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Last Minute Changes...
Winters noted that last minute meetings had been called together, on
Friday and Monday, with supervisors from the municipalities, attorneys,
assessors and school board members.
really trying to talk through this issue as thoughtfully as we can before
Thursday night's vote," Winters said. "It was clear to everyone
at the table that this is a very difficult situation and every town
has a perspective that has merit."
Large Parcel Law would divide the tax revenue from Olive's largest tax
payer among other villages in the district, lowering their school taxes
while raising those of taxpayers in Olive, if the school board chooses
to exercise a yearly option mandated under the law. Activated in January
of last year, only one other school board in the state has elected to
was cowardly of the state legislature to put us in this position,"
said David Patterson of West Hurley, the newest member of the school
board. "This is legislative work and should be done by the legislature.
The school board is not a legislature. Our primary role is education.
This should not have been put on the shoulders of a school board anywhere."
was speaking of the potential annual impact the law will have on
the school district's budget, the object of focus for his campaign earlier
this year. He said that he still had his opinions about the budget but
was circumspect in referring to it, saying only that he would continue
to work with the new District Superintendent to save money for the district.
really what my goal is at this point," Patterson said. "I
was very accusative during my campaign- if you want to call it that.
Now, as a board member, I think we've got a Superintendent that's already
shown a tremendous ability and desire to work in and with the community-
including all the town supervisors. She's had 45 days with an awful
lot of stuff on her plate- with the West Hurley (school closing) issue,
the Large Parcel and I know she's also simultaneously looking at the
cost-per-student issue aggressively."
regard to the Large Parcel issue," he continued, "she put
meetings that occurred Monday and last Friday. I was there Monday and
it was an extremely productive meeting."
said that everyone present was allowed to present their side of the
issue and each side had new information to contribute. He said the new
material would be forthcoming at Thursday's meeting.
know (the new information) enlightened me and it's a troubling vote
me," he said. "I told people when I was running that I would
significantly research it and I know I've probably changed my mind 5
times during the research and reading; becoming educated. As I stand
right now, I don't know what my vote's going to be... I'm spending the
next two days reading more and more. I'm waiting for my management packet
to show up from the district, which has even more information. I know
other board members are doing the
same- at least I hope they are- to vote with their conscience... I'm
not saying the word 'right' because my right and your right are on two
different sides as we face each other..."
wouldn't venture a guess on the leanings of other board members but
said that indications over the past year seem to point to the board's
exercise of the option.
don't know if anybody's reconsidered at this point," he finished,
"but I think we're all going to take the time to say how we feel
on Thursday night."
comments also seemed to suggest the board will vote "yes"
think the larger picture on this is the issue of equity," she said.
"And the issue of how long the equity has lasted and will the efforts
that the Olive town board have made to close the gap and the disparity
be enough to make the other municipalities feel ready to say 'you don't
need the large parcel legislation'?"
this point seems to say that it is Woodstock and Shandaken's point of
view which is being heard. Their complaint is that their taxes are higher
than Olive's while Olive's argument has been that there are special
reasons for the disparity- reasons concerned with the nature of their
pact with their largest landowner and the limitations that it puts upon
their ability to use local resources to create revenue. Draining the
tax funds from that
entity would just exacerbate their situation, they've claimed.
very positive outcome of the meetings has been that everyone around
the table agreed that this places a very difficult burden on the school
Winters observed. "We agreed to form a coalition to try to change
the legislation so that the Onteora School Board isn't faced with this
situation on an annual basis. There was a great sense of unity on that
issue... to form a coalition and go to Albany. I thought that was significant."
was asked earlier today to predict the outcome of the vote and I couldn't
say at this point in time," said Superintendent Winters reflectively.
"It's so complex but there's certainly a lot of time and thought
that's gone into the preparation for the vote. So, at Thursday's meeting,
everything will be on the table."
Up Pine Hill
Larios added that the town had secured other funds
to help homeowners pay for new lines that run from the property lines
to their homes. The streets that will be worked on include Main Street
(all the way to Maple street), Elm Street, Bonnieview Avenue, Mill Street,
Academy Street, the beginning section of Birch Creek Road, Parts of
Route 28, and Friendship Manor Road. The project also includes new mains
across some bridges in the hamlet.
Many are pleased to see the work begin, as the century old system has
long been identified as desperately in need of repair, but it will bring
some inconvenience to the Hamlet. Other locales in the region, such
as the Delaware County town of Andes, plus Windham, and the Village
of Hunter in Greene County, have been turned upside down by similar
municipal projects that tore up the roads in front of businesses, creating
traffic problems and a reduced amount of activity in the business districts.
It remains unclear what precautions are being undertaken by the town
to reduce the impacts the construction will have on the Hamlet. A public
announcement of the impending work came on August 9th, in the form of
a letter warning of increased rates for the water users.
"We will proceed with repairing the mains this fall, to the extent
of our available funds," wrote Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. near
the end of a highly political two page letter, penned primarily to inform
the district that extra billings would occur for the next two years
to get the district out of debt.
Composed to read more like campaign literature than town business, Cross
puts the blame for all added expenses in the town letter squarely on
the shoulders of former Supervisor Peter DiModica, who this week expressed
dismay and anger over the allegations.
In the Cross letter, the new supervisor notes that at the end of DiModica's
time in office, the district was $9,620 in debt. $6,369 was for repair
work, but $2,892 was spent on legal fees stemming from "the Pine
Hill Water District Coalition's questioning and disapproval of the district
The purchase was finalized in April of 2003, seven months after the
town entered into a contract for buying the water company from local
businessman Dean Gitter. The Coalition was formed when some Pine Hill
residents feared the loss of the system to Gitter's Belleayre Resort
proposed for nearby the hamlet, a fear that Gitter insisted had no merit.
In the letter Cross calculates even more expense, stating that when
the town signed that contract, during the DiModica administration, in
October 2002, "there were errors made," such as the failure
to file for tax exemption status, which cost the tiny district another
$6,972. Then the letter announces that DiModica, who is considering
a run for Supervisor next year when Cross's term ends, used money from
a loan to pay the attorney, so now the town can't apply for any more
grant money from the Environmental Facilities Corporation, an entity
that approved a $948,208 grant and a $316,069 loan to improve the century
old water system.
It was originally believed that the system could be significantly improved
for about $1.3 million.
In the letter Cross now says the estimates have jumped to $4 million.
If only DiModica, who negotiated the purchase of the system, had not
used any of that loan money all would be well, according to Cross.
"I don't know why he's so nasty to me," was DiModica's reaction,
after he spent hours accumulating what he says is the documentation
that would defuse the political grenades lobbed his way by Cross. A
letter addressing the issues one by one is in development, he said,
and will be sent to all water district customers.
The $3000 in legal fees? DiModica said it was used by the town's attorney
to review and offer advice on requests made by the water district coalition
during the negotiation of the sale of the company. The tax-exempt status?
The Town didn't own the system until after the deadline to apply for
the status, DiModica said, and supplied copies of letters from himself
to the district's state representatives in 2003 requesting legislative
action to get the exemption.
Ironically, a year and half later, the district still pays taxes, says
Richard Schaedle, the current chair of the Water District Coalition,
who said in a prepared statement " Dean Gitter∑. owned the
water company on March 1, 2003, the deadline for filing for the tax
credit that the Town is still seeking."
As for losing the ability to secure more funds, DiModica said he checked
with Environmental Facilities Corporation officials Chris Rienzo and
Heather Carpasso, who both clarified that, as they understand it, the
Town cannot apply for funds for the same project twice, but could apply
for funding for the additional work that exceeds the current project.
The $4 million price tag Cross put on the rehabilitation project, according
to the engineers involved with the work, is for much more work than
what the original grant was expected to accomplish. Larios said that
the initial round of funding, originally applied for back in 1998, was
for the replacement of water mains and lines that were in bad shape.
The latest batch of estimates his firm have been asked to prepare, he
believes, might be to install an entirely new system.
"The scope of work isn't exactly the same," Larios said.
Unable to resist a little politicking himself, DiModica said, "And
none of it would be happening if I didn't buy the water company."
Calls to Cross were not returned.
Our Joe Passes
That night, at a spontaneous gathering in the home of Charlie and Chris
DeBellis, 50 or so people came together in grief. Women
brought food and busied themselves in the kitchen. Men shook their
heads and put their hands on each other‚s shoulders. They
talked of Joe‚s skills, and somehow an idea was born: why not
make a coffin for this wonderful man, a coffin made from wood he had
sawn and parts he had accumulated?
morning a dozen or so showed up at the mill, and the wood was chosen.
Wide, rough-cut white pine boards. Old saw blades were found, a skidder
chain was taken. All of it was brought back to Fabulous Furniture, where
the pieces were lovingly put together, the chains made into handles,
the blades as decoration. All day long men and women, kids and
dogs came to touch it and to work on it.
that evening 80 or so showed up back at Charlie and Chris‚.
Local restaurants sent trays of ziti, women mixed big salads and took
fried chicken from the ovens, pies materialized. Val brought Joe‚s
comforter cover, his bathrobe and all his old t-shirts. Within
hours, a quilt was made from these pieces, stitched together by anyone
who wanted to lend a hand. A pen was passed, and people wrote
notes on it.
seen large groups gather to do good; I have watched woodworkers and
quilters and knitters before. I have seen what a crowd can do
when they want to make something long lasting and full of love.
But never have I seen so many people work on things they knew would
never be seen after Tuesday‚s burial, on items that would go into
the ground and never be looked at again. I‚m sure this is
what the Amish must do, or tribes somewhere in back Africa. It
is what a real community does when it loses one of its best.
night was full of people again, this time to look through photos and
make boards that would be on display at the wake. In most, Joe
is doing the thing he loved most -- working. Working not for the
sake of the money or the finished product, but working because being
productive and of use was the force that drove his live. In all,
he is smiling that killer smile of his, and while they tacked them on
to the boards, the women smiled back at him.
funeral home on Monday night, hundreds gathered. By then the tears
had begun to dry a little, the breath going deeper. People laughed
and hugged. And then they cried some more. One young man told
me, "I thought I was a man, until I met Joe DeBellis."
When everyone left, the family wrapped Joe in his quilt, and kissed
morning was sunny and gorgeous. The family and close friends met at
Lashers, to begin what would turn out to be one of the most touching
and funny funeral processions. The lead vehicle was Joe‚s
beloved Peterbuilt, which held all the flowers. All of Joe‚s
trucks and cars followed, driven by his brothers and friends.
When the procession got to Boiceville Lumber, everyone stopped while
Joe was driven through the mill. Highway workers stood silently
along the road, their hard-hats covering their hearts. Women stood
in front of their houses, tears streaking down their faces. When
we reached West Shokan, Joe‚s pickup truck died, and his
brother Charlie pushed it the rest of the way to the cemetery, where
hundreds of people waited.
Reverend Karen Munch gave a eulogy that summed up both Joe‚s
life and those who were left behind.
of death this way," she said. "We are on the shore,
and our beloved Joe is leaving us. We are crying and begging him
to stay here with us. But on that other shore, they are breathing
a sigh of relief and joy. Thank goodness, they are saying, Joe
is coming to us."
the coffin was lowered into the ground. Shovelful by shovelful,
Joe DeBellis was buried by the people who most adored him.
Jr is survived by Valerie Fanarjian, brothers Charlie, Anthony, Bobby,
Bart, Vinnie and Paul; two sisters, Lucy Van Leuvan and Natalie DeBellis,
12 nieces and nephews and a town that will always remember him.
Another brother, Johnny, died in 1986.
"It's much friendlier here. I know the patrons. In the city, I
didn't even know their names. It was so formal, I wasn't allowed to
give them my first name. Of course, the library was bigger, but here
we have access to just as much information, especially now that we're
left the city in 1988 and moved up to Olive without a job. "I wanted
to live here so badly, I told myself I'd do any kind of work. But I
saw an ad in the paper for the job of director of the Phoenicia Library.
I had a Masters in library science, although the job didn't require
one. Parry [Teasdale, then on the library board] asked me why I wanted
the job, since it paid so little. I said, 'I'm a librarian˜that's
my job.' I was thrilled to get a library job."
recalls a particular incident that "really reminded me I'm in a
country library. Someone brought in a snake they needed to identify
that they'd found near their house. I loved it. They looked at pictures
in books and figured out what it was. One woman was a little freaked
out, but the snake wasn't in here long." Other country habits:
"People bring me vegetables from their gardens. Some years a lot
of people come in wanting zucchini recipes because they have so much
of Hilary's ways of making the library even more friendly has been to
admit dogs. She doesn't recall there being a rule before her advent.
"I think people just assumed dogs couldn't come in. I think the
first dog here was Chiclets," owned by Mara, one of the staff members.
"She was little and gentle, and Mara took her everywhere. It just
turned into a dog-friendly library," complete with a tin of dog
biscuits behind the counter, offered to every canine visitor.
asked what kinds of books she likes to read, Hilary responds, "I
go through phases. Sometimes a read a lot mystery and suspense˜Robert
Crais, Harlan Coben. Then I'll read only spiritual and self-books. It
depends on my mood."
her post-retirement plans, she says, "I have a serious yoga practice.
I'm going to do a lot of that. My partner, Chris, just retired after
teaching for 33 years. We're planning to go south for the winter. I
like the winters here, but she doesn't. We're going to Siesta Key, off
Sarasota. People we know have said it's really nice there."
library board has hired a new director, Regina Johnson, formerly the
librarian at Hunter-Tannersville High School. A specialist in child
development, also with a Masters in library science, Regina has already
begun to make little changes in the children's room, where blue and
green dinosaurs now peer down from the non-fiction bookcase, and Clifford
the big red dog flops on the printer above the computer. Long-time assistant
librarian Molly Kilb has been promoted to assistant director and will
take over some of the administrative duties.
is intelligent and capable," says Hilary. "I really feel good
about leaving the library in her hands. I didn't want to have to worry
about that, and I don't feel like I do." Growing misty-eyed, she
adds, "The best things about working here is the people. I've gotten
to know a lot of great people. That what I'm going to miss the most,
the people who come in. I hope they'll stay in touch."
open house honoring Hilary will be held on Saturday, August 21, 12:00
to 2:00 p.m., at the library. All are invited for food, music, and a
chance to say good-bye and thank you to Hilary for her years of devoted