Burrito business opens on Albion Main Street

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 1 July 2016

ALBION – Ryan Lockhart and Andrea Tombari opened U-Need-O Burrito today at 33 North Main St. They were busy during the lunch hour. The business will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day but Monday, when it is closed.


Lockhart brings 25 years of experience as a chef, working in Maine fishing communities, Colorado ski resorts and Myrtle Beach.


He prepared 50 lunches in an hour and a half today.


"It's fast, it's consistent," he said the burritos, tacos and other menu items. "The food will always be good."

Lockhart prepares a burrito for lunch today. He and Andrea Tombari opened the business today in the spot that used to be El Gallo.


U-Need-O has several types of tacos and burritos, with chicken, pork, and ground beef. Customers can pick numerous other toppings and fillings.


"We're going to see what sells and what doesn't," he said. "We'll see what the people want and we'll experiment."


U-Need-O plans to add fish fries on Fridays, a Southwest burger and other daily specials.


Tombari, a Lyndonville resident, said the site is in a prominent location and the business should be a boost to Main Street.


Adam Johnson, the Albion Merchants Association president, agrees. He had a chimichanga for lunch at U-Need-O. Johnson opened the Frosty Bucket about a month ago, just a few storefronts from U-Need-O. Johnson sells ice cream and just added a lunch menu.

Adam Johnson ordered this chimichanga.


"I'm thrilled to see another storefront filled," Johnson said about U-Need-O. "This is the type of business that generates a lot of repeat traffic and that's good for downtown."


For more information about U-Need-O, call (585) 283-4435.


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Community rallies to support baby Ella

Nearly 200 gift baskets will be raffled off Monday during Lyndonville’s Fourth of July celebration

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 1 July 2016
LYNDONVILLE – Brittany Button, one of the organizers of a basket raffle to benefit Ella Suhr and her family, is pictured with the baskets today inside the Lyndonville school. The raffle on Monday is the latest effort by the community to support a young couple and their baby daughter who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.


"I know as a community how well we can all come together," Button said. "This is a small community that is very close knit."


Joe and Meagan Suhr spent this week in Florida, where their daughter Ella had a tumor removed. An MRI showed no more signs of cancer, Meagan posted on Facebook.


Mrs. Suhr is a high school teacher in Batavia and her husband is a social studies teacher in Lyndonville.


They were on vacation in March in St. Petersburg when Ella became sick. They took her to the emergency room. She would be diagnosed with stage four of a rare form of brain cancer.


Joe's colleagues at Lyndonville donated their sick days so he could take the rest of the school year off to care for his daughter.


Many in the community wore Lyndonville Tiger colors of orange and black with the message "Suhr Strong" to show support for the family and help raise money for medical costs.


The community is putting on a big basket raffle on Monday during Lyndonville's Fourth of July Celebration. Nearly 200 baskets have donated. They will be on display on the school front lawn from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Jan Heideman wraps one of the gift baskets today. She is among several volunteers helping with the basket raffle on Monday.


"It's an absolutely phenomenal cause," she said. "In this small town, people really rally around each other."


The volunteers said they were all encouraged by the good news shared by the Suhrs this week, that Ella's tumor was gone.

Abby Button works on the ticket bags for the basket raffle. Her mother, Jen Button, has been one of the lead organizers for the raffle.


Jack Buckner, his wife Janice and the Buckner family also have worked hard on the event.


Abby said people and businesses from all Western New York have donated baskets for the auction. She said it has been emotionally moving to see the donations come in.


"All of Western New York is coming together for our little town," she said.

There are several items donated by the Buffalo Bills, including this autographed hat by Rex Ryan, the team's head coach.

Bills star wide receiver Sammy Watkins signed a pair of cleats that will be in the auction. There will also be a helmet signed by quarterback Tyrod Taylor.


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Kids at Yates library learn science while blowing bubbles, analyzing ice cream

Photos by Kristina Gabalski Posted 1 July 2016
LYNDONVILLE – Popular presenter Rick Merritt returned to the Yates Community Library on Thursday afternoon with a special kids' program entitled "Pop Secret and I Scream for Ice Cream!"  Participants learned about the science behind bubble gum and ice cream.

The second half of the yummy science program involved analyzing the effect of salt on ice and making ice cream.  Here, participants work in pairs to agitate ice cream ingredients and ice with salt in plastic bags to make the frozen treat.

Merritt and his sons, Nate (in white T-shirt) and Kory show participants how to measure the s-t-r-e-t-c-h (thanks to elastomers) in bubble gum.

After participants tested and recorded data regarding the elasticity of various bubble gums, a bubble blowing contest was held.

Merritt helps participants dish up the ice cream.  

This year's family of swans on the Johnson's Creek millpond adjacent to Yates Community Library includes six babies or cygnets.  The family could be seen swimming serenely around the pond during the library program which was held outside.


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Be lead safe while working on renovation projects

By Nola Goodrich-Kresse, public health educator for Orleans County Posted 1 July 2016
It is officially summer and not only is the temperature increasing but likely the number of home renovation projects, too. Home renovations can be a complicated undertaking and renovating an older home presents its own unique set of challenges.


Specifically, homes built before 1978 could contain lead-based paint and other lead sources which pose a health hazard, especially to children.


“The biggest problem with renovations involving lead is the dust that is produced during sanding, cutting, and demolition. Dust can settle on various surfaces and be inhaled into the lungs or ingested through common hand-to-mouth activities,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health Director of Genesee and Orleans Counties.

The first step in any home renovation project is to decide if you are going to hire a contractor or if you are going to “Do-it-yourself”. Please note that, in most cases, landlords are required to hire a professional and cannot do the work themselves. In either case, safe work practices need to occur in order to protect you and your family.


Hiring a contractor: When hiring a contractor, ask about their work practices to minimize lead hazards. Also, you should verify that your contractor is certified by the EPA. The EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule requires contractors working on buildings built before 1978 to be certified by the EPA, use renovators that are properly trained, and follow safe work practices. Finally, make sure that the details of your renovation are clearly laid out and that everyone involved understands what will be happening during setup, renovation, and cleanup.

Do-it-yourselfer: If you are a homeowner undertaking a renovation project yourself, you need to be educated on proper work practices to keep you and your family safe from dangerous lead dust.

Consider hiring a certified lead inspector before you begin your project to determine if your home contains any lead in the work area. Work safely by removing any furniture, rugs, and other household items before you begin the project which could get covered with dust and use plastic covering to seal off doors and vents to prevent the spread of dust outside of your work area.

Use the correct equipment including certified respirators, HEPA vacuum cleaners, protective clothing, etc. to minimize the risk involved. When the work is finished, clean-up must be done properly. Use of a vacuum cleaner, with a HEPA filter, wet wiping, and wet mopping to remove any dust and debris from all surfaces is important.


It is also important to remember that lead dust may not be visible to the naked eye; just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there! Contractors need to use a cleaning verification card to confirm cleaning was done properly.


You can also choose to have a lead-dust test performed. Testing should be done by a lead professional. Contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD for more details (If using a contractor, lead-dust testing should be discussed before the project begins.).

If done properly, home renovation should be a safe process for you and your children. Of course, don’t forget about your pets! Pets are just as susceptible to the effects of lead and should be considered when planning your project. For more information about home renovation involving lead and for a more complete list of safe work practices, visit the EPA website by clicking here.


Your local health department can also provide educational materials and advice with regards to lead. For information about health department services contact the Orleans County Health Department at (585) 589-3278 or check out the website at www.orleansny.com/publichealth.


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Boaters bask in summer sunshine

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 1 July 2016

POINT BREEZE – A group of boaters, including many with sailboats, were out Thursday evening in Lake Ontario near the Oak Orchard Harbor. The sailboats have a friendly race most Thursday evenings.

Today there will be a high of 76 with showers likely between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

Saturday will be sunny with a high of 75, followed by more sun and high of 79 on Sunday. Monday, July 4, will be sunny with a high near 82, according to the Weather Service.

A chair is pictured in a backyard at Oak Orchard on the Lake.

This boater heads back to the harbor on Thursday evening.

It was another striking sunset at Point Breeze.


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Teaching Kitchen opens at Fairgrounds

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County Posted 30 June 2016
KNOWLESVILLE – In 2013, the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension Board of Directors set a goal of transforming the 40-year old Trolley Building kitchen into a modern, commercial grade teaching kitchen. 


Three years and $60,000 later, the kitchen is ready for food and nutrition education, small batch food processing, and large scale cooking for events that can be held in the adjacent 50’ by 70’ space. 
The kitchen features stainless steel countertop table units with an ample 3-bay sink, hand wash sink, and two prep sinks - each in one of the large stainless steel work islands. 

It includes a commercial dishwasher, 54” two-door refrigerator and freezer units, a chest freezer, and four floor to ceiling stainless storage cabinets. Additional items include a 10-burner range with two 36” ovens, a fire suppression hood, and the honorary butcher block table refinished by Albion dairy farmer, Jeremy Neal. 

New flooring, RFP board along the south wall, and a stainless steel serving window were installed as well.
A majority of the upgrades were funded through grants from local foundations and a recent award of $25,675 from the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority. Private donations, including support from the Fern Blackburn Memorial and Mrs. Ann Preston, along with funds raised by the Orleans County 4-H Fair Committee and Leaders’ Association helped as well. 


As funds were raised, work was completed.  The hardest part was closing the kitchen for new plumbing and electrical installed in the concrete floor to the island units. 
Extension staff and volunteers were ready for the new kitchen and have already held food preservation workshops and pie-making workshops to prepare for the annual 4-H Fair to be held July 25-30 this year. They are also planning for 4-H Cooking Camp, July 18 & 19, along with using the kitchen to host concessions and dinners for 4-H activities. The nutrition program uses the kitchen as well to prepare foods for workshops held throughout Orleans County.
While the kitchen supports Extension work, it is intended to achieve a greater goal of increasing the consumption of local fruit and vegetable products.  Growers or food entrepreneurs are encouraged to consider the kitchen for processing foods into ready-to-eat products or hosting workshops for consumers. 


The kitchen rents at $125/day and meets all food and safety codes. Information about using the kitchen can be found on Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension’s website under Facility Use at cceorleans.org or requested at 585-798-4265.


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GCC, volunteers working on Heritage Festival Sept. 9-11 in Orleans County

File photos by Tom Rivers

David Kreutz, an Abraham Lincoln presenter from Depew, shows over-sized pennies to people at the Civil War encampment in Medina in April 2013. GCC is no longer hosting the Civil War encampment, but is taking the lead in organizing the first Orleans County Heritage Festival.


Staff Reports Posted 30 June 2016

MEDINA – Plans for a county-wide celebration of Orleans County history and heritage are progressing for the first annual Orleans County Heritage Festival September 9-11.


Over the course of the weekend participants will be invited to grab the free “heritage passport” at any participating organization and visit a minimum of six historic sites. The passport can then be redeemed for an attractive collectable pin and their names will be entered in a drawing for prizes.

Meant to shine a spotlight on the fantastic historic assets of Orleans County, visitors to the heritage festival will have many choices available to them. Encompassing four main themes: Agriculture, Transportation, Historic Cemeteries and Historic gems, visitors might visit a family farm, walk along the Eric Canal, go on a ghost walk or visit the historic district of Medina or Albion.

In addition, Genesee Community College is participating in the Heritage Festival with its own contributions located at GCC’s two Orleans County campuses. The Medina Campus Center invites visitors to “Epochs in Orleans” – a timeline festival on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., featuring re-enactors and impressionists from all eras of history, from the French and Indian War to World War II and beyond.


Folks might encounter President James and Dolly Madison, Abraham Lincoln and other historic personalities. There will be artisan demonstrations, antique autos, Civil War firing demonstrations and much more. Organizers believe that visitors will feel like they are walking through time.

GCC hosted a Civil War Encampment in Medina for three years. This photo shows re-enactors mounting a charge during a mock battle in April 2015. Some re-enactors may be back for a heritage Festival this September.

Meanwhile, GCC’s Albion Campus Center will focus on “Death, Mourning and Justice in Orleans County History” also on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring a recreated Victorian wake in the family parlor.


The exhibit will be accompanied by two public lectures. The first of these will focus on famous crimes and murders with Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone at 10 a.m. Retired Orleans County historian Bill Lattin will give a talk on Victorian hair jewelry at 12 p.m.

The overall event is free and open to the public, however contributions to GCC’s Veteran’s Scholarship Fund will be encouraged. To keep tabs on the newest developments for the heritage festival, click here, or check the festival's Facebook page by clicking here.


You can also contact Derek Maxfield, GCC associate professor of history at ddmaxfield@genesee.edu or Jim Simon, GCC associate dean of the Orleans County Campus Centers, at jsimon@genesee.edu.


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CGR hired to help with law enforcement study in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 June 2016
ALBION – A steering committee studying law enforcement services in Orleans County picked the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester as a consultant on the project.

CGR will be be paid about $74,000 for its work over the next year, presenting options for how law enforcement could best be provided in the future, whether with the current model of three village police department plus the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office or perhaps a full takeover with the county providing the service without the village police.


“We will be looking at multiple options,” said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.


Transitioning from village police departments to a county-only model would require several public referendums. Nesbitt said the committee may consider a phased in approach.


The committee wants to keep the public aware of the initiative, and get feedback from the community, Nesbitt said.


There has already been efforts by law enforcement agencies to share, including Albion and Holley using the same police chief with Roland Nenni.


There may be opportunities for joint training, shared equipment and other projects. CGR will work with the local law enforcement agencies collecting data on services, and will analyze ways for the service to best be provided in the future. The firm has a May 2017 to complete the report.

CGR has done many studies for shared services and consolidation of government agencies, including the report that looked how the Village of Medina could be dissolved.


The steering committee for the law enforcement study includes four village mayors – Dean London of Albion, Brian Sorochty of Holley, John Belson of Lyndonville and Michael Sidari of Medina; Orleans County legislators John Defilipps, Lynne Johnson and David Callard, who are members of the county’s Public Safety Committee; Police chiefs Roland Nenni of Albion and Holley, and Chad Kenward of Medina (represented during Wednesday’s meeting by Lt. Todd Draper); Sheriff Randy Bower; County Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt; union representatives including Jeff Gifaldi of the OC Deputies’ Association, Dave Mogle for the Albion police, and Brian Marsceill of the Medina police; and community members, Cindy Robinson (president of the Medina Business Association) and Dan Monacelli (principal of the Albion Middle School).

A state grant for $36,000 was approved for the law enforcement shared service and efficiency study. The county is paying the other $38,000.


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Hall of Fame Santa was proud to serve at Christmas Park in Albion

Photo courtesy of Fred Cond
This photo from the late 1950s shows Santa Claus portrayed by the George Cond of Holley with his three sons, Fred Cond, bottom; George Cond III, middle; and Roger Boyce, top.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 June 2016
ALBION – George Cond delighted in making children happy, spending the Christmas holiday season portraying Santa Claus.


"He really liked kids," his son Fred Cond said. "He prided himself on being Santa Claus."


The Holley resident in the mid-1950s enrolled in the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Albion. At the time, Cond was working three jobs, but he gave up two of the part-time positions to become Santa. (He quit his job as a cook at a restaurant and a position at Sears, but continued to work as a setup man for the punch press machines at Delco in Rochester.)


Cond was so good at portraying Santa that Charles Howard embraced Cond as the Santa at Christmas Park in Albion, Howard's entertainment venue at Route 31 on Phipps Road. Christmas Park included a Santa School, toy shop, reindeer, train, motorized swans and other activities.

Charles Howard is pictured as Santa in this program promoting the Santa Claus School, which he started in 1937 in Albion.


Howard is one of the most respected Santas in the world by the men who portray Santa today, even 50 years after Howard's death. His Santa Claus School was moved from Albion after Howard died in 1966, but the school continues today in Midland, Mich., and still bears Howard's name.


George Cond also is held in high regard by the Santa community. Next week, Cond will be inducted into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame during the Santa Convention in Branson, Missouri.  Howard was inducted in the inaugural class in 2010. (Click here for more on the Hall of Fame.)


"A student of Howard’s Santa Claus School, Cond assumed the role of Santa at Christmas Park in late 1950s and continued until the close of the park in 1966," according to the Hall of Fame. "With Howard busy as the Executive Director and away on business during the Christmas Season, Cond handled most of the day-to-day Santa appearances throughout the park. He appeared in and around the Western New York State region on behalf of Christmas Park."

Fred Cond keeps one of his father's business cards, noting his service as Santa Claus.


Cond worked as the Santa at Christmas Park for about a decade and many of the photos from that time, showing kids with a Santa at Christmas Park, actually are more likely to show Cond as Santa than Howard. Fred can tell the photos of his father.


George Cond injured his right hand and two of his fingers seemed to be permanently "frozen" in a bent position. Many of the photos from Christmas Park show a Santa waving, with middle and ring fingers in that bent position. That's a giveaway that Cond is wearing the red suit, not Howard.


Cond wasn't the only family member to work for Howard at Christmas Park. Cond's wife Elaine also worked there and Fred would help as an elf.


Fred, now 63, remembers when as a boy he was asked to bring lunch to Santa. Fred carried the meal over to Santa, who was on break. Fred discovered his father in the Santa suit without the beard and wig. It was the first time Fred realized his father portrayed Santa.


"My father told me that Santa can't be there all the time," Fred recalled at his home in Brockport. "He said, 'I'm helping Santa out. I'm helping him take some of the orders.'"

Fred Cond holds his father's Santa suit, which was originally worn by Charles Howard. The suit, No. 191, bears Howard's initials. Fred now wears the suit when he portrays Santa. (All of the suits made at Christmas Park were individually numbered.)


When Howard died, the fate of Christmas Park was uncertain. George Cond wanted to buy it and keep it viable for years. But he was outbid by an out-of-town buyer. Christmas Park didn't last long without Howard.


Fred Cond wishes Christmas Park could have continued. 


"If it was still around today, it would be bigger than Darien," Cond said. "Charlie Howard was a very clever man."


After Christmas Park closed, Cond continued to portray Santa for local families, schools, churches, and other venues. He was the Santa for Kodak.


He was asked to follow Howard as the Santa in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving parade, but Cond declined out of respect for Howard.


"In his mind, Charles Howard was always Santa Claus," Fred Cond said.


His father died in 1996. He was an active Santa until the late 1980s. The Santa Claus Hall of Fame induction is a pleasant surprise for his family, Fred Cond said.

The Santa suit used by George Cond was originally Charles Howard's suit. It bears Howard's initials. The wing and beard are made of yak hair.


Fred Cond continues the Santa legacy in the family. Fred first portrayed Santa as an 18-year-old at the former Ames in Albion. He continues to be Santa every Christmas season, mostly wearing the suit for friend and family.


His wife Debbie said Fred is changed every year when he brings out the Santa suit.


"Once he puts on that suit, the Christmas spirit invades him," Debbie said.


Fred said Howard's family has asked if he would be willing to give up the suit, but Cond said it is too important to him and the Cond family.


"There are very few things I have of my dad," Fred said. "This was part of my life, growing up with my dad. He was a big part of Christmas Park. He was hand-picked by Charles Howard to play Santa, and my dad did it because of his love for the kids."

This document shows Cond's enrollment papers for the Charles Howard Santa Claus School in Albion in October 1958.

Charles Howard signed the enrollment papers for Cond in red ink.

Each student at the school received a red folder from the "Santa Claus School" in Albion, NY. Fred Cond has many of his father's papers from when he attended the school.

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County will spend up to $70K for design of addition on administration building

File photo by Tom Rivers

The Orleans County Legislature approved hiring the Wendel firm to design an addition on the County Administration Building on Route 31, behind The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 June 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has approved an agreement with the Wendel firm to design an addition on the County Administration Building, new space that could be used for relocated county offices and perhaps as a meeting room and offices for the Legislature itself.

The Legislature on April 27 announced that is was considering new construction on the County Administration Building at 14106 Route 31 West.


The Legislature on April 27 authorized paying Wendel $30,000 for a feasibility study for an addition to the County Administration Building.

The county may shift several offices to the addition, including the Board of Elections and Public Health Department, which is leasing space from Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services.


Comprehensive purchased the former county nursing home for $7.8 million in January 2014. The county has been leasing space from Comprehensive for Elections and Public Health because those offices are part of the nursing home complex.


The county could also shift information technology (currently in Treasurer's Office), the legislative chambers (in County Clerk's Building), the county's administrative office (also in Clerk's Building) and create large multi-use rooms to accommodate training for large groups, conference rooms and offices.


The Legislature last week approved paying Wendel up to $70,000 to design the addition to the Administration Building. That scope of work not only includes designing the building, but determining parking and circulation needs, site access, utility service requirements, energy efficiency and sustainability requirements, and other analysis of the site.


David Callard, the County Legislature chairman, said in April that moving Elections and Public Health from leased space will free up money that could go towards the addition, perhaps making the project cost neutral to county taxpayers.
Callard said he and county officials have looked at existing buildings, including sites in Albion's historic downtown, but those sites wouldn't improve efficiency of the county government operations.


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Libraries kick off summer reading program

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 29 June 2016
ALBION – Victoria Ramos-Perez, 4, of Albion gets ready to throw a ball at the target on the dunk tank. She was able to knock Kirsten Struble into the water. Kirsten's mother, Nicole Struble, is the children's librarian at the Hoag Library in Albion.


Hoag kicked off its summer reading challenge today with games and snacks for children. The reading challenge actually starts next week and runs from July 6 to Aug. 13.

Zeke Yohe, 9, of Albion helps his sister Maggie, 1, down an inflatable slide as part of today's summer reading kick off.

Betty Sue Miller, the library director, watches children having fun outside the library this afternoon.

Charity Garrow, a Hoag Library employee, makes snow cones for children. The treats were popular, drawing a long line of kids.

These friends, Kearston Brennan, left, and Lily Brigham, are happy after getting a snow cone. The two girls, both 7, are from Albion.


Hoag will have several games for children to play in different age groups during the summer, including Plinko (ages 3-9), Tic Tac Toe (ages 10-12), and a punch card for teens and adults.


Hoag will award prizes for participants in the program, including an Amazon Kindle and gift cards for Amazon and the The Book Shoppe in Medina.


Other local libraries also start the reading challenge next week.


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Legislature chairman says report on high property taxes doesn’t tell whole story

David Callard


(Editor’s Note: Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard delivered these remarks during the June 22, 2016, Legislature meeting.)

Every year it seems that the Empire Center for Public Policy puts out a list of the highest tax rates in the state - and every year the citizens of Orleans County are treated to a rehash of news articles highlighting certain parts of the study and scolding local officials, whether they be village, town, county, or school, for their role in achieving that dubious ranking.


Most recently there was an article on village taxes within the county reporting them among the worst in the state. What is lacking in this news article, however, was the whole story. (Click here to see "Medina community has highest combined tax rate in region.")

Villages are constantly being ranked regardless of size. Given that premise - one benchmark that is always used is the Top 20 Property Tax Bills on Median-Value Homes. That list has never included an Orleans County village, but that is never mentioned. Or more significantly, included in the report, but is never mentioned in articles, is that the county taxes paid per capita in Orleans County are the SECOND
LOWEST of the 57 counties in New York State. Again - the second lowest taxes paid per person in New York State.


People tend to be negative without acknowledging all of the facts. This is something the state government does all the time when deriding the counties. The town of Ridgeway is a solid 816th out of 932 for towns in taxes per capita. The Medina School district is also very solid at 625th out of 702 for local spending per pupil among school districts. Even the Village of Medina's 238th out of 557 in
taxes per capita doesn't seem so earth shattering considering the high level of services.


Let's face it; casting blame without an acknowledgement of all the facts is something we get plenty of from people in Albany. We don't need to do it here as well. It would be responsible to cite those other stats as they give a fuller picture.

Orleans County pays over $16,000,000 to the state in unfunded mandates- our entire tax levy. But articles and the critics constantly disregard that fact, and seldom if ever criticize the Governor and the New York State Legislature for the property taxes at the county level alone and even more at the school level.


According to every academic study ever undertaken on the subject, the fundamental differences between New York State and the other states in the country boil down to two basic things: 1) the way New York State funds Medicaid and 2) the way New York State funds education. Sure we have lots of other over-regulation and taxation issues beyond those two. But, those are the really big ones.


New York is the only state in the country to require a significant local share of Medicaid be paid by the counties and the average state funds two-thirds of public education through income taxes while New York State funds about one-third. It's really that simple.

Indeed the village governments of Orleans County face tremendous challenges, not the least of which is the high property tax rates. The dissolution efforts in the Village of Medina, though rejected by Medina residents, if nothing else, forced a conversation, a necessary conversation.


In some areas of our local governments, we are doing business in the 21st century on 20th century terms. In some cases, we are holding on to old ways of doing business that could be changed for the betterment of the community at
large. This isn't to say that people are wrong for feeling that they want to hold on to their village, or their town, or their school district.

What it does tell us, is that it's time for us to challenge ourselves, people on both sides of the argument, east and west, north and south. Challenge ourselves to take a hard look at what we are doing and ask ourselves "If given a clean slate, would we build our service delivery models the way they are now, or completely different?"


Inevitably, we are going to find areas where we can build a better mousetrap together. We have the ability to fix what ails us to some degree. We can work with our
friends and neighbors and make changes that will raise all boats. We can realign service models, adjust cost centers, and change the landscape profoundly.


If we are going to seek honesty about mandates and education funding from the state, we also need to be honest with ourselves. This is a conversation that should take place in earnest and should seek solutions that remove Orleans County and its villages, towns and school districts from such a list forever.

Apologies to those that believe the answer is to complain that the county should give away more sales tax. The answer to this challenge is not to have the taxpayers of the county surrender cash to the village governments, to throw at their existing service models, buying them time until the inflation and expense curve catches up with them again as some suggest.


The answer is change. Change that we can all buy into that alters the equation. It requires compromise. It requires faith. And, it requires casting off old
notions of provincialism.


Truth be told about sales tax, when examining statistics from 2013 on New York State Counties, there are 14 counties under 50,000 in population like Orleans County and four in the Finger Lakes Region, of which we are a part. Orleans County ranks as the fourth highest for the percentage of sales tax shared.


However, two of the 14 counties have cities (Cortland and Montgomery) that are able to preempt and capture much larger shares of the overall revenue. Dropping those two counties lifts Orleans County to number two in the state among small counties without a city in terms of sharing sales tax, second to Schuyler County, the home of Watkins Glen International Speedway.

Delving further into those same statistics, it's evident that eight of the 14 counties do not share sales tax revenue at all, zero percent. So, the majority of small counties in New York State do not share sales tax. Orleans County is the only county in the Finger Lakes Region under 50,000 in population that actually shares sales tax revenue.

The local law enforcement community in Orleans County is about to embark on a comprehensive study of the way we are doing business. Orleans County and our partners, the Villages of Albion, Medina, Holley and Lyndonville, along with the Orleans County Sheriff's Office, and all the law enforcement unions in the county have agreed to undertake a process to look at new service models and explore
what can be done.


There are ways to change the way we do business that could guarantee that our
communities are never negatively reported on the annual list put out by the Empire Center again.


This is going to be hard and it will require that we work together. This legislature is bound and determined to make positive change for all within our county. We can begin to say goodbye to the dark cloud over our heads. Those that offer only criticism and opposition absent of solutions will be forgotten. This legislature will be remembered for leading and making a difference.


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Committee studying law enforcement services in Orleans meets today

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 June 2016
ALBION – A steering committee that will study law enforcement services in Orleans County will meet today at 7 p.m. and is expected to pick a vendor to assist with the project.

The committee will meet in Conference Room C of the County Administration Building on Route 31, and will interview two consultants interested in working on the study.


The county received a $36,000 matching state grant for the law enforcement shared service and efficiency study. The county is paying the other $36,000.


The committee will include police chiefs and elected officials from the four villages and Orleans County, which all provide police services. The steering committee and a consultant will explore the efficiency of current local law enforcement operations and compare them with alternative policing models, including the potential consolidation of all local departments into one.


County officials have set May 2017 for completion of the report with recommendations and alternatives for the community.
The study will look at the operations at the Sheriff’s Office, and the Albion, Medina and Holley police departments. Lyndonville also has a part-time officer.
There may be opportunities for shared administration, joint purchasing and other initiatives that would keep the existing village police departments. Or the committee may suggest the village departments be dissolved with a county-wide force taking the lead.


If the villages dissolved their police departments, it would provide significant tax relief for villages. However, county taxes would likely then go up.
Holley has talked before of dissolving its police department and Medina, as part of a failed dissolution proposal last year, said a town-wide force in Shelby and Ridgeway could be created.
County Legislature Chairman David Callard has said he wants to be proactive in looking at policing services and not be caught off guard by a village that dissolves its force, expecting the Sheriff’s Office to assume village road patrols and calls.


The study will look at alignment of current compensation and benefits agreements, determining the costs of a combined police force. The committee will look at potential obstacles to consolidation and provide guidance to overcome those obstacles, according to the county’s Request For Proposals for the study.


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