Up on the News
took attention away from the calmer business of the evening, which was
primarily to hire an assistant recreation director and advertise for bids
for summer field trips to be taken by kids in the summer recreation program.
The owner of the controversial farm stand, which Supervisor DiSclafani
said is in violation of the local zoning code, took his case out in the
open at the meeting, with his lawyer claiming that in the court of public
opinion he has been found innocent and should be left alone.
Al Higley, representing his son’s Mount Tremper based produce stand
called Hanover Farms, appeared before the Shandaken Town Board Monday
with an Attorney and a number of supporters. The visit comes as Hanover
Farms faces a court appearance for allegedly being in violation of the
The farmstand in Mount Tremper, located alongside route 28, has been issued
a violation because, according to Shandaken Code Enforcement Officer Gina
Reilly, its operator is not in compliance with the size restrictions specified
within the permit granted by the town Planning Board in 2003.
The popular local business has grown beyond the scope of the 100 square
foot size limit set by the town planning board, and appears to be closer
to 1000 square feet in size. There are also items for sale at the business
which, to some, make it more of a retail business than a farm stand.
Hanover Farms was issued a violation in January, Reilly said, with a clause
stating that it must comply before opening this season. On April 11th
the farm opened. Reilly, having not received a response, sent a notice
of violation immediately, giving its owner 30 days to comply with the
conditions of the permit.
Should the farm stand not be in compliance when that 30 days are up, Reilly
said last month, she would then issue the owners an appearance ticket
to go to Shandaken Justice court, where fines of up to $250 per week can
be levied against code violators. She hopes, however, that it does not
come to that.
“We hope to come to agreement,” said Reilly, who replaced
long time Code Officer Glenn Miller, who resigned at the end of last year.
“They’ve been in violation since 2003.”
But on Monday, Attorney Daniel Heppner emphatically denied any wrongdoing,
saying that no violation could be proven in court.
Heppner said he was present to let the town board know that his client
wants to discuss the issues with town and reach an amicable solution.
“Al Higley wants to co-exist with other businesses in this town,”
But Heppner also delivered a threat that if the town was not prepared
to reach an agreement with his client than officials would find themselves
embroiled in what Heppner described as “expensive litigation.”
Before being told by his lawyer to stop talking, Higley chimed in that
such litigation would cost taxpayers “a lot of money.”
The two were armed with a petition said to carry 1000 signature in support
of Hanford farms.
“The court of public opinion does not support the effort to shut
him down,” Heppner said.
In a phone interview the following day, Heppner said it was not clear
to him what the town board was going to do, but he hoped he would get
a phone call from DiSclafani about the matter soon. He also said that
his first choice to solve the problem would be to have the Town’s
Zoning Board of Appeals amend the farm stands special use permit by increasing
the amount of square footage allowed.
“It is something they have absolute power to do,” he added.
In other news, Councilman Robert Stanley said he was shocked when he walked
into town hall last week to discover the rest of the town board together
in the Supervisors office. Stanley, a Republican, accussed the rest of
the board, all Democrat, of meeting without him. The session, Stanley
said, constitutes an official meeting of the Town Board and one that should
not have happened.
Councilman Tim Malloy tried to cut Stanley off, saying that the gathering
“We didn’t meet on anything,” Malloy said.
Stanley said that, regardless, they must have talked about something.
“Chicken,” Malloy replied.
But Stanley said that all board members should be aware that such meetings
would be interpreted by the public as secret sessions and so they should
all take steps to make sure they don’t create the appearance of
“If the same thing happened under a previous administration we’d
hear screaming,” Stanley said.
Stanley continued to complain that a letter had been sent to Crossroads
Ventures demanding the company give the town $15,000 to be placed in escrow
and used to pay for the review of the Companies application to build a
Hotel/Spa Resort on Highmount. Stanley said that, to date, no application
has been submitted on the town level.
Several years ago Crossroads agreed to supply an escrow fund to the town
for review of the project, which was first presented in 1999, but never
fully funded the account when the Town was hiring Professionals to scrutinize
the project during the environmental review that precedes a formal application
to the towns planning board. The Town believes the money should be used
to pay for those professionals, but Crossroads has disagreed, claiming
instead that they will make money available only during the local level
According to Shandaken town supervisor Peter DiSclafani, though, that
date has now been extended and, more importantly, the city Department
of Environmental Protection has freed up up to $12,000 for a feasibility
study on a new form of wastewater treatment that would cost less than
the sewer plant on the plate from last year, and apparently has quite
a few folks from various camps excited.
But also, as evidenced from the loudness of this past week’s June
2 Shandaken Board Meeting, enough continuing discord, much of it based
on continuing bad blood from last year’s sewer defeat, to not only
keep everyone on edge, but remind one and all that this is, after all,
a Shandaken-style project. DiSclafani told the audience Monday that he,
Councilman Vince Bernstein and Highway Superintendent Eric Hofmeister
met May 28 with City officials, who agreed to support a feasibility study
for a sewer alternative DiSclafani has been discussing with New England
Waste Systems (NEWS), a company that designs, builds, operates, maintains
and trains operators forArtificial Wetland Treatment Systems.
DiSclafani described this as an alternative to the more typical concrete
and steel waste treatment systems that are in use throughout the watershed
and what was voted down by Phoenicia residents in 2007.
The City, he added, has agreed to investigate the idea and granted an
extension to Phoenicia to do so. After last year’s defeat of the
sewer project the City gave the hamlet until this June to decide if it
wanted to pursue septic treatment options that they would fund construction
and then pay a substantial portion of annual operating costs for, even
though the hamlet would own such systems, assuming responsibility for
its repair and upgrade.
Opponents of last year’s plan have drawn a hard line, demanding
that the City own whatever system is built, giving its service to Phoenicia
for free. City officials have consistently maintained that there will
be no discussion of that, and are prepared to take the $17 million allocated
for Phoenicia and give it to some other community in the watershed region
for a wastewater treatment system should Phoenicia decline the city’s
“We’re working things out; we’re talking different options,”
DiSclafani said before the May 28 meeting, talking about the negotiations
he has been handling on behalf of the proposed Phoenicia Wastewater Treatment
Plant since taking office in January. “It’s been frustrating
and I can’t say I hold a lot of hope but we’re keeping at
On February 3 , 2007, 123 voted in favor and 156 voters against the building
of a sewer system to be built under a partnership program between the
City of New York and the town, similar to several dozen other such systems
built or being built throughout the Catskills since the implementation
of the Watershed Memorandum of Agreement in 1997. Under the program voted
on the city would have paid $17 million to build the system, but local
residents, led by several key Phoenicia business owners, worried that
the allotted amount would not cover lateral connections or operations
and maintenance fees, which they feared could leave many high and dry
after putting up monies never to be reimbursed.
Homeowners would be charged a flat $100 a year for the system, but after
three years the $100 would be adjusted for inflation. Businesses would
have no such cost caps and pay a flat annual fee of $200 plus metered
water use, which city contractors estimated at an average $112 a year
despite opponents’ worries that there were no guarantees financing
was enough, or would be maintained by the City.
Once installed, homeowners and businesses would have to pay to link up
to the new sewer lines, with estimates showing the average hook up cost
around $3100 per. Officials said low income residents would be given grants
to pay for the work, available as reimbursals, and promised that there
would be enough money left over from the construction of the project to
pay for the rest of the hook ups.
As of last February, there were 22 communities in the New York City watershed
slated to receive systems, with Phoenicia at the top of a high priority
list of seven communities viewed as needing the system. All the other
communities on that list have since had their systems built, with talk
of some problem with reimbursals in Fleischmanns, but the Catskill Watershed
Corporation and city moving on to another list of communities, including
Boiceville, in the interim since.
After the referendum was defeated there was talk of a faction of the Phoenicia
community investigating other ways to secure the system, including a petition
representing 51 percent of its total value, per municipal sewer laws and
the MOA, but so far nothing along those lines has materialized. In the
year and more since, many have said they would accept the proposed system
if the City came up with better terms for businesses and found a way to
hook residents up to the system without charge. But again, nothing official
The Catskill Watershed Corporation has repeatedly told the town, directly
at meetings and via self-penned articles in the local newspapers, that
what had been offered was a once-only deal and they had to move on to
other matters, and other municipalities willing to take DEP moneys they
had fought to get the City to release when negotiating the MOA in the
DiSclafani, before the recent breakthrough, said that the quandary the
town faced negotiating with the city was simple. Legally, as well as politically,
he could not bring back the same deal for a second vote, no matter how
forcefully the City suggested he do so. Something had to shift.
“They keep telling me we’ve seen their best offer and anything
else would make other towns ask for what we were getting,” he said.
“They say they simply can’t do more… We’re basically
talking about $700,000 in reimbursals here.”
In recent weeks, New York City has put on what some have called a “new
face” in its regional dealings, dropping longstanding lawsuits over
tax assessments against the Town of Olive and other municipalities and
opening up its land acquisition processes to watershed opinions. Dennis
Lucas, head of the Coalition of Watershed Towns that fought New York to
the creation of the MOA in the 1990s, said that state-sponsored talks
between Upstate and Downstate entities had created a new atmosphere where
everyone seemed to acknowledge the benefits of cooperation as a key to
maintaining clean water.
Also of late, the City, CWC and MOA have come under scrutiny via a host
of analytical reports that urged higher expectations and expenditures
for upstate wastewater treatment plants and septic repairs, as well as
less friction between New York and its watershed communities.
Did this all put Phoenicia into its new negotiating stance?
CWC Executive Director Alan Rosa said, last week, that his fear was that
the city wouldn’t budge if it felt it could achieve its water quality
goals by making Phoenicia an example for its regulatory power. He reiterated
his belief, based on his negotiations with New York 12 years ago, that
the DEP never wanted to put in sewer systems in the first place.
But Rosa also spoke about how the Phoenicia dismissal of the city’s
$17 million offer may have been the result of factors that could be changed,
from a “muddy” political scene when DiSClafani was elected
last November to the current possibility that voters, and opposing businesses,
could now shift their minds if another entity was to propose the wastewater
treatment plant, like the CWC, or the system itself was different. He
said that the various such projects the entity was building, or planning
to build, were all going well, and facing much less opposition or local
concerns than similar city-run projects.
Rosa suggested that he talk to DiSclafani, and maybe even address a town
meeting about new options.
Mike Ricciardella, owner of a trio of restaurants on Phoenicia’s
Main Street and the most vocal of the proposed sewer’s opponents,
said May 28 before heading off to a state appellate court hearing on a
case involving the City’s responsibilities for its regulations being
held in Albany, that he was still confident something would get worked
out. It wasn’t that he didn’t want a sewer, he said; just
that he wanted one with a better deal than had been offered.
“The bottom line is that water is the most important commodity on
the planet and they should be paying for it,” Ricciardella said,
after noting a number of wastewater systems, from Pine Hill and Roxbury
to smaller ones at several camps in the region, that the city built and
owned outright. “Peter is taking care of it. They’re doing
a good job… we just have to all wait this out.”
At the June 2 town board meeting where elements of this were brought up
in public for the first time, Ricciardella reiterated his anger and frustration
over the uncertainty of the cost Phoenicia would bear in the long run
should any system be installed. Charles Frasier, who was on a committee
with Ricciardella to plan for a sewer system, was furious that the town
was embarking on yet another study, saying that Phoenicia has been studying
the matter for over a decade. Frasier, who supports building a wastewater
treatment plant, said that reinventing the wheel again was a waste of
time and questioned the science of the new systems and their engineers..
Information supplied by New England Waste Systems states that artificial
wetland treatment systems have several ecological values of note, primarily
that the systems produce a near potable water quality effluent using little
energy (besides the sun and gravity), while at the same time creating
a niche ecosystem. The clean effluent is produced as a result of the biological
breakdown and filtering of the wastewater that occurs within the AWTS.
At the same time the AWTS creates an ecosystem that is very similar to
that of a natural wetland; it can become a haven for birds, insects, snakes,
frogs, and other native species.
AWTSs are a sound and viable design solution in terms of ecological accounting
determined by weighing the negative environmental impacts of alternative
technologies such as conventional treatment methods. The systems must
be viewed as living entities that require low energy inputs over the indefinite
life of the system, reducing dependence on power generated elsewhere.
Readily available sunlight and air, combined with nutrients in the wastewater
being treated, provide the bulk of the inputs.
Wastewater flows through the treatment cells by gravity, and naturally
occurring aerobic and anaerobic microbial processes provide the treatment.
No chemicals nor fertilizers that may potentially affect surrounding areas
are ever applied. The plants used within the treatment cells are selected
from native species and a herbaceous perennial border surrounding the
planted treatment cells typically provides additional native plant diversity
while simultaneously attracting insects, birds, and small mammals.
The systems have become increasingly popular throughout Europe and Asia,
as well as rural areas in Pennsylvania and Tennessee where there is ample
acreage for such systems.
DiSClafani, for his part, said before the recent meeting that he had also
started looking into ways to split up the ways costs were covered for
more traditional systems, with other entities, such as the CWC, as another
possibility for helping to break the recent negotiating logjams
“We’re not giving up on this,” he said.
Everyone spoken to about the current talks (excepting the DEP< which
refused comment for the moment) noted that there seemed to be more leeway
now that a number of entities involved when the $17 million deal was presented,
and rejected, have since disappeared.
Many of the elements then, from proposed project engineers Delaware Engineering
to attorney Kevin Young, a point person for all such projects in the watershed,
had been seen at the time to have ties to the region’s other big
controversy, the Belleayre Resort project proposed by developer Dean Gitter
and under review by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Or too close to former Shandaken supervisor Bob Cross, Jr., who was faulted
for having presented the project in fits and starts, without giving anyone
a sense of being able to change its elements.
“Look, when it’s time, we reach an agreement,” said
Ricciardella before the town meeting. “C’mon, it’s business.
You don’t panic.”
“Let’s see what happens,” said DiSClafani at the same
time. “We’ve still got a ways to go here yet…”
The town board agreed to authorize the study of the system offered by
New England Waste Systems and report the findings as soon as possible.
Treasures Of History
are among the multitude of fascinating relics on display at the Town of
Shandaken Historical Museum in Pine Hill, where the new director, Margarete
de Soleil, is bringing our town’s past into the 21st century.
De Soleil, an artist living in Big Indian, started work in January, when
she began photographing and scanning items from the collection to facilitate
search and study, while instituting several new programs to enrich our
lives with an awareness of local history. A new exhibit, organized by
town historian and museum founder Nancy Smith, features photos and documents
from the twelve hamlets that make up the Town of Shandaken.
A recent tour of the museum began in the office, where de Soleil showed
off a state-of-the-art scanner. “It even does slides and negatives,
which we have a huge collection of,” she explained. “We’re
seeking an intern from a college or from Onteora High School to help scan
the collection.” Volunteers Flavia De Mola and Evelyn Augusto have
already begun the process, and de Soleil has photographed 70 percent of
the objects on display. “We have a handwritten ledger of everything
in the collection, but it’s hard to search. We can put letters and
documents onto the computer so they’re enlarged and easier to read,
and that will make room for items we have in storage. My vision is to
have twelve flatscreen computers that are interactive, so you could get
information and go as deep as you want on a particular subject.”
She opens the top drawer of a file cabinet filled with folders, each bearing
a family name. “We have genealogical information on local families,
inquiries that have been made, obituaries, and other documents.”
Another cabinet holds census data, election lists, records of births,
marriages, and deaths, material on subjects such as floods, wars, the
Chichester furniture factory, local personalities. Anyone can make an
appointment to come and search through the files.
“A graduate student from Columbia University called recently to
ask about the Rainmaker’s Flood in the 1950’s, which I had
never heard of,” de Soleil recalls. “A scientist came and
seeded the clouds because there was a long drought, and New York City
was low on water. That year there was a lot of flooding, and some people
thought it was due to the rainmaker, so the town sued the city. Nothing
came of it. I scanned and emailed the information to the student, and
she even found the lawyer involved.”
What brings people to the museum, besides curiosity about the past? De
Soleil answers instantly: “People come to research their family
history or the house they live in, what was destroyed in a fire, what
was rebuilt, who lived there.” An invaluable resource will be Nancy
Smith’s new book, And They Stayed, which collects photographs, advertisements,
and anecdotal information on the town’s many hotels and boarding
houses in operation beginning in the early 1800s. June La Marca, a member
of the museum’s board of directors, comments, “In those days,
almost every house had rooms to rent for tourists. That’s how people
In the Big Indian section of the “Twelve Hamlets” exhibit,
de Soleil points to a 1960s photograph of a couple behind the counter
of Aley’s General Store, now Morra’s Market. There is La Marca,
looking like a movie star, perhaps Anna Magnani in The Rose Tattoo. In
the display case is a card from her campaign for town council. La Marca
was involved in the establishment of the museum, when she helped Nancy
Smith catalog the collection of memorabilia she had accumulated over the
years. Smith, whom de Soleil calls “a walking encyclopedia”
of local history, petitioned the town to move the items into the 1920’s
school building in Pine Hill when it became available, creating the museum
A man walks in and signs the guest book. His name is John O’Brien,
from Franklin, Massachusetts. “Sixty-five years ago, I was a citizen
of Pine Hill,” he says. “My grandfather lived here, and my
mother came up when my father was a gunner in the Second World War. I
lived down near the Overhead Door Company.” Soon he is immersed
in a book of photographs of Pine Hill.
La Marca explains how de Soleil was hired. “We’ve been neighbors
for three years. The previous director was Evie Bennett, but her health
prevented her from continuing. After talking to Margarete, I felt this
woman was perfect. She’s congenial, she’s artistic, and she’s
always two steps ahead of you when you’re thinking. She’s
worth more than she’s getting.” Other candidates were interviewed,
but de Soleil’s past experience includes drawing maps for the Museum
of Natural History in Washington, D.C., work as a natural science illustrator
for science centers, and building bird and nature museums from scratch.
She works a little more than half time at the museum and almost full time
at her studio art.
All are still
riding the wave of public support that brought them into office in all
but Olive, speaking with people and getting different views. Two were
seen marching in Memorial Day parades that had a warm reception followed
by more meet-n-greet.
Osmond was already sworn in the night of the May 20 election, filling
recently resigned Herb Rosenfeld’s seat. The other three will take
their seats July 1.
Put into motion at a May 6 school board meeting were plans to close Phoenicia
elementary school as part of the district reconfiguration. Dates were
scheduled for discussion at the June 3 meeting and a board vote was scheduled
for June 17. Osmond said in a recent phone conversation that if the outgoing
board were to proceed she would try to talk them out of it, noting that
the election was a mandate to keep the three elementary schools open.
But Superintendent Leslie Ford put a stop to it all and even though they
have not finalized the agenda for June 3, for all practical purposes she
said, “I don’t think it will be on the agenda.”
With that out of the way, beginning July 1, the school board will still
have much on its plate just going about the daily grind of school business,
but also reorganizing what they deem as too many cogs in the wheel. Added
to that grind is the reshuffling of committees, including the dissolving
“I was told (by district clerk Jeanne Shultis), that only the audit
committee is a state mandate,” said Osmond. Although she believes
there are necessary committees, they plan to re-examine, “their
purpose and effectiveness.”
Flayhan explained that committees often “create layers of unnecessary
bureaucracy and expense,” that lead to a lack of transparency since
the public cannot attend the multitude of meetings. For example, the district
calendars put together by the communication committee cost around $24,000
that Flayhan would often see “in the recycle bins at the Post Office.”
On the other hand she would like to read the Green committee’s report,
a document she said was never analyzed.
Once they get past the usual re-organization of district procedures, the
new board members say they will call for a halt to the five-through-eight
middle school proposal connected to the High School. McGillicuddy said
they were elected to stop it. She added that she had spoken to many teachers
who did not support the plan and that she and her fellow incoming board
slate is listening to everyone’s ideas, including the possible resurrection
of a Plan A that would keep three elementary schools open and create a
six-through-eight middle school.
Flayhan said that the people she spoke with want to see a closer look
at all costs. She has already been speaking with staff, including school
nurses, and discovered that were a Middle school expanded, additional
nursing staff would need to be hired. She also wants to explore former
board member Herb Rosenfeld’s idea of creating pods of grades seven/eight,
nine/ten and eleven/twelve as well as the possibility of bringing Pre-Kindergarten
into the district schools.
In an email Legnini wrote, “Aside from all the hot issues on the
table, we need to energize the community to have pride, commitment, and
involvement with their schools, and hopefully chip away at the division
between the towns.” He said he met with Olive town supervisor Berndt
Leifeld and explained, “There will be nothing anti-Olive coming
from the new board members.”
But school board member Rick Wolff did not seem so enthusiastic about
any of the new plans, or board members. In a recent online response to
an article in the Kingston Daily Freeman, Wolff wrote, “Let’s
stop everything in its tracks and go back and study it for three more
years. Let see if that will give our kids the 21st century skills they
need. Let’s send the seventh and eighth graders back to the elementary
schools so they don’t have access to the sports, music and technology.
Let’s stand still and pay $42,000 per kid in six years and still
have those great metal lockers.”
Flayhan responded, “I hope he can listen and understand; we don’t
want three more years of the empty West Hurley building, we didn’t
want more studies after Plan A, we want upgrades now.”
Legnini wrote that he believed Wolff to be a “good man,” probably
disappointed with the outcome of the election.
Regarding other pending matters, the newly elected board members believe
the middle/high school lockers proposed for replacement at a cost of $350,000
is an unnecessary expense. Flayhan said she listened to teachers’
complaints about the out dated science labs and believes the priority
for upgrades should be to them instead of lockers.
They are all having preliminary conversations with Ford in order to catch
up on district business so they can have a smooth transition. Legnini
wrote, “We have a lot to learn and a lot to do.”
With so many district issues, Osmond said they are all very realistic
regarding the challenges ahead of them.
“You are either a can do or can’t do person,” she said.
“I like to think of myself as a can-do person.”
On June 3 in Phoenicia, a tense board meeting with both new and departing
school board members in attendance included much lip service towards niceties,
including accolades for all the present board has done, plus some straight
Late in the evening after a large audience had left, outgoing OCS Board
President Maryjane Bernholz read a statement on behalf of the three outgoing
board members. In it she explained their vision on consolidating the district
and through restrained anger explained that the taxpayer would be burdened,
“because of a missed opportunity.” Cindy O’Connor asked
that the whole statement be entered into the minutes so the public can
have access to it.
“Our district is faced with difficult realities and decisions that
our long term educational fiscal plan addressed,” she said, explaining
their vision of savings through maximum use of state aid, consolidation
of staff and cost savings through the closing of Phoenicia Elementary.
“Through this election, good command positioning has been compromised
by bad emotional decisions.”
Former school board candidate Adam Pollack, soon to be an Onteora graduate,
presented the school board with a test tube of dark brown water that was
taken out of the sink at one of the High School science labs.
“I know this can’t be a problem addressed this year, it but
should be for the 09/10 budget, through remodeling the science labs because
I don’t think this comes from the water source, but from the pipes
in the science class.”
In a separate interview, Ford said it was not a source of drinking water,
but the brown water problem stems from old pipes and it is something they
must address. She added that drinking water is a separate issue where
the water has high levels of Manganese and Iron, but still is within state
. The school board approved a request to provide engineering services
from Clark Patterson Lee for the remediation of the water.