Chalk art competition will debut at Strawberry Festival

Provided photo
Nicole Bellnier, left, and artist Jennifer Gray, who is also director of the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council, are pictured by the chalk art drawing Gray did on Friday at Breeze Inn Again, a restaurant at Point Breeze that Bellnier opened a year ago.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 May 2016
ALBION – The upcoming Albion Strawberry Festival will include a chalk art competition for the first time in the event's 30-year history.


Young children, teens and adults are all welcome to create a chalk art design with a historical theme. The competition will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 11 on the Main Street sidewalks between the lift bridge and Bank Street.


"We wanted to bring something to the festival that everyone could do together. Brothers, sisters, kids and adults can all compete," said Nicole Bellnier, one of the organizers of "Chalk the Walk."


Bellnier and Adam Johnson, president of the Albion merchants Association, are headed up the effort along with Jennifer Gray, director of the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council. Gray was at Point Breeze on Friday, creating a chalk art display at Breeze Inn Again, Bellnier's restaurant on Route 98 near Lake Ontario.


"There is a real grass roots movement with a bunch of people who want to see Albion flourish," Gray said. They're bringing in the arts to draw a different demographic."

Photo by Tom Rivers

Jennifer Gray works on the chalk art at Breeze Inn Again on Friday.


Gray helped run the chalk art events in Batavia the past two years as part of the Summer in the City festival. She has seen chalk art festivals draw huge crowds in Raleigh, NC.


The Albion event will include prizes for the top creations. There will be a $5 entry fee for youth (ages 5-12), students (ages 13-18) and a $10 fee for adults (19 and older). First prize for youth includes $50, $100 for youth, and $150 for adults.


Bellnier said it will be exciting to see the creations take shape during the festival. The historical theme can include local or national themes.


"It's going to be really neat to see history come alive on the streets of downtown Albion," she said.


Bellnier paid $500 for the chalk art at her restaurant. That money will help GO Art! and the Albion Merchants Association promote Chalk the Walk, and also give out prizes.


Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes also has sponsored Gray to create a chalk art in downtown Albion next week, and Johnson has paid for one to go by the Frosty Bucket, a new ice cream shop he is opening next week on North Main Street.


For more on Chalk the Walk, click here.


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Winning poster picked for Strawberry Festival

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 20 May 2016
ALBION – Jackie Quintana, a junior at Albion High School, holds the artwork she created that will be used to promote the upcoming Albion Strawberry Festival.


The 30th annual festival will be June 10-11 and this year's theme highlights the historic Erie Canal. Quintana was recognized during Thursday's Albion Rotary Club meeting. The Rotary Club is one of the main sponsors of the festival and helps organize the annual event.


For more on the festival, click here.

Jennifer Santiago, a sophomore at Albion, created the second-place poster.

Gricelda Maldonaldo, also a sophomore, shows the third-place artwork.


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Village House owners buy Crooked Door for $135K

Photos by Tom Rivers
Bidders and curiosity seekers gather outside the Orleans County Courthouse for the auction today at 3 p.m. for the former Crooked Door tavern. The property at 469 East State St. sold for $135,000.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 May 2016
ALBION – The owner of The Village House, a restaurant that opened 30 years ago on East Avenue in Albion, bought the former Crooked Door tavern today at an auction for $135,000.


Alex Mitrousis, The Village House owner, said his family wants to turn the Crooked Door into a sports bar with finger foods.


"We're not in a rush," he said about a timetable for the project.


Mitrousis said he has been in the restaurant business for 46 years, starting when he opened the Brockport Diner. He said they are intense businesses that need many employees. He has 40 workers at The Village House. A sports bar with a downsized menu will be a different experience than The Village House, and a viable business, Mitrousis said.


The Crooked Door, the former Club 469, opened in January 2011 following extensive renovations by Joe and Debbie Martillotta. They operated the business for more than three years, selling it in April 2014 to Susan Holmes. She closed the business in January 2015, nine months after acquiring the property at 469 East State St.


Key Bank held the mortgage, which was $427,740 in arrears. The sale today will go towards that debt.


Key Bank submitted the opening bid of $75,000. Then Steve Gramiak, owner of the Black North Inn and Mitrousis, were in a bidding battle until Gramiak opted not to go above $135,000. Gramiak said he saw the property as an investment that could be leased to someone wanting to run a restaurant with a bar.

The former Crooked Door Tavern closed in January 2015.


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Seminar on end-of-life issues packs Hoag Library

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 18 May 2016
ALBION – Sandy Church, an Albion attorney, discusses advanced directives during an end-of-life seminar Tuesday evening at Hoag Library’s main meeting room.


The Albion Rotary Club organized the seminar, which attracted about 75 people to the library. Several speakers discussed issues to help senior citizens and caregivers better prepare for the end of life. In addition to the speakers, there was a vendor fair with about 15 different businesses and agencies.

Susie Miller, assistant director for the Office for the Aging in Orleans County, discusses some of the services at the agency, including assistance for younger people.


Miller said many members of the Baby Boomer generation are now taking care of their elderly parents.

Earl Schmidt, director of the Veterans Service Agency, is pictured with the agency's new display for public outreach events. Schmidt was among the vendors at Tuesday's seminar.

John Zonitch, an attorney with Oak Orchard Legal Services, discusses how Medicare and Medicaid can pay for nursing home care. Zonitch said a single person can still have $14,850 in savings and be eligible for Medicaid, and married people can have at least $74,820 and still be eligible for Medicaid. Those funds allow for "rainy day" expenses, such as roof repairs, new furnaces, and other costs.


However, Zonitch said people can't give their money away to family and charities soon before seeking Medicaid assistance if they are near the Medicaid eligibility thresholds.


"It does get complex," he said about the rules.

Scott Schmidt, the county's chief coroner, said families with an unattended death can always call 911, a funeral director or a coroner for help.


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Albion youth baseball braves cold and wind to start season

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 14 May 2016
ALBION – Leah Pawlak introduces herself as the microphone was passed to each player on the Rotary team during opening ceremonies for the Albion Midget League, which started in 1956.


This year there are six teams in the league. They gathered at the Midget League Field behind the Town Hall on Clarendon Road. The season continues until mid-July. There are also six Futures teams with players ages 7 to 10.


The teams played today in gusty weather with temperatures in the low 50s.

Jason Conn, center left, passes the microphone to Jack Ludwick. They play on the Barre Cubs, which won the championship in 2015.

Dan Bartlett, head coach of Sandstone Park, greets his players. Bartlett has been coaching the team for about 15 years. They were runner-ups for the title last year.

St. Mary's players are lined up, including Nick Radder, right, and Ethan Ashton, second from right. St. Mary's is one of the original teams from when the league started 60 years ago.

Dave Nashburn, head coach of the Vets, holds the microphone for players during their introductions.

Carlton players, wearing new uniforms this year, say their names to the crowd. Bryan Catlin, center, has coached the team for many years.

Joe Sacco, a former Albion mayor, threw out the ceremonial first ptich to his grandson, Christopher Sacco of the Sandstone team. Sacco then sang the National Anthem.


The league will have its annual chicken barbecue at the Midget League Field on June 4 from noon until sold out.


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New picnic tables given to Hoag Library for Eagle Scout project

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 13 May 2016
ALBION – Matthew Flanagan is pictured with two of the three picnic tables he delivered this afternoon for Hoag Library.


Matthew, 18, built the tables for his Eagle Scout project. They are a welcome addition to the outdoor area off by the children's library section, said Nicole Struble, children's librarian.


She said she will invite families to use the tables for story times and for other activities, including if people want a spot to eat lunch.


Matthew said he joined the Scouting program in sixth grade and developed a deeper appreciation for the community through the many service projects. He said he also enjoyed the many camping and backpacking adventures.


His father, Daniel Flanagan, will serve as new Scoutmaster for Troop 164 in Albion beginning in July.

Matthew Flanagan, back left, unloads one of the tables with help from his brother John, back right; Ben Restivo, front left; and John Flanagan, back to camera.


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Albion has made big cuts in staff as enrollment shrinks over past decade

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 May 2016
ALBION – The school district has eliminated 87 positions in the past 13 years, at a time when the student enrollment has shrunk 29 percent or by nearly 750 students.

The district had 2,574 students in 2003-04, but next year’s enrollment is projected to fall to 1,834, a 38-student drop from the current school year. The total number of full-time equivalent positions has fallen in 13 years from 349 to a proposed 262 in the 2016-17 budget, a 25 percent reduction. The district doesn’t plan to cut any teaching positions but will eliminate a full-time clerical job as part of the proposed 2016-17 budget.

As enrollment has steadily dropped, the district has pared back staff. That has allowed the district to either cut or hold the line on taxes in nine of the last 10 years, school leaders said Tuesday during a budget hearing.

The proposed $33,890,990 school budget keeps taxes at the same amount, $8,355,939, as the 2015-16 budget.


The district's rate of reducing staff, 25 percent, doesn't quite match the reduction in student enrollment, at 29 percent in the past 13 years. Shawn Liddle, the district's assistant superintendent for business, said teachers and staff have more "extra things" from the State Education Department.


Liddle noted Albion has the lowest per pupil cost at $18,479 of any district in Orleans, where the average is $22,918. The state per pupil cost for 2016-17 is $25,962. Albion is one of 57 districts spending less than $19,000 in the state, out of 669 districts, Liddle said.


The district's tax rate for the current school year, $16.06 per $1,000 of assessed property, is the lowest of all districts in Orleans, Genesee, Niagara and Monroe counties. The Albion rate is estimated to fall to $15.87 in 2016-17, Liddle said.


District residents will vote on the budget Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. at the elementary school, conference room A.


Other propositions on the May ballot will include:
• Authorization to spend up to $460,000 for buses;

• Approval to collect $687,211 for Hoag Library. That is up 1 percent from the $680,411 for 2015-16.


• Choosing one of four candidates for a five-year term on the Board of Education. The candidates include Dylan Hellems, Steven LaLonde, Kevin Doherty and Anitrice Riley.

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Albion High Schooler among candidates for Board of Education

Dylan Hellems said he would be a voice for students

Photo by Tom Rivers
Dylan Hellems speaks about his candidacy for the Board of Education during a forum Tuesday at the LGI room at the high school. Hellems is one of four candidates for one open seat on the Board of Education.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 May 2016
ALBION – The election on Tuesday for the Albion Board of Education includes four candidates seeking one open seat, a five-year term on a nine-member board.

One of the candidates is a high school senior. Dylan Hellems, 18, said he would bring a student’s insight to the BOE, as well as a passion to make a difference in the community.

Hellems will be on the ballot with three other candidates: Steven LaLonde, Kevin Doherty and Anitrice Riley.

Albion had a high school senior win a BOE election in the late 1990s, when Dan Bellor was elected to a five-year term.

In Buffalo, Austin Harig last week nearly defeated Carl Paladino, a multi-millionaire and Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2010. Harig, 18, lost to Paladino by 132 votes for a seat on the Buffalo School Board.


Hellems thanked the other Albion candidates for their community service during a forum on Tuesday, when school officials discussed the district's proposed budget and other propositions that go before voters on Tuesday.


Hellems said he has had a good experience at Albion Central School, with a week-long trip to Washington, DC as the highlight.


He went to the nation’s capitol with the Close-Up program at Albion High School in late February-early March. That trip fueled a desire to be involved politically. On the Close-Up trip, Helllems met two Albion graduates who work full-time in D.C.


Don Sisson works in the White House as a special assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs. He also worked 10 years for Rep. Louise Slaughter of Rochester.

Sarah Brown Dirkes is the director of External Relations at American Farm Bureau Federation.


Hellems was impressed to see two people from a small town having an impact in DC.

“I want to make a difference,” he said after a public hearing Tuesday on the school budget. "I want to pursue politics and this will be a great place to start."


Hellems will major in general studies this fall when he starts at Genesee Community College.


Hellems said he is pursuing the volunteer position on the Board of Education to inspire more high school students and recent grads to be involved in local government.


In terms of specific issues, he said he doesn't support banning books at the school because some topics may be considered too controversial. He also said he would like to see the district work towards a turf field that would require less maintenance and also could be a draw for athletic events.


Hellems will face three long-time district residents, incuding former Board of Education member Kevin Doherty, who is currently president of the Hoag Library Board of Trustees. Doherty runs his own communications company, and is a past superintnedent of the buildings and grounds depaetment at the school district. His six grown children are Albion graduates.


"We clearly have a good school district and what we're looking to do as they say in 4-H is make it better," Doherty said.


Steven LaLonde has a doctoratal degree in statistics, measurement and evaluation from Syracuse Univeristy. He is a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. He and his late wife, Kathy, raised three children who graduated from Albion.


LaLonde said he wants to give back to the district that provided a quality education for his children. He said he tends to bring people together to develop common ground in working on issues.


Anitrice Riley is a 1993 graduate of Albion. She works as a senior tax servicing specialist. One of her three children has graduated from Albion, and she has two others in the district.


Riley said she wants to see the district work harder to reach students not involved in sports and extracurricular programs.


"Let's make sure every child has the best access to education," she said. "Some kids are losing their way."


Voting on Tuesday will be from noon to 8 p.m. at the elementary school, conference room A.


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Apex will focus on Barre for Heritage Wind project
Ben Yazman
Photo by Tom Rivers
Ben Yazman, Heritage Wind project developer, is pictured by the Barre water tower on Route 98 behind the firehall.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 May 2016
BARRE – Apex Clean Energy last week announced its plan for Heritage Wind, a 200 Megawatt project, the same power proposed for Lighthouse Wind in Yates and Somerset.

Apex put out a map that showed the project focused in Barre but also spreading out into surrounding towns, as far northeast as Fancher and south into Elba.

Apex said today the project will be focused entirely in Barre. Ben Yasman, Heritage Wind project developer, said Barre’s elevation is about 200 feet higher than most of the county. It has access to transmission lines and state roads.

It also is the least populous town in the county with lots of open farmland.

Apex is just beginning the public outreach process. The company expects to have many meetings with town officials and residents in a siting process that could take several years. Yazman said feedback from residents, landowners, town officials and other stakeholders will determine the location and size of the turbines.

“The locations will be dependent on the landowners who want to participate,” he said.

Apex has been meeting with Yates landowners for about two years. The company has fielded questions about the Lighthouse Wind project at its booth at the 4-H Fair. Apex officials were told by several Barre landowners said they would a support a project in Barre, said Taylor Quarles, Apex’s development manager.

The company sees the potential in Barre, which was eyed for a project by Iberdrola before the company withdrew its effort about a decade ago after concerns by the Pine Hill Airport.

Yazman said he wants to alleviate worries from community members, including the airport. It will be part of the company’s public outreach plan and later environmental studies and scoping documents.

“We want to involve the town in this potential project,” said Cat Mosely, Public Affairs manager for Apex. “We see it as a community owned project."

Apex has already done its public outreach plan for Yates and Somerset, and also submitted a Preliminary Scoping Document. It is working to address environmental concerns and other issues raised for the Yates-Somerset project.


Mosely and Yazman said today the company remains committed to Lighthouse Wind.

The intent to develop the Heritage Wind project shows the company’s commitment to Orleans County and the region, Mosely said. (Apex is also working on a project on Galloo Island near Watertown.)

Yazman said the projects will take years of work. He welcomed residents and government officials to reach out to him. He can be contacted through the Heritage Wind website. Click here for more information.

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Civil War vet in Albion gets headstone 101 years after death

Albion students lead effort to honor John Frost

John Frost grave marker

Photos by Tom Rivers
A new headstone was unveiled on Saturday for John Frost, a principal musician (chief bugler) for the 33rd New York Infantry and also the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division of 6th Corps. Frost was buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Brown Road in 1915.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 May 2016
ALBION – A Civil War veteran who raised five children in Orleans County and sold coal for a living was buried in the older St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Brown Road in 1915, more than a century ago.

Last year, the Holy Family Parish was going through records at the cemetery and realized that John Frost never had a headstone. County Historian Matt Ballard, a member of the parish and also the Knights of Columbus, shared the story with Tim Archer, a service learning teacher at Albion Central School. Archer looks for community projects where 140 seventh graders can learn local history and also address a need.

The students wanted Frost to have a headstone. They worked with the Veterans Service Agency in Orleans and Niagara counties to secure a headstone for Frost. The marble stone was unveiled on Saturday during a service at the cemetery.

Archer said the government officials in the Washington, D.C. Monuments Office moved quickly to process and approve the request before the school year ended. He thanked Tony Navarra from the Holy Family Parish for setting the stone in the historic cemetery.
Leeanna Montanarella
Seventh-grader Leeanna Montanarella shares John Frost’s biography. Frost was born in England on June 22, 1836. At age 13 he left for the United States with his father John and brother Edward on the Northumberland. They arrived in New York City on April 18, 1850 and moved to South Barre. In 1860, Frost was working as a farmer. He enlisted in the Union Army in his mid-20s and served three years.

Frost had the rank of musician, which was just below corporal and just above private. In the Civil War, musicians were relied upon to entertain troops, position troops in battle and stir them on to victory.

Frost, according to the 1880 Census, was married to Margaret Cusack and had five children, ages 14, 11, 9, 6 and 4.

Bryne Dysard
Bryne Dysard, an Albion seventh grader, reads Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address – “With malice towards none, with charity for all” – from March 4, 1865.

John Frost grave marker unveiling
Students Kyle Lonnen and Noah Rowlett unveil the headstone while teacher Tim Archer watches at St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

Bob Ballard and Casimer Pruski
Knights of Columbus members Bob Ballard, left, and Casimer Pruski, both past grand knights, present a grave marker, noting that Frost served in the Civil War for the Union, at his grave during Saturday’s ceremony.


Union Veteran grave marker
This grave marker was given by the K of C to recognize Frost’s service for the Union.

Matt Ballard
Matt Ballard, a member of the Knights of Columbus and the county historian, thanked Albion students for working to recognize John Frost. “It is a great honor and privilege to congratulate Mr. Archer and his students on a job well done, their noble task is appreciated by all who cherish the liberties provided by the sacrifices of those who passed before us.”

Ballard said Frost had “quietly passed into the annals of history, forgotten for decades” until Albion students pushed to have him recognized.

“The commitment of our youth to the cause of historic preservation fuels the fire and the desire to share that history with the greater community,” Ballard said.
Seventh graders playing taps for John Frost
Three seventh graders play Taps, including, from left: Kailey Merrill, Lauren Wehling and Ashley Ames.

Tim Archer and seventh graders with John Frost grave marker

Tim Archer and the seventh graders are pictured with the new headstone for John Frost.


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Albion board gives blessing for Santa statue on Main Street

Charles W. Howard

Photos by Tom Rivers

Charles Howard, founder of Santa Claus School in Albion, died 50 years ago today
This image shows Charles W. Howard on the cover on a report from January 1961 about the previous season at Christmas Park.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 May 2016
ALBION – Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Charles Howard, one of Albion’s most prominent residents. Howard was a farmer and toymaker who started a Santa Claus School in 1937 on Phipps Road in Albion.

He played Santa in the Macy’s televised parades for about 20 years. He established standards for how Santas should look and act with children, principles that are still taught today to Santas around the world.

Howard expanded his school into Christmas Park, a destination for the community that remains a cherished memory for many local residents. After Howard’s death in 1966, the school was moved to Michigan. Today it is in Midland, Mich., and still bears Howard’s name.

A committee in Albion has been working for more than a year on a memorial for Howard. The Village Board last week agreed to make Waterman Park, a half block south of the Erie Canal, available for a bronze statue of Howard as Santa Claus. The park will likely include interpretative panels, murals and other displays about Howard and Santa Claus.
Waterman Park
Waterman Park has room for a statue of Charles Howard and other displays about the founder of a Santa Claus School.

The committee will now work on designs of the statue and park, hoping to have them ready for the community at the Strawberry Festival in June.

“I’m excited about it,” Mayor Dean London said on Wednesday when the board voted to back the effort.

The Albion Betterment Committee is taking the lead in a fund-raising campaign that could be about $100,000.

The group was determined to have a site for Howard on Main Street, seeing a statue as a boost for other downtown businesses.

Santa suit
Photo by Tom Rivers
Howard made Santa Claus suits and other Christmas items from Christmas Park in Albion. This picture shows the tag inside a Santa suit.


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Planners approve drive-thru ATM for Bank of America at Dunkin Donuts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 April 2016
ALBION – Bank of America is adding a drive-through ATM in Albion. The new feature won’t be at the bank’s site. It will be across from Bank of America at Dunkin Donuts.

The Orleans County Planning Board supported the project during its meeting on Thursday. The ATM will be at the southeast corner of the Donut Donuts lot near the entrance by Platt Street. It will have room for three vehicles, will be lighted and will have a monument sign noting the ATM.

Bank of America doesn’t have room for a drive-through ATM at its site, said Ron Vendetti, village code enforcement officer.

The bank will continue to run a walk-up ATM at its Main Street location.

The project needs two variances, and the County Planning Board recommended Albion approve both. The village code requires room for five vehicles in a drive-through, but this proposed ATM has room for three vehicles. Planners said the ATM “is not expected to be a substantial traffic generator.” The walk-up ATM at the bank also will ease some pressure on the drive-through ATM, planners said.

The village code allows one freestanding sign per commercial property and this will have two with the Bank of America ATM and Dunkin Donuts.

Planners said the new sign noting ATM should be located in a way that doesn’t obstruct sight lines for vehicles attempting to exit the property.


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