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News of Otsego County

local government

ROBBINS-SOHNS: Village money should improve lives of villagers

LETTER from MARY-MARGARET ROBBINS-SOHNS

Village money should improve lives of villagers

In regard to the pier in the lake “viewing deck,” I urge the Board of Trustees to stop spending money on tourist attractions. Rather focus on our neglected community. Sidewalks, piers, etc., don’t make a village.

Its people do.

The viewing deck/dock may sound fun, but it provides little to the community. It is not environmentally friendly and poses numerous liability issues, not to mention potentially risking our
water source. Oh, and the maintenance.

Covid-19 had a harsh impact on many members of our community mentally and physically. We have a lack of outdoor play spaces and a lack of areas where older adults have the ability to enjoy children at play. I must point out that the community would greatly benefit if these funds were spent on our children and adults. A better playground, two tennis courts/basketball courts located on the mutually owned village, Clark Foundation and school land. Or even a summer art program by the lake once a week directed by one of our marvelous not-for-profits. We need to focus on building a better community to attract and retain our healthcare workers and serve all walks of life.

The voters and taxpayers are provided so little. Stop looking gift horses in the mouth We are in fact throwing money in the lake!

The people living in the village matter too! Stop broad stroking projects because they feel good. Think about the citizens who probably are most likely unaware of this project as it was not in The Freeman’s Journal.

Let’s serve those who serve us!

Working for mindful spending and a stronger community,

Mary-Margaret E. Robbins-Sohns
Cooperstown

 

Death certificates lead to Coop-Otsego dispute

Death certificates lead to Coop-Otsego dispute

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Tillapaugh

A financial dispute over dead people has left officials in the village of Cooperstown and town of Otsego frustrated with one another.

The disagreement stems from services performed by the registrar of vital statistics, which is a job village officials perform town-wide. Registrar duties include birth and death certificates. While there are some births outside of the village, most are at Cooperstown’s Bassett Medical Center.

However, it is the deaths outside of the village boundaries that have been costly to Cooperstown. According to materials provided at the village’s Board of Trustees meeting Monday, July 26, the cost of providing death certificates to town residents has cost the village anywhere from about $1,300 annually to a recent high of $2,900 in 2015 when there were 290 death certificates prepared for residents outside of the village.

As per the old agreement, the town pays $250 annually and gets remitted the fees for certificates from its residents.

Kiernan

The village must keep and maintain the records, but Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said it is not adding up for village residents. “This is not sustainable,” she said. “This is a village tax, subsidizing service for the town of Otsego.”

In other business: COVID $ disapoints; Glen project gets permit

In other business: COVID $
disapoints; Glen project gets permit

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

• The village has received $89,000 from the federal government as part of the corona-virus relief package. Tillapaugh said it is much less than she anticipated or the village lost in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown. The assignments were based on population, a formula that did not favor Cooperstown, she said. The village will receive a similar amount in 2022 as part of the package.

• The trustees unanimously approved a special-use permit for a multi-unit dwelling at 20 Glen Ave. No one spoke about the matter in the public hearing.

Otsego preps for hiring new administrator

Otsego preps for hiring
new administrator

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Bliss

Otsego County’s legislators began an in-depth look at crafting the county administrator position at a special all board workshop Monday, May 10.

The 14 board members listened and asked questions during a two-hour meeting as County Attorney Ellen Coccoma reiterated to them the details of the local law they passed in 2019 to establish the position and several experts on local governments that are using a county administrator gave their tips and suggestions.

“This is going to be a work in progress,” Coccoma said. “We’re going to probably impliment things now, then as we see how it works out, you may end up saying, ‘we need to change that.’”

A county manager, executive or administrator had been proposed to Otsego County by individuals and good government groups for more than three decades. The county’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee studied the prospect for two years, finally drafting a proposal to create a day-to-day manager who answers to the board. The administrator position passed in a November 2019 local law, with only three representatives against the plan.

Steven Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, Pat Cummings, NYSAC’s council, and Nick Mazza, who served as a county administrator for more than 20 years in Livingston County, gave their insights and took questions from the legislators.

City Promotes Mattice To Administrator Position

City Promotes Mattice
To Administrator Position

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

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.

LAPIN: Voting Lets Citizens Hire Best Leadership

LETTER from DANNY LAPIN

Voting Lets Citizens

Hire Best Leadership

Editor’s Note: Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, is retiring from the county board to focus on chairing the city Planning Commission, and to share his reflections on development and environmentalism through his blog, (accessible by Googling “danny lapin blog”.) This is an excerpt to his introduction to the blog.

DANNY LAPIN

One of my best friends in graduate school lovingly coined the topic of local government the “most important thing nobody cares about.” This was, of course, after hearing me prattle on about tax rates, land-use regulations, and urban planning in general for hours on end over the course of our two-year program in bucolic Upstate New York.

The decisions made by our local government affect us a lot more than we might think. Most apparent is in the layout of our road network and built environment. Those decisions were likely guided by a zoning code overseen by a local Planning Commission.

Decisions on how parks are designed, when basketball courts are opened or closed, and whether a new dog park should be built in town are controlled by local governments. Decisions on when to plow our roads, inspect the safety of our buildings, and how best to respond to emergencies are largely undertaken by… you guessed it… local governments.

Too often, I hear that town/village/city meetings are “boring” or that “nothing” gets done. People question whether they should take time away from their families, jobs, or other commitments to attend meetings.

I created this blog to break down key issues facing the city ranging from Downtown Revitalization to housing, taxes, sustainability, and beyond. I did this because I want us all to effectively evaluate each candidate based on the merits of their vision. Ultimately, who each reader chooses to support is up to them, however – it is my hope that this blog will play a small role in helping people understand the key issues facing our community.

So why create a blog now? In 2016, the City of Oneonta received a $10 million grant through the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative. This grant is intended to transform our downtown through the implementation of several small-to-to medium-sized projects. In the five years that have transpired, façade improvements are starting to pop up Downtown, a new marketing campaign was launched, and dozens of units of new housing are likely to come online in our community.

As the planner/engineer and creator of “Strong Towns,” Chuck Mahron, says change is at its strongest when it comes incrementally from the bottom up. As citizens, we get to act as glorified job interviewers as we select who will be Oneonta’s next mayor. The first step to the interview process is for us to figure out what are some of the key issues facing our city. It’s time to step beyond the
dinner table where many of us has an idea of what Oneonta needs, enter the public square, and debate these issues in the open.

Local Governments Should Tend Our Roads, Not Our Minds

Local Governments Should

Tend Our Roads, Not Our Minds

Do we really expect our local elected officials to tell us what to think? Quite the opposite, probably.

And yet instead of focusing on paving streets, keeping tax at a reasonable level, and providing whatever might be considered essential services, they seem increasingly determined to do just that.

Three examples popped up in the past few days that suggest this may be spinning out of control, including at the February meeting of the county Board of Representatives, where discussion of two proposed resolutions on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol ate up an hour of rancorous debate.

A few days earlier, it surfaced that two unspecified Milford Town Planning Board members had threatened to fine the Village of Milford if it failed to remove the “Trump 2024” on Route 28 across from Wood Bull Antiques. (The billboard is in the town, but on property owned by the village.)

“Trump 2024,” the billboard on Route 28 north of the
Village of Milford, may be coming down in April. Not due to protests: The contract is running out and Rome Sign Co. has a new customer.

Let’s get back to basics. State law that created counties describes such as “formed for the purpose of exercising such powers and discharging such duties of local government and administration of public affairs as may be imposed or conferred upon it by law.” Pretty work-a-day, as it should be.

KUZMINSKI: Gerrymandering Takes Away Our Right To Representation

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for November 2, 2018

Gerrymandering Takes Away
Our Right To Representation

Adrian Kuzminski

The most remarkable thing I’ve seen in this year’s midterm
election campaigns is Chad McEvoy’s op-ed in the New York Times. The headline says it all: “If I win my district, I’ll get rid of it.”
That’s the 101st Assembly District, a model of gerrymandering, which snakes in a narrow strip from New Hartford near Utica through part of Otsego county to the Hudson Valley.
Its shape guarantees that almost nobody living in the district is connected to anyone else in it. Its only purpose is to provide a safe seat for a politician who can be sure that his atomized constituents have no voice of their own.
Chad is running to overturn this kind of all too familiar nonsense.
The 101st district is an egregious case of gerrymandering, but in fact most of our legislative districts work exactly the same way. Most people couldn’t find their state legislative or Congressional districts on a map, or even name them accurately.
The districts overlay and cut across one another in insane fashion. People in one Congressional district are guaranteed not to be together in the same state Assembly or Senate districts.
Divide and conquer is obviously the rule.
Most districts are spread over a large number of communities almost entirely unique in terms of jobs, industry, schools, social services, and so on. That means our local communities are NOT represented in Albany or Washington.
The heart of your community is where you live and work. It includes your neighborhood, the town where you do most of your business and shopping, and the school district where your kids go. For most people – except for those commuting to distant jobs (say 20 miles or more) – these functions mostly overlap.
Call it home.
The largest local unit which people recognize and more or less identify with is the county, which administers social services, collects taxes, provides public safety, manages code enforcement and waste disposal, maintains major local highways, carries out environmental and planning responsibilities, and coordinates local towns which enjoy home rules under the state Constitution.
People know their counties; counties are the largest political entities which still function as communities. The county should be the political district that is directly represented in Albany, if not in Washington.
New York has 62 counties and representatives elected from each of those counties could comprise at least the state Assembly, if not the entire state legislature. That would be one way to upset business-as-usual in Albany and put the public back
in control.

This map of the “spaghetti district” accompanied the New York Times op-ed. For full column, Google “chad mcevoy nytimes.

Of course, counties differ widely in size. The largest county in the state – King’s County(Brooklyn)– has a population of 2,504,700, while the smallest – Hamilton County, in the Adirondacks – has 4,836 residents. But just as towns are represented on the Otsego county Board of Representatives by weighted voting, counties could be represented in Albany the same way.
The larger number of smaller, more rural counties would naturally work together to offset the clout of the fewer number of larger counties.
As far as Congressional districts go, in densely populated areas (like New York City) they should be drawn to be within counties as much as possible. In less dense areas, like Upstate, they can be drawn to include whole counties as closely as they can.
The point is that the interests of, say, Otsego county, would have a direct voice in Albany, something that is NOT currently the case.
In fact, our communities
are not directly represented anywhere at all.
This lack of representation
goes a long way towards explaining why a place like Otsego county has long suffered chronic economic decline and social malaise.
Let me close with a couple of personal endorsements of local candidates who recognize the need for the kind of fundamental change I’m talking about.
One is Chad McEvoy in the 101st Assembly District, as discussed above. Chad wants to strengthen local education, supports single-payer health care for New Yorkers, and advocates universal broadband and green energy as economic drivers.
The other candidate I’m voting for is Joyce St. George in the 51st Senate district. St. George – a feisty, anti-corruption investigator and local business woman who also supports single-payer health for all New Yorkers – is running against our long-time senator Jim Seward, who represents the status quo.
Seward has made a career of recycling taxpayers’ own dollars back to them as perks for which he can take credit; his so-called “economic summits” have gone nowhere; and his environmental record is among the worst in Albany – he’s been consistently rated near the bottom of New York legislators by the watchdog group Environmental Advocates. If you think we can do better on these issues, vote for St. George.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor
and Sustainable Otsego
moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

A Good Idea From Fire Commissioners: Dissolve, Let Town Negotiate OFD Pact

Editorial for August 31, 2018

A Good Idea From

Fire Commissioners:
Dissolve, Let Town

Negotiate OFD Pact

The Freeman’s Journal – A packed house at Oneonta’s Elm Park Methodist Church in April 2017 urged town Board of Fire Commissioners: Renew the fire-protection contract with city’s paid Oneonta Fire Department. Sixteen months later, talks are still stymied.

When one least expects it, a breakthrough.
The Town of Oneonta’s Board of Fire Commissioners has voted, 3-2, to set a hearing to consider dissolving. The vote could come at the end of the hearing, scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Elm Park
Methodist Church.
Good idea. About time.
If the fire district is dissolved, a “fire zone” continues to exist within the town, so coverage will continue. The Town of Oneonta would assume responsibility for negotiating with the city. That’s good too.
There’s probably no one better than Town Supervisor
Bob Wood, previously a longtime fire commissioner himself, to bring talks with the city to a sensible conclusion.
For more than two years, negotiations have gone nowhere on extending the contract with City Hall for professional fire protection for the town’s Southside, and neighborhoods beyond the city’s East and West ends.
Only state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma
imposing a two-year settlement in January 2016 assured businesspeople and homeowners coverage as negotiations continued.
The two commissioners objecting to dissolution are the newcomers, Al Rubin and Michelle Catan, who since their election last December have been foiled in efforts to get the talks moving again.
The three in the majority bloc, chair Johna Peachin, veteran commissioner Fred Volpe and Ron Peters, who is associated with Peachin’s accounting firm, have not responded to city Mayor Gary Herzig’s requests for negotiations, the mayor says.

As noted here before, Coccoma imposed a regimen that allocates one-third of the costs of the city’s Oneonta Fire Department (OFD) to property owners in the town fire district; the remaining two-thirds would be covered by city taxpayers.
An independent consultant agreed to by both sides came up with roughly the same formula.
Still, no movement.
The majority bloc has been tangled up in the issue of revenues created by the OFD’s ambulance squad, which generates about $1 million of the fire department’s $4 million budget.
In effect, those revenues – insurance payments generated whenever a city ambulance carries a patient from either the city or town to Fox or Bassett – pay down the total, meaning there’s less for city taxpayers and fire-district property owners to split.
The bloc believes the way it’s being done is illegal, but so far hasn’t found anyone with authority to agree.
Again, if an “i” or two needs to be crossed to bring everything up to Hoyle, Bob Wood has the understanding to figure it out amicably with Herzig.

There are implications for the future.
For one, a town can’t operate its own fire department under New York State law, an option the fire commissioners have been threatening to pursue in negotiations with City Hall.
However, if it came to that, the town could create a town-wide fire district that could do so, a lengthy process – but slower is probably better. Plus, that may never happen and shouldn’t – the town and city’s fates are linked.
Arguably, given the $1 million contribution from townsfolks, it makes sense for a liaison to be brought into discussions with Common Council on policies regarding the OFD. Perhaps Al Rubin, who has tried to be an honest broker since joining the fire board, would be a good prospect for this role.
Regardless, it’s time to move forward. If the majority-bloc fire commissioners have concluded they can do no more, it makes sense to leave the scene.
The Oneonta Town Board is more sensitive to what the public wants – only a handful or two of voters turn up at Fire District elections – and the public has said it wants the standoff resolved.
With Wood at the helm, along with town board members of good will, an end to a worrisome situation may finally be within reach.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, FEB. 8
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, FEB. 8

What To Do In A Disaster

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DISASTER UNIVERSITY – 4:30-8:30 p.m. The Red Cross holds a training course for disaster relief. House fires to hurricanes, learn how you can aid your community in times of their greatest need. Registration preferred, walk-ins welcome. Alumni Hall, SUNY Oneonta. Info, Taylor Fanelli at (315)733-4666 or email taylor.fanelli@redcross.org.

CLUBHOUSE – 6-8 p.m. Baking night for teens 7-12th grade. Includes free food, give-aways, and, a judgement free zone where teens can relax with their friends. Unadilla Teen Center, 16 Watson St., Unadilla. Info, Blake Stensland @ bstensland@familyrn.org or Jon Ramirez @ jramirez@familyrn.org or call the Family Resource Network @ (607)432-0001

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for TUESDAY, FEB. 7
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for TUESDAY, FEB. 7

It’s Yappy Hour At Mel’s

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YAPPY HOUR – 5:30-8 p.m. Susquehanna Animal Shelter reveals their 100th Anniversary Logo, 2017 events calendar, and previewing the March 25th documentary. Includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a special gifts for anyone donating $10.  Mel’s at 22, Cooperstown. Info, susquehannaanimalshelter.org/category/events/

CITY MEETING – 1-3 p.m. Oneonta Downtown Revitalization Initiative Planning Committee. Meeting is open to the public with an opportunity for public comment. Foothills Performing Arts Center, 2nd Floor, 24 Market St., Oneonta. Info, (607)432-6450

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, NOV. 3
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, NOV. 3

Forum Addresses State

Of Upper Susquehanna

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FORUM – 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Address on state of Upper Susquehanna, panel on local government, BMP project success panel, discussion of funding, collaborative opportunities, and more. Morris Conference Center, SUNY Oneonta, 108 Ravine Pkwy., Oneonta. Info, allianceforthebay.org/2016/09/upper-susquehanna-watershed-forum/

CAREER EXPO – 9 a.m.-noon. Showcase to students career opportunities in Otsego area. Oneonta Chamber of Commerce session at ONC BOCES, 1914 Cty. Route 35, Milford. Info, Kelly Zack-Decker (607)432-4500 ext. 207 kelly@otsegocc.com or visit http://otsegocc.com/events/#id=220&cid=673&wid=301

ONEONTA COMMON COUNCIL MEETING – 7 p.m. Public is invited to attend this discussion of the 2017 budget. Common Council Chambers, City Hall, 258 Main St., Oneonta. Info, (607)432-6450

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