Follow Up on the
Webb Summons Wind
"The goal is threefold," explained Matt Savatgy,
an Olive parent whose wife, Shelley, teaches sixth grade
at Bennett and worked with Leonard for ten years. "We
want to memorialize Webb, educate the students, and facilitate
communication about alternative energy and its possible
applications. We're hoping it will to serve as a motivation
for larger-scale projects in the district and the community.
The school has the goal of trying to establish a larger
turbine in the school district for taking electric consumption
off the grid and saving money."
Savatgy is on the committee for the Webb Leonard Memorial
Fund, which needs another $2500 to reach its goal. Working
in tandem with the Bennett student government, the group
has been raising money for a little over a year through
private donations, substantial gifts from the Bennett PTA
and the Onteora Retired Teachers Association, and a series
of fundraisers. Events have included a crafts fair, a penny
social, and a recent dodgeball tournament, in which the
Phoenicia Elementary School team of parents and teachers
took two of the three prizes.
Savatgy said the dodgeball event was wildly successful,
in terms of money raised (nearly $4800) and community spirit
generated. "It made triple what we expected,"
he reported. "We didn't even advertise-everyone in
school community was so excited. We had a total of 800 people,
and 600 paid at the door. There were 160 players, both men
and women, representing 16 teams of staff, alumni, parents,
and co-workers from all the elementary schools, the middle
and high schools. We had police and fire company teams,
and several businesses had teams. It was a lot of fun."
Cash prizes of $200 each were awarded in three categories.
A group of recently graduated high school students won the
actual tournament. The Phoenicia team, dressed as Village
People, won the awards for team spirit and for bringing
the most people (120), who "were just going nuts in
the stands," said Savatgy. "The Phoenicia team
had crazy outfits, banners, fans with signs and songs, and
they donated back their cash prizes. It was a good event
for the district in terms of unifying people. We hope to
continue to capture that energy."
The committee has a couple more fundraisers planned, and
they are still soliciting donations from the public. The
Bennett School has chosen the bobcat as their mascot, and
Bennett Bobcat t-shirts will be sold to support the turbine
construction and other student government projects.
The original proposal was to build a turbine that would
power the school library, but the expense seemed prohibitive.
"Now we want to look into the possibility of grants
that may be available for alternative energy," said
Savatgy. "State agencies don't want to give grants
if you don't have money, but they might be able to match
what we've raised."
The planned turbine will be 30 feet high, with a small solar
component for backup power on days when it's not breezy.
Volunteer labor was considered and rejected due to insurance
considerations. Several construction companies were contacted
at the start of the process to obtain rough estimates, and
appointments are now being made for representatives to visit
the school and discuss the layout. Current plans call for
the turbine to be located in front of the school, with landscaping,
a bench, boulders, a bronze plaque, and interpretive signage.
"We're hoping to have it in place by the fall of this
year," said Savatgy, "although it may be delayed
if people on the committee decide to pursue grants for a
Savatgy, who runs an Internet business selling Adirondack
chairs, describes himself as "an environmental geologist
by education. Webb established an Earth Day program at the
school, where he brought in guest speakers and got kids
outside doing presentations, and I was always a presenter
for him. I ran a Boy Scout camp for 10-plus years, and I
managed construction projects and memorial funds for them.
When someone passed away-scout leaders, campers, one young
man who died in car accident-the family would choose a project.
With that experience, and having worked with Webb, I offered
my services to the principal." Gabe Bono, the principal,
is on the turbine committee. Savatgy has also, in the past,
contracted with the school to create an environmental lab,
spruce up the nature trails behind the building, and serve
as a scientist-in-residence.
"We want to remember Webb in a meaningful way,"
he added, "We hope this will be a stepping stone for
future things at Bennett, maybe an outdoor classroom, and
other ideas floating around. Once people see we can do good
things, it's easier to motivate folks to do more."
Donations may be made in the from of checks made out to
Bennett School Student Government and mailed to Bennett
Elementary School, c/o Matt Savatgy, PO Box 300, Boiceville
also headed the Olive Conservative Party in recent years,
e-mailed later that work precluded his getting out for
a Saturday tete-a-tete.
"There are three or four of us trying start a local
Shandaken, Olive Woodstock T-Party," he writes. "The
Party is a very loosely organized grass roots group and
we will stay associated with the Kingston group."
I asked Johansen if he would be maintaining his work with
the Conservative Party, and whether there was any active
crossover with other local efforts, from the issue-specific
Olive Matters to the old Woodstock Landowners Association
and other entities.
"Because it such a free flowing group I can't tell
what's going to happen at our meeting; we'll see what's
on their minds," Johansen replied. "I plan on
having our Congressional candidates at a May meeting at
Shokan Park; one of the candidates has said he will come.
They will both be invited."
McGee and Langbert have been somewhat regular writers
to our papers over the years. The latter also maintains
a blog that lambastes progressive political trends in
all guises, albeit in a studiously intellectual tone.
Occasionally it wanders into local issues and races, including
the most recent Olive elections and continuing alarm over
Congressman Maurice Hinchey's current plan to have the
Hudson Valley studied for possible National Park status
of some sort. But mostly it's a running commentary on
how government's getting too big, our nation's creeping
towards socialism, and Democrats are pretty much flat-out
I mention parallels I've been noticing between today's
political atmosphere, including some of the voices rising
in opposition to the National Park study, and regional
upheavals during the post-midterm election Clinton years,
when a local application to have the Catskills declared
a United Nations' World Biosphere region was met with
underground meetings, town and county-okayed memorializing
resolutions. Eventually, the outcry drew the attention
of then-Congressman Gerald Solomon, who convened a Congressional
Hearing on property rights matters at the Hunter-Tannersville
High School that included appearances by some of the farthest
right members of congress at the time, including Don Young,
Richard Pombo and Helen Chenoweth, as well as still-incumbent
Those events mirrored a time when U.N. takeover conspiracies
and militia talk were rife within the region, which saw
the withdrawal of the Biosphere application, threats to
the creation of a Heritage Trail and other joint planning
efforts, and the rise of opposition to New York City's
regulatory control of its watershed holdings. The latter
led, after a year of catastrophic flooding that tempered
the discussion somewhat, to the signing of the Memorandum
of Agreement between Upstate communities and New York
City in 1997.
"It's happening again," McGee replies. She notes
how a doctor friend involved in Tea Party activities in
Oklahoma alerted her to U.N. Agenda 21, which another
teacher acquaintance from the city dubbed, "the sort
of thing you file away in the 'too bad to be true' category."
What she's referring to is the sustainable development
protocol that's been an agenda-item of the United Nations
since its 1992 Conference on Environment and Development
(the "Earth Summit") held in Rio de Janeiro,
and is aimed at stemming the environmental and economic
degradation effects of modern globalization. Included
in its purview are such items as, "combating poverty,
changing consumption patterns, population and demographic
dynamics, promoting health, promoting sustainable settlement
patterns and integrating environment and development into
McGee lumps the initiative in with new pushes to link
major population centers with high speed rail lines as
a means of "herding people into concentrated population
centers," and grimaces as she then mentions the idea
of "Cap and Trade" energy policies and their
champion, Al Gore.
"The whole concept of sustainable development..."
she notes, as Langbert counters his own belief that high
speed rail MIGHT not be such a bad idea. "If it's
wet the UN wants it... My view of the Tea Party is that
it's all about post-partisan citizen awareness."
Langbert swinga the conversation back to specifics. He
notes how a number of people he knew, who considered themselves
true conservatives or Libertarians, started worrying under
the Bush Administration. Then came the bailout moves of
late 2008, which sent everyone over the edge.
"The war was mismanaged," he adds. "I was
disgusted seeing McCain vote for the bailout, along with
his saying it wasn't his issue. It should have been his
I ask again about the local Tea Party efforts and the
two focus, for a moment, on the Kingston events they've
been attending. They tend to average 50 to 60 people a
meeting at the Ulster Town Hall in Lake Katrine the second
Monday of each month. They've held a few local events,
including a roadside Tax Day protest opposite the Wendy's
on Route 9W in Kingston set to be repeated this April
15. And they've sent busses down to events in the nation's
capital, including Glenn Beck's 912 rally.
"The whole movement's extremely decentralized,"
McGee adds that she's noticing a lot of "Constitutionalist"
initiative on the part of those she's been in contact
with nationwide, and starts to talk about the "biometrics
card" being talked about in current Immigration Reform
Both note how it's been Johansen who's had the names of
people to set up a local capter of the Kingston Tea Party,
saying he could bring out 30 or more people "very
Checking online at that entity's website, it turns out
the local tea party started off as American Patriots of
the Hudson Valley, and was founded "in conjunction
with over 850 nationwide tea parties that symbolized the
original Boston Tea Party of 1773."
"Our mission is to promote public awareness of the
contents of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S.
Constitution and other founding documents. We are committed
to upholding those documents by supporting the fundamental
beliefs of the Founding Fathers," reads their "About
Us" information on their Kingston Tea Party website.
"We also support their beliefs that the American
Republic was established on the bedrock of truth that
government derives it's just powers from the consent of
the governed under the guidance of Divine Providence.
Today, 233 years after the initial signing of the Declaration
of Independence, We The People, have discovered that government
once again is bordering on a state of tyranny fueled by
the concept of socialism. In recent decades we have observed
the progressive transfer of power from the people to the
government. We have seen our liberties systematically
erode, thus abridging our God given rights."
As of press time, the organization listed a total of 138
members in a wide range of local communities.
"I think when everyone's paying attention to politics
something is terribly wrong," says McGee, speaking
about how government's gotten top heavy of late and describing
herself as a "wonk."
"You have to cut benefits," Langbert says after
correcting some quotes by McGee regarding percentages
of economic control on the part of the public sector.
I ask about Hinchey's national park study proposal, recently
okayed by a House committee and currently being championed
in the Senate by Sen. Kristin Gillibrand.
"Hinchey put fear into a lot of people with this
proposal to federalize five local counties," McGee
says. "People are just now trying to understand the
implications of this."
Langbert brings up Huinchey's previous involvement, earlier
in his career as a state legislator, with the setting
up of the Adirondack Park Commission.
McGee notes how she owns 100 acres in the Adirondacks;
instead of the $1500 a year she pays in taxes here, she
notes she could be paying $50 a year were that same property
"I am a Confederate now," is an entry Langbert
put on his blog in relation to the National Park matter
earlier. "I no longer believe in the union. I believe
in the Tenth Amendment and the Articles of Confederation.
My heroes now are not Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant,
but rather Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun."
Later, Johansen provides specifics about the new SOW Tea
Party forming locally.
"I think the Party should keep a distance from any
of the Established Political parties," he writes.
"I think the T-Party has sprung from the dissatisfaction
with the organized parties. What I think you will see
is no recommendations or endorsement from the party. They
may come up with a set of questions where the candidate
will take a pledge; Pledge himself to term limits, less
government, et cetera..."
He signs the missive, "Stay with us."
The potential tax increase for a 3.9 percent levy, broken
into dollar amounts, will be approximately $37.60 per
home market value of $100,000. The current $49.8 million
budget would increase by $395,205 in 2010/2011 to $50.2
If voters were to reject the budget two times, a contingent
budget would offer a 2.85 percent levy. Board members
warn if the budget were rejected, however, programs would
be negatively affected.
The current proposal restores some programs initially
slated for elimination, such as volleyball, golf, indoor
track and the strings teacher. Also restored was a stipend
of $16,094 from Gifted and Talented, a program that will
be eliminated to save the district over $200,000. The
stipend will help to create an enrichment program for
students that were enrolled in the cut program.
Additional administrative cuts include paying off a bus
purchase from 2008 using unreserved funds. This would
eliminate additional debt and save the district $43,306
in penalty fees. Attorney fees are projected to drop by
$25,000 because of settlements in contracts. The largest
budget decrease will be due to the elimination of five
teaching positions at a savings of over $350,000. INDIE
will also see a reduction of $50,000.
McLaren presented charts of the nine school districts
in Ulster County. In 2009/2010 Onteora ranks highest per-pupil
cost in the county at $29,212. The second highest is Rondout,
at $24,708. On the other hand, Onteora ranks lowest, $9.63
as the true tax rate in Ulster County per every $1000
in home value. The second lowest is Saugerties at $13.31.
Factors driving the budget increase are primarily come
from benefits. Health insurance is projected to increase
14.9 percent, a higher increase than initially expected.
Ford said the district has seen an increase of staff illnesses
and it contributed toward the hike. Retirement contribution
will be increasing from 6.19 to 8.62 percent. Contracted
salary, unemployment, benefit trust and workers compensation
will also be increasing. State Aid and revenue interest
rates will be taking a dramatic decrease.
Past school board member Meg Carey said, "I think
that this budget season, that we all in the community
are facing, is the worst one I have seen since I have
lived here for 30 years."
Carey served as a board member for six years and voted
in favor of closing West Hurley School in 2004. Carey
supports moving grade six to the middle school and closing
an additional elementary school.
"If another elementary school were closed,"
she asked, "what are the savings?"
Carey said in all fairness people should be able to see
the cost savings and weigh it against the current cuts
proposed. She told the board that it was not too late
to close another elementary school.
Trustee Donna Flayhan said her daughter went to Woodstock
the year it merged with West Hurley. "There was no
plan in place, there were kids everywhere, there were
boxes everywhere and my daughter's advanced reading class
was literally a closet."
School board president Laurie Osmond said they plan to
have a discussion on such matters based on past committee
and district studies. However, she added that the district
needs to comply with square footage of how many students
can be educated in a classroom.
"And don't forget that previous plans for the future
of the district involve new construction and this isn't
something that we can do overnight and it isn't something
we can do for free," she concluded.
The administration continues to work the budget as new
information comes in. The Superintendent Budget Recommendation
is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13 at 6:00 PM at the Middle/High
Up The Economy
Much of the
gathering was taken up with slide show presentations of
the various programs run by the city-funded agency initiated
in 1997 to oversee watershed regulations and development.
And most of those presentations included examples of projects
undertaken in Shandaken and Olive, from business septic
systems to educational programs and dinners for visiting
water specialists from Brazil and Mexico at such eateries
as Ricciardella's in Phoenicia.
"Keep the water clean to begin with. That's our rule
number 1," said Environmental Engineering Specialist
Leo Labuda in a talk about successful septic replacement
programs around the region, which numbered 363 in 34 of
41 watershed towns for the past year. "What you get
at the end is a lawn..."
Labuda's peer, Nate Hendricks, addressed newly completed
and pending community wastewater treatment plants CWC
has been managing, with much emphasis on the new Boiceville
system set for completion this summer (but nada on Phoenicia,
which has been reluctant to sign on to a system to date).
He also spoke about new work to upgrade stormwater systems
to accommodate changing weather patterns in the region,
including the initiation of low impact grassed parking
areas, retrofits, the pushing of sustainable rain gardens,
and stream corridor aid meant to stem erosion, a major
source of sediment that causes drinking water turbidity,
a health threat, as well as seasonal flooding.
Mike Triolo, CWC's Economic Development Director, addressed
the ways in which the Catskills have been affected by
the national economic downturn, but also spoke about the
ways in which the CWC has helped local businesses with
"collectors and forebearances," and continued
to be the engine for much of the region's sustenance and
In further presentations, it was noted how a three year
pilot program allowing canoes and sailboats on the Cannonsville
Reservoir seems likely to be promulgated throughout the
Catskills system, the opportunities inherent in emerging
grass bio-energy pellet technologies, and the partnerships
CWC has been nurturing with other funding entities to
renovate or build new community-enhancing centers throughout
And it seems that the organization and its programs are
now being seen as a model for other systems, nation- and
Later, Carol O'Beirne spoke on behalf of the Water Discovery
Center, which the CWC granted $1 million to in the past
year. She noted discussions with General Electric about
major sponsorship funing, as well as pending grant applications
with the O'Connor Foundation, the Erpf Fund, and other
entities. She said that former NYC DEP head Chris Ward,
now at the Port Authority, has offered to help the ambitious
WDC board search out the $25 million it is seeking.
A digital video presentation of a virtual walk through
the proposed Water Discovery Center, to be placed on acreage
in Arkville, completed the presentation, with no discussion
offered by anyone in attendance afterwards.
At meeting's end, mention was made of the late Pat Meehan,
the longstanding Windham town supervisor who was one of
the organization's founders, as well as a longterm chair
of the still-existent Coalition of Watershed Towns from
which the CWC was birthed.
"Without everybody working together for a common
cause we wouldn't be able to do what we do well,"
said CWC Board President Georgianne Lepke in a rare statement.
A board resolution earlier in the meeting established
her new salary in her position at $15,450 a year.
Because Of Prices?
This news was presented in the context of
Dicker's reportage on another Paterson-administration
plan involving the Nature Conservancy that was described
in terms of giving "the wealthy environmental
group a staggering 57 percent profit on wilderness
land - even as property values collapsed across New
York." That deal involved the state Department
of Environmental Conservation paying nearly $10 million
for 20,000 acres. In October, 2008, that the group
purchased for $6.3 million just a few years earlier.
"Official state records examined by The Post
and statements by local officials show the purchase
price was heavily inflated and relied on outdated
appraisals from a year earlier, when real-estate values
in New York and other parts of the nation were still
skyrocketing," Dicker wrote. The original Big
Indian land deal, which smoothed the way for approval
of the AIP via removal of an entire golf mini-resort
from the plans for Crossroads' Belleayre Resort plan,
was for just under $13 million for a little over 1,200
acres. According to recent reports, a final approved
deal reached between DEC and Gitter in recent months
has seen that figure drop to around $6 million, total,
which is likely why it was the Adirondack land sale
that made the lede of the Post story on Monday. "The
state process is much slower than, say, a private
home sale. It takes months," DEC spokesperson
Yancey Roy was quoted by Dicker, in relation to the
relationship between sale figures and comparables
in both cases. "The notion that the state wanted
to 'reward' The Nature Conservancy is absurd."
In regards to the accuracy of Dicker's reporting on
DiNapoli's current hold on the Belleayre Resort deal,
DEC District 3 Regional Director Willie Janeway said
on Tuesday, April 6, that the reporter was known for
being strong with his sources, but added that the
slow and careful movement of bureaucracy shouldn't
be construed as a permant block to any project. Calls
to Gitter and Crossroads Ventures regarding the reports
were unanswered as of press time.
Jar Of Olives
It is spring! Even if it turns cold and nasty, we have turned
that emotional corner, and, like snails shedding their shells,
we venture forth from that winter cocoon of indoor living.
For many teachers and students the time between spring break
and end of school exams will fly by at super-sonic speed. Baseball,
softball, track, and soccer teams will compete for practice
space and games. Plans for communions, graduations, and weddings
go into high gear. We are rested up from a sedentary winter
and are rearing to go. Our day extends beyond supper as we notice
the sun gives us more time to have cookouts and get-togethers.
The reality shows of winter's nighttime television are replaced
with us acting out our own personal scripts. Like the dormant
bulbs of tulips and daffodils, we come alive once again.
Starting April 15, Sherry and George Thomas have scheduled Thursday
night country line-dancing classes at the Reservoir Methodist
Church, one for singles and another for couples. Contact Sherry
Thomas for details at 657-8854. The cost is $45/person, $90/couple.
Speaking from experience, the classes are a hoot! It is a good
way to combine exercise and fun.
Ballroom dancing classes are now forming to be held at the Reservoir
Methodist Church on Tuesday nights starting April 13. Call Cheryl
Kosarek (657-6783) or Bob Woerthman (679-6485) for details.
There will be beginners' and intermediates' classes.
I would never wish anyone sickness, but I do hope you will catch
the spring fever that is rampantly spreading though Olive. Some
symptoms are: humming as you walk to pick up the mail, looking
for robins and Canada Geese, crocus spotting, and a sudden longing
for potato salad and hamburgers.