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Albion Rotary Club wants to help village develop Santa park in downtown

Photo by Tom Rivers: Some onlookers stopped by Waterman Park on June 28 to see a new Santa mural painted by Stacey Kirby Steward. The mural has some community members pushing to add more Santa items at the park.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 October 2018 at 3:56 pm

ALBION – The new 24-foot-long Santa mural that was installed in downtown Albion in late June has created momentum to add more Santa-themed items at Waterman Park.

The Albion Betterment Committee already has been fund-raising for a bronze statue in honor of Charles W. Howard, an Albion man who ran the first Santa Claus School. He operated it from 1937 to 1966. He is revered among people who portray Santa Claus. Twice they have held Santa conferences in Albion, in 2010 and 2015. The Betterment Committee has raised about $35,000 for the memorial statue.

The late Charles Howard is pictured with a Santa-in-training at the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Albion.

The Albion Merchants Association is taking the lead for a new 16-by-16-foot Santa House that would be in the back corner of the park, near Briggs Alley, according to a layout of park improvements presented last week by the Albion Rotary Club.

The Santa house would be visible from Main Street and the canal. The site could be used during the holiday season and also throughout the year for other events.

The Albion Rotary Club presented the concept for the park to the Village Board last week. Karen Sawicz, president of the club, and Rotary member Charlie Nesbitt asked for permission to work on the project, with the Village Board and Department of Public Works to be kept in the loop of progress.

The Rotary Club would like to see the site renamed to perhaps Santa Claus Lane at Waterman Park.

The Rotary Club wants to add landscaping under the mural, and some small street lights within the park to improve safety and illuminate the mural and future improvements. There could also be Christmas-themed benches.

An existing mural in honor of the quarrymen would also be removed and replaced with another Christmas-themed mural as part of the effort. The quarrymen painting would be relocated at a different site to be determined, according to the Rotary proposal.

The club will work with Betterment Committee and Merchants Association on fund-raising. Sawicz said the groups will likely pursue grants and seek community donations. She is hopeful the projects can be completed over three years.

The Village Board thanked the Rotary Club for spearheading the work, while working with the Betterment Committee and Merchants Association.

Mayor Eileen Banker said the village will need to see more concrete plans for improvements before there is a final OK.

“The promise is we’ll work with you all along the way,” Nesbitt said.

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Albion woman’s basket creations featured in national magazine

Photo by Tom Rivers: Laurie Kemler, owner of Laura Loxley in Albion, is pictured with some of the vintage coiled-rope baskets she makes.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 October 2018 at 1:32 pm

ALBION – Laura Kemler was teaching an art class over the summer at Forrestel Farm in Medina, when she started dabbling with tie-dye and fabric manipulation. Kemler wanted to do more than the typical tie-dyed T-shirts for the students.

She started experimenting with different fabrics. She found she enjoyed tie-dying cotton ropes, and turning them into colorful baskets.

The baskets are popular to store envelopes and stationary. Kemler makes them in a variety of colors and themes.

“It’s bringing back those iconic items that your grandma had that you love,” Kemler said.

The baskets have been so popular that Kemler turned it into a business about three years ago. This month her baskets are featured in a national magazine, the 45th anniversary issue of Old House Journal. Her baskets get praise on page 11 of the October issue. The magazine did a spread on “clever” American-made items used for storage.

Kemler said the unexpected attention has given the business a boost. She had been looking to expand anyway. She is currently in the Microenterprise Assistance Program through the Orleans Economic Development Agency, researching how to best expand her business. She is looking to buy more supplies in bulk and automate some of the work.

She hopes to move the operation out of her home to a commercial site. She would love to hire single mothers to help make the baskets, and perhaps other products. She would cater to the schedule of a single mom.

Kemler named her business, Laura Loxley, because she likes the English-sounding name of Loxley. She sells most of her baskets for $10 to $100 through Etsy.

For more on Laura Loxley, click here.

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Albion Board of Education states support for adding resource officer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 October 2018 at 1:17 pm

ALBION – The nine-member Albion Board of Education was unanimous on Monday in stating its support for a school resource officer to work in the district. The BOE said the details need to be worked out with Albion Police Chief Roland Nenni and the Albion Village Board.

“We’re all in agreement that this is a positive thing for the district,” Brown said after polling board members during Monday’s meeting.

The Village Board last week said it would support having an Albion police officer work in the schools. Chief Nenni said it would cost about $81,250 in salary and benefits to add the officer. In addition to helping make the schools more secure and build relationships with students and staff, Nenni said adding the resource officer would also help the department with its staffing during the summer.

The BOE wants to pin down the costs to the district – how much of $81,250 would the school district be expected to pay? The school year is 180 days and the officer’s full-time workload wouldn’t be fully devoted to the district during a calendar year.

The BOE also wants to know the hiring procedure for the officer, and if a backup resource officer would be available if the person assigned to the school isn’t on duty.

Nenni and school officials met last month to discuss the position. The Police Department used to have an officer assigned to the district until about a decade ago.

The police chief said an officer could be trained and ready to start with the district by Jan. 1.

Medina Central School pays the Village of Medina $60,000 to have an officer work at the district during the school year, while Lyndonville and Kendall this year are each paying the county $100,000 to have a deputy from the Sheriff’s Office work as school resource officer.

Since the Orleans Hub reported last Wednesday that the district and village were discussing the school resource officer, Brown said she has heard mostly positive comments from the community, but she told board members not everyone wants a police presence at the school district.

“The feedback is not all positive and I’ll just leave it at that,” she said.

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Albion students celebrate the past with Ghost Walk at Mount Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2018 at 10:54 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Albion student Nia Rodriguez portrays Nehemiah Ingersoll (1788 – February 28, 1868), who played a major role in the development of Albion, donating land for the county courthouse and jail, and parceling out 100 acres of land in the downtown for development. He was one of about 15 interesting people from Albion’s past who were highlighted during a Ghost Walk on Saturday at Mount Albion Cemetery.

About 400 people attended the 10th annual Ghost Walk put on by high school students. There were nearly 70 students involved in the production.

Ryan Krenning is Hiram Curtis (April 1804 – May 17, 1871). He owned a foundry along the Erie Canal currently occupied by the Lake Country Pennysaver and Orleans Hub. Hiram manufactured agricultural implements including plows, cultivators and reapers. His company made 1,000 plows annually in a variety of patterns. The Erie Canal was a perfect place for his business allowing him to receive raw materials and ship finished product throughout the state and beyond.

Emma Tower portrays Jennie Curtis (1837 – October 23, 1921). She was the daughter of Hiram Curtis. Jennie was a spirited young woman who is considered to be the first female prisoner of the Civil War. She was thought to be a Yankee spy, but was eventually released and the charges were dropped.

In addition to portraying ghosts, students provided music at stops along the cemetery. Here students are shown singing, “Amazing Grace.” The trio includes, from left: Brie Haines, Lily Zambito and Alison Mathes.

Molly Wadhams portrays Laura Ward, wife of Judge Alexis Ward (1802 – November 28, 1854). Alexis Ward was Orleans County Judge from 1830-1840. He was instrumental in coordinating the Rochester-Lockport-Niagara Falls Railroad and the suspension bridge across Niagara Falls River. He was a supporter of public schools. In 1854 he was elected to the Assembly, representing Orleans County, but he died before he could take office.

Chase Froman impersonates Governor Rufus Bullock (1834- April 27, 1907). Bullock graduated from the old Albion Academy in 1850. His background in telegraphy helped him to invent a combination printing telegraph system that was used in many large cities. He moved to Augusta, Ga. and became assistant superintendent of the Adams Telegraph Company and formed the Southern Express Co. When the Civil War broke out, he worked with the Confederate Government and was in charge of the railroads and telegraph lines. After the war he helped organize the First National Bank of Georgia and the Republican Party. He was a key player at the Constitutional Convention and was unanimously nominated for governor. He was elected governor in 1868 and was instrumental in the reconstruction of Georgia with over 600 miles of new railroad built during his tenure.

Olivia Morrison represents Hannah Avery at the only “tabletop grave” at the historic Albion cemetery.

This year’s tour included the singing of a song by the late Albion Mayor Donna Rodden. Hannah Brewer sings Rodden’s song, “Top of the Tower,” at the Civil War Memorial.

Hannah Van Epps is Caroline Phipps Achilles (March 21, 1812 – January 26, 1881). Caroline taught in a log school house at Gaines Basin at the age of 14. She later taught in a classical school located at the Courthouse Square in Albion. She felt girls and boys should be taught separately and chose to teach girls. Her idea was very successful. She built a larger school to accommodate her students and in 1837 the Phipps Union Female Seminary opened its doors to girls from all over New York State.

Students also portrayed Elizabeth Harriet Denio, Judge Noah Davis, David Hardie, Judge Arad Thomas, Starr Chester, James Lewis and Emily Caroline Minton Pullman, and Elizabeth Josephine Vaile, MD.

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Benefit draws big crowd for Albion boy, 15, who had brain tumor removed

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 September 2018 at 5:07 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The community has turned out for a benefit today for Lucas O’Connor, 15, who recently had a brain tumor removed and will need brain scans every three months to make sure the tumor hasn’t returned.

Lucas is pictured with his parents, Jodi and Kevin, at the Elks Club this afternoon, where there is a benefit from 2 to 6 p.m. There are nearly 100 items up for raffle. The beef on wick dinner is a sellout.

“It’s amazing, the generosity of everybody,” said Lucas’s father, Kevin. “So much of the media is negative but this is really about people caring about people.”

Lucas was wrestling last October when he sustained a mild concussion. A CT scan and MRI showed that some of the bone near Lucas’s left ear had changed. He was diagnosed with a very rare brain tumor (chondromyxiod fibroma).

That concussion proved to be a blessing, Mr. O’Connor said. Lucas didn’t have any symptoms that the tumor was growing in his skull.

“It’s amazing how God works,” Mr. O’Connor said.

Lucas endured two procedures before he had full craniotomy on July 26 by a team of specialists in New York City. The tumor was benign. Doctors want to check him every three months because the tumor often comes back and is fast-growing.

“He is a fighter,” O’Connor said about his son. “You can’t keep him down.”

Members of the football and wrestling teams are serving the beef on weck dinners. Bryce Pritchard, center, and Jessy Cruz check the potatoes.

Lucas is ready to take the tickets for the dinners. He is joined by his friends Sam Williams, left, and Presley Smith. Presley’s parents, Julie and Ken Smith, were key organizers for the benefit. Sam’s mother, Karen Williams, also was instrumental in the effort.

Tom Smith (left), his brother Gary Smith and Gary’s wife Ronda perform during the benefit.

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Albion village officials say they are committed to Bullard Park improvements

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 September 2018 at 8:18 am

Splash pad will be constructed next year

Photo by Tom Rivers: The basketball hoop at Bullard Park is pictured in this file photo from Aug. 4, 2015.

ALBION – Members of the Rebuild Bullard Committee told the Village Board on Wednesday they are frustrated by a lack of progress in some of the high-profile improvements planned for Bullard Park, including an amphitheater and splash pad.

Ron Albertson, president of the Albion Lions Club and one of the Rebuild Bullard leaders, say residents tell him they are excited for the upgrades but wonder why it’s taking so long.

The village in December 2016 was awarded a $499,605 state grant for Bullard improvements with the village providing $166,370 with in kind-services or funding.

The overall $665,975 project includes a spray park, amphitheater/performance stage, a walking/hiking trail with signage, infrastructure (water and sewer) for the spray park, a utility building, and parking lot and lighting improvements.

“Are you committed to it?” Albertson asked the board members.

The board members say they are committed to the project. This year there have been unexpected pressing assignments that pulled the Department of Public Works from working on the amphitheater. Albertson had hoped that performance stage would be in place for the Rock the Park concert in August.

The amphitheater was supposed to be a pre-fab building that would be easy to construct. But it is instead a stick build that will require a big effort, more than the DPW can do and still get paving projects done before winter, Jay Pahura, the DPW superintendent, said at Wednesday’s meeting.

“It’s an Erector set,” Pahura said. “My guys are not comfortable with it.”

The village may have the structure built by a contractor. Any in-kind hours from the DPW or dollars spent by a contractor would count towards the village’s local share for the project.

The DPW needed to work this summer on Route 31 as part of the state’s repaving. The DPW reset 25 manholes, and put in new water and sewer infrastructure from 31 to the edge of the park. Lines can be run from that spot once the final layout is determined for the spray park and possibly new bathrooms. (The DPW also had to run a 700-foot water line on West Academy Street so the new RTS Orleans transportation facility would have adequate water pressure for its sprinkler system, another unexpected project for the DPW.)

The spray park was planned to be behind the playground equipment in the middle of the park. Mayor Eileen Banker worries about vandalism with the splash pad, especially in light of frequent damage to the bathrooms at Bullard this year.

“I’m committed but I’m very nervous about the splash pad,” Banker said. “We’ve seen so much damage with our bathrooms at Bullard.”

Police Chief Roland Nenni urged the board to have the splash park closer to road with lighting. He thinks a more visible location would deter vandals.

“Let’s design it so we’re dealing with these problems,” the police chief said.

The spray park is on schedule to be built in 2019, Trustee Gary Katsanis said.

The board said the village will follow through with the park improvements. Not doing so would jeopardize future grants for Albion. The board also wants to see the park better utilized as a draw for the community.

“It has to get done or we as a village will be in trouble,” Katsanis said.

The grant application called for 6,000 hours of work from the DPW, the equivalent of three full-time workers spending a year on the project. Katsanis said that wasn’t a realistic commitment, given the many other projects for the DPW.

“This was a planning failure, a failure of foresight,” he said.

Katsanis and Banker both said the village will push forward with the project and strive to communicate any updates with the Rebuild Bullard Committee.

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Albion village, ACS discussing agreement to add school resource officer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 September 2018 at 8:54 pm

ALBION – The school district and village are both pushing to have an Albion police officer assigned full-time as a school resource officer, hopefully by the end of this calendar year.

Police Chief Roland Nenni met with school officials during the Board of Education meeting on Sept. 10 to discuss having an officer assigned to Albion Central School.

Both the Village Board and Board of Education want to make a resource officer a reality.

“We’re very much in favor,” said Margy Brown, the Board of Education president. “We’re definitely moving in that direction. The board wants it and I believe it will happen.”

The district and village used to have a partnership for a school resource officer but that stopped about a decade ago. Officers with the Albion Police Department have stepped up their presence at the district in recent years, but no officer is assigned to the schools.

Nenni said officers who stop by often are called away for other incidents in the village. A school resource officer would devoted to the district full-time, except for July and August when the officer would be on regular road patrols.

The district and village are trying to determine the cost. Nenni this evening told the Village Board he believes the cost of the officer, salary and benefits, is $81,250.

Kendall and Lyndonville have both added school resource officers this school year and are paying the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office $100,000 to have a deputy assigned to each district. Medina Central School pays the Village of Medina $60,000 to have an officer assigned to the district during the school year.

Nenni said members of the school district will help determine which officer would work at the district. He said a new position would be created in the department and the position would be posted through Civil Service.

“The officer works for us but he is a resource for the district,” Nenni told the Village Board this evening. “I think it would be an amazing thing.”

The police chief said the officer would provide security for the district, and he sees the role of “relationship building” as another big benefit of having an officer devoted to the schools.

Nenni said he is pleased with the reception from the district. He is hopeful the school resource officer can be a long-term position.

“Things are great right now with the partnership between us and them,” he said.

Brown, the Board of Education president, said the board will likely discuss the position during its next meeting on Monday.

Community rallies for Albion kindergarten teacher fighting cancer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 September 2018 at 6:24 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Angie Wolfe is pictured with her 6-year-old son, Caleb, during a spaghetti dinner benefit and basket raffle today at the Albion Elks Club. Her friends, family and co-workers at Albion Central School organized the event to help her while she battles breast cancer.

Wolfe, a kindergarten teacher at Albion, was diagnosed with cancer in March. She had surgery in April and went through chemotherapy from May until her last treatment on Sept. 4.

She is hopeful she can return to the classroom in October or November. She also will be undergoing immunotherapy which she said shouldn’t be as taxing as chemo.

“I am absolutely amazed by the love and support from the community,” Wolfe said at a packed Elks Club. “I had a lot of happy tears today.”

Angie Wolfe, 42, gets a hug from third grader Julia Graham. Wolfe grew up in Albion and has taught at the Ronald L. Sodoma Elementary School for 18 years, the first five as a first grade teacher and the last 13 in kindergarten.

Many of her former students and their families attended today’s benefit.

“I love my job,” Wolfe said. “I love the kids and they are giving back today.”

The community donated about 200 baskets that were raffled off.

Lisa Wilson, Myleigh Miller and Damian Wilson (Lisa’s son) volunteered at the front table. Lisa has known Angie Wolfe since they were in second grade. Lisa considers Angie an aunt to her children. Lisa helped organize today’s benefit and she said people were eager to donate to the effort.

“So many kids love her,” Wilson said. “She makes learning fun for them. She makes all of the kids feel special.”

Cindy Newlands, left, and Joyce Allport were among the many volunteers in the kitchen. They served 400 spaghetti dinners by 5 p.m., with an hour still to go.

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Homecoming game proved a festive celebration at Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 September 2018 at 8:11 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – A pep band of current students and alumni added to the fun atmosphere on Friday evening when Albion beat Depew, 35-0, during a game at homecoming. Albion is now 4-0 on the season.

Hannah Olles, 7, joins her mother, Marissa Olles, in the alumni stand, where purple beads, popcorn and Albion Purple Eagle merchandise were in demand.

The varsity team takes the field and heads through a balloon arch held up by the cheerleaders.

For more coverage of the game, click here to go to Local Sports.

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Albion crowns homecoming court

Posted 21 September 2018 at 5:27 pm

Photo courtesy of Sue Starkweather Miller

ALBION – Albion celebrated a festive homecoming week this week with a pep rally and the crowning of the homecoming court. Pictured from left include: McKenna Boyer (Queen), Harrison Brown (King), Ryan Krenning (Prince), Alaina Fleming (Princess), Bailey Blanchard (Duke), Faith Woody (Duchess), Leah Pritchard (Lady) and Tyler Gibson (Lord).

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