on the News
Which meant she’d have to explain to them who Williams was,
and all that was entailed with the shooting of a movie… something
that seems to be happening with increasing regularity around these
parts in recent years.
“I told the kids in my school that his was the voice of Genie
in ‘Alladin,’ and had a role in the new ‘Robots,’
and they all said, ‘Oh right, it’s Mr. Robot Man,’”
Johnan recalls the day after Williams’ shoot along Route 28.
“Then their casting people came up to me with a request…
did I know any eight year olds? I said my daughter, Elyssia, will
be getting off the bus right out front where they’re shooting
at 4 with a friend who might be what they were looking for. But you
know what? They picked my daughter instead.”
Elyssia Johnan, it turns out, will be appearing in the new film Williams
is shooting for 2006 release, The Night Listener, as the face in a
picture frame… much better for the shy school starter’s
daughter, according to her mom.
The Night Listener, also starring Toni Collette of About A Boy fame,
along with Sandra Oh of Sideways, is based on the 2000 novel by NPR
regular Armistead Maupin about a writer attempting to bounce back
from a broken relationship by striking up a long-distance telephone
friendship with a dying boy, only to be confronted by troubling doubts
about the boy’s
identity. Patrick Stettner (The Business of Strangers) will direct
the Hart Sharp Entertainment project, which will continue shooting
around the area over the coming weeks.
Already the stories coming from the set, usually centered around Williams’
sweetness and genuine ability to touch all the fans that approach
him, have become legion.
“My friend Ingrid Yanowski’s 14-year old daughter Devon
had been cast for the production but was then turned down, on set,
when it was discovered they actually wanted someone much younger,”
said our own advertising director Marie Shultis. “’Awww…
so you went and grew a foot since this morning did you,’ Williams
told her as he came over to where Devon and my daughter, Diandra,
were standing. He signed autographs for all of them!”
Diandra said the experience of talking with Williams, one of her favorite
actors, both live and as a cartoon voice, was thrilling.
“He was really nice,” she said. “He said ‘Hi’
and like when he signed the autograph he wrote, ‘Write On.’
He was very friendly.”
Both Shultises added that the girl eventually picked by the production,
for which Williams is reportedly working for a low $65,000 pay amount,
was a 9 year old home schooler in the area on vacation named Tiffany.
Yanowski, for her part, said she and her daughter had no hard feelings
about the false call, and loved being around Williams, who they said
talked quietly but intently with all who approached him, seemingly
to the hold-up of the entire shooting schedule.
“”What can I say? She was a foot and a half too tall?”
Johnan, meanwhile, said that during a break, Williams came to the
Discovery Preschool and said hello to all the students.
“’It’s Mr. Robot Man, It’s Mr. Robot Man,’
was what they all said,” Johnan recalled. “He was very
soft spoken, asking each of my students what their names were and
if they liked school. He kept saying how sweet he felt the school
was and stopped with everyone, asking about their bracelets and such.”
Johnan added that Reservoir Deli owners Julie and Brian Scott were
approached because of the presence of a large cow outside their business.
The film is supposed to take place in Wisconsin.
“They changed all the license plates and everything,”
she added about the production. “It was an exciting day for
all of us.”
As for the autographs collected, Diandra Shultis summed such treasure
“It was on lined paper from my notebook,” she said. “But
my mom says I can get it framed.”
The document, which is
intended to guide future land use, planning, and zoning, appears genuinely
comprehensive in scope, though at the same time often limited in the
specificity of its recommendations. And while the document repeatedly
references a need to revise the town’s zoning laws, few guidelines
for such a revision are actually included, appearing to defer rather
than consider some of the town’s most difficult planning and
zoning issues until sometime in the indefinite future. It also contains,
as widely expected, little which might be regarded as seeking to limit
any proposed or future large-scale development in town.
Shorter in length though formatted to print at a substantial 47 pages,
the new plan is less specific in many of its recommendations than
the town’s previous effort. Like the earlier plan, it follows
a format which outlines goals, guidelines, and recommendations for
each of the its five sections of its Implementation Plan. The new
document, based in part on the two that proceeded it, was drafted
by the Rochester-based Stantec Corporation, which was awarded a $55,000
contract by the town, using grant funds secured by the town’s
2002-3 committee, and funded by the NYS Departments of Transportation
and State. Final changes to the draft were made by the town’s
4-member Comprehensive Plan Committee, Harry Jameson III, Rob Stanley,
Planning Board chairman John Horn, and Committee chairman Chuck Perez.
Unlike earlier plans, the current draft is the first to have been
referred for submission without the significant incorporation of comments
from the public. Asked about recurrent criticism that his committee’s
work has been done with substantially in secrecy and with minimal
public input, Perez said “The public has had their opportunity
to be involved for five years.”
Highlights from the plan’s many recommendations include a significant
emphasis on the development of tourism. It calls for the development
of new townwide plans for infrastructure, utilities, and communications
and the exploration of a possible community facility which might include
a new town hall and highway department facility, a meeting hall, a
library, emergency services facilities, and a recreation center and
New town committees recommended include economic growth and greenways
and trails, along with the establishment of a chamber of commerce
and regional roundtable.
Concerning projects in development, the document also supports construction
of the Phoenicia Riverwalk project and Catskill Interpretive Center
in Mt. Tremper, along with the study of the tourism potential for
the county’s railroad right of way throughout the length of
the town.. It also supports “the continued expansion of the
Belleayre Mountain Ski Center as a four-season facility.”
Additionally, the plan recommends that guidelines be established for
the development of scenic resources, lighting regulations, water quality,
telecommunications design standards, clearcutting, and the designation
of critical environmental areas. It also recommends that “Any
future development must be planned based on water availability.”
According to Perez, the committee has unanimously accepted the document,
and asked the Town Board to submit it to the county planning department
and the town planning board for comment. A public hearing date for
the committee’s draft has been set for 7:00 PM April 6 at the
Phoenicia School. According to Perez, the public hearing will be “run
by Stantec,” and any ground rules for it will be posted in advance
on the town’s website. Subsequent to that said Perez, comments
from the April 6 public hearing as well as any comments from the county
will be addressed at one more “open meeting,” after which
a final version of the document will be forwarded to the town board.
The board can then either accept the committee’s plan as presented
or modify it, in advance of holding its own final public hearing on
“My hope is that the community is going to be able to live with
it,” said Perez.
Copies of the plan
are available at the Phoenicia Library and Morton Memorial library
in Pine Hill. It is also available under “news” at the
town’s website www.Shandaken.us,
and at www.phoeniciatimes.com.
part was that he knew the deceased, and many of his friends and family,
and felt blessed when asked to lead the services. But the hurtful side
of things was buried in that same good, having to do with Umhey’s
youth, and the difficulties all pastors feel in granting comfort to
the afflicted, no matter the closeness of tragedy.
And yet in his church’s scheme of things, such difficulties are
a blessing, too.
It’s the Easter season, and Pastor Killam has been busy. In fact,
he says this is his second busiest time of year, after Christmas. And
possibly the most dear to his heart, what with the seriousness of the
events being commemorated over the coming weeks.
Killam moved to Phoenicia with his wife from New Brunswick, and has
since started a family in the home he keeps next to his Phoenicia parish,
which served as a Baptist church until bought by the old Chichester-based
congregation that’s been steadily growing since the young pastor
came to town at the age of 21. He says that at first, he worried whether
he’d be able to adjust to the changes involved, having spent his
youth in the same home he was born into.
Killam talks about the differences between his congregations: Willow’s
is made up of old families, and has a steady, unchanging air about it.
Phoenicia’s is more mutable.
The parish in Olive, he says, is in the capable hands of a whole other
pastor, Wes McCullum, who Killam talks to with some regularity.
He says what he loves about his church is its unchangeable nature, its
consistency. He grew up within it. He’s felt a calling since his
early teens, when he started ministering to the needs of his peers.
How are his days filled? Much time is given over to the reading of scripture
and the writing of his sermons, which he likes to start off pen to paper.
His great inspiration, apart from The Book, are the people he meets
with on a daily basis, or through his other activities, which include
a teen and bible study group.
Asked about the times we’re in and any thoughts he might have
about finding comfort in them, it’s hard for Killam to get beyond
his calling with a simple, “people should come to Christ.”
But then he talks about the weight of practicing compassion and living
a life with love, of influencing others through the setting of a just
“We need to look outside ourselves,” he says, matter-of-factly,
his Canadian lilt adding music to his simple, elegant statements.
We talk a bit about the idea of Rapture, and how he feels the time may
be imminent for the Second Coming, a subject that arises in Bible Study
classes with regularity. Yet in the next breath, he speaks about the
need for everyone to live their lives in balance. He is uncomfortable,
albeit in a church-mouse-quiet way, about the manner in which some have
been using the idea of Jesus’ return as a license to use up the
environment, or even set policy to hasten its coming.
How does he see his new community?
He mentions the fights and skirmishes that break out, within and between
the communities of the Route 28 corridor. But then he expresses amazement
at how people still come out for each other, and show unwavering support,
when the need arises.
Such as what he saw, and led services for, at Killam’s funeral
earlier this same day.
Pastor Rodney Killam says he’s glad to be where he is. He chose
our area for his first pastorship.
He is glad to be among us.
Especially as this Easter season approaches.
one side was a large, sometimes-heckling crowd of Olive residents,
angry over major tax hikes brought on them by the OCS board’s
decision last summer to reapportion taxes throughout the sprawling
district using the controversial new “Large Parcel” valuation
alternative, as well as a new possibility that two dozen West Shokan
students could be redistricted from the Bennett to the Phoenicia Elementary
On the other side, equally stalwart and confident, was new Superintendent
of Schools Justine Winters and her Business Administrator, Victoria
Garone, who presented a $43,011,778 budget proposal for the coming
2005/2006 school year that represents a tight 3.86 percent hike over
the current year’s figures, and comes in a trifling third of
one percent below what the district would face were its budget voted
down a second year in a row, forcing Onteora into a second year of
According to Winters and Garone, who gave a trio of fast-paced Power
Point budget presentations before getting to the total spending figures
proposed for the coming year, the major savings they’d affected
for the coming year was a drop of 8.7 percent in district Special
Education costs. But they also noted careful trimming elsewhere, all
as a means of getting a budget passed this year despite a rancorous
climate evidenced by the arms-crossed and often belligerent crowd.
It was that presence, which numbered over 200 and filled the school
cafeteria to the bursting point, which set the tone for at least the
first half of the March 15 meeting. Following a presentation on the
district’s winning Science Olympiad team, as well as a request
by the Phoenicia American Legion Post to retrieve its war memorial
in front of their community’s elementary school, over an hour
was spent hearing from a myriad of speakers, most from Olive.
Despite OCS President Marino D’Orazio’s opening statement
that the board could not legally discuss matters involving Large Parcel
decisions until formally asked to by the state Office of Real Property
Services after they announced the presence of such a parcel within
the district, Olive Councilman Bruce La Monda started off by stating
how he was their representing 4,000 “very angry” taxpayers
who considered the whole issue “one of principal.”
La Monda’s fellow councilperson, Linda Burkhardt, followed up
by listing the various expensive things the Town of Olive had done
to avoid the Large Parcel tax change, from successfully revaluing
New York City’s Ashokan Reservoir property for the betterment
of the entire school district (and a 28 percent hike in town taxes)
to starting a townwide reval.
“What else can we do? Is this all an exercise in futility,”
she asked, noting how she and others in Olive had been told, a year
ago, that they could avoid the tax hikes if they “got their
house in order.” “I would like to be able to take this
board at its word.”
Others spoke passionately about how hard it had become for many old-timers
in Olive to survive, because of the new tax burden. People stood and
cheered for their neighbors, the orators. After school board candidate
Rita Vanacore spoke about the board facing lawsuits because of its
actions, several people started shouting from the corners of the room
until D’Orazio called for quiet, and a bit more mutual respect.
Finally, D’Orazio called for a five minute break from the litany
of speakers, which included several people from the Phoenicia School
praising redistricting plans, as well as the afore-mentioned West
Shokan parents noting how such changes could ruin both their community
and their kids. When people returned, business proceeded into the
evening’s stuffed agenda, which included old business from March
1 and 8 meetings that had been cancelled because of snow.
It was only after Winters and Garone finished their budget presentation
that things finally started to calm down and actually go quiet, audience-wise.
A number of Olive residents started leaving, carrying away their packets
of lengthy anti-Large Parcel handouts, handed out by the new ad hoc
organization Olive Matters and the more activist Charlie Blumstein.
D’Orazio and others on the board praised the new administrators
for their budget-cutting skills, making sure to point out that a failed
budget would effect few savings, and little more than such painful
phenomenon for the district as cancelled equipment purchases.
Boardmember Dave Patterson gave an update on his Communications Committee,
noting that a district-wide newsletter could be expected later this
month, with a budget-specific follow-up in early May.
Then Winters presented her redistricting proposal, put together with
a committee that included herself, Garone, Transportation Director
Betty Hughes and Carol Bush, Oneteora’s Head Bus Driver.
The primary reason for the redistricting, Winters explained, was to
alleviate overcrowding at Woodstock Elementary caused when students
from West Hurley school were redistricted there this year after their
own school’s closing. Three bus routes would be shifted to help
create a better mix of students per facility than what currently exists,
with 210 students at Phoenicia Elementary, 359 at Bennett School in
Boiceville, and 402 students at Woodstock Elementary.
Bus Route 5002, nicknamed the “Orange Pumpkin,” and covering
from Glasco Turnpike in Woodstock west to Mink Hollow, will send 13
new students to Phoenicia.
Bus Route 5003, the “Blue Sailboat,” will take 12 students
out of Woodstock from the Wittenberg Road area to Phoenicia.
Lastly, Bus Route 3001, the “Red Apple,” will shift 24
West Shokan and Boiceville students from Watson Hollow and Moon Haw,
as well as Beechford Circle, from Bennett to Phoenicia schools.
Noting the controversy caused by the latter proposal, Winters, Hughes
and a majority of the OCS board members all noted, repeatedly, that
this was a first proposal open for many future changes.
Board discussion of the proposal centered on their need for alternatives,
as well as a better sense of what would happen if no changes were
made. Questions about variances yielded the fact that Woodstock had
24 this year, of which 10 went to Phoenicia and 14 to Bennett; Bennett
had 44, of which 21 went to Woodstock and 23 to Phoenicia; and Phoenicia
had only 6, split between Woodstock and Bennett.
It was decided that full and final discussion of redistricting couldn’t
happen until discussion of pending plans to reconfigure classes to
create a new 6-8 Middle School had occurred. Finally, it was noted,
by D’Orazio, that all talk of redistricting proved painful.
Because of the size and geography of the Onteora district, he said,
configurations would always be “somewhat wacky.” Worse,
the old town and hamlet lines that people had grown used to might
be impossible to adhere to.
“This is just a first sort of step,” he said of the new
As for the older ones, tied up in the new battle lines, he needed
say no more than what had already been made evident.
The Onteora School District’s next meeting is on April 5 in
the same location,. Budget Adoption is set to take place April 19.