If DOT engineer Peter Larson thought it was going to be a ho-hum hearing that Dec. 15, 2008, at Oneonta High School, Kay Stuligross quickly advised him otherwise.
“My husband was killed right there,” the former county representative told Larson, pointing to a spot where Lettis Highway enters Southside, in front of McDonald’s.
Stuligross’ husband, Jack, a retired Hartwick College economics professor, had been riding his bike when it was struck by a car there on Oct. 2, 2007, just 14 months before. He died of his injuries.
Just being there, Kay Stuligross underscored: road improvements are matters of life and death. That’s often lost in the excruciating process of state and federal permitting.
Despite her testimony, the Southside roadwork – Project 9120.43 – was never done, as federal money dried up following the Great Recession that had begun just a couple of months before the OHS hearing.
That speaks to the complacency that sets in on road projects, as well as the competition among needy municipalities.
Nonetheless, the past few days has brought good news on two projects, long on the books and long debated.
One, in Oneonta, the city and town jointly applied Thursday, Aug. 16, for $8.7 million in state funds to beautify Lettis Highway, add a sidewalk there, and build a sidewalk on Southside Oneonta from Lowe’s to the east to Home Depot to the west.
Two, in Cooperstown, for a redesigned traffic-light setup at Chestnut and Main, the village’s only traffic signal. The Village Board, that same Aug. 16, let a $1.9 million contract to Upstate Companies LLC, an Mount Upton firm, to do the work, beginning the Monday that Labor Day Weekend ends.
In Oneonta – if the grant comes through; perhaps by January, Mayor Gary Herzig hopes – the sidewalks could finally address the major concern underscored by Jack Stuligross’ death.
As important, perhaps moreso, would be construction of a sidewalk on one side of the whole length of Lettis Highway, the four-lane that connects Main Street with the Southside strip.
Many Oneontans who work in the big box stores must now walk precariously along Lettis’ shoulder to their jobs, a long-ongoing danger that now may come to an end, Herzig hopes.Right now, Lettis Highway – at I-88’s Exit 15, the main entryway to the city – makes a poor first impression to the generally charming City of the Hills. Some of the city’s money would be used for less stark lighting (that would illuminate the roadway AND the sidewalk). And it would create a landscaped green median strip, a welcoming replacement for the Jersey barriers and asphalt.
Some of the Cooperstown grant – a TEP, for the USDOT’s Transportation Enhancement Program – will be used for further beautification of Main Street – more new benches and the like.
Foremost, though, it will “bump out” the sidewalk in front of Mel’s 22, narrowing Chestnut Street there, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said. “Walk/Don’t Walk” signs will clearly guide pedestrians at all four crossings.
For years, anyone trying to cross that intersection on foot – but particularly tourists, some 500,000 a year – don’t know what to do. Drivers passing through can see the apprehension on their faces.
Both of these projects are long-awaited: Oneonta’s, a decade and more; Cooperstown, five years, since the original TEP application was submitted.
As the work begins – in Oneonta by next summer, it can only be hoped – let’s keep Jack Stuligross in mind.
What happened to him didn’t have to happen. Let’s do what we can to ensure it doesn’t again to someone else.
Hail Doubleday! Historic Ballfield To Be
Reinvented For 21st Century Fans’ Needs
Too much discussion about Doubleday Field in recent years has centered on how it
was once considered the Birthplace of Baseball, and now isn’t.
That’s not a productive conversation.
Let’s stipulate that boys played baseball in Phinney’s Field in the mid-1800s, as boys did across the country. Let’s stipulate that Abner Doubleday was at West Point in 1839, when he purportedly invented baseball here. Let’s stipulate that, yes, something with a bat and ball was played as far away as Poland as long ago as the Middle Ages.
No matter. Doubleday Field has played a central role in Cooperstown becoming the locus of the National Game, which in turn led to the founding of the National Baseball Hall of Fame here instead of Hoboken, which in turn fueled Otsego County tourism, which in turn led to the youth baseball camps that now underpin our cornerstone local industry.
In announcing a $1 million grant the other day toward $5.8 million in renovations, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, caught the personal dimension of that living history. He remembered seeing Mickey Mantle hit a single there, (although a pinch-runner took it from there.) One of the Wounded Warriors told him, with awe, the other year: “Babe Ruth sat in the dugout where I’m sitting now.”
In short, Doubleday Field IS historic.
So the renewed interest in renovating Doubleday Field is as welcome as it is overdue.
In addition to Seward’s Million, another $3 million is expected any day from the Empire State Development Corp., (which this week announced the opening of The Wick, a boutique hotel in
Hudson, a $10 million project – the state DOES do this sort of thing, as it should.)
The resulting Doubleday Field – with a green swath leading from Main Street to the main entrance, a historic exhibit beneath the grandstand, and a multi-purpose building (offices, restrooms, a pressroom and space for public gatherings) – will cement this national icon further in community life.
Cooperstown’s new mayor, Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, immediately began promoting the project on taking office April 1, winning the endorsement of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Commission – necessary to receive the grant – just days after taking the oath.
She appointed her predecessor, Jeff Katz, as president of the Friends of Doubleday, which will assure continuity as things move forward.
Tillapaugh has a sensible priority list: As soon as the money is in hand, no matter how much, work will begin on the most important things first. No waiting.
This should assure that something – fingers crossed that is will be largely complete – will be in place in time to celebrate Doubleday Field’s centennial properly, sometime next year or in 2020.
Hail Doubleday!, (wherever or whenever baseball emerged from the primeval maw.)
We still have 6 families in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program in need of a benefactor this holiday season. CLICK HERE to learn how you can help them.
WILD BIRD SEMINAR – 2-3:30 p.m. Learn what to feed the wild birds who stay with us in the winter. Brandow’s Feed and Seed, 4119 NY-7, Oneonta. Info, www.brandowsfeedandpet.com
JAZZ MUSIC – 7 p.m. Doreen Comerford & SMRT Jazz group perform a variety of hit, lesser known, and a few R&B songs. B-Side Ballroom, 1 Clinton Plaza Drive Oneonta. Info, bsideballroom.com/agenda-calendar/
FARMERS GRANTS WORKSHOP – 10 a.m.-Noon Learn how you can find and apply for the right grants, cost share programs, and low interest loan programs for your farm with Elizabeth Higgins, ag business management extension specialist. Registration required. Cooperative Extension Center-Schoharie, 173 South Grand Street, Suite 1, Cobleskill. Info, cceschoharie-otsego.org/events/2016/12/14/farmer-grants-workshop