July 28, 2010; Kingston Daily Freeman: Towns shy to funding Route 28 Scenic Byway

Town officials are giving a chilly reception to the idea of collectively funding the effort to get a 50-mile section of state Route 28 designated as a scenic byway...

The Central Catskills Collaborative was formed to obtain the designation for the stretch of highway between the Ulster County town of Olive and the Delaware County town of Andes. The idea was that such a designation would open the door to new funding sources for the region.

But that was two years ago, before the economic collapse.

State funding to the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development to handle administrative responsibilities for the effort never materialized.

The Catskill Watershed Corp. contributed $50,000 in startup funds to make up for the state funding that had evaporated.

Last week, the supervisors and mayors of the member municipalities of the Central Catskill Collaborative — the towns of Hurley, Olive, Shandaken, Middletown and Andes; and the villages of Fleischmanns and Margaretville — were asked to enter an agreement to continue to fund the collaborative.

This week Olive town Supervisor Bert Leifeld said the plan received a chilly reception.

“The idea is that all the towns would cooperate and contribute a stipend,” Leifeld said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of questions here. Let’s face it. The towns are going to be competing for money for projects. So, is everybody happy with the idea of this agreement? No.”

He added that timing is poor, given that towns are already financially strapped.

Shandaken Supervisor Robert Stanley had a similar reaction.

Noting that his town has just been hit with the added expense of having to defend itself against a lawsuit brought last week by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Stanley said he recalls two years ago when the town first considered joined the Central Catskills Collaborative.

“We agreed to get involved because it wasn’t going to cost us anything,” he said.

Stanley said he would review the proposal, but added, “I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Andes Supervisor Martin Donnelly expressed similar sentiments.

Fleischmanns representative John Duda, the chairman of the collaborative, said last week’s meeting marks only the beginning of discussions on how to proceed and there are other options.

“It’s not like we are going to town boards next month asking them for money,” he said.

Duda said options under investigation include creating a non-profit entity and putting the collaborative under the umbrella of another organization, such as the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development.

All three options are being explored, he said, and all have pros and cons.

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