In January, Carmine Mele and Rich Koenig took their seats as the Town Board’s newest members. They had unseated incumbents Janet Kern and Greg Finger. Since Kern and Finger were both leftwing candidates, the addition of a new Republican and a new independent effectively removed any party advantage once present on the Town Board.
After that 2009 loss, Finger received a special appointment to the town’s Open Space Commission -- a group for which he became the chairman.
Kiernan Farm’s potential land deal to become a working farm in perpetuity became a long-running focus for the Town Board and its subcommittees throughout the year. Most recently, town officials announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has finalized the land conservation deal with the organic cattle ranch’s owners. A majority of the town’s $50,000 share of the matching grant had been paid for through private donations.
Finger’s final year as a public servant in Gardiner was spent negotiating that purchase of development rights deal with the feds and the Kiernans. Up until a few weeks before his death on Dec. 13, Finger was out at events campaigning for open space in the town.
The former Town Board member passed away in December after a long battle with cancer. He was an active member in the Shawangunk Valley Fire Company, and he served as a champion of firefighters and EMTs at Town Hall, as the town’s emergency management coordinator.
Finger wasn’t the only prominent public figure who passed away in Gardiner this year. Barney Hansen, the former chairman of the local Republicans, also passed away after a fight with cancer. Hansen did just about everything a guy from Gardiner can do, if he decides to become a public servant -- he served on the Town Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, was a member of the Gardiner Fire Department and had a seat on the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency.
The lifelong volunteer, who passed away on April 15, also was a founding member of the Gardiner Association of Businesses. People in town liked the former town councilman so much that they also named a bridge in memory of him -- the one that crosses the Shawangunk Kill River in Tuthilltown, near Hansen’s old house.
Outside of Kiernan Farm, 2010 was also a great year for farming in general. Two new sustainable farms -- Brookside Farm and White Barn Farm -- came into their own on Albany Post Road and started selling their products to the public after years of prep work.
Brookside Farm, owned by the Sykoffs, focuses on raising cattle and chickens without the use of hormones, antibiotics or pesticides. Through a clever use of rotational grazing, the cows make their way through the field and fertilize what’s behind them. The fowl pull a similar routine.
Down the street on Albany Post Road, knitters found new hope at White Barn Farm -- the sheep farm that brings freshly harvested wool from the fluffy critters just outdoors and brings it indoors into the knitting shop for use as yarn or felt.
Shepherdess Paula Kucera sees her farm as the woolen version of the organic vegetable farm or ranch. White Barn Farm’s mission is to reconnect crafters with the source of their fabric in the way that a sustainable farm reminds people that food has a life before shrink wrap and Styrofoam backboards.
One long-standing public debate reared its ugly little head during 2010 as well. After a resounding defeat in Ulster County Supreme Court at the hands of the citizen group Sensible Wireless for Gardiner, Town Board members searched for a new way to bring cellular phone service to the town.
Because the judge ruled that the Town Board had violated its own zoning laws by trying to put a 140-foot-tall tower at the town dump, local leaders needed to find a new way to get towers in town within the bounds of the law -- and without disturbing the sensibilities of the people from Sensible Wireless.
That epic quest eventually prompted the town’s current likely deal with the New Rochelle-based firm Wireless Edge to build two towers in town. While the saga will continue into 2011, because the anti-tower set and the viewshed enthusiasts are again stirring, the town has at least rebounded from their defeat and come up with a new plan.
The year also reopened the long debate over what to do with the old library/firehouse on Station Square. At first, early in the year, it looked as if the Gardiner Fire District commissioners would take over the old building and turn it into a museum honoring the work and the legacy of firefighters in Gardiner.
History buffs also lobbied the town hard during the year to keep the building, since it is one of the few survivors of a 1925 fire that burned down most of the Hamlet of Gardiner.
On the other side of the debate, a group of people wanted town just to sell the building and get the sales money as cut-and-dried revenue in a cash-strapped year of money woes. Much like the cell tower, the debate on the old Station Square library building will continue into 2011. However, town officials have decided to throw a tarp over the building’s roof to prevent any water damage from leakage.