News of Otsego County

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


MAyor Gary Herzig

Oneonta Mayor: Bars Beware Or Be Closed
Reprinted From This Week’s
Hometown Oneonta, Freeman’s Journal

Question: Can Students Safely Return?

Mayor Herzig:

Bars Beware

Or Be Closed

Hayley Dower, manager, Red Jug Pub, is already a social distancing VIP, setting up the “velvet rope” to limit the number of customers in her bar. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig has a message if returning Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta students go out on the town – follow the rules, or the fun stops.

“We will enforce the state regulations,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “If you’re not at a table, you need to have your mask on. You can’t be elbow-to-elbow at the bar. We will send the police, code enforcement or the state Liquor Authority in to respond to complaints.”

As the colleges announced reopening plans for this fall, Herzig plans to meet with the two college presidents, Hartwick’s Margaret Drugovich and SUNY Oneonta’s Barbara Jean Morris, to lay out the city’s new approach.

City, Chamber: Come Get Your PPE!

City, Chamber:

Come Get Your PPE!

Masked man Mayor Gary Herzig, gives Peter Clark, foreground, a gallon of hand sanitizer as part of the “Survive, Then Thrive” giveaway of personal protective equipment, including hand sanitizer, masks and thermometers, to local businesses at Damaschke Field this morning. 85 businesses have signed up for appointments to get the PPE, contact-free, but there are still slots available tomorrow from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Call the Otsego County Chamber (607) 434-3130 for an appointment (Ian Austin/
Students, Citizens Will Be Part Of Police Review Board

Students, Citizens Will Be

Part Of Police Review Board

Mayor Herzig

ONEONTA – SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College students and faculty, as well as representatives from the NAACP, Common Council and City Hall will be tasked with reviewing police policies and procedures as part of Mayor Gary Herzig’s proposed Community Advisory Board to the Oneonta Police Department, Herzig announced during a meeting of the Planning Commission this evening.

“Our policies have been approved by the state as part of our accreditation,” he said. “But they’ve never been reviewed by the people of the city.”

With 3 COVID Cases In City, Mayor Reaffirms Need For Caution
Murphy’s Anti-Racism Resolution Approved

With 3 COVID Cases In Oneonta,

Mayor Reaffirms Need For Caution

Common Council Member Luke Murphy, First Ward, second from right, reads his first resolution, decrying racism and injustice for all people in the City of Oneonta, as part of tonight’s meeting.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – With three new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the City of Oneonta, Mayor Gary Herzig implored business owners and citizens to continue wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands.

“We’ve had six weeks without any cases, so to have three new ones is a significant wake-up call,” he said during tonight’s Common Council meeting. “People are telling me that they see that things have lapsed, people aren’t wearing masks in stores or on the streets. But the risk is still real.”

Additionally, the Mohawk Valley cases on the whole were also continuing to rise, putting the region at risk for being put back on PAUSE.

In Pandemic, Pridefest 2020 Goes Digital
‘Next Year In The Park’

Pridefest 2020

Goes Virtual

Evvergreen’s Margaret Uhalde, left Chris Scaduto perform “It’s All You” in a studio concert performed as part of Oneonta Pridefest 2020, being presented virtually this year due to the COVID-19. The event included remarks from Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Ron Zacchi, Director Of External Affairs for the NYS Department of Human Rights, as well as members of the Otsego County Pride Alliance. At right, Mayor Gary Herzig gave remarks honoring the occasion in a time of crisis. “In Oneonta, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what your religion is, or who you love, we’ve come together to get through this, and going forward, we’ll be stronger than ever. So Happy Pride, and next year, I’ll see you back in the park!” The event continues until 8 p.m., with a time of remembrance and presentations by Bold Theatrics, ENORMOUS Little Things and Sweet Marie.

Common Council Could Resume in Chambers By July

Common Council Could

Resume in Chambers By July

Mayor Herzig

ONEONTA – Oneonta Common Council could resume holding meetings in person by July,  Katie Böttger, personnel director, told the council during their remote meeting earlier this evening.

“It’s up to all of you,” she said. “But (the state) advises working remotely through the end of June.”

Common Council has been meeting on Zoom and streaming the meetings live on the city’s YouTube channel.

HERZIG: Protect Us From Returning Students


Protect Us From

Returning Students

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s letter, sent to Governor Cuomo this week, expressing concern about college students’ return to the City of the Hills.

Mayor Herzig

Thank you for your effective leadership during these dangerous and unpredictable times.

The City of Oneonta is proud to be the home of two fine colleges – SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College. The 7,000 plus students who live and study with us are a vital part of our community culture and economy.

Our ability, along with those of all of New York’s college communities, to effectively recover from COVID-19 is dependent upon the re-opening of our college campuses and the return of their students.

Re-opening our college campuses, however, will require an aggressive program of testing for all students attending our residential colleges.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the City of Oneonta have consistently represented no more than 15 percent of all such cases in Otsego County despite Oneonta being the county’s clear center of population density.

This can only be attributed to the diligent way in which the people of this City have responded to the need to isolate.

The return of 7,000 college students, without a program of mandated testing, to a community with
very little immunity, places too many lives at risk – a risk supported by the recently released
Cornell University study ranking Otsego County as the third most vulnerable to an outbreak in
New York State.

…Having adequate testing materials available for returning students of both our public and private colleges must be a priority – along with effective protocols for testing and isolation.

August may feel like the distant future right now; however, one thing we have learned from this pandemic is that it is never too early to act, Our host communities look forward to working in partnership with your administration, SUNY, and our local college administrators in implementing a safe and full COVID-19 recovery.


Marketed Right, Drnek Says Oneonta Could Be Telecommuting Hub

Drnek: Marketed Right,

Oneonta Has Future As

A Telecommuting Hub

Oneonta Common Council live-streamed this evening’s meeting on the city’s Youtube Channel. Top row, from left, are Council members Len Carson, Fifth Ward, John Rafter, Seventh Ward, Mark Drnek, Eighth Ward, and Scott Harrington, Sixth Ward.  Second row, from left, are Police Chief Doug Brenner, Finance Director Virginia Lee, Council member Luke Murphy, First Ward and Mayor Gary Herzig, Third row, from left, are  Council members Mark Davies, Second Ward, and Dave Rissberger, Third Ward; Personnel Director Katie Böttger abd City Attorney David Merzig.  At bottom is Community Development Director Judy Pangman.  Council member Kaytee Lipari-Shu participated by phone.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Calling Oneonta a “jewel,” Mayor Gary Herzig said that the city’s Economic Development Task Force is looking to not only support the city’s downtown, but bring people here to settle.

“Our goal is to have every single business not only survive the crisis, but thrive afterwards,” he said during tonight’s Common Council meeting. “We’ve always known it was a jewel, but we think more people will soon be seeking that jewel.”

The meeting was streamed live on the city’s YouTube page.

Herzig: 3 COVID-19 Cases In City

Mayor Herzig Reports:

3 COVID-19 Cases In City

ONEONTA – As first reports of three cases of COVID-19 in the City of Oneonta surfaced this evening, Common Council unanimously approved two measures to shelter workers who may need quarantine and transfer funds for COVID-19 expenditures.

“The good news is that it’s a small number, thanks to the selfless way they are quarantining themselves,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “The bad news is that we know that more people are contagious, but may have no symptoms, and that there are not enough tests. We’re doing great, but we cannot ease up.”

Common Council Livestreams Meeting

Common Council

Live-Streaming Meeting

Council member Luke Murphy, First Ward, seated, maintains social distancing as Mayor Gary Herzig conducts tonight’s Common Council meeting, now streaming live on the City’s Facebook Page. City Hall is currently closed to the public due to the state’s recommendation to protect people from Coronavirus, but citizens are encouraged to watch online and send questions. “If you have concerns, you can reach out to me directly, and I will personally get the answer for you,” Herzig said. (Jim Kevlin/
City Meetings To Be Live-Streamed, Activities Cancelled, Mayor Reports

OPT Remains Open, Activities Cancelled

‘Social Distancing’

To Guide City Hall,

Mayor Announces

Mayor Herzig.

ONEONTA – To implement “social distancing” in the fight against spreading coronavirus, Mayor Gary Herzig announced this evening that Common Council meetings  will be streamed on Facebook Live.

CDC images of coronavurus

“The public is encouraged to attend remotely,” said Mayor Gary Herzig in a statement. “The severity of this pandemic can only be minimized by all communities acting locally to mitigate the spread of this virus.

“Here in the City of Oneonta, we owe it to ourselves, our neighbors and our fellow New Yorkers to voluntarily implement social distancing measures in all group activities,” he said.



Halfway Through “Onta Something,” Trampoline Updates Common Council

Halfway Through Campaign

‘Onta Something,’ Trampoline

Updates Common Council

Ali Havens, a graphic designer with Trampoline, presented at Common Council with Derek Slayton, creative director, on the continued plans for the “We’re ONTA Something” campaign. (Ian Austin/

By IAN AUSTIN • Special To

Common Council member Mark Drnek, Eighth Ward, wanted to know if the campaign was working.

ONEONTA – Following a presentation by Trampoline Advertising & Design, Co. this evening before Common Council, the big question was “When do we see results?”

Derek Slayton, Partner and Creative Director of Trampoline addressed council this evening with graphic designer Ali Havens, to update Common Council on the progress of Oneonta’s new branding campaign, which was launched in 2018 as part of the DRI Program.

“How do we know this is working?” asked Council member Mark Drnek, Eighth Ward, as he stressed the importance of goals and benchmarks. “It is not only bringing them to our webpage, but calling them to act and actually come to Oneonta itself. We want to be certain there is a reason. If there isn’t something happening that puts feet on the ground then it is unsuccessful.”

Two Honored By City For Emergency Response

Two Honored By City

For Emergency Response

Jason Bouton, stands with Mayor Gary Herzig after receiving recognition from the City of Oneonta as an Employee of the Quarter. Also honored was Scott Burger, who was unable to be present, with his boss Chris Pelligra accepting the award for him. Both men, who work at the Waste Water Treatment Plant in Oneonta, were recognized for their quick thinking, fast response and professional handling of two separate medical emergencies that happened on their job site. (Ian Austin/
HERZIG STATE OF CITY: 2020 Year Of Action



2020 Year Of Action

Mayor Gary Herzg gives the State of the City address. (Ian Austin/

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s State of The City speech, delivered to Common Council Tuesday, Feb. 4, in City Hall.

Hundreds of people gave of their time during the past three years, to help us map out a vision for the future – and we owe them our thanks.

They worked to provide us with a new Comprehensive Plan, Artspace study (SUNY), Oneonta Theater study (GOHS), parking study, housing study and more. They worked together for more than a year in creating a vision for our future.

…Now it is our responsibility to act on the vision which they have created. We have made a start but we still have a way to go.

• The support we have given to our local businesses and entrepreneurs is unprecedented. More than $1 million is going to more than 40 local businesses to update building facades and signage – and we will begin to see the results this spring. We are looking to provide local property owners with another $1 million plus to help them turn vacant upper floors into quality market-rate housing – and we should be seeing new awards for this purpose very soon.

• It has been very exciting to see new, innovative, and unique businesses sprouting – almost like bright flowers in the spring. Underground Attic, Tribe Yoga, the B Side, the new Autumn Café, Table Rocks Bouldering, Silber Design, Noah’s World, Toonie Moonie Organics, Shakedown Street Café, to name just a few. And you know what they all have in common? – the City of Oneonta helped them to get started with Microenterprise grants of up to $35,000. In the past four years, we have helped 28 small businesses and startups.

• We were successful in securing federal funds to support the restoration of the historic Stevens Hardware building and Oneonta’s iconic Nick’s Diner. Now, I will be the first to acknowledge that we don’t always get it right. There are risks involved and we cannot expect to win every time. One of our losses this year was Bombers’ Burritos. It hurts to lose and I know it makes us look bad – but even the best teams cannot win every game and there are no wins if you chose to take no risks.

• This spring, we will see new attractive Directory Signs throughout our downtown, and Welcome Signs at all five of our city gateways.

• We have a new Marketing Campaign designed to get people’s attention and to communicate all that our unique city has to offer. I thank Destination Oneonta for its work in supporting this campaign. And I have asked Trampoline to make a presentation at the Feb. 18 Council meeting on what has been accomplished and what is yet to come.

• Following the vision laid out for us by the DRI-funded Oneonta Theater Restoration Study, we have begun the process of looking to the reinvention of the Market Street/Chestnut Street area as a potential Arts District anchored by the Foothills Performing Arts Center and a Restored Oneonta Theater. Hats off to Bob Brzozowski, Patrice Macaluso, Elizabeth Dunne, Elaine Bresee, and others who are putting together a real plan to acquire and restore the Oneonta Theater – Thank you.

• This year, we will remove the blight on the corner of
Market and Chestnut streets. Within the next 60-90 days,
we will begin to see designs for a redesigned Municipal Parking Garage, a new transit hub and a more inviting pedestrian-friendly Market Street with walkways to and from our Main Street.

• And creating a new Lettis Highway that respects the safety of those who choose to walk or need to walk will be a top priority.

• With the help of our Senator Seward, we have begun the process of reinventing our historic Damaschke Field. The first phase, this year, will be to remove the old decaying grandstand, install a temporary backstop, new baseline box seats and dugouts, and protect all seats with today’s new technology in protective netting. The following year, we will strive to create a new family-friendly multi-purpose area behind home plate.

• Our Council, this past year, created the foundation for the development of a center for jobs and innovation in our former D&H Railyards. We will create good jobs while, at the same time, respecting our environment. And Mark Davies – former Environmental Board chairman, now a Council member – I know will be our conscience on environmental issues.

• This year, we will begin to create a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan to take advantage of the fact that we have the beautiful Susquehanna River flowing through our downtown. And that would not be happening without the passion and determination of Judy Pangman, our Community Development Director.

• We will continue to rebuild our aging – old! – infrastructure. After completing the rebuild of both of our reservoir dams, and numerous water mains, we will now start on an $8 million upgrade to our 1970 Wastewater Treatment Plant.

• Dog lovers will get a first-class dog park in Neahwa Park this year.

• We can expect to see progress in rectifying neighborhood blight as we implement new ordinances passed by our Council to give our Code Enforcement Staff more tools and authorities to do so.
And under the leadership of Stephen Yerly, our Codes Office has sent a very clear message that unsafe rental properties will not be tolerated in the City of Oneonta. And that applies equally whether you have a one-unit student house or the largest building on Main Street.

• And all this is being accomplished with an average tax increase below one percent during the past six years.

Let me close with a very short story. Last week, I was walking down Main Street with a friend of mine who does not live in Oneonta. He looked around and said to me, “Oneonta has so much potential.”
All I could think about were the comments made, nearly 60 years ago, by my teachers on my report cards – which generally began with, “Gary has much potential, however. . .” It seems that some things you just never forget! My goal – our goal – is to stop having to hear about our potential. The way we achieve that is to realize our potential.

Thank you to the hundreds of citizens who have contributed, we now have a plan to do just that and it will take all of us – all of us – working together to make it happen.

Thank you – and let’s get to work.

In State Of The City, Herzig Revisits DRI, Charts Steps Ahead


In State Of The City,

Herzig Revisits DRI,

Charts Steps Ahead

Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig delivers his 2020 State of the City speech a few minutes ago. Council members at right, from front, are Mark Drnek, John Rafter, Scott Harrington and Len Carson, and City Clerk Nancy Powell. Behind Herzig are Fire Chief Pat Pidgeon, Assistant Chief Jim Maloney, Police Chief Doug Brenner, and City Engineer Greg Mattice. (Ian Austin/

Editor’s Note: This is the full text of Mayor Gary Herzig’s State of the City speech, delivered this evening to Common Council in Oneonta City Hall. It is Herzig fifth annual assessment of the city’s health.

By GARY HERZIG • Mayor of Oneonta

In 2018, Hartwick College’s president Margaret Drugovich introduced me to a young lady named Nadya Zhexembayeva, a 2001 graduate of Hartwick College. Nadya came to Hartwick College from Kazakhstan on a Freedom Support Act scholarship. She arrived, with $400 in her pocket, knowing very little English.

Today, as a consultant, she has helped companies such as Coca-Cola, IBM, Cisco, L’Oreal, and Dannon to thrive in today’s changing world by reinventing both their products and their business models. When asked what triggered her fascination with reinvention, she attributed it to her teenage years growing up in Kazakhstan. When the Soviet Union dissolved overnight, it left her society in shambles with no currency, constitution, police, or regulations. What she observed was that some panicked while others saw an opportunity – an opportunity for reinvention.

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