On October 20, at the Onteora Mountain House, Robin Sears, Director
of Health and Human Services, held a forum to discuss concerns
based on a survey taken by students addressing substance abuse.
Although reported substance abuse at Onteora is slightly lower
than the country’s average, Sears raised concern regarding
mixed messages from the communities.
“We chose not to make this a school issue, but a community
issue based on the data you are about to see,” said Sears.
According to a youth survey report called Communities That Cares
(CTC), Onteora students between grades seven through twelve,
reported receiving ambiguous messages about drug and alcohol
use from their parents or media, and said it was pretty easy
to get alcohol from family or friends over the age of 21.
The audience, which consisted of students, parents, town board
members, law enforcement, prevention specialists and school
administrators were split into four groups representing each
town in the district and discussed problems their community
Phoenicia’s group voiced concern that their community
has too many signs advertising alcohol and cigarettes, which
sends negative messages to kids.
Also on October 20, Sears revealed the creation of a Teen Hotline.
Sears said, “Some of the people in this room have been
in the trenches for a long time and about eight years ago we
started taking a look at the communities.” As a result
they formed a group called Teen and Parents who met monthly
and looked at the demographics of the various communities and
produced a document with recommendations, including the survey.
Family of Woodstock’s TEENline will be available in December
“We are planning to formally train kids through these
three school systems to be Hotline volunteers, and I am really
very proud that the first coalition led to something so successful,”
If anyone is interested in more information, or who may know
of someone between the age of 16 and 21 who may be interested,
contact; Teen Hotline Manager, Doug Muller at 845-679-2485 or
The rising cost of fuel was of greatest concern at Onteora’s
November 1 School Board meeting, forcing trustees to look at
long and short-term solutions.
Marino D’Orazio voiced worry that the school might not
be able to meet the projected fuel costs and asked what the
district could do to save taxpayer money.
Business Administrator Victoria McLaren noted that heating costs
may run $200,000 over what has been budgeted for.
State law mandates that classrooms must be heated no less than
McLaren and Superintendent Justine Winters have asked athletic
director Mike Kocher to minimize extra bus runs for athletic
activities and they will also be speaking with principals to
direct staff on extra energy efficient measures.
Certified Public Accountants of Nugent and Haeussler, P. C,
Gary Theodore and Brent Napoleon, gave an audit report on the
school district and the year has been good. The district saved
a little over a million dollars last year and the money was
returned to tax payers. The lunch program has a deficit of $7,000
in which Theodore called “small” compared to what
it once was nearly reaching $200,000 in the red. The money for
the lunch program is now taking money from the general fund
account to help pay for the lunch program.
During the new business section of the meeting, Trustee Rita
Vanacore requested a review in district goals and asked to have
the goals redefined to be more specific. The board debated over
how the goals should be set and who would be involved. Trustee
Herb Rosenfeld said he would like student’s achievements
to be more specific, while trustee Mary Jane Bernholtz said
she would like to see all the community stakeholders involved,
and trustee Dave Patterson would like to include the administration.
A date to discuss district goals was not set.
Heather Schauman received tenure as a full time special education
teacher at Bennett school with high recommendations from the
administration. The decision from the board was unanimous with
trustee Vanacore abstaining because she disagrees with teachers
Meanwhile, it was announced that two fifth grade students from
Bennett elementary school had two poems published in a book
called the Anthology of Poetry, 2005 edition. The book was founded
in 1989 and is published nationally with works chosen by educators
and teachers who inspire. Bennett Elementary grade five teachers,
Joan Mayone-Allison and Virginia Occhi nominated the two students
for the book. Sarah Corwin wrote a poem titled “A Breakfast
Of Flies,” and Chelsea O’Connell wrote a poem called
“A Single Rose.”
The Olive Press seemed to have made a grave miscalculation in
its story on the Town of Olive’s tentative 2006 budget
proposal in the October 27 issue. It turns out we put together
the story minus a very key element: the use of the town’s
sizable unexpended balance as a means of minimizing the amount
to be raised by taxes.
Furthermore, revised figures given us by town supervisor Berndt
Leifeld now indicate the rise in the amount to be raised by
taxes for the coming year will be 3.9 percent, as proposed.
And that number can yet shift via further cuts or discovery
of new revenue streams at the town’s annual budget hearing
on November 10.
According to Leifeld, the total appropriations for the town’s
general fund budget for the coming year will be $1,648,032,
with a revenue of $415,650. After application of $300,000 in
unexpended funds, the amount to be raised by taxes for the general
fund will be $532,382. The 2006 highway budget appropriations
will be $1,327,691, with a revenue of $87,793. After application
of $100,000 in unexpended balance funds, the total to be raised
by taxes, in the highway fund, will be $1,139,898.
In addition to the highway and general funds, the town is looking
at a fire district appropriations amount of $425,431 to be raised
by taxes, as well as a $550 amount to be raised by taxes for
the town’s sole special lighting district.
The total appropriations for the town in its 2006 budget are
$3,401,704, against total revenues of $503,443 and an unexpended
balance fund of $400,000. The total amount to be raised by taxes,
pending public hearing and resolution on November 10, is $2,498,261.
That represents a rise of $93,640 in the amount to be raised
by taxes, a hike of 3.9 percent all total.
According to Leifeld, that translates in a shift in the tax
rate per thousand for the general fund from $134.67 in 2005
to $145.41 per thousand for the coming year, a rise of $10.74
per thousand; and in terms of the highway budget, from $170.74
per thousand in 2005 to $177.78 per thousand for the coming
year, a rise of just under $7 per thousand of assessed value.
The increase in the fire district is approximately 85 cents
The supervisor noted that results of the current reval process
will not be in effect until the 2007 budget year, and that the
rise in the assessor’s department budget has nothing to
do with the cost of the reval, as reported, but reflects the
hiring of a second assessor consultant. Expenditures for the
reval are coming out of a capital reserve account, he said.
The supervisor further noted that the town board has been putting
funds into its contingency budgets to build up the annual unexpended
budget amount to its current levels to handle difficult years
such as this, where rising fuel costs, dropping sales and mortgage
tax revenues, and a continuing rise in the cost of mandated
benefits have been pushing municipal and county budgets up across
the state and nation.
The Olive Press apologizd for any confusion that may have occurred
as the result of its reporting the budget figures without Leifeld’s
commentary, and especially without the inclusion of the town’s
unexpended balance (released this week in a newly revised cover
Yet later, it discovered that those figures had never been added,
by the supervisor, to its official budget figures, which had
been due, according to State Law, on October 5.
The budget hearing takes place Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Town
Meeting Hall on Bostock Road starting at 7:30 p.m.
Mold and leaks… the problems at the yet-to-open jail continue
Contractors have started testing the installation of windows
at the new Ulster County Law Enforcement Center, hoping to pinpoint
the source of leaks that caused more than $50,000 in water damage
at the facility this autumn.
Meanwhile, an environmental testing firm has confirmed the presence
of mold inside the new facility, and recommends immediate removal
of wallboard and other porous building materials that were soaked
through during recent heavy rains. The findings confirm test
results presented earlier by Legislator Robert Parete, D-Boiceville,
which showed rare to heavy concentrations of several types of
mold in selected areas of the Law Enforcement Center. The county
Buildings and Grounds Department will hire an independent contractor
to begin pulling out wallboard, ceiling tiles, and other water-damaged
building materials that are harboring or could harbor mold growth.
Contractors have said that fixing the water damage will not
further delay the project - which already is a year-and-a-half
behind schedule and $12.6 million over budget - because it can
be done concurrently with other work. But at the same time,
sub-contractors have said that even though they’ve been
directed to begin repairs, they’re not going to start
until there is a plan to correct the problems that led to the
No estimates were given of what delay, if any, the process could
add to the building’s projected completion date.
Bovis Lend Lease, the construction manager, has attributed water
damage to work done by Christa Construction and R.S. Roofing
and Sheet Metal, two of the prime contractors on the job. Both
have denied culpability.
Sheriff J. Richard Bockelmann questioned why the potential for
mold damage was not made public sooner, along with whether the
building was safe for his staff and contractors. While county
Buildings and Grounds Commissioner Harvey Sleight said he doesn’t
believe anyone in the building is in danger, Quality Environmental
could not say for certain that the building is safe.
On To The Jury...
The ongoing court case resulting from the 2002 death of Onteora
student Kevin O’Connor came up recently with the release
of a decision on several motions filed by lawyers for the O’Connor
family and the defendants in the case, which includes the Onteora
School District and the employee who blacked out and struck
O’Connor, Paul Bresciani.
In an October 12 ruling, Judge Vincent Bradley of the NY Supreme
Court weighed a motion by the defendants to have the entire
O’Connor complaint dismissed on the basis that the death
was the result of a singular “accident,” and that
if it isn’t dismissed, that their claims for damages and
punitive be dismissed, against the plaintiff’s motion
and cross-motion for “summary judgment” regarding
liability. He denied all motions, finding, in his six page ruling,
that Brasciani had a history of black outs based on his diabetes,
and continuing sweet tooth, and terming the O’Connor boy’s
death, “a horribly tragic incident;” yet further
finding that a summary judgment could not be made, yet, because
of continuing “questions of fact.”
The idea of punitive damages was tossed based on the fact that,
no matter the facts of the case, Bresciani’s actions did
not in any way indicate “reckless or wanton negligence.”
According to Kevin’s mother, Cindy O’Connor, currently
a member of the Onteora School Board, the case now moves on
to a jury trial in Kingston set to start on January 9.
The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s elected chiefs officially
ended their five-year pursuit of a casino at Kutsher’s
Resort in Sullivan County and are concentrating on gaining approvals
for a gambling hall at Monticello Raceway. Two of the three
chiefs wrote to the Bureau of Indian Affairs withdrawing their
application for the agency to take land into trust for the Kutsher’s
project. They informed the BIA they would appreciate all final
reviews and clearances necessary to allow a casino at the raceway,
which is owned by Empire Resorts. A copy of the letter was sent
to Gov. George Pataki, from whom the tribe wants a concurrence
letter stating that he supports the BIA taking land into trust
for the raceway project. The tribe’s leaders then wrote
to Harrah’s, their casino partners for the Kutsher’s
site since 2000, informing the Las Vegas gambling company that
they have no plans anymore for the site Harrah’s controls.
Harrah’s has spent $40 million in pre-development costs
and the tribe could be held liable for much of the costs.
The 29-acre raceway site was approved by the federal government
in 2000 for a Mohawk casino, but the tribe abruptly switched
developers and sites, restarting the long application process.
Representatives of two Iroquois tribes in New York are upset
that publicly traded gambling companies may be misrepresenting
their tribal relationships. The inaccurate portrayals, they
say, could deceive investors on the odds for Catskills casino
Empire has said in SEC filings that it has a casino contract
with the “provisional” Cayuga government —
a pro-casino group that won a disputed election. But the Bureau
of Indian Affairs has refused to certify the election or recognize
the provisional government. So far, the BIA recognizes only
the current tribal government, which opposes the casino
Empire, in its July 27 SEC filing, suggested the leadership
issue is unresolved. The company denies any deception, saying
it has fairly and accurately presented facts amid a complex
leadership dispute. The charges of misrepresentation arose as
Mohawk leaders, exploring bringing Empire and Harrah’s
together, asked Gov. George Pataki to back the Monticello Raceway
project. This has caused Harrah’s to suggest the chiefs
rethink the raceway plan.
“Behind the Scenes: The Inside Story of the Watershed
Negotiations” is a
collection of 12 first-person accounts of the seven-year struggle
that culminated in the groundbreaking New York City Watershed
Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) which was signed in 1997, allowing
the City to avoid building a costly, federally-mandated
water filtration plant for its mammoth Catskill-Delaware water
supply, to impose stricter environmental regulations on the
region that supplies the water, and to purchase vacant lands
from willing sellers while in exchange, providing funds to Upstate
communities for environmental protection, education and other
programs. The MOA and its partnership programs were considered
a turning point in historically bitter upstate-downstate relations
and the agreement continues to influence the lives of both stewards
and consumers of New York City water.
Compiled by Unadilla radio producer Nancy Burnett, the “Behind
project was made possible with grants from the Catskill Watershed
Corporation (CWC) in partnership with the NYC Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP), and from the Coalition of Watershed
Towns. The collection includes audio CDs and transcripts of
interviews with negotiators from the Watershed, the City, the
Governor’s office and the environmental community. This
oral history collection, with associated background information
on the New York City water system and its impact on upstate
communities, has been distributed to libraries and archives
throughout the West-of-Hudson Watershed and in New York City.
Transcripts and photos of the interviewees have also been placed
on the CWC’s website, www.cwconline.org/about/scenes.html.
“Behind the Scenes” is also archived at the Catskill
Center for Conservation & Development in Arkville. For more
information, contact CWC Education Coordinator Diane Galusha,
firstname.lastname@example.org; 845-586-1400, ext. 29.
The DMV Case
A former clerk at the Ulster County Department of Motor Vehicles
was sentenced to one year of probation recently for not being
forthcoming to investigators during an investigation into the
distribution of phony drivers’ licenses. Donna Keefe of
Boiceville was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge David
Hurd in Albany after pleading guilty to the charge, “making
a false statement,” on March 24. Keefe pleaded guilty
in November 2000 to making phony licenses at the DMV and selling
them to people who she knew had lost their driving privileges.
For that charge - a felony of “knowing and unlawful production
and transfer of an identification document” - she was
sentenced on March 23, 2001, to five years’ probation,
a $2,500 fine and 240 hours of community service. The original
probation sentence and the new one will run concurrently. Keefe
received lighter sentences after she agreed to cooperate with
Keefe is one of two Ulster County DMV clerks who pleaded guilty
to participating in the scam. The other, Kingston resident Jeanine
Riggins, was sentenced in September to three years of probation
and 200 hours of community service. A deputy clerk, Brian Donnelly,
was encouraged to leave his position by Ulster County Clerk
Nina Postupack, who oversees the DMV office, after he got a
license for a person he never met, officials have said.
Charging that the Supreme Court has undermined one of the pillars
of American society - the sanctity of the home - the House of
Representatives has passed a bill to block court-sanctioned
seizings of private property for use by developers. The bill,
which now moves on to the Senate, would withhold federal funds
from state and local governments that use powers of eminent
domain to force homeowners to give up their property for commercial
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in June, recognized the power
of local governments to seize property needed for private development
projects that generate tax revenue. The decision drew criticism
from a broad spectrum of private property, civil rights, farm
and religious groups which said it was an abuse of the Fifth
Amendment’s “takings clause” which provides
for the taking of private property, with fair compensation,
for public use.
The legislation is the latest, and most far-reaching, of several
congressional responses to the court ruling. The House previously
passed a measure to bar federal transportation funds from being
used to make improvements on land seized for private development,
and the Senate approved an amendment to a transportation spending
bill applying similar restrictions.
Several lawmakers who opposed the House bill said eminent domain
has long been used by local governments for economic development
projects such as the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, the cleaning
up of Times Square and the building of a baseball stadium in
The Home Energy Assistance Program is accepting applications
for about $236 million in statewide allocations to be distributed
through county offices for the aging and departments of social
services. Maximum monthly income guidelines have increased,
from $1,702 per month to $1,803 for a one-person household;
$2,358 for two; $2,913 for three; $3,468 for four; $4,022 for
five; and $4,577 for six. But with fuel prices up an estimated
30 percent or more, according to the state Energy Research and
Development Authority, even a maximum program payout of $400
won’t go as far. Applications and more information are
available through county offices for the aging and departments
of social services. Questions can also be directed to the state
program help line, which is toll-free at (800) 342-3009.
The federal government’s long-awaited plan on how to fight
the next super-flu includes beefed-up attempts to spot human
infections early, both here and abroad, recommendations on how
to isolate the sick, and a plan on who will actually inject
stockpiled vaccines into the arms of panicked people.
While it is impossible to say when the next super-flu will strike,
there have been three pandemics in the last century and influenza
experts say the world is overdue. Concern is growing that the
bird flu could trigger one if it mutates to start spreading
easily among people - something that hasn’t yet happened.
Already the government is buying $162.5 million worth of vaccine
against that bird flu strain, called H5N1, from two companies
- Sanofi-Aventis and Chiron Corp. - in case that happens. It
also is ordering millions of doses of Tamiflu and Relenza, two
antiflu drugs believed to offer some protection against the
bird flu, stockpiles that the pandemic plan is expected to order
The prospect of a bird flu outbreak may be panicking people
around the globe, but it’s proving to be very good news
for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other politically
connected investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech
company that owns the rights to Tamiflu, the influenza remedy
that’s now the most-sought after drug in the world. Rumsfeld
served as Gilead (Research)’s chairman from 1997 until
he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds
a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million,
according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld.
The forms don’t reveal the exact number of shares Rumsfeld
owns, but in the past six months fears of a pandemic and the
ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead’s stock
from $35 to $47. That’s made the Pentagon chief, already
one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least
$1 million richer.
In July, the Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of the treatment
for U.S. troops around the world, and Congress is considering
a multi-billion dollar purchase. Roche expects 2005 sales for
Tamiflu to be about $1 billion, compared with $258 million in
The Ulster County Health Department has scheduled its annual
flu and pneumonia vaccination clinics. No appointments are needed,
and county residents may attend any site convenient to them.
Residents deemed high-risk are encouraged to receive a flu shot.
This includes anyone over 50, and adults over 18 who have heart
disease, chronic broncho-pulmonary disease, renal disease, diabetes
mellitus, other chronic metabolic disorders, severe anemia and/or
compromised immune function, and others at risk of flu-related
The flu vaccine also is recommended for home care providers
and others who may be in close contact with high-risk individuals.
SENIOR citizens who have Medicare Part B benefits can have their
vaccinations paid for by Medicare. Recipients must be entitled
to Part B coverage on the date of service, Medicare Part B must
be the primary insurance coverage, and a Medicare card must
be presented on the date of service.
For those not eligible for Medicare Part B coverage, there will
be a $20 charge for the flu vaccine and $25 for the pneumonia
vaccine, payable at the clinic. County residents enrolled in
Medicare Managed Care programs should consult with their primary-care
physician prior to visiting one of the clinics.
FLU SHOT clinics scheduled for the area are as follows.
* Nov. 10, 9:30 a.m. to noon, Midtown Neighborhood Center, 467
* Nov. 16, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Ashokan Legion Hall, Mountain Road,
* Nov. 18, 10 a.m. to noon. Trudy Farber Resnick Building, 50
Center St., Ellenville.
* Nov. 21, 10-11 a.m., Dutch Village Apartments, Washington
* Dec. 2, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Hurley Firehouse, 137 Old Route 209,
· Dec. 9, 10 a.m. to noon, Woodstock Rescue Squad Building,
state Route 212, Woodstock.