For Public Discussion
The issues on the table
at the session, set for Wednesday, October 10 - and therefore after
press time - are substantial. They include the proposed 2008 town budget,
a possible contract to build a cell tower on town property, a potential
lease of property for an ambulance department building, and the possible
purchase of 30 acres of land in the hamlet of Shandaken.
All of these issues have been discussed publicly at previous sessions,
and members of the audience have had strong opinions about all of them.
Now it appears the board intends to review the crucial information for
all these issues at this one workshop session and then make official
decisions on all at a regular town board meeting scheduled for just
two hours later that very same day.
This plan, which prompted a scathing editorial in the October 8th edition
of the Daily Freeman, made the October Town meeting, the official one
that happened on the first of the month, uneventful. Attendees heard
a presentation from Suzaane Kinder about Friends of Snuffy, the non-profit
animal advocate group, about the organizations future plans.
Kinder wants the Town Board to appoint an official liaison to communicate
with her group because there have been communication problems over the
past year that have led to problems.
Kinder spoke of an arrangement with the town to construct a dog/run
park that fell apart, but only after Friends of Snuffy purchased expensive
fencing for the facility.
“We ordered fencing to enclose the area we thought was agreed
upon,” she said. “ In the interim the town board could not
come to a full agreement about if and where this dog run should be.
We were stuck with the bill for fencing with no place to go.”
Ultimately the park wound up all the way down in the town of Accord.
Kinder also spoke of the organizations shelter behind the town hall.
Noting it’s the groups goal to make the shelter empty by placing
all tenant in homes, Kinder said the town has done little to help even
though Friends of Snuffy offered to underwrite advertising to help place
the sheltered dogs in homes.
“No positive response has been forthcoming,” she said.
In other news there was talk during the public comment portion at the
end of the meeting about the parks in town and what can be done to improve
them. Councilman Robert Stanley explained the problems that result from
even the slightest degree of vandalism, noting that repair costs to
equipment are costly.
The board also set a 9pm curfew for Halloween night.
and his wife own & operate The Catskill Rose, a restaurant and B&B
in Mt. Tremper now in its 21st year. Elected to the Town Board in 2005,
he has been its only Democrat and is generally seen as a conciliatory
and consensus-seeking presence on the board.
“Running a decent town government starts with showing respect
for each other,” says DiSclafani. “This is the public’s
business we’re talking about, and it requires real dialogue, not
just going through the motions of having the public participate once
a month. You can’t just come into meetings with your mind made
up and expect people to accept your decisions as wise ones. There’s
been a lot of that going on these past couple years, and when that’s
what happens people have a right to be skeptical. It’s their town,
their families, and their tax dollars involved.”
“I love this town,” says DiSclafani. “It’s like
nowhere else. Just driving from one end to the other is truly breathtaking.
People are so open and generous and they’re willing to step up
and volunteer and do almost anything to help make things better. And
they deserve a government that listens, that follows through on what
it starts, and that doesn’t give them reason to be apprehensive
about how we’re planning for our future or spending our money
or anything else. Look at the years wasted on the Masterpage deal that
fell through, or our poor presentation of Phoenicia’s sewer project,
that made many people feel that their questions weren’t adequately
addressed. We have to learn from these kinds of mistakes, if we’re
going to rebuild the trust that’s been lost.”
“I like Jane,” says DiSclafani, “and I think she’s
very capable. But if you’re running on your record then your record
should be open to discussion without crying foul. And I’m troubled
by things like SHARP selling the Friendship Manor building to Jane’s
daughter. It doesn’t seem right to me that a property purchased
and renovated with federal funds should end up being sold to one of
her family members. I have a problem with her role in the private acquisition
of the Pine Hill Water Company, after its owner’s lawyer first
came to her, offering it to the town for free. I think she needs to
answer for things like this, and that it’s reasonable for people
to expect those answers. Because there may be legitimate questions as
to whether these things were really done in the town’s best interests.
If it turns out they weren’t and we condone it, then we’re
all partly responsible.“
Jane Todd, now completing her second 4-year board term,
has lived here 30 years and retired in 2006 after 13 years as Executive
Director of the SHARP Committee, the town’s low-income housing
agency. She has 4 children and 8 grandchildren, and her husband Ward
is a former County Legislator and Chairman of that body as well as the
town’s Republican party.
Todd said that although “every campaign raises questions,”
she’s “a great believer in fairness and generosity of spirit
towards everyone….I intend to make those qualities - the ones
I most associate with Shandaken- evident in town government and the
earmarks of my administration. I will put great emphasis on things like
effective communication, detailed information in advance on budgets,
resolutions, and the opportunity for everyone to speak their mind…and
on putting common sense ahead of extremist ideology and giving everyone
the benefit of the doubt.”
Todd stresses her years of administrative experience and “a history
of community service that I don’t think can be matched.”
She cites as key among her accomplishments “securing over $7 million
in State and Federal funding for the town, for infrastructure, community
development, housing, community beautification, and fire districts.”
“What I’ve seen a lot of,” says Todd. “is fence
sitting. That’s not in my vocabulary. The people elected me 4
and 8 years ago, to obey the law and work with all the people. I believe
they chose me because of leadership ability, and leadership requires
that we make decisions after weighing all sides of the issue. We all
understand every decision is not acceptable to everyone, and I respect
and understand that.”
“If history is any judge,” says Todd, “there will
be more mudslinging as this campaign progresses. But I ask the people
of Shandaken to reject mean-spirited heresay, rumor, innuendo, and general
nastiness, in favor of fairness and finding out the real facts.”
Frank Nazarro, a native of Shandaken, has run a small
farmstead near the junction of Routes 28 and 42, and for the past several
years served as President of the Heart of the Catskills Chamber of Commerce.
Best known in the past for his comedic contributions to town meetings,
Nazarro says he’s “been studying town politics since 1982,”
and that he’s “increasingly more dismayed at the way things
“I don’t see many legitimate improvements,” says Nazarro.
“Some band aids, flowers, it’s a distraction. We haven’t
built a good foundation for success. I see the town as floundering,
treading water at best. We’re not grounded in 21st century amenities
like communications and accessibility for our retail businesses…we
have to show people we’re an attractive place to come and spend
“Our infrastructure gets an extremely low grade in my book,”
says Nazarro. “Visitors who come here for our natural beauty are
off-put, nonplussed by our lack of amenities…Prosperity is built
on infrastructure, and we need to show the public that we care and are
open for business.” Another issue, “huge on my list,”
says Nazarro, is disaster planning, of which he says he’s “into
the nuts and bolts. We wouldn’t survive a week without major intervention.
Our ability to help ourselves is so limited, utter chaos would ensue.
We have to survive the next few years.”
Nazarro says “every tax dollar has to be treated with respect,”
and that he doesn’t believe “taxes are being assessed equitably
and fairly.” He also says he wants to see zoning and building
codes strictly enforced “like the 18,000 square foot building
that’s 40,000 square feet.”
“If a non-partisan person such as myself were elected,”
says Nazarro, “I would be able to mediate the town board to focus
on the issues, pull the extreme left and right wing views into the fold,
to in essence force the town board to agree on issues that effect our
daily lives in a timely and businesslike fashion…In my position
as Chamber of Commerce President and having been a local businessperson,
I haven’t allowed myself to take sides. I don’t have favorites,
everybody’s my friend. Every religious denomination, proclivity,
or political bent is welcome in my town. I was raised to love humanity
and each and every one of us is equally important.”
The League of Women Voters sponsored candidates forum is set for Sunday
October 21 at 1:00PM at Town Hall. Election day is November 6.
To Middle School
During a discussion on facilities,
ideas from board members were written on a large sheet of paper and
taped to the wall. "Repair everything-reconsider capital projects,"
was Rosenfeld's point for discussion. But school board president Mary
Jane Bernholz stuck by her goal, which was also listed - "Reach
a firm decision for reconfiguration by June 2008 for a bond vote in
The school board voted 4-3 in June 2007 to create a Grade 5-through-8
middle school, though it has not said if it will consider closing an
additional elementary school, which is part of the plan outlined by
KSQ, the architectural firm helping the district determine its needs.
Known as "Plan C," the only one of the alternatives that would
create the separate Middle School, it also includes renovations to district
buildings that would cost $32 to $36 million, and allocates an additional
$31 to $38 million for the master reconfiguration plan to a total of
$63 to $74 million. The plan as outlined by the architects would create
a grade 5-through-8 middle school and close one elementary school. Currently
the district operates elementary schools in Woodstock, Phoenicia and
on the campus of the current Middle/High School in Boiceville.
But Rosenfeld asked that the board move at a slower pace and think of
repairing the facilities instead of reconfiguring the whole district.
Trustees Cindy O'Connor, Rita Vanacore and Bernholz disagreed, stating
that the buildings need immediate attention. Vanacore said the buildings
were too old to continue putting "band-aids," on them. The
price tag on renovations only in the district is expected to come near
$40 million dollars.
"I am not talking about making a suburban palace," said Rosenfeld
who suggested they lean toward renovations on the infrastructure and
rethink the master plan.
As an example he suggested that the board first, "Select a technology
program..." But Vanacore yelled over his suggestion. "We need
the wiring first Herb...you can't plug a television in the wall if you
don't have proper wiring. We don't have the wiring and in order to do
that, they are telling us that we have to rip hallways apart, rip ceilings
down, we have to do a lot of major stuff. This is not repair, this is
major, in order to bring our school up to snuff."
Bernholz asked that they stay on subject and review topic "number
seven," to ask voters to approve a borrowing based on the Grade
5-through-8 middle school configuration to voters in 2008-2009.
Rosenfeld said the community needs to be involved in the bond decision
and Superintendent Leslie Ford said that it would be part of the process.
"We haven't done that yet," said Rosenfeld.
"For two years we have!" disagreed O'Connor.
Rosenfeld countered. "But then (during community discussions in
2006), it wasn't clear what the reconfiguration will be."
Following the school board meeting, in a separate discussion, Ford outlined
the process on the bond proposal. First was the decision to create a
Grade 5-through-8 educational plan, followed by setting goals, which
both have been now completed. Up next, as decided in the goals, will
be strategic planning with public input, and renovations on a kindergarten-through-twelve
plan. But she explained that the strategic planning was not about debating
the Grade 5-through-8 proposal. "It is not a vehicle to change
the board's decision," said Ford. "The board decision stands."
Instead, she called the strategic process a "planning tool,"
in the form of a community held event with a facilitator on how to implement
the middle school proposal. The outcome of this process will result
in KSQ architects being commissioned to create a plan.
The board also discussed a three-to-five year budget goal that included
lowering the cost per student. Bernholz said she would like to bring
the cost in line with other school districts in the area. Onteora has
the highest cost per student in the county, with other school districts
averaging $15,000 to $19,000. Onteora averages $20,000 per student.
But business administrator Victoria McLaren said she learned at a State
Aid workshop that the process of coming up with a per pupil cost can
sometimes can be misleading. "They take everything into account,
everything we spend money on. They also include in that not just our
budget but all those grants we get for special programs," said
McLaren, "which to me is almost false advertisement, because they
are saying to our taxpayers, this is how much your district is spending,
but that doesn't represent to me what the taxpayers are spending."
Also mixed into the cost per pupil are bonds, capital projects and tax
The board also plans to review enrollment, demographics and trustee
Maxanne Resnick asked for a "qualitative analysis," on students
who are leaving the district for alternative education. In May of 2007
the number of home school/private school students was at 211 with numbers
increasing every year. The board would like to seek out why this trend
Ford said the board would vote on a completed set of goals by the next
school board meeting on October 9.
It was reported on September 11, that all school buses arrived at their
school destinations on time, but complaints were heard from parents
that this was not true. Four children on variance from Woodstock elementary
school to Phoenicia apparently are still arriving approximately 20 minutes
to one half hour late. In a phone conversation, transportation director
Dave Moraca said all buses are running on schedule, but when asked specifically
about the shuttle bus and the four children, he referred the question
to Superintendent Leslie Ford.
"We are working on an alternative," said Ford who conceded
it was still a problem, but explained that it was always an issue in
the past with a different group of students, primarily special education.
She said that the district apparently had fixed the problem with the
special education students who arrived late, but "every time you
apply a solution, you have a different problem." She said that
currently the four students take their district bus to Woodstock Elementary,
arriving close to 9 a.m., then transfer to a shuttle that will take
them to Phoenicia elementary school. The distance between the two schools
makes it impossible to get there on time. As a solution she said, "Some
of the parents are driving to a stop to take directly to the school."
She appreciates that the parents are working with them to find a solution.
Also, Ford noted that the laws for variance students have changed and
the district is now required to provide transportation. In the past,
the school was not responsible and although the district worked with
parents, ultimately it was the parents' responsibility to get their
kids to the variance schools. Ford said the district had to rethink
all the routes based on this law. But, she stressed, this does not mean
variance students will be denied the school they are attending.
2000 - Running
For Town Board
Vincent Bernstein, a native
of Shandaken, was trained as a forester and served as a Marine and for
21 years as our local Conservation Officer. A father of three and grandfather,
he and his wife Sue operate the Simpler Times Cabins in Phoenicia. He
has long been active in Boy Scouts, American Legion and local fish and
This is Bernstein’s first run for elective office and he’s
not running he says, against anybody but for the town, and is pleased
with the field of candidates. His interest in town government initially
stemmed from his concerns about Phoenicia’s proposed wastewater
system. In the two years he’s been attending town meetings, he’s
been troubled by the lack of transparency in the way the town conducts
its business, saying that “we need more open government that doesn’t
hold back facts from people, and a greater exchange of information.”
He’s often had the feeling he says, “that the town board
doesn’t work for the people” but that the attitude he’s
often seen is that “we work for them.”
Bernstein proposes to set up weekly Listening & Discussion sessions
in each of our hamlets, so that board members can have a more direct
sense of what people throughout the town really want. “I just
want to be honest and as straight with people as I can be, so that I
can do the best job I can.”
Pete DiModica has lived here 30 years and owned his antiques and furniture
making business in Pine Hill for 25. He served as Town Supervisor from
2002 through 2003. “As Supervisor I kept tax increases lower than
anyone in recent years,” said DiModica, and I think that lower
taxes and fairness in taxation are central issues for us, as well as
the fair application of town laws.”
DiModica says the Cross administration “has cut people out of
the equation of government” and has been highly critical of the
way decisions are made, citing as examples the Poncic water harvesting
approval and the town board’s handling of the Phoenicia wastewater
“The town board works for the people of Shandaken and not for
some of its special interests. Its job is to try and take care of everybody,
not the board’s family and friends. I want to see town government
listen to the people and not shut us out of the process. In recent years
the board has pretty much run closed meetings, cut off most opportunities
for public dialogue, and done its work behind closed doors. Often, they
haven’t even made sure that what they’re voting on is available
to the whole town board. In my experience,” said DiModica, “all
our problems have a fair solution if you look at both sides of the issue
and listen to the people. I’d like to be part of a new town board
that can do that.”
Jack Jordan has lived in Pine Hill for 5 years, though he’s been
a ski instructor at Belleayre for 17. His wife Cathy is a lifelong resident,
and he’s currently working as the Interim Principal at Onteora,
after a long career in education including serving last year as our
Interim Superintendant of Schools.
“My experience as a school administrator,” says Jordan,
“formulating and administering multi-million dollar budgets, organizing
successful referendums and grant funding efforts, my ability to work
with people and groups, and my sincere desire to do what’s best
for the Town of Shandaken, these will all be a plus in helping formulate
the future for our town. “
Jordan also stresses that his experience facilitating and running successful
public meetings will also be important. “People need to be given
as much information as possible prior to meetings, and we may need to
open new lines of communication’” he says. “Decisions
can’t be made behind closed doors. If the Supervisor has information,
that needs to shared in advance, so that everyone, including the public,
can come to meetings prepared.”
Tim Malloy, a Shandaken native and chef, lives in Mt. Tremper with his
wife Tracy, a nurse,and their daughter. “We’ve got a great
town here,” says Malloy. “Since the mid-70’s it’s
really grown nicely. Back then you could have pitched a tent on Main
Street, and it wouldn’t have been in anyone’s way. But as
things change we’ve got to start using common sense and doing
the right things for ourselves. And because there’s so much on
Shandaken’s plate right now, I’d like to be there to help
“We have a lot to protect here,” says Malloy. “I don’t
think any of us should have to give up or sell out our way of life for
an Appleby’s and a steady stream of traffic on Route 28, like
somehow either one is going to actually improve our lives. But what
we do need to do is manage the changes that are coming. Obviously there
are big issues coming up, like can we coexist with this new town that
looks like it’s going to get built on the mountain up there. Will
Shandaken be fairly dealt with when it comes to taxes, or is it going
to be a financial disaster for us? What can we do to keep our school
open, if closing it is maybe in the cards? And how can our town government
find the chemistry as a group, to try and work through some of these
things better than we have. I think maybe a little respect for the public
and what it wants would be a good start.”
Lynn O’Brophy has lived here since 1982, and owned and operated
the Woodland Valley Inn from 1985 until 2004. She has two grown children
and 3 grandchildren and supervises the local Head Start program.
“I think we should start looking ahead,” says O’Brophy.
“Everybody likes living here and everybody wishes their kids could
live here and didn’t have to move somewhere else for a better
job. We all live here and care about the town, and we have to stop beating
dead horses. Politics at the town level are inane, just crazy.”
She cites as an example her displeasure with the lack of progress on
“I’m not going to say anybody did a bad job, said O’Brophy.
“But it’s time to replace vanity with sanity. It’s
a safety issue, and people have dragged their feet. Negotiations seemed
destined to fail…We need better accountability than we’ve
had.” Her political party,The Action Party, has a slogan: Actions,
Answers, and Accountability. With respect to the outgoing administration,
“there are a lot of unfulfilled promises,” said O’Brophy.
She also took issue with the way town board meetings have been run,
saying “they’re usually mayhem, not civil,” and that’s
what’s caused attendance to fall off.
O’Brophy says she’s “very serious about the campaign,”
and that “when - not if” elected, she “will be informed
and accessable.” She said she “wants to see a Youth Center,
a Community Center, and a bigger and better library.”
Jerry Pearlman has lived here since 1970, raised two boys with his wife
Adelle, and worked for the town ambulance for 22 years, 10 as its chief.
“I think this current town board has been a total failure, and
that nothing constructive has been accomplished,” says Pearlman.
“There is less confidence in government now, after this administration,
than ever. I think that events at the last town board meeting underscore
the lack of respect that this town board has for the people of Shandaken.
Its approach to the cell tower approval was a back door deal, to which
it seemed two of the board members, Stanley & DiSclafani, weren’t
“My feeling,” says Pearlman, “is that the people aren’t
really represented by the board. The special interests - Belleayre,
Dean Gitter - they have too much influence. The government serves them
and not the rest of us. Now that those two things are one thing, it’s
more important than ever that people protect their own interests, and
that we elect people who’ll do that. We all need to be more involved,
and our government needs to be more in touch with the needs of the people.”
Election Day is November 6.
Shows Big Gaps
The draft, called a tentative
budget, was to be the subject of discussion at a special town board
workshop Wednesday October 10th, at 1pm.
Missing from the draft at this point are any revenues. There are also
no figures at all for the town’s haighway department, which historically
represents about half of the town’s annual expenditures.
The draft, prepared by budget officer/supervisor Robert Cross Jr., also
omits any figures for the towns ambulance department, which this year
operates with $218,000.
The five page document does show some drastic changes among some departments,
notably a decrease in the town supervisors salary from $33,729 to $30,000.
Cross, who is not seeking reelection, also proposes dropping the salary
of the supervisor’s bookkeeper from $27,500 to $20,930.
Going up, however, would be the cost of hiring lawyers for town business
from $30,000 to $40,000. Also planned to increase is the cost of the
towns dog control. Last month the town board heard complaints that the
department was underfunded. In 2008 Cross would like to see $15856 alocated.
This year the department is working with $10,450.
An increase of about $11,706 is planned for the towns police department,
which runs this year witth $266,387.
The Ambulance department budget, which two weeks ago included a $30,000
increase over it’s $218,000 budget according to boards members,
is now entirely blank. It is assumed that the departments financing
will be discussed at Wednesday’s session.
Town recreation will take next year, under the proposed plan, from$44,500
Going up would also be the cost of running the towns museum. This year
$6300 was allocated for personal services. Cross suggests $9984 for
those services next year.
Under state law, a Preliminary budget needs to be set in the coming
weeks, before the election, for adoption in the week after November
Meanwhile, the Republican minority leader of the Ulster County Legislature
speculates the 2008 county budget will call for a 7 percent increase
in the property tax levy, about the same as in 2007. But County Administrator
Michael Hein, the official closest to budget preparation, says it's
too early to make predictions.
Hein's proposed budget will be released to the public at 2 p.m. Oct.
23 in the legislative chambers at the County Office Building on Fair
Street in Kingston.