(News Briefs January
The Olive Town Board was scheduled to receive a petition from
about 500 residents at Tuesday’s meeting which calls
for prompt attention to the deteriorating condition of local
”We the people of the Town of Olive request the NYC
DEP to take action and perform much needed and long promised
repairs to the bridges and roadways entering and exiting our
community,” the petition reads. Cited are the
so-called “15 Arch” bridge or “Dividing
Weir” over the Ashokan Reservoir in
Shokan and the bridge over the Esopus Creek on Rt. 28A in
On October 11th last year, David Warne of DEP responded to
a September 9th letter from Senator Bonacic relating to the
issue which had been addressed to DEP Deputy Commissioner
Principe by writing that he was “pleased
to inform (the Senator) that the design for repair of those
Senator Bonacic, who has recently been crossing swords with
the DEP’s position on the Crossroads project, had relayed
a constituent’s concern’s over the current safety
of the structures and Warne assured the Senator that the weir
project was expected to go up for bid in Spring of this year
construction scheduled to begin in the Fall. It is one of
six bridges around the reservoir, he said, with repair plans
in the works.
The DEP’s concern for its holdings in the Ashokan watershed
was expressed in a press release on December 13, 2005, that
announced the acquisition of a conservation easement on a
880 acre parcel embracing land in Olive, Woodstock and Hurley.
The release noted that over 55,000 acres were now
protected under its Land Acquisition Program- through which
the City has acquired almost 10,000 acres since 1997, including
1,100 acres on Tonshi Mountain.
Hopefully, there’s enough left in the budget to keep
the reservoir from being littered with pieces of bridge but,
according to Warnes’ letter, “the Route 28A railroad
bridge is scheduled for full replacement” and won’t
go to bid until Spring of 2009. The project is expected to
take 3 years to
”DEP is currently developing options for the possible
(of the Boiceville bridge) which will allow DEP to maintain
traffic flow while the bridge is being constructed, Warne
Real estate has continued to be good in the Hudson Valley
and Catskills as new housing construction and strong sales
have pushed Ulster County’s market value assessment
up by more than 20 percent since last year at this time. According
to Real Property Tax Service Agency Director Dorothy Martin,
the county’s full-market value has risen from $13.7
billion to $16.6 billion over the last year, a gain of $2.9
Full-market value is generated by taking town-level assessments
and multiplying them by the state-set equalization rate, a
factor that attempts to even out the fluctuations that occur
when assessments are done town by town, as they are in Ulster
County and much of the state.
This increase in the county’s total value, Martin said,
will help offset the 39 percent property tax increase adopted
by the county Legislature by broadening the tax base over
which the county tax levy is spread. That does not mean, however,
that taxpayers across the county can expect their increase
to be less than that, as county tax rates vary among municipalities.
In some communities, the increase in assessed value comes
from townwide revaluations, in which all the properties in
a municipality are revalued based on current market conditions,
generally by using a computer program that compares recent
sales in a given area with current property values of similar
In others, Martin says, new construction is driving the increase.
Six communities in Ulster County - Saugerties, Marlboro, Marbletown,
Plattekill, Rosendale and the town of Kingston - underwent
revaluations this year. Many of those communities saw their
townwide values increase sharply as a result.
Woodstock and the city of Kingston are also on the high end
of municipal values, with both valued at about $1.3 billion.
The town of Ulster is valued at roughly $1.2 billion.
Rising home prices are a major factor in the double-digit
annual property value increases the county has experienced
over the past few years. Since 2002, the median home price
in Ulster County has risen by more than 67 percent, according
to figures provided by the New York State Association of Realtors,
from $155,000 in 2002 to $259,900 in September 2005.
The towns that had revaluations in the past year will all
see their county tax rates drop in 2006, according to the
county agency, although that dip in the tax rate per $1,000
of assessed value in some cases will be offset by the increase
in the taxable value of individual properties.
County taxes account for about 12 percent of the average property
tax bill in Ulster County.
Ulster County is pleased to announce an award of $311,030
from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
for its Continuum of Care Program managed by the Ulster County
Housing Consortium. The funding will be used by various members
of the Consortium to address the problems of homelessness
throughout Ulster County. Funding was obtained to continue
development of the County’s Homeless Management Information
System and a supportive housing program by Family of Woodstock
that will provide a stable environment for the homeless to
live and grow. Funding was also made available to Multi-County
Community Development Corporation for a Shelter plus Care
program that offers additional support for young adolescents
with disabilities. For further information contact Chester
Straub, Chairman of the Ulster County Housing Consortium,
at (845) 338-8840 or Dennis Doyle, Director, Ulster County
Planning Board at (845) 340-3339.
At the Onteora School District’s December 20 board meeting,
Superintendent Justine Winters refused a request made by high
school senior students for an open campus. Winters said the
district had received written information, from both the OCS
attorney and its insurance company, advising against the requested
policy change, which would allow students to access the Boiceville
shopping district across Route 28. School board president
Dave Patterson asked that the subject, already denied by the
administration, be placed on the agenda for the meeting at
Woodstock Elementary School. School board members discussed
alternative ways to wave the liability, including trustee
Rita Vanacore’s suggestion that a traffic light be installed
on the state highway, as well as other ways the senior class
could have gathering places, such as a room for seniors only
and delivery from the restaurants across the street.
Trustee Marino D’Orazio requested that the school board
pass a resolution giving direction to the Future of the District
Commission to work with KSQ architects concerning the future
of West Hurley school, Woodstock elementary school and a location
for a middle school. The Future of the District Commission
was created by a previous school board to review the closed
West Hurley school and decide it’s future. The committee
came up with four recommendations; create a separate middle
school, redistrict to ease up Woodstock school population,
request a feasibility study, and — after research —
recommended the district needed three elementary schools instead
of four. They did not have enough information to make a decision
regarding West Hurley, and asked that a further study be completed
before decisions were made.
After the recommendations came in last month, the committee,
confused by their own future role, asked the school board
for a charge.
Most board members expressed a need to keep the committee
going because it contained community members and faculty from
all the schools providing important, researched input, although
a minority suggested that the board decide a direction for
the district before reconvening the committee to help implement
the new mission.
In the final round the decision to specifically charge the
committee ended up being unanimous.
A Woodstock man was arrested after he telephoned a threat
to “start shooting people” at the Phoenicia branch
of Key Bank, causing the building to be locked down Tuesday
afternoon, Shandaken police said. Robert D. Heitmann, 53 of
Meads Mountain Road, was apparently upset with overdraft charges
to his account and called the bank’s customer service
number with his threat, police said. Police and Ulster County
Sheriff’s Office locked the bank for about an hour until
Heitmann was found. A Woodstock town justice issued an arrest
warrant, but Heitmann turned himself in, police said. Heitmann
was charged with misdemeanor aggravated harassment, arraigned
in Woodstock Town Court and released to answer the charge
at a later date. Shandaken police were assisted by the Woodstock
Shandaken Police also reported the arrest of two 18 year old
males after receiving a complaint that a man’s jacket
containing his wallet, credit cards, cash and cell phone were
stolen at the Belleayre Ski Center on December 29. Police
state that three brothers left their coats to reserve a table
in the cafeteria and as they returned two of the brothers
observed Daniel R. May of Wallkill and Billy-Joe Dart of Kingston
walking out of the area with the jacket. One brother later
located the pair at their vehicle rifling through the pockets
and notified security and the two were apprehended a short
time later. May and Dart were each charged with Grand Larceny,
felonies, and Petit Larceny, a misdemeanor. They were both
issued appearance tickets returnable at a later date.
Kingston City Judge James Gilpatric, who had previously been
pegged for State Supreme Court, was recently censured by the
state Commission on Judicial Conduct for being under the influence
of alcohol while on the bench a year and a half ago. Eight
members of the 11-member panel voted to censure Gilpatric,
a punishmemt just short of removing a judge from the bench,
as occurred recently in Olive because of political involvements,
and in Shandaken a decade ago because of the appearance of
improprieties. Gilpatric’s censure carries no punishment
and no fine because state law doesn’t give the commission
According to the commission’s written decision, Gilpatric
admitted to the panel that he was under the influence of alcohol
when he took the bench on Sept. 1, 2004, and was unable to
carry out his duties. Gilpatric also admitted he was under
the influence of alcohol that morning when he appeared in
Ulster County Family Court as an attorney, the commission’s
decision stated. The Commission noted that since Gilpatric’s
transgression was limited to a single day, and no party’s
rights were compromised, and the judge took appropriate steps
to be treated for his condition and was cooperative with the
commission throughout the proceedings, the lesser punishment
was granted. In its report, the commission also said Gilpatric
sought treatment for his alcoholism in June 1994 and remained
alcohol-free until the Sept. 1, 2004, incident. Gilpatric
resumed his judicial duties on Oct. 7, 2004, “and has
performed without impairment or incident,” the commission
In a recent report released, the Institute of Medicine said
television advertising strongly influences what children under
12 eat. The report said the food industry should spend its
marketing dollars on nutritious food and drinks. That means
SpongeBob, the popular animated star of the Nickelodeon cable
TV network, and other characters should endorse only good-for-you
food, the panel concluded.
The report said evidence is limited on whether TV advertising
leads to obesity in children. A study hasn’t been done
that would demonstrate a direct cause and effect. Still, the
panel found the evidence compelling enough to call for a concerted
effort to change the nature of foods being marketed to children.
The growth in new food products targeted to kids has been
huge, from 52 introduced in 1994 to nearly 500 introduced
last year, the report said. Overwhelmingly, those foods are
high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, the scientists found.
Among children and adolescents from ages 6 through 19, obesity
rates have tripled over the past 40 years. Obesity increases
the risks of type 2 diabetes and many other diseases and health
The food and beverage industries argue that they already are
taking steps recommended in the report, making products healthier,
shrinking package sizes and touting healthy lifestyles. An
advertising industry spokesman called the findings frustrating,
because many companies have been reformulating products to
make them healthier or reporting calorie and fat content on
menu boards or packaging.
The panel said the government should use tax breaks and other
incentives to encourage the shift away from junk food and
said if it doesn’t happen, Congress should mandate it.
Canada’s prime minister said recently that he would
“not be dictated to” by the United States, standing
firm in his increasingly testy exchange of angry rhetoric
with American officials. Washington has called on Prime Minister
Paul Martin to calm the rhetoric against his southern neighbor
- a favorite pastime of many Canadians - and accused him of
lambasting the United States in an effort to win votes in
federal elections next month.
The jousting is the latest in what has become a running skirmish
between the prime minister and David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador
to Canada, who has made numerous public jibes against Martin.
Martin has said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper likely
wouldn’t be willing to stand up to the White House were
he to become prime minister after the Jan. 23 vote.
“My government has defended the interests of our softwood
producers, and we have insisted on justice for Canadian forestry
workers, and we did that without the support of Stephen Harper,
whose silence could be heard all the way to Washington,”
For his part, Harper called Wilkins’s criticisms “inappropriate”
and said no foreign ambassador should be intervening in another
country’s election campaign.
The investigation into leaks about President Bush’s
legally questionable decision to start a domestic spying program
using wiretaps without court oversight, as constitutionally
set over the years, should determine whether the motivation
was damaging security or revealing a potentially illegal activity,
New York’s Senior Senator, Charles Schumer, said recently.
On Friday, the Justice Department opened an investigation
into who divulged the existence of President Bush’s
secret domestic spying program. The New York Times reported
last month about warrantless surveillance conducted by the
National Security Agency since the terrorist attacks of Sept.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who appeared with
Schumer on “Fox News Sunday,” urged the Justice
Department to “go after those who breached our national
security and endangered Americans in the war on terror.”
Bush has acknowledged the existence of the spying program
and defended it as essential to securing the nation. He has
cited his constitutional war powers as well as a congressional
resolution issued after the Sept. 11 attacks as legal justifications
for the program.
The Times reported Sunday that an acting Attorney General,
and possibly John Ashcroft, objected in 2004 to aspects of
the NSA program and would not sign off on its continued use
as required by the administration. Administration officials
including current AG Alberto Gonzalez, it was reported, visited
Ashcroft about the issue while he was hospitalized for gallbladder
The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee,
Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, has called for hearings into
Schumer, while supporting a leak investigation, questioned
shifting the focus from the administration policy to the person
who revealed the information to the press.
“To simply divert this whole thing to just looking at
the leaker and saying everything else is just fine is typical
of this administration,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was recently disclosed that counterterrorism
agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted
numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations
that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes
as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty
relief, newly disclosed agency records show.
F.B.I. officials noted that their investigators had no interest
in monitoring political or social activities and that any
investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven
by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests
and in other settings.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was
then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.’s
investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to
visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities
in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority
to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign
terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links
to violent or disruptive activities.
Civil rights advocates have charged that the government has
improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of
civil disobedience and lawful protest.
“It’s clear that this administration has engaged
every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the
F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans,” said Ann
Beeson, associate legal director for the A.C.L.U.
A proposal to change long-standing federal policy and deny
citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants on U.S. soil
ran aground recently in Congress, but it is sure to resurface
- kindling bitter debate even if it fails to become law.
At issue is “birthright citizenship” - provided
for since the Constitution’s 14th Amendment was ratified
in 1868. Section 1 of that amendment, drafted with freed slaves
in mind, says: “All persons born or naturalized in the
United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are
citizens of the United States.”
Some conservatives in Congress, as well as advocacy groups
seeking to crack down on illegal immigration, say the amendment
has been misapplied over the years, that it was never intended
to grant citizenship automatically to babies of illegal immigrants.
Thus they contend that federal legislation, rather than a
difficult-to-achieve constitutional amendment, would be sufficient
to end birthright citizenship.
With more than 70 co-sponsors, Georgia Republican Rep. Nathan
Deal tried to include a revocation of birthright citizenship
in an immigration bill passed by the House in mid-December.
GOP House leaders did not let the proposal come to a vote.
Deal has said he will continue pushing the issue, describing
birthright citizenship as “a huge magnet” attracting
illegal immigrants. He cited estimates - challenged by immigrant
advocates - that roughly 10 percent of births in the United
States, or close to 400,000 a year, are babies born to illegal
Alvaro Huerta of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights
of Los Angeles said his organization opposes Deal’s
proposal and is girding for a battle for public opinion.
“This is red meat for conservatives,” he said.
“They throw out these issues they know aren’t
winning issues, and they create an environment of anti-immigrant
sentiment. We need to do better job of educating people why
According to a survey last month by Rasmussen Reports, a nonpartisan
public opinion research firm, 49 percent of Americans favor
ending birthright citizenship, and 41 percent favor keeping
it. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
A third of people suffering serious depression recover with
the first antidepressant they try, and well-educated white
women are most likely to benefit, according to initial results
of an eagerly awaited study on the controversial drugs. One
key finding: Patients whose depression symptoms disappeared
took higher than typical drug doses, and received close monitoring
and frequent dose adjustments in the first three months -
a level of care that few U.S. patients today receive.
The main goal of the government-funded study is to identify
what harder-to-treat patients should try when initial treatment
fails, instead of abandoning therapy in frustration. Those
results are due in a few months.
Psychiatrists have long known that for most depression sufferers,
the first antidepressant choice won’t be a panacea,
just as patients with epilepsy, heart disease or cancer often
must mix and match medications before finding the best choice.
But unlike those illnesses, physicians have had little scientific
evidence until now to guide their choices of myriad antidepressants
- or how to maximize each patient’s chances of benefit.
Recent reports in the German media suggest that the United
States may be preparing its allies for an imminent military
strike against facilities that are part of Iran’s suspected
clandestine nuclear weapons program. The growing likelihood
of the military option is back in the headlines in Germany
thanks to a slew of including a Dec. 23 piece by the German
news agency DDP, which has reported that “western security
sources” claim that during CIA Director Porter Goss’
Dec. 12 visit to Ankara, he asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan to provide support for a possible 2006 air
strike against Iranian nuclear and military facilities. More
specifically, Goss is said to have asked Turkey to provide
unfettered exchange of intelligence that could help with a
mission. They also noted that the governments of Saudi Arabia,
Jordan, Oman and Pakistan have been informed in recent weeks
of Washington’s military plans. The countries, apparently,
were told that air strikes were a “possible option,”
but they were given no specific timeframe for the operations.
In a report published in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel,
NATO intelligence sources claimed that Washington’s
western allies had been informed that the United States is
currently investigating all possibilities of bringing the
mullah-led regime into line, including military options. Of
course, Bush has publicly stated for months that he would
not take the possibility of a military strike off the table.
What’s new here, however, is that Washington appears
to be dispatching high-level officials to prepare its allies
for a possible attack rather than merely implying the possibility
as it has repeatedly done during the past year.
Nearly one in 10 American teenagers, or 2.2 million, experienced
major depression last year, according to government statistics
that also showed that depressed youths were more likely to
smoke, drink alcohol or abuse drugs. Fewer than half received
treatment, the survey found. Overall, 9 percent of teens were
depressed, with older teens more at risk than their younger
peers, said the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration, or SAMHSA.
About 12 percent of youth aged 16 or 17 faced severe depression
in 2004, compared with about 5 percent of those 12 or 13 years
old. Among those age 14 or 15, 9 percent experienced a major
Treatment for depression among teenagers has been a controversial
issue since a U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientist
concluded in early 2004 that anti-depressants posed a suicide
risk in youth. Another university-sponsored study also showed
a link. Since then the FDA has required drug manufacturers
to disclose the possible risk on labels for anti-depressants.
Some experts, including doctors, worried the warning would
lead to fewer youths receiving treatment.
The recent findings, part of the agency’s annual National
Survey on Drug Use and Health, also showed very depressed
youth aged 12 to 17 were twice as likely to engage in substance
abuse than those who were not depressed. About 28 percent
of depressed teens used alcohol, while nearly 23 percent smoked
cigarettes and another roughly 21 percent used drugs. Among
those who did not report a major episode, about 17 percent
drank alcohol, about 11 percent smoked, and about 10 percent
Thinking of spending that next vacation on the moon or Mars
or circling the Earth? Before liftoff, there’s a list
of things the would-be “space flight participant”
More than 120 pages of proposed rules, released by the government
in the last week of December, regulate the future of space
tourism, touching on everything from passenger medical standards
to preflight training.
Before taking a trip that literally is out of this world,
companies would be required to inform the “space flight
participant” - known in more earthly settings as a passenger
- of the risks. Passengers also would be required to provide
written consent before boarding a vehicle for takeoff.
Legislation signed a year ago by President Bush and designed
to help the space industry flourish at the outset without
too much government interference prohibits the Federal Aviation
Administration from issuing safety regulations for passengers
and crew for eight years, unless specific design features
or operating practices cause a serious or fatal injury.
“This means that the FAA has to wait for harm to occur
or almost occur before it can impose restrictions, even against
foreseeable harm,” the proposal says. “Instead,
Congress requires that space flight participants be informed
of the risks.”
The new proposal sets requirements for crew qualifications
and training, and establishes training and informed consent
for passengers. It does not outline requirements for the vehicles
Physical exams for passengers are recommended, but will not
be required, “unless a clear public safety need is identified,”
the FAA says in the proposed regulations.
Laws governing private sector space endeavors, such as satellite
launches, have existed for some time. But there previously
has been no legal jurisdiction for regulating commercial human
The 123-page proposal was published in the Federal Register,
the government’s daily publication of rules and regulations,
and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, through
Feb. 27. Final regulations are expected by June 23.
A Chichester man who spent 23 years behind bars for molesting
children has been released from prison, but it looks like
he won’t be coming back to this community anytime soon,
That’s because Karl Ahlers Jr. is not really free.
Ahlers, now 72, was released from the Green Haven Correctional
Facility in Dutchess County on Nov. 22, according to the state
Department of Correctional Services, but under an order from
Gov. George Pataki, he has been held for the past month at
the Manhattan Psychiatric Center on Wards Island. Upon release
from prison Alhers was deemed a danger to the community and
moved to the psychiatric hospital.
While living in Chichester in 1982, Ahlers was convicted of
seven felonies and two misdemeanors for sexual offenses against
five children. He was sentenced to a maximum of 48 years in
state prison, though the term later was reduced to a maximum
of 30 years. He served just over 23 years prior to his release.
He was arrested in July 1981 after a raid of his Chichester
home turned up 29 films showing sexual acts between men and
boys. The raid was part of a Nassau County Vice Squad investigation
into a child pornography ring,
Ahlers was indicted on 15 felony and 17 misdemeanor counts,
including sodomy, endangering the welfare of a child, obscenity
and sexual abuse for acts involving seven children - six boys
and one girl - ages 9 to 17. He was convicted of nine of the
charges and sentenced to the maximum of 48 years in state
prison after a non-jury trial at which some of the young victims
Ahlers had a previous record of sexual offenses against children,
including a 1972 conviction for two counts of attempted sexual
intercourse with a 12-year-old.
Ulster County District Attorney Donald A. Williams, who prosecuted
Ahlers in 1982, told reporters last week that there are serious
constitutional issues when it comes to holding an individual
after his sentence has ended, but there are limits to constitutional
rights when it involves the welfare of children.
Williams also said that when it involves a convicted pedophile
who continues to maintain that that type of conduct is not
only permissible, but recommended, then this individual is
the lowest form of humanity. All that is left to do, he said,
is remove someone like Ahlers from society and protect individuals
who are vulnerable to his manipulative conduct.
Williams said because of the nature of the offenses, and the
vulnerability of the victims, he believes Ahlers will always
pose a threat to the community.
The Bush administration has scaled back its ambitions to rebuild
Iraq from the devastation wrought by war and dictatorship
and does not intend to seek new funds for reconstruction,
it emerged recently. In a decision that will be seen as a
retreat from a promise outlined by President George Bush in
his recent Plan For Victory to give Iraq the best infrastructure
in the region, administration officials say they will not
seek reconstruction funds when the budget request is presented
to Congress next month..
The $18.4bn allocation is scheduled to run out in June 2007.
The move will be seen by critics as further evidence of the
administration's failure to plan for the aftermath of the
A decision not to renew the reconstruction program would leave
Iraq with the burden of tens of billions of dollars in unfinished
projects, and an oil industry and electrical grid that have
yet to return to pre-war production levels.
At least $2.5bn earmarked for Iraq's dilapidated infrastructure
and schools was diverted to building up a security force.
And funds originally intended to repair the electricity grid
and sewage and sanitation system were used to train special
bomb squad units and a hostage rescue force. The US also shifted
funds to build 10 new prisons to keep pace with the insurgency,
and safe houses and armoured cars for Iraqi judges. The reconstruction
fund was tapped for the hundreds of millions of dollars required
to hold elections and for four changes of government.