Barre Betterment hosting Trunk or Treat on Saturday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 October 2021 at 9:06 am

BARRE – The Barre Betterment Committee will be hosting its second annual “Trunk or Treat” this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Barre Town Park on Route 98.

Parents are welcome to bring children in costume to the event. Residents also are encouraged to dress their vehicles up in costume, too.  There is no charge for this event.

More information is available on the Barre Betterment Committee’s Facebook page.

Heritage Wind touts $54 million in new revenue for local governments over 25 years

Posted 19 October 2021 at 5:10 pm

Press Release, Heritage Wind

BARRE – Over $54 million in new revenue will be generated for the Town of Barre, Orleans County, and local school districts under the terms of two agreements approved this month between local jurisdictions and Heritage Wind.

On October 13, the Barre Town Board voted to approve a Host Community Agreement (HCA) with Heritage Wind that will bring more than $40 million in new revenue to the community over the next 25 years. Payments will increase annually from $1.2 million in the first year of operation to $2.1 million by year 25. These annual payments are based on the installed nameplate capacity in megawatts of the turbine model, resulting in stable, guaranteed payments each year that increase over time.

The Town of Barre collected just under $1.2 million in total property taxes in 2021, meaning the Heritage Wind HCA will effectively double the town’s annual collections, providing much-needed revenue to invest in local priorities, including property tax relief.

In addition to new revenue for the Town of Barre, the project will benefit local schools and county services through a Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) agreement. On October 8, the County of Orleans Industrial Development Agency (COIDA) unanimously approved an inducement resolution to enter into a PILOT agreement. Under the agreement, Heritage Wind will pay $13.5 million to Orleans County and local school districts over the next 25 years. That revenue would be allocated as follows:

  • $6.7 million to Orleans County
  • $6.6 million to Albion Central School
  • $200,000 to Oakfield-Alabama Central School

Annual payments for both the PILOT and HCA increase by 2% each year for the first 15 years and by 2.5% annually from years 15-25. Payment amounts are based on a nameplate installed capacity of 184.8 megawatt (MW).

Now that local governments have approved the project’s community benefit agreements, road use agreements, and decommissioning agreements, the project is only awaiting final approval from the state before construction can commence next year.

“It is great to see such a collaborative effort with the jurisdictions come to fruition. We look forward to getting this project permitted and starting construction in 2022,” said Heritage Wind Development Manager Carmen O’Keefe.

Heritage Wind accepting applications for community grants

Posted 16 September 2021 at 9:13 am

Press Release, Heritage Wind

BARRE – The Heritage Wind Community Grant Program is now accepting applications for its Fall 2021 grant cycle.

The program provided more than $9,000 during its last cycle to support local organizations working to build healthy communities, increase environmental sustainability, foster economic development, and promote education, including Community Action of Orleans and Genesee, Supportive Care of Orleans, The Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern, Medina Fire Department, Town of Barre (Powering the Park), Orleans Community Health Foundation, Orleans-Recovery Hope Begins Here, Christ Church Community Kitchen and United Way of Orleans County.

Local organizations working in the Town of Barre or the broader Orleans County community are encouraged to apply. Grants are typically awarded in $250 to $4,000 increments, with priority given to proposals that demonstrate meaningful impacts to the greatest number of area residents.

We will be accepting applications until October 29 on our website (click here).

The four focus areas for the Heritage Wind Community Grant Program are:

  • Building Healthy Communities – Programs that support public health, good government, open communication, citizen resources, and/or enhance the quality of life in the community.
  • Economic Development – Apex Clean Energy supports and encourages the entrepreneurial spirit. It is part of our mission to serve as a catalyst for economic opportunity and development within the communities where we operate.
  • Environmental Sustainability – Programs that possess a strong link to environmental revitalization, sustainability, or education thereof, empower residents to be stewards of the environment, and/or encourage partnerships to address environmental concerns and sustainability.
  • Promoting Education – Programs that support educational institutions, the advancement of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and training programs for careers in the wind industry. This may include curriculum development, literacy, school readiness, and other initiatives that help students grow into young leaders. Vocational training institutions that help build a skilled workforce are also included and encouraged to apply.

If you have any questions about the program, please contact Brian O’Shea at, by phone at (952) 393-2986 or Anna Mathes at or (585) 590-2254.

Public hearing on Oct. 4 for Heritage Wind PILOT

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 September 2021 at 4:26 pm

Heritage Wind would pay county, 2 school districts about $400,000 annually; PILOT doesn’t include over $1.2 million to Town of Barre

BARRE – There will be a public hearing at 10 a.m. on Oct. 4 at Barre Town Hall about a proposed PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) plan from Heritage Wind, where the company will pay over $400,000 annually to Orleans County, Albion Central School and the Oakfield-Alabama school district.

The PILOT doesn’t include the Town of Barre, where 33 proposed turbines would be located. The town negotiated a separate host community agreement with Heritage Wind’s parent company, Apex Clean Energy.

That agreement gives Barre 75 percent of the local municipal revenue for the project or more than $1.2 million annually. Barre also will receive an upfront payment of $250,000 if the project is approved by the state, and the host community agreement would also provide about $75,000 annually to the Barre Fire District.

Apex proposed $9,000 per megawatt annually or $1,663,200 in total municipal revenue in year one of the project to be divvied up among the Town of Barre, Orleans County, Albion school district (where 32 turbines would be located) and Oakfield-Alabama (which would have one turbine).

Barre would receive $6,750 per megawatt or 75 percent of that total of the 184.8 megawatt project or $1,247,400.

The other taxing entities would share $2,250 per megawatt capacity through the PILOT or $415,800 in year one. That increases by 2 percent each year through year 14, and then 2.5 percent annually for years 15 to 25.

The details of the PILOT haven’t been made public yet. But the Albion Board of Education in December 2020 voted to accept the PILOT agreement with Apex.

In December the terms of the PILOT called for to receive $1,091.91 per megawatt annually or $201,600. One of the 33 turbines also is proposed to be in the Oakfield-Alabama school district, which would receive $34.09 per megawatt or $6,300 annually.

Orleans County would receive $1,125 per megawatt for $207,900 in the first year.

Heritage Wind, back in December, also agreed to $50,000 to the Albion school district for a one-time “Heritage Wind Renewables Ecology, Clean Energy, and Sustainability Scholarship and Education Support Fund.” The money is to be spent at the discretion of the district. It could be used for scholarships, science fairs, student research projects, financial support for faculty in renewable energy field, a STEM lab or “however the district deems fit.” The $50,000 is to be paid within 15 days after completion of the project.

The Orleans Economic Development Agency will be leading the Oct. 4 public hearing and administering the PILOT. The agency on Friday agreed to pay $5,750 to the Center for Governmental Research to review Apex’s Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) wind model and to provide an estimate of the employment, earnings and output estimate for the project.

CGR also will estimate the difference between tax revenue anticipated under the PILOT agreement and the tax revenue that would be received, were the development fully taxable. The report also is to include the value of lease payments to property owners that would host the Heritage turbines. CGR is to provide the report by Oct. 1.

Heritage is projecting 201 construction jobs paying $14.7 million for the project, another 218 job impacts through the turbine and the supply chain at $16.3 million, 90 other positions affected though “induced impacts” at $6.3 million, and five more jobs for construction-related services at $600,000. The company puts the entire construction impact for jobs at 514 workers earning $37.9 million.

Annual operation and maintenance is forecast by the company to include eight onsite jobs at $800,000, 14 other jobs impacted through “local revenue & supply chain impacts” at $1.1 million, and 10 other jobs through “induced impacts” at $800,000 for an annual reoccurring impact of 31 jobs total at $2.6 million.

The eight local jobs by Apex include two administrative/secretarial at $18.60 per hour, two technicians at $29.06 per hour, and two site management positions at $46.50 per hour, according to an Apex filing with the state.

State approves $167K from solar company to Shelby, Barre for review of 200 megawatt project

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2021 at 1:09 pm

BARRE – Two state administrative law judges have awarded $167,200 in intervenor funding to the towns of Barre and Shelby for its legal and engineering expenses to review an application for a 200 megawatt solar project covering about 2,000 acres in the two towns.

Michele M. Stefanucci and Anthony Belsito, administrative law judges, on Sept. 2 awarded $122,200 to Barre and $55,000 to Shelby. That was the exact request from each town.

As part of the application through the state Office of Renewable Energy Siting, the solar company needs to provide up to $1,000 per megawatt or up to $200,000 total for municipalities, non-profit organizations and other groups that apply for some of the funding to hire experts to review the application.

Community Energy Solar is proposing to construct and operate “Hemlock Ridge Solar.” The project was initially presented as “Orleans Solar” but Community Energy has modified the name. (Many of the solar arrays are proposed to be along Hemlock Ridge Road in Barre.)

The project is proposed to be about 80 percent in Barre and 20 percent in Shelby in a sparsely populated part of the two towns near the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. A substation would also be in Barre for the project.

The facility site will be located on approximately 2,094 acres, of which approximately 1,268 acres will be occupied by facility infrastructure and maintained for the life of the project, estimated to be at least 30 years, the company states in a filing with ORES. (Click here to see documents submitted to the NYS Department of Public Service about the project.)

The two towns, in their letters to the state requesting intervenor funds, said the money would allow the towns to defray “the cost of legal, environmental and engineering consulting services.”

The consultants will assist the towns in determining whether the proposed facility is designed to be sited, constructed, and operated in compliance with applicable local laws and regulations. Lawyers hired with the intervenor funds can also assist the towns with developing a host community agreement and a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), which is revenue to be shared among the local taxing entities.

Barre sets Oct. 4 hearing to opt in or out for marijuana dispensaries

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2021 at 9:21 am

BARRE – The community can share its views with the Barre Town Board during a hearing on Oct. 4 on whether Barre should allow legal marijuana dispensaries. That hearing will be 5 p.m. at the Town Hall, 14317 West Barre Rd.

Towns and villages around the state can either “opt in” or “opt out” of allowing the dispensaries, where people could purchase adult-use cannabis products.

The state has given the municipalities until Dec. 31 to make a decision. If the municipal boards don’t vote on the issue, they are considered by the state to be opting in and allowing the dispensaries, said Sean Pogue, the Barre town supervisor.

Towns and villages can opt out by Dec. 31 and then vote again in the future to opt in. That is the direction Pogue wants to see Barre take. He cited a lot of uncertainty and unknowns with the state’s new marijuana laws.

“I would feel better to opt out now,” he told the other board members during Wednesday’s monthly regular meeting. “This is so new. It’s in its infancy and there has been nothing from Albany on specific regulations.”

Municipalities also need to decide by the end of the year if they will opt out of allowing onsite consumption at businesses such as a smoking lounge.

The state has approved a 13-percent excise tax on marijuana with a breakdown that includes 9 cents for each taxable sale to the state, 3 cents to the municipality that has the dispensary, and 1 cent to the county. Municipalities that opt out wouldn’t be eligible for the 3-cent share of the 13-percent sales tax.

Towns and villages can’t overstep the state and ban recreational use of marijuana. But the towns and villages can prohibit dispensaries and smoking lounges.

If the municipal board for a village or town decides to opt out, residents could still push a permissive referendum, with the matter going on the ballot. They would need to turn in a petition by at least 10 percent of qualified voters within 45 days of the Town Board’s decision to force a public vote.

PILOT for smaller Barre solar project evenly splits $31,500 among town, county and school

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2021 at 8:14 am

BARRE – The Barre Town Board on Wednesday approved a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the developer of a 4.5 megawatt solar project on Route 98 near Lime Kiln Road.

AES DE Devco NC is developer of the “Baird Solar Project” on land owned by Joshua Baird, and Jacob and Melissa Monacelli.

The PILOT agreement calls for AES to pay $7,000 per megawatt or $31,500 total for the first year, with 2 percent annual increases over 15 years.

The money will be evenly split in thirds among the Town of Barre, Albion School District and Orleans County – $10,500 each the first year.

The solar arrays will be located at 4360 Oak Orchard Rd., where the developer can tap directly into a 13.2-kilovolt distribution line. The project doesn’t include battery storage.

There will be 14,118 solar panels and they will be surrounded with a 7-foot-high perimeter chain link fence. There will be 40,543 linear feet of low-voltage and 1,258 feet of high-voltage underground wiring. The project also includes a decommissioning plan.

The plan calls for planting 191 deciduous and evergreen trees along with 92 shrubs and pollinators.

The Orleans County Planning Board last month recommended the Town of Barre approve the site plan and issue a permit for the project.

The Baird project is different from the larger 200 megawatt solar project – Hemlock Ridge Solar – proposed by Community Energy for 1,800 acres in Barre and Shelby.

County Planning Board gives OK for solar project in Barre

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 August 2021 at 12:23 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Planning Board on Thursday voted in favor of a proposed 4.5 megawatt solar farm on Route 98 near Lime Kiln Road.

AES DE Devco NC is developer of the project on land owned by Joshua Baird, and Jacob and Melissa Monacelli.

The “Baird Solar Project” will be located at 4360 Oak Orchard Rd., where the developer can tap directly into a 13.2-kilovolt distribution line. The project doesn’t include battery storage.

The site currently is 43.7 acres of farmland and will take 27.11 of active farmland out of production. There will be 14,118 solar panels and they will be surrounded with a 7-foot-high perimeter chain link fence. There will be 40,543 linear feet of low-voltage and 1,258 feet of high-voltage underground wiring. The project also includes a decommissioning plan.

The plan calls for planting 191 deciduous and evergreen trees along with 92 shrubs and pollinators.

The Orleans County Planning Board recommended the Town of Barre approve the site plan and issue a permit for the project.

In other referrals on Thursday, the Planning Board:

Recommended the Town of Murray approve variances for the Big Guys Camping project at the former Brockport Country Club on the Monroe-Orleans County Line Road in Murray.

In some locations on the property, Big Guys is seeking variances from the 20 feet required for rear and front setbacks, and also is seeking 50-foot lot frontage for RV sites and 30 feet for tent sites when 60 feet are required, per Murray’s code.

The Planning Board in June recommended Murray approve the site plan and issue a permit for the project, which includes three phases, with the first phase 125 full hook-ups and 90 tent sites. Phase two includes 97 more full hook-ups and the third phase is 72 more full hook-ups.

The camping sites will be developed along the existing fairways to preserve as many trees as possible and minimize earthwork, planners said.

Supported the Town of Gaines request to extend a moratorium on applications for large-scale battery storage systems. The moratorium gives Gaines officials more time to study and develop a local law for the battery storage systems.

Recommended the Town of Albion approve the site plan and issue a permit for a 4-site private campground at 3440 Transit Rd. Brian and Diane Speers own the property and want to have 4 RV sites for family members.

Sister joins brother in construction business, adds design services

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 July 2021 at 2:17 pm

Eric Watson welcomes sister Angela, who served as construction manager for Habitat for Humanity in Buffalo

Photos by Tom Rivers: Angela Watson and her brother Eric Watson work together at Watson Enterprises, and with a new business, Vanguard Interiors.

BARRE – Eric Watson was looking to add a design specialist and construction manager to his business, Watson Enterprises.

Eric didn’t have to look far for that multi-talented person. His sister, Angela Watson, is stepping into the role, allowing Watson Enterprises to provide more services for customers. The two recently also formed a new company, Vanguard Interiors, for the design services that provide detailed simulations for how a new building or remodel can look, including right down to the furnishings. Angela, 31, uses a CAD program to provide a virtual walk-through of the projects.

“You can see the exact colors,” Eric said. “It eliminates the guesswork. You can see what you’re looking to achieve.”

Angela takes measurements of rooms, cabinets, windows – anything in the space. She puts in the data and can show how it can look, tweaking colors, fabrics and changing the size of some elements.

Customers provide input on the colors and furnishings, and they can see on the design program how the space can look with different paint, furniture and other interior design.

Eric Watson, 33, started Watson Enterprises seven years ago, keeping equipment at a hayfield along Oak Orchard River Road in Ridgeway.

He began building pole barns, and expanded to remodeling homes, and doing excavation work and concrete projects.

Angela Watson shows how she can design a house with a CAD program, showing how the house looks with finishes, color and building materials. Watson said the design would be her dream house, a modern version of a Frank Lloyd Wright style of a home.

The business grew and he moved the operations to his home property in Barre. About two years ago, with the business on an upswing, he built a new office building and storage area on West Lee Road (Route 31A) in Barre. Watson now has nine employees.

His sister joined him in April 2020, following five years as a construction supervisor for Habitat for Humanity in Buffalo. They are both Lyndonville graduates.

Angela led about 20 building projects in Buffalo. She has an undergraduate degree in mathematics and master’s degree in public health. She has a passion for construction and design, and saw a perfect opportunity by joining with her brother.

Angela is back in school at the Interior Design Institute and she is becoming a lighting specialist.

“I’ve always liked building stuff,” she said. “I have a knack for the design portion.”

She also likes the challenge of overseeing a construction project – managing construction crews, coordinating with subcontractors, securing building permits and ordering materials.

Eric is pleased to be working with his sister, who he said adds a new dimension to the business.

“I’ve had really great people in my life,” he said. “It’s the people you surround yourself with, and it’s also tenacity and drive to do better.”

For more on Vanguard Interiors, click here. For more on Watson Enterprises, click here.

Barre had largest percentage of turnout for primary among 6 towns

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 June 2021 at 11:14 am

Republicans in Barre went to the polls in the largest percentage of the six towns in Orleans County that had primaries.

In Barre, 43.3 percent of registered Republicans voted in person on either Tuesday or through nine days of early voting.

The primary featured two candidates – George McKenna and David Waters – who have shared their concerns about a proposed wind energy project with 33 turbines that would be nearly 700 feet tall. They ran against incumbents Lynn Hill and Tom McCabe, who backed changing the town’s wind energy ordinance to accommodate the project. A state board will ultimately vote on whether the project goes forward. McKenna and Waters are the apparent winners in the primary.

The Barre turnout topped the 36.9 percent in Murray where there is a contentious election for town supervisor, with incumbent Joe Sidonio challenged by Murray Town Councilman Randy Bower, the former Orleans County sheriff. Sidonio holds a 13-vote lead over Murray with absentees to determine the winner next week.

There were primaries for town clerk in Carlton and Ridgeway, a race for town justice in Gaines, and primaries for the Town Board in Ridgeway and Shelby.

Here is the in-person turnout in the six towns.

  • Barre: 309 ballots cast out of 713 registered Republicans – 43.3%
  • Carlton: 167 ballots cast out of 978 registered Republicans – 17.1%
  • Gaines: 194 ballots cast out of 873 registered Republicans – 22.2%
  • Murray: 514 ballots cast out of 1,394 registered Republicans – 36.9%
  • Ridgeway: 325 ballots cast out of 1,818 registered Republicans – 17.9%
  • Shelby: 285 ballots cast out of 1,359 registered Republicans – 21.0%

Barre Fire Company recognizes leading firefighters for 2020

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 June 2021 at 8:31 am

Josh Jurs named ‘firefighter of the year’

Photo by Tom Rivers: Pictured form left include Barre Fire Chief James Neal; Josh Jurs, the firefighter of the year; Andrew Faskel, who was recognized with the “Chief’s Award”; and Karl Driesel, president of the Barre Fire Company.

BARRE – The Barre Fire Company gave out its annual awards on Thursday evening, in a low-key presentation. The fire company isn’t doing a banquet this year, but still wanted to recognize firefighters on milestone anniversaries and for notable service.

Josh Jurs was recognized as “firefighter of the year.” Jurs, 39, has been a member of the Barre Fire Company for 19 years. He has been much more active with the fire company the past two years.

“He has gone above and beyond,” said Fire Chief James Neal.

Besides responding to numerous calls for the fire company, Jurs has taken on other tasks. He works at Kreher’s Farm Fresh Eggs. He was able to have a copy machine donated from Kreher’s to the Barre Fire Company. Jurs also researched prices for a refrigerator and secured a good deal for the fire company.

“Anything he has been asked to do he has done,” Neal said.

Jurs said he has been more available to volunteer in the past two years after finishing some home repair projects.

“I just like helping the community,” he said.

Andrew Faskel was presented with the “Chief’s Award.” Faskel served as the EMS captain for four years. He also takes on numerous tasks to benefit the fire company, Neal said.

Faskel, 36, joined the Barre Fire Company seven years ago. He moved to Barre from Medina and attended an open house about the possibility of building a new fire hall in Barre. That proposal didn’t pass in a public vote.

But Faskel met many of the firefighters at the open house and decided to join. He was trained as an EMT and firefighter. He has served as EMS captain, which is a very time-consuming role, Neal said.

“When I joined I just wanted to be more involved in the community,” Faskel said. “I just love helping the community.”

Faskel urged others to consider joining the fire company, even if it’s not responding to fires, accidents or EMS calls.

“There are many different roles depending on what you’re comfortable with,” he said. “It could be in administration or the fire police.”

The fire company also presented the “President’s Award” to Judy Kurtz who has been an active member of the “Sunshine Committee.” She visits many members who are ill at home or in the hospital.

“She brings them a ray of sunshine,” said Karl Driesel, president of the fire company.

Some of the members last year were sickened by Covid or other illnesses, Driesel said.

The fire company also recognized firefighters for milestone anniversaries, including Harold Hazel for 50 years, Dale Ostroski for 30 years, and Nic Elliott, Chris Flansburg and Pat Lamka for 10 years.

Heritage Wind announces $9,500 in community grants

Staff Reports Posted 3 June 2021 at 8:03 am

ALBION – Eight community groups from across Orleans County will be the recipients of the latest round of grants from the Heritage Wind Community Grant Program.

The program supports community organizations in the areas of Building Healthy Communities, Economic Development, Environmental Sustainability, and Promoting Education. The grants total $9,500.

“Orleans County is fortunate to have so many organizations working hard every day to improve their communities and provide for those in need,” said Carmen O’Keefe, development manager with Apex Clean Energy. “Heritage Wind is committed to being a long-term community partner and we are proud to support these important local projects.”

The grant recipients include:

  • Orleans Community Health Foundation :$1,000
  • Community Action of Orleans and Genesee: $1,000
  • Town of Barre (Powering the Park): $2,000
  • Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern: $1,500
  • Orleans-Recovery Hope Begins Here: $1,000
  • Christ Church Community Kitchen: $1,000
  • Supportive Care of Orleans: $1,000
  • Village of Medina Fire Department: $1,000

Community Action of Orleans and Genesee received a grant for their “Planting the seeds of hope” project, which will build a community greenhouse at their offices in Albion

“This money comes at a perfect time,” said Annette Finch, director of Community Services. “Community Action will be purchasing vegetable starter plants and handing them out at our Food Pantry sites to teach customers how to plant and harvest vegetables for their use. Community Action is very pleased for this wonderful donation.”

Supportive Care of Orleans received support for upgrades to paths in their Memorial Garden. Associate Director Douglas E. Sommerfeldt accepted the grant on behalf of the organization saying, “We would like to graciously thank Apex Clean Energy for the grant received. The grant will allow the organization to enhance our Memorial Garden, which is a valuable asset to our patients, families and community.”

The Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern received a grant to help youth learn the importance of investing in their futures through their “Just Friends” program.

“The Ministry of Concern is delighted that Apex Clean Energy/Heritage Wind is funding our innovative approach to helping low-income youth learn the essentials of how money can work for them, not just how they can work for money,” said Executive Director Nyla Gaylord. “Five youth in our Just Friends program will learn how to get and keep a job, and how to make and save money for the future. This is an exciting opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people. We believe that this pilot project will help us pass on the key concepts of how money can be used to achieve personal goals as well foster an entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation.”

The Medina Fire Department was awarded a grant to help purchase and distribute carbon monoxide directors to community members.

“The Village of Medina Fire Department would like to thank Apex Clean Energy and Heritage Winds for funding this grant,” said Medina Fire Department Captain Mike Young. “This grant will help us to expand our fire prevention and life safety program by allowing us to provide free carbon monoxide detectors to those residents who do not have any. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States, and it is our mission to educate our community on the importance of having a carbon monoxide detector. This grant money will go a long way towards helping us to achieve this goal.”

Other grant recipients included the Town of Barre to support the efforts to electrify the town park; The Orleans Community Health Foundation to help upgrade phlebotomy lab facilities; Orleans-Recovery Hope Begins Here to sponsor their “Celebrate Orleans Recovery Day” event, which will take place at Bullard Park in Albion in September; and Christ Church Community Kitchen, to support the purchase of food and supplies for some of the up to 9,000 meals served on a yearly basis to area residents.

The community grant program will open an additional round of grant funding this fall to be awarded before the end of the year. To learn more or apply for a future grant, click here.

Family reflects on ‘unsung hero’ who was torpedo bomber in World War II

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 30 May 2021 at 5:55 pm

Bob Nesbitt earned the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Beth Nesbitt of Pine Hill, widow of the late Bob Nesbitt, holds a picture of her husband in his dress white Navy uniform. Bob died of cancer at the age of 66.

BARRE – Many Veterans’ and Memorial Day holidays have come and gone since World War II ended, but never has Bob Nesbitt been given the recognition he deserves, according to his cousin Charlie Nesbitt of Albion.

Charlie is a war hero, having been presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Still, he thinks Bob should be given credit for his actions as a torpedo bomber pilot for the Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

Bob’s dad and Charlie’s grandfather were brothers. In Charlie’s eyes, Bob is an unsung hero.

Bob was born in 1919. He met, Beth, who was J. Howard Pratt’s daughter, at a 4-H function. By the time the war started, they were dating. She wrote to him regularly while he was serving with the Navy. They were married on Dec. 7, 1946 and had seven children. Beth will celebrate her 101st birthday on Aug. 7.

Bob grew up working on the family farm with his younger brothers Pete and Lynn Nesbitt.

Pete still lives on the family farm on Pine Hill Road, next door to Beth, who lives there with her daughter and son-in-law, Nancy and Larry Eastlack. Pete said flying was always in their blood. Bob learned to fly in a Piper Cub on Pete Dragan’s farm south of Albion.

With the late Gene Haines, they started Pine Hill Airport. Pete said Hank Keeler of Albion and Chet Zelazny of Shelby were partners in the airport for a while.

Larry said he heard Bob tell he had to drive back and forth to Niagara Falls Air Force Base when he was in the Reserves after the war, and he figured if he had a landing strip, he could fly back and forth. Pete remembers when he and Haines were out with tractors and a cultipacker packing down the snow so Bob could land. Larry also said he had been told stories of how Bob would buzz the house when he returned home, and that was Beth’s signal to drive next door to the airport and park at the end of the runway with her lights on, so Bob knew where to land.

Bob and Pete were both Navy pilots, Bob enlisting in the Army Air Corps in the summer of 1942. Pete joined 12 years later, serving in peace time from 1954 to 1958.

“The places Bob bombed into submission during World War II, I visited 12 years later as a tourist,” Pete said.

Pete said his brother was very mechanical and started as a Naval Aviation Cadet in Meadville, Pa. He did his pre-flight training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he held the record on the obstacle course.

Bob never talked much about the war, Pete said.

Bob was 22 when he enlisted, which was considered “old” for a pilot at the time, Pete said.

“The guys in his group called him ‘Daddy,’” Pete said.

Pete Nesbitt of Pine Hill looks at pictures and a story about his brother Bob in a squadron yearbook about Navy pilots in World War II. Bob was a torpedo bomber pilot in the Pacific.

Bob flew TBM’s off the carrier Hancock.

Bob talked about his wingman who knocked on his door one night and said, “I can’t sleep. I know one of those shells has my name on it.”

“Bob said he saw 20-year-old guys’ hair turn white in two months,” Pete said.

Another member of his squadron was actor Richard Boone.

Bob’s squadron had orders to go to Tokyo on a bombing mission. Bob was the last one to be launched off the ship and couldn’t catch up with his group. But he headed to Tokyo and joined the flight of TBMs along the coast. They were in a thin broken layer of overcast, and when they broke out, they were lined up perfectly with a Jap battleship in the harbor.

Bob dove in and dropped four 500-pound bombs on the ship, sinking it. His gunner said the bombs bounced before they exploded.

This picture of Bob Nesbitt in his Navy uniform during World War II sits on his brother Pete’s end table in his Pine Hill home. A torpedo bomber pilot in the Pacific, Bob earned two Navy Crosses for his heroism during the war.

Bob was infamous for his tactics, especially flying so low over the water. It may have been what kept him safe, as Charlie recalled being a torpedo bomber pilot was considered very dangerous. At the time Bob enlisted, 135 torpedo bomber pilots had been lost in combat. Bob used to skim a few feet off the water and he would be so low, the Japanese gunners on the deck of a ship would shoot right over him.

Bob used to brag about doing barrel rolls around the other planes landing in the formation. All in all, he spent one year in combat.

Larry talked about how Bob said he wanted to be the first American soldier to set down on Japanese soil. He was on a bombing run and saw a bombed out airport, but it was still occupied. Bob, however, dropped down and touched the runway and took off, all the while being shot at by the Japanese

“True or not, that was Bob’s story,” Larry said. “Bob had no reason to exaggerate.”

Larry said he has always looked at the aspect of what women did during the war. While Bob was bombing ships in the Pacific, Beth was working at a gun-making factory in Buffalo – seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

“Her job was to make sure the gun sights were accurate,” Larry said. “Bob could have been looking through gun sights that his wife checked out in Buffalo.”

Bob always said the reason he flew so low on a mission is because he wanted to be sure his bomb landed right where he wanted it. Larry said Bob was credited with destroying a refueler, and his bombs hit directly on the fuel tanks. Bob later said the blast nearly downed his plane.

Bob would be awarded two Navy Crosses for his heroism in battle. He was nominated for a third, but told the Navy to give it to someone else. The Navy Cross is the second-highest award given to sailors or marines, just a level below the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Navy Cross is given to soldiers who show extraordinary heroism in combat with an armed enemy force.

Larry told the story of how, years after the war, Pete and Bob went to a military banquet in Philadelphia, where the speaker was an ace pilot from the Rochester area. During his speech, the pilot said he was up there talking about his actions as a pilot, when there was another ace who lived in Western New York who should be mentioned. He asked if anybody there had ever heard of Bob Nesbitt.

One of Larry’s fondest memories is the time in the early 1980s when Bob flew him and Nancy to Philadelphia to visit a Navy yard. An aircraft carrier there was waiting to be dismantled and Bob went to the guard shack and asked what the name of the ship was. It was the Hancock.

“I thought Bob was going to go into shock,” Larry said. “The guard wasn’t supposed to, but he made an exception and took us on a tour of the ship. Bob got to make one last tour of the ship he served on before it was reduced to scrap iron.”

Kitchen fire damages Barre home, dog perishes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 May 2021 at 10:02 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

BARRE – Firefighters cut through the roof of a house at Rice Homes off Route 98, to ventilate the structure. The house is next to this camper.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 8:48 p.m. for reports of a structure fire. The occupant of the house was cooking bacon and the fire started in the kitchen. Orleans County fire investigators are at the scene to officially determine the cause.

The man in house was able to safely get outside but Barre Fire Chief James Neal said a dog died in the fire.

The house suffered water and smoke damage, and Neal said it appears the contents are all ruined.

The man who lives at the house has a burn on his hand, and some minor injuries with cuts and scrapes.

Albion, Barre and Medina firefighters responded to the scene, as well as the Orleans County Emergency Management Office, Orleans County Sheriff’s Office and the State Police.

American Bird Conservancy worries about avian impact with Barre wind turbine project

Posted 29 April 2021 at 1:28 pm

Press Release, American Bird Conservancy

A proposed wind energy facility in Orleans County, New York, is among the first projects proposed under the state’s new renewable energy development law.

This law ignores well-established best practices that would minimize impacts to birds, despite outcry from bird conservation organizations. Regulations to implement the law went into effect in March 2021, and developers are clamoring to shift to the streamlined permitting process.

“The Orleans County project is located in a major migratory pathway for birds, and adjacent to a high-biodiversity wetland complex that supports nesting Bald Eagles and many rare species,” said Joel Merriman, American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign Director. “The project poses a high risk to birds, but the state’s new regulation may mean it’s on a glide path to approval.”

The wetland complex adjacent to the proposed Heritage Wind project site encompasses Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, as well as Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas. Together, these properties and adjacent habitat are designated an Important Bird Area by National Audubon Society, as well as being identified as an important area for many species of concern, including the Sedge Wren, Short-eared Owl, and Black Tern, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that this area is a major migratory pathway for songbirds.

“It’s a bad place for wind turbines, plain and simple,” Merriman said. “It’s really unfortunate — this conflict could have been avoided, had the developer kept turbine locations away from this incredibly important area.”

After the Bald Eagle population crashed nationwide due to the effects of the pesticide DDT, the state worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release young eagles at “hack sites,” including at the Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area.

“This area played an important historical role in re-establishing Bald Eagles in the state,” Merriman said. “Bald Eagles are particularly vulnerable to collisions with wind turbines, so it seems both tragic and ironic that this project should be proposed right at the edge of this important site.”

“New York has been a champion for birds in many arenas,” Merriman continued. “But where wind energy development is concerned, the pendulum has swung entirely too far. I understand wishing to speed the project review process, but in this case, far too much would be sacrificed.”

A hearing for the New York Heritage Wind project will take place on May 20 and written comments can be sent via email until May 21. ABC urges those concerned about the project’s threat to birds to voice their concerns at the hearing and share their written comments before the deadline.

“We need renewable energy to combat climate change,” Merriman said. “But we must not let our shared sense of urgency overwhelm our responsibility to protect vulnerable bird populations.”

About the American Bird Conservancy

American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.