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Orleans County

Conservatives and Democrats back candidate for county judge

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 September 2017 at 12:27 pm

Tonia Ettinger, attorney in Rochester, endorsed to run against Sanford Church

Tonia Ettinger

Two political parties in Orleans County have endorsed a Rochester attorney to run for county judge against Sanford Church.

Tonia Ettinger has been endorsed by both the Conservative Party and Democratic Party.

She graduated from Medina High School, earned a bachelor’s degree at Geneseo State College and her law degree at the University at Buffalo School of Law.

She worked as an attorney in Albion before joining the Legal Aid Society in Rochester about nine years ago.

Al Lofthouse, chairman of the Conservative Party, and Jeanne Crane, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, both said they wanted Orleans County voters to have a choice on Nov. 7.

Church, an attorney for more than 30 years, has worked as the county’s public defender for about two decades. He has widespread support among attorneys in the community, including James Punch, who retired after nearly 27 years as county judge on July 29.

In her job with Legal Aid, Ettinger works with low-income clients from birth to age 21, representing them in various proceedings, including abuse, neglect, guardianship, paternity, custody, visitation, orders of protection, juvenile delinquencies, persons in need of supervision, and termination of parental rights. Prior to joining the Legal Aid Society, Ettinger worked in private practice. She was president of the Orleans County Bar Association from 2008 to 2010.

Ettinger doesn’t have to live in Orleans County to be a candidate. If she is elected, she would have to move back to the county, Crane said.

“She is a local person,” Crane said.

The Orleans County Democratic Party Committee recently decided not to cross-endorse Republican candidates for county-wide positions, Crane said.

The committee is impressed by Ettinger’s resume and commitment to service, Crane said.

The Orleans County Conservative Committee endorsed her unanimously.

Ettinger issued this statement to the Conservative Party:

“I am the oldest of four children,” Ettinger said. “I moved around a lot as a child, changed schools many times and was the first in my family to go to college. My mother and step-father divorced when I was 10 and so I was essentially raised by a single mother. I do not come from a wealthy family and we struggled with poverty. I often cared for my younger siblings so my mother could work. My college and law school tuition was paid by loans, financial aid, scholarships and my employment wages. I started working as soon I was able and continued working throughout high school, college and law school.

“At a young age, I knew I wanted to make a better life for myself, and that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. I know some of my clients face many of same challenges I did and I am always hopeful that being a source of support and encouragement they too will realize that they can overcome life’s obstacles, whether big or small. Being able to make even a small difference in the lives of these families has fueled my passion for public service and I am ready to bring that passion to the judiciary.”

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Photos from mass casualty drill, where first responders prepare for the worst

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 September 2017 at 4:06 pm

BARRE – Firefighters carry a patient on a stretcher this morning as part of a mass casualty drill for several fire departments in Orleans and Genesee counties, as well as other first responders and hospital staff at Medina Memorial and the United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia.

This was the first mass casualty drill it at least a decade. Justin Niederhofer, assistant fire chief for Carlton, helped organize the event which included about 100 participants.

“There are a lot of challenges and a lot of moving pieces that people are uncomfortable with,” Niederhofer said about a mass casualty drill. “It isn’t just fire, it’s EMS.”

Lyons Collision in Medina set up the scene, laying a school bus on an SUV. Firefighters removed the windshield and then started to carefully remove patients. About 15-20 teen-agers volunteered to be “victims” for the drill.

The incident was set up on Hill Road where there is a dip in the road.

Firefighters have their extrication tools laid out by the bus.

Firefighters also took apart an SUV to free two “victims” in that damaged vehicle. They used cribbing to help stabilize the bus so it wouldn’t shift or fall down the embankment.

There were firefighters from several local departments in Orleans and Genesee counties for the drill. They took notes during the four-hour drill and will meet again soon to go over strengths and weaknesses in the mutual aid plan for major incident.

“For bringing everybody together, it’s running pretty smoothly,” said Bill Francis, a member of the Albion Fire Department.

Carlton firefighter Ben Diltz checks on Vincent Viterna, who volunteered to be one of the victims.

Mercy Flight also participated in the drill.

Dale Banker, the Orleans County emergency management coordinator, talks with Ginny Kropf, a reporter for The Daily News in Batavia. Updating the media is one of the roles for leaders at a major incident.

Firefighters and Mercy Flight staff take a patient by stretcher. Many of the patients were taken to Medina Memorial Hospital, where the hospital tested its ability to handle many patients at one time. The drill also included having additional patients walk in during the mass incident. It was a “surge” exercise to see how the hospital could activate additional staff and resources.

The patient is taken to Mercy Flight.

The drill also tested emergency communications through the backup dispatch center at the Orleans County Emergency Management Office on West Countyhouse Road.

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Republicans nominate Sanford Church to be next county judge

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 September 2017 at 8:16 am

Sanford Church

ALBION – Leaders of the Orleans County Republican Party unanimously chose Sanford Church to be the county’s next judge.

About 50 members of the Republican Party Committee met Thursday night and backed Church to be on the ballot for the Republican Party on Nov. 7.

Church, the county’s public defender for the past two decades, has widespread support in the county among attorneys, including James Punch, the county judge for 27 years until retiring on July 29.

Ed Morgan, the GOP chairman for the county, said Republican leaders have full confidence in Church, an Albion resident.

“He’s a good man and will do a great job,” Morgan said.

The GOP Committee also includes members of the local Republican executive committee – the Republican Party chairman from the 10 towns, as well as the county’s state committee representatives.

Punch’s retirement came after the normal endorsement and petition process for candidates. That’s why the party leaders met to pick a candidate to nominate to be on the ballot.

As public defender, Church has represented indigent defendants in felony prosecutions, as well as overseeing the public defender’s office. Church has worked as an attorney for 32 years, including as an assistant district attorney for Punch and Cardone, as well as two other DAs.

Church, a former member of the Albion Board of Education, has practiced law in all of the courts a county judge will preside.

Punch’s retirement left about a four-month gap without an elected judge in the county. The 8th Judicial District based in Buffalo has six judges serving on an interim basis at the different courts formerly led by Punch: Criminal Court, Family Court, Surrogate’s Court and State Supreme Court.

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Stalemate with state, Seneca Nation puts $230K at risk for Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 September 2017 at 8:10 am

ALBION – Orleans County is among 16 counties in Western New York waiting on revenue-sharing money from the Seneca Nation.

For Orleans County, the number is $230,661 in annual revenue. County officials are working on the 2018 budget and aren’t sure what to expect with the money from the Senecas.

The Senecas announced in March it met its obligation for sharing casino revenue with the counties, three cities (Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca) and the state. Seneca President Todd Gates told reporters that the original 2002 contract with the state allowed the Senecas to cease the payments after 14 years.

The Senecas haven’t sent any quarterly revenue sharing payments since then.

State Sen. Robert Ortt said it looks like the state made a mistake in the contract even though the spirit of the contract called for continued revenue sharing beyond the 14 years. He is hoping Gov. Andrew Cuomo will humble himself, acknowledge the error and reach a deal with the Senecas, without publicly berating the Indian nation.

(Cuomo has threatened to build a new casino in Niagara Falls in retaliation. Ortt thinks that is the wrong approach to reaching an agreement with the Senecas.)

“My primary concern has been – and remains – a timely resolution to restore critical funding for our schools, hospitals, and law enforcement with a focus on economic development,” Ortt stated on his Facebook page.

Cuomo has canceled two scheduled meetings with Gates and the Senecas to discuss the issue.

“By canceling the scheduled meeting with the Seneca President and openly floating the idea of placing a new casino in Niagara Falls, the governor is needlessly escalating this dispute and moving away from helping local stakeholders,” Ortt said. “Whether it’s a sit down meeting or arbitration, action is long overdue and we need true leadership – not posturing.”

Ortt said it looks unlikely a new agreement will be reached before the end of this year. He would like to see the Senecas maintain the local revenue-sharing until a new accord can be reached.

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1,000 jobs are open in Orleans County but businesses struggle to fill many of the positions

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 September 2017 at 11:26 am

ALBION – There are about 1,000 jobs currently available in Orleans County, ranging from entry levels positions to many mid-management and more technical jobs.

There are also about 1,000 people on unemployment in the county.

If the skills of those people matched the skill set for the available jobs, the county wouldn’t have any unemployment, said Jim Whipple, chief executive officer for the Orleans Economic Development Agency.

Many businesses have been waiting for qualified applicants to come forward for positions, said Kelly Kiebala of the county’s Job Development Agency. Some of the businesses hiring include Baxter and Brunner in Medina, and Saint-Gobain Adfors in Albion.

She is working with other agencies and Genesee Community College to boost training programs so residents can better fill available positions.

“There is frustration from businesses,” she told the EDA board of directors during this morning’s board meeting.

Some of the positions are third shift, which doesn’t appeal to many job hunters. Other available positions are in agriculture.

But many are jobs with day shifts at manufacturing and other local businesses. Kiebala said transportation is an issue for many residents. Many out-of-county residents aren’t willing to commute to Orleans, Kiebala said.

“It’s a precarious position,” Paul Hendel, EDA chairman, said about the unfilled jobs for local businesses. “We need to close the gap so there are more employees for businesses.”

EDA board member Ken DeRoller said the community, including schools, need to have the conversation about the local employment opportunities, and the skills and training needed to fill the positions.

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Republican leaders poised to back Sandy Church for county judge

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 September 2017 at 7:52 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Sanford Church speaks at a retirement party on July 27 for James Punch, back right. Church has strong support to become the county’s next elected judge.

ALBION – Sanford Church, Orleans County’s public defender for the past two decades, is expected to get the Republican Party’s formal blessing next week to be the next county judge.

Sanford has the support of the local Republican leaders, said Ed Morgan, the county’s GOP chairman.

The county’s executive committee will meet Thursday, Sept. 14, and Morgan said they are expected to nominate Church for the position that was vacated with James Punch’s retirement on July 29.

Punch’s retirement came after the normal endorsement and petition process for candidates. (The 8th Judicial District has six judges serving on an interim basis at the different courts led by Punch: Criminal Court, Family Court, Surrogate’s Court and State Supreme Court.)

The Republican chairman from the 10 town committees plus the county’s state committee representatives will meet next week to pick the party’s choice for judge.

“Sandy has a lot of support throughout the county,” Morgan said on Thursday.

The GOP leader also noted that Church has the backing of 18 attorneys in the county. That group includes the now retired Punch, District Attorney Joe Cardone, County Attorney David Schubel, Assistant DA Susan Howard and many others who have worked closely with Church.

As public defender, Church has represented indigent defendants in felony prosecutions, as well as overseeing the public defender’s office. Church has worked as an attorney for 32 years, including as an assistant district attorney for Punch and Cardone, as well as two other DAs.

He has practiced law in all of the courts a county judge will preside.

Church also served on the Albion Board of Education, as chairman of the Albion Historic Preservation Commission, a past director of Hospice of Orleans, past president of the Albion Rotary Club and current member of the Lions Club. He has been a long-time youth baseball coach, and just finished another season with the Rotary Lions team.

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Ortt delivers state funds for projects throughout Orleans

Photos by Tom Rivers: State Sen. Robert Ortt met with government officials in Orleans County today at the Murray Town Hall to highlight recent state grants for capital improvement projects, including $200,000 for the snow plow/dump truck for the Murray Highway Department. The officials behind Ortt, from left, include: Chuck Nesbitt, chief administrative officer for Orleans County; Lynne Johnson, Orleans County legislator; Bill Eick, county legislator; Richard Moy, Clarendon town supervisor; Paul Hendel, Murray town councilman; Jim Whipple, chief executive officer of Orleans Economic Development Agency; Bob Miller, Murray town councilman; John Morriss, Murray town supervisor; Lloyd Christ, Murray town councilman; and Ed Morgan, Murray town highway superintendent.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 September 2017 at 6:58 pm

MURRAY – Some municipalities in Orleans County are tackling capital projects with assistance from state funding secured by Sen. Robert Ortt. The projects include new plow trucks, water districts, town hall and fire hall renovations, playground equipment and other improvements.

Photo by Kristina Gabalski: Clarendon has been approved for $200,000 for painting its water tower, which was erected about 20 years ago on Route 31A by the fire hall.

Ortt stopped by the Murray Town Hall to highlight the $1.6 million in grants for Orleans County through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. (The funds were applied through the the State and Municipal Facilities Capital Funding Program or SAM.)

Ortt worked to get $200,000 for Murray for a new dump truck that cost $220,000. He also secured $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 trucks are “a piece of equipment that doesn’t come cheap,” Ortt said while speaking in front of the truck and several local officials.

Ortt said the DASNY funds are needed for municipalities to take on capital projects during an era of tax caps. Ortt said he favors the tax cap, but he said those restrictions make it difficult for towns, villages and the county to move forward on many needed projects.

Without the DASNY grants, Ortt said local taxpayers who are already stressed from high property taxes would be burdened even more.

Ortt said the only drawback with the funds is the lengthy processing time. The Murray truck funds were approved last year, but the town didn’t get the check until this past Saturday. Murray took out a short-term bond while waiting for the state funding.

John Morriss, the Murray town supervisor, was among the contingent of local officials who thanked Ortt and his staff for pushing to get the funding.

“This new truck will help the highway department do a more efficient job of road maintenance making travel through the Town safer of all who use our roads,” Morriss said.

Murray Town Supervisor John Morriss said the new truck will be put to good use by the town, plowing roads in the winter and hauling materials during the warm weather months. Behind him and Ortt are Paul Hendel, back left, and Jim Whipple.

In addition to the funds for plow trucks, some of the grants approved in Orleans in the past two years include:

  • Town of Clarendon – $200,000 to paint the interior and exterior of its water tower;
  • Town of Kendall – $150,000 will go toward constructing a new water district to supply clean water to approximately 60 residents who currently rely on wells for water;
  • Town of Carlton Fire Company #1 – $100,000 for repairs and renovations to the town’s fire department facilities;
  • Orleans Economic Development Agency – $76,800 for infrastructure upgrades to Medina Business Park that fast-tracked Pride Pak’s expansion last year;
  • Orleans County Office of Emergency Management – $75,000 for a fire training trailer;
  • Town of Gaines – $75,000 for upgrades to town hall;
  • Village of Medina – $65,000 toward improvements to village facilities;
  • Village of Medina – $64,000 toward a heavy duty fire rescue vehicle and trailer;
  • Town of Albion – $50,000 to purchase a highway dump truck;
  • Village of Albion – $50,000 for Bullard Park Playground renovations;
  • Village of Lyndonville – $50,000 for improvements to dam control gate;
  • Town of Shelby – $50,000 for renovations to town hall and court facility.

County Legislator Lynne Johnson said the grants show that Ortt is committed to bringing state resources to Orleans County municipalities. Behind her and Ortt are John Morriss, Lloyd Christ and Ed Morgan, the Murray highway superintendent.

The capital funds for projects may be used for equipment, including construction vehicles, snowplows, and heavy duty emergency response vehicles, costs of construction, demolition, replacement, renovation, or planning and design, including engineering and other services.

Photos by Tom Rivers: Gaines Town Supervisor Carol Culhane stands in the main meeting room/court room of the Town Hall. A $75,000 state grant will pay for several energy efficiency improvements and accessibility upgrades in the Town Hall, including new windows, insulation, an enclosure at the front entrance, and a new exit door in the downstairs.

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Work continues on infrastructure projects in western Orleans

Photo by Tom Rivers: Keeler Construction is shown on July 10, working on replacing a small bridge over Fish Creek in Culvert Road in Ridgeway. The project should be complete in November when a new precast bridge is in place.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 August 2017 at 12:30 pm

RIDGEWAY – Motorists will have to wait a little longer for two culverts to be complete on Platten Road in the town of Yates.

Keeler Construction has been working on the culverts this summer.

The road won’t be open to traffic in time for the start of school next week, county officials said.

The rainy weather this summer has pushed back the completion of that project, but it could be ready in mid to late September, said Jerry Gray, the county’s highway superintendent.

The culverts need some additional paving and guard rails.

Keeler Construction, which is based in Barre, has been working on the project after submitting the low construction bid of $817,643.

Keeler also has been working to replace a small bridge on Culvert Road in Ridgeway. That new bridge, just north of the Culvert on the Erie Canal, should be ready in November, Gray said. Keeler is doing the project for $466,030.

Keeler also is the low bidder at $947,335 to replace the Marshall Road Bridge over Johnson Creek in Yates. That project is expected to be complete in December.

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.

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Verizon will pay county $18K annually to lease space on cell tower

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2017 at 9:18 am

ALBION – Verizon will pay Orleans County $18,000 annually to lease space on the county’s cell tower at the Emergency Management Office at 14064 West County House Road.

Verizon will pay $18,000 in the first year of the five-year contract, and then 2 percent annual increases.

The agreement, approved recently by the County Legislature, also gives the county the option of renewing the agreement in four additional 5-year extensions.

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John DeFilipps picked new chairman of Orleans County Legislature

Photos by Tom Rivers: John DeFilipps takes the oath of office from Orleans County Clerk Karen Lake-Maynard.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 August 2017 at 11:15 am

Clarendon resident fills vacancy from David Callard’s resignation

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has a new chairman. John DeFilipps of Clarendon was backed for the position in a 4-2 vote this morning. Lynne Johnson of Lyndonville received the other two votes.

DeFilipps, 60, has been a county legislator for nearly four years, following 12 years as a Clarendon town councilman.

He is an at-large legislator, which is a county-wide position. He was praised by Legislator Ken DeRoller for attending many town and village meetings the past four years, while being active on county committees, including as a board member for the Orleans Economic Development Agency.

“He’s a team player,” DeRoller said in nominating DeFilipps for chairman. “He’s a good listener and he does his homework.”

DeFilipps has also worked to increase his understanding of county government through the New York State Association of Counties and the Intercounty Association of Western New York, DeRoller said.

DeFilipps also represents the county the Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, which includes officials from nine counties.

“He takes the time to be in the room,” DeRoller said.

DeFilipps was backed for chairman by DeRoller, Fred Miller, Don Allport and DeFilipps. Lynne Johnson received yes votes from Bill Eick and herself.

John DeFilipps sits at the chairman’s desk after being picked to serve as Legislature chairman.

He will fill the vacancy created when David Callard resigned on Aug. 2, citing “personal reasons.” Callard was the Legislature chairman for nearly eight years.

The seven-member group will vote again on a chairman in early January. DeFilipps will serve the remaining 3 ½ months of Callard’s term. It will be a busy time as the Legislature and department heads craft the county’s budget for 2018.

“I’ve enjoyed being involved and working on the issues with the my fellow legislators and department heads,” DeFilipps said.

The Legislature also is looking at an addition for the County Administration Building. The county also is working on a law enforcement efficiency study with the villages of Albion, Holley Lyndonville and Medina. DeFilipps said information continues to be gathered with that study. He expects there will be public hearings in the future about a possible plan for law enforcement services in the county.

Johnson will remain as Legislature vice chairwoman. She congratulated DeFilipps after he was elected chairman this morning.

Eick, who backed Johnson, said there isn’t division among the legislators.

“We all work together as a team,” Eick said.

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