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Pandemic Spurs Catskills Real Estate Rush

Written By Editor on 7/4/20 | 7/4/20

Urban Dwellers Seeking Move from City Fuel Red-Hot Residential Market
By Brian Sweeney
The coronavirus pandemic that has swept through nearly every corner of the globe this year will have a wide-ranging impact that will forever change the world. As of this week, Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has claimed nearly half-a-million lives, including more than 124,000 in the United States.
Those numbers continue to rise as a drug companies scramble to develop a vaccine and an effective treatment for Covid-19. By most experts’ estimates, a vaccine is likely still a year away.
On the economic front, the devastating impact of the pandemic is certain to last for years.
New York City was an early epi-center of the coronavirus outbreak, but is now in the midst of a phased reopening of its business sectors. When the enormity of the pandemic became apparent in mid-March, many metropolitan area residents felt the need to escape urban environments for the relative safety of less populated areas. The Catskill Region became one of those preferred destinations.
Many owners of second homes turned their rural residences into full-time sanctuaries. Other looking for safer havens have sought refuge at typically short-term rental properties — opting for multiple-month stays. Some upstate residents haven’t welcomed this unprecedented population influx, expressing fears of increased chances of exposure to Covid-19 and stresses on local health facilities and other services.
Unexpected boost
On the other hand, the population surge has provided unanticipated boosts for some regional businesses. Renewed interest for locally produced food has provided a major benefit to farmers. Probably no business has felt a greater impact from the pandemic than real estate.
Although real estate sales agents were only recently allowed to commence in-person showings, demand for Catskill Region property has been soaring since very early in the pandemic. Veterans of the profession are comparing the phenomenon to the post-911 attacks when unprecedented numbers of urban dwellers felt the need to flee to the country. In the nearly two decades since the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, much has changed. Among the most significant shifts is the advancement of computer technology. With many workers relegated to working remotely as a result of social distancing concerns, the ability to communicate from anywhere is seen as one of the key factors fueling the real estate boom.
The Catskill Chronicle reached out to several real estate professionals to get their observations of the current phenomenon.
Peggy Bellar and Meade Camp are the Catskill Dream Team, a Margaretville-based real estate company. Peggy said changes in their business were quickly apparent.
Re-evaluating
“There is a real shift in how folks are looking at their living situations and how they are reflecting on what is important, For many this ability to work from home puts a new emphasis on what ‘home’ is. The idea of the peace, the fresh air, the space and refuge of the Catskills has become very appealing,” she related.
Interestingly, the same technology that has people seeking to work from seclusion of a mountain setting has also played a key role in bringing folks to the region — even then when were restricted from visiting properties.
Peggy explained, “Before we could even do ‘in-person’ showings I did four back-to-back FaceTime virtual tours at one of our high-end farmhouse listings that resulted in a full-price sale. It was a difficult time for both agents and buyers, but people were really respectful and grateful that we were willing to figure out the best possible technology solutions available so that they could continue to look for their Catskill retreat.”
Now that properties can be shown again, Peggy said she and her staff are witnessing a tremendous amount of pent-up demand. She note that inventory is incredibly low and buyer demand is very high. She said the over one recent weekend, he company did 26 showings of a new listing that resulted in 13 offers.
Peggy indicated that setting up a remote office seems to be a theme many for many potential buyers to exploring as they re-think what ‘work’ may look like in the future.
“The pandemic has caused a seismic shift and folks are in the process of understanding what it means. However it seems clear that once things are fully open, life and work are going to look quite different. We are fortunate that our Internet access and fiber optic access has become so strong. It is a key factor in allowing people the possibility to actually consider this possibility,” Peggy explained.
She noted that large numbers of people are coming to the Catskills with the intent to have a second home and escape for the summer, while NYC and vicinity remain under much greater restrictions. Peggy said that many of these visitors are at least considering what it would look like to be here full-time.
From what she’s witnessed, Peggy expects this trend to continue.
In terms of demand, Peggy said there’s always been a historical sweet-spot of the “charming cabin on five acres” and that desire is unchanged. However, she said there’s been a dramatic increase in interest across the board, at all price points.
Between the lack of inventory, and the deep pool of prospective buyers, The Catskill Mountain Chronicle asked if many homeowners were getting the urge to take advantage of the demand.
This has been happening somewhat, according to Peggy. However, she pointed out that it’s been an odd time because many potential sellers who are second home-owners here have decided to use their houses for themselves and many homeowners have been reluctant to list too soon as they are exercising caution with people entering their homes.
“That being said we are getting calls, putting up listings, and selling them quickly!” she added.
She said that most buyers are primarily looking for existing homes, but her agents are starting to talk to more people who are considering land purchase.
In terms of pricing trends, Peggy said properties are constantly being adjusting as the demand increases. She said most new buyers are looking for a specific thing: they want as turn-key as possible (so they can get in and start using it), and are not looking for a project, and they will absolutely pay for that type of listing.
She said that, so far, this type of activity has not spread across all types of listings. She said there’s not yet been a rush for land, for large redo projects or even properties at the highest end.
“So far,” Peggy commented, “this rising tide hasn't really lifted those boats. It may come later in the summer?”
Longtime Margaretville attorney Carey Wagner said the amount of work in his office has increased dramatically in the weeks since the state started reopening.
“Real estate has started to boom like it hasn't since 2005. Many deals are being made the day a property is listed, often for more than the asking price,” he related.
Carey noted that after he closed his office on March 20 due to the pandemic, business continued at the usual pace, but the process was completely different. Whereas he used to meet clients at the closing; now, almost all closings have no clients present.
“Sometimes it's just me and the title company; other times, I give executed documents to the other attorney in advance and simply get a check for my client after the closing. So, the process has become more efficient, but less personal, which I miss. But I imagine this will continue as my practice continues,” he stated.
Ready to buy?
Christine O’Shaughnessy is a licensed real estate sales associate and works out of Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties’ Margaretville office. During her 15 years in the business, she has never seen anything like the current market.
The Catskills are hotter than ever right now! We are experiencing rather low inventory and I see listings go contingent at a faster pace than usual, not to mention multiple offers and bidding ‘wars,’” she commented.
However, she cautioned that the high rate of interest does not always coincide with economic realities.
“I would say that Covid-19 has certainly created a knee-jerk reaction and some folks have been rushing up to ‘buy’ properties and may not even be in a financial position to do so. I ask for pre-qualifications, or proof of funds, from everyone prior to showing them anything at all,” Christine explained.
She related that, when things first started, she took a pause, as did many folks. She kept in touch with prospective sellers as well as buyers, and said e-mails certainly did not stop coming in, just at a reduced rate for a while.
“Drive-bys were something that I encouraged as well as getting their financials in order. Once Phase 1 was in place, it allowed me to still conduct business as far as setting up showings, just in a very different way than I am used to,” she pointed out.
Asked if she envisions the continuation of the brisk pace of interest, Christine sees a lot of positives for sustained interest.
“There is no crystal ball for real estate, but with that being said, the Catskills have so much to offer at prices that are reasonable compared to some other areas,” she noted. “Many buyers who I have been working with are actually looking to move here full-time and work remotely with trips to the city, as needed. I have past buyers who have been referring me to their friends, coworkers and even family members. The word has gotten out, and it shows.”
Christine said that many prospective buyers are looking for, what she terms, the “Catskills Package” — a house with some land and privacy. She also sells a good number of village homes and said she’s noticed a higher percentage of buyers looking at them.
She pointed out the convenience of a village home suits many people as far as location, municipal hookups (sewer and water) and noted that many people like to feel a sense of community. She added that some older buyers seem to like not having to always drive everywhere and having a nearby country store and pretty park are important considerations.
“Primarily, buyers are looking for a key, in my opinion. I do sell land, but certainly not as much as homes. As far as building goes, with Covid-19, it seems to have become a bit more challenging starting from scratch,” stated.
The only drawback to the current rush of interest, according to Christine, is limited inventory. She said she’s lost count of how many buyers have contacted her looking for something in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.
“I always like to start early in my conversation, that inventory is low, things are moving faster so if they see something today that looks great, get in the car tomorrow and meet me for a showing,” Christine commented.
With high demand and low supply, Christine has witnessed a growing number of homeowners putting their properties on the market. She noted that a number of these are quite overpriced by ‘optimistic’ owners. She pointed out that pricing too high is OK, if there’s a cash buyer. However, a bank appraisal is required, owners need to keep that some deals will not move forward due to lack of comparable sales.
Christine said that, with the escalation of interest, prices have certainly gone up we’re clearly in sellers’ market. As we enter the historically prime selling season, she looks forward to seeing how things develop.
“The summers are always a busy time for us in real estate, but this has been a particularly strange and busy one. I wish us all to stay safe and enjoy the beauty of these mountains and remember to take a step back and take a deep breath,” Christine offered.
Associate Real Estate Broker Jill Ogden is perennially honored as being one of the top producing agents worldwide for Coldwell Banker. She works out of the Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties office in Delhi.
With the onset of the pandemic, Jill has witnessed the unprecedented interest in the region’s real estate.
“The Catskills Region that we work in has always been a mountain retreat for many, as well as a wonderfully scenic area to live in full-time. Since the pandemic, the demand for properties out here in the country has skyrocketed. It seems like anyone and everyone who was casually looking for a rural property prior to the pandemic, maybe waiting to purchase if just the right property happened to come along, has now made it a top priority to make a purchase now,” Jill related.
She indicated that many potential buyers are not just looking for a getaway, but having had the experience of needing to work from home and, with the realization that this is indeed a possibility, have decided that there is no time like the present to go ahead and make their home/workplace a much more picturesque and natural setting, and relocate to the Catskills.
“The area has such a mix of properties, with ‘something for everyone,” where everything from small land parcels to million-dollar luxury homes are selling. Proximity to the NY metro area is a factor in pricing and demand, with some still making a commute and many still using the area as a weekend getaway needing to be able to make the drive back and forth within a 2.5-3.5-hour timeframe,” she noted
Jill said while in-person showings were on pause, sales agents relied on video walk-throughs and video calls to sell properties, but now that they are fully reopen and people are emerging from their isolations, demand and urgency has escalated. In a market that had been leaning for a while towards the advantage of sellers with already low amounts of inventory, the heavy demand has created a market now where multiple offers are being received within days or sometimes even hours of a property coming on the market.
She noted, “Calls for ‘highest and best,’ and winning bids far over the asking prices have become the norm. I expect this will continue for some time as this pandemic has motivated many to re-evaluate their lifestyles and what is most important. More and more people are discovering the charms of what we love here: scenic landscapes, inspiring mountain views, peace and quiet, fresh real food from local farms and markets, and small towns – each with their own appeals, culture, wonderful people and opportunities.”
One such person the Catskill Mountain Chronicle spoke to asked that his name not be used, but shared his story for deciding to relocate.
The buyer said he I moved from Baton Rouge, LA to Brooklyn around 10 years ago. After a few years of settling in he got a bit stir-crazy in the city and drove up to the Catskills for a weekend getaway and fell in love. Since then, he’s visited in all seasons - originally camping in the state parks and then increasingly leveraging short-term rentals.
He explained, “When Covid hit and work from home was mandated, there was no doubt about where I would head. I originally booked a place in Delaware County for two weeks, which has since turned into three months. After chatting with my friends who got a place in the fall of 2018 as well as their realtor, Reg Oberlag (fellow LSU grad), I started looking in greater earnest around mid-April. Once the market heated up in June it was clear to me that it was time to make the move I've always dreamed of! In anticipation of the rumored bidding wars and following a failed low-ball tactic, I made an offer on a place at asking price and it was accepted.”

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Roxbury Board of Education Announces Plan to Fill Vacancy

Written By Editor on 7/3/20 | 7/3/20



Roxbury Central School Board of Education President, Ed Fersch, announced today that the Board is seeking candidates to fill a vacancy created by a member resignation. According to Fersch, anyone interested in serving on the board should submit a letter of interest to District Clerk, Jeff Bennett at bennettj@roxburycsd.org by July 14, 2020. Candidates need to have been a resident of the District for at least one year. The Board will review the letters and make an appointment at a future meeting.

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Mascot Battle in Schoharie

Written By Editor on 6/29/20 | 6/29/20



By David Avitabile
As statues of historical figures are being defaced and toppled throughout the United States, a battle is raging in the Schoharie Valley on whether to change the Schoharie Central School mascot and alma mater.
Rival groups have taken to social media to defend their positions. One group, Change it from Mascot to Mentor and Keep it Schoharie Indians, is fiercely defending the decades-old mascot while another group, Schoharie Central New Alma Mater and Mascot Collaboration, is fighting to change the mascot and the school song.
Apparently the pro-change group surfaced first, but was quickly shut down after several business owners received threats. The pro-Indian group page is still active and has quickly gained 979 members and is preparing a petition to give to the school board.
The question on whether to change the SCS mascot has been brought up several times, most recently about 20 years ago. After hearing arguments from both sides, school board members at that time decided to leave everything as is.
Rachel Golden, a spokeswoman for the pro-change group, said it was started with “the understanding that American Indian mascots are an outdated concept that perpetuate stereotype and perpetuate harm among the American Indian population, particularly young people.”
The current climate may be the right time to make the change in Schoharie, wrote Ms. Golden, who is from Schoharie but currently lives in Washington D.C., according to her Facebook page.
“This is currently a unique time in correcting past civil rights errors in the United States and the hope was to brainstorm a mascot alternative that would actively welcome all children to the Schoharie Central Schools while celebrating the strong, rich, and vibrant history of the Schoharie Valley without caricature or stereotype.
“The hope was to collect ideas for alternative mascots to be voted on by the community at large and fundraise to help the school district slowly change, understanding this is an era with diminished resources for the schools.”
It never got to that point.
“There were threats made to the most active administrators of the group. Family members and children were named in ways that were inappropriate. In the hysterics even the wrong small businesses were attributed to group leadership.”
The page was eventually shut down.
“There was a group of community members who were clearly very offended by the thought of change and didn’t understand that this wasn’t a group to discuss the idea of if the mascot was a problem. As anger built members looking for change didn’t feel safe and safety was the biggest concern.”
The members of the group do not expect to bring any possible changes to the school board.
The Facebook page to keep the Indian quickly sprang up.
“We started the group because there was another group on Facebook that was trying to change our beloved mascot, the Indians,” said spokeswoman Tammy Coluccio.
“The Indian mascot has been a part of Schoharie for over 70 to 80 years. It is in all our blood if you grew up in Schoharie and went to Schoharie School. I have aunts, uncle, cousins, my mom, and my children who went to Schoharie School from K-12 and have such pride in the Schoharie Indians.”
The mascot honors the Indians that once occupied this Valley, she added.
“The Schoharie name comes from the The Mohawk Tribe and there is a lot of history of Native Americans in this county. There was a Indian tribe known as Schoharie Indians. I looked up the history of Schoharie. The Indian mascot is very beautiful and there is a lot of pride in this community for it.”
Members of the group are fighting to keep the Indian, now and forever.
My hope is that it will never get changed. We don't want what was important to us to be erased from Schoharie School. We want our grandchildren and future Schoharie school students and graduates to be able to say they are Schoharie Indians. We want the history of it to be around and not be thrown away because of how people are thinking these days. A lot of people in this group are so proud to be a Schoharie Indian and wear with pride. It's in their blood and hearts.
The group started small but the membership quickly grew, Ms. Coluccio said.
“When I started this group I only started with 54 members (but) by midnight that same day I was up to 625. And the amount of support to keep the Indian has been great
“They all have different reasons to keep it and have talked about memories of being a Schoharie Indian. Its all very emotional, happy and beautiful memories. We are now up to 949 members which is why i love this community. The support and love for this has been great and wonderful.
Ms. Coluccio also feels the alma mater should not be changed.
“I feel the same way about the alma mater. They changed the one word white man to wise man already a while ago. That is the one that they were trying to change. When you sing that you feel the joy and pride in your heart.”
The alma mater, in part, states, “how the white men won the warfare on the Indian trail.” Apparently, “white” has been changed to “wise.”
“I remember watching my son playing basketball and people standing up and singing that song and smiling the whole time,” Ms. Coluccio recalled. “The whole gym would light up and you just would feel it in your heart the love for the school. We sang that song all through my years at Schoharie which was K-12. But the greatest joy of singing it was at your graduation. You still sing the words when you are out of school. And it blows me away with happiness about the people who still sing it.”
The mascot and song are part of Schoharie pride, she added.
“This community loves Schoharie school and everything about it. The history of the county of Schoharie school is in the alma mater so no we do not need to change it. Why people want to change history is unknown to me? Be proud of Schoharie and the history of it. Let's not change anything...Let's keep it the Indians and keep the Alma Mater. It's in our hearts and soul and we want our future generation to be a part of that too.”
Their petition has more than 1,400 signatures, according to Ms. Coluccio.
The Facebook contains dozens of testimonials on why to keep the Indian and the school song.
I’ve been sitting here and reading how they want to take the Indian away, well it’s BS,” wrote Shawn Kendle Sr.. “I have been in Schoharie school since kindergarten until 12th grade... If you get rid of the Indian you might as well tear the school down.”
William Benninger wrote, “I'm a Schoharie Indian from now until I die. Why take away from the heritage of the Valley? To remove 'Indian' from Schoharie is like dismissing their existence. Being a Schoharie Indian was always something to be proud of and still is.”
Vicki Piotrowski-Echtner offered some advice as a member of a school district that went through the change of a school mascot.
“I was not born or raised in Schoharie but my children have been,” she wrote. “I grew up in Woodstock and went to Onteora, we were the Indians. A few years back we had the same thing happen. A few people thought it would be a good idea to change our mascot. There were two people on the School Board who were opposed but ultimately the Onteora Indians were changed to Onteora Eagles. I for one will always be an Onteora Indian.”
Not all comments on the site were as supportive.
“It's my understanding that the other group has decided to close down discussions after members and their families were threatened,” wrote Carrie Wick. “While there are some that think changing the mascot and alma mater are wrong, threatening anyone over it is worse and in my opinion a very weak show of who we are as a collective. Don't dumb yourself down by making threats. Have discussions and come to a solution. I'm disappointed that any adult would resort to such childish actions. Shame on you.”

SCS Superintendent David Blanchard said, “the board has not received anything. I have not received anything either. I have heard there are two different sides on Facebook.  I have not seen anything myself, just heard rumors.

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New Kingston Public Hearing Public Notice for the Town of Middletown

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING
Town of Middletown, New York


NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that a public hearing will be held before the Town Board of the Town of Middletown (“Town Board”) at the Middletown Town Hall, located at 42339 State Highway 28, Margaretville, NY 12455 on the 8th day of July, 2020, pursuant to Article 2 of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law of the State of New York ("EDPL"), to consider the Town’s acquisition by exercise of the power of eminent domain of property (in fee) in connection with the Town’s New Kingston Sewer District (“District”) and a feasible site for the construction of a community subsurface wastewater treatment facility (the “Project”). The public will also have remote access to the public hearing as part of the Town’s COVID-19 response plan using the following Zoom Meeting link or dial in phone number and conference ID:
Topic: New Kingston Public Hearing

Time: July 8, 2020 06:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join by Zoom Meeting Link:

https://zoom.us/j/99163668612?pwd=YWpOdkdSQUlrYzhnYW1Eb1lFSTVQUT09

Join by phone: 1-929-205-6099

Meeting ID: 991 6366 8612

Password: 117891

The lands under consideration for permanent acquisition are as follows:
Fee Acquisition of a 21.7 acres portion of an 89.85 acres parcel identified on the Middletown Tax Map as Parcel No. 241.-1-1.1 (the 21.7 acre portion of the parcel to be acquired is hereinafter referred to as the “Fee Parcel”);

Permanent Easement for access to the Treatment System over the remaining portion of Tax Map Parcel No. 241.-1-1.1 (“Easement Parcel”); and

Termination of a Watershed Agricultural Council (“WAC”) Conservation Easement encumbering the Fee Parcel.

The portions of property comprising the Fee Parcel and Easement Parcel 2 are owned by Michael Moriarty (hereinafter, the “Property Owner”).

There is an existing deed of conservation easement affecting Tax Map Parcel 241.-1-1.1, which Property Owner conveyed to Watershed Agricultural Council of New York City Watersheds, Inc. ("WAC") by deed of conservation easement dated October 27, 2006, filed in the Office of the Delaware County Clerk’s Office on November 2, 2006, and recorded in Deed Book 1158 at Page 261 (“WAC Easement”). The WAC Easement restricts use of the property comprising the Fee Parcel and property comprising the Easement Parcel and requires WAC approval before Tax Map Parcel 241.-1-1.1 can be subdivided for the Project. WAC subdivision approval has been denied.

The Town Board proposes a fee acquisition of the Fee Parcel where the Treatment System will be located and termination of the WAC Conservation Easement which encumbers the Fee Parcel.

The Town Board also proposes the acquisition of a required permanent access easement over the remaining portion of Tax Map as Parcel No. 241.-1-1.1 to install, inspect, operate, maintain and repair the Treatment System (including a waiver of WAC’s approval for the access easement).

The Project proposes to construct a community subsurface wastewater treatment facility, consisting of a manhole, a flow meter, an absorption bed dosing pump station and shallow absorption beds, and any ancillary piping or components, on property owned by Michael Moriarty. The purpose of this hearing is to outline the Project purpose, its proposed location, and to provide other pertinent information, including maps and property descriptions of the property(ies) to be acquired and adjacent parcels.

Maps of the currently proposed Project are available for public examination at the Middletown Town Hall, located at 42339 State Highway 28, Margaretville, NY, during the hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.  A copy of the proposed Project will be made available for public inspection on the Town’s website in advance of the public hearing.

Any property owners who may subsequently wish to challenge the condemnation of their property by judicial review may do so only on the basis of issues, facts, and objections raised at the hearing.

By Order of the Town Board

Dated: June 10th, 2020
Patricia F. Kelly
Town Clerk
  Town of Middletown

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Legal Notice - Mountain Eagle
(2) Weeks - week of June 19th and June 26th, 2020


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Town of Prattsville Republican Caucus Notice

Written By Editor on 6/28/20 | 6/28/20

Town of Prattsville
Republican
Caucus Notice

The Town of Prattsville Republican Committee will hold a Caucus
on July 10, 2020 at 5:00PM on the Prattsville Town Green, 14517
Main Street, Prattsville, New York, for the purpose of nominating
candidates for the November elections, and for any other business
that may properly come before this meeting.

By order of
Jim Young
Republican Town Chairman

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Estate Sale Notice -- Lexington

Written By Editor on 6/23/20 | 6/23/20

Grinnell Estate Sale by J&K in Lexington, NY -- 3970 Greene CR42 9-5 Fri,  10-5 Sat & Sun. 1800s house full antiques, vintage see 200+ photos  estatesales.org and jkantiques.com

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Roxbury Fire District Legal Notice

Written By Editor on 6/1/20 | 6/1/20

Please take notice that the Roxbury Fire District is seeking bid proposals for insured lawn care and maintenance.  Please contact Chief James Bouton at 607-267-2917 for more information.  Submit proposals to PO Box 421 Roxbury, NY 12474 or in person to Chief Bouton. Proposals are due before the monthly Fire Commissioners Meeting at 7pm on June 11th. 

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Helga Eisenlauer Obituary

Written By Editor on 5/10/20 | 5/10/20

After a long, full life blessed with family, friends and life’s adventures, Helga Eisenlauer, 96, completed her final journey on March 3, 2020.  Born July 31, 1923 in Rowe Kreis Stolp/Pommern, Germany.  Helga Paula Minna was the only child of Gustav Paul Friedrich Hawer and Martha Auguste Zoch Hawer.  She met her lifelong love, Karl Josef Eisenlauer, on a street car in Hamburg, Germany and was married to him in Hamburg-Lokstedt on July 1, 1946 until his passing on June 8, 2003. 


Although, as a young woman in Germany, she apprenticed as a tailor, her preference was always to work with fact and figures.  She would have the exact change out at the register before the total was tallied and the bag was packed!  She would never forget a phone number or a birth date.  


On her biggest adventure in life, Helga left Germany, family and friends to forge a new life with her husband and child in Queens, New York.  Helga immigrated to the United States in 1953 and proudly became a citizen on December 12, 1958.  She learned a new language, embraced new experiences and their daily challenges.  She worked hard her entire life.  She used her talent for facts and figures and eventually managed the children’s and men’s shoe departments at Gertz Department Store in Hicksville, New York.  Upon moving to Prattsville, New York she worked until retirement at the Windham-Ashland-Jewett Central School as both library aide and school bus driver.  She continued to meet challenges head on.  Being the first woman bus driver on the Mountain Top was but another one.  She loved her long-time friends and her work at WAJ.


For 50 years Helga enjoyed membership at the Reformed Dutch Church in Prattsville.  She sang in the choir, did a tour at bookkeeping, with great dedication baked many cakes for Sunday fellowship hour and never forgot those who could not be there.  She was a welcoming hostess.  When she set the table for your visit, you knew you were special.  But those who knew her also knew they could count on the unfiltered truth, according to Helga.    


She is survived by daughter, Ruth (Brian) Christman, and she was Oma to her devoted grandchildren Natalie Christman, Anne Christman and Katherine (Alex) Christman-Soutelo. 
Her loving family in Germany remained ever present in her life, even from afar, as did her many faithful friends on this side of the ocean.

The family wishes to thank the staff on 2 North at Greene Meadows Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for the kindness and expert care given to Helga during her stay and to her family as they stayed with Helga as she took her final journey to heaven.  A celebration Helga’s life is planned in the spring.  Interment will be private at Pleasant Valley Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Reformed Dutch Church, 14537 Main Street, Prattsville, New York 12468.

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James Cook Obituary

PRESTON HOLLOW - James Eldon Cook, 92, passed away on Tuesday April 28, 2020 at Columbia Memorial Hospital. He was born on the family farm in Preston Hollow on March 18, 1928 to the late Dean and Clara Bates Cook. He attended the one room school house in Potter Hollow, and then worked various jobs throughout his life. He worked for Beckers Feed in Grand Gorge, drove the milk route for can milk, retired from the NYS Environmental Conservation, and maintained the Potter Hollow Cemetery for years. He worked endless hours on the home farm, as well as on neighboring farms. He loved the outdoors, including hunting, fishing, and especially wood cutting. He enjoyed hauling sap to the sugar house in the spring. He was no stranger to hard work. He could out work most his age. A man of not big stature, but was head and shoulders above most with his love and support of family. Later joys in his life included breakfast at Angel’s East Cafe with his noted waffle sundae: 2 scoops of ice cream, strawberries, blueberries, and sometimes whipped cream. In addition to his parents, he’s predeceased by his sister, Olive; and his brothers, Oliver, Ernest, and Lawrence. 

    Eldon is survived by his brothers, Maurice Cook and Walter (Wilma) Cook; his nephews, Stephen and Shawn Cook; many other nieces and nephews; and his beloved dog, Buster.

    Services had taken place privately. In lieu of flowers, donations in Eldon’s memory can be made to any charity of one's choice. Condolences can be posted at ajcunninghamfh.com. 

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Wendy Lee Pritchett Obituary

WENDY LEE PRITCHETT (GALLO) OF KINGSTON NY WENT TO BE WITH GOD ON APRIL 17 2020.  IT WAS NOT VIRUS RELATED.  
WENDY WAS BORN IN BROOKLYN NY ON JUNE 2nd 1962 – SHE WAS 57.
WENDY AND HER 7 SIBLINGS GREW UP IN NEW KINGSTON AND WENDY WAS A 1980 GRADUATE OF MARGARETVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL WHERE SHE HAD NUMEROUS FRIENDS.
HER INTERESTS INCLUDED ROSES (RED OF COURSE), FLUFFY CATS, AND ANYTHING WITH FUR.  SOME OF HER FAVORITE THINGS TO DO WERE GO TO FLEA MARKETS AND COLLECT KNICK KNACKS, ANTIQUES, JEWELRY, DOLLS and ANYTHING THAT SPARKLED.
ANYONE WHO KNEW WENDY KNOWS WHAT AN OUTGOING, FLAMBOYANT, FUN, AND ARTISTIC PERSON SHE WAS.  SHE LIVED LIFE TO THE FULLEST AND WAS ALAYS SMILING W ITH BIG ROSEY CHEEKS AND LONG DARK HAIR.  SHE HAD A HUGE HEART AND LOVED TO LAUGH AND LISTEN TO HER 2 FAVORITE ARTISTS, BARBARA STREISAND AND CELINE DION.
WENDY LOVED TO COOK AND WORKED IN THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS MOST OF HER LIFE.
SHE IS SURVIVED BY HER HUSBAND, SHAWN GALLO, DAUGHTER ANTOINETTE YEAGER, SON TIMOTHY FIELD , GRANDCHILDREN ANTHONY AND JANELLE , SISTERS CHERYLE, DONNA, ROBIN, HOLLY AND MELANIE, ALONG  WITH NUMEROUS NEICES AND NEPHEWS.
WENDY HAD A LOT OF FRIENDS FROM HER SCHOOL YEARS THAT SHE LOVED AND ADORED AS WELL.
WENDY IS PREDECEASED BY HER MOTHER BONNIE, FATHER DONALD, DAUGHTER LINDSAY, GRANDSON GIOVANNI,  SISTER DEBBIE, AND  BROTHER DONNY.
SHE WILL BE DEEPLY MISSED BY HER FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

A SUMMER MEMORIAL IS BEING PLANNED DUE TO THE CURRENT SITUATION.

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OFA Offering Virtual Pets for Seniors in Need of Social Contact

By David Avitabile

Everyone, especially our areas's seniors, has been adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Many seniors have been isolated from friends and related who are fearful of spreading the deadly virus to the elderly. Many seniors have had to celebrate their birthdays away from their families for the first time. They have had to survive with minimal outside contact for more than six weeks. It will be a very different Mother's Day coming up Sunday for many mothers and grandmothers this year.

As a way to lessen the feeling of isolation for seniors, the Schoharie County Office for the Aging is giving seniors animatronic companion pets. The OFA was able to get 12 pets, eight cats and four dogs, from the state OFA, said county OFA Director Nancy Dingee.

The workers at the OFA have nicknamed the electronic pets as "robo pets," Ms. Dingee added. The cat, an orange and white tabby, and a yellow and white cream dog with a bandana around its neck, are made by Ageless Innovation and made for people ages 5 to 105.

According to the manufacturer, the tabby "looks, moves and sounds like a real cat."
They have proved very popular and the OFA has just two left.

"We are providing them to seniors to help curb social isolation." Ms. Dingee said. "It especially works well with those seniors with dementia or seniors that are just lonely. We have a loneliness scale. If they feel they would feel they would benefit from these companion pets.

The dogs wag their tail, close their eyes, bark softly, "nothing real loud, just enough," she noted. The cats purr and their "movement seems natural and their fur is real hair." One woman, Mabel Leruzic, loves her dog so much that she made a bed with a little pillow for it.

Mabel and Lucky

"We'd been talking about how much pets can add to your life," said Mabel's granddaughter.

"Now she's learning 'Luckie's' quirks.  She chats with him and he acknowledges her.  She likes that he barks goodnight when she turns off the lights!"

The granddaughter added, "As we try to balance safety with everything else going on, it's so important to maintain mental wellness.  Luckie helps my grandmother cope, just as my live dog helps me. We joke that she gets all the perks and doesn't have to worry about house-training or vet bills!
"I sincerely hope that others consider the benefits that these pets can add - a sense of companionship and an avenue to help reduce stress.  Its been wonderful to see my grandmother experience this.  Thank you for offering this opportunity!"

Ms. Dingee added, "It's so heartwarming for some individual and take care of this pet and do not have the burden like taking them outside or buying food for them." The program just started this year in the county, though Ms. Dingee first saw them about a year and a half ago.

"Given the nature of Covid-19 and forcing older adults to become so isolated, it's a great tool. I'm a believer. If people feel socially isolated and alone, they should give us a call. We may be able to get more from the state office." It is possible that some may be purchased.

This is Theresa Fagnani who lives at the Birchez in Schoharie, She adores the kitty she named Precious and plays with it every day.

"We want to provide services and keep people healthy. Mental health is as important physical health, especially now.

In addition to providing the pets, the OFA will calls seniors on a monthly or weekly basis if they feel alone, according to Ms. Dingee. OFA workers or volunteers makes the phone calls which have been given the name "friendly calls."

Unfortunately because of the pandemic "We cant do visits yet," Ms. Dingee said. "In the meantime we love to make phone calls. Can hopefully to make visits soon. We hope to curb the social isolation the best we can.

The dogs and cats are available to seniors in the entire county.

Village of Middleburgh Meeting Notice

Written By Editor on 4/30/20 | 4/30/20

The Village of Middleburgh will hold its May monthly meeting via Zoom at 7pm on Monday, May 4th. To join, please use the info below:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89123493526

Meeting ID: 891 2349 3526
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Coronavirus: Plan to Rescue Middleburgh

Written By Editor on 4/10/20 | 4/10/20

$30,000 to Businesses, Juried Plays Key Role By Matthew Avitabile Editor’s Note: I’m writing this story from a personal perspective, with my opinions and feelings expressed throughout. My time as my hometown’s Mayor is coming to an end.

Come Monday, Middleburgh will welcome our new Mayor, Trish Bergan, who was originally slated to take office on April 1st. As I wrote in our last edition before the Coronavirus lockdown (and the subsequent canceling of elections), I knew that current Deputy Mayor Bergan was, and is, the right person for the job.

With my term set to expire on March 31st, the Governor’s announcement meant that I would be remaining in office temporarily. After 13 years on the Village Board, including 8 as its steward, it is time for new leadership. Before I left, I knew that I had one last Hail Mary in me. Being one of the members of the flood recovery effort in 2011-2012, I thought back to my experience hunkered down with volunteers in the Village Hall, doing our best to handle a terrible situation. One of the most successful programs I launched then was a donation fund that was then distributed to flood victims-- about $30,000 in all, without a dime for administrative or personnel costs. And so, one by one, I racked my brain regarding who could help. I knew that Nick Juried, who has been an unflinching supporter of our various communities and a kindhearted person, might be able to. Up late worried about the ultimate fate of our community, recently healed from the damage of Irene, I sent him a heartfelt email. He responded the following afternoon with the sincerity and understanding that I have become accustomed to. And so, the following day, on Thursday night-- halfway through my newspaper delivery route I thought of who might be able to help. Thanks to recommendations of my friends, and my father I contacted several other people with our community’s best interest at heart. My friend and former Mountain Eagle editor Carolyn Bennett held my chin up and took my call past 10 pm that night asking for guidance.

Before 2011’s Hurricane Irene, I didn’t fully comprehend the number of people that loved Middleburgh. From the hundreds of volunteers then to hundreds of volunteers and donors now, there exists a bevy of people ready to help their neighbors for nothing in return. The same happened here in the midst of our current crisis. The yeses continued on--from former Supervisor Dennis Richards to former Congressman John Faso to my friend Michael Ehline to online donors to the head of Delaware Engineering John Brust to our Zoning Board of Appeals Chair John Wingfield. Each one will be remembered for decades for being some of the angels needed to save the community.

All told, we had about $30,000 in pledges, with Nick providing the largest share. The Rotary Club, headed by our own Timothy Knight, agreed to accept and disburse the funds equally to storefronts in the Village that needed it. Our community’s hero (and I don’t use the word lightly), Josh DeBartolo offered to help with Small Business Administration funding guidance for our local merchants. Trustee Bob Tinker from the Village Board offered the key suggestion to defer loans through our community business development fund for three months, providing more liquidity and less pressure for businesses in need. Combine that with the fact that the Village Board again held our tax rate under the cap, homeowners would receive approximately $10,000 in state property tax rebate checks.

 Is this program perfect? Not at all. However, it is a valuable shot in the arm, both in terms of cash and morale for the business leaders who held our community together, along with volunteers, in the difficult days after Irene. I wanted their love and hard work to be repaid-- somehow.

For years I’ve debated a bit on whether or not buying a newspaper (of which I recently sold the majority share) was a wise decision at the end of 2016. It’s stressful, and time consuming, and financially risky. Heck, especially in the current day. However, the friendships I’ve built, including with Carolyn and Nick would not have been possible without being a part of the Mountain Eagle. It was partially through the means of local press that this program came together. Being a part of that team, knowing that it aided my beloved hometown, was worth every dollar, late night, and stress. 

Rotary also announced that in the aftermath of the first wave of checks, it would collect for a possible second round for the businesses most in need. I certainly hope that some of our readers may be able to help the community that I love and consider donating. Checks to the relief fund can be sent to the Middleburgh Rotary COVID-19 Fund, Box 1100, Middleburgh NY 12122.

I was weighing whether or not it was worth it to stay in office past my term due date, as if remaining for any part of April was like coming out of retirement for one last hurrah with those who had already rebuilt our community. And so I spoke to my longtime beau Heather and asked for some insight-- knowing me for 11 ½ years. She told me that she knew I wouldn’t leave until something could be accomplished for those in need. Heather likened me to a loyal dog, waiting by its hurt master until help could arrive.

And thanks to people I am proud to call our community’s friends, it did.

 Furthermore, the fruition of such a task left me drained, both emotionally and physically. As I wrote on Facebook Wednesday, watching my friends suffer through an ongoing crisis has ripped my heart out. As a result, I announced that I will be turning over the keys to Middleburgh’s new Mayor Trish Bergan and wish her great success over the next four years. I know full well that under her leadership Middleburgh, especially working with my mentor, Town Supervisor Wes Laraway, will improve and gain in the coming period.

The next weeks will be difficult, but our determined corps of business leaders, volunteers in the Rotary, Joshua Project, Knights of Columbus, and municipal leaders will usher in the next, best days to come for Middleburgh.

Editorial: What a Difference Two Weeks Makes

Written By Editor on 3/18/20 | 3/18/20

Just two weeks ago, the members of the Middleburgh school board were debating whether to cancel the History's Club's trip to Spain. Just 12 days later, the trip was not only canceled, but school will be closed for at least two weeks. In the beginning of March, some people scoffed at the precautions being taken calling the Coronavirus a "glorified flu." Now, on March 18, the country's borders are closed. Restaurants and bars are shuttered except for take out. The county office building, town and villages offices, and churches are closed. Almost all events, meetings, concerts, dinners, and school sports, have been canceled or postponed.
The world is a very different place.
I was speaking to my sister from Long Island this afternoon and we were talking about precedents for what we are all now going through and will be going through for the foreseeable future. There are few, thankfully. I remembered the shock and aftermath of 9-11. No flights for five days. Colleges shut down. No sports for about two weeks. A mini stock market crash. We knew there would be a response from our federal government against the possible culprits. No one knew if there would be further attacks and airport and sports stadium screening was forever changed. The cleanup in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania took months. The effects were country-wide but more localized to the regions struck by the terrorists. People came together as never before. American flags were flown proudly. We eventually found out who our enemies were and they were punished.
Unlike 9-11, we cannot just "punish" our enemy and declare victory against the Coronavirus. We do not know yet how to combat this virus that started in China at the end of December.
We spoke about World War II. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, car production stopped and rationing began. Gas, tires, milk, sugar, meat, coffee, and other essentials were in short supply. In Harlem, my father owned a green 1939 two-door Plymouth which he waxed and was very proud of. He had to sell it to a "Fifth Avenue doctor" during the war because he could not get tires for it. People began to grow "victory gardens."  The country came together as it has just over 20 years before in the "War to End All Wars." We knew the enemies, Germany, Japan, and for a while, Italy. We banded together, crossing sex and racial lines, sacrificed at home and abroad, and eventually defeated our enemies. We celebrated throughout the country on V-E Day in May, 1945, and then again on V-J Day three months later.
It wasn't global, country or even state-wide, but one other similar event was the flood of August 2011. Those of us in the Schoharie Valley, Margaretville, Windham, and Phoenicia prepared for the worst. The storm was supposed to make landfall over Long Island go east of our region.It didn't. It shifted west and up the center of the state. Tannersville, the origin of the Schoharie Creek got about 19 inches of rain. Those who lived through it all know the story. The panic when we thought the Gilboa Dam had given way. The shock at the destruction in our villages. The mounds of garbage in front of home and businesses in downtown Middleburgh and Schoharie. National Guard troops and vehicles driving down Main Street in Schoharie. The water quickly subsided, but the damage remained. More than 80 percent of the home and businesses in the Village of Schoharie had more than six feet of water in them. The cleanup and restoration was immense. A mild winter helped ease the task, but the work continued for months. Even today, some homes and businesses are still damaged.
The region got help from throughout the state and beyond. Volunteers came from all areas to help muck out basements, remove wet drywall, and repairing what the flood wrought. The work was arduous and exhausting, but we all came together and persevered. The Schoharie Valley, Margaretville, Windham, and other areas hard hit by the flood waters shine even brighter today because of the work done by the residents and volunteers.
Though our enemy is much more nebulous and undefined, we once again are called to sacrifice for the greater good. We will be working from home, not eating at our favorite restaurants, or going to our favorite bars. We will be "hunkering down" for the next month or longer. But, just like before, we will come together and defeat our enemy. Instead of bullets, bombs, or hard work, we may come up with a vaccine or antidote that will defeat the Coronavirus. The battle will be a long and hard one, but we have been through tough times before, and, as before, we will not only survive, but in the end, prosper.

David Avitabile

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