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Ridgeway town officials take the oath of office

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 January 2020 at 5:49 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

RIDGEWAY – Duane Payne, a new member of the Ridgeway Town Board, raises his right hand and takes the oath of office this afternoon during Ridgeway’s organizational meeting. Payne was elected to the board in November.

John Olinger, the Ridgeway highway superintendent, signs the oath of office, which was administered by Town Clerk Karen Kaiser. Olinger was first appointed to position on March 23 following the retirement of Mark Goheen. Olinger was elected to the position in November. He has worked in the Highway Department since 2012, starting as a motor equipment operator.

Brian Napoli takes the oath of office for a new term as the town supervisor. He was re-elected in November in an election with two other candidates.

Mary Woodruff also takes the oath of office after being re-elected to the Town Board in November.

Town Board adopts new ethics policy

During the organizational meeting, the board approved several appointments and also adopted a new ethics policy. That policy states town elected and appointed officials shall not serve as a committee member, chairman, vice chairman or officer of a town political party.

Councilman David Stalker, a member of the Ridgeway Town Republican Committee, said he thinks the policy was drafted to target him. Stalker was endorsed by the Ridgeway Republican Committee last year for town supervisor. Napoli would defeat him in an election that also included Michael Maak.

Stalker noted that many elected officials across the county serve on the town and county Republican committees.

The Ridgeway policy will allow current town officials to continue in their roles on the Ridgeway Republican Committee, or be grandfathered in.

Stalker abstained in the vote for the new policy, while the four other board members approved it.

Brian Napoli, the town supervisor, said the nine-page policy is likely the most comprehensive among the 10 towns in the county.

Councilman Jeff Toussaint said he supports not having active Republican Committee members on the Town Board.

“Otherwise you try to serve two masters and there is the chance for conflict,” he said.

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Knowlesville congregation, with sadness, says goodbye to church building

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 December 2019 at 8:33 am

Congregation will continue to have events at fellowship hall, hold services at Millville

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Rev. Sara Merle, pastor of the United Methodist churches in Knowlesville and Millville from 2000 to 2005, attended a deconsecration service for the Knowlesville church building on Saturday. That service was a chance for people to say goodbye to the building and reflect on friendships and major life moments through the church.

KNOWLESVILLE – The congregation at the former Knowelsville United Methodist Church gathered on Saturday to deconsecrate the church building on Knowlesville Road.

The building needs capital improvements – a new furnace and handicapped accessibility, and is for sale. Saturday’s service declared the site is no longer and church building and has been released “for any honorable use.”

The congregation continues to use the fellowship hall across the street for Sunday school and events, including its popular pie shop, apple festival and fish fries.

The congregation also is part of the United Methodist Church of Abundant Harvest, which holds its services at 11 a.m. on Sundays in Millville.

The church at 3622 Knowlesville Rd. is for sale. It needs some capital improvements that church members found daunting.

Saturday’s service was like a reunion, with former church pastors coming back for the special service.

Sara Merle was the church pastor from 2000 to 2005. One of her first duties as pastor in Knowlesville was blessing the church’s beef booth, which church volunteers have continued to run during the Orleans County 4-H Fair for a week in late July.

She praised the church for its outreach ministries, and creative ways to connect with the community. Merle, who now attends a church in Hilton as a parishioner, said she is grateful for the chance to lead the Knowlesville and Millville congregations for the five years.

“It only enhanced my journey of faith,” she said.

Chris Wylie was the church’s pastor beginning in 2013. He led efforts to bring multi-media technology into the Millville site and pushed for the pie shop at the Knowlesville fellowship hall. Wylie, who has cerebral palsy, guided the Knowlesville and Millville congregations into a merger, effective Jan. 1, 2015, as the United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest.

Wylie now lives in Lewiston.

“Sometimes with ministry you don’t know where God will take you,” he said. “Ministry isn’t about the location where you are, it’s about the people coming together.”

Erica Wanecski shared how the church has long tried to build people’s faith while having fun.

“Throughout the years they’ve had their arms open to the community in a wonderful way,” she said. “It’s a building we won’t have anymore. But we’re going to go on with our arms open like we have through the years.”

Phil Lilley was married at the Knowlesville church about 30 years ago. He said the church has offered many children’s programs and activities for the community.

The congregation also has been fortunate to have so many “fantastic pastors,” he said.

Brenda Busch spoke during the service. She lives close by the church and has been attending frequently since 2005.

“I wanted to find a church where I feel comfortable,” she said. “Here everyone is friendly.”

Lorraine Luckman said the church has been part of her life for many years. Two of her children were married at the church building.

“It was always family,” she said about the congregation. “I just felt at home in that building.”

The Rev. Garry McCaffery, who became pastor July 1, acknowledged it can be difficult for a congregation to say goodbye to a building that feels like a home. He said the Knowlesville site has “provided refuge and hope for God’s people.”

The congregation will continue to carry out a noble mission.

“God continues to bless, continues to move and work among the people who gather in this place,” he said.

About 50 people attended the deconsecration service at the Knowlesville fellowship hall for the church building across the street.

The read the following declaration of purpose:

“The time has come for this congregation of Christ’s holy Church, under God’s leadership, to take leave of the church building. It has been consecrated for the ministry of God’s Holy Word and Sacraments. It has provided refuge and comfort for God’s people. It has served well our holy faith. It is fitting, therefore, that we should take our leave of this consecrated house, lifting up our hearts in thanksgiving for this common store of memories.”

The group then read this declaration of deconsecration:

“The building located at 3622 Knowlesville Road, having been consecrated and named the United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest, Knowlesville location, formerly known as the Knowlesville United Methodist Church, together with the land on which it stands and all objects remaining in it, we now deconsecrate and release for any honorable use. We declare that it is no longer the place of meeting of a United Methodist Congregation.”

Robin Watts said the church is a welcoming community.

Nate Johnidas, an acolyte, extinguishes the candles at the alter. He spoke during the service and thanked the church members for their support over the years.

“I’m thankful to everyone who helped me along the path of my life,” he said.

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Construction starts on new Ridgeway water district

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 December 2019 at 7:53 am

RIDGEWAY – Construction started on Monday for Water District. No. 14. Sergi Construction of East Aurora is the contractor for the project.

The Town Board on Oct. 21 accepted Sergi’s bid to construct the water district for $735,964. The district serves about 30 homes and covers about 4 miles or 19,000 linear feet. It includes property along Culvert Road, between Route 104 and Portage Road, and Porter Road, from Culvert Road to Knowlesville Road.

The town has been approved for funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development for the project. Rural Development approved a $334,000 loan and $720,000 grant for the project.

Construction is weather dependent. John Olinger, the town highway superintendent, said the district will be subject to Health Department tests after construction. He is hopeful the district will be in service by March.

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Knowlesville residents ask town to shut down boarding house

Photos  by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Undersheriff Chris Bourke attended this evening’s Ridgeway Town Board meeting to hear concerns from residents about a property where there was a standoff that lasted until nearly 3 a.m. on Dec. 4. Bourke said there has been 29 calls to 911 for service at the location this year.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 December 2019 at 11:25 pm

Multi-tenant residence was scene of standoff; town says property is single family, and is out of compliance

Undersheriff Chris Bourke says the Sheriff’s office will track down the owner of the property and serve him papers from the town. Registered mail to the owner has been returned to Ridgeway Town Hall.

RIDGEWAY – Town officials were asked by Knowlesville residents this evening to take action against the owner of a single-family residence that has illegally been operating as a boarding house.

The site at 3634 Knowlesville Rd. was the scene of a standoff that started at 4:46 p.m. on Dec. 3 and continued until about 3 a.m. Dec. 4. That incident closed traffic on the road and forced many neighboring residents to stay with friends and family, or at the Ridgeway firehall.

Residents say the site is a concern in the neighborhood, due to many people coming and going, people fighting at the house, shooting air rifles and alleged criminal activity.

There were about 85 signatures from Knowlesville residents on a petition turned into the Town Board, asking for the boarding house to be shut down. The petition was handed in at Monday’s board meeting.

Dan Wolfe, the town code enforcement officer, said the 2,211-square-foot house is zoned for single family, but has been used as boarding house with multiple tenants. That is against the town code for that zoning.

“I’m citing him for operating a boarding house,” Wolfe told town residents at the Dec. 16 meeting. “We’ll do whatever we can to hold his feet to the fire.”

Dan Wolfe, the town code enforcement officer, said he has red-tagged the house due to zoning violations and people should leave the building.

Wolfe said he red-tagged the house last week, putting signs on the house that the tenants should vacant the building. People seem to be ignoring the directive, Wolfe said at the Town Board meeting.

He told residents he doesn’t have the authority to force them to leave. The town needs to start a court proceeding against the owner of the property, Wolfe said.

He has previously sent letters to the owner, James Rodgers of Sycamore Street in Rochester, notifying him of citations with the property. Those certified letters have been returned unopened.

Undersheriff Chris Bourke attended the Town Board meeting. He said the Sheriff’s Office can locate Rodgers and serve him with a letter from the town.

Bourke told residents the location has been a concern to law enforcement officials. There have been 29 calls so far in 2019 to the 911 center for law enforcement to go to the site, including six times to serve papers to a resident there. Six calls were for disturbances. There have been calls for officer assistance, larceny, obstructing governmental administration, trespassing and for a person locked out of their vehicle, Bourke said.

Neighbors said they want immediate action with the house because they don’t feel safe in the neighborhood. They said they have been concerned about the Knowlesville house since 2017.

Town Attorney Kathy Bogan said she will work to get the court process started, seeking relief for residents in the neighborhood.

“We’re not here to complain about people living there,” one woman told the Town Board. “We just want it safe.”

Bourke said the residents can’t be kicked out unless there is a court process with a court order. The state has changed the laws making it more difficult to remove tenants, Bourke said.

He told the residents he would speak with officials from the State Parole to make sure no state parolees were staying there. He said he spoke with the County Probation Department, and no one on probation is staying at the house.

Town Attorney Kathy Bogan told the residents she is also working with the District Attorney’s office about addressing concerns from the residents.

“We have to go through the court process,” she said. “We don’t have a choice.”

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DOT discusses $2.65 million bridge replacement on 104 in Ridgeway

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 December 2019 at 5:23 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

RIDGEWAY – The state Department of Transportation met with local residents and Ridgeway town officials during a meeting from 3 to 5 p.m. today at the Ridgeway Town Hall.

The bridge over Oak Orchard Creek on Route 104 in Ridgeway is shown in this photo from October.

The DOT in 2021 is planning to replace a bridge on Route 104. The $2.65 million project is 80 percent funded by the federal government with the state paying the other 20 percent.

The new bridge will replace one from 1954, which is 65 years old. The new bridge is a single span multi-girder bridge featuring two 12-foot-wide travel lanes and two 6-foot-wide shoulders. New approaches will also be constructed as part of the project. The new bridge is expected to last at least 75 years.

Culvert Road, just to the east of the bridge, and Oak Orchard River Road at the west, will remain open to traffic. However, larger trucks will need to use a detour on Route 63, Route 31 and Route 98.

Construction is expected to start in spring 2021 and take about six months with the project being complete by Labor Day that year, DOT officials said.

The DOT has a public comment period open until Jan. 9, 2020. Comments should be sent to Joel Shepard, project design engineer, at

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Knowlesville church building for sale with deconsecration service on Dec. 14

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Knowlesville United Methodist Church has been put up for sale by the congregation. The church needs a new furnace and the building isn’t handicapped accessible, prompting the decision to sell the building.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 8 December 2019 at 8:14 pm

KNOWLESVILLE – The decision to sell the former Knowlesville United Methodist Church, now called the United Methodist Church of Abundant Harvest, was not an easy one, but one members understand was necessary.

According to the Rev. Garry McCaffery, who just became pastor July 1, said after the furnace went out, the decision was made at a church conference the end of June to sell the building.

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Ruth Higgins, left, a lifelong member of the Knowlesville United Methodist Church, Lorraine Luckman, also a longtime member, and Kathy Leuscher prepare vegetables in the kitchen of the recreation hall which the church owns.

The church had already come to the conclusion four years ago more could be done with two congregations meeting as one, and they began holding services with the Millville location for the United Methodist Church of Abundant Harvest, the Rev. McCaffery said.

The Knowlesville church had purchased the recreation hall from Ridgeway Fire Company across the road about 25 years ago, so they are able to hold church events there.

Because the church is not handicapped accessible, and so many of their members are aging, attendance has been dwindling. The cost of making the church accessible, coupled with the need for a new furnace, made the decision to sell the most logical one, although not easy to accept for some of the longtime members.

Nancy Smith and her brother Ron Schompart are lifelong members of the church. Smith recalled growing up in the church and how active their youth group was. Its leaders included Smith’s aunt and uncle, Verona and Don Pritchard, then Butch and Charlene Seitzer and lastly, Nelson and Rose Schlegel.

She especially remembers the hay rides, the active women’s group, the Mother and Daughter, and Father and Son banquets.

“The year I was a senior, we did a skit, pretending we were the Beatles,” Smith said.

There were also dances, pot luck dinners and scavenger hunts. Later, the church started an Apple Festival, making apple butter and other homemade apple treats, an event which they still carry on.

Smith said she was upset they were selling the church, but understands it’s for the best.

Ruth Higgins, who started attending the church when she and her husband moved to Knowlesville in 1977, has been one of the most active members. She feels selling the church is the only chance the congregation has with the building.

“The church used to be the center of people’s lives, but not any more,” Higgins said. “I actually liked worshiping in the Fellowship Hall. It was kind of cozy.”

The Knowlesville congregation now has adult Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. in the Recreation Hall, then travels to Millville for worship at 11 a.m.

“Selling the church gives people the opportunity to say goodbye to one chapter of God’s work in our lives and to receive and open the next chapter,” the Rev. McCaffery said.

The church is planning a ceremony of deconsecration for the Knowlesville church building at 2 p.m. Dec. 14 in the Fellowship Hall.

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DOT to replace bridge on 104 in Ridgeway over Oak Orchard Creek

Staff Reports Posted 23 November 2019 at 10:07 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: The bridge on Route 104 in Ridgeway is shown last month. The bridge over Oak Orchard Creek is scheduled to be replaced in 2021.

RIDGEWAY – The State Department of Transportation is planning to replace a bridge on Route 104, with the work to start in 2021.

The DOT will have a public information meeting on Dec. 12 at Ridgeway Town Hall in Medina to discuss the project. The open-house style meeting will be from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Ridgeway Town Hall, 410 West Ave. in Medina.

DOT staff will be on hand to share project information, receive public comments and answer individual questions. No formal presentation will be made as part of the meeting

Those interested in attending may arrive at any time during the scheduled meeting to review project details, including the scope of work and planned traffic detours during construction, which is slated to begin in 2021.

For further information, or to request a sign language interpreter or assistive listening system, please contact Katherine Fragale at 585-371-9245 or

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Freeze brings icicles to Canal Culvert in Ridgeway

Staff Reports Posted 13 November 2019 at 12:25 pm

Photo courtesy of Margaret Stanley

RIDGEWAY – There are icicles hanging in the Canal Culvert in Ridgeway. The canal still has a lot of water, and some of that seeps into the culvert. When it’s well below freezing, the culvert will have many icicles emerge.

Margaret Stanley sent in this photo today of the Canal Culvert, the only spot where you can drive under the Erie Canal.

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Large-scale solar projects under construction in Ridgeway

Photos by Tom Rivers: Contractors are shown on Wednesday putting in the racking system for a solar project at Beals Road by Route 31 in Ridgeway. Borrego Solar Systems also is building a solar array on Allis Road.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 October 2019 at 5:08 pm

30,000 solar panels will be installed on Allis, Beals roads

Contractors work on the project at Allis Road, which is bigger than the one on Beals. The conduit will be buried.

RIDGEWAY – The largest solar project in Orleans County is under construction in Ridgeway, with the 30,000 solar panels expected to be operational in the spring.

Borrego Solar Systems is constructing the two systems, which are both on land owned by Ken Baker, a livestock farmer on Beals Road.

The solar project at 3846 Beals Road will be for 3.5 megawatts with 11,745 panels that will be ground-mounted at a 25-degree angle. Borrego is using 16.5 acres of a 29.4-acre parcel. The solar array will be surrounded with a fence, and 240 trees will be planted as a buffer along Route 31 and part of Beals Road.

The other project is for 5 megawatts and 18,295 panels at 3962 Allis Rd., near

Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and the new Helena Chemical plant. Borrego is using 29.0 acres of a 42.0-acre parcel.

The company is in a 15-year PILOT where it will pay the local governments – Town of Ridgeway, Orleans County and Medina Central School – $7,000 per megawatt the first year or $59,500 total for 8.5 megawatts. The payments then increase by 2 percent each following year or $78,507 at year 15.

The revenue sharing is divvied up based on a proportionate share of the tax rates. The school district has the highest tax rate so it gets the most — $35,105 in the first year. However, the PILOT deal allows Lee-Whedon Memorial Library to receive 3 percent of the school district’s total, which will be $1,053 for the library in the first year.

The town is to receive $7,735 the first year, while the county’s share will be $16,740.

Ken Baker, a livestock farmer and a General Motors employee in Lockport, said the project comes at a good time. He is on strike from GM, where he has worked for 25 years.

He raises pigs, chickens, ducks, goats and steers. It is tough to be in farming on a smaller scale, Baker said.

The solar gives him a guaranteed income of about $50,000 annually, which he said will help in retirement. At GM, he doesn’t have a pension.

After the racking system in built, the solar panels will be placed on the units. Borrego will be installing about 30,000 panels that are each 77 inches by 39 inches. The two projects together will have a capacity to generate 8.5 megawatts of electricity.

Baker can continue his livestock operation, and can do it knowing he has steady income from the solar.

He said many farmers have approached him about the project. They are interested in having large-scale solar on their land.

“A lot of farmers are looking at it,” Baker said.

Depressed prices, especially for dairy, are hurting the ag economy. And Baker said farmers are concerned over the impact of new farm labor regulations in the state, where workers will be paid overtime after 60 hours per week and have the right to unionize.

Josh Richardson is managing the construction for Borrego Solar Systems. He said the project should be operational in March-April. Borrego is building the two solar projects, with AES to operate the system.

The solar arrays will have a fence around each site. The Beals Road array, which is along Route 31, will have a buffer that includes 240 trees.

“Once we’re done with construction it’s a very minimal impact,” Richardson said.

The Ridgeway site was attractive to  Borrego partly due to its close access to powerlines. Richardson said he expects to see many more large-scale solar projects in New York, where the state has set goals for far more wind, solar and renewable energy.

Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature want at least 70 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030. By 2040, the goal is for 100 percent carbon-free electricity. By 2050, the state has a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent compared to 1990.

About 15 to 30 construction workers are on site most days building the solar projects in Ridgeway.

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Fire damages house on Countyline Road in Ridgeway

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 September 2019 at 6:56 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

RIDGEWAY – A house was badly damaged by fire this afternoon at 3157 Niagara-Orleans Countyline Rd.

The fire was complicated by an arcing wire on the house. Firefighters weren’t able to spray water on the blaze until electricity was turned off. That was about a 45-minute wait.

Several fire departments responded to the call, including Medina, Ridgeway, Shelby and Lyndonville. They were dispatched to the scene at 3:48 p.m.

Don Marchner of the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company, left, and Mike Heideman of the Lyndonville Fire Department get the hose spread out on Countyline Road.

No additional information is available.

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