(Editor's Note: Orleans Hub is taking a daily challenge this week to express thankfulness for a different aspect to living in Orleans County.)
Editorial by Tom Rivers Posted 24 November 2015
One of the most popular stories in the past week on the Orleans Hub was an article about the return of Snowy Owls. Ben Jones of Kendall got two pictures of one with his camera phone on Saturday in Carlton.
He shared the pictures with Orleans Hub, and the article quickly racked up the “likes” and “shares” on social media.
This week we’re counting blessings about living in Orleans County, and presence of Snowy Owls and other glorious wildlife are among the perks of living here.
Snowy Owls usually don't fly down past Canada into these parts of the United States. But they have been showing up the past three years. Last winter was a historic migration, perhaps the biggest in a half century. The owls would hang out in corn fields, and sit on fences, telephone poles, you-name-it.
Many people were delighted to see one. They have been extra popular because they were so prominent in the Harry Potter stories. Harry's owl is named Hedwig.
Not every place has a world-famous fishing attraction, but Orleans County can boast of the Oak Orchard River. You can also catch a lot of fish in Johnson Creek and some of the other Lake Ontario tributaries.
Many people from out-of-state flock to Orleans in the fall to try to hook salmon and trout. Even if they don't catch any fish, just being outside in the river, with the blazing colors of the fall foliage, does a body and soul a lot of good.
We have a lot of geese around here with the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in the southern part of Orleans and stretching into Genesee County.
There are also a lot of geese in Lyndonville. They like to hang out in Johnson Creek. This photo was taken during a sunset in Lyndonville on Nov. 3.
You can also find a lot of geese along the Erie Canal. Many blue herons also camp out along the canal.
Deer season is underway for hunters and the animals seem to be in abundance. I "shot" these deer last Nov. 20.
I was out trying to get a picture of deer in a snow-covered field. These two deer were close to the road on the west side of Route 279 in Gaines, just south of Route 104. They held still for a few seconds before scampering away in the field and heading into the woods.
This county offers many picturesque views along the winding country roads past barns, orchards, corn fields and even rural, historic cemeteries.
This photo on Oct. 18 shows Zig-Zag Road in Gaines by John Long’s former dairy barn.
The sun was coming down and really lit up the barn and trees.
We have several really nice waterfalls in Orleans County. The one in Medina is probably the most powerful and breathtaking.
These waterfalls are by the Erie Canal near the Horan Road bridge. This was one of the toughest construction points for the Erie Canal. The Oak Orchard Creek runs along here. The canal contractors would use an aqueduct to provide a path for the Oak Orchard to run under the Erie Canal in Medina. Not long after, the creek plunges in a waterfalls.
This is a shockingly awesome spot, but it is difficult to view up close due to the lack of public access.
There are at least two good-size waterfalls in Holley. This photo shows one near the Holley Rod and Gun Club. There is also an old Medina sandstone building next door at South Holley Road and Pumping Station Road. The east branch of Sandy Creek runs by here.
If you like to explore and see some natural wonder, Orleans County is a great place to be.
Assemblyman backs 2 bills to boost local say in project
Press Release, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley Posted 24 November 2015
YATES – Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) today urged constituents to voice their opinions on the Lighthouse Wind, LLC project, which recently opened a public comment period that began Nov. 18.
“The Lighthouse Wind, LLC project has the potential to have major economic and social implications for local residents,” Hawley said. “Wherever you fall on this issue, the most important thing is that your voice is heard. The 21-day comment period is now open and will close on Dec. 9. Government is responsible to the citizens, and public comment and dissent is an integral and inherent part of our democratic process. I encourage all constituents to voice their comments at Lighthouse Wind, 310 4th St. NE, Suite 200, Charlottesville, VA 22902, and file a copy with the Secretary of the Department of Public Service.”
Hawley also reiterated his sponsorship of two bills aimed at increasing public input on local projects and strong opposition to Article X in order to give the local population greater representation in decisions that affect their community.
“As a result of my strong push for public input on local issues and staunch opposition to Article X, I am vehemently supporting two bills aimed at increasing public involvement in projects such as these. A.8545 would increase membership on the siting board from 7 to 9 members, increase the number of ad hoc members from 2 to 4, and require all ad hoc members to be present for a quorum.
“Another bill, A.8564, would require a public referendum to be held by the county or district where the project is located and mandate a certificate be issued for the proposal if the majority of voters are in favor of the project. Both of these bills increase public accessibility to local projects and create avenues for citizens to voice their concerns.”
Photo by Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 November 2015
MEDINA – Construction is moving along for the new Family Dollar store on Maple Ridge Road. This photo shows how the 8,320-square-foot building looked on Monday.
Village officials expect the store will open in early 2016, but no date has been set thus far.
The Durban Group, which is based in North Carolina, is managing the building project at 11300 Maple Ridge Rd. The company wanted to have the shell of the building, the parking lot and other site work done before winter.
Medina village officials pushed to have the store to have a brick appearance and black trim, giving the building a more classic look.
Here are the renderings the Durban Group presented to the Village Planning Board back in February, when the site plan was approved.
Contractors today started work on the exterior that will look like brick, said Marty Busch, the village code enforcement officer.
Village Planning Board members said dollar stores in other communities often resemble block and steel pole barns. Medina has design standards for new construction in the commercial and business districts.
The Family Dollar in Medina will have 28 parking spaces, and will include trees and other landscaping improvements. The project also includes a 25-foot-high pylon sign.
The store will move out of the Tops Plaza and go about ½ mile east to a site across from Tim Hortons.
By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 24 November 2015
HOLLEY – The Holley Central School District is in the process of forming a unified basketball team that would include students with disabilities.
Athletic Director Dan Courtney discussed progress with members of the Board of Education during a meeting last week.
Special Olympics unified sports is a national program that pairs people with and without intellectual disabilities on a team to compete. Individuals have to play at least six minutes in every game.
“It’s a state recognized sport,” Courtney said, and added that he recently attended a meeting at Gates-Chili to learn more about the program. He also said Brockport Central School has been very helpful.
“It creates an opportunity for kids who normally would not be part of a team,” he said. “The community gets to see their kids compete and do things against other schools ... and it’s an opportunity to have fun.”
Courtney said the program can be funded through grants.
He explained that on a typical team, three athletes with intellectual disabilities are combined with two partners without disabilities. There were six unified teams in Section V last year, Courtney said.
He has worked with the school’s special education department to compile a list of students who could take part.
“I think we would have enough,” Courtney said. “Partners are usually easier to find. They cannot be varsity or JV basketball players. They could run track or play baseball.”
Unified Basketball is considered a boys sport, but Courtney said that’s because it’s easier for girls to join a boys sport than vice-versa.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Board member John Heise said.
Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 24 November 2015
MEDINA – Todd Eick, Medina's agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, sits on a new pedal tractor he won from Case International in a contest of best Instagram photos using a key chain with a tiny tractor.
Eick is pictured with students, from left: Raymond Beneway, Mitchell Wienke, Alden Cayea and David Ayhart. They are in the ag production class taught by Eick.
Eick led a group of Medina students to the FFA National Convention in Lousiville last month. Case International gave away key chains with tractors and encouraged people to take photos of the key chains and post to Case International Instagram account.
Eick used coffee grounds to create a scene where it looks like the tractor is plowing a field. The photo won first place in the national contest.
The pedal tractor arrived on Nov. 11 and Eick and some of his students assembled it. He will decorate the new tractor in lights and ride it in Saturday’s Parade of Lights in Medina beginning at 6 p.m.
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 November 2015
ALBION – A Carlton man who was sentenced about two years ago to state prison for sex crimes against children will soon be released and will be registered as a Level 3 sex offender.
Orleans County Court Judge James Punch assessed Timothy Shay, 51, as the highest risk for reoffending. Punch led the risk level hearing on Monday in County Court. Shay, an inmate at the Marcy Correctional Facility in Oneida County, chose not to attend the hearing.
Shay in 2013 pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual contact with two under-age children and also possession of child pornography.
He was sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years in state prison. He could be given a conditional release on Dec. 30. He was received at Marcy on Dec. 12, 2013.
Judge Punch during the hearing on Monday said Shay had sexual contact with two different under-age girls, including one who was 11 and another under age 10. The judge also said Shay has a history of alcohol abuse, which contributes to the Level 3 status for Shay.
In another court case on Monday:
• A Rochester man rejected a plea offer and will go to trial beginning Jan. 20 for charges of criminal sale and possession of drugs in Orleans County in early 2014.
Tony Thompson, 48, of Dale Street in Rochester has been charged with criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree. He is currently in the Orleans County Jail.
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 November 2015
MEDINA — The next police chief in Medina is a familiar face to many in the community.
Chad Kenward worked several years as the school resource officer in Medina Central School. In that role, Kenward was an officer with the Medina Police Department spending much of his time in the school district. (Jason Barnum is working as school resource officer this school year after Kenward served about eight years in the position.)
Kenward, a Medina native, will take over as police chief in late December, succeeding Jose Avila, who is retiring after serving 17 years as chief.
The Medina Village Board appointed Kenward chief on Monday. He will lead a department that has seen several veteran officers retire recently.
Kenward is also a member of the Orleans County Multi-Agency SWAT Team. He met with the community on Oct. 4 during an open house at the Medina Fire Department, an event that was part of fire prevention week.
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2015
ALBION – Four people were sentenced to state prison by Orleans County Court Judge James Punch today with a Niagara Falls man getting the longest sentence.
Robert Wright, 23, of Niagara Falls was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Wright faced charges of first-degree burglary, criminal possession of a firearm, petty larceny and criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree for alleged crimes that occurred in Medina on June 16.
He went to trial and was found guilty. He apologized for the crimes and to the victims today in court.
Wright is a second-felony offender with a previous conviction in Genesee County on March 25, 2010.
Punch said Wright is “a very dangerous person” and the latest felony “is a very serious crime” that the judge considered a home invasion. He said Wright has not taken responsibility for the crime “in a meaningful way.”
In addition to the state prison sentence, Wright will have five years of post-release supervision. Punch also issued two orders of protection for the victims in the crime.
In other cases today, Judge Punch sentenced the following:
• A Medina man was sentenced to 5 years in state prison for attempted burglary in the second degree.
Joey Johnson, 28, of South Avenue admitted in a previous court appearance to breaking into the home of an elderly Albion couple and stealing some of their possessions, including a safe with $10,000.
The charge, a Class E violent felony, normally carries a maximum sentence of 2 to 7 years in state prison. As part of a plea deal, Johnson was to face no more 5 years in state prison. Punch gave him the maximum as part of the plea.
• A Hamlin man was sentenced to 4 years in state prison. Joel E. Johnson, 31, admitted he sold cocaine in Monroe County and Holley in transactions arranged with a confidential informant in Orleans County.
He pleaded guilty to attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, a charge that normally carries a sentence up to 5 1/2 years in state prison.
Johnson’s attorney Nathan Pace said Johnson completed probation successfully 11 years ago when he was 20 and had been out of trouble since then, working full-time. However, Johnson lost his job and “acted out of circumstances” in selling drugs, Pace said.
Punch said for probation to be successful it has to have a long-lasting effect.
“It looks to me like you’re a pretty significant seller of hard drugs in Orleans County,” Punch said during sentencing. “You’re completely self-centered and you’ve profited from selling this poison in our community.”
• An Albion man was sentenced to 1 ½ years in prison for third-degree criminal sale of marijuana.
Charles A. Santiago, 27, of 214 North Main St. previously admitted to selling marijuana in excess of 25 grams on May 28. He is a first-time felony offender.
Santiago has been on probation three times. Punch said prison was needed.
“At some point you didn’t reach a turning point while on probation,” the judge said. “You’ve been given chances over and over again and you never took a chance to get straightened out.”
Editorial: A week of giving thanks
(Editor’s Note: Orleans Hub will offer a daily Thanksgiving tribute this week. Today, we look back at the election season with competitive races.)
Editorial By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2015
The election season is over and it was highly unusual for the feistiness in several local races. Often in recent years a full slate of candidates has run unopposed. That happened this election season again with some of our local towns.
But every resident who voted on Nov. 3 had choices in at least two races: county sheriff and one of the county-wide legislator positions.
In my 20 years as a reporter in Orleans County, I’ve never seen anything like this past sheriff’s race, such a heated and close battle to the very end.
Randy Bower emerged as the victor, but I’d like to congratulate Tom Drennan and Don Organisciak for both running and pushing hard up to election day. They certainly made Bower work hard to get elected. I bet Bower is a better man for it and will do a better job in his new role as sheriff than if he had a free pass throughout the election season.
I wish more people would run for office, that we would have competitive races and candidates would be forced to put out ideas and an action plan for the local municipalities. Too often, the candidates don’t have opposition. There isn’t much accountability for voters who don’t believe the elected officials are doing a good job.
It’s hard for Democrats to get elected with Republicans holding a 2-to-1 enrollment advantage. So many Democrats don’t try. Darlene Benton pulled off an upset in Albion, winning a spot to the Albion Town Board over Paul Fulcomer, the endorsed Republican. I give Fulcomer credit for getting on the ballot, and wanting to continue public service after retiring as the Veterans Service Agency director in Orleans County.
James White, 21, of Gaines made his first attempt at elected office, running against Don Allport, who cruised to a victory for an at-large legislator position. White ran a vigorous campaign and put some ideas on the table. I’ve seen younger adults run for the Board of Education, but I don’t recall seeing someone so young make a serious run for a county elected position.
White may have lost on election day, but he deserves praise and appreciation for giving the voters a choice.
Paul Lauricella has been a long-time observer and critic of local government. This year he stepped it up and ran for county legislator – a district that includes the towns of Yates, Ridgeway and a portion of Shelby. Lauricella only had the Conservative Party line and didn’t win, but he received 552 votes.
The Town of Yates rarely generates much opposition or excitement for elections. It’s about as quiet as it gets in a democracy – until this year. The wind turbine issue brought out candidates and voters. Yates had the highest turnout of any community on election day with 50.2 percent going to the polls, compared to a 38.2 percent county average.
Jim Simon won the town supervisor race in a write-in bid. That rarely happens, but John Belson, the incumbent town supervisor, should be commended for his public service.
Orleans Hub would like to praise every candidate for being part of the election process, for their willingness to be on the ballot and give voters a choice.
Overall, the county still has more unopposed candidates than those with opposition. That doesn’t give voters much reason to go to the polls, or provide extra incentive for the elected officials to do the best job possible.
We still have a long ways to go for competitive elections in our county. Consider the following:
• There were nine county positions up for election but only three were contested. That’s 33 percent with a choice.
• Three of the 10 towns had candidates who were all unopposed.
• The 10 towns combined had 49 positions up for election but only 16 had more than one candidate or 32.7 percent.
The candidates who didn’t win on election day shouldn’t be viewed as losers. They made for one of the more exciting election seasons in recent memory. Here’s to more candidates giving it a try next time.
Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo Posted 23 November 2015
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that temporary lane closures associated with road and bridge construction projects on New York State highways will not be permitted from 6 a.m. on Wednesday to 6 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 30, in order to accommodate motorists during the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel week.
Some work may continue behind permanent concrete barriers or for emergency repairs.
“The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, so starting Wednesday, the state will temporarily suspend major construction projects to reduce traffic congestion and delays,” Cuomo said. “This action puts drivers first by getting them where they need to go faster and with less aggravation this holiday weekend.”
Ensuring that more lanes remain open is in keeping with Gov. Cuomo’s Drivers First program, which prioritizes the convenience of motorists to minimize traffic congestion and travel delays due to road and bridge work.
AAA predicts that nearly 47 million people will travel more than 50 miles from home from Wednesday through Sunday. That number is up slightly from last year, spurred in part by lower gas prices this season.
“The people of New York State need to be able to visit with their families and friends this holiday season without worrying about travel delays from road construction," said New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll. "We encourage all travelers to check 511NY before traveling and join with Governor Cuomo is wishing all New Yorkers a Happy Thanksgiving.”
There will be slight variations for certain Thruway projects based on previous traffic volume. A detailed schedule of Thruway lane closures throughout the holiday weekend is available by clicking here.
Photos courtesy of Ben Jones Posted 23 November 2015
CARLTON – Ben Jones of Kendall sighted a Snowy Owl standing on the edge of Sawyer Road in Carlton Saturday evening. Jones had his phone camera and used it to get these pictures at night.
“It was pitch dark and couldn’t get too close before he'd fly off again,” Jones said.
The Snowy Owls have been a popular phenomenon in this area the past two winters with sightings all over Western New York.
The owl has a wingspan of five feet. It nests in the Arctic tundra and usually winters south through Canada.
Chairman Callard says budget prevents tax rate increase
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2015
ALBION – Orleans County officials will have a public hearing at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 on a $64,435,941 budget. The spending plan for 2016 reduces costs from 2015 and keeps the tax rate at $9.89 per $1,000 of assessed property.
“It’s been an extremely good year,” David Callard, chairman of Legislature, said about the budget. “We’ve maintained costs, which we started six years ago and we’ve done extremely well.”
The public hearing will be at the county courthouse. Following the hearing, the Legislature will convene at the legislative chambers next door in the County Clerks' Building to vote on the budget.
The county in recent years has worked to streamline staffing and have employees pay more towards health insurance costs. The selling of the county nursing home also reduced the county workforce by about a third.
The county’s workforce has shrunk from 416 full-time and 164 part-time positions in 2014 to 318 full-time and 89 part-time for 2016.
The $64,435,941 budget is the county’s smallest since 2007, and is down by $579,325 from the $65,015,266 in 2015. In 2014, the last year the county owned a nursing home, the budget was $79.8 million. That year the tax rate was $10.11.
Callard said efforts to fight welfare fraud are paying off with social services costs at a “historic low.” The county has reduced welfare caseloads and that will reduce welfare costs to local taxpayers by an estimated $200,000 in 2016.
The tax rate will be unchanged, but the county will take in a slight increase in taxes. The tax levy will increase by 0.7 percent from $16,209,165 to $16,323,150. Property taxes represent about 25 percent of the revenue for funding the budget.
Sales tax also represents about a quarter of the revenue for the budget. After budgeting for no increases in 2014 and 2015, county officials are going to recommend another $250,000 in sales tax to $14,035,000.
County officials don’t foresee too many additional opportunities for significant cost saving by reducing staff. Callard said the county wants to maintain the tax rate by boosting tax assessments. That can happen by addressing many of the vacant homes in the community, Callard said.
Many of those houses are owned by banks but sitting idle. The homes should be put in the hands of owners with a plan and purpose for the houses, Callard said.
Medina has started a vacant housing law that tracks the houses and assesses a fee to the owners. That law may spur the owners to take action on the properties. Callard said Medina's law could serve as a model for other local municipalities.
“We want them to get turned over before they deteriorate,” Callard said about the houses. “We need to improve the housing stock and explore it on a countywide basis.”
There are about 250 vacant homes in the county, Callard said. He expects there will be more demand for housing with the new Pride Pak vegetable processing plant in Medina and the developments at the STAMP site across the Orleans line in Genesee County.
Press release, American Farm Bureau Federation Posted 22 November 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 30th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $50.11, a 70-cent increase from last year’s average of $49.41.
The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $23.04 this year. That’s roughly $1.44 per pound, an increase of less than 9 cents per pound, or a total of $1.39 per whole turkey, compared to 2014.
“Retail prices seem to have stabilized quite a bit for turkey, which is the centerpiece of the meal in our marketbasket,” AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said. “There were some production disruptions earlier this year due to the highly pathogenic Avian influenza outbreak in the Midwest. Turkey production is down this year but not dramatically. Our survey shows a modest increase in turkey prices compared to last year. But we’re now starting to see retailers feature turkeys aggressively for the holiday. According to USDA retail price reports, featured prices fell sharply just last week and were actually lower than last year.”
The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.
Foods showing the largest increases this year in addition to turkey were pumpkin pie mix, a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, cubed bread stuffing and pie shells. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.20; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.61; and two nine-inch pie shells, $2.47.
“Despite concerns earlier this fall about pumpkin production due to wet weather, the supply of canned product will be adequate for this holiday season,” Anderson said.
Items that declined modestly in price were mainly dairy items including one gallon of whole milk, $3.25; a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $3.18; a half pint of whipping cream, $1.94; and 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.29. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery (79 cents) and one pound of green peas ($1.52) also decreased slightly in price.
The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011. This year’s survey totaled over $50 for the first time.
“America’s farmers and ranchers are able to provide a bounty of food for a classic Thanksgiving dinner that many of us look forward to all year,” Anderson said. “We are fortunate to be able to provide a special holiday meal for 10 people for just over $5 per serving.”
Farm Bureau has done the survey each year since 1986, when it was $28.74 for a Thanksgiving meal. For more information, click here.
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