Follow Up on the
But when a reporter
walked in to the usually media-free session, Supervisor
Bert Leifeld threw up his hands and shook his head in amazement.
“Oh great. You heard about it too?” he asked.
After getting a shrug and headshake indicating no, Leifeld
“Why else would you be here?”
By now the other board members were curious.
“What are you talking about Bert?” said Deputy
Supervisor Bruce LaMonda, looking genuinely unawares.
Turns out, according to Leifeld, there’s a rumor going
around that he’s quitting.
“Oh that.” Said Republican Councilman Peter
Freidel, immediately relaxing. “I heard that one six
Leifeld said reporters had been calling him asking him to
confirm word that he resigning at the end of the year and
that plans were in place to name LaMonda Supervisor.
LaMonda, who gave Leifeld a friendly push when Leifeld said
“you’ll never be supervisor,” added that
the other part of the rumor was that it was a plot to appoint
fellow Democrat Linda Burkhardt back on the Board. Burkhardt,
who like LaMonda and Leifeld is a Democrat, lost re-election
two years ago to Freidel.
LaMonda, peering over at Freidel, quipped that the rumor
was perhaps being spread by “the other side.”
“What other side?” Freidel said, poking fun
at his own party’s historic lackluster scramble to
get noticed in this town long held by Democrats.
Voting records from the past election, however, show a growing
shift to the right for the town, with growing GOP and Conservative
numbers... at least in the last election.
And what about the rumor itself? Is any of it true?
“It’s bullshit,” Leifeld said.
Leifeld is now in his 70s and Lamonda not far behind. Both
men have been on the board close to two decades.
On to other business, the board members talked about a proposal
from JNS Towers, a company that wants to erect a Wireless
Communication tower somewhere on town owned land.
With no specific site in mind, JNS is asking the Board to
agree to terms that seem steep.
“They want to keep 50% of the revenue,” said
Board member Helen Chase.
JNS was in discussions with Olive earlier this year, before
Masterpage Inc. had its tower on South Mountain operational.
With the Masterpage Tower now working the board appears
to have little interest in what JNS has to offer.
“If it (a JNS tower) doesn’t expand coverage
why bother?” LaMonda said. It was noted that Olive
already has pretty good coverage with the exception of the
The board also talked about taking a look at Olive’s
zoning laws. LaMonda, a surveyor by trade, said people in
town are avoiding the sub-division process by making “lot
line adjustments.” Such adjustment is meant for slightly
shifting a property line to allow a neighbor more room for
a new garage or drive or some such property improvement,
but LaMonda said it is getting out of hand.
“Some of these adjustments are three or four acres,”
he said, adding that adjustments that size often create
a new building lot.
Freidel said he felt much of the zoning law was out of date.
“Some places have 10 acre zoning and it just shouldn’t
be 10 acres,” he said.
Lastly, Leifeld said the board was expected to award bids
for the Boiceville sewer project on Tuesday.
“Once we do there’s no turning back,”
In The Limelight
Gitter gave the trustees the same presentation that his team
of lawyers, architects and engineers have been giving since
September 2007, when he announced a new plan for his project,
which has been under review for almost a decade.
That plan was first announced at a KIngston press conference
alongside former governor Eliot Spitzer, and has become known
as the Agreement in Principle or, by Gitter’s supporters,
as “The Compromise.” It has been awaiting a new
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement from Gitter’s
development company, Crossroads Ventures, but according to State
Senator John Bonacic, is on hold until a lawsuit brought against
the state by the Sierra Club is settled before further action.
While Gitter, a Harvard Business Grad and former actor/entertainer
turned developer who is now in his 70s, looked well, his presentation
was rather somber, lacking the pizzazz and passion that characterized
previous public pitches made by a man who was nicknamed the
PT Barnum of the Catskills due to his ability to engage listeners
and excite followers about his plans.
On Tuesday in the Skene Memorial Library where the meeting was
held, the Trustees stared blankly as Gitter, known for his usually
flamboyant and freewheeling presentations, quietly read aloud
a statement from a yellow legal pad touting what he feels are
the virtues of the project.
“We’re not strangers, we’re neighbors,”
Gitter said after running down the list of those involved with
Pointing to current economic difficulties that plague the region’s
tourist industry, Gitter said his resort is designed to overcome
the weekend-only mentality that pervades the region.
“You cannot run a business three days a week,” he
said, adding that his resort would go after mid-week corporate
Echoing previous remarks from the Crossorads team, Gitter told
the Fleischmanns listeners that 85% of the project was in the
Margaretville school district, representing $828,000 extra dollars
per year once the project is built.
He also said that Fleischmanns would become a major “retail,
dining and entertainment center,” if the project comes
He previously used similar arguments in meetings on the Shandaken
side of the mountain.
At the end of the 15 minute spiel, Gitter thanked the board
for their time and sat down alongside his entourage, which included
project partner and Fleischmanns native son Ken Pasternak, Project
Attorney Dan Ruzow, spokesperson Joan Lawrence Bauer, and project
consultant Gary Gailes.
Without missing a beat the trustees moved to the next matter
on the agenda.
Calling for a “point of order,” Gitter stood up
and asked the board if they had any questions for the team about
“Otherwise we’ll just go home,” he added.
“Not at this time,” was the response.
In recent weeks, much of the discussion regarding Gitter’s
proposed resort has been sidelined by concerns regarding cuts
to the state budget that will effect the state Department of
Environmental Conservation-run Belleayre Mountain Ski Center,
to which the resort would be connected, as well as worries that
capital funds from the state for land purchases and other elements
of the compromise AIP have been jeopardized by the state’s
At the same time, questions are proliferating regarding the
effect of credit market problems on Gitter’s financing.
In years past, the developer has tended to announce major advancements
for his project during the holiday season.
We’ll put aside for a future moment the colossal coup
which occurred behind the taxpayer bailouts of this year and
all of the underplayed political implications associated with
them to take a quick gander at the fallout from the bailouts.
As we await the final sorting out of the New York State budget,
Michael Berg, Director of Family of Woodstock, expresses apprehension
about what the figures will mean to his organization.
“Our greatest danger is in the cuts that are going to
come from the state in the 2009-2010 budget,” said Berg
as he assessed the growing influence of the Wall Street meltdowns
on the local economy. “If they’re going to have
to cut out those billions, it’s going to have a huge impact
on us and our ability to respond to the needs of our community
at a time when those needs are going to be greater.”
Family’s ability to address human problems in Ulster County
is funded by individuals and groups like the Ulster Savings
Foundation and the Mary K. Cosmetics Foundation but, as Berg
breaks it down; “(t)he bulk of our funding comes from
states and federal monies. We fund-raise a substantial amount,
about 12 or 13% of our overall budget, and we also get money
from United Way, for which we’re very grateful, and we
get some from local governments. A very small piece of our income
is from program service fees. Very few of our programs charge
any fees at all.”
As cities and communities across the country report an alarming
rise in hunger and homelessness, states like New York and California,
which have been heavily invested in the securities markets,
are expected to be hit hardest as the next forecasted stage
of the meltdown arrives in the form of commercial real estate
collapses. As malls close and critical sales tax revenues fall,
it is anticipated that some downward burden-shifting will occur
from federal and state assignments to county and town budgets.
Meanwhile, supplies at food pantries across the nation were
at unprecedented lows for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“What we’re seeing (at Family) is a lot more people
utilizing our food pantries and a lot of people coming in who
have never been in before-people that are working and still
can’t put food on their table and make their ends meet,”
observed Berg, who has been involved in Family since its inception
38 years ago. “We’re also seeing people that came
in and said ‘I have no money to buy school clothes for
children. We never had that before.”
Hunger, concern for the well being of their children and sheer
financial desperation work like an acid on the pride of families
in times of economic crisis and organizations like Family are
often the first line of defense against hard times. They can
see a tide rising from poverty-level residents upwards.
“I think a greater percentage of the community is financially
distressed and people are being forced to make very difficult
choices about whether they pay their heat, whether they pay
their rent, whether they fix their car, whether they can take
care of their child’s co-pay for medication,” Berg
said. “It’s an either/or (situation). It’s
not that I can do all those things as I may have at one time
been able to.”
Although he hasn’t seen the homeless numbers spurt significantly
upwards yet, Berg said Family expected to see a rise as winter
“Right now, it’s at about the level it’s been-which
is high, don’t misunderstand this,” he said. “The
last I heard, there were 55 families in motels and our six sheltering
programs are pretty much full, so the numbers are up but they’re
been up for a long time. The heart of the issue is we haven’t
built affordable family housing in this county, with the exception
of 80 units in Kingston, in the last 20 years... We have made
a dent in creating housing for seniors and there are less seniors
under the poverty level than 10 years ago but the same is not
true for families.
“The gauge for rental housing is a study done by the county’s
planning department that estimates the county’s vacancy
rate,” Berg continued. “A healthy community will
have a vacancy rate of 5%, meaning that at any given time 5%
of the apartments are empty and, therefore, you have someplace
to go when you need a bigger apartment. If you want a different
apartment, you have some chance of finding one but, over the
last 5 years in our county, the vacancy rate has varied from
1% to 1.6%, so people needing to move don’t have a place
to go. Also, because of the tremendous increase in the cost
of housing, more people are not able to afford to buy houses
and, therefore, the pressure on rental housing is even greater
because there are more people looking to rent than before.”
As recent Congressional hearings have demonstrated, there’s
been a growth industry in Harassment Professionals at collection
agencies greeting folks by their first name on home answering
machines but the downturn, otherwise, continues to look steeper
by the week as the Wall Street wizards who dug the seemingly
bottomless financial pit in the first place are staying on to
maintain it. Excuse me, I meant fix it. But let’s save
analysis of what has happened and is happening in the world
marketplace until after budget figures are handed down from
the clouds in Albany.
In the meantime, Michael Berg is grateful that the bottom hasn’t
dropped out of donations to Family as they try to cope with
human emergency in Ulster County.
“We don’t know what our annual solicitation will
bring,” Berg said. “This year we’re hoping
to raise about $500,000. We’re told that people are struggling
and we’re worried about it but we also have faith in the
support we have in the community.”
Open 24/7, as they say, there’s someone there to answer
the phone at all times and, as Berg suggests, if Family isn’t
able to help, they’ll most likely know of all of the resources
which are available to those in domestic difficulty and “We’ll
certainly try our best to help.”
So, if you’re in need, as Michael Berg advises, “Call
Bolner said, “The department of health did issue a letter,
making a recommendation that the existing hydro-pneumatic tank,
which is 1950 vintage, be considered for replacement.”
The reason cited was for both health and safety. Additionally
it will cost the district less than $100 a month of sodium hypochlorite
as part of system maintenance.
Bolner said the approval process would be lengthy, but was confident
the County and DEP would approve the board’s decision.
He projected summer as the closest date for installation when
the school would need to be completely closed for approximately
School board president Ralph Legnini said, “I would like
to thank everyone involved in this and I would like to tell
the district and the students that it is unfortunate what happened
to the water, it’s no one’s fault; it’s the
well and we will be fixing it.”
All six board members present approved the resolution; trustee
Michelle Friedel was absent due to illness.
In other business, Gary Mulligan, owner of Mulligan Bus Company,
explained to the board that he sold his business effective January
1, 2009. Birnie Bus services of Utica, New York will be taking
over the Onteora contract, but Mulligan said that there were,
“no plans to change staff or drivers.” He will remain
with the company until the end of the school year in order for
it to be a smooth transition.
Trustee Donna Flayhan was angered by the change, noting that
the decision should be up to voters since voters rejected the
original proposal in 2006. The school board in 2006 reduced
the number of bus contractors from four to one. Voters rejected
giving a three-year contract to one company. Instead, a one-year
contract was won by Hoyt Bus Company but eventually sold to
“I think we need to get a referendum on the ballot in
the spring to see if the people in the district want to stick
with a single contractor,” Flayhan said.
Superintendent Leslie Ford said that Birnie Bus Service is the
18th largest bus contractor in the United States and they will
be working with a regional manager, Eric Taylor. The company
owns 800 buses and has been in business for 61 years. Mulligan
said Birnie would be purchasing their buses.
The school board has also begun early budget talks with Ford
stressing that the coming fiscal year is going to be very difficult.
She projects possible $1 million or more of budget cuts in order
to present a responsible budget that voters will be able to
digest. She gave the board a long list of non-mandated programs
potentially headed for the cutting block.
The board asked for additional information before seriously
looking at the list, with an additional meeting requested specifically
for budget information.
Suggested cuts include substantial layoffs, including a core
Middle School teaching team, the Middle School nurse and teaching
assistants. Other areas of cutbacks include special education,
athletic teams, field trips and increasing class size. Trustee
Richard Wolff said the board should also consider consolidating
Ford said that in 2008 the board returned a tax certiorari savings
to the taxpayers, therefore providing very little tax increase
even with a three percent plus budget increase.
“The give back didn’t show an increase on their
tax return and that was a nice moment in time, but this year
it will show up,” she said, explaining that this budget
season would already have a rollover of a three percent increase.
With projected state reductions, the district budget could increase
substantially higher, Ford noted.
“You’re already starting budget building three percent
up,” she said. “I mean, where do you want to land?”
Ford asked the board to give she and other administration staffers
an idea on what kind of budget they would like to present to
Legnini noted that cuts in personnel means, “Someone is
losing their job.” He asked the board to be educated on
their decisions since it will affect people’s lives.
At Onteora’s last board meeting on the afternoon of November
19, a full house of approximately 200 students filled the high
school auditorium to hear board proceedings and allow trustees
a chance to hear student concerns.
Student representative William Melvin said students were concerned
about their school environment. Students spoke about the water
quality problems at the high school and requested an update
to resolving it. They questioned priority given to funding for
lockers when money is needed to improve educational equipment
for science labs. They also asked why a Spanish club has not
been approved when the school has a German and French club,
why there was no salad bar, no open campus, no high school senior
lounge and voiced complaints about racist and homophobic graffiti
in the bathrooms.
Board President Legnini asked Superintendent Ford to categorize
the questions and comments so they can work on answers with
solutions. Social Studies teacher John Iannotti helped to organize
the meeting, so students can get an idea how a government elected
by it’s local citizens can impact their everyday lives.
Legnini said he wants to provide more opportunities for students
to participate with hopes of having future meetings during school
hours. He noted that they moved school board meetings to 6pm
instead of 7pm with the goal of attracting students at an earlier
Jar Of Olives...
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
Santa must have GPS because he makes it to the Town of Olive
without Rudolf and his reindeer. Luckily, he has contacts here
that will lend him fire trucks and police cars. He’ll
make his first appearance at the Town of Olive Tree Lighting
Ceremony at the Town Meeting Hall on Bostock Road in Shokan
at 7 p.m. There will be cookies to decorate, ornaments to create,
and songs to sing. This is a family night to inspire that spirit
After a good night’s sleep, Santa and his elf will be
at the Breakfast with Santa at the Boiceville Inn. Children
under twelve have breakfast free and will receive a present
from Santa and a free photo to remember this precious moment.
Breakfast will cost $5.00 for those older than twelve.
The next weekend, Santa arrives by fire truck to the Shokan
Fire House on December 13. There will be a potluck supper starting
at 5:30, and Santa is expected to arrive at 6:30. Because this
is such a difficult year for some, guests are asked to donate
non-perishable items for the food pantry at the Olivebridge
The Olive Free Library has its Christmas Fair on Saturday, December
13 in West Shokan. Sandy Friedel will present her handmade American
Girl Doll clothes and many other craftspeople will be selling
their gifts made with heart and hands.
The senior art club will be having a holiday party during their
last session, December 15, of this semester. Students will bring
a potluck snack and a re-gift. The re-gift has become the reality
of the season. The concept is a good one. Pass it on. Give it
to someone who needs or appreciates it.
The original re-gift was the much-maligned fruitcake. The urban
legend is that there is only really one fruitcake; it just gets
passed around the world from person to person. In truth, I love
fruitcake, especially if it is loaded with fruit, nuts and brandy.
Eddie Kahill’s brother Richard has supposedly inherited
the special fruitcake recipe made famous by parents Richard
and Blanche Kahill who owned the Rainbow Lodge in Mount Tremper.
They operated a thriving mail order business in the fifties
and sixties selling fruitcakes in tins etched with the scene
of the lodge. Does anyone out there have one?
There is something awesome when you look at a calendar and realize
that on December 21 winter begins, on December 22 Hanukkah begins,
and on December 25 and 26 Christmas and Kwanzaa is celebrated.
On this year’s calendar all these events fall and overlap
in one horizontal line in less than a week. What a week it will
be. Maybe the serendipitous timely schedule of our religious,
ethnic, scientific and cultural holidays will remind us that
we all recognize that human need to celebrate our commonalities
and share our gifts and traditions with others.
Rejoice! Revive traditions! Re-Gift! And, yes, Dana Noel, my
sweet granddaughter who was born on Christmas Day eleven years
ago, “There is a Santa Claus.”