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Orleans County

Libraries make funding request from county legislators

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 October 2018 at 8:40 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Emily Cebula, director of the Yates Community Library, joined other library directors in asking for a funding increase from the Orleans County Legislature.

ALBION – Directors from the four public libraries in Orleans County made their annual pitch for more funding from the County Legislature recently.

The county currently provides $10,087 to the four libraries – Albion (Hoag Library), Holley (Community Free Library), Lyndonville (Yates Community Library) and Medina (Lee-Whedon Memorial Library).

The libraries would like to receive $1 per resident or $42,883.

The county was giving $29,914 to be shared among the four libraries as recently as 2002, but that dropped to $7,480 in 2003. Since then, the amount was raised to $12,587 in 2007, $13,617 in 2010, and then was cut to $10,087 in 2011. It hasn’t changed since then.

During a budget presentation on Sept. 26, the library leaders’ presentation focused on the services the four sites provide for seniors, from large print books, to concerts and entertainment, to expertise in using computers and technology. In previous years, library directors touted their children’s programming.

Emily Cebula, director of the Yates Community Library, said the libraries are committed to serving everyone in the community, regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances.

“We love our jobs,” Cebula said. “We want you to know we are doing our best for new people in our county and people who have been here forever.”

A funding boost from the county would allow the libraries to maintain a current collection, acquire new books and other materials, and lessen pressure to raise their taxes.

The local libraries will be part of an upcoming community engagement initiative through the Nioga Library System, looking for more ways to engage the community.

The Nioga study will also look at changes in the local communities, including a rising percentage of senior citizens.

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Hochul feels Democratic wave on Nov. 6

Photos by Tom Rivers: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul meets with Orleans County Democrats on Saturday evening during their fall rally at the Elks Club. About 60 people attended the event. She is shown visiting Jim Renfrew and his wife, Robin Dunnington, who hosted one of the first candidate parties in their Clarendon home for Hochul in 2011. Those grass roots events helped her to get elected, despite a strong Republican advantage in the district.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 October 2018 at 10:03 pm

ALBION – Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said Nov. 6 will be a big day for Democrats in the state, and locally a candidate for Congress may do what many thought was impossible only a few months ago.

Nate McMurray may topple Chris Collins in the 27th Congressional District, which is the most Republican-leaning district in the state.

“Lightning will strike twice and we’ll send another Democrat to Washington,” Hochul said Saturday during the Orleans County Fall Democrat Rally.

Hochul pulled off an upset when she was elected to Congress for the District in 2011. But redistricting added more Republicans and she lost a close re-election to Chris Collins in 2012.

Orleans County Democratic Party Chairwoman Jeanne Crane touts the candidacies of Joyce Riley, left, for Gaines Town Board and Kathy Hochul for lieutenant governor. Crane called Hochul, “a Western New York gal.”

Now McMurray, the Grand Island town supervisor, is in a neck-and-neck battle with Collins, according to polling data.

Hochul said more Democrats are energized this election, and more Republicans are reluctant to support Collins, who is under federal indictment for insider trading.

Kathy Hochul said support from Upstate New York was critical in her winning a Democratic Primary last month.

There was a bigger turnout statewide in the primary last month, compared to four years ago when many of the statewide offices were on the ballot. In Orleans County, for example, Hochul received 605 votes for lieutenant governor on Sept. 13 versus the 197 for Jumane Williams.

Four years earlier, when she first ran for lieutenant governor, the turnout was much smaller. She received 297 votes to Timothy Wu’s 103.

This election Democrats are more engaged, and more determined to vote, Hochul said.

“I expect a Democratic surge,” she said. “You can see it and feel it, and I’m embracing it.”

She praised the Democrats state-wide candidates, which include Andrew Cuomo for governor, Tom DiNapoli for comptroller, Letitia James for attorney general and Kirsten Gellibrand for U.S. senator.

The Democrats’ top priorities are investments in jobs, healthcare and education, Hochul said.

She praised the 60 people at the Democrats Fally Rally. She said it isn’t easy to be a Democrat and in Republican-dominated county.

“These are the Democrats I admire the most,” she said. “These are the ones who are most passionate about Democratic values. I admire you for having the courage to step up and say, ‘I’m a Democrat.’”

Joe DiPasquale of Lockport also addressed the crowd on Saturday. DiPasquale is challenging Michael Norris in the 144th Assembly District, which includes Shelby in Orleans County and parts of Erie and Niagara counties.

Joe DiPasquale wants the state to invest more in public education and protecting the environment.

DiPasquale said he will make the environment and more resources in public education his priorities. He worries about high cancer rates locally, and wants Niagara County to stop accepting toxic trash from outside the area.

He sees tourism as an economic driver, especially with the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825.

“The Erie Canal turns 200 in seven years,” he said. “Are we ready?”

Jeannette Riley also asked for support in her campaign for the Gaines Town Board against Corey Black.

Riley said she looks forward to being part of a team to bring down taxes and make homes more affordable.

“Nothing is going to get done by one person alone,” she said. “We need each other. This is my community, and I want to make it a safer place. I want to make it a more welcoming place.”

Riley acknowledged it’s difficult for local Democrats to feel part of the local political process.

“Right now many of us feel unheard and unattended,” she said. “They only way to change that is to get out and vote.”

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County highway doing in-house culvert work

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 October 2018 at 2:59 pm

Provided photos

RIDGEWAY – The Orleans County Highway Department installed big pieces of concrete this week for a new culvert on Culvert Road in Ridgeway, just south of Ridge Road.

The Highway Department made the concrete decking and other concrete pieces for the culvert, and then installed the components.

By not hiring the job out to a contractor, the county saved significant money, county officials said.

Labella Associates did the engineering work, the only outside firm hired for the job.

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State approves $400K grant for Orleans emergency communications

Posted 11 October 2018 at 1:51 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $45 million in state grant funding has been awarded to 57 counties and New York City for emergency communications. The grants include $403,172 for Orleans County.

This funding enables local governments to expand their emergency response capabilities to enhance public safety operations. The 2018 Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant program supports nine Regional Communications Consortiums that focus on improving critical emergency communications across the state, as well as coordination between counties, state and federal agencies.

“In an emergency, every second counts and it’s critically important that first responders have the tools and resources they need to receive information fast to help New Yorkers in their time of need,” Cuomo said. “This funding will help us create a stronger, safer New York for all.”

The State Interoperable Communications Grant, administered by the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, has awarded more than $450 million in seven rounds to 57 counties and New York City since 2010.

The Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant is formula based and funded by cellular surcharge revenue. The program has allowed counties to make vital improvements in the way first responders can communicate between each other and different regions of the state using land mobile radio systems.

Each county and New York City can submit applications to fund projects involving infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades. Eligible counties can use this funding for a variety of functions, including expanding radio coverage by installing new equipment at towers and antenna sites, implementing Next Generation 911 technologies and standards, setting up communication channels among public safety radio systems, consolidating emergency services dispatch centers, supporting the operations of public safety dispatch centers, and deploying new technology that help counties link their systems together.

Additionally, this funding will support training and exercises to promote efficient inter-regional communications, cooperation, and overall first responder readiness.

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Picnic connects veterans to services and to each other

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Two commanders of veterans’ agencies attended the Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Event and Picnic Saturday at Orleans County Fairgrounds. Here, Glenn Whitmore, left, commander of American Legion Post 204 in Medina, and Dan Anderson, right, commander of VFW Post 1483 in Medina, pose with Veterans’ Services director Earl Schmidt and his wife Cathy.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 7 October 2018 at 7:42 pm

KNOWLESVILLE – The Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Kick-off Event and Picnic was a resounding success and one which organizers hope will be the first of many such events.

Saturday at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds, dozens of veterans and their families showed up for the event, organized by Earl and Cathy Schmidt with grant money Mr. Schmidt applied for through State Sen. Rob Ortt.

Guests enjoyed lunch, popcorn, music by DJs Kenny and Bonnie Draper, and children’s activities.

The Niagara Falls Air Force Base provided a bounce house and children’s games.

Cathy Schmidt announced she is forming a group for veterans’ spouses and caregivers, which she calls “Clovers.” It stands for “caregivers, loved ones and spouses.”

Her goal is to organize a variety of activities for veterans’ spouses and caregivers, such as bowling, chocolate bingo, kayaking and excursions. She has already planned a bus excursion to a Sabres’ game.

The YMCA in Medina is also going to cooperate by giving 10 percent off the cost of membership to veterans.

Earl Schmidt, director of Orleans County Veterans’ Services, and his wife Cathy pose with Arianna Smith and her dad Brad Smith of Albion and Greg Stanton of Medina at the first Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Event and Picnic Saturday at the Orleans County Fairgrounds. Both Brad Smith and Stanton were Seabees. Smith was a Navy combat veteran in Iraq.

Greg Stanton of Medina said he heard about the picnic when talking to Earl Schmidt, director of the Veterans Service Agency in Orleans County, several months ago.

“So I came to see what’s going on,” Stanton said. “The whole idea is to gets vets in Orleans County connected with each other, and that’s pretty cool.”

He said it’s nice veterans are finally getting the accolades and appreciation they deserve.

Stanton is a Seabee who signed up for the military right out of high school. He served two and one-half years in active duty and two and one-half years in the Reserves and went to college on a VA loan.

“Just a few years ago, I found out I was eligible for health care,” he said. “I have nothing but praise for the VA in Batavia and Buffalo .”

Rachael Spearante of Albion, a volunteer with the American Legion Auxiliary, hands out informational pamphlets at the Peer-to-Peer Veterans’ picnic Saturday at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Earl Schmidt said he started the peer-to-peer program to provide a non-clinical approach for veterans and their families in Orleans County. The grant through Ortt’s office is for $52,500

Schmidt’s hope is to prevent any tragedy here such as the story of Pcf. Joseph P. Dwyer, for whom the Peer-to-Peer program is named. Dwyer was a North Carolina veteran who, after a year and a half of trying to navigate the system after his discharge, committed suicide.

“The system failed him,” Schmidt said. “We are brothers and sisters working together and I’ll be here as your liaison.”

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Orleans canal communities will work on waterfront revitalization plan

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Holley Canal Park is pictured in June. The site includes a gazebo, public bathrooms with showers, boat tie-ups and camp sites.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 October 2018 at 10:40 am

Several canal communities in Orleans County will soon get to work on a waterfront revitalization plan.

The Orleans County Legislature has approved an agreement with NYS Department of State to create the Erie Canal Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.

The plan will provide a clear direction for suitable future development, reflect a community consensus, and establish a long-term partnership among local governments and the state.

In a resolution last week, the Legislature states, “the Erie Canal was critical to early community settlement and commerce in Orleans County and remains an essential asset for the purposes of economic development, recreation, tourism and cultural heritage.”

The state is providing a $62,000 grant for the plan, while the county contributes $10,000 in cash, and the participating towns and villages pay $10,500. The county Department of Planning and Development will also provide $167 of in-kind services.

The Village of Medina also is working on a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and received a $37,500 state grant for the effort. Medina has already formed a committee and hired a consultant, Bergmann Associates.

Medina will have a meeting on Oct. 17 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Medina High School, 2 Mustang Drive, welcoming the public to discuss how to best utilize the waterfront in the community, including the canal, Oak Orchard River and Glenwood Lake.

The Orleans plan will focus on the villages of Albion and Holley, and towns of Murray, Albion, Gaines, Ridgeway and Shelby.

The county expects to hire a consultant and start work on the plan in early 2019. Ken DeRoller, a county legislator, said the two planning efforts will work together.

There may be less than obvious ways to better capitalize on the canal, such as allowing more siphons for farmers to irrigate crops, DeRoller said.

“We are looking forward to enhancing the use of this asset in our county,” he said.

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Chuck Nesbitt is new president of state-wide county association

Staff Reports Posted 25 September 2018 at 1:25 pm

NYSAC will have ‘Mandate Monitor’ to track impact of state mandates on county taxes

Chuck Nesbitt

ROCHESTER – Charles “Chuck” Nesbitt Jr., chief administrative officer of Orleans County, was elected today to serve as president of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC).

NYSAC is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate, advocate for, and serve member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.

“I look forward to serving as NYSAC’s president and advocating for our counties in both Albany and Washington,” said Nesbitt, an Albion resident. “Our Association provides a strong platform for us to come together to voice our needs as the local governments closest to our communities.”

Since 2005, Nesbitt has served as the chief administrative officer of Orleans County. Prior to that he was an economic development specialist for Empire State Development in Rochester. He has also served as president of the New York State Association of County Administrators and Managers since 2008.

Nesbitt announced that during his presidency, he will focus on tracking the impact of existing and new state mandates on counties and county taxpayers. Under this initiative, a “Mandate Monitor” will examine the impact of implementing the Raise the Age law and the ongoing impact of other state mandates that consume most or all of the property taxes collected at the county level.

“Mr. Nesbitt is an experienced and respected county leader, and he will be a tremendous asset to NYSAC during a time when the county voice must be included in state and federal policy decisions,” said NYSAC Immediate Past President and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell.

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Chuck Nesbitt becomes president of state-wide association next week

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 September 2018 at 1:48 pm

County chief administrative office officer will lead NYS Association of Counties

File Photo: Chuck Nesbitt, the Orleans County chief administrative officer, is pictured in June 2016 outside the Orleans County Clerk’s Building.

ROCHESTER – Next week county officials from across the state will meet in Rochester for the ‘fall seminar of the New York State Association of Counties.

One of the highlights of the meeting will be the swearing in of NYSAC’s new president for the upcoming year. Chuck Nesbitt, Orleans County’s chief administrative officer, will take the reins from MaryEllen Odell, the Putnam County Executive.

Nesbitt of Albion will be sworn in as NYSAC president at the Tuesday conference luncheon.

Nesbitt has been heavily involved in the organization in recent years as a member of the executive committee since 2016. He has been an at-large member of the NYSAC Board of Director since 2014. He was elected as the president of the NYS County Administrators’ Association in 2008.

NYSAC is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate, advocate for, and serve member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.

NYSAC has been an effective advocacy organization for counties, Nesbitt said, and the group values the opinions from counties of all sizes.

The conference next week will take place at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency Rochester, with an offsite special event planned for The Strong Museum.

Workshops at the conference will cover a range of issues, including the opioid crisis, drinking water safety, women in county government, climate resiliency, dispute resolution, sports gaming, and election cyber security.

As chief administrative officer in Orleans County, Nesbitt acts on behalf of the County Legislature and works closely with Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson to implement county policy and oversee the activities of all county departments. He also serves as the county’s budget officer.

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First Peer to Peer event for veterans in Orleans County will be Oct. 6

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 21 September 2018 at 9:06 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Earl Schmidt, left, director of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency, presents a plaque to Frank Berger of Medina for his dedication and work in support of local veterans. At right is Dave Kusmierczak of Medina, president of the Joint Veterans Council.

MEDINA – Earl Schmidt, director of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency, announced a first time event for veterans and their families at the Council’s September meeting.

A veterans’ Peer to Peer Support event and picnic will take place Oct. 6 at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds. The program is funded from the state grant secured by Schmidt and the Orleans County Mental Health Department.

From noon to 3 p.m., all veterans and their families can enjoy fun, food and music.

The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office will be there doing children’s IDs, and there will be a bounce house for kids, donated by the Niagara Falls Air Force Base.

It has taken a year to receive the funds Schmidt applied for, he said.

The Peer to Peer Support Program was established in honor of a North Carolina veteran, Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer. After returning home from Iraq , Dwyer suffered from past traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. He received care from the VA, but had a hard time integrating into civilian life, eventually taking his own life.

The New York State Senate started a program to assist veterans in a non-clinical setting, putting them and their families together, peer-to-peer, and connecting them with community resources.

Orleans County ’s share of the grant to run this program is $52,500. Niagara County received $185,000, along with Erie and Monroe counties.

Schmidt’s wife Catherine, who has a background in running family support for military families, is helping to coordinate the volunteer program in Orleans County .

Reservations are needed for the Peer-to-Peer picnic and may be made by calling 589-3223.

Dave Kusmierczak, right, president of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency, took time out from the September meeting to recognize James Andre for being the longest serving volunteer with the veterans’ van service, which he helped establish.

In other business, Phyllis Schrader, head of the volunteer van service, reported 172 veterans were transported in July and 186 in August. She asked if the Veterans Service Agency could provide a small tire pump for drivers to use, as frequently the tires on their transport vans have low pressure. The Agency voted to purchase one for the office.

In his monthly report, Schmidt said his office met with 677 personnel in July and 575 in August.

He talked about the progress on the National Veterans’ Cemetery which will be established in Pembroke. He said it had been put out to bids, but they all came in too high. It will be put out again, seeking bids from non-government contractors. He expects groundbreaking to be in the spring, with completion by the summer of 2020.

Schmidt also reported that after a year of deliberation, the Albion Village Board last week passed the real property exemption for Cold War veterans. There are still four municipalities in the county which have not passed the exemption, he said.

A Medina veteran, Frank Berger, was presented with a plaque in recognition of his longtime support of programs to benefit veterans. Schmidt purchased the plaque with his own money because he was appreciative of all Berger has done.

Veterans Service Agency president Dave Kusmierczak reported on the 9-11 ceremony, which this year was organized by Gary Befus of the American Legion in Albion.

Kusmierczak talked about the patriotic ceremony the Medina American Legion and VFW conducted at the Warrior House event Saturday in West Shelby. Schmidt said he has applied for funds for the Warrior House and his office will be partnering with them to make sure it never has to close.

Glen Whitmore from the Butts-Clark American Legion said the great-great-granddaughter of James Clark wants to have a get-together at the post.

Tim McGee with Albion Masons, who cooked breakfast for the meeting, said the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Albion is hosting a special service for veterans on Nov. 11.

An Albion resident and Marine, Maxine Schening, announced she is trying to form a local chapter of the Women’s Marines Association. She is vice president of the Western New York Chapter, she said.

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United Way kicks off fundraising campaign to support local agencies

Photos by Gnny Kropf: Kaitlyn Delamarter, left, executive director of United Way of Orleans County, and board president Jackie Gardner are shown during the 2019 campaign kickoff after announcing the next year’s goal of $185,000.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 21 September 2018 at 8:10 am

MEDINA – United Way of Orleans County held its annual campaign kickoff Thursday night at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery.

While announcing an ambitious goal of $185,000, United Way ’s guests also heard success stories of people who have been helped because of the generosity of the community which supports the organization.

The theme of this year’s campaign is “Do whatever it takes,” and that’s what board president Jackie Gardner said they intend to do.

“The goal may be a challenge, but it is one we are up for,” Gardner said. “We are looking for a very successful campaign with the support of an amazing community.”

She said this evening always means so much.

“It’s when we get to meet all our partner agencies and show what they do,” she said.

Kaitlyn Delamarter, left, executive director of United Way of Orleans County, introduces Mary Lee Knights at the campaign kickoff Thursday night at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery. Knights is president of OCALS, one of a dozen local agencies funded by United Way. She shared a story of a Syrian man who was able to get a job because OCALS helped him learn to speak English.

Kaitlyn Delamarter, executive director of the local United Way, thanked the evening’s sponsors, which included OCALS, TakeForm, Jackie Gardner and the YMCA. Delamarter said it has been a privilege to work for an organization like United Way for the past year and to hear the stories of how United Way has been important in peoples’ lives.

Two speakers shared success stories made possible because of United Way support.

Provided photo: The board of United Way of Orleans County is shown at the 2019 campaign kickoff Thursday night at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery. Seated from left are director Kaitlyn Delamarter; secretary Virginia Kropf; president Jackie Gardner; and Carol D’Agostino. Standing are, from left, Jodi Gaines, Program and Policy chair; Ellen Eaton; treasurer Jerome Pawlak; Dave Cook, Board Development chair; Rebecca Mannella; Bill Hungerford, Strategic Planning chair; Cindy Perry; and Melinda Maedl, Marketing chair. Absent are vice president Jason Smith, Cathy Balys, Amit Mizra and Brad MacDonald.

Mary Lee Knights is president of Orleans County Adult Learning Services, a group of nearly all volunteers who started out helping people to read, but have branched out to provide tutoring to schools and the workplace.

OCALS, which recently celebrated its 12th anniversary, has been receiving grants from United Way almost from its beginning. Last year, for the first time, they employed a team teaching concept to help a Syrian family who couldn’t speak a word of English.

“We had gone into a local company to pitch our workplace literacy program when we learned the father had gotten a job there,” Knights said.

After helping him learn English, OCALS recently found out the man has been promoted.

The second story of success was shared by Sherry McMillan, who several years ago moved to Texas with her small child.

“I had a great life and a great job, and then I was diagnosed with cancer,” McMillan said. “I had to pack my bags and come home.”

She was unable to work as she struggled through chemo at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Then she learned of the job skills program provided by Community Action, a United Way -funded agency, at their Main Street Store in Albion.

She learned about retail, how to be organized and selling clothing.

“As the program went on, they worked around my chemo and other medical appointments,” McMillan said.

During her training, she met an at-risk kid whom she tutored in math and English.

“Because of the skills I learned in the program, I was able to research how to help him,” she said.

When the Main Street Store director Michelle George announced she wanted to become part-time, that provided a job opportunity for McMillan, who applied for and got the position.

“Without United Way and our generous donors, these stories would not be possible,” Delamarter said. “And there are so many more out there. We have a lot of new events coming into play this year and we are more than hopeful we can make our goal.”

Sharing their organization’s success stories at the campaign kickoff of United Way of Orleans County are Nyla Gaylord, executive director of Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern and Michelle George, director of Community Action’s Main Street Store. Chatting at right are Carol Cook, wife of board member Dave Cook of Lyndonville; and board member Cindy Perry of Waterport.

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