By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO May 9, 2003 What began as complaints by Village of Monticello residents about the way their village is run may turn into a long-awaited truce between the village and the Town of Thompson.
For various reasons, the town and the village have not worked together in planning events, communicating ideas, and looking at consolidating such services as public works or parks. One of the main reasons has been the feud between Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini and Monticello Mayor Gary Sommers.
Many years ago, the two ran against each other for Thompson Supervisor in an ugly campaign.
Since then, the two barely speak and have continually taken public potshots at each other. Many of their names for each other cannot be printed, but Sommers has referred to Cellini as Ayatollah Bin Cellini, and Cellini has often said of Sommers, He needs help.
It all came to a head at the villages last board meeting Monday night. In an hour and a half of public comment, resident after resident complained about the condition of the village and implored the board to work with the town to consolidate services to curb rising tax costs.
There are a lot of problems in the village, remarked Monticello businessman Dr. Marc Hudes. The job is not getting done. Because of bickering, you and the town do not work together. It is like the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis. Things are happening in the county but not in the village. It is disgusting. You need to encourage business and people to come here.
We have stretched the olive branch to the town, Sommers responded. With the press here, I will take this opportunity to extend an invitation to sit down with the town anytime, anyplace. We need to resolve these issues. We dont have to be in love with each other. We have to work together for the common good.
This has become the garbage spot of the Catskills, commented village resident Betty Friedland. It is mind-boggling. Consolidation would save the taxpayers money. The way things are now, you might as well open that window behind [Village Trustee] Scott [Schoonmaker] and throw the money out. You need to do something to save the taxpayers money. There is a problem here. Remember the crap runs downhill.
I have lived here for 36 years. I used to think that this was the greatest place to live and raise a family, stated Monticello Trading Post owner Cindy Deitchman. Now, I am embarrassed to live here. In the last two years, you have lost more than you have gained.
People come to an area based on what it has to offer, Deitchman continued. You have nothing to offer. You do little to encourage business. You need to get a direction and focus. You need to look at the long-term future and help it to grow right. This is my home, and I want to keep it that way.
In the last couple of weeks, the County Legislature has voted to raise the sales tax, Schoonmaker replied. I did not support that. It will take what little business we have here and drive it to Orange County.
This is not all the boards fault, Schoonmaker continued. Mary Jo [Oppenheim] and I were elected last year. We inherited these problems. We are dealing with them. We are not doing nothing. We are going in the right direction. You need to give us some time.
Sommers suggested holding a special work session to further discuss the problems. That proposal received no support from the board.
After the meeting, Cellini was contacted for reaction to Sommers peace summit request.
He can talk to me when he apologizes for calling me the Ayatollah and the other things he said, Cellini said.
In response, Sommers stated, If thats what it will take for Mr. Cellini to sit down and talk to me and the village on a regular basis so that the town and the village can work together, then I will take this opportunity to extend my apologies. I feel that I certainly cant do it any more publicly than in the media. However, if he would like to, I will allow the Sullivan County Democrat to set up a meeting at a mutually agreeable location and time to publicly apologize to him.
Sommers suggested such neutral ground as the Lawrence H. Cooke Courthouse, the lobby of the Sullivan County Government Center, New York State Assemblyman Jake Gunthers office, or the Democrats Monticello office.
Cellini said he would wait for the article to be printed in the paper before he responded any further.