The Olive Vault
"You don't have that today," said town clerk Sylvia
Rozzelle, pointing to the paltry 1.5 cubic feet of records dating
from 1985 to 1994 in comparison.
Since early Spring, Rozzelle and part-time court clerk Brenda
Van Leuvan have been going through over a hundred years of Olive
court records in an effort to inventory what exists, purge what
no longer is necessary to keep, and establish a system to make
the retention and disposition of court records an easy process
"The solution to records management is not buying more
filing cabinets," said Rozzelle, "it's managing those
you have."According to New York state law, all municipal
court dockets must be kept permanently, but some of the case
files associated with the dockets can be destroyed once they
reach a certain age. The retention schedule for these case files,
however, varies with the type of the crime committed. Misdemeanors,
for example, can be destroyed after 10 years, while felony and
DWI files must be kept forever by the town.
"We are still learning as we go," said court clerk
Dawn Giuditta who is now color coding the new court case files
by crime type to make future administration easier. "When
we come across something that we are not sure of, we call the
state."To date Rozzelle and Van Leuvan have singled out
about 30 cubic feet of case files for destruction, but the going
has not been easy. For starters, the records are stored in the
attic of the town offices, which, Rozzelle says, is covered
in "50 years of black soot." And, because the retention
schedule varies with the crime, the inventory work requires
Rozzelle and Van Leuvan to open each file individually.
"It's not as easy as disposing of a box of vouchers that
are six years old," said Rozzelle, who also manages all
of the town's other records. "You have to go through each
file for a particular year and find out its disposition."
Giuditta's color-coding work, she said, will eliminate this
tedious task in the future.Rozzelle estimates 2 years of part-time
work in the Spring and Fall months - the attic gets unbearably
hot in the summer and too cold in the Winter - to get through
all of the court records which date back to 1854. And she expects
the program to be working efficiently in a totalof 5 years.
In addition to color coding the case files, Rozzelle has plans
to microfilm the dockets which are in both loose-leaf and book
form, depending on the year. She is also researching companies
that exist forthe sole purpose of disposing municipal documents
and certifying them as destroyed."The highway department
has been helpful in the past with burning documents," she
said, "but these are sensitive records, so we need to be
Praying for whom?
The federally-mandated resolution to protect
the right to pray was dealt with at the brief Onteora School
Board meeting on May 12. While prayer cannot be legally instituted
by a teacher in or out of the classroom, this resolution defends
the students' right to pray or take part in religious study
during their free time at school.
Under the resolution schools are required to
both state that they have no policy to the contrary, and to
nullify any existing policy which might suppress prayer. The
subject of school prayer in its various manifestations has inevitably
issues of separation of church and state.
School districts that are not in accordance
with the resolution risk losing their federal funding. According
to the Associated Press, 42 states hadacknowledged that all
of their schools would or already do follow the guidelines outlined
in resolution as of Friday, May 9. New York, Arizona, California,
Illinois and Ohio had a combined 150 to 200 school districts
which had not yet complied or reported their compliance. Those
districts, well aware of the threat of losing money, were expected
to report their compliance shortly.
At the meeting on Monday, May 12, the Onteora School Board unanimously
approved the resolution. The right to pray at school had already
fallen under constitutional protection. The right was apparently
singled out for further resolution on a nationwide level to
clarify certain items and to confirm that prayer is not in fact
being prevented or discouraged.
Certain intricacies do exist in the issue,
and the mandate further ensures that schools will deal with
each scenario appropriately. For instance according to the US
Department of Education Guidelines on the matter, schools may
not commission speakers for commencement who have intent to
proselytize or speak in a way which encourages prayer, and if
such context arises the school must provide a neutral disclaimer.
However if a school holds a moment of silence during the course
of its day, it may neither discourage nor encourage prayer during
that time. Onteora Board Member Neil Eisenberg noted that in
Onteora's case the resolution is really an affirmation of the
school's policy rather than a change: "Some schools have
ambiguous policies, ours isn't one of them." The importance
of passing this resolution for reasons of legality and funding
is undeniable. But is the issue of right to prayer one which
the students are aware of or feel is important?
"In the course of my two years at Onteora, I never noticed
kids who seemed as though they would take advantage of that
right." says Natalie Parker, a former Onteora student who
is now a senior at Poughkeepsie Day School. Elizabeth Thomas,
a current Onteora junior, says the issue hasn't really come
up in her experience. "I do, though, agree with the bumper
sticker that says that as long as there are tests at school,
there will be students praying" she jokes.
Growing up in Nyack NY along the Hudson, Alworth
began coming to our area pretty much from the time he was born.
"My parents had built a small cabin on Red Hill in the
town of Denning. We were here every weekend, all year long for
as far back as I can remember. It was that place and the Catskills
that molded me into who I am today."
An avid birder and flyfisherman, Tom's attachment to the forest
lead him to study first biology as an undergraduate at SUNY
Potsdam, and later zoology where he completed a master's degree
at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. His professional
career began at the Bronx
Zoo where he worked as an educator for three years, followed
by a seven year stint at The Huyck Preserve and Biological Research
Station in Rensselaerville NY, a leading ecological research
site. His first publicly high-profile position was as Executive
Director of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst
MA, a community based environmental education organization.
That's where the Catskill Center found him last spring, and
offered the chance to come back and work on behalf of the region
where his heart's always been. Tom jumped at it, and he and
his wife, actress Sandra Bargeman, moved to Phoenicia. The job
Alworth stepped into 13 months ago has been an intensive immersion
for him into the politics of land use, economic development,
and regional public policy making.
"We are a bridge" says Alworth, "between
community development and natural resource protection. The Center's
founders were visionaries in that they recognized more than
30 years ago the need for this balanced approach in the Catskills.
That's what we do here, and it's not easy. But we go about it
through four program areas; Community Planning and Development
where we work with local communities to help them develop a
strategic vision for their future, Resource Conservation including
our work as a land trust - we currently manage several thousand
acres including the proposed Catskill Interpretive Center site
in Mt. Tremper and the Platte Clove Preserve in Greene County.
We also have an education program which includes an interdisciplinary
curriculum we've developed for middle and high school students
called The Catskills, a Sense of Place. Finally, we run a number
of cultural programs including ongoing
lectures and exhibitions here at the Erpf Gallery at our offices
Lined up on the mantle in Alworth's own spacious office is a
complete collection of the works of naturalist John Burroughs.
A native of Roxbury who spent his formative years teaching near
Olivebridge, Burroughs was one of Alworth's early inspirations."Burrough's
work" says Alworth, "was in many ways a forerunner
to the work we're doing here at the Catskill Center. His friends
included people like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone,
leading industrialists and business people of his day. They
came to Slabsides to learn about the forest and about nature
from him. Even in his own day Burroughs took a lot of criticism
for those relationships, but he believed in the importance of
dialogue, and for me that's why such criticism seems hollow.
You have to be willing to talk".
Alworth stops for a moment: "And in this job, you have
to be willing to read… a lot. Because there's a lot to
learn. That's part of what I like about it" Founded in
1969 by Olive's own Sherret Chase, The Catskill Center for Conservation
and Development has a core staff of about a dozen people and
an annual operating budget of $550,000. Although the organization
doesn't seek to place itself at the center of hot-button regional
issues, sometimes it's inevitable, as with the first issue Tom
inherited with his job last summer, cell towers.
"Nobody wants to look at cell towers" says Alworth,
"but we all recognize they are critical to successful business
growth, as well as for emergency services. What we want to see
is a wise development strategy for the design and placement
of towers, so that we have the most effective communications
possible with the least visual impact. But we want to see it
done in a coherent and fully planned way, so that what we end
up with is really in the best interests of the community."
While Alworth doesn't purport to know the answers to all the
questions that arise as part of his job, he does believe it's
part of his job to ask them. As signatories to the 1997 Memorandum
of Understanding between NYC and the Watershed communities,
The Catskill Center has, according to Alworth, "a direct
responsibility to help insure both the protection of water resources
and sustainable community development throughout the region."
But not every issue that the Center's involved with is controversial;
most in fact aren't. A case in point is its backing for the
current resurgence of interest in building a visitor and interpretive
center at the Mt.Tremper site it currently leases to DEC, a
drive in fact spearheaded by the Center's own President Emeritus
"We live in the second largest park in the State of New
York" says Alworth. "and it's astonishing we still
don't have an interpretive center to help educate the public
about the Catskills."
Education has always been one of the Catskill Center's primary
missions, and Alworth doesn't see that changing. At the same
time, its role both regionally and in terms of helping local
communities with their own long-term planning processes seems
likely to grow. The Center's new Chairman of the Board, Claude
Shostal is one of the country's leading authorities on regional
and community planning.
"The work we're doing is tremendously challenging"
says Alworth. "But it's a labor of love, trying to insure
that the Catskills are the best place they can be. We need to
remember that all of us have a lot more in common than we have
differences, in terms of what we want to see for the future.
We want to protect the integrity of the forests and the streams.
We want vibrant, economically healthy communities with affordable
housing and good job opportunities. The challenge is how do
we bring all the parties together so that we can make this happen,
and that takes leadership. At the Catskill Center we accept
that challenge and we'll continue to work hard to find equitable
solutions to our region's complex issues."
Intersections, where department workers sand
the heaviest and cars move the slowest, are the obvious clean-up
spots, but areas where there isn't much traffic to blow the
sand off the roads present a problem as well."We have been
removing sand from the shoulders of dead end roads in Moonhaw,"
Fugel said, as an example. A good old-fashioned sweeping does
the trick, except in areas where thereis a lot of build-up.
In those cases, Fugel said, highway workers scoop the sand up
with a "Badger," which he described as a rubber-tire
Spring clean-up plans also include going back and fixing up
the approximate 10 roadside ditches dug by highway department
workers during the Winter months in an effort to stop water
from pooling and freezing on particular roads."Water runs
strange sometimes and bleeds out and causes an ice problem on
the roads," Fugel said. "We do whatever it takes to
fix it in the Winter and then we go back in the Spring and dress
With the ground no longer frozen, Fugel explained, highway workers
can smooth out the ditching, make it deeper where necessary,
and then seed the area to make it look nicer."We are just
about caught up with the fixes," Fugel said. Once the Winter's
aftermath is dealt with, highway workers can begin to tackle
some of the projects that are meant to be done this time of
year, such as paving the Davis Park parking lot and walkways
¯ a project paid for by an $11,000 member item obtained
from Senator John J. Bonacic lastyear - and fixing the guardrails
along Coldbrook Road in Boiceville and Sheldon Hill Road in
"Cars have the tendency to run into the end of guardrails,"
Fugel said, "so we are trying to tie the sections of guardrails
together so that they have one end in the beginning and one
end in the end." Fugel also said that by tucking the first
and last sections of a strip of guardrails behind a natural
barrier, rather than bending the ends down and covering them
in dirt like the state and county highway departments do, makes
it safer for cars."In my personal opinion, burying the
ends in the ground makes a launching ramp which can send a car
airborne. I prefer to tuck it behind a tree and get it out of
the way," he said.