(News Briefs November
After years of steady decline, deer hunting is once again
a popular sport. At least in the Greene County Town of Windham,
where the town supervisor says more hunting licenses have
been sold this year than the last several.
The subject came up at a meeting of the executive committee
of the Coalition of Watershed Towns where Windham Supervisor/Committee
President Patrick Meehan complained about the difficulties
hunters are having understanding the do’s and don’ts
of hunting on land owned by the New York City Department of
He said that he witnessed several hunters trying to figure
out how to proceed. He expected trouble to follow.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up in jail
by the end of the week,” he added.
On November 17, the day before opening day of deer season,
DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd announced that 39,543 acres of
City water supply lands would be available in 2006 for deer
hunting during the season. This includes almost 3,000 acres
of land opened to the public for the first time this season.
“The number of hunters on City lands has increased remarkably,
from less than 4,500 in 2002 to over 11,000 last season.”
said Commissioner Lloyd. “And this year they’ll
have more acres available to them than ever before. That follows
an expansion of the hunting program earlier this year, when
we opened land to small game and turkey hunting for the first
time….We’ve also made it easier than ever to get
a free Access Permit, now available instantly on the Web.”
Included in the almost 40,000 acres open for deer hunting
are 15 areas comprising 5,823 acres that will also be open
in the West of Hudson watershed for bear hunting—the
first time that bear hunting will be allowed on City water
Applicants for a free DEP Hunt Tag must also have a valid
DEP Access Permit, which are available instantly on the Web
for the first time at www.nyc.gov/watershedrecreation. Access
Permits allow the holders to hike and fish on available City
lands, and are also free. All New York State laws and additional
DEP conditions apply while on City water supply land.
Meehan’s notion of resurgence in hunting is not shared
In the Delaware County town of Middletown, Town Clerk Russell
Schebesta said Tuesday that the licenses he’s issued
this year are on par with the last several, which is a smidgen
compared to the good old days when hunting season was one
the biggest tourist events of the year in the Catskills.
In Shandaken, Town Clerk Laurilyn Frasier said hunting license
sales continues to a dribble compared to years ago. As for
Meehan’s report, Frasier said it is possible there are
other reasons for the upswing.
“Maybe there’s more deer up in Windham,”
Frasier joked. “I was up there Saturday and heard lots
Ulster County could retain all 27 positions slated for layoffs
in the tentative $300 million county budget without raising
taxes, according to an analysis of the spending plan by the
local unit of the Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA). The
Legislature is considering a tentative budget, which contains
a 7.5 percent property tax increase, down from a 39 percent
increase in 2006. The 27 proposed layoffs would be part of
a downsizing that would reduce the county workforce by 58
positions, for a 3 percent overall reduction. The proposed
spending plan is about $156,000 less than the approved 2006
budget. The proposal includes a fund balance, or budget surplus,
of some $13 million, roughly equal to the state comptroller’s
recommended minimum surplus for a county with a $300 million
In an address to the county Legislature November 8, CSEA local
president Kevin DuMond said legislators and county financial
officials could avoid layoffs if they subjected spending in
the proposed budget to tighter scrutiny. He said there is
already money in the budget to retain all the jobs slated
for layoffs. DuMond said there are other examples of unnecessary
expenses that should be investigated and corrected before
layoffs are implemented. The CSEA represents 1,600 county
DuMond presented legislators with an analysis done by CSEA
research analyst Stephen J. Keith, a six page document which
estimates Ulster County budgeted approximately $4.35 million
more money in the 2006 budget than it will actually spend
on salaries for personnel services this year.
Keith wrote that, while Ulster County initially estimated
it would have a $5.45 million fund balance, or budget surplus,
from 2005 going into 2006, when final figures were received,
the fund balance, actually totaled $11.8 million. He suggested
that a similar dynamic may play out in 2006 heading into 2007.
Keith further noted that the Ulster County Legislature has
approved tax increases to go into effect in 2007 to create
a larger hotel room tax, and a new mortgage tax. If approved
by the state legislature, these measures could bring in perhaps
as much as an additional $4 million next year, revenues which
are not included in the tentative budget.
He said that while roughly $3 million was budgeted for contingency
in 2006, no money has been expended from that fund thus far.
Therefore, he said, the county may be over budgeting by setting
aside $2.5 million for contingency in 2007. Overall, Keith
said, he believes the county is in a better financial position
than has been acknowledged by the legislature.
After the meeting, Legislative Chairman David Donaldson said
that the object of the proposed layoffs is not only to save
money, but to restructure, or “right size” the
county government. “We are going after savings, yes,
but when the administrator put together the tentative budget
he was also looking for consolidation and efficiency. The
positions are being cut because we don’t need those
A vote on the budget is expected next month Any subsequent
layoffs are not slated for implementation until April 1, providing
workers and county officials time to ease into whatever transition
may be needed.
Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring
cleaning job on Democrats moving in with GOP leaders having
decided to opt to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar
clutter of unfinished spending bills, plus a failure to pass
a multibillion-dollar measure to prevent a cut in fees to
doctors treating Medicare patients.
The bulging workload that a Republican -led Congress was supposed
to complete this year but is instead punting to 2007 promises
to consume time and energy that Democrats had hoped to devote
to their own agenda upon taking control of Congress in January
for the first time in a dozen years.
The decision to drop so much unfinished work in Democrats’
laps demonstrates both division within Republicans ranks and
the difficulty in resolving so many knotty questions in so
short a time. GOP leaders promised their House and Senate
members the December lame duck session would last no more
than two weeks, or until Dec. 16 at the latest. Now, with
the agenda shrinking, a session that will be the last for
45 retiring or defeated House members and senators should
be wrapped up by Dec. 8.
The incoming Democratic majority has yet to develop a plan
to cope with the more than $460 billion in unfinished budget
business. The Democrats’ problem is made even more complicated
because President Bush in early 2007 will send Congress a
bill that could exceed $130 billion for continuing the war
in Iraq , according to Capitol Hill aides.
New York State has awarded over $455,000 in master plan and
zoning awards to 17 communities in the New York City watershed
in the Catskills and Hudson Valley regions. The funds will
be used to develop land use plans and identify economic development
opportunities that protect water quality and encourage development
consistent with the 1997 New York City Watershed Memorandum
Grants include $25,000 each to the town of Putnam Valley,
North Castle, Lewisboro, Pound Ridge, Kortright, Middletown,
Masonville, and Village of Tannersville. The Town of Kent
received three grants totaling $75,000, the Town of Carmel
received $50,000, the Town of Hurley received just under $25,000,
the Town of Denning received $24,000, the towns of Gilboa,
Conesville and Jefferson received a total of $55,000 for one
project, and the Town of Halcott received $1,600.
Maybe someone in Ulster County should apply next?
A proposal to extend health benefits for Ulster County employees
to domestic and not just marriage partners is being aided,
but also possibly threatened, by a possible lawsuit from the
Civil Service Employees Association and three county employees
who have filed a class-action against the county claiming
that gay and lesbian county employees do not enjoy the same
health-care benefits as their heterosexual colleagues.
A proposed county legislative amendment to current benefits
coverage states that gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples
who have lived together for at least a year and are financially
interdependent would be eligible for benefits. The CSEA calls
for an extension of benefits as well as payment of damages
since 2003, the year the state law took effect.
In addition to pressure from the pending lawsuit, legislators
are considering the financial impact of extending the health
benefits. County Administrator Michael Hein said he did not
have a clear understanding of the cost, although studies by
UCLA Law School estimates an enrollment increase of between
1.4 to 2.1 percent with cost increases in the same range.
For Ulster’s $17 million health coverage expenses, that
could mean a projected extra cost of $238,000 to $357,000.
However, some legislators and the president of the local CSEA
say the move actually could decrease expenses.
“I’ve been contacted by enough county employees
to be led to believe this may save us money because you have,
right now, a number of domestic partner county employees who
have two policies,” said Legislator Brian Shapiro, D-Woodstock.
“Having a domestic partner policy would reduce that
to having a single policy.”
“It’s my opinion there would probably be a net
savings to the county,” said Kevin DuMond, president
of the local unit of the CSEA. The full Legislature is to
discuss the issue during a joint caucus on Dec. 6.
EPA Regional Superfund Director George Pavlou has finally
issued a final decision on technical matters long disputed
by General Electric Company in relationship to EPA’s
comments on mandated dredging operations in the upper Hudson
River. Countering the position of former Congressman John
Sweeney, ousted by a Democrat earlier this month, EPA reaffirmed
its original position that GE must incorporate into its Remedial
Action Community Health Safety Plan contingencies for protecting
public water supplies. The provision of alternate water sources
and/or treatment are designed to protect the community from
the potential hazard of consuming water that contains elevated
levels of PCB as a result of the dredging… and was countered
by GE and Sweeney as exceedingly expensive.
The final decision reaffirms EPA’s requirement for GE
to place backfill from the river in a manner that maintains
the configuration of the pre-existing shoreline and river
bottom. EPA’s final decision also defines those near-shore
areas in which GE is required, after dredging, to restore
the pre-dredging river bottom. Restoring the shoreline configuration
is expected to be beneficial to the replacement of habitat,
and will also help limit the impacts of the dredging on property
along the shoreline.
On August 18, 2006, with Sweeney’s help, GE invoked
dispute resolution with respect to several other issues that
are not addressed in EPA’s November 9 final decision.
Those additional issues, also related to the Phase 1 Final
Design Report, are currently under discussion between EPA
and GE. If they are not resolved through those discussions,
GE has the option of requesting a determination from EPA on
Sweeney, in addition to becoming chummy with EPA Regional
Administrator Alan Steinberg in recent months also came out
in support of Dean Gitter’s proposed Belleayre Resort
project for the central Catskills in late August.
But that’s all history now.
Looking to put your money where everyone else’s mouths
have been? Recently, KBR, which runs almost every aspect of
the Iraq war except the fighting, started trading as a separate
stock after an initial public offering. Although not a household
name, it’s the unit of Halliburton that handles everything
in Iraq ranging from operating cafeterias for soldiers to
providing fuel, laundry and other services. Vice President
Cheney used to be CEO of Halliburton.
For investors, “KBR is the demon spawn of Halliburton,”
says Ben Holmes, publisher of MorningNotes.com, a market and
IPO research firm. “That will have some effect.”
He cites several points:
Revenue at risk… due to the fact that KBR gets 56% of
its revenue from efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 65%
of its $10.1 billion annual revenue from U.S. government contracts.
With Democrats in charge, the windfall will likely dwindle.
Potential for investigations. In June 2005, for instance,
the Defense Contract Management Agency recommended withholding
$55 million until KBR further documented billings for housing
soldiers. Another $95 million in bills have been questioned
regarding dining facilities in Iraq. KBR’s procurement
matters are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice.
On the other side, though, KBR has noted that it has been
broadening its business base outside Iraq, although it’s
unclear whether that means other possible war spots.
Speakers were evenly divided at a November public hearing
on a proposed law that would require commercial pest control
companies to notify adjacent property owners before spraying
certain pesticides on a property. One critic noted that the
law requires notification only of properties that directly
abut the property to be sprayed, a property across the street
would not get notification, even though the distance could
actually be shorter. The law also would not apply to private
homeowners, golf courses and cemeteries.
Craig Artist, area Lawn Doctor representative, pointed out
other loopholes, including applying only to liquid, not granular,
pesticide. He also prefers a voluntary notification. “Let’s
notify people who truly want to be notified.” Artist
made a point of the cost, claiming that in the course of a
typical season, he could spend $24,000 just on the mail notification
the law would require.
Rosemary Williams had another cost concern. “What is
the cost of health care.”
The legislature likely will vote on the local law in December.
New labor department statistics released this month by the
state show the economies of the Hudson Valley and Catskills
are doing well. DOL analyst John Nelson said year over year
in October, the economy appears to be strong.
“Our job numbers reflect a very health economy,”
he said. He said the private sector added about 6,700 new
jobs for a growth of just under one percent. Some of the new
jobs are seasonal with October being one of the months where
seasonal hiring takes place, he said.
The Rockland-Putnam-Westchester area picked up 4,200 new jobs;
Dutchess-Orange gained 2,500; Ulster County gained 500 new
jobs; Greene and Sullivan counties each picked up 300 jobs;
while Delaware County gained 200 jobs. Columbia County was
the only one in the region to lose jobs, at 200.
Unemployment rates year over year in October fell by a few
tenths of a percent in all counties in the region.
The Ulster County Family Violence Unit and the New York State
Police in Kingston arrested Roger Rotella, 28 of West Shokan,
and charged him with injuring a three-month-old baby on November
9, when he allegedly shook the child to a life-threatening
degree. He was charged with assault in the first degree, reckless
assault of a child and endangering the welfare of a child.
Rotella was arraigned in Town of Olive Court and remanded
to the Ulster County Jail without bail pending a future court
appearance. The child was admitted to Albany Medical Center
for treatment of his injuries.
Roger Rotella, a former sergeant with the New York City Department
of Environmental Protection Police Department and a former
Shandaken police officer, was previously indicted last month
on charges that he accepted a bribe with a promise to make
a drunk driving charge against another man “disappear.”
Rotella had been suspended from his job as a police officer
for the Department of Environmental Protection for 30 days
and then quit after the suspension was completed.
Rotella later confessed to police about the bribing incident.
Members of the Ulster County Legislature’s Public Works
Committee have endorsed a return to a single commissioner
to oversee the Buildings and Grounds and Highways and Bridges
departments, rather than the current setup that requires separate
commissioners. Since the mid-1990s, the two departments have
been led independently by commissioners assisted by small
administrative staffs, with a third department, Public Works
Administration, overseeing financial aspects of the county’s
public works operations. County Administrator Michael Hein
has proposed a single commissioner and a consolidation of
administrative staffs to cut duplication of services.
A motion to request a public hearing on the restructuring
- which would require overriding local laws from 1995 - was
adopted 6-3, with the understanding that the county administrator
would first present legislators with a rundown on costs. If
the proposed setup is approved by the full Legislature, David
Sheeley, the commissioner of highways and bridges, will serve
as acting commissioner of the Public Works Department, replacing
GOP appointee Harvey Sleight, whose term expires at the end
of the year.
The full Legislature will decide next month whether to bring
the issue to a hearing.
Onteora school district officials estimate that up to $30,000
was saved through a joint effort between Hurley, Woodstock
and Olive crews to remove years of accumulated garbage and
debris from school district property. The figures were provided
by interim district Superintendent Jack Jordan, who said about
9 tons of material was taken off property along Van Dale Road
behind the former West Hurley Elementary School.
School district officials last month were given an Ulster
County Health Department violation notice for the site and
said police are investigating how the items were dumped. Hurley
town Supervisor Michael Shultis credited highway officials
in his town, Woodstock, and Olive for contributing toward
the one-day cleanup project that removed about 30 cubic yards
of material… a project he initiated.
Richard Remsnyder, who has been on the job as acting director
of tourism since the untimely death of former Freeman reporter
Hallie Arnold last summer, was given the county position permanently
by a recent legislative action. But because of current budget
problems, it is now looking that he will be forced to run
a significantly scaled down operation, adapted to both county
budget constraints and the changing needs of an internet-based
“Sounds like pie-in-the-sky to call Robert De Niro and
ask him if he would be willing to speak about Ulster County,
but he lives here, and that’s something we’re
certainly going to do, and try to contact people like that,”
Remsnyder said, brainstorming possible ways of stretching
The $266,173 budgeted in the tentative 2007 county spending
plan drastically streamlines the Tourism Department from 2006’s
adopted budget of $742,822, and proposes more of an Internet-based
structure. The cut includes the elimination of two positions
as well as a vacant position, leaving only one employee and
County Administrator Michael Hein said his office recognizes
the incredible value that tourism has in the county, but had
to make extremely difficult decisions in light of financial
“No matter what budget it is finally determined for
this department to work with, we’ll make it work,”
Remsnyder said. “Whatever I’m given, we will utilize
the funds and do the best possible job to promote Ulster County.”
A recent study by the Department of Education found that 31
percent of American students were dropping out or failing
to graduate in the nation’s largest 100 public school
districts. It is estimated that about 2,500 students drop
out of U.S. high schools every day.
The implications from dropping out of high school are enormous,
including a higher risk of poverty and even an abbreviated
life span. Why is a high school diploma so important?
Consider this: High school dropouts have a life span that
is nine years shorter than people who graduate. Dropouts are
more likely to face poverty, according to the U.S. Census
Bureau, with typical high school dropouts earning $19,000
a year as compared to high school graduates earning $28,000
a year on average. Furthermore, on a national basis, 68 percent
of state prison inmates are dropouts.
The Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) will host a one-day
course on installing residential septic systems Friday, Dec.
8 at CWC offices, 905 Main Street (NYS Route 30), Margaretville,
Delaware County. “Installation of Residential Onsite
Wastewater Treatment Systems” is especially designed
to support contractors doing work in the New York City Watershed,
according to CWC Executive Director Alan Rosa. The CWC will
cover the course fee for contractors living and/or doing business
in the NYC Watershed West of the Hudson River. All others
will be charged the $225 fee. All participants will be required
to pay $10 for lunch.
To register, call SUNY Delhi’s Office of Business and
Community Services, (607) 746-4545. Registration deadline
is December 1.
New At FV…
Frost Valley YMCA has announced a $1 million gift from Helen
Geyer to benefit the camp’s Build Strong! Capital Campaign
by funding the renovation of the old girls’ dining hall
into Geyer Hall. Mrs. Geyer, a Montclair, NJ resident, was
a model and actress in the 1940s. She modeled for more than
39 magazine covers, including the cover of a Norman Rockwell
original Saturday Evening Post, multiple covers of Collier’s,
and was the Red Cross Poster Girl during World War II. She
was featured in the 1944 film Covergirl, with Rita Hayworth
and Gene Kelly. Presently a Trustee Emerita at Frost Valley,
Mrs. Geyer began serving on Frost Valley’s Board of
Trustees as its first female member in 1962. She was instrumental
in forming a girls’ camp at a time when camps like Frost
Valley were all-male.
The $1 million gift from Mrs. Geyer, will be directed towards
the renovation of Geyer Hall which includes a large banquet
and dining area, multiple conference rooms, an updated kitchen
and a large activity room. Geyer Hall is home to Frost Valley’s
growing day camp program during the summer months, and provides
activity and meeting space for students, families and campers
The Build Strong! Campaign seeks to raise funds to build a
new wellness center and family center. In addition to serving
traditional guests, Frost Valley works with a number of special
children each year through its partnership with the Ruth Gottscho
Kidney Foundation. Frost Valley is home to the nation’s
first camp-based dialysis center, which is still unique in
its ability to mainstream children with kidney disease into
camp-life with other children, allowing them participate in
a traditional residential camp experience while gaining confidence
and independence, in what may be their first time away from
home. The dialysis unit is staffed under the supervision of
Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center. The
new Guenther Family Wellness Center will encompass three areas:
a health care wing, a kidney dialysis wing and a program and
education center. It is named in recognition of a lead gift
provided by Paul B. Guenther, Frost Valley’s Chairman
of the Board.
Those seeking more information about Frost Valley YMCA and
The Build Strong! Campaign may call Lea Kone, Director of
Development at (973) 744-3488 or visit Frost Valley’s
website at www.frostvalley.org
The U.S. military on Friday has announced it plans to build
a $125 million compound at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base where
it hopes to hold war-crimes trials for terror suspects by
the middle of next year. But Olive-based Michael Ratner, president
of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which
represents dozens of Guantanamo detainees, is having none
“This is a huge waste of taxpayer money,” said
Ratner in press accounts of the matter this past week.”They’ve
been trying to try people for five years, and until they try
somebody according to the Constitution, nothing’s going
to happen there.”
The project, which has not yet been submitted for congressional
approval, represents one of the largest upgrades to the detention
center since it began taking in suspected enemy combatants
in January 2002. The U.S. government is drafting new rules
for the trials under the Military Commissions Act, which President
Bush signed last month. The Supreme Court had declared that
previous efforts to try Guantanamo detainees were unconstitutional.
Defense lawyers, and Ratner, have challenged the validity
of the new law, which bars detainees from using the civilian
court system. If a federal appeals court or the Supreme Court
rules in their favor, it could strike down the military trials.
The elegant expression “benthic macroinvertebrates”
translates as “creatures without spines that live on
the bottom of a stream and are large enough to be seen without
a microscope”. Scientists and watershed dwellers study
these critters because the relative quantities of different
species indicate the health of a stream, since each variety
is more or less sensitive to pollution.
The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD)
in Arkville offered a workshop on Friday and Saturday, November
17 and 18, in which teachers, outdoor educators, and other
interested watershed residents learned how to collect, identify,
and catalog macroinvertebrates living in local streams. Besides
teaching students about the ecology of streams and forests
and offering a means of gathering data on the state of our
water, the process is fascinating and fun for anyone with
an interest in nature. To learn about future CCCD leaf pack
workshops, visit www.catskillcenter.org.
Who’s On First?
New criminal enforcement data from the Justice Department
document that in July 2006, U.S. federal white collar crime
prosecutions reached their lowest number (498) in the last
five years. In fact, not since May 2000 (when there were 446
prosecutions) has the number been lower. In addition, criminal
prosecutions in July were down from the previous month in
all of the following categories: white collar crime (down
15%), immigration (down 10.3%), illegal drugs (down 20%) and
weapons (down 13.5%). Moreover, all four enforcement areas
show declines in prosecutions from the previous year.
So who’s been getting all the attention? Foreign terrorists
and, surprisingly, government leaks. And those, similar tracking
has found out, have led to a prosecutorial batting record
of less than .200, as compared to pre-War on Terror records
that saw three quarters of all prosecutions proving successful.
Jenna Bush paid a secret diplomatic visit to Paraguayan President
Nicanor Duarte and U.S. Ambassador James Cason this month,
according to South American newspapers, for the purpose of
discussing a new “land trust” created for Bush
via nearly 100,000 acres purchased by the First Family near
the town of Chaco.
The Paraguayan Senate voted last summer to “grant U.S.
troops immunity from national and International Criminal Court
(ICC) jurisdiction.” Immediately afterwards, 500 heavily
armed U.S. troops arrived with various planes, choppers and
land vehicles at Mariscal Estigarribia air base, which happens
to be at the northern tip of Paraguay near the Bolivian/Brazilian
border… near Chaco.
Why might the president and his family need a 98.840-acre
ranch in Paraguay protected by a semi-secret U.S. military
base manned by American troops who have been exempted from
war-crimes prosecution by the Paraguyan government…
which former US Defense chief Donald Rumsfeld secretly visited
in late 2005?
It is reported that Rev. Sun Yung Moon has bought 1,482,600
acres himself in the same place, which sits atop the one of
the world’s largest fresh-water aquifers, large oil
supplies, and adjacacent to what Interpol calls one of the
key drug cartel headquarters in the world.