Orleans County

Union for county jail employees opposes HALT Act

Posted 19 May 2022 at 9:38 am

‘Due to the HALT Act, we have lost the ability to isolate predatory inmates from the rest of the incarcerated population and we have lost the ability to enforce safety and security rules in these facilities.’

File photo by Tom Rivers: The Orleans County Jail is located on Platt Street in Albion and has a capacity for 82 inmates.

Editor’s Note: Council 82 is the union that represents the Orleans County Sheriff’s Employees Association, which includes corrections officers, dispatchers, civil clerks and jail cooks.


Press Release, NYS Law Enforcement Officers Union, Council 82

ALBANY – The Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, also known as HALT Act, has been in effect since March 31, 2022. It has been an absolute disaster for every correction facility across this state, and it is only getting worse.

Correction officers who work in state prisons and in county correctional facilities are being physically assaulted at vastly increased rates. The HALT Act has made it impossible for those of us who are sworn to protect the safety and security of every incarcerated individual to do so.

In our profession, until recently, we had the ability to protect incarcerated individuals from other incarcerated individuals who assault, bully, and extort them.

Due to the HALT Act, we have lost the ability to isolate predatory inmates from the rest of the incarcerated population and we have lost the ability to enforce safety and security rules in these facilities. The advocates who lobbied for the horrible HALT legislation may have had the best intentions, but in fact the HALT Act has created a far more dangerous situation for incarcerated individuals and the officers who must protect them.

The HALT Act as currently written, provides no mechanism to lock-in an incarcerated individual who uses their HALT-required hours out of their cell to threaten, harass, assault and extort other incarcerated individuals and staff.

“We implore Governor Hochul and the State Legislature to take immediate steps to correct this dangerous, unsustainable, and worsening situation – either through outright repeal of the HALT Act or through its significant amendment. The individuals who work and the individuals who are housed in these facilities deserve better,” said Ronald Walsh, President of Council 82.

Council 82 represents over 3,000 correction officers, police officers, deputy sheriffs, emergency dispatchers, and other public safety personnel across New York State.

Town justices push back against district court idea in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 May 2022 at 9:53 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: Dawn Keppler, Shelby town justice, speaks to county legislators recently, saying a district court would be costly to local taxpayers with less accountability.

ALBION – Town justices in Orleans County say they run courts at a much lower cost with more accountability to the public than a district court.

However, a district court could provide more equitable justice over multiple municipalities. That is what District Attorney Joe Cardone and Public Defender Joanne Best see as a leading factor in taking a serious look at a district court in Orleans County. That court would serve at least two towns. It could  be set up on the western end of the county, central and eastern. Or maybe the east side and west side of county.

“We’re just trying to find the best way,” Cardone said during a meeting on April 27 with county legislators and many of the local town justices. “We want to ensure justice is fair for everyone in the county. It would be remiss to not look at it. That’s why we’re entering this debate and discussion.”

Murray Town Justice Ted Spada sees much bigger court costs with salaries for the judges, clerks and security as well as upgraded court facilities.

Town justices however see a much higher expense for operating the court if it’s a district court instead of town court.

Ted Spada, a Murray town justice, presented financial numbers from the current town courts and projections for a district court. A district court judge’s salary would eb about $200,000, plus $90,000 in benefits. Court clerks are about $80,000 a year, plus $36,000 in benefits. The clerks in the town courts work about 200 hours a week so Spada said district courts throughout the county would need at least six court clerks.

Stenographers are $200 a day, with security at $270 a day, court interpreters at $1,000 a month, and rent for court facilities at an estimated $30,000 annually. The cost of computers, scanners, telephones, label makers, digital recorders, credit card machines and other equipment have not been included in the cost projections from Spada and the Orleans County Magistrate’s Association.

Spada said a district court would cost $973,726 for one serving the four central towns of Barre, Albion, Gaines and Carlton. That’s four times the current expense of $245,235 for running the courts in the four towns, Spada said. This does not include the costs of infrastructure to bring the buildings up to regulations for a district court.

Two district courts at the west end (Ridgeway, Shelby and Yates) and the central towns (Barre, Albion, Gaines and Carlton) would cost $1,947,452 versus the $451,435 in the actual town budgets for 2022, Spada told county legislators.

If there were three districts courts – west, central and east – The cost would be $2,921,177 compared to $562,127 to operate 10 town courts, and that doesn’t include the building upgrades that would be needed, Spada said.

If there were three district courts Spada said it would increase the county tax rate by $1.58 per $1,000 of assessed property or about 15 percent. The current tax rate is $10.09. The rate has gone up 60 cents in the past 10 years.

“Putting a district court in here would stifle the citizens of our county, plus all the inflation we are dealing with,” Spada said.

Cardone and Best said there would be state funding to bear much of the costs with district courts. Spada said that funding could always be pulled, leaving local taxpayers on the hook.

Best thinks one district court could serve the county. She said the discussion about district courts shouldn’t be considered adversarial with the town justices.

She and Cardone also said they don’t think the cost numbers from the Magistrates Association are accurate and should be scrutinized.

Best urged the group – legislators, justices and others involved in the court system – to keep talking and keep an open mind.

“I think it makes sense for us as a group, as leaders of the criminal justice system, to see what makes the most sense,” Best said.

Lynne Johnson, County Legislature chairwoman, welcomed the discussion on April 27. She said the local governments have made progress in sharing services and costs with the town courts. The number of local judges has decreased from 25 when Cardone started as district attorney 30 years ago to 12 now.

Shelby and Ridgeway share a courts facility at the Shelby Town Hall (with Ridgeway paying $800 a month in rent). Medina and Albion both abolished their court systems about 15 years ago with that caseload shifted to the town courts.

“I appreciate you all coming,” Johnson said during the April 27 meeting. “We need to have more discussions.”

Officials celebrate opening of Point Breeze boat launch

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 May 2022 at 5:34 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

POINT BREEZE – Officials from the Town of Carlton, Orleans County and state Office of General Services and Department of State joined for a ribbon-cutting this morning for the new boat launch at Point Breeze.

The new boat launch opened on April 27. The old one was closed just after Labor Day.

The project was $627,000 and was 95 percent funded through the state’s Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI).

During the historic flooding of 2019, the previous boat ramp was submerged, preventing access to the floating docks, and forcing the boat launch to be closed.

The new launch is raised about 2 ½ feet and will be more resilient in case of flooding and higher lake levels. The steeper ramp also can better accommodate launching boats when the water levels are low.

“It can handle the two extremes,” said John Papponetti, the county’s commissioner of the Department of Public Works.

The project was designed by Wendel, an engineering firm, with CP Ward the contractor.

The boat launch also has a new boat ramp and abutment above high water level, a sloping roadway to the new boat ramp; and regraded remaining portion of roadway.

County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said the boat launch is important for recreational boaters and also for the county’s sportsfishing industry, which has a $28 million annual economic impact on the county.

“This is really the eye of Lake Ontario for Orleans County,” Johnson said about Point Breeze.

She praised the state leaders for making the REDI funding available. There are $17 million of projects in Orleans County that are part of the $300 million REDI program.

Other projects include wastewater infrastructure for Kendall and Hamlin, $9,053,000; Yates Town Park and expansion in Yates, $2,531,000; Lakeshore Road breakwall in Carlton, east of Point Breeze, $2,062,000; Public Town Road Ends/Culverts in Kendall, $1,500,000; stabilizing Lakeside Park Road East in Carlton, $385,000; Fortified shoreline along Lakeside Park Road West in Carlton, $235,000; Thompson Drive turnaround to become beach access in Kendall, $131,000; erosion mitigation at Route 237 right-of-way in Kendall, $40,000; installing markers on submerged structures in Orleans and Niagara, $50,000.

The REDI funding also includes dredging many harbors along the southshore, including Oak Orchard and Johnson Creek in Orleans County.

Jeanette Moy, acting commissioner of the state Office of General Services, praised the local town and county officials for pushing many of the projects along.

The local leaders identified assets “that were damaged repeatedly by high waters,” she said.

The REDI projects show local and state officials working together, Moy said. There are 134 of the REDI projects across the southshore of the state.

Stephanie Wojtowicz, director of division planning for the Department of State, praised the partnerships at the local and state levels to get the infrastructure upgraded and protected.

“You can’t have a resilient economy without resilient infrastructure,” Wojtowicz said.

Legislature issue proclamations for dispatchers, foster care families, older Americans and motorcyclists

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 April 2022 at 5:33 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The County Legislature on Wednesday issued several proclamations, including the one in the top photo that declared May as National Foster Care Month in Orleans County.

Cynthia Stumer, left, the Deputy Commissioner of Department of Social Services and Holli Nenni, the DSS commissioner, accept the proclamation from Legislator John Fitzak.

“We have a responsibility to remain persistent in the charge to provide the best care possible for children when they cannot remain in their homes,” the proclamation states. “During National Foster Care Month, the Orleans County Legislature recognizes the efforts of foster families, social workers, faith-based and community organizations, and others that are improving the lives of our young people in foster care across our county.”

Nenni encouraged people in Orleans Cunty to consider being foster parents.

“During National Foster Care Month we recognize the extraordinary patience and love of our foster parents and concerned professionals whose rewards are often reaped only years after their primary labor is done which is when the child is grown and fully appreciates what has been done for him or her, or when society pauses from its hectic rush forward to recognize the good they have accomplished,” the proclamation states.

County Legislator Skip Draper, second from right, reads a proclamation that declared the week of April 10-16 as “National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.”

Draper is joined by from left Sheriff Chris Bourke, dispatchers Pete Hendrickson and Jerry Bentley, and Allen Turner, director of the dispatch center.

The County Dispatch Center in 2021 answered 64,134 calls and 17,831 calls during the first four months of 2022.

“Telecommunicators help save millions of lives every day,” the proclamation stated. “Emergencies that require police, fire, emergency medical services or other critical services occur twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; and the Orleans County Dispatch Center is the direct connection to those that dial 911.”

Sheriff Bourke said dispatchers are true first responders. Turner thanked the Legislature for setting aside funding to maintain the technology and equipment for the dispatchers.

The Legislature also proclaimed May as “Older Americans Month.” Legislator John Fitzak presents the proclamation to Melissa Blanar, director of the Office for the Aging in the county.

“Orleans County includes a growing number of older Americans who contribute their strength, wisdom, and experience to our community,” the proclamation states. “Communities benefit when people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds are welcomed, included and supported.”

Blanar also thanked the Legislature for providing resources for her department.

“Orleans County recognizes our need to create a community that provides the services and supports older Americans need to thrive and live independently for as long as possible,” the Legislature stated.  “We urge every resident to recognize the contributions of our older citizens, help to create an inclusive society, and join efforts to support older Americans’ choices about how they age in their communities.”

Matt Tracey, vice president of the ABATE chapter in Orleans County, accepted the proclamation from Legislator Skip Draper that declared May as “Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month” in Orleans County.

ABATE this Sunday will have a motorcycle safety rally at 2 p.m. at the Orleans County Courthouse in Albion and then will go on a 50-mile police-escorted motorcycle ride within the county. The ride will end at V.F.W. Post 1463 on East Center Street in Medina.

County sets new record for bed tax in 2021

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 April 2022 at 4:08 pm

$79,102 tops previous high of $58,438 in 2020

Photo by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Legislator Ed Morgan presents a proclamation to Dawn Borchet, the county’s tourism director. The proclamation declared May 1-7 as “National Travel and Tourism Week” in Orleans County. Jack Welch, the county chief administrative officer, is in back.

ALBION – Orleans County set a new record in 2021 for its bed tax, the 4-percent tax charged on lodging for rooms in hotels, motels, bed and breakfast establishments, lodges and rentals in the county through Airbnb.

The county took in $79,102 in the bed tax in 2021. That is up $20,664 or 35 percent from the previous high of $58,438 in 2020.

The bed tax stayed stable in 2020 despite many cancellations in the early days of Covid. But the lodging business picked up in the county the second half of 2020 and the bed tax receipts topped the $58,424 in 2019.

The county added more Airbnb locations in 2021, and a 10-room boutique hotel opened at the Bent’s Opera House in Medina.

The numbers should be even better in 2022 with the opening of the 58-room Comfort Inn & Suites in Medina on March 18.

The county using the funds to boost tourism in the county, bringing more visitors to help boost local businesses and the economy.

Dawn Borchet, the tourism director for the county, said the added funds will allow the tourism department to take out bigger advertisements and other promotions for longer periods. The funds are also matched through the I Love NY tourism promotion efforts.

The motel tax has been on the rise in Orleans County in recent years. Prior to the $58,438 in 2020 and $58,424 in 2019, the motel tax generated $51,002 in 2018. In 2017, the bed tax generated $45,374.

The County Legislature on Wednesday also issued a proclamation in support of “National Travel and Tourism Week” in Orleans County from May 1-7.

Legislators noted that sportsfishing is the county’s tourism attraction, with a total economic impact of $28 million with $5.1 million in local and state tax revenue, according to the NY State DEC Anglers Survey for 2017.

Supportive Care presents annual awards to leading volunteers, supporters

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 28 April 2022 at 8:30 am

Provided photos: Staff of Supportive Care of Orleans posed for a picture after announcing recipients of their three annual awards. Office for the Aging was named winner of the Business and Civic Award. From left are Tammy Graham, caregiver coordinator for the OFA; Meghan Bevins, assistant director of the OFA; and Chris Fancher, social worker and volunteer coordinator for Supportive Care.

ALBION – Supportive Care of Orleans is celebrating National Volunteer Week through April 30 by recognizing individuals who have given their time and talents to support the organization.

Three awards are traditionally given out each year – the Business and Civic Award, the Mary Janet Sahukar Award (named for the founder of Hospice) and the Volunteer of the Year Award.

This week, the Business and Civic Award was presented to Orleans County Office for the Aging for their outstanding dedication and support to Supportive Care of Orleans.

“The Office for the Aging staff are an invaluable resource to Supportive Care,” said Chris Fancher, social worker and volunteer coordinator. “The staff provides vital services, which allow seniors to remain in their homes, living life as fully and independently as possible. They are dedicated partners in caring for seniors throughout our community.”

Beverly Saskowski, left, stands with Julie Kumiega, director of Supportive Care of Orleans, after receiving the Mary Janet Sahukar Award for her outstanding dedication and commitment to Supportive Care.

Members of the Supportive Care social work team reach out to Office for the Aging staff on a weekly basis to coordinate care for their patients, Fancher said. OFA staff always respond in a prompt, friendly and professional manner, and they appreciate all their work, time and expertise, she said.

“Our goal is to embrace those facing advanced illness with optimal levels of comfort, compassion and expertise,” said Julie Kumiega, Supportive Care CEO. “Working with the Office for the Aging makes that easy.”

The Mary Janet Sahukar Award, named for the founder of Hospice, was presented to Beverly Saskowski for her outstanding dedication and commitment to Supportive Care of Orleans.

As a retired IBM executive, Saskowski currently serves on several Supportive Care committees, offering her expertise, and recently worked closely with Supportive Care staff on the technical side of things. Additionally, she serves meals in the Martin-Linsin Residence, dedicates her time to patients and their families as a family support volunteer and participates in every event held there.

“Saskowski’s contribution to Supportive Care has been immeasurable,” Fancher said. “From serving on our board of directors to stepping up and acting as interim CEO, Saskowski consistently goes above and beyond, dedicating her time and energy to ensuring our neighbors in hospice are well taken of.”

“Supportive Care of Orleans wouldn’t be where it is today without Bev’s guidance,” Kumiega said. “She has overseen and been involved in almost every aspect of the organization and is an invaluable resource to us. We are lucky to have her support.”

Chris Fancher, right, volunteer coordinator for Supportive Care of Orleans, is shown with Carol Culhane, local artist who was named Volunteer of the Year during National Volunteer Week.

Carol Culhane received the Volunteer of the Year Award for her hard work and dedication to Supportive Care of Orleans.

“Carol has been a friend of Supportive Care of Orleans,” Fancher said as she presented Culhane with her award. “Not just this year, but for many years.”

A decade ago, back in 2012, as the workers were building the Martin-Linsin Residence, Culhane was in the middle of the construction site creating and hand painting the mural depicting the seasons of life – winter, spring, summer and fall, in what is now the family meeting room. The project involved well over 200 hours of work, and she worked tirelessly as the commotion of construction surrounded her, Fancher said.

“Her kindness is a staple here at Supportive Care,” Kumiega said. “She has made a lasting impression on the entire organization. We are incredibly grateful to her continued involvement ensuring that our residence feels like a home.”

For the last 24 years, Culhane has supported Supportive Care of Orleans by donating ornaments she hand painted and personalized for members of the community as part of the annual Light-a-Life event.

“This labor of love involves hundreds of hours and she absolutely outdoes herself every year,” Fancher added.

Recently, Culhane has agreed to paint another mural in the Martin-Linsin Residence. This one will adorn the walls of the spa room, making the space inviting, inspiring and fun for patients.

“I am so honored to work with someone who’s been supporting hospice since the beginning,” Kumiega said. “Carol is an inspiring individual and we are thrilled to be partnering with her on another project.”

Supportive Care of Orleans extends their thanks to all their volunteers and is currently welcoming new volunteers in all areas of service.

Volunteers took on many tasks during Day of Caring

Provided photos: Volunteers from Velociti and CRFS , who couldn’t take off work on Friday, came to Supportive Care of Orleans County (Hospice) on Saturday to weed and care of the yard and memorial garden.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 27 April 2022 at 1:56 pm

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Emegriz Ryan, left, and Gina Burns, both employees of Baxter Healthcare, hold their goodie bags they received as volunteers for Day of Caring on Friday.

More than 100 volunteers gave up their day Friday to participate in United Way of Orleans County’s annual Day of Caring, and another group volunteered on Saturday to help with the garden at Supportive Care of Orleans.

United Way director Dean Bellack welcomed the volunteers on Friday who then enjoyed breakfast before embarking on their assignments.

United Way’s board president Jackie Gardner added her welcome and thanked the volunteers.

“You have no idea how important the work you are doing is to our agencies,” Gardner said. “I work for Community Action, which is supported by United Way, and we depend heavily on volunteers. We couldn’t do the work we do for the community without volunteers. I come to this event every year and every year there are more of you. I am so humbled by your support.”

Bellack also introduced United Way’s grant writer Matt Holland; Robert Batt, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, who provided the space for meeting; and Katie Leach, coordinator of the Digital Literacy project at Cooperative Extension.

Volunteers came from numerous organizations throughout the county, including Baxter, Orleans Community Health, GCASA, Orleans County Mental Health, Community Action, Albion FFA, Medina Lions, Medina High School, Self Advocacy All Stars, Takeform, Albion Correctional Facility and Medina Sandstone Society.

Volunteers did a variety of tasks, from painting decks and folding clothes to shredding paper and working in flower beds.

Project sites were the ARC’s Camp Rainbow, ARC’s Orleans Enterprises, Community Action, Head Start, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Main Street Store, YMCA, Project Stork, Medina Historical Society, P Raising Kids, Medina Railroad Museum and Bullard Park.

CRFS employees who volunteered at Hospice on Saturday were Steve Mowers (president), Libby Bentley, Dena Pogue and Rose Friedl with her two children. Second from left is Nyla Gaylord, event coordinator at United Way of Orleans County, who arranged breakfast at Hospice for the volunteers.

Emegriz Ryan from Baxter Healthcare said she volunteered last year and had such a good time helping to clean the playground at the former Towne School.

“I like helping people, not only at work, but outside in the community,” she said.

Gina Burns, who came with her, said this was her first year volunteering. She saw the information posted on the bulletin board at work and wanted to help.

“Besides, Emegriz said it would be a lot of fun,” Burns said.

Diana Fulcomer from GCASA was sent to paint at the Medina Railroad Museum. In the past she was volunteer coordinator for the Museum’s Day Out With Thomas, so getting to help at the museum made her feel right at home, she said.

Volunteers from Velociti spent Saturday working in the yard at Supportive Care of Orleans County (Hospice). Velociti members were Desiree Dunn, Brenda Jo Nanni, Hailey Engel, Deanna Mangiola, Dorothy Wilson, Polly Morien and Nichole Lewis.

This year’s Day of Caring was one of the most successful in United Way of Orleans County’s history. Not only did an amazing number of volunteers show up on Friday, but another crew from CRFS and Velociti arrived on Saturday when they were unable to leave work on Friday.

Nyla Gaylord, event coordinator at United Way, coordinated their efforts on Saturday and arranged for breakfast to be served at Supportive Care before they started work.

“We are blessed to have such community support,” Bellack said. “How happy Hospice is because we went to the extra effort to get them a work crew on Saturday.”

Steve Mowers, president of CRFS, led his team which volunteered at Hospice.

“I want them to learn the importance of helping others,” Mowers said.

The group weeded and mulched the Memorial Garden.

“This garden is special to everybody and we want it to be nice,” said Maggie Stewart, director of development at Supportive Care.

“We are so grateful for all of the volunteers who came to help us out Saturday morning,” said Julie Kumiega, director of Supportive Care. “Our volunteers and the community’s continued support allow us to help our neighbors in need.”

Kumiega added they have plenty of volunteer opportunities available during the summer, including the Holley June Fest on June 4, Albion Strawberry Festival  June 9 and 10, the annual golf tournament July 20, Orleans’ Toast to Hospice on Aug. 27, the ninth annual car show Sept. 10 and a memory walk in October.

In addition to Saturday’s special crew, Friday’s volunteers came from Takeform, Self Advocacy All Stars, Albion Correctional Facility, Baxter Healthcare, GCASA, Medina Sandstone Society, Orleans Community Health, Orleans County Mental Health, Community Action, Albion FFA and Medina High School.

Self-Advocacy All Stars painted the shed for the Main Street Store in Albion. Pictured include Tyler, James, Duane, Jonathan Doherty, ARC GLOW employee Karen Appleman and Mike Woodard.

Arts Council to honor the late Lance Anderson, Orleans County YMCA

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 April 2022 at 7:19 am

During the Covid pandemic, Anderson and the Lake Plains Players performers posted many “Living Room Concerts” on Facebook. Anderson performs “Sweet Zoo” by Jeffrey D. Harris from Barbra Streisand’s “My Name is Barbra” album. His video was posted on April 17, 2020.

BATAVIA – The Genesee-Orleans Arts Council will recognize the late Lance Anderson with a lifetime achievement award during the organization’s annual awards celebration on  May 28.

GO Art! also will recognize the Orleans County YMCA as the organization of the year, the Eli Fishing Brewing Co. of Batavia as supporter of the year, and Carol Hertel as the volunteer of the year.

They will all receive “Genean” awards which combines GENesee and OrlEANs counties. The celebration on May 28 will also highlight GO Art!’s 60th anniversary.

Anderson passed away on April 1, 2021. He had suffered a stroke in mid-December 2020. He was very active in the Lake Plains Players as a star performer, director and president of the organization.

Anderson caught the theater bug while a student at Albion in the early 1980s. He went on to a career as a vocal teacher, and remained deeply involved in the local community theater group, the Lake Plains Players.

Anderson was the LPP’s president. He performed on stage, directed many shows, and would do many of the thankless tasks behind the scenes. Anderson led a group that was friendly and accepting to everyone, but also pushed to put on high-quality productions.

He was especially proud of the group for its production of Les Misérables in the fall 2013. Anderson played his dream role of Jean Valjean in a show which included a cast of 78.

Anderson expanded the LPP’s productions in the summer to include recitals and a children’s theater camp.

The Players used to performed their big fall musical in either Medina or Lyndonville’s auditorium. In recent years it has performed just over the Orleans County line in Niagara, using Roy-Hart’s auditorium in Middleport.

Anderson had his heart in Orleans County, and he pushed for other venues for LPP shows, including summer recitals at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina.

The YMCA on Oct. 23 hosted the Mexican Día de los Muertos celebration or the Day of the Dead. The event included Mexican dance, music and dramatic performances by Alma de México, a group from Rochester led by Karla Alcalá.

The Orleans County YMCA is GO Art!’s organization of the year. The Y has embraced artwork on its sidewalks and steps, and also inside in its child watch room. The Y also makes its facility available to host the annual Day of the Dead celebration.

It partners with GO Art! and Mariachi de Oro Restaurant in an event that remembers ancestors, and includes free activities with Mexican crafts, face painting, dance and drama performance, sand painting and ofrenda displays, and special food tastings.

Gas prices down 3 cents in the past week in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 April 2022 at 8:17 am

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Orleans County is down 3 cents in the past week, from $4.38 to $4.35, according to AAA. That price is the highest in upstate New York, and only topped by the $4.377 in Westchester, $4.381 in Rockland and $4.444 in Manhattan.

In New York State, the average price is down 4 cents to $4.18 and nationally the price is down 3 cents to $4.08.

The average price per gallon for regular unleaded gas in Western New York includes Orleans at $4.35, Niagara at $4.231, Monroe at $4.269, Genesee at $4.226, Wyoming at $4.245, Livingston at $4.305, Chautauqua at $4.151, Cattaraugus at $4.135, Allegany at $4.261, and Erie at $4.229.

AAA said the oil supply is increasing with domestic crude stocks up by 2.5 million barrels, followed by announcements that 180 million barrels would be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months and the International Energy Agency would release 120 million barrels from its emergency reserves.

Consumers also should see more relief at the pumps with President Biden saying his administration will temporarily allow E15 gasoline, which uses a 15% ethanol blend during the warm-weather months. The higher-ethanol fuel typically sells for 5 to 10 cents less per gallon than regular gas, AAA said.

Several Canal Cleanup events planned in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 April 2022 at 9:11 am

File photo: Lily Newman and Allison Merle, students in the Holley Interact Club, carry bags with trash along the Erie Canal towpath on April 24, 2021 during the Canal Clean Sweep event. There were 68 volunteers for the project and they covered 9 miles of the canal towpath in the school district, and also picked up garbage and debris along all of the village streets.

There are several canal cleanup events in scheduled in Orleans County. Some are scheduled as part of the Canal Clean Sweep on the Earth Day weekend of April 22-24 and others are in early May.

About 120 of the cleanup events are planned along the canal system for the 17th annual Canal Clean Sweep. Click here for more information.

The local events include:

• Medina Rotary Club will be cleaning up trash and debris on the north side of the canal from Fruit Avenue bridge to Marshall Road bridge from 9 to 11 a.m. on April 23.

• Medina Lions Club will be doing its Environmental Cleanup Day from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on May 7. Volunteers will meet at the Canal Lift bridge on North Gravel Road and then be assigned areas along the canal and village public areas to clean up trash and spread mulch.

• Medina IMPACT Erie Canal Clean Sweep will be from noon to 2 p.m. on April 22. Medina IMPACT Club students will do the service project in recognition of Earth Day. Students will begin at the high school and then walk to the gazebo located in the Erie Canal Basin.

• Tinsel in Albion is coordinating a clean sweep from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 23. Meet at Tinsel at 160 N. Main St. and pick parts of the village to pick up litter.

•  The Doherty family and friends will focus on litter near the Brown Street bridge in Albion from 9 to 11 a.m. on April 23.

• The Holley Rotary Club and Holley Interact Club from 8 a.m. to noon on April 30 will gather with other community members to walk the canal the length that spans the school district. They will cover from the public boat launch on County Line Rd at Route 31 to Transit Rd. Teams will work from bridge to bridge picking up trash. If there are enough volunteers, they will try to cover the entire village for clean up as well. Volunteers are meeting at the Holley High School parking lot and disperse from there.

GO ART! distributes record-high $107K to artists and community organizations

Staff Reports Posted 11 April 2022 at 8:29 am

Another $35K also allocated in ‘restart’ grants to help cultural groups

BATAVIA – The Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council announced $107,800 in grants for artists, community organizations and municipalities to support concerts and other cultural activities in 2022.

The funding is the most ever in the 35 years that GO ART! has partnered with the New York State Council on the Arts. GO Art! distributes the state money through the Statewide Community Regrant Program. GO ART! has now regranted over $1.5 million in the 35 years through regrant programs, which supports local arts and artists in our community.

The Statewide Community Regrant Programs consists of three different grants: Reach, Ripple and Spark.

Reach – The Reach grants provide seed funding to individual artists, collectives and arts organizations for projects and activities that enable Genesee and Orleans communities to experience and engage with the performing, literary, media, and visual arts. Each year the program supports over arts projects, including concerts, performances, public art, exhibitions, screenings, festivals, workshops, readings, and more.

Reach grantees for 2022 include:

  • Orleans County YMCA – YMCA Visual Community Culture, $4,500
  • Village of Albion – Concerts on the Canal, $2,410
  • Lyndonville Lions Club – I Hear the Music, $5,000
  • Cobblestone Museum – The Cobblestone Museum Arts Series, $5,000
  • Village of Holley – Concerts in Canal Park, $2,200
  • Yates Community Library – More than just books, $4,950
  • Village of Medina – Painting of Murals, $3,460
  • Eric Weatherbee – the Humble Bard Presents, $2,500
  • Gilliam Grant Community Center – Collage of Art, $4,450
  • Bergen Historical Society – Silent Film Series, $3,000
  • The Elba Betterment Committee – EBC Presents Art around Town, $2,350
  • Holland Purchase Historical Society – Holland Land Office Museum Guest Speaker and Concert Series, $3,250
  • Genesee Symphony Orchestra – The Genesee Symphony Orchestra’s 76th Season, $5,000
  • Batavia Central School District Foundation – Pop Up Art Show, $1,685
  • Byron Bergen Public Library – Art and Music in Our Community – Enriching Lives Through the Arts, $4,459
  • Batavia Players – 2022 Theatre Season, $5,000
  • Genesee Chorale – Genesee Choral 2022 Season, $5,000
  • Batavia Concert Band – 2022 Summer Concert Series, $5,000
  • Hollwedel Memorial Library – Shake on the Lake presents MacBeth, $5,000
  • Batavia Community Garden – Community Garden in Bloom, $5,000
  • Oakfield Betterment Committee – Labor Daze, $5,000
  • Genesee County Chamber of Commerce – Genesee County Mural Trail, $4,500
  • Woodward Memorial Library – Art on the Go, $1,286
  • Haxton Memorial Library – Talented Thursdays, $5,000

Ripple – The GO ART! Individual Artist Commission (Ripple Grant) supports local, artist-initiated activity, and highlights the role of artists as important members of the community. The Ripple funding is for artistic projects with outstanding artistic merit that work within a community setting.

The Ripple grantees include:

  • Eric Weatherbee – The Humble Bard Magazine, $2,500
  • Mandy Humphrey – Beacon Street Mural, $2,000
  • Bart Dentino – Concert in the Classroom: Can you see what you hear? – $2,500

Spark – The Arts Education Program (Spark grant) supports arts education projects for youth and/or senior learners. Emphasis is placed on the depth and quality of the creative process through which participants learn through or about the arts. Projects must focus on the exploration of art and the artistic process.

The Spark grantees include:

  • Judd Sunshine – Erie Canal Songwriting Project, $3,300
  • Bart Denton – The Spaces Between the Leaves, $2,500

In addition to the annual Statewide Community Regrant Program, GO Art! was given a one-time additional funding opportunity through the Restart NY Regrant Program to provide another $35,000 in grants.

The Restart NY Regrant Program was developed as part an initiative to spur the revitalization of New York’s creative economy. The program was administered through a network of local and regional organizations through a transparent peer panel funding process and was available to artists and organizations in each of the state’s 62 counties.

Through the Restart NY Regrant Program, GO ART!, NYSCA and the New York State Legislature hoped to provide immediate support to promote arts experiences and fuel the reopening and recovery of performance organizations and groups.

Grants opportunities were prioritized for organizations and artists planning live performing arts projects, those planning projects and events that are open to and engage public participation and audiences in Genesee and Orleans counties.

Grantees include:

  • Oakfield Betterment Committee
  • Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden
  • GLOW Out!
  • Gilliam-Grant Center
  • Batavia Concert Band
  • St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
  • The Landmark Society of Genesee County

Chamber’s Home, Garden and Outdoor Show returns with 22 vendors

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 April 2022 at 6:43 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

KNOWLESVILLE – The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Home, Garden & Outdoor Show is back this weekend after the event was cancelled in 2020 and 2021.

The top photo shows Josh Smith, back right, and his brother Joe Smith speaking with people about Josh’s company, Relentless Construction in Clarendon.

The business works on commercial and residential projects. Besides construction, Relentless does spray foam installation and site work.

Most of its work has been outside the county, but Josh said he wants to do more projects in Orleans.

“I know we can make a difference here,” Josh said.

Darlene Hartway, Chamber executive director, greets people at the show today at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

There are 22 vendors at the show, about half of how many normally attend the event. Hartway said some of the prospective vendors are short on help and couldn’t be available for the show.

The event continues on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dubby’s Wood Fired Pizza will be selling pizzas on Sunday, and the Easter Bunny will be available with a photo booth. There will also be a scavenger-hunt style Easter Egg Hunt.

Admission is $3 with free parking. A coupon for free admission is available at Chamber website – www.orleanschamber.com, as well as the Chamber social media accounts.

Counties want state budget to stop grabbing local sales tax

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 April 2022 at 8:27 am

NY takes $400K of local sales tax revenue from Orleans

Counties across the state want the new state budget, which is now nearly a week late, to stop grabbing local sales tax revenues for state responsibilities.

The state annually has diverted more than $300 million in sales tax that should stay with counties and New York City, the New York State Association of Counties reported.

That includes $404,477 taken from Orleans County with $290,276 in AIM-related payments and $114,201 for fiscally distressed hospitals. The AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) is a state responsibility but was changed when the state was reeling in the early days of the Covid pandemic when state revenues took a big hit.

The diverted revenue includes $59,149,715 in AIM and $250 million statewide for hospitals.

NYSAC said the state should stop raiding local revenue, especially at a time when there is so much federal money in the state budget.

In the past three years, the state has taken more than $677 million in local sales taxes to put in the state’s general fund, NYSAC said.

“These are local taxpayer dollars that should be used for meals on wheels, veterans’ services, child care, parks, and 9-1-1 services; not used to plug holes in the state’s financial plan,” said NYSAC President Martha Sauerbrey, Tioga County Chairwoman.

Governor Kathy Hochul in her executive budget proposed eliminating the diversion of local sales taxes to support the AIM program.

The NYSAC Board of Directors last month adopted a resolution asking the state to end this practice.

“Local tax revenue should stay in the community where it is collected,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, president of the NYS County Executives Association. “This is money that is meant to be reinvested in programs that support the people who pay those taxes in their own communities, not footing the bill for state and federal responsibilities.”

Leg leader, in state of county, mourns lives lost due to Covid

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 April 2022 at 5:06 pm

‘Over 100 of our brothers and sisters are gone – lost to Covid-19. We want to honor those men and women as much as we can – the moms, the dads, the sisters, and brothers. No life lost is ever a statistic.’

Photo by Tom Rivers: Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, speaks during a meeting on March 23.

ALBION – Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said the county has nearly recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic, which strained many local businesses the past two years.

“We still aren’t fully back but we’re getting there,” she said.

Johnson gave a “State of the County” at the beginning of the March 23 County Legislature meeting.

The county mourns the loss of 113 residents to Covid-related illness during the pandemic.

“Over 100 of our brothers and sisters are gone – lost to Covid-19,” Johnson said. “We want to honor those men and women as much as we can – the moms, the dads, the sisters, and brothers. No life lost is ever a statistic. They are people – they loved and were loved.”

Johnson said the greatest tribute to honor those lost to Covid “is to show love to our neighbors.”

She praised the 400-plus county employees for continuing to serve residents during the pandemic, and also push forward projects.

“As we have been – since day one of this crisis – county government has an all-hands-on-deck approach to help Orleans through this unprecedented pandemic.”

She commended the Health Department and a team of staff and volunteers for efforts at vaccination clinics.

She praised residents for keeping their businesses going and for starting new enterprises.

“The spirit of innovation and creativity is here – it was always here – now it’s our job to help this spirit to continue.”

The county went from an austerity budget with job cuts at the beginning to the pandemic to a budget with a robust capital plan for new bridges, and upgrades in the county infrastructure, as well as a contract to make high-speed internet available to every address in the county by the end of this year.

“We are building in a way that has never been seen in recent memory,” Johnson said.

She commended the team of county legislators in trying to serve residents. The state of county is strong and getting stronger “with unity of spirit and purpose,” she said.

“Change is constant, and change is inevitable,” Johnson said. “We will evaluate the old to keep the good and rather than fighting change, we must embrace it and shape it and own it – because that is what Orleans County residents do, that is what New Yorkers do and that is what Americans do.”

Orleans unemployment rate of 4.7% is lowest for February in more than 3 decades

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 March 2022 at 4:56 pm

The unemployment rate for Orleans County was at 4.7 percent in February. That is the lowest for the second month since at least 1990, according to the state Department of Labor’s records that go back to 1990.

The 4.7 percent rate dropped from the 7.1 percent in the county for February 2021. In February 2020, the last month before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the rate was 5.8 percent in Orleans County.

For five years, the unemployment rate in February was above 10 percent with 10.9 percent in February 2013, 10.8 percent in February 2012, 10.7 percent in February 2011, 11.2 percent in February 2010, and 10.7 percent in February 2009.

The 4.7 percent for February 2022 is the only time the county’s unemployment rate was below 5 percent for a February since 1990. That as far back as Department of Labor records go on the DOL website.

The county’s labor force of 17,200 in February also is the smallest in the 32 years of DOL data. It was at a high of 21,600 in February 1998 and last topped 20,000 in 2006 with 20,100. It was at 18,100 in February 2018 and declined to 17,900 in 2019, 17,800 in 2020, 17,100 in 2021 and now 17,200.

The February 2022 data reports the unemployed at 800 and employed at 16,400. A year ago in February 2021, about 11 months into the Covid pandemic, there were 15,900 working in Orleans and 1,200 unemployed.

The unemployment rate in the United States dropped from 6.6 percent in February 2021 to 4.1 percent last month. In the state, the rate went from 9.2 percent in February 2021 to 5.1 percent last month, according to the Department of Labor.

Among the four rural GLOW counties, the rates for February include Genesee at 4.1 percent, Livingston at 4.0 percent, Orleans at 4.7 percent and Wyoming at 4.7 percent.