The Year in Review

All too soon, it's time to take a look back at another Catskill year flown by. The CMN would like to thank its reporters Jay Braman, Jr., Brian Sweeney, Joe Moskowitz and Geoff Samuels — all stories precised here are their work unless otherwise noted. March - April and May - June reviews are also posted in our News section. The full versions of all these news "bites" are archived here on our website. Next week we'll bring you highlights from July-December 2013.

January - February, 2013 in the News

From the issue dated January 3, 2013

Historic Fleischmanns home to be restored as a retreat
Andes resident Leigh Melander, PhD is now in the process of restoring the last remnant of the Fleischmanns’ family compound to its former glory. Charles, Louis and Max Fleischmanns built the compound [but] of the five original mansions, only the “smaller” one, 8,000 square feet, remains. That is where Leigh Melander is creating “Spillian.”
Spillian, Dr. Melander says, is a Middle English word that means to play, to jest, and to revel. It will be a conference center, a retreat, a place for weddings and gatherings of all kinds.
She says it needs a lot of work and she has been awarded a $25,000 MARK Project, Middletown small business development grant. That will go toward the construction of a commercial kitchen. Dr. Melander hopes to have “Spillian” open next spring so all can play, jest, revel and get an idea what life was like for the family that gave the village its name and more.

Redistricting brings the loss of Kathy Mami Moore and Cliff Crouch
For more than a dozen years, Kathleen has been Chief of Staff for Assemblyman Cliff Crouch, but the district lines have been redrawn and much of this area will now be represented by Pete Lopez or Claudia Tinney. Mami-Moore says it is very sad because she grew up in Arkville and still has a home here.
Her jobs [have] included working at the Arkville Country Store, the Grand Gorge Country Store, catering, and Wal-Mart. One day she took a part time job with Assemblyman Cliff Crouch. She thought it would last about a month and a half. She is still there.
Mami-Moore has championed many causes, including Margaretville Memorial Hospital, Arkville’s sidewalks, and during Hurricane Irene, she got her hands dirty, helping clean up muddy homes.
During the past year Mami-Moore began the fight of her life [when] she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. It was caught early, but there is no cure. It can, however be managed and kept in remission.
When she speaks of the new Assembly district Mami-Moore says, “I can’t even say the words to describe my sadness.” But she says she and Crouch will still look out for this area and will help Lopez and Tinney.

"Bill" Sluiter, 90, was well-known local businessman
William Sluiter, 90, formerly of Margaretville and Perch Lake, Andes, died at his home at The Meadows at East Mountain, Rutland, VT on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012.
On June 29, 1947 Bill married his high school sweetheart, Margaret Barlow. He and Margaret both took teaching positions at Andes Central School, he in high school English and she in music. But even though his students thought he was a great teacher, Bill soon decided teaching was not for him.
In 1950, he went into the insurance agency business with Arthur S. Close in Margaretville. After the retirement of Art Close, Bill expanded the agency, first with the purchase of the E.M. Woolheater Agency in Andes, then the Bovina portion of the William Hoy Agency and finally the Willis Marks Agency in Margaretville. Bill was joined in business by his sons, Doug in 1975, and Peter in 1984. Grandson Matthew joined the agency in 1995.
He was a member of the Margaretville Fire Department and the Margaretville Rotary Club. He served on the Margaretville Hospital Board and was its president at the time the current hospital building was constructed. He was a member of the Board of Directors of NBT Bank during the years when it grew into a regional powerhouse. He was a faithful member and trustee of the Margaretville United Methodist Church.

From the issue dated January 8, 2012

Few changes noted at Belleayre since ORDA takeover

Until last November [Belleayre] had been owned and managed by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which is in charge of the sprawling tracts of Catskills property owned by the state.
But that department, according to critics, is better suited to taking care of wilderness than running a ski business, and after careful study, Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed and handed the facility over the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), which already runs two other ski centers, Whiteface and Gore, for the state in the Adirondacks.
So far this ski season the new Belleayre looks pretty much like the old Belleayre.
Belleayre’s acting general manager, Tom Tar, has been working at Belleayre for over 30 years. Tar agrees that “From a skier perspective, little has changed,” he said. “We are known for good skiing and that continues.”

From the issue dated January 16, 2013

Small electric motors okayed on Cannonsville reservoir
Starting this spring, electric trolling motors will be allowed on a trial basis on fishing boats in the Cannonsville Reservoir. This trial will be much like the one that allowed kayaks and canoes to be used on the Cannonsville Reservoir before the [NYC] DEP opened up several other “non-terminal" reservoirs, including the Pepacton, Schoharie and Neversink to their use.
History indicates that if all goes well at Cannonsville this year, the DEP will probably allow the motors to be used on the other non- terminal reservoirs.
The electric motors cannot have more than 55 pounds of thrust. The batteries cannot be larger than 12 volts and must be secured. Boats and motors must be steam cleaned and remain at the reservoir, or if removed, they must be cleaned again. And, the batteries must be removed each day.
Tom Phillips of Arkville’s Pepacton Bait and Tackle, says he hopes by next year he can steam clean and sell boats and motors to use on the Pepacton.

New Kingston filmmaker David France nominated for an Oscar

On February 24, a part-time New Kingston resident may take home the most coveted statuette in the entertainment world. And he gives a great deal of credit to having a conversation in Roxbury on a summer day a few years ago.
David France is the producer and director of “How to Survive a Plague,” a feature-length film that documents the life and all too often death struggle of two groups, Act-up, and TAG as they fought a seemingly unbeatable virus, the U.S. Government, The National Institute of Health, and much of society in general. They won and changed AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable disorder.
France told the News, ”When I started the film in 2009, I never dreamed I would get it finished, much less nominated for an Oscar.”
He says he was telling a friend about his plans as they stood on a sidewalk in Roxbury. But France says he had never made a movie before and had no idea no idea how to raise the money or find a team. He says he got amazing help and encouragement from Ann Epner [who] obtained New York State Council on the Arts Grant to get France started.
Three years later, France’s dream project hit the screens, and the rave reviews and awards started pouring in.
France says, ”My hope in telling this film was to take a remarkable piece of recent history, as I witnessed it, and to salvage it from the dustbins of a forgotten past, and to keep it alive for future generations.”
And, he says, “The stars of “How to Survive a Plague” revolutionized every aspect of medicine and science and left a remarkable legacy. Now they are getting their due, finally.”

Gov. Cuomo wants casinos in the Catskills, but Belleayre resort backers don't like the gamble

In his state of the state address last Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for the development of no less than three and as many as seven new casinos in Upstate New York, calling the Catskills an “obvious area” for location.
According to the folks behind the proposed Belleayre Resort slated for Highmount, their place won’t be one of them.
Cuomo [noted], "I believe casinos in Upstate New York could be a great magnet to bring the New York City traffic up. They now go to New Jersey, they go to Connecticut, why don’t we bring them to Upstate New York?"
On Monday, Gary Gailes, a member of the Crossroads Ventures team which is planning a $400-million resort [on] Belleayre Mountain, said that project mastermind Dean Gitter has always made it clear that there would not be a casino at the resort.
“As for casino gambling here in the Catskill Park, Dean has been on record for the last several years opposing any casinos, period,” Gailes said. “This opposition was memorialized in the 2007 Agreement In Principle signed by Crossroads together with the State of New York, NYC, and several national, regional, and local environmental organizations."

Margaretville Village rejects word change in DEP sewer use amendment

A vote to change the wording in an amendment to section 3.07 of the sewer-use law took place at the Margaretville Village Board Meeting last Thursday night.
Section 3.07 allows NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to impose a moratorium on new sewer connections under certain circumstances. The existing law required the DEP to consult with the village prior to imposing such a moratorium, while the amended law would only require the DEP to provide notice to the village prior to shutting down work. New sewer line extensions have been slated for Bull Run, Glen Acres and Upper Academy Street for years.
A letter from Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller was read in which she strongly urged the village board to approve the amendment. "I firmly believe that once having resolved the issue positively we are in a better position to plan and negotiate future sewer line expansions”
Board member Fred Miller argued that in reality, the new amendment made little difference. “They can consult with us and then decide that they’re going to do it (moratorium) regardless of our objections.”
Board member Dave Budin agreed saying “I don’t think that they’ve made a compelling case that that a one-word change is going to make a difference.”
Margaretville Mayor Bill Stanton then told the board that at his last meeting with the DEP, “They came in and said if you don’t change the wording to this paragraph, we’re going to walk away from the project.” The votes were cast, with the mayor giving a resounding “no” vote to make it three to two in favor of not passing the amendment. Stanton then added, “The moratorium is going to stop all new development, they don’t want new development in this area.”

From the issue dated January 22, 2013

Former Margaretville attorney Dale Hughes pleads guilty

Dales Hughes, a former Margaretville attorney, faces up to one year in prison after pleading guilty to embezzling over $220,000 from an Ulster County volunteer fire company.
On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Hughes made a plea of guilty to a charge of second-degree grand larceny. The tentative plea agreement allows Hughes to serve up to one year in jail and avoid a tougher sentence.
Hughes must pay Woodstock Fire Company Number 3 all of the money he took from company coffers while he was treasurer. He has already paid back all but about $50,000.
According to Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office investigated the matter, Hughes Jr., 64, was charged with stealing $221,385 from the Woodstock fire company over a span of about five years, from 2006 through 2011.

Local school populations hit hard by flu
Margaretville Central School Superintendent Tony Albanese says it’s always bad this time of year, but he can’t recall it ever being this bad.
One day last week, 60 kids didn’t show up and another 18 left early because of illness. The next day when the start of school was delayed because of snow, 75, or almost 20 percent of the school’s population didn’t go in at all.
Usually this kind of information doesn’t come from the superintendent, it comes from the building principal, but MCS building principal Linda Taylor was out sick. Albanese says she almost never gets ill.
Roxbury Central School Principal Eric Windover says he had only missed a couple of days in his entire career, but then he missed three days in a row.
One day, nearly a third of the kids, more than 100 stayed home because of illness. Windover says usually if a school hits the 40 percent absent mark, it is shut down. The holiday break arrived in time to give the school a thorough cleaning. Windover says the custodial staff spent the break disinfecting every square inch.
RCS first-grade teacher Lisa Riley is taking no chances, however. She takes the kids LEGOS home every night and runs them through the dishwasher.

Parents, students upset at apparent grading errors

At the January 16 Margaretville Central School Board of Education meeting, several parents expressed alarm at the apparent miscalculation of their children’s grades.
Doris Warner of Margaretville maintained that the grades that her son received at the end of the year were not supported by the quarterly grades that he was getting on his report card, and that no one at the school had an adequate explanation.
Another Margaretville parent, Elaine Conroy, echoed Warner’s sentiment, “It’s really frustrating when your own kid says to me, Mom, please try to get my grades straightened out.” Conroy said [that] in order to get into competitive universities, a tenth of a point makes a big difference. Warner reinforced Conroy’s argument adding, “One tenth of a point might sound ridiculous, but if you get a 3.9 grade point average you get $15,000 a year, (in scholarship money) if you get 3.7, you get $10,000 a year. That’s a lot of money.”
The problem appears to stem from the use of a software program called “Power School” which was integrated into MCS in the fall of 2010. In a letter to the MCS Board dated August 27, 2012, Conroy had stated, “After hours of trying to fix this issue, nothing has been resolved, no one is able to explain this problem.”
Both MCS Superintendent Anthony Albanese and Board President Randy Moore acknowledged at Wednesday’s meeting that this was certainly an issue that demanded further attention.

SUV hit-and-run injures local resident and damages Main St. home
State police are investigating an apparent hit-and-run accident that occurred on Main Street in the Village of Margaretville around 10:30 p.m. Sunday evening that injured a resident of the home.
According to police reports, an SUV vehicle owned by Rafael Figueroa, 33, of Denver was traveling eastbound on Main Street when it went off the southbound shoulder striking a tree stump before it crashed into a house at 1880 Main Street where, according to Karen Archibald, the home’s owner, it did up to $10,000 in damage to the house and injured a resident of the home.
Police say the driver then backed onto Main Street and continued another 20 yards before hitting a split-rail fence at 1190 Main Street. Police searched the area but could not find the driver.
Police say they found a wallet in the car that belonged to the car’s owner and that it was retained as evidence.
Lori Fairbairn, who lives in the home, was standing in front of a window, while talking on the phone with a friend. She had just turned her back to the window when the SUV hit a tree, then the window, then the house. The impact sent her flying across the room.
Police say they expect Figueroa to surrender himself on Wednesday, Jan. 23 and that unspecified charges are pending.

From the issue dated January 29, 2013

Cuomo's proposed trails program would end the Catskill Mountain Railroad

Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget is calling for $2 million [to extend] a rail trail from Kingston to the Ashokan Reservoir. Ulster County Executive Mike Hein says it would provide a big boost to tourism and provide many other economic benefits. It would be a multi-use trail running 38 miles from Kingston to Highmount.
Existing rails would have to be torn up and that would mean the end of the Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR). Since 1983, the CMRR has been hauling tourists. It has relatively short runs from Mount Tremper to Phoenicia and another in Kingston. The CMRR says without tracks there can’t be trains and once the rails are gone, they would never be rebuilt. The CMRR would like to see rails and trails.
Dave Riordan, executive director of the Arkville-based DURR, agrees with the CMRR. He said, “The engineering marvel that is a railroad is a terrible thing to destroy.” And he says if we might want to restore railroad service, the cost of rebuilding the tracks would be so high as to make the chances slim to none.
Regardless of Hein’s plan and the governor’s budget proposal, it is not a done deal. It will cost a great deal more than $2 million and there is no guarantee that Ulster County will even get the money.

Covidien worker guilty of narcotics trafficking
A 33-year-old Davenport man was arrested January 22 on felony charges stemming from his alleged sale of narcotics taken from the Covidien plant in Hobart.
Jason M. Wilsey was arrested [and charged] with a First-Degree A-1 felony offense of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance.
Sheriff’s investigators said that Mr. Wilsey was employed at Covidien at the time. Oxycodone powder is manufactured at the Hobart plant.
The Sheriff’s Department indicated that Mr. Wilsey’s arrest followed an investigation of nearly two years to determine the source and sale of pharmaceutical Oxycodone powder in Otsego, Delaware and surrounding counties. Investigators allege that Mr. Wilsey had provided approximately five ounces of Oxycodone powder that was seized at the residence of his half-brother, Robert J. Wilsey last December 21 [who] was charged with Second-Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance.
The investigation findings also allege that Jason Wilsey was a source providing Oxycodone powder that was distributed by Dante Major of Hobart. Major was sentenced last week to 55 years to life in prison and was fined $260,000 for his alleged involvement as a major drug trafficker in the region.

Kingdon Gould Jr. receives Spirit of the Catskills Award

Kingdon Gould Jr. of Arkville was presented with the Spirit of the Catskills Award at the 27th annual Belleayre Snowball held Saturday at Belleayre Mountain.
Surrounded by family and friends, among the 165-plus guests in attendance, Gould was honored for the many causes and organizations that he has supported over many years. The Coalition to Save Belleayre’s new Chairman Tom White said [earlier], “Kingdon has made such a difference here in the Catskills, over several decades. It is high time he receives this recognition.” Belleayre Conservatory is just one of the causes Gould has championed in the Catskills.
Other local organizations that Mr. Gould has generously supported include Margaretville Health Foundation, The Roxbury Arts Group, the Delaware & Ulster Railroad, the MARK Project, New Kingston Animal Sanctuary, Catskill Forest Association and the recent restoration of the Fleischmanns Village Park. He helped found the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development.
Kingdon Gould Jr. joins a list of leaders who have been honored with the Spirit of the Catskills award, including: Bernadette Castro, John Cahill, Libby Pataki, Tony Lanza, John Bonacic, Ward Todd, Dean Skelos, Judith Enck, Kenneth Pasternak and Maurice Hinchey.

From issue dated February 6, 2013

Shandaken employee suspension and loss of three trucks to fire unrelated
Last Wednesday, in the early morning hours, an administrative employee of the highway department [longtime secretary/bookeeper Flo Sullivan] was suspended without pay following concerns raised by [Supervisor Rob] Stanley and Highway Department Superintendent Eric Hofmeister.
[That] evening, fire destroyed three highway department trucks that were parked behind the very same highway garage where state police earlier were investigating the department’s office.
On Monday Deputy Supervisor Vince Bernstein said it has been concluded that the fire was caused by a short circuit and was not related to the employee suspension.
At the February town board meeting, the town voted to appoint an interim highway department secretary to take over Sullivan’s duties. The town board also hired an interim bookkeeper for the Phoenicia Water District. Sullivan held that position until last week as well.
Bernstein said that the suspension occurred after alleged financial discrepancies were discovered.
As for the burned trucks, Stanley said that all three were parked close to one another and the truck that caught fire first had been plugged into a device that keeps the engine warm.

Maverick Health reopens its Boiceville office

After a year-and-a-half of hard work, Maverick Family Health reopened its office in Boiceville earlier this week. Floodwaters from Hurricane Irene had badly damaged the facility in August of 2011.
During the hurricane, three feet of water rushed in and demolished everything. The building itself, which Maverick partners, Randy Rissman, Martin Krakower, and Brian Callahan acquired and renovated only a few months before the storm, was severely damaged.
FEMA’s help and insurance coverage fell short, leaving the partners holding the bag to the tune of $200,000. Seeing almost 900 patient charts floating among the debris following the flood reminded them that, regardless of what it was going to cost the partnership, the people of the region and their health care are what matters most.
So, after 17 months of work, the partners at Maverick Family Health have successfully come back to full health themselves in the Boiceville location that has become the health hub for so many in the area.

Shandaken board passes anti-gun control resolution despite townspeople's objections

An anti-gun control resolution brought forward by Town of Shandaken Councilman Vincent Bernstein Monday received suppressing fire from residents who insisted the language in the resolution did not reflect the sentiments of the townsfolk.
Supervisor Rob Stanley, who was unable to attend the meeting, had an email read aloud by Town Clerk Joyce Grant urging the rest of the board to table the resolution.
The motion carried with Bernstein, Jack Jordan and Alfie Higley in support. [Doris] Bartlett voted against.
The resolution has no actual power. It only expresses the opinion of the town board. The town clerk was instructed to send a certified copy of the resolution to state and federal representatives.

From the issue dated February 13, 2013

Local radio personality Terry Doyle's untimely passing at 46
His many friends say Terry Doyle had a heart of gold, but on February 6, his heart failed him and Terry Doyle died of complications following a heart attack. He was 46.
Artie Martello, office manager at Roxbury radio station WIOX, says Terry had three families. His own, WIOX, and scores of local and other “indie” musicians.
After leaving a paid radio job, he worked nights at Covidien Pharmaceuticals in Hobart, but after work in the mornings, he would really get busy. Martello says people always wondered when he slept. Terry would host three radio shows at WIOX, travel to as many as three venues a day to catch music acts, and take care of his aging parents in Middleburgh. He also booked the acts and did all of the technical work for the Pine Hill Community Center’s “Cabaradio.’
On December 12, he was given the [WIOX] station’s “Above and Beyond” award. He was the first recipient. It was even named the Terry Doyle Award.

From the issue dated February 20, 2013

Phoenicia Elementary principal put on leave

Linda Sella, the longtime principal of the Phoenicia Elementary School in the Onteora School District, was placed on Administrative Leave earlier last week.
On Friday, [District Superintendent] McGill had no comment on the matter, stating that it was a personnel issue.
In a terse statement, McGill informed readers that Sella was placed on leave “for the next few days” and that McGill would keep the school community informed about any changes. In the meantime, McGill herself will be in charge at the Phoenicia School.

The Roxbury Motel to be featured on HGTV's "Best Kept Secrets"

The Roxbury, one of the world’s most interesting lodging facilities, will be featured on “America’s Best Kept Secrets” on HGTV this Friday, Feb. 22 at 11 a.m.
The Roxbury will also be spotlighted on two additional programs this spring. The facility’s not-so-ordinary fish tank will be explored on the Animal Planet show “Tanked,” on Friday, April 5 at 9 p.m.
Another portion of The Roxbury will be the focus when the TLC Network turns the cameras on the motel’s bath facilities for part of a new network series called “Amazing Bathrooms.” Filming for the episode will take place next Monday and the program is scheduled to air on April 20.
Greg told the News that this week’s airing on HGTV is hosted by Meg Caswell, winner of the network’s “Design Stars” show two years ago and host of “Meg’s Great Rooms.” She now hosts “America’s Best Kept Secrets” and Friday’s episode with The Roxbury will be the show’s premier.

From the issue dated February 27, 2013

Bob Hill lived a life of community service
By Joan Lawrence-Bauer
Known alternatively as “Mr. Fix It,” “Mr. Legion” and “Mr. Boy Scout,” Bob Hill was remembered fondly this week for a lifetime of service to his country and his community. 
Hill died Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Foothills Presbyterian Home in Easley, S.C. where he lived for the last two years, having spent the rest of his life in Margaretville.  A chief lineman with New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG), Hill was a decorated veteran of World War II, a fireman, ambulance driver, elder in the Presbyterian Church, Boy Scout leader, active member of American Legion Post 216, and the person to go to when any small engine or motorized equipment was broken.
“There was no one like him,” said Margaretville Mayor Bill Stanton, who worked with Hill at NYSEG and served with him for decades as leaders of Boy Scout troops and councils. Hill, who was 87 when he died, was a quintessential member of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.”
Though Hill retired from his work at NYSEG, he never retired from community service.  He operated a small repair shop from his home where he fixed almost anything anyone ever brought to him from a vacuum cleaner to an egg beater to a lawnmower, usually for a very small fee.  Close friend and Margaretville resident Tom Smith told the News this week that even when he moved into the Presbyterian Home, he continued fixing things – amazing staff members who would bring in things that piqued Bob’s interest.

Neighbors file suit against Phoenicia Library project
The Main Street property owners on either side of the Phoenicia Library, which was destroyed in a March 2011 fire, have filed a lawsuit against the Town of Shandaken over the recent Zoning Board of Appeals decision to grant the library a variance to rebuild on a larger scale.
Marietta Hofmeister, owner of Morne Imports and Wilfred Nolte, owner of the Phoenicia Delicatessen, have commenced the lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Ulster. The Town of Shandaken Town Board has retained the firm of Jacobowitz and Gubits, LLP of Walden to represent the Town of Shandaken.
The Hofmeister and Nolte lawsuit, filed last month, complains that the zoning board gave the library setback variances without good reason and should therefore be revoked.
The zoning board gave the library no fewer than five variances in December. One is for the library’s lack of parking facilities, another for building more total square footage than is allowed, a third for building too close to the front set back and two more for building too close to the side set backs.
The latter variances would allow the library to build within only a couple feet of the delicatessen, and right on the property line of Morne Imports, the lawsuit states.
Meanwhile, the library is expected to be a subject of a public hearing at the March 13 meeting of the town planning board.