Friday, March 18, 2011


Lady Yellow Jackets Keep Momentum Going


First-year coach Matt Miller gives his stars an atta-girl courtside in Liverpool.

The Lady Yellow Jackets are used to winning, and winning, and winning.
So there were tears after the 62-58 loss to Cazenovia at the Class B state girls basketball quarterfinals Saturday, March 12, at Liverpool High School.
But the reality is the Ladies went 19-2 this season, leading to a 60-40 Section 4 Class B championship Friday, March 4, against Seton Catholic.
While bowing here in Liverpool, it was quite a game, with the girls coming back from a 17-point deficit to tie Caz in regulation time, only to slip two baskets behind in overtime.
With first-year coach Matt Miller, the girls nonetheless won OHS’ fourth Section 4 Class B championship in a row. 
In two of the past four years, now-retired Coach Bob Zeh coached the girls to two state finals at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, only to fall just short of the prize.
Yes, all the fans are used to seeing the Lady Jackets win.
This didn’t start yesterday.  In fact, it goes back almost a generation now, to Karen Haag, who OHS Athletic Director Joe Hughes credits with starting to build a winning tradition in the early 1990s.
Haag soon went on to an illustrious coaching career at the College of St. Rose, but Tom Moriarty took Haag’s effort to the next level, winning back-to-back state championships in 1998 and 1999.
Fans fondly remember Krissy Zeh, Tiffany Hurley (now Carr), Stacy Knapp and Kristin Constanty, who took the team to 57 victories in a row over two-plus seasons.
After Matt Culpepper’s two seasons, Coach Zeh took over, and the girls were soon back on their way to the top.
How does this type of dynasty happen?
“If everybody had a great answer to that,” said Hughes, “we’d all do it.”
He continued, “You have to have good players.  You have to have quality coaching.  You have to have a supportive community and school district. And if you have those elements in place, you are going to have a good chance at success.”
Further, success breeds success:  Younger girls see what the older girls accomplish and are inspired.
“That’s certainly part of it,” said Hughes, the father of daughters. “They see the fun that comes from that.  And they want to be part of it.”
Seniors Sienna Wisse – she’s expected to play at Ithaca – Erin Wolstenholme and Jenn Dilello, veterans of the two state-final matches, are graduating this year, but the tradition continues.
Natalie Meyerling, the 6-foot-2 sophomore who was brought up from JV early in the season, will be back next year and just a junior.
Hughes pointed out the JV team only lost two games this year.
The new girls to watch:  Minnie Webster and Maria DiMartin, as well as Meyerling.
And the veterans?  Dani Nicosia, Kelsey Baker and Hayley Dower, Hughes said.
The tradition lives.

check out more pictures in our facebook album -- Oneonta High School Girl's Basketball Finals 2011

Hartwick College Is Recycling Just About Everything


The numbers tell the story.
Before adopting Casella Waste Systems’ zero-sort recycling on Feb. 1, Hartwick College sent out 1,600 pounds of recyclables a month.
Since, that number rose to 1,900 pounds a week.
“That’s the new average,” said Joe Mack, on-site facilities director for Aramark, the food service contracted by the college. “That’s a lot of water bottles and pizza boxes.”
Yes, pizza boxes. That’s one of the final recycling frontiers zero-sort recycling has reached.
Before Feb. 1, Hartwick students generated 800 empty pizza boxes a week that had to be disposed of as trash. Now, the boxes are recycled.
To back up a bit: Those of you old enough remember the days when recycling meant sorting bottles into containers for clear glass, brown glass and green glass, cans and paper.
“Zero sort means sort nothing,” Mack said.
Glass, cans, cardboard, paper all go into one half of the dumpsters.  Casella trucks haul the mixed batch to its recycling center, where a machine, with the help of magnets and the like, separates the stream into paper, glass, metal, aluminum and plastic.
Only food and clothing – the only items that cannot be recycled – go into the smaller half of the dumpsters.
The previous hauler would empty the dumpsters three times a week. The greater amount of recyclables requires Casella to pick up the dumpsters daily, (and the brand new dumpsters are Hartwick blue, yet.)
Hartwick is Casella’s first institutional participant in the zero-sort program, but at least two other large institutions are expected to come aboard within days.
The daily pickup costs more, but the college is saving money at the other end: You pay a flat fee to dispose of recyclables; non-recyclables are subject to a per-pound tipping fee.
Mack estimates the cost has been a wash.
Most satisfying, said the 15-year Aramark veteran, is the system encourages people to do what they should have been doing all along.
“Recycling is such a behavior modification,” said Mack. “I can command my people to recycle. But to get the whole college to recycle, that’s a challenge.”
“It makes it easier to do the right thing,” added Chris Lott, the Hartwick spokesman who was participating in the interview.

Foothills Hits High Note With 1st Sellout Concert

Gordon Lightfoot Tickets Gone With 19 Days ’til Event


Foothills, the little performing arts and civic center that could.
That was the feeling around Oneonta’s $7 million, 625-seat, state-of-the-art facility this week after tickets for the upcoming Gordon Lightfoot concert sold out Saturday, March 12.
The sellout, the first in the new facility’s history, happened less than a month since tickets went on sale and 19 days before the Friday, July 31, event.
“It lets you know that bringing in the right artist at the right price and the right venue is a recipe for success,” said Jon Weiss, the Oneonta Theater promoter who collaborated with Foothills on this project.
The 300 “gold” tickets, $71 apiece, sold out first, followed by the “silver” tickets at $60.  Another 75 seats were added, and they also sold at the “silver” level.
Lightfoot is the “first nationally known talent – world-known talent” to perform at Foothills, said Executive Director Janet Quackenbush.
“It tells me that with properly selected entertainers and price points, we can draw significant crowds to that facility and to Oneonta,” said Mayor Dick Miller, who took over as interim chair of the Foothills board of directors in December.
It also suggests that Miller’s economic development strategy – using arts and entertainment as a magnet to bring outside people (and money) to the city – is gaining traction.
Foothills is just one piece of it.  A second is the Arts Task Force that grew out of two Arts Summits hosted by the mayor in January and February.  And it includes Main Street Oneonta’s expanding schedule of events, from the Mardi Gras Tuesday, March 8, and the St. Patty’s Day celebration on Thursday the 17th, both on Kim Muller Plaza.
Miller credited Weiss with coming up with the Gordon Lightfoot booking, and Weiss credited Ben Guenther, the Five Star Subaru co-owner who has been a mainstay of numerous cultural events in the past year, with suggesting the aging, but still vital, Canadian folk singer.
“I just had a gut feeling he would do very well here,” said Guenther, given local demographics means “a lot of people my age are familiar with ‘Edmund Fitzgerald’,” and also proximity to Canada.
“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” the ballad based on the sinking of a freighter in Lake Erie, catapulted Lightfoot to international fame in the 1960s.  But other songs, “If You Could Read My Mind” (1970), which hit Number 5 on the U.S. charts, and “Sundown” (1974), “Carefree Highway” (1974) and “Rainy Day People” (1975), all Number 1s, cemented his reputation.
Weiss and Guenther approached the mayor just after the first summit with a proposal for a benefit concert for Foothills, which is about $1 million short of funding needed to install a kitchen, hang sound-proofing curtains at the back of the stage, and other final touches.
Going forward, the idea is to continue the collaboration between Foothills and the Oneonta Theater, sharing equipment and  scheduling complementary acts.
Weiss believes Foothills can succeed with “a minimum” of one Lightfoot-like act a month.  Guenther said he and Weiss are already working on the next show.  Miller said one key to success is to mix the demographics, so that different acts appeal to different market segments.
In addition to Five Star and the Oneonta Theatre, the mayor obtained sponsorships from Eastman Associates, Mirabito Energy Products, the Clark Companies (the Delhi-based sports-field builder) Bassett Healthcare and New York Central Mutual.
“Obviously this doesn’t help Five Star directly,” Guenther said of his motivation.  “But I feel if I help the community, it helps other businesses.  And if I help other businesses,  they turn around and do business with me.”

CITY OF THE HILLS: Pro-Merger Advocates Organizing

A movement is being launched in the Sixth Ward to study and support efforts to merger municipalities in Upstate New York.
Former alderman Bill Shue and Al Colone, founder of the National Soccer Hall of Fame movement, had scheduled an organizational meeting for 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 16, at Foti’s Cafe on River Street.

FOOT FITNESS:  Sport Tech’s first Fitness Day of the year is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, March 19.  Have your feet checked out by a chiropractor/acupuncturist or a certified orthotist.  Check for particulars.

HOT DOG:  Pitbull, the rapper, will headline the evening concert at the sixth annual OH Fest, planned Saturday, April 30.  After an afternoon of festivities on Main Street, the concert begins at 6 in Neahwa Park.

John Hartner’s booth was a veritable local newspaper history museum at the GOHS Postcard & Ephemera Show Saturday, March 12, at St. James Episcopal Church.  Original numbers of the Oneonta Herald, The Oneonta Spy and the Oneonta Press – printed in red – were for sale.

4 Candidates To Replace Provost Larkin Are Visiting SUNY Oneonta This Month

The last of four candidates for SUNY Oneonta provost, Alfred Ntoko, dean of Kean University’s College of Business & Public Administration, was on campus this week meeting with student, faculty, administrators and other stakeholders.

The other candidates are
• A.I. Musah, provost of the University of the Virgin Islands.  He visited March 2.
• Evelyn Maria Thompson, vice president, research and sponsored programs at Tennessee State University. She visited March 8.
• Anne Hiskes, special assistant to the provost and interim associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Connecticut, visited March 9.

The college is seeking to fill the position by summer.  The successful candidate will succeed F. Daniel Larkin, long-time provost, who is retiring. 

Benson, Gunther Collaborate In Financial Services Firm

Donald Benson, CPA/CFP, and Joseph Gunther, CFP, have established  Benson & Gunther Financial Group, providing financial services, as well as tax, estate and accounting services.
Both Don and Joe are consortium members of Integrated Financial Group of Atlanta, a Top 25 financial planning firm, as chosen by The Atlanta Business Chronicle magazine, with over $1 billion in managed client assets. 
Benson & Gunther will serve clients in Oneonta, Norwich and Rome. The main office is at 48 Dietz.

Incoming Police Officers Give Hope For ‘Great’ OPD

It’s beyond a cliche to say that a commencement is not an end but a beginning. But that doesn’t make it any less true. And it’s hard to attend a graduation and not feel hope, hope for all the potential good that can result from all those young aspirations.
So it was Sunday, March 13, at SUNY Oneonta’s Hunt Union Ballroom, as wellwishers gathered to congratulate and celebrate nine new police officers completing training at the Otsego County Law Enforcement Academy.
Six of the nine will join the ranks of the Oneonta Police Department, and it was hard not to contemplate the OPD’s recent challenges without a renewed hope that the “great” police force Mayor Miller is promising will indeed be achieved.
The speakers hit just the right note.
Lt. Dennis Nayor, officer in charge after the chief’s recent resignation, challenged the new recruits to uphold the ideals of the profession, treating everyone with dignity and compassion, guided by honor and integrity.  “Everything else has zero meaning without it.”
“Never dishonor the badge,” exhorted the academy’s director, Lt. Jonathan Bartlett, quoting former county sheriff Don Mundy, the academy’s founder.  And Bartlett cautioned the class, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
The awards portion of the evening was telling as well:  Of the nine graduates, six had perfect-attendance records over 10 months and 650 hours of training.  A 66 percent record reflects commitment.
So does the level of achievement.  Officer Brian J. Cetnar got the top score on the firing range.  But his 227.50 score was just a quarter-point higher than New Berlin Officer Richard A. Pagillo, who also serves parttime on the Cooperstown force.
SUNY Police Officer Lucas S. Hoague’s top academic score was 95.15, but he was only .07 points ahead of Oneonta’s Amanda L. Spoor.  Competition brings out the best in people, for sure.
With commencement there’s hope, indeed, and it was easy to depart at ceremony’s end with a good feeling about the OPD’s future.
 Congratulations, graduates, and much continuing success. 
Do the community proud.  Do yourselves proud.

The OPD’s newest officers, from left, are Amanda L. Spoor, Brian J. Cetnar, Stacy L. Ferris, Jennifer L. Imperato-Barrows and Lucas R. Shaw.  At left are Mayor Miller and Alderman Paul Robinson; at right, Lt. Dennis Nayor and Sgt. Douglas Brenner.

For Good Of All, Oneonta Needs To Be Vibrant Hub Of Entire Region


In my report to the Common Council on Tuesday, Jan. 18, I talked about the current state of the city and posed some thoughts about the future.
The city’s finances are managed with approximately $4 million in reserves in excess of the $3 million we consider to be the minimum necessary in case of emergencies.   The forecast for the future is that excess reserves will be consumed by 2015 or 2016, based upon a set of cost and revenue projections that we are constantly revising.
It can be argued that the excess reserves were created over time by a city practice of paying less-than competitive wages compared with other like communities (a condition corrected in the last round of labor negotiations) and by deferring maintenance of our infrastructure, which is most apparent in the condition of our streets and roads.
Our financial strategy over the next few years will be to carefully manage our costs and revenues, taking advantage of work-force reductions through attrition, using some of our surplus to address infrastructure and deferred maintenance while attempting to maintain desired service levels in essential areas like fire, police, public works, water and sewer.
Over a three- or four-year period, it is likely that these efforts will maintain Oneonta as we know it, but reserves will clearly be reduced and we should want to make our city better.
The opportunity presents itself to do so.  In my remarks I spoke to the council of two ingredients for a more vibrant future for the community.
The first ingredient is generating more economic activity, by encouraging investment in downtown and leveraging our exceptional array of arts and entertainment, individuals, organizations and facilities.
This effort has been launched by the two summits we held over the past months, along with the current strengthening of Main Street Oneonta, the organization that promotes downtown.
The Arts & Entertainment Task Force is at work.  The Oneonta Theater has announced a busy schedule for the spring and summer, and the sold-out Gordon Lightfoot concert at Foothills bodes well.
The second ingredient, and one which involves the participation of others, is reorganizing our governments to provide services in the most cost effective ways.  This will require us to think of Oneonta as a community, not as a city or town.
It will require that community to think of itself, not in isolation, but as the hub of our region, and for the region to see us as that, and the overall benefit of supporting our vibrancy.
Sam Dubben, chair of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, should be applauded for the leadership he is showing in convening the county, city and town supervisors to talk about shared services.
I have told him that the city is willing to consider all options, including shifting some of the services we now provide to others and taking on responsibility for providing services for other government entities.
All these things can be accomplished over time without threatening employees if we carefully manage attrition.  They require thoughtful discussion, planning, decision making and implementation.
Mayor Booan of Cooperstown and Sheriff Devlin should be complimented, too, for proposing a cost-effective plan for the county to provide police protection to the village.
My motivation, as mayor of the city, in working to increase economic activity and reduce the cost of government is driven by our special challenges:  52 percent of the real property in the city is not taxed.  The colleges and hospital, as well as other not-for-profits, are as strapped economically as our governments.
 As the principal drivers of our regional economy, turning to them for funds, through PILOT agreements would be counter-productive.  But, for example, the city, not the region, bears the cost of the police department ($3 million), 60 percent of the arrests of which are of college students, while the institutions and surrounding communities bear no cost.  That represents just one of our special challenges.
Another, from the state Comptroller’s figures, is that the city spends $1.6 million on recreation and culture.  Without college students, the city and town populations are approximately the same, but the town only spends $120,000.
Town residents use the programs of the city free, while City residents pay for them through taxes.  That is a condition that city taxpayers will not be able to sustain.
Even if we can continue to make this situation work in the short term, in the longer term, if Oneonta is to be a viable city, we have to address these issues. The inequity of city taxpayers supporting the region is not only unsustainable for the city, but for the region itself.
There is, of course, an easy way out.  That would be the “nuclear option” of the city dissolving into the town.
If it were to be the reverse, the town merging into the city, ultimately, the county would need to face the inequities of sales-tax distribution.  Per the retail census, the city and town generate 75 percent of the retail activity in Otsego County, but receive only 14 percent of sales-tax revenue.
The issue is how to avoid such destabilizing steps by working together to share the cost of government and its services, along with sales tax revenue, more equitably and to market the community more effectively, thus generating more economic activity for the entire region.
There has been criticism given of my not dropping the consolidation and shared services subjects.  I won’t do that as, along with generating more economic activity through tourism, it’s the key to a better future for the community of Oneonta and the surrounding region.

Thanks To All Who Helped Fight Fatal Fire Feb. 26 On Main Street

To the Editor:
I am writing to express the deepest gratitude of all the members of the Oneonta Fire Department for the extensive assistance we received during and after the devastating fire Saturday morning, Feb. 26, at 540 Main St.
Thank you to all the departments that provided mutual aid. They were West Oneonta, Otego, Worcester, Franklin, Sidney, Laurens, Milford, Schenevus, Unadilla, Wells Bridge, Pindars Corners and Davenport.
Our brothers and sisters in the fire service are true heroes, and assist whenever they are called.
We are grateful for the specialized assistance from the state Office of Fire Prevention & Control. Two highly trained investigators drove from the Capital District and spent several hours with OFD investigators in an effort to determine the cause.
Thank you to the city departments that helped in many ways. They included the Oneonta Police Department, Department of Public Service and Water Department.
State employees assisted also. We are grateful to the state police and the state Department of Transportation.
Thank you also to the many friends and neighbors who provided assistance, including the Salvation Army for their canteen, the Oneonta Price Chopper Supermarket for food for all the hungry firefighters, Munson’s Building Supplies for delivering materials to shore up the inside of the building, and NYSEG for the quick response to cut power.
A very special thank you to the two ladies who arrived at the scene of the fire with coffee and donuts. We don’t know who you are, but you were special angels!
We are very fortunate to live and work in a community where people care about each other and are willing to step forward to help, many times without being asked.
To each and every person who provided help, we extend our most sincere, heartfelt thanks!
Fire Chief
City of Oneonta