Federal, state, and local representatives all agreed broadband access remains a significant impediment to Otsego County’s economic growth as they spoke to the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s virtual “2022 State of the State” presentation on January 11.
The Chamber lined up Congressman Antonio Delgado, State Senator Peter Oberacker, Members of Assembly Chris Tague, John Salka, and Brian Miller, County Board of Representatives Chair David Bliss, Oneonta Mayor Mark Drnek, and Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh to outline their respective priorities for the year ahead. Infrastructure — which includes rural broadband — was high on everyone’s list.
“Washington talked about infrastructure for decades,” Rep. Delgado said in his keynote address. “Finally in 2021 we were able to come together and get something done. Based on formula funding alone, New York should get $1 billion in highway repair funds, $2 billion for bridges, and $100 million for broadband access across the state.”
ONEONTA — Joshua Beams, the new Otsego County administrator, met with Rep. Jill Basile, D-Oneonta, on Friday, Oct. 8, to reassure her constituents “there will be no fiscal impact for Oneonta” with regards to the new EMS plans for the county.
Beams stressed Oneonta, which has its own community-funded EMS, will not be double charged for the county’s supplemental ambulance service, which is direly needed in rural areas of Otsego.
According to Beams, the EMS service would be an “opt-in only program.” The county will still service Oneonta through mutual aid, but city and/or town residents won’t be taxed for the service if they chose to opt out.
“There will be no fiscal impact for Oneonta,” Beams assured Basile.
Joshua Beams, a 2005 SUNY Oneonta graduate, was appointed as Otsego County administrator, effective Oct. 4, at a special meeting of the county’s Board of Representatives Tuesday, Sept. 7.
The position was originally approved in December 2019, but the hiring was delayed a year because of a 2020 hiring freeze at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
The position was discussed in county government circles for decades, as Otsego County is governed by a group of 14 legislators and has no executive branch of government. The county’s Inter-governmental Affairs Committee studied governmental forms and executive roles for a year before approving the change in 2019.
ONEONTA – County Rep. Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta, who is also the county Democratic chairman, announced today he plans to run for a second term. His district includes Wards 1 and 2, encompassing the city’s East End and the colleges.
“I’m very grateful to the people in my district for placing their trust in me, and hope they will do so again,” he said.
Oliver said “the unexpected events regarding the pandemic” dominated his first term, as the county board sought to mitigate financial impacts. He said his next to will involve “continuing to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, transparently relaying informing to the public.”
MILFORD – Emily Popek, former Daily Star manager editor, has posted on her Facebook page that she intends to run for county representative in District 5, challenging Meg Kennedy, the board’s vice chairman.
District 5 includes Milford, Hartwick and New Lisbon. Under the county board’s weighted voting system, the position has the most people, and thus the most voting clout, of all the 14 districts.
COOPERSTOWN – Partisan perspectives led to lively debates this morning at the February meeting of the county Board of Representatives, but the three related resolutions were blunted or failed to reach the floor.
First, a resolution – to chide Assemblyman John Salka and state Sen. Peter Oberacker for a bill specifying New Yorkers can refuse the COVID vaccine – was watered down into a neutral statement asking the state Legislature to do what it could to expedite inoculations. It passed unanimously.
Second came two warring resolutions on violence – the Republican one decrying the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol AND violence at Black Lives Matter protests over the summer; the Democratic one decrying just the Jan. 6 assault. Both failed to garner sufficient support.
COOPERSTOWN – The county board’s Administration Committee recessed this morning without taking any action on the Democratic nominee to fill state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s District seat.
The committee interviewed Democrat Diane Addesso, the former Worcester town supervisor.
But it decided, since the Admin Committee has a 3-2 Republican majority and has already endorsed Oneonta businesswoman Jennifer Mickle for the job, there was no point in pushing for a vote, said Admin Chair Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, Milford and New Lisbon.
The Addesso interview was conducted in executive session, closed to public view, as was Mickle’s interview last week.
COOPERSTOWN – A special Administration Committee meeting has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30, to interview the Democrat-backed prospect to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker in the county board’s District 6, Admin Chairman Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick said today.
The meeting will not be Dec. 2, as previously reported.
The Democrats have already identified a prospect in District 6 (Maryland, Worcester, Westford and Decatur), according to Democratic County Chairman Clark Oliver. He said the candidate is a woman, but he hasn’t identified her yet.
COOPERSTOWN – After tabling the measure two weeks ago, the county Board of Representatives today rallied behind Destination Marketing of Otsego County, with nine reps rejecting a resolution to reduce funding for its promotional arm from 15 percent to 24 percent.
Rep. Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta, proposed the larger cut for DMCOC, saying, “With the present state of the industry” – tourism – “we’re not going to be doing as much in this atmosphere.” Michele Farwell, D-Morris, second the motion.
COOPERSTOWN – After a 2½-hour executive session, the Otsego County Board of Representatives emerged this afternoon to vote, 9-4, with one absence, to lay off 58 employees, saving $1 million in the face of plummeting revenues caused by the coronavirus threat.
The meeting, the second this month, was called specifically to decide on layoffs.
Four Democratic county representatives voted nay: Michele Farwell, Gilbertsville; and three Oneontans, Andrew Stammel and freshmen Clark Oliver and Jill Basile. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, had participated in the Facebook Live meeting, but was absent for the vote.
COOPERSTOWN – Saying “most people understand HPPA and privacy implications,” county board Chair Dave Bliss told his colleagues today Otsego County residents will only be given gross numbers about the coronavirus infestation.
However, he said, individuals and families may “self-disclose,” he said.
Some larger counties are releasing data by town, but “guidance from the state is that smaller counties with smaller population have the right not to disclose, which is what we’ve decided to do,” since people might be able to determine who the individuals are.
COOPERSTOWN – Richard Sternberg, saying he was acting on behalf of the Susquehanna SPCA, told what appeared to be a partly surprised county Board of Representatives this evening that the Shelter will begin unilaterally levying fees Jan. 1 on county entities and towns that require its services.
“We will be initiating a billing system,” said Sternberg, the retired Bassett surgeon and Cooperstown village trustee, who said he was acting as an adviser to the Shelter’s Board of Directors.
Speaking at the public hearing on the 2020 county budget at the county courthouse, he said when Executive Director Stacie Haynes’ time is required, a fee of $80 an hour will be levied, with quarter-hour increments. For other staff members, it will be a $40 hour fee, plus $30 per day for caring for each animal housed at the shelter, and 65 cent per mile mileage if staffers’ or Shelter vehicles are used.
“I don’t think (county government) is run as effectively as the people who elect us should demand it should be,” county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, inset at right, told the 10 people who attended an informational session this evening in Oneonta City Hall on the county Board of Representatives’ plan to create a $150,000 county manager job to run the $116 million operation. Members of the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee – chair Meg Kennedy, and county Reps. Michele Farwell, Liz Shannon, Andrew Marietta and Oberacker – repeated presentations they gave at last week’s monthly county board meeting. In the Q&A, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, top photo, who works with a city manager, said policy questions will be still be debated in open meetings, but operational decisions – his example: which roads get paved – will be made out of the public eye. A second informational meeting – the League of Women Voters is running the sessions for the county board – will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the county courthouse in Cooperstown. The official public hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, prior to the county board’s monthly meeting. Seated at rostrum in top photo are, from left, the League’s Stephanie Bauer, and county Representatives Gary Koutnik, David Bliss (chairman), Farwell, Shannon, Kennedy and, with back to camera, Andrew Stammel. Behind Herzig are two new county reps, Clark Oliver and Jill Basile.