Follow Up on the
representing Lamont Engineering and the CWC (Catskill Watershed
Corporation) said that ultimately “NYC is obligated
to build it as part of the US EPA Filtration Avoidance Agreement
that the NYC DEP is operating under.” He said that
“the last two plants built recently in Bloomville
and Hamden came in under budget with a good contingency.”
Tim Cox, attorney for CWC said that “any contingency
will be used to fund residential lateral installation.”
Young added “contractors are a little bit hungry.
If oil prices go down it may be a good time to bid.”
Supervisor Liefeld confirmed the current bidding conditions
from information received at the last CWC meeting, where
he is a long time board member.
Councilman Rank presented the maps of the proposed expansion
of the hamlet designation which excludes land within the
designated areas from the NYC DEP land aquisition program.
“By protecting more land in the hamlets, we preserve
our commercial properties from being purchased by NYC for
withdrawal from local use.” Councilman Friedel suggested
inclusion of the area surrounding Rotron making the 28 corridor
completely protected against eminent domain under the DEP
Land Aquisition Program, part of the US EPA FAD or Filtration
Upon close examination Councilman LaMonda agreed with the
Olive Highway Superintendant James Fugel reported on his
research into the Old Rt. 28 speeding problem near Bread
Alone. The NYS DOT has recommended closing each end of the
road and adding a tee entry from Rt. 28 near the Boiceville
Inn. Fugel is sheperding the project through the complicated
NYSDOT and DEP process.
Councilman Friedel reported that the Olive Transfer Station
netted a 19 thousand dollar surplus in 2007, despite rising
county pull charges and fuel surcharges. He said “The
added weight of rain, ice and snow also added a considerable
amount to the charges due to the absence of a roof over
the bins and that should be resolved soon. All in all they
are doing very well under challenging conditions.”
Supervisor Liefeld added that “The transfer station
roof bids are going out Sept. 12th to 8 companies and should
be back by next month.”
Councilman Fridel and Town Clerk Sylvia Rozelle reported
on their separate complaints to Verizon and the PSC regarding
the failing telephone service in the West Shokan area. Friedel
said “they are running a rotating or rolling brownout
of service due to a lack of capacity.” He added “they
are good for lip service but little more.” Rozelle
agreed saying “They yes you to death and say its working,
this with only 2 lines working in the Town Office building.It
looks pretty hopeless.” Supervisor Liefeld suggested
continued pressure on Verizon to resolve the problems.
Councilman Friedel made a motion, unanimously passed, to
write a letter of protest to Verizon concerning the terrible
cell phone service. He said “they are always nice.
They tell you what they want. The results speak for themselves.”
and Rick Wolff voted for the least expensive sequestering
system and once it was turned down, left the meeting. Out
of the five members left, voting no were Laurie Osmond and
Maxanne Resnick, leaving a majority of three to approve the
greensand filtration. Osmond voted in favor of a water softener
and Resnick did not feel comfortable making the decision with
such little information. She declined every resolution.
Superintendent Leslie Ford said that they must have a remedy
in place because of the Department of Health pressure to fix
the situation and continued complaints from staff and students
in the schools.
School board president Ralph Legnini said that an EPA report
advised a possible health hazard pertaining to adults drinking
a high level of Manganese.
“We’re talking of kids in Bennett drinking this
water, potentially for twelve years, and if I were to choose
a solution, I am no expert, but I have done a lot of research,
I would choose the greensand filtration.”
The brown water problem can be seen at the Middle/High School
and Bennett Elementary. State test results have revealed that
the water contains a higher than allowable level of Manganese.
Legnini compared the cost of fixing the water to an earmark
from the previous school board of $350,000 to purchase new
lockers at the High School.
“When you are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars
to purchase lockers in a time when we are in a very tight
budget, that was given to this board from the previous budget
vote, you know we have to weigh children’s drinking
water and lockers,” he said. “As a parent I would
rather have my kids drinking safe water. It’s unfortunate
it costs $85,000.”
The board will need to go through an approval process from
the Department of Health and the DEP. The Greensand filtration
allows a certain amount of back washing that Legnini warned
could be another problem with wastewater.
Trustee Donna Flayhan said, “If it does produce excessive
backwash, then the DEP would probably squash it, but it seems
to me out of the three options, the greensand filtration is
the one that actually removes the problem from the water.”
The school board also debated whether the source of the problem
was the pipes or the water source. The Manganese was found
closest to the wellhead; therefore if the pipes have a problem
with other elements, it will be a separate issue. The district
maintenance department has been flushing out the pipes hoping
to eliminate sediments. The school still uses the original
pipes dating back to the 1950’s.
The board discussed purchasing bottled water as an interim
solution but cost was a factor. The board asked Superintendent
Leslie Ford to release a letter to parents with kids attending
school on the Boiceville campus suggesting that students bring
their own water.
The board began discussions on replacing the old lockers but
with an eye to trimming back the cost. They were given catalogues
with metal, steel and plastic lockers to choose from. Student
representative William Melvin said the High School lockers
were in the worst shape, as compared to the middle school.
He suggested that they all be replaced in a more favorable
The district also noted that it would like to remind parents
that military “opt-out,” forms are available on
the district website and page nine of the student handbook.
Under a provision in the No Child Left Behind Act, schools
are required to turn student contact information over to military
recruiters beginning in secondary school. Parents have the
right upon request not to permit or “opt-out,”
the release of their child’s information. According
to Ford, Parent’s or students, must sign an opt-out
form every year that student is in High School. Ford said
the forms should be given to the High School principal as
soon as possible.
Cuts Hit Home
At first it seemed like state-owned Belleayre Mountain was in
for a spectacular week. Against expectations, Governor Dave
Paterson vetoed the creation of a $150,000 legislative Blue
Ribbon Commission on competition in the outdoor recreation industry
on September 5, which had been passed unanimously by the state
Senate and by almost as much in the Assembly just a couple of
The commission had first been proposed by ski area representatives
in neighboring Greene County, and was seen by many, including
supporters of Belleayre, as a means to hold back the popular
Ulster County ski area from being so competitive in a shrinking
market getting hit by climate change. The legislation called
for a blue-ribbon commission to examine whether state-owned
golfing, skiing and camping facilities, among others, had the
upper hand over the private counterparts. Which paterson, in
his veto, was the right idea… to provide state residents
with recreation options second to none.
Simultaneous to his veto, though, it turns out that staff meetings
being held at the state-owned ski area were focusing on a series
of upcoming cuts being called by its managing agency, the state
Department of Environmental Conservation, to match Paterson
and the legislature’s recent call for across-the-board
cuts of at least 6 percent.
It was reportedly announced that the upcoming annual October
festival, slated for the weekend of October 11th-12, had been
cancelled. Ski instructors had been told there would likely
be some major layoffs.
Belleayre’s website, usually chock-full with trail updates,
bulging winter calendars, and pre-season rate offers, has been
oddly quiet of late.
“Belleayre Mountain is currently working on 2008-2009
pricing and programming,” was its chief message, repeated
in several locations. “Please check this website frequently
for updates and changes.”
Employees, Skiers, local business owners and the leadership
of the Coalition to Save Belleayre have since been scrambling
to try and find out how bad it will be for the mountain come
winter. While some information suggests that even a total shut
down of the mountain for the ski season has been under consideration,
some cuts have already been put into motion… such as the
upcoming fall festival.
The ski center’s usually loquacious superintendent, Tony
Lanza, refused to comment and directed press calls to the State
Department of Environmental Conservation’s press office.
Maureen Wren, the official spokesperson for DEC in Albany, which
oversees Belleayre’s budget, said Monday that nothing
was official about the festival’s cancellation. Folks
at the DEC’s Region Three headquarters in New Paltz said
they’d heard nothing about what might be happening at
Belleayre and expressed surprise when told about what ski center
employees were being told.
But vendors already signed up to rent space at the October Festival
were notified Friday of the cancellation and that refunds were
in the works for those that already paid for their rental space.
And no Oktoberfest is just the tip of the iceberg says Joe Kelly,
Chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, who added that
his sources “should know.” Kelly said there are
reports that if DEC does open the ski center, it will have only
one chairlift running to the top of the mountain and only 13
or so open trails.
Wren said that, like the Oktoberfest, none of these scenarios
have been set in stone.
“There haven’t been any decisions made about Belleayre,”
Asked if there were plans to not open Belleayre this year she
said “That’s not the case at this time.”
When operating fully, Belleayre boasts the Catskills’
only Cat-access skiing and a widened and improved halfpipe and
Area 51 Terrain Park. With 47 trails, parks and glades and 8
lifts, including a new High Speed Quad, Belleayre Mountain has
evolved over the years, especially since the early 1980’s
when Kelly formed his coalition to keep the ski center from
facing closure. Skier visits have grown from 70,000 in 1995
to more than 175,000 skiers since then.
“I’ve been hearing things from employees, who have
been getting the information from meetings at work,” Kelly
said this week from his home in Long Island. “I don’t
want to get Tony in trouble… let’s just say people
are getting ready for a major cut back.”
Kelly said that some people in his organization believe the
budget cuts are related to the lobbying Greene County did to
curtail Belleayre’s operation, which also resulted in
the now-vetoed Blue Ribbon Commission..
“We certainly hope that this is not the case. But it makes
no sense to cancel the Octoberfest, one of your biggest money-making
events in a single year,” said Kelly. “And once
you are open and operating, it makes absolutely no sense to
only operate part of your capital investment. I don’t
know if people in state government are caving to pressure from
Greene County to hold Belleayre Mt. back, but we certainly intend
to look at that possibility.”
Kelly said he understands the governor’s call for cuts
and the fact that everyone in the state has to share in the
pain of the current economy.
“But this is going to be way more than our fair share,”
he added. “We’re facing a huge budget cut, the extent
of which is only now becoming apparent.”
Kelly has sent out a mass e-mail alert on the potential cuts
he says are in the works, which has in turn spawned more activist
e-mails being passed around the region, as well as among Belleayre
ski enthusiasts. He has also called a meeting at Belleayre’s
Lower Lodge to take place at 9:00 AM this coming Saturday, September
“Supporters of Belleayre Mountain Ski Center reacted with
outrage this week when they learned the extent of cutbacks to
the ski center’s operating budget for the coming season,”
Kelly wrote in his widely-disseminated release. “Saying
that these cuts “will destroy what’s left of the
Central Catskills’ economy,” Joe Kelly, chairman
of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, called for a summit meeting
of elected and appointed officials who represent the area and
business leaders whose constituents will suffer if the budget
cuts are allowed to stand as planned.”
“Sources tell us that in addition to the cutting of the
festival, that the ski season could be a month or more shorter
than it was last year, that the ski center could operate at
less than its full capacity even during the height of the season
and that staff people will lose their jobs,” Kelly continued
in his e-mail missive. “We will never be able to recoup
this loss - even if they bring us back to full operation next
year… The economic blow to Ulster and Delaware counties
cannot be over estimated.”
Separately, Kelly spoke at length about his beloved ski area’s
“revenue neutral” budget effect, with income balancing
all that’s spent.
In a separate e-mail chain, a ski patroller named Rosina wrote,
“Dear Belleayre Ski Patrollers: DEC has dealt Belleayre
Ski Center a devastating budget. To this end the following has
been decided the Octoberfest has been cancelled; Nursery will
be not open; No skiwee, alpine development, or racing programs;
Full time Patrol positions cut; Limited snow making; Possible
operation of only the Superchief;” to which Ralph Combe
Jr. of the Slide Mountain Mountain House in Oliverea added,
forwarding the increasingly heavy missive around, “The
proposal for the winter is somewhere between operating one or
two lifts with NO RACING, NO SKIWEE, NO ALPINE programs TO A
COMPLETE SHUT DOWN OF BELLEAYRE FOR THE WINTER.”
“I have asked the DEC about any contemplated reductions
in State funding for Belleayre. They tell me no determination
has been made,” noted state Senator John Bonacic in a
released statement reacting to the clamor. “Given the
approximately $20 million I have successfully fought to provide
Belleayre for various improvements over the last eight years,
it is important that Belleayre have the ability to utilize that
funding to follow through, complete those projects, and continue
to be the success it is.”
“The real issue here is kind of what we all saw coming
a year ago, when I got this sense we’d be back where we
were in 82 and 83. It’s happening again,” Kelly
said in a voice apparently excited by the prospect of another
good fight ahead. “The economy’s bad, it’s
going to get worse, but really… why should we bear this
He added that even if it only ends up meaning skier visits dropping
a third of what they were last year, from 150,000 to 110,000,
it’s still too much… especially with the state simultaneously
promising a huge build-out connecting the ski center to Dean
Gitter’s long-proposed Belleayre Resort project, which
Paterson’s predecessor, former Governor Eliot Spitzer,
promised in his Agreement in Principal a year ago.
“This isn’t just a one year hurt,” he said,
referring to a previous Bonacic comment that even if budget
cuts necessitated a few years wait for promised improvements,
they were safe in uncut state capital funds. “People don’t
Meanwhile, in separate developments regarding the AIP and proposed
resort, officials at Gitter’s development company, Crossroads
Ventures, announced this week that they were “elated”
by a recent court ruling to dismiss a lawsuit that challenged
the Spitzer agreement… even though the people that filed
that lawsuit said that they are not ready to give up.
Talk about having major stories pushed out of the spotlight
by even bigger news…
State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly dismissed the suit
September 3, noting that an environmental review of the project
still is under way and permits for the project have not been
issued. He said the claim is not ready for judicial review and
added that the plaintiffs have not shown they have standing
to bring the suit.
In a prepared statement released Thursday, Crossroads spokesperson
Joan Lawrence-Bauer said she was not surprised.
“We are elated by this ruling,” she said. “While
we had little doubt about the outcome, it is always gratifying
to have these things behind you.”
According to Crossroads Attorney Daniel Ruzow, Judge Connolly
agreed with Crossroads’ defense that the agreement, put
together by former Governor Eliot Spitzer, was not a final action
by New York State and New York City and that those filing the
lawsuit had no standing to bring the suit because they had not
demonstrated any injury or harm from the Agreement.
The suit was brought by Catskill Heritage Alliance, the Pine
Hill Water District Coalition and Benjamin and Idith Korman,
a couple that live near the site of the proposed resort. Their
lawyer, Robert Feller, said the plaintiffs still were reviewing
the decision. He also said they will be active in the review
process and that they could file a challenge in the future.
On Saturday the Chairman of the Heritage Alliance, Richard Schaedle,
said the group is undaunted by Judge Connolly’s decision.
“Obviously we are disappointed with the ruling,”
he said, “But we are considering an appeal.”
Schaedle said his group was caught between a rock and hard place
because, while they only had a small window of opportunity to
file a lawsuit against the deal, details of the deal were still
unresolved. But, he said, by filing the lawsuit when they did
they have kept the opportunity to challenge the deal alive.
He expects that an appeal will be filed, and in the meantime
many of those details that are currently lacking will become
fully formed, and subject to challenge.
Lawrence-Bauer recently noted that the developers are now working
to complete the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement,
but that it would still be some time before its done.
“We have several months to put our appeal together,”
The judge turned down the petitioners’ standing based
largely on the fact that the harm they were claiming had not
occurred yet, that the organizations had been privy to the negotiations
that resulted in the AIP, and that the two landowners hadn’t
adequately proved their property’s adjacency to the proposed
resort, which has yet to be built.
From its beginnings working with the initial half million state
grant, announced in tandem with former Governor Eliot Spitzer’s
Agreement in Principal for the building of a resort complex
tied to its own Belleayre Mt. Ski Center last September, the
Collaborative is seeking to set a working precedent for further
funding sought to support local goals and objectives that focus
on protecting and promoting the scenic, cultural, historic and
economic well being of the Rt. 28 corridor in the Central Catskills.
Manning said that “the gathering was a great way to help
bond members of the collaborative, which seeks to create a stronger,
more unified voice when seeking funding for municipal improvement
projects within the Rt. 28 Central Catskill corridor located
between Olive and Andes.”
Dennis Doyle, head of the Ulster County Planning Board and the
UC Transportation Council, was the evening’s featured
speaker who gave a presentation covering the latest updates
on the Rt. 28 rail corridor revitalization project, which now
includes a possible bicycle trail to be located alongside the
rail-bed wherever possible. Members of the Central Catskill
Collaborative, along with representatives from the Catskill
Mountain Railroad, Delaware and Ulster Railroad as well as the
regional trails community, discussed the various possibilities
and problems inherent in planning the combined-use railroad
and bicycle path project.
Doyle said that, “We need to look at how to resolve the
differences among the various stakeholder groups which may be
at odds on some points but all stakeholders agree that the rail
corridor right of way should be maintained, not be allowed to
flood out, not be given away, and not lost to adverse possession
so that we can be sure that the right of way is being maintained
for ourselves and future generations.”
Doyle discussed elements of the Ulster and Delaware Railroad
Study, which found that people from many areas within the rail
corridor “can see that we can combine the rail trail with
a bicycle trail.”
As for the time frame for starting the trail project, Doyle
said “After the Ulster and Delaware Railroad study was
completed there was a movement forward on the part of the county’s
Transportation Council which was in the process of updating
its transportation improvement program at the time. Within that
document there is actually funding for that portion of the rail
trail that begins as early as March of 2010 with respect to
scoping and design.”
“We have some sense of dollar figures which calls for
an expenditure of $3 million dollars during the period of 2010
to 2012 and another$6 or 7 million after that for about $11
million total. Portions of the funding are Federal and portions
are local, typically 80% Federal to 20% local,” he added.
“Essentially what we need is for someone to take the lead;
we need a champion. Individual communities are not necessarily
well equipped to deal with all of the processes, policies, designs
and contractual elements that have to be done. We have avoided
the most difficult situations in terms of running through the
Federal procurement process in order to utilize Federal funds.”
Doyle lamented the fact that there is often some resistance
to regional trail projects because non-residents will be using
the trails, but he also emphasized that the non-residents are
actually our economic lifeblood and that they should not be
“It is they who will stay at the local bed and breakfast
or motel along the rail trail system,” Doyle noted.
Earl Pardini, President of the Catskill Mountain Railroad said
that he worries that some division still exists between railroad
stakeholders and bicycle trail advocates, and advocated for
a closer working relationship without the rancor that has characterized
stakeholder relations in the past.
This past Spring and Summer, members of the Collaborative met
numerous times to discuss projects for shared Smart Growth funding,
with “bricks and mortar” signage, rest stop, and
similar projects winning out in jointly-submitted proposals.
This past week in Shandaken, though, new discussion arose about
a substitute project for the original half million in funding,
or any new funds found.
At the town’s September 8 town meeting, the Shandaken
board threw its support behind both a Pine Hill Recreation Trail
that would loop around the Pine Hill Park and connect to the
state-run Belleayre Day Use beach property just east of the
hamlet and structural changes for the popular Shandaken Theatrical
Society’s historic home in Phoenicia.
Organizers asked the town to apply to the Hudson River Valley
Greenway for $5000 to build the trail. An extra $3000 in town
funding would be needed to make the trail come to fruition…
an area where CCC help could come in handy.
Support for that came with ease, but the other request from
the Shandaken Theatrical Society met some resistance. STS wanted,
and received, town board support of an application for funds
from the Central Catskill Collaborative’s Smart Growth
Grant Fund, the half a million state fund that will be distributed
among the towns along the route 28 corridor between Olive and
Councilman Rob Stanley was against the idea, saying that STS
was now competing for money against the town’s own grant
request, currently awaiting final approvals. There were differences
of opinion about whether that was really a concern, but it might
all be moot.
STS has submitted its application after the deadline for submission
Jar Of Olives...
I know some teachers and students can use another week to get
used to the transition from summer vacation to the first week
of school. I remember falling asleep before the sun went down
and dragging myself up in the morning before the sun came up.
Now I can enjoy the perfect weather that seems to be unique
to September. Oh, how I wish I could contain it in a Mason jar
to be opened in mid-February!
I bet some people who planned on going to Olive Day used the
rainy day to good advantage. It was a perfect day to be indoors
with a good book. It became a Saturday to sleep in, follow the
weather channel and listen to rehashed sound bites from convention
speeches. Speaking of the Democratic and Republican conventions
(and who isn’t?), I feel like I am drowning in waves of
pseudo-patriotism and generalities. I would like a change from
the issue of change. I think both sides of the aisle would agree
that we could use a change from the status quo, but what are
we changing to? My vote goes to the team who can give me some
specific plan to develop a health plan for everyone, give each
child a good public school education, and get Americans working
with equal pay for both men and women so all people, of all
colors and all persuasions can afford a nice house, nourishing
food, and a decent life for their families.
How about we take all the millions spent on the endless months
fundraising and caucusing and give just one million dollars
to each of the candidates elected by the Conventions? After
all, we already voted for the delegates. Let them represent
us. We could then use the remaining millions to fund some of
these campaign promises.
In my humble opinion, this might be a good time to rid ourselves
of the outdated Electoral College. Let’s blend those red
and blue states into a nice shade of purple on the color wheel,
and just vote for a President. The Electoral College was a stopgap
measure instituted by our Founding Fathers (Our Founding Mothers
were busy doing housework and having babies). The writers of
the Constitution felt the average voter, who was a white, male,
property-owner, was not informed enough to make an intelligent
decision. The delegates could vote the way the popular vote
demanded or not. They still can. Un-landowner males, no females
and no blacks were allowed to vote at all.
While I am ranting, I would like a time limit for the campaign.
Actually the time from the conventions in August to the voting
in November is sufficient. That would give a chance for our
candidates to actually do the things they say they do on their
resumes. Governors can still govern and senators can still represent
us in Congress. It seems like this particular campaign has been
going on forever.
On the up side, the campaign has been controversial enough to
get us all talking about the election. Hopefully, we will be
able to extract some real facts from all the rhetoric and gobbledygook.
Let the candidates debate issues, not attack each other’s
random phrases out of context. As Lewis Carroll said, “T’was
brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe…Beware
the Jabberwock, my son.” Beware the political Jaberwocky.