Thursday, January 27, 2011

‘Arts Czar’ Proposed To Promote Oneonta

Miller Uneasy About Creating City Office


Mayor Miller has shown himself to be a decisive guy.
But at mid-week he was still pondering what to do next after 86 members of Oneonta’s creative community engaged in lively debate Saturday morning, Jan. 22, at an Arts Summit the mayor hosted in the Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center’s atrium.
As the morning began, Miller reported the city’s budget contains $2-3 million of unencumbered surplus, some of which might be available for one of his signature initiatives:  Using the arts as a magnet to bring tourists – and outside money – into the community.
“A quarter-million dollars is not a lot of money to spend on what I call community improvement,” he said, (adding at another point, “I’m not in it for the arts; I’m in it for the economy.”
The mayor reported reviewing two strategic plans developed in the 1990s that concluded Oneonta’s arts community – music, theater, dance, painting, artisanship – would be a fine foundation for economic development.
“It just never went anywhere,” Miller said.
Primed, attendees at 10 tables of eight conferred on how things might move forward and, reporting back after 45 minutes, proposed such innovations as an “arts czar” or a City Hall Office of Arts & Culture.
“What have we been lacking?” asked Kathy Tobiassen, Orpheus Theatre president.  “A point person in city government.  What is the city going to do for us?”
“My first reaction is ‘no,’” said Miller, who has assumed the role of interim chairman of the board of financially troubled Foothills,.  “But that’s just by first reaction.”
Still, “the consensus seems to be the city needs to lead this activity.”
The gathering included a broad spectrum of the Oneonta arts community, from the UCCCA to the Franklin Stage to the colleges.
SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski attended, as did Bob Brzozowski from the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, Jon Weiss from Oneonta Theatre, and four of the seven aldermen.
The following Tuesday, Miller, in an interview, said he was still not inclined to create a city position, since that would require an unwieldy hiring process.
“I’m being very careful about the next step,” he said, “because it could derail it or advance it.”
Some 10-12 Arts Summit participants had already volunteered to join a task force to move the initiative forward, but Miller was considering whether to staff the initiative through an existing entity – Main Street Oneonta, for instance – create a new organization, or identify an individual with the heft and leadership skills to move matters forward.
He also pointed out that any decision is not his alone, since Common Council would have to approve any expenditure, and he would need to present clear goals and measurements of success.
“I think I can make the case and the council will go along with it,” he said.  “I don’t think there will be a lot of opposition.”
But, he added, “I still have to define ‘it.’”

Landmark Bresee Sign Preserved

With Ruff House End, Demolition Near Over


The huge landmark sign, “Bresee’s Oneonta Department Store” that adorned the Wall Street side of the establishment for a half-century was removed Tuesday, Jan. 21.
By the time you read this, the former Ruff House, a former saloon on the other side of Wall Street, should have been razed as well.
The last building to go – the brick structure, across the alley from NBT Bank, which used to house Bresee’s kitchen department – should likewise be gone in a day or two.
That leaves some additional reinforcing of the back wall of the remaining building – the original 1895 Bresee’s Department Store, which fronts on Main Street – and that should be it, Rick Eastman of Eastman Associates, which handled the project, reported in recent days.
But by next Wednesday or Thursday, the job that began before Thanksgiving should be complete.
“There were no surprises,” said Eastman, who had honed his crews’ demolition skills by razing the former two-story SEFCU headquarters in Sidney, after the credit union opened a new building last fall.
Nonetheless, he allowed, “we had some obstacles to get around.”  For instance, the C&D landfill in Western New York that had been taking the debris used up its 2010 quota in December and couldn’t take anymore.
Eastman’s crew covered the material on site until, after Dec. 31, a new quota-year began and it could be shipped out again.
The fate of the hanging sign – 30-40 feet tall – had been a matter of concern for the Greater Oneonta Historical Society and local preservationists, but it appears those concerns have been allayed.
With former department store owner Mark Bresee acting as intermediary, an unnamed individual had come forward and offered to store the sign until an eventual use can be decided upon, according to Bob Brzozowski, GOHS executive director.
There is some hope, he said, that the sign, refurbished, might again hang on the side of Bresee’s when the remaining building is renovated into shops, offices and housing over the next year, but nothing has been decided yet.
The Otsego County Economic Development Office, which is overseeing the project, expects to be sending out bid packages to prospective developers in the next few days, according to Carolyn Lewis, that office’s director.

Lightfoot, Foothills Angel?

One idea being circulated at Mayor Miller’s Arts Summit:  A Gordon Lightfoot benefit concert to help close Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center’s budget gap.  Promoters are collaborating to make it happen.  Stay tuned.


INPUT SOUGHT:  The city’s Zoning Task Force will present its proposed revisions to the city code to the public at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan 31, at Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center.

GAMBLING FOES: LEAF Inc. is sponsoring a Fine Arts Contest with prizes of  $1,000, $500 and $250 for striking images dramatizing the growth of problem gambling in Otsego County.  For details, check Facebook under “LEAF Art Contest.”  (See B7)

OPERA VISIT:  Francesca Zambello, Glimmerglass Opera’s new general & artistic director, planned to conduct a master class at SUNY Oneonta Wednesday, Jan. 26, followed by a panel discussion.  (For details on the season, see B1)

ELEVEN RULES: This year we will experience four unusual dates –  1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11 and 11/11/11.  Now, figure this out:  Take the last two digits of the year you were born plus the age you will be this year and see what you get.  Spooky!

Art Cotter, director of the Main Street Baptist Church choir, accepts the prize coffee pot after winning the second annual Choir Challenge at The Otesaga.  The event raised $1,400 for local food banks.

Meyers Shift: Springbrook To Pathfinder


Kelly A. Meyers, formerly with Springbrook and The Arc Otsego, has joined Pathfinder Village as director of admissions. 
In her new post, Meyers will reach out to new families and to others in the Down Syndrome/Developmental Disabilities community, spreading the word on Pathfinder’s “village” model of care, according to Paul Landers, Pathfinder CEO.
At Springbrook, Meyers managed day-to-day operations of early childhood special education services, including budgeting, staff development, and referrals for children up through    age 5. 


EXHIBIT OPENS:  Hartwick College Art Professor Katherine Kreisher’s exhibit,  “Meeting My Selves” opened Jan. 20 at Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pa.

Bassett’s Oncology-Radiation Chief To Offer Services At FoxCare Center

Bassett Healthcare’s chief of radiation oncology, Dr. Timothy Campbell, has begun seeing cancer patients needing radiation therapy at the FoxCare Center.
Dr. Campbell and Bassett assumed the responsibility with the Dec. 31 retirement of Dr. Henry Keys.
Renovations are underway that will allow the Bassett Cancer Institute to move its Oneonta cancer services from 7 Associate Drive to the FoxCare no later than March.
Dr. Yoshiro Matsuo, Bassett hematologist and oncologist, will then see cancer patients at the new location.
In addition, Dr. James Leonardo and Patty Jacob, family nurse practitioner, will work alongside Dr. Matsuo and continue to see cancer patients in Oneonta.

City Council Fills Commission Vacancies

Common Council appointed or reappointed the following to city boards and commissions at its Tuesday, Jan. 18, meeting:

• Board of Public Service (through Jan. 14, 2012) – David Ashe, Margery Merzig, Louis Tisenchek, Peter Friedman, David Hayes
• Planning Commission (through Jan. 14, 2014) – Dennis Finn, Eugene Betterley, Michelle Eastman (new)
• Environmental Board (through Jan. 14, 2014) – Richard Denicore
• Parks & Recreation Board (through Jan. 14, 1012) – Jane Grastorf, Cynthia McCarthy, Geoffrey Davis, Stephen Pindar, Tim Catella (new)
• Human Rights Commission (through Jan. 14, 2014) – Sita Fey, Teressa Sivers, Jeffrey Pegram
• Zoning/Housing Board of Appeals (through Jan. 14, 2014) – Edmond Overbey, John Rafter, Stanley “Chip” Holmes
• Americans with Disabilities Committee (through Jan. 14, 2012) –  Christine Zachmayer, Seth Haight
• Examining Board of Electricians (through Dec. 31, 2013) – Art Rorick (new), Edward Dower, Arthur Masucci
• Library Board of Trustees (through Jan. 14, 2016) – Susan Kurkowski

Chorus Elects Jo Melmer Sweet Adeline Of 2010

The entire City of the Hills Chorus has chosen Jo Melmer as 2010 Sweet Adeline of the Year for her contribution to the singing group.
Jo, a baritone, joined the local group in 1981, four years before it was chartered with Sweet Adelines International. 
In 2010, Jo began in January to plan the 25th Anniversary Concert in September, chairing the Planning Committee, selling ads for the program and handling the publicity.
She also handled publicity generally, during a year when the Sweet Adelines performed more concerts in local towns than ever before.
She helped developed the chorus’ Web site,, and put the group on Facebook.
Over 28 years, Jo has chaired the Costume Committee and the Choreography Committee, and has served as treasurer.
An avid quartet member, she and three other women would meet an extra evening of the week to perfect their musical craft.  She has participated in three quartets: Crystal Chords, Fancy That! and Caprice.
For the past several years, she has taken a lead role in the Singing Valentines program, lining up the singers and promoting the activity.
A retired Laurens Central School teacher, Jo lives in Oneonta with husband Bob.  In retirement she plays bridge, line dances at Elm Park Methodist, and has traveled to Europe and to visit her son Arizona. 

JAMES HERMANS: Might County Become Dish, Texas, Of North?

I had the pleasure of spending time with Mayor Calvin Tillman of Dish, Texas, when I drove him to speak with local officials Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, during the day and in the evening to a public event at Oneonta’s Unitarian Universalist Church.
Dish receives emissions from 11 natural-gas compressor stations and many pipelines. The results are seen in serious health issues for quite a few residents of this little town.  High levels of carcinogenic and neurotoxin compounds have been recorded which are above safe levels.
My most poignant personal experience with Mayor Tillman occurred driving up Route 205 to Cooperstown.
Calvin looking out at a cornfield says: “In Texas you could not drive straight through at 55-60 mph on a road like this.”
I ask why not?
“Because there would be so much heavy-duty tanker-truck traffic from the gas wells. These corn fields would make perfect well sites.”
The Marcellus Shale (one of several target strata for the gas companies) in New York State alone is over 3.5 times the size of its relative, the Texas Barnett shale. 
It suddenly hit me how much my life will change if natural gas drilling proceeds. Like many people in Otsego County, I travel Routes 205 and 28 many times in a month.  A lot of gas leases border both 205 and 28.
Just imagine Route 28 with the 350,000+/- tourists a summer traveling to Cooperstown and waiting on the massive tankers carrying water, toxic chemicals and heavy-duty equipment.
There can be little doubt that traffic congestion, road deterioration, accidents and pollution will result. What will this mean to tourism in Cooperstown?
What happens when a tanker carrying toxic waste water from the wells has a spill on the road? Is Otsego County or New York State ready to pay for the clean up? Spills are the most common accident in natural gas production. Colorado recorded 1,549 spills between 2003 to 2008, about one a day. (Source: Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission)
Mayor Tillman later stated that, to handle the heavy equipment and tanker traffic, roads must have a gravel base with 8 inches of asphalt on top. Presently state highways like 205 and 28 have about 2 inches of asphalt.  (Delta Engineering will be performing a road assessment in several towns in 2011-12)
That would be a very expensive highway, especially if tourists just get disgusted with the industrial level traffic and decide to go elsewhere.

Jim Herman, who lives in Hartwick, is OCCA Conservationist of the Year.

Last Call For Comedy At Foothills

There’s limited seating and tickets are going fast for “The Not Too Far From Home Comedy Tour,” which plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, at Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center.
Features are Aaron David Ward, of TV’s “The Glenn Slingerland Situation?” and Boston Comedy Festival, and Deric Harrington, of Chicago and Tampa Improv comedy clubs, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Jokes” and “The Comedy Thesaurus.”
Tickets are $15.  Call 431-2080.  Cash bar and refreshments available.


Dr. Gilbert Howlett Smith, a 1959 Hartwick College graduate and chief senior investigator of mammary stem cell biology at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., will be commencement speaker at graduation ceremonies this year at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 28, on Elmore Field.  He is seen here with Hartwick President Margaret L. Drugovich.

It’s Chili Bowl Time Again At Wilber Mansion

It’s that Super Bowl time of year and, in Oneonta, that means Chili Bowl, too.
Organized by the UCCCA, all the chili you can eat in a hand-made bowl will be offered again this year, noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, at the Wilber Mansion, 11 Ford Ave.  Price just $10.
If you’re interested in making chili and competing in the contest, call 432.2070.  The judging will be done by Oneonta firefighters.
Music will be by Jammin in the Mansion.  Beer will be by Ommegang Brewery.  And a quilt exhibition will be under way in the galleries.