Letters to the Editor March 8, 2012

Letters To The Editor - Millerton News

How to reuse the school

The question of how to preserve the former Millerton Elementary School is currently under discussion. A proposal that would utilize the building for our town and village governments along with educational, artistic and other entities misses the mark. I believe, however, that it may contain the germ of a good idea. Rather than move the village government, which does not need more space, and the town government, which does but has other options and will not solve its highway garage dilemma with a move to MES, why not develop a plan that truly preserves and honors the building and its history?

What if this fine old building were to be entirely dedicated to education and the arts? It could then become a cultural center for residents and visitors. Both Dutchess Community College and BOCES have been interested in satellite classrooms at MES. The building is already used for GED classes. Along with college courses and vocational/adult education, many other exciting events cold be occurring right here in the village.

The building has an auditorium with a stage and a gymnasium, as well as classrooms. Why not make abundant use of these facilities? Imagine Millerton with its own homegrown theater company producing plays by known and unknown playwrights, some of them local. Envision ticket prices affordable for virtually everyone. Suppose you could also take acting classes in the same building. The auditorium could offer local musicians a larger venue than is currently available for concerts and even accommodate dances. Anyone who has attended the concerts or the recent open mic nights at the Library Annex knows how much talent is out there. We have a fledgling music school on South Center Street that is doing amazing things but will need a better space soon.

The 14th Colony artists’ collective has expressed interest in renting at MES. Space could be dedicated for a gallery and art classes. The gymnasium could house dance and fitness classes and athletic programs. As a kid I loved going to school on Saturday to roller skate in the gym. If you went to MES, wouldn’t you like your kids to be able to go there for something like that? If you need to take required driver courses, wouldn’t you like to be able to take them right in the village?

This plan would honor our history as we look toward our future. If we pull together as a community we can make it happen. No matter what, it is going to cost money to preserve the school. I believe any entity, including the Webutuck Central School system, which owns the building, is eligible for the NYSERDA grant the town and village have been considering. But no matter how the process unfolds, if we have the commitment of all parties, including local residents willing to volunteer their time and talents, this envisioned Millerton Cultural Arts and Education Center could be a reality and going concern, not only financially, but as a vibrant, life-enhancing asset for all of us.

Pamela Michaud

Understanding our rights

I noted a few years ago in another piece published by this paper, in order for a right to be a right, it must be universally applicable to anyone, at any time, regardless of one’s social or economic status, nor can one have a right that negates someone else’s right(s).

I argued that both the administration and Congress were incorrect in calling health care a right, because it infringes and places a burden on one segment of the population in order to provide a service(s) to another.

One right that all of us have is the right of conscience, which has also been called the freedom of conscience or the right of thought. This right has been historically and legally associated with other individual liberties to include speech, religion and expression. All of these are enshrined in the protections of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

President John F. Kennedy eloquently noted in his inaugural address, these “same revolutionary beliefs for which our forefathers fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

Essentially, no government can compel you to do something which violates your right of conscience or any other. When it does, it does so at the expense of its own legitimacy.

The issue raised in The Millerton News editorial on Feb. 16 (“Contraception mandates offer women some control”) about women’s contraception mandates brings this issue to the forefront. The New York State Supreme Court was in violation of the right of conscience when it ruled against the Catholic Charities of Albany in 2006. It attempted to explain away this unconstitutional infringement by stating that since the law’s target was something else entirely, it could compel the organization to do something that violated this right. This is in essence what the original rules published by the Department of Health and Human Services did before the so called “tweak” of Feb. 10, though this tweak doesn’t go far enough.

It does not matter if 98 percent of women use some form of contraceptive at any point in their lives, or that 58 percent of Catholics themselves believe that an employer should be mandated to provide this coverage. Neither the citizens nor the government have the justification or power to blatantly ignore one individual’s right of conscience.

The rule as it currently stands still compels an employer, even if they are not religiously affiliated but still holds deep convictions on the issue, to violate their right of conscience. Under the rules as currently stated, an employer has little ability to redress these grievances.

While each of us may have passions regarding issues like this, we must temper them by understanding what rights we have, and not confuse rights for what may be in the public’s interest at any given time. In the end the only minority that really matters is the most important one of all, the individual citizen.

Sean Klay
Pine Plains

Breakfast thanks

The Millerton Fire Company would like to thank all who came to join us for our March breakfast fundraiser. We served a total of 244 meals. We appreciate the public’s support.

A special thanks to all who helped with the breakfast. Without you, it cannot happen.

Al Andrews
Bill Lutz
Vicki Moore

Require full DEIS for supermarket

To the absent Planning Board members of North East and the public: Because you were not present on Feb. 8, I want to clarify the points that I made to your board when I asked them to make a “positive declaration of environmental impact” and proceed to do a proper DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) as required under SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act).

First, you have before you a fine study, the Sterling Report, and opinions written by Professor Michael Klemens, Ph.D., a very well-known and respected scientist in this field, whose comments cannot be brushed aside but must be answered.

Second, the location requested for a 36,000-square-foot big-box store is well outside of the Millerton Town Center in an HB2 zone along with highway businesses that have traditionally been industrial, rather than the HBI district which is zoned for food stores, necessitating a zone change.

Third, the fact that sprawl of this kind will have a serious interstate impact on all the surrounding town centers, including food and liquor stores, means that a very hard look must be given.

Fourth, I mentioned the cumulative regional problem of adding that much more impervious roof and parking lot surface which will create runoff to the Ten Mile River Watershed (36,000 square feet plus 180 parking spots and roadways).

Sharon Kroeger

How did this happen?

The reports on preliminary budget cut proposals and the size of the superintendent’s compensation package at the recent budget workshop of the Pine Plains Central School District as reported in The Millerton News did raise a few questions in my mind. The first and most obvious was how did we ever get to the point where a superintendent’s compensation package for our little country district is nudging a quarter of a million dollars? I could live for five years on that amount. Maybe we don’t need such a big chief.

Coupled with annual increases in taxes based on the argument that “everything has gone up” and “Our state aid has been cut so we have to make it up,” we are slowly driving the local residents out — and slowly only because they can’t sell their houses fast enough in this market without taking horrendous losses.

In this time of tripled fuel costs and rising food prices, people are living in one room in their homes to save heating expenses and taking in boarders in an attempt to make ends meet. Even an austerity budget represents an increase. Doesn’t anybody get it? The reality is that taxpayers faced with increased expenses without increased income (anybody had a raise lately?) cannot support this kind of top-heavy pyramid.

Surely there must be administrators out there that would love to live in this beautiful rural setting and would be willing to trade dollars for quality of life? The superintendent’s reported response that she gives her raises back to the community through donations does not address the real issue. The position is overpaid. Let’s fix that.

Bill Abrams
Pine Plains
(Bill Abrams is a columnist for The Millerton News.)

Development approval process should be thorough

Your paper gave abundant coverage to new supermarkets being discussed for our town. Some items merit comment and information on the applicant, Southern Realty and Development (SRD), and the other incomplete applicant, Freshtown.

Without a preference for either supermarket, my concerns, not “grievances,” are for a proper, legal and thorough approval process with substantial public input, since SRD will bring major change to our region, residents, businesses, development, town character and environment.

Dale Culver, North East Planning Board (NEPB) chair, asserted SRD’s application has been under review for “the better part of two years,” but the period November 2010 to February 2012 is just 16 months.

Discussion of issues you covered — possibly due to public comments at NEPB’s Feb. 22 meeting — is a good thing. This is a big project. Mr. Culver now welcomes process input from the village and now will be more inclusive.

Publicly critical of my speaking at the NEPB without having consulted with him, the attorney or clerks, Mayor John Scutieri called it “misconduct.” Is it incumbent to consult before speaking as individuals, surrendering our right to speak when recruited to official positions? I never represented that I was speaking as anything other than a resident with civic sincerity.

I apologize for being partially correct about the complex tax exemptions available. North East Assessor Katherine Johnson clarified specifics and scaled tax exemptions SRD may qualify for over 10 years.

Has the mayor apologized for incorrectly stating on Feb. 2 that the village had approved water for SRD’s project? Was that misconduct, since no approval had been discussed or granted?

Why the hurry? The August 2011 preliminary engineer’s water report was not disclosed to all trustees until recently. The water issue and decision were not on the Feb. 27 Village Board meeting agenda. The final water report is not yet ready, but approval of water has been granted with no public input or notice? A hurried, imprecisely worded resolution passed on Feb. 27, despite strenuous objections of a village trustee prior to the 2-1 vote (not 3-1 as reported; mayors only vote to break ties) with one trustee absent.

What did the village get for issuing this critical water approval? Nothing, not even a park bench. On Feb. 27 I suggested (as a private citizen) that it was unbusinesslike to approve the supply of valuable village water and get nothing in return, with no stipulated deal points or requirements in writing.

I felt the sudden resolution was vague. That SRD would be responsible for paying all costs of installing the water extension was not even inserted as a condition of approval. Why not delay the OK until a more precise resolution with key conditions was drafted, like a signed SRD letter agreeing to pay all SRD water-related costs? Or usage limits, contingencies, etc.? I personally would never vote for such a hurried, on-the-fly resolution. Why do Village Board minutes prior to Feb. 27, 2012, reflect no substantive discussion of issues or Village trustee concerns on the water?

Peter Greenough

Wager would make good assemblyman

On Tuesday, March 20, a special election will be held that will provide voters in North East/Millerton and surrounding towns the opportunity to chose the person to serve as our next assemblyman in the New York Legislature.

The 103rd Assembly District seat was most recently held by Marcus Molinaro, who has become our county executive. Molinaro has endorsed Rich Wager to fill that post and I join County Executive Molinaro in recommending Wager to voters as their assemblyman.

Rich Wager has deep roots in Dutchess County, he understands our problems, the problems with state government and knows how to fix them. Wager will bring new thinking to the state Assembly and serve our residents well.

The special election will be held in each community throughout the 103rd Assembly District at the normal local polling places from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Voters should not let this opportunity pass to elect an intelligent, knowledgeable and well-grounded candidate, Rich Wager, to serve as their assemblyman.

David Sherman

Don’t cut services to our children

It is almost time for the Pine Plains School District budget to be presented to the voters. I hope the board and the administration will be considering how much they would like to see it passed. After reading the “proposed” cuts to be made, it seems like the only cuts are against the services to our children.

Has any consideration been taken to review the amount we would save if the administration were to lessen some of its staff? I would like to commend Mrs. Orton for attending the Board of Education meeting and voicing the opinion of many people who live in this district. I believe that the board should do a careful evaluation of the cuts that are being “proposed” and maybe save more effectively in other ways.

We now are educating fewer students in our schools and have more administrators to oversee this process. To keep salaries in control, maybe a cap should be considered.

Ann Noone Croghan
Pine Plains

Consider ‘fracking,’ vote for Barrett
One of the more controversial issues in New York State is hydro-fracturing (“fracking”). This process involves injecting water and chemicals at high pressure deep within the earth to release the natural gas hidden in fissures in the rock.

Proponents claim that it will create jobs, substitute a cleaner burning fuel for coal and end U.S. dependence upon foreign oil. Opponents fear the long-term damage to the environment and the possible contamination of water resources. The prudent course is to do a thorough study of all the issues before reaching a conclusion, which is the sensible position taken by Didi Barrett, candidate for New York State Assembly in the 103rd District.

There are other red flags. While it is true that methane is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal, methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is released in the fracking process. Furthermore, the process itself is extremely energy intensive. The concern about contamination of water supplies is well founded.

Clean water is an increasingly scarce global resource that must not be squandered. I know from experience in Amenia how difficult, expensive and time-consuming it is to clean up environmental messes once they have been made.

New York state has a long tradition of home rule, meaning that individual communities can regulate or even ban certain activities within particular areas of town, or even the entire town. Recently two different judges upheld this principle. It would be a terrible mistake for the Legislature to change this well-established rule and allow big business interests to trump the will of the local community.

People live in small towns all over the state because they value the quality of life they find in them. If that is jeopardized by the noise, truck traffic and possible pollution of large-scale industrial activities, they should have the right to decide whether or not they want it.

Didi Barrett is a fair-minded person who will examine this issue thoroughly. If more fracking is allowed in New York state, she will fight to make sure that there is proper regulation and oversight. Most importantly, she will listen to everyone, and she is not beholden to the oil and gas companies.

I’m voting for Didi Barrett on March 20, and I hope you do too.

Janet M. Reagon, Former Supervisor, Town of Amenia