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Orleans County

Legislators praise retiring county judge

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 July 2017 at 9:03 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature this afternoon presented a Special Recognition Award to James Punch, who is retiring Friday after nearly 27 years as Orleans County Court judge.

Punch accepted the award from Legislature Chairman David Callard, left.  The judge received a standing ovation and applause from the legislators and others at the meeting, including Clerk of Legislature Nadine Hanlon, back left, and County Treasurer Susan Heard.

Prior to being elected judge, Punch served as the district attorney for nearly five years.

“Through your extreme professionalism serving as our County Judge and as our past District Attorney, our county has benefitted from your extensive knowledge and service,” legislators stated on the certifiate. “Your pledge to protect Orleans County and beyond is widespread and long lasting. The Orleans County Legislature does hereby wish you success and happiness in all of your future endeavors, along with thanking you for your allegiance to the county you were raised in.”

The award is signed by legislators David Callard, Don Allport, John DeFilipps, Lynne Johnson, Fred Miller, Bill Eick and Ken DeRoller.

Punch grew up in Medina and graduated from Medina High School in 1973. Callard said he remembers the judge as a kid riding around the community on his bike.

Judge James Punch praised county officials and other departments for their service to the community.

Punch is retiring on July 29. His final court sessions will be on Friday.

“It has been an honor to serve,” Punch told legislators. “I’m proud of the county and I’m proud of the Legislature.”

He praised the Legislature and county officials for moving forward with an addition to the historic county courthouse a decade ago that made the building handicapped accessible, allowing it to continue to be used for a courtroom and for offices.

“That preserved what I think is the most beautiful courtroom in Western New York,” Punch said.

He also praised the Department of Social Services, Probation and the Mental Health Department for their work trying to help families in crisis.

In addition to leading County Court, Punch also has served as judge for Family Court, Surrogate Court, and Supreme Court, as well as judge for Drug Court and Domestic Violence Court.

“We have an awful lot to be proud of in this county and a lot of it is what you do in this Legislature,” Punch said.

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Orleans seeks study on county-wide water district

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 July 2017 at 3:18 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers – The 1-million-gallon water tank on Route 98 is pictured through a metal fence at the site north of the village in the Town of Gaines. A firm about two years advised the village to spend nearly $1 million to bolster the tank with a series of improvements.

ALBION – Orleans County will seek state funding to study a county-wide water district, which could be created to maintain and operate some of the water infrastructure in Orleans.

The study has the support of the Albion Village Board and several of the town boards.

Albion’s Department of Public Works handles the maintenance and operation of the village system. The village sells water to the towns of Carlton, Gaines, Albion and Barre.

Holley and Lyndonville also have water systems, the Niagara County Water District serves Medina, and the Monroe County Water Authority is a supplier for Kendall, Murray and Clarendon.

The highway superintendents for the towns also function in a part-time role as water superintendents, and highway employees also work on the water systems.

Several highway superintendents are expected to retire soon, and the water plants, storage tanks, water towers and other infrastructure are all getting older.

Some local municipal leaders think a county-wide water district could be the best answer for qualified personnel overseeing the water systems, and could also draw more grants and resources for costly capital projects.

“It’s definitely worth looking in to,” said Dean London, mayor of Albion.

The village is a primary water supplier in the county. But the MCWA has been pushing westward from Monroe, locking Kendall, for example, into a 40-year agreement.

A countywide water district could help the Village of Albion keep the local towns as customers. The district could also have an overseeing board of directors with representatives from the village, towns and county.

“The water plant is a resource we have,” London said. “If we had county-wide participation, it could set ourselves in a good direction.”

London said the plant at Wilson Road in Carlton is under capacity and could produce more water, serving more water districts and serving as an economic development tool in the county.

“Monroe County (Water Authority) is trying to make inroads from the east,” London said. “We need to protect what we have.”

Orleans County is taking the lead on the application to the state for the study. The county has received letters of support from the municipal boards from the villages of Albion, Holley and Lyndonville, as well as the Town Boards from Barre, Clarendon, Gaines and Ridgeway.

If the project moves forward, the municipalities are expected to continue to keep their own infrastructure, with the county-wide water district perhaps having its own superintendent, staff and possibly billing clerks.

The study would flesh out details and different scenarios.

The study and the formation of the countywide water district could drive investment to the Albion water plant, boosting its capacity and increasing its efficiency, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer.

Nesbitt said the timing for the study is ideal with the imminent retirement of some of the local highway superintendents. The state also has boosted resources for water infrastructure, and the study and a possible county-wide district could increase the chances for securing some of those funds locally, he said.

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State approves $3.7 million grant for healthcare ‘transformation’ in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 July 2017 at 11:35 am

File photos by Tom Rivers: The County Administration Building on Route 31, behind The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center, will have an addition to make room for relocated county offices, including the Public Health Department.

ALBION – Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that Orleans County would receive a $3,682,748 grant to “protect and transform” healthcare in Orleans County.

The funding would support primary care staff from Oak Orchard Health to work out of the county mental health department. The bulk of the funding would go towards an addition on the County Administration Building for the Health Department.

The Health Department currently is housed in a site owned Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC. Comprehensive acquired that building as part of the $7.8 million acquisition on Jan.1, 2015 of the former county nursing home.

County officials pay an annual six-figure rent to Comprehensive for use of the space for the Health Department, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.

The entire addition could be $8 million. The state funding “makes the numbers work,” Nesbitt said.

This rendering from Wendel shows a proposed 22,000-square-foot addition to the County Administration Building.

The county can use the lease payments it currently pays Comprehensive to offset some of the local cost for the addition. The county may also relocate the Department of Social Services to the addition, which would bring additional state reimbursement.

County officials initially eyed the addition for the County Legislature and its staff, including a meeting room. That wouldn’t bring state funding.

The county could instead renovate space that would be vacated for the Legislature, Nesbitt said.

The nearly $3.7 million will allow the county to move forward with the project.

“It really is a big deal,” Nesbitt said. “It’s full speed ahead.”

The Public Health Department leases space next to the former Orleans County Nursing Home on Route 31 in Albion.

The state funding is part of  $491 million announced statewide for healthcare projects in the “Health Care Facility Transformation Program.”

The funding will improve patient care through the development of high-quality medical facilities and programs serving the inpatient, primary care, mental health, substance use disorder and long-term care needs of communities throughout New York State, Cuomo said.

“Now, more than ever, we need to protect health care in New York and ensure the system in place is meeting the needs of current and future generations of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement. “While others seek to decimate our hospitals and reduce access to quality healthcare, we are investing to help ensure a stronger, healthier New York for all.”

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United Shoreline plans rally about lake levels on Friday at Orleans County Marine Park

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 July 2017 at 5:13 pm

Provided photo: Tim Call shared this photo on July 2 of his backyard in Hamlin. Normally he would have a nice view of the lake, but he had to build up a berm to fight flooding and erosion.

POINT BREEZE – A new organization that was formed by lakeshore residents who have lost chunks of their backyards to the high lake Ontario is holding a rally on Friday.

United Shoreline will gather at 7 p.m. at the Orleans County Marine Park, 1110 Point Breeze Rd. (Route 98)

State Sen. Robert Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) and State Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) are both expected to speak at the rally and discuss a flood relief package approved by the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Some of the state relief programs are being managed by Pathstone for Orleans County residents. Pathstone Director Susan Boss will be on hand to field questions on the grant application process and will have hard copies of the applications to distribute.

Dale Banker, director of the Orleans County Emergency management Office, will also address the group.

In addition, the Governor’s Office Mobile Command Center will be on site during the meeting for DEC permits and insurance claim assistance.

The Mobile Command Centers and DEC Permitting Offices will be at the Marine Park on Friday from 10 am to 8 p.m. They are scheduled to be back at the Marine Park on July 22, July 26 and July 30.

United Shoreline held its first rally last month in Kendall and then in Hamlin. The group is looking for a solution to the water levels and looks for proactive management to avoid the same flooding and erosion again next spring.

“Simply put, we need the shoreline fixed and we don’t want to be having this same discussion next year!” United Shoreline member Dawn Herbeck said in an email.

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County will move pistol permit office from County Court to Clerk’s Office

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 July 2017 at 8:19 am

ALBION – For more than 30 years, the pistol permit office has been maintained through the county judge’s chambers, even though it is a function of the County Clerk’s Office.

But with James Punch retiring as the county judge on July 29, the county is shifting the function to the Clerk’s Office, which is led by County Clerk Karen Lake-Maynard.

The Legislature on Wednesday also authorized the creation of a full-time pistol permit clerk position in the Clerk’s Office.

The shift of the function to the Clerk’s Office will be effective when Punch retires on July 29. He has served as County Court judge for nearly 27 years.

The 8th Judicial District is working on a plan to have coverage in Orleans County for the different courts led by Punch: Criminal Court, Family Court, Surrogate’s Court and State Supreme Court.

Punch is retiring after 27 years on the bench. Before he was elected judge, he was the county’s district attorney for five years.

His successor will be on the ballot in November, and will assume the office on Jan. 1.

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Keeler Construction will replace 2 bridges in western Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 June 2017 at 10:22 pm

A local construction company will be replacing two county-owned bridges in the western side of Orleans County.

The County Legislature accepted Keeler Construction’s bids on Wednesday for the projects.

Keeler, which is based in Barre, was the low bidder at $466,030 to replace the Culvert Road Bridge over Fish Creek in Ridgeway.

Keeler was also low bidder at $947,335 to replace the Marshall Road Bridge over Johnson Creek in Yates.

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.

In addition to the two bridges, the county is replacing two culverts this year on Platten Road in Yates at a total cost $885,173.

The state has made more bridge and culvert money available for municipalities with the Bridge NY program. The county has four projects identified for 2018 with the state program, which pays for 95 percent of the bridge costs and 100 percent of the culverts.

The Legislature on Wednesday approved enigineering and “right-of-way incidentals” for two bridge projects in 2018.

That includes $169,400 to LaBella Associates in Rochester for engineering and right-of-way incidentals as part of the Portage Road bridge replacement in Ridgeway over Fish Creek.

Bridge NY Project, which is 95 percent funded by federal government, includes a 5 percent local share – $8,470 –to be paid by the county.

The Legislature also approved $174,100 to LaBella Associates in Rochester for engineering and right-of-way incidentals as part of the Monroe-Orleans County Line Road bridge replacement over the east branch of Sandy Creek in Murray. The 5 percent local share – $8,705 –will be paid by the county.

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State approves $55M for Lake Ontario flooding victims

Photo by Tom Rivers: Sandbags were placed as a buffer from the spreading water at the Green Harbor Campground & Marina in Carlton in this photo from May 16. The high waters from Lake Ontario delayed the opening of the campground this year.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 June 2017 at 10:01 pm

The State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved $55 million in relief for flooding victims from the high Lake Ontario, which was down from an earlier $90 million package.

Despite the $35 million reduction, State Sen. Rob Ortt, R- North Tonawanda, said the funding provides critical relief for property owners who have suffered for more than two months from the high waters.

“Residents, business owners, farmers and local governments impacted by the Lake Ontario flooding will be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief,” Ortt said in a statement today. “This bill provides up to a $50,000 grant per eligible homeowner, and keeps the focus on helping year-round residents, not on how much money they make. We also haven’t forgotten about seasonal residents, small business owners, farmers, landlords, not-for-profits and municipalities.

“The high water levels have posed a significant burden for individuals along the coast. I’m proud both houses of the legislature were able to work together to provide much needed relief to families devastated by the unprecedented man-made disaster, so that they can begin to rebuild.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the $55 million is needed for the shoreline property owners.

“I’ve been up there several times and that situation is difficult and long-term,” the governor said in Albany today. “It’s not like a flood where it is several days and it’s gone, this has been weeks and weeks and weeks.”

The budget also incudes funds for portable dams to help stave off flooding. Two of those Aqua Dams were installed in Kendall on Wednesday.

“They are these large dams that can be filled with water and actually stop the water from coming onto property, roads, etc. so that was a very good piece of legislation in my opinion,” Cuomo said.

The state funding – a maximum $50,000 grant – will kick in after property owners tap federal assistance and insurance coverage.

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RTS celebrates start of $4 million transportation facility in Albion

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Regional Transit Service held a ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday for a new $4 million transportation facility in Albion to serve RTS in Orleans County. This photo shows, from left: David Callard, Orleans County Legislature chairman; Bill Carpenter, CEO of RTS; and Henry Smith, a former county legislator who is the county’s representative on the RTS board of directors.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 June 2017 at 8:56 am

RTS also expanding bus routes to Lyndonville, Holley, Brockport and Batavia beginning in September

ALBION – The Regional Transit Service, along with Orleans County officials, celebrated the ground-breaking for a new 13,000-square-foot transportation facility in Albion on Wednesday.

RTS has run a public transportation service in Orleans County since 2003. It has six buses in the county, and they are parked outside by the County Highway Department on West Academy Street.

This rendering shows how the facility will look in Albion. LeFrois Builders is general contractor for the project.

The new $4 million facility will allow the buses to be parked inside. The facility will be behind the County Highway Department, with RTS in a 50-year lease with the county for the land.

The facility will include eight indoor bus bays, three bus maintenance bays, a vehicle wash bay, storage for parts and materials, administrative office space, a break room with kitchenette, and designated parking.

“It’s absolutely critical for a county to grow and develop to have public transportation,” said David Callard, chairman of the Orleans County Legislature.

Local officials and RTS leaders join for a ceremonial ground-breaking celebration.

Federal aid funneled to the state will pay 80 percent or about $3.2 million of the cost, while the state pays 10 percent and RTS pays the other 10 percent, said Bill Carpenter, CEO of RTS.

He praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo for approving the bulk of the funding for the project.

Construction of the new facility is set to begin the week of July 10 and is scheduled for completion in July 2018.

“This is an exciting day for RTS and public transit in Orleans County,” Carpenter said. “The construction of this new facility will help our team make it easy for customers to enjoy the ride and fulfill our vision of becoming the preferred transportation choice.”

RTS has the facility on county land to ensure a long-term partnserhsip that is beneficial to taxpayers, Carpenter said.

Henry Smith, a former county legislator, has been the county’s representative on the RTS board of directors for nine years. He addresses the crowd during the ground-breaking. He is joined at the podium by David Callard and Bill Carpenter.

RTS also pays the county an hourly rate for maintenance of the buses using county mechanics in the highway department. The new facility will also have space for tools and equipment to work on the buses and county vehicles. Right now those tools are in two different county buildings.

When RTS started in Orleans, it was known as the Orleans Transit Service or OTS. It had 3,500 riders its first six months. The ridership has grown to 42,000 last year.

The rebranded RTS will be added routes on Sept. 5, with trips to Holley, Lyndonville, Batavia and Brockport, as well as Saturday service from Medina to Albion.

RTS is doing that without adding buses or staff, adding service while maintaining efficiencies, said Jamie Mott, manager of regional for RTS in Genesee and Orleans counties.

Jamie Mott (left), RTS director of regionals for Genesee and Orleans counties, signs one of the ground-breaking shovels with RTS CEO Bill Carpenter.

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Orleans joins other lake county leaders at DC meeting on flooding

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from May 17 shows the docks underwater at the Oak Orchard River near Lake Ontario.

Posted 28 June 2017 at 8:33 am

Orleans official says $11 million in damages to property so far

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Chris Collins (NY-27) and John Katko (NY-24) yesterday hosted a meeting with stakeholders impacted by the Lake Ontario flooding to discuss the devastation directly related to the International Joint Commission (IJC) Plan 2014.

Staff members from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers answered questions from Central and Western New York county leaders and explained how government agencies can provide assistance and help prevent further damage.

“We had a room full of local leaders and we can all agree that Plan 2014 is a disaster,” Collins said in a statement. “Residents, businesses and municipalities along the Lake Ontario shore deserve better than this bureaucratic mess, and the team that was in the meeting today is fighting for any relief that can be provided.”

“There is no question that the implementation of Plan 2014 has wreaked havoc in our community,” Katko said.

Collins and Katko are vocal opponents to Plan 2014, and have proposed an amendment to the FY18 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill that would direct the IJC to compensate shoreline property owners for damages caused by Plan 2014 using the panel’s existing funding. Increased water levels have caused millions of dollars in damage and residents have yet to receive any relief.

“I would like to thank Congressman Collins and Congressman Katko for organizing this vitally important forum. Listening to real stories from local leaders across the state will help us learn more about the real impacts of Plan 2014 throughout our coastal communities along Lake Ontario. I look forward to continuing to work alongside my colleagues in the House and our local leaders to find a solution to the issues facing our property owners in the region,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney.

Photo from Congressman John Katko’s Facebook: Congressman John Katko, right, and Congressman Chris Collins, second from right, meet with government officials from Niagara, Orleans, Monroe and Wayne counties on Tuesday about flooding and erosion damages from Lake Ontario.

“I made a pledge to the residents of the Town of Greece that I would explore every option available to help alleviate the ill effects of the rising waters and shoreline erosion,” said Bill Reilich, Supervisor, Town of Greece. “I appreciate the work of Congressman Collins and Congressman Katko for making this trip to Washington, D.C. possible. I intend to gather as much information as possible and hope that we are able to urge the decision makers in DC that changes must be made to the existing plan. The devastating conditions that we are experiencing in the Town of Greece and the entire shoreline are not acceptable and relief must be provided.”

Wayne County Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Le Roy said, “We’ve seen record devastation of Wayne County’s shoreline this year alone because of the failed implementation of Plan 2014.  We will only see real relief with a full repeal of Plan 2014 by the IJC.  Today’s meeting was an opportunity to raise Wayne County’s concerns at a federal level and we’re grateful to Congressmen Katko and Collins for continuing to advocate for our community in Washington.”

“Orleans County tax payers have suffered nearly an $11 million dollar loss along the Lake Ontario shoreline, and this number is still growing,” said Legislator Lynne Johnson of Orleans County. “It is my honor to represent them in Washington, D.C. and plead for this much needed funding on their behalf.  It should not come from the backs of the rest of our Orleans County tax payers that do not live along the lake and did not suffer these losses.”

“After nearly four years fighting to stop Plan 2014, the inevitable has devastated our lakeshore and harbors, forcing people out of their homes and causing businesses to close,” said Legislator David Godfrey, District 10 Niagara County. “The immediate financial impact on Niagara County alone has surpassed $21.7 million dollars, and the loss of sales tax revenues will be felt for months to come. Our meetings in Washington, thanks to Congressman Collins, will hopefully free the resources and moneys needed not only to repair our damages, but also protect what is left from further damage and loss.”

“We’ve seen record devastation of Wayne County’s shoreline and unprecedented flooding this year alone because of the failed implementation of Plan 2014.  We will only see real relief with a full repeal of Plan 2014. This meeting was an opportunity to raise Wayne County’s concerns at a federal level and we’re grateful to Congressmen Katko and Collins for continuing to advocate for our community in Washington,” said Steve LeRoy, Sodus Town Supervisor.

The leaders in attendance are committed to delivering relief to those impacted by the flooding and will remain devoted to working cooperatively to get the people of Central and Western New York the compensation they deserve.

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Officials at Marine Park today to assist flood victims by lake

Staff Reports Posted 28 June 2017 at 8:08 am

Up to $40,000 available for eligible homeowners to support interior and exterior repairs from structural damage caused by lake

POINT BREEZE – State officials will be at the Orleans County Marine Park today from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to assist flooding victims from Lake Ontario.

The NYS Department of Financial Services Emergency Response Unit will include the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to help expedite the permitting process for building and rebuild break walls.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal is making up to $7 million in state funding available for homeowners along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in the aftermath of the extreme weather and severe flooding in the region. The new investment program will provide up to $40,000 for homeowners to support interior and exterior repairs to structural damage caused by flooding, as well as the repair or replacement of permanent fixtures.

PathStone is working with Orleans County residents affected by the flood to access those funds. A representative from PathStone will be on site from 3 to 6 p.m. to answer question about applying for grant funds to repair damages caused by Lake Ontario flooding and to assist residents with the application process.

PathStone expects to have funds available for interior and/or exterior repairs to Orleans County homes damaged by Lake Ontario flooding.

Funds will reimburse homeowners for interior and/or exterior repairs to structural damage caused by the floods, and other related costs, as well as for the repair and/or replacement of permanent fixtures. Eligible activities include but are not limited to the repair or replacement of foundations, septics, electrical systems, mechanicals, insulation, and drywall.

In order to be eligible to receive assistance, property owners must have owned and occupied the property as their primary residence at the time of the flood damage.

For more information from PathStone, click here.

For more on the flood relief from the NYS Housing and Community Renewal, click here.

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