ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig and Police Chief Doug Brenner this morning announced Common Council will be asked to create a Community Advisory Board to review operating procedures in the wake of George Floyd’s death while being taken in to custody in Minneapolis.
“All it can do it make us better,” the mayor said in an interview a few moments ago.
Herzig said that, following reports of last Sunday’s “Rally for Justice” in Cooperstown, he called Bryce Wooden, who described his parents being interrogated at gunpoint by officers in 2000, and apologized for the incident.
ONEONTA – The mayor and a senior Council member have already opened conversations with Police Chief Doug Brenner on how to review departmental operations in the wake of nationwide unrest following the May 25 death of George Floyd while being taking into custody in Minneapolis.
“First of all, I have confidence in our police chief and police department,” Mayor Gary Herzig said a few minutes ago. “However, this is a time for all of us to do a little introspection and self-awareness and take a look at our operating procedures and our policies to make sure they are designed to do everything that we can to guard against any type of inequality in how we treat the public.”
He expects to be able to announce the form of the review – whether a commission, audit of OPD procedures, through Common Council or some other means – by the end of this week.
UTICA – In disappointing news for Southside Mall – locally owned interior stores had hoped to open tomorrow (Friday) – Governor Cuomo failed to deliver guidelines that would allow Phase 2 of his un-PAUSE program to open, at least until Saturday.
Contrary to expectations, malls can’t open, although stores with outside entrances may open, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, who’s a member of Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, was told at an MVREDC briefing that ended a few minutes ago.
ONEONTA – The hottest restaurant in Oneonta could soon Be … Main Street?
“One thing our ‘Survive and Thrive’ task force is exploring is shutting down streets to traffic for special dining events,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “We don’t have a plan yet, but we’re looking into what streets we could close when and how that would affect traffic downtown.”
ONEONTA – George Korthauer has made history: He is the first Oneonta city manager to largely serve out his contract and depart on his own terms.
After announcing his retirement Monday, Jan. 13, he’s leaving office on Feb. 7, a few months before the August expiration of his three-year contract, but before the iciest and snowiest month of February is well underway.
First off, he and wife Brenda “are planning to visit friends in Florida,” then heading out to Denver to visit a new grandson before settling back in the home they maintain in Petoskey, Mich., where he retired as city manager after 25 years.
The first city manager, Mike Long, former Poughkeepsie city manager, started on Oct. 1, 2012, and departed in May 2014. His successor, Cortland County Manager Martin Murphy, was hired Sept. 4, 2014, and departed in less than a year, on July 17, 2015.
Korthauer, 66 then, 69 now, was hired May 16, 2017. His annual salary was $110,000 for each year in his contract.
His contract runs until August, but – with six new Common Council members of eight sworn in Jan. 2 – Korthauer said leaving now will permit the new Council members “to appoint a city manager of their own choosing early on.”
Mayor Gary Herzig said there are “outstanding candidates” now working in City Hall, and he expects in-house applicants for the top job. Korthauer agreed.
Deputy Mayor David Rissberger said, “People in City Hall like him. He was a nice guy. He was very knowledgeable. I think he’s gotten us over the hump of getting used to having day-to-day management.”
Korthauer was self-effacing, minimizing any accomplishment. But he went on to describe a major restructuring that occurred during his administration.
He has combined all public service functions under City Manager Greg Mattice. Previously, the water treatment plant, the waste-treatment plant and Streets & Facilities had operated independently. “We’re working to consolidate, to streamline the operation,” he said.
He agreed with Rissberger that getting people comfortable with the now 8-year-old system was a top priority.
“The city manager form of government was new to Oneonta,” said Korthauer. “I’ve had a lot of experience in that system.” His role was “merely working to further establishing the council-manager form of government.”
In contrast, he recalled that his first job, as an assistant city manager in Illinois, was in the first city in the country to adopt the city-manager form. A city-manager system was long-accepted in Petoskey at the time he was hired.
Herzig said his first step will be to discuss the hiring of the fourth city manager with the Common Council in toto, but was unsure if he’ll be ready to do so by the next meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 21.
He said, “I will lead the council in the search,” but said “it’s premature” to get into particulars now. “We’ve just learned about George’s resignation this past week. It is something that will be done with our council. The first step is to talk to the entire group together.”
Asked if he would seek changes in the City Charter governing the city manager’s role, as he did last time, he was unsure, but said, “Whatever our policies state, whether it’s policy in the City Charter or city code of city ordinance, none should be carved in stone. All should be periodically assessed as times change and needs change … Practice demonstrates what works best.”
Asked about what he’ll seek in the next city manager, Herzig said: “There are many things. You need a person to lead. To set priorities. In addition to municipal experience, you need someone to understand the pulse of the community.
“You need someone who is an excellent communicator. And you need someone who is able to implement a vision that is developed by elected officials. You need to oversee a staff of 125 people in way you can make that vision a reality.
“Obviously,” he said. “That’s all a very tall order.”
Editor’s Note: This editorial is reprinted from this week’s editions of Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal, on newsstands now.
The news that state Sen. Jim Seward’s cancer is back – his office issued a press release Wednesday, Nov. 6 – brings two immediate reactions.
One, fingers crossed. Advances in cancer-fighting research can mean five years, 10 years – and more – of active living. Everyone’s got a story of a happy outcome.
Two, reflections immediately come to mind on the ongoing Seward Era of Otsego County politics. It’s been a charmed one, and to reflect on it underscores how his recovery will be good news for all of us.
Just think about this decade, the State Sen. Jim Seward Decade, if you will.
ONEONTA – When it comes to the suddenly controversial issue of parking in Oneonta, Mayor Gary Herzig wants everyone to pitch in.
“If you look at a Google Maps photo of Oneonta, a lot of downtown is empty blacktop,” he said, “It’s not a good use of real estate.”
The subject of parking has been a concern of late, with the Common Council approving the sale of a portion of the Dietz Street Parking Lot to The Kearney Realty & Development Group to build the proposed Lofts on Dietz.
However, Herzig said that multiple studies have shown that there is an abundance of parking in the downtown – but that accessing it may be the issue.
“Our parking regulations are confusing and don’t make effective use of downtown spaces,” said Herzig. “We have spaces for eight, four and two-hour parking, but they don’t reflect the actual needs of the city.”
For example, he said, there are rows in the Dietz Street lot that are two-hour parking, yet remain empty all day. “There’s not a need for that kind of parking there,” he said. “So it’s just a waste of space.”
He has begun conversations with the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, among others, in order to begin a needs assessment survey. “How many spaces do businesses, employers and employees need?” he asked. “Once we know that, we can create new parking regulations.”
In addition to updating the lot regulations, Herzig has begun conversations with downtown churches and not-for-profit organizations about opening their parking lots on days that they are not open.
“There are well over 100 parking spaces in private lots during the business day,” he said. “We want to talk to organizations and see if we can work out an arrangements that is mutually beneficial.”
In addition to creating more efficient lots, Herzig wants to study how Oneontans can better deal with winter parking.
“In the city, everyone has to move their car off the street if there’s two and a half inches of snowfall,” he said. “It’s crazy. These days, we have better equipment than we had when these regulations were put into effect. We can do things more efficiently without inconveniencing people.”
Herzig said that the City will look into changing the regulations; however, Herzig said the snow emergency study would not be done by this winter, so parking regulations remain in effect for the 2019-2020 season.
“There is such an overabundance of parking, but there was never a need to study it,” he said. “But we need to be smarter, and use our downtown real estate more efficiently.”
Additionally, as much as $6.25 million has been set aside for renovations to the Municipal Parking Garage. “We have 450 spaces in that garage,” he said. “And on a typical day, half of them are empty.”
But he acknowledged that he understood why. “It’s dingy, it’s dark, and it leaks,” he said. “It’s not an inviting place. People don’t want to park there.”
$2.25 million of the Downtown Revitalization Money was set aside to renovate the aesthetics of the parking garage. “We want to make it more brightly lit, fix the leaks and add an elevator,” he said. “It will be more attractive and inviting for people to use.”
In addition, $4 million of the DRI was earmarked to create a transit hub for Oneonta Public Transit and Trailways Bus Lines.
Wendel Consulting has been retained for both projects, said Herzig.
“We are working on some design concepts right now,” he said. “We would like to move forward as soon as possible.”
“Parking is something that is never a static situation,” he said. “It changes with time, as more people move in and more businesses are created, it creates a bigger demand. We will always have to adjust the study; it’s in no one’s best interest to have a lot of empty spaces, or no empty spaces.”
ONEONTA – Enthusiasm about municipal geothermal heating, pursued warmly last spring, has turned cool with the weather.
City Mayor Gary Herzig and Town Supervisor Bob Wood have become aware of a state Health Department regulation prohibiting placing geothermal pipes alongside drinking-water mains.
“I don’t think Egg was aware of the regulations,” said Wood. “I think he was very enthusiastic about cities using geothermal energy.” The town did not contract a feasibility study, he said, but some Southside businesses are conferring with Egg.
For Herzig, the finding came out of a $10,000 feasibility study by consultant Jay Egg that found the project unfeasible. “I certainly would never have signed a contract if I had known the purpose of the project was strongly forbidden by the state,” the mayor said.
ONEONTA – U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, today met with the poverty-fighting Opportunities for Otsego’s board of directors and staff.
The freshman congressman called the meeting “illuminating and deeply important to understand the headwinds facing thousands of Upstate New Yorkers experiencing poverty and homelessness.”
OFO CEO Dan Maskin said he was “honored” to have Delgado visit the organization, adding, “I was thoroughly impressed that he took the time to listen to each of the 25 participants’ stories about issues impacting the poor.”
ONEONTA – When Mayor Gary Herzig says there’s plenty of space in the Dietz Street parking lot to accommodate the three-story Lofts On Dietz and its 66 artist studios and apartments, he knows what he’s talking about.
“I’ve walked the lot, starting in April, probably 20 times,” he said a couple of days after defending the project at a city Planning Commission meeting against two people who said the construction would take away too much parking.
Some days, he walked the Dietz Lot in the morning; sometimes, in the afternoon. Sometimes Mondays, sometimes Saturdays, sometimes mid-week.
ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig today issued a proclamation declaring Wednesday, July 8, Sam Nader Day in the City of Oneonta, in recognition of the former mayor’s “too many to count” contributions to the City of the Hills.
Here is the text of the proclamation:
“In recognition of the “too many to count” contributions, made by citizen and Mayor Albert “Sam” Nader, to the well-being of the people of the City of Oneonta;
“I Gary Herzig, as Mayor of the City of Oneonta, hereby proclaim July 8, 2019 – the 100th birthday of Mayor Albert S. Nader – as Sam Nader day in the City of Oneonta. “Happy Birthday, Sam! Thank you and Enjoy!”
ONEONTA – Attention, Oneonta: The Lofts on Dietz are coming.
Common Council will vote Tuesday on making Parkview Development & Construction, Inc., a father and son development team from the Hudson Valley, Ken and Sean Kearney, the “preferred developer” on a local version of Artspace – 40 lofts for artists and another 26 middle-income apartments – planned for the Dietz Street parking lot.
All 66 units in the four-story building are “affordable,” Mayor Gary Herzig emphasized a few minutes ago, adding, “I’m very excited about this.” If all goes as planned, a ground-breaking could occur next summer.
“This really kick-starts transforming downtown Oneonta,” he said.
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal
ONEONTA – If one person gets hurt in the OH-Fest crowd, it takes five people, including law enforcement and EMTs, to reach them, according to City Police Chief Doug Brenner.
“We form a wedge to move through the crowd,” he said. “But if there’s 10 people fighting, we’re quickly overwhelmed.”
Such concerns were among the reasons Mayor Gary Herzig revoked SUNY Oneonta’s permit to hold this year’s OH-Fest concert by Rapper Sean Kingston. Know Violence Here, a student group, had spoke of protesting after learning he had been accused of a gang rape in 2010.