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July 11, 2013

Miller wants town, city to work together

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller made a pitch Wednesday night to the Oneonta Town Board to focus on the two municipalities as the “Oneonta community” in promoting economic development.

“If there is to be commercial and manufacturing expansion in a concentrated way, it will and should be centered in the town and city of Oneonta,” Miller said. “The expansion and hub of tourism will and should be in Cooperstown.”

Miller said he was invited to an Intergovernmental Affairs Committee of the Otsego County Board of Representatives meeting and asked to coordinate principal funders of public economic development efforts. He also was invited to the Town Board meeting to present ideas and background.

About 25 people were at the meeting in Town Hall in West Oneonta on Wednesday, and Miller’s presentation and proposal was met with mixed reaction.

“I am a big proponent of economic development, not just in the town,” Supervisor Robert Wood said. “We certainly want to participate.”

Barbara Ann Heegan, executive director of the Otsego County Chamber, said the county and Cooperstown chambers are pleased the public sector is raising awareness about the need for economic development. However, the chambers also have been involved in economic development and look forward to continuing those roles and participating in developing a countywide plan, she said.

Lisa Barr, a town resident, blasted Miller’s approach as supporting capitalistic interests that benefit the corporate sector at the expense of qualities and conservation interests of the town.

“Small is beautiful,” Barr said.

During his presentation, Miller reviewed circumstances that have made economic development a priority. The lack of local projects awarded state funding in the Mohawk Regional Economic Development Council, issues arising from the debate on drilling for natural gas and the pending resignation of the county’s economic developer are among factors contributing to the need to create plans, such as establishing an economic development agency and coordinating efforts, he said.

Oneonta, though a retail and employment hub for the area, doesn’t geographically lie neatly as part of any of the governor’s Regional Economic Development Councils, Miller said, and therefore the community must take initiative to look out for its interests.

Town Councilman William Mirabito agreed with the “Oneonta community” concept and said he hopes the board will make a multi-year financial committee to efforts on behalf of the town and city’s economic future.

“I wholeheartedly agree with your efforts,” Mirabito told Miller. “There is strength in numbers.”