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Missing dog found safe in corn field
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 June 2017 at 9:54 am

Provided photo: Scott Fisken holds Maggie the boxer after the dog was brought home at about 9 p.m. on Thursday.

ALBION – Maggie, a purebred boxer missing since Monday morning, was found in a corn field Thursday evening.

The dog was worn out from about 3 ½ days of being on the loose. Scott Fisken, the dog’s owner, found Maggie resting in weeds and a drainage ditch in a field on Brown Street.

He was at Wal-Mart on Wednesday when someone mentioned he had seen the dog in the corn field. The Fiskens have placed posters about Maggie throughout the community, and asked for help on widely shared Facebook posts.

Fisken set food in the field on Wednesday. On Thursday, he perched in a deer stand for three hours, but didn’t see Maggie. Before heading home, he decided to check the dog food in the field. While there, he heard a noise. He looked up and there was Maggie.

Fisken then carried the 65-pound dog 2 miles through the field.

He made it home on Ingersoll Street with Maggie at 9 p.m. The dog was happily reunited with the family, including Scott’s son Aiden.

Rachel Fisken, Scott’s wife, thanked local residents for helping to spread the word when Maggie was missing.

“We appreciate the kindness and compassion from the community,” she said. “Everyone has been so wonderful.”

Maggie seems fine today, Fisken said. The dog will be receiving flea and tick medicine, a bath – and plenty of love.

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State legislators fail to pass sales tax extender for Orleans, putting $4 million in jeopardy
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 June 2017 at 8:39 am

State legislators adjourned the 2017 legislative session in Albany on Thursday without approving sales tax extenders for 53 counties, including Orleans.

The extender allows the counties to receive 4 cents per taxable dollar instead of 3 cents. (The state gets 4 cents.)

Orleans County uses that extra penny to raise about $3.85 million in revenue to fund county government services and take some pressure off property taxes. Orleans receives about $15.5 million in sales tax annually, and about $1.3 million is shared with the 10 towns and four villages in the county.

The county needs the state’s permission every two years to collect the extra penny in sales tax. It is usually a routine vote with no drama.

The sales tax extenders are being used as a bargaining chip as the Assembly tries to pressure the Senate to back mayoral control over New York City schools, the New York State Association of Counties said.

“We acknowledge the nature of today’s political environment that is focused on leveraging powerful interests against each other, but the consequences of this inaction reveal the state’s lack of understanding of how other levels of government operate in New York, and is an affront to the State Constitutional Home Rule authority intended to protect the unique needs of our communities,” NYSAC President William E. Cherry said in a statement on Thursday.

NYSAC is calling on state legislators to return to Albany and pass the sales tax extenders, or else the local governments will be deprived of $1.8 billion in revenue.

The counties are already working on their budgets for 2018.

“Prolonged inaction by the state will inject grave uncertainty in the budget-making process for counties and their property taxpayers across the state,” Cherry said.

Without action from the state legislators, Cherry said counties will face “dramatic increases in local property taxes.” The local government leaders will also be forced to cut programs and eliminate services, he said.

“Combating the opioid crisis, reforming public defense services, raising the age, maintaining local infrastructure, and providing Meals on Wheels to seniors are among the many local programs that will impacted by the state’s inaction,” he said.

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Medina family receives overdue medals for World War II soldier missing in action since 1945

Photos by Tom Rivers: Catherine “Connie” Caldwell accepts a Purple Heart earned by her brother, Baptist John “Buddy” Massar. Curtis Schultz, a chief warrant officer based at Fort Drum, presented the medal today at the VFW in Medina. Several veterans attended the presentation.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 June 2017 at 10:37 pm

Baptist John “Buddy” Massar is pictured in his military uniform. His name is inscribed in the Wall of the Missing  in the American Cemetery in the Netherlands.

MEDINA – For the past several years, Catherine “Connie” Caldwell wrote letters to Congressmen and Veterans officials, seeking her brother’s medals from when he served in World War II.

She never got a response until recently.

Caldwell’s brother, Baptist John “Buddy” Massar, went missing in Germany on April 7, 1945. He is believed to have been killed in action. His remains have never been recovered.

Caldwell, 90, said her parents spent many years after the war, hopeful her brother would return.

“My parents always thought that the knock at the door would be Buddy and he’d be home,” Caldwell said.

The family accepted his loss. But Caldwell wanted his medals.

Today she received her brother’s Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals. They were presented to Caldwell by Curtis Schultz, a chief warrant officer based at Fort Drum in Watertown.

“I’ve tried and tried every year,” she said.

Catherine “Connie” Caldwell thanked local veterans for attending a presentation today at the VFW in Medina, when she received her brother’s long overdue medals.

Caldwell reached out to Fort Drum earlier this year, and the base secured Massar’s medals. Besides the two prestigious awards today, the family last week’s received these medals for Massar: Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation & Oak Leak Cluster (large), American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Silver Star attachment (single) & Arrowhead, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, Belgian Fourragere, Netherlands Orange Lanyard.

Massar would be 97 if he were alive today. He was born Nov. 29, 1919. Thanksgiving was difficult for the family for many years after Massar’s went missing, Caldwell said.

She said her brother was quiet – “He was such a nice guy.” Buddy’s laid-back manner was a contrast to another brother, the boisterous Joe. Massar also had three sisters, Isabelle, Mary and Connie. (Connie is the lone surviving sibling.)

Buddy graduated from Medina High School in 1937, and attended Bryant and Stratton for two years, learning accounting. He enlisted in the Army on Feb. 6, 1941 and was deployed overseas in December 1942.

LuAnn Howe, right, is Buddy Massar’s niece. She shared his background and service history during today’s presentation at the VFW in Medina.

In September 1944 he was transferred to the A Company 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Buddy Massar crossed the Rhine River in an attack at Holdorf, Germany, his niece LuAnn Howe shared today.

The company withdrew to the other side of the river, but Massar was missing. The squad leader searched for Massar but had to leave due to enemy fire. A more thorough search was conducted but Massar wasn’t found. He was declared missing in action on April 8, 1946.

Caldwell, Howe and Massar’s nephew Jack Massar all submitted DNA samples earlier this year to Army Mortuary Affairs in the hopes there would be a match with Massar’s remains. That hasn’t happened yet.

Caldwell said she was grateful to have her brother’s medals.

Howe said the medals give the family some closure.

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West Barre signs get a facelift
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 June 2017 at 4:21 pm

Provided photos

WEST BARRE – Signs in West Barre, which note the distance to neighboring communities, were weathered and difficult to read until getting a fresh coat of paint.

Jeremiah Knight, left, is the father of seventh-grade student Maleah Knight (center). She is a student in a service learning class taught by Tim Archer (right). Service learning students noticed the signs needed to be refurbished and Mr. Knight, owner of Knight’s Pride on Main Street in Albion, offered to help.

The signs are om West Barre Road near the intersection of Eagle Harbor Road.

Barre Highway Superintendent Dale Brooks expressed his gratitude and installed the signs once they were completed. Archer noted that even small projects like these go a long way in reminding students that it takes effort to maintain our beautiful community as a great place to live.

Here is how the signs looked before they were repainted.

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2 charged for allegedly selling crack cocaine in Albion
Staff Reports Posted 22 June 2017 at 3:55 pm

ALBION – Two people have been arrested for allegedly selling crack cocaine in Albion, the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force is reporting.

Wayne F. Mormino

The arrests were made on Wednesday and today following an investigation into the sale and distribution of crack cocaine from Rochester to Albion.

The Task Force and Albion Police Department the following on numerous felony drug charges:

Wayne F. Mormino, 57, of 431 West State St., Lot 17, Albion. He is charged with one count of each of criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree (both Class B felonies), and one county of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree (Class D felony).

Dale M. Jones

Mormino was arraigned in Gaines Town Court by Town Justice Bruce Schmidt and committed to the Orleans County Jail on $25,000 bail. He is to return to Albion Town Court on June 29 at 9 a.m.

Dale M. Jones, 47, of 108 Burrows St., Rochester. He was charged with one count each of criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree (Class B felonies).

Jones was arraigned in Albion Town Court by Town Justice Joe Fuller. Jones was committed to the County Jail on $75,000 bail. He is due back in Albion Town Court on June 28 at 9 a.m.

This investigation is ongoing and more charges and arrests are pending, the Task Force said.

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$10K-$15K grants give several small businesses a chance to upgrade equipment

Photos by Tom Rivers: Kustom Kreations in Medina used a $10,000 grant through the Orleans Economic Development Agency to add a four-color press, and upgrade its oven and also graphics software. The business is owned by Kevin and Patty Gursslin. They are pictured with their son-in-law, Dave Holmes.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 June 2017 at 11:04 am

The Orleans Economic Development Agency has given several small business owners a chance to upgrade equipment through a state grant.

The Orleans EDA received a state grant to assist small businesses about two years. The local agency has awarded 11 grants from $10,000 to $15,000 for $135,000 total.

All of the grant recipients needed to complete the 10-week small business training program – the Microenterprise Assistance Program – run by the EDA.

The EDA set a $10,000 maximum for existing businesses and $15,000 for new enterprises.

“This has been the best part of my job, getting them funding,” said Diana Blanchard, the MAP coordinator who has been overseeing the grant program. “It’s been very rewarding because there is so little help for small businesses.”

The EDA has used up the funds for the grants. It initially expected it had $100,000 for grants, but was able to push it to $135,000 total.

Kevin Gursslin was able to use $10,000 for Kustom Kreations, which does screen printing for T-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets, and other products.

Gursslin, owner of the business with his wife Patty, upgraded his graphics software, the oven to dry the printing, and added a 4-color press.

Kevin Gursslin and Dave Holmes use the 4-color press for a shirt for a customer in Hamlin.

Gursslin graduated from MAP about 15 years ago when he opened Orleans Outdoor in downtown Medina. He has shifted the focus of the business from sporting goods to printing – and changed the name to Kustom Kreations.

Gursslin has “endured the highs and lows of the economy,” with the toughest challenge the disruption caused by the Main Street road reconstruction about a decade ago.

“We’ve found ways to keep moving,” he said.

The business added sublimation printing three years ago and now “a ton of coffee mugs” and mouse pads.

Gursslin said the EDA grant takes some financial pressure off the business so it could upgrade and continue to serve customers.

Blanchard said Gursslin has proven himself in the 15 years of running the business, showing he is willing to adapt and serve his customers.

“Kevin has worked so hard,” Blanchard said.

Provided photo: Kylie Hughson opened Tease about a year ago on East Bank Street in Albion.

The EDA also approved a $15,000 for Kylie Hughson, who opened a hair salon, Tease, on East Bank Street.

Hughson, 28, said the grant allowed her to speed up her business goals. She was able to purchase three stations with cabinets and chairs. The grant also paid for a reception desk, computer, printer, and products and inventory so Hughson could expand beyond hair services to pedicures and spray tans.

Hughson is looking to hire a nail technician. She also used her own funds to put in tanning bed.

She said her business is much farther along than she expected when she opened about a year ago.

“It’s definitely helped my business,” Hughson said. “I’ve grown a lot in the past year. I have a lot more to offer.”

Other businesses that received EDA grants include:

• The Shirt Factory Café, $10,000

• Sugar’s Shears for the Sweetest Pets, $15,000

• Cobble Ridge Co-Op,  $10,000

• Sue the Sew it All,  $10,000

• Make It Take It Experiences, $15,000

• 810 Meadworks, $10,000

• The Missing Peace, $10,000

• Holley Bottle and Can Return, $15,000

• Preston’s Farms, $15,000

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Kendall approves solar permit process for residential use
By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 22 June 2017 at 9:51 am

KENDALL – The Kendall Town Board has adopted a standardized residential/home business/non-commercial solar permit process which also moves the town closer to Clean Energy Community designation.

The New York State Energy Research and Development  Authority (NYSERDA) is offering a $2,500 grant to municipalities which adopt a uniform NYS solar permit process. Town of Kendall Code Enforcement Officer Paul Hennekey has advised the Town Board that the state process is consistent and compatible with the Town’s zoning code and permitting process.

Under the NYS Unified Solar Permit process, a permit fee of $20 for each application is established. Town leaders said that cost is consistent with current town fees.

Councilperson Bruce Newell said the adoption of the state solar permit process moves the town forward on one of four high impact actions necessary for Clean Energy Community certification and additional grant funds.

“We are making good progress,” Newell said during Tuesday’s meeting.

The New York State Unified Solar Permit process streamlines the approval process for local solar projects. Additionally, Kendall is moving forward on other high impact actions including energy reviews and energy tracking – a benchmarking policy which tracks and reports energy use in municipal buildings.

Newell said Kendall is also working to convert lighting in municipal buildings to LED as well as street lighting to LED.

As part of the LED street light conversion effort, Town Board members passed a resolution authorizing the supervisor to sign a non-disclosure agreement with National Grid- subject to review by the town attorney.

“This moves us towards overall certification,” Newell said.

He added that the Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council has informed him that small communities like Kendall can aggregate LED lighting together with other small communities in order to obtain additional support from National Grid in the process.

Governor Cuomo announced the $16 million Clean Energy Communities initiative last August.  The initiative supports local government leaders across NY State to implement energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable development projects in their communities.

It also advances the Governor’s Reforming the Energy strategy by demonstrating the importance of communities in helping New York reach its goal of 50 percent of the state’s electricity coming from renewable energy resources by 2030.

United Shoreline praised for advocacy for shoreline property owners

Councilperson Newell and Supervisor Tony Cammarata discussed the United Shore effort by residents along the Lake Ontario shoreline to band together as a group to advocate at the local, state and national levels for residents and businesses adversely affected by the high water levels of Lake Ontario this spring and resultant flooding and property damage and loss.

The group met for the first time Friday, June 16, and plans a second meeting this Friday at the Hamlin Town Hall at 6:30 p.m.

Newell and Cammarata said United Shore is trying to be a voice for south shore property owners along Lake Ontario.

“It’s a small group of people we hope will grow much larger,” Cammarata said. “The group wants to contact representatives on a repeated bases…. you don’t have to be a lakeshore resident to join, you can join to help your fellow neighbor.”

Earlier in the meeting, Supervisor Cammarata commended Kendall Highway Superintendent Warren Kruger for his continuing work to help residents along the shoreline and assist the state and Army Corps of Engineers in its work.

Cammarata said officials from Homeland Security have walked the shoreline from the Town of Yates east to talk to homeowners and businesses and assess damage in Orleans County.  If the agency finds there is at least $27 million in damage along the entire south shore, the governor can petition President Trump to declare the flooding and damage a major disaster, opening up FEMA monies and more assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers beyond technical support, Cammarata said.

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State Senate approves infrastructure tax credit for Lake Ontario flood victims
Posted 22 June 2017 at 8:04 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from April 30 shows the waves pounding the shoreline near the Yates-Carlton townline.

Press Release, State Sen. Rob Ortt

State Senator Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) announced the State Senate has passed legislation that would make an infrastructure tax credit available to those affected by flooding along Lake Ontario and other coastal communities across the state.

Ortt sponsors the measure (S6535) that would create a 25 percent tax credit up to $10,000 for the construction of protective structures, or shoreline stabilization projects that would protect homes, businesses and infrastructure from flooding and erosion. The tax credit would apply to property owners, businesses, farms and not-for-profits.

“Flooding due to the disastrous Plan 2014 has created an unnecessary financial burden for families and business owners living along the coast,” Ortt said. “Unfortunately, the devastation these communities have experienced, and for many, continue to experience, could be the new normal. Protective structures could mitigate further flooding, but are costly. This tax credit eases the burden for those planning to rebuild and reinforce their properties.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation would determine what would qualify as a shoreline stabilization project. Protective structures may include barrier walls.

Since spring, serious flooding along Lake Ontario has caused properties to erode, significant damage to houses and infrastructure, and has forced many businesses to close. According to Niagara County Legislator John Syracuse, the high lake levels have caused an estimated $7.48 million in private damages in Niagara County.

The bill now heads to the Assembly.

The governor has recently signed a bill introduced by Senate Republicans to speed up the availability of emergency infrastructure funding for recent flood damage. The funding was approved as part of the 2017-18 state budget. However, it would not have been available until August 18, 2017 – 120 days after the budget’s passage. This new law addresses the urgent need by removing the 120-day waiting period to provide an option for municipalities to seek immediate financial relief from the state.

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Postal carrier in Lyndonville recognized for stellar driving record
Posted 21 June 2017 at 9:38 pm

Provided photo: Lyndonville Rural Carrier Julie Hess, left, is recognized by Postmaster Roberta Keirn for her safe driving and caretaking ways.

Press Release, U.S. Postal Service

LYNDONVILLE – Lyndonville Rural Carrier Julie Hess drives over 50 miles per day delivering mail to 513 residential and business address in Lyndonville.

For the past 20 years, she has performed her job flawlessly. On Tuesday, she was recognized by Postmaster Roberta Keirn for her accident-free driving record with a National Safety Council Safe Driver Award.

“Julie is a caretaker of her community on many levels,” said Postmaster Keirn. “Her vigilance on the road is a testament to how she keeps herself and community safe. And when she is not driving for work, she is usually riding a bike to raise donations for important causes.”

Hess is a supporter of Roswell Park Cancer Institute. She has participated in the Ride for Roswell, enduring the 100-plus mile route for the last five years. In addition, she conducts a yearly yard sale and raffles a bicycle to encourage other riders. The year, her team has accrued over $6,000 in donations for the upcoming this weekend.

“Whether through her actions at work or her contributions in her spare time, Julie inspires us all to do better for our health and our neighbors,” concluded Keirn. “It’s wonderful to be able to recognize her for her postal contributions.”

The Postal Service does not receive tax dollars for operating expenses. It relies entirely on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

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‘Woman of Distinction’ praised for advocating for needy families

Photo by Tom Rivers: Annette Finch, director of Community Services for Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, is pictured in the food pantry at Community Action with State Sen. Robert Ortt, who picked Finch to receive the “Woman of Distinction” award for the 63rd Senate District, which includes all of Niagara, Orleans and part of western Monroe counties.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 June 2017 at 4:23 pm

ALBION – Many of the “Women of Distinction” recognized in the State Capitol each year are leaders of businesses, high-powered political figures, college presidents and others in the limelight.

State Sen. Robert Ortt said Annette Finch, who has spent 40 years working with needy families, deserves the same status as the other Women of Distinction.

Ortt picked Finch to represent his Senate District as a Women of Distinction on May 9 in Albany.

He also stopped by Community Action on June 9 at her office to celebrate the award with her colleagues.

Ortt said Finch and Community Action do important work for many local families.

Among Finch’s responsibilities, she assists individuals with emergency services, job training, clothing, and transportation, while ensuring clients are treated with dignity and respect. She works diligently to provide programs, services, and opportunities that can enable all people to reach their fullest potential in becoming self-sufficient.

For 40 years, Finch has compassionately worked to initiate and develop life-changing programs through Community Action, including its garden projects, thrift store, care packages for veterans, school supplies for children, the annual holiday basket, and coat drives.

In addition, she has worked in conjunction with the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign and camp for families and children in need, as well as the work release program through the Albion Correctional Facility to help teach life skills, Ortt said.

“I believe in the mission,” Finch said about Community Action. “I love what I do. Working here is like being with another family.”

Finch has also been a long-time member of the Albion Recreation Committee, and also has served on the Rebuild Bullard Committee for Albion’s most popular park. She also has been active in the local women’s softball league for over 40 years as a player, coach and umpire.

“She doesn’t do what she does for an award,” Ortt said. “That’s why we picked the right winner.”

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Holley man admits selling drugs, could face 3 ½ years in prison
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 June 2017 at 3:56 pm

ALBION – A Holley man admitted in Orleans County Court on Monday to selling drugs while he was living at the Holley Hotel.

Mathew P. Stearns, 34, was arrested on April for allegedly selling heroin. He pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and faces up to 3 ½ years in state prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 7.

The charge normally carries a maximum of up to 8 years in prison. He also faces 1 ½ to 3 years of post-release supervision.

Judge James Punch also set bail at $25,000 on Monday.

In another guilty plea on Monday, Luis Ramos-Perez of Albion pleaded guilty to violating probation and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

He was arrested for driving while intoxicated on April 29 by the state police.

He has two prior felonies. One term of his probation was not to drink alcohol.

Ramos-Perez is in the country on a Green Card. Judge Punch said the guilty plea for the latest charge could result in Ramos-Perez being deported after incarceration.

Ramos-Perez is being held without bail until the sentencing on Aug. 7.

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Bullard Park hosts kickball tourney on Saturday
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 June 2017 at 2:41 pm

FLED Foundation event includes other games, music and fun

Elaina Webb

ALBION – A kickball tournament on Saturday at Bullard Park will raise funds for families with children fighting leukemia and also provide some friendly competition.

The FLED Foundation is organizing the event which already has seven registered teams in a single-elimination tournament from noon to 6 p.m. There will be three bands performing, free food and other games, including a duck pond, face painting and visit by Princess Jasmine.

“I am pleasantly surprised because it’s our first year,” said Beth Webb, one of the organizers of the event and vice president and head of foundation operations for FLED.

Beth is also the mother of Elaina, who passed away at age 2 ½ on Feb. 7 after battling leukemia for nine months.

The Webbs, with help from friends, have started the FLED – Fight Like Elaina Dixie – Foundation. They wanted a kickball tournament to highlight one of Elaina’s favorite games.

The kickball tournament will include teams from 8 to 12 players, and participants from ages 0 to 100, Webb said.

The games include five innings with a five-run scoring limit per inning. There is a $50 entry fee per team. Webb welcomed spectators for the games.

The winning team will receive $15 passes to Tinseltown for each player. The players on all the other teams will receive certificates for free ice cream cones at 39 Problems.

For more information, or to see if there is still time to register a team, click here to contact the FLED Foundation.

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1 injured in 4-car accident by McDonalds in Albion
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 June 2017 at 1:32 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – One person was taken by COVA ambulance to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia after a four-car accident near McDonalds today.

The top photo shows one of the cars in the accident after the vehicle was taken to Waters Autobody in Albion.

A driver was headed west on East Avenue when that person failed to slow down or stop, hitting a vehicle that had reduced speed so another car could to turn onto West Academy Street, Albion police said.

There was then a chain reaction, with four vehicles in all damaged.

One person suffered an elbow and shoulder injury, and possible broken back, and was taken by COVA to the hospital in Batavia. That was the only serious injury.

The accident occurred at 11:50 a.m. and had a section of Route 31 closed for about 45 minutes.

Albion firefighters clean up broken glass and debris after the accident.

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New class completes small business training program through Orleans EDA
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 June 2017 at 11:20 am

Provided photo

ALBION – A new class graduated from the Microenterprise Assistance Program on Tuesday. The 10-week program provides small business training. The Orleans Economic Development Agency has run the program since 199 and 464 people have completed the class.

The new graduates include: Heather Saeva (Saeva Hops), Pat Greene (Quiet Eye), Darlene Hartway (Sourced Market & Eatery), Karen Boston, Chris Kozody, Katie Whipple, Tara Ashton (Bella Cosa), Dennis Button (Digital Ink Arts), Marcell Taylor (Marcell Fresh Bud Absolute Xquisite Taylor Cutz), Brandy McKinney and Jeff Maier (Buckshot Tanning).

The class met at the Arnold Gregory Office Complex, a former hospital on South Main Street in Albion. Ben DeGeorge (back right) of the DeGeorge Property Group owns the building. He has space in Arnold Gregory for a new business incubator.

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Assembly, Senate pass legislation to assist volunteer firefighters battling cancer
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 June 2017 at 9:53 am

Municipal group opposes because state not funding effort

File photos by Tom Rivers: Carlton and Barre firefighters work to put out a fire on Oct. 11, 2014 on Park Avenue in Carlton when about two dozen hay bales caught on fire.

The State Senate and Assembly have both passed legislation increasing the disability benefits available to volunteer firefighters to cover cancer.

Fire districts, departments or fire companies would be required to offer cancer disability benefit insurance programs to all volunteer firefighters who are eligible.

“The State Assembly and the State Senate have now passed legislation that grants presumptive cancer coverage to volunteers, something that is sorely needed as rates of firefighter cancer continue to rise,” Ken Pienkowski, president of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York. “We now call upon Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign this bill into law without delay, and ensure that New York’s volunteer firefighters have the protections that 21st century firefighting requires.”

The New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials is opposing the legislation because the state is providing funds for the cancer benefits, instead requiring the costs be picked up by local taxpayers.

“Another example of State mandating a local program but not paying for it,” NYCOM said in a tweet on Wednesday. “If this coverage is right thing to do, so is State paying for it.”

State legislators say a series of studies show an increased rate of cancer to firefighters, especially interior firefighters who are often exposed to carcinogens from the burning of everyday products that are engulfed in a fire.

“The session ends soon, and it would be tragic for New York to go another year without protecting its courageous volunteer firefighters against the dangers they face, day in and day out without pay or compensation,” Pienkowski said in a statement. “These men and women volunteered to fight fires, serve their communities, and save lives. They did not volunteer to get cancer.”

The New York State Volunteer Firefighter Enhanced Cancer Disability Benefits Act makes volunteer firefighters eligible for enhanced cancer disability benefits if they have served for at least five years as an interior firefighter. They also need to successfully pass a physical examination upon entering the fire service and not show and signs of cancer.

This fire on Feb. 4 on Bates Road in Medina spewed dark smoke.

The legislation provides the following benefits:

• A volunteer firefighter who meets the eligibility requirements shall be eligible for a lump sum payment of $6,250 or $25,000, depending on severity. (This amount may be drawn from a pool of $50,000 which is available if there is more than one negative diagnosis over the volunteer firefighter’s lifetime).

• If the volunteer firefighter is totally disabled, a monthly benefit of $1,500 payable up to 36 consecutive monthly payments.

• In case of death, the volunteer firefighters’ family will be eligible for an accidental death benefit in the amount of $50,000.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) supports the bill.

“Firefighters are important members of our society who protect us in so many ways,” Hawley said in a news release. “Often, firefighters are the first ones to arrive on scene, and they put their lives at risk every day to keep us safe from harm, whether it be from fires, car accidents or other tragedies. They protect our lives so it is only fair that we work to protect or improve their lives. This is why I have supported this bill to help give volunteer firefighters the benefits they deserve if they should suffer from such a terrible disease as cancer. They fight for us, so we must fight for them.”

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