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News of Otsego County

mask mandate

Mayor Herzig Halts Mask Mandate In Private Homes

A Rare Veto

Mayor Herzig Halts Mask

Mandate In Private Homes

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Mayor Herzig

ONEONTA – With concerns over enforcement and overreach, Mayor Gary Herzig, who has pushed mask mandates, has vetoed the City of Oneonta’s proposed mask law Tuesday, Oct. 20.

“I fully support wearing masks,” said Herzig. “The intent of the law was to make local enforcement more effective. However, I do not believe this ordinance will achieve that purpose, and I will exercise my right to veto this law,” he said.

The law, modeled on the state’s executive order requiring people to wear masks in all “public and private indoor and outdoor locations” when they cannot socially distance, passed at the Tuesday, Oct. 6, meeting
of Common Council on a 5-2 vote along party lines, with one abstention.

At a public hearing Tuesday evening, many of the comments voiced support for wearing masks in public, but balked at the language that required masks to be worn in private homes.

Kevin Perch, a SUNY Oneonta senior who sits on the city’s Control Room and serves as chief of staff for the student association, was among those expressing concerns.

“I advocate for wearing masks wholeheartedly,” he said. “I’ve mulled back and forth the past couple of days, and ultimately came to a decision – enforcing masks on streets and in business is appropriate, but I do not think that the legislation that is on table is one I want to see signed into law.”

Conversely, Steve Londner, in a letter to Common Council, expressed concern that the ordinance left open too many possibilities for spread of COVID-19.

“There’s an exception in the law that says a person playing a sport doesn’t have to wear one,” he said. “But if the intent is to limit the spread, it seems odd that a group of students talking quietly needs masks, but a group playing basketball and panting does not.”

Fran Colone also wrote a letter. “The required enforcement on private property is excessive,” he said. “If I’m mowing my lawn and my neighbor stops to chat, are we both ticketed? How crazy is that?”

Bill Waller, Cooperstown, attended the meeting to share his experience with the law Cooperstown passed this summer.

“Our sidewalks were so narrow that the social distancing was forcing people into the street,” he said. “We mandated masks on Main Street, and we’ve issued a few tickets, but overall, it was a successful, mask-wearing summer.”

He also clarified how the “private home,” language came to be. “It is my under-standing that this is for places like New York City, where buildings include areas like vestibules and lobbies,” he said. “They’re private homes, but public spaces.”

Only one letter writer, Ronda Zuk, disagreed with the entire law.

“Since Otsego County no longer has a State of Emergency (it ended on April 13, 2020) it has no authority to make or enforce a mask mandate,” she wrote. “Of Otsego County’s 60,244 residents only seven people or .012 percent of the county’s population have died from COVID-19. Clearly this virus is not a deadly threat to the overwhelming majority of residents. However, governmental overreach such as this mask mandate is a threat to the freedoms we used to enjoy as Americans.”

At the end of public comment, Herzig echoed the speakers concerns. “If you’re walking down Main Street without a mask on and someone walks out of a store in front of you, you’re in violation of the law,” he said. “But we can’t expect the police to follow someone down the street and wait to ticket them.”

Herzig said that he would sign an ordinance that required masks in the business district.

“That is where it is most needed,” he said. “If we can move forward with an ordinance that addresses our area of greatest risk, it has my support.”

Week 1, All Agree: Masks Being Worn In Downtown Coop

Week 1, All Agree:

Masks Being Worn

In Downtown Coop

Masked and enjoying Main Street are, from left, dad Kevin, Alexis and Addington Kress, Olivia Guida, and mom Christine Kress, visiting from Little Falls last Sunday. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN •  Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – Kevin Kress, who was raised in Richfield Springs, brought his family from Little Falls to Cooperstown last weekend, and was neither surprised by the village’s new mandatory-mask law, or that most everybody seemed to be obeying it.

“We were in Lake Placid last weekend; they had done the same thing there,” said Kress, who was aware – and undeterred by – the new restrictions, which he’d heard about in a report on WKTV-TV, Utica.

Locally, Village Board members who had crafted the law, and businesspeople who may have worried about it, seemed to unanimously agree that the first weekend of the new strictures had gone smoothly.

Mayor Tillapaugh

Saturday, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch went into the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market while hubby Gary Kuch, the town justice, sat in the car waiting and watching.

“What’s your take, Gary?” she asked on finishing her shopping. “He said, ‘Easily, 97 or 98 percent are compliant. Those who don’t wear it have it around their necks.’”

“I walked Main Street a little bit,” she said. “I found the same thing.”

Village police patrolled, but didn’t have to give out any citations, the mayor said. They asked a few people to put on their masks, and they did. (She emphasized: If they had been issued citations, fines – they are authorized to $1,000 – wouldn’t go to the village, but into state coffers.)

Trustee Richard Sternberg, who has been most hawkish about the need to require mask-wearing, had a similar experience. “I thought I was seeing a higher percentage of masks,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s just a statistical variance. Some people weren’t aware of the new law yet.”

Jess Lanza

Jess Lanza, new board chair at the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, estimated adherence to the law “in the 90 percentile” along Main Street. In Kate’s Upstate, the fashion store he operates with his wife, “we haven’t had any issue with people coming in and fussing about it,” even under the less strict state order.

“We didn’t have any issues or anything,” agreed Laurie Fink, Tin Bin Alley proprietor. “From my perspective, the first weekend went very well.”

The Village Board unanimously passed the law Monday, Aug. 10, requiring masks to be worn on Main Street between Fair Street and Pine Boulevard, and on Pioneer between Church and Lake. The law was reviewed by Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh, then filed with the New York secretary of state by week’s end, and it went into effect.

The law enhances Governor Cuomo’s executive order requiring people to wear masks within six feet of each other; because of sidewalk cafes, the trustees were worried pedestrians are unable to maintain the required distance on downtown sidewalks.

Concerned that there be enforcement, Sternberg said he had engaged village patrolmen in conversations about their plans to walk Main Street sidewalks.

Trustee Sternberg

But that was before he and the rest of the trustees received an email from the mayor clarifying the chain of command: “She is the sole authority to speak to police,” as well as Village Administrator Teri Barown, he said. “She is correct.”

(However, if Tillapaugh and Barown are both out of town, he continued, the Village Board can meet and designate an acting mayor until one of the women returns.)

Meanwhile, the “Masks on Main” effort to alert out-of-towners to the new law is continuing, with signage, “masks required,” placed in the rain gardens along Main Street, the mayor said.

“We ordered more signage after the law passed Monday night,” she said. “Sandwich boards should be in this week,” she added.

Cooperstown Law Requires Wearing Masks Downtown

Cooperstown Law

Requires Wearing

Masks Downtown

Approved By Trustees, Mandate

May Be In Effect This Weekend

John and Suzanne Rudy joins 20 other citizens in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as the Village Board’s public hearing began Monday, Aug. 10, in the second-floor ballroom at 22 Main. Due the social-distancing, attendance was limited. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – Inn at Cooperstown proprietor Marc Kingsley started things off with a pointed critique of the Village of Cooperstown’s proposed mask-mandate law.

Inn at Cooperstown proprietor Marc Kingsley said the law is excessive and will keep visitors away.

“You are focusing only on mask wearing and an absolutely obscene fine if caught not wearing one,” he declared at the Monday, Aug. 10, public hearing in a steamy third-floor ballroom at Village Hall. “Instead, why aren’t we focusing on the positives, what we’re already doing to keep locals and visiting guests safe.

But “jacta alea esto,” as the Romans would say – the die was cast.  A meeting’s end, the trustees voted unanimously for “Proposed Local Law 7: Requiring use of face masks and face coverings.”

The law will go into effect, perhaps by the weekend: All is required is for the ordinance to be filed with the New York Secretary of State’s office. Then, people must wear masks on Main between Fair and Pine Boulevard, and on Pioneer between Lake and Church, or face a fine up to $1,000.

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch began the 5 p.m. hearing reviewing an unusually large numbers of letters and emails received prior to a public hearing: There was 33 missives in favor (representing 38 people), and only four against.

In Cooperstown, the pro-letters included some heavy hitters.

Hall of Fame President Tim Mead and Board Chairman Jane Forbes Clark wrote: “We strongly endorse this recommended policy … It is incumbent upon the leadership of this community, and the residency of this village, to institute and follow safety policies protecting each of us and our guests.”

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch gavels the public hearing to order.

Bassett Hospital President Bill LeCates wrote: “I applaud your efforts to improve mask use and raise awareness of the risks of COVID-19 infection within the village.”

Eight residents spoke.

Jan Howard, who owns Cooperstown Classics with husband Todd, said she walks her dog late at night and early in the morning and runs into no one.  “Do I have to wear a mask at midnight?” she asked.  Tillapaugh said officers will use their judgment.

Robert Nelson, Fair Street, said, “I don’t know how, with the size of the police department we have, how this this going to be enforced.”  He said there are no officers on duty after 5 p.m.

Doubleday Café co-proprietor Barbara Boulanger said, “I don’t think it’s right for someone who doesn’t know the village to be fined $1,000.”  It should be $35, “like a traffic ticket.”  The mayor said enforcement is not going to be “gotcha. It’s going to be an educational process.”

“You cannot be too careful,” said retired Bassett COO Bertine McKenna. “I’d like to commend you.”

Others favoring the law included businesspeople like Marge Landers, White House Inn proprietor; John Rudy of the Baseball B&B, and Neil Weiller of Muskrat Hill.

Inputs over, Trustee Richard Sternberg made the motion; MacGuire Benton seconded it and, after brief remarks, all seven board members cast aye votes.

KINGSLEY: Mask Law, $1,000K Fine Unecessary, Overreach

ISSUE & DEBATE: NAY

Mask Law, $1,000K Fine

Unecessary, Overreach

Editor’s Note:  Marc Kingsley, Inn at Cooperstown proprietor,  gave this testimony against at law requiring mask-wearing in downtown Cooperstown.  Local Law 7 was approved by the Village Board after a Monday, Aug. 10, public hearing.

By MARC KINGSLEY • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

The proposed mask law. I don’t understand why the village is pursuing this.

As I understand it New York State already passed a law requiring almost everyone to wear a mask in public if social distancing cannot be done, and telling businesses they must enforce mask use or deny entry if they refuse.

So this proposed law is redundant, over-reaching and an over-reaction by the Village Board. And while I commend the village for thinking about the safety and well being of everyone, the statistics show we have very low case and death rates, so I don’t know why you feel we need yet another law.

Depending on which news article on websites you read, Otsego County has 109 or 116 confirmed cases and either six or four deaths.

According to the state Department of Health website, the county has tested 14,997 people, has 116 confirmed cases, and four deaths. In the past eight days, 1,364 have been tested with four confirmed cases and zero deaths.

Since mid-June, New York State, as a whole, is steady and trending down with the number of confirmed cases and deaths.

Yes, we want everyone to be safe and we don’t want cases or deaths to start increasing again.

There are several ways to contract COVID-19 with droplets being the leading cause. One can also contract COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces. Wearing a mask is a great idea, but so is cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

As a lodging property, we enforce wearing a mask, social distancing and, additionally, we increased the cleaning/disinfecting of high-touch points, use of hand sanitizer, and initiated several other protocols for guest and employee safety.

If the village really cared about the safety and well-being of everyone, one would think you would address contracting COVID-19 by contacting a high-touch point on Main Street and take steps to help mitigate those areas.

As I see it, you are only focusing on mask wearing and an absolutely obscene fine if caught not wearing one. What about contracting COVID-19 by contact. I want to hear how you’re going to mitigate the possible transmission when people touch the cross walk buttons, trash receptacle handles, paid-parking kiosks, benches up and down Main Street, the tables and chairs in Pioneer Park, TV screen at the help kiosk in Pioneer Park.

I see tens if not hundreds of people touching them on a daily basis, so how are you going to ensure they are cleaned and disinfected? Who do we fine or hold responsible for not keeping those items cleaned? I mean as a business we are required to do that!

In closing, I do not agree with this law. There is already a law in place for this. We are just one of several tourist destinations in the state and approving this law and fine structure is a huge negative for Cooperstown and will drive away guests (local and tourists) and further hurt many local businesses which have already been hit hard.

Instead, why aren’t we focusing on positives, what the village and businesses are already doing to help keep the locals and visiting guests safe?

IT’S UNANIMOUS: Village Board OKs Mask Mandate For Anyone Walking Main Street

IT’S UNANIMOUS

Village Board OKs Mask Mandate

For Anyone Walking Main Street

The Cooperstown Village Board this evening unanimously approved a local law requiring everyone to wear a mask on Main Street sidewalks between Fair Street and Pine Boulevard, and on Pioneer Street from Lake to Church streets.  Only 21 seats were permitted in the Village Hall’s second-floor ballroom, but they were mostly filled, primarily with citizens supportive of the law.  In top photo, Marge Landers, Glen Avenue, commends the trustees for proposing the law, as did Bertine McKenna, Brooklyn Avenue, behind Landers.  “You cannot be too careful,” said McKenna, retired Bassett COO.  Neil Weiller (pink shirt), a former trustee and Muskrat Hill proprietor, speaking in favor, asked, “Who’s going to take care of MY security?”  From walking his dog between his store and Chestnut, he’s counted one person in 10, one in seven, and two in eight people wearing masks.  Three of the dozen people speaking at the public hearing questioned aspect of the law, including Inn at Cooperstown proprietor Marc Kingsley, inset right, calling it “a huge negative for Cooperstown (that) will drive away guests … and further hurt our many local businesses.”  At the meeting’s outset, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch gave a synopsis of correspondence received on the topic: 33 aye, representing 38 people, including letters from Bassett Hospital President Bill LeCates and the Hall of Fame, signed by President Tim Mead and board Chairman Jane Forbes Clark.  There were only four nays. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

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