Rowe said he had
four or five different options to propose. He declined to give
details beyond saying that all would involve either shifting
some students to other schools or creating multi-age classrooms.
"None of these options will maintain the status quo,"
he said, "and none will be popular," but a change
is necessary because "the budgetary circumstances are so
extraordinary. The governor's recommendations reduce our state
aid by over $1,150,000 from the present level. We have to take
extraordinary measures. Usually we increase our budget and get
more state aid. I'm going to show the board some options for
steps we can take to preserve the integrity of instructional
programs but increase class sizes to reduce the quantity of
staff we have populating the elementary schools."
Elementary school enrollments have been dropping over the last
few years and are projected to continue dropping, as middle
and high school enrollments increase, leading to a focus on
the elementary schools as areas to cut staff. "In the past,"
said Rowe, "we have acknowledged the strength of people's
feelings for community schools and have sacrificed staff efficiency.
We can't do that any more."
Several years ago, the board made proposals for redistricting
to ease overcrowding at Bennett Elementary School, but vehement
public opposition led to the decision to enlarge the school
instead, spurring the current construction project. Rowe said
his proposals would reduce the number of classes per grade,
increasing class sizes to twenty to twenty-five students and
eliminating the need for some teachers and aides,
whose salaries comprise the bulk of budgetary expenditures.
Originally Rowe had only two possible plans, but the suggestion
of a third strategy led to more brainstorming. "The more
you think about them, the more you try to improve them,"
he commented. Concerned parents are encouraged to attend Monday's
board meeting to consider the proposals and give feedback.Also
at this meeting, Barbara Boyce, Director of Pupil Personnel
Services, will present her budget proposal, which includes special
education needs, and the Interim Director of Secondary Education,
Frank Gorleski, will outline his instructional budget.
Highway Superintendent Jimmy Fugel and his crew of thirteen were
on the road plowing and sanding as early as 9am last Monday.
"We worked until 10pm that night," said Fugel. "Being
that the snow stopped, I sent the guys home to let them sleep
a little bit."But after a couple hours of shut-eye, the highway
workers were back on the road at 4am the next morning.
"I think the highway department did a really great job,"
said West Shokan resident Bobbi Schnell, who is the principal
of West Hurley Elementarty school "Everything was fine,"
she said of her drive to work on Tuesday, "and, as usual,
it was a beautiful ride over the reservoir."
Fugel said the department is responsible for plowing 68 miles
of town road, including the firehouse parking lots. There are
seven dump trucks with 10-foot plows and four pickup trucks with
six-foot plows to handle the job, he said.
Three of the dump trucks are manned by two people because they
are equipped with a 6-foot wing plow in addition to the main plow.
"You need another person on board to operate the second plow
which sticks out to the side," Fugel said.Each truck has
a specific "plow run" that takes approximately four
hours to complete. Because the town is so spread out, Fugel said,
some travel a good distance before they actually begin plowing
and sanding. For example, a truck leaving the highway garage on
Watson Hollow Road in West Shokan to plow Olivebridge does not
drops it plow until it reaches Acorn Hill Road.
Likewise, a truck on the Samsonville run begins pushing snow at
Samsonville Mountain Road.
Although some of the runs cross county route 28A, the town is
not responsible for clearing this road, Fugel said, because it
is owned by the City of New York and plowed and maintained by
Each run takes about 4 hours to complete. When it is snowing,
Fugel said, workers will sand intersections and bad hills and
turns while they are plowing. Once the snow has stopped, they
"We plowed for the final time Tuesday morning and then sanded
all of the roads," said Fugel of the President's Day snowstorm
cleanup. "We then went out later in the day to clean up after
the amateurs that leave snow in the road," he said, referring
to those who plow private
driveways and roads and do not take the time to pile the snow
in a safe location.
"If a privateer leaves snow in the road and it causes an
accident, they are liable for it," he said.The highway department
shed is capable of storing 1500 tons of a sand-salt mix consisting
of 20-percent salt. With three heavy snowfalls this season, including
the last which was
one of the worst blizzards to hit the Northeast in seven years,
the shed has already been emptied once this year, Fugel said.
215 tons of the sand-salt mix was used in the cleanup of the President's
Because it is illegal to store the sand-salt mix outside of the
shed, Fugel said the department keeps a very large quantity of
unmixed sand piled in the garage's yard and then buys salt as
it is needed. Workers use a loader to mix the sand and salt together.
So far this year, the department has purchased 410 tons of salt,
almost 7 times as much as the 60 tons it bought last year for
the entire season.
And with the possibility of ice storms in the forecast, they could
even use more. "During an ice storm, we sand the entire road,
from one end to another, and have to make a trip back to the shed
to get more sand before completing a run," Fugel said. "I'd
rather have snow any day."
A resolution offered by Democrat Alan Lomita,
who originally voted in favor of the lease, to reconsider the
approval was made at the legislative meeting, and immediately
tabled by a 25-7 vote, including unanimous support from Republican
ranks, who dominate the body, 23-9. According to parliamentary
procedure, when a resolution is met by a motion to table it,
there is no debate or discussion allowed, only an immediate
up or down vote on whether to table, that is, postpone consideration.However,
a Republican legislator, Glenn Noonan who has been critical
of the decision, said there is considerable uncertainty among
Republicans about the wisdom of the new lease agreement. He
said he and other GOP lawmakers agreed to vote to table the
resolution without debating it publicly only to allow officials
more time to come up with information about points raised by
legislators concerned about the lease.
"There are a lot of questions that nobody
has any answers for," said Noonan "We should have
had these questions answered before we approved the lease [back
in January]. That's common sense. We should have all the answers
before we make a decision."Discussion in the Republican
caucus is not open to the public, but Noonan said had the
motion to reconsider the lease come up for a vote on the floor
of the legislature, "It would have been close," regarding
whether the lease was rescinded. Noonan said among the questions
still unanswered are the actual costs of moving to the new facility,
which would add to the lease cost, already approximately $55,000
more than the annual cost taxpayers currently are paying to
lease two vehicle repair facilities. The new facility must also
be upgraded, but thus far, no one can say how much work it will
require for such items such as new heavy concrete floors sufficient
to handle the weight of truck lifts.
But Noonan also said he is concerned about
safety. He said he has been unable to find out whether the new
facility in West Hurley would be situated on a county road or
a town road, an important matter when it comes to possible projects
to widen the road to accommodate heavy
equipment the county seeks to operate from that location. The
portion of Van Dale Road where the garage would be situated
is a Hurley town road.
It was on January 7 that the Ulster County
legislature narrowly voted, 17-15, to rent a warehouse in West
Hurley from Bernard Smith. The lease, approved at a cost of
$90,876 annually, for five years for a 15,146-square-foot building
at 316 Van Dale Road, more than doubles the $35,600 annual cost
taxpayers are currently paying for two facilities combined,
a vehicle repair shop on Lucas Turnpike in Kingston, and a highway
equipment garage and storage area on Malden Turnpike in Saugerties.
The resolution authorizes the county to lease a 3.5-acre property
currently used as a warehouse and transform it to a facility
for servicing the county's heavy trucks and agency cars.
Supporters of the have said the new facility
offers additional storage room, but critics of the new lease
note that the current facility in Saugerties has some 5.5 acres
around it and is already being used for storage of county materials,
such as eighty foot steel beams for bridge construction work.
Defenders of the move say it is more cost effective to operate
one facility instead of two, but as yet have not produced any
figures to back that contention.
The building is owned by Bernard Smith, a manager
with Reclamation Incorporated, which is owned by Peckham Industries
of White Plains, the company that is one of the county's largest
supplier of highway materials and which is by far the largest
contributor to the Ulster County Republican party, according
to county board of election records examined back to 1999.
"My policy is that if you are not happy
with my work, you don't have to pay me. And never in 19 years
have I not been paid," said York last week during a break
from making target .22 pistol gun barrels for a local gun parts
manufacturer.Located on Krumville Road, York's shop is identified
by a simple "Gunsmith" placard attached to the front
of its building. Inside is a neatly organized small metal machine
shop replete with lathe, drill press milling machine, polishing
wheels and belt sanders. A large wood stove in the corner keeps
the place warm.
"It's a one-man operation," said
York, "and it allows me to make a living doing something
York, who is originally from Long Island, said he has always
been interested in the design and function of guns. After a
stint in the Navy as a gunners mate, he enrolled at the Colorado
School of Trades, a gunsmith school located in Jefferson County,
graduation he did some sub-contracting work in Arizona, moved
around a bit, and eventually settled in Olivebridge having come
to this area to
work at the Gun Parts Corporation in West Hurley. After working
six and a half years as a shop foreman for the company during
the day while running his own business at night, York said the
load "got too much." He made the decision to "break
off" and focus his energies on his own gunsmith trade.
He left the Gun Parts Corporation in good standing, he said,
and still works for the company on occasion as a private contractor.
York said the majority of his work involves
routine maintenance, general repairs and custom work on guns
that already exist. His customers include many local hunters
as well as others within a hundred mile radius who learn of
his handiwork through word of mouth and advertisements in Gun
List magazine. In fact, while interviewing York for this story,
two customers ¯ Ed and his son Mike ¯ came into the
shop having driven 140 miles from Long Island."He's a very
personable fellow," Ed said of York. "We met him during
one of the gun shows. We have another gun that he has already
built us and it is beautiful."
This time, however, the pair had stopped by
to pick up a gun that York had stripped and cleaned and drop
off another that needed a new trigger.
"It was crudded up. All the pistons had to come out and
the spring was crusted and cracked," York told Ed, who
looked over his gun with satisfaction. "We are happy customers,"
While general repair work usually costs around $100, York says
he charges $3500 to design and build a custom gun, something
he does maybe once or twice a year. "It's not a lot considering
that it takes a year to make a gun, over 100 hours of work,
and includes the cost of
materials," he said. "I'm certainly not doing this
to get rich, but it's nice to do what you like."Indeed
York's love for his work is evident in the fine detail and craftsmanship
of the guns that he has made for his personal use. One, a bolt-action
rifle, has a beautifully crafted walnut foreend with a rosewood
tip and diamond inlay and jeweling on the bolt. Another, a 16-gauge
side by side shotgun, shows off his woodwork ng skills with
a beavertail foreend."I use AAA fancy grade or better,"
York said of the wood. "It does not make sense to put all
that labor into something that is not going to be beautiful."
York's shop is open Monday ¯ Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4
p.m. or by appointment. He can be reached at 657-6330.