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Orleans Hub’s ‘Outstanding Citizens’ recognized for community service

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 February 2019 at 10:11 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Orleans Hub’s “Outstanding Citizens” for 2018 were recognized during an awards program on Wednesday evening at Hoag Library. Pictured, front row, Pete Sidari (accepting for Tony and Laura Sidari), Penny Cole, Melissa Ostrom and Tami Ashton. Back row: Leonel Rosario, Deborah and Samuel Wilson (accepting for the late Chris Wilson), Michael Hungerford, Jak Kohmann and Brett Sobieraski.

ALBION – Orleans Hub held its annual awards program on Wednesday evening at Hoag Library and recognized our choices for “Outstanding Citizens” for 2018.

Each year since the Hub started, we’ve highlighted people who made a big impact in the community.

The following were recognized:

Leonel Rosario has worked with his family to create a popular Mexican restaurant on Maple Ridge Road in Medina. Mariachi de Oro Restaurant of Medina draws people from all over Western New York, and has received many glowing reviews in The Buffalo News and other publications.

Rosario is busy as the chef and co-owner of the business. He finds time for many community events, welcoming the chance to share food and dances about the Mexican culture.

This year on Nov. 1 he helped organize a Day of the Dead celebration, which for the first time was in downtown Medina. Rosario previously hosted a scaled-down version of the Day of the Dead at Mariachi. Moving it to the downtown was a way to include Main Street businesses and have more room to share food and the festive dances.

Rosario also is active in the very popular Farm-To-Table dinner in downtown Medina. Rosario has worked with Michael Zambito of Zambistros the past two years with the fine dining experience. This year it was expanded to include Mile 303, Sourced Market & Eatery and The Shirt Factory Cafe. Rosario is generous with his time and can be counted on to enthusiastically join with others for community events.

Brett Sobieraski, a Kent resident and sergeant with the Rochester Police Department, ran over 175 miles for 50 hours nonstop to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics.

Sobieraski started his journey in Buffalo on July 13 and ran along the Erie Canal to just outside Syracuse. He ran through Orleans County the first night of the challenge. He called it the 50 for 50 running campaign to signify 50 hours of running for the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics.

Sobieraski set a $10,000 fundraising goal and topped that with $13,000. He was joined by many first responders for parts of the run, and finished the last leg carrying a torch alongside people with disabilities.

Tony and Laura Sidari, Albion natives, suffered the tragic loss of their son Leon, 4 1/2, on Christmas Day in 2017. Leon died two days after getting the flu. He was a very healthy and happy boy.

The Sidaris are both medical doctors. They have become very outspoken in urging people to get flu vaccinations. Leon hadn’t been vaccinated from the flu last year. At an Oct. 8 flu shot clinic in Albion, 59 children were vaccinated at Orleans Community Health. That clinic was made possible through Leon’s Fund, a non-profit organization the Sidaris helped form that promotes flu shots. Leon’s Fund also has money to be given to help children with medical problems at Christmas time.

Orleans Community Health also has educated about 2,500 parents in Orleans County, encouraging them to have their children vaccinated from the flu.

The Sidaris were living in San Antonio for six years before moving recently to Dayton, Ohio. Tony’s uncle Pete Sidari accepted the award on their behalf on Wednesday.

Mark Bennett Sr., 60, of Waterport was driving by the Gaines Valley Aviation Airport on Route 279 when he saw a small experimental helicopter in the sky. It was about 2 p.m. on April 24.

Bennett pulled over to watch the aircraft. Something went horribly wrong with the Mosquito XE and it crashed. Bennett reacted quickly. He climbed through an electric fence and ran to the crash site. The aircraft had burst into flames. The pilot was on fire. Bennett cut Heard’s shirt off, rolled him over to put out the flames and pulled him from the wreck, saving his life.

Bennett declined the award, saying anyone would have sprung into action.

Michael Hungerford led a major art installation project last year at the former Medina High School. The former school on Catherine Street was sitting empty most of the year. The school will be renovated into apartments.

While the building was idle, Hungerford pushed for it to be used for a major immersive art project. For one weekend in October about 1,000 people went through the building to see 29 different art projects in what was called “PLAY/GROUND.”

Artists were given free rein to create in old classrooms, stairwells, hallways and other space in the school. The project received gushing reviews in Rochester and Buffalo.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Ierlan: Orleans Hub editor Tom Rivers presents an “Outstanding Citizen” award to Jak Kohmann, a Boy Scout leader in Clarendon.

Jak Kohmann has set a standard of excellence for Troop 59 in Clarendon. In the past 16 years, 32 of the Boy Scouts in the troop have earned their Eagle rank, the highest level in Scouting. On Aug. 1 last year, six Scouts were presented with the rank during a Court of Honor celebration. They include Xander Apicella, Matt DeSimone, Dalton Thurley, William Harrington, Jake DeSimone and Ben Downey.

Kohmann was praised by the Scouts and parents for his commitment and guidance to the Scouts, especially since his son aged out of the program about a decade ago. His son Derek Kohmann, 27, was the third of the 32 scouts to earn his Eagle.

Penny Cole is a dynamic presence at Holley’s Junior-Senior High School. She works as a secretary in the guidance department. She also is a dedicated cheerleading coach in Holley. She inspires her cheerleaders to perform their intricate and athletic routines. They have won several Genesee-Region League titles. The cheerleaders also do many community service projects, including visits to local nursing homes.

Cole has become a passionate fund-raiser for the Ronald McDonald House. She engages the entire school community in her fund-raising efforts, whether it be a charity basketball game with numerous gift baskets, or a the chance to buy a shingle on a doll house.

The basketball game last year raised $4,444, by far the most in the 12 years Holley has been raising money for the Ronald McDonald House.

The Ronald McDonald House provides a place for families to stay while their children are hospitalized. Cole said several Holley students have battled cancer in recent years, including a student this year who is fighting leukemia.

Melissa Ostrom of Holley wrote a book published by Macmillan in 2018 that honors the courage and resourcefulness of pioneer settlers in Orleans County and Western New York. In The Beloved Wild, Ostrom brings life to pioneer characters. The pioneers were typically just teen-agers when they set out from New England to brave a hard journey by wagon, through dense forests, to get to Orleans County and Western New York.

There wasn’t a map. The pioneers followed markings on trees as they made their way west. The pioneer settlers were incredibly resourceful in taming the land, building homes and farms in the frontier. The obstacles were many – sickness, uninvited strangers, alcoholism, abuse.

Ostrom, a former Kendall high school English teacher, writes about those challenges and the indomitable spirit of pioneer settlers.

Tami Ashton of Medina knows the pain of losing a loved one to addiction. Her daughter, Christina Ashton, died from a drug overdose on June 27, 2016, at age 34.

Ashton has shared her story publicly, trying to break the stigma of addiction. She also has been an important leader of Orleans – Recovery Hope Begins Here, a new organization that connects people struggling with drug addiction to local resources and mentors. Ashton is vice president of the organization.

The group has also led community forums about addiction and helped families in crisis connect to professionals.Orleans – Recovery Hope Begins Here also has 12 trained mentors and counting to serve as recovery coaches for people with addictions.

Ashton is a trained to be an addiction recovery coach for the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. She encourages people to be honest about the drug crisis in their own lives, their families and communities – and to then seek help in fighting the addictions.

Chris Wilson was dedicated to peace and serving children from war-torn countries. He passed away on May 28 after a brief battle with a rare form of cancer.

Wilson traveled to Afghanistan many times, and worked with the U.S. and Afghanistan embassies so children who were made orphans by war could come to Orleans County for a summer of respite and fun.

Wilson served as international director of Project Life, which over 20 years brought about 130 children to Orleans County for a summer of recuperation. The children stayed with local host families, including with Wilson and his wife Deborah and their son Samuel. The kids learned English, visited many tourism sites, and mostly had care-free summer days. Three of the children had medical issues and needed to stay longer. Wilson worked out medical plans for each of them, arranging for their care and donations.

Wilson was a high-energy and compassionate person, who wouldn’t be discouraged even when the task seemed insurmountable. He was diagnosed with a rare cancer in April. From his hospital bed he sent emails from his laptop, advocating for children.

His wife and son accepted the award on his behalf on Wednesday.

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Morgan, retiring Republican leader, praised for ‘putting Orleans County on the map’

Photos courtesy of Ed Morgan: Ed Morgan, center, is pictured with former gubernatorial candidates Rob Astorino, left, and Marc Molinaro.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 February 2019 at 11:30 am

‘He’s isn’t bombastic. He’s not a bomb thrower. He has a blue-collar work ethic where you show up and put your time in.’ – Nick Langworthy, Erie County GOP chairman

Donald Trump, left, poses for a photo with Ed Morgan, Orleans County Republican Party chairman, at a meeting in New York City in January 2014, when Morgan and other Republican leaders tried to get Trump to run for governor.

MURRAY – Ed Morgan has met President Donald Trump several times and attended numerous events with the biggest Republican Party stars in the state and country.

He has been a key leader for the Republican Party in the state, a man whose blessing has been critical for many candidates at the local and state levels.

With Morgan as the Orleans County Republican Party chairman, the top candidates for state-wide positions, including governor, made sure to visit Orleans County. Marc Molinaro addressed the GOP fall rally in 2018, Rob Astorino did in 2014 and Carl Paladino was in Orleans in 2010. All ran for governor against Andrew Cuomo.

“You meet a lot of good people,” Morgan said about his role as a Republican leader. “Most of these people are down to earth. They put their pants on just like you and me.”

Morgan has ended a 12 ½ year tenure as Orleans County Republican Party chairman, and an 8-year commitment as a vice chairman on the NYS Republican Party Committee.

As vice chairman for the state GOP, he led the eight counties of Western New York despite being from one of the smallest counties. Niagara and Erie have far more people, and their chairmen have a bigger weighted vote.

But Morgan commanded their respect. The county chairmen in the bigger counties wanted Morgan to continue as vice chairman, as their leader. No one was looking to replace him.

“He is as genuine as they come,” said Nick Langworthy, chairman of the Erie County Republican Party. “There is zero ego with this man. He listens to your input. He has been a real asset to me. He was someone I could count on.”

Morgan led the 80-member Orleans County Republican Party Committee until Feb. 1. Skip Draper is the acting chairman until the party reorganizes.

“I want to thank Ed for his countless hours of dedication to the Republican Party,” Draper said. “We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

Morgan decided now was the right time to step down from the role. His wife Dorothy recently retired as a deputy elections commissioner with the county.

Morgan is pictured with from left: Assemblyman David DiPietro, Carl Paladino and Nick Langworthy, the Erie County Republican Party chairman.

Morgan will continue to work full-time as Murray’s highway superintendent. He also is chairman of the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District, an elected fire commissioner for the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray Fire Company and Orleans County’s representative on the board of directors for the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

“It’s been a great ride,” Morgan said. “There are parts that I will miss but some parts that I won’t.”

The election calendar has moved up, and the Republican Party already is going through the endorsement process. Soon they will be circulating petitions and the primary is June 25, instead of in September.

Morgan is happy to not be heavily involved in that process this election cycle. He will continue in a reduced role as a member of the Town of Murray Republican Committee.

He will be deeply missed as a WNY leader for the Republicans, Langworthy said.

“He cares so much,” Langworthy said. “He wants Western New York to be a better place. He’s had a tremendous career and he goes out on top. It’s the end of an era in Orleans County. He certainly put Orleans County on the map.”

Morgan grew up in Bergen. His brother Dan was a long-time president of the Board of Education for the Byron-Bergen school district.

Morgan said his family strives to be involved in the community. Before he was the highway superintendent, he was a farmer and the FHM fire chief. He was elected highway superintendent in November 1989.

He was instrumental in putting in the infrastructure for the Holley Business Park, and also pushed to have 15 water districts built in Murray.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Ed Morgan cooks spaghetti during the St. Rocco’s Italian Festival in September 2016. Morgan has been active with numerous local organizations.

He gets recruited to serve on boards, and it doesn’t take long before the other board members ask him to take on a leadership role.

“I’ve never aggressively went out and looked for anything,” Morgan said about the roles. “People approach me.”

Langworthy said people like Morgan’s style.

“He’s isn’t bombastic,” Langworthy said. “He’s not a bomb thrower. He has a blue-collar work ethic where you show up and put your time in.”

Many of the Republican Party chairmen are lawyers or business professionals. Morgan was unusual in the top echelon of the Republican Party in coming from a background as a farmer and then as a highway superintendent.

Richard Siebert, Genesee County Republican Party chairman, said Morgan is well regarded by Republican Party leaders in Western New York, and the elected officials from the party. Siebert hoped Morgan would stay as the WNY leader for four more years.

“His style is not to be aggressive but he is outspoken,” Siebert said. “He isn’t a pushover. He’s very dedicated and he’s respected by all of us.”

Siebert serves on the board of directors with Morgan for the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., which owns the Batavia Downs and OTB parlors in Western New York.

“We’ve been friends a long, long time,” Siebert said. “He’s a natural leader. He’s very dedicated.”

Photo by Tom Rivers: Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor in 2014, speaks at the Orleans County Fall Republican Rally in October that year. Morgan shared the stage with the candidate at the event. Many of the top candidates for state-wide offices visited Orleans out of repsect for Morgan.

Morgan, in his role as leader of the 8 county chairmen from WNY, insisted that all voices be heard, including from the smaller counties, especially when choosing candidates, Siebert said.

Morgan attended numerous Republican functions in WNY and Albany. He kept the other county leaders well informed of the issues, and navigated some surprises when George Maziarz suddenly withdrew his re-election campaign in the summer of 2014 and Chris Collins last year was indicted, stopped campaigning and then jumped back into the race. Morgan also led the search process for a candidate when Chris Lee resigned from Congress in February 2011. Morgan had just taken the helm as vice chairman for the region. There were 16 candidates, with Republican leaders deciding to back Jane Corwin.

Morgan has attended numerous events in WNY to support candidates. He wants elected officials with conservatives values and a focus on reducing government costs. He has travelled to Albany many times for the state convention and to meet with legislators. He is well known by most of the Republicans in the Assembly and State Senate.

“I enjoy the traveling and meeting people,” Morgan said. “It’s a drive. I’ve always had the drive when I do something it’s 100 percent.”

He attended the Republican National Conventions in 2012 in Tampa when Mitt Romney was nominated for president and in 2016 in Cleveland when Donald Trump was the candidate. Morgan was in the room when Trump gave his victory speech at about 3 in the morning on election night at the Hilton hotel in New York City.

Morgan said Trump is a “gentleman” to talk with privately. He first met him in 2014, when Republican leaders went to Trump Tower in New York City, to try to get him to run for governor. Trump would decline that race. He instead set his sights on being president.

“I’ve had several private dinners with Donald before he was president,” Morgan said. “We tried to talk him into government.”

Behind Morgan, Orleans County was an early county to endorse Trump for president in 2016. Not all local Republicans supported that endorsement. Some wrote letters to the editor in the Orleans Hub, questioning Trump’s moral fitness to be leader of the country.

Morgan said he continues to back Trump in his push for border security and with his success revving up the economy.

The local Republican Party is strong financially and continues to field good candidates, Morgan said.

He offered this advice to Skip Draper in leading the local party:

“Do your thing and don’t try to be me,” Morgan said. “Listen to both sides and don’t have a personal agenda. Our job is to find good candidates who will serve on fiscally sound boards.”

Morgan is pictured with State Sen. Rob Ortt, former State Sen. George Maziarz and State Assemblyman Steve Hawley. Many of the elected officials sought out Morgan for advice on local issues.

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Youth Board seeks nominations to recognize outstanding young people

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 February 2019 at 11:46 am

Group also wants to honor adults who work and volunteer on behalf of children in Orleans County

HOLLEY – The Orleans County Youth Board wants to honor local youths for their community service and adults for their work on behalf of children in Orleans County.

The Youth Board is sponsoring its 37th annual Youth Recognition Dinner on May 16. The Youth Board each year recognizes about 20 youths for their outstanding community service or if they have taken on an extraordinary role in their family.

In addition to the youth awards, at least two adults will be honored for their service to young people.

The Helen R. Brinsmaid Memorial Youth Worker Award recognizes a youth-serving professional whose work surpasses normal expectations.

Doug Egling, a caseworker for the Orleans County Department of Social Services, won the award in 2018. He is assigned to Albion middle and high schools. He supervises some children who are classified as PINS (Persons in Need of Supervision), and also does preventive and foster care cases.

The Eileen Heye Adult Volunteer Recognition Award is given to an adult who provides service as a volunteer to Orleans County youth.

Sal DeLuca of Holley received the Eileen Heye Adult Volunteer Award in 2018 for his 30 years of volunteer service to Holley youth. DeLuca has been a long-time soccer, baseball and track coach. He also has served as president of the Holley Sports Boosters Club. He spends many hours at the Woodlands field concession stand, working the grill and refilling the cooler with water, Gatorade and soda.

Nominations are due to the Youth Bureau by March 30. For more information, call the Youth Bureau at (585) 344-3960, or email youthbureau@co.genesee.ny.us, or click here to see links to the application’s on the Youth Bureau’s web page.

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Conservative Party backs Bourke for sheriff

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 February 2019 at 5:09 pm

Sidonio also endorsed for town supervisor in Murray

Chris Bourke

ALBION – The Orleans County Conservative Party has endorsed Chris Bourke for sheriff. Bourke, the current undersheriff, seeks to succeed Randy Bower, who announced on Friday he isn’t seeking re-election in November.

Bourke isn’t alone in seeking to be the next sheriff. Brett Sobieraski, a sergeant with the Rochester Police Department, also wants the job.

Sobieraski, a Kent resident, sought the Conservative endorsement and interviewed with the committee. He and Bourke both intend to run under the Republican Party line and will likely face a June 25 primary.

Bourke has been the undersheriff for the past three-plus years. He has worked with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office for 35 years, starting his career as a correction officer and then was a deputy sheriff before working 18 years as a lieutenant. He was supervisor of the Marine Patrol, and also was a K9 officer for 20 years.

The Conservative Party Committee interviewed candidates on Tuesday and today. Al Lofthouse of Kendall is the Conservative Party chairman.

“We feel these people espoused the best conservative principles of protecting the people’s constitutional rights, open government and best efforts to save the taxpayers’ money in line with our party platform,” said Paul Lauricella, the Party vice chairman. “We want to thank all who came to interview.”

The endorsements include:

• Orleans County Sheriff – Christopher M. Bourke

• Clarendon Town Highway Superintendent –  Tracy B. Chalker

• Gaines Town Councilwoman – Dr. Mary R. Neilans

• Murray Councilman Murray –  Dirk Lammes

• Murray Town Supervisor –  Joseph Sidonio

• Shelby Town Highway Superintendent Shelby – Dale S. Root

• Shelby Town Justice – Mark L. Wambach

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Ministry of Concern planning first gala event, with $25K fundraising goal

Photo by Ginny Kropf: The committee planning a gala to benefit GOMOC discusses the event scheduled May 18 at the Quality Inn and Suites in Batavia. An anonymous donor has paid for Las Vegas-style entertainer Jimmy Mazz to highlight the evening. From left are Mary Grace DeMarse, Pat Morrisey, Sister Dolores Dowd, executive director Nyla Gaylord and volunteer Kelly Murray.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 17 February 2019 at 11:38 am

ALBION – An agency founded to help the needy is now looking for help.

The Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern is planning its first ever gala May 18 in an effort to cultivate new donors, spread awareness of the Ministry of Concern and raise $25,000 to benefit the agency’s mission.

An anonymous donor has paid for Las Vegas-style entertainer Jimmy Mazz, who will provide an evening of music, impressions and comedy.

“Legends and Laughter” will take place at the Quality Inn and Suites at 8250 Park Rd. in Batavia. Included in the evening will be an elegant buffet dinner, silent auction, door prizes and basket raffle.

“If people have a really good time, they will remember you,” said Nyla Gaylord, executive director of GOMOC. “We are thrilled to have this anonymous couple who believe we do good work and wanted to help. They know Jimmy Mazz and wanted to sponsor him.”

Mazz is not new to the area, having appeared to a sold-out crowd at the Cabaret at Studio B in Albion.

The GOMOC was founded more than 50 years ago as a migrant ministry in Orleans County. Sister Marian Adrian took leadership of the organization and became passionate about its work.

It soon became known as the “Agency of Last Resort,” and during the years has helped hundreds of individuals who are down and out.

The committee planning the gala includes Gaylord; Sister Dolores Dowd, who, like Sister Marian is a Gray Nun; Mary Grace DeMarse of Batavia; volunteer solicitor Kelly Murray of Albion; Pat Morrisey of Albion, who worked with Sister Marian 50 years ago; Judy Boyle of Oakfield; and Amy Monti of Middleport.

“I was on my way to the Peace Corps and stopped to see one of the Mercy nuns,” Morrisey said. “Sister Marian said I could stay here, and I did. I helped run the migrant day care.”

DeMarse, a member of GOMOC’s board, said they plan to make a gala an annual fundraising event.

Mazz is known for his clean humor, Frank Sinatra-style entertainment and engaging with his audience.

Several great prizes have already been donated for the silent auction, including a half-day fishing trip and hand-carved hunting knife.

Anyone wishing to donate a basket may call 589-9210 or 343-5452 and DeMarse will pick them up.

Tickets for the gala are available to purchase at GOMOC’s office at 121 North Main St., Albion; Della’s Chocolates, 512 Main St., Medina; Pies Furniture, 400 South Jackson St., Batavia; and Catholic Charities, 25 Liberty St., Batavia.

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Governor puts AIM funding back in budget for villages, towns

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 February 2019 at 3:59 pm

Money, however, will come from counties’ sales tax

(Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 6:55 p.m. to show the AIM restoration is proposed to come from the county sales tax.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today he was putting $59 million in proposed cuts in AIM funds to towns and villages back into the state budget. However, the funding restoration will come from the local sales tax, not the state.

Orleans County towns and villages stood to have their Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) reduced by $290,276. Those towns and villages already receive a tiny sum compared to counties with cities.

But with the governor’s initial proposed budget, eight of 10 towns in Orleans and all four villages would have been cut to nothing in AIM.

The governor proposed eliminating the funding unless it represented more than 2 percent of a town or village’s budget. Two towns in Orleans are just above the 2 percent threshold. So the governor proposed that Murray keeps its $44,677 and Albion, its $46,944.

The other villages and towns were slated to lose the following in AIM funding:

Villages: Albion, $38,811; Holley, $17,786; Lyndonville, $6,251; and Medina, $45,523.

Towns: Barre, $12,486; Carlton, $13,680; Clarendon, $11,416; Gaines, $21,323; Kendall, $21,299; Shelby, $45,007; Ridgeway, $46,273; and Yates, $10,421.

The governor today announced the budget amendments to ensure towns and villages will not adversely impacted by changes to the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program.

The governor’s proposal would use additional sales tax revenue from the elimination of the internet tax advantage to keep towns and villages whole. Approximately $59 million in revenues for towns and villages are preserved through this action.

To ensure locals receive these additional resources faster, the State will also implement the Internet sales tax requirements earlier, starting June 1 of this year as opposed to September 1, the date originally proposed in the Executive Budget.

“The original proposal only impacted localities receiving a relatively small amount of money, but I have been contacted by mayors and local officials who say in these tough times it would still be a challenge for them,” Governor Cuomo said. “That is why we are revising the executive budget to use internet sales tax revenue to make these impacted localities whole.”

The elimination of the internet tax advantage was included in Cuomo’s FY 2020 Executive Budget and ensures that out-of-state merchants do not have a price advantage over the state’s retail community, the governor said. New York’s brick and mortar retailers are currently at a disadvantage because many online retail competitors are not collecting sales tax. This unequal treatment is unfair to the retailers who do collect sales tax, the customers who pay sales tax, the public at large who is forsaking state and local revenues, and the people who depend on the public services supported by those revenues, Cuomo said.

On an annual basis, collecting sales tax through internet sales is expected to generate $390 million in additional revenue for local governments.

However, that increase would be used to pay for the AIM restoration, rather than going to boost the local sales tax. Associations that represent counties, towns and villages are criticizing the governor for the proposal.

New York Conference of Mayors represents villages and cities in the state, and protested the AIM cuts. NYCOM Executive Director Peter A. Baynes issued this statement today:

“While we appreciate the fact that the Governor has acknowledged that the elimination of AIM funding would have serious implications for the state’s villages and towns, his ‘restoration’ of this $59 million is in reality a robbing of one property taxpayer to pay another. Rather than playing this shell game, New York State should be fulfilling its obligation to increase its investment in municipal aid and the property tax relief it will generate. Imposing a new mandate on counties to make up for the state’s cut to villages and towns will only further harm New York’s already overburdened taxpayers.”

Association of Towns Executive Director Gerry Geist released this statement:

“Instead of restoring AIM funding and signifying a desire by the state to act as partners with local governments, the Governor’s 30-day amendments would require counties to make up for a town’s lost AIM money with sales tax revenue. Sharing sales tax should be on top of proper state funding. This proposal does nothing to reduce property taxes, and takes money out of one hand to pay the other. Rather than supporting this attempt to pit local governments against each other to the detriment of New Yorkers the Association of Towns continues to call for a full restoration and increase in AIM funding by the state.”

Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of New York State Association of Counties, issued this statement:

“The Governor’s thirty-day amendment ‘fix’ to earlier cuts to the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) uses future Internet sales tax revenue that he is taking from counties to cover forced shortfalls. This is a horrible precedent and unnecessarily shifts the state’s burden to local taxpayers who already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation.

“The state could have used its share of internet sales tax revenue to make municipalities whole. Forcing counties to use a portion of their internet sales tax revenue to reimburse our municipal partners does not help the state reduce property taxes or help to offset the costs of services to our residents. In the end, local homeowners and businesses just keep paying more for decisions made by the state.”

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Bower decides against re-election for sheriff

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 February 2019 at 1:49 pm

Chris Bourke, current undersheriff, will seek position

Photo by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower speaks on July 28, 2016, when James DeFilipps was honored as the 2015 “Deputy of the Year” by the New York State Sheriff’s Association.

ALBION – Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower has announced today he won’t be seeking re-election to a second four-year term as sheriff.

Chris Bourke, the current undersheriff, will be running for sheriff. Bourke has a 35-year career with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office.

“To fully complete my commitment to this office and run a campaign would compromise one of them or both,” Bower said in a statement.

He said he has met his campaign promises, and praised the staff and deputies at the Sheriff’s Office for making many improvements the past three years.

“A special thanks to all the residents of Orleans County who supported is throughout my term,” Bower said. “I will continue to serve the next 10 months with the passion and commitment as I have since taking office.”

Bower was being challenged for sheriff by Brett Sobieraski, a sergeant with the Rochester Police Department, who lives in Kent. Both sought the Republican Party endorsement. On Saturday, the GOP Committee didn’t make an endorsement because neither candidate met the new threshold for gaining an endorsement of at least 66.7 percent of the votes.

Bower won a hard-fought race in 2015 for sheriff, defeating Tom Drennan, who had the GOP endorsement. Drennan was the chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, and said Sobieraski would have been his undersheriff.

Bower ran a high-energy campaign, and had the backing of most of the deputies and the employees at the jail. He has remained highly visible in the community since he was elected.

Bower will be 55 soon after the election and is eligible to retire. He said he will stay active in his retirement, and wants to volunteer with Orleans Recovery Hope, an organization that assists people battling addictions and offers support for their family members.

Bower previously worked nearly 30 years as a county dispatcher in the Public Safety Building.

He highlighted some of the successes in the past three years:

• An increased law enforcement presence in the rural areas of the county, so much that Lyndonville and Kendall school districts each are paying the county $100,000 to have a deputy assigned to the districts as a school resource officer.

• State police patrol cars are now in the county dispatch center.

• The county has expanded animal control services and is having those officers trained as peace officers.

• The Civil Division promptly processes orders of conviction.

• There are expanded services in the county jail to fight the opioid epidemic, including a treatment program. The federal government is funding that program with GCASA providing the treatment.

• Bower said he has strengthened many partnerships locally with churches, Mental Health providers, and the state and federal government to assist people with addictions.

Bower last June received a national award for his work to implement several new initiatives in the county, including expanded substance abuse and mental health services for inmates in the Orleans County Jail. He was honored at the National Sheriffs’ Association Conference in New Orleans with a MAGNUS Leadership Award.

Bourke has been long-time leader at Sheriff’s Office

Chris Bourke

Chris Bourke has been the undersheriff for the past three-plus years. Bourke said Bower has been a strong leader for the Sheriff’s Office.

“I want to continue all of the initiatives the sheriff and his team have started and expand upon those,” Bourke said. “If you put out a list of accomplishments, it’s a long list.”

Bourke said the Sheriff’s Office has strengthened relationships with other local law enforcement departments, including state and federal agencies.

“Those relationships with our partners ultimately benefit all of the citizens of Orleans County,” Bourke said.

He started his career as a correction officer, and then was a deputy sheriff before working 18 years as a lieutenant. He was supervisor of the Marine Patrol, and also was a K9 officer for 20 years, working with four dogs.

Bourke said he will be seeking signatures on the Republican line to be the candidate. A candidate needs 543 signatures from registered Republicans in the county to be on the ballot. If there is more than one candidate, there will be a primary on June 25.

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Leadership Orleans spends day learning about local government

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 February 2019 at 8:23 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The second class of Leadership Orleans met Thursday for their monthly session with a focus this time on local government.

The top photo shows a panel at lunch who discussed the local courts system. They include from left: Joanne Best, Orleans County public defender; Kathy Bogan, Orleans County attorney; Dawn Keppler, Shelby town justice; and Sanford Church, Orleans County judge.

The day included a visit to the Orleans County legislative chambers at the County Clerks Building, where the group was welcomed by Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer.

Leadership Orleans then heard presentations and a panel discussion by State Assemblyman Steve Hawley; Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman; Brian Sorochty, Village of Holley mayor; and Dick Moy, Town of Clarendon supervisor.

Orleans County Court Judge Sanford Church discusses his job during a lunch presentation hosted by the First Presbyterian Church of Albion. After lunch, Judge Church gave a tour of the County Courthouse to the class, which includes 26 people.

Leadership Orleans spent the afternoon making site visits to the Albion Academy, which hosts the Meals on Wheels program and also has 30 apartments for senior citizens; the Orleans County Administrative Building, which includes many county offices; the Orleans County Public Safety Building; Holley Village Office; Village of Albion Water Treatment Plant; and the Orleans County Highway Department & Buildings and Grounds.

The class listens to the lunchtime panel which discussed the local court system.


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Soil and Water’s new manager has deep local roots

Photo by Tom Rivers: Katie Sommerfeldt, the new manager for the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District, is pictured at the office at 446 West Ave., Albion.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 February 2019 at 8:35 am

Katie Sommerfeldt leads agency that works with farmers, highway departments and local residents

ALBION – Katie Sommerfeldt has a found a career combining her love for the outdoors, agriculture and science, while working in her home community.

Sommerfeldt, 30, has worked the past 7 ½ years for the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District. On Jan. 1, she took over as manager, following the retirement of Dennis Kirby, who remains with the agency in a part-time role.

Provided photos: Sommerfeldt looks over a culvert that Soil & Water helped replace.

Soil & Water works to solve drainage issues, and protect water quality and valuable farming soil.

“I like the interactions with the community and the problem solving,” Sommerfeldt said during an interview at her office at 446 West Ave. Soil & Water shares a building with the Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Soil & Water’s staff of three full-time employees work with other government agencies, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation, for permits for  many of the projects.

Sommerfeldt spent her first 7 ½ years with Soil & Water as a water quality technician. She surveyed and designed many of the projects. She also worked on many of the grant projects, where the state government helps pay for stream crossings, manure lagoon, agrichemical handling and mixing facilities, covered feedlots and other projects that help keep nutrients and chemicals out of the waterways.

Soil & Water currently is working on about $2 million of grant projects. The landowners are paying $1,201,837 towards the work with the state government kicking in $859,513 for the projects.

Sommerfeldt has proven she can juggle the many demands of the position, said John Kast, a member of the board of directors.

“She has impressed us,” Kast said. “She has is good self motivator and she is very personable. She gets along with all of the farmers. She has good relationships with the highway superintendents and landowners.”

Sommerfeldt uses a hydroseeder with Warren Kruger, the Kendall town highway superintendent.

Kast praised Dennis Kirby for being a good mentor to Sommerfeldt and helping to prepare her to lead the agency.

Kast Farms has worked with Sommerfeldt and Soil & Water to design and install drainage tile, and to replace a culvert for a stream crossing in Carlton.

Sommerfeldt does some of the preliminary engineering work, which speeds up the timeline for projects, which often need a final stamp of approval from an engineer.

Sommerfeldt is the granddaughter of Fred Sommerfeldt, a beef farmer and owner of Honest Hill Farms on Route 237 in Clarendon.

After she graduated from Albion, she earned a debree in environmental science from Brockport State College. She worked at Intergrow Greenhouses in Gaines during high school and college. She also had a summer job maintaining trail and running the weedwhacker at Hamlin Bach State Park.

Other jobs included working with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets doing a plum pox survey and also for Ag & Markets as an apple quality inspector.

She feels like she has found her calling at Soil & Water, brainstorming ways to clean ditches, design manure storage systems and divert runoff.

Soil & Water is available for free consultation and design for landowners, who have drainage problems. Sometimes that means Sommerfeldt has to negotiate solutions among several neighbors to keep water moving through ditches and culverts.

She also works closely with NRCS and the other agencies, to try to get funding for projects.

Some of the grants Soil & Water currently are working on include:

• NYS Ag Non Point Source, Round 22 Cover Crop grant (for the installation of cover crops on multiple farms throughout the county)

• NYS Ag Non Point Source, Round 23 Covered Feedlot grant (for the installation of a covered feedlot on a beef farm to reduce nutrient runoff when animals are feeding)

• NYS Ag Non Point Source, Round 24 Agrichemical Handling Facilities grant (for the installation of 3 agrichemical handling and mixing facilities, so the farmers have a safe place to mix pesticides and if a spill happens it is contained in the building not running off into the environment)

• NYS Ag Non Point Source, Round 24 Waste Storage grant (for the installation of an earthen manure lagoon at a dairy farm)

• Ten grants through NYS Grown and Certified that will help fund 5 variable tower rate sprayers with sensors, which spray where fruit trees are and not in lanes and open space; 4 micro-irrigation drip lines for apple orchards; and one agrichemical handling facility.

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Republicans don’t have enough votes to endorse either candidate for sheriff

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 February 2019 at 4:12 pm

Bower and Sobieraski headed for June 25 Primary

ALBION – None of the candidates for sheriff for Orleans County gained enough votes today for the Orleans County Republican Party endorsement.

The candidates – incumbent Randy Bower and challenger Brett Sobieraski – needed a super majority of support, at least two-thirds for the endorsement.

Voting was done by secret ballot, and the results weren’t released, except to say neither of the two reached the 66.7 percent threshold.

Brett Sobieraski speaks during his campaign announcement for sheriff on Jan. 27 in Holley.

Sobieraski, a Rochester Police Department sergeant, took the result as a victory because Bower, the current sheriff, won’t have the endorsement. Party officials also are freed to support whichever candidate they want. If there had been an endorsed candidate, the party would have been duty-bound to back that candidate through the petition process and with fundraising.

“I take it as great news,” Sobieraski said at Tillman’s Village Inn, where the Republican Party Committee met for about three hours. “It levels the playing field to whoever resonates the most with the public.”

Sobieraski heads a narcotics team in Rochester. He also is an endurance athlete who has swam across Lake Ontario and done many long distance runs, including for 50 hours straight last summer along the Erie Canal towpath.

He compared the election to another endurance challenge.

“This is an ultra-distance race I’m in,” he said.

Sobieraski said a stepped up law enforcement effort, targeting drug dealers, would reduce the opioid epidemic in the county.

Bower is seeking a second term for sheriff. He missed the Republican endorsement in 2015, when the committee backed Tom Drennan. Bower forced a primary and won.

Bower touted a record of accomplishment during his presentation to the committee. He and Sobieraski each were allowed to give a five-minute speech.

Bower noted an increased law enforcement presence in the rural areas of the county, so much that Lyndonville and Kendall school districts each are paying the county $100,000 to have a deputy assigned to the districts as a school resource officer.

Randy Bower speaks to local high school students during a leadership forum last March.

Bower previously worked as a county dispatcher in the Public Safety Building. He wanted state police cars to be included in dispatch and that is now happening. The DEC conservation officers also are expected to be added soon.

The county has expanded animal control services and is having those officers trained as peace officers. The Civil Division has increased expectations to promptly process orders of conviction.

Bower has also pushed to expand services to fight the opioid epidemic, including a treatment program in the county jail. The federal government is funding that program with GCASA providing the treatment.

Bower said he has strengthened many partnerships locally with churches, Mental Health providers, and the state and federal government to assist people with addictions.

“We’ve met the goals I set out I do and we’ve kept our budget flat through all of these partnerships,” Bower said this afternoon.

Bower this past June received a national award for his work to implement several new initiatives in the county, including expanded substance abuse and mental health services for inmates in the Orleans County Jail. He was honored at the National Sheriffs’ Association Conference in New Orleans with a MAGNUS Leadership Award.

The candidates can start getting signatures for their petitions on Feb. 26. They need a minimum of 543 signatures from registered Republicans in the county. Those petitions are due in April.

Incumbent county legislators are endorsed, but not Tyler Allport

The 80-member Republican committee also endorsed the six incumbents seeking re-election to two-year terms. They include Lynne Johnson of Lyndonville, Bill Eick of Shelby, Skip Draper of Medina, Don Allport of Gaines, Ken DeRoller of Kendall and John DeFilipps of Clarendon.

Tyler Allport, the son of Don Allport, asked for the committee’s support so he could challenge Fred Miller of Albion for a district that includes the towns of Albion and Gaines. Miller is the only Democrat on the seven-member Legislature.

Allport didn’t reach the two-thirds threshold for an endorsement. A Republican official said some of the committee members were uncomfortable with a father and son serving on the Legislature together. Tyler Allport just finished his first year on the Gaines Town Board. The Republican Party two years ago didn’t run a candidate against Miller.

Allport can still run as a Republican if he submits petitions signed by enough registered Republicans.

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