The League of Women Voters of the Cooperstown Area would like to applaud Jaina Bischof, Cate Bohler, Charlotte Feury, Riley Fillion, Elizabeth Hughes, Olivia Lowenguth, Maya Pandit, who, with the support of their families and friends, organized the Otsego Rally for Solidarity with Asian Americans on Sunday, May 2, in Cooperstown. These students’ activism is fully aligned with the League of Women Voters’ goal to create a stronger, more inclusive democracy.
Such outstanding civic leadership and teamwork is an inspiration to all of us to commit ourselves to combating racism through character, intelligence, and compassion. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child; in this case it is these teenagers who have raised the Village of Cooperstown to a new level of community engagement with this highly charged issue. With the shining example of these students to light our way, let us continue this important and good work of making Cooperstown, as Dr. Namita Singh put it so well in her speech at the rally, the “all-American village” of this century: one that celebrates our nation’s diverse cultural, racial, ethnic, and religious roots and on these strong foundations remains a thriving, vibrant community.
Co-president, Cooperstown Area League of Women Voters
The village of Cooperstown will remove a controversial solar-powered speed limit sign from Pioneer Street.
The village’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday, April 26, to remove the sign, which was in front of 100 Pioneer Street and told motorists heading south on Pioneer if they were exceeding the village’s 30-mile-per-hour speed limit.
The meeting was held in person in the village ballroom at 22 Main St.
As part of the motion, the trustees agreed to relocate the sign to the southern entryway to the village on State Route 28.
The sign has drawn complaints from dozens of current and former village residents, complaining about the aesthetics of the sign and dismissing the need to put it in a residential area. Two residents spoke against the sign Monday, leading Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh to tell the crowd of about 15 people that the trustees would fix the sign problem later in the meeting.
“The intent of the meeting tonight will be to remove the solar-powered sign … and nothing will be on Pioneer.
Editor’s Note: This is citizen Bill Waller’s recommendation in a March 29 letter to the Cooperstown Village Board on how to spend its expected share from the $1.9 trillion Biden Stimulus Plan.
Dear Mayor Tillapaugh and the Board of Trustees;
I read with interest statements relating to the benefits coming to Cooperstown from the recently enacted American Rescue Plan (ARP). According to press accounts, this could be nearly $350,000.
In reviewing the proposed 2021-2022 Village of Cooperstown Budget, I did not see any amount referencing the ARP disbursement. This is entirely understandable since the act has just passed, well after all the budget discussions held by the Board of Trustees.
As this is budget enactment time, I would like to express my opinion as to how these funds should be spent when they arrive.
…I would like to make a radical proposal: Give it back to the residents.
In this year’s proposed budget $1,779,194.00 is listed as the expected income from Village property taxes. I would urge adoption of the budget and then when the ARP funds are received, issuing a rebate check to our Village taxpayers. I would propose 10% of the taxes levied be sent back to every Village property owner as COVlD Relief. This would only cost $177,919.40.
While this may seem a radical proposal, I remind you that no one opposed the $600 and $1,400 checks mailed from the Federal Government. I feel that no matter how small an individual’s Village COVlD Relief may be, it will be well received. It would also be innovative, creative and will reward our Village residents for their endurance during the past year. And other than the massive error on the part of Otsego County Government resulting in 20% tax rebates a few years ago, when has a local municipality rewarded their residents by sending some of their money back?
ARP regulations stipulate that the funds cannot be used to reduce taxes, but they can be used to “offset the impact to households” caused by the pandemic. This would be a fair way to lessen the impact.
I know the Village Board could find many ways to spend the ARP money, giving some of it directly to residents would have a big impact.
Creative minds could even come up with a letter accompanying the relief check noting worthwhile community projects very willing to accept the resident’s donated refund if they so choose.
I hope you will consider my proposals at this opportune time as part of your budget discussions.
… and this is Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch’s April 5 response:
Thank you for your letter of March 29 pertaining to the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and your recommendations to the Village of Cooperstown on the use of the funds which we will receive.
…On March 23, Congressman Delgado held an information meeting concerning the ARP and provided more accurate funding information. He indicated the exact amount of ARP funds which the Village will receive is unclear at this time.
The U.S. Treasury will be determining the distribution of funds and will be providing that guidance to New York State, which will receive the funds for townships and Villages. The state will dispense them to the respective township which will in turn remit them to Villages. Our share will be based on our population percentage within the township.
One half of the funds will be provided this year and one half 12 months after the legislation is signed. General estimates at this time indicate we may receive approximately $120,000 within the next several months and a similar sum next year.
In budget year 2020-21, the Village of Cooperstown had an $800,000 decrease in revenues – from paid parking, sales tax, chips, and Doubleday Field rentals.
In reviewing the proposed 2021-22 VOC Budget, hopefully you realized that the Village Board did indeed fund an additional full-time police officer. We made this public safety commitment to our community, even though the funds we ultimately will receive from the ARP are only a fraction of the lost revenues due to the pandemic.
As for returning funds to taxpayers, the Village has not increased the property tax levy of $1,779,194 since 2013. Eight years of no increase in the tax levy is our support of Village property owners.
For the sixth time in seven years, the Cooperstown Graduate Program has coordinated with the Army Reserves to do field training in the Cooperstown area.
According to CGP Professor Cindy Falk, about 30 soldiers from Fort Drum, six cadets from Syracuse University and six CGP students from her Culture and Collections class worked together on training exercises over a three-day weekend, from Thursday, March 25, to Saturday, March 27.
“We did what we have been doing since 2015,” Falk said. “We just had to do it differently this year.”
To accommodate coronavirus restrictions, the group had a hard cap of 50, Falk said, and the soldiers, cadets and students were kept apart as much as possible to avoid any health issues.
Beginning Thursday, March 25, the soldiers – reservists from the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion’s Alpha Company in Syracuse – did classroom training, with a remote seminar from Bassett Healthcare Network officials and in person lectures from the CGP and Fort Drum officials.
On Friday, the soldiers and cadets worked on a mass casualty and evacuation drill.
Newly elected Village Trustee Hannah Bergene was already sold on Cooperstown.
But her first Induction Weekend working for the Chamber of Commerce – in 2015, the Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez year – she got sold all over again.
Baseball fans were jammed onto the front steps of Chamber headquarters in that yellow-and-white cottage at 31 Chestnut St., trying to catch a glimpse of their heroes passing by in the Legends of the Game parade.
“They were so in awe,” said Bergene. “They had waited all their lives to come here. We” – who live here – “take it for granted.”
She maintained that excitement for her five years at the Chamber, where she rose to marketing director under Executive Director Matt Hazzard, and for the past two years as social media director at Paperkite Creative, the Internet marketing firm.
Tuesday, March 16, Bergene and Trustee Cindy Falk, the deputy mayor, ran unopposed and received 139 and 136 votes respectively. Both are Democrats.
She ran, Bergene said in an interview Saturday, March 13, “because Mac asked me too” – Trustee Mac Benton, 23, who with County Democratic Chairman Clark Oliver, 22, have been recruiting young people here, in Oneonta and countywide to run for office.
The new trustee, her interest piqued by her work at the Chamber of Commerce, had considered elected office at some point, but “in my mind, it was years in the future.
“But why not? Why not get involved?” she asked herself. “The village needs young people to attract other young people here.”
Tuesday, March 16, is Election Day in the Village of Cooperstown, and I encourage all residents to come out to the fire hall on Chestnut Street between noon and 9 p.m. to vote for Cynthia Falk and Hanna Joy Bergene for village trustee.
Cindy has served the village for several years as trustee and deputy mayor and is seeking re-election. Her service, experience and record of success have been exemplary, and her willingness to continue to serve deserves our strong support.
Hanna Joy is a newcomer representing a generation vital to the future of our village. Her commitment to the community combined with her business and marketing experience make her uniquely qualified to add her voice to the village leadership.
The Cooperstown Democratic Committee is proud to have nominated both Cindy and Hanna Joy for election as village trustee. Please take the time to come out on Tuesday and support them both.
Following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last spring, Governor Cuomo issued an order requiring all 330 communities in New York State with police departments to form Community Advisory Boards to review “policies and procedures” by that date.
That covers three governments in Otsego County:
• The Village of Cooperstown: Monday, Feb. 22, the Village Board approved its “Police Reform Plan” more than a month ahead of schedule, having completed the review and taking it to public hearing. The findings can now be forwarded to the Governor’s Office.
COOPERSTOWN – The first meeting of Cooperstown’s Community Advisory Board on policing is at 5 p.m. today in the Village Hall ballroom, and open to the public.
The CAB was mandated by Governor Cuomo, after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the resulting unrest. The board must review Village Police Department policies and procedures and forward its recommendations to Albany next April l.
COOPERSTOWN – Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh is preparing a law requiring everyone to wear a mask in Cooperstown’s business district. He expects to have a draft ready for the Village Board by its Monday, July 27, meeting, and the law in place by mid-August.
Tillapaugh was moving forward at the request of Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, who left a special Monday, July 20, meeting of the village trustees after all concluded the downtown sidewalks, particularly with newly encouraged sidewalk cafes, are too narrow to allow social distancing.
Mandating masks is the only option, Mayor Tillapaugh and the Village Board have concluded.
COOPERSTOWN – The Village Board this morning approved free parking in the Doubleday Field lot on Fridays from July 18 to Sept. 5, as part of its “Cooperstown Outdoors” promotion of the downtown.
In collaboration with the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, stores will be encouraged to stay open until 8:30, and “Music on Main” performances will be scheduled on Fridays to help draw people downtown.
The idea came out of a meeting last week between Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, new Chamber President Jess Lanza and Chamber Executive Tara Burke.
COOPERSTOWN – Rebounding from the year-long investigation of Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.’s son, Otsego County may have gotten a head start in meeting the wide-ranging reforms coming out of Albany, said county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield.
Last year, the county already upgraded pre-employment testing for correctional offices, deputies, parole officers – “anyone who carries a gun,” said Bliss, when asked about Governor Cuomo’s executive order and new laws the state Legislature enacted last week in the wake of national tumult caused by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while being taken into custody.
“Yes and no,” Bliss replied when asked of former correctional officer Ros Devlin’s situation – an outburst in the county jail’s break room that eventually led to his resignation – prompted last year’s reforms. “It was probably instigated because of that, but it wasn’t a direct result,” he said.
Interviews this week indicated the three largest local governments – the county itself, the City of Oneonta and Village of Cooperstown – are already considering specific steps to respond to the new directives.
Over the past several days, Governor Cuomo signs several pieces that quickly moved through the state Legislature last week, including banning chokeholds, opening police disciplinary records for public review, and more.
He also issued an executive order requiring police departments to work with their local communities on “a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs,” and to submit it to Albany by next April 1 or lose state funding for law enforcement.
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, a Democrat, said Cuomo’s executive order “works hand in hand with what we’re trying to do, so I think it will be helpful.”
Herzig and OPD Chief Doug Brenner have proposed a Community Advisory Board to review police policies and practices. The mayor plans to discuss the concept with Common Council’s Planning Committee June 29, and bring it before the full council when it next meets on July 7.
In Cooperstown, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, also a Democrat, said “I 100 percent think it’s a good idea.” As for the April 1 deadline, she said, “The village doesn’t receive police department funding from the state, but that doesn’t negate this.”
Tillapaugh said she’s planning “a community group. That’s always the best thing, when you involve the community.” In addition to herself, the group might include the village’s two officers, a mental health expert, someone from Bassett, “a faith leader,” and a selection of village residents. A new police chief, when hired, would also be included.
For his part, Bliss said, “The executive order – it will mean what we are already doing,” said Bliss. “We already have a review in process. We haven’t had any accusation of those types, which I hope means we’re doing this well.”
He said he will ask county Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, who chairs the county board’s Public Safety & Legal Affairs Committee, to take the lead in meeting the governor’s order and implementing the legislation. Wilber did not return calls.
Sheriff Devlin said he’s participated in several conference calls set up by the state Sheriff’s Association, and is waiting for guidance from the association on how to move forward.
“We already review policy and procedures, annually or every other year,” he said, “and go by the best practices. A lot of those things (enacted last week) are already occurring.”
The sheriff said no complaints against the department are pending right now. “You get complaints from time to time, he said. “Those are investigated. Knock on wood, fortunately we haven’t had a use of force incident in some time.” They usually occur when a suspect resists being taken into custody, he said.
COOPERSTOWN – The Village of Cooperstown will be alternating its Water, Sewer and Streets department staff – with one half off one week, the second half the next week, through April 15 – due to the Governor Cuomo’s extension of his March 16 emergency order, Village Administrator Teri Barown announced today.
Additionally, the Village Office remains closed to the public, except by appointment 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday. For an appointment, call 547-2411 during office hours, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
COOPERSTOWN – An informational session on possible revisions in the zoning code to create more housing is planned at 6 p.m. this evening in the fire hall, 22 Chestnut St., Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk announced.
An official public hearing will be held later, but this will give residents a chance to be briefed and ask questions.
Potential changes are designed to meet a call for more housing contained in the village’s updated 2016 Comprehensive Plan and to bring the code up to date with current terminology and legal requirements.