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The Best Gifts from Schoharie County

DEC Urges Caution for Ice Fishers

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 1/29/24 | 1/29/24

By Max Oppen

THE CATSKILLS — As winter temperatures pave the way for exciting outdoor activities, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos issues a crucial reminder to ice anglers about the importance of safety amidst varying weather conditions.

“Winter in New York provides outdoor adventurers with some of the best opportunities to enjoy New York’s natural resources,” Commissioner Seggos said. “While 2023 was the warmest year on record, the start of the current winter season has been fairly mild; as temperatures drop, conditions are improving for activities like ice fishing. However, even as it gets colder, wintertime anglers need to exercise extreme caution and always put safety first when heading out onto the ice for fishing.”

One of the primary safety precautions highlighted by the NYSDEC is checking the thickness of the ice before venturing onto it. Anglers are advised that four inches of solid, clear ice is usually safe for those on foot. However, the thickness can vary between water bodies, and anglers should exercise caution, especially around areas of moving water, boat docks, and houses with bubblers to prevent ice formation.

Local bait and tackle shops are recommended as reliable sources to determine safe ice conditions and to stay informed about what anglers are catching. Commissioner Seggos encourages fishing with family and friends for an added layer of safety.

For those curious about trying ice fishing for the first time, the weekend of February 17-18 is a free freshwater fishing weekend. During this time, the need for a freshwater fishing license is waived, providing an excellent opportunity for experienced anglers to introduce newcomers to the sport.

The DEC offers resources such as the Ice Fishing Chapter in the I FISH NY Beginners Guide to Freshwater Fishing and a series of six instructional ice fishing videos on their YouTube channel to assist beginners. Additionally, the HuntFishNY app’s new Tackle Box feature provides convenient access to fishing regulations, waterbody information, and more through a smartphone map-based interface.

The use of baitfish is widespread in ice fishing, but anglers are reminded to follow DEC baitfish regulations and ensure the use of baitfish is permitted in the specific waterbody. Certified, disease-free bait fish purchased from local tackle stores are recommended, and personally collected bait fish should only be used in the same waterbody from which they were caught.

In order to prevent the spread of invasive species and fish diseases, anglers should dispose of unused baitfish and water on dry land in an appropriate location. The DEC emphasizes the significance of reviewing and following baitfish regulations on its website.

Lastly, anglers are reminded to have a valid fishing license, which is valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. DEC encourages all anglers to stay informed, exercise caution, and prioritize safety during the winter ice fishing season. For those seeking more insights on ice safety, an interview with Forest Ranger Ashly Carabetta is available on the DEC website.



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Hunter, Mountain Clear Traffic Concerns

By Max Oppen

HUNTER — The Hunter Town Board met on January 23, 2024. A motion was passed for Sergeant Robert Haines to purchase a computer not to exceed $1,400. Sergeant Haines said there was a meeting at Hunter Mountain with Supervisor Sean Mahoney, the Greene County Sheriff, Hunter Mayor Alan Higgins, and staff from Hunter Mountain to discuss the recent traffic jam of winter enthusiasts headed to the resort following a snowstorm. The traffic was backed up almost to Route 214. 

Sergeant Haines wrote a letter to officials at Hunter Mountain. Haines said that officials at the Resort were receptive to suggestions and that the issue had largely cleared up. Haines said he was happy with the outcome. Councilperson David Kukle noted the resort's appreciation for the letter from Haines. 

The Town Board passed a motion to nominate Ariel Woolheater to a six-month probationary period as the Town's new Ambulance Administrator. The former administrator, Vanessa Richards, resigned due to unspecified reasons. Her resignation is effective February 12, although she will remain a part-time EMT for the Town. A candidate for a full-time EMT position was discussed in Executive Session. 

Richards brought up the Town's charting system/portal for patients' billing information. ZOLL Medical provides the services at an annual cost of $495. Richards submitted the terms of use for the online service to the Board. Town Supervisor Sean Mahoney noted that new charting software was needed but advised a review of the terms before making a motion. 

Several departments submitted reports for December. 

In his report, Planning Board Chair Marc Czermerys said that the Hunter Mountain Lift expansion project had been approved. 

Czermerys then requested to nominate Penny Sikalis Spring as Deputy Chair of the Town Planning Board. The motion passed. 

Town Highway Superintendent Robert Blain discussed problems with one of the Town's trucks - it's breaking down and has issues with the exhaust. The truck is approximately six years old. Blain plans on looking into the warranty. The Town Board then passed a motion to increase the salary of highway employees and the highway secretary by 5%, excluding the Superintendent. 

The Town Highway Department has been working on the Historical Society's parking lot, which includes milling the road and hauling in Item #4 gravel. The property is prone to flooding. 

Town resident and former Village of Hunter Mayor Michael Papa asked for an explanation for what he called "the tremendous increase" in Town taxes. Supervisor Mahoney responded, "There was a very transparent process where the increase was explained." I just got my tax bill and was surprised," said Papa. 

Mahoney said, "Everything got more expensive. We brought on two new full-time ambulance staff and two new full-time police officers. Building materials became more expensive." Mahoney explained that there was an increase in the cost of the fire protection district and an increase in the budget for the Mountain Top Library. Papa asked if the increase in taxes was across the Board for all property owners in the Town. Mahoney gave an affirmation. Papa then asked if the taxes increased for the Catskill Mountain Foundation and the Hunter Foundation. Councilperson Ray Legg and Mahoney responded that the Catskill Mountain Foundation is a Pilot Program.

PILOT (Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes) are payments the company or developers agree to make to local municipalities instead of paying property taxes.

Mahoney explained that they were pre-negotiated rates in perpetuity until the end of the PILOT agreement. The Hunter Foundation pays taxes on its properties, according to Mahoney. Papa then inquired about the status of Hasidic property owners and whether or not Hasidic-owned properties had increased. Currently, Hasidic property owners have a religious tax exemption. Supervisor Mahoney responded that the Town receives an annual report from the town assessor of all the tax-exempt properties belonging to the Hasidic community and noted that there has been no increase.  

Papa then asked about the state's 2% tax cap and why taxes were raised approximately 11.5%. Mahoney explained that the Town passed a local law to exceed the state's 2% tax cap. 

Town Finance Officer Lara Hamrah-Poladian stated that the state's tax cap is now at 1%. Councilperson Ray Legg mentioned that "everything worked against us this year." Mahoney responded, "This was the toughest budget that any of us have ever done." Mahoney said that during COVID, the Town did well with the mortgage taxes due to the many land transactions. "When we did our budget last year, we consulted with our bank, financial advisors, and attorney, who advised us not to count on this amount the following year." Mahoney said the higher taxes were due to reduced revenue and increased costs. 

Mahoney then motioned to authorize Town General Money Market savings payments to complete the Local Flood Analysis in Lanesville. Mahoney explained that the Town will pay upfront and be reimbursed by the Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program. The Town has hired a consultant to look at flooding causes in Lanesville, create a model to predict flooding, and identify solutions. The final report is expected in August. A public hearing on the Local Flood Analysis occurred on Thursday, January 24, at the Stony Clove Rod & Gun Club in Lanesville. 

A motion was passed to sign a proposal with Albany-based Creighton Manning Engineering to design the Hunter Branch Rail Trail from Clove Road to Ski Bowl Road. 

The Town Board then acknowledged receipt of a press release from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) relating to their properties in the Town of Hunter. Councilperson Ernie Reale said, "It's pretty eye-opening to see how many properties they own." Supervisor Mahoney said, "Rigorous discussions and negotiations are going on between the City of New York, the DEP, and the coalition of watershed towns regarding the water supply permit and land acquisition in our region." 

According to their website, Mahoney is seeking a partial refund from Granicus, which "helps local governments with short-term rental compliance challenges, from address identification, permitting and licensing, instant reporting, tax collection, and ordinance consulting." The reasoning behind the request for a partial refund is because the Town still doesn't have a fully operating online tool from Granicus despite being a few months into the program. Councilperson Reale noted his disappointment with Granicus. "Granicus has been a complete disappointment. I have little faith they will step up and fulfill their obligations to us." 

Mahoney noted that the Town is well into integrating Granicus into the Town's Short-Term Rental (STR) Law. "There's a huge piece to this that we cannot do in-house, that is, address identification and compliance monitoring." Reale said, "At some point in time, we will need to decide as a board whether to continue with Granicus or look for someone else." The Town is currently six months into its one-year contract with Granicus. Reale said Granicus was critical for the Town's short-term rental law to succeed. "The last thing we wanted was to pass a law that does not work because an outside vendor is not fulfilling their obligations." 

According to the Board, there are approximately 480 Short-Term Rental properties in the Town of Hunter, excluding the villages of Hunter and Tannersville. Reale questioned why they couldn't handle everything in-house. Mahoney replied that he spoke to the Supervisor of the Town of Jewett, which has 100 STRs and uses Granicus. He said that 100 STRs alone was a "bear." Granicus is functional in the Town of Jewett because they are not "all-in" with the online tool like the Town of Hunter and use only part of it. 

Mahoney then discussed the ambulance that the Town is selling. The vehicle received a bid on Auctions International for less than half the desired price. The current bid is $18,700. The Board discussed whether or not to accept the bid, or to make a counteroffer. Councilperson Dolph Semenza said, "For some reason, it's not worth what we thought it was." Town Highway Superintendent Robert Blain said, "I think that CarFax showed the ambulance was in an accident, which is scaring people away." The Board passed a motion to make a counteroffer of $25,000.

The Town of Hunter Board meets every fourth Tuesday of the month. 



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Lexington Reorganizes for 2024

By Michael Ryan

LEXINGTON - All the necessary steps have been taken to prevent any government befuddlement in Lexington.

Town council members recently held their annual reorganization meeting, making the appointments and designations required to conduct official business on behalf of their fellow citizens.

It is traditionally a quick, cut and dried affair and this year was no different, starting with renaming councilman Michael Barcone as deputy supervisor.

Barcone is authorized to step in for town supervisor Jo Ellen Schermerhorn should she ever be absent or unavailable for any reason.

In a similar move, Christine Dwon was again chosen as deputy town clerk, fulfilling those duties in the absence of town clerk Charlotte Jaeger.

Other appointments include: Tal Rappleyea (town attorney), Carl Giangrande (code enforcement/zoning officer);

Nicole Pursell (short term rental/enforcement officer), Mary Palazzolo (town historian), Christine Dwon (deputy historian);

Michelle Brainard (town bookkeeper), Bruce Feml (dog control officer), Liza Dwon (health officer), Andrea Searcy (inventory clerk);

Beverly Dezan (planning board), Elizabeth Martin (planning board secretary), Ron Lipton (zoning board), Kim McGalliard (zoning board secretary), Paul Dwon (disaster coordinator);

Town clerk/tax collector Charlotte Jaeger (registrar of vital statistics, secretary to the supervisor, records management officer, webmaster).

Government committees for 2024 are as follows:

—Highway (highway superintendent Kevin Simmons, Mike Petosa and councilman Bradley Jenkins);

Building (councilman William Pushman, William Decker and code enforcement officer Giangrande):

Monthly Audit (councilwoman Rose Petrella-Wilson and councilman Jenkins), Clerk Audit (supervisor Schermerhorn and councilman Jenkins);

Comprehensive Plan (Lynn Byrne, Jennifer Cawein, Kim McGalliard), Ethics (town clerk Jaeger, John Berger and councilwoman Petrella-Wilson);

Memorial Bricks (town historian Palazollo), Patriots Day (town historian Palazollo and deputy historian Dwon); 

Negotiations (councilmen Jenkins and Barcone), Emergency (disaster coordinator Paul Dwon, highway superintendent Simmons and town supervisor Schermerhorn);

Schoharie Watershed/Greene County Soil and Water Conservation recreation (Lynn Byrne and Beverly Dezan);

Board of Assessment Review (Ron Lipton, Susan Falke, Schuyler Minew), Policy Review (supervisor Schermerhorn and councilman Barcone);

Planning Board (Jennifer Cawein (chairwoman), Beverly Dezan, Nancy Orr, Cawsey Scieszka and Taris Charysyn);

Zoning Board (Sarah Pellizzari, Ron Lipton and Nancy Wyncoop-Bower), Official Newspapers (Mountain Eagle and The Daily Mail), Official radio station (WRIP in Windham).

In other matters:

—Council members reported there is positive movement at the venerable Baptist Church in the hamlet of Lexington.

The structure had seemingly become abandoned, causing concerns in the community about it deteriorating into a safety hazard.

However, there has been activity at the site and the long term hope is that the historic meeting house will again have a busy congregation and potentially serve as a training center.

Inspections of the structure show that it is solid, officials said. Windows have been closed in (hopefully making it harder for bats to enter).

Optimism is likewise being expressed for the onetime Baptist parsonage in the hamlet section of West Kill.

The building is standing empty and falling into disrepair. The town is hoping to sort out ownership and title details to be able to proceed with some plan for rehabilitation or demolition.



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Windham Presents Dog Park Plans to Planning Board

By Michael Ryan

WINDHAM - Using the language of those for whom the spot is intended, it might be a “woof woof” and “bow wow” future in Windham.

Town supervisor Thomas Hoyt, in a phone interview earlier this week, said plans for a Dog Park have been presented to the local planning board.

A public hearing is scheduled for February 1 on the park which, if approved, would be located at the Windham Path, along Route 23.

“This is something that has been on a back-burner for a year or so,” Hoyt said, noting the idea was first brought forth by private citizens.

“There were other things going on back then. like the new ambulance building, and now interest is being shown again,” Hoyt said.

The town owns the Windham Path property, prompting Hoyt to bring the preliminary sketches of the park to the planning board, last week.

“We have to go through the process the same as anybody else,” Hoyt said, making available an extensive outline of the proposed park, prepared in March, 2023, by resident Joe Gorberg. The goal is:

—“to establish a conveniently located fenced in, off-leash dog park by providing a clean, safe place for people and their dogs to play, socialize and promote responsible dog ownership without endangering or annoying people, property or wildlife;

—“to develop a beautiful, well-maintained space open to all dog lovers and friends who are willing to uphold the park's rules and restrictions;

“This park will be a community project, in partnership with the Town of Windham, designed to satisfy the needs of dog-owners and non-dog owners alike,” the outline states.

Providing design ideas, the Gorberg outline states, “a dog park typically includes three areas; large dog area, small dog area for dogs up to 25 pounds and a transition area.

“A minimum of a 4-foot tall chain link fence, either galvanized or vinyl coated, [would] be installed around the perimeter of the site. 

“Black vinyl coated fencing tends to blend into the background better and is more aesthetically appealing.

“The fence should include both top and bottom rails, with the bottom rails installed as close to the ground as possible,” the outline states.

“If the budget and site permit, and if it is necessary to buffer the dog run

area, vegetation should be planted on the outside of the fence to aid in the aesthetic quality of the site and to assist in mitigating the minimal noise associated with the dog park.

“An entry corral or transition area, consisting of at least an 8 foot x 8 foot fenced area with two gates and preferably 100-150 sq ft., should be provided to allow for pet owners to safely unleash their dog prior to letting them in the dog run area,” the outline states. 

“The two sets of gates needed for the transition areas or entries should be self-latching, with both opening toward the interior spaces. These gates should also be wide enough to be ADA compliant.”

The outline recommends, “hardscape surface for the transition areas or entrances, as well as a swath of hard surface for an apron just beyond the transition area enclosure, always an area of very high traffic within the main fenced enclosures.

“Dog parks should be located so as not to detract from the aesthetic

quality of a park or open space. Ideally, the dog park should be designed to integrate well into the existing site.

“A variety of surfaces may be used within a site. Crushed fines at the entry are recommended as this area has a concentration of use. If possible, lawn areas should be rested periodically to allow the turf to recover.

“Rules shall be clearly posted, including codes of behavior, hours, and requirements for entry,’ the outline states.

Regarding ADA accessibility, “barrier free access to the site should be provided, as well as an area through the corral and at the entry.

“Trash containers and waste removal bag holders shall be provided in the dog run area, making sure that they are located with easy access for maintenance vehicles.

“Ideally, several benches should be provided in convenient locations to allow for gathering and resting throughout the dog park area.”

The outline also covers items such as a walking path around the perimeter, shade trees, drinking fountains, lighting and agility equipment.

Hoyt said a private group is currently working on raising money, although a combination of funding sources could emerge.

The park, if approved, was initially estimated to cost between $37,700 to $50,900, adding up to $15,400 for optional agility equipment, etc.

“If we do this, it will be done in a very professional way, like our ambulance center and highway garage, and a benefit to the community,” Hoyt said.



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Illegal Deer Baiting Operations Uncovered in Cairo and Prattsville

By Max Oppen

GREENE COUNTY — In a recent enforcement operation, Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Lucas Palmateer of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) cracked down on illegal deer baiting activities in Greene County. The operation targeted individuals engaging in the unlawful and unethical practice of hunting with the aid of bait, violating state regulations.

In the town of Cairo, Officer Lucas Palmateer issued citations to two hunters who were found using pre-established bait and placing salt licks on lands inhabited by deer. Hunting with the assistance of bait is considered both illegal and unethical, as it provides hunters with an unfair advantage by attracting the targeted game to an unnatural food source.

Using bait in hunting can have detrimental consequences, as multiple deer feeding from the same bait pile can spread diseases within the herd. The DEC emphasizes the importance of maintaining the principles of "fair chase" to ensure that hunting remains a challenging yet rewarding tradition for all participants who venture into the wilderness.

Responding to a tip regarding baiting activities in Prattsville, Officer Palmateer discovered two individuals hunting from a tree stand on State land. Both hunters were found with fresh piles of corn on the ground in front of them, indicating a clear violation of the regulations prohibiting the use of bait.

Further complicating the situation, a third hunting party member was also hunting with bait on a neighboring property. To gather evidence, ECO Palmateer enlisted the assistance of ECO Melissa Burgess, and together, they charged all three individuals with hunting with the aid of pre-established bait.

In addition to the primary charges, one of the subjects faced an additional charge for maintaining a tree stand on State land without displaying owner information, highlighting the importance of responsible hunting practices. Another individual was charged with failing to comply with the requirement of wearing hunter orange for safety.

Hunters are reminded to familiarize themselves with state regulations and adhere to ethical standards to protect the environment and maintain the sustainability of wildlife populations. The DEC encourages the public to report suspicious hunting activities or violations to help safeguard New York's natural resources.



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Inclusivity at Hunter Mountain

By Max Oppen

HUNTER — Good Shepherd Services, based in The Bronx, is in its second year of a partnership with Vail Resorts, providing young Bronxites with the opportunity to venture upstate and engage in skiing and snowboarding activities. Facilitated through Vail Resorts' Epic for Everyone program, 50 participants from Good Shepherd Services' middle school afterschool program immersed themselves in the fundamentals of skiing and snowboarding during the 2022/23 season.

Michelle Yanche, CEO of Good Shepherd Services, expressed the organization's commitment to providing every young person with the opportunity to explore new hobbies and discover their passions, irrespective of their zip code or circumstances. She highlighted the significance of outdoor enrichment programs, like the one established through this partnership, in offering valuable opportunities for NYC youth to acquire new skills beyond the traditional classroom setting, ultimately realizing their fullest potential.

Sarah Slutzky, Director of Skier Services at Hunter Mountain, said, "Working with Good Shepherd Services and welcoming their kids to our resort has really been a pleasure. It's always so exciting to see the kids' faces when they get off the bus and see all of the snow and terrain surrounding them, and of course, bringing these new experiences into their lives is just something that can't be matched for our team. It reminds us all why working at a ski resort is so rewarding! We get to bring fun to our guests' day!" 

As part of the program, participants received five free on-snow lessons, complimentary meals, equipment rentals, and two additional lift tickets for continued practice with a guardian. The youth also benefited from various mentorship opportunities, gaining insights into potential careers such as snowmaking, operations, and ski and snowboard instruction.

This collaboration between Good Shepherd Services and Vail Resorts underscores the transformative impact of partnerships, opening doors for young individuals and providing them with experiences and opportunities that may have been otherwise inaccessible.

During the 2022/23 winter season, the company hosted nearly 11,300 underrepresented youth at 32 resorts, including major metropolitan areas near its mountain resorts, such as New York City.



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New 9/11 Course at MCS

By David Avitabile

MIDDLEBURGH - Anyone alive at the time remembers where they were when they heard about Pearl Harbor being bombed and the assassination of President Kennedy. The same could be said for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The exception, of course, is for people who were born after the attacks. Middleburgh Central School may have a class next year to teach students (all of whom were born after 9/11) about that day and its impact.

Social Studies teacher Jason Dannible informed school board members at their January 10 meeting about the class.

He noted that current students have no memories of 9/11 and its important. The class, which has been proposed for the 2024-25 school year, would include information and lessons about 9/11 and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

Mr. Dannible also updated the board on field trips for Social Studies classes.

The sophomores will go to the American Museum of Natural History while the juniors went to the State Capitol and State Museum.

This spring, 50 students, 12 parents, and 10 chaperones are going to Dublin, London, and Paris as part of the biennial History Club trip. In 2026, club members plan on going to Germany, Austria, and Hungary. The cost would be about $3,000 for 10 days.

He also proposed a trip every four years to the Inauguration in Washington D.C. for the seniors.

Some MCS students went to the inauguration in 2017 but were shut out in 2021 by the pandemic, he said. In addition to going to the inauguration, students would go to Mount Vernon, the Capitol, and other sites. It would be a three-night, four-day trip.



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Schoharie Promotional Assn. Plans Busy 2024

By David Avitabile

SCHOHARIE - It is going to be a busy year in Schoharie thanks to the Schoharie Promotional Association and other local organizations.

At their Community Meeting on January 8, members of the Schoharie Promotional Association announced the events planned for the new year.

Events planned for 2024 include:

* February: 17: Schoharie Fire Department )SFD) Casino Night and Valentine's Couples Dinner at firehouse.

* March: 17: Schoharie Fire Department corned beef and cabbage dinner at fire house; March 23: Schoharie Fire Department Easter Egg hunt at firehouse.

* April: 13: Schoharie Promotion Association (SPA), Lily Park clean-up; April 13-14: Schoharie Colonial Heritage Association (SCHA) spring antiques show at Schoharie school; April 15: SFD fish fry at firehouse; April 20: SPA adopt a highway.

* May: 23: SFD Memorial Day parade and open house at firehouse; May 25: SCHA opening of Palatine House and Schoharie Valley Railroad Museum.

* June: 1: DAR, life in Schoharie before the Revolution; June 8, SFD Covered Bridge luau dinner.

* July: Dates TBA, SCHA Children's Theatre Camps at Depot Lane; July 13, SPA Lily Festival, Lily Park.

* August: Dates TBA< SCHA Children's Theatre Camps at Depot Lane; Friday nights, SPA concerts in the courtyard.

* September: 7, SPA cornhole tournament Fox Creek Park; September 20, SFD cruise-in, downtown Schoharie; September 21, village-wide garage sale day; September 21, SCHA model train show and sale at Depot Lane; September 22, SFD car show and food truck event, downtown Schoharie; September 28 and 29, SCHA fall antiques show at Depot Lane.

* October: SPA fall decorating contest; October 12, SFD Covered Bridge dinner; October 31, downtown trick or treat.

* November: 5: Election Night spaghetti dinner at firehouse; November 15, 16, and 17, SCHA Holiday Craft Bazaar at Depot Lane; November-Christmas season, SPA Light in the park, Fox Creek Park.

* December: SPA Christmas decorating contest; December 7, Christmas at firehouse and downtown; December 7, SCHA, Christmas at the Palatine House: December 7, DAR Christmas at Lasell Hall.



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State Delays May Stall SCS Project

By David Avitabile

SCHOHARIE - A staffing problem at the State Education Department may be a bigger problem for Schoharie Central School.

The plans for phase 2 of the district's $25.9 million building project were submitted to SED for review one month ago. At that time, the expected waiting time for approval was six weeks to three months, but now, citing staffing issues, SED estimates the waiting time for approval at three to six months, Superintendent David Blanchard told school board members Thursday.

The delay could have a huge impact on Schoharie's project. It will mean a later start for construction and could mean higher costs.

"The SED approval process moved from 10 to 12 weeks to 22 to 24 weeks," Mr. Blanchard explained in more detail Friday afternoon. 

The delay may increase costs, but that is an unknown, he added. "This puts us going out to bid in early summer when the bid process is less competitive. That could make the project more expensive. However, inflation rates and interest rates are going in the right direction which may help us in the long run. It's too early to tell but we will be sure to monitor all facets of the project to keep costs down and get the work completed under budget as we did with the other projects the district has taken on recently."

Going to bid in February would definitely be more optimal than going out to bid in July or August, Mr. August said last week. "We'll stay on top of it."

Phase 2 of the district's $25.9 million building project will transform the elementary school. The project was approved by voters in May 2022. 

Once the approval is secured the district will go out to bid for the work. Meetings will then be held between the district, architects, and engineers to iron out the details of the plans, The plans will be shown to the board and public.

The work in the elementary school is major, relocating the cafeteria and library and building a new gym.

Last fall, Mr. Blanchard said he expected the elementary project to be done by the fall of 2026. That timeline now has to be reworked. The work on the elementary school was to start this summer until the state delayed approvals.

When completed, the construction would combine the current "1976" gym and elementary school cafeteria into a much larger gym with a stage at one end, move the cafeteria into the current elementary school library, and move the library to the current "1952" gym. 

The project does not require any new local taxpayer funds as state aid and the current building reserve will cover the costs.

State Delays May Stall SCS Project

By David Avitabile

SCHOHARIE - A staffing problem at the State Education Department may be a bigger problem for Schoharie Central School.

The plans for phase 2 of the district's $25.9 million building project were submitted to SED for review one month ago. At that time, the expected waiting time for approval was six weeks to three months, but now, citing staffing issues, SED estimates the waiting time for approval at three to six months, Superintendent David Blanchard told school board members Thursday.

The delay could have a huge impact on Schoharie's project. It will mean a later start for construction and could mean higher costs.

"The SED approval process moved from 10 to 12 weeks to 22 to 24 weeks," Mr. Blanchard explained in more detail Friday afternoon. 

The delay may increase costs, but that is an unknown, he added. "This puts us going out to bid in early summer when the bid process is less competitive. That could make the project more expensive. However, inflation rates and interest rates are going in the right direction which may help us in the long run. It's too early to tell but we will be sure to monitor all facets of the project to keep costs down and get the work completed under budget as we did with the other projects the district has taken on recently."

Going to bid in February would definitely be more optimal than going out to bid in July or August, Mr. August said last week. "We'll stay on top of it."

Phase 2 of the district's $25.9 million building project will transform the elementary school. The project was approved by voters in May 2022. 

Once the approval is secured the district will go out to bid for the work. Meetings will then be held between the district, architects, and engineers to iron out the details of the plans, The plans will be shown to the board and public.

The work in the elementary school is major, relocating the cafeteria and library and building a new gym.

Last fall, Mr. Blanchard said he expected the elementary project to be done by the fall of 2026. That timeline now has to be reworked. The work on the elementary school was to start this summer until the state delayed approvals.

When completed, the construction would combine the current "1976" gym and elementary school cafeteria into a much larger gym with a stage at one end, move the cafeteria into the current elementary school library, and move the library to the current "1952" gym. 

The project does not require any new local taxpayer funds as state aid and the current building reserve will cover the costs.



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FORMER TEACHER GUILTY PLEA IN FAILURE TO REPORT SEXUAL ABUSE CASE


DELHI — Benjamin Moyse, 46, of Delhi, New York appeared in the Delaware County Court on January 22, 2024, and pleaded guilty to two counts of Official Misconduct by a Public Servant, a Class A Misdemeanor in violation of Section 195.00 of the Penal Law of the State of New York. Judge Gary A. Rosa presided over the proceeding.

On January 26, 2023, the Delaware County Grand Jury returned an eleven (11) count indictment against Benjamin Moyse. The indictment alleged that the defendant intentionally aided a person under 16 years of age, to commit the felony crimes of possessing and disseminating child pornography. Also contained in the indictment were allegations that Mr. Moyse failed to follow Delaware Academy’s policy and procedures when students and parents repeatedly reported to him that students were being sexually abused. 

On January 22, 2024, the Defendant entered guilty pleas to two counts of Official Misconduct by a Public Servant. As part of his guilty plea, Mr. Moyse was required to describe in his own words his violation of the law. In open court, Mr. Moyse admitted to failing to report sexual abuse allegations against two of his students as required by his position as a public-school teacher employed in New York State. The students, who are not being named, later reported the abuse to their parents who were able to alert authorities.

Judge Gary A. Rosa accepted Mr. Moyse’s plea. Before passing sentence, Mr. Moyse was allowed to make a statement. Mr. Moyse stated that he had been singled out and lamented that the students were not being punished for “their actions”. Mr. Moyse also made claims that other adults knew of the abuse and did nothing. As of this writing, law enforcement has found no evidence to substantiate Mr. Moyse’s claims. 

Judge Rosa then sentenced Mr. Moyse to a conditional discharge of one year for each count. Separate proceedings by the New York State Department of Education, Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability are pending. The District Attorney’s Office was notified that the two convictions will result in the defendant’s teaching license being revoked in New York State.

District Attorney Shawn Smith commended Detective Justin Mohr and Officer Tiffany Crozier of the Delhi Police Department for their investigation into this case. DA Smith also thanked the services of Safe Against Violence, specifically victim advocates Eric Northrup and Cassandra Spatafora, for their help in advocating for the victims in this matter.  Smith also thanked the officials of Delaware Academy for their cooperation during this investigation.   

Mr. Smith also thanked the victims themselves. 

“I want to thank the victims who bravely came forward not just to report serious allegations of sexual abuse but also the complete failure of a public servant to protect them from this sort of behavior. Mr. Moyse’s failure to report sexual abuse by one of his students is deplorable. His repeated failure to report such abuse against multiple students is reprehensible. Standing up to a sexual abuser is never easy, but for these victims to also stand up to a schoolteacher, abusing his position, takes even greater courage and should be commended.” 

First Assistant District Attorney Schuyler Konior Kinneman prosecuted the case. 

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, know that help is available. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-656-4673.



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