Follow Up on the
Towards A Budget
projections were incomplete, she highlighted a few items.
BOCES’ projected budget could increase by 3.1 percent
and district technology by 38.9 percent. The State contingency
budget is set at 3.51 percent allowable if the budget were
to fail. The equipment budget currently stands at $462,371,
but if the budget were to fail equipment funds would be
McLaren said she has a rough analysis on potential teacher
retirees for the next three-to-five years, but cannot give
out too much information until they receive formal letters
from the teachers. No projection was given except to say
that many teachers are reaching retirement and incoming
teachers salaries could affect the budget.
Board member Cindy O’Connor asked about State aid
based on perception of the district’s wealth, which
many say is skewed by Woodstock.
“Are they still using the same formula?” she
McLaren said wealth ratios are always taken into account.
O’Connor said she and fellow board member Rita Vanacore
went to State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill’s office last
year with the hope of restoring aid in recent years, adding
that they intend to go again in the coming weeks.
Preliminary figures for the coming year’s budget,
expected to be in the 3 to 4 percent range, according to
some reports, was expected to be presented at the postponed
meeting, and will likely be coming forth in the coming weeks,
including the next regular meeting at Bennett School starting
at 6 PM on February 26.
The district’s annual budget vote and board elections
are scheduled to take place on May 20.
In other recent financial news, school board president Mary
Jane Bernholz gave a report on the comptroller’s audit
findings between 2005 and 2007. The audit results found,
“Controls over cash receipts and cash dispersed payroll
and the computerized financial systems were not appropriately
Bernholz continued: “The duties of the treasurer and
the payroll clerk were not appropriately segregated.”
She added that the district did not always properly compensate
new or retiring employees, sometimes getting overpaid or
underpaid; district bank accounts were not reconciled for
a year. Furthermore, she said the previous administration
responded to the audit finding within 30 days with a plan
of action and tasks in the business department were reassigned,
the treasurer position was terminated and additional staff
hired for work completion.
“Through this process there were no fraudulent intentions
or suspicions noted,” Bernholz concluded.
School district treasurer Monica Kim gave a report on current
district finances and said they are watching interest rates
closely because it will affect the cash flow.
“In July we were getting 4.85 percent and I got a
letter last week that it’s now 3.5 percent and only
going down,” Kim said.
In other business, Director of Transportation David Moraca
explained the education policy that forbids bus service
to students who live within a mile of the Middle/high School.
“Many families have expressed serious concerns for
the safety of their children walking along Route 28,”
said Moraca, “which leads me to the conclusion that
the most effective way to address this situation is to work
to establish a safety zone along 28.”
Moraca assured the board that the 20 or so students will
continue to have bus service until a solution is achieved.
Moraca is not sure when bus service began for the particular
students, but he said it is in “violation of board
In order to create a safety zone that would allow bus service,
a valid petition must be submitted to the board. Moraca
said he has submitted an appropriate petition form to district
clerk Jeanne Shultis available for parents to collect signatures.
Although parents already petitioned in the past, it proved
invalid; therefore Moraca said they must petition again.
The petition must contain the signature of 25 qualified
voters who live in the district OR five percent of the number
of voters who voted in the last school election, which ever
Moraca noted that means petitioners must collect 116 signatures.
Providing the signatures are valid the issue will then go
to voter referendum.
Superintendent Leslie Ford said she also asked the town
of Olive to supply a crossing guard, but the request was
In preparation for the coming year’s the transportation
budget, Moraca invited the community to take a ride on an
old and new school bus last week, hoping that the public
would approve the purchase of new buses. For the past two
elections the purchase of new school buses have been denied.
“I would like to invite the board and anybody from
the community and give you the opportunity to look at what
we are looking to purchase,” he said, noting that
a review of safety features would be part of the demonstration.
“I will take you for a ride in what we would like
to retire and then take you for a ride in what we would
like to purchase.”
The rides were set for February 9. The exact number of how
many took up the chance was unavailable as of press time.
But according to DEC Region 3 Director Willie Janeway, in a
February 4 interview at his New Paltz offices, he had heard
that the Scope, as he termed it, would be out this Friday, February
“The best thing will be to look at the new scope next
to the old,” Janeway said, after noting how the extra
time had been needed to ensure “that this be done right,
answering everyone’s concerns.”
Janeway presided over a trio of December, 2007 “scoping
sessions” where a large number of local residents came
out to comment about what they wanted to see in the projects’
environmental impact statements, as well as to question the
resort’s appropriateness for their community, the negotiating
process by which he governor’s AIP was reached, and the
propriety of the DEC overseeing a review process for which it
was also an applicant.
A minority of community and business leaders touted the vast
proposal’s potential economic benefits at the same gatherings
and have since started passing around their own petitions supporting
what’s been proposed and basically questioning the possibility
of too many questions being asked of what’s proposed.
A moment of controversy arose at the Town of Shandaken’s
February 4 meeting when new Supervisor Peter DiSclafani apologized
for having authorized a $3,000 payment to a Westchester-based
environmnetal consultancy firm for supplying comments to the
DEC regarding the Scope in time for its deadline, which occurred
fast on he and his new board having taken office in January.
DiSclafani noted that he had polled all four of his board members
about the matter, in lieu of a meeting, with four agreeing to
hire Ferrandino Associates, who had previously been hired by
the town to prepare a longer series of concerns for the town
two years ago. Only the board’s sole registered Republican,
Rob Stanley, had said no to the request and loudly complained
about the procedure, which bypassed open meeting laws, at the
recent meeting. He was backed up by a number of Resort employees,
backers, and others in town worried about process.
The Ferrandino submission, short by highly specific and tied
directly to all elements of the projects’ history, asks
for greater detailed impact studies in all areaS and, in particular,
in relation to such possible regional impacts as snow making,
mountain bike trail runoff, and traffic. In addition, it suggests
that full alternatives to what’s proposed, as well as
cost analyses related to local business and wage impacts, be
provided for the town’s own planning board permit decision-making.
The scoping document is basically a list of all the issues that
the project’s environmental review must address. The state
agency was to review all those ideas brought forth at the December
hearings, plus within hundreds of letters and e-mails, and put
together a document taking all into account.
This is not the first extension for the scoping process. All
public comments were originally to be submitted before Jan.
7, but a number of citizens and organizations complained that
there was not enough time to compose those comments, which address
the proposed 700-acre development plan set forth by Crossroads
Ventures. A two-week extension was requested; one week was granted.
A second request for an extension came from the town of Shandaken,
which has a new administration this year. The new Town Board
wanted more time to draft comments, but its request was denied..
leading to the recent controversy.
The Scope involves both a private development (the proposed
construction and operation of the Wildacres Resort and Highmount
Spa Resort complex by Crossroads Ventures) and related proposals
by the Department of Environmental Conservation: the expansion
of Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, including “ski-in, ski-out”
access to Crossroads’ proposed Highmount Spa Resort; the
acquisition of a parcel known as Big Indian (1,200 acres); and
the acquisition of the former Highmount Ski Center (78 acres)
and an easement (21 acres) on the Highmount Spa property.
The project would be located in the towns of Shandaken in Ulster
County and Middletown in Delaware County, within the boundaries
of the Catskill Park. It is subject to an analysis as required
by the State Environmental Quality Review Act for its potential
The preparation of the scoping document is among the first steps
in a review process that will take a breather after the state
releases its Scope in the coming weeks, and resume after both
Crossroad Ventures, the private developer, AND the state come
back with full plans in the form of multi-volume Draft Environmental
Impacvt Statements. While the Crossroads’ document is
expected to involve updating of previous information, the state’s
creation will involve not only release of a long-awaited Unit
Management Plan for the ski area, but detyails and impact studies
for all that Spitzer promoted in his September 5 press conference.
Supporters of the project say the development would help the
economy and provide badly needed jobs. Their efforts have included
a push by the Coalition for Belleayre, an ad hoc group that
successfully fought the state’s previous attempts to shut
down their Catskills ski area and later started promoting summer
music series at the state-owned facility, to rename itself The
Coaliton To Save Belleayre in an attempt to make the current
plans appear like “do or die” decision.
Critics say the development is too massive and would damage
the region if allowed to be built as proposed. In addition,
they have noted that state development of its ski resort in
light of climate change is bad economics, and that the current
plans represent possible class divisions in the region. Furthermore,
their voices have been joined by competing privately-owned ski
areas who say the state will be putting their businesses in
danger with its expansion into new private-public areas.
Stay tuned, next issue, for what the scope actually says. And
when everyone expects to be given their next opportunities to
talk about this behemoth.
talking, of course, about Tony & Tina’s Wedding, the
hit Off-Broadway play of 18 years running that started screening
as a film at the Waverly Theater, former home to the Rocky Horror
Picture Show, back in November, with Reverend Debra performing
actual vows before each screening. And of how this odd gig,
which Debra’s hoping to take next to the Colony Café
in Woodstock, has helped grow Romano’s separate RentAReverend.com
Suffice it to say that St. Valentine’s Day, and Romance
with a capital R, mean a lot to the Reverend.
“I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. My parents took
me out of high school on Staten Island when I was 16,”
Romano recalled, trying to get at what she finds so special
about the Big V-Day, along with all the gaudy trappings of the
sorts of weddings she’s become involved with much of the
time. “It’s an over the top, commercialized holiday,
but I never got to play with pink paper and glue, making Valentines
for my mom, when I wished I could. I guess you could say I’m
making up for lost time.”
Reverend Debra says she slipped into her new life a few years
ago after spending years in the insurance business. When she
found herself let go from one job she particularly hated, she
said a friend suggested she start doing something she really
wanted to do instead of always focusing on what she didn’t
like. Since she’d already gotten a license to perform
weddings years before hand, around the same time she started
studies as a paralegal, it wasn’t a big leap to starting
her own business.
“Then I answered a Craigslist ad for someone looking for
a wedding officiant,” she says. “In that my moment
my life changed.”
Today, Reverend Debra performs weddings with Hudson Valley Ceremonies,
as well as on her own. In addition to the Tony & Tina gigs,
she spent the recent holiday season wedding folk at the Charmin
Restrooms in Times Square… and is also proud to have brought
together a goodly share of alternative folks in committal ceremonies
she feels are often more emotionally charged than normal weddings,
because of the still-renegade aspects of the phenomenon.
She talks about how, when her son was killed in a motorcycle
accident 1998, she felt she had to do some major things with
her life. At the time, it was all about returning to school
for the paralegal degree. But then, it also was involved in
her new sense of commitment to bringing people together…
with a bit of fun.
For her Tony N Tina gigs, Romano teases her hair bigger than
usual, wears a miniskirt and fishnet stockings, and plays up
the nasal New York accent she learned as a kid. Her words may
be largely on script, but her intonations are broad… and
fun, stressing vows of recommitment as well as newlyweds.
“I chew gum. I’m very 80s,” she says of her
act. “And yet I make my ceremonies very personal. There’s
something great about officiating someone’s choice, and
being part of the happiest moment of their life up to that point.”
Reverend Debra added that after all these years doing weddings
elsewhere, now, she’s ready to go to the town to see if
she can hang out a shingle that would publicize her special
services in Olive and the rest of the Catskills. In addition
to making it possible to share what she does with neighbors
and fellow Catskillians, she’s looking forward to sharing
her husband, Antoine Hepkins’, musical contributions.
“You’ve just got to hear his version of ‘Here
Comes The Bride,’” she notes. “It’s,
what can I say… pretty groovy, all in all.”
She hoped folks would be able to catch her act before Tony &
Tina, if not in Rosendale, at least in Woodstock… at a
date still to be announced.
And as for Valentines, she noted that busy or not, she adores
any holiday that reminds folks how important it is to declare
one’s love. And accept others.
For further information visit www.rentareverend.com. Or just
The Smart Growth
funds, announced on a local basis as part of Governor Eliot
Spitzer’s Agreement in Principal to support a new Belleayre
Resort compromise proposal that includes ties-in to state-owned
Belleayre Mountain Ski Area, are part of a larger $2 million
state fund dedicated to supporting “improvement projects
that retain the vibrancy of the hamlets, villages, and town
At a February 5 Shandaken Town Board meeting where he introduced
a possible resolution geared towards jump starting a collaborative
process between the targeted towns, Manning said the Catskill
Center will not be in charge of the money, but wishes to “start
a regional dialogue.” He said the communities might
want to discuss possible ways to leverage the funds, which
will be controlled by the state Department of Environmental
Conservation, so as to put them to the best use.
“Our organization has no control how the state is going
to handle those monies,” Manning said to his audience,
which included a number of folks who see the money as too
small for any major projects and something of a pay-off to
get acceptance of the governor’s AIP. Shandaken officials
tabled the resolution Manning presented for further study.
Under its description in the AIP, projects eligible for Smart
Growth funds include streetscape amenities, Main Street improvements,
landscaping, affordable housing and enforcement of sign regulations.
Manning said, at the Shandaken meeting, that he believes the
state will pay more attention to an application for use of
the funds that is prepared by a group of municipalities than
those from individual governments competing against one another
for the funds.
“New York State Route 28 is the major thoroughfare of
the central Catskill Mountains, offering the traveler a unique
experience of mountain scenery and clear waterways, complemented
by historic hamlets, and it is the combination of resources
that gives the region much of its scenic and community character
and is vital to the region’s economy,” he said,
noting that the roadway passes through the heart of the Catskill
Park, a resource created by an act of the state Legislature
in 1904 and now encompassing approximately 700,000 acres,
about half of which are lands of the Catskill Forest Preserve
and held in the public trust.
“These six Central Catskills municipalities share many
of the region’s unique resources and can mutually benefit
by exploring cooperative approaches, engaging in intermunicipal
discussions and identifying collective strategies and actions
that support and enhance such shared resources,” Manning
said, noting that he is hopeful that all government representatives
consider joining what he called the “Central Catskills
Collaborative” to work together through a bottom-up
process that builds on local goals and objectives and engages
in a regional dialogue focused on protecting and promoting
the scenic, cultural, historic, and economic well-being of
the Route 28 corridor and the Central Catskills.
In Olive, a similar meeting had yet to be scheduled, although
Deputy Superviusor Bruce LaMOnda said he saw nothing to keep
his town from joining in a regional consortium of the sort
Manning, in a separate interview, said recently that his current
involvement with the collaborative project is as a means to
a larger end: reinvigorating a corporative regional sensibility
throughout the area. He said that his predecessor at the Catskill
Center, Helen Budrock, had done good work within individual
communities around the Catskills; he felt his job was to now
get communities across the map looking into “the larger
“We need to understand how we share this resource,”
he said, calling the Smart Growth money, no matter what its
detractors say, a “big boost from the state.”.
“My job is to help connections arise around the process.”
“These moneys are meant for capital projects and not
planning,” he said. “The idea is to return vibrancy
to our hamlets.”
Some project ideas he welcomed, talking off the top of his
head, included better trail heads for the park, sidewalk improvements,
and an overall upgrading of walking facilities in the area.
At the same time, he said that he felt the greatest long-term
benefit that everyone was wishing for out of the new funds
was a better sense of cooperation, or at least dialogue, between
the six Route 28 communities involved.
“I just want to be able to facilitate that,” Manning
said, pointing to similar projects pulling together farming
communities in Schoharie County, historical tours in Delaware
County, and joint efforts in Greene County’s Mountaintop
Communities. He said what was needed in many places was a
better sense of a regional, as well as an individual municipal
“sense of place.”
He said the potential difficulties of passing similar resolutions
establishing a cooperative effort amongst towns were worth
it, in the long run, if a new way of discussing regional matters
could be established.
In similar talks, Catskill Center Director Tom Alworth, under
fire from some in local communities for his role in helping
reach the new Belleayre Resort compromise, spoke as well about
moving his organization from specific goals conserving land
and fostering specific advocacy campaigns to a new focus on
the regional… similar to where the CCCD had been 12
years ago when it came under fire for helping propose the
Catskills being recognized as one of a few hundred special
United Nations Biosphere regions around the globe.
Alworth talked about his organization’s “optimism”
and “glass half full” ideals, pushing for a unique
mix of development and conservation that will not only save
the region’s natural resources, but provide better livings
for all who choose to live here. He spoke in terms of new
development pressures, much as the state’s new Department
of Environmental Conservation Regional Director, Willie Janeway,
did in a separate interview about his own view of challenges,
and opportunities, over the coming years.
Both men spoke at length about drawing new attention to the
Catskills in light of the governor’s Belleayre expansion
and resort proposals. Janeway said that he was hoping that
not just the proposed, and once-started, Catskill Interpretive
Center in Mt. Tremper will be started in the coming years,
but at least three other such centers in Delaware, Greene
and Sullivan counties, the better to focus on the region’s
watershed, history, and communal aspects. Alworth said he
was hoping to find ways of breeding more interaction between
counties and communities, the better to overcome bad planning
decisions that might not be seen when towns or villages look
out only for themselves.
Speaking on an even wider basis, the Catskill Center’s
new Director of Policy, Deborah DeWan – last with the
organization 12 years ago, spoke about how the new focus brought
to the Catskills by Spitzer and his Belleayre focus, while
still controversial, is activating numerous other longer-promised
or hoped-for projects. She said the effort is on to get people
to thinking in terms of all the Catskills, and its park as
well as watershed attributes, the better to create a “park
effect” identity to protect it, and grow it smartly,
in the future. Much like the Lake District in England, the
Alps, or the way Vermont has come to be seen.
“This Smart Growth initiative,” DeWan said, “is
part of that. It’s an opportunity…”
But also, being involved in such battered and self-protective
towns as those it is geared towards, one set up for more challenges.
Stay tuned on this one…
Jar Of Olives...
We Get To See Our Shadow
To counteract those Februaryblashahs you might visit Barry DeBaun’’s
exhibition entitled From the Catskills…to the Coast that
runs from February 23 to March 30, 2008. There will be an opening
reception at the DeBaun Art Gallery at the Trail Motel on Route
28 in Boiceville on Saturday, February 23 from 2-7 p.m.
Speaking of artists, remember to contact Judith Boggess at email@example.com
or at 657- 5817 to show interest in the senior art class that
is about to start in early March. Remember, novices and seasoned
artists, even social art lovers and critics, are welcome.
Another event that shouldn’t be missed is Martha Frankel’s
book signing and reading of Hats and Eyeglasses: A Family Love
Affair with Gambling that will be Saturday, February 16 at 5:00
p.m. at the Boiceville Inn. On Thursday, February 7, the New
York Times published an interview with Martha at her home in
West Shokan. The article was entitled Will She Hold Them or
Fold Them? If you log onto her website, Marthafrankel.com, you
can read this and the other stories creating a buzz for this
entertainment biographer. Borders Books will be highlighting
her book in the prestigious Orignial Voices series. Barnes and
Noble in New York City and Kingston (March 6 at 7 p.m.) have
scheduled book signings. She has radio interviews and college
presentations on the horizon. I am a bit of a gambler myself,
and I am betting that Martha is one of those people we can brag
about and say, “ I knew her when.”
This paper will be published on Valentine’s Day. If you
haven’t done something wonderful for your honey, mother,
child, wife, sister, friend or neighbor, you’d better
giddy-up. Of course, you can always do the chocolate or flowers
thing. You could also go out to eat or make a special dinner
at home. However, the best Valentine’s gift comes from
the heart and doesn’t always have to come from the wallet.
A back or foot rub, a handwritten poem, or a simple baloney
sandwich carved into a heart is sure to earn you points with
your sweetheart. A word of advice, men: Do not, I repeat, do
not buy a cooking appliance unless you are personally going
to use it to create a romantic dinner for two. Women: Do not
buy matching sweaters; Guaranteed one will never be worn. Then
again, you can just let it go by declaring, “It’s
only a Hallmark and Retail holiday.” I would not advise
doing that because, as Olive/Oliver the groundhog predicts,
“It’s going to be a long winter, and it’ll
be an even longer one for those who ignore this holiday of love.”