ONEONTA – Republicans Len Carson and Craig Gelbsman confirmed today they intended to run for mayor to succeed incumbent Gary Herzig, a Democrat, at the end of the year.
If both candidates continue, it would ensure a Republican candidate June 22. A primary may also be shaping up on the Democratic side.
Common Council member Mark Drnek announced Wednesday he is running for mayor as a Democrat. Republicans said they’ve heard of a second Democratic possibility, which would cause a primary for that party as well.
Despite COVID-19, Much Let To Do,
Mayor’s Decision Firm: It’s Time To Go
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
With would-be successors able to circulate petitions in the next few days, six-year Mayor Gary Herzig Tuesday, Feb. 23, announced what many expected and others anticipated with regret: He will retire when his term ends on Dec. 31, 2021.
“During the past six years, by working together, the people of Oneonta have achieved remarkable progress,” he said in a statement, “in developing new housing options, supporting our local businesses, and strengthening our infrastructure while continuously improving upon our high quality of life.
“Even an unprecedented pandemic was not able to slow us down,” he said.
He vowed to spend his final “10 months working harder than ever” on opportunities that “will certainly present themselves in the post-COVID world.”
The political community was prepared for the announcement, with Common Council member Luke Murphy, in charge of the Democratic campaign, saying he expects a candidate, perhaps a woman, will announce by the end of the week.
ONEONTA — Microenterprise grants totalling $52,600 were awarded this afternoon to four city businesses: Shakedown Street Share Your Wear Online Store; Noah’s World; Wolfhound Studios and Sunrise Catering, Inc.
The money is for equipment and working capital costs.
“I congratulate the recipients of this current round of microenterprise funding,” stated Mayor Gary Herzig. “These grants will help strengthen the city’s small business community.”
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.
Editor’s Note: Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig delivered his sixth annual “State of the City” speech to Common Council Tuesday, Jan. 19. This is the text.
Good evening, Oneonta – We have been tested these past 10 months; however, I can tell you that the state of the City of Oneonta is one of Strength, Resilience, and Caring 2020 was a year that Oneonta will always remember – not only for the unprecedented challenges it brought – but also for the way we came together to overcome them. From the shutdown of the spring, to the SUNY outbreak of the Fall, and now the second wave of the Winter, we have stuck together and we are getting to the other side.
I know that Oneontans are independent-minded folks – never shy about letting you know when they disagree with you – but we come together as one when times are tough. I could not be more proud of your doing so this past year.
ONEONTA – Finally, some good news in the COVID-19 outbreak.
“From what I can see, there is no community transmission,” Heidi Bond, public health director, Otsego County Department of Health, said Tuesday, Sept. 8, as the daily infections on SUNY Oneonta dropped to 16 from the Friday, Sept. 4, peak of 134.
Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 2, nearly 2,000 rapid tests were conducted at the three Oneonta testing sites – St. James Episcopal Church, Foothills and the Oneonta Armory – with 91 positives. Of those, 85 were in the 18-24 range – all college students.
The remaining nine were linked to the student population – family and friends, for instance, according to Mayor Gary Herzig. The SUNY Oneonta total as of Tuesday was 701; Hartwick College cases stood at 11, stable since Sunday.
“It does appear we caught this on time,” said Herzig. “We were able to prevent it from spreading to the non-student population.”
Additionally, none of the faculty and staff at SUNY Oneonta had tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began Aug. 25.
Herzig credits quick action following reports of “too many parties” on Saturday, Aug. 22. “The next day, I notified Governor Cuomo’s office about my concern, even before we had a positive test,” he said. “Within 24 hours, I had a call from Chancellor (Jim) Malatras, and the governor had redirected four test sites” – three downtown; a fourth at the college – “to Oneonta. It was very helpful.”
When Malatras implemented mandatory saliva testing, the infected students were quickly identified.
“All of these actions resulted in a swift response,” he said. “We knew who had contracted the virus and isolated them.”
Bond also credits mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing and other “personal, protective precautions,” to keeping the virus at bay.
“People have been taking more precautions since that unfortunate Saturday night,” said Herzig.
AT SUNY, the majority of the students are “mildly symptomatic,” with sore throats, congestion, coughs and fevers, said Bond. One has developed COVID-related pneumonia, but none have been hospitalized.
“The Chancellor’s decision to close the school” – he did so at a press conference on campus Thurday, Sept. 3 – “was the right one,” said Herzig. “Given the spread, it was clear that it couldn’t be contained.”
Bond warned that several off-campus SUNY students had been issued citations by the county Department of Health for violating quarantine after they were found to have been “outside of their residence.”
“You can face civil charges for violating quarantine,” she said. “And we’ve been working with the school on students who are found to be in violation of their quarantine. They have avenues as well.”
But she said the majority of the students had been compliant. “There has to be a level of trust there,” she said. “We’re monitoring more than 400 students.”
The Department of Health does random check-ins with students, and Oneonta Police have volunteered to do drive-bys of quarantined students living off campus to make sure they’re obeying the order.
However, Herzig did recognize the economic impact the closure may have on Oneonta. “This is going to hurt our local businesses and the city finances,” he said. “And these impacts will have to be addressed.”
Though the on-campus students who tested negative have been ordered to leave campus, those who live off-campus are welcome to remain, said Herzig.
“They’re residents of the city,” he said. “They pay rent, and no authority can order them to leave. We will have many students who will live here and continue to study, and we want to talk about how all of us can make sure we hold onto the gains that we have achieved.”
To that end, Herzig said, the state left four of the rapid-test machines behind, and he is working with the Department of Health to schedule another round of free testing.
“We have a lot to be thankful for,” said Herzig. “Every one of us did our part, even if all you did was put on a mask. We have all acted together to prevent this from spreading out of control.”
ONEONTA – SUNY’s new chancellor, Jim Malatras, will be in Oneonta Monday, meeting with the mayor and the local college president to ensure everything is being done to stem the worst outbreak of COVID-19 – 29 cases – among the system’s 64 institutions.
“We’re one SUNY family,” Malatras told WAMC Radio’s reporter Ian Pickus on Friday’s Midday Magazine in an interview that centered largely on SUNY Oneonta. “We’re going to harness all the firepower of SUNY.”
Mayor Gary Herzig said he, the new chancellor and SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris will “sit down and talk about how things have been going.” Herzig, who’s been “disappointed” with Morris’ interface with City Hall, said of Malatras, “He’s been great. He’s been very, very cooperative, very hands-on.”
ONEONTA – Though Phase One of “un-PAUSE” is limited to construction, manufacturing and curbside retail, Al Rubin, chair, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce Board, wants to make sure all businesses are ready to begin the process of rebuilding the local economy.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “Now is the time for innovation and creativity. Now is not the time to be shy. We need to be sharing all these ideas.”
This afternoon, county board Chairman David Bliss announced that Otsego County businesses and industry have been included in Phase One of the state’s reopening from the COVID-19 lockdown, effective this Friday, May 15.
COOPERSTOWN – Local citizens face “an emergency need” to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the new Community Foundation of Otsego County. So at 2 p.m. today, the CFOC announced it has created the COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund.
“Otsego County unemployment is rising and we are seeing growing numbers of potentially fatal illnesses,” CFOF announced in a statement. “The nonprofit service sector of our economy is faced with overwhelming assistance requests, and we are going to help.”
The CFOC is chairman by Harry Levine, Town of Springfield, former president of the Otsego Land Trust. The vice chair is Gary Herzig, Oneonta’s mayor; treasurer, Sarah Manchester, Oneonta, limited partner in Edward Jones, the financial advisers, and secretary, Bob Schlather, the Cooperstown attorney and accountant.
SCI-FI & HORROR – 11 a.m. Day 2 of the strange and horrific festival. Features authors, vendors, speakers, activities, more. Cost, $6/person for day pass. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/SciFiHorroFest/
COOPERSTOWN – Not one, but two Otsego County mayors highly recommend boating on Glimmerglass this – or any – fall.
Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig have long loved boating on the lake – motor, sail, kayak, paddleboard – you name it. And while summer is peak boating time, both go out on Lake Otsego through autumn – Herzig and his wife Connie until mid-October, and Tillapaugh and her husband, Gary Kuch, until mid-November.
“The fall colors are glorious when you’re on Otsego Lake,” Tillapaugh said. “You’re surrounded by them.”
With her family’s house only 1½ blocks from the water’s edge, Tillapaugh grew up boating on Otsego Lake.
“I had my own little wooden boat at age 12,” she said, “which I bought with money I earned scooping up the golf balls people at the Country Club hit into the water.”
ONEONTA – Bill Shue doesn’t see the Sixth Ward’s fight against housing developer RSS as a strictly Sixth Ward issue.
“If this can happen here, it can happen anywhere,” he said. “It can happen in Center City or on the East End.”
The Sixth Ward Neighbors United, which has vocally opposed Rehabilitation Support Services’ proposed 64-unit housing project at River and Duane streets, met tonight at the Sixth Ward Athletic Club, the first meeting since speaking at the Otsego County Board of Representatives’ April 3 meeting.
County Rep Danny Lapin, District 5, was in attendance, as was Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, and Mayor Gary Herzig.