Common Council handles busy agenda at year's first meeting

Shweta Karikehalli | The Daily Star Fifth Ward Common Council Member Len Carson, left, accompanied by his wife Dellene, middle, is sworn in by Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, right, at City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 7. 

Six new and two returning Oneonta Common Council members discussed downtown community marketing and programming services, designating newspapers for publication of city notices and more at the Common Council’s first meeting of the year Tuesday, Jan. 7. 

Petitioner David Hutchison, a member of the Environmental Board, addressed the council about environmental matters. These included increasing tree numbers in the city, asking the council to speak to constituents about putting trees on private property and Hutchison’s support of non-fossil fuel options for new construction and renovation in the city. 

Town resident Michael Stolzer thanked departing members of the council, which he said he missed the chance to do at the last council meeting. 

“I just wanted to make sure not to miss that opportunity again and be here just to thank you all for stepping up and accepting the baton that’s being passed and hopefully handing a good baton off to the next crew that replaces you,” Stolzer said. 

Herzig announced new committee chairs. Fifth Ward Council Member Len Carson will chair the Finance and Human Resources Committee, Third Ward Council Member David Rissberger will chair the Planning Committee and John Rafter of the Seventh Ward will chair the Legislative Committee. Sixth Ward Council Member Scott Harrington was assigned to the new position of County Liaison, meeting monthly with County Representative Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta. 

Fourth Ward Council Member Kaytee Lipari Shue objected to a motion designating The Daily Star as the official newspaper of the city because it is a paid subscriber newspaper. 

“I think it isn’t without challenges,” Lipari Shue said, acknowledging that there is a free newspaper but it publishes weekly as opposed to daily. “What I would like to see in the spirit of better communication with the public is something worked out where there’s easier accessibility, on a free basis, to constituency because I think that’s the purpose of having a designated media.”

The council after much discussion tabled a motion authorizing Herzig to renew a contract for $70,000 with Destination Oneonta for its continued provision of community marketing, programming and beautification services for the downtown area during 2020.

Eighth Ward Council Member Mark Drnek said that while he’s for the motion, he had questions about the geographic boundaries of Destination Oneonta. 

“They are looking at a projection of 200 members for 2020 as a means of making their budget line,” Drnek said. “There aren’t 200 members potentially in Downtown Oneonta. That said clearly the geography is moving outward from Downtown, from the city. I don’t know if anyone is really sure what the parameters are of that geography how they’re planning on taking care of the promotional needs of their constituency, which is much larger now than the downtown footprint, and I also don’t know if this will be a regular request for $70,000.”

Second Ward Council Member Mark Davies asked for more detail on how the success, or lack of success, of such contracts is measured. Lipari Shue asked if the contract could be pulled and reworked, which Herzig confirmed could be done. 

The council delayed voting on the motion until a representative from Destination Oneonta speaks at the next council meeting. 

Herzig said Destination Oneonta provides for numerous downtown events and does internet advertising and social communication to promote the city and the its downtown businesses.

Destination Oneonta’s advertising work is different from that of Trampoline, the advertising and design agency implementing the Downtown Revitalization Initiative’s $250,000 statewide marketing campaign, Herzig said.

However, the two organizations do work in partnership, he said; Destination Oneonta maintains a website landing page, and when people click on Trampoline advertisements to learn more about the city, they’re taken to that page.

In other council news: 

• Fifth Ward Council Member Len Carson, who was absent at the Jan. 1 swearing-in ceremony at City Hall, took his oath of office alongside his wife, Dellene Carson. 

• Third Ward Council Member David Rissberger was appointed acting mayor in any potential absence of Herzig in 2020.

• Paid positions for Judy Sweet as Bingo Inspector, David Merzig as City Attorney, Mark Simonson as City Historian and Nicole Camarata as Deputy Purchasing Agent were approved

• An amendment to the city’s 2019 budget to increase the water fund’s appropriated fund balance by $33,680 was approved. This is to finance a replacement mixed oxidant solution electrolytic-disinfectant cell for installation at the Water Treatment Plant. Herzig said the purchase and amendment to the budget has no effect on the water rate because it’s just an internal transfer within the water budget.

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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