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March 4, 2013

New life returned to Oneonta landmark in 1983

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The Daily Star

---- — Back in the early 1980s, the convenience of having some county agency satellite offices in Oneonta was diminished by the fact that they were scattered all over town. An effort to bring these agencies under one roof began at that time, which meant new use for an old, nearly empty building in downtown Oneonta.

After Oneonta’s City Hall relocated in 1980 to the former post office at 258 Main St., the old Municipal Building at 242 Main St. sat nearly empty. A Syracuse-based engineering firm, Daverman Associates, bought it in June 1982 for $50,000. Daverman had been hired at the time to help develop the downtown area in the latter years of a struggling urban renewal effort.

In September 1982, it was reported in The Daily Star that Daverman had submitted floor plans to the building committee of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, in hopes of bringing all six Oneonta county offices into the former city hall.

Those six county offices in Oneonta included public health, motor vehicles, veterans’ services, the mental health clinic, Supreme Court chambers and the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency.

The county board discussed the idea in a session Wednesday, March 3, 1983, to enthusiastic response. 

“If it goes the way it’s set, we will have done residents of the county a real service,” said David Brenner of Oneonta, then the chairman of the county board.

The Board of Representatives voted, 13-0, on Wednesday, April 6, to relocate the six county offices to 242 Main St., and signed a 10-year lease for office space April 15. Rent was set at $5.87 per square foot for the first five years, a total of 14,786 square feet, or nearly $86,800 per year.

Mayor James F. Lettis was pleased with the move, saying: “It’s always been my desire to see the (county) office complex stay downtown. They assured me all along this is what they wanted and I’m glad they finally found a facility to meet their needs.”

Even before any tenants moved into 242 Main St., there were several Otsego County legislators who proposed the idea of the county purchasing the building from Daverman Associates. The idea was reported Oct. 6, 1983.

Not even a week later, it was reported that the general contractor in charge of the restorations under way at the old city hall was purchasing the building. Frederick Jacobsen of Morris and his two sons, Gary and Peter, were in the process of purchasing the property. It was reported that they paid $890,000 for the cost of the building and all their renovations made.

Board chairman David Brenner was pleased with the purchase by the Jacobsens, saying he was against the county’s purchase because the building would then have become tax-exempt.

First to move into the building was the chambers of state Supreme Court Justice Robert A. Harlem on Monday, Nov. 28. Harlem’s chambers opened on Tuesday, having departed the former 16 Dietz St. location.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles, operated by Otsego County, was the next to move in to the new building, opening Monday, Dec. 19, making the move over the weekend from the previous site at 125 Main St.

Other agencies followed in the next few months. The county eventually purchased the property.

This weekend: Oneonta coped with banking holidays in March 1933.

City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.