The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

October 11, 2013

After decent start, still a long way to go

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The Daily Star

---- — Here’s the long and short of it.

About a year ago. Michael Long became the city’s first manager at a cost to the taxpayers of $115,000.

The long of it is that nine projects in Otsego County, mostly in the town and city of Oneonta, won $1.9 million in state funding during the city manager’s short tenure.

Included in that figure was $242,000 for the Catella Well No. 1 Pump House reconstruction and well expansion project that Mayor Dick Miller says wouldn’t have been funded if Long hadn’t been involved.

The short of it is that as it wrestles with its 2014 budget, the city is looking at a deficit of about $2 million.

“It’s alarming,” Miller told the Common Council last week at City Hall.

The mayor said the proposed budget has no layoffs, but the city manager appears to have other ideas.

Long said the city must look at personnel expenses to find long-term relief, adding that delaying needed capital projects would postpone expenditures.

Long is credited with creating a parks master plan, obtaining grants to support infrastructure and development, and working on an economic plan for downtown.

“He is doing fine,” Miller said. “We’re all working to make sure his contributions in the city are being maximized — we’re confident we’re on the right track.”

Common Council member David Rissberger of the Third Ward praised Long’s work with the housing steering committee that identified housing issues and objectives for projects, specifically opportunities with the Housing Visions program.

“He’s been meeting my expectations,” Rissberger said. “I think he’s done a very good job so far.”

Unlike the affable and politically astute Miller, Long is generally seen as someone who is more concerned about making budget than making allies among the city’s department heads and power brokers.

That, after all, was why he was hired. While he serves at the pleasure of the mayor and Common Council, he’s being paid to be a funding rainmaker and a steward of the city’s finances. Still, a little optimism can go a long way to ease the minds of council members and other citizens who have seen economic stagnation for far too many long years.

“We’re going to be very busy,” Long said. “We have a lot of really positive things going on. Oneonta’s a very friendly community. Everyone has been very welcoming. Everyone has been very supportive. It feels like a pretty fast year.”

While he would seem to be off to a decent start, if he can’t find a way to put Oneonta on the road to long-term financial success, 2014 will feel like a pretty long year for Michael Long. And if that’s the case, he won’t be long for this job.