By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 November 2015
GAINES – Gaines residents will go to the polls on Tuesday (Nov. 3) and will have choices for the Town Board, with a slate of Democrats squaring off against three Republicans.
That doesn’t happen too often in Orleans County in recent years, where in many towns the Republican candidates run unopposed.
Carol Culhane leads the Republican ticket. She is seeking a third two-year term as town supervisor. Culhane said she has worked to sort out town finances, including correcting some overcharging with water districts and reducing unbilled water by improving the town’s water meters.
She has worked to promote the Ridge Road corridor by pushing for new town signs and working on the project to open Fair Haven Treasures. She manages that site for owners Ray and Linda Burke. It has several artisan vendors.
Culhane has worked as a professional artist the past 26 years. She created the artwork for the new town signs, which include a cobblestone and patriotic theme. Culhane notes Gaines had a role in the War of 1812.
“We wanted to show the history and patriotism of the area,” she said.
Culhane owns Oak Orchard Galleries. She also works on several community projects, and was a liaison to the Santa Claus community when about 250 Santas came to Albion and Gaines for a Santa Claus Convention in April. The Santas helped dedicate an International Peace Garden at Fair Haven.
Culhane and the Town Board last month presented a budget for 2016 that would reduce the town tax rate by 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed property.
“The costs are down through conservation, oversight and management,” she said. “We tightened our belt.”
The town also benefitted from a boost in its tax base by $851,000 with most of that credited to the growth at Intergrow Greenhouses.
Swiercznski is a familiar name in Gaines. Patrick is following his father Ted Swiercznski in pursuing local politics. Ted Swiercznski was a Gaines and county official, and remains active in the local Democratic Party.
Patrick Swiercznski has worked the past 25 years in local construction with Keeler Construction, the Pike Company, and then with Keeler again since 2004. Swiercznski primarily works as a surveyor for Keeler.
“I work with state, town and county governments on the various public works projects, working to keep them within budgets,” he said.
Keeler and governments often work on tight time constraints to get big projects done by deadline, Swiercznski said.
He would like to see the town be more active in addressing so-called “zombie” houses, which are properties in the midst of an unfinished foreclosure. Often a bank-owned house will be left vacant for years. It’s become an issue locally, state-wide and beyond.
“The ghost properties are abandoned and need to be cleaned up,” Swiercznski said.
He was nominated to run for town supervisor during the Democratic Party caucus.
“People thought enough to nominate me, and I don’t want to let them down,” he said.
The Town Board will have at least two new members in 2016 because incumbents David Kast and Doug Syck aren’t seeking re-election.
The Democrats have backed Bill Lattin and Pete Toenniessen. Lattin served on the board for 30 years from 1979 to 2009, before a two-year term as town supervisor. He retired as county historian last Dec. 31 after 35 years in position. A former school teacher, he also was director of the Cobblestone Museum for 40 years.
“Certainly I have a long-time interest in the Town of Gaines,” Lattin said. “I feel there are some things that need to be addressed.”
Lattin would like to see more attention given to the “zombie homes.” He also wonders if it is prudent for the town to reduce the tax rate by 30 cents.
“I question what the town is scrimping on that a future administration will have to make up for,” he said.
Lattin would also like to continue support for growing the community’s agriculture businesses. He said he is pleased to see the expansions at Intergrow and Lake Ontario Fruit, which runs a packing and distribution site on Route 104.
Pete Toenniessen worked 30 years at Kodak. He has been a school bus driver the past 18 years and has been an active adult volunteer with Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H and the Fair Board.
“A lot of the areas need to be cleaned up in the town,” Toenniessen said.
He said he backs Right-To-Farm laws and wants to see Gaines welcome farming.
“The farmers are our lifeblood,” he said.
The Republican candidates for Town Board include former Town Supervisor Richard DeCarlo and Mary Neilans, a local veterinarian.
DeCarlo was on the Town Board during recent water district expansions. A retired industrial arts teacher from Churchville-Chili, DeCarlo also started and developed Heritage Estates, which has 163 units off Brown Road in the Village of Albion.
DeCarlo said he will be an advocate for taxpayers, particularly with the fire contract with the Village of Albion. The town has budgeted for a 5 percent increase in the contract for 2016.
Neilans lives in a historic cobblestone house on Route 98 that was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. She has been a regular attendee at Town Board meetings the past four years.
“I’m knowledgeable on the issues, and I’m willing to put in the time and effort,” she said.
Neilans and Culhane are both also endorsed by the Conservative Party. Neilans also was a trustee for nine years on Niagara County Community College, dealing with a budget and employees much larger than in Gaines.
Voting will be from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday at the Town Hall. Ron Mannella is also on the ballot for highway superintendent. He is unopposed and is running under five party lines: Republican, Democratic, Conservative, Independence and Reform.
Grand structure was year-round residence for 6 farmworkers
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 October 2015
ALBION – The fire that badly damaged a grand old house on Route 98 has displaced six year-round farmworkers for Watt Farms and will also result in the building being razed, said Karen Watt, co-owner of the Watt Farms with her husband Chris.
The fire broke out at about 2 p.m. on Sunday in a house owned by Watt Farms at 3161 Oak Orchard Rd. The house is the year-round residence for six workers. Some of the workers lost their possessions during the fire, Watt said.
The Red Cross paid for them to stay at Dollinger's Motel last night. Watt Farms will move them to a seasonal housing for the short-term. Watt said she is working on housing for the winter, as well as clothing and other supplies for the workers.
They are the core members of the farm's work crew, with some of them working for Watt for 20 years.
"We're trying to figure out what to do," she said. "That was their home, but it would be cost prohibitive to fix it."
The red brick house was built about 150 years ago with additions to follow. It had "a beautiful staircase and woodwork," Watt said.
Fire investigators told her it looks like an electrical fire triggered the blaze.
The building will be knocked down. It was part of the former Harding farm.
"It's really too bad," Watt said.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 25 October 2015 3:22 p.m.
GAINES – A fire broke out at about 2 p.m. today in a house owned by Watt Farms at 3161 Oak Orchard Rd. The house is the year-round home for six farmworkers.
The house is at the northeast intersection of the Five Corners where Route 98, Bacon Road and Route 279 all intersect.
Albion firefighters hurry to attach a hose to a hydrant.
Flames were feasting on the house, a big residence.
Darryl Szklany of Albion surveys the scene. Several other fire departments sent crews to help contain and put out the fire.
Firefighters spray water on the fire.
The fire gave off big clouds of smoke after water was directed on the house.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 25 October 2015
GAINES – Marcy Downey plays Ernestine, a telephone operator, during a roast on Saturday night of Doug Bower, right. Bower works as a plumber and co-host of the WHAM Home Repair Clinic with Jim Salmon, left.
Bower provided plenty of material for the sold-out roast at Tillman's Village Inn, which was a benefit for The Salmon Children's Foundation. That foundation has donated more than $7,000 to Albion High School graduates in scholarships in memory of Nicholas Kovaleski.
Downey pretended to be a 9-1-1 operator who received an emergency call from Bower. He was injured in an accident on July 22, 2012, when his van, which was left in neutral, rolled back in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The van tripped Bower and ran over his right leg and torso. He was seriously injured that day, but has recovered from those injuries and can now joke about the accident.
Jim Salmon took delight in picking on his friend and radio co-host Doug Bower.
Kelly Kovaleski tells Bower and more than 100 people at the Celebrity Roast that her son, Nicholas, had a great sense of humor and enjoyed making people laugh.
Nicholas was 15 when he died from leukemia on June 29, 2011. He was a guest on the Home Repair Clinic with Salmon and Bower and talked about fighting cancer.
The memorial scholarship for Nicholas goes to a student who "Lives With Purpose," which was Nicholas's motto.
Charlie Nesbitt, a former state assemblyman, took a turn roasting Bower.
Phyl Contestable, "The Reverend Mother," also joined the roasting revelry, picking on both Salmon and Bower.
Gary Simboli portrays the comedian Foster Brooks, pretending to be a short-lived plumbing partner for Bower early in his career, during Saturday's roast.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 17 October 2015
GAINES – Al Capurso is pictured with a new historical marker that was unveiled today by the former one-room schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the Erie Canal. The schoolhouse was built in 1832 and is one of the oldest cobbesltone buildings in the area.
It has been largely abandoned since decentralization in 1944. The marker also notes that Caroline Phipps taught at the school. She went on to be a distinguished educator and ran the Phipps Union Seminary in Albion from 1837 to 1875. That spot later became the County Clerks Building.
A swing is pictured next to the former schoolhouse.
The restoration project has been backed by the Orleans County Historical Association and includes a new roof on the building and new windows, as well as the historical marker.
Gary Kent led the efforts to trim some of the branches that were hanging across the building. Those branches needed to be removed for the roof work, which was completed by Young Enterprises. Mike Tower fixed the rafters.
Bill Lattin worked on the window sashes, Bob Albanese helped clean up the grounds, and many volunteers pitched in to remove junk from inside the building.
Bob Barrett of Clarendon restored the teacher's desk and chair that remained inside the school. He even reconstructed the drawers in the desk.
Capurso, who is now the Gaines town historian, would like the site to become a meeting house and museum.
He said that Gaines once had 12 one-room schoolhouses. They were roughly located 1.5 miles apart to make access easier by the students in attendance.
Next year, Capurso said he would like to see work on the ceiling, walls and floor. He is pleased with the progress so far, and thanked the community for its support.
Today's program included remarks from Capurso; Bill Lattin, who is retired as county historian; Matt Ballard, the current county historian; Dee Robinson, former Gaines town historian for more than 30 years; Town Supervisor Carol Culhane; and Ted Swiercznski, who attended the school and has been active in local politics for several decades. Another former student of the school, Angelina Daniels, also attended today's celebration.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 13 October 2015
GAINES – A historical marker on Ridge Road, next to the Gaines Carlton Community Church, honors pioneer settler Elizabeth Gilbert.
The marker had flaked off paint and was getting hard to read to motorists on Route 104.
Late last month the sign, with a fresh coat of paint, was reinstalled. Melissa Ierlan, president of the Clarendon Historical Society, has been repainting many historical markers in the county. She had help from Matt Ballard, the county historian, with the Gilbert marker.
There is a creek near this sign that last year was officially named “Gilbert Creek” in honor of Gilbert.
Early settlers liked to build log cabins close to a source of water. Mrs. Elizabeth Gilbert and her family chose the north side of Ridge Road, building their home where there was a rise in the land.
The cabin is long gone, but a historical marker notes the pioneering efforts from Mrs. Gilbert, one of the first settlers on the Ridge between Monroe and Niagara counties. Her husband died in 1808, leaving her to raise the children, and tame the nearby wilderness.
Local resident Al Capurso worked on the effort to name “Gilbert Creek” for more than a year, researching the issue and lining up the needed government support.
The creek begins from feeder sources south of Route 104 near Brown Road. It then marries Proctor Brook in Carlton, and then flows into the Oak Orchard River.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 29 August 2015
GAINES – Bill Lattin, the retired Orleans County historian, was busy on Friday at the former cobblestone schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, painting the front windows.
The schoolhouse for District No. 2 was built in 1832 and served as a school until 1944. It fell into disrepair and has been targeted for improvements by the Orleans County Historical Association.
The building has settled over the years and window frames are a little crooked. That made it tricky for Lattin to fix the windows. Fred Miller at Family Hardware in Albion cut new glass for the windows, accommodating the leaning frames.
"You have to go with the flow with these old things," Lattin said.
The inside of the building has been largely cleared of debris and the floor sweeped.
Lattin said other buildings in worse shape have been saved in the county.
Gaines resident Al Capurso has been leading the reclamation effort at the former schoolhouse.
Capurso says many pioneer children in Orleans County were taught at the school, which was also used for countless town meetings.
Volunteers will be working to replace windows, repair holes in the flooring and plastering.
Capurso and the Historical Association also will erect a historical marker, highlighting the building's use as a school from 1832 to 1944.
Capurso has photos of other cobblestone schools in the community that were torn down, including one at the corner of Riches Corner and Holley roads.
"We have lost some cobblestone school houses and we are determined not to lose this one," he said.
Part of the front wall includes cobblestone masonry that has endured for nearly two centuries.
Capurso and the volunteers would like to have new storm windows on the building before winter, as well as a new roof and the historical marker.
Capurso would like to have the building up to code with a solid floor and electricity so it could again be used for community gatherings.
Bill Lattin points to his father's initials, which Cary Lattin put in plaster in 1939.
Lattin said many of his relatives attended school in the building.
"My ancestors went here," Lattin said. "I'm helping out of sentimentality."
For more information on the project, and how to help, call Capurso at (585) 590-0763.
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 August 2015
GAINES – A husband and wife in Gaines have the Orleans County Planning Board’s approval for a deer processing business at their home on East Bacon Road.
Douglas and Jennifer Ashbery are working to operate “Deer Done Right” from a new pole barn. They would take venison meat and turn it into hot dogs, sausage and other meat products.
County planners on Thursday recommended the Town of Gaines approve a special use permit for the business at 14444 East Bacon Rd., which is in a Residential/Agricultural District.
The Ashberys said they expect the business will be open from October through February.
In other action, the Planning Board:
• Supported the site plan and special use permit for a pole barn and other improvements to an existing auto repair business in Murray.
George Berg, owner of George’s Fancher Road Service, is planning to add a 3-by-30 foot structure to the south side of his motor vehicle repair shop. He also is planning to add two overhead doors to the site at 3213 Fancher Rd., which is in a Residential/Agricultural District.
• Backed the Town of Clarendon’s amendments to its zoning ordinance, including text requiring seasonal permits for trailers, travel campers and recreational vehicles. The current zoning doesn’t include those vehicles, which creates an opportunity for unlimited overnight occupancy, town officials said.
Clarendon wants to limit overnight occupancy in those vehicles to no more than 30 days a year.
Provided photo Posted 25 August 2015
GAINES – A historical marker was added to the Gaines landscape this afternoon.
The Gaines Highway Department, led by Superintendent Ron Mannella, cemented the marker’s post last week.
Today, members of the LaMont family attached the marker at Lattin Road and West Transit Church Road. This spot is part of the original 140 acres of land for the farm that was started by Josias LaMont in 1815.
Six generations of LaMonts have farmed in Gaines. The family threw a 200th anniversary party on Aug. 15. Click here to see coverage of that event.
Press Release, Orleans County Sheriff Scott Hess Posted 24 May 2015
GAINES – An Albion man remains hospitalized in satisfactory condition this afternoon following a two-vehicle crash on Saturday in the Town of Gaines.
The incident occurred shortly after 5:30 p.m., at the intersection of routes 98 and 279 and Bacon Road. This intersection is commonly known as the Five Corners.
A 2007 Hummer HU3 Suburban was traveling south on 279 at a high rate of speed. A 2001 Chevrolet Malibu 4dr was northbound on Route 98 in the turn lane and preparing to turn left onto 279. The Hummer entered the intersection and struck the front end of the Malibu.
The Hummer continued southbound on Route 98 crossing and exiting on the east side of the roadway. The vehicle became airborne and overturned, then grounded and struck some shrubbery before becoming airborne a second time and striking a tree while still in the air. The vehicle then came to rest in an upright position against some other trees.
The driver (sole occupant) of the Hummer is identified as David W. Kuhns, 38, of Albion. He was extricated from his vehicle by Albion firefighters and flown by Mercy Flight helicopter to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
The driver (sole occupant) of the Malibu is identified as Michael J. Pommerening, 56, of Kent. He was treated at the scene by personnel from Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance. He was not transported to the hospital.
While the investigation is continuing, it’s apparent that alcohol, excessive speed, and reckless operation were contributing factors. Pending his recovery, Kuhns is facing DWI and other charges.
The incident was investigated by Sergeant G.T. Gunkler. He was assisted by Sergeant D.W. Covis, Investigator D.E. Foeller Jr., Deputy T.C. Marano, and Deputy T.N. Tooley.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 23 May 2015 7:00 p.m.
ALBION – The driver of Hummer going at a high rate of speed hit another vehicle on Route 98 near the 5 corners and then went airborne, flipping in the air at least once, before hitting a tree and coming to a stop near an embankment.
The driver of the Hummer survived the crash and was taken by Mercy Flight helicopter after being extricated by Albion firefighters. The accident was just south of Bacon Road near the intersection with Route 279.
Shelly Smith has lived at the 5 corners for 14 years. She said there are typically two serious accidents at the intersection each year. Many of those vehicles have ended up in her yard.
She saw the accident today, and watched the Hummer go airborne and flip over at least once in the air. The vehicle bounced into a tree, ripping the bark off about 20 feet up the tree.
“I have never seen anything like it,” she said.
Pieces of the Hummer were all over her yard.
“This is the worst I have ever seen,” she said. “I’ve never seen a car catapult.”
This photo shows where the Hummer took some of the bark off a tree.
The accident remains under investigation. The name of the driver of Hummer hasn't been released. He was conversing with COVA personnel and Albion firefighters at the scene.
Mercy Flight takes off by the Christian Missionary Alliance Church.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 17 April 2015
GAINES – A crowd gathers on the front lawn at Fair Haven Treasures this afternoon to dedicate an International Peace Garden. Many of the attendees were Santas in town for the Charles W. Howard Legendary Santa Claus Conference.
Ray and Linda Burke, owners of Fair Haven Treasures, are pictured with members of the Claus Clan, a group of Santas who like to celebrate their Scottish heritage.
The Burkes were praised by speakers for transforming the homestead into an art gallery and co-op.
"Thank you Ray and Linda Burke for unlocking the door to a promising future," said Carol Culhane, the Gaines town supervisor.
John Proctor named the hamlet in Gaines "Fairhaven" more than 200 years ago. Proctor is considered the Paul Revere of Ridge Road because he rode along the Ridge, warning settlers that the British were coming during the War of 1812. He had a log cabin at the corner of 98 and 104 before the large brick house was built in 1834.
Ruby Hoffey, a music therapist at Rainbow Preschool in Albion, sings the American national anthem during today's ceremony. She also sang the Canadian anthem.
The Peace Garden celebrates the friendship between the United States and Canada and the largest unguarded border in the world.
A member of the Claus Clan watches the celebration in Gaines today.
Paula Savage, left, of Batavia is founder of the Peace Garden Foundation. She presents a certificate to Carol Culhane, Gaines town supervisor, that certifies the garden at Fair Haven is on the International Peace Garden Trail.
There is also a peace garden at Brown's Berry Patch in Carlton. The gardens must have a connection to the War of 1812.
At the Browns, family matriarch Bathshua Brown settled in the area in 1804 when the trees were so dense in Carlton the area was known as the Black North. She helped fight off the British in the war and took one of their captains captive.
Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson said John Proctor and Bathshua Brown should both be considered heroes in Orleans County, and their efforts should not be forgotten.
County Legislator Lynne Johnson addresses the crowd. She cited the pioneer grit of many of the early settlers such as John Proctor and Bathshua Brown.
Johnson thanked Ray and Linda Burke for their efforts to upgrade a vacant house and turn it into Fair Haven Treasures.
The Burkes were also presented with a proclamation from State Assemblyman Steve Hawley's office for the garden.
Georgia Thomas, a volunteer at the Cobblestone Museum, is pictured with a Santa from Gatlinburg, Tenn. Fair Haven Treasures is located in historic Gaines, which includes the Cobblestone Museum, the only National Historic Landmark in the county.
Gaines Town Justice Bruce Schmidt served as master of cermonies during today's dedication.
These three Santas are all from New England. They said a peace garden fits perfectly with their efforts as Santa.
"People say Christmas is all about children, but it's really all about heart and believing in the good in everyone," said Jim Rizzio, a Santa from Ansonia, Conn.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 16 April 2015
GAINES – Members of Santa’s Drill Team perform a routine at Fair Haven Treasures this evening in Gaines. The Drill Team did beard inspections, ate cookies and sampled milk.
The Drill Team turned serious in honoring the American flag, in singing “God Bless America” and thanking God for the privilege of being Santa.
One of the Santas visiting Albion for the Charles W. Howard Legendary Santa Claus Conference has his camera phone out and takes photos of the Drill Team.
Bob Elkin is president and a charter member of the Palm Tree Santa's Drill Team from Tampa, Fla.
These Santas are happy to shake hands and chat during a "meet and greet" at Fair Haven Treasures.
George Long (left), a Santa from near Orlando, Fla., is happy to meet with Joe Slifer, a Santa from Raleigh, N.C. They are pictured outside Fair Haven Treasures. Long is wearing his Santa workshop apron.
Long and Slifer are in town for the Charles W. Howard Legendary Santa Claus Conference, which runs until Sunday.
Many of the Santas will be back at Fair Haven on Friday at 2 p.m. for the dedication of an International Peace Garden.
Joe Slifer, right, also is happy to pose with this Santa who made the trip from Norway.
These Santas watch the Drill Team this evening. Many of the visiting Santas will be at the Elk's Club on West State Street on Friday and Saturday during the morning and afternoon.
The Albion Middle School Auditorium will be used for the convention's evening programs on Friday and Saturday.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 14 April 2015
GAINES – The American Red Cross provided food and clothing to the owner of a house on Eagle Harbor Road in Gaines that burned last night.
Volunteers Diane Sargent and Jim McMoil responded to the fire at 2516 Eagle Harbor Rd. David Snyder, owner of the cobblestone home that was built in 1850, has made arrangements for temporary housing, Red Cross spokesman Jay Bonafede said.
The agency will make specially trained disaster mental health volunteers available to help deal with the emotional aspects of this disaster, and the Snyder will meet with our caseworkers in the coming days to help work on a long-term recovery plan, Bonafede said.
Volunteers in the Red Cross’s Disaster Action Team also responded to a fire in Buffalo last night on St. Lawrence Avenue.
In March 2015, volunteers from the Western New York Chapter responded to 47 incidents, providing immediate emergency assistance to 172 people, Bonafede said.
The fire in Gaines remains under investigation.
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 13 April 2015 11:45 p.m.
GAINES – A cobblestone house that has been dutifully cared for by its owner has been badly damaged in a fire tonight.
David Snyder was getting ready to go to bed when he sensed something wrong in his attic. He opened the attic door and the fire seemed to take off, said his sister, Tricia Snyder.
She is thankful her brother made it safely out of the house with his two dogs.
It was difficult for Snyder and his family to watch the fire gain strength with flames shooting out of the roof.
Snyder has gutted the house and done a lot of work inside, his sister said.
Neighbors said the house was a popular, welcoming place when Snyder was raising his children. Neighbors said they would try to rally around Snyder in the coming days.
The dispatch call went out just before 10 p.m. to 2516 Eagle Harbor Rd. Firefighters were inside the house but were called out of the building as the fire spread in the upper floor.
Copyright Albion-Holley Pennysaver, Inc.