It’s a great idea.
In a column at the end of August, Adrian Kuzminski – citing the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap, completed in March – wrote,
“Let me suggest … that the Otsego County Board of Representatives, in a bi-partisan spirit, is the logical authority to establish an Otsego Energy Task Force. A large, diverse umbrella group is far more likely to develop a comprehensive, viable energy strategy that gets it right, and to do justice to the needs of the community as a whole.”
He concluded, “Get key people in the room and tackle the problem.”
County Rep. Meg Kennedy, R-C, Hartwick/Milford, invited Irene Weiser, a member of the Tompkins County Energy & Economic Development Task Force, to attended the Sept. 18 meeting of the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. That task force’s mission is to encourage economic growth while working to reduce gas usage.
NYSEG, which also serves southern Otsego County, had proposed an $18 million gas pipeline into the Town of Lansing, an Ithaca suburb. The task force has been working with NYSEG, trying to find an alternative to the pipeline; it issued an RFP (request for proposals), but received no proposals. It is not revising the RFP and plans to try again.
That may mean, as Irene Weiser reported, that the RFP was poorly drawn. Or it may mean there’s no ready alternative to natural gas right now, at least a full alternative.
One IGA member, county Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, drew the latter lesson. “I struggle with the short term and the long term of it,” he said. “… We need to figure out some short-term solutions while we’re building for an energy-smart future.”
On these editorial pages over the past two months, a number of knowledgeable writers have submitted well-argued letters and op-eds on the gas vs. renewables debate, spurred by Otsego Now’s CGA application to install a natural-gas decompression station in the former Pony Farm Commerce Park at Route 205 and I-88. Kuzminski is in the no-gas camp, joined by Otsego 2000 President Nicole Dillingham. When it appeared to some that the OCCA seemed to be open to hearing more about the decompression station, Executive Director Leslie Orzetti responded emphatically: The Otsego County Conservation Association does not support gas expansion.
On the other side, Kuzminski’s fellow columnist, Mike Zagata, argued fossil fuels are necessary right now. Otsego Now President Jody Zakrevsky said, without natural gas, the Oneonta area has actually missed going after 500 jobs this year alone. Dick Downey of Otego, who led the Unatego Landowners Association in support of the Constitution Pipeline, likewise falls into this camp.
Dave Rowley of West Oneonta, the sensible retired Edmeston Central superintendent, who served as interim superintendent in Oneonta before Joe Yelich’s hiring, probably caught it best in last week’s op-ed: Everyone wants renewable energy, but it’s simply not sufficiently available. For now, natural gas is necessary.
This is a long way of saying, everybody’s right. In the face of global warming – yes, not everybody “believes” it’s happening; but why reject the preponderant scientific consensus? – clean energy is a necessity.
California is on the forefront, with its Senate Bill 100 aiming at 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. (New York State is aiming for 50 percent by 2030.) Greenhouse-gas emission is a separate category.)
Further, Otsego County’s population (60,000) is 0.02 percent of the nation’s (320 million), one 200th of 1 percent. Even if local energy needs were fully served, it is a negligible piece of a huge national – even international – challenge.
We all want to be part of the solution, but the solution is not going to be reached between Roseboom and Unadilla. It will be developed at the state and national levels, and when there’s an answer, we can support it and embrace it.
Meanwhile, the county’s population is dropping. Some 16.3 percent of our remaining neighbors (slightly more than 9,000) live below the property line ($24,600 for a family of four). That poverty rate is 14 percent higher than the national (14 points).
Plus, there are millions of state dollars – some $15 million so far – targeted for the City of Oneonta’s revitalization.
Now’s not the time to ensure our unmet energy needs – for homes, institutions, businesses and industry – remain unmet for a generation and a half.
Yes, the county Board of Representatives should name an energy task force; Adrian Kuzminski is right. But it should have two goals.
• First, to come up with ways to meet today’s energy needs now; perhaps CNG – compressed natural gas – is part of it (though not XNG trucks on roads that can’t handle them). But so are renewables, like the second solar farm being built in Laurens.
• Second, to fast-track renewables – solar, winds, heats pumps, the whole gamut – to put ourselves on the cutting edge of the future.
For her part, Kennedy is commited to pursue the task-force idea. In an interview, she said it must be made up of “people who want to reduce demand; and people who know the demands.
At base, though, true believers need not apply, only open minds, or the cause is lost.
To end where we began, with Kuzminski: “We may not have Cornell University, but we have SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College. We have Otsego 2000, OCCA, Citizen Voices, chambers of commerce, the Land Trust, Farm Bureau and Sustainable Otsego, and others. We have individual engineers and scientists and retired executives who’ve worked for multi-national corporations. We have the talent.”
So let’s do the job.
Editor’s Note: James R. Dean, the Cooperstown village trustee, has been proprietor of New York Custom Curved Wood Stair Railings & Handrailings locally since 1973. In last week’s Part I, he analyzed out economic-development challenges we face. This week, Part II offers solutions.
So what is the plan?
Almost everything that has been done so far to increase our population and business base, while very good, has not been enough to reverse our situation and we need to rethink what we need to do and how we need to do it.
As Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig often says, “We need more people.” I fully agree. Nothing changes in Otsego County without more people.
We need more people at the same time that we know we are in an imperfect situation for an ideal promotional effort. Knowing that, we should still move ahead to try to attract more people, businesses and outside money to Otsego County. The needed improvements will follow as our promotional efforts succeed.
Rebuilding Otsego County will not happen without a laser focus on promoting the big picture of “Otsego County New York” to the outside world. “Otsego County New York” are the four most important words that the outside world needs to hear from us. We need to reach out with public and private strategic messaging designed to capture the attention of people and businesses, that previously did not know about life in Otsego County New York.
Counties and businesses up and down the Hudson Valley, and elsewhere, are putting promotional and advertising money, and other resources into attracting new people and businesses to their area, and it is working. People are moving from the Hamptons to Hudson Valley where their money buys so much more.
I do not see that in Otsego County. To see what pride and promotional efforts of an area looks like, go to the Kingston area’s Luminary Media’s Arts and Culture website www.Chronogram.com.
Chronogram also has impressive print edition that is distributed free, in over 750 locations, from Stamford to Brooklyn, on both sides of the Hudson. It serves 51 towns and 9 counties in the Hudson Valley (see distribution). They are capturing customers, in a very organized way, while we are completely off the radar. Luminary media also has a real-estate advertising website http://upstatehouse.luminarymedia.com/, with similar print editions and equal distribution, reaching the same people. We have nothing like that here. How do we compete with that? At the very least we should try to be included in their orbit.
People wanting to buy homes and property in Otsego County is a major component of deep, structural, long-term, local economic development. Zillow.com is a major real-estate advertising website that shows almost every home for sale in Otsego County (search Otsego County NY in Zillow). This is a tool that should be used to showcase Otsego County homes available for purchase. Local realtors already sponsor these Zillow ads and would handle most of the sales.
The Zillow interactive website platform is also an interesting model for a possible new, very visual, map based, all inclusive, fully interactive website, solely for the promotion of living and working in Otsego County New York. This new website could become the information destination for comprehensive and organized promotional efforts.
I suggest “OtsegoCountyNewYork.com” as the name for this possible new website. I have secured this name for possible future use. This new website would have click on/off layers for the major categories of interest in Otsego County like city, towns, villages, healthcare, churches, education, recreation, parks, businesses, shopping, real estate, restaurants, transportation, arts and culture, places to visit, etc. To see a simple Google Map prototype go to https://tinyurl.com/yaw5vm2t. Each similarly formatted layer would have mouse over icons that would identify the location, clickable points of interest that would open up with information, photos, audio, videos and/or “mini tours”. The purpose of this “master website” would be as a “central destination” for many outreach efforts for the “big sell” of all that Otsego County has to offer.
This new website would allow viewers to tour all of Otsego County on their own, at any time, from anywhere. This single focus new website would be fair and equal in providing information about all of Otsego County, from Richfield Springs to Unadilla (supported by volunteers from around the county, grants and donations) and would carry no paid advertising or preferential promotions.
Ideally, it would be developed and managed by a new, neutral entity, independent of any special or competing interests.
Quality of life is one of our major assets. Many people in other places have more money, but they do not have the quality of life, and they do not know where to look to find it. We want to paint our picture, and tailor our messages, to meet that need and welcome them to join us.
First, we sell them a forever home; then they help us build out the future of Otsego County. This applies to retired people, young creatives, entrepreneurs and self-employed people with businesses and families. Creating, and then conveying, a sense of pride of community and common cause will go a long way to helping Otsego County succeed.
I can think of no other publications that so beautifully portray, in pictures and text, so much of what we enjoy, need to convey, about Otsego County New York than “Otsego County – Its Towns and Treasures”, “Cooperstown”, and “Otsego Lake”, all three books published by The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown. Also “Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York – 200 Years of Health Care in Rural America” for the rich history of the first-class healthcare that has always been available in Otsego County New York.
Our problem, in my view, is not that people do not want to come here. Our problem, in my view, is that people do not know that we exist.
It is very important, in my view, for Otsego County local governments, businesses, schools, public and private organizations and interested individuals to work together, and to invest, in this common cause.
Rebuilding Otsego County is the collective responsibility of every person, hamlet, village, town and city in our county.
HEALTH PRESENTATION – 7 – 8 p.m. Nights at the Roundtable welcome Tom Hohensee, Health Promotion/Disease Prevention Specialist at Bassett, to present “Lifestyle Medicine, Living Better Longer.” Cooperstown Village Library, Call 607-547-8344 or visit www.facebook.com/VillageLibraryOfCooperstown/
FAMILY COOKING – 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Cook for a dinner party which includes hors d’oeuvres, specialty dips, and carving with Executive Chef Jim Perillo. Cost $99/adult + 1 child. Includes all materials. The Otesaga, Cooperstown. Call 607-547-9931.
CHESS NIGHT – 7 – 11 p.m. Chess enthusiasts of all levels welcome to play. Includes free lessons for beginners. Hunt Union Cafeteria, SUNY Oneonta. E-mail email@example.com
PUBLIC MEETING – 10 – 11 a.m. Discuss and comment on the Otsego county Draft Local Solid Waste Management Plan. Available for comment through Mar. 18. Meadows Office Complex, Classroom A, 140 Co. Hwy. 33W, Cooperstown. Call 607-547-4225 or visit otsegocounty.com/depts/sw/
WRITERS SALON – 7:30-9 p.m. Opens with an open mic followed by a presentation from author of the month, Joseph Mish. Community Arts Network of Oneonta. Wilber Mansion, 11 Ford Ave., Oneonta. Info, www.canoneonta.org/calendar/