City hires OPD leader and hears anti-pot case | Local News


The Oneonta Common Council approved its police review plan and hired a new police chief, in addition to hearing a plea to withdraw from marijuana sales and a COVID-19 update, at its meeting on October 5.


The council unanimously approved the police reform and reinvention implementation plan after some discussions among council members.

John Rafter Council Member D-Seventh Ward said he would support the plan, but was concerned about some of the recommendations, including stopping the pretext shutdowns. He said police should be able to stop a car if its brake lights are off or a muffler is too loud. Rafter said these were safety concerns and could cause accidents.

Council member Luke Murphy, D-First Ward, said police would not be allowed to stop a car based on the race or socio-economic status of the driver.

The police reform plan was created by the Community Advisory Board, which included representatives from the Oneonta NAACP, Hartwick College, SUNY Oneonta, the Oneonta Commission on Community Relations and Human Rights, the town council and the director of the city ​​staff, in 2020. The plan was adopted on March 31 and a committee of council members was formed to review the plan and come up with a detailed plan to be implemented.

Most of the plan’s recommendations take effect immediately after board approval of the report, while others will take effect within seven months of approval.

All of these changes to the Oneonta Police Department will be overseen by Christopher Witzenburg, who was named chief constable at the meeting after Murphy attempted to file the decision.

Witzenburg has been with the ministry since 1998 and has served as interim chief since Chief Douglas Brenner retired in January.

Murphy offered to file the decision after Daniel Dryer made a comment Witzenburg made during the CAB discussions. Dryer said Witzenburg said he would find another way around some of the recommendations made by the CAB.

The move to the table was rejected after Council members Murphy, Mark Davies, David Rissberger and Kaytee Lipari Shue voted to table the resolution and Council members Len Carson, Scott Harrington, Rafter and Mark Drnek voted not to file the resolution. Rissberger wanted to cast the vote because Witzenburg was not there to answer questions from the council.

Murphy abstained from voting for Witzenburg, while the other seven board members voted in favor of the hiring. Witzenburg’s annual base salary will be $ 95,000.



The Oneonta Common Council listened to Julie Dostal, executive director of the Leatherstocking Education on Alcoholism / Addictions Foundation, and Jennifer Hill, community engagement coordinator for Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie, encouraged them to quit marijuana sales.

The drug was legalized for recreational use by the state legislature earlier this year, with a provision allowing municipalities to choose whether or not to authorize the sale of the drug.

Dostal said that in states where marijuana is legal, 60 to 80 percent of communities have chosen not to sell the drug. She said there were too many questions about the implementation of the sales, wondering how the sales would be marketed, what would be the potency of marijuana and whether the forms of the drug could be sold as jelly candies, pacifiers or other attractive items for children.

“I encourage you to press the pause selling button until all the regulations are in place,” Dostal said.

Hill said that even though Oneonta is a tobacco-free community, it will need to pass local law that bans smoking and vaping marijuana in public places, including parks. She said the law prohibits smoking marijuana indoors where it is illegal to smoke cigarettes, but does not include outdoor spaces in the law.

She gave the council a copy of the law passed by the city of Cairo in August that bans smoking marijuana in outdoor public places as a plan to develop their own law. She said the second-hand smoke generated by using marijuana is similar to second-hand cigarette smoke, which causes cancer.


Municipal health officer Diane Georgeson updated council on the COVID-19 pandemic. She said Otsego County had 500 cases in September and the county health department was working to release statistics on the percentage of those who tested positive were vaccinated. She said this would likely be in line with neighboring Delaware and Chenango counties which have released statistics that say a quarter of those who test positive have been vaccinated.

She said the city tested wastewater for the virus every week and that there had been a “big increase on September 30 in sewage,” which worries her. She said Pfizer booster shots have started being administered in the county. She said the cases “don’t come from colleges. SUNY Oneonta has three active cases and Hartwick College has two active cases. “

She said Otsego County reported 20 cases on Tuesday and the trend in the county was on the rise, and said Chenango and Delaware counties had as many cases as Otsego County.

Rafter asked if there were any actions the city could take to help slow the spread, such as a mask warrant.

City administrator Greg Mattice said the city continues to educate residents on the importance of vaccination. Georgeson encouraged people to wear masks indoors as per CDC guidelines.

In other cases:

• The board approved the hiring of Steven Jaeger and Roger Chase as full-time bus drivers at a base annual salary of $ 30,517 and approved the Oneonta Public Transit driver registration bonus policy. , which pays drivers $ 500 when they are hired and $ 500 after they are hired. six months.

The council also approved a three-year OPT contract between the town and the town of Oneonta. The city will provide transportation within the city for $ 15,000 in 2022, $ 16,000 in 2023 and $ 17,000 in 2024.

• Council also approved the bid of $ 78,768 from RB Robinson Contracting, Inc., Candor, for the West Street Pressure Reducing Valve Replacement Project.

Editor-in-chief Vicky Klukkert can be reached at [email protected] or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.

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