At first, the protest was small and quiet, with residents Ray Lunati and Chris Ulrich urging the Town Board not to pass the law. Once the law was passed and the word spread, a group of residents affected by the laws came religiously to Town Board meetings asking them to repeal the law, even dressing in same-colored shirts to show their solidarity. When the Town Board showed no sign of repealing the law, a group of residents filed an Article 78 lawsuit claiming that the law was “onerous” and unjust. That lawsuit has yet to be decided.
Residents east of the Wallkill, particularly those that live near the Sunset Ridge neighborhood, applauded the Town Board and the volunteers of CWOSP (Clean Water and Open Space Commission) for negotiating the purchase of 63 acres of sensitive land located just behind the Duzine School to be forever protected.
That land, then owned by Sunset Ridge LLC, had been a virtual battleground between neighbors and environmentalists who were vehemently opposed to a proposed 140-unit residential complex by a Long Island developer called “Stoneleigh Woods.” As the fight over the proposed development escalated and the economy took a turn for the worse, the developer backed out and CWOSP, with the support of the Town Board, negotiated the purchase of the property for $550,000 from the town’s voter-approved $2 million Open Space Preservation bond. This added another large piece of the puzzle to the proposed Millbrook Greenway -- a several-hundred acre park that would follow the Millbrook Stream from North Putt Corners Road all the way to Route 32 North.
With morale down, the New Paltz Volunteer Fire Department -- with the support of Mayor Terry Dungan and Supervisor Toni Hokanson -- moved toward the creation of a special Fire District. Several meetings were held, but with so many unanswered questions, the Town Board decided not to put the referendum before voters during November’s election. Four out of five members argued that it was “too rushed,” many questions remained unanswered and that first and foremost the town should sign off on its belated contract with the village to pay for its share of fire services. Hokanson argued for it. With the Town Board not voting to put a Fire District on the ballot for a public referendum, it became a moot point for the Village Board, as the law requires that both the town and village boards agree to put it up for a public vote. The issue has yet to be revisited.
After a long, passionate public debate, the Town Board voted 3-2 (with Councilwoman Kitty Brown and Councilman Jeff Logan opposing) to purchase two tasers with funds from the seized assets account for the two members of the New Paltz Police Department that also serve on the Ulster County Emergency Response Unit. The police commission, which ultimately recommended the purchase of the tasers, was also divided and voted in favor by a 3-2 margin. The main argument for the weapons was that they were a “less deadly” alternative to deal with a hostile subject and another “less-than-lethal” alternative to using a firearm. These two weapons have arrived with one being purchased through a grant and the second through the seized assets account.
After decades of working out of a substandard, 1,500-square-foot, out-of-compliance “temporary home” on Plattekill Avenue, the New Paltz Police Department was able to negotiate a ten-year lease and move into the former American Scientific Building on South Putt Corners Road. They have approximately 7,000 square feet of space, which now provides the 21 full-time officers with handicap access, secured armory and evidence rooms, offices for the chief and for the lieutenant, as well as a sergeant’s office, a conference room, interview/interrogation rooms, holding benches and even space for a small gym. The police moved into its new headquarters in early May and also purchased a K-9, Rex, who now rides with officer Bobby Knoth in a new, $40,000 2010 Ford Explorer. The car was purchased in large part by a hefty donation from the Woodcrest Community in Rifton after the old K-9 car crashed into another NPPD patrol vehicle and was totaled, resulting in the death of former K-9, Zeus.
After eight years serving as president of SUNY New Paltz, Steve Poskanzer resigned on June 30 and accepted the presidency of Carleton College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, in Northfield, Minnesota. He began his new duties on Aug. 2. He was replaced by interim president Donald Christian, and a search committee is casting a wide net to find a permanent replacement.
When former Deputy Mayor Patrick O’Donnell announced that he would be resigning due to a conflict with his work schedule, the board appointed Robert Feldman to fill his seat. Feldman served on the Village Board during the Tom Nyquist administration. Feldman said he took the position to try and serve as a mediator with the Fire Department and the Town Board. That position, as well as the Mayor’s seat and two other village trustee seats -- Shari Osborn and Jean Gallucci -- are up for election in May.
In the meantime, the town and village did agree (barely) on one thing -- and that was to apply for a joint $50,000 Department of State Grant to look at various government efficiency options -- everything and anything from possibly consolidating some services to becoming coterminous governments, a city, dissolving the village or dissolving the town. They hired Peter Fairweather Consultants to guide them through the process and appointed community volunteers to help steer the conversation and gather research and input to, hopefully, find a result that streamlines the two governments in some capacity.
There was a tragic car/motorcycle collision on Brookside Road in July that left one young New Paltz man dead and another charged with vehicular manslaughter (as well as other charges). Neighbors and friends, Clinton Rhoers, 22 and Frank Perconti, 23, collided, sending Perconti’s dirt bike flying and resulting in the young man’s death. According to the Assistant District Attorney, Rhoers was arrested and charged with allegedly leaving the scene of an accident, vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence. That case is still under investigation.
The Taste of New Paltz celebrated its 20th anniversary this past September. The event is sponsored by the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce and held at the Ulster County Fairgrounds. What began as a whimsical idea as a way to showcase New Paltz’s varying businesses -- from restaurants, farm markets, retail, artists, craftspeople, and service vendors -- went from 1,500 people in 1991 at the old Rivendell Winery to more than 10,000 locals and tourists at the fairgrounds in 2010.
The year came to a rough fiscal end in New Paltz, with many residents attending Town Board meetings pleading with their elected officials not to increase taxes and to “make the tough choices” they were “elected to make,” as people are losing jobs, finding it increasingly difficult to pay their mortgage and rent and feel that they’re being taxed out of town. The supervisor came under attack by councilman Jeff Logan for proposing to give herself a three-percent raise, as well as for being unwilling to cut anything from the police department budget, by far the town’s largest line -- well over $2 million. The majority of the board agreed to cut the wish list down for the Field of Dreams, as well as several other department cuts, and then voted 3-2 (with Hokanson and Deputy Supervisor Jane Ann Williams voting against) to remove $90,000 from the police personnel line that would have likely removed a dispatch line. They claimed that the cut would not require laying anyone off and that 911 made it so that all residents would still be responded to during an emergency if the 255-1323 line was not being manned. Hokanson said that she would not “jeopardize public safety” and fought tooth and nail into the wee hours of the last night before the budget was to be adopted to make “cuts anywhere else.” Those cuts were made willy-nilly all across the board and the NPPD was able to keep its budget intact, much to the chagrin of certain board members who felt that dire economic times required that everyone do with a little less because “taxpayers are suffering enormously.” Hokanson also kept her raise.