Winter weather and holiday travel plans resulted in a near-empty Oneonta Common Council meeting earlier this evening, where outgoing members Michelle Fraser, First Ward, Melissa Nicosia, Second Ward, and Dana Levinson, Fifth Ward, didn’t attend their final meeting as Council members. With Michelle Osterhoudt having resigned Nov. 30, that left only, from left, David Rissberger, Third Ward, City Manager George Korthauer, Mayor Gary Herzig, City Clerk Kerriann Harrington, Russ Southard, Sixth Ward, John Rafter, Seventh Ward, and Joe Ficano, Eighth Ward, in attendance, leaving the council without a quorum. Though Ficano and Southard, both outgoing, were honored by Herzig for their contributions, inset photo, a special meeting was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18 to address agenda items that could not be voted on tonight. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
ONEONTA – In response to the formation of “Sixth Ward Neighbors United,” LEAF Executive Director Julie Dostal said there are “misconceptions” about the proposed Rehabilitation & Support Services housing development and the 14 units set aside for people in addiction recovery.
“Those people get to move into those units because they have engaged in a treatment or recovery provider to qualify for housing,” she said. “They have already made a life decision toward getting better.”
ONEONTA – Christened “Sixth Ward Neighbors United,” River Street residents and businesspeople met for more than two hours with city, county and state elected officials at the Sixth Ward Athletic Club Thursday evening to discuss strategies to oppose RSS’s housing development in their neighborhood.
“There are multiple bad reasons for RSS’s project,” said Fran Colone, a vocal critic of the housing development proposal since last October. “So, we’re turning up the heat and upping our activities.”
“It is bad for Oneonta’s economy, it’s bad in terms of energy services – Oneonta is already energy-strapped; it’s going to increase demand for services here. Oneonta’s fire department is already understaffed,” Colone said.
ONEONTA – The audience filled the seats and spilled out into the hallway as the Common Council again debated, then approved Nick’s Diner’s application for a $230,000 CDBG grant.
The vote enables Nick’s prospective owner Rodney Thorsland’s to submit the application to Albany for its approval.
Thorsland’s request has been hotly debated in the past three Common Council meetings, with several community members speaking against the proposed grant at the past two Common Council meetings.
“As a businessman who has invested one and a half million dollars of my own money in local business, I find it personally offensive that the city would even consider supporting giving a grant to a business that is not unique to the community in any way,” Dr. Eric Dohner, who operated New York Skin & Vein, said this evening.
ONEONTA – Council member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward, Greater Oneonta Historical Society Executive Director Bob Brzozowski, developer Seth Clark and Destination Oneonta’s Rachel Jessup were all named this evening to the Steering Committee to update the city’s comprehensive master plan.
“This is the group that will facilitate the update to the 2007 comprehensive plan, incorporating the City’s vision, addressing the railyards and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative,” said Mayor Gary Herzig.
ONEONTA – A workshop to look at the process of annexing brought out a full house of Laurens and Town of Oneonta citizens who accused Common Council of planning to annex the Oneonta Municipal Airport and the city’s water supply.
“You must have some reason for holding this workshop,” said Bill Starna, the retired SUNY Oneonta anthropology professor. “Otherwise, are you just poking around in the dark?”
“There is no proposal here,” said Council Member Melissa Nicosia, Second Ward. “This is just something to learn. No one is talking about annexing any specific property.”
ONEONTA – For now, at least, plans to expand the Susquehanna Greenway are dead.
“The city would have to come up with $40,000 just to do a redesign,” said Council member Melissa Nicosia, Second Ward, who brought the resolution to suspend the project from the Community Development Committee. “We would have to start the work by September and finish in January. It’s just not in the best interest of the city.”
The resolution, which passed unanimously at tonight’s Common Council meeting, suspended the proposed plan to expand the Greenway in both directions for improved access and trails from South Main Street. “We’ve had flooding since we originally designed the project,” said Nicosia. “The plans we had no longer work. And with the timeline, it’s just not feasible.”
ONEONTA – Though a mayor’s vote is normally limited to breaking ties, the ad hoc Charter Review Committee is recommending that a mayor be part of the search for the city manager, and be allowed a vote along with Common Council to make the appointment.
“Both have to be heavily involved,” said Council member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward. “Otherwise, you don’t have a buy-in. Mayor Dick Miller was heavily involved in the search for the first two city managers.”
The continued clarification of the mayor and city manager’s roles were discussed in length at the charter review meeting this evening. Former Council member Maureen Hennessy had resigned from committee, and Mayor Gary Herzig appointed new Council member John Rafter to take her place.
ONEONTA – The second effort to remove a city manager in as many years will be the topic of a special Common Council meeting scheduled for 6:30 Friday evening in City Hall.
A notice of the meeting was sent out at 6:36 this evening by City Clerk Doug Kendall, alerting the public that Acting Mayor Russ Southard called the meeting at the request of Council members Larry Malone, Mike Lynch, Maureen Hennessy and Madolyn O. Palmer. No particulars were provided.
In an interview this evening, however, Southard said Council intends to vote on a three-month severance package for Murphy, as called for in his contract. “It’s not clear cut how it’s going to come out,” he said. “Who knows if someone’s going to change their minds?”
According to various inputs, however, it was learned that Southard and Hennessy this morning asked City Manager Martin Murphy for his resignation, and he declined to give it.
If Murphy were asked to resign and declined to do so, he would be entitled to a public hearing, the mayor said. Council would then vote on contining the manager or ending the relationship.
ONEONTA – When City Manager Martin Murphy read The Daily Star on Wednesday, April 22, he was surprised to see that Council Member Mike Lynch, Fourth Ward, was quoted as saying that he had conversations with city workers who felt “either that they’re not getting the respect they deserve or they feel that they have no voice.”
It was news to him. “Until recently, I was not aware of concerns by city employees,” he said. “None were brought to my attention.”
But the message of the special Common Council meeting held early this morning was clear: The council supported Murphy, and that City Hall and the people of Oneonta need to work together.
“The last couple days have been humbling,” said Council member Chip Holmes, Eighth Ward. “This is one of those glass half full moments – we can go forward or we can stumble.”
“Mr. Murphy is extremely capable, talented and fit for the job,” said Maureen Hennessy, First Ward. “Communication is key, and I’m sure we can all work on that.”
And many in the city stood with them. “No one likes change,” said Laurie Zimniewicz, a member of the original Charter Revision Commission that crafted a city manager form of governor for Oneonta. “But no one should be disrespected. Our city needs to figure this out; we need to get together and make this work.”
Council member Mike Lynch, Fourth Ward, whose comments to The Daily Star regarding the proposed 360 review of City Manager Martin Murphy ignited the firestorm, was not present. “He spoke for all of us about things that had never been discussed,” said Holmes.
On Tuesday, April 21, in a mid-session executive session, Council voted unanimously to move forward with the 360 Review that Larry Malone, Second Ward, compiled based on the review similar to the one Robert McEvoy, a public service professor at SUNY Albany who specializes in local government management, gave former City Manager Mike Long.