meeting at Bennett Elementary School was the first time board
members have chosen to vote on the law itself in years, instead
of casting a protest vote.
the settlement between the reservoir owners, New York City and
the town of Olive, most believed that a vote would not be necessary,
but the State Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) does not
agree with the valuation.
think we all had high hopes that the Large Parcel would go away
this year,” said Resnick, “and the Olive assessment
and the city were so close but unfortunately ORPS did not agree
with that assessment, (therefore) triggering a vote.”
town of Hurley is currently in its own court dispute with New
York City over the valuation of its portion of the Ashokan Reservior
and this also carries an impact on how taxes are apportioned.
Trustee Donna Flayhan said, “I want to encourage the administration
to look into ways to talk to the town of Hurley and encourage
them to work with New York City, like we did in the town of
engaged in a lengthy executive session focusing on employee
contract negotiations before finally returning to its regular
session at the midnight hour. At that time, the board and administrators,
very sleepy eyed, began discussing a range of problems they
recognized within the district that they hope will be fixed
by the beginning of the school year. Board president Ralph Legnini
apologized for the lateness of the hour but felt the matters
at hand were important because the clock is ticking down to
the beginning of school.
first topic was the water quality at the Middle/high School.
The school board mulled over ideas on ways to combat an elevated
level of Manganese in the water, that runs afoul of the state’s
secondary standards. Although the State does not mandate removing
Manganese based on health concerns, board members pointed to
an EPA study that does highlight a correlation that excessive
Manganese in water could cause unhealthy results. The board
debated whether there was danger in the Manganese, and whether
it stems from the water traveling through the pipes or from
the well water.
board student representative William Melvin asked if the brown
water seen throughout most of the school fountains was from
the Manganese. Superintendent Leslie Ford said the discoloration
was due to old pipes and not the Manganese although she explained
that chlorination in the water enhances the mineral deposits.
The State mandates water is to be tested closest to the wellhead,
before it travels through the pipes. Middle School Assistant
teacher Nancy Parisio brought in a bottle of brown water taken
from a sink in the staff lounge.
filtration system may take out the Manganese but could be ineffective
in dealing with pipe corrosion.
recommended, as a quick fix, to supply bottled water or “point
of use filters,” that would address both the Manganese
level and the rusty pipes. These filters would apply directly
to certain drinking fountains. But Legnini said, “If we
were to supply water coolers, bottled water, anything we have
to pay for to supply water to the children, that would be considered
a gift. To justify those funds...would bring up a red flag from
the audit committee because we are saying we have to fix something
that the health department says is not dangerous.”
Assistant Superintendent for business Victoria McLaren agreed
and explained that in the past the district paid for water coolers
that cost around $4,000 a year. She said the State recognizes
it as an extravagant cost to taxpayers because according to
the health department, “this is water that is potable.”
An EPA report has advised that for health and aesthetic purposes
that Iron and Manganese not exceed .3 mg/L in drinking water,
but this is not a mandate. The school’s water was tested
at .840 mg/L of Manganese and .057 mg/L of iron.
said she received a memo from engineers Clark Patterson Lee
with approximate costs for three types of systems ranging from
$10,000 to $30,000. The board discovered that the less expensive
sequestering system was not a permanent solution and would eventually
become non-effective. The school board asked for more information
on the Greensand filtration and Ford said the costs would be
significantly higher, but did not have approximates. The board
also requested more information on point of use filtration.
School board trustees Michelle Friedel and Resnick requested
more information on health concerns and restrictions to the
watershed. The board asked to bring in a speaker from the Department
of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection. Legnini
said towards the beginning of the school year, maybe they should
consider alerting parents for kids to bring in their own water
was also noted that the Woodstock Elementary school boiler is
in limbo at this point after incomplete work from the original
contractors. Currently the school does not have hot water, which
poses a question of health concerns in the kitchen. Ford said
the district is working hard to have the problem solved by September.
But the problem is in finding someone to work on it after the
original contractors had left problems. She said the district’s
construction manager met with another company and that there
should be more information by the end of the week on getting
the problem resolved.
discussed was the West Hurley Elementary School building, empty
for several years now since its population was consolidated
at Woodstock Elementary, and whether it could be used for temporary
or seasonal type rentals until the school board decides on a
long range plan for the district’s buildings. Ford said
that the district has allowed municipal organizations such as
the West Hurley library and the police department to use the
building. But Flayhan said she spoke with neighbors around the
school and was concerned about the empty building attracting
negative or illegal activity.
said that any action was on hold because of uncertainty with
the district’s master plan. What to do with West Hurley
depends, she said, on how the board wants to proceed with the
district configuration. Flayhan said that she also received
a complaint from a neighbor when the building was in use and
asked that the district inform the neighbors when an activity
would be taking place there.
related news, Ford told the board that it needs to think about
proceeding with a district reorganization. She presented several
examples on how it can move forward. “One is we can meet
in September with our presenters (KSQ architects), to come back
and have further discussions...and then continue; or we could
take a brief hiatus, then we could look at it all in a couple
of months.” She also said the board could chose to do
nothing, but she did not recommend this due to the district’s
Finally, confusion over the district’s dress code policy
last spring was discussed, primarily focused on female elementary
students who were told they could not wear shirts with spaghetti
straps. He said that if there are dress code problems in elementary
school, the parents should be contacted and the children should
not be reprimanded when they do not fully understand why.
Student rep Melvin, who is a senior at the high school said,
“I find it kind of funny that they enforce a dress code
at the elementary schools when the middle and high school really
does not have a dress code...and if they do, it is not enforced.
I think that is kind of crazy.”
said that the three elementary school principals have since
met and are now on the same page with school dress codes. Addressing
Melvin, she said the high school is revising its dress code,
“So things may be different when you come back to school
asked, “Will elements of the dress code be discussed?
Because I know this will be a hot issue at the high school.”
Ford said students would be included in the discussion.
trustee Laurie Osmond said she wants to reconstitute Site Teams
at the schools with the intention of obtaining more community
input at a local level. Site Teams are a State mandate, but
currently the schools do not have any structured shared decision
making groups that includes teachers, staff and parents.
“I think it is critical to try our best to maintain the
level of community involvement that we have seen happen lately,”
Osmond said, “where people really care about their particular
school building and the environment in that building.”
She also would want various members of each Site Team to give
informal presentations to the board on an occasional basis.
In the past every elementary school had a Site Team and regular
reports were submitted to the school board.
Also, several students complained about the transfer of high
school Physical Education teacher Patrick Burkhardt to Phoenicia
elementary school. This also included his long-term involvement
as cross-country track coach. Although the board does not have
any power over the transfer of teachers, they did approve him
as cross-country track coach for the incoming school year.
And Ford said the State approved the proposal on renovating
the High School Auditorium. Although costs in construction have
increased, with funding provided by a State EXCEL grant the
board can now move forward on the project.
Let’s call him Danny, not just to represent Rudy’s
best friend but to stand in for all of those afflicted with
a condition which, in varying degrees, disarms an individual’s
battle to live in a complex world. Danny is one of those souls
who slip between the cracks of the social infrastructure, challenging
any decent, caring community to become creative about addressing
how deficiencies of the system fail those in need; asking them
to find some grey tones in a black and white picture.
"His appearance and disability turn a lot of people off,"
notes Robert Cruickshank, a Shokan art dealer helping to coordinate
the attempt to aid Danny. "They think he’s drunk
or on drugs but he’s not any of those things. He’s
in a real pickle trying to maintain his independence as best
he can and keep his family property but he has no resources
and has his disability to contend with."
The family property consists of a house on a lot on Reservoir
Road in Shokan which dates back to around 1906, moved to its
present location when the Ashokan Reservoir was being built.
In 2004, a fire left what Cruickshank and others see as a still
solid structure with an utterly devastated interior and Danny
took to living in a camper alongside the ruins. About two months
ago, embers from an outside campfire started a second fire which
annihilated the camper. Danny and Rudy retreated into an immobile
vehicle on the property.
"I don’t know what to do with him but I sure don’t
like the situation," said Olive town supervisor Berndt
Leifeld with a caught-in-the-middle tone of voice. "We
went the route with social services to get him help a few years
ago but it came back that he was ‘self-directive,’
had an income, makes his own decisions and has a place to go.
I said, ‘If that’s what you call it.’ I have
a (county) court order to tear the place down but that’s
not the answer either. That’ll clean it up, fill in the
hole, put 20 or 30 thousand on the tax bill and eventually it’ll
be auctioned off. Then, where’s he going to go?"
Before illness struck, Danny had earned a business degree at
Ulster Community College. He was bright; some even say "gifted."
Now, at 47, he looks for landscaping or yard work and his prime
intellectual activity is reading the paperback spy novels he’s
given and tries to remember when they’re finished.
"He forgets or remembers something two weeks later, like
it just happened," notes Pat Campbell, proprietor of the
Classy Creatures pet shop in Shokan. "He’s a very
nice man but he’s like a little boy not capable of remembering.
He gets a disability check but loses his money all the time.
He has waited for the bus, gone to the store and had no money
to pay for whatever he bought. Luckily, my friend Betty was
up there and paid for it. She came down and we found his money
where he was sitting, waiting for the bus. He needs a money
manager, for sure, but I think if you ever take Danny away from
his home, he’ll die. I mean that sincerely. His focus
is like many people with mental disabilities. He is so fixated
on that property that, if it were to be sold, he’d come
back to it."
Cruickshank thinks that, with community help, there can be a
viable home on the property. There’s a need for folks
with a few spare hours to help clean up the site; there’s
a need for volunteer carpenters and builders. The Rural Ulster
Preservation Company (RUPCO) is among the agencies contacted
for financial aid to purchase materials but vital documents,
including a deed from Danny’s mother, who now lives in
Florida, signing the property over to him, lost in the camper
fire, have to be reacquired. Volunteers are also welcome who
can help with the paperwork and phone contacts. Progress would
have been greater this week, Cruickshank said, if it hadn’t
been for the weather factor.
"I hate to drop the hammer on him but, if we don’t,
that isn’t right, either," said Leifeld. "We’ve
been hoping something would happen. I don’t want to tear
it down. The town board doesn’t want to tear it down and
we figured his family would come to the rescue, that they’ve
been paying the taxes on it for years and wouldn’t allow
it to come to this but they did. Does that make sense? If you
don’t really care about it, would you pay taxes on the
There are cracks in the system which swallow many of those it
seeks to help. If the existing structure doesn’t serve
our Dannys or other misfits to the design, then it clearly needs
some tinkering. This can also be true of medications. Danny,
for instance, who doesn’t obviously pay rapt attention
to his own physical condition, is prescribed Risperdal, which
suppresses brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine but doesn’t
have the greatest reputation for effect on cognitive function
(and whose patent exclusivity extension ran out at the end of
June). It has also raised some concern about blood pressure
and possible strokes. The problem is fitting a specific drug
to a somewhat nebulous malady. Like the social services structure,
a one-size fits all approach, however well meaning, can spell
disaster for individual dilemmas. This is apparent with legal
statutes, as well, and that’s precisely what Danny’s
friends are trying to find a rapid way around.
Olive authorities are willing to be a bit more patient, it seems.
"In my own opinion, if they clean up the outside, make
the place look halfway presentable, and if he’s got a
bathroom, electricity and heat," Leifeld said, "we’re
not going to jump up and down on it."
"If he’s living in his car, that reflects badly on
all of us," said Charles Blumstein, who is helping in the
project. "Berndt is holding off to see if a credible effort
can be made."
The goal is to have a downstairs area livable before winter
"He lives there. He freezes," said Campbell. "We
buy him gloves He loses them. We buy him socks. You look at
him and his feet are bare. Maybe if he had all the facilities,
he would take care of himself. The house could be made Danny-proof,
too. Elderly people have similar problems and Meals-on-wheels
comes in every day. There should be some kind of alternative,
to have someone check on him regularly; a caseworker, perhaps.
Tag-team caretakers- no one has a lot of time but the whole
town cares about him, worries about him; tries to watch out
for him and his little dog. Everyone wants to see him safe but,
being institutionalized or locked down at night isn’t
safe. He’s used to walking everywhere, being a free spirit.
That would kill him."
Campbell said that this is a worthwhile opportunity for all
of us to do something good; that there are many people in this
town who will "step up to the plate to see that Danny’s
safe before winter comes." There are many details to weigh
and work out but time soon becomes a vital factor.
Perhaps Rudy might even be persuaded to accept the gift of a
dog biscuit from a visiting well-wisher interested in lending
a hand. It would merely be a gesture of gratitude on Rudy’s
part, of course. Gratitude to his master’s friends.
Volunteers and donors are directed to contact Robert Cruickshank
Jar Of Olives...
Little Bo Peep
We in the Town of Olive share our lives with all sorts of wildlife.
Turkeys, deer, owls, coyotes, and bears are just part of our
lives, but sheep are taking a chance on our highway. The gas
crunch has not slowed down the weekend traffic on Route 28.
Perhaps the drivers are spending vacations within a tank of
gas range of New York City.
We visited the Bushkill Cemetery on Saturday to attend a memorial
for Don Avery. The tiny, bucolic cemetery has familiar family
names like Bell and Christiana and Whispell that go back to
the 1700’s. There’s one section, close to Marty
and Mary Giuliano’s house, of numerous small gravestones
that are un-named. They are numbered and are of the remains
of the dead removed from Olive City that now lies under the
Ashokan Reservoir. That’s where Don wanted to be. That’s
where his Mary is.
Olive Day is right around the corner on September 6. If they
have a three-legged race, I suggest that Angelo Russo and Ron
Wright team up. These bionic men each had a knee replacement
a few weeks ago. Angelo had the right one done, and Ron Wright,
ironically, had the left one done.
Every store flyer has BACK TO SCHOOL ads. Even after two years
of retirement, I get that sense of urgency that makes me feel
like vacation is almost over and that I need to stock up on
school supplies. I even bought a designer lunch box that I couldn’t
resist. Since I eat breakfast out with my breakfast buddies
at Kasey’s, the Bakery and at Bread Alone, I never eat
lunch, and I certainly never pack a lunch. I think I will have
to give it Laura Loheide as a back-to-school gift. There are
only two English teachers per grade, so she will discover, as
I have, that half the town’s children will sit in her
class. It is a delight to watch them grow into adults and become
citizens of the world with families of their own.
Each year Paul Pettinatto hosts a bus trip to Saratoga. Olive
and Shandaken put aside politics and partied up and back to
the racetrack. Mega resorts, sewer districts, Large Parcel,
and cell towers took a back seat to Mimosa’s and Bloody
Marys. Literally! That’s where the refreshments were stored.
Joey and Mary Tumasian and Carol and Charlie Davis were on this
adventure with us. The best part is, no matter how much you
lost on the nags, you were assured a sumptuous dinner at Al’s
Seafood that was complimentary to the trip.
Since I opened with a nursery rhyme, I will close with two others:
“Rain, rain, go away” because the surprise birthday
party for Barbara Parete is outdoors today and “Mary,
Mary, Quite Contrary, How does your garden grow?” Pretty
well, I’d say, judging by the number of zucchini squash
that are being given away.