The task force is known as the Woodstock Youth and Family Council. As the centerpiece of its proposal, the group recommended that the town create the Woodstock Youth and Family Services Program, which would replace, both in name and function, the Youth Center as the entity that administers the town’s services for young people. Major elements of the proposed new program include the following:
Comprehensive offerings for youth and families, such as counseling, GED and tutoring services, employment-related assistance and education mentoring, family support groups, recreation, instruction in photography and other arts, computer-skills training, field trips, and workshops for parents and community residents on subjects such as drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and date rape, and parenting skills
An administrative structure in which a suitably qualified executive director, assisted by a similarly qualified, full-time program director, would oversee the program’s day-to-day activities, with the executive director reporting directly to an advisory board appointed by the Town Board
A youth staff, comprising five or more appropriately trained young people, that would complement the program’s adult staff
The inclusion of more females in the youth program, both as participants and staff members
Expanded operating hours for the Youth Center, the town-owned building on Rock City Road
Outreach to other programs, including Family of Woodstock, Planned Parenthood, Teen Parents, Alcoholics Anonymous and related groups, and domestic violence prevention programs
Eric Glass and Geddy Sveikauskas, the co-chairs of the task force, presented the group’s findings and recommendations to the board. Glass, the retired owner of a catering business, was director of the Youth Center from 1986 to 2000. Sveikauskas is the publisher of Woodstock Times and other area newspapers.
Since its formation in July, reported the co-chairs, the WYFC has held biweekly meetings; sought the views of more than 75 volunteers, professionals, and local residents; examined youth programs offered in other communities; and consulted with service providers including the police department, teachers, counselors, and business and arts organizations.
The impetus for the WYFC’s recommendations, said the group’s report, encompasses a dearth of activities and programs for local young people, especially older teenagers; a lack of support services for parents and families; inadequate communication between service providers and young people and their families; a shortage of opportunities for involvement with youth by community members; and a lack of “experiential” programs that would enable young people to be responsible for the success or failure of their own services and recreational outlets; and the fragmentation of youth activities according to age, gender, home location, and stereotypes.
In response to a question from Woodstock supervisor Jeff Moran, who noted that the town’s 2011 budget has been adopted and thus contains little flexibility, Glass stated that the proposed new program could be implemented without additional town funding until 2012. Added Sveikauskas: “It takes a village, a competent youth director, and the involvement of kids in activities, experiential and otherwise. More than money, it’s mainly a matter of getting on the right track.”
Meanwhile, the WYFC report proposed that the new program seek financial support through fundraising efforts and grant writing and from nonmunicipal sources such as the county Youth Bureau, which discontinued its previous funding of the Woodstock Youth Center when the center’s programmatic focus shifted to recreation over services.
“A babysitting program that mostly provides video games, TV watching, skateboarding, and surfing the Internet will never receive funds from the Ulster County Youth Bureau or, most likely, any other funding source. In fact, the provision of only these activities will disqualify a program from funding,” said Glass, alluding to the town’s current youth program. “We don’t want a custodial situation at the Youth Center,” said Sveikauskas.
Fern Malkine-Falvey served as director of the Youth Center from 2004 until last month, when the Town Board terminated her employment. In recent weeks the board has discussed the possible introduction of new youth services with Russell Richardson, the former director of the defunct Indie program, which for a decade offered training in film and digital media to at-risk, underserved young people at Onteora High School. Board members plan to meet again soon with Richardson, who has expressed a readiness to collaborate with the WYFC.
Other items on the meeting’s agenda included the following:
Town facilities. Council members Bill McKenna and Cathy Magarelli will obtain cost estimates from local architect Robert Young on the possible renovation of Town Hall and structural improvement of the Community Center. A 2007 townwide referendum authorized $1.45 million in bonding toward a total expenditure of $1.6 million for renovating Town Hall, where the police and emergency dispatch departments and the justice court have long worked in cramped, unsafe conditions. The plan was abandoned when contractors’ bids significantly exceeded the approved amount. Discussions between board members and Joseph Scott, the town’s bonding attorney, suggest that the 2007 bonding authorization may still be valid, provided any building plan adheres closely to the accompanying resolution. Substantial departures from the resolution would entail another townwide vote. Under consideration is a simplified renovation of Town Hall in which the court would make use of space in the adjoining main room and the police quarters would be expanded into vacant bays formerly used by the fire department. Such a renovation might be accomplished at a cost of around $200,000. Moran expressed support for an alternative: the construction of a new, pre-engineered building that would house the three departments at a site on Mountain View Avenue, adjoining a municipal parking lot. A “high performance” building of that description, containing approximately 6,400 square feet, might cost around $700,000, according to the supervisor. The prospective improvements of the Community Center would include energy efficiency measures and an expansion of the public access television studio.
Comeau easement. In a subcommittee report on land use, councilwoman Terrie Rosenblum announced that a walking tour of the Comeau property by all of the council members would take place in the spring. The walk was scheduled to take place in August but was postponed due to rain. The purpose of the tour was to confirm that the property’s physical features correspond to photographs, maps, and other descriptive materials compiled in a Baseline Documentation report by the Woodstock Land Conservancy, the town’s partner in the implementation of the Comeau easement, which was adopted in November 2009. McKenna, Moran, and Magarelli maintained that the WLC had thus far failed to make a copy of the draft BDF, contained in a binder, available to Town Board members. The WLC’s president, Kevin Smith, disputed that account in a December 22 interview. “The Baseline Documentation has been available for the town’s review since late July,” said Smith, who noted that it would be prohibitively expensive to make multiple copies of the binder’s voluminous contents. “Our executive director, John Winter, continues to make himself available to the town to review the draft documentation, including with individual Town Board members, should that be requested. The Baseline Documentation remains a top priority for the Land Conservancy in terms of Comeau easement-related matters.”
On a related subject at the meeting, councilman Jay Wenk clashed with Rosenblum over the composition of a committee that will develop a so-called stewardship plan for the town’s future management of the Comeau property. Rosenblum has previously said that only elected officials, who are directly accountable to taxpayers, would serve on the committee. Wenk urged that members of the public be included. In a separate subcommittee report, Magarelli expressed her hope that the highway department would begin work in the spring on an accessory parking lot at a site on the Upper Comeau property. Resident David Boyle volunteered to create new, vandalism-resistant shields for the lights at the existing Upper Comeau parking lot. In response to a question from resident Ken Panza, Moran said that the construction of the new parking lot would be financed via a transfer of funds, since the expenditure is not included in the 2011 highway budget.
Zoning law. Magarelli and Rosenblum have solicited the views of town department heads on proposed changes to the zoning law and are now seeking suggestions from all town employees and members of the public. Interested residents should submit their suggestions, in writing, to the town supervisor’s office by February 14.
Ethics law. By a vote of 4 to 1, with Wenk dissenting, the board adopted several amendments of the town’s ethics law. Wenk objected to a provision that allows elected officials — in particular, a member of the Town Board — to serve on the five-member Ethics Board. A council member could exert “undue influence” on the ethics panel, which advises the Town Board, said Wenk, who himself served simultaneously on both boards during a previous term as a councilman. Rosenblum observed that the provision in question was authorized by the state comptroller for adoption by all New York municipalities. McKenna said that it could be generally beneficial if a Town Board member temporarily filled a vacancy on the Ethics Board.
Dogs. The board unanimously authorized the transfer of up to $6,400 for the construction of a dog park in Bearsville. After residents expressed concern that the park’s proposed location was too close to the wells that serve the town water supply, a new site in the same area, farther from the wells, was chosen. The town has created a trust and agency account for donations that would provide additional funding for the park, which also may generate revenue through signage. In a related matter, the state has transferred to municipalities the responsibility for issuing dog licenses. As in the past, the town clerk’s office will process applications for licenses, following the board’s adoption of a new local law to that effect.
Sick days. Because town employees have recently expressed interest in serving on a formerly depleted committee to oversee the pooling of compensated sick time, the board tabled a resolution to dissolve the committee.
Reappointment. The board appointed current Board of Assessment Review member Steve Pittelman to a new term, which will expire on September 30, 2015.
Hydrofracking. Council members, who had previously expressed reservations about the controversial natural gas extraction method known as hydrofracking, authorized environmental activist Jenny Hellman to explore the feasibility of establishing an alternative form of energy production in Woodstock. Hellman will research the availability of grant funding to designate Woodstock as the installation site for an anaerobic digester, which would produce energy from methane that is trapped in an oxygen-free composting process. The energy would be converted into electricity that might serve a town-owned building, suggested Hellman, an artist who is relocating to Woodstock from Brooklyn. Moran noted that such a project would be compatible with the town’s commitment to achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2017.
Medicare changes. Longtime community volunteer Ralph Goneau alerted residents that their prescription drug coverage under Medicare may be seriously affected by changes in the federal program that are scheduled to take effect on January 1. The changes involve the right of Medicare recipients in New York State to choose the company that provides their medications, according to Goneau. For information about the imminent changes, visit the website medicare.gov or call the county Office for the Aging at 340-3456. Goneau also warned that private ambulance companies may legitimately charge high fees to transport patients from one hospital in Kingston to the other under certain circumstances. ++