Olive board gets down to business

Sylvia Rozzelle, Peter Friedel, Jim Sofranko and Scott Kelder. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Sylvia Rozzelle, Peter Friedel, Jim Sofranko and Scott Kelder. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Topics ranged from basic bookkeeping policies and procedures and parks usage to user requests from the Boiceville Wastewater Sewer District, better internet access throughout town, and whether an Olive Police Department is needed, as the Olive town board with two new councilmen and a new supervisor, met for its first workshop meeting at the town hall in Shokan on January 13. A regular town board meeting, where official votes would be taken and the public heard, was scheduled for the next night, January 14.

Despite having a 3-2 Republican board majority, new supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle, a Democrat who previously served as Olive town clerk for over 30 years, ran the meeting tightly but with considerable humor and sensitivity to everyone in attendance…including the two men who challenged her electorally last year, in a party caucus and the November election.


Things started off with a session with the town’s accountant/bookkeeper, who went over the last year’s audit and various pay and bill-paying policies the board and town’s department heads must follow. Rozzelle stressed the need to start looking at costs per building, including fuel use, before everyone addressed word from Albany that the state’s eying the freezing of property taxes in what Rozzelle termed, “their push for consolidation.”

“I believe it should be the people in the town who decide if you want a library, parks, a police force, and so on. These are harsh decisions,” she noted. “This threat of people losing tax credits if we’re not within the tax cap…the town board may have to make some tough decisions in the future.”

A subsequent discussion of policy for the town’s two well-utilized parks and the American legion building also focused on policies, with the supervisor noting the number of requests her office was fielding for the coming year already. She suggested that such decisions not be left up solely to the supervisor, as had been the case throughout the long years of Bert Leifeld’s administration before her. Yet she also brought up her own concerns regarding park rentals to groups without Olive residents among their memberships, as with a request that has come in from a local road race that’s used Shokan’s Davis Park repeatedly in recent years.

“How about having the rec committee decide such things,” asked Pete Friedel, the board’s longest-standing member and GOP candidate for supervisor against Rozzelle in the fall.

Everyone agreed that would be a good idea, along with their predilection for not renting the Legion Hall to outside groups…“unless common sense dicates.”

“Are we parked out,” Rozzelle asked before bringing forward Mike Yonker of LBDB, the company that manages the wastewater treatment plant built with New York City funds for the town, under Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) guidance.

Yonker spoke about upcoming, previously-agreed-upon rate increases over the coming years, and how they were readying to go to the CWC and City with proposed operations and management changes. Rozzelle asked if he could include issues raised by property owners, leading to some discussion of rising charges accrued by the local fire department every time it washes its vehicles. Yonker agreed to let the town have eight weeks to get its full list of issues and requests together…along with a list of local vendors the CWC could use for its sewer and septic work in the future.


Police, cleanliness and cable

On the subject of police, commissioners Richie Ostrander and Bruce La Monda, a former longterm councilman who lost the Democratic nomination to Rozzelle last summer, asked whether there was any inclination towards disbanding the department.

“It’s up to the people of the town whether we keep the department if and when we have to start making tough decisions,” the supervisor responded. “I do wonder whether we need a commission or a committee to run the police department, but that’s just me. I had problems in the past with the lack of a budget for years, and over-drafting, but now there’s a much more professional department.”

Ensuing discussion focused on whether the police could start buying new vehicles every three years, instead of every two; and whether the third commissioner, who winters in Florida, should be retained as a member of the commission. Everyone agreed to revisit all matters later in the year.

New board member Jim Sofranko, who proved the evening’s most vocal councilman alongside fellow freshman Scott Kelder, spoke about his committee’s preparations for new franchise discussions with Time Warner Cable. He asked for town funds to do a survey, the better to bring hard data to the notoriously recalcitrant company; as well as how he would be focusing on cable issues as a means of getting better internet connections for the whole town, including possible wireless hotspots here and there.

In other business, there was some talk about town hall telephone lines, which Friedel pointed out had gone out several times of late, and how alternative numbers had to be better advertised so people could get through even when the main number and its phone tree went down.

A discussion about cleanliness problems at the Legion Hall resulted in Rozzelle noting how the cleaning lady who handled the building, along with other town facilities, hadn’t changed her rates for doing the entire town one day a week in over 12 years.

“I mentioned what we paid to someone who cleans homes for a living and they laughed,” she said. “It could be we’re getting what we pay for.”

Also, there came a point where the new supervisor asked La Monda why he was smiling so much throughout most of the meeting.

“It’s because in all my time here we never got coverage like this,” he said, as a photographer clicked at he and the assembled board members.

“This is day 13,” replied Rozzelle. “We have a long way to go…”