Drivers in New York will enjoy at least a partial break from the state’s gasoline tax beginning June 1.
The state’s new budget knocks 16 cents off the price of a gallon of unleaded or diesel gasoline between June 1 and December 31. It’s part of a $220 billion budget New York’s state Legislature approved April 7 and 8.
Governor Kathy Hochul urged county governments across the state to follow suit and suspend local sales taxes on gasoline over the same period. Counties currently are allowed to cap their local sales tax at 8 cents or 12 cents per gallon, the budget provides a new option to cap the tax at 16 cents, as well.
Otsego County’s sales tax rate on gasoline currently stands at four percent per gallon, accounting for some 8 – 10 percent of the county’s total sales tax revenue according to the New York State Association of Counties.
According to David Bliss, Chair of the Otsego County Board, the Otsego County Office building at 197 Main St., Cooperstown, will be closed for repairs on Wednesday, February 16, for repairs following a water main break in the building. Normal emergency closure procedures are being followed.
The building is expected to reopen Thursday, February 17 pending completion of the repairs.
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.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul responded this week to a request from Otsego County officials and will locate a new, state-run COVID-19 testing site in Milford.
The new site — one of only 13 throughout the state — opens Wednesday, December 29 at the American Legion Post at 86 West Main Street; its hours of operation are as follows: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon.
Milford will offer RT-PCR testing upon its launch, with plans to add rapid antigen and rapid PCR tests within a few days of Wednesday’s opening.
The Community Foundation of Otsego County announced Tuesday, May 11, that it is launching a new funding campaign to raise $2 million and has already taken in most of that money in pledges.
The 16-member board was formed about two years ago to help solve issues of business and poverty that are affecting Otsego County. When the coronavirus pandemic hit not long after the board formed, it rededicated its mission to help county residents and businesses survive the pandemic.
Board President Harry Levine said the group gave out more than $225,000 in pandemic funds and has been fundraising behind the scenes to ensure there is a financial base for the next half decade.
“You have got to show that you have gotten some primary support at the beginning and to show people that you are for real,” Levine said in an interview Saturday, May 8. “We are for real.”
Otsego County’s legislators began an in-depth look at crafting the county administrator position at a special all board workshop Monday, May 10.
The 14 board members listened and asked questions during a two-hour meeting as County Attorney Ellen Coccoma reiterated to them the details of the local law they passed in 2019 to establish the position and several experts on local governments that are using a county administrator gave their tips and suggestions.
“This is going to be a work in progress,” Coccoma said. “We’re going to probably impliment things now, then as we see how it works out, you may end up saying, ‘we need to change that.’”
A county manager, executive or administrator had been proposed to Otsego County by individuals and good government groups for more than three decades. The county’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee studied the prospect for two years, finally drafting a proposal to create a day-to-day manager who answers to the board. The administrator position passed in a November 2019 local law, with only three representatives against the plan.
Steven Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, Pat Cummings, NYSAC’s council, and Nick Mazza, who served as a county administrator for more than 20 years in Livingston County, gave their insights and took questions from the legislators.
Otsego County’s plan for a shared transportation garage has been revived.
County officials met with representatives from Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES in the past month to gage interest in another push to build a centralized, shared services facility on county Route 35 in the town of Milford, on land adjacent to the ONC BOCES campus.
“I would not say it is full speed ahead, but maybe it is half speed ahead,” Otsego County Board of Representatives President Dave Bliss said on Tuesday, April 27. “It is still very much needed,” Bliss said. “BOCES is still interest. It is back on now that the funding is coming back up and we’re hopefully going to be on better footing.”
The county’s facilities are near Cooperstown Central School on Linden Avenue in an area where no expansion or renovation is possible.
“It’s old. It’s not big enough. It is functionally obsolete. It is structurally unsound. It is a terrible location. It is right in the middle of the school and the village traffic on Linden Avenue.” Bliss said. “We might be able to leave some things there, such as the salt facility and the gas facility. The village of Cooperstown uses those, so it would be more expensive if they had to have their own facilities.
Bliss said there have been ongoing discussions with county schools and other municipalities about joining BOCES and the county. He said he thinks more groups will be interested once the plans are concrete, a cost is known and the shared services begin to lead toward budget savings.
Despite the chilling toll – 3,483 COVID-19 cases and 54 deaths – Otsego County people, our neighbors, friends and family, have a lot to be proud of as we ended The Year of The Pandemic on Monday, March 15, we found in revisiting the last 52 editions of this newspaper.
Throughout, there was worry, dismay and grief in the face of the implacable and mysterious foe, but little panic. In reviewing the newspapers, there was, and is, much determination, focus and purpose among our neighbors and our community leaders.
At the county level, board Chairman David Bliss promptly issued an emergency declaration on Friday, March 15, 2020, that outlined many of the steps that have marked our lives since then. Going forward from there, the county board was tough and visionary in the face of disappearing sales- and bed-tax revenues.
The reps laid off 59 FTEs, no fun for anyone. Then – guided by county Treasurer Allen Ruffles – they assembled a plan based on historically low-interest loans and fast-tracking roadwork, which the state CHIPS program still reimburses, to ensure solvency. When President Biden’s $11 million stimulus allocation was announced in recent days, it was appreciated at 197 Main, but not essential.
On a parallel track, county Health Department rallied under Public Health Director Heidi Bond, doing the COVID testing and contact tracing that – along with masks and social distancing – have been central in controlling the disease to the extent we have.
She was already heralded as this newspaper’s 2020 Citizen of the Year, but not enough appreciation can be expressed to her team’s hard work and accomplishment.
COOPERSTOWN – The state will open a vaccination center in SUNY Oneonta’s Dewar Arena in the next few weeks, county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, announced a few minutes ago.
The Oneonta site was one of 10 Governor Cuomo announced at his press briefing this morning, and is the only new one in the Mohawk Valley region, which includes Otsego County.
Following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last spring, Governor Cuomo issued an order requiring all 330 communities in New York State with police departments to form Community Advisory Boards to review “policies and procedures” by that date.
That covers three governments in Otsego County:
• The Village of Cooperstown: Monday, Feb. 22, the Village Board approved its “Police Reform Plan” more than a month ahead of schedule, having completed the review and taking it to public hearing. The findings can now be forwarded to the Governor’s Office.
For now, Otsego County is not getting the COVID-19 vaccines it should, according to Mayor Gary Herzig and county board Chairman David Bliss.
Both men represent the county on the Mohawk Valley Regional Control Room, which briefs local officials weekly on the state’s COVID-19 response.
The county’s not getting “proportionate distribution,” the amount based on its relative population to the rest of the state, Herzig said in an interview.
“It’s frustrating and worse than we thought,” Bliss said. “Things are really starting to unravel.”
The local situation reflects what’s happening in the Mohawk Valley Region, which – one of 13 districts in the states – is only getting 2 percent of three million vaccines available statewide, Herzig said.
According to Dr. Diane Georgeson, the City of Oneonta’s public health officer, that’s because, for now, “distribution is not based on regional population, but rather by the regional eligible population at this time.”
Not only is it getting less vaccine, the region has only administered 76 percent of the vaccine allocated, the lowest of the 13 regions, she continued.
“Appointments are filling up within Otsego County as soon as they’re available,” Georgeson said, so there is demand.
The struggle to lockdown concrete information and a larger anti-COVID vaccine allotment continues in Otsego County and beyond.
“There is not an adequate supply of the vaccine,” David Bliss, county Board of Representatives chair, said Tuesday, Jan. 19. “This is a statewide problem.”
According to a list he provided, the problems include:
• Demand is higher than the
• Only a 100-dose weekly allotment to the county Health Department and selected pharmacies.
• Undependable allotment to Bassett Hospital.
• Local appointments aren’t held for local people.
• The State of New York controls distribution of a limited supply.
• The state is falling down on communication.
• Due to high traffic, the state
COVID-19 website keeps crashing.
• Pharmacy reservation systems have no bearing on how much vaccine may be available.
• The state is receiving 250,000 doses a week, but has 7 million residents eligible for the vaccines.
• Eligibility still limited to Phases 1A and 1B.
COOPERSTOWN – Democratic unhappiness over how state Sen. Peter Oberacker was replaced on the county board spilled over at today’s reorganizational meeting.
County Board Chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, was reelected, but the vote was 10-3, plus one abstention. And not before Bliss was criticized for partisanship, poor communication and a lack of vision.
“The people of the county deserve a county chair who puts the good of the county above party and does not work the rules for partisan advantage,” said Michelle Farwell, D-Morris, one of two reps speaking out against Bliss’ reelection.
The other was Jill Basile, D-Oneonta, who said, “We saw our lack of transparency, partisanship and poor communications in the appointment of the District 6 representative,” Jennifer Mickle, R-Town of Maryland, who succeeded Oberacker.