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Chester considers sports participation on out-of-school teams – Costs could shift completely to parentsBy Linda Smith Hancharick
Chester — The Chester School District is considering changes to its athletic participation policy.
According to the school’s current policy, a student may, with approval from the district, participate on a neighboring school’s team on behalf of Chester Academy in a sport that Chester does not offer.
The district is responsible for providing a uniform; league, section, or statewide competition fees; and the required physical examination. The player’s family pays all other expenses, including supplies and equipment, transportation to practices and games, insurance, and coaches.
A new policy proposed for the district would require a player’s family to cover all costs associated with participating in the sport: fees, insurance, transportation, supplies, equipment, uniforms, officials’ fees, and the physical exam. The player will have to retain a New York state-certified coach. And parents would be required to apply in writing to the superintendents of both Chester and the host school requesting participation in the sport.
Last year, one Chester Academy student asked to participate on another high school’s swim team. Chester does not offer swimming, and the student has a physical disability that prevents her from participating in high-impact sports. The district approved a “swim team of one.” The girl’s parents, Dina and Tim Simpson, incurred $2,300 in expenses, while the district paid $800 to cover the league fees, the uniform, and the physical.
This was not the first time a Chester Academy student has played for the Hambletonians on another school’s team. According the board member Mary Luciana, four students ran track a few years ago on John S. Burke Catholic’s team.
“I’m not sure why the policy is being revised,” Tim Simpson told the school board. “This was very beneficial to my step-daughter. This is very beneficial for a small district to have.”
Board president John Pasichnyk said that if the policy is revised, it would not preclude Simpson’s daughter from swimming next year. Since the Simpsons are making the request now, the policy change wouldn’t affect them since it wouldn’t be implemented until next school year.
“I know costs are an issue,” Tim Simpson said. “But I understand things are in place for a wrestling team. It’s not less than five digits to get that in place. I think (the policy) should be left in place for the benefit of the students. We took on the lion’s share of the costs. It’s not like 10, 15, 20 students participate. It won’t be a burden to the district, especially when you’re adding a wrestling program.”
The Simpsons had several supporters in the audience. Resident Diane Mancuso asked why the board was revising the policy. “Policies are periodically reviewed and revised,” Pasichnyk told her. “That’s the job of the board.”
Mancuso persisted. “Why are you reviewing it at this time?” she asked. “Students in the past benefited. Eight hundred dollars seems like a minimal cost.” Marilyn Liscinski, who recently joined the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee for the 2007-08 school year, agreed. “If the school district is going to allow this, they should pay for it,” she said. “Budget for a certain number of students. There are so many overages in the budget. Allow money in the budget for this.”
Luciana agreed that paying for fees and uniforms has not been a hardship for the district. “This policy goes back to 1995,” said Luciana. “This has not been a financial hardship on the district. It is looking personal because of the timing of everything. I think we should check with our lawyer.”
Pasichnyk agreed. “We don’t want to exclude kids,” he said. “I feel we should work with our attorney on this. I don’t want to put an unnecessary burden on parents or taxpayers. I hope to come back with something more palatable.”
To catch a thief – Police are looking for pellet-stealer
Chester — The Town of Chester Police are attempting to identify the subject pictured regarding the larceny of bags of wood pellets from a private residence on Kings Highway.
The thefts occurred on several different dates during the past few months from the same location before the subject was captured on camera.
Anyone who has any information about the thefts or who may be able to identify the suspect is asked to contact the Town of Chester Police Department at 469-7000.
Hearing on land annexation set for March 26
Chester — The town and village of Chester will hold a joint public hearing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, at town hall, located at 1786 Kings Highway.
The hearing is on a proposal to transfer 60 acres from the town to the village so that a developer, BT Holdings, can building one of the biggest housing projects proposed for Chester in recent years: 438 new residences at the town-village border west of the ShopRite plaza. The developer wants the village to agree to annex the land so that it can tap in to the village’s water and sewer systems.
Give and take – Hearings on land annexation beginBy Edie Johnson
Chester — A “mega-complex” of senior housing, condos, and townhouses proposed for the fields behind the ShopRite Plaza brought a standing-room-only crowd to town hall on Wednesday night.
The hearing was not about the development itself, but a proposal by the developer to transfer 68.3 acres of land from the town to the village of Chester in order to hook into the village’s sewer and water systems.
In a detailed Power Point presentation, Tim Miller and Associates, the land planning consultant for the project, made the presentation for Frank Nussbaum of Labrador Properties, whose family has owned the land for 23 years.
In all there are almost 70 acres, but most are in the town.
The senior housing portion includes two buildings with 50 units each on the west side of the property, fronting Route 17M. Twenty percent will be affordable housing. These “senior friendly” residences will be designed for the physically challenged.
The 338 attached townhouses and condos will be two- and three-story buildings of varying sizes dispersed throughout the 60-odd remaining acres of rolling hills. Amenities would include a pool, playground, fitness club, ponds, walking trails, and a picnic area with gazebo.
Miller said annexation makes sense — for efficiency, and for maximum benefit to the town and the public. Even Chester’s comprehensive plan, rewritten in 2003 and currently undergoing another review, mentioned the option of the village expanding outward into the town.
This project is good for “underused” land and meets needs of the village to offer low-income and senior housing, he said.
Because zoning is similar for both the town and village of Chester, he said, few zoning changes or variances would be required.
In the 2003 comprehensive plan, he said, this property “was rezoned as SR6 (residential high density), and it is one of only two parcels zoned in Chester as such. The Greens of Chester (proposed for Route 94) is the other.” The “aesthetic” will fit in with Chester’s rural/suburban look, with the residences very similar to the condos and townhouses located behind the Target store in Monroe, he said.
Nussbaum said the development will offer “a range of maintenance-free housing,” and “spur economic growth in the village” while also respecting “the natural character of the site.” It will bring over one-half billion dollars to Chester while bringing down costs in using only village services, instead of services from both the village and town.
n Public is doubtful
The public’s chief concerns were about the possible consequences of the project, including increased taxes, an overloaded school system, water shortages, excessive stormwater runoff, and traffic nightmares on Route 17M.
Chester school board representatives said that, when the comprehensive plan was designed, it included space for about 50 single-family homes on this property — not the 438 currently proposed. The comprehensive plan included additional space in the school for 500 to 700 more students. This new project, they said, would “be a real hit to this school district.”
Several residents suggested that, because families with children contribute most to increased school taxes, it would be better to reverse the ratio and make 70 percent of the units senior housing and only 30 percent townhouses. Another resident revisited promises made when the Whispering Hills development was being built. “People came in as buyers,” he said. “Now they buy and then rent them to others. This brings in a different quality of person.”
When it came down to dollars and cents, several residents doubted the estimates of revenue the project would bring to the town and village. “Town homes are taxed at a different rate than homes,” one resident said. “In the end, those who have homes will pay for those in the town homes.”
William Tully, who was town supervisor when this project was first proposed, said an independent agency should be hired to analyze the income the project would bring in. He also suggested side-by-side analyses of the project — if the land were annexed, and if it were not. He added that the town has no zoning provision for condominium housing.
Skeptical about the proposed tax benefits, one resident said, “When I came here there were only 3,000 residents and I paid $500 in taxes. Now they keep saying more people and more business will lower them, but they just keep going up.”
Still others feared that the traffic backups on 17M will worsen. One woman complained it already takes her three to four minutes to exit her driveway.
Other concerns voiced by the public included what would happen to stormwter runoff, with a project that will include nearly 50 percent impervious surface. Residents also questioned the advisability of having senior housing mixed in with family housing. They wondered if a lot of “rugrats” would be jumping into the same pool with the elderly, and suggested designs take that into account.
Tracy Schuh of the Preservation Collective, a local environmental advocacy group, said this project had not in fact been planned for in the last comprehensive plan. If this project were approved, she said, the town stands to lose a tremendous amount of money in parkland fees.
The issue of the day, however was water — the developer’s primary need. The town cannot provide water at present, but the village can. While the village’s supply is still pumping at the same rate it always has, some residents are not reassured.
“Water is important,” one woman said. “I know. I had to cut down trees.”
Another added that she could not remember a summer when her water was not rationed. Many felt that if the developer has to scramble for water and downsize the project, that will be fine with them.
Ted Talmadge, who owns a large farm adjacent to the property, said he and his family have farmed there for 50 years. He said he has watched water drain from the bottom of the Blackmeadow aquifer over the years.
“Sooner or later it’s going to run out,” he said. “I don’t want my cows to run out of water. They can’t just go elsewhere to get it.”
When Chester rezoned its farmlands, converting them from one- to three-acre zoning, it degraded and devalued the farms, he said. He added that this is not the first time buyers have tried to have parcels of this land annexed to the village in a bid for water.
More people, more taxes
The public says it wants to be informed — to see maps, charts, and comparisons. They want lists of “what is in it for the developer, for the town, for the village, and for themselves.” Mostly, they vented their frustration that “nobody’s taxes go down, but we keep getting more people.”
This joint town and village public hearing was only the first of what will be a long series of hearings as the BT Holdings project develops. The questions taken now will become the outline for an environmental review the applicant will have to address. In response the developer will either revise the design or offer mitigations to compensate for its effect on the environment.
The town awaits a formula that will gives the town something substantial in return for its 60 acres. Supervisor Steve Neuhaus said he will go to great lengths to get the input of all interested parties, but said the town should not give up a huge chunk of prime property without getting fair return. He is developing a list of interested individuals who want to be put on his e-mail list for any news or meetings related to this project. When reminded that some people still do not get e-mail, he said he would also assemble a postal list to reach out to anyone wanting to receive notices about relevant news or meetings. The town and village building inspectors have files and maps that are open to the public. Maps and information are also provided at http://www.labrador-chester.com.
chester — West Avenue in Chester will reopen sometime this year — but a more exact date remains elusive for the time being.
The New York State Department of Transportation is doing major work on the State Route 17 overpass at West Avenue in the village. It is one small part of the project to transform the state highway into Interstate 86.
A completion date will not be set until the state “gets into the meat of the job,” said Chester Mayor Phil Valastro.
“Once [the state] gets going, we don’t know what they’re going to find,” he said, noting the unpredictability of construction work.
For example, he said, the state found that the new footings for the bridge have to be routed around the village’s water main.
“Right now we’re looking at the fall,” said Valastro.
Urban Growth Means Lower Taxes — and Other Myths
by Donella H. Meadows
Myths: This development will give us jobs, environmental protection will hurt the economy and growth is good for us. If we’ve heard those arguments once, we’ve heard them a thousand times, stated with utmost certainty and without the slightest evidence. That’s because there is no evidence. Or rather, there is plenty of evidence, most of which disproves these deeply held pro-growth beliefs.
Here is a short summary of some of the evidence. For more, see Eben Fodor’s new book “Better, Not Bigger,” which lists and debunks the following “Twelve Big Myths of Growth.”
Myth 1: Growth provides needed tax revenues. Check out the tax rates of cities larger than yours. There are a few exceptions but the general rule is: the larger the city, the higher the taxes. That’s because development requires water, sewage treatment, road maintenance, police and fire protection, garbage pickup — a host of public services. Almost never do the new taxes cover the new costs. Fodor says, “the bottom line on urban growth is that it rarely pays its own way.”
Myth 2: We have to grow to provide jobs. But there’s no guarantee that new jobs will go to local folks. In fact they rarely do. If you compare the 25 fastest growing cities in the U.S. to the 25 slowest growing, you find no significant difference in unemployment rates. Says Fodor: “Creating more local jobs ends up attracting more people, who require more jobs.”
Myth 3: We must stimulate and subsidize business growth to have good jobs. A “good business climate” is one with little regulation, low business taxes, and various public subsidies to business. A study of areas with good and bad business climates (as ranked by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the business press) showed that states with the best business ratings actually have lower growth in per capita incomes than those with the worst. Fodor: “This surprising outcome may be due to the emphasis placed by good-business-climate states on investing resources in businesses rather than directly in people.”
Myth 4: If we try to limit growth, housing prices will shoot up. Sounds logical, but it isn’t so. A 1992 study of 14 California cities, half with strong growth controls, half with none, showed no difference in average housing prices. Some of the cities with strong growth controls had the most affordable housing, because they had active low-cost housing programs. Fodor says the important factor in housing affordability is not so much house cost as income level, so development that provides mainly low-paying retail jobs makes housing unaffordable.
Myth 5: Environmental protection hurts the economy. According to a Bank of America study the economies of states with high environmental standards grew consistently faster than those with weak regulations. The Institute of Southern Studies ranked all states according to 20 indicators of economic prosperity (gold) and environmental health (green) and found that they rise and fall together. Vermont ranked 3rd on the gold scale and first on the green, while Louisiana ranked 50th on both.
Myth 6: Growth is inevitable. There are constitutional limits to the ability of any community to put walls around itself. But dozens of municipalities have capped their population size or rate of growth by legal regulations based on real environmental limits and the real costs of growth to the community.
Myth 7: If you don’t like growth, you’re a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) or an ANTI (against everything) or a gangplank-puller (right after you get aboard). These accusations are meant more to shut people up than to examine their real motives. Says Fodor, “A NIMBY is more likely to be someone who cares enough about the future of his or her community to get out and protect it.”
Myth 8: Most people don’t support environmental protection. Polls and surveys have disproved this belief for decades; Fodor cites examples from Oregon, Los Angeles, Colorado, and the U.S. as a whole. The fraction of respondents who say environmental quality is more important than further economic growth almost always tops 70 percent.
Myth 9: We have to grow or die. This statement is tossed around lightly and often, but if you hold it still and look at it, you wonder what it means. Fodor points out, quoting several economic studies, that many kinds of growth cost more than the benefits they bring. So the more growth, the poorer we get. That kind of growth will kill us.
Myth 10: Vacant land is just going to waste. Studies from all over show that open land pays far more — often twice as much — in property taxes than it costs in services. Cows don’t put their kids in school; trees don’t put potholes in the roads. Open land absorbs floods, recharges aquifers, cleans the air, harbors wildlife, and measurably increases the value of property nearby. We should pay it for to be there.
Myth 11: Beauty is no basis for policy. One of the saddest things about municipal meetings is their tendency to trivialize people who complain that a proposed development will be ugly. Dollars are not necessarily more real or important than beauty. In fact beauty can translate directly into dollars. For starters, undeveloped surroundings can add $100,000 to the price of a home.
Myth 12: Environmentalists are just another special interest. A developer who will directly profit from a project is a special interest. A citizen with no financial stake is fighting for the public interest, the long term, the good of the whole community.
Maybe one reason these myths are proclaimed so often and loudly is that they are so obviously doubtful. The only reason to keep repeating something over and over is to keep others from thinking about it. You don’t have to keep telling people that the sun rises in the east.
Donella H. Meadows is director of the Sustainability Institute and an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.
Chester appoints ethics committee
Chester — The Chester Town Board recently appointed five members of the public to sit on its ethics committee, which is now meeting to organize and set up procedures.
The members include: JoeAnn Drake, Edward Stoddard, Robert Montarro, James Brooks, and Robert Klein.
“The ethics committee has been discussed for over a decade in the Town of Chester,” town Supervisor Steve Neuhaus said. “It is one of the most important boards to maintain the highest level of honesty in government. I am proud that the town board has worked with me to make this happen so early in my administration.”
He said the committee members “represent a wide spectrum of political, geographic and professional backgrounds. I thank them for their willingness to serve and wish them the best in their important roles.”
For more information call Neuhaus at 469-7000 ext. 2.
Voters to decide Tuesday on $971,300 library budget
chester — This Tuesday, voters in the Warwick Valley School District vote on the Albert Wisner Public Library’s proposed $971,300 budget. This year’s budget is up about 6.4 percent from last year’s.
What this means is an increase for taxpayers in both Warwick and Chester. Town of Warwick residents in the Warwick School District would pay a rate of $2.23 per $1,000 of assessed value, up 15 cents from the current budget. Chester citizens who live in the Warwick School District would see their tax rate increase to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, up four cents per $1,000 over the current year’s budget.
A Warwick homeowner whose home is assessed at $50,000 would pay $111.50 per year for the library services. A homeowner whose home is assessed at $75,000 would pay $174.25 for the 2008-09 tax year.
A Chester homeowner with an assessment of $200,000 would pay $100 per year for the library. A homeowner with an assessment of $300,000 would pay $150,000.
Two trustee positions are also up for grabs. Regina Wittosch and Jeffrey Lever are running unopposed. Wittosch is a local realtor who has served on the library board for more than 25 years. Lever was appointed last year to fill a vacancy on the board. He is a retired battalion chief of the New York City Fire Department.
The vote takes place at the library, 2 Colonial Ave., from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Those requesting an absentee ballot may apply for one at the library until April 7 as long as they are picking it up in person.
For more information, log on to the library’s Web site at http://www.albertwisnerlibrary.org.
Make money — recession or not
Chester —Dare 2 Dream Partner of Orange County and the Tri-State Leaders, will present “A Super Saturday Event” at 5 p.m. on two Saturdays, April 5 and 19, at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Chester.
Participants will learn how to earn residual income from home, part time, in a recession-proof industry. The featured guest speaker is a success coach and global expansion leader, and one of the Top Producing Tri-State Market Leaders.
For directions to the Holiday Inn Hotel call 469-3000. For information about the events, call Channabel Latham-Morris at 914-772-8320, Lyneth Whitley at 347-417-2569 or Gloria Washington-Mines at 986-2277.
Chester — A citizens group that recently formed in Chester to combat substance abuse among the young will hold its second meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9, at the Chester Town Hall, located at 1786 Kings Highway.
The group’s organizer is Michelle Deshler, a parent who says the group aims to provide a safe environment where parents can learn about the substance abuse problems that are getting more serious in the community.
The first forum, held at the Chester firehouse, brought out approximately 40 parents.
In a letter to the editor published in The Chronicle last week, Deshler wrote:
“It was brought to our attention that parents are reluctant to attend meetings at the school because they felt if they were there and/or asked questions their child may have been thought to be involved with substance abuse. It was immediately established that there would be no school or police bashing at the meeting. A parent involved in the community has experience on running this type of meeting and agreed to be moderator…
“The issue of drugs and alcohol is affecting this community so much because we are a small community and when people hear names and see the faces of the youth so severely affected they are no longer able to say ‘not my child.’”
For more information, call Deshler at 469-6153.
Shared services survey points to consolidation – Mayor has doubts about surveyBy Pamela Chergotis
Chester — A survey taken among Chester residents last fall shows support for consolidating services between the town and village.
Merging police departments got the most support, at over 83 percent. Other services that got support for a possible merger included animal control, the justice courts, and the highway departments.
“I am not surprised by the results,” town Supervisor Steve Neuhaus stated in a press release. “Taxpayers in both the village and town … are frustrated with high taxes. If there is a way for us as public officials to save taxpayer monies and still provide excellent service why wouldn’t we work to share services?”
Village Mayor Phil Valastro said he is less encouraged by the results. The 400-plus residents who took the survey cannot be considered a representative example of a population of 17,000, he said. The number should have been closer to 1,700, he added.
Every taxpayer, including businesses and residences, was sent a postcard explaining how to go online and take the survey. Senior citizens and others without computers had come into village hall angry that the survey was offered online, Valastro said. Even online, he said, the link was incorrect at first. He also took exception to the mailing out of postcards, which are more likely to be tossed unread into the trash.
Neuhaus said paper copies of the survey were available upon request at the town and village clerks’ offices. Valastro said he is not knocking the committee that ordered the survey, but only the company that produced it.
And he has not ruled out the idea of consolidating services. “Everything for me is dollars and cents,” he said. “I have to look at the figures.” But the survey itself was “not enough to push me to say yes.”
A merger between the Highlands and Highland Falls police departments saved only $112,00, he said — “not a lot of money at all.”
Neuhaus, a village resident, describes himself as a “passionate” supporter of consolidation because he believes it will prove a real cost-saver. He said the rate of response was good for this type of survey, and that in any case no consolidation will happen unless the public votes for it. A public forum will be held in May, giving residents a chance to ask questions and voice their concerns. If the response is positive, the town will ask for a referendum.
“We have an obligation to save people money,” he said. Village and town taxes went up 20 percent last year, he noted, “and if the trend continues, people will be forced to give up their homes.”
The village has for years been planning to build a new police station, he said, and the town needs one too. Building projects like these will cost millions of dollars, he said, and added, “Who’s going to pay for that?”
He said he is keeping three full-time positions in the town police department vacant in the hope a consolidation will happen. The village in the meantime is hiring officers, he noted. For more information call Neuhaus at 469-7000 ext. 2. The survey results are available on the town’s Web site http://www.thetownofchester.org.
By Judy RifeTimes Herald-RecordApril 04, 2008
CHESTER — Commuters shouldn’t panic when they get to the Chester park-and-ride one morning and discover, gasp, there are no buses waiting for them.
Short Line will start parking its buses April 20 in a fenced lot at Salson Logistics on Route 94, less than a half-mile away. The park-and-ride will still be the first stop for these New York City- and Westchester County-bound buses, so commuters who park in Chester will continue to have that coveted first choice of seats.
“We didn’t push them out,” said Chester Village Mayor Philip Valastro. “They came to us and told us they had found another place.”
Short Line and the village entered into a shotgun marriage of sorts in August, shortly before the state Department of Transportation and Orange County eliminated $102-a-year permits at the park-and-rides.
The DOT, worried that free parking would overwhelm the network, asked Short Line to move the 15 buses that it has always parked overnight in Monroe to create another 50 spaces for commuters at that lot.
The move was easier said than done, and the village, after a little nudging from the county and the state, agreed to a temporary arrangement at the 11th hour on the stub of a dead-end street next to the park-and-ride — barely enough space to park the buses and for Short Line drivers to park their personal cars.
In return, Short Line, which had paid the county $9,000 a year to park in Monroe, agreed to pay the village $1,500 a month to park in Chester until the end of year. Then, the agreement was extended at $2,000 a month until March 31 — and now, until April 20, when bus drivers next bid on new routes.
“You have no idea how hard it is to find a place to park buses,” said Christine Falzone, director of sales and marketing at Short Line. “We were very appreciative of their support. They’ve done a wonderful job of plowing snow and maintaining the lot in difficult circumstances.”
Originally, Short Line had hoped to obtain approval from the Town of Chester Planning Board to use its 50 acres in the Tetz Industrial Park, but the company’s application is still pending. Short Line/Coach USA paid $2 million for the property in 2006 and plans to moves its offices and bus garage there from Mahwah, N.J.
But the resulting complaints about idling buses from nearby residents made Valastro leery about continuing the temporary arrangement, and Falzone said the company didn’t want to prolong an awkward situation for the community.
Now, space will be rented from Salson, another transportation company, at the same price until Short Line can move into the industrial park. Buses will be parked inside the new garage to reduce the potential for complaints about noise and emissions.
Valastro’s new concern is overcrowding at the 89-space park-and-ride, built as part of the DOT’s upgrading the Route 17 interchange to Interstate 86 standards.
“We think the park-and-ride is a good thing, and we’re already working with the county and the state on an expansion,” said Valastro.
State to audit Town of Chester at supervisor’s request
CHESTER – When Steven Neuhaus took over as Town of Chester supervisor in January, he quickly learned that over three dozen residents were overtaxed on their property tax bills by $1,000.
The former town councilman wanted to get to the bottom of the problem so he asked state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to audit the town’s books. Now, he received word that the state agency would take a look at Chester’s financials.
“It was a mathematical problem, but unless you really go through a complete audit, there is no way to tell for sure that it hasn’t been corrected,” he said.
Neuhaus spoke to every homeowner who received a bill with an error and wants to be sure the problem isn’t more widespread.
Village of Chester to see 3.81 percent tax increaseBy Pamela Chergotis
Chester — Property owners in the Village of Chester will see a 3.81 percent increase in their tax rate next year.
The rate for 2008-09 is $12 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. That means the owner of a house worth $200,000 will pay $2,400 in village tax next year. The current rate is $11.56 for every $1,000 of assessed value.
The village board passed the $6.6 million dollar budget after a public hearing on Monday night.
That the village was able to keep the rate increase low is a tribute to all of its departments — from police, to highway, to water, according to Mayor Phil Valastro. Everybody stepped up to the plate to keep costs down, he said.
“It was teamwork,” he said. “Every department had cuts.”
He pointed out that village employees are affected by the same increases as everyone else who lives here.
The rising cost of fuel and other necessities has hit the village hard, Valastro acknowledged, and has accounted for much of last year’s comparatively hefty increase of 29 percent. Valastro said that was his first budget, admitting he was caught “like a deer in the headlights” when confronted with the reality of rising expenses.
This year’s modest tax increase comes at a cost, with the village to cut back on road maintenance. It’s not just the cost of the gas that fuels village cars that has gone up, but also the cost of everything else made from petroleum, like tires, blacktop, and chemicals to treat village water. Village officials said crack sealant, a petroleum product used to repair road fissures, more than doubled in four years, from $7 per gallon in 2003 to $15 per gallon in 2007.
“The huge jump was last year,” Valastro said.
Trustee Jack Deshler said the roads in most need — Main, Maple, and Vista — will be repaired in the next year. The village will use a less expensive “slurry seal” — emulsified asphalt, fine aggregate, mineral filler, and water — to fix minor cracks.
In addition to expenses, revenues too have been affected by nationwide trends. Cathy Richards, the village treasurer, said the mortgage tax is down 18 percent from the previous year.
Yet, revenue as a whole is expected to increase by more than $1 million next year, or 29 percent. Along with departmental penny-pinching, the village is getting help from new commercial development: the Lowe’s Home Improvement Store now being built on the site of the old Chester Hide & Skin plant, a branch of Provident Bank going up on Brookside Avenue/Route 17M, and major alterations being made at Key Bank.
Also, the village carried more of a surplus into the current year than was the case with last year’s budget, Valastro said. Raising fees for building permits last year, bringing them into line with fees charged by neighboring communities, has also boosted the revenue for the village.
Charts distributed with the village budget show a steady increase in spending in all areas over the past five years. The biggest increases are in employee benefits and the police department, with the latter by far the biggest chunk of the budget. Police expenses rose by more than half a million from 2005 to 2007. But from this year to next, police expenses have held steady, and have even decreased slightly.
Voters will decide on $950K school building project – District says it will cost taxpayers nothingBy Linda Smith Hancharick
Chester — Question: When does a $950,000 building improvement project cost nothing to district taxpayers? Answer: When the state picks up the tab with a combination of Building Aid and EXCEL aid.
That is the projection from the Chester Union Free School District. When voters go to the polls May 20 to decide on a school budget, they will also decide on a project that qualifies for EXCEL (Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning) Aid, a $2.6 billion state program approved in 2006 for specific projects within districts.
Chester will receive $326,800 in EXCEL Aid for approved projects. The remainder of the funds, according to Erin Brennan, the district’s business official, for the $950,000 project would come from New York State Building Aid.
“The Building Aid is based on the total project cost,” Brennan said. “Chester receives 65.6 percent of the cost of projects in aid from the state. In this case, the state will pay $623,200 in Building Aid. The remainder of the project, the local share of $326,800, will be covered by the EXCEL Aid that has already been awarded to Chester, leaving the taxpayers with no cost at all.”
Projects that qualify for EXCEL aid must fall within one of the following categories: Education technology, health and safety, accessibility, physical capacity expansion, school construction, or energy. Brennan said the district’s main focus is to replace the electrical switchgear equipment at the elementary school, which was built in 1974. That plus the generator to run it would eat up all of the EXCEL aid allotted to Chester. The other projects being considered include improvements to security at both Chester Academy and Chester Elementary School, replacing main entry doors and locks, improving emergency lighting at the elementary school, replacing sidewalks at Chester Academy, and building a storage addition adjacent to Chester Academy.
The district must get voter approval on capital projects, Brennan said.
If approved, the district will take out a bond for 15 years to cover the $623,200. This money will be paid back each year based with Building Aid.
The $326,800 that will eventually be paid with EXCEL Aid will first be gotten through a one-year bond anticipation note. Local banks bid on the short-term bond anticipation note.
The EXCEL Aid comes through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. It was approved in the 2006 state budget.
“The state is offering this aid to districts to make capital improvements with little or no cost to the taxpayers,” said Helen Anne Livingston, superintendent of Chester school. “We would like to take advantage of this opportunity and take care of items not covered in the last building project,” she said in a release.
As Chester crafts its school budget, requests come in
Chester — Let’s get cooking. This is one possible activity being considered by the Chester School Board as an official club in the district. As the board builds its 2008-09 school budget, residents and teachers make their recommendations before the proposed budget is released later this month.
Rebecca Nodhturft is a home and careers teacher at Chester Academy. She is also the coordinator of the ad hoc cooking club, a club she hopes will become a bona fide district club funded in this year’s budget.
“Cooking club allows the kids to apply many academic skills to real life situations,” said Nodhturft, noting the club combines science, math, social studies, and language arts all while learning to cook and eat healthfully.
In addition to applying those academic skills, the objectives of the club include applying cooperative behaviors inside and outside of the classroom, helping students build greater self confidence and self esteem through mentoring, and to promote a healthy lifestyle.
“I see what they eat every day,” said Nodhturft. “We try to educate them on nutrition when they cook. We include lots of fruits and vegetables.”
She would also like to get athletes involved so she can teach them how food affects their bodies.
She said the club offers the opportunity for older students to mentor younger ones.
“This is a mentoring opportunity for the high school kids,” Nodhturft said. “It develops leadership qualities and holds kids accountable.”
Her goal for next year is to develop a core group of high school students to develop cultural cooking labs and to participate with the middle school students. The following year, she is hoping to organize and compete in cooking competitions with other local schools.
Currently, Nodhturft receives no compensation for her cooking club work. She is asking that the school board include $780 in the budget to cover the food budget for her 26 planning and cooking sessions.
“I’m very good with stretching a food budget,” she said.
“I think this is a great idea,” said board member Mary Luciana. “Maybe the club could do the cooking for the modified athletic dinner.”
Superintendent Helen Ann Livingston liked the idea of the club, too.
“This club is the ultimate of integrating all academic areas,” she said. “I know the value of something like this. Make it a regular club.”
Enrollment in the club, which has 14 students each session, is open to all.
Alarmed by drug use among the young, Chester parents take actionBy Linda Smith Hancharick
CHESTER — “I always respect my enemy,” New York State Trooper Steven V. Nevel told Chester parents last week.
He was talking about the neighborhood pusher.
“Drug dealers aren’t stupid,” said Nevel, the school and community outreach coordinator out of Troop “F” in Middletown. “They are good business people. As everything in the country goes up — gas, food, and other essentials — drug prices are going down. They have a product to move, too. They are willing to cut the price to move it. Then, when the demand gets better, they’ll raise the prices.”
Nevel came to the Chester Town Hall last Wednesday at the request of some parents who want to be vigilant about this threat to their kids. They want to know what to look for. Just like the technology that kids use every day, like cell phones and iPods, drugs and their manner of use have changed too.
Michele Deshler is a concerned parent who helped organize the gathering.
“We just want to help educate parents on what’s going on,” she said. “My father says it takes a community to raise children, and I believe that.”
She was surprised by Nevel’s revelations. He talked of “pharm parties” and “blunts,” things she and most of those in attendance never heard of.
“Lock up your prescription drugs,” Nevel told parents. “Kids are getting high from their parents’ medicine cabinets. Ever hear of pharm parties? Kids get a punch bowl, dump the pills in the bowl, and just take them. Randomly. They don’t know what they are taking.”
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise, Nevel said. Kids think it is safer to use prescription drugs than street drugs. But the truth is that taking drugs not prescribed for you or mixing drugs can have devastating consequences.
Blunts are marijuana cigars. Kids cut open cigars, empty out the tobacco, and stuff them with pot.
Drugs on the ballfield
Steroids are big, too, Nevel said. And he doesn’t blame the big-name athletes like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
One kid at a gym told Nevel that it was his dad, not athletes, that pushed him into steroid use. “His dad told him he’s gotta get a scholarship or go into the Army,” Nevel said. Not wanting to go into the Army, the boy planned to take steroids until he got his scholarship — but Nevel said he might not be able to quit after that.
“Teenagers have very addictive personalities,” he said.
Athletes may stay away from drugs and alcohol to keep their bodies strong and healthy. But then, Nevel said, they see their friends indulge and still perform well on the field, so why not try it? And the first time they get home safely after drinking and driving, they feel more comfortable about doing it again.
Heroin overtakes crack
The good news is that cocaine and crack are not as big in this area as they used to be.
“Crack literally is a five-minute high,” Nevel said. “I’ve worked narcotics. An informant said crack was ten times better than the best sex she ever had. But you are always chasing that same high.”
The informant was an accountant and mother who tried crack once at a party and was immediately hooked. Her entire life changed. She lost her kids, her husband, and her job, Nevel said.
The bad news is that there is a lot of heroin out there, along with a new product called “cheese” — a mixture of black tar heroin and Tylenol cold medicine. It’s cheap — about $2 a pack — and available. Kids usually snort heroin or smoke it.
“Whatever is going on in the biggest city around you is coming to your area,” Nevel said.
But the biggest drug of choice can be found inside most homes — alcohol.
“They are hiding it in their water bottles,” Nevel said. “They are walking around school drinking alcohol from water bottles.”
“Kids think they are invincible,” said Mary Luciana, a parent and Chester Board of Education member. “That’s been since the dawn of time.”
So what can the community do?
“The community has to take it back from the kids,” Nevel said. “A lot of parents are in denial. Kids lie. We want to believe them. I have a 13-year-old daughter. I go through her room. We have a responsibility to our kids. One counselor said the problem is parents — they are not parenting anymore.”
He tips his hat to school resource officers, police officers who are in the school with them all day long and develop a rapport with kids. Kids feel comfortable with them, Nevel said, and when kids are comfortable, they talk. Opening up communication is vital, he said.
“Drugs are in the schools and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” he said. “Some kids are using them and some aren’t. Your kids know who they are. Listen to them. Pay attention.”
Debate over Chester school budget heats upBy Linda Smith Hancharick
Chester — Five revisions have been made to the preliminary draft of a 2008-09 Chester school budget so far. And with each passing school board meeting on the way to the budget being finalized, tensions rise and tempers flare.
The debate heated up last week after members of the public raised questions about what will be added to the budget, what will be cut, and the 8 percent raise the board gave to the superintendent of schools in March.
“Talk to anyone in Chester and they will tell you how special the elementary school is,” said Wendy Murray, a board member. “We’re providing something really special there.”
And that is why she refuses “in good conscience” to put out a budget that adds a new sport while cutting two teaching positions. “I can’t say to the public we’re cutting staff but there will be wrestling,” she said.
Murray and fellow board member Mary Luciana questioned those parts of the budget. “We’ve always tried to go across the board here,” Luciana said. “We are taking away two teachers and adding some other things. I have a problem with that. I could have sworn I was here to educate the children. First should be education.”
“I’m all for children,” said board president John Pasichnyk. “That’s why I ran for the board. “When you look at teachers’ salaries compared to a JV coach, there’s no comparison.”
Pasichnyk said the board is not putting wrestling first. By adding the wrestling program — not fully funding it, as was recommended by the Citizens Advisory Panel — amounts to 0.05 percent of the overall budget, he said.
Luciana said there were other options. “We’ve talked of cutting an administrator,” she said.
This fifth draft from Superintendent Helen Anne Livingston came at the board’s request to keep any increase to four percent. In order to do that, Livingston said, she had to cut staff.
“Budget four was crafted on numbers only,” Livingston said. “We tried to get it down to four percent. We had to cut positions.”
She said including staff cuts in this version of the budget was not easy for her, but that she wanted to meet the numbers the board had asked for.
“If you don’t think it was difficult for me to come and say we’ll cut an elementary school teacher, you’re wrong,” Livingston said. “That is my area of expertise.”
When the public had its turn to ask questions, sparks began to fly.
When Marilyn Liscinski, a former board member and a regular at school board meetings, asked how much state aid the district can expect, Livingston told her to “check the Web site. We don’t have it with us.”
The information wasn’t clear online either. The state’s budget Web site gave a different aid figure than that from a local senator. Erin Brennan, the district’s business official, later said the governor’s budget and the legislature’s budget usually do show different figures. He estimates that the district will receive $6,566,981 in state aid, an increase of 6 percent, or $427,315 over last year’s figure.
Chester resident Dottie Connolly said she took the staff cuts as a threat from the superintendent.
“The superintendent really thinks the only way to get the budget down is to reduce staff?” she asked. “The school board raised the bar on this budget when they gave the superintendent a $10,000 raise.”
Board vice-president Joan Donato explained her position on both the budget figures under discussion and her support of the superintendent’s raise. The latest budget with the staff cuts came about because the board wanted to limit the increase to 4 percent, she said.
“If you want a four percent increase, you have to cut staff,” said Donato. “If you want to keep the staff and add wrestling, we will have to have a 5 percent increase.”
She said she supported giving the superintendent a raise so that her salary was commensurate with what other similar districts offered. “It would have been more expensive to search for a new superintendent,” she said. “It is much more cost-effective to give the money to someone we felt was doing a fine job.”
“Isn’t that a little ridiculous?” said Jack Deshler, a Chester resident and village board member, referring to the raise. “Everybody cried about Eddie Diana getting a raise like that. There’s not a person out there today getting an 8 percent increase. Somewhere along the way, top people are going to have to swallow this. This town only has so much. The district can’t get bigger. We have to realize there is a limit.”
Resident and parent Michele Deshler agreed. “It would mean so much for the superintendent to take a six and a half percent increase instead of 8 percent,” she said. “I think that would speak volumes.”
The process was scheduled to continue on Thursday night as the board was to meet with its Citizens Advisory Committee on its way to finalizing a budget to present to the public for a vote on May 20. If voters turn down the budget and go to an austerity plan, the district would have to cut over $250,000 from the budget.
“We are trying to get the numbers down,” said Pasichnyk. “Things are going up. I sympathize with the taxpayers. I’m a taxpayer myself. Everyone is being squeezed. We want to do what’s best for the taxpayers. It would be nice if the board could come to a consensus.”
Loss of stone walls another worry for Laroe – Modern walls to be erected in three spotsBy Pamela Chergotis
Chester — Worry continues over the slow transformation of Laroe Road from quiet country lane to busy thoroughfare. Last year, some residents expressed shock at the removal of many ancient trees from the sides of the road, which is being widened and straightened to make the winding road safer. Last week, a local resident brought the road’s old stone walls to the attention of the Chester town board, concerned that they may soon be replaced with ugly modern ones.
Using a projector, Sheila Kern showed the board some photos she took along Laroe of an old stone wall. “A farmer put the stone wall there,” she said.
She also showed photos of a modern wall similar to the walls that the county plans to install on Laroe. She objected to this type of wall as “a quick fix.”
“A fake stone wall on a county road is unacceptable,” she said.
Kern said stone walls are unique to the Northeast, and are vital part of the area’s history and rural heritage. She noted that the University of Connecticut has a Stone Wall Initiative to preserve them. According to its Web site, the Initiative “promotes the appreciation, investigation, and conservation of stone walls … which are the closest thing New England has to classical ruins.”
The Orange County Department of Public Works is charge of the Laroe project, now in its eighth year. Most of that time has been spent getting approvals from Laroe’s property owners.
Last Friday the county approved spending $650,000 to continue work for another year, mostly to install three sections of wall along the four and a half miles of road under construction. County legislator Noel Spencer said the walls, each nine feet high, will shore up private property compromised during the work. In one case, the wall will prevent runoff from polluting a wetland, Spencer said.
Before the county approved the money, Kern asked the town board to intervene to stop the appropriation.
Town Supervisor Steve Neuhaus said he was sympathetic to her concern. But stopping the money would stop the project, which needs to go forward for safety reasons, he said.
“That road is of such poor quality,” said Neuhaus. “Part of the road gave way just last month. It looks like a testing ground for artillery.”
He said the hazards must be eliminated. “People have died on this road,” he said. “You can ask any of the cops.”
Brian Jarvis, the Town of Chester’s police chief, has called Laroe “the worst road we have in Chester.” In his first month with the department, in 1998, there were three accidents, each resulting in a death. And a teenager died in an accident on Laroe as recently as 2001.
However, it is not clear that the work will necessarily destroy the old walls. Councilwoman Cindy Smith said there should be a way to do the safety work while preserving the walls too.
Spencer feels strongly that the work must continue. He said the modern wall is designed to blend in with the surrounding landscape, with its color taking on a more natural tone as it ages. It is also much less costly to maintain than other kinds of walls, he said.
Spencer said that Ed Fares, the head of the county DPW, told him he was unaware of any plan to take down walls. If that should be necessary, Fares told him, the county will allow the walls to be moved to a safer place.
New houses proposed for Hambletonian’s birthplaceBy Edie JohnsonThe Lewis Farm (Photo by Edie Johnson)
Chester — While not as expansive a development now being considered on a Chester hillside (see related story on page 3), Eagle Crest drew plenty of attention for its plan to put 26 houses on 90 acres at the Lewis Farm on Hambletonian Road.
Of special interest is the property’s past: it was part of the farm where Hambletonian, perhaps the most famous standardbred trotting horse of all, was born in 1849.
Before Hambletonian, the United States had no established trotting horse breeding lines. While he did not himself race, Hambletonian was an incredibly prodigious sire. “The Hambletonian” race, which became the Kentucky Derby of standardbred racing, was established as a result. Hambletonian lived in Chester his entire life.
All along the scenic road that carries his name, history abounds. In fact, the Sugar Loaf Historical Society has negotiated the “transfer in fee” of the section containing one of the historic barns and associated 40.43 acres of associated open space.
The Lewis family has agreed to this arrangement. It is at this point a “handshake agreement” because it all depends on the planning board and town board’s response to the proposal for a cluster development.
The society’s president, Jay Westerveld said they hope to use the barn as an interpretive museum of farming artifacts from the 18th to 20th century, with associated art and prints. This historical profile may also include photographs and writings depicting the history of the Moodna and Wallkill watersheds. Westerveld expects the historical society to be able to obtain grants for the restoration.
Eagle Crest is a cluster development that sets aside 37 acres as open space, with the remaining land to include one house per acre.
Regardless of the large amount of open space preserved in the project, residents from adjoining properties were horrified. Most of them live on exclusive estates on five or more acres, many of them in Warwick.
Buzzwords are being used like “Ridge Preservation and Conservation area,” they said, but insisted the project will change the entire nature of the neighborhood. Comments by worried homeowners went on and on: “It’s a shame.” “It’s a real tragedy.” “You’re gonna ruin it.” “It’ll be an eyesore.” “Don’t you see how it will affect the rest of us?” “Why can’t you build bigger houses on bigger lots?” Both of the bordering developments in Warwick, Fox Hill and Hambletonian Ridge, include five-acre lots. Their residents wanted to know why Eagle Crest won’t be the same.
But planning board Chair Ray Johanson said he goes by the book. “It’s our job to see if they (the developers) meet the regulations,” he said. “It’s the town board’s job to set the regulations.”
Despite numerous outstanding issues, the planning board closed the public hearing that night. But the town board must approve the project as a cluster development before it can more forward.
The developer will present alternative site plans, including the option of returning to the three-acre zoning originally set for this property. In that case, the developer will ask for 29 houses.
Tracy Schuh of The Preservation Collective, a local nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the scenic, historic, and cultural landscapes, said effort should be made to retain as many trees as possible to keep the road scenic.
• Acreage: 90, with 37 to remain open
• Where: The Lewis Farm, Hambletonian Avenue
• Residential units: Cluster development of 26 units, each on one acre. Twenty-four will be clustered on the south slopes to place them closer to the water source and conceal them from the road. Another house is proposed for the north side, which includes unbuildable wetlands.
• Next step: The developer will provide alternative site plans, including the option of returning to the three-acre zoning originally proposed for the property.
School board approves $21.875 million budgetBy Linda Smith Hancharick
Chester — After six drafts and last-minute changes last Thursday, the Chester school board voted to approve a $21,875,089 budget for the 2008-09 school year. The budget will go to the voters on May 20.
This budget keeps all of the district’s teachers, including the 23 at the elementary school. It allows the board to keep the kindergarten and first grade classes at 14 children in each section. A special education teacher is added at the elementary school.
The board went line by line the previous week to find areas to cut. Last Thursday night, they went through the budget and cut $6,420 before coming up with the final number, which is 4.93 percent higher than last year’s budget.
Professional development was trimmed across the board. Supplies were cut. The fledgling wrestling program will get $10,500 for start-up costs, but won’t be fully funded as was recommended by the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee.
This budget makes the school resource officer a full-time position at a cost of $35,000. Currently the position is part-time with the officer in the school district three days each week.
The budget consists of three components — administrative, programs, and capital. This year’s administrative budget is up nearly 5.5 percent over last year’s, totaling about $2.18 million. The capital budget is rising just under 2 percent from last year for a total of $3.8 million. The program’s budget, the largest part of the budget by far, is rising 6 percent, up to $15,890,238.
A public hearing on the budget will be held at Chester Academy on Tuesday, May 13, at 7 p.m. The final proposed budget will be available to the public on May 6.
If voters in the district do not approve this budget, a contingency budget of $21,636,659 would be adopted, an increase of 3.79 percent over last year. The board has not said whether a second budget vote would take place.
Estimated tax rates
If the budget is passed:
• Blooming Grove residents will pay $129.43 per thousand of assessed value, an increase over last year’s rate of $125.69 of 2.97 percent.
• Goshen residents in the district will pay $34.08 per thousand of assessed value, up 1.95 percent from last year’s rate of $33.43.
• Chester residents in the district will pay $33.06 per thousand of assessed value, up 1.95 percent over last year’s rate of $32.43.
Both the equalization rate and state aid could change these estimates.
On the border: Developer preps the public on major new development – Another meeting set for WednesdayBy Edie Johnson
Chester — A developer who wants to put 438 new residences in Chester reassured the public they will like his project.
Fred Nussbaum, the owner/applicant of the proposed BT Holdings development, told the public Wednesday night that he has researched many similar communities in the area and has made every effort to develop “nice houses” and a good design for the neighborhood.
“Remember,” he said, “I am putting my name on this.”
He again encouraged people to drive over to the development behind Target in Monroe, which will be very much like his design for Chester. He said he will use the rolling hillsides to their best advantage and will blend in amenities, trails, and a pool for the new residents while addressing the need for senior citizen housing.
He emphasized that his family has lived in Chester for many years, and he wishes only the best for the community.
No one in the audience questioned his sincerity, and several people acknowledged his right to develop his property. But someone commented that, if the water supply did give out for the project, he will remain comfortable in his New York City apartment.
The ever-present worry about water continues. Water is the reason why Nussbaum wants the village, which has more ready water than the town, to annex the development site. Of its 68 acres, only 7.7 are in the village. He also wants to tap into the village’s sewage system.
Village water has been rated to supply 1.1 million gallons, and only 585,000 gallons now being used. But residents reminded Nussbaum that this water will have to serve other new developments as well.
Every summer there are water restrictions, so how can you say there’s enough? they wanted to know.
While Nussbaum is seeking annexation, he made it clear he has other options.
If the annexation should fail to go through, Nussbaum said, “I have the option, under the current zoning, to develop the property with townhomes with my own wells and septic.”
Chester residents expressed a host of additional concerns, chief of them the density of the project, which works out to approximately 5.8 units per acre. One resident said he had word from several realtors that the value of his property would decrease by one-third as a result of the development.
Another resident, who owns six adjoining acres, pressed: “Why do you have to build such an excessive amount?” Later she asked, “If you lived on the property, would you build this in your backyard?”
A relatively new resident, who left the city for a new $500,000 house on the back side of the proposed development, said, “I feel sorry for these people. I came from the Bronx. I should have stayed there.”
The public asked about what buffers would be provided. Nussbaum said that, while they have not yet been set, his understanding is that the zoning code calls for 50 feet from each border.
Some frustration ensued because many questions could not yet be answered. Nussbaum said many of these issues will be addressed during the scoping and environmental impact studies.
Another big concern is the large influx of students expected from the development that will further drive up school taxes. Residents distrust the state’s formula when applied to Chester as to the average number of students that would be added per townhouse unit. Why would an empty nester move into a three-bedroom home in Chester when taxes will be so much lower on a townhouse, they asked.
Town Supervisor Steve Neuhaus clarified that there are two ways of taxing townhouses. In the first instance the tax rate is about 30 percent less than homes in general.
“But,” he said, “if it is sold in ‘fee simple,’ they will be taxed at value, just like a house,” he said.
Nussbaum did not know which way these units would be rated. He said he would have to consider “what the market would bear.”
Either way, the rating will have nothing to do with how many children are actually in the house or attending school.
He reassured the public that this project is still in its infancy. It will be a couple of years just to finish the state-required Environmental Impact Statement, he said, and the rest of the project will be completed in phases.
Another meeting on the project will be held next Wednesday (please see sidebar). While this project is likely to proceed in one form or another, it is clear much negotiating must yet be done before residents are ready to accept this compact community on one of Chester’s last remaining plots of rolling farmland.
• Acreage: 68, with 7.7 in the Village of Chester and the rest in the town.
• Where: Behind the ShopRite mall.
• Residential units: 438 units total, including 100 senior citizen units and 259 three-bedroom townhouses. The remaining will be two-bedroom, single-family units.
• Next step: Another session, for scoping — a state-mandated process that identifies potential environmental problems related to the development — will be held at the Chester Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30. (Last week’s Chronicle gave the wrong location for next week’s scoping session. It will be held at 7 p.m. town hall, not village hall.)
University may come to Chester – County looks at plan to put university, 600 houses on former shelter campusBy Pamela Chergotis
Chester — A Greek-American businessman wants to found a university on the campus of the former Camp LaGuardia homeless shelter in Chester as a way to honor his heritage.
The university Michael Parlamis wants to build would include as its centerpiece a replica of the 6th-century Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, considered one of the greatest Byzantine buildings of all time. Parlamis said the building will be 58 percent the size of the massive original, with side chapels devoted to different faiths. He stressed that the university will be a four-year, accredited institution open to all.
“It will not be a Greek university,” he said.
One of its colleges will be devoted to Byzantine studies, he said. All of the architecture will be Greek, both classical and Byzantine, he said. He has already engaged an architect, Architectura in Edgewater, N.J. “Greeks think that we’ve arrived because we’re doing well,” Parlamis said of the Greek-American population in the United States. “But we won’t really have arrived in this country until we show a commitment to culture and education.”
Parlamis spoke to The Chronicle while riding in a taxi on his way to the airport. He said he was on his way to Las Vegas to talk to some “very big Greeks” there to get them on board.
He is very involved in the Greek Orthodox Church in America and abroad. He said he was upset that most other mainstream faiths had their own universities while Greek Orthodoxy had not a single one. For example, he said, Roman Catholics have founded 60 universities, Protestants 900. Mormons and Jews have founded their many of their own universities as well. He feels it is high time for the Greek Orthodox faith to catch up.
“I’m going to make a lot of noise about this,” he said.
He hopes that Orange County, which owns the 268-acre site, will agree to his proposal, which he presented to the legislature’s Physical Services Committee on Monday.
If the response from the Chester legislator is any indication, he has reason to be encouraged. Noel Spencer called the proposal “the most exciting thing that could happen to this region.”
He said this latest proposal is his favorite so far. He also likes three other proposals for development at the former Camp LaGuardia site, particularly that of Malt, LLC, of Carmel/Saugerties that would combine businesses, a hamlet center, and a golf course.
But the university idea moved quickly into first place, he said.
Unlike other businesses, “you never hear of a university closing,” he said. “They always improve communities.” He said a university will go far to burnish Chester’s reputation, bringing in academics and attracting visitors from a wide area.
Spencer said a university would serve as a valuable a resource to enhance the learning experience at local high schools. He envisioned Chester’s industrial park becoming a “mini Silicon Valley” with the infusion of talent a university would bring.
“And,” he said, “they are not taking taxes away from us.”
That’s because the proposal includes a plan to build 600 residences — mostly townhouse and condominiums, and a few single-family houses — on the site. Parlamis said the university’s president, provost, and employees could live there, along with “regular people” in the community.
Parlamis said 71 percent of the site will be devoted to the university, with the rest to housing. Full taxes will be paid on the residential part, he said, and taxes calculated according to a formula used for universities for the rest of the site.
The next step for Parlamis, besides whipping up support among his fellow Greek-Americans, is to await a decision from the county. He predicted it will take at least 18 months after the decision to obtain all the approvals he’ll need to start work.
Two candidates vie for one school board seat May 20 – Candidate’s forum Tuesday, May 6
CHESTER — Longtime Chester school board member Mary Luciana will face competition from newcomer Frank Sambets for the one seat up for grabs on the board.
Luciana is a 13-year veteran of the school board, serving for 10 years previous to her current term. She was elected again in 2005.
Sambets is a newcomer to board politics. He has been instrumental in creating the district’s wrestling club.
The Chester Elementary School Parent Teacher Association is hosting a “Meet the Candidates” night at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6, in the elementary school library. All residents of the Chester Union Free School District are invited to attend.
The election on Tuesday, May 20, will also allow voters to have their say on a proposed $21.9 budget, up 4.93 percent from last year.
Polling will be held at Chester Academy from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Absentee ballot applications are available from the school board clerk, Debra Lys, at Chester Elementary School, 2 Herbert Drive. For information, call 469-2178 ext. 2202, or stop by Lys’s office between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Voters who will want ballots mailed to them must complete and return applications to the clerk by 4 p.m. on May 13. Those picking up their ballots must return applications to the clerk’s office by 4 p.m. on May 20.
Web exclusive: Chester residents say they want more details on major new developmentBy Edie Johnson
Chester residents were eager for details on how a proposed development will affect their community, as discussions on the BT Holdings project (now called Labrador Properties) continued at a public hearing Wednesday night.
But many expressed disappointment that the environmental study for the project, which will put 438 new residences on land behind the ShopRite plaza, may in fact become more general.
Tim Miller from Tim and Associates, the project’s architect and environmental engineer, told the audience of about 50 people that he planned to write a generic Draft Environmental Impact Statement that would include the worst-case scenario of the project when it is completed.
A generic statement differs from the more usual project-specific statement by being “more general or conceptual in nature, often addressing issues through hypothetical scenarios,” according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Its broader focus helps determine “the cumulative effects of a group of actions or a combination of effects from a single action.”
Miller said the generic statement will include the project’s “concepts” for buildings, recreational facilities, parking lots, open areas, and infrastructure like sewer and water systems — all of them compliant with local zoning. The statement will also include the project’s schedule and how the work will be phased in. Also included, he said, will be the project’s purpose and history, endangered species habitats, landscaping, and traffic studies.
The lion’s share of the property, 60 acres, is in the town, which doesn’t have a water system available. For that reason, developer Frank Nussbaum wants the village to annex the property so the new residences can tap into the village’s system. The generic statement will further examine how the proposed transfer of most of the site from the town to the village will affect “taxes, education, and services.”
The experts in the room agreed a generic study would lack too many vital details to be useful.
Chester town planner Ed Garling said he was surprised to see a generic study proposed for a project like this. He has experience with many large developments in Woodbury, Montgomery, and Newburgh, and industrial complexes in Newburgh.
Town Supervisor Steve Neuhaus agreed he would like to see a much more detailed statement.
But Tim Miller was steadfast in insisting on a generic proposal.
“We have not made a commitment to this plan, and I think it would be presumptuous for us to know how this will affect the village and the town,” he said. “Why should we spend one-half million dollars on this plan when we don’t have an end in sight? Call it what you want, we will not do a lot of engineering until we know what the town and the village want.”
What will it do to the view?
The public wants to see how the project will ultimately affect the scenery in their community, still a land of sprawling black dirt farms and forested hillsides. How will rows of townhouses look on a hillside that, in Chester’s master plan, was protected by a Ridge Protection Overlay District?
Tracy Schuh of The Preservation Collective, a non-profit group dedicated to protecting the environment, objected to losing the ridge many had worked so hard to protect by planning for the overlay.
The hillside is not only beautiful but has quite a history, having yielded artifacts from prehistory and the Civil War, and the days when it saw horse racing and a famed herd of cattle. In recent years this hillside and its adjacent farmlands have produced much of the best hay in the county. The environmental study will have to consider the loss of farm and agricultural lands and, most likely, will call for a variety of visual simulations to show more clearly what will happen to the view.
The developer will also have to provide alternative plans, including a plan in case annexation is refused.
Traffic is another big worry for many residents. They said Hambletonian Avenue is already blocked for several hours during times of intensive traffic to the school, and all the other roads downtown are “horrific” whenever Route 17 clogs up.
It was suggested that the traffic study should include weekend and summer hours, when problems are greatest. A second entrance road was proposed for the project, which currently shows one entrance along with an emergency-only entrance.
Village mayor Philip Valastro and village lawyer Henry Christensen asked that numerous additional roads be included in the traffic study.
Where will the money go?
Supervisor Neuhaus said the fiscal analysis of the project will have to be extensive. He was worried about how the project will affect town and village services, and about financial consequences if the town allowed the property to be annexed to the village.
“We will lose a lot of money in park and recreation fees,” he said.
Neuhaus also wanted to know how the development’s condominiums and townhouses would be assessed, and if residents would own the land outright.
“We did not get a clear answer,” Neuhaus said. “Tax dollars are important as to whether it will bear its own weight.”
Lawyer Christensen said most condominium and townhouse residences are assessed as if they were rental units, and so are assessed at about 30 percent of most houses.
Officials said they feared already burdened taxpayers would bear the brunt of paying for the increased school and services that will be needed by the newcomers.
Christensen said he believes the village can require that the developer not approach the state for condominium assessment as a condition for approval.
But if this does not happen, Neuhaus asked, “who is going to pay for the discrepancy?”
The project proposes to build 100 units of senior citizen housing, which, Neuhaus said, was considered in the town’s master plan as ideal for this property. He said he would rather see a larger portion devoted to this kind of housing. With no children living there, it would not add to the school tax burden, he said.
One resident said the 81 students the developer expected to be added to the school system was an unrealistic number, saying that 300 to 600 new students is more likely. Another said, “If you are going to write a scope for the worst-case scenario, then it should be one child per bedroom.”
“I moved into Chester seven years ago,” another resident said. “There were 17 homes built on my street, and they have 35 children.
Someone recommended that Chester do its own study of the Whispering Hills development to come up with a better estimate.
Resident Bernie Damiane said he wanted detailed statistics about every alternative — whether it would result in a tax deficit or a tax benefit, or would stay the same.
“We’re going to pay for this, so lets get it right,” he said.
We don’t want to get stuck
Neuhaus asked that special attention be paid to a water study being presented by the village water commissioner, Tom Becker. Next week Becker will show the town board his proposal for setting up aquifer protection areas.
“In the past, we have been give water plans by developers who said they would work, and then we get stuck,” Neuhaus said. “Will the village be using up all of its water allocation with this?”
Neuhaus wasn’t the only one worried about water. Several residents said that current and future projects be considered in the water analysis. Owners of several vacant parcels in the village have been paying for water and sewer services all along. When they are ready to develop their land, will all water and sewer services be used up? There are several proposals on the table for developing the former Camp LaGuardia property, which is expected to have a big impact on the environment.
Another concern was not what if all the people come, but what if they don’t.
“What if it doesn’t all get built?” asked Schuh of the Preservation Collective, in light of the poor housing market.
Supervisor Neuhaus asked the village board, which conducted the hearing, to leave the hearing open to receive written comments. He said he has started an e-mail list for concerned residents to notify them of future meetings.
Written public comments will be accepted until Friday, May 23, addressed to the Village Clerk, Village of Chester, Village Hall, 47 Main St., Chester, NY 10918.
Anyone who wishes to be on the e-mail list should call Town of Chester Clerk Elizabeth Reilly at 469-7000 ext. 4 or e-mail email@example.com.
More information about the project can be found on the developer’s Web site: http://labrador-chester.com/projectoverview.aspx.
Story by Vicki Botta, photos by Mike Bousquet
Chester — No two people see things exactly the same way. And every photograph featured in the new “Chester Through the Lens” captures in its own way the essence of this ever-changing community.
The latest exhibit at the Chester Historical Society’s train station-museum, which opened last Saturday, includes photographs that span the years. Many old photos were donated by people whose friends or family are in the pictures, including one showing women working in a children’s clothing warehouse located in the building now occupied by the Outdoor Clothing store. Bringing the display up-to-date is Chronicle photographer Mike Bousquet, who submitted two photos depicting Chester Academy students in this year’s school play, “Seussical the Musical,” including “Jamie Kracht as Jojo” and “Mayzie Labird on Her Perch.”
A donated photo shows legendary ball player Babe Ruth surrounded by Camp LaGuardia residents in front of a bar that he frequented because his friend Richard McCormick owned the place. (Photos of the Babe hang in the ice cream parlor that now occupies the building.)
Many photos take advantage of Chester’s pastoral beauty through seasons, with its meadows, barns, mountain cabins, and ponds. A frosty winter scene, “A Patch of Blue,” by Sugar Loaf photographer Nick Zungoli, serves as counterpoint to Chris Davis Cina’s “Summery Sunday Afternoon.” Placid still-life scenes include “Pumpkin Hill” by Nicole S. Vecchi and Leslie LeBlanc Smith’s views from the Heritage Trail, one taken in May and the other in November.
Some of the photos record events, such as the sequence documenting the moving of a large tree from the Chamberlain Farm on Washingtonville Road, near Johnson Road. The farm is now being turned into a bed and breakfast. Another photo shows the demolition of the old West Chester Mill House.
A somber photo shows the Chester monument to 9/11 as seen by the highway garage. Nearby is a photo of the roof-sized American flag atop Tom Becker’s barn.
A small row of cabins alongside Route 17 depicted in one of the photos elicited an amusing story from Chester historian Cliff Patrick. In the 1940s, he said, there was nothing behind those cabins but acres of farm fields. Bill Lawrence had owned the cabins, each of which had two units.
On his wedding night, well-known Chester artist Tom LaBarbera took his bride to one of those cabins. During the night, he made the unhappy discovery that they were sharing the cabin with another couple. LaBarbera is still upset about it to this day, Patrick said.
All the photos on display hold special meaning for the people who contributed them, and will be a revelation to anyone viewing the exhibit today. Giving the mounted photos an added dimension is an ongoing slide show featuring 2,000 images from the Chester Historical Society’s database. An accompanying display includes dioramas of Chester farms, old ledgers from local businesses, and binders filled with information about Chester events and people throughout the years.
The exhibit is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday until October 25. The 1915 Erie Depot-Museum is located at 19 Winkler Street, along the Heritage Trail.
For more information, visit http://www.ChesterHistoricalSociety.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chester residents say they want more details on major new development – Written comments will be accepted until May 23By Edie JohnsonThe developer’s concept plan as shown on http://labrador-chester.com.
Chester — Chester residents were eager for details on how a proposed development will affect their community, as discussions on the BT Holdings project (now called Labrador Properties) continued at a public hearing on April 30.
“What if it doesn’t all get built?” asked Schuh of the Preservation Collective, referring to the senior citizen housing portion. “The senior aspect is the part that seems most attractive to the community which is highlighted as the benefit of the annexation and the studies to be conducted,” she wrote in a blog last week. “However, since it’s only a small piece of the big picture, what guarantee is there that it gets built in the end? Not necessarily that the people don’t come, but that the developer just doesn’t build it for whatever reason, i.e., gets enough return on his investment with the multifamily portion that it’s not economical to build the senior portion.
Readers are invited to comment on this project online at http://www.chroniclenewspaper.com.
School board candidates’ forum attracts a big crowdBy Linda Smith Hancharick
Chester — Over 35 community members came out Tuesday night to meet the candidates running for the Chester Board of Education, reflecting the biggest turnout for such an event in recent years. Incumbent Mary Luciana and challenger Frank Sambets answered questions submitted by attendees.
The candidates gave their opinions on what is good in the district, what needs to change, and their hopes for the future of the school.
“One of the biggest strengths of this district is our size,” said Luciana, who has been a school board member for 13 years. “As a parent, I would know the kids my child was hanging out with. If I didn’t know them, my friends or neighbors did.”
Luciana’s three children all went through the Chester schools.
“Great quality teachers” is Chester’s strength, according to Sambets, who has two middle school students in the district now. “We need to keep them. Our administrators are very strong and care about what happens to our kids. We need to keep the best teachers we have.”
Luciana said several new teachers have been hired because of retirements.
“Teachers stay here 20, 35 years,” she said. “That’s a regular thing. Even with administrators, they stayed a long time. We have had a lot of stability. There have been lots of new teachers because of retirements. We have a lot of stability here.”
Both candidates agree that something has to be done about creating a policy in the district for athletic participants. Sambets called the current athletic code of conduct “ridiculous.”
“There is no policy,” he said. “A student should not be participating if they are not passing their classes. They should be held accountable. The point of them being here is education. Sports is great, but there has to be a policy in the district.”
Luciana agreed but went further. She wants to see a policy for all extracurricular activities, not just sports.
“We have been talking about a policy for two years,” she said. “Not just for athletics, but for all extracurricular activities. If students are not doing well in the classroom, they shouldn’t be spending time on extracurricular activities.”
The most difficult issues facing the district got varied responses. Sambets said keeping down class sizes is key.
“Keeping elementary schools at their current class size while facilitating the growth,” he said. “Keep the smaller classes.”
Luciana said getting students’ grades up is most important to her.
“Our staff is trying really hard — they get professional development to do it,” she said. “We hear time and time again we need parent involvement. I’ve heard lots of kids say they just are not doing their homework. They just don’t care.”
Sambets said there is a “complete lack of caring to get their homework done. It’s not a holiday, not a vacation. There should be repercussions.”
Both would like to see some changes in the district.
“Lately, because of my involvement in bringing a club sport to the school (Sambets is involved in the new wrestling club), I’ve heard talk of kids going to other schools to participate,” Sambets said. “I believe that policy certainly needs to be looked at. We should allow it, but there should be a number on how much we will spend.”
Years ago,. a few kids wanted to run track, Luciana noted. Since Chester did not have a track team, the district made arrangements to run with John S. Burke Catholic. More recently, one student from Chester with a physical disability that prevented her from participating in higher impact sports began swimming with Washingtonville because Chester does not have a swim team. Luciana said parents and students do all of the legwork in these situations, setting up the arrangements with the other school and supplying their own transportation.
“The cost we pay is athletic fees and a uniform,” said Luciana. “Last year one female student swam and it cost us approximately $800.
“I think the biggest policy we want to bring in and don’t have is on academic achievement — how well they can be doing to participate in extracurricular activities.”
What does the future hold?
”I see students improving in their grades and testing,” said Luciana. “Everyone has to work toward that but in an economical way. We need to get state legislators to work with us. Until that changes, I will continue to work for that.”
Sambets sees a bigger school on the horizon.
“I see the future of the district growing,” he said. “We have to control it. New development is coming in. We have to work hand in hand with the village and town. I want us to be prepared with teachers.
“Things have to change on the school board as it exists today,” he continued. “There is a giant chasm — we all need to work together. We can’t browbeat people on things that were.”
Both support the budget that will be voted on May 20. Both would prefer some changes.
“We need to go to the public to come out and support the students of Chester,” said Luciana. “I would have liked to see some changes. We discussed them in a public meeting. I will support this budget.”
Sambets would have liked to see more support for the music department in the way of more instruments, but will support the budget as is.
“A lot of people put a lot of effort into it, working hard to make it acceptable,” he said. “The board needs to be very vocal about supporting this.”
The school board election takes place on May 20 at Chester Academy. Voters will decide which candidate will sit on the board as well as the proposed $21.9 million budget. On Tuesday, May 13, eligible voters may register in the front lobby of Chester Academy from 4 to 9 p.m.
For statements by the two candidates, please turn to pages 12 and 13.
Supervisor wants to hear more about Camp proposals
Chester — Town Supervisor Steve Neuhaus said he is excited about a proposal to build a university on the former Camp LaGuardia site in Chester — but the heavy residential development included in the same proposal concerns him.
“I’m very interested to hear more about it, excited that it’s a different kind of proposal,” Neuhaus said.
But like the other three proposals pitched last year for the site, the university proposal would include a mix of residential and business uses. The university plan calls for 600 residences to be built on about a third of the 258-acre, county-owned campus.
“I haven’t heard from any of the four applicants about any kind of zone change,” Neuhaus said. “Blooming Grove and the village (which share the campus) haven’t been contacted either. I’m optimistic and open-minded but still need to hear more from the applicants.”
In an e-mailed message, Neuhaus said town zoning allows only office parks in one section and agricultural uses in the other. “So anyone who buys that land from the county would have to comply with that current zoning unless the town wanted to change the zoning to accommodate any of the proposals,” he wrote. “That hasn’t been discussed yet on the local level with the Town of Chester or the other two municipalities.”
Last week, a Greek-American businessman pitched his idea to found a university on the campus of the former homeless shelter as a way to honor his heritage.
*See Whispering Hills Photo for a visual project overview.*
Labrador Properties is pursuing an exciting village-style development project in Chester that directly responds to the Town of Chester’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan, addressing the need for centrally-located Senior and Multifamily housing as well as providing a number of other tangible benefits to the community. The development includes 338 townhomes, as well as 100 age-restricted apartments.
A Senior Rental community of 100 homes
• 1- and 2- bedroom, age-restricted rental apartments arrayed in two parallel three-story, elevator-serviced buildings located on the western end of the property
• Directly responds to the community’s need to expand housing opportunities for senior citizens and the physically challenged, as cited in the Village of Chester Zoning Code
• Senior-friendly design features single-floor living, wheelchair accessibility, extra wide doorways, etc.
• Centrally-located housing for seniors, within walking distance to local transportation and shopping options
• Includes at least 20% affordable housing units, as per the Village’s Senior Citizen Housing Special Use Permit
A Townhouse community of 338 total homes
• 338 attached 2 and 3 bedroom Townhomes built in a village-style development on nearly 60 acres of rolling topography
• Offers a variety of maintenance-free housing options, as an alternative to expensive single family homes, featuring quality architectural design consistent with Chester’s prevailing aesthetic
• Featured amenities include clubhouse, fitness room, playground, swimming pool, walking trails, and picnic area, among other quality-of-life enhancements.
Responding to the Town of Chester Comprehensive Plan
The proposal directly responds to the community’s growth plan and housing needs as specifically outlined in the Town of Chester’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan, which emphasized Chester’s need to…
– “…channel future residential growth into suburban residential areas where central water and sewer services can be expanded efficiently to accommodate that growth”
– “…provide multiple dwellings for senior and age-oriented housing in affordable rental units in limited areas close to shopping and transportation services”
– “…provide for a mixture of housing types that will help promote a diverse population base”
Specifically Zoned for High-Density Residential Projects
The property is uniquely suited to this project because of its central location, proximity to the Chester Mall and the Village’s historic downtown, frontage on Route 17M, and easy access to Route 17. Indeed, after an exhaustive study, the Town of Chester specifically identified this property as an ideal location for high density housing, making this development site one of only two parcels in the entire township to be designated for ‘Residential High-Density’ zoning.
Voters go to the polls to decide school board candidates, budget
Chester School District residents have three issues to decide when they go to the polls Tuesday: a budget, state-funded building improvements, and seating one board member.
The proposed budget is $21.9 million for the 2008-09 school year. It is 4.93 percent higher than last year’s budget. The estimated increase in the tax rate to taxpayers ranges from 1.91 percent to 2.91 percent, depending on the town. For example, residents of Chester and Goshen within the district will see an increase of about 63 cents and 65 cents, respectively, per thousand of assessed value. Residents of Blooming Grove who live in the district will see an increase of about $3.73 per thousand of assessed value.
Blooming Grove residents will pay approximately $129.4 per thousand of assessed value with this budget. In 2007-08, the rate was $125.7. Chester residents will pay $33 per thousand, an increase from last year’s rate of $32.5. In Goshen the jump is similar. The new rate would be $34 compared to last year’s $33.5.
Also on the ballot is the question of whether the district should spend $950,000 on building improvement projects using state aid for the entire project. District officials say there will be no cost to taxpayers using a combination of EXCEL (Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning) Aid and state building aid. EXCEL Aid totals $326,800 while the state building aid would cover the remaining $623,200. The district would take out a one-year bond anticipation note for the EXCEL portion, which would be paid within a year. The remaining funds would be paid via a 15-year bond, covered entirely by state building aid each year.
The projects being considered include replacing the electrical switchgear equipment at the elementary school and the generator to run it, improvements to security at both Chester Academy and Chester Elementary School, replacing main entry doors and locks, improving emergency lighting at the elementary school, replacing sidewalks at Chester Academy, and building a storage addition adjacent to Chester Academy.
After the money issues are decided, voters will choose one board of education member. Mary Luciana, who has served on the board for a combined 13 years, is being challenged by Frank Sambets. (The Chronicle ran statements from each candidate in the May 9 edition, as well as a story on a candidate’s forum. These articles are available online at http://www.chroniclenewspaper.com.)
The board has not announced whether there would be a second vote if the budget is not passed the first time. If the district goes to a contingency budget, the board would have to cut about $245,000 from this proposed budget.
The vote will take place on Tuesday, May 20, from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. at Chester Academy, 64 Hambletonian Avenue.
Budget: $21.9 million
EXCEL/Building Aid: $950,000 (no cost to taxpayers)
Candidates: Mary Luciana (incumbent), Frank Sambets
When: Tuesday, May 20
Where: Chester Academy, 64 Hambletonian Avenue
Time: 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Goshen taxpayers will see an increase in their taxes of 6.8 percent if voters approve the district’s $59.3 million budget.
The total budget is 7.3 percent higher than last year’s, the result of the spiraling rise of fuel costs as well as the cost of special education and educating incarcerated youth.
Another factor is a decrease in revenue due to the increased number of court-ordered tax certioraris, big and small, that have been racking up in Goshen. A tax certiorari is an appeal of a tax assessor’s assessment of a piece of property.
If the vote fails, the district may opt to hold a re-vote on the same or a reduced budget, or go directly to a contingency budget of $57.9 million. District officials say this would put restrictions on how the money could be spent. The purchase of new equipment would not be permitted, and sports and co-curricular programs would be reduced, officials say. And academic programs might also be affected.
The tax increase does not include a $2.4 million proposition, a pared-down version of the $70 million capital project voters turned down in overwhelming numbers last December.
If voters approve the proposition, the school will buy three buses, repave portions of two badly pitted parking lots, resurface the high school running track, and replace two wasteful burners, two outmoded elevators, several energy-wasting old windows, and two cracked roofs. It will also remove and replace ancient, lead-painted bleachers at the middle school.
A second proposition is for $318,500 to buy two new full-sized buses and one medium wheelchair-accessible bus.
Also up for a vote are three school board candidates running for two seats: incumbent Steve Esposito, Barbara Korycki, and Loretta Richner. (The Chronicle ran statements from each candidate in the May 2 edition. They are available online at http://www.chroniclenewspaper.com.)
Proposition on capital project: $2.4 million
Proposition on new buses: $318,500
Candidates: Steve Esposito (incumbent), Barbara Korycki, and Loretta Richner
Where: Main Street School, 227 Main Street
Utility to start cutting trees under transmission line at Whispering HillsBy Pamela Chergotis
Chester — Transmission lines are the superhighways for electricity, said Michael Donovan, community relations manager for Orange & Rockland Utilities. They carry bulk power from power plants to local substations, which reduce voltages from very high to medium. This safer energy is then transmitted through the lines on neighborhood electric poles to houses and businesses.
Because of their importance, transmission lines need vigilant care. The great blackout of 2003 — the largest in North American history, affecting nearly 50 million people in eight states — was caused by a tree limb that came into contact with a transmission line.
To make sure that the transmission line that runs from Route 94 through Whispering Hills to Leone Lane in Chester does not encounter this sort of trouble, Orange & Rockland will start cutting trees under and near the line.
The Village of Chester Board of Trustees announced at their meeting on Monday night that the cutting would start Monday, with a clear-cut swath of 100 feet expected all along the line. “They’re looking to remove a lot of trees on top of the hill” at Whispering Hills, said Trustee Eugene Collins, a member of the development’s homeowner’s association.
But the news is not as bad as that, Donovan said. He told The Chronicle that the cutting will be selective, and will focus on trees directly under the line. Orange & Rockland’s policy does not include clear-cutting, he said.
“We’re fussiest about the trees right under the line,” he said.
Furthermore, the cutting will not start until about a month from now. In the meantime, Orange & Rockland representatives will be meeting with every homeowner individually to get their input. The “tree guys” — representatives of the utility — will be knocking on doors and, if no one is home, will leave a note, Donovan said.
“We’re losing trees all the time,” said Trustee John Deshler at Monday’s meeting. “If we could save some of them it would be beneficial to the community.”
It does seem as if many of the trees within the utility’s 100-foot right of way will be saved. Homeowners will be able to let the Orange & Rockland representatives know what trees they would like to save, and the utility will try to accommodate them.
Not all trees are created equal. Some grow very slowly, while others shoot up in just a few years. Some trees never get very tall, while others are disposed to tower over the landscape. All this will be taken into consideration when the selection is done, Donovan said.
Trees that have suffered damage, as some did during the March 8 ice storm, may cause problems even when they are at a distance from the line. The same applies to diseased trees, which are more inclined to topple or drop branches.
“If there’s a ‘problem tree,’ we’ll ask the homeowner,” Donovan said. If a tree is off to the side, the problem might be solved by cutting back branches, he said.
n Concern after blackout
Donovan explained that after the 2003 blackout, the federal government reached out to the states, asking them to change the way they maintain their transmission line corridors. The states agreed and came up with a new “vegetation management plan.”
But the state commission that regulates the energy industry in New York came up with a lot of resistance from communities and is now in the midst of talks with Orange & Rockland, Donovan said. They are discussing how deeply to cut, and where to cut, he said.
One of the challenges in cutting the trees is figuring out how wide the easements are, he said. While the 100-foot easement applies generally, some properties have easements that are much more narrow.
Donovan said he was impressed by the beauty and health of the trees at Whispering Hills. And he noted the value of trees to the energy-user: They act as a windbreak, which keeps houses warmer in winter. And in summer, their leafy shade cools them down.
For the letter Donovan sent the Village of Chester informing the mayor of the work, please see page 11.
For more information about tree-cutting policies at Orange & Rockland, visit http://www.oru.com/index.html.
Use your stimulus check to help Chester businesses
Chester — In anticipation of Federal Economic Stimulus check disbursements, Chester Supervisor Steve Neuhaus is encouraging residents to patronize local restaurants and retail establishments.
“The current economy is difficult on everyone right now,” Neuhaus said. “Food is more expensive, gas is more expensive, and incomes are certainly not rising at the rate and speed needed to meet these increased demands.”
He noted that local businesses could use a shot in the arm. “Our individual pockets are strained more now than normal,” he said. “But so are our local restaurants, theaters and retail businesses, who are also our town residents and neighbors.
“While it is tempting to keep this money for a rainy day, I encourage everyone to truly use this money for its purpose – to stimulate our economy. And let’s start local. Please consider patronizing Chester’s fine restaurants, theaters and retail shops.”
Chester schools spend twice as much
To the Editor:
In response to Michael Vento’s letter concerning the excessive pay raise for the Chester superintendent of schools, I would like to say he’s absolutely right.
The taxpayers in the Chester School District have had enough. No one in today’s economic crisis deserves an 8 percent pay raise…especially a civil servant. If anything, we should be reducing her salary by 10 percent and forcing her and every other board of education employee to pay 100 percent of the cost of their health insurance.
Taxpayers of Chester wake up! Demand answers as to why it costs over $21,000 per student to educate children in Chester (predominantly a farming community) when the national average is less than $10,000. Chester’s school budget is obscene, and as a former member of the Chester School Budget Advisory Board I can tell you honestly that no one on the Chester Board of Education has any interest in reducing the budget.
Why does it cost only $3,600 a year to educate a child in a Catholic school and over $21,000 per student in Chester? I’d like to see the Chronicle do a story on that!
Goshen’s budget fails by 5 votes, Chester’s budget passes – ChesterFrank Sambets
Voters in the Chester School District said yes to both the new school budget and state-funded building improvements. They also elected a new board member, which means an exit for the district’s most tenured board member, Mary Luciana.
Frank Sambets, a newcomer to the process, soundly defeated Luciana at the polls, getting 139 more votes than the 13-year veteran.
Luciana, who has been the experienced voice on this board, was at odds most of the time with the majority of the board, as well as with the district’s superintendent. Sambets will take his seat on the board at the July reorganization meeting.
This year’s campaign was an usually contentious one for Chester. In a comment posted on The Chronicle’s Web site (www.chroniclenewspaper) earlier this week, Luciana implored fellow bloggers to stop posting hostile comments. “Let’s stop making Chester school district the talk of the town and work to make it the pride of the county!” she wrote.
She also put her relationship with Sambets into perspective. “I have known Frank since he was a little boy growing up in Worley Heights and was good friends with his brother and sisters,” she wrote. “We are running for a board seat that pays us nothing but allows us to hopefully improve the lives of the children in Chester. We both believe in many issues and disagree on some, that is the way it is. We both believe we are the better candidate or why would we be running?”
Luciana joined the board in 1993 and served until losing a bid for re-election in 2003. After another unsuccessful run in 2004, she made her comeback in 2005, serving as board president for that term
The margin of victory was a bit slimmer for the $21,874,089 budget, but it was approved.Loretta Richner
“I got my two budget issues passed and I’m very happy today,” said Helen Anne Livingston, superintendent of Chester schools. “And it was by more than one vote. She was referring to last year’s budget vote, where just one vote was the difference between a passed budget and a defeated one.
This budget is 4.9 percent higher than last year’s budget, and the estimated increase in the tax rate ranges from 1.21 percent to 2.91 percent, depending on which town the taxpayer is in.
Residents of Chester and Goshen within the district will see an increase of about 63 cents and 65 cents, respectively, per thousand of assessed value. Residents of Blooming Grove who reside in the district will see an increase of about $3.7 per thousand of assessed value.
Blooming Grove residents will pay approximately $129.5 per thousand of assessed value with this budget. In 2007-08, the rate was $125.7. Chester residents will pay $33 per thousand, an increase from last year’s rate of $32.5. In Goshen the jump is similar. The new rate would be $34 compared to last year’s $33.5.
Turnout was better this year, although Livingston said only about one quarter of the voters in the district turned out.
“It was a better turnout this year over last but we still haven’t hit 30 percent of the voters,” she said.
With about 3,300 voters in the district, 821 voted this year compared to 652 last year.
“That’s a pretty good increase,” she said. “I’m grateful people took the time to come out and vote. I’m very appreciative of that.”
Voters also approved a building improvement referendum where all monies would eventually come from the state. The $950,000 project will combine EXCEL Aid (Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning) and state building aid to replace electrical equipment and a generator at Chester Elementary School, and make security improvements at both the elementary school and Chester Academy. Sidewalks may be replaced and a storage unit built at Chester Academy as well.
The district repeatedly said this would not cost taxpayers any money at all, with EXCEL Aid totaling $326,800 and building aid covering the remaining $623,200 over 15 years.
“Plus to have the EXCEL project go through,” added Livingston, “that was free money.”
By Linda Smith Hancharick
The school budget vote in Goshen was a split decision. While two propositions passed, the $59.3 million budget itself did not —by a mere five votes. The final tally was 1,100 to 1,105.
“I’m very tired, very disappointed for our kids and our community,” said Superintendent Roy Reese a day after the vote. “It’s heartbreaking.”
The next step will be to decide whether to go to a re-vote, or directly to a contingency, or austerity, budget. According to state education law, a school district that sees its budget defeated can try again — once. Generally, districts will trim what they can for the second vote, although at least once in Goshen’s history, in 2004, the identical budget was offered the second time around — and rejected.
Reese, who said he was closeted in meetings with his administrators for the entire day after the vote, said there was as yet no decision on how the district will proceed.
At a recent school board meeting, Reese said a contingency budget $57.9 million would put restrictions on how the money could be spent, prohibit purchases of new equipment, and reduce sports and co-curricular programs. Academic programs might also be affected.
The budget voters rejected was $2.6 million more than a contingency budget would be. The rejected budget grew by 7.3 percent from the previous year, the result of huge jumps in the cost of fuel as well as increasing costs in special education and educating incarcerated youth.
The budget, if it had been approved, would have increased school taxes for property owners in the Goshen district by 6.8 percent from the following year. The district had managed to keep tax increases under 5 percent for the previous three years, and all three budgets passed the first time around. But rising expenses put extra pressure on the budget this year. At a school board meeting before the vote, Reese said this was the toughest budget season he’s seen yet.
A decrease in revenue was another factor affecting this year’s budget. The district has had to refund taxes paid as a result of a number of court-ordered tax certioraris. A tax certiorari is an appeal of a tax assessor’s assessment of a piece of property.
But two propositions put to the voters did pass on Tuesday.
One, for $2.4 million for capital improvements, was a pared-down version of the $70 million capital project voters rejected overwhelmingly last December. As a result of the vote, the district will be able to repave portions of two badly pitted parking lots, resurface the high school running track, and replace two wasteful burners, two outmoded elevators, several energy-wasting old windows, and two cracked roofs. It will also remove and replace ancient, lead-painted bleachers at the middle school.
The approved second proposition, for $318,500, will allow the district to buy two new full-sized buses and one medium wheelchair-accessible bus.
Reese said the propositions were likely approved because they represented such a small increase to taxpayers. The capital improvements project means an increase of $20 for the owner of a property worth $200,000, while the bus proposition’s impact will be negligible.
“It comes down to cents,” he said.
Chester and Goshen to see new faces
School boards in Chester and Goshen will each include a newcomer as a result of Tuesday’s vote.
Loretta Richner, a retired elementary school teacher and principal, garnered 1,212 votes in Goshen, winning her one of two open seats. Incumbent Steve Esposito won the other seat with 1,444 votes. Barbara Korycki lost with 932 votes.
In Chester, newcomer Frank Sambets won Chester’s one open seat with 473 votes. Incumbent Mary Luciana, who had served on the board for 13 years, lost with 334 votes.
All terms are for three years.
School board: To stay in the game, keep grades up – Chester reviews academic probation policyBy Linda Smith Hancharick
Chester — School board member Wendy Murray says academics comes first.
“We must send a clear message to athletes and everyone who participates in extracurricular activities out there,” she said in reference to the district’s academic probation policy. Murray, herself a teacher, said she worries that the district’s academic probation guideline is not strong enough.
“I’m concerned,” she said. “I think two weeks is not long enough. And you can miss a session if you have a game. That gives the wrong impression.”
Murray referred to the probation period, listed as two weeks of study sessions in any subject a student is failing, but it is really eight sessions — four each week. Participants in extra-curricular activities may fail more than one subject and attend the study sessions to raise their grades and continue their participation.
Middle school principal Ernest Jackson said he makes his two weeks equal to 10 sessions.
“If you miss a day, I tack on a day,” he said. “It is tough for a kid to change his grade in two weeks.”
“I like that,” said board member Mary Luciana said. “But we need uniformity.”
High school principal Leslie Hyatt said she is also concerned with the guidelines.
“I looked at it with Mr. Closs,” the district athletic director, Hyatt said. “He is diligent. When he sees an athlete not performing in class, he is on it. He checks attendance every day. We both think eight sessions is not enough.”
Murray suggested the district go to a five-week program to send a clear message to everyone participating in extra-curricular activities that the district is most interested in their school work.
Everyone — administrators and board members alike — heartily agreed that academics are the district’s main purpose. Murray would like to see no failures become the rule for participants, with one or more failures putting the student on academic probation. Three or more failures would suspend them from any extra-curricular activities, she suggested.
“We’re not asking for a 3.0,” she said. “Let’s ask for 65 or better. No failing is acceptable.”
Board president John Pasichnyk said the district definitely needs a specific, consistent policy across the board.
“We have a sports agreement, a prom policy, a senior trip policy,” Pasichnyk said. “We need to pull them all together and get consistency across the board. One policy says it’s okay to fail four subjects. The primary reason to send children to school is to educate them. It’s great that we offer these things but our primary mission is to educate.”
The policies become more of an issue when put into effect.
Hyatt agreed that a tightened policy with teeth should be put in place. But, she cautioned, the board should look at how a revised policy would have affected this year’s teams.
“Our job is to make sure they’re educated, not that they make the basketball team,” Luciana said.
Understood, said Hyatt: “Just be prepared. At the board meeting in October, you’ll have all these parents coming in.”
“We’re not asking them to drive home a four-point-0,” Murray added. “We’re asking them to pass the class.”
In the end, nothing was decided. Superintendent Helen Anne Livingston said any policy has to be very clear and express the district’s overall expectations. She has asked the district’s lawyers for sample policies that will be reviewed by the Chester board.
Senior housing approved for villageBy Edie Johnson
Chester — Within walking distance of St. Columba Church and downtown historic Village of Chester, a senior housing complex is about to emerge.
The project has already been approved by the village planning board. It will include 142 senior units in six buildings on High Street, spread across 15.8 acres with courtyards in a country design. The spacious complex will include decorative gardens, a clubhouse, walking paths, and a communal garden where all can participate.
John Orr, the village building inspector, said he has received numerous calls from people worried about the beautiful green Victorian house next door, but gave assurances they will remain undisturbed. There is, however, a house on the property, just beyond and behind the Victorian house, that will be razed to accommodate the senior complex.
Orr said he believes the buildings will each have three stories and elevator access. Sidewalks will continue from the courtyards to St. Columba and on to the rest of the village.
While other developments in the area have struggled to achieve a true hamlet and traditional neighborhood design, the proposed amenities are plentiful at Meadow Hill — from parking, which will be located beneath the buildings to provide more green space, to the clubhouse, which will include a small convenience store, a beauty parlor, and a fitness center. A two-tier patio connection will overlook the pool and garden areas, with gazebos placed between each of the buildings for relaxing and socializing.
These units will be purchased, rather than leased, and will be limited to residents 55 years and older. Orr said it had not yet been determined whether the purchase arrangement would require a regular homeowner’s taxation schedule or the condominium/townhouse tax rate, which is usually much lower.
When completed, first preference of purchase will go to residents of the Village of Chester. Second preference will be for the parents of village residents, and third choice will be for other residents of Orange County, as provided by law. The units will vary in size and design, with four sizes and market levels in each building.
Numerous other projects in the area include plans for senior centers. These include Hendler (Epic Orange), approved in Goshen just before the town initiated its seven-month moratorium It is adjacent to the Audubon Society at Station and Cheechunk Roads and includes many walking paths, including a connection to the Audubon property. Next, a floating hamlet project is currently being considered in the area of Surrey Meadows in Chester. A university planned for the former Camp LaGuardia property will include a number of senior units, although the total number is yet to be determined. The project, which sits on Chester town and village property, as well as in Blooming Grove, is receiving a great deal of pressure to increase the number of senior units. Limiting housing that would bring in school-age children is seen as a way to decrease the property tax burden.
BT Holdings, now known as Labrador Properties, is proposing 100 units behind the Chester Mall and is under the same pressure to increase its ratio of senior apartments. And a line of new “carriage homes” for independent living with “life care benefits” is being advertised by Elant.
With this number of senior projects in the works, municipalities may seek to coordinate with one another to see what the market will actually bear. Meadow Hill has a head start with an appealing design and approvals already in its pocket.
Chester to eliminate business teacher – Teacher found out day of voteBy Linda Smith Hancharick
Chester — The talk started pretty early on May 22 at the Chester Academy.
One item on that night’s board of education agenda caught the attention of some teachers: “Approve abolishment of one tenure area position and the creation of another tenure area position.”
The wheels started turning. Dafna Garrahy realized it was her position as a business education teacher that was being eliminated.
She talked to her principal, Leslie Hyatt, who confirmed her suspicion. Later that evening, Garrahy asked the board to reconsider its position. The board tabled the action, asking Garrahy for statistics on attendance in her classes. But plans are to eliminate the position at next Thursday’s meeting.
Garrahy has taught business education at Chester for nearly two school years. Her classes include business applications, entrepreneurship, accounting and e-commerce, sports marketing, and keyboarding. She said her high school classes average between 12 and 18 students, while her middle school keyboarding classes average about a dozen. Most of her classes are filled for next year, except two with less than a handful of students taking them.
She said she is disappointed that the curriculum she’s been building for the past two years will be done away with. These are skills that kids will need when they out into the real world, whether in college or the business world, she said.
“I teach these kids how to do their taxes,” said Garrahy. “I teach them to balance a petty cash drawer, how to use credit and debit cards, and to balance a checkbook. They know about mortgages and interest rates. This is real-life information they will use. Most people are going to work in the business world. We are taking away tools for these kids that will really help them in the future.”
District Superintendent Helen Anne Livingston said the board is eliminating the position because there really isn’t a full business program.
“We don’t really have a program,” said Livingston. “We have a couple of courses and other things will be put in their place. Some classes can be covered by other areas.”
For example, the middle school has three keyboarding classes that will be integrated into the English Language Arts courses, she said.
“These kids have been keyboarding all their lives,” she said. “We can work it in. The business math classes can be taught by a math teacher.”
Some of the other classes are half-year classes in which enrollment was not good for the upcoming year, Livingston said.
“I don’t think the kids will miss out on anything,” she said.
With some classes being covered by other teachers, she added, students can look to BOCES’ Career and Technical Education Center for more business courses.
The teaching position that will be added is an art position with technology certification. Garrahy will be kept on a seven-year list of eligible teachers should the business teacher position be reinstated.
Georgette Valle’s 18-year-old son, Richie, has taken business courses from Garrahy for the past two years. She said his experience has been invaluable.
“We always knew he would do something with numbers,” said Valle. “He’s always been good with numbers. In her class, he learned where he could apply it.”
Richie will be attending Dominican College in the fall, majoring in finance.
“He told me himself that having her — having those classes — made him decide to go into finance.”
Garrahy said she is disappointed that no one informed her of the intent to eliminate the position.
“This was not discussed at budget time,” she said. “Every other school in the area is growing their business program, and this action was well-known among the administration and the board. They sat on the information, which will affect my chances of getting a job now.”
Board of education president John Pasichnyk said the matter was indeed discussed at budget time, “but somewhere the ball was dropped.”
“She was never informed until 4 p.m.” on the day of the meeting,” he said. “That is regretful. Somewhere an administrator dropped the ball.”
Out of what he called “professional courtesy,” Garrahy should have been notified.
“We have to look to see at what level the breakdown occurred,” Pasichnyk said. “The board was not aware that she didn’t know about this until she showed up at the meeting.”
Livingston said she is trying to get protocols and procedures in place for such actions. But, according to the teachers’ contract, notification must be made by June 1, she said.
That doesn’t help Garrahy who, in addition to being a certified teacher, has 20 years of business experience to share with her students. She said there were business openings in several nearby districts including Monroe, Warwick, and Port Jervis. All have been filled, she said.
“I came here in November 2006 with no curriculum in place,” said Garrahy. “I built this curriculum. I helped get a grant to teach e-commerce. It’s just awful. I believe this is not a sound, educational decision.”
“So many kids have no idea what they want to do,” she said. “It’s great that my son found where to use his talents through her classes. I think we should be adding things, not taking them away. We pay the same taxes as Goshen, Monroe-Woodbury. We should have the same opportunities.
Battle of the Bands at the Castle Fun Center
Chester — Sharpen your axes— the Castle Fun Center in Chester is holding a Battle of the Bands this summer.
The teen battle will be held on Friday, July 25. The adult battle, for people 21 and over, is Saturday, July 26. And the Christian battle is Sunday, July 27.
Submit demo tapes by June 10 to: The Castle Fun Center, Attn: Mike/Sue/ P.O. Box 132, Chester, NY 10918.
The Castle reports that $30,000 worth of lights have already been set, and the stage building is now underway.
“By the time we’re done and ready to go, there will be over $100k worth of lighting and sound equipment ready and waiting to make this battle your dream come true!” says The Castle’s My Space page. The venue can hold over 1,000 people.
For more information, visit http://www.myspace.com/thecastlefuncenter.
Registration taking place for Chester Youth Theater summer program
CHESTER — The Chester Youth Theater, a six week training program for area serious theater students between the ages of 14 and 18, will take place July 8 to Aug. 15.
The Theater Training Program provides young people within the area with theater arts training and to increase community exposure to theater arts by experienced industry professional in a state-of-the-art theater venue.
The program provides young people from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to participate in a theater experience that will help them develop confidence, responsibility, teamwork, and a greater sense of self and community. Workshops and classes include acting, design and theatrical production
Acting classes will include improvisation, scene study, movement and voice as well as internal process, rhythm and pacing. Classes, rehearsals and production work will be held three days a week for four hours a day.
The program’s design and technical portion will support the productions scheduled for the end of the season including lighting, sound, costume and some scenery. The program will end with full productions of several short plays allowing each student to participate in a complete role and offer multiple challenges for the design and technical team, and are open to the public.
The classes will be led by Paul Ellis, who has trained as a theatre director with Lee Strassberg, Jullian Beck, Jean Claude Van Ittalie. Ellis has also directed more than 70 plays. He has taught acting to all ages and has recently specialized in high school and college aged students, with an emphasis on serious students who plan a career in the field.
“Having worked for so many years in professional settings I have found that the sooner a serious acting student can began developing real stage skills the better,” said Ellis, “I started at the age of 19 and have been fortunate to have worked with some of the best. They were very generous and I believe I can direct students toward their goals with a clear understanding of what is expected in the acting process. The classes this summer will be designed to allow students to work through a complete character in the context of a full play.”
The program is sponsored in part by the Chester Parks and Recreation Department and will be held in the Pavilion of the Lycian Centre in Sugar Loaf. Space is limited as the program can only accommodate up to thirty students.
The fee for the six week program is $325 for Chester residents and $375 for non-residents.
For more information call 469-7000 or 469-7563.
County makes case for through road at Hambletonian Park – County planners: For the common good, all neighborhoods must share traffic burdenBy Edie JohnsonFrom the top of Arthur Place – the part of the road that already has houses on it – looking down at the Goshen Historic Track.(PHOTO BY EDIE JOHNSON)
CHESTER — It’s a common conflict these days. The county’s vision for how the area should develop often differs with what an individual town, or neighborhood, might want.
Towns never worry about the whole of Orange County’s 816 square miles, or the 370,000 people who live in its 42 towns, villages, and cities. That’s the job of county planning commissioner David Church, who sees nearly 2,000 development projects on his desk each year. He must look at how each project will affect wetlands, aquifers, open spaces, and easements, and consider whether it complies with local and state law.
And he must also take into account public reaction to a project, which is often intense.
A case in point is Hambletonian Park, a well-established, 45-year-old development on the outskirts of Goshen. It is about to begin its third phase, which will put 37 houses on 20.4 acres. Church wants to see a through road installed there to connect two established thoroughfares, Old Chester Road and Craigville Road.
But Hambletonian Park residents are fighting mad. A through road means a lot of extra cars that will imperil their neighborhood, they say.
Hambletonian Park has two hotly contested stub roads, Bridle Path Place and Arthur Place. The county recommends that they be opened up for access to and from the village, and to keep construction vehicles off Hambletonian Park’s myriad side streets, where even light local traffic has for years been enough to break the water lines underneath.
Arthur Place is already an active street. It climbs up the hill behind the Goshen Historic Track but stops at the top, where it turns into a 150-foot-long wooded path extending to the development’s edge.
Church’s mission is to improve “interconnectivity” in an increasingly congested county. He sees the connection of Hambletonian Park’s stub roads as a way to ease mounting congestion on Main Street, Craigville Road, and Sara Wells Trail.
Kate Schmidt, the county’s associate planner, said good planning requires the “equitable distribution of the congestion.” Without connecting roads, she said, the problem will just keep getting worse at the Main Street/Scotchtown/Craigville intersection, which already received borderline failing grades on the county’s traffic study.
“What makes Ham Park children more important than the children residing on Craigville and Main Street?” she asked.
Some people in those neighborhoods have difficulty even getting out of their driveways, she said.
Part of the problem arises from traffic in and out of the county government center in the village, especially during the morning school bus run, Schmidt said. She has been pushing the county to go to a more flexible work schedule to ease rush hour traffic.
Hambletonian residents have been protesting the through street so hotly that Goshen Planning Board Chair Ralph Huddleston asked the town police chief to send an officer to next Thursday’s meeting to keep the peace. He said he has heard reports of a deliberate plan to disrupt the meeting. Such heights of passion are rare, he said, but not unprecedented.
For the board to approve phase three without the county-recommended through street, it will have to produce a supermajority vote. That is, the majority of planning board members plus one must approve the idea to make the decision binding.
The town planning board has for three years been meeting with Hambletonian Park homeowners about the third phase. Along the way, the plan has been revised to add buffer space and trees, reduce the number of houses, and include house designs that will blend in with the neighborhood. They made larger backyards with protective easements for conservation from their neighbors.
But although the public hearing phase of the approval process closed about a year ago, residents want another opportunity to weigh in, this time on the through road and the barrage of short-cut traffic they believe it will bring to their quiet community.
A possible alternative – putting a through street along nearby Land ‘O Goshen Park – would be a matter for the town and the developer of the property to decide, Schmidt said. The property running alongside the park belongs to the newer Heritage Estates development.
The developer of Hambletonian’s third phase will pay for the roadwork during construction. The town will pay for improvements in the future, after the work is complete.
At a homeowners’ meeting last month, residents blamed Church, the county planning commissioner, for their predicament.
‘No dog in this fight’
But Church said he has not put any undue pressure on Goshen’s Planning Board to require the through-road connections. He said he is just doing his job, making recommendations based on sound planning. His through-street recommendations are based on the draft plan for the Mid-County Study performed by the Regional Plan Association.
“We don’t have any dog in this fight,” he said. “I review the applications, make comments as required, send them back for further review. I try to do what is best for the town.
“Everyone wants good through roads,” he continued, “but they just want them by someone else’s house.”
Church and Schmidt pointed to the draft regional plan, which pushes for “multiple options” and subdivisions with “road systems that connect with adjoining subdivisions.”
The county’s traffic consultant, Fred Budde said in a memo this week that a “network of small interconnected streets has more traffic capacity than the same street area arranged in a sparse hierarchy of large streets.”
The convergence of large streets, like Main Street/Scotchtown/Craigville, are based on an outdated planning model that only makes traffic worse, Church said.
“We are for fewer roads and better connectivity,” he said. Roads are expensive, usually costing millions of dollars, he said.
And the old concept of widening roads to improve traffic flow doesn’t work either, he said, with wide roads usually attracting more traffic than narrow, connected roads. It’s also possible to calm traffic in other ways, by installing roundabouts, stop signs, and speed feedback equipment; providing pedestrian walkways and bike paths as an alternative to cars; and making good and services more available in neighborhoods to make travel less necessary.
Next case: Chester
The next interconnectivity challenge for the Orange County Planning Department can be found in Chester.
Barry Sloan, a member of the Town of Chester Planning Board, laced into county planning Commissioner David Church just last week about the mounting traffic problem at the Chester Interchange at Exit 126.
The exchange will see several more thousand vehicles per day when all the development before the planning board is complete. And there are few alternative routes.
Help for the Chester logjam may come with improvements to mass transportation. A new Short Line maintenance and storage facility at Tetz Industrial Park, designed to be a modern, pollution-free building, is now in the planning stages.
Businesses charged with selling alcohol to minors – Businesses call sting unfairBy Susan Cornell
Chester — The proprietors of six businesses in the Village of Chester have been charged with serving alcohol to minors.
At Monday’s village board meeting, police Chief Graziano reported that on May 24 the police department conducted an underage drinking check on local bars, restaurants, and retail establishments. The businesses charged include Lorgan’s Liquors, Mobil On The Run, Brother Bruno’s Pizzeria and Restaurant, Tina’s Pizza Café, ShopRite, and Bodles Opera House.
The village conducted its check in conjunction with the New York State Liquor Authority.
“There’s no excuse,” Graziano said. Businesses can scan IDs, which immediately show the bearer’s age, he said.
But some local businesses told The Chronicle that the sting was unfair. Patty Lorgan of Lorgan’s Liquors said her business is always scrupulous in checking IDs. “We even check people in their 40s,” she said.
She said the police told her husband the ID in question was checked, but that it was “not a proper ID.”
“I don’t know what that means,” she said.
The employee who did the check, on a Saturday, is very conscientious, she said.
Lorgan said it was a shame.
“We work so hard to make a nice business,” she said.
The manager of Brother Bruno’s, who did not want to provide his name, called the sting “a set up.”
He did not want to elaborate except to say: “I’ve got a lawyer and I’m going to court tomorrow.”
But the proprietor of Tina’s Pizza Café, who did not want to give his name, said the police were just doing their job. The business has a rule to check all IDs, he said, but the police check came at a very busy time at the restaurant. Even so, the ID should have been properly checked in any case, he said.
He noted that Tina’s Pizza Café, now in its 20th year, does a lot for the community, including helping with the local school’s all-night graduation parties. He said the incident was very upsetting to him and he hopes it never happens again.
ShopRite, Bodles Opera House, and Pat Delaney, the public affairs manager for Mobil On The Run, did not immediately return calls asking for comment.
The sting comes at a time of heightened anxiety about substance abuse among the young in Chester. School officials, the police, the fire department, and local parents have all contributed to a number of informational meetings this year to address what they see as a growing problem (see related story on page 13). Michelle Deshler has organized several community meetings at the firehouse for local parents who want to talk about the problem and discuss strategies to address it. And the school has hosted three informational assemblies so far this year. Most of the gatherings have featured guest speakers in law enforcement and treatment.
At one assembly held at the Chester Academy, the experts agreed that local businesses had to do their part to combat the problem. Graziano noted that 13 establishments sell liquor in the village alone.
He told about having to take kids from drinking parties to spend the night at the county’s social services department, saying “the kids were so drunk, they were unresponsive.”
Fireworks in the park
Vending applications for Chester’s annual fireworks display have been submitted by Slugger’s Heavenly Hot Dogs, the town and village Police Benevolent Associations, local veterans, the Chester Republican Committee, the Little Forgotten Friends Rescue and Hospice of Chester, and the Chester Fire District. The period in which to submit applications has been closed.
The fireworks will start at dusk on Saturday, July 12, at Community Park. The rain date is July 19.
Trustee John Deshler, liaison to the parks and recreation commission, said the new restroom and concession stand at the park will cost approximately $200,000. The commission is also looking into the possibility of installing a skateboard area there.
Two movies will be shown at the Chester Commons this summer, Deshler reported: “Shrek 3” on July 25, and other movie, still to be determined, on Aug. 8.
In other business
• Building Inspector John Orr said the Lowe’s home improvement center is making progress, with the building just about closed in and work now proceeding on the roof. The store expects to open in October, he said.
• Orange County Trust is preparing two houses for demolition and one for renovation.
• Village Water Commissioner Tom Becker reported that his department has completed water testing.
• A two-inch water line at the Lobster Pier restaurant blew, necessitating repairs to the water main, Becker said.
• Mayor Phil Valastro said Steve Hunter will be missed after nine years of service as acting village justice. He is leaving to serve as judge for the Orange County Surrogate’s Court. Valastro introduced Lynn Tabett, who will be serving as acting village justice until the next reorganization meeting in April 2009.
• Citizens asked the mayor for an update of the university proposed for Camp LaGuardia. He said there appears to be a bidding war for the property, and that the bidding is apparently going to be left open by the county until July. Whoever buys the property should purchase a source of water, the mayor said. “I don’t want to cut ourselves short,” he said.
If you see $2.5 on the gas pump, look again before you celebrate — the total price is likely double that figure.
State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker says the price of fuel, now over $4 a gallon, has risen higher than pumps can calculate in some cases. Stations with non-digital fuel pumps can apply for half-pricing since older equipment can’t compute prices higher than $3.999.
Signs advertising gas prices must still advertise the full price per gallon, but the price on the pump would be half that price. A sign on the pump would explain that the actual sale price is double the total amount displayed.
The half-pricing would be temporary, until the station received new computers.
The problem results from a national shortage of replacement computers.
Franchise bucks trend Despite steep drop in profits, Lowe’s won’t delay opening
CHESTER — To see the ripple effect caused by the bust in the housing market, you need look no farther than what has happened to Lowe’s, the nation’s second-largest home improvement retailer.
In mid-May, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company’s first-quarter profit dropped a precipitous 18 percent, “hurt by the declining housing market and a spate of other economic worries that cut into consumers’ discretionary spending.”
Lowe’s told the Journal that it is “taking a closer look at its new-store expansion by either postponing some planned openings or walking away from some potential store prospects after some new stores missed the company’s internal projections.”
But company spokesperson Maureen Rich told The Chronicle that won’t affect the progress of the 170,000-square-foot store now going up in the Village of Chester. “Construction of the new Lowe’s store in Chester is progressing well, and we expect to open in the third quarter of 2008,” Rich wrote in an e-mailed message. “During Lowe’s recent earnings announcement, we reiterated plans to open 120 stores in 2008 and described plans to postpone some new store openings in markets experiencing more difficult economic conditions, such as in Florida and California. Lowe’s has made no such announcement regarding the Chester location.
“Our goal is always to build the best store on the best site for our customers, so we can continue to deliver the outstanding customer service that shoppers have come to expect from Lowe’s. We look forward to joining the Chester community!”
The buzz of activity at the construction site bears out the company’s confidence in its Chester franchise. A massive helicopter hovered over the site for 40 minutes on Tuesday to install the building’s air-conditioning system. A/C units dangled on long lines as the chopper picked them up one by one and carried them to the center of the just-completed roof, where construction cranes can’t reach. And work is also proceeding on a new turning lane that will widen the road just past new Chester interchange. The lane will siphon traffic off the exchange and into the store’s parking lot.
Lowe’s is going up on the site of a longtime landmark, the Chester Hide and Skin rendering and meat-packing plant, which was razed last year. The old plant encompassed 52,000 square feet, not even a third the size of the new store.
School makes final move to eliminate teacherBY LINDA SMITH HANCHARICK
CHESTER — The vote was postponed two weeks ago, but that wouldn’t be the case this time as the Chester Board of Education voted 4 to 1 to eliminate its business teacher position.
Parents, residents, and the president of the teachers’ association had asked the board to rethink its position before the vote last Thursday.
“Why isn’t there a business program?” asked Dotty Connelly, a Chester resident. “How many schools in Orange County do not have business programs?”
Connelly asked who the board consulted before making its decision. Did the high school guidance counselor weigh in? she asked.
John Pasichnyk, the board president, said he would get answers to her questions. But before he could do that, the board voted to do away with the position, leaving Connelly incredulous.
“Why ask for a copy of my questions about the business teacher?” Connelly asked.
Moira Roggia, the elementary school nurse, also spoke in favor of the business program.
“I feel this position is very important,” she said. “I’m disappointed the board is dropping it. I support the arts, but not instead of business.”
Pam Kavenagh, president of the Chester Teachers Association and a psychologist for the district, also lent her support.
She said that, as the union president, “I have a vested interest in this, but as a psychologist I have a vested interest in what is best for the students. Not all students go to BOCES for business classes, and the cost is an issue. Other classes cannot be taught by a teacher without certification in that area.”
Outgoing board member Mary Luciana tried to table the issue until more information could be gathered from other districts, but her motion was not seconded. She later voted against eliminating the position.
The board moved to eliminate the business teacher position because some classes for next year were not filled. Superintendent of schools Helen Ann Livingston said other teachers could take on some business classes, and that students could attend business classes at the BOCES’ Career and Technical Education Center.
Dafna Garrahy taught business to middle school and high school students at Chester for the past two years. Garrahy said her classes averaged between 12 and 18 children.
She said she built her curriculum from nothing when she came to the school. Two classes were not filled for next year, she said, but the others were.
Garrahy has 20 years of business experience as well as a teaching certification in business. She was not told of the plan to eliminate her position until May 22, the day it was supposed to have happened.
To the manor born – A look back, as new chapter opens for Glenmere mansionBy Edie JohnsonGlenmere’s grounds made it “the place” to have a wedding.
Chester — Before the Great Depression, before the income tax, before the two world wars, a mansion was built on the shores of Glenmere Lake.
The builder was Robert Goelet IV (1880-1966), the nature-loving scion of one of the world’s wealthiest families. The Goelets had migrated to America during Colonial times, starting out as hardware merchants and eventually becoming financiers. One of Robert’s ancestors founded the Chemical Bank. The family came to control a fortune of tens of millions of dollars, a formidable sum for the time. They were also leaders in New York society. Robert IV built a mansion that would accommodate the grandest parties, indoors and out.
He hired Carrere & Hastings, architects of such iconic buildings as the New York Public Library and the Guggenheim Museum, to build a 32-room Tuscan villa on his 8,000-acre estate at Glenmere. “Glenmere Court,” as it was known at the time, was completed in 1911. Guests ice skated on the lake and raced horses around it. They skied the hillsides that slope down to its shore.
Goelet also made Glenmere the site of much sporting activity. In his 1934 book “Guns and Gunning,” Captain Paul A. Curtis calls Glenmere “one of the biggest private preserves in North America.” He rapturously describes “ducks coming over me in a constant stream” during a hunting expedition there. Curtis was among “eight guns,” most of them “international sportsmen … with wide experience in shooting driven game in Scotland and Europe.” On a single day at Glenmere, they set a record by bagging 510 ducks and 300 pheasants. “I do not believe that a greater percentage of ducks was ever killed in America in such a short period,” he wrote.
Glenmere was also a training ground for Labrador retrievers, the show stock of the American Kennel Club. The first retriever field trial in the United States was held at Glenmere Court on Dec. 21, 1931. W. Averell Harriman won the American-Bred Stake at that first trial. Years earlier, The New York Times had described Glenmere’s kennels as having “the finest group of West Highland terriers and Great Danes in North America.”
As members of the Goshen Driving Club, Harriman and Goelet also shared a passion for horses. A New York Times article from 1914 describes “ice trotting” races on New Year’s Day “incidental to the housewarming of Mr. Goelet’s new home.” Goelet, Harriman, and Richard Delafield raced on the lake ice with “other owners of fast horses living in the immediate vicinity.” This “old-fashioned, exhilarating, and exciting sport is having a revival this winter all through the country,” the Times concluded.
Other guests enjoyed the estate’s new toboggan slide whose length ran “a mile or more,” according to the Times.Beatrix Farrand’s garden at the estate of her aunt, Edith Wharton.
Robert’s son Peter set up a short-wave radio while his parents were in Europe, using it to broadcast his parents’ views on the Depression, foreign affairs, and other government issues until the Feds shut the unlicensed station down. The Warwick Historical Society has a manuscript titled “Memories of Wilfred (Bill) L. Raynor, Jr.,” a first-person account of radio days at WGNY, the legitimate station Peter later established at the estate. Back then WGNY played “hillbilly band” music, and it’s still around today, playing “golden oldies” out of Newburgh. The station is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
More recently, Glenmere evolved into “the place” to have a wedding or reception because of its breathtaking grounds. Robert was an avid bird watcher and environmentalist with a degree from the Yale School of Forestry, and his role in designing and caring for the property and its trees is still evident today.
Glenmere’s gardens are a legacy of their own. They were designed by Beatrix Farrand, the pre-eminent landscape architect of the era, known not only for her gardens but for her writing about them. Her aunt was the novelist Edith Wharton; Farrand designed the gardens at Wharton’s estate “The Mount” in Lennox, Mass. (now in danger of foreclosure). Farrand designed the Rose Garden at the White House and many other famous gardens. Her terraced hillside gardens are wild and free, but her creations also include formal, brick-lined gardens with arches, fountains, and statues.
Robert’s estate was converted in the 1930s to the Glenmere Hotel, which served as a retreat for heads of state, sport stars, and musicians. Jay Westerveld, president of the Sugar Loaf Historical Society, remembers the glamor of more recent times. “I had the opportunity to live on the estate … and the memories I have of the lavish parties held there are the stuff of F. Scott Fitzgerald,” he wrote in a letter to the editor.
The Glenmere Hotel
Westerveld credits its most recent owner, Rick Mandel, for “saving Glenmere mansion from the wrecking ball in the mid-1980s.” Mandel “painstakingly restored the condemned villa to its present splendor over the ensuing decades.”
The next chapter in the estate’s long history is eagerly anticipated. Glenmere’s current owners hired architect Chris DeHaan to turn the estate into a bed and breakfast. Plans include adding a pool, a spa, and a restaurant. To keep the peace and quiet, golf carts will be used to travel the property and move supplies around.
The owners say they will spare no expense, and will do whatever it takes to bring the property back to its original splendor. They expect Glenmere’s connection to the past will make it a popular destination well into the future.
Consumer fireworks: dangerous and illegal
CHESTER — Fireworks and the Fourth of July are two things that seem to go hand in hand. This Fourth of July, the Village and Town of Chester Police, The Chester Fire Department and the Chester Volunteer Ambulance Corps along with New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control would like to remind all Residents that the use and possession of all consumer fireworks is illegal in our state.
A warning about the dangers of fireworks and the injuries they cause each year is, theoretically, unnecessary. However, we all know that many people across New York State will choose to overlook the law and use them illegally during various private celebrations. Due to this simple fact, we believe it is essential to remind residents of Chester of the state law, and bring awareness to the many potential dangers of fireworks and the injuries they cause.
Fact: the safest way to prevent fireworks-related injuries is to leave fireworks displays to trained professionals. Annually, thousands of people are treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained from the usage of fireworks, the highest rate of injury (usually half) being children under 15 years of age. The most common injuries that occur are to the hands and fingers, eyes, and the head and face. Over half the injuries are burns.
Fireworks can cause blindness, third degree severe burns, permanent scarring, and may also cause life threatening residential and motor vehicle fires.
Between June 18 and July 18, 2005, the majority of firework related injuries were caused by firecrackers (26%), followed by sparklers (17%), and bottle rockets (17%) (Greene & Joholske 2006). Sparklers were associated with more than half of the estimated injuries for children under five. Parents, many of who are aware of the dangers of firecrackers, bottle rockets, and roman candles, have an illusion that sparklers are safe for young children. Sparklers can reach temperatures of over 1000°F, and should never be handled by a child under the age of 12.
Between 2000-2005, more than one third of the fireworks-related deaths involved professional devices that were illegally sold to consumers (CPSC 2006a).
How and why do these injuries occur?
Availability: In spite of federal regulations and varying state prohibitions, many types of fireworks are often accessible by the public. It is not uncommon to find fireworks distributors near state borders, where residents of states with strict fireworks regulations can take advantage of more lenient state laws.
Fireworks types: Among the various types of fireworks, some of which are sold legally in some states, bottle rockets can fly into one’s face and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite one’s clothing (sparklers burn at more than 1000°F); and firecrackers can injure one’s hands or face if they explode at close range.
Being too close: Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when they explode; for example, when someone bends over to look more closely at a firework that has been ignited, or when a misguided bottle rocket hits a nearby person.
Lack of physical coordination: Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely.
Curiosity: Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured (for example, when they re-examine a firecracker dud that initially fails to ignite).
Experimentation: Homemade fireworks (for example, ones made of the powder from several firecrackers) can lead to dangerous explosions (CDC 2004).
Again, all fireworks are illegal to own or operate use or possess in this state without a permit. They can lead to serious injuries or death. Police ask all residents to obey state law and leave fireworks displays to the trained professionals and come out on July 12 when the Chester Park & Recreation will host a professional fireworks display at the Chester community park in the Village.
Remember summer security
CHESTER — As the warmer weather approaches and you plan your summer family vacation, the Town of Chester Police Department advises that you remember to keep your house safe while you are away.
There are many precautions you can take to accomplish this. The Town of Chester Police Department, as well as many other police agencies in the area offers a free service to assist in keeping your home safe while you are away. Simply register with the police department to have house checks completed while you are away. Town of Chester residents can go to the Chester website, http://www.thetownofchester.org and click on “Going on vacation?” in the right column.
You may complete this form online and click “submit” to have your home registered for a security check. Police Officers will check your house while you are away looking for any signs of a break-in, vandalism, or anything else out of the ordinary. By supplying a contact number, such as a cell phone, you will be called if anything that is unusual or suspicious is noticed.
“The Town of Chester Police Department has offered this service for many years. It is a proactive initiative to help discourage and reduce crime” according to Town Police Chief Brian Jarvis. It also provides peace of mind for residents while they are away.
People can also take measures to help keep their homes secure while they are away in addition to the house check program. Some crime prevention tips for vacationers include:
* Have your mail and newspaper delivery suspended or have someone stop by and collect your deliveries each day. A buildup of mail or newspapers at a residence is a sign for criminals that nobody is home.
* Leave a car in the driveway to give the appearance of occupancy.
* Place some lights on timers. Adjust the times on the timers to vary to give the appearance that someone is home.
* Insure that your doors and windows are closed and locked. A criminal may be discouraged at the level of difficulty in access.
By taking advantage of this program and the associated crime prevention tips, you can help to reduce your chances of coming home to find that your residence has been burglarized. If you reside in an area that is not covered by the Town of Chester Police, please check with your local police department to determine if they offer the house security check program in your area.
Chief Brian Jarvis
A piece of old Chester is cleared away
Clifton Patrick and Leslie Smith photographed these houses being demolished to make way for the Orange County Trust project. Smith took these on June 16, when the former Amelia Alex residence was destroyed. Many of Alex’s descendants still live in Chester. She also photographed the former McCoy residence, which has been vacant for 20-plus years, when it was demolished. The photographs are primarily to be placed in the archive of the Chester Historical Society. Smith and Patrick, who is the Chester historian, also documented the interiors of all three houses about a month ago. Patrick created the panorama.
Chester won’t create swim team – Board: cost prohibitive if others come out for the teamBy Linda Smith Hancharick
Chester — The Chester School Board defeated a motion Tuesday night to create varsity swim teams which would have allowed the one student who has expressed interest in swimming to do so with a neighboring district.
Citing costs, three board members: President John Paschinyk, Vice President Joan Donato, and Judi Burger, voted against creating the teams while outgoing board member Mary Luciana and Wendy Murray voted yes.
The board members were given estimated costs to create the swim team from Athletic Director, Jason Closs. The cost to run the team was estimated at $37,353.80 for the girls’ fall swim season. If any boys also wanted to swim, the cost was doubled to include a boys’ winter swim season. Luciana said the costs were exaggerated.
“We have one student who came forward to swim,” said Luciana. “They (her family) contacted Warwick and Warwick agreed to have her swim. The parents would transport her.”
The costs were broken down to include $3,728.80 for a coach, $110 per hour to rent pool time for practices for a total of $11,550, almost $19,000 for transportation to and from practices five days each week and 18 competitive meets, and $2,151 for officials.
Why all the costs, when it only cost the district about $800 for dues last year to have Taylor Zuber swim for Chester with Washingtonville? The district’s lawyers found that it is illegal to do what Chester did last year and in previous years when students ran track for the district with Burke Catholic.
“Our policy, we’ve been told, is incorrect,” said Donato. “Parents can no longer pay. The district must fund the team. These expenses would be incurred by the taxpayers.”
“For her to swim an interscholastic sport, we must establish a swim team,” said Superintendent Helen Anne Livingston.
About the cost estimates
Even with the district creating the team, Luciana insisted, the costs wouldn’t be close to what the estimate is. “Transportation looks like $370 for a meet or $400. We’re talking one student, possibly five. We have a van outside,” said Luciana. “Mrs. Brown driving the van wouldn’t cost a third of what this is. We can take up to seven kids in the van and it would cost so much less. I think these numbers are really off.”
Students and districts throughout the county are doing it the way Chester has done it for years, Luciana added. Now, everyone but Chester will do it.
“We have had this policy for years. We have the same lawyer now who didn’t think it was unlawful before. Warwick allows Florida students to participate but poor Taylor. She goes to Chester so she can’t. You’re personalizing something that shouldn’t be… All the other school districts are doing this but Chester is just so wonderful and doing everything right,” said Luciana.
The board recently established a wrestling team for about $10,000. Murray questioned why that would cost so much less. Because the wrestling team practices at Chester Academy, said Livingston, there are no transportation costs for those practices. Zuber’s parents have offered to provide transportation for their daughter to and from practices.
Diane Mancuso, a Goshen resident in the district, said other teams practice offsite and not right after school; the district does not provide transportation for them.
The estimate was for five competitors although officials admit no one else in the district has ever expressed interest in swimming besides Zuber. Livingston said she has talked to Warwick, which agreed to take the one student interested without charge for pool time but would charge for pool time for any additional students.
Luciana said the charge for pool time still was not near the $110 quoted by the Chester district. Still, Luciana tried to establish the teams, using funds from the district’s unreserved, undesignated fund balance if necessary. “If Warwick says no and everyone else says no, then we disband the teams,” said Luciana. “Give it a shot and see what happens. There are so many ‘ifs.’ To deny her on your ‘ifs’ just isn’t fair. If we put it out there, let’s give it our best shot.”
Luciana asked Frank Sambets for his opinion. Sambets won the school board election in May and sits at the board table during meetings. Sambets, one of the organizers of the district’s wrestling club, declined to comment.
“I don’t see the logic in it,” said Donato. “Probably, if we find a place to swim, we’re going to spend $75,000 of the public’s hard-earned money for a sport we have no facilities for.”
“We won’t spend the money if we don’t find a place to swim,” Luciana answered.
An issue of language or law
Two weeks ago, it looked like all would be fine with just a change in language. The board had given its approval last year to Zuber to swim for Chester under the auspices of Washingtonville since Chester didn’t have a pool or a swim team. When they did it, though, they created a “swim team of one,” and apparently that language is not acceptable.
It sounded simple enough, but then the district came back this week saying they would have to create both boys and girls swim teams in order to have Zuber compete again.
Two weeks ago, as well as Tuesday night, the discussions became heated. They started with a request from a dad to the school board and escalated into a shouting match with tempers flaring and fingers pointing.
Tim Simpson had come to the board on behalf of his daughter, Zuber, who is finishing her freshman year at Chester Academy. Last year, the board created the swim team of one for Zuber, who has a disability that affects her knees, keeping her from participating in more high-impact sports that are offered by the district. She swam for Chester Academy last fall, practicing with and going to meets with Washingtonville.
When it looked like the language was incorrect, Simpson said he followed the district’s protocol, listed on the home page of its Web site, to have the issue corrected. For sports related issues, the first line is the coach, which doesn’t pertain to this situation. Next is the athletic director, then the building principal, then the superintendent. When Simpson called the district’s athletic director, he said Closs advised him it was a board issue. So, Simpson and his wife, Dina, came to the board.
“I began with the athletic director,” Simpson said. “He said this is a board issue.”
“Ms (Superintendent) Livingston would prefer to have a meeting with you,” said Paschinyk.
“We keep getting told this is a board issue,” said Dina Simpson. “I don’t care whose issue it is. The clock is ticking and we’ve already been through this last year.”
“The language is inappropriate,” said Tim Simpson. “Taylor has been accepted to swim in Warwick.”
“You must go through the chain of command,” said Paschinyk.
When Simpson explained he was going through the chain as outlined on the Web site, Paschinyk raised his voice, “Do you have a point you want to make? This is my meeting, sir.”
Which sparked tempers from the audience.
“If the Web site is wrong tell me it’s wrong,” said Tim Simpson. “I was told by the athletic director it’s a board issue. I have accepted for my daughter to swim and I’m doing what I have to do. We were told last year that the policy is in place. We have to kick it off and get the ball rolling. That’s what we are doing.”
But that wouldn’t be good enough. This week, Simpson was upset not only that the district did not create the swim team but, in his eyes, for not being honest.
“We’ve all been around here long enough to know,” said Simpson specifically to Livingston. “If you were going to present figures to the board, at least get accurate information. The numbers were over inflated. When it was about football and wrestling, everything was good to go. I commend Ms. Livingston for her victory.”