Across Otsego County, there were remembrances for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that rocked the world and changed the course of history.
The First Presbyterian Church in Oneonta rang the church bell 20 times for each moment of the attack. It range at 8:45 a.m., when the first plane hit the World Trade Center, 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hit, at 9:45 a.m., when the pentagon was hit and at 10:10 a.m., when United 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
Motorcyclists from the American Legion Riders had a run in honor of the day. About 100 riders roared through the streets of Oneonta and were later in Milford, a line of motorcyclists stretching back across state Route 28.
Milford held a parade where firefighters from the region drove past the Milford Fire Department in their fire trucks, throwing candy to the children as people cheered and waved American flags. Leading the parade were two navy veterans who stood atop a car while Taps played from the loudspeaker.
Wilber Park in Milford was a scene of remembrance but also was doubly a fundraiser for cancer research. Otsego County Rep. Jennifer Mickle, R-Decatur, Maryland, Westford, Worcester, helped organize the event.
The prominent message at the park and in all of the events was gratitude towards first responders, including firefighters, police, EMS workers and the military.
FIRST RESPONDERS – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Public is invited to come meet the local first responders. Will include members of the local fire department, police, and emergency services. LifeNet will be doing a flyover at 11 a.m. and K9 units will be doing demonstrations throughout the event. Lake Front Park, Cooperstown. Visit www.facebook.com/otsegonyfirewire/
ONEONTA – Elfreda Watts Coss Beach, born May 15, 1927 in Bellshill, Scotland to Robert Edward and Edith McCombe Coss, raised in Glasgow, passed away May 4, 2021.
She married Allan Rich Beach of Hobart, NY on June 2, 1945 in Glasgow, Scotland. After 71 years of marriage, he predeceased her on October 1, 2016. She lived in West Oneonta; Juno Beach, Fla.; New Holland, Pa.; the Plains at Parish Homestead; and most recently at A. O. Fox Memorial Nursing and Rehabilitation, Oneonta, N.Y.
She was a member of the Elm Park United Methodist Church and Daughters of Scotia and a former member of Amaranth, Order of Eastern Star, Sweet Adelines, and West Oneonta Fire Department Auxiliary. During her career, she did bookkeeping for her husband’s businesses and was a classroom aide at Laurens Central School and Greater Plains Elementary School.
SCHENEVUS – Charles “Charlie” Duane Scofield, 93, passed away on April 18, 2020, at A.O. Fox Nursing Home, Oneonta, from complications of COPD.
Charlie was born in Otego, Sept, 26, 1926, the son of Charles E. and Dorothy (Hamilton) Scofield. He lived most of his childhood on a farm in Otego and going to school there. He joined the United States Navy in 1943 and served for three years. Upon discharge in 1947, he married Isabel Davis and they moved to Schenevus in 1949, where they raised their four children. They were married for 63 years.
HOLIDAY MARKET – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Find holiday gifts from 50+ vendors selling textiles, herbal products, jewelry, wreaths, more in heated greenhouse. Includes food/wine tasting, hot apple cider donuts, pies more. Sunnycrest Orchards, 7869 St. Rt. 10, Sharon Springs. 518-284-2256 or visit www.sunnycrestorchards.com
ONEONTA – The Town of Oneonta Fire District lives to see another day.
With a motion on the table to dissolve the fire district, Fire Commission chair Johna Peachin moved to table it at the end of a stormy meeting this evening.
The tabling passed unanimously, delaying action on dissolving for now – but for how long?
The commission has been in negotiations with the city for over two years on renewing a fire contract that expired at the end of 2016; state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma imposed a two-year extension to allow coverage to continue while negotiations continues.
The contract enables the city’s professional Oneonta Fire Department to provide coverage to the town, primarily Southside and the east and west ends.
Judges generally are loath to get involved in situations that should be resolved through the political process. But once in a while their hand is forced.
Such seems to be the case shaping up in the now years-long standoff between Oneonta City Hall and the Town of Oneonta Board of Fire Commissioners over what the town should pay to be covered by professional firefighters in the city’s Oneonta Fire Department.
In December 2016, with the city-Fire District contract expiring, the dispute ended up in state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma’s Cooperstown courtroom.
Unable to broker an agreement, Coccoma imposed a two-year contract, with the Town Fire District paying $1.1 million a year for the OFD’s services.
He also instructed both sides to choose a mutually agreeable mediator to propose a fair outcome, and they settled on VFIS (Volunteer Firemen’s Insurance Service), based in York, Pa., the nation’s foremost arbiter of this kind of thing.
The resulting report allocated 64.2 percent of the cost of operating the OFD to city taxpayers, and 35.8 percent to Town Fire District ratepayers, which include the big boxes on Southside Oneonta (in the town).
The outcome, according to city Mayor Gary Herzig, was in the neighborhood of the $1.1 million Coccoma had already decided upon. City Hall accepted the report; the fire commissioners did not.
Since, much has happened, but the bottom line is: No progress.
As he’s said all along, Mayor Herzig says today he is agreeable to a settlement tomorrow.
The traditional formula has been roughly: The city pays two-thirds; the fire district pays one-third.
“We’re comfortable with that formula,” said Herzig, referring to the VFIS numbers. “The outcome is very similar to the formula that’s been used for the past 20 years. (The VFIS formula) is more complicated. The bottom line is not very different.”
Because the fire commissioners’ leadership stopped calling back, he continued, City Hall has stopped trying.
“We’ve said now for months and months, our door is open. We’re willing to sit down and negotiate at any time. The response we get is: ‘We will not negotiate with you. What you’re doing, it’s illegal.’ I have no idea what they mean.”
The new fire commissioners, Al Rubin and Michelle Catan, thought they had found a solution in appealing to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to audit the situation and recommend a solution. But it seems that DiNapoli, sensibly, was reluctant to allocate resources to a local situation with no statewide implications.
Rubin believed including OFD’s ambulance service revenues – due to insurance payments, EMS runs at a profit – would open the door to a deal. But Herzig said the revenues are part of the $4 million OFD budget – there’s no secret pot of money to be discovered. If you push in here, it comes out there.
In the end, it’s hard to escape the arithmetic: one-third to the Fire District, two-thirds to City Hall.
Which brings us back to where we started.
The judge directed the parties to bring in a mediator. That was done. A formula was recommended by the foremost experts. Still, the deadlock continues.
At the end of this year, five months from now, Judge Coccoma’s order expires. If he fails to extend it, most of the Town of Oneonta (minus that covered by the West Oneonta volunteers) will be without protection.
At one point, the commissioners said they would start their own department; that seems impractical. Otsego County’s impressive local volunteer departments have built expertise over decades, even generations. You can’t just snap your fingers and duplicate that.
The other option would be to contract with a volunteer department. But volunteers, trained as they may be, are mostly working fulltime jobs, some out of the area. Can they be expected to stand ready, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for another Christopher’s inferno along Otsego County’s foremost commercial strip?
The VFIS report – you can Google it at www.allotsego.com – reports the Insurance Services Office rated the OFD service are 2/2Y, put it among the top 3 percent best in the nation. Businesses in the Fire District (and city) are seeing low insurance rates as a result.
Judge Coccoma was right to impose a two-year settlement; the alternative was an unacceptable threat to public safety. Not to pre-judge the judge, but what option does he have if the fire commissioners and city officials appear before him again at year’s end?
We’re all adults here. Life is compromises. The fire commissioners have no option but to make the best deal – somewhere in the vicinity of one-third vs. two-thirds – and move on.