of New York is paying $17 million to build the system and is subsidizing
the district to pay for much the costs of running it every year.
Homeowners would be charged a flat $100 a year for the service, but
after three years the $100 would be adjusted for inflation. Supporters
of the plan say this is a good deal for homeowners because it eliminates
the headaches associated with cesspools and septic systems and also
allows for the expansion of homes.
Critics however warn that there may be high costs down the road if
something goes wrong with the system and the district needs to make
repairs, upgrades, or additions.
Businesses do not have the $100 cost cap the homeowners enjoy, and
a handful of business owners, most notably the high water users like
restaurants and lodging enterprises, have been the most vocal critics
of the plan. Each business will pay a flat annual fee of $200 then
extra depending on how much water the business uses. While critics
have challenged the estimates of those costs, it is said that the
average business would pay an extra $112 a year.
If the system is installed, homeowners and businesses must pay to
link up to it. Estimates show the average hook up cost to be $3100.
Officials say low income residents will be given grants to pay for
the work. Officials also say that there will be enough money left
over from the construction of the project to pay for the rest of the
hook ups, but critics note there is no guarantee of that.
There are 22 communities in the New York City watershed slated to
receive systems. Phoenicia was on a high priority list of 7 communities
viewed as needing the system. The other communities on that short
list are the village of Hunter, the village of Fleischmanns, the hamlet
of Windham, the hamlet of Andes, and the hamlets of Roxbury and Prattsville.
All of the other communities on the high priority list agreed to projects
with little dissention.
Up The Mission
“Finance did not seem to be it. We’re really not
sure why they closed them,” said Gormley, who was also chairman
of the church’s appeals committee which did, in the end, manage
to salvage the parish itself. “We based our appeal on need,
geography, the demographics of the area; on the fact that we serve
a community from High Mount to Shokan and that’s a long way
It was announced on January 19th that, as a result of a major realignment
process initiated by Cardinal Edward Egan last March, 10 of 19 parishes
listed for possible closure under their jurisdiction will be closed,
as will 3 of 9 missions targeted. Two of the three closed missions
are satellites of St. Francis de Sales in Phoenicia, which serves
some 300 families. Eleven other parishes in the system were merged
in the new alignment and 14 of 235 elementary schools were designated
The St. Francis de Sales parish itself, which was once slated to become
a mission church of St. John’s Church in West Hurley, was saved
in the appeal process. St. Augustine Church in West Shokan, a mission
church of St. John’s also escaped the closure list unscathed.
“We fought to keep everything,” said Gormley’s wife,
Maureen, denying one report which seemed to suggest otherwise. “We
never made a compromise to give up those two (mission) churches to
keep our parish.”
“It was a huge appeal,” said Gene Gormley of the documents
he submitted to Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan’s ARAP in the last
week of May 2006. “I don’t have it in front of me but
it was also based on the local traditions, the history of the area
and its people; the history of the parish and the fact that we were
This last point might be raised because the Allaben Church had been
closed due to a heating problem early last January and the Boiceville
Church’s furnace had been condemned during the realignment process.
“Since that time, when we were assigned Father (Philip) Tran
on September 1st, we were able to secure the funds to replace the
Boiceville furnace completely,” Gormley said. “In fact,
we had a donation from one person to do that plus enough money for
the heating oil for the season. We also had a pledge for the funds
from a few people banding together in Allaben to repair that heating
system, which is propane, and cover enough fuel for the whole year.
So, financially, we were ready to jump right in but, under the threat
of closure, we couldn’t do it right away.”
Cardinal Egan, while describing the moves as the culmination of a
3-year process “to identify the religious, spiritual and educational
needs of the Catholic faithful throughout the entire archdiocese,”
also denied that economics was a decisive factor. He referred to a
complex method of assessment, done “not just by the numbers,”
an approach he said would have simplified the process.
In a press release, the Cardinal said that “shifting numbers”
in the districts were “evaluated through the use of demographic
information, Catholic population analysis, sacramental and fiscal
data” as well as site visits, phrasing seemingly employed to
avoid an impression that the choices were based strictly upon cold
Cardinal Egan also denied that a shortage of priests was at issue
but other voices within the archdiocese left room for conjecture on
Father Tran, who joined St. Francis de Sales in an administrative
position after serving as a U.S. Navy Chaplain, said that the church’s
previous pastor, Father Christopher Berean (who could not be reached
in time for this report), had been reassigned to St. Mary of the Snow
Church in Saugerties to fill a need resulting from the transfer elsewhere
of that church’s pastor. Father Tran is himself preparing to
visit relatives in Vietnam, where he hopes to observe current conditions
in that country’s orphanages, elderly homes and AIDS clinics
in a private, entirely nonofficial capacity.
With the closure of Our Lady of LaSalette, which was established in
the early 1950s, Olive is left with 9 of the area’s 300 churches
(including some 47 denominations and not counting 14 synagogues).
Allaben’s Our Lady of Lourdes Church was built in 1879 but the
oldest still-standing religious structure would seem to be the Old
Baptist School and meeting place on Reservoir Road, built in 1799-
the same year as the Shokan Reform Church which no longer stands.
The parish of St. Francis de Sales dates to 1902, when it was founded
as one of the first stateside missions of the Order of La Salette.
Berean moved to the pastorship of the parish in January, 2003 from
being an assistant priest in Saugerties, after the La Salette’s
passed control of the local churches over to the ARchiocese, based
in New York City.
Prior to Berean’s coming, and the parish’s transfer, Father
Hector LaChapelle, a former chaplain for the Green Bay Packers, moved
away from the district after a parishioner won a settlement from the
church. He is now working as a Parochial Vicar) at St Brendan The
Navigator Parish in North Carolina.
Gormley said that the mission churches will be closed and secured
but that, as far as he knows, there will be no attempt to sell them.
His voice mixed the relief of learning, after long and anxious months
awaiting the ARAP’s decision, that the parish was not lost with
the disappointment of hearing that its mission churches were.
“Beyond the distances involved, there’s a sentimental
attachment to the church you’ve gone to for so long,”
Gormley reflected, speaking undoubtedly for many in the congregation.
“It’s not a pleasant thing to lose something you’re
so familiar with.”
Welcome, Leslie Ford!
commended the district for having a wide variety or programs, so a
majority of students can stay in district, adhering to federal regulations
of having the “least restrictive environment” and proving
generally the most cost effective way to deal with special needs students.
But he also defined three areas of concern: collaboration, staff development
and consistency of teams and noted that the district does not currently
have a curriculum development team between regular education and special
education teachers, that programs between the schools are inconsistent,
and pointed out that consultant teachers need supervision between
the elementary and middle school, with more direct supervision, due
to the “ever increasing responsibilities of the department.”
At the high school level, Walker’s report went on, a studies
program needs to “become more effective and efficient.”
Grades nine-through-twelve special education students are lumped into
one class with up to five subjects needing help per grade and suggested
a less rigorous system. Walker also said that parents need more support
and education in the community.
A special education PTA, a new advocacy group led by parent Valerie
Hill is taking root in the middle school library and meets once a
Walker concluded that no district has the best answer in how to run
a special education department, but it is important to look at other
methods, utilize workshops and use BOCES services as staff development.
His supervisor, Barbara Boyce, pointed out that over the last decade,
fewer students are receiving special education classes, but instead
mainstreaming into regular education classes with teacher consultants
as aides. Following up on Walkers report, she agreed with most of
his suggestions but pointed out financial challenges due to decreasing
federal government funds and concurrently increasing employee salaries..
Boyce said she looks forward to discussions with Ford about ways of
implementing Walker’s recommendations, “most of which
I agree with and applaud.”
Also awaiting Ford’s attention will be the new 2007-2008 OCS
budget, which got its initial technology, custodial and maintenance
departments presentation at the same late-January meeting. Total equipment
request for technology totaled at $125,000 or a 26.52 percent increase
in it’s budget. This includes ten new computers for the middle/high
school library, four servers and smart boards for each library. The
proposal will begin to address the district’s aging equipment
and also an additional request to hire three teaching assistants per
each elementary school, to implement its usage.
Custodial and maintenance departments have requested a combined $95,824,
or a 3.34 percent increase. mostly as a result of increased employee
salary as defined by contract agreements. Custodial also requested
new vacuums, floor machines and two part time custodial staff positions.
Maintenance must repair a small portion of the high school roof due
to leaking, replace ceiling tiles and lighting due to the water damage.
Boilers at Woodstock are worn and are considered a health and safety
The school board passed a resolution five-to-one to use federal and
state EXCEL funds to purchase a new boiler system for Woodstock and
make needed improvements on the high school auditorium. This will
not increase taxes, but will still need voter approval sometime in
late March. Trustee Rita Vanacore was the only no vote for the proposal,
preferring that the money go to technology infrastructure. The school
board has approved Ford’s starting date as February 12, at the
rate of $155,000 per year for a three-year period. If Ford begins
earlier than the date, she will be considered per diem.
Gets His Ovation
What would have been seen
as a highly partisan event a year ago drew an SRO crowd of over 250
to the Kingston Holiday Inn Monday morning, January 22, with the veteran
Democrat drawing applause as he raised legal and ethical questions
about the Bush Administration’s actions of the past six years
and lambasted Dean Gitter’s Belleayre Resort proposal for a
mega-development in Shandaken as a “bad project with deep consequences.”
Touching on the county’s need to redevelop the old IBM campus
in Ulster, known now as Tech City, giving kudos to the current push
to consolidate Benedictine and Kingston Hospitals, and talking about
the need to investigate what went wrong in Iraq “so we don’t
ever repeat such mistakes again,” Hinchey drew occasional sharp
questions and comments from his business community audience, but also
a standing ovation at breakfast’s end that included over half
those in attendance.
Many spoke, amongst themselves at their tables, about the changed
climate since Congressman Maurice Hinchey last addressed the Chamber
on January 19, 2005 , ostensibly about his recent return from a fact-finding
trip to Ukraine and its Orange Revolution. Then, Hinchey’s call
for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and accusations that the Bush
administration had lied to lead the congress, and nation, into its
wars, was met with more cross-armed silence than support. Some in
the national press had even accused the Congressman of treason for
Now, Democrats control both houses of Congress and Bush’s every
statement seems to be garnering as much criticism from leading members
of his own GOP as the traditional opposition. Moreover, photos released
over the recent weekend of Hinchey trying out new House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi’s gavel before the Congress seemed to have cemented his
newfound rise to stable power amongst the government’s upper
“The timing of this visit couldn’t be better,” noted
Chamber president Ward Todd, former Ulster County Legislative chairman
when that chamber was still in Republican hands, in introducing the
“We have a new environment, as you know,” Hinchey started
off his spiel, to the quiet laughter of in-the-know acknowledgement
from the gathered business and governmental leaders of his home county.
He then started listing some of the “difficulties of single
party rule” over the previous six years.
He talked about what the new Pelosi-led House has been up to over
the last, much-touted 100 days. Highlighted ethics reform and the
push to upgrade the minimum wage, the better to combat a rising debt-load
that has Americans currently spending 108 percent of their income
each month. He talked about the need to base the nation’s principals
on “intellect over ideology” and okay stem cell research,
something Hinchey has said could become a specialty of the reconfiguring
Hudson Valley economy.
Gradually, the gloves came off. Hinchey spoke about initiating legislation
to roll back the tax cuts handed out to oil corporations in the years
since Republicans took over the House in 1995. Repeated Jon Stewart’s
Daily Show joke about President Bush’s new “No ice cap
left behind” policy. While claiming not being “strictly
partisan,” he noted how the new Congress is, “Picking
up the slack that’s been out there for the last 12 years. People
have realized we were going in the wrong direction.”
And then Hinchey moved on, seamlessly, to Subject A: “The so-called
war in Iraq,” calling it “Now an occupation that was a
military invasion” of dubious legality. He addressed its costs
to the country, both in terms of military personnel and a growing
hindrance to other sorts of growth.
“All of us remember what happened in Vietnam,” he said
as the Chamber sat rapt, nodding. He noted how Bush’s push towards
“acceleration” had come despite his leading military advisors
suggesting opposite action before being relieved of duty. Acknowledged
the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations.
“We must do everything we can to stop this administration from
making the situation worse than it is,” Hinchey said. “We
as a nation face a difficult time. We have to have the strength to
change our course.”
Using both hands to rhythmically drive home his points, the Congressman
and former state Assemblyman noted how monies going into Iraq could
cover the costs of universal health care, pre-school for all Americans,
development of alternative energy sources, and increased productivity
on a national basis. He noted how, in good business, “It’s
just a matter if using the resources you have, the better to serve
Hinchey then moved to the local scene, just as some of his audience
began to fidget. He pointed out how the merger talks between Benedictine
and Kingston hospitals “were on the right track;” talked
about how the “right questions” were being asked about
development at Kingston’s The Landing, and other projects around
the region; spoke strongly about how the old IBM Plant – Tech
City – “really needs to be addressed... It’s been
over 12 years.”
And then the Chamber got to ask its questions.
Asked by a commercial real estate agent whether he would ever approve
large development in the region – while disparaging Hinchey’s
involvement in the ongoing review of Gitter’s controversial
project, the congressman was specific about why he wasn’t “opposed
to that project just for the hell of it” but because of a long
list of possible environmental and ultimately economic effects it
could have on the region and state.
His answer drew heavier applause than that which accompanied the original
An insurance agent asked about a statement Hinchey had made, earlier,
regarding Bush’s use of the war to get re-elected. The congressman
replied, sharply, with an exegesis of how an electorate allows themselves
to be governed out on consent, for their own benefit, or fear.
“The administration knew it couldn’t succeed on the basis
of any benefits so they cultivated a culture of fear,” Hinchey
said. “The president deceived the Congress and country…
it was all designed to create fear… It’s absolutely despicable
what’s been done. It’s the worst administration we’ve
ever had in the history of America.”
Half the room clapped almost loud enough to make it sound like a full
Why no impeachment, came the last question as Todd motioned that it
was time for the monthly meeting to come to a close.
“President Cheney,” Hinchey said, as the punch line to
a longer explanation. “We have to investigate what happened
so we can prevent the country from facing this ever again.”
Before Hinchey’s talk, county legislator Hector Rodriguez thanked
the Chamber for its help passing a new County Charter. Some clapped
while others looked stone-faced, as if not cogniscent of what they
had done. Todd handed out a number of door prizes, including a bathrobe
from Gitter’s Emerson Spa. He pushed skiing at local resorts
as a means of helping out that segment of the local economy.
“Next month we’ll be having State Senator John Bonacic
to talk about state level legislation,” he said.
Names A New Enviro-Commissioner
On Thursday, January 25,
Governor Eliot Spitzer nominated Assemblyman Alexander “Pete”
Grannis, a state legislator from Manhattan since 1974 when he used
to car-pool to Albany with now-Congressman Maurice Hinchey, to be
DEC commissioner, and Judith Enck, his policy adviser for the past
eight years while he was attorney general, as deputy environmental
Grannis, a former DEC employee with a law degree from the University
of Virginia, has pushed such environmental issues as the state Environmental
Quality Review Act, the original bottle bill, and the clean-up and
revitalization of the state’s brownfields, as well as the banning
of cigarette smoking from public places in New York State. Prior to
joining Spitzer’s office, Enck was an environmental associate
with the New York Public Interest Research Group who also served as
executive director of the Environmental Advocates of New York, a non-profit
government watchdog organization.
Issues facing the DEC under its new administration include many’s
belief that the agency had pulled away from active environmental enforcement
during Pataki’s years, focused too much on high-profile money-making
facilities (such as local Belleayre Mountain Ski Center), and eschewed
its stewardship role for state lands.
Off-the-record talk among those currently at the DEC, as well as many
who do business with the agency around the region, said they were
surprised by Grannis’ nomination, but felt it showed Spitzer’s
will to create a more active environmental role for the state in the
coming years. Some also noted that the new governor’s choice
of two high-powered environmental officers also suggested a possible
power struggle down the line, although others pointed out that whereas
Enck is a theorist, Grannis has proved his worth as a listener who
responds to needs in the field. A man of action, in other words.
No one was yet ready to address rumors that some major local changes
might soon be in the offing, from shifts in regional offices and facilities’
management to the possibility of a renewing of an earlier push, by
Hinchey and the state’s last Democratic DEC Commissioners under
Mario Cuomo, to build a Catskills Park interpretive center on lands
already developed for the purpose on Route 28 near the Shandaken/Olive/Woodstock
line in Mt. Tremper.
“So far, everyone has been wrong about everything,” said
one insider. “As a result, we don’t pay any attention
to the rumor mill.”
Similarly, questions regarding any changes regarding the state DEC’s
pending review of local developer Dean Gitter’s Belleayre Resort
proposal to put a massive golf resort on high peak lands adjacent
to the state-owned ski resort went unanswered as of press time…
except for those who pointed out Grannis’ long friendship with
Hinchey, who has proposed cutting the project in half, and Enck’s
role as environmental advisor in the AG’s office, which came
out strongly against the project on several occasions in recent years.
“Pete Grannis was part of the Environmental Conservation Committee
the whole time I was there. I don’t know of anyone who is more
able and more committed to the environment than Pete Grannis,”
said Hinchey in a statement. “He is a very highly qualified
and highly capable person who will do an extraordinary job. Pete knows
environmental issues as well as anyone and I’m sure he will
be a very effective Commissioner. I very much look forward to working
with him again.”
Noted the environmental group Riverkeeper, which has played a key
role in many Catskills watershed issues in recent years, “Pete
Grannis and Judith Enck are the Environmental ‘Dream Team,’
Their appointments signal a new and exciting era of environmental
protection in New York State… With these appointments, Governor
Spitzer is now poised to restore New York as a leader in environmental
environGrannis, born in Chicago, Illinois and a graduate of Rutgers
University, had been known in the legislature for his role fighting
large insurance companies on behalf of the public, as an advocate
for affordable housing, and as well as a stickler for detail. In 1988,
Mr. Grannis spearheaded the set-aside of millions of dollars in surplus
tax revenues for an innovative package of affordable housing programs.
In addition to his legislative initiatives, he made oversight a priority,
conducting investigations into the state’ s rent administration
and affordable housing programs. He authored New York’s Clean
Indoor Air Act, which stands as the most comprehensive set of restrictions
on smoking in public places and workplaces in the nation. As Chairman
of the Assembly Majority Adirondack Working Group, Grannis led the
fight to preserve the natural resources of the Adirondack Park, earning
him the honor of becoming a three-time winner of the “Legislator
of the Year” from the Environmental Planning Lobby, as well
as similar awards from the Audobon Society.
“I’m very excited and flattered,” Grannis, 65, told
the press following his nomination. “DEC is where I began my
career in 1970,” he added, noting two years spent as a compliance
officer in the department he will now be heading.
He is a skier, hiker and avid flyfisherman whose staff says spends
considerable time in the Catskills already, where he treasures the
Enck has said Spitzer is concerned about issues including global warming,
land preservation, recycling and expanding the bottle recycling bill.
“You will see a lot of that when the budget comes out later
this week,” Enck noted in a statement. “The governor wants
to revive DEC. It is definitely understaffed, having lost 800 staff
during the last 10 years.”
Grannis’ nomination for the $136,000-a-year DEC commissioner’s
post, which currently oversees approximately 3,400 employees and is
responsible for air and water purity as well as protected wilderness
regions in the Catskills and Adirondacks for the state of New York,
will go before the GOP-controlled state Senate, where he said he expects
support. A spokesman for the Senate Republican majority said the review
process would be “thorough and open.”
State Senator John J. Bonacic, who pointed out having served with
Mr. Grannis in the State Assembly, said this week that, “The
DEC significantly impacts those who live in the Catskills. I look
forward to working with the Commissioner-designee on issues such as
the watershed agreement, Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, and the need
for the State to implement more aggressive plans relating to flood