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The Beacon Free Press has been Beacon’s primary center of news and entertainment coverage for over 25 years. Coverage includes local city and school news and features, Dutchess County Legislature, county legal notices, obituaries, plus coverage of arts and entertainment, hospitals and health, education, libraries and local businesses and organizations.

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04/09/14 Highlights of this week's edition...

County to offer energy tax relief by June 1

Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, center, last week speaks during a press conference. Also pictured are Assemblywoman Didi Barrett and state Sen. Greg Ball.
- Photo by Ray Fashona

By Ray Fashona

The Dutchess County Legislature Monday night was scheduled to take up of the issue of rescinding the 3.75 percent tax on home energy.

It appears residents will see relief on June 1.

The tax, which has been wildly unpopular, was imposed to balance the 2014 budget, with the promise that it would be repealed if and when Dutchess County received mandate relief from the state in order to fill the budget gap.

That relief came last week in the form of $5.25 million in one-time aid – not mandate relief but welcome money none the less.

Legislature Chairman Rob Rolison called a special Budget and Finance Committee meeting for Monday afternoon to get the tax repeal on this month’s agenda. If that didn’t work, he vowed, he would call a special meeting of the legislature to get the repeal enacted as quickly as possible.

If the legislature were to repeal the tax Monday, it would take until at least June 1 for it to be enacted. In a letter to County Executive Marcus Molinaro from County Attorney James Fedorchak dated April 3, the attorney said the repeal can only take place on the first day of a sales tax quarter – March 1, June 1, Sept. 1, Dec. 1. Since the waiting period is normally 90 days, the county will request a waiver from the state Department of Taxation and Finance and, if granted, would mean tax relief as soon on June 1.

Colleen Pillus, spokeswoman for Molinaro, said the state has indicated it will grant the waiver.

During a press conference last week to announce the county’s windfall, Molinaro was careful to point out that the money received was “a short-term solution” to Dutchess’ budget gap. He said he is continuing to work on “real mandate relief,” meaning state programs New York pays for annually instead of pushing the cost back onto counties.

Whatever happens with mandate relief, Molinaro vowed that the detested energy tax would not rear its ugly head again in the 2015 budget.

“There is no way to go back to the energy tax,” he said. “The people have spoken.” Then he added glibly, “Have you noticed? It’s not popular.”

During the April 2 press conference, Molinaro, a Republican, was joined by Democrat Didi Barrett, who represents the 106th Assembly District, and state Sen. Greg Ball, R-District 40, thanking them for their efforts to secure Dutchess this windfall.

State Sen. Terry Gipson, D-41, and Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-104, were also on hand in the audience.

Molinaro said repeal of the tax will likely mean more cuts to county government, although he did not say from where they would come.

Asked after the meeting where the state, which was crying poverty a few years ago, was finding billions more for education, property tax relief and other programs, Gipson said it had much to do with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “trimming of waste” in state government and also his “aggressive curbing” of Medicaid fraud.

Read the full story in this week’s print edition.

Beacon woodworker is now Lord of the Strings

John Vergara sits in front of ouds at his “Lord of the Strings” shop on South Chestnut Street in Beacon. - Photo by Kristine Coulter

By Kristine Coulter

John Vergara, a resident of Beacon for 15 years, can recall the wonder of being in his grandfather’s woodworking shop as a child.

“I had to have been about 5 years old, 6, at best. Even at that age, I saw the possibilities in that woodshop,” Vergara said last week as he sat in his own woodworking shop on South Chestnut Street, “Lord of the Strings.”

“The first thing I ever made was a crucifix for my mother. Then I made a race car,” recalled Vergara.

Vergara said he took wood shop classes during junior high school and he said they “blew” his mind.

He then discovered the guitar and music. Vergara began making musical instruments and coupled his two favorite things together, he said.

“Anything that has strings, that’s string instruments. It doesn’t matter where it’s from. I specialize in foreign instruments,” he said.

Vergara spent time in the Middle East. His interest in music grew there. He discovered the oud, a string instrument, shaped like a pear.

For the last few years, Vergara noted, he was working out of his apartment. He does not diminish the time he spent working in his apartment though.

“I refined my skills, working with and using basic woodworking skills,” he stated.

And now, “I have all the machines I ever wanted. I can do things quickly and easily,” Vergara said.

Among his “machines” – a table saw, hand saws, various standing machines, a sanding machine, a drill press and hand tools.

“I decided to meet the people (in Beacon) and work on their instruments,” Vergara, who is originally from the Bronx, explained why he opened the shop. He said he feels “a bit nervous because I have to perform well when someone brings in an instrument; I have to fix it. It’s not like you’re a doctor and a patient can come back. Here, I have to fix it to get paid,” he noted. “I have to do it in a good way since my reputation is on the line. I feel relieved and I feel tension but ultimately, I love what I do.”

Vergara said that customers are happy with his work.

“I fix for them what’s precious. I restore what’s precious to them,” he said.

Vergara has also started The Woodworkers Club.

“It is for those who are genuinely interested in making projects and or to learn the craft of woodworking,” he explained. Vergara provides workspace and woodworking tools. There will also be classes and workshops offered.

The first class, scheduled for Wednesday, April 16 from 6 – 8 p.m., will discuss the topics of measuring and marking.

“The most essential skills,” he called them. For those interested in taking the class, there is a fee, register at

“I look forward to working with people and assisting them with their projects,” Vergara said.

Dave Eberle, from the Beacon Chamber of Commerce, stated, via email, “Beacon’s Main Street now has places where one can learn to play a musical instrument, purchase a musical instrument, play music for the public, and now we have a place where one can even build their own instrument.” He said Beacon has changed over the past 10 years and Vergara’s shop adds another dimension to the community.

The Beacon Chamber will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 12 at 8 South Chestnut Street to welcome the two new businesses.

Read the full story in this week’s print edition

Also in the Apr. 9-15, 2014 issue:

  • Opera stars shine in Beacon.

Metropolitan Opera singers joined Beacon baritone Russell Cusick for an afternoon of operatic works and Broadway favorires Sunday at the Howland Cultural Center. Pictured, from left, are Theresa Cincione, Russell Cusick, Craig Ketter and Lori Phillips


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