Saugerties Times Letters (10/6-12)

letters-blueAmerican Archives month

In October we contemplate oblivion and the opposite; remembering. It’s American Archives Month and the month when the county also dedicates a week to promoting local heritage. This is the first year that my book on the history of Saugerties is available and so I want to use that platform in support of the dedicated community in Saugerties that deals with our history and heritage.

The other day an individual that works at the State Archives told me how impressed he was with the turnouts for the Friends of Historic Saugerties monthly programs at the library. The Friends will have been doing this two years, come next February, and I used the opening to give him a brief history as to how this came about.

These programs were organized to formalize a gathering previously arranged for those that shared history information on Facebook. Chester Hartwell, who by that time had been doing the I Like Saugerties Facebook page for three years, started this as a way for these local enthusiasts to meet each other face to face. This was when passionate individuals first began finding a welcome. A scattered history community was just waiting for something like this.


This community had been encouraged by the high level of information that came out of the programs of the Town of Saugerties Historic Preservation Commission after its formation in 2004. The Historic House Tour and the Cultural Resource Survey were instrumental in presenting a quality of content that those seeking knowledge of our true origins could get serious about. Last year the Commission’s program for historic home owners at SPAF featured a large display on local history from its guidelines publication, and was the largest gathering of all heritage week events.

2011 brought forth both the library’s newly organized Local History Room and also an organization of the Rosenblum and Lamb collection. As these began to be known, those that do public programs, like the commission, and research for books, like myself, grew more and more confident in the accuracy of their presentations on Saugerties history. We researchers then began to add to the history resources by digitizing thousands of documents, making our knowledge base even more available to others. And Audrey Klinkenberg, our official Saugerties Historian and deputy county historian, singlehandedly recorded and transcribed thousands and thousands of these hand written pages on her own time to make Saugerties history even more broadly available to researchers through digital word searches. Thanks totally to tireless efforts of private enthusiasts, now all this information is freely available to anyone during library hours six days a week.

This has all come together because of the enthusiasm for a Saugerties history almost lost to oblivion from institutional neglect over the recent past, but now found to be a remarkable attraction to our community. This enthusiasm that builds every day, and those that share it, are the heritage that I find most representative of Saugerties and most worthy of remembering this month.

Michael Sullivan Smith

Michael Sullivan Smith is the author of A Brief History of Saugerties.


Wishlist Saugerties budget

The following is offered as a public service. The 2017 Tentative “Wishlist” Saugerties town budget was just released.

Excluding special districts, the budget increases spending by 4.8% and property taxes by 4.1%.

Budget highlights include: Police spending up 5.2%; Personal Service spending up 6.8%; Health Insurance costs up 22.4%; Retirement costs up 13.2%; General Fund spending up 5.2%; General Fund property taxes up 6.7%; Highway property taxes are flat.

The public can view the tentative budget at:

Joe Roberti Jr. 


The full sunny picture

A short column appeared in the 9/29/16 edition of Saugerties Times noting that recently there has been significant increase in building permits related to new Solar installations in the Village of Saugerties. It was surmised that the increase was due to financial incentives and a brightening economy but what was not mentioned was the Solarize Saugerties campaign that took place March-June of this year promoting and assisting solar installations to our area residents.

About 10 volunteers devoted significant time and energy to hold a number of workshops, open houses, social media and print outreach efforts. The awareness of incentives (which have existed for quite a while) and the surge in applications, not only in the Village but in the rest of the Town, is due in no small part to these efforts. As a direct result of the Solarize Saugerties campaign installers reported 64 confirmed residential and two commercial installations completed or in the works. And as a bonus, because of the success of these efforts, one of the installers in the program, Direct Energy Solar, donated a 5kw solar system which they will be put on the Saugerties Senior Center in the near future.

Skip Arthur
For the Solarize Saugerties Team


Sheffield Mansion

As I pass by that great old home in Barclay Heights every day on my way to work I am saddened.

I am reading the Michael Sullivan Smith Book A Brief History of Saugerties, and I am loving the Barclay Heights section, the telling of the layout of the Heights with where all the moneyed people wanted to live with the great view of the Catskill from the Heights with the Meadow in between.

When I moved to Saugerties 12 years ago, I wondered about what the now very crowded layout looked like in the past. I now drive by picturing it in its former glory, with the apple orchards where the unattractive mini mall is now. It’s also sad that the subdivision was laid out so busily, and all the names of the streets named after fruit trees, with not one tree left!

Anyway, it would be so nice if some of the money people in this town who seem to care so much to put Saugerties on the map would invest in that old mansion, and restore it to make a truly attractive entrance to Saugerties from that old former glorious area. It would be so great to have some kind of museum to bring out the very interesting history of Saugerties.

Tom Struzzeri would be the perfect candidate!

Karin Rice


Responsible budget

Last week, County Executive Mike Hein presented a $ 324.8 million dollar budget to the Ulster County Legislature (and the general public) that reduces spending by $5 million dollars compared to the 2016 budget which was $330 million. The 2017 Ulster County Budget reduces County-level property tax assessments (for the fifth straight year) despite the added expenditures associated with the full costs of State-mandated services like Democratic elections and social safety net services. In addition, Ulster County Government has undertaken the tasks associated with rebuilding numerous bridges and highways within Ulster County’s infrastructure.  An additional  state mandate from  the New York State Consolidated Courts has mandated that the Ulster County Family Court needs major renovations in order to accommodate a third Family Court Judge that was added in 2015. Relocating the Ulster County Family Court is going to cost between $8 million and $19 million dollars depending on whether the upcoming ballot referendum passes that allows the Family Court to move from the City of Kingston to the Town of Ulster.  Consequently, it is imperative that the upcoming ballot referendum passes on election day in order for our budget to remain fiscally reductive.

Another factor that makes the reductions in the 2017 budget so impressive includes the skyrocketing costs associated with the health care coverage of the Ulster County government’s employees.  The cost of health care services and health insurance plans have increased after the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, and Ulster County government has responded by downsizing its staff through early retirement incentives and attrition.

One component of the Ulster County budget that warrants an analysis is the anticipated increase in sales tax revenues for 2017. In 2014-2015, sales tax revenues accounted for 33 percent of all revenues taken in by Ulster County while the 2017 budget anticipates that 34 percent of all revenues will be derived from sales tax receipts. This obviously points to the proliferation of the tourism industry within Ulster County, but these trends also beg the need for more industry-related economic development around the area. The successes of the tourism industry are known to be tied into gasoline prices and the state of the overall economy, so the continued growth of tourism around Ulster County is not something that should be taken for granted!

Although the jobs market could be better in Ulster County, we are in better fiscal shape than most New York counties. In recent years, there has been a coordinated effort to reduce the size of government and reduce county-level spending. If a resident needs assistance on the county-level, they can reach their County Legislator and receive a response almost immediately (in my case for sure). We would all hope that larger areas of government on the state and federal levels were as efficient, but as the size of a territorial jurisdiction increases, the efficiency of government decreases. We all wish that the state and federal governments were more efficient, responsive and fiscally responsible!

Chris Allen
Ulster County Legislature, Saugerties and Malden