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The Best Gifts from Schoharie County

Board of Supervisors on Renewable Energy: ‘Pay Us’

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 3/29/24 | 3/29/24

By Leila Crockett

MARCH — At the previous Schoharie County Board of Supervisors meeting, concerns were expressed regarding the County’s relationship with NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) after a heated discussion regarding problems resulting from the Sharon NextEra Energy solar project. 

Ultimately, a motion was passed to discontinue paying dues to NYSAC. Supervisors felt there was a lack of support from NYSAC around the negotiation of energy contracts.  Specifically, as they relate to advocacy for host sites. This prompted a visit from the Director of NYSAC, Steven Aquario who was introduced by County Administrator Korsah Akumfi. Aquario was joined by NYSAC colleagues Deputy Mark Levine, Legislative Director Ryan Gregoire, and Attorney Pat Cummings.  

Aquario began his presentation with the pitch, “The Association, is your association. I work here for you on your behalf and for 64 counties in the state of New York.  It’s a beautiful organization. We’re the best in the United States by far.” Aquario encouraged supervisors to call him any time if the state of New York is not being responsive to them. 

Gilboa Town Supervisor Alicia Terry immediately asked, “You sure you got time for that?” which was met by muffled laughter until Aquario exclaimed, “Yes I do.  I will make time for you. You shouldn’t have to wait 6 weeks to hear from ESD(Empire State Department). “

The first slide in Aquario’s presentation lists the components of the organization's mission. Not least of which is, “To foster excellence in county government and unite the voice of New York’s county leaders.” Aquario brought up the increasing complexity of cyber security and pointed out that Delaware and Chenango counties both fell victim to recent cyber attacks to which he explained that rural counties are the most susceptible.  A topic that has been discussed by town supervisors countywide recently. 

Aquario explained his position as a “home rule guy” and that his goal is to not let state involvement take away power from the counties. He cited New York as a “Home Rule State” where county independence is written into the constitution. He went on to pull up a slide titled “Advocating for Your County", which listed a host of issues that NYSAC had worked on with the state. Among them were the Assigned Counsel Program, Raise the Age, CHIPS money, Cyber Security, and many more cases brought up by NYSAC for counties over the last five years totaling more than 14 Billion dollars toward NY County Government advocacy.  Aquario made a compelling case regarding the benefit of the County’s NYSAC membership. 

NYSAC continued its presentation with a short talk by Legislative Director Ryan Gregoire who went over an outline titled County Tools for Effective Advocacy: Keep Informed with NYSAC.  He talks about a weekly publication they produce called “The County Perspective” which is written by staff at NYSAC and highlights what is going on in Albany or Washington that could impact Counties. This is in addition to the NYSAC News Magazine which includes news articles from counties, best practices and innovations and the annual “NYSAC Legislative Program”. Gregoire encouraged Supervisors to use this roadmap or to join the NYSAC standing committee if they wanted to be more involved. 

At the conclusion of the NYSAC presentation, County Supervisor Bill Federice opted to begin the Q&A session immediately. Blenheim Supervisor Don Airey spoke first and was able to lay out a list of growing concerns about renewable energy contracts in the county, thanking NYSAC for information on available resources that “perhaps we’ve underutilized”. 

Airey began by pointing out that he was willing to share his position on the matter of Renewable Energy at the risk of being called a “climate denier and all the things that go along with that.” Initially, Airey cited the Blenheim Gilboa Pump Storage Projects, 12,000 MW of clean hydropower, “For 50 years we didn’t get one penny in taxation. Across this state right now, as you know, ETF has adopted a policy that is an absolute insult when it comes to proper assessment of renewable energy projects. Let’s face it, they’re getting a boatload of free money.  Host communities are being denied a fair and equitable tax rate on these projects.” 

Airey reiterated his concern about “host community benefits” and encouraged NYSAC to check out the NextEra work sites in Sharon to observe a litany of bad practices being engaged in by the developer. Airey claims that companies like NextEra are given a pass by agencies like the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation). 

Airey postulated that “home rule” is at the essence of concerns held by towns and that while these are renewable energy projects, they are also industrial energy projects which most towns are not eager to accommodate.  Especially when there is little to no benefit or monetary compensation even while the loss of prime farmland is permanent. Airey explained that any land designated for renewable energy projects is removed from potential County developmental options. He also touched on the loss of tourism revenue due to the aesthetic impact as well as the negative effects on property values. 

In closing, Airey said, we’re not going to get into the debate about whether they are good or bad, the debate should be “Give us a fair tax return.” 

After listening to Airey, Aquario maintained that NYSAC was steadfast in its commitment to the needs of the county and that he would be able to work within NYSAC to help address concerns.

County Supervisor Federice suggested a potential gathering of the counties to discuss the issues and come back to the state with talks.  

New York has long pushed to rely on 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030. It’s clear now the state is no longer on track, derailed by growing costs, canceled projects and regulators’ refusal to provide more ratepayer-funded subsidies.

Part of the problem is there are simply not enough existing, awarded and contracted projects in the pipeline to hit the 2030 target.  As a result, it seems that companies and attorneys are incentivized to streamline processes around SEQRA as the county has seen hasty solar project designs and FEAF filings that fail to identify potential impacts on communities and the environment accurately. 

A statement from NYSERDA president and CEO Doreen Harris seems to coincide with what Schoharie County Towns are reporting while damage to the environment and eroding public trust from hastily executed solar projects becomes apparent.  “We are working to accelerate not only the procurement of renewables but designing [them] to minimize delays and ensure projects are built on time for 2030.” 

This statement, which sheds light on the State’s push for expedience, came after a January that saw two offshore wind contracts with the state’s energy authority terminated, diminishing state’s inventory of investments set to be operational before the statutory deadline to reach 70 percent renewable electricity.


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CV-S Seeks to Close Deficit

By Morgan Nichols

CHERRY VALLEY — Weeks of deliberation lie ahead for the CV-S Board of Education as they seek a solution to resolve a $400,000 deficit. 

At the BoE meeting on Tuesday, March 19th board members were once again apprised of the situation looming over their heads: resolving a sudden shortage of funds.

School Business Official Denise Wist presented a series of slides showcasing the 2024-2025 budget, which featured the school’s current revenue and a breakdown of the costs of each component of school operations. 

Governor Kathy Hochul’s radically different restructuring of how state aid is distributed statewide has left a void that is just shy of $430,000 in the CV-S budget. Hochul’s new aid plans have removed over $800,000 in available funding from the foundation aid for the district, which can be restored if the new plan is reversed. 

The state currently receives $8.3 million in aid. The projected figure is now $7.5 million. 

Members of the board were quick to identify the “Huge impact on the budget,” as one member put it. Discussions began on how to combat the new deficit. There are multiple options to choose from. Funds can be withdrawn or transferred from several sources to pay for the loss. Some options include the use of funds from the ERS/TRS (Teacher Retirement System), money from the fund balance (total assets minus liabilities), or, most controversially, increasing the tax levy from 2% to 2.8%.

“The impact of a 2.8% (tax levy) is a couple of dollars,” said Ms. Wist. The levy has to pass through a vote that is a 60%, or supermajority vote. The levy will not pay off the entirety of the deficit. Instead, it will cover $45,000 which will lessen the impact elsewhere in the budget. Some members of the board leaned toward exploring a potential increase, but no concrete decision was made. “Some years we’ve been at zero (percent), some at one, we went out last year at 2%,” the board acknowledged. 

“This wasn’t a concern two months ago, or even two years ago,” Ms. Wist said.

Up to $1.6 million is available between the Special Education and BOCES programs. The board is adamant on as little disruption of funding as possible to any academic programs. 

The district is scheduled to hear from the state by April 8th on whether the planned cut remains in place or not. Further discussion of the alternatives is subject to an executive session. A budget hearing presentation is scheduled for May 9th and a vote on May 21st. 

Discussions during the meeting were not limited to the budget. Five students were in attendance to introduce themselves and the community service they had completed. All of the students completed at least one tenure of community service and stated any life lessons they learned from the experience. 

Superintendent Ms. Snyder was happy to announce that a new chemistry teacher had been hired for the school. The incoming chemistry teacher has prior experience teaching middle school chemistry. He wanted to teach high school chemistry, and CV-S will provide him with the opportunity to do so. A physics teacher fresh out of college is also under consideration for a position. 

A short presentation was delivered on the upcoming Senior class trip. Currently, 25 students are signed up for a three-day, two-night excursion to Lake Placid. Plans include exploring the town and Olympic grounds. The trip will then stay in Lake George to spend some time at Six Flags. Transportation has not yet been secured as the quote for a bus currently stands at $8,000 for the entire trip. The cost for students to participate in the trip is $500. 

The CV-S Drama Club is proud to present Disney’s High School Musical JR. March 22-23 at 7:00 pm and a Sunday matinee on the 24th at 2:00 pm. The cost is $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for students and senior citizens. 

Three emergency days have been scheduled to be used: April 8th, April 26th and May 10th. If the emergency days need to be used the 26th will be used first, followed by May 10th and April 8th respectively. 


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Pavilion Cottages Project to be “Queer-Centric”

By Alexis Pencar

SHARON SPRINGS — The Village of Sharon Springs Board gathered for their regularly scheduled monthly board meeting on Thursday, March 21st at 6:00 PM in the Sharon Community Building. Many of the regular Village residents were present with a larger audience than usual on this evening of scheduled Public Hearing.

After the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Denise Kelly moved through a few items quickly in anticipation of the Public Hearing scheduled to start promptly at 6:15 PM.

The Public Hearing was for “review the property assessment list and to get citizen input and comments relative to the application for financial assistance under Restore New York”. The two property sites in question were: Pavilion Cottages at 125 Pavilion Ave and Chalybeate Park at 199 Main Street.

The Owner of the Pavilion Cottages at 125 Pavilion Ave, Mr. Nick Drummond spoke in length about the need to “save the Cottages” and to “stabilize, restore, and revitalize the property back into an integral part of the Village, as it once was.” He continued to provide that they are working under Pavilion Cottages Enterprises LLC with a phased approach to developing the property into a “premier, private, queer-centric, hotel resort community”. This is regarding the 5 historical townhouses known as the cottages and the work needing to be done on them for consideration by Restore New York.

Through the presentation, Drummond specified the importance of the “queer aspect” and it is “a critical part on why this is such a good idea for the Village.” 

The hope of this project is to create a “safe space and a sense of family, togetherness, and community” through a “private membership model.” The paid membership is open to queer people and queer allies to apply and there is ‘no cap to members.”

Drummond followed up with “It's never been exclusively queer, it has from day one, always been queer-centric.”

There was mention of the Village history and that was another reason why “this project will work here.”

 It was also noted that there are a variety of other grants that are in consideration for this project. The initial idea for the project was the townhouses being made into single-family residences and has since shifted into the resort hotel concept with the ability of long-term residences. 

The other project brought forward was Chalybeate Park (also submitted for NY Forward and still pending) for the changing building and temple, both in need of fixing. The Village can submit two ‘intent to apply’ and one project final. The suggestion by Mayor Kelly was to submit them both but not make a definite decision, allowing for more time for feedback from New York Forward.

Drummond answered a few further questions about the project and covered many different parts of the business model. There were more than a few questions regarding the proposed private membership model.

Members of the community also had questions on how and why these projects were chosen over others. Even after the public hearing, there was continued talks over the Sidewalk Project and additional unfinished work.

This meeting was extensive at over 2 hours long with many topics covered including the regular board meeting agenda. If you’d like to watch it for yourself, SCHOPEG was present recording this meeting. Please check out Schopeg On Demand at www.schopeg.vids.io for the full video available now.

The regularly scheduled Village Board Meetings are on the third Thursday of the month at 6:00 pm, located in the Sharon Community Building at 129 Main Street, Sharon Springs, NY 13459. Please call (518) 284-2625 for more information.


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SFB Coming to Doctorow

Photo courtesy Amy Scheibe.


By Bradley Towle

HUNTER — On April 5th and 6th, the Catskill Mountain Foundation and Maude Adams Theater Hub present a staged reading of “Stupid F*cking Bird” (SFB) at The Doctorow Center For the Arts in Hunter. SFB is an “irreverent, contemporary, and very funny'' take on Anton Chekhov’s 1896 play “The Seagull.” That should not scare off anyone unacquainted with the 19th-century play. “I definitely think someone unfamiliar with Chekhov would enjoy the show,” says director Caitlin McColl. “It’s direct, accessible, and timely. It exists on its own as a standalone great play. That being said, it also serves as a homage to The Seagull, and anyone familiar with the classic will appreciate the play on another level.” The modern retelling of “The Seagull '' in the form of SFB first appeared in 2013 at The Wooly Mammoth Theater Company in Washington, D.C.. Written and imagined by acclaimed playwright and theater director Aaron Posner, SFB won the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Play or Musical in 2014. Described as “a timeless battle between young and old, past and present, in search of the true meaning of it all,” Posner’s reimagining of the Checkov classic has been consistently staged around the country in its roughly decade-long existence. The performance at the Doctorow Center on April 5th and 6th will mark its first staging on the mountaintop. The cast for the staged reading includes Patricia Charbonneau (Emma), Allegra Coons (Nina), Molly Gaebe (Mash), Phillip X Levine (Trigorin), Michael McDonald (Sorn), James Rooney (Dev), and Sean Walsh (Con). Visit https://www.maudeadamstheaterhub.org/ for tickets and information. 



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Schoharie Watershed Summit 2024 Coming to Tannersville

By Max Oppen

TANNERSVILLE — The Middle/High School in Tannersville will host the 2024 Schoharie Watershed Summit on Saturday, April 6th, from 9:00-3:00 pm, promising a day of collaboration, education, and networking for water resource stakeholders. This year’s summit aims to foster understanding and cooperation among diverse interests invested in the Schoharie Watershed's vitality.

The Schoharie Watershed Summit serves as a crucial forum where municipal officials, planners, watershed managers, regulators, and community members can convene to exchange knowledge and insights. With a commitment to inclusivity, the program is open to all interested parties free of charge, recognizing the importance of engaging various stakeholders in safeguarding our water resources. It’s important to note that registration for the Summit is required. 

The presentations offer valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the Schoharie Watershed, setting the stage for informed discussions and actions.

The Schoharie Watershed covers approximately 316 miles, and according to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, includes parts of 15 towns in three counties: Ashland, Cairo, Durham, Halcott, Hunter, Jewett, Lexington, Prattsville and Windham in Greene County; Broome, Conesville, Gilboa and Sullivan in Schoharie County; and Roxbury and Stamford in Delaware County.

Morning presentations will delve into critical topics such as the applications of the New York State Mesonet in water-related research, Local Flood Analysis in the Catskills, and strategies for managing invasive species like Japanese knotweed. 

The NYS Mesonet was created by the University at Albany in 2014 in collaboration with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and is part of the state’s Early Warning Weather Detection System. It consists of a network of 126 weather stations across the state. According to the University at Albany’s www.nysmesonet.org, each station measures “temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, pressure, solar radiation, snow depth, and soil information.” The system is operated by UAlbany.

The Local Flood Analysis (LFA) presentation will be given by SLR Consulting, the firm hired by the Town of Hunter to complete the LFA in Lanesville. We reported on a robust public meeting that occurred earlier this year. 

“Unraveling the Gordian Knotweed: Management of Japanese Knotweed in the Catskills” will be presented by the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership (CRISP). Japanese Knotweed, an invasive species which resembles bamboo, is a serious problem on the mountaintop and throughout the Watershed. 

In the afternoon, participants can choose from various workshops tailored to address specific areas of interest and expertise. Workshops include an Introduction to the National Flood Insurance Program, guidance on navigating the Short Environmental Assessment Form (used when it is determined that a State Environmental Quality Review {SEQR} review is necessary for a project), an overview of the Greene County Web Map (laptop required), and insights into post-disaster floodplain administration and its implications for flood insurance.

The Greene County Web Map is a resource that explores a wide array of essential information, from land assessment values and ownership to FEMA flood zones and regulated wetlands. During the workshop, attendees can expect to learn the vital functions and explore more advanced tools to enhance their experience. The workshop will also give a brief overview of the data that powers the Map, offering insight into its comprehensive functionality.

Of particular note is the opportunity for planning and zoning board members to earn municipal credits through afternoon workshops, highlighting the summit’s practical relevance for professionals involved in land use planning and water management.

For those interested in attending, the registration deadline is Monday, April 1st. To register or inquire further about the Summit, individuals are encouraged to contact Amanda Cabanillas at (518) 622-3620 or via email at amanda@gcswcd.com. Registration can also be found online here: bit.ly/4aujyEu.




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Mulford Honored by Town Council

By Michael Ryan

WINDHAM - It is merely a mention in the official Book of Minutes and the respectful gesture might make Margaret Mulford miffed.

Windham town council members did it anyway, setting aside a “Page in the Record” during a recent meeting, honoring Mrs. Mulford who passed away in early March.

She was a month shy of her 99th birthday, but she was never bashful about throwing her weight around, even if there wasn’t much of it.

Mrs. Mulford was a diminutive woman, not a whole lot bigger than the desk she commandeered for many years as a 4th grade teacher at Windham-Ashland-Jewett school.

To say she was strict would be a bit of an understatement. Grown men, long after graduating from WAJ and passing her in the street, would abruptly pay much closer attention and studiously smile.

They also spoke affectionately of her, including the late town supervisor T. Patrick Meehan whom Mrs. Mulford remembered as “always cheerful, a real joy to have in the class.”

Mrs. Mulford was among the last of the “school marms,” tough as nails outside and tender inside, as was her colleague Stanley Christman.

They were Old School and not afraid to ensure the students were listening, for good reason. “I suppose I was strict,” Mrs. Mulford said in a local radio interview when she was barely 91 years old.

“I don’t know how else to describe it. That’s just the way I was. Of course, I wanted the children to learn what they were taught.

“I wanted them to behave but I also wanted them to have a good time in school, not always have it be work. Sometimes I was not so beloved, maybe, but I cared about the children.”

Teaching was as much a part of her as breathing. “I played school all the time when I was a child,’ Mrs. Mulford said. “I just loved it.”

She was also fond of the New York Mets. Growing up between New York City and the mountains, “my father, brother and I used to go to baseball  games at the Polo Grounds.” Mrs. Mulford said in the interview.

“It was the New York Giants back then {before they moved the franchise to San Francisco]. Afterwards, I became a Mets fan. I watch every game on television. They are dear to me.”

Nearer and dearer was the Windham Public Library, serving as a Board of Trustees member and its president for literally generations.

“Oh yes, I was always an avid reader. I love that library,” Mrs. Mulford said. “Through the years, we became a Five-Star library.

“A lot of that is due to [library director] Candy [Begley], and Carol is a treasure,” Mrs. Mulford said, referring to her fellow board of directors member Carol Spear.

None of those accomplishments and acquaintances would have been possible if her parents hadn’t moved the family from the Big Apple to Windham, back when life was quite different.

“When I was in school, I would go to class here in September and October, go down to the City for the winter months, then come back up here in May and June to finish the year,” Mrs. Mulford says.

Far from being a deterrent, it became a deep determination and dedication.  “Lots of times, when I’m out walking,” Mrs. Mulford said, “I look at the sky and say ‘thank you mom and dad for bringing us up here.’”

In other matters:

—Town council members reported a dramatic discrepancy in a recent water bill for a local business, emphasizing it was dealt with quickly.

A water meter at the Chicken Run Restaurant appeared to indicate the use of an extraordinary 3 million gallons of water over a 6-month period.

“The meter went crazy,” town supervisor Thomas Hoyt said, piling up several thousand dollars in undue charges.

“This isn’t the first time something like this happened,” Hoyt said, noting the meter was fixed and the bill was appropriately adjusted, basing it on prior use over a comparable period of time.

—Town council members unwillingly but gratefully accepted the resignation of part time police officer Cody Rogers.

Rogers worked full time for Windham early in his law enforcement career before transitioning to the Greene County sheriff’s office.

While working full time at the sheriff’s office, taking a position as School Resource Officer at Windham-Ashland-Jewett, he continued to work part time with the Windham police department.

That has now changed. “Cody has a toddler and cannot do it all anymore,” Supervisor Hoyt said. “We don’t want to see him go, but he does a great job for the town at the school.”


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Hearing for Proposed Catskill Mountain Cannabis Draws Crowd

By Max Oppen

HUNTER — The Town of Hunter's Planning Board recently convened a highly anticipated public hearing regarding the proposed construction of the Catskill Mountain Cannabis LLC, a marijuana grow facility, on the corner of Platte Clove Road and Farrell Road. The meeting, held in person and with a few attendees joining via Zoom, saw a full room as residents voiced their opinions on the project.

The brainchild behind the 10,800-square-foot facility, Alexander Zivian, a self-described 24-year resident of the Town, opened the proceedings with a comprehensive overview of the project, which has been two years in the making. The proposed facility, slated to be constructed on Zivian's property, aims to comply with state regulations and operate as a legal marijuana production center.

The facility will have six flower rooms and two vegetative rooms, which will be used for cloning the “mother” plants. 3,500 square feet will be reserved for growing, the smallest allowable space for indoor grow operations. Zivian said, “My goal is to grow indoors because of higher quality marijuana and smell and security concerns. I can guarantee it will be completely odor-proof.” 

The length of time for a grow cycle from start to finish will last approximately 9 weeks, which includes time to cure the plants, according to Zivian. He will not use manure or any chemicals, opting instead for a living soil system. Zivian said it will not be a hydroponic system, but more like your average raised garden beds, only with the water being reclaimed.

Neighboring property owner Charles Testagrossa, who said he received notice about the hearing just 11 days prior, expressed vehement opposition. Testagrossa cited potential adverse effects on his property, particularly concerning generator noise and security lighting. His concerns echoed throughout the meeting, with several residents questioning the choice of location and potential impacts on the community's safety and well-being.

Zivian has stated he will use infrared cameras in order to eliminate security lighting.

Athena Billias, Marcia Johnson, Sean Byrne, Nettie Farrell, and others echoed Testagrossa's concerns, pointing to discrepancies between the Town's Comprehensive Plan and the Scenic Byway Management Plan. They argued that an industrial facility in a rural and residential area contradicts the Town's laws and threatens the community's character and safety.

Public comments can be found online at www.townofhuntergov.com under Planning Board Minutes.

In response to the community's concerns, Zivian addressed security, odor control, and the facility's operational details. He emphasized his commitment to following state regulations, implementing stringent security measures, and minimizing the facility's impact on the surrounding area. Zivian assured residents that the facility would adhere to strict guidelines and operate transparently.

Planning Board Chair Marc Czermerys said, "I think you've done a really good job of mitigating most of these factors." He added that he may reach out for more information about Zivian's plans for odor control. 

Czermerys added, "What [Zivian] is talking about building is not more unsightly than other things less than a mile away. You have a mine right down the road from the place, and you have a person running a propane business right down the road. I understand that you guys love the area, but it doesn't mean you get the right to be blind to everything else happening around there." 

Planning Board Member Rose Santiago requested a more detailed plan regarding plant matter and refuse.

Following a motion by Czermerys to extend the public comment period, Stephanie Allison from Environmental Design Partnership provided updates on the project's technical aspects. Details included plans for reducing water usage, odor control systems, and electricity sources.

Zivian's current plans call for a flat roof for the 10,800-square-foot structure. However, Santiago recommended a pitched roof. The building would be constructed by Box4Grow, a "leading provider of flexible, scalable, and profitable indoor grow facilities," according to their website. 

During the meeting, concerns about potential criminal activity, water usage, noise, and the size of the building were raised. A flier circulating on social media, titled "Save Platte Clove! Stop Pot Clove!" highlighted opposition to the project, gathering both support and criticism from community members.

In response to the flier, Zivian expressed frustration, accusing the opposition of misrepresenting the project to incite fear within the community. He reiterated his commitment to sustainable, organic farming practices and providing for his family while respecting the community's concerns.

Planning Board Member Susan Kukle asked Zivian what he planned on doing with the refuse. Zivian replied that he is considering a state-certified composting center for leftover plant matter, including stems and seeds. 

Czermerys informed Zivian that because the project is being presented as one lot, any expansion plans for his residence, which sits on the same parcel (like an addition or shed), would require approval from the Planning Board. The proposed facility, along with Zivian’s residence, would also have to adhere to the Town’s fire prevention regulations.

The project in Elka Park was also discussed during last night's Town of Hunter Board Meeting when the Planning Board presented its monthly report. Residents again voiced dissatisfaction with the project.

Town Board Councilmember Ernie Reale asked, "So he's (referring to Zivian) going through a high level of scrutiny with the Planning Board, justifiably so, but if he were to grow outside, would there be a much lower level of scrutiny?" Czermerys replied, "[There would be] pretty much none." 

If Zivian were to grow outside, he would only have to meet the state's requirements for cannabis production. Zivian currently holds a micro business license to grow cannabis. Additionally, he participated in the Office of Cannabis Management’s (OCM) Cannabis Compliance Training & Mentorship Program (CCTM), a ten-week program covering diverse subjects such as cannabis cultivation techniques, processing methodologies, agribusiness management, and regulatory compliance protocols. 

According to The New York Times, Governor Kathy Hochul has ordered a review of the state's OCM to speed up its licensing red tape. Earlier this year, Governor Hochul called the rollout of New York's cannabis program a "disaster," the primary concern being the proliferation of illegal weed shops. Catskill Mountain Cannabis would not have a storefront nor would it be open to the public. Zivian has stated that Catskill Mountain Cannabis would cater to legal, licensed dispensaries. He would use a company box truck to deliver the weed.

At Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting, Czermerys said the state has "recently made it clear that they're not going to be able to enforce their requirements very well for the time being." 

Town Supervisor Mahoney asked if the burden would fall to the municipalities. 

Czermerys said, "They assume that it will."

Town Code Enforcement Officer Sarah Pellizzari asked if the state would provide any coursework to certify the Town's code enforcement officers so that they could enforce the state's regulations. Pellizzari mentioned how they currently work with FEMA, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Department of Health.

Pellizzari said, "We don't enforce other agencies unless we're trained by them."  

Czermerys said, "They've put the localities in a bad spot. They've made this stuff legal with no guidance or training. They screwed the pooch on the rollout." 

There was a lively debate about the need for a Town engineer to oversee the project between Town Supervisor Sean Mahoney, Code Enforcement Officers Pellizzari and Santiago (the latter who also sits on the Planning Board), and Planning Board Chair Marc Czermerys.  

Pellizzari and Supervisor Mahoney requested that a Town engineer be involved in the project. 

Czermerys said, "I have no issue with changing our overall process... there's a difference between moving forward and where we're at."

Supervisor Mahoney said, "I'm listening to all of this, and it's complicated, and it's new, and I want to make sure we're doing it right. I've heard concerns about the septic, the noise, and the smell. I'm not taking anything away from the Planning Board, but it's my understanding that we would retain a Town engineer. Before approval is given, and I think it's the opinion of this Board, we would ask the applicant to make an escrow account."

According to the site plan review law, if an engineer is required, the applicant must open a bank account controlled by the Town to pay for engineering review costs.

"I understand that you are asking for that," replied Czermerys. "I will discuss it with my Board." Referring to the Town Board, Czermerys added, "It's not really your purview."

Supervisor Mahoney said, "I understand that."

Czermerys said, "I'm making it very clear so everyone in the room knows that if it doesn't happen, it's not because you guys didn't ask - it's because we decided we didn't need it," referring to the escrow account for a Town engineer.

Supervisor Mahoney said, "I think that's fair, but I would like the [Planning] Board to know that this is what the Town Board wants. 

Pellizzari said, "I would like it to be very clear that if the applicant needs to be made aware of the need for an engineer, and it discourages them, then it drags through our department. Please understand that it's been three years of this. Every time a site plan gets approved by this [Planning] Board, we have to sift through a lot of questions."

When Reale asked Pellizzari if her department would feel more comfortable having a Town engineer involved with all projects, Pellizzari agreed.

Czermerys said, "That's part of the issue with this. It can't be an undue burden on the applicant to wait a year to get a quote back for what we need in escrow to do these reviews."

Pellizzari said, "Having a Town engineer is crucial for our department."

Supervisor Mahoney said he had a conversation with Santiago about retaining a Town engineer. "We need a Town Engineer," he said. "It needs to be fast-tracked."

Referring to the proposed Catskill Mountain Cannabis project, Supervisor Mahoney said, "I think we're smart enough to identify that this one is going to be complicated. [A Town Engineer] should be part of the procedure going into it. Regardless of the application's merits, if something feels a little weird, we should just do it." 

Czermerys said, "I understand the feeling of the Town Board, and it will be conveyed to the Planning Board."

Czermerys said the current site plan still needs to be improved. He added, "It won't get approval in its current state."

Mahoney said, "I appreciate everyone involved in this - so much. We're all trying to do a good job here, so let's keep that in mind."

New York State legalized adult-use cannabis in March 2021.

The Planning Board has extended the public comment period until April 2, allowing further discussion and evaluation of the proposed project's impact on the Town of Hunter and its residents. Comments can be emailed to mczermerys@townofhuntergov.com. As the debate continues, the fate of the Elka Park marijuana facility remains uncertain, pending further deliberation by local authorities and community members.


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SCS Waiting on State, Final Costs Before Deciding on 2024-25 Budget

State Aid Drop, Higher Special Ed Costs Putting District in a Bind

By David Avitabile

SCHOHARIE - Schoharie school board members and officials are waiting for final state aid figures and spending costs before deciding on the effects of the 2024-25 budget.

SCS Business Administrator David Baroody presented a tentative budget at last Thursday's board meeting that holds a 2.45 percent or $208,323 in the tax levy increase. This first preliminary amount "can change a lot," Mr. Baroody said, as details were finalized.

The biggest reason for the hike is a cut in foundation aid, he added. The first "runs" from the governor showed a decrease of $133,000 in state aid for Schoharie. SCS normally gets a foundation aid hike of three percent, or $253,000 for this year. This is an adjustment of $386,000 that the district has to make up unless the aid is restored by the state legislature in the final state budget.

Superintendent David Blanchard sees some relief coming, but not the full shot.

It will not be zero percent but it will not be three percent, he told board members.

"It's a very tricky time. It's really concerning. We'll continue to be creative," Superintendent Blanchard added. 

He expects the state legislature to approve a small increase in fundamental state aid. There was "not a lot of appetite for what the Governor proposed" for state aid, Superintendent Blanchard said.

There could be a movement toward keeping state aid increases at zero to minimal, he added.

He told board members to "prepare for 'safe harmless' for the long-term," meaning years of little to no increases in state aid. SCS has been able to increase its enrollment so the district may see small state aid increases.

In addition to the loss in state aid, spending could be going up, Mr. Baroody told board members.

The budget draft showed an increase of 4,37 percent or $1.171 million to $27.991,047. The biggest factors in the spending hike are tuition of special needs students, health insurance, both medical and prescription, employee benefits, and debt service.

In the last three years, about 20 high-needs students have moved into the district, each of whom requires out-of-district transportation.

Superintendent Blanchard said 20 high-needs students in three years is "really significant."

He noted that the district has been able to cut in-district bus runs to eight because of dual runs since the pandemic. Unfortunately, the number of out-of-district runs has increased to 12 to take students to the Capital District.

Costs to be finalized are BOCES, health insurance, student service costs, and energy costs, Mr. Baroody said.

Board members are scheduled to adopt a 2024-25 budget on April 18 and the public vote will be on May 14.


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