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Orleans County

4 public libraries will serve as tourism information centers for Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 October 2019 at 3:39 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has designated the four public libraries in the county as official tourism information centers.

Community Free Library in Holley, Yates Community Library in Lyndonville, Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina and Hoag Library in Albion will have displays with brochures and other official tourism marketing materials such as the Orleans County Travel Guide, Explore Orleans County NY Tourism Map, OC Fishing Guide, OC Bicycling Guide and Foods of Orleans County Dining Guide.

Elizabeth Haibach, a librarian at Hoag Library, suggested that the libraries serve as information centers. She is in the current Leadership Orleans class, and discussed the possibility with county leaders.

Dawn Borchet, tourism director for the county, said the libraries serve visitors who are traveling by car, boat or bicycle.

The libraries are popular spots with visitors who need restrooms, WiFi internet access, charging stations for their phones, and use of a copier, she said.

The county will soon have a new guide available for visitors that promotes spots in the county to go cycling, kayaking and hiking, Bouchet said during Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting.

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County Legislature recognizes Bellavia, Medal of Honor recipient

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 October 2019 at 8:03 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – David Bellavia is pictured with veterans in Orleans County on Wednesday afternoon after he was recognized by the Orleans County Legislature.

Bellavia, a 1994 Lyndonville graduate and a county resident, was presented the Medal of Honor on June 25 by President Trump during a ceremony at the White House.

Bellavia was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on Nov. 10, 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq. He led an infantry squad clearing houses of insurgents, saving the lives of the members of his unit. He is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the nation’s highest honor for military service.

Bellavia is presented a “Special Recognition Award” by Nancy Traxler, director of Veterans Services in Orleans County. The Special Recognition Award is from the Orleans County Legislature, which praised Bellavia for receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions on Nov. 10, 2004.

“The Orleans County Legislature does hereby commend you for your heroism, self sacrifice and bravery as you served proudly in the United States Army,” the Legislature wrote. “We are proud of your accomplishments and your continued efforts in serving the United States Army. This will forever be widespread, long lasting and extremely appreciated.”

Bellavia chats with Norman Lake of Lyndonville, a member of the American Legion.

Bellavia addressed the County Legislature, and thanked the group for the recognition. He said he is grateful to have grown up in the county which has long valued the service of veterans. He noted that in Medina the community named one of its parks after John Butts, a Medal of Honor winner for his valor during World War II. Butts was killed in action on June 23, 1944.

Bellavia said he was warmly welcomed back to the community after he served in Iraq, with former state Assemblyman Charlie Nesbitt, a decorated helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, among the first to connect with him.

Bellavia has passed on a chance to run for Congress in an upcoming special election, instead opting for full-time service with the U.S. Army.

“I’m yours,” Bellavia said during Wednesday’s Legislature meeting. “You made me. You raised me.”

Bellavia is pictured with county officials after Wednesday’s presentation. Front row, from left: Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt, Bellavia, and County Legislator Skip Draper. Second row: legislators Fred Miller, Bill Eick, Don Allport and Lynne Johnson. Back row: Legislator John DeFilipps, County Attorney Kathy Bogan, County Treasurer Kim DeFrank, Nadine Hanlon, clerk of the Legislature, and Legislator Ken DeRoller.

County Legislator Bill Eick gets a close look at the Medal of Honor. Bellavia encouraged people to hold the medal.

Bellavia shakes hands with Bruce Schmidt, a Gaines town justice.

The County Legislature has wanted to recognize Bellavia for several months. He was presented a key to the city in Batavia on July 23 during a homecoming celebration.

He will be active in Orleans. Tonight he is the featured speaker during an Orleans County Republican Party dinner. On Nov. 6, he will be the keynote speaker during the kickoff dinner for the Orleans County United Way. That event is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the White Birch Golf Club in Lyndonville. Click here for more information.

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Governor announces $49 million for Orleans, Niagara in Lake Ontario projects

Photos from Governor’s Office: Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at Fort Niagara in Youngstown at about 11:15 this morning. He announced $49 million in projects in Niagara and Orleans counties.

Posted 23 October 2019 at 2:19 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the state is providing $49 million to advance 20 projects in Niagara and Orleans counties as part of the first round of funding under the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative.

Governor Cuomo launched REDI in May to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region. Today’s announcement marks a major milestone in the REDI effort. Identified by the communities and evaluated by state agency experts, the projects address both immediate and long-term resiliency needs, enhance economic development, protect critical infrastructure, incorporate green, natural, or nature-based features, and will help sustainably rebuild and enhance communities along the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River shorelines.

“The recent challenge of historic high water levels along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines calls for a swift and innovative response, and today I am announcing REDI projects in Niagara and Orleans counties that will create long-term sustainability for communities and businesses,” Governor Cuomo said. “I directed 11 state agencies to mobilize their expertise and assess a portfolio of community-driven actions that will sustainably protect and enhance the region’s infrastructure, habitats, and local economies. Working together, our Empire State experts and stakeholders came up with 20 projects in these counties that will help the region regain resiliency and economic vibrancy.”

Since record high water levels in 2017, New York State has committed more than $100 million to rebuild communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline that were devastated by flooding, only to again experience record high water levels and flooding in these same communities this year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson speak at today’s announcement at Old Fort Niagara.

Five REDI regions, comprised of eight counties (Niagara and Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego, and Jefferson and St. Lawrence) were established to identify local priorities, at-risk infrastructure and other assets, and public safety concerns. The REDI Commission allocated $20 million for homeowner assistance, $30 million to improve the resiliency of businesses, and $15 million toward a regional dredging effort that will benefit each of the eight counties. The remaining balance, $235 million, has been allocated towards local and regional projects that advance and exemplify the REDI mission.

To identify projects, over the course of three months, REDI organized 25 stakeholder and community meetings and workshops with hundreds of local residents, convened more than 15 planning committee meetings, and directed New York State agency and engineering experts to expend thousands of hours to evaluate more than 500 projects proposed by communities. The projects comprise a range of at-risk assets, including shoreline stabilization, public health and safety, critical water and wastewater infrastructure, marinas and harbors, and land loss/value, among other priorities, with an emphasis on natural or nature-based features and green infrastructure.

For each project, multi-jurisdictional permit reviews, and any associated environmental reviews, will be needed prior to any final determination to proceed. To build resilience, reduce the risk of future property damage, and minimize habitat impacts, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has compiled general guidelines for coastal design and development projects. These guidelines include technical data, regulatory guidance, best practices, and available resources for development along the dynamic shorelines of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. This comprehensive technical and permitting information to help expedite the permitting process is available on the REDI guidance webpage.

To further address the challenges posed by high water levels, in addition to the county-specific projects announced today, Governor Cuomo announced an eight-county $15 million Regional Dredging effort to sustainably maintain safe navigation channels to harbors and bays along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. These channels are critical to the vitality of recreational and commercial boating, which generate millions of dollars annually in economic activity and support more than 1,000 jobs across the region.

The effort will address the required maintenance dredging of at least 17 harbor channels used primarily for recreational boating. Dredging sediments appropriate for benecial re-use may be employed in ecosystem restoration or erosion management projects, with likely benets to habitat, water quality, and beach nourishment.

The complete list of the 20 projects is available by clicking here. Highlighted REDI projects and estimated costs include:

Orleans County

• The $2,531,000 Yates Town Park and Expansion Project in the Town of Yates will provide shoreline remediation and expansion to include NYSEG land to create resilient wildlife refuge, increase areas of protected wetlands, and enhance public access to the Lake Ontario shoreline. It will also include shoreline protection treatments on the east and west borders of the park to mitigate effects of wave action/erosion on proposed wetlands.

• The $2,062,000 Lakeshore Road (Route 97) Project in the towns of Carlton and Kendall will seek to stabilize a bluff alongside Route 97 and improve shoreline protections for the road and buried water lines. This project includes consideration for a large-scale offshore shoal system to improve fish habitat and act as a wave break.

• The $628,000 Lakeside Park Road East and West projects will restore and protect this roadway to ensure access for residents and emergency responders. Shoreline stabilization measures will protect the road and buried utilities.

• The $751,000 Point Breeze Boat Launch Project in the Town of Carlton will help upgrade and increase the resiliency of this facility by replacing fixed elevation docks with floating docks and slips. These improvements will help maintain this facility, which supports local economic activity and access for recreational boating.

• The $131,000 Thompson Drive Project will address erosion of the turnaround, ensuring water access at the beach. This nature-based project will reduce erosion and protect local infrastructure while maintaining access along the route.

Niagara County

• The $15,707,000 Olcott Harbor Project in the Town of Newfane will encircle the lower harbor with a promenade and shoreline stabilization to secure public health and safety by providing flood protection for critical sanitary sewer infrastructure and residences in the hamlet of Olcott and Newfane.  This project will support economic development through aesthetic and water access improvements. Resilience measures, including elevated shoreline treatments, one along East Harbor and the other along the West Harbor, will together protect Pump Station #6, businesses, buildings, and residences in the eastern portion of the harbor, and the town’s critical sanitary sewer infrastructure, which benefits the entire area. In addition to the shoreline protection measures, the project would entail improvements to the existing pump station to mitigate erosion and other high water related damage. The project may also include raising the elevation of the east Federal Pier, which protects the harbor entrance.

• The $3,362,000 Sunset Island West Barrier Bar Project in the Town of Wilson will include paving, raising, or otherwise reinforcing paths that protect land that might provide shoreline protections between the path and water.

• The $2,103,000 Village of Youngstown Waterfront Project in the Town of Porter will provide protection to the waterfront to support economic development, recreation, and tourism. The project will raise existing shoreline stabilization measures and add floating docks and jetties to reduce wave action for boating activity and shoreline erosion.

• The $1,814,000 Olcott Beach Berm Project in the Town of Newfane will redesign the beach berm to create a long-term solution to stabilize the berm and provide a flood strategy behind the berm, such as added floodway roads and/or a pump system. It will protect the west side of Olcott from wave action, as well as a town parking lot and year-round businesses and homes in the low-lying area.

• The $87,000 YMCA Camp Kenan Project in the Town of Somerset will provide shoreline protection measures to help maintain public access to the camp. The camp is adjacent to the shoreline, which has experienced flooding and erosion due to high water levels and wave action. The nature-based shoreline stabilization measure will protect the camp, which serves as a seasonal home away from home for hundreds of campers each year.

Senator Robert G. Ortt said, “The residents, businesses, and localities along Lake Ontario’s shores continue to face crippling flood waters due to the dangerous and ill-advised implementation of Plan 2014. However, New York State has stepped up and taken the lead on assisting those who have suffered from the millions of dollars’ worth of flood damage, and I am proud to have voted for this flood relief assistance funding. This $49 million will go a long way to help those that have been impacted by the flooding get back onto their feet, rebuild lost property, and fortify preventative infrastructure measures.”

Assemblymember Michael J. Norris said, “For many decades, there has been a critical need and a lot of discussion about fortifying the Olcott Harbor with a new break water wall and addressing other infrastructure deficiencies along the Southern shore of Lake Ontario. Now, with today’s action by New York State of investing millions into key infrastructure and resiliency projects, which includes funding for the Olcott Harbor Project and other important points across Niagara and Orleans Counties, these communities will be ensured fortification and stability in these economic and tourism centers for decades to come. I commend Governor Cuomo for his partnership in securing this investment in rebuilding and revitalizing our shoreline infrastructure.  This is a perfect example of how government should work, with bipartisan efforts, to deliver for the hardworking taxpayers of the State of New York.”

Assemblymember Steve Hawley said, “I am pleased to see that the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) is moving forward with a large financial commitment from the state to help homeowners, businesses and municipalities in Orleans County recover from last year’s historic flooding. We’ve all witnessed the devastation along the lake’s southern shore and the heartache it has caused for so many. But, I am confident that the REDI will accelerate the recovery process and help rebuild the shoreline through completion of this package of projects. I will continue working with state and local leaders to see that those impacted receive the help they need moving forward.”

Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said, “Whether it’s devastating flooding or severe storms, Governor Cuomo has always answered our call responding to the needs of Orleans County. Today’s announcement will help our community build back stronger than ever and I thank the Governor for his continued support for our region.”

Town of Kendall Supervisor Tony Camaratta said, “I commend Governor Cuomo for being our advocate securing the funding that we will need to repair flood damage and to be better protected from future disasters. This investment will go far in improving our quality of life across the board, from making vulnerable areas safer to laying the foundation for economic growth.”

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Cuomo expected to announce $15 million for lakeshore projects in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 October 2019 at 9:00 am

YOUNGSTOWN – Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning will be at Fort Niagara in Youngstown where he is expected to announce funding to protect assets along the lakeshore in Orleans and Niagara counties.

Cuomo will be at the Port of Rochester this afternoon to announce funding for Lake Ontario projects in Monroe County.

The governor formed the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Commission, which has been tasked with divvying up $300 million in funding for eight counties in the state.

The commission identified $30 million of projects in both Orleans and Niagara counties. The governor today is expected to announce which projects will be funded.

Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, said on Tuesday night that she expects $15 million will be coming to Orleans County. She will be among the local officials at Fort Niagara this morning for the governor’s announcement.

The state is making money available to protect public resources, such as sewer plants, roads and parks. There will also be funding for economic assets, such as marinas and campgrounds.

Click here to see a previous article about the projects under consideration in Orleans County.

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Orleans lakeshore residents, businesses urged to seek state funding from flooding damage

Posted 18 October 2019 at 3:55 pm

Press Release, Orleans County government

ALBION – Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson and Director of Emergency Management Dale Banker are encouraging all homeowners whose residences suffered damage as a result of this year’s flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline to apply for relief funding as soon as possible.

The application process is underway and applications are now available at the Homes and Community Renewal (click here), the state agency tasked with overseeing the program. All applications must be postmarked by Oct. 31.

As part of the REDI program, the state set aside aside $20 million to help homeowners complete repair projects and build to help prevent damage from the possibility of future flooding. While priority will be given to applications that address damage to primary residences, funding to address damages to secondary homes may be considered following fulfillment of primary residence applications.

In addition, the REDI Commission has decided to allocate $30 million toward private business projects, especially marinas, focused on resiliency. Business owners can click here for more for the program through Empire State Development and to fill out a simple intake form. The full application will follow by late November.

Any questions, please contact the Orleans County Office of Emergency Management at (585) 589-4414.

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Residents urged to drop off unused prescriptions on Oct. 26 at 3 locations

Posted 16 October 2019 at 3:54 pm

Press Release, Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower

The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office will once again participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Initiative on Saturday, Oct. 26,  between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

This is a collaborative effort with the U.S. Department of Justice – Drug Enforcement Administration, the Orleans County Health Department and the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse (GCASA).

This is a great opportunity for the public to surrender unwanted and/or expired medications for safe and proper disposal. Events such as these have dramatically reduced the risk of prescription drug diversion and abuse, as well as increasing awareness of this critical public health issue.

The following are collection points:

• Orleans County Public Safety Building – 13925 State Route 31, Albion

• Holley Fire Department – 7 Thomas St., Holley

• Medina Fire Department – 600 Main St., Medina

Special thanks to the Holley and Medina fire departments for providing space within their facilities for this event.

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County will have early voting option for 9 days prior to Nov. 5 election

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 October 2019 at 2:55 pm

ALBION – Registered voters in Orleans County will have the option to cast their ballots in early voting this year.

The county will accept ballots at the Board of Elections from Oct. 26 to Nov. 3. The county will have election inspectors on site and residents can vote as in any other election.

The option is part of a state mandate to allow greater access to the polls. The state is providing Orleans County with $27,251 towards the cost of implementing the reform.

The state is requiring at least one polling location for early voting for every 50,000 registered voters. The county was able to meet the standard with one polling location because it has 24,590 registered voters.

The Board of Elections moved in July from a suite in the Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Facility to the new addition on the County Administration Building, located behind the nursing home at 14016 Route 31.

The county will have four election inspectors on duty – 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats – for early voting.

The hours the polls will be open include:

Oct. 26-27 (Saturday and Sunday) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Oct. 28 (Monday) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Oct. 29-30 (Tuesday and Wednesday) from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Oct. 31-Nov. 1 (Thursday and Friday) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Nov. 2-3 (Saturday and Sunday) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The general election is Nov. 5 with polls in the 10 towns in Orleans County open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Libraries, Leadership Orleans make funding pitch to county legislators

Photos by Tom Rivers: Betty Sue Miller, director of Hoag Library in Albion, said the library runs many programs for the community, including a summer reading program that attracted about 2,000 people.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 October 2019 at 10:43 am

ALBION – It’s budget season for the Orleans County officials, and two groups made pitches for the importance of their programs to the County Legislature.

Leaders of the four public libraries in the county met with the Legislature last week. They touted their summer reading programs, internet access for the public, and numerous other resources and services.

The libraries would like to see $1 per resident in the county budget. That would be $42,883.

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

Sandra Shaw of the Community Free Library on Holley said the library connects with people of all ages in the community.

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

“We serve everybody,” said Emily Cebula, director of Yates Community Library. “We’re here to get you what you need.”

She told legislators the library organized several programs over the summer with a space theme for a “Universe of Stories.”

Tom Bindeman, executive director of the Nioga Library System

Catherine Cooper, director of Lee-Whedon, said the Medina library had 2,500 participants for 64 summer reading programs.

Betty Sue Miller, director of the Hoag Library, said the county support for libraries is a small percentage of the libraries’ budget. The dollars help provide services, and also send a message to the community that legislators value the four public libraries, Miller said.

Tom Bindeman, director of the Nioga Library Sttem that serves Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties, said libraries will have a bigger role in the upcoming Census 2020. An accurate count is critical for the local municipalities in their aid from the state and federal governments, Bindeman said.

The census can be filled out electronically for the first time. Bindeman wants an accurate count, because so much government aid is tied to population.

The libraries, with their high-speed internet, will be important spots for the census to be completed.

Leadership Orleans asks county to maintain support

Skip Helfrich, Leadership Orleans director, leads a retreat for the second class of Leadership Orleans this past January.

The county was instrumental in providing funding support for Leadership Orleans. The new program became a reality in 2018 after the County Legislature set aside $33,000 in 2017 to get the program off the ground.

The county contribution was reduced to $22,000 in 2018 and is slated for $16,000 in 2019.

The class has had about 25 members each of the first two years. The year-long program meets monthly and the members comes from a cross section of the community, including government department heads, farm leaders, agency directors and other business officials. The program picked residents who have demonstrated leadership abilities, interest in community affairs, and a commitment to Orleans County’s future.

Each month the group learned about a different sector of the community, including government, arts and culture, volunteerism and non-profit organizations, community health, tourism and recreation, agribusiness, economic & workforce development, and education.

Skip Helfrich, Leadership Orleans director, said the program made 56 site visits last year, and 22 more so far in 2019.

“We’re getting out there experiencing the community,” Helfrich told legislators. “We’re creating countywide exposure in the county with the shakers and movers.”

The program is mostly funded through sponsorships, tuition and other fundraisers. Through its connections with local organizations, Leadership Orleans learned the groups could use more volunteers.

That’s why Leadership Orleans is leading a volunteer fair on Nov. 14 at Hoag Library for community members to meet many of the agencies and service organizations that want more volunteers.

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County Highway Department to become a Department of Public Works

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 October 2019 at 9:17 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Highway Department, which includes the Buildings and Grounds Department, will have its name dissolved and will become a Department of Public Works.

The County Legislature will have a public hearing on the change at 4:20 p.m. on Nov. 20. The county needs to adopt a local law to change the name of the department.

The proposal also includes changing the title of the highway superintendent to the superintendent of the Department of Public Works.

The Highway Department and Building and Grounds used to be separate with their own department heads. About a decade ago the Buildings and Grounds was moved to be under the Highway Department, under the direction of the highway superintendent.

The Legislature appointed a new highway superintendent on March 27, following the retirement of Jerry Gray. John Papponetti, the new highway leader, has suggested the Highway and Buildings and Grounds become a Department of Public Works.

That is how the highway staffs are known in the local villages. The towns in Orleans County all call them “Highway Departments.”

With the town highway departments, the superintendents are all elected. The DPW leaders are all appointed by the Village Boards. At the county level, the position is made by appointment of the County Legislature.

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County recognizes Planning Board member for 34 years of service

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2019 at 1:56 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature last week presented a special recognition award to Tibbs Ahlberg for 34 years of service on the Orleans County Planning Board, including 16 years as vice chairman.

Ahlberg has resigned from the board because he has moved out of Gaines and Orleans County to live in Spencerport.

Ahlberg was joined at the presentation by his wife, Kathy, the retired clerk of the Legislature. Ahlberg was presented a certificate and plaque by James Bensley (second from left), director of the Planning Department, and County Legislator Ken DeRoller.

Bensley said Ahlberg has been a dedicated Planning Board member who was influential in projects in Gaines, especially with the town’s comprehensive plan for land use.

“That’s what makes successful communities,” Bensley said. “It’s when you have long-time volunteers like him.”

Ahlberg served in an at-large position from central Orleans. The County Legislature has to approve his successor for the board.

The Legislature also presented a special recognition award to Jack Welch, the county’s personnel and self insurance director. Legislator John DeFilipps presented the award to Welch for completing the course requirements of the County Government Institute sponsored by The County Government Institute, an educational partnership of New York State Association of Counties and Cornell University.

“The Orleans County Legislature appreciates your commitment to continuing great leadership, integrity and accountability to our employees and to all others that you serve,” the award states.

County Legislator Don Allport presented a proclamation to Sheriff Randy Bower acknowledging Sept. 16-22 as Sheriff’s Week.

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