Friday, March 4, 2011


Here are the three articles on gas drilling by Ian Ubina from the New York Times: 1) 2) & 3)

Thursday, March 3, 2011



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LOCAL TREATMENT: The Bassett Cancer Institute opened a treatment center Monday, Feb. 28, at the FoxCare Center on Route 7, east of the city.  (Details, A8)

CELEBRATE!  Main Street Oneonta is planning a “Fire and Ice” Mardi Gras celebration 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, in Muller Plaza, featuring ice sculptures and fire dancers.  Downtown restaurants offering special deals.

HANNA ON MEND: U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, formerly of Cooperstown, is recovering at his Barneveld home from a Feb. 21 mitral valve surgery, his office reported Monday, Feb. 28.

HONOR WOMEN:  Nominations are sought for the fifth annual Trailblazer Award of the city Commission on Human Rights & Community Relations, given to the local woman who, through achievement, enhanced the stature of women.  Deadline is March 21.  The form is available at

With the heavy rains Monday, Feb. 28, it was hard to believe that just three days before 10-12 inches of snow snarled Otsego County, causing snowmen to pop up in downtown Oneonta.

Times Fracking Expose Buoys Local Opponents


Local folks concerned about hydrofracking for natural gas were elated after the New York Times launched a three-part series Sunday, Feb. 27, with “Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers.”
Citing “internal documents” from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, reporter Ian Urbina writes that waste water from fracking “contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known.”
That water is “sometimes” hauled to plants not designed to treat it, then discharged into rivers that provide drinking water for cities as large as Pittsburgh.
The second part, “Gas Drillers Recycle Wastewater, but Risks Remain,” was printed Tuesday, March 1.
Sunday’s front-page report, continued on two full pages inside, creates “great public exposure” on a issue that had been reported on, but never with such vitality, said Robert H. Boyle, East Springfield, the Sports Illustrated senior editor and environmental writer active in the local anti-fracking coalition.
“The Times is the flagship of the press,” said Boyle.  “That brought it home with great vitality.”
Sustainable Otsego’s Adrian Kuzminski, Fly Creek, the former Hartwick College professor, called the impact “enormous.  Everything the critics have been saying has now been condensed and brought to broad public attention by the Times.
“I’m sure this will initiate a statewide and national debate,” he continued.  “The only conclusion that reasonable people can reach is hydrofracking should be prohibited in New York State.”
Said Nicole Dillingham, Otsego 2000 president, “We’re grateful to this reporter who put this together.  If ever there was a time for our county to stand up for a moratorium, it is now.”
She pointed out many of the issues explored -- radioactivity, the lack of waste-water treatment facilities (the Ross #1 well on Crumhorn Mountain waste is being processed in Watertown, 200 miles away) and inability of the state to enforce -- are the very concerns the local anti-fracking coalition has been raising with the county’s Gas Advisory Committee.
Urbina reports on L.A.-level ozone pollution in Wyoming, and youthful asthma rates in Texas running triple the state average near wells, but spends the most time in the first segment on “Pennsylvania, Ground Zero.”
What EPA officials called “one of the largest failures in U.S. history to supply clean drinking water to the public” occurred in late 2008, when a drought prevented drilling and coal-mine waste from being sufficiently diluted in the Monogahela River, prompting  an advisory that Pittsburgh residents drink only bottled water.
“Of more than 179 wells producing wastewater with high levels of radiation, at least 116 reported levels of radium or other radioactive materials 100 times as high as the levels set by federal drinking water regulations,” he writes at another point.  In 15 wells, it was 1,000 times higher.
Urbina also reported lax regulation in Pennsylvania, with only 31 inspectors overseeing 125,000 oil and gas wells and state agencies afraid to aggressively enforce the rules.
“We simply can’t keep up.  There’s just too much of the waste,” said one inspector, adding, “If we’re too hard on them, the companies might just stop reporting their mistakes.”
The state’s new governor, Tom Corbett, who received more political contributions from gas companies than all his competitors put together, has been even more friendly to drilling interests, opening state land to new drilling.
“I will direct the (state) Department of Environmental Protection to serve as partner with Pennsylvania businesses, communities and local governments,” Corbett is quoted as saying.
As Urbina reports it, drilling can ruin the neighborhood, too:
“Drilling derricks tower over barns, lining rural roads like feed silos.  Drilling sites bustle around the clock with workers, some in yellow hazardous materials suits, and 18 wheelers haul equipment, water and waste along back roads.
“The rigs announce their presence with the occasional boom and quiver of underground explosions.  Smelling like raw sewage mixed with gasoline, drilling-waste pits, some as large as a football field, sit close to homes.”

Fatal Fire Used Up Pressure In Hoses

Mayor To Ask Engineer To Ensure Hydrants OK


Oneonta firefighters brought the 1¾-inch lines to bear early Saturday morning, Feb. 26, on Norma Hutman’s burning home at 540 Main St., 180-220 gallons per minute.
They brought the 2½-inch lines to bear, 300 gallons per minute.
They planned to bring the aerial device into action, 1,000 gallons per minute.
That’s when, to City Fire Chief Patrick Pidgeon’s consternation, is when the water pressure failed.
In this case, that wasn’t a deciding factor.  Hutman, the retired Hartwick College professor, had perished; her body was later located in a second-floor hallway
But after conferring with the fire chief, Mayor Dick Miller said he will ask City Engineer James Hawver to assess the fire-fighting capability of the city’s water system.
“It’s never been brought up as a problem,” said Miller.  “The important thing, there was a plan that was well executed to deal with the situation.”
Once the pressure failed, additional mutual aid tankers were called to the scene from Milford, Schenevus, Wells Bridge, Unadilla, Pindars Corners and Davenport, and a line was run from the nearby Susquehanna River.
The city’s hydrants are in a “looped” system, Pidgeon explained later, which provides optimum water pressure.  Some neighborhoods, however, are outside the loop on a “dead-end” main, he said.
Such was the case with Hutman’s home – it is located between the Catskill Area Hospice Main Street offices and All-Star Auto & Pet Wash, beyond East End Avenue, where the loop turns down toward the river.
The fatal fire was reported at 5:48 a.m., and firefighters arrived to heavy flames throughout the structure.  Capt. Rob LaTourette raised a general-alarm response, which brought all off-duty firemen to the scene.
At that point, mutual aid was requested from West Oneonta and Otego, and FAST teams – Firefighter Assist & Search Teams – arrived from Worcester, Franklin and Sidney.
Main Street remained closed for seven hours as the fire was brought under control and the investigation began.  No cause had been determined by presstime.
Pidgeon, a firefighter since 1980, said low water pressure has not generally been a problem, in his experience.
The looped system allows hydrants every 500 feet in the downtown, and 1,000 feet on the peripheries. 


Frances Vermilya was honored on her 100th birthday at a reception Friday, Feb. 25, at St. James Manor.  Two cakes were cut and songs – “Happy Birthday,” and more – were sung at the afternoon gathering.  In front row, Mrs. Vermilya chats with her daughter, Candy Edwards, visiting from Hopewell Junction for the event.  The honoree’s late husband, Edgar, was the Oneonta optometrist.


Eric Burton was expected to be named engineering technician in the City of Oneonta’s Engineering Department by Common Council Tuesday, March 1, subject to completing Civil Service requirements.


 Oneonta’s Madie Harlem, Hamilton College ‘13, was named to the 2011 Liberty League women’s basketball all-league team.  Harlem ranks 10th in scoring with 12.5 points per game. As a freshman, she was the league’s Rookie of the Year.

With GOP Control, Seward Assistant Majority Leader

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, has been named assistant majority leader on conference operations, a post that puts him in the top leadership of the state senate.
“The new position allows me to work closely with senate leadership in establishing priorities and directing legislation to the senate floor,” said Seward.
He has also been named to three budget review subcommittees – Education, General Government/Local Assistance, and Higher Education & Arts – that are analyzing the governor’s budget proposal and recommending revisions.
Previously, the Oneonta native was named chairman of the senate Insurance Committee.

Hank The Hobo’s Metamorphosis


The hobo and his bindle, once an American institution.

In the days when Oneonta was an active railroad town, it was not unusual to have four or five freight trains loaded with coal from Pennsylvania and West Virginia come into the yards.
Along with the freight also came the human cargo – the hobos.
It was not long before the hobo community was established, In the area approximately where Oneida Street merges into what is now Southside.
The hoboes were a highly organized group. There were the young men (the pups), middle aged men (working dogs) and the older men (the Airedales ).
They melded marvelously into one community, the hobos. One of their number, a “pup” is the basis for our story.
At this same time, Gilbert Lake State Park was readying for its official opening. It required a lot of manual labor, especially in readying the grounds for parking, picnicking and the making of trails around the heavily forested area.
Mr. Stowell, newly appointed manager of the park, looked to the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) for possible recruits. Would any of the hobos volunteer to help? It looked like a long shot, but was worth a try.
Approaching the hobo camp, the proposition was laid before them. Many were accustomed to their free ways of life, but one young man, Hank, showed an interest.
He was interviewed by Mr. Stowell and given a try-out period in which to determine his abilities and convert him to a new way of life.
Dad worked in the roundhouse of the Oneonta railroad yards and offered to take Hank to Gilbert Lake for his apprenticeship in a new field.
Under the unshaven face and tattered clothes, Mr. Stowell saw the makings of a dedicated employee. Hank was assigned to assisting the parking-lot construction, and took to his duties as a duck to water. He was especially amazed at the privilege of having a room in the barracks, and the certainty of three hearty meals a day.
He liked the work, the other men, and the fact that he was doing a really constructive job. Mr. Stowell was struck by his dedication to his work and his personality. So he became a member of the CCC in all its phases.  He advanced in rank to become the supervisor of the ground crew. His duties included overseeing the grounds maintenance in its many forms.
One day when Dad was in the barber shop, in walked Hank in his uniform. The dapper gray-green dress of the CCC boys, his high-top shoes and his unmistakable pride in his new appearance was clearly evident.
“And to top it all off, I’m being paid for working,” he said, a tone of triumph in his voice. Hank continued in his work with the CCC until the official opening of the park. Having no family or ties to speak of, when the park opened, he was recommended for a transfer to the Finger Lakes region, where another state park was in the making.
As far as we could remember, Hank was making great strides in his new work. He was familiar with the routine, and fared well in his new surroundings.
The last time we saw Hank was in Oneonta when Dad took him to the railroad station for a ride to his new destination in the passenger car.
His last words were, “Boy, this beats everything. Riding in a railroad car instead of on it.”
Mary Pangborn, who lives in Cooperstown, was raised on a farm in Laurens.

Bassett Cancer Institute Opens New Facility At FoxCare Site

Dr. Yoshiro Matsuo, Bassett Healthcare hematologist and oncologist, snips the ribbon that opened the Bassett Cancer Institute’s new site in the FoxCare Center on Route 7, east of Oneonta.  From left are Bassett President/CEO Bill Streck, Fox President John Remillard, Bassett Vice President Frank Panzarella, Dr, James Leonard, who will be treating patients at the clinic, Michael Bone, cancer institute manager, Patricia Jacobi, Sheryl Gelder-Kogan, and Dr. Charles Hyman, Bassett’s chief of medicine, at the Monday, Feb. 28, ceremony.


Kellie Place, co-director of the New York Summer Music Festival and a realtor with Century 21 Chesser Realty, meets with members of the new 11-member Oneonta Arts Task Force, which she is chairing.  With her, from left, are Michelle Miller, Diana Staley-King, Kathy Tobiassen, Diane Aaronson, Doug Hallberg and Duncan Smith. Not pictured are Kris Laguna, Gark Koutnik, Pam Strother, and Marcel Smith.


Ashok Malhotra, SUNY Oneonta professor and founder of the Ninash Foundation, which raises money in the U.S. to build schools in India, joins students at the Indo-International School, Dunlod, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a Sister City project with Oneonta.

Geoffrey Rightmyer Signs On To NBT Bank’s Oneonta Team

Geoffrey Rightmyer joined NBT Bank’s Oneonta team as assistant vice president and commercial banking relationship manager, responsible for the bank’s business customers locally and in Schoharie County, where he lives.
A banker for 11 years, he was a commercial banking relationship manager with NBT Bank in the Capital Region.  Before joining NBT, he was a commercial banker with Wilber National Bank.
The Richmondville resident has a bachelor’s in business economics from SUNY Oneonta.  He is a village trustee, and treasurer of the Richmondville Volunteer Fire Department.

Contracting Out Police Service Roiling Cooperstown Trustees


The topics were police, police and police.
When the Cooperstown Village Board met Monday, Feb. 28:
• Mayor Joe Booan began by reading a prepared statement denying any personal or political motivation in his exploring contracting with the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department to provide 24/5 coverage to the village, eliminating village police and saving a portion of the $500,000 budget.  “I was elected to do a job,” said the Republican mayor, “and I’m doing it.”
• Booan also announced that county Rep. Greg Relic, R-Unadilla, had called him before the meeting to say the county’s Public Safety Committee, which Relic chairs, had agreed to support further talks on providing police service to the village.
• During the public-comment period, resident Hilda Wilcox read a statement describing brusk treatment by the sheriff’s department when she called with a question.  “The question is not one of quantity,” she said, “but of quality.”
• Also during the public comments, Democratic candidate Jim Dean spoke, saying he supports keeping the police department.  And Hank Nicols, former police chief, county Democratic chair and father of current chief Diana Nicols, said “the math doesn’t work,” although he supported further study.
• When the mayor asked for a sense of the board on whether he should continue talking to the county, four of the five trustees present supported doing so, although Democrat Lynne Mebust said she would prefer a broader conversation on a range of shared services, not just police.  Only Democrat Jeff Katz withheld support.
• Finally, Mebust presented a memo critical of the mayor for spending $443 to send a letter to all village households explaining his reasons for beginning conversations with county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr.

Booan said he used funds from the mayor’s discretionary budget.
Mebust said she’d asked the village treasurer to check back as far as 1994, and found the fund had been used for flowers, pins and lunches for visiting dignitaries, not letters.
Booan, in response to Mebust saying it was misuse of village staff to prepare, copy and mail the letter – “I don’t see how we can justify that expense,” she said, calling it “troubling” – suggested that having the treasurer research the discretionary fund represented a similar misuse of village staff.
The evening featured parry and thrust, which each side suggesting political motivation on the part of the other and honest motives on their own.
(This article identifies individuals by political party because two full slates are vying in the March 15 village election.  It is not a practice that will extend past that time.)
In his opening statement, Booan retraced the chronology of his conversations with Devlin, and declared, “Despite the speculation of some, it is not personal or political.  Those that point to either of these as fact are wrong.  Examination of shared services is a fiscal matter.  It will take careful study and I am supporting it.”