VILLAGE VOTING MORE COMPLICATED
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
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.
LETTER from ELLEN TILLAPAUGH KUCH
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.
• 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
Village of Cooperstown
INCUMBENTS RUN; SO MAY INCUMBENTS
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
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.
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.
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
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.
IN 8 YEARS, EVENT RAISED $2M
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.
COOPERSTOWN – With the Village of Cooperstown’s downtown upgrade due to resume after Labor Day Weekend, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch will brief the public at 6 p.m. this evening in the Village Hall’s third-floor ballroom on that project, Doubleday Field renovations, and other initiatives.
Downtown Upgrades, Doubleday Field,
Pioneer Park, Sewage Plant On Agenda
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.
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
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.
Welcome, Induction attendees! Will there really be more than a record-breaking 84,000 of us? Excitement.
If you’re been here before, look around: You will see many changes and improvements to Cooperstown’s downtown that have occurred since the last record-setter, when Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn set the record for attendance in 2008.
If you came then, you might be astonished by what you see now. Then, all the sidewalks were cracked. Main Street needed paving. The whole downtown had a bit of a well-worn sense about it – endearing, yes, but still…
Beginning in 2012, that began to change quickly.
Now-Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch remembers being a bit nonplussed at her first Village Board budget meeting after being elected a trustees in March 2011.
“The budget wasn’t balancing very well,” she recalled the other day. “There was a big surplus in the Water Fund, and $400,000 had to be shifted from Water into the General Fund” just to stay even.
“That was maintenance level,” she said.
The next year, the village trustees made a decision after the most angrily debated local issue in decades: In the face of a sharply divided electorate, they voted to extend paid parking to all downtown streets between Labor Day Weekend and Columbus Day Weekend.
Almost immediately, Village Hall’s financial picture brightened.
The first year, paid parking added $250,000 to the $5 million village budget, and that’s continued to grow in the years since to $400,000 in the fiscal year that ended May 31. Village taxes haven’t gone up in five years.
At the same time, a freshman Village Trustee (now Deputy Mayor) Cindy Falk, began developing prowess in grantsmanship. Successes soon followed:
- In 2013-14, a $600,000 state Green Innovation Grant paid for “rain gardens” around newly planted trees. In part, the idea was to slow runoff into Otsego Lake and the Susquehanna River. The first brick sidewalks were also installed.
- About the same time, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $2.2 million for downtown enhancements, from repaving, to sidewalks, to redone and new lampposts (with LED lights), to street furniture, on Main but also on Pioneer.
- The final step will come this fall: Narrowing the Main and Chestnut intersection, adding walk/don’t walk signs, and generally making it less scary to pedestrians. (If you’ve tried to cross there, you know what we mean.)
- Local money, $1.2 million, was used for more routine projects, albeit important: the replacing of water lines and sewerage under Pioneer Street dating back to the 1880s.
- A $5.8 million renovation of historic Doubleday Field, the symbolic – if not actual – Birthplace of Baseball is now underway. Go and take a look.
In all, Falk estimates $10-15 million has been spent to make this village of 1,769 people more welcoming to a half-million visitors a year.
Throughout this period, now-retired Trustee Lou Allstadt led the charge on upgrading the historic Village Hall. Stop by and take a look, and stop by the library and Cooperstown Art Association gallery while you’re at it.
No one has a ready tally of all this. $5 million. $10 million. Maybe more. Whatever, a lot for a village of
There’s more still to come, particularly at Pioneer Park (Main and Pioneer), where initial work – a bike rack and water found – has already begun.
A stage is planned against the Tunnicliff Inn side wall for the popular “Music on Main” programs during the summer. Brick pavers will add handicapped accessibility. And landscape – a London plane tree and birches – will be added, three lampposts and new furniture.
“We all recognized new sources of revenues were needed, and aggressive grant application, to take care of infrastructure that was just going to deteriorate,” Tillapaugh said, who was fully involved in all of this as deputy mayor to Jeff Katz, who retired from office a year ago April 1, and now as mayor herself.
She also pointed out that merging village court into Otsego Town Court, and repositioning the municipal library as a school-district library, paid for by a separate levy, further helped the village’s financial picture.
The free-wheeling nature of the 2008 Ripken-Gwynn weekend is no more. Everywhere you’ll see high-security measures: from temporary iron fences to such additions as $4,000 trash cans that can be locked during the Legends of Baseball parade Saturday evening. You’ll also notice a much greater police presence.
Regrettably, that’s the nature of our post-9/11 world, intensified after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. It can’t be helped for now; maybe in a better world to come. We can at least be assured that state-of-the-art measures are in place to ensure the security of the at-least 84,001 of us this weekend.
Enjoy – the Induction of Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Harold Baines and Lee Smith will likely be one for the record book. In beautified downtown Cooperstown this weekend, we may be participating in history.
With iPhone App, Citizens Could ID Violators
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – The sounds of silence. That’s probably more than even the 80 signators of last year’s anti-noise petition expect.
But neighbors in and around the downtown will at least be able to expect sounds under 88 decibels if Chapter 172 of the Village of Cooperstown code, labeled simply “Noise,” survives a second public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, May 28, and it voted into law.
Action was delayed from last month’s Village Board meeting after objections were heard to the 100 decibel level.
CHAMBER ANNOUNCES LINEUP
The headliners are state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, Cooperstown’s new mayor, Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and her Oneonta counterpart, Gary Herzig, and David Bliss, chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
Editorial, May 25, 2018
Hail Doubleday! Historic Ballfield To Be
Reinvented For 21st Century Fans’ Needs
Too much discussion about Doubleday Field in recent years has centered on how it
was once considered the Birthplace of Baseball, and now isn’t.
That’s not a productive conversation.
Let’s stipulate that boys played baseball in Phinney’s Field in the mid-1800s, as boys did across the country. Let’s stipulate that Abner Doubleday was at West Point in 1839, when he purportedly invented baseball here. Let’s stipulate that, yes, something with a bat and ball was played as far away as Poland as long ago as the Middle Ages.
No matter. Doubleday Field has played a central role in Cooperstown becoming the locus of the National Game, which in turn led to the founding of the National Baseball Hall of Fame here instead of Hoboken, which in turn fueled Otsego County tourism, which in turn led to the youth baseball camps that now underpin our cornerstone local industry.
In announcing a $1 million grant the other day toward $5.8 million in renovations, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, caught the personal dimension of that living history. He remembered seeing Mickey Mantle hit a single there, (although a pinch-runner took it from there.) One of the Wounded Warriors told him, with awe, the other year: “Babe Ruth sat in the dugout where I’m sitting now.”
In short, Doubleday Field IS historic.
So the renewed interest in renovating Doubleday Field is as welcome as it is overdue.
In addition to Seward’s Million, another $3 million is expected any day from the Empire State Development Corp., (which this week announced the opening of The Wick, a boutique hotel in
Hudson, a $10 million project – the state DOES do this sort of thing, as it should.)
The resulting Doubleday Field – with a green swath leading from Main Street to the main entrance, a historic exhibit beneath the grandstand, and a multi-purpose building (offices, restrooms, a pressroom and space for public gatherings) – will cement this national icon further in community life.
Cooperstown’s new mayor, Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, immediately began promoting the project on taking office April 1, winning the endorsement of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Commission – necessary to receive the grant – just days after taking the oath.
She appointed her predecessor, Jeff Katz, as president of the Friends of Doubleday, which will assure continuity as things move forward.
Tillapaugh has a sensible priority list: As soon as the money is in hand, no matter how much, work will begin on the most important things first. No waiting.
This should assure that something – fingers crossed that is will be largely complete – will be in place in time to celebrate Doubleday Field’s centennial properly, sometime next year or in 2020.
Hail Doubleday!, (wherever or whenever baseball emerged from the primeval maw.)