years meetings of the Phoenicia wastewater committee have been held
outside the hamlet with few residents present. Now that recent sessions
have seen dozens of concerned landowners coming out, the next one
will be in larger, more convenient spaces right within the Hamlet.
The committee met Tuesday, January 31st in a cramped office at town
hall to conduct business while many Phoenicia residents observed.
“We were in the assessors office and it just didn’t work,”
said committee member Joe Munster. “There must have been 35
people that came.”
The 13 member committee is also fleshed out by the usual attendance
of its attorney and representatives of the projects engineering firm.
Now, Munster said, they will hold the next session in the Parish Hall
on Main Street in Phoenicia on Thursday, February 16th at 7pm.
The committee now has full design plans for waste treatment plant,
slated to be off of route 28 just west of the Phoenicia plaza. The
plans call for a large structure, about 145 feet long, 75 feet wide
and about 25 feet tall. The exterior plans boast a barn like scheme,
showing coach house style details around the block structure.
“It will look nice, but no one’s going to see it. It’s
going to be pretty far off the highway,” Munster added.
He also said that the plant would look similar to the one being built
now for the Village of Fleischmann’s. That project, underway
since last year, is being handled by Delaware Engineering, the same
firm working on the Phoenicia system.
The sewer issue comes during a bad time. Last month Phoenicia water
district landowners got whacked with a major tax hike and are leery
of committing to anything like a multi-million dollar sewer system.
But Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. claims he’s working on ways
to bring those water tax rates down next year.
“I’m working with several people, including the town lawyer,
to come up with a plan that will spread the costs in an equitable
fashion. I don’t have all the details in place but I can report
that in 2007 I fully expect water taxes to go back to where they were
in 2005 and the usage rates to go up but to a level which will be
manageable. With a little luck, my hope is to have this plan ready
for the Board to consider at the next Board meeting on March 6,”
Cross said in a written statement that appears on the towns website.
He also appointed a water committee, claiming it would help share
some of the responsibility of solving these problems with water commissioner
Ric Ricciardella. That committee has not yet announced its meeting
In other news, Main street business owners might be able to breath
a sigh of relief, at least about the roadway being ripped apart. Preliminary
plans for the routes of the sewer mains throughout the hamlet show
that no pipes will run down the center of that street.
While most side streets will get ripped up to have pipes installed,
the engineers plan to run one main off of Route 214 behind the Phoenicia
Pharmacy, Sweet Sues restaurant, Key Bank, across Church street, behind
the Country Store, the Phoenicia Belle and finally the Phoenicia Supermarket
where it would link up to the system on Ava Maria Drive. On the South
side of main street the piping would run behind Ruth Gale Reality
all the way out to bridge street in between Town Tinker Tube Rental
and the Esopus Creek.
This way the business district, which relies heavily on the tourist
trade, would not suffer the economic consequences of having the street
Such a design would make driving through the hamlet easier during
construction, but parking will still be at premium. The pipes on both
sides of Main Street run through most of the hamlets parking lots.
Maps of the piping plan, as well the designs for the whole system
and plant are available for public view in the town clerks office
at town in Allaben.
Plan On Hold
The surprise withdrawal of the resolution, widely seen as
a symbolic victory for developer Dean Gitter and the county’s
Republicans, followed a week of intense behind-the-scenes lobbying.
Opposing the resolution were resort proponents led by former legislative
chairman and Shandaken GOP leader Ward Todd, who hand-delivered to
most legislators a letter opposing the move on behalf of the Ulster
County Chamber of Commerce, his current employer. The portion of the
project slated for elimination under Hinchey’s proposal adjoins
an 11.5 acre property owned by Todd.
Backing the Hinchey proposal and favoring a version of the resort
at about half its proposed size were the county’s Democratic
leadership and the Catskill Preservation Coalition which is the project’s
principal challenger in its now 6-year old state environmental review.
Last week’s action leaves the county on record, via resolutions
passed under earlier, GOP leadership, as supporting the project at
its currently proposed scale of about 1,300 guest rooms and 3,000
people per day on-site. The county’s position, which has no
legal or substantive effect in the state’s SEQRA process, is
nonetheless viewed by both camps as politically significant.
“However it came about, I’m grateful for it” Gitter
told a packed legislative chamber, before thanking Shapiro for referring
the matter back to the county’s Environmental Committee which
he chairs. He also thanked his “friends from labor who’ve
come out” and whose exit soon afterwards left plenty of seating
room in the SRO legislative chamber.
In the past, Gitter has rejected consideration of Hinchey’s
proposal, emphasizing that any significant downscaling of the project
would destroy its financial viability and result in nothing at all
being built. In a conciliatory vein however, Gitter offered that “the
present configuration of the project is not set in stone,” and
expressed his hope that all parties could “sit down at the table
and begin realistic negotiations.” In the past, Gitter has said
that he would welcome Hinchey’s participation in such a process.
“There’s general agreement that we’re all interested
in looking at alternatives,” said Shapiro. “Sending this
back to committee offers us the opportunity to be more inclusive and
review our options.”
Shandaken supervisor Bob Cross Jr. also addressed the legislators,
offering his services as a potential mediator while voicing his opposition
to the Hinchey plan, especially its provision to have the developer
sell over 1,200 acres to New York State. Cross emphasized the importance
of such large tracts of developable land to building the town’s
future tax base. Town Board member Joe Munster also spoke, saying
“This project is important to us up there…We need these
kinds of projects,” and “Trees don’t pay taxes,
Also speaking on the project’s behalf were Joseph Libernati
of Local 17, speaking for “thousands of members of the Building
Trades Counsel,” one of whose unions has a project labor agreement
with developer Crossroads Ventures for the site preparation phase
of construction. Joan Lawrence Bauer of Big Indian also spoke, saying
she was “a very proud Democrat,” and that she was “delighted
to know some diversity in my party can be recognized.” Former
Supervisor Pete DiModica and town board member Rob Stanley both indicated
they’d save their prepared comments to present to Shapiro’s
A Middle School
Out of nine possible grade
configurations presented, the architects chose “Master Plan
A,” which recommends a six-through-eight middle school and three
kindergarten-through-grade five elementary schools. The district has
four elementary schools, but West Hurley School was closed in 2004
due to low enrollment. Grade six students, in the elementary school,
would move to the high school facility, with the goal to separate
the middle school/high school. Currently grades seven and eight middle
school share space with the high school.
The middle school steering committee recommended a five through eight
middle school, but based on space constraints at the high school,
six-through-eight was recommended by the architects.
Decisions have not been made as to which three schools will remain
open. The school community stressed that a “neighborhood elementary
school” in each region of the district is important. Re-opening
West Hurley and closing Woodstock elementary has been a hypothetical
question explored due to land space and building size. Quadrini said,
“tonight’s presentation does not focus on some of the
pivotal issues that we will follow, like keeping Woodstock open or
re-opening West Hurley, or the configuration of the middle school
or how it will be on the middle school/high school campus, those decisions
are yet to come.”
Quadrini presented phase one of an environmental study on the West
Hurley School, by the Chazen Company. An oil spill at a nearby gas
station and an oil tank removed from West Hurley has had no negative
affects to the school’s water source. The County bridge fabrication
facility does not use paint or solvents, and poses no threat to the
Phase two of the environmental study analyzes the water wells of the
school, to see if they are potable. Questions were raised at past
meetings, fearing the possibility of lead in the wells or pipes. The
Chazen report also suggests asbestos in the floor and ceiling of the
two West Hurley buildings. This is based on the age of the buildings.
Costs on the capital plan have not been included since studies are
incomplete and will require a bond. “We would like to share
with you two different time lines that could have us anticipate a
June bond vote this year or a late fall/early winter bond vote later,”
For a June vote, the school board will need to present a bond by April
and he noted that a consensus from the public might not be built in
such a short time.
Superintendent Justine Winters said it is very important to educate
the public in the weeks to come regarding the bond vote. The State
funds a substantial portion of the costs of building renovations and
School board trustee Rita Vanacore asked if the architects could get
a closer breakdown of the bond and student costs per square foot.
Quadrini said he would gather national data on average square foot
costs, although nothing is recommended by the State. Hillje added,
“the data does not take into consideration any special programs
that the district may have…the benchmarking is an average.”
School board trustee Herb Rosenfeld asked about the educational aspect
of their capital plan. “Does this accommodate for two or more
learning facilities or communities within the schools?” Rosenfeld
said. “For example if one school had a traditional education
model and the other one would have a progressive and open education
model.” Quadrini said, “Our approach has been to enhance
what is here and till we have a different discussion or are told differently
that will continue to be our approach.”
According to demographic data, the district currently has a total
of 2046 students and by the year 2011 will loose about 25 percent
of its population to roughly 1526 students. Quadrini noted that historically
the data collected from area births, housing development and family
units have been correct.
School board president David Patterson asked whether, because enrollment
was so low, “Is it possible another elementary school could
close?” Quadrini said the data does not support closing another
school and he does not wish to “crystal ball” the future,
but would prefer to use facts presented.
The Master Plan has been posted on the schools web page by going to
In other business, the school board adopted the 2005-2006 Ulster County
School Boards association recommendation in support of alternative
uses of school financing. The resolution suggests the phasing out
of reliance of local property tax, in favor of a broader state tax
system. Onteora school board has historically supported the school
board associations’ recommendation, but further action has not
been supported by the State Legislature. The resolution has seven
recommendations and all were unanimously approved except for funding
to charter schools. Trustee Rosenfeld and Vanacore voted against the
resolution because they favor support for charter school funding.
Assistant Superintendent Deborah Fox announced the continuation of
a reading/writing program started last summer after four Phoenicia
Elementary school teachers attended a reading/writing workshop through
Columbia College. Fox said, “they came back so enthusiastic,
they started a study group here in Phoenicia and got twelve to fourteen
teachers involved and we are very excited to announce that sixteen
teachers will be going to the February mini-institute from February
twentieth through the twenty-fourth and we hope that they come back
just as enthusiastic and share all of their professional development
that they get, and this was funded through a grant, so that is even
the icing on the cake.”
Fox’s announcement was met with applause from an appreciative
The Columbia College reading/writing workshop is an integrated program
where students achieve learning through individual reading/writing
techniques, teacher/student coaching, team teaching and students helping
students. Phoenicia Elementary school did not meet the ELA
(English, Language, Arts) standards under the No Child Left Behind
Act in 2003-2004, and adopted this program in order to improve test
Phoenicia has since met ELA standards.
World Class Opportunity
But by meeting’s
end, an hour and a half later, most people seemed excited about the
prospect of not only setting up a hard-surfaced trail for hiking and
biking, maybe even horseback riding and snowmobiling, from Kingston
to the county line, but also considering that actual trains might
one day be running the length of the old Ulster and Delaware line,
as they’d long dreamed they would.
What made for the difference from start to finish?
For one, it turns out that much of the audience was made up of people
already interested in rail trails, or getting the trains running,
or enhancing tourism potential for Kingston, or simply hooking up
a number of key trails already existing throughout the county. Secondly,
the groundwork done by the hearing’s presenters, the county
Planning Department and its consultants for the feasibility study
portion of the entire Rail Trail concept, which could take a decade
to complete, if given the okay, was powerfully put together.
There were maps of the various sections of the existing railroad right-of-way
owned by the county and leased by the Catskill Mountain Railroad,
upon which consultant Jeff Olsen of Alta, the nation’s premier
designers of such rail trails, asked people to write and draw comments.
There was an active acknowledgement of the many challenges to be met,
from the aversion by New York City, on whose lands much of the railbed
runs, to hosting hikers and other recreational users, to numerous
spots where the rock cuts are too narrow for both trains and pedestrians.
Olsen took everything in stride, explaining how funding would come
from existing federal programs geared towards increasing tourism dollars
and decreasing waist lines in areas such as ours. He talked about
separating the trails at places. At working hard to bring the entire
idea as close to perfection as possible… and not giving up before
Most of all, Olsen, along with county Planner Dennis Doyle, convinced
the crowd that they would all be involved in the process of seeing
the trail idea to completion – or not, should they so choose
– over a long period of time that was just starting.
Olsen said another hearing would be scheduled for the end of March,
and he would aim at completing needs assessments, listings of challenges
versus possible benefits, and an outline of the work needed by late
summer. And he talked about other projects he’s worked on, and
completed, from the Adirondacks to cities and suburbs in all parts
of the country. He seemed completely unphased by the challenges posed
by the old U&D lines, and local attitudes, noting how historic,
scenic, and other factors indicated the rail/trail concept as something
that can work for this area.
“The size of this audience is incredible… Either people
are in the wrong room or we have an exciting proposal,” Olsen
started his comments with. “The mission of this project is to
create a first class system accessible to all with ties to secondary
trails throughout the corridor.”
He talked about the cardiovascular benefits of good local trail systems,
the need for stronger means of communal transportation, given the
rising costs of fuel. He noted the success, despite initial naysayers,
of other Alta projects including the Erie Canalway through central
New York, trails throughout Westchester County and the Lake Champaign
islands. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he said, was completing mile of pathways
tourist and local use.
“We pride ourselves on being innovative,” Olsen said,
pointing out how many images used in his presentation came from projects
elsewhere, and were not meant as exact replicas of what was being
planned locally. “It’s a challenge, this project, but
I hope we’re up to it.”
When some people asked whether hunting would be allowed along such
a trail, Olsen said no. There are just some uses that aren’t
By meeting’s end, though, audience members were remembering
taking the train when kids and talking about how nice it would be
to do so again… walking back along parts of the trail, watching
the engines chugging away.
“We’re just starting with all this, and it feels like
a good start,” said Olsen at meeting’s end.
Doyle said there would be a second meeting on March 28, again at 7
pm, at Olive Meeting Hall.
“That was pretty good,” said one large man at meeting’s
end, uncrossing his arms. “This could be a good thing. It really
For further information on the Rail/Trail Feasibility study, visit