Most know the Wassaic Project as the multidisciplinary artists festival that attracts thousands of people to the hamlet on the first weekend in August.

All year round this nonprofit organization runs a community in Wassaic where art is created. Resident artists live in the hamlet, using studio spaces in reclaimed historical buildings such as the Luther Barn and Maxon Mill. The cold-weather crew of winter residents has arrived in Wassaic and is adjusting to life in a small hamlet.

Nine artists are in residence for periods of one- to four months. They all are in the hamlet for the same reason—to create art.

Jenna Rosenburg works with foam, spackle and linoleum. She is working on a series of faux finished paintings that fall between sculpture and painting. She likes to think of her work as architectural follies. She works in her studio in high-heel boots. Rosenburg comes to Wassaic from Brooklyn. She found out about the project through past residents.  This is her first artist residency.  She says she likes how time moves slower here. 

Allison Marti says she has been singing since she was old enough to speak.  The Millbrook High School Senior has excelled in the district’s music and performing arts programs since middle school. Marti most recently participated in the New York State School Music Association’s All-State Women’s Choir in Rochester.  Last spring she auditioned for a solo part singing a German song Widmung. She received a perfect score of 100 and a recommendation for her chorus teacher Alexis Bresnahan. In August, she was notified that she had been accepted into the All Women’s Choir of 145 students from across the state. In the months leading up to the winter conference Marti learned seven diverse choral songs to perform from memory with the choir. Three of the songs were in foreign languages including Russian, Czech and French. Marti attended the winter conference December 5 to 7 and it proved to be a memorable experience. 

While in Rochester she sang in the choir under the direction of Conductor Emily Ellsworth from the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University. The music pieces ranged from opera, contemporary and Marti’s favorite, gospel.

At the opening of the Town of Washington town board meeting on Thursday, December 12,  town supervisor Gary Ciferri opened a public hearing for the fire contract with the Village of Millbrook for potential fire services at $406,789.  The hearing was closed at the end of the session, no one having commented or offered testimony.  The contract with the village was approved. The village takes responsibility for the fire department, and the town pays its share to the village.  

The County of Dutchess, in order to balance its budget, is imposing a tax of 3.75 percent on consumer energy consumption starting March 1, 2014, according to a report county legislator Mike Kelsey made to the TOW board last week, on  Thursday, December 12.

Kelsey said the legislature approved its 2014 budget at $439.3 million, which includes a property tax increase of 1.9 percent.

The budget also includes a controversial new energy tax that will go into effect on March 1 and will expire on February 29, 2017.

All residential home energy will be taxed at 3.75 percent, including steam, firewood, propane, and natural gas. It is not clear whether wood pellets will be subject to the tax. County executive Marc Molinaro said the alternative to the energy tax was a property tax increase of 12 percent. 

It’s up to the county executive to sign or veto the budget.

Kelsey strongly opposes the energy tax, which he feels will burden county residents and hurt local businesses that might lose customers because they might travel to other counties or states for energy resources. 

The holiday season in Millbrook seems just a bit more festive this year. Crowds The impressive parade of lights was a huge crowd pleaser. The decorations are lovely. The merchants are reporting good sales with wish list shoppers making careful selections. And the countdown to the 10th New Year's Eve Millbrook has begun.  

Millbrook was in the holiday spirit Friday evening despite the rain and bitter temperatures. Inclement weather was not going to stop the highly anticipated Parade of Lights and Christmas tree lighting.  The streets were lined with spectators under umbrellas. The festival began with a lighting of the Village Christmas Tree in front of the Tribute Gardens on Franklin Avenue.  Mr. and Mrs. Claus were present for the lighting and handed out candy to children before boarding the fire truck to the firehouse, where they would listen to children’s Christmas wishes. 

Dutchess Day School hosted a book fair themed Bark for Books for story and dog lovers last week on Thursday and Friday. The Bontecou Gymnasium was turned into a life size doghouse. Students enjoyed an assortment of dog related books including Clifford the Big Red Dog, Old Yeller and Spot the Dog series. The book fair also included such classics as Oliver Twist and Call of the Wild. Books were also available for young adults as well as a collection of literary gifts. 

The parent’s association make all the arrangements for the book fair that benefits the school library. 

Children’s author of You Can Count on Gracie: She’s Got Your Numbers, Joan Harrison, came to the event with her golden retriever, Gracie. She spoke at the school assembly and read to younger grade levels. Harrison also signed books. Throughout the two days of the book fair students were granted DEAR time which stands for “Drop Everything and Read.” 

A table was set up with donations of gently used books. Teacher Margaret Dreier led a book drive for the children in need of Astor Services in Hudson Valley and the Bronx. 

On Monday evening Millbrook Central Schools’ Superintendent Philip D’Angelo gave the first public reading of the district’s emergency management and safety plan at a public hearing. The board of education has been working on the plan for the last several months. A state trooper has reviewed it and suggested that it be split into two parts, the latter being a crisis plan. The crisis plan offers guidance on school-violence prevention and intervention strategies to prevent students from causing crisis-level situations. The crisis plan is still in the preliminary stages. 

On Wednesday December 18 The Millbrook High School will present their Winter Concert with performances by the Concert Choir, the Men's Ensemble, the Madrigal Choir, the Jazz Band, and the Concert Band. The event will begin at 7:00 pm in the MHS Auditorium.

The evening will conclude with the concert band’s performance of world premier of Josh Groffman’s “The Extinguished Lights” commissioned by MHS especially for the event. Some months ago Groffman called music director and conductor, Craig Freyer with whom he had studied when he was at MHS, to ask if he might write a piece for the orchestra and Fryer naturally agreed.

Groffman, who graduated from MHS in 2003, was a member of the band, the jazz ensemble, and the chorus. He also stared in several musical productions including My Fair Lady and the Wizard of Oz. In 2007 he graduated magna cum laude with double majors in music and history from Cornell where studied music composition with the Pulitzer Prize composer, Stephen Stucky. Groffman also holds a doctor of Music and a Master of Music degree from Indiana University. He currently teaches composition and theory at Montclair State University.

The balloon trial did not take place on Saturday as advertised.  It took place on Sunday, which was advertised as the alternate day should the weather on Saturday be inclement.

Neighbors saw the balloon from nearby hills and it was visible over the trees.  It could be seen from Fraleigh Hill Road, the Shunpike, and Route 44.  It could be seen from Kennels Road, and from points across Route 44 in Lithgow. 

The balloon was designed to mark the height of a proposed cell tower that would be built by Homeland Tower, LLC.  AT&T would lease space on the antennae.  Other carriers may also lease space.     

One near neighbor was concerned that the balloon was small, and not as conspicuous as it might have been.  There was also concern that the balloon may not have been 105 feet high.

The neighbor who was most upset was Christine Assael whose property abuts the Baldwin farm.  She had a clear view of the balloon from her house and from much of her property.  She said “it would be easier to live with a balloon than a cell tower. A cell tower would be disasterous.” 

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