It A Mutiny, Then...
minutes the temperature in the hall rose due to the tempers flaring
at the Shandaken town board, in particular Supervisor Bob Cross Jr,,
and at the eight committee members who didn’t show up for the
session. Comfortable, though it had nothing to do with the temperature,
is not a word best used to describe the events that followed.
By the time it was over the committee members who did show up, Frasier,
Mike Ricciar-della, William Fitchner, Rick Ricciardella and Paul Pettinato,
had been given a clear message from those present: replace any committee
members who no longer wish to participate and prepare a list of names
of Phoenicians to join the team currently negotiating with the City
of New York to reach a better deal for the nearly boondoggled sewer
The session was called by Frasier, who disagreed with a previous decision
that the committee had accomplished the tasks it was given. Last month
the majority of the committee voted to disband.
However, Frasier said, the town board did not officially dissolve
the committee. In a prepared statement, Frasier outlined a series
of issues that all agreed were within the committee’s bailiwick.
The five members present agreed they would continue on.
A main concern is what most present see as incompetent representation
at the bargaining table, where Cross leads a small group of representatives
including attorney Kevin Young, Engineer John Brust, Phoenicia residents
Anne Maroney and Steve Stettine, and town Councilman Robert Stanley.
Stanley was lauded for at least showing up to the session, while Cross
was verbally crucified.
Bart Guglielmetti said he felt insulted by Cross’s announcement
in the Daily Freeman that same day that he would not attend.
“This guys been playing games with us during the whole process…
I for one am sick of it,” he said.
The group worked to prepare a list of questions they feel need to
be answered before any decision can be made about the sewer project.
“As everyone I’m sure realizes, the best decisions may
not always be politically correct. That’s why the politicians
need to leave the people to decide their future. The odds are that
our (the committee’s) decisions will not be politically motivated
and decided by how many votes we may gain or lose. Our future must
be based upon what we as a people feel it should be,” Frasier
The committee will begin to gather information about the specifics
of creating a septic maintenance district instead of a waste treatment
It was also noted that the Catskill Watershed Corporation has funding
to replace bad residential septic systems in the hamlet if no system
is installed. This does not help businesses, whereas a septic maintenance
district would. Still there are more questions, with Frasier noting
concern that expensive commercial systems may use most of the money
under that program, leaving residents in the lurch.
The Committee also awaits data from engineers showing annual costs
for similar communities that have waste treatment plants.
One solid figure did appear Tuesday night. Stanley, who participated
in an estimating process held last Saturday, said that the day’s
work revealed that the average fee to hook up to the system will be
For the past several weeks the issue of whether to build a multi-
million sewer system for the hamlet has pitted neighbor against neighbor
in the Shandaken hamlet, with many fearing annual costs so high that
businesses may be forced to close.
The friction came to a climax earlier this month at a town board meeting
where residents and business owners alike demanded the town board
negotiate a better deal with the City of New York. Under a deal signed
in 1997 the city is funding the construction of the $11 million project
but not the operation and maintenance costs that will come every day
once the system is turned on.
Cross has come under fire lately from sewer project opponents who
believe he’s not up to the task of securing a better deal for
Phoenicia. Last week Cross was criticized for not asking the Coalition
of Watershed Towns for help in the matter. Just two weeks prior Ricciardella
and others asked the town board to have someone other than Cross,
perhaps an attorney, represent the town in the negotiations.
But the search for an attorney to handle negotiations with New York
City may now prove sticky. Young works within the same office as savvy
negotiating attorney Jeff Baker, one of the architects of the MOA
who now handles the Coalition. And Baker’s former partner, Dan
Ruzow, is now in the employ of local developer Dean Gitter, among
Some have suggested that should Phoenicia succeed in getting a special
deal with New York, those deals worked out by Young and other attorneys
for other towns throughout the Catskills might come into question.
On top of that, Ricciardella and others have started speaking about
how they’ve heard that despite hefty promises and much completed
work on sewer and wastewater treatment systems around the Catskills,
actual billing has not occured yet, leaving many to question final
amounts to be charged both residences and businesses.
Stay tuned over the coming issues as we chart what’s up... and
the current controversies continue.
On a district-wide basis, though, the $44,644,222 budget,
a 3.08 percent tax increase, passed 1455-1263 with Olive as the only
town to defeat the proposal.
The two board seats up for election went to Maxanne Resnick, with
a majority of 1544 votes, and incumbent Herb Rosenfeld with 1204 votes.
Write-in candidate Haug was defeated with 919 votes, 729 directly
Rosenfeld, who is considered a controversial board member, often debates
the board majority and voted recently against deep budget cuts such
as the closure of West Hurley School and recent cuts in special education.
He was thrilled and surprised of being re-elected. “You almost
got rid of me,” he yelled out jokingly.
As everyone was analyzing the numbers school board trustee Marino
D’Orazio voiced surprise at Rosenfeld gaining votes in Olive.
Laughing he said, “177 votes, this must have been me and my
extended family in Marbletown!”
Resnick breathing a sigh of relief that campaigning was over said
she was thrilled of her majority lead. “I want to thank everyone
for coming out to vote,” she said.
School board members offered hand shakes of congratulations to the
Haug said, “A lot of people discovered that they had a way to
vote that they did not know they had.” He was glad he offered
people a choice by running as a write-in candidate. The town of West
Hurley also cast one vote each for Robert Campbell, Danielle Smith
and Donna Sharp.
The school board members will serve a three-year term beginning July
1, 2006 and ending June 30, 2009.
The transportation proposals saw defeat on both counts. Proposition
two asking voters to purchase two vehicles were defeated 1248-1362.
Woodstock and West Hurley were the two towns supporting the proposals,
but it was not enough to tip an approval. Proposition three that asked
for an additional two years on a three year contract for Hoyt bus
company was also defeated, 970-1613. This proposal stirred the most
anger through the school community because the re-bidding of contracts
eliminated the use of four contract bus companies, down to one. Woodstock
was the only town that supported the proposition. With the proposal
defeated, the school board will need to either re-bid the contract
or renew the contract next year.
Coalition Gets Heavy
Yet at the same time,
the CWT, as evidenced at its May 15 annual meeting, is willingly turning
its back on new issues involving New York City sewer building projects…
in particular, one facing growing community opposition – and
consequently raising eyebrows – in Phoenicia.
The CWT, founded in the early 1990s to fight New York City’s
proposed watershed regulation changes – a series of battles
eventually won with the signing of the 1997 Memorandum of Agreement
and founding of the Catskill Watershed Corporation — came under
fire in recent years for having weighed in on the ongoing battle over
Dean Gitter’s plans to create a mega-resort in the central Catskills,
as well as the Large Parcel issue that roiled the town of Olive and
Onteora School District.
In the past year, the Coalition has countered complaints that its
executive board does not communicate with its constituent towns by
promising regular release of minutes and other information, as well
as the eventual creation of an online presence, while simultaneously
browbeating those towns that have questioned their authority and manner
of governance – such as Woodstock – with stories about
their importance a decade ago.
At the May 15 meeting in Margaretville, CWT officials put out a warning
to any community thinking of not paying or submitting only a portion
of the $500 annual dues that their interests will not be represented
by the Coalition if they do so. The CWT repeatedly stressed how it
goes to bat for locales that are under attack by the New York City
Department of Environmental Protection.
When the Town of Halcott said it could not afford all of the proposed
fee hike, the Coalition’s Executive Committee responded that
Halcott would be notified that the town would not receive any services
from the Coalition unless the dues are paid in full. Should Halcott
decline, the Committee’s members continued, it would forego
Coalition representation during a time when the Coalition is negotiating
changes in the watershed deal, made in 1997, between New York City
and the 51 watershed communities that make up the watershed region.
It was also mentioned that information circulated by the Coalition
to membership towns would no longer be sent… even though promises
had been made in recent weeks to the contrary.
Halcott Supervisor Innes Kasanof said the day after the CWT meeting
that her town board decided to only pay $200 in dues because, with
an annual budget of $152,000, they felt they could not afford the
hike. She added that right now there are no concerns in town about
the watershed deal so the benefit of being a Coalition member was
not apparent. According to sources, many in Halcott don’t think
membership is even worth $200 and are expected this week to urge the
town board to follow the lead of nearby Hardenburgh and drop out of
the coalition altogether.
Of all the Coalition members, 42 have paid in full. Another 9, including
the County of Ulster, have either not paid anything or only a portion.
The same letter sent to Halcott will go out to those communities not
in good standing.
And although it exists to help watershed communities resolve conflicts
with the City of New York, the Coalition of Watershed Towns appears
to have no interest in helping out Phoenicia, where the city is partially
financing a long-awaited sewer project.
For reasons not explained the Executive Committee, the CWT has not
come to the aid of Phoenicia, where many fear crippling costs if the
City builds the sewer plant. Concern has reached fever pitch, even
to the point that the community may opt out of the program.
Even more perplexing than the Coalition’s stance, Shandaken
Supervisor Bob Cross Jr., a member of the CWT Executive Committee,
has not yet asked the Coalition to come to his hamlet’s aid,
choosing instead to complain on Monday about a separate and benign
issue. The city, Cross claimed, was trying to get a conservation easement
on a 25 acre property in his town. It was agreed that the City was
well within its rights to pursue the easement.
Also confusing is that while the Supervisor sees no need for CWT assitance
in the sewer debacle, he instead attempted to get the Catskill Center
for Conservation and Development involved. CCCD Executive Director
Tom Alworth could not be reached for comment.
At the annual meeting May 15, committee members were asked if they
would help Phoenicia, which is reluctantly pinning it’s hopes
for an affordable system on current negotiations between Cross and
the City’s Department of Environmental Protection.
The committee’s silence in response to the query was deafening.
Cross said nothing. Other committee members glanced at Cross looking
for some lead on the matter, but got none and remained quiet as well.
The committee’s attorney, Jeff Baker, attempted a response,
saying that the Catskill Watershed Corporation, a separate agency,
was reviewing several programs and that Coalition officials would
be involved in that process.
Next year the Federal Environmental Protection Agency is expected
to renew the city’s permit to avoid building a massive multi-billion
dollar filter system for its drinking water, but only after a review
of how the partnership between the city’s Department of Environmental
Protection and the watershed communities is working. By the end of
this year plans should be in place to fix bad programs, enhance good
ones and in general refine the details of the complex filtration waiver.
Part of the process includes the Coalition giving its blessing to
the renewal. Such a blessing will presumably be offered after the
Coalition negotiates arrangements to better the programs designed
to help the watershed communities. Topping their list of grievances,
which has not included anything about local wastewater plants, the
Coalition has complained that the City does not allow for enough recreational
use of city owned land.
This all marks further decay for the Coalition, which came under fire
last winter from the Ulster County town of Hardenburgh over the issue
of dues. Hardenburgh’s town board refused to pay and declined
membership in the Coalition this year. Similar complaints from other
Ulster County communities, as well as municipalities elsewhere throughout
the sprawling watershed, including the Delaware County towns of Masonville
and Stamford, have also surfaced… only to be quieted when the
CWT promised better communications over the coming year.
With those on hold, everything seems to be I a “Wait and see”
situation for the coming year.
Was A Friend Of Ours
“The school board
knew when they hired me that I was just ending my chemo-therapy and
I had a clean bill of health, I felt great,” she said. As for
her reasons for resigning: “Emotionally, I am there, but physically-not
always… I love my job -- I cannot say that enough and it never
occurred to me that I would have to leave, but the district deserves
someone with 100 percent good health.”
Winters, 59, died last Thursday, May 18, at her West Hurley home,
three months after she gave the above quotes.
Before coming to Onteora, Winters spent seven years as superintendent
of the Webutuck school district in Dutchess County, incorporating
the Route 22 corridor towns of Armenia and Millerton, among several.
Prior to that, she was an assistant superintendent in Webutuck for
three years and a principal in that district for nine years.
Winters signed a three-year contract to be Onteora’s superintendent
in July 2004. Her retirement was to formally take effect June 2.
Winters succeeded Hal Rowe, who retired after a long tenure in Onteora.
Peter J. Ferrara, a former Ellenville schools superintendent, was
hired earlier this month to succeed Winters on an interim basis.
Winters is survived by her husband, Charles; her mother, Madalene
Cobb of Wappingers Falls; two daughters, Amy Winters of Greenfield,
Mass., and Rebecca Winters-Keegan of Los Angeles; and one sister,
Judith Potter of Fayetteville, N.Y. Funeral arrangements are pending
at the Lasher Funeral Home in Woodstock.
I recall how open she was the first time I interviewed her, just after
being hired the summer before last. And how she always got back on
every call for information or a quote I gave her. She sent a heartfelt
letter of best wishes when I told her about how my wife and I adopted
a newborn this past January. She felt like a friend… and yet
she was always utterly professional, a word that means little without
the heart she applied to her work.
Everyone I’ve spoken with about Justine’s passing feels
the same, from the many fine administrators she brought to OCS with
her in the past two years, to the two different boards she worked
with, various teachers and students in the district, and our current
reporter in the district, Lisa Childers.
“Justine loved and cared about her family, and job, sharing
her pride with everyone. Before she was hired as superintendent, she
attended a parent’s meeting where we got to know about her job
experience and her husband attended the meeting with her. I was impressed
that she found it important that we meet him,” Childers noted
this week about meeting Winters before she started working for this
paper. “I once went to her office for a story interview and
we first we had to look at photos and talk about her daughter’s
wedding in Ireland. I learned a great deal about her family and how
proud she was of them.”
“She did tremendous things in a very short time for this school
district,” Current Board President Dave Patterson said of Winters.
“She was very communicative and developed a collegial style.
I felt comfortable talking with her whether I agreed or disagreed
with her on a topic… She certainly helped me grow to understand
the finer points of what it meant to manage an educational system
and what the intricacies were.”
Patterson’s predecessor as Board President, current board member
Marino D’Orazio, praised Winters’ fiscal responsibility
and ability to do a board’s bidding.
“She brought really good people on board, and she brought in
one of the lowest budget increases in our area,” D’Orazio
said. “Some of the cuts weren’t popular, but with really
with good management, she was able to start paring down some costs.
She was one of the most gracious and professional people that I ever
met and worked until the day that her doctor said to her, ‘You
just can’t work anymore.’ Even after the doctor told her
that she couldn’t work anymore, at home she continued to contribute.
She received phone calls from the assistant superintendent, the business
administrator, from her secretary, and she just worked until she physically
was not capable of doing it.”
“Justine was a fine woman. I am saddened at her passing much
too early,” said OCS teacher and Olive Press columnist Carol
LaMonda. “I felt she had a good vision for Onteora, and she
was the consummate diplomat. I hoped she would be the one to bring
us all back together in the purpose of education. I feel like her
life, her career and our District Vision was untimely interrupted.”
Winters began her job as superintendent in July of 2004 after district
voters refused the budget forcing a contingent budget. The district
was divided because of the closure of West Hurley Elementary School
and the so-called “Large Parcel Legislation.”
“Before she became ill, I would see her at community events,”
Childers said. “She always remembered my son’s name and
would give him a friendly hello. She visited my son’s classroom
on occasion and he found her to be very kind. Talking to her was easy.
I will miss her and my heart goes out to her family.”
Filming Of ‘Killer Cat’
“I made it with a digital camera,” he explained. “I
had just gotten the camera, and I had a friend over. We were bored,
so we decided to make a movie. It was just something random I did.
It’s about my cat. In the movie, the cat’s evil. It attacks
people and drags them away.”
He used the Windows Movie Maker software that came with his computer
to edit the movie and add music, starting with the theme from “Jaws”
and switching to heavy rock music when the cat attacks. “It’s
one minute and eight seconds long,” he said. “It’s
short but really good.”
When he showed “Killer Cat” to people at school, they
were impressed and suggested he submit it to Reel Teens, the annual
event that has accepted a number of films coming out of Onteora’s
Indie Program. Roman, however, is not involved in the program, which
offers alternative classes for kids whose needs are not met by traditional
classroom teaching, with filmmaking playing a large role in the curriculum.
Asked to describe himself, fourteen-year-old Roman used the words
“creative” and “energetic”. His favorite movie
is “The Matrix”. He is not fond of school, except for
gym class, nor is he into sports, although he does like “getting
to run around and play” in gym. His passion is computers. “I
like to play video games and mess around with them. I change the settings
so weird things happen. Like I have a car racing game that’s
pretty realistic. I change the settings so the cars start bouncing
around for no reason, and you have to dodge them, and they bounce
on top of you.”
His new hobby is “messing around with the camera,” a digital
Casio. “I do random things, like making people disappear on
the camera. I film a person and then interrupt the recording and move
the person away before I start it up again, so it looks like they
vanished when you play it back.”
He also likes to make Claymation-style animations by shooting stills
of “cars or my stick-figure dudes. I move them just a little
between shots, so when you scroll through the pictures, it looks like
the cars are driving and the people are running.”
When asked how he felt about having his film accepted by Reel Teens,
he said, “I was pretty thrilled. I don’t really show it,
but on the inside I am.”
This is the sixth year of the Reel Teens Festival. Open to any teen
who has made a film or video, the website, www.reelteensusa.com, describes
the festival as “a celebration of the creative intelligence
of young people.” Films and videos created by teenagers are
screened over 3 days, and the young filmmakers who attend have the
opportunity to talk with the audience, participating in a lively question
and answer session after their video is screened.
A panel of entertainment industry judges awards prizes to the best
in each of 8 categories, Fiction, Short Fiction (under 10 minutes),
Documentary, Short Documentary (under 10 minutes), Animation, Visual
Arts, Music Video and Public Service Announcements (PSAs). The winners
in each category, selected by audience vote, receive a ‘Felix’
(an engraved gold statuette), a cash prize of $100, and a certificate
This year’s Reel Teens Festival will take place at the Catskill
Mountain Foundation Movie Theater in Hunter, June 2, 3, and 4, at
7:00 p.m. Admission is $5. For information, call 845-246-1598.