Holley proposes school budget with 1.95% tax increase

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 May 2021 at 9:44 pm

7 candidates seek 4 spots on Board of Education

HOLLEY – School officials went over a proposed $26,150,000 budget this evening during a public meeting at the elementary school cafeteria.

The spending plan is up by 1.44 percent or $370,000 from $25,780,000, the amount the past two school years.

The budget would increase taxes by 1.95 percent to $7,572,763, which is under the tax cap, Sharon Zacher, Holley’s assistant superintendent for business, said during the district’s annual meeting.

Holley district residents will vote on the budget, candidates for the board, and two other propositions from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on May 18 at middle/high school foyer.

Zacher said there are some uncertainties in the future for the district, including guidance on how to spend about $3 million in federal aid. Those parameters are expected to be released in mid-May and districts need to submit a plan by July 1, detailing how they will spend the funds over the next three school years.

There also is uncertainty with how the school year will start in the fall – how many days per week will students be in school, will they be required to wear masks, will there be barriers between students to help stop the spread of Covid. Zacher said Holley will need to work hard to help students who have falling behind during the pandemic.

Zacher said many districts are concerned about a fiscal cliff when the extra funding ends after 2024, and districts will be need to be careful with their long-range planning.

“Be careful how you spend it because it will go away,” she said about the extra federal aid.

The budget for 2021-22 includes a $100,000 capital project that would be 91 percent funded by state aid. The project at the middle-high school would replace several interior and exterior doors, add card reader access controls to main office entrance door, replace auditorium orchestra pit lighting and replace the auditorium projection screen.

The proposed budget continues a stretch where Holley hasn’t increased taxes by more than 2.5 percent in a year in at least 12 years.

Holley Central School recent property tax history

  • 2010-11 – $7,153,485, no change
  • 2011-12 – $7,248,923, up 1.3%
  • 2012-13 – $7,393,901, up 2%
  • 2013-14 – $7,541,779, up 2%
  • 2014-15 – $6,741,480, down 10.6 %
  • 2015-16 – $6,741,480, no change
  • 2016-17 – $6,875,941, up 1.99%
  • 2017-18 – $6,968,766, up 1.35%
  • 2018-19 – $7,108,141, up 2%
  • 2019-20 – $7,285,845, up 2.5%
  • 2020-21 – $7,427,919, up 1.95%
  • 2021-22 – $7,572,763, up 1.95%

Source: Holley Central School

Seven candidates are running for four positions on the Board of Education. They include Brian McKeon, Jennifer L. Verhagen, Nancy M. MacPhee, Tracy Van Ameron, Michelle Hodge, Anne Smith and Salvatore DeLuca Jr.

There are four open positions on the board including the seats of current board members Melissa Ierlan, Mark Porter and Anne Smith. (Smith is the only one seeking re-election.) Those spots are for three-year terms. Holley will also be filling the final year of a vacant seat from the late John Heise.

Other propositions, besides the budget, on the ballot include:

• Proposition No. 2 – Authorize up to $318,000 to purchase two 72-seat passenger school buses and one 22-seat bus.

• Proposition No. 3 – $189,287 for Community Free Library in Holley, which is up from the $183,773 in 2020-21.

Eligible voters must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, a resident of the Holley school district for at least 30 days prior to the vote, and must have a proper ID or signed affidavit.

Stress debriefing team meets with firefighters after response for man who drowned

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 May 2021 at 2:56 pm

‘My message to them is they didn’t cause the harm. They did nothing wrong. They did the best they could.’

Photos by Tom Rivers: Firefighters from the Albion Fire Department, right, and Medina Fire Department search the water in a former quarry on the night of April 23. Ryan J. Perkins, 30, of Canal Road drowned trying to rescue a dog.

MURRAY – There were about 50 firefighters working on the night of April 23, trying to locate a 30-year-old Murray man who went into the chilly water of a former quarry in search of a dog.

The man drowned. He was found after a 2 ½-hour search with firefighters in four rescue boats. Other firefighters were along the shoreline.

For many of the firefighters it was the first time they had responded to a fatal call. They went to the scene expecting it to be a rescue, but it changed to a recovery.

Harris Reed, the fire chief for the Murray Joint Fire District, recognized there were many young firefighters on the call and they might be struggling to cope when someone close to their own age did not survive.

“This was the first fatality for many of the new members,” Reed said. “It can be very difficult for new members.”

Orleans County has had a stress debriefing team for firefighters for about 15 years. Mental health professionals are part of the team. Firefighters Tim Fearby of Shelby and Guy Scribner have been co-leaders of the group since it started.

Fire chiefs can request the team if they sense firefighters would benefit in talking through how they’re feeling and also hearing from other firefighters struggling with their emotions. The stress debriefing team might be called after a fatal car accident, fire, drowning or an emergency medical response with a child who doesn’t survive.

Reed said in those incidents where someone dies, firefighters will feel guilt that they may not have done enough, or if they had responded differently the person may have lived.

“My message to them is they didn’t cause the harm,” Reed said. “They did nothing wrong. They did the best they could.”

Reed has been a firefighter for about 25 years. When he started and there has a difficult call with a fatality, firefighters didn’t really talk about it.

“Years ago you came back to fire house and just went home,” he said.

But fire chiefs and the veteran firefighters know better now about the mental health toll of responding to those calls.

“Our people here come first,” Reed said. “Everyone responds to a situation differently. But I wanted to open up (the stress debriefing) to everybody who was at the incident.”

Murray Joint Fire District Chief Harris Reed, left, and Justin Niederhofer, deputy director of the Orleans County Emergency Management Office, set up a command post during on April 23 during a response for a man in the water. He was found after a 2 ½ hour search.

Danielle Figura, director of the Orleans County Mental Health Department, is trained in leading the critical incident stress management. They are usually done within 72 hours of the incident.

The stress debriefing in this case was last Monday on April 26, three days after the drowning. Figura and the team met with 12 firefighters at Fancher-Hulberton-Murray fire station. That included firefighters from Murray, Albion and the western battalion.

It is a peer-driven response where the group will often replay the scenario with “what if.” No one takes any notes and people are encouraged to share.

“It is a safe space where there is no judgement,” Figura said.

‘First responders are human first. They are hearing from others with similar reactions which helps validate how they are feeling.’

Figura said it is very helpful to firefighters to articulate how they are struggling and to know others are feeling a similar way.

“They are hearing from others with similar reactions which helps validate how they are feeling,” she said.

Volunteer firefighters often go from being at work or at home to a scene a few minutes later where a person they know has been killed in an accident.

“First responders are human first,” Figura said. “They need to take care of themselves.”

While mental health still has a stigma, especially among first responders, Figura said she is encouraged the critical incident stress management team is called more frequently. That shows her the team is being successful in helping the first responders process some difficult emotions.

“Twenty years ago this wasn’t very well accepted,” she said. “But we’re seeing this push as first responders hope to grow and recruit more to stay in that role.”

Most of the stress debriefings are about 60 to 90 minutes, and Figura and the team members can direct the first responders to additional help if needed.

Holley students, Rotary do big cleanup effort along canal, village

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 April 2021 at 11:03 am

Photos courtesy of Samantha Zelent

HOLLEY – Lily Newman and Allison Merle, students in the Holley Interact Club, carry bags with trash along the Erie Canal towpath on Saturday during the Canal Clean Sweep event.

There were 68 volunteers for the project and they covered 9 miles of the canal towpath in the school district, and also picked up garbage and debris along all of the village streets.

Holley Rotary Club member Jeff Martin, Interact students Grace McKeon and Sara Kingdollar, and Rotary member Krista Wiley worked together on a section of the towpath.

Two girls in front, Emma Brady and Samantha Bates, go trash-hunting in the park near the Holley Waterfalls.

Interact students Thomas Dobri and Mason Neale team with Sal DeLuca and venture into a grassy area in search of trash. The volunteers filled about 20 bags with garbage.

Breanna Girangaya, Libbie Pechora, volunteer chaperone David Weaver, Casey Onisk and Hayley Lipke teamed up on a section of the canal. Casey Onisk designed the shirts with an Earth Day theme.

The Holley Rotary Club and Interact Club hope to make the event an annual springtime tradition, said Zelent, a social worker in the junior-senior high school and co-advisor with Kelly Marzano, a chorus teacher at the school.

United Methodist churches in Albion, Holley vote to merge

Posted 25 April 2021 at 8:21 pm

Photos courtesy of Melissa Ierlan: The congregations of the United Methodist churches in Albion and Holley held a joint service today at the Disciples United Methodist Church in Holley/Clarendon on Route 237.

Article courtesy of Melissa Ierlan, Clarendon town historian

Linda Glantz (left) is the pastor for the two congregations. She is joined in addressing the congregation by Vonda Fossitt, the district superintendent.

CLARENDON – Religion was very important to the pioneers who made their way to the wilderness that was Orleans County in the early 1800’s. They brought their families and belongings to a strange place and the people who were their neighbors most likely were of similar circumstance and what brought them together was religion and hard work.

Today was history in the making as Albion First and Disciples United Methodist Churches came together to worship and to vote on the merger of the two congregations.

Albion and Holley have been faithfully serving their communities for many decades. Today District Superintendent Vonda Fossitt spoke to the two congregations. She oversees 100 churches including those in the Finger Lakes area and is the former pastor of the church in Albion.

“You will be embarking on a spiritual journey with this merger,”

Fossitt said. “I encourage you to learn how to hear God’s voice. God wants you to get this merger right and grow.”

Her message also included: “People should not lean on their own. Lean on God and listen to his voice. Trust in God and let him guide you.”

After the service was concluded Fossitt addressed the congregations and said: “Today is a big day, it is going to change your future and for me it’s a celebration.”

The congregations split up and went into separate rooms to conduct the vote. Pastor David Underwood spoke to and answered questions of the Disciples United Methodist congregation and District Superintendent Vonda Fossitt spoke to and answered questions of the Albion First United Methodist congregation.

They were instructed that they would be voting on the merger, a new name Disciples First United Methodist Church and on a new leadership council to carry out the legalities and paperwork.

The Disciples United Methodist congregation voted unanimously on the ballot to merge.

The Albion First United Methodist Church vote 15 yay and 1 nay to merge.

The two churches held a combined service for both congregations today.

The newly merged church, if accepted, will unite on the first Sunday of July. A celebration service is planned for July 11 at 10 a.m. with fellowship afterwards.

The period of time between the acceptance and the uniting celebration will be a time of preparation for the legalities of the merger. Each church will maintain its current status until the merger is completed.

The Albion congregation met for more than a century out of a building at the corner of Platt and East State Streets. It vacated that site in 2015, fearing the building faced a costly roof repair that church members said would take $1 million to fix. That proved too much for the congregation. The site has since been acquired by North Point Chapel.

The United Methodists in Albion started to share a building with the Episcopal congregation at Christ Church in Albion, before shifting to the same building with the Disciples congregation in Route 237.

Linda Glantz became pastor on July 1, 2016 of the United Methodist churches in Albion and Holley. For the first several years she went to both sites on Sunday mornings to lead services. Now the two groups will soon to be together as one body and for the same services.

Man presumed drowned in Murray quarry, trying to rescue dog

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 April 2021 at 11:38 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

(UPDATED at 12:30 a.m. on April 24: The man was located deceased at about 11:15 p.m. near the embankment on the south side of the quarry in a deeper water hole, Murray Fire Chief Harris Reed said. Firefighters in one of the rescue boats found the man before the dive teams from Niagara and Monroe counties arrived.

The man’s body was taken by Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes. No additional information is available.)

MURRAY – A man is presumed to have drowned after going into the cold water of a former quarry near Canal and Fancher roads on Friday night, trying to rescue a dog.

The top photo shows rescue boats from the Albion Fire Department, Medina Fire Department and the Murray Joint Fire District.

They are near the south side of a quarry owned by Mike and Michelle Vendetti.

A man went into the quarry after a dog and was calling for help. Firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 8:45 p.m.

It is a steep embankment with lots of brush on the south side. (This photo is looking towards the north side.) The quarry water where the man went in is about 15 to 20 feet deep. The water is muddy with a current, making it hard to find someone, said Harris Reed, fire chief of the Murray Joint Fire District.

Dive teams were coming from Niagara and Monroe counties to help find the man, Reed said.

Dogs that can detect the scent of humans from the top of the water also were being called to assist.

The dog that went into the water was found safe on a ledge on the south side of the quarry. It was brought to shore on the north side of the quarry along Canal Road by Murray firefighters. Murray had two rescue boats in the water, one from the Holley Fire Department and one from Fancher-Hulberton-Murray. Those departments formed a joint district on Jan. 1, 2021.

The dog was soon covered in a towel and was kept warm inside a Carlton rescue truck. Carlton also put a rescue boat in the water.

Albion firefighters, including Steven Papponetti in front and Fred Piano in back, try to locate the man who went into the cold water after a dog.

Emergency responders created a grid to track spots in the quarry where they had searched. The man and the dog went down the embankment shown in the photo.

Firefighters from Albion, Carlton, Clarendon, Medina and Murray responded to the scene, with Brockport filling in at the Murray fire station.

Murray looks to update solar, wind energy laws

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 April 2021 at 1:41 pm

Town Supervisor doesn’t want to see prime farmland lost to renewable energy projects

MURRAY – The Town Board expects to pass a moratorium to give Murray officials time to review and update its ordinances for solar and wind energy projects.

The board could approve the moratorium during the May 17 Town Board meeting. Code Enforcement Officer Kevin Moore said the town should update the laws, especially for large-scale solar. Murray might consider looking at an overlay district where extra protections can be put in place for residents, Moore said.

The current ordinance doesn’t include any regulations or standards for battery storage systems for the solar projects, Moore said.

Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio said the town should also look at its ordinance for large-scale wind projects as part of the moratorium.

Sidonio said he wants to see protections for prime farmland from the projects. The renewable energy projects should be steered to marginal farmland, he said.

“Orleans County has some of the best farmland in the world,” Sidonio said. “It’s tragic that these projects are looking at some of our prime farmland.”

In other action, the Town Board:

Voted to raise the water rates for farmers by 25 cents from $4.25 to $4.50 per 1,000 gallons. This is for agriculture that uses water from town hydrants. The town provides meters for those users.

The 25 cents reflects the same increase to the town from the Monroe County Water Authority. The other town users will remain at a $4.99 rate per 1,000 gallons.

Accepted the resignation of Kevin Moore as the town’s code enforcement officer, effective May 1. Moore works full-time as code enforcement officer for the Town of Clarkson and he said his duties will be increasing in that community. He thanked the Town Board for the opportunity to work in Murray.

Accepted the resignation of Annette Curtis as the town’s clerk for the planning and zoning boards, effective May 1. Curtis will continue to work as the deputy town clerk. The town will look to fill the clerk and code officer positions.

Agreed to hire Jeff Martin as an attorney for the Planning Board on an as-needed basis at $175 an hour. That expense would be paid for by applicants for projects in the town, unless Martin is providing training for board members.

Murray considers whether to expand health insurance to domestic partners

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 April 2021 at 12:36 pm

MURRAY – The Town Board is discussing whether it should expand health insurance eligibility to the domestic partners of town employees, and the children of those partners.

Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio said Murray would be the first municipality in Orleans County to offer that coverage. He said it could be a significant cost increase for Murray taxpayers.

The current cost for a single health care plan is $539.06 a month ($6,468.72 a year) for a single plan, $1,078.12 per month ($12,937.44 per year) for a two-person plan and $1,536.32 per month ($18,435.84 a year) for a family plan. Town employees pay 15 percent of the costs.

Sidonio said four employees could be eligible for two-person or family plans if the town approves the expanded eligibility.

There is currently one employee with domestic partner coverage, but town officials declined to comment on how that happened during Monday’s Town Board meeting. John Sansone, the town attorney, advised the board to not discuss specific personnel matters in public.

Sidonio urged the Town Board to thoroughly go over its policy for health insurance coverage for town employees.

“I don’t want to do a sloppy job on a complicated subject,” he said.

Sansone said the town would need to determine what qualifies someone as a domestic partner, whether it’s financial support and living together, and what documentation would be needed. He suggested an affidavit from the parties testifying to the relationship.

If the town approves the policy and an employee has a domestic partner and dependents on the health insurance policy, the employee should be aware there will be a taxable liability for the expanded insurance which could result in smaller take-home pay.

Sidonio was faulted by Town Board member Paul Hendel for a recent Facebook post, where Sidonio called out the other four board members as “No Show Board” for not attending a work session on April 8 to discuss a domestic partner health insurance policy.

Sidonio’s Facebook post resulted in many comments from residents critical of the other board members.

“I don’t think that moves the agenda of positive, collaborative working relationship with you, Joe,” Hendel said about the social media post and its response.

Hendel said the Town Board members all have near perfect attendance for the regular monthly meetings and they do other work for the town outside of the meetings.

“Social media is a platform for uninformed people to bully others,” Hendel said.

Hendel didn’t attend the work session because Sansone wasn’t going to be there and there wasn’t a draft policy yet to discuss. Sansone doesn’t attend the work sessions as a cost-saving measure from Sidonio, Hendel said.

Sidonio said he doesn’t control peoples’ comments on social media. He also wrote a letter to editor on the Orleans Hub.

Hendel said he didn’t see the letter, but he wouldn’t write a letter about Sidonio if he was trying to build a good working relationship.

The board tabled the discussion until the May 17 board meeting. It will continue to research the issue. Samson, the town attorney, also was encouraged to attend any work sessions about the issue.

Residents urge Murray to improve safety on Bennetts Corners, Gulf roads

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 April 2021 at 9:48 am

Town will try to lower speed, add signs and will seek more law enforcement patrols

Photo by Tom Rivers: Brian Fauci, a resident of Gulf Road, presents a petition signed by about 50 people, highlighting safety concerns on Bennetts Corners and Gulf roads.

MURRAY — The Town Board and highway superintendent will look for ways to make Gulf and Bennetts Corners roads safer after residents presented a petition on Monday, highlighting concerns on the roadways.

Brian Fauci, a Gulf Road resident, circulated the petition along with Dave Knapp. Fauci said drivers often exceed the 45 mile per hour speed limit on a narrow winding road without sidewalks. Pedestrians and other drivers are in danger in the current conditions, which he said would also benefit from signage about school bus stops and blind driveways. Fauci also asked for more presence from the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office and State Police.

The petition asks for the town to pursue lowering the speed limit to 30 miles per hour on the two roads, with the Bennetts Corners section north of Route 31. Dirk Lammes, the highway superintendent, said he would take that request to the state Department of Transportation for approval. The town can’t lower the speed limit without DOT approval, Lammes and the Town Board said.

But Murray does have discretion for putting up signage, double-striping the road for no passing, and modifying the intersection on the curve, where Bennetts Corners transitions to Gulf Road.

“This petition is all safety,” states the document which was signed by about 50 people. “Both roads lack proper signage, which would include speed limit postings, schools stops, blind curves and canal bridge approaches.”

Google Maps: Residents want more signage and a lower speed limit on Bennetts Corners Road and Gulf Road in Murray.

Fauci said he worries schoolchildren could be killed with so many motorists speeding on the road without clear sight lines ahead.

“Speeding on both roads is out of control with no law enforcement presence,” the petition states. “These roads have seen an increase in traffic from the mobile home park combined with the fact that a lot of local and neighboring town residents use these stretches of roads as a shortcut between Route 104 and Route 31.”

The petition also requests to transform the curve transition of Gulf Road and Bennetts Corners Road into a 3-way stop intersection. This would slow down traffic in both directions and be easier to plow for the highway department. “Currently the plows have to back up and take extra passes to remove the snow out of the intersection,” the petition states.

Lammes said he would start the process for getting more signs on the road and modifying the curve to an intersection with a 3-way stop.

Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio said he would write a letter to the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office and State Police, requesting more patrols on the two roads.

Holley H.S. senior finalist for 2021 Young Woman of Distinction

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 April 2021 at 3:15 pm

Callie Updike

HOLLEY – A Holley senior is among the 13 finalists for the Young Woman of Distinction Award, which is given by The Women’s Council, a Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce affiliate.

Callie Updike and the other 12 finalists affiliate will be recognized during a virtual celebration on May 18 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The top four finalists will receive $2,500 scholarships.

The program is modelled after the ATHENA Award and is designed to discover high school seniors who have displayed outstanding leadership, academic excellence, and involvement in the nine-county Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes region.

Updike has been very involved at Holley Junior-Senior High School, serving as president of Student Council, president of the Class of 2021 and the Interact Club. She also performs in Holley’s annual school musical, sings in Concert Choir, plays the trumpet in Concert, Jazz and Marching Band, and competes with the Varsity Masterminds team. She also serves in the National Honor Society, the Superintendent Advisory Council, and the Gay Straight Alliance.

She has been accepted to Columbia University. She is an undeclared major and expects to study involving English or History with a potential music minor.

Tractor trailer gets stuck under bridge in Holley

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 April 2021 at 10:29 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

HOLLEY – A tractor trailer from Georgia got stuck under the railroad underpass/bridge this morning. Holley Police and firefighters from the Murray Joint Fire District have been on scene since just after 9 a.m. The Village Department of Public Works also is at the scene, helping to clean up debris in the road.

Holley police and firefighters say a truck gets pinned under the bridge about every six months.

A tow truck was called to help pull the truck and trailer out from under the bridge on Route 237. The clearance is 11 feet, 11 inches.

The stuck trucks are a frequent occurrence in Holley where there are signs posted that say, “11′-11”  CLEARANCE” just before both sides of the bridge, and also on the bridge.

Truckers over the years have said their GPS systems route them through Holley on Route 237. The truckers don’t have a straight-shot view of the bridge in either direction. Often they are upon the bridge before it’s too late to slow down and avoid it.

Village officials in the past have asked nearby manufacturing plants, cold storages and food processors to tell truckers not to use the route by the bridge.

4 need temporary housing after smoke in Murray apartment building

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 April 2021 at 11:51 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

MURRAY – Firefighters tonight were able to put keep a smoke situation in a vacant apartment in Murray from turning into a big fire. Firefighters were dispatched to 16576 Ridge Rd., across from the Murray Superette at about 10 p.m.

The building, a former video store, has two apartments. The one that is vacant was full of smoke and the tenants in the other apartment called 911 to report the smoke coming out of the apartment.

Firefighters discovered electrical wiring had melted and the insulation and studs were charred and smoking. They sprayed some water to keep it from becoming a fire.

The owner of the building has been renovating the vacant apartment, a Sheriff’s deputy said.

The four residents in the opposite apartment need to find a temporary place to stay while repairs are made and the site passes inspection, said Harris Reed, the Murray Joint Fire District fire chief.

Fire investigators are on site trying to determine the cause.

Father, son injured when concrete porch collapses in Holley

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2021 at 6:36 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

HOLLEY – The ladder truck for the Murray Fire District is used to carry a man in a stokes basket at 7 East Union St. He was badly injured when the concrete floor on his porch broke, and he and his son fell about 10 feet at 4:30 p.m.

The son suffered at least a broken ankle in the fall. His father suffered more serious injuries. He was trapped under a heavy chunk of concrete for about a half hour, said Harris Reed, chief of the Murray Joint Fire District.

Three firefighters were able to move the concrete piece off the father. Reed estimated the concrete weighed 1,000 pounds.

A member of the Monroe County Special Operations Team walks away from the front porch area that collapsed today at 4:30 p.m.

Murray and Clarendon firefighters used a rope rescue, putting the father in a stokes basket and lifting him out of the small room under the front steps.

He was taken by Mercy Flight to Strong Memorial Hospital. His son was taken by ambulance to Strong.

Long-time firefighters said they had never seen such an incident, with the concrete floor of a porch cracking, and collapsing below with a person trapped.

No additional information is available.

The father and son fell about 10 feet after the concrete floor collapsed.

Donor for Fancher memorial repairs wants it to be long-lasting tribute for 10 who died in World War II

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 March 2021 at 10:01 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: The four-sided clock at the Fancher Curve is a memorial to 10 young men from the community who died in World War II. The memorial was dedicated on Aug. 14, 1949. This photo is from November 2016.

FANCHER – Fred Fiorito remembers the big crowd of people when the Fancher Memorial was dedicated on Aug. 14, 1949.

He was only 10, and he has never forgotten seeing the Gold Star mothers in mourning. The memorial on the “Fancher Curve” on Route 31 is a four-faced clock in a stone monument made of local sandstone.

Fiorito moved away from Fancher when he was 20. He enjoyed a career as a chiropractor in New York City. He would come home a few times each year to see family, including his brother Ted Fiorito. Fred noticed the memorial gradually deteriorate.

Sometimes the clocks didn’t work. The mortar was crumbling. The site wasn’t a great showcase or memorial for the 10 who in World War II. Those 10 include John Christopher, Joseph Christopher, Cosmo Coccitti, John Kettle, Jr., Leonard Licursi, Martin Licursi, Richard Merritt, Camille Nenni, Floyd Valentine and Richard Vendetta.

“I knew some of those families,” Fiorito said. “The monument’s condition was distasteful.”

Last May near Memorial Day, Fiorito was home recovering from an injury. He thought back to his childhood and the memorial.

“That memorial was built out of love for the guys in the area who left and didn’t come back,” Fiorito said by phone. “Those 10 guys who gave their lives gave them for you, me and everybody.”

Fiorito decided to call the Murray Town Hall. He left a message on Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio’s answering machine, offering to make a donation to get the memorial looking better.

This photo from the Holley Standard shows the memorial in August 1949.

“I just want to see it brought back to where it was many years ago when it was first done,” Fiorito said. “I feel a connection to my home and it will always be my home, and that monument is very important to me.”

Fiorito has offered $10,000 to upgrade the memorial. He is pleased Sidonio has “enthusiastically” embraced the project and wants to have the improvements in place by Aug. 14, which would be the 72nd anniversary of the memorial’s dedication.

Dan Mawn, president of the Murray-Holley Historical Society, has been a key coordinator in the project. He connected with Neal Muscarella, an Albion mason, to replace the green mortar on the monument.

Mawn, who is retired from the Holley Electric and Water Department, will put in new movements for the clocks, and new electrical service.

“It is a project that is very worthwhile,” Mawn said.

Sidonio and Mawn also want to upgrade the landscaping at the site, and make the flagpoles look better.

“We want to create a better sense of place for the monument,” Sidonio said.

A photo from the memorial’s dedication showed several rifles stacked on top of the monument. Sidonio and Mawn wondered if those rifles were part of an original display on the monument, and if the rifles had been removed or taken.

They looked at the top of the monument and there aren’t any brackets or other evidence that the rifles were being held in place on the memorial. They must have been temporarily put there.

The former Holley Standard reported on the monument on Aug. 11, 1949, previewing the dedication ceremony three days later. The newspaper declared the project “an example of community enterprise and cooperation.”

A bronze plaque lists the names of the local soldiers who perished in the war: John Christopher, Joseph Christopher, Cosmo Coccitti, John Kettle, Jr., Leonard Licursi, Martin Licursi, Richard Merritt, Camille Nenni, Floyd Valentine and Richard Vendetta.

The monument designed by local resident Pat DiLaura with stone donated from quarry owned by Art Nenni

Local quarrymen worked to get out the stone including Gene Nenni, Oresto Nenni, Americo Belli, Richard DePalma of Holley, and Richard Raneri, Tony Passarell and Angelo Manella of Albion. Gene DePalma graded the site of the monument

Lee Colavito and Dan Fiorita did the mason work, Thomas Friedo of Fancher did the electrical work, hooking up the four electric clocks and the lighting at the base of the monument.

Fred Fiorito said the monument is a one-of-kind memorial that was created by the local residents in honor of the 10 local soldiers. The project utilizes the talents and resources of the local community.

“Even though I moved 400 miles away and I’ve been away a long time, my heart is still there,” Fred Fiorito said. “I just couldn’t stand to see the monument left the way it is. It honors 10 boys who stood up and never came back.”

Holley will bring more students back for in-person learning next month

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 March 2021 at 2:24 pm

Grades 3-6 will go to 4 days of in-person, and grades 7-12 could as well

HOLLEY – The school district announced it will be bringing back more students next month for 4 days of in-person learning each week, and could have all grade levels at 4 days a week if the state approves lowering the minimum spacing between desks from 6 to 3 feet.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Friday announced it was changing its guideline for minimum social distancing in schools, from 6 to 3 feet, as long as students are wearing masks.

“This has caused many regions and entire state health departments to alter restrictions and update their guidance plans, which could ultimately allow for more students to return to school buildings for in-person learning this academic year,” Brian Bartalo, Holley school district superintendent, said in a letter today to the community.

Before Holley can move desks closer it needs the NYS Department of Health to approve the change in social distancing guidance. Holley has been anticipating the change to 3 feet, and is planning a phase-in after spring recess to bring back more students for four days of in-perosn learning. Just last week Holley brought back students for four days in grades K through 2, instead of being limited to two days of in-person with the hybrid schedule.

Before last week, Holley already had four days of in-person learning in Pre-K, the alternative high school, and self-contained special education classes, where the class sizes are smaller.

Even if the state doesn’t reduce the minimum desk spacing to three feet, Holley plans to have grades 3 through 6 go to four days of in-person learning the week of April 5-9.

If the minimum spacing is reduced to 3 feet, Holley could move hybrid students in the Junior-Senior High School to four days of in-person learning. If the 3-foot distance is approved, Holley plans to move grades 7-8 to four days of in-person learning the week of April 12-16, and then the following week, April 19-23, the hybrid students in grades 9-12 would go from two to four days.

Holley will continue to have Wednesdays as remote only.

“The reasons for keeping Wednesdays as remote learning days include: providing time for staff to prepare and post lessons, and connect with our fully remote learners; allowing time to bring in small groups of students for academic intervention and related services; and for teachers to receive professional development, and update learning plans and curriculum,” Bartalo said in his letter today.

Holley will be reaching out to the fully remote student families prior to the start of the fourth quarter on April 19 to determine if they plan to stay remote or return to in-person school.

“Based on the number of students who remain fully remote and after evaluating how things are progressing with four days/week, we’ll determine if it’s possible to increase to five days/week for our in-person students,” Bartalo said.

The district superintendent said the situation and guidelines from the state have frequently been in flux, making it difficult for districts to plan. He expects the 3-foot change will be approved by the state, allowing for more students to be in class, in-person.

“We believe that this phase back-in approach is proactive, and gives staff time to prepare and adjust learning plans, bus schedules, and modify classroom and dining spaces based on new guidance from NYS,” Bartalo said. “We also hope it gives families time to prepare for this transition back to more in-person learning at Holley CSD.”

Holley sending middle-high school students home early due to gas leak

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 March 2021 at 12:41 pm

HOLLEY – The school district is dismissing middle/high school early today after a gas leak in the middle-high school.

Those students were evacuated to the elementary school. All staff and students are safe, the district posted on its website.

“The MS/HS students will be dismissed early from the ES, where the buses will pick them up for the departure home,” the district said. “If you plan to pick a MS/HS student up, please pick them up at District Office. Thank you.”