Board advances plan for county business office

Ruffles

Otsego County’s plan for a dedicated business office cleared another hurdle Wednesday, Nov. 4.

The county’s Board of Representatives unanimously approved the creation of two administrative aide positions Tuesday to begin staffing the new office in January. The meeting was held via Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic, and broadcast on the county’s Facebook page. Rep. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, was absent.

The board also approved the dissolution of two positions Tuesday to make the plan budget-neutral — a programming position in the IT Department and an administrative supervisor in the Planning Department.

Both measures also passed unanimously, although Rep. Keith McCarty, R-Richfield, Springfield, pulled the second one from the consent agenda and abstained from voting on it.

McCarty and Frazier voted against the dissolution of the Planning position when it was voted on in the county’s Administrative Committee meeting Thursday, Oct. 22.

McCarty said Wednesday he preferred a plan to share the administrator between Planning, Veteran Services and Emergency Services. He also said he thought the Planning Department was short-handed and needed help with its solid waste and recycling programs, but the matter was never brought to the Solid Waste and Environmental Concerns Committee, which he chairs.

Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, Personnel Director Penney Gentile and County Attorney Ellen Coccoma made impassioned pleas for the office plan to move forward and for the board to try the switch in personnel.

“There’s a lot of research being this,” Gentile said. “It makes me sad to think we are talking about why it may not work, instead of how can we make it work.”

Ruffles said every department is stretched now and trying to find a way to do its work with less staff. He said everyone involved is willing to tweak things later, if needed, but he hoped the departments would give the plan a chance.

The business office will be at 197 Main St. in Cooperstown, next to the IT Department, in space that used to be E-911’s backup office.

Once the positions are filled, and until the business office opens, one aide will work in IT and the other in Planning, with both learning the tasks they will bring with them to the business office next year.

The business office will report to IT until a county administrator is hired, according to the plan.

The administrator position was approved in 2019, but left unfilled in 2020 after the pandemic forced a hiring freeze. The position is funded in the most recent draft of the 2021 budget.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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