No bygones on the byway

By LAURIE STUART
Posted 2/15/22

ELDRED, NY — The writing was on the wall at the December reorganizational meeting, when the Highland Town Board chose to table the appointment of a representative to the Upper Delaware Scenic …

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No bygones on the byway

Posted

ELDRED, NY — The writing was on the wall at the December reorganizational meeting, when the Highland Town Board chose to table the appointment of a representative to the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway. The position has been held by John Pizzolato for the last two years and Pizzolato is currently the chair of the regional council.

He won’t be for long, however, as the board chose Lacey Gutekunst Madden to represent Highland at the town board meeting on February 8. Madden was enlisted by Pizzolato to volunteer for the position when it became clear that he would not be reappointed.

“Lacey is uniquely qualified,” Pizzolato said. “And I had to make sure that I was replaced by someone who would be an asset to the committee.

“I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’m just disappointed on behalf of our town and their lack of regard for the byway. We’re the lowest contributing member of the byway committee, giving only $500 per year. This past year, not only did we give the Town of Highland the application and proposal for the Silver Feather Award, which is a $125,000 grant, we were able to garner $16,000 in grant funds from the byway back to the town.There was no red flag, no determining event that would have disqualified me from the position by traditional standards or merit.”

In describing the replacement, supervisor Jeff Haas said, “The board just wanted to go in a different direction. We had this up-and-comer who wanted to get involved and figured to give her a try.”

Madden is no stranger to Highland, having spent her summers in Highland Lake, and worked her first job at her grandparent’s IGA store in Eldred. A professional manager, product manager and event planner who moved to the area two years ago, she said in a statement read during public comment that she looks forward to bringing this expertise to the position, “to support all the great small businesses in our towns and the work of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway.”

The scenic byway organization is losing its chair and its vice chair this year, as Deerpark representative Ginny Dudko is leaving to be a representative on the Upper Delaware Council. She is being replaced by the her husband, Bill.

In speaking of the disruption to the council, Pizzolato said, “I did prepare the board for an incongruent response and... I wanted to make sure that if the town was indeed replacing me, that it be with a person that was qualified and interested in the position. I reached out to Lacey because obviously the town would approve given her family ties and, more importantly, she has a real adoration for the area.”

Speaking of whether his removal was retribution for running against Haas for supervisor in the November 2021 election and losing by 15 votes, Pizzolato said, “The effect is two-fold. It’s devasating for the committee and for democracy at large. If we’re going to weaponize local community posts, or if people have differences of opinion or challenge people democratically and then lose their posts, that’s going to discourage community involvement and public participation at large.”

Haas said, “Anyone can run for anything at any time. That’s what happens in politics; some of them get elected and some of them don’t. I know how I voted and I am comfortable about my vote.”

“It’s disappointing that they couldn’t rise above it for the sake of our community and our town,” Pizzolato said.

Pizzolato will remain on the byway committee as an ex-offio member on behalf of the Greater Barryville Chamber of Commerce. An election for the council’s chair will be held in April.

The Upper Delaware Scenic Byway was legislatively designated as a component of the New York State Scenic Byways System on August 6, 2002, following a two-year grassroots process to draft an enhancement-concept plan for New York Route 97 in Orange, Sullivan and Delaware counties. The council is made up of volunteer representatives from the towns of Deerpark, Lumberland, Highland, Tusten, Cochecton and Delaware, the village of Hancock, the city of Port Jervis and from Sullivan County. The council meets on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Upper Delaware Council office at 211 Bridge Street in Narrowsburg.

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