(letters from April 27, 2006)
The Catholic Archdiocese of New York has recently decided
to close down St Francis deSales “Parish” located
in Northwestern Ulster County and transfer-out the attending
St. Francis deSales parish priest, also close the Boiceville,
West Shokan and Allaben mission chapels and convert the (140
person capacity) Phoenicia St Francis Chapel to a mission
chapel of St John’s Parish, in Woodstock. This recent
Archdiocese decision will have a devastating effect on all
practicing Catholic populations of northwestern Ulster County,
especially the senior citizens. The fastest growing segment
of our rural Catskill area population is our senior citizens,
many of whom are faithful practicing Roman Catholics. These
shifting Catskill Park/Watershed population demographics truly
indicate an increased need for senior citizen social services,
local medical & religious counseling support. Not a decrease!
Public transportation is poor at best; many seniors no longer
drive (at least not long distances). Senior Citizens are very
dependent upon family, friends and of course, their clergy.
St. John’s parish rectory is located on the eastern
side of the town of Woodstock which is about a 60 mile round
trip for a parishioner in the far northwestern Shandaken villages
of Pine Hill/Big Indian/Olivera & Highmount (a considerable
distance) not only for the senior parishioners but also for
the priest from St. John’s (in eastern Woodstock). Especially
if an unplanned compassion visit must be made on a slippery
winter night, in order to spend some quality time with an
extremely ill or grieving senior parishioner. The St John’s
parish priests’ tasks are now expanded as the single
spiritual Catholic shepard to such a large widespread area,
only visiting the one Northwestern Ulster County Phoenicia
(mission) church for a single Sunday mass, One Sunday mass
will/can not serve all the current area practicing Catholics,
St Francis deSales is a very small (140 capacity) Chapel.
These changes leave the regular and summer resident Phoenicia/Shokan/Allaben/Boiceville
practicing Catholics with an extremely limited opportunity
to spend any quality time with the “Shepard of Their
Flock”. They will not all fit into St Francis chapel
during a single Sunday mass/service.
The affected parishioners understand there is a severe shortage
of priests and all the many other stated reasons why the recently
announced church closures are being considered, they also
understand there is no real property or population growth
in this rural Catskill State Park/Watershed area, there are
no longer too-many jobs or career opportunities either. However,
our senior citizen population does live on a limited retirement
income and may not be not financially prepared to move away
from their owned family homesteads or affordable senior residences,
yet. The families with young children are moving away to assure
their financial stability, which helps explain the recent
reduction in Baptisms, Confirmations and Marriage statistics,
as was recently reported to the Archdiocese, by the St. Francis
deSales parish. In recent years a single constant for of our
practicing Catholic seniors has been the spiritual support
and counseling by their parish priest, now that too will soon
be much less accessible or literally taken away.
In these times of the “throw-away society” are
the Catholic Church Leaders throwing away the loyal (rural)
seniors? They are old, frail, in poor health, on limited incomes
so do we toss them aside like a broken TV, radio or computer?
It just does not seem to be very compassionate to abandon
the faithful at this time of their lives (near their end time)
when they need the support of their parish priest who should/could
be stationed relatively close (certainly not a 30 to 40 mile
distance away). In a few more short years these very seniors
who helped build this (one time) “sustainable”
parish plan to be interred in their “self-sufficient”
Catholic parish cemetery plot, perhaps then would be a better
time to transfer their priest and reduce their parish to a
mission outpost of the St. John’s of Woodstock, but
surely not now.
Is it not one of God’s commandments to “Honor
thy father and mother”?
What eventually happens to the closed mission chapels, St
Francis Parish Hall, the Rectory, the Catholic Cemetery and
all the real estate (including the Phoenicia Recreation Fields
behind the parish hall) which used to belong to the (former)
St. Francis deSales Parish?
Much has been written about the transportation situation at
Onteora, but nothing from the contractor’s point of
view. As the largest transportation contractor at Onteora,
we would like to share our perspective. There is some misinformation
about the bidding process that needs to be cleaned up.
Contrary to what some school officials would have the taxpayers
believe, the bid specifications did not contain route descriptions,
run numbers, or route summaries of any kind. In fact, this
very concern was raised by the contractors at the pre-bid
meeting on February 2 (in the
presence of trustee O’Connor) and the contractors were
told that “run descriptions were not necessary because
the runs were all going to be changed substantially and would
not be operated as presently configured.” Nor did the
bid specifications specify the number of
busses that the contractor would be required to supply - only
that the new contractor must provide however many vehiclesthe
District requires and perform any extra work that the district
requests. The bid specifications also set forth in detail
a number ofd substantial penalties related to non-performance.
Thus, the bidder was faced with bidding on a contract to provide
an unknown number of buses to travel over runs that were not
described while facing substantial penalties for non-performance.
As a contractor presently performing 28 runs in this district,
we know the district as well as anyone, and this was a task
with way too much uncertainty. Simply put, the District should
consider itself lucky that anyone was even willing to bid
The district would like the taxpayers to believe that their
actions were necessary in the name of safety. Implicit in
the district’s position is that the contractors have
been, and are, operating in an
unsafe manner and are not in compliance with Article 19A.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. As school bus contractors
we are in compliance with 19A - it is the law. Furthermore,
our insurance carriers impose substantial additional safety
requirements and our DOT Operator Profile has been well over
96% for the past several years. The district did not need
67 pages of bid specifications that will now cost the taxpayers
hundreds of thousands of extra dollars to make us achieve
this! And if the new requirements to be imposed on contractors
were truly necessary for safety reasons, then why haven’t
the same requirements been imposed on the district-owned buses?
Are the children who ride on District buses not entitled to
the same level of safety?
Another justification offered by the District is that the
contracts were 20+ years old and could not be changed without
a new bid process. This is not true. We have contracts that
are, in some cases, over 20 years old and believe it or not,
they are not being operated with the
same equipment and in the exact same way as 20 years ago!
Over the life of those contracts the routes and safety requirements
were changed several times through the renewal process. The
District was able to add or delete mileage, add radios, stop
signs, yellow warning lights
and other safety devices, and in some cases combine runs,
without having to re-bid each time. The renewal process is
a mechanism adopted by the State of New York to allow local
school districts to keep
competent contractors in place without going through a costly
bidding process. Why were the incumbent contractors never
even approached to discuss renewal as a possibility? We also
had several contracts that are less than a year old. Under
the District’s rationale why did these runs need to
be re-bid at significant additional cost to the taxpayers?
When the bid results were tabulated by the District, they
contractors that the winning bid was $2.27 million. Yet this
amount has been presented to the taxpayers as $1.8 million.
Where did that $400,000 go? The District is now seeking voter
approval to purchase
two new vehicles when it can easily require the new contractor
to supply those vehicles under the terms of the new transportation
contract at a fraction of the cost - why?
We have served the Onteora community for 46 years, so it is
to say goodbye. We would like to thank all of you for the
opportunity to serve this wonderful community. Over the years,
we have had the pleasure of transporting three generations
of OCS students. During that time we grew from one bus to
a fleet of more than 50 buses. While we
will no longer be taking your children to school, we will
remain a committted part of this community. Our roots are
here and they remain as strong as ever.
We would like to give special thanks to our drivers and employees.
are true professionals whose dedication to safety and commitment
to their community made our safety record possible. Those
who have tried to imply otherwise in order to justify the
actions taken should be ashamed. Our drivers join us in wishing
the Onteora community all the
Glenn R. Every
Arlos “Bucky” Every
Tonche Transit, Inc.
Evco Transport, Inc.
In Curt Schoeberl’s letter of 3-13-06, he claimed that
he and co-drafter Todd Wiley explained the merits of the Large
Parcel Bill to Senator Larkin when seeking his sponsorship.
He emphatically insisted that the language of the bill included
“reservoirs” and that Sen. Larkin knew that it
included reservoirs. In fact, the bill describes “large
utilities companies or research and manufacturing facilities”.
Reservoirs are not mentioned.
In his letter to Town of Olive counsel Smith, Sen. Larkin
states: “The Law was not intended to apply to reservoirs,
particularly where there are no wild swings in value from
year to year. Furthermore, it was my intention that the use
of the alternate equalization formula in the Law would be
optional and used only if all affected municipalities opted
to use the large parcel equalization process.”
Given that the actual bill is very technical and somewhat
unintelligible it is not surprising that the sponsors apparently
took the drafters at their word and informed the Governor
and NY Legislature via letters and memos that it was an optional
relief measure with Home Rule Veto as a key provision. In
fact, the touted Home Rule Veto provision does not exist in
the bill. Lawmakers were never told prior to passage that
the bill could be used to confiscate 50% of a small towns
tax base against its will and cause the very problems that
they were told the bill would relieve.
Due to the lack of any measurement standards in the bill those
already at the proper assessment (because of a recent purchase
or renovation) unfairly suffered many thousands in increased
levy. The stated problem in Olive of parcels with outdated
assessments was not solved. The Town of Olive solved that
problem by doing a recently completed revaluation of all parcels.
Schoeberl’s claim that non-reservoir towns in the county
paid an addition 1.2 million in taxes in 2006 is absurd. All
towns in the state are assessed in their entirety. The UC
Legislature voted against confiscation of Olives tax revenue
for re-distribution to far flung towns in the county. One
hundred years of development opportunity value has been lost
to Olive taxpayers. Severe restrictions encumber the remaining
50% of our landmass. Despite these liabilities borne by Olive,
Schoeberl and others would like to confiscate the only asset
that Olive derives from the reservoir which is the tax revenue
that is lawfully due to any town within which any property
Unfortunately, it appears that the ire of thousands of residents
of reservoir towns has been misdirected at the bill sponsors
who may be due an apology.(from me, anyway.) Schoeberls letter
is simply one more indication that the drafters of the bill
are the source of the misrepresentations made to lawmakers
and the public.
Essentially, if the Town of Olive feels that the value of
the reservoir is greater than the 320 million value assigned
by NYORPS, (which is the case), the law allows half of Olives
tax base to be confiscated from Olive and distributed to the
other towns in either the county or school district. I am
very saddened by the fact that instead of figuring out how
to properly value the reservoir, our leaders and their technicians
have imposed upon us a perpetually divisive law that has caused
deep rifts and much enmity between towns within the school
district and the county.
This letter is addressed to Curt Schoebert, Assessor, Town
of Shawangunk. You should get your facts straight before you
speak. Regarding Large Parcel Bill, first of all, the reservoir
in the Town of Olive was built over 100 years ago. The reservoir
displaced many areas of Olive. Mr. Assessor, drive all around
this town, you will see where there used to be communities.
Fifty percent plus was taken for the reservoir with compensation
to the Town of Olive. The Large Parcel Law is very new, the
tax base because of fifty percent reservoir property is the
only tax base Olive has. There is nearly nothing else in Olive,
Mr. Assessor. Your comment regarding non-reservoir towns picking
up an estimated $1,200,000 in county taxes was high.
First of all Mr. Assessor, these towns are non-reservoir.
Also, why don't you write about the cost overrun of that jail?
It's a lot more than what you say non-reservoir towns picked
up. Get all the information on this tax increase, and remember
these non-reservoir towns shouldn't take away from Olive.
Do you remember what increase Olive paid when the Large Parcel
Law was passed by the Onteora School District and the County?
You should also know that Olive has the most update tax assessment
in Ulster. Our taxes will increase due to this. Also your
friends in Shandaken haven't had one in many years. They need
one so they can pay their fair share. We in Olive do.
Do you buy books online, use Google, or download to an Ipod?
These activities will be hurt if Congress passes a radical
law that gives giant corporations more control over the Internet.
Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying
Congress hard to gut Network Neutrality, the Internet's First
Amendment. Net Neutrality prevents AT&T from choosing
which websites open most easily for you based on which site
pays AT&T more. Amazon.com doesn't have to outbid Barnes
& Noble for the right to work more properly on your computer.
Politicians don't think we are paying attention to this issue.
Many of them take campaign checks from big telecom companies
and are on the verge of selling out to people like AT&T's
CEO, who openly says, "The internet can't be free."
The free and open Internet is under seige!
When the alarm goes off the first day of school, September,
2006, will it be too late when you wake up and realize that
we let the Onteora School Board implement its plan to permit
a single bus contractor that is located many miles away from
the Onteora School District have the contract of all school
buses transporting out precious children to school, reported
at a cost of more than a half-million dollars more than the
district currently pays for the very first year of a new contract?
We the parents and taxpayers cannot vote on it. On top of
that they are asking us to vote yes for proposition #3 to
authorize Onteora Central School District Board of Education
to contract for all transportation for an additional two years
for the same contractor at an estimated annual cost of millions
through the year 2009.
Why would they want this to happen? Just to think that this
will happen in our school district!
The school board has submitted no evidence that switching
from our present transportation system to their present proposal
will be beneficial to our children or the taxpayers. Can they
do whatever they want? Let's do what is best for our children!
Business administrator Victorial McLaren pointed out that
many existing contracts are over 20 years old and allow little
or no flexibility. I ask, "why are we vogint for a multi-year
contract through 2009, for the very same contractor?"
I think it would be appropriate for the school board to get
some additional information for the parents and voters. Figure
out what it is really going to cost the taxpayers and then
let us decide to either support or not support this drastic
change. Who profits from this ridiculous proposal? It certainly
will not be the taxpayers.
Parents, this is a big deal. This involves your children and
it should be the subject of full accountability. Parents in
the school district should have the right to decide who is
busing their children and for how much.
When we start the new school year in September, 2006, your
child walks out the door to board that bus for the first day
of school. Will they be in good hands? Are we willing to give
up our hard working reliable drivers? These drivers and aides
are our next door neighbors, friends who have been driving
our children and grandchildren to school for many years. Are
we willing to let the Onteora School Board hand over our children
to the care of a bus contractor that is located many miles
away and to drivers that may never have heard of the Onteora
School District? Wake up. The alarm will be going off sooner
than you think. Is it too late? Do you really care?
Mount Tremper, NY
Attention to all parents whose children ride on the little
bus #59 (gray elephant} from Phoenicia School to Bennett School.
On the morning of March 30, 2006, my son left his red Gameboy
SP with a Super Mario Bros. game in his seat on the bus when
he got off at Phoenicia School. Other children get on the
bus that attend Bennett School. The bus aide never found it
after the children got off the bus at Bennett. My son came
home that afternoon very upset because someone had taken it.
It is disturbing to think that a child found something on
the bus that doesn't belong to them, and didn't do the right
thing and give it to the bus aide or driver who could then
find the proper owner. What kind of world are we living in
when our children steal and the parents either don't know
they did it and are unaware of it, or they themselves teach
their children that "finders keepers, losers weepers?'"
My children are brought up better! If they find something
that isn't theirs, they give it to someone with authority
to find the person who lost it. Parents, please ask your children
if they have or have seen my son's red Gameboy SP. If you
find it, please bring it to the school or have your child
give it to the bus driver or aide.No questions asked. It is
an expensive game, and my son is really upset with it being
Mount Tremper, NY
Thank You! On behalf of the Town of Shandaken Food Pantry,
we would like to thank one and all for your generous contributions
this past year and a half. The outpouring of food, monetary
contributions, and concerns is very much appreciated. We have
helped quite a few families over this hard financial winter,
and hope more will come forward to avail themselves of this
service. Please don't hesitate, that's what we are here for.
Again, thank you everyone for your thoughtfulness, and we
hope you have had a beautiful holiday season. The pantry is
open Thursdays from 10 AM 'till noon at the Phoenicia Methodist
Town of Shandaken Food Pantry
A few years ago, the Shandaken Little League was given a very
generous and anonymous donation, an electronic scoreboard.
We have truly enjoyed using this scoreboard the last few seasons
and the children love seeing their scores in the bright lights.
The problem is that our scoreboard is not equipped with a
remote control set up, so that the scoreboard cannot be controlled
from a distance. It requires that someone sit at the scoreboard
to keep score. It has been getting harder and harder to get
volunteers that are willing to sit at the board and keep score.
We are trying to raise the money to purchase the remote set
up for our sign. For the past two seasons, the children worked
hard to earn over $2000.00, with which we purchased a brand
new batting cage and pitching machine. Our fundraising efforts
now, are in hopes of getting newer uniforms and the remote
system for our scoreboard. After speaking with the company,
we were informed that it will cost our league an additional
$1,400.00, to upgrade our sign with the remote control. We
are currently seeking donations from anyone interested in
helping us make this needed upgrade. Anyone interested in
making a donation can contact Theresa Jones at 688-2055, or
you can send a donation to Shandaken Little League, C/O Theresa
Jones PO Box 63 Shandaken, NY 12480. Any and all donations
will be greatly appreciated. Thanks for all your support.
Shandaken Little League