Follow Up on the
bad press for the past month about its lackluster performance
on routine safety inspections of its reservoir dams in the
region, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection
was quickly viewed as doing some catch-up inspecting of
the earthen dam below Monument Road, along the Ashokan's
Monument Road was open to vehicular traffic until the events
of Sept. 11, 2001, led city officials to barricade the stretch
in fear that it could be susceptible to a terrorist attack.
But the Department of Environmental Protection still allowed
cyclists, walkers and joggers to use the road.
When that privilege was halted last week and crews began
digging, the question everyone began asking was "What's
wrong with the dam?" Locals wondered if some leaks
had been discovered, or perhaps the city agency was getting
around to conducting a major inspection of the structure
that has held back the Ashokan's water for nearly nine decades.
But it was nothing of the sort, said Department of Environmental
Protection spokesman Ian Michaels.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no - nothing at all related
to dam breaks. It's terrorism-related," Michaels said
after receiving several queries.
"It's a project being run by the (U.S.) Army Corps
of Engineers to install new security systems at the dam,"
Michaels said. "It (will) be open again soon."
Michaels, who has been fielding questions for weeks about
dam safety since it was reported that an inspector had been
submitting phony reports about two other facilities, said
the Army Corps was digging shallow trenches along the earthen
dam to bury electric wires that would supply power to new
As for Monument Road being blocked to pedestrians, Michaels
said it's only temporary.
"People are not allowed there because it's a construction
site. It is not dam-related," he said.
That's good news, said Bruce LaMonda, deputy supervisor
of the town of Olive, where Monument Road is located.
LaMonda, a frequent critic of the city agency, is leading
a charge to force the city to begin preparing flood-prevention
procedures. He said Friday that he heard the rumors, too,
and was glad the city planned to reopen the road for recreational
As for those flood-prevention measures, Michaels noted that
on Thursday, Emily Lloyd, the commissioner of the Department
of Environmental Protection, was in Schenectady speaking
before a state Assembly panel convened to examine public
safety concerns related to dams in New York state.
New York City owns five reservoirs and dams in its Catskill/Delaware
watershed region. The Gilboa Dam, on the Schoharie Reservoir,
is undergoing emergency repairs, and two others, the Neversink
in Sullivan County and the Merriman in Southern Ulster,
are under scrutiny after it was revealed that inspection
reports had been routinely photocopied, rather than updated,
from week to week.
working on the values right now,” Beccio said this
week, noting that a recent mailing of property descriptions
yielded a little over 600 returned letters raising questions
of varying sorts, out of 2100 original description letters
mailed out in the last two months. Of those, a number were
simple misunderstandings, where propertyowners mailed back
what they had received, with no commentary.
Beccio added that income/expenses questionnaires were recently
sent out to rental property owners in town to aid in valuation
“You have to remember that 60 percent of the properties
in Olive are owned by out-of-town property owners,”
Beccio noted, pointing out the cumbersomeness of doing a
reval under such circumstances. “We has to do a lot
of estimations in our property descriptions because there
were many properties we never got into.”
After the March 2 informational meeting, and the subsequent
mailing of impact statements, Beccio said that property
owners will be able to schedule hearings about their new
assessments in the coming months.
Value impact statements, he said, would be based on calculations
of tax amounts based on recent years’ tax loads. Beccio,
who completed his last revaluation project for the Orange
County town of Warwick in 1998, added that everything has
to balance out… so for every value going down a dollar,
another value has to go upo by a similar amount.
He said that at the March 2 informational meeting, he will
discuss basic categories of properties in town and how they
will be effected by the entire reval process.
Asked whether the general impact will result in the one
third rises, one third drops and one third staying-the-same
equation the state Office of Real Property Services has
traditionally defined such impacts by, Beccio noted how
such a breakdown was based on very large samples over long
periods of time.
“That’s a very general description that I would
never commit to here,” he said.
As for questions concerning whether the reval would stick
to a 100 percent assessment model, as originally promised
by the Olive Town Board when it embarked on its current
revaluation plans two years ago as part of an attempt to
avoid Large Parcel legislation enacted by the county and
Onteora school board, and later withdrawn after political
victories against the legislation, Beccio said such matters
were not in his purview.
“That’s a town board decision,” he said.
Last month, Olive supervisor Bert Leifeld said that he and
the town board were sticking to a 100 percent assessment
formula because, “that’s what the state wants
if we’re to get funding help for this whole reval
New York State ORPS offers $15 a parcel for 100 percent
revaluations, according to Leifeld and the agency’s
“I know my taxes will be going up,” Leifeld
added. “This is not going to be pretty…”
For A Middle School
Out of nine
possible grade configurations presented, the architects
chose “Master Plan A,” which recommends a six-through-eight
middle school and three kindergarten-through-grade five
elementary schools. The district has four elementary schools,
but West Hurley School was closed in 2004 due to low enrollment.
Grade six students, in the elementary school, would move
to the high school facility, with the goal to separate the
middle school/high school. Currently grades seven and eight
middle school share space with the high school.
The middle school steering committee recommended a five
through eight middle school, but based on space constraints
at the high school, six-through-eight was recommended by
Decisions have not been made as to which three schools will
remain open. The school community stressed that a “neighborhood
elementary school” in each region of the district
is important. Re-opening West Hurley and closing Woodstock
elementary has been a hypothetical question explored due
to land space and building size. Quadrini said, “tonight’s
presentation does not focus on some of the pivotal issues
that we will follow, like keeping Woodstock open or re-opening
West Hurley, or the configuration of the middle school or
how it will be on the middle school/high school campus,
those decisions are yet to come.”
Quadrini presented phase one of an environmental study on
the West Hurley School, by the Chazen Company. An oil spill
at a nearby gas station and an oil tank removed from West
Hurley has had no negative affects to the school’s
water source. The County bridge fabrication facility does
not use paint or solvents, and poses no threat to the air
Phase two of the environmental study analyzes the water
wells of the school, to see if they are potable. Questions
were raised at past meetings, fearing the possibility of
lead in the wells or pipes. The Chazen report also suggests
asbestos in the floor and ceiling of the two West Hurley
buildings. This is based on the age of the buildings.
Costs on the capital plan have not been included since studies
are incomplete and will require a bond. “We would
like to share with you two different time lines that could
have us anticipate a June bond vote this year or a late
fall/early winter bond vote later,” Quadrini said.
For a June vote, the school board will need to present a
bond by April and he noted that a consensus from the public
might not be built in such a short time.
Superintendent Justine Winters said it is very important
to educate the public in the weeks to come regarding the
bond vote. The State funds a substantial portion of the
costs of building renovations and reorganizations.
School board trustee Rita Vanacore asked if the architects
could get a closer breakdown of the bond and student costs
per square foot. Quadrini said he would gather national
data on average square foot costs, although nothing is recommended
by the State. Hillje added, “the data does not take
into consideration any special programs that the district
may have…the benchmarking is an average.”
School board trustee Herb Rosenfeld asked about the educational
aspect of their capital plan. “Does this accommodate
for two or more learning facilities or communities within
the schools?” Rosenfeld said. “For example if
one school had a traditional education model and the other
one would have a progressive and open education model.”
Quadrini said, “Our approach has been to enhance what
is here and till we have a different discussion or are told
differently that will continue to be our approach.”
According to demographic data, the district currently has
a total of 2046 students and by the year 2011 will loose
about 25 percent of its population to roughly 1526 students.
Quadrini noted that historically the data collected from
area births, housing development and family units have been
School board president David Patterson asked that. because
enrollment was so low, “is it possible another elementary
school could close?” Quadrini said the data does not
support closing another school and he does not wish to “crystal
ball” the future, but would prefer to use facts presented.
The Master Plan has been posted on the schools web page
by going to www.onteora.k12.ny.us.
In other business, the school board adopted the 2005-2006
Ulster County School Boards Association recommendation in
support of alternative uses of school financing. The resolution
suggests the phasing out of reliance of local property tax,
in favor of a broader state tax system. Onteora school board
has historically supported the school board associations’
recommendation, but further action has not been supported
by the State Legislature. The resolution has seven recommendations
and all were unanimously approved except for funding to
charter schools. Trustee Rosenfeld and Vanacore voted against
the resolution because they favor support for charter school
Assistant Superintendent Deborah Fox announced the continuation
of a reading/writing program started last summer after four
Phoenicia Elementary school teachers attended a reading/writing
workshop through Columbia College. Fox said, “they
came back so enthusiastic, they started a study group here
in Phoenicia and got twelve to fourteen teachers involved
and we are very excited to announce that sixteen teachers
will be going to the February mini-institute from February
twentieth through the twenty-fourth and we hope that they
come back just as enthusiastic and share all of their professional
development that they get, and this was funded through a
grant, so that is even the icing on the cake.”
Columbia College reading/writing workshop is an integrated
program where students achieve learning through individual
reading/writing techniques, teacher/student coaching, team
teaching and students helping students.
Jar Of Olives... Frozen Daffodils
But it is mid February! My flower garden along the bluestone
path to my house has daffodils poking through the semi-frozen
soil. Boy will they be surprised tomorrow!
Men have been driving around with plows all day even though
there is not a flake on the horizon. In fact, the sun warmed
the house enough to open windows and let some fresh February
air mix with January’s stale atmosphere.
If you’re not traveling and the power stays on, a
snowstorm can create a delightful day. It is license “not
to do.” It’s a day not to do shopping or all
those other weekend chores. It is a day to cancel obligations.
Instead it’s a day to bundle up and sleigh ride with
the kids. It’s an excuse to make hot chocolate. It’s
a day to curl up with a good book. It’s a day with
soup for lunch and a roast for dinner. Somehow the cold
inspires the warmth.
Sugar snow is what the “upstaters” call a late
snowstorm. It doesn’t stick around long and helps
the sap flow for all those like Buddy Eckert, Maria Kuhn,
Lins Every and Ed Swenson who collect sap and boil maple
syrup. It will cover the ugliness of gray lawns and brown
shrubs. It will be the moisture to encourage the growth
of bulbs and early spring flowers.
Speaking of flowers, Art Haver at the Boiceville Florist
will have his hands full this Valentine’s Day creating
bouquets for those last minute lovers remembering to buy
flowers for their sweetie. Flowers and chocolate are the
traditional gifts, but my husband is giving me a stripped
log cut by Jimmy Hyde with a wood spirit in the tree carved
by Hoppy Quick. It will be the support beam of our new house
and will last longer than flowers and certainly exist longer
than chocolate, which has a shelf life of nano-seconds around
Did you know, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, that
you can rearrange the letters of OLIVE and send a message
to all. I LOVE!