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News of Otsego County

Cooperstown news

Vacant-Seat Controversy May Go On

Oberacker’s Vacant-Seat

Controversy May Go On

By JIM KEVLIN• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Jennifer Mickle
Diane Addesso

SCHENEVUS –  After a week of political wrangling, two women – one Republican, one Democrat – have emerged as prospective successors to state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, on the county board.

The Republican is Jennifer Mickle, an Oneonta businesswoman who lives in the Town of Maryland, where she has chaired the town Board of Assessment Review.

The Democrat is Diane Addesso, former Worcester town supervisor who operates a graphic-design studio there.

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, who chairs the county board’s Administration Committee, scheduled a special Admin meeting for 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30, after Democrats called the process hurried and unfair.

“My goal in having that meeting,” she said Tuesday, Nov. 24, “is to allow the questions and answers for both candidates … even if it doesn’t come to a vote.”

She added, “The process did not allow both sides to be heard, and I’m trying to remedy that.”

What followed was set in motion Monday, Nov. 16, when Oberacker resigned from his District 6 county board seat.

The next evening, county Republican Chairman Vince Casale convened a meeting of District 6 Republican committee members, and they endorsed Mickle, Oberacker’s choice to succeed him.

Wednesday, www.AllOTSEGO.com reported the news, and Democrats responded with dismay that they weren’t briefed. “I had to read about it on AllOTSEGO.com,” one of the Democratic reps said at the Thursday Admin meeting.

That day, Admin Committee members and county reps in attendance from both parties participated in a Zoom interview with Mickle. The committee then voted 3-1, along party lines, to send her name to the full board at its next meeting Dec. 2.

That evening, the county Democratic Committee convened and selected Addesso as its choice to succeed Oberacker. And the next morning, Kennedy announced her decision to vet Addesso as well.

“Hearing from both sides, and giving the opposition ample time to field a candidate and vet them is the right and fair thing to do,” said Democratic County Chairman Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta, on hearing the news.

Casale demurred, saying both Republicans and Democrats knew on Nov. 3, Election Day, that Oberacker would have to resign. “The Democrats are acting as if they are victims to politics, when they are actually victims of their own ineptitude and lack of planning,” he said.

In an interview, Mickle, who operates United Student Rentals with her husband, Ron, and chairs the Northern Otsego Relay for Life Committee, said joining the county board would be “a wonderful opportunity. I’ve always believed in public service and giving back to the community. I hope my experience will not only be a benefit to District 6, but to the county as a whole.”

In another interview, Addesso said that, while Worcester town supervisor, she streamlined polling places from four to one. That, in addition to her predecessor buying a gravel pit as a savings measure, led to a state citation for good governance. Kennedy said she isn’t sure if the second Admin meeting will achieve anything concrete, since the committee has already recommended Mickle to the county board. The committee’s makeup is three Republicans, two Democrats.

An added wrinkle: With Oberacker having resigned, neither Republicans nor Democrat have a majority of votes. If no Democrat will vote with the Republicans, Mickle can be confirmed.

If that happens, County Attorney Ellen Coccoma has ruled the reps would have to petition Governor Cuomo for a special election, but there’s no guarantee he would OK it.

District 6 is considered a Republican district, so if Mickle had to wait until next November’s election, she might have an advantage.

The county Board of Elections reports there are 1,624 Republicans in District 6, compared to 789 Democrats.

However, there are other voting parties as well: Conservatives (72), Working Families (11), Green (13), Libertarian (15), Independence (225), non-affiliated (704) and “other” (3).

COVID-19 Vaccine Due; Drugstores Prepare

COVID-19 Vaccine Due;

Drugstores Prepare

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – When the COVID-19 vaccine is available, Otsego County will be ready.

“Before the pharmacies could give the flu shot, we used to do a lot of the vaccinations,” said Heidi Bond, county public health director. “We are well aware of what needs to be done when we go into communities that may not have a lot of options for vaccinations.”

With the announcement that Pfizer, whose vaccine reportedly has a 90-percent rate of effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, is applying for “Emergency Use” by the Food & Drug Administration, Bond hopes healthcare workers and first responders could start receiving it as soon as mid-December.

“Front-line workers will be prioritized,” said Bond. “That includes healthcare workers and EMTs.”

And Pfizer isn’t the only trial that’s showing success.

Moderna’s vaccine was reported to have 95-percent efficiency, according to NPR, and the AP reported that the AstraZeneca vaccine,had also shown 90-percent efficiency and, unlike the other two, only required one shot.

In addition to the county Health Department, CVS pharmacies in Cooperstown and Sidney, and Kinney Drugs in Richfield Springs have stepped forward to offer their services in administering the vaccine.

“We’re excited to be part of the community effort to vaccinate against COVID,” said Autumn Koniowka,
pharmacy manager, Cooperstown CVS. “As soon as there is more information made available publically, we’ll start letting people know about the process.”

“When vaccines are authorized and made available to the general public, Kinney pharmacists will be able to administer them following federal vaccine prioritization guidelines,” said Rebecca Bubel, R.Ph. Kinney Drugs president, in a statement. “As we have since 1903, our employee-owners remain 100-percent committed to supporting our communities on the front lines. By working together, we can help bring this pandemic under control.”

Appointments would be scheduled in a similar fashion to their current program, with appointments made online or by calling the pharmacy.

In Oneonta, Walgreens, which has three locations in the city and town, has not indicated whether or not they will offer the vaccine, although they do offer flu and shingles vaccines.

Community partners are critical, said Bond, because otherwise, the Health Department staff could be
“a challenge.”

“We may find ourselves trying to prioritize between contact tracing and vaccinations,” she said.

But with the right resources, including the Health Depart-ment staff, supplemented by volunteers and nursing students, the whole county population – all 59,493 of us – could be vaccinated in three to five days.

The vaccine will be free, although providers may bill a patient’s insurance. Those without insurance will be covered by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund, according to the Center for Disease Control.

But it could still be “3-4 months,” warns Bond, before the general population can line up to get their shot, and much of that depends on how much of the vaccine is sent to the county at a time.

“The earliest I see it available to the general population is March or April,” she said.

COVID-19 Cases Triple In County

COVID-19 Cases

Triple In County

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Heidi Bond

COOPERSTOWN – Last Tuesday, Nov. 17, there were 37 new cases of COVID-19 reported.

In the seven days since, that number tripled to 126 by Nov. 24, with hospitalizations up two, from four to six, since last week, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health Director.

That makes the highest number of community cases – that’s not counting the 700-plus SUNY Oneonta outbreak – since the pandemic started in March.

“If our cases continue to increase the way they have, even taking the holiday out, we are facing unprecedented community spread,” she warned. “Now put in the holiday, and if we don’t take precautions, that number is going to continue to rise.”

Forty-one of the cases are already linked to a gathering of people eating and drinking at the Copper Fox Tavern in Oneonta, making it the largest community cluster.

“Reportedly, they were following all guidelines,” she said of the Copper Fox outbreak. “But patrons don’t have to wear a mask when they’re eating or drinking, so dining out is still a risky activity.”

Two more Oneonta bars have also reported cases, with one employee testing positive at the Beer Barrel Inn in the Sixth Ward. At the Red Jug Pub on Main Street, patrons who were at the popular college bar on Friday, Nov. 20 are being asked to quarantine and monitor their symptoms after an employee who worked that night tested positive.

First responders, including several in the Oneonta Police Department, and both residents and employees of both residential and nursing homes, have also tested positive in the last week.

SUNY Oneonta had a spike in cases, with 12 students and three employees testing positive before students returned home for the rest of the semester, while Hartwick College saw four cases.

By the end of the semester, SUNY’s numbers totaled 764, Hartwick’s, 71.

In all, Oneonta has 66 of the cases, the highest concentra-tion in the county. By contrast, Cooperstown, had numbers “too small to say,” according to Bond; “America’s Most Perfect Village” was singled out by Governor Cuomo at his daily briefing Monday, Nov. 23, for having the lowest numbers in the state.

However, to keep those numbers low, the Cooperstown Village Board this week voted 6-0 to return to meeting over Zoom, beginning at its Dec. 28 meeting.

“I know members who feel that, with the increase in cases, would like to return to virtual meetings for now,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch.

Bassett Healthcare restricted visitors at their hospitals to “only individuals considered essential to the medical care of a patient” – parents, birth partners and those with family members receiving end-of-life care, effective Monday, Nov. 23. Visitation is also suspended at the Fox Nursing Home.

And with the holidays looming, Cuomo issued an executive order banning gatherings of more than 10 people in an attempt to combat the spread. Sheriff Richard J. Devlin said he has insufficient resources and no plans to enforce the order.

“We’re having trouble handling police calls as it is,” he said. “We don’t need to be checking on people’s Thanksgiving dinners, and we won’t.”

He did say, however, if his deputies respond to a domestic or a fight, for instance, and guidelines are being flouted, they might issue tickets.

It’s a sentiment echoed by the state Sheriff’s Association, who issued a statement on Monday, Nov. 24 saying that they lacked the resources to enforce the order. (See text, page A5).

“We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority,” said the statement, which was unsigned.

“We have trust that our citizens will be responsible,” said Devlin. “And the governor’s executive order doesn’t have the teeth for us to even enforce or make arrests.”

But even if enforcement isn’t possible, Bond said that’s no excuse to pack a house full of out-of-town guests.

“My recommendation is not to have Thanksgiving with anyone you don’t associate with on a day-to-day basis,” said Bond. “There is so much community illness, and people are unintentionally spreading it, because they don’t know they have it.”

EDITORIAL: Pilgrims’ Energy, Ambition Lives On Today
EDITORIAL

Pilgrims’ Energy,

Ambition Lives On Today

In Custom Electronics President Mike Pentaris, the American spirit lives. (AllOTSEGO.com/File Photo)

‘Tribute to the Entrepreneurial Spirit.” That’s what the Otsego Chamber of Commerce called its annual awards program on Nov. 12, conducted this year largely via Zoom.

That rallying call couldn’t have come at a better time, given this year’s challenges – a pandemic, a particularly divisive Presidential election, and riots in cities and challenges to the very idea of policing.

The stories the Otsego Chamber’s honorees were a tonic. Liberty lives, and a somewhat level playing field, imperfect as it may be, is still enabling success stories aplenty.
For all that, we offer Thanksgiving.

Yes, the Otsego Chamber celebration underscored that freedom, ambition, achievement and access to prosperity are alive today on our “new Promised Land,” as the Pilgrims envisioned it.

Proof it’s so was Michael Pentaris’ story: As a boy, his family lived in a shipping crate near the harbor of Larnaca, Cyprus. Recognizing her kids were smart, Michael’s mom obtained scholarships for them to the American Academy there.

A scholarship to Brescia College in Owensboro, Ky., followed, and two degrees from SUNY Binghamton. Then, a role in rescuing Graham Labs in Hobart, and guiding its acquisition by a Fortune 500 company. And then, a rise to presidency of Custom Electronics, creating ultracapacitor-maker Ioxus along the way.

In time of COVID-19, Pentaris shifted the technology in BriteShot, which enabled “Law & Order,” “Blue Bloods” and other hit TV shows and movies to be powered
on location anywhere, to AirAffair, which, in three steps, removes the virus from movie sets – any enclosed location, for that matter.

Mike Pentaris was just the beginning:

• BETTIOL DISTINGUISHED CITIZEN: State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford,
had a dream of public service that led him to the pinnacle of state decisionmaking. He had hard-working parents who believed in community service, but he’s wasn’t born with a silver spoon at hand.

• BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS: Pathfinder Village tapped the energies of its residents, many with Down Syndrome, to create Pathfinder Produce & Mobile Market, which not only provided productive labor, but turns out vegetables and food products for needy families.

• SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Theresa’s Emporium, which has figured out how to thrive in downtown Oneonta, on the ground floor of the former Bresee’s for the past 10 years. Despite the Great Recession of 2008 and other challenges, Theresa Cyzeski continues building her business, adding lines and pursuing opportunities.

Seward’s Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Award was created by Gene Sr., whose first business was running an ice-cream truck, and who ended up developing Southside Oneonta into the commercial strip we

Gene Bettiol

all frequent today. His son, taken by cancer in his mid-40s, was a chip off the old block, promoting the National Soccer Hall of Fame, then Foothills – anything he perceived as beneficial to the community.

What’s driving people like these today isn’t so different from what motivated the Pilgrims. Freedom to pursue their dreams brought 102 of them aboard the cramped Mayflower on a dangerous ocean voyage to New England’s shores, coming ashore 400 years ago last Saturday, Nov. 21, at today’s Provincetown, Mass., on the tip of Cape Cod.

It was “new Promised Land,” in their view, where they would be allowed to pursue their beliefs and, after a dozen years in exile and penury in Holland, to improve their economic conditions.

Before going ashore, Pilgrims and crew members signed “The Mayflower Compact,” agreeing to rules of order to ensure the survival of the fledgling community. It’s said to be the first time free people mutually agreed to a form of government.

Remarkable. Also remarkable that, with COVID-19, urban riots and a bitter presidential contest, we Americans mostly let the anniversary pass with so little notice.

Revisiting Jaci Bettiol’s assessment of her father at the time of his passing in December 2017 underscores our point: The Pilgrim spirit lives today. She called his life “inspirational.”

“He lived as if he was going to live forever; going full force each day without slowing down. No one could convince him to stop and smell the roses. There were simply too many opportunities awaiting his vision.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

This Week, Nov. 26-27, 2020
BERKSON: Chickie’s Greatest Gift
LETTER from TERRY BERKSON

Chickie’s Greatest Gift

Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His article have appears in New York magazine, the New York Daily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.

When I was 8 years old, the hero in my life was my cousin Chickie, who drove an oil truck and often took me with him on deliveries.

The job led him all over Brooklyn and, being somewhat of a scavenger, he often came home with a bike or a wagon or some other discarded contraption he thought would be useful.

We lived in Bensonhurst, in a 12-room Victorian that had been divided into apartments. I occupied the second floor with my dad, while Chickie and his wife and two babies lived on the first floor and my Aunt Edna and Uncle Dave and their sons Leo and Charlie lived on the attic floor.

There was also Mr. Bilideau, the boarder, who was a leftover from the time when my grandmother had rented rooms. There had once been a Mr. Yumtov as well, a man who liked to store smoked whitefish in his dresser. Mr. Bilideau was from Canada. He had a room on the second floor and shared the bath with my father and me.

Just about everyone in the house owned something that Chickie had brought home and thrown on the front porch. “I thought you could use one of these,” he’d always say.

In spite of the partitions, it was difficult for so many people to be housed under one roof without having feuds over hot water and noise and things disappearing from refrigerators. Half the time somebody upstairs wasn’t talking to somebody downstairs. Chickie, with his various street finds, was often instrumental in getting them back on speaking terms.

One year, about a week before Thanksgiving, arguments were running high when Chickie came home with a live turkey in a crate. “It’s a 27-pounder,” he announced to several of us who had gathered on the front porch.

I had never seen a turkey alive and up close like this. “Where’d you get it?” I asked, cautiously poking a finger through the bars. “Did it fall off a truck?”“Never mind,” he said. “There’s enough here for all of us.”

I was placed in charge of watering and feeding the bird, which to me looked like some kind of prehistoric monster. I had to lower the water pan through an opened hatch in the top of the cage.

“Don’t worry,” Chickie reassured me when he saw the concern on my face. “That big bird’ll never get through that little hole.”

I figured they must have put the turkey in the crate when he was small and kept feeding him.

So any hard feelings were put aside and preparations for a Thanksgiving dinner at one table were divided between Aunt Edna and Chickie’s wife Ann.

Aunt Edna would bake the pies – mince, blueberry and apple – while Ann would roast the turkey, make stuffing and gravy and prepare candied sweet potatoes, plum pudding and the rest.

Dad, who was working nights on his taxi, would supply the wine and cider and Mr. Bilideau would buy some fruit – and chestnuts, I hoped.

Meanwhile, Chickie had taken to calling the turkey Sylvester, and would spend time with it out on the porch when he came home from work.

He’d stick a fat calloused index finger through the bars and let the bird peck at it. “You’re gonna be a good turkey,” he’d say affectionately.

I was still afraid of the thing and hadn’t warmed up to it that much, but all the talk about how this bird was going to taste sent uneasy twinges through my wishbone.

Three days before Thanksgiving, Chickie came home with bad news. The butcher around the corner didn’t want to slaughter Sylvester. He tried other butchers and they refused too. It suddenly looked like we weren’t going to have turkey for dinner.

A Thanksgiving turkey brought peace to Terry Berkson’s boyhood home in Brooklyn.

We were all gathered in the kitchen trying to come up with a solution. Chickie had carried the crate into the house and put it on top of the stove. “I hear you just chop off his head,” he was musing.

Uncle Dave mentioned that Mr. Bilideau had grown up on a farm in Canada: Surely he’d know how to butcher the bird. “But what about cleaning it and plucking the feathers?” Aunt Edna protested. “That’s a real mess!”

All this talk about butchering must have been too much for Sylvester, too, because suddenly, impossibly, he was out of his crate, flapping his tremendous wings and scratching at anything in sight with his clawed feet.

Everyone scrambled out of the kitchen. Leo and I ran for the bathroom while the others headed for the hall. The last thing I saw was Chickie struggling to keep Sylvester from becoming airborne. I worried that the bird would take my cousin’s eyes out.

How was he going to squeeze Sylvester back through that small trapdoor? I could hear both of them swearing.

After what seemed like a very long time, Chickie announced that the coast was clear. We all crept into the kitchen and found that Sylvester was back in his box. He didn’t look much worse for wear.

“I was careful not to hurt him,” Chickie said.

Mr. Bilideau came downstairs and entered the kitchen to find out what all the commotion was about. When asked he said, “Yes, I’ll butcher the turkey if you have a sharp hatchet.”

He explained that the way to get the feathers out easily was to scald the freshly killed bird in a vat of boiling water. He would use the tree stump in the back yard for the first part of the operation and a lobster pot from the cellar for the second. The procedure would take place the next day after work. We were going to have turkey after all. Chickie stood there in the kitchen with his hand on the hatch door as Sylvester tried to bite through the bars.

The next morning when I left for school the bird wasn’t on the porch. He wasn’t in the cellar or out in the garage, either. Chickie’s Nash was gone from the parking place next to the house. Maybe he had come up with a brainstorm on how to get Sylvester butchered and avoid all the mess.

I was glad that Mr. Bilideau had been relieved of the job. With him doing it, I pictured us all sitting around chewing on feathers.

After school I ran home and eagerly waited for Chickie to return with Sylvester. I felt a little guilty about it, but I was kind of looking forward to seeing the bird stripped of his claws and feathers and head. I sat on the stoop as big wet snowflakes floated toward the ground.

Chickie pulled in the driveway right on schedule. He got out of the car with a large brown paper bag and walked up to where I was sitting.

“Is that the turkey?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. I looked in the bag. There was a bald thing with pockmarks all over it.

That Thanksgiving was one of the most festive I can remember. The table was so long we had to set it up in the hall. I noticed that Chickie, sitting at the head, was in especially good spirits.

In my mind, the feast with a golden-brown bird at the center seemed to exude a joyous radiance. Somehow I understood that it was our turkey, Sylvester, that had brought us all together.

Years later, on a cold November day, as we were on our way to make an oil delivery, I asked Chickie if it had really been Sylvester in the bag that afternoon. He chuckled as he shifted the Mack down to a lower gear.

Then he looked over at me and said, “Nah.”

Community Foundation: Apply For 2021 Grants 

Community Foundation:

Apply For 2021 Grants 

COOPERSTOWN – Our COVID Fund has now secured $220,000 to address many needs arising out of the pandemic. We issued 25 awards to date and have about $40,000 remaining to distribute.

Next Up is our plan for 2021. Our board has authorized allocation of $200,000 to the 2021 Awards Round. “We need community input on how to focus our investing these funds,” said Harry Levine, foundation board president.

Twenty-five non-profits have received funding so far, beginning with a $5,000 grant on May 5 to Helios Care, the successor to Catskill Area Hospice, for PPE equipment.

“COVID awards used funds to address issues ranging from rewarding first line health professionals with gift cards to buy food from local restaurants to extending working capital grants (not loans) to small businesses to help them get back on their feet after shuttering this spring,” Levine said.

“…Over 300 donors supported this Fund demonstrating the we live in a caring community.”

TO FILL OUT QUESTIONNAIRE, VISIT WWW.CFOTSEGO.ORG
Rockefeller Owl To Fly Free Tonight

SAGA OF A SMALL BIRD

After Wild Ride,

Rockefeller Owl 

To Fly Free Tonight

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Rocky will continue her migration south when she is released this evening near Saugerties. (photo credit, Ravensbeard Wildlife Center.)

ONEONTA – Rocky, the Saw-whet owl found inside “Daddy Al” Dick’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, will be released this evening into a conifer forest near Saugerties, where she has spent the last week rehabilitating after her three-day, 170 mile journey from Oneonta to Manhattan.

When we picked Rocky up she was struggling,” said Ellen Kalish, Ravensbeard Wildlife Center Director and Founder. “We believe it had been about three days since she ate or drank anything. The first order of business was to give her fluids and feed her all the mice she could eat.”

During her recovery, Kalish was also surprised to discover that Rocky was actually female.

Cuomo Praises Cooperstown As Lowest In COVID Infections

Cuomo Praises Cooperstown

As Lowest In COVID Infections

With an infection rate of .24 percent, Cooperstown was praised by Governor Andrew Cuomo during his press briefing yesterday as being the lowest in the state. Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, who snapped this screenshot, echoed the praise in a press release sent this morning.  “We are pleased that Cooperstown was singled out in Gov. Cuomo’s Nov. 23 briefing for its low COVID-19 infection rate,” she said. “As Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays approach, the Village Board of Trustees supports NYS and CDC recommendations for continued safe practices during the pandemic to keep our rate low. ” During last night’s Village Board Meeting, the board voted 6-0, with one absence, to return to virtual meetings for December.

 

Cooperstown Village Board Returns To Virtual Meetings

Cooperstown Village Board

Returns To Virtual Meetings

Mayor Tillapaugh

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – Citing the rising COVID numbers around the county, the Cooperstown Village Board this evening voted 6-0 to return to meeting over Zoom, beginning at its Dec. 28 meeting.

“I know members who feel that, with the increase in cases, would like to return to virtual meetings for now,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch.

“I am also in favor of virtual meetings,” added Trustee Joe Membrino.

28 COVID Cases Reported Saturday, Sunday

28 COVID-19 Cases

Surface On Weekend

CDC image of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – COVID-19 numbers continue to climb in the county, with 28 cases reported over the weekend, according to Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health Director.

11 cases were reported Saturday, Nov. 21 and 17 were reported today, Bond noted in her daily press release. According to the NY Forward Dashboard, Otsego County currently has a 1.1 percent average positivity rate, with 600 people tested yesterday.

Parking Lot 75 Percent Done,  Village Trustee Told On Tour

Parking Lot 75 Percent Done,

 Village Trustee Told On Tour

Scott Metke, center, project manager for McCarthy Building Companies, based in St. Louis, reports the 150-space parking lot under construction at Walnut and Susquehanna is 75 percent complete.  At left is Village Trustee MacGuire Benton, who was given a tour of the project this morning.  Originally, Benton said, the plan was to complete the parking lot by last July, in time for Derek Jeter’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but the COVID-19 threat delayed both Induction and the job’s completion.  Most of the work to date has been out of sight — drainage, primarily — but McCarthy plans to have the lot black-topped before the asphalt plants close for the season, Benton says he was told, with completion, including the final coat, lights and landscaping in the spring.  Also on the tour are, from left, McCarthy’s Bob Valeski; Kendra Beers-Capraro. Bassett facilities-planning director, and McCarthy’s Elizabeth Swart.   Benton said he’s glad he supported the project, which he anticipates will easing traffic on Atwell, Fair and Beaver streets around Bassett, and thus increase pedestrian safety.  (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
This Week, Nov. 19-20, 2020
CCS Outbreak Hits Herzigs
Otsego COVID Cases Double, 5 Delaware Ones Sent Here

CCS Outbreak Hits Herzigs

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Mayor Gary Herzig takes a COVID test when the SUNY epidemic h

ONEONTA – In the past week, Otsego County doubled its November COVID-19, leaving Oneonta’s mayor and his wife among the newly quarantined.

With 37 new cases of the virus identified from Tuesday the 10th to Tuesday the 17th, the number of cases for the month rose from 46 to 83 in just seven days. Two from Otsego County were hospitalized, including a resident from a group home where 16 were infected after a staff member tested positive.

“The numbers are going in the wrong direction,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “And unfortunately, it’s a bit random, so that’s worrisome.”

Herzig himself is in “voluntary quarantine” after his wife Connie was exposed at Cooperstown Elementary School. She was deemed to be in “close contact” with a Cooperstown Elementary School teacher who tested positive for COVID on Monday, Nov. 16.

Herzig, who was substitute teaching at the school she retired from in 2018, is under required quarantine for two weeks.

“It’s something we’re all going through,” said the mayor, who was nonetheless able to attend this week’s Common Council meeting, held via Zoom.

Neither Herzig has shown symptoms or tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday, Nov. 17.

But more worrisome, said Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director, is that her team so far hasn’t been able to link — or contact trace – some of these new cases spreading across the county.

“People can’t figure out where they picked it up,” she said. “These are people who have no known exposure to someone who they knew had tested positive.”

Last week, an employee at Applebee’s in the Southside Mall tested positive, but Bond said that no patrons have come forward with positive tests, only a few “close contacts” of the patient.

And before that, staff and residents of two residential living facilities, one in Oneonta and one in Cooperstown, tested positive for the virus, marking small “clusters” of cases that could be traced.

“That’s what we do when we interview people,” she said. “We try to determine where they’ve been for the last two weeks.”

The good news, she said, is that the SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College outbreaks have quieted, with one case at Hartwick and three at SUNY in recent days.

It’s too early, she said, to determine how many cases will spread from the positives at Cooperstown and Greater Plains Elementary Schools, both which went to remote learning this week after positive tests.

In all, 218 people are in quarantine, with one hospitalized at Albany Medical Center.
Local hospitals, meanwhile, are housing patients from Delaware County.

“Delaware County doesn’t have any ICU beds,” Bond told the SUNY Oneonta COVID-19 Task Force during its meeting on Monday, Nov. 16. “Two of those patients are at Fox Hospital, and three of them
at Bassett.”

According to Karen Huxtable-Hooker, Bassett Health Network spokesman, no hospitals in Delaware County are critical-access hospitals and they don’t have any ICU beds.

“They routinely transfer critical-care patients elsewhere,” she said.

While Fox does not have a dedicated ICU, Huxtable-Hooker said they have sectioned off spaces to provide COVID-specific care.

“Not all patients who are hospitalized for the coronavirus need ICU care,” said Huxtable-Hooker. “Some respond to treatment quickly and fully recover.”

Numbers are rising statewide and nationally, especially as students prepare to head home for the holidays, a move that could cause cases to spike.

“Families bringing their kids back to the area need them to quarantine for 14 days,” she said. “It’s hard, it’s the holidays, and no one wants to quarantine away from their family.”

SQSPCA Animal Shelter Dreams Coming True

SQSPCA Animal Shelter

Dreams Coming True

SQSPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes discusses progress on the shelter with Lane Construction Project Manager Rick Bliss, left, and architect Andrew Schuster. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – At the Susquehanna SPCA’s new shelter, not only will you be able to see the difference, you’ll be able to smell it too.

“Dogs communicate through smell,” said Andrew Schuster, principal architect with Ashley McGraw, Syracuse. “To keep stress levels down, every dog will have a separately ‘exhausted’ kennel to ensure odor privacy, so that you don’t have a lot of barking.”

The new shelter is rapidly rising on the new campus on Route 28, across from Kevin’s Royal Ford.

“When I walked in there, I almost cried,” said Stacie Haynes, executive director. “To be able to see something tangible after all these efforts and all their support – in some ways, it’s hard to believe!”

Ground-breaking was in August 2019, and completion is on track for late April.

“There have been some delays on the supply side due to COVID,” said Haynes. “But where they can’t work on one project, they work on another.”

Walls have been put up and trusses have been placed on both the shelter and the thrift store; the elaborate plumbing network was installed before the slab was poured. Each pen has its own drainage system for easy cleaning and waste removal. Drains are also in place
for surgical sinks, laundry and bathrooms.

“It’s a challenge to approach this building in designing it for animals,” said Schuster. “Most building codes are designed for people, so trying to determine, for instance, where to place toilet fixtures, is a bit of a challenge!”

Schuster, whose firm specializes in sustainable buildings, said he paid special attention to insulation and air tightness to minimize mold and prioritize air circulation and quality.

“Normally, HVAC is a third of the cost of a project,” said Rick Bliss, project manager for William H. Lane Construction’s Cooperstown office. “But with this building, it’s half our cost.”

“It will be a very healthy place to visit,” said Haynes. “Especially during a pandemic.”

In addition to the reduction in odor, the pens will also be two-part, separated by a “doggie door.”

“This gives dogs an opportunity to relieve themselves someplace other than their living space,” said Haynes.

In the event that the shelter takes in multiple animals at a time – for instance, Haynes says, a dog hoarding case – the doors can be closed, dividing the kennel in two.

The room will also have windows to let in natural light, with the lower sill high enough so dogs can’t see any squirrels that may go running past.

“That will also cut down on barking,” said Schuster.

The SQSPCA set a $5 million goal in its “Shelter Us” campaign, and so far, has raised $4.6 million towards the goal.

“The idea is to enter our new building without debt so that we have more resources to put towards our animals,” said Haynes. “Having a mortgage and having to allocate some of our budget: That is Plan B.”

The closure of the thrift store at the height of the pandemic put a strain on the budget, but Haynes said she was touched by the ongoing contributions to their fundraising efforts.

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