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

RSS Housing Project Not Right For Oneonta
from Danny Lapin

RSS Housing Project

Not Right For Oneonta

To the Editor:

The proposed housing project by Rehabilitation Support Services (RSS) of Altamont in Oneonta’s Sixth Ward is a flawed development. RSS wants taxpayers to pay for it; they trying to circumvent public input and they’re using strong-arm tactics to get approval to start construction.

Therefore, I oppose it.

RSS wants to build a 64-unit project for low- and moderate-income people that will include 14 apartments reserved for individuals recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. Subsidized rents will range from $520 to $1,067, well below market rates for Oneonta.

Underage Drinking Initiative Checks 13 Shops, All Compliant

Underage Drinking Initiative

Checks 13 Shops, All Compliant

SIDNEY – Troop C’s Underage Drinking Initiative is commending 13 stores, 12 in Chenango County and one in Otsego, found in compliance during a two-county check conducted Friday.

The Otsego store was Mirabito Convenience Store, 81 South Broad St., Morris.

The other 12 stores included nine in Norwich and three in Sherburne.   Five were Mirabitos and the others were with various companies.

Fox Debuts Fantasy-Romance Novel At Green Toad

Fox Debuts Fantasy-Romance

 Novel At Green Toad

Amanda Fox, right, reads a passage from her new fantasy-romance novel “Rogue Fate” to friend Jess Brown, mother Donna Conrad, dad Gary and brother Scott, seen above, at the Green Toad on Saturday afternoon where she was signing copies. The book, the first book in The Rogue series, was released in January and is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kabo as an ebook, and an audiobook. Fox is currently working on the sequel “Dragon’s Scars”. More info on Fox and her books can be found at amandatfox.com. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

MARIJUANA SHOPS?

We Must Decide

If We Want Them Here

MARIJUANA SHOPS?

By JENNIFER HILL

County Board Must Give OK To Pot Stores

You can smoke it in Otsego County if marijuana is legalized – but can you sell it?
Legislation now being considered in Albany would legalize use of recreational marijuana statewide, but individual counties must decide whether dispensaries would be permitted to sell pot.
If such dispensaries were approved, the City of Oneonta, towns and village would be able to decide where they are allowed, when they can be open, and other aspects of their operation.
Otsego County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision, a new member of the state Association of Counties’s board, got a crash-course on legal pot’s prospective complexities at NYSAC’s 2019 Legislative Conference at the end of January.

PRESIDENTS & Otsego County

PRESIDENTS & Otsego County

By JIM KEVLIN

FDR IN VAN HORNESVILLE: In 1931, GE President Owen D. Young, then the presumptive nominee for the Democrat nomination for President in 1932, invited New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt to the dedication of the school in Van Hornesville that bears Young’s name. By 1932, FDR had outstripped Young for the Democratic nod, and went on to be elected President four times.

STILL NO TRUMP: Another year has gone by, but the current sitting president, Donald Trump, has still to make it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame or Otsego County generally. Surprising, given that, according to some reports, he was scouted for the Phillies and the Red Sox on graduating from high school, choosing to go to college and into his dad’s real-estate business instead.

HE DIDN’T SLEEP HERE: George Washington visited Otsego Lake’s outlet in 1783 to view where General Clinton blew up the dam that allowed his army aboard bateaux to surprise the Iroquois at Oquaga (Afton), disperse the tribe and open the way for New Englanders to settle Otsego County after the American Revolution. After a gala at Swanwick, the lakeside mansion, he reportedly rode on the Fort Plain that night.

T.R., TAFT IN ONEONTA:
It’s said Congressman George Fairchild hosted Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft at different times at
his mansion at Main Street and Grand Avenue, Oneonta, now the Masonic Temple. Fairchild, publisher of the Oneonta Herald, would later be first chairman of IBM.

3 FOR COOPERSTOWN:
The past three sitting presidents, Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all visited the Baseball Hall of Fame at some point, Obama while he was still in office.

Delhi Culinary Earns Top Honors At Chili Bowl

Delhi Culinary Earns

Top Chili Bowl Honors

More people voted in this year’s 15th annual Chili Bowl in Oneonta than at any other in the history of the event. Guests and chefs waited in suspense for over an hour as CANO volunteers and staff sorted through more than 400 ballots, then announced a Caribbean-inspired dish from SUNY Delhi Escoffier Club members Jessica Shultis, Peter Blayne, John Gougoutris and Carly Yezzo, in top photo with CANO President Jim Maloney.  Maloney took both the Fireman’s Award and the People’s Choice Awards for Best Chili. Second place went to the Tulip & Rose of Franklin with The B-Side taking third place.  At right, Kirsten Gargash and daughter Skylar stir up their beef and venison chili before the first guests arrive. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

The Snow Must Go On!

The Snow Must Go On!

OCCA Program Director Jeff O’Handley, right, leads Bridgette Hulbert, daughter Vivian, Jack and William Mokay, and Andrew Rock, all of Delhi, and Erin and Kathryn Dailey, both of Oneonta, on a snowshoeing hike at the annual Winter Fest at Gilbert Lake State Park this afternoon. At right, Tami-Lee Volgari, Oneonta, sleds down a hill with her daughter Eama-Lee. Visitors also enjoyed skiing, information sessions on winter camping and survival, as well as a bonfire. The event was hosted by OCCA and Five Star Subaru. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

LEVELS RISING ON RESERVOIR OF GOOD WILL

EDITORIAL

HOMETOWN Views and Perspectives

Levels Rising On Reservoir Of Good Will

Bliss Achieves Key Goal:

Collegiality On County Board

Dave Bliss retakes the rostrum after being reelected chair of the county Board of Representatives after his Jan. 2 reelection.

The amiable Dave Bliss, who is entering his second year as chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, patently has achieved his first goal:  A “change of culture” toward a more amiable atmosphere.

“I believe we have a working relationship with departments heads and other board members,” the former 24-year Middlefield town supervisor, a Republican, said in an interview assessing his first year at the helm, and looking ahead to the second.
“Democrats and Republicans are evenly split – we need to work together.”

A case in point surfaced at the county board’s organizational meeting on Jan. 2, where Bliss was reelected by a 12-2 vote.

Each month there’s a consent agenda that lumps together a few dozen routine resolutions so they can be taken care of in one vote – a huge time saver in a usually lengthy meeting.

But any county rep can ask that any resolution be removed for individual debate, as Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, sensibly did in this case on the “Climate Smart Communities Pledge,” which NYSERDA is encouraging local governments to adopt.

Cooperstown And Around

Cooperstown And Around

Both Mayors, Seward Weigh State Of State

By: Ian Austin

Christian Shaefer of Richfield Springs, who mounted a surprise write-in campaign to win a county coroner post in the Nov. 6 election, takes the oath of office Tuesday, Jan 1, at Foothills in Oneonta Ian Austin/The Freeman’s Journal

ONEONTA

Christian Shaefer of Richfield Springs, who mounted a surprise write-in campaign to win a county coroner post in the Nov. 6 election, takes the oath of office Tuesday, Jan 1, at Foothills in Oneonta

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and two mayors, Cooperstown’s Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and Oneonta’s Gary Herzig, were due to address the Otsego Chamber’s annual State of the State Breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, at SUNY Oneonta’s Morris Conference Center. Click for details.

►THE OTSEGO LAND TRUST announced the  donation of a conservation easement on 133 acres of forests, hills, farmland and wetlands in the Town of Oneonta on Friday, Dec. 28..

►A FIRE DESTROYED the Fred A. Roos Jr. house at 264 Geywits Road, Town of Springfield on Friday, Dec. 28, according to Assistant Chief Dale Schulz of the Springfield Center Fire Department. No injuries were reported, but the fire remains under investigation.

►OUTGOING CONGRESSMAN John Faso wouldn’t rule out running for Congress again in 2020 – but wouldn’t rule it in either, he told WAMC President Alan Chartock.

►310 AIRBNB HOSTS in Otsego County each earned about $5,900 in supplementary income in 2018, the company announced at year’s end.

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Can Open-Minded People Create ‘Center Of Energy Excellence’?

Editorial for December 14, 2018

Can Open-Minded
People Create ‘Center
Of Energy Excellence’?

Otsego Chamber’s
‘Energy Infrastructure Summit,’
County Task Force’s Makeup Will
Help Answer That Question – And Soon

Where angels fear to tread…
The angel in this piece is Barbara Ann Heegan, Otsego Chamber of Commerce president, who this week announced the chamber is planning an Energy Infrastructure Summit Thursday, Jan. 31, at The Otesaga.
“By bringing other stakeholders to the table, we can help inform our membership on the best path forward on meeting our energy needs and the needs of economic development,” Heegan said in an interview.
Of course, the intent is right on, and businesspeople – with an eye on costs and profitability, as well as the good of the planet – are in many ways as good environmentalists as anyone else.

Jim Doig

Take Jim Doig, Sidney Federal Credit Union’s recently retired president. Heegan toured the bank’s new headquarters a couple of years ago, and saw energy consciousness everywhere: geothermal heating, solar panels – even rainwater captured to flush toilets.
“That’s one example of how a business, a bank, has really taken advantage of clean, renewable energy,” said Heegan. The chamber formed an Energy Committee last January, chaired by Country Club Auto’s Peter Armao, and its members suggested the summit idea.

SUNY President Hosts Cookie Bake-Off

SUNY President Hosts

Christmas Cookie Bake-Off

SUNY Oneonta President Dr. Barbara Jean Morris, left, readies a tray of Double Double Chocolate Chip cookies for the oven as part of a staff-wide cookie bake-off held at SUNY this afternoon. But My Kitchen chef Donna Bond and Angie Eichler, Student Life, have their own entry coming out of the oven – Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. The cookies will be blind taste-tested this afternoon and a winner announced. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Ruffles Takes First Step Against Whack-A-Mole

Editorial for November 30, 2018.

Ruffles Takes First Step Against Whack-A-Mole

Maria Ajello makes her monthly plea: Give me my house back.

For years now, Otsego County’s annual auction of foreclosed-on tax-delinquent properties has eaten up a lot of oxygen at the county Board of Representatives’ monthly meetings.
It’s the Whack-A-Mole of county government, which suggests: There are unresolved issues.
So a take-charge presentation by the new county treasurer, Allen Ruffles, at the November meeting was welcome, if partial.
First, he declared, having studied the issue, giving delinquent taxpayers four years to pay back bills is counterproductive. In the fourth year, the fees and interest that accrue just make it all that more likely property owners won’t be able to catch up.
Three years is the standard among New York State counties, and Ruffles – as he can within his treasurer’s duties – has implemented it, effective 2022.
Second, he encouraged the county board, as a companion measure, to pass a law enabling property owners to “buy back” their own homes.
Himself a former banker, Ruffles said most delinquent properties aren’t mortgaged and contain more-than-sufficient equity to qualify for bank loans to cover what’s owed.
The county board should promptly pass the enabling legislation.
While Ruffles didn’t need the county reps’ blessing, Rep. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, made a motion of support and it was approved, although three county reps – Kathy Clark, Michele Farwell and Andrew Stammel – abstained, uncertain about some of the particulars.

Ruffles’ presentation spurred a debate – of course, the Whack-A-Mole – on a related issue: Should county employees be allowed to bid at the annual delinquent-property auction.
There was general agreement that employees in the Treasurer’s and the County Attorney’s offices, who are elbows deep in preparing the annual tax sale, should be prohibited from bidding – elected officials, too – but beyond that there were divergences.

The Freeman’s Journal – At this month’s county board meeting, Allen Ruffles, the freshman county treasurer, announces steps he’s taking to streamline foreclosures and tax sales. At right is chairman David Bliss.

County Rep. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, objected to any restrictions, even on himself and the other reps, saying anyone who thinks a property is worth more could bid against him. The board vice chair, Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, called a ban “100-percent optics.” Iffy. .
Farwell, the freshman Democrat from Morris, had a more textured view: “We’re the government, and government has lost the people’s trust. I think if you take an extra step to ensure the public’s trust in government, there’s a payoff there worth more than the opportunity for any employee in the county to bid.”
She summed up: “If you are an employee of McDonald’s, you cannot participate in those sweepstakes.”

Readers, ask yourself and fellow employees: In 10, 20 or 30 years on the job, has buying property at public auction ever come up in office conversation? Most of you would say, not at all; not once. It’s just beyond most people’s consideration.
The problem here is county employees swim in a sea where delinquent property-tax sales are dissolved oxygen. Everybody breathes that air. It’s conversation
in coffee breaks, where the treasurer’s and county attorney’s employees are sipping and sharing in the conversation.
There’s simply too much of an opportunity for inside knowledge to be acquired; for county employees, if you will, to prey on the rest of us.
Of course, it’s hard to listen to any discussion about tax sales without putting it in the context of the August 2014 auction, where Maria Ajello lost her Town of Richfield home to a neighbor who happened to be a county employee.
Another wrinkle: under a then-new policy, Ajello and a Town of Butternuts property owner, Bob Force, were denied the right to buy back their properties on the day of the sale.
They still feel that injustice, and anyone who hears Maria’s monthly plea for mercy feels it too. Injustice left alone festers, with unintended consequences: Fearful, the county board feels it must have a deputy sheriff on duty at all its monthly meetings.

To sum up, Treasurer Ruffles has taken a business-like step in shortening foreclosure from four years to three. Any business owner knows: If you let a bill go unpaid for even a year, the chances of getting paid are miniscule. But he and the county board, hand in hand, should continue to pursue not a best practice or two, but all THE best practices:
• One, pass the buy-back legislation, so captured value can be freed and people can stay in their homes.
• Two, ban every county employee from bidding on delinquent properties. Steady work, plus good health benefits and a secure retirement are recompense enough.
• Three, begin negotiations to make Maria Ajello and Bob Force whole – the properties they lost were worth many multiples of the taxes they owed.

Savalla Howland, 94; Secretary, Aide At Sidney High School

IN MEMORIAM: Savalla Howland, 94;

Secretary, Aide At Sidney High School

UNADILLA – Savalla Howland, 94, of Unadilla, a secretary and teacher’s aide at Sidney High School, passed away at home on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, following years of fighting cancer and heart disease.

Savalla was born on March 5, 1924, in Deposit, the daughter of Austin and Bertha (Whitman) Gifford. She was married to her late husband Charles H. Howland on Nov. 12, 1944 and shared 66 years together.

ZAGATA: Knowledge Workers? Great, But Traditional Industries Needed, Too

Column by Mike Zagata for November 23, 2018

Knowledge Workers? Great, But
Traditional Industries Needed, Too

Mike Zagata

As I began to read an article in last week’s edition, I felt a surge of excitement.
The author, an elected official, had just stated that her constituents elected her twice because they understand that protecting our environment and growing our economy are not mutually exclusive policies.
That is close to a statement in my recent book, “A Journey Toward Environmental Stewardship.”
My excitement, however, soon switched from positive to anger. Aside from the statement that methane leaks erase all the environmental benefit from switching fuel to natural gas (I found it intriguing the author admits there are benefits), the author goes on the say this is a scientific fact – according to what scientifically refereed journal?
Let’s take a harder look at that claim. If methane leaks erased all the environmental benefit from burning natural gas, then the amount leaked would have to equal the amount burned. That would cut the company’s profit in half. Do you really think a company, any company, would knowingly allow that to happen?
For policy matters of this magnitude, we can’t afford to rely upon the opinion of an advocate who opposes natural gas.
As I read further, I began to feel sympathy for the author and even more so for the people whom she had just called “redundant.” According to her and her reference to a Boston consulting group, the future of our economy is tied to “knowledge-based industry.”
According to her, heavy industry and manufacturing were indeed historically vital to our economy, but we no longer need them. Low-skilled jobs are becoming redundant – in other words, if you don’t have a college degree you’re no longer needed. Wow – and she got elected twice.
Let’s take a look at the facts. When Oneonta’s economy was strong, it benefited from the presence of heavy industry and manufacturing. Companies trained their employees so they would become “knowledge based” and able to perform their jobs.
Many of the companies had apprentice programs to train workers to become more skilled and they were able to advance and make a higher wage – they were “knowledge based” without the buzzword. That’s what built Oneonta.
The notion that we have to move entirely away from that model is nuts. We stand to benefit far more from an approach that nurtures what we had while embracing new types of companies – those that don’t actually build anything. (We sent those companies with their middle-class jobs to Mexico and other countries with poorly thought-out trade policies).
Off the top of my head, I was able to create the following list of companies that can be described as heavy industry/manufacturing: Lutz Feed, Focus Ventures, Brewery Ommegang, The Plains LLC, Northern Eagle, Custom Electronics, Corning, Astrocom, Ioxus, Amphenol, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Brooks Bottling, Wightman Lumber, MAMCO, Covidian, Munson Building Supply, Cobleskill Stone, Oneonta Block Co., DOMO, Otsego Auto Crushers, Seward Sand & Gravel, Clark Companies, RJ Millworks, Eastman Associates, Butts Concrete, Unalam, Leatherstocking, P&R Truss, Medical Coaches and Otsego Ready Mix.
The list is not claimed to be complete and I apologize if your company isn’t listed. However, those companies employ about 2,500 people who don’t consider themselves to be redundant, feel very much “needed” and contribute to our economy. They also vote. Hopefully, Otsego Now will be successful in getting other companies looking for “knowledge-based”
employees to come here. We need them all.

Mike Zagata, a DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, lives in Davenport.

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