Serve your community as an Election Inspector
The Ulster County Board of Elections is seeking applicants to work at county polling stations as Elections Inspectors. You must be registered to vote in Ulster County and attend and pass a mandatory training class. You will be paid $25 plus mileage to attend and pass the class. You will be paid $125 to work at the primary election (11am to 9:30 pm); and $200 to work at the General Election (5:30 am to 9:30 pm). If you are interested in learning more, contact the Ulster County Board of Elections at 845-334-5470.
Hudson Valley Seed Library Seeks Volunteers
To help during the growing season. They are located at 484 Mettacahonts Road, Accord or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Town Government News
Councilman Tavi Cilenti has resigned from the Town Board. The Town Board will appoint a person to fill the vacancy for the period ending 12/31/2014 and a special election will take place on November 4, 2014 to elect a candidate to fill the remainder of Councilman Cilenti’s term (1/1/15 to 12/31/15). If you would like to be considered, please send a letter of interest to Supervisor Carl Chipman, PO Box 65, Accord, NY 12404 to that it is RECEIVED by August 25, 2014.
Rail Trail Task Force Created: Steven Rice will serve as the Task Force Chair. Other members include County Legislator Lynn Archer, Greta Baker, and Tim Distel. Three openings remain. If you are interested, please contact Supervisor Carl Chipman at 626-5650.
Resorts Still Recovering... Not Recovered
By Terence P. Ward
ROCHESTER – The big resorts in the town of Rochester — the Hudson Valley Resort and Pinegrove Ranch — are each seeing more business than in darkest days of the Great Recession, but it's a slow recovery.
Families are more likely to consider getaways as job security seems to improve, and group bookings are no longer falling, but the tourists and travelers continue to be driven by value in their decisions.
"I believe the economy is improving," said HVR manager Orest Fedash, "but people are now having to pay off their debts."
Even with that being the financial priority, Fedash is seeing some improvement in bookings at what was once The Granit. He described the Fourth of July weekend as "phenomenally successful," but the size of groups returning to the hotel is still on the low side.
Groups also factor into the Pinegrove model, but the focus through the summer continues to be families according to owner David O'Halloran.
"We've had a 25 percent increase in occupancy for July, and strong August reservations," he said. "The customers are value-conscious, but jumping at the best deals."
That's better than in the past, when even with low prices, people "were too concerned financially to open a checkbook."
Now, he says, "Companies are lean and mean, and those who have jobs are more confident they're going to keep them."
Senior citizen groups make up a sizable amount of Pinegrove's midweek business during the off-season. They were part of the reason that the two resorts made an ill-fated bid to ask the state for permission to install video lottery terminals last year. O'Halloran said that the senior citizen market continues to be suppressed by limited disposable income.
Both facilities are focused on making improvements to capture vacationers who are again emerging from their nests.
The Hudson Valley Resort's investors briefly proposed a bold plan to knock down the old hotel and build anew, a plan that would involve a bid for one of the much-vaunted casino gaming licenses; that proposal was scrapped before the $1 million license application fee was due to the state.
O'Halloran, meanwhile, noted, "After saving money to pay bills for a long time, to be able to put money back into the ranch is very rewarding."
Given the explorations into VLTs and a casino license, it's obvious the principals at both resorts are aware of impacts a local casino might have on their businesses. For the most part, both O'Halloran and Fedash believe that their enterprises could see benefits from a casino being built within driving distance.
"If we get a casino in Ellenville, in the short term I'm hopeful Pinegrove Ranch will be able to provide rooms to contractors," O'Halloran said. "If it's a Sullivan County location, in the short term we will see a drop as our guests explore the newest hotel on the block. Long term, a casino or casinos will have a positive effect on our business, as more people are introduced to the beauty of the Catskills. They will look for other places to stay as well, such as Pinegrove."
Fedash was in agreement with those sentiments.
"If there's a casino in Ulster or Sullivan, we will benefit," he said. "If it's in Orange County, I'm not so sure." (Shawangunk Journal 7/31/14)
Rondout Valley Supers Wrestle County, State Over Trash, Elections
By Terence P. Ward
RONDOUT VALLEY – The most challenging issues that towns wrestle with are often those that deal with other levels of government. While in theory they represent largely the same people, different governmental entities have different priorities, and there can be clashes over exactly what it means to do the right thing. Locally, those difficulties often emerge between county and town governments. Even when it's the same taxpayers footing the bills, elected officials prefer to have another entity collecting those taxes if possible, making for an easier election season.
The fight over Safety Net has been a visible one: New York State has drastically cut its share of funding to this welfare program, and local governments have been required to pick up the slack. Counties administer the program, but Ulster was unique in the state in that its towns paid for it. While County Executive Michael Hein agreed in principal to shoulder the rising cost over three years, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill stepped in to make sure that happened by holding the county's so-called "temporary" sales tax hostage until it was sealed.
Election costs are in a similar situation: since the passage of the Help America Vote Act, towns have no longer been running elections and maintaining New York's reliable old mechanical voting machines. That task now falls to the county, but through tradition the cost has continued to be passed down to the towns. The optical-scanning machines cost $6,000 or more, and don't last a fraction of the time of the old ones, some of which were in service for decades. Supervisors who railed against paying for a process that they no longer controlled finally found a sympathetic ear in Ulster County Legislative Chairman John Parete, who has agreed that Ulster County should pay for those programs which it administers. The supervisors' association unanimously agreed to recommend taking over the costs over the course of three years, which would have little impact on the county budget.
Counties, like all local governments, are subject to the tax cap, so Hein's reluctance to add more expenses to the county budget is not surprising, given that he regularly campaigns on his record of expanding services while holding the line on taxes. While he was not reached for this story, others have said that he's not excited about absorbing election costs. The amount it will affect the county's bottom line is likely to be small in comparison to the problems Ulster has faced with its Resource Recovery Agency, problems which are also now in the towns' bailiwick.
The RRA is an independent agency which was created in large part to site, build, and manage a local landfill which never manifested. The county is responsible for paying the agency's debts if it doesn't make enough money itself, debts which began with closing numerous town landfills over twenty years ago. The flow control law, requiring all carriers to use the RRA's Kingston facility, was enacted to resolve that problem, but the agency continues to spend huge amounts of money shipping the county's garbage to western New York. This has left precious little money for infrastructure investment, and now the agency has come to the towns with some steep demands.
Only the town transfer stations get pick-up service from the RRA, and so the agency wants the towns to now pay for keeping that service going. Most transfer stations are already running a deficit, but the RRA wants to hike the fee per ton, raise the pull charge which is assessed each time a container is hauled off, and add a new monthly rental fee for each container. Town supervisors were presented with this information as part of a ten-year proposed contract that did not include any pricing assurances.
"If I signed that contract, I should be impeached," said Michael Warren of Marbletown.
Carl Chipman, Rochester's supervisor and president of the county supervisors' association, hinted that challenging the law in court was not beyond the realm of possibility, but now thinks there are many other options to explore first.
"We got the RRA to agree to give us until June for the contract," he said, noting how in the meantime, he's put together a committee to study the issues; it includes several supervisors, recycling coordinators, and a county legislator. "We want to explore options for municipalities to solve these problems in the short term, and then look at the long term."
It could be that the solution is as simple as raising the tonnage fee on all customers. As Warren put it, "They say they want to run the RRA like a water district. A water district doesn't charge more to a customer just because the water has to go farther. We asked them what it would cost if they were to absorb these expenses across the entire business, and they thought it might be $2 a ton. Who would complain about that?"
According to Chipman, other options might include the towns purchasing their own trucks and containers to deliver the trash, as well as investigating if it would be legal to ship their garbage elsewhere.
Rochester has another problem as unsightly as garbage, and also caused in part by intergovernmental bickering: the cleanup of the Rainbow Diner. State officials want the cleanup to follow asbestos-abatement procedures, which would raise the cost to well above the value of the property itself. The owners have claimed they can't afford that, and Chipman has been reluctant to use taxpayer money for the job so there's been a lot of executive sessions at town board meetings discussing the litigation against the diner's owners.
Chipman reports that he's hopeful a resolution to the problem, which was an issue in the last election, will be announced in the near future. (Shawangunk Journal 7/24/14)
Kerhonkson man indicted in fatal shooting of friend’s dog
By Diane Pineiro-Zucker, Daily Freeman
KINGSTON >> A Kerhonkson man accused of fatally shooting a friend’s dog in the head has been indicted for animal cruelty by an Ulster County grand jury, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Matthew Miller, 30, of 28 Baker Road, Kerhonkson, was indicted July 29 for aggravated animal cruelty, a felony under the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law. Miller surrendered to authorities on March 14, the Ulster County SPCA said at the time.
Miller allegedly shot a dog named Ivan in the head. Authorities have not offered a motive.
The remains of the dog, which belonged to a visiting friend, were removed from the home on March 7.
The Ulster County Sheriff’s Office and Ulster County Humane Law Division returned to Miller’s home on March 13 and removed three more dogs that were living in squalor, according to the SPCA.
Initially, Miller also was charged with the misdemeanors of failure to provide proper sustenance to an impounded animal and criminal possession of a weapon.
At the time of Miller’s arrest, Ulster County SPCA Executive Director Adam Saunders called the case “truly unacceptable”. (Freeman 8/6/14)
Accord man arrested on drugs, weapons charges
ACCORD >> Members of the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (URGENT) arrested an Accord man on drugs and weapons charges at his home on Friday.
Police said Richard “Ricky” Ronda, 36, was allegedly selling cocaine in the Accord area and when officers searched Ronda’s home at 4685 Route 209 in Accord, found marijuana, fentanyl, electronic scale, drug cutting agents and two guns, one of which was stolen.
Ronda was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, three counts of criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of stolen property, all felonies.
He also was charged with two counts of criminal use of drug paraphernalia and two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, both misdemeanors, and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.
Ronda was arraigned in Rochester Town Court and sent to the Ulster County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond bail. (Freeman 7/26/14)
• DWI: Steven M. Praser, 53, of Kerhonkson, was arrested by state police at Wawarsing on U.S. Route 209 at 10:56 p.m. Sunday on misdemeanor charges of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content exceeding 0.08 percent and drunken driving. He was released with tickets for Rochester Town Court. (Freeman 8/11/14)
• DWI: Sean E. Dennis, 25, of Kerhonkson, was charged by state police in Ulster with drunken driving and operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content exceeding 0.08 percent, both misdemeanors, Saturday at 5:45 a.m. on Cherrytown Road. Dennis was also charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, a felony, and was released to a third party. (Freeman 7/28/14)
• DWI: Alexander J. Seaman, 22, of High Falls, was arrested by state police at Wawarsing on County Route 6 at 1:08 a.m. Friday and was charged with drunken driving and driving with a blood-alcohol content exceeding 0.08 percent, both misdemeanors. Seaman was released with a ticket for Rochester Town Court. (Freeman 7/19/14)