Extension looking at merger


By David Avitabile

He governing boards of the Cornell Cooperative Extension offices of Schoharie and Otsego are considering a merger between the two offices.
The merger would strengthen programming in the two counties, may create some cost savings which could be re-directed into programming and bolster the long-term survivability of the organization if temporary funding cuts are imposed, Don Smyers, the executive director of the Schoharie County office, told the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Friday.
The move, which has been under consideration for about a year, should produce more efficient programming, more effective resource management and identify a more sizable visible audience, he said.
The more would be “pre-emptive,” Mr. Smyers said.
Times are turbulent on the local, state and federal level and a merger would allow the offices to offer more, Mr. Smyers said.
Two important factors are that Extension offices would remain in Cobleskill and Cooperstown and it is not the intent to “export” funds to Otsego County, he said.
County funding would be used to support programs within the county, he said. Otsego County gives less funding to their office than Schoharie County.
Extension board member MacDonald Holmes said the role of the Extension is changing.
The extension, he said, is serving a broader audience and more agricultural commercial members.
“We are looking at a broader audience,” he said.
He also noted that more governmental funding will be competitive in the future.
Extension member Jim Bryant said county funding will stay in the county.
“We are not going to carry Otsego County,” he said.
The time is right to make a change, he said.
“It’s better to be proactive and be more in the driver’s seat and shape our own destiny instead of letting things happen to us,” he said.
It is important to keep offices open in each county, Mr. Smyers said.
“Cooperative Extension has value when it’s local,” he said, noting there will still be a local 4-H program.
Mr. Smyers said that savings in administrative costs would probably be the main area of savings.
He said that the merger was prompted by a suggestion by Otsego County.
The two counties, he said, are similar in demographics, population and agriculture.