Medina village officials look for ways to cut taxes

Photo by Tom Rivers
Jonathan Higgins, a captain with the Medina Fire Department, was on the scene at a fire on Friday in Carlton. Higgins wants the village to pursue a federal grant that would add personnel for fire and ambulance calls. But the Village Board worries if there are enough ambulance revenues to pay for staff when the grant runs out.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2015
MEDINA — The Medina Village Board says it will leave no stone unturned as it looks for revenue to help offset property taxes. The board will also work to reduce costs in village operations.


Resident Betty Rogowski attended Monday’s Village Board meeting and wanted to know the next steps for the community after dissolution was rejected a week ago, 949 to 527. Rogowski said she pays $7,802 in taxes annually, and she wants some relief from the big tax bill.


Monday’s meeting was the first for the Village Board since the dissolution vote. Medina Mayor Andrew Meier pushed dissolution as a way to reduce the tax burden on village residents. A study on dissolution showed how the tax rate could drop by $6 per $1,000 of assessed property on villagers.


Meier said Medina will be hard pressed to come up with ways to reduce taxes in the village by a similar amount without dissolution. The village would need about $1 million in new revenue or cuts to make that kind of impact.


Village officials need to have a new budget approved by April 30. The 2014-15 budget took in $2,738,602 in taxes from village property owners for a $16.44 tax rate.
Meier sees trimming the budget as something the board has some control over.


“We will have to find cost reductions,” he said.


Assistance from the local towns, county and state are all outside village control, Meier said.


Trustee Mike Sidari said the other governments need to be asked for help.

 

"Let’s get the ball rolling and put some pressure on our elected officials,” Sidari said.

 

He wants the village to pursue more state aid and a bigger share of the sales tax revenue in the county.


Medina currently gets $38,811 in state Aid and Incentives to Municipalities. That is a paltry sum for a village of 6,065 people, Sidari said, especially when smaller-size cities get far more. Sherrill in Oneida County gets $372,689 in AIM funding for a city of 3,071 people, he noted.


Sidari said the village should craft an official resolution, seeking more state funding, and distribute it to other villages and towns in the county and region, trying to build a movement. The board tasked Village Attorney Matthew Brooks to write a formal resolution to be voted on soon in the future.


Meier said the board shouldn’t expect any more money from the state. The governor’s budget didn’t include any AIM increases. Meier doesn’t have much hope the state would respond to the villages.


“Any increase appears DOA (Dead On Arrival),” Meier said.


But he supports passing a formal resolution, stating the value of villages and why the state should provide them with fair AIM funding.


The county had a big year for sales tax revenue in 2014, increasing by 5.96 percent from $14,819,904 to $15,703,362. The county has frozen the share to local towns and villages since 2001 at $1,366,671. Resident Tim Elliott said now is good time to push for more sales tax because of the increase for the county and the fact that it is no longer paying for the county nursing home.


The village of Medina receives $159,586 of the local sales tax or about 1 percent. Meier estimated that 30 percent of the sales tax in the county is generated by businesses in the village or close to the village borders.


He said he has pressed for more of the local sales tax in recent years, but has always been rebuffed from the county leaders.


Sidari said the village should make it an issue and engage other towns and villages in the county in seeking more of the funding.


Prior to the dissolution vote, the leaders of the towns of Shelby and Ridgeway both said they had ideas for reducing village costs. Meier and the Village Board said they await concrete proposals from Skip Draper, town supervisor of Shelby, and Brian Napoli, the supervisor in Ridgeway.


In the meantime, the board will look closer at village operations, trying to reduce costs.


Medina Fire Department Captain Jonathan Higgins sees a federal grant for hiring four firefighters as a way to improve services in the community and reduce the local cost.

 

A federal Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant would cover firefighters’ salary, benefits and retirement contributions for two years, as long as Medina maintains its existing staffing levels of 13 full-time firefighters, Higgins said.


The village could count two existing temporary positions for the grant and add two more full-timers, Higgins said. The added staff would reduce overtime costs for the department, and ensure the department has manpower for all of its calls.


Meier has concerns about adding the staff, even if it is grant funded. The village would unlikely be able to afford the positions after two years based on ambulance revenues.


“I don’t think we should set ourselves up for a difficult decision in two to three years,” Meier said. “I don’t see our revenues to the point where we can sustain four more firefighters.”


The village is 58 percent of the way through its budget year and the fire department has 57 percent of the revenues, putting it slightly behind pace for $1,050,000 budgeted. If the department keeps up that pace, it would be about 2 percent off budget or a $20,000 difference.


The fire department on Nov. 1 raised the mileage reimbursement rate for ambulance calls from $20 to $30. With 34,000 miles a year on ambulance calls that change could generate $340,000 if fully realized. But Meier said Medicare rates, self pay and other uncollected revenue makes that a big question mark.


The board delayed the decision to pursue the grant until Feb. 9 when it could have a better sense of revenue projections for the future, and the impact of added staff on reducing overtime.


The board did vote on Monday to raise most ambulance fees by 3 percent and increase the out-of-district charge from $50 to $75 for each call. That charge doesn’t apply to western Orleans County, including the villages of Medina and Lyndonville, and towns of Yates, Shelby and Ridgeway. The charge would be added to bill for calls in central Orleans County, eastern Niagara and Genesee County.

 

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Medina fire chief announces he will retire in summer

Todd Zinkievich has led department since 2003

Photos by Tom Rivers
Todd Zinkievich is pictured outside the Medina Fire Department in this file photo from March 2013. Under his leadership, the department replaced Rural Metro as the primary ambulance provider in western Orleans County in July 2007. The department responded to nearly 3,000 calls in 2014, its busiest ever.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2015
MEDINA – Todd Zinkievich has led the Medina Fire Department through a momentous time in its history, particularly with the Fire Department replacing Rural Metro in July 2007 as primary ambulance provider in western Orleans County.


The Department grew from six full-time firefighters to 13 now, plus two temporary full-time positions and about 20 call men. The call volume has jumped from about 300 a year a decade ago to 2,986 in 2014, the most ever in the Fire Department’s history.


The call volume continues to grow at a rate of about 200 per year since the ambulance switch. Zinkievich is proud of the level of service from the department, but he told the Village Board the department needs a new leader. He intends to retire this summer with his last on July 3, although he said the last official day will likely be later due to comp time.


“The last couple of years have been very, very stressful on me,” Zinkievich told the Village Board tonight. “I’ve tried to disguise how much this whole dissolution has affected me.”


Village residents last Tuesday voted to reject dissolution by a 949-527 vote. But Zinkievich said the uncertainty with the issue, whether the village government and Fire Department would dissolve, took a toll on him and other village employees.

 

"Quite honestly I've lost my vision for the department," he said. "We didn't know which direction we were going in."


Zinkievich made the annoucement today because he wanted to give the Village Board plenty of notice about his retirement to allow for a smooth transition to a new chief.


Medina Mayor Andrew Meier told Zinkievich he should be proud of his record of service to the Fire Department and community.


“These guys made my badge shine,” Zinkievich responded. “We’ve built this into one of the best fire departments in the state and I feel in the country.”

Medina Fire Chief Todd Zinkievich takes a short breather while fighting a fire on Jan. 6 at a Ridgeway farm.


Other Village Board members praised Zinkievich for his effort, especially for his leadership as the department expanded its commitment to the community with the ambulance service.


Zinkievich joins the firefighters on many of the calls. He is an intermediate EMT.


“Because we’re such a small department I have to run on a lot of the calls,” Zinkievich told Orleans Hub in a March 2013 interview. “I do, too, because I’ve always been a firm believer that we should spread the workload amongst all of our employees. When you take one person, myself, out of that equation of 13, you’re taking 7.3 percent of your workforce away from it. These guys are working hard and they’re working hard for us, so I’m going to work hard alongside them. I go on my fair amount of ambulance calls. I may be driving the ambulance or in back as a medic.”


Zinkievich grew up in a firefighting family. He first joined the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company before joining Medina in 1994.


“I love helping people,” he told Orleans Hub in a previous interview. “I love making a difference in somebody’s life. Generally when we’re called somebody is in trouble. They’re either hurt or something is on fire. It’s up to us to get there, mitigate it and offer whatever assistance we can.”

 

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Jury finds pastor guilty of child molestation

‘Justice is served,’ says son. ‘I just wish he was off the streets.’

Photos by Tom Rivers

Roy Harriger gets in a vehicle after leaving the courthouse where he was found guilty of child molestation.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2015  4:37 p.m.
ALBION – A local pastor accused of child molestation more than a decade ago was found guilty on two out of three charges and could face 25 years or more in state prison when he is sentenced on April 6.


Roy Harriger was pastor at Ashwood Wesleyan Church in Lyndonville in 2000 and 2001 when he allegedly abused three of his grandchildren. The jury this afternoon at about 2:45 p.m. gave a unanimous decision, finding Harriger guilty on two out of three counts of course of sexual conduct, meaning the abuse lasted more than 3 months. Harriger could be sentenced to up to 25 years on each of the two counts.


Each juror was polled and all 12 said they found Harriger guilty on two out of three counts. One side of the courtroom, including Harriger’s two sons who testified they were abused by their father as children, hugged and let out a joyous reaction when the verdict was announced.


Harriger’s supporters, including his wife Darlene, sat in disbelief, with one person shouting Harriger was not guilty of the crimes.


“Justice is served,” Harriger’s son Robert told reporters in the courthouse. “I just wish he was off the streets.”

Roy Harriger's sons Robert, left, and George address the media after their father was found guilty of child molestation. Both Robert and George testfied they were sexually abused by their father as children.


Harriger has been free on bail since he was arrested by State Police on Nov. 27, 2013. Orleans County Court Judge James Punch kept Harriger’s bail at $250,000 today, opting against putting him in jail until the sentencing.


Robert Harriger said his father, 71, is a flight risk. Robert Harriger wanted his father’s bail revoked.


The case clearly divided the family, with Robert and George Harriger testifying against their father. Their sister Joy Fanale testified in defense of her father, saying he never abused her or the children. She was at her parents’ house during some of the time frame when her father is accused of abusing the grandchildren.


Fanale was 24 when she was in a near-fatal car accident on May 1, 2001. She and her daughter, then age 4, moved in with her parents during her recovery.


Roy Harriger allegedly abused his grandchildren between September 2000 and September 2001, according to the State Police.


Fanale’s daughter, now 18, testified her grandfather never abused her. One of her cousins testified Roy Harriger abused him and Fanale’s daughter. But the granddaughter denied that.

 

Two other grandchildren, Robert Harriger’s children, also testified about abuse by their grandfather. The jury found Harriger guilty on those charges.

 

“There was no remorse in the courtroom,” Harriger’s son George told reporters after the verdict. “He smiled the whole way through this thing.”


While the jury was deliberating behind closed doors this morning, Harriger talked in the courtroom with many of his supporters from the Community Fellowship Church in Hartland.


There were at least a dozen members of the church in attendance each day for the court sessions, which began last Tuesday.


Tony Montulli of Waterport believes Harriger is innocent of the charges.


“He is a very open, loving person,” Montulli said shortly before the verdict was announced. “We believe in the pastor in how kind and loving he is.”


Montulli started going to Community Fellowship about a year ago. He attends Wednesday’s Bible studies with Harriger. There are about 100 to 125 people who attend the church, which has two services. Judge Punch ruled last year that Harriger could not attend church with children in the building. That prompted the church to hold two different services.


“It would be hard for us to get behind him if he was playing games, but he’s always been honest,” Montulli said. “He’s a friend.”


Another church member said Harriger has strong support in the congregation.


“There are no improprieties,” said the church member, who didn’t want his name used.


He said the Harriger family has clearly been torn apart.


“There are no winners,” the church member said. “There is a lot of devastation here. This is not the way God intended it.”

Roy Harriger, left, walks down the hallway in the basement of the courthouse with his attorney Larry Koss while facing the television news cameras.


District Attorney Joe Cardone said Harriger’s crimes go back generations, with Harriger’s sister, his children and grandchildren and other victims.


Harriger’s sister Nona attended the trial and she addressed reporters after the guilty verdict was announced. She said her brother abused her.


“It all started with me,” she said.


Although the family is divided, Nona said the victims in the family and their supporters have been brought closer together since Harriger’s arrest and the trial.


Cardone said Harriger has left a trail of victims in at least three states where he served as pastor. It will be up to law enforcement in Pennsylvania and Michigan if they want to bring charges against Harriger, Cardone said.


He praised the three grandchildren for their courage in testifying against their grandfather.


“The dysfunction has been going on in this family for generations,” Cardone told the jury on Friday. “Thank God they’ve had the strength to come to you to put an end to it and it ends right here.”


The jury didn’t reach a verdict on Friday and returned to the courthouse today. The testimony from three witnesses was read back to the jury today. That concluded at about 2 p.m. About 45 minutes later, the verdict was announced.


“I want to thank you all for carrying this heavy burden for us,” Judge Punch told the jury.

 

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Harriger found guilty of child molestation

Staff Reports Posted 26 January 2015

ALBION - Roy Harriger has been found guilty on two out of the three charges of course of sexual contact. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years.

 

Orleans Hub will have more on the verdict later.

 

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Police identify 5 people injured in Saturday crash in Albion

Photo by Tom Rivers
Firefighters, including Marty Zwifka in red, respond to a two-vehicle accident on Saturday in Albion at the corner of West County House Road and Gaines Basin Road.

 

Staff Reports Posted 26 January 2015
ALBION – State Police have released the names of the five people in a two-vehicle crash on Saturday at the intersection of West County House and Gaines Basin roads. All five were transported to hospitals by either ambulance or Mercy Flight helicopter.

An initial investigation has shown that a vehicle operated by Edward R. Read of Rochester was headed southbound on Gaines Basin Road, failed to stop for a posted stop sign at the intersection of West County Road and struck a westbound vehicle.

 

Read, 72, and a passenger Tina D. Elliot, 56, of Rochester were ejected from the vehicle, which then rolled onto its side on the westbound shoulder. Read also had two other passengers in his vehicle: Christina J. Elliott, 32, of Rochester and Kathy A. Jones, 50, of Rochester.

The second vehicle, which was westbound on West County House Road, was operated by a sole occupant, Brandon J. Grimes, 20, of Medina. He entered the intersection was struck by Read, and then crossed into the eastbound lane, struck a mailbox then came to rest on the eastbound shoulder of West County House Road.

Grimes sustained facial injuries and was transported by ambulance to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, where he was treated and released, State Police reported.

Edward Read, the driver, and Tina Elliott, the front seat passenger, were ejected from the vehicle and were transported by Mercy Flight to Strong Memorial with unknown internal injuries. Read was admitted and was listed in guarded condition. Tina Elliott was treated and released.

Passenger Christina J. Elliott also was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital via Mercy Flight as a precaution due to her injuries. She was treated and released.

Kathy A. Jones was transported by ambulance to Strong Memorial Hospital, where she was treated and released.

The collision is still under investigation with charges pending, State Police reported.

 

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Harriger trial resumes at courthouse

Broken pipe damages court stenographer’s computer
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2015 11:14 a.m.
ALBION – The trial against Roy Harriger, a local pastor facing child molestation charges, resumed this morning with a complication.


The case went to the jury on Friday, but the 12-person group did not reach a unanimous decision. The jury requested that testimony from three witnesses be read back today.


The court stenographer got 5 minutes into the testimony from one witness but couldn’t go any further. Her computer was doused with water over the weekend when a pipe burst in the basement of the courthouse where the stenographer has her office.


Court officials are working to retrieve the data from her computer so the testimony can be read back to the jury. That has created a lull in courtroom. This morning around 10:30 Harriger chatted with supporters who are sitting on the left side of the courtroom. There are about 25 people on that side.


The other side has about 15 people this morning, including Harriger’s two sons, George and Robert, who allege abuse by their father when their were children. One of George’s children and two of Robert’s children, now grown adults, testified that their grandfather molested them in 2000 and 2001.


Harriger’s attorney Larry Koss said the charges against Harriger, which carry up to 25 years in prison, are false.

 

Harriger was the pastor at Ashwood Wesleyan Church in Lyndonville when the alleged abuse occurred in 2000 and 2001. After leaving Ashwood in 2009, he started a church in Hartland, Community Fellowship Church, where he continues as a pastor.

 

Koss told the jury on Friday during closing arguments said the layout of the Harriger house in 2000 and 2001, the church parsonage, didn’t offer privacy for Harriger to commit his alleged crimes. The house was also busy, with people over all of the time, Koss said.

 

“Jurors, apply common sense and see if the whole story makes sense,” Koss said. “I submit to you it doesn’t.”

 

During his testimony on Thursday, Harriger denied any inappropriate sexual contact with his grandchildren.


District Attorney Joe Cardone said the grandchildren have been brave in trying to make their grandfather be accountable for the alleged crimes.

 

“The dysfunction has been going on in this family for generations,” Cardone said. “Thank God they’ve had the strength to come to you to put an end to it and it ends right here.”


As Cardone gave his closing argument, many on the alleged victims' side of the courtroom plugged their ears, not wanting to hear Cardone detail the alleged sex acts.

 

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Quick Questions with Larry Montello

American Legion leader enjoys honoring veterans, connecting with community

Photos by Tom Rivers
Larry Montello is pictured with the memorial next to County Courthouse for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Montello, the American Legion and county officials dedicated the memorial on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The First Presbyterian Church is pictured in the background.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2015
ALBION – Larry Montello has been an active community member and leader for the American Legion since he moved to Orleans County about 13 years ago after marrying an Albion woman. Montello, a Ridgeway resident, drives bus for Community Action Transportation System.


He grew up in the Adirondacks and joined the Army in 1979 after graduating from Fort Edward High School. He served 14 years in the military.


Montello, 52, is a past county commander for the American Legion, and a past post commander in Albion and Medina.


He organizes the annual memorial service for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. Montello has visited all of the memorial sites for victims of the attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania.


He raised the funding to have Sept. 11 memorials in Orleans County by the County Courthouse, Legion Post in Albion and Rotary Park in Medina.


He is organizing an upcoming Feb. 1 service for the “Four Chaplains.” That 9:30 a.m. service will be at the First Baptist Church in Holley on Geddes Street. The Four Chaplains all were Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilians and military personnel as a troop ship sank on Feb. 3, 1943.


Montello assists with other Legion and community events, including the annual oratorical contest, flags on veterans’ graves and other events.

 

He was interviewed last Monday at Tim Hortons in Albion.

 

Q: Why did you join the American Legion?


A: I started out as a Son (of the American Legion) underneath my dad. My dad got me going along with my brother. I joined the service with my sister. We joined the Army together. She went to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and I went to Fort Dix in New Jersey where my dad went.


Orleans County Legislator Don Allport, left, teams with State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Larry Montello in raising the 9-11 flag last Sept. 11 during a service at the Elk's Club in Albion. Montello organized the memorial service.

 

Q: For a newcomer in Orleans County, you quickly made a mark and emerged as a leader.

 

A: I was the commander in Albion for four years, the commander in Medina and also the county commander. I went up the chain.

 

Q: What is your role right now?


A: Right now I am sergeant of arms for the county because I want to go in rank in the district. I gave up some of the county duties, but I don't want to totally give something up.

 

Q: How long have you been organizing the 9-11 services?


A: I started in 2005, not long after I first got here.


I’ve put a lot of time working on the memorials. I got a nice surprise from the county when they put in a new flag pole and big cement base for the stone.


I do it partly because my sister was working down there (in Manhattan) in Building 7 near the Twin Towers. By the grace of God her boss sent her out on an errand so she wasn’t there when it happened.


When I was in the Sons (of the American Legion) I went down there when it was pretty much cleaned up and when they dedicated the new 9-11 building (The Freedom Tower). The year before last we went down to New York and I actually got to go in Building 7 where my sister worked. It was emotional.

 

Q: Why do you keep the local memorial service going and try to include many of the first responders?


A: I get them all involved (local and state police departments, COVA, fire departments, Mercy Flight) because they were all involved.

 

Q: I remember you also did a Pearl Harbor service.


A: Hopefully this year we will do it again.

The Orleans County Legislature was presented an official 9-11 flag on Sept. 24, 2014, from Larry Montello, past commander of Medina's Butts-Clark American Legion and also the coordinator of 9-11 memorial events in Orleans County. The flag given to the Legislature was the first one to fly in front of the courthouse about four years ago. Montello, left, presented the flag to David Callard, Orleans County Legislature chairman.

 

Q: Why do the Four Chaplains service?


A: I did it back home. It’s part of history and it shouldn’t be forgotten just like 9-11. I started it with Jean Johnston, who has since passed away. I’ve been doing it in her honor since.


At the service we bring in all of the colors. It’s in Holley this year so we’ll bring in Holley’s colors, the county colors, the auxiliary county colors, the VFW county colors, the POW flag and then the Canadian flag and American flag.

 

We have a Color Guard to bring it in. And then we have members get up and do a part of each of the chaplains, sharing their biographies. When they are done, they go down from the podium where I have a wooden box with each of the chaplain’s names. They lay a rose down on it and a light a candle.


We carry an American flag in for everybody that went down on the ship and a wreath. After that we play Taps.


We go to different churches (every year) in the community, a Catholic church, a Protestant church, a Baptist church.


Q: How is the Legion membership doing, locally and nationally?


A: It has ups and downs. Right now we’re down a lot. On average we lose 10 to 15 World War II veterans a day nationally.


Q: I think people might think, with the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there would be a new group of veterans who could join the Legion. Do many of them join the Legion?


A: No. When they get home they go back into society and that can take a long time.


Q: How much worry is there about the future of the Legion and VFW?


A: I don’t think there is worry, we just have to promote what we do. We’re not just a bar. Everybody thinks we’re just a bar. We do a lot of things for the community. Since our county is so small, I put all of the posts together to work as one. We get more out of it that way.


Q: I know you do the oratorical contest, and the Honor Guard at funerals.


A: Each Legion has its own Honor Guard, but the Posts and the VFW will join together. You get more people that way. They’re all people from the older generation. For a lot of the younger generation when they get out of the service the first thing on their mind is to get a job. That’s what was on my mind.


A lot of the ones on the Color Guard are all retired.

Larry Montello, front center, waves while he joins other walkers at the start of the "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" at Watt Farms in October 2013. Montello was part of a team from Community Action that walked in memory of Kathy LaLonde, a former Community Action employee.


Q: Why have you stayed active with the Legion?


A: I like working with kids, I like working with the community, and I like working with the veterans. I’ve always said if I knew back home in high school what I know now I would have aced history. I have friends of mine in the Albion Post that were in the Death March. I have a friend from back home who was a POW.


Listening to their war stories is unreal. A lot of people don’t realize this is part of history.


I enjoy doing the 9-11 service because it’s part of history. The community can’t forget that day. When it first happened everybody in town had a flag up. Now, it’s hardly ever.

 

Q: What else do you want to say?


A: I wish more of the public would get involved with our events, and don’t just think the American Legion is a bar. There are a lot of other things the Legion does. We make sure all of our veterans have flags on their graves for Veterans’ Day.


I just wish more of the public would get on the ball with us and know that when we’re going out for donations we’re not using that for the bar but for flags, the 9-11 service and for veterans.

 

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Albion fire chief appointed county coroner

Rocky Sidari


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2015
ALBION – Rocky Sidari, Albion’s fire chief the past five years, has been appointed one of three county coroners.


Sidari took the oath of office and was sworn into the position on Friday. He responded to his first call on Friday night at a fatal Carlton fire. Sidari worked with Scott Schmidt, a veteran county coroner, on the call.


Sidari said he will shadow Schmidt and another coroner, Charles Smith, as part of his training. He also expects to attend a conference for coroners.


“There is a lot to learn and each call is different,” Sidari, 42, said on Sunday.


He was appointed coroner by the Orleans County Legislature on Jan. 14. He fills a vacancy created when Joe Fuller of Albion resigned after being elected Albion town justice.
Sidari is a familiar face to many local residents and the emergency services community. He has been an officer with the Albion Fire Department for about 20 years. He works as a general mechanic at the Orleans Correctional Facility in Albion.


He also is part of the county’s critical incident stress management team, which helps firefighters with a stress debriefing after a fatal fire or serious car accident.


Sidari said he will strive to be a calming presence as coroner, especially for grieving family members of the deceased.


“I’ve built up a lot of relationships in the community,” he said. “Maybe it will be comforting for a family to see someone they know.”

 

Sidari said he will step back from fire chief in April.

 

"I wanted something that would fill that gap," he said about his willingness to serve as coroner. "I'm definitely looking forward to the next chapter of my life."

 

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Salma passes audition and will sing on ‘The Voice’

Provided photo
Salma Huzair of Lyndonville holds a red ticket after an audition today in New York City for “The Voice.” She advanced to perform for the four celebrity judges on the singing show.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 January 2015
Salma Huzair passed the audition screening today in New York City and will perform on “The Voice” for the four celebrity judges.


She was given a red ticket after her audition this afternoon.


Salma, 15, is a sophomore at Lyndonville Central School. She performed in local concerts last month to prepare for the audition.


Her parents, Bilal Huzair and Alana Ross, own the Old Mill Run Restaurant in Medina, where she sang karaoke in September. The positive reaction from that performance prompted her to send recordings to “The Voice.” The show encouraged her to try out.


For more information about Salma, click here. For more information on The Voice, click here.

 

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Moreland Commission looked at Hawley’s outside income

Local assemblyman was found to not abuse office for financial gain


Photo by Tom Rivers
State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, says he was one of 13 state legislators investigated by the Moreland Commission for outside income. Hawley, owner of an insurance company in Batavia, says he was cleared in the probe.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 January 2015
ALBION – State Assemblyman Steve Hawley says he was subpoenaed by the Moreland Commission, the state commission established to root out public corruption, about two years ago and forced to turn over business records from his insurance business in Batavia.


“There’s an old adage: ‘If you have nothing to hide, comply,’” Hawley said.


He turned over a list of clients, employees, family members, advertisements, political materials, income taxes and property taxes. It was an exhaustive collection of documents.


After three months of reviewing those records, to see if Hawley was making money in kickbacks or abusing his public office for financial gain, Hawley was cleared and found to not be misusing his office, he told about 75 people on Friday during a Legislative Luncheon at The Village Inn.


That wasn’t the case for the leader of the State Assembly. Sheldon Silver, speaker of the Assembly since 1994, on Thursday was accused of corruption by the U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Silver was arrested on public corruption charges and accused of using his position to obtain $4 millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

Sheldon Silver

 

Bharara investigated Silver after Gov. Cuomo disbanded the Moreland Commission last March. Bharara said on Thursday more state officials could face corruption charges.


Hawley said he has strived to avoid any conflicts of interest in his 36 years in the insurance business. He has been asked to give insurance quotes for fire departments, school districts and municipalities, but has always declined.


Hawley and many of the Republican members of the State Assembly have called on Silver to resign. At the very least, Hawley said Silver should step down as Assembly speaker on a temporary basis until the case is resolved. The Assembly needs a leader to negotiate with Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos about the budget, Hawley said.


“It’s a shame, a debacle, a travesty for the people of New York,” he said about Silver.


Hawley would like to see the top leadership positions in the State Legislature capped at 8 years. Silver has been in his post for more than two decades.


Hawley was surprised to see only two out of more than 100 Democrats in the State Assembly call on Silver to resign. Hawley said that is indicative of the iron-fisted rule Silver has over the Democrats in the Assembly.

State Sen. Rob Ortt addresses about 75 people at the Legislative Luncheon at The Village Inn on Friday.


State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, also addressed the Chamber of Commerce on Friday. Ortt said he will try to be an “antidote” to the corruption in the state capitol.


Ortt served as North Tonawanda mayor for five years until he was elected in November, succeeding George Maziarz. Ortt was a member of the National Guard and served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.


He said he will advocate for a streamlined state government with less red tape, regulations and taxes on businesses.


He also said he would work to bring more state resources to local governments that need revenue to keep up with roads, bridges and other government services.


Ortt has been named chairman of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee. In that position, he said he will be an advocate for people with developmental disabilities and their families.


Many developmentally disabled residents are being cared for by their elderly parents. Ortt said the state needs to provide more resources to ensure developmentally disabled residents have safe places to live, especially when their parents can no longer care for them.


“They need a champion, a person of influence in Albany,” Ortt said.

 

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