Fleischmanns Special Meeting Notice - EDITED

Written By Editor on 7/9/20 | 7/9/20




A SPECIAL MEETING of the Village of Fleischmanns Board of Trustees is set for Monday, July 13, 2020 at 12:30 pm VIA TELECONFERENCE.  The SPECIAL MEETING via teleconference is to review regular village business such as treasurer’s reports, budget modifications, approve grant funded part-time temporary summer youth employee, to approve purchase orders, pay vouchers, and all other business as may come before the Board. The call-in number phone number is 701-802-5461.  Interested parties may call the Village Office at 845-254-5514 by 12:00 pm on Wednesday June 24, 2020 for a code to participate.  

By Order of the Village of Fleischmanns Board of Trustees
Stacie Skelley, Clerk

Dated:  July 9, 2020

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Job Opening: Pine Hill Executive Director

Written By Editor on 7/8/20 | 7/8/20

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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.
“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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