News Briefs 5/7/2009
Flyers were sent home to parents in the Onteora school district
this week alerting them on the H1N1 Swine flu virus that allegedly
originated in Mexico and spread quickly throughout the United
States including New York State in recent weeks. The contents
of the flyer outlines precautions to take.
“At this time, the State and local health departments
have advised us that students can continue to come to school,
as long as they are not sick and do not think they have flu
symptoms,” it read.
The administration urges parents to be vigilant, making sure
that any child with flu-like symptoms stay home. Symptoms
include a fever of over 100 degrees, sore throat, cough, runny
or stuffy nose. Additional symptoms that may be experienced
with swine flu, includes muscle pain, fatigue, vomiting or
The administration would also like parents to teach their
kids to exercise common sense precautions; including how to
wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use
a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, avoid touching
one’s mouth, nose or eyes, and cough or sneeze into
a tissue or into the inside of one’s elbow.
Recent reports have tied the recent outbreak to a Smithfield
Ham-owned pig farm near the city of Perote in the Mexican
state of Veracruz, where hundreds of residents came down with
the flu’s symptoms in early April, long before it was
reported in Mexico City April 24.
Virginia-based Smithfield Farms shifted operations to Mexico
after it received what was, at the time, the most expensive
fine in history ($12.6 million) for violating the US Clean
Water Act at its U.S. pig facilities in 1985, where it was
reportedly dumping hog waste into a river that flowed into
the Chesapeake Bay. When the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) came into effect on January 1, 1994, Smithfield opened
a new subsidiary in Mexico…
What would the Catskills be like without maple trees? That’s
one question worth asking now that yet another invasive species
seems to be closing in on the region.
Like the gypsy moths have in the past, the Asian long-horned
beetle is now expected to make an arrival. These bugs, which
showed up in Brooklyn harbor about a decade ago in packing
crates from China, have been found since on Long Island and
parts of New Jersey. While they have not been found in the
Catskills yet, DEC officials worry that they might end up
here via the crates and other items that downstate visitors
to the region bring with them. Should that happen, it has
the potential to have a bigger impact on local forests than
Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight and the gypsy moth combined.
Red and sugar maple trees, the preferred host for Asian long-horned
beetles, dominate forests in the Catskills. And locations
with outbreaks are close enough to the Catskills to pose a
threat, officials say.
Asian long-horned beetles are about one to one and a half
inches long, black and shiny with white spots and have long,
distinguishable antennae that are banded with black and white.
The beetles attack many different hardwood trees, including
all species of maple, birch, horse chestnut, poplar, willow,
elm, ash, mimosa, hackberry, sycamore, mountain ash and London
plane. The female beetle chews depressions in the bark of
trees to lay 35-90 eggs that hatch within 10 to 15 days. The
worm-like immature beetles then tunnel under tree bark and
bore into healthy hardwood trees, feeding on living tree tissue
during the fall and winter. After pupating, the beetles emerge
through exit holes during the spring and then feed on tree
exteriors for two to three days, then mate.
Unseasonable yellowing or drooping of leaves when the weather
has not been especially dry are signs that the Beetles are
Last June, the state Department of Environmental Conservation
banned the import of firewood into the state unless it has
been kiln-dried. The regulation also prohibits the movement
of untreated firewood within the state more than 50 miles
from its source.
The DEC was set to hold a special conference and workshop
at its Belleayre Mountain facility on Wednesday, as we went
to press, on the latest menace. The Catskill Watershed Corporation
was co-sponsoring the event.
Combined with warnings from scientists about the effects of
climate change on what trees grow in the region, diseases
affecting the local hemlock population, and the current news
about Didymo invasions of the Esopus and other local trout
streams, it seems much of what we’ve grown accustomed
to in our Catskills is about to change.
Ulster County ended 2008 with a $4.1 million surplus and a
fund balance of $23.7 million. Officials said the surplus,
which came despite midyear warnings that the county could
face a nearly $300,000 deficit by Dec. 31, helps position
the county to better weather the current economic downturn.
According to the 2008 county financial report, the county’s
fund balance rose by 20.9 percent, from the $19.6 million
on hand at the end of 2007.
“What this really boils down to his sound budgeting
and aggressive fiscal management for the taxpayers of Ulster
County,” said County Executive Michael Hein. “We
are better prepared to face the serious challenges that will
undoubtedly impact the people of Ulster County.”
Last July, when he still was Ulster County administrator,
Hein warned the county could face a budget deficit of nearly
$300,000 by the end of 2008. At his recommendation, the county
Legislature enacted a hiring freeze and authorized Hein to
take other measures to reduce spending.
Hein was elected in November as the county’s first executive
and began his new job on Jan. 1.
Route 28 Fixup!
Governor David Paterson finally announced that he has certified
an additional $6.1 million for transportation projects in
the Hudson Valley through the federal American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act (ARRA), including $2.2 million for a project
to repave approximately four miles of Route 28 between Route
212 and Route 214 in the Town of Shandaken, Ulster County.
The top layer of worn, deteriorated pavement will be removed
and replaced with new asphalt and fresh pavement markings
to extend the service life of pavement. Construction is expected
to be completed by the end of 2009.
Nevertheless, some have been arguing in town meetings that
more should have been requested… little minding the
fact that more WAS asked for, by everyone across the state.
As well as the fact that more is still expected, including
additional funds for sewer systems and other municipal projects,
in the coming year.
Such, we guess, is the nature of modern-day political discourse.
Work crews are in the thick of a hamlet tear up in Boiceville,
where the collection system for a $12.2 million sewer system
is being installed.
“Collection system” is engineer speak for the
pipes that go under the streets, parking lots and yards throughout
the hamlet and hook up to the treatment plant being built
on the lower end of the Boiceville business district near
The project appears to be running like clockwork, with workers
and heavy equipment moving about and causing only minimum
disruption to the every day business of Boiceville as well
the Onteora High School/Middle School.
CWC’s Big Meet
Self congratulations detailing each of the Catskill Watershed
Corporation’s programs were the primary focus at the
regional agency’s12th Annual Meeting of member towns
April 28 in Margaretville, where Donald (Mike) Brandow, supervisor
of the Town of Conesville, joined the CWC Board of Directors
as a replacement for long-time Schoharie County representative
Charlie Buck of Jefferson and Berndt Leifeld, Town of Olive
Supervisor, was re-elected as one of two Ulster County representatives
on the Board.
Board officers were also elected: Georgianna Lepke, President;
Michael Flaherty and Berndt Leifeld, First and Second Vice
Presidents; Mike Brandow, Secretary, and James Eisel, Treasurer.
Most were incumbents.
Highlights of 2008 that were touted included the repair, replacement
and maintenance of 356 residential septic systems in the five-county
West-of-Hudson New York City Watershed; the distribution of
low-interest loans totaling $2,015,623 to 23 businesses; the
expenditure of more than $9 million to plan and develop seven
community wastewater projects for Watershed hamlets; completion
of 20 stormwater control projects; the award of 12 stream
corridor management grants to protect properties in flood
prone areas; dissemination of $135,000 in grants to 27 schools
and organizations in the watershed and in New York City to
enhance watershed education; and approval of four Local Technical
Assistance grants which will help seven communities prepare
comprehensive plans and other assessments
Special projects mentioned for the past year including the
renovation of an historic inn in Delaware County under the
CWC’s Business District and Historic Structures Fund;
the setting up of an exploratory project to determine the
value of grass pellets as a fuel source under the Catskills
Studies Fund; and the creation of a new website to promote
the tourism and business potential of the Catskills region,
which will be launched this summer.
Presentations were made at the meeting by Bill Rudge, Natural
Resources Supervisor for Region 3 of the NYS Department of
Environmental Conservation, who discussed the recent discovery
of invasive species in local streams; by Paul Rush, Deputy
Commissioner of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection,
whop talked about the upcoming opening of the Cannonsville
Reservoir for non-motorized recreational boating; and by Gary
Gailes, Chairman of the Water Discovery Center Board of Directors,
who noted that Robert Kennedy, Jr., chief prosecuting attorney
for Riverkeeper, has agreed to chair the non-profit’s
Leadership Team as former DEP Commissioner Marilyn Gelber
has agreed to serve on its National Advisory Board. Gailes
also noted that talks are moving forward with the American
Museum of Natural History to establish an educational collaboration
with the Center.
For more information on all items, visit www.cwconline.com
Bills that would require renewals of handgun permits and a
system to tag and track spent shell casings have touched off
the first gun-control battle in years in Albany, drawing numerous
letters against any form of second amendment infringement
from local residents who then asked that their missives be
withheld once the state legislature started passed the new
laws last week.
The Democrat-controlled Assembly approved the permit and tag
and track measures on April 29. They now face a strong chance
at becoming law in the newly Democrat-controlled state Senate.
The differences between those in favor of and those against
the new laws not only have split on largely Upstate/Downstate
lines, but also on age considerations. Talk about mirroring
some of the battles moving through our own region in recent
Before the Assembly vote, students rallying in support of
the measures were mostly minorities from the New York City
area. A clear majority of the opponents lobbying lawmakers
were middle-aged white men from upstate wearing National Rifle
Association caps, according to the Associated Press.
One of the proposed laws would require New York handgun licenses
— which currently are issued for a lifetime —
to be renewed every five years. The second would require semiautomatic
handguns sold or made in New York state to be configured to
“microstamp” identifying information on shell
Those favoring the laws spoke about peers they knew who had
died of urban gunfire. Upstaters against the new laws protested
that there are already enough gun restrictions, such as requirements
not to show your licensed handgun in public, to show a permit
when one buys ammunition, and computerized federal background
checks when a person buys any firearm.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose chamber passed mandatory
re-licensing 87-58 and microstamping 94-47, told the rally
held the day after their vote that it was part of a package
of “intelligent gun legislation.” He called it
“insane” to just sit back and accept gun violence
like the Columbine school massacre 10 years ago and the killing
of 13 people in Binghamton earlier this month.
New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties already
require handgun permit renewals every three to five years.
Microstamping legislation died last year in the Senate, then
controlled by a Republican majority.
The State Senate is now expected to pass both measures and
have them to Governor Paterson for his signature’s by
the legislative session’s end this summer. The laws
would affect new guns sold or made in New York starting in
Talk about the story that never quits… It now turns
out that federal sources have been found to pay for the continued
operation of flood gauges in the region that had been slated
to lose funding by the end of the year, according to an official
with the National Weather Service.
Following negotiations earlier this year, the New York City
Department of Environmental Protection agreed to a one-year
extension on the use of 17 gauges it had planned to discontinue.
The gauges had been used to monitor streams for the agency’s
Several geared for closure beyond those 17 have since found
funding either from the State of Pennsylvania, if they’re
in the Delaware or Susquehanna watersheds, or other sources.
U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey also recently noted that a meeting
was conducted earlier this week with the U.S. Geological Survey
to discuss long-term funding through congressional appropriations.
“These stream (gauges) require a minimal upfront investment
and pay off in huge ways by providing flood forecasting and
warning that help prevent the loss of life and property,”
If this what they call zero-based budgeting in effect?
The Central Catskills Collaborative held an open meeting that
featured the regional planning work of students in the SUNY
College of Environmental Science and Forestry at SUNY-Delhi
who have undergone extensive inventory and mapping exercises
along the Route 28 Corridor at the Olive Free Library last
Thursday, April 30.
“This work is based on the idea that the long-term health
and well-being of the Central Catskills communities depend
on mutual support and collaboration, and that these aspirations
are aided by the perspective of regional planning and the
visualization of community design alternatives,” noted
Margaret Bryant, Professor of Landscape Architecture, about
her students’ work.
Members of the Central Catskills Collaborative have been working
with the students to bring life to community-supported design
“The Town of Olive has identified a site along Route
28 in Shokan for a park that will aid regional tourism promotion,”
noted CCC member and Olive Town Board Trustee Helen Chase
of the new studies. “The students have advanced this
project significantly by sharing their invaluable expertise
with the community.”
The work being conducted will form part of the foundation
for corridor vision exercises to be led by SUNY ESF and the
Catskill Center later this year. All of these efforts are
designed to assist the Collaborative in its Route 28 Scenic
Byway nomination effort, which was recently awarded $50,000
from the Catskill Watershed Corporation.
For more information on the Central Catskill Collaborative,
please visit www.centralcatskills.org/ccc.
The slump in sales of existing single-family homes may have
hit bottom, and March figures appear to bear that out in the
Hudson Valley and Catskills counties where some sales numbers
Statewide, according to the New York State Association of
Realtors, home sales jumped by 14 percent in March compared
to February. Sales rose in Columbia, Orange, Rockland, Ulster
and Westchester. In Columbia they rose by 12 percent; in Orange,
they rose by 27 percent; in Rockland, they went up by five
percent; in Ulster, they rose by almost 67 percent; and in
Westchester, they increased by 19 percent.
The numbers stayed the same in Dutchess, but fell by 12 percent
in Greene County, by 16 percent in Putnam County; and by 23
percent in Sullivan County.
Selling prices fell by 24 percent in Columbia County, by nine
percent in Dutchess; by six percent in Orange; and by 14 percent
Prices jumped by 51 percent in Sullivan County, by 15 percent
in Rockland County, by 10 percent in Westchester and Greene
counties, and by six percent in Ulster.
The Catskill Watershed Corporation will conduct a free class
in Olive Saturday, May 16 on septic system operation and maintenance.”Your
Septic System: What Every Homeowner Should Know” will
be offered from 10 a.m. to Noon at the Olive Free Library
(Ulster County) on Route 28A. Pre-registration is not required.
A free water saving kit will be provided for each household
attending the class. The class includes a short video and
a slide program covering types of systems and how they work;
basic biology and soil filtration concepts of wastewater treatment;
health and environment effects that can result from failed
septic systems; roles and responsibilities of homeowners,
regulators, engineers and contractors; basic maintenance requirements
of septic system components; how to protect against inflow
and infiltration; the case against septic system additives
and improper pharmaceuticals disposal, and troubleshooting
when problems develop.
For more information, call the CWC at 845-586-1400. CWC programs
and projects are explained on the corporation’s web
No Child No More?
Education Secretary Arne Duncan is currently traveling to
15 states to hear comments about No Child Left Behind, the
controversial education law championed by former President
George W. Bush and passed 8 years ago with a stalled re-upping
process two years back. President Barack Obama has pledged
to overhaul the law, but he has been vague about how far he
would go, or whether he would scrap it altogether.
‘’I don’t know if `scrap’ is the word,’’
Duncan told reporters last week. ‘’Where things
make sense, we’re going to keep them. Where things didn’t
make sense, we’re going to change them.’’
Duncan gives the law credit for shining a spotlight on kids
who need the most help. No Child Left Behind pushes schools
to boost the performance of low-achieving students, a group
that typically includes minority kids, English-language learners
and kids with disabilities. Yet he also has many criticisms
of the legislation, joining a multitude of opponents who insist
the law’s annual reading and math tests have squeezed
subjects like music and art out of the classroom and that
schools were promised billions of dollars they never received.
Critics also say the law is too punitive: More than a third
of schools failed to meet yearly progress goals last year,
according to the Education Week newspaper. That means millions
of children are a long way from reaching the law’s ambitious
goals. The law pushes schools to improve test scores each
year, so that every student can read and do math on grade
level by the year 2014.
Duncan said the federal government should be ‘’tight’’
on the goals, insisting on more rigorous academic standards
that are uniform across the states. And he said it should
be ‘’much looser’’ in terms of how
states meet the goals.
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, in partnership with SUNY
Ulster, the Ulster County Adolescent Substance Abuse Task
Force (ASATF), and the Ulster County SAFE Coalition (School,
Agency, Family and Educators Coalition), is sponsoring “Wake
Up Call: A Call to Action on Adolescent Substance Abuse”
Conference on Tuesday, May 12, starting at 8:00 AM in the
Student Lounge at SUNY Ulster in Stone Ridge. It is the first
of its kind in Ulster County to bring together schools, colleges,
service providers and parents to raise awareness and create
a direction to address this issue for our youth.
For more information, contact Cheryl Qamar (845) 340-4174
or Jack Bennett (845) 458-7406.
West Shokan’s Stephen Elmendorf was one of two SUNY
Ulster students who have been honored for their academic achievement
and community service with the 2009 Chancellor’s Award
for Student Excellence. Elmendorf and John Rell III of Saugerties
were among 238 college students from SUNY campuses throughout
the state to be recognized by SUNY Vice Chancellor and Officer-in-Charge
John J. O’Connor with the award.
The students received a framed certificate and medallion that
is traditionally worn at graduation. Both local students also
were inducted by O’Connor into the international academic
honor society for two-year college students, Phi Theta Kappa.
After graduation in May, Elmendorf and Rell plan to continue
studies at four-college colleges. The two also have been recipients
of Ulster County Community College Faculty Association Scholarships.
Elmendorf is a computer science major interested in pursuing
artificial intelligence and software engineering. He works
as a senior Web site designer and is a volunteer providing
Web design and development services to the Westminster Presbyterian
Church and technology services to Redeemer Broadcasting. He
also is Web designer for the engineering club at SUNY Ulster
and a computer science tutor.
The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was created
12 years ago to recognize students who have best demonstrated,
and been recognized for, the integration of academic excellence
with accomplishments in the areas of leadership, athletics,
community service, creative and performing arts or career
achievement. The average Grade Point Average (GPA) for all
SUNY recipients this year is 3.77.
Questions about the hot topic of the moment, health care reform
and which plan would most greatly benefit ordinary Americans,
both the insured and uninsured alike, will be the main topic
of a Thursday, May 14, forum discussion starting at 7:00 PM
at the Elting Library in New Paltz,where local citizens will
be given the opportunity to explore and discuss universal
health care proposals currently being debated in Congress.
Among these options is “Enhanced Medicare for All”,
otherwise referred to as “Single Payer”, which
advocates a fundamental change in the way care is financed.
According to Art Richter of Citizens for Universal Health
Care, “It’s the only plan on the table thus far
which both insures universal coverage and reduces the costs
of health care.”
Medical student Ryan McIntyre will speak on behalf of Physicians
for a National Health Program (PNHP), a national organization
of over 16,000 physicians which supports a single payer national
health insurance program. Medicare-for-All will be explained
and critiqued against other health reforms bills which advocate
more incremental changes.
The session will conclude with ways that citizens can make
their voice heard on health care policy.
For information call: Teresa Dixon at (845) 255-4815 or John
Chiardia at (845) 255-7539.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission should be given
authority to regulate what hedge funds can buy and how much
money they can borrow to maximize bets because registration
falls short of what’s needed to police the $1.33 trillion
industry, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said this week.
“It’s probably not enough just to register hedge
funds” with the SEC, Schapiro said. “It may well
be necessary to put in place particular kinds of rules.”
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s plan to overhaul
financial oversight in response to the worst economic crisis
since the Great Depression would force hedge funds to register
with the SEC, subjecting firms to new disclosure requirements
and inspections by agency staff. Schapiro said the SEC’s
authority should be broader, so it can impose further restrictions
on funds as “situations evolve.”
Schapiro said “it’s certainly possible”
that the SEC would consider forcing hedge funds to publicly
disclose short- sale positions, imposing restrictions on leverage
and restricting what the firms can invest in.
“We’re not at the point where we’ve made
decisions about those things,” she said, adding that
the SEC would first consult with other government agencies.
The U.S. Senate recently voted to give the SEC $20 million
in additional funding next year to hire 60 investigators after
Schapiro said the agency lacked resources and it drew criticism
for missing Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
The Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse
at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison has accused the Bush administration
of committing “war crimes” and called for those
responsible to be held to account. The remarks by Maj. Gen.
Antonio Taguba, who’s now retired, came in a new report
that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees
in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings,
electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.
“After years of disclosures by government investigations,
media accounts and reports from human rights organizations,
there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration
has committed war crimes,” Taguba wrote. “The
only question that remains to be answered is whether those
who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
Taguba, whose 2004 investigation documented chilling abuses
at Abu Ghraib, is thought to be the most senior official to
have accused the administration of war crimes. “The
commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic
regime of torture,” he wrote.
The group Physicians for Human Rights, which compiled the
new report, described it as the most in-depth medical and
psychological examination of former detainees to date.
It seems it was only a week or so ago that snow was still
falling in the Catskills, but that hasn’t stopped one
local nuisance from appearing, even though that nuisance is
usually associated with post Memorial Day offenses. State
conservation officials are urging people to take precautions.
Of course, such words don’t matter to Urus Americanus,
the culprit in question.
Most know them as the American Black Bear, those big stinky
galoots that roam the area in search of good eatin’
in local trash cans and sometimes local kitchens.
Approximately 1,800 bears live in the southern bear range
of New York, which includes the Catskills and parts of central
and western parts of the state. Bear populations, particularly
in the southern bear range, have been increasing in number
and expanding in distribution over the past decade.
Black bears will become a nuisance and can cause significant
damage if they believe they can obtain an easy meal from bird
feeders, garbage cans, dumpsters, barbecue grills, tents,
vehicles, out-buildings or houses. When bears learn to obtain
food from human sources, their natural foraging habits and
behavior are changed.
For the past few weeks the evidence that these bruins have
come out of hiding is apparent. Garbage is strewn about on
many roads and yards and there have been a few sightings locally
Bears that become accustomed to obtaining food from humans
will often become bold and assertive in their quest for food,
potentially leading to property damage or dangerous situations
for humans. Unfortunately, this often results in DEC having
to euthanize the bear, echoing the adage, “a fed bear
is a dead bear.”
These problems can be minimized by taking these simple precautions:
Never feed bears. If you believe that bears are being fed,
intentionally or unintentionally, immediately report it to
DEC. Keep food away from the outdoors of your house. And check
with the DEC to see what they suggest.