By TED MEBUST OTSEGO COUNTY The Milford and Schenevus branches of Community Bank NA will permanently close their doors on Friday, April 28, the organization announced. The decision came due to a recognition that “branch business has slowed,” according to Sarah Doud, the bank’s public relations representative.
“This is not a decision we make lightly,” said Doud. “We need to continue to serve the people of Schenevus and Milford through nearby locations and through our online and mobile services.”
By MAE LOEWENGUTH HARTWICK An analyst from Bassett Healthcare and an environmental advocate have been working since 2009 to restore what was once known as O.S. Burch & Son, a dry goods/general store. The historical building, dating back to 1864, is now known as the Freight Wheel Café.
Owners Martha and Paul Clarvoe met and were wed in the state of Maryland. They later decided it was time to get back to nature—eventually choosing upstate New York, where they settled and raised three children.
ONEONTA Otsego Now, the umbrella organization of the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency and the Otsego County Capital Resource Corporation, is set to launch the county’s first Innovation and Acceleration Center, the primary focus of which will be bringing a booming tech and manufacturing industry to the region.
According to a recent press release, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the IDA witnessed a devastating economic loss due to the lack of tourism. The hospitality industry currently makes up 25 percent of the industry sector in Otsego County. When the tourist sector was forced to shut down, the county’s sales tax dropped 30 percent and bed tax dropped by 50 percent. Roughly 60,000 tourists stopped coming to Otsego County. After witnessing this, the IDA identified manufacturing as a growth sector to the local and surrounding economy.
Editor’s Note: Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh was a panelist at the recent Otsego County Chamber of Commerce “State of the State” Breakfast. The following is her address.
Good morning and thank you to the Otsego County Chamber for hosting this forum. I am honored to be included on this panel of city, county, and state elected officials and a representative of Congress.
For most of you, the calendar year is your fiscal year. That is not the case for our village—the Village of Cooperstown’s fiscal year is June 1st to May 31st, so we are two-thirds of the way through our current 2022-23 budget. Next month we will begin budget workshops to have a tentative 23-24 budget in place by the mandated deadline of March 20th.
Our General Fund budget is usually about $4.1 million and we also have separate Water and Sewer budgets which total approximately 2.2 million, resulting in about a $6.3 million dollar village budget.
With daily life returning to a semblance of normalcy, Otsego Now is actively continuing its stated quest “to act as a catalyst for economic transformation of the Otsego County economy.” When formed in 2014 as an umbrella organization for Otsego County’s Industrial Development Agency and Capital Resource Corporation, Otsego Now was tasked with the responsibility to “navigate the economic development process, develop sites, provide financial support, prepare workforce, and communicate with and mobilize the stakeholders needed for economic development” of Otsego County.
In these first 7-months on the job, I’ve been occasionally reminded that not everyone shares my optimism for Oneonta’s future. Nor do they see value in keeping eyes fixed on the road ahead and not trained on past grudges or scores to settle.
However, I believe that by embracing the positive and identifying the possible, we put ourselves on our best path to success.
As Mayor, it’s my duty to present a cogent argument for optimism and to champion the benefits of respectful collaboration.
New York’s governor delivers a state-of-the-state address at the start of each calendar year; the speech a sitting governor gives at the onset of an election year is, however, always something a little different, a little more ambitious in scope.
Such is the case today (January 5) with a brief-by-comparison speech from Governor Kathy Hochul – her first since assuming the mantle after disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped down. Hers was an address filled with the usual something-for-everybody on the menu – with very little that any opponents could attack outright. And, the address appears to open the door for discussions on bail reform.
But a state-of-the-state is rather like looking through an annual gift catalog – there are plenty of things in there that one would put on a wish list. Only a few of them stand a chance of showing up when the time for gift-giving arrives.
SUMMER BOOK SALE – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Browse through used books of many genres, including nonfiction, arts and crafts, children’s books, cookbooks and much more to support your local library. Cost, $1-$2 for most books. Thru July 4. Cooperstown Village Library. 607-547-8344 or visit www.facebook.com/VillageLibraryOfCooperstown/
One would like to believe that Cooperstown, once referred to as “America’s Favorite Hometown,” is a thriving, dynamic community.
A walk down Main Street in July or August, with crowds of people swarming the streets and shops, would suggest that it is indeed as billed. The same walk in January or February, with darkened, shuttered store fronts and empty parking spaces, would offer a very different impression.
When the remarkable increase in the country’s taste for baseball and its memorabilia in the late ’80s and ’90s dramatically altered Cooperstown’s Main Street, with baseball-themed shops largely established and managed by non-local proprietors replacing the mixed-use, community-based businesses run by local residents for 200 years, Cooperstown’s business district turned a very unfortunate corner.
With the advent of the “Cooperstown” baseball camps, located in Hartwick and Oneonta, people began to buy, convert and even build area housing to cash in on an extremely lucrative weekly summer rental market. That housing is in many cases owned by non-local, absentee landlords who make enough of a killing in the summer to allow them to sit vacant for the long off-season months. In a few years, the availability of housing in and around the Village became as hopeless as a Main Street parking space in summer.
Though the Governor has already signed this legislation into law, I wanted to share my statement from earlier this week on the decision to legalize recreational marijuana:
Many are going to celebrate the passage of the ‘Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.’
But we didn’t solve any problems today, we only created new ones.
Democrats will claim victory, but they ignore the inherent dangers associated with their decision. Legalizing marijuana guarantees young people will have greater access to a drug they shouldn’t be anywhere near. The minute this becomes readily available, the safety risks in our communities and on our roadways will increase exponentially.
Forced COVID lockdowns drove New York to the edge of an economic cliff, and advocates for legalization seized the opportunity to push marijuana as a financial windfall. While this may eventually improve the state’s bottom line, it will come at the expense of public health and safety.
R-Syracuse, is Assembly minority leader.
Otsego Electric’s Broadband initiative wasn’t mentioned in last week’s editorial on entrepreneurism in arts organizations – it’s an electric cooperative, not a dance troupe.
Still, it’s worth a separate nod.
While local governments and the citizenry at large were crying out to Albany and Washington for universal Broadband, CEO Tim Johnson and the Hartwick-based, non-profit rural-electrification entity simply did it.
As reported last week, in the past three years, Otsego Electric has strung 700 miles of wire in the 23 towns it serves, past 5,000 locations; 2,900 subscribed to its high-speed Internet service.
It’s a non-profit, so why bother?
“We could see the handwriting on the wall,” said Johnson. “We could see … the lack of opportunities to work in rural areas. We saw the possibility that this” – Broadband – “would stabilize our customer base.”
And that’s what happened.
During the Pandemic Year, when the world moved onto Zoom, there could have been a mass exodus. There wasn’t, and there won’t be.
The next New York State budget is on its way to passage, and with the federal stimulus of $12.6 billion it will not be as bad as projected. But there are still many problems ahead. Our state had a budget deficit before the pandemic, and a declining population, which the census will likely confirm later this year.
We must look for new ways to bring people back to New York. Without more people, our state will continue to suffer, and the problems will continue to grow. What is one way to bring people back?
How do we get more jobs? By investing strategically in the industries of the future, and we can do that without hurting businesses already here.
Green energy has dazzling potential. It is the industry with the fastest growing job basis in the country, and these jobs pay higher than average.
We need the energy too. New York has some of the highest utility rates in the country, and investment in green energy will lower energy costs, because the costs for renewable energy continue to go down.
Recognizing the value of green energy, the legislature passed the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act in 2019. This bill outlined clear and achievable targets to increase renewable energy production, storage and energy infrastructure.
Plus, it recognized that many communities across New York have been left behind and disadvantaged economically, so it makes sure that large parts of the investment go to these communities.
Our region has been left behind by Albany for far too long. This bill may start to change that. Of course, the question comes up of how to pay for these upgrades. We cannot print money like the federal government, so the answer is the Climate & Community Investment Act.
This bill will set taxes and charges against those businesses that pollute the most. The revenue will be turned into direct reinvestment in our state.
I support this legislation because it answers the question of how to pay for a specific state program. It may not be a perfect bill, it should be debated, and that debate can certainly make it better.
The results of this bill will help our region, and for that we all have reason to support it.
Before reacting, the Village Board is waiting to see what the marijuana-legalization bill due to pass the state Legislature April 1 looks like.
But Trustee Mac Benton, who brought the issue before the trustees at their monthly meeting Monday, March 22, is determined to push for pot-selling “storefronts” in Baseball’s mecca, seeing it as an economic-development opportunity too good to ignore.
If the new law doesn’t give the village the authority to make the decision to sell or to manufacture marijuana products, Benton said he will encourage fellow trustees to urge the county Board of Representatives to allow the village to do so.
“It the decision goes to the county,” Benton said in a text, “I’ll urge my fellow trustees to sign onto a letter to the county strongly recommending that Otsego NOT opt out.”
According to Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, there are two bills now under consideration.
When the going gets tough, the entrepreneurs get going.
A corollary: The entrepreneurial spirit isn’t limited to entrepreneurs. (Per Merriam-Webster: “A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater-than-normal financial risks in order to do so.”)
So it was telling to watch the Cooperstown Chamber’s first “Coffee With Coop” panel discussion via Zoom last Friday, March 19. Kudos to the Chamber, and Executive Director Tara Burke, who was also an adept emcee.
It was a little disheartening to hear a recitation of all the Hall of Fame cancellations, although the scope of its undertakings – an estimated 80,000 fans were expected at Derek Jeter’s Induction – make them particularly fraught, not to mention dangerous, in Time of COVID.
And yet, the entrepreneurial spirit lived in presentations by, first, Fenimore President/CEO Paul D’Ambrosio and then, in Glimmerglass Opera General & Artistic Director Francesca Zambello.
Hickling’s Fish Farm Inc. is exactly what Otsego Electric President/CEO Tim Johnson is talking about.
In tanks inside four sizeable modern buildings on Pitts Road near here, the Hicklings are growing 65-70,000 trout yearlings annually, and another 20-30,000 pounds of 2-year-old bass, which – a delicacy in Thai and other cultures – are sold to Asian markets in Boston and other East Coast cities.
“The big money we’re spending now is in technology,” said Darren Hickling, a civil engineer who operates the business with his parents, Vincent and Linda, a nephew and one of the nephew’s high-school buddies.
With the county’s outmigration, Hickling said he can’t expand his workforce even if he wanted to: There’s no one to hire.
“It” – Broadband – “was an economic-development initiative for us,” said Johnson, who had been outside legal counsel to Otsego Electric for 25 years before becoming the top executive in 2015.
As a 501(c)(12), Otsego Electric – a cooperative founded during the Depression, owned by members to serve members – Otsego Electric is prohibited from making profits.