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News of Otsego County

Dan Crowell

No Helicopter, But Army Reservists Back in County For Training

No Helicopter, But Reservists

Back in County For Training

As mayor of a fictitious village, CGP Professor Cindy Falk leads reservists in a training exercise outside Coopers- town. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

For the sixth time in seven years, the Cooperstown Graduate Program has coordinated with the Army Reserves to do field training in the Cooperstown area.

According to CGP Professor Cindy Falk, about 30 soldiers from Fort Drum, six cadets from Syracuse University and six CGP students from her Culture and Collections class worked together on training exercises over a three-day weekend, from Thursday, March 25, to Saturday, March 27.

“We did what we have been doing since 2015,” Falk said. “We just had to do it differently this year.”

To accommodate coronavirus restrictions, the group had a hard cap of 50, Falk said, and the soldiers, cadets and students were kept apart as much as possible to avoid any health issues.

Beginning Thursday, March 25, the soldiers – reservists from the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion’s Alpha Company in Syracuse – did classroom training, with a remote seminar from Bassett Healthcare Network officials and in person lectures from the CGP and Fort Drum officials.

On Friday, the soldiers and cadets worked on a mass casualty and evacuation drill.

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair

Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Vince Casale and wife (and fellow consultant) Lynn Krogh with a wall of memorabilia. (Jim Kevline/AllOTSEGO.com)

It was 2013. The issue was fracking. And four prominent local Republicans knocked on Vince Casale’s door.

“It was conveyed to me that the party was in some trouble,” said Casale, who last week advised the Republican County Committee he is resigning as chairman.

“My work is done,” he said. “It’s time for a change.”

He recommended Lori Lehenbauer of Worcester, Republican county elections commissioner, as his successor.

His seven years spanned the tenures of four of his Democratic counterparts.

In 2013, the first Democrat elected to countywide office in memory, Dan Crowell, was running for reelection unopposed, Casale recalled.

There was a shortage of candidates and, “when people were asked to run, they were just left to themselves.”

The committee had been using raffles to raise money – that was illegal, it turned out, leading to a sizable fine.

“At the time, I was consulting,” Vince recounted the other day – he still operates the Cooperstown-based Casale Group with his wife, Lynn Krogh, most recently helping guide state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s campaign. “I was very happy.”

But the GOP contingent told him, “We need to win races. You know how to win races.”

Remembers Casale, “With the blessing of Senator Seward, I was good to go. I took over in September,” two months before the fall elections.

“The first thing we do is run polling,” a first in local races. It discovered not only newcomers, but longtime incumbents were in tight races, he said. “It’s going to be a drubbing like we’d never seen.”

Fracking had damaged the Republicans, but by then it had been discovered there was too little natural gas here to frack. The issue “was just at or past the peak,” Casale said.

“I told the candidates: Don’t mention it. It wasn’t that we wanted it or didn’t want it. It was political survival,”

The new message: Republicans will protect your tax dollars.

“Rick Hulse was down by over 20 points when we first did that poll,” said Casale. “I remember him cutting it to 14 points. I had him down to 7 points. ‘If we only had one more week,’ I told myself.

“I went into Election Day thinking we would lose the Town of Otsego,” including most of Cooperstown, he said. “We ended up winning by 10 points.”

Republicans Janet Quackenbush and Craig Gelbsman also won in Democratic Oneonta, and Len Carson, the retired fire captain.

Casale, then 40, was no stranger to politics. At age 5, he was handing out pencils at county fairs on behalf of his father, Assemblyman Tony Casale of Herkimer.

During school breaks, young Vince would ask to accompany his dad to Albany.

A music major, he taught for a few years before joining Herkimer Arc, then the community college, as development director.

He started the Casale Group in 2007. His first campaign: Cooperstown’s Mike Coccoma, for state Supreme Court. The next year, John Lambert for county judge. “The company just kind of grew,” he said. “I had a decision to make: Continue as is, or make the jump.” And jump he did.

This year, he managed the elevation of county Judge Brian Burns of Oneonta to replace the retiring Coccoma, and the campaign of county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, to succeed Seward, keeping both influential positions in Otsego County.

Now, he and Lynn are busy, but looking forward to 2022, the next gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

CROWELL: In September, Budget Is Always Out Of Balance; By Year’s End, Balanced
LETTER from DAN CROWELL

In September, Budget Is

Always Out Of Balance;

By Year’s End, Balanced

To the Editor:

I hope all is well in our hometown!

Dan Crowell

I saw your article (“Treasurer Warns Of Overages, But Chair Unruffled,” Sept. 20 on www.All- OTSEGO.com) on the budget gap. For what it is worth, in some ways the county treasurer and county board chair’s perspectives are portrayed as divergent. However, from my experience, they are both right.

There is no black magic that can resolve the gap (treasurer), but it is not time to panic (chair).

For the eight years I was engaged in the budget process, there was typically a gap at this time of year, ranging between $2 million to $12 million depending on the year.

September, October and November are busy months with methodical and detailed review, reduction and adjustment, ideally in deep consultation with the departmental leadership.

There is no magic and there is no silver bullet expenditure to cut.

It is a compilation of scrutiny on hundreds of line items across the spectrum of operations and magnitude of cost.

They have good people on both sides of the aisle working on it and I am sure they will address the gap.

DAN CROWELL

A former county treasurer, Crowell is deployed
to Somalia with the
Army Reserves.

COPTERS BIG HIT AS 50 TURN OUT

BLACK HAWKS IN COOPERSTOWN

COPTERS BIG HIT

AS 50 TURN OUT

Churning up fresh-fallen snow, one of the four Blackhawk helicopters from the National Guard that visited Cooperstown this afternoon lands at the Bassett Helipad.
Paul Crowell of Fly Creek (in green parka), whose dad, Maj. Dan Crowell, the retired county treasurer, was an organizer of today’s maneuvers, listens attentively to Capt. John Delsignore briefs a crowd of 50 on the Blackhawks during a pause in this afternoon’s maneuvers. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Ruffles Declares Run For County Treasurer

HE AIMS TO SUCCEED CROWELL

Ruffles Declares Run

For County Treasurer

Edmeston native Allen Ruffles, second from left, listens to state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, declare support for the deputy treasurer’s candidacy for the top job. At right is Treasurer Dan Crowell, who is supporting Ruffles. At right is the candidates family, wife Amy and children Mia and Cooper.

COOPERSTOWN – Citing his experience as deputy county treasurer, Allen Ruffles – raised in Edmeston, now living in Cooperstown – today officially announced his candidacy for Otsego County treasurer.

With wife Amy and their two children, Mia and Cooper, by his side, and flanked by the county’s top elected Republican, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and top elected Democrat, current County Treasurer Dan Crowell, Ruffles made the announcement in front of several family, friends and supporters at noon in front of the County Office Building.

“Throughout my life, commitment and dedication have been very important to me. As a teacher, youth coach, financial adviser, bank manager, member of the Army Reserves and now as your deputy county treasurer, these principles have always driven my desire to serve and give back to a community that has given so much to me,” Ruffles said during his announcement.

County Treasurer Crowell Says He Won’t Run Again

County Treasurer Crowell

Says He Won’t Run Again

Dan Crowell

COOPERSTOWN – County Treasurer Dan Crowell has announced he won’t seek a third term, and will be “whole-heartedly” supporting his deputy, Allen Ruffles, former Key Bank branch manager, for the the job.

Crowell said he is considering career options both in the military – he is a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve – and the private sector.

Crowell issued this announcement at 12:51 this afternoon:

With Help Of Reserves, County ’17 Budget Even

PROPOSAL SUBMITTED ON DEADLINE

Drawing On Surplus,

County ’17 Budget Even

With a smile, County Treasurer Dan Crowell holds up the preliminary 2017 county budget that he submitted Tuesday, a day ahead of the requirement, to Clerk of the Board Carol McGovern. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
With a smile, County Treasurer Dan Crowell holds up the preliminary 2017 county budget that he submitted Tuesday, a day ahead of the requirement, to Clerk of the Board Carol McGovern. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

county-logoCOOPERSTOWN – The proposed county tax levy is up 0.4 percent in the preliminary budget that, by law, County Treasurer Dan Crowell had to deliver to Clerk of the County Board Carol McGovern by Tuesday, Nov. 15.

Applying surplus accrued over the past year, tax bills will stay even, he said.

The proposed levy – the amount that must be raised by local property taxes – is up  $45,003 to $11,400,165, Crowell said.   State subsidies and reimbursement cover the rest of the $105 million document.

CLICK HERE TO SEE PRELIMINARY 2017 COUNTY BUDGET

Budget Committee chair Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, said the public hearing is at 6 p.m. Nov. 28. The county board may then approve the document at its December meeting on the 7th.

County Wish List $8M Over Target

County Wish List

$8M Over Target

Frazier, Crowell Confident Budget

Can Be Pared To Avoid Tax Hike

By JIM KEVLIN • for www.AllOTSEGO.com

Crowell
Crowell
Frazier
Frazier

COOPERSTOWN – The difference between departmental wish lists and the Budget Committee goal is $8 million, but the officials who have started crafting the 2017 county budget are undeterred.

“These are gotta-haves and wanna-haves,” said county Rep. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, who is chairing the Board of Representatives’ Budget Committee for the third year.  “My wife wanted a Cadillac and got a GMC Terrain.”

Rate Of Bed-Tax Growth Up 2.5 Times In ’15 Over ’14

Rate Of Bed-Tax Growth

Up 2.5 Times In ’15 Over ’14

sales tax growth copy

Dan Crowell
Dan Crowell

COOPERSTOWN – County Treasurer Dan Crowell reported today that the rate in bed-tax growth in 2015 was almost 2½ times higher than the year before – 11.21 percent last year, compared to $4.74 the year before.

He cited increased number of visitors, new hotel construction (Courtyard by Marriott in Oneonta), increased weekly rentals and enhanced collection of sales-tax revenues as among the factors.

He didn’t specify it, but the 2015 Hall of Fame Induction of Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz draw the fourth-largest crowd.

The Village of Cooperstown is seeing the greatest dollar growth; the Village of Unadilla, the greatest percentage growth.  “Overall, growth is the strongest and most consistent among the more highly active municipalities,” he said.

26 Jobs, Services On County Chopping Block

26 Jobs, Services On

County Chopping Block

By DON MATHISEN • for AllOTSEGO.com

County Treasurer Dan Crowell, middle, discusses the budget with county Reps. Rick Hulse, District 8, left, and Ed Lentz, District 5. (Don Mathisen/AllOTSEGO.com)
County Treasurer Dan Crowell, middle, discusses the budget with county Reps. Rick Hulse, District 8, left, and Ed Lentz, District 5. (Don Mathisen/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – The county Board of Representatives is on track to cut 19 full-time and 7 part-time employees, slash some services and raise property taxes by about $100,000.

That’s according to county Treasurer Dan Crowell and county Rep. Don Lindberg, R-Worcester, who chairs the Budget Review Committee.

“The committee has identified departments, dollar amounts and in some cases the number of positions to be cut,” said Crowell. “The committee is communicating with department heads to find the most efficient way to make the cuts with the lest negative impact on services.”

The job reductions, if approved by the full Board of Representatives, will save the county about $1.2 million.

In other measures to close the $4.2 million gap “we voted to keep all the bed tax money,” said Lindberg.

How Did $5 Million Boon Become $9 Million Gap?
THE COUNTY BEAT

How Did $5 Million Boon

Become $9 Million Gap?

Treasurer Explains County’s Changing Fortunes

County Treasurer Dan Crowell, center left, and county Rep. Don Lindberg, R-Worcester, center right, the Budge Review Committee chair, lead discussion at a meeting a week ago Monday. Clockwise from Lindberg are
County Treasurer Dan Crowell, center left, and county Rep. Don Lindberg, R-Worcester, center right, the Budge Review Committee chair, lead discussion at a meeting a week ago Monday. Clockwise from Lindberg are County Rep. Rick Hulse, R-Fly Creek, County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., County Reps. Kay Stuligross, D-Oneonta, Craig Gelbsman, R-Oneonta, and Ed Lentz, D-New Lisbon, and Clerk of the Board Carol McGovern.  (Don Mathisen/AllOTSEGO.com)

By DON MATHISEN • for AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – How did Otsego County go from a prospective $5 million surplus with last year’s sale of Otsego Manor to a $9 million budget gap?

The question is being raised as county representatives prepare the 2016 budget.

According to County Treasurer Dan Crowell, the surplus never materialized.

It evaporated when Otsego Manor legacy costs proved to be $1.8 million, sales-tax collections declined because of cheaper gas prices and an increase in online sales, and the cost of the emergency tower communication system currently being built was factored in.

Then when department heads submitted their wish lists for the 2016 budget, the county was facing a $9.2 million gap – Manor legacy cost, continuing sales-tax shortfalls, and the towers driving the gap.

Closing $9.2 Million Gap ‘Daunting, Do-able,’ County Treasurer Declares

Closing $9.2 Million Gap ‘Daunting,

Do-able,’ County Treasurer Declares

Dan Crowell
Dan Crowell

COOPERSTOWN – Closing the $9.2 million gap in Otsego County’s prospective 2016 budget is both “daunting and do-able,” county Treasurer Dan Crowell said today of what will be his seventh budget.  He added, “I haven’t been through a budget year that’s been easy.”

He was commenting after county Rep. Don Lindberg, R-Worcester, Budget Review Committee chair, sent out a notice that preliminary budget meetings will be at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, and Tuesday, Oct. 6.

This Christmas, Shop Local – For The Fun Of It!

This Christmas, Shop Local – For The Fun Of It!

Editorial in the Edition of Thursday-Friday, Nov. 27-28

Shopping local isn’t simply a feel-good decision. It’s essential to the economic well-being of our Otsego County neighbors and ourselves.

In recent days, that’s been dramatized by the debate over whether the county should close the Department of Motor Vehicles Office in Cooperstown. The office was under threat because local drivers have opted to renew their licenses in Albany via the Internet.

Earlier this year, Otsego County Clerk Kathy Sinnot Gardner estimated $523,618 in online license renewals cost the county $63,500.

As the problem continued this year, the county Board of Representatives considered cutting two DMV jobs, saving an estimated $100,000 in salaries and benefits. Folks, those two salaries were going to local friends and neighbors, who spent that money locally, to everyone’s benefit.

Local auto dealers also weighed in on the debate, arguing the local offices’ efficiency helps them speedily process the paperwork to get the car you just bought quickly and conveniently into your hands. Send the paperwork to Albany? Good luck.

Folks, get out of that chair. Navigate and perambulate to your local DMV office. You’ll enjoy the fresh air and scenery. You’ll run into friends. Good times. The online experience is a limited one, and damaging to localities.

Also last year, going into what’s usually a shopping-heavy fourth quarter on our Main Streets and Southside Mall, county sales-tax revenues were running 3.5 percent ahead of the year before. So many local shoppers went to the Internet, however, sales-tax income had dropped to a 1.3 percent bump by year’s end, according to county Treasurer
Dan Crowell.

That represented a loss of an anticipated $600,000, he said. This year, sales-tax revenues are 4.02 percent ahead. But if local shoppers opt out as they did last year, that will translate into a $1.1 million loss in revenues, Crowell said.

Online retailers are supposed to charge and return the appropriate sales tax to localities, but that isn’t happening routinely. But that’s going to take a while to straighten out, if it ever is.

This editorial isn’t being written to make you, online Christmas shoppers, feel guilty. Shopping online is hard to resist with the convenience of it and sites like PromoCodeWatch.com saving you a fortune! But you’re missing the fun.

“I don’t think it’s even the same experience,” said Luisa Montanti, who spent years in retail before becoming Southside Mall manager. “We shoppers love to spend our money, but we also like the experience of going to the store, talking to the store clerk, trying things on and picking out the right color.”

Plus, how often do you get something in the mail and have to send it back. How aggravating is that? Any convenience from online shopping goes out the window.

In the weeks between now and Christmas, Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal are going to feature fun local gifts, starting in this edition with Riverwood’s Todd Gibbons in Cooperstown and Monkey Barrel’s Kristian House in Oneonta. These are real toy stores, run by real aficionados of fun. Check ’em out.

Novelty is one aspect of Christmas, and novelty is what our serendipitous local merchants can deliver under the tree on Dec. 25. Partake!

Public Hearing On County Budget Planned Monday In Cooperstown

Public Hearing On County Budget

Planned Monday In Cooperstown

County Treasurer Dan Crowell, the county board's budget officer, outlines the 2015 spending plan at last Thursday's work session.  Behind him is Kathy Clark, R-Otego, county board chair.  (Ian Austin/allotsego.com)
County Treasurer Dan Crowell, the county board’s budget officer, outlines the 2015 spending plan at last Thursday’s work session. Behind him is Kathy Clark, R-Otego, county board chair. (Ian Austin/allotsego.com)

COOPERSTOWN – The Otsego County Board of Representatives have scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 1, in the County Office Building to hear comment on the proposed 2015 budget.

The $103 million document includes a local tax levy slightly over $11 million. That reflected a property tax decrease of 2.4 percent.

But given the decision to keep the Cooperstown DMV office and the “Gathering Place” senior site in Oneonta open would reduce that reduction to about 1.7 percent, according to County Treasurer Dan Crowell.

The reduction was made possible by the sale of Otsego Manor to Focus, a private entity based in Rockland County.  Most of the $5 million savings has been repurposed for road construction and delayed maintenance of county buildings, Crowell said.

REVIEW THE PROPOSED BUDGET

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