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Russ Southard

Weather, Holidays Keeps Council Members Home From Final Meeting

Meeting Rescheduled For Wednesday

Weather, Holidays Keep

Council Members Away

From Their Final Duties

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)

Dostal: There Are ‘Misconceptions’ About RSS Project

People Who Would Live

In RSS Are Committed

To Recovery, Dostal Says

LEAF Director Responds To Neighbors Organizing

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Julie Dostal

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.”

Sixth Ward Will Fight River Street Housing Project

THE TARGET: RSS PROPOSAL

50 Neighbors

Uniting To Fight

Housing Project

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Fran Colone convened the meeting of 50 neighbors to organize against the RSS project proposed for the Sixth Ward. “There are multiple bad reasons for the project,” Colone said. (Jennifer Hill/AllOTSEGO.com)

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.

Dog Park, Housing Top Comprehensive Plan

Dog Park, Housing

Top Comprehensive Plan

Council member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward, converses with Mayor Gary Herzig and GOHS executive director Bob Brzozowski about the future of Oneonta as a second open house was held to gather community input on the city’s Comprehensive Plan earlier this evening. Curated recommendations, including a dog park, green-energy initiatives, increased moderate and low-income housing, as well as enhanced arts and recreation offerings, were put forth for visitors to support with check-marks and sticky notes.  The study will also be available online through the city’s website, and once the feedback is gathered, the Steering Committee will compile the results to take to Common Council, who will take a vote. Herzig anticipates action on the final plan will begin in early 2019. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Council Approves Nick’s Application

City Council OKs

Nick’s Diner Plan

$230K CDBG Application Albany-Bound

With daughter Amiley and wife Sheena tearfully hugging him, Rodney Thorsland celebrates the approval of his CDBG grant application, moving him one step closer to solidifying the $230,000 grant. (Parker Fish/AllOTSEGO.com)

By PARKER FISH • Special To www.AllOTSEGO.com

Oneonta’s Eric Dohner spoke out in opposition to Thorsland’s grant application, saying that he was “personally offended” by the application.

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.

Mayor Herzig Appoints Comprehensive Plan Committee

Mayor Appoints Committee

To Revise City’s Comp Plan

Mayor Gary Herzig announces the nine members of the steering committee for the city’s updated Comprehensive Plan (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Council Member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward, will serve on the committee.

By LIBBY CUDMORE

Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

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.

Arbor Day Planting Brings New Flora To Oneonta

With Arbor Day, New Flora

Oneonta Common Council member Russ Southard finishes reading Mayor Gary Herzig’s Arbor Day proclamation at Maple Street Park, joiined by City Engineer Greg Mattice, center, and Brian Fawcett of New Asbury Gardens. The group was gathered to plant a Sunsation Magnolia tree which, with its large yellow flowers, is the first of i’s kind in the city. In fact, these trees only recently were allowed to be sold commercially, making this one of the first of planting of these trees anywhere. “The tree should reach between 18 to 25 feet in height.” said Fawcett. “It’s different and it’s beautiful. It’s nice to have a diversity of trees in the city.” The planting of a pink weeping cherry tree is planned Friday by Hodge’s Pond in Neahwa Park. The city has plans to plant 30 more trees in the fall. If you are interested in having a tree planted on your property, you can contact the City Clerk for more information. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Angry Townfolks Object To Annexation Idea

Angry Townfolks Object

To Annexation Talk

Wade Beltramo, NYCOM General Council, gave a workshop on annexation in Council chambers this evening and was met by contentious remarks from residents of the Town of Oneonta, who object to the idea of the city annexing the airport and city water supply. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

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.”

Greenway Project Suspended, But Trails Still Open

Greenway Project Suspended,

But Existing Trails Still Open

Council Member Melissa Nicosia brought the resolution to suspend the expansion of the Susquehanna Greenway out of the recommendations from the Community Development Committee. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Council member Melissa Nicosia, Second Ward, brought the resolution to suspend the expansion of the Susquehanna Greenway to Common Council from the Community Development Committee. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
The Susquehanna Greenway will remain open for biking, walking and recreation.
The Susquehanna Greenway will remain open for biking, walking and recreation.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • for AllOTSEGO.COM

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.”

Charter Commission Recommends Giving Mayor Vote on City Manager

Charter Committee Recommends:

 Let Mayor Vote On City Manager

Joining the Charter Review Commission was new City Council Member John Rafter, Seventh Ward. Behind him is Council Member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Joining Mayor Herzig’s ad hoc Charter Review Committee is new Common Council member John Rafter, Seventh Ward. Behind him is Council member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • for www.AllOTSEGO.com

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.

Scarves Spread Cheer As Winter Looms Near

Scarves Spread Cheer

As Winter Looms Near

Once again, free scarves have appeared in downtown Oneonta, this time, in the walkway between Main Street and the Parking Garage. Lacey Layton, who hung scarves in Muller Plaza this past winter, worked with Russ Southard to hang hooks in the walkway so the scarves would stay dry. Those in need are encouraged to take a scarf free of charge, and those with extras are invited to hang scarves on the hooks.
Once again, free scarves have appeared in downtown Oneonta, this time, in the walkway between Main Street and the Parking Garage. Lacey Layton, who hung scarves in Muller Plaza this past winter, worked with Russ Southard to hang hooks in the walkway so the scarves would stay dry. Those in need are encouraged to take a scarf free of charge, and those with extras are invited to hang scarves on the hooks.
Mayor Herzig Appoints Russ Southard Acting Mayor

 Russ Southard Will Fill In

When Mayor Is Out Of City

At his second meeting as Mayor, Gary Herzig asked and received a unanimous vote that Council Member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward, be named Acting Mayor for the remainder of the year, a position he had served under Mayor Dick Miller and after his passing. "I think I speak for the entire city in saying that we owe him a thank you and a debt of gratitude for stepping up," said Herzig.
At his second meeting as mayor, Gary Herzig this evening asked and Common Council agreed to name Sixth Ward Council member Russ Southard acting mayor for the remainder, meaning he would fill that role when Herzig is out of the city.   Southard had served in that role under former Mayor Dick Miller, and served as acting mayor for 11 months after Miller’s passing last October.   “I think I speak for the entire city in saying that we owe him a ‘thank you’ and a debt of gratitude for stepping up,” said Herzig.  Next to Southard is Council member Madolyn Palmer, Fifth Ward.  (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Fourth Ward Candidates Discuss Town and Gown, City Priorities at Center Street Meeting

Candidates Discuss Town & Gown,

City Priorities At 4th Ward Forum

Jeffery Back, left, a candidate for the upcoming Fourth Ward council seat, stresses his desire for communication between students and citizens at a meeting held this evening at the the former Center St. School. Under the moderation of Sixth Ward council member and former acting mayor Russ Southard, Back, along with fellow candidates Michelle Osterhoudt and Laura Dohner, discussed their topics including the search for the new city manager, priorities for Oneonta, relations between the city and colleges, their personal work styles and professional backgrounds. (Ian Austin/ AllOTSEGO.com)
Jeffery Back, left, a candidate for the Fourth Ward Oneonta Common Council seat, stresses his desire for communication between students and citizens at a meeting this evening at the the former Center Street School. Moderated by Council member Russ Southard, Back and fellow candidates Michelle Osterhoudt and Laura Dohner shared their views on the search for the new city manager, city priorities, relations between the city and colleges, their personal work styles and professional backgrounds. (Ian Austin/ AllOTSEGO.com)
COUNCIL TO MEET FRIDAY ON CITY MANAGER FUTURE

COUNCIL TO MEET FRIDAY

ON CITY MANAGER FUTURE

By JIM KEVLIN • for allotsego.com

City Manager Martin Murphy listens to Council member Mike Lynch at a recent Common Council meeting.  (Ian Austin/allotsego.com)
City Manager Martin Murphy listens to Council member Mike Lynch at a recent Common Council meeting. (Ian Austin/allotsego.com)

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.

Common Council Special Meeting Unites City Hall, Residents

Common Council Agrees

To Work Through Issues

Third Ward council member Dave Rissberger, right, listens as City Manager Martin Murphy invites city workers to talk with him in his office.
Third Ward council member Dave Rissberger, right, listens as City Manager Martin Murphy invites city workers to talk with him in his office. (Ian Austin/allotsego.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • www.allotsego.com

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.”

Tom Pondofino, supervisor of the city's water and sewer department, broke the worker's "silent protest" to air concerns about management
Tom Pondofino, supervisor of the city’s water and sewer department, broke the worker’s “silent protest” to air concerns about management

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.

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