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Orleans County

Dispatcher retires after 33 years of service

Photos by Tom Rivers: Bill Oliver works his last day in the office as a public safety dispatcher today.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2019 at 4:01 pm

Bill Oliver praised for being ‘level-headed’ in demanding job

ALBION – Bill Oliver was commended by his co-workers today on his last day of work as an Orleans County public safety dispatcher.

Oliver has worked as a dispatcher for 28 years, following five years as an Albion police officer. Oliver made the switch to dispatch after having a brain tumor removed in his late 20s. Three weeks after brain surgery, he took the exam to be a dispatcher and passed.

He has earned the respect of his co-workers and the first responders in the community. Many stopped by the Sheriff’s Office today to thank him for his professionalism in dispatch.

“He is very level-headed, very calm and patient with people,” said Allen Turner, 9-1-1 communication director for Orleans County.

Oliver, 63, of Medina said he has enjoyed working with the dispatchers, firefighters, police officers and other community members.

He fielded numerous calls for people reporting fires, crimes and lost pets. Others would call wondering about the start times for community events, or seeking random information.

Increasingly, in recent years, Oliver said he would get more calls for people in a mental health crisis. He was able to talk one person down from wanting to commit suicide, and connected that person to help.

One particularly memorable call for Oliver was on Sept. 4, 2001, when Medina Lt. Michael Russell was shot on duty at Rosenkrans Pharmacy. Oliver was the dispatcher on duty, who directed first responders to the scene.

When he started as a dispatcher, there weren’t computers in the office or cell phone calls coming in to dispatch.

The 9-1-1 center was also at the jail. It moved about 20 years ago to the Public Safety Building on Route 31. The technology today is far more advanced, and dispatchers can quickly send detailed information to law enforcement officers in the field, Oliver said.

“The job has become more specialized,” said Undersheriff Chris Bourke, who worked in dispatch near the start of his career.

The incoming calls run the gamut, Bourke said.

“You never know what that call will be,” he said.

The dispatchers deserve appreciation from the community for their important work.

“They’re the bridge between victims and the first responders,” Bourke said. “They feel the same stresses as law enforcement officers because they have people’s lives in their hands. We wouldn’t be able to do our jobs without the public safety dispatchers.”

Bill Oliver is pictured with some of his colleagues in the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, including, from left: Sgt. Don Draper, Undersheriff Chris Bourke, 9-1-1 Communications Director Allen Turner, Oliver, and Chief Deputy Michael Mele.

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Orleans accepting applications until Dec. 16 for chief administrative officer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 December 2019 at 8:54 am

ALBION – The county is accepting applications until Dec. 16 for the next chief administrative officer of the county government, a $71 million operation with 415 employees in 24 departments.

Chuck Nesbitt has served as CAO for the county for 14 ½ years, leading the county through several major building projects, including the recent $11 million addition to the County Administration Building.

“We’re not going to hire just anybody,” said Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the County Legislature. “It has to be the right person.”

The county is being assisted in the search for Nesbitt’s successor by Ian Coyle, the Livingston County administrator.

Johnson said several candidates have already applied for the position, which is advertised for a salary of $100,000 to $125,000. Click here to see the job posting.

Coyle and Jack Welch, the county’s personnel director, will work to narrow the applicants to three to five who will then be interviewed by county legislators.

Nesbitt is taking a job with Wendel, an architectural and engineering firm. He will help Wendel expand its customer base in the Rochester and Syracuse area. Nesbitt will be a resource for local and state governments tackling building projects and infrastructure upgrades.

Nesbitt is well regarded in the county government circles. He just finished his tenure as president of the New York State Association of Counties. He served as president of the NYS Association of County Administrators and Managers from 2008 to 2018.

He has worked to reimagine the county government in Orleans County. That includes a merged health department with Genesee County, the only two-county public health department in the state.

The key responsibilities for chief administrative officer include preparation of the county budget, developing long-range capital improvement budgets, purchasing oversight, labor relations management, property control

and risk management, intergovernmental relations and legislative advocacy, public information officer duties, and general oversight of departments and the coordination and administration of county government functions and activities.

Nesbitt’s last day on the job is Dec. 31. Johnson said department heads will likely assume some of the CAO duties in the transition to a new CAO. Johnson also will have to fill some of the duties.

She is hopeful a new CAO will be in place in February.

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County approves 2020 budget totaling $71.7 million

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 December 2019 at 8:24 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday unanimously approved a $71,711,638 budget for 2020, which is up 1.0 percent from the $71,031,480 in 2019.

The budget increases taxes by 2.5 percent or $439,455 to $18,009,699 in 2020. That remains under the tax cap because the county had some carryover from prior years when it was under the cap.

Although the tax levy – what the county collects in taxes – will increase by 2.5 percent, the tax rate is going down by 23 cents, from $10.10 to $9.87 per $1,000 of assessed property. That’s because of growth in the county’s tax base. Assessed values are up 4.93 percent or by $85.7 million – from $1.74 billion in 2019 to $1.82 billion in 2020.

County officials needed to include about $350,000 in additional costs to meet state mandates for new criminal justice programs with bail reform and discovery laws. The state didn’t provide funding for those initiatives. The county will need to add four new positions – two in the District Attorney’s Office and two in Probation – to meet the new requirements that start Jan. 1.

The county could have covered those costs with the estimated $400,000 in new sales tax revenue on internet purchases. But the state instead is requiring the county to pay $290,000 to towns and villages in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities. AIM is a state program that the governor and State Legislature decided will be partially funded by counties through their sales tax.

The budget maintains services provided by 430 full- and part-time employees. The budget keeps school resource officers at Kendall and Lyndonville school districts. (Those districts reimburse the county for providing officers at the schools, which started in 2018.)

The county budget also will invest $3.85 million infrastructure with road maintenance and bridge and culvert work, Nesbitt said in a budget message.

The budget keeps the same level of funding in 2020 as 2019 for several agencies that provide services in the community: Cornell Cooperative Extension, $240,000; Orleans Economic Development Agency, $190,000; Soil & Water Conservation District, $92,500; four public libraries, $10,000 combined; Sportsmen’s Federation, $4,000; and Geneses-Orleans Regional Arts Council, $3,000.

The fee for solid waste and recycling service will be $212, which is the same as 2019. That cost is holding steady as the county transitioned to larger recycling totes this year, which are picked up every two weeks instead of weekly.

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County Legislature backs NY’s lawsuit against IJC over damages from lake flooding

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 December 2019 at 6:12 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Legislator John DeFilipps, who owns a house on the lakefront in Carlton, states his support for a lawsuit against the International Joint Commission, a Canadian and American group that is charged with managing lake levels.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature went on the record today in support of the state’s lawsuit against the International Joint Commission.

State Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo last filed an expanded lawsuit against the IJC for failing to implement its flood protocol. The state is seeking at least $50 million in damages.

The county isn’t joining the lawsuit, but is stating its support for the state’s legal action. The county has about 25 miles of shoreline in Yates, Carlton and Kendall and many of the homes have had their property eroded from the high waters.

“We need to send the message,” said Ken DeRoller, a county legislator from Kendall. “They aren’t letting enough water out early enough.”

DeRoller said he is concerned the lake is currently 15 inches higher than it was a year ago on this date. Ice jams in Montreal make it difficult to let out water, he said.

County Legislator Don Allport of Gaines cast the lone no vote on the resolution today. He called the lawsuit from the state, “a publicity stunt.”

“This is not a solution,” Allport said. “This is just taxpayer money being thrown around.”

County Legislator John DefIlipps, who has a home by the lake in Carlton, said the county should show its support of the lawsuit being pushed by the state.

“Anything we can do to get these lake levels down we should do,” he said.

The Legislature’s resolution said the high water in 2017 and 2019 “caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage to the infrastructure, roads, homes and businesses along the lake shore of Orleans County.”

Copies of the resolution will be forwarded to Governor Cuomo; Senator Rob Ortt; Assemblyman Steve Hawley; Assemblyman Mike Norris; Towns of Kendall, Yates and Carlton; and Niagara, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga, Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.

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State mandates with criminal justice push up county taxes

Photos by Tom Rivers: Orleans County officials held a public hearing on the county’s proposed budget on Monday evening. From left include county legislators Skip Draper and Don Allport, county attorney Kathy Bogan, Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt, Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson, Clerk of the Legislature Nadine Hanlon and County Treasurer Kim DeFrank.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 December 2019 at 9:50 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature and department heads have put together a proposed county budget for 2020 that just barely stays below the tax cap, while funding an additional $350,000 in costs to meet state mandates for new criminal justice programs.

If the state had fully funded those programs, the county’s budget would have had a tiny tax increase.

County officials went over the budget during a public hearing on Monday in the legislative chambers in the new addition to the County Administration Building.

Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Legislature, said state mandates strain the county budget.

Taxes will increase by 2.5 percent or $439,455 to $18,009,699 in 2020. (The county had some carryover from prior years that it can use to stay below the tax cap, which is usually about a 2 percent threshold.)

Although the tax levy – what the county collects in taxes –would increase by 2.5 percent, the proposed tax rate would decrease by 23 cents, from $10.10 to $9.87 per $1,000 of assessed property. That’s because of growth in the county’s tax base. Assessed values are up 4.93 percent or by $85.7 million – from $1.74 billion in 2019 to $1.82 billion in 2020.

The county’s costs for the new criminal justice statues for bail reform, Raise the Age and discovery laws are an estimated $350,000, with no state funding. The county will need to add four new positions – two in the District Attorney’s Office and two in Probation – to meet the new requirements that start Jan. 1.

The county could have covered those costs with the estimated $400,000 in new sales tax revenue on internet purchases. But the state instead is requiring the county to pay $290,000 to towns and villages in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities. AIM is a state program that the governor and State Legislature decided will be partially funded by counties through their sales tax.

“Nice guys finish last,” Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer, said in his budget message on Monday.

Total spending in the budget increases 1.0 percent to $71,711,638, up from the $71,031,480 in 2019.

Nesbitt said the budget meets a goal of county officials in keeping staying within the property tax cap, while maintaining services provided by 430 full- and part-time employees. The budget keeps school resource officers at Kendall and Lyndonville school districts. (Those districts reimburse the county for providing officers at the schools, which started in 2018.)

The county budget also invests $3.85 million infrastructure with road maintenance and bridge and culvert work, Nesbitt said in a budget message.

The budget also includes a $150,000 increase in community college chargebacks.

The budget keeps the same level of funding in 2020 as 2019 for several agencies that provide services in the community: Cornell Cooperative Extension, $240,000; Orleans Economic Development Agency, $190,000; Soil & Water Conservation District, $92,500; four public libraries, $10,000 combined; Sportsmen’s Federation, $4,000; and Geneses-Orleans Regional Arts Council, $3,000.

The fee for solid waste and recycling service will be $212, which is the same as 2019. That cost is holding steady as the county transitioned to larger recycling totes this year, which are picked up every two weeks instead of weekly.

The budget also calls for 2 percent raises for the seven county legislators. Their pay will go from $18,133 to $18,496 for the chairwoman, $13,711 to $13,985 for the vice chairman, and $12,087 to $12,329 for the other five legislators.

A special meeting of the Orleans County Legislature to adopt the budget is scheduled for Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at the Legislative Chambers, 14016 Route 31, West, Suite 200, Albion.

The 2020 budget is the 15th budget Nesbitt has worked on as the county’s CAO and budget officer. He is leaving after this month for a job in the private sector.

“I just want to say how much I’ve appreciated working with all of you,” Nesbitt told the county legislators and about 15 department heads at the budget hearing.

Lynne Johnson, the Legislature chairwoman, said Nesbitt leaves the county is a solid financial position.

She praised the department heads for submitting budget requests that were “reasonable and practical” and “not a Dear Santa letter.”

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Modern will resume trash pickup on fire lanes beginning today

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 December 2019 at 8:49 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Garbage and recycling on Lakeside Park Road in Carlton hasn’t been picked up the past two weeks. The service is to resume this week.

CARLTON – Modern Disposal has told county officials the company plans to resume garbage pickup on fire lanes this week.

The company didn’t pick up garbage the past two weeks after notifying town officials in Yates, Carlton and Kendall it had safety concerns with employees bringing the big garbage trucks on the narrow roads, which are privately owned.

“Modern will resume service to all residents along Fire Lanes including Sunset Island and Park Ave Extension, the two most critical areas of the Fire Lanes issues,” Joe Hickman, Strategic/Municipal Sales Manager for Modern, said in an email to county officials. “To continue service in these areas, Modern will deploy smaller collection vehicles (collection bodies on a 1 ton chassis platform) which provides our driver improved maneuverability and visibility than that of tradition refuse and recycling collection vehicles.”

The county manages the garbage and recycling contract with Modern. The contract will need to be modified to reflect the company’s increased costs with using smaller trucks for the service, Hickman said in his email.

“Modern recognizes that Fire Lanes are private property maintained by residents and private contractors,” Hickman said. “If the conditions of any Fire Lane become compromised due to weather or other factors, Modern’s drivers will decide on a ‘go or no go’ to service.”

Any “no go” situations will be reported to Modern’s Customer Service Department who will share the information to both county and town officials, Hickman said.

Modern will meet with town and county officials on Dec. 9, with a goal to have an agreement that satisfies all parties’ concerns and requirements. Hickman said the goal is to have a new program serving residents on the fire lanes by March 1.

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County approves $650K in bids to build 4 new radio towers

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 November 2019 at 9:53 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has approved $656,757 in construction bids for four new radio towers.

The Legislature last week accepted a $557,707 bid from Upstate Tower Construction in Bethesda, Md., to erect the four radio towers.

The Legislature also approved a bid for $99,050 to the Orleans County Highway Department to do the site work for the four towers. The project was rebid and the proposal from the Highway Department helped reduce the cost.

Three of the towers will be 180 feet high and they will be located by the Public Safety Building on Route 31 in Albion, Millers Road in Yates near the water tank, and at the Kendall Central School near the bus garage.

The other tower will be 150 feet high and will be near the Holley water tank on Route 237.

The towers are part of a $6 million project to upgrade the emergency communication system in the county. The state awarded Orleans a $5,897,141 grant for four new towers, accompanying communication shelters, technology to connect separate radio systems and new radio channels. The project will strengthen communications between multiple jurisdictions and agencies.

Because the towers are under 200 feet in height, they won’t be lighted, said Dale Banker, the county’s emergency management director.

The new towers and equipment are part of an upgrade to the emergency communications system, which serves firefighters, law enforcement, highway employees, probation and some other municipal workers in the county.

The system currently has poor coverage in the Holley area, along Lake Ontario and some other isolated locations in the county, especially in buildings with thick walls.

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State approves paying county nearly $600K for courthouse maintenance, security

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 November 2019 at 6:16 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: The main courtroom in the Orleans County Courthouse is pictured recently. The courthouse was built in 1858.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature and the NYS Unified Court System have approved contracts for the county to provide maintenance and security for the County Courthouse, with the state providing nearly $600,000 in annual funding.

The Legislature last week approved a one-year renewal agreement with the NYS Unified Court System for Court for cleaning and minor repairs for the courthouse for $244,125, which runs from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.

The Legislature last month also approved a five-year agreement between the Sheriff’s Office and the NYS Unified Court System to reimburse the county for security personnel assigned to the county courthouse. The agreement goes from April 1, 2019 through March 31, 2024.

The state will pay a maximum $344,704 for security from April 1, 2019 through March 31, 2020.

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Public Defender will move to vacated space in County Clerks Building

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 November 2019 at 3:08 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: The County Clerks Building is located in the historic Courthouse Square in Albion at 3 South Main St. The county in late June moved the legislative offices from the top floor to a new addition to the County Administration Building on Route 31.

ALBION – The vacated space in third floor of the County Clerks Building will soon have be the office space for the Public Defender’s Office.

The top floor for many years served as the meeting room for the County Legislature and the offices for the Legislature, the Legislature’s clerk and the county’s chief administrative officer.

The Legislature in June shifted to the new addition at the County Administration Building on Route 31. That freed up on the third floor at a time when the state is giving more money for counties to expand the Public Defender’s services.

The public defenders have been using their own private offices, as well as an office in the basement of the County Courthouse.

The Public Defender’s Office needs more space as part of the state’s bail reform law, county legislators said.

The Legislature authorized making the third floor of the Clerks Building available for the public defender, and also to make any needed renovations to meet any state requirements. The county’s Department of Public Works is authorized to make any needed renovations to meet the state standards for the space.

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County Leg approves making highway, buildings and grounds a “DPW”

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 November 2019 at 11:19 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Highway Department, which includes Buildings and Grounds, is now a Department of Public Works.

The County Legislature had a public hearing on the name change last week and on Thursday approved forming a DPW, with the combined highway and buildings and grounds workers.

John Papponetti, the highway superintendent, advocated for the change, saying a DPW better describes the work of the department, which is more than caring for 200 miles of county-owned roadways. Highway workers also maintain other publicly owned lands, including the Orleans County Marine Park. Buildings and Grounds employees take care of county properties, including cleaning the inside of the buildings, clearing sidewalks and maintaining the buildings.

Highway and buildings and grounds used to be separate with their own superintendent. They were combined about a decade ago with the highway superintendent leading both. Together, there are about 30 county employees in those departments.

Papponetti was appointed as highway superintendent on March 27, following the retirement of Jerry Gray. He said the change to DPW should eliminate any confusion in the public, and reflect a streamlined chain of command.

The highway staffs in the local villages are known as DPWs. The towns in Orleans County all call them “Highway Departments.”

With the town highway departments, the superintendents are all elected. The DPW leaders are all appointed by the Village Boards. At the county level, the position is made by appointment of the County Legislature.

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