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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 Katherine.Fragale@dot.ny.gov.

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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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Hail and wind on Friday ruined big chunk of apple crop in Knowlesville

Photo courtesy of Adam Krenning: The powerful winds on Friday evening around 6:30 snapped apple trees that were in a trellis system on Howlett Road. Toussaint Farms, which owns the orchard in the photo, estimates it lost 1,500 apple trees of very popular varieties, including Honeycrisp, Gala and SnapDragon.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 August 2019 at 1:45 pm

Photos courtesy of Kenny Haylett: These apples already started to rot on Monday, three days after being bruised and sliced by hail in Knowlesville. Kenny Haylett, the orchard manager for Haylett Enterprises, took the photo.

KNOWLESVILLE – A storm Friday evening felt like a tornado in the Knowlesville area and decimated many apple orchards due to the hail and high winds.

The storm caused the most damage between routes 31 and 18, with the area between Knowlesville and Kenyonville roads hit the hardest.

“It’s pretty sickening,” said Kenny Haylett, an orchard manager of a farm that had about 80 acres of apples destroyed. “We put all the time and effort and money into the growing the crop, and in two minutes it’s all gone.”

Haylett said the farm has about 120 other acres that are still good. The winds knocked many apples on the ground, while the hail bruised and cut the fruit. Three days after the storm the apples were already turning to rot on Monday.

The farm can’t just leave the orchards strewn with fallen apples “or else the rodents will come in,” Haylett said.

The storm hit in a narrow band. Haylett was on Knowlesville-Eagle Harbor Road when the heavy rain hit. On that road, it wasn’t very destructive. But on Howlett Road the storm took down trees. A barn fell over and a roof was blown off in Knowlesville.

Steve Nesbitt II said Nesbitt Farms had 50 acres of apples destroyed by the hail. Nesbitt was in Gaines when the storm hit.

“It was just a little bit of rain in Gaines,” he said. “In Knowlesville, it was terrible, a whole different world.”

Jeff Toussaint, owner of Toussaint Farms, said the high winds snapped 1,500 of his trees which were weighed down with nearly full grown apples.

Kenny Haylett holds an apple on Friday, soon after it was hit by hail. Three days later the apples were turning to rot.

Toussaint lost about 1 ½ to 2 acres of apple trees, and they were popular varieties such as Honeycrisp, SnapDragon and Gala. They were planted in high-density orchards with the trees held up in a trellis system.

But that wasn’t a match for the winds on Friday.

“A wicked narrow band came through,” Toussaint said. “The winds were unbelievable.”

Toussaint planted those trees in 2010 through 2013. They were just hitting peak production. Now he has to start over in that block on Howlett Road. “They were some of our most valuable apples,” he said. “It will be a number of years before it gets back.”

Toussaint said all of his acres were damaged on Howlett Road while 2/3 were affected on Culvert Road. The crop near Route 31 is fine, he said.

Toussaint said the growers “will now go into salvage mode and hope crop insurance kicks in.”

Haylett said the crop insurance is far less than selling the fruit at the market price.

The farmers also said Nice Farms was hit hard by the hail.

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On wedding day, couple visits fair where they met as 4-H’ers

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 July 2019 at 7:04 pm

Chantelle Kidney and Zack Blackburn first noticed each other at 4-H Senior Council Stand

Photos by Tom Rivers

KNOWLESVILLE – Zack Blackburn and Chantelle Kidney stopped at the Orleans County 4-H Fair today after their wedding. They made sure to get a photo with a steer.

Blackburn, 23, was a member of the Beef Club seven years ago when Kidney, 21, showed sheep at the fair. They started dated on July 27, 2012. Three years ago they were engaged on July 27. Blackburn asked Kidney to marry him in the sheep barn.

The newly married Mr. and Mrs. Blackburn walk at the fairgrounds this afternoon. They are joined by their flower girls, Hollee Cook, left, and Mable Bruning, right.

The couple makes their way through the sheep barn. Maid of honor Emma Ambrose, another former 4-H’er, helps Kidney with her dress.

Chantelle Kidney walks into the 4-H Senior Council Stand. Blackburn and Kidney met at the fair while they were working in the 4-H Senior Council Stand, selling refreshments. Blackburn said he first noticed Kidney’s barn boots “and her cute little smile.”

Kidney works as an EMT for COVA in Albion, while Blackburn is a pipe layer for a company in Rochester. They are both active in the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company.

The wedding party poses for a picture at the 4-H Senior Council Stand.

Mr. and Mrs. Blackburn saw their relationship start and blossom at the fair. Megan Blackburn, the groom’s sister, is at left.

They were married earlier in the afternoon in an outdoor ceremony on Fruit Avenue in Medina. After the wedding they headed to the fairgrounds just before 5 p.m.

Chantelle’s mother, Cindy Kidney, expected the fair would be part of the couple’s big day.

“I’m surprised they didn’t get married here,” she said.

Zack Blackburn wanted a wedding picture to include a steer. One of his groomsman, Paul Suraf, meets the big animal after Blackburn led it out of the barn.

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Blood drive in honor of Ridgeway firefighter results in 59 pints

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 May 2019 at 10:01 pm

Provided photos: The American Red Cross sets up for a blood drive today at the Ridgeway Fire Hall.

RIDGEWAY – A blood drive today in honor of Ridgeway firefighter Glen Busch II resulted in 59 pints of blood. That came from 47 donors, including 12 who were double-red givers.

This is the second blood drive in honor of Busch. The first one on Nov. 30 included about 70 donors.

Busch, 36, has been promoting the blood drives. He said he is thankful for donors because he needed 178 blood transfusions last year while battling serious health issues.

Busch has mostly recovered from a splenic artery aneurysm, a stroke, a pulmonary embolism and a collapsed lung.

The blood drives at Ridgeway included many donors who are firefighters, and also members of the Crusaders Motorcycle Club. That club has its races on Culvert Road in Ridgeway. The season opens on Sunday.

Busch returned to work in February as a social welfare examiner for the Orleans County Department of Social Services. His wife Valerie works at Baxter Healthcare in Medina and also is an active Ridgeway firefighter.

This sign promotes today’s blood drive in honor of Glen Busch II.

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Blood drive Friday at Ridgeway will honor firefighter who survived health scare

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 May 2019 at 6:43 pm

Glen Busch II needed 178 transfusions after emergency surgeries

File photo by Tom Rivers: Glen Busch II and Valerie Childs, who is now his wife, are shown in January 2016 when both were honored for their service to the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company. Busch received the President’s Award and Childs was presented with the Chief’s Award.

RIDGEWAY – There will be a second blood drive this Friday in honor of Glen Busch II, a Ridgeway firefighter who survived a serious health scare in 2018.

Busch, 36, has mostly recovered from a splenic artery aneurysm, a stroke, a pulmonary embolism and a collapsed lung.

He estimates he is about 90 percent recovered and continues to rebuild his stamina. On Thursday, he gets a physical and he expects to be cleared to return for fire calls with the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company. He won’t be back as an interior firefighter, but Busch said he expects to be given the OK for exterior firefighting.

On Friday, from noon to 7 p.m. at the Ridgeway fire hall there will be a blood drive. The first blood drive in his honor on Nov. 30 resulted in about 70 donors, many were firefighters who hadn’t given blood before or hadn’t attended a blood drive in many years.

Busch said he is more comfortable in the background, but is willing to help promote Friday’s blood drive.

He needed 178 units of blood during his surgeries. He was hospitalized for about seven weeks, beginning on Sept. 14. Then he was in rehab for three weeks before coming home the day before Thanksgiving.

Busch and his wife Valerie then faced a tragedy. Their son, Hudson, was born on Nov. 30 without a pulse.

Busch said the community was been very supportive during his serious illness and then with the loss of his son.

That’s why he wants to return to being an active firefighter, and promote the blood drive.

“I’m thankful for the community, to my fellow firefighters, my coworkers at DSS, my church family and the Crusaders (Motorcycle Club),” he said. “Everyone has stepped up and I want to do my part.”

Busch returned to work in February as a social welfare examiner for the Orleans County Department of Social Services. His wife works at Baxter Healthcare in Medina.

Blood donors can sign up online at redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS to schedule an appointment. Walk-ins also are welcome. The firehall is located at 11392 Ridge Rd., Medina.

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Marshall Road reopens in Ridgeway

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 May 2019 at 11:13 am

RIDGEWAY – Marshall Road has been reopened to traffic after being closed for about five weeks.

The road is still in need of repairs, but some patchwork has been done by the Ridgeway Highway Department and State Canal Corp.

The town and state agency are discussing how additional repairs will be done, town officials said.

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