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Cobblestone Museum comes in second in contest among 7 heritage sites in WNY

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 April 2018 at 1:12 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Cobblestone Church on Route 104, just east of Route 98, is part of the Cobblestone Museum, a National Historic Landmark.

CHILDS – An online voting competition has ended with the Cobblestone Museum coming in second out of seven heritage sites in Western New York.

The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University had the most votes and will have a panel of experts visit the site and offer suggestions for reimagining how the site’s collections could be presented to the public.

The vote totals for the seven sites include: 3,644 for Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University; 1,259 for the Cobblestone Museum; 1,061 for Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester; 464 for Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site in Buffalo; 393 for Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda; 319 for Geneva Historical Society; and 279 for Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown.

“Thanks again to everyone who voted during the Creativity Incubator contest, the Cobblestone Museum posted today on its Facebook page. “The Cobblestone Museum came in second place behind St. Bonaventure University. Thank you for your show of support. The results are pretty amazing!”

The New York State Council on the Arts/Greater Hudson Heritage Network sponsored the “Heritage Network Creativity Incubator” program. The Incubator series was launched to assist museums and historical sites that are pressured from changing demographics, shrinking attendance, tightened budgets, increased competition, and exponential growth of technology and social media.

The Creativity Incubator includes workshop series led by the Museum Mavericks, who are some of the most creative thinkers in the field today. The winning museum or heritage site will have its collections or permanent installations re-imagined by the Museum Mavericks and session participants. The group will also explore the chosen site’s collections, discovering the amazing stories they hold and creating new ones.

“The end goal of the program is to open our eyes to the possibilities and encourage museums to think more imaginatively about the interpretation of their collections and the visitor experience,” according to the Incubator.

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Cobblestone Museum one of 7 WNY heritage sites in running for ‘Creativity Incubator’

Photos by Tom Rivers: A bride steps inside the Cobblestone Church during a wedding in July 2014.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 March 2018 at 9:13 pm

CHILDS – The Cobblestone Church is one of seven heritage sites in Western New York in the running to have a team of experts visit and make suggestions for interpretation and other ways to connect with visitors.

An online contest which determine which site will receive the expertise. The contest for the Heritage Network Creativity Incubator program runs until April 1. The Incubator is sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts/Greater Hudson Heritage Network.

The Cobblestone Museum is included with some prestigious sites in WNY, including the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda, Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site in Buffalo, Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, Geneva Historical Society and Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University.

(The Cobblestone Museum currently has the third most votes, behind the leader Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University and then the Memorial Art Gallery. Click here to vote.)

Doug Farley, the Cobblestone Museum director, said the contest has already help spread the word about the Cobblestone Museum, a National Historic Landmark in Gaines.

A Bible is displayed inside the Cobblestone Church, which was constructed in 1834, making it the oldest cobblestone church in North America.

The Incubator series was launched to assist museums and historical sites that are pressured from changing demographics, shrinking attendance, tightened budgets, increased competition, and exponential growth of technology and social media.

The Creativity Incubator includes workshop series led by the Museum Mavericks, who are some of the most creative thinkers in the field today.

The winning museum or heritage site will have its collections or permanent installations re-imagined by the Museum Mavericks and session participants. The group will also explore the chosen site’s collections, discovering the amazing stories they hold and creating new ones.

“The end goal of the program is to open our eyes to the possibilities and encourage museums to think more imaginatively about the interpretation of their collections and the visitor experience,” according to the Incubator.

The Cobblestone Museum also has a few seats left for a maple bus tour on Friday. Georgia Thomas of Medina is leading the tour to Merle’s Maple Farm in Attica and Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn in Angelica. For reservations call (585) 589-9013 or book online at cobblestonemuseum.org.

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Gaines will consider whether Zoning Board will continue to do Planning Board functions

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 February 2018 at 6:58 pm

GAINES – It was about six years ago when the Gaines Town Board voted to abolish the Planning Board and have the duties be shifted to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Carol Culhane was the newly elected town supervisor and eliminating the Planning Board was done at her first meeting on Jan. 2, 2012.

Now there is a new town supervisor in office and Joe Grube said he wants the Town Board to look at bringing back the Planning Board. Grube said some sections of the town ordinance reference the Planning Board, which currently doesn’t exist.

“Why do we only have one board when everyone else has two?” Grube said after the Town Board meeting last week.

Grube wants to hear feedback about the issue from an ad hoc committee that was formed about two years ago as part of the town’s efforts to update its comprehensive plan.

The Planning Board used to review building projects in the town while the Zoning Board of Appeals considered variances for projects that were too close to setback requirements or didn’t meet other standards.

Grube has already reversed one decision from the Culhane-led board. That board voted not to renew the contract of Doug Heath, who was the town’s longtime attorney. Culhane instead hired Andrew Meier of Medina. Grube, in his first meeting at town supervisor last month, appointed Heath as the town attorney.

The Town Board last week made a change to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Gerard Morrissey was appointed to a five-year term, replacing Ray Burke, who was a staunch Culhane supporter. Burke was instead appointed to be an alternative on the board. The Town Board also reappointed Jim Navarra to an alternate on the ZBA for another five-year term.

In other action:

• The board approved a $500 contribution to the Metro 10 race on Aug. 18 in Albion. That race pits runners from Rochester and Buffalo. They run 5 or 10 miles. A biking component may also be added to this year’s race, which is in its fourth year.

“The race goes through Gaines,” Grube said. “It brings a lot of people to town.”

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Gaines reaches 3-year contract with highway union

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 February 2018 at 9:53 am

2 motor equipment operators will now pay 20% towards health insurance

GAINES – The Town Board on Monday approved a three-year contract with the union representing two full-time motor equipment operators in the Highway Department.

The workers’ contract expired after 2016 but was extended in 2017. The new three-year agreement includes a five-step pay scale for the first time.

It also requires the workers to pay 20 percent of the costs for health insurance.

The contract also increases the probationary time for new hires from 26 weeks to 52 weeks. That will give the board more time to evaluate a new employee’s work performance, said Town Supervisor Joe Grube. Someone hired in March might not plow snow during a six-month probation. The year-long probation will give a chance to evaluate an employee on the full scale of work in the job, Grube said.

The town also is capping its maximum contribution for health insurance at $12,000 annually for full-time highway employees hired in the future. That $12,000 cap doesn’t include the two current workers.

With the new five-step pay scale, a new hire would earn 80 percent of a motor equipment operator with at least five years of experience. The employees would be paid at the same rate after five years, after all five steps are reached, according to the new contract.

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Richard DeCarlo resigns from Gaines Town Board

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 February 2018 at 9:18 am

Richard DeCarlo

GAINES – Richard DeCarlo on Monday resigned from the Town Board, citing personal reasons.

DeCarlo previously was on the board as town supervisor. He returned as a Gaines elected official on Jan. 1, 2016, after being elected to a four-year term as councilman in November 2015.

Town Supervisor Joe Grube said he expects the Town Board will fill the vacancy soon. He wants to check with the Board of Elections about the procedure for making an appointment.

DeCarlo leaves nearly two years on the term. The person appointed would be named for the remainder of this year. The final year will be up for election this November.

As town supervisor, DeCarlo led the town through several water district expansions. A retired industrial arts teacher from Churchville-Chili, DeCarlo also started and developed Heritage Estates, which has 163 units off Brown Road in the Village of Albion.

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Fire destroys Gaines house on Route 104

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 January 2018 at 2:06 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – A fire broke out in a Gaines home on Route 104 just after noon today.

Firefighters were dispatched to a house owned by Timothy Ausman at 14713 Ridge Rd. Ausman didn’t live in the house. He rented it out. The house is on the north side of the road, just east of the Cobblestone Museum.

Several fire departments responded to the scene and had to fight temperatures in the teens and snow.

A firefighter stretches a hose to get near the back part of the house that was on fire.

Darryl Szklany of the Albion Fire Department was among the firefighters who responded to the fire.

Fire investigators are at the scene. No additional information is available.

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New Gaines supervisor makes changes at Town Hall

Provided photos: Joe Grube takes the oath of office on Tuesday as the new Gaines town supervisor. Susan Heard, the town clerk, holds The Bible while Karen Lake-Maynard, the Orleans County Clerk, administers the oath.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 January 2018 at 9:15 am

Grube and Town Board appoint new historian, attorney

GAINES – New Gaines Town Supervisor Joe Grube and the Town Board started a new year at Town Hall by making a change with the town historian and attorney.

Al Capurso has been replaced as town historian by Adrienne Kirby. She is the daughter of Bill Lattin, the retired Orleans County historian and former director of the Cobblestone Museum.

Grube and the Town Board also brought back Doug Heath as town attorney. He wasn’t reappointed to the job when Carol Culhane started as town supervisor six years ago. She picked Andrew Meier of Medina to serve as town attorney. Heath, a Holley resident, had been in the role for many years.

Tuesday was a day of ushering in some changes at Town Hall. Grube took the oath of office, and so did Town Clerk Susan Heard and Town Councilman Tyler Allport, who were both elected in November.

Susan Heard, who just retired as Orleans County treasurer, takes the oath as Gaines town clerk. Doug Heath holds The Bible.

The board held an organizational meeting on Tuesday evening. The board agreed to change the monthly meeting date from the second Tuesday to the second Monday at 7 p.m. That will better accommodate the schedule for Grube and Heath, who also serves as Carlton’s town attorney. Carlton meets the second Tuesday each month.

The board on Tuesday also made a change to code of ethics for the town’s elected and appointed officials. The previous policy didn’t allow for serving on the Republican or Democratic committees. The policy was changed to allow officials to also serve on the committees. Grube said the other towns allow elected and appointed officials to be on political committees. In small towns it’s difficult to find people who are active and interested in political parties and for many of the town positions, Grube said.

Tyler Allport takes the oath while his father, County Legislator Don Allport, holds The Bible.

The board approved 2 percent raises for the town employees for 2018, except for the two part-time motor equipment operators in the highway department. They were paid $16.46 an hour in 2017, without any benefits. Ron Mannella, the highway superintendent, said that was by far the lowest among the towns in Orleans County. The part-time rates ranged from $18 in Albion to $19 in Murray and Yates. Some towns don’t have part-time staff.

Gaines agreed to raise the pay by 8.6 percent to $18 an hour. Mannella said the two part-timers are critical to the highway operation and they are less costly than full-timers, who are paid about $22 an hour with benefits and vacation.

One part-timer drives a plow truck during the winter and the other starts around Memorial Day, mowing and doing other jobs for the highway department.

Mannella said the two work about 2,000 hours combined a year. The pay increase will cost about $3,000 more over the year which Mannella said can be absorbed in the highway budget.

Two positions remain open in the town. The Town Board has accepted applications for a vacant water billing clerk and vacant secretary for the Zoning Board of Appeals. Grube said the town wants to fill those spots soon.

Bruce Schmidt takes the oath as town justice. He has served in the role for eight years and is starting a new four-year term.

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Gaines celebrates Town Hall improvements

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 December 2017 at 12:19 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Gaines Town Hall has new siding, a front enclosure and handicapped accessibility ramp and door on the front of the building.

GAINES – Town officials were joined by State Sen. Robert Ortt this morning in celebrating a series of improvements to the Town Hall that will improve the security and energy efficiency of the building on Route 104.

Photo from Town of Gaines: Here is how the Town Hall looked before the front enclosure and new siding.

Ortt secured a $75,000 state grant that covered most of the recent improvements – new insulation, siding, windows and doors, an enclosed front entrance, and a handicapped accessibility ramp and door on the front side of the building.

The funding came through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. (The grant was applied through the the State and Municipal Facilities Capital Funding Program or SAM.)

“We get a certain amount of money every year and we have to fight for it,” Ortt said about the funds for municipal projects.

He supports the program because it allows municipalities to tackle needed projects without burdening the local taxpayer. Many of the projects, such as town hall improvements, would be difficult to do with the state funding due to the state-imposed tax cap, which limits local tax increases to about 2 percent.

“It’s always tough on the local level to set aside tax dollars to fix up your town hall because there are so many other things we have to spend money on,” said Ortt, a former mayor of North Tonawanda.

Klips Construction submitted the low bid of $83,445 for the town hall improvements.

State Sen. Robert Ortt and Town Supervisor Carol Culhane cut the ribbon on the town hall upgrade.

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Gaines will have ribbon-cutting on Monday for Town Hall improvements

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 December 2017 at 9:32 am

GAINES – The Town of Gaines will celebrate a series of Town Hall improvements at 10 a.m. Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

State Sen. Rob Ortt is scheduled to attend the event. Ortt secured a $75,000 state grant that covered most of the recent improvements – new insulation, siding, windows and doors, which all improve the energy efficiency in the building.

Klips Construction did the work after submitting the low bid of $83,445. That included a handicapped accessibility ramp and door on the front of the building. Klips also added a front enclosure by the main entrance of the Town Hall on Ridge Road.

The town in recent years also improved security of the building through funding from the state Justice Court Assistance Program (JCAP).

The public is welcome to attend the ribbon cutting on Monday.

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Gaines approves variance for Preston’s Country Market on Ridge Road

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 November 2017 at 3:35 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: The former Rocking R Ranch on Ridge Road is pictured last month.

GAINES – The Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance and permit for Preston’s Country Market to open a seasonal business on Ridge Road at the former Rocking R Ranch, 14877 Ridge Rd.

The Gaines board met last week and approved the project after the Orleans County Planning Board had recommended it be denied last month. Gaines needed a super-majority vote for the project to move forward.

The County Planning Board recommended denial of the project because the residential-agricultural zoning doesn’t allow a “seasonal tourist business.”

The Gaines board approved a variance and permit, as well as the site plan and subdivision of the property.

Marie Preston intends to sell nursery stock, garden stock, flowers and locally grown fruit and vegetables from the family-owned orchard and farm. Preston also said she would have gift shop items that were nature related, such as birdhouses. She would like to have a U-pick pumpkin patch and sell baked goods, soups, sandwiches and hamburgers.

Her sons, Jim and Aaron Preston, run Preston’s Lawn Care & Landscaping, which is based on Zig Zag Road.

Preston’s Country Market expects to open in mid-April, depending on the weather, with a grand opening the first weekend in May.

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