Follow Up on the
A contractor, sizing up the job for the
insurance company, came up with a figure in the $93,000
range (the original structure was built about nine years
ago for $85,000). But when the town eventually got around
to calling out for bids, no one came close to that estimate
and more time passed as Olive officials tried to track down
M & S’s contractor.
Although collective memories have dimmed on the details,
Supervisor Berndt Leifeld recalls the original bids ranging
from $299,000 to close to half a million dollars and an
offering from Marshall & Sterling of around $123,000
at one point. (The original structure was built about nine
years ago for $85,000.) Somewhere along the way, last year,
a decision was reached to extend the roof to cover an extra
trash bin which had previously been exposed to the weather.
The town would be expected to cover those additional costs.
As all of this was going on and Spring, Summer, Autumn and
another Winter passed, residents continued to bring their
disposable materials to the site, navigating through the
sawhorses and exposed "sanotubes" to the trash
and recycling bins, wondering what was taking so long. Heavier
traffic on weekends brought groups together to chat with
neighbors about their kids in Little League, this and that,
and what the heck was the story with the reconstruction?
Some tripped over the sanotubes, which are foundations for
the upright, roof-bearing columns, sunk four foot deep in
cement and jutting about three inches out of the blacktop
surface. Some injuries occurred and at least one lawsuit
Meanwhile, the bins have remained uncovered, absorbing rain
and snow to add to the tipping fees charged by the county
as they accept the trash on a pay-per-pound basis. A few
saturated mattresses add up quickly, along with other drenched
materials, and a rough estimate of an extra $12,000 has
been paid for the tonnage shipped out since the roof collapse.
A breakthrough of sorts occurred during a budget meeting
earlier this month when Bruce Proper, who supervises the
transfer station, finally had an opportunity to look over
the insurance company’s estimate of the replacement
work. Proper immediately noticed that the assessment accounted
for only a half of the structure. It included only 20 columns
along one side of the building but ignored the other side;
a case of two plus two equals two. The rafter count was
also off and the insurance figure was only sufficient to
construct a one-sided building.
"We’re working it out," said Leifeld on
Monday. "They’ve admitted that they were entirely
off base and, when I talked to them last week, they said
they’re going back to the person who did that appraisal
for them to see what’s what. They’ve gone up
to $200,000 something and we’re going even higher
because they left off half the posts and used the measurements
between the posts and not the overhang between the trusses.
So, it was really messed up but now they’ve got it
back and they’re not fighting us on it. We’ll
redo it and see where we come out."
Leifeld added that he would check to see if the $299,000
bid from Transitional Builders of Poughkeepsie, long past
its 30 day period of validity, was still agreeable, saying
that it looked like the insurers would come "pretty
close" to that.
"He’s supposed to let me know some time this
week," Leifeld said of the Marshall & Sterling
representative. "He agreed over the phone that there
was definitely something wrong here. I don’t think
there’ll be any further problems."
Once settled, Leifeld thought the job would be completed
within four to six weeks. After that, perhaps, the landfill
focus can shift to a proposed renegotiation of the exorbitant
UCRRA fuel surcharge imposed during last year’s oil
price escalation, readjusting the payments to reflect the
decline in oil prices; another bit of dangling landfill
Olive councilman Peter Friedel, who oversees landfill concerns
for the town board, did not return calls in time for this
After board discussion and adoption (or mitigation), the spending
plan will go before Onteora voters on Tuesday, May 19, when
an election will also be held for three school board seats,
including three-year posts currently held by Board President
Maxanne Resnick and Vice President Laurie Osmond, as well as
the vacant seat once held by former Board President Ralph Legnini,
who resigned this winter and was recently replaced by Mt. Tremper
resident Dan Spencer.
Ford presented her budget, $88,000 over the district’s
contingency figures, at a March 17 board of education meeting
at the Middle/High School after an earlier trial run on March
3 where she explained how most of the cuts involved personnel
and reflected needs from use of various means to keep the tax
levy rise low last year.
“What I would suggest is running with this budget,”
said Ford, “It is so close to contingent because if the
vote goes down and we go to contingent budget we would be looking
at removing the equipment amount and if we move that, we are
“Our (tax) levy increase is 9 percent,” Ford said,
explaining how the Consumer Price Index combination of last
year’s 3.08 percent and this years 3.97 percent has forced
shifts in how budgets are valued, as well as the fact that the
district will most likely see a two percent loss in state aid
and a one percent loss in interest income.
The budget-to-budget increase is projected to be 4.15 percent,
from $48,215.077 in 2008/2009 budget to $50,129,886.
Osmond said she would like to see more from individual district
departments on potential cuts.
“What we are getting here is very few menu items and we
have the entire budget to go through,” she said. “I
think to look at the significant categories would be very helpful.”
She also asked building administrators to look at an additional
five percent reduction, on top of an existing ten percent reduction
figure, and suggested that the district’s BOCES contract
be reduced by keeping kids in the district.
Resnick noted how, during a series of recent visits to town
board meetings throughout the district this month, people had
mentioned the closing an additional elementary school.
“Some say we should close a school to achieve some reduction,
but I want to stress that closing a school will not solve the
problem, it will help in reducing some of the operating budgets,”
Osmond agreed, noting how expenses continued rising at Onteora
despite the 2005 closing of West Hurley.
Later, Resnick noted how, “We as a community need to better
understand the choices ahead regarding our school district.
The question is what the community’s priorities are against
the associated tax levy which occurs.”
“As we go forward, the district needs to articulate, and
the community needs to better understand the array of choices
that they might support,” she noted. “Examples of
the considerations are the retention of a community school;
our Middle School grade configuration; the sizes of our classes,
some of which are well below are district class size caps; the
variation we are able to offer in high school electives, as
well as after school programs; and the allocation of monies
to improve our current buildings, once a plan has been established.”
At the recent meeting and in a flurry of letters sent to local
newspapers and the Board since, the chief element drawing fire
with Ford’s proposed budget has been the proposed changing
of how the INDIE program operates, cutting its budget line from
$120,000 to $50,000.
“We are looking at an after school program of some nature,
we don’t really have it defined yet, but we moved some
money back into that so that’s a change,” noted
Ford, after making some shifts from an earlier March 3 budget
She was followed, March 17, by the presentation of a student-made
documentary and INDIE Director Russell Richardson’s attempt
to make a case that his program ultimately saves the district
money since it reduces the dropout rate and keeps at risk kids
from being sent to programs out of the district, which inevitably
drops aid funding. Specifically, he noted how if dropped, INDIES
70 students would have to be absorbed back into the curriculum
or sent to BOCES.
“Sending a kid to BOCES for alternative programming is
expensive, the cost per year is $12,000 per child,” he
said, noting that INDIE’s cost currently averaged out
at around $1,700, and could be dropped to $1,200 with increased
Later, High School Principal Lance Edelman warned of cutting
BOCES while retaining INDIE.
“I hear alternative education be synonymous with INDIE
and I keep hearing filmmaking,” said Edelman. “Not
all of our alternative education students are interested in
filmmaking; you have to remember BOCES provides a wide range
As an example he listed, cosmetology, auto repair and culinary
In other budget talk on the 17th, the school board approved
a ballot measure that will ask voters to purchase two buses
for the coming school year. The request was approved 4-1, with
Osmond voting no based on her request that all departments make
sacrifices, including transportation.
Trustees Michelle Friedel and Donna Flayhan were absent.
Director of Transportation Dave Moraca said that with the exception
of last year, voters have consistently refused the purchase
of new buses and they have a backlog of old, high mileage buses
in need of expensive repair.
On the ballot voters will be asked to vote on a 65-passenger
bus at a cost of $100,000 and the purchase of a 28-passenger
bus at a cost of $50,000. Moraca said the 65-passenger bus would
replace a 1999 bus with over 200,000 miles on it, while the
smaller vehicle replaces a van with 216,000 miles, at present.
On March 3, the board approved the extension of Mulligan bus
contracts for the 2009/2010 school year, with Trustee Donna
Flayhan the only no vote, feverishly still supporting the re-bidding
In other recent matters, OCS Trustee Anne McGillicuddy asked
if the board could explore the possibility of having coffee
chats with the public as a means of better reaching out to the
community, based on a protocol set up in Kingston in recent
Trustee Rick Wolff said he was uncomfortable with the idea because
of the way misinformation moves around the district during annual
McGillicuddy said she perceived the chats more as a means for
the board to listen to community input and listening than getting
Superintendent Ford, for her own part, suggested having talking
points in order for the board to stay consistent.
Spencer, who was elected to fill the board seat left vacated
by Legnini on March 9 by a 5-1 vote, with only Trustee Rick
Wolff not supporting his candidacy, made suggestions on how
the district website can be better for public use at his first
official meeting on March 16. He said information does not get
out to people, leaving the general public attitude towards the
district negative, and noted that the creation of an automated
email response system, along with an email distribution list
and direct links, would help solve the problem.
“I think we have a lot of good ideas, but we are not getting
it out quick enough,” he said.
The district now has a public comment phone line. The communications
committee organized this as an extension of the public-be-heard
format. Anyone can leave a district related message at 657-2677.
Once you hear, “Onteora faculty mailbox,” press
Spencer was one of four candidates who made statements and answered
questions from board members in a recent interview process for
the vacancy, where he primarily addressed budget and enrollment
conflicts within the district with a calm, politically neutral
sense of style. Voting was done alphabetically, with he the
definitive winner over former board candidate Tom Hickey, who
gained only four votes, and two others, Rita Vanacore and student
William Melvin, who received one and zero votes, respectively.
Spencer is a Senior Applications Engineer and Project Manager
at Ametek Rotron. He lives in Mt. Tremper and is guardian to
a child who attends school in the district. He is a member of
the Woodstock Rescue Squad, has a Bachelors of Science in Electrical
engineering, with a minor in computer science and an Associates
degree in Civil Technology.
He has said that he pondered running for school board in the
past, but was unsure how much time was involved in the volunteer
job. He will hold the seat through May and said this will give
him opportunity to decide if he can handle the time committed
to run for a seat.
In other news since our last issue, the board rejected all contract
bids on the high school auditorium renovation project at a special
meeting on February 27, where they also re-authorized a re-bid
due to cost overruns. It turns out that with money approved
for the project by voters in 2007 totaling $1.862,711, partly
from an EXCEL State Grant stalled for two years, final bids
ened up coming in $160,000 over what was budgeted.
McLaren said there was a shining ray of hope, besides the possibility
of a new low bid. The Onteora auditorium job, she said, is currently
on a State-approved list of shovel-ready projects and could
qualify for stimulus money to make up for the shortfall.
Finally, Corey Cavallaro of the Onteora Teachers Association
has continued to address the school board and administration
in public forum on contract negotiations. He noted that the
district has stalled in bargaining negotiations for over 250
days and offered to meet in executive session and answer questions
the board may have.
So far, though, Cavallaro says he has met with no response except
a memo seeking a fact-finding request through a third party.
“The board of education and the superintendent have firmly
established the un-written policy of abdicating any responsibility
for negotiations and would rather hire consultants at taxpayer
expense than do the work they were hired and elected to do,”
The board’s next meeting is at Bennett School on March
31, the same day the long-awaited state budget is officially
supposed to be voted on.
The gauges can be seen all over the region. At
first glance they might resemble an old fashioned
outhouse on steroids. Built out of steel with
large padlocks on the doors, these structures
contain sophisticated monitoring technology to
measure the volume, height, temperature and cleanliness
of local waters - waters that have caused millions
of dollars of flood damage to the region, while
also bringing millions more in tourism and recreation.
According to DEP spokesman Michael Saucier, the
city agency currently provides funding to the
United States Geological Survey for an extensive
network of approximately 100 stream gauges within
and outside of DEP's watershed area. Of those,
he said, DEP will no longer support 24. The cost
to operate each gauge is about $17,000 a year.
“As a result of the need to reduce expenditures
during this difficult economic time, DEP is reviewing
all aspects of its budget, including the support
it provides for the gaging network,” Saucier
said in a prepared statement. “The results
of this analysis indicate that many of the gages
no longer serve the purpose for which they were
Only one gauge in Shandaken is slated for shut
down. It is at the Panther Mountain Tributary
to the Esopus Creek in Oliverea. Three others
in Ulster County - at the Beaver Kill Tributary
in Lake Hill, on the Roundout Creek at Peekamoose
and on the Wallkill River in Gardiner, are set
to be shut down as well.
In nearby Greene County the gauges on the Sugarloaf
Brook in Tannersville, the Schoharie Creek near
Lexington, and the Batavia Kill near Maplecrest
and also in Hensonville will have gauges shut
State Senator John Bonacic, who called the DEP’s
plan “inappropriate,” met with New
York City Department of Environmental Protection
Deputy Commissioner Paul Rush earlier this week
to demand that stream gages in the watershed area
be kept open.
The Senator later said he asked the DEP to give
him an answer on the gauges later this week. But
Bonacic added that if he did not receive a satisfactory
response he would introduce legislation to require
New York City, as part of their ongoing water
supply responsibilities to monitor the tributaries.
Hard hit, he and others noted, would bewill be
Delaware County, where over 11 gauges are scheduled
to be shut down over the next two years
Middletown Supervisor Len Utter talked about the
importance of the gauges during flood events,
saying that watershed dwellers can go onto a website
and see precise and up to the minute flows and
elevations of the many creeks monitored by the
gages, which feed the data to satellite. Utter
said such data is an invaluable resource for a
host of emergency service agencies during flood
Rafael Rodriguez, Director of the USGS New York
Water Science Center, said that although the City
plans to pull out on funding, it remains unclear
whether that would mean the gauges actually get
“Data collection at the streamgages may
be discontinued due to funding reductions from
partner agencies,” he said. “Although
historic data will remain accessible, no new data
will be collected unless one or more new funding
partners are found.”
Meanwhile, Hudson Valley Congressmen Maurice Hinchey
and John Hall recently announced final congressional
approval of $331,000 for a pending flood mitigation
study in the Upper Delaware River Watershed and
for the enhancement of the existing flood alert
system for the region. The two Democratic lawmakers
also worked to secure $96,000 for the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers to provide additional support
for the pending comprehensive study to mitigate
future flooding in a number of areas within the
Upper Delaware River Watershed. Hinchey also obtained
approval of $235,000 for the development and implementation
of a Delaware River Enhanced Flood Warning System,
which will be done along with the Delaware River
Hinchey and Hall obtained $700,000 for the study
last year, to which this funding will be added.
Unknown is how such funding could help out with
the city and USGS program’s funding.
On The State...
First off a recent Washington Post article noted a particularly
scary trend, given the growing number of layoffs starting to
move through the region, by pointing out how, “More than
a quarter of people applying for unemployment claims have their
rights to the benefit challenged as employers increasingly act
to block payouts to workers.”
“Under state and federal laws, employees who are fired
for misbehavior or quit voluntarily are ineligible for unemployment
compensation,” the piece continued. “When jobless
claims are blocked, employers save money because their unemployment
insurance rates are based on the amount of the benefits their
workers collect… Many seem surprised to find their benefits
challenged, their former bosses providing testimony against
This phenomenon, it turns out, has created an industry of ‘third-party
agents’ - companies that specialize in helping employers
deal with the unemployment insurance administration by representing
them in disputes with former employees.
Why this is happening, beyond employers’ own financial
protection, was open to several interpretations, including systematic
automation of the process, and court rulings that have enlarged
the definition of employee misconduct.
We checked with the state to see what was up here in New York,
in general, as well as in Ulster County.
Labor Department spokesperson Karen Williamson began by sharing
new unemployment figures for the state that showed a jump from
6.8 percent in December to 7.6 percent for January. During that
same time, Ulster County saw its rate rise from 6.5 percent
to 7.8 percent for January, while neighboring Greene County
went from 7.6 percent to 8.5 percent, Delaware County went from
7.6 percent to 9.5 percent, and Sullivan County surged from
8.4 to 10.2 percent.
“People I spoke with in our unemployment insurance claims
offices said that the numbers of claims being challenged by
employers have risen,” Williamson said. “But the
numbers of claims have also risen drastically, so it hasn’t
looked out of line here, at least to our people.”
We asked about how much people could make on unemployment and
Williamson went on to note that the range was between a low
level of $64 a week, plus an additional $25 per week in new
federal stimulus dollars, to a high of $405 per week, plus that
So what about the other news, we asked, about states refusing
those federal stimulus funds because they would skew their payment
schedules. How big was the discrepancy between Unemployment
benefits, state to state.
She said she and others in her office working on the problem
could find no centralized information comparing state’s
payments. She just knew it was a lot...
So much for bad news. Has there been any good, on a financial
Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani said he is looking to
federal stimulus funding, recently forgotten in all the hallabaloo
about bank bailouts, for $1 million to go toward the proposed
Phoenicia sewer project plus additional funds for a wastewater
retrofit project in Pine Hill. He also hopes to secure money
to rehabilitate the crumbling Town Hall.
“I heard the DOT wants to use the stimulus money to pave
portions of the Ulster County section of 28,” said Peter
Manning, who serves as facilitator for the new regional group,
the Central Catskills Collaborative, as well as Planner for
the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. “As
you probably know, several months ago the Town of Shandaken
raised awareness of the deteriorating road conditions.”
Also, Manning said, he’d heard that there’d been
a push to get the feds interested, via Governor Paterson’s
office (who oversees stimulus funding in New York), in doing
something to get the long-pending Catskill Interpretive Center
up and running, even if only in a vacant building on Route 28.
And hey, gas is still cheap (even if you have to drive a distance
to get it). And Spring’s starting to hint at bursting
forth one of these days.
Not all bad, in the end. At least while we keep waiting on the
Jar Of Olives...
How About A Little Bit Of Good News?
This column will be dedicated to good news, the kind of good
news that makes you want to shout, and jump and bang a pot or
two like in a “Skimbleton.” A few weeks ago I wrote
about Don and Bessie DuBois who celebrated seventy years of
marriage. John Adsit called to tell me that he remembered when
he and a few other young men gave a “Skimbleton”
for the young newlyweds. A skimbleton is an old-fashioned custom
to “ride skimbleton” on the honeymooning couple
by shouting and banging pots to keep them from a romantic evening.
John Adsit said that his group of hooligans brought shotguns
to shoot up in the air outside Don and Bessie’s house.
Trouble was they hit the telephone wires and disrupted telephone
service from Shokan to Kingston. The sheriff came to investigate,
found the shell casings, but “took it all in good sport.”
Maybe a variation of a skimbleton is a good way to celebrate,
sans shotguns, the occasions of our lives. One worthy event
would be Mike Ackerly’s completion of his teaching degree
this spring. He is currently doing his student teaching in the
Onteora school district he once attended.
Another skimbleton could be held for Brittany Alexander, daughter
of Kim Krickhahn of Olivebridge, who was named to the Dean’s
List at Russell Sage Graduate School in Troy with a 4.0 grade-point
average. Brittany is a 2004 graduate of Onteora, a 2008 Psychology
graduate of the College of St. Rose, and is pursuing her Master
of Arts in Professional School Counseling.
Cathy Magielnicki also deserves one for being named a Kellas
Scholar for being on the Dean’s List at Russell Sage for
three straight semesters. Cathy is studying Creative Arts and
Primo Stropoli, well named because he is “Numero Uno”
in my opinion, was named to the Dean’s List of the University
Another celebration should be scheduled for Alison Tosi who
is doing a year’s internship at Rondout Middle School
as the culmination of her Masters in School Psychology.
Honestly, I could go on and on about how these and other former
students have carved out careers that started right here in
Olive. I agree, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Olive has done well by its young adults.
Boy Scout Troop 63, sponsored by the Olive American Legion Post,
has something to be proud of too. They are planning a very special
Court of Honor to award Ace DiSiena, William Melvin, and Matthew
Xavier who have completed the requirements for the prestigious
honor of Eagle Scout.
There’s even some good news in the Ides of April duty
of paying taxes. I had to do my aunt’s taxes, and the
volunteers from the RSVP/AARP service made the task almost palatable.
Volunteers Bob Hoffman from Hurley and our own Jac Conaway turned
this dreaded task into a pleasant experience at the West Hurley
and Olive Free Libraries. They possess the mathematical wizardry
of Stephen Hawking, the patience of Job, the sense of humor
of Dave Barry and the generosity of Mother Theresa. It reminds
me that volunteering rewards both the recipient and the giver.
Thank you for giving of your time and expertise. By the way,
do you know what you get if you add the letters of “the
and IRS” together? You get “THEIRS.”
Even though tax time approaches, it coincides with the non-taxable
benefit of spring’s gifts. By the time you read this,
daffodils will be poking up from the frozen mud. I personally
will run outside, skimbleton style, and bang on some pots and
pans at the first sign of a robin or tulip.