Orleans County

Youth Bureau extends deadline for award nominations

Posted 12 April 2024 at 10:14 am

Press Release, Orleans County Youth Bureau

ALBION – The Orleans County Youth Bureau today announced it has extended the deadline for nominations for the 42nd Annual Youth Recognition awards.

The purpose of these awards is to recognize those youth who have performed outstanding service for our community and/or have assumed an extraordinary role within their families by helping to support themselves. The deadline for nominations is now April 30.

Anyone is welcome to nominate a candidate, but nominations from family members must be accompanied by a supporting recommendation from a non-family member. Nominees must reside in Orleans County and be a minimum of 14 years of age and under the age of 21 before June 30, 2024.

In addition to the youth recognition awards, the Youth Bureau also extended the deadline for nominations for the Helen Brinsmaid Award, given to an Orleans County youth-serving professional, in a paid position, whose work surpasses normal expectations, and the Eileen Heye Adult Volunteer Recognition Award, presented to an adult who serves the youth of Orleans County in a volunteer setting.

All nomination forms can be found by clicking here. For information about the awards, contact the Youth Bureau at 585-589-7053 or OrleansCountyYouthBureau@OrleanscountyNY.gov.

Howard submits petitions to force Republican Primary for district attorney

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 April 2024 at 1:04 pm

Susan Howard

ALBION – Susan Howard announced she has submitted petitions signed by 1,279 registered Republicans to force a primary against John Sansone for district attorney.

Sansone secured the Republican nomination on Feb. 3. Both Sansone and Howard work as assistant district attorneys. They both want to succeed Joe Cardone, who is retiring on Dec. 31 after 32 years as the county’s top prosecutor.

Howard has the Conservative Party nomination and submitted petitions signed by 99 registered Conservatives.

“I am truly grateful and appreciative for the many people who volunteered their time to go out in challenging weather in February and March to collect signatures for me,” Howard said. “I am also incredibly grateful to the nearly 1,400 Orleans County voters who signed in support of my campaign for District Attorney. We have great momentum and will keep it going right up to the June 25th Republican Primary Election.”

Candidates for public office need signatures from at least 5 percent of a party’s registered voters in order to appear on that party’s ballot line. In Orleans County, Howard said 598 Republican signatures and 31 Conservative signatures were required.

The Republican primary is scheduled for June 25 with early voting available from June 15 to 23.

Howard, in a news release today, touted her more than 20 years working in the Orleans County Court System. As First Assistant District Attorney since 2011, she said she has been involved in nearly every significant case that has come through the D.A.’s Office.

She has been a member of the Sex Abuse Task Force, which works with the Child Advocacy Center, Rape Crisis, Department of Social Services and other local support agencies. She also works closely with D.A. investigators, the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force, and other law enforcement on major cases.

Additionally, for the past five years, Howard said she has served as the sole Appellate Attorney for the D.A.’s Office and has preserved every single conviction on appeal.

Orleans County doesn’t see big influx of traffic today for eclipse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2024 at 6:35 pm

Susyn Tillman of Point Breeze sent in this photo taken from her backyard of the total eclipse with the moon covering the sun today.

Orleans County emergency management and law enforcement prepared for the worst today, but it ended up being quieter on the roadways than a usual Monday.

The county was braced for an influx of thousands of additional vehicles on roadways, with visitors trying to get a look at a rare solar eclipse.

But the big crowds never arrived, and emergency incidents were minimal. The forecast showing significant cloud coverage likely deterred some day-trippers from making the journey to Western New York to see the total eclipse.

“There were no real noticeable increases in traffic,” said Justin Neiderhofer, the county’s emergency management director.

The state Thruway and 81 and 87 corridor did see some backups outside of Orleans County, he said.

“All and all it was kind of a slow day on our end,” Niederhofer said.

The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office and the other local police agencies all had extra patrol cars and staff working.

Sheriff Chris Bourke said traffic actually seemed less than a typical Monday in Orleans County.

“There are no significant eclipse-related problems that I am aware of,” Bourke said.

This photo from Tracey Lewis shows Lake Alice during the eclipse today when darkness fell at about 3:20 p.m.

Tracey Lewis had eclipse glasses for her dachshund, Lucy.

Marguerite Sherman of Medina sent in these photos along Lake Ontario during the eclipse. This is on Scharping Lane in the Town of Lyndonville.

The sky got very dark on Scharping Lane during the total eclipse.

Fairgrounds celebrates Eclipse over Orleans, Home Show

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2024 at 8:24 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

KNOWLESVILLE – There were about 50 beach balls decorated in different themes as part of a contest for kids at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds. This one has a fire truck theme.

The beach balls were hung from the ceiling of the Trolley Building as planets.

It was one of many “Eclipse Over Eclipse” activities from Friday through this afternoon to celebrate the total eclipse in Orleans County.

Owen Gallo, 6, of Holley digs with a toy excavator in a display by Bentley brothers at the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Home, Garden & Outdoor Show on Sunday. Owen joined his mother Michelle Gallo in visiting about 30 vendors at the show.

In back, representing Bentley brothers includes Hannah Wehling, left, and Courtney Traxler. Wehling works in marketing and advertising for Bentley while Traxler is a parts specialist.

Katie Sommerfeldt was among the vendors at the Home, Garden & Outdoor Show, promoting her business, KT Drainage and Consulting. She started that business three years ago to help property owners. She also is the director of the Soil & Water Conservation District in Orleans County, where she does surveys, planning and design work. With her new business, she can operate an excavator and do some of the physical work with the projects.

This beach balloon was decorated as a colorful planet as part of the “Eclipse Over Orleans” celebration at the Fairgrounds.

Courthouse illumined in red to support firefighter recruitment

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 April 2024 at 9:38 am

Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The dome of the Orleans County Courthouse was illumined in red on Thursday evening for a “Fire Up NY Red” campaign for firefighter recruitment and retention.

The courthouse will be lighted up in red from April 1 to April 14 for “Fire Up NY Red.”

The Firefighters Association of the State of New York said the volunteer firefighter ranks have plunged by 33 percent in the state in the past two decades.

The “Fire Up NY Red” campaign coincides with the start of RecruitNY weekend on Saturday, April 13. Many fire departments around the state will have open houses that day to try to recruit new members.

FASNY President Edward Tase, Jr. urges firehouses statewide to glow red in the week leading up to RecruitNY. He also urged firefighters to light their homes and businesses with red lights.

The red lights symbolize their commitment to a tradition of neighborly help and the need for more volunteers. Additionally, Tase called on residents to join the effort by switching on red porch lights in support of their local fire departments.

County acquires 28 new voting machines for $238K

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 April 2024 at 11:26 am

Board of Elections to replace equipment from 2009

File photo by Tom Rivers: A voter casts a ballot at Hoag Library on June 23, 2020 on one of the voting machines that is expected to be replaced in time for the general election in November.

ALBION – When voters cast ballots in the November election, they will likely be doing them on new voting machines.

The County Legislature has authorized the Board of Election to purchase 28 new machines for $238,972.50 from Clear Ballot Group of Boston, MA.

The county purchased the current optical-scan machines in 2009, replacing the old mechanical lever machines, technology that had been used for about a century.

When the county made the switch to the optical scan machines, they were expected to last about a decade, said election commissioners Mike Mele and Janice Grabowski. The county used them for about 15 years.

The machines have worked well, but the change is necessitated by new computer technology in the Election Management System or the “backbone” of the machines, Mele said.

The new machines will be compatible with the Election Management System used by the county.

The Board of Elections has been setting aside money in its budget towards the replacement cost of the machines, Grabowski said.

The county also is using $5,607 in HAVA (Help America Vote Act) grant monies and $11,878 in TIER (Technology Innovation and Elections Resource) grant funds towards the purchase, leaving the remaining $221,487 as the county cost.

There are 11 voting sites in the county and each site will have a voting machine, plus a backup. The BOE also will have six more in case there are any breakdowns with the 22 at the voting sites.

The new machines will be better able to detect markings on the ballot. Voters will be able to use a ballpoint pen, instead of a marker, Mele said.

The machines will also be equipped with technology for people to vote who are blind or hard of hearing. Click here for more information about the Clear Ballot Group machines.

The state Board of Elections will calibrate the new machines. Mele and Grabowski said they are hopeful the new ones will be ready for early voting in late October and the election on Nov. 5.

Leg leader, in state of the county, says Orleans making progress on many fronts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 April 2024 at 9:12 am

Johnson vows to keep up fight against STAMP sewer pipe leading to Oak Orchard Creek

Photo by Tom Rivers: Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, shares her state of the county address last week. From left include County Legislator Bill Eick, Legislator Ed Morgan, Legislator Don Allport, County Attorney Kathy Bogan, Chief Administrative Officer Jack Welch, Lynne Johnson, Clerk of the Legislature Lisa Stenshorn, County Treasurer Kim DeFrank, legislator Skip Draper (not in photo), Legislator John Fitzak, and Legislator Fred Miller.

ALBION – Orleans County government officials have made strides addressing needs in the community, and will continue to that focus in a collaborative effort with local towns and villages, the County Legislature leader said.

Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Legislature, gave a “state of the county” address during last week’s Legislature meeting.

She noted the county is nearing completion of bringing broadband internet throughout the county, a project that has been about a decade in the making.

Johnson supports creating a district court that would consolidate town justice courts if residents pass a referendum creating the court, and then if individual towns back the effort.

Johnson said the district is a big change and faces pushback from town justices and court clerks.

“Are we as a community willing to the leave the familiar and the comfortable behind for a new and better way forward?” she said.

The county leader said she remains opposed to a sewer pipe from the STAMP manufacturing site in the Town of Alabama that would go about 10 miles to Oak Orchard Creek. A state Supreme Court judge dismissed the county’s challenge to the project, but Orleans will appeal that decision.

“The Legislature will use every tool available to us to protect Oak Orchard Creek and its importance to us as a resource for water, recreation and tourism,” Johnson said. “And second, it’s never too late for Genesee County to revisit their position on this and to do so in a manner that sees us working together.”

Johnson praised a county workforce of about 400 employees for their service to the 40,000 residents of the county. Johnson said the county will be at the bargaining table with employee unions.

“We need to reach a fair and reasonable deal that recognizes the important work of our employees while understanding the responsibility we have to taxpayers,” she said. “Retaining our current employees and being able to recruit new talent is of the utmost importance.”

Johnson said the Legislature made two building purchases last year, which avoided new construction. Probation and the District Attorney’s office will shift to the former GCC building, and the Treasurer’s Office will move to the former Bank of America site which has a drive-through.

She said building a new public safety building would have cost an estimated $55 million.

The county paid $975,000 for the GCC building at 456 West Ave. and $250,000 for the former bank site at 156 S. Main St. The county also bought 25.7 vacant acres by GCC The for $500,000.

“We invest in our people, but we also need to make wise investments in the places where they work,” Johnson said. “Indeed, meeting the demand for county space is a balancing act. We want to minimize short-term costs at a time when budgets are strained, but we do not want to be short-sighted by forgoing opportunities that better prepare us for the future.”

Highway departments from throughout the state have been concerned about cuts in state funding for road maintenance. Johnson reiterated that call during her speech, saying the state should at least maintain the funding at a time when the cost of construction materials is up about 60 percent.

The county is poised for economic growth, particularly with certified shovel-ready land at the Medina Business Park. Johnson also said the Niagara Orleans Regional Land Improvement Corporation is focused on community development in the two counties by putting blighted or tax delinquent properties back to productive use.

The Orleans County Courthouse stands strong on a stormy day recently.

While the county has made progress on many fronts, Johnson said it faces challenges, including with a surge in homeless residents. A warming shelter opened in December at Christ Episcopal Church for when temperatures fall below 32 degrees at night. That has eased some of the demand to have temporary housing for people who are homeless. That county has been averaging about 100 placements recently.

The county has seen a 273 percent increase in placement of homeless persons since July 2022, with out-of-county placement of emergency homeless persons up 900 percent over that same period, Johnson said.

“The fact is temporary and permanent emergency housing facilities are very scarce in our county,” she said.

The county declared a state of emergency due to the lack of emergency housing.

“Much effort has been made by our generous not-for-profits, but, quite frankly, we have not been able to find a viable solution to this problem and there does not seem to be any good options on the horizon,” Johnson said.

She worries about the fiscal impacts to the county with the state taking some designated Medicaid funds from counties, and the winding down of federal Covid money.

“We are undoubtedly entering some challenging times with a cloudy horizon on the future,” she said.

That is a driving force for why she wants to see more shared services among the local governments, to reduce the overall operating costs of government.

“I think most people are aware that we are part of a shared services initiative to bring towns, villages, schools and fire departments to the table with the county to explore opportunities,” Johnson said. “Anything and everything needs to be viewed with an open mind and an honest conversation. I am hopeful that the towns and villages will really be in the driver’s seat on this effort. They have a different vantage point than the county and can bring some fresh ideas to the table.”

District Court expected to go to public referendum in November

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 April 2024 at 6:19 pm

Legislature chairwoman says new court would offer better service at lower local expense

Photos by Tom Rivers: Orleans County District Attorney Joe Cardone meets with officials from the Orleans County Association of Municipalities last week and discusses a possible district court in the county.

ALBION – Orleans County voters will likely be asked this November in a public referendum whether the county should create a district court that would be staffed full-time and could include multiple towns in the county.

Orleans County officials want to put the issue to a public vote. There will be public hearings about the district court at 7 p.m. on May 7 and June 4 at the Orleans County legislative chambers at the County Office Building on Route 31.

The issue almost went to a vote last year, but was withdrawn as a referendum to allow more time to complete a study on the financial implications, and other pros and cons of the court.

County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson was part of a committee that has been studying the district court. She believes the committee’s report “leaves no doubt this is the best path forward.”

She said the district court would represent collaboration and cooperation among local governments, while bringing down court costs and increasing services.

“Are significant cost savings, better use of resources, streamlined court management and making better use of law enforcement personnel’s time enough to overcome the inertia of ‘things are fine the way they are?’” Johnson said during her state of the county address last week. “We are certainly going to find out.”

She wants residents and local officials to “start the conversation” about the issue.

The Orleans County Magistrates Association has been steadfastly opposed to a district court. The town justices and court clerks at the town level have all signed a resolution last October saying they are opposed to a district court in Orleans County.

“The Magistrate Association of Orleans County is opposed to any efforts to eliminate the local and convenient access to justice by our citizens and find that the Town Courts of Orleans County provide a meaningful and necessary presence within our community for judicial resolution of conflicts, continued public safety of our citizens, and the protection of constitutional guarantees for all of our citizens,” according to the resolution signed by the justices and court clerks.

The resolution was dated Oct. 14 and signed by Albion town justices Gary Moore and Joe Fuller, Barre Town Justice Frederick Root, Carlton Town Justice Kevin Hurley, Clarendon Town Justice Thomas DiFante, Gaines Town Justice Charles Prentice, Kendall Town Justice Debra Kluth, Murray town justices Ted Spada and Gary Passarell, Ridgeway Town Justice Joseph Kujawa, Shelby Town Justice Edward Grabowski and Yates Town Justice Donald Grabowski.

The following town court clerks also signed the resolution: Denise Cornick and Jamie Allport of Albion, Maureen Beach of Barre, Kim Niehaus of Carlton, Joanne Major of Clarendon, Maureen Kline of Gaines, Jessica Maier and Laurie Koelle of Kendall, Jeanne Spada and Lindsay Fredenall of Murray, Stacy Sliker of Ridgeway and Yates, Vicki Allen and Patricia Feltz of Shelby.

District Attorney Joe Cardone and Public Defender Joanne Best are co-leaders of District Court Committee. Other members include Lynne Johnson, Legislature chairwoman; county legislators Skip Draper and John Fitzak; Sheriff Chris Bourke; Rochard DeCarlo, former Barre town justice; Albion Town Justice Joe Fuller; Carlton Town Justice Kevin Hurley; First Assistant DA Susan Howard; Dean Puleo, special counsel for the 8th Judicial District who works with town justices in the eight Western New York counties; Bruce Schmidt, former Gaines town justice and former assistant DA; and Jack Welch, Orleans County chief administrative officer.

DeCarlo, Fuller and Hurley all dissented from the recommendations of the committee, while Bourke and Puleo abstained.

Cardone has been trying to build support for the case of moving away from the town justice courts to a district court that he said would be staffed full-time and offer more consistent justice throughout the county. He sees a district court as far more efficient than 10 town justice courts.

He presented highlights of a committee’s report last week during the Orleans County Association of Municipalities meeting at the White Birch in Lyndonville.

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Orleans County Jail on Platt Street in Albion has been used as a centralized location in the county for arraignments since April 2020. If there was a district court, the jail would no longer be needed for CAP Court for the arraignments when town courts aren’t in session.

The referendum in November would give residents a vote on whether to establish a district court.

Each Town Board could then decide whether to put to a public vote whether to eliminate its town court. Cardone said a district court could exist while some towns decide to keep their own courts. If they keep the town court, the town taxpayers would pay for that cost. The district court would allow a town to remove the court from its budget with the state paying the expense for the district court, Cardone said

“If this gets approved it’s pretty much paid for by the state government,” Cardone said at the Association of Municipalities meeting.

The committee is projecting the costs of the district court at $1.2 million with revenue at $175,000 in fines and forfeitures, and $110,000 through the traffic diversion cases for $285,000 total.

The expenses includes salaries for two judges at $320,000, clerk costs at $150,000, security at $150,000, a stenographer at $50,000, office supplies at $4,000, equipment at $2,500 and interpreter at $2,500.

Employee benefits – Social Security, Medicare, disability, retirement, workers’ comp, unemployment insurance and health insurance – would be an estimated $531,661. Facility costs would cost an estimated $50,000 a year.

The court would operate at a loss of $975,661, with the state picking up the expense, according to the report.

Cardone stressed courts shouldn’t be viewed as a money-maker. Their focus should be to dispense justice fairly.

The 10 towns courts operate at an aggregate deficit of $462,160 (which doesn’t include the costs of employee benefits and facility expense), the report states.

The CAP court that does arraignments in mornings and evenings at the county jail, plus on weekends, is another $113,800. If there was a district court, the CAP court functions would shift to the district court.

Employee benefits and facility costs represent 57 percent of the costs of running a district court. If that same percentage is applied to the 10 town courts, that total “real cost” of those courts would be $1,001,935, plus the CAP court costs of $113,800, the report states.

“The citizens of Orleans County are paying approximately $1.1 million annually for a fragmented system of part-time courts consisting of lay judges,” the report states.

The report states the following as benefits of a District Court system in Orleans County

Cost savings from consolidation of resources could save municipalities significant costs from having 10 town justice systems in close proximity to one another.

Improved courtroom facilities and better security. “Courtroom equipment, ranging from technological needs and even basic administrative supplies, are hard to fund with limited budgets.”

More streamlined court docket management. Some defendants have multiple cases from different neighboring towns, which are handled by different assistant district attorneys and different justices. “This makes adjudication of the cases complicated and often slows down the process as the different parties try to connect and work on a disposition to cover the various cases,” the report states.

Staggered out appearances and extended hours. The town courts often meet just once or twice monthly, with some meeting more frequently. A district court would have more frequent court hours with some occasional evening hours to accommodate different schedules.

Modernization of technological needs. “The Covid pandemic shed light on the need for modernization in a way that we have never seen before,” the report says. Courts were permitted to do virtual arraignments if they had the proper video conferencing equipment.

Better planned transportation of in-custody defendants, who must be transported by law enforcement officers to court. If justice courts were consolidated with fewer locations, that would save substantial time for law enforcement officers and allow them to spend more time on their traditional law enforcement roles.

Cardone noted the towns and villages have gone from 24 local justices about 20 years ago to the current 11. Albion and Medina both have abolished their village courts during that time and most towns are down to one justice.

“Given the evolving complexity of the criminal justice in this state, the concern for the rights of victims and defendants and the involvement of recent technologies, the time for sweeping reforms in the local court system is well overdue,” the report states. “Orleans County stands out as a successful example of consolidation, and other counties should begin to follow suit.”

County Legislator Bill Eick was on the Shelby Town Board when Shelby and Ridgeway decided to share a courts facility at the Shelby Town Hall in 2006. Each town also would go from two justices to one.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “No one likes change. You have to look down the road. I believe the state will shove this down our throats.”

County legislator John Fitzak said many of the details remain to be determined, and they won’t be fully known until after a district court is approved and the office for Court Administration sets the staffing.

“There is still a ton of work to be done,” Fitzak said.

Cardone is retiring as district attorney on Dec. 31 after 32 years in the position. He is trying to bring a district court to the voters before he ends his term as DA.

“We’re keeping an open mind on this,” Cardone said. “We intend to go to the community and make them as informed as possible.”

To see the report from the committee on a district court, click here.

Garbage collection pushed back a day next week due to eclipse on April 8

Posted 3 April 2024 at 12:00 pm

Press Release, Orleans County government

ALBION – Orleans County Chief Administrative Officer Jack Welch today announced that Modern Disposal, which provides a countywide solid waste program for all of our residents who participate, will delay collections by one day next week due to the solar eclipse on Monday, April 8th.

Collection of solid waste and recycling for the week will begin on Tuesday, April 9th and conclude on Saturday, April 13th. The delay in collection ensures that Modern’s crews do not add to what may prove to heavy traffic volume throughout the region and prevents any unexpected delays in service.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this creates but we think it’s better to schedule service for a one-day delay now rather than wait and see what happens on Monday,” Welch said.  “The fact is we all need to use an abundance of caution as people gather to watch the total eclipse in our county. Delaying collection for one day is simply a safety precaution for both Modern personnel and our residents.”

Orleans extends youth hunting program for 12- and 13-year-olds

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 April 2024 at 9:53 am

DEC recommends state make the change permanent

File photo by Tom Rivers: These deer are pictured on Nov. 20, 2014 when they were close to the road on the west side of Route 279 in Gaines, just south of Route 104.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has extended a pilot program that lowered the age from 14 to 12 for people to hunt deer with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun or muzzle-loading firearm.

The county approved the program in 2021, and there have been “absolutely no accidents reported,” said Lynne Johnson, the County Legislature chairwoman.

The state has allowed counties to opt in in the pilot program with the lower age. Orleans was among 52 of 54 eligible counties that approved the initial pilot program. Only Erie and Rockland counties didn’t opt in.

The youth hunters need to be under the supervision of an experienced adult hunter.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation reported statewide there were 9,859 licensed 12- and 13-year-old hunters in 2021-22, and then 9,416 in 2022-23, and 9,610 in 2023-24.

The DEC said the first three years of the program showed 12- and 13-year-old hunters and mentors “have proven they can safely and successfully hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow and should be authorized to retain this opportunity permanently.” The DEC said there were no documented hunting-related shooting incidents among 12- and 13-year-olds during the first three years.

The DEC is recommending the state make the change permanent and lower the age to 12 for people to hunt deer with a firearm and crossbow.

Click here to see a report from DEC on the first three years of the pilot program.

149 people voted early over 8 days in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 March 2024 at 1:54 pm

Primary will be held April 2 at polling sites throughout the county

Photo by Tom Rivers: The polling site for early voting was available for eight days, from March 23 to March 30, at the Board of Elections office at the County Office Building.

ALBION – There were 149 votes cast over eight days of early voting in Orleans County.

There was one polling location for early voting – the Board of Elections office at the County Office Building on Route 31.

The primary was headed by the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries. Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are the front-runners for the Republican and Democratic nominations, respectively.

Biden and Trump already have gained enough delegates to secure their parties’ nominations with Biden the Democrats’ choice and Trump the pick of Republicans.

The ballots in the primary in New York State will include Biden and Trump, as well as other names who ended their campaigns after the state’s filing deadlines.

For the Democratic Party, besides Biden the ballot includes Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips.

For the Republican Party, in addition to Trump, the ballot includes Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie and Nikki Haley.

The Democratic primary also four delegates from the 24th Congressional District for the National Convention: Dia Carabajal, Daniel Farfaglia, Lorie Longhany and John Hurley.

The 24th District in Orleans includes Albion, Barre, Clarendon districts 2 and 3, Ridgeway and Shelby.

In the 25th District, there are seven candidates to be delegates for the National Convention. Voters will elect four from the seven. Those candidates include Shelly Clements, Anthony Plonczynski-Figueroa, Yversha Roman, Jamie Romeo, Adam Bello, Samra Brouk and Stephen Gregory Devay.

The 25th District in Orleans includes Carlton, Clarendon district 1, Gaines, Kendall, Murray and Yates.

The primary will include voting at polling locations at all 10 towns in the county on April 2.

County recognizes 2 long-time custodial workers on their retirement

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 March 2024 at 10:24 am

Legislature also proclaims April as ‘Donate Life Month’ and April 1-7 as ‘Public Health Week’

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Orleans County Legislator Ed Morgan, second from right, presents certificates of appreciation to Jan Standish, second from left, and Becky Bush when the two were recognized on Tuesday for their long careers with the county.

Both are retiring as custodians. John Papponetti, the DPW commissioner, is at right.

Bush worked 35 years with the county while Standish gave 33 years of service. Both started as food service helpers in the county nursing home and later became custodial workers for the Buildings and Grounds Department.

Orleans County Clerk Nadine Hanlon accepts a proclamation from County Legislator John Fitzak that proclaimed April as “Donate Life Month.” The Legislature urged residents to join the state’s Donate Life Registry.

The proclamation states there are approximately 8,000 people waiting for an organ transplant which represents the third highest need in the nation. An estimated 400 New Yorkers that die every year while waiting for an organ transplant.

“A single individual’s donation of the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine can save up to eight lives; donation of tissue can save and heal the lives of up to 75 others,” legislators said.

The Orleans County Clerk’s Office, through its Department of Motor Vehicles, will be promoting April as “Donate Life Month” in Orleans County.

Hanlon said 58 percent of adults 18 and older are enrolled in Donate Life, which is up from the 48 percent statewide.

The county will be raising the Donate Life flag outside the County Office Building at 10:08 a.m. on April 10.

Paul Pettit, public health director in both Orleans and Genesee counties, accepts a proclamation from Legislator Don Allport declaring April 1-7 as “Public Health Week.”

Allport said county residents benefit from the work of the public health staff when they are eating at restaurants, drinking tap water, learning about the prevention of deadly diseases, receiving vaccinations and planning for emergencies.

“National Public Health Week provides an opportunity for our county to learn about public health concerns and success stories that are vital to healthy communities, such as immunizing against infectious disease, maintaining good nutritional standards, providing good prenatal care, working toward safe housing through our Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, decreasing the spread of rabies by providing rabies immunization clinics for dogs, cats, and ferrets, and building resiliency by being prepared for various emergencies,” the proclamation states.

United Way celebrates 60th anniversary in Orleans County

Photos by Ginny Kropf: (Left) Jodi Gaines, president of the board of United Way of Orleans County, reads a plaque paying tribute to Van Hungerford, considered the founder of United Way of Orleans County. The plaque was presented to his son Roger, right. (Right) Nyla Gaylord, executive director of United Way of Orleans County, talks of the agency’s accomplishments during a “Friendraiser” event Thursday at Bent’s Opera House.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 29 March 2024 at 8:08 am

Agency started as ‘Community Chest’ and has expanded mission beyond fundraising

MEDINA – In the midst of its 2024 fundraising campaign, United Way of Orleans County celebrated a special occasion Thursday night at Bent’s Opera House, the 60th anniversary of its founding.

More than 100 invited guests attended the event, called a “Friendraising,” intended to inform the public of the work United Way of Orleans County is accomplishing and celebrate its founding by a Medina native and entrepreneur with a love of his community.

The free event at Bent’s Opera House featured hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine bar and a chance to meet the family of Van Hungerford, who first had the vision to start a Community Chest in Medina.

Local entrepreneur Roger Hungerford was 12 when his father felt there should be an agency in his home town to which people could donate to help those in need. Soon after forming the Community Chest it evolved into United Way of Western Orleans. Van and a group of his friends were involved in raising money for a number of years, including a golf tournament, which for many years was named in honor of Van.

Roger said his father believed in supporting his community and was active on the hospital board, serving a number of years as its chair. He was chair when the CEO was diagnosed with brain cancer and Van stepped in and ran the hospital for a year.

“He was my inspiration,” Roger said. “He always was a fundraiser and active in the community. I was working for him when he raised the money for the first nine at Shelridge Country Club. Twenty-five years later, he raised money for the back nine. I was always proud of him for that.”

“We all have the ability to give something,” Roger continued. “I’m fortunate to have had workplaces where we had the ability to hold campaigns for United Way. I’ve been blessed with great financial resources and teams of people, and I feel responsible to help our community.”

His brother Bill Hungerford credits his father and mother Betty for forming the Community Chest. He said local businesses were being bombarded with requests for donations from every civic organization in the area, and they felt there was a need for one central place where people could give.

Bill threw his support to United Way by serving 25 years on the board, as a member, and several terms as president.

Betty Hassall of Medina was director of Western Orleans United Way for many, many years, until she retired at the time of the merger.

The exact date United Way of Eastern Orleans was formed is not clearly known, but Jerome Pawlak, a current board member, said it was in the early 1960s. It is presumed to have formed after United Way of Western Orleans. Dorothy Ross was executive director for 30 years, he said.

It also originally started as the Community Chest, under the leadership of Dick Eddy, Ed Archbald, Skip Landauer, Curtis Lyman and a few others, according to Pawlak.

Hannah Castelli, left, and Rachael Betts, program officers at the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, enjoy appetizers and conversation at Thursday’s Friendraising event at Bent’s Opera House. The Foundation sponsored the event with a $5,000 grant.

Pawlak first served on the board in 1985, and since served in many capacities, including president, vice president and campaign chairman. His father Henry also served on the board and the campaign cabinet for several years. He is the only individual to serve as the champaign chair of both Western and Eastern Orleans County United Ways.

Eastern United Way affiliated with Greater Rochester United Way for several years, from the mid 1990s until 2011, while Western Orleans remained independent.

The two United Ways voted to merge into one United Way of Orleans County in 2011, and Eastern broke away from Greater Rochester at that time.

Dean Bellack of Medina became a United Way supporter when he joined the board in 2020, after retiring and selling his company. At his first board meeting, the director gave her resignation to accept another job, and Bellack offered his services until the search for a new director could be completed. He continued in the position for three years, and is credited with changing the entire structure of how United Way gets its funds.

The result was more than $2 million in grants, which funded a respite program, low-cost internet availability for the county, a nutrition program for Community Action/Cornell Cooperative Extension and upgrades to Bullard Park.

Henry Smith Jr. of Albion checks out an array of appetizers at the United Way’s Friendraising event at Bent’s Opera House.

Prior to that, Nyla Gaylord, who at the time was director of Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern, was asked to write a grant to secure a grant writer. She did that on her own time, and the results led to the hiring of Matt Holland as a grant writer free to any non-profit in Orleans County. Gaylord subsequently came to United Way as a fundraiser.

Holland left United Way in 2023 to accept a position with Orleans County Economic Development Agency, and Gaylord became executive director.

In late 2023, Aeddon Cayea of Medina, an Americorps student who had worked at Cornell Cooperative Extension all summer, was hired as assistant to Gaylord and grant writer.

The focus on writing grants became a necessity after Covid led to the shut down of of in-person workplaces and curtailed employment. Workplace campaigns, previously the biggest source of income, were deeply affected. Many workplaces have found their employees can work from home, resulting in a continued decline in workplace donations. While donations have declined, requests for help from the community have not.

Currently, United Way of Orleans County is striving to develop a diverse and active board from all corners of the county.

Under the leadership of director Nyla Gaylord, is Aeddon Cayea, grant writer; Dawn Winkler financial coordinator; and consultant Nick Coulter.

Jodi Gaines is board president; Mollie Radzinski, vice president; Jennifer Mateo, secretary; Tim Moriarity, treasurer; Jerome Pawlak; Ayesha Kruetz; Dean Bellack; Don Colquhoun; Jackie Gardner, Virginia Kropf, Karen Blank and Rosemarie Patronski.

Among the guests at the Friendraising, was Pam Shuner, president of the board of OCALS, who credits her agency’s survival to support from United Way.

For a number of years, an allocation from United Way of Western Orleans was the only community support they received.

“When OCALS stepped into family literacy in 2010-11, it was support of United Way that enabled us to help children and families,” Shuner said. “We continue to provide literacy to families today with United Way’s continued support.”

One of Shuner’s favorite memories is of the year they partnered with United Way on Day of Caring.

“Baxter Healthcare sent employees to read to the kids at the ABCD Childcare Center in Holley,” Shuner said. “They brought books for every child to take home, including bi-lingual ones for the bi-lingual children.”

Karen Kinter, CEO of Oak Orchard Health, called United Way of Orleans County, “A great organization.”

“Nyla has done a wonderful job connecting partners, including Oak Orchard Health,” Kinter said. “We look forward to all the opportunities in front of us by working together.”

Dave Cook of Lyndonville was a board member of United Way for almost 20 years, beginning with United Way of Western Orleans. He was on the committee which facilitated the merger between Western and Eastern United Ways.

“I enjoyed watching United Way grow from two separate entities,” Cook said.

United Way’s board president Jodi Gaines praised the organization’s 60-year existence and stressed that all donations stay in Orleans County to help local people.

She presented a plaque to Roger Hungerford, recognizing his support of United Way and his family’s contribution to the organization. She also thanked him for donating the venue for Thursday’s Friendraiser.

“I remember my dad telling stories about United Way,” Roger said.

He added his father Van designed the first pulmonary bypass pump at Sigmamotors, the predecessor of Roger’s company.

“He was a great dad and an interesting entrepreneur,” Roger said. “He inspired me.”

In her speech, director Nyla Gaylord alluded to the “sparks” who have ignited projects in the community.

Examples were the late George Lamont, founder of Oak Orchard Health Center; Van Hungerford and Henry Pawlak.

“They were ‘sparks’ in their community and in their family,” Gaylord said. “They passed on to their children a legacy of giving back to the community. Their children listened and learned.

“Dean was the ‘spark’ that saved the United Way in Orleans County,” Gaylord said of Bellack.

She said foundations reached out to the United Way, the one organization with connections to the whole community.

With the help of a consultant from the group of foundations in Buffalo, “hub calls” were initiated to create a forum to bring the community together to communicate and problem solve, Gaylord said. Those calls are ongoing today.

Unexpected help started coming from places such as foundations in Buffalo and Rochester, asking us what our community needed, Gaylord said. Some of those needs were digital literacy, a grant writer for the county, basketball courts at Bullard Park, a respite program for caregivers and in-home respite care.

“By collaborating, we are creating a respite program unlike any other that will likely serve as a model for other communities,” Gaylord said.  “For each of these major initiatives, the United Way of Orleans County was the lead agency supporting development of new programming in the county.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Nyla Gaylord joins Albion basketball players in celebrating the opening of new courts at Bullard park on Oct. 26. The United Way helped secure some of the grant funding for the project.

Susan Oschman, whose spark started the movement for basketball courts, has also said that she and the Greater Albion Events and Recreation team are planning a campaign to build pickle ball courts in Bullard Park for seniors.

In another effort, Orleans County finally received funding to create a wireless broadband network across the county and connected with United Way to conduct an outreach campaign to reach out to low-to-moderate income households in specific areas to connect to the new broadband service and save money by accessing government funded benefits.

United Way worked with Kevin Reagan from RTO Wireless for more than a year to develop the Connect Orleans website and customize marketing materials to help identify people interested in the wireless broadband service.

In February of last year, United Way hosted a series of housing conversations to address the housing shortage in Orleans County. Out of the housing conversations grew a subgroup of people and organizations concerned about the growing number of people in our community without homes.

They decided to focus on the most urgent, basic need – a warming center in the county to help the Department of Social Services fulfill their state mandated obligation to provide a shelter when the temperatures drop below freezing. Christ Episcopal Church agreed to let their facility be used for a warming center, but DSS can’t run it, stated Holli Nenni, commissioner of Social Services. They needed a partner.

Karen Kinter, CEO of Oak Orchard Health Center, came up with the idea that they can hire, train and supervise staff to implement the warming center at Christ Church. Emergency Management and the Health Department joined churches, volunteers and staff from Community Action, Independent Living and the Ministry of Concern. By November, the Code Blue Warming Center opened at Christ Church – a triumph of community collaboration.

This was but the start of a solution to the community’s housing shortage. This past fall, United Way secured funding from Heritage Wind and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to hire a housing consultant. Former legislator Ken DeRoller volunteered to work with him to develop a housing strategy for Orleans County.

“We expect to have a report to share with the community by the end of April,” Gaylord said. “All the people and organizations who have stepped up to create new programs and opportunities for our community are ‘sparks.’”

Gaylord continued to say we have entered a new era of community collaboration in which sparks from many places can come together to revitalize our county.

“The United Way has created a new paradigm for improving our community so that everyone can thrive,” Gaylord told the crowd at Bent’s. “In addition to our fundraising activities and corporate and individual donations, we have diversified our revenue streams by securing grants that bring new services and programs to our community. We now have a vehicle for legacy donations that will ensure the United Way in Orleans County continues in perpetuity.”

Gaylord left the audience with this thought:

“Together we can all contribute something – time, talent or treasure,” she said. “Not everybody can give everything. But everyone can give something.”

The United Way of Orleans County touches basically every segment of the population by providing funding to Camp Rainbow; Meals on Wheels; Boy Scouts of America; Care Net Center of Greater Orleans; Orleans Koinonia Kitchen; Community Action of Orleans and Genesee; GCASA; GO Art!; Hospice of Orleans; Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern; Medina Senior Center; OCALS; Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension; Orleans County YMCA; and P’raising Kids Child Care Center.

There are several ways to donate to United Way of Orleans County and they can be found on United Way’s website.

Thursday’s Friendraiser event was aided by a $5,000 grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, whose program officers Hannah Castelli and Rachael Betts were among the attendees of the Friendraiser.

Community Foundation announces 11 grants for non-profits in Orleans County

Posted 28 March 2024 at 8:50 am

Press Release, Rochester Area Community Foundation

In an effort to expand its support for the Greater Rochester-Finger Lakes region and tackle what is called the “Rural Blindspot,” Rochester Area Community Foundation awarded more than $146,000 to 11 nonprofits serving Orleans County.

“The Rural Blindspot” is an insight coined in the Stanford Social Innovation Review indicating that communities where people live farther apart are often overlooked in grantmaking when compared to their more populated neighbors, even when the need for resources is great. According to the data, these rural communities are some of the least likely to both apply for and receive funding to address inequities.

For the Community Foundation, equitable grantmaking means unlocking the potential for those who have had less access to the resources needed to thrive. It means strengthening relationships with community partners who have their finger on the pulse of resident needs. Orleans County has dedicated nonprofits, kind neighbors, and deep roots, but faces a childhood poverty level of 20 percent.

“The Community Foundation service area covers eight counties in our region, not just Monroe,” says Senior Program Officer Sara Bukowiec. “This dedicated funding was part of an intentional shift in our approach to make our grantmaking opportunities more inclusive of rural counties.”

The Foundation historically received few applications from counties like Orleans, but suspected this underrepresented the community’s need for resources and support. In response, the Foundation set aside money and spread the word to nonprofits, community leaders, and chambers of commerce across Genesee, Livingston, and Orleans counties that at least $50,000 in grants would be available for each county. A two-part application process made it easier for nonprofits to apply and for the Foundation to spot opportunities for collaboration and to combine funding from multiple sources.

Twenty-two letters of intent seeking a total of $462,077 were received from nonprofits serving Orleans County, which clearly outlined the need for investment. The uptick in applications and diverse sources of funding identified to satisfy 11 of these requests bolstered the Foundation’s new regional approach.

Community Foundation funding for this grantmaking initiative came from its Community Impact Fund, which pools contributions from more than 100 permanent funds established specifically to support changing community needs, along with dollars from the Greater Rochester Women’s Fund, The Sarah Collins Fund, Fox-Knoeferl Family Fund, VJ Stanley Sr. Fund, Robert C. and Jane K. Stevens Legacy Fund, and Edward R. Lane Fund.

Grants supporting Orleans County include:

  • Alianza Agrícola Inc. * : Provides transportation for immigrant farmworker families to various events and activities to increase participation and engagement across a five-county service area. $50,000
  • Arc GLOW * : Provides transportation for an estimated 40 children, with and without disabilities, to Camp Rainbow in Lyndonville for a five-week summer camp where kids can grow emotionally and physically through inclusive outdoor experiences. $19,700
  • Cancer Support Community Rochester * : The “Mapping My Journey in Rural Communities” outreach program will provide cancer screening and support services to underserved groups in Orleans, Livingston, and Genesee counties. $5,000
  • First Presbyterian Church Albion: To provide free English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and high school equivalency exam preparation to serve the Spanish-speaking migrant agricultural worker community. $3,500
  • Genesee Country Village & Museum *: The Rural School Admission Support program provides subsidized, reduced-rate, and/or fully-funded in-person educational opportunities to schools with financial need. $7,500
  • Hands 4 Hope Street Ministry: This Albion-based program helps maintain personal hygiene and dignity by providing laundry products to all clients, many of whom are burdened by the costs associated with public laundromats. $2,560
  • Orleans County Adult Learning Services: Supports advertising and outreach materials to increase community awareness of its free adult and childhood literacy tutoring services. $3,000
  • P.Raising Kids Child Care Center: To purchase outdoor storage in order to free up space for play and learning inside this center in Medina where kids of any economic situation can grow and flourish. $4,600
  • PathStone Foundation: Addresses critical building improvements to the domestic violence shelter, built around 1900, that supports Orleans and other nearby counties. Work will include painting, plumbing, and security measures in order to continue providing a safe and supportive environment for survivors. $20,500
  • United Way of Orleans County: To commission a Housing Action Strategy in coordination with key stakeholders, with the goal of increasing the availability of affordable housing over three years and focusing on low-to-moderate income residents. $10,000
  • Visually Impaired Advancement * : Supports a part-time outreach staff position to provide 2-1-1 navigational services and outreach in Orleans and Genesee counties. $20,000

* Grants that also support Livingston County and/or Genesee County.

Judge lets counties’ lawsuit proceed opposing new weighted voting for WROTB

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 March 2024 at 9:50 pm

Orleans among 7 counties suing after change from 1 county, 1 vote that defined WROTB’s first 50 years

ALBION – A State Supreme Court judge ruled today that a lawsuit can proceed that challenges a new weighted voting system for the 15 counties and cities of Rochester and Buffalo which make up the ownership of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

The first 50 years of WROTB, each entity had the same vote or 1 vote for each municipality, regardless of the population.

But the state budget approved about a year ago included legislation that implemented a new weighted voting system. It gives 99 votes total, with more populous municipalities getting more votes. Erie County gets the most with 24 votes while the four smallest counties: Orleans, Wyoming, Seneca and Schuyler get 1 each.

Here is the breakdown of votes per municipality:

  • Erie County: 24
  • Monroe County: 20
  • City of Buffalo: 10
  • City of Rochester and Niagara: 8
  • Chautauqua: 5
  • Oswego: 4
  • Steuben, Wayne, Cattaraugus, Cayuga: 3
  • Livingston and Genesee: 2
  • Wyoming, Orleans, Seneca, Schuyler: 1

Six of the counties filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, the State Senate and State Assembly.

The counties in the lawsuit are all Republican-led and include Orleans, Genesee, Niagara, Livingston, Wyoming and Seneca. Oswego also was added to the lawsuit today.

The lawsuit was filed in September in Orleans County, and that’s where a motion of dismiss the case was heard today by Judge Frank Caruso.

Joe Terragnoli, representing the Attorney General’s Office, appeared in court today with Dennis Vacco representing the seven counties.

Vacco said the case is a very important challenge, showing smaller rural counties standing up to a “power grab” imposed by the state.

“I’m a little emotional about it because I think they receive these types of shenanigans from Albany all the time,” Vacco, a former state attorney general, told the judge in court this afternoon.

The municipalities in WROTB fronted the money to start WROTB in 1973, which has returned about $245 million in profits to the municipalities. Terragnoli said the initial funding to start WROTB has been paid back – many times – to the counties.

“It’s been a very lucrative deal,” he said. “They gave loans and they were paid in full.”

That contribution never guaranteed an equal vote for perpetuity. The money didn’t purchase voting rights, Terragnoli said.

The state has the right to restructure the board with a weighted vote, he said.

Vacco said the smaller counties never would have put up the money if they had such a small voice at the board table.

He said the change could harm the smaller counties economically, especially if the four members with the most votes – Erie, Monroe, Rochester and Buffalo – get together and make a decision that could hurt the payouts to the other counties. Vacco said the four larger municipalities could go on a hiring spree, approve a capital project the others oppose, or even sell Batavia Downs.

The racetrack in Batavia has 912 video gaming machines that generate about $7 million in profits each month. WROTB also has nine OTB branches and 24 EZ Bet locations.

Vacco also said the legislation approved in May 2023 specifically targeted WROTB and not the other regional OTBs in the state – Capital OTB, Catskill OTB, Nassau OTB and Suffolk OTB.

Terragnoli acknowledged the legislation, pushed by State Sen. Tim Kennedy of South Buffalo, was partly in response to allegations of mismanagement by WROTB. The organization was faulted in an audit by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who said the organization’s leadership did not properly account for $120,000 worth of sports and event tickets purchased by the company. Kennedy and others have characterized the accounting error as “corruption.”

WROTB has said there are tighter controls now for how those tickets are distributed.

The state comptroller and state attorney general also have challenged WROTB for providing fully paid health insurance coverage to some part-time board members. The organization has put an end to health benefits for new board appointees.

Terragnoli said the WROTB board didn’t do enough to self correct, which prompted the legislation with the weighted voting for the board. That legislation also removed all the board members at the time with the 15 counties and two cities to appoint either the same representatives or new ones. (Orleans County opted to reappoint Ed Morgan to the role.)

Terragnoli said the counties that have sued the state over the changes with the board at WROTB are now claiming they could be hurt financially.

“Where was the concern when the comptroller’s report came out?” he said in court about the misused tickets and perks intended for Batavia Downs customers.

Vacco also said the legislation championed by State Sen. Tim Kennedy twice failed to get through the Legislature on its own merits. It only passed when it was lumped into the state budget vote in an act of “subterfuge.”

The legislation would needed a two-thirds majority vote if it had been a standalone bill, Vacco said. It didn’t get the two-thirds threshold as part of the state budget, which is another reason the weighted-voting change should be negated, he said.

Vacco said the counties will wait for the state to file its response to today’s ruling. There also could be an evidentiary hearing in one of the next steps with the case.