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Orleans County

Extension will use state funds for performance stage at fairgrounds

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 February 2017 at 7:40 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers: Rich Nolan performs “Eight Second Ride” during the karaoke finals on July 30, 2015. The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County wants to have a permanent stage at the fairgrounds, with the stage also available as an outdoor classroom for master gardeners and agricultural specialists.

KNOWLESVILLE – The Cornell Cooperative Extension has decided on the main project for a $96,000 state grant to be used to boost the fairgrounds.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month announced each county fair would receive an $89,285 grant for a capital project. That grant increased to $96,000 once the paperwork arrived, said Robert Batt, a 4-H educator.

A committee at the Extension wants to put most of the money into upgrading a performance stage at the Curtis Pavilion.

That stage could be used during the week-long 4-H Fair for dancers, bands and other activities. It also could serve as an outdoor classroom for the master gardeners and agricultural specialists at other times of the year, Batt said today.

The Extension would like to have a 40-foot-wide stage that is 30 feet deep. The project would also include a separate area that could be used as a changing room or a spot to prep materials for educational presentations, Batt said.

The new performance stage would spare the Extension from having to pay $2,000 each fair for a temporary stage with a large tent. That $2,000 could instead be put towards programming at the fair, he said.

The Extension also would like to install a sound system for the Curtis Pavilion if there is enough money in the grant.

If there is additional money left after the stage project, Batt said the Extension would also like to install a new wash rack for horses. Right now, 4-H kids wash their horses in the grass, which becomes muddy as fair week stretches on. Ideally, the horses would have a wash rack like the new one with a concrete base that was installed for cattle last year. That cost about $15,000, Batt said.

The state is making the grants available to all the county fairs in the state, hoping the capital improvements can help the local fairs better showcase local agriculture.

The performance stage met the criteria by the state because the stage will also serve as an outdoor classroom for agriculture specialists and master gardeners, Batt said.

“These investments will help these fairs attract more visitors, raise the profile of local vendors and businesses, and help spur economic growth across New York,” Cuomo said last month when he announced the grants.

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New 4-H road signs coming to Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 February 2017 at 6:03 pm

Provided photo

KNOWLESVILLE – Joe Sidonio of Murray holds one of the new 4-H signs he paid for and donated to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County.

Sidonio donated seven road signs. Five will replace existing signs – one of Route 98, and two each on Route 31 and Route 104. The Extension would like to have two signs installed on Route 31A at the entrance of Orleans County by the Monroe County line and the Niagara County line.

“Several of the signs are rusted to the point where they are barely legible,” said Robert Batt, 4-H educator.

Sidonio donated the the signs to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 4-H program. His wife Amy Machamer is a former board member for the local Extension and their daughter, Amelia, has been a 4-H member for several years.

Batt said the new signs should go up in the spring. The five that will replace existing signs should be an easy swap, but the two planned for 31A will require a permit from the state Department of Transportation. If that permit is difficult to obtain, Batt said the signs planned for 31A may be installed at the 4-H Fairgrounds at Knowlesville.

“We just think it’s a good way to showcase that there is a strong and vibrant 4-H program in Orleans County, and the signs will also give people a reason to smile,” Batt said.

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4-H kids make public presentations

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 12 February 2017 at 3:33 pm

Photos by Kristina Gabalski

KNOWLESVILLE – Makenzie McGrath of Medina presents a demonstration on fairy gardens, showing how to plant succulents as part of the design, during 4-H Public Presentations Saturday afternoon.  This was Makenzie’s second year participating.

“I liked it,” she said of giving the demonstration.  “I didn’t get nervous. I got nervous last year, but not now.”

Orleans County 4-Hers are in the midst of their annual Public Presentations Program which provides an opportunity to improve public speaking skills.

Participants select a topic of their choice and present either an illustrated talk, demonstration, formal speech, recitation, or dramatic interpretation. 4-Hers who are members of a horse club or participating in a horse-related project can do presentations on horses either as an individual demonstration or a team demonstration.

The 2017 program will continue on Saturday, Feb. 18, in the Education Center on the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Lydia Scharlau of Medina presents an illustrated talk on giraffes.

Megan Hardner of Lyndonville describes the parts of a ukelele as part of her 4-H Public Presentation on Saturday afternoon. Megan said she has been teaching herself to play the instrument because of her affinity for all things Hawaiian.

Following their presentations, 4-Hers and their families enjoyed ice cream sundaes before being awarded their certificates of participation.

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Governor’s budget boosts school aid in Orleans by $1.3 million

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 February 2017 at 8:51 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers: Students are eager to get to the Ronald L. Sodoma Elementary School in Albion on the first day of school on Sept. 7.

Orleans County school districts would collectively see about $1.3 million in state aid in 2017-18, according to Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposal.

The five school districts – Albion, Holley, Kendall, Lyndonville and Medina – received $86,780,004 in state aid in 2016-17. That would increase to $88,072,678 in 2017-18, according to the governor’s budget.

Cuomo is proposing a $1 billion increase in school aid state-wide, a 4 percent increase to $25.6 billion.

Cuomo, during a budget address on Jan. 17, said state funding for schools has increased 30 percent over six years.

“The people of this state believe that education is a priority. I agree with them, and we’ve put our proverbial money where our mouth is, the highest level of education spending in history,” Cuomo said.

The governor also wants to update the Foundation Aid formula to better reflect student poverty and consolidate prekindergarten funding streams.

Here is the breakdown for each school district in Orleans County:

• Albion would see overall aid increase by 1.7 percent or $445,327, going from $26,145,250 in 2016-17 to $26,590,577. The district’s Foundation Aid would increase from $19,586,268 to $19,909,890.

• Holley’s overall state aid would increase by 3.36 percent or $527,702, going from $15,694,417 in 2016-17 to $16,222,119. Holley’s Foundation Aid would rise from $9,772,927 to $9,952,814.

• Kendall would see overall aid jump 14.1 percent or a $1,490,671 increase, from $10,573,996 to $12,064,667. The district’s Building Aid is driving the increase with that going from $584,656 in 2016-17 to $2,154,370. Without the Building Aid, Kendall’s other state aid actually decreases by 0.79 percent or $79,043.

• Lyndonville would see an overall increase by 2.71 percent or $242,940, going from $8,964,368 to $9,207,308. Foundation Aid would see a slight increase from $5,908,151 to $6,009,994.

• Medina’s overall aid would drop by $1,413,966 or by 5.57 percent, from $25,401,973 to $23,988,007. The district’s building aid is dropping from $4,092,316 to $2,301,051. Foundation Aid, however, increases from $16,446,235 to $16,719,313. Medina’s school aid, without building aid, increases $377,299 or by 1.77 percent.

The school numbers often see an increase from the State Legislature over the governor’s proposal. The budget for the Legislature and governor to reach a budget deal is March 31.

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Orleans sees sales tax revenue fall for second straight year

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 February 2017 at 4:21 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: A business on Main Street in Albion has an “Open” flag, encouraging people to stop in.

Sales tax revenue in Orleans County dropped for the second straight year in 2016, according to the State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

Sales tax collections were down 1.2 percent or $182,421 in 2016, a drop from $15,469,950 in 2015 to $15,287,529.

That decline followed a drop of 1.5 percent or $233,412, from $15,703,362 in 2014 to $15,469,950 in 2015.

The sales tax is a key source of revenue for the county government. It also is a measure of the local economy.

“Sales tax collections are a crucial, yet unstable source of revenue for local governments,” DiNapoli said in a report. “The impact of little to no growth is felt in several regions across the state, especially in counties and municipalities that may already be struggling financially. As the year progresses, local officials will need to closely monitor their budgets should these collections slip.”

Other counties in Western New York saw decreases including Niagara County, down 0.9 percent; Cattaraugus, down 3.9 percent; Erie, down 0.2 percent; Genesee, a drop of 2.4 percent; and Livingston, down 0.8 percent.

Most counties experienced growth in sales tax. The comptroller’s report showed 39 out of 57 counties had gains.

DiNapoli’s report showed the strongest sales tax growth in 2016 was in the Mid-Hudson Valley with a 2.9 percent increase and Long Island with a 1.9 percent increase.

Central New York was the only region in the state to suffer a decline in collections, while growth in the Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier and Western New York was below one percent, according to the comptroller.

Orleans Hub wrote an editorial on Oct. 31, 2016 with ideas about growing the sales tax. Click here to see “Editorial: To lower taxes and strengthen economy in Orleans, local officials should grow sales tax.”

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Cooperative Extension seeks new director as organization celebrates 100th anniversary

Posted 9 February 2017 at 11:17 am

Provided photo: Tim Kirby (in back), board member for the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, led a group in canning tomatoes.

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County

KNOWLESVILLE – As the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension rings in a new year and its 100th year anniversary celebration, another important task is at hand – finding the next leader of their organization.

The Board of Directors is actively seeking an Executive Director to lead them into the second century of extending research-based knowledge into local communities.

“It’s an exciting time to be part of Cornell Cooperative Extension, as some of the core programs of our mission have seen a resurgence in popularity, as people recognize and value the relevance of agriculture, local foods, nutrition, youth development, and other strong programs traditionally offered by our organization,” said Deborah Roberts, interim executive director.

Roberts is in a unique position to see the changes.  As former executive director, she has seen the changes over the years.

“Our traditional programs, such as support to the agriculture community remains, but we have become more innovative in the ways we deliver education and reach the whole population.”

One recent successful innovation has been the addition of a commercial kitchen on the fairgrounds that can be used to support large events as well as serve as a venue for teaching.

This fall, board member Tim Kirby taught a group how to can tomatoes, a skill that younger generations have not previously had a chance to hone.

In addition the Master Food Preservers, Master Gardeners, the 4-H Cooking Club, Expanded Food and Nutrition Program, and other clubs and community groups all utilize the kitchen for preservation, cooking, and other programming in new ways.

Part of the celebration of the centennial will happen during the Orleans County 4-H Fair. The occasion will be marked with two nights of fireworks, strolling acts, and special live animal performances.

This year will also introduce new contests and events for youth and adults, including a quilt show. These new elements and traditions like livestock shows, delicious foods, and connecting with friends and family will make the week a true celebration of the 100 years of successful programming and the beginning of the next 100 years.

While the community recognizes the strong alignment between CCE and the county fair, numerous other elements are needed for an executive director to be successful.

“Our leader needs to connect us to campus, continue to grow our programs, manage the facilities, and focusing on revenue generation,” states Ed Neal, chairman of the board of directors.  “The next executive director will be inheriting a terrific team of staff members, an informed and dedicated board of directors, and an opportunity to facilitate community conversation about the future of Cooperative Extension in Orleans County.”

Filling the position is the agency’s top priority this year, Neal said, and several local residents have already expressed interest in the job, which carries a $58,000 salary and requires a Master’s Degree.

For more information on the Executive Director position, please visit

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One man’s goal: make sure no children go hungry over weekend

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 February 2017 at 1:54 pm

Wayne Litchfield

ALBION – A Medina resident has an ambitious goal: to make sure every school-aged child in Orleans County doesn’t go hungry over the weekend.

Wayne Litchfield, a retired county dispatcher who now heads the VALOR Medical Reserve Corps for the county, wants to start a backpack program, where children would have six meals in backpacks to take home for the weekend.

He is in the early stages of trying to put together a program with VALOR partnering with Foodlink, and local churches, organizations and school districts.

“We are looking for stakeholders,’ Litchfield told the Albion Rotary Club on Thursday. “It will need to be community driven.”

Litchfield is also a volunteer with the Hands 4 Hope ministry, which distributes some food  on Saturday mornings, visiting Albion twice, and Medina and Holley once each month. Hands 4 Hope also takes prayer requests from people who stop by.

The experience has been an eye-opener for Litchfield, who sees a lot of desperate families with very little food to eat. Hands 4 Hope gives away a “share” which is about $20 worth of food for each family.

Litchfield would like to start “Pack 4 Hope” for kids in school to bring home meals for the weekend. Foodlink could provide six meals per child at $2.50 per kid, Litchfield said.

His ultimate goal would be to have food for each child eligible for free or reduced lunch. The breakdown per school district for children eligible for free or reduced lunch includes 777 in Albion, 402 in Holley, 348 in Kendall, 302 in Lyndonville, and 548 in Medina. The total is 2,377 in the county, Litchfield said.

Medina’s PTSA already runs a backpack program serving 60 children. That is what the group can financially afford, he said.

To feed all of the kids on free and reduced lunch over the weekends would cost over $475,000, Litchfield said.

Foundations locally and regionally, businesses, USDA programs and other funding sources will likely be pursued, he said.

He wants to try a less daunting beginning. He is looking at a pilot project with Lyndonville, the district with the fewest number of kids eligible for free or reduced lunches with 302. Lyndonville also is considered by the federal government to be a “food desert” because there isn’t a grocery store in the village.

Jason Smith, the Lyndonville Central School superintendent, said the district would like to partner with Litchfield and VALOR.

“We support an opportunity to provide meals for some of our neediest families,” Smith said today.

The number of children eligible for free and reduced lunches may need to be a starting point for looking who could be served by such a program, Smith said. If the funding isn’t there for all children on free and reduced lunch, Smith said a backpack program serving fewer children could be a possibility.

Litchfield said a backpack program could be run through VALOR, which is a non-profit with a 501c3.

He wants to pack nutritious meals for kids – fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and protein.

With better meals over the weekend, students would see improved attendance at school, and a better ability to concentrate, especially earlier in the school week, leading to higher grades, Litchfield said.

For more information, Litchfield can be reached at the Health Department, or at (585) 589-2869.

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Legislator Ken DeRoller completes County Government Institute

Provided photo: New York State Association of Counties congratulate recent graduates of the County Government Institute. They were recognized on Jan. 31 in Albany. From left, include: NYSAC President William Cherry, Oswego County Legislator Terry Wilbur, Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller, Monroe County Legislator George Hebert, Chemung County Legislator Paul Collins, Genesee County Assistant Manager Matthew Landers, and NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario.

Posted 2 February 2017 at 3:17 pm

Press Release, NYSAC

ALBANY – Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller, R-Kendall, was honored on Tuesday by the New York State Association of Counties for graduating from the NYSAC County Government Institute. The ceremony was held at the NYSAC Legislative Conference in Albany.

The NYSAC County Government Institute is an educational program established in conjunction with Cornell University. The Institute provides an educational program for county elected and appointed officials, to enhance the knowledge, skills and abilities of county officials. For more information, visit

DeRoller is an Orleans County Legislator for District #4, the Towns of Carlton, Kendall, Murray, and the Village of Holley. He is committed to serving the residents of the community and Orleans County in the most efficient and effective ways possible.

“The Institute’s vigorous curriculum prepares county leaders with the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the increasing demands of local government leadership in now and in the future,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario.

William E. Cherry, NYSAC President and Schoharie County Treasurer agrees. “The County Government Institute equips county officials with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to address the challenges and opportunities of leadership, and to engage in civil dialogue with constituents as well as fellow leaders.”

The County Government Institute’s comprehensive curriculum includes extensive course work on government ethics, building consensus in a political environment, principles of county budget and finance, and public sector labor/management relations. The courses are supplemented with electives, training sessions, and continuing education courses designed to support county leaders in serving their constituents.

“My experience with the NYSAC County Government Institute has been very positive in furthering my knowledge through meaningful courses to reach or exceed my learning expectations,” DeRoller said.

DeRoller also serves on the board of directors for the Orleans Economic Development Agency and is active with the Kendall Lions Club.

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Local railroad approved for $1.1 million state grant

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 February 2017 at 10:23 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Genesee Valley Transportation parked a train on the tracks in Holley next to the Holley Cold Storage in this photo from Aug. 26, 2014.

BATAVIA – The Falls Road Railroad, which runs from Lockport through Orleans County to Brockport, has been approved for $1.1 million in state funding.

The railroad, which is owned Genesee Valley Transportation in Batavia, plans to use the funds to upgrade a multi-modal facility in Lockport and replace railroad ties along the system.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the funds for GVT on Wednesday, part of $25 million in rail and port improvement projects across New York.

The grants, awarded through the Governor’s Passenger and Freight Rail Assistance Program, will support projects that strengthen infrastructure and economic development vital to the movement of goods throughout the state, Cuomo said.

“These grants will help strengthen New York’s infrastructure, attract new investments, and foster economic growth in communities in every corner of the state,” Cuomo said. “A strong, reliable transportation system is critical to supporting safe, efficient travel for both New Yorkers and visitors, and our investments are key to ensuring the long-term resiliency of infrastructure across the state to support economic growth for generations to come.”

The $25 million will support track rehabilitation, capacity expansion, railroad bridge repairs, and economic development opportunities. An additional $5.4 million in private and local funding is being leveraged through this state initiative, Cuomo said.

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3 e-waste sites have collected nearly 400,000 pounds since September 2015

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 February 2017 at 9:17 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Paul Gray, a motor equipment operator for the Orleans County Highway Department, moves a pallet of computer units and other electronic waste at the County Highway Department at 225 West Academy St. This photo was taken on Sept. 18, 2015.

ALBION – Orleans County has collected nearly 400,000 pounds of “e-waste” since it started offering disposal sites for residents in September 2015.

Many of the older TVs with cathode-ray technology were ending up in ditches along rural roads. Garbage trucks didn’t pick them up beginning on Jan. 1, 2015 and local can redemption centers didn’t take them.

About 500 TVs were picked up by highway crews the first eight months of 2015 before the county opened waste collections sites at the County Highway Department today at 225 West Academy St., Albion; Murray Town Hall at 3840 Fancher Rd (Route31); and the Shelby Town Hall, 4062 Salt Works Rd.

“It’s been a very successful program with quality of life issues,” said County Legislator Ken DeRoller. “It makes the county look better.”

The county pays Sunnking Incorporated of Brockport to pick up and dispose of cathode ray tube televisions and other e-waste – monitors, computers, peripheral devices and other household electronics.

The Sunnking contract is based on quantity or weight of the items. It’s about a $28,000 to $30,000 per year cost.

The state last summer announced it would help municipalities with some of the cost of properly disposing of e-waste. James Bensley, the County Planning Department director, said the state is offering to cover half of the costs. Orleans has submitted an application for state funding, which would be $14,000 to $15,000.

The collected waste at the three sites totals 368,987 pounds since the county started the service, including 208,665 pounds in Albion, 115,510 at Shelby and 44,812 at Murray, according to data from the County Planning Department.

The county also runs household hazardous waste collection events, with residents disposing of 22,291 gallons of liquid waste and 41,205 pounds of solid waste during five events since 2009.

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