Orleans County

Young Republicans to meet for first time in many years this evening

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 April 2021 at 6:49 am

KNOWLESVILLE – The Orleans County Republican Party wants to engage a new generation in local government and community affairs.

The Young Republicans will be meeting today at 7 p.m. for the first time in many years. The gathering will start at 7 p.m. at the “Buzz” Hill Education Center at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County on Route 31.

The Young Republicans are targeted to people 40 and younger. They don’t need to RSVP. They can just show up for the meeting.

“We need younger people involved in politics in Orleans County,” said Laura Olinger, who is helping to coordinate the push to restart the Young Republicans in the county.

Orleans 4-H Robotics team excels in remote competition

Posted 20 April 2021 at 4:11 pm

Orleans Robotics Photo – Orleans County 4-H Robotics team members Jacob Draper, 17; Zach Neal, 16; Jayden Neal, 18; and Jacob Foote, 17, work on adjustments to their robot in advance of participating remotely in the 2021 FIRST Robotics competition.

Press Release, Orleans County 4-H Robotics Team

KNOWLESVILLE –  “It was frustrating at first, but the kids thrived when they got together, adapted, and made the best out of one of the better robots we have ever built,” said Jody Neal, a mentor and coach of the Orleans County 4-H Robotics Team “Hardwired,” regarding the 2021 FIRST Robotics Competition, held remotely.

Neal explained that the Orleans team of 10-12 youths is much smaller than many teams they compete against, which can have 100 members.

“It gave the kids a boost to see the robot they built compete,” he said, adding the Orleans Hardwired team feels they did well and likely would have been in the top section at in-person finals based on their performance.

Club members typically work for weeks developing a robot they take in-person to the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Finger Lakes Regional Competition at RIT. Neal said the team was at RIT in mid-March of 2020 when the competition shut down as the first Covid lockdowns and restrictions were put in place.

The RIT competition typically draws 50 teams with complicated and varied Covid regulations around the country this year, the FIRST organization made the decision to offer remote opportunities for competing in 2021. “2021 Infinite Recharge II” included a Games Design Challenge, an Innovations Challenge and a Skills Challenge, which utilized the robot made during the 2020 season.

Neal says the Innovations Challenge, “had nothing to do with the robot. The teams had to market an idea to judges.” The Orleans County Hardwired team came up with a tool to help people utilize Zoom who live in places like assisted living facilities and often face challenges using the video and audio conferencing platform.

Orleans team members Jacob Foote and Zach Neal worked on the Game Design challenge. Foote, who is currently enrolled at GCC and a junior at Albion, explained, “Each team could design the outlines of a competition for the robots. The theme of the competition we made was centered around medieval fantasy. During the design process of our game, we bounced ideas for obstacles and challenges in the game. We also had to consider the different experience levels for different teams so the game wasn’t too easy or challenging.”

Team member Jayden Neal of Albion, a homeschooled high school senior who also takes courses at GCC through their STEM program, worked on the Skills Challenge portion of the event. The challenge consisted of five separate challenges.

“The top three scores in these challenges were counted. We entered four of the challenges – the HyperDrive Challenge, AutoNav Challenge, Power Port Challenge, and the Interstellar Accuracy Challenge,” he said. “For the HyperDrive Challenge, our driver had to manually navigate four courses. For the AutoNav Challenge, our robot had to autonomously navigate three of those courses. In the Power Port Challenge, our robot had to shoot as many balls at a target as we could in one minute. For the Interstellar Accuracy Challenge, we had five minutes to shoot from several specific locations on the field with a limited amount of balls.”

Orleans Robot Photo – Team members only needed to make a few adjustments and programming changes to get their robot ready for the remote 2021 competition. The robot was built in 2020, but the FIRST competition at RIT was shut down when Covid hit in March of last year.

Jayden said the challenges were recorded on video and submitted online. Orleans team members ended up with good scores on some of the challenges.

The experience provided an opportunity for Jayden and the team to be mentored and guided on programming skills. “We used our robot from last year, and we did not make too many changes,” he explained. “We did switch out the front and back wheels to a different style to allow smoother turning. One the programming side – my job – I wrote some code that would allow us to list a bunch of points on a grid that the robot would then follow, then created those paths for the AutoNav Challenge, it wasn’t the fastest, but it did work.”

Team members did not have to spend much time on adjustments for the shooting challenges, Jayden noted. Last year, a vision system was added to the Orleans robot that allowed it to line up with the target as well as estimate the distance and set the speed accordingly.  “Just doing a minor tweak to the shooter to optimize it for the further distances we would be shooting at in the accuracy challenge, and a recalibration of distance to rpm portion of the code, allowed us to do alright in those challenges,” he said.

Overall, the team did well. “We ended up placing 8th in our group for the skills challenges,” Jayden said. “Our team is typically right in the middle of the pack at competitions, so we were pretty happy with that.”

Jayden has also been working to analyze unofficial statistics for this year’s competition. “Out of a little over 1,400 teams, we would be in 338th place on team 3015’s global leaderboard,” he said. “Our scores would also put us in 14th place out of the 45 teams from New York State that chose to compete. Although I wish I could have seen how this robot would have performed at a normal competition, these challenges were fun and did give us away to compete against other teams.”

New class starts for Leadership Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 April 2021 at 3:27 pm

Program now in 4th year gives group a chance to explore many facets of the county

Photos by Tom Rivers: Pictured from left, front row: Nicole Goyette, Elissa Smith, Joanna Follman, Sam Covis, Kathy Jurs, Sherry Haylett, Donna Ciccarelli, Stacy Newell, Denise Klos and Ben McPherson. Back row: Mike Magnuson, Sean Snook, Rebecca Alexander, Gabe Myers, Roberta Conn, Melinda Pitcher, Chris Ranallo, Cat Holland, Renee Hungerford, Ayesha Kreutz, Mourad Attar, Rich Allis, Scott Wilson, Rob Riemer and Justin Niederhofer.

LYNDONVILLE – The fourth class for Leadership Orleans started this past week with a two-day retreat at the White Birch Golf Course.

The program started in 2018. Each year about 25 community members participate in the program. They used to meet monthly and spend a full day examining an aspect of the county, and hearing from leaders in different industries, businesses, human services, education and other sectors of the community.

This year’s class was pushed back due to Covid-19 concerns. Instead of meeting monthly, the class will get together twice a month some of months to ensure a full year of programming.

The opening retreat included several ice breakers to help the class get better acquainted, a personality profile awareness, and discussion about servant leadership.

Laura Olinger, owner and president of Bentley Brothers, speaks during the opening retreat last Thursday for Leadership Orleans at the White Birch Golf Course in Lyndonville.

Olinger is a member of the steering committee for Leadership Orleans. She said the program shows the county’s strengths and looks for ways to overcome the challenges.

“It can be really easy to say we’ve always done it this way,” Olinger said. “But this brings together a group of people who want to be involved and see the community do better.”

Skip Helfrich, director of the program, said there continues to be strong interest from the community in leadership Orleans. This year’s class includes 11 organizations that haven’t been part of the program before. He already has three applicants for the 2022 program.

“This class is a great way to learn about Orleans County,” he said. “Everyone builds a network and you’re learning about your community.”

In coming months the class will have days focused on legislative affairs, an adventure leadership day, community health, education, business and culture, tourism and recreation, agribusiness, economic and workforce development, simulated society, volunteerism, and a closing retreat and graduation.

Participants pay a tuition for the program, which also receives $16,000 in funding from the county, as well as many sponsors.

The 2021 class includes:

  • Rebecca Alexander, co-owner of Dubby’s Wood Fired Pizza
  • Rich Allis, pastor of Light of Victory Church in Albion
  • Mourad Attar, quality engineer for Baxter Healthcare
  • Donna Ciccarelli, global purchasing planner at Baxter Healthcare
  • Roberta Conn, office manager for Oak Orchard Community Health Center
  • Sam Covis, assistant director Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina
  • Joanna Follman, payroll administrator for Millennium Roads in Lyndonville
  • Nicole Goyette, assistant principal for Orleans/Niagara BOCES
  • Sherry Haylett, director of finance for the Arc of Genesee Orleans
  • Cat Holland, retail manager for Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina
  • Renee Hungerford, executive director of Community Action of Orleans & Genesee
  • Kathy Jurs, herd care manager for Orleans Poverty Hill Farms in Albion
  • Denise Klos, manager of operations for RTS Orleans
  • Ayesha Kreutz, program coordinator for the Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern
  • Mike Magnuson, reference librarian for Hoag Library in Albion
  • Ben McPherson, financial advisor for Edward Jones Investments in Lockport
  • Gabe Myers, customer service manager for Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina
  • Stacy Newell, chief operating officer for Claims Recovery Financial Services in Albion
  • Justin Niederhofer, deputy director of Orleans County Emergency Management Office
  • Melinda Pitcher, manufacturing supervisor for Baxter Healthcare
  • Chris Ranallo, manager of Cobblestone Country Federal Credit Union in Albion
  • Rob Riemer, deputy for Orleans County Sheriff’s Office
  • Elissa Smith, elementary principal at Lyndonville
  • Sean Snook, operations manager at Claims Recovery Financial Services in Albion
  • Scott Wilson, superintendent at Orleans County Jail

The 2021 class met on Thursday and Friday at the White Birch.

Food distribution schedule set through end of May

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 April 2021 at 12:00 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Samantha Koons of the Office for the Aging assists with a food distribution on Friday in Albion. Greg Gilman of Community Action also helped move boxes of food to trunks of vehicles.

The schedule is set for the food distribution program on Fridays through the end of May.

The federal Department of Agriculture last week said the “Families Food Box Program” program won’t be continuing after May. The program has had five rounds and delivered 157.1 million boxes of fresh produce, milk, dairy and cooked meats to Americans across the country since last April.

Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary, announced the fresh produce boxes will be delivered as part of the Emergency Food Assistance Program where they can be delivered more efficiently with less waste and at a lower cost. It is unclear how that will affect the program locally. The food is delivered by Foodlink.

People line up in vehicles often by 5:30 to 6 a.m. for the distributions that are scheduled to start at 8 to 8:30 a.m. There are usually 300 boxes of food each week, but sometimes there are more. People are encouraged not to block driveways while they are waiting.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call the Office for the Aging at (585) 589-3191.

The schedule through the end of May includes:

  • April 23, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, 4-H Fairgrounds on Route 31 in Knowlesville
  • April 30, Community Action Main Street Store, 113 South Main St., Albion
  • May 7, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, 4-HFairgrounds on Route 31 in Knowlesville
  • May 14, Community Action Main Street Store, 113 South Main St., Albion
  • May 21, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, 4-HFairgrounds on Route 31 in Knowlesville
  • May 28, Community Action Main Street Store, 113 South Main St., Albion

USDA announces food box program to end

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 April 2021 at 10:29 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Greg Gilman, an employee with Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, helps with a food distribution this morning in Albion. The federal government has funded the program since last April but announced it won’t continue after May.

“This helps hundreds of families every week,” said Annette Finch, emergency services coordinator for Community Action.

The program has been going most Fridays in Orleans County since April 2020. People line up in vehicles often by 5:30 to 6 a.m. for the distributions that are scheduled to start at 8 to 8:30 a.m. There are usually 300 boxes of food each week, but sometimes there are more, including today when the usual 20-pound box was supplemented with oranges, pears, Brussels sprouts, hummus and eggs.

“We never know what we’re going to get until they pull up here,” Finch said about the delivery trucks.

The schedule the next two weeks includes:

  • April 23, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, 4-H Fairgrounds on Route 31 in Knowlesville
  • April 30, Community Action Main Street Store, 113 South Main St., Albion

Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary, announced this week the fresh produce boxes will be delivered as part of the Emergency Food Assistance Program where they can be delivered more efficiently with less waste and at a lower cost.

The “Families Food Box Program” had five rounds and delivered 157.1 million boxes of fresh produce, milk, dairy and cooked meats to Americans across the country.

Anthony Washington, an Iroquois Job Corps employee, takes a box to one of the vehicles.

Samantha Koons of the Office for the Aging has been a steady presence at the distributions for many months.

Kevin Ross was among a team from the Job Corps that assisted this morning in the rain with temperatures in the low 40s.

Ortt, Hawley didn’t like state budget but grateful for increase in veterans’ program

Photos by Tom Rivers: State Sen. Robert Ortt, center, speaks today outside the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency office on Route 31. He is joined by Orleans County Chief Administrative Officer Jack Welch, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Veterans’ Services Office Director Nancy Traxler.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 April 2021 at 2:55 pm

ALBION – State Sen. Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Steve Hawley both were resoundingly opposed to the state’s new $212 billion budget.

But both acknowledged there are some good parts of the spending plan, included $4.5 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer to Peer Program.

That program was zeroed out in the governor’s initial budget proposal. It was at $3.5 million. Ortt and Hawley both said the Republican conference pressed hard for the program to get an increase.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley also spoke during the news conference today.

“I am proud to have fought to restore this vital, life-saving funding into this year’s budget so that veterans may get the mental health assistance they need and deserve,” Ortt said. “It is shameful that Gov. Cuomo opted to cut the funding for this program completely in his Executive Budget, but its inclusion in the final state budget is welcome news.”

Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties will share $185,000 with each county getting an equal third of that amount or $61,667. Niagara and Monroe counties each have also been approved for $185,000.

Orleans will run the program out of the Veterans Service Agency. None of the funds will go towards administering the program with the money going solely to boost social opportunities and peer connections among veterans. In the past the program has paid for fishing outings, baseball and Buffalo Sabres games, YMCA programs, a train ride with the Medina Railroad Museum and other activities.

The Peer to Peer Support Program was established in honor Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer, who is from Suffolk County and later moved to North Carolina. After returning home from Iraq, Dwyer suffered from post 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.

“22 veterans a day take their lives due to the lingering effects of their service at nearly 1.5 times the rate of the general population,” Ortt said. “This funding will help connect those suffering from the invisible scars of war with the assistance they need to survive, and we must continue the fight to ensure this program is a permanent fixture in the budget every year.”

Ortt and Hawley both said they want to see the funding become a permanent part of the state budget, and not be in limbo each year.

“To think that funding for this vital program was ever on the chopping block is incredibly disheartening, and I am grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature for preserving this program as the governor tried to defund it entirely,” Hawley said. “For many veterans, the hardship they face persists even after they return from duty, and we should be doing all we can to help them in their struggles for all they do for us and our nation. As a veteran myself and member of the Assembly Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I can’t say enough how much of an impact programs such as the Dwyer program have on the lives of soldiers returning to civilian life and how disastrous losing such an important program would be.”

Nancy Traxler, director of the Orleans County Veterans’ Service Office, said programs are being planned through the program. She expects those activities to be announced soon as Covid-19 restrictions are being eased.

“Veterans all over New York are being helped by this program, and it would have been a great loss to the veteran community had this funding not been added back into the budget,” Traxler said.

Veterans in Orleans County interested in upcoming activities through the Dwyer program can call Traxler’s office at (585) 589-3219.

Candidates file petitions to run for town, county offices

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 April 2021 at 6:50 pm

Slate shows several Republican primaries, including races for town supervisor in Barre, Murray

Candidates for local town and county elected positions have filed petitions to run for those offices in November. However, some will face Republican primaries on June 22.

The primaries include two races for town supervisor, including retired Sheriff Randy Bower trying to oust Joe Sidonio in Murray. In Barre, Sean Pogue faces a challenge for town supervisor from Scott Burnside. Barre also has four candidates running for two other positions on the Town Board.

The slate of candidates include two changes on the seven-member County Legislature. Ken DeRoller and John DeFillipps  aren’t seeking re-election.

Republicans backed Ed Morgan, who is retired as Murray highway superintendent, for the at-large position currently held by DeFillipps. John Fitzak, a member of Carlton Town Board, was endorsed by Republicans for DeRoller’s position representing the towns of Carlton, Kendall and Murray.

Candidates usually need to submit petitions signed by at least 5 percent of the registered voters in their party. This year, due to Covid-19, the number of signatures was reduced to 1.5 percent.

Those petitions needed to be turned into the Orleans County Board of Election by the March 25 deadline.

There is still a chance for candidates to run for an elected position. They can do it under an independent line. They would need petitions signed by at least 2.5 percent of the total registered voters in that town, district or county. That is down from the 5 percent requirement before Covid. Those petitions are due to the Board of Elections from May 18 to May 25.

Here are the candidates who have submitted petitions so far:

Town of Albion

  • Town Supervisor – Richard Remley, Republicans
  • Town Councilperson (2 positions) – Arnold Allen Jr. and Sandra Bensley, both Republicans

Town of Barre

  • Town Supervisor (1 position) – Scott Burnside and Sean Pogue, both Republicans
  • Town Councilperson (2 positions) – George McKenna, David Waters, Lynn Hill and Tom McCabe, all Republicans

Town of Carlton

  • Town Councilperson (2 positions) – Jeffrey Gifaldi and Deborah Yockel, both Republicans
  • Town Clerk (1 position) – Karen Narburgh, Conservative and Republican; and Dori Goetze, Republican
  • Highway Superintendent (1 position) – Kurt Van Wyke, Republican
  • Town Justice (1 position) – Kevin Hurley, Republican

Town of Clarendon

  • Town Supervisor (1 position) – Richard Moy, Republican
  • Town Councilperson (2 positions) – William Fox, Democrat; Marc Major, Republican; and Christopher Caufield, Republican

Town of Gaines

  • Town Supervisor (1 position) – Tyler Allport, Republican
  • Town Councilperson (2 positions) – James Kirby and Kenneth Rush, both Republicans
  • Town Justice (1 position) – Henry Smith Jr. and Charles Prentice Jr., both Republicans
  • Town Clerk (1 position) – Susan Heard, Republican

Town of Kendall

  • Town Supervisor (1 position) – Anthony Cammarata, Republican
  • Town Councilpersons (2 positions) – Paul Jennings and Wayne Martin Jr., both Republicans
  • Town Clerk (1 position) – Amy Richardson, Republican
  • Highway Superintendent (1 position) – Warren Kruger, Republican
  • Town Justice (1 position) – Debra Kluth, Republican

Town of Murray

  • Town Supervisor (1 position) – Joseph Sidonio, Conservative and Republican; and Randy Bower, Republican
  • Town Councilperson (2 positions) – Michael Mele and Paul Hendel, both Republicans. (A petition also was submitted for Robert MacClaren, a Republican, but he declined the nomination and won’t be on the ballot.)
  • Highway Superintendent (1 position) – Dirk Lammes, Conservative and Republican
  • Town Justice (1 position) – Gary Passarell, Republican
  • Town Clerk (1 position) – Cynthia Oliver, Republican

Town of Ridgeway

  • Town Councilperson (2 positions) – David Stalker, Conservative and Republican; Jeffrey Toussaint, Republican; and Cliff Barber, Republican
  • Town Clerk (1 position) – Laurie Kilburn, Conservative and Republican; Elisa J. “E.J.” Cox, Republican; and Hannah Hill, Republican
  • Highway Superintendent (1 position) – John Olinger, Republican

Town of Shelby

  • Town Supervisor (1 position) – Jeffrey Smith, Republican
  • Town Councilpersons (2 positions) – Edward Mathew Zelazny, William Bacon and Stephen Seitz Sr., all Republicans

Town of Yates

  • Town Supervisor (1 position) – James Simon, Republican
  • Town Councilpersons (2 positions) – Paul Lauricella Jr., Conservative; and Terry Chaffee Jr. and Harold Suhr, both Republicans
  • Town Justice (1 position) – Donald Grabowski, Republican

Orleans County

  • Legislator District 1 (Barre, Calrendon, most of Shelby) – William Eick, Republican
  • Legislator District 2 (Ridgeway, Yates, part of Shelby) – Lynne Johnson, Republican
  • Legislator District 3 (Albion and Gaines) – Fred Miller, Democrat
  • Legislator District 4 (Carlton, Kendall, Murray) – John Fitzak, Republican
  • Legislator At-Large from West (countywide) – Merle “Skip” Draper, Republican
  • Legislator At-Large from Central (countywide) – Donald Allport, Republican
  • Legislator At-Large from East (countywide) – Edward Morgan, Republican
  • County Treasurer – Kimberly DeFrank, Republican

State DMV computer system’s weeklong outage cripples local office

Posted 9 April 2021 at 6:39 pm

Press Release, Orleans County Clerk Nadine Hanlon

ALBION – A weeklong outage of the NYS DMV computer system has prevented customers from scheduling all commercial, regular and motorcycle road tests.

In addition, customers are unable to use the computer to take commercial, regular and motorcycle permit tests.

Orleans County Clerk Nadine Hanlon, along with County Clerks across the state, are calling on DMV Commissioner Schroeder to disclose the true reasons why the system is malfunctioning and apologize to affected New York State residents.

“This is an unacceptable situation,” Hanlon said. “I can understand the system going down for a few hours, maybe a day, but to be down for a full week leads me to believe that there are major issues with the system that DMV is not revealing.

“April is a very busy time for most DMVS with young people coming in for permit and road tests, and this snafu adversely affects the customers as well as DMV staffs,” Hanlon said. “Commissioner Schroeder needs to immediately address this issue and inform New York State residents the reasons why this system has been down for a full week, severely crippling DMV services.”

Hanlon stated that there has been no explanation from the State on the current computer issue, only a notice on the state website. In addition, County Clerks have not been notified by State DMV officials as to when they can expect the computers to come back online, leaving our local DMV staff to face the brunt of motorist complaints.

“Commissioner Schroeder owes it to the people of the state to explain why the computers are down and to pledge that all measures will be taken to ensure this does not happen again,” Hanlon said. “Motorists deserve nothing less.”

Head Start program seeks donations for book fund to nurture young readers

Posted 6 April 2021 at 2:57 pm

Press Release, Community Action of Orleans & Genesee

Provided photo: “Grandma” Esther Leadley, a member of the Community Action Board of Directors and early childhood learning advocate, reads to a Head Start student in Genesee County. Leadley, a former Genesee County legislator, recognizes the importance of books for preschool children that help create readers for success in school and life.

ALBION – Community Action of Orleans & Genesee’s Head Start program is joining forces to celebrate the Week of the Young Child from April 10 to April 16 with the National Association for Education of Young Children.

The local Head Start program serves over 250 young children, ages birth to 5 years, and their parents in Orleans and Genesee counties. Like NAEYC, Head Start programs are committed to delivering best practice early childhood education that help young children thrive and learn in an environment dedicated to ensuring children reach their full potential.

The 2021 Head Start Book Fund Campaign – “Build a Library … Create a Reader” – will put books in the homes of local Head Start children on a monthly basis.

Esther Leadley, long time active member of the Community Action Board of Directors, has worked tirelessly in advocating for the “Young Child” throughout her career. Her enthusiasm and passion for young children has initiated the Head Start Book Fund Campaign where children exposed to more books can increase their vocabulary and nurture beginner reading skills.

“It’s about our local children and their future,” Leadley said. “I hope others will join me in this annual project that builds home libraries and helps create readers for our Head Start children.”

Head Start donors can help “create readers” with a $60 donation that will ensure one take-home book for one local Head Start child for each of 12 months. A $120 donation will ensure a take-home book for two Head Start children with a book for each of 12 months.

Online donations can be made by clicking here or checks can be made payable to Community Action of Orleans & Genesee and mailed to 409 State Street, Albion, NY  14411

Orleans unemployment rate has steadily risen since October

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2021 at 3:22 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: An Albion business has an open sign projecting out on Main Street.

Orleans County unemployment rate has been steadily rising in recent months, going from 5.4 percent in October to 7.5 percent in February, according to data from NYS Department of Labor.

The 7.5 percent is less than half of the unemployment rate during the pandemic high of 16.8 percent in April.

Here are the county’s unemployment rate for 12 months:

  • February 2021: 7.5%
  • January 2021: 7.3%
  • December 2020: 6.6%
  • November 2020: 5.7%
  • October 2020: 5.4%
  • September 2020: 5.6%
  • August 2020: 8.9%
  • July 2020: 11.5%
  • June 2020: 10.8%
  • May 2020: 12.3%
  • April 2020: 16.8%
  • March 2020: 5.6%

Source: NYS Department of Labor

The county’s 7.5 percent unemployment rate in February compares to 5.6 percent a year before. In Orleans County, the number of people working is down by 400, from 16,400 in February 2020 to 16,000 in February 2021. The number on unemployment is up 300 from 1,000 to 1,300 during that time.

In NYS, the number of people working is down 805,600 from 9,130,000 in February 2020 to 8,324,400, with the unemployment rate up from 4.1 percent in February 2020 to 9.6 percent in February 2021.

Nationally the number of people working is down nearly 8.5 million with the unemployment rate up from 3.8 percent in February last year to 6.6 percent in February 2021.

The number of people working declined 21,100 in Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro from 510,400 to 489,400 during the 12 months. In the Rochester metro, the number is down 10,500, from 493,300 to 482,800 during that time period.

New York City is suffering the most with unemployment. The rate was 13.2 percent in February, with the number of people working dropping by 584,300 — from 3,963,800 in February 2020 to 3,379,500 in February 2021.

Locally, Orleans is slightly higher than most other nearby counties’ unemployment rates. Here are some of the unemployment rates of nearby counties for February: Livingston, 6.4 percent; Genesee, 6.6 percent; Monroe, 7.3 percent; Wyoming, 7.4 percent; Orleans, 7.5 percent; Erie, 7.9 percent; and Niagara, 8.3 percent.

Albion PD, Sheriff’s Office send police reform plans to state

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 March 2021 at 8:27 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Albion Police Department Sgt. Brandon Annable, left, and Lt. David Mogle are pictured outside the Albion police station on Platt Street. The two officers worked on a police reform plan that was required by all 500 law enforcement agencies in the state.

ALBION – The police reform and reinvention plans for the Albion Police Department and Orleans County Sheriff’s Office were both sent to the state by their governing bodies last week.

The Albion Village Board and Orleans County Legislature both voted on Wednesday to send the plans to state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo last June gave all 500 law enforcement agencies until April 1 to submit the plans after public feedback.

Albion gave residents a chance to comment on the police department through a five-question online survey.

“What we heard was vastly positive,” Lt. David Mogle told the Village Board last week.

The Sheriff’s Office held at least three public forums. Both the Sheriff’s Office and Albion PD formed committees with residents to go over the agencies’ policies for use of force and de-escalation, community relations, and training of officers on bias in profiling.

Mogle said the process allowed the Albion PD to hear from the community. One concern from the committee is people don’t like the tinted windows on the Chevrolet Tahoes driven by officers. Mogle said as those vehicles are rotated out the replacements won’t have tinted windows in the future.

The committee also suggested the Albion PD have more officers spend time in school buildings. The department currently has a dedicated school resource officer, Chris Glogowski. He has worked at the school district since February 2019, with the district contributing $81,250 annually to the village to have the officer dedicated to the schools.

More officers could spend time in the schools with the district’s approval and if it works with the Police Department’s staffing, Mogle said. Those officers could spend part of a shift with the school resource officer, Mogle said.

The department, under Police Chief Roland Nenni, has annual training for officers that far exceeds the annual state requirements. Albion officers do annual training with firearms, use of force, updates in laws such as bail reform and “Raise the Age,” Emergency Vehicle Operation Course, Stinger Spike Strips (vehicle pursuit termination efforts), administering Narcan, using tourniquets and other First Aid, and defensive tactics, Taser and use of less lethal bean bag shotgun, reality-based training focused on de-escalation, Bloodborne pathogens, and active shooter training.

The department has long banned the use of chokeholds. It has a policy against racial-based profiling. The Albion PD also is looking to add a Racial Justice training, the department states in its reform and reinvention plan.

To see the Albion PD plan, click here.

The Sheriff’s Office is responsive to the community, embracing more training to de-escalate volatile situations, Sheriff Chris Bourke said during a public forum on Feb. 4.

Bourke said deputies have received more training in responding to people in a mental health crisis. They are trained to help de-escalate those and other potentially volatile situations.

The Sheriff’s Office operates with the purpose that “all persons have the right to dignified treatment under the law; protection of this right is a duty which is binding upon all members,” according to the community relations policy.

Sheriff Chris Bourke

The policy about bias-based profiling states that all members of the Sheriff’s Office “will not affect a stop, detention, or search of any person which is motivated by race, color, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation.”

Bourke said the Sheriff’s Office has about 100 employees with 45 at the county jail. There are usually 22 to 24 deputy sheriffs, which includes two investigators, three sergeants, a lieutenant and one civil sergeant. The Sheriff’s Office currently has two vacancies for deputies and an investigator.

Jeff Gifaldi, the chief deputy, said the Sheriff’s Office has three patrol cars out 24-7, except on the weekends, when it is increased to four cars.

The Sheriff’s Office also runs a marine patrol from April 1 to Nov. 1 with a full-time deputy and 10 part-timers. The work in 26 miles of water along Lake Ontario, as well as Lake Alice, Glenwood Lake, the Erie Canal and other smaller bodies of water, Bourke said.

The Sheriff’s Office also runs the 911 dispatch center with nine full-time dispatchers and two part-timers. Last year they handled 32,000 calls.

“We’re proud of the services you provide in Orleans County,” County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said during last week’s meeting.

She faulted the state for threatening a funding cut for the municipalities that didn’t submit a plan by April 1.

“I commend the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office for all of their labor getting this plan together under threat of no funding, which wasn’t fair to you,” Johnson said.

To see the police reform for the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, click here.

Impressive monument for pioneers in Orleans County never came to fruition

Posted 27 March 2021 at 9:09 am

40-foot-high obelisk was planned for Courthouse Square

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Volume 1, No. 9

ALBION – A recent reference question brought this impressive design to light. This image of a towering 40-foot obelisk was one of several submissions under discussion in 1912 for a proposed monument in memory of the Pioneers of Orleans County which was to be erected in Albion at the Courthouse Square.

The Orleans County Pioneer Association was formed in 1859 “to preserve and perpetuate the remembrance of interesting facts connected with the early history of the settlement of Orleans County” and to pay tribute to the settlers who could ”recollect when here was nothing but a dark, unbroken wilderness.”

In June 1910, in anticipation of the upcoming centenary of the original settlement of the county, the Pioneer Association appointed a committee to take charge of the formation of the Orleans County Pioneers Monument Association which would be charged to raise $3,000 to erect a suitable monument in memory of the pioneers.

At a special meeting of the Orleans County Pioneer Association held on Feb. 23, 1911, President John Bidleman was authorized to get approval from the Legislature to erect the monument on the County Courthouse Square. He was also instructed to “secure assistants in the towns to circulate subscription papers among the families of the pioneers for funding the monument.”

The Medina Daily Journal of July 10, 1911 reports the appointment of the following as committee members of the Orleans County Pioneers’ Monument Association: President: Dr. R.W. Bamber, Two Bridges, Supervisor: Daniel D. Daum, Clarendon, Vice-President: Dr. John A. Hartman, Albion, Secretary: Harry E. Colburn, Albion.

It was noted that Dr. Bamber would try to raise $10,000 for the project.

On July 20, 1911, a committee was formed to obtain designs and an estimate of costs. Members included Irving L’Hommedieu of Medina, Lafayette H. Beach of Albion, Jacob Tillis of Gaines, Harry Wellman of Kendall and Dr. W.R. Bamber of Carlton.

A meeting was held on November 23, 1911 to inspect the designs. “Several prominent monument manufacturing concerns and some noted sculptors appeared before the committee and presented miniature models” (Medina Tribune). The cost of the models presented ranged from $3,000 to $15,000. It was reported that the committee hoped to secure a design for less than $10,000.

A final choice was made on December 17, 1911, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. The design, by sculptor Alfred Dreyfus of New York, was of a pioneer woodman in bronze, with long hair, bare-headed, sleeves rolled to elbows, long skin coat, with belt leather leggings, portrayed with uplifted axe, swinging it to chop a fallen log. The total height of the monument would be 18 feet and the cost $6,000.

However, the project did not come to fruition after all. There is no record available of how much money was actually gathered. And, it would seem that there was some dissension. The Medina Daily Journal of June 17, 1912 “decried the action of the Pioneer Association in opposing the Ridge Road Centennial” as “unfortunate.” The Centennial, planned for 1913, was to honor the State’s appropriation in 1813 of $5,000 for the improvements which made it “a great military and emigration highway.”

In actual fact, the two publications which chronicle the Association (Pioneer History of Orleans County, New York, by Arad Thomas and Record of the Orleans County Pioneer Association,) are more evocative than any monument, for they contain compelling first-hand accounts of the settlers’ early trials and tribulations.

They may be accessed at your favorite library or online at the following links: Pioneer History of Orleans County, New York (click here) and the Record of the Orleans County Pioneer Association (click here).

Retired sheriff honored for 60 years of service to East Shelby Fire Company

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 March 2021 at 10:39 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: David Green, second from left, is presented a “Special Recognition Award” from Orleans County Legislator Bill Eick and an award from the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York by Dale Banker, the county’s emergency management coordinator. Debbie Taylor, the East Shelby fire chief, joined Green at the County Legislature’s chambers for the awards for his 60 years of service with the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company.

ALBION — David Green, a retired Orleans County sheriff and fire coordinator, was recognized during Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting with a “Special Recognition Award” for his 60 years of service to the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company.

“Through you selflessness and extreme commitment as a firefighter in your community your efforts have provided a positive impact on the health and safety of the residents of the fire district,” the citation stated from the Legislature.

Dale Banker, the county’s emergency management coordinator, also presented Green with a proclamation from the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York for the 60 years of volunteer service.

The County Legislature also recognized Charles Ralph for his 50 years as a member of the East Shelby Fire Department. Mr. Ralph wasn’t at Wednesday’s Legislature meeting.

Orleans approves agreement to house federal detainees in County Jail

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 March 2021 at 8:48 am

Contract with U.S. Marshals could net county several hundred thousand dollars annually

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Orleans County Jail and the County Courthouse are pictured recently. The jail on Platt Street in Albion has a capacity for 82 inmates but has been well under that in the past year.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature approved a three-year contract on Wednesday with the U.S. Marshal’s Service to house federal detainees in the county jail, an agreement that could net the county several hundred thousand dollars a year.

The county agreed to house the detainees at $115 a day. The Sheriff’s Office also will transport detainees to court appointments in Buffalo, Rochester and Niagara Falls, and will be paid $40 per hour for each of two staff members assigned to the transport and court appearance. The county will also be paid the current IRS mileage reimbursement rate, which currently is 56 cents a mile.

Sheriff Chris Bourke said the agreement could net the county $500,000 or more. It also won’t overwhelm the jail, which currently has 30 inmates in a facility with a capacity for 82. Of those 30 inmates, 12 are “state-ready” inmates who have been sentenced to state prison. The local jail population during the pandemic in the past year and in the era of bail reform has been about 15 to 20 inmates a day.

Even at the smaller inmate population, the county still must maintain full staffing.

“We have the same costs,” Bourke said. “With the agreement with the Marshals, we’d just have more food and some over-the-counter medications.”

Bourke said the county plans to have up to 10 detainees from the U.S. Marshals at the beginning of the agreement, and then expects to increase it to 15 to 20 detainees.

At 10 detainees a day, the county would be paid $1,150, and that doesn’t include any additional money for transport.

If the county averaged 10 detainees over a year that would be $419,750 in revenue. If the county averaged 15 detainees in the county jail, that would be $629,625 for the year.

The agreement approved on Wednesday runs for a year, from March 1, 2021 to Feb. 28, 2024. county can opt of the agreement with 30 days notice.

County Leg leader wants local government stimulus used for broadband

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 March 2021 at 7:20 am

County officials will ask towns, schools to contribute some stimulus funds to expand high-speed internet

ALBION – The American Rescue Plan includes several millions for local governments, money that the Orleans County Legislature leader says would be put to good use by expanding high-speed internet throughout the county.

Lynne Johnson

Lynne Johnson

The American Rescue Plan also includes $7.9 million for Orleans County, and an additional $4.4 million for the 10 towns and four villages, and $12.5 million for the five school districts.

“If we’re all in this together, it makes it affordable,” said Lynne Johnson, the Orleans County Legislature chairwoman.

The county has been working for about a decade to expand broadband or high-speed internet, but has largely missed out on state and federal grants. The county has data points where the service is currently unavailable. It would cost an estimated $4.2 million to fill all of those gaps.

Johnson would like to bypass another state and federal grant cycle and move quickly to use some of the stimulus funding to bring in broadband. The state and federal grant programs can take many months of waiting to find out if an application is approved, and then many more months to get a project complete. Johnson said it would likely be 1½ to 2 years before broadband could be expanded in Orleans County if the project was funded through a grant.

The Covid pandemic exposed the shortcomings in the county for high-speed internet service, with many households unable to log on to the internet to do homework assignments or to have the option of working from home, Johnson said.

The federal stimulus funding encourages municipalities to use the money for infrastructure projects, including expanding high-speed internet.

“I think the timing is just right,” Johnson said about the funding.

County leaders will be meeting with Niagara County officials to see if they want to do a joint project for broadband. The two counties have been working together on the issue through the Niagara Orleans Regional Alliance. Estimates for bringing high-speed internet in the two counties is over $10 million, with the areas in Orleans at $4.2 million.

Johnson also said she will be convening a roundtable discussion with town and school leaders in Orleans County, trying to get them to help pay for the cost. The county has a breakdown of the internet gaps in all 10 towns, she said.

The county’s $7.9 million from the federal government in the American Rescue Plan doesn’t come in one lump sum. The county gets half this year and the other half next year.

“We would like to move forward immediately,” Johnson said. “We’re ready to go.”