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Orleans County

Businesses welcome chance to meet public at Home & Garden Show

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2017 at 4:30 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

KNOWLESVILLE – June Chippendale, owner of Antiques & Rusty Relics in Fancher, chats with her friend Terri Martinez during today’s Home, Garden & Outdoor Show. The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce has organized the event with 40 vendors at the 4-H Fairgrounds. The show is open today until 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Chippendale is attending her first Home Show as a vendor. She was there to promote an upcoming wine tasting and flea market at Antiques & Rusty Relics on April 22.

“I’m here to pump up business,” she said. “I want to get more people to know where we are on Route 31.”

Chippendale was pleased to make some sales early on Saturday at the Home & Garden Show. She is selling garden flags, enamel buckets, burlap, antiques and other garden items at the show.

Evie Hurt, owner of the Dazzling Dust Bunnies cleaning service, is among the 40 vendors at the Home & Garden Show. Hurt started the business in 2014 and now has four employees.

“This is a way to get face to face with clients,” she said about attending her first Home & Garden Show as a vendor.

Marie Preston and her daughter-in-law, Nadine Valentine, were at the booth for Preston’s Lawncare & Landscaping, which opened two years ago. The business has added a greenhouse on Zig-Zag Road in Albion.

Michael Klepp, a master gardener known as “The Plant Man,” answer a question from Grace Denniston at the Master Gardener’s booth.

Darcia Golda represents Sunrise Bees on McNamar Road in Barre. Sunrise has 1,000 hives and 40 varieties of honey. The business is owned by Eric Doud and Kevin Bezon.

Holly Ricci-Canham, left, is selling copies of her book, “Mom & Pop Farming in Orleans County, New York – The past brought to life.” She is pictured with her mother “Mike” Ricci and husband, Bud Canham, in back. They are chatting with Jane Sidari, right, and Irene Rouse of Albion.

The Home & Garden Show continues on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes a visit by the Easter Bunny from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and an Easter egg hunt beginning at noon for children ages 10 and younger.

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Chamber’s Home Show returns this weekend

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 April 2017 at 5:01 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers: Jenna Roberts of Roberts Farm Market sets up a display of decorative yard flags in this photo from April 2013 during the Home and Garden Show at the 4-H Fairgrounds. Roberts Farm Market will be among 40 vendors when the event returns Saturday and Sunday.

KNOWLESVILLE – After taking a hiatus last year, the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Home, Garden & Outdoor Show is returning this weekend with vendors showcasing services and ideas for improving homes, gardens and recreation.

There will also be special events over the weekend at the show, including a chicken barbecue on Saturday beginning at noon, a K-9 demonstration on Saturday at 1 p.m. and the Easter egg hunt on Sunday beginning at noon.

The Easter Bunny will also be there for the egg hunt and will be available for photos. The egg hunt will be free to children ages 10 and younger.

“We want to promote local businesses and get people to spend more money in Orleans County,” said Becky Charland, director of the Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a good promotion for businesses and that’s what the Chamber of Commerce does.”

The show will by at the 4-H Fairgrounds on Route 31 and opens at 10 a.m. both days and continues until 6 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $1.

There are about 40 vendors committed for the show. There will be raffles and demonstrations on both days.

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Extension picks Robert Batt as new executive director

Photo by Tom Rivers: Robert Batt is the new executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County. He is pictured outside the “Buzz” Hill Education Center in Knowlesville.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 April 2017 at 11:22 am

KNOWLESVILLE – Robert Batt has been deeply involved with the 4-H program at Orleans County since he was 8.

When he aged out of 4-H at 19, he promptly signed up to be a volunteer, working on the Fair Committee for the annual week-long 4-H Fair in late July.

Batt, now 36, is the new executive director for the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County. He wants to push the 4-H program and fair, as well as other Extension efforts that support agriculture, consumer science, nutrition, gardening and ag in the classroom.

Robert Batt is pictured with Alice Mathes, a 4-H club leader, in July 2014, when the two were getting ready for the 4-H Fair. The 4-H program saw a big jump in enrollment in Batt’s three years as an educator.

The Extension board of directors selected Batt last week to be the new director. He was chosen over nine other very qualified applicants, said Ed Neal, the board chairman.

Batt’s hiring wasn’t official until Wednesday when he received final confirmation from Cornell in Ithaca.

“He understands what is going on in Orleans County,” Neal said. “He is very dedicated to his job and he presents himself well.”

Batt has worked the past three years for Extension as a 4-H educator. He started his career at Rainbow Preschool in Albion, working as a teacher for 10 years for The Arc of Orleans County. Batt has his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.

The 4-H program took a big leap under Batt, including a new partnership with the Kendall school district, Neal said. Batt has proven himself, over and over, Neal said.

“We recognize his talents at the office,” he said. “I think he will do well as the executive director.”

Batt will lead an office with six full-time and three part-time employees. The Knowlesvlle site is also the base for five full-time specialists who work in regional fruit and vegetable teams through Cornell.

Batt said Extension provides many important services to the community, from youth development, to strengthening agriculture and helping residents grow more vibrant gardens that benefit their own health.

“I’m passionate about 4-H and all of the Extension programs,” he said this morning.

Batt was active in 4-H with clubs for rabbits and goats, as well as serving in the Senior Council. He also exhibited numerous animals at the fair. Those experiences were important in shaping his childhood, and remain powerful, positive memories, Batt said.

He wants that same opportunity for hundreds of children in Orleans County.

The Extension is celebrating its centennial this year.

“I’m excited to be a part of this organization, especially as we close out our first 100 years and look forward to the next 100,” he said.

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Orleans awarded $448,993 in state grant for emergency response system

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 March 2017 at 12:14 pm

Orleans County has been awarded a $448,993 state grant as part of $45 million in funding announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo today to upgrade emergency communications systems around the state.

“In an emergency, every second counts,” Cuomo said in a news release. “This critical funding will improve the quality and efficiency of emergency response capabilities across New York, while supporting the brave first responders who put their lives on the line every day to protect their neighbors and their community.”

Orleans County has a Radio Advisory Committee with representatives from highway departments, fire departments, police and law enforcement and the county’s Emergency Management Office. That group will consider options for how to use the funding, said Dale Banker, the EMO coordinator.

The county upgraded its 911 radio system in 2014 for about $7 million. That system, now three years old, already is a phase behind neighboring Genesee and Monroe counties, Banker said.

An upgrade of the Harris system in Orleans would allow the county’s system to be interoperable with Genesee and Monroe’s systems.

The county might also consider a long-term maintenance agreement with Harris as part of the grant.

The committee will also look at adding a dispatch station at the Public Safety Building. There are currently three stations and a fourth could be added, Banker said. There is also one backup station at the Emergency Management Office on West Countyhouse Road and an additional backup could be sought with the grant funds.

The state is expected to have a second round of grants for communications system improvements. The county committee has a wish list and will weigh how to best spend the money, Banker said today.

“It will definitely enhance our communications system,” he said about the funding.

The State Interoperable Communications Grant, which is administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, has awarded more than $275 million in five rounds to 57 counties and New York City.

Orleans County in recent years has received about $133,000 annually with the grant program.

“It is vital to emergency response to continually upgrade and enhance communications systems including 911 technologies,” said John P. Melville said, commissioner of State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. “This grant funding allows counties and New York City to continue to make improvements to their emergency communications systems to help protect New Yorkers.”

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Orleans Legislature presses state, federal governments for more job training funds

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 March 2017 at 5:15 pm

ALBION – There are currently 225 full-time jobs open in the county, from entry level to more high-tech positions, said David Callard, the chairman of the Orleans County Legislature.

Many good jobs go unfilled in the county because the job demands don’t match the available skill sets, Callard said.

The County Legislature last week urged the state and federal governments to invest in job training, to help unemployed or underemployed Americans boost their skills to fill needs in the economy.

Callard worries Orleans County will miss out on attracting new businesses and expansions because business leaders may not have confidence there are enough skilled workers locally to do the jobs.

“There are 225 full-time jobs available and we’re having trouble filling them for whatever reason,” Callard said. “We need a trained workforce to have businesses come.”

The Legislature approved a resolution last week seeking more federal funds for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The county used $100,000 in those funds last year to train 50 residents for skills in demand locally.

The Legislature is asking Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to fight any funding cuts in this job training program.

The County Legislature also passed a resolution asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to fund a state-wide workforce strategy to ensure a pipeline of qualified workers for businesses.

The state should invest in more job training , weighing local, regional and state priorities, the Legislature said. That may include investments in community colleges, adult basic education and other worker training.

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Orleans has one of biggest population declines among NY counties since 2010

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 March 2017 at 11:13 am

The population is down in New York in the latest population estimates form the Census Bureau, which shows declines in 46 out of 62 counties.  Orleans County has one of the steepest drops, according to the data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Orleans County had 42,883 people in the 2010 Census. It is down by 1,538 residents to 41,345, based on the 2016 population estimates. That drop of 3.57 percent ranks as the 55th most out of 62 counties.

The biggest population losses have been in upstate rural areas: Hamilton (down 6.22%), Delaware (5.12%), Tioga (4.48%) and Schoharie (down 4.36%).

The net migration for Orleans was down 1,497 since 2010. The Census reports that 1,762 people left the county and only 265 moved in since 2010. The change in natural increase (the difference between the number of deaths and births) was also down by 41 people.

In Western New York, only two counties saw population increases: Erie and Monroe, which are the largest counties in the region.

Monroe, which includes Rochester, was up 0.45 percent or by 3,325 people, while Erie County, which includes Buffalo, increased by 1,916 people or by 0.21 percent.

The smaller, rural counties in WNY all decreased in population since 2010. They include, from highest percentage of loss:

• Chautauqua, down 4.00 percent or by 5,400;

• Allegany, down 3.76 percent or by 1,842;

• Orleans, a decline of 3.57 percent or 1,538;

• Cattaraugus, a drop of 3.32 percent or 2,666;

• Wyoming, down 3.25 percent or by 1,371;

• Genesee, a decline of 2.43 percent or 1,462;

• Niagara, down 2.18 percent or 4,729;

• Livingston, down by 1.47 percent or by 960.

The Empire Center has an analysis of the latest population estimates, which show an overall decline in the state. The losses upstate were more than the gains in the New York City area. Click here for more information.

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Orleans Youth Board wants to honor outstanding youth

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 March 2017 at 9:46 am

2 adults also will be recognized for service to kids

ALBION – The Orleans County Youth Bureau seeks nominations of outstanding youths, and also adults who volunteer and work in careers on behalf of youths.

The nominations are due March 31, and the award-winners will be recognized on May 11 during the 35th annual Youth Recognition Banquet.

The Youth Bureau wants to recognize youths for community service or for their “extraordinary role” within their families. Examples of eligible youth award winners might be someone who helps developmentally disabled students at school, serving as a tutor or volunteer “hugger” at the Special Olympics. The Youth Bureau also has recognized youths for part-time jobs after school to help their family pay the bills.

The Youth Bureau wants to recognize community service where school credit isn’t given. Nominees must live in Orleans County and be ages 14 to 21.

Nomination forms are on the Youth Bureau website. Click here for more information.

The Helen R. Brinsmaid Memorial Youth Worker Award goes to a paid professional who works with youths, including administrators, caseworkers, counselors, school personnel, juvenile justice workers and others that work with youth and families.

The Eileen Heye Adult Volunteer Award goes to an adult volunteer who is a role model for youths and gives of his or her time to better the life of a child.

For more information contact the Youth Bureau at 585-344-3960.

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Vote today on health care bill in Congress, with Cuomo predicting doom if it passes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 March 2017 at 9:46 am

County Legislature, Congressman Collins say it would be big cut in property taxes

Today is the big vote in the House of Representatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a new health care plan backed by President Donald Trump and many Republicans in Congress.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been adamantly opposing the plan, saying it will result in a $7 billion hit to the state.

He also said reduced funding to hospitals will decimate the healthcare system. Medina Memorial Hospital would face $569,762 in cuts with the new Trump-backed healthcare plan, Cuomo said, citing analysis by the New York State Department of Health.

The healthcare proposal includes an amendment from Congressman Chris Collins that would relieve upstate counties from paying towards Medicaid, shifting about $2.3 billion to the state.

David Callard

The Orleans County Legislature voted unanimously to support the “Collins Amendment” in the American Health Care Act on Wednesday, saying it would provide significant tax relief, cutting the county tax rate in half.

“This would be a tremendous boost to the counties,” said Legislature Chairman David Callard. “We appreciate the initiative of our congressman.”

Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer, said counties have been opposing the local contribution to Medicaid for a half century. Nesbitt noted nearly all states don’t require a local share for Medicaid.

“This is significant and something after 50 years of fighting we’d be glad to support,” Nesbitt said during Wednesday’s Legislature meeting.

Cuomo has issued several press releases in recent days, warning of dire consequences to hospitals, and tax hikes in the state.

“The radical conservative ideology in Washington has declared war on New York with legislation that will devastate hospitals across the state and hurt New Yorkers,” Cuomo said on Wednesday. “These massive cuts will cripple our hospitals and ravage the health care services on which New Yorkers rely, with $7.8 million in cuts to hospitals in the 27th District alone. I urge members of the community to call their member of Congress and demand that they vote ‘no’ on this unconscionable piece of legislation.”

Callard said he believes the state can absorb the tax shift in Medicaid by reducing some of the benefits in the $60 billion annual Medicaid program.

Collins also urged Cuomo to rein in some of Medicaid’s costs. Collins faulted Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul for their resistance to the health care plan that would cut property taxes.

“Governor Cuomo and his sidekick are using doomsday predictions to scare everyday New Yorkers into allowing Albany to continue taxing them to death,” Collins said in a statement. “It’s absolutely disgusting the Governor would threaten the middle class with a tax increase, while holding a $14 billion taxpayer funded slush fund in his back pocket. As I have said before, if this Governor can’t find 1.5% to save in his budget, I am more than willing to find it for him.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley also chastised Cuomo for his pushback on the Medicaid funding shift.

“Gov. Cuomo’s shameless threat to New York families is absolutely offensive,” Hawley said. “New York State needs to join the rest of the nation and pay for Medicaid instead of leveraging the program on the backs of homeowners and local governments. We have an obligation to cover our most vulnerable but not in a ‘cradle to grave’ fashion by which our state offers more ‘optional’ benefits than any other state which increases the cost dramatically. We should be encouraging people and businesses to come here for the job opportunities and not because we promise these taxpayer-funded handouts.”

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County Legislature to vote today on resolution backing Collins’ plan to shift local Medicaid costs to state

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 March 2017 at 1:37 pm

Orleans pays $8.5 million annually to Medicaid program, accounting for about half of county tax burden

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature is expected to vote today in support of the “Collins Amendment,” a recent push by Congressman Chris Collins (R-Clarence) in the proposed new healthcare law that would shift the county share of Medicaid costs in New York to the state.

The move would save upstate counties about $2.3 billion, and would spare Orleans County $8,542,626, which is what the county currently pays towards Medicaid. That represents 52.3 percent of the county’s $16,322,820 tax levy, according to the New York Association of Counties, which supports the push to rid the counties of paying towards Medicaid.

New York is unusual is requiring counties to help fund Medicaid, a health insurance program for poor residents. The New York counties and New York City pay $7.5 billion to the program each year. In the other 49 states, only $2.2 billion is contributed by local governments for Medicaid.

“Year after year, Albany’s leadership relies on counties to foot the bill for New York State’s out-of-control Medicaid costs,” Congressman Collins said in a statement. “Enough is enough. This amendment will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families.

The Collins amendment would spare upstate counties from paying towards Medicaid, but not New York City, where taxpayers there contribute about $5 billion annually towards Medicaid.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state would struggle to pick up the increase from the counties, and hospitals, many already struggling to survive financially, would be forced to close with reduced revenue as part of President Donald Trump’s healthcare bill, called the American Health Care Act.

Cuomo faulted Collins and the Trump administration for pushing the cost shift as a move to secure more votes from upstate Republican lawmakers.

‘This amendment will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families.’ – Congressman Chris Collins

Tom Reed, a Republican congressman for the Southern Tier, said the Collins amendment convinced him to vote in favor of the Trump healthcare plan. Reed, in a news release on Tuesday, said the amendment would be a big tax lift in upstate.

“It’s time for the state to get its act together and quit putting the burden on upstate families and businesses,” Reed said in a statement.

Besides Reed and Collins, other Republicans in New York’s GOP congressional delegation have backed the “Medicaid Local Share Limitation” proposal, including John Faso (NY-19), Claudia Tenney (NY-22) and Elise Stefanik (NY-21).

The County Legislature’s resolution states that property taxes are high in upstate, and eliminating the local share for Medicaid would provide much needed local tax relief.

“Unfunded mandates such as Medicaid make up the largest portion of our county budget placing immense pressure on our ability to provide the services our residents expect and deserve at a reasonable cost,” the resolution states. “This amendment will allow us to be able to provide much needed tax relief to our constituents and provide more funds to improving our aging infrastructure.”

The Legislature meets at 4:30 p.m. today in the legislative chamber at the County Clerks’ Building, 3 South Main St.

Currently, New York State ranks second highest in the nation in both Medicaid spending per year ($60 billion) and spending per Medicaid beneficiary (44 percent more than the national average), according to Collins.

In addition, while New York State accounts for only 6 percent of the national population, New York accounts for 11 percent of total Medicaid spending. The outsized portion of the Medicaid burden counties are being forced to pay is creating a significant financial hardship, Collins said.

Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor, said in a statement on Tuesday that Collins should have the federal government pick up the difference from the counties, not the state. She called Collins, “Mr. Trump’s bag man,” using the amendment to get votes for an unpopular health care proposal.

“If Mr. Collins wants to buy votes let the federal government pick up the share rather that the people of New York,” Hochul said. “Local county taxes or state taxes New Yorkers still pay. One way or another, it is still coming out of New York taxpayers’ pockets.  Let Mr. Collins help New York State and his district by having the federal government pay – that is why he is in Washington. He could easily help pay by reducing the $150 billion tax cut to the richest 1 percent of Americans or buying one less tank from Trump’s record defense budget. Why make the people of his district pay for his politics. We do know Mr. Collins is adept at corrupt financial schemes but this is the ultimate insider trading scam.”

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Orleans reduces unemployment rate in January compared to 12 months earlier

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 March 2017 at 10:51 am

The unemployment rate in Orleans County was 6.7 percent in January, which was down slightly from the 6.9 percent in January 2016.

The county actually had about 300 fewer people working in January compared to January 2016 – down from 16,700 the previous January to 16,400. Despite fewer people working, the unemployment rate went down because there were about 100 fewer people on unemployment, about 1,200 total, according to state Department of Labor data.

The DOL reports the state’s private sector job count increased by 123,600 during the 12 months to 8,035,600. The state’s unemployment rate of 5.0 percent was down from 5.3 percent in January 2016. Nationally, the rate was 5.1 percent in January, a decrease from 5.3 percent in January 2016.

Several counties topped a 7 percent rate for unemployment in January, including nearby Niagara at 7.1 percent. Other counties near Orleans have lower unemployment rates: Monroe, 5.0; Erie, 5.5; Genesee, 5.8; and Livingston, 5.8.

Wyoming County had the highest rate of the GLOW counties at 7.3 percent unemployment in January.

Nassau County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.1 percent and Hamilton was the highest at 9.4 percent.

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