According to county election officials just two votes
now separate town board candidates Rob Stanley and Doris
Bartlett. At the same time, the final admissability of
two ballots cast has yet to be ruled on by Ulster County
Supreme Court Judge Mary Work. Both ballots are being
contested by the town and county Republican parties; one
is an absentee ballot with questions concerning its travels
through the postal system. The other is an affidavit or
paper ballot, filed by someone who may have gone to the
wrong polling place, or may have an incorrectly filled-out
space on the envelope containing the ballot. County officials
are hoping for decisions on the final two ballots from
Judge Work by December 8 in order to finalize and certify
the result within 30 days of the election. Procedures
in the event of a tie vote remain open to interpretation;
we'll keep you posted in detail if and as necessary...
An effort to abolish an important citizens committee failed
in Shandaken Monday when the town supervisor was unable
to get the votes needed to do so, but another equally
important group was wiped away.
Along the way, recently re-elected Supervisor Robert Cross
Jr., who announced that he had the flu, found himself
defending a decision to purchase a $2000 plus device to
find underground water mains and phone lines when a firm
has been hired to do the work for $10,000, and heard concerns
about escalating ambulance service costs to taxpayers.
The Pine Hill Water Committee, which has for months been
at odds with Cross over how to proceed with repairs and
upgrades to the hamlet’s crumbling water system,
found itself suddenly on the chopping block when Cross
brought forth a resolution for its dismissal. But with
Deputy Supervisor Jane Todd absent from the town board
meeting, Cross’s usual 3-2 Republican majority vote
was absent as well. The result was a 2-2 vote that leaves
the issue unresolved. But Cross, who named the committee
himself two years ago, hinted that he will do whatever
is necessary to get rid of it, even if it means appointing
This would appear contradictory to a state of the town
address Cross made via a town wide mailing last week,
noting the close election results and how he takes away
“messages of both support and caution” from
the experience. He vowed to re-dedicate himself to serving
all citizens and said he needs to make sure that Democrats
have their views taken into account and respected as well
At the meeting Monday VanBlarcum, a Democrat, questioned
the rationale behind killing the committee, saying that
its current makeup accurately reflects the Pine Hill community,
and also has real knowledge of the water system and the
issues surrounding it’s operation.
“Nobody knows it better,” Van Blarcum said.
But Cross, who noted that the decisions about the water
system are made by the town board, countered that he will
rely instead on Donald Clark, the Pine Hill water commissioner.
Last month Cross was embarrassed by former Pine Hill Mayor
Marge Lloyd when she made it clear that the town board
had been flat out ignoring the wishes of the committee
and the Pine Hill Community by refusing to borrow enough
money to make all the repairs to the century old system.
Further embarrassment occured when possible councilman-elect
Robert Stanley, also a Pine Hill resident, publicly intervened
and convinced the board to borrow $1.2 million instead
of the planned $900,000.
It remains unclear who will be on the new committee, but
Peter DiModica, a Democrat who lost to Cross in the last
months Supervisor race by the thinnest of margins, volunteered.
“So noted,” said Cross.
The current members of the committee are Elaina Brazen,
Michelle Wooten, Neil Jocelyn, Matt Strank, Lowell Smith
and Marge Lloyd. Richard Schaedle, whose family once owned
the water company, was the chair of the committee but
was forced to resign last year after Cross accused him
of conducting business without keeping the Supervisor
The meeting closed with a tense exchange between Cross
and Stanley, who said he was concerned about the rising
costs for the town ambulance service. The service, which
used to pay for itself, has now grown to over $200,000
a year with its revenues no longer able to cover its expenses.
Stanley, who made it clear he supports the service, said
that he was concerned about the new expense and wanted
to get control over the spending.
Cross explained that the problem is that the current ambulance
staff need help. He also said there was little choice,
and that it boiled down to either having an ambulance
squad or not.
“Throwing more money it is not the way to resolve
it,” Stanley said.
Cross countered that he had a fever and wasn’t going
to discuss it.
He adjourned the meeting.
In its recent refusal to hear a case filed by a broad-based
anti-gambling coalition from New York, the U.S. Supreme
Court has allowed a 2001 state law permitting Las Vegas-style
casinos on sovereign Indian lands in Ulster and Sullivan
counties to remain standing. The high court’s refusal
signaled the end of the road for a strategy by a large
group of gambling opponents that included the Coalition
Against Casino Gambling, New Yorkers for Constitutional
Freedom, the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, the Saratoga
Springs thoroughbred racing industry, several state legislators,
and members of the clergy. Last year, the governor submitted
legislation increasing the total number of casinos in
the Catskills to five, claiming they would bring jobs
and economic development to the region. He withdrew this
legislation calling for two additional casinos.
The Oklahoma-based Seneca-Cayuga tribe has joined forces
with billionaire mall developer Thomas Wilmot to propose
building a casino resort at the Winston Farm in Saugerties
and the New York Oneidas are believed to have an option
on the former IBM property in the town of Ulster in the
hope of building a casino there.
In addition to removing the ban on slot machines, the
legislation would enable the state to collect 25 percent
of all slot machine revenues at casinos. The 2001 measure
also allowed for the installation of video lottery terminals,
a kind of electronic slot machines, at various raceways.
Critics have claimed they are little more than slot machines
masquerading as the lottery.
Ulster County’s Charter Commission has wrapped up
its meetings of the last year and will start doing outreach
to see it’s plan for a County Executive, who the
rumor mill is suggesting might go the direction of Assemblyman
Kevin Cahill, should he ask for the job. Commission Chairman
Gerald Benjamin, the dean of liberal arts and sciences
at SUNY New Paltz and a former Legislature chairman, said
he plans to go to town and village board meetings, as
well as to the Kingston Common Council, and bring whatever
public input is received on the plan back to the commission.
In the meantime, the commission will hire an attorney
to draft the actual charter document that will be voted
on by the Legislature, and, if approved, by the electorate
in the coming year.
Commissioners unanimously decided upon a seven-member
Redistricting Commission, with two members chosen by the
Legislature’s majority leader and two chosen by
the minority leader. The remaining three seats would be
filled by the four political appointees within a month,
or new majority and minority appointments would be made.
None of the seven members can live in the same municipality,
but all must be Ulster County residents. In addition,
members must meet the same requirements as is needed to
register to vote, cannot hold public office or be employed
by the county, and cannot be an officer of a political
party or a registered lobbyist, the commission determined.
On the eve of changing hands, the Ulster County Legislature
is offering suggested cuts and possible new revenue sources
to reduce what was expected to be a 49 percent hike in
the county property tax levy to balance the $299.7 million
spending plan for 2006… but also considering postponing
their planned Dec. 12 budget vote into the Holiday Week.
With hard cuts, the levy rise is expected to be “in
the mid to low 30s,” according to one legislator.
County Administrator Arthur Smith said money will have
to be added to the budget to account for two factors unknown
when departments were making their requests to the Administrator’s
Office this summer: escalating fuel prices and the delay
in the opening of the county Law Enforcement Center. He
added that his department is working with the Buildings
and Grounds Department to revise estimates.
To cut the levy by 1 percentage point, lawmakers must
either cut roughly $695,000 in spending, or generate that
amount in new revenue.
Ideas for cuts currently include the elimination of flexible
spending accounts for county managers, eliminating private
contracts for security services at Golden Hill Health
Care Center and the Highways and Bridges yard, and using
Sheriff’s Office security personnel instead, and
eliminating some deputy department heads.
Proposed new revenue sources include implementing a quarter-percent
mortgage tax, a motor vehicle use fee and adding new fees
for electronic monitoring and drug and alcohol tests administered
by the Probation Department.
New Jail $$s
Ulster County lawmakers have voted to shift more than
$800,000 around in the project’s $84.4 million amended
budget to cover construction costs and professional fees.
The move does not increase spending t the project now
20 months behind schedule and $12.6 million over budget.
Five Democrats - Peter Kraft of Glenford, Jeanette Provenzano
of Kingston, Brian Shapiro of Woodstock, Susan Zimet of
New Paltz and Robert Parete of Boiceville - voted against
the measure during the Legislature meeting, latrer noting
that they fear further spending requests will be coming
in the new year.
Democrats took control of the Legislature for the first
time in 25 years this November, changing a 17-16 Republican
edge to a 21-12 Democratic majority.
The project is currently slated for “substantial
completion” at the end of December. It will likely
take an additional several weeks before the facility can
be fully used, to give contractors time to complete construction
punch lists and go through the state’s certification
Real Estate Drop!
Sales of previously owned homes fell by almost three percent
in October as the housing market continues to signal that
the boom of the past five years is ringing more hollow
these days. The National Association of Realtors reported
the decline would have been an even larger 3.2 percent
without a spurt in sales in areas where people displaced
by the Gulf Coast hurricanes have moved.
Even with the decline in sales, the median price of an
existing home sold last month rose by 16.6 percent to
$218,000 compared to the median — or midpoint —
price in October 2004.
“This signals that the housing sector has likely
passed its peak. The boom is winding down to an expansion,”
said David Lereah, chief economist for the Realtors.
The weakness in existing home sales followed an earlier
report that construction of new homes and apartments fell
by 5.6 percent in October, the biggest setback in seven
months. Applications for new building permits, a good
sign of future activity, fell by 6.7 percent the biggest
decline in six years.
Lereah predicted that housing activity would cool further
in coming months if, as expected, the Federal Reserve
keeps pushing interest rates higher to combat rising inflation
pressures that have been triggered by a surge in energy
Some economists had expressed fears that rising mortgage
rates could burst the housing bubble much as a speculative
bubble in Internet stock prices burst in early 2000, sending
shockwaves throughout the economy.
The 16.6 percent increase in the median sales price was
the biggest year-over-year price increase since a 17.2
percent jump in July 1979.
By region of the country, the biggest sales decline in
October occurred in the Northeast, a drop of 7.4 percent.
The recent rising of the Esopus Creek after heavy rains
on Nov. 29, exacerbated by New York City’s open-Portal
release of waters from the overstressed Schoharie Reservoir,
created a return of local flood fears up and down the
Esopus last week, from Shandaken through to Ulster and
Saugerties, including the Ulster County Emergency Management
“The people that were just hard hit, only eight
months ago, are now seeing, over the last 48 hours, the
return of the high water,” Art Snyder, Ulster County’s
emergency management director, said on Thursday. “Of
course they’re going to be shell-shocked.”
In mid-November, the New York City Department of Environmental
Protection began releasing water from the Schoharie Reservoir
through the Shandaken tunnel at a rate of about 500 million
gallons per day. That water enters the upper Esopus Creek,
then fills the Ashokan Reservoir, with any overflow entering
the lower Esopus. The upper Esopus runs through the Ulster
County towns of Shandaken and Olive; the lower Esopus
traverses the towns of Olive, Marbletown, Hurley, Ulster
and Saugerties, as well as the city of Kingston.
Snyder said the combination of this week’s rain
and the added water coming through Shandaken tunnel pushed
the upper Esopus 3 feet above flood stage and the lower
Esopus 2 feet above flood stage.
“Neither caused major problems,” he said.
“But all you have to do is drive through the area
to see how high the water is running.”
The release of water from the Schoharie Reservoir will
continue to make the area more vulnerable to flooding
through the spring of 2006, when the 78-year-old Gilboa
Dam will undergo emergency repairs, once the water level
in the Schoharie Reservoir has dropped enough to allow
access to the dam’s underpinnings. An estimated
2,500 Schoharie County households and business are protected
by the dam, which holds back almost 20 billion gallons
of water at capacity.
City officials have said there was a remote possibility
that the Gilboa Dam would
fail if there were a record storm and snowmelt, sending
the 20 billiongallons of water in the Schoharie Reservoir
roaring through the valleybelow, a historic area of covered
bridges and small farms that is home to about 5,000 people.
The new Democratic Majority of the Ulster County Legislature
recently decided its new regime of committee appointments
for the coming year, utilizing a basic 5-2 Democratic
majority for all but a few. Breaking from the past, the
new Legislative Chairman, David Donaldson of Kingston,
will allow county Republicans to pick their members once
they choose their own leadership for the coming two-year
session, although he has noted that he will retain veto
power over their choices so that no legislator with relatives
working for a specific department could work for a corresponding
The appointments, to date, include:
Administrative Services (including Real Property and Board
of Elections): Chaired by Legislator Robert Parete with
Legislators Bishoff, Cahill, Kraft and Stoeckler as members.
Arts, Education and Community Relations (including Tourism):
Chair by Legislator Zimet with members Legislators Bishoff,
Cahill, Gregorious, and Sheeley.
Criminal Justice and Safety: Chair by Legislator Dart
with Legislator Distel, Gregorious, Rich Parete, and Zimet
Economic Development: Chaired by Legislator Rodriguez
with Legislators Berardi, Gregorious, Loughran and Sheeley
Efficiency, Reform and Intergovernmental Affairs: Chaired
by Legislator Bishoff with Legislators Bartels, Liepmann,
Rodriguez, and Shapiro as members.
Environmental: Chaired by Legislator Shapiro with Legislators
Bartels, Distel, Richard Parete and Rodriguez as members.
Public Works: Chaired by Legislator Berardi with members
Cahill, Dart, Lomita and Stoeckler as members.
Health Committee: Chaired by Legislator Stoeckler with
Legislators Liepmann, Robert Parete, Provenzano and Shelley
Human Services: Chaired by Legislator Kraft with Legislator
Distel, Lepmann, Loughran and Terpening as members.
Personnel: Chaired by Legislator Loughran with Legislators
Dart, Kraft, Terpening and Shapiro as members.
Labor Relations and Negotiation: Chaired by Legislator
Richard Parete with Legislators Berardi and Terpening
as members (a five member board).
Ways and Means Committee: Chaired by Legislator Lomita
with Legislators Bartels, Gregorious, Provenzano and Zimet
Belleayre Mountain Ski Center has joined with Ulster County
Area Transit this winter to offer free rides for skiers
and extended service along state Route 28. The primary
goal of the partnership is to improve service for commuters
traveling between Kingston and Shandaken. The ski center
offered to pay to have the route extended to the state-run
resort. Skiers can now pick up the bus anywhere between
Kingston Plaza and the mountain and need only tell the
driver they’re headed to Belleayre. The $2 fare
will be waived for the passenger, with the mountain compensating
Ulster County Area Transit for the trip. The return trip
from the ski center will be free as well.
The bus currently leaves Kingston Plaza on Saturdays at
8:45 a.m. and reaches Belleayre at 9:45 a.m. A return
bus, which leaves the plaza at 2:15, makes stops near
the Hudson Valley Mall and in towns along state Route
28, will depart from Belleayre at 4 p.m. and arrive at
Kingston Plaza at 5:15 p.m. The buses make their usual
stops between the two points and skiers can board or get
off at any stop. On or about Jan. 1, the route will extend
to Belleayre six days a week, Monday through Saturday.
New CPR Rules
Putting the emphasis on chest compressions instead of
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the American Heart Association
is pushing new, simpler guidelines that urge people to
give 30 compressions - instead of 15 - for every two rescue
“Basically, the more times someone pushes on the
chest, the better off the patient is,” said Dr.
Michael Sayre, an Ohio State University emergency medicine
professor who helped develop the guidelines announced
Monday. “We have made things simpler. Push hard
on the person’s chest and push fast.”
The streamlined guidelines should make it easier for people
to learn CPR. Earlier rules were different for adults
and for children and called on untrained rescuers to stop
pushing the chest periodically to check for signs of circulation.
Now, the advice is the same for all ages - 30 compressions
- and you don’t have to stop to check for improvement.
What’s important is to keep the blood flowing. Studies
have shown that blood circulation increases with each
chest compression and it must be built back up after an
Currently, about 9 million Americans a year are trained
in CPR, the heart association says, but it has a goal
of more than doubling that number in the next five years
to 20 million. The new guidelines call for 911 operators
to be trained to provide easy-to-follow CPR instructions
The heart association also offers new guidance to professionals,
calling for cooling down cardiac arrest patients to about
90 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 24 hours.
The new guidelines also advise just one shock from a defibrillator
before beginning CPR. Instead of applying the defibrillator
pads up to three times before starting chest compressions,
the guidelines advise rescuers to just give one shock
and then do two minutes of CPR beginning before trying
the defibrillator again.
The United States came under renewed criticism at the
U.N. Climate Change Conference in Montreal recently as
thousands of environmentalists and international officials
hammered out rules for a global treaty to cut greenhouse
gas emissions. U.S. comments that it would resist any
binding commitment to curb global warming by capping industrial
emissions infuriated environmentalists, who accused Washington
of trying to derail the long-awaited conference being
attended by more than 8,000 environmentalists, scientists
and government officials, including 120 environment ministers
and other government leaders.
The conference is the first meeting of the 140 countries
that ratified the Kyoto Protocol since the agreement was
adopted in 1997. It is aimed at setting agreements on
emissions cuts planned after 2012, when the second phase
of the protocol begins.
“When you walk around the conference hall here,
delegates are saying there are lots of issues on the agenda,
but there’s only one real problem, and that’s
the United States,” said Bill Hare of Greenpeace
“There’s a difference between climate and
extreme weather,” said Harlan Watson, the chief
U.S. negotiator at the conference, who added that Washington
would maintain its position of rejecting any calls for
an international agreement that binds countries to emissions
reductions after 2012.
This notion infuriates environmentalists, who point to
myriad studies that they believe prove global warming
is to blame for rising, warmer seas, melting Arctic glaciers
and extreme weather conditions. The scientific panel that
advises the United Nations looks likely to issue sterner
warnings in its next report in 2007 that emissions of
heat-trapping gases from power plants, factories and cars
are disrupting the climate.
In September, polar ice contracted to its smallest size
in at least a century, according to measurements by space
agency NASA and the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.
It is not clear whether a Pentagon propaganda program
that paid to plant favorable stories with Iraqi journalists
and newspapers violated the law or Pentagon policy, the
Department of Defense is saying as charges grow about
the Bush Administration’s subversion of Freedom
of the Press principals. Spokespeople for the government
have been saying that the department was still gathering
information about the program and the multimillion-dollar
contracts that included paying Iraqi newspapers and journalists
to plant favorable stories about the war and the rebuilding
effort. Military officials in Iraq, meanwhile, say the
program is a critical tool on the Iraq battleground. But
Congress members and the White House have expressed concern.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., characterized the program
as a scheme that “speaks volumes about the president’s
credibility gap. If Americans were truly welcomed in Iraq
as liberators, we wouldn’t have to doctor the news
for the Iraqi people.”
At the same time, yet another propaganda boondoggle has
started emerging – regarding FEMA’s “Recovery
Channel” in New Orleans, a elevision program that
features a military officer talking about all the good
work that FEMA is doing rebuilding the schools, including
hands-on aid from “our Commander In Chief.”
When CNN investigated and found out the school in question
was really two hours away from New Orleans and that virtually
all the schools in the flooded city are in shambles.
The question now is what department of the Bush administration
isn’t using tax dollars to promote the President
and the Republican party’s political agenda?
The U.S. Army, fresh off missing its latest annual recruiting
goal, has launched an unprecedented effort to coax former
troops to sign up again for active-duty military service.
They are contacting 78,000 people who previously served
in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to pitch
them on the idea of leaving behind their civilian lives
and returning for another stint in uniform. Unlike in
the past, they now can return to the Army without giving
up their previous rank or having to undergo the rigors
of basic training.
The Army fell about 7,000 short of its goal of sending
80,000 recruits into basic training in fiscal 2005, which
ended Sept. 30. Officials attributed the shortfall to
the Iraq war and other factors. The fiscal 2006 recruiting
goal again is set at 80,000.
The Pentagon says the new program, which targets people
who left the military within the past five years and particularly
those who were in branches other than the Army, is not
a sign of recruiting desperation.
Bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $19,000 are being offered
and the Army also dropped a rule that had blocked former
soldiers from getting training in a different career field
than they previously had worked. Former Coast Guard personnel
also can take part in the program.
Meanwhile, Iraqi leaders recently called for a timetable
for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces and said Iraq’s
opposition had a “legitimate right” of resistance.
The communique — finalized by Shiite, Kurdish and
Sunni leaders just before Thanksgiving — condemned
terrorism but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni
position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists
if their operations do not target innocent civilians or
institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi
citizens. The leaders agreed on “calling for the
withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable,
through putting in place an immediate national program
to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and
the security situation” and end terror attacks.
Bedbugs, stealthy and fast-moving nocturnal creatures
that were all but eradicated by DDT after World War II,
have recently been found in hospital maternity wards,
private schools and even a plastic surgeon’s waiting
room in the New York City area, from whence they are now
expected to move up into the Catskills.
Infestations have been reported sporadically across the
United States over the past few years. But in New York,
bedbugs have gained a foothold all across the city, where
the city logged 377 bedbug violations last year, up from
just 2 in 2002 and 16 in 2003. Since July, there have
In the bedbug resurgence, entomologists and exterminators
blame increased immigration from the developing world,
the advent of cheap international travel and the recent
banning of powerful pesticides. Other culprits include
the recycled mattress industry and those thrifty New Yorkers
who revel in the discovery of a free sofa on the sidewalk.
Unlike mice and roaches, which are abetted by filthy surroundings,
bedbugs do just fine in a well-scrubbed home, although
bedroom clutter gives them more places to hide and breed.
When engorged with blood, they grow slightly plumper than
the O on this page, although the nymphs, which appear
almost translucent before their first meal, are not much
bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.
The modern bedbug is immune to hardware-store-variety
insecticides, and setting off a cockroach bomb in the
bedroom will only scatter them farther afield. And because
they are active only at night, many people don’t
discover them until their population has grown into the
hundreds, or even thousands.
Exterminators recommend bagging and washing every bit
of clothing and fabric in the room and taking apart bureau
drawers and bed frames in preparation for the application
of four kinds of chemicals. The process often needs to
Worst of all, bedbug sufferers say, is the stigma of living
with an insect that feeds on blood - though it does not
transmit disease - and leaves behind a trail of red bumps
that many dermatologists mistakenly identify as hives
Last month’s Cope India 2005 war games were billed
as a standard two-week exercise between Indian and American
top guns. But for the first time ever, the Indian Air
Force beat the Americans in a surprising number of encounters.
“Since the cold war, there has been the general
assumption that India is a third-world country with Soviet
technology, and wherever the Soviet-supported equipment
went, it didn’t perform well,” says Jasjit
Singh, a retired air commodore and now director of the
Center for Air Power Studies in New Delhi. “That
myth has been blown out by the results” of these
Military experts say the joint exercises occurred at a
time when America’s fighter jet prowess is slipping.
Since the US victories in the first Gulf War, a war dependent
largely on air power, the Russians and French have improved
the aviation electronics (avionics) and weapons capabilities
of their Sukhoi and Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft.
Aid officials have warned that almost all of the hundreds
of thousands of tents they distributed to survivors of
Pakistan’s massive earthquake last month aren’t
adequate for the harsh winter, while Pakistan announced
soldiers have built 30 000 shelters for the 3,5-million
people who lost their homes. They are warning that a lack
of food and shelter, combined with increasingly harsh
winter conditions, could cause a second wave of deaths
for victims of the October 8 earthquake. Doctors say the
situation could worsen in the coming weeks if arrangements
are not made quickly to provide adequate shelters for
the estimated 3,5-million people who lost their homes
in the 7,6-magnitude quake.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of 6,644 people reported missing
after Hurricane Katrina have not been determined, raising
the prospect that the death toll could be higher than
the 1,306 recorded so far in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Nearly 1,000 of the 6,644 unaccounted-for people are children.