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Orleans County

Candidates step forward to run for Board of Education

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 April 2017 at 9:05 pm

Medina seeks to reduce board seats from 9 to 7

Candidates have come forward to run for volunteer positions on the Board of Education.

The five local districts had a candidate filing deadline on Monday. They will be on the ballot during the May 16 annual budget votes and elections.

Medina also is seeking to reduce the number of positions on its board from nine to seven. If the proposition passes, the board would remain at nine seats in the 2017-18 school year, with the reduction taking effect beginning July 1, 2018.

• ALBION – There are three candidates running for two five-year seats on the board. Wayne Wadhams, Kathy Harling and incumbent Marlene Seielstad are all running. Dean Dibley decided not to seek another term on the board.

• HOLLEY – There are two open seats and both incumbents – Robin Silvis and Sal DeLuca – are seeking re-election to three-year terms. Andrea Newman also is seeking election to the BOE.

• KENDALL – Lisa Levett and Jason ReQua are running for two spots on the board. There is one five-year term and another to fill about a year on the board, from May 17, 2017 to June 30, 2018. The latter term is to fill the spot vacated when Martin Goodenbery moved out of the district. Levett is currently on the board, filling a different vacancy created when Chris Gerken resigned.

• LYNDONVILLE – Two people – Penny Barry and Darren Wilson – are running for two open seats. Susan Hrovat isn’t seeking re-election to her spot on the board, and Michelle Dillenbeck resigned from her seat last month. One of the open seats is for three years and the other is to fill the remainder of Dillenbeck’s term, which runs to June 30, 2018.

• MEDINA – In Medina, four people are running for three open seats, including incumbents Dave Sevenski and Bill Keppler. Mary Hare and Arlene Pawlaczyk are also running. Chris Keller isn’t seeking re-election.

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Orleans drops in latest county health rankings

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 April 2017 at 9:44 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Some kids shoot baskets on a warm March 24, 2015 at the basketball courts in Lyndonville.

Orleans County ranks 48th in overall health outcomes out of 62 counties in New York.

The county had been gradually moving up in the county rankings, from 52nd in 2013, to 49th in 2014, to 47th in 2015 and then 44th last year.

The report for “Health Outcomes” measures rates of premature death, low-birthweight babies and days of poor physical and mental health, as well as percentages of residents considered in poor or fair health (14 percent in Orleans, which is better than state average of 16 percent).

However, Orleans ranks 58th worst overall for premature death. It is 42nd for quality of life, the two factors that make up the ranking for health outcomes.

Saratoga County was the top-ranked county for health outcomes with the Bronx rated 62nd, the worst.

The County Health Rankings are compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The County Health Rankings are a snapshot of the health of each county. The rankings for New York State are out of the 62 counties. There are five main categories and the factors that make up each category are measured and ranked.

Health Outcomes measures “Today’s Health” and includes length of life, premature death, sickness, mental health and low birth weight.

• “Health Factors” looks at tomorrow’s health and includes health behaviors: adult smoking, adult obesity, food environment index, physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunities, excessive drinking, alcohol-impaired driving deaths, sexually transmitted disease and teen births.

Orleans ranked 55th in Health Factors and exceeded state averages for adult smoking (18 percent vs. 15 percent), adult obesity (29 percent vs. 25 percent), excessive drinking (19 percent vs. 18 percent), and teen births (29 per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19, compared to 21 in NY).

• “Clinical Care” considers uninsured, primary care physicians, dentists, mental health providers, preventable hospital stays, diabetic monitoring, and mammography screening.

Orleans rated 60th in this category, nearly the worst in the state despite having a better rate on uninsured, 9 percent, versus 10 percent state-wide. Orleans does poorly in the report with 1 primary physician for every 10,500 people, compared to 1,200:1 statewide, and one dentist for every 4,620 people, compared to 1,270:1 in the state.

Orleans also has 1 mental health provider for every 2,190 people, compared to a 420:1 ratio in the state.

• “Social and Economic Factors” includes high school graduation, some college, unemployment, children in poverty, social associations, children in single-parent households, violent crime and injury deaths.

Orleans ranked 51st. Its unemployment rate, 6.5 percent, topped the state average of 5.3 percent. The county has 23 percent of children in poverty, above the 22 percent rate statewide. There are 39 percent of children in single-family households in Orleans, which tops the 35 percent average statewide.

• Orleans does its best in the category measuring “Physical Environment.” That includes air pollution, drinking water violations, severe housing problems, driving alone to work, and long commute – driving alone.

Orleans is ranked 22nd overall for this category. It didn’t have any drinking water violations and its percentage of residents facing severe housig problems, 15 percent, is better than the state average of 24 percent.

The county exceeds the state average for percentage of people driving alone to work, 83 percent compared to 53 percent statewide.

This year’s Rankings also introduce a new measure focused on young people, those 16 to 24, who are not in school or working. About 4.9 million young people in the U.S. — 1 out of 8 — fall into this category. Rates of youth disconnection are higher in rural counties (21.6 percent), particularly those in the South and West, than in urban ones (13.7 percent).

“Young adults who are not in school or working represent untapped potential in our communities and our nation that we can’t afford to waste,” said Paul Pettit. “Communities addressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, and education can make a difference creating opportunities for all youth and young adults. The County Health Rankings are an important springboard for conversations on how to do just that.”

To see the report on Orleans, click here.

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Orleans declares state of emergency for lakeshore towns

Photos by Tom Rivers: Lake Ontario pounds the shoreline near the Yates-Carlton townline at about 10:30 this morning.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 April 2017 at 5:48 pm

ALBION – David Callard, chairman of the Orleans County legislature, has declared a state of emergency in the lakeshore towns of Yates, Carlton and Kendall.

The lake levels are about 2 feet higher than normal. Water is already starting to flood some areas, and endangering property.

“This state of emergency has been declared due to preparedness measures being taken in anticipation of the Lake Ontario water level continually rising into late spring and becoming a long term hazard,” Callard said in the declaration, which went into effect at 2 p.m. “Presently the water level continues to rise and there has been minimal flooding impacting low lying areas based on wind direction and water levels. There is presently no immediate public safety threat, the situation will continually be monitored and orders will be executed based on the circumstances at the time of concern.”

Local officials check the lakeshore communities. They fear Park Road (shown here) could be washed out by tomorrow. These officials include, from left: Murray Highway Superintendent Ed Morgan, County Legislator Fred Miller and Carlton Highway Superintendent David Krull.

Orleans is the third county to declare a state of emergency from Lake Ontario. Wayne County was the first on Wednesday, followed by Niagara County.

In Orleans, the declaration is in effect until rescinded.

Callard also issued an emergency order, limiting boats to operating at an idle speed to cause no wake within 500 feet of the shoreline.

“This order is for the safety of boaters and residences along the lake,” Callard stated in his declaration.

The Orleans County Highway Department delivered 32 tons of sand to the Carlton Highway Department today. The county also took loads to Kendall and Yates highway departments.

Orleans County delivered sand to the three town highway departments. There will be 30,000 sand bags picked up Friday from the State Emergency Management in Chili. Those sand bags will need to be filled. They can be used by homeowners to help protect their property, said Dale Banker, the county’s emergency management director.

“We’re getting things in place in case this gets worse,” Banker said. “We’re hearing the lake could go up another 11 inches.”

The water is up at the Oak Orchard River near The Bridges in Carlton, with many of the docks now submerged from the water.

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High waters worry officials, lakeshore landowners in Orleans

Photos by Tom Rivers: David Krull, Carlton town highway superintendent, stands near the shore of Lake Ontario, where the water is about 2 feet higher than normal. Krull said homes, cottages and land are in danger of the rising lake.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 April 2017 at 3:01 pm

CARLTON – At Captain’s Cove marina today, Sheila Schlichter worried as water went above docks and reached the marina at The Bridges.

“The water is right up to the building,” Schlichter, Captain’s Cove manager, said about 11 a.m. today.

She was checking a boat to make sure it didn’t drift away. It was still tied to the dock.

Most of Captain Cove’s docks are under water.

Sheila Schlichter, Captain’s Cove manager, looks out and sees docks submerged from the water. “The water is right up to the building,” Schlichter,

The county has 24 miles of shoreline along Lake Ontario. Some areas are vulnerable to water levels that are about 2 feet higher than normal, and rising.

“It’s going to be horrible,” said Fred Miller, an Orleans County legislator. “We’re going to lose our land.”

He was out surveying the shoreline late this morning with representatives from Congressman Chris Collins. They were joined by Carlton Highway Superintendent David Krull, Murray Highway Superintendent Ed Morgan, and County Legislator John DeFillipps.

The county has been worried about a new plan for regulating the lake levels. The International Joint Commission, which includes representatives from the U.S. and Canada, gained final approval for the plan last year, despite the objections from many south shore communities. The officials in Orleans and on the southshore worried the new IJC plan would result in bigger swings in higher and lower lake levels. Miller said the fear is now coming true.

“This is serious,” he said about the high waters. “Even if it’s minor damage, it could be thousands of dollars.”

The water is getting close to Park Road in Carlton. Officials expect the road could be washed out by tomorrow as the lake rises and the waves get bigger.

Wayne and Niagara counties have already declared states of emergency because of Lake Ontario’s high water level, which has damaged property and flooded some areas by the lake.

Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower last week said boaters need to stay at least 500 feet from shore to avoid creating more waves to the vulnerable shoreline.

The Army Corps of Engineers said the level of Lake Ontario is 18 inches higher than the long-term average for April, with a further rise of 11 inches forecast by mid-May, The Buffalo News reported today.

Waves are pounding against the shoreline in this spot near the Yates-Carlton townline.

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Groups pick up 6 bags of trash along 31 in Knowlesville

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 April 2017 at 7:33 am

Provided photos

KNOWLESVILLE – These kids in the 4-H program picked up trash along Route 31 on Monday evening near the 4-H Fairgrounds in Knowlesville. The 4-H Senior Council at the Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Orleans United Drug-Free Coalition worked together on the cleanup.

They picked up six bags of trash on their first roadside cleanup. They have adopted a 2.1-mile stretch of Route 31 from Long Bridge Road to Snell Road.

Pictured, from left, include: Peggy Gabalski, Pat Crowley, John Gabalski, Amelia Sidonio, Grace Gregoire, Joan Gabalski and Jessica Downey.

Crowley serves as project director for the Drug-Free Coalition. Downey is executive director of the United Way in Orleans County.

The 4-H group and DFC members are committed to collecting litter at least four times a year.

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Boaters asked to stay farther away from shore due to erosion concerns

Photo by Kurt Wannenwetsch: The SAFE Boat for the marine patrol of the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office is out patrolling in the water.

Posted 13 April 2017 at 3:21 pm

Press Release, Sheriff Randy Bower

Due to the high water levels on Lake Ontario, Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower is asking boaters to stay as far away from the shoreline as possible.

We are concerned about shoreline erosion and submerged docks, as well as debris close to the shoreline. While State Navigation Law requires a 100-foot No Wake Zone, we ask all boaters to voluntarily observe a 500-foot No Wake Zone on Lake Ontario.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

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Governor compels local governments to have shared services plan

Photo courtesy of Governor’s Office: Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in Syracuse on Wednesday. He touted his plan to make local governments come together and come up with a shared services plan to reduce taxes.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 April 2017 at 10:14 am

‘Now, every government likes to be its own fiefdom, right? Every government likes to have control of everything itself. It can’t work that way anymore. It is just too expensive.’ – Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking in Syracuse on Wednesday

The new state budget, passed over the weekend, will make local government leaders across the state meet in each of their counties and work together on a shared services plan to reduce the cost of local government.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said local governments – towns, villages, cities, schools, counties, and fire departments – are at fault for the crushing property tax burden in the state, particularly Upstate.

He wants to see the local governments share more resources, and even consolidate to reduce the layers.

Cuomo, speaking in Syracuse on Wednesday, said local governments account for two out of every three tax dollars in the state through property taxes. He said the state has too many local governments, 10,500 altogether.

“It’s the property tax in the state of New York that is crushing,” Cuomo said. “And we have to get property taxes under control. We tried doing this. I passed a 2 percent property tax cap which made a difference. Property taxes were going up 7, 8, 9 percent. Now they go up 2 percent. The bad news is, they still go up 2 percent.”

Cuomo’s claims have been refuted by associations representing villages, towns and counties. They say the state has many unfunded programs, such as Medicaid, that drive up local costs. Orleans County taxpayers pay about $8 million annually towards Medicaid, about half of the county’s tax levy. Indigent defense, another state mandated program, cost Orleans about $500,000 a year.

Chuck Nesbitt

“This is a state-driven problem,” said Chuck Nesbitt, Orleans County chief administrative officer.

Nesbitt said the county has been a recognized leader in shared services, including a partnership with Genesee County in public health. The two counties have a merged Board of Health and share the same director and other staff.

The county and local towns and villages share manpower and equipment for paving and other road projects, a relationship that has been going on for decades.

Nesbitt and the local officials submitted a shared services plan to the state in 2015 that showed $3 million in savings annually. (See more on those savings near end of the article.)

‘It’s demanding things to be done that we’re already doing.’ Chuck Nesbitt, OC chief administrative officer

Cuomo and the State legislature have empowered the top-ranking county official in each county to bring together all of the local governments and develop shared services plans.

Nesbitt said it’s unclear in counties like Orleans, without a county executive, who would lead the shared services plan. Would it be Nesbitt as chief administrative officer of the county or the chairman of the seven-member County Legislature, currently David Callard of Ridgeway? The county is seeking a legal opinion on the issue.

Cuomo said the local governments can learn from the state in paring costs and sharing services.

“Now, every government likes to be its own fiefdom, right?” Cuomo said in Syracuse. “Every government likes to have control of everything itself. It can’t work that way anymore. It is just too expensive. Not every government needs to have its own purchasing department, its own legal department, its own assessing department, its own fleet management department – find ways to work together. We do this on the state government side all the time.”

County leaders will need to bring all of the local officials together to publicly discuss a shared services plan. Cuomo initially was pushing for that plan to go before the public in a referendum. As part of the state budget discussion, he backed off the referendum. However, the local officials can vote yes or no on the plan. Cuomo said the process needs to conclude by Oct. 15. (Nesbitt said the local officials have until Aug. 1 to develop a plan that goes to the county. Then there are more public meetings.)

“I think people will engage,” Cuomo said about the shared service meetings. “I think they’re very concerned about property taxes. They get it. Upstate New York has the highest property taxes in the United States of America. You bring the power of democracy to this discussion and you’ll see how local governments can actually find ways to save money and get creative, and I’m very excited about that because that can make a dramatic, dramatic difference.”

Orleans County is currently working on a law enforcement study, looking for efficiencies in providing police service in the county among the Sheriff’s Office, and police departments at Albion, Medina, Holley and Lyndonville. Nesbitt isn’t sure if the state shared service push will effect the law enforcement study, if it will continue as a separate effort or if it will be folded into a bigger discussion.

Bryan Hazel, an employee with the Orleans County Highway Department, operates the paver on Hamilton Street in Albion on Oct. 26, 2015 while Tim Banker of the Village of Albion DPW works behind the big machine. The county shares the paver and some of its personnel for paving projects around the county with towns and villages.

The governor and State Legislature would be more effective in cutting property taxes by relieving local governments of paying for many state-mandated programs, Nesbitt said.

“This is more about the governor running for president than finding practical solutions for New York State,” Nesbitt said. “It’s a burning dumpster fire of a proposal. It’s a condescending and insulting proposal.”

The New York Conference of Mayors said the governor’s focus on reducing taxes is misdirected at the local level.

“Municipal government is and will continue to be the shining example of efficient government in New York.,” said NYCOM Executive Director Peter A. Baynes.

Here are some highlights from the “Local Government Tax Efficiency Plan” in 2015 in Orleans County:

In Orleans, the four villages, 10 towns and county government that took in about $27 million in taxes in 2014. The state told the municipalities in each county to identify at least 1 percent in savings for the total tax levies. For Orleans County, that 1 percent represented $273,001.

But the county’s efficiency plan is far greater than that: $3,207,502 in savings or $2,934,501 above the target.

“This is what we must do to survive,” David Callard, chairman of the Orleans County Legislature, said in June 2015 when the plan was complete. “We’re really doing some consequential things.”

Some existing efficiencies at the county level include:

• The partnership with Genesee County, where the two counties share a public health director and three other staff, as well as a joint contract for busing disabled preschool children, has saved Orleans about $328,275 annually.

• Orleans also contracts with Genesee for youth bureau administration services, which saves Orleans $13,490 a year. Genesee also provides tax mapping services to Orleans, saving Orleans $12,500 a year.

• Orleans has also reduced 22 staff positions from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2014, which has a annual savings of $1,020,058. This reduction does not count the 100-plus workers at the former county nursing home. That site became privately owned in January 2015. Selling the county nursing home and moving those employees from the public to private payroll saved taxpayers $1.5 million a year, according to the county’s efficiency plan.

At the town and village level, savings noted in the report include:

• The Village of Albion counts $36,000 in savings through shared paving services with local towns and the county, and $63,000 by running Holley’s sewer plant.

• Carlton included $1,300 in savings through new energy efficient lighting at the town buildings.

• Clarendon replaced a full-time employee with a part-time employee at annual savings of $14,054.

• The Village of Holley says it saves $40,000 a year through a contract with Albion, having Albion personnel paid to run Holley’s sewer plant rather than Holley staff or an outside company.

• Kendall counts $20,000 in savings through a consolidation of fire districts. Kendall also said it saved $31,200 by sharing an assessor with Carlton, $20,000 by working to establish a health insurance consortium, and $1,000 through more efficient utilities.

• Murray counts $70,000 in savings by combining fire districts.

• Shelby counts $4,762 in savings new water meters that need less manpower, $3,865 in savings for joint park maintenance with Ridgeway and the Village of Medina, $1,165 in savings for joint procurement with Ridgeway and the Village of Medina, $3,026 for jointing water billing with Medina, and $385 in savings for an automatic flushing system.

• Ridgeway sees $2,222 in savings through a joint purchase and ownership of an equipment trailer, $500 in savings through joint purchasing with Shelby and Medina, and $200 in benefit through energy efficient lighting.

• Yates put down $500 in savings through energy efficient lighting at the town hall and highway garage.

Orleans and the local governments have proven they are willing to share resources and cut costs, Nesbitt said.

“The governor’s assertions are untrue,” Nesbitt said. “It’s demanding things to be done that we’re already doing.”

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David Callard announces he will retire from County Legislature

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 April 2017 at 4:13 pm

David Callard

‘For the remainder of my term I will give emphasis to the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic – a problem that is not only unique to us but threatens the very fabric of our country.’

David Callard announced today he will not be seeking re-election to the Orleans County Legislature. Callard is the current chairman of the seven-member group. He has been a member of the Legislature for nearly 24 years, following four years on the Ridgeway Town Board.

Callard, a Ridgeway resident, is a retired banking executive. He ran for Congress in 1996, losing to a long-time incumbent, John LaFalce.

Callard has led the County Legislature the past eight years, a time when the Legisature sold the county nursing home for $7.8 million, and redesigned the county government, streamlining operations and partnering with Genesee County with a shared public health director, Board of Health and other staff.

Callard and Orleans County officials have also partnered with Niagara County in the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, a two-county group that has pushed for Broadband Internet, consistent dredging of harbors, and also opposed the Lighthouse Wind project in Yates and Somerset, and a new plan for controlling Lake Ontario water levels, that NORA fears will lead to more erosion on the south shore.

David Callard of Medina is congratulated by County Clerk Karen Lake-Maynard after he signed the oath of office on Jan. 2, 2014 to serve a two-year term as County Legislature chairman. Legislature Clerk Nadine Hanlon is in back.

Callard issued this statement this afternoon:

“By the end of the year I will have completed 28 years of public service.

The first four years were with the Town of Ridgeway as councilman and supervisor, and the next 24 years with the Orleans County Legislature – the last eight of which were as the chairman. My only desire has been to make life better for the people. As I move on and transition into the future I doubt that my desire to help will change.

This December I will leave office knowing that the county is well positioned for the future. To that extent I will review the state of the county at an upcoming general meeting of the legislature. For the remainder of my term I will give emphasis to the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic – a problem that is not only unique to us but threatens the very fabric of our country.

In the past week I have spoken with the District Attorney, the Sheriff, and the Task Force to facilitate not only enforcement of the law, but in the rehabilitation of the addicted. Our discussions will continue and I anticipate an announcement regarding new initiatives in which we will seek your involvement by the latter part of the month.

We are all impacted by the illegal use of drugs. We are all deeply saddened when somebody dies from an overdose of drugs. Most recently we were devastated by the death of a child of our county employee family.

The District Attorney has informed me that from this day forward, when somebody in Orleans County dies from an overdose, he will pursue State and Federal prosecution for wrongful death against the supplier.

The Sheriff, while enforcing the law, will also lead the effort to strengthen the rehabilitation side of the problem.

The legislature stands firmly in support of these efforts.

Orleans County is small and cohesive enough that it has the potential to accomplish great things. It is already drawing state attention on the departmental level for many innovative efforts. I am now calling upon the people of this county to join in an unprecedented county-wide fight, working with our State and Federal partners, in an effort against the illegal use of drugs to help us secure a better future for our children.”

These photos show some recent highlights of Callard’s tenure as Legislature chairman:

Legislature Chairman David Callard, Legislator and Public Safety Chairwoman Lynne Johnson and former Emergency Management Director Paul Wagner are pictured in May 2014 when the county celebrated a $7.1 million upgrade to its emergency radio system.

David Callard gives Narby’s Superette and Tackle owner Sharon Narburgh a hug following a ceremony on June 26, 2013 when the Point Breeze community received a trophy and check for $25,000 after winning the “Ultimate Fishing Town” competition.

David Callard speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 17, 2014, when the bridge on Route 279 was reopened following repairs. The county took out an $8 million bond to pay for several infrastructure projects, including bridge and culvert work, as well as new roofs and other upgrades to county buildings.

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Dispatchers are calming voice in time of crisis

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 April 2017 at 5:04 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Lori Grube, a dispatcher for Orleans County since 1998, is pictured at the 911 dispatch center with co-worker Mike Draper taking a call in the background.

ALBION – Public safety dispatchers in Orleans County last year handled 34,447 calls. Many of those calls were at a time of crisis, people reporting heart attacks, strokes, fires and other emergencies.

This week is “National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.” Sheriff Randy Bower is a former dispatcher for nearly 30 years. He said the dispatchers provide an essential service for the community.

“In a time of crisis, public safety dispatchers are the calming voice on the other end of the phone line,” Bower said. “They’re ‘the life blood’ of public safety, the true first responders; This is where it all starts.”

Bower provided a breakdown of the calls from 2016 (not counting non-emergency calls) –

• Police – Sheriff’s Office, 9,683; Medina PD, 6,197; Albion PD, 5,156; State Police, 2,187; Holley PD, 1,193; and Lyndonville PD, 78.

• Fire – Albion, 456; Barre, 208; Carlton, 262; Clarendon, 129; East Shelby, 82; Holley, 416; Fancher-Hulberton-Murray, 213; Kendall, 101; Lyndonville, 229; Medina, 287; Ridgeway, 287; and Shelby, 205. Total, 2,875.

• EMS – Clarendon Ambulance, 222; COVA, 2,090; Kendall Ambulance, 160; Medina Ambulance, 2,567; and Monroe Ambulance, 738. Total: 5,777.

The dispatch center has updated furniture with four movable work stations, allowing dispatchers to choose to sit or stand during their shifts. Bower said the county is working to add a fourth work station to accommodate busy times, such as storms and holidays.

He is pleased dispatch now has access to cameras within Medina Central School, and the sheriff said he is working with the other school districts to have accessibility to their cameras during an emergency.

Lori Grube is one of the county dispatchers. She started part-time in 1998 and has been full-time since 2001.

“It’s way more than answering the phone,” she said. “It’s a lot of multitasking.”

Grube, like many of the dispatchers, has been active as a firefighter. She was a member of the Holley Fire Department as an EMT before becoming a dispatcher.

Bower said the dispatchers are all highly skilled, providing life-saving advice in emergencies.

“Please join me in recognizing our public safety dispatchers for all of their hard work, dedication and service to our community,” he said.

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Billboards, ads urge people to join fire department

Photos by Tom Rivers: This billboard on Route 98 in Albion, by the Oak Orchard Estates mobile home park, is one of several focused on retaining and recruiting volunteer firefighters.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 April 2017 at 11:54 am

Albion firefighters are shown on Sept. 24, 2014, responding to a truck fire outside Pawlak’s Save-A-Lot in Albion. Firefighters were quickly on scene to put out the fire.

Fire departments in Orleans County are stepping up efforts to recruit and retain members this month.

The Orleans County Emergency Management Office is using a $9,000 grant from State Assemblyman Steve Hawley to pay for billboards and ads to draw attention to membership in the 12 fire departments in the county. (Hawley also provided $10,000 to Genesee County for a similar recruitment and retention effort.)

The four billboards are located on Route 98 by Oak Orchard Estates in Albion; Route 31, east of Riches Corners Road in Albion; Route 31, west of Walmart in Albion; and Route 31, east of Bates Road in medina.

The county used the “Is there a Fire in You?” campaign developed by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York. (Click here for more information.)

The recruitment campaign also includes ads in the Orleans Hub and The Lake Country Pennysaver.

The grant also paid for a presentation from guest speaker Tiger Schmittendorf, a nationally recognized expert in volunteer recruitment and retention. He led a program on March for firefighters at the Clarendon Firemen’s Recreation Hall.

There are currently about 800 active firefighters in the county, which is down from about 1,200 in the 1980s and ’90s, said Dale Banker, the county’s EMO coordinator.

Each of the 12 fire departments in the county also received a large recruitment banner to display, welcoming new members. The banners will be out leading up to the “Recruit NY” events on April 29-30.

The departments at Barre, Carlton and Fancher-Hulberton-Murray are all planning “Recruit NY” open houses on either April 29 and/or the 30th, Banker said.

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