Orleans County

United Way has $500 scholarships for 10 Orleans County seniors

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 8 May 2021 at 7:46 pm

Organization giving out scholarships for first time for seniors with track record of community service

United Way of Orleans County has announced for the first time it is offering scholarships to students in Orleans County’s schools who meet certain criteria.

Dean Bellack, director of United Way of Orleans County, and its board acknowledge the past year has been one of the most successful in the agency’s history, and they are anxious to share the wealth in any way they can.

To this end, United Way has announced an annual scholarship award to each of the five schools in the county: Albion, Holley, Kendall, Lyndonville and Medina.

The scholarships will be made available to two students at each school – a male and female – who meet the criteria of participation in community service, being in good academic standing and having general good citizenship. Each scholarship will be for $500 and will be awarded when the student begins his or her college year.

Bellack went on to explain the importance of local donations, especially those given through payroll deductions.

While United Way may have been very fortunate during the past year to receive considerable funding from outside the county, payroll deductions and donations from the local community are vital to their mission of helping the area’s needy.

Workplace campaigns to promote employee giving took a big hit in 2020 due to Covid-19 either partially or totally shutting down company operations.

Bellack noted that Albion Central School employees, in particular, have been consistently successful with their workplace campaigns for the United Way.

Eric Christiansen, Albion High School psychologist and chair of the Counseling Department, has been a longtime proponent of United Way.

“This is the 30th year I’ve been here, and giving to United Way has always seemed to be a big part of the culture of Albion Central School,” Christiansen said. “Our leaders always felt it was important to support United Way.”

He said there seems to be someone each year willing to reach out to school employees, asking them to consider their donations to United Way.

“It’s one of the things I love about Albion Central School,” he said.

Christiansen said he was very pleased United Way is able to offer scholarships to students.

“We  have a lot of our students who do community service and they don’t get recognized for it,” he said. “Some of them donate hundreds of hours in the community and they do it quietly. College is getting increasingly expensive and it’s nice to have an organization that wants to give to our students. Even a small scholarship adds up. I already have some great candidates in mind.”

Bellack added his thanks to Albion school teachers and all their staff for their consistent generosity.

“We are all better when we come together and contribute to our community,” he said.

The first scholarships will be announced at the end of the 2021 school year.

United Way funds nearly two dozen agencies and programs in Orleans County, which provide assistance to the homeless, seniors, the needy, handicapped, and more, and these scholarships are just a way to give to another segment of the population.

Food distribution program extended locally through end of June

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 May 2021 at 8:02 am

The schedule is set for the food distribution program on Fridays through the end of June.

The Office for the Aging in Orleans County works with Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, and the Calvary Tabernacle Church in Medina on the distributions.

People often line up in vehicles by 5:30 to 6 a.m. for the distributions that are scheduled to start at 8 to 8:30 a.m. There are usually 300 boxes of food each week, but sometimes there are more. People are encouraged not to block driveways while they are waiting.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call the Office for the Aging at (585) 589-3191. Volunteers in particular are needed for the distributions in June.

The schedule the next two months includes:

  • May 7 – Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, 4-H Fairgrounds on Route 31 in Knowlesville
  • May 14 – Community Action Main Street Store, 113 South Main St., Albion
  • May 21 – Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, 4-HFairgrounds on Route 31 in Knowlesville
  • May 28 – Community Action Main Street Store, 113 South Main St., Albion

  • June 4 – Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, 4-H Fairgrounds on Route 31 in Knowlesville
  • June 11 – Community Action Main Street Store, 113 South Main St., Albion
  • June 18 – No distribution
  • June 25 – Ridgeway Fire Department, 11392 Ridge Rd., Medina

County approves $3,000 from contingency for Cobblestone Museum

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 May 2021 at 9:42 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Elderberry Jam performed for a packed Cobblestone church on April 15, 2019. The church was built in 1834 and had 167 concert attendees for the event, the most in recent memory at the church on Route 104. The museum hasn’t been able to welcome larger groups during the Covid-19 pandemic.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has agreed to give $3,000 from its contingency account to the Cobblestone Museum.

The Legislature has been approving that amount from contingency in recent years, normally in December at the year-end county meeting but didn’t do it at the end of 2020. The Legislature last week approved the $3,000.

The Cobblestone Museum has seen attendance significantly dwindle during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the museum has continued to work on programs and be a resource to the community.

The museum last year also acquired a property, the Vagg House, at the southwest corner of routes 104 and 98 and that house is decorated to showcase life in the 1920s, in a manner that includes early household appliances from the early days of homes having electricity.

The Cobblestone Museum isn’t a regular line item in the county budget and has been given $3,000 in recent years from the contingency. Legislator Don Allport, R-Gaines, opposed the $3,000 from contingency because he said legislators discussed the funding last year, and decided against the continued allotments from the contingency account. Allport said the group last year didn’t want to keep this as standard practice for the museum.

The museum, however, hasn’t been included in the budget as a line item. The agencies and organizations included in the county budget as line items for 2021 include: $240,000 to Cornell Cooperative Extension, $190,000 to Orleans Economic Development Agency, $92,500 to Soil & Water Conservation District, $10,000 to be shared among four public libraries, $5,000 to Mercy Flight, $4,000 to Sportsmen Federation, and $3,000 to GO Art!

In Genesee County, the County Legislature funds the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia at $33,554 a year. That site is only one building and is a National Historic Landmark.

Three of the cobblestone buildings – the church from 1834, the Ward House and a former one-room schoolhouse from the 1840s – were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993 by the federal Department of the Interior. That designation, however, doesn’t come with federal funding. The museum also includes several other buildings on 104 and Route 98.

Erie County donates mobile command center to EMO in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 May 2021 at 9:01 am

ALBION – The Emergency Management Office in Orleans County will soon have a mobile command center, courtesy of Erie County.

That county is getting a new command center thanks to federal funding. Erie offered its 2006 command center to Orleans. The unit, which cost $250,000 in 2006, only has 11,000 miles, said Dale Banker, EMO director in Orleans County.

The 2006 Chevrolet Mobile Command Vehicle resembles an RV with a bathroom. The county currently has a trailer it can take to major incidents as a command center. The county will change the decals so the vehicle says Orleans County instead of Erie.

Erie County was able to purchase the mobile command center in 2006 through a Homeland Security Grant as part of regional objectives. The Orleans County EMO will continue with that mission as part of the original purpose of the grant, the Orleans County Legislature state din a resolution last week when it accepted the mobile command vehicle from Erie County.

County accepts $439K construction bid to rebuild Point Breeze boat launch

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 May 2021 at 8:57 am

Bid also accepted to replace bridge in Murray on Transit Road

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Point Breeze boat launch will be rebuilt after Labor Day and will function better during times of high waters on Lake Ontario.

POINT BREEZE – The boat launch at Point Breeze will be rebuilt this fall with a new ramp, two boat launches and floating docks.

The Orleans County Legislature last week accepted the construction bid of $439,850 from CP Ward Inc. of Scottsville, the low bidder on the project. Mark Cerrone Inc. of Niagara Falls also bid on the project at a price of $553,125.

The project is part of $300 million funded through the state through the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI). Those projects are 95 percent funded through REDI with the local municipality paying 5 percent.

They are designed to be more resilient in times of high Lake Ontario water levels and other extreme weather. Currently, when the lake levels are high, the boat launch is useless for boaters because their vehicles flood out trying to launch a boat.

The boat launch will remain open until the day after Labor Day to lessen the impact on boaters during the busier summer season, said John Papponetti, the county’s Department of Public Works superintendent. The construction should be done in November.

Rendering courtesy of Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative: The rebuilt boat launch will have floating walkways that tie into the concrete ramp.

CP Ward will likely need to set up a coffer dam and pump out water during construction to work on the project. The launch will be regraded and concrete poured for the new ramps and docks.

The project includes floatable walkways which will tie into a concrete ramp. The current concrete ramp will be removed and a new one put in that will be pulled farther back on land. The project also includes milling and paving the driveway and parking lot.

The Legislature last week also accepted a bid for $839,739 to replace the bridge on Transit Road in Murray over the west branch of Sandy Creek.

Union Concrete and Construction Corp. of West Seneca is the low bidder on the project, which is 95 percent funded by the state through the Bridge NY program. The county cost will be $41,986.

The county also expects to soon seek bids on another REDI project – installing about 1,500 feet of rocks along Lakeshore Road in Carlton to protect the road from further erosion. The Lakeshore Road project will cost an estimated $2 million. The county will hire a contractor to re-establish the shoreline, which was eroded from the high water levels in 2017 and 2019.

Big rocks will be brought in for about 1,500 feet of the shoreline by the road, east of Route 98. The project also includes drainage improvements along the road.

Ridership on public transportation plunged about 50% in past year

Photo by Tom Rivers: Bill Carpenter, CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, goes over data for RTS Orleans last week with the Orleans County Legislature. Carpenter said RTS is looking to expand services in the county.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 May 2021 at 11:07 am

ALBION – The ridership was down about half for RTS Orleans and its parent organization, Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

In Orleans, there were 22,670 riders during those 12 months, down from 43,000 the previous 12 months, Bill Carpenter, RGRTA chief executive officer told the Orleans County Legislature last week.

The last fiscal year for RGRTA, ridership was  ridership was 7,689,525. It is usually close to 16 million for an 8-county region.

The Covid-19 pandemic kept many people off the buses, especially when the state was on “PAUSE” with non-essential businesses closed from March 22 to May 28. During those 10 weeks ridership was down 70 percent, Carpenter said.

RTS Orleans has been part of the RGRTA system since 2003. RTS Orleans has 12 employees and 6 buses that drove 159,083 miles from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

RTS took Covid precautions with increased vehicle washing and disinfecting, increased use of PPE with masks required for all drivers and customers, daily employee health screening, and installation of operator barriers and fareboxes.

RTS Orleans operated on a $838,698 budget from April 2020 to March 2021. Fares and contract revenues totaled $16,312 for a net income loss of $822,386.

Government revenue included $85,000 in federal aid, which doesn’t count the $654,556 in federal stimulus funding which is intended to support the operation through September 2024. State funds in the past budget year were $30,173 with $29,166 from Orleans County. The locally collected mortgage tax added up to $241,416 towards the bus service.

RTS Orleans currently has a daily ridership of about 100 with two regular routes in Albion and Medina. Service is for those people traveling within 3/4 mile radius of the route. There is also dial-a-ride available within Orleans County with reservations made at least 24 hours in advance

RGRTA is looking to do a study of 10-12 smaller villages in the eight counties where there currently isn’t much public transportation service. Carpenter told county legislators last week that Holley in Orleans County will likely be part of that study.

RTS Orleans also wants to put a bus shelter in Medina, and the organization is waiting to see if federal funds will be approved for that project, Carpenter said.

RTS Orleans also would like to expand partnerships in the community, providing rides for free for vaccinations, partner with Workforce Development to help more people have transportation to jobs. That could include the agricultural sector, where farmers tend to work out those details themselves. In other counties, Carpenter said RGRTA assists farmers with getting migrant farmworkers to the fields, packing houses and other locations, including the grocery store.

RGRTA also is looking to start a bike share program in Brockport, and that program could be expanded to Orleans County. With that program, people rent a bike, and can go several miles one way and then get a return trip back on the bus. A vendor rents out the bikes.

Carpenter said RTS and the parent organization continue to look for ways to improve the service locally and throughout the region.

“Our biggest challenge us being in a state where people are leaving and not staying,” he said.

Orleans County celebrates Travel and Tourism Week, eager to welcome more visitors in 2021

Posted 3 May 2021 at 7:27 am

Press Release, Orleans County Tourism Department

Photo by Tom Rivers: A flock of geese are in flight in Lyndonville during a sunset over Johnson Creek. The wildlife and rural landscapes are a big part of the appeal in Orleans County.

ALBION – National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW), the annual celebration of the contributions of the U.S. travel industry, will spotlight the critical role that travel will play in driving economic recovery efforts and building the path forward through the theme Power of Travel.

Celebrated annually the first full week in May, NTTW was created by Congress in 1983 to elevate the economic power of travel in the U.S. The 38th annual NTTW (May 2-8) arrives at an opportune moment to recognize the importance to the U.S. economy of initiating a post-pandemic travel recovery.

“NTTW takes on a special significance this year as the travel industry looks to rebound quickly from the pandemic and accelerate recovery efforts,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The past year was incredibly challenging, but we saw the full power of the travel industry on display in the way we united and supported one another through this crisis.”

“Before the pandemic, travel generated $2.6 trillion in economic output, supported 17 million American jobs and delivered a $51 billion trade surplus to the U.S.—evidence of the outsized role the industry will play in America’s broader economic recovery,” Dow said.

Orleans County Tourism is saluting the power of travel by participating in a number of regional and statewide campaigns. The “AGLOW” region is launching their new website “Fresh Air Adventures – New York’s Falls to the Finger Lakes” at www.freshairadventuresny.com this month featuring tourism assets throughout Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties as well as an online trip planner.

This logo used to promote tourism in Orleans County includes the courthouse dome and a boat on the Erie Canal.

Through our association with the New York State Tourism Industry (NYSTIA), Orleans County is participating in a statewide collaboration, “Roam the Empire.” NY’s destination marketing organizations, museums, attractions, and other tourism related businesses are rallying New Yorkers to “ROAM THE EMPIRE” and choose their home state when making their 2021 travel and vacation plans. Organizers of the “ROAM THE EMPIRE” initiative point to the obvious benefits that will result if New Yorkers choose to explore the Empire State and vacation in-state in 2021.

Tourism is the third largest industry in New York State. During the pandemic year of 2020, tourism was inarguably New York’s most impacted industry. By year-end 2020, the tourism industry was devastated:

  • Average annual employment declined 34%, a loss of over 330,000 jobs vs 2019 – nearly three times the employment impact in any other major category!
  • An estimated 56% loss in travel spending and a corresponding 45% drop in tax revenues, the third most severely impacted state in the country!

Orleans County actually fared better than the metropolitan regions due to our wide open spaces, including world class fishing, the Erie Canal, the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and our camping facilities. Campgrounds were filled to capacity throughout the summer.

The total bed tax collected during 2020 had remained on par from 2019 collections, partially due to the popularity of airbnb vacation rentals during the pandemic. Despite losing valuable state funding used to promote tourism in our area, we’ve had to adjust our sails to continue the momentum created when our department was expanded in 2018. The staff at the Tourism Promotional Agency of Orleans County had to think outside the box to market Orleans County on a limited budget in 2020 and looks forward to 2021 when new funding resources become available.

“Despite the hardships of the last year, Orleans County is ready and eager to welcome back visitors and help drive New York State’s recovery efforts, especially for our local restaurants, specialty shops and attractions,” said Dawn Borchert, Orleans County Tourism director. “National Travel and Tourism Week, the ‘Roam the Empire’ and ‘Fresh Air Adventures NY’ campaigns will remind visitors and residents of the incredible contributions of the travel industry not just to our local economy and workforce, but to our community’s identity and culture.”

Please visit ustravel.org/NTTW to learn more about National Travel and Tourism Week; www.iloveny.com to view the opportunities to Roam the Empire; www.freshairadventuresny.com to view local attractions and of course, www.orleanscountytourism.com to share our wonderful tourism assets as we welcome our visitors.

Retiring commissioner commended for leading DSS past 11 years

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 May 2021 at 8:37 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Orleans County Legislator Fred Miller, right, presents a special recognition award to Tom Kuryla during Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting.

Kuryla was praised for more than 11 years as commissioner of the county’s Department of Social Services. He was commended for restructuring the department during his tenure, which lowered the county’s operating costs while maintaining services to the public.

“Tom was able to rebalance our workforce with the changes directed by Albany so that Orleans County was able to reduce the workforce and maintain the required services to our residents,” said Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer. “This unique skill was much appreciated by the County Legislators.”

Tom Kuryla thanks the county legislators and the DSS employees during his brief remarks on Wednesday when he was recognized for his service to the county. He led the DSS since Jan. 1, 2010. He came to Orleans after being deputy commissioner in Seneca County.

The DSS and the county’s Job Development Agency in 2019 were recognized by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance for the county’s success in transitioning people from public assistance to securing employment. The county was honored for its success from 2015 to 2018.

Under Kuryla, the DSS also stepped up efforts with welfare fraud recoveries and cost avoidance. The DSS would often recover about $75,000 in welfare fraud each year and avoid paying out about $1.5 million in unentitled benefits.

“We appreciate all of Tom’s work in Social Services and for working within the system creating positive change in our County,” Welch said. “Tom Kuryla as Commissioner of Social Services brought a balance to the Social Services Department of serving our residents who are in need with an eye and respect for our taxpayers who provide the funds for these services.”

Nearly 100 volunteer for Day of Caring

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Volunteers spreading mulch in the playground at P’raising Kids in Medina included Michelle Kingdollar and Elysa Rodriguez from Western New York Energy; Jim Punch from United Way’s board (center); Kathie Valley with P’raising Kids and P’raising Kids’ director Kimberly Southcott and her husband John.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 2 May 2021 at 8:41 am

The weather may have been cold and blustery, but it didn’t stop United Way of Orleans County volunteers from completing their mission.

Friday was Day of Caring, an annual event sponsored by United Way in which local companies allow employees to take the day off to do projects for non-profits in the county. An amazing 88 volunteers showed up at 8 a.m. at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds, where they were welcomed by United Way director Dean Bellack and enjoyed breakfast pizza and bagels from Papa Thom’s Rockin’ Bagels, along with coffee from HeBrews 5:9 in Albion.

Danielle Figura, Orleans County mental Health director, works in a flower garden at Cooperative Extension on the 4-H Fairgrounds during United Way of Orleans County’s Day of Caring on Friday.

Volunteers came from Baxter Healthcare, ARC Angels, Arc of Orleans/Genesee, Catholic Charities/Tri-County, Medina Sandstone Society, Takeform, Velociti, Albion village office, M&T Bank and Western New York Energy.

Also, as part of Day of Caring, local Boy Scouts on Saturday cleaned up around the canal Culvert on Culvert Road and Lions Park in Medina.

United Way director Dean Bellack welcomed the volunteers Friday morning and thanked them for their efforts. He also announced United Way in 2020 raised more money than in any other year.

“We’ve had some amazing things happen this year,” Bellack said.

He went on to announce the approval for a $450,000 grant written by Nyla Gaylord with Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern to hire a grant writer and second United Way employee for the next five years. Early Friday morning he also shared the news the county’s grant request, written by Robert Batt from Cooperative Extension, was approved for $364,000 to fund the county’s Digital Divide initiative.

Work sites where volunteers spent the day included the fairgrounds, Headstart in Albion and Medina, Arc of Genesee Orleans, Camp Rainbow, YMCA, canal culvert, Ministry of Concern and P’raising Kids Daycare in Medina.

Volunteers performed such duties as weeding flower beds, planting flowers, raking, painting picnic tables and spreading mulch.

Day of Caring is an annual event sponsored by United Way, except for last year when it was canceled due to Covid.

John and Tim Winters, standing, and Rachel Frasier rake and clean up around P’raising Kids Day Care Center in Medina on Friday’s Day of Caring.

Orleans officials say time is right to push for county-wide high-speed internet

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 April 2021 at 7:19 am

$4.1 million would cover gaps in county, give residents option besides Spectrum

Photos by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson speaks to about 25 officials from the county, local towns and the five school districts during a meeting at Tillman’s Village Inn to discuss how to fund broadband internet in Orleans County.

GAINES – A top priority for Orleans County officials the past decade has been bringing high-speed internet to all properties in the county.

Cost has been a barrier to getting the project done.

But now is the time to bring the service to all county residents, County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said on Thursday evening in a meeting with county, town and school district leaders.

“We all need to buy into this,” Johnson told about 25 of the officials during a meeting at Tillman’s Village Inn. “You’re all getting American Rescue funds. So let’s do this together.”

With millions of dollars coming to the county, towns and school districts from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan, the $4.1 million price tag is now manageable, she said.

Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer, said a cooperative effort will make the project affordable to all the municipalities, while meeting a critical need in the county.

The American Rescue Plan will bring $7.8 million to the county, with half expected soon and the other half in a year. The 10 towns in the county will share $4,430,000 with some of that to go the four villages. The federal government hasn’t released how much the villages we get.

The villages are all 100 percent fully covered with high-speed internet. Outside the villages, there are 1,351 addresses that don’t have a chance to hook into the service. There are about 22,000 properties in the entire county.

The five school district collectively will receive $12.5 million in federal funds. However, the districts will be expected to use most of those funds to help students catch up in lost learning during the pandemic, said Mark Kruzynski, Medina’s district superintendent.

The districts today are to receive guidance on how the funds are to be spent, and then have 30 days to submit a plan for how to use the funds. Kruzynski said Medina doesn’t want to make a mistake, using the funds outside the rules and then have to pay the federal government back.

Johnson said the purpose on Thursday’s meeting was to start the conversation among the county, towns and schools in how to fill the gaps in high-speed internet. She said everyone needs to follow the spending guidelines, but she expects there will be flexibility from the federal government.

“This meeting is to get the ball rolling,” she said.

Some of the town supervisors said they still don’t know for sure what their towns are getting in the American Rescue Plan because some of the allotments approved for the towns need to go to villages within those town borders.

John Belson, Yates town supervisor, said the private developer should take on the costs of building out the system.

If that happened, the costs to residents would be exorbitant, Johnson said. Plus, she said, one of the purposes in the funding from the federal government was to address the high-speed internet gaps, which put many students at an extreme disadvantage with remote learning. Many jobs also shifted to home and people couldn’t do them without high-speed internet.

Legislator John DeFillipps said the service is needed to keep the county competitive in keeping and attracting residents. He noted one family from out-of-state was going to build a house in Clarendon but backed out when the site didn’t have internet access.

“The pandemic has shown there is really a deficiency in the entire county,” Johnson said.

The address points currently without access to the internet include: Albion, 74 units; Barre, 302 units; Carlton, 35 units; Clarendon, 57 units; Gaines, 39 units; Kendall, 16 units; Murray, 41 units; Ridgeway, 287 units; Shelby, 206 units; and Yates, 294 units.

Breaking that out in the five school districts the gaps include: Albion, 407 units; Holley, 70 units; Kendall, 30 units; Lyndonville, 385 units; and Medina, 409 units.

David Godfrey, a Niagara County legislator, has worked with Lynne Johnson in the Niagara Orleans Regional Alliance the past decade to try to bring the service to the two counties. Godfrey said the two-county partnership has paid off in getting the attention of RTO Wireless, a company that provided high-speed internet throughout Maine and Vermont.

The local officials have been working for 12 years now to bring high-speed internet to swaths of the county and other isolated spots that don’t have access to the service. The officials also want better overall service throughout the county and some competition for Spectrum.

The efforts have hit stumbling blocks with funding. But all of the leg work, documenting 1,351 addresses without access to high-speed internet, puts the county in a good position now that millions of dollars are available from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan.

A vendor also has stepped forward for the first time to work on the project, not only in Orleans but in neighboring Niagara County. The two counties formed the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance and bringing high-speed internet throughout the two counties has been a priority of the alliance the past decade.

RTO Wireless, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, has already brought broadband to the entire states of Maine and Vermont. It could bring the service to Orleans County for $4.1 million. That includes the 1,351 properties without access and opportunities for the other 20,000 property owners to have high-speed internet from a company besides Spectrum.

RTO builds and operates networks with traditional infrastructure such as towers, rooftops, grain silos and utility poles. The company also deploys AeroSite, which resemble blimps filled with helium.

David Godfrey, a Niagara County legislator, has teamed with Johnson in the Niagara-Orleans alliance to address the service shortfalls in the two counties. He said the two-county partnership is an advantage for Orleans and Niagara in finding a vendor and could pay off with additional government funding.


‘Twelve years ago it was the number one priority and it remains the number one priority. And now we have the funds. This is a necessary utility as much as water, sewer and electric in this day and age.’ – Lynne Johnson


Orleans is pursuing an additional federal grant and also a member-item award through Congressman Chris Jacobs. If that money comes through, the towns and schools would be asked to contribute less to the project.

She said the county is willing to put $2 million towards the effort. That covers 61 percent of the $3.2 million to put in the infrastructure and the net start-up costs to serve all the properties throughout the county.

However, there is additional $878,150 to be borne by the 1,351 properties, at $650 a unit, to hook into the service.

As the rules are known in spending the federal funds, Godfrey said he expects the two counties can use several different pots of money from the government to fund the project, including the hook-in costs to the 1,351 properties in Orleans without any service right now.

After many dead ends in trying to address the internet gaps in Orleans County, Johnson said she is optimistic the issue will soon be resolved.

The local officials will continue to discuss the project, and study the guidelines on spending the federal money.

“Twelve years ago it was the number one priority and it remains the number one priority,” she said. “And now we have the funds. This is a necessary utility as much as water, sewer and electric in this day and age.”

County Leg sets public hearing May 26 to lower deer hunting age from 14 to 12

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 April 2021 at 1:44 pm

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 voted on Wednesday to set a public hearing for 4:25 p.m. on May 26 to pass a local law allowing youths ages 12 and 13 to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow. Those youth would need to be under the supervision of an experienced adult hunter.

The state budget passed earlier this month gave upstate counties the right to opt-in and allow the 12- and 13-year-old hunters.

Youths those ages  already are allowed to hunt deer and bear with archery equipment and small game with firearms. Until now, New York was the only state that didn’t allow 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt big game with a firearm. The state is doing a pilot program until 2023 with the lower age.

Mike Donahue, president of the Orleans County Sportsmen’s Federation, urged the County Legislature to allow the 12- and 13-year-old hunters with firearms or a crossbow – under supervision. Donahue, a hunting safety instructor the past 40 years, spoke during Wednesday’s Legislature meeting.

Legislator Fred Miller, D-Albion, opposed setting the hearing. Miller’s district includes the towns of Albion and Gaines, which he said are populated areas on flat land. He is concerned about people hunting with rifles so close to the village and residences.

County will do housing analysis to guide possible development in the future

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 April 2021 at 11:51 am

Legislator says county ‘35 years behind the times’ with some land use policies

This chart prepared by the Orleans County Department of Planning shows the number of building permits issued for new single-family houses in Orleans County since 2003.

ALBION — The Orleans County Legislature approved spending $5,000 on Wednesday for a housing market analysis that could show emerging trends to help guide development and also bring more people to live in the community.

The number of new housing permits for single family residences has dropped from 76 in 2004 and 83 in 2004 to below 30 every year since 2007. The county had 16 permits for new houses in 2017, 17 in 2018 and 19 in 2019, according to data from the Orleans County Department of Planning.

Legislator Ken DeRoller, R-Kendall, pushed for the study. He worries about a shrinking population in the county, particularly with student enrollment dropping by about 50 percent in the past 20 years, from 8,400 in all five public school districts to about 4,300 right now.

DeRoller believes the small towns and rural communities have more appeal to young families and senior citizens since the Covid-19 pandemic, but DeRoller said the county may not have the right type of housing to attract more people.

The market analysis from LaBella Associates will look at supply, demand, relevant demographics and community development.

DeRoller has been a part of local waterfront development committees along Lake Ontario and the Erie Canal. He said he sees big potential in particular for housing along the canal. The market analysis could lead to more development with the desired type of housing in the county, boosting the tax base and bringing more vitality to Orleans.

One of the seven county legislators, Don Allport, opposed spending the money for a market analysis. Allport, R-Gaines, said private developers should do their own analysis. Allport said the real estate has been selling briskly, often over the asking price in the past year.

“It is definitely a sellers’ market,” Allport said during Wednesday’s Legislature meeting.

In Orleans County, the average sale for single-family residences was up from $109,820 in 2019 to $122,313 in 2020, with an increase in buyers from Buffalo, Rochester and other metro areas. That includes 886 listings.

DeRoller said there isn’t enough inventory right now for housing in the county. The market analysis may show local governments need to modify some zoning regulations to facilitate new developments.

The county is “35 years behind the times” with some of its land use policies, DeRoller said.

“This $5,000 (market analysis) gives us a view into the future,” he said.

State Fair will be back but no guidelines yet for county fairs

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 April 2021 at 9:19 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Ferris Wheel, pictured at sunset during the Orleans County 4-H Fair in July 2013, is among the many attractions at the fair.

The New York State Fair will be back in August, with capacity limited to 50 percent, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday.

The governor, in touting the upcoming State Fair, did not mention county fairs, and the state hasn’t released guidance if those events can also continue this summer, and how they can operate.

“We’re all hopeful that it comes by week’s end,” said Robert Batt, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, which runs the annual fair in Knowlesville. This year’s event is scheduled for July 26-31.

The state would need to provide how to measure capacity for county fairs, which are generally held on a sprawling campus.

The Orleans County 4-H fair usually draws 25,000 to 30,000 people during its week-long run in late July. Last year the county fairs and State Fair were all cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Every fair is working through the difficult decisions and new challenges that our volunteers and partners are concerned about,” Batt posted on the Orleans County 4-H Fair’s Facebook page. “We really do hope to make it happen and are waiting to see just what we can do to bring the fun.”

The State Fair will be back Aug. 20 to Sept. 6 with live music and entertainment, Midway rides, and agriculture education and awareness in four different, concurrent festivals. They will take place exclusively in the outdoor areas of the fairgrounds in Syracuse.

“This celebration is a unique reward for New Yorkers who have made so many sacrifices during this pandemic and will allow visitors from across the state and the country to enjoy some of the best attractions the Fair has to offer with all necessary safety guidelines in place,” Cuomo said on Monday during an announcement at the fairgrounds. “This is an important step towards the full return of New York’s largest events as we continue to reopen and reimagine our state’s economy.”

Nicole Mrzywka, left, and Will Trembley hand out trophies last July 27, 2019 during the Orleans County 4-H Fair.

At the State Fair this year the fairground’s buildings will not be open to the public, except for bathrooms. Attendees will be required to observe social distancing and wear masks, except when eating or drinking.

People buying food and drinks will be asked to sit while they eat and drink, and ample tables and dining spaces will be made available. Midway rides, games and attractions, as well as all surfaces of frequent customer contact will be rigorously and frequently cleaned and sanitized, according to the Governor’s Office.

Tickets will be sold for each of the outdoor areas, so families can decide which areas they want to visit and plan their day accordingly. To ensure capacity limits and social distancing, attendance at concerts and other live performances will be limited.

The Genesee County Ag Society, which is planning a July 24-31 fair in Batavia, said it is encouraged that the State Fair is going forward. The Genesee fair last year held livestock shows and looks forward to expanding what is offered this year.

“We are hoping that, in the near future, the Governor and his office will be addressing how the County Fairs should proceed, so that we can move forward with some great entertainment and Livestock shows for our community,” the Genesee County Ag Society said in a news release.

Volunteers will tackle trash today at several community cleanups

Photo courtesy of Samantha Zelent: This group of Holley Interact Club members have on Earth Day shirts. They will be out today with the Holley Rotary Club picking up trash and debris from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at part of the state-wide Canal Clean Sweep.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 April 2021 at 8:12 am

Many volunteers will be out in Orleans County today in community cleanup events that are held annually near Earth Day. Some of the events are part of the state-wide Canal Clean Sweep.

HOLLEY – A group from Holley will be out for the Canal Clean Sweep from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. That includes about 30 students in the Holley Interact Club, 13 school staffers and 10 Rotary Club members. They will be picking up trash along the canal and also hitting spots in the village.

They will meet at the Holley Gazebo and walk along the Erie Canal to the bridge at Bennetts Corner Road, cross the bridge and walk along the canal to the lift bridge and return to the gazebo.

ALBION – In Albion, there will be a Canal Clean Sweep today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers are welcome to show up at Tinsel on Main Street by the lift bridge, where trash bags and gloves are provided.

The Albion Lions Club also is doing an environmental cleanup today and will be hitting several spots in the community.

MEDINA – There are two spots in Medina for the Canal Clean Sweep today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. One group led by Colleen Brakenbury will meet at the Prospect Avenue Bridge and go from there to the State Street canal bridge.

The Medina Rotary Club will work on the area from the Marshall Road bridge, taking the path west to Fruit Avenue.

The Medina Lions Club is planning its annual environmental cleanup day on May 1. Volunteers will pick up trash from Medina village parks and streets, and spread mulch along the north bank of the canal in the village. A group on that day will also pick up debris at the Canal Culvert, a popular spot where motorists can drive under the Erie Canal.

KENDALL – In Kendall today the Lions Club is spearheaded the annual community cleanup day. Volunteers meet at the town highway garage at 9 a.m. on Crandall Road and then disburse until noon. The Lions Club will be joined by scouts, high school seniors, and church and community groups in picking up trash along the roadways.

When fair returns, no more grease pole

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 April 2021 at 7:17 am

Insurance company nixes popular event at Orleans County 4-H Fair

Photos by Tom Rivers: Jacob Golding of the Doughboys nears the top of the grease on July 26, 2019 at the Orleans County 4-H Fair. For about 40 years, the grease pole climbing challenge was a very popular event to conclude busy days at the fair. The Doughboys started to slip on this day and weren’t able to get another team member to the top. They battled for several minutes before toppling in front of a big crowd of several hundred people.

KNOWLESVILLE – One of most popular events at the Orleans County 4-H Fair has been banned by the fair’s insurance company.

The grease pole draws big crowds each night to watch teams try to reach the top of a 20-foot-pole slathered in grease. The teams often slip and struggle, and many don’t complete the challenge. It is a fun spectacle for the crowd, which tends to offer encouragement to the teams.

The Grease Monkeys competed in the grease pole climbing competition three days at the fair in July 2019, getting better each time. The first night on Wednesday they didn’t get to the top. Friday they qualified for the finals. Brian Smith is the base for the team, followed by Colton Chappius, Jacob Golding and Jakob Hering.

There have been sore necks and backs, but no one has ever needed First Aid in the 40 or so years of the competition, said Robert Batt, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, which runs the fair.

He was notified about a month ago the insurance company would no longer allow the grease pole. Niagara County was trying to start the grease pole at its fair and told the insurance provider Orleans has long had the popular competition.

The insurance company rejected Niagara’s request, and also told Orleans it would have to end the event.

“It’s a total bummer,” Batt said.

An insurance company stopped the grease pole in the early ’80s, back when the event was held closer to Route 31 near the Trolley Building. After a few years, the insurance provider gave it another chance. The pole was relocated to the volleyball court with a softer surface on the west side of the fairgrounds.

The event has been a rite of passage for many 4-H’ers who join a team when they turn 18. Batt was among the 4-H’ers who gave it a try.

Batt didn’t know of another fair that had the grease pole. It was a daring event in a fair that doesn’t have a demolition derby and doesn’t allow alcohol.

“I had never seen it at any other places,” Batt said. “It’s something maybe we could try to get back into in a few years.”

The fair is coming up with a new challenge that Batt thinks will be a crowd-pleaser. Teams of two will need to push a giant round hay bale in a circle.

Jeremy Neal, the grease pole chairman, is heading the effort of the new challenge. He is experimenting on the course and size of the hay bales.

“We are testing it to make sure a person can do it,” Batt said. “We want it to be challenging. It won’t be easy.”

The hay bale rolling event will be open to competitors 16 and older. That is 2 years younger than the cutoff for the grease pole.

It will be easier for people to form teams because they won’t need as many members, and they won’t destroy shirts and jeans from the event like with the grease pole. They also won’t have to worry about gobs of grease getting in their hair.

Andrew Jones of Kent enjoys conquering the grease pole with the Troll Diggers on July 27, 2019. The Troll Diggers won the last four grease pole titles. Last year’s event wasn’t held due to the fair being cancelled due to Covid-19. The Troll Diggers in 2019 included team captain Jeff Ebel, Lyssa Jones, Nathaniel Jenks, Alyssa Ebel, Isaiah Jenks, Zach Kimmel and Andrew Jones.

This year’s fair – ‘a lot of unknowns and questions’

Regarding this year’s fair, scheduled for July 26-31, Batt said the fair officials are waiting for guidelines from the state Department of Health.

The fair committee is planning for a range of versions of the fair – from a small scaled down version with livestock shows, 4-H exhibits and drive-through dinners to a nearly full fair with rides and lots of entertainment.

“I’m as hopeful as hopeful can be,” Batt said. “But right now there are a lot of unknowns and questions.”

Joe Clark holds on tight as the second guy up for “The Barn Animals,” one of the teams that competed in the grease pole on July 29, 2017. Most of the team members are parents of kids who show animals at the fair, or are long-time 4-H members. The Barn Animals couldn’t quite get to the top of the pole.

Alex Graff, a Medina native, was covered in grease, but had a great time during the grease pole championships on July 27, 2013 to cap off the Orleans County 4-H Fair. Steven Papponetti is trying to climb of Graff’s shoulders. Graff and Papponetti are members of the Rough N Ready team. They weren’t able to reach the top of the pole on Saturday.