Albion accepts bid for bridge demo

Photo by Tom Rivers
Tearing out the Clarendon Street bridge over the railroad tracks will require the removal of embankments that reach 11 feet high. This file photo is the view looking north past Crimson Drive.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2015
ALBION – The Village Board accepted a $442,639 bid from Keeler Construction in Barre to tear out a village-owned bridge, a project that could start in March and be complete in the summer.

Keeler’s bid was about $300,000 less than the next closest proposal. There were six bidders on the project with the highest bid at $1,130,089.

“That’s amazing,” said Village Trustee Eileen Banker. “I don’t see why there is a huge discrepancy.”

Keeler is a home-town contractor, and the low bid reflects the company wanted to work on a project in the local community, said Dale Brooks, Albion DPW superintendent.


Kevin Miller, project manager and an engineer from Bergmann Associates in Buffalo, reviewed the bids and recommended Albion accept Keeler’s proposal. Miller had projected the project would cost about $700,000.


The village is paying 5 percent of the overall project costs, while the state pays 15 percent and the federal government 80 percent.


Besides removing the 50-year-old bridge, the highway embankments will be lowered and the street will be blocked off at a 90-degree angle at Crimson Drive. On the north side, it will also be blocked off with a turnaround spot near Childs Street.

The Village Board may pursue at at-grade crossing for the site in the future.


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Albion hires grantwriter to help with Bullard Park upgrades

Focus is on splash pad, new playground

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2015

ALBION – The Village Board intends to seek a grant for up to $400,000 for improvements at Bullard Park with the top goals a new spray park and playground equipment.

The village may also look to establish a recreational trail around the park and perhaps other improvements, depending on the cost.

Albion twice sought state funding for up to $600,000, but was denied in 2012 and 2013. A pared down application could sway state officials this time, Kim Remley, a member of the Rebuild Bullard Committee, told the Village Board tonight.

“The belief of the committee is there is no way this could happen without a grant,” Remley told village officials.

Rebuild Bullard met with grantwriter Jean O’Connell of Clarence. She said there are several pots of money that could be used for funding the park upgrades (which would also likely include a local match.)

The Village Board agreed to hire O’Connell for $6,000 to prepare grant applications. A music fest organized by the Lions Club last summer raised $2,000 towards a grantwriter. The Elks Club also is committing $1,000 to the grantwriter. The village and town of Albion will split the other $3,000.

There will be some additional engineering costs to update the estimates for the spray park, playground and other improvements. The village would like a changing area/bathroom and concession stand near the spray park.

Albion had sought regrading and building up its ball fields with past grant applications. That likely won’t be part of the new grant application. The village plans to use fill from the Clarendon Street bridge to improve the field on the north side of the playground.

The bridge will be removed this spring and early summer, and the dirt for the approaches will be removed. That material will be used at Bullard, said Dale Brooks, DPW superintendent.

John Grillo, Albion’s recreation director, said the committee is enthusiastic about the project and other energy in the community, including the Metro 10 race on Aug. 22, a 10-mile running race that will finish at Bullard. There could be 3,000 runners in the debut event which is being organized by the Albion Running Club. Some of the proceeds from the race are planned for Bullard improvements.

“Albion is starting to pop,” Grillo said at the Village Board meeting. “The future looks bright.”


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2 from Rochester face drug charges in Medina

Staff Reports Posted 28 January 2015
MEDINA – Two Rochester residents have been jailed for allegedly selling crack cocaine in the Village of Medina, the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force reported.


The arrests were made on Tuesday following a six-month investigation into the sale and distribution of crack cocaine from the City of Rochester to Medina.


The Task Force, Orleans County Sheriff’s Department, Greater Rochester Area Narcotics Enforcement Team and Rochester Police Department executed a search warrant at 51 Mead St., Upper Apartment, Rochester.


Police seized approximately 14 grams of crack cocaine, a half pound of marijuana, more than $2,000 in cash, scales, packaging and other drug paraphernalia, the Task Force reported.

The following were arrested:



• Keith A. Toney, 36, of 51 Mead St., Upper Apt., who was charged with nine counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree (a class B felony).

Toney was arraigned in the Town of Shelby Court by Justice Joseph Kujawa. Toney was committed to the Orleans County Jail on $50,000 cash bail. He is appear in Shelby Town Court at 6 p.m. on Thursday.


• Lakusha McMorris, 35, of 51 Mead St., Upper Apt., who was charged with three counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree (a class B felony).


She was committed to the Orleans County Jail on $20,000 bail after being arraigned by Justice Kujawa. She is appear in Shelby Town Court at 6 p.m. on Thursday.


The Task Force said additional drug charges against McMorris and Toney are pending in Monroe County.


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Organizers of Strawberry Fest welcome help with annual event

Photos by Tom Rivers
Michael Bonafede, chairman of the Strawberry Festival Committee, addresses the Albion Rotary Club last week about this year’s festival on June 12-13. The Rotary Club helps plan and run the event.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2015
ALBION – Albion’s biggest community bash, the Strawberry Festival, is several months away, but many volunteers are busy working on the two-day celebration.

The Strawberry Festival Committee welcomes help and money for the 29th annual festival on June 12-13. The event draws several thousand people to Albion for the two days. This year’s festival will have a fishing-related theme – "Hook, Line and Strawberry!" – to celebrate the Chinook salmon, brown trout and rainbow trout that are one of the county’s top attractions.


There will be a contest among Albion students to design artwork for the poster for the festival, a poster that will include a fishing theme. The festival committee wants to incorporate fishing themed events for festival. Michael Bonafede, committee chairman, said the organizers welcome ideas on how to best embrace fishing for the Strawberry Festival.

The committee welcomes help and money to put on the event. The Village of Albion provides many in-kind services for the festival. The festival committee will reach out to the towns of Albion and Gaines to help support the event, Bonafede said.

“This is part economic development, it’s tourism, it’s bringing people in here and showcasing the area,” Bonafede told the Albion Rotary Club.

The Rotary Club is sponsor of the festival and provides much of the manpower in planning the event, which costs about $16,000 for entertainment, bands for the parade, prizes, equipment and other expenses including portable potties, postage, dumpsters and advertising.

A member of the Rochester Scottish Pipes and Drums plays the bagpipes during the 28th annual Strawberry Festival Parade last June. The parade accounts for $5,000 or about a third of festival's overall costs.

Members of the Rotary Club and other community members are heading up different parts of the festival. The following are in charge of different aspects of the festival: Karen Sawicz, advertising; Brad London, food vendors; Don Bishop, logistics; Website, Lake Country Pennysaver; Tammy Yaskulski, major sponsors/fundraising; Brad Shelp, parade; Bill Pileggi and Karen Appleman, entertainment; Joe DiBella from Don Davis Chevrolet Buick GMC, car show and cruise in; June Persia, craft vendors; Marsha Rivers, Family Fun Faire; and Michael Bonafede, overall chairman.

The committee is looking for someone to manage the Turtle Race.

Bonafede wants to see the event continue for years to come. Costs have climbed in recent years to put on the festival.

“Looking to the future we’ll need to get more revenue in,” he said.


For more information, contact Bonafede at 585-749-1413, by email at or click here to go to the festival website.


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Still time to order tickets for Burlison benefit concert

Staff Reports Posted 28 January 2015

ALBION – Tickets are still available for a Friday concert that will honor the memory of Wayne Burlison, an elementary music teacher who died on March 26 from colon cancer. Burlison was 36.

His wife Lisa and the Albion Alumni Foundation are working to establish a fund for a memorial scholarship in Burlison’s name. The group has set a $10,000 fund-raising goal with a plan to offer a $500 scholarship each year.

Burlison worked as an elementary band teacher at Albion. He was active in the community, playing in several music groups. His teaching colleagues at Albion will perform in the 7 p.m. concert on Friday at the Middle School Auditorium.

Some of the ensembles and groups that Wayne was involved in throughout the years will also perform. Scheduled to perform that evening are The Mark Time Marchers, The Hit Men, the praise band at the Albion Free Methodist Church, The AHS Jazz Ensemble (Wayne was the assistant director), and an ensemble from the AHS Marching Band (Wayne was the assistant director).

Tickets are $5 and will go directly to the scholarship fund. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Call 589-2050 ext. 2405 for more information. Tickets are also available at Bloom’s Flower Shop and Fischer’s Newsroom or at the door the day of the concert.


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DOT will soon make repairs to Main Street Lift Bridge in Albion

Photo by Tom Rivers
The century-old lift bridge on Main Street will have its weight limit reduced today from 22 to 19 tons.


Staff Reports Posted 28 January 2015
ALBION – The Main Street Lift Bridge will soon be getting repairs, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley announced today.

The state Department of Transportation is reducing the maximum weight limit today from 22 to 19 tons so repairs can soon get underway, Hawley said.

The DOT may need to close the bridge for some of the construction. Notifications will be sent to the media if the bridge is shut down for repairs, he said.

“I am proud to announce that infrastructure improvements are taking place right here in Albion,” Hawley said. “Work is scheduled to begin very soon on the lift bridge and I have been told that we could see a completed project as early as March. Projects such as these are crucial for the transportation of heavy materials that go through Albion. These repairs will not only improve the safety of the bridge but allow heavier loads to cross once repairs are complete, which in turn cuts down on travel time and reduces costs for local businesses.”


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Medina will plant 42 trees in spring

File photo
These trees were planted last year on Gwinn Street. Medina planted 57 trees in 2014 on Gwinn Street.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2015
MEDINA – The village will plant 42 trees this spring with most on Park Avenue. Those trees will finish the planting effort on Park Avenue begun several years ago.

There will also be a few additional ancillary plantings on West Center Street and West Avenue near the Central Business District.


“The main 2015 site plan depicts a return to Park Avenue in the rotation of plantings on main thoroughfares,” said Tree Board Chairman Chris Busch. “As always, the trees have been selected specifically for the needs of this site. The small trees are those considered to be appropriate for underwire plantings by National Grid and are reimbursable by them.”


The Village Board approved the tree planting plan on Monday. Most of the cost is covered by donations and the National Grid reimbursements.

One village trustee, Mark Irwin, voted against the plan. He would like to see more trees planted on the east side of the village, especially along East Center Street.


The National Arbor Day Foundation has given Medina a “Tree City Growth Award” and has designated the community a “Tree City USA” for its commitment to planting trees every year.


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Carquest will move to Tops Plaza in Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2015
MEDINA – The Tops Plaza on Maple Ridge Road will gain a new tenant with Carquest Auto Parts moving from Route 63 to the plaza, Code Enforcement Officer Marty Busch said.

Carquest is currently located at 4215 South Gravel Rd. Construction has started in its new home at the plaza. The location by Tops will give Carquest more space, Busch told the Village Board on Monday.

The plaza recently added a new tenant with Snap Fitness gym. That 24-hour location is at 11170 Maple Ridge Rd. Paul and Jeremiah Hackett opened the Snap Fitness. They also own a Snap Fitness in Niagara County.


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Harriger jailed after bondsman rescinds $250K bond

Roy Harriger

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2015 6:25 p.m.
ALBION – Roy Harriger was jailed at about 5 p.m. today after his bondsman rescinded a bond for $250,000.

Harriger, 71, was convicted of child molestation on Monday by a jury in Orleans County Court. He could face up to 25 years or more in state prison when he is sentenced on April 6.

District Attorney Joe Cardone asked in court after the verdict was read that Harriger’s bond be rescinded and he be put in jail until the sentencing. Judge James Punch permitted Harriger to stay free on bail until April 6.

Harriger’s two sons, Robert and George Harriger, were upset with the judge’s decision. Both sons testified they had been abused by their father when they were children. Three of Harriger’s grandchildren also testified they were abused by their grandfather, a prominent local pastor.

“He has every reason to run or to hurt someone or himself,” Cardone said at about 5:45 p.m. today. "At this point you have a 71-year-old man convicted of D felonies, which is potentially a death sentence at his age as a convicted perpetrator."

The bondsman for Harriger rescinded the bond. Cardone didn’t know if the bondsman terminated the bond or if someone else, who had pledged their property and assets to secure the bond, requested the bond be terminated.

Harriger was pastor at Ashwood Wesleyan Church in Lyndonville in 2000 and 2001 when he allegedly abused three of his grandchildren. The jury on Monday afternoon gave a unanimous decision, finding Harriger guilty on two out of three counts of course of sexual conduct, meaning the abuse lasted more than 3 months.

In 2009, Harriger helped establish Community Fellowship Church in Hartland. Many of the church members there were part of Ashwood. Harriger left that church after a disagreement with denomination leaders.

About 100 to 125 people who attend Community Fellowship, which has two services. Judge Punch ruled last year that Harriger could not attend church with children in the building. That prompted the church to hold two different services.


Before he was arrested in November 2013, Harriger was frequently invited to give the invocation before Orleans County Legislature meetings. The Legislature would invite local pastors to give the opening prayers.


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Inmate who died in county jail had heart disease

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2015
ALBION – An inmate found dead in the Orleans County Jail on Sept. 28 had heart disease and died of natural causes, Sheriff Scott Hess said this afternoon.

Juan Muriel-Gonzalez, 40, of the Bronx was found dead in his cell by corrections officers during the lunchtime chow call on Sept. 28.


The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office in Rochester made a final determination on Muriel-Gonzalez’s death. The Medical Examiner has determined the cause of death was “Issues Related to Cardiovascular Disease” and the manner of death was “Natural Cause(s),” Hess said.

Muriel-Gonzalez was taken to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office in Rochester for autopsy.

He had been incarcerated since June following his arrest for promoting prison contraband in the first degree. He pleaded guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance in the fifth degree during an Aug. 24 court appearance, when he admitted to mailing prescription narcotics to his ex-wife, an inmate at the Albion Correctional Facility.

Muriel-Gonzalez faced a maximum sentence of 2 1/2 years in state prison. He was to be sentenced on Nov. 17.


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Carlton fire victim identified as owner of property

Photo by Tom Rivers
Firefighters spent several hours on Friday at the scene of a fire in Carlton at 2086 Oak Orchard Rd.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2015
CARLTON – The Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office has positively identified George Swartz as the victim of a fatal fire on Friday, Orleans County Sheriff Scott Hess said.

The body of George P. Swartz, 65, was recovered in the remains of a house fire on Friday night. Swartz owned the house and was the sole resident.

The Monroe County Examiner’s Office in Rochester determined Swartz's cause of death as “Inhalation of Various Combustibles” and the manner of death as “Accidental,” Hess said.

The cause and origin of the fire remains under investigation.


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Salma returns to NYC for ‘The Voice’ on Thursday

Provided photo by Alana Ross
Salma Huzair is pictured in New York City on Sunday after earning a Red Ticket to advance pass the auditions for “The Voice.” She won’t be allowed to discuss the show publicly after Thursday when she returns to NYC.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2015
MEDINA – Salma Huzair will head back to New York City on Wednesday to take the next step in “The Voice,” a singing competition on NBC.

Salma, 15, passed the initial audition on Sunday to advance to the next step. She is due back for the show on Thursday morning. NBC also is requiring confidentiality and issued a gag order for participants beginning on Thursday.

Salma and her parents, Bilal Huzair and his wife Alana Ross, thanked the community for their support for Salma so far. They said that has helped Salma build her confidence in singing publicly and fielding questions from the media and producers from “The Voice.”

“There is no way she would have got this far without their support,” Mr. Huzair said. “It’s just been overwhelming with all the support.”

Salma had a 2 p.m. appointment with “he Voice” on Sunday. There seemed to be thousands of singers there for the weekend, trying to pass the initial audition with producers.

Salma was led into a room, “Number 8,” with nine other singers. They were each given about 90 seconds to impress the producers. Salma was the 10th and final person to sing in her group.

“I wasn’t too nervous,” Salma said. “I was mostly excited.”

She sang, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” by Eva Cassidy. Salma was the only one in her group to get a Red Ticket and advance.

Salma said she has been fortunate to attend Lyndonville with a great team of music teachers. She is grateful for the community for attending two concerts in December where she sang, gaining experience and confidence to perform in front of groups.

She also went to St. John Fisher for pointers in public speaking. Her mother said that session, facilitated by Dr. David Bell (an anthropology professor), “helped get Salma out of her shell.”

Last Thursday at school, Salma was in chorus when she stepped outside of a class for a moment. When she returned, the chorus was holding a big poster, wishing her luck in NYC with her tryout.

“It gave me a lot more confidence,” she said, knowing she had the support of her classmates and community.

On Monday she went to Buffalo to be interviewed by WGRZ (Channel 2). That interview (click here) highlighted her volunteer efforts with Project Life through the World Life Institute in Waterport. Her family has long been supporters of the program, which brings war orphans from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Kosovo and Bosnia for a summer of recuperation in rural Orleans County. Salma’s parents have hosted at least a dozen of the children and some of them have been Salma's roommates.

“She literally grew up with Project Life,” said Chris Wilson, one of the program’s organizers. “She has been a mentor to the children.”

Salma is known to many in the Medina community. Her parents own the Old Mill Run Restaurant, and Salma works in the kitchen and as a waitress. She also enjoys singing on karaoke nights at the restaurant.

She thanked the community, including the restaurant customers, for all of their positive feedback.

She has recorded several songs at Torquil Studios with John Wragg in Middleport. Links to those videos on YouTube can be found at her new website,


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Medina village officials look for ways to cut taxes

Photo by Tom Rivers
Jonathan Higgins, a captain with the Medina Fire Department, was on the scene at a fire on Friday in Carlton. Higgins wants the village to pursue a federal grant that would add personnel for fire and ambulance calls. But the Village Board worries if there are enough ambulance revenues to pay for staff when the grant runs out.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2015
MEDINA — The Medina Village Board says it will leave no stone unturned as it looks for revenue to help offset property taxes. The board will also work to reduce costs in village operations.

Resident Betty Rogowski attended Monday’s Village Board meeting and wanted to know the next steps for the community after dissolution was rejected a week ago, 949 to 527. Rogowski said she pays $7,802 in taxes annually, and she wants some relief from the big tax bill.

Monday’s meeting was the first for the Village Board since the dissolution vote. Medina Mayor Andrew Meier pushed dissolution as a way to reduce the tax burden on village residents. A study on dissolution showed how the tax rate could drop by $6 per $1,000 of assessed property on villagers.

Meier said Medina will be hard pressed to come up with ways to reduce taxes in the village by a similar amount without dissolution. The village would need about $1 million in new revenue or cuts to make that kind of impact.

Village officials need to have a new budget approved by April 30. The 2014-15 budget took in $2,738,602 in taxes from village property owners for a $16.44 tax rate.
Meier sees trimming the budget as something the board has some control over.

“We will have to find cost reductions,” he said.

Assistance from the local towns, county and state are all outside village control, Meier said.

Trustee Mike Sidari said the other governments need to be asked for help.


"Let’s get the ball rolling and put some pressure on our elected officials,” Sidari said.


He wants the village to pursue more state aid and a bigger share of the sales tax revenue in the county.

Medina currently gets $38,811 in state Aid and Incentives to Municipalities. That is a paltry sum for a village of 6,065 people, Sidari said, especially when smaller-size cities get far more. Sherrill in Oneida County gets $372,689 in AIM funding for a city of 3,071 people, he noted.

Sidari said the village should craft an official resolution, seeking more state funding, and distribute it to other villages and towns in the county and region, trying to build a movement. The board tasked Village Attorney Matthew Brooks to write a formal resolution to be voted on soon in the future.

Meier said the board shouldn’t expect any more money from the state. The governor’s budget didn’t include any AIM increases. Meier doesn’t have much hope the state would respond to the villages.

“Any increase appears DOA (Dead On Arrival),” Meier said.

But he supports passing a formal resolution, stating the value of villages and why the state should provide them with fair AIM funding.

The county had a big year for sales tax revenue in 2014, increasing by 5.96 percent from $14,819,904 to $15,703,362. The county has frozen the share to local towns and villages since 2001 at $1,366,671. Resident Tim Elliott said now is good time to push for more sales tax because of the increase for the county and the fact that it is no longer paying for the county nursing home.

The village of Medina receives $159,586 of the local sales tax or about 1 percent. Meier estimated that 30 percent of the sales tax in the county is generated by businesses in the village or close to the village borders.

He said he has pressed for more of the local sales tax in recent years, but has always been rebuffed from the county leaders.

Sidari said the village should make it an issue and engage other towns and villages in the county in seeking more of the funding.

Prior to the dissolution vote, the leaders of the towns of Shelby and Ridgeway both said they had ideas for reducing village costs. Meier and the Village Board said they await concrete proposals from Skip Draper, town supervisor of Shelby, and Brian Napoli, the supervisor in Ridgeway.

In the meantime, the board will look closer at village operations, trying to reduce costs.

Medina Fire Department Captain Jonathan Higgins sees a federal grant for hiring four firefighters as a way to improve services in the community and reduce the local cost.


A federal Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant would cover firefighters’ salary, benefits and retirement contributions for two years, as long as Medina maintains its existing staffing levels of 13 full-time firefighters, Higgins said.

The village could count two existing temporary positions for the grant and add two more full-timers, Higgins said. The added staff would reduce overtime costs for the department, and ensure the department has manpower for all of its calls.

Meier has concerns about adding the staff, even if it is grant funded. The village would unlikely be able to afford the positions after two years based on ambulance revenues.

“I don’t think we should set ourselves up for a difficult decision in two to three years,” Meier said. “I don’t see our revenues to the point where we can sustain four more firefighters.”

The village is 58 percent of the way through its budget year and the fire department has 57 percent of the revenues, putting it slightly behind pace for $1,050,000 budgeted. If the department keeps up that pace, it would be about 2 percent off budget or a $20,000 difference.

The fire department on Nov. 1 raised the mileage reimbursement rate for ambulance calls from $20 to $30. With 34,000 miles a year on ambulance calls that change could generate $340,000 if fully realized. But Meier said Medicare rates, self pay and other uncollected revenue makes that a big question mark.

The board delayed the decision to pursue the grant until Feb. 9 when it could have a better sense of revenue projections for the future, and the impact of added staff on reducing overtime.

The board did vote on Monday to raise most ambulance fees by 3 percent and increase the out-of-district charge from $50 to $75 for each call. That charge doesn’t apply to western Orleans County, including the villages of Medina and Lyndonville, and towns of Yates, Shelby and Ridgeway. The charge would be added to bill for calls in central Orleans County, eastern Niagara and Genesee County.


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