on the News
A 76-year old grandmother
and recently retired 27-year town employee, Braman had been notified
in writing by Cross of impending changes to her health insurance coverage,
coverage she said had been promised her for life by the town.
She read, quietly, a brief prepared statement reiterating that promise
and its affirmation by former supervisor Di Modica, and encapsulating
her exchanges with Cross. “I’ve served this town for 27
years,” the statement ended. “Now I can see people just
“I’m going to save the taxpayers money” she quoted
Cross as telling her. “I’m going to have to drop you but
we are offering you a supplementary plan.”
The print error cited by Cross was an inadvertent transposition of
the word Medicare into Medicaid by a Daily Freeman staff writer. Cross
insisted no benefits were being taken away from anybody. Others differed.
Cross responded to Braman’s statement by saying he explained
to her that the change was necessary in order to bring the town into
compliance with policy as laid out in the new employee handbook which
was adopted last September. Braman however, retired 9 months before
that, and asks why she is being asked to abide by terms contained
in a document she never signed. She also has a different recollection
than Cross of what was said to her, quoting Cross as saying “I’m
going to save the taxpayers money. I’m going to have to drop
you but we will offer you a supplementary plan.”
While Cross was able to clearly identify that the savings would be
about $1800 a year by dropping Braman from her present policy, he
was unable to state specifically how Braman’s benefits would
change beyond the fact that Medicare would be the primary insurance
coverage. He made it clear the supplemental insurance offered would
work in tandem with the federal program but was unable to specifically
outline how the town’s “wrap around policy” would
pick up the entire coverage shortfall, or even guarantee that it would.
“Medicare is lousy coverage and you shouldn’t take her
off what she’s got,” responded Hazel Abramson. Braman’s
husband, Jay Sr. who chose not to speak, is also covered under the
town’s MVP health plan whose coverage Cross is seeking to replace
with a Medicare supplement. He is generally credited as the person
most responsible for creating and implementing zoning in Shandaken,
helping insure much of the town’s rural character during his
decades of volunteer service. In one of Cross’ first acts after
taking office in 2004, he was removed from the town’s Zoning
Board of Appeals.
Cross also took issue with Braman’s choice of a public venue
to discuss the matter, to which Abramson responded by saying “If
this wasn’t brought up in public, Gloria would have had it in
In the end Cross said, “There is no resolution here with this
many people involved.”
Councilman Paul Van Blarcum suggested that perhaps all the town’s
employee benefit issues and questions should be considered at one
time to ensure that whatever was decided would be done evenly, across
the board, for all retired employees, and including anyone currently
receiving health benefits through the town as a result of agreements
made before the town enacted its personnel policy last September.
Republican Club treasurer Steve Stettine agreed, suggesting that a
committee be formed to review them.
In other business, Cross announced that a new law instituting a 6-month
moratorium on new applications for adult entertainment would go to
public hearing on February 22 at 7PM, and the draft law would soon
be posted on the town’s website. He also announced that he received
a preliminary document from state DOT on plans for a traffic circle
in Mt. Tremper.
Speaking as a member of the zoning revision committee, Planning Board
chairman John Horn reported that, “There hasn’t really
been anything of significance in the last month or so.”
The new town map, he added, “Looks different… whether
it is, is a matter of opinion,” and the town board is going
to have to approve a new map.
According to Horn, the zoning revision committee meets “every
2-3 weeks, or every month.”
and winning bid submitted by Delaware Engineering, PC was the only one
of four bids received and reviewed by the committee, indicating the
job could actually be completed for the amount of funding available.
In a curiously-worded resolution which appears to telegraph anticipated
cost overruns, the town board acknowledged that the funding “may
not be sufficient” to complete the job, while simultaneously affirming
that the winning bidder “has committed to complete the project
within the budget provided.” Which of those will come to pass
isn’t well understood as yet.
The plant which is expected to be completed in about two and half years,
will be sited in whole or in part on a currently residential 3+ acre
property owned by Kayla Culligan, just west of the Phoenicia Plaza and
east of the forest preserve access parking area on the south side of
At least one adjacent landowner to the site, former town board candidate
Randy Ostrander, seemed less than pleased with the disclosure of the
plant’s location next to a lot he planned to build on. Another
neighboring property owner is developer Dean Gitter, managing partner
of a company that owns a 96-acre parcel adjoining the new plant site,
as well as other landholdings in town. Once and perhaps still envisioned
as a possible hotel location, Gitter in early 2004, had reportedly offered
to donate several of those acres for a possible new firehouse. Phoenicia
Wastewater Committee attorney Kevin Young acknowledged to reporters
that the committee was in discussion with Gitter about utilizing some
of that land as well for the plant. Other sources confirm that Gitter
and Supervisor Cross have also discussed in detail various aspects of
the new plant’s design, appearance, and site requirements.
To date, Delaware Engineering has built similar septic treatment plants
in Windham and Hunter and recently won a contract for another in Fleishmanns,
with work on that project just beginning. The company appears to enjoy
an excellent reputation for this type of project, as do the firms not
chosen. Amongst the bids passed over was one by a consortium lead by
LMS Engineering which recently completed a septic treatment plant for
Andes under budget, and includes DEP’s primary consulting engineers
in the watershed, Dvirka and Bartilucci.
In addition to Phoenicia’s septic treatment plant, Delaware Engineering
is also slated to build two other waste-treatment facilities in Shandaken,
for the proposed Belleayre Resort. While plans for those facilities
are not seen as controversial elements, other work done by the company
and its subcontractors for that project has proven highly contentious,
and at the center of a number of issues soon to be ruled upon by DEC
as issues for possible adjudicatory hearings. Those issues include flow
studies, well pump tests, and identification of sources for the project
and the now town-owned Pine Hill water system, acquired from Mr. Gitter
in 2002. Also at issue is analysis provided of the basic hydrogeology
of the area and its subsurface water resources.
Asked whether the town board had any concerns about challenges made
to the quality of Delaware Engineering’s work product or data,
Joe Munster, town board member and its liaison to the Wastewater committee,
said “Absolutely not,” and that the company’s involvement
with the resort was irrelevant. Steve Stettine, another Committee member,
said “Yes, we took the issues into consideration, No, it didn’t
make a difference.”
Al Frisenda, a Crossroads employee and former town board member, clarified
that “the relevance and inaccuracies of that data submitted by
Crossroads will be decided by the ALJ that is reviewing that process.”
Wastewater Committee Chairman Charlie Frasier preemptively addressed
the issue that some people suspected Delaware had an unfair advantage
in the bidding process. Contributing to that perception perhaps, was
the fact that Supervisor Cross had hired the company to do a preliminary
survey of the site, and advise the committee on its suitability.
“Did Delaware have a leg up on anyone else? That’s a question
that was asked,”
said Frasier, responding to an issue no one at the meeting had raised.
“My concern,” he said, “is are we going to get the
best for our community.” But he explained they did not have an
unfair advantage. “We looked at their project, their track record,
and what they had done on similar projects…They were the best.”
Frasier also said they were selected because they had the highest average
score on an evaluation form used by committee members to review the
various bids. “And,” he said, “they committed to complete
the project within the budget provided by the existing block grant.”
According to Delaware’s John Broust, the next year will be occupied
with design, permitting, and the solicitation of bids. Construction
should begin in the spring of 2006, with the expectation of hooking
up the first homes in the fall of 2007. User fees for the new Phoenicia
sewer district have not been set.
by the Future of the District Commission saw four general recommendations
unanimously accepted: to stay with the current three elementary school
configuration for he foreseeable future; to redistrict Onteora to
fit this configuration better, including the shifting of approximately
40 students from Woodstock to Phoenicia schools, plus some changes
to and from Bennett; to pursue the creation of a separate facility
for the district’s Middle School program, which everyone labeled
a success; and to start seeking bids from, and eventually hire a consulting
firm to fully research facilities needs and possible capital projects
for the long run ahead.
According to current year figures, the Woodstock school has a student
body of 405 since the closing of the West Hurley school last year,
compared to 358 students at Bennett School and 215 at Phoenicia.
Despite some disappointment that the recommendations were vague and
needed further explication via consultant’s reports, the board
expressed pleasure that they were starting to move in a positive direction
towards stabilizing the district’s new look for the 21st century.
But a number of parents said they were tired of having had to go through
so many changes in recent years, and voiced not only exasperation,
but downright anger at the idea of going through more changes in the
years to come.
Redistricting, District superintendent Justine Winters said, would
be put into effect for the coming school year, following a series
of administrative presentations, and recommendations, over the coming
Board President Marino D’Orazio, VP Kathy Hochman and trustee
Lev Flounoy all pointed out that whatever changes were afoot would
take a back seat to the board’s collective concerns about Olive
anger and the dangers it could pose for the upcoming budget vote,
set for May 17.
According to D’Orazio, a recent conversation with one of Bonacic’s
aides resulted in the board being asked to withdraw its request to
be taken out of the role of deciding on the special tax. Instead,
Bonacic’s aide suggested that Onteora either ask that the word
“annually” be taken out of the current law, making moot
any future changes of the “Large Parcel” tax re-apportionment,
or substitute the names of other entities that should be making the
decision in the school board’s place.
D’Orazio mocked the idea of taking “annually” out
of the wording, noting that it was illegal for one elected board to
dictate what a later elected board taking its place can or can’t
Hochman proposed that the substitute names for enacting large parcel
decisions be first in line, the three local legislators currently
under fire for not having helped, or even warned the Town of Olive
about its increasing tax burdens: Bonacic, Cahill and Orange county
legislator William Larkin. Second in line, Hochman suggested, would
be the state and/or county Office of Real Property Services, who are
actually supposed to be setting such tax load matters. Third in line,
she said, would be the county legislature.
“I think their suggestion was a slap in the face of the residents
of Olive,” said board member Neil Eisenberg, referencing earlier
talk in the evening about the board’s fears of an Olive reaction
to any budget proposal put forth by the board, which has been operating
the school district under the austerity measures of a contingency
budget since their proposal lost last year.
Flournoy read a letter from ORPS in 2002 that suggested the law should
be revisited once put into effect, in case problems arose.
“We’ll keep pushing,” vowed D’Orazio, with
the entire board’s support, when asked by district superintendent
whether to change wording or continue pushing Cahill and Bonacic for
changes in the controversial Large Parcel law.
A quick run down of instructional budget figures at the meeting showed
costs for salaries and other needs, barring benefits (under a separate
line item, according to OCS Business Administrator Victoria Gerone)
saw this large chunk of expenditures rising by a total percentage
of approximately 4.4 percent to $17,546,857.
Board discussion centered on whether the district needed to spend
so much on outside instruction under BOCES programs for occupational
training and the like, or could start doing such things in-house.
It was decided that these matters, along with a possible trimming
of district-wide clerical spending, would be continued at a later
point after Winters presents a full budget with all line items seen
together, and not separated out, as has been the case in recent months.
Winters will make her recommendations for a 2005-2006 district wide
budget at a meeting at the Junior/Senior High School on Tuesday, March
15, following meetings at Bennett School and the High School, with
further individual line item presentations, on March 1 and March 8,
Johansson, who was given
the board’s unanimous thumbs-up after a series of public interviews
before an audience of school administrators, staff and district
residents on February 3, will serve until the election of a regular
board member during district-wide voting on May 17, when whoever
wins Rosato’s seat will be sworn in for a two year period.
The three other seats up for election at that time are for three
year terms, and will be sworn in in June.
Unfortunately, the new board membver was unable to make her own
swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, February 15 because of the death
of her mother, Kathleen C. Johannson, the previous day.
Board president Marino D’Orazio said that everyone on the
board felt that Johansson was the best candidate, showing previous
experience with work on other boards, a deft understanding of the
myriad issues facing the board as it enters its budget-making season,
and the benefits of being well-acquainted with Olive sentiments.
Olive has held several meetings on possible secession from the Onteora
School District, based on its continuing anger over the district’s
decision last summer to implement new “Large Parcel”
tax reapportionment formulas that have seen town resident’s
taxes rise over fifty percent. Half of the candidates vying alongside
Johansson for the open seat this winter had noted that it was this
single issue that had led them to throw in their hats for the position.
Similarly, at least two candidates for the May 17 district-wide
board elections have stepped forth from Olive, cogniscent of the
power of their town’s current anger at Onteora.
“Everyone felt she rose to the top. The board felt she would
be the best candidate to help us along with our immediate needs,”
said D’Orazio of the decision to appoint Johansson. “She
showed that she understands the issues that are facing us and we
felt she could be a great help to us. She had a very, very good
Johansson has said, in the past, that she was instrumental in helping
the candidacies of D’Orazio and his fellow board members,
Kathy Hochmann of Olive and Neil Eisenberg of Mount Tremper.
But instrumental in the board’s choice of Johannson was her
deep attachm,ent to the area.
Although born in Dlorida, she moved to Phoenicia at age five and
started school in what was essentially a one-room school held at
the time in the old Parish Hall. Her grandparents, Jack and Catherine
Crosby, ran the old Phoenicia Market for years at its first home
where Sweet Sue’s now stands on Main Street, and later where
the Phoenicia Deli now is across the street.
When the Bennett School was opened, Johannson went there, later
transferring to Phoenicia Elementary when it was built. She went
to Junior High at Onteora and later graduated from Coleman High
School in Kingston before going on to Ulster County Community College
in its early years, gaining a degree in business that led her to
a career with IBM in Kingston.
Johannson moved to High Point Road in Olive 12 years ago, after
a number of years in West Hurley.
Her present term on the Olive Planning Board runs until 2010. In
addition, she is also serving on the boards for the Olive Free Library,
the Olive Historical Society, and the Tongore Garden Club. She is
a past president of the Shandaken Women’s Network.
“I had the pleasure of being in the audience for the interviews,”
said district superintendent Justine Winters. “I was certainly
impressed with Anne Marie, finding her to be thoughtful and willing
to roll up her sleeves and get right to work on the budget.”
Johansson has commended the board on the organized and fair manner
in which they handled the whole interview and decision-making process.
“I thought the questions they asked were reasonable and well
thought out,” she said. “Of course, being from Olive,
I had already been asked about my positions by others before getting
Johansson added that she was flattered to have been asked if she
were willing to serve with the board, and is planning to sit with
individual members to get up to speed on issues before her swearing
“The biggest challenge everyone is facing now is to educate
our voters as to what they need to know to pass a working budget
that will benefit the students,” she said. “Information
is going to be key.”
She lauded the district for its efforts to start a new newsletter
and find other means of getting such information out to the district’s
She added that she would wait to decide whether she’ll be
running for a permanent seat to see how hostile the “environment”
becomes over the coming months.
“It would be a shame to see the board become divisive again,”
she said. “There are too many issues at hand to move backwards