The Jan. 13 New Paltz Times article entitled, “Drastic Measures,” addresses the dire economic state of the New Paltz Central School District to the point of exploring temporarily closing one school building or shifting around our student population. The article states a $3.5 million shortfall in revenue for the 2011-12 school year (this may be higher by $500,000 if the State imposes its 2% tax levy cap). Our New Paltz community CANNOT afford another tax levy increase of this size, especially after the almost 3% tax levy increase in May 2010. There are hard choices to be made by our New Paltz School Board.
According to the article, contributing factors to our present severe economic crisis is the disinvestment from Albany and the end of federal stimulus money. Our board knew about these factors during last year’s school budget process. The board refused to make the hard decisions then (other than Edgar Rodriguez and Patrick Rausch) to start significant cutbacks in preparation for the 2011-12 budget year. A failure in leadership by the board has contributed to the more severe financial crisis we are now facing. We need board members with courage and leadership to make hard decisions and find solutions that work. The time of temporary band-aid solutions is OVER.
Several suggestions in lieu of closing a school:
-- Make budget cuts that will permanently decrease future budgets -- no more band-aids.
-- Identify areas where the district can contract out aid able services to BOCES.
-- Cut administrative staff and do not give administrative salary increases. Presently, there are 29 non-union administrative and administrative support personnel that cost the district $2.1 million (not including benefits) in salary. Even with these 29 employees forgoing their scheduled raise, the total cost of keeping all employed is exorbitant. There are also unionized administrator positions that may be cut in order to save teaching positions. (See board meeting agenda for the Jan. 19 meeting).
-- Eliminate non-mandatory instructional programs.
-- Save teacher positions by teachers forgoing their scheduled salary increase for the balance of their current contract.
-- There is a new teacher contract coming up for vote next year. I ask the board and the administration to be courageous enough to negotiate a new contract that is fair to the teachers and to the fiscal realities of our community.
Do you remember the group, Unite Our District? Let’s not forget how powerful the community was in being united and voting against the fatally flawed middle school $50 million renovation project -- can you imagine how the payments of that debt would be affecting us now? It’s time for our community taxpayers to again pay attention, look at our community’s fiscal realities, question the school district agenda and solutions and let our VOICES be heard once again. I am asking the New Paltz community to demand the school board to make the hard, yet right choices for our children and for the taxpayers.
Through the grapevine
Some important additional information is needed to round out Erin Quinn’s articles on the misnamed “Rivendell Winery.” The “Rivendell Winery” is not and was not a winery at their prior location and will not be one at the proposed variance site. This is very important for the readership to know! Ms. Wine and Mr. Ransom did not plant, grow, process or bottle their own wine at their previous location, or, at least, not for the last 20 years or so. They admitted in a public hearing that they “never made one drop of wine”! Calling a business a “winery” does not make it a winery, neither does calling yourself a farmer make yourself a farmer! Having wine bottles delivered from the Finger Lakes and having staff remove the labels in hot water and then sticking on Rivendell labels is deceptive. Calling herself a “farmer,” as Ms. Wine did in front of the Ulster Legislature and has done repeatedly, is wrong. People can be tricked and our communal fear is that some people who listen to their legal appeal may be tricked too. Heck, Maurice Hinchey once was hoodwinked into believing that this was a real winery! Years ago, at their prior location, they enticed tourists with a New York Times ad to come up and “see what the vintner does in the winter time,” even though they were not vintners and people who tapped the empty vats were told “it’s empty for cleaning”!! What the tour guide should have said is, “sorry, we don’t make wine and never have”!
The Wines also hoodwinked the New Paltz ZBA before when they asked, years ago, to allow a caretaker to live in their barn on Butterville Road to oversee their organic vegetables. The truth was that soon after separating, Mr. and Mrs. Wine both took residences, one in the elaborately retrofitted barn and the other in the stone house. I know people who worked on the barn and it wasn’t redone for a caretaker to live there!
Appealing to the less informed by denigrating the opposition to the “winery” as being made up of “NIMBYS,” “anti-business locals” or “environmentalists” is also less than honest. Many of those against Rivendell support business development, but not at this location and most of us live a good distance away! The plain facts are that Ms. Wine and Mr. Ransom could have continued their retail operation at their prior location, but instead bought a piece of residential property and assumed that they could trick or bully the town to give them a variance by making believe they were farmers and threatening lawsuits. They went ahead and made space for 90 cars and buses, renovated a residential kitchen to commercial grade and constructed a gazebo for 70+ people. All this without approval. As self proclaimed “farmers,” one would have thought that their first mission would have been to ready the land and plant. But not until they were denied a variance did they decide to plant grapes. According to real farmers, who are against their proposal and do not live nearby, they planted Concord grapes mainly for show, not for the kind of wine they sell! This seems like another attempt at trickery.
The location -- at the intersection of Route 299 and Albany Post Road -- is wrong for many reasons. It has a history of accidents because of the way the road rises and winds just before the intersection. An increase in tour buses and cars, especially cars driven by people who had been drinking wine, would be a disaster waiting to happen. Most of the tourists that travel this road are here to visit the town and our mountains and lakes. Do we want the beautiful view of the Gunks ruined by a commercial establishment at that pristine and protected intersection?
No local residents protested the opening of Robibero’s winery just a few miles away! Why? Because it’s a real winery, it is in a safe location and does not adversely impact the area it is in.
I am fearful that Ms. Wine’s false portrayal of herself as being “just a farmer” might deceive a judge in whatever appeal process their deep pockets will allow. Someone has to make sure the judge in this case knows the deceptive history of Rivendell and that our community, town and county have a right to local determination as to zoning and appropriate business location.
PS: At the ZBA hearing, 99 percent of the comments were against the Rivendell proposal. I know if I felt my proposal was on the up and up, I would have responded strongly to the opposition and neither Ms. Wine nor Mr. Ransom addressed the many issues and negative comments about their retail proposal at Butterville Road and Route 299. Their silence speaks volumes.
Reaching its goal
In early January, Gardiner reached its goal of raising $50,000 to help the Open Space Institute purchase the development rights to the Kiernan beef farm on Bruynswick Road. Last June, a group of Gardiner residents, including Greg Finger, Pam O’Dell, Gale Foster and Ray Smith, assumed the challenge of raising $50,000 via private donations, so there would be no increase in Gardiner’s taxes.
Rich and I especially want to thank the fundraising committee (in addition, of course, to the many donors), which made lots of phone calls and met with dozens of people to raise $50,000 from nearly 150 households.
Thanks to all for their tremendous support to this very important project.
Rich Koenig and Warren Wiegand
Co-Chairs, Open Space Fund-Raising Committee
Keep on walking
My name is Connor Lawrence. I have resided in the New Paltz area my entire life and currently attend New Paltz High School as a senior. I have noticed over the past several years that New Paltz is suffering from a lack of resurrecting parts of the infrastructure in our world-renowned, yet quaint and charming little town. By infrastructure I am specifically referring to sidewalks in some neighborhoods and the lack thereof in others, including, but not limited to, the side streets between Main and DuBois, along with Plattekill Avenue.
Sidewalks are vital to a community such as ours for our seniors, parents with young children and students. A sidewalk in disrepair could prove very dangerous to many, just as the lack of one creates the same danger.
The environment is extremely important to not only New Paltz itself, but also to the residents of this wonderful town. So what better way to protect the environment than to increase safe foot traffic and reduce the need of our dependence on automobile transportation?
Environmentally, new and properly maintained sidewalks are just one way New Paltz would benefit. Residents, pedestrians and tourists would enjoy the convenience and safety in their neighborhoods. Increased foot traffic would be a boon for our shops on Main Street. Parents could send their children to school or out to play with less worry. Walking safely for all is great exercise both physically AND socially.
I am aware that the current economic condition might prevent such construction and reconstruction, but I would ask that the town board seriously discuss this matter. After all, our town’s infrastructure is a sound investment for the entire community and we MUST think of the future.
Connor Lawrence, Senior
New Paltz High School
The New Paltz Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee wishes to publicly endorse the Complete Streets workshop to be held at the New Paltz Firehouse on Feb. 8. The instructor, Lois Chaplin, from the Cornell University Local Roads Program, is a nationally recognized expert on the topic. The workshop is sponsored and being organized by New Paltz Superintendent of Highways Michael Nielson.
We urge local officials -- members of the New Paltz town and village boards and planning boards, as well as officials from other towns in our region, and our county legislators -- to attend this workshop, which is free to New Paltz residents. We also urge civic-minded New Paltzians who do not serve on boards and committees to attend as well, so that the Complete Streets information disseminates as far and wide as possible.
Lest we forget, Ulster County leads the nation in being one of the few counties to have embraced the Complete Streets concept, which is a simple one: The streets of our cities and towns ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker, wheelchair user or bus rider.
Historically in our nation, precious little thought has been given to non-motorized users of our roads. But people do walk, people do bicycle and people with handicaps have a right to travel where they need to go. In these times of rising gasoline prices, doesn’t it make sense to increase options for traveling safely using a car? Don’t we derive tangible health benefits from getting out of our cars occasionally? And doesn’t it make sense to create conditions in which motorists can drive more safely, for their own benefit, as well as for that of others?
The workshop will address the fundamentals of the Complete Streets concept, especially how building streets and roads for everyone is based in common sense and makes fiscal sense.
For more information, please call the New Paltz Highway Department at 255-5050. Workshop applications are available online at www.townofnewpaltz.org click on Departments, Highway Department.
Jackie Andrews, Kevin Caskey, Justin Dates
Matt Flusser, Judy Mage, Clark Peaslee
Alan Stout, Brian Wallace, William Weinstein
The New Paltz Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee
A walkable-bikeable community
On Tuesday, Feb. 8, the Town of New Paltz Highway Department will be sponsoring a Complete Streets workshop. Kudos and thank you to the town for making this event free to New Paltz residents. We think it is wonderful that our town and highway department are taking a leadership role in this endeavor, because Complete Streets is a framework that many of us embrace and recognize as a viable path towards creating roadways that are safe and welcoming to everyone: walkers, joggers, bikers, wheelchair users and motorists.
The Complete Streets (www.CompleteStreets.org) initiative is built upon the premise that roads are not just for automobiles. However, most roads were designed only for cars, and engineers and planners are confronted with the challenge of a) finding ways to retrofit existing roads to safely accommodate other users, and b) designing, planning and approving any future roads to meet the needs of all users. The challenges are great, but not insurmountable. For example, in parts of our village, we have the legacy of very narrow roads that were built for horse and buggy travel! But that does not mean we should not rise to the challenge of creating a walkable-bikeable community that is safe and can accommodate everyone.
This workshop will give decision makers and policy makers the tools they need to implement the Complete Streets program in their community. It will be held from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the New Paltz Fire House (next to Village Hall). For more information, contact the New Paltz Highway Department at 255-5050 or download an application form at www.townofnewpaltz.org (click on Departments, Highway Department).
As proponents of green living and all efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, we wholeheartedly endorse this workshop and encourage a high turnout from our New Paltz elected officials, planning board members, planners, engineers and activists.
Theresa Fall and KT Tobin
New Paltz GreenWorks
Come dance with us
Your article, “Engage the Body” from Jan. 13, states that Euro Dance has “finally” found its way to the Hudson Valley. Well, Euro Dance has been going on for many years here in New Paltz.
We are a core of lively seniors who love to dance and who enjoy each other. We are inspired and uplifted by our wonderful teachers Helvi and Richard Impola. They create and teach us dances from around the world. Their charm and spirit add to the excitement of the dance.
Come and dance with us on Thursdays from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Unison (255-1559).
An open letter to Senator Schumer
The following letter is written in support of Ulster County Executive Michael Hein’s efforts to stop the pollution of the Esopus Creek Basin. I urge all concerned citizens to consider writing a letter to your state and federal representative to bring a speedy resolution to this problem.
Dear Senator Schumer,
I am writing to enlist your assistance regarding the pollution of the Esopus Creek in Ulster County, NY. County Executive Michael Hein advised the Ulster County Legislature that he has been unable to obtain cooperation from the United States Environmental Protection Agency in enforcing the Clean Water Act. Apparently, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has also failed to assist Ulster County in stemming the pollution of the beautiful Esopus Creek.
County Executive Hein has advised the Ulster County Legislature that it may need to fund a litigation action against New York City Department of Environmental Protection. I believe the United States Department of Environmental Protection is the more appropriate agency to pursue this prosecution. I don’t think the Ulster County taxpayer should bear the sole burden of enforcing an obvious federal violation.
I am confident you will come to our aid as you always have in the past. I know you will realize the urgency of the situation, as the silt accumulates while I am writing. The silt is affecting the fish, wildlife, spring crops and recreational beaches. I am available to assist you in any manner you might wish.
Ulster County Legislator
It was very kind of you to mention my name in last week’s “Sleepover” article. However, the donation was actually made by KIC Chemicals, Inc. and the credit should go to our employees. Their hard work generates the profits that make this sort of contribution possible, and they are proud to be part of a company that strives to have a positive impact on our community.
From the articles and letters I’ve read in your paper, it would appear that support for our volunteer firefighters is not universal. As I see it, without the volunteers we would either have to raise taxes for a paid fire department, or buy some extra garden hose and hope for the best. It would seem prudent to provide our volunteers with any training and equipment they need, as well as our gratitude and respect.
Edward Kort, President
KIC Chemicals, Inc.
To all Town of Lloyd residents and vendors
It has been brought to my attention that there are vendors who are plowing for residents and are pushing the snow across the road. They also are hitting/damaging mailboxes and we are receiving calls that our plows did it.
I am again stating to all residents that any vehicles that push snow across the road are subject to a $100 fine. This includes leaving snow on the road. Also, any vehicles parking on the snow route streets will be towed away at the owner’s expense because we cannot clean the roads/streets properly and also in case of an emergency.
We have been receiving calls about mailboxes being hit by the plow. Again, a mailbox must be two feet away from the edge of the road so the snow plow will not damage the mailbox. If residents of the Town of Lloyd do not adhere to the Town Code, the Highway Department will not be responsible to replace or fix any mailbox damaged by the snow plow. The post office has copies of the mailbox specifications for the Town of Lloyd.
Frank M. Lombardi
Town of Lloyd Highway Superintendent
National leaders need to come together to confront great challenges
A new Congress has taken office and the new Republican majority in the House has begun unveiling its agenda. President Obama is laying out his priorities in the State of the Union address and his budget is soon to follow.
Many have drawn parallels to the Republican takeover of Congress during President Clinton’s first term — which resulted in six years of bitter partisan fighting.
With the continued unemployment crisis and massive budget deficits threatening our future as well as growing international threats, the nation cannot afford this divisiveness today.
Republican and Democrats will always have their differences on many issues. These differences and the ensuing debates are an important part of democracy.
However, in these challenging times, there are critical areas where our national leaders need to form a consensus. Here are three important areas in which Republicans and Democrats can and should come together on in 2011:
No. 1 — jobs. The national unemployment rate has remained over 9 percent for the last 20 months. More needs to be done to help job growth — especially for small businesses. The Small Business Administration estimates small businesses create between 60 to 80 percent of new jobs in a given year.
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has said his first hearing will be on examining the effects of excessive regulation on job creation — a very positive step.
Hopefully both parties can come together to support increased taxed cuts and credits and regulatory relief to help businesses create the jobs we desperately need.
No. 2 — spending. Speaker Boehner has committed to $100 billion spending cuts. With a $14 trillion national debt that is more than 95 percent of our GDP and budget deficits of well over $1 trillion the last several years, is this enough to make a difference?
By scouring for waste, consolidating government agencies and cutting through layers of bureaucracy, Congress can and should seek to exceed Boehner’s goal while looking to protect and preserve Social Security and Medicare for our seniors.
Both parties should outline priorities for reductions and work together to move the nation to more sound fiscal ground.
No. 3 — national security. Iran, a long time state sponsor of terrorism, and North Korea, who recently attacked a South Korean island, continue to expand their nuclear operations.
There have been 28 terror plots directed at the United States since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Osama bin Laden remains at large and al Qaeda continues to be a serious threat.
Moreover, U.S. troops continue to serve in large numbers in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Republicans and Democrats should agree on the need to move the world community to increase pressure on Iran and North Korea, continue to improve our homeland security efforts and work with our allies to support our own military’s efforts against terrorism.
Tough decisions need to be made and we need bold leadership. Our nation will be more prosperous, stable and secure if the new Congress can work with the president in these critical areas.
George K. Phillips
George Phillips was a candidate for U.S. Congress in New York’s 22nd Congressional District, which includes Ulster County.