Orleans County

Food distributions resume on Nov. 13

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 November 2020 at 12:20 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Volunteers, including employees at the Iroquois Job Corps in Medina, are ready at a food distribution on Sept. 18 at the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company on Ridge Road.

There wasn’t a food distribution today, but there will be at least the next two Fridays. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has funded the program for another two months through Dec. 31.

The USDA has authorized $500 million for a fourth round of purchases for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Organizers in Orleans County has dates set for the next two weeks, with more expected through the end of the December.

The schedule so far includes:

  • Friday, November 13th – Community Action Main Street Store, 131 S. Main Street, Albion.
  • Friday, November 20th – Ridgeway Fire Department, 11392 Ridge Rd., Medina.

All events will begin with the approximate start time of 8:30 a.m., if trucks are there by 8 a.m., said Melissa Blanar, director of the office for the Aging in Orleans County.

There will be approximately 300 boxes of food available at each distribution. Each box weighs 30-40 pounds with a mixture of produce, dairy and meat.

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County honors employee of the year, who is skilled at calming angry phone callers

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 November 2020 at 8:05 pm

April Flesch praised for de-escalating hostilities from residents with complaints

Provided photos: The following earned employee of the months from October 2019 to September 2020. They include front row, from left: Lori Grube (Emergency Management), April Flesch (Chief Administrative Officer), Tammy Graham (Office for the Aging), Kathleen Wright (Social Services) and Danielle Ludwick (Probation). Back row: Michelle Troup (Public Health), Scott Snook (Computer Services), Gerald Bentley (Sheriff-Dispatch), Donna Wilcox (Office for the Aging), Steven Fuller (Public Works) and Sarah Osborne (Probation).

ALBION – Orleans County held its 40th annual Employee Recognition Program this morning at Tillman’s Village Inn this morning.

The EAP Committee recognized employees of the month as well as the employee of the year.

“This is a very important and a very special occasion when fellow county employees are recognized for not only their service to the citizens of the county but to recognize those individuals who go above and beyond their duty,” said Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer.

The EAP Committee receives nominations from fellow employees and department directors and then the nominations are reviewed and discussed by the committee and a selection is made.

The employees of the months for the past year were:

  • October 2019: Steven Fuller (Department of Public Works),
  • November 2019: Jeffrey Cole (Sheriff)
  • December 2019: Danielle Ludwick (Probation),
  • January 2020: Donna Wilcox (Office for the Aging)
  • February 2020: Gerald Bentley (Dispatch)
  • March 2020: Shelly Troup (Public Health)
  • April 2020: Tammy Graham (Office for the Aging)
  • May 2020: April Flesch (Chief Administrative Officer)
  • June 2020: Sarah Osborne (Probation)
  • July 2020: Kathleen Wright (Social Services),
  • August 2020: Lori Grube (Emergency Management Office)
  • September 2020: Scott Snook (Computer Services),

From this pool of candidates, a department head must make a recommendation to a separate committee to determine the Employee of the Year. The committee looked for additional service that an employee has performed since the individual was recognized as an employee of the month. Then the Employee of the Year is selected, Welch said.

Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson, left, and Chief Administrative Officer Jack Welch congratulate April Flesch for being the Orleans County Employee of the Year.

April Flesch was named the employee of the year. She started with the county in 2012. She works in the office for the County Legislature and the chief administrative officer.

Flesch handles many phone calls from the public, and often they are complaints, including many about garbage and recycling pickup. Residents will call to say their garbage wasn’t picked up or their recycling bin is missing. Sometimes Modern Disposal will call with complaints about residents putting syringes in the trash or used oil or an unknown powder, Welch said.

The callers may complain about not being able to process a DMV transaction in a timely manner, or they may be reporting a Covid-19 violation, he said.

Some residents, employees and other local elected officials will call and tell Flesch they aren’t happy with Welch and some of his decisions.

“Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list but you can see the variety and you can image the emotion the caller has during any given call,” Welch said during today’s recognition program. “The topics vary greatly from these unhappy residents.”

Welch praised Flesch for calmly handling the calls and not raising her voice or becoming flustered, even when the callers are rude.

“She has the ability to manage the callers’ expectation given the individual issue,” Welch said. “When the caller’s expectation is to have a call back from the CAO upon the returned call, she is never named as an ‘issue’ of which the caller needs to resolve. If fact, many times the caller is appreciative of how she related to the caller and their issue. She is a de-escalator of drama.”

Flesch handles the calls and her interactions with co-workers and the public “in a kind, courteous, professional, competent and compassionate manner,” Welch said.

He praised her for putting others at ease “especially in these challenging times which has an abundance of fear and anxiety at nearly every turn.”

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Orleans EDA seeking new leader with impending retirement of CEO

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 November 2020 at 10:21 am

Jim Whipple has facilitated numerous projects around the county

Photos by Tom Rivers: Jim Whipple, chief executive officer and chief financial officer for the Orleans Economic Development Agency, holds a sign that will be displayed in front of the 300-acre Medina Business Park on Maple Ridge Road. Whipple is retiring Jan. 15 after more than 15 years as leader of the Orleans EDA.

ALBION – The Orleans Economic Development Agency is seeking a new leader due to the impending retirement of Jim Whipple, who has been the chief executive officer and chief financial officer for more than 15 years.

Whipple is leaving with high praise from the EDA board of directors, who say he has the county well positioned for new businesses and expansions, especially with the 300-acre Medina Business Park. That site is one of the largest certified shovel-ready sites in the state. It has all the infrastructure in place.

“He has done a phenomenal job,” said Ken DeRoller, who has been on the EDA board for 19 years.

Whipple brought and engineering background to the job and used that to develop the Medina Business Park, working with local municipalities to put the infrastructure in place.

“He understands Orleans County and he is low-key,” DeRoller said. “He gets down and grinds it out and gets results.”

Whipple, 64, of Lyndonville will retire Jan. 15. He will be available part-time to assist the next CEO in the transition.

Whipple said he has enjoyed being part of a team that assists small businesses, larger manufacturers, agricultural businesses, and projects that boost the county’s tourism.

“It has been awesome working with so many great people,” Whipple said at his office at 121 North Main St. in Albion.

He praised his co-workers – Gabrielle Barone and Diane Blanchard – for their commitment to local businesses and helping them work through potential pitfalls.

Whipple said the board of directors and municipalities have been supportive of the EDA efforts to market sites and make them attractive for companies. Whipple said Orleans could use more buildings suited to modern manufacturing.

Many companies, including several from Canada, have picked Orleans during Whipple’s tenure and several companies have done multi-million-dollar expansions.

Some of the major projects include expansions at Brunner in Medina, Western New York Energy in Medina, Takeform in Medina, Precision Packaging Products (now Waddington North America) in Holley and CRFS in Albion.

The EDA has worked with numerous companies around the county in Whipple’s tenure. The projects aren’t all in the county’s three largest villages of Medina, Albion and Holley.

Jim Whipple speaks during a public hearing in Kendall on Jan. 15, 2014 about a 10-year tax payment plan for The Cottages at Troutburg. The 10-year agreement has developers paying $186,363 in taxes on the land, with the new cottages boosting the tax base. Many new homes have been built at Troutburg in Kendall near Lake Ontario as part of the project.

The EDA worked with the Cottages at Troutburg in Kendall, where new smaller homes are being built at a 126-acre site by Lake Ontario.

The EDA helped a Canadian-based company to acquire the former Atwater Foods building on Route 18 in Yates. Niagara Food Specialties is a meat processor for gourmet markets, including restaurants and hotels. It specializes in prosciutto ham.

Whipple also cited major renovations at distressed sites on gateways into the community. He praised Roger Andrews for an extensive renovation of the former Jubilee in medina, turning that into Evans Ace Hardware. That is prominent building on Route 31 across from State Street Park.

Home Leasing in Rochester did a dramatic transformation of the former Holley High School, turning that into 41 apartments for senior citizens and offices for the Village of Holley. That building, at the corner of routes 31 and 237, was badly deteriorating and had been vacant for more than two decades.

Whipple sees a chain reaction of investment around the county, with successful projects encouraging more people and companies to upgrade buildings and grow in the county.

Paul Hendel, the EDA chairman, said the local economic development agency is well regarded by companies. They tell other businesses that the EDA is a good partner, Hendel said.

The EDA competes against other counties that have much larger staffs for economic development. Yet Whipple, Barone and Blanchard have the confidence of many companies who give Orleans close consideration for projects, Hendel said.

“He has established a culture there,” Hendel said. “It is built on honesty and integrity. Jim has an ability to form positive relationships with his co-workers, elected officials and the businesses.”

Hendel also praised Whipple for leading the agency that looks out for businesses of all sizes. For more than 20 years, the EDA has a small business class that has graduated more than 500 people. The Microenterprise Assistance Program provides expertise and a chance for lower-interest loans for graduates.

The EDA has pushed to keep that program going, while also assisting companies in major projects.

“Diane has done an awesome job leading that program,” Whipple said about Blanchard, coordinator of the Microenterprise Assistance Program. That has been a great project.”

The EDA welcomes applications for the CEO/CFO position for the agency. Click here for more information on the job.

Hendel and DeRoller said the board of directors want someone who is dedicated to the county.

“Our goal is to not only find an individual who understands the importance of a seamless transition, but also someone who can move the organization and our county to the next level in securing resources and establishing business relationships that will continue to attract, secure, and maintain business to our county,” Hendel said.

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In-person turnout this election similar to 2016 in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 November 2020 at 9:13 am

About 65% of registered voters cast ballots in person; Potentially 3,000 absentees to be counted

Photos by Tom Rivers: Patty Urquhart of Kendall, left, fills out her ballot on Tuesday at the Kendall Town Hall.

Turnout at the local polls was steady without long waits in Orleans County. Local election inspectors said the longest lines were right when the polls opened at 6 a.m., but those voters didn’t have to wait too long.

The in-person turnout was similar to the 2016, the last presidential race. The number of in-person votes in the 2020 election was 15,757, or 64.9 percent of the 24,265 total active registered voters. That includes 3,753 through nine days of early voting.

The early voting seemed to reduce the lines on Tuesday. Election inspectors said it was “very steady” on Tuesday and they credited early voting for making the lines more manageable on Tuesday.

A Carlton voter makes his choices on Election Day.

The 15,757 in-person votes in 2020 compares to 15,424 cast for the president in 2016 when the race pitted Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. This time it was Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden and Trump received 71.4 percent of the vote in Orleans. Against Clinton, he received 66.8 percent of the vote in the county.

There are also 2,914 applications for absentee ballots in Orleans. That is up from 952 in 2016. The absentees will be counted on Tuesday, Nov. 10. If all 2,914 ballots come in, that would put total turnout at 18,671 or 76.9 percent.

So far, 2,362 of the absentees have been received. If no more come in to the Orleans County Board of Elections, that would make turnout at 18,119 or 74.7 percent.

Gayle Ashbery, left, and Sharon Stewart worked as election inspectors on Tuesday for Carlton. Voting was moved from the Town Hall to the Carlton Rec Hall due to a renovation project at the town building.

They arrived at 5:15 a.m. Tuesday to get ready for a long day. The polls opened at 6 in the morning and closed at 9 p.m.

“People are doing their civic duty,” Stewart said.

Cathy Schwenk, an election inspector in Carlton, greets voters and directs them to their polling station at the Carlton Rec Hall. Schwenk has worked at local elections for about five years after retiring from her full-time job. She and her husband Paul continue to operate a winery, Schwenk Wine Cellars.

“I just wanted to give back to the town,” Schwenk said about working at the election. “You see a lot of people you don’t normally see, especially during a pandemic where we haven’t been able to see people.”

Schwenk said the voters were friendly and there were no displays of hostility.

“People have been calm,” she said on Tuesday afternoon. “They’re here to do what they have to do.”

The turnout was brisk but there weren’t long lines.

“It’s been nice and steady which makes the day go by,” Schwenk said.

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Ballot for election includes more than presidential candidates

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 November 2020 at 9:01 pm

The presidential race gets the most attention, but there are several other offices on the ballot Tuesday, including the 27th Congressional District, state Legislature positions, county offices and positions in the towns of Shelby and Murray.

The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Here is a list of the candidates on the ballot:

President/Vice President

  • Joe Biden/Kamala Harris, Democratic and Working Families
  • Donald J. Trump/Michael Pence, Republican and Conservative
  • Howie Hawkins/Angela Nicole Walker, Green
  • Jo Jorgensen/Jeremy Cohen, Libertarian
  • Brock Pierce/Karla Ballard, Independence

27th Congressional District

  • Nathan McMurray, Democratic and Working Families
  • Chris Jacobs, Republican, Conservative and Independence
  • Duane Whitmer, Libertarian

State Supreme Court Justice

  • Amy Martoche, Democratic and Working Families
  • Gerald Greenan, III, Republican, Conservative and Independence

State Senator, 62nd District

  • Robert Ortt, Republican, Conservative and Independence

State Assembly, 139th District

  • Stephen Hawley, Republican, Conservative and Independence
  • Mark Glogowski, Libertarian

State Assembly, 144 District

  • Michael Norris, Republican, Conservative, Libertarian and Independence

Orleans County Clerk

  • Nadine Hanlon, Republican
  • Diane Shampine, Conservative

District Attorney

  • Joseph Cardone, Republican

Coroner (3 positions)

  • Scott Schmidt, Republican
  • Charles Smith, Republican
  • Rocco Sidari, Republican, Conservative

Town of Murray Town Justice

  • Theodore Spada, Jr., Republican

Town of Murray Councilperson

  • Randall Bower, Republican

Town of Murray Highway Superintendent

  • Dirk Lammes, Jr., Republican and Conservative
  • James DeFilipps, Independence and Jimmy D for Highway Party

Town of Shelby Supervisor

  • Jeffrey Smith, Republican

Town of Shelby Councilperson

  • Ryan Wilkins, Republican
  • (Craig Stalker is also running as write-in campaign.)

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List of polling sites in Orleans County for Nov. 3 election

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 November 2020 at 8:08 pm

The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. for Tuesday’s election at 11 locations in Orleans County.

There is one change in a polling location. Carlton voters usually vote at the Town Hall, but on Tuesday they will cast their ballots at the Carlton Fire Co. Rec Hall on Route 98.

Most of the polling sites are at town halls, although Albion votes at Hoag Library and part of Ridgeway uses the Volunteer Fire Company (and Carlton will be using the Rec Hall).

Here is a list of the polling sites:

  • Albion – Districts 1 through 6 – Hoag Library, 134 South Main St.
  • Barre – Districts 1 and 2 – Town Hall, 14317 West Barre Rd.
  • Carlton – Districts 1 through 3 – Carlton Fire Co. Rec Hall, 1853 Oak Orchard Rd.
  • Clarendon – Districts 1 through 3 – Town Hall, 16385 Church St.
  • Gaines – Districts 1 through 4 – Town Hall, 14087 Ridge Rd.
  • Kendall – Districts 1 through 3 – Town Hall, 1873 Kendall Rd.
  • Murray – Districts 1 through 6 – Murray Town Hall, 3840 Fancher Rd. (Route 31)
  • Ridgeway – Districts 1, 3, 6, 7 – Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company, 11392 Ridge Rd.
  • Ridgeway – Districts 2, 4, 5 – Town Hall, 410 West Ave.
  • Shelby – Districts 1 through 4 – Town Hall, 4062 Salt Works Rd.
  • Yates – Districts 1 and 2 – Town Hall, 8 South Main St.

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Chamber of Commerce names 2020 award winners

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 November 2020 at 8:22 am

Orleans Community Health recognized as Business of the Year

File photos by Tom Rivers: Michelle Waters, owner and program director of The Tree House, runs preschool, parent child classes, special events and birthday parties at the site on the second floor of 116 North Main St. The Tree House was named New Business of the Year. On March 12, Waters held her first class at The Tree House, and then had to adapt to Covid restrictions, including having the site off limits to the public until July. This summer she offered several play camps and enrichment programs, with a focus on music, art and laughter.

The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce has announced its annual list of award winners, including Orleans Community Health as the Business of the Year.

“2020 has been a challenging year for businesses and communities everywhere,” said Darlene Partway, the Chamber executive director. “Our board was inundated with nominations of businesses that have sacrificed, persevered, adapted and worked to meet the challenges of Covid to help our community stay safe. It was with great pride and pleasure that the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce announces this year’s award winners.

The full list includes:

  • Business of the Year: Orleans Community Health
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Fred Pilon, owner of Pilon Construction
  • New Business of the Year: The Tree House in Albion
  • Small Business of the Year: Sam’s Diner in Holley
  • Agricultural Business of the Year: Navarra’s Farm Market & Greenhouses in Albion
  • Phoenix Award: Holley Gardens (renovation of the old Holley High School into apartments and offices)
  • Business Persons of the Year: Brian and Larissa DeGraw, owners of 810 Meadworks in Medina
  • Community Service Award: Hospice of Orleans County
  • Hidden Gem: Ernst Lake Breeze Marina

The award winners will be recognized at the ceremony later in November. It won’t be a dinner event with a big crowd of people like in previous years.

Home Leasing in Rochester reopened the former Holley High School this year, following a $17 million transformation, turning the site into 41 apartments for senior citizens and the offices for  the Village of Holley. The main meeting room includes about 70 seats from the old auditorium that were refurbished. There are also about 40 seats up in the balcony but they are for display and aren’t available to the public. The building was last used as a school in 1975.

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Nearly 4,000 cast ballots through early voting in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 November 2020 at 2:36 pm

Early voting concluded today at 2 p.m. and 3,753 people cast ballots in person before the Nov. 3 election.

There were nine days of early voting at the one polling location – The Board of Elections at the County Administration Building on Route 31.

The turnout was about 10 times the number of early voters last year when it debuted and 374 people went to the polls early.

The 3,753 voters the past nine days represents 15.5 percent of the 24,265 active registered voters in the county.

The turnout each day included:

  • Today: 380
  • Saturday: 297
  • Friday: 431
  • Thursday: 406
  • Wednesday: 536
  • Tuesday: 530
  • Monday: 476
  • Sunday (Oct. 25): 332
  • Saturday (Oct. 24): 364

The polls will be open on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at polling locations in all 10 towns in the county.

650 pounds of pills, sharps collected at Drug Take Back event

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 October 2020 at 3:39 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office collected 650 pounds of unused medication and sharps last Saturday during a drive-through Drug Take Back event at the Public Safety Building.

There were about 100 vehicles that pulled in with residents dropping off unused pills and sharps, said Sheriff Chris Bourke.

Law enforcement this year has now collected 1,057 pounds of unused or expired medication, and sharps, Bourke said.

The medication will be incinerated. The Drug Take Back events are a chance to turn in unused or expired medication for safe disposal and help prevent prescription drug abuse, accidental poisoning and also protect the environment.

About 9,500 pounds of medication and needles have now been collected in the county since 2012, Bourke said.

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Early voting surge continues with nearly 3,000 ballots already cast in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 October 2020 at 1:22 pm

ALBION – The early voting numbers continue to far exceed the in-person ballots cast early a year ago.

Orleans County had 536 early voters on Wednesday and then 406 on Thursday. That followed the 476 early voters on Monday and 530 on Tuesday.

Early voting started last weekend and there were 364 on Saturday, followed by 332 on Sunday.

That puts the six-day total at 2,644 in-person votes before the Nov. 3 election. That represents 10.9 percent of 24,265 active registered voters in the county.

The 2,644 early voters far exceeds the number of early voters in the 2019 general election when only 374 people used the option over nine days. That was the first time people could do early voting in person in Orleans County.

Early voting continues until Nov. 1 at the Board of Elections at the Orleans County Administration Building on Route 31. The hours include:

  • Today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Oct. 31-Nov. 1 (Saturday and Sunday) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The county has also seen a big increase in requests for absentee ballots with 2,885. That is up from the 952 received in 2016 during the last Presidential election.

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Soil & Water honors Orleans County DPW for assistance with conservation projects

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 October 2020 at 9:09 am

Provided photos: John Papponetti, commissioner of the Orleans County Department of Public Works, accepts a “Partner of the Year” award on Wednesday from Katie Sommerfeldt, District Manager of the Orleans County Soil and Water Conservation District.

ALBION – The Orleans County Department of Public Works was recognized on Wednesday for its assistance on many conservation projects in the county.

Katie Sommerfeldt, District Manager of the Orleans County Soil and Water Conservation District, presented Soil & Water’s “Partner of the Year” award to the DPW, which is led by commissioner John Papponetti.

This award was originally intended to be presented to the DPW during Soil & Water’s annual meeting earlier this year, but due to Covid-19 this meeting was cancelled.

“Orleans County Soil & Water has a long history of working with the DPW, and over the last few years our partnership has gotten even stronger,” Sommerfeldt said.

The DPW assists Soil & Water by offering manpower and equipment to improve the drainage in Orleans County.

As a tradeoff, Soil & Water offers technical expertise with culvert sizings and ditch designs for the DPW.

“Together these entities continue to try and improve the resources of Orleans County,” Sommerfeldt said.

Here are some photos of the DPW working on projects with Soil & Water:

The Orleans County DPW maintains a stream bank using the County DPW’s excavator and operator, and the Soil & Water Slashbuster attachment.

The County DPW maintains roadside ditches using Soil & Water’s Boom Mower.

The County DPW replaces a culvert where Soil & Water provided technical assistance.

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Leg leader’s plea to public: ‘We need a united effort to save local businesses’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 October 2020 at 8:06 am

ALBION – Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson made a plea to the public to support local businesses.

Lynne Johnson

Many of the locally owned operations have struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic, with more people choosing to do online shopping. The state’s restrictions have also reduced capacity at restaurants to 50 percent for indoor seating and to 25 percent for gyms.

Many businesses had to close early in the pandemic when Gov. Cuomo and the state would only allow essential businesses to be open.

“We need a united effort to save local businesses,” Johnson said at the conclusion of Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting. “As winter nears, many local businesses continue to operate with severe restrictions placed on them in the effort to stop the spread of Covid-19.”

Johnson said the seven county legislators receive the most phone calls and messages from the public regarding concerns over state restrictions on businesses.

“These restrictions are already having a devastating economic impact locally,” Johnson said. “We all need to realize just how hard it is to sustain a business over a number of months if not longer when you can only operate at 25 percent of your space, as in the case with fitness facilities, or 50 percent of your space with restaurants.”

The upcoming holiday season will be critical for many businesses to survive well into the new year.

“Let’s join together to save our locals,” Johnson said. “We are stronger together in Orleans County.”

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Big early voting numbers continue in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 October 2020 at 12:22 pm

ALBION – Orleans County saw a big increase in early voting this past weekend on the first two days that people had a chance to cast ballots in person. The pace didn’t slow down on Monday and Tuesday.

There were 476 early voters on Monday, followed by 530 on Tuesday.

There were nearly 700 over the weekend, with 364 on Saturday, followed by 332 on Sunday.

That means 1,702 people have already voted in person out of about 23,000 registered voters in the county or about 7.4 percent.

The county has already far exceeded the number of early voters in the 2019 general election when only 374 people used the option over nine days. That was the first time people could do early voting in person in Orleans County.

Early voting continues until Nov. 1 at the Board of Elections at the Orleans County Administration Building on Route 31. The hours include:

• Today from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Oct. 29-30 (Thursday and Friday) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Oct. 31-Nov. 1 (Saturday and Sunday) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The county has also seen a big increase in requests for absentee ballots. That deadline has passed.

There were 2,885 applications for absentee ballots, which was up from the 952 received in 2016 during the last Presidential election.

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County will cap its payments to community colleges with towns to pick up some of the cost for the first time

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 October 2020 at 9:52 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Genesee Community College is shown at the main campus in Batavia in this photo from Feb. 13, 2018.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature for the first time is capping its contribution to community colleges and any amount over that will be passed on to the towns.

The county will cap its share to community colleges at $2,050,000 beginning in 2021, Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, advised town officials on Tuesday.

The Legislature already had sent notice to the towns. The topic was discussed on Tuesday evening during the Orleans County Association of Municipalities.

The county will be spending $2,240,251 for community colleges this year. That is $190,251 over the cap it will be setting. The county will pay the full amount this year, but starting in 2021 the towns will pay any local cost over the $2,050,000.

Johnson said the town share will be based on credit hours of residents in those towns. Based on the data in 2019/2020, the additional $190,251 overages for each town would be $40,384 in Albion, $8,283 for Barre, $14,105 in Carlton, $15,040 in Clarendon, $14,096 in Gaines, $9,063 in Kendall, $21,020 in Murray, $34,297 in Ridgeway, $22,198 in Shelby and $11,760 in Yates.

Community colleges were supposed to be funded with the state paying a third, the student paying a third, and the local town/county paying the other third.

But Johnson said the state has pulled back on its contribution, putting more pressure on students and local municipalities.

The County Legislature this afternoon is scheduled to pass a resolution calling on the state to increase funding for community colleges. The Legislature also is scheduled to vote on setting a cap at $2,050,000 for community colleges.

“We just had to draw the line,” Johnson said.

Most community college students from Orleans go to Genesee Community College. But Orleans County has paid towards local students who attend other community colleges in the state, and some are far more costly than GCC, including the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Sean Pogue, the Barre town supervisor, said the college costs will be difficult for towns, who are stressed to stay under the state-imposed tax cap which is about 2 percent.

“We don’t have any money to play with,” Pogue responded to Johnson. “We’re already at the 2 percent increase. I don’t have any room for this.”

Johnson said the county kept the towns and villages whole with their share of local sales tax. And the county will still be paying about 90 percent of the local community college cost share, based on 2020 numbers.

There is a chance the local share will be under the $2,050,000 county cap next year and the towns won’t have to pay towards the cost.

“There is no way to tell what 2021 will do,” Johnson said. “Will more people go to college? I hope they do. The Orleans County Legislature values our residents expanding their knowledge base.”

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Orleans unemployment drops to 5.5%

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 October 2020 at 9:00 pm

Number of workers in county down by 1,100 in past year

Orleans County’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in September, a big drop from the 9.8 percent in August.

The 9.8 percent unemployment rate in August was the first time it dipped under 10 percent since April when it was 15.9 percent. Then the unemployment rate was 11.5 percent in May, 10.8 percent in June and 12.7 percent in July.

The total number of people working in the county has dropped from 17,000 in September 2019 to 15,900 last month, according to the state Department of Labor.

The number of people unemployed increased from 700 to 900 from September 2019 to September 2020.

The 5.5 percent unemployment rate compares to 3.9 percent in September 2019.

Statewide the unemployment rate was 9.4 percent in September, compared to 3.6 percent in September 2019. Nationally the rate was 7.7 percent in September, compared to 3.3 percent a year before.

The unemployment rates for other nearby counties include (with the rate for August in parentheses):

  • Erie, 6.7 percent (10.8 percent)
  • Genesee, 4.8 percent (8.1 percent)
  • Livingston, 4.6 percent (7.6 percent)
  • Monroe, 6.6 percent (10.5 percent)
  • Niagara, 6.6 percent (10.9 percent)
  • Wyoming, 4.4 percent (7.5 percent)

The highest rates in the state are in New York City with 18.8 percent in the Bronx, 14.1 percent in Kings, and 13.8 percent in Queens.

The lowest rates include 4.0 percent in Hamilton County, 4.1 percent in Yates County and 4.3 percent in Tompkins County.

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