ONEONTA – Despite the occasional rain and cold weather, hundreds came out for the Memorial Day parade and a wreath laying ceremony Monday, May 31, in Neahwa Park to honor the country’s veterans who died in service.
Participants in the parade included the Oneonta Fire Department, the Oneonta PD, the American Legion, the Rotary Club, the Boy Scouts and the VFW.
Fred Hicken, a WWII veteran, was the grand marshal of the parade.
The parade started on Market Street, adjacent to the Foothills Performing Art Center. It proceeded on Main Street and ended at the veteran’s memorial plaques in the park.
Mayor Gary Herzig gave a personal thank you to the veterans present at Neahwa Park.
“I had family members who lost their lives in the concentration camps,” Herzig said.
Herzig said that Memorial Day was important to “take the time to remember those who fought and particularly those who didn’t come home,” Herzig said. “Their sacrifice and their families’ sacrifice was also our entire communities’ sacrifice … We can only dream of what we could’ve been if we hadn’t lost those who didn’t come home. It’s a true loss not only for them and their families but all of us.”
During the ceremony at Neahwa Park, there was a short invocation to begin the ceremony that said a prayer for stopping the rain and allowing them to honor veterans. The Gettysburg Address was read, along with Gen. John Logan’s orders, which first designated Memorial Day as a time of honoring veterans.
Scouts BSA of Oneonta placed about 3,600 flags across the community.
The ceremony ended with a 21 gun salute and the bagpipes of Michael Woytach, an Iraq War veteran who is part of the VFW in Oneonta.
“It’s just to pay my homage for those who can’t be here with us today,” Woytach said.
Herzig summed up the day with his closing remarks.
“It’s a sad day and also a proud day,” Herzig said.
Oneonta’s Common Council will likely meet its self-imposed June 1, deadline to review, and change or adopt, the city’s Community Advisory Board’s recommendations for the Oneonta Police Department, Mayor Gary Herzig said Tuesday, May 17.
Among the topics being discussed are the status of no-knock raids in Oneonta, making statistics of crime and arrests available to the public and a review board to examine the high number of arrests of people of color.
“The city’s process has been very good. We’ve had input from a large number of community members,” Herzig said. “The council is researching our ability to implement those plans … I’m happy with the fact that we took the governor’s order to heart and out of it came a very robust report.”
The State of New York Appellate Division confirmed a previous ruling against a lawsuit brought by Johna Peachin that attempted to block construction of the lofts at Dietz Street in the City of Oneonta, Friday, May 7.
The lawsuit claimed that the apartments would block views of the hills, reduce the capacity for parking at Peachin’s business, and require her to walk further for exercise at the YMCA.
After years of planning, as part of a downtown revitalization initiative, community leaders broke ground at the site of the Dietz Street loft project Friday April 30, in Oneonta, with the hope of revitalizing and bringing “greater vibrancy” to the city’s downtown.
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, state Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Maryland, Hartwick College President Margaret Drugovich, Empire State Development Deputy Director Allison Nowack and other community and business leaders attended the ceremony and lifted ceremonial shovels for the groundbreaking.
These lofts, which began development in April, will bring more people to the downtown area, Herzig said.
The four story building would include artist lofts, 24 middle-income, two-bedroom apartments and units for people with disabilities.
ONEONTA – The city of Oneonta has promoted Greg Mattice to fill the position of city administrator.
Mattice, who has been with the city since 2010 and has been the city engineer for about half of that time, was approved for his new position by the city’s Common Council Tuesday, April 20.
The administrator position is a revised position in the city, an attempt to turn the autonomous city manager into an employee for the council and mayor. George Korthauer resigned as city manager in January 2020, about six months before his three-year term was set to expire. In the aftermath, city officials said they had not had a good track record with managers and wanted to reform the position.
The new position, which was created at a special meeting in October, was designed to have less power and independence than the city manager position.
Mattice was a member of the Otsego County’s Energy Task Force and in 2017, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig gave him the key to the city in appreciation of his efforts in keeping the city safe during winter storm Stella.
“I know that both the department heads and the council are both looking forward to working with you in that role,” Herzig said. “We are very excited to have you in this role.”
Mattice, who will begin in his new role July 1, will make $110,000 a year.
Not only has a police shooting made history in Oneonta, it’s making statewide history, too.
A new department in the state Attorney General’s Office, the Office of Special Investigations, created by Executive Order 147 after George Floyd’s death last May 25, opened its door on April 1, according to Sofia Quintanar, the AG’s deputy press secretary.
The office is empowered to “investigate and, if warranted, prosecute … a police officer … concerning any incident in which the death of a person, whether in custody or not, is caused by an act or omission.”
Five days later, on Tuesday, April 6, Tyler Green, 23, (also identified as Tyler Johnson in early reports), was shot twice after pulling a knife in a domestic dispute at 48 River St., by Sgt. Ralph Pajerski, an 18-year veteran of the Oneonta Police Department.
“This is the first in the state for our new department,” said Quintanar.
Both officers remain on the job, with Sergeant Pajerski on desk duty while the investigation is in progress, and his partner in responding to the 48 River situation, Officer Kristen Lapointe, resuming her regular duties, said OPD Chief Chris Witzenburg.
With officials and officers who have viewed Pajerski’s body cam saying it shows he acted as he had to, Witzenburg said, “The frustration for me is that it’s taking as long as it’s going to take – 6-8 weeks. But I understand they have an investigative procedure they’ve adopted, and I’m just going to have to trust it.”
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.”