With only four days to go before the current contract
expires, the Shandaken town board sat down to go over
the details of a new deal between the town and its police
Those details were not made clear to the small audience
that was in attendance December 27 at a town board meeting,
instead they were informed that the board discussion would
be held privately in executive session.
Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. said he expected the session
to be a long one. It was planned for that night, he said,
because the public portion of the meeting was expected
to be a short one.
“We didn’t want to be here all night,”
With no previous sessions held, it remains unclear why
the board waited until the contract was almost up to discuss
it. The current contract expired on December 31st.
Cross did tell the audienceDecember 28 that one thing
already settled was the salary increase. Police officers
would get a 4% hike. The funds for the increase are already
in the 2007 town budget, Cross added.
According to the adopted 2007 town budget, the police
department will cost $266,387 next year.
During budget hearings in November, Board members Robert
Stanley and Peter DiSclafani both questioned the big jump
in salary costs for part time police coverage. Set at
$30,000 to cover this year, officer in charge James McGrath
put in a request that it rise to $45,000 for 2007. Furthermore
the salaries for the town’s full time officers should
go up another $6,300 next year from $157,599 to $163,900.
Cross said he suspected it might be due to the extra part
time police needed during the floods in the town this
It should be noted that in 2005 McGrath requested and
received permission to hire another full time officer.
At the time one of the big selling points for the hiring
was an expected drop in part time police costs.
Before going in to the executive session at the year end
meeting, the board shifted $16,000 to pay for hours worked
by part time police staff. The money came from other parts
of the Police department’s budget, such as the full
time police budget line, the funds for uniforms, and a
catch-all budget line called police contractual.
By the time of the town’s official reorganization
meeting on January 2 there was still no signed contract
for 2007, but Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. said that the
town board and the police had reached an agreement that
was now under review by town Attorney Paul Kellar.
As long as Kellar decides the deal is properly drafted
it will be signed by both parites.
Back Up/Year End
The Alamo Ambulance Service has informed the town of Shandaken
that it will no longer provide back up service to the
town’s ambulance squad. However, the town board
has now entered into an agreement with Mobile Life Support
Service Inc. so there will be no gap in coverage.
At a town board meeting on Wednesday, December 27th, Supervisor
Robert Cross Jr. read aloud the notice from Alamo that
explained that the company was re-deploying its staff
and equipment to the Poughkeepsie area. Therefore, no
equipment would be available to serve as back up to Shandaken
after February 9, 2007.
Then-Ambulance Squad Chief Jerry Pearlman told the board
that he recommended entering into a contract with Mobile
Life Support as soon as possible because Alamo is already
in the process of sending it’s assets to Poughkeepsie,
so the company is already spread thin.
Pearlman also said the deal with Mobile Life Services
would be the same as what the town had with Alamo.
There is still no word on the town’s other ambulance
issues. In a matter unrelated to Alamo’s departure,
the Ambulance squad still has no firm plans as to how
to handle the problem of not having enough staff and equipment
on winter weekends to cover both Belleayre Mountain Ski
Center and the rest of Shandaken.
In other news, Cross got no support from the rest of the
board when he tried to outlaw public input on the board’s
end of the year reshuffling of budget funds.
Such transfers are not unusual. At the end of the year
money is shifted from some categories into others to pay
bills. This year the board dipped into the town’s
contingency fund for an extra $14,455 to pay for legal
fees. Cross said it was needed due to the number legal
problems the town has had.
“They just kept coming one after another,”
The board also shifted $16,000 to pay for hours worked
by part time police staff. The money came from other parts
of the Police department’s budget, such as the full
time police budget line, the funds for uniforms, and a
catch-all budget line called police contractual.
Another budget transfer was made to pay the town’s
zoning officer for turning on the sound system at town
hall for board meetings.
Glenn Miller was given an extra $2302 for the service.
The money was transferred from other zoning accounts.
Explaining his job as the sound technician, Miller said
“I don’t work for nothing.” Miller was
never officially hired for the job, nor was it advertised
as being available.
There were also a few fund transfers in the towns highway
“This is all money that’s already in the budget,”
said Highway Superintendent Keith Johnson.
Shuttle bus service between Ulster County and the Metro-North
train station in Poughkeepsie is currently in the proposal
stage, with plans being worked on to establish service
from free park-and-ride lots on state Route 32 in Rosendale;
in the village of New Paltz; and at the junction of state
Route 299 and U.S. Route 9W in Highland. A total of six
shuttle buses would start in the morning in Rosendale,
make five stops in New Paltz and one stop of Highland,
as well as other “flag-down” stops along the
way, then head to the train station in Poughkeepsie. In
the evening, the buses would run in the opposite direction.
There also would be some service on weekends.
The shuttle service is being planned by Ulster and Dutchess
counties in cooperation with the Mulligan bus company,
and would be subsidized by Metro-North and a federal grant
that Ulster County is seeking. Also being sought is a
state grant of $195,000 to pay for three buses.
Metro-North currently offers shuttle bus service in Dutchess
and Rockland counties.
Onteora student Kelsie Johnan, 15, is currently part of
a new hit CD — “All Together Now: Beatles
Stuff for Kids of All Ages,” that reached No. 2
on the list of best-selling children’s recordings
at Barnes & Noble, which is marketing it exclusivelyand
was performed on the “Today Show” in recent
weeks. Also appearing on the collection of 11 Beatles
hits reworked for younger audiences are home-schooler
Ripley Danner, 14, and Lake Katrine Middle School students
Bianca Covello, 13, and Kasey Stelter, 14. First- and
second-graders from Phoenicia and Woodstock elementary
schools provided drawings that accompany the disc.
“All Together Now” is a release by Little
Monster Records, a company started by Woodstock residents
Kevin Salem and Kate Hyman. In addition to the4 Ulster
County teens, it also features local residents Marshall
Crenshaw, The Bangles, Steve Conte of the New York Dolls
and Rachael Yamagata.
Cathy Johnan, Kelsie’s mom and director of the Olive-based
Discovery Preschool, helped recruit the kids involved.
The teen singers are all members of the Zena Sun Devils
swim team. They are currently preparing for a second compilation
CD of soul music to be recorded next summer.
Three people jumped to their deaths from Hudson River
bridges during the recent holiday week.
A 43-year-old Staatsburg woman, whom police have not publicly
identified pending notification of relatives, jumped off
the Dutchess County side of the Kingston Rhinecliff bridge
around 7 p.m. on the evening of December 28, Rhinebeck
State Police said. On December 27, Fr. John Kiwus, 70,
a priest, jumped to his death from the same bridge. And,
earlier on the same day, a Scarsdale man, Stephen Piekarski,
56, stopped his pickup truck in the middle of the Tappan
Zee Bridge, got out and jumped over the rail to his death.
Rick Fritschler, chairman of Ulster County’s Environmental
Management and Water Quality Management Agency since 1995,
is saying publicly that he may resign because of political
pressure tied to oversight problems involving the quasi-governmental
Lower Esopus River Watch, which some have charged with
being a slush fund for its board members. He says his
“feeling” comes from indications that the
county’s Democratic legislative majority is not
showing him enough support in the midst of growing troubles.
Leading Democrats on the legislature’s Environmental
Committee, as well as in the Democratic Caucus, denied
Fritscler’s charges of pressure.
It’s an unfortunate thing that he feels that way,”
Legislature Chairman David Donaldson told the Daily Freeman
in recent weeks. “I don’t think anybody has
pushed this on him. I believe he got upset with the forensic
audit, along with the auditor requiring certain information
before bills are paid.”
County Auditor Lisa Cutten has requested financial records
from Fritschler to better understand the relationship
between the agency and Lower Esopus River Watch, its nonprofit
contract vendor for stormwater management. The agency
also is one of ten departments being scrutinized by BST,
an outside consultant conducting a forensic review of
To date, Fritschler is the only department head who has
not cooperated in meeting with the consultants.
The tally for Hurricane Katrina waste could top $2 billion
next year because half of the lucrative government contracts
valued at $500,000 or greater for cleanup work are being
awarded without little competition. Federal investigators
have already determined the Bush administration squandered
$1 billion on fraudulent disaster aid to individuals after
the 2005 storm. Now they are shifting their attention
to the multimillion dollar contracts to politically connected
firms that critics have long said are a prime area for
In January, investigators will release the first of several
audits examining more than $12 billion in Katrina contracts.
The charges range from political favoritism to limited
opportunities for small and minority-owned firms, which
initially got only 1.5 percent of the total work.
“Based on their track record, it wouldn’t
surprise me if we saw another billion more in waste,”
said Clark Kent Ervin, the Homeland Security Department’s
inspector general from 2003-2004. “I don’t
think sufficient progress has been made.”
He called it inexcusable that the Bush administration
would still have so many no-bid contracts. Under pressure
last year, Federal Emergency Management Agency director
David Paulison pledged to rebid many of the agreements,
only to backtrack months later and reopen only a portion.
Investigators are now examining whether some of the agreements
— which in some cases were extended without warning
rather than rebid — are still unfairly benefiting
“It’s a combination of laziness, ineptitude
and it may well be nefarious,” Ervin said.
FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said the agency was working
to fix its mistakes by awarding contracts for future disasters
through competitive bidding. Paulison has said he welcomes
additional oversight but cautioned against investigations
that aren’t based on “new evidence and allegations.”
.Late last month, the Government Accountability Office
said its initial estimate of $1 billion in disaster aid
waste was “likely understated.’
When Democrats take over Congress this month, at least
seven committees plan hearings or other oversight —
from housing to disaster loans — on how the $88
billion approved for Katrina relief is being spent.
Foreclosures on mortgages are expected to rise sharply
in the U.S. in coming months, with nearly one in five
subprime borrowers at risk, the Center for Responsible
Lending, a consumer advocacy group has said in a new report
which noted that some 2.2 million subprime home loans
made in recent years already have failed or will end in
foreclosure. It also said that more than 19 percent -
or nearly one in five - subprime mortgages originated
in the past two years will end in foreclosure.
The center developed the projections after studying the
default rates on 6 million subprime mortgages written
between 1998 and 2004.
Subprime mortgages generally are written for families
that have weak or blemished credit histories, and they
typically carry higher interest rates than prime mortgages.
Foreclosure occurs when a family fails to maintain payments
on its mortgage and the lender moves to repossess the
property that was used to secure the mortgage.
Meanwhile, the Mortgage Bankers Association most recent
foreclosure data indicated that 1.05 percent of mortgage
loans were in foreclosure, with the rate jumping to 3.86
percent for subprime mortgages. But it also said that
the situation was worth watching more closely because
an increasing number of the mortgages written in America
are in the subprime market.
The study added that “our data show that cities
and exurban areas in California, Nevada, New Jersey, New
York and Michigan as well as the greater Washington, D.C.,
area can expect a high rate of subprime foreclosures.”
The Hudson River Valley Greenway has awarded a $15,000
matching grant to Ulster County for the first phase of
a county-wide Greenway Compact planning process.
Greenway Compacts are locally directed voluntary regional
planning documents that serve as guidance for municipalities
to incorporate the balanced “Greenway Criteria”
and a regional perspective in local planning and land
use decisions. The five Greenway Criteria are regional
planning; economic development; public access; natural
and cultural resources protection; and heritage and environmental
“The Greenway Compact process will help our diverse
communities here in Ulster County establish a vision framed
by the balanced Greenway approach,” said County
Legislature Chairman David Donaldson.
County planning officials, in partnership with the Greenway,
will begin conducting public forums that will engage municipal
leaders and citizens in the compact process to guide the
development of Ulster County’s Compact.
Olive recently joined the Greenway to better its chances
for municipal funding for a number of projects it wants
to undertake, including possible renovations of its aging
town hall, a former garage.
A Newburgh man has been indicted by an Ulster County grand
jury on a charge of aggravated cruelty to animals as a
felony. Raymond O’Riley, 48, formerly of Kerhonkson,
allegedly killed his former girlfriend’s four-month-old
kitten by snapping its neck and leaving its body in a
garbage bag in her home on September 27, 2006. District
Attorney Donald Williams said because O’Riley killed
the kitten “in an especially depraved and sadistic
manner,” it warranted a felony indictment, for which
he could receive up to two years in state prison if convicted.
Williams added that the evidence in the case demonstrates
that O’Riley’s actions were designed to “threaten,
control and abuse” his former girlfriend.
Far too many kids are fat by preschool, and Hispanic youngsters
are most at risk, says new research that’s among
the first to focus on children growing up in poverty.
The study couldn’t explain the disparity: White,
black and Hispanic youngsters alike watched a lot of TV,
and researchers spotted no other huge differences between
the families. But one important predictor of a pudgy preschooler
was whether the child was still using a bottle at the
stunning age of 3, concluded the study being published
online by the American Journal of Public Health.
“These children are already disadvantaged because
their families are poor, and by age 3 they are on track
for a lifetime of health problems related to obesity,”
said lead researcher Rachel Kimbro of the University of
Some 17 percent of U.S. youngsters are obese, and millions
more are overweight. Obesity can lead to diabetes, high
blood pressure and cholesterol, sleep problems and other
disorders - and the problem starts early. Overweight preschoolers
have a five times higher risk of being fat at age 12 than
do lean preschoolers, scientists reported last fall.
Kimbro focused on the poor, culling data on more than
2,000 3-year-olds from a study that tracks from birth
children born to low-income families in 20 large U.S.
Thirty-two percent of the white and black tots were either
overweight or obese, vs. 44 percent of the Hispanics.
Why were the Hispanics at higher risk? Kimbro checked
a long list of factors, from children’s TV habits
to whether mothers had easy access to grocery stores.
Nothing could fully explain the difference. “We
were surprised,” she said.
Children were particularly at risk if their mothers were
obese. So were those who still took a bottle to bed at
age 3, as did 14 percent of the Hispanic youngsters, 6
percent of the whites and 4 percent of the blacks.
That finding supports other research that “one of
the most common causes of overweight in children is overfeeding,”
said Dr. Philip Nader, a pediatrician and professor emeritus
at the University of California at San Diego. Pediatricians
say even babies should never take a bottle to bed, and
that children should start drinking from a cup around
What Is Fat?
Two new studies show that there are different colonies
of bacteria in the intestines of the obese than there
are in the innards of the slim. The research, published
in an edition of the journal Nature, finds that the microbes
in an overweight body are more efficient at extracting
calories from food.
“Not everyone sitting down to a bowl of cereal will
necessarily absorb the same number of calories from it,”
says Jeffrey Gordon, lead author of the papers and a professor
of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.
About two-thirds of adults, about 136 million Americans,
are overweight or obese, the government says. These findings
open up a new area of research, says Sam Klein, a study
co-author and professor of gastroenterology at the university.
“It’s not just your brain and your body fat
and your body organs involved in your energy balance equation,”
he says. “It may also be the bugs that are in your
body as well.”
One study focused on mice, the other on humans. They found
that in both man and rodent, a family of bacteria known
as firmicutes were more plentiful in the obese than in
the lean. Conversely, bacteria called bacteroidetes were
less abundant than in normal-weight subjects.
The research showed that obese mice were more efficient
than lean mice at harvesting calories from complex sugars
found in fruits, vegetables and grains, and depositing
those calories in fat - most likely because of the bacterial
And when they transplanted the microbes from obese and
thin mice into mice raised in a sterile environment, those
that got microbes from the obese mice gained twice as
When obese people lost weight, virtually all the bacteroidetes
increased, while the firmicute group shrank, Gordon says.
The bacteria inside us are a huge and mysterious part
of life. “There are trillions of them, they outnumber
the human cells in our bodies,” Klein says. Meaning,
Gordon quips, “you never eat alone.”
Over In Denning...
The Town of Denning, through its Planning Board, has mailed
an opinion survey to property owners that will help form
a new Town comprehensive plan. Through the survey, the
Board hopes to better understand people’s concerns
about the future, challenges facing the Town, and obtain
feedback on land use, growth management, public services,
community character and economic growth.
The Planning Board is charged with updating the 2001 comprehensive
plan. It will identify guidelines and standards for the
protection and enhancement of Denning. An initial plan
update was provided to the Planning Board and public in
July, 2006. Subsequently, there were a series of community
meetings to review and discuss Town goals and potential
Denning is working with planning consultant David Gilmour,
AICP, of Gilmour Planning LLC, to collect and assess survey
information. The survey, he noted, offers a chance for
Denning to describe itself and identify how to achieve
complementary change in the future.
Survey respondents may list any comments or questions
they would like considered in the planning process. There
is also an option to provide contact information in case
the Town attempts to provide outreach in the future. If
more than one adult in a home desires a survey, it may
be picked up at Town Hall during business hours Monday,
Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30 am to 1:30p.m.
For more information on the survey or Denning, contact
the Town at 985-2411, or check the Town web site at: www.denning.us
New York State Secretary of State Christopher Jacobs announced
on Friday, the last date of his tenure, 51 new Quality
Communities grants totaling $3 million for economic development
and environmental protection projects statewide, including
a handful to local municipalities and county programs.
The Quality Communities program awards grants to municipalities
for projects related to smart growth, development planning
and open space preservation. A total of 133 applications
were received in this funding cycle.
In Ulster County, the Town of Saugerties in partnership
with the Village of Saugerties will receive $23,388 to
prepare a strategic plan for sustainable growth which
will provide for proper management in an environment of
rapid development activity; and the County will be awarded
$60,000 to support countywide, coordinated community-oriented
strategies for supporting the planning and design of main
street revitalization programs in existing hamlets and
centers in Ulster County.
FCC To Right
Just before Christmas, right after Congress took its Holiday
Recess, President George W. Bush installed self-described
conservative writer and producer Warren Bell on the board
of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports
U.S. public television and radio. Bell, who was nominated
in June, writes for the conservative magazine The National
Review and was previously a writer and producer for “Coach”
and “Ellen,” two popular TV series in the
1990s. The Senate Commerce Committee had been scheduled
to hold a confirmation hearing for him in September but
he was dropped from the agenda because of concerns by
both Republicans and Democrats.
The Los Angeles Times reported that some of Bell’s
fellow writers said he had made negative comments about
funding public broadcasting, a charge he denied. No action
on his nomination was taken by the Senate before it adjourned
early in December.
Bush’s recess appointment allows Bell to hold the
board position until Congress adjourns next year, the
White House said. Such appointments may be made by the
president when Congress is not in session.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a federally
funded nonprofit corporation and the largest single source
of money for U.S. public television and radio programming,
including PBS and National Public Radio. It is governed
by a presidentially appointed board.
The board was the source of political controversy in 2005
when its chairman at the time, Kenneth Tomlinson, was
criticized for injecting politics into the organization
when he recruited a former senior Republican party official
— Patricia Harrison — as its new president
and chief executive.
Tomlinson had sought to add more conservative-minded shows
to the line-up to counter what many conservatives considered
a liberal bias in public broadcasting. He resigned in
November 2005 amid the controversy.
The Bush administration has come under fire before for
trying to influence news coverage, including paying a
conservative commentator to praise its new education law
and the production by government agencies of video news
releases that some television stations aired without identifying
Ah, The Economy
The slowdown that hit the U.S. economy will persist into
2007 as the once red-hot housing market continues to suffer
through a serious correction, analysts say, forecasting
that the economy will perform at the slowest pace in five
years, a full percentage-point lower than growth in 2006.
But while the slowdown will cause the unemployment rate
to rise, economists remain hopeful that the economy will
remain on track to achieve the Federal Reserve’s
hoped-for “soft landing.” That is described
as a scenario in which growth slows enough to dampen inflation
but not trigger a recession.
But there are plenty of risks that could make the landing
more bumpy - everything from another surge in oil prices
to a more severe collapse in housing, which could rattle
consumer confidence. At the moment, though, economists
feel there is only a one-in-four chance that the current
slowdown will turn into an actual recession. The reason
for the optimism is that American consumers, while buffeted
in 2006 by record-high gasoline prices and a slumping
housing market, have kept spending, helped by a solid
Consumers were also helped by a retreat in gasoline prices
from record highs above $3 per gallon last summer.
The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic
product, expanded in 2006 by 3.3 percent, many economists
believe, just slightly above the 3.2 percent GDP growth
of 2005. For 2007, Global Insight is forecasting a GDP
growth rate of just 2.3 percent, a full percentage point
lower than in 2006. That would be the slowest pace since
the economy grew by just 1.6 percent in 2002, a year when
the country was struggling to recover from the 2001 recession.
The slower growth means that unemployment will be rising,
with many analysts expecting the jobless rate to hit 5
percent in 2007, up from a five-year low of 4.4 percent
in October. That would still be a relatively low overall
civilian jobless rate in historical terms.
Economists at Goldman Sachs estimate that housing-related
industries - construction, furniture manufacturing and
sales, real estate agents, mortgage brokers - will see
more than 1 million jobs evaporate over the next two years
because of the housing slowdown after five boom years
Meanwhile. the financial press reported last week that
the euro, the new currency created only five years ago
and used by most European nations, has supplanted the
U.S. dollar as the most widely used form of cash internationally.
There are now more Euros in circulation worldwide than
This alone is not necessarily troubling, as the dollar
remains the world’s most important reserve currency.
About 65% of foreign central bank exchange reserves are
still held in dollars, versus only about 25% in euros.
And the European Central Bank faces the same inflationary
pressures that our own Federal Reserve Bank Governors
face, including a growing entitlement burden that threatens
economic ruin as both societies age.
Still, the rise of the Euro internationally is another
sign that the U.S. dollar is not what it used to be. There
is increasing pressure on nations to buy and sell oil
in euros, and anecdotal evidence suggests that drug dealers
and money launderers now prefer euros to dollars. Historically,
the underground cash economy has always sought the most
stable and valuable paper currency to conduct business.
More importantly, our nation’s greatest benefactors
for the last twenty years— Asian central banks—
have lost their appetite for holding U.S. dollars. China,
Japan, and Asia in general have been happy to hold U.S.
debt instruments in recent decades, but they will not
prop up our spending habits forever. Foreign central banks
understand that American leaders do not have the discipline
to maintain a stable currency. When the rest of the world
finally abandons the dollar as the global reserve currency,
both Congress and American consumers will find borrowing
money a more expensive proposition.