Follow Up on the
Strong of Mid-Hudson Energy Smart Communities and Larry
Brown of Sun Mountain Solar Electric Systems presented the
latest information on NYSERDA and Federal incentive programs
that can help pay up to approximately one half the cost
of a variety of renewable energy systems, energy audits
and energy upgrade retrofits. Solar, wind, geothermal and
micro-hydro systems are eligible for large subsidies for
new and existing buildings. Municipal renewable energy projects
are eligible for up to $400,000 in cash back incentives.
Pat Strong explained how NYSERDA (NYS Energy Research and
Development Authority) administers the basic programs that
are funded through a small surcharge on each electric bill
which has resulted in a fund of 875 million dollars to be
distributed by NYSERDA and its partners such as Mid-Hudson
Energy Smart Communities through a variety of programs.
These are funds that have already been paid by electric
ratepayers in NYS.
Pat emphasized the economic benefits of taking advantage
of the low hanging fruit first. Remedies such as air leakage
testing and sealing or replacing incandescent bulbs with
compact fluorescent or LED (light emitting diode) light
bulbs have a very high return on investment, rapid payback
and are usually among the first steps to be implemented
on the varied list of energy making and saving strategies.
The advantages of and incentives available for photo-voltaic
(PV) solar electric generation systems, wind power and geothermal
heating systems was presented in a lively interactive discussion
between the presenters and audience.
The renewable energy system incentives are available for
grid inter-tie renewable energy systems called “net-metering”
that actually feed electrical energy back into the grid
when the output of the system exceeds the demand of the
household or business. The electric meter actually runs
backwards and the home or business owner sells the surplus
back to the power company at the same retail rate as a purchase.
Pat also described the Energy Smart Loan Fund with over
100 banks participating and up to 1.5 million available
per project. Homes built and certified under the Energy
Star Home program are eligible for a 4 point reduction on
mortgage interest. Energy efficient buildings can cut operating
costs by 50% or more and substantially reduce the demand
for fossil fuels resulting in substantial economic and environmental
Subsidized home and business energy audits are available
that will create a menu of remediation measures that details
cost and payback figures so that a rational strategy can
be established to achieve the maximum benefit available
from your invested funds.The Assisted Home Performance program
has grants available for energy and insulation upgrades
of up to $5000 for both owners and renters if your income
is below 80% of the NYS median income. Substantial NYS credits
or rebates are also available to help replace old inefficient
Larry Brown of Sun Mountain Solar Electric Systems explained
the technical details and considerations inherent in the
design and installation of solar electric (PV) energy systems.
He emphasized the need to practice energy conservation first
and gave an excellent example of the huge amount of energy
that is wasted due to the fact that many appliances consume
energy even when turned off. The simple remedy of using
a plug in power strip with an integral on off switch that
completely disconnects the appliances or loads from the
power outlet could save the 10% of our electrical energy
use that is wasted on these so called “phantom loads”.
Larry illuminated the fact that contrary to popular belief
there is an abundance of natural energy resources that are
not fossil based. He said that “Renewable energy is
the cornerstone of a larger awareness of learning to be
less wasteful, relearn common sense and have gratitude for
the gift of the sun, wind and flowing water.” He added
that “We need to strengthen our local communities
and keep our monies circulating locally. We need to relearn
how to be in partnership with the earth so we can regain
our balance. We are never separate from the natural world.
It is what supports, nurtures and nourishes us. We have
to shift the way we think about things”
The increased demand for home energy auditors, wind energy
mechanics and solar system installers revealed the positive
impact on local employment in our increasingly outsourced
Pat Courtney Strong of Mid Hudson Energy Smart Communities
can be reached at 845-331-2238. They can help determine
which program is best suited to your situation and they
maintain a list of NYSERDA certified contractors. NYSERDA
has 2 informative websites that overflow with details on
their programs. www.getenergysmart.org www.powernaturally.org
Larry Brown, of Sun Mountain Solar Electric Systems has
been an educator, consultant, builder and installer of renewable
energy systems in the Hudson Valley for 30 years and is
available for consultation at 845-657-8096 .
The Dam Value
According to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, ”These draft
regulations increase DEC’s enforcement authority, bring
New York’s program in line with federal standards, and
make clear that dam safety is foremost the responsibility of
the dam owner.”
That same subject of safety also appears high on the priority
list for the big dam owner in the Catskills, NYC’s Department
of Environmental Protection.
Six weeks ago, DEP officials announced a 5-year, $583 million
reconstruction project for the imperiled Gilboa Dam on Greene
County’s Schoharie Reservoir. While emergency stabilizing
work on that structure was finished nearly a year ago to alleviate
fears of its catastrophic failure, the final engineering solution,
a near-full reconstruction, will take until 2013 to complete,
at a cost more than twice earlier estimates.
Included in that project are plans to make mechanical and architectural
improvements to the Shandaken tunnel intake chamber which sometimes
moves over 500 million gallons per day into the upper Esopus
Creek. That discharge which is responsible for the creek’s
generally red color, is something the City is under court order
to fix, while it continues to challenge the $5 million fine
levied against it for allowing the problem to continue.
Turbidity of the water in the Ashokan is an ongoing issue, posing
potentially significant health risks to City residents, and
compelling its treatment with enormous quantities of alum in
the Kensico Reservoir, prior to reaching city faucets. Whether
the scale of planned improvements at the Schoharie will significantly
solve the problem in the Ashokan basin is yet unclear.
In Olive, 250 million gallons of water per day have begun moving
through the Ashokan Waste Channel, dumping some of the more
turbid water from the reservoir’s West Basin and discharging
it into the lower Esopus. DEP’s primary intent is to improve
water quality but the move, according to the agency, “also
has the potential to help improve flood attenuation.”
The reservoir is currently at 99.9% of capacity. The opening
of the channel was facilitated by conversations with Campus
Auxiliary Services, an affiliate of SUNY New Paltz which owns
the Ashokan Field Campus property, and with whom the agency
is now concluding a purchase agreement that will both allow
the discharges on a regular basis, and ensure continued educational
activities at the site, presumably through relocation of some
of its buildings.
Meanwhile officials in Olive are preparing for yet another legal
close encounter with DEP on the taxable valuation of the Ashokan
Reservoir. Thus far Olive and Hurley have spent about $1.2 million
attempting to establish such a valuation, and at issue once
again are the wildly divergent valuations for the reservoir
holdings in Olive.
Those valuations have been set by the Town’s professional
assessors at $650 million, by the State Office of Real Property
Services at $340 million, and by the City, at $123 million.
In recent months the Governor, the Catskill Watershed Corporation,
and the City have all been involved in attempting to establish
criteria that would be used for future valuation of all city-owned
reservoirs. Whether such criteria will be in place in advance
of the issue’s next court date remains unclear.
A trial date has been set by Judge O’Conner in Ulster
County Supreme Court for April 7. Two pretrial conferences between
the Judge and DEP and town officials are also set for March.
Announcement of the City’s financial commitment to the
Schoharie project has raised more than a few eyebrows in Olive,
according to Supervisor Berndt Leifeld.
“Here you have the Ashokan, which the city values at $123
million, and which our professional, out-of-state appraisers
say should be valued at $650 million,” Leifeld said. “Nobody’s
arguing about whether they’re going to spend $583 million
to fix a dam on a reservoir that’s probably a third the
Ashokan’s size. But it does make you wonder how they came
up with that valuation for us…”
Furthermore, it’s not expected to be released for public
perusal until next Wednesday, March 5, at the earliest. Even
though a form of the document, which serves as something of
a blueprint for longer environmental statements subject to intense
review, was available two weeks ago, as originally proposed
by the state.
“According to protocol, it goes to the applicant to look
at first,” said DEC Region 3 spokeswoman Wendy Rosenbach
on February 25. “They have an option to review it. They
can also suggest changes.”
Rosenback added that whether suggested changes are made is the
state’s prerogative, something she couldn’t address
“All I know is that it’s a very long document and
it’s very comprehensive,” she added. “It’s
a big production.
Added DEC Region 3 Director Willie Janeway, in a February 26
e-mail, “Availability of the expanded Belleayre Crossroads
Scope should be announced, as per regular process, in ENB.”
He was referring to the weekly Environmental Notices Bulletin
the DEC publishes on its website each Wednesday. Rosenbach added
that she didn’t see any release before March 5, and noted
that the process had been complicated by the need for the Scope
to address the long-hinted at but never formally proposed ski
center expansion, as well as the Unit Management Plan the DEC
would need to achieve such changes.
On the eve of an earlier anticipated Scoping Release date, pro
development forces joined forces Monday, February 18 to try
and spin their view of the region’s need for such investment
in a press conference at Ulster County Chamber of Commerce offices
Simultaneously, a coalition of groups and local landowners opposing
the project, first proposed nearly a decade ago by Shandaken-based
developer Dean Gitter, sent out their own spin documents noting
how their beef wasn’t with skiers or the state-owned ski
center at Belleayre, but the private resort planned to buttress
what they note was originally planned in the 1940s as a populist
Two news items seemed to have triggered the press conference
called by Joe Kelly of the Coalition for Belleayre, which announced
its intentions to change its name back to the Coalition to Save
Belleayre, and Partners for Progress, a Margaretville-based
coalition of local business owners and other supporters of what
they call “the governor’s compromise.”
One was a January 10, 2008 letter from The Greene County Coalition
for Economic Equality to the state DEC as a comment on Scoping,
per the state’s request. The detailed letter, handed out
at the Chamber meeting, noted how two of the new coalition’s
members, Hunter and Windham mountain ski areas, as well as the
entirety of Greene County, would be adversely impacted by any
major expansion at Belleayre Mountain, which they said was already
hurting them via the state’s unfair business practices.
Hunter Mountain President Russ Coloton, who attended the Monday
session in Kingston without comment, later handed over a full
20-page White Paper stating their position that Belleayre has
been able to undercut other area’s prices because the
public, via state coffers, covers so many otherwise heavy industry-related
The other point of opposition that Kelly and others said the
press conference was called to counter involved the Greene County
Legislature’s passage of a resolution backing their ski
areas’ objections to the expansion, as well as a more
serious state Senate bill calling for the establishment of a
statewide “Blue Ribbon Commission on fair competition
in the outdoor recreation industry,” which Coloton later
said had been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors
of Ski Areas of New York, the industry’s main advocacy
The latter bill, put forth by State Senator Jim Seward on January
28, asks Spitzer to okay the naming of an 11-member commission
by his office and the state legislature to look into Hunter
and Windham’s charges, as well as similar complaints elsewhere
in the state, with a report due by year’s end.
Kelly opened his session for five members of the press with
talk about how his coalition was originally formed in the early
1980s to battle a previous state move to close Belleayre.
“We’re here today because Belleayre is under attack
and it’s time to fight back,” Kelly said, as members
of Partners for Progress, several Delaware County chambers of
commerce and governmental agencies, and representatives of a
number of key local unions stood around and nodded in agreement
as the talk veered between the ski center’s expansion
and the private resort plans.
Also on hand were David Donaldson, Chairman of the Ulster County
Legislature, who noted his support of the ski area but withheld
comment on the private resource; legislator Susan Zimet, who
withheld all comment excepting a few words of interest; and
Ulster County Development Corporation and Industrial Development
Agency head Lance Matteson, who would eventually speak about
the importance of bringing investment dollars to the county.
Former Ulster County Chamber chairman Joan Lawrence Bauer, currently
a member of the Delaware County IDA and director of the not-for-profit
M-ARK Project, a housing and local development agency, as well
as a former Gitter employee, aided Kelly with his presentation
and handed out materials, including a “Rumor Control”
set of pages apparently created by the resort developers countering
various assertions it has been saying its opponents are touting.
Gitter’s Vice President of Public Relations, Paul Rakov,
nodded approvingly as presentations were made but did not say
anything publicly himself.
“We think the state is doing a fantastic job of being
in the ski industry,” Kelly said, after lamenting the
attacks of Ulster’s “northern neighbors.”
He talked about how the New York constitution, “mandated
the state to be in this industry” and that any problem
private ski areas were having had nothing to do with state business.
Sam Fratto of the Hudson Valley Building Trades union talked
about how “We give too much credence to the opponents
of projects” and noted the promises of full employment
that Gitter has made to his and other area unions.
Others spoke of possible ghost towns should the resort and ski
center expansion not go through. Several people denigrated environmentalists
for holding back the local economy, and Lawrence Bauer again
spoke of the state constitution as though any failure to meet
its maximized ski center size were an affront to some unnamed
Planned business rallies for the resort, including one at Cold
Spring Lodge in Olivera on March 5, and a new billboard campaign
of giant signs labeled “Say Yes To Compromise” were
Asked whether Belleayre was under actual threat of closure,
and whether the purpose of the press conference was more about
support for Gitter’s private project, Kelly and others
talked about “the cost of paralysis,” “a culture
of decay,” having to “grow or go,” and “a
thousand little pinpricks of pressure” similar to what
led to the state’s 1984 attempt to close the ski area.
“I think what you’re seeing here is our frustration
coming out,” Kelly said.
Could the entire problem actually reflect an industry-wide fear,
much reported in the national and international press, that
climate change pressures are increasing competitive worries
amongst ski centers?
“When and if that comes technology will have to deal with
it,” Kelly said as others rolled their eyes. “If
it gets too hot I’ll pull out my Speedo and go to the
pool at the resort.”
What, Kelly was asked, would be the problem if Seward’s
bill passed and a Blue Ribbon Committee was put into place to
study public/private competition in the recreation industries?
“Delay, delay, delay,” Kelly replied. “We
can’t afford any delays.”
Would there be further such press conferences throughout the
coming process, including the impending release of the Scoping
Document whose comments this event was indirectly focused on?
“The Coalition will have a constant opinion as this continues
to move forward,” he replied. “We have been pushed
into a corner here.”
Meanwhile, Save The Mountain, the coalition of groups opposing
the current expansion and resort plans outlined in Spitzer’s
AIP, sent out a press release the day after the Chamber press
conference touting their support of the state owned ski center
and noting, in a headline, “Don’t be fooled by attempts
to confuse! There are 2 Belleayres”
“Some statements made by others are intended to blur the
lines between our PUBLIC Belleayre Mountain and its Ski Center,
part of the Catskill Park, vs the proposed PRIVATE Belleayre
Resort, a real estate development,” their release reads.
“On the contrary, we say put Belleayre Mountain and Ski
Center first. We’re concerned that building the huge PRIVATE
high-end, for-profit Belleayre Resort, as proposed, may impede
expansion, overwhelm the great PUBLIC Belleayre Mountain Ski
Center, and even raise lift and rental prices… We are
also concerned about using our tax dollars and yours to build
and maintain private ski lifts, trails and snowmaking for the
enjoyment and private profit of a few.”
On Morgan Hill
According to police,
Leshkevich beat her about the head with a blunt object and
suffocated her. Then, leaving his wife's lifeless body in
the bedroom, he made his way to a large attached garage stuffed
with boxes of merchandise for his online auction business
where he hung himself.
Police discovered the apparent murder-suicide around 11 a.m.
Tuesday after Deborah Leshkevich's co-workers became concerned
when she didn't show up for work and called police to ask
that they check on her.
On Tuesday, state police investigators donned white protective
suits as they prepared to enter the two-story home with a
Christmas wreath on the door and a large pile of firewood
in the front yard. Police removed evidence from the home including
computers and a number of firearms, and say they're checking
to see if the guns were legally owned.
At Woodstock Elementary School, where the Deborah Leshkevich
worked, crisis teams were deployed Tuesday, February 19, and
Wednesday, February 20, and Onteora Central School District
superintendent Leslie Ford has been speaking in the classrooms
to students and teachers who were shocked by her death. "I
spent the day telling the kids," said Ford.
The portraits of Deborah Leshkevich that emerged from those
who worked with her and from the parents of students who came
into contact with her were vastly different from the internet
ramblings of her attacker.
"Mrs. Leshkevich was a person who went the extra mile,
providing much more than just her daily job to the school,"
said Ford. "Our district stands behind Mrs. Leshkevich's
positive reputation, and encourages the community to join
us in remembering her warm smile, sense of humor, and legacy
Most parents knew her as the person who checked off names
of children during dismissal, so the kids would not get lost
in the shuffle during pick-up time. The kids called her Mrs.
Some parents who knew her were shocked to hear she was even
married to him. They said she never spoke about him, and instead
poured herself into work while also teaching Catechism at
St. John's Roman Catholic Church in West Hurley.
Others were shocked by her husband's blog and said that the
posting continued the spousal abuse, making her a victim even
after her death. Angered by his distorted views, some parents
wanted to make sure that it was understood that she was a
person and a professional who was the total opposite of her
She was president of the Onteora non-teaching employees association
(ONTEA) and ran the student council, was part of the conflict
management team, and was on the Site team for many years.
She also worked on environmental projects around Woodstock
school and helped raise money to buy flowers.
Ford also said that many in the community were sad and angry
at the way the media covered it. "We're taking it one
day at a time, and counseling is available for as long as
they need it," she said.
Morgan Hill Road neighbors say the house, on a rural road
of ranch homes and bungalows, was the site of frequent loud
verbal arguments between the couple, but the only time they'd
seen police on the scene was a few years back when opponents
of Leshkevich's white supremacist, anti-Semitic views organized
a small protest outside his home.
"I didn't even know who lived there until that happened,"
said one neighbor who asked to remain anonymous. "After
that I started calling him Adolph Hitler."
Another neighbor, Casey Bann, said he'd heard the fights but
was unaware of any serious problems in the home until a detective
knocked on his door Tuesday morning asking if he'd heard any
screams coming from the house. Bann said Deborah Leshkevich
was rarely seen outside the house while her husband spent
hours in the front yard chopping firewood.
"I only met him one time," said Bann who moved into
the home next door to the Leshkevich's four months ago. "He
seemed like kind of an oddball, an ignorant redneck type for
lack of a better terminology. When I told him I was from California
he went right into a whole thing about the Mexicans."
Bann said he was especially disturbed when he realized Leshkevich
was expounding on his views to neighborhood kids. According
to Bann, one 13-year-old neighbor related James Leshkevich's
reaction to him and his girlfriend moving into the neighborhood.
"He told him 'thank God they're white, if they weren't
white I'd be hanging my flags.' This is a 13-year-old kid
he's talking to!"
But Jim Leshkevich broadcast his views far beyond Morgan Hill
Road. At least as far back as 2002 when he handed out anti-Zionist
literature at a pro-Israel rally in Uptown Kingston, Leshkevich
has been active in the white power movement. In November 2005,
Leshkevich helped organize a rally led by white supremacist
radio host and (unknown at the time) FBI informant Hal Turner.
The rally, prompted by an attack on a white Kingston High
School Student by a black teenager, brought out Neo Nazis
from as far away as California along with hundreds of counter-demonstrators
It was on the internet though where Leshkevich most loudly
disseminated his overtly racist views. He was a frequent visitor
to the online reader response forum of the Daily Freeman where
he seemed to delight in the outraged reactions to his rhetoric.
On his blog dubbed - much to the horror of staff at the daily
newspaper - "The Hudson Valley Freeman", he would
repost articles from local media along with commentary from
white nationalists from across the country. He also hosted
a weekly internet radio show titled "Free Talk Live."
The final entry on Leshkevich's blog is dated Monday at 10:30
p.m. In it he describes the dissolution of his marriage and
Deborah's purported relationship with a local man over the
course of 2,553 words. Supposed excerpts appear from a cell
phone conversation he says he secretly recorded between his
wife and her alleged lover on January 19. He goes on to detail
a series of arguments which ensued after he confronted her
with the recording. More ominously, he rants about recently
divorced friends of his wife who he blames for egging her
on to leave him and pursue the affair.
On Wednesday, February 20, State Police Capt. Wayne Olsen
of the Troop F, Major Crime Investigation Unit, said police
were aware of the blog entry and had contacted all of those
identified in the post and some who were not. The angry rantings
on the blog, which also identifies Deborah Leshkevich's alleged
lover, are of particular concern because of James Leshkevich's
status as a well known and popular presence on white racist
internet message forums. On one such forum where tributes
to "Yankee Jim" were accompanied by laments that
he had not gone out on a "martyrdom operation" after
killing his wife, several posts explicitly threatened or encouraged
violence against the alleged lover and one poster claims to
have called him and left a message.
"We are aware that [the alleged lover] is not on their
fan favorite lists and we're taking appropriate steps,"
said Olsen of the danger of retaliation by Leshkevich extremist
Olsen added that state police investigators were immediately
aware of Leshkevich's extremist background and carried out
a slow methodical investigation before arriving at the murder/suicide
"We're fairly comfortable at this point that this is
what it appears to be," said Olsen. "But to be perfectly
honest, given his background, we were very careful in coming
to that conclusion."
A Memorial Service for Mrs. L will be held on March 10, 6:30pm
at the High School auditorium. Children will be making presentations,
there will be music and family members will be attending.
Lisa Childers contributed to this report, which originally
ran in the Woodstock and Kingston TImes
Jar Of Olives...
That ‘Rashomon Effect’
Truth Comes Down To Many Viewpoints
Reporting exit, entrance and survey polls of the primaries has
convinced me that numbers mean relatively little when they are
tied to subjective questions. Each candidate has its share of
positive “Look what I can do” advertisements and
an equal number of pundits to interpret each debate and sound
bite. I am tired of the election that is still three seasons
away and has been reduced to “He said-she said”
and then “He meant-she meant” as reported by the
As I watch the stock market reports, as I do, I am more convinced
than ever that we are in a Bull/Bear Market in a Recession/non-recession
period of time. I have been told, during the same broadcast,
to sit tight, sell, invest in financials, buy bonds, cash in
gold and buy base metal commodities. Huh? Does anyone out there
see the same thing and react the same? The answer is a resounding
This week I sadly read a newspaper account of a murder-suicide.
It infuriated me. First it was a senseless loss of life, but
what brought my normally even temper to a boiling point was
the way the “facts” were reported. It reminded me
of a film we studied in a college Media of Communications course.
We students were told to view the 1950 Japanese film entitled
Rashomon about a murder and rape crime that was filmed from
six points of view. Each character in the movie: the wood cutter,
the priest, the bandit, the Samurai and his wife told “his
or her story” through the camera’s eye. Then the
camera, representing the objective TRUTH, told the story once
more. It is a classic film that reveals that there is an impossibility
of telling the truth about an event when there are conflicting
witness accounts. Unfortunately, we all process truth through
our own experiences and biases. It is difficult to be neutral
and unbiased, but the media should strive to that ideal.
So, as I receive information, I am reminded that the message
I am getting only what someone is sending me. Debates are good.
So is investigative journalism that considers all sides, as
in Roshamon, but projects the objective facts, not the perceptions
that might be based upon omission, slant, or personal or, worse,
I realize that I do not write a news article. I write a column
that is definitely Carol biased. I write my ideas, my feelings,
my personal likes and dislikes. If you really want to know what
is going on with a cell tower or landfill construction, ask
questions, lots of them of many different people. Do not rely
on an editorial or diner/coffee shop interpretation of a rumor
of a half-truth.
Speaking of a coffee shop, I will miss Henry Gruendel who died
this week. I don’t think we ever had a real conversation,
but we share many pleasantries and smiles and “Good Mornings/Have
a Nice Day” greetings at the bakery and at Kasey’s
Café. I will look at his chair by the window or his stool
and miss him.
I didn’t know Wilma Eberhardt’s husband either,
but I sure knew Wilma. We worked and laughed and cried together
at Onteora when she worked there. When you work with someone
day in and out, you get to know their families because you share
their lives vicariously.
I proudly attended Martha Frankel’s book signing at the
BVI and read her book on a snowy Saturday. I also visited Barry
De Baun’s gallery at the Trail Motel in Boiceville. I
bought a print of a stone icehouse with a red door. Someday,
when I am rich, I will buy one of his beautiful landscape paintings.
What talent we have in our town!
Perhaps the senior art class, which is scheduled to begin at
the Reservoir Methodist Church on Monday, March 3 from 10 to
12, will produce the next Grandma or Grandpa Moses. Come if
you want to begin painting, resume painting, or just enjoy the
company of other art lovers. The instructor is Judith Boggess.