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Orleans County

State legislators fail to pass sales tax extender for Orleans, putting $4 million in jeopardy

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 June 2017 at 8:39 am

State legislators adjourned the 2017 legislative session in Albany on Thursday without approving sales tax extenders for 53 counties, including Orleans.

The extender allows the counties to receive 4 cents per taxable dollar instead of 3 cents. (The state gets 4 cents.)

Orleans County uses that extra penny to raise about $3.85 million in revenue to fund county government services and take some pressure off property taxes. Orleans receives about $15.5 million in sales tax annually, and about $1.3 million is shared with the 10 towns and four villages in the county.

The county needs the state’s permission every two years to collect the extra penny in sales tax. It is usually a routine vote with no drama.

The sales tax extenders are being used as a bargaining chip as the Assembly tries to pressure the Senate to back mayoral control over New York City schools, the New York State Association of Counties said.

“We acknowledge the nature of today’s political environment that is focused on leveraging powerful interests against each other, but the consequences of this inaction reveal the state’s lack of understanding of how other levels of government operate in New York, and is an affront to the State Constitutional Home Rule authority intended to protect the unique needs of our communities,” NYSAC President William E. Cherry said in a statement on Thursday.

NYSAC is calling on state legislators to return to Albany and pass the sales tax extenders, or else the local governments will be deprived of $1.8 billion in revenue.

The counties are already working on their budgets for 2018.

“Prolonged inaction by the state will inject grave uncertainty in the budget-making process for counties and their property taxpayers across the state,” Cherry said.

Without action from the state legislators, Cherry said counties will face “dramatic increases in local property taxes.” The local government leaders will also be forced to cut programs and eliminate services, he said.

“Combating the opioid crisis, reforming public defense services, raising the age, maintaining local infrastructure, and providing Meals on Wheels to seniors are among the many local programs that will impacted by the state’s inaction,” he said.

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$10K-$15K grants give several small businesses a chance to upgrade equipment

Photos by Tom Rivers: Kustom Kreations in Medina used a $10,000 grant through the Orleans Economic Development Agency to add a four-color press, and upgrade its oven and also graphics software. The business is owned by Kevin and Patty Gursslin. They are pictured with their son-in-law, Dave Holmes.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 June 2017 at 11:04 am

The Orleans Economic Development Agency has given several small business owners a chance to upgrade equipment through a state grant.

The Orleans EDA received a state grant to assist small businesses about two years. The local agency has awarded 11 grants from $10,000 to $15,000 for $135,000 total.

All of the grant recipients needed to complete the 10-week small business training program – the Microenterprise Assistance Program – run by the EDA.

The EDA set a $10,000 maximum for existing businesses and $15,000 for new enterprises.

“This has been the best part of my job, getting them funding,” said Diana Blanchard, the MAP coordinator who has been overseeing the grant program. “It’s been very rewarding because there is so little help for small businesses.”

The EDA has used up the funds for the grants. It initially expected it had $100,000 for grants, but was able to push it to $135,000 total.

Kevin Gursslin was able to use $10,000 for Kustom Kreations, which does screen printing for T-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets, and other products.

Gursslin, owner of the business with his wife Patty, upgraded his graphics software, the oven to dry the printing, and added a 4-color press.

Kevin Gursslin and Dave Holmes use the 4-color press for a shirt for a customer in Hamlin.

Gursslin graduated from MAP about 15 years ago when he opened Orleans Outdoor in downtown Medina. He has shifted the focus of the business from sporting goods to printing – and changed the name to Kustom Kreations.

Gursslin has “endured the highs and lows of the economy,” with the toughest challenge the disruption caused by the Main Street road reconstruction about a decade ago.

“We’ve found ways to keep moving,” he said.

The business added sublimation printing three years ago and now “a ton of coffee mugs” and mouse pads.

Gursslin said the EDA grant takes some financial pressure off the business so it could upgrade and continue to serve customers.

Blanchard said Gursslin has proven himself in the 15 years of running the business, showing he is willing to adapt and serve his customers.

“Kevin has worked so hard,” Blanchard said.

Provided photo: Kylie Hughson opened Tease about a year ago on East Bank Street in Albion.

The EDA also approved a $15,000 for Kylie Hughson, who opened a hair salon, Tease, on East Bank Street.

Hughson, 28, said the grant allowed her to speed up her business goals. She was able to purchase three stations with cabinets and chairs. The grant also paid for a reception desk, computer, printer, and products and inventory so Hughson could expand beyond hair services to pedicures and spray tans.

Hughson is looking to hire a nail technician. She also used her own funds to put in tanning bed.

She said her business is much farther along than she expected when she opened about a year ago.

“It’s definitely helped my business,” Hughson said. “I’ve grown a lot in the past year. I have a lot more to offer.”

Other businesses that received EDA grants include:

• The Shirt Factory Café, $10,000

• Sugar’s Shears for the Sweetest Pets, $15,000

• Cobble Ridge Co-Op,  $10,000

• Sue the Sew it All,  $10,000

• Make It Take It Experiences, $15,000

• 810 Meadworks, $10,000

• The Missing Peace, $10,000

• Holley Bottle and Can Return, $15,000

• Preston’s Farms, $15,000

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Orleans, NY counties fear big tax increase over ‘unconscionable’ inaction at state with sales tax extension

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 June 2017 at 6:51 am

ALBION – Orleans County stands to lose nearly $4 million in tax revenue if the State Legislature fails to extends the 4 percent county share with sales tax in Orleans.

The matter, normally a routine extension every two years, is held up in the State Assembly, which is trying using the extenders in 53 counties as a bargaining chip for the State Senate to allow mayoral control of New York City schools.

“It’s a very real problem,” said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer. “It’s unconscionable.”

The county receives 4 cents for every taxable dollar. (New York also gets 4 cents for every taxable dollar.) Orleans used to be 3 cents. To get the extra penny, the county needs Albany approval every two years.

That extra penny in sales tax accounts for about $3.85 million in revenue. County officials are worried because the state legislative session is winding down this week, and still no action with sales tax.

If the State Legislature fails to approve the 4-cent rate, Orleans property tax owners would face a $2.25 increase in the tax rate in 2018, or an additional $225 for a house assessed at $100,000, Nesbitt said.

The New York State Association of Counties said inaction at the state would leave a $1.8 billion budget hole for the 53 counties that need the sales tax extender.

“County budgets, which will be developed over the course of the next two to three months, have to account for the loss of these revenues,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. “We use property taxes and sales taxes to fund state mandates and local programs. If lawmakers leave the Capitol this week without extending sales tax authority, then there will be a $1.8 billion hole, which would have to be filled with property taxes. Additionally, over of the $1.8 billion in revenue, $400 million is shared with hundreds of other local governments.”

The extra penny in sales tax is needed to fund state-mandated programs, such as Medicaid, and to help ease pressure on property taxes, NYSAC officials said.

“In one fell swoop State Leaders could undo everything that has been done in the past ten years to curtail property tax increases,” said NYSAC President William E. Cherry, the Schoharie County treasurer. “We need lawmakers to act before the end of this week. If they do not, then program cuts, staff layoffs, and property tax increases are a direct result of their inaction.”

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Big game hunting bill in Orleans, Genesee passes Assembly

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 June 2017 at 1:33 pm

Photo from Assemblyman Hawley’s Office: This photo shows the Assembly voting board announcing a hunting bill in Orleans County is currently up for a vote.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) announced the passage of a bill authorizing residents in Orleans and Genesee counties to hunt big game from Nov. 15 till Dec. 7.

The bill allows residents to hunt using pistols, shotguns, muzzle loaded firearms, long bows, crossbows or rifles.

“Hunting is an important part of our history, it is how our forefathers survived and provided for their families,” said Hawley. “As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I am proud to announce that citizens of Orleans and Genesee counties will be able to continue this centuries-old tradition that is such a huge part of our Western New York culture. As a proud outdoorsman myself, I will continue to work tirelessly to protect our constitutional rights from special interests attempting to restrict them. The passage of this bill is a step in the right direction toward maintaining our freedom and right to own firearms.”

The Orleans County Legislature on Feb. 22 voted to allow rifles for deer and bear hunting.

Members of sportsmen clubs attended Legislature meetings in December and January, asking the county to support rifles for big game hunting. (Rifles have been allowed for small game, such as woodchucks, foxes, crows and coyotes.) The sportsmen presented a petition signed by about 500 people, supporting rifles.

The county resolution needs approval from the state before the law is enacted.

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Democrats endorse 2 for County Legislature

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 June 2017 at 2:25 pm

The Orleans County Democrats have endorsed two candidates for the County Legislature. Incumbent Fred Miller is backed for another two-year term and Al Capurso has been endorsed to run against Don Allport, a Republican in a countywide position.

Miller is seeking a third term. He is the lone Democrat on the seven-member Legislature. Republicans didn’t endorse a candidate to run against Miler, owner of a hardware store in downtown Albion.

“I think Fred has done a good job,” said Jeanne Crane, chairwoman of the Orleans County Democratic Party. “It is rather difficult to be the only on the Legislature who is a Democrat. He is well liked. He is a businessman. He is kind and he does a good job.”

Democrats have backed Capurso, a retired social worker and the current Gaines town historian.

Capurso ran a bait and tackle shop for many years by his Route 279 residence. He has been active in many heritage preservation projects recently, erecting historical markers and working to save old buildings.

“Al has some very good ideas,” Crane said.

The Democrats are working on their platform for county issues. Crane said the party will be active in getting that message across for the November election.

“In all of the towns there seems to be discontent,” she said. “This is a year we need to shine.”

She welcomed others interested in running as a Democrat to give her a call at (585) 737-6903.

Republicans have endorsed Skip Draper, the Shelby town supervisor, to fill a countywide seat that will be vacated by the retiring David Callard. That legislator needs to live in the western end of the county.

The five other Republican incumbents have all been endorsed for new two-year terms, including Lynne Johnson of Lyndonville (District that includes Yates, Ridgeway and portion of Shelby), Bill Eick of Shelby (District that includes most of Shelby, and Barre and Clarendon), John DeFillipps of Clarendon (countywide position from east end), Ken DeRoller of Kendall (District that includes Murray, Kendall and Carlton) and Don Allport of Gaines (countywide position from central Orleans.)

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County will replace several culverts, bridges

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 June 2017 at 9:23 am

Orleans County is continuing its efforts to upgrade the infrastructure in the county. After replacing several culverts and bridges annually the recent years, the county has more projects lined up.

This year, the county will replace two culverts on Platten Road in Yates at a total cost $885,173.

The county also is replacing a bridge on Culvert Road for $751,500 and the Marshall Road bridge for $1,285,800.

These projects are being funded with an $8 million bond the county took out in 2014 for a series of infrastructure projects over three years. This is the last year for those projects as part of the bond.

The state has made more bridge and culvert money available for municipalities with the Bridge NY program. The county has four projects identified for 2018 with the state program, which pays for 95 percent of the bridge costs and 100 percent of the culverts. The county is working with firms for the engineering work for a culvert on South Holley Road, a bridge replacement on Portage Road, a bridge replacement on the Monroe-Orleans County Road, and four other bridge rehab projects. All of those are expected to be complete in 2018, said Jerry Gray, the county highway superintendent.

The county also is working with the Genesee Transportation Council in Rochester for six preventative maintenance projects in Orleans County. The GTC is directing funding for the following: $460,000 for six bridges for preventative maintenance; $362,000 for maintenance of East Oak Orchard bridge in Medina; $484,000 for maintenance of Lakeside Road bridge in Carlton. Those projects are planned for 2018-19.

Gray said the state may have another funding round for the bridge program this year. He expects the county will submit proposals for additional bridge and culvert work if the state makes the program available again this year.

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Orleans looks to establish leadership program

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 May 2017 at 4:21 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Darien Town Justice Gary Graber and Kelly Kiebala, the county’s Job Development director, both spoke to the Orleans County Legislature last week about establishing a Leadership Orleans program. They are both graduates of Leadership Genesee.

ALBION – A new program is expected to start next year to help encourage and train a new crop of leaders in Orleans County.

The “Leadership Orleans” program would run for a year with members of the group meeting monthly on the third Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about the agencies and different sectors of the community, from local government, cultural organizations, volunteerism, community health, tourism and recreation, agribusiness, education and economic and workforce development.

“A community needs leaders,” said Kelly Kiebala, the Orleans County Job Development director.

She is helping to get the new Leadership Orleans effort off the ground. She graduated from the Leadership Genesee program in 2010 when she worked in Genesee County with the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council.

The Genesee program, led by Paggy Marone, is helping to get the Orleans program started. Kiebala said Orleans should have a part-time or full-time director.

She addressed the Orleans County Legislature last week. She said the program will focus on civic responsibility and community stewardship.

She said nearly all counties in Western New York have leadership programs. In Genesee County, more than 300 people have graduated from the program.

“It brings things out of you that you didn’t know you had,” said Gary Graber, a Darien town justice and leadership Genesee graduate. “It changed my life in a certain way.”

Graber said the program helped him to tap and hone skills. After Leadership Genesee he went on to serve as president of the New York Magistrates Association.

Participants in Leadership Orleans will likely pay a tuition, which could range from $750 to $1,500, depending on the size of the class.

The program wants to draw from a cross section of the community, including business, labor, education, arts, religion, government, community-based, ethnic and minority groups.

Leadership Orleans is looking for people to share their expertise and engage in “courageous conversations.”

The program will be open to adults at least 18 years old. They should be open be flexible and adaptable, open to different roles, including a student, beginner, learner, organizer, director, boss, volunteer, teacher and “servant leader.”

Leadership Orleans will begin a public push in July with applications for the first class available on Aug. 1.

Besides Kiebala, the Leadership Orleans program was developed by the following committee members: Laura Bentley, co-owner of Bentley Brothers and graduate of LEAD NY; Diana Fox, assistant clinic coordinator for Orleans County Mental Health and graduate of Leadership Genesee in 2002; Gary Graber, Darien Town Justice, terminal manager for Teal’s Express and Leadership Genesee graduate in 2005;

Chuck Hoover, sales and marketing for Batavia Turf/CY Farms and Leadership Genesee graduate in 2013; Kim Pritt, retired Albion resident who was part of Leadership Sanford, North Carolina; Thad Thompson, golf course superintendent for Terry Hills and LG grad in 2013; Patrick Weissend, vice president and branch manager for Bank of Castile and LG grad in 2002; and Peggy Marone, director of Leadership Genesee and LG grad in 2002.

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Orleans County Mental Health director honored for efforts to expand services

Photo by Tom Rivers: Mark O’Brien has been director of mental health and community services at Orleans County Department of Mental Health the past four years.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 May 2017 at 12:24 pm

ALBION – The director of the Orleans County Department of Mental Health was honored last week for his efforts to work with other agencies and expand mental health services in Orleans County.

Mark O’Brien, the county’s Mental Health director since April 2013, received the Constance Miller Award from the Mental Health Association of Genesee & Orleans. The award is named in honor of the founder of the MHA in 1993.

“We want to recognize people working promote mental wellness in the community,” said Scott Wilson, vice president of the MHA board of directors.

Wilson is also the Orleans County Jail superintendent. He has seen O’Brien work with many local agencies in the community to expand mental health services, including at the jail.

The Mental Health Department has two clinicians working at the jail, which has reduced psychotropic medication and suicide attempts, Wilson said.

O’Brien also has worked with all five Orleans County school districts to establish satellite clinics in the schools where county mental health therapists work with students.

He also is pursuing partnerships with the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Orleans Community Health and Oak Orchard Health to have mental health staff at their sites.

O’Brien said the Mental Health Department could expand to 15 satellite locations if all the partnerships move forward.

With the school districts, O’Brien said he heard of two other counties that had success with therapists in schools. He presented the option to local school superintendents, and all five have supported the service, including summer hours when school is out of session. O’Brien said having mental health staff in schools reduces the transportation barrier and is less disruptive to a student’s school day because they only have to walk down the hall for an appointment, rather than travelling to Albion for an appointment at the Mental Health Department.

He also supports having mental health staff at GCASA, and the healthcare facilities.

“It’s making mental health services more accessible to the community and reducing the stigma because they are not going to a classified mental health building,” he said.

He also has worked to make county mental health building more accessible to the public by having open access where people don’t need an appointment to be served during regular business hours.

O’Brien also has been influential with the Mental Health Association, helping the agencies in Orleans and Genesee to merge, and the newly merged group to open an office in Albion at the Arnold Gregory Office Complex, 243 South Main St.

“He’s done a lot for the MHA,” said Scott Wilson, the board vice president.

O’Brien said the MHA is a “great partner” for the Mental Health Department. His agency provides treatment, while the MHA provides important peer support and a drop-in center.

He thanked the County Legislature for supporting the efforts for the agencies to work together and expand mental health services for the community.

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Orleans urged to change fireworks law and allow ‘sparkling devices’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 May 2017 at 9:49 am

ALBION – Orleans County remains a holdout in changing its fireworks law to make it legal for residents to let off “sparkling devices” – ground-based fireworks that spew sparks, colored smoke or crackling noises.

More than 40 of New York’s 62 counties have changed the law since New York state gave counties the option in 2014 for sparkling devices.

The County Legislature on Wednesday was asked by TNT Fireworks, based in Alabama, to change the local law.

“Just over 40 counties have opted in for sparkling devices,” said Matthew Jones, an attorney for TNT.

Most of Western New York allows sparkling devices. Niagara County is the top-selling county for TNT in the state, Jones said.

Right now there is a “patchwork of laws” in New York, which makes it difficult for law enforcement, he said.

Orleans County residents, for example, could buy sparkling devices in Niagara County, but it would be illegal to set them off in Orleans County.

The sparkling devices raise sales tax revenue for counties, and also can be used for fundraising options in a program through TNT.

Because TNT already sells its products at WalMart and other well-known stores, Jones said the company could quickly have its sparkling devices available in Orleans County if the Legislature allows the items.

Lynne Johnson, vice chairwoman of the County Legislature, said she wants to first hear from the local fire departments and Public Safety Committee before the Legislature votes on the issue.

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Orleans Leg calls on Trump to fire current IJC members who control lake levels

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 May 2017 at 8:20 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson speaks during the news conference at Point Breeze on July 2, 2014, when local officials and Congressman Chris Collins spoke out against a new plan for regulating Lake Ontario water levels. The following week she travelled to Washington, D.C. to speak with State Department officials about Plan 2014 and its potential havoc on the southshore counties. Her concerns about the lake level plan are coming true as the shoreline is eaten away by erosion. “This is definitely one of those, ‘Told you so’s,'” she said on Wednesday.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature is calling on President Trump to fire the current U.S. commissioners who serve on the International Joint Commission, the binational group that regulates Lake Ontario water levels.

The IJC pushed a new lake level plan through the Canadian and US governments. Former President Obama approved the plan near the end of his administration.

The southshore counties, including Orleans, railed against the plan for several years, with Orleans legislators travelling to Washington D.C. to voice their concerns to the State Department that property would be flooded and eroded from a higher Lake Ontario.

“We told them it would harm us,” said Lynne Johnson, vice chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature. “The International Joint Commission has failed us and they failed all the southshore counties along the lake.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for the southshore counties, now in its 36th day due to flooding and erosion. More than 135,000 sandbags have been distributed in Kendall, Carlton and Yates to help property owners stave off some of the flooding and erosion.

Many property owners have lost 10 feet or more of land to the lake, which is creeping closer to homes.

“I think we’re in for a long haul,” said Dale Banker, the county’s emergency management director.

Ken DeRoller, speaking on Wednesday, said the new lake level plan has been harmful to property owners on the southshore of the lake.

He told county legislators on Wednesday that Kendall, Carlton and Yates highway departments would each have 5,000 more sandbags available for residents this weekend. The lakeshore remains under a flood warning today.

The County Legislature on Wednesday passed an official resolution calling on President Trump to rescind “Plan 2014” and appoint new IJC commissioners. Plan 2014 was called “an absolute disaster” for Orleans County, legislators said in the resolution.

The Legislature wants the three U.S. and three Canadian commissioners on the IJC to all resign. The Legislature also wants Congress to hold hearings on the IJC’s culpability “in a manmade disaster on a financial scale comparable with the contamination of the Flint, Michigan, water supply.”

County Legislator Ken DeRoller, R-Kendall, moved the resolution.

“The changed the rules of the game for lake levels,” DeRoller said. “We are asking for aggressive actions from the president to appoint new members to the board.”

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