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Orleans has fifth most population loss among 62 counties since 2010

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 March 2018 at 12:36 pm

The latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau have been released and the numbers show that Orleans County has the fifth largest population loss among the 62 counties since 2010.

The population is down 4.4 percent or by 1,900 residents from the 42,883 in the 2010 Census. Orleans is now at 40,993, according to the population estimates in 2017. The county is down another 362 people from the 2016 estimate.

Statewide, the population has grown 2.4 percent or by 471,297 since 2010 when the population was 19,378,102. However, the upstate population has declined 1.0 percent or by 61,668 (from 6,339,276) in 2010. Downstate has grown by 4.1 percent or by 532,965 people from 13,038,826 in 2010, according to the Census data compiled by The Empire Center.

Orleans is one of 8 counties with 4 percent of more population loss since 2010, according to the report. Rural counties are leaders in population decline.

Other counties with bigger losses than Orleans include:

• Hamilton County, 62nd of the 62 counties, has the biggest percentage drop at 7,3 percent, down 351 people from 4,836.

• Delaware, 61st, is down 6.2 percent or 2,979 from 47,980

• Chenango, 60th, shrank 5.2 percent or 2,614 from 50,477

• Tioga, 59th, is down 5.0 percent or 2,547 from 51,125

• Orleans, 58th, declined 4.4 percent or 1,900 from 42,883

The nearby GLOW counties also experienced losses.

• Wyoming ranked 53rd out of the 62 counties with 3.9 percent drop or decline of 1,662 from 42,155

• Livingston, 35th, is down 2.4 percent or 1,594 from 65,393

• Genesee, 40th, declined 3.5 percent or 2,213 from 60,079

The Bronx, grew 6.2 percent, and added 86,052 from 1,385,108, to lead the state in population growth.

To see the report from the Empire Center, click here.

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News station in Buffalo highlights how state’s AIM program is grossly unfair to villages

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 February 2018 at 10:15 am

A news station in Buffalo has published a piece on the state’s inequitable AIM program, which grossly favors cities over villages and towns. Click here to see “Short Changed: How a State Aid Program is Generous to Cities, Stingy to Towns and Villages.”

WGRZ on Tuesday focused an investigative report on Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, and how the $714 million in state revenues for municipalities are not distributed on a per capita basis among cities, villages and towns.

WGRZ highlighted the disparity between two neighboring communities in Chautauqua County. In Fredonia, the state gives $89,000 in AIM funding for the 11,000 village residents. Dunkirk, only a few miles away, has 12,000 residents but gets $1.6 million in AIM. Dunkirk happens to be a city.

In Orleans Hub’s nearly five years of existence we have frequently written about the state’s unfair AIM program and how it offers crumbs to villages and towns, while propping up cities. The lack of AIM is one of the main culprits in why the villages in Orleans County have among the highest tax rates in the region.

We don’t begrudge the cities their money. The densely populated areas deserve more AIM because those municipalities bear the brunt of providing so many public services with police, water, sewer, fire protection, streets and other many programs. The villages and cities also have a higher concentration of poor residents, aging housing stock and century-old infrastructure. The cities and villages are centers for civic life with government buildings, schools, churches and other tax-exempt properties.

Villages function as mini-cities but only get a tiny fraction of what a city gets per capita in AIM. Cities get an average of $277 per capita from the state while the towns and villages only get $7 per capita. (Most of the smaller cities get about $100 to $150 per capita with bigger cities getting much more.)

The Village of Albion and its 6,056 residents receives $38,811 in AIM funding. Salamanca in Cattaraugus County is nearly the same size with 5,815 people. Salamanca gets $928,131 in AIM funding. The difference: Salamanca is a city.

The lack of AIM is particularly painful for a county like Orleans, where there are no cities. We don’t get at least one municipality with the resources to offer the park upgrades, well-maintained streets and sidewalks, and other “curb appeal” that attracts residents and businesses. We do what we can on a shoe string, and still have crushing taxes because almost the entire village and town budgets are on the backs of the local taxpayers. In cities, residents only cover a fraction of the budgets because the state aid pays for so many services and programs.

It’s disappointing this clear inequity and structural discrimination against village and town residents doesn’t get mentioned much in the media or by state legislators. It should be a top priority and a frequent call for reform.

We are glad to see WGRZ shined a light on the issue.

We’ve published the following chart many times in recent years. Here it is again. You should feel your blood boil if you live in Orleans County. Equitable AIM is the transformative change we need to help stop the population losses, the shrinking tax assessments and other decline we see in our communities.

City (County) State aid Population Per Capita
Salamanca (Cattaraugus) $928,131 5,815 $159.61
Dunkirk (Chautauqua) $1,575,527 12,563 $125.41
Batavia (Genesee) $1,750,975 15,465 $113.22
Sherrill (Oneida) $372,689 3,071 $121.35
Norwich (Chenango) $1,089,279 7,190 $151.50
Waverliet (Albany) $1,210,193 10,254 $118.02
Cortland (Cortland) $2,018,330 11,183 $180.48
Beacon (Dutchess) $1,537,478 15,541 $98.93
Gloversville (Fulton) $2,302,592 15,665 $146.99
Johnstown (Fulton) $1,388,910 8,743 $158.86
Canandaigua (Ontario) $1,119,304 10,545 $106.15
Geneva (Ontario) $1,942,613 13,261 $146.49
Rensselaer (Rensselaer) $1,137,317 9,392 $121.09
Mechanicville (Saratoga) $662,392 5,196 $127.48
Ogdensburg (St. Lawrence) $1,708,659 11,128 $153.55
Village (County) State aid Population Per Capita
Albion (Orleans) $38,811 6,056 $6.41
Medina (Orleans) $45,523 6,065 $7.51
Holley (Orleans) $17,786 1,811 $9.82
Lyndonville (Orleans) $6,251 838 $7.46
Brockport (Monroe) $110,171 8,366 $13.17
Fredonia (Chautauqua) $89,140 11,230 $7.94
East Aurora (Erie) $50,569 6,236 $8.11
Le Roy (Genesee) $34,391 4,391 $7.83
Geneseo (Livingston) $72,701 8,031 $9.05
Whitesboro (Oneida) $73,012 3,772 $19.36
Cobleskill (Schoharie) $36,461 4,678 $7.79
Massena (St. Lawrence) $132,671 10,936 $12.13
Potsdam (St. Lawrence) $111,864 9,428 $11.87
Bath (Steuben) $103,906 5,786 $17.96
Monticello (Sullivan) $46,903 6,726 $6.97
Newark (Wayne) $65,833 9,145 $7.20

Source: New York State Division of Budget for state aid. Population is from U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 population count. Orleans Hub calculated the per capita numbers.

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Editorial: Orleans County is chock-full of fun, without the big-name drama

Photos by Tom Rivers: Bryce Wilson, a Little League player for Carlton, is mobbed by his teammates after crossing the plate for a home run during a game last July.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 February 2018 at 9:57 am

(Editor’s Note: Each year I write, in about 500 words, the welcome message for the Orleans County Visitor’s Guide, which is published by the Lake Country Pennysaver. The new issue will be out soon. I encourage others to write a pro-Orleans essay. You are welcome to send them to news@orleanshub.com.)


No casinos. No big-name bands or professional sports. We don’t even have a movie theater. You’d think there was nothing to do in Orleans County.

Wrong. I can tell you every weekend there are lots of things going on. Local business associations and civic groups keep community festivals and celebrations going throughout the year. There is always something to do.

But it isn’t “big time.” It’s very much “small town.” And that’s a good thing.

Kids still play baseball and the games are often thrilling nail-biters, played until the last light of dusk. You will see kids with huge smiles riding in the back of a pickup, on their way to the ice cream stand to celebrate after a game.

High school football is still popular and Albion and Medina can count on big crowds for “Friday night lights.” People show up in droves for the football, the pep band, the popcorn, the home town pride.

Our school districts put on musicals that are regularly recognized as among the best in the area by the Rochester Broadway Theater League.

The local 4-H Fair is alcohol-free but that hardly makes it a bore. About 30,000 folks attend the week-long event each year making Orleans the most popular youth fair in the state. The community supports the 4-H kids showing their animals and participating in many contests, including a pie-eating showdown.

The Grease Pole competition at the annual county fair provides a lot of laughs as the teams test their mettle and endurance in getting to the top.

One of the fair’s biggest draws: The greased pole climbing contest. It’s an Orleans tradition, with about 1,000 people gathering each night to watch teams try to climb a utility pole slathered in grease. It’s quite a spectacle, watching the teams slip and struggle, with many completing the tough challenge, gobs of grease covering their clothes and embedded in their hair.

The fair also has a midway, carnival games, deep fried dough, taffy, fireworks and a very entertaining karaoke contest. A local grocery store employee is among the crowd favorites with his high-energy country music renditions.

We still have parades with fire trucks, Scouts, and veterans in the Honor Guard. The local marching bands give their best show of the year in the local parade. People still line Main Street, sometimes a couple hours early, to see the patriotic displays.

We still do campfires, fly kites, and talk to neighbors on our porches. We have tournaments for kickball, bocce, bowling, horseshoes and darts.

Turn off your cell phone and enjoy a walk on a nature trail. In the fall you’ll see leaves floating by in some of the streams.

Fishing remains big here, whether by boat, casting from the pier at the Oak Orchard Harbor, or pulling on the waders and trying our luck in local creeks. Even the most camera-shy people lose any reluctance to pose for a picture when they have caught a 30-pound Chinook salmon.

You still see kids selling lemonade from tables in their driveways, kids riding bikes or skateboards down the sidewalks, or Boy Scouts filing into the parish hall for the annual Pinewood Derby.

The church bells still ring from steeples that were built more than a century ago.

The only Elvis sightings we’ve had are a nearby impersonator at the Super Cruise in Medina, when Main Street is blocked off for about 300 classic cars.

I guess Orleans County hasn’t hit the big time. But that’s just fine by us.

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Editorial: GOP State Senate blueprint for NY should include equitable AIM funding for villages

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 January 2018 at 7:52 am

The Republicans in the State Senate last week presented a “Blueprint for a Stronger New York.” The state senators in the majority want to reduce property taxes, especially for senior citizens.

Their proposal: freeze school taxes for the elderly and eliminate those taxes for seniors in 10 years.

The Senate majority also wants to make the tax cap permanent, limit state spending increases to 2 percent annually and boost the property tax rebate by 25 percent.

The blueprint falls short, mainly by neglecting to address that AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) funding from the state has been frozen for several years. That $715 million goes to cities, towns and villages. Cities get 90 percent of the money. The town and villages get morsels.

Cities get an average of $277 per capita from the state while the towns and villages only get $7 per capita. (Most of the smaller cities get about $100 to $150 per capita with bigger cities getting much more.) The cities are population centers and are public service-intensive, with police, parks, streets, fire and ambulance, water and sewer, cemeteries, and other services.

Towns don’t tend to offer services to that level, but villages often do – yet there is little state aid to help with the cost. That is a main driver in the villages sky-high tax rates, especially in Orleans County where the situation is compounded by a small sliver of the local sales tax going to villages. More sales tax would bring down the village tax rates in Orleans, but county officials say it would then push up the county rate.

Giving the villages AIM funding at even $100 per capita (still about a third of the city average) would bring down village tax rates by about 20 to 25 percent in Orleans County. In Albion and Medina, the largest local villages – each with about 6,000 people – $100 of AIM per person would be about $600,000 per village.

I would argue villages with police officers should get far more in AIM (because they are saving the state from adding troopers or the county from adding more deputies). These villages also have a higher concentration of poverty and elderly residents.

Consider that the Village of Albion and its 6,056 residents receives $38,811 in AIM funding. Salamanca in Cattaraugus County is nearly the same size with 5,815 people. Salamanca gets $928,131 in AIM funding. The difference: Salamanca is a city.

It’s disappointing that more AIM funding didn’t even make get a mention in the “Blueprint for a Stronger New York.”

If the State Senate Republicans were serious about easing the taxes of some of the poorest senior citizens in the state, the GOP would push for more AIM for the villages.

If the GOP wanted to make rural New York more business friendly, it would push for more AIM for villages. Right now, many new businesses set up just outside villages, avoiding the village tax while still tapping village water and sewer lines, and having access to their population centers.

If the GOP was serious about stemming the population decline in our small counties, it would insist on more AIM funding for villages.

If the GOP wanted to put more money in the pockets of young families, it would demand more AIM funding for villages.

The State Senate Republicans, who represent many villages, should consider the structural discrimination imposed on the villages by the state, which redistributes so little in AIM to villages.

Give the chart below a look and ask how villages are supposed to function, providing critical government services without overwhelming taxpayers? The crumbs of AIM funding force villages to resort to property taxes for most of their revenue.

These villages can’t even get on the radar of the state politicians. There is no plan for the 2 million village residents in New York, who are about 10 percent of the state’s population.

City (County) State aid Population Per Capita
Salamanca (Cattaraugus) $928,131 5,815 $159.61
Dunkirk (Chautauqua) $1,575,527 12,563 $125.41
Batavia (Genesee) $1,750,975 15,465 $113.22
Sherrill (Oneida) $372,689 3,071 $121.35
Norwich (Chenango) $1,089,279 7,190 $151.50
Waverliet (Albany) $1,210,193 10,254 $118.02
Cortland (Cortland) $2,018,330 11,183 $180.48
Beacon (Dutchess) $1,537,478 15,541 $98.93
Gloversville (Fulton) $2,302,592 15,665 $146.99
Johnstown (Fulton) $1,388,910 8,743 $158.86
Canandaigua (Ontario) $1,119,304 10,545 $106.15
Geneva (Ontario) $1,942,613 13,261 $146.49
Rensselaer (Rensselaer) $1,137,317 9,392 $121.09
Mechanicville (Saratoga) $662,392 5,196 $127.48
Ogdensburg (St. Lawrence) $1,708,659 11,128 $153.55
Village (County) State aid Population Per Capita
Albion (Orleans) $38,811 6,056 $6.41
Medina (Orleans) $45,523 6,065 $7.51
Holley (Orleans) $17,786 1,811 $9.82
Lyndonville (Orleans) $6,251 838 $7.46
Brockport (Monroe) $110,171 8,366 $13.17
Fredonia (Chautauqua) $89,140 11,230 $7.94
East Aurora (Erie) $50,569 6,236 $8.11
Le Roy (Genesee) $34,391 4,391 $7.83
Geneseo (Livingston) $72,701 8,031 $9.05
Whitesboro (Oneida) $73,012 3,772 $19.36
Cobleskill (Schoharie) $36,461 4,678 $7.79
Massena (St. Lawrence) $132,671 10,936 $12.13
Potsdam (St. Lawrence) $111,864 9,428 $11.87
Bath (Steuben) $103,906 5,786 $17.96
Monticello (Sullivan) $46,903 6,726 $6.97
Newark (Wayne) $65,833 9,145 $7.20

Source: New York State Division of Budget for state aid. Population is from U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 population count. Orleans Hub calculated the per capita numbers.

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2 congregations say ‘win-win’ with shared church building

Photos by Tom Rivers: Linda Glantz, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Albion, preaches during this morning’s service held at Christ Church, an Episcopal Church. The United Methodists have their service at 9:30, followed the Episcopalians at 11 a.m.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 February 2017 at 5:08 pm

2 years ago United Methodists in Albion started holding services at Episcopal Church

Christ Church holds services for the United Methodist Church at 9:30 on Sundays, followed by the Episcopalians at 11 a.m.

ALBION – Two church congregations have been sharing a building for almost two years now, and the partnership has gone extremely well, leaders from both the United Methodist Church and Christ Church said today.

The United Methodists have been holding services at Christ Church, an Episcopal Church building, since Easter in April 2015. The United Methodists left their historic building at the corner of Platt and East State streets. That building faces a costly roof repair that church members said would take $1 million to fix. That proved too much for the congregation.

They have had the building up for sale and the North Point Chapel, which currently meets at the Arnold Gregory Memorial Complex, has submitted an offer. The sale needs a final approval from the state Attorney General’s Office.

North Point is the church that paid for fireworks in Albion on July 5 for three years. North Point has scheduled a 10 a.m. service on April 2 for the church launch at the former United Methodist building. Click here for more information.

“It will be nice to see the building rejuvenated,” said Reid Cole, chairman of the United Methodist church board of trustees.

He has been a part of the church for more than 50 years, since he was a kid.

The United Methodist Church building has been vacant for about two years. North Point Chapel has submitted an offer than has been accepted by the United Methodists, but needs final approval from the State Attorney General’s Office.

Cole and other United Methodists praised the Episcopalians for sharing their building at 26 South Main St.

“The Episcopalians have been more than welcoming,” said Marie Follett. “They have been wonderful.”

Follett attended services at the United Methodist building for more than 50 years. She continues to play the organ for church services. The United Methodists also have choir practice on Wednesday at Christ Church.

The United Methodists have their hymnals and songbooks on a cart and hand them out for their services. There are about 30 to 50 regular attendees on Sundays for the 9:30 service.

“It’s been good to be able to share space,” Follett said.

The churches share the costs for heating, snow plowing and cleaning services. That has helped the Episcopalians.

Each congregation goes to each other’s community dinners, and other celebrations.

“It’s been a win-win,” said Jan Cheverie, a member of the Christ Church vestry.

Christ Church holds services at 11 a.m. That later service worked well with scheduling for the United Methodists, which have had an earlier worship time.

Jan Cheverie, serving as acolyte during this morning’s Episcopal service, extinguishes the candles at the end of the service.

The United Methodists have a coffee hour after their service, and sometimes that stretches until after the Episcopal service. Members from both congregations can find themselves socializing until well after noon.

Linda Glantz became pastor on July 1 of the United Methodist churches in Albion and Holley. She is pictured inside Christ Church today. Glantz is leading both United Methodist churches in planning for the future.

Linda Glantz started as the United Methodist pastor on July 1. She also leads the United Methodist congregation in Holley.

She said the Albion congregation experienced a loss with leaving its building that was its home for more than 150 years. Now the focus is on the future and being a vital congregation for years to come.

The church leadership is meeting to focus on the next steps – including where to hold services. The United Methodists may decide to stay long-term in the shared role with Christ Church, or it may look for another spot. The church leadership will weigh that decision.

“It is a process to get the church from healing to seeing what the future holds,” Glantz said.

The United Methodists are going to meet the next few weeks in the fellowship hall for church services. That way they can decorate for the Lenten season. Right now there is some shuffling of sacraments and other elements in between the two services.

The Episcopalians are grateful to see their historic building, the oldest of the church buildings at the Courthouse Square, being better utilized, said Kevin Doherty, a warden with the church.

“A used church building is much better than an unused one,” he said after today’s services.

During announcements today at Christ Church, Doherty urged the group to attend an Ash Wednesday observance this Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. led by the United Methodists.

The Rev. Judy Hefner, supply priest for Christ Church, shares an announcement at today’s service. Hefner is holding a prayer devotional that the United Methodists have available for the everyone.

Judy Hefner, the church’s priest, also held up a prayer devotional made available by the United Methodists. She urged the congregation, which today numbered 10, to read the booklet. She said she would include it in her own daily devotionals.

Hefner, a supply priest, said there hasn’t been any hard feelings among the two congregations, which have different styles of worship.

“It’s been good to be able to share space,” she said.

 

Marie Follett plays the organ at the Christ Church. Follett has been a member of the United Methodist Church for more than 50 years.

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Editorial: Increasing AIM funding would be big boost to poverty-stricken villages

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 January 2017 at 1:39 pm
File photo: A smashed sign shown in the winter of 2014 in the village of Albion is symbolic of the rough roads villages are charting due to miniscule aid from the state. Cities get far more in per capita funding than villages.

File photo: A smashed sign shown in the winter of 2014 in the village of Albion is symbolic of the rough roads villages are charting due to miniscule aid from the state. Cities get far more in per capita funding than larger villages despite providing similar services.

It’s a new year, a time of goals and initiatives to better ourselves, our community, our state and country.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a “State of the State” address today. He has put out at least 15 proposals in the past week or so. Cuomo says he wants to rev up the economy, help Middle Class families and improve infrastructure, among many issues. The governor and state legislators generally don’t have much to say about rural NY, especially Orleans County.

Orleans Hub has tried before to at least get our community on the radar screen of Cuomo and the State Legislature. We’re going to follow Cuomo’s lead in putting out proposals.

Our top issue is reforming the AIM program. The state sets aside $715 million in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities. Cities get almost all of that money, 90 percent, with a few crumbs for towns and villages.

For about three years, Orleans Hub has tried to highlight the alarming disparity in state aid between cities and villages. Some of the local Village Boards, Town Boards and the County Legislature passed resolutions in 2015, asking the State Legislature and governor to boost AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) for villages and craft a plan for a fairer distribution of the money.

Local elected officials seemed to forget about the issue last year, even though it’s a shocking form of structural discrimination that is a leading culprit in the sky-high village taxes around here.

The cities get a per capita of $277 per resident in AIM while villages and towns only get $7 per resident.

Consider that Albion (population 6,056) and Medina (population 6,065) receive $38,811 in AIM funding and $45,523, respectively. Sherrill, the state’s smallest city with 3,071 people in Oneida County, gets $372,689. Salamanca in Cattaraugus County is nearly the same size at Albion and Medina. Salamanca gets $928,131 for a city of 5,815 people.

If Albion and Medina received what Salamanca did in state aid, the two villages could cut their taxes by about 40 percent. No longer would these villages be near the top of the list for most oppressive tax burdens in the Finger Lakes and Western New York.

Medina and Albion also are high poverty communities, topping the 20 percent threshold. Normally that level of poverty would draw local and state action, a push for attention and resources. But not for Albion and Medina.

If the state gave Albion and Medina more AIM funding, even at $100 per resident, the residents in these poverty-stricken villages would get significant relief in their wallets. They would have more money to spend at local businesses, boosting our local economy. None of the state or regional poverty plans include our local village residents. The cities get all of the attention and resources.

Check out this chart to see the discrimination, and ask why doesn’t the governor, the State Legislature and our local political establishment fight for fairness? It’s discrimination, plain and simple.

City (County) State aid Population Per Capita
Salamanca (Cattaraugus) $928,131 5,815 $159.61
Dunkirk (Chautauqua) $1,575,527 12,563 $125.41
Batavia (Genesee) $1,750,975 15,465 $113.22
Sherrill (Oneida) $372,689 3,071 $121.35
Norwich (Chenango) $1,089,279 7,190 $151.50
Waverliet (Albany) $1,210,193 10,254 $118.02
Cortland (Cortland) $2,018,330 11,183 $180.48
Beacon (Dutchess) $1,537,478 15,541 $98.93
Gloversville (Fulton) $2,302,592 15,665 $146.99
Johnstown (Fulton) $1,388,910 8,743 $158.86
Canandaigua (Ontario) $1,119,304 10,545 $106.15
Geneva (Ontario) $1,942,613 13,261 $146.49
Rensselaer (Rensselaer) $1,137,317 9,392 $121.09
Mechanicville (Saratoga) $662,392 5,196 $127.48
Ogdensburg (St. Lawrence) $1,708,659 11,128 $153.55
Village (County) State aid Population Per Capita
Albion (Orleans) $38,811 6,056 $6.41
Medina (Orleans) $45,523 6,065 $7.51
Holley (Orleans) $17,786 1,811 $9.82
Lyndonville (Orleans) $6,251 838 $7.46
Brockport (Monroe) $110,171 8,366 $13.17
Fredonia (Chautauqua) $89,140 11,230 $7.94
East Aurora (Erie) $50,569 6,236 $8.11
Le Roy (Genesee) $34,391 4,391 $7.83
Geneseo (Livingston) $72,701 8,031 $9.05
Whitesboro (Oneida) $73,012 3,772 $19.36
Cobleskill (Schoharie) $36,461 4,678 $7.79
Massena (St. Lawrence) $132,671 10,936 $12.13
Potsdam (St. Lawrence) $111,864 9,428 $11.87
Bath (Steuben) $103,906 5,786 $17.96
Monticello (Sullivan) $46,903 6,726 $6.97
Newark (Wayne) $65,833 9,145 $7.20

Source: New York State Division of Budget for state aid in 2013-14 (The state aid numbers haven’t changed for several years.) Population is from U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 population count. Orleans Hub calculated the per capita numbers.

Orleans Hub would like to again challenge the local municipal officials to at least pass formal resolutions seeking a fairer distribution of AIM funds. The local officials should lobby, and do a public protest about the issue. I would suggest forming a village coalition and marching the length of the canal. That might be ambitious this year. So maybe just cover the length in Orleans, or Western New York with groups of residents, police officers, firefighters, children – who all are treated as second-class citizens by the AIM program. A march for fairness would generate some publicity and put pressure on the governor and state legislators.

But, first off, let’s start the year with resolutions demanding equity in state aid. Here is sample resolution that the local boards are welcome to use or tweak.

RESOLUTION No. 1, January 2017

WHEREAS, New York State provides $715 million in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities each year, and 90 percent of that goes to upstate cities;

WHEREAS, the AIM funding per capita is $277 per city resident and only $7 for residents in towns and villages;

WHEREAS, there are 549 villages with a combined population of 1,918,032 in New York State, including four (Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina) in Orleans County with a population of 14,770;

WHEREAS, many villages wrestle with the same problems as cities, with aging infrastructure, blighted housing, abandoned commercial sites, brownfields and increased crime rates;

WHEREAS, villages are similar to cities with a high concentration of senior citizens and low-income families;

WHEREAS, villages mirror cities as centers for culture, civic and religious life, especially in rural counties;

WHEREAS, villages are like cities with many important community structures – churches, courthouses, schools and other public buildings – that do not pay taxes, shifting the tax burden for those sites to other residents in the village or city;

WHEREAS, the state’s tiny share of AIM funding for villages has put villages at a competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining businesses and residents;

WHEREAS, the huge disparity in AIM funding between the cities and villages is a form of state-sponsored economic discrimination, resulting in much higher tax bills for village residents and a diminished quality of life;

WHEREAS, the erosion of the village tax base has shifted a greater burden of town, county and school district tax burden outside the village, punishing the outside-village residents as well;

WHEREAS, the high tax rates in the village encourage suburban sprawl and development of green space and farm land for housing tracts, industrial parks and “Big Box” stores;

WHEREAS, village residents are no less a New Yorker than a city resident;

RESOLVED, the Legislature/Town Board/Village Board/Board of Education, call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to adopt a fair formula for sharing AIM funding so village residents can enjoy municipal services and their homes without being taxed to death.

RESOLVED, that the clerk of the Legislature/Village Board/Town Board/Board of Education shall forward copies of this resolution to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Senator Robert Ortt, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Assemblyman Michael Norris, and all others deemed necessary and proper.

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Villages see sales tax share fall as town assessments grow

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 December 2016 at 1:48 pm

Sales tax from county for villages falls $25K over 4 years

Photo by Tom Rivers: Downtown Albion is pictured in this photo from December 2015.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Downtown Albion is pictured in this photo from December 2015.

ALBION – The sales tax for the four villages in Orleans County – Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina – has fallen by about $25,000 in the past four years because the assessed values of the towns are going up while the villages are shrinking in assessed value.

The county has a sales tax formula that freezes the share to the 10 towns and four villages at $1,366,671. That amount hasn’t changed since 2001, even though the sales tax has grown from about $9 million in 2001 to over $15 million.

However, the amount for the villages and the six towns with villages can vary annually as the assessed values change for the municipalities. If town values increase at a rate more than the villages, those towns with villages will get more of the village sales tax.

The share for the four villages in 2013 was $404,661 of the sales tax. The village share fell to $400,681 in 2014, to $398,111 in 2015, to $391,230 in 2016 and now the biggest drop yet, $379,265 for 2017.

The sales tax for the individual villages dropped the following from 2013 to 2017: Albion, $180,457 to $164,617; Holley, $47,595 to $45,671; Lyndonville, $15,626 to $15,316; and Medina, $160,988 to $153,661.

The villages’ loss has been the the gain for six towns, especially for the Town of Albion, which pocketed more than half of the total increase for the towns. Here is how the towns’ shares changed from 2013 to 2017: Albion, $111,754 to $124,978; Gaines, $85,317 to $87,933; Murray, $111,372 to $113,295; Ridgeway, $123,488 to $129,171; Shelby, $101,116 to $102,760; and Yates, $65,929 to $66,239.

The four other towns without villages did not have a change in their sales tax share. Those towns receive the following: Barre, $64,536; Carlton, $95,418; Clarendon, $116,261; and Kendall, $86,813.

Going back even farther paints an even more dismal picture for the four villages.

Since the county froze the share to the villages and towns, the village share peaked at $211,669.32 for Albion in 2004 (down about $37,000 to $164,617.48 in 2017). Medina dropped about $20,000 from $173,592.02 in 2002 to $173,592.02 in 2017. Holley hit a high of $62,549.14 in 2002 – 15 years later it’s down to $45,671.04. Lyndonville was at $18,591.94 in 2002 and has slid to $15,316.57 in 2017.

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Cable company merger will fill in many gaps for high-speed Internet in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2016 at 9:42 am
File photo by Tom Rivers: A road in rural Barre is pictured at sunset in this photo from May 21, 2015.

File photo by Tom Rivers: A road in rural Barre is pictured at sunset in this photo from May 21, 2015.

Orleans County has about 3,600 households without access to high-speed Internet, but that number would shrink to 77 as part of the Charter Communications and Time Warner merger.

Charter Communications has to make broadband Internet access available to an additional 145,000 homes and businesses in new York over four years as part of the merger.

Charter’s plan would nearly cover the remaining gaps in Orleans, leaving 77 households without access. Charter would also make significant improvements in Niagara County, reaching all but 943, with most of those gaps in rural eastern Niagara County.

Orleans and Niagara officials have been working together the past four years to bring more high-speed Internet to the two counties.

The state announced a $500 million broadband push last year, but Orleans and Niagara held off from applying because they wanted to see what Charter’s plans were for the two counties.

“It’s a great Christmas present,” said Lynne Johnson, an Orleans County legislator who has been working on the broadband initiative with David Godfrey from Niagara County. “It’s not 100 percent but it’s great news.”

Johnson and Godfrey say the remaining unserved areas after Charter’s work may be too small to get a vendor to step in and provide the service. The state funds, and possibly federal money being pushed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), may be able to reach the last mile so the entire counties are covered.

Johnson is pleased Charter has Orleans in its build-out plan. She believes about four years of work, of identifying unserved households and pressing the state and federal government about the lack of high-speed Internet, paid off with Charter putting Orleans among the 145,000 to be served.

The state and industry maps for service were wrong before, Johnson said. The state and broadband companies had said 97 percent of Orleans was covered. But local government officials and a consultant went house to house and identified a much bigger unserved population – about 3,600 of the approximately 20,000 households in Orleans didn’t have access to high-speed Internet.

The four villages – Albion, Holley Lyndonville and Medina – all have 100 percent access. But out in the country it’s a different story. There are entire segments of some rural roads with no high-speed Internet access.

Orleans officials will be meeting with Charter later this month to discuss the build-out. Johnson will urge the company to fill all of the missing gaps. She also wants Orleans to be early in the build-out that will be spread over four years in the state.

“This is truly a win for the two counties,” Johnson said.

Godfrey also is pleased with the plan for more service in Niagara.

“It’s quite amazing how much they will do,” he said.

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Pride Pak’s facility awes dignitaries

Photos by Tom Rivers: Pride Pak has been praised for the appearance of its new vegetable processing site on Maple Ridge Road in Medina.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2016 at 10:10 am

MEDINA – Fred Miller worked at Lipton in Albion as a young man. The plant closed in 1980, putting hundreds of people out of work.

Miller would go on to run a hardware store in downtown Albion. He also is an Orleans County legislator.

Robert Chapman, Pride Pak’s vice president of sales and marketing, welcomes about 300 people to the ribbon-cutting and opening celebration for the company’s new facility in Medina. Chapman credited CEO Steve Karr, lower left, with pushing the project to completion.

Robert Chapman, Pride Pak’s vice president of sales and marketing, welcomes about 300 people to the ribbon-cutting and opening celebration for the company’s new facility in Medina. Chapman credited CEO Steve Karr, lower left, with pushing the project to completion.

On Wednesday he attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the new Pride Pak vegetable processing site in Medina, a 68,000-square-foot building. Pride Pak has plans for expansion, with two more similar-size buildings.

Seeing the building stirred memories for Miller, of the busy Lipton plant that provided jobs for hundreds of working class families.

“This is wonderful to see,” Miller said inside the spacious Pride Pak, a 280-foot-long building where employees trim, clean and pack salads for Wegmans and other Pride Pak customers. “It reminds me of the old days when I went to Liptons.”

Pride Pak was looking at the former Bernz-O-Matic site in Medina, but decided to build new on Maple Ridge Road. The new facility didn’t need a costly retrofit and the site has room for the future expansions.

Steve Karr, Pride Pak CEO, said the company didn’t go cheap with the new building. It wanted an attractive facility on an important gateway in the Medina community.

Steve Karr, company CEO, thanks the Medina community for a warm welcome for Pride Pak.

Steve Karr, company CEO, thanks the Medina community for a warm welcome for Pride Pak.

Mike Sidari, the Medina mayor, thanked Karr and Pride Pak for such a nice addition to Maple Ridge Road. Not only will the company employ up to 300 people at full build-out, but it added a beautiful site on a busy corridor, Sidari said.

“It’s an inviting building as you come into the village,” Sidari said.

The grand opening celebration on Wednesday included fancy hors d’oeuvre appetizers, and local beers and wines, as well as a band playing. A warehouse was turned into a room for fine dining.

“We’ve been to a lot of ribbon cuttings,” State Sen. Robert Ortt said, “but none like this. This is truly amazing.”

Ortt said Pride Pak’s decision to build its first U.S. facility in Medina shows that rural Orleans County welcomes business.

“You don’t have to be in Rochester to attract a world-class headquarters,” Ortt said. “They have invested here in Medina, in Orleans County, in Upstate New York, in the United States of America.”

Warehouse space in Pride Pak was transformed into a party on Wednesday.

Warehouse space in Pride Pak was transformed for a festive celebration on Wednesday.

Pride Pak has one packing line in place and is working to get more on line. The packing equipment allows the company to double the rate of trimming, cleaning and packing vegetables for the salads.

Medina, the Town of Shelby, Orleans County and Empire State Development all worked to provide incentives for Pride Pak, and to get infrastructure in place for the new building and the future expansions.

Steve Karr thanked the government officials for their work with the project, which is about a $20 million investment for phase 1.

Steve Karr, the Pride Pak CEO, is pictured in overalls in mid-October when he was working with contractors helping to measure and connect lines that day. He is pictured in the warehouse space, which was the scene for an upscale party on Wednesday.

Steve Karr, the Pride Pak CEO, is pictured in overalls in mid-October when he was working with contractors helping to measure and connect lines that day. He is pictured in the warehouse space, which was the scene for an upscale party on Wednesday.

Karr said about 50,000 man hours went into the facility’s construction. He has been working 80 hour weeks in Medina to move the project along.

He was wearing a suit on Wednesday for the grand opening. But much of his time the past year was in overalls, helping with construction projects at the site.

Karr’s work ethic is legendary at the company. Robert Chapman, Pride Pak’s vice president of sales and marketing, said Karr’s determination made the ambitious project a reality on a tight schedule.

“Steve Karr is the most hard-working and committed man I’ve ever seen,” Chapman told about 300 people during the grand opening celebration. “It is Steve’s hard work and dedication that made this project in Medina possible.”

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Pride Pak celebrates opening of new facility in Medina

Photos by Tom Rivers: Members of the Karr family cut the ribbon this afternoon for Pride Pak’s new 68,000-square-foot vegetable processing and packaging plant in Medina. Steve Karr, fourth from left, is the company president and founder. He is pictured with his children, from left: Jennifer Pappas, quality director; Angelo Karr, vice president; Steve Karr’s wife Elsie (in back); Steve Karr; Greg Karr, vice president of procurement; and State Sen. Robert Ortt.

Posted 30 November 2016 at 8:36 pm

Press Release, Empire State Development

MEDINA – Empire State Development announced today that Pride Pak, Inc. has opened the doors on its new 68,000 square-foot facility on 13 acres in the Medina Business Park.

Pride Pak, Canada’s largest fresh fruit and vegetable processor, will ultimately invest up to $30 million on the state-of-the-art complex in Orleans County in order to be closer to its U.S. customers. The company has committed to creating 200 new jobs at the site. The Governor announced Pride Pak’s plan to build in the Finger Lakes region last November.

The new Pride Pak is pictured in the evening last month. The site currently has 40 workers and could reach 200 when the the company is at full build-out with two more buildings.

The new Pride Pak is pictured in the evening last month. The site currently has 40 workers and could reach 200 when the the company is at full build-out with two more buildings.

In 1984, CEO Steven Karr started Pride Pak Canada, Ltd. in an effort to service what he saw as Canada’s growing demand for high quality, easy to use fresh food. Expansion in to Newfoundland in 2006 established Pride Pak as the industry leader in the value-added produce industry. The company’s long-standing relationship with Wegmans Food Markets was the stimulus for Pride Pak’s move to the U.S.

Pride Pak CEO Steven Karr said, “We are very much looking forward to this next chapter with our partners at Wegmans. The cooperation we have received from the state has been tremendous and I cannot emphasize enough the value of doing business in Orleans County and the Finger Lakes where they are very welcoming to new business.”

As the industry leader in organic and conventional value-added produce processing, Pride Pak Canada currently exports 35 percent of its product to the U.S. All of Pride Pak’s produce is packed fresh, not frozen. They provide fresh-cut fruits and vegetables and specialty salad blends to food service operations and retail establishments, including Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.

Wegmans Food Markets CEO Danny Wegman said, “Wegmans is completely committed to supporting agriculture and food production partnerships like this one in an effort to grow jobs. The agriculture and food production industry is a key driver of our regional economy. The new Pride Pak facility will help create opportunities for farmers, and will create food production jobs in our region, thus helping to shape the food industry here and helping to ensure its vitality for years to come.”

Phase One of Pride Pak’s Medina operation will be dedicated to the production of organic baby salad green blends, expressly for Wegmans. Karr says Phases Two and Three will include the addition of conventional fruit and vegetable processing, with the company sourcing carrots and other root vegetables from local farm operations.

When fully operational, Pride Pak expects about 45 truckloads of produce each month. The organic vegetable by- product, about 220 tons monthly, will be delivered to local livestock farms and used as animal feed and fertilizer.

Steven Carr, company founder and CEO, addresses about 300 people who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and then celebration inside.

Steven Karr, company founder and CEO, addresses about 300 people who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and then celebration inside.

Canada’s largest fruit and vegetable processor chose to locate their U.S. headquarters in the Finger Lakes region thanks to Governor Cuomo’s emphasis on Upstate revitalization through the Finger Lakes Forward strategic plan and through other local support efforts. Empire State Development, provided up to $2 million in Excelsior tax credits in return for job commitments to move the project forward.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Pride Pak is a highly successful international company and their decision to grow its operations in New York State is a tribute to the concrete economic opportunities available here for companies looking to take their business to the next level. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has significantly improved the business climate, resulting in job creation in turn which fuels economic opportunities.”

The New York Power Authority also provided an allocation of low-cost hydropower to Pride Pak in return for job and capital investment commitments. The Town of Shelby also received a $750,000 award from the New York State Office of Community Renewal to assist Pride Pak.

James S. Rubin, Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal said, “HCR’s award of Community Development Block Grant funds will be used for machinery and equipment, and will create 80 jobs for working families. This is another example of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to revitalize the upstate economy and encourage innovative businesses like Pride Pak to expand operations in New York.”

State Senator Rob Ortt said, “The new Pride Pak facility is an impressive addition to Orleans County and the entire region. Pride Pak has been making a positive impact on communities, employees and consumers in Canada for over 20 years and we are happy they chose to make Medina and Orleans County their home in the U.S.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley said, “I am passionate about local economic development and ushering in new businesses to our area, and it is exciting to see such a large company that directly supports Western New York’s agriculture industry begin operation here in my Assembly District. Pride Pak is an amazing company with a great reputation and its development aims to bring hundreds of jobs, fresh produce to support our local retail industry, and recycled material for our farmers. I am proud to have worked with New York State Economic Development and local leaders to see this project through, and I have faith that investments like these will attract other businesses to set up and expand in our state.”

Dave Callard, Chairman of the Orleans County Legislature said, “All of us here in Orleans County are so very excited about the commitment being made by Pride Pak and their beautiful newly constructed facility.  Our team continues to work very hard to develop the kind of business friendly environment needed to attract great companies like Pride Pak to our community.  This is an excellent opportunity for a wonderful long term partnership with Mr. Karr and his team.”

Mike Sidari, Mayor of the Village of Medina said, “Pride Pak has already become an extraordinary corporate citizen and valued member of our community. We take pride in the fact that the Village of Medina is always welcoming to new businesses and that Pride Pak has chosen Medina for its new corporate headquarters in the United States.”

Pride Pak is currently accepting job applications and those interested can apply directly at Pride Pak or through the Orleans Center for Workforce Development in Orleans County.

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