The Year in Review continues with July-Sept. 2013
The Catskill Mountain News continues its look back at the top stories during the last six months of 2013.
July 3, 2013
GOP backs Delameter in Supervisor’s race
Arkville resident Nelson Delameter has been officially endorsed by the Town of Middletown Republican Committee as its candidate for supervisor.
The endorsement is unusual because Delameter is a registered Democrat and will challenge incumbent Supervisor Marge Miller in the September Democratic Primary.
GOP Committee Chairman Chuck Freas says the committee took this “extraordinary step” because of questions about how Miller has performed in office, particularly what he called her, “unauthorized modification of the sewer law.”
He acknowledges that Delameter has no experience as a town supervisor, but he feels that if elected, he will learn quickly.
In addition to the primary battle for the Democratic line on the ballot, Miller and Delameter will each be on the November ballot as Independents.
Llobet Medical purchases former auto parts building on Route 28
Last week Llobet Medical Group completed the purchase of the 12,000-square-foot former home of Lou-Jon, later known as J&S Auto Parts, located on Route 28 just west of Fleischmanns. Dr. [Paul] Llobet says he has no current plans to move his medical practice out of the much smaller Palen Building.
Dr. Llobet told the News that he considers the purchase a good business opportunity. It was a chance to purchase a large building with plenty of parking for what he considers the low price of $200,000. He says he plans to use the building as a strip mall [and] hopes to rent out spaces for stores and offices.
However, he says the Palen Building, at 4,000 square feet, has no room for expansion and should his practice grow, the purchase of the Lou –Jon building would give him the room to add a second location.
July 10, 2013
Breaking ground for Catskill Recreation Center was on July 8
Gold and silver shovels were firmly planted into the earth as Kingdon Gould Jr. and family members commemorated the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Catskill Recreation Center in Arkville.
About 100 community members turned out for the event on Monday afternoon at the project site on county Route 38. The Catskill Recreation Center will include an indoor pool and other [public] amenities. It can eventually accommodate an indoor ice rink.
“Our family has been fortunate to live up here for eight generations. We’re trying to put something back that will be used by our neighbors and families who will be coming here,” said Mr. Gould.
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Mr. Gould also gave credit to the fine work of VIP Structures, the Syracuse-based firm that has designed the state-of-the-art facility. The project will utilize both geothermal and solar power.
“If we’re lucky, we may be able to Michael Phelps here for the opening ceremony,” Mr. Gould stated. In closing, Mr. Gould stated, “I thank you all for coming and please mark your calendars for 10 months from now for the opening of the pool.”
DEC raids three Hrazanek properties in Fleischmanns
Three properties owned by a Fleischmanns auto salvage and repair shop operator were raided by more than a dozen officers from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Tuesday morning.
DEC officers conducted simultaneous raids at VW Parts Inc., at the former Bailey’s Manufacturing plant at the corner of Wagner Avenue and Depot Street, and at the former Maxim Auto Shop on Route 28. All three are owned by William Hrazanek of Fleischmanns and have been used for the storage of automobiles and auto parts.
A DEC supervisor [said] the raids were part of an ongoing investigation.
A DEC officer said the raid was meant to be a surprise so village officials were not given advance notice. Village trustee David Yates said he did not know what the DEC expected to find, but he hopes the auto salvage operation is shut down.
The junkyards in the area operated by VW Parts Inc. have been a source of controversy for many years as various residents and village officials have fought against the business.
July 17, 2013
Hrazanek leaving Fleischmanns but not out of business yet
The controversial owner of an auto salvage and repair business says Fleischmanns VW Parts is leaving the village, but William Hrazanek told the News his decision has nothing to do with last week’s raids by the DEC.
He also says the decision to close also has nothing to do with Kenneth Pasternak, who is foreclosing on one of his properties.
Pasternak began the foreclosure process [on Hrazanek’s Depot St. property], but Hrazanek tried to buy time by filing for bankruptcy. Hrazanek lost that round and now he says it’s a race between Pasternak’s foreclosure and a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) buyout.
Hrazanek claims he lost 650 cars and $4.7 million in cars and parts because of Hurricane Irene. He is seeking approximately $450,000 for the former A. H. Todd Ford dealership at the corner of Main Street and Wagner Avenue in Fleischmanns, and $1.2 million for the Bailey plant. He says it is a certainty he will get the money.
But Delaware County Planning Board Director Shelley Johnson says it can be a long process, and the Bailey plant must [have] an environmental review. And then two more steps before a check is written. If Hrazanek gets the FEMA buyout, the buildings will be demolished and the land will be kept as open space forever.
July 24, 2013
Junkyard owner may face permitting hurdle in Margaretville
Fleischmanns businessman William Hrazanek’s plans to start operating a business on newly acquired property just outside the Village of Margaretville may run unto a major roadblock, namely the Town of Middletown Planning Board.
On Saturday, July 13 Hrazanek purchased the former Ingram Auto Body shop on Route 30 outside of Margaretville in the county’s tax sale. VWP Holdings paid Delaware County $35,000 for the body shop and an adjacent house.
But Middletown Code Enforcement Officer Pat Davis says it isn’t a body shop anymore. He says it hasn’t been used as one for more than a year. That means Hrazanek will have to apply to the planning board in order to get a special use permit. Even if he complies, he can still be denied a permit if the board decides it doesn’t fit the character of the community.
There were issues with Ingram’s when it was owned by Chuck Ingram, but there was little the town could do as his business was “grandfathered.”
Hrazanek says he plans to run a towing service, but Davis says that’s considered a garage and Hrazanek would have to go through the entire planning board process to receive a use permit.
Shandaken worker arrested for embezzlement
Shandaken Highway Department employee Florence Sullivan, who was arrested Monday on charges of grand larceny and two other felonies, allegedly appears to have been lining her pockets with taxpayer money for years with over $20,000 reportedly having been stolen.
Supervisor Rob Stanley spoke about the case on Friday after keeping quiet during the seven-month long investigation by the New York State Police and the State Comptroller’s office.
Over the past seven months, they completed a review of the highway department’s payroll records, including FEMA storm relief payments. It was allegedly discovered that Sullivan had falsified her own payroll records associated with federal storm relief funds, as well as manipulated financial records, resulting in the wrongful withholding of money of other town employees. The investigation allegedly revealed that Sullivan had received over $20,000 in payroll overpayments and benefits as a result of her actions.
Stanley notes that Sullivan was only three years away from retirement. She would have been eligible for lifelong health benefits, but that won’t happen now.
July 31, 2013
CHA claims resort findings flawed
The citizens’ group Catskill Heritage Alliance (CHA) has released the results of several new studies that claim the benefits of the proposed Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park have been grossly overestimated and its costs grossly underestimated, including the damage to local businesses, and that the resort’s developers have not adequately addressed environmental impacts.
The reports were issued by consulting firms commissioned by the CHA [and] showed that the proposed resort is oversized for the market, with negative consequences for existing businesses.
In addition, the reviews claim that the $74-million ski center expansion, which would require public funding, would be oversized for realistic skier growth and climate change, at a significant cost to taxpayers.
Crossroads spokesman Gary Gailes said “The Catskill Heritage Alliance has long been opposed to the Belleayre Resort Project and now apparently seeks to also limit development at the Belleayre Ski Center,” said Gailes. “The CHA has done little since its inception to actually help build a sustainable economy in our region.”
CHA has submitted both reports, along with technical environmental reviews, to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation as part of the public comment process. It has also posted them on its website, www.catskillheritage.org.
CWC seeks refund of grants and loans from VW Parts owner
Embattled auto salvage and repair shop owner William Hrazanek has yet another fight on his hands. This one is with the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC).
The CWC says it gave Hrazanek-owned corporations more than $84,000 in grants and loans. It has now given the Fleischmanns man 30 days to repay the money.
CWC Corporate Counsel Timothy Cox says that following Hurricane Irene, the CWC gave businesses grants of up to $30,000 to pay for flood-related repairs. Hrazanek’s VWP, Inc. received two $30,000 grants, one for the VW Parts, Inc. facility, and the other for the former Bailey Manufacturing plant, both in Fleischmanns.
In addition, Hrazanek received a $12,100 grant and a $12,100 loan [for] the building at 926 Main in Fleischmanns. Cox says no work has been done on any of them and the CWC now wants its money back.
Hrazanek says he is certain that FEMA plans to buy the Wagner Avenue and Depot Street structures and tear them down. Cox says the CWC is not going to pay for repairs for buildings that the owner wants torn down.
August 7, 2013
Fleischmanns Planning board hit with two resignations and one expired term
Larry Reilly, chairman of the Village of Fleischmanns Planning Board, and planning board member John Granito, resigned from that board on the same day in July.
Plus, another member’s term expiration has effectively shut the planning board down, prompting the cancellation of a controversial public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, August 6.
The loss of two from the five-member board was unfortunate, but with three members left it was okay to move ahead with the already-scheduled public hearing on Thomas Shamro’s plan to operate an auto repair and used vehicle sales on at 684 Wagner Avenue.
Just one day beforehand it was discovered that another member of the planning board, Don Kearney’s term had expired.
According to Kent Manuel of the Delaware County Planning Department, three board members in good standing are needed for a quorum.
Mayor Todd Pascarella [said] that he hopes to remedy things quickly.
Pascarella has put out the word that anyone interested [in serving on the board] should get in touch with him personally before next week’s village board meeting, when he hopes to make as many appointments as he can.
Arkville trailer park to receive CWC funds to remedy septic
Arkville resident and mobile home park owner Richard Gulde has been battling the Town of Middletown, and the City and State of New York for years, ever since he purchased Carlson’s Trailer Park located in Arkville. By his own admission, the park has been plagued with an inadequate septic system and problems existed when he bought it.
Last September, after his repeated refusals to bring the system up to code, Gulde was ordered to fix the system or start paying the fines. Gulde, who said he was financially unable to remedy the situation, contended that if the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) provides septic repair help for other small businesses, then his business, a trailer park, should also qualify for their help.
At the time, the CWC said that it wasn’t its policy to provide septic repair help to commercial real estate. Gulde then appealed to the CWC to change its policy and according to CWC corporate counsel, Timothy Cox, that’s exactly what they did during their last board meeting.
Cox says the existing septic system will be decommissioned and the park will be connected to sewer mains and the waste will be treated at the New York City-owned and operated Margaretville wastewater treatment plant.
Cox says the CWC will reimburse Gulde for 75 percent of the costs, or up to $40,000.
August 14, 2013
Hostage taking ends in suicide tragedy
A hostage taking that began Sunday morning, followed by an armed standoff with dozens of police officers in Bovina Center, ended tragically early Monday morning when the hostage taker, Bovina resident Justin Geraghty, 32, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department.
The incident began early Sunday morning. Geraghty sent a text message to the mother of his two children, who lives in Virginia, telling her that he was distraught and had a gun. She notified the sheriff’s department who responded to his mobile home, located at the intersection of New Road and county Route 6, between Bovina and Bovina Center. Geraghty managed to escape and took off on an ATV, ending up in the backyard of Peter Mullen and his wife Victoria Charkut, just off Pink Street north of Bovina Center.
Charkut told the News that Geraghty confronted them and forced them at gunpoint into their house. She says he used their phone to call the mother of his boys and tell them, “This is the last anyone will hear from me. I’m going to kill myself.”
Some time later, Charkut told Geraghty that she had to use the bathroom. She then walked past the bathroom door to another door, which lead outside, and simply walked out to freedom.
As the police presence in the community quickly grew, the Bovina Community Store became the unofficial home to several area residents who could not return to their homes on Pink Street when police sealed off the area. The Mullen-Charkut house was surrounded by police.
Mullen, after seeing two police officers near his house, told Geraghty that he was going outside to talk to them, but instead he just kept walking to his freedom.
That left Geraghty alone in the house, armed with a single-shot shotgun, facing well over a dozen state police and sheriff’s deputies, an armored vehicle, a state police helicopter, and a state police K-9 unit.
A state police mediator was called in who spoke with Geraghty, but was unable to convince him to surrender. His brother came to the scene and tried to talk him into surrendering, but had no success. Around 9 p.m., police fired 27 “cold” tear-gas canisters into the house.
It was at approximately 1 a.m. Monday when law enforcement officers entered and discovered Geraghty’s body, barricaded in a third-floor room of the house. Delaware County Undersheriff Craig S. DuMond said Geraghty died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
August 21, 2013
Principal reprimanded for improper “hold” on student; reinstated this week
Phoenicia School Principal Linda Sella, who was suspended in February, [was] reinstated on August 7.
The settlement states that [District Superintendent Phyllis] McGill filed disciplinary charges with the NYS Department of Education against Sella, who had been principal at Phoenicia for 12 years. Following a hearing, McGill withdrew those charges leading to a settlement in the case.
The settlement states that Sella admitted to engaging in a “protective hold” without having the certification to do so. She also admits that she failed to properly report “the use of physical force and the discipline of students to the superintendent.”
Accompanying the stipulation of settlement was a formal reprimand from McGill.
Sella has been accused of such behavior as reassigning staff members without proper authority, monitoring and observing teachers in a clandestine manner, and putting her hand up in a person’s face while they were speaking.
Sella is required to provide a better working environment and refrain from retaliating against any staff.
The settlement also says that if there are any more acts of misconduct on Sella’s part, the district may seek her termination.
August 28, 2013
Wadler joins Fleischmanns Planning board
The village board has appointed Jason Wadler of Wadler Brothers Home Center on Route 28, to the [planning] board for a five-year term. They also reappointed Don Kearney, whose term had expired recently, to fill out [Larry] Reilly’s unexpired term. Kearny will serve two years. He was also appointed as chair of the planning board.
Wadler is not a village resident, but Pascarella said village law allows for two members to be non-residents. A vacancy remains, but Pascarella said that with four out of five members, the planning board could again legally function.
So, at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3, Thomas Shamro’s hearing [to operate a repair shop at 684 Wagner Avenue] will commence.
Supervisor challenges set for upcoming election
Supervisors in Bovina, Middletown and Roxbury will face challenges in this fall’s elections.
Beatriz Sohni added her name to the Independent line to challenge longtime Republican incumbent Supervisor Tina Molè in Bovina in the November 5 election. Molè is also running as a member of the Independence Party.
In the Town of Roxbury, William Walcutt will appear on the Independent line as he runs for a second time against veteran Supervisor Thomas Hynes. The supervisor is running on the Democratic and Independent lines.
In the Town of Middletown, first-term Supervisor Marge Miller filed petitions to appear on the Democratic and Independent lines. Challenging her will be Nelson Delameter who will square off against Miller in a Democratic Primary on September 10 to determine which candidate earns that party’s ballot designation. Mr. Delameter has also filed petitions to appear on the Republican and Independent ballot lines.
Andes Republican Supervisor Martin Donnelly will run without opposition for another two-year term.
September 4, 2013
Community stalwart Bob Hubbell, dead at 79
For decades, Bob Hubbell had been a leader in the community: the baby saved by the doctor’s wife; the fire-keeper at school; the student-leader and Eagle Scout; the pillar of the community who helped lead the hospital, fire departments, Rotary, ambulance squad, and countless community organizations and events.
Robert Burr Hubbell, of the Kelly Corners homestead that bears his family name, died Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 at Albany Medical Center.
Bob served in the U.S. Army, training at Fort Drum, before being shipped to West Germany as a telegrapher. While in the service, he married Carolyn Rudd, of Ilion, on July 21, 1956 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. When Bob returned home, he continued his education, graduating, in 1959, from the New York State Ranger School in Wanakena. Then a family man with a young child and others soon to arrive, Bob returned to work the family dairy farm, in Kelly Corners, and its associated business, Hubbell Bros. This business continues to this day as Hubbell, Inc., under his son, Rudd.
He was an active dairy farmer until 1966, when his father became ill. At that time, Bob began to actively manage Hubbell Bros., the wide-ranging business founded in the late 1800s by his grandfather, Will Hubbell and his great-uncle, the inventor, Burr Hubbell. Bob continued, on the farm, the traditional calendar of seasonal chores that he so loved. Each spring, he collected, boiled and bottled maple syrup, and each fall he squeezed apples for cider in the ancient cider press at the Hubbell Brothers’ mill. Winters were spent cutting firewood for next year, and hunting meat for the freezer.
Those activities, so central to country life, Bob passed down to his sons, daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He was proud of how his son, Toby, cared for the intricate mechanics of the ancient mill. Sapping and cidering still go on at the Hubbell Place, thanks to “Pa,” as the family called him, lovingly.
Teenager killed; another injured in ATV crash in Halcott
A Long Island teenager was killed and a passenger was seriously injured early Saturday when the ATV they were riding on crashed into a tree in the Town of Halcott.
The victim was identified as 17-year-old Frank Travigno. A 16-year-old female sustained major injuries and was airlifted to Albany Medical Center. There was no report on her injuries as of Tuesday.
Reports indicate that the teenagers were riding on an ATV about 2 a.m. on Saturday on Kaftas Road when the driver failed to negotiate a turn and struck a tree.
September 11, 2013
Miller wins Democratic primary
Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller defeated challenger Nelson Delameter, 164-44 in Democratic Primary voting on Tuesday.
Ms. Miller’s name will appear on the Democratic line in the November 5 general election. She will also run on the Independent line.
Mr. Delameter has previously received an endorsement for the Middletown Republican Party. His name will appear on the GOP line, as well as on the Independent line.
Swart Street bridge reconstruction still nowhere in sight
Margaretville residents who have been waiting for a new bridge to replace the flood-damaged Swart Street span will have to wait a little while longer.
The village is doing its part. Work is underway to replace a water main that runs underneath the bridge. The new main is being installed by Dave Cowan Excavating.
Once the new main is in place, Delaware County can take over and begin the process of replacing the bridge. It was declared unsafe for motor vehicles because of damage caused by Hurricane Irene.
However, with winter approaching, it is not going to get done this year and Delaware County Public Works Commissioner Wayne Reynolds says he isn’t certain about next year either. He says it is tentatively scheduled for the 2014 construction season, but the county has yet to design a replacement.
Reynolds says it doesn’t make sense to even get started until the FEMA frees up the money. Reynolds says he is confident FEMA will grant its approval and allocate the funds to fix the bridge. But he has no idea when that will happen and until it does, there is no scheduled date to begin construction.
September 18, 2013
Historic barn to be refurbished as wedding venue
An historic and very visible dairy barn began a transformation towards becoming a player in the region’s newest economic craze Tuesday when contractors began the process of saving and renovating the large barn on Peter and Carol Molnar’s property located at the top of Margaretville Mountain overlooking of the village.
The barn originated on the Nelson VanBenschoten farm sometime between 1910 and 1920 according to Carol Molnar who said it arrived on the farm as a kit sold by Sears and Roebuck. The building housed dairy cows [until] the property ceased being a farm when it was purchased by Cecil and Terry Cohen, who later moved across the road and sold the house and barn to its present owners.
Over the past several years the barn fell into disrepair as a large hole opened in the roof.
Enter the destination wedding boom that has blossomed in the Catskills and the owners, who also operate a bed and breakfast business and a motel on Route 28, began to see a possible use for the barn. The plan now is to renovate the structure and hold weddings in it, using their lodging business as a place for guests to stay.