32-year-old rookie named Albion firefighter of the year

Jim Peruzzini joined AFD after firefighters responded to a call at his house

Photos by Tom Rivers

Albion Fire Chief Rocky Sidari, left, presents the “Firefighter of the Year” award to Jim Peruzzini, who joined the AFD last May.


By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 19 April 2014

ALBION – Jim Peruzzini and his wife Stephanie had just moved into a new home in Gaines with their twin daughters when the smoke alarm went off.


They called 911 and Albion firefighters showed up to check out the situation. Peruzzini was impressed by their response and willingness to help.


“I thought it was great that they would give up their time and come to my house and help someone out,” Peruzzini said.


Fire Chief Rocky Sidari and Assistant Chief Jeremy Graham encouraged Peruzzini to join the Fire Department. He thought about it before, but didn’t pursue it, assuming he was too busy to meet the training requirements and to respond to emergency calls.


But last May he made the commitment. He took an intense two-week firefighter boot camp and by July had enough training to be an interior firefighter. He is often one of the first firefighters at a scene.


“He has really taken off like a rocket,” Sidari said tonight when he named Peruzzini the department’s “Firefighter of the Year.”


Peruzzini, 32, works full-time at Adfors (formerly called Saint-Gobain) as a setup technician. He didn’t grow up in a firefighting family. He encouraged others in the community to consider volunteering with the fire department.


“I love it,” he said. I like the guys and there’s the thrill with every call that it could be something huge.”

File photo by Tom Rivers

Jim Peruzzini and his twin daughters watch a Mercy Flight helicopter from Batavia land by the Albion Elk's Club just before a Sept. 11 memorial service.


His wife said Peruzzini is quick to head out the door when his pager goes off, unless he is caring for their children.


Sidari said a committed volunteer like Peruzzini is a great addition to the fire department.


“It’s huge to have someone step in like that,” he said.

Kevin Sheehan (left), Albion’s former deputy mayor, reads the oath of office for Albion Fire Department leaders, including from left: Chief Rocky Sidari, Deputy Chief Harry Papponetti and Assistant Chief Jeremy Graham.


Sidari and the fire department honored others during their annual banquet tonight at the Carlton Recreation Hall. The following received awards:


• Chief’s Award: Dan Gleason. He is active with the fire police and responded to the second most calls for the department last year. Gleason also fixes the department’s computers, will make key fobs and handle other requests from Sidari.


“Anything I ask him to do, he will do it,” Sidari said.


Gleason is moving to North Carolina. “It’s going to a be a big loss for our department,” Sidari said.


• Officer’s Award: Will Francis, the department’s first lieutenant. Francis led the department in calls, responding to 62 percent of more than 400 calls last year.

File photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Will Francis of the Albion Fire Department keeps a steady stream of water on the smoking ruins of the Orleans Pallet warehouse last Oct. 19. Firefighters were on the scene for several days after the fire to douse any flare-ups.


“He’s gone above and beyond and exceeded all of my expectations,” Sidari said. “He’s there day or night.”


• Drivers of the Year: Dale Banker and Ron Armstrong. They are reliable, especially during the late mornings and early afternoon when the department is often short-handed.


• President’s Award: AFD President Lee Miesner honored two members of the Village Board who recently ended their terms. Both former Mayor Dean Theodorakos and Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheehan were advocates for the department in the village budget, Miesner said.


“They made sure the funding was there,” Miesner said. “Without our Village Board we’d have nothing.”


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Gun owners fire a shot in support of 2nd Amendment rights

Photos  by Tom Rivers

About 30 people lined up to fire a shot at noon today at the Holley Rod and Gun Club. Gun owners around the country fired a shot at noon as part of the “Shot Heard Around the U.S.” in support of the Second Amendment.


By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 19 April 2014

HOLLEY – John Carpenter considered going to his family's property in Clarendon and firing a shot at noon as part of a nation-wide observance by gun owners today.


But Carpenter, 33, of Holley wanted to join other local gun owners. He was one of about 30 people to fire a shot at noon at the Holley Rod and Gun Club.


“It’s symbolic of our freedom,” Carpenter said about participating in the “Shot Heard Around the U.S.” in support of the Second Amendment.


The event is in honor of the original shot heard around the world during the American Revolution.


“It’s a way to celebrate our independence and to honor those who fell at Lexington,” Carpenter said.

Registration forms to register assault rifles were used as targets during the event at the Holley Rod and Gun Club.


The Holley Rod and Gun Club hosted a ceremonial shot today for the first time. Gun owners feel their rights are under attack since the NY SAFE Act was approved in January 2013. Locally, the New York Revolution has about 50 active members. That group formed soon after the SAFE Act passed the state Legislature 15 months ago.


NYR is pushing gun owners to register to vote and join SCOPE, the Shooters Committee on Political Education. The Holley club raised $121 for SCOPE with the event on Saturday.


Carpenter said the SAFE Act has pushed gun owners to reach out to each other and look for ways to be more involved politically.

Joel Zarpentine gives instructions to the gun owners before they went outside to fire their shot.


“The one positive of the NY SAFE Act is it has brought people together,” he said.


He joined the New York Revolution, which he said “is all about networking. We’re pushing voter registration big time.”


One of the NYR leaders, Gia Arnold, is running for the State Senate in a district represented by George Maziarz. Arnold said she would push hard to repeal the SAFE Act.


New York Revolution is gaining momentum throughout the state, said Mattie Zarpentine, WNY regional director. She was in Hartland last night when 60 people showed up at the fire department looking to start an NYR chapter in Niagara County.

There are about 25 county chapters so far and more are showing an interest, Zarpentine said.

Gun owners get ready to fire the shot at the Holley Rod and Gun Club.


She was pleased with the turnout at the Holley Rod and Gun Club. About 30 fired a shot and another 20 people stood in support.


“Many people have told us they would fire a shot in their backyards,” Zarpentine said.

One SAFE Act deadline passed on April 15. The state set that date for gun owners to register assault weapons. Zarpentine said few gun owners complied with the deadline.


“It was largely ignored,” she said, calling that SAFE Act decree “a dismal failure.”


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If Medina dissolves, towns say they won't pick up police department

Officials from Ridgeway, Shelby offer ways to reduce taxes

By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 19 April 2014

MEDINA – If the village of Medina dissolves, the two towns expected to pick up villages services don't plan to continue the Medina Police Department.


The Orleans County Sheriff’s Department and State Police could assume the police work, town officials said Friday while meeting with some reporters.


The Medina Dissolution Committee recommended police protection be provided in a town-wide force that would cover Ridgeway and Shelby. Ridgeway would manage the police and contract with Shelby for the service, according to the Dissolution Plan.


The police department budget is about $1 million a year. Brian Napoli, the Ridgeway town supervisor, told The Daily News of Batavia he doesn’t support a town-wide force. The Sheriff’s Department and State Police could handle police calls in the community, he said.


“There’s a ripple effect if the village dissolves into the two towns, and people don’t see a need for another level of police protection,” he told The Daily News. “They’re happy with Sheriff’s Department and State Police. They don’t see a need to expand it, especially when they see a 46 percent tax increase.”


Napoli and Skip Draper, the Shelby town supervisor, held a press conference on Friday to discuss alternatives to dissolving the village. (Orleans Hub wasn’t invited to the press conference and is the target of a mailer from the two towns about “biased reporting.”)


The Daily News of Batavia reported on the press conference. Click here to see its article, "Medina dissolution: Supervisors say more options exist for services," in today's newspaper.


The Medina Dissolution Committee last week approved a plan to be presented to the public and Village Board. The plan retains existing services and staff. The two towns would assume many of the services currently provided in the village. The Dissolution Committee also suggested creating a debt district for village debt, a fire district, and local development corporations or authorities for water and sewer.


The committee and its consultant, the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester, calculated a $277,000 savings in reduced operational costs. That isn’t much of a savings when spread over the budgets for the two towns and village, about $11 million total, the town supervisors told The Daily News.


That is less than a 3 percent savings.


“If we assume the $277,000 is correct, we’re on a pretty narrow margin, and we’re gambling on a pretty narrow margin that we’re going to save anything,” Draper told The Daily News.


The state provides incentives for dissolution or government consolidations. The Dissolution Committee and CGR say the state would give $540,000 in incentives annually, money that the state says can be counted on for years to come.


Napoli said told The Daily News he supports some shared services, such as code enforcement and merged water billing. Those services could be shared without a dissolution, he said.


The Committee’s report said village property owners could see their tax rates fall from $5 to $7 per $1,000 of assessed property, while outside village residents in Shelby would see an 81 cent increase in their tax rate and Ridgeway residents would have their rate go up $3.12.


Ridgeway’s rate would increase 46 percent. That is partly because the town portion outside the village currently has the lowest rate of the three governments: $6.71 per $1,000 of assessed property. That would go to $9.83 with the dissolution.


Village residents in Ridgeway would see their rate drop by $5.20 or 27 percent from $19.49 per $1,000 of assessed property to $14.30. In Shelby, village residents currently pay a $19.80 rate for village and town taxes. That would drop 34 percent to $13.10 or by $6.70 if the dissolution plan takes effect.


Shelby residents would see a 10 percent increase in their tax rate, according to the dissolution plan. Outside-village residents would see their rate go from $8.36 per $1,000 of assessed property to $9.17.


Medina Mayor Andrew Meier and the “One Medina” group ultimately would like to see the village dissolve and the two towns merge into one entity. That would provide more cost savings with government efficiency and attract more state incentives for consolidation.


Meier believes those gains in savings and state aid would likely offset the tax increases for outside-village residents with the dissolution.


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Marine surprises friends in return home for Easter

Cali Pietroboni, 19, was just promoted private first class

Photos by Tom Rivers

Chelsea Hare, right, recognizes the person taking the order at Tim Hortons in Albion this afternoon.


By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 18 April 2014

ALBION – Cali Pietroboni told her closest friends she would get a few days off around Easter but would be spending that time in Miami.


Pietroboni, 19, is a Marine from Lyndonville. She was home for 10 days in January. That’s been it since leaving for Boot Camp last October. Her decision to go to Florida didn’t sit well with her best friend, Chelsea Hare.


Pietroboni and Hare have been close friends since elementary school at Lyndonville. They both graduated in 2013. They like to tease and surprise each other.


Pietroboni pulled off a shocker this afternoon. Hare’s mother Tina Hare was at the Tim Hortons in Albion. She had her daughter and another friend Rachael Allen come over at 1:30 p.m.


When they went to the counter to order, they saw a familiar face in the Tim Hortons uniform. Chelsea stood for a minute in disbelief and with a blank expression. They she broke out in a smile and in tears.

Cali Pietroboni and Chelsea Hare embrace at Tim Hortons in Albion.


Pietroboni met her at the end of the counter and the two had a long embrace.


“I thought there’s no way that’s Cali right now,” Hare said.


Pietroboni completed Boot Camp at Parris Island in South Carolina in January. She has been at Camp Johnson in North Carolina most of the past three months. She was recently promoted to private first class. She graduates from a personal administration school at Camp Johnson on June 3. She is eager to see her assignment. Many of the Marines at Camp Johnson have been assigned to service in foreign countries, she said.


Pietroboni also wanted to come home this weekend to see her parents, Derek and Vickie Dix, and her little brother Connor Dell.


“It’s been a great opportunity to travel and meet new people,” Pietroboni said. “There’s also pride in being a part of the world’s most elite fighting force.”

Cali Pietroboni hugs her friend Rachael Allen while Chelsea Hare watches.


Tina Hare helped orchestrate the surprise this afternoon. She has known Pietroboni for more than a decade. Despite Pietroboni’s diminutive stature – she’s only 4’ 11’’ – she has proven her strength and determination in recent months, Hare said.


“Ever since she was a little girl she wouldn’t back down,” Hare said. “And she’s always liked to joke around.”


Rachel Godfrey, the Tim Hortons manager, was happy to loan a uniform to Pietroboni for the surprise.


"I give her a lot of credit for going into the Marines," Godfrey said.


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Salmon stocked in Lake Alice almost a half century ago

By Bill Lattin, Orleans County Historian Posted 18 April 2014

WATERPORT – On April 2, 1969, Edward D. Holmes of Region 8 Department of Environmental Conservation in Avon and Kenneth Rush of Waterport (right) are shown stocking the first salmon (Coho) in Orleans County.


The site was on the north side of Lake Alice just east of the Route 279 bridge over Oak Orchard River in Waterport.


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Holley club will host ‘Shot Heard Around the U.S.’ on Saturday

By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 18 April 2014

HOLLEY – The Holley Rod and Gun Club is welcoming the public to the club on Saturday at noon to fire a “Shot Heard Around the U.S.” in support of the Second Amendment.


The club and participants plan to fire one legal safe shot. Gun clubs around the country will be doing similar events at noon on Saturday.


There will be a $1 charge to participate and that money will go to a legal defense fund for SCOPE (Shooters Committee on Political Education).


The club will open at 11 a.m. It is located at 4189 Pumping Station Rd. Participants are encouraged to be there before 11:30 so everyone can be lined up for the big “shot” at noon, said Gia Arnold of Holley, who is a state-wide coordinator for New York Revolution.


“This is on the anniversary of the original shot heard around the world back during the American Revolution and it signifies our important fight for our 2nd Amendment freedom,” Arnold said. “The whole country will be participating and I thought it was really important to make sure we were participating locally. We are hoping to have new faces.”


The NYR formed soon after Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature passed the SAFE Act in January 2013. The NY Revolution sees the gun control law as an attack on Second Amendment rights.


Many gun clubs and NYR members fired a “Shot Heard Around NY” in January on the one-year anniversary of the SAFE Act. Locally, the event was held in Arnold’s backyard in January. She is thankful the Holley club is participating in the event on Saturday so there is more public access.


“It’s open to non gun-owners as well if they would like to show up and support the effort,” Arnold said.


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Heritage Hero: Chris Busch

Medina resident has pushed preservation policies and action

Photos by Tom Rivers

Chris Busch is chairman of the Village of Medina’s Planning Board and Medina’s Tree Board. He also is vice chairman of the Orleans Renaissance Group, which is working to restore the Bent’s Opera House, pictured behind him on Main Street.


By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 18 April 2014

MEDINA – In small-town Upstate New York, there aren’t too many downtown business districts like Medina’s these days. The buildings are well maintained with a high occupancy rate.


It feels like a Norman Rockwell painting, a step back in time with so many independent merchants and sense of history with buildings from the mid to late 1800s and the early 20th Century.


Chris Busch sees the downtown’s historical integrity as a draw for the community. He has served nearly 20 years on the Village Planning Board and helped to craft zoning and design standards for the downtown. As chairman of the Planning Board, he also heads the village’s Historic and Architectural Review Board, which provides guidance to downtown building owners for signs, paint and other exterior work.


“We’ve been very successful promoting and implementing preservation because we’ve been able to do it in such a fashion that the community has been able to embrace it without angst and suspicion,” Busch said.


He praised Kay Revelas, former director of the Medina Chamber of Commerce, for rallying business owners to back preservation and a historic designation for the downtown a generation ago. Many in the community have championed the issue and the building owners have embraced it, Busch said.


“It’s taken the diligence of many people to protect the downtown business district,” he said. “It’s paying off because people very much enjoy the look and feel of downtown Medina with its history and heritage.”


Busch will be honored as a “Heritage Hero” on April 25 during a Civil War Encampment at GCC in Medina. He was picked for his leadership on the Planning Board and his many civic contributions, including the design of 11 interpretative panels in the downtown that will highlight Medina history. Those panels should be installed later this month or in early May.

Medina elementary students are part of an annual Arbor Day celebration. Students write poems and sing songs about trees. They also help plant them. Busch is chairman of the Tree Board. The National Arbor Day Foundation has given Medina a “Tree City Growth Award” and has designated the community a “Tree City USA” for its commitment to planting trees every year.


Busch works as a history teacher in Lockport. His heart is in Medina.


He served as village historian and later joined the Municipal Tree Board and has been its chairman for several years. Medina has been planting 50 to 100 trees most years in the past decade and that is helping to replenish an urban forest that was diminished by road projects, wind storms and disease.


“Medina was once known for beautiful residences and tree-lined streets,” he said. “Many years of neglect led to a severely depleted urban forest.”


The village’s commitment to planting trees has earned it awards from the National Arbor Day Foundation. It has recognized Medina with a “Tree City Growth Award” and has designated the community a “Tree City USA.”


Busch said the trees make neighborhoods more appealing visually and should make the homes more valuable and inviting for residents.

Chris Busch is pictured inside the Bent's Opera House about a year ago during a tour as part of the Civil War Encampment in Medina. The opera house was constructed during the Civil War.


He has been a leader with the Orleans Renaissance Group, organizing the efforts to bring concerts into the community. He is vice chairman of the ORG, which is working to restore the Bent's Opera House on Main Street. That Medina sandstone building was constructed during the Civil War.


The ORG wants to again have performances in the top floor of the site, with a restaurant on the second floor and the first floor available for businesses. Busch sees the site as an anchor for the downtown, drawing customers for other businesses nearby.


The “Heritage Hero” Committee also picked Busch for the award because of his efforts designing the 11 interpretive panels and helping to secure funding for the project.


The panels will be on Main Street with one on West Center Street by the Newell building, which was once a high-end shirt manufacturer.

A series of 11 interpretive panels that highlight Medina history and notable residents will be installed this spring in downtown Medina. Chris Busch designed the panels, including this one of the former U.S. President Grover Cleveland, who married a Medina girl, Frances Folsom.


Busch believes the panels will help locals and visitors better appreciate Medina’s rich heritage and history. He often sees people gawking at the downtown structures, aiming cameras at the buildings.


“It’s something that needed to be done to help people visualize it,” he said.


The panels will tell the stories of some of the people behind the downtown buildings and the community’s early days with a bustling Erie Canal, sandstone quarries and other industries.


"People will be surprised how much they will have an impact on tourist visitors,” Busch said. “These will without a doubt provide a reason for tourists to linger and learn.”


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Mexican restaurant will open next month in Albion

Courtesy Albion Historic Preservation Commission

A Mexican restaurant called “El Gallo” will give a building that is currently painted all white a vastly different look. The site at 33 North Main St. also includes an awning. This design is by the LonoWood Art Company in Albion.


By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 17 April 2014

ALBION – A building that has sat mostly vacant for nearly two decades is expected to open next month as a Mexican restaurant.


Miguel Jimenez has been working almost every day since February to renovate 33 North Main St. He would like to open “ El Gallo” – Spanish for “The Rooster” – in time for Cinco de Mayo on May 5.


The building is currently painted white and is located next to a parking lot by the First Presbyterian Church.

Photo by Tom Rivers

Here is the building as it appeared at about 8:30 tonight. The site is prominent in the downtown historic district.


Jimenez received approval for the building’s paint, new sign and an awning during tonight’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting. Commission members praised him for turning a long-vacant structure into a productive use for the community.


“I’m delighted something will be done with the building,” Commission member told Jimenez during the meeting.


The downtown hasn’t had a new awning in many years.


“I love the idea of an awning,” said Commission member Ric Albright. “It will be great.”


The building will be painted in Roycroft Copper Red, Rookwood Amber and Rookwood Dark Green.


Village Code Enforcement Officer Ron Vendetti said he welcomed a new look in the downtown, which is named to the National Register of Historic Places.


“Different colors add character to the district,” Vendetti said.


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New signs point to Cobblestone Museum

Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 17 April 2014

GAINES – The state Department of Transportation about two weeks ago added new signs near the routes 98 and 104 intersection, highlighting the presence of the Cobblestone Society Museum.


The museum has eight historic buildings, including three with cobblestone masonry. The Cobblestone Church, pictured on Route 104, was built in 1834 and is the oldest cobblestone church in North America.


The museum, which is a National Historic Landmark, opens on Mother’s Day. For more on the museum, click here.


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Fairhaven Treasures will have second Peace Garden in Orleans County

Photo by Tom Rivers

The front lawn at Fairhaven Treasures will soon be transformed into an international peace garden.


By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 17 April 2014

GAINES – A historic homestead that was renovated and reopened as an art gallery and high-end co-op late last year will soon have an International Peace Garden in its front lawn.


Fairhaven Treasures, at the southeast corner of routes 98 and 104, will have a garden, three flag poles and a stone wall that says “Fairhaven.” That is the name John Proctor gave for the hamlet when he lived there more than 200 years ago.


Proctor is known as the Paul Revere of Ridge Road because he rode along the Ridge warning settlers that the British were coming during the War of 1812. He had a log cabin at the corner of 98 and 104 before the large brick house was built in 1834.

File photo by Tom Rivers

The creek that runs by the Cobblestone Society Museum on Route 98, just south of Route 104, is named for John Proctor. The creek is called "Proctor Brook."


Ray Burke and his wife Linda now own the property and they worked most of last year upgrading the site. There will be a grand opening for Fairhaven Treasures on May 3-4.


Gaines Town Supervisor Carol Culhane assisted with the renovation providing some of the manual labor. She also connected with the International Peace Garden Foundation about having a site in Gaines at Proctor’s former property.


“It’s a great tourist possibility,” she said.


Fairhaven will be the second peace garden in the county. Brown’s Berry Patch dedicated the first one last year.

File photo by Tom Rivers

Bob and Deborah Brown dedicated a peace garden at Brown’s Berry Patch last October. They were joined by Paula Savage, right, of Batavia who is founder of the Peace Garden Foundation.


The garden locations need to have a historical connection to the War of 1812. At the Browns, family matriarch Bathshua Brown settled in the area in 1804 when the trees were so dense in Carlton the area was known as the Black North. She helped fight off the British in the war and took one of their captains captive.


Bathshua and her pioneering spirit also is noted on a historical marker in front of Brown’s Berry Patch.


The Fairhaven garden will include flag poles for the American, Canadian and Peace Garden flags. Culhane said it will enhance the historic district along the Ridge, which includes the Cobblestone Society Museum.


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