The Year in Review: May - June, 2013

Here are the top stories from May - June 2013 from the Catskill Mountain News. Watch this spot next week for the top stories from July - December 2013. We wish all our readers a happy, safe and rewarding 2014, and as always, be sure to follow the News for local reporting you'll find nowhere else!

From the issue dated May 7, 2013

Community irate as ORDA kills Oktoberfest
ORDA is doing away with the popular fall festival that has been an annual attraction every Columbus Day weekend.
A press release issued by Belleayre’s marketing department detailed plans for a different event called “Skitember Fest,” a one-day only affair slated for September 28.
“We’ve already spoken to ORDA representatives, the Ulster County Tourism Department and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and voiced our concern,” [Shandaken Supervisor Rob] Stanley said, adding the Coalition to Save Belleayre has called for a reinstatement of Columbus Day event as well.
Stanley said the October event drew 8,000 visitors last year and has been known to bring as many 15,000 to the region and that the one-day event planned for September 28 will not generate similar and much needed fall revenue for the restaurants and lodges in the area.
Tuesday morning Belleayre’s marketing department rescinded the Skitember Fest announcement.

More flood recovery money flows to Middletown

Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller said she had recently learned that $3 million in Community Development Block Grants will be made available to the towns of Middletown and Sidney (on a combined basis) for further flood recovery efforts.
The grant money, she said, will be coming from two New York State entities: The Small Business Storm Recovery Program and the Recreate NY Smart Home Program. These programs in turn receive their money through HUD.
According to Miller, small businesses as well as residents who received flood damage and were unable to get the kinds of grants that FEMA was offering or that haven’t been able to collect from their insurance companies can now receive financial aid. In many cases, the aid could not originally be obtained due to the fact that their properties had not suffered the required 50 percent or more damage from either Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee.

Middletown mulls future sewer extensions
At the April 29 East Branch Flood Commission meeting, Marge Miller, chair of the commission, made the case that since Arkville and Margaretville are losing housing due to the flood buy-outs, there should be room to add other users to what would now be an under-used system. “We feel there is justification for saying that there is capacity there, so it would be reasonable to look at a (new) sewer extension project.”
“We, the Town of Middletown and the Village of Margaretville, would have to appeal to the city to see if they will choose to add an extension on to a plant that they own, and that they have to fund,” Flood Commission member Pat Davis explained. "When you have a flood and you have damage, that definitely puts you in the position of sitting down with the city and the DEC and saying, we need to do this.”
Because the sewer plant is a gravity system, when too much water gets in, it forces more effluent through the system than it is designed to treat, and it goes back out into the stream. Once this happens, said Davis, you violate the SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit, which is what the DEC issues to the DEP to operate the sewer plant.
“The DEP is walking a very fine line with the DEC here, it makes it kind of tough to come into a municipality and approve sewer extensions which are going to add more usage to a system that you already have some issues with.”

From the issue dated May 14, 2013

Judge Glen George removed from the bench
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has removed [Judge Glen] George from the bench citing misconduct, which goes back to the year 2000. It was the opinion of eight judges on the panel that George is “unfit for judicial office.” Two judges disagreed, and one did not vote.
In 2009, Lynn Johnson was ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. Johnson appeared in court on a day when prosecutors were not scheduled to appear. George, despite being warned by the commission not to handle any cases involving the Johnson family, and with no one from the prosecution present, dismissed the ticket.
Meanwhile, Middletown Town Attorney John Fairbairn III says the town board will have to decide whether to appoint a new justice to complete George’s term or to have Judge Gary Rosa continue to handle all of the cases until a new justice is elected in November.

Burglar caught on video heisting lottery machine from Phoenicia Legion

Thanks to recently installed video surveillance cameras, the man who allegedly broke into the American Legion Hall in Phoenicia on Saturday night is now behind bars in the Ulster County Jail.
New York State Police in Kingston have announced the arrest of Daniel P. Tuohy, 45, of Lagrangeville for third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, third-degree unlawfully fleeing a police officer, DWI, and numerous traffic offenses.
The video allegedly shows Tuohy’s truck pull up in front of the Legion Hall and the perpetrator breaking a window to gain entry.
Stolen that evening was a large and heavy lottery ticket machine. Video also shows the device being loaded onto the truck.
State troopers attempted to stop a vehicle fitting the description of the suspect vehicle on Route 28 but the suspect failed to stop and a car chase began. [Legion Post Treasurer Robert] Downy said the pursuit continued eastbound on Route 28 where police had placed road spikes designed to disable the vehicle. The suspect reportedly ran over the spikes but kept driving for several miles on flat tires before striking a tree in the City of Kingston where Tuohy was taken into custody. 

From the issue dated May 21, 2013

Tinker's village just outside Arkville falls to fire

An early Tuesday morning fire destroyed an multi-use commercial building just east of Arkville.
The fire at the Tinker’s Village complex was discovered about 4 a.m. by a passing motorist. By the time the alarm sounded, the building was fully engulfed in flames.
Firefighters from Margaretville, Arkville, Fleischmanns, Halcottsville and Big Indian responded, but there was no chance to save the old wooden structure.
Investigators from the Delaware County Arson Task Force were on the scene shortly after dawn, but said it was too early to determine a cause for the blaze.
The building is owned by Sharon Forsman of Denver and her sister, Isabelle Rogers.
Reached for comment, Mrs. Forsman stated, “Our future plans are uncertain at the moment but as soon as time allows we are going to remediate the property — not leaving it scarred but made beautiful once again!”

Burglars break into Country Store through the roof
Sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning, someone, or some people cut through the roof of the Margaretville Country Store. Sergeant Andy Leahy of the Margaretville barracks of the New York State Police says the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) won’t say what was stolen because they are hoping that information will lead them to the suspect or suspects.
Sergeant Leahy says breaking in by cutting through the roof is unusual and does not fit the pattern of a recent wave of break-ins that have plagued the village in recent weeks, but he says he can’t rule out the possibility that it is the same person or persons.
In a recent interview with the Catskill Mountain News, Delaware County Sheriff Thomas Mills linked nearly all of the crime in the county to drugs.

From the issue dated May 28, 2013

Johnson wins seat on MCS board; budgets pass easily
Budgets in Andes, Roxbury and Margaretville schools were approved by wide margins.
Voters in Andes also decided to return Gerard Murphy to the board of education, and Will Finch will serve another five years on the RCS Board. But in Margaretville, incumbent board member Randy Moore, who was serving as president of the board, was soundly defeated by challenger Terrence Johnson of Arkville. Johnson won by a margin of 134 to 72.
Johnson told the News that he was surprised that he won by that much, but he wasn’t surprised that he won. He says it wasn’t that people were necessarily voting against Moore, he says it was a referendum on the MCS administration, and that the public is so dissatisfied that any board member who was up for reelection probably would have lost.

From the issue dated June 4, 2013

Stratton Falls Campground has new owners

Stratton Falls Campsite is a campsite [that] sits on 37 acres of streamside camping, nestled between state Route 30 and Stratton Falls Road outside of Roxbury. For about 40 years it has been owned by George Slauson’s family. Before that it was part of their dairy farm. As of mid-May, it became the property of Stan and Anna Duszak of Bainbridge.
The Duszaks own rental properties in Bainbridge, and getting into the camping business is something new for them. They now own 37 acres about an hour from where they live. They plan to be here as often as they can, and their daughter and son-in-law will also make the sometimes-daily drive. The Duszaks say they plan to spend some time and money making improvements.

Phoenicia loses Head Start

The federally-funded Head Start program in Phoenicia has been given the axe.
A popular preschool program tailor made for low-income families, Head Start has for years been a staple in this hamlet.
According to Onteora Central School officials, Phoenicia Head Start will not reopen in September despite the fact that nine children are already enrolled in the program.
Ulster County Head Start took a five and-a-quarter percent budget cut this year, leaving $2.5 million to operate programs countywide.
The Phoenicia branch is only able to handle 15 children. Also, Phoenicia has high transportation costs associated with the program due to the large size of the service area.

Strong support for Belleayre Resort at hearing

About 300 people packed into the Discovery Lodge at Belleayre Ski Center last Wednesday to participate in the one and only public comment forum on the private sector Belleayre Resort project and a separate plan by New York State to expand and link its ski center with the resort.
It has been over five years since the public last had the chance to weigh in on the plans for the resort, a $365 million proposal, now 15 years in the making, and the $74 million ski center expansion plan, a long awaited proposal made public last month.
A few years back opposition to the resort overwhelmed those in favor of the plan, but this time those that want to see the project move forward had a much higher profile.
At the doorway to Discovery Lodge sat a vendor handing out free t-shirts and buttons to show support for the resort. The vendor estimates that about 75 percent of those in attendance were in agreement with his cause. Applause for speakers that were in favor of the project suggested a similar mix.

Middletown nominates Delhi supervisor Bracci to the CWT exec committee
Town of Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller called a special meeting of the town board last Wednesday in an attempt to have the town board approve her nomination as one of three representatives to sit on the executive committee to the Coalition of Watershed Towns.
Board member John Roucek was not present at the earlier meeting where votes were taken, but he was present Wednesday and his vote in favor of Bracci denied Miller the nomination when Sweeney and Rosa again supported Bracci.
The vote from a previous town board meeting resulted in Walton Supervisor Bruce Dolph and Tompkins Councilman Carl Stuendel being nominated for the first two seats.
The CWT is a volunteer association formed in 1991to serve as a voice for 30 watershed towns west of the Hudson River. All the towns and villages in the watershed area will be sending their nominations in to the Albany law firm of Young/Sommer for the final tally, and the results will be announced at the next CWT meeting which will be held on June 17.

From the issue dated June 11, 2013

CWC passes resolution supporting Belleayre resort; no mention of ski center

The Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) has joined the chorus of support for the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.
At its regular monthly meeting, the CWC’s Board of Directors adopted a resolution supporting the proposed resort, citing its alignment with both the recommendations in an economic development study conducted for the CWC, as well as the CWC’s corporate purpose of reducing adult unemployment in the Watershed.
Twelve members of the CWC voted in favor of the resolution; two board members were absent, and the New York City representative abstained from voting because the environmental review process is not yet complete.
The resolution makes no mention of New York State’s plan to build a $74-million expansion to Belleayre Ski Center that would connect the resort property to the ski center.

George will appeal decision to remove him from the judge's bench

Town of Middletown Judge Glen George has decided to appeal a ruling that would remove him from the bench, but he has now been suspended, pending the outcome of that review.
George was declared unfit to serve as a judge in the State of New York by the Commission for Judicial Conduct.
The ruling stems from George’s dismissal of a seat-belt ticket that was issued to a former employer and friend, Lynn Johnson of Arkville. Eight members of the panel voted to remove George from the bench. One did not vote, but in the dissenting opinion, two members of the commission said the penalty was too harsh.
George is seeking a review by the New York State Court of Appeals.
On May 30, the Commission on Judicial Conduct suspended George with pay until the Court of Appeals makes its decision. However, a commission spokesperson says it usually takes nine months to a year for the court to rule on such cases, and by that time George will probably have already retired.

Renovations at historic Al's Restaurant underway
After being sold and closed down 15 months ago, the historic Al’s Restaurant in Phoenicia looks very different today.
The back portion of the building has been partially torn down by Mike Ricciardella, the local restaurateur who purchased the property shortly after previous owner Paul Pettinato ended its seven-decade stewardship of fine dining.
On Tuesday, Ric Ricciardella, a local realtor and the brother of the new owner, said that the famous structure is not being destroyed. “Some parts of the structure need to be replaced, is all.”
New owner Ricciardella said he was considering using the facility as wedding/banquet hall, but that no firm decisions have been made.
Open continuously since 1940, Al’s former owner/operator, Paul Pettinato, the son of restaurant founder Al Pettinato, announced that he was retiring and that the legendary eatery would close its doors on March 19, 2012.

From the issue dated June 19, 2013

Supervisor and attorney admit making unauthorized changes to town law

Supervisor Marge Miller and Attorney Kevin Young admitted last week that they are responsible for changing a Middletown law without authorization from the town board.
As reported in the May 21 issue of this paper, Middletown Attorney John Fairbairn had discovered in April that an entire page had been replaced in the New York State Department of States’ (DOS) copy of Middletown’s 2012 Sewer Use Law.
Section 3.07 on page 15 of the document relates to the ability of the city to place a moratorium on new sewer connections. The newly altered page contained the word “notification” in place of the original word “consultation.” However there had been no prior approval for this revision by the town board, and there was no evidence of any of the supporting correspondence that is legally required to be on file at the DOS.
Attorney Kevin Young conceded that he and Miller had “unfortunately” deemed they had the authority to make what he termed a “technical revision” to the law. Many in town believe that this act was clearly in violation of regulations that govern how local laws are filed with the DOS.
The New York State Inspector General has turned the investigation of why there is no paper trail of this page substitution over to the DOS for internal review, an investigation that could drag on for some time.

Ulster County wants to throw CMRR off the rails

Ulster County Executive Michael Hein has taken legal action against the Catskill Mountain Railroad, informing the group that it faces eviction from the county-owned tracks unless several violations to the CMRR’s lease are corrected within 30 days.
This marks the latest shot fired in a long battle between Hein, who wants to turn the tracks between Kingston and Mount Tremper into a rail trail, and the CMRR, which has visions of restoring the tracks [for] a tourism-based train.
On June 12, Hein sent CMRR a “Notice of Default/Demand to Cure” citing nine separate violations of the lease, which CMRR has had since 1991. The lease expires in 2016.
The notice says the lease requires that the railroad rehabilitate one mile of track per year [and] that CMRR keep the railway free of brush and debris from Kingston all the way up to the Ulster/Delaware county border at Highmount. CMRR is also supposed to pay the county rent based on a percentage of its gross revenue, but the county claims that CMRR has been making improper deductions before calculating the rent fee.
County Attorney Beatrice Havranek also claims that CMRR has refused to allow the county to review its books, has not shown proof of proper insurance and illegally prevents the public from using the right of way.
On Monday CMRR spokesman Harry Jameson said there was no merit to the county’s claim