"It’s a process. We weren’t looking for immediate
results," commented Phillip Mansfield, who has managed
the store on Route 28A with his wife Barbara for the past eventful
15 months. "This is going to take a while. Right now, we’re
focusing on what people would like to see come out of this-
what the community wants- which has to be worked into whatever
business model we put forward."
Speaking on Tuesday, Mansfield was looking ahead to the third
meeting of the newly formed volunteer group examining the possibilities
of a dynamic co-operative formed at the location or elsewhere
in Olive. Set for the following night, the pow-wow has a scheduled
back-up meeting on Saturday for weekenders or others who couldn’t
attend the midweek gathering.
Mansfield said he was encouraged by the caliber and range of
the 10 to 15 most active people at the meetings and others that
have expressed an interest, saying it was fortunate to have
project input from so many different perspectives. Everyone
seems to be interested, he observed, so it comes down to who
wants to be part of the work that has to go into it as an investment
for the long term success of the venture.
Pointing out repeatedly that he and his wife are components
equal to others in the group, Mansfield discussed the numerous
positive developments they have witnessed in the store since
they brought in tables to make the space more accommodating
to those who have since come in to linger and munch as they
sipped coffee with other neighbors. He mentions the convenience
of a central place for people to socialize, conduct business
get-togethers and the popularity of the arts and music aspect
of the atmosphere the Mansfields had begun to develop through
in-store and outback concerts and other activities.
"No matter what, Barbara and I want to stay in West Shokan,
so, even if she and I are doing other things in the year and
a half it takes to get this thing started, we still want to
be part of it," Mansfield said, noting that there was a
finite amount of locations in Olive the project could unfold.
"There are people very attached to this location, understandably
so, and us, as well. There’s an incredible history here
and it is, indeed, the center of the West Shokan community above
and beyond what we might bring to it. The post office is here
and the town offices and (Lester S.) Davis Park are around the
corner and "Skin" Davis and his history with (this
location) are part of that history.
Lester S. Davis, or "Skin" Davis, a larger-than-life
character who ran the store from the 1940s to the 1970s, still
generates lively and colorful stories in Olive lore. In the
1960s, "Skin" Davis ran against "Sonny"
Davis (apparently no relation) for town supervisor, creating
a unique Lester S. Davis, the Republican vs. Lester S. Davis,
the Democrat ballot.
Although it is uncertain how Skin Davis acquired his nickname,
one speculation has it that it came from his days as a cattle
dealer and horse trader with a "skin you alive" approach
to business. Olive town clerk Sylvia Rozzelle remembers a phone
call she received years ago, when a hurricane had knocked out
electrical power in town for almost a week, which suggested
that some saw powers in Davis beyond those of most mortals.
"There was a little old lady that was still alive back
then who called me at home on a Sunday morning and said ‘If
Skin Davis was supervisor, this never would have happened!’,"
Rozzelle laughed. "I’ve always loved that comment."
Davis also "meted out justice" at the store: "When
we heard the stories about how he used to ‘hold court’
here, we thought people were just talking about how he ruled
his store but we found out that, when he was supervisor, he
really would hold court here in terms of judgments and people
needing to work things out- which we thought was very funny,"
Mansfield related. "Many people remember him with great
fondness and the stories we hear are pretty incredible... In
the deepest, darkest winter, he would load up a sled and take
groceries around to people he knew wouldn’t be able to
get out. That kind of ideal would be something nice to keep
alive in whatever this co-op might develop into. This community
has done so much for Barbara and I; our family. We’re
beholden for everything they did for us, financial, mental and
emotional support to hold our hand as we went through everything
with (our son) Killian (who battled serious health problems
earlier this year). It was truly amazing and anything that we
can give back, we certainly want to..."
With Barbara Mansfield’s experience in dealing with not-for-profit
structures and fund-raising, as well as her husband’s
organizational and public relations skills to contribute, the
Mansfields favor turning whatever extra profits may be generated
by the co-op back to the community but their view doesn’t
represent everyone involved. Others, with extensive entrepreneurial
experience or backgrounds with other co-op ventures may express
divergent opinions. That’s what the meetings are all about.
There is also a long lost sense of community that has been rediscovered
in this little corner of Ulster County which speaks to the societal
and democratic ailments addressed in Robert Putnam’s famous
1995 essay "Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social
Capital" about what communities may have lost in a cultural
climate that has driven everyone into social exile in front
of their "home entertainment centers."
"Everyone is aware that we have to approach this thing
pragmatically," Mansfield observes, adding that there’s
no "simple pancreas" to the issues being worked out.
"Last week we were discussing the different opinions and
ideas about keeping it small or envisioning it growing into
a larger thing. One finding that’s very consistent is
the desire to hold on to the cultural elements we’ve created
here and not losing that to build the grocery end or the kitchen
idea or whatever else is introduced. It may end up being refined
in certain directions and everyone hopes this doesn’t
lose stream. I do think there’s a great mix of people
to get it onto the next level but it does take work."
As of press time, no candidates had said they couldn’t
make the Meet The Candidate event.
As in previous years, the event will meet promptly at 10 AM,
with lots drawn to determine the order of the speakers. The
League moderator, Cindy Bell, will make opening remarks and
introduce all candidates and the timekeeper. Then go over the
Candidates will be allowed three minutes each for opening remarks
after which questions will be taken from the audience and edited
by the moderator- Each candidate will be permitted a two minute
response to every question. Questions will be written on index
cards and read by the Moderator, with the candidates answering
in succeeding order, based on the position addressed. If time
allows and the audience is so inclined, verbal questions will
be taken. At the event’s end, each candidate will have
three minutes for closing statements. The Moderator will then
conclude the event.
The last election, the Meet The Candidates event proved a strong
event, with strong turnout.
In previous years, Republican candidates have boycotted the
neighboring Meet the Candidates events in Shandaken after charging
the events were a set-up..
Past moderators have also noted, with some humor, that at least
three quarters of the questions written on index cards in Shandaken
had to be discarded because they were too pointed, repetitive,
or downright rude in nature. They also pointed out that Shandaken
Town Hall was the only venue they’ve run a Meet The Candidate’s
event in where the town insisted on posting a police presence.
They have never had such complaints in Olive
Bell and the League crew will be moderating a similar Meet the
Candidates event in Shandaken on Sunday, October 21 beginning
at 1 PM, for those looking for action with their politics.
Surplus To Help ‘08
Leifeld said the rises in the budget reflect a number of matters.
Salaries are expected to go up an average 4 percent per job,
although there’s currently a move to raise the chief jobs
of supervisor and highway superintendent, as well as board positions,
and town clerk, so as to be high enough to attract “real
talent” once some of the current incumbents start to think
“If I give my job up, with an emphasis on the if,”
Leifeld said, “They, meaning the rest of the board, wants
to be able to find somebody who can do it.”
Other hikes in the tentative budget that the board are wrestling
with include a 94 percent rise in the town’s Elections
line, a rise of 17 percent in the police department reflecting
the hiring of a new full-time cop, and $20,000 for the cleaning
up of properties that have been placed under court order around
Costs at the garage are expected to rise at least 14 percent
because of fuel costs, which Leifeld said “They don’t
even give you an estimate for anymore.” Playground and
Recreation department costs will go up 35 percent for new personnel
with the pool rising another 31 percent to reflect cost overruns
from the past summer.
$2,500 will be set aside for a new senior recreation program.
Workman’s comp will go up 19 percent and hospitalization
an estimated 14 percent.
Is there any wiggle room the board is expecting to work with
at its upcoming workshop?
No, Leifeld said. Other than some of the more public raises
and possibly some shifts in additional personnel.
Expect more after the upcoming workshop meetings…
A preliminary budget needs to be set in the coming weeks before
the election, and approved within weeks of November 6, hopefully
at a meeting on the Thursday following.
To Middle School
a discussion on facilities, ideas from board members were written
on a large sheet of paper and taped to the wall. "Repair
everything-reconsider capital projects," was Rosenfeld's
point for discussion. But school board president Mary Jane Bernholz
stuck by her goal, which was also listed - "Reach a firm
decision for reconfiguration by June 2008 for a bond vote in
The school board voted 4-3 in June 2007 to create a Grade 5-through-8
middle school, though it has not said if it will consider closing
an additional elementary school, which is part of the plan outlined
by KSQ, the architectural firm helping the district determine
Known as "Plan C," the only one of the alternatives
that would create the separate Middle School, it also includes
renovations to district buildings that would cost $32 to $36
million, and allocates an additional $31 to $38 million for
the master reconfiguration plan to a total of $63 to $74 million.
The plan as outlined by the architects would create a grade
5-through-8 middle school and close one elementary school. Currently
the district operates elementary schools in Woodstock, Phoenicia
and on the campus of the current Middle/High School in Boiceville.
But Rosenfeld asked that the board move at a slower pace and
think of repairing the facilities instead of reconfiguring the
whole district. Trustees Cindy O'Connor, Rita Vanacore and Bernholz
disagreed, stating that the buildings need immediate attention.
Vanacore said the buildings were too old to continue putting
"band-aids," on them. The price tag on renovations
only in the district is expected to come near $40 million dollars.
"I am not talking about making a suburban palace,"
said Rosenfeld who suggested they lean toward renovations on
the infrastructure and rethink the master plan.
As an example he suggested that the board first, "Select
a technology program..." But Vanacore yelled over his suggestion.
"We need the wiring first Herb...you can't plug a television
in the wall if you don't have proper wiring. We don't have the
wiring and in order to do that, they are telling us that we
have to rip hallways apart, rip ceilings down, we have to do
a lot of major stuff. This is not repair, this is major, in
order to bring our school up to snuff."
Bernholz asked that they stay on subject and review topic "number
seven," to ask voters to approve a borrowing based on the
Grade 5-through-8 middle school configuration to voters in 2008-2009.
Rosenfeld said the community needs to be involved in the bond
decision and Superintendent Leslie Ford said that it would be
part of the process.
"We haven't done that yet," said Rosenfeld.
"For two years we have!" disagreed O'Connor.
Rosenfeld countered. "But then (during community discussions
in 2006), it wasn't clear what the reconfiguration will be."
Following the school board meeting, in a separate discussion,
Ford outlined the process on the bond proposal. First was the
decision to create a Grade 5-through-8 educational plan, followed
by setting goals, which both have been now completed. Up next,
as decided in the goals, will be strategic planning with public
input, and renovations on a kindergarten-through-twelve plan.
But she explained that the strategic planning was not about
debating the Grade 5-through-8 proposal. "It is not a vehicle
to change the board's decision," said Ford. "The board
Instead, she called the strategic process a "planning tool,"
in the form of a community held event with a facilitator on
how to implement the middle school proposal. The outcome of
this process will result in KSQ architects being commissioned
to create a plan.
The board also discussed a three-to-five year budget goal that
included lowering the cost per student. Bernholz said she would
like to bring the cost in line with other school districts in
the area. Onteora has the highest cost per student in the county,
with other school districts averaging $15,000 to $19,000. Onteora
averages $20,000 per student. But business administrator Victoria
McLaren said she learned at a State Aid workshop that the process
of coming up with a per pupil cost can sometimes can be misleading.
"They take everything into account, everything we spend
money on. They also include in that not just our budget but
all those grants we get for special programs," said McLaren,
"which to me is almost false advertisement, because they
are saying to our taxpayers, this is how much your district
is spending, but that doesn't represent to me what the taxpayers
are spending." Also mixed into the cost per pupil are bonds,
capital projects and tax certiorari.
The board also plans to review enrollment, demographics and
trustee Maxanne Resnick asked for a "qualitative analysis,"
on students who are leaving the district for alternative education.
In May of 2007 the number of home school/private school students
was at 211 with numbers increasing every year. The board would
like to seek out why this trend is happening.
Ford said the board would vote on a completed set of goals by
the next school board meeting on October 9.
It was reported on September 11, that all school buses arrived
at their school destinations on time, but complaints were heard
from parents that this was not true. Four children on variance
from Woodstock elementary school to Phoenicia apparently are
still arriving approximately 20 minutes to one half hour late.
In a phone conversation, transportation director Dave Moraca
said all buses are running on schedule, but when asked specifically
about the shuttle bus and the four children, he referred the
question to Superintendent Leslie Ford.
"We are working on an alternative," said Ford who
conceded it was still a problem, but explained that it was always
an issue in the past with a different group of students, primarily
special education. She said that the district apparently had
fixed the problem with the special education students who arrived
late, but "every time you apply a solution, you have a
different problem." She said that currently the four students
take their district bus to Woodstock Elementary, arriving close
to 9 a.m., then transfer to a shuttle that will take them to
Phoenicia elementary school. The distance between the two schools
makes it impossible to get there on time. As a solution she
said, "Some of the parents are driving to a stop to take
directly to the school." She appreciates that the parents
are working with them to find a solution.
Also, Ford noted that the laws for variance students have changed
and the district is now required to provide transportation.
In the past, the school was not responsible and although the
district worked with parents, ultimately it was the parents'
responsibility to get their kids to the variance schools. Ford
said the district had to rethink all the routes based on this
law. But, she stressed, this does not mean variance students
will be denied the school they are attending.
A Jar Of Olives
I am a bit apprehensive about leaving from JFK and landing at
Heathrow, UK. If a column appears next issue, you can assume
we made it back safely. Remember when air travel was the luxurious
way to go? Now we have to bare stinky feet, be wanded and patted
by strangers and feel violated when some attendant paws through
our underwear in suitcases. Remember when water was not considered
a lethal weapon of mass destruction? Remember when a polite
steward or stewardess actually asked your preferences for a
warm dinner? Now I feel like a cow being herded into one corral
after another as we get “processed” along our journey.
I’ve spent some time visiting people in the hospital this
week. It has made me appreciate my health and good fortune to
enjoy these beautiful fall days. Leaf peepers will be threading
their way up Route 28 to see the glorious sights that we see
everyday. As I walk in the woods with the dogs, I still pick
up the prettiest leaves and add them to a basket of gourds,
nuts and mini-pumpkins. Mother Nature gives us the best she
has for free. All we have to do is take time to appreciate it.
Somehow the sunrises and sunsets intensify this time of year.
Savor those moments.
After being called “old” in The Olive Press by another
candidate, my husband and Bert Leifeld have been taking a lot
of ribbing over their misstated ages. We are getting phone calls
about Miracle Ear, Centrum Silver and Grecian Formula. One person
wanted to buy them “Over-the Hill” tee shirts to
wear to the next meeting. Bruce’s reply is a challenge.
Bruce wants to see the younger candidate run alongside him on
a short five-mile jog along the Reservoir some Sunday. Bruce
is not running for election this year (he has two more years
on his four-year term) for a Town Board seat, so he can confine
his “running” to the outdoor, scenic kind. The only
seats contested this year will be those of incumbents Henry
Rank and Linda Burkhardt. Peter Friedel is the only Republican
nominee who is running for a seat on the Town Board. The top
two vote getters will win the two seats of Town Council. Bert
Leifeld and Ron Wright are unopposed for Supervisor and Town
Justice, respectively. Our legislators: Peter Kraft, Rob Parete
and Rich Parete are also running without opposition.
Age is but a state of mind. That is what I am telling myself
these days. One thing I learned in teaching at Onteora, all
adults forget age when they pull together to a common goal.
I had six of my former students join me as colleagues in teaching.
That generation gap only applies to teen-age fashion and style.
The fundamentals of adult living remain the same. We all want
what is best for our families and neighbors.
I hope everyone has applied for the star tax rebate check. If
you are a senior and receive enhanced star discount on your
school taxes, your rebate check should have already been sent
to you. You need to apply for the regular star rebate that is
available to all homeowners regardless of income. A form should
have been sent to you from the State; if not, follow up. You
can go online (www.tax.state.ny.us/Star/2007) and actually see
how much your rebate will be. Homeowners have to apply for Star
tax relief. You must apply (Get forms at the Assessor’s
Office in the Town Offices in West Shokan) before March for
the school tax relief on 2008 taxes.