County legislators make trip to Albany to press Orleans issues

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 June 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – State officials urged Orleans County canal communities to seek downtown development grants. This photo shows the Main Street clock in Albion, which is part of a downtown district on the National Register of Historic Places.

ALBION – A group of Orleans County legislators travelled to Albany to meet with state officials, pressing high-speed Internet, infrastructure money, downtown development and other issues for the county.

“Everyone we met with was very accommodating to us and to hearing about Orleans County and out initiatives,” said Legislature Chairman David Callard. “We are confident that through this trip we have laid the groundwork to be successful in upcoming funding rounds – especially the Upstate Revitalization Intiative and the New NY Broadband Program. We will continue to press our case to ensure that Orleans County gets its fair share.”

Callard travelled to Albany with legislators Lynne Johnson, Ken DeRoller and John DeFilipps. They met on June 10 with local state legislators – Sen. Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda), Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) and Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R-Clarence) – as well as representatives from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, the Department of State and the Canal Corp.

Callard said the state government officials had advice for the county in seeking state funds. The county would be a prime candidate for state grants for the canal villages and historic downtown business districts in Albion, Holley and Medina, Callard said.

The state urged the Orleans communities to pursue Main Street development grants, Callard said.

Holley and Albion both have received those grants in recent years, and Callard said more of that funding would help the canal communities. He said the county could take the lead in working with the villages for those grants.

The state also recommended the county’s lakeshore towns of Yates, Carlton and Kendall update a lakefront development study from about 20 years ago. A fresh study could help those communities, and the county access state funds.

The county sought about $160,000 in state funds for projects at the Orleans County Marine Park in Carlton. Orleans was approved for half of that amount last year. Callard said the outdated development plan was a one factor in why the county missed out on the full amount.

The county is already working on applications for broadband Internet coverage throughout Orleans, including rural pockets without the service. Orleans also is pursuing funds for its emergency radio system to make it interoperable with neighboring counties and to boost service in schools and larger buildings.

Callard said the trip to Albany is part of the Legislature’s stepped-up efforts for state funding for projects in the county.

“Given that a vast majority of key decision makers on state initiatives critical to Orleans County are based in Albany, it’s imperative that we get to the State Capitol to meet face-to-face on a regular basis,” Callard said. “By taking the time to travel to Albany to press our case directly with state officials, they can gauge both our sense of urgency and our great desire to gain state resources and funding for our top priorities.”

The county has also retained a lobbyist for $60,000 for a year to help Orleans County have better success with state grants. The firm, Park Strategies of Albany, helped arrange the meeting on June 10 with the various state officials.