COOPERSTOWN – Everyone said that it was impossible to get a parking place and admission to the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Jane Goodwin Duel didn’t buy it.
She and a close friend left Warren, Vt., before dawn in her light blue VW convertible bug with the Rolls Royce hood, car festooned with international flags and packed with helium balloons.
Arriving at the Olympic checkpoints, their festive phaéton was waved through. In short order they had tickets to the women’s giant slalom and men’s figure skating, seeing Robin Cousins win the gold medal – and they picnicked on Mirror Lake in between.
It’s been hard to approximate layoffs. Business owners don’t want to announce them, and the monthly figures seem so theoretical.
Bassett Healthcare Network, people figure – and have heard anecdotally from time to time – has certainly furloughed and cut back hours after closing two floors and halting elective surgeries while coronavirus was considered a pending local emergency. But it doesn’t want to brag about it either.
So the county Board of Representatives plans to lay off 59 people – 50.5 FT equivalents, 10 percent of its payroll for $1 million in savings, and hardly enough – was a bracing bucket of cold water.
So were state Sen. Jim Seward’s declarations over the past few weeks that a depended-upon safety net, the state Department of Labor, is inaccessible. No one’s answering the phone and constituents, after days of trying, have been calling the senator’s office in tears. He wants answers, and action.
We need to focus, people.
In an interview the other day, the able Cassandra Harrington, executive director of Destination Marketing Corp. of Otsego County (too long a name) or DMCOC (meaningless acronym) had some scary numbers to share.
In 2018, she said, tourism brought $206 million to Otsego County, of which $101 million was spent employing people in a total of 3,426 jobs. Those jobs aren’t there this summer.
Happily, Destination Marketing has an action plan: It is rolling out a summer marketing promotion on June 1, looking to draw people here from a 150-mile radius.
Before we all throw up our hands in horror: The idea is to attract people, hopefully a lot of them, to kayak (with a loved one who has been equally exposed, or not exposed). And go to our airy beaches. And
Ride bicycles – one person per bike. And hike our lovely trails – 6 feet apart, of course.
Social distancing is easy in the Great Outdoors.
After July 1, when the Hall of Fame and other attractions very likely will have reopened
(The Clark Sports Center is looking to open that day), the marketing plan will shift to attractions, (paced to ensure the local institutions are not overcrowded.)
In the fall, the marketing will shift to foliage.
All of this makes sense, in line with the two-word imperative: REOPEN SAFELY. Both words matter equally; each must be done.
One, are Destination Marketing’s promotions being sufficiently financed?
The county’s contribution to DMCOC is based on last year’s sales- and bed-tax revenues. We know the county’s broke, but it should take a flinty-eyed look at cost-benefit before it considers cutting here.
Another source of revenue is the Partners’ Program – partners being individual hotels, restaurants and attractions. They also are strapped, some less so, and they should participate if they can.
How about our local private foundations? Perhaps they can help ensure marketing efforts are fully funded.
People, some anyhow, are reluctant to accept the fact Otsego County is a tourist economy. That fact is going to be dramatically emphasized in the months ahead.
Two, local business must do what they can to serve, and thus profit from the people lured here by DMCOC’s marketing campaigns.
Maybe restaurants can make box lunches for bicyclists or picnickers. Maybe stores can set up sidewalk displays (enabled by municipalities.) Otsego County Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan said Oneonta City Hall is considering allowing all restaurants to do sidewalk cafes.
Nice, airy and safe idea.
Individual businesses know better how to do so for themselves. It’s important they do so.
We’re all in a fix. But it’s not a fix that’s going to last forever.
Maybe the weather will slow the coronavirus. Maybe a vaccine will be developed over the fall or winter or sooner. Maybe immunity will become widespread. Pandemics eventually end, some more happily than others.
The point is, as we flattened the curve, let’s now do what we can to soften the economic pain.
COOPERSTOWN – CCS junior John Kennedy landed on the Class C 2nd team NYSSWA all-state boys basketball team. Kennedy averaged 17.3 points a game and led the Hawkeyes to the Section 3 Class C championship game this season.
Edmeston’s Josh Martin was also a 2nd team selection for Class D. Martin, a junior. averaged 22 points a game and helped the Panthers win their second consecutive Tri-Valley League title this season.
Oneonta’s Graham Wooden was selected third team in Class B. Wooden, a senior, was the ‘Jackets team leader averaging 21.2 points a game. He will play basketball next season for D2 Mansfield University.
MILFORD – In an average shopping trip, Laura Eggleston, Milford Food Pantry director, might buy 1,100 pounds of food to serve their 39 households.
On Monday, April 13, she placed an order for 4,300 pounds. “In these last two weeks, we’ve served 56 families,” she said. “That’s 193 individuals.”
As the COVID-19 crisis deepens, food banks across the county are seeing “a dramatic uptick,” said Maj. Cheryl Compton, Salvation Army. “Everyone just paid rent and many of them haven’t gotten their unemployment this month.”
Many of them are new customers, noted Julia Perdue, Cooperstown Food Pantry director. “We served 29 new households last month,” she said. “In all, we served 219 families. That’s our highest since 2007.”
“We’ve already seen 15 new people this month,” said Joyce Mason, director, St. James Food Pantry. “And it’s going to get worse the longer this goes on.”
However, she noted, the evening feeding ministry, The Lord’s Table, has seen a decline in people coming for the take-out hot meals. “It’s a social thing for them,” she said. “People want to sit down, and not being able to do so is difficult for them, so they don’t come.”
In Richfield Springs, Polly Renckens has seen the same influx of new clients herself, but worries the poor weather – or fears about COVID-19 exposure or that food may have run out – is keeping some former clients away.
“We have plenty of food!” she assured. “If we don’t see some people soon, we’re going to start calling individually to check on them.”
At many of the pantries, visitors are given a “shopping list” where they can check off what they need and want. “Client choice maintains dignity and alleviates food waste,” said Purdue. “If we give someone something they don’t want, it’s just going to go to waste on a shelf.”
The groceries are packed and bagged by volunteers – in masks and gloves – and then taken curbside for the client to pick up, contact-free. “We make every effort to protect the safety of our volunteers and clients,” said Renckens.
And so that no one goes hungry, Stacie Haynes, executive director, Susquehanna SPCA, started
a pet food pantry to help families stretch their budgets in tight times. The pantry has
been placed outside of the shelter so that people can maintain social distancing.
But, she noted, if someone can’t get to the pantry, a volunteer will take the food to them.
And although the pantries are seeing a rise in need for the pantries, they’re also seeing a rise in donations.
“We’ve raised $1,000 in the last month,” said Eggleston. “A dollar buys $10 of food from the regional food bank.”
“People are donating anything they can,” said Mason. “And we’re getting a lot of help from organizations.”
Even between pantries, there’s sharing. “If I have an excess of anything, I call around to see who needs it,” said Mason. “That’s just how I do it. We have to help each other out.”
But however long this lasts, Eggleston assures people that the pantry will always be there to help their neighbors.
“As long as we have food, we’ll hand it out,” she said.
At the Cooperstown Farmer’s Market, Sherrie Kingsley, Otsego 2000 Executive Director Ellen Pope and Deb Dalton wear protective masks as they fill 40 orders for curbside pick-ups. “People order online and we follow the list going from vendor to vendor,” explained board member Robert Nelson, who was at the door making sure customers washed their hands before entering. “The vendors have been really prepared and organized, numbering the bags and making sure everything is organized. With this many orders, we kept this many people out of the market and kept that many safe. We hope this is successful.” Signs ask patrons to adhere to 6-foot social distancing and not to touch any of the produce; the sellers bag it themselves. At right, Seth Friedman, Greentopia Farm, Davenport, was offering some of his own masks (which he uses for harvesting mushrooms) to customers. “When you pick mushrooms you have to wear gloves and masks because you don’t want to be exposed too much to their spores,” he said. “So these safety measures are normal for me.” The markets, in Pioneer Alley, is open until 2 p.m. today (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Our usually full supermarkets now feature empty shelves where products we rely on used to be.
Tops, Price Chopper and Hannaford are all struggling to keep up with unprecedented demand as consumers stock up in the face of the COVID-19 virus crisis, but that doesn’t mean the food supply is in jeopardy.
CLIMATE TALK – 6:30 – 8 p.m. Learn about global warming, species loss at talk ‘Climate Crisis: Heading for Extinction (And What To Do About It)’ by Dr. Art Weaver. Templeton Hall, 63 Pioneer St., Cooperstown.
HOLIDAY WORKSHOP – 1 – 3 p.m. Children are invited to decorate their own Christmas bulb, sing along to Christmas carols on player piano. Oneonta History Center, 183 Main St., Oneonta. 607-432-0960 or visit www.oneontahistory.org/index.htm