Rondout Valley grad Shawn Farrell, 24, killed in action in Afghanistan

Rochester Residents Association Scholarship

School Board Election and Budget Vote

Rondout Valley candidate addresses provided by Ulster County Board of Elections

Kerhonkson diner rubble still an eyesore nearly two years after fire

Town of Rochester man used ex-wife’s identity to get car loan, police say

Police Blotter








A U.S. Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of U.S. Army Sergeant Shawn M. Farrell II, as U.S. Army Major Gen. Thomas A. Horlander, U.S. Army Major Dennis Call, and U.S. Air Force Col. Ladd Tremaine salute, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Farrell, of Accord, N.Y., died while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.





Rondout Valley grad Shawn Farrell, 24, killed in action in Afghanistan


STONE RIDGE >> Heather Stokes heard on a public radio broadcast Monday that two soldiers had been killed over the weekend in the eastern province of Afghanistan, where their Army unit was ambushed.

 On Monday night, she learned the unthinkable.


One of those killed was her 24-year-old son, Sgt. Shawn Farrell, an infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division, based in Fort Drum, N.Y.

“I didn’t know it was him,” she said by phone on Tuesday from her Stone Ridge home, sobbing. “I didn’t even think about it when I heard it. I just heard two soldiers had died.”


Farrell, a 2008 graduate of Rondout Valley High School, was shot twice Sunday in the surprise attack, said Stokes, who lives in Accord.

The family still did not have all the information about the attack and was awaiting a visit from Army representatives, and the public affairs office at Fort Drum did not respond to an inquiry from the Freeman.


Stokes said serving in the Army was something Farrell wanted to do ever since he was a child.

“I have pictures of him as a little kid dressed up in camouflage,” she said.

“As soon as he turned 17, he signed up and went in,” Stokes said. “In his senior year, he served with the Army National Guard reserve unit in Bullville, and after he graduated, he went in to active duty in Fort Riley, Kan.”

Farrell left for his second tour of duty in Afghanistan on Nov. 18, 2013, his mother said. He first was deployed there in 2010.

Through tears, Stokes said her son had the sort of personality that drew people to him.

“He was great. He was funny. He just laughed at everything. He had the biggest heart,” she said.


Farrell’s father, also named Shawn, of Accord, said his son felt privileged to serve his country.

“He loved life. He loved his family. He loved to fish,” the elder Farrell said. “Up until the day he went in, he had hair down in the middle of his back. He donated it to Locks of Love [a charitable agency that helps people with cancer and other diseases that result in hair loss]. He always helped other people. Shawnie was the happiest-go-lucky person in the world.”


Other family members also were taking the news hard on Tuesday.

“Ever since Sept. 11, (2001), he wanted be a soldier,” said Holly Downie, Farrell’s aunt who lives in West Shokan. “He gave 150 percent to be the best that he could be, and he will be so missed.”

Farrell’s step-grandmother, Sharon Vavolizza of Stone Ridge, said Farrell got married a little more than a year ago.

Vavolizza said the family was told Farrell was flown to Germany after the attack but doctors there could not revive him.

“We were all so proud of him,” she said. “It’s such a sad day.”


The Rondout Valley school district, in a statement posted on its website, said: “This is an extremely sad day for the entire Rondout Valley community as we learned that Rondout Valley graduate Sgt. Shawn Farrell was killed while serving his country in Afghanistan. The district would like to send its condolences to his family.”


Farrell is survived by his wife, Allison, who lives in Fort Drum; his parents; his stepfather, David Stokes; three brothers and two sisters; and other relatives.


Funeral arrangements still were pending on Tuesday.


Additional information from Stars and Stripes:

Sgt. Farrell served in the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment. Joining the Army in September 2006, he arrived at post in May 2010. His current deployment was his second to Afghanistan.

His career awards include the Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, two Afghanistan Campaign Medals, the Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, and the Air Assault Badge.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a statement, directed flags be flown at half-staff on Thursday in honor of Sgt. Farrell.




Rochester Residents Association Scholarship


The Rochester Residents Association is again offering a scholarship for Rondout Valley High School graduating seniors. The five $1,000 Rochester Residents Association Community Scholarship will be awarded to a graduating high school senior from the Town of Rochester who demonstrates leadership and academic promise.  The scholarship will be awarded under the auspices of a Scholarship Committee appointed by the RRA and is funded by the RRA's members.

For further information, including an application visit:



School Board Election and Budget Vote


Rondout Valley school district voters will choose among four school board candidates for three open seats when the polls open next month. Two incumbents, James Ayers and James Blair, are seeking reelection, while Kent Anderson is not running for another term. Newly running will be Glenn Dannaham and Thomas Pacti, Sr.

Ayers is a retired Rondout Valley teacher who is completing his twelfth year on the board, and Blair is an attorney with experience in property-tax cases who will be standing for election for the second time.

Dannaham is a teaching assistant who challenged State Senator John Bonacic for his seat in 2010. Little is presently known about Thomas Pacti, Sr., the other challenger; Pacti's name is not included in other published reports about the race, but RVSD district clerk Debra Barbiani listed him as a candidate. Both men live in Kerhonkson.

Voters will also consider the 2014-15 school budget on May 20. An updated plan will be presented at the board meeting on Wednesday, April 23, too late for publication in this issue, but in February superintendent Rosario Agostaro unveiled a proposed amount of $59,248,926, which would result in a tax levy increase of 1.5 percent, the maximum allowed the district under the tax cap this year, with total spending that is 2.09 percent more than last year.

The board was scheduled to meet on a rare Wednesday in order to conduct elections for the BOCES board, which must be performed by all county school boards on the same night. (Shawangunk Journal 4/24/14)


Rondout Valley candidate addresses provided by Ulster County Board of Elections


ACCORD >> While Rondout Valley school district officials declined to provide the addresses of candidates running for the Board of Education, the information was released Tuesday by the county Board of Elections.

Two three-year seats on the Board of Education are up for election on May 20. They currently are held by James Ayers and James Blair. Petitions to run for election to the board were filed by: Ayers, of 759 Samsonville Road, Kerhonkson; Blair, of 43 Krom Road, Stone Ridge; and Glenn Dannaham, of 61 Sages Loop, Kerhonkson.

The Board of Elections provided the addresses following a Freedom of Information request from the Freeman.

Rondout Valley officials had said the addresses were withheld based on a state opinion dealing with vacancies of board members and the privacy of public officers. However, the state Committee on Open Government’s executive director, who wrote the opinion, said the information was not accurately being applied to petitions for board seats in an election.

Robert Freeman said that petitions, including the home addresses of candidates, “would always be public” and the district “would not be able to redact” the information.

Rondout Valley Superintendent Rosario Agostaro said school district lawyers would be

contacted for further clarification. (Freeman 4/22/14)


To obtain absentee ballots, complete and mail this application:





Kerhonkson diner rubble still an eyesore nearly two years after fire


A ‘For Sale’ sign sits amid the rubble at the Rainbow Diner site on U.S. Route 209 in Kerhonkson this week.

KERHONKSON >> It’s been 21 months since the Rainbow Diner on U.S. Route 209 in this town of Rochester hamlet was destroyed by fire. Yet the aftermath — a mountain of twisted, snarled debris — remains at the site.

The rubble from the July 2, 2012, fire stands out on the landscape and has been an inviting target for those fed up with the blight, including people who placed now-removed signs that read “Shame on You Town” and “Happy Anniversary 1 Year!”

A dinette set —complete with table and chairs — tops the wreckage, presumably placed there by a prankster mocking the inactivity.

Not only is it an eyesore, but it is a potential health hazard, according to the state Department of Labor.

An industrial hygienist from the department went to the site a month after the fire, while the owners were attempting a cleanup, and halted it once he determined there was “non-friable,” or non-airborne, asbestos in the basement, said town of Rochester Supervisor Carl Chipman.

Non-friable asbestos has been defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “any material containing more than 1 percent asbestos ... that, when dry, cannot be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure.”

A vacant, dilapidated house also sits on the 2-acre property, which now is on the market for $124,000, according to Kingston-based Realtor Win Morrison, who was hired by owners Caryle Mitchell and George Haralabopoulos on Dec. 12, 2013. Their original asking price was $150,000, Morrison said.

The property has been assessed at $53,800, Chipman noted.

That aside, the cleanup matter now is before a state Supreme Court justice in Kingston, according to Mary Lou Christiana, the town of Rochester attorney. The town filed suit against the owners last fall for failure to clean the site, she said.

“It’s the town’s position that the property owners are responsible for cleaning it up,” Christiana said.

Town officials initially tried to work with the owners because “we don’t like suing people,” she said.

“We like things to get resolved nicely, but unfortunately, it’s still sitting there,” she said of the diner’s rubble.

Chipman said the owners have claimed they don’t have the money to clear the debris — a project he said could cost as much as $150,000, based on quotes he’s gotten.

“Asbestos remediation costs a lot of money, and the state isn’t going to move the rules on it,” Chipman said.

He said if the diner owners assume responsibility for the cleanup, there are different rules in place than if a third party does it.

“If the owners get remanded by the court to clean it up ... it will cost them much less,” Chipman said.

“They’re allowed certain leniencies,” he said. “If we did it, the cost would be much higher because we’re a third-party government agency.”

The bottom line, Chipman said, is the owners have not been cooperative.

“They’re saying they don’t have the means, and we’re saying they do have the means,” he said. “The taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it. We’re now waiting for due process. Nobody’s more anxious about this than me.”

A reporter’s repeated calls to the owners’ attorney, William Pretsch, were not returned in time for this report.

Morrison, however, said the owners did not have insurance and can’t afford to remove the debris.

“They wanted to sell the property with the stipulation that whoever buys it would clean it up,” the Realtor said.

“It was a valuable piece of property when the diner was there ... and the site should be a valuable commercial site,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of people with foresight to see what they could do there. If casinos go in to Ellenville, the property will skyrocket.”




Town of Rochester man used ex-wife’s identity to get car loan, police say


TOWN OF ROCHESTER >> A town man has been arrested after using his ex-wife’s identity to obtain a car loan, state police said Thursday.

Stephen R. Wells, 39, was charged on Wednesday with felony forgery and the misdemeanors of issuing a false financial statement and falsifying business records, according to state police at Ellenville.

On Wednesday, the woman checked her credit report and discovered a car loan of which she was unaware, police said. An investigation found Wells used his ex-wife’s “personal identifying information” to get the loan.

Wells was arraigned and released with a ticket to appear Rochester Town Court. (4/10/14)



Police Blotter


DWI: Harrison T. Fisher, 31, of Accord, was arrested by state police at Wawarsing at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday and charged with felony drunken driving and reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. Further information was not available (Freeman 4/17/14)


Drugs: Daryn J. Dunnell, 45, of Salem, N.H., was arrested by state police at Ellenville at 1:44 a.m. Monday on U.S. Route 44/state Route 55 in the town of Rochester and charged with two felony counts of possession of a hallucinogenic substance, two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana, a violation. Dunnell was stopped on Route 44/55 for a vehicle and traffic violation and investigation found he was in possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms, methamphetamines, cocaine and marijuana, police said. He was sent to the Ulster County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail. (Freeman 4/8/14)


Drugs: Jeremy P. Helcoski, 24, of Clarks Summit, Pa., was arrested by state police at Ulster at 6:58 p.m. Sunday at 600 Lower Granite Road and charged with the misdemeanors of drunken driving, possession of a controlled substance and driving with a blood-alcohol content exceeding 0.08 percent. Further information was not available. (Freeman 4/8/14)


Drugs: Rafael Z. Sod, 20, of Lawrence, was arrested by state police at Ulster on Main Street in the town of Rochester at 8:10 p.m. Sunday and charged with seven misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and with possession of marijuana, a violation. Sod was released with tickets for Rochester Town Court. Michael Y. Burger, 21, of Far Rockaway, was arrested at the same time and place by state police and charged with three misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance. Burger was released with a ticket for Rochester Town Court. (Freeman 4/8/14)


DWI: Jeremiah P. O’Sullivan, 29, of Accord, was arrested by state police at Wawarsing at 5:58 p.m. Monday on Old Kings Highway and was charged with drunken driving and driving with a blood-alcohol content exceeding 0.08 percent, both misdemeanors. O’Sullivan was released with tickets for Rochester Town Court. (Freeman 4/2/14)


DWI/drugs: Gregory L. McQuillan, 59, of Kerhonkson, was arrested by state police at Wawarsing on U.S. Route 209 at 10:45 a.m. Thursday and was charged with drunken driving and driving while impaired by drugs, both misdemeanors. McQuillan was released with tickets for Rochester Town Court. (Freeman 3/22/14)


Criminal contempt: James L. Winchell, 28, of Accord, was arrested by state police at Wawarsing on U.S. Route 209 at 11:37 p.m. Thursday and charged with criminal contempt, a felony. Winchell was sent to the Ulster County Jail. Further information was unavailable. (Freeman 3/22/14)