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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Letters

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2020
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17

‘Step Afrika’ Dance Performance

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PRESIDENTS DAY!

PERFORMANCE – 9 – 10:30 p.m. ‘Step Afrika’ performs dance that uses the human body as an instrument as practiced by traditionally African American fraternities, sororities and incorporates song, story telling, audience participation. Admission, $3/person. Hunt Union Ballroom, SUNY Oneonta.

Around State, ‘Microgrids’ Require Gas From Fracking

Around State,
‘Microgrids’ Require
Gas From Fracking

To the Editor:
In his recent response about a microgrid for the railyard, Albert Colone faulted me for not giving him credit for a source of energy that he never mentioned in his original article: biomass. Then he asks who, besides me, would not like that?
Well, the hundreds of people who vigorously opposed and ultimately defeated a proposed wood-burning power plant in the railyards a few years ago would probably say, “No thank you, Albert.”
Clearly, I must repeat the lesson of my earlier letter regarding “combined heat and power” (CHP), also called “cogeneration.” CHP requires combustion to create electricity and heat at the same time.

County Must Explore Fresh Thinking On Energy

County Must
Explore Fresh
Thinking On Energy

 

To the Editor:

Dennis Higgins of Otego took a few pot-shots at my opinion piece which appeared in Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal.
In my piece, I wondered if an Oneonta Municipal Microgrid System might help expand local energy generation and availability in helping alleviate the limitations on our current energy capacity.
I threw it out there as a question to try and stimulate some discussion for the good of more energy to support expanded commerce and the economic growth of Central New York.
Indeed, the submitted opinion piece I presented to the paper was entitled, “Is a tri-gen municipal microgrid an answer to boosting local energy?” It was framed as a question which the paper chose not to use.
Back to Mr. Higgins, when citing the sources of renewable energy to fuel my “make believe” microgrid, he conveniently omitted biomass, which I thought could possibly be the primary energy source in heat and power generation, augmented by onsite and rooftop solar, and hilltop wind generation backed-up with natural gas; sort of an all-of-the-above approach!
Several people contacted me to ask why I didn’t include geothermal. I responded that it would be important component and should be required technology for individual developers in their planning and construction phases!
In Mr. Higgins’ reply, my sense is it was crafted in a rather defensive mode, perhaps to hide some personal energy bias. All I could conclude, was:
“Well, maybe I am actually onto something here!”
The “tri-gen municipal microgrid” concept should continue to be discussed, with key public and private leaders thinking about bringing in some experts in this field to evaluate the merit of the concept, as well to seek their expert guidance and advice!
Take the blinders off! Other than Mr. Higgins, who could be against that?

ALBERT COLONE
Oneonta
Colone is co-convener of GO-EDC, the Greater Oneonta Economic
Development Council

Ban Straws? If You Want To Recycle More Plastic, Focus On Worst Abuser

Ban Straws?
If You Want To
Recycle More Plastic,
Focus On Worst Abuser

To the Editor:
Let me weigh in on  Amazon, Cuomo, the environment, and ignorance.
First Amazon. Fourth-richest company in the world. Recent announcement of expansion in New York, thanks to the governor and his desire to continue to revitalize the Long Island City area which – if you have witnessed over the last 30 years – has become an extension of Manhattan.
Not a bad thing perhaps, but could have been much better. I’ll get back to that shortly.
•If you are paying attention to some headlines, you will see townships across America are banning the use of plastic straws. This action is a great way to raise awareness of the importance of minimizing plastic use.
However, the increased usage of plastic and packaging being utilized for our conveniences is offsetting the positives of any sipping-straw ban.
Years ago, I remember, we used to travel out once or twice a year and do our school shopping and in one visit to the department store, we purchased our school supplies, clothes, and anything else we needed for the household.
Now, if we have a wedding to go to this weekend and need a tie or a new pair of shoes, we go to our phone, order, and in a day or so our new item is at the doorstep packaged in cardboard, wrapped in plastic, wrapped in bubble wrap, wrapped in more plastic and sometimes Styrofoam.
Yes, we are still using Styrofoam, can you believe it!?
All for one neck tie. So the damage of online ordering will far surpass the improvement of banning the usage of plastic straws. While I will always admit that we are all contributors
to a less-than-pristine environment, we all can do better and demand our elected “leaders” do a better job negotiating deals with Fortune 5 companies.
One example of a better deal would be requiring
Amazon, and all big box stores for that matter, to participate in funding and establishing recycling facilities to take back all the plastic, Styrofoam and cardboard so that consumers can be more responsible.
I spoke with John
Casella from Casella Waste Systems, who clearly stated these are items his company could collect and recycle providing they had facilities to do so. Facilities that cost quite a bit of money to put together.
The question I have is: Couldn’t Cuomo have asked Amazon to at least put up one facility so that consumers could recycle the packaging material utilized? That would have been an example of a better deal in my opinion. But in order to get that deal done, the governor would have to care about the environment.
When Senator Seward announced he secured $250,000 of taxpayer
money for a Cooperstown Wi-Fi project, I thought, where is the money to put something in place that benefits all of his constituents?
Honestly, I don’t care at all if a single person in Cooperstown can get on the Internet faster than what is already available to them. But a place to recycle the stuff killing us, that would make much more sense.
•Back to Cuomo. Some would argue that he does care about the environment, but I question that. Recycling facilities barely exist in New York State, allowing consumers to bring film plastic, Styrofoam, cereal box liners, potato chip bags, fertilizer, potting soil, or pellet fuel bags, and other harmful items such as these.
Unfortunately, what is more important to this governor is allowing people to get high on dope regularly, or legalizing sports gambling perhaps.
And this is where ignorance comes in. Many voters of New York think this governor cares about their futures or what is best for New York. This governor cares about his family’s future well-being and how much money he can distribute to voters to continue to buy his elections.
He cares about his donors and the money they poor into his pockets. He tells New Yorkers he’s dedicated to them and would rather be governor of New York than president of the United States.
Nonsense!
The only reason he doesn’t run for president is because he knows he would never win the national election. He forever will be living on our dime. Our public-school system is an absolute joke. And I will debate anyone on that topic.
The environment is filthy and deteriorating. Responsible gun owners are being singled out when in fact we should be carrying and protecting in public. Illegal immigrant rights are more important to Andrew than the babies he insists need to be aborted and tossed in the trash.
Waste, fraud, and corruption are as prevalent throughout this state as ever before. And I will always call the Tappan Zee bridge the Tappan Zee bridge. Start thinking about the next election now because this state deserves better!

SAL FURNARI
Towns of Otsego/Hartwick

 

Fighting For ‘Purity’ Always Preferable To The Alternatives

Fighting For
‘Purity’ 
Always
Preferable To The Alternatives

To the Editor:
Mike Zagata’s (Jan. 10) “Renewable’s Not Ready To Replace Gas” is a prime example of “Reductio ad Absurdum”…treating a vital but complex issue as if it were all or nothing.
Until we reach heaven, nothing is 100-percent pure, and informed advocates of wind, tide, or solar power don’t say they are.
But compared to fossil fuels, they are overwhelmingly less toxic. Pitting “Climate Change” in quotes, as Trump also does, is sheer denial of what we are all experiencing. The explosive hurricanes, increasing sea coast flooding, and deadly forest fires are undeniable, and so is the rising pollution.
There will always be traces of lead or mercury in our air and water, but fighting for its “purity” is life saving, as is our ongoing struggle against under-regulated industrial pollution.

NICHOLAS CUNNINGHAM, M.D.
Springfield Center

It’s Only Sensible To Lock Our Doors – And Borders

It’s Only Sensible To
Lock Our Doors – And Borders

To the Editor:
Where do we live? On a park bench, covered with newspaper, open to the elements with no place to call home? Some do, but not all. Most, in fact, live in a building called a house – with walls, doors and windows. Our own private place of refuge. Do we leave those doors and windows open or closed? Do those doors and windows have locks?
What, or who, are we keeping in or out? Some live in “Gated Communities” similar to what you’d find at https://www.metroplaces.com/ surrounded by walls and/or fences. What, or who, are they keeping in or out?
I think by now you can see where I’m going with this line of questions. We live in houses and gated communities with walls and fences, doors and windows. When invited guests come to the door we greet them and let them in, but if those same people try to break the door down or climb in thru a window, we call the police and have them arrested for breaking and entering.
We insist on having
private homes, yet we treat our national home with disdain – no doors, no windows, no walls, no fences, no gates – open to all comers, benevolent or hostile.
For all those who advocate open national borders, let them throw open their private homes, unlock their doors and windows, fling open their closed gates and fences and open to all comers – benevolent or hostile.

P.J. Schweinfurth
Cooperstown

Posting Too-Complicated Bills Serving No Purpose

Posting Too-Complicated
Bills Serving No Purpose

To The Editor:
My hospital bill from a visit of six months ago just arrived.
The bill says clinic visit $32 (for walking in the door?), laboratory $31.85, then it says contractual adjustment: +$55.46. Then says insurance payment Medicare -$93.54, then it says: Sequestration write-off: -$ 1.91. That was just to use the room!!
Then the next line is the doctor’s fee … on and on it goes. How am I going to understand the online listing if I can’t understand a bill.
I talked to a fellow from Hong Kong the other day. He walks in the door at the hospital in Hong Kong, puts $10 down and everything else is taken care of.
The idea that hospitals have to post their fees is like trying to put a little Band-Aid on a gashing wound that’s pulsing out blood. It ain’t gonna do much good.
It’s actually going to force the hospital to raise rates more because now they have to have people post the rates.
And there’s nothing clear-cut about going to a hospital. The hospitals are the end of the line (pun intended) for our healthcare system. It is the HMOs – CEOs with their millions of dollars in salaries that make costs so high.
Meanwhile they make decisions of what we can have or not have; depending on how much money we
will produce for them so they can make $20 million or more a year. It is the manufacturers as well, who do incredible markups and create monopolies.
So I see the new law to have hospitals post fees is just another way for government and corporations to shift the attention away from them to the hospitals.
This makes the hospitals seem like the bad guys. They are certainly not without blame, but mostly they are caught standing up at the end of the game of musical chairs.
Don’t be hoodwinked, the real problem is much deeper than just posting fees of which most of us we will never understand. You really want to go online to check fees as you are bleeding … to see what you will be able to afford. We need to put a lot of pressure on it….to stop the hemorrhaging before we die of their “care”.

R. SCOTT DUNCAN
Hartwick Forrest

Letters What About Health, Retirement Benefits

What About Health, Retirement Benefits?

To the Editor:

Have you ever decided your own salary for the coming year? If so, did you opt to use another person’s money to give yourself a nearly 30-percent raise? Unlikely. Many of us would consider that unethical and shocking.

The Otsego County Board of Representatives recently did just that, including their own generous raise in a half-million-dollar management salary reset. Some downplay the financial impact, but the county board raise alone will cost taxpayers about $84,000 per two-year term.

Some representatives expressed reservations but, in the end, it was nearly unanimous. The salary package originated in the Administration Committee where the legislator raises were initially included with those of the department heads. After lengthy discussion, we decoupled them, creating two separate resolutions. The department head raises were voted out of committee unanimously, but the county board raises were approved along party lines, with Republicans voting for their own raises and Democrats dissenting.

For unknown reasons, these were repackaged into one resolution for the county board meeting where I moved to amend the resolution to remove the raises for representatives and the chair. While my motion was seconded for discussion, no one joined me in voting to remove or reject the legislator raises.

The timing is especially concerning. Instead of approving a raise for an incoming class of new representatives, we are mid-term and approving raises for ourselves. It’s also done at a time when the IGA committee is looking at new county management plans, which may reduce the role of county representatives.

Finally, economic storm clouds may be gathering. The county is disproportionately reliant on bed and sales taxes, which track volatile consumer spending. It appears the stock market is set for its worst year since 2008 and economists predict a recession within two years. These raises are essentially locked into future budgets. When the economy falters, the board will need to raise taxes or cut services.

During the holiday season when we should consider less fortunate neighbors, there is a distinct “Let them eat cake” vibe coming from the county board. Another representative claimed that because the raise was already included in the budget, no further debate was necessary. This belies the fact that items may be budgeted and then not spent, returning monies to the fund balance or transferring to any number of other line items.

How politicians choose to spend your money reflects values decisions. Every dollar a legislator spends on him or herself is a dollar that won’t fill the pothole outside your house, or enhance school security, or support the animal shelter, or fight the opiate crisis, or encourage economic development, or just provide tax relief. The salaries are just the tip of the iceberg attached to absurd and often hidden perks.

County representatives are part-time and short-term elected officials but are entitled to Employee Benefits like health insurance for themselves and family, even into retirement. My understanding is a politician can win election three times and then be voted out of office after six years of service and suddenly be considered “retired,” with all the benefits that go along with that. The representatives recently made a show of doubling the amount they contribute to their own health insurance. This means taxpayers are now responsible for 90 percent of the cost as opposed to the former 95 percent. Our full-time rank and file union employees pay significantly more for insurance and had to fight for 2 percent salary raises.

County officials should not follow the lead of politicians in Washington and Albany, who have lost the trust of the people. At the local level, we need citizen legislators who bring diverse perspectives, work together for a few years, then pass the baton to the next civic-minded person.

During my time with the County I have pledged not to accept any of the health insurance, retirement benefits, or travel reimbursement, as I believe these are incompatible with part-time public service. Retirement can be quite costly as you have to plan your life after work, which includes the destination you want to retire in, food, drink, bills, and even devices you may have not used before can help best mobility scooters. You will want to purchase the best scooters to support you and your needs whilst you are growing into the wise person you are. Benefits can help though with these costs which doesn’t make it so bad.

Until these benefits are reformed, a representative may accept them and each of us makes our own decision on what’s right for us.

If we believe the benefits are ethical, transparency should not be a problem. It is my hope that county representatives will reflect over the holiday about who we are elected to serve and that we will return in January with the spirit of real reform.

ANDREW STAMMEL

County Representative

Town of Oneonta

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for FRIDAY, JULY 21
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for FRIDAY, JULY 21

Elvis Costello At Ommegang

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CONCERT – 5 p.m. Elvis Costello & The Imposters perform live. Show starts at 7 p.m. Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown. www.ommegang.com/#!events

HISTORY READING – 7:30 p.m. Hear the letters of soldiers of the Civil War as ready by Wanda Burch, accompanied by original music written and performed by John Kenosian. Experience their loneliness, homesickness, and hope for survival. Windfall Dutch Barn, 2009 Clinton Rd., Cherry Valley. www.windfalldutchbarn.com

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