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Orleans County

Outstanding Citizens and Honor Guard recognized during annual Orleans Hub awards program

Photos by Tom Rivers: Members of the Honor Guard in Orleans County are pictured with their certificates after being named the 2016 ‘Person of the Year” by the Orleans Hub. Pictured, include, from left in front row: Dave Kusmierczak, Adam Johnson, Earl Schmidt and Eric Delano. Second row: Ken Schaal, Fred Heschke, Steve Johnson, Tony Vicknair, Frank Berger, Dave Higgins and Ron Ayrault. Back row: Gary Befus, Bryan Splangler, George Bakeman, Mike Donahue, Steven Goodrich, Bob Blosenhauer, Charles Eberhardt, Al Pulcino and Glenn Whitmore.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 February 2017 at 8:40 am

Orleans Hub recognized nine outstanding citizens on Tuesday during an awards program at Hoag Library in Albion. Pictured, front row, include: Bill Menz, Nicole Tuohey and Carol D’Agostino. Back row: Jack Burris, Linda Redfield, Wes Bradley and Holley Ricci-Canham. Missing: Chris Busch and Erik Olsen.

ALBION – Orleans Hub held its annual awards program on Tuesday evening and presented certificates to our annual list of “Outstanding Citizens” and also the “Person of the Year.” About 75 people attended the program at the Hoag Library.

Orleans Hub Editor Tom Rivers and Publisher Karen Sawicz pick the annual winners, looking for people who make extraordinary contributions to the community.

We named the “Honor Guard” as Person of the Year in appreciation for veterans who volunteer at about 100 military funerals each year. The Honor Guard provides a solemn and dignified sendoff, sometimes standing for hours in the freezing cold or blistering heat.

The Honor Guard marches in parades, and attends numerous local community services – Memorial Day, the opening ceremonies for the County Fair, Sept. 11 and Pearl Harbor memorial services, and many other events.

There are Honor Guards in Medina (with members from Lyndonville) and a combined group from Albion and Holley. Each group has about a dozen regular volunteers and they usually range in age from 60 to their early 90s.

The Albion-Holley and Medina groups will often work together for a funeral. They want a good turnout to pay their respects.

Many communities struggle to have enough volunteers for the Honor Guard and veterans may come in from outside the community. Orleans County still has a dedicated corps, but the Honor Guard members worry about that, especially as many of the veterans get older.

Several Honor Guard leaders spoke at Tuesday’s awards program, saying they are grateful for the chance to show respect for the veterans at their funerals.

Orleans Hub presented our fourth annual list of Outstanding Citizens. We picked people who have been volunteering or serving in community causes for many years. They do their good deeds for little to no pay, driven by a love for their community and neighbors.

Here are our picks for Outstanding Citizens for 2016:

Nicole Tuohey: The Medina woman is a prolific fundraiser in the fight against Alzheimer’s. She typically raises about $1,000 each year for the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s.” Tuohey, 26, each year sells about 1,000 paper “elephant links” and creates a chain that is used to kick off the annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s.” Nicole has Triple X Syndrome. She hasn’t let that disability prevent her from being a tireless advocate against a disease that took the lives of her grandparents, Don and Jane Bradley.

Erik Olsen leads a town meeting during a recent “Old Tyme Day,” an annual celebration at East Shelby Community Bible Church.

Erik Olsen: The leader of East Shelby Community Bible Church has the church dedicated outreach. Every July for the church hosts an “Old Tyme Day” celebration in east Shleby, serving pie, lemonade and hot dogs for a penny. There are horse-drawn rides, candle-making, and other activities with an emphasis on fun – and old-fashioned technology. About 2,000 to 3,000 people attend Old Tyme Day, a huge crowd for the tiny hamlet in East Shelby once known as West Jackson Corners. Church members have created a mini-village across from the church. That village also draws about 500 to 1,000 people for an old-time Christmas celebration.

The church has been growing ever since Olsen and an initial group of 40 people started the church at a former Methodist Episcopal building in 1989. That church building had been empty for 30 years. The East Shelby Community Bible Church has grown so much – about 275 members – it has put an addition on the building.

Carol D’Agostino: The Kendall Junior-Senior High School principal makes numerous community connections as leader of her hometown school. She serves on the boards for the Orleans Economic Development Agency, the Orleans County United Way and the Human Services Council of Orleans County, often bringing back ideas for Kendall to improve opportunities for students and the community. D’Agostino helped start the Kendall Innovations Committee, which brings together leaders from the school district, town government and county to brainstorm ways to promote Kendall. She is a member of the Lawnchair Ladies and led the school through a major capital construction project.

Linda Redfield: The long-time ESL teacher helps students build a better life. In the past 20-plus years, Redfield has helped about 400 farmworkers learn English. Redfield started going to labor camps in 1994, before a school built by the World Life Institute became the base for classes in 1999. The school on Stillwater Road offers evening courses in English, as well as computer literacy, pottery and other programs through a partnership with the Orleans-Niagara BOCES. Several of the students attended the awards program on Tuesday.

Wes Bradley: The Lyndonville resident leads the fund-raising effort that makes Lyndonvilel the place to be each Fourth of July in Orleans County. Bradley works throughout the year raising money on the big show, which tops $20,000. Bradley, a retired teacher, is active in the community in many ways, from serving on the Yates Town Board, to 37 years with the Fire Department and serving as finance chairman for the Lyndonville United Methodist Church. He also serves on the Lyndonville Area Foundation Board of Directors, which distributes more than $100,000 a year to community causes. Bradley also helped start Lyndonville’s annual Christmas celebration in 2013, where residents, businesses or organizations decorate Christmas trees in Veterans’ Park. That has now grown to 61 trees with the community welcoming Santa and singing Christmas carols.

Jack Burris: The Albion resident started a new ministry last year where he and a team of volunteers take a former red delivery truck to stops in Albion, Medina and Holley, alternating sites each week. Hands 4 Hope distributes bags of food and takes prayer requests. “Unfortunately in Orleans County there is a lot more heartache out there than I thought there was,” Burris said. “There are a lot of people in tough circumstances.”

Provided photo: Chris Busch, right, is pictured with Ronan Tynan on Sept. 17. Tynan, one of the biggest names to perform in Orleans County in many years, sang to a capacity crowd at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Chris Busch: The chairman of the Orleans Renaissance Group isn’t afraid to aim high and reach for the stars. Last year he and the ORG welcomed famed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan to Medina for a concert at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Busch has been an active Medina community member for many years, leading the Tree Board that has helped Medina plant about 1,000 trees in recent years. Busch is chairman of the Medina Planning Board, insisting on design standards in the historic district that have preserved Main Street’s look as if it was a Norman Rockwell painting. Those standards have attracted investment in the downtown from numerous businesses.

Busch last year also helped spearhead the first-time Farm-to-Table Dinner event in Medina on Aug. 4 that attracted 137 people for a fine dining experience on a closed off section of Main Street.

Holly Ricci-Canham: The Carlton woman compiled a book on local farmers, a two-year effort that culminated in 300 pages after intviewing 150 farmers. “Mom & Pop Farming in Orleans County, New York – The past brought to life” is one of the most ambitious local history books in many years. The book includes about 400 photographs and includes reminisces about simple days with lots of hard work. The farms featured in the book were part of a close-knit community with neighborhood schools and churches. Ricci-Canham grew up on a “mom and pop” farm in Kenyonville run by her parents, Pete and “Mike” Ricci. The book covers farm operations throughout county with sections about muck farmers, dairies, fruit and vegetable farms, canning companies, migrant labor camps, “ladies accounts,” technology changes as well as country schools, “kids play” and fairs and celebrations.

Bill Menz: The Medina resident has spent more than a decade working on a monument and memorial outside the former Medina Armory, which has been a YMCA the past 35 years.Menz doesn’t want the original purpose of the building to be forgotten, as a training site for soldiers who served in many wars. Menz helped build the monument that was unveiled in 2008 by the Armory. In recent years he has been raising money for a bronze statue to go on top of the monument. Menz and the Company F Memorial Committee met its $65,000 goal at the end of 2016, with Menz sending out letters, knocking on doors and making numerous phone calls. The 7-foot-high statue could be ready in 2018.

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County approves new vehicle for K9

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 January 2017 at 12:23 pm

ALBION – Otto, the new K9 dog for the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, will be getting a new vehicle.

The County Legislature last week approved spending $50,192 for a new 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe from Joe Basil Chevrolet in Depew. The Legislature also approved buying two Tahoes for patrol vehicles for $101,824.

The Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 13 welcomed Otto, a German Shepherd from Holland. Otto works with Deputy Jeff Cole. The K9 is trained in tracking and will receive more training with Cole.

The dog will be useful for solving crimes, finding suspects and also for public relations. Otto will join Cole for patrols and for narcotics detection.

In other resolutions, the Legislature last week:

• Named Jerry Bentley, the Barre fire chief, a new deputy fire coordinator, replacing Marty Zwifka of Albion who is retiring after 20 years. Bentley will be paid $2,178 for the year.

• Authorized the Highway Superintendent to purchase four new pickup trucks – 2017 Chevrolet Silverados – from Joe Basil Chevrolet in Depew for $123,832.

• Approved spending $12,369 for a new road planer from Clark Equipment in West Fargo, ND, and $45,877 for a Ford F-550 utility truck from Van Bortel Ford in East Rochester. Both will be used by the Highway Department.

• Approved a five-year agreement between Sheriff’s Office and Taser International of Scottsdale, Arizona to buy and support 25 Premium X26P Tasers, at a total cost of $44,510.

• Authorized the Health Department to spend up to $100,000 for the human rabies vaccine for post-exposure treatment.

• Appointed Bruce Baker to the Orleans County Board of Health.

• Appointed Elaine Berg of Murray to the Orleans County Planning Board, term effective until Dec. 31, 2019, with Charles Felice of Murray to serve as the alternate.

• Approved allowing the Strawberry Festival Committee to use the Courthouse grounds for the annual Strawberry Festival on June 9-10.

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Villages, towns shouldn’t expect more sales tax, Legislature chairman says

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 January 2017 at 10:10 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard said giving towns and villages more of the local sales tax would result in higher county property taxes.

ALBION – Orleans County legislators were asked last week to modify the sales tax sharing formula locally so towns and villages would receive a boost in funding.

Paul Lauricella of Lyndonville said the towns and villages have high tax rates and directing more local sales tax to them would help to bring down those tax rates.

“Every town and village is cash-strapped,” Lauricella told legislators during last week’s meeting. “You guys seem to have money for everything you want to do.”

The county receives about $16 million annually in sales tax and shares $1,366,671 collectively with the four villages and 10 towns. The town and village total has been frozen since 2001.

The village amount, however, has been decreasing because the local share is based partly on assessments. The town assessments have been increasing while villages have been going down.

The share for the four villages – Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina – in 2013 was $404,661 of the sales tax. But it dropped by about $25,000 to 2017. The village share fell to $400,681 in 2014, to $398,111 in 2015, to $391,230 in 2016 and the biggest decrease yet, $379,265 for 2017.

“There is a limited pot of money. To take it from the county doesn’t serve any practical purposes. There is no extra sales tax money to share.” – David Callard

Legislature Chairman David Callard said he doesn’t support taking sales tax funds from the county and giving more to the towns and villages. The towns, however, could consider modifying the formula for the $1,366,671, so villages wouldn’t lose money as the assessments change.

“There is a limited pot of money,” Callard said. “To take it from the county doesn’t serve any practical purposes. There is no extra sales tax money to share.”

Village leaders periodically request the county to look at how it shares sales tax with the local municipalities, noting that in some counties, it’s more of a 50-50 split with the county getting half of the funds and cities, towns and villages sharing the other half.

Orleans, even though it keeps about 92 percent of the sales tax, is actually being generous, Callard said, because most of the 14 counties under 50,000 population don’t share any of the sales tax.

Orleans picks up some expenses that other counties push onto towns, such as community colleges. That cost has jumped for Orleans County from $694,823 in 2005 to over $1.85 million in 2017.

Callard said the county continues to be strained by mandated programs from the state, with Medicaid the biggest budget burden. If the state pulled back some of the benefits in that program, it would ease costs for the counties and state.

Lauricella said the taxes are too high locally.

Callard said the taxes would come down if the state scaled back some of benefits with Medicaid and if the state paid for more of its mandated programs.

“The best way to cut taxes would be with mandate relief,” Callard said.

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Planners back zoning change so taxi service can expand in Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 January 2017 at 10:12 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Planning Board approved a zoning change for East Center Street that will allow three properties to go from single-family residential to general commercial.

The zoning change accommodates growth for Medina Transport, a taxi service owned by David Stalker. Planners said the zoning change blends in with the area, which includes a Mexican grocery store and other businesses. The former Towne Primary School also is in back of the property and has been zoned for business.

The zoning change includes 501 East Center, 493 East Center, and 491 East Center.

“The village feels it makes a lot of sense to do this,” said Marty Busch, the village’s code enforcement officer and also a member of the County Planning Board.

Stalker’s business was called a “great success story for Medina,” according to a letter from his attorney, Nathan Pace.

“The success of this business is stretching the limits of what is possible in the Residential district,” Pace wrote to Medina Mayor Michael Sidari and the Village Board. “The change in zone would be in line with the general plan for Medina and the area, as there is already a light industrial zone across the street and the section in question is immediately contiguous to a presently existing general business zone.”

Stalker said one of the houses with the rezoning is lived in by employees. He is looking to add additional parking space. He also acquired land across the street that could be used for parking vehicles.

The Planning Board on Thursday recommended the village approve the zoning change. Planners said the business draws few, if any, customers to the site.

Other decisions by the board include:

• Approval for the site plan and special use permit request for construction of a ground-mounted solar system (11.725 kW) at 10506 Telegraph Rd. That property, owned by Graydon and Eileen Owen, is located in a Agricultural/Residential District in Shelby. The site is along the Erie Canal and the solar system won’t be visible from the road, planners said. The system will be constructed by CIR Electrical Construction Corp.

• Recommended Medina and Ridgeway both approve amendments to their zoning ordinances for regulating solar energy systems, including requiring building permits, setting up systems to minimize visual impact, limiting ground-mounted systems to side or back yards and no more than 2,000 square feet or up to 50 percent of lot coverage in the village. Larger systems will limit the maximum height of solar panels at 15 feet in Medina (20 feet in Ridgeway), establish minimum setbacks from property lines at 25 feet in Medina (100 to 500 feet in Ridgeway), and require landscape buffer around solar collectors and equipment.

A decommissioning plan also will be required with solar systems to be removed within 180 days of cessation of use.

• The board also re-elected Brian Napoli of Ridgeway as board chairman and Tibbs Ahlberg of Gaines as vice chairman.

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Legislators continue to hear about allowing rifles for deer hunting

Photo by Tom Rivers: Michael Van Durme, a retired chief conservation officer for Region 8 of the DEC, said rifles are safer than shotguns for deer hunting.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2017 at 10:44 am

Emerson “Tinker” Young, past president of SCOPE (Shooters Committee on Political Education) in Orleans County, told the Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday that not all hunters favor allowing rifles for big game hunting in the county.

ALBION – Orleans County legislators continue to be pressed to allow rifles for hunting deer and bears.

Several speakers urged the Legislature to support rifles for big game hunting. On Dec. 21, several leaders of the sportsmen’s groups in Orleans stated their support for the measure.

On Wednesday, the former president of SCOPE (Shooters Committee on Political Education) said not all hunters favor allowing rifles for shooting deer and bears.

“I’m not 100 percent in favor of it,” said Emerson “Tinker” Young, the past president of SCOPE. “There’s not enough guys out there with common sense.”

Young said high-powered rifles can send ammunition 1,000 yards. He worries some hunters would empty their rifle shooting at a deer, and those bullets could hit houses.

“There’s a lot of people out for this and I understand what they’re saying,” Young said. “I just wish we could sit down and figure out a way so guys don’t misuse it.”

Doug Piedemonte of Holley said his house has been hit by slugs from shotguns, including one that tore through his home, breaking a mirror inside.

Doug Piedemonte of Holley said he would support allowing rifles. His house has been hit by slugs fired from shotguns.

Michael Van Durme, a retired chief conservation officer for Region 8 of the DEC, told legislators that rifles are much safer for hunting.

He said there hasn’t been any accidental deaths by hunters using rifles in the past 40 years while they were deer hunting.

Legislator Lynne Johnson asked Van Durme if he misspoke, and he said his statement was true.

Johnson said she heard of a man in Parma hit in the stomach from a long-range rifle round.

Van Durme said that was from someone who was target shooting, not hunting.

Van Durme’s career as a conservation officer included seven years in Orleans. He now manages a consulting company that specializes in hunter and firearms safety.

“I can tell you rifles rounds for white-tailed deer are safer than shotguns,” he said. “As far as a rifle round going long range and hitting people, it just doesn’t happen.”

Legislator Lynne Johnson asks a question during Wednesday’s meeting.

Sportsmen Club leaders told county legislators that 41 out of 62 counties, including counties with more residents than Orleans, allow rifles for hunting.

The Orleans County Sportsmen Federation last month presented the Legislature with a petition signed by about 500 people, supporting center-fire rifles for deer hunting.

The county allows rifles for small game hunting – woodchucks, foxes, crows and coyotes. Other counties also allow rifles for smaller animals and Van Durme said there hasn’t been any accidental deaths.

“Hunters use rifles for woodchucks and no one has been shot long range,” he said.

Sportsmen insisted the rifles are safer, because hunters tend to take only one shot with a rifle because they use scope and have better accuracy.

Legislators said they will continue to discuss the issue.

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Auxiliary Police get thanks for dedicated service

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2017 at 9:07 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: David Thom, a volunteer for 27 years with the Auxiliary Police, receives a plaque for his service to the group that was disbanding last month by the county. Thom accepts the plaque from Dale Banker, the county’s emergency management director. County Legislator John DeFillipps is at left.

ALBION – Orleans County officials on Wednesday praised an all-volunteer group for its many years of dedicated service.

However, liability concerns and the demands of training to meet the standards of peace officers, prompted the county to dissolve the Auxiliary Police last month.

The group was started in Orleans County in 1952 and was to be activated at times of civil defense. The county was never attacked, and the group’s duties strayed from that original mission. The Auxiliary Police provided crowd control at the 4-H Fair, football games, festivals and other community events.

The group had shrunk to seven members.

“They always did a great job,” said Dale Banker, the county’s emergency management director who oversaw the group. “I have nothing but praise for them.”

The Legislature on Wednesday presented a plaque to Lt. David Thom, who volunteered 27 years with the group.

Capt. Jack Monell has 47 years with the Auxiliary Police and has been its leader. He also will be getting a plaque, and so will Joe Riley, who served 43 years with the group.

Banker also has certificates of appreciation for Lawrence Bale, 11 years; Dixie Woodworth, 7 years; Ray Keffer, 7 years; and Craig Wilston, 7 years.

Ray Hertel also served with the group for 22 years before retiring last year.

Banker said the Auxiliary Police donated about 1,000 to 1,200 hours a year.

The county may fill some of the void without the group by having seasonal deputies work at some more community events.

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County disbands volunteer Auxiliary Police, citing liability

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 January 2017 at 11:55 am

‘It wasn’t a decision made lightly. We agonized over this discussion for months.’

ALBION – Orleans County officials last month decided to disband an all-volunteer auxiliary police force, citing concerns over liability.

The auxiliary police was formed in 1952 with a mission to provide civil defense if the community was under attack. The actual work, however, changed to helping manage crowds at large community events, such as the Orleans County 4-H Fair, fireworks displays, festivals and football games. The auxiliary police also directed traffic at events.

“They served the community well and did many wonderful things,” said County Attorney David Schubel, who recommended the group be disbanded.

The group was down to six members, and would have needed more training and equipment to meet standards of peace officers.

“If you’re going to do it and do it well it would have required enormous training,” Schubel said today. “If we continued, we would have needed more people.”

The auxiliary police operated under the Emergency Management Office. Schubel said many people in the public likely assumed they were deputies with the Sheriff’s Office.

Many of the auxiliary police carried their own firearms with holsters and equipment that weren’t up to police standards.

“They certainly had the best interests of the community at heart,” Schubel said.

During the Orleans County Association of Municipalities meeting on Tuesday, County Legislator Bill Eick told the group the auxiliary police had been dissolved.

“Liability is No. 1,” Eick told the village, town and county officials. “There was declining interest from younger people.”

The county may fill void of the auxiliary police with seasonal deputies, who currently work on the marine patrol. Those deputies all have law enforcement training with the proper equipment. They would operate under the Sheriff’s Office.

“It wasn’t a decision made lightly,” said Chuck Nesbitt, chief administrative officer. “We agonized over this discussion for months.”

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Orleans legislator sees progress on many fronts for county

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 January 2017 at 9:13 am

Lynne Johnson, vice chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, speaks during Friday’s Legislative Luncheon for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

GAINES – Orleans County has made progress on many fronts by tackling neglected infrastructure – roads, bridges, culverts, building roofs – while also getting closer to bringing high-speed Internet to underserved pockets of the county.

That was the message from Lynne Johnson, vice chairwoman of the County Legislature. She addressed nearly 100 people on Friday at the annual Legislative Luncheon put on by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce at the Village Inn.

“2016 was a great year for Orleans County,” Johnson said at the luncheon.

She sees many positive developments for 2017.

Pride Pak’s construction of a 68,000-squarefoot vegetable and processing facility in Medina topped the economic development efforts last year, Johnson said. She praised the Orleans Economic Development Agency, led by Jim Whipple and Gabrielle Barone, for working with Pride Pak to make the company’s $12.5 million investment a reality.

Pride Pak also is considering two expansions in the future in Medina, with 200 workers eventually on the payroll. It opened in Medina in November with 40 employees.

Orleans County’s unemployment rate has also fallen to its lowest level in a decade, Johnson said.

Orleans took on an $8 million bond to tackle a series of infrastructure projects from 2015 to 2017, including six bridges, six culverts, and new roofs on some of the county buildings. The county also built two new pole barns for the Highway Department.

The county also purchased a paver for the Highway Department that is available for other municipalities. The Highway Department last year paved 29 miles of roads, more than doubling the previous high.

Orleans officials have been pressing the state for several years about the weight restrictions or closures with many of the canal bridges in the county, as well as the deterioration of the Lake Ontario State Parkway.

The state has about $20 million-plus approved to work on canal bridges and the Parkway, Johnson said on Friday.

The state has set aside $14 million to improve the Parkway in 2017-18 with most of the work upgrading the Parkway in Monroe County near Orleans. The Parkway paving includes $8.97 million to pave the road from Route 19 east to Payne Beach in 2017, and then $5.2 million to pave the Parkway from Route 19 in Hamlin to Route 237 in Kendall in 2018.

The Department of Transportation’s 5-year plan, which runs until 2020, doesn’t include paving for the Parkway west of 237 in Kendall.

A five-year capital by the State Department of Transportation, however, includes repairs to the lift bridge on Main Street in Albion, and $13 million to rehab six other canal bridges in Orleans County.

Gov. Cuomo last week also announced $2,989,000 for four other bridges in the county, including $1.045 for the Portage Road bridge over Fish Creek; $1.140 million for the Monroe-Orleans County Line Road bridge over East Branch Sandy Creek, $630,000 to Orleans County for South Holley Road over a branch of Sandy Creek, and $174,000 to the town of Albion for a small bridge on Clarendon Road over West Branch Sandy Creek.

Johnson has been the county’s point person for efforts to extend broadband Internet into Orleans. The county has teamed with Niagara County in the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance to press the state for more high-speed Internet coverage.

The effort received good news late last year when Charter Communications announced it would serve most of the remaining gaps for coverage in Orleans as part of its merger with Time Warner. The state is requiring Charter to extend service to an additional 145,000 homes and businesses in New York over four years as part of the merger.

Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey said a two-county alliance has advanced projects in Orleans and Niagara counties.

In Orleans County, there are about 3,600 households without access to high-speed Internet, but that number would shrink to 77 as part of the merger.

Charter would also make significant improvements in Niagara County, reaching all but 943, with most of those gaps in rural eastern Niagara County.

“The broadband has been a long struggle and we’re not done,” said David Godfrey, a Niagara County legislator who has been teaming with Johnson on the broadband push through NORA.

The high-speed Internet is critical for attracting and keeping residents, who need the service for homework, job searches and a desired quality of life, Godfrey said. Businesses need the service to file many reports and to be competitive in the marketplace.

Godfrey said the extended service will fill a need, “so we are no longer deprived and discriminated against because we are rural counties.”

NORA also has been working together to oppose a new lake level plan for Lake Ontario. A plan approved by the bi-national International Joint Commission has been approved, despite concerns that it would lead to more erosion and bigger fluctuations in water levels on the southshore. Johnson said she is optimistic the Trump Administration will overturn the plan.

NORA also has been pushing for a dredging plan and federal funds to ensure harbors, including Oak Orchard, are dredged on a regularly basis to prevent a buildup of sediment that could make the harbors impassable for boaters.

“We are working on a long-term mechanism to dredge our harbors,” Johnson said.

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Apex talks turbines in Barre

Photos by Tom Rivers: Taylor Quarles, development manager for Apex, speaks with local dairy farmer Richard Miller about the Apex proposed project for the Town of Barre.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 January 2017 at 10:48 am

BARRE – Apex Clean Energy held the first of two public meetings on Wednesday about its proposed project in Barre. The Barre Town Hall was crowded as residents asked questions and looked for more information on the project.

Apex is in the public outreach phase for “Heritage Wind.” It hasn’t submitted a preliminary scoping statement for the project. After the PSS is submitted, the community and state agencies can comment on the document and Apex may have to provide more detailed information.

Apex Clean Energy handed out pens that resembled windmills.

Apex Clean Energy handed out pens that resembled windmills.

Residents also will have opportunities to comment on a final application if Apex moves to that phase.

Apex wants to build a 200-megawatt project in Barre with about 70 turbines. The town ordinance limits the height of turbines to 500 feet from the top tip of the blade.

Apex is considering turbines throughout the town except for a 2-mile buffer around the Pine Hill Airport. Ben Yazman, project manager for Apex, said the company has leases for 2,500 acres and wants to sign up more land. He is pleased with the reception from residents and landowners.

“The town has been very hospitable,” Yazman said. “The farmers see it as a drought-resistant crop.”

Albert Davis, a retired dairy who lives on Maple Avenue, attended the meeting Wednesday and said he supports the project. Davis said his sister lives in Texas amidst a wind farm.

“She doesn’t have an issue with them,” Davis said.

Barre residents Mark Farone, left, and Mike Van Lieshout discuss the project.

Barre residents Mark Farone, left, and Mike Van Lieshout discuss the project.

He lives close to the 2-mile buffer with Pine Hill and hasn’t been approached to lease land. Davis said the project would reduce town taxes and provide revenue for many landowners.

“I think it would be a good thing,” Davis said. “Barre has nothing but high taxes.”

Town Supervisor Mark Chamberlain said most residents tell him they support the project, but he has heard from some people who oppose it in Barre.

Joe Grabowski is one of the residents who opposes the turbines. Grabowski lives on Culver Road. He said he wouldn’t receive any lease payments for having turbines near his property.

“If I have to look at it 365 days, I should be compensated,” Grabowski said.

He also worries Apex will site the turbines on “Grade A farmland.” The company, if it builds in Barre, shouldn’t pick prime farmland, he said.

Grabowski said he’s heard from several residents against the project. He thinks it’s 50-50 for those in favor or against it.

“The farmers want it because they have the land,” Grabowski said.

Apex is planning another open house from 2 to 4 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the Heritage Wind office at 49 N. Main St. in Albion. There will also be a public hearing on the application of the meteorological tower at 7 p.m. on Feb. 8 in the Barre Town Hall.

Apex wants to put up three met towers, at the corner of Culver and Thorp roads, on Oak Orchard Road (Old 98), and on Route 31A across from Keeler Construction. Those towers will gather information on wind strength and consistency.

Apex has been pushing another project in Yates and Somerset, but has encountered strong resistance from Save Ontario Shores, a citizens group. The Yates and Somerset town boards, and county legislatures in Orleans, Niagara and Erie counties have also opposed that project along the lake. Those officials have been critical of the Article 10 process, which gives a state-appointed siting board the final say on the project, rather than the local community.

Pam Atwater, president of Save Ontario Shores, attended the Barre meeting and urged residents to research Apex and the wind industry.

“Our goal is education,” Atwater said. “There should be information that isn’t just coming from a corporation. I think it’s important for people to know what they’re getting themselves in for.”

For more on Heritage Wind, click here.

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NY bridge program will fund 4 projects in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 January 2017 at 1:43 pm

The state has announced funding for bridges and culverts today and four of the projects are in Orleans County.

The funding – $2,989,000 total for Orleans – includes:

• $1.045 million to Orleans County for Portage Road over Fish Creek

• $1.140 million to Orleans County for Monroe-Orleans County Line Road over East Branch Sandy Creek

• $630,000 to Orleans County for South Holley Road over a branch of Sandy Creek

• $174,000 to the town of Albion (Orleans County) for Clarendon Road over West Branch Sandy Creek

The county applied for five projects and received funding for three, Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt said.

“We were hopeful we would get something,” he said. “But we weren’t counting on it until it was announced.”

The state will pay 100 percent of the cost for culverts, and 80 percent of the work for bridges. Nesbitt said there may be other funds available besides county dollars to cover the remaining 20 percent for the bridges.

He expects the three projects for the county to be in design phase this year, with the construction to be in 2018.

The Albion bridge is actually a culvert on Clarendon Road, near the Holley Road intersection. Michael Neidert, the highway superintendent, said he expects that culvert to be replaced this summer after school is out.

Orleans County fared better than most other counties in the Finger Lakes with the bridge and culvert projects announced today.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $19.7 million for 23 projects in the Finger Lakes, which includes 1 in Seneca, 2 in Genesee, 5 in Livingston, 3 in Monroe, 4 in Orleans, 5 in Wayne, 1 in Wyoming, 1 in Ontario and 1 in Yates.

Nesbitt said a 10-year capital plan had the county prepared to apply for the funding.

“We can continue to move the ball forward with our capital plan,” he said.

The funds announced today are part of a $21.1 billion multi-year capital plan – BRIDGE NY – to upgrade roads, bridges, and other vital transportation infrastructure across New York State.

“Infrastructure is the key to our prosperity and through this program, we are providing funding to local governments in every corner of this state to help ensure their bridges remain reliable, resilient, and able to meet the demands of current and future generations of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This is another step toward a safer, stronger and more secure New York for all.”

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