Orleans County

Some delays in garbage collection today due to staffing shortages

Posted 17 September 2021 at 3:08 pm

Press Release, Orleans County Chief Administrative Officer Jack Welch

ALBION – Orleans County works closely with Modern Disposal Services to provide a countywide solid waste program for all of our residents who participate in our program. From time to time, we unfortunately experience some delays in providing this service as scheduled.

Today’s delays are related to the universal staffing problem all employers are having this year. Employees are changing jobs or taking unexpected time off and there is not enough capacity with the employees who do report to work to complete the scheduled assigned tasks or routes.  Therefore solid waste pickups are delayed for one day.

The routes affected today are all of the routes in the town of Clarendon. In the town of Murray we have Route 31, Hindsburg Road, Fancher Road, and Route 237 north of Holley.  All of today’s affected routes will be picked up on Saturday.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this creates for our residents along the affected routes,” said Jack Welch, county chief administrative officer.“If these residents leave out their solid waste, Modern Disposal will have your items collected as soon as Modern is able on Saturday.”

Canal water again being used to supplement flows in local streams to boost fishing

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 September 2021 at 10:17 am

This map from the State Canal Corp. shows where the state will be using canal water to supplement local tributaries and boost fishing opportunities for the fall salmon runs.

ALBION – Last year the State Canal Corp. tried a pilot program, releasing water from the canal into local tributaries for the fall fishing runs.

The program was deemed a success and it will continue this year. The Canal Corp. on Thursday started releasing water into tributaries and will keep doing that until Dec. 13.

That will extend the fall fishing season, and should ensure adequate water flow in streams for salmon, trout and steelhead to swim upstream.

The schedule for releasing water includes:

  • Increased flows from Sept. 16 through Dec. 13 for Oak Orchard River in Orleans County, Sandy Creek in Orleans and Monroe counties, and Eighteen Mile Creek in Niagara.
  • The flows will be increased from Nov. 4 through Dec. 13 for Johnson Creek in Orleans and Niagara counties, and Salmon Creek in Orleans and Monroe counties.

Fishing has a $28 million annual impact in Orleans County. The local officials say the extended season will be a boost for local restaurants, lodging establishments and other businesses.

The project is part of the “Reimagine the Canals” initiative to better utilize the canal and support many recreational opportunities along the canal system.

State legislation stalls that would ban elected officials from IDA boards

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 September 2021 at 9:51 am

Local Orleans EDA says board would lose important connections without elected leaders

Photo by Tom Rivers: Michael Dobell (second from right in back) is the CEO/CFO of the Orleans Economic Development Agency. He is shown speaking during last Friday’s board meeting. Four of the seven board members are elected officials, including Chairman Paul Hendel, far right, who is a member of the Murray Town Board. Three county legislators – Ken DeRoller, John DeFilipps and Skip Draper – also are on the board.

ALBION – Members of the Orleans Economic Development Agency have been closely watching a bill in Albany that would ban elected officials from serving on boards of the industrial development agencies.

The legislation passed in the State Senate but failed in the State Assembly earlier this month. Proponents of the legislation say the elected officials can give out tax breaks and assistance to businesses through their roles on the IDA, and then may ask those businesses for campaign donations.

State Sen. James Skoufis of the Hudson Valley sponsored the legislation that he said would eliminate conflcits of interest for IDA board members. He wants to prohibit any elected official serving at the county, town, city, or village level from serving as a member of the board of any IDA.

In Orleans County, four of the seven board members on the Orleans EDA are elected officials. Paul Hendel, the board chairman, is a Murray town councilman. Three others are county legislators – Ken DeRoller of Kendall, John DeFilipps of Clarendon and Skip Draper of Shelby.

The three other board members who aren’t elected officials include John Misiti, Ed Urbanik of Farm Credit and Carol D’Agostino, the Kendall High School principal.

The Orleans EDA members aren’t hitting up businesses that work with the EDA for campaign dollars in their low-budget re-election efforts, EDA board members said.

Hendel said the board members, especially the county legislators, have important connections within the county government and community, as well as with state and federal officials. The County Legislature provides $190,000 of the EDA budget and also contributes other important in-kind services with infrastructure work.

The elected officials also are engaged in local issues, and can give insights on potential stumbling blocks with projects and also ways to keep economic development initiatives moving forward.

Kevin Zanner, the EDA attorney, told the board on Friday he doesn’t expect the state legislation, banning elected officials from IDA boards, will gain any momentum in Albany.

If the legislation was approved and the elected couldn’t serve on the board, the EDA could be hard-pressed to find volunteers to serve in the roles that would bring a depth of experience and insight to match the elected officials.

In the past, when the EDA had a vacancy on the board, it has sometimes reached out to a recently retired elected official. Ken Rush, a former county legislator, served on the board after he ended his time on the Legislature.

Two of the current board members – DeRoller and DeFilipps – are retiring from Legislature after this year. The County Legislature, which appoints some of the EDA members, could ask the outgoing legislators to continue to serve with the EDA in 2022.

20th anniversary Sept. 11 service planned for 6 p.m. Saturday

Photos by Tom Rivers: A giant American flag is held high over Main Street in Albion from the ladder trucks of the Albion Fire Department and the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company on Sept. 11, 2020.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 September 2021 at 10:20 am

ALBION – A large contingent of firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMS and other first responders are expected for a Sept. 11 remembrance service on Saturday, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.

The service will be at 6 p.m. on the courthouse lawn near the Sept. 11 memorial. Lynne Johnson, the Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, is expected to give the welcome for the event.

When she spoke at the service last year, she said that in the hours and days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, “America came together like never before.”

She recalled seeing American flags out on “house after house, street after street.”

The country was united in mourning the loss of life and in its response to terrorist attacks.

“There will be no forgetting September 11th,” Johnson said. “It is burned into our souls – those graphic pictures, the smoldering ash, and the endless funerals. We must hold on to our remarkable capacity to mourn those we have lost, be they friends, family or total strangers. Honor the value of all lives. They mattered on September 11th, so must all lives matter today.”

Scott Schmidt will again serve as the keynote speaker at the observance. Schmidt spent three weeks with a federal team – U.S. Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team – and assisted in collecting and identifying remains, and interviewing family members searching for loved ones. He left for New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. He was there for 20 days, including a week at Ground Zero.

“This is our generation’s Pearl Harbor,” Schmidt said today. “It is one of those things you’ll never forget where you were or what you were doing that day.”

Schmidt said Orleans County rallied and was united after the attacks and showed their support for the military and grief of the lives lost with numerous American flags displayed on homes.

He said his comments on Saturday will have a theme of not taking things for granted. The United States nearly 20 years ago was attacked during a time of complacency, he said.

This group of law enforcement officers attended the service last year at the courthouse lawn near the Sept. 11 memorial. The public is welcome to attend a service at 6 p.m. this Saturday at the courthouse lawn.

Unemployment rate down significantly compared to last summer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 September 2021 at 10:34 am

The number of people unemployed in Orleans is about half of what it was last summer, according to State Department of Labor data for July.

In Orleans County, the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in July, compared to 11.5 percent in July 2020, when many businesses were scaled down due to Covid-19 restrictions. In July 2019, before the pandemic, the unemployment rate was 4.8 percent in Orleans.

There are 900 more working in Orleans compared to year ago. There were 16,400 working in Orleans County in July, compared to 15,500 in July 2020. The number on unemployment also is down from 2,000 to 1,000 during that time.

Other nearby rates for July include: Livingston, 4.6%; Monroe, 5.7%; Erie, 5.8%; Niagara, 6.0.

Statewide the unemployment rate is 7.4 percent compared to 14.8 percent in July 2020. The were 8,668,400 working statewide in July, up 626,200 from July 2020. The number on unemployment is down from 1,400,100 to 693,200.

Businesses embracing United Way’s mission of ‘neighbors helping neighbors’

Pictured from left include Lisa Christiaansen from Mark’s Pizzeria, Jim Nowaczewski of HeBrews 5:9, Susan Fuller from Della’s Chocolates and Jeremy Van Ameron of Van’s Pit Stop in Clarendon. They are all supporting fundraising efforts of the United Way of Orleans County.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 6 September 2021 at 8:37 am

Nyla Gaylord has a strategy going forward in her new job as director of development and fundraising for United Way of Orleans County.

“Neighbors helping neighbors is what the United Way is all about,” Gaylord said.

Her strategy is to work with small business in the community and ask them to help United Way by selling tickets to their Sept. 25 chicken barbecue.

Nyla Gaylord

Although United Way of Orleans County was responsible for bringing more than a million dollars from grants into the county last year, the agency is still actively pursuing other fundraisers, including the chicken barbecue and the first major fundraising event on Nov. 19 featuring Atlantic City entertainer Jimmy Mazz.

Gaylord also thought asking small businesses to sell chicken barbecue tickets was a good way to introduce herself and get to know them.

United Way is especially excited about a promotion Mark’s Pizzeria in Medina and Albion has agreed to do to support United Way. During the week of Sept. 6 to 12, Mark’s will donate $2 for every pizza sold.

While United Way director Dean Bellack thinks this could result in a substantial donation to United Way, what he said is really important is that everyone in the county will see another partner for United Way.

“We are very happy to support the good work of United Way in helping the community,” said owner Brian Christiaansen.

Jeremy Van Ameron from Van’s Pit Stop in Clarendon echoed Christiaansen’s comment.

“United Way helps out people and families in our community, and I’m happy to help them by selling tickets,” he said. “That’s what we do in Orleans County.”

“I see the way United Way helps everybody, and for me that’s awesome,” said Lynn Burgess, owner of Lynn’s Salon in Albion, who is also selling chicken barbecue tickets.

Other small businesses supporting United Way by selling tickets are Della’s Chocolates in Medina and HeBrews in Albion, whose owner Jim Nowaczewski is planning to open a second location at the former Meggie Moos ice cream parlor on East Center Street by Sept. 15.

Gaylord said it’s important to “be American, buy local and support small businesses.”

“That’s a win-win situation,” she said.

United Way’s first gala featuring Jimmy Mazz was made possible by a donor to United Way. “Blast from the Past” will take place Nov. 19 at Maison Albion, with an elegant dinner catered by Zambistro’s. The evening will also feature silent and live auctions and raffles. Information and tickets are available by visiting www.OrleansUnitedWay.org/gala.

“When our community unites to support United Way, we are ensuring that help is there for us and our neighbors in times of need,” Gaylord said. “The funds we raise will help residents of the county when they need assistance that no government agency can provide.”

Housing study for Orleans says need for smaller houses and lots, townhouses

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 September 2021 at 12:24 pm

New housing construction has slowed in county in past 15 years

Photo by Tom Rivers: The former Holley High School opened last year with 42 apartments, which were quickly filled. A report about housing in Orleans County said more townhouses, smaller single-family homes needed in the county.

ALBION – A report about housing in Orleans County advises local officials to consider some zoning changes to allow for single-family housing on smaller lot sizes, and also encourage more high-density development, such as townhouses and condominiums.

The report, presented to the Orleans County Legislature last week by LaBella, said the county has an aging housing stock and about half of the houses need repairs.

The median household income in the county also makes it difficult for landlords to charge enough rent, making for a low return on investment.

Building permits for housing are about a third of what they were 15 years ago. The redevelopment of the former Holley High School, which added 42 apartment units last year, is an exception. Those units were quickly rented out and show there is demand for high-density living in the county.

The county paid LaBella $5,000 for the study. County Legislator Ken DeRoller of Kendall advocated for the study after seeing local building permits plummet in recent years and the population steadily decline. DeRoller said that may be a reflection that the existing housing and zoning are not in sync with housing development.

He is suggesting local officials look to set aside some land for housing that may currently be farmland. That is a discussion that should be taken up among farmers, the county’s Farmland Protection Board and local officials. If the zoning was changed to allow smaller lots, DeRoller said there would be affordable new housing opportunities with only a small impact to productive farmland.

There are also opportunities for new construction with vacant lots in villages. DeRoller also sees the Erie Canal as an attractive waterfront option with the right zoning in place.

Key findings in the report include:

• Single-family, owner-occupied units dominate the market: About 50 percent of housing stock throughout the county is comprised of single-family homes on large lots. Future projections show a need for smaller homes on smaller lot sizes, which would also drive down the costs for a new house.

• Almost 50 percent of renter households have housing problems and cannot afford market rents: The report states that 49 percent of renters are living in units that are not affordable. Housing Choice vouchers available in the county address some of the affordability issues, but only a small fraction of the need. The report also says 51 percent  of renters have housing problems such as incomplete kitchens or bathrooms and more than one person per bedroom.

• More than 50 percent of housing stock is 60 years or older: Housing maintenance is therefore a major priority in the county, Labella stated in the report.

• Renters and homeowners both have housing problems: The number of homeowners with housing problems (3,010, according to the report) exceeds the number of renters (2,010) with housing problems.

• Return on investment is low for owners and rental developers: Rental rates in inflation adjusted dollars have decreased over the last 20 years, and home values, in inflation adjusted dollars, are also down in the 20 years. (This doesn’t include the recent spike in the past year with many homes selling for 20 to 25 percent above assessed value.) The lack of growth in rental rates and home values discourages upgrades and maintenance of homes, as well as new developments.

• Population decreasing: Orleans County’s population is down 5.9 percent from 2010 to 2020 or by 2,540 people, from 42,883 to 40,343. From 2000, the decline is 8.7 percent when the population was 44,171. “Finding ways to attract new residents would increase the demand for housing,” the report states.

• Population getting older: The average age of residents in Orleans County increased from 36.2 in 2000 to 43.0 in 2019.

• Shrinking household sizes: The size of the average household shrunk from 2.65 in 2000 to 2.28 in 2019.

• The report also finds a need for more housing units for extremely low-income households, and there is also demand for higher-priced apartments.

DePaul is close to completing a new 40-unit housing project in Albion on Liberty Street. The property is known as the Boxcar Apartments is located between the railroad tracks and Beaver Street. The complex will have 36 one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units.

Housing Characteristics

  • The report finds that the large majority of housing units are currently owner occupied, with 76 percent owner occupied compared to 24 percent that are renter-occupied.
  • Of the occupied housing units in the county, 75 percent are single-family homes, with 11 percent mobile homes, 9 percent that are multi-unit and 5 percent that are two-family.
  • New construction of housing units has generally been trending downward. There were 70 building permits for housing in 2004 and that dropped to 24 in 2017 and 23 in 2018 in Orleans County. There was an anomaly in 2019 with 65 permits for housing units, with 42 at the Holley gardens, the former Holley High School that was turned into apartments. Without the school project, there were 23 building permits for housing units in the county in 2019.
  • Age of housing stock in Orleans County: The reports shows 57 percent of housing units in the county were built before 1960 and only 6 percent were constructed in last two decades. A breakdown shows 44 percent built from 1939 or earlier, 13 percent from 1940 to 1959; 20 percent from 1960 to 1979; 18 percent from 1980 to 1999; and 6 percent were built in 2000 or later. The report says any housing programs in the county “must” include a component to rehab older homes. Some of those older housing units may need to be demolished.
  • Median housing values: Using inflation adjusted values, median housing values in the county have slightly decreased from $105,874 in 2000, $100,366 in 2010 to $98,400 in 2019.
  • Median gross rent has also fallen. Using inflation adjusted values, the gross rent for Orleans County rentals has dropped from $774 in 2000 to $732 in 2010 to $728 in 2019.
  • Affordability: The report says nearly half of renters, 47 percent, are living in housing that is unaffordable and over 18 percent of renters are spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Three out of four homeowners are living in housing that is affordable. Some subsidies are needed to help lower-income people have affordable housing.
  • Housing problems: Overall, 31 percent of households report a housing problem, which could include basic needs like a complete kitchen and bathroom facilities. The report said programs for housing rehab are needed but some of the houses are so unsafe and dilapidated it doesn’t make sense to rehab them and they should be torn down.

Demographic Characteristics 

  • Population loss: Orleans County’s population is down 8.7 percent from 2000 to 2020, according to the report which cited census data. That is a decline of 3,828 people over 20 years. The population in Orleans was 40,343 in 2020, down from 42,883 in 2010 and 44,171 in 2000.
  • The decline on household sizes could result in less demand for the larger single-family houses in the future, according to the report.
  • Medina age: The county’s median age has changed significantly from 36.2 in 2000 to 43.0 in 2019, likely due to stagnant population growth, lack of young families and people moving out of county. During that same period, the median age in the state went from 36 to 39 years old, and nationally it went up from 35 to 38.5. Based on current trends and projections, nearly 60 percent of the Orleans County population will be 45 or older by 2040.

Wide crumbling sidewalks getting removed by courthouse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 September 2021 at 3:05 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The Orleans County Department of Public Works today removed many of the large concrete sections of sidewalk leading to the County Courthouse on East State Street. There are more to be taken out.

The county DPW will be putting in new sidewalks, with the main walkway reduced to be a much slimmer 12 feet wide.

It’s part of several improvements at the site, where the building was constructed in 1858 and is the focal point of Courthouse Square, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The county also replaced the roof hatch and sealed the cupola. The sealed cupola should stop water from leaking inside. The hatch, which is used for workers to access the cupola and top of the dome, had deteriorated.

The sidewalks and concrete steps near the street also were in disrepair.

The County Legislature set aside $50,000 to replace sidewalks, upgrade landscaping, and relocate existing light fixtures at the Courthouse Square.

County Treasurer’s Office collecting school taxes for Lyndonville, Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 August 2021 at 2:56 pm

ALBION – Property owners in the Lyndonville and Medina school districts will have their school taxes collected by the Orleans County Treasurer’s Office.

The county collected Medina’s taxes for the first time last year and is paid $19,000 for the work. Lyndonville is in its first year of contracting with the County Treasurer’s Office at a cost of $12,000.

Orleans County Treasurer Kim DeFrank has been delegated to be the sole and exclusive authority to collect 2021/2022 school taxes for the Lyndonville and Medina school districts, beginning Sept. 1 through Nov. 1.

The Treasurer’s Office is located at 34 East Park Street, Albion NY 14411. It is accepting tax payments in person, by US mail or a safe and secure drop box outside the Treasurer’s Office.  Cash payments may be made in person only.

The hours of operations include Sept. 1-3 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Labor Day, and then from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Sept. 7.

Any questions regarding these payments may be made by contacting the Orleans County Treasurer at (585) 589-5353.

Ministry of Concern looking for executive director to lead 2-county agency

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 30 August 2021 at 11:50 am

Nyla Gaylord left to join United Way in Orleans County

ALBION – While the resignation of Nyla Gaylord in early July as executive director may have left a big void in the Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern, the agency is moving forward with a lot of positive energy, according to board president Sister Dolores O’Dowd.

Gaylord served with GOMOC for 5 ½ years, with more than four of those as executive director. She has accepted a position as director of development and fundraising for United Way of Orleans County.

“We appreciate all the time, effort and expertise she shared with employees, board members and especially the clients of Orleans and Genesee counties,” Sister O’Dowd shared in their summer newsletter.

Meanwhile, the search for a new executive director is continuing.

“We are looking for someone who has a heart for our ministry and someone who is also familiar with the agencies in Orleans and Genesee County with whom we work,” Sister O’Dowd said.

While the past year and a half have been challenging, GOMOC can celebrate a lot of successes. These include the purchase of a new furniture truck with a lift gate, made possible with a generous donation and grant from the Lyndonville Foundation.

“In spite of the challenges, we managed to keep our office going,” Sister O’Dowd said. “No one refused to come to work because of Covid. “We are thankful we could continue to help people with the money we received from grants.

In January this year, GOMOC was the recipient of a $50,000 grant from Eastman Savings and Loan, made possible by United Way of Orleans County. This allowed for creating the ESL/Covid Relief Housing Project to help families and individuals who were economically and financially disadvantaged and who suffered from either loss of income due to Covid or had difficulty making ends meet. GOMOC was able to provide rental/mortgage assistance and help with outstanding utility bills.

Although the ESL/Covid Relief Program ended July 31, GOMOC will continue to service income-eligible families in need through other funding sources and referral processes, wrote program coordinator Lydia Duncan in their newsletter.

Sister O’Dowd is especially excited about a new Financial Literacy Workshop started by Just Friends coordinator and advocate Ayesha Kreutz. Funded by a Heritage Wind community grant, the program is open to residents of Orleans County 12 to 18 years old and their parents. Five participants aged 12 to 18 years will receive a $300 scholarship to open their own investment portfolio or start a business. The program will focus on everything from investing money and saving for the future to interviewing skills, how to get and keep a job, life insurance, budgeting and their credit score. The first class started the second week of August.

Last year, GOMOC handed out school supplies to almost 300 children through donations from individuals and a grant from the Emma Reed Webster Aid Foundation. They are hoping to do the same this year and are still accepting donations of new school supplies and backpacks.

Sister O’Dowd reported the resignation of advocate Sharon Quill, who worked with the furniture program. That void has just been filled by hiring of Gretta Smith, who will start Tuesday as advocate.

Sister O’Dowd said Smith brings a lot to the Ministry of Concern.

“She is a college student in her senior year at Daemon College,” Sister O’Dowd said. “She has worked with many organizations in our area and worked with the poor. She is young and has a lot of good ideas. She will be a good fit.”

GOMOC had to cancel their annual fundraising gala due to Covid, but plan to reschedule it as soon as the danger of Covid has gone away.

“For now, we are depending upon donations from the community and grants,” Sister O’Dowd said.

The Ministry of Concern can also use items such as toilet paper; backpack and school supplies; any size mattresses, box springs and frames; new and gently used sheets and blankets in any size; appliances, such as refrigerators, electric stoves, microwave ovens, washers and dryers; small appliances, including toasters, coffee makers, hand mixers, hot plates, blenders and crock pots; paper towels, tissues, dish and laundry detergent and cleaning supplies; new bed pillows; bath and kitchen towers; and dressers, end tables, recliner chairs; loveseats, sofas, tables and chairs.

Information on how to donate cash or items is available by calling (585) 589-9210 or logging on to their website at www.ministryofconcern.org.

Nominations sought for annual business awards by Chamber of Commerce

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 August 2021 at 9:29 am

The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations for its 23rd annual business awards. The deadline to nominate a business or person is Sept. 12.

The categories include:

  • Business of the Year – This award is presented to a business that has experienced significant overall achievements/success throughout the year.
  • Lifetime Achievement – This award is presented to an individual with a long-term record of outstanding business achievements.
  • Phoenix Award – This award is presented to an organization or business that has successfully adapted or re-used an existing facility.
  • New Business of the Year – This award is presented to a business or organization that has opened in the past year.
  • Community Service Award – This award is presented to a business, organization or individual that has provided meaningful contributions to the community in either professional or non-professional spheres.
  • Agricultural Business of the Year – This award is presented to an agricultural business that has experienced significant overall achievements/success throughout the year.
  • Small Business of the Year – This award is presented to a small business that has experienced significant achievements/success throughout the year.

Send a nomination to the OCCC, PO Box 501, Medina, NY or email it to director@orleanschamber.com, through Google forms (click here) or the Chamber’s Facebook page.

The businesses and individuals will be recognized during an awards dinner on Oct. 21 at the White Birch in Lyndonville.

Volunteers get praise for getting veterans to medical appointments

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 28 August 2021 at 7:25 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: From left, Nancy Traxler, head of the Joint Veterans’ Council, Jackie Lonnen, office worker, and legislator Fred Miller pose with a cake honoring volunteer van drivers at Shelby Volunteer Fire Company on Friday noon. Certificates of appreciation were also presented to a dozen and a half volunteer drivers.

MEDINA – A dozen and a half volunteer drivers in the Joint Veterans’ Council’s van service were recognized at a reception Wednesday at Shelby Fire Hall.

The Joint Veterans Council director Nancy Traxler and van service coordinator Phyllis Schrader presented certificates of appreciation to the volunteer drivers.

The drivers are usually recognized annually with a picnic at the Joint Veterans’ Council office, but because 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the program, it was decided to celebrate with a catered lunch.

The volunteer van service was started Dec. 13, 1996 by Jim Andre of Kendall, who saw a need for such a service in Orleans County, Schrader said. They started with a card table, a phone and one van.

Frank  Tower was head of the Joint Veterans’ Council when Andre went to the American Legion and VFW to help in getting his idea started.

One of the longest serving volunteer drivers is Ralph Clute, who started in 1998. He said he has been amazed at how the program has grown over the years. Clute, who served in the Navy, said all of the drivers are veterans themselves or wives of a veteran.

Clockwise from left, Phyllis Schrader, coordinator of the Joint Veterans’ Council volunteer van drivers, and volunteer drivers Judy Larkin, Irene Braley, Butch Patten, Jean Karos and Lee Plummer enjoy conversation at a reception Friday recognizing the volunteers.

After starting out with one van and two drivers (Ron Weaver and Andre), there are now five vans and 25 volunteer drivers. There is always a need for more volunteers, Schrader said.

“This new generation doesn’t volunteer any more,” she said.

Butch Patten of Albion had been a longtime volunteer until he was forced to quit when he developed diabetes. Then he volunteered to work in the office.

Lee Plummer of Lyndonville became a volunteer because Schrader, a former classmate of his, talked him into it.

Traxler stressed how important the van service is to local veterans. She cited the case just recently when a 90-year-old veteran’s caregiver contacted the Joint Veterans’ Council, saying the man had no relatives or friends who could drive. He needed to get to some medical appointments, and the volunteer van service was able to set them all up and get him there.

“The volunteer drivers provide a great service to our community,” said County Legislator Fred Miller. “Volunteering is not a very thankful job. Our veterans have done so much for us, and these volunteers have my admiration.”

Legislators recognize volunteers for veterans’ van service

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 August 2021 at 9:47 am

Joint Veterans Council has run the all-volunteer program for 25 years

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday presented certificates of appreciation to volunteers for the veterans’ van service, a program that has been providing rides to veterans to their medical appointments the past 25 years.

The top photo shows County Legislator Fred Miller, second from left, praising volunteers in the program, including Ralph Clute (second from right) and Frank Panczyszyn. Nancy Traxler, director of the Veterans Service Agency in Orleans County, is at left. Klute is a driver for the program and also helps in the office. Panczyszyn is a driver.

Helen Bilicki, left, also was recognized for her years of service in the office, helping to schedule drivers for veterans’ medical appointments. The program is run by the Joint Veterans Council.

There are currently about 25 volunteers with the program, which operates five vans. The program typically takes veterans to about 1,500 appointments a year. The service was shut down by the VA from April through June 2020, and then it gradually ramped back up.

The volunteers took veterans to 542 appointments from Jan. 1 through July 31 this year.

There will be a reception for the volunteers today at the Shelby fire hall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

County approves 5-year labor contract with CSEA

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 August 2021 at 9:36 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday approved a five-year contract with 170 employees in the CSEA union.

The agreement doesn’t give any raises for 2020 through June of 2021. However, the employees will all get 50-cent hourly raises effective June 1, 2021, and then a 4 percent increase on top of that for the rest of 2021.

The agreement then gives the workers 2 percent annual increases in 2022, 2023 and 2024.

The 50-cent hourly wage increase was implemented due to minimum wage being hiked up to $12.50 an hour. The county needed to increase starting hourly pay for custodians and housekeepers from $11.94 to $12.73 due to the state increase in the minimum. That also prompted the county to increase the other wages to stay more competitive in the local labor market.

The new contract was delayed with uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic. The county last year had 20 percent of state reimbursements withheld, and there were concerns over a loss of sales tax revenue.

The state cuts eventually were at 5 percent, the county ended the year with a big increase in sales tax last year –up by 9.2 percent, from $17.7 million in 2019 to $19.4 million in 2020. For part of the year, however, sales tax revenues were lagging when many businesses were forced to close for in-person customers.

The county also implemented a temporary voluntarily workforce reduction of 40 employees last year due to concerns about plummeting revenue.

All of those issues made it challenging to craft a long-term labor agreement, said Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer. He remains concerned about revenue in the future from the state and federal governments, especially if the pandemic is drawn out.

The new contract increases the deductibles for employees from $1,500 for a single heath insurance plan to $2,500, and $3,000 for a family plan to $5,000.

However, there are health reimbursement accounts at $1,400 for employees with single plans (with the county also eligible to be reimbursed $1,100 for those plans) and $2,800 for employees with family plans (county eligible for up to $2,200). Those accounts have the potential to reduce out-of-pocket costs for employees and also drive down some of the county’s health insurance costs, Welch said.

Fairgrounds hosting 32 bands over 3 days for TedFest

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 August 2021 at 10:31 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

KNOWLESVILLE – The band Maufrey performs Thursday night during TedFest V, a three-day music festival at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The band from Buffalo was performing at the stage at the Curtis Pavilion. They play “funk jam,” including some music by The Allman Brothers, David Bowie, ZZ Top and Bruce Hornsby.


Bill Braytek performs with the band Maufrey on Thursday. The live music festival continues today and Saturday with 32 bands in Western New York.

TedFest in previous year’s was a one-day event at Bond Lake in Sanborn, Niagara County. This year it was expended to three days on three stages at the fairgrounds to accommodate more bands and give them more time to perform, said Bashar Srouji, TedFest founder and organizer.

He puts on the event as a tribute to the late Theodore “Teddy” Wishowski, who died in a car crash in Lewiston at age 23 on July 17, 2016. “this festival is a way to reconnect with him,” Srouji said about TedFest.

The fairgrounds provides a venue to better showcase the musicians, and make it a multi-day event with RV hook-ups, vendors and concessions.

The poster for TedFest includes a Buddha with five arms. It is similar to one of Teddy Wishowski’s tattoos which had a Buddha with 12 arms.

This photo shows Bobby and the Pedestrians getting set up in the Lartz Building which also included space for several vendors.

Steven Plennert, owner of PHD Hemp in Niagara Falls, is selling hemp products as part of the festival. Plennert said the CBD oil is popular for helping people with inflammation and anxiety.

Bobby and the Pedestrians, an Albion-based band, was among the performers on Thursday. Bobby Skrzypek is the lead singer and front man for the band which plays “high-energy reggae rock.” He is shown playing a ukulele.

Thom Jennings of Albion, center, joined Bobby and the Pedestrians for a few songs on Thursday night. They led off by performing “Fire on the Mountain” by the Grateful Dead. Thom’s son Trevor is the drummer for the group.

Alex Kielbasa, a performer with Bobby and the Pedestrians, lets out some vape smoke. He also plays the didgeridoo, a wind instrument.

TedFest V tickets are $25 for a single day pass and are available online by clicking here. That link also includes a schedule for the bands.