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Orleans County

Orleans County Legislature urges residents to ‘Take 5’ and reach out to neighbors

Posted 31 March 2020 at 9:31 pm

Press Release, Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman

ALBION – Take 5 for New York is a new county-wide campaign that is being launched to encourage Orleans County residents to take five minutes out of each day to call a friend, loved one, or acquaintance who may be alone and feeling isolated during this period of social distancing.

Lynne Johnson

It is part of a state-wide effort promoted by the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC).

“Participating county officials are calling on their residents to take just five minutes of everyday to call on a loved one, friend, neighbor, acquaintance to say hi, check on them, see if they need anything, lift their spirits, and tell them they are not alone, “ said Stephen Acquario, NYSAC Executive Director. “It doesn’t matter what you talk about. You can talk about this crisis or the latest show you are watching. The point is connecting with people in our community who could use it the most.”

This statewide campaign is being launched with the hashtag #Take5ForNY.

The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all the counties of New York State, including the City of New York.

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Comptroller says counties could take big hit in sales tax revenue with business shutdowns

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 March 2020 at 1:34 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: The VFW Post is Medina is among the many places that serve food and alcohol that are currently closed to the public.

Orleans County could see a $1.7 million loss in sales tax revenue due the economic slowdown, according to a report from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The comptroller said county governments will take a hit in their sales tax revenues as many businesses are scaled back or shut down in response to the coronavirus.

The sales tax is used to fund many programs and also helps offset some of the burden with local property taxes.

Orleans County receives about $17 million a year in sales tax and shares $1,366,671 with the 10 towns and four villages in the county.

The comptroller has released a sales tax impact report, offering two scenarios. In a mild recession, Orleans would see a 3.4 percent reduction in sales or about $559,585. In a prolonged recession, the county would take a 10.2 percent hit or $1,704,954, according to the comptroller’s report.

State-wide, counties could see an estimated $2 billion loss in local sales tax revenues due to economic slowdown.

“These revenue forecasts are very troubling for local governments and property taxpayers,” said John F. (Jack) Marren, chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors and president of the New York State Association of Counties. “Counties are on the front lines executing this public health state of emergency, while the state manages it and the federal government supports it financially. We’ve never seen anything like this, ever. Our personnel is exhausted, our resources are scarce, but our spirit to defeat this silent enemy remains strong.”

The report’s estimates do not account for the local workforce related revenue losses, and the costs associated with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, NYSAC said.

“Every level of government is going to feel the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, and local governments are bracing for that loss of revenue,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. “But we are also urging a partnership with the state as we confront the public health threat. We represent the same taxpayer at the local level and we have limited revenues. As the state enacts its operating budget, we ask for flexibility so that we can manage the fiscal impact locally. All units of government need a financial lifeline, and we will work with the state to rebuild the economy.”

The state also will take a huge hit with what could be a $10 billion to $15 billion revenue loss, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

As the state struggles fiscally, it is anticipated that significant state aid reimbursement cuts to counties and local government will follow, and those cuts could be significant, according to NYSAC.

Counties face a quadruple threat of declining local revenues, especially sales tax, but also mortgage recording taxes and hotel occupancy taxes; higher spending necessary to respond to the health emergency; the loss of state reimbursement; and the potential of significant losses for small businesses on main streets that could threaten jobs and the property tax base over the short to mid-term, NYSAC said in a report today.

“We cannot stress enough how uncertain any forecast is,” Acquario said. “The potential spread, severity, and duration of the virus are poorly understood, and expert knowledge is evolving.

“The extent and duration of lockdowns, travel restrictions, and other responses that protect public health but damage short-term economic growth have been increasing as policy makers and public health officials learn more. The stock market has been swinging wildly. Economic forecasters have been rushing to release unscheduled forecast revisions in an effort to keep up with events.”

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Latest population numbers show Orleans has one of steepest drops since 2010

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 March 2020 at 11:13 am

The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest population estimates show Orleans County has one of the largest population declines, by percentage, among the 62 counties in the state.

Orleans County had a population of 42,883 in the 2010 Census. The 2019 population estimate puts the county’s population at 40,352. That’s a drop of 2,531 people. The 5.90 percent reduction ranks 56 out of 62 counties.

Counties with a larger percentage decrease than Orleans include: 57th, Chautauqua, (-5.93%); 58th, Chemung, -6.05%); 59th, Essex, (-6.31%); 60th, Chenango, (-6.48%); 61st, Delaware, (-8.01%); and 62nd, Hamilton, (-8.68%).

The population changes for other nearby counties include:

• Genesee, 4.66 percent drop, from 60,079 to 57,280;

• Niagara, 3.32 percent drop, from 216,469 to 209,281;

• Monroe, 0.35 percent decrease, from 744,344 to 741,770;

• Erie, 0.04 percent decline, from 919,040 to 918,702;

• Livingston, 3.79 percent drop, from 65,393 to 62,914;

• Wyoming, 5.45 percent decline, from 42,155 to 39,859;

State-wide, New York’s population grew by 0.39 percent or 75,459, from 19,378,102 in 2010 to 19,453,561 to 2019.

Upstate declined by 2.00 percent or by 126,830 people, from 6,339,276 to 6,212,446. Downstate grew by 1.55 percent or 202,289 people, from 13,038,826 to 13,241,115.

The data shows that 45 of 50 upstate counties lost population since the 2010 Census. Only three downstate counties had population declines.

The Census Bureau does a population estimate every year. The latest numbers reflect a 12-month period ending last July 1.

The data shows that 50 counties in upstate New York lost 20,846 residents, a decrease of 0.33 percent, while the downstate region lost a combined total of 55,944 people, or 0.42 percent. New York City has lost population the past three years, after a long period of growth, according to analysis by the Empire Center.

International Migration

The Census Bureau also looks at international migration and domestic migration for the counties.

Orleans County added 194 people through international migration for a 0.45 percent growth rate, which ranked 42nd out of 62 counties.

Among the other GLOW counties, Genesee ranked 50th, adding 222 people at 0.37 percent rate; Wyoming was 58th, adding 82 for a 0.19 percent growth rate; and Livingston was 25th, adding 752 people for 1.15 percent rate.

Domestic Migration

Orleans had 2,654 move out, or 6.19 percent of population, the 50th highest rate among the 62 counties.

Among the GLOW counties, Genesee had 2,564 people move out, or 4.27 percent of its population which was 24th highest of the counties. Livingston had 2,841 people migrate away from the county or 4.34 percent, the 26th highest rate. Wyoming ranked 44th with a 5.75 percent migration rate with 2,424 people moving out of the county since 2010.

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County opposes governor’s push for more state control in siting renewable energy projects

Photo by Tom Rivers: A wind turbine is pictured on the Tug Hill Plateau in northern New York.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 March 2020 at 9:22 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has gone on the record opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push for more state control in siting large-scale wind, solar and other renewable energy projects.

The governor on Feb. 21 proposed Article 23 as a budget amendment to speed up the review process for renewable energy projects that are larger that 25 megawatts.

The amendment gives the state more authority in siting projects which can currently take years to get through local and state approvals, often with stiff opposition from the local communities.

Cuomo wants to ensure that complete applications are acted upon within one year, except in the case of certain former commercial and industrial sites, which will be reviewed within six months.

Cuomo proposed creating a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting to improve and streamline the process for siting of large-scale renewable energy projects. The governor said the projects deliver significant benefits to local communities.

“The governor needs to respect home rule,” said Lynne Johnson, County Legislature chairwoman.

The county acted on the resolution at the request of the towns of Yates and Barre, which are both facing large-scale wind turbine projects. Barre also has a proposed 200 meagwatt solar project that includes part of Shelby.

“Home rule should stay at the town level where the government is closest to the people,” said Legislator Don Allport.

Legislators in the resolution approved on Wednesday said removing local home-rule rights could potentially harm local economies and environments.

They faulted Cuomo for introducing Article 23 as a budget amendment after budget hearings were completed, giving state legislators insufficient time to examine the proposal and identify its negative consequences.

County legislators also said Article 23 goes too far “essentially gutting” the current Article 10 process. County legislators say local concerns would be stifled, and local governments will be less likely to receive fair property tax revenues.

The resolution from the county will be forwarded to local state legislators and Gov. Cuomo.

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Leg leader: Quiet downtowns, light traffic are a good sign Orleans heeding call to stay home

Photo by Tom Rivers: There weren’t any cars on East Bank Street in Albion last evening. The governor has ordered most businesses to be closed in the wake of the coronavirus.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 March 2020 at 8:39 am

ALBION – Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said there has been a noticeable drop in traffic in the county in the past week or more. And there are few cars in the downtown business districts.

Normally, that would be a sign of alarm. But Johnson said it is an indication that Orleans County residents are taking seriously the threat of the coronavirus and are staying home.

That has been the message from President Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo: stay home as much as possible to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.

“I am proud of the residents of Orleans County,” Johnson said during Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting. “You drive through Orleans County and see very few cars. The residents are listening to the warnings. They are staying home. They are going out only for necessities. We are being safe. We are being smart.”

Johnson encouraged residents to check in on their neighbors, especially senior citizens.

In Orleans County, three people have tested positive for the virus. There are about 70,000 confirmed cases in United States and at least 990 people have died from the virus in this country.

In Orleans County and throughout the state, schools and churches are closed and the governor has temporarily shut down many businesses to avoid people gathering in groups.

Johnson urged residents to take precautions — social distancing of at least 6 feet apart and to wash their hands frequently.

“The only thing that can devastate our country at this point in time is panic,” Johnson said. “We have better communications than at any time ever before in history. We have a stronger infrastructure than at any time ever before in our history. We have more resources than at any time ever before in our history. Take common-sense measures to protect yourselves and your loved ones.”

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County makes it official in hiring Jack Welch as CAO

Photo by Tom Rivers: Jack Welch smiles during today’s Orleans County Legislature meeting. He was named the county’s chief administrative officer. He has been the county’s director of personnel and self-insurance since 2004. He laughed when one of the legislators insisted he upgrade from a flip-phone.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 March 2020 at 10:01 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature this afternoon appointed Jack Welch as the county government’s chief administrative officer, approving a five-year contract.

Welch has worked for the county since 2004 as the director of personnel and self-insurance. As chief administrative officer, he also will fulfill the roles of the county’s budget officer and risk management coordinator.

The county hasn’t had a full-time CAO since December when Chuck Nesbitt left the job for the private sector. Nesbitt served in the role for 14 ½ years. He had high praise for Welch, who has been a key department head for the county and was involved in the recent $11 million addition to the County Administration Building.

“He’s very sound with numbers and employee issues,” Nesbitt said in a message about Welch.

“He’s had exposure to a lot of the issues and he was one of my main sounding boards over the years. Jack is a smart, competent, experienced public servant who brings a great work ethic to everything he does. I have tremendous confidence in Jack’s ability to navigate the complex challenges ahead. I wish him much success.”

Lynne Johnson, the County Legislature chairwoman, praised Welch for helping lead the county workforce after a state of emergency was declared due to the coronavirus.

“I just want to say in unprecedented times you have risen to the occasion,” Johnson told Welch.

His appointment was unanimous by the seven legislators.

As chief administrative officer, Welch will lead a county government with a $71 million budget, and 415 employees in 24 departments.

The job description posted by the county for the CAO lists key responsibilities for the job as 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.

County legislators praised Johnson, the Legislature chairwoman, for putting in a lot of extra time the past three months, functioning as an interim CAO.

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New county travel guide unveiled

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 March 2020 at 4:02 pm

ALBION — The Orleans County Tourism Department today unveiled the cover of the new travel guide which should be available in print next month. The 48-page guide can be viewed online by clicking here.

The dominant photo on the cover shows a sailboat during a striking sunset. There are also photos of the chapel at Hillside Cemetery near Holley (showcasing Medina sandstone architecture), two kids with large salmon and the Canal Culvert, the only place where traffic goes under the Erie Canal.

The guide has a theme of “Great Lake Adventure & Canal Town Culture.”

The travel guides will be distributed at travel centers and at trade shows, and also many other locations in the county and region.

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County EMO awaiting 900 swabbing kits, 2,500 protective masks

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 March 2020 at 5:43 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Emergency Management Office has ordered 900 swabbing kits to get samples for people to be tested for the coronavirus and 2,500 face masks for law enforcement, firefighters and healthcare providers.

Dale Banker, the EMO director, said today he is hopeful for a shipment this week of the swabbing kits and the N95 masks.

The county hasn’t received any of the swabbing kits that he ordered, but has received 250-300 of the N95 masks.

The swabbing kits have been sought by the Health Department. The N95 masks will be distributed among law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, healthcare facilities and staff at the Arc of Genesee Orleans.

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Health Department director says flu is also a menace this season

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 March 2020 at 7:29 pm

Pettit urges younger people to not feel invincible to coronavirus

In addition to the concerns over the coronavirus, the Public Health Department in Orleans and Genesee counties warn this has been one of the worst flu seasons on record.

Orleans County has 249 confirmed cases up to March 7, including 24 the week ending March 7. In Genesee County, there are 562 cases of the flu this season, including 32 cases the week ending March 7, Paul Pettit, the Public Health director, said during a daily news briefing today.

Pettit has been updating reporters and the community with 4 p.m. press briefings since Tuesday.

Orleans County had its first confirmed case of coronavirus on Thursday. That person over age 60 is currently on vacation out of state. The person likely caught the virus in Orleans and then developed symptoms out of state. The person is in isolation, away from other people.

Genesee County reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus on Wednesday.

Pettit made a point today to tell younger people they aren’t safe from the virus.  In fact, the CDC reports that 38 percent of the people hospitalized in the United States are between the ages of 20 to 54.

“Younger folks can get this,” Pettit said during today’s conference. “Anybody can get Covid-19. We need to remind folks that just because you feel invincible, you feel strong, you can still get Covid-19.”

Younger people could be infected with the virus, but may not be as adversely affected by it as people who are elderly or immune-compromised. However, younger people can still spread the virus around the community, putting others at risk, Pwttit said.

He urged people to practice social distancing, staying at least six feet away from other people.

“Stay home if you’re sick,” he said. “We don’t want folks out and about if you’re sick.”

He urged people to wash their hands frequently, clean common areas such as door knobs, and call ahead to the doctor’s office if they are feeling symptoms of a respiratory illness.

Pettit said the Health Department and Emergency Management Office in both counties are pushing for more swabbing kits so more people can be tested for the coronavirus in Orleans and Genesee counties.

“We are still very frustrated by lack of swabbing kits,” Pettit said. “We’re doing our best and we’re working hard to get those.”

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County will name Jack Welch as new chief administrative officer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 March 2020 at 6:06 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Jack Welch has been the county’s personnel director since 2004.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature next week plans to officially name Jack Welch as the county’s new chief administrative officer.

Welch has worked as the county’s director of personnel and self insurance since 2004. He succeeds Chuck Nesbitt, who left the job in December to take a position in the private sector. Nesbitt held the county’s top administrator post for 14 ½ years.

“It is an honor and privilege to be selected for this position and I am truly blessed to be given the opportunity,” said Welch, a Holley resident and former member of Holley’s Board of Education.

Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, said Welch is well regarded in the county.

“Jack’s reputation precedes him,” she said. “He has certainly risen to the occasion during this unprecedented time with great leadership ability.”

Welch is also well respected among his colleagues around the state. He is the president New York State Association of Personnel & Civil Service Officers.

As chief administrative officer, Welch will lead a county government with a $71 million budget, and 415 employees in 24 departments.

The job description posted by the county for the CAO lists key responsibilities for the job as 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.

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