Plattekill pastor complains of town ‘runaround’

Posted 9/13/23

Representatives of a Modena church are not happy with the way the Town of Plattekill is handling a dispute with a neighbor.

Monique K. Newkirk, pastor of the Pentecostal Holy Joy Church of the …

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Plattekill pastor complains of town ‘runaround’


Representatives of a Modena church are not happy with the way the Town of Plattekill is handling a dispute with a neighbor.

Monique K. Newkirk, pastor of the Pentecostal Holy Joy Church of the Lord at 439 Freetown Highway, appeared at the Plattekill Town Board on September 6 to follow up on complaints her congregation had made about construction of a house next to the church at the previous board meeting. The property at 445 Freetown Highway is owned by Richard Walls.

The day before the September 6 meeting at the Town Hall Newkirk sent a letter to the Town Board detailing her feelings after the group, including Deacon Bob Newkirk, had expressed their concerns about the ongoing construction next to their property at the August 16 board meeting.

“The owners/developers have built a much larger structure than allowed and permissible under Town of Plattekill regulations,” Pastor Newkirk wrote in the letter. “And the owners/developers are in violation of building and/or zoning requirements. They don’t have the required back-up septic system. This issue alone could have detrimental effects on our surrounding properties (both land and physical church building).”

Pastor Newkirk told the board that the church, which has about 40 members in the congregation, feels like it has been “dismissed” by town officials.

Councilman James Fazio interrupted Newkirk to assure her that is not the case.

“You are not being dismissed,” Fazio said, noting that he has been in touch with unidentified officials in Albany to investigate the matter.

While Newkirk asked the board to institute a stop work order, Fazio said that would have to come through the office of Building Inspector Scott Mandoske.

“So, are you telling us we have to speak to the building inspector to get anything done?” Newkirk asked.

“I don’t feel comfortable with that statement,” said Deputy Supervisor Dean DePew Sr., who ran the meeting with Supervisor Jennifer Salemo absent for the second meeting in a row. “What I do feel comfortable with is the fact that you are coming here. That you did send this letter to us. I think it is very much to your advantage to come here, but I would also speak to the building inspector and find out specifically the answer to those questions that you have. Take notes. Make a record.”

Though DePew assured the group that the matter was being investigated, Pastor Newkirk told the Southern Ulster Times in an interview after she left the meeting that she felt the town board was giving the church “the runaround.”

Walls addressed the board at the beginning of the public input portion of the meeting and responded to the church’s complaints.

He said the property had been unoccupied for 15 years and was littered with wrecked vehicles, campers and various junk.

“I bought the property about two and a half years ago, cleaned it up and went through the process to build,” Walls said. “I’ve had some success and some failures working with the church. When I cleaned up the site, I pulled out 82 tires. There was a request from the church asking if I would remove a large tree from my property because the branches were encroaching on the church. On August 14, I spent $2,200 to have the tree removed and there was no acknowledgement from the church.”

Walls said he went through all the legal processes and “acted in good faith.”

Pastor Newkirk said that Walls gave the church a $500 donation recently, but church officials declined to cash the check.

“We felt like it was a bribe,” she said.

In other news, the board okayed a proposal to put Narcan kits at several places in the Town of Plattekill. The Narcan nasal spray (Naloxone) is a potentially life-saving antidote to suspected opioid overdoses.

The Ulster County Sheriff’s Office Opioid Response as County Law Enforcement (ORACLE) initiative will not cost the town anything.

The town will determine where to put the kits, but the Thomas Felten Community Park, the Plattekill Public Library and the Town Garage were all discussed as possible sites.

Det. Damon Alberts of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department made a presentation to the board about the value of the Narcan kits.