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Lyndonville seeks help placing 400 wreaths on veterans’ graves on Dec. 14

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 November 2019 at 10:05 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Wreaths are shown on veterans’ graves at Boxwood Cemetery in Medina in January 2018. Boxwood has been part of Wreaths Across America since 2013.

LYNDONVILLE – The community is welcome to be part of a new tradition at Lyndonville, where 401 wreaths will be placed on veterans’ graves at five cemeteries over the holiday season.

Lyndonville resident Anna Stelianou is paying for the wreaths and has set up an endowment with the Lyndonville Area Foundation to cover the costs for perpetuity. Stelianou made the donation in honor of her parents, Ary and Konstantina, who emigrated to Lyndonville from Greece after WWI. Stelianou also donated the money for the program in honor of her five brothers who served in WWII and the Korean War.

Steve Goodrich, commander of Houseman-Tanner American Legion Post 1603 in Lyndonville, is grateful for Stelianou’s donation. Goodrich identified and mapped put the location of the veterans’ graves.

He is asking the community to help place the wreaths on the gravesites the morning of Dec. 14.

Lynhaven Cemetery on Housel Avenue will be the site of a noon ceremony that day.

“We are not looking for donations,” Goodrich said. “What we need are volunteers to help place the wreaths. No one is too young or too old. If there is a family member you want to specifically place a wreath on, we will be happy to help.”

To sign up to help place the wreaths, click here to be directed to Lyndonville’s link on the Wreaths Across America website.

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Lyndonville superintendent one of 3 finalists to lead Batavia school district

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 November 2019 at 11:40 am

BATAVIA – The Lyndonville school superintendent is one of three finalists to be the next leader of the Batavia City School District.

Jason Smith

Jason Smith is a Batavia resident. He has served as Lyndonville superintendent the past eight years.

Smith grew up in Batavia and has worked as a teacher and vice principal in Albion, and then as a principal in Elba, before going to Lyndonville.

The Batavia district held community meetings this week for the public to meet the finalists. Besides Smith, Batavia is considering Anibal Soler, Jr., an associate superintendent for the Buffalo Public Schools; and Joleen Dimitroff, principal of Sweet Home’s Glendale Elementary School.

The district wants to have the new superintendent in place by Feb. 3, according to The Daily News in Batavia.

In a press release from the Batavia school district, Smith is praised for leading extensive curriculum work at Lyndonville in math and English Language Arts with full alignment to the Common Core. Those changes resulted in a near 100 percent increase in math scores from 2013 to 2014.

Smith implemented APPR requirements with alignment to the Framework for Teaching and Leadership standards and provided on-going administrator professional development to ensure consistency of teacher observations.

At Lyndonville, he supervises over 100 staff and faculty members, and a student body of about 650.

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Bellavia tells Lyndonville students they live in best town in the world

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 November 2019 at 8:42 am

Medal of Honor recipient returns to alma mater with message of thanksgiving for small-town life

Photos by Tom Rivers

LYNDONVILLE – David Bellavia, a 1994 Lyndonville graduate, returned to his alma mater on Thursday. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on June 25 during a ceremony at the White House.

In this photo, he shows the medal to fourth-grader Christopher Atkins. Elementary students lined the hallway for Bellavia, who was a staff sergeant in the Army.

David Bellavia speaks to about 400 students in grades 5 to 12 during an assembly at the school. Students were shown a video of him while he was deployed to Iraq.

He received the nation’s highest military honor for risking his life on Nov. 10, 2004 – his 29thbirthday. Bellavia defended his fellow soldiers while serving in the second battle of Fallujah, Iraq.

As a squad leader in Operation Phantom Fury, a 2004 American offensive on the western Iraqi City of Fallujah, Bellavia saved his entire squad when he cleared a housing block of enemy combatants who had pinned down his unit. Once Bellavia secured the safety of his squad, he re-engaged with the enemy combatants, re-entered the house where enemy fire was located, proceeded to kill four enemy insurgents, and wounded a fifth.

During a speech to 400 Lyndonville students in grades 5 to 12, Bellavia said he often thought of his time at Lyndonville school while he was deployed. He thought of teachers and classmates, and those memories gave him comfort and courage in battle.

During battle, he said he would think of his soccer coach, teachers and classmates.

“What gives you the energy and drive to face fear? This is what you think about,” he said scanning the crowd of students and teachers. “It’s right here. This is my safe space when I get freaked out.”

Lyndonville students and staff met with Bellaria after his speech and he accommodated the many requests for photos.

He told the students they live in a great community, where people are engaged in service to others. They can be in multiple school activities – several sports, the band, the musical and more. They know their classmates and the kids in the grade levels above them and below them.

It’s a great place, the greatest town in the world, but Bellavia didn’t realize when he was in school.

“I spent my childhood just wanting to get out of here,” he said. “You get out in the world and you realize I have the best hometown in the world.”

Bellavia told the students receiving the Medal of Honor is like “being struck by a comet.” He is grateful for the attention it has brought to the unit he served with in Iraq, and he is happy when the media highlight his hometown.

He urged people to consider serving in the military. If they don’t follow that path, they can contribute to the community and society in so many others ways. Being from Lyndonville isn’t a deterrence in pursuing their dreams. The school district has produced doctors, lawyers, innovative farmers, and top performers in many fields.

“There are no excuses to not launch of Lyndonville and go into the next stratosphere,” he told the students. “That is what we’re doing here.”

Students lined the hallway for David Bellavia in his return to the school on Thursday.

He encouraged the students to always give an honest effort, even when the outcome seems bleak.

Bellavia played varsity soccer and basketball for the Tigers. The basketball teams struggled during his era, but Bellavia said the team played hard in their games, even in blowouts. The opponents knew they Lyndonville wouldn’t just lie down despite a disadvantage in size. (Bellavia said the team had a 5-foot, 8-inch center.)

“In Lyndonville, we’re never going to let you beat us,” he said. “We don’t quit.”

He is proud of the effort from those basketball and soccer teams. He even recalled a win over the powerful Kendall boys soccer team.

Before the student assembly, Bellavia met with Lyndonville community leaders, including Jim Simon, the Yates town supervisor. Simon had a long career in the Air Force. He and Bellavia are saluting each other.

Bellavia said people often thank him for his military service. He wasn’t sure how to respond. But a Vietnam War veteran told him he should tell people, “You are worth it.” That is what he often tells people now while he is traveling around the country.

David Bellavia embraces math teacher Jim O’Connor after Bellavia’s presentation. Jeff Gress is another teacher at left.

Bellavia was asked if he could do anything different if he could go back in time when he was a student. Besides a better haircut instead of the long hair he had then, he said he wished he had thanked the teachers and staff for their dedication. He wished he had let his friends know how much they meant to him.

“Tell people you care,” he said. “Tell your mom and dad, your granddad that you love them.”

After Bellavia concluded his presentation, one of his former teachers –  Jeff Gress – yelled out, “You were worth it, Dave.”

David Bellavia had many funny comments during his presentation. Jason Smith, the school district superintendent, laughs at one of Bellavia’s one-liners.

Each student had a chance to hold the Medal of Honor. Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the nation’s highest military honor.

Dr. Clark Godshall, superintendent of the Orleans-Niagara BOCES, holds the Medal of Honor during a meet and greet with Bellavia before the student assembly.

Here is the medal in Dr. Godshall’s hand.

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Lyndonville Lion’s Club announces winning Peace Posters

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 November 2019 at 9:16 am

Provided photos

LYNDONVILLE – These Lyndonville students had the top 3 “Peace Posters” in an annual contest by the Lyndonville Lion’s Club. From left include Justin Higgins, first place; Katelynn Breeze, second place; and Daniel Barry, third place.

There were 37 Lyndonville 8th-graders who participated in the contest with the theme, “Journey of Peace.” The Lion’s Club voted on 10 posters and narrowed it down to the top 3 selections.

First place went to Justin Higgins, whose poster will now go on to compete at the district level for the Lion’s Club.

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Vets share experiences with Lyndonville students

Posted 9 November 2019 at 8:30 am

Photos courtesy of Lyndonville Central School

LYNDONVILLE – Lyndonville students interview Bob DeMallie on Friday as part of an oral history project.

The school district welcomed and honored about 40 veterans. There were veterans from each branch of the military who met with middle and high school students to discuss their lives before, during and after the military.

Students listened intently as veterans shared memories and answered questions. The students will create a report for each interview and incorporate them into a book to share with the district.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley was among the veterans who shared some of his experiences. He served seven years in the Ohio Army National Guard and the US Army Reserves.

He has been a member the past nine years of the Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee and sponsored legislation to aid veterans and current service personnel. During his keynote speech, Hawley reflected on his father’s military service in World War II and discussed his annual Patriot Trip to Washington D.C.

Hawley presented Lyndonville Central School with a NYS Assembly Citation in recognition of the district’s First Annual Veterans Day Program. The district also received recognition from NYS Senator Robert Ortt for celebrating Veterans Day and honoring those who have served the country.

Local veterans check in on Friday morning for the event at the former elementary school.

“The project was a meaningful way for students to understand the dedication of our military personnel and the sacrifices they have made for our freedom,” said Superintendent Jason Smith.

The district would like to thank all the veterans who participated in this year’s Veterans Day Project and Laura Moore, fifth-grade teacher, and local veteran Bob DeMallie for project coordination and assistance. The district looks forward to hosting the event again next year.

Lyndonville students welcomed veterans for the event on Friday.

(Editor’s Note: There is 5K run and walk this morning at 11 to benefit the Veterans Van Service in Orleans County. This second annual event starts at the Junior Wilson’s Sportsmen’s Club on Bates Road in Medina. Click here for more information.)

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Lyndonville students interviewing veterans at the school in new oral history effort

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 November 2019 at 9:38 am

LYNDONVILLE — Students will spend part of today interviewing Lyndonville area veterans as part of a new oral history program at the school.

Students in grades 5 and 11 will be talking with veterans today at the former elementary school.

They will start his morning at 9:30 and will be together until just after lunch.

About 35 to 40 veterans will be at the school to share their experiences with students.

“You need not to have seen combat to be part of this program as we feel that all who wore the uniform have made their contribution and have a story to tell,” the district said in a letter to veterans. That letter was signed by Jason Smith, district superintendent, and Laura Moore, a fifth grade teacher.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley will also give a keynote speech. He is a veteran, serves on the Assembly’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee and leads local veterans each September on a Patriot Trip to see memorials in Washington, D.C.

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Lyndonville appoints first student rep to Board of Education

Posted 7 November 2019 at 10:45 am

Press Release, Lyndonville Central School

Photo courtesy of LCS: Jason Smith, superintendent of Lyndonville Central School, welcomes Sawyer Wilson as the student representative on the Board of Education. Lyndonville voters last May approved having a student as an ex officio member of the BOE.

LYNDONVILLE – The Lyndonville Board of Education approved the appointment of Sawyer Wilson, a senior at Lyndonville, to serve as its first student ex officio member during the October BOE meeting.

The voters approved a referendum in May authorizing the Board of Education to appoint a student to serve as an ex officio member. To be eligible for appointment, a student member must be a senior who has attended the district’s high school for at least two years prior to the selection. In addition, the student must have student government experience and be approved by the superintendent.

Sawyer Wilson, a life-long resident of Lyndonville, has attended the school district since kindergarten. He has been a member of the student council for a few years and was elected president this fall.

“I have known Sawyer for eight years. He is a conscientious, hard-working student,” said Jason Smith, the district superintendent. “I am confident he will be an asset to our Board of Education and will provide a true student perspective.”

Wilson’s first board meeting as an ex officio member is Nov. 12. Wilson will sit with the board members at all public meetings, will participate in all board hearings/meetings and will provide monthly reports.

As an ex officio member, he will not be allowed to attend executive sessions or receive any compensation. Wilson will serve as a non-voting member through June 2020.

The senior is excited about being the first student to sit on the LCSD Board of Education.

“The Board does a lot that we (the students) don’t see but we feel,” Sawyer said. “I hope to help students appreciate and understand this. I would like to provide the student perspective to decisions that are being made.”

Sawyer is the son of Darren and Wendy Wilson. He plans to apply to Geneseo and Nazareth Colleges and majoring in childhood education with a minor in political science or theatre.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Sawyer Wilson has been active in the Lyndonville-Medina school musicals. He is shown last March during Sister Act. He played the role of a dancing custodian.

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Lions Club does eye screenings for Lyndonville students

Posted 31 October 2019 at 9:24 am

Provided photos from Lyndonville Lions Club

LYNDONVILLE – The Lyndonville and Medina Lions Clubs did eye screenings on Tuesday for 140 students at Lyndonville in grades kindergarten through 7. The top photo shows Lions Club members from left: Bruce Schmidt, Jim Hancock, Don Colquhoun and Lynne Johnson.

Jim Hancock screens one of the 140 students who had their vision checked on Tuesday.

The Lions Club members were assisted by several Lyndonville Leo Club members. The Leo Club members, under the direction of Adviser Aimee Chaffee, escorted students to and from the screenings.

This was the fourth year in a row that the vision screening has taken place in Lyndonville. Some vision issues have been discovered over the years.

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Orleans REDI projects total $17 million, with $9M sewer project in Kendall the biggest

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Town of Yates Park on Morrison Road has picnic tables, grills and a pavilion close to the shoreline. The state approved spending $2.5 million to expand the park and help protect it from flooding. This photo was taken this afternoon.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 October 2019 at 7:14 pm

Yates Town Park approved for $2.5 million in improvements, expansion

The $49 million announced by Gov. Cuomo today for 20 lakeshore projects in Orleans and Niagara counties includes $17 million in Orleans County.

The projects will improve public land and infrastructure, including roads, a new sewer system in Kendall and Hamlin, and an improved Yates Town Park.

The money announced today is part of the first round of funding under the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative. There is also $20 million available for homeowners and $30 million for businesses that will be allocated later.

Governor Cuomo launched the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative in May to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region.

He said today it was necessary as part of “a new normal” with high lake levels. The governor wants projects that will protect important public land and infrastructure from future flooding.

The governor was at Fort Niagara in Youngstown to announce the funding for Niagara and Orleans. The state is paying 95 percent of the costs, with the local governments chipping in percent.

Those projects include:

Orleans County

Wastewater Infrastructure for Kendall and Hamlin, $9,053,000

This project will disconnect homes from the septic systems and connect them to a wastewater system. A privately owned facility (located at Troutburg in the Town of Kendall) will be turned over to the Town of Kendall, and approximately 125 residences in the towns of Hamlin and Kendall will be connected to the facility.

The project will solve the problems for lakeside residences with septic issues west of West Kendall Drive, including along Lomond Shore West, Edrose Shore, Knapp Shore, Thompson Drive, and near Lakeland Beach Road and Bald Eagle Drive in the Town of Kendall, plus residences near Beachwood Park Road in the Town of Hamlin. This project will connect these areas to a sanitary sewer and convey wastewater to a treatment facility.

Yates Town Park and Expansion in Yates, $2,531,000

The Yates Town Park is located off Morrison Road, northeast of the Village of Lyndonville.

The Town of Yates proposes to expand the town park with enhanced recreational and water access opportunities. This project seeks to further enhance the park’s environmental resiliency, protect and expand its natural and nature-based features, and increase public access to the area’s recreational resources.

Proposed mitigation measures in the project will consist of:

• Installing shoreline stabilization measures to protect the park shoreline and associated features

• Evaluating opportunities to enhance recreation and water access through a new kayak launch and playground

• Installing upgrades to the park’s amenities, including an upgraded parking lot area, enclosed pavilion and bathrooms, and a 10 foot wide nature trail

Lakeshore Road (Route 97) in Carlton, east of Point Breeze, $2,062,000

Lakeshore Road is eroding rapidly and creating a hazardous situation for the roadway infrastructure and the waterline adjacent to the road. This project seeks to address the erosion of the bluff, as well as the existing failed shoreline protection.

Proposed mitigation measures in the project will consist of:

• Protecting the toe of the bluff with shoreline stabilization measures

• Stabilizing the bluff through grading and fill (where possible)

• Vegetation along the embankment

The project assumes 1,500 foot long by 40 foot wide shore stabilization with fill and new vegetation for 10 to 20 foot of the width. During the engineering process, the project should also evaluate potential of shore protection measures.

Public Town Road Ends/Culverts in Kendall, $1,500,000

Culverts adjacent to Ed Rose Shore, Knapp Shore, and Thompson Drive are impacted by high water levels resulting in culvert ends being clogged with debris. This project will install a more resilient box culvert concept. A culvert located at Lakeland Beach Road needs fortification, and riprap will be placed at the outlet of the culvert to provide protection.

Proposed mitigation measures in the project will consist of:

• Replacing end of culverts with box design systems at four locations (Edrose, Knapp Shores, and Thompson Dr.)

• Upgrade stabilization measures at the Lakeland Beach Road end of culvert

Point Breeze Boat Launch in Carlton, $751,000

The docks and boating slips at the Orleans County Marine Park will see upgrades.

The 72-slip boat launch is owned by the county at the Orleans County Marine Park.

Proposed mitigation measures for the project consists of:

• Replacement of fixed elevation docks with floating docks and slips, inclusive of anchorage and posts to permit only vertical dock movement

• Modification and upgrades to impaired boat launches to increase resiliency

Lakeside Park Road East in Carlton, $385,000

The bluff  on which the eastern portion of Lakeside Park Road sits has been experiencing erosional impacts, creating a 30 to 40 foot drop that has become a hazardous condition for the road and public water line in the area. This project aims to stabilize the bluff  to protect these assets.

Proposed mitigation measures in the project will consist of:

• Protecting the toe of the bluff with shoreline stabilization; stabilizing the bluff with embankment vegetation

• Where space allows, the bluff will be graded back to a more stable slope

Lakeside Park Road West in Carlton, $235,000

The Town of Carlton Highway Department uses a payloader to carry pallets of sandbags across a washed out section of Lakeside Park Road West on June 2. A chunk of road washed out in May. Residents at three houses have to walk through the washed out road to reach their houses. The road will protected with riprap in one of the REDI projects.

The shoreline on which Lakeside Park Road sits has been experiencing flooding impacts from both Johnson Creek and Lake Ontario, including the loss of an access road/lane, land protecting homes, and public water lines. West of the intersection with Lakeside Road there is approximately 300 feet of public water line at risk of being exposed and compromised.

Proposed mitigation measures in the project will consist of:

• Constructing an access road to place protective materials along the shoreline

• Placement of riprap stone to protect the public water line during future high water level(s)

Thompson Drive turnaround to become beach access in Kendall, $131,000

A section of Thompson Drive at the western end of Kendall was eaten up by Lake Ontario in the spring 2017. This photo was taken on May 7, 2017.

The former Thompson Drive turnaround provides beach access to the Lake Ontario shoreline. There is an opportunity to turn the former turnaround into beach access, coupled with nature-based shoreline protection.

The proposed project would reduce shoreline erosion, protecting local infrastructure and maintaining access along the route.

Proposed mitigation measures in the project will consist of:

• Installing natural or nature-based shoreline protection addressing the erosion of the turnaround, which is nearing the shoreline edge

• Ensuring and enhancing access to the shoreline

Route 237 right-of-way in Kendall, $40,000

The shoreline/waterfront area along the Route 237 right-of-way is experiencing significant erosion as a result of high water levels, flooding, and wave intensity. A project is currently ongoing to install riprap along the waterfront to protect the eroding shoreline associated with the right-of-way, abutting the riprap of two neighboring private properties.

Proposed additional mitigation measures in the project will consist of:

• Construction of a berm to further stabilize the shoreline and protect the area from future flooding

• Filling the gap between existing shoreline protection features with additional shoreline protection

• A protective barrier to provide public safety, and limit access from hazardous conditions at the end of the Route 237 right-of-way

Installing markers on submerged structures in Orleans and Niagara, $50,000

In-lake structures throughout Niagara and Orleans counties, when underwater, may result in hazardous boating conditions. Installing temporary safety markers is a proactive approach to protect public safety.

This project will install safety markers on submerged structures (piers). The structures will be clearly marked by installing temporary warning buoys.

For more on the projects, including the $32 million for those in Niagara County, click here.

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Woman identified in fatal fire this morning in Yates

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 October 2019 at 12:02 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: Firefighters respond to the scene of a fatal fire this morning on Route 18, east of Route 63.

YATES – The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office has identified the victim in this morning’s fatal fire in Yates. Minnie Holt, 80, was killed at about 5 a.m. in a fire at 11848 Roosevelt Highway (Route 18).

Firefighters and Sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene to find a house on fire in the rear and the inside full of thick black smoke.

Holt likely died from smoke inhalation. She was on the phone with an Orleans County public safety dispatcher as she tried to get out of the house. The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office is doing an autopsy.

About 50 firefighters responded to the call from Lyndonville, Carlton, Ridgeway, Shelby, Middleport and Medina.

Orleans County and state fire investigators are on scene to determine the cause of the fire. The road remains closed to traffic as of noon today.

The Town of Yates and Orleans County highway departments will help take down the house today.

First responders are shown at the scene at about 7:30 this morning.

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