News of Otsego County

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

Nothing Is Perfect, But Green Movement Is Looking For Answers
from CARL SEELEY

Nothing Is Perfect,

But Green Movement

Is Looking For Answers

To the Editor:

I don’t always catch Mike Zagata’s column, but every time I do, he’s revisiting the same two themes—one right, one wrong.

Theme One is that even “green” technologies have negative environmental impacts. This is true, and it’s important to understand and keep in mind. When we get electricity from photovoltaics rather than coal or gas, we reduce our CO2 emissions, but we increase other impacts related to the mining of particular materials and the manufacturing process for the panels.

Examples are easily multiplied, because very few technologies are actually zero-impact, never mind restorative, leaving ecosystems better than we found them. To the extent that people are naïve about that, it’s good provide a reminder of reality.

Mr. Zagata’s second theme has two forms. Theme 2A is an explicit claim that something being touted as a “green” technology is actually worse than what we’re doing. This is what he said back on Jan. 24-25 about electric cars, and as discussed in my response published the next week, he was factually wrong.

Theme 2B doesn’t go as far as 2A. It’s not an explicit claim that some “green” technology is actually a bad idea. It is, instead, a focus on the green technology’s environmental impacts, with an implication that it’s not worth adopting.

This argument makes little sense, and sometimes Mr. Zagata blends it with other misleading or false statements. His recent discussion of geothermal heating is a case in point.

Yes, geothermal uses some electricity for the operation of the system (though Mr. Zagata’s April 25-26 column on the subject suggested he didn’t understand the basic workings of heat pumps). And yes, most people’s electricity still comes – at least in part – from fossil-fuel combustion.

It’s nonetheless true that heating your house with geothermal produces less CO2 than running electricity through a baseboard heater, or burning gas, oil, or wood. Why is Mr. Zagata trying to talk people out of that?

Most recently, in his May 23-24 column, Mr. Zagata takes apart a reader’s claim that their electricity is “clean” because they get it from a supplier of renewable energy. Mr. Zagata here is partly right, because it’s true that all the power in the grid gets mingled together in ways that we don’t usually think about.

If I go to the farmer’s market and buy a steak from Tauzel’s, the beef I’m eating actually was raised in Schenevus; it’s not mixed in with a bunch of other beef from, say, a Nebraska feedlot.

Electricity is different. If I buy power from a solar farm in Laurens, I’m not getting those “electrons.” The power produced there is put onto the grid and finds its own best route through the vast web of producers and consumers.

As with geothermal, we’re at Mr. Zagata’s theme 2B: you may think your electricity is clean, but you’re still getting power from gas-fired plants, so don’t bother with your “green” efforts. But this is misguided.

When you buy from a solar farm, you aren’t purifying yourself of involvement with fossil electricity, and you aren’t eliminating your environmental impact, and you shouldn’t tell yourself that you are. Nonetheless, you are helping. You’re increasing market demand for sources like solar that, while not perfect, are better. As that demand increases, our power system shifts to a mix of sources that are cleaner. Not clean, but cleaner. Not perfect, but still an improvement.

Green technologies are not miracle workers. Our daily lives will always have impacts on the world around us. But there are vitally important reasons for reducing those impacts, and there are practical ways of doing that, such as electric cars and geothermal heating.

Mr. Zagata’s crusade against these efforts is a disservice to the public.

KARL SEELEY

Professor of Economics, Hartwick College

Oneonta

If Path To Renewables Wrong, So What? No Harm Is Done
from PAUL AGOGLIA

If Path To Renewables Wrong,

So What? No Harm Is Done

To the Editor:

Mr. Downey and Mr. Zagata, apparent experts in fracked gas, and I (pro renewable) will not be here in 50 years to say to one another, “I told you so”.  Therefore it makes sense for us to ensure there is a future that includes four changes of season per year for posterity and for wildlife in Otsego County.

While both Downey and Zagata tout gas, and recently attempted to show negatives of renewables, neither made an attempt to paint a true picture of their buddy down in Pennsylvania, fracked gas.

There are well over 500 new “fracking ponds” scattered across northern and western Pennsylvania.  Looking like a bad case of acne on a clear face, they are illustrated on easy to obtain maps.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) does not keep a list of where these ponds are.  I wonder if that is by design or due to a lack of oversight staff?

Many ponds contain chemical waste.  While it appears that these “ponds” are eventually “cleaned up,” there are no signs telling wildlife which ponds to avoid.

If you were around for the acid rain issues in the 1970s and 1980s, you know how hard it is for wildlife to tell us there is an issue, other than laying belly up.

It can also be difficult to pinpoint the culprit – in the acid rain case, it was soot from coal-burning smoke stacks in the industrial Midwest that was impacting the lakes of the Adirondacks.

No one can claim to have a crystal ball that will tell him/her that the geology of Pennsylvania is permanently stable for eons to come, and therefore, that it is safe to frack in Pennsylvania.

Remember Pangea from Earth Science?  Things move!  Surprise!

There are indications of apparent health-related issues being reported already, less than a decade into fracking.  How about a neighbor to a fracking site who decides he/she wants/needs to put in a new water well.  Will they hit clean water or contaminated water?  Will the well have to be monitored permanently to be on the safe side?  Who picks up the cost long after the frackers are gone?

Why would anyone in Otsego County, New York want us to contribute to Pennsylvania’s developing geological nightmare by buying in?  Solar and wind are currently at a levelized cost equal to if not better than that of electricity from natural gas fired power plants.

Geothermal as indicated by Jay Egg appears ripe to give gas a run for the money as a heat source.  You want jobs? Well let’s consider laying geothermal pipe!

The secret issue with natural and fracked gas that no Democrat, Republican or gas-industry representative wants to talk about is methane.

Based on an MIT study done almost 10 years ago, all that is needed is a 3 percent loss of natural gas anywhere along the pipe (the frack well, frack site, CNG truck, decompressor station, destination site) and then natural gas is worse than coal for the environment.  All this because of the impact a small amount of escaping methane has in the air.

We have two paths we can choose from that I am aware of.  Gas will keep us toasty warm for years, but if gas climate deniers are wrong, they leave us no “out.”  And you always want an “out” or “mulligan.”

If the renewable path is taken and climate scientists are wrong, well, we then happily take our mulligan and life goes on.

PAUL AGOGLIA

Oneonta

 

For Now, Gas Necessary, But Before Long, Goodnight Irene
from CHIP NORTHRUP

For Now, Gas Necessary, But

Before Long, Goodnight Irene

To the Editor:

Have followed the local fossil fuel v. renewables debate from afar and would like to suggest that there may be more compatibility between the two that either side is willing to admit.

What the fossil-fuel junkies fail to understand is that the source of that gas is literally the bottom of the hydrocarbon barrel, the source rock. When it taps out, it’s Goodnight Irene. Wish your grandkids good luck in all their future endeavors.

Because of its environmental impacts and limited life expectancy, gas should never be used as a primary source of energy – it should be kept for peaking uses – when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine.

What the renewable fans may not appreciate is that using natural gas is a viable way to generate heat or electricity to supplement renewable sources. So they are complementary and should be used and discussed as such.

We will be coming back to town soon and we’d really appreciate it if you would get this rancorous matter sorted out so that we can all get on to another rancorous debate. Won’t that be jolly ?

CHIP NORTHRUP

Cooperstown

It’s Time To Move Forward On Upgrading D&H Yards
from ART RORICK

It’s Time To Move Forward

On Upgrading D&H Yards

To the Editor:

I find your editorial of March 12-13, “Herzig: Act Today, Look To Tomorrow”, troubling.

In my opinion, Mayor Herzig and the Common Council have not been transparent about the whole railyard development.  From my standpoint as a Fifth Ward resident, this administration has done minimum communication for this development.

The city has a 2014 document that the Greater Oneonta Economic Development Council worked on.  GO-EDC enlisted the support of Cornell University’s student graduate program (Design Connect Cornell). They spent a year and a half developing a railyard redevelopment project.

Why wasn’t the work submitted by GO-EDC given a chance?

Thousands in taxpayer money now has been spent on a flawed generic environmental impact statement (GEIS), not to mention the deal that allowed the County of Otsego IDA (aka Otsego Now) to use $250,000 in taxpayer money for an 80+ acre parcel within the railyards.

Originally owned by the Oneonta River Corp., the property paid in taxes (county, city, library and school).  Now, unless the property is developed (minus any IDA tax break deals), no taxes will be paid.

Where is the social justice and shared sacrifice?

Herzig says some of us who have submitted comments and concerns “are economically secure, by comparison, telling those who need jobs they can’t have them.”

Is being retired and living on fixed income economically secure?

The mayor is politicizing the situation, failing to engage with the residents about key issues that would impact our neighborhoods.  Jobs and tax relief are what we need, not more of our tax money being wasted on studies and taking more property off the tax rolls.

Oneonta residents deserve better.  We deserve our area to be kept clean, safe and protected, just like folks up Cooperstown way.

ART RORICK

Resident, Fifth Ward

Oneonta

 

 

As We Toil, Thanks For Nothing, Homer
from JAMES R. DEAN

As We Toil, Thanks

For Nothing, Homer

To the Editor:

Regarding the ongoing New York Times articles about people moving up to the Hudson Valley and the Catskills: It cannot not come soon enough for me.

Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark welcomes Homer Simpson, who was inducted in May 2017. Thanks for nothing, Homer! (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

I have driven back and forth through those areas for 50 years and I have seen the decline and loss of people and interest.

It has gone from not being able to pass cars on the road in the 1970s, to being the only car on the road today.

There are not enough people on the roads of Upstate New York, in many places, to keep a coffee shop open.

It will be while before they get up our way, but I support every effort to encourage them to come.

These new people are critical to bring money, ideas, contacts, children and life back to Upstate New York.

Our fields are turning back to forests, our residents are getting older, historic old homes are collapsing, schools are being closed, the economy is hollowing out.

Upstate New York has some of our country’s best land, fresh air and clean water.

For many reasons, I believe that Upstate New York will rise again. The second home buyers are an important part of that process as they hopefully will transition to full time homeowners.

RSS Friend To Community, Executive Director Avows

from Bill DeVita

RSS Friend To Community,

Executive Director Avows

These images and other information about the 65 apartments planned in the Sixth Ward are available at www.riversideoneonta.com

To the Editor:

For more than 30 years, Rehabilitation Support Services has been an
active and committed community partner and service provider in the City of Oneonta and Otsego County.

If you’ve had a bagel and coffee at the Oneonta Bagel Company, received job assistance through Supported Employment, or information through our Community Education Project, you know RSS.

We are proud to have built many longstanding and productive relationships in Oneonta, as well as a proven record of delivering successful programs to address critical community needs. For those reasons, it has been discouraging to read a number of misrepresentations regarding our planned Riverside Apartments project on River Street.

Richfield Zoning Restricts Business; Many Oppose It
from PATRICK DOYLE

Richfield Zoning Restricts

Business; Many Oppose It

To the Editor:

This letter is in response to your March 20 article on the process to develop new zoning in Richfield, “Petition Drive in Offing,” and a follow-up letter from Larry Frigault, Richfield Town Board member.

To recap, the March 20 article highlighted concerns that the proposed zoning for Richfield would limit business in the town. The article also wondered if, with “windmill foes” and their allies now in control of “the whole apparatus of the Richfield town government,” the new zoning might pass.

What the March 20 article WASN’T about was the new Richfield Comprehensive Plan, but Larry raised the Comp Plan in his letter. Let’s note of what Larry said about the Comp Plan: It was created by a large group of volunteers (14 in total) working with professional guidance. Contrary to what Larry stated, however, there were limits on who could be on the Comp Plan Committee.

Otsego 2000 Is Challenging DGEIS Brownfield Findings
from Nicole Dillingham

Otsego 2000 Is Challenging

DGEIS Brownfield Findings

To the Editor:

The flood of editorials trying to divide our community regarding heavy industrial development in Oneonta are discouraging.

They may help sell newspapers, but they lack integrity. This is not a choice between jobs or no jobs. It is not even a choice between development or no development. It is purely a choice about what kind of jobs and what kind of development is suitable.

To answer this question, state law (known as SEQRA) requires the owner/developer, Otsego Now, to inform the City of Oneonta and the public of its plans; the city as lead agency is required to analyze its environmental impacts. The city hired Delaware Engineering to conduct the required environmental review.

Its review resulted in a flawed draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“DGEIS”). It is a “ghost.” It is 113 pages of headings and charts, but entirely lacking in substance.  The city paid as much as $200,000 for this empty vessel. It did not get their its worth.

After Delaware Engineering was hired and scoping required by SEQRA was completed, Otsego Now disclosed for the first time in a grant application submitted July 26, 2018, that it planned to construct a gas decompressor station in the Town of Oneonta, fueled by high volumes of compressed natural gas transported from Pennsylvania by tractor-trailer, to deliver gas to the railyards.

Otsego Now’s plans also called for expansion of the DeRuyter pipeline and construction of miles of new pipelines to bring gas to the site. Mayor Herzig confirmed by letter, dated Oct. 15, 2018, that he was “completely unaware” of these plans when environmental review began.

As a result, the plans to construct gas infrastructure to supply gas to the railyards were not disclosed to the public as part of the SEQRA process. The DGEIS completely ignored these new plans, although by the time the Common Council voted in January 2019 to accept the DGEIS, both Mayor Herzig and Delaware Engineering were fully aware of these facts.

The failure to discuss the plans for construction of gas infrastructure in the DGEIS is a serious error.  SEQRA requires that all related projects be considered as part of a coordinated environmental review. This clearly did not occur.

Due to this omission, the DGEIS must now be supplemented and the public given full notice of all plans for construction of infrastructure to supply energy to the site.

A revised GEIS must also consider alternatives to heavy industrial development, such as an Eco-Park, constructed to the highest energy conservation standards and powered by renewable solar and/or geothermal energy.

It is significant that Mayor Herzig, the new Downtown Revitalization Initiative, and the new City of Oneonta Comprehensive Plan, all call for green and renewable energy to be used where possible. Why not at the railyards? This question should be answered, before this option is rejected.

There are additional questions which must be answered. It is common knowledge that the railyards is contaminated from prior industrial use. When soil is disturbed during excavation and construction it can release harmful particles, causing health risks for people breathing the air. How will this brownfield contamination be remediated and at what cost?

Also, the DGEIS calls for building directly on delineated wetlands that drain into the Susquehanna River and serve a crucial role in retaining flood waters. If this site is paved over, how will wetland mitigation and stormwater control be handled and paid for?

Further, the DGEIS calls for extensive road work in the city and the town. What costs and impacts will this have on residents?

Finally, the DGEIS must disclose the true costs of the proposed development to ratepayers and taxpayers. The gas supply cost is estimated as $17.5 million for the decompressor alone, and $50-100 million for expansion of the DeRuyter pipeline. Additional millions will be spent for miles of pipelines to bring the gas to the Railyards. Otsego Now is also considering an electric power plant at the site.  What will the total costs be for these developments?

Otsego Now has a terrible track record for cost control. State comptroller records show that Otsego Now has spent as much as $76,000 per job created, much more than similar agencies in neighboring counties. This includes tax exemptions granted of $43,000 per job, and expenses of $33,483 per job gained. How many jobs will the Railyards development create? Can we afford these costs for construction of a heavy industrial park in Oneonta? We must insist on rational development based on facts, not false choices.

Just this month, Oneonta proudly issued a Downtown Revitalization Initiative and a proposed new Comprehensive Plan, celebrating its environmental assets and boasting of its two universities and advanced medical facilities.

For its part, the county has appointed an Energy Task Force, with representation from the city, to investigate energy needs and supply in the region. Shouldn’t Oneonta await the results of this work before shackling Oneonta to a future out of sync with its own planning documents, burdening the City for decades to come with infrastructure costs it cannot afford? Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on planning at the City and County level. The plans produced must not be merely shelved and then ignored.

For more information please see the Otsego 2000 comments on the DGEIS which can be found on our website at www.Otsego2000.org.

NICOLE DILLINGHAM

Board President

Otsego 2000

Cooperstown

Whom Do We Trust?
from Nicholas Cunningham

Whom Do We Trust?

To the Editor:
Re Mike Zagata’s March 14 remarks about socialism, the National Debt, and energy:

• Our health, education and welfare can be entrusted to our legislatures and executives whom we vote in or out. Or they can be run by big corporations over which we have almost no control.

• Social security, our public schools and Medicare may be socialistic, but whatever we call them, they serve us pretty well.

• Yes, the national debt is much too high, but Reagan and Trump raised it and Clinton lowered it. And two big reasons it’s so high are excess military spending and reduced tax income from the very rich.

• If we do need more nuclear power, let it be under professional … not for-profit management!

NICHOLAS CUNNINGHAM M.D, D.Ph.
Springfield Center

WEINBERG: Gelbsman Saves You Money

WEINBERG: Gelbsman Saves You Money

To the Editor:

I have known Craig Gelbsman and the Gelbsman family for over 40 years. When Craig was elected to the Otsego County Board of Representatives I was extremely pleased.

Craig is always on top of the issues that matter to the residents of Otsego County. He is fiscally conservative and will not spend the taxpayers’ money without a thorough and thoughtful examination of the issues.

Craig has lived in this county his entire life. He and his wife, Mindy, are raising four wonderful children in Oneonta. Craig is a great example of a person that was born in Otsego County staying in Otsego County.  This is exactly the type of person we need to stay on the County Board.

Craig and I have had many conversations about waste and unnecessary spending in Otsego County and he is constantly fighting for what’s correct for county residents.

The following are just some of the many issues Craig has worked on:

  • Streamlining the budgeting process
  • Communication tower improvements and upgrades
  • Vehicle maintenance and leasing efficiency

Craig worked diligently for several years to have an effective and functioning shared services agreement. This purchasing agreement has saved the county hundreds of thousands of dollars and will continue to save the taxpayers money for years to come.

I urge you to support Craig in the upcoming election.

RICK WEINBERG

Businessman

Oneonta

HOHENSEE: Thank You, Andrew Marietta

HOHENSEE: Thank You, Andrew Marietta

To the Editor:

This is not so much a letter of support as it is one of thanks, to Andrew Marietta for his service as Otsego County representative for District 8 and for his decision to seek re-election. Andrew’s community involvement, honesty, integrity, authenticity and unyielding commitment to serving county residents is admirable and impressive. I appreciate his challenging the status quo to make a positive difference. He’s a pragmatist who understands the challenges faced by Otsego County and he has shown an ability to listen and collaborate, regardless of political party.

I understand there is some question about Andrew’s attendance at county board and committee meetings – there’s really no need. It’s on the record that he has attended 89 of the last 94 meetings of the board or the committees upon which he serves. Hard to question 95 percent attendance (attendance of some other county reps might surprise you though!) But showing up at meetings is a low bar that Andrew clears with ease.
Andrew considers process, systems and opportunities for improvement. And we’d be hard pressed to find a person as committed to community service as Andrew with his current or past board membership on numerous worthy organizations. Additionally, his professional work has benefitted numerous nonprofits in our region that serve residents throughout the county and beyond.

I am particularly grateful for Andrew’s transparency with residents in revealing how county committee structure is lacking, and leaves basic county business to County reps, many of whom change seats every two years. If the county always does what it’s always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten – inefficient and costly governance. The current structure restricts our county reps ability to focus on policy development or the larger issues the county faces. This weakens both areas, disempowering department heads and stifling county operations.
Andrew’s experience and genuine commitment is allowing him to make the county stronger, more efficient and less costly. It seems the current system is failing, action is needed, and I’m glad Andrew is advocating for a better way.

Future success depends on embracing change – thankfully Andrew is stepping up to continue the task.
Thanks again to Andrew and, oh yeah, he’ll have my vote on Nov. 7.

TOM HOHENSEE
Member
Otsego Town Board

BERLIANT: Glad For DiNapoli’s Support

BERLIANT: Glad For DiNapoli’s Support

To the Editor:

“I’m delighted to endorse Leslie Berliant for Otsego County representative for Middlefield, Roseboom and Cherry Valley. As you know, one of my jobs is to ensure that local governments are fiscally responsible. Ms. Berliant is the right candidate to help Otsego County to thrive and will be a responsible, honest and transparent representative for her district.”

– Tom DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller

I am thrilled to share this endorsement and extremely honored to have such strong support from a man known for his integrity, honesty and fiscal responsibility.

LESLIE BERLIANT
Democrat for Otsego County, District 7

KUZMINSKI: Vote For Democratic Slate

KUZMINSKI: Vote For Democratic Slate

To the Editor:

Sustainable Otsego has endorsed the following candidates for county board: Leslie Berliant, Nicole Dillingham, Gary Koutnik, Danny Lapin, Andrew Marietta, Adrienne Martini, Chad McEvoy, Cathy Nardi, Pat Ryan, Liz Shannon, Tom Spychalski, and Andrew Stammel.

They all support the principles of sustainable living, economic self-reliance and home rule. As we face the future, it’s clear that we can no longer rely, as we used to, on distant governments and corporations to provide for our social and economic security. Increasingly, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. Our communities and our resources are repeatedly challenged; social and economic security is harder to come by. Incomes are low, jobs are scarce, and young people migrate elsewhere. For far too long, majorities on the county board have failed to respond to these challenges.

We need new leadership in Otsego County, especially on the county Board of Representatives. We need people, like the candidates above, who are ready to aggressively defend the interests of our communities. Otsego County desperately needs a voice of its own – and these candidates are the ones who can give it that voice. If you are happy with the way things are, vote for their opponents. But if you think we need a change, here’s a chance to do something about it.

ADRIAN KUZMINSKI

Fly Creek

Performance-Review Missteps Show Need For County Reform
LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Performance-Review Missteps

Show Need For County Reform

Editor’s Note:  The letter was inadvertently not published in this week’s edition of Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal.  Letters to the Editor for publication in the newspapers may be send to info@allotsego.com

To the Editor:

I am writing to continue the discussion about future of Otsego County government operations and achieving success for taxpayers.

I have outlined the many challenges we face with our current county government operation.  The status quo is not working, and there is consensus that change must occur, but there is disagreement about the path forward.

Katz: Allstadt, Tillapaugh ‘Incredible’ Trustees

Katz: Allstadt, Tillapaugh ‘Incredible’ Trustees

To the Editor:

The Village of Cooperstown is incredibly fortunate to have Ellen Tillapaugh and Lou Allstadt run for re-election. They are two of the finest trustees to have ever served the village. Their dedication, intelligence, open-mindedness and knowledge of village government and issues have resulted in profoundly positive results.

To have someone of Lou’s corporate experience and talent serve the village is almost hard to believe. On the Finance & Personnel Committee, his ability to analyze our organization has resulted in a more streamlined, less costly government. As chair of the Buildings Committee and member of the Streets Committee, his management and oversight skills have improved how the village works on many issues, but no more so than in the commitment to fixing Village Hall at 22 Main St. On the Economic Development & Sustainability Committee, Lou’s leadership in energy efficiency and new ways of approaching our traditional ways of doing things has resulted in huge savings to the village, as well as a fresh and positive reputation for Cooperstown that has garnered national attention.

For decades before she was elected as trustee in 2011, Ellen Tillapaugh was the epitome of community service. She was the second female president of the Cooperstown Rotary Club and involved in more community activities than I can list here. As a trustee and deputy mayor (beginning in 2013), Ellen has brought invaluable insight to all of her roles, especially as chair of Finance and Personnel, Parks and Public Safety. Her knowledge of the village, where we’ve been and where we need to go, has been a major reason why, since her election, the village has moved forward in such positive ways.

It is undeniable that the Village of Cooperstown’s budget has never been healthier, that more work is being done at a quicker pace, that we are being awarded more grants and that an incredible amount of constructive change has occurred. The village is  in a much better place now financially and with its infrastructure because the Board of Trustees is productive, creating a more efficient, less costly government. None of this would have happened without Lou Allstadt and Ellen Tillapaugh. Please vote for them on Election Day.

JEFF KATZ

Mayor

Village of Cooperstown

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