A year plagued with flood and fire and felony is blamed
for extra expenses that were paid for Wednesday night
at Shandaken's end of year meeting.
Each year the town board meets in a special session just
before new years to close the books. All bills are paid
through a reshuffling of budget line items. For example,
with money left over in a line for planning and development,
$1,627 of it was transferred to the line that contains
money to take care of town parks, which this year cost
more than expected.
Such transfers vary from year to year. While previous
administrations have spread the transfers out over a period
of several months, this year most were held off to the
And some are substantial. The town’s highway secretary
racked up $4500 in overtime pay. Electric charges came
in at $5900 more than allocated and a whopping $17,400
was needed to handle those fuel costs that everybody knows
about after Hurricane Katrina.
The town’s ambulance squad had to move some funds
around to pay for $11,000 worth of extra part time ambulance
staff wages and part time police cost the town $2500 more
In all, a total of $57,805 was shuffled around. Of that
amount, $20,614 must come out of the town’s contingency
fund, a catch all line that exists to handle these matters.
In 2005, $37,000 was allocated for the contingency fund.
In November the town chose to allocate $30,000 for 2006.
According to Patricia Heinz, who helps the Supervisor
prepare and maintain the town’s budget, these extra
expenses will not affect the 2006 budget in any way.
“We still have money in the 2005 budget in other
line items,” she said Thursday. “We may even
have money left in contingency.”
Heinz added that town accountants would take care of all
the fiscal loose ends in the first few weeks of 2006.
At Wednesdays meeting, Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. said
2005 was a year that put a strain on the town’s
emergency services. He noted the burning of the Emerson
Inn last April and the major flood that same month that
washed away much of the towns roads and landscape and
required an unprecedented evacuation procedure for much
Cross is developing a town wide evacuation plan as a result
of the mayhem that occurred last spring.
Speaking specifically about one police $550 police expense,
Cross said it was to cover overtime Detective work that
was required due to criminal activity in town.
For Edna Hoyt, a Shandaken Democrat who served 8 years
on the town board, it wasn’t enough to just devote
that time to public service. She had to give away most
of her salary too.
Hoyt began her stint on the town board during the Neil
Grant administration. From there she stayed on through
two years with Supervisor Wayne Guttmann, another two
with Peter DiModica, and two more with current Supervisor
Robert Cross Jr.
E xcept for the two years spent with fellow Democrat DiModica,
Hoyt spent most of that time in the role of minority party
representative, questioning the more controversial maneuvers
of the Republicans, agreeing with ones she felt were solidly
in the towns best interests and disagreeing with those
that were not, often to loud applause from an always appreciative
On Wednesday night Hoyt waited for family members to arrive
at that evenings end of year meeting before bidding farewell
to elected office. Acknowledging that it has had its up’s
and down’s, Hoyt said she was glad to have had the
opportunity to serve.
“I enjoyed it,” she said.
She explained that during all her years as a board member
she gave much of her salary away.
“You know what they say. If you get used to extra
money you end up a pauper,” she said.
Hoyt kept most of the beneficiary’s identities a
secret, only mentioning the Saint Francis De Sales Church
in Phoenicia, which needed a great deal of repair work
done on its Parish Hall last year.
She spoke of an unnamed local youth whom she has helped
for years, donating $200 from every paycheck to his or
her college education. That someone, she added, is now
working on a doctorate at RPI.
Looking at the rest of the board, she said they all in
effect contributed because her donations were from town
“I just wanted to let you know you did. Thank you,”
Cross, who has crossed swords on occasion with Hoyt, put
the credit where the credit was do.
“No Edna. It’s what you did,” he said.
Then in typical Hoyt fashion she accepted his generous
remarks, then good-naturedly let him have it.
At the close of her speech, Hoyt told Cross that although
she is retiring from the board she wouldn’t retire
from participating in local government. She said that
his administration still needs to be scrutinized, and
that’s what she’ll do from a seat in the audience.
“Il be watching you,” she said.
Peter DiSclafani, the Democrat elected in November to
replace Hoyt, presented Hoyt with a bouquet of flowers
as thanks for a job well done.
Real estate has continued to be good in the Hudson Valley
and Catskills as new housing construction and strong sales
have pushed Ulster County’s market value assessment
up by more than 20 percent since last year at this time.
According to Real Property Tax Service Agency Director
Dorothy Martin, the county’s full-market value has
risen from $13.7 billion to $16.6 billion over the last
year, a gain of $2.9 billion.
Full-market value is generated by taking town-level assessments
and multiplying them by the state-set equalization rate,
a factor that attempts to even out the fluctuations that
occur when assessments are done town by town, as they
are in Ulster County and much of the state.
This increase in the county’s total value, Martin
said, will help offset the 39 percent property tax increase
adopted by the county Legislature by broadening the tax
base over which the county tax levy is spread. That does
not mean, however, that taxpayers across the county can
expect their increase to be less than that, as county
tax rates vary among municipalities.
In some communities, the increase in assessed value comes
from townwide revaluations, in which all the properties
in a municipality are revalued based on current market
conditions, generally by using a computer program that
compares recent sales in a given area with current property
values of similar properties.
In others, Martin says, new construction is driving the
Six communities in Ulster County - Saugerties, Marlboro,
Marbletown, Plattekill, Rosendale and the town of Kingston
- underwent revaluations this year. Many of those communities
saw their townwide values increase sharply as a result.
Woodstock and the city of Kingston are also on the high
end of municipal values, with both valued at about $1.3
billion. The town of Ulster is valued at roughly $1.2
Rising home prices are a major factor in the double-digit
annual property value increases the county has experienced
over the past few years. Since 2002, the median home price
in Ulster County has risen by more than 67 percent, according
to figures provided by the New York State Association
of Realtors, from $155,000 in 2002 to $259,900 in September
The towns that had revaluations in the past year will
all see their county tax rates drop in 2006, according
to the county agency, although that dip in the tax rate
per $1,000 of assessed value in some cases will be offset
by the increase in the taxable value of individual properties.
County taxes account for about 12 percent of the average
property tax bill in Ulster County.
At the Onteora School District’s December 20 board
meeting, Superintendent Justine Winters refused a request
made by high school senior students for an open campus.
Winters said the district had received written information,
from both the OCS attorney and its insurance company,
advising against the requested policy change, which would
allow students to access the Boiceville shopping district
across Route 28. School board president Dave Patterson
asked that the subject, already denied by the administration,
be placed on the agenda for the meeting at Woodstock Elementary
School. School board members discussed alternative ways
to wave the liability, including trustee Rita Vanacore’s
suggestion that a traffic light be installed on the state
highway, as well as other ways the senior class could
have gathering places, such as a room for seniors only
and delivery from the restaurants across the street.
Trustee Marino D’Orazio requested that the school
board pass a resolution giving direction to the Future
of the District Commission to work with KSQ architects
concerning the future of West Hurley school, Woodstock
elementary school and a location for a middle school.
The Future of the District Commission was created by a
previous school board to review the closed West Hurley
school and decide it’s future. The committee came
up with four recommendations; create a separate middle
school, redistrict to ease up Woodstock school population,
request a feasibility study, and — after research
— recommended the district needed three elementary
schools instead of four. They did not have enough information
to make a decision regarding West Hurley, and asked that
a further study be completed before decisions were made.
After the recommendations came in last month, the committee,
confused by their own future role, asked the school board
for a charge.
Most board members expressed a need to keep the committee
going because it contained community members and faculty
from all the schools providing important, researched input,
although a minority suggested that the board decide a
direction for the district before reconvening the committee
to help implement the new mission.
In the final round the decision to specifically charge
the committee ended up being unanimous.
New Superintendent of Highways Keith Johnson had to hit
the ground running after being sworn in Monday night to
take over from departing road boss Richard Merwin.
Thanks to the snowstorm that hit that same evening, ran
though much of Tuesday and closed school as a result,
Johnson started work a few short hours after Justice Tom
Crucet made him the official Superintendent.
After the meeting Johnson happily explained the reason
for the early start and shed a little light on the mysterious
bit of winter magic known as the snow day.
J ohnson said that Onteora School officials actually make
the decision, but only after consulting with all the highway
superintendents district wide. The phones start ringing
at 3AM, he said, when he gives a rundown of local road
conditions and a recommendation. The School officials
then have only a couple hours to make up their minds.
Regarding those that might complain that at times the
decision doesn’t happen early enough, Johnson good-naturedly
volunteered to call anyone who wants to hear a three AM
Ulster County is pleased to announce an award of $311,030
from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) for its Continuum of Care Program managed by the
Ulster County Housing Consortium. The funding will be
used by various members of the Consortium to address the
problems of homelessness throughout Ulster County. Funding
was obtained to continue development of the County’s
Homeless Management Information System and a supportive
housing program by Family of Woodstock that will provide
a stable environment for the homeless to live and grow.
Funding was also made available to Multi-County Community
Development Corporation for a Shelter plus Care program
that offers additional support for young adolescents with
disabilities. For further information contact Chester
Straub, Chairman of the Ulster County Housing Consortium,
at (845) 338-8840 or Dennis Doyle, Director, Ulster County
Planning Board at (845) 340-3339.
A Woodstock man was arrested after he telephoned a threat
to “start shooting people” at the Phoenicia
branch of Key Bank, causing the building to be locked
down Tuesday afternoon, Shandaken police said. Robert
D. Heitmann, 53 of Meads Mountain Road, was apparently
upset with overdraft charges to his account and called
the bank’s customer service number with his threat,
police said. Police and Ulster County Sheriff’s
Office locked the bank for about an hour until Heitmann
was found. A Woodstock town justice issued an arrest warrant,
but Heitmann turned himself in, police said. Heitmann
was charged with misdemeanor aggravated harassment, arraigned
in Woodstock Town Court and released to answer the charge
at a later date. Shandaken police were assisted by the
Woodstock Police Department.
Shandaken Police also reported the arrest of two 18 year
old males after receiving a complaint that a man’s
jacket containing his wallet, credit cards, cash and cell
phone were stolen at the Belleayre Ski Center on December
29. Police state that three brothers left their coats
to reserve a table in the cafeteria and as they returned
two of the brothers observed Daniel R. May of Wallkill
and Billy-Joe Dart of Kingston walking out of the area
with the jacket. One brother later located the pair at
their vehicle rifling through the pockets and notified
security and the two were apprehended a short time later.
May and Dart were each charged with Grand Larceny, felonies,
and Petit Larceny, a misdemeanor. They were both issued
appearance tickets returnable at a later date.
Kingston City Judge James Gilpatric, who had previously
been pegged for State Supreme Court, was recently censured
by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for being
under the influence of alcohol while on the bench a year
and a half ago. Eight members of the 11-member panel voted
to censure Gilpatric, a punishmemt just short of removing
a judge from the bench, as occurred recently in Olive
because of political involvements, and in Shandaken a
decade ago because of the appearance of improprieties.
Gilpatric’s censure carries no punishment and no
fine because state law doesn’t give the commission
According to the commission’s written decision,
Gilpatric admitted to the panel that he was under the
influence of alcohol when he took the bench on Sept. 1,
2004, and was unable to carry out his duties. Gilpatric
also admitted he was under the influence of alcohol that
morning when he appeared in Ulster County Family Court
as an attorney, the commission’s decision stated.
The Commission noted that since Gilpatric’s transgression
was limited to a single day, and no party’s rights
were compromised, and the judge took appropriate steps
to be treated for his condition and was cooperative with
the commission throughout the proceedings, the lesser
punishment was granted. In its report, the commission
also said Gilpatric sought treatment for his alcoholism
in June 1994 and remained alcohol-free until the Sept.
1, 2004, incident. Gilpatric resumed his judicial duties
on Oct. 7, 2004, “and has performed without impairment
or incident,” the commission reported.
In a recent report released, the Institute of Medicine
said television advertising strongly influences what children
under 12 eat. The report said the food industry should
spend its marketing dollars on nutritious food and drinks.
That means SpongeBob, the popular animated star of the
Nickelodeon cable TV network, and other characters should
endorse only good-for-you food, the panel concluded.
The report said evidence is limited on whether TV advertising
leads to obesity in children. A study hasn’t been
done that would demonstrate a direct cause and effect.
Still, the panel found the evidence compelling enough
to call for a concerted effort to change the nature of
foods being marketed to children.
The growth in new food products targeted to kids has been
huge, from 52 introduced in 1994 to nearly 500 introduced
last year, the report said. Overwhelmingly, those foods
are high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, the scientists found.
Among children and adolescents from ages 6 through 19,
obesity rates have tripled over the past 40 years. Obesity
increases the risks of type 2 diabetes and many other
diseases and health conditions.
The food and beverage industries argue that they already
are taking steps recommended in the report, making products
healthier, shrinking package sizes and touting healthy
lifestyles. An advertising industry spokesman called the
findings frustrating, because many companies have been
reformulating products to make them healthier or reporting
calorie and fat content on menu boards or packaging.
The panel said the government should use tax breaks and
other incentives to encourage the shift away from junk
food and said if it doesn’t happen, Congress should
Canada’s prime minister said recently that he would
“not be dictated to” by the United States,
standing firm in his increasingly testy exchange of angry
rhetoric with American officials. Washington has called
on Prime Minister Paul Martin to calm the rhetoric against
his southern neighbor - a favorite pastime of many Canadians
- and accused him of lambasting the United States in an
effort to win votes in federal elections next month.
The jousting is the latest in what has become a running
skirmish between the prime minister and David Wilkins,
the U.S. ambassador to Canada, who has made numerous public
jibes against Martin.
Martin has said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper likely
wouldn’t be willing to stand up to the White House
were he to become prime minister after the Jan. 23 vote.
“My government has defended the interests of our
softwood producers, and we have insisted on justice for
Canadian forestry workers, and we did that without the
support of Stephen Harper, whose silence could be heard
all the way to Washington,” he said.
For his part, Harper called Wilkins’s criticisms
“inappropriate” and said no foreign ambassador
should be intervening in another country’s election
The investigation into leaks about President Bush’s
legally questionable decision to start a domestic spying
program using wiretaps without court oversight, as constitutionally
set over the years, should determine whether the motivation
was damaging security or revealing a potentially illegal
activity, New York’s Senior Senator, Charles Schumer,
On Friday, the Justice Department opened an investigation
into who divulged the existence of President Bush’s
secret domestic spying program. The New York Times reported
last month about warrantless surveillance conducted by
the National Security Agency since the terrorist attacks
of Sept. 11, 2001.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who appeared
with Schumer on “Fox News Sunday,” urged the
Justice Department to “go after those who breached
our national security and endangered Americans in the
war on terror.”
Bush has acknowledged the existence of the spying program
and defended it as essential to securing the nation. He
has cited his constitutional war powers as well as a congressional
resolution issued after the Sept. 11 attacks as legal
justifications for the program.
The Times reported Sunday that an acting Attorney General,
and possibly John Ashcroft, objected in 2004 to aspects
of the NSA program and would not sign off on its continued
use as required by the administration. Administration
officials including current AG Alberto Gonzalez, it was
reported, visited Ashcroft about the issue while he was
hospitalized for gallbladder surgery.
The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee,
Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, has called for hearings
into the program.
Schumer, while supporting a leak investigation, questioned
shifting the focus from the administration policy to the
person who revealed the information to the press.
“To simply divert this whole thing to just looking
at the leaker and saying everything else is just fine
is typical of this administration,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was recently disclosed that counterterrorism
agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted
numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations
that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes
as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty
relief, newly disclosed agency records show.
F.B.I. officials noted that their investigators had no
interest in monitoring political or social activities
and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups
were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity
at public protests and in other settings.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who
was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the
F.B.I.’s investigative powers, giving the bureau
greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques
and other public entities in developing terrorism leads.
The bureau has used that authority to investigate not
only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists,
but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent
or disruptive activities.
Civil rights advocates have charged that the government
has improperly blurred the line between terrorism and
acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.
“It’s clear that this administration has engaged
every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to
the F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans,” said
Ann Beeson, associate legal director for the A.C.L.U.
A proposal to change long-standing federal policy and
deny citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants
on U.S. soil ran aground recently in Congress, but it
is sure to resurface - kindling bitter debate even if
it fails to become law.
At issue is “birthright citizenship” - provided
for since the Constitution’s 14th Amendment was
ratified in 1868. Section 1 of that amendment, drafted
with freed slaves in mind, says: “All persons born
or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the
jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”
Some conservatives in Congress, as well as advocacy groups
seeking to crack down on illegal immigration, say the
amendment has been misapplied over the years, that it
was never intended to grant citizenship automatically
to babies of illegal immigrants. Thus they contend that
federal legislation, rather than a difficult-to-achieve
constitutional amendment, would be sufficient to end birthright
With more than 70 co-sponsors, Georgia Republican Rep.
Nathan Deal tried to include a revocation of birthright
citizenship in an immigration bill passed by the House
in mid-December. GOP House leaders did not let the proposal
come to a vote.
Deal has said he will continue pushing the issue, describing
birthright citizenship as “a huge magnet”
attracting illegal immigrants. He cited estimates - challenged
by immigrant advocates - that roughly 10 percent of births
in the United States, or close to 400,000 a year, are
babies born to illegal immigrants.
Alvaro Huerta of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights
of Los Angeles said his organization opposes Deal’s
proposal and is girding for a battle for public opinion.
“This is red meat for conservatives,” he said.
“They throw out these issues they know aren’t
winning issues, and they create an environment of anti-immigrant
sentiment. We need to do better job of educating people
why it’s wrong.”
According to a survey last month by Rasmussen Reports,
a nonpartisan public opinion research firm, 49 percent
of Americans favor ending birthright citizenship, and
41 percent favor keeping it. The margin of error was plus
or minus 4 percentage points.
A third of people suffering serious depression recover
with the first antidepressant they try, and well-educated
white women are most likely to benefit, according to initial
results of an eagerly awaited study on the controversial
drugs. One key finding: Patients whose depression symptoms
disappeared took higher than typical drug doses, and received
close monitoring and frequent dose adjustments in the
first three months - a level of care that few U.S. patients
The main goal of the government-funded study is to identify
what harder-to-treat patients should try when initial
treatment fails, instead of abandoning therapy in frustration.
Those results are due in a few months.
Psychiatrists have long known that for most depression
sufferers, the first antidepressant choice won’t
be a panacea, just as patients with epilepsy, heart disease
or cancer often must mix and match medications before
finding the best choice. But unlike those illnesses, physicians
have had little scientific evidence until now to guide
their choices of myriad antidepressants - or how to maximize
each patient’s chances of benefit.
Recent reports in the German media suggest that the United
States may be preparing its allies for an imminent military
strike against facilities that are part of Iran’s
suspected clandestine nuclear weapons program. The growing
likelihood of the military option is back in the headlines
in Germany thanks to a slew of including a Dec. 23 piece
by the German news agency DDP, which has reported that
“western security sources” claim that during
CIA Director Porter Goss’ Dec. 12 visit to Ankara,
he asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to
provide support for a possible 2006 air strike against
Iranian nuclear and military facilities. More specifically,
Goss is said to have asked Turkey to provide unfettered
exchange of intelligence that could help with a mission.
They also noted that the governments of Saudi Arabia,
Jordan, Oman and Pakistan have been informed in recent
weeks of Washington’s military plans. The countries,
apparently, were told that air strikes were a “possible
option,” but they were given no specific timeframe
for the operations.
In a report published in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel,
NATO intelligence sources claimed that Washington’s
western allies had been informed that the United States
is currently investigating all possibilities of bringing
the mullah-led regime into line, including military options.
Of course, Bush has publicly stated for months that he
would not take the possibility of a military strike off
the table. What’s new here, however, is that Washington
appears to be dispatching high-level officials to prepare
its allies for a possible attack rather than merely implying
the possibility as it has repeatedly done during the past
Nearly one in 10 American teenagers, or 2.2 million, experienced
major depression last year, according to government statistics
that also showed that depressed youths were more likely
to smoke, drink alcohol or abuse drugs. Fewer than half
received treatment, the survey found. Overall, 9 percent
of teens were depressed, with older teens more at risk
than their younger peers, said the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA.
About 12 percent of youth aged 16 or 17 faced severe depression
in 2004, compared with about 5 percent of those 12 or
13 years old. Among those age 14 or 15, 9 percent experienced
a major episode.
Treatment for depression among teenagers has been a controversial
issue since a U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientist
concluded in early 2004 that anti-depressants posed a
suicide risk in youth. Another university-sponsored study
also showed a link. Since then the FDA has required drug
manufacturers to disclose the possible risk on labels
for anti-depressants. Some experts, including doctors,
worried the warning would lead to fewer youths receiving
The recent findings, part of the agency’s annual
National Survey on Drug Use and Health, also showed very
depressed youth aged 12 to 17 were twice as likely to
engage in substance abuse than those who were not depressed.
About 28 percent of depressed teens used alcohol, while
nearly 23 percent smoked cigarettes and another roughly
21 percent used drugs. Among those who did not report
a major episode, about 17 percent drank alcohol, about
11 percent smoked, and about 10 percent used drugs.
Thinking of spending that next vacation on the moon or
Mars or circling the Earth? Before liftoff, there’s
a list of things the would-be “space flight participant”
More than 120 pages of proposed rules, released by the
government in the last week of December, regulate the
future of space tourism, touching on everything from passenger
medical standards to preflight training.
Before taking a trip that literally is out of this world,
companies would be required to inform the “space
flight participant” - known in more earthly settings
as a passenger - of the risks. Passengers also would be
required to provide written consent before boarding a
vehicle for takeoff.
Legislation signed a year ago by President Bush and designed
to help the space industry flourish at the outset without
too much government interference prohibits the Federal
Aviation Administration from issuing safety regulations
for passengers and crew for eight years, unless specific
design features or operating practices cause a serious
or fatal injury.
“This means that the FAA has to wait for harm to
occur or almost occur before it can impose restrictions,
even against foreseeable harm,” the proposal says.
“Instead, Congress requires that space flight participants
be informed of the risks.”
The new proposal sets requirements for crew qualifications
and training, and establishes training and informed consent
for passengers. It does not outline requirements for the
Physical exams for passengers are recommended, but will
not be required, “unless a clear public safety need
is identified,” the FAA says in the proposed regulations.
Laws governing private sector space endeavors, such as
satellite launches, have existed for some time. But there
previously has been no legal jurisdiction for regulating
commercial human spaceflight.
The 123-page proposal was published in the Federal Register,
the government’s daily publication of rules and
regulations, and will be subject to public comment for
60 days, through Feb. 27. Final regulations are expected
by June 23.