from March 2, 2006)
On Monday Feb. 13, 2006 Onteora Central Schools had a bid opening
for the district’s transportation needs for the coming
year. The bid opening this year was not for each run individually
but for all routes lumped into one bid winner take all...
If good business sense dictates that it is beneficial to put
all your eggs in one basket AND eliminate competitive bidding
perhaps the district has done well. If not… get ready
to pay the piper. Looking back over the past years, the district
in the early 60' s did exactly the same thing. All transportation
was awarded to Lakeview Transit. The move lasted 4 months, at
which time the company could not maintain a large enough driving
staff to meet it’s needs... nor could it maintain its
fleet of buses to the requirements of NYS DOT regulations. It
is interesting to note that in the 60’s all regulations
were only a small fraction of what they are today. Lakeview’s
fleet had fallen under such gross disrepair that the State DOT
in a surprise inspection stripped the inspection stickers off
the buses and put them out of service on the spot. This was
done in the middle of a school day, if it were not for the contractors
that we are now eliminating via a take all bid this district
would have had parents coming to pick up their children. These
are only some of the risks we will face if this bid is accepted
at the next board meeting.
It is my understanding that the lowest bid submitted by Hoyt
Transportation Inc was $500,000 more than we currently spend.
The current price if all runs were to simply be extended with
a state mandated percentage increase would only be approx. $150,000.
All of this sounds wonderful for the OCS Transportation Dep’t.
It would merely have to oversee Hoyt transit, eliminating all
the hands on control we have carefully established for over
50 years. The system and the bus drivers who have been so dedicated
to our children’s safety will fade away. Is this what
the people and the Board of Ed. really want?
I have worked for the OCS transportation system since 1967 —
28 years as a full time OCS bus driver and after retiring I
now drive for Tonche Transit. There have been many times during
the years when the OCS district has investigated alternatives
to a multiple contractor-District owned operation. The first
time they tried, it failed miserably. When it was from time
to time investigated, it was determined that we already had
the best system to service our needs.
I believe that a change of this magnitude should be presented
to the public, with all facts and figures, both pro and con,
presented at an open forum where all sides may be heard. All
the district has now is the opinion of a consultant. It is my
belief that the past history of the district operation has not
figured sufficiently into his opinion as to what’s best
for all concerned.
When you toss out the local contractors and they seek work elsewhere
OR reduce their fleet OR go out of business… What prevents
the next round of bidding from going sky high, since the competition
is no longer present to control it?
The district has the option to reject the existing bid and re-bid
all routes or extend the current routes as per state mandates.
I suggest that they give serious thought to doing one of the
above. Attendance at the next board meeting might not be a bad
idea for anyone who feels that this move might not be in our
Dean Gitter's recent letter asking how we would like the community
of Shandaken to spend a portion of the eventual profit from
the proposed Belleayre Resort, seems generous, conciliatory
and inclusive. But it preempts important issues.
The future existence of the resort and its profitability is
far from certain. And we need to remain cleqrly focussed what
we might be exchanging for this pay-off.
Judge Wissler's thorough work distilling twelve points of adjudication
for the environmental impact assessment for the resort, gives
some indication of our potential deprivation. We have chosen
to live in a uniquely beautiful and fragile, wild environment;
to many of us it is clear that, along with the nourishment we
receive, goes the responsibility to maintain these increasingly
rare advantages for future generations. To have the nature of
our area despoiled by a massive development with its attendent
structures and activities, so that the area becomes as uninviting
as many other developed parts of this country, cannot be compensated
with money. We must not be distracted by Mr Gitter's offer from
the potential damage that may be caused by building this resort
— the environmental impact must be thoroughly investigated.
But a question has been raised on how we would like to spend
resources in the community, and this is worth considering. Growth
and development are essential human activities; for to be fully
alive we need to expand and deepen our endeavors and take up
the considerable challenges of our time.
I would like to see growth in fearless generosity arising out
of our fortunate living conditions. Therefore the items on my
wish list are large, as well as vital for our future.
As examples, I would like growth in:- quality health care for
all; better education resources and opportunities for all normal
and challenged children; rehabilitation and education for this
country's embarrassingly large prison population; worthy employment
for all and removal of poverty; support for businesses taking
care of employees and customers, using the environment sustainably,
and protecting soil, water, air, forests, wildernesses, and
community harmony; environmental protection of unique natural
areas; clean water, air and soil; improved disposal and recycling
of waste, clean-up of pollution, and constructive information
and laws related to the effects of pollution on health; information
on consumer products allowing us to choose to avoid exploitation
of people and environments; research on sustainable agriculture,
environmental practices, and alternative energy sources; support
for wisely creative artists, scientists and social planners;
urban and other living spaces that promote rich community life;
secure and accurate electoral systems with candidates obliged
to voters rather than the wealthy "investors" in their
campaigns; international diplomacy that increases national security.
Historically we have sought growth in, for example:- production
of consumer goods by means which destroy environments and human
societies; non-nutritious, exploitive foods; access to oil and
the war that maintains it; reduction in costs of polluting to
the businesses which profit from it; subsidies for unsustainable
industries; people marginalized from the community; differences
in lifestyle, health and life-expectations for the wealthy and
those from whom their wealth derives.
Those who dedicate themselves to improve constructively any
of the above issues, leave their mark on history, locally, nationally,
and globally. Now is the time to take up the real challenges
of our time and place.
Mount Tremper, NY
I read with interest Brian Power’s signed editorial in
the February 16th issue of the Olive Press. To my mind, it makes
a positive contribution to the controversy over the Belleayre
Resort and I thank you for it.
Other than a few factual errors in your comments, the idea of
good-faith negotiations is right on target and Crossroads Ventures
is ready to enter into them at any time.
We would not enter into such negotiations with an all-or-nothing
attitude. Our goal would be quite simple: to achieve agreement
on a plan that would meet the minimal needs of all concerned.
Our only proviso is that the plan must be economically viable
and must allow the overall venture to make a significant contribution
to the prosperity and betterment of the Shandaken-Middletown
region and its citizens. That was our original intent and it
remains so. All of our investors have maintained homes here
for many years and we have a very definite personal stake in
the region – whether or not some our more cynical critics
I know you and others have from time to time pooh-poohed our
more altruistic motivations and I regret that distrust. But
we have already committed ourselves in writing to contributing
one-third of our profits to improvements and public service
projects in Shandaken and Middletown. We are also serious about
the need for several hundred full-time and part-time employees
to whom we’ll offer good pay and, in the case of our 542
full-time employees, health and retirement benefits.
Most of these people will come from the area centered around
the intersection of Ulster, Greene and Delaware counties. In
fact, we fully expect that over 95% of our workforce will be
staffed by people who already live here. A survey by a nationally-recognized
labor research company completed for Ulster County a few years
ago concluded that the total potential workforce in the commuting
area numbered over 138,000 and over 19,000 of them would be
interested in changing jobs in a jiffy if offered $12 or more
per hour. As a result, we expect most of our work force will
continue living right where they are, thus avoiding problems
with housing or adding any significant number of children to
the school systems. In addition, we expect that many of our
seasonal employees will be people who now work at the Belleayre
Ski Center only in the winter-time.
By the way, 60% of our many workers will make a good deal more
than $12 an hour.
As for taxes, you are misinformed. None of my ventures have
received what you imply are sweetheart deals. There is a standard
formula for new ventures in New York State which allows for
PILOT taxation (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) that starts at 50%
of assessed value and increases by 5% annually over ten years
when the property reaches full valuation. If we build a resort
whose market value is $300 million and assume the current equalization
and tax rates will continue we would pay $3,150,000 annually
for starters rising to $6,300,000 annually at the end of ten
years. As Yogi says, you can do the math.
In addition, we will be paying about $1 million dollars a year
to the county through the newly enacted hotel room tax.
Beyond that, the Belleayre Resort, as presently conceived, would
inject roughly $41 million a year into the local economy –
new customers for local businesses and cultural activities,
new employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, sales taxes,
purchases in the area, plus jobs and materials purchases during
the construction phase that’s projected to last over five
years. These are not just our figures. They are based on standard
multiples of revenue-producing properties.
I appreciate your public stand in favor of negotiations rather
than taking a hard-and-fast advocacy position for one proposal
or another. To my mind, one of the highest callings of the newspaper
profession is taking a leadership role for civic betterment.
All I need now is people on the other side who are willing to
come to the table and talk in good faith.
Mount Tremper, NY
Editor’s Note... We've done the math. We stand by our
figures and cite as their source the information in the public
record provided by Mr. Gitter's company.
Although we agreed with much of what the editor of the Olive
Press wrote in his most recent issue regarding the Belleayre
Resort development, we couldn’t disagree more with his
musing that homes might be built on the eastern side of the
project instead of the proposed resort.
Such a notion, although well intended, is completely inconsistent
with the recent 166 page ruling by the State Administrative
Law Judge. What’s more, it makes no sense from either
an environmental or quality of life standpoint for the residents
of the Catskills.
Following extensive hearings and with testimony from all sides
in the dispute, Judge Richard Wissler ruled that 12 major issues
were not sufficiently resolved by the developer and warranted
adjudicatory hearings and possible modification of the project
in order to satisfy state law. The majority of those issues
are specific to the eastern side of the project.
Development on the east side presents insurmountable hurdles
for many reasons. Construction would be atop very steep slopes,
some even steeper than the Belleayre Mountain ski slopes, down
which rainwater, mud and detritus would drain. Because the developer
plans to clear 25 acres of forest at one time, (although the
state recommendation is 5 acres at a time), there are grave
concerns about storm-water run-off, which the developer claims
would be “controlled” by temporary detention basins
sized for the “design ten-year storm” (six inches
of precipitation in 24 hours). In that regard it is worth noting
that we have had two 100-year storms in the past nine years
at this location.
The Judge expressed concern for several water-related issues
pertaining to the east side. He questioned if the available
groundwater supply will be adequate and he noted the potential
de-watering of surface waters, in particular Birch Creek, which
drains the eastern side of the project.
In addition, any sort of construction on the east side would
jeopardize world-class trout streams. The eastern side drains
to the Birch Creek and Lost Clove Brooks, which are tributaries
to the Esopus River that maintain breeding populations of trout—including
rainbows as well as feral browns and brook trout. The Esopus
is already classified as “impaired” by state and
federal standards due to turbidity. To make matters worse, the
Ashokan Reservoir, the ultimate destination of the waters flowing
from the eastern site, is a terminal reservoir for downstate
water consumers and must remain protected as the primary unfiltered
water source for 9 million people.
The Judge pointed to discrepancies between the developer’s
modeling results and observations in the field, and he noted
that a model for predicting water runoff was misapplied on the
steeper eastern side. The Judge also questioned whether or not
baseline hydrological conditions were adequately considered
in the developer’s analysis including the role of wetlands,
groundwater seeps, sensitive streambed features in Birch Creek
and even sensitive soils offsite, which may be impacted during
heavy rain events. He was also very concerned about pollutant
impacts on the local water bodies, in particular the Esopus
Finally, any kind of building on the east side would endanger
some of the crown jewels of the State’s Catskill Forest
Preserve. The land there is adjacent to the largest tract of
constitutionally protected Wilderness in the Catskill Park,
the Big Indian and Slide Mountain Wilderness areas. It acts
as a buffer to this Wilderness and if clear cut, will act as
a conduit for invasive flora and fauna and will over time, result
in the overall decline of the ecological health of the nearby
Forest Preserve. The Judge expressed concerns about the visual
impacts from the Forest Preserve, not just from trails, but
from anywhere on the forest preserve a hiker or camper may be.
He also concluded that the developer did not adequately address
noise impacts on the Wilderness areas of the east side and cited
several documents produced by the DEC, including the Land Use
Master Plan and the Public Access Plan, and he quoted the State
constitution’s Article 14, all of which support his view
that no large development on private lands near Wilderness should
As for economics, experts testified at the State Issues Conference
that the project, as currently proposed, is an economically
risky venture and that a much smaller, economically viable project
would be preferable from an investment perspective. Furthermore,
building on inappropriate sites like the east side of this project,
is a primary cause of increased service demand from local governments,
not to mention increased flooding mitigation and recovery costs,
all of which serve to dramatically increase the costs to the
town and county, and ultimately, to taxpayers.
In summary, no kind of construction at all belongs on the east
side of the Belleayre Resort - because of its location, topography,
and ecological significance –it is simply not suited for
development. If the developer wants to act in good faith for
our community, he might start by doing away with the east side
of the project as Congressman Hinchey wisely suggested (and
the developer discounted out of hand) because neither science,
nor the law, nor common sense will support it.
Tom Alworth, Spokesperson
Catskill Preservation Coalition (CPC)
The second [and last] term of our Presidents is always the more
interesting, stressful and mystifying as opposed to their first
term for whatever reason. The current "lame duck"
president is no different in that he seems to be in a frenzy
to install a foreign government owned company as the operator
of six shipping ports located in these United States. The company
is Dubai Ports of Dubai, UAE [United Arab Emirates] a geographically
insignificant spot on the map but a large player in terrorism
[two from UAE at the Twin Towers], laundering international
money, working all three sides of the street and other games
I have a number of reasons why this "gift" should
not be given to them, much less offered. My primary objection
is based on my many years of military service. Let me describe
a scene in a barracks, a messhall or on the streets of Baghdad.
Three, four or more U.S. soldiers have heard for the first or
third time that an arab [read Moslem] country is going to be
running six major US ports on the East and Gulf coast at the
invitation of the Bush administration. They look at each other
in total amazement for a few seconds when one remarks, "what
the #*$@ are we doing here risking our lives day and night when
the Commander in Chief is giving away the store"? Another
chimes in with, "my wife and kids are in more danger than
we are if these people are going to control "what comes
in and what goes out". What or who comes in is the "fly
in the ointment". But the conversation is not about the
mechanics of the port operations but rather the idea that we
are being "spit in our faces". If anyone thinks that
morale is at the end of the list of necessaries or somewhere
in between for warriors to go into battle with, think again.
This Commander in Chief has taken on that role in such a way
that he really believes he knows more than his Geneals. When
Chief of [Army] Staff Shinseki spoke for more troops before
going to Iraq he was dismissed via retirement. General Powell
as Secretary of State advised that our troop strength should
be increased for our adventure into Iraq [based on his input
as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs prior to Kuwait]. WWII saw a
"head of state" that ignored his generals and ended
Then we have the real situation of who is a more a patriotic
person in whatever setting; the American longshoreman or the
UAE supervision and management team? The American longshoremen
have thier connections and the UAE folks have their alliances.
In this situation I'll go with the American longshoremen with
their supervisors/managers. Certainly many of the current personnel
would remain there with "Dubai Ports", but many new
faces [with many adverse or subversive ideas] would be walking
in and out of our shipping portals.
Now we look at the US Congress and the spectical of Peter King
and Charles Schumer in the same photo op? Bill Frist and madam
Hillary on the "same page"? "There's something
rotten in the US" to use a metaphor.
And don't forget that when a "bar-room" dancer [a
talent], ball team owner [a gift], former Governor [with luck],
finally President [a mistake] prepares for retirement he wants
to go out with a full "suitcase". They all do it but
with a bit more grace and consideration. "Finesse"
Moral / immoral? Race? Culture? Religion? Nationality? ACLU?
Who cares? "It's the security, stupid"!
Remember our most precious resource; our youth. And many of
those youth are at this moment amazed, stupified, betrayed and
disappointed as they serve in our Military doing what they volunteered
to do. Does anyone believe that the new Iraqi government will
"farm out" the port of Basra to the UAE? Go figger.
Glenn T. Anderson
A public hearing on dam safety was held this past Thursday (yesterday)
at Schenectady Community College. State Assemblypersons Paul
Tonko, RoAnn DeStito, Thomas DiNapoli, Kevin Cahill, and Aileen
Gunther comprised the hearing panel. Individuals providing testimony
included Congressman Mike McNulty, DEC Commissioner Denise Sheehan
and others from her staff, DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd and
others from her staff, SEMO Deputy Director Thomas Fargione,
Susan Savage - Chair of the Schenectady County Legislature,
Mike Berardi - Legislator in the Ulster County Legislature,
and several others from Schenectady County, Schoharie County,
and Sullivan County.
I was particularly interested in the fact that there appeared
to be only the three of us from Ulster County. Indeed, most
of the information related to the Gilboa Dam and the possible
effects towards the north of a breach in that dam However, Assemblyman
was very focused in his questioning on the effects to the south
of continued releases through the Tunnel at Allaben and how
the overflows into the Esopus affected the area both above the
Ashokan Reservoir and below the Ashokan Reservoir. The concern
towards the north is in regards to an actual failure of the
dam, while the concern towards the south is in regards to the
activities being taken to mitigate a possible failure of the
dam. To the north, the effect is on the population living along
the Schoharie and the Mohawk, while to the south, the effect
is on the population living along the Esopus.
The hearing discussion provided greater definition of the lines
of regulation and authority related to upkeep and maintenance,
inspections, record-keeping, and the permitting process. One
question to which I heard possible answers concerned the hierarchy
of authority between the DEC and the DEP. Questions arose on
whether there should be more regulatory requirements; does the
DEC have enough authority; should more be done legislatively?
An important statement was made that these dams are dams for
containment reservoirs; they are not dams for flood control.
A line of questioning by Assemblyman Cahill related to possible
future reconstruction of dams. He asked whether the DEC will
recommend that dams be modified in the future to prevent or
to ameliorate floods — that is, to make them into flood
control dams. DEC Commissioner Sheehan replied that, when considering
possible reconstruction, they will look at all dams in terms
of flooding, and address first what other forms of mitigation
are possible before considering reconstruction. I believe that
her measured response was appropriate, at least as it pertains
to our situation with the overflowing and possible flooding
along the Esopus south of the Ashokan Reservoir. There are actions
that can be taken in the near term to relieve or attenuate some
circumstances; however, it is the long-term look that also needs
attention. Ifpeople have built in the flood plain, how can communities
deal with that? The answer may be not necessarily through state
regulation, but rather through community planning. This speaks
to the issue of safety in where one builds one’s home.
This is not just a DEC/DEP issue; it is also a community planning
issue. Yes, this is a long-term look at and response to flood
In a current emergency, it is necessary to have a much shorter
term response. The weakness demonstrated in the Gilboa Dam has
been very much a learning experience by the various agencies
responsible for the integrity or soundness of these structures
— the integrity of construction, inspections, permitting,
and maintenance. The emergency management teams have had an
opportunity to see where some of the loose ends exist during
a time when we have only a “possibility” of a disaster,
not an actual one.
This was an important (and missed) opportunity for more individuals
from the Ulster County Legislature and the Towns along the Esopus
to learn directly from the involved agencies how each of them
sees, and acts on, its obligations and authority and how all
are attempting to work together to develop a rapid response
to emergencies, but before that, to try to mitigate the actual
problem with the Gilboa Dam.
Helen K Chase, Town Councilman
Town of Olive