Gaines awarded court grant for $16,100

Town Hall will be open on Saturdays beginning in May, closed on Wednesdays except for court

Photo by Tom Rivers

Richard DeCarlo, a former Gaines town supervisor, returned to the Town Board this year after being elected town councilman. He took the oath of office on Tuesday as town councilman.

 

(CORRECTION: The current hours for the Town Hall are Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon. An earlier version of this story said the current hours were 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday through Friday. The new hours beginning May 1 will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The building will be closed on Wednesday except for town court, beinning in May. There will also be Saturday hours from 9 a.m. to noon.)

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 January 2016
GAINES – The Town of Gaines has been approved for a $16,100 state grant for its court system. The funding through the Justice Court Assistance Program will be used for equipment and other resources for the town court, Town Supervisor Carol Culhane said.


The town sought the maximum $30,000 grant, and received more than half that. It didn’t receive funds for security improvements, Culhane said.


The Town Board is taking steps to improve the safety of the building and court employees. The town hired the Wendel firm to prepare cost estimates for renovations to the courtroom and Town Hall.


Court meets on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. and Culhane and board members said court is an “uncomfortable situation” for other town employees in the building.


“The chaos on Wednesday is something to behold,” she said. “We’ve had an outcry from the public.”


Board members debated this week whether the Town Hall should be closed on Wednesdays, except for court. That would ease some of the parking issues for employees and residents using the building for non-court issues.


The town will have town clerk hours on Saturday mornings. Board members wanted to make the change right away this month, but decided to wait until May 1 because tax bills that were just sent listed town clerk hours for the five weekdays.


The board decided to wait until May 1, after tax season, to implement new hours for the town clerk, including 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The town clerk will have hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays beginning in May with no hours on Wednesdays.


Culhane said Gaines will join three other towns in the county with Saturday hours: Carlton, Clarendon and Murray.

 

The Town Board made a series of appointments for 2016, including:

 

• Andrew Meier as town attorney to be paid $7,800 for the year;
• Culhane as budget officer for $2,000;
• Lynne Johnson as bookkepper (no salary listed);
• Town Clerk Jean Klatt as official registrar for $932, and water collection clerk for $6,309;
• Highway Superintendent Ron Mannella will also serve as water superintendent for $18,294 for the year;
• Marilynn Miller was appointed to a five-year term to the Zoning Board, where members are paid $25 per meeting;
• Michael Grabowski was appointed to a three-year term as town representative to the Orleans County Planning Board and will receive $25 a meeting;
• First Niagara as official depository;
• The Daily News of Batavia as official newspaper for carrying public notices.

 

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Gaines faults Ag and Markets for ‘immoral conduct’ with turbine issue

Photo by Tom Rivers
Gaines Town Supervisor Carol Culhane said the State Department of Agriculture and Markets needs to accept liability, not the town, if someone is hurt from the wind turbine at Watt Farms on Route 98. The town has pushed to have the turbine moved away from a U-Pick area and farm market.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 January 2016
GAINES – The Gaines Town Board says the state Department of Agriculture and Markets ignored public safety in insisting that a 154-foot-high turbine at Watt Farms be allowed to stay near buildings and a U-pick area for the public.


The Town Board on Tuesday approved a formal resolution that was critical of Ag and Markets for “immoral conduct” with the turbine issue at Watt Farms. The Town Board asked the Attorney General to conduct an ethics review of Ag and Markets staff with the Watt turbine issue and similar matters.


The Town Board in its resolution says that Ag and Markets has undermined public safety, and issued letters and a determination “that falsely represented the facts in the case.” The resolution also states town officials sought to meet with Ag and Markets staff several times to discuss the issue and Ag and Markets refused “in order to hide their immoral conduct.”


A State Supreme Court judge ruled last month the turbine doesn’t have to be moved, reversing the judge’s decision from about a year before. Ag and Markets hadn’t issued a final order before Judge James Punch’s first decision in December 2014.

 

Ag and Markets said forcing the Watts to move the turbine, at a cost of $20,000, would unreasonable and unnecessary, according to an order on Jan. 14, 2015 from Richard A. Ball, commissioner of Ag and Markets. He sent the letter to town officials, telling them they needed to comply with the Agriculture and Markets Law.


The issue has been in the courts for more than two years with the first lawsuit filed by Mary Neilans, Watt’s neighbor. She is now on the Gaines Town Board and abstained from the vote on Tuesday.


Town officials have insisted the proper procedures for issuing a permit for the turbine were not followed and a proper setback distance away from public areas were not established by the former Planning Board. The Town Board dissolved the Planning Board about two years ago and shifted those responsibilities to the Zoning Board of Appeals.


Ag and Markets in its order last January said the town didn’t use the proper setback distance. Gaines determined the setback distance by multiplying the 154-foot turbine by 1.1 for a 169.4-foot setback minimum. Gaines officials said the turbine needed to be moved at least 169.4 feet away from the farm market, train ride course and designated U-pick areas.


Ag and Markets suggested the setback from “human-occupied buildings” be five times the rotor distance or five times 23.6 feet, which would be 118 feet for the Watt turbine. Ag and Markets based that suggestion from the recommendation by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority or NYSERDA.


Town Supervisor Carol Culhane said the board adopted the resolution on Tuesday to shift liability from the town to the state in case anyone is ever hurt by the turbine.


“Ag and Markets created the liability,” Culhane said. “That’s the purpose (with this resolution) putting it on them, not on us.”


The resolution from Gaines also calls on the State Legislature to require Ag and Markets to comply with the State Administrative Procedure Act in issuing determinations regarding the validity of local zoning laws, and calls on the State Legislature to make amendments to Ag & Markets preventing the department “from ignoring public health and safety.”

 

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Gaines may have first elected municipal board ever in Orleans County with women in majority

Photos by Tom Rivers

Mary Neilans takes the oath of office from Town Justice Bruce Schmidt on Tuesday at Gaines Town Hall. Town Supervisor Carol Culhane, back left, and Town Councilwoman Sue Smith watch the proceedings.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 January 2016
GAINES – The Gaines Town Board may have made history this evening. The board held its first meeting of the year and newly elected members from the November election were sworn in.


Mary Neilans and Richard DeCarlo are new members of the board, joining incumbents Carol Culhane as town supervisor and board members Sue Smith and Jim Kirby.


Neilans and DeCarlo replace Doug Syck and Dave Kast, who didn’t seek re-election.
The addition of Neilans gives the Gaines Town Board three women on a five-member board. I think this is the first time in Orleans County history that a town, village or county elected board has had a women-majority.


It didn’t occur to me until soon before the meeting at 6:45 p.m. that Gaines might be making history today. I shared my hunch with Culhane.


“Interesting,” she said.

 

I can't say for certain if history was made. I'm not sure anyone has been keeping track or given it much thought.

Carol Culhane is sworn in as town supervisor by Town Justice Bruce Schmidt.

 

Culhane is starting her third two-year term as town supervisor. She just completed four years as leader of the town government. She is the first woman to serve in the role for Gaines. Sue Smith is starting her seventh year as a Town Board member.

 

Most of the local town, village and county boards are dominated by men. The seven-member County Legislature only has had two women ever elected to that board: the late Marcia Tuohey and Lynne Johnson, who is a current legislator.

 

Culhane, a professional artist, said she hasn’t necessarily been pushing for more women on the board. She said she has sought diversity of backgrounds and expertise. Neilans is a veterinarian and small business owner who lives in a house on the National Register of Historic Places. DeCarlo is a retired teacher, a former town supervisor and owner of Heritage Estates.

 

Kirby is a farmer and Smith has worked in education. Her husband Guy also is an onion grower.

 

Culhane appointed Smith as deputy supervisor during Tuesday's meeting and that too may have been historic in Orleans County. It may perhaps be the first ever a municipality had two women at the top of a local board.

Gaines Town Board members include, from left: Jim Kirby, Mary Neilans, Carol Culhane, Sue Smith and Richard DeCarlo.

 

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Planners approve old cobblestone school as meeting house

Photo by Tom Rivers
Volunteers have worked to save a former Cobblestone Schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road in Albion. The school was built in 1832, and may be the oldest cobblestone building in the county.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 December 2015

ALBION – A cobblestone building from 1832 that was used as a schoolhouse until 1944 will find new use as meeting place for the Orleans County Historical Association.


The group has worked the past year to put on a new roof and stabilize the building at 3302 Gaines Basin Rd., just north of the Erie Canal.


The 913-square-foot building hasn’t been used much since it was closed as a school in 1944. Nor had there been much upkeep of the building until this year.


Al Capurso, the Gaines town historian, pushed to save the building from collapse. The site received a new historical marker in October, and the Historical Association is trying to get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


On Thursday, the Orleans County Planning Board approved the site plan and recommended the Town of Gaines approve variances and give a permit for the Historical Association to use the building for a public/semi-public community facility.


The association needs 200 feet of frontage but the property only has 125 feet. It also needs a minimum lot size of 40,000 square feet, but only has 22,500. Planners backed the frontage variance of 75 feet, and a 17,500 square foot variance for minimum lot size.


The Historical Association didn’t create the hardships for the variances, planners said. The group should be commended “for restoring a vital piece of Orleans County history back to an active use.”


The site shouldn’t draw too much traffic. There is parking available in the back on a hard-pack surface for about 20 vehicles.


Capurso told planners on Thursday the site will be used for meetings and could be home to donated artifacts.


The Historical Association in 2016 plans to repair the floor, have the building rewired and ceiling and walls plastered. Some missing sections of cobblestones will be replaced with appropriate soft lime mortar.


In 2017, Capurso said he expects the site will receive donations for a piano, school desks, teachers desk, wood stove, tables, chairs and wall hangings.

 

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Gaines town supervisor disappointed with decision about Watt’s turbine

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 December 2015

GAINES – Town Supervisor Carol Culhane said the town’s focus for pushing to have a 154-foot-high turbine moved at Watt Farms has been to protect the public.

 

The Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals voted on Dec. 4, 2013 that the turbine should be relocated farther away from a farm market, storage building and U-pick area of the farm on Route 98.

 

“The Zoning Board of Appeals exercised good judgment abiding by our zoning laws/ordinances for public safety,” Culhane said this afternoon. “No one said Chris Watt couldn’t have a turbine but we said he could not have it where it could fall on people.”

 

The issue was fought in court and on Friday a State Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of Chris and Karen Watt, saying the turbine can stay put.


Judge James Punch has previously sided with the town, but he said in his decision on Friday that a “Determination and Order” from the State Department of Agriculture and Markets prompted him to reopen the matter. When he decided in favor of the Gaines ZBA in December 2014, Punch said Ag and Markets hadn’t yet issued its determination and order.


That agency, led by Commissioner Richard Ball, said forcing the Watts to relocate the turbine was unduly burdensome and would cost the farm $20,000.


Ag and Markets in that order said the town didn’t use the proper setback distance.

 

Gaines determined the setback distance by multiplying the 154-foot turbine by 1.1 for a 169.4-foot setback minimum. Gaines officials said the turbine needed to be moved at least 169.4 feet away from the farm market, train ride course and designated U-pick areas.


Ag and Markets suggested the setback from “human-occupied buildings” be five times the rotor distance or five times 23.6 feet, which would be 118 feet for the Watt turbine. Ag and Markets based that suggestion from the recommendation by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority or NYSERDA.


NYSERDA uses that setback for buildings that are occupied a majority of the time and not occasionally, such as in Watt’s situation. The train route at Watt’s and the U-pick area are temporarily visited by the public and insisting on a setback there “unreasonably restricts the farm operation,” Ball said in his letter last January.


Culhane isn’t sure if this is the last action in the case, if the town has another option in challenging the ruling from Judge Punch.

 

“I am disappointed that Judge Punch reversed himself and agreed with Ag and Markets that public safety is not important in consideration of land use and applying our zoning ordinances,” Culhane said. “Judge Punch got it right twice before he got it wrong.”

 

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Judge rules Watt turbine can stay

File photo by Tom Rivers
An acting Supreme Court justice has issued a ruling that the 154-foot-high wind turbine at Watt Farms on Route 98 doesn’t have to be moved from a farm market and storage building. The issue has been in litigation with Gaines town officials demanding the turbine be relocated.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 December 2015
GAINES – A 154-foot-high wind turbine that has been the focus of lawsuits doesn’t have to be relocated, a State Supreme Court judge ruled on Friday.


The Town of Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals on Dec. 4, 2013, said the turbine would have to be moved away from a farm market and U-pick orchard at Watt Farms.


James Punch, acting Supreme Court justice in Orleans County, upheld the Gaines ZBA last December. However, the decision and the Gaines position was challenged by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.


Ag and Markets said forcing the Watts to move the turbine, at a cost of $20,000, would unreasonable and unnecessary, according to a letter on Jan. 14, 2015 from Richard A. Ball, commissioner of Ag and Markets.

 

He sent the letter to town officials, telling them they needed to comply with the Agriculture and Markets Law.


Punch, in a decision on Friday, said his decision a year ago was made without the Determination and Order from Ag and Markets. The state agency had sent advisory letters on the issue before Punch’s decision in December 2014, but the Determination and Order followed.


Ag and Markets said Gaines, with its insistence the turbine be moved, “unreasonably restricts the farm operation.” Punch sides with Watts in his latest decision and tells Gaines it must comply with the order from Ag and Markets, dated Jan. 13, 2015.

 

Ag and Markets in that order said the town didn’t use the proper setback distance. Gaines determined the setback distance by multiplying the 154-foot turbine by 1.1 for a 169.4-foot setback minimum.

 

Gaines officials said the turbine needed to be moved at least 169.4 feet away from the farm market, train ride course and designated U-pick areas.

 

Ag and Markets suggested the setback from “human-occupied buildings” be five times the rotor distance or five times 23.6 feet, which would be 118 feet for the Watt turbine. Ag and Markets based that suggestion from the recommendation by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority or NYSERDA.

 

NYSERDA uses that setback for buildings that are occupied a majority of the time and not occasionally, such as in Watt’s situation. The train route at Watt’s and the U-pick area are temporarily visited by the public and insisting on a setback there “unreasonably restricts the farm operation,” Ball said in his letter.

 

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In Gaines, slate of Democrats and Republicans vie for Town Board

The Republican Party candidates include, from left: Mary Neilans for town councilman, Carol Culhane for town supervisor, and Richard DeCarlo for town councilman.

 

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.

Photos by Tom Rivers
The Democratic Party in Gaines endorsed three candidates for Town Board, including, from left: Bill Lattin for councilman, Patrick Swiercznski for town supervisor, and Pete Toenniessen for town councilman.


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.

 

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Farmhouse damaged in fire will be razed

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."

Here is house the house looks this afternoon, a day after the fire. A new metal roof had recently been put on the house.

 

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.

Albion firefighter James Fisher was one of the first on the scene. He sprays water on the fire yesterday afternoon. Watt said the fire destroyed the framework for the brick house.

 

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Fire heavily damages house for farmworkers owned by Watt Farms

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.

 

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Doug ‘The Plumber’ gets roasted to benefit Children’s Foundation

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.

 

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Old cobblestone schoolhouse has new purpose and historical marker

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.

Here is how the building looked last winter.

Here is how the historical site looks today.

 

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.

The windows used to be boarded up, but now plenty of light can get inside the old schoolhouse.

 

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.


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Historical marker honoring Gaines pioneer gets fresh look

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.

Here is how the sign looked about two years ago.

 

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.

 

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Volunteers are breathing life into former cobblestone school in Gaines

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.

 

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