News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.



For $3M, Theater Can Reopen In Collaboration With Foothills

For $3M, Theater

Can Reopen In

Collaboration With Foothills


Ian Austin/HOMETOWN ONEONTA –  Patrice Macaluso told those gathered that there were ways local people could help lower the proposed $3 million cost, including volunteering.

ONEONTA – Oneonta Theater can be back in business again for $3 million.
Evan Delli Paoli, an architect with the New York City-based firm, Holzman Moss Botino, told a gathered audience at Foothills on Tuesday, Feb. 19 that amount would pay for basic but necessary restorations and improvements needed to make Oneonta Theater operational.
That was the final conclusion in the feasibility study, headed by Duncan Webb, Webb Management Services, into whether or not the Oneonta Theatre could be saved.
Delli Paoli labeled that combination of cost and restoration items as a “Good” budget item as well as two other budget-restoration packages labeled “Better” and “Best.” Their budgets were $6 million and $10 million, respectively, with more restoration items and higher quality work corresponding to the costs.

“All three of these price points are so the project can move forward,” Delli Paoli said.
Basic work on the theater included such items as stabilizing the theater’s interiors and overall structure and bringing the building into code compliance. The higher cost packages added items such as restoration of the theater’s interior plaster and enlarging the orchestra pit.
Delli Paoli also presented a list of “a la carte” restoration/improvement items that he said could be done independently or in addition to one of the three suggested budget categories.
He also proposed $2-300,000 for doing minor improvements to the Foothills Theater. He said his firm envisioned the Oneonta Theater and Foothills established as anchors of a new arts district in Oneonta.

Consultant To Give Final Report on Oneonta Theatre Next Tuesday

5-Year Business Plan Due

For Oneonta Theatre Fans

By LIBBY CUDMORE – Special to

Duncan Webb, founder of Webb Management Services, presented his findings on the future of the Oneonta Theatre and how it can be used to help revitalize the downtown. (Jennifer Hill/

ONEONTA – The consultants at Webb Management will give their final recommendations for a five-year business plan for the Oneonta Theatre at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19 at Foothills.

The performing arts management consultants, who shared their initial findings in December, will report on their study of the local demographics and tourism data for our area and region, and give an overview of their recommendations for a five-year business plan for a revived Oneonta Theatre.

Bridal Show Hosts Largest Crowd Yet

Bridal Show Hosts

Largest Crowd Yet

Over 200 people attended this afternoon’s annual Bridal Expo at the Foothills Performing Arts Center. Above, Oneonta’s Haley Manion and daughter Michele Donovan sample a Three Philosophers Cake served by Linn Briggs, a partner with Marjorie Landers Cakes in Cooperstown. At right, Kathryn Kroll, who has been supplying flowers for over 30 years at Coddington’s Florist in Oneonta, shows off a sampling of her bridal bouquets. Brides-to-be could sample-browse over 45 vendors, including DJs, caterers, florists, photographers, venues, travel agents and, of course, wedding dresses. (Ian Austin/

murder mystery scottish delights cat yoga

Murder Mystery,

Scottish Delights,

Cat Yoga Returns

So much for the Singing Telegram Girl (Liz Dixon). Wadsworth (Jack Flynn), Mr. Green (Katie Capra) and Professor Plum (Trystan Jennings) bemoan that she never got to finish her song before being killed as part of “Clue: On Stage” this weekend at OHS.

Was it Mr. Mustard in the bedroom with the rope? Or Mrs. Scarlett in the study with the revolver? Only the Oneonta High School drama club knows the answer as they present “Clue: On Stage.” Tickets, $10. 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Jan. 11-12, Oneonta High School, 130 Upper East Street, Oneonta. (607) 433-8200.

Words Like ‘Love, Courage, Loss’ Used To Recall Fallen Hero

Words Like ‘Love,

Courage, Loss’ Used

To Recall Fallen Hero

Family, Friends Reflect On John Heller,

As 350 Pack Funeral In Foothills Atrium

Erika and Michael Heller, right, hold close two of their four boys who John Heller – her brother-in-law; his brother – rescued from an arson last Saturday, losing his own life.  To their right is Amber Roe, John’s fiance. In the foreground, Heller’s pallbearers console each other after placing the casket in the hearse after today’s funeral in Foothills’ Atrium. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Sister-in-law Erika Heller recalls John’s sacrifice under the watchful eye of Pastor Thistle.

ONEONTA – “You spent your last day on Earth saving others,” his sister-in-law, Erika Heller, declared this afternoon at John Heller’s funeral. “We are so proud.”

Erika, along with John’s fiance Amber Roe,  his Oneonta Job Corps colleague Kathleen Feeney, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and the Rev. Judith Thistle, pastor of Worcester’s Second Baptist Church, addressed 350 mourners – reflective, often tearful – this afternoon in Foothills’ Atrium.

At calling hours at Bookhout Funeral Home last evening, the line was up to 2 1/2 hours long.

Today’s speakers painted an affectionate picture of a young man who had grown into a brave, loving, dedicated adult, full of humanity and humor.



With Foothills Fortunes Rising, New President At Board’s Helm

Jim Kevlin/ – No, they’re not a rock band, but board President Roxana Hurlburt and Director Bill Youngs are the new duo that will be leading Foothills Performing Arts Center into the new year.



In 2017, 18,983 fans walked through Foothills’ doors.  In 2018, that rose to 28,128, just shy of a 50-percent increase.In 2017, Foothills Performing Arts Center hosted 271 events.  In the year just ended, that rose to 321, an 18 percent increase.

“There’s something for everyone,” Roxana Hurlburt explains cheerfully.  The vice president of ISD, the  tech consulting firm, Hurlburt became president of the Foothills board Jan. 1, succeeding Johna Peachin, who is stepping back to board treasurer.

On the one hand, there are Metropolitan Opera simulcasts; (Bizet’s “Carmen” is coming up Feb. 2.)   On the other hand, Roxana reported, there’s Thompson Square, the husband and wife combination that performed their country playlist to a full house this past Veterans Day.

With George Wells, Townsquare Media’s former local GM, as president of Orpheus Theatre’s board, Oneonta’s cornerstone community theater troupe and Foothills have reconciled after a years-ago rift of long-forgotten origin.  Orpheus’ Starstruck Players will perform “Law & Order: Fairy Tale Unit,” Jan. 11, 12 and 13 in the upstairs theater, and recently designated Foothills home to its children’s-theater arm.

Highlights of this past year included the Power of Dance, based in New Jersey, organizing a contest for dancers from Oneonta’s local troupes.  Most of its events are in larger cities, from Albany to Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.

And, of course,  Amy Schumer, visiting Delaware County relatives, turned up one day and offered to test material from her summertime national tour at a Foothills benefit in May. The show sold out in a few hours, and raised $11,000, allowing Foothills to make a sizeable donation to Opportunities for Otsego’s women’s shelter.

Perennial events are going strong, too, said Hurlburt, pointing to the Shamrock Swing in March, where boys and their moms spending an evening dancing and eating pizza, the masculine counterpart to the Family Y’s annual Daddy-Daughter Dance at SUNY’s Hunt Union the month before.

The annual Taste of Foothills, where local restaurants highlight their specialties, followed by a comedy act, filled the 600-seat Bettiol Theatre for a performance for nationally hailed mentalist Craig Karges in October.

“It’s all positive down there,” said Hurlburt the other day in a double interview at ISD headquarters that included Bill Youngs, the Foothills director who has guided the day-to-day progress over the past three years.

Except for a stint in Troy, where she and her husband, Jim, “childhood sweethearts,” lived while newlyweds, Roxana has lived most of her life in Otego.  However, she took advantage of her time in the Capitol District to attended Hudson Valley Community College.

Returning to Greater Oneonta, she was assistant to Frank Isbell, then Fox Hospital president, before joining ISD 30 years ago and building the business with company president Ron Ranc.

Over the years, as sons Jim Jr. and Jesse were growing up – the Hurlburts also have two grandchildren, Cooper, 5, and Gunner, 8 – she was active in community groups such as the Cub and Boy scouts, Little League, and the Otego Volunteer Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary, as well as the Otsego Chamber and Catskill Hospice boards.

She “grew up with” the Bettiol family, and entrepreneur Gene Bettiol, Southside Oneonta’s developer, encourage her to join the Foothills board a few years ago.  (Bettiol had adopted the performing arts center after the death of his son, Gene Jr., one of the originators of the Foothills idea, along with promoter Peter Macris and others.)

While Gene Sr. passed away in December 2017, his wife Betty has continued to support the undertaking, most recently providing tables, chairs and linens for the Atrium, where weddings, dinners and social events are hosted.

The benefactor also provided chairs for the “black box” production room and the upstairs theater, which thrills Bill Youngs – previously, his staff of three, led by veteran Geoff Doyle, now office manager, had to ferry furniture around the sizeable complex as events required.

Hurlburt sees Foothills taking advantage of opportunities that will surface through the City of Oneonta’s DRI (the Downtown Revitalization Initiative), noting a recent $15,000 grant was used to hire Paperkite, the Cooperstown consultant, to develop a marketing strategy.

The city’s theater consultant, Webb Associates, envisions Foothills as eventually managing the historic Oneonta Theater, although what happens there remains to be determined.

Roxana emphasized Foothills plans to be as prudent with public money as it is with its own.  City Hall had provided $20,000 to repaint the 10-year-old main building, but it was discovered that the current tannish color was mixed in with the cement in the original construction.

If the building were to be painted, it would only peel, requiring another $20,000 paint job in eight years.

Roxanna Hurlburt, then chairing Foothills’ facilities committee, gave City Hall its money back.

First Night Frolics At Foothills!

First Night Frolics

Underway At Foothills!

Leah Puylara and her friend Owen Meade, Milford, help add to the music as part of the the First Night festivities, now underway at Foothills in Oneonta. With music, dancing, magic, performances, a make-your-own-sundae bar and more, the festivities go on until midnight to help Oneonta ring in 2019. (Ian Austin/
First Night Parade And Fireworks Cancelled, Festivities Still At Foothills

First Night Parade, Fireworks

Cancelled; Festivities Still On

ONEONTA – The show will go on.

Though the parade and the fireworks at Oneonta’s First Night celebration have been cancelled, the festivities at Foothills are still scheduled from 5 p.m. to midnight, according to organizer David Hayes.

“Unfortunately, in Upstate New York, we are at the mercy of the weather,” he said. “But it was just going to be a wall of rain, and out of concern for people’s safety, we decided to cancel.”

Seward, Devlin To Take Oath New Year’s Day At Foothills

Seward, Devlin To Take Oath

New Year’s Day At Foothills

ONEONTA – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, will be sworn in for his 17th term at 1 p.m. New Year’s Day – Tuesday, Jan. 1 – at Foothills.

County Judge John Lambert, county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., and the two new coroners, David Delker and Christian Shaefer, will also be sworn in by County Judge Brian Burns.

County board Chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield, will emcee the event.

Consultant: Save Oneonta Theatre, Let Foothills Help

Consultant: Save

Oneonta Theatre,

Let Foothills Help

Oneonta Theatre owner Tom Cormier, left, listens to consultant Duncan Webb’s presentation on future possibilities for his landmark property. (Jennifer Hill/

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

Duncan Webb, founder of Webb Management Services, presented his findings on the future of the Oneonta Theatre and how it can be used to help revitalize the downtown. 

ONEONTA – The Oneonta Theatre is worth saving.

Duncan Webb, found of Webb Management Services, the premier consultant on revitalizing and managing historic theaters, told a gathered audience at Foothills that the 121 year old theater, now owned by Tom Cormier, was viable, and recommended that it be renovated and “aligned with the downtown” in helping to attract visitors who shop and stay in hotels in Oneonta.

But most notably, he said that the theater, once restored, should partner with the Foothills Performing Arts Center, rather than be in competition with it, and that Foothills should manage the theater’s operations. Additionally, he recommended that SUNY Oneonta partner with the theater to develop programs based around the college’s theater and music departments.

Here Comes Santa Claus!

Here Comes Santa Claus!

Emcee “Big Chuck” D’Imperio, right, stands high above a packed crowd that gathered on Main Street this morning to welcome Santa back to Oneonta with big cheers and happy smiles during the annual Santa Parade. Santa will spend the afternoon in his cottage in Muller Plaza, hearing good boys and girls’ Christmas wishes. And once you’ve seen Santa, you can go down to Foothills to see the Gingerbread Jubilee and join in the cookie fun. At right, Brittany Boyke, Davenport, helps her little penguin – daughter Alexis Merwin – decorate a delicious holiday treat. The fun at Foothills continues until 3 p.m.

Home Sweet Home

It’s Home Sweet Home

At Gingerbread Contest

Entries flooding in Friday afternoon for this year’s annual Gingerbread House competition as contestants carry their confectionery creations in into the Foothills atrium for the judging later in the evening evening. Above, David Kropp, Oneonta, starts arranging a few of a 50 record entries, including one depicting Oneonta’s Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center last Christmas, made by his sixth- and seventh-grade class at Oneonta Christian Academy. At right, Julie Dostal and Chris Rolko arrive with LEAF’s gingerbread igloo. Entries drop-off ended at 6 p.m.(Ian Austin/

Election Day Bustling With Voter Turn Out

With Multiple Candidates,

Election Day ’18 A Busy One

Voting was brisk at the City of Oneonta’s polling place at Foothills Performing Arts Center as the midterms got underway.  A voter there at 7:45 a.m. said she was the 142nd to cast ballots, a lot for that early.  A Cooperstown voter said 79 ballots had been cast by 7:20 at St. Mary’s Parish Hall, also higher than usual.  Above, Election Inspector Judy Staruck, Schenevus, hands Michele Clapperton an “I Voted” sticker after she cast a ballot. “This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Clapperton. “I love seeing everyone here exercising their Constitutional right.” Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will remain open until 9 p.m. (Ian Austin/


Mentalist Wows Crowd At Taste Of Foothills

Mentalist Wows Crowd

At Taste Of Foothills

No peeking! Above, Mentalist Craig Karges, with coins taped to his eyes with a blindfold on top, was able to correctly guess that Cindy Seward, right, Milford, was holding a cell phone charger without seeing or touching it. They were joined on stage by Jim Kevlin, left, Cooperstown, who arranges cups to hide a dangerous spike for a second trick. Earlier in the evening, diners enjoyed the finest food selections from area eateries. At right, Ivan Miritello, Oneonta, serves up some salad from Elena’s Michael Catering, one of the many food selections from area eateries during this evening’s  Taste Of Foothills banquet. (Ian Austin/


Gene Bettiol Recognized As Distinguished Citizen

Foothills Remembers Benefactor

Gene Bettiol Recognized

As Distinguished Citizen

Gene Bettiol

Foothills Performing Arts Center this evening recognized its benefactor, Gene Bettiol, who passed away last Dec. 2, as its Distinguished Citizen of The Year. His wife, Betty, accepted the award during the annual Taste of Foothills celebration, from Roxana Hurlburt, a Foothills board member. With Mrs. Bettiol were her daughter Jaci and grandson Eric Michelitsch.   Jaci Bettiol read a tribute to her father, as did Joseph Podolfino, his lawyer and longtime friend.  Last year, the honor went to Arnie Drogen, Foothills co-founder and longtime board member. (Jim Kevlin/

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