“The people have spoken,” shouted John Tisch,
a lifetime Olive resident who had grown increasingly vocal
at Onteora meetings about the tax hikes facing his town
since bills went out in January. A number of fellow members
of Olive Matters, the ad hoc group put together to fight
the legislation who held a major rally in Olive’s
Davis Park two days before the Tuesday vote, cheered and
shouted similar statements of victory as the remainder of
the evening’s gathered crowd sullenly dispersed just
“Olive Matters got organized,” noted one man,
his fists raised above his head.
“You listen now, huh,” taunted another audience
member as the defeated incumbents left the room for a quick
board meeting to accept the voting results and name fourth-placer
Marino D’Orazio to fill the two year term vacated
by appointee Anne-Marie Johansson, who failed to win re-election.
Boardmembers-elect Cindy O’Connor, Mary Jane Bernholz
and Rita Vanacore will join incumbents Lev Flournoy of Olivebridge,
D’Orazio of Marbletown (just on the Olive line), David
Patterson of Glenford, and Herb Rosenfeld of Woodstock.
Johansson was appointed, at the board meeting held to accept
the May 17 vote, to fill D’Orazio’s seat. On
May 24, the board voted to put the budget back up for a
second vote, noting how it had passed everywhere except
for Olive, and that the anger vote should now subside.
A June 21 second voting date has been set district-wide,
with many former budget opponents, as well as all three
of the boardmembers-elect pushing for its passage.
Olive town supervisor Berndt Leifeld said this week, in
his usual elliptical fashion, that although many in town
are still upset at the ways in which the school district
“got into town business,” “personally,
I think the town’ll do the right thing… They
go back to taking care of school business and we’ll
go back to doing our town business.”
According to teachers, poll-watchers and school officials
at Onteora’s four elementary schools on May 17, where
voting took place from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., voting was heavy
all day… but particularly at Olive’s Bennett
Elementary in Boiceville. There, lines ran 50 to 70 people
thick all day, and final voting dragged on for at least
a half hour after the polls closed to accommodate everyone.
The final district-wide budget tally of 1860 for and 1995
against broke down to 373 for and 258 against the $43,011,783
proposed budget in Shandaken, 675 for and 310 against in
Woodstock, 394 for and 320 against in Hurley, and 418 for
versus 1107 against in Olive.
A second proposition to spend $171,500 for new school vehicles
was also defeated, 2043 to 1,693, with Shandaken hosting
319 yea and 287 nay votes; 582 for and 357 against in Woodstock,
and 365 for and 334 against in Hurley. Olive took down the
proposal by coming out only 427 for and 1065 against the
The three top vote-getters for the district who all won
three-year seats starting July 1, were Cindy O’Connor
of Shokan, with 2,038 votes, Mary Jane Bernholz, with 1,953
votes, and Rita Vanacore, with 1,817 votes. D’Orazio
won the two-year seat filling out the term of Tom Rosato,
elected last year but resigned in January, with a total
of 1,760 votes.
The remaining candidates in the field of 10, in order of
finishing, were Anne-Marie Johansson of Olive, with 1648
votes; incumbent Kathleen Hochman of Olive with 1,645 votes;
Lisa Childers of Woodstock with 1,641; Jack Jordan of Pine
Hill, with 635; Tom Hickey of Oliverea with 597, and Cathy
Neal of Shandaken with 550.
Broken down by districts, the results show the huge effect
of the massive Olive output of over 1500 votes to Woodstock’s
under 1,000 tally, Hurley’s just-over 700 voters,
and Shandaken’s 600 plus numbers. Over the years,
Olive’s numbers have tended to average the highest
in the district, at least since the Onteora Indian mascot
issue arose in 2000, bringing down a budget with it, while
Woodstock’s have shrunk since the 2002 election, when
the present board was first elected. Shandaken and Hurley
numbers have stayed relatively low for the past three years,
although the former has shifted from being traditionally
against to being for the proposed budget this year.
From top district vote-getter down, the individual results
were as follows…
O’Connor won 119 votes in Shandaken, 323 in Hurley,
95 in Woodstock and 1501 in Olive.
Bernholz received 73 votes in Shandaken, 229 in Hurley,
99 in Woodstock and 1,552 in Olive.
Vanacore won 8o votes in Shandaken, 220 in Hurley, 49 in
Woodstock and 1468 in Olive.
D’Orazio got 347 votes in Shandaken, 377 in Hurley,
916 in Woodstock and 120 in Olive.
Johansson received 260 votes in Shandaken, 260 in Hurley,
872 in Woodstock, and 256 in Olive.
Hochman received 304 votes in Shandaken, 309 in Hurley,
893 in Woodstock, and 139 in Olive.
Jordan won 302 in Shandaken, 174 in Hurley, 87 in Woodstock,
and 72 in Olive.
Hickey received 297 votes in Shandaken, 150 votes in Hurley,
98 in Woodstock, and 52 in Olive.
Neal received 323 votes in Shandaken, 105 in Hurley, 82
votes in Woodstock and 40 in Olive.
“We’re all for the kids,” said Vanacore
to those around her following the unexpected results, as
her fellow winners looked stunned.
“I thought it was all over,” said O’Connor,
who refused further comment. Bernholz sat, acknowledging
congratulations but also refusing to speak.
The three new board members all vowed to vote against re-implementing
the Large Parcel legislation should the issue arise again
in August. They will join three candidates who voted for
it last summer plus one, Dave Patterson of West Hurley,
who was the sole vote against its implementation last August.
Only Vanacore seemed willing to speak at any length following
the tallies late May 17.
“We’ve shown that we may be a small community
but we’re a tight community,” she said as midnight
neared after the vote.
For Sewer Talk
"It's not a very popular thing, I can tell you that
right now. I expect a very lively meeting," said Leifeld
of the proposed project options, which include (A) a Wastewater
Treatment Plant, (B) a Community Septic System, at a series
of "Cluster" Septic Systems, (D) a Septic Maintenance
District or (E) a combination of B, C and D, whichever is
deemed most feasible for the indicated area.
Leifeld said the meeting would be attended by project engineers
and representatives of the Catskill Watershed Corporation
(CWC) to which he was recently elected as a member.
"From the history of it that I know," Leifeld
reflected that the current push toward a sewage treatment
system was coming from New York State and New York City
concerns. "But Boiceville was named as a hot spot right
from the beginning. They had two groups on their priority
list. They're finishing up the first group, where pollution
was at its worst and which had Phoenicia in it. Now, CWC
has more money from (New York City) and they’re moving
into group two and we're the number one target of that group."
One probable motive for encouraging the installation of
these systems in the watershed, at least on the part of
New York City, is to avoid the more costly construction
of a filtration plant or plants downstate. A Filtration
Avoidance Determination (FAD) which permits a hold on this
development accompanied the MOA in 1997 and was renewed
in November of 2002 with the provision that treatment centers
were installed in the watershed itself.
Bound by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to meet
the requirements of the federal Surface Water Treatment
Rule (SWTR) for unfiltered water supply systems in its Long-Term
Watershed Protection Program, the City's upstate progress
will be reviewed by the EPA and the New York State Department
of Health by July 2006. Keeping treatment activities near
the source would appear to be vastly cheaper than centralizing
them near the water's primary destinations.
This begins to answer perplexing questions such as why a
hamlet like Boiceville, with a population of under 600,
might require a water treatment system. Overlooking the
possibility that fashioning an infrastructure of treatment
systems at this point might make upstream development easier,
another fairly obvious cause is cited matter-of-factly by
"It's the school, mainly," he said. "They
keep building and rebuilding that thing and they've got
a SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit
that allows them to dump x-amount of effluent right into
that ditch which ends up in the Esopus (Creek). To me, that's
the big reason."
"We do know that there's a problem there," said
Alan Rosa, CWC's executive director. "It certainly
would be beneficial for Olive and the school district to
join forces on this."
Rosa, who said there were also problems with "some
of the commercial
establishments" in Boiceville, mentioning in particular
a local bakery, characterized the hamlet as a "densely
populated area." When asked why the Shokan-Ashokan
area, with a population of over 1,400 didn't qualify, Rosa
consulted a chart which did not represent the area as a
problem. He also pointed out that the town was in the driver's
seat on the project.
"In terms of 'future development', the only thing that
we'll provide and engineer is a 10% increase for development,"
Rosa stated. "However, if the town decides that they
want to increase to a larger proportion, they're able to
do so because this will be a town plant. This will be owned
and operated by the Town of Olive."
"This is like having another highway department. You
build it and you give
it to us. Well, that's nice," said Leifeld. "When
we met with the state guy on this, he said we could say
'no' but maybe down the road they're going to come and say
you have to do it but then you'll build it yourself and<i/>
maintain it. At least, here, the City will build it."
"It's completely up to the town board. No one's going
to force them to do
it," said Rosa before conceding that the state could
ultimately do just that. "But that's just like other
communities in the watershed and in New York State have
done. For instance, Walton, Delhi, Stamford, Hobart; they
all had to put in their own systems."
Rosa added that if Olive decides it does not want a wastewater
treatment facility, individuals with a failed system could
then apply for funding to fix their system under CWC's septic
program. He observed that they had already built almost
2,000 individual systems so far.
"To get additional dollars, for anyone who is requiring
a SPDES upgrade to
meet the City's regulations," Rosa said, stressing
that his organization did not work for New York City. "The
City of New York would pay for that SPDES upgrade. However,
if they don't do the upgrade in that community, the City
has agreed then that those funds would come to the Town
of Olive to go towards their wastewater treatment facility-
if they so desire."
Leifeld had his share of skepticism to express about the
town's chances of avoiding getting hit with another burden
to shoulder on its own. That sole financial responsibility
for operating and maintaining a plant would loom as a legacy
for future generations of Olive taxpayers.
"I can tell you that everybody I've talked to is dead
set against it," Leifeld said. "The way it's set
up on paper, they're only going to ask the residents for
$100 a year. Well, that isn't going to pay for even one
month. Then the usage fees which go to the school, as a
big user, and all the
commercial properties, are supposed to make up the rest.
Those little businesses that are over there can't afford
that. It'll bankrupt the lot of them."
It’s our process. You have a right
to do that. But the budget vote took me by surprise. I have
a feeling- and everybody said it election night- the Town
of Olive sent a message and I think the next budget vote
is going to be a much more positive one.”
Patterson, who was the sole board member to vote against
exercise of 2004’s Large Parcel Law option for school
districts to redistribute sizable tax
revenues from one of its constituent towns, is considered
a swing vote on the newly constituted board. He said that
he felt that the budget’s defeat was “the result
of a lot of emotion and people saying ‘let’s
take care of it once. We know they can put it back up (for
a second vote) if they choose.’ But I thought (the
budget) would pass even in light of the hard feelings that
residents in Olive have for board members because of how
they voted with regard to the large parcel (law).”
Asked if he anticipated that the large parcel option would
be declined in the next vote, Patterson said he did. Then,
emphasizing high emotions on both sides of the issue, Patterson
noted that Onteora superintendent Justine Winters was well
aware of the sensitivity of the budget’s situation
within the debate and that “she had to go in with
a very tight budget.”
”She and Victoria Garone, our business administrator,
did a phenomenal job of presenting each piece of the budget
with extensive detail, like I’ve never seen before,”
he said. “It wasn’t just numbers but showing
the program cuts and what the school was going to be like
next year under that budget. It was very solid work.”
Superintendent Winters also had a positive feeling about
the next vote, scheduled from 2 to 9 pm on June 21.
”It was my sense that the negative vote on the budget
that we saw on May 17 wasn’t purely a vote on the
budget as a stand-alone issue,” Winters said. ”It
was part of a bigger sweep of negativity related to the
large parcel law.”
Reached near Syracuse, where she was attending a conference,
newly elected board member Rita Vanacore clarified her support
for a budget revote on June 21. ”I personally don’t
feel that the budget is as good as it could be,” Vanacore
said, “but I am, personally, going to vote for it.
One of the reasons that I decided to run for the board is
that I believe that (the budget) has deficiencies- from
listening to previous board meetings and research that other
people have done on it. I really need to be able to see
the cold, hard facts for myself. I want to research how
we can spend money more efficiently and for the betterment
of education rather than just to try and match budget to
budget. ‘Look! We only took it up 3%! Isn’t
that wonderful? It may be but I really want to know what’s
going on in this budget.” Vanacore said that she wanted
to show her constituents in the school district that she
didn’t just run for office to negate the large parcel
law but because she truly cared about what was happening
in the district. She said she also didn’t want the
district to lose the state funding a second defeat might
Although the trend among Olive residents
seems conciliatory in general and favors adopting the budget,
it is by no means unanimous and some resentment appears
to still smoulder. One active resident, for instance, writes:
“I would like to know at some point why the four other
school districts that voted their budgets down said they
would sharpen their pencils prior to re-vote, and Onteora
doesn’t feel it necessary. OCSD claims that the anger
will subside by the next re-vote, as if the financial distress
of hundreds of people has never entered their mind and does
not exist. The other school districts are responding to
the very real concerns and needs of the bill payer by focusing
on trimming the fat. And there is fat to be trimmed. ”The
largest percentage of people that I’ve talked to are
saying they will vote for the budget this time because we
made ourselves heard,” said Vanacore. “Rejecting
the large parcel option had to come before supporting anything
else because nobody- including the media- was giving the
Town of Olive any credence at all and we needed to band
together to show people that we felt it was a dishonest
and dastardly thing to do to our town. With that aside,
I feel it’s time to focus upon the quality of the
education of our children.”
"This area is very special," she says, "and
its specialness comes from the harmony between the hamlets
- these authentic historical places - and the mountains.
I believe that if people understand it, they'll take care
of it." It's that mission - to promote understanding
of the magic of our area's history and natural beauty -
that keeps Maureen working hard in a role that is unpaid
and can only be done in the "spare time" outside
her busy full-time job.
Maureen became a part-time resident of our area in 1987,
splitting her time between here and New York City, where
she had lived for 14 years pursuing a career in publishing.
In 1993, the perfect opportunity opened up - a job at The
Overlook Press, a well-respected independent publishing
company with editorial offices in NYC, but headquartered
in Woodstock. Maureen jumped at the chance to become a permanent
Catskills resident, and for 12 years has held an important
position handling Overlook's Special Sales and Subsidiary
Maureen began her historian role when she volunteered as
assistant to Town Historian Charlie Zimmerman during the
DeModica administration. She had what she calls a "great
immersion" in the town's history by serving on the
Shandaken Bicentennial Committee throughout 2004, which
included helping to create and sell the handsomely-produced
Shandaken historical calendars as a fundraiser, and assisting
with the Bicentennial Celebration in Phoenicia in July.
When Zimmerman moved away last fall, she stepped forward
and was given the Town Historian role by Supervisor Cross.
Along with her Bicentennial experience, she also brought
a letter of recommendation from Ulster County's late "historian
emeritus," the beloved Alf Evers, with whom she had
become acquainted through Overlook Press, his publisher.
"It was wonderful to know him," she says. She
loved visiting Evers at his book-filled cottage in Shady,
and she is on a committee that is creating a tribute to
him in the form of a bench and plaque in a beautiful part
of Woodstock's Comeau property.
The Bicentennial activities have continued since last summer,
and Maureen has played an important role in producing historical
maps on kiosks in Phoenicia and Pine Hill, as well as writing
for informational pamphlets and other publications. The
next phase is to transform the historical maps from the
kiosks into brochures. Also, though the Bicentennial Committee,
Maureen had an important hand in drafting a grant proposal
to the Catskill Watershed Corporation for historical markers.
With the funds awarded, three of the standard blue-and-gold
metal historical markers will be placed at significant locations
in Shandaken. Another CWC grant is paying for upgraded shelving
and additional displays for the Shandaken Museum.
Other related duties that Maureen is undertaking include
scripting a local-history documentary that is being produced
by photographer Mark Loete, - a co-member of the Bicentennial
Committee - and handling educational presentations, such
as a talk she recently gave on the subject of hatcheries
for the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. Research for such
presentations allows her one of her favorite parts of the
job - roaming the town's roads and hills finding long-forgotten
sites that once played important roles in the lives of the
citizens of earlier days, such as the Cruikshanks' Hatchery
Hollow in Big Indian, or the Chichester furniture factory.
And she is also a member of this year's "Shandaken
Day" committee, planning festivities for August 27,
the first of what that will become an annual celebration.
Maureen also serves the community in other ways, as an active
member of the Memorial Library Board, the Shandaken Democratic
Club, and the Catskill Heritage Alliance. All are an expression
of her love of the community and the environment, and go
hand-in-hand with the role of Town Historian.
According to NY State Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, there
are four main duties that make up the Public Historian's
job: Research and Writing; Teaching and Public Presentation;
Historic Preservation; and Organization, Advocacy, and Tourism
Promotion. Maureen clearly takes all of these to heart.
Ironically, despite its apparent dedication to local history,
the State of New York has been without an acting State Historian
since April of 2001, and without an official State Historian,
appointed by the Governor, since 1994. Since Maureen and
her dedicated colleagues are required by law to follow guidelines
set by a "State Historian," there's a definite
impediment to fulfilling their Oaths of Office according
to the letter of the law. The Association of Public Historians
of New York State (APHNYS) passed a resolution in 2002 expressing
their desire for an appointment to be made, but it has so
far gone unheard by the governor.
Ignoring the state-level difficulties, Maureen stays focused
on the spirit of the law - on learning all she can about
Shandaken's history and carrying out her duties, with the
goal of spreading the harmony of our area's history and
natural beauty. Her biggest challenge is simply, as she
says, "getting everything accomplished - in just evenings
and weekends." Time - and what people do with it -
is the stuff that defines history; time is both our most
precious resource and our biggest obstacle. Although there's
never enough of it, Maureen Nagy is heroically using the
time she's been given, and making our own times - our little
slice of history - a little better.