Verizon technicians began uprooting the last of the pay phones in the
area, and at least one business owner is piping mad about it.
Chuck Perez owns and operates the Big Indian Service Center in the hamlet
of the same name. Last week Verizon Technicians removed the payphone from
out in front of Perez’s business, a phone used frequently in this
area without cellular service.
The company says it plans to remove the other eight phones in the Town
of Shandaken by September 18th. The company hopes to eliminate ninety
percent of all pay phones in Ulster County by September 25th.
Perez said this week that Verizon attempted to remove the phones back
in 2002 but backpedaled on the plan due to public outcry. And he added
that he is not taking this latest attack lying down. He believes that
the agreement reached with Verizon in 2002 to keep the payphone there
still holds. He is in contact with town, county and state officials, all
of whom realize that there is still no reliable cellular coverage in the
“They were going to rip the payphone out of Morra’s Market
last week, but they didn’t,” he said, indicating there may
still be hope of a partial reprieve..
Since there is no reliable cell phone coverage in the area, and none planned
for the immediate future, it is possible Verizon should install what the
Public Service Commission calls a “Public Interest Payphone (PIP).”
According to the Commission, such a payphone must meet the following criteria:
1) It must fulfill a public policy objective in health, safety, or public
welfare; (2) It cannot be provided to a location with an existing contract
for the provision of a payphone; (3) The payphone would not otherwise
exist as a result of the operation of the competitive marketplace.
The PIP process is triggered by requests from either local government
entities or consumer organizations for one or more additional payphones
at specific locations that conform to the PIP definition. Local government
entities or consumer organizations that believe there is a need for a
payphone that meets the definition of PIP, and wish to submit a request
for PIP consideration, should apply to the Public Service Commission.
The request should explain how the request meets the FCC definition of
a PIP and provide the location of the proposed PIP and the general location
of the next nearest payphone.
Online searches have also revealed a host of other companies that say
they’ll provide pay phones where needed… but for a monthly
price starting at around $75 per phone. With added installation costs.
The question is… who picks up such costs along such a thoroughfare.
Looks like public policy is about to come into play on a new issue, once
as the school board sits only a few windows down in the library,”
Kocher said, “I know we walk today in silence, that our message
was heard loudly.”
In a separate interview, Corey Cavallaro, President of the Onteora Teachers
Association, said, “We need to bring attention to our cause that
the board is refusing to come to the table to negotiate in a good faith
He explained that the board has not been involved in “negotiations,
mediations or fact finding sessions up to this day.” Following mediation,
the union and administrators had one meeting with a fact-finder as appointed
by PERB (Public Employment Relations Board). Details of fact-finding can
be made public within five days after that the report is submitted.
According to Labor Relations Specialist Jeffrey R. Benton, the district
is not even close to reaching that goal. For teachers in New York State,
there is no such thing as binding arbitration. He said only police and
firefighters can submit their issues to a neutral representative and that
person decides what the contract should be.
“Public employees don’t have that in New York State,”
he said, adding that everything is about the “collective bargaining
Onteora Schools Superintendent Dr. Leslie Ford explained, in the regular
meeting, that the board has not met with the appointed lawyer yet and
will decide in the next couple of weeks on what route to take. She said
the board has been in negotiations, but when asked about direct talks
with the union she said, “The board has been involved through its
negotiating team, which would be Victoria (McLaren), myself and the lawyer.”
The board would need to decide if it wants to get directly involved, according
to Ford, but to date has made no decision on sending members to the table.
During the board meeting, school board president Laurie Osmond said, “As
most of you have seen, we had Onteora teachers picketing outside. I just
wanted to say we thank them for being here, we thank them for what they
do and we all hope that we can get any kind of contract disputes resolved
very, very quickly.”
During the regular meeting part of the evening Sept. 8, the board unanimously
chose Tom Hickey and Rob Kurnit as the two new members who will fill the
seats left vacated by Michelle Friedel and Richard Wolff. Hickey and Kurnit
were the only two who presented themselves before the school board and
were asked a series of questions by trustees. Both have been involved
with the school district for several years.
This was Hickey’s third and successful attempt to become a trustee.
He is a resident of Shandaken, has two kids in the Middle/High School,
and volunteers for school functions. He also sits on the Shandaken Zoning
Board. He would like to run for school board when his seat is up in May.
His background experience is in business, financial consulting and music
composition. He supports the arts but also makes note of fiscal responsibility.
“I think there is a point where you have to make a decision to make
the education we give our children the best we can afford,” he said,
“as opposed to the cheapest we can afford.”
Kurnit has lived in Woodstock for 18 years and has attended board meetings
and other board related forums regularly for the past four years. He is
a fine woodworker and cabinetmaker. He is interested in a run for school
board in May and said this was a way to get his feet wet.
“I think these are difficult times in many ways,” he said.
“I would like to see us do what is best for the kids and that is
really my main interest.”
Kurnit added that he believes that with such a large district, it is important
to maintain local schools and does not support centralization.
The school board accepted the resignation of district secretary Elizabeth
Sopata, who allegedly stole a sum of money (possibly exceeding $9,000)
from the Extra Curricular Account, monies raised by school groups. Ford
was not sure if Sopata was arraigned yet because there was a mix-up on
the location, but said if it did not happen already, it would soon. Sopata
is charged with, third degree grand larceny, second degree forgery and
second degree falsifying business records.
That was the case at a recent
special meeting of the town board held in late August, called to make
a decision on the long hovering tax fight over the New York City owned
Pine Hill Sewer plant, but expanded into fiscal matters when supervisor
Peter DiSclafani warned that the budget season has apparently started
as well, noting ambulance department personnel in the audience along
with the town’s tax assessor, both with funding requests.
The fact that such issues are being tackled early this year, with major
fiscal discussion predicted to dominate each of the next two month’s
regular board meetings, shows not only the new seriousness given such
matters these days, a year following the state’s mid-season budget
cuts and the near collapse of the national banking system, but also
a new openness on the part of DiSclafani’s administration.
At least according to his supporters.
The fact that the recent talks broke down into two basic camps, one
wanting to cut spending at all costs and the other seeking to match
needs with new revenue streams and creative ways of thinking about how
governments share services, or amortize expenses, echoes similar debates
raging across the political spectrum in the U.S. these days.
Each autumn, town governments must prepare a spending plan for the following
year. The process follows a strict timeline, with towns required to
submit preliminary plans to the county level of government in October
and a final budget plan the following month. Preparations usually begin
in September, with department heads providing “wish lists”
to the town board to mull over.
In the past in Shandaken, budgets have either appeared suddenly in late
October, and have occasionally come before the public missing large
sections, or without any meaningful discussion.
The timing last August was tough for ambulance service representative
Dennis Frano, who was on hand to ask the town board he once served on
to buy a third ambulance for the already expanded department. The request,
which could cost well over $100,000, came immediately after the board
decided to reach a settlement with the City that would cost taxpayers
an extra $75,000 a year.
Frano explained that ambulance departments are required to mothball
vehicles after a certain amount of time/mileage. Of the two ambulances
now in operation, he said, one is scheduled to be replaced next year.
But the department, he said, has a better idea. They want to buy a new
one this year and get it into service immediately. By having three vehicles,
he said, two important goals are accomplished. First, the town will
have better coverage in the event of multiple calls, which can happen
especially during the ski season with Belleayre Ski Center being in
the department’s district. Also, the third ambulance will allow
the department to reduce the annual mileage they put on vehicles by
using all three instead of just two. This, he said, would mean longer
vehicle life for each.
A bonus, Frano added, is that available this year is a fuel efficient
diesel engine model. That engine, he says, will be discontinued after
this year, forcing the department to purchase an ambulance with a gas-guzzling,
extra big engine.
But since there is no money in the 2009 budget for such a purchase this
year, DiSclafani asked the board to consider tapping the town;s Good
Neighbor Fund. The fund, filled with money supplied by the City of New
York as part of the 1997 watershed deal, is for capital expenses only,
and began with over $600,000. It has now fallen below $480,000 after
similar use for town service needs in recent years.
DiSclafani said there are two options.
“We would have to up taxes for it or take it out of the Good Neighbor
Fund,” he said.
But Councilman Vince Bernstein reminded the board that there is a third
option. Not buying it.
Noting that he has been against runaway spending since taking office
last year, Bernstein said the board should go in the opposite direction
of what was being discussed. He thinks that, rather than increase taxes,
the town should reduce spending.
“The town should work to get by on less instead of making the
taxpayers pay for more,” he said.
Following the ambulance request, DiSclafani said that the police department
wants a new cruiser next year. Cost is around $28,000.
After that, tax assessor Heidi Clark asked the Board to consider hiring
extra help for her department this year to the tune of $6000. Shandaken
currently has one full time and two part time assessors, but wants to
continue work started this year updating its assessments, the better
to afford a long-awaited revaluation of all properties in town in the
near future, according to a recent interview with DiSclafani.
Shandaken is one of the few towns in Ulster County that has not updated
its property assessments in over 25 years, and there has long been talk
of the state finding ways of forcing it to do so eventually, especially
as it and Ulster County look into instituting revals on a more regular
basis in the coming years.
Mike Ricciardella, a member of the town’s economic development
committee, warned that granting these requests would open the floodgates
for other departments to make similar requests and the board may find
it hard to say no.
Ricciardella couldn’t believe that, during these tough economic
times, the board was considering using over 25% of the Good Neighbor
“Why not just spend it all,” he said sarcastically. “Go
ahead. Spend it.”
Meanwhile, the town was recently the recipient of state funds for shared
highway department services, a pilot program, as part of a growing effort
within the region being led by the regional Pattern for Progress and
SUNY New Paltz-based Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach,
among others. Those entities are currently completing a major study
of ways in which municipalities can cut costs by sharing services, from
police and ambulance to highway and others, with funding help from the
state and federal government.
But the trick to such efforts working, all have agreed in a slew of
conferences held throughout the area and in Albany in recent months,
is to actually spend those funds allocated for such matters, and not
hoard what’s brought in.
Much to talk about, it appears, when the town board next meets next
Monday, September 14.
In the Phoenicia area, rumor
was that all signs pointed towards the large marten-like animal known
as fishers having moved to the stream’s banks. But in the Boiceville
area, where nearly a dozen cats have gone missing in the last two months,
everyone’s suspecting coyotes… who they’ve heard howling
at night, spotted tracks for, and seen on the edges of forests.
As of earlier this year, reports indicate the fisher population has
returned to areas from which they were previously extirpated, such as
Connecticut, the Hudson Valley in New York, and New Jersey. But as of
press time, no recent tracking signs have emerged locally in the creek’s
vicinity regarding this large member of the weasel family with short
legs, small ears, and a long well-furred tail.
But fishers do inhabit this part of the country… and can climb
trees after their prey. According to the state Department of Environmental
Conservation, “fisher dens used for giving birth to their young
typically are found in large trees, high off the ground…They make
use of natural cavities frequently found in older trees. They also use
cavities in rocky areas. Dens for general cover and protection consist
of hollow logs, turned over stumps, brush piles, or ground burrows.”
Coyotes, meanwhile, have been on the rise not only in the Catskills,
but as far south as the metropolitan area suburbs and even New York
According to the DEC, a coyote’s diet, “depends on one thing
- what is easiest to find or catch and kill. During the summer, coyotes
will feed heavily upon berries, insects, and rodents. During early fall
they rely on abundant grasshoppers. Small mammals become the prey of
choice during late fall and winter. As winter becomes harder and small
mammal populations decline, coyotes turn toward their largest prey -
The animals tend to live in family units made up of an adult pair and
their pups from the current year, defending a territory of 6 to 15 square
miles against other coyotes. The coyote population in New York during
the summer is approximately 20,000-30,000. Young coyotes are driven
from their parents’ territory between September and March.
As for how to protect one’s pets from either predator, the following
is recommended on several websites…
Bring your pets in at night. This is not a guarantee since coyotes will
do what they have to do to stay fed. However they generally hunt at
night, including twilight hours.
Try to eliminate outdoor odors. Coyotes have a keen sense of smell.
Strong garbage odors and food left outdoors is a strong invitationto
a hungry coyote.
Wooden stockade fences may deter, but not totally keep all coyotes out
of your yard. They can climb many fences or just leap over them. And
fishers can definitely climb most anything.
Take note if your pets seem nervous and frightened if they have been
Since all these efforts also help keep the bear away, they’re
good maxims for all of us living here.
Coyote season runs from October 1 through the end of March, with junior
hunting, small game, small/big game, sportsman, super sportsman, non-resident
hunting, or non-resident super sportsman license required… and
no limits or restrictions on night hunting.
Fisher trapping is allowed October 25 through December 10, again with
The Environmental Conservation Law allows ‘problem coyotes’
to be killed at other times of the year. Section 11-0523 says coyotes
that are “injuring private property may be taken by the owner,
occupant or lessee... at any time in any manner.”
“I know I’m the one that has to protect my pets, just as
I have to deal with the bears, or the deer when driving,” said
one local woman who’d lost a pet but didn’t want to be named
for this story. “But then I say to myself, ‘I’m living
in the country and not a city. It really shouldn’t have to be
this way.’ And then there’s my cats, looking at me with
Ah, the cruelties of nature...
Contractor Licensing Raised
“I think people, when
they hire a contractor, have a right to know three things: that the
contractor is competent, ethical, and has insurance. I think this law
could help do that,” said Legislator PhilipTerpening, the Rosendale
Democrat who chairs the Labor Relations Committee. “But it should
be noted that this is still in discussion. We’re still looking
at it. It’s out there for input and revision.”
At present, about half the states in the country utilize contractor
licensing or registration of some sort, and those either adopting or
discussing such matters appears to be growing, with neighboring Pennsylvania
initiating its own licensing this past July.
In New York State, the five boroughs of New York City require general
contractors to be licensed, as do Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties.
Dutchess County recently enacted an electrician licensing law, similar
to Greene County.
The proposed county licensing law is currently discussing requiring
all contractors doing more than $1,500 worth of work on a residence
or business to hold a county license. The law would set the amount of
money a consumer would have to give to the contractor as a down payment
for work, spell out payment terms and set requirements for record-keeping
by the contractor. The proposed law also calls for the creation of a
board to oversee the licensing of contractors and hear complaints filed
against contractors, with the possibility of revoking licenses of those
found to be in violation of the law. Administration of the law would
be financed through licensing fees paid by contractors.
Local contractors and planning officials asked about the law seemed
evenly split between its benefits and possible liabilities, with everyone
saying it would improve the quality of work and craftsmanship in the
area, with folks wanting cheap jobs still able to go with unlicensed
workers, given they can still get building permits. But they worried
about those just starting out, or using contracting as a stop gap measure
in between other careers. They also wondered who would enforce the new
Similar complaints and accolades have arisen in those states that already
have registries and licenses, although all seem to agree that in the
end, it works in the consumers’ favor.
Terpening, in recent interviews, has said that his committee has not
set a time frame for their proposed law, or for bringing it to the full
Legislature for consideration.
“I would like to do it as soon as possible, but I want to do it
right,” he said.
“It’s hard to justify the elimination of basic contractor
licensing that allows local and state governments to track, identify,
and prohibit scandalous contracting practices that threaten the financial
security of homeowners and the legitimate business of reputable and
customer-oriented companies,” reads the Pennsylvania FAQ on why
it passed such laws. “Regardless of the legal or ideological tilt
in your state, you must pursue multiple avenues of quality control before
you make the decision to hire a contractor.”