After refuting other charges from his accuser, Schanck pointedly
asked where Johansen had obtained some of his materials which,
he said, were not available from DCJS but only from Schanck's
own office in Olive.
Olive Supervisor Berndt Leifeld read a letter supporting Schanck's
position from town Attorney Peter Graham, who had been consulted
on the matter. Other issues of dispute, such as how the police
department's voucher system is audited and authorized by the town
board, were explained by the Supervisor.
"I'm confident that the town board knows that there's something
more involved in this," Schanck said, "and I've certain
that this town also sees what's involved here. Richard Ostrander
recently resigned his position as police commissioner in the Town
of Olive... I've known Richard for 30 years and actually looked
forward to working with him. Unfortunately, it appears that Richard
has his own personal agenda and I stand in the way of that
Schanck revealed that he had received a letter from the Board
on July 25th, which revoked his registration as a voter in Olive
District 5 and said that the action was the result of a complaint
from Ostrander. He said that he had hired an attorney to appeal
the revocation of his voting rights and was confident of reinstatement.
He has been a voter in the
district for over 30 years, he said.
"I will resign my position, simple as that," said Schanck,
in the event his registration was not restored.
Leifeld said that Schanck would continue in his capacity during
process and Councilman Bruce LaMonda, who also holds a seat on
the commission along with Vincent Bruck- appointed in the Spring
to fill Ostrander's slot- noted that Schanck was the only present
commission member with the qualifications required by the state.
When Ostrander, who formerly held positions in the Woodstock Police
Department and the Ulster County's Sheriff's Department, resigned
his commission seat in Olive, he received a letter from the town
thanking him for his "dedicated service" which read,
in part: "Over the past five years, you have brought invaluable
police experience to the Olive Police Department. Your courteous
and professional volunteer service are both appreciated and respected."
The reason for Ostrander's resignation was not mentioned at the
After Schanck had left the room, Johansen, who was on the agenda
to address the board, charged that "Many board members up
there know (Schanck) doesn't live here, shouldn't be voting here
and shouldn't be on the police commission because he doesn't and
hasn't lived here for 5, 6 or 7 years... None of you (have) a
657 number to reach him!"
Leifeld, with a controlled measure of anger evident in his voice,
asked if this was why Johansen had asked to be on the night's
agenda. The unspoken undercurrents of the unfolding events began
to become apparent even to outside observers.
"This is all political B.S.," Leifeld said. "You
know it, I know it and that 's where it's coming from... We're
all starting to play 'Bullet W. Lawyer'! Why don't we just get
back to where everybody in the Town of Olive gets together to
do this thing right?"
The next item on the agenda was the proposal from Cindy Johansen,
who as a former Olive town board member who had demonstrated a
golden moment of the political elements of the town pulling together
toward an objective with her
exceptional defense against the Large Parcel judgment at a school
board meeting while in office. Johansen's defeat at the polls
last year left Olive with a town board consisting wholly of Democrats.
Johansen announced that the Olive Republican Club would begin
video-taping town meetings for submission to TimeWarner's management
of the public access station and inclusion in its programming.
"Don't anybody get the wrong idea. We all agree with this,
in the interest of providing town residents with as much information
as possible about town government," said Leifeld, indicating
himself and the rest of the town board as the "we" in
Leifeld said the board had discussed the matter approvingly but
with reservations about the "editing" and "accountability"
of the tapes. A decision was reached, he said, that the town would
also tape the meetings to eliminate factors like "he said,
she said, the tape said, the tape was cut, TimeWarner did something
"Being a member of the Olive Republican Club, I think that's
an excellent idea," said Richard Ostrander from the audience.
After a discussion of tape storage, costs involved and other associated
topics, Leifeld, ever conscious of the budget line, drew attention
to the attorney's fees involved in the Schanck affair and other
political skirmishes -- all without mentioning them directly.
"Our attorney fees this year are outrageous," he said,
conceding that there were "other (legal) things going on
"Every time you turn around, it's more money for a (legal)
letter here or a
letter there," he pointed out. "I would just like to
keep that down. I don't think it's necessary. I don't think we
have to build a wall up here. I have nothing against the two-party
system. I don't think I've rained on anybody's parade in all these
years. Nor has anyone else up here. (But) we're starting to go
off on a tangent here which I don't like... I'm not saying it's
all one party's fault. Frankly, it's both parties' fault...
"It's starting to come about that, before you know it, we're
going to end up
like our neighboring towns, where all we do is fight and get nothing
done. I don't want to go down that road... I think we have a nice
little town. It's a very informal situation where people come
in and talk about what they want to talk about... 'A tree fell
into my yard from the neighbor's yard,' whatever... That's important
Leifeld, in his way, seemed to be pleading uncomplicated solutions
to simple problems; disagreements worked out with reason and fiat;
without bureaucratic twists and paperwork and lawyers. That would
appear to be an ideal in the Supervisor's eyes. Knots tied or
untied with compromise and logic rather than sliced or welded
with the tools of law and officialdom; without the force of prejudice,
partisan favor or arbitrary opposition. The
question left hanging by his remarks is whether or not our society
has progressed beyond the reach of such earthy wisdoms. A lawyer,
who believes there can never be enough laws, might feel a new
law should be written to reconcile political differences. An administrator,
like the supervisor of a
small town, might regard such laws as a last resort... that there
were endless possibilities of ironing out difficulties between
two sides to everyone's satisfaction.
From his perch at the center of the town board bench, Leifeld
regarded the audience earnestly, if a bit sadly. With a little
bit of history to channel your thoughts, you could almost see,
behind his look, a road lined with the myriad conflicts successfully
avoided or absolved during his term in office.
"That's the way it's been all these years," he said.
"I don't want to lose that."
Winters noted that last minute meetings had been called together,
on Friday and Monday, with supervisors from the municipalities,
attorneys, assessors and school board members.
"We're really trying to talk through this issue as thoughtfully
as we can before Thursday night's vote," Winters said. "It
was clear to everyone at the table that this is a very difficult
situation and every town has a perspective that has merit."
The Large Parcel Law would divide the tax revenue from Olive's
largest tax payer among other villages in the district, lowering
their school taxes while raising those of taxpayers in Olive,
if the school board chooses to exercise a yearly option mandated
under the law. Activated in January of last year, only one other
school board in the state has elected to employ
"It was cowardly of the state legislature to put us in this
position," said David Patterson of West Hurley, the newest
member of the school board. "This is legislative work and
should be done by the legislature. The school board is not a legislature.
Our primary role is education. This should not have been put on
the shoulders of a school board anywhere."
Patterson was speaking of the potential annual impact the law
will have on
the school district's budget, the object of focus for his campaign
earlier this year. He said that he still had his opinions about
the budget but was circumspect in referring to it, saying only
that he would continue to work with the new District Superintendent
to save money for the district.
"That's really what my goal is at this point," Patterson
said. "I was very accusative during my campaign- if you want
to call it that. Now, as a board member, I think we've got a Superintendent
that's already shown a tremendous ability and desire to work in
and with the community- including all the town supervisors. She's
had 45 days with an awful lot of stuff on her plate- with the
West Hurley (school closing) issue, the Large Parcel and I know
she's also simultaneously looking at the cost-per-student issue
"With regard to the Large Parcel issue," he continued,
"she put together two
meetings that occurred Monday and last Friday. I was there Monday
and it was an extremely productive meeting."
Patterson said that everyone present was allowed to present their
side of the issue and each side had new information to contribute.
He said the new material would be forthcoming at Thursday's meeting.
"I know (the new information) enlightened me and it's a troubling
me," he said. "I told people when I was running that
I would significantly research it and I know I've probably changed
my mind 5 times during the research and reading; becoming educated.
As I stand right now, I don't know what my vote's going to be...
I'm spending the next two days reading more and more. I'm waiting
for my management packet to show up from the district, which has
even more information. I know other board members are doing the
same- at least I hope they are- to vote with their conscience...
I'm not saying the word 'right' because my right and your right
are on two different sides as we face each other..."
Patterson wouldn't venture a guess on the leanings of other board
members but said that indications over the past year seem to point
to the board's exercise of the option.
"I don't know if anybody's reconsidered at this point,"
he finished, "but I think we're all going to take the time
to say how we feel on Thursday night."
Winters' comments also seemed to suggest the board will vote "yes"
"I think the larger picture on this is the issue of equity,"
she said. "And the issue of how long the equity has lasted
and will the efforts that the Olive town board have made to close
the gap and the disparity be enough to make the other municipalities
feel ready to say 'you don't need the large parcel legislation'?"
Raising this point seems to say that it is Woodstock and Shandaken's
point of view which is being heard. Their complaint is that their
taxes are higher than Olive's while Olive's argument has been
that there are special reasons for the disparity- reasons concerned
with the nature of their pact with their largest landowner and
the limitations that it puts upon their ability to use local resources
to create revenue. Draining the tax funds from that
entity would just exacerbate their situation, they've claimed.
"One very positive outcome of the meetings has been that
everyone around the table agreed that this places a very difficult
burden on the school board,"
Winters observed. "We agreed to form a coalition to try to
change the legislation so that the Onteora School Board isn't
faced with this situation on an annual basis. There was a great
sense of unity on that issue... to form a coalition and go to
Albany. I thought that was significant."
"I was asked earlier today to predict the outcome of the
vote and I couldn't
say at this point in time," said Superintendent Winters reflectively.
"It's so complex but there's certainly a lot of time and
thought that's gone into the preparation for the vote. So, at
Thursday's meeting, everything will be on the table."
It was in the latter role that I, and many of my newcomer status
in these parts, first got to know the man. The West in West &
Burgher was none other than Ed West, one of the legends of the
region. And for years, their offices in Phoenicia were one of
the unofficial centers of the Catskills.
Bob became a legend, as well. Some of that's in the obituary:
"Mr. Burgher served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946 and
was a charter member and past commander of American Legion Olive
Memorial Post No.1627. He was an avid golfer and bowler, a life
member of the Kingston Bowling Association. He was also a member
of the Kingston Gold Traveling Bowling Team, having participated
for 25 years in the American Bowling Congress National Tournament.
A member of Kingston Lodge No.10 F&AM in Kingston."
He had a gentle way about him, with all the goodness of rural
conservatism about his every move and thought. He cared about
people, especially those close to him. But that meant anyone he
got to know, which was part of his business, but also deeply in
"He was active in the community serving as scoutmaster for
Boy Scout Troop No.163, a member of the Town of Olive Planning
Board for 30 years and also served on the County of Ulster Planning
Board for more than two decades."
In the latter role, he had untold influence over helpingt to shape
the Catskills we know today, for good and bad. But that's not
to say he didn't try to always make the place better. And cared
for all its natural attributes.
"Born June 25, 1925, in Kingston, he was the son of the late
Edmund C. and Lena Rosenbauin Burgher. Survivors include his wife,
whom he married on July 2, 1950, Rosalie Marie Bryan Burgher;
two daughters, Deborah Schwartz and Patricia Cherry of Syracuse;
three sons, Edward of Saratoga Springs, Mathew of Cairo and Robert
A. of West Shokan; eight grandchildren; cousins. A granddaughter,
Jacqueline Schwartz, died previously."
Survivors include all of us in Olive. And all of us have died
a little bit with Mr. Burgher's passing.
His funeral was at 11 a.m. Friday, August 6 at Lasher Funeral
Home, 100 Tinker St., Woodstock. Private interment was in Bushkill
Cemetery, West Shokan. The funeral was huge.
The memory, and legend, will loom even larger.
Our Joe Passes
That night, at a spontaneous gathering in the home of Charlie
and Chris DeBellis, 50 or so people came together in grief.
Women brought food and busied themselves in the kitchen.
Men shook their heads and put their hands on each other‚s
shoulders. They talked of Joe‚s skills, and somehow
an idea was born: why not make a coffin for this wonderful man,
a coffin made from wood he had sawn and parts he had accumulated?
The next morning a dozen or so showed up at the mill, and the
wood was chosen. Wide, rough-cut white pine boards. Old saw blades
were found, a skidder chain was taken. All of it was brought back
to Fabulous Furniture, where the pieces were lovingly put together,
the chains made into handles, the blades as decoration.
All day long men and women, kids and dogs came to touch it and
to work on it.
Later that evening 80 or so showed up back at Charlie and Chris‚.
Local restaurants sent trays of ziti, women mixed big salads and
took fried chicken from the ovens, pies materialized. Val
brought Joe‚s comforter cover, his bathrobe and all his
old t-shirts. Within hours, a quilt was made from these
pieces, stitched together by anyone who wanted to lend a hand.
A pen was passed, and people wrote notes on it.
I have seen large groups gather to do good; I have watched woodworkers
and quilters and knitters before. I have seen what a crowd
can do when they want to make something long lasting and full
of love. But never have I seen so many people work on things
they knew would never be seen after Tuesday‚s burial, on
items that would go into the ground and never be looked at again.
I‚m sure this is what the Amish must do, or tribes somewhere
in back Africa. It is what a real community does when it
loses one of its best.
Sunday night was full of people again, this time to look through
photos and make boards that would be on display at the wake.
In most, Joe is doing the thing he loved most -- working.
Working not for the sake of the money or the finished product,
but working because being productive and of use was the force
that drove his live. In all, he is smiling that killer smile
of his, and while they tacked them on to the boards, the women
smiled back at him.
At Lasher‚s funeral home on Monday night, hundreds gathered.
By then the tears had begun to dry a little, the breath going
deeper. People laughed and hugged. And then they cried
some more. One young man told me, "I thought I was a man,
until I met Joe DeBellis." When everyone left, the
family wrapped Joe in his quilt, and kissed him goodbye.
Tuesday morning was sunny and gorgeous. The family and close friends
met at Lashers, to begin what would turn out to be one of the
most touching and funny funeral processions. The lead vehicle
was Joe‚s beloved Peterbuilt, which held all the flowers.
All of Joe‚s trucks and cars followed, driven by his brothers
and friends. When the procession got to Boiceville Lumber,
everyone stopped while Joe was driven through the mill.
Highway workers stood silently along the road, their hard-hats
covering their hearts. Women stood in front of their houses,
tears streaking down their faces. When we reached
West Shokan, Joe‚s pickup truck died, and his brother Charlie
pushed it the rest of the way to the cemetery, where hundreds
of people waited.
The amazing Reverend Karen Munch gave a eulogy that summed
up both Joe‚s life and those who were left behind.
"Think of death this way," she said. "We
are on the shore, and our beloved Joe is leaving us. We
are crying and begging him to stay here with us. But on
that other shore, they are breathing a sigh of relief and joy.
Thank goodness, they are saying, Joe is coming to us."
And then the coffin was lowered into the ground. Shovelful
by shovelful, Joe DeBellis was buried by the people who most adored
Joe DeBellis Jr is survived by Valerie Fanarjian, brothers Charlie,
Anthony, Bobby, Bart, Vinnie and Paul; two sisters, Lucy Van Leuvan
and Natalie DeBellis, 12 nieces and nephews and a town that will
always remember him. Another brother, Johnny, died