Up on the News
Costs Are Rising...
That, the industry’s
logger men are saying, is because in addition to demand being much,
much higher than usual, some recent state laws inaugurated in recent
months have started effecting supply.
“Business is up this year, definitely,” says Mark Anaust,
who draws most of his clientele from the Woodstock area (and advertises
in these pages). “I’m way ahead of where I was last year.”
He noted that many he knows working the firewood business have been
hard hit by a new state Department of Environmental Conservation ruling
from set into place June 4 that forbids the movement of logs beyond
a 50 mile radius, as a means of curbing the spread of various pests
devastating Northeast forests. But then adds that, drawing most of his
own supply from local forests, some of which he owns, his supply hasn’t
been effected all that much.
Former Hurley town supervisor Mike Shultis, whose made his own living
from firewood for 33 years now, says he HAS been hit by the new DEC
regs because he tends to buy bulk wood from suppliers, which has forced
him to set up new purchase arrangements.
“Last year I’d buy wholesale log lots at between $65 and
$70 a cord,” he said of his process, which sees him preparing
firewood for delivery through splitting and cutting, drying and measuring.
“This year, that cost’s gone up to $100 to $110 a cord.”
And there’s a shortage of it. There’s a shortage of wood
pellets, too, with most folks only able to buy directly from whomever
sold them their stove in the first place…”
He said there’s an opening for wood moved over 50 miles…
but it involves heating firewood to over 170 degrees in its center to
kill off any pests.
“I can’t afford that,” Shultis said. “This has
been an absolutely crazy year.”
He noted that he’s had to turn away over 100 potential customers
in recent months, and has limited his dealings with new clients to e-mail,
just so he can keep ahead of the 300 to 400 customer base he’s
maintaining. Shultis added that he’s also working harder to shift
more of his clientele from a September through Christmas buying season
to ordering in the Spring, when he’s offering cut-rate specials.
“Smart people buy then,” he said. “Procrastinators
Anaust similarly explained his business as being “a bit funny”
in the way “it involves an expense people put off to the last
minute. They tend to want a superior product next Wednesday at the latest.
They just don’t buy it until they need it.”
He says one of his considerations has always been regarding the number
of times one handles the stove wood he’s selling… the more
times, the higher the price. Dry it too much, the cost goes way up.
As a result, he says, he and others in the business for some time tend
to, “give people exactly what you say you’re going to give
Shultis noted that, with wood use expanding, the business has been pulling
in some neophytes and even crooks. He’s been getting calls, he
said, from folks getting half cords instead of full, or wood that’s
too green to burn.
Neither man has seen that much of an increase in the use of wood furnaces
to date, partly because of the local outcry and increasing number of
local laws piling up against them. But they do believe folks are using
their woodstoves more because of the rising costs of oil and natural
gas, as well as financial worries that are pushing folks towards stockpiling
things they can’t have taken away from them. Especially when it
comes to stock comforts, like food… and heat.
“Wood heat is still a bargain,” said Shultis, who noted
that a cord of wood ran about $40 when he started business in 1976.
“One cord equals about 180 gallons of home heating oil. That’s
quite a savings, even if you didn’t lock in at over $4 a gallon,
as a lot of seniuors I’ve been speaking with did.”
Anaust added that he knows things have been rough by the number of jobs
he’s been paid for with singles and five dollar bills.
“Price is a big consideration for these things,” he said.
“It’s taken me a lot of hard work to get caught up,”
Shultis added. “I’m only thirty to forty orders behind now
and expecting to be all but done by the holidays. I had to go to e-mails
only when it got so I’d come home to 30 phone calls needing returns.
I haven’t seen anything like this since the early 1980s, and even
that pales in comparison.”
He added that, given the way things are going, he suspects the fuel
of the future, at least in the local area, will end up being pellets…
both wood only, and combined with grasses and other biomass materials.
Anaust added that he always tries to keep something aside for deep winter,
when folks start running out of what they have. Although like Shultis,
he’d like it if people started taking their heating needs, especially
involving wood, more serious as a long term investment, and not something
that’s always rushed at the last minute.
“I guess in the end,” he said, “It all comes down
to the fact that wood is just something that the government can’t
take away or the power company shut off when you need it most.”
Good point, that.
“Is it arrogance or ignorance?” asked Jordan, a former interim
superintendent and principal for the Onteora School system, after DiSclafani
brought up the fact that he’d foregone putting an alternative sewer
system study bid out to bid.
His reasons, the current supervisor explained, were two-fold. First, he
said he had spoken to the key companies who could perform an outside-funded
study looking into an alternative reed bed wastewater treatment system
and found one significantly under the others in cost, while the others
expressed comfort with making their bids verbally. Secondly, given that
the town has only until January 31, 2009 to come up with a new plan for
a new sewer system to present to Phoenicia community voters who voted
down a more traditional system in public referendum two years ago, DiSClafani
said he felt time was more important to the process than procedure.
Shandaken has been wrestling with what to do about getting Phoenicia a
second chance at what was a $17 million offer from New York City to build
a sewer system similar to those built in every other major community throughout
the Catskills watershed, narrowly voted down in February, 2007. At the
time, opponents voiced concerns that there were no assurances they could
afford future plant upkeep, despite city promises, or meet all construction
costs. But there was also much grumbling that quite a few voted against
the project because of the way Cross and others had presented it.
DiSClafani has said that he doesn’t feel right bringing the same
proposal once voted down by Phoenicia residents back a second time, and
believes it may not be legal. Hence his work, over the past year, to not
only put together a new sewer proposal for the town, but to find one that
would come in lower enough from the city’s funding offer to assuage
local voters fears of cost overruns and future encumbrances.
At the town’s November 5 meeting, Cross dramatically submitted a
Freedom of Information Law request to Town Clerk Laurilyn Frasier saying
he intends to review all the documents pertaining to the hiring of Rennia
Engineering Design, a Dover Plains firm that DiSclafani picked to prepare
the preliminary design for the proposed reed-bed alternative technology
Jordan, meanwhile, backed up the former supervisor by pointing out three
other instances where DiSclafani admitted to fudging procedures…
including the hiring of a planning consultant to prepare official comments
on the controversial Belleayre Resort needed two weeks after he came into
office without an official meeting vote, and by approving a new welcome
sign for one of the town’s hamlets without full discussion.
Later, leading GOP supporter Al Higley, a former county legislator, wrote
a letter to local papers trying to make the matter a key political issue
(see Letters inside).
Rennia is expected to receive between $8,000 and $12,000 for the work,
and perhaps another $4,000 for additional services under consideration.
All of the funding comes from a grant supplied by the state Environmental
Facilities Corporation, approved by New York City to fund such surveys
up to $16,000. (See separate story for details of the completed report).
DiSclafani apologized for his actions, but later talked about the bigger
picture of getting the town in to a position where it could again consider
a multi-million funding package, especially given the current economic
He added that he would like to have another request for an extension considered
by New York City, to be able to get a new proposal before Phoenicia voters
by next summer, if possible.
“I talked to an attorney about all of this and others spoke to the
Association of Towns and all agreed it wasn’t as if there were any
gross malfeasance or anything like that,” DiSClafani said. “It’s
a feasibility study being performed by some leading figures in the field
who I met at a meeting with the City DEP, who are funding it all.”
He added that since three of his four board members had no problem with
what happened, he didn’t feel it was as serious as explained…
and agreed that there was an element of grandstanding to the opposition
on November 5.
“It’s not like I was favoring someone I knew,” DiSclafani
summarized. “It’s not even town money, for heaven’s
Chalk it all up to another local political season taking shape, Shandaken-style.
Meanwhile, the town adopted a $5 million spending plan for 2009 at the
same November 5 meeting following a spirited public hearing where several
people lobbied for funding of local programs and others worried that projected
revenues were perhaps wishful thinking given the economy.
After scraping about $25,000 off the bottom line by cutting raises for
all elected officials and dropping the planned raises for non union employees
to 3% instead of 4%, the board buckled to pressure to reinstate funds
for the Phoenicia flower program and for two local Veteran organizations.
$4000 will go for flowers and the American Legion and VFW will get $500
For Round 2
With a similar
facility “currently functioning well” at the nearby Hunter
Mountain village landfill, Vegetated Sands Beds have arrived in the region
just as low-energy, sustainable wastewater treatment systems have come
into vogue with state and federal funding agencies. Several other such
systems have been functioning for nearly a decade, according to Rennia’s
31 page report, while many more are currently in planning stages for municipalities
around the globe.
The system, designed to treat 150,000 gallons of sewage per day, consists
of four holding tanks, each 16 by 8 feet and 10 feet deep, where the majority
of solids would be removed from the effluent. From there the remaining
effluent would travel into 86,000 square feet of reed beds or “wetland
treatment units.” The beds provide three different types of filtration
from rough to “ultra Polishing,’ producing a final result
of an effluent that Rennia claims would be “near drinking water
Any remaining solids would require dewatering and regular disposal, but
Rennia says that remaining “sludge” can accumulate for almost
a decade before final disposal options are determined. The system can
also be designed to put off the need for removing the sludge for a long
long time, “possibly indefinitely,” according to the report.
Since no effluent is exposed to light or air, as it is all underground,
there would be no algae or other bacterial growth.
This type of system, Rennia states, will require minimum power to operate
as compared to conventional systems like the one designed by Delaware
Engineering that was narrowly voted down by Phoenicia voters two years
As for any concern that the system might freeze in the winter, Rennia
says fear not. “Temperatures inside the wetland units will not vary
considerably from season to season so long as wastewater flow rates remain
constant, which is expected for this project,” the report states.
As designed, the system would be located at the same location that Delaware
Engineering’s treatment plant was planned, down alongside Route
28 east of the Phoenicia diner. More land would be required for the system.
There are three options offered, with two of them requiring the acquisition
of between one and three acres of land from Kaatskill Development Holdings
LLC, a firm owned in part by local businessman Dean Gitter.
According to Rennia, it would cost $3 million less to build the Reed Bed
system than the Delaware Engineering plan, and $200,000 less per year
New York City has indicated that it would be amenable to letting the town
to utilize saved funds for hook-up and maintenance/operating costs.
However, with a 150,000 gallon per day capacity, the reed bed system is
significantly smaller than the 195,000 gallon per day treatment plant
originally proposed. The smaller system would limit the amount of growth
for the hamlet.
The reed bed study is available for viewing online at the Town of Shandaken
website. It needs to be okayed by the City, which is now reviewing the
study. If New York does so, Phoenicia residents will then get another
chance to weigh in.
“It will definitely go to a referendum again,” said Town Supervisor
Peter DiSclafani, who said he was hoping to get another extension on the
DEP’s funding offer to take such voting into the coming Spring or
Summer months, when local residents are less likely to turn down new projects
In similar wastewater news of late, the neighboring town of Olive was
allocated $2.2 million more for the building of its planned Boiceville
septic treatment system by the Catskill Watershed Corporation, similar
to what some have said they would like to be built in Phoenicia…
were the hamlet not as densely populated as it is.
Land preparations along Route 28 and adjoining roads are expected to start
throughout the Boiceville area, including the Onteora school campus, over
the winter months for actual construction to begin in the Spring or Summer,
and completion eyed in 2010.
Meanwhile, the CWC approved contracts on Nov. 4 for the study phase of
three other proposed Community Wastewater Management projects in the Delaware
County hamlets of Trout Creek and South Kortright, as well as the neighboring
community of Lexington in Greene County. All, like Phoenicia, are in line
for the projects because they are named in the 1997 New York City Watershed
Memorandum of Agreement on a list of 22 communities needing wastewater
solutions. Wastewater treatment plants, community septic systems and other
solutions have already been provided or are in the planning stages for
14 of the 22 hamlets… with only Phoenicia having turned down such
a project to date.
The CWC’s Community Wastewater Management Program (CWMP) will fund
the study and construction work in the next three hamlets.
night, November 18, Assistant Superintendent for Business Victoria McLaren
described State funding for the Onteora School district as being in a
“holding pattern.” She explained that the district would not
see 2008-2009 mid-year cuts at this time since the State Senate could
not agree to Governor Paterson’s proposal.
The district receives $9.4 million in State aid and could have seen a
$582,000 mid-year cut.
District Superintendent Leslie Ford said that the district should be prepared
for any reductions.
“Neither Victoria or I feel comfortable with just saying-well we’ll
see what happens.”
They hope to come up with a plan that will not effect affect instruction
in the classroom, “but everything else around it,” according
to Ford. As examples she mentioned field trips, conferences, late bus
runs, and tighter energy conservation.
School board trustee Maxanne Resnick asked the board to think about the
Middle School options based on conversations from the Strategic Plan Committee.
At the last meeting she said,, “There was some expression or concern
by the Middle School staff on what was the board’s intent with respect
to tackling the middle school configuration issue.” Trustee Donna
Flayhan suggested using Middle School curriculum as a foundation. Trustee
Richard Wolff said declining enrollment needed top priority. Michelle
Friedel said the board should wait for Strategic Planning committee suggestions.
At the board’s November 3 meeting at Woodstock Elementary, it was
noted that because of the bleakness of State aid’s future, the district
is gearing up for what will be a very tight budget for next year. Assistant
Superintendent for Business Victoria McLaren presented a history of State
Aid factors revealing how wealth and property value have a disproportionate
calculation when it comes to aid. She pointed out how Assemblyman Kevin
Cahill had successfully lobbied for more state aid on the district’s
behalf in recent years, but also added out how she wanted to educate new
school board members on what they are going to be facing in the current
financial crisis… stressing that additional State aid may no longer
be available with cuts imminent.
“In our district, income wealth is very close to the State average,”
said McLaren, “but the full property value is seemingly well above
the state average.”
She explained that the district pupil count is divided by the total relative
wealth value made up of a combination of income and property wealth. In
2005 the average relative income per pupil was $144,674 in the district,
while the State average was $143,000. But in 2005 property wealth per
pupil was valued at $1,221.218 compared to the State average of $453,100.
McLaren said because the district’s land value increased so significantly
over the years, State aid no longer reflects actual income. In 2002, total
pupil wealth in the district was $102,621, compared to the State average
of $118,500. Property wealth per pupil in 2002 was valued at $621,194
compared to the State average of $346,400.
To show how these numbers work, McLaren showed how, since 2002, transportation
department aid went from 40 percent down to 19 percent. BOCES also dropped
from 56 percent State aid in 2002 to 36 percent currently.
She pointed out that no further aid increases can be expected over the
foreseeable future, now.
Then again, the senator
— who will be shifting from a majority to a minority member of
the body he’s been part of for nearly a decade now – admitted
that there hasn’t been an economic crisis quite like that being
faced by New Yorkers in memory. Maybe ever.
Although by the looks of things in the gilded Senate chambers Tuesday,
and later in the more tattered and plebian Assembly quarters across
the capital, no one seemed to be in crisis mode.
Bonacic gladhanded Democrats from the city as well as fellow Upstate
Republicans after the body’s gaveling in and immediate move to
recess during the lunch hour, as snow started to fall in fast flurries
What was going on?
Gov. David Paterson had proposed $1.5 billion in new spending cuts for
the remainder of the current fiscal year to help hold off a nearly $20
billion and fast-rising deficit being caused by hits being taken by
the state’s leading revenue source: Wall Street. Yet the 90-minute
meeting closed-door meeting between he and legislative leaders Shelly
Silver of the Assembly and Dean Skelos of the Senate was reported to
have been filled with accusations, name calling, several new alternatives
not heard before… and no cuts, or agreement.
According to Bonacic, all that was accomplished was an agreement that
everyone would go back to the drawing boards and return December 16,
when Paterson would also produce a 2009 spending plan to center further
Which, he added, meant that any further cuts were ostensibly off the
table for the remainder of this fiscal year.
At least until the GOP loses control of the Senate for the first time
in decades on New Year’s Day.
The governor’s proposed cuts, released in draft form over the
past week, had drawn crowds of protesters to the back lawn behind the
capital Tuesday because of threats against education, health and social
services spending. Signs and placards identified various unions, interest
groups, as well as many asking for “Better Budget Choices,”
as well as hand-lettered calls to, “Tax The Rich.”
Prior to Tuesday’s sessions, Senate Republicans, angry over Paterson’s
part in their electoral defeats two weeks ago, had been expected to
simply refuse to take up the governor’s bills. And Assembly Democrats,
meanwhile, were rumored to be favoring a tax hike on those earning more
than $1 million as a way to help balance the budget, as well as simply
waiting until they have power of the entire Capital in less than six
The cuts for next year’s budget floated by Paterson to date have
included major hits to hospitals and insurance companies, rises in state
college tuitions, and added burdens for richer districts (see Onteora
story). Also being hit, and responded to in great flurries of press
releases over the past week, have been everything from libraries to
the state arts council, as well as the possibility for further reductions
at Belleayre Ski Center, including an indefinite suspension of a private/public
partnership for a resort approved in principle by Paterson’s predecessor,
Eliot Spitzer, who left office in disgrace last March (see Briefs inside).
In separate news this past week, a local press release battle erupted
when resort opponents at the Catskill Heritage Alliance addressed the
governor, suggesting formal cutting of the Spitzer proposal. Resort
developers, Crossroads Ventures, countered by noting the need for their
project’s economic development promise while longstanding Belleayre
Ski Center supporter sided fully with the developers.
Bonacic, speaking from the Capital Tuesday afternoon following the Special
Session’s adjournment, said that as far as he knew, no decision,
up or down, would be made regarding the Belleayre Resort project and
state funding for it pending resolution of litigation brought against
the state by the Sierra Club challenging the Spitzer agreement.
“This is a typical legal strategy for fringe environmental groups
trying to deplete deep pockets; a fly in the ointment,” the senator
said, noting the dangers of such national and international groups.
“We’re still pushing forward for approval, feeling it is
instrumental to economic development in the Catskills.”
Bonacic added that funding for a proposed Catskill Interpretive Center,
as far as he cared, was “on ice,” and that he was waiting
to see what the governor was planning for the ski center, apart from
what he termed “light cuts so far” come December 16.
He said that he wished he could have saved more of the ski center’s
budget this year but feels it fared better than many other state-owned
entities. He said that the major shift will be from a majority of the
slopes’ snow being man-made to a greater reliance on Mother Nature.
As for the coming year under Democratic control, the senator spoke about
how he felt it boded bad for Upstate, because of the downstate city-based
power of the Democratic caucus. He also derided the governor for what
he termed, in a long diatribe, as his “weakness” in not
bringing a bill forth to be voted down in his chamber.
“It looks like he caved in,” Bonacic said of Paterson. “We
were prepared to vote today. It costs money to bring us all to Albany
for something like this.”
“It’s going to be a painful year,” he added. “I’m
hoping the challenges will make us all more bipartisan.”