbors, and love of community.

Any display that does not emphasize the positivity only serves as a catalyst to create division and polarization of this community.

Yours in service,

Douglas W. Brenner

Chief of Police

Common Council Asked To Spend $1.6M Tuesday

Common Council Asked

To Spend $1.6M Tuesday

ONEONTA – Common Council will be asked to spend $1.6 million when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, but Mayor Gary Herzig said the biggest portion is paid by a federal grant, and the $182,000 “multi-purpose” police vehicle was custom-ordered before the coronavirus’ economic crunch hit.

The semi-weekly agenda released last evening includes:

Oneonta Could Lose $2.5 Million In Revenue

Oneonta Could Lose

$2.5 M From NY Cuts

City Hall Can Absorb It, But Cuts Needed

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special To AllOTSEGO.com

Virginia Lee

ONEONTA – With an estimated 20 percent cut to state aid, Oneonta could see a total loss in revenue of $2.5 million in 2020, City Hall’s Finance Director Virginia Lee told Common Council this evening.

“With the number of events that have cancelled, I wouldn’t be surprised if we lose $2.5 million,” she said.

Last week, Lee predicted that sales tax losses alone could remove as much as $1.6 million from the city’s revenue stream, with state aid being reduced by as much as $400,000 in a severe scenario.

Common Council Livestreams Meeting

Common Council

Live-Streaming Meeting

Council member Luke Murphy, First Ward, seated, maintains social distancing as Mayor Gary Herzig conducts tonight’s Common Council meeting, now streaming live on the City’s Facebook Page. City Hall is currently closed to the public due to the state’s recommendation to protect people from Coronavirus, but citizens are encouraged to watch online and send questions. “If you have concerns, you can reach out to me directly, and I will personally get the answer for you,” Herzig said. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
City Meetings To Be Live-Streamed, Activities Cancelled, Mayor Reports

OPT Remains Open, Activities Cancelled

‘Social Distancing’

To Guide City Hall,

Mayor Announces

Mayor Herzig.

ONEONTA – To implement “social distancing” in the fight against spreading coronavirus, Mayor Gary Herzig announced this evening that Common Council meetings  will be streamed on Facebook Live.

CDC images of coronavurus

“The public is encouraged to attend remotely,” said Mayor Gary Herzig in a statement. “The severity of this pandemic can only be minimized by all communities acting locally to mitigate the spread of this virus.

“Here in the City of Oneonta, we owe it to ourselves, our neighbors and our fellow New Yorkers to voluntarily implement social distancing measures in all group activities,” he said.

CLICK FOR MAYOR’S FULL MEMO TO PUBLIC

 

Council Goes Ahead With $70,000 For Destination Oneonta

Council Goes Ahead

With $70,000 For

Destination Oneonta

By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Council member Drnek repeated his concern that Destination Oneonta not lose its focus on downtown. (James Cummings/AllOTSEGO.com)

ONEONTA – Two weeks after delaying funding for Destination Oneonta, Common Council voted unanimously to approve $70,000 for the downtown promotion organization.

Still, questions remained.

“Is there a vision and strategy for Destination Oneonta’s future,” said Council member Mark Drnek, Ward 8, who raised the original concerns, “in which it becomes more self-sustaining, even as its core mission remains unchanged but it’s membership grows to be more inclusive of the Greater Oneonta area and less exclusively representative of Downtown business?”

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