Debbie Taylor, new East Shelby fire chief, first woman to lead fire department in Orleans County

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Debbie Taylor of East Shelby poses with the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company’s newest piece of equipment, a pumper/tanker, which she will be driving a lot more, now that she’s been named fire chief of the department. She is the first woman to serve in that position in Orleans County.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 12 November 2020 at 1:03 pm

‘She’ll be a role model for any lady who wants to become a firefighter or EMS member.’ – Dale Banker, county EMO director

EAST SHELBY – When Debbie Taylor first joined East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company at age 21, she had no thought of becoming a longtime member, let alone, be named fire chief, the first woman from Orleans County in that role.

Taylor received the honor at the fire company’s Nov. 3 meeting.

David Green, who will celebrate 60 years as a member on Dec. 13, has served in many positions, including chief. He had nothing but praise for Taylor, who he called loyal, hard working and dedicated.

“She’s been a member for quite a few years, and she works hard,” Green said. “She is quick to learn things, she’s well organized and she’s got the personality to do a really great job.”

Taylor changed positions with former chief Andy Beach, who has a new baby at home and is very busy on his farm. He was anxious to step down, Taylor said.

After joining East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company at age 21, Taylor moved away and then came back and rejoined. She’s been a member now for 16 years. She said joining the fire company was a natural thing.

“I grew up watching the TV show ‘Emergency,” and when I married Jeff, both he and his father were members of East Shelby fire company.”

When she first joined, she said the thought of becoming chief wasn’t even on her radar.

“I just wanted to do something for my community,” she said.

Debbie Taylor, who was just elected chief of the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company on Nov. 3, is dwarfed next to their new pumper/tanker, Truck No. 36.

Serving the fire company is a family activity of the Taylors. Husband Jeff is fire captain and son Devin is first assistant chief. Debbie has worked her way up from lieutenant, to captain and 2nd assistant chief. She hopes to some day pass the chief’s hat to her son.

“There is no competition among us,” Debbie said. “We have a great fire company and we all work very well together. The fire company is my second family.”

Jeff was first assistant chief, and he stepped back so Devin and Debbie could advance.

Debbie drives school bus for the Medina School District, so she would usually be free to answer a fire call.

“I’m still going to be learning things, with all the modern technology,” Debbie said. “It’s always changing.”

‘We have a great fire company and we all work very well together. The fire company is my second family.’ – Debbie Taylor, East Shelby fire chief

She is not intimidated by driving even the biggest fire truck. She has had her CDL license since she was 19 and got it to drive milk truck.

The biggest challenge, Debbie said, is the fact of the unknown when responding to a call.

“You don’t know what you’re going to encounter,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of help from Dale Banker, director of Orleans County Emergency Management, and Jerry Bentley (deputy coordinator).”

Banker said having the first woman chief is a great thing for the county.

“She’ll be a role model for any lady who wants to become a firefighter or EMS member,” he said. “As long as they are properly trained, a woman can do well in a firefighting role.”

He said the county is fortunate to have several women coming up the ranks, any one of whom he wouldn’t be surprised to see become chief of their fire company. These include Kristin McAdoo, who is assistant chief of Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company; Crystal Luckman and her sister Tiffany Petry in Shelby; Sue Maslyn, EMS captain in Kendall; Patty Knapp, EMS captain in Holley; and Robin Hughson, captain in Carlton.

“I look forward to working with Debbie, or any of the ladies,” Banker said. “With the shortage of firefighters and EMS personnel, these women fill an important role.”

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Shelby makes Alex Baker, 7, an honorary firefighter

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 November 2020 at 9:35 am

Boy with sensory processing disorder welcomed at firehall

Photos by Tom Rivers: Alex Baker, 7, received a certificate from the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company, designating him as an honorary member. He received the recognition on Monday during a meeting of the fire company. He is pictured with his family: parents William Baker and Candice Vought, and brothers Ryan and Adam.

SHELBY – Alex Baker looks forward to stopping by the Shelby fire hall every Tuesday evening. He and his mother, Candice Vought, will bring firefighters cookies and brownies.

The firefighters will give him a short ride in a fire truck.

The gestures and acceptance are much appreciated by Alex’s family. Alex, who turns 8 next month, has a sensory processing disorder. That makes it difficult for him to be around a lot of people or in buildings with unpredictable noises.

Alex made his first visit to the fire hall about a month ago. He was very reluctant to go inside.

But the firefighters proved friendly and welcoming.

“It’s still new to him, but he is happy and walks right into the building,” said his mother.

Alex Baker is congratulated on being a new honorary member of the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company. Tim Petry, Shelby president, shakes Alex’s hand. Fire Chief Jason Watts also welcomed Alex as an honorary member. Alex is joined up front by his mother, Candice Vought.

The firefighters have noticed he feels more comfortable and doesn’t shy away.

“He is really coming out of his shell,” said Tim Petry, president of the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company.

Petry and Fire Chief Jason Watts made Alex an honorary member of the fire company on Monday. They presented him with a certificate during the fire company’s monthly meeting.

Alex’s brothers – Ryan, 13, and Adam, 10 – have joined a youth group through the fire company that meets Tuesday evenings. Alex looks forward to joining too when he is 10.

Alex enjoys watching the cartoon, Fireman Sam, and admires firefighters. Besides riding in the fire trucks, he has watched firefighters do an extrication drill, tearing apart a car.

She and Alex’s father also wanted firefighters and police officers to get to know Alex and understand his disability in case they ever encounter him in an emergency.

“We wanted to get him involved in the community,” said his mother.

William Baker said the firefighters have been kind to his son.

“I was surprised that they have been very open to him,” he said. “That makes Alex want to see them again.”

Alex Baker and his mother Candice Vought are pictured with Shelby Fire Chief Jason Watts, left, and President Tim Petry.

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Lyons donates drone to Shelby Volunteer Fire Company

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 November 2020 at 9:11 am

Photo by Tom Rivers

SHELBY – Jeff Lyons (right), owner of Lyons Emergency Services, presents a new drone to Shelby Fire Chief Jason Watts on Monday during the fire company’s monthly business meeting.

Lyons, a member of the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company, said the drone will assist Shelby firefighters with searches, especially in the swamp and can also give a quick aerial view of large fires, showing if flames are coming through a roof.

“You can cover a lot of ground quickly,” Lyons said.

Two Shelby firefighters will be trained and certified to operate the drone.

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EDA approves PILOT plan with ethanol plant paying about $1 million annually to local munies

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 October 2020 at 12:19 pm

MEDINA – The Orleans Economic Development Agency approved a payment in lieu of taxes plan for Western New York Energy, where the company will pay about $1 million annually the next 20 years to three local governments.

The PILOT plan goes from 2021-22 to 2040-41, with the company paying $890,000 the first year to the Town of Shelby, Orleans County and Medina central School. The PILOT payment will increase 1 percent annually over 20 years to $1,075,218 in 2040-41.

The PILOT agreement was approved this morning the Orleans EDA board of directors as part of a $25 million expansion at the company on Bates Road. The 6,050-foot expansion will allow the company to produce high-grade ethanol for Covid-19 hand sanitizer products and distillation-grade ethanol for distilleries and similar end-users.

WNY Energy currently operates a 90,000-square-foot ethanol manufactory facility at 4141 Bates Road

As part of the expansion the company expects to create 10 new jobs at average salary of $55,000, while retaining 47 other full-time positions, the EDA said.

The PILOT will save the company about $611,000 annually in what it would pay in property taxes if fully assessed. The EDA also approved a sales tax exemption estimated at $16,000.

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Shelby fire destroys barn, badly damages apartment and workshop

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 September 2020 at 7:06 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

SHELBY – A fast-moving fire devoured a barn on West Shelby Road late this afternoon. The barn is owned by Darrel Barnes. The fire also badly damaged a workshop and apartment owned by Barnes.

Firefighters were dispatched to the scene at about 5 p.m. Barnes had removed a section of the barn and was burning some of the old wood. He said the fire sparked to the barn and quickly spread. He tried to put it out with a hose, but the fire quickly engulfed the barn in flames.

“I couldn’t believe all of a sudden it was whoosh,” he said. “I couldn’t put it out.”

Barnes said no one was injured in the fire.

Shelby, Medina and several other fire companies were at the scene, using tankers to haul water to put out the flames.

Orleans County fire investigators were also on the scene to confirm the cause.

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WNY Energy eyes $25 million addition to produce high-purity ethanol

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 September 2020 at 8:12 pm

SHELBY — Western New York Energy is considering a $25 million upgrade to its Bates Road plant for the company to produce high-purity ethanol.

That ethanol would be sold for beverage, pharmaceutical and industrial purposes, allowing the company to diversify its revenue stream and provide a supply with a known demand in the state, the company stated in an application to the Orleans County Planning Board and Town of Shelby.

The County Planning Board this evening voted in favor of the site plan and also a variance request for the project.

Tim Winters, company president and CEO, spoke with the board and said the ethanol plant was able to provide alcohol for sanitizer during the Covid crisis.

“That allowed us to keep the doors open and maintain the workforce,” he said.

The company has seen there is a proven need for higher-purity alcohol from natural fermentation, rather than synthetic processes, Winters said.

The company opened in Medina 13 years ago and produces about 60 million gallons of ethanol annually from about 20 million bushels of corn.

The expansion would allow the company to add at least eight full-time employees, and buy 5 to 10 percent more corn, Winters said.

The high-purity ethanol would be used for products “in dire need” and not available on a commercial scale, Winters told the Planning Board. The higher-grade ethanol will support sanitizer production, craft distilleries and other industrial businesses in NY, the company stated in the application.

Paul Hendel, a Planning Board member from Murray, said Western New York Energy has been a proven good business partner for the county and region. Hendel is also chairman of the Orleans Economic Development Agency.

“We’re fortunate to have them here in Western New York,” Hendel said.

County Legislator Ken DeRoller praised the company for pursuing an “amazing diversification.”

“You’re getting ahead of the curve,” DeRoller said.

The company is looking at about a 6,000-square foot addition to accommodate the new equipment and a building for loading and storage of high-purity ethanol.

WNY Energy anticipates the construction to be complete by September 2021.

The company needs a variance because the tallest distillation tower will be about 150 feet tall, above the town’s 35-foot maximum. However that isn’t as tall as some of the grain handling equipment at the plant.

The County Planning Board recommended Shelby approve the variance and also the site plan for the project.

In other action tonight, the Orleans County Planning Board:

Recommended the Town of Gaines Planning Board approve the site plan for David Oakley, owner of Woodside Granite Industries, to put a 50-by-60 addition on the south side of the current monument business. The property is located at the corner of of Ridge Road and Gaines Basin Road.

Oakley said the addition would mainly be used to store monuments.

Recommended the Town of Barre Planning Board approve a special use permit for Keeler Construction to add an electrical control building, which Keeler said would allow the company to remove temporary facilities, improving electrical safety.

The electrical control building would be built at 14120 West Lee Rd. at Barre Stone Products.

The cast-in-place concrete building will accommodate electrical starters and controls in a controlled atmosphere to protect equipment and improve safety for servicing equipment, Keeler said in the application. The building will allow Keeler to remove trailers with motor controllers, starters and generators no longer being used. The generators have been replaced with a service from National Grid.

Recommended the Town of Clarendon approve revisions to the zoning ordinance to allow for large-scale solar and battery energy storage systems for the projects.

Supported the site plan and special use permit request by Kerri and Cole Glover to operate wedding and events venue, and a bed and breakfast at 13800 West County House Rd. in Albion at the former Pillars. The couple doesn’t intend to run a separate bed and breakfast business but wants to make that option available for wedding parties.

The new business would be known as Maison Albion. They want to expand the parking at the site.

Voted in support of a special use permit for a recreational pond in the Town of Ridgeway. Steven Miller wants to build the 40,000-square-foot pond at 10749 Ridge Rd.

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6 months after getting Covid, Shelby town clerk still fights fatigue

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 20 September 2020 at 8:55 am

Darlene and Mike Rich battle lingering effects from virus

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Shelby Town Clerk Darlene Rich and her husband Mike stand in their home in Shelby six months after contracting Covid-19. The couple says they still aren’t back to normal.

MEDINA – It has been a little more than six months since Shelby Town Clerk Darlene Rich became Orleans County’s first confirmed case of Covid-19.

Three weeks later, her husband Mike was diagnosed with it.

Now, neither says they are back to normal, and continue to fight fatigue.

The Riches’ ordeal began March 10 when they left the Buffalo Niagara International Airport for a vacation in Florida. Two days later Darlene started coughing.

“That brought on an asthma attack and I started using an inhaler, but it didn’t help much,” Darlene said. “The news on Friday the 13th was all about Covid and its symptoms. Mike went and bought a thermometer and my temperature was 101.5. Then it became hard to breathe and we called the ER. I had a chest X-ray and the doctor said I had pneumonia in my right lung and had the symptoms of Covid, so on Monday he would send my results to the Health Department and I had to quarantine until then.”

The Riches let their motel know they had to stay in their room and they brought them breakfast. Darlene’s temperature the whole weekend was 104.5 and she took Tylenol and Motrin. Then the hospital called and said she tested positive for the virus. The Health Department gave them instructions and told them to stay there for now. For an entire week, Darlene ate very little and just wanted to sleep.

“I was scared. I figured I’d probably end up dying,” Darlene said.

The Riches thought back where they had been the first two days in Florida. They had been on a helicopter ride, and Give the Kids the World in Kissimmee, where they had been several times in the past with their son Mikey. They saw the paving stone they bought their son, who died in March 1997 at the age of 23. The had also taken an airboat ride with many other people. And they wanted to call everybody they had been in contact with to let them know. Several days later they received a gift basket thanking them for their consideration.

By the end of the week they had canceled their flight home and rented a car, and that Friday they started the drive home.

The trip was a nightmare.

First, Darlene was worried sick about Mike driving the entire way as she usually did a lot of the driving. All the stores were closed and the truck stops were barricaded. If one was open, they only had port-a-johns.

Mike had bought a cooler and made egg salad sandwiches. They ate them and apples on the way home.

While still in Florida, they had called the Orleans County Health Department, where they were connected with a nurse who made regular calls to the couple in Florida and continued to support them after they returned home.

They got home on a Sunday and on Monday and Tuesday the Health Department came and tested Darlene. Both tests were still positive.

Mike, in the meantime, was on pins and needles. The arthritis medication he takes compromises his immune system, and he figured if he caught the virus he would probably die.

Almost three weeks later, their worst fears came true when Mike tested positive.

“We both had a loss of appetite big time and awful exhaustion,” Darlene said. “Even now I go to work and come home and sit in the chair and fall asleep for an hour.”

Darlene went back to work the end of May, but was only able to work half days. Mike, who works for General Motors in Rochester, was able to go back the middle of June, but also still has a hard time with the fatigue.

Their doctors can’t assure them they will ever be totally over the effects.

In spite of it all, Darlene said they were both fortunate that they apparently had a light case.

“Nobody really knows anything about it,” she said. “We were lucky.”

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County Planning Bd backs new 165-foot phone tower in Shelby

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 July 2020 at 8:02 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Planning Board backed plans for a new 165-foot-high phone tower in Shelby.

Tarpon Towers II and Bell Atlantic Mobile are pursuing the project for Verizon Wireless. The tower would be a monopole and would have options for other companies to collocate.

It will be located on vacant agricultural land near a wooded area on 5093 Creek Rd., one land owned by Edward Zelazny.

“Hopefully it will improve communication in the area because I got to tell you we have a lot of dead spots,” Dan Wolfe, the town code enforcement officer, told Planning Board members.

Tarpon Towers, in the application for the tower, acknowledged there are dead spots in the area and the tower will improve phone service.

The project needs a height variance from Shelby, which caps the size of towers at 35 feet. The County Planning Board recommended that Shelby approve the variance, the site plan and a special use permit for the project.

The Planning Board also recommended the Town of Gaines approve a project at 3278 Oak Orchard Rd.

Dennis “D.J.” Button wants to move his business, Digital Ink Arts, from downtown Albion to his garage. He would like to put on a 1,200 square foot addition (30 by 40 feet) for the apparel printing business.

The town requires a 15-foot setback from the neighboring property line. Button only has 6 feet of space from the end of his garage to the neighbor’s property line. He also would need to share the neighbor’s driveway for the business.

The County Planning Board recommended Gaines approve the variance, the site plan and a special use permit for Button. The county recommended Gaines have the right-of-way agreement in writing with the neighbor regarding the driveway.

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Repaving starts on 10 miles of 31A, between 98 and 63

Staff Reports Posted 20 July 2020 at 2:54 pm

The State Department of Transportation announced that repaving along 10 miles of Route 31A will begin this week.

The $1.9 million project includes Route 31A from Route 98 to Route 63. The project is funded through the state’s PAVE NY Initiative.

The resurfacing work is expecting to last until mid-August. During this time, two-way traffic will be maintained using alternating single-lane closures. Motorists may encounter short delays and are encouraged to seek an alternate route.

All construction activities are weather dependent and subject to change.

Motorists are urged to slow down and drive responsibly in work zones. Fines are doubled for speeding in a work zone. Convictions of two or more speeding violations in a work zone could result in the suspension of an individual’s driver license.

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Shelby has new town supervisor after Houseknecht’s resignation

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 June 2020 at 3:10 pm

SHELBY – The Town of Shelby has a new town supervisor following the resignation of Ed Houseknecht on May 31.

Ed Houseknecht

The Town Board on June 9 appointed Jeff Smith to serve as town supervisor. Smith, a fruit farmer and owner of Ledge Rock Farms on North Gravel Road, was the town’s deputy town supervisor.

He was appointed town supervisor by the other Town Board members – Stephen Seitz, William Bacon and John Pratt.

Houseknecht was re-elected in November to another two-year term as town supervisor. He was first elected to the position in November 2017.

He is retired as the Orleans County highway superintendent and was the former superintendent of the Village of Medina’s Department of Public Works.

He couldn’t be reached for comment about why he resigned.

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