A County Shift!
Ulster Republicans, taking back the county legislature
for the first time in four years, have promised to counter
the enaction of a new charter by working towards a stronger
county legislature, greater transparency and what they’re
calling bipartisanship. New Legislative Chairman Fred
Wadnola said that while much has to be done in preparation
for the body’s reduction in size from a current
33 to 23 members, there will also be a great deal of focus
on a first mandated review of the county charter that
put most of the county’s day-to-day control in the
hands of an elected County Executive, which position is
currently held by former County Administrator Mike Hein,
Wadnola, recently re-elected to the legislature from the
Town of Ulster after having previously served from 1994
to 2001, was approved unanimously by lawmakers to lead
the Legislature in 2010. A retired educator, he has said
he will serve only one two-year term in the Legislature,
stepping down at the end of 2011 before the shift to a
The GOP now holds an 18-15 majority, shifted away from
a 19-14 Democratic majority last year.
Although Wadnola said he will present a detailed agenda
in an address to the Legislature in February, he said
at the Legislature’s first meeting this month that
all legislators must assert themselves as a separate but
equal branch of a government.
Much discussion followed about whether the county body
had “abdicated” too much power to Hein.
Minority Leader Jeanette Provenzano, who was majority
leader in 2009, said she was “almost insulted”
by such suggestions and noted that she will outline Democratic
accomplishments and goals in an address to the Legislature
Wadnola later said that he would NOT push for rescinding
of the charter… just address its balance.
In an unusual occurrence at the meeting, Allan Wikman,
a short-lived candidate for county executive in 2008 and
frequent contributor to this and other local newspapers’
letters columns, was arrested just prior to the start
of the Legislature’s meeting and charged by the
Ulster County Sheriff’s Office with disorderly conduct.
Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum said Wikman, 77, of 295 Broadway,
Kingston, was standing in the back of the legislative
chamber, behind legislators, in an area where the public
is not permitted to stand. When he was asked to move,
he refused and became increasingly disruptive, the sheriff
said. Wikman was issued a ticket to appear in Kingston
By the time you read this, the Onteora music department
will have celebrated the opening of the newly renovated
Harry Simon Auditorium at the High School on January 13
via a concert of music special to the late head of the
school’s long-heralded music department and marching
band performed by current students and alumnae.
Onteora's music program boasts an orchestra, wind ensemble,
chorus, band, jazz ensemble (both vocal and instrumental),
chamber orchestra and is complemented by musical and dramatic
The refurbishment of the auditorium was made possible
through the support and vote of the community and was
funded by a combination of Excel funds and the District's
capital reserve of which the voters appropriated $1.1
million to capital projects. It included state of the
art acoustical treatment custom engineered for this space,
a combination of modernized and new house lights, control
panels for stage sound and lighting, new rigging, winches,
side and front curtains, comfortable seating with accommodations
for wheelchairs, coordinated carpeting and painting, and
an energy efficient air conditioning and heating system
that draws cooled air from outside. In keeping with the
district’s sustainability policy, the AC unit has
efficiency rooftop cooling units that utilize refrigerants
which are non-ozone depleting and are controlled by an
electronic control system designed for energy savings,
the seats were donated to be reused, the paint was low
VOC, and the all new lighting utilizes high efficiency
fluorescent lights where possible.
A second event has been scheduled for Thursday, January
21 in the form of a resumption of the School Board’s
Speakers’ Series at 6:30 PM. “Local Government,
Local Education”. Will feature guest speakers/panelists
including New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, Ulster
County Executive Mike Hein, Hurley Town Supervisor Gary
Bellows, Olive Town Supervisor Berndt Leifeld, Shandaken
Town Supervisor Rob Stanley and Woodstock Town Supervisor
Jeff Moran. Brian Hollander, editor of The Woodstock Times,
will moderate the discussion. Topics will include issues
that affect our local schools and communities, to be followed
by an open question and answer session.
A concert featuring pianist Justin Kolb and poet Mikhail
Horowitz will then take place on Thursday, February 4,
with a similar start time.
A major sexual harassment suit filed in 2005 against the
ownership and former employees and consultants to the
Emerson/Catskill Corners complex has been settled, according
to attorneys representing both parties. The civil suit
filed by former employees Bonnie Benjamin and Carol Martinue-Lopez
had been set to go to trial January 11 in Federal District
“The parties are pleased to announce that the matter
has been amicably resolved and is now behind us,”
said Ronald Dunn of Gleason, Dunn, and O’Shea, who
represented the plaintiffs. Defendents’ attorney
Jim Hacker of Hacker & Murphy confirmed, saying he
felt “both sides were pleased to be able to put
the matter behind them.” All terms & conditions
of the settlement will remain confidential.
The case involved charges that the two employees were
chastised for their appearances, and being local, among
a long list of allegations made public over the course
of the case’s long history.
Indications are that the settlement is substantial.
Just as the New York City Department of Environmental
Protection sent out press releases announcing that it
was activating its recently revived Ashokan Reservoir
Waste Channel to release 250 million gallons per day over
the coming weeks to “improve water quality”
and alleviate local flood worries, State Senator John
Bonacic sent out his own press release saying that the
water levels in New York City’s upstate reservoirs
are too high and should be brought down to reduce the
risk of flooding.
Meanwhile, the Delaware River Basin Commission sent out
its own missives saying it won’t matter much what
the New York City Department of Environmental Protection
does because flooding will still happen even if the reservoirs
Bonacic noted that he has written to the DEP, the Delaware
River Basin Commission and the State Department of Environmental
Conservation to urge that steps be taken to lower water
According to DEP, reservoir levels were at 94.4 percent.
Normally at this time of year, again according to DEP,
those reservoirs are at only 77.6 percent. Which is why
they had independently decided to open their waste channel.
Overflow from the reservoir drains into the Esopus Creek,
which runs through Olive, Marbletown, Hurley, Kingston,
Ulster and Saugerties before flowing into the Hudson River.
The Ashokan Waste Channel is a concrete canal that conveys
released water to the Little Beaverkill stream and the
lower Esopus Creek via what used to be the Ashokan campus
near Olivebridge. Releasing water to the waste channel
is expected to create room in the reservoir to capture
runoff from intense storms, preventing overflow into the
Esopus Creek and downstream flooding.
The city agency came under fire from Mid-Hudson communities
in recent years after a series of floods in downstream
communities that some residents and officials attributed
to overflow resulting from the reservoir being kept too
close to capacity. The DEP and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
have denied a connection between overflow and the flooding
and also said the reservoir was not designed to perform
a flood-control function.
Critics like Bonacic, however, still say otherwise. When
the reservoirs overflow, the Senator says, the excess
water spills into attached creeks, which often results
in downstream flooding, as was the case in April 2005.
But Bonacic’s call follows a report issued last
month that by the Delaware River Basin Commission that
says, “Results of the flood analysis computer model...
indicate that operational changes to reservoirs alone
will not substantially reduce flooding if we experience
storms similar to the three major events in September
2004, April 2005, and June 2006,”
Bonacic introduced legislation that was approved by the
state Senate to mandate voids in the reservoirs which
can help reduce the risk of flooding but the state Assembly
has not acted on the matter.
New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli plans to audit the
branch of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office
that acts as collection bureau for the state.
The Civil Recoveries Bureau sues to recover debts to New
York, like unpaid state university tuition and payments
for mental health treatment. The comptroller’s office
says a letter about the audit was sent earlier this month,
part of a process of checking revenue streams from various
Cuomo is engaged in a broad investigation of the comptroller’s
office and management of the $126 billion state retirement
fund. Focusing on DiNapoli’s predecessor, Alan Hevesi,
it has resulted in charges against some former officials.
Cuomo spokesman John Milgrim says the attorney general’s
office is reviewing the comptroller’s letter.
Cuomo has been oft-mentioned as a leading candidate against
incumbent Governor Dave Paterson in this year’s
gubernatorial primaries and November election.
Split The State?
State Senator Joseph E. Robach, a Republican who represents
part of Rochester, has proposed legislation that would
allow each of New York State’s 62 counties to hold
a referendum in 2010 to ask voters this question: “Do
you support the division of New York into two separate
The referendum - if it is even legal - would be nonbinding.
Four Republican senators - William J. Larkin Jr., Michael
H. Ranzenhofer, James L. Seward and Dale M. Volker - joined
Mr. Robach in introducing the bill this year, even though
the proposal has little chance of becoming reality in
a state where Democrats control the governor’s mansion
and hold a narrow majority in the Senate and a commanding
majority in the Assembly.
Nonetheless, the proposal - which states that “there
is a large degree of apparent support for dividing New
York into two separate states, so as to separate the distinct
social and political concerns between upstate and downstate
New York” - reflects longstanding misunderstanding,
even animosity, between the various parts of the state.
The last governor who was not from either New York City
or the Hudson Valley was Nathan L. Miller, of Syracuse,
who served from 1921 to 1922.
The 7th Annual Taste of the Town event at state-owned
Belleayre Mountain Ski Center will take place on Monday,
January 25th at the Discovery Lodge, followed on Saturday,
January 30 by the Coalition To Save Belleayre’s
annual Snowball Dinner and Dance.
The theme for this year’s Taste of the Town, which
allows local residents to sample the fare from local inns
and restaurants, and other food industry members from
the region, will be “Murder on the Mountain,”
a murder, mystery dinner. All proceeds go to the Belleayre
Region Lodging and Tourism Association.
This year’s Snowball Dinner and Dance, to be held
in the Discovery Lodge as the Belleayre Music Conservatory’s
big annual fundraiser, will honor the A. Lindsay and Olive
B. O’Connor Foundation for “improving the
quality of life in the Catskills for more than 40 years.”
Tickets are available
Tickets for both events can be had by calling Donald Myers
at 254-5600 ext 1361.
In other Belleayre news of late, beyond what’s on
our front page, Ulster County Area Transit (UCAT) has
begun Sunday bus service to the Belleayre Ski Center in
Highmount, thus providing round-trip transportation to
Belleayre seven days a week. The first bus to Belleayre
will depart Kingston Plaza daily at 8:45 a.m. followed
by buses at noon, 2:30 and 5:20 p.m. Return trips from
the mountain will be at 9:45 a.m., 1, 4 and 6:45 p.m.
Riders in Phoenicia and Woodstock will need to call UCAT
to schedule a pick-up.
For complete information on UCAT’s schedule or service,
If you have ever wanted to get a bird’s eye view
of the Catskills you’ll have your chance this spring.
Against a backdrop of global warming issues making the
future of local skiing uncertain, Hunter Mountain in the
Greene County town of Hunter has teamed up with New York
Zipline Adventure Tours (NYZAT) to provide the longest
and highest ziplines and canopy tour in North America.
Mountain spokeswomen Jessica Pezak said this week that
construction of the ziplines, towers and canopy tour would
begin immediately. The ziplines, canopy tour and adventure
tower are scheduled to open in spring of 2010.
For the uninitiated, Zipline or canopy tours give you
a bird’s-eye view of the forest, move you across
valleys and show you scenery that can’t be viewed
from the ground. Participants don a harness with a caribiner
that is attached to a wheel on a cable strung between
trees. You push off from a platform on one tree and zip
along the cable to a platform on another tree. You can
be hundreds of feet off the ground and, literally, flying
between the trees at a height in the forest where birds
and squirrels hang out on the branches. Before you hook
onto a line and start zipping, however, reputable zipline
tour operators give you basic training, which may include
a fast ride on wire close to the ground.
“Greene County was the ideal location for this project,”
said Jay Bialsky, owner of NYZAT, which also operates
similar ziplines in New Hampshire and Jamaica. “The
Catskills combine beautiful terrain and easy access from
the NY metro area.”
NYZAT will build three (3) separate tours on Hunter Mountain,
from mild to wild, providing fun for all ages, Pezak said.
The longest tandem ziplines, extending from the summit,
will be over 3000' long and nearly 600' off the ground.
The three individual courses will total almost 5 miles
of ziplines, sky bridges and challenge elements.
Guests will be accompanied on tours of up to 2.5 hours
by professionally trained guides. The facilities will
operate year-round, utilizing Hunter’s chairlifts,
terrain and base lodge.
“New York Zipline Adventure Tours will be the biggest
attraction to hit Greene County since our ski resorts
opened. There’s nothing like it anywhere near the
NY metro area,” said Warren Hart, Director of Greene
County Economic Development, Tourism & Planning. “We
expect the attraction to have tremendous spin-off benefits
for the tourism industry here. People will be drawn to
the ziplines, then discover the many other recreational,
cultural, lodging and dining opportunities in Greene County.”
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on January 9, 2010
to correspond with the culmination of Hunter’s 50th
The regional dialogue regarding possible streamlining
of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process
in the Hudson Valley Catskill Region started in November
has heard from over 40 panelists at three public meetings
to date, with state Department of Environmental Conservation
sources saying speakers “represented a wide range
of diverse interests and backgrounds.” In addition,
over 65 written comments and suggestions were received.
The DEC and other review participants, including representatives
from Partners for Progress and Scenic Hudson, are now
working to condense their findings to find potential points
of consensus for “streamlining or improving SEQR
in the region while maintaining or improving protection
of the environment and maintaining or improving public
transparency and opportunities for effective stakeholder
and public input.”
The dialogue has been focused on “identifying recommendations
that can be accomplished in the Hudson Valley Catskill
Region (Region 3) within a short time frame without legislative
or regulatory changes,” according to the DEC’s
Region 3 Director Willie Janeway. “While the dialogue
has included suggestions that might necessitate legislative
or regulatory review, those are not the primary focus.
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and
the State have not endorsed any proposal to amend SEQR.
Pattern for Progress’s Jonathan Drapkin and Scenic
Hudson’s Ned Sullivan are co-chairing the dialog,
working with Janeway.
Draft recommendations from the process are expected to
start being circulated later this month.
Even when the U.S. labor market finally starts adding
more workers than it loses, many of the unemployed will
find that the types of jobs they once had simply don’t
exist anymore. The downturn that started in December 2007
delivered a body blow to U.S. workers. Some lost jobs,
the Labor Department and others are now pointing out,
will come back. But some are gone forever, going the way
of typewriter repairmen and streetcar operators.
Many of the jobs created by the booms in the housing and
credit markets, for example, have likely been permanently
erased by the subsequent bust.
“The tremendous amount of economic activity associated
with housing, I can’t see that coming back,”
says Harvard University economist Lawrence Katz. “That
was a very unhealthy part of the economy.”
Unhealthy but a boon for men without a college education.
One in three jobs, or six million total, have been lost
in the manufacturing sector since 1997, the last year
the sector posted job gains. The upsurge in construction
jobs accompanying the housing boom provided these workers
in manufacturing with an opportunity to earn decent wages.
Now that door, too, has shut. With 1.6 million jobs lost
over the last two years, the construction sector has accounted
for more than a fifth of the jobs lost since the recession
For more highly educated workers, finance may no longer
offer as many high-paying jobs as it has in the past.
In other areas of the labor market, the recession accelerated
job losses that were probably coming anyway, from the
recording industry and non-digital photography to secretarial
work made obsolete by new advances in computer technology.
The permanent loss of many jobs may keep the labor market
from fully recovering for a long time to come, many are
saying. Prior to the 1990s, jobs rebounded quickly once
recessions ended because more of the job losses were essentially
temporary, with manufacturers and the like letting workers
go with the implicit expectation that they would be hiring
them back once the worst was over. Since the early 1990s,
however, jobs have been slower to recover from recession.
After the 2001 downturn ended, job losses continued for
nearly two years. It wasn’t until 2005 that the
job count returned to its prerecession high. Educate yourselves,
in other words!
In Ulster County and the state, the overall level of flu
activity is moderate, but appears to be slightly increasing
when compared to the previous week, the Ulster County
Health Department reports.
Ulster County hospital emergency rooms reported small
increases in the number of patients seen with influenza
The health department is conducting seasonal flu vaccinations
for adults and older at clinics where appointments are
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that between
mid-April and mid-November 2009, 47 million people in
the US were infected with the 2009 H1N1 flu, more than
200,000 were hospitalized and over 9,800 people died.
The Route 28 Scenic Byway initiative being spearheaded
by the Central Catskills Collaborative involves all seven
municipalities from Hurley to Andes.
The group effort, underway for the last year and a half,
is now gaining steam as the Town of Olive moves ahead
via a grant-funded visioning study, with former town councilwoman
Helen Chase, the effort’s town liaison, looking
for input from townspeople on what they feel are the important
resources for Olive, including such categories as Geology,
Natural Resources, Old Cemeteries, Historic Structures,
Scenery, the Reservoir, and so forth. Chase has noted
that this is the beginning step to listing the town’s
inventory of resources - which will be brought to the
Collaborative and put into what is called the Corridor
Similar efforts will occur in all of the involved municipalities.
The time frame to complete this step of the process is
a little less than two years.
The Town of Olive will be hosting the next Central Catskills
Collaborative meeting of all towns regarding the Scenic
Byway and on matters at 6:00 PM Thursday, January 28 at
the Town Meeting Hall on Bostock Mountain Road in Shokan.
All interested parties are encouraged to attend, no matter
their town of origin.
Peter Manning, the Catskills Center Planner who has been
instrumental in moving the Collaborative, funded via a
state grant tied to then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s announcement
of an Agreement in Principal involving the still-pending
Belleayre Resort in September, 2007, has said that the
Byway designation could help the region’s efforts
at future funding, as well as the local tourism industry.
Olive has also announced that they will be receiving another
state grant primarily for improvements to the hamlet of
Boiceville, possibly for sidewalks or an overhead cross
walk for the Onteora School, tied to completion of the
city-funded wastewater treatment plant being completed
Exit The EPA…
A federal judge has ordered an end to U.S. supervision
of New York City’s water and sewage system. Mayor
Michael Bloomberg said the decision to end the special
oversight of the city’s Department of Environmental
Protection was due to workplace condition improvements
and $160 million in capital improvements at agency facilities.
The DEP oversees, among other things, the city’s
numerous upstate reservoirs, including the Ashokan. The
city agency has been under court supervision since 2001,
when federal investigators said workers were disregarding
environmental laws and endangering the safety of the city’s
The decision to end the federal supervision was handed
down by U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon and
took effect at the beginning of the new year.
New York City’s plans to expedite a project that
would build hydropower stations at four of its reservoirs
in the Catskills, the subject of recent meetings in Kingston,
is starting to run into local push-back against a licensing
fast track by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.,
saying it could impede public input.
In one letter to the FERC, State Sen. John Bonacic said
the DEP doesn’t deserve special treatment because
the city has shown “open hostility” to working
with local governments and private groups.
One such group is the Delaware County Electric Cooperative,
which applied to build hydropower plants on the reservoirs
months before New York City countered with its own plan.
The city won exclusive rights to study and pursue the
project in March - but its exclusivity ends in early 2012,
which is why it applied for a quicker review.
Shortly after the DCEC announced its plans, DEP Deputy
Commissioner Paul Rush countered that water temperature
would be a chief concern for the health of downstream
fish populations. Now that the city occupies the driver’s
seat, it says no habitat studies are needed.
What’s more, many speculated that New York City
does not plan to build the hydropower plants and that
it only pursued the project to keep others away. DEC officials
insist they plan to build.
The DEP wants to build a total of 11 hydropower turbines
on dams at its Cannonsville, Neversink, Pepacton and Schoharie
reservoirs. The turbines would produce a total of 38.75
megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 15,000
homes. The DCEC plan would have produced 63 megawatts.
The DEP plans to hook into existing power grids, but it’s
unclear what the produced electricity would be used for.
Are you a homeowner in the Catskill-Delaware New York
City Watershed who repaired or replaced your septic system
during 2009 without help from the Catskill Watershed Corporation
(CWC)? If so, you may be able to recoup those costs now.
Full-time residents may receive 100% of eligible costs,
while part-time residents can get 60% of those costs reimbursed.
The CWC Board of Directors recently adopted a measure
allowing reimbursement for septic repairs done between
January 1 and December 31, 2009 that were not within priority
areas for the regular Septic Repair and Rehabilitation
Program. Adequate monies in the program fund allows the
CWC to make this assistance available at year’s
Homeowners who can show proof that repairs were completed,
were approved by NYC Department of Environmental Protection
and were paid for may fill out a CWC form to request reimbursement.
Call 586-1400 to obtain this form.
The ongoing Septic Program can help homeowners located
within 200 feet of a watercourse in the Catskill-Delaware
Watershed. If you are experiencing difficulties with your
on-site system, call the number above for information
on how to participate in the program in 2010.
Homes that were constructed after November 2, 1995 are
not eligible for this program.
Social networking, Second Life and blogging will be explored
at a series of workshops at the Ellenville Public Library
& Museum and two courses through the SUNY Ulster Office
of Continuing and Professional Education and Development
Center for Business.
SUNY Ulster Instructional Designer Hope Windle will present
free sessions at the library on “What is Social
Networking” on Feb.2, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
and on Feb. 9, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The workshop will discuss
what social networking means and why so many people are
blogging and using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, mySpace
and other online gadgets in the Web 2.0 world.
The library will hold a free session on “What is
Second Life” on March 16 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Windle
will lead participants in a discussion about this online
3D virtual world accessible via the Internet that is imagined
and designed by the more than 52,000 users who play there.
This site is leading people to explore, socialize and
meet others, participate in activities, create and trade
virtual property and services with one another, and travel
throughout the virtual world.
The library is located at 40 Center Street. The programs
are free and pre-registration is requested. For information,
contact Asha Golliher, 647-5530 or visit www.eplm.org
Windle will also be teaching courses at the Business Resource
Center on “Plan, Publish, Profit from Blogging,”
from March 18 through April 15. The class will meet on
Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. every other week. A class on
“Using Social Networks” will be held weekly
on Thursdays at the same times from April 22 to May 5.
The Business Resource Center is located at 1 Development
Court in Kingston.
For more information or to register, call 339-2025.
A 58-year-old Delmar man died last month after a fall
from the top of Kaaterskill Falls. Marcel R. Pilette was
found dead on December 28, having succumbed to massive
head trauma, according to Greene County Coroner Hassan
Basagic. According to state police, authorities responded
to a 1:30 p.m. emergency call from a hiker on the trail
who allegedly saw the body of man at the bottom of the
Authorities are unclear whether Pilette, who was reportedly
alone, was simply going for a hike or attempting suicide.
Conditions on the trail to Kaaterskill Falls was “icier
than usual” on Sunday, according to local hikers..
State police are still investigating the incident.
Shandaken Theatrical Society will present Joseph Kesselring’s
classic “Arsenic and Old Lace” at STS Playhouse
three weekends in February, beginning February 12 with
an opening night gala performance. A dark farce in which
Mortimer, a young theatre-hating drama critic, is trapped
between deciding whether to go through with an engagement
and dealing with his homicidal spinster Aunts who poison
unsuspecting old men with “elderberry wine,”
the claasic play, made into a popular film with Cary Grant,
will be directed by Linda Burkhardt with Ann Davies and
STS veteran Deb Warren as the aunts.
STS Playhouse is located at 10 Church Street in Phoenicia.
Call 688-2279 to reserve tickets.
The Hurley Little League, whose territory encompasses
the Town of Olive, is holding registration sessions on
Monday, January 25th at the Hurley Reformed Church from
7:30pm to 9:30pm, on Wednesday, January 27th at the West
Hurley Firehouse from 7:30pm to 9:30pm, and on Thursday,
February 4th at the Onteora High School gym from 7pm to
Snow dates and more information is posted on the Hurley
Little League website at www.eteamz.com/HurleyLittleLeague,
or can be had by phoning 418-4688..
On Wednesday, January 27th, the Ashokan-Pepacton Watershed
Chapter of Trout Unlimited welcomes noted conservationist,
Wally John, for an evening exploring ways to protect streams
in the Catskills and enhance their use.
The Chapter1s monthly meeting begins at 6:30 pm with informal
fly tying (bring your own equipment), followed by a short
business meeting. The presentation begins at 8 pm. For
more information, please visit www.apwctu.org