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News of Otsego County

Otsego County Board of Representatives

Editor’s Notes by Greg Klein: Taking a vacation from COVID, but not for long

Editor’s Notes by Greg Klein:
Taking a vacation from COVID,
but not for long

About six weeks ago, we went on our first vacation since 2019.

The teen has the benefit of a summer birthday and the best parenting idea we ever devised was birthday trips. Not only do we get to schedule some summer fun (and summer time off) but
we have gotten to see the Empire State. And as a bonus, or perhaps this was by design, we avoided having to stage large birthday parties.

Of course, the birthday parties would have ended by age 16 and we were still celebrating the teen in July, so I think we came up with a good idea. I certainly thought that last month.

This year we discovered the Thousand Islands. And when I say dis-covered, I mean fell in love with. Of course, our pathways were limited by the border being closed but there was plenty to discover on the U.S. side.

Cooperstown & Around: May 20, 2021

Cooperstown & Around & City of the Hills

County reopens
micro-grant applications

COOPERSTOWN – Otsego County has announced it will reopen its grant program for community events through Friday, May 28.

Sponsors must explain their event and tell the Board of Representative’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee how the event will draw visitors to the area. If it is a new event, the application must describe the market segment the sponsors are trying to attract.

Go to www.otsegocounty.com and click on Community Events Grants Application 2021 for more information.

Community Foundation announces $2 million fund, initial campaign success

Community Foundation announces
$2 million fund, initial campaign success

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

The Community Foundation of Otsego County announced Tuesday, May 11, that it is launching a new funding campaign to raise $2 million and has already taken in most of that money in pledges.
The 16-member board was formed about two years ago to help solve issues of business and poverty that are affecting Otsego County. When the coronavirus pandemic hit not long after the board formed, it rededicated its mission to help county residents and businesses survive the pandemic.

Board President Harry Levine said the group gave out more than $225,000 in pandemic funds and has been fundraising behind the scenes to ensure there is a financial base for the next half decade.

“You have got to show that you have gotten some primary support at the beginning and to show people that you are for real,” Levine said in an interview Saturday, May 8. “We are for real.”

Tourism promoter: Focus different for 2021

Tourism promoter:
Focus different for 2021

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Otsego County’s tourism efforts are being refocused on outdoor activities, fall weddings and vaccinated out-of-state residents, according to a presentation given to the Otsego County Board of Representatives at its May meeting.

Harrington addressed the Representatives at their meeting, which was held via Zoom, because of the coronavirus pandemic, on Wednesday, May 5.

She said the group is looking to increase late summer and fall tourism in an effort to boost 2021 bed tax money.

Harrington said her group, which was spun off from the county in 2014 and added Schoharie County as a client two years ago, has shifted to a virtual campaign, allowing it to add several promotional categories and “pages” to its promotional materials.

DMC is launching an outdoor activities website that culls information and links to all the other county locations for hiking, boating, fishing, winter sports and more. Those sites include state parks, Otsego 2000’s Otsego Outdoors website, information about playgrounds, camp sites, hotels and more.

Otsego preps for hiring new administrator

Otsego preps for hiring
new administrator

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Bliss

Otsego County’s legislators began an in-depth look at crafting the county administrator position at a special all board workshop Monday, May 10.

The 14 board members listened and asked questions during a two-hour meeting as County Attorney Ellen Coccoma reiterated to them the details of the local law they passed in 2019 to establish the position and several experts on local governments that are using a county administrator gave their tips and suggestions.

“This is going to be a work in progress,” Coccoma said. “We’re going to probably impliment things now, then as we see how it works out, you may end up saying, ‘we need to change that.’”

A county manager, executive or administrator had been proposed to Otsego County by individuals and good government groups for more than three decades. The county’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee studied the prospect for two years, finally drafting a proposal to create a day-to-day manager who answers to the board. The administrator position passed in a November 2019 local law, with only three representatives against the plan.

Steven Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, Pat Cummings, NYSAC’s council, and Nick Mazza, who served as a county administrator for more than 20 years in Livingston County, gave their insights and took questions from the legislators.

Shared Garage Back on Otsego’s Agenda

Shared Garage Back
On Otsego’s Agenda

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

David Bliss

Otsego County’s plan for a shared transportation garage has been revived.

County officials met with representatives from Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES in the past month to gage interest in another push to build a centralized, shared services facility on county Route 35 in the town of Milford, on land adjacent to the ONC BOCES campus.

“I would not say it is full speed ahead, but maybe it is half speed ahead,” Otsego County Board of Representatives President Dave Bliss said on Tuesday, April 27. “It is still very much needed,” Bliss said. “BOCES is still interest. It is back on now that the funding is coming back up and we’re hopefully going to be on better footing.”

The county’s facilities are near Cooperstown Central School on Linden Avenue in an area where no expansion or renovation is possible.
“It’s old. It’s not big enough. It is functionally obsolete. It is structurally unsound. It is a terrible location. It is right in the middle of the school and the village traffic on Linden Avenue.” Bliss said. “We might be able to leave some things there, such as the salt facility and the gas facility. The village of Cooperstown uses those, so it would be more expensive if they had to have their own facilities.

Bliss said there have been ongoing discussions with county schools and other municipalities about joining BOCES and the county. He said he thinks more groups will be interested once the plans are concrete, a cost is known and the shared services begin to lead toward budget savings.

Campaigns Off To Fast Start In ’21

Campaigns Off To Fast Start In ’21

Revised Calendar Requires
6-Month Campaign Season

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Election Day is still six months away, but in the past few days it’s been off to the races, the local races.

With Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s announcing his retirement last week, three candidates immediately emerged to succeed him, a Democrat and two Republicans.

Leading up to Tuesday, March 2, the first day nominating petitions can be circulated, a similar outpouring occurred in races for the Otsego County Board of Representatives.

Get used to it.

The early entries, a half-year in advance of the elections, are required by changes implemented in January 2019 by Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature, then newly in control of the Democrats.

State and local primaries were moved from the second Tuesday in September to the fourth Tuesday in June, to align with federal elections. The idea, Democrats said, was to save money and to increase turnout for local elections.

However, with petitions in local races due to be filed with the county Board of Elections between March 22 and 25, it also extends the campaign season for local offices from four to
six months.

ONEONTA COMMON COUNCIL: So Where Do You Stand? Democracy? Insurrection?
LETTER from ONEONTA COMMON COUNCIL & Otsego County Board of Representatives

So Where Do You Stand?

Democracy? Insurrection?

To the Editor:

The violence in D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, which led to the deaths of five people, have clarified the one question that needs to be asked of our country, state and regional representatives: Are you for the democratic process or are you for insurrection?

There is no longer any nuance, thanks to the actions of a group of pro-President Trump protesters who chose to break into the U.S. Capitol, loot it, call for the deaths of both the sitting Vice President Mike Pence and the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and kill Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

Their attempt to overthrow a free and fair election — the election managers of all 50 states (who are a mix of Democrats and Republicans) have found no evidence of fraud — has made it abundantly clear that there is a faction of Americans and elected officials who only trust an election when their side wins.

While we shouldn’t have to point this out, we will: That isn’t what democracy is. These actions are abhorrent.

Remaining silent is the equivalent of condoning the actions of a minority that believes violence and destruction have a place in America.

This is a question we never thought we’d need to ask our fellow elected officials to publicly answer, because we mistakenly thought the answer was obvious: Are you for the democratic process or are you for insurrection?

We support democracy and call on all of the City of Oneonta, Otsego County, and our state representatives to make their positions clear.

Clark Oliver, Dist. 11
Adrienne Martini, Dist. 12
Danny Lapin, Dist. 13
Jill Basile, Dist.14
Otsego County Board
of Representatives

Luke Murphy, 1st Ward
Mark Davies, 2nd Ward
David Rissberger, 3rd Ward
John Rafter, 7th Ward
Mark Drnek, 8th Ward
Oneonta Common Council

NORTHRUP: Ignore Gun Laws? See You In Court
LETTER from CHIP NORTHRUP

Ignore Gun Laws?

See You In Court

To County Representatives:

As elected officials, you of all people do not have the luxury of deciding which laws you will uphold and which you will ignore, much less willfully and publicly flaunt as a partisan political stunt.

If you adopt this scofflaw “gun sanctuary” ordinance, you will be sued for failure to uphold New York State laws – laws that you are free to challenge in court, but laws that you cannot selectively ignore or flaunt to the detriment of the rule of law, to the loss the trust that has been placed in you, or to the breach of your oath of office.

CHIP NORTHRUP
Cooperstown

With 10th Death, County ‘Overwhelmed,’ Bond Says

With 10th Death, County

‘Overwhelmed,’ Bond Says

County Staffing Increased As Deaths, COVID Infections Keep Growing

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Help is on the way after county Public Health Director Heidi Bond lamented that her department is “overwhelmed.”

“We’re barely keeping up with the cases coming in,” she said. “With contact tracing, that means you might not get a call if you’ve been identified as a close personal contact in a timely manner.”

On Monday, Dec. 14, the county Board of Representatives voted unanimously on a resolution from the floor presented by county Rep. Michele Farwell, D-Morris, to approve three LPNs or three health workers, or a combination of the two, to ensure Bond has the resources she needs to continue combating COVID.

With Bond and five nurses working nights and weekends, she hopes to expand the staff to eight to assist in interviewing positive cases and providing additional contact tracing.

“It’s definitely a relief,” she said. “All of us have been working six days a week.”

As of Tuesday, Dec. 15,there were 153 cases reported over last seven days, with 16 hospitalizations and two deaths, 10 deaths total.

Both of the deceased were women over 55, including one elderly woman who caught the virus from an employee at her assisted living facility after the employee was exposed at a private Thanksgiving gathering.

But with the lack of contact tracers, Bond said it could be days before her staff can reach those who may have been exposed to let them know they need to quarantine.

Bond defined “close contacts” as a person, including household residents, co-workers or friends, that the positive case spent more than 15 minutes with, either masked or unmasked.

“Normally we want to contact those people within 24 hours to let them know they should quarantine,” she said. “Now we’re asking people if they know they’re positive, that they take personal responsibility and notify their contacts, as well as tell us those names.”

And that personal responsibility extends to those notified, she said, who need to quarantine at home for 14 days. “That means no going out to the store, no going into work, no seeing friends,” she said. “You just stay home and wait.”

Bond said that if not contacted by the Health Department within five days of quarantine, to reach out in order to get the paperwork needed to approve time off work through the CARES Act.

If You Want Public Office, You Ought To Say Why Publically
Editorial

If You Want Public Office,

You Ought To Say Why Publicly

The county board’s Administration Committee set a poor precedent in deciding to interview candidates for state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s District 6 seat in “executive session” – that is, in secret, out of the public view.

The county attorney, Ellen Coccoma, last week advised the Admin Committee when it interviewed the Republican candidate, Jennifer Mickle, that whether to do so in public or not was optional, up to the reps. To close the door instead of opening it was the wrong way to go.

It was bi-partisan poor judgment, too.

At this past Monday’s Admin meeting to interview the Democratic nominee, Diane Addesso, at least county Rep. Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta, questioned if darkness should trump light.

Then she said, oh, never mind.

Admin Committee chair Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, made the motion, and Republicans Ed Frazier and Keith McCarty, and Democrat Andrew Marietta, as well as Martini, went along.

If Mickle, Addesso and Libertarian Andrew Hamill ran for the seat, they would have had to answer questions in public from the public. Why should they get a free ride into Oberacker’s seat without having to tell the public in this limited manner why they want the job and what they would do with it?

After all, when crowned by their fellow representatives, Mickle, Addesso or Hamill would be participating in votes that will have an impact on all of us living in Otsego County.

When this sorry process is over, soul-searching is warranted by all county reps.

The state Committee on Open Government is available to conduct a training session for the board, but it’s as much a question of attitude: Does county government belong to everyone, or to them alone?

STAMMEL: After Vacancy Rift, Bi-Partisan Trust Needs Rebuilding
LETTER from ANDREW STAMMEL

After Vacancy Rift,

Bi-Partisan Trust Needs Rebuilding

To the Editor:

The run of bi-partisanship on the county Board of Representatives has been interrupted by the Republican caucus’ recent efforts to steamroll through a replacement for Representative Oberacker.

During my two and a half terms on the county board, cooperation between parties has ebbed and flowed. Since the 2017 election it has been split 7-7 between Democrats and Republican-affiliated members.

Thankfully, a bi-partisan governing coalition and leadership team was ascendant and the board increased its productivity and collegiality. There was an understanding that it was in the county’s interest for the party caucuses to work with each other. Representative Bliss has been selected as chair three years running, in votes that relied on support from both parties.

Some cracks began to show in January 2020 as the leadership team became fully Republican after two years of shared leadership with a chair and vice chair from different parties. But cooperation mostly continued until this month.

With Representative Oberacker’s recent election to state Senate, he is set to take office in January 2021. This will create a vacancy in his county district because his board term runs through December 2021.

The board’s Rules of Order and local law clearly outline how to fill vacancy, within 30 days and with nominees submitted by both major parties, to be voted on by the Administration Committee and then the full board.

Unfortunately the Republican caucus apparently coordinated to prevent Democratic input into this process, rejecting bi-partisanship.

Representative Oberacker inexplicably submitted his resignation letter a month and a half prior to commencing his new position, unexpectedly vacating the board prior to important votes on the annual budget and other matters.

His resignation letter was dated Nov. 13 to take effect the 16th; but it was not received by the board clerk until Nov. 17 (according to the date stamp). The clerk did not share the resignation with the Board members until the 18th, a day after the local Republican Committee met to nominate a replacement.

Upon receipt of the resignation letter, the Democratic board members inquired with board leadership about the process for moving forward and how the Democratic Committee could submit a name (the committee had a regular meeting scheduled for the 19th).

These inquiries were ignored by leadership, and the Administration Committee voted on the morning of the 19th, along party lines, to approve the Republican nominee.

Does this sound like collegial bi-partisanship? It sounds like a fishy partisan power move to me, contrary to the letter and spirit of county law.

The county board now has seven Democratic members, six Republican-affiliated members, and one vacancy. Democrats have a plurality in weighted voting on the board but neither party has a majority. Bi-partisan cooperation will be required to move forward on any items, including the filling of this vacancy.

It had been my expectation that the board would fill the vacancy as I believed that to be in the county’s best interest. I also expected that the board would choose a Republican, as this is historically a conservative district.

But now I ask myself what the Republican plurality would do if the shoe were on the other foot. Would they keep open a vacancy in a traditionally Democratic district and press their advantage to maintain their plurality and greater control over the Board?

If you had asked me a year ago, I would opine that the Republicans would probably do the right thing and fill the vacancy. Today, after their latest maneuvers, I’m not sure.

The success of our county and board depends on restoring bi-partisan respect. With the county still fighting a pandemic and dealing with a likely double-dip recession, we need a high-functioning and fully staffed board.

Although the timing of the filling of this vacancy is unknown, I do not plan to keep the position vacant for over a year and I expect some of my Democratic colleagues feel similarly. But we also need the GOP caucus to work to rebuild bridges and trust.

Like any relationship, this one requires work and good faith on both sides. I hope the holidays and New Year allow my Republican colleagues to reflect on their recent actions and consider how they can contribute to restoring trust and collegiality.

ANDREW STAMMEL
County Representative
District 4, Town of Oneonta

Appointing Oberacker Successor Complicated

Appointing Oberacker

Successor Complicated

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Peter Oberacker

COOPERSTOWN – Peter Oberacker, elected state senator on Nov. 3, will be leaving the Otsego County Board Dec. 31 at the latest and is blocked by the county board’s Rules of Order from voting on his
successor.

Absent bipartisanship, that creates a deadlock.

There are 6,228 “weighted votes” distributed among the 14 county reps, and without Oberacker’s 534 votes, the Republicans don’t have the 3,115-vote majority to fill his seat unilaterally.

Democrats control 2,807 weighted votes, also insufficient to fill the seat.

County Board chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, anticipates things may fall into place.

“There will be a couple of candidates brought forth by the committees,” he said. “A couple of people have reached out to me. Pete has someone he’s likely to recommend. I would take his recommendation highly, just as we did when Senator Seward recommended Pete.”

Since Republicans dominate in Oberacker’s District 6 (Schenevus, Worcester, Westford and Decatur), the GOP town committees there should propose his successor, in the view of county Republican Chairman Vince Casale.

“The people of that district overwhelmingly elected a Republican to represent them,” said Casale. “I don’t see any reason why the board wouldn’t work together to replace the representative in the will
of the voters.”

The county Democratic chairman, Clark Oliver, who is also county rep from District 11, Oneonta’s East End, said the county board rarely makes decisions on strictly party lines, and he hopes it follows that precedent here.

“What I’m hopeful for is that we will agree to appoint a candidate with some sort of bipartisan support,” he said. “If there seems to be a clear path forward, I assume somebody will break the tie.”

Meanwhile, “In the planning process, it would seem Republicans would want to bring Democrats into the discussion.”

Asked about a Dec. 2 decision, Bliss replied, “That’s possible.”

It would depend when Oberacker decides to resign, he said. Rule 6 of the board’s Rules of Order calls for a replacement to be made within 30 days of a resignation, Bliss said, adding he’s not sure if that’s a guideline or has the force of law.

Despite having seven county reps to the Republicans’ five (plus one Conservative, Meg Kennedy of Hartwick, Milford and New Lisbon), the Democrats – four from the City of Oneonta’s smaller districts – only control 2,807 votes, well short of a majority.

The first forum on the issue will be the county board’s Administration Committee, which will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 19.

Kennedy, who chairs Admin, said she likes Casale’s proposal. “I hope people would be agreeable. I hope the county board as a whole could respectfully agree to the local people’s choice.”

In the 2019 county board election, Oberacker was unopposed, and garnered 884 votes, vs. 11 write-ins.

In 2017, when challenged by Democrat Chad McEvoy, Westford, Oberacker chalked up a 1,007-701 victory.

According to the Rules of Order, the Republican and Democratic county committees may each recommend a replacement to Oberacker, but county board members and, presumably others, can do so as well.

Casale said he will convene a meeting of the 8-9 District 6 committee members shortly. Oliver said the Democratic Committee also will meet on the 19th.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to let the people of that district go without representation,” Casale said. “Why not do it sooner rather than later?”

Deemed ‘Essential Services,’ County Shelters Reopen

Ruled ‘Essential Services,’

OFO Shelters Reopened

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Martini
Bliss

ONEONTA – Citing the domestic violence and homeless shelters “essential services,” the Otsego County Board of Representatives and the county’s Department of Social Services have reopened both buildings.

“We’re happy that they have reopened and that they are helping these vulnerable populations in our community,” said county Rep. Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta, chair of the county board’s Human Services Committee. “It’s so important that they be open and operational.”

2nd Amendment Rally Delayed; 2AS Group Preparing Petitions

2nd Amendment Rally

Delayed; 2AS Group

Preparing Petitions

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

LAURENS – Due to the Coronavis threat and Governor Cuomo’s restrictions on gatherings, the Otsego County Second Amendment Rally planned this Sunday at the VFW Post 1417 on Ellis Road has been postponed, according to Pat Brockway.

Meanwhile, the 2AS group seeking to have the county declared a sanctuary where the SAFE Act would not be enforced is continuing to compile petitions, and by March 27 hopes to have signatures verified and ready to be presented to the county Board of Representatives at its April 1 meeting.

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