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Orleans County

Sales tax grew by $1 million for Orleans in 2017

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 February 2018 at 11:31 am

Sales tax revenues jumped by $1 million for Orleans County in 2017, up 6.45 percent from $15,287,529 to $16,273,192.

Statewide the year-over-year sales tax collection growth was up 3.9 percent, the biggest growth in the state since 2013, according to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

“This is welcome news for municipalities, as local revenues have been under significant pressure in recent years,” DiNapoli said. “As 2018 unfolds, local officials would be well advised to be cautious with respect to local budgets. As we know, collections are dependent on consumer spending, and the impact of new federal tax changes on this spending is the great unknown in this equation.”

The 57 counties outside New York City all experienced increases, except for Putnam County, but that was more due to a technical glitch adjustment, DiNapoli said.

The four GLOW counties all had sizable increases. Besides the additional $1 million and 6.45 percent for Orleans, Genesee up 4.44 percent from $37,040,250 to $38,683,226; Livingston, up 5.68 percent (from $30,167,806 to $31,880,449); and Wyoming, a big jump of 9.39 percent from $16,695,292 to $18,262,292.

DiNapoli said there was big growth statewide in the fourth quarter, mainly due to a significant upswing in retail sales during the holiday season.

He also said motor fuel prices have a directly measureable effect on local sales tax collections. In 2017, tax collections from the sale of motor fuel increased statewide for the first time since 2012.

In Orleans County, more than 90 percent of the local sales tax stays with the county government. The county shares $1,366,671 with the 10 towns and four villages. They have been frozen at that level since 2001.

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Task Force leader says 2018 off to ‘really bad start’ with drug overdoses

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 February 2018 at 3:29 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: Joe Sacco, supervising investigator for the Orleans County Major Felony Crimes Task Force, said heroin when mixed with fentanyl has proven deadly in Orleans County.

ALBION – So far in 2018, overdoses and deaths from drugs in Orleans County are outpacing the rate in 2017.

Last year there were 43 overdoses and 8 fatal drug overdoses, said Joe Sacco, the supervising investigator with the Orleans County Major Felony Crimes Task Force.

This year there have already been 8 overdoses and two fatalities. This time last year, there were two overdoses and one death from drugs, Sacco said.

“We’re off to a really bad start,” he told the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition this morning during a meeting at the Hoag Library in Albion.

Sacco has worked 32 years as a law enforcement officers, including the past 28 years as a drug investigator.

The drugs have changed from cocaine and marijuana early in his career to prescription pills, heroin and fentanyl now.

Many of the drug users get hooked on pain pills. When the prescriptions expire, they turn to heroin to feed the opiate addiction.

The heroin is often laced with fentanyl and that has been deadly. Sacco said 95 percent of the heroin and fentanyl in Orleans County comes from Rochester. A lethal batch of drugs from Rochester is often purchased by an Orleans County resident and shared with friends, resulting in multiple deaths.

“We are actively pursuing the source and supply of the heroin and fentanyl mixture,” Sacco told the coalition members.

The Task Force and other law enforcement agencies in Orleans County work with Rochester police and other departments outside Orleans. There is a mapping system to track where drugs are purchased and where there are overdoses.

“This is everybody’s problem and we’re trying to curb the supply of heroin and fentanyl to this area,” Sacco said. “We have a real problem.”

Sacco said heroin has become a big problem in Orleans County the past two to three years. Of the 43 overdoses last year, Narcan was used 27 times to revive someone in an overdose.

Joe Sacco addresses members of the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition this morning during a meeting at the Hoag Library in Albion.

When someone has an overdose, law enforcement will track recent numbers on cell phones to see where the drugs were likely purchased. The people who overdose often have needles hanging in their arms and bags of drugs right next to them.

Law enforcement will have those drugs analyzed at a lab, and typically it shows heroin and fentanyl.

“That’s what’s killing these folks, the mix,” Sacco said.

Some of the overdoses occur when someone gets out of jail. After being in jail and off drugs, a person’s tolerance is reduced. Sacco said some people will go back to using at levels they were before they went into jail and then they will often overdose.

Sheriff Randy Bower said he is pursuing having a portion of the jail be used as a detox center to help inmates better transition off drugs. He also wants a better system to hand off inmates to services and agencies that can help them from having a relapse.

Sacco said continued vigilance is needed by law enforcement and the community.

A new organization, Orleans Hope, is trying to break the stigma of drug addiction and urge users and their families to get help.

Orleans Hope will lead a program on March 15 at the Orleans County YMCA on Pearl Street in Medina. Orleans Hope will have professionals at the meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. to discuss warning signs for drug addiction.

Orleans Hope also has trained recovery coaches to assist users.

“Everyone needs to do their part,” Sacco said. “This thing is horrible.”

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Orleans EDA wants to create package for breweries and distilleries to locate in downtowns

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 February 2018 at 6:40 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: A crowd gathers in 810 Meadworks in September 2014 during an Ale in Autumn tasting event in Medina. The village updated its zoning to allow wineries, breweries, distilleries, cideries and meaderies to be allowed uses in the Downtown Historic District.

The Orleans Economic Development Agency sees the success of many microbreweries and distilleries in historic buildings in other communities.

In Batavia, the Eli Fish Brewing Company will open soon in a former Newberry’s building in the downtown.

In Wilson, the Woodcock Brothers Brewing Co. has become a big attraction in Wilson, Niagara County. Other projects in Western New York are emerging, including an effort to establish a microbrewery and restaurant in an old firehouse in Buffalo.

Orleans County already has a similar success story. 810 Meadworks opened in November 2014 in part of the historic Newell building on West Center Street. Bryan and LaRissa DeGraw operate the business out of space that was most recently a barber shop.

The DeGraws produce mead on site and have a tasting room. Meads are alcoholic drinks made by fermenting honey with water and often fruits, spices, grains and hops.

The Village of Medina had to change its zoning to allow onsite production in the historic district.

The Orleans EDA wants to encourage more similar-type processing facilities. Jim Whipple, chief executive officer of the EDA, said the historic buildings have proven ideal venues for the businesses.

810 Meadworks is located in part of the first floor at 113 West Center St., the R.H. Newell building.

The EDA wants to develop an incentive package for distilleries and micro-breweries, which can attract people to the downtowns, and give other businesses a boost.

The EDA also is willing to work with local governments on adopting zoning to encourage the projects. The EDA wants to partner with local officials to identify buildings for the breweries and distilleries and help to develop a marketing plan to attract potential developers for the businesses, Whipple said.

The agency’s board of directors discussed the issue during Friday’s monthly meeting. Right now the EDA is in the beginning stages. Whipple said he is hopeful other village and town leaders will show an interest in the initiative and work with the EDA.

Medina discussed the issue for several months before revising its zoning ordinance in June 2014. Medina’s zoning now allows for wineries and microbreweries in the historic district and the ordinance gives the village more oversight on the businesses.

The revised regulations state that wineries, breweries, distilleries, cideries and meaderies will all be allowed uses in the Downtown Historic District. The village doesn’t limit those businesses to the downtown. They are also be allowed in the General Business District as well as the Light Industrial and Industrial Zones.

The owners of the businesses will need to secure a Special Use Permit. That gives the village more say in the operations for odor, storage, noise and other issues.

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Most Orleans districts see gains in graduation rate

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 February 2018 at 11:43 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Lyndonville high school students have the highest graduation rate in Orleans County at 97 percent.

The graduation rates in Orleans County improved from 87 to 89 percent, according to data released on Wednesday by the State Education Department.

Lyndonville has the highest graduation rate at 97 percent for the Class of 2017 while Medina is the lowest at 84 percent.

State-wide, the graduation rate was 80.2 percent of the students in the Class of 2017. These are students who entered high school as freshmen in 2013 and completed the necessary coursework to graduate four years later. That was up by 0.5 percent from the 79.7 percent of students who entered high in 2012 and had four years to graduate with the Class of 2016.

In Orleans, the graduation rate improved to 89 percent. The percentage of students graduating with a Regents diploma with an advanced designation also increased from 28 percent to 36 percent. (Regents with advanced designation means at least 22 units of credit at 65 percent or higher in comprehensive English, three math courses, global history, U.S. history, science and a language other than English.)

The percentage of students who graduated with a Regents diploma decreased from 54 to 49 percent. (Keep in mind there was an increase in students attaining Regents with advanced designation.)

Other facts about Orleans students include:

• The percentage of graduates with a local diploma went from 5 to 4 percent.

• The dropout rate increased from 5 percent (24 out of 514 students) to 6 percent (26 out of 468).

• The number students in the cohort dropped from 514 in 2016 to 468

• Girls have a 90 percent graduation rate compared to boys at 88 percent for 2017.

• White students graduated at a 90 percent rate in 2017, while black students were at 84 percent and Hispanic students at 86 percent.

• Students who weren’t economically disadvantaged (223 out of the 468 students) graduated at a 93 percent rate while students considered economically disadvantaged (194 out of 468) graduated at an 85 percent rate.

A snapshot from each district in Orleans includes:

• Albion – Graduation rate stayed at 88 percent from 2016 (156 students) to 2017 (126 students). However, the percentage of students earning Regents with advanced designation increased from 38 to 45 percent. The percentage receiving Regents with distinction or Regents stayed at 85 percent, while the percentage of dropouts increased from 6 to 7 percent, or 9 students for both cohorts.

• Holley – Graduation rate increased from 89 percent in 2016 (93 students) to 91 percent (94 students in 2017). The percentage of students earning Regents with advanced designation increased from 22 to 24 percent, and Regents advanced and Regents is up from 80 to 84 percent. Holley’s dropout rate decreased from 5 to 2 percent.

• Kendall – The graduation rate decreased from 94 percent (71 students in 2016) to 90 percent (59 students in 2017). The percentage earning Regents with advanced designation increased from 35 to 41 percent. Students with Regents or Regents advanced dropped from 89 to 87 percent. The percentage of dropouts increased from 1 percent (1 students in 2016) to 5 percent (3 students in the 2017 cohort).

• Lyndonville – The graduation rate increased from 93 (44 students in 2016 cohort) to 97 percent (64 in 2017). The percentage earning Regents with advanced designation was up from 23 to 36 percent, and students with Regents or Regents advanced increased from 87 percent in 2016 to 95 percent. Lyndonville had two dropouts (5 percent) in 2016, compared to one dropout or 2 percent in 2017.

• Medina – Medina made progress with the 2017 cohort, increasing the graduation rate from 79 percent (150 students in 2016) to 84 percent (125 students with 2017 cohort). The percentage of grads attaining Regents with advanced designation jumped from 21 percent to 34 percent. The combined percentage of grads earning Regents and Regents advanced increased from 77 to 80 percent. The dropout rate increased from 5 percent (7 out of 150) to 9 percent (11 out of 125).

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Orleans awarded nearly $550K for 911 emergency system

Staff Reports Posted 7 February 2018 at 2:33 pm

Orleans County will be receiving nearly $550,000 in funding from the state for maintenance and upgrades to its 911 emergency communication system.

The county will receive $420,587 with a State Interoperable Communications Grant and $122,218 through the Public Safety Answering Points Grant.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the funding for counties throughout the state.

The State Interoperable Communications Grant will enable local governments to expand their ability to communicate, exchange valuable data, and streamline information to enhance collaboration and assist first responders. The State Interoperable Communications Grant contributed $45 million to local governments, and the Public Safety Answering Points Operations Grant contributed an additional $10 million to localities for a total of $55 million.

“In an emergency, every second counts and these funds will help ensure our first responders have access to the best and most up to date communications equipment, enabling them to get the information they need to quickly respond,” Governor Cuomo said. “These grants will bring up one step closer to a stronger, safer and more secure New York for all.”

• State Interoperable Communications Grant

The State Interoperable Communications Grant, administered by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, has awarded more than $300 million in six rounds to 57 counties and New York City.  The Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant is formula based and funded by cellular surcharge revenue. The program has allowed counties to make vital improvements in the way first responders can communicate between each other and different regions of the state using land mobile radio systems.

Each county and New York City can submit applications to fund projects involving infrastructure, equipment, and technology upgrades. The grant is administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Eligible counties can use this funding for a variety of functions, including expanding radio coverage by installing new equipment at towers and antenna sites, implementing Next Generation 911 technologies and standards, setting up communication channels among public safety radio systems, consolidating emergency services dispatch centers, supporting the operations of public safety dispatch centers, and deploying new technology that help counties link their systems together. Additionally, this funding will support training and exercises to promote efficient inter-regional communications, cooperation, and overall first responder readiness.

• The Public Safety Answering Points Grant

Additionally, $10 million has been awarded to counties across the state for county emergency call centers. Public safety facilities, known as PSAPs, receive incoming calls for help and initiate dispatching of emergency services. Throughout New York State, counties provide the majority of 911 answering and dispatching operations, and coordinate the services among municipal, county and state responders. The annual grant, also administered by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, allows for state reimbursement to counties for eligible public safety call-taking and dispatching expenses. All counties and the City of New York can apply to receive grant funds, and all chose to participate in the program this year.

The funds not only help county operators offset their day-to-day expenses, but also foster upgrades in call-taking and dispatching technology and make investments in new services such as text messaging, data communication and improved geo-location for emergency response.

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Walmart Foundation gives $1,500 towards K-9 at Sheriff’s Office

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 February 2018 at 3:17 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: A grant from the Walmart Foundation will pay for a bullet-proof vest for Otto, as well as some other expenses for the dog, including food and veterinary costs.

ALBION – The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office recently received approval for a community grant from Albion’s Walmart Supercenter for $1,500, Sheriff Randy Bower said.

In 2016, the Sheriff’s Office was able to obtain K-9 Otto after many donations from the community. Otto provides service and routine road patrol operations with Deputy Jeff Cole, as well as aiding school districts with their drug-free school zone surveillance.

The Walmart grant will be utilized to purchase additional training aids and equipment necessary to further advance the K-9 training program, Bower said. The Sheriff’s Office plans to use the grant to buy a canine bullet-proof vest with remainder of the funds slotted for food and unforeseen veterinarian expenses for Otto.

“We thank Walmart Foundation and Albion’s Walmart Supercenter for their generous donation, as well as the assistance of the many donations from our community,” Bower said.

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Governor seeks strong federal-state partnership to help protect Lake Ontario communities

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 February 2018 at 10:40 am

File photo: Residents and the National Guard work to put sandbags along the shoreline in Kendall this past May as high waters caused erosion and damage to the shoreline.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is pushing for a strong federal-state partnership to ensure the protection of flood-prone communities along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shoreline.

He sent a letter to Colonel Adam Czekanski, Buffalo district commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, requesting protections for 90 sites that are primarily along Lake Ontario or the St. Lawrence River.

Several of those sites – “identified advance measures locations” – are in Orleans County. They include the following privately owned sites:

• Yates – Smythe Lane, Petrie Lane, Pratt Lane, Peters Lane, Sunnycreast Lane and Lake Forest Road

• Carlton – Oak Orchard on the Lake, Knapp Shores and West Brighton Cliffe Drive

• Kendall – Lomond Shores, Banner Beach and Sunset Parkway

Identified advance measures locations at state parks include Oak Orchard State Marine Park in Carlton and the Lake Ontario State Parkway from Carlton to Rochester

Cuomo said the current water levels indicate “a serious threat for renewed coastal flooding in 2018.” The lake is about a foot above normal.

The state has provided $67 million to impacted New Yorkers, the governor said.

“We are taking every step to provide relief and help this beleaguered region recover,” he wrote in his letter. “But our resources are not inexhaustible.”

Federal funding through the Army Corps’ Advanced Measures program “is critical to the protection of the shoreline,” Cuomo said. He also is seeking a comprehensive assessment of the shoreline from the Army Corps, with a plan to how to best protect the land from future storms.

“This crisis will not simply recede with the water – we need a strong federal-state partnership to ensure the protection of our communities over the long term,” the governor wrote.

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State funds will allow county to buy new excavator

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 February 2018 at 12:41 pm

ALBION – Orleans County is using state funds from two pots of money to pay for a new $174,289 excavator for the highway department.

The county will use a $100,000 grant through the State and Municipal Facilities Capital Funding Program or SAM. State Sen. Rob Ortt has helped several local municipalities secure SAM grants for highway equipment, including $200,000 for Murray for a new dump truck, $100,00 for Carlton for a new plow truck, $154,000 for Barre for a plow truck, and $50,000 for the Town of Albion towards a plow truck.

The county will pay for the remainder of the $174,289 excavator by using $74,289 in CHIPS funds from the state through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program.

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Attorney tells Chamber crowd that more high-paying jobs in Orleans would solve many community issues

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 January 2018 at 11:37 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Nathan Pace, a Medina attorney and assistant public defender, served as moderator of last Friday’s Legislative Luncheon for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

GAINES – The average annual salary in Orleans County for private sector jobs is only $23,870. That is far too little for a family to make ends meet, said Nathan Pace, a Medina attorney who also works as an assistant public defender.

He represents many low-income residents in criminal cases. Pace said low-paying jobs keep families in poverty. They can’t make mortgage payments and there will be strain on a family due to the financial pressure, making it harder for them to stay together.

“We need to increase that number,” Pace said about the $23,870 average.

He served as moderator at Friday’s Legislative Luncheon organized by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce. About 85 people attended the event.

Pace said the county needs more manufacturing jobs that pay $40,000 to $80,000 a year. Those wages would allow families to pay their bills without undue worry.

Pace said he sees people in poverty turn to crime, looking for extra money or trying to cope with the extreme stress in their lives.

One local business leader said there are good-paying jobs available, but it’s difficult to find enough committed and qualified employees.

Hinspergers Poly Industries in Medina makes custom-made pool covers and other products. It has operated in Medina since 2002. Greg Budd, the plant manager, said the company had to turn away about 10-15 percent of its business last year because of workforce instability. The extra work was instead went to a Hinspergers plant in Canada.

“It’s frustrating,” Budd told the crowd at the Chamber event. “I could have grown more.”

The company has 65 positions in Medina but last year 116 people were on the payroll. That means 51 people were briefly with the company but didn’t stay, Budd said.

“It’s extremely difficult to find good and qualified workers,” he said. “It’s a critical issue. It’s the greatest challenge I have.”

Three state legislators attended the Legislative Luncheon and said New York has much more work to become business friendly, and to attract and retain jobs – as well as dependable workers.

Michael Norris and Steve Hawley are both Assembly members with portions of their districts in Orleans County.

Norris, R-Lockport, said he favors promoting vocational training. He wants to see local school districts direct more students to those programs. Norris said the state should also step up with its support of BOCES and vocational training.

“Job retention is one of the greatest issues we face,” Norris said. “I want to encourage the BOCES programs because these are good-paying jobs.”

State Assemblyman Michael Norris said he supports more investment in vocational training programs to help businesses have qualified employees. Others in the photo, from left, include Nathan Pace, moderator of the forum; Michael Kracker, deputy chief of staff for Congressman Chris Collins; and State Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

Norris and Hawley, R-Batavia, both decried the governor’s proposed $168 billion budget. They want to see more cuts, especially in the Medicaid program, which requires a contribution at the county level of about $8 million a year.

Hawley favors reduces business owners’ costs for workers’ compensation, for example. He wants to end the Scaffold law, which drives up insurance costs for businesses.

Rob Ortt, a state senator, was critical of the governor’s economic development efforts, which haven’t stopped the population exodus from upstate.

“If the jobs are here young people can stay here and raise families,” he said. “If they’re not, they won’t stay here.”

He said the governor has suggested eliminating tips for workers at restaurants and bars, and making them be paid at least minimum wage. Ortt said that would hurt the restaurants and bars, and also would result in lower pay for the workers who rely on tips.

“If people are leaving your state, there’s a reason,” Ortt said about the Cuomo initiatives. “There are better economic opportunities in other states.”

The legislators were asked what could be done to drive more economic development to the historic downtown business districts. Ortt noted the state has a Main Street grant program to help building owners with some renovations and upgrades. Albion, Holley and Medina have all received a Main Street grant in the past five years. Albion tried for a second Main Street grant the past two years but was rejected by the state.

Michael Kracker, the deputy chief of staff for Congressman Chris Collins, also said the recent tax reform passed by Congress and President Donald Trump is giving businesses more money for capital investments and to reward employees. Kracker called the tax reform, “a big accomplishment.”

He expects Congress will now turn to infrastructure and expanding high-speed Internet in rural areas, which he said are critical issues for businesses.

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New Legislature chairwoman says county pushing forward with several initiatives

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 January 2018 at 8:37 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, speaks during the Legislative Luncheon on Friday. About 85 people attended the event at Tillman’s Village Inn. The luncheon was organized by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

ALBION – The county is moving forward with several initiatives, including a $10 million expansion of the County Administration Building on Route 31.

Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, cited that project, as well as $5 million infrastructure work with roads, bridges and culverts as big efforts for the county government this year.

She spoke on Friday during a Legislative Luncheon organized by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

Johnson said the county has stepped up services, including adding a full-time tourism director, adding another full-time animal control officer, and working on a land bank with Niagara County, and also waterfront development plans along Lake Ontario and the Erie Canal. The county also took the lead with an upcoming study on the public water resources in the county, looking at village and town water infrastructure to see if there can be efficiencies in delivering the service.

The County Legislature last week also announced its plans to declare the opioid epidemic and its effect on the county “a public nuisance.” The Legislature also wants to establish a cost recovery procedure for the county’s expenditures incurred for services due to the epidemic. The county in September voted to join a growing number of municipalities in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for allegedly fueling an opioid crisis.

“We’ve taken the offensive,” Johnson said about opioid lawsuit.

The county will also continue to press for lower Lake Ontario water levels. Johnson has been a vocal critic of Plan 2014 approved in December 2016. She worries that the shoreline faces more flooding this year because the lake is 9 inches higher than a year ago, she said.

She also wants to see progress on high-speed Internet. Orleans and Niagara County have formed the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance with one of the main goals to expand broadband Internet in the two counties.

“Rural broadband is the number one priority for NORA,” she said. “We have not given up on that.”

Johnson said the county will take the case to Washington.

The county representatives were asked at the luncheon about the 22,000-square-foot addition planned for the County Administration Building and whether any sites were considered in the village.

Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer, said only the Arnold Gregory Office Complex on South Main Street would have been a possibility and that site is already nearly full. The county wouldn’t want to see that building come off the tax rolls, Nesbitt said.

The addition will accommodate the Public Health Department and Board of Elections, which are currently outside the village in space owned by Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC. Comprehensive acquired the nursing home and the neighboring public health building as part of the $7.8 million acquisition on Jan.1, 2015.

The county also has already been approved for a $3,682,748 state grant towards the addition and a $200,000 grant through State Sen. Robert Ortt’s office to help with the project.

“If we didn’t get those grants we probably wouldn’t have moved forward with the project,” Nesbitt said.

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