number you’re giving is not right,” said Mike Ricciardella,
insisting that a large number of those are proposed hookups to vacant
properties which DEP won’t be subsidizing unless or until they
come on-line. The actual number of hookups, he said, is 260. The town’s
numbers, Ricciardella said, were generated by its wastewater committee
and not the system’s engineers, and DEP will only be reimbursing
the district based on the number of hookups listed on the tax rolls
through the Assessor’s office. The difference between the two
figures says Ricciardella, represents a major discrepancy in the system’s
projected revenue which will raise annual Operating & Maintenance
costs for its commercials users beyond the projected figures provided
by the town. Those figures for commercial users appear generally accepted
as extremely reasonable.
Ricciardella also raised the question as to whether the board would
allow he and other commercial property owners to opt out of the system
if they chose. Town attorney Kevin Young responded by explaining the
hardship exemption application process. Pressed by Ricciardella as
to whether he would support such an option, Cross said he couldn’t
speak for the whole of the town board but that he personally would
support it. “My word’s as good as I am,” said Cross.
The formal part of the meeting was cut short when a resident fell
ill and was immediately attended to by former Ambulance Squad Chief
Jerry Pearlman. Cross called 911 and soon thereafter the town’s
temporary paramedic on call responded. By the time the meeting resumed
in time to end it, little appeared newly resolved.
The referendum on the project for deeded property owners within the
proposed sewer district will be held Saturday Feb 3. According to
Frasier “I run the election” and poll workers will consist
of two Republicans and two Democrats who live outside the proposed
district. Voting will be at the Phoenicia firehouse from 7AM till
As of press time, things were supposedly settling down with
the service, although repeated calls to the squad’s new administrator,
Peg Vitarius, and town supervisor Bob Cross were not returned over
a week’s time… meaning their released statements that
things were okay again had to be taken at face value.
The current difficulties began when the Town Board stripped longstanding
Chief Technician Jerry Pearlman, who had remade the squad in the mid-1990s
after being appointed by the late Neil Grant, of his title and reduced
his pay. They then hired Pearlman’s predecessor, Peggy Vitarius,
as the squad’s new administrator for $15,000 a year, and agreed
to pay longstanding squad member, and former town councilman Dennis
Frano as Operations Manager at $5,000 per year.
Pearlman, a full-time paramedic on the squad, disagreed with the move
and resigned from all his duties. When he left, so did longstanding
Billings Manager and paramedic Lisa Benjamin, who had first raised
the squad to self-sufficiency and, eventually, cash generator for
the town’s General Fund over the last eight years.
Pearlman made arrangements to stay with the squad until a replacement
could be found for him so it would be able to maintain “advanced
life support” service, a level of medical care greater than
what is called “basic life support,” being that he was
the only squad member with the appropriate credentials, which allowed
him to perform such duties as administering narcotics.
But after he resigned, a snafu occurred when several local officials
questioned the legality of his resignation and confusion arose, leading
to Pearlman divorcing himself from the squad earlier than expected
on legal advice. The town then hired certified paramedics, through
Mobile Life Support Services of Kingston, to work around the clock
for Shandaken until a member or members of the squad could get the
Later, Vitarius presented a letter to a special meeting held January
10 at town hall in which she said that Pearlman and Benjamin had left
the squad because of false news reporting, which each later said was
The amount being paid Mobile Life came out when a local resident complained
at that same meeting that the service was costing more than $1,000
a day. That figure was not disputed, but Vitarius, who was the squad’s
administrator when the deal was made, later said that she did not
know the exact cost because town Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. made
the deal, not her.
Cross said the cost is $1,200 per day but that the town will retain
the revenues from any calls to which the paramedic responds.
In her prepared statement Vitarius blamed Pearlman for creating the
need to hire Mobile Life because of his sudden resignation.
Pearlman wife, Adele, a member of the ambulance squad, told the Town
Board that her husband resigned because the town broke a promise that
he would not be under the supervision of Vitarius.
Blame for the present brouhaha, and Pearlman’s being forced
out, leads back to the former squad leader’s questioning of
the town’s costs keeping an ambulance on call at state-owned
Belleayre Mountain Ski Center on winter weekends, including a diminished
service for the remainder of the town. Pearlman said in a recent interview
that repeated promises by Belleayre Superintendent Tony Lanza to request
additional monies to help pay for the added coverage had at first
yielded promises that a request to the state would be made, and later
threats by Lanza to find other service from private ambulance companies,
none of which came to be.
When Pearlman went to Cross and the town board to plead his case,
a similar series of promises of action resulted, although the supervisor
later told he and Benjamin that he was getting pressured by Lanza
to lay off… the town, the DEC offifical said, was getting enough
benefits from the ski center without ambulance payments.
Discussions had reportedly started about setting up the ambulance
service as a self-regulating ambulance district, such as with fire
protection or water services, when Pearlman was stripped of his command
at the January 2 reorg meeting… to his and the squad’s
Pearlman meanwhile noted how he had been working over the years to
build up the squad’s budget to be able to afford a higher quality
service for the town. He noted, though, that increased revenues brought
in through emergency services were swallowed by the town and used
for other purposes.
He agreed, when asked, that the current problems may be an indication
that town-specific ambulance squads, like volunteer services, may
becoming a thing of the past.
Benjamin, a Shandaken native, has said that her only regret about
leaving has been a sense of sorrow that town politics was allowed
to enter into local issues involving citizen’s safety.
Vitarius, meanwhile, has said that she has a new list of people who
have agreed to work for the ambulance squad if needed, many of whom
have also agreed to take needed training to match what it had been
“At no time were any of the people of the Town of Shandaken
in jeopardy,” she wrote in her prepared statement. “All
dispatches were answered immediately and efficiently… I hope
that we can now look to a brighter future with one of the best, if
not THE BEST ambulance squads in the region.”
Stay tuned… and stay safe.
Peace At Onteora
discussion proceeded on the various bond proposals for district-wide
configuration changes designed to better utilize Onteora’s aging
facilties, with the school board deciding that three steps would be
taken in order to gather further information.
First, on Saturday March 3, the board will host a district-wide community
meeting at the high school to get input on what each community school
should look like. There will be a presentation, question, answer and
comment period with a formal introduction of the district’s
The other two steps include a survey to be mailed to district residents
and the compilation of more cost figures on each of the bond proposals.
Costs for the three bonds range from $30-$62 million, not including
transportation, athletic fields and environmental considerations.
Two of the three plans would include closing an additional elementary
school or creating a centralized campus at the Boiceville site.
Some school board members recently took a tour of the Taconic Hills
Central school district, a consolidated centralized campus that took
eleven referendums to pass. It was noted that not until the Taconic
school community was made a part of the decision making process and
major changes made that a bond passed.
Victoria McLaren the assistant superintendent for business gave an
overview of the upcoming budget process and highlighted budget concerns.
She outlined the current tax certiorari, or amount of legal challenges,
over the value of property assessments. The total amount of challenges
facing the district at present is $15,670,826.84, with most coming
from a New York City dispute that has alleged that the town of Olive
over-assessed the city’s reservoir. If New York City were to
win their litigation against Olive, Onteora taxpayers could owe $14,293.667.60,
a cost that the city believes it is owed based on their own assessments.
McClaren said Onteora does not have enough in reserves to cover such
“We only have $3.8 million in reserve, so we could potentially
end up having to pay $11.8 million more, McLaren explained. “I
don’t know what the chances of that are, but we are likely having
to end up paying more than we have in the reserve right now.”
According to New York State law, the school district can only keep
the money in reserve for four years. McLaren added that the costs
of special education will be another financial concern for the coming
“Last year, after we adopted our budget, we then restored a
number of positions,” McLaren said, noting how some transportation
costs have gone up dramatically in this area.
Trustee Maxanne Resnick asked if there was a better process for special
education referrals in regards to the budget, noting that she did
not want to see a repeat of last year. Assistant superintendent Deb
Fox said the pupil personnel staff have already set possible projections
for next year.
McLaren also asked the board to consider costs that may reflect the
budget process, such as retirement, contracts that will be ending
June 2008, rising cost of health care, and a new State mandate that
requires a certified director of Physical Education.
School board president Marino D’Orazio asked the administration
to try and keep the budget at a four percent increase or lower.
“I don’t want to talk percentages because that makes me
crazy. I really want to see keeping track of the quarterly reports
we have gotten and the unencumbered amounts of money and the fact
that the last three years we have come in at an overage that keeps
increasing every year,” replied Trustee Rita Vanacore. “I
am not interested in percentages. That is telling my district that
we really didn’t do anything better this year than last year.”
Wisneski, a Glenford native
and resident of Lomontville who’s planning to move to her husband’s
Olivebridge home in the coming months, was speaking from her Albany
office in preparation for a CMCE fundraiser set to take place at Woodstock/Saugerties’
New World Home Cooking this Sunday, January 21. Entertainment for
the 1 to 4 pm informational gathering and celebration, put together
by local artist Bruce Ackerman, will include Mik Horowitz and Gilles
Malkine, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, the Princes of Serendip, Sarah
Kramer-Harrison and Robin The Hammer… all local favorites. In
addition, Congressman Maurice Hinchey and other political figures
of note from the region are expected to be on hand, along with a host
of donated goods and services to be silently auctioned off.
The CMCE movement in New York State seeks to set up public campaign
funding for all statewide elections similar to other public systems
set up in recent years in Arizona and Maine, by public initiative
efforts, and in neighboring Connecticut, by legislative action. In
those states, prospective candidates would qualify themselves for
public funding by raising a certain amount of private monies in small
donations – Maine puts the limit at $5 a pop. Once qualified,
CMCE candidates would be given a certain amount to spend, determined
by analysis regarding how much most legislative or statewide races
take to win, with additional amounts available should a privately
funded candidate seek a money advantage, or a third party try “swiftboating”
a publicly-supported candidate (a reference to the private group that
went after John Kerry’s Vietnam record during the 2004 Presidential
Wisneski said that the total amount needed to cover New York’s
statewide races would be unlikely to go above $20 million in one year…
an amount she said would cost taxpayers an average $1 per person.
Such spending, though, would be offset by savings in the amount of
public monies given back to corporate contributors via tax breaks,
as well as the changes that would occur in the pool of candidates
willing to come forward for public service without the current fundraising
demands modern elections involve.
Wisneski also noted that Spitzer’s recent campaign was run,
and won, with over $40 million total.
Citizens Action, for whom Wisneski has been working since December
2005, when she came east from campaigning for similar measures in
Hawaii, has been pushing for full Clean Money, Clean Elections reform
in New York for the past nine years. She said that during one spell,
following ex-Governor George Pataki’s 2002 defeat of Democratic
candidate Carl McCall, funding losses forced a major downsizing in
the push. During the interim, which lasted a couple of years, CMCE
boardmember Irene Miller — a Palenville resident who had earlier
been instrumental in a push to instill clean money principals into
New York City’s Byzantine elections system – started New
York Citizens for Clean Elections to “keep the ball afloat”
with the help of a lot of local volunteers.
“With Spitzer having committed to full public funding in his
State of the State speech, something he said he would do, and that
led to our endorsement of him last year, we now need to focus on the
state assembly and senate to ensure a bill goes through in the coming
years,” Wisneski said. “That takes a lot of grass roots
organizing, which means more staffing on our part… which all
In addition to the coming weekend’s Woodstock/Saugerties fundraiser,
she added, her campaign drew 45 people to a “highly successful”
fundraiser at a private home in New Paltz over the recent Martin Luther
King Day holiday weekend.
“Citizens Action always believed that the best bet for getting
election reform moving in New York would be to elect a governor who
was supportive of it to give the movement real legs,” Wisneski
added. “When Eliot Spitzer first said he was supportive of clean
elections while running for attorney general in 1998, we knew we had
an opportunity… Now we’re working to keep the issue at
the top of the state’s agenda.
In his January 3 State of the State speech, Spitzer said, early on,
“To neutralize the army of special interests, we must disarm
it. In the coming weeks, we will submit a reform package to replace
the weakest campaign finance laws in the nation with the strongest.
Our package will lower contribution limits dramatically, close the
loopholes that allow special interests to circumvent these limits,
and sharply reduce contributions from lobbyists and companies that
do business with the state. But reform will not be complete if we
simply address the supply of contributions. We must also address the
demand. Full public financing must be the ultimate goal of our reform
effort. By cutting off the demand for private money, we will cut off
the special interest influence that comes with it.”
The Governor went on to also address gerrymandered legislative districts,
judicial reform, the consolidation of local government, the elimination
of “lump-sum members’ item” legislative grants,
known as “pork barrel,” full pre-K coverage for all children
in the state, and a new push to peg the state’s economic development
on knowledge-based business over rust-belt industry and tourism.
“We have a tremendous amount of hope. That State of the State
speech was amazing,” Wisneski said. “We know he means
what he says.”
The big obstacle now, the campaign coordinator added, was to help
push the wanted legislation through the state legislature. She said
that although past bills passed regarding clean elections by the state
assembly were only “partial,” she feels that Spitzer’s
lead – as well as the fact of Connecticut’s recent move
– should spur the writing, and passage, of a better law. As
for the state Senate, which has blocked such moves in recent years,
Wisneski noted that a comment by Majority leader Joe Bruno after the
Stet of the State speech indicated possible support now, albeit with
an odd restriction that legislative races not be included in the provisions.
Furthermore, she noted that Bruno’s recent legal troubles, and
his party’s shrinking majority, could work well for “real
“Incumbents don’t like this,” she said. “It
works to level the political playing field, which is not to their
She added that Citizens Action’s big push for now, to be explained
at this Sunday’s event, is to push for a good elections reform
bill’s passage in the State Assembly and then put “all
energy” into convincing a similar move on the state Senate’s
Did she feel the Assembly would be cooperative?
“It seems like a natural fit. They’ve been saying they
want to do reform for a long time now,” Wisneski said, noting
that local Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston could prove an instrumental
element of any push to convince Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to
get a bill passed with some real muscle in it. Why? “Because
he comes from a district where the grass roots for this entire movement
have been strongest.”
As for the non-informational side of this weekend’s fundraiser,
Wisneski said there would definitely be a major celebratory air to
the proceedings because of Spitzer’s rcent inauguration. But
also a thankful air for all the work Miller has done over the years,
along with such other stalwarts as Ackerman and former Woodstock councilwoman
“I’m looking forward to hearing recent Senate candidate
Susan Zimet talk about the current system and how it can hurt a candidate
facing a strong incumbent,” Wisneski said. “But I’m
also thinking we should at least be giving Irene some flowers for
having kept the momentum going all these years.”
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next
two to three years.. Can we get this through,” Wisneski continued.
“In Connecticut, it took sending a governor to jail. We’re
hoping bringing in a new one will do the trick in New York.”
So where does the new sense of hope balance with reality?
“Spitzer’s not only talking the talk, but he’s also
started walking the walk,” Wisneski said. “We’re
not naïve. That’s why we have this grass roots movement,
The Clean Money, Clean Elections Campaign fundraiser takes place this
Sunday, January 21, from 1 to 4 pm at New World Home Cooking on Route
212 near the Saugerties/Woodstock border. For more information call
Jessica at 845-901-0264
Dream Draws To A Close
Cecilia Scanlan came to New York City from Ireland in 1950, to live
with her aunt Catherine, who was one of the beleaguered immigrants
to have miraculously survived the sinking of the Titanic. She met
her future husband, Edward, at a dance for single immigrants. He was
a construction worker, a soldier in the Korean War, and an import
from a small fishing village in Newfoundland. They were married in
Edward Scanlan was by nature an industrious man, and as a foreman
in a New York City construction company, he was accustomed to the
idea of expansion. As his family grew, he began looking for ways out
of the city, into the open pastures of rural America, where the opportunities
grew wild along the roadsides. In 1965, he found his chance: an advertisement
placed in the New York Times for a lumber company and hardware store
for sale in the blue mountain-flanked hamlet of Boiceville, NY. The
company was Singer-Denman.
Scanlan’s eldest daughter, named Cecelia after her mother, recounts
that when Scanlan and his brother William – who was to be his
business partner – first crossed the reservoir into West Shokan,
they knew that there was “no going back” to the bustle
of the city.
George Singer, who founded the hardware store and lumber company along
with his son-in-law Lee Denman, was immediately impressed with Edward.
Kevin Scanlan, Edward’s son, who was seven years old when his
father bought the business, recalls that Mr. Singer sold it “on
a handshake,” and personally held a note on the property until
Scanlan had paid for it in full.
“My father was a very honest man,” said Kevin Scanlan.
“If he told you he’d have $5,000 on Friday afternoon,
he’d be there on Friday with $5,000.”
T heir first night in Boiceville, Edward, Cecilia, and their children
stayed in the Trail Motel, the yellow sign for which is still a comforting
sight along the side of Rt. 28. Their daughter, Siobahn, remembers
it well: it was there she fell out of her bed and fractured her shoulder.
Despite this potentially bad omen, Edward took over the lumber business
with the kind of passion and vigor that many would say defines the
American spirit. William ran the hardware store, which was then housed
in what is now the Boiceville Supermarket building. In 1967, however,
William died suddenly of cancer, leaving Edward with both businesses
to operate, along with the care of his brother’s widow and six
The tragedy of William’s abrupt death only spurred Edward to
greater industry. In the next decade, he would construct a new building
for the hardware store, and begin adding rental units to the lot,
which would – by the 1980s – become Boiceville’s
central shopping plaza.
Edward’s eldest daughter describes him as living according to
a “Let’s go get it” philosophy. “Life was
very simple for him,” she said, “There was no gray area
in my father’s world.”
“He lived the American dream,” she noted.
Edward’s daughters remember the Singer-Denman hardware store
as being the de facto social center of Boiceville, where at some point,
most of his children, his nieces, his nephews, and many of their friends,
would come to congregate. The older children would work in the hardware
store (and in Kevin’s case, the lumber yard as well), and the
younger would find their amusements thereabout.
“We grew up in the lumber yard, in the sand piles,” Siobhan,
Edward’s second-eldest daughter remembered. “We made houses
out of stacks of cement and played hide-and-seek behind rolls of fiberglass.”
The Scanlans – Edward, Cecelia, and the troupe of 13 children
– thrived in life and in business. Edward became renowned for
his generosity, extending store credit to many of his regular customers.
He established himself firmly within the social and political fabric
of the community, building the town swimming pool and two town pavilions,
and presiding as chairman of the town’s Republican party for
20 years. His daughters went to college in Europe, with one –
Maura, the youngest – to become a doctor; and he sent a number
of his late brother’s children to college as well. He bought
property all over the area, and even purchased a house in Florida.
But all of his accomplishments could do nothing to prevent the same
affliction that had claimed the life of his brother, from laying its
claim upon Edward Scanlan as well. He managed to retain command of
his business for some time, despite the onset of cancer, but –
at the commencement of chemotherapy – was finally forced to
yield even this. He left control of the hardware store and the plaza
in hands of his son Kevin, and, in 1995 – at the age of 68 –
surrendered his conquering spirit once and for all.
His daughter Cecelia lamented that his death came far too soon. “All
he did was give,” she said, “He never took. He had so
much more to offer.”
It was at the point of Edward’s death that his little empire,
the hardware store, the lumber yard, and the plaza, seemed to begin
crumbling. Large hardware and lumber warehouse stores opened in Kingston,
creating competition of a kind with which Edward had never been acquainted.
And when the Twin Towers fell in Manhattan, in September of 2001,
the bridge between the Eastern and Western sides of the reservoir
was closed for the purposes of security, effectively blocking residents
of the Western side of Olive from conveniently reaching Boiceville.
“We lost $900,000 in that one year,” said Kevin Scanlan.
“It was too much of a shock for a small family business to take.”
As the debts mounted for the business, Edward’s son and three
daughters struggled to agree on the proper course of action. Kevin,
the eldest among them and Edward’s only son, held the largest
single percentage of Singer-Denman’s shares, and believed that
they should remain the owners of the business. His sisters, two of
whom now lived out of state, argued that the time had come to sell.
While the controversy raged between them, the company’s financial
condition became desperate, and before long, Singer-Denman was bankrupt.
Finally, Kevin had no choice but to concede. After selling numerous
properties and mortgaging his house twice in an effort to save the
business, he sold it – when it was all but worthless –
to a man who had worked for him in the hardware store, Carlos Gonzales,
who – according to Scanlan’s account – never paid
him the full amount for it.
Edward’s widow and three daughters watched in dismay as the
patriarch’s multi-million-dollar holdings fell, piece by piece,
from their hands. In the end, the entire plaza was sold by a bank
trustee to Mario Occhi, the owner of the Boiceville Supermarket next
door, whose relationship with Kevin Scanlan had turned increasingly
hostile over the preceding years. It was a bargain at $944,000.
Today, the hardware store and a section of the plaza stand vacant.
Mario Occhi was not available to comment on his plans for the property.
The Scanlan sisters have accepted the loss and moved on with their
own lives and careers, while Kevin resides in the home of his mother,
struggling to find work for which his college degree does not make
“My mother misses my father so much,” Kevin said. “Sometimes
she cries, ‘I wish to God your father never died.’”
He agreed, “None of this would have happened if he were still
“Every time I go home, I notice that another family business
is gone,” said the younger Cecelia, who has now resided in Los
Angeles for 20 years. “It seems like, when I was a kid, Boiceville
was richer,” she said. “Now the dynamic has changed completely,
and it’s just not lucrative anymore [to have a small business.]”
Nevertheless, Cecelia added, “I’m ready to come home.”