Thursday evening, January 2, was considered the sort of night most people didn’t go out. The Thruway was closed down; the temperature was dropping. Yet in Olive, the new town board — with three freshman members — made its way from around the mountainous community to town hall for a 7 p.m. swearing in ceremony and reorganization meeting nevertheless.
“Everyone was in their boots and definitely dressed for the Catskills in winter. We looked like the motliest of crews,” said new supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle. “We were out of their by 8 p.m. And no one wanted their picture taken looking like they did so there’s no photos of any of it.”
Rozzelle, who had previously served 31 years as Olive Town Clerk before defeating GOP boardmember Peter Friedel for the town’s top spot in November, says she thought long and hard about her major appointments in the week before the January 2 meeting. She drove out to see her ailing 91-year old father in Kentucky and took advantage of the 19 hours of driving each way to really mull what was ahead of her.
Her new board includes Friedel and fellow Republicans Don Van Buren, midway through his first term, and newcomer Scott Kelder, along with Democratic newcomer, Jim Sofranko.
As her deputy, Rozzelle named longstanding Olive Planning Board chairman and former Rotron manager and engineer Drew Boggess, who ran unsuccessfully for town board in November. He was approved with all ayes.
“I wanted someone with education who’s here all the time,” she said. “Drew’s been to almost every town board meeting for the last decade, if not longer, and has deep experience and knowledge. Plus he’s available to come to town hall whenever needed.”
For her supervisor’s clerk, Rozzelle named Rebecca DeGondea, an old friend that she trusted.
The remainder of the meeting was focused on the naming of several key committees, with talent coming from all areas.
For a long-pending Olive Wastewater Advisory Committee, meant to advise the town and Catskill Watershed Corporation on the running of its treatment plant in Boiceville, Van Buren will be working with Joe Stein and Al Studt, all treatment district residents.
After many years talk about getting the town better prepared for storms and disasters, a new emergency committee was named to better prepare the town in terms of NIMS (National Incident Management System) protocols. Friedel will chair the group and serve alongside Tom Planz, a former fire chief, current fire chief Chris Winne, Yvonne and Steve Fuller, police chief Tom Vasta, and Carl Swenson, Jr. The county’s NIMS committee will also be involved and Rozzelle stressed that “it’s important we do table top preparations for all scenarios. We need to know what to do for all situations and then implement our plans and publicize them to our residents.
The new supervisor added that she’s been speaking to various officials at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection offices in town about coordinating efforts better, and not just during storms.
“I’m a communicator,” she said, noting a series of meetings she’s been to or is about to attend with county New York Rising committees, county executive Mike Hein, county planner Dennis Doyle, along with county and state legislators.
“We need more collaborative efforts on everything,” Rozzelle said. “We’ve heard suggestions that we relocate Boiceville, but that’s not realistic. I’ve been a town clerk for 31 years and a town supervisor for five days; what do I know about flood planning? We’ll be bringing in people who know about flood planning.”
Other committees named last week, alongside designation of this publication and the Daily Freeman as official newspapers, included a cable franchise group headed by Sofranko, and filled out with Simon Strauss and David Anderson; along with a buildings evaluation and replacement committee chaired by Kelder and Sofranko and including town inspector Don Covello and highway department go-to man Jimmy Henderson.
“We have a lot buildings,” the supervisor noted. “We have the transfer station, two separate park pavilions, the bath houses, the pool, the two highway garages, the town office building, the town meeting hall and the American Legion hall. And all are in worsening shape.”
Rozzelle added that she was looking forward to her first workshop meeting come Monday, January 13, when she and the board will be hearing reports from many of the town’s departments on a bevy of pressing issues. She says she wants such meetings to become clearinghouses for information…and have them and all town meetings start from now on at 7 p.m. as much as possible.
“There’s a lot to do,” she said. “But I’m really excited, as I think we all are about the year ahead.”