When one looks about and takes in the bustling commercial activity of Otsego County during the busy tourist season and anticipates the impending return of the thousands of college students who keep things humming through the “off-season,” one feels confident that Otsego County has a healthy, perhaps even vibrant, economy. And while that may be true, beneath the shiny veneer of commercial success lies a dark reality.
Otsego County, like many of its neighbors, has a poverty problem. According to statistics published by Opportunities for Otsego, Inc., a community action agency actively fighting a local “War on Poverty” since 1966, the poverty rate in Otsego County stood at 13.3 percent as of the census of 2020. Of families with a female head of household and children present, a jaw-dropping 39 percent live in poverty. And in a measurement known as the ALICE threshold, which measures households that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, 29.2 percent of all Otsego County households live below that threshold.
ONEONTA – U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, today met with the poverty-fighting Opportunities for Otsego’s board of directors and staff.
The freshman congressman called the meeting “illuminating and deeply important to understand the headwinds facing thousands of Upstate New Yorkers experiencing poverty and homelessness.”
OFO CEO Dan Maskin said he was “honored” to have Delgado visit the organization, adding, “I was thoroughly impressed that he took the time to listen to each of the 25 participants’ stories about issues impacting the poor.”
When Otsego Now Executive Director Jody Zakrevsky was Schoharie County economic developer, a Canadian firm was a half-step away from buying long-vacant Guilford Mills, that rambling complex to the right of I-88 as you drive to Albany.
All that was lacking was a letter from the mayor, assuring the company would be guaranteed sufficient power to conduct business.
Such a letter was forthcoming, but the last line read, “except in case of flood.”
As you can imagine, the president of the Canadian company saw that and the deal was dead. Who would want to invest millions in a complex where, “in case of flood,” production could come to a standstill?
Oh, poor Otsego County.
Our poverty rate (16.3 percent) is a couple of points higher than the state (14.7) and national (14), per http:/datausa.io, interesting site.
Our median household income ($49,609) is substantially lower than the state ($62,908) and nation ($57,617).
Our population is declining (0.68 percent), almost three times as fast as the state’s (0.26). Nationally, population is rising (0.53).
And it’s been proved we lack the energy – in particular, natural gas – needed to attract economic development here.
In fact, a team put together by Otsego Now – it includes Lou Allstadt, no natural-gas groupie (quite the opposite) – has been meeting with NYSEG President Taylor over the past few months on this very issue.
Today, the county gets natural gas through a pipeline from DuRuyter, near Cortland, but the line is old and too narrow. NYSEG pledged to expand it, and obtained a rate increase to finance it – the pricetag is an astonishing $100 million – but is backing away.
Then, the energy cavalry arrives, in the form of a sensible idea!
Instead of waiting for NYSEG to act (or not), why not install a gas decompression station, perhaps in the former Pony Farm (the Oneonta Commerce Park, right off Interstate 88’s Exit 13)?
Otsego Now thought so, and has applied for a $3 million CFA grant to help pay for the cost, perhaps $17 million (maybe somewhat less).
Prudently, Jody Zakrevsky asked to brief the Oneonta Town Board at its regular meeting last week, to make sure it was in the loop. When he arrived, 100 of our region’s anti-gas true believers were there to grill him and paint nightmare scenarios.
We’ve seen this drill before. But we shouldn’t take it to mean there’s widespread local opposition to the idea.
Sustainable Otsego and similar environmental groups have powerful social-media tools that can summon the troops at short notice. If anything, 100 is a paltry number, given the 300+ brought to those 2015 hearings on the Constitution Pipeline.
According to Oneonta Town Supervisor Bob Wood, about half the crowd was local, but some came from as far away as Ithaca, 75 miles. Another, quoted on www.AllOTSEGO.com, was from Oxford, 45 miles and a county away.
Town board members didn’t have to make any decision that night, but Wood estimates they are split, 2-2. If funding comes through, the plant will probably need a Zoning Board of Appeals vote; this was just a prelude.
At base, the decompression station is a sensible, low-impact way to overcome the key obstacle to economic development.
Lacking a pipeline like the Constitution, gas is being compressed so, as a liquid, it can be transported in tanker trucks to a decompression station, then turned back into gas and delivered to customers through existing gas lines.
Many sensible people object to too-big XNG gas trucks traversing two-lane Routes 205 and 80, and they’re right. Two rigs so far have toppled over due to soft shoulders. But this plan would allow gas trucks to stay on I-88 except for a quick left and a second quick left into Pony Farm. Just what most people want.
Zakrevsky estimates two, maybe three trucks a winter would be required so that Oneonta’s major institutions – the colleges, Fox Hospital and the like – would no longer be on an “interruptible” regimen. Right now, whenever there’s a cold snap – a couple of weeks a winter – they have to shift to more-expensive and more-polluting fuel oil.
Even better, the decompression station would assure a dependable energy source to anyone seeking to locate at the D&H yards, which has everything else – space, rail, proximity to an Interstate and airport.
Let’s not be Cobleskill. Let’s not declare, “except in case of flood.” The numbers, and what we see around us, prove it: We need more and better jobs.
Let’s not be diverted. When an opportunity arises, let’s declare, “Otsego County: Open for Business,” and mean it.
DOG COMPETITION – 10:30 a.m. Check out the Fido Fest Dog show where dogs and their owners compete for titles in categories like best trick, waggiest tail, and best mirror image. Part of the Winter Carnival Festivities. Pioneer Park, Cooperstown. Info, susquehannaanimalshelter.org/category/events/
WINTERFEST – 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Stay warm and have fun with outdoor activities like sledding, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing,campfires and more. Cost, free. Gilbert Lake State Park, 18 CCC Road, Laurens. Info, www.cabinfeverwinterfest.com
CABIN FEVER FILM SERIES – 6:30 p.m. “The Jungle Book” (1967). Refreshments available with proceeds benefiting Susquehanna animal Shelter. Clark Sports Center, 124 Cty. Hwy. 52, Cooperstown. Info, baseballhall.org/events/cabin-fever-2017
To Learn How You Can Help Area Families This Holiday Season CLICK HERE.
ONEONTA TREE LIGHTING – 5-8 p.m. Join us for the lighting of the Christmas Tree. There will be caroling, shops, warm drinks, an ugly sweater contestwith winners announced just before the lighting, Horsedrawn wagon rides, and visits with Santa. Muller Plaza, Oneonta.Info, call (607)432-2941 or email email@example.com
SCHOOL PLAY – 7 p.m. 7/8th grade. Milford Central School, 42 W. Main St., Milford. Info, web.milfordcentral.org
CONSERVATION DINNER – 6 p.m. Otsego Co. Conservation Association Annual Dinner, recognizing Tom Salo as Conservationist of the Year for his work with Bald Eagles. Templeton Hall, 63 Pioneer St., Cooperstown. Info & reservations, call OCCA Executive Director Leslie Orzetti, (607) 547-4488. To learn more CLICK HERE.
OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD – 4-6 p.m. Pack a shoebox with items that will bring joy to children as they are delivered around the world. Collection point at Main St. Baptist Church, corner of Main and Maple Sts., Oneonta. Info, @ www.msbchurch.org/occ or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (607)432-5712
SAFETY PROGRAM – 7-10 p.m. “Solar Power: Strategy & Tactics for 1st Responders” Worcester Volunteer Fire Department quarters. Registration at www.FASNY.com or at the Worcester Volunteer Fire Department. Worcester Hose Company, 36 Church Street, Worcester. For more info CLICK HERE.