News of Otsego County

otsego county news

For Whom The Bell Tolls

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Chris Gustafson, top, counts the chimes as Rev. Mark Montfort rings the church bell at First Presbyterian Church in Oneonta this morning. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of Brenda L. Utter, Morris, who was the first COVID related death in Otsego County.  In the year since Utter’s passing, 55 residents have died from COVID-19, and this morning members of the congregation took turns ringing the bell in memory of those lost. “This is a somber anniversary for the community,” said Montfort, “We didn’t ring the bell for those who believed the way we do, vote how we vote, or for any other consideration. We’re all in this together and each loss is a loss for everyone. We rang the bell for all who have gone on and for everyone who is still here.” (Ian Austin/

Oneonta Attorney Gouldin Runs To Succeed Bernier

Oneonta Attorney Gouldin

Runs To Succeed Bernier

Robert Gouldin

ONEONTA – Oneonta City Judge Lucy Bernier announced her retirement this morning; and Attorney Bob Gouldin this afternoon announced his candidacy to succeed her. Both are Democrats.

Gouldin is the only candidate to have filed his petitions by the deadline of Thursday at 5 p.m.   However, independent candidates can circulate petitions by May 25 to get on the ballot.

The candidate has lived and practiced in Oneonta for over 20 years, and was recently appointed city prosecutor by Mayor Gary Herzig.   Before that, Gouldin had been a part-time county public defender for 15 years, focused on representing indigent defendants in City Court.

Sally A. Beams, 86; Postmaster, Firefighter, Town Historian

IN MEMORIAM: Sally A. Beams, 86;

Postmaster, Firefighter, Town Historian

WEST DAVENPORT – Sally A. Beams, 86, former West Davenport postmaster, firefighter and town historian, died on Thursday, March 25, 2021, at Fox Hospital, following a brief illness.

She was born in Rye, the daughter of William and Beatrice (Mott) Balcom.  At an early age, she moved to East Meredith and graduated from Charlotte Valley Central School.  She married Benjamin C. Beams on Dec. 21, 1952.

Wind, Warm Weather Open Up Otsego Lake


Wind, Warm Weather

Open Up Otsego Lake

This week’s wind and temperatures in the low 60s broke up the ice block on Otsego Lake Tuesday, and Wednesday – with the lake open but the coves still iced up – folks, inset, headed down to Cooperstown’s Lakefront Park to take in the Sleeping Lion, considered by some to be among the most famous views in the world.   This afternoon, high winds pushed the remaining ice onto the beach at the village’s Three Mile Point Park, giving it the look of a giant icemaker.  Thad Wheeler and spouse Francesca Vanasco, Town of Middlefield, were up there checking it out.  (Tara Barnwell, Jim Kevlin/

Bells Will Be Tolled, Once For Each Local C-19 Victim

Presbyterians Plan Tribute Saturday

Bells Will Be Tolled, Once

For Each Local C-19 Victim

ONEONTA – Members of Oneonta’s First Presbyterian Church, 296 Main St., will ring the church bell at 11 a.m.  Saturday (tomorrow) to mark the anniversary of the Otsego County’s first COVID-19 death.

The bell will be rung one time for each local COVID victim; several church members, and some children, will participate in the bell-ringing, according to the Rev. Mark Montfort, pastor.

 As of this afternoon, there were 55 deaths, according to the county Health Department.  The county’s first victim was Brenda L. Utter, 63, of Morris, who passed away at Bassett Hospital on March 27, 2020.






New Names: Jastremski, Ross, Catan;

2 Democrats Vying To Face Brockway


COOPERSTOWN – The 2021 battle for the Otsego County Board of Representatives has been joined, with more candidates fielded than any time in recent memory, with contests in 11 districts.

In the 14 districts, 11 Republican candidates, one Conservative (allied with the Republicans) and 13 Democrats filed petitions to run by 5 p.m. Thursday, the deadline for the filings in the Nov. 2 local elections, which include county and town boards.

Independent candidates can still enter races.  The first day to circulate independent petitions is April 13, and they must be submitted to the county Board of Elections between May 18 and 25.  Contact the board or county chairman for details.

As it stand, if the Republicans lose one district, they would lose their majority (which rests on an alliance with board Vice Chairman Meg Kennedy, a Conservative).  If the Democrats lose even one district, the Republican hold on the county board would be cemented for another two years.



After 19 Years, Bernier To Retire As City Judge


After 19 Years, Bernier

To Retire As City Judge

Judge Bernier

ONEONTA – After 18 years as Oneonta City Court judge, Lucy P. Bernier, who broke the glass ceiling in many of the county’s legal roles, will retire from the bench when her term expires at the end of this year. She was the first woman to serve as city judge here.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the community as judge, and I am grateful for the trust the people of Oneonta placed in me. I’ve worked hard to make sure each person who came before me was accorded their legal and constitutional rights, that they were treated respectfully and fairly, and that fair and just decisions were rendered,” she said in a statement.

She was initially appointed to the bench in 2004 for a six-year term by Oneonta City Mayor Kim Muller, and was elect in 2009 and 2016 to six-year terms.

Oberacker To Urge Probe In Nursing-Home Deaths


Oberacker To Urge Probe

In Nursing-Home Deaths

Senator Oberacker speaks with Anne Brancati, from Voices for Seniors advocacy group, after the “We Care” Remembrance Day memorial event in Albany today. Anne’s mother, Eleanor Ablett Brancati, 86, passed away Jan. 25 at the Fort Hudson Nursing Home in Fort Edward. (Jeff Bishop photo)

ALBANY – State Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, today attended a memorial gathering marking the one-year anniversary of the Cuomo Administration’s order that sent COVID-positive patients directly into New York’s nursing homes.

Oberacker told the gathering he is co-sponsoring a Senate Resolution (J554) which would designate March 25 as “We Care” Remembrance Day.

$7.4M Grant Fuels Broadband March

$7.4M Grant Fuels
Broadband March

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Customer as well as CEO, Tim Johnson, with wife Vicki, enjoy Broadband at their rural Edmeston home. (Jim Kevlin/

Hickling’s Fish Farm Inc. is exactly what Otsego Electric President/CEO Tim Johnson is talking about.

In tanks inside four sizeable modern buildings on Pitts Road near here, the Hicklings are growing 65-70,000 trout yearlings annually, and another 20-30,000 pounds of 2-year-old bass, which – a delicacy in Thai and other cultures – are sold to Asian markets in Boston and other East Coast cities.

“The big money we’re spending now is in technology,” said Darren Hickling, a civil engineer who operates the business with his parents, Vincent and Linda, a nephew and one of the nephew’s high-school buddies.

With the county’s outmigration, Hickling said he can’t expand his workforce even if he wanted to: There’s no one to hire.

“It” – Broadband – “was an economic-development initiative for us,” said Johnson, who had been outside legal counsel to Otsego Electric for 25 years before becoming the top executive in 2015.

As a 501(c)(12), Otsego Electric – a cooperative founded during the Depression, owned by members to serve members – Otsego Electric is prohibited from making profits.

2 Democrats Challenge Oneonta Town Justices

2 Democrats Challenge

Oneonta Town Justices

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

WEST ONEONTA – A rare contest is shaping up for Oneonta town justice, where two Republican incumbents are being challenged by two Democrats.

On the Republican side, incumbents Sean Farrell and Karen Liddle announced they are running again.

On the Democratic side, Tim Gibson, a 33-year registered nurse in Fox Hospital’s operating room has announced his candidacy.  And local lawyer Bill Schebaum is also planning a run, according to Town Supervisor Bob Wood.

World Down Syndrome Day Celebrated With Happy Feet


World Down Syndrome Day

Celebrated With Happy Feet

NYCM Insurance’s Jeremy Bolton, left, presents Pathfinder Village Ambassador Andrew H. with a sampling of 739 pairs of polka-dotted socks Sunday, March 21, to mark World Down Syndrome Day. In what’s become an annual tradition, NYCM Insurance employees raised $2,097 for the effort this year. “We hope it put a smile on every resident’s face,” said Dan Robinson, NYCM Insurance president/CEO.  The date, 3-21, represents the triplication of the 21st chromosome in the human genotype, which causes 95 percent of Down syndrome cases.  (Lori Grade photo)
John D. O’Connor, 82; Teacher, Richfield Springs Village Trustee

IN MEMORIAM: John D. O’Connor, 82;

Teacher, Richfield Springs Village Trustee

RICHFIELD SPRINGS – John D. O’Connor, a retired teacher who served on the Village Board here for many years, passed away on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

He was born in 1938, the son of the late Charles and Elizabeth Weiler O’Connor and was raised in Richfield Springs.
For 30 years he taught at Ilion Central School, retiring in 1998.

Public Hearing Planned April 1 Seeking Inputs On City’s Police Review

Public Hearing Planned

April 1 Seeking Inputs

On City’s Police Review

County To Act Tomorrow On Its Findings

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Mayor Herzig

ONEONTA – With City Hall expecting to miss its deadline on submitting its review of the OPD to Albany, Common Council is planning a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 1, to allow input into the recommendations.

In the meantime, the city’s Community Advisory Board will meet Tuesday, March 30, in an attempt to finalize its recommendations.  “Hopefully, by the end of that meeting, (the CAB) will have agreed upon a draft, which will then be made public” in advance of the hearing two days later, Mayor Gary Herzig said.  The mayor anticipates the report will be in Albany by April 20.

The Village of Cooperstown approved its CAB review at the end of February, and the county Board of Representatives is meeting at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday, March 25), to finalize its report in time to meet Governor Cuomo’s deadline.

Getting A Vaccination?  OPT Will Take You There For Free

Getting A Vaccination?  OPT

Will Take You There For Free

ONEONTA – Oneonta Public Transit is offering free rides on all its buses to the SUNY Oneonta mass-vaccination site to the Dewar Arena.

Simply show your vaccination appointment card to the bus driver for access; if you need to transfer, simply show your card again.

The mass-vaccination site has been operating since last Thursday, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and had administered the anti-COVID virus to 7,000 people by Tuesday.

1st Black Eagle Scout From Local Council, Newsletter Now Says


1st Black Eagle Scout

From Local Council,

Newsletter Now Says

Hamilton Bradley of the Leatherstocking Council.

Last month, Bryan on Scouting, a newsletter for the BSA’s adult leaders, declared Harry Cooper of Missouri was the first black Eagle Scout.

This month, however, Bryan Wendell, who writes the newsletter, amended his conclusion and declared Hamilton Bradley of Rome, N.Y., from the Utica-based  Leatherstocking Council, which now includes Otsego County, has that honor.

Bradley’s Eagle Scout court of honor was held on Dec. 19, 1919, according to newspaper records from the time, indicating he was elevated to Eagle Scout at least nine months before Cooper.

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