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letters to the editor

Public services shouldn’t return profits to shareholders at expense of communities

Posted 20 February 2017 at 9:06 pm

Editor:

I was a county resident working to save our nursing home a couple of years ago.  I joined the fight as a concerned citizen because my research showed many examples of nursing home sales going bad and communities like ours left without a good facility. We failed. The nursing home was sold.

About a year and half ago I read an article that our county was being taken to court because the company that purchased the nursing home was trying to lower the building’s assessed value, and ultimately, its taxes. The legislature was asking town governments to pitch in for the cost of legal representation. I now understand this is a common strategy used by corporations that buy nursing homes. The corporations have the money to fight in courts, small towns do not.

Our legislators said that selling the nursing home would increase tax revenues, release us from the burden of running the home, and not negatively impact care. Well, I’ve heard some negative things about supplies for residents, frustrated staff, and corporate policies that have negatively impacted care.

And I just read the other day that a settlement was reached in the lawsuit and the assessment was reduced by $1.6 million dollars. To quote the article, “When the former county-owned nursing home went on the tax rolls for the first time in 2015, the site was assessed for $6,618,900.  Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC paid $7.8 million for the 120-bed Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center on Route 31 in Albion. The sale was effective on Jan. 1, 2015. The new owners filed a challenge to the assessment, saying the site should be valued at $2.5 million.”

First, I don’t even understand how a company can argue something it bought for $7.8 million is actually worth $2.5 million. From the start, Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC has proven itself a poor corporate citizen. And if our legislators did not do enough research to know that a common strategy for corporate buyers like Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services was to take towns to court to lessen their tax burden, it is in issue. If they did know but went through with the sale anyway, it is an arguably bigger one.

For me, this issue comes down to the difference between private for-profit and private non-profit entities. There are two primary differences: the tax code and the driving focus of the organization. In a private for-profit organization, a portion of revenues is directed to shareholders, and the mission of the organization is to maximize profits. That is just what it means to be for-profit.

A private non-profit organization does not take a portion for shareholders, and its primary work is to achieve the mission of the organization. That can be art, elder care, education, etc. These key differences have a major impact on outcomes. As Americans try to decide what is the government’s responsibility and what should be contracted out, I propose we turn to private non-profit organizations to provide the public services that government cannot handle.

The difference between organizations boils down to judgement around the primary focus – to maximize profits or to maximize the mission. The Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC’s move to take the county to court immediately after making the nursing home purchase is another example of for-profit organizations making decisions to maximize profits.

So how long after the five-year guarantee of the reduced tax burden will they stay. History has shown that as soon as the tax credits are gone, for-profit business as gone as well. I have an issue with this as a taxpayer. I don’t believe the government needs to operate all public services, but I do believe that public services should not have a portion of revenues sent to shareholders as profit, or for decisions to be driven by the need to maximize profits.

Thank you.

Betty García Mathewson

Albion

Barre couple who lost house in Christmas fire thanks community for support

Posted 19 February 2017 at 9:18 am

Editor:

A huge heartfelt thanks from the bottom of our hearts to our families, friends, fire companies, churches, organizations, clubs, businesses, Albion and Medina school districts, Yvonne Feller Freeman for the starting the GoFundMe and everyone who donated. Also, thank you to our families for the shower they gave us to replace items we lost.

Thank you to Nick Salvatore who started the benefit and basket raffle (on Feb. 4) with Eagle Creek Band. Many thanks also to the Who Dats, Chris Moore and Distant View band. Also, thank you to Newbies chicken barbecue and to everyone who donated gift certificates, baskets and items to the raffle, and for everyone who went around picking up items and baskets.

Many thanks to everyone who helped before, during and after the raffle. And thank you to the Elks Club for the use of their facilities for the benefit. What a wonderful night it turned out to be. We are so grateful for all of you!

We have also been blessed by the cards we received from family, friends and friends we haven’t met yet. What a wonderful community we live in. To people who donated clothes, shoes, essential items (some of this was on Christmas Day taking time from their own families), we thank each and every one of you.  Please forgive me if I left anyone out.

Again, many, many thanks to all of you. May God bless you as he has truly blessed us.

Very sincerely,

Don and Fonda Carr

Barre

Bluebird Society leader dubious of biologist’s claims of turbine impact on environment

Posted 16 February 2017 at 6:19 pm

Editor:

Dave Phillips, a “professional biologist” with Apex, must think people in Orleans County have no ability to differentiate reality from pure obfuscation, amidst his less than Herculean effort to confuse an extremely serious issue with transparently misleading statements. For me, his empty reassurances are not at all persuasive.

Included in his cleverly contrived effort to reassure Orleans County residents that 600-foot wind turbines are acceptably benign were a number of revealing acknowledgements. He admitted in his response to Christine Bronson that, “The FWS (East Lansing, Michigan) field office did recommend that no turbines be sited within 3 miles of the shoreline at a Delta County, Michigan wind project. . .” But what does the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) know?

What comfort is it to us that (as he says), “The Michigan project . . . (has been) operating since September 2012 with similar bird mortality rates to projects sited well away from Great Lakes shorelines and consistent with national averages”?  So turbines will kill birds at no higher rates than they do further inland.

But Mr. Phillips assures us that “. . . Apex takes environmental compliance very seriously.”

Toward the end of his perfunctory effort to dismiss and minimize (and read this carefully), he states, “All wind projects do result in change, and do have some level of impact, however, our goal for this project is that any significantly adverse impacts are mitigated in a manner that results are a net conservation benefit for the affected species. In other words, installation of the project should ideally benefit the wildlife resources overall.”

Here is where he acts as if the reader was born yesterday. Are the wildlife resources that will receive the “net conservation benefit” the many “affected species” or “wildlife resources overall”?

First, you clear the type of habitat that supports the numerous warblers that rest and refuel in areas similar to much of Lakeside Park (where Nature Conservancy researchers, a few years ago, found warblers “dripping from the trees.” (Those who think bluebirds are beautiful should get a look at warblers in migration!)

Then, by Mr. Phillips’ admission, the cleared areas are used for turbines that take their toll on those fortunate enough to have survived buildings, weather, feral and domestic cats, motor vehicles, and numerous other obstacles in their migration through the heart of The Atlantic Flyway. But, an Apex biologist advises that we not be concerned. He assures us that no more will die than do anywhere else turbines are erected in the middle of the Flyway!

Face it. For too many, no amount of fact really matters in the relentless pursuit of “progress”.

Orleans County, generally, is a bad fit for wind turbines.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent

Albion

(Kent is president of the Orleans County Bluebird Society.)

Apex biologist refutes claims from letter writer, says Lighthouse Wind working to benefit wildlife resources

Posted 14 February 2017 at 12:44 pm

Editor:

As a professional biologist and head of the Apex Clean Energy environmental program, I take exception to Ms. Christine Bronson’s mischaracterization of my statements in her letter to the Orleans Hub dated Feb. 2, 2017.

In response to a question asked at a Yates Carlton Sportsman’s Club meeting on lake setbacks, I accurately and honestly described the source and history of a United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) comment. This explanation was responsive to the question that was asked and put the FWS comment into context. There was no denial or memory lapse as Ms. Bronson falsely alleged.

The FWS (East Lansing, Michigan) field office did recommend that no turbines be sited within three miles of the shoreline at a Delta County, Michigan wind project located on the Garden Peninsula in Lake Michigan (click here).

Ms. Bronson’s attempt to persuade readers to believe that FWS has made this recommendation for Lighthouse is simply not true. In fact, in a May 2015 FWS letter to the Lighthouse Wind project referenced by Ms. Bronson, that recommendation is referenced but not prescribed for Lighthouse Wind. The FWS letter provides substantial technical input on wildlife study protocols and existing information on the site and region, and is evidence of the detailed coordination that has taken place for the project early in development.

The Michigan project was built and has been operating since September 2012 with similar bird mortality rates to projects sited well away from Great Lakes shorelines and consistent with national averages. The concerns behind the FWS setback recommendation for the Michigan project (regarding potential bird collisions due to its proximity to the shoreline and location in an important avian migratory pathway) were not realized. And, in recent years, this same outcome has been demonstrated at multiple operating wind projects located along the Great Lakes and the Texas Gulf Coast, all within areas of seasonally concentrated avian migration similar to the Lighthouse project area.

I stand by my response to the question posed in the Yates Carlton Sportsman’s Club meeting and the fact that Apex takes environmental compliance very seriously.  We continue to work closely with FWS and NYSDEC on this project to identify and understand environmental concerns and ensure that reasonable precautions are taken to develop, construct and operate it in a responsible manner.

All wind projects do result in change, and do have some level of impact; however, our goal for this project is that any significantly adverse wildlife impacts are mitigated in a manner that results in a net conservation benefit for affected species.  In other words, installation of the project should ideally benefit the wildlife resources overall.

I invite those interested to learn the facts to contact the Lighthouse Wind development team at their office (lighthousewind.com).

Sincerely,

Dave Phillips

Director of Environmental & Wildlife Permitting

Apex Clean Energy

Medina resident apologizes to former mayor for public criticism when village faced dissolution

Posted 13 February 2017 at 2:58 pm

Editor:

We the people, when we write letters to the editor, we’re part of the fabric of the free press. But we must hold ourselves to the same standards that good journalists do, especially being honest and moral. We must fact check and find verification in more than one place. It is how we build trust, and it is how we convince. I have written many letters to the editor and am confident I’ve held myself to such standards…in all of them but one: a letter I wrote in January 2015.

In it, my argument was to dissuade people from voting for the consolidation of Ridgeway, Shelby, and Medina. It was a good letter in some ways—(I thought); there were some compelling arguments about why it was crucial to keep the village and towns separate. Rather, I said, we should solve things via shared services.

But my letter began with an unfair attack on a government official: Andrew Meier, then Mayor of Medina.

I quoted him first. He had said that people kept putting up walls instead of really trying to figure things out. And then…I used his own words against him. I accused him of being the one to build that wall. I went further: I insinuated that he himself was actively working against the idea of shared services. I came up with a snarky metaphor comparing him to a person who shows up at the family homestead to help the family fix it up…but drives up in a bulldozer, just in case.

I pretty much argued that he was like a child, ready to knock over a tower and throw some blocks.

Here’s the thing. I didn’t know if any of this was true. I didn’t fact check. I didn’t find multiple sources. I relied on rumor and innuendo and gossip…and most of all, I relied instead on a hunch (probably borne of my own passionate, can’t-hear-you/Not-listening self) that I was right and he was wrong.

Who was the little kid, again? Who was the one throwing blocks?

Andrew used to be my friend. We’ve always been opposites…he’s the “I’m a Constitutionalist; Less Government is Better,” Conservative.  I’m a “History proves that Government’s purpose is to protect the nonprofit helper-sector from the Money –at-All-Cost –Industrialists, and who Cares Who Might Suffer Along the Way?” liberal.  And we used to have spirited and cheerful debates.  And…together, we often found middle ground.

As for the consolidation debate (for the record, I’m still against it)—he always, always said when he saw me, “Let’s sit down and talk.” And that’s something.

His approach to government has always been like that. Dont agree? Let’s talk. And he has always served the public, from his founding of the Orleans Renaissance Group with Skip Draper, to his revitalization of downtown Medina, to his support of arts and music, and yes, to his role in thanklessly being the guy in front—the mayor—who maybe made mistakes, but who always had Medina’s best interest at heart.

For me to shame him so publicly in the way I did? It was unconscionable.  Andrew? I am deeply, deeply sorry for that letter.

And worse, I tarred and feathered him with words he hadn’t earned. What if people believed my attack as truths? Here is a man who has dedicated himself to the betterment of his family, his church, and his village…and I tore him down like he wasn’t the man who has known my family and my husband’s our whole life, who has—even now—been respectful and decent, when he sees me in town.

There is no question that discourse of late—here, everywhere—has broken down, some of it awful and name calling and unfair. But I can only begin to heal that rift if I start by looking in the mirror.

Why the public apology? The attack was public. A private apology note…well, it doesn’t quite fit the crime. Andrew, I sincerely apologize, and I hope you can someday forgive me, and we can be friends again.

Lines drawn too deeply in the sand mean there’s nothing but a chasm between us, no bridge in sight.

With sincerity,

Karen L Jones

Medina

Collins oversteps his expertise in trying to derail Lighthouse Wind project

Posted 12 February 2017 at 8:23 am

Editor:

I am one of many who are frustrated to see some of our representatives working to stall economic development in our region. The bill that Congressman Chris Collins introduced would prevent any wind farms built within 40 miles of a military base from receiving any production tax credits. This legislation completely disregards the findings of the Department of Defense and a top official at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

Months ago, the Department of Defense sent a letter to Lighthouse Wind, saying the project is “unlikely to impact military testing or training operations” at the base. Then, this fall, a top official at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, confirmed that the base’s new mission makes the wind turbines a “nonissue” for the base.

The legislation aims to prevent the construction of Lighthouse Wind, a much needed investment in our rural community, but it ignores the military’s previous comments about the wind project. We must trust the military’s own experts to make these determinations that neither you nor I are trained to assess.  Military officers have the expertise to make these judgements, not Congressman Collins.

The DoD and the FAA conduct rigorous evaluations of all structures over 200 feet prior to construction. When Lighthouse Wind submits its final application, which includes turbine height and location, these experts will be able to review the project once again and approve it.

I believe our national security experts are doing their due diligence and acting in the best interest of our country and our military base. I ask that others trust the experts as well.

Sincerely,

Reneé Atwater

Barker

Apex hasn’t given specifics on height of wind turbines by lake

Posted 9 February 2017 at 6:14 pm

Editor:

A recent letter questioned whether the proposed Project Lighthouse Wind Industrial Complex of approximately 70 turbines, to be strung along the shore of Lake Ontario in the Towns of Somerset and Yates could use wind turbines 700 feet in height or higher. The writer claimed  no such units exist. The answer is a resounding YES they do exist, and could be used. The facts speak for themselves.

It is well known that the exact model turbine is yet to be selected for Lighthouse Wind. This  information is critical to being able to fully assess the impact on our community and has been requested of Apex many times, to no avail. We however, have been informed by Lighthouse Wind representatives, that the proposed units will be the largest available at the time the application is filed with the Siting Board.

Hence the question arises, how high could that be? A brief  search of literature for Land Based Industrial Wind Turbines reveals that there is a General Electric unit available, Model 3.6-137,  with a range of  tip heights up to 223 meters or 731 feet. Other manufacturers likely offer similar units. The possibility therefor exists for Lighthouse Wind to select a unit whose height could be in the vicinity of 700 feet or more. The claim that Councilman Riggi of Yates makes is therefor a valid one.

The Councilman is acting on his beliefs and in the interests of those who supported and elected him. Insults and name calling do not alter these facts and reflect on the writer. We are not “fear mongers.” We do not spread fear as we are accused of doing.  We are fact mongers! i.e. Those who spread the facts!

Further delving into the manufacturer’s specifications for Model 3.6-37 reveals that this unit has a sound pressure level rating of 106db(A). This sound level is in the range of that produced by an operating chain saw and is damaging to the human ear. This raises the specter of what effect this level of sound pressure will have on people, farm animals and wildlife. Regardless, the notion that industrial wind turbines are silent is quashed by the manufacturers own information.

Visual and noise pollution are merely two of the many factors that make Project Lighthouse Wind unacceptable to the residents of our community. The power is not needed, the power is not clean, and the physical, environmental, social and economic impacts of this project are devastating to our rural community and will continue to exist until the project is terminated.

Project Lighthouse Wind is the wrong project in the wrong place. We do not want these huge noisy environmental disasters in our community. Project Lighthouse Wind must be terminated and quickly! The damage to our community is mounting.

James C. Hoffman

Town of Somerset

Yates councilman has valid concerns about turbine height and impact on Niagara Falls base

Posted 7 February 2017 at 2:10 pm

Editor:

I am writing to confirm the points made by John Riggi in his editorial dated December 21st which was so rudely and inaccurately contravened by Howard Pierce on January 25th.

When Apex Clean Energy first spoke publically about the proposed Lighthouse Wind project, a tip height of 570 feet was referenced.  In July 2015, Taylor Quarles, current project manager, mentioned the “proposed 60 to 70, 570-foot turbines” in the Lockport Union Sun & Journal. The Buffalo News included in a July 2016 article that Apex “referred to a possibility of a turbine tip height of 615 feet and said it was studying heights up to 650 feet.” At a meeting I attended with other representatives of SOS in May 2016, Apex’s consultant, Dave Belote, mentioned a height of 654 feet being used for the Department of Defense preliminary assessment.

I was a member of the Town of Somerset’s Wind Energy Committee which began meeting in July 2015. Mr. Dan Fitzgerald, then Project Manager for Lighthouse Wind, made a statement before 11 other members of that committee (which included John Riggi), the Town engineer, and various audience members, that a specific height for industrial wind turbines should not be included in any new laws. He stated that until the time of the application, Apex would not be committing to any specific model since technology is continually changing.  Mr. Fitzgerald did say, however, that the tallest possible turbine available at the time of application would be used. This would allow the company to reach the most wind possible since the higher the altitude, the more wind available.

North American Windpower published an article in September 2016 which announced the addition of two new turbines to GE’s 3MW Onshore Wind Portfolio. These wind turbines are available with hub heights up to 539 feet. Add to this a blade length of 200 feet, a conservative figure considering the blades being manufactured today, and you now have an industrial onshore wind turbine reaching 739 feet.

As for the comment by an official at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station stating this proposed project would not have an impact on the base, I’d like to include the actual quote from the Buffalo News dated 10/23/2016.  Col. Joseph D. Janik, operations group commander for the 914th Airlift Wing, was interviewed, not the base commander as stated by Mr. Pierce.

When speaking about the KC-135 mission and “asked if he thinks the new planes make the wind turbines a nonissue for the air base, Janik replied, ‘at this time, with the new mission, yes.’”  So, this refers to only one specific mission, which has recently moved to the base.  Barry Rhodes, chairman of Cassidy & Associates, Apex’s lobbying firm which employs David Belote, states on the firm’s website that bases need to look at 5 years and 10 years in the future, and “don’t focus on what today is.”  Sage advice from Mr. Rhodes, whose firm represents many bases across the country.

Yates Councilman John Riggi has his facts straight and is looking ahead. The proposed Lighthouse Wind project and the future of NFARS both have political dimensions and if local residents value their communities’ economy and environment, it is time to make their voices heard.

Pamela Atwater

President of Save Ontario Shores

Fish & Wildlife Service recommended no turbines within 3 miles of shore

Posted 2 February 2017 at 10:15 pm

Editor:

I attended an informational meeting on Jan. 10 sponsored by Apex Clean Energy at the Yates-Carlton Sportsman’s Club in Lyndonville. After their presentation the three Apex spokesmen opened up the floor for questions.

One questioner asked Apex rep Dave Phillips (Apex’s environmental permitting director) about a US Fish & Wildlife Service letter that had advised Apex that any wind project be no closer than three miles from the shore of the Great Lakes. Mr. Phillips countered the questioner by insisting that this USFWS correspondence was old (“from 2009” he said) and furthermore, related to a project in Michigan.

It turns out that there is a USFWS letter on the NYS Department of Public Service (case 14-F-0485) addressed specifically to Mr. Phillips dated May 6, 2015 that discusses Yates/Somerset Lighthouse Wind project.  On page 5 of this letter it reads, “The Service has recommended that wind energy projects be constructed at least three miles from the shoreline of the Great lakes to reduce this risk.” [to current wildlife]

This denial (or convenient memory lapse) by Mr. Phillips seems to be indicative of the way Apex Clean Energy deals with their public outreach.

For anyone interested in reading the entire five-page letter sent to Mr. Phillips by the USFWS with their concerns about Lighthouse Wind, click here and go to “Filed Documents,” No. 321, dated May 13, 2015.

Sincerely,

Christine Bronson

Barker

Government decisions on turbines, nursing homes don’t allow do-overs

Posted 1 February 2017 at 9:24 am

Editor:

In a previous letter, I described the twenty-something percent devaluation of a home that occurred in Cohocton once word of a wind turbine operation became public there. It was anecdotal, but not something I dreamed up. A realtor listing the sale in nearby Naples was my source.

Once you decide 600-foot-high wind turbines in Barre were not such a good idea after all, of what use will the Cohocton example be to you? Should you decide living in rural Orleans County is no longer what it used to be, and you wish to sell and move, moving may be the less painful part. Will those 550-foot-high turbines mean more potential buyers, or fewer? A better selling price for you, or the buyer?

Just as with the County Nursing Home, the visiting nurse certification, the Continuing Day Treatment Program, Arnold Gregory Hospital, the Behavioral Health Unit at Medina Hospital, the siting of Wal-Mart, or a new stone quarry adjacent to The Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in Shelby, once the decision is made, it is made—past tense.

Once a collection of towering wind turbines is okayed, it is over.  There will be no do-overs.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent

Albion