It With Changes
the way Tuesday night, June 6, the EPA heard a couple of major points.
Primarily, those who spoke support the continuation of allowing the
City to avoid the costly filtration of its drinking water. That said,
EPA was also informed that although many of the programs designed
to avoid filtration have been going well since instituted almost a
decade ago, they needed to be adjusted.
A surprise came early on at the session when Shandaken Supervisor
Robert Cross Jr urged EPA to require the city to pay for all of the
annual costs for the proposed Phoenicia sewer system plus pay for
all the costs to hook houses and businesses up to the system.
Charles Frasier, the Chairman of the Phoenicia wastewater Committee,
liked what he heard.
“Wow. Bob’s really done a 180 on this,” he said.
Previously, Cross has been reluctant to support such demands and last
month did not ask the regions most powerful advocacy group, the Coalition
of Watershed Towns, to support the demands either.
Between then and now however, the Coalition clearly decided to take
a position. Coalition Attorney Jeff Baker came out solidly behind
Cross, urging EPA to require that the City reduce annual operating
costs for waste treatment plants not just in Phoenicia but watershed
wide. He explained that the water quality benefits of making sure
such projects are successful would be well worth the expense.
“It’s a very cheap system compared to filtration,”
Baker, who said the Coalition’s position on this and other matters
would be expanded in coming weeks, said the Coalitions primary concern
has to do with the City’s land acquisition ability in the watershed,
and it’s reluctance to open those lands up to recreational use.
“We literally have been talking about this to the city for seven
years…the city’s response has been glacial at best,”
These land issues dominated much of the session, with Delaware County
representatives echoing Bakers concerns. Delaware County Bureau of
Watershed Affairs Director Dean Frasier called for an arbitration
process to be built in to the filtration avoidance determination.
Joan Lawrence Bauer, the Executive Director of the M-ARK Project,
raised some eyebrows with a map showing how little developable land
is left in the town of Middletown after one removes all the property
the city has a right to purchase.
Senator John Bonacic arrived late and spoke at length about the need
for “significant changes in the substance of the agreement and
how (the city) does its business.”
Margaretville resident Dave Budin felt that the city was shutting
down some of the finest hunting property in the region with purchases,
an act that he described as “political filtration.”
On another note, Fleishmanns resident Gloria Zola-Malloy took issue
with the process Tuesday, saying that EPA officials gave too much
respect to local elected officials and/or watershed officials and
not enough respect to rank and file residents.
No Olive officials came out for the meeting despite having had a number
of issues with New York City in recent years, from assessment disputes
and the Large Parcel debacle to road closures and other “security
The Olive Town Board was holding its monthly meeting the same eveing.
Coincidence on the City or EPA’s part?
Zola-Malloy said she felt there were many watershed residents like
herself that disagree with the doom and gloom notions put forth at
the session by the likes of Lawrence Bauer and Dean Frasier. She also
used the proposed Golf resort as an example of the type of development
she hopes the watershed deal would protect the area from.
“Although the developers and their associates support the idea,
many locals do not want to see the eventual destruction of the Catskill
region from a mega resort that will overpower the area,” she
Based on the September 2005 Current Population Survey, the
Bureau of Labor estimates that 65.4 million people, or 28.8 percent
of the population, did volunteer work last year. But economic conditions
have made volunteering difficult for many people, with communities
like Woodstock resorting to hiring a professional paramedic because
they can’t get enough volunteers for the rescue squad. The president
of SUNY-Ulster has calculated that if the volunteer firefighters in
Dutchess County had to be replaced with professional crews, the cost
to taxpayers would be $26 million.
The bill before Congress proposes that volunteers receive tax refunds
equal to minimum wage—$5.15 per hour—for their time spent
at volunteer work, up to a limit of $2000 per year. Besides saving
the cost of hiring professionals, the refunds would most likely be
channeled back into the community. And given recent tax cuts for the
wealthiest Americans, it’s only fair, said Martin. SAVE’s
website, www.saveusa.info, lists an array of recent tax cuts for the
oil industry, despite the continuously rising price of fuel, as well
as millions in savings for groups from NASCAR to Starbuck’s
to pharmaceutical corporations.
Martin stated, “The New York Times reports a tax cut passed
this week in the Senate that rescinds the estate tax, which will return
billions to the richest one percent of people in America. Dave Letterman
calls it the ‘No Millionaire Left Behind Program’. These
savings will probably be reinvested in things like hedge funds, of
no benefit to our communities. Trickle-down doesn’t work.”
Cruickshank added, “Our bill would put more money in the hands
of people who’ll spend it in the community or will know where
best to put it. Volunteers know where the money is most needed.”
The SAVE website, in the process of being updated, offers a screen
where volunteers can sign in to indicate their support for the bill,
creating evidence for Congresspeople that the bill is widely desired.
Cruickshank explained, “We’ve made up a media list of
all the districts of representatives on the Ways and Means Committee
and lists of the non-profits in their districts. We’re going
to contact the representatives and tell them, ‘We’re soon
launching a huge media campaign in your district and would like to
have your support for the bill, or else let people know that you’re
opposed.’ We’ll see how they respond.”
Marie Shultis, wife of Hurley supervisor Mike Shultis and advertising
director for this publication, is also involved with SAVE and sees
the effort as potentially empowering for communities. She commented,
“If people go to the website and vote for support of the bill,
they’ll see we can make a difference if we all come together.”
Cruickshank grew up in Shandaken and has lived most of her life here,
except when she went away to college and, she said, “couldn’t
wait to get back here.” Her grandfather was a journalist whose
radio program was the Voice of America in Brazil. “From the
time I started to write, he encouraged me to be a journalist,”
she said. “Through college, I developed a political bent, studied
both local and international issues, and minored in economics. I was
a business journalist in Colorado, and later I was an intern in Albany
covering the state legislature, the budget, and the Commission on
Aging, which made me aware of issues faced on the local level. Once
I had kids, I volunteered in the PTA and the soccer league—I
felt that giving back to the community is important.”
Shultis, a mother of five, is also active in volunteer work and knows
how important it is. “She helps everybody,” said Martin.
“She’s out to save the world on a local level.”
Martin grew up in New York City but spent summers with his family
in Big Indian. As an international businessman, he has created half
a dozen companies, including the ones that produce Smartfood popcorn
and Annie’s macaroni and cheese. His businesses tithe 40 percent
of their income to fund programs that support health, education, women,
and the environment, from medical clinics in Jakarta to the Good Deeds
Foundation in the U.S.
He credits Cruickshank and Shultis for inspiring the creation of SAVE
and for the decision to locate its headquarters in Phoenicia. “I
learned through Calandra and Marie that there are so many talented,
intelligent, generous people in this area, with a strong sense of
community. Otherwise I would’ve set up in Northern California,
like every other foundation.” (SAVE does have a San Francisco
office as well.)
Martin hopes the success of SAVE will pave the way for making the
Phoenicia area a mecca for non-profit foundations as a boost to the
local economy. “I’m in touch with SUNY-Ulster, the Ulster
Savings Bank, and Hinchey,” he said. “With all the graphic
artists and management people here, we have the skillsets for foundations,
just like in New York City, but more relaxed and informal.”
Cruickshank summed up SAVE’s mission by stating, “What
makes a community like ours work is people helping each other. None
of us do it for the money, but if you could get a $2000 tax credit,
it would really help.” Visit the SAVE website at www.saveusa.info
School board president
Dave Patterson said that Ferrara’s resignation was for personal
reasons. But Patterson noted that he heard allegations against Ferrara,
“sometime in the first week after he was hired.” He said
a concerned member of the community brought to his attention a report
by the United States Department of Education regarding the Ellenville
School District during Ferrara’s employment there.
“There was a report that was administered by the office of civil
rights,” he said, lamenting that the board was not made aware
of this, or some racial epithets the former super had used in Ellenville
over the years, when they hired him at Onteora. “I think it
would have been appropriate that we would have been aware of anything
that would preclude us from hiring anybody.”
Patterson has repeatedly pointed out that candidates interviewed by
the school board for the interim superintendent position were recommended
A complaint was filed against the Ellenville School District to the
United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, alleging
discrimination directed at several special education students. A report
issued on October 7, 2004 by the Civil Rights office states that the
district failed to meet the educational needs of certain students
and the district agreed to address the concerns listed in the report.
Allegations were made based on special education regarding budgetary
needs and not the needs of the students. The report interviewed employees
of the district and stated, “In particular, these staff members
said they had difficulties recommending certain self-contained classrooms,
inclusion science classes and resource room, and felt coerced into
agreeing with the recommendations of the former Director.”
The report added that the office of civil rights, “determined
that the evidence is sufficient to support a finding that the district
failed individualized program offerings based on the needs of the
Also mentioned in the report was a failure to provide adequate physical
education equipment, and additional time for some special needs students
to prepare for physical education class. The district also failed
to provide a “male aide for toileting a male student, and failed
to provide two other students with a 1:1 aide as required.”
The report continued, “Specifically, the first student was provided
with a female aide; and the aide assigned to the other two students
was often taken away from her scheduled aide duties to perform as
a substitute teacher, as a classroom behavior management aide, and
as a translator.”
The district’s recent budget process involved a highly unpopular
but quite surprisingly similar take on Special Education needs referred
to at several points as being largely budget-driven, and looking to
BOCES to provide services previously handled in-house at Onteora.
It was unknown, as of press time, how much Ferrara’s Special
Ed experience or philosophy played into his hiring at Onteora, or
by what process – and board count – he was hired.
Ruglis said, in answer to Patterson’s attempt to place the blame
for the OCS board’s bad decision on BOCES, that the Onteora
board should have more thoroughly researched its five finalists for
the interim, and noted how he had encouraged them to continue to look
“They interviewed and they hired. I didn’t hire,”
he said. “I didn’t only give them a single person.”
“Mr. Jordan was one of the candidates interviewed that was presented
to us by (BOCES) district Superintendent (Martin) Ruglis,” Patterson
said of Ferrara’s replacement.
Jordan, now retired, was the director of secondary programs in Sullivan
County BOCES from 2000-2005. Before that he served four years as Superintendent
in Jefferson-Youngsville school district. He was also a high school
principal, teacher and sports coach.
In 2005 Jordan was one of ten candidates to challenge for four seats
on the Onteora school board. His wife, Kathleen Jordan, is a 33-year
employee of the Onteora district, and is retiring this year. She works
in the personnel and payroll department.
Jordan will take the place of superintendent Justine Winters who passed
away May 18. The school board has hired Richard Lerer Consulting Services
at a cost of $18,000 to conduct a search for a superintendent who
will be under contract. Lerer Consulting is the same service that
recommended Winters to the district.
“We are looking for a person who is going to serve the district,”
said Patterson. “Dr. Lerer served the district very well when
we hired Justine and we expect nothing but the same, maybe even more
from him on the next superintendent,” said Patterson.
He added that Lerer has received over thirty applications for the
new school superintendent and would like to see a new person in place
by the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year.
On the other, an 11-0 vote
reported by Phoenicia’s Wastewater Committee Chairman to remove
Supervisor Bob Cross as the town’s chief negotiator with New
York City over Operating and Maintenance costs and other concerns
wasn’t actually recorded, said the Committee’s secretary.
And so the town board didn’t replace Cross.
The good news for Shandaken’s western end was that four bids
were awarded, over $700,000 in contracts, for work soon to begin on
the rebuild of the former village’s water system, to be paid
for by a combination of grants and loans. Even a lesser requirement
for bidding to repair damages done to one of the system’s springs,
awarded a $75,000 grant under the requirement that work be completed
before other repairs on the system were started, was finally put out
to bid, for bid approval next month… and actual job completion
Less clearly positive was the board’s approval of a long-controversial
extension of the hamlet’s sewer district to include 14 new hookups
along Route 28.
“I think you’re putting the existing district in jeopardy”
argued former supervisor Pete DiModica, saying the move wasn’t
a benefit to the rest of the district as the law requires. The Pine
Hill resident added that the extension, as approved, shifts primary
responsibility for enforcing a new sewer district ordinance from the
New York City Department of Environmnetal Protection to the town,
and that it opens the hamlet’s residents to potential fines
stemming from enforcement issues, as have been levied recently against
Pine Hill residents have not paid for their sewer system since its
inception in 1925.
Cross, along with board member Rob Stanley, counter-argued that such
costs and events are exceedingly rare, and that enforcement problems,
although hypothetically possible, appear to be not problematic enough
to preclude the new sewer lines, which DEP will be paying both to
install & maintain.
Kathy Nolan of Mt. Tremper said that the sewer extension was being
brought forward when the people of Pine Hill hadn’t seen the
contract with DEP the town would be signing .
Al Frisenda, a former town councilman and property owner in the proposed
extension area, as well as the system’s director when it was
owned by Gitter, noted the extension was planned during the creation
of the 1997 watershed deal between New York City and the communities
in the upstate watershed region.
Concerned that the board was once again backing away from the proposal
Frisenda yelled, “I think you better read the god damned contract!”
Opponents of the plan, including DiModica, agreed, claiming all they
wanted was an opportunity to do just that before the town board made
Councilman Peter DiSclafani floated a motion to delay the vote until
next month to give both the board and the public a chance to review
the contracts, but there was no second. Audience members subsequently
showed their clear disappointment with Stanley, a Pine Hill resident
and rookie elected official who had been gaining popular support in
As for the request to remove the town supervisor from his self appointed
role as chief negotiator for the Phoenicia wastewater, an outburst
of disagreements with Committee Chairman Charlie Frasier’s letter
delayed the matter. The matter was scuttled, in the end, because the
matter was supposedly voted on in executive session and committee
recording secretary Anne Maroney said she had no record of a vote.
Committee member Mike Ricciardella, however, said he was the one who
actually seconded a motion to oust Cross made by committee member
Blake Killin, editor of the Ulster County Townsman, who admitted that
he did, but had only done so within the confines of the closed door
So while it appears that there was consensus of the committee to call
for Cross’s dismissal, the town board refused to act on the
matter, even though there’s currently a call to bring the vote
up officially at next week’s wastewater committee meeting on
Tuesday, June 13 at 7 pm in the Phoenicia Parish Hall.
In other business, Cross re-presented an old proposal from Gitter
involving the donation of lands on the Eastern end of town for a new
home for the town hall current situated at its center… as well
as for the Phoenicia Librray and the creation of a new community center.
“The clock is ticking” reported Cross on Gitter’s
offer, a gesture he explained had been recently de-coupled from a
two year-old laundry list of quid pro quos.
“How about when we need it we’ll just take it by eminent
domain?” offered a town resident to widespread laughter.