Follow Up on the
Town That Just Says No
The County feels that the more co-applicants they have,
the better their chances are in obtaining grant monies.
There is no financial obligation for being a co-applicant;
however, if the monies were received by the county, and
a town were to benefit from the funds, there would be a
Discussion centered on how these funds could be used for
salt shed construction, equipment, or any manner of other
"highway related" uses. Currently, the county
is discussing possible ways towns might take over some highway
services, such as snow plowing. But it became obvious there
did not seem to be anything concrete that this grant funding
is being specified for.
Supervisor Leifeld asked if a town did not sign on as a
co-applicant at this time, would they be prohibited from
joining in later. Martello replied that in other instances,
the county has not turned a town away for not participating
from the beginning in a project. A question came up about
administration of the grant, to which Martello replied that
each of the towns involved would be a part of the group
that would administer the funds and determine how they will
Council member LaMonda garnered a smattering of audience
applause when he suggested that if the county were looking
for ways to cut expenses, perhaps they should start cutting
from the top down - rather than from the bottom up. If services
were to be shared, it was apparent that employees were going
to be affected. Was the town going to be hiring displaced
LaMonda also asked the rather pointed question as to why
the county was offering to hand over certain county roads
to the Town of Olive, but retaining the rather lucrative
contract for New York City-owned Route 28A. Martello only
responded that all of the current discussions concerning
the Shared Highway Services were still very much negotiable
and nothing final had been determined.
Several county employees were present after having attended
a Union Meeting concerning some of these issues. Rumors
have indicated that 66 County employees will be losing their
positions - some by attrition, early retirement or lay offs.
Leifeld asked about the per-mile price being put on the
county road takeover, to which Martello replied that the
price used was an average of what is being paid across the
state, but the number was not set in stone - and was still
very much open to negotiation. It was also noted that Olive,
Shandaken and Woodstock were never consulted in the original
Council Member Burkhardt indicated the resolution left her
feeling as though the town would, if it agreed to be a co-applicant,
be buying a pig in a poke. Council Member Friedel suggested
Martello should come back to the towns with more specific
projects in mind.
Martello stated that the county is hoping that each town
will keep an open mind and not pass judgment until the process
is complete. Leifeld thanked Mr. Martello for coming and
presenting all the information. He said he appreciated the
County's intent to open lines of communication, but didn't
see how it was going to work - at least not for the Town
Later, a roll call vote resulted in a unanimous NO vote
to the county's request.
The Board then went on to approve the adoption of new Park
Fees, which will be posted at Town Hall and hopefully on
Also okayed was a Climate Smart Community Pledge that would
allow the town to install solar panels at the town highway
garage, as well as a the purchase of an International Plow
Truck to replace two trucks over 25 years old that no longer
meet DOT inspections.
Review of Building Department and Landfill Fees will be
on next months agenda.
a recent Town Board meeting, elected council members approved
Helene Grant for another term on the Planning Board, to
expire in 2016. If a sitting member is interested in staying
on the board, it has become usual for the Town Board to
approve that decision (though not always, and ever-more-rarely
in neighboring Shandaken). Otherwise, the Town Board advertises
the position (through local papers and word of mouth) and
an interview is conducted with each of the interested parties.
All planning board members serve at the pleasure of the
I spoke with Drew Boggess, Planning Board Chairman, before
I started attending the entity's meetings recently, in an
attempt to put him and the other members at ease about our
presence. We want to relay what is happening in town to
the residents of the town. They aren't doing anything wrong
, we just want to be the eyes and ears of those who might
be interested, but who can't otherwise attend. We record
the meetings so that we have accurate information from which
The Board meets the first and third Tuesday of each month
at the Town Meeting Hall in Shokan, beginning at 7:30 PM.
Rarely are meetings canceled - but snow storms have had
their typical adverse affects. I used to attend these meetings
years ago, and then chairman, Skip (Charles) Weidner would
call potential attendees to let me know if they were not
meeting. Mr. Boggess did not have a problem extending the
same courtesy, but he warned that it doesn't happen often.
Current Olive Planning Board Board members, and their term
termnination dates, include: Edwin Maldonado (2010), Andrew
(Drew) Boggess (2011), James Konjas (2012), Robert Tischler
(2013), David Sorbellini (2014), David Jones (2015), and
Helene Grant (2016).
There are few spectators at planning board meetings, except
when folks are coming before the board for projects or guidance
in what they would like to do. It is a common misconception
among some that the planning board "plans" for
the town. Actually, the duty of the planning board is to
apply the Town of Olive Laws already in effect to those
who would like to open a business, subdivide a parcel of
land, or change the business being conducted on the land
they currently are working from. As each project comes before
the board, it is the duty of the members to ensure that
all manner of set backs, building heights, size, allowed
businesses, etc. are adhered to according to our current
rules. They also send plans to the County Planning Board
for review. The County returns plans with recommendations
and suggestions which can be implemented - but which are
During the long winter months, the Planning Board might
seem less busy simply because there are fewer projects getting
started this time of year. Right now, the board has been
working with the Ashokan Center and the Ashokan Foundation
in developing their new building layout and features for
the old Ashokan Campus, now that the waste channel has been
opened by NYC DEP. Waters are flooding a portion of the
lands they once used, and it had been agreed that in giving
up these lands for the purpose of preventing excessive flooding,
the buildings were to be replenished.
We've been given an invitation to visit with the project
leaders, whom we've met at the Planning Board Meetings.
We are excited to get a more complete picture about what
they are planning to do in the coming months - and even
more excited to bring this and other project details back
to these pages, and to all of you.
To dramatize the point a bit, suppose you made an agreement
with a day care center to take your toddlers from eight
in the morning to noon but the contract you signed left
out the part about picking them up. Do they get to keep
the kids? That would be analogous to the way Blumstein presents
the Large Parcel Law (LPL) in his 36 page case Blumstein
v. Paterson, et al , which also includes another 22 pages
of documents and appendices.
the tale is told in the words of the creators of the law,”
Blumstein observed, putting emphasis on a line which appeared
in the Sponsor’s Memo which introduced the bill to
the state legislature, spelling out its purpose to the legislators
who would be voting on it, and in a descriptive letter explaining
the law to the Governor’s office. The all important
line included in the memo but missing in the law was “Procedures
are optional and can only be used if all effected municipalities
opt to use the large parcel equalization process.”
that provision, Blumstein asserts, the LPL violates at least
17 other laws, senate rules and portions of the state constitution,
including a vital Home Rule code of municipal rights within
that constitution. As illustration of senate rule violation,
the suit highlights two portions of Section VI of Rules
of the Senate which deal with the integrity and timing of
how new legislation is introduced. Leaving out that crucial
sentence, he adds, invalidates it as law by inserting an
adversarial component that involves a question of equity
under the law which must, by law, be determined in a judicial
venue rather than by legislative or executive decree.
his motivation for this legal offensive came from the apprehensions
of neighbors each year when the annual Large Parcel option
was being considered by Ulster County legislators and the
Onteora school board, Blumstein said that, in the current
economic situation, tax increases are “already baked
into the cake” and that the addition of a 20 or 30%
Large Parcel tax increase on top of that would be a crushing
blow , especially to fixed-income residents of the effected
“Two years ago, there was a tie-vote at the county
level on their LPL option because three legislators were
absent,” Blumstein said. “So because of a few
absentees, we had a huge tax hike looming over us and my
neighbors were extremely worried. I’m hoping that,
by Wednesday, I’ll have letters of support from the
Olive town board and other effected towns (Andes, Warwarsing,
Hurley, Neversink), which represent about 18,500 people.”
letter from Olive supervisor Berndt Leifeld, who planned
to attend the suit’s preliminary meeting in Albany
with Blumstein and councilman Bruce LaMonda, speaks of the
“severity of impacts” due to the law experienced
by 4,800 residents of Olive in 2004. It goes on to state
that it “generated wild upward swings in the Real
Property Tax levy...of approximately 26% for the school
and approximately 51% for the County levy with no provision
made to amortize the huge tax levy spikes... (It also) created
an annual climate of fear amongst the population of large
upward tax swings...(and) a climate of rancor and enmity
between the Towns which are members of the Onteora School
District causing rancorous demonstrations and school budgets
letter to the Honorable Thomas J. McNamara of the NYS Supreme
Court, who has been assigned the case, also notes that the
sponsors of the law had “acknowledged the problem
and advised the Town Board that the problem would be resolved
by the legislature” but, as Blumstein points out,
they “dropped the ball” and that’s why
he was picking it up in this lawsuit. In fact, the law’s
sponsors DID recognize the problem and its lead sponsor,
Senator William J. Larkin, stated emphatically in a letter
to a Town of Olive attorney that it was never the LPL’s
intention to create a law which could not be negated by
an effected municipality’s “nay” vote.
could such a decisive phrase get lost in the lawmaking process?
Blumstein suspects it may have been a “typographical
error of omission” since the line was situated at
the very end of a section of the law.
fell off which entirely changed the nature and function
of the law,” Blumstein noted. “It changed it
into a law where there could be a matter of equity at stake
and a matter of someone having to judge what that equity
is and that can only be done in the judiciary... Matters
of assessment equity have been settled in Olive in the Supreme
Court for at least a century. We’re been in court
repeatedly with New York City over values within the town
for at least that long.”
since members of the legislature said, years ago, that the
law would be “fixed,” why hasn’t that
dealing with a dysfunctional organization,” Blumstein
replies, citing an influential 2004 study by NYU’s
School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice titled
“New York State Legislative Process: An Evaluation
and Blueprint for Reform” which, despite initial negative
responses from former Senator Joseph Bruno and Assembly
Speaker Sheldon Silver, provided detailed analysis of “dysfunctional”
elements of the legislature and its processes that has since
sparked reform measures and initiatives within that body,
including a contentious battle to define ethical standards.
Former Governor Eliot Spitzer had adopted a number of the
report’s concerns in June 2007 and conferred with
the Center on campaign finance reform. The ongoing reform
struggle was updated by the Brennan Center in 2006 with
“Unfinished Business: NYS Legislative Reform”
and in 2088 with “Still Broken: NYS Legislative Reform.”
Blumstein observes that the original 98 page report contains
several pages “specifically related to situations
is uncertain when Wednesday’s meeting in Albany might
In The Cheap Seats
also made to the service schedule. They increased the
number of buses running on popular routes, while routes
with fewer riders were given fewer runs. Inaccurate bus
times were corrected with the interest of keeping the
shuttles running on time.
Some bus runs were changed to better fit the schedules
of the riders. For example, the buses on routes to SUNY
Ulster were altered to fit the needs of students, aiming
to get them to class with time to spare, which has been
a problem in the past. The schedules themselves were redesigned
to be easier to read, with maps to show the routes, and
bus stop locations were specified - though UCAT buses
can be flagged down from anywhere along the route.
UCAT has also been working towards environmental sustainability
by replacing its buses with hybrid electric vehicles,
and by using smaller vehicles whenever possible.
Since I am a student at SUNY Ulster, I feel that the changes
in the schedule have been for the better, since I am no
longer late for my early classes and I no longer have
to spend hours waiting in Kingston for transfer buses.
However, the overhaul inevitably caused some riders inconvenience.
When talking to other riders about the change, the main
complaint was the way the transition was handled. Many
passengers were uninformed of the new schedules, and were
left stranded at the bus stop on the day of February 1,
shivering, confused, and waiting for a bus that no longer
existed. A meeting was held at the DMV to inform the public,
and flyers announcing the meeting were posted in the buses.
Flyers announcing the fare increase were also posted.
I was lucky to notice the flyers, but many others were
less lucky. I would not have been able to anticipate the
change if I had not attended the public meeting, which
was inconveniently held outside the hours of service for
many UCAT routes. No new schedules were available until
the day the changes came into effect, leaving many riders
in the dark. The UCAT website had the new schedules posted
in advance, but they were somewhat difficult to find.
The page with the old schedule was not replaced by the
new schedule until February 2, the day after the changes
were implemented. Although many of the changes should
have benefited riders right from the start, many were
left in the dark. If the transition had been managed better,
and ample notice had been given to the passengers, it
could have gone much more smoothly. But after riders and
passengers become accustomed to the change, UCAT will
soon fall back into its usual rhythm.
the February 2 meeting at Bennett Elementary School, OCS
Board President Laurie Osmond said, "It's time to do
something, rather than not do anything and have it just
Board members have until April to make a decision on whether
to go forward with closure and eventual lease/sale plans.
Trustee Tom Hickey had asked for West Hurley to be placed
on the agenda for discussion.
"In this economic time, we have to look at all of the
ways we can save and we've got a piece of property that
has been unused," he said. "If we lease this property
it is a source of income or if we sell it, that offsets
a lot of the costs that we're looking at."
Osmond read a state law regarding a central school district's
right to sell or lease a district school without voter approval,
including its provision that anyone can challenge such a
decision by gathering ten percent of voters' signatures
and forcing it to a ballot. But the board decided in good
faith that such a move should be up to voters to decide.
Trustee Ann McGillicuddy added that it was a bad time to
sell a building and suggested leasing it. She also referred
to hints that the Town of Hurley is currently looking into
possible uses for the building.
Director of buildings and grounds Jared Mance said it would
cost approximately $15,000 to "mothball" the school,
but overall would add up to around $40,000 in the long run.
Mance said that the building is currently open but not in
use, with heating systems on in the entire building.
Trustee Rob Kurnit cautioned the board about future costs
reusing the building if it were to be mothballed first.
In further budget talk, board members asked for cuts across
all departments while trying to affect the classroom as
little as possible. It was noted that in order to maintain
a tax levy of 4 percent for the coming year, the board would
still need to cut approximately $1.5 million. And if voters
rejected the budget, the board could see a cost shortfall
that would double.
Business Administrator Victoria McLaren said she has already
found $200,000 in BOCES services no longer needed because
students will be graduating or leaving the district next
year. Board members tossed around ideas on cutting all field
trips, conferences, office consolidation, and administrative
level employees, and exploring the possibility of "pay
to play," sports programs.
Trustee Tony Fletcher noted that extra-curricular activities
that run after-school, on weekends and into the evening
total up to approximately $447,000, under 1 percent of the
In another cost cutting option, the board explored ideas
of reassigning District Assessment Team (DAT) services.
Osmond said she researched other school districts and found
not all use DAT to evaluate students but instead rely on
teachers and special educators. Onteora DAT consist of two
full time and two part time special education professionals
who conduct evaluations on special education students.
Three DAT members spoke in length during the public comment
section, warning that if their positions were eliminated
the district would see lawsuits stemming from parents due
to services for their children going out of compliance.
"I just want to acknowledge to everyone that this is
a stressful time. We are all aware that we are cutting more
than a million dollars from the budget and probably a good
deal more and it's our responsibility to talk about everything
and look everywhere," said Osmond. "Just because
we talk about something doesn't mean it will happen, but
we will be remiss if we don't bring it up. These numbers
are so great that we have to be comprehensive."
Beginning with the February 16 school board meeting, public-be-heard
times will be extended, if necessary, for the community
to weigh in on the looming school budget crisis. All budget
reports can be found by going to board docs on the district
website at Onteora.k12.ny.us.
In other business, the school board approved the contract
extension of Birnie Bus Service for the 2010-2011 school
year with only Trustee Donna Flayhan voting against it,
stating that the district needs to re-bid in order to keep
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Katie O'Brien presented
the district's graduation rate for a three-year window,
pointing out that every year requirements change, subsequently
offering poor comparisons year to year. In 2007 the cohort
graduation rate for regular education was 88 percent and
special education 68 percent. In 2008 it was 79 percent
for regular education and special education was not calculated
through the state school report card. In 2009, the graduation
rate was 78 percent for regular ed students and 50 percent
for special education students, a drop from 2007. The State
average graduation rate is 71 percent.
O'Brien listed ways they are trying to bring the graduation
rate up via a toughening of standards and new programs for
helping students including more academic intervention services,
early intervention programs, and after-school homework help.
Jar Of Olives
All Thumbs Disease...
Yes, I am referring to Blackberries and other assorted fruit
devices, designer phones and i-pads, phones, and pods. They
are everywhere and have insidiously invaded schools, workplaces,
and homes. Not only are they used to communicate with other
people, but these devices can also communicate with each other.
Voicemail and e-mail allow one little gadget to connect to another
Before long, users will experience the loss of speech, eye contact,
and body language. Penmanship is already obsolescing. We have
reduced gestures and emotion to e-moticoms made with parentheses
and spare punctuation marks. In fact, punctuation and capitalization
will be relegated to public education English classes, as we
condense our thoughts into tweets and Facebook sound bites.
However, the one punctuation mark that has experienced a revival
is the good-old-hyphen as we "e-everything" these
I would like to remind people of the original "i-thing."
It was called I-Live, and it was done without cords, batteries,
computer chips or service plans. Before we invented Reality
TV, which you can also view on your computer and smaller gadgets,
we actually spoke to each other and did things together. As
Valentine's Day approaches, I am expecting a one-on-one "I
Love You" greeting, some real dark chocolate, and some
flowers I can smell. You can do it all on screen, including
a virtual kiss, but I will scream "Stop! No more!"
I don't want to click on a present or file a greeting in yet
If you join me in this new crusade to rediscover your "I-Live,"
there are some fun things to do this February. Before your sit-down
grows roots, you might join a dance class like ballroom dancing,
Tuesday night, or line dancing, Thursday night, at the DuBois
Hall of the Reservoir Methodist Church.
At the same hall, you can join Roxy on Thursday mornings for
Yoga at ten. Seniors will begin art lessons, again at the Reservoir
Church, on March 1.
On Wednesdays, starting March 3, a block of Weight Training,
Balance and Exercise will run from 9:15 until 10, and Yoga will
continue from 10 to 11:15 at the Olive Free Library. Kathy Carey
runs this fitness program as part of the Town of Olive Senior
Recreation Program. Participants can come for one or both sessions.
Meet a friend for a brisk walk on the dividing weir and maybe
spot the eagles. It's free!
Enjoy the play "Arsenic and Old Lace" presented at
the Shandaken Theater three weekends in February. Linda Burkhardt
directs the dark comedy about two dear little aunts who put
lonely old men out of their misery with a special Elderberry
Wine brew. This classic farce will kick off February 12 with
an opening night gala performance.
Try out the new restaurant in town. Krazy Kate's in Boiceville
offers upscale food in a sports bar atmosphere.
Order pizza from the Boiceville Inn, Village Pizza or Winchell's.
Place it one the kitchen table, turn off all gadgets, and actually
converse with each other as you eat. Meet friends at Kasey's
CafÈ, Pineview Bakery, Good Stuff CafÈ, or Deli-Dairy
for breakfast and talk over coffee. Live first-hand. It's actually
cheaper than a year's service contract.
You can help out the Olive Fire Department by buying a Brooks
Chicken Dinner at a drive-by, take-out event at the Shokan Fire
House on Sunday, March 7 from 3-6. The fundraiser is to restore
the original USA Fire Truck that should be ready to drive at
the Memorial Day Parade this year. A chicken dinner can be bought
for $12. Seniors, sixty-two or older, will be charged $11; however,
if you purchase a ticket ahead of time from Ralph VanKleeck
or Steve Fuller (657-9626), you can save one additional dollar.
Some adults fear that the younger generation might forget how
to play and learn. Sports and clubs and organizations do exist,
without satellite signals, batteries, and screens. Unplug and
come celebrate Scouting's Hundred Year Anniversary and the advancement
of Olive Pack 63 Webelos Cub Scouts to Olive Troop 163 Boy Scouts.
All past scouts, leaders, members, alumni, and family of local
packs and troops are invited to a Blue and Gold Dinner, Saturday,
February 20 at 5:00 p.m. at the Olivebridge Firehouse. There
is no cost for this dinner. Please bring any memorabilia you
may have. Did you know that Troop One was chartered in 1910
as one of the first Boy Scout Troops in America? Two years later
there were twenty-two Eagle Scouts awarded in the nation, and
five of them were from West Shokan. Please contact Keith Davis
(657-5836) or Rob Overton (657-2513) for information.