News of Otsego County

mayor herzig

Largest OPD Class Sworn In At Park


Largest OPD Class

Sworn In At Park

Oneonta Police Chief Chris Witzenberg, left, and Mayor Gary Herzig flank the latest class of OPD officers – at seven, the largest on record – that were sworn in this morning at Neahwa Park, in recognition of social-distancing concerns.  From left are Michael Angellotti, Christian Cooper, Bryce Kohout, Michael Pedulla II, Carson Pochkar, Thomas Steinberg and Karolina Stypulkowsi.  The seven begin their studies this Thursday at the Broome County Police Academy, and will join the local police force in six months.  (Ian Austin/
Oneonta Prepares To Hire Most Officers in Memory

Oneonta Prepares To Hire

Most Officers in Memory

Action On Common Council Agenda

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

ONEONTA – Common Council is expected to hire seven new police officers – the largest class in memory – when it meets by Zoom at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Mayor Gary Herzig confirmed today.

After a one-year hiatus due to COVID, “we had one of the best and most successful recruitments, the highest-quality candidates,” the mayor said.  “…While we only have five openings, we know some of our officers are being looked at by the state police, who can provide much higher pay and state benefits.”

Town-Gown Task Force Convenes First Meeting


Town-Gown Task Force

Convenes First Meeting

After meetings and discussions since last September, the City of Oneonta’s Town-Gown Task Force held its kickoff meeting Thursday over Vimeo.  The effort is co-chaired by Common Council member Mark Drnek, who is running for mayor, and Melissa Marietta, SUNY Oneonta adminstrator.  Both Mayor Gary Herzig and SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig are members.

Thank You, Says Mayor Herzig To His Constituents


Thank You, Says

Mayor Herzig To

His Constituents

He Looks Forward COVID’s

End, New Projects Planned

Editor’s Note:  This evening, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig is delivering his sixth “State of the City” address to Common Council at City Hall, where he said “thank you” to his constituents for how they’ve pulled together against COVID-19, and detailed programs about to go into high gear, including the demolition of the former Oneonta Ford as part of Market Street’s renewal.  This is the text.

By GARY HERZIG • Mayor, City Of Oneonta

Special to

Mayor Herzig, seen here at Sunday’s MLK Jr. Day commemoration, is delivering his State of the City address this evening.

Good evening, Oneonta – We have been tested these past 10 months; however, I can tell you that the state of the City of Oneonta is one of Strength, Resilience, and Caring

2020 was a year that Oneonta will always remember – not only for the unprecedented challenges it brought – but also for the way we came together to overcome them.  From the shutdown of the spring, to the SUNY outbreak of the Fall, and now the second wave of the Winter, we have stuck together and we are getting to the other side.

I know that Oneontans are independent-minded folks – never shy about letting you know when they disagree with you – but we come together as one when times are tough.  I could not be more proud of your doing so this past year.

Mayor Proposes New Mask Law

Mayor Proposes

New Mask Law

Private Homes Won’t Be Included,

As In Law Herzig Vetoed Last Week

Mayor Herzig
Map provided by City Hall shows the MU-1 District where the proposed mask law would apply.

ONEONTA – After vetoing a mask ordinance last week, Mayor Gary Herzig will be asking the Common Council to approve a revised ordinance Tuesday that does not include regulations of activities inside private homes.

The revised ordinance will require masks at all times in outdoor public space in the city’s downtown (MU-1) zoning district. Masks will also be required by all customers in retail and service businesses, as well as in restaurants and bars when not seated and eating.




City Police Bust Party,

Noise Violation Issued

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Dr. Morris
President Morris
Mayor Herzig

ONEONTA – Walking downtown at 1 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23, Mayor Gary Herzig saw exactly what he’d hoped he wouldn’t see.

“There were significant numbers of young people congregating in groups and not wearing masks,” he said. “I had high expectations, and I am very disappointed we did not achieve them.”

And on Tuesday, Aug. 25, SUNY Oneonta announced that two off-campus students had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I was hoping we’d make it through the first week,” said President Barbara Jean Morris.

According to Heidi Bond, public safety director, neither student was on campus during their communicable period. The Department of Health has begun contact tracing to notify any students or faculty who may have come in contact with the two individuals.

“I wish both of them a speedy recovery,” said Herzig. “We have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of students know the risks and are taking precautions, but it doesn’t take that large of a percentage to ruin it for everyone else.”

Calls to the newly established COVID hotline were enough to keep Oneonta Police busy over the weekend, with one ticket issued for a noise complaint.

“When we responded, it looked like it was starting to get going in the wrong direction,” said Police Chief Doug Brenner. “There were a few other calls, but when we arrived, people were starting to scatter, so we stuck around to make sure they moved along.”

Morris said that she received “no reports” from either OPD or Campus Police. “If we do hear of students who are acting outside of our plan and violating our rules, they will move through the judicial process,” she said.

Students arrived back to SUNY last week. According to Kim MacLeod, Associate Director of Communications, students were asked to quarantine at home prior to coming to campus.

“It was an honor system,” she said.

On campus, the school is testing wastewater and, should COVID be detected, “pool testing” of groups of 20 students to seek a positive.

“It’s saving a lot of time and energy,” she said. “And because the testing sites are situated around campus, it can pick up employees and off-campus students too.”

The two students who did test positive were tested at off-campus clinics, according to Morris. They can either quarantine at home or on campus in Tobey Hall, which has been designated as a residence for COVID cases.

Across the street, new students are set to return to Hartwick on Wednesday, Aug. 26, with classes starting next week.

According to David Lubell, Hartwick College Media Relations Manager, several students have already been declined entry to the campus after reporting a positive COVID test.

Hartwick students are required to show proof of a negative COVID test before returning to campus, and will be tested regularly throughout the semester.

“(Facilities Director) Joe Mack was saying he was convinced that we were going to be one of the schools that made it,” said Lubell. “We’re covering as many bases as we can.”

And with the return of both colleges, Herzig said that police patrols will be increased downtown next weekend.

“Our guys carry masks to hand out,” said Brenner. “But at this point, it should be like putting on your pants.”

“Enforcement can be effective,” said Herzig. “But it’s not as effective as communication and education. “

On Sunday morning, Herzig said he sent an email to  Morris, requesting that they meet to talk about the students behavior downtown.

She declined to talk with him. “She felt the issue should be taken up with the Control Room when we meet,” he said. “She’s appointed two of her staff to it.”

“I look forward to what the Regional Control group has to say,” said Morris. “When my schedule allows, I’ll come to the meetings.”

3 Of SUNY Stances ‘Disappoint’ Mayor


3 Of SUNY Stances

‘Disappoint’ Mayor

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

ONEONTA – As college students began to return to COVID-19 Era instruction, Mayor Gary Herzig praised Hartwick College’s collaboration with the city, but said SUNY Oneonta has fallen short in three area of concern.

Mayor Herzig
Dr. Morris
President Morris

“We have a community here that established new norms over the past five months,” said Herzig.  “There’s been much self-sacrifice in keeping our numbers low.  It’s important to communicate directly to those in large numbers who are coming in the community, to familiarize them with current norms and the realities we face.”

He said the three points of contention are:

  • One, Hartwick distributed a letter of welcome and instruction from the mayor through its internal communications to students, and posted it on the college’s social media, but SUNY Oneonta would not. College President Barbara Jean Morris “felt that it created an ‘us-vs-them’ environment, which I strongly disagree with,” said the mayor. The letter welcomes students, but also warns overcrowded house parties can bring $1,000 fines.
  • Two, Hartwick College and Hillside Commons, the student apartments, agreed with City Hall’s decision to halt evening shuttle buses between the campuses and downtown, to reduce risks of COVID spread in crowded bars. Instead, SUNY’s Student Association and its adviser disagreed, and are negotiating with Hale Bus Co., Madison County, to continue evening runs, (albeit, for shopping in Southside Mall.)
  • Three, President Morris, as of last week, was resisting participation in an “opt in” SUNY Upstate plan to “pool test” students, 20 at a time, for COVID. (It turns out the campus is participating in an innovative COVID-control collaboration; see related story, A1)

As Students’ Return, Mayor Plans ‘Tipline,’ 2 ‘Working Groups’
Reprinted From This Week’s
Freeman’s, Hometown Oneonta

As Students’ Return,

Mayor Plans ‘Tipline,’

2 ‘Working Groups’

Together, City Hall, 2 Colleges

Will Monitor COVID Threats

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Mayor Herzig

ONEONTA – With 7,000 SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College students ready to come back to school at the end of the month, Mayor Gary Herzig is taking no chances when it comes to the community’s health and safety.

“We’re working on a dedicated tip line dedicated to COVID health concerns,” he said. “It’s not just for students, it’s for anyone with a public health concern.”

The phone line will go directly to the Oneonta Police Department, and reports can be made anonymously. “When that phone rings, whoever is there knows that it’s a public health emergency,” he said. “The person won’t have to fill out a report, and action can be taken immediately.”

‘Tip Line’ Planned As Students Return

‘Tip Line’ Planned

As Students Return

Herzig Also Plans  College,

City Hall ‘Working Group’

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – With 7,000 SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College students ready to come back to school at the end of the month, Mayor Gary Herzig is taking no chances when it comes to the community’s health and safety.

Mayor Herzig

“We’re working on a dedicated tip line dedicated to COVID health concerns,” he said. “It’s not just for students, it’s for anyone with a public health concern.”

The phone line will go directly to the Oneonta Police Department, and reports can be made anonymously. “When that phone rings, whoever is there knows that it’s a public health emergency,” he said. “The person won’t have to fill out a report, and action can be taken immediately.”

Herzig is in the process of forming two working groups, one for each college, to keep on top of concerns for both students and city residents. “We want to monitor how we’re doing,” he said. “If we run into problems, we come up with a solution.”

Called the “SUNY Control Room” and modeled on the Mohawk Valley Regional Control Room that Herzig serves on, SUNY students, faculty and City Officials will hold a virtual meeting once a week to discuss concerns on and off campus.

A second group will be formed at Hartwick College, though Herzig stresses that the majority of students live on campus, rather than in off-campus housing.

“The colleges did a great job on their safety plans,” he said. “If we don’t have the same expectations of the students downtown, why should they go through all the trouble? The virus doesn’t care if you’re on campus or off.”

The ultimate issue, he said, is monitoring the number of COVID cases, but there will be ongoing discussions of compliance with state regulations. “The big concerns are house parties, over-crowding in bars and restaurants, and large groups downtown not wearing masks,” he said.

Bars and restaurants are already limited in capacity under state regulations, but among the proposals the Control Room is looking at is limiting Oneonta Public Transit runs in the evening to only the “essentials.”

“We don’t want to facilitate or encourage nightlife,” said Herzig. “We are all forgoing dining in restaurants or having a few drinks at a bar. Crowded buses are not something we want to see, and we don’t want so many people coming downtown that it gets overcrowded.”

There is also concern about house parties, which, Herzig said, is where the tip line comes in.

“Enforcement will fall to the Oneonta Police Department,” he said.

If a bar is found to be out of compliance, police can ask people to leave in order to bring the numbers into compliance. However, if the overcrowding is “extreme,” police are allowed to close the bar for the night and call in the State Liquor Authority the next day, who may pull the bar’s liquor license.

Herzig is also working with student associations to determine what bus routes and times meet those essentials, which include shopping, the library and night classes, and which can be limited.

However, he said, if there is no increase in cases, the Control Room can begin to relax restrictions, such as adding additional bus routes.

“My hope is that we get good compliance from everyone,” he said. “We all recognize the importance and the risks involved, and I think for the most part, the students want to do the right thing.”










Mayor Apologizes To Wooden Family

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Chief Brenner
Mayor Herzig

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.

Herzig, Rissberger Initiating Review Of OPD Practices

Herzig, Rissberger

Initiating Review

Of OPD Practices

Chief Brenner Denounces ‘Practices

That Hurt, Demean, Destroy Trust’

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to


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.





Southside Mall’s Inside Stores

Stay Shut, But May Open Soon

Southside Mall’s merchants had hoped to reopen Friday, but have been delayed – maybe only until Saturday – while epidemiologists and scientists” firm up guidelines. Store with outside entrances may open, the MVREDC reported this evening.
Mayor Herzig

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.

Imagine Dining Out In Middle Of Street
Reprinted From This Week’s
Edition Of Hometown Oneonta

Imagine Dining Out

In Middle Of Street

City Hall Seeks To Help Restaurants

You may see Oneonta’s mayor on empty Main Street, but Gary Herzig is imagining the clink of wine glasses and smell of garlic. The city’s Strive & Thrive Committee is considering closing streets for outdoor dining a day or two per week this summer as a boost to restaurants, all subject to social distancing, of course. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

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.”


Ag Commissioner Ball Details Cuomo Budget


Ag Commissioner Ball

Details Cuomo Budget

Richard Ball, the state commissioner of Agriculture & Markets, was in Oneonta today detailing the governor’s 2020-21 budget plan for a local audience. He is flanked here by Otsego Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan and Mayor Gary Herzig. In recent years, the governor has deployed members of his administration to visit cities around the state to explain his spending priorities. Ball is also proprietor of Schoharie Valley Farms, Schoharie, which wholesales carrots and also operates The Carrot Barn, a tourist attraction. (Photo courtesy Otsego Chamber)
Leaving On His Own Schedule, Korthauer Makes History Here

Leaving On His Own

Schedule, Korthauer

Makes History Here

Oneonta’s 3rd City Manager Retires

City Manager George Korthauer, right, shares in the fun as Mayor Herzig hands out “I Love NY” bumper stickers in 2018. ( photo)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

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.

Michael Long, Oneonta’s, posed with former mayors and then-mayor Dick Miller on his hiring in September 2012. He lasted two years. From left are John Nader, Kim Muller, Long, Miller and David Brenner.

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.

Martin Miller replaced Long in the fall of 2014, and lasted less than a year.

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.”

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