Up on the News
Which was all accepted thought, Marian Umhey says, back when she took
over the Townsman, which published its final issue last week, over
50 years ago.
The newspaper had been founded by Charles Ryder of Cobleskill, NY,
who at the time owned small weekly newspapers in his hometown and
other small communities throughout the northern Catskills and central
New York. At first, each hamlet had its own paper. Then it was towns
like Stamford and Cooperstown… and Woodstock. Ryder started
in 1919 and sold out to Dick Sanford of the Catskill Mountain News
in 1979. But by then he was already long gone from his Ulster County
publication, which Umhey said his family felt was too far afield to
keep track of.
Umhey, who later served as the Town of Shandaken’s first woman
board member, its first (and to date only) female supervisor, and
a longtime county legislator, had moved to the area to marry Mt. Tremper
resident Howard Umhey with ink already on her fingers and deadlines
in her blood. She loves to tell of working with neighborhood publications
as a girl in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn during World War II. Of working with
the paper at school when she was going to Fordham University, one
of its first women students. And then applying for and getting a job
writing for the old Brooklyn Eagle, back when it was one of the nation’s
top publications… and the borough still had its own major league
When she came upstate she was offered a job with the Daily Freeman,
then Kingston’s only paper after its competitor, the Leader,
had folded. But the commute was too long and she had started having
babies, eventually building a family of five children. She started
working with Ryder’s new paper as a writer and editor and next
thing she knew, he was asking if she’d buy the paper then known
as the Woodstock Townsman from him… at a good price.
She turned to her ad saleswoman, longstanding Woodstock-based friend
Kiki Godwin, for help in the venture. And together the two women,
Umhey a Republican and Godwin (now Randolph) a staunch Democrat, started
getting it out week in and week out.
They opened an office over a deli on the Woodstock Village Green and
kept printing at Ryder’s Stamford paper office until he sold
the business in the late 1970s, when Sanford shifted the presses to
Margaretville. Copy would be typed and driven up for years. Then an
arrangement was worked out to send a package up on the Trailways bus
from Saugerties to Stamford three times a week. Eventually, Umhey
would return to driving 28 to Margaretville.
She and Kiki had no competition for the longest time and became the
official newspapers of their hometowns, Woodstock and Shandaken. Eventually,
they shifted their moniker, and coverage area, to The Ulster County
Townsman. They recall the passions of one of their first big issues,
pushing for the inclusion of Woodstock and West Hurley into the Onteora
School District, which was then dominated by Olive… who eventually
pushed to have a centralized school campus placed in their town.
Umhey tells stories about being threatened for her paper’s positions.
She laughs recalling a time when she thought she had been car-bombed.
Later, she was instrumental in urging Woodstock to keep out a giant
hippie festival being proposed for the town, and eventually moved
to Sullivan County. Although she notes how folks came to town anyway,
“and the next thing you know we were looking down from our windows
at all these head shops. It wasn’t good.)
The Townsman thrived on Umhey’s reporting and Godwin’s
ability to talk friends into taking out advertising. But the two shifted
roles whenever necessary and hired friends whenever possible to help
out. After veteran Freeman sports editor Charlie Tiano retired, he
took to writing a column, then serving as a regular reporter. As did
Freeman and Woodstock Times reporters Sharon and Ken Cherven. Sylvia
Day and Elsie Schoonmaker wrote regular columns, those old-style gatherings
of gossip like “news” about who was visiting whom when
Umhey wrote her “Marian’s Memos,” a sort of hyper-local
column of news bits and observations. And she never missed a deadline
in her half century writing it.
Umhey recalls the typos, as all newspaper sorts do. Substituting an
I for an O in tots. Or reviewing a production of Tennessee Williams’
Desire Under the Arms. And her subscribers, including the actor Lee
Marvin, who’d have copies sent to him at homes in Arizona and
Pacific Palisades, as well as to his studio.
She finally sold the paper in the early 1990s when her husband and
she started ailing and there was some talk of moving away. Kiki had
moved on by then. Tiano had passed away. It was time to hand over
Enter Blake Killin, an Ohio University School of Journalism grad with
a deep love for the area, having spent years visiting a family getaway
in Woodland Valley for as long as he could remember. He’d been
living and working in Connecticut, and the idea of having the newspaper
in the town he’d always dreamed of making his home was irresistible.
He took on the various roles involved with relish. Set up a new office
next to Family on Rock City Road in Woodstock. Kept on the writers
who’d been there and upgraded the meetings coverage, the photography.
Moved his printing to the Mountain Eagle, then in Tannersville, and
eventually to Johnson Newspaper’s Register-Star facility in
Hudson. To which he’d drive copy for typesetting, then go to
do computer layout, for his full 908 week run with what would then
become The County Townsman and finally The Townsman.
Killin held on to his paper’s official status for as long as
possible until his increasingly lengthy editorials, and coverage,
started to jibe with the changing demographics of an increasingly
Democratic region. Advertising shrank away, as it’s done for
all newspapers, while print and other costs escalated.
And yet he won regular awards for his coverage of devastating floods
and watershed politics, state trooper stand-offs and an endless stream
of meetings where he was always a presence. Sure, his slant on things
was his own. And yet it was well earned after years of coverage, and
billions of words of copy written and edited.
Eventually, earlier this decade, he sold out to Johnson Newspapers,
based in Watertown, who saw the opportunity to increase their theoretical
coverage area, used to attract advertising, into Ulster County. But
Killin stayed on as editor and writer and all that changed were the
ads, with more coming in from Greene and Columbia counties.
“We have covered three Woodstock Festivals, almost two decades
of graduations of Onteora’s seniors as well as athletic and
academic accomplishments,” he wrote in his final editorial published
May 28. “We have watched Ulster County’s government change…”
His parent company, which has also started cutting back on the frequency
of its “daily” newspaper’s schedule among other
cost-cutting means, decided it couldn’t keep the Townsman running.
Just as the Freeman’s parent company felt about its weekly newspapers
in Dutchess and Columbia counties. Or Ulster Publishing felt about
its Highland newspaper, and Dutchess County publications.
“Many of our long-time readers have passed away over the years
and most of their offspring have been forced to move away in search
of employment,” Killin wrote, while also noting his continuing
belief in small-town community newspapering. “We bid our loyal
readers a fond farewell.”
In a separate interview, by phone, Killin was quiet. He’d finally
gotten a vacation after so many years without one, he said. There
were some future plans in the work that could keep at work in his
livelihood of choice.
“It was a good run,” he said.
“He kept it alive,” Umhey said. “But it’s
sad to see this gone. I wonder what some of the old folks around here,
the Republicans, will do for a regular voice now.”
Who would have thought a tiny publication such as the Townsman, which
printed its last issue a week ago, would have lasted as long as it
did… over a half century. Basically under the steam of one or
two strong individuals throughout its 53 years. Then again, who really
can ever conceive of life without such elements being part of our
civic lives. Where all our news is gotten only from large corporations
broadcasting out of other places, with concerns not necessarily our
The Townsman, and all Marian and Kiki and Charlie and Sharon and finally
Blake put into it, were a central part of our lives. Its passing is
Editor’s Note: Umhey’s Marian’s Memos will resume
publication within the Phoenicia Times and Olive Press starting with
our next issue.
was a well received plan by a group of Phoenicia parents who asked
for some town support to install a large piece of Playground equipment
in the Phoenicia Park behind the Post office. The $12,000 “Star
Climber,” according to town recreation chair Heather Roberts,
would be a great addition to what many consider an under equipped
This was where the evening’s tone began to resemble those of
late, with less smiles in the room and darker comments about the costs
of things. At first councilman Rob Stanley, who announced to fellow
Republicans that he would be running for supervisor in November, motioned
to just pay for the Star Climber outright, using money from the Town’s
Good Neighbor Fund, an account with over $500,000 in it supplied by
the City of New York for local capitol projects.
Such good will failed to get support, however, after it was noted
that another group of residents had asked the town for Good Neighbor
money earlier this year to build a skate board park and received a
chilly reception. They were told that a petition was needed to show
that there was sufficient town support for such a plan before the
town board would even consider tapping the fund.
Many wondered what the actual protocol was to apply for Good Neighbor
funds since there was such a difference between the response to the
skateboard plan and the star climber plan. Eventually it was agreed
that the Board would wait a month to mull over the star climber plan
after Mike Ricciardella warned that spending $12,000 for the Phoenicia
park may open the floodgates for requests to put money into all the
other parks in town.
“Pretty soon it will be $48,000,” Ricciardella said.
Next the Ambulance Squad, heroes only an hour before, got some scrutiny.
Supervisor Peter DiSclafani said that even after $9000 in upgrades
have been made to the squad’s headquarters on Ava Maria Drive
in Phoeniciathis past year, they now want to have an addition built
that would not only provide heated, indoor parking for their new fly
car, but would also have an upstairs added on the entire building.
DiSclafani said the upstairs spaces would be used as “Classrooms.”
With no real proposal in hand yet it was difficult to figure out how
much it would cost, but Disclafani said they should prepare a scaled
back version of the project as well.
Councilman Vincent Bernstein put the brakes on the plan, saying that
everyone was aware when the budget was being prepared last fall that
this year was going to be a tough one.
“This doesn’t sound like belt tightening to me…
this is 2009,” he said.
A plan will be prepared and the actual cost will be determined before
the board considers the matter further.
With the feel good vibe of the start of the session now long gone,
things became surly when DiSclafani said that he found a way to save
over $30,000 on the town’s insurance premiums.
With the town now paying $105,000 a year, he said he has been given
a quote for an even better insurance package for around $70,000. Instead
of being congratulated for finding such a savings, DiScalfani was
lambasted by frequent DiSclafani critic Joan Lawrence Bauer, who said
that expenses like that should be put out to bid instead of just having
the supervisor make a couple of calls about it.
DiScalfani, who told Lawrence Bauer to not yell at him, agreed to
hold off on taking the new quote. Instead the board will advertise
for bids and open them next month.
The supervisor continued to struggle later in the evening when he
motioned to pass the controversial Produce Stand law.
The law was set to be passed last month as well but was stalled because
some board members said they never got a copy of the final draft.
This month they voted on it, with Stanley and Bernstein (who helped
draft it) voting against but the majority of DiSclafani and Council
members Bartlett and Malloy voting in favor.
But that vote was rescinded after Pine Hill resident Al Frisenda,
a former town board member, noted that the board had not done the
proper procedures under the State Environmental Quality review Act.
When it was agreed that Frisenda was correct, DiSclafani said he would
talk it over with the town attorney and report back next month.
“You can’t just wing it every meeting. You have to follow
the rules,” Frisenda said.
Afterwards, some talk amongst some focused on the town’s need
for a good management assistant. Other talk just kept complaining,
A New Budget
figures show that the consumer price index is averaged at 1.175 percent,
allowing for a contingent budget increase of 1.41 percent. She said
this is less than half the contingent increase for the 2009/2010-school
budget at nearly four percent.
Additionally, she noted that the next two years will see a State aid
package of $600,000. This was part of the Federal stimulus package
and once it is gone, nothing is slated to replace it.
Ford added that the teacher’s contract negotiations have not
“The salary implications for the coming school year are unknown
at this point,” and health care benefits continue to increase
which adds more strain on the budget. Ford sadded. “We have
not arrived at a new employee contribution level but this will in
no way cover the annual increases in costs.”
Later in the meeting, District Treasurer Monica Kim noted that money
should be reserved for when the teachers’ contracts are finally
settled and any shifts that may result in needed money. She added
that additional money must be added to the tax certiorari funds over
the reservoir dispute between Hurley and New York City that could
affect the Onteora district tax base.
School board president Maxanne Resnick thanked voters for approving
the 2009/2010 budget. The school board voted unanimously to accept
the final district budget vote. In the final tally, all three proposals
and board members picked up one additional vote in approval. There
were 1839 votes cast in total. Several write-in votes were cast only
in the town of Olive: Three for Rita Vanacore, and one each for Tard
Fergoson, Jim Ullrich, Sylvia Tinti, Brett Kaiser, Karen Harkin and
Mary Jane Bernholz.
Parent Abbe Aronson addressed the school board after meeting with
a group of Phoenicia parents who are concerned about the consolidation
of a pair of grade four classes that will merge into one grade five
class for the 2009-2010 school year. If the class is consolidated
it will bring the number of students up to 28 and possibly more if
added in with returning, new, variance or mainstreamed students. Aronson
said she received confirmation that the total is now 29 students due
to a returning child.
The district master plan recommends a maximum classroom of 27 students
in the upper grades. Administrative regulation on class size, according
to Aronson, puts the number in the “high range.”
Aronson said Phoenicia Elementary Principal Linda Sella told their
group that a special education Consultant Teacher (CT) and a teaching
assistant would be available in the classroom.
“Since we do not have any students slated for fifth grade with
IEP’s (Individual Education Plan), how can we use a CT?”
According to Aronson, Sella explained that the Director of Pupil Personnel
Joyce Long authorized the consolidation.
“However,” Aronson noted, “is this allowable by
New York State?”
She added that the CT’s and Assistant Teacher would not be available
throughout the full school day. She noted that the district newsletter
“promises” that class sizes will be retained throughout
“Why are you not delivering on this?” Aronson asked, requesting
that the administration go back on their plans to consolidate next
years grade five classroom and keep two separate classrooms in order
to meet the goals of the district.
In other business June 2, it was announced that the auditorium renovation
is running on schedule. Asbestos has been removed from the tiled flooring.
Air samples tested negative toward any harmful chemicals. Ford said
demolition is complete and “they are moving along nicely,”
with a goal of completion by the beginning of the new school year.
The board voted to consolidate Maintenance and Custodial director
positions into one position titled, “Director of Facilities
and Operations.” This will take the place of retiring Maintenance
director Jimmy O’Neill and Custodial director Peter Giambrone.
Ford said that Giambrone also acted as head custodian for the Middle/High
School and now they will need to hire a person to fill that position.
School board trustee Rick Wolff asked Superintendent for Business
Victoria McLaren if other districts contract the position. She said
after research that Rondout school district used a contractor for
nearly five years, but it did not work out since there was a high
turnover and ended up as more costly.
Time For Camp!
campmeister Cara Cruickshank is gearing up for the second year of
her Catskill Woodland Camp, offering six sessions, each five days
long, from July 6 to August 14 for ages 2-15. Each week features a
different theme: wilderness survival skills, homesteading, wild edible
plants, eco-art, international culture, rock’n’roll. New
developments this year include a four-week teen camp for ages 13-18,
an organic community garden, a new hiking trail, more adult mentors
bringing their skills to the campers, and an oral history project
in the tradition of the historical Camp Woodland. Camps meet at the
Parish Hall on Phoenicia’s Main Street. Prices range from $200
to $215 per week. To register, call 688-2068 or email@example.com.
The Town of Shandaken Recreation Program starts July 7 and runs five
weeks, Tuesday through Thursday, at the Pine Hill Lake. The program
is free, except for field trips. Call 684-5059.
For drama-loving kids, the Shandaken Theatrical Society, 22 Church
St., Phoenicia, is holding its fourth annual theater camp on August
10-14 for ages 5 through 14. Director Dorothy Penz will lead improvisation
games, storytelling, and creative movement, culminating in the performance
of an original play based on folktales. Cost is $75.00. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
or leave a message at 688-2279.
A different kind of theater experience is offered by New Genesis Productions
in West Shokan, but director Lesley Ann Sawhill says her Shakespeare
Summer Intensive is already filled. Public performances will be held
July 31, August 1, and August 2 as thespians aged 8 to 14 produce
a condensed version of Much Ado About Nothing. See www.newgenesisproductions.org.
Varga Gallery in Woodstock has devised a Summer Art & Garden Program
for ages 9 to 15 in sessions of 3 days per week from June 16 to September
2. Choose either Tuesday-Thursday or Friday-Sunday, both from 10:00
a.m. to 2:00 pm, at a cost of $200. Call 679-4005 or see www.vargagallery.com.
The Town of Olive’s six-week recreation program runs Monday
through Thursday at Davis Park in West Shokan, beginning July 7 and
costing $20 per child. Bus transportation is provided for children
ages 6 to 17. A half-day program is offered to those under 6, but
private transportation is required. Call (845)657-6920.
Camp Seewackamano in Shokan, operated by the YMCA of Kingston and
Ulster County, runs in two-week sessions from June 28 to August 21,
for kindergarteners through 8th graders, at a cost of $335 per session.
August 24-28 is Teen Week ($235), and a counselor-in-training program
is available for 16- and 17-year-olds. Activities include high/low
ropes challenge course, skateboarding, sports, skits, arts & crafts,
kayaking, fishing, photography, overnights, hiking, canoeing, archery,
newspaper, dance, swimming, and more. See www.ymcaulster.org, or call
The YMCA also conducts day camps at Epworth Camp and Retreat Center
in High Falls from June 29 to August 28. Children entering K through
8th Grade pay $335 for each two-week session. A Chickadee Day Camp
is for children ages 3 to 5 with at least one year of pre-school experience.
It runs in one week sessions (M-F) with full day or morning-only options
at a cost of $135 per week. Call (845) 687-0215 or email email@example.com.
Sleepaway camps include the Frost Valley YMCA program in Claryville,
over the mountain to the southwest of Phoenicia. Four two-week sessions
run from June 28 to August 21, on the Y’s 6,000 acres of forest,
field, meadow, and streams. Activities include swimming, kayaking,
canoeing, cooperative games, archery, fishing, dance, cooking, photography,
broadcasting, backpacking, and more. Specialized options include equestrian
camp, farm camp, and adventure trips. See www.frostvalley.org or call
845-985-2291, ext. 203.
Timber Lake Camp, also sleepaway, is right in Shandaken off Broadstreet
Hollow Road. Kids aged 7 through 16 spend eight weeks, June 29 to
August 19, immersed in all the usual camp activities and sports, for
$9850. Visit www.timberlakecamp.com.
And now for the adult camps—
The Full Moon Resort in Big Indian features several music camps including
a weekend with Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen in late June. The
masked instrumental guitar band Los Straitjackets leads a Rock’n’Roll
Summer Camp at the end of August. Camps consist of evening shows at
the resort’s rustic lodge and days filled with guitar workshops,
jamming, and outdoor activities. See furpeaceranch.com and losstraitjacketssummercamp.com.
Ashokan Center sponsors a number of fiddle and dance camps throughout
the summer, including Western and Swing Week, Northern Week, and Southern
Week, with virtuosos Jay Ungar and Molly Mason presiding. See www.ashokan.org
or call 657-8333.
On Labor Day weekend, local opera singers Louis Otey and Maria Todaro
will lead a vocal music retreat in a Victorian home in Shandaken.
Four days of classes in voice production, public speaking, stage combat,
acting, dance, yoga, and choral work cost $450, with a special commuter
rate of $180. Call 688-5759 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In The Ozone...
to Spokesman Lori Severino of the agency’s Press Office, DEC
sent a letter in March of this year to EPA, reporting on air quality
monitoring data from 2006 to 2008, and recommending Ulster County’s
designation of Non-Attainment. She said that EPA has until March of
next year to make its determination, but that they’re scheduled
to release their list of newly designated counties by November or
When EPA will release its new regs is uncertain, but most regulators
expect the tightening to be significant. Standards for example, which
currently measure allowable pollutant thresholds over a 1-hour period
may soon require similar thresholds to be met over an 8-hour period.
Although in counties further downstate those pollutants include such
things as carbon monoxide and particulates, in Ulster County it’s
the ozone level that’s ex pected to trigger the shift into Non-Attainment.
Usually associated with automobile emissions and combustion from heating
systems and manufacturing, there are also natural sources which may
contribute to the problem. Trees, which produce huge amounts of oxygen
and have a highly positive effect on air quality also release oxides
of nitrogen which are chemical precursors of ozone and may ultimately
effect its atmospheric levels.
Assuming that new regs go into effect this year, Ulster County is
expected to be joined with Dutchess, Orange, and Putnam counties as
part of the federally designated “Poughkeepsie-Orange Non-Attainment
Area.” According to Rich Peters, Regional Planning & Program
Manager for NYS Department of Transportation Region 8, that designation
would significantly impact any proposed transportation project that
used federal funds.
The designation would also appear to require some level of new impact
analysis for any transportation project or development capable of
impacting air quality at the county level. In this county our Metropolitan
Planning Organization, the Ulster County Transportation Council, would
need to demonstrate to state regula tors that proposed projects not
only wouldn’t negatively affect air quality, but would actually
help improve it.
The county might also be compelled under the designation, to consider
air quality mitigation measures that aren’t currently required
here, such as extra nozzles on fuel dispensers, and limits on certain
air discharge permits. On the brighter side however, Non-Attainment
does make the County eligible for some federal aid through a program
called CMAC, short for ‘Congestion Mitigation Air Quality.”
Most CMAC funds do go to more densely populated areas but modest funding,
generally for transit projects, would likely become available.
If the new regs go into effect this year, few in government expect
serious problems as a result. “It’s a manageable situation”
said Hector Rodriguez, Chairman of the County Legislature’s
Economic Development, Planning, Housing, and Transit Committee. “But
we will have to supply additional documentation and support for when
we do major transportation projects.”
There is a reason for the regs however, and DEC’s Janeway seemed
to sum it up: “We do have air quality issues, health issues,
and as the standards are improved to better protect the public health,
we all benefit.”