An ad hoc committee charged with devising a plan to drastically
alter the rate structure for the Phoenicia water system
failed to deliver that plan this month as previously hoped,
with the committee instead asking the Shandaken town board
for assistance in figuring things out.
“We really are at a standstill,” said Chairman
Declan Feehan, adding that the committee doesn’t
understand the specifics of the district’s finances.
Contributing to the delay, Feehan said, is that the Committee
has yet to receive crucial data about the water district.
It remains unclear how the Committee would get the help
it needs to understand the finances. Feehan has suggested
having the books audited, but there was no solution discussed
by the town board at its April 3rd meeting.
Feehan also said the committee has not received requested
information on the amount of damaged water meters in the
district, making it difficult to determine a solution
to that problem.
Even though local streams are dangerously low for this
time of year and water watchers are predicting drought
conditions for this summer, the Shandaken town board is
keeping its collective eye on possible flood problems,
adopting a water release plan for the New York City owned
Shandaken tunnel, which still shoots millions of gallons
per day into the Esopus Creek... in hopes that the City
agrees to it.
Saying that flooding is guaranteed to return eventually,
and probably sooner than later, Supervisor Robert Cross
Jr. offered a resolution which would require the City
to reduce the flows through the tunnel when flooding appears
On Friday Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the Department
of Environmental Protection, made no comment on Shandaken’s
resolution, but noted that flow through the tunnel right
now is only 344 million gallons per day, just above half
its full capacity of 600 million gallons per day.
“As the level of the Schoharie Reservoir goes down
the capacity to move water through the tunnel decreases
as well,” he said.”344 MGD is the maximum
that can go through right now because of water levels
in the reservoir. If levels rise then that number can
No Show... Again
Masterpage Incorporated was not on the agenda for the
April 11th planning board meeting, making the company
officially past the timeframe they announced last year
for starting construction of a cell tower near Glenbrook
Park in Shandaken. Masterpage was courted by Supervisor
Robert Cross Jr. during his re-election campaign last
year, and Masterpage owner Kevin Kellerhouse helped draft
the town’s wireless communication law. Last fall
Cross announced that Masterpage hoped to start construction
before Christmas of 2005, but that April 2006 was a more
realistic goal. Then in January, after already signing
a contract giving Masterpage the right to set up shop
in town, Cross faulted the company for dragging its feet
in the approval process. Masterpage fired back at the
Supervisor, saying they were still on track for an April
As of Tuesday they had not even submitted a complete application
to the planning board.
Ulster County budget-cutting began this week within the
legislature’s Ways and Means Committee, with a goal
of across-the-board five percent drops in spending. Meetings
are scheduled for 2 p.m. 17 and 19 in the County Office
Building at 244 Fair St. The first occurred on Monday.
A special session of the full Legislature is expected
to be called before the end of the month to act on the
County legislators in February began seeking ways to reduce
spending in response to a predicted deficit of $1.15 million,
although recent forecasts show a slightly smaller deficit,
of $1,068,219. County departments have been working under
a 2006 county budget of $300.25 million, up $7.12 million
from the 2005 budget but resulting in a 39 percent increase
in the property tax levy, the highest in the state.
New revenues being looked at by the county include a $4.2
million mortgage tax that buyers will pay, a $1 million
mortgage tax that sellers will pay and $900,000 from a
vehicle tax that would charge $5 per registration of private
vehicle and $10 for each commercial vehicle.
A cigarette tax is also under consideration, along with
the renewal of a two percent hotel/motel tax.
Gov. George Pataki came to Kingston in the past weeks
to announce a plan to bring a fledgling armored equipment
manufacturer, founded by a Stone Ridge resident, to the
Kingston Business Park, with the potential to create 570
jobs over five years. Armor Dynamics Inc. simultaneously
announced that it expects to secure $100 million in contracts
with the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of
Homeland Security for explosive-resistant equipment over
the coming year. The company plans to build a 58,000-square
foot manufacturing facility and announce a projected opening
date later this spring. The project is being funded in
part by a $522,800 grant from the state Office of Science,
Technology and Academic Research for the manufacturer
to work with a SUNY Geneseo researcher to “begin
the commercialization of the ballistic panels that provide
new protection for military personnel with about one-third
the weight of existing products.” Armor Dynamics,
which has six managing partners, will invest $20 million
in the project. The company has already developed products
being used in the field of combat.
Pataki said the project is part of an ongoing effort to
create employment opportunities in Ulster County, where
previous initiatives have come up short of expectations.
Will Route 28 be getting its first traffic lights between
the Woodstock turn-off and Delhi in the near future?
At a recent Onteora School Board meeting, district Business
Administrator Victoria McLaren reported that she had spoken
with Ulster County transportation investigator Mark Remano
regarding a possible traffic light in the front of the
Middle/High School after the issue came up several times
in the last year.
“He said we need to have a traffic study done, at
the cost of five to eight thousand dollars and it would
be at the districts expense,” said McLaren. “He
did not think we would qualify for a traffic light, but
if we did we would be responsible to pay for the installation
of the traffic light which would be about 80 to 100 thousand
dollars and we would be responsible for future upkeep
McLaren thanked assemblyman Kevin Cahill for a quick response
to the school board’s request regarding the matter.
The cost of Ulster County’s long-delayed Law Enforcement
Center has exceeded $100 million, well past its original
budget figure of $71.8 million. The final cost is now
forecast to reach $103 million because of higher-than-expected
claims against the county by several contractors who are
working on the facility. Work won’t be finished
until sometime this summer, over two years beyond schedule.
Some $16 million in costs will now need to be borrowed,
it has been determined, with bonding being worked out/
There are also a growing number of lawsuits, by and against
the county, that have evolved from the controversial project,
which many have attribuited with the county legislature’s
shift from Republican to Democrat hands last November..
The link between healthy forests and sustainable businesses
in the region is the key to a working landscape that provides
jobs and environmental benefits to local communities.
To that end, the Watershed Agricultural Council’s
Forestry Program has been working closely with local woodworkers
and sawmills to lay the ground work for a Catskill WoodNet.
The group plans to launch an interactive website in Summer
’06 – www.catskillwoodnet.org – that
will represent the high quality craftsmanship and creativity
of the Catskill Region’s forest-based businesses.
Moreover, they will be holding a special regional meeting
at Belleayre on Wednesday, April 19.
The goal is to encourage and support the local manufacturing
of forest products from the Catskill Mountains through
improved interaction among the region’s wood businesses.
The idea for the WoodNet came from similar organizations
in Vermont (www.vtwoodnet.org) and the Adirondacks (www.adirondackwood.com).
Those interested in becoming part of the Catskill WoodNet
are invited to attend an informational gathering on April
19 from 6 - 8 p.m. at The Longhouse Lodge at Belleayre
Mountain in Highmount, NY. The meeting will introduce
the group to the Catskill WoodNet and answer any questions
about the future website. The event is also a great opportunity
to network with other members of the local wood-using
community. If you wish to attend the upcoming meeting,
please call Collin Miller at WAC at (607) 865-7790 x112
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) will hold its
Annual Meeting of member towns Tuesday, April 25 at 6
p.m. at CWC offices, 905 Main Street, Margaretville. Results
of the election of representatives from Delaware County
to the CWC Board of Directors will be announced. A presentation
by CWC staff members on program achievements during 2005
will be given. The floor will then be open for questions
and comments from representatives of member towns and
villages. Following the Annual Meeting, the regular monthly
meeting of the Board of Directors will be held. The public
is “cordially” invited to attend.
The price of gasoline could rise this summer because of
supply problems from the phaseout of a fuel additive found
to contaminate groundwater, government and industry officials
have started saying. The average retail price of gasoline
in the United States is $2.50 a gallon - the highest level
since October – but a growing number of analysts
say $3 is a possibility by summer.
The additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, accounts
for about 10 percent of the volume of every gallon of
gasoline with which it is blended - or 1.4 percent of
the nationwide supply - but refiners plan to stop using
it next month because Congress refused to grant them protection
from lawsuits. MTBE will be replaced with ethanol, but
there are doubts within the Energy Department and the
oil industry about whether there will be enough of the
corn-derived fuel to meet the anticipated surge in demand,
and whether the country’s distribution system is
ready to handle it.
Guy Caruso, the head of the Energy Department’s
statistical division, told the Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee that the imminent transition from
MTBE to ethanol “could cause temporary supply dislocations
and may cause price volatility.” His agency estimates
that 130,000 barrels per day of extra ethanol will be
needed beginning May 5, an amount equal to almost 50 percent
of current output.
Members of the Onteora community have started voicing
increasing concern over the ever-more frequent presence
of military recruiters in the High School.
“The No Child Left Behind requires the school to
allow the military recruiter on an ‘equal basis’
as other college and employer recruiters, such as Onteora’s
April 5 College fair, but nothing requires more extensive
access to students,” said Woodstocker Jane Van de
Bogart at a recent meeting.
Several people recounted an incident where two students
got into a political discussion with a recruiter and the
recruiter remarked by calling them “retarded liberal
The school board has been asked to institute a policy
where students would be provided with a safe, nurturing
learning environment. In response, the school board requested
future discussions before making a possible policy resolution.
Board President Dave Patterson said he would like to see
the difference between the recruiter’s frequency
at the school as compared to the specific policies of
the No Child Left Behind Act and reminded people of the
“opt out” forms on the schools web site. When
parents fill out the form, recruiters will not be allowed
access to their child’s school records.
District Superintendent Justine Winters noted that in
communications with the district’s lawyer about
the military’s increasing frequency of requests
to be on campus she was told there is not much a school
district can do, because of legislation. The Army trumps
Trustee Rita Vanacore wanted to know how often colleges
enter the school and use it as guidelines for allowing
the military access. “Do they come here once a year?
I know that there is a time of when that happens.”
Trustee Marino D’Orazio requested that the board
adopt a policy.
“My wish is if we can limit the military to come
only during the designated fair, so that the fair is for
all institutions that want to recruit our students, like
once in the fall semester and once in the spring semester
and that is it,” he said. “And after that
the doors are closed to them.”
Legal opinions about such a stance are currently being
After our last issue went to press, and with it our front
page story on a new labor suit brought against Emerson
Place’s parent company, Spotted Dog LLC, in U.S.
District Court, Northern District, Beth Bourassa of Whiteman,
Hanna and Osterman phoned to say that she was preparing
to “vigorously defend” her clients with a
full response to the allegations filed by attorneys on
behalf of Carol Martineau-Lopez and Bonnie Benjamin, which
she expected to file in early May.
“Sometimes these laws are used as a vehicle for
employees to vent their anger over losing their jobs,”
she said of the Complaint, which outlined a series of
harassment charges against former Emerson CEO Ted Wright
and other employees based on sexual, weight and rural
origins issues. “Emerson Place is one of the largest
employers in the region... They provide a beneficial career
path of local residents.”
Asked to comment on the lawsuit after our story appeared,
the Emerson’s (and Spotted Dog LLC’s) Managing
Partner, Dean Gitter, was adamant in saying he had none…
and would not read our story. His Vice President of Public
Affairs, Paul Rakov had the following response: “We
are strongly defending our company and the former employees
named in the suit. We believe the court process will demonstrate
the plaintiffs were let go due to performance-only reasons…
We take very seriously our responsibility as a community
neighbor that creates long-term career paths for local
residents. Through employee orientations, in-service training,
open-door communication and performance review procedures,
we regularly communicate our company’s well-defined
standards and practices to all employees and do not tolerate
behavior inconsistent with our core values.”
Gitter had previously spoken of Wright as “the most
positive man I’ve ever known,” and joked on
at least one public occasion of having lured him into
his current position because “he bought my story
that we’re going to be in Litchfield (Ct., one of
America’s wealthiest towns) in another five years.”
As for all the recent hullabaloo about his recent public
announcements that he was ready to negotiate the size
of his other, Belleayre Resort proposal, and its being
among several indicators that critics are saying indicates
that Gitter’s financial backing may be crumbling,
the man has been talkative… albeit to Kingston Freeman
Political Editor Hugh Reynolds, only.
In a story published by Reynolds on April 8, one of the
Belleayre Resort’s three primary investors, Kenneth
Pasternak, is reported to have said that the money he’s
putting up for the project “is not a large portion
of our wealth,” and supported Gitter’s stance
that the project’s investors are not running out.
Pasternak also complained about the rigidity of the Resort
proposal’s opponents, saying they were against compromise.
Pasternak was charged by the federal Securities and Exchange
Commission and privately-managed NASDAQ on numerous matters
last year related back to his days running Knight Trading,
a company he founded in 1996 and was forced out of five
years later when its shares started to tank. The most
severe of these deals with Pasternak’s involvement
in a long-running fraud that resulted in the company’s
paying $79 million in fines to stay in business, a number
of as-yet-unsettled class action suits, and growing word
on Wall Street, as reported in several key publications
this past winter, that the investor may be facing criminal
charges and possible jail time before the year is through.
Gitter’s other major partner, Emily H. Fisher of
Sheffield, MA, has been increasing her philanthropic giving
to various colleges and universities, the Natural History
Museum in New York, the Lemur Foundation, and a variety
of Democratic Party candidates, often via the influential
Emily’s List, over recent years. She has not been
seen at a Gitter event in years.
The developer himself, like Pasternak, has prided himself
on giving to local and national Republican Party causes
in recent years, including a significant involvement in
recent Shandaken elections.
“My backers are extremely well heeled and are 100
per cent on board,” he said to Reynolds this past
week. “If anything my backers are more intransigent
than I am.”
Massachusetts legislators have approved a sweeping health
care reform package that dramatically expands coverage
for the state’s uninsured, a bill that backers hope
will become a model for the rest of the nation. According
to the plan, the poor will be offered free or heavily
subsidized coverage and those who can afford insurance
but refuse to get it will face increasing tax penalties.
The plan would use a combination of financial incentives
and penalties to expand access to health care over the
next three years and extend coverage to the state’s
estimated 500,000 uninsured. If all goes as planned, poor
people will be offered free or heavily subsidized coverage;
those who can afford insurance but refuse to get it will
face increasing tax penalties until they obtain coverage;
and those already insured will see a modest drop in their
The only other state to come close to the Massachusetts
plan is Maine, which passed a law in 2003 to dramatically
expand health care. That plan relies largely on voluntary
The measure does not call for new taxes but would require
businesses that do not offer insurance to pay a $295 annual
fee per employee. The bill requires all residents to be
insured beginning July 1, 2007, either by purchasing insurance
directly or obtaining it through their employer.
Experts who study families around the globe say America’s
middle-class family is the one people in other countries
both love and loathe. Anthropologists and sociologists
at a conference on family myths say people from other
countries hold up the American middle-class family as
the modern ideal. They see movies, television programs
and advertising that suggest wealth and prosperity - and
they want some. But researchers also say these families
understand that not everything about modern U.S. families
“ There’s a vision of independence and material
prosperity, but the downside is that other kinds of social
connections are being lost,” said one report. “American
families may have money but don’t have time and
bonds together. There is a sense that maybe the family
is a residential center and people are going off during
the day into his or her world. They see family life as
Similar views were noted by other researchers, who have
spent time in Barbados, Egypt and Mexico. Others are working
with colleagues studying families in Argentina and Nepal.
“There’s a very clear criticism of American
life, at least in Mexico, as being overly individualistic,
as being selfish,” says Jennifer Hirsch, associate
professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University.
“My experience of life in rural Mexico is that it’s
a society that takes much more pleasure from human connection.”
But she says there also are aspects of America that Mexicans
seek to emulate. “People want to shop like Americans,”
she says. “There is a great global envy for American
patterns of consumption.”
The majority of American workers think they’ll be
able to retire comfortably, but most aren’t saving
nearly enough to meet that goal, according to the new
Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual retirement
confidence survey, which found that about 68 percent of
workers are confident about having adequate funds for
a comfortable retirement, up slightly from 65 percent
in 2005. At the same time, more than half of all workers
say they’ve saved less than $25,000 toward retirement,
according to the Washington, D.C., based research group.
Even among workers 55 and older, more than four in 10
have retirement savings under $25,000.
“`Overconfidence’ is the word that comes to
mind,” said Jack VanDerhei, co-author of the study.
He said that the poor savings performance was especially
troubling because it comes as many of the nation’s
employers are eliminating the defined benefit plans -
better known as pensions - that have buoyed the retirements
of current workers’ parents and grandparents. Many
companies also are eliminating retiree health care coverage
or asking retirees to contribute more for it.
Not all was doom and gloom in the report, the 16th in
a series begun in 1991. More than 70 percent of workers
say that they or their spouses have saved something toward
retirement - a percentage that’s held fairly level
for the past six years, EBRI said. And while many have
meager savings, others are doing quite well at accumulating
retirement nest eggs, the study found.
While more than half of workers have less than $25,000
set aside, 12 percent have $25,000 to $49,999; 12 percent
have $50,000 to $99,999; 11 percent have $100,000 to $249,999;
and 12 percent have $250,000 or more. As would be expected,
older workers generally have more set aside than younger
workers, with 12 percent of those 55 and older reporting
account balances of $100,000 to $249,999, and 26 percent
with accounts of $250,000 and up.
On Saturday, April 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. there
will be a timely program on tree defoliation causes and
impacts that have been projected for the 2006 growing
season. It is anticipated that this year there may be
major tree defoliation in the region so it is important
to be well informed in order to protect the trees on your
property. Sponsored by the Department of Environmental
Conservation in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension
of Delaware and Greene Counties, this workshop will cover
topics such as Insect Defoliators of Concern including
their identification, seasonal life cycle and where they
are in the Catskills. The insects to be discussed include
the Gypsy Moth, the Forest Tent Caterpillar, the Eastern
Tent Caterpillar and the Fall/Spring Canker Worms. A section
on Trees Targeted and will outline how defoliation affects
trees. Natural Control will provide a discussion of virus
and bacteria, over wintering die-back and parasites, and
Chemical Control will answer questions such as where do
I go for help and who do I contact for small scale (single
tree/yard trees), as well as large scale (forest) impacts.
Finally, Managing an Effected Tree/Forest will discuss
dealing with defoliation (protecting the health of affected
trees) as well as dealing with mortality (salvaging the
dead wood). This workshop will held at two locations,
one at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware in Hamden,
NY (607-865-6531) and the other at the Agroforestry Resource
Center in Acra, NY, with a possible third location in
Oneonta. The cost for this workshop is $5 per person and
pre-registration is required. For more information, please
contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County
Could the obesity epidemic be peaking? According to the
government’s most accurate recent check of the nation’s
girth, U.S. men and children are increasingly tipping
the scales. But the obesity rate among women - who at
33 percent are heavier as a group - held steady.
The study didn’t examine why men and children are
getting fatter and women aren’t. But some experts
think the leveling off in women could signal a turning
point in the nation’s obesity epidemic.
“Women have always been more responsible about health
than the general population,” said Dr. William Dietz,
of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
which reported the new data. “I’d like to
think this shows women are leading the way in recognizing
obesity as a health threat,” said Dietz, director
of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition and Physical
Another piece of research also suggests a turn. The NPD
Group, a New York-based market research firm, found the
percentage of overweight adults has held steady from 2002
“I would say it has leveled off. The bad news is
we haven’t found a way to lose weight,” said
Harry Balzer, vice president of NPD, which each year tracks
what thousands of people eat and their self-reported height
The CDC report was published in the Journal of the American
The findings come from the CDC’s National Health
and Nutrition Examination Survey, which collects data
on a sample of about 5,000 people each year. The researchers
clustered years together, presenting calculations for
1999-2000, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004.
The survey is considered the gold standard for obesity
data - it’s done through in-person examinations
that include actual height and weight measurements. It
found the percentage of men who are overweight rose to
71 percent in 2003-2004, from 67 percent in 1999-2000.
The obese percentage rose to 31 percent, from 27.5 percent.
For women, both the overweight and obese percentages held
steady, at about 62 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
For children, the percentage of boys, ages 2 to 19, who
were seriously overweight, or obese, rose to more than
18 percent in 2003-2004, from 14 percent four years earlier.
For girls, the percentage rose to 16 percent, from about