ONEONTA – It’s not just dogs that will benefit from the proposed Oneonta dog park.
“There are a lot of dog lovers in Oneonta,” said Common Council member Michele Frazier, First Ward. “People who love dogs meet each other at dog parks, it fosters community.”
The dog park, which has been proposed several times over the past few years, was once again brought to the table during the city’s Operations, Planning and Evaluations Committee meeting on Monday, Aug. 26.
CANDIDATES FORUM – 6 – 8 p.m. Democrat Congressional candidates for the 19th district, Jeff Beals, David Clegg, Erin Collier, Antonio Delgado, Brian Flynn, Gareth Rhodes, and Pat Ryan discuss issues, more. HIRC Lecture Hall 1, SUNY Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/OneontaCollegeDems/
YOUTH PROGRAM – 2:30 p.m. Workshop introducing children to methods archaeologists use to find and identify archaeological sites. Cooperstown Village Library. Call 607-547-8344 or visit www.facebook.com/VillageLibraryOfCooperstown/
ONEONTA – As the waters rose around Oneonta during the 2006 floods, Mayor John Nader was constantly on the phone, talking to government officials, worried citizens and businesses affected by the rising river.
“It was crucial to have an elected official to speak to and for the community,” said Nader, who is chairing Mayor Gary Herzig’s ad hoc Charter Review Committee.
The power to call out police and fire in an emergency situation was given to the city manager under the new charter, but at tonight’s meeting the review committee concluded – with some dissension from members of the original Charter Revision Commission – that the power should revert back to the mayor.
For now, the suggestion is just that. When the ad hoc committee’s review is done, Common Council would be able to make minor changes to the charter. However, significant changes would require a public vote, like the one that approved the original charter by 71 percent of voters in 2010.
ONEONTA – When City Manager Martin Murphy read The Daily Star on Wednesday, April 22, he was surprised to see that Council Member Mike Lynch, Fourth Ward, was quoted as saying that he had conversations with city workers who felt “either that they’re not getting the respect they deserve or they feel that they have no voice.”
It was news to him. “Until recently, I was not aware of concerns by city employees,” he said. “None were brought to my attention.”
But the message of the special Common Council meeting held early this morning was clear: The council supported Murphy, and that City Hall and the people of Oneonta need to work together.
“The last couple days have been humbling,” said Council member Chip Holmes, Eighth Ward. “This is one of those glass half full moments – we can go forward or we can stumble.”
“Mr. Murphy is extremely capable, talented and fit for the job,” said Maureen Hennessy, First Ward. “Communication is key, and I’m sure we can all work on that.”
And many in the city stood with them. “No one likes change,” said Laurie Zimniewicz, a member of the original Charter Revision Commission that crafted a city manager form of governor for Oneonta. “But no one should be disrespected. Our city needs to figure this out; we need to get together and make this work.”
Council member Mike Lynch, Fourth Ward, whose comments to The Daily Star regarding the proposed 360 review of City Manager Martin Murphy ignited the firestorm, was not present. “He spoke for all of us about things that had never been discussed,” said Holmes.
On Tuesday, April 21, in a mid-session executive session, Council voted unanimously to move forward with the 360 Review that Larry Malone, Second Ward, compiled based on the review similar to the one Robert McEvoy, a public service professor at SUNY Albany who specializes in local government management, gave former City Manager Mike Long.
Though the completed study of the Oneonta Fire Department’s equipment was on the table, Common Council decided early tonight to table a motion that would bring the Center for Public Safety Management back to the city to put together a comprehensive analysis of police, fire and EMS needs.
“I remain opposed to this,” said Council Member Mike Lynch, Fourth Ward. “Mayor Miller had us looking at how other communities address these needs constantly. Why would we pay some outsider to tell us what we already know?”
It’s not a matter of which came first – the chickens or the ordinance. It’s about which one will go on the chopping block.
“There’s a lot of concern about where our food comes from,” said City Council member Bob Brzozowski. “People want to know that their chickens are cared for, what they’re fed and the quality of their lives. It’s the obvious solution.”
Under the proposed amendment to municipal code Section 1, Chapter 68:
• Up to 10 chickens would be allowed within city limits.
• Roosters, the outdoor slaughtering of chickens and the sale of the eggs are prohibited.
• Chickens must be kept in an appropriate-sized pen 25 feet from another dwelling, not in a front yard or allowed to free-range unsupervised.
The movement was started by Howard Lichtman, who wanted to add chickens to his River Street garden. “We have fruit trees. We grow our own vegetables. We thought it would be nice to have our own eggs from our own flock of hens.”
The laws preventing fowl from being raised in city limits have been on the books since at least 1975, according to Robert Chiappisi, code enforcement officer. “It’s hard to imagine it wasn’t allowed at some point in the city’s history.”
Lichtman and Chiappisi worked together to draft the ordinance. “It’s an extension of the urban farming movement,” said Lichtman. “What you can get out of your own backyard is so much healthier than what you can buy at the store, and it cuts down on carbon emissions and energy use.”
However, City Council member Dave Rissberger said he will vote against the proposed ordinance. “There’s nothing in this amendment that says someone can’t buy 20 chickens and throw them in the back yard without proper shelter,” he said at his ward meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 24. “This ordinance doesn’t have any teeth for code enforcement.”
Citizens who have spoken up at Common Council meetings are worried that chickens will bring foxes into Center City, that chickens will run loose like feral cats and get hit by cars, or that the noise from the chickens will disturb the peace.
“My neighbors hardly know I have chickens,” said Al Dicka, owner of Daddy Al’s deli in the West End, just over the city line in the Town of Oneonta.
He raises 30 chickens in a coop on his West Oneonta property and sells the fresh eggs at his store. “At night, they don’t make a sound.”
And although they do occasionally make a break for it, his neighbors don’t really mind. “They eat the grubs in their gardens,” said Dicka. “And they don’t make hardly any noise.”
“It’s such a benign amount of noise,” said Brzozowski. “I don’t believe it will have a negative impact on the quality of life.”
“It’s good for me,” said Dicka. “Instead of sitting on my couch watching TV, I get up, go out and take care of them.”
The ordinance will be voted on at the regular meeting of Common Council, at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, Oct. 7.
“They allow chickens in all five boroughs of New York City,” said Brzozwski. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to raise them here as well.”