Baker sworn in as head of Olive police

Don Baker

Don Baker

At the Olive town board meeting on February 9, Don Baker was sworn in as the town’s new chief of police. Baker, a Saugerties resident, was stationed in Ulster County for most of his 28 years with the state police force. He served 13 of those years as a supervisor.

Town supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle introduced the recently installed members of the police commission, putting to rest an ethics dispute over a donated generator that disrupted local politics over the past few months. The three-person police commission now includes Earla Van Kleeck, a former teacher and a town resident for 30 years; John Kurz of Samsonville, whose experience includes 17 years with the Kingston police department as well as work for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); and Bob Krause, whose 40 years as an attorney included work in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

The dispute over ethics arose in November, when it was revealed that then police chief Thomas Vasta had obtained a free generator for the town from U.S. Army Surplus, contrary to an April vote of the town board. After considering the police chief’s action, the board voted not to ask for his resignation. In mid-November Vasta tendered his resignation anyway, citing political issues.


The recording of a police commission meeting showed that commissioners had encouraged Vasta to pursue obtaining the generator despite the town board’s decision against the move. The commission at the time was composed of Richard Ostrander and town board members Peter Friedel and Donald Van Buren. (Van Buren is no longer on the town board as of January 1, when his term expired.) Replacement of the entire commission has taken place over the past month.

Rozzelle read three letters from town residents praising local police officers, including Barry Creagan and Tom O’Connell, for excellent service in trying situations. The board accepted the resignations of two part-time officers, Dave Kimble and Glen Buchinger.


Olive wants City buyout option for flooded properties

The town board unanimously approved the sending of a letter to the Coalition of Watershed Towns (CWT) seeking a reversal of its recommendation that New York City remove buyouts as an option for flood-damaged properties. Rozzelle explained that the Local Flood Analysis (LFA) of Boiceville had revealed no cost-effective way of preventing a repeat of the devastating flooding sustained from Hurricane Irene in 2011. Construction of a berm to protect the businesses and homes along Route 28 would be prohibitively expensive for the town. An alternative would be to allow the city’s buyout program to purchase the most vulnerable properties so the owners could relocate to higher ground, which is available nearby. Most of the owners, having suffered damage in two floods, are interested in relocation, since appraisers have reported that they are unlikely to find buyers for land in the flood zone.

However, in the Greene County town of Prattsville and the Delaware County town of Margaretville, municipal officials are reluctant to allow buyout of properties that would then be removed from the town’s tax rolls. With revisions to DEP policy under consideration, CWT appears to have recommended that buyout be removed as an option. In Boiceville, the 18 parcels in question represent only .8 percent of Olive’s tax revenue. Rozzelle’s letter requests that the CWT’s recommendation be reversed, in consideration of the differing needs of various towns.


Report on cable services

Board member Jim Sofranko reported on his efforts to obtain cable service for areas of the town that do not yet have service, including Samsonville and parts of Olivebridge. Time Warner has a franchise agreement with the town, but the company has refused to build infrastructure to less profitable districts. The Public Service Commission is studying the proposed merger of Time Warner with Charter Communications. One of the conditions of approval appears to be a requirement to provide service to 145,000 unserved homes in New York State. If the merger goes through, the company will be obligated to extend service by 2018.