Shandaken March 5 town meeting

This week, at the town of Shandaken's regular monthly board meeting: The continuing saga of the Bridge Street Bridge, flood mitigation, Pine Hill applies for historic district status, supervisor Rob Stanley gets into the marriage business, plans for new info kiosks featuring art by Dave Channon, and more.

New Phoenicia Water District Grievance Procedure

Prior to its regular meeting, the town board held a hearing on a proposed amendment of the grievance procedures in the Phoenicia Water District Bylaws. The hearing was over in less than 15 minutes with little discussion.

Under new procedures passed by the board, a property owner has 60 days to file a written complaint about a water bill with the town clerk/tax collector. If there are no leaks, the meter will be removed and temporarily replaced while the meter is sent for testing. If the meter is recording more than the actual flow, the water district will bear all the testing and meter replacement costs, and will credit some money back to the property owner. If the meter tests as recording less than the actual flow, or as “accurate,” the property owner will pay all expenses of the test as well as any unpaid water fees due to the faulty meter.

Terry Bernardo at the Shandaken Town meeting: Photo by Rusty Mae MooreTerry Bernardo at the Shandaken Town meeting: Photo by Rusty Mae MooreChair of Ulster County Legislature Visits Shandaken

Terry Bernardo, of the Chair of the Ulster County Legislature, attended the board meeting.

Town councilman Vincent Bernstein told Bernardo that it was vital to get the Bridge Street Bridge in Phoenicia reopened. The bridge has been closed since it was damaged in the Irene floods last fall.

“Can we bank on your help?” he asked Bernardo.

Councilman Alfie Higley echoed Bernstein's plea for getting the bridge reopened.

“We really need it by summer," he said. "Cars don’t go in [to Phoenicia], I’ve seen it myself.” 

Bernardo assured everyone that she would do what she could.

Helen Morelli, a longtime resident of Phoenicia, asked Bernardo about the sale of Golden Hill Health Care Facility by Ulster County. Bernardo said that she is on the Board of the Local Development Corporation (LDC) which has been set up to arrange the sale of Golden Hill.

"Once it’s sold, it is sold,” said Bernardo.

Morelli responded, “I thought the legislature would be more protective of the residents of the area.”

Bernardo said that she puts out a daily news summary to update legislators, and will gladly send it to interested people who contact her.

Presentation By Flood Mitigation Expert

The Shandaken Area Flood Assessment and Remediation Initiative (SAFARI) hired the consulting firm Tetra Tech EM Inc. to help create a flood mitigation plan. Cynthia Bianco of Tetra Tech attended the board meeting to discuss the process.

Bianco told attendees that having a flood mitigation plan in place would help reduce flood insurance premiums. She said that a draft of the plan would be done in October.

Helen Morelli said that flood insurance on her rental property in Phoenicia had gone from $392 a year to $3,000 since Irene. She said AllState has now announced that homeowners insurance will not be available in the area. [Editor's note: We haven't confirmed this. We will call AllState and ask, but in the meantime, if any readers have any communications from AllState they can share with us, please email us at [email protected].]

“How will the plan affect the people in the area?” Morelli asked.

Bianco said that one result of the plan would be to develop “a more sustainable and disaster-resistant community.” She also said Shandaken would become compliant with the CRS (Community Rating System), which would lead to lower insurance premiums. The National Flood Insurance Program will review the plan when it is written.

The board discussed the issue of how to help owners of land that is in danger of being flooded. Buyouts of the owners of property in the flood plain are one option. A member of the public pointed out that buyouts reduce the tax base.

Stanley said that this issue was already under discussion in SAFARI.

“Buyouts become public land," Stanley said. "Shandaken has enough public land already."

Another option to help people is to elevate their buildings so that they are two feet above the expected flood level.

Bianco handed out a printed PowerPoint presentation titled “Town of Shandaken Flood Mitigation Plan,” and a questionnaire on “Town of Shandaken Flood Preparedness and Planning.” This is a ten-page questionnaire that asks each person about their flood preparedness. Tetra Tech is seeking to have it filled out by as many Shandaken residents as possible.

Pine Hill Applies for Historic District Status

A resolution passed unanimously to support an application for “Historic District” status for the hamlet of Pine Hill. Pine Hill’s application is addressed to the NYS Historic Preservation Office, and will be passed along to the National Registry of Historic Places of the National Park Service.

Its supporters hope that travelers to the Catskills will become more aware of Pine Hill as well as the Town of Shandaken if the application succeeds. The historic designation would put no restrictions on what property owners can do with their property.

Stanley Appointed Marriage Officer

The Town Board passed a resolution 3-1 to appoint Stanley as a marriage officer so that he could perform the marriage ceremony of Marie O'Donnell, the daughter of his secretary, and her fiancee Jennifer Sutherland.

Doris Bartlett, Higley, and Stanley supported the resolution. Councilman Jack Jordan was absent, and Bernstein abstained from voting.

When Stanley asked why Bernstein was not voting, he said, "For religious reasons."

Scenic Byway

Kathy Nolan asked the board when the revised Scenic Byway plan would be made public. Bartlett, who represents Shandaken on the Byway Collaborative Committee, said that the committee was making adjustments to the proposal, and that it should be ready by April.

Cellphone Progress in Shandaken

Stanley said that AT&T is now paying rent on the Glenbrook cell tower to the Town of Shandaken, although the tower is not yet operational.

T-Mobile has applied to place equipment on the tower at Highmount. Stanley reported that T-Mobile is also negotiating with Mariner’s Towers, which owns the Glenbrook Tower.

Warm Response to Plea for Verizon Extender Volunteers

Higley read Captain Rich Muellerieile’s Ambulance Service Report, which said that the ambulance service had been contacted by over 30 individuals and businesses granting use of their Verizon network extenders for emergency access.

Higley said that this service has already been used in the field during a critical cardiac call. Updates on the Verizon extenders are available at the Shandaken Ambulance website.

Dave Channon Contracted as Kiosk Artist

Shandaken has received a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Smart Growth Grant to place information kiosks in the hamlets of Phoenicia, Shandaken, Big Indian and Pine Hill. Artist Dave Channon has been engaged by the Town Board to create the kiosks.

Each kiosk will have eight panels, providing information on the areas around the kiosks.

“We are casting a wide net to catch information from people in schools, churches, businesses, sports, museums, libraries, artists, musicians, spiritual groups and every organization possible.” said Channon.

Channon previously created the tourist informational kiosk for the DEC in Mount Tremper. He will also coordinate the Kiosk Committee, and asks that people interested in the kiosk project get in touch with him.

Flood Reconstruction News

Stanley said that the Ulster County Executive’s office has informed him that the Oliverea Road bridge will be opened in the next two weeks, and that an engineering firm will report on its recommendations for the Bridge Street Bridge in Phoenicia soon. The report will be forwarded to the town for discussion.

The Town of Shandaken has received a portion of over $3.5 million in claims due from the federal government for bridge and highway flood damage repairs. More work is still to be done, and the Town Board has authorized the purchase of an excavator for use in remaining flood recovery work.

Next Meeting

The next Town Board Meeting will be Monday, April 2 at 7pm.

Watershed Post correspondent Rusty Mae Moore is also the owner of Pine Hill Books in Pine Hill.