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December 13, 2012

The wonder of it all ...

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Cooperstown Crier

---- — Somehow it seems to us that the last part of the year has presented us with any number of things about which we can wonder. It all started when the Otsego County Board voted, seemingly hastily without much advance notice, to sell Otsego Manor, the county’s nursing home.

We must say, that from our point of view, we have not been given enough information about this decision to be able to accurately assess its merit. While it sounds as if selling the Manor will result in huge savings for county taxpayers, no information has been offered, to our knowledge, as to what such savings might actually be. In fact, the county seems to have been much less than transparent about the entire situation which we find most disturbing.

Not only is the silence on the issue not fair to county taxpayers, it is definitely not fair to those who live and work at the Manor. And unfortunately, the silence also gives rise to people wondering just what the county is hiding. All in all, it has been a rather unsettling situation.

And unfortunately, the decision regarding the Manor was only the beginning of our musing about what is going on at the county. The recently adopted 2012 county budget also gave us pause.

We were most distressed when we first heard that the coordinator of health insurance information services was destined to be cut from the Office for the Aging staff. This was the first year we had the opportunity to work with Dave Polley, who held that position, to figure out just what supplement Medicare insurance and Medicare Part D plan we would need. We had heard for years from friends that he was absolutely fabulous when it came to helping seniors make educated decisions about their health insurance needs. And we would not disagree at all with that assessment.

This position, with benefits, would cost the county something in the neighborhood of $65,000 a year. Yet it seemed the argument was made, we suppose with a straight face, that cutting this $65,000 would be needed to balance the proposed $124.5 million budget. To many, including us, such an argument is laughable, especially when the loss to the county’s senior citizens is considered. In fact, we were even told that while attempts would be made to cover the seniors’ needs with volunteers and hopefully college students, there would be seniors who would not get the help they need. And that will be a sad day for the county, as it would seem to join the ever growing number who seem to be indicating that seniors are expendable and easily marginalized.

Of course, this is not the first time the Office for the Aging has sustained troubling cuts. We well remember that decision a number of years ago now, to close the county’s senior nutrition sites in Cooperstown and Worcester. At the time we pointed out to the head of the Office for the Aging department, that the county was in a position of picking winners and losers among the seniors, given the fact that seniors who attended the two sites that were eliminated were cut completely from the nutrition site program, while seniors who attended the other sites run by the county suffered no cuts whatsoever. It was an obvious case of picking winners and losers. At least with this most recent cut, the county hasn’t picked any winners, only losers.

And we hasten to point out that they are most unhappy losers. We have talked with a great number of people, all of whom had nothing, but good things to say about the service the Office for the Aging has provided seniors in navigating the Medicare maze. And trust us, not one of them had a good thing to say about the decision on the part of the county to eliminate the position. And unfortunately, the message that many of the seniors we talked with received is that they don’t matter.

Of course, the Office for the Aging cut is not the only aspect of the 2013 county budget which makes us wonder. We are also befuddled about the transfer of $800,000 of money collected by the county’s solid waste fee to what we have been lead to believe is the county’s the general fund to help balance the budget.

This would seem to be somewhat problematic in that the solid waste fee is funded by fees which are paid by both taxable and tax-exempt properties.

Thus does this transfer make tax-exempt properties pay fees, which are now being used as if they were taxes which would seem to result in tax-exempt properties actually contributing to the county tax revenue? Finer minds than ours will have to answer this question but we do seem to remember that when the village of Cooperstown was considering transferring water or sewer monies, we can’t remember which, to the general fund, it was not done for this very reason.

We also have spent a bit of time of late wondering about the renewed effort to enact paid two-hour parking within the Main Street business district. It has been noted that handicapped spaces will be free which is not inconsistent with other on street paid parking we have encountered. However, since the proposed parking does not use parking meters, but rather parking machines as employed in the Doubleday parking lot, we wondered if the handicapped might be better served if handicapped vehicles, instead of just handicapped spaces, might be exempt from paid parking. Quite frankly, we can not imagine parking if we were forced to walk somewhere to get a parking receipt and return it our car before starting any of our errands. 

We also wonder if people will pay to pick up pizza, prescriptions or papers? Will the daily coffee get-togethers and breakfasts continue or will they move to restaurants located somewhere other than Main Street? Will locals try to lunch on Main Street or choose a place off Main Street which sports a parking lot? And, as the he-we used to claim, once people start to figure out they don’t need to be on Main Street in the summer, will they also figure out they don’t need to be on Main Street in the winter.

And finally, we have to wonder exactly how it is that we have been able to use our new Medicare coverage for a recent eye appointment when we are reasonably certain that when we celebrated our birthday recently, we turned 29...again.

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