Orleans County

County Legislature recognizes Vietnam War veterans on 50th anniversary of war’s end

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 March 2023 at 9:51 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Orleans County Legislator Fred Miller shakes hands with peter Huth, second from left, and Ronald Poss, left, after Miller read a proclamation during Tuesday’s Orleans County Legislature  declaring March 29, 2023 as “Vietnam War Veterans Day.”

The day recognizes the 50th anniversary since the departure of the last American troops from Vietnam.

County legislators urged the community to honor the service of the Vietnam War veterans, who often weren’t treated well in their return home.

Fred Miller reads the proclamation from the County Legislature honoring the service of the local veterans who served in the Vietnam War. Nancy Traxler, director of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency, is at far left.

Governor Kathy Hochul today also issued a proclamation declaring March 29, 2023 “Vietnam Veterans Day.”

“Vietnam Veterans deserve the utmost respect and recognition for their immense service to our state and nation,” Governor Hochul said. “In New York, we work each day to ensure that their duty and sacrifice is commended and remembered, and it is my honor to celebrate New York’s 207,000 Vietnam Veterans on this Vietnam Veterans Day.”

An estimated 207,000 Vietnam War Veterans currently live in New York State, and 4,119 New Yorkers died during the war in defense of this nation and the values for which it stands. Their names are among the 58,276 names listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

OC Fraud Unit prevented $1.4 million of overpayments in 2022, with $46K more recovered

Posted 22 March 2023 at 7:58 am

Press Release, Orleans County Department of Social Services

ALBION – The Orleans County Department of Social Services Fraud Unit is staffed by two investigators who review circumstances on both active and pending cases for applicants/recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), Day Care, Emergency Assistance and Cash Assistance.

Referrals to the Fraud Unit initiate from staff, hot line tips from the public, database matches with Department of Labor and Wage Reporting System, and other public and private agencies.  Investigations are done on known or suspected violations of the law, related to fraudulent receipt of welfare funds.

A typical fraud investigation consists of interviewing applicants/recipients, unscheduled site visits to applicant/recipient residences, and by making direct contact with retailers, employers, landlords, and other individuals associated with the individual suspected of committing fraud. Some instances of fraud are appropriate for court prosecution resulting in criminal charges being lodged such as Filing a False Instrument (the Application for Benefits), Petit Larceny or Grand Larceny.

The success of fraud mitigation efforts is measured in two ways:

• Cost avoidance is the upfront savings realized when a case is prevented from opening due to detected irregularities in the application. Applications are referred to the Fraud Investigator by Examiners in our Temporary Assistance or Day Care unit when specific indicators are present such as inconsistencies in reported income/resources, household composition, or prior case history.

If the investigator confirms inaccurate information, or if the applicant fails to keep their investigative appointment, benefits will not be issued. New York State establishes the basic cost per case which, when multiplied by the number of cases not opened, results in the cost avoidance amount. In 2022 the cost avoidance for Orleans County was estimated to be $1,389,462.

• Recovery is the actual monetary amount the agency collects when overpayments are verified to have occurred. In 2022 the amount established to be recovered for SNAP and Cash Assistance overpayments was $52,692 and the amount adjudicated by the court for recovery was $46,121.

Recoveries established by the Court are repaid through the Probation Department and the remainder are paid to Orleans County Department of Social Services. It is important to note that most of the money recovered is returned to either the Federal or New York State government and not returned to the county coffers.

An additional outcome that can result from a Fraud substantiation is the Intentional Program Violation (IPV). If it can be established than an overpayment to an applicant/recipient was an intentional act, that applicant/recipient can be disqualified from receiving future benefits:

  • For Cash Assistance the disqualification period can be 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 5 years.
  • For SNAP, the disqualification period can be 1 year, 2 years, and permanently for the third offense.
  • Disqualification periods are tied to the number of previous offenses.
  • If the IPV is the results from criminal charges, the Judge imposing the sentence can increase the length at their discretion.

During the height of the pandemic Orleans County cost avoidance and recovery figures decreased due to New York State relaxation of some eligibility criteria.  As those restrictions have been gradually lifted, the number of investigations has increased.

For suspected cases of fraud call the Orleans County Fraud Hotline at 589-3110 or 589-3178.

United Way approves $120K in allocations to 17 agencies, organizations

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 21 March 2023 at 1:21 pm

MEDINA – United Way of Orleans County has announced allocations for its 2023 fiscal year.

According to executive director Matt Holland, United Way of Orleans County will distribute $120,000 to 17 non-profit organizations throughout the county. Funds will help basically every segment of the population in Orleans County, including childcare services, after school programming, services for the aging, community kitchen support, services for developmentally disabled, infants and all ages of youth.

Community partners receiving funds this year are GLOW Arc’s Camp Rainbow and Meals on Wheels, Boy Scouts of America Iroquois Trail Council, Care Net Center of Greater Orleans, Koinonia Community Kitchen, Community Action of Orleans and Genesee, GCASA, GO ART!, Supportive Care of Orleans, Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern, Senior Center of Western Orleans, OCALS, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, Orleans County YMCA, P’Raising Kids Child Care Center, Project Stork and VIA WNY 211.

“This year’s allocations cover a wide range of programming that will be of great benefit to the community,” Holland said. “We would like to give special thanks to all who give to the United Way of Orleans County’s fundraising campaign. Your donations make this process happen.”

Through the allocations process, organizations submit proposals and requests for funding for certain projects. The United Way’s allocation committee works diligently to review proposals and provide funding, Holland said. This year, every request received funding.

“These allocations are essential to ensure the viability of the wide variety of services provided by these organizations,” said Jim Punch, United Way’s board president. “The United Way of Orleans County fulfills its responsibility to provide funds year after year, no matter what financial and economic conditions prevail in the area we serve. We are extremely thankful to the people of Orleans County who donate and sacrifice to help those less fortunate. You make this a better place to live for all. I am very proud to be a part of our United Way and a member of this community.”

Individual donations to support United Way of Orleans County can be made online at OrleansUnitedWay.org. Contributions can also be mailed to P.O. Box 188, Medina.

In addition to soliciting donations, United Way of Orleans County is actively involved in fundraising, including the annual golf tournament scheduled this year on June 2 at Shelridge Country Club, and other special events. More information on these events will be announced in coming weeks.

Orleans, Niagara lead effort for southshore dredging plan at 19 harbors

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 March 2023 at 9:43 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Dean Marine & Excavating Inc. from Michigan dredges the Oak Orchard Harbor on Aug. 26, 2021. The dredging barge is near the breakwall at the end of the Oak Orchard channel. The harbor last was dredged in August 2014, when it was done for the first time in 10 years.

ALBION – Orleans and Niagara officials are teaming to lead a regional dredging effort for southshore harbors at six counties.

The Lake Ontario Regional Dredging and Maintenance Council was officially formed in 2019 under a memorandum of understanding between the six contiguous counties of Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego.

Orleans County is lead agency for the council with Lynne Johnson as the council’s chairman and Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey as its vice chairman.

The 19 harbors were last dredged in 2021 through $15 million from the state’s Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI). The state made $300 million available through REDI in response to historic lake flooding and erosion from 2017 and 2019.

Johnson, the Orleans Legislature leader, said there needs to be a plan for the future to make sure the harbors are routinely dredged.

The Orleans and Niagara officials say boating activities and fishing generate about $100 million annually at the southshore harbors.

“The failure to keep our harbors dredged and open means that boats cannot access our communities and that has a very negative financial impact,” Johnson and Godfrey said in a statement.

The council is trying to secure federal funding to help with regular dredging of the 19 harbors in the six counties. The council’s plan also has the six counties sharing resources to contribute to the effort.

“The dredging needs for our Lake Ontario harbor access channels, even those under the responsibility of the US Army Corps of Engineers, are not being met due to federal budget constraints, lack of responsibility by other levels of government, and the limitations of sporadic privately funded dredging,” Johnson said. “Our only choice is to do it ourselves.”

The plan proposes annual funding shares from the six member counties at $163,919. It would be $245,923 with a capital cost included.

The plan pro-rates the shares from each county based on a proportional share of dredge volume in one option or a proportional share of sales tax generated in another option.

Orleans would pay a low of $12,360 annually in one option (sales tax generation without capital cost) to a high of $23,655 (based on dredge volume with capital cost).

The report includes total spending in the counties through boating activities: $7,087,101 in Orleans, $10,500,954 in Niagara, $30,930,870 in Monroe, $18,416,854 in Wayne, $6,611,742 in Cayuga and $20,443,860 in Oswego.

The plan sets time frames for when each of the 19 harbors should be dredged. The Oak Orchard Harbor in Orleans should be dredged every five years with 15,000 cubic yards removed, according to the plan.

The dredging needs for other nearby harbors includes: the channel in Wilson should be dredged every 5 years with 15,000 cubic yards removed; Olcott Harbor very five years with 15,000 cubic yards removed, and Sandy Creek in Hamlin every five years with 1,200 cubic yards removed.

Johnson and Godfrey presented a dredging plan for the harbors last week to the Great Lakes Dredging Team. They also have been working with Congressman Joe Morelle’s office to obtain funding to remove sediment form the harbors.

“Our small harbors serving recreational boating and fishing generate approximately $94 million annually in economic activity, support over 1,350 jobs, and provide sales tax revenues of approximately $7.6 million annually for the local counties and New York State” Godfrey said.  “These same small harbors also provide safe harbors-of-refuge for vessels on Lake Ontario and can only provide these important benefits if adequate water depths are maintained in their access channels by regular, periodic dredging of accumulated sediments.”

Orleans DSS seeks to restart Youth Court

Posted 14 March 2023 at 12:13 pm

Press Release, Orleans County Department of Social Services

ALBION – The Orleans County Department of Social Services has recently hired a Youth Court coordinator to develop a Youth Court program.

Youth Court is an alternative for young people who face disciplinary action through school or law enforcement. It provides young people with the opportunity to learn from their mistakes without facing the juvenile justice system.

We are currently reaching out to each of the five school districts in the county to recruit Youth Court members. The Youth Court members will be trained by professionals including attorneys, judges and service providers in order to qualify to serve in various roles on the youth court.

Youth Court members participate as judge, jury and advocates as they impose sanctions on their peers that reflect restorative justice ideals and connect the peer and their family to the community.

Youth Court members need to be entering grades 7 through 11 for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. Having a history with Juvenile Justice or Juvenile Diversion Program in the past does not prohibit youth from participation in the program.

Members are committed to attending the hearings and participating in enrichment programs.  Participation in Youth Court may fulfill requirements for community service hours if approved by your school district.

This is an exciting opportunity to take an active role in your community and with your fellow students. You can make a difference and I am anxiously looking forward to taking this journey with you.

If anyone is interested in participating in this venture please reach out to Jeannine Larkin at (585) 589-3149 or (585) 297-0137.

$3 million grant will do more upgrades to emergency communications system in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 March 2023 at 9:14 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Workers from Upstate Tower Construction erect a 180-foot-high radio tower on Jan. 20, 2020 next to the Orleans County Public Safety Building along Route 31 in Albion. This was one of four new radio towers to go up in the county as part of $6 million project to upgrade the emergency communications system in the county.

ALBION – Orleans County has been approved for a nearly $3 million grant from the state for more upgrades to its emergency communications system.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $2,990,000 to Orleans through the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant. It is part of $62 million awarded for 14 counties in the state.

In Orleans, the money will pay for a new tower and equipment at the Orleans County Emergency Management Office on West Countyhouse Road in Albion, equipment for a new tower in Carlton that is being built as part of the broadband project, and two backup 911 dispatch consoles at the EMO site.

The state funding will allow a connection with the Monroe County emergency communications system so first responders from the two counties can better communicate with each other.

The new tower at the EMO office will replace an older one that is at end of life, said Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer.

The grant program is administered by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. Gov. Hochul said the funding is used to enhance public safety through improving and modernizing infrastructure, addressing communications deficiencies, implementing national interoperability channels, and boosting regional connectivity between counties and systems.

“When disaster strikes, New York must be ready. This grant funding is critical to modernizing our emergency communication systems to ensure that our brave first responders have the resources and data they need to keep the community and themselves safe during an emergency,” Hochul said. “Keeping New Yorkers safe is my top priority and this program is key to improving public safety throughout Upstate New York.”

Orleans County in 2020 completed a $6 million project to upgrade the emergency communications system in the county. The state awarded Orleans a $5,897,141 grant for four new towers, accompanying communication shelters, technology to connect separate radio systems and new radio channels. Those 180-foot-high towers are next to the Public Safety Building on Route 31 in Albion, Millers Road in Yates near the water tank, and at the Kendall Central School near the bus garage. The other tower is 150 feet high next to the Holley water tank on Route 237.

County Legislature again speaks out against $1 million Medicaid cost shift

Posted 1 March 2023 at 6:20 pm

Press Release, Orleans County Legislature

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature today advocated strongly for the elimination of a budget proposal backed by Governor Kathy Hochul that would cost local governments more than $625 million in the coming state fiscal year, and billions in subsequent years.

The proposal would end the longstanding practice of sharing federal Medicaid savings provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with counties and New York City. This funding, known as eFMAP, has been critical to counties’ ability to hold property taxes in check by limiting the local financial burden of Medicaid.

“At a time when our residents are paying more for housing, food, and fuel, Gov. Hochul’s proposal will make living in this state even less affordable,” said Orleans County Chairman Lynne Johnson. “This action would strip $1,059,034 in revenue from the Orleans County budget, which will end up coming out of residents’ pockets in the form of increased property taxes or cuts to vital county services like public safety and road maintenance.”

According to the Governor’s budget materials, this proposal would shift $625 million in Medicaid costs onto local taxpayers in its first year, and the minimum four-year cost to local taxpayers is calculated at between $2.5 billion and $2.9 billion. The New York State Association of Counties estimates that by state fiscal year 2027, the fourth year of this proposal, that state cost shift from this single initiative will be equivalent to an average property tax increase of 7 percent statewide and as high as 14 percent in some counties. To make matters worse, the State is also proposing to permanently keep six years of eFMAP funds, exceeding $1 billion worth of federal assistance owed to counties from unreconciled reimbursements.

“We are concerned that this proposal undermines Congressional intent. New York’s Congressional Delegation, led by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, fought hard to ensure that local taxpayers wouldn’t bear the burden of expanding Medicaid by specifically designating this funding for counties,” Johnson said. “This proposal reverses the state’s twenty-year practice of sharing these funds with counties and it’s unnecessary. Gov. Hochul must remove this disastrous proposal from her budget and work with counties to reach a compromise that does no harm to counties and maintains the cap on local contributions to Medicaid.”

First class graduates from program that teaches to prepare healthy, affordable meals

Photos courtesy of Marie Gabalski: Sarah Martin, a nutritionist with SNAP, demonstrates how to make tacos at the first Stone Soup classes at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension. The program was funded by a $250,000 grant from Highmark.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 28 February 2023 at 1:08 pm

Sarah Martin (left), SNAP nutritionist, and Marie Gabalski, nutrition program coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, clown around during a break in the first series of Stone Soup.

KNOWLESVILLE – A new program funded by a Highmark grant of $250,000 is teaching families with limited incomes how to eat healthy on a budget.

The grant was an idea developed at Community Action of Orleans & Genesee with assistance from Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Called Stone Soup, the first six-week classes at Cornell Cooperative Extension on the fairgrounds just ended with 21 graduates, said Cooperative Extension nutrition coordinator Marie Gabalski.

Each week, participants in the classes learned something different, such as food groups, fiber, fats and carbs, how to read food labels, fruits and vegetables and how to shop affordably, Gabalski said.

“We try to make it fun,” she said. “Twenty-six people registered for the first series of classes and 21 graduated. Classes for March and May are already full.”

Participants who attended all six classes and graduation received a kitchen kit which included a skillet, utensils, hot plate and an Instapot.

Many positive comments were received on the classes. One lady said, “I enjoyed learning how to pair healthy ingredients into a meal and knowing what and how to choose.”

Another commented, “What was important to me was being talked to and not ‘at.’The information was easy to understand.”

Yet another said she enjoyed learning about nutrition and healthy options. “I didn’t know the difference in types of fat before,” she said.

During July, the nutritionists are planning a similar program with school children. Registration for May classes is being prioritized for those who attend the meal program at Community Action’s center in Holley. Others will be placed on a waiting list for the Stone Soup program in the fall.

While Stone Soup was developed with low-income families in mind, there is no income requirement and anyone who wishes to sign up may contact Gabalski at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, (585) 798-4265.

Marie Gabalski, nutrition coordinator at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, hands out certificate of completion to Rosemary Fisher and Beth Williams. 

Members of the first graduating class of Stone Soup at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension get their free gifts, including an Instapot, hot plate and utensils. Marie Gabalski, Cooperative Extension nutritionist, left, hands out kits to Jane Read, Janine Parker, right, and Alicia Dingman, rear.

New leaders at Emergency Management Office ready to face myriad of challenges

Photos by Tom Rivers: Scott Buffin, left, is the county’s new deputy emergency management coordinator, taking over for the position from Justin Niederhofer, who has been promoted to emergency management director. They are shown at the emergency management office at 14064 West Countyhouse Rd.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 February 2023 at 1:18 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Emergency Management Office has a new director and deputy director to help the county prepare and respond to disasters and other emergencies.

Justin Niederhofer, the former deputy, took over as director on Nov. 17, succeeding the retiring Dale Banker.

Scott Buffin started on Jan. 23 as the new deputy director.

Niederhofer, 42, started as deputy director on April 15, 2020, in the early throes of the Covid-19 pandemic. He managed the delivery of sanitizer, masks and other PPE to municipalities and frontline workers. He also teamed with the Health Department in setting up and running testing and vaccine sites. He and Banker also helped a task force facilitate discussions on local EMS services.

Justin Niederhofer, in red turnout gear, pulls a basketball backboard and hoop from a garage so firefighters could get water in the upper part of the structure on Goodrich Street in Albion. This fire was on Jan. 10, 2022. Niederhofer served as Carlton fire chief from 2019 and 2021 and often responded to calls throughout the county when he was the deputy emergency management coordinator.

Niederhofer is a 20-year veteran of the Air Force. He was working for the U.S. Department of Defense, leading a team of 10 in overseeing manufacturers with Defense contracts when he took the job with the county about three years ago.

“I want to make the community a better and safer place,” he said.

Niederhofer served as Carlton fire chief in 2019 and 2020 and remains an active responder.

Buffin, 42, is a former Lyndonville fire chief who most recently was working with Mercy Flight in Batavia as a paramedic supervisor. Buffin has been a volunteer firefighter since 19.

Both agree that a declining number of active volunteer firefighters is becoming a critical issue. Buffin sought out becoming a volunteer firefighter and a basic EMT soon after high school. He remembered when a firefighter addressed his Boy Scout troop and that message of service to the community stuck with him.

He urges people to try volunteering with their fire department, even if it’s in an administrative role and they don’t want to go to fire scenes or car accidents.

“There is no magic bullet to recruit and retain these volunteers,” Buffin said.

Scott Buffin, right, and fire investigator Cole Hardenbrook head to the scene of a mobile home on fire on Allis Road on Feb. 14. The county has a team of five fire investigators.

There are currently about 300 active firefighters in the county. That may only be about a third of number from even a generation ago. Fire departments increasing are relying on neighboring departments for mutual aid to battle fires.

Niederhofer said he is encouraged by state legislation that would provide some tax incentives for volunteer firefighters. But he knows that ultimately people are feeling time- and money-crunched and don’t feel they can make a big commitment as a volunteer firefighter.

He asks people to keep an open mind, even if they don’t come from a firefighting family, to see how they could contribute to their local fire department.

“There is a job for everyone,” he said. “It could be administrative or providing support on the ground.”

The emergency management office was a big part of the task force looking at EMS services locally. The group of local officials, fire chiefs and ambulance service providers in the county met several times in 2022 as part of an EMS Task Force.

The volunteer ambulances are now all gone in the county, following the dissolution of the Kendall Fire Department Ambulance on Dec. 31, 2022. COVA also ended in Albion with Mercy Flight now running those ambulances.

Monroe Ambulance will begin service as the primary ambulance provider on April 16 in central Orleans County. Monroe is committing to keeping two ambulances in central and eastern Orleans.

Mercy Flight also is intending to keep one ambulance in Albion 24-7 and a second from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during a transition year. The seven towns in central and eastern Orleans are expected to discuss a longer-term contract later this year for ambulance services.

Niederhofer said he expects there will be a task force in the near future about the shrinking pool of available firefighters. He doesn’t want to wait until it’s an absolute crisis before looking at solutions to ensure there are enough responders in the community.

Scott Buffin, left, and Justin Niederhofer both have many years of service as local first responders. In back is a fire training tower at left and the former civil defense center which is the emergency management office.

The emergency management office also oversees a team of fire investigators, facilitates training classes for firefighters, and works with fire departments to best utilize equipment and specialized teams, including a rope rescue team for responses in quarries, ravines along the Oak Orchard River and local creeks, and steep embankments at state parks.

The office also helps manage the emergency communications system and recently added the new responsibility of cybersecurity for assisting municipalities that could be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The office will help the municipalities with computer security as part of continuum of operation plans.

“There is never anything that comes off of our plant,” Niederhofer said. “More gets added.”

The county also is looking to upgrade the emergency management office, which is in a bunker-style civil defense center built in 1962. That building on West Countyhouse Road has the backup dispatch for the county in case the 911 consoles are out of commission at the public safety building.

Niederhofer and Buffin also need to be ready to respond to any disaster or emergency. In 2017 and 2019, for example, the high Lake Ontario levels was a long state of emergency and the emergency management office worked to secure sandbags, Agua-Dams and fortified breakwalls for property owners.

The Covid pandemic has been another long response. The EMO continues to secure Covid test kits and distribute them to municipalities.

“Covid is still here,” Niederhofer said. “We’re still dealing with it, but the impacts aren’t as severe.”

Other emergencies are short-term and could include helping to secure housing for residents whose homes were damaged in a fire. The EMO will reach out to the Red Cross for assistance.

The emergency management office also will team with the local Department of Health and Red Cross in setting up emergency shelters if there are extended power outages, such as during the blizzard near Christmas.

Governor seeks disaster declaration for 3 WNY counties from Christmas blizzard – Orleans not included

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 February 2023 at 5:13 pm

Photo courtesy of Orleans County Sheriff’s Office: The driver of this truck was stranded for nearly 15 hours in the vehicle on Salt Works Road in Shelby before being transported to safety on Dec. 24.

ALBION – Gov. Kathy Hochul announced today she is seeking a major disaster declaration from President Joe Biden for three Western New York counties to reimburse localities for snow removal efforts and other costs during the Christmas blizzard.

The two-day blizzard hit on Dec. 23 but the recovery lasted six days for some hard-hit communities, such as the City of Buffalo. Hochul is seeking federal aid for Erie, Genesee and Niagara counties, as well as St. Lawrence and Suffolk.

Orleans County isn’t included in the declaration.

“We have contacted our federal representative in an attempt to remedy this situation,” said Jack Welch, the Orleans County chief administrative officer. “However, right now we are on the outside looking in.”

Hochul said she is seeking to reimburse those five counties for their snow removal and storm response expenses. The governor is also requesting direct funding to cover funeral expenses and crisis counseling for residents of Erie and Niagara counties. The blizzard took the lives of 46 residents in Erie County and one in Niagara. No one from Orleans died from the blizzard.

The fierce winds left more than 5,000 National Grid customers in Orleans without electricity for extended periods during the frigid cold.

County officials also declared a state of emergency and travel ban due to the blizzard conditions with punishing winds, icy roads and whiteout conditions.

About 75 people spent Christmas Eve at shelters in the Albion and Medina schools. Some of those people were stranded and brought to the shelters by firefighters and Sheriff’s deputies.

The Orleans County Emergency Management Office has calculated the total municipal costs from the storm at $179,123.

The county can count municipal overtime and the costs of running the shelters, but not for snow removal for the streets. However, snow plowing can be included when used to keep open the shelters, the Emergency Management Office and Public Safety Building, said Justin Niederhofer, the county’s emergency management director.

Some of the damaged property was covered by insurance, Niederhofer said.

Hochul said federal aid will help the five counties recoup some expenses from a once-in-a-generation storm. She said the major disaster declaration secures federal aid for local governments and eligible non-profits for debris removal, protective measures, and repairs to buildings and infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water and wastewater treatment facilities, critical infrastructure sites, schools, parks and other facilities.

Household hazardous waste collection returns Aug. 12, but won’t accept paint

Photo by Tom Rivers: Employees with Environmental Enterprises in Cincinnati collect household hazardous waste from Orleans County on Aug. 13. Many of the fluids were emptied into large drums to be hauled away.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 February 2023 at 8:54 am

ALBION – Orleans County will offer a household hazardous waste collection day on Aug. 12. Many of the details are being worked out, but paint – oil-based, latex and water-based – won’t be accepted.

Unused paint should be taken to Sherwyn-Williams stores through a state-funded program. (The closest Sherwyn-Williams paint disposal sites in Orleans County are the Sherwin-Williams stores in Brockport and in Batavia. Evans Ace Hardware in Medina also participates in the program.)

The county typically pays Environmental Enterprises, Inc. of Cincinnati about $18,000 to collect and remove the household hazardous waste, with the state them reimbursing the county about half of the costs.

The event is held in several stations at the Orleans County DPW on West Academy Street. The collection allows residents to dispose of tires (up to 10), propane tanks, auto/marine batteries and other hazardous household waste in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Some of the items include solvents, adhesives & resins, aerosols, motor oil & filters, pesticides, acids, fluorescent bulbs, corrosives, household batteries and antifreeze.

The event is organized by the Orleans County Department of Planning and Development. The county expects to begin taking appointments for the collection in late June, said Corey Winters, a planner with the department.

Orleans presses state to not end federal pass-thru to counties for Medicaid

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2023 at 6:46 pm

County stands to lose about $1 million in revenue if state keeps money

ALBION – A move proposed in the governor’s executive budget would take $1,059,000 in revenue from Orleans County, which could result in a nearly 6 percent tax increase locally.

The Orleans County Legislature has formally passed a resolution asking the governor and State Legislature to continue the pass-thru of federal Affordable Care Act enhanced Medicaid Assistance Percentage funds or eFMAP.

The state is proposing to keep those funds going forward and use them to cover further expansions of Medicaid eligibility and benefits and to increase payments to health care providers. That would have a $280 million impact on 57 counties and nearly $1 billion when New York City is included, according to the New York State Association of Counties.

NYSAC said the governor is proposing to cut the counties’ hare while trying to fully fund the state reserves two years ahead of schedule.

The Orleans County Legislature is following the NYSAC lead in urging the state to continue sharing federal funds with counties “as has been the precedent for over 20 years.”

Copies of the resolution from Orleans County, approved on Tuesday, will be forwarded to Gov. Kathy Hochul, the New York State Legislature, and the New York State Congressional Delegation.

County Legislature approves redistricting plan presented by consultant

This map shows the plan that has been approved for four districts for the Orleans County Legislature.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2023 at 11:18 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature approved a redistricting plan in a 6-1 vote on Tuesday that makes slight adjustments in four legislative districts and keeps the at-large districts unchanged.

Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said the Legislature is following the recommendations of its redistricting consultant, Skyline Demographic Consultants, Inc.

The current districts have an 11.7 percent population variance, which is above the 5 percent threshold allowed.

Skyline’s recommendations include adding part of western Murray to a district that currently is the towns of Albion and Gaines (currently filled by Fred Miller, the lone Democrat on the Legislature).

That gives the Albion-Gaines (District 3) more people and also takes away from District 4 that includes Murray, Kendall and Carlton (currently filled by John Fitzak). The Murray section that is added to District 3 includes 522 people from Murray’s election district 5.

The orange part of Murray will be shifted into a district that includes Albion and Gaines, while the yellow will be in a district that includes Carlton, Kendall and most of Murray.

During the last redistricting about a decade ago, the county added a small part of Shelby to District 2 that included Yates and Ridgeway (currently served by Lynne Johnson).

This time the county will move more of that area back into District 1, the Shelby-Barre-Clarendon district (represented by Bill Eick). That represents a shift of 418 people.

Fred Miller cast the lone vote against the plan. He said there remains a 413-person difference between the biggest district and the smallest. Miller would have the most populous district at 9,961 people.

His district would pick up 522 people from Murray. He thinks it would have been better to split that part of Murray – with half in his district and the other half going to District 1, which has 9,548 people and includes Clarendon, Barre and most of Shelby.

The consultant from Skyline said that portion of Murray comes from election district 5. Redistricting plans should keep an election district whole and not split them up, according to the consultant’s report.

The other district sizes include 9,725 people in District 2 (Yates, Ridgeway and small part of Shelby) and 9,747 in District 4 (Carlton, Kendall and most of Murray).

The deviation from the biggest to smallest is 4.2 percent, within the legal threshold.

The three at-large countywide positions don’t legally require any changes because they represent the same population – the entire county, according to the consultant.

Jeff Lewis, the Orleans County Democratic Party chairman, was among the speakers during a public hearing on Feb. 9, when he asked the redistricting go to seven districts with no county-wide positions.

Lewis attended the Tuesday meeting and asked the legislators if there was any consideration given to his suggestions and others made at the hearing.

“There was much consideration,” Johnson responded.

The Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against the Legislature about the redistricting. The group would like a bipartisan panel of local residents to draft a proposal for seven districts.

This shows the section of Shelby in red that will be included in the Yates-Ridgeway District and the section in blue that will be in the district that includes Barre, Clarendon and most of Shelby.

County Leg opposes governor’s proposed ban on gas stoves in new homes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2023 at 9:01 am

The Orleans County Legislature went on the record on Tuesday in opposition to proposals from Gov. Kathy Hochul concerning fossil fueled-powered appliances.

The legislature called the proposed mandates “hypocritical and nonsensical environmental laws which burden the working-class citizens of the county and state.”

The governor last month said she wants to ban fossil fuel hookups in newly constructed buildings started with smaller buildings in 2025, and larger buildings in 2028. Any new homes or apartments would not be permitted to have gas-powered appliances. This does not include existing buildings.

Hochul also called for a ban on the sale of new fossil fuel-powered heating equipment in New York, beginning with smaller buildings in 2030 and larger buildings in 2035.

“The Governor’s ban is intended to help address climate change, but this government mandate is more of a burden on our region’s working-class residents and will have a devastating effect on restaurants, businesses and manufacturing facilities whey they have to convert to all electric,” the County Legislature said in a resolution.

Legislators said the cost to convert a house to electric would be $20,000 to $50,000 per household and would not include any kind of backup system in the event of a power outage.

The Legislature said the mandate creates an “unnecessary financial burden and hardship for businesses that compete on a national or global level.” Legislators said the ban on gas appliances will push more businesses and residents out of the state, contributing to “accelerated population loss.”

The ban on gas appliances and water heaters arlso isn’t feasible in Western New York with its harsh winters and exposed electrical infrastructure, according to the Legislature’s resolution. Appliances used to heat water and cook food need to work during power outages especially during times of inclement weather.

“The Orleans County Legislature hereby strongly urges Governor Hochul and the New York State Legislature to fully examine the real-life impact their decisions will have for all New Yorkers, especially those least able to afford them,” the resolution states.

Don Draper sworn in as undersheriff for Sheriff’s Office

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 February 2023 at 9:17 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Don Draper takes the oath as undersheriff on Tuesday during a ceremonial swearing-in before the County Legislature meeting. His wife Emmy holds the Bible while Sheriff Chris Bourke administers the oath.

Draper replaces Jeff Gifaldi in the role. Gifaldi has retired and works as a code enforcement officer and also part-time in security at Holley Central School.

Draper is a 25-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office. He worked 20 years as a deputy on road patrol and then as supervisor of court security. He most recently has been a sergeant in charge of the civil division.

“I work for the sheriff,” Draper said about the role as undersheriff. “Whatever he needs done, I will do it.”

Draper is the son of retired Medina Police Chief Don Draper and the brother of Medina Police Department Lt. Todd Draper.

Bourke said the new undersheriff knows all of the positions in the Sheriff’s Office “from top to bottom” and has proven to be very dependable and knowledgeable.

“He’s a solid guy,” Bourke said. “He treats people fairly. That’s what I want.”

The Sheriff’s Office also has a new administrative chief deputy with Steven Ploof. He was unable to attend the ceremonial swearing in. Ploof provides oversight of the Civil Division and the numerous local, state and federal grants managed by the Sheriff’s Office, Bourke said.

Brian Marsceill takes the oath of office as an investigator with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office.

Marsceill replaces Shannon Brett, who retired from the position. The other investigators in the Sheriff’s Office include Devon Pahuta and Kevin Colonna.

Marsceill started as a deputy at the Sheriff’s Office in 2017. Before that he was as a police officer in Medina and Attica.

The sheriff administered the oath for other staff on Tuesday including Amy Sherman, sheriff’s accounts manager; Tyler Ajitsingh, corrections officer; Kari Hagglund and Jodi Marion as part-time dispatchers; and Theresa Brien as a civil clerk.