News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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Otsego County

County Got Leg Up On Police Reform

County Got Leg Up

On Police Reform

Due To Sheriff’s Son’s Case,

Psychological Test Upgraded

By JIM KEVLIN •  Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – Rebounding from the year-long investigation of Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.’s son, Otsego County may have gotten a head start in meeting the wide-ranging reforms coming out of Albany, said county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield.

David Bliss

Last year, the county already upgraded pre-employment testing for correctional offices, deputies, parole officers – “anyone who carries a gun,” said Bliss, when asked about Governor Cuomo’s executive order and new laws the state Legislature enacted last week in the wake of national tumult caused by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while being taken into custody.

“Yes and no,” Bliss replied when asked of former correctional officer Ros Devlin’s situation – an outburst in the county jail’s break room that eventually led to his resignation – prompted last year’s reforms. “It was probably instigated because of that, but it wasn’t a direct result,” he said.

Interviews this week indicated the three largest local governments – the county itself, the City of Oneonta and Village of Cooperstown – are already considering specific steps to respond to the new directives.

Over the past several days, Governor Cuomo signs several pieces that quickly moved through the state Legislature last week, including banning chokeholds, opening police disciplinary records for public review, and more.

He also issued an executive order requiring police departments to work with their local communities on “a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs,” and to submit it to Albany by next April 1 or lose state funding for law enforcement.

Mayor Herzig

Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, a Democrat, said Cuomo’s executive order “works hand in hand with what we’re trying to do, so I think it will be helpful.”

Herzig and OPD Chief Doug Brenner have proposed a Community Advisory Board to review police policies and practices. The mayor plans to discuss the concept with Common Council’s Planning Committee June 29, and bring it before the full council when it next meets on July 7.

In Cooperstown, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, also a Democrat, said “I 100 percent think it’s a good idea.” As for the April 1 deadline, she said, “The village doesn’t receive police department funding from the state, but that doesn’t negate this.”

Mayor Tillapaugh

Tillapaugh said she’s planning “a community group. That’s always the best thing, when you involve the community.” In addition to herself, the group might include the village’s two officers, a mental health expert, someone from Bassett, “a faith leader,” and a selection of village residents. A new police chief, when hired, would also be included.

For his part, Bliss said, “The executive order – it will mean what we are already doing,” said Bliss. “We already have a review in process. We haven’t had any accusation of those types, which I hope means we’re doing this well.”

He said he will ask county Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, who chairs the county board’s Public Safety & Legal Affairs Committee, to take the lead in meeting the governor’s order and implementing the legislation. Wilber did not return calls.

Sheriff Devlin

Sheriff Devlin said he’s participated in several conference calls set up by the state Sheriff’s Association, and is waiting for guidance from the association on how to move forward.

“We already review policy and procedures, annually or every other year,” he said, “and go by the best practices. A lot of those things (enacted last week) are already occurring.”

The sheriff said no complaints against the department are pending right now. “You get complaints from time to time, he said. “Those are investigated. Knock on wood, fortunately we haven’t had a use of force incident in some time.” They usually occur when a suspect resists being taken into custody, he said.

State Ag & Markets Law Exempts Auction House

Unadilla One Raises COVID-19 Fears

State Ag & Markets Law

Exempts Auction House

This notice has been posted on the Unadilla Livestock Auction website since it was discovered a patron without a mask at the May 16 auction later tested positive for COVID-19.

By ELIZABETH COOPER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Devlin
Bond

UNADILLA – Things had been going so well.

Until the weekend, Otsego County had not had a positive COVID-19 case in more than three weeks.

Then on Friday, May 22, the county announced that an individual who attended a Unadilla Livestock Auction had later tested positive for the virus.

The individual, who is not a resident of this county, had been at a May 16 auction
from 1:30 to 9:30 p.m. and was not wearing a mask, according the Otsego County Health Department. There were about 150 others present.

“I think this is why the governor issued the executive order,” said county Health Director Heidi Bond. “To reduce the density of people.”

The livestock auction falls under the state Department of Agriculture & Markets, the auction was not covered by Governor Cuomo’s order that gatherings be limited to less than 10 people, Bond said.

“From what I understand they didn’t have social distancing in place,” she said. “There was crowding and people were standing within 6 feet of each other without a mask.”

The county Health Department issued an alert Friday warning local residents who may have been there to monitor themselves for symptoms.

So far, only one person has reported symptoms, but the test is not back yet, Bond said.
Also, in the past five days, two additional positive cases were reported. Neither was related to the auction, Bond said. Both individuals likely contracted the disease in a healthcare setting outside the county, one as an employee and the other as a patient, she said.

The Health Department is working with the auction house to better protect those who attend.
Bond also stressed the importance of personal responsibility as county residents work to avoid the virus and prevent others from getting infected.

“We all have to take personal responsibility,” she said. “If we don’t like what is going on at a business then don’t go there.”

She also said people who feel ill should make a point of not going out in public.

The case at the auction is a scenario that could have led to a cluster of cases locally, and because people come from other areas to attend the auction it could have led to a spread. So far, however, Bond is not aware of any cases in other counties that might be related.

The two week incubation period will be up May 30, and most people start to show symptoms within seven days, so she is hopeful that the region dodged a bullet, she said.

Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. said he had a complaint about the fact that the auction was still operating several weeks ago, but determined that they were deemed an essential business and pointed to state Ag & Markets.

“The governor’s made all these stipulations to put it back on local law enforcement, but no tools to deal with it,” he said.

Devlin said he had never been to the auction house and could not say whether it was large enough that 150 people could achieve proper social distancing while there.

State Quickly Reopening, As Regions Fall Into Line

GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING/Tuesday, May 19

State Quickly Reopening,

As Regions Fall Into Line

ALBANY – All of the state except New York City is moving quickly toward opening.

Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced that the Capital Region has met all seven metrics required to begin phase one of the state’s regional phased reopening plan starting tomorrow, joining the Western New York, Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley Regions.

Suffolk, Westchester Join 49 Counties That Allow Elective Surgery

GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING/Saturday, May 16

Suffolk, Westchester

Join 49 Counties That

Allow Elective Surgery

Also, Horse Racing To Resume June 1

ALBANY – The two hardest hit counties outside New York City – suburban Westchester and Long Island’s Suffolk – are now eligible to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory, Governor Cuomo announced today at his daily briefing.

They join 49 other New York State counties where hospitals can also do so, including Otsego.

He also:

In Richfield Springs, No Answers, Many Questions Remain

In Richfield Springs,

No Answers, Many

Questions Remain

NY Fire Marshall Cleared After

4 Cars Hit, 10 Injured Downtown

The force of impact of the fire marshal’s truck is evident in the third car it struck before running into the steps of the Richfield Springs Post Office. The white car then struck the blue car in front of it. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.COM

Sheriff Devlin was at the scene into the evening the night of Dec. 20, 2019. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

RICHFIELD SPRINGS – Mayor Robin Moshier still remembers the sound of the accident.

“My office was in the back, but you could hear the car going down the road, hitting things,” she remembered Tuesday after no charges were brought against the driver. “I had no idea what it was. But by the end of the night, we all knew.”

That was Dec. 10, 2019, when 10 people were injured when a state fire marshal, identified as Kevin Ritton, the secretary of the Otsego County Emergency Services, experienced a “medical event” and crashed his truck into four cars before coming to rest on the steps of the post office.

No New Cases Here In 14 Days

No New Cases

Here In 14 Days

CDC image of the coronavirus

COOPERSTOWN – No new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Otsego County in 14 days, county Public Health Director Heidi Bond reported today.

“While this is very good news, it continues to be very important that individuals continue to practice social distancing and wear a mask when you cannot maintain a 6-foot distance,” Bond said.

OTSEGO COUNTY TO ENTER PHASED REOPENING FRIDAY

GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING/Monday, May 11

OTSEGO COUNTY

TO ENTER PHASED

REOPENING FRIDAY

IRONDEQUOIT – In his daily briefing, Governor Cuomo today announced that as of today, the Mohawk Valley, including Otsego County, the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier Regions have met all seven metrics required to begin Phase One of a phased reopening when PAUSE orders expire May 15.

CLICK HERE FOR “NY Forward Reopening” Plan
CLICK HERE FOR regional monitoring dashboard

These three regions can begin opening businesses for Phase One: construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chain, retail for curbside pickup and drop-off or in-store pickup, and agriculture, forestry and fishing.

STERNBERG: Your Arm, My Nose

Life In The Time Of COVID-19

Your Arm, My Nose

Richard Sternberg

In 1882, John B. Finch, then chairman of the Prohibition National Committee, wrote “… your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

This seems like a very appropriate commentary on the current argument between those who are concerned about easing COVID-19 restrictions now and those who want to open the economy immediately.

Sadly this, like almost all things in this country, has become highly politicized with each side having its own facts. Interestingly, there appears to be a reasonable compromise to allow rapid and safe recovery of the economy while decreasing risk of propagation of the disease: Everyone wears a mask while in public, all the time, everywhere.

I am indebted to Martin and Meg Tillapaugh for directing me to the article “Masks for All? The Science Says Yes” by Trisha Greenhalgh and Jeremy Howard.

In it the authors, in very easy to understand language, discuss the epidemiology of disease spread, the physics of droplets and aerosols, the material science of masks, the mathematics of disease transmission, the politics of mask wearing, mask-wearing experiments, the behavioral science of mask wearing, the economics of mask wearing, and the anthropology of mask wearing.

The bottom line is that most of the scientific evidence supports mask wearing and, to quote Governor Cuomo, “It’s disrespectful to me (for you) not to wear a mask.”

In my opinion it would be much easier for me, someone who has six co-morbid conditions for complications with COVID-19, to accept opening things up more if everybody did everything
reasonable to protect each other.

The arguments against mask wearing that I’ve heard include its uncomfortable, it looks funny, I’m not at risk, kids and young people don’t get it, it’s a free country, I don’t have to do what anybody tells me, and it’s a Democratic conspiracy. None of these are valid in this situation.

Well, we are all at risk. We are all at risk of spreading it to friends, loved ones, other human beings, and of becoming infected, contracting the disease, getting sick, and dying.

Children are not immune. They can become very ill and die or transmit it to someone else who becomes sick and dies. One form of the disease in children, Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, is particularly nasty.

If the number of children dying of this wasn’t overshadowed by the unfathomable numbers dying overall there would be public uproar of why we weren’t doing more to help these poor children.

Trying to out yell or politicize this disease is not going to lead to solutions. Marching on state capitals while refusing to social distance and not wearing masks, thereby putting everyone including the children present at risk, and carrying semi-automatic rifles which in that context can be for no reason but intimidation, which no government could capitulate to, doesn’t win any additional support.

On the other hand, if everyone who wanted to see everything open up quicker than it has so far, and that should be about everyone, were to wear masks whenever in public, transmission rates would drop, new cases would drop, and deaths would drop, all strongly supporting allowing a return to normalcy.

To quote a famous American, “Why can’t we all get along?” If we all work together and compromise in what we are saying to each other and in what we are doing, we will find that all win. This would not be a you or me, win or lose, but win/win all the way around.

Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

COUNTY MAY LOSE $22M

CLICK HERE TO WATCH MEETING

COUNTY MAY

LOSE $22M

Worst-Case Scenario

Arrives From NYSAC

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – In a dramatic moment at the county board’s Zoom meeting a few minutes ago, County Treasurer Allen Ruffles received a new worst-case scenario showing Otsego County government stands to lose $22 million in tax revenues and state aid in the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus threat.

That would be double the current tax levy, meaning the county board would have to double the tax rate to continue funding government as is.

Arctic Blast Predicted Here Friday-Saturday

CLICK FOR OTSEGO COUNTY PREDICTION

Arctic Blast Predicted

Here Friday-Saturday

Accuweather is predicting a polar vortex will drive a spring snowstorm through Otsego County late Friday and Saturday en route to Northern New England. “This looks like a good setup for accumulating snow from the higher elevations of New York state and northern Pennsylvania to northwestern Connecticut,” said Paul Pastelok, Accuweather long-term forecaster.
Upstate May See Reopening After 5/15, Cuomo Says

GOVERNOR’S BRIEFING, Sunday, 4/26

Upstate May See

Reopening After

5/15, Cuomo Says

He Specifies Mohawk Valley,

Including Otsego, As One Of 1st

ALBANY – In today’s briefing, Governor Cuomo said Upstate regions – including Otsego County’s – may reopen May 15 if individual regions experience 14 days of declining coronarivus infection rates at that time.

In response to a question, he specified “Central New York, the North Country, the Mohawk Valley” as the region’s likely to be the first come out of the shutdown that began when President Trump and Cuomo declared states of emergency on March 13.

2 COVID-19 Cases Arose Over 2 Days

2 COVID-19 Cases

Arose Over 2 Days

CDC image of the coronavirus

COOPERSTOWN – After a lull, two new cases of coronavirus have been identified in Otsego County as of 2 p.m. today, raising the total cases to 57, county Public Health Director Heidi Bond reported a few minutes ago.

These were the first cases she reported since Monday, when she said five cases had surfaced over the weekend.

Deaths remain at four.

4TH CORONAVIRUS DEATH REPORTED

4TH CORONAVIRUS

DEATH REPORTED

CDC image of the coronavirus

COOPERSTOWN – A fourth death from coronavirus in Otsego County was reported as of 2 p.m. today by county Public Health Director Heidi Bond.

Only one, Brenda Utter, 63, of Morris, has been identified by her family.  The county’s first COVID-19 death, she passed away March 26.

New cases, hospitalizations and the number of people quarantined are down.

Here are the details:

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