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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Deer processing business in Gaines has Planning Board support

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.


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LaMont historical marker goes up in Gaines

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.


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Driver of Hummer in satisfactory condition, facing DWI

Photo by Tom Rivers
Albion police officers David Mogle, left, and Will Francis respond to the scene of an accident on Saturday on Route 98, north of the village near the Five Corners.


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.


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Driver who went airborne taken by Mercy Flight following crash in Albion

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.

This vehicle was hit by the Hummer. The driver appeared uninjured and was talking with Orleans County deputies at the scene.

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.

Albion firefighters and personnel from Central Orleans Voluneer Ambulance work to get the driver extricated from the Hummer. He was transported by COVA to a landing zone for Mercy Flight at the Christian Missionary Alliance Church. Dale Banker, director of Emergency Management for Orleans County, is pictured in red.


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.


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Santas help dedicate International Peace Garden at corner of 98 and 104

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.


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Santas reconnect, kick off conference

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.


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Red Cross provides assistance to homeowner in Gaines fire

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.

Firefighters try to put out the fire in Gaines last night. Several fire departments responded to the scene.


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Cobblestone house badly damaged in fire

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.

This photo is taken looking towards the back of the house with water coming down from the ladder truck.

It was difficult for Snyder and his family to watch the fire gain strength with flames shooting out of the roof.

Firefighters work to get the fire under control.


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.

Firefighters stand at the front of the house and direct water to the roof where flames were shooting out.

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.

Firefighters put lots of water on the fire, trying to get it under control.

Medina Fire Chief Todd Zinkievich hustles down Eagle Harbor Road to help at the scene.


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Ag and Markets again tells Gaines to not move Watt turbine

State officials say town may be sued if it insists on turbine relocation

Photo by Tom Rivers
The 154-foot-high wind turbine at Watt Farms on Route 98 has been a source of litigation for two-plus years. The Town of Gaines wants the turbine to be moved away from the farm market and a U-Pick area.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 March 2015
GAINES – Town officials are again being told by state Agriculture and Markets officials to not demand a 154-foot-high wind turbine at Watt Farms be relocated.

Town officials have insisting the turbine be moved away from the farm market and U-Pick area. Town Supervisor Carol Culhane and Michael Grabowski, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, both have said public safety is at risk with the tower so close to Watt customers.

The town wants the tower to have at least a 169.4-foot setback from the tower and public areas at the farm market along Route 98.

The town determined that setback by multiplying the top of the tower and tower blade (154 feet) by 1.1. But Ag and Markets says the setback should be determined by multiplying the blade length – 23.6 feet – by five, which would be 118 feet.

Ag and Markets first sent a letter to the town on Jan. 14 from Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. The town did not respond to that letter directly, which prompted another letter on March 20 from Michael Latham, director of the Division of Land & Water for Ag and Markets.

Latham said Gaines needs to comply with the order from Ag and Markets or face legal action from the state.

“If the Town and Zoning Boards of Appeals do not confirm that they will comply with the Commissioner’s Order, the Department may take legal action to enforce the Order and will seek costs and attorney’s fees,” Latham wrote in the letter to town officials.

In the commissioner’s letter in January, Ball said it was “unreasonable” for the town to demand the turbine be relocated at an estimated cost of $20,000.

The town could, however, restrict public access to the portion of the farm operation within 118 feet of the tower’s base or Watt could take the turbine offline when there are people in the U-Pick portion within 118 feet of the tower, Latham said.

Culhane and Grabowski said recently the town’s decision to demand the tower’s relocation was upheld by James Punch, State Supreme Court judge in Orleans County. They said the judge’s decision trumps the Ag and Markets.

Watt is appealing the decision by Judge Punch in December.


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Gaines approves new town signs

These are some of the designs for new signs for the Town of Gaines as proposed by Bill Downey of Downey Signs.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 March 2015
GAINES – The Town of Gaines will have new welcome signs on Route 104, and also two signs each at the Town Hall and Highway Department.

The Town Board approved a bid from Bill Downey of Downey Signs to make six new signs total for $4,150. Downey will make the signs using carved redwood. He will prime them and put on three coats of paint, Town Supervisor Carol Culhane said.

Downey made the town signs for Barre in a similar style. He has 25 years in the sign business.

“I just think with the redwood there is no substitute,” Culhane said.

Culhane is an artist and will try to develop a town logo for the signs that includes cobblestones and a stagecoach.

In other action, the Town Board:

• Approved a $9,000 contract with Wendel Energy to take an inventory of the town’s 10 meter pits, including photos and an assessment of the conditions of each site.

• Discussed eliminating the $75 hook-up fee for town water customers who turn off their water during winter. They wouldn’t be charged the restoration fee as long as they continue paying a $16 quarterly service charge.

The board may vote on the issue next month.

• Approved a resolution seeking more state funding for towns and villages through the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program, which currently gives $715 million annually to upstate cities.

The resolution, approved by the Town Board calls on the state to increase AIM funding by 50 percent with more money going to municipalities based on population density, and police and other services provided, with considerations made for tax exempt property as well.

• Passed a resolution seeking a repeal of the SAFE Act, a gun control measure approved by Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature in January 2013.


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Ag and Markets says Watt turbine shouldn't be relocated

Gaines wants tower to move for public safety issues

Photos by Tom Rivers
The 154-foot-high wind turbine at Watt Farms on Route 98 has been a source of litigation for two-plus years. The Town of Gaines wants the turbine to be moved away from the farm market and a U-Pick area.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 March 2015
GAINES – The State Department of Agriculture and Markets says the Town of Gaines was wrong to insist that a 154-foot-high wind turbine be moved away from a farm market and u-pick orchard at Watt Farms.

The Town of Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals made that decision on Dec. 4, 2013, and that decision was upheld this past December by James Punch, acting State Supreme Court judge in Orleans County.

However, Ag and Markets says forcing Chris and Karen Watt to move the turbine, at a cost of $20,000, is unreasonable and unnecessary, according to a letter on Jan. 14 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.

Town Supervisor Carol Culhane and Michael Grabowski, the Zoning Board of Appeals chairman, say the town is not obligated to reverse its decision based on the Ag and Markets determination.

“Agency staff members do not trump a Supreme Court judge,” Grabowski said.

The state agency also 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.

Instead of pushing to relocate the turbine, the town could insist that public access be restricted within 118 feet of the turbine’s tower or the turbine could be taken off-line during u-pick harvest within 118 feet of the tower, Commissioner Ball said.

Grabowski, the Gaines ZBA chairman, insists 169.4 feet should be the setback distance to ensure the public’s safety. He said Watt Farms is appealing Punch’s decision.

Culhane, the town supervisor, said she is confident the town has followed the law. The town has received legal advice on the issue from attorney Dan Spitzer, a land use specialist with the Hodgson Russ firm in Buffalo.

She said the town won’t change course based on the order from Ball.

“Ag and Markets doesn’t trump a State Supreme Court judge,” Culhane said.


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Cheap fire protection for Gaines has been a good deal for village, former mayor says

File photo by Tom Rivers
The Village of Albion agreed to give Gaines a break on its fire protection contract in exchange for allowing the sewer plant near the corner of Butts Road and Densmore Street to be annexed into the village back in 1995.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 February 2015
ALBION – David Albanese was the mayor of Albion in 1995 when the village struck a 20-year deal with the Town of Gaines to offer the town a deep discount on fire protection.

Some current village officials have viewed the deal as unfavorable for the village. Gaines residents outside the village have only been paying about 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed property for fire protection, by far the lowest rate in Orleans County. (Most residents outside the villages pay at least $1 per $1,000 of assessed property.)

The village agreed to the discount with Gaines in exchange for having the sewer plant fully annexed into the village, Albanese said. That saved the village from paying school taxes on the sewer plant, a tax bill that Albanese said was far greater than the savings offered to Gaines for fire protection.

“It really worked out to the village’s benefit,” Albanese said today after seeing an article on Orleans Hub about the issue. “We saved the taxpayers tons and tons of money over 20 years.”

The 20-year deal with Gaines ends after this year and village officials have put Gaines on notice the town will be paying much more in fire protection in the future.

The village’s water plant is outside the village in Wilson Road by Lake Ontario in the Town of Carlton. The village has to pay school taxes to Lyndonville for that plant. Albanese said Albion was able to avoid paying school taxes on the sewer plant by annexing it into the village. That was possible because a portion of the sewer plant was in the village before the annexation.

“This has been a win-win for the town and village,” Albanese said about the 20-year agreement.


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Gaines can expect to pay much more for fire protection in 2016

File photo by Tom Rivers
Albion firefighters responded to a chimney fire on Ridge Road in Gaines last March 12 during a blizzard.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 February 2015
ALBION – A deal over 20 years that gave Gaines property owners drastically low fire protection rates will end after 2015. Village of Albion officials said Gaines should expect a much bigger bill for fire protection in the future.

Gaines residents outside the village pay 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed property for fire protection in 2015. That is by far the lowest rate in Orleans County. Most residents in the towns pay fire protection rates over $1 per $1,000 of assessed property.

“It’s going to be a significant increase over what they are paying now,” village attorney John Gavenda said during a joint meeting Monday evening among officials from the village and town of Albion.

Albion town residents pay a $1.23-rate for fire protection from the village’s fire department.

The issue was raised during the town and village meeting because the village would like to continue the fire protection contract with the town of Albion, a contract that has included small increases in recent years.

Gavenda said the contract with Gaines will need to be negotiated this year. Gaines could either contract with Albion or Carlton, or start its own fire department. Whatever the town decides, Gavenda said the town won’t be getting such a bargain price for fire protection.

The village agreed to a 20-year deeply discounted rate in 1995 in exchange for Gaines making the sewer plant on Densmore Street tax exempt. Current village officials don't think it was a fair deal.

Village Trustee Peter Sidari said the village shouldn’t have had to pay taxes to Gaines for the sewer plant. The town should have made that exempt without pushing for such a low fire protection rate 20 years ago, Sidari said.

The village has many tax exempt sites within its borders from other governments, including the school district, state and county. Sidari said the village doesn’t bill them, and the town should have done the same for the village.

“There’s no secret that they have to pay more,” Gavenda said about Gaines. “They are on a very favorable contract.”

Gavenda said the village expects to soon sit down with Gaines officials to discuss the future fire protection contract.

Here are the fire protection rates for towns for 2015:

Albion, $1.23; Barre, $1.45; Carlton, 75 cents; Clarendon, $1.01; Gaines, 35 cents; Kendall – $1.40 to Kendall and $1.61 to Morton; Murray – $1.57 to Holley and $1.59 to Fancher-Hulberton-Murray; Ridgeway, $1.17; Shelby, $1.49; and Yates, 52 cents to Lyndonville.


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Car involved in 2 accident scenes in Gaines

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 4 December 2014
GAINES - The call went out from dispatch at 12:15 p.m. about an accident on Crandall Road in the Town of Gaines.

Firefighters, a state trooper and an ambulance saw a trail of debris, including a demolished mailbox, along Ridge Road, just east of Crandall Road. But they couldn't find the car in the accident - until they checked down Crandall Road where a car had been driven off the road into the brush.

There weren't any injuries in the incidents. No additional information has been released.


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With Thruway closed, lots of trucks on 104 and 31

Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 20 November 2014
GAINES – There is a noticeable increase in truck traffic on routes 31 and 104 in Orleans County today. With the NY Thruway closed from Rochester to the Pennsylvania line, many of the trucks are using the state roads in Orleans County to head east or west.

In the photo above, a caravan of truckers head down Route 104 at about 1:30 today. I was at The Village Inn for lunch today and it seemed for every car on 104 there was a tractor trailer.


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Gaines water district users overcharged by about $175,000

Town will apply excess to reducing debt for districts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 September 2014
GAINES – The Town of Gaines overcharged residents in water districts by about $175,000, the Town Board announced on Wednesday after audits by two accounting firms.

The Town Board decided it will take money from the water district reserves to pay down debt in the districts. That will shorten the life of the loans and also reduce the annual payments to residents in eight water districts.


One district, No. 8, actually wasn’t paying enough and residents in that district will need to pay “a little more” to cover the district’s full expenses for debt and maintenance, said Town Supervisor Carol Culhane.

Water District No. 4 overpaid by $52,000 and that will be enough to wipe out the remaining principal, eliminating debt payments in the future for that district.

Other districts overpaid by the following amounts, according to the town:


Water District 2: $29,567
Water District 3: $29,633
Water District 5: $20,269
Water District 6: $2,617
Water District 7: $39,522
Water District 9: $2,788
Water District 10: $2,014


Culhane said she has been working with auditors for about 18 months, trying to determine if there was an overcharge and how to best solve the problem. The town also consulted the State Comptroller’s Office and reviewed New York Finance Law, she said.


She couldn’t say why the town overcharged residents. She said it goes back to at least 2006.


A resident complained about a high tax bill for water and that got Culhane, the town supervisor for about three years, to look into the issue.


The changing numbers in the districts makes it difficult to craft a solution for the excess charges. Some residents who overpaid their water district bills have sold their homes and moved out of the district.


The water districts often add users as new houses are constructed. Sometimes lots are split up, changing the numbers of users from when the districts were first formed and started collecting annual debt payments to pay off the loan for the construction.


Using the excess funds from the water district reserves will provide relief to water users in 2015 with smaller debt service charges, except for District No. 8.


“The most important thing is we came up with a fair fix,” Culhane said. “I don’t see another viable plan.”


Culhane said the Town Board is united in wanting to address the problem.

“It’s the board decision to go forward and straighten this out,” she said.


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