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News of Otsego County

mayor tillapaugh

Mayor, 2 Trustees Sworn In After Long-Delayed Election

Mayor, 2 Trustees Sworn In

After Long-Delayed Election

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and Trustees Joe Membrino and, right, MacGuire Benton were sworn in for new terms this evening at the Cooperstown Village Board’s organization meeting. Village Administrator Teri Barown administered the oaths. Usually, village organizational meetings occur April 1, but the mid-March election was delayed until Sept. 15 due to the COVID-19 threat. The mayor was unopposed in that election, and Membrino led the three-way trustee race. But Democrat Benton and the Republican candidate, Mary-Margaret Robbins, tied at 272 each, requiring a runoff election Sept. 29. In that runoff, Benton garnered 343 votes to Robbins’ 308. Unless delayed, the next village election will be next March. Also at tonight’s organizational meeting, The Freeman’s Journal was designated an official newspaper of the Village of Cooperstown. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Advisory Board Starts Study Of Village Police

Advisory Board Starts

Study Of Village Police

Department Small, Says New Chief,

But Big-City Complexities Exist Here

In his first public appearance since being appointed yesterday, Village Police Chief Frank Cavilieri knowledgeably assessed complexities of policing that even small departments like Cooperstown’s need to keep in mind. (Jim Kevlin/llOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Mayor Tillapaugh is interviewed at meeting’s end by WKTV reporter Ben Vahey. Talking in the background are CAB members Rich Browne, left, and Adam Richter.

COOPERSTOWN – At his first public appearance since being named yesterday to lead the Village Police Department, Chief Frank Cavilieri this evening made it seem simple.

The most problematic area of policing, here as everywhere, is “use of force,” Cavilieri said this evening at the first meeting of the Police Community Advisory Board.  A related issue is “how we interact with the community.”

The good news, he continued, is that there is very little crime in Cooperstown.  He described a typical month as two motor vehicle incidents, two calls, three dogs barking and two instances of criminal mischief.

But as the discussion continued between Cavilieri, Senior Patrolman Jim Kelman and six members of the CAB, brought together here and in 513 communities across the state by Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202, the complexities multiplied.

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 Plans Mask Crackdown

HERZIG: OPD ALREADY HAS AUTHORITY

Cooperstown Plans

Mask Crackdown

Village Will Require Face Covering

On Main, Pioneer Business District

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh
Village Atty. Martin  Tillapaugh

COOPERSTOWN – Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh is preparing a law requiring everyone to wear a mask in Cooperstown’s business district. He expects to have a draft ready for the Village Board by its Monday, July 27, meeting, and the law in place by mid-August.

Tillapaugh was moving forward at the request of Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, who left a special Monday, July 20, meeting of the village trustees after all concluded the downtown sidewalks, particularly with newly encouraged sidewalk cafes, are too narrow to allow social distancing.

Mandating masks is the only option, Mayor Tillapaugh and the Village Board have concluded.

Cooperstown Has One Case, Mayor Reports

TRUSTEES MEET MONDAY

Cooperstown

Has One Case,

Mayor Reports

Officer Walking Main Street

To Ensure Masks Are Worn

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Mayor tillapaugh

COOPERSTOWN – With one report of coronavirus in the village, complaints about people not wearing masks and lenience in places of business, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch has called a special meeting of the Village Board at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

There, she will be seeking trustee approval of a FAQ (frequently asked questions) to be posted on the village and tourist-related websites emphasizing Village Hall’s stance on the coronavirus: “We strongly support and always promote public safety and social distancing.”  The FAQs would also include the list of 22 states from which visitors are required to be quarantined for two weeks.

Today, she said, one of the village police officers was assigned to walk Main Street and visit local businesses to ensure people are wearing masks.  Another officer will do so Sunday, and the patrols will continue during the week, she said.

Require Masks On Main Street, Trustee Declares

AT COOPERSTOWN VILLAGE BOARD:

Require Masks

On Main Street,

Trustee Declares

Sternberg Says ‘Punitive Steps’ Required;

Trustees OK ‘Masks On Main’ Promotion

At today’s special meeting of the Village Board today are Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, top left. Trustee Richard Sternberg is at center.  Clockwise from upper right are Trustees Cindy Falk, Joe Membrino, Jim Dean and Jeanne Dewey.  Trustee MacGuire Benton was absent.  (From Youtube video)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – This morning’s special Village Board meeting, called to approve a “Cooperstown Outdoors” promotion and “Masks on Main” signage, spun off into a larger discussion of the need for masks, with Trustee Richard Sternberg calling for “punitive measures” against people not wearing masks.

“I certainly think we need to go – just like Texas happens to be going – to mandatory masks outdoors,” he said. “Sorry, I don’t like all these tourists coming here, thinking they’re on vacation from the constraints of COVID, and just walking around without masks just like they own the place.”

While Sternberg didn’t carry the day, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch said she will fast-track the placement of a banner across Main Street (between Key Bank and Sal’s) that encourages mask-wearing. (It has already arrived, but was waiting for the “Congratulations CCS Class of 2020” to be taken down.)

Entrance Arch Rises At Doubleday Field

COOPERSTOWN REDO NEARS END

Entrance Arch Rises

At Doubleday Field

Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and Public Works Superintendent Mitch Hotaling were at the Doubleday Field parking lot this afternoon, inspecting BMW Fabricators’ installation of an arch over the entrance to 100-year-old grandstand property.  Work on Doubleday Field and the Chestnut-Main traffic light upgrade are due by the end of the week. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Campaign Signs To Go; Polling Issues Remain

VILLAGE VOTING MORE COMPLICATED

Campaign Signs To Go;

Polling Issues Remain

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

CDC images of coronavurus

COOPERSTOWN – In light of Governor Cuomo’s decision to postpone Wednesday’s village elections statewide due , the Cooperstown candidates have said they are pulling up their lawn signs for the time being.

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch is unopposed. MacGuire Benton, Joe Membrino and Mary Margaret Robbins Sohns are competing for two Village Board seats.

The terms of Benton and Membrino, the two incumbents, expire April 1; but Tillapaugh said that, due to the governor’s State of Emergency, they will continue to serve until the next election.

TILLAPAUGH: Vote So Work Can Get Done
LETTER from ELLEN TILLAPAUGH KUCH

Mayor Tillapaugh: Vote

So Work Can Get Done

To the Editor:

Since 2011, I have been honored to serve my hometown community in village government. First elected as a trustee in 2011, I was appointed deputy mayor in 2014 and served in that capacity until my election as mayor in 2018.

Over the past nine years, I along with fellow elected officials have worked to stabilize the village’s finances. We are proud that for seven budget years, since our 2013-14 budget, there has been no increase in the tax levy. It has remained at $1,779,194 and represents a tax rate of $5.21 per $1000 of assessed value. The current budget is on the Village’s website (cooperstownny.org) under “Government” and the “Board of Trustee Meetings” drop down menu. The tentative budget for 2020-21 was completed this month, and again proposes no increase in the tax levy.

At the same time, by developing new revenue sources and successfully securing grant funding, the Village Board has been able to undertake significant and long overdue infrastructure improvements in our community.

Projects include:

• The $1.2 million Pioneer Street project completed in 2018, replaced sewer & water lines, street pavement and curbing on Pioneer, from Otsego Lake to Elm Street.

• The $9.1 million Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrade began in September 2019, and is scheduled for completion in December 2020. Funded by grants and Environmental Facilities Corp low interest financing, there will be no increase in water/sewer rates for Village residents. This replacement of the original 1969 facility (originally designed to serve for 25 years) will meet village needs for decades.

• The $2.4 million Downtown Pedestrian Improvement Project (federal TEP grant) funds new Main Street sidewalks and provides for signage, street benches, tree plantings, decorative lamp posts and compacting trash receptacles. Begun in the fall of 2018, this project will conclude this spring with work at the Main-Chestnut intersection.

• Last fall, Pioneer Park was upgraded with the installation of ADA compliant brick pavers, a performance stage area, improved lighting and re-configured plant beds.

$5.8 million in improvements are underway at Doubleday Field. By May 15, the week prior to HOF Classic Weekend, two major phases of the project will be complete – the Main Street entrance/parking lot redesign and the 1939 Grandstand renovations. Work will continue on the new 3rd base bleachers and building.

We are pleased to have been awarded the Village’s first Community Development Block Grant, to support a local business, the Cooperstown Distillery, in expanding their operation. Additional grant funded projects to commence this spring involve the Willow Creek culvert, the Village Hall skylight, and Mill Street.

I am honored to serve as mayor and to devote time and leadership to our community. I would appreciate your continued support on March 18 in the Village Election.

ELLEN TILLAPAUGH KUCH
Mayor
Village of Cooperstown

Rare Races Possible For Mayor, Trustees

INCUMBENTS RUN; SO MAY INCUMBENTS

Rare Races Possible

For Mayor, Trustees

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Benton
Membrino
Tillapaugh

COOPERSTOWN – Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh says she’s running for a second term in next March’s village election, adding that first-term Trustee MacGuire Benton is likely to as well.

And Joe Membrino, also in his first term, said he’s planning to run again, too.

But for the first time since the GOP debacle in 2011, the Republican Party may be running a slate as well, which would be the first challenge for Democrats who have control all trustee seats for almost a decade.

“Prior to the November election, we put the wheels I motion to start looking for candidates,” Republican County Chairman Vince Casale, who lives in Cooperstown, said Tuesday Nov. 12. “We’ve seen quite a bit of interest already.”

In the few years prior to 2011, Village Board election were highly contested, with Republicans and Democrats fielding full slates.

That year, however, Republican Mayor Joe Booan revealed in February he had opened conversations with county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., about turning over in-village policing to Devlin’s deputies.

The reaction brought Democrats Ellen Tillapaugh and Walter Franck onto the board, and reelected incumbent trustee Jeff Katz.

Booan spent a year struggling with a new Democratic majority, then retired in 2012, when Katz was elevated to mayor.

Except for Trustee Lou Allstadt, who sought both Republican and Democratic nominations when he ran in 2013, the Village Board has remained in Democratic hands ever since.

Because of neighbors’ rancor in recent months – over a proposed apartment house backing up to Pine Boulevard, flying the Pride Flag on the community flagpole, the installation of blinking traffic signs, a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskins Robbins outlet and, most recently, provisions for dormitories in a revised zoning code – Republicans may see an opportunity.

In an interview, Mayor Tillapaugh said she’s running to see a range of downtown and infrastructure improvements come to fruition, ranging from the $5 million in Doubleday Field renovations to upgrades to the water-treatment plant.

A redo of Pioneer Park, which the mayor championed, is “going to look fabulous,” she said.

While there has been some citizen unrest, Tillapaugh said the Village Board has sought to be accommodating.  For instance, the dormitory provision was removed after the public objected at an Oct. 28 public hearing, she said.

“We had a public hearing,” she said, “and the purpose of the public hearing was to listen to the public. It doesn’t mean you are always going to change things totally to make a group of people happy.”

However, she said, the trustees did adjust the proposed code in this case, and scheduled another public hearing for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, their next regular meeting.

“I didn’t close the public hearing until everyone had a chance to speak,” she added.  The discussion went on for 45 minutes.

Asked if the other incumbents plan to run again, she said, “I assume Mac is,” a reference to Benton.  “And hopefully, Joe too.”

For his part, Benton said, “I’m not prepared to make an announcement at this time.”  Membrino, who was out of town, called to say he does intend to run, and would be interested in being interviewed further on his return.

Membrino was appointed to serve out Tillapaugh’s trustee term when she was elected mayor in March 2018,  when Benton ran unopposed to serve the rest of Allstadt’s term after that trustee resigned.

While town elections are administered by the county Board of Elections, village elections are overseen by Village Administrator Teri Barown.

Each party must hold caucuses to nominate candidates between Jan. 21 and Jan. 28.

Independents may also run for mayor or trustee, and must submit petitions with a minimum of 50 signatures between Feb. 4 and Feb. 11.

Village elections will be in mid-March.

Will  Improvements To Main Street Ever End? No, Shouldn’t

EDITORIAL

Will  Improvements

To Main Street Ever

End? No, Shouldn’t

Mayor Tillapaugh, right, holds a construction conference at Main and Chestnut. From left are Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, Streets Committee chair; Roger Pendell, Upstate Companies, and Greg Miller and Todd Harter,
Barton & Loguidice engineers. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Begun inauspiciously in March 2014 with the felling of 37 trees on Main Street, a remarkable series of successes has followed in the reinvention of downtown Cooperstown for 21st century tourism.
The environmentally sensitive rain gardens, new sidewalks, streetlights, replacement of 19th century water mains and sewerage – even a new flag pole, embroiled in controversy as it now is – have followed in quick succession.

But it’s not over, as observed in the past few days, as the Upstate Companies, which is growing
into a Mount Upton-based behemoth, began working on the latest projects:
• One, the reinvention of pocket Pioneer Park, at Main and Pioneer, with a low stage, bike racks and water fountain, more benches and new plantings. The more open center will provide more elbow room around Santa’s Cottage, often packed as it is from Thanksgiving Weekend until the Big Day.
• Two, a new traffic signal setup at Pioneer and Chestnut. The Upstate crews are replacing curbs and sidewalks (with brick pavers) from Pine Boulevard to the intersection. The traffic light will be replaced with a single signal, just as it is, but adjustable to easy entry and exit from the nearby fire station.
Chestnut Street will be narrowed, for less-stressful pedestrian crossings, and a small plaza created in front of Mel’s. Plus, Walk/Don’t Walk signals will further ease pedestrians’ minds as they navigate more clearly delineated crosswalks, courtesy with long-lasting stripes from Andela Glass, the Richfield Springs recycling concern.
(That last piece depends on the weather, according to Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch: Blacktop requires a stretch of 50-plus degree weather to cure.)

While this isn’t the beginning, it isn’t the end, either.

Work may begin this fall on the new entrance to Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field, which will include sidewalks, new walls and a decorative arch. Inset is entrance as is today.

At Doubleday Field, water and sewer lines will be laid from the Main Street entrance to the left side of the grandstand to provide service to the restrooms, locker rooms and pavilion that will be part of next year’s third-baseline reconstruction.
Depending on how soon winter arrives, work may begin on the Main Street entrance, including the fancy arch pictured with this editorial.
Next summer, the construction should be going strong along Doubleday Field’s third-base line. The mayor isn’t sure how much will be done by next year’s 100th anniversary of the baseball landmark, but there should be enough to be impressive during ceremonies planned by the Friends of Doubleday.

That’s a lot in five years, but it’s not over – probably never over, Mayor Tillapaugh
said.
Fowler Way, which leads to Doubleday from Chestnut Street, next to the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, is much used, but narrow, bumpy and lacking sidewalks, all of which could and should be addressed.
She is particularly interested in upgrading Hoffman Lane, across from the Hall of Fame, to lead more of the quarter-million fans that visit the Hall each year to Lakefront Park and James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass. Locals are often surprised to learn that many visitors are unaware the lake is even there.
Then, attention could turn to Railroad Avenue, which is becoming a center of local life and commerce, with Mike Manno’s 21 Railroad office building, and Attorney Michelle Kennedy’s office building next door, Cooperstown Distillery, the Railroad Inn, the renovated Spurbeck’s, Butch Welch’s recently redone parking lot,
and the Susquehanna & Western Railroad headquarters.
With the empty “Where It All Began” warehouse and other space for apartments, Railroad Avenue is a promising next center of population growth.
Will it ever end? Listening to the mayor, you have to conclude: Never, and it shouldn’t.

 

‘Braking AIDS’ Cycle Ride Takes Off At Cooperstown

IN 8 YEARS, EVENT RAISED $2M

‘Braking AIDS’ Cycle Ride

Takes Off At Cooperstown

Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, inset, was on hand at 6:45 a.m. today at the Clark Sports Center to launch 300-mile Braking AIDS, the three-day, 150-rider bicycle trek from here to Manhattan to benefit Housing Works, an organization that has housed and provided life-saving services to thousands of people living with HIV or at risk of infection since 1990.  Now in its eighth year, Braking AIDS has raised $2 million toward Housing Works.  The riders are due to stop in front of the state Capitol in Albany tomorrow morning, and continue through the Catskills Sunday, the ride’s final leg.

Mayor To Brief Public On Multiple Projects

Mayor To Brief Public

On Multiple Projects

Downtown Upgrades, Doubleday Field,
Pioneer  Park, Sewage Plant On Agenda
Mayor Tillapaugh at last week’s groundbreaking on water-treatment plant upgrades, one of the subjects of the Aug. 28 briefing. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

COOPERSTOWN – Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch will update the public on several village projects due to begin right after Labor Day at an informational meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, in Village Hall’s second-floor ballroom, which is accessible by elevator from the Fair Street entrance.

Topics to be covered include the waste-water treatment plant improvement project,  Pioneer Park upgrades,  the continuation of the Downtown Pedestrian Improvement Project (TEP), and design and construction plans for Doubleday Field.    Engineers and contractors will be on hand to answer questions.

Mayor: Let Committee Study What Flags To Fly

Mayor: Let Committee

Study What Flags To Fly

Editor’s Note: This was reprinted from the current edition of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta, available at local newsstands.

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to AllOTSEGO.com

Tillapaugh
Benton

COOPERSTOWN – As suggestions expand to hanging banners beyond the Pride Flag on the village’s flagpole, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch is asking Trustee MacGuire Benton to form a committee with two other trustees to develop a policy for all such requests.

“We need a policy, that’s exactly right,” said the mayor, after Benton, in response to last week’s article, said his intent – and, he believes, the Village Board’s vote at its July 22 meeting – specified the Pride Flag would hang next June on the Main and Pioneer flagpole, not on Village Hall.

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