Gaines Town Board gives thanks for work on historical markers

Provided photo Posted 10 August 2016
GAINES – The Gaines Town Board on Tuesday recognized the efforts of Clarendon Town Historian Melissa Ierlan for giving many historical markers in Orleans County a fresh look.


She has restored the paint on numerous historical markers in Gaines, and others in the county, including one just outside Orleans for the mucklands in Genesee County.


Pictured, from left: Al Capurso, Gaines town historian; Melissa Ierlan; and Carol Culhane, Gaines town supervisor.

Photos by Tom Rivers

Ierlan repainted this marker on Ridge Road, next to the Gaines Carlton Community Church, for pioneer settler Elizabeth Gilbert. The marker had flaked off paint and was getting hard to read to motorists on Route 104.

She also repainted a marker for a cobblestone house on Ridge Road near the Cobblestone Museum.


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Fire destroys Eagle Harbor home

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 30 July 2016 3:10 p.m.

EAGLE HARBOR – Albion firefighters Chuck Prentice, right, and Mike Dalle spray water on the smoldering remains of a house in Eagle Harbor. Fire torn through the house this afternoon, leveling the structure at 3248 Eagle Harbor Rd.


Firefighters were dispatched to the home of Richard Clark at about 1:30 p.m. The house was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. Albion firefighters were close by at the Orleans County 4-H Fair. Many fire departments were there as part of a display of fire trucks.

The quick response to Eagle Harbor wasn’t enough to prevent the house from being a total loss. The structure was set back from the road in a wooded area. Live wires that were sparking added to the challenge.

Live wires that were sparking made part of site unsafe. National Grid arrived after this photo was taken to deaden the wires.


Clark wasn’t home at the time when the fire started. He thinks an animal could have started it or perhaps a sparking electric wire. The fire is under investigation.

Carlton firefighter Dave Bertsch gets water on the fire. Dale Banker, the county's emergency management coordinator, is at right.


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Cobblestone Church becoming more popular for weddings

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 8 July 2016
GAINES – The former Beth Stella and her husband Dave Griffith walk out of the Cobblestone Universalist Church this afternoon after their wedding at the historic site on Route 104.


Their wedding is one of six at the church this year. There were seven at the Cobblestone Church last year. The Cobblestone Museum is seeing increased interest from couples in using the church for weddings.


"All denominations are welcome," said Sue Bonafini, the volunteer coordinator and wedding coordinator for the Cobblestone Museum. "This is a place where you can go and have a pastor come in in a religious setting."

The sanctuary of the church, built in 1834, was decorated in a World War II/USO theme for the wedding. Both Stella and Griffith are historical buffs.


"We wanted a place with a lot of history," Griffith said before the wedding today. "It's a beautiful place."


The weddings draw a crowd to the museum, and also raise needed funds for the museum's operational and maintenance costs. The museum charges $400 to rent the church, and that includes for a rehearsal and the wedding.


"People like the intimate space in the sanctuary," Bonafini said. "People are 'oohing and aahing' over the space itself."

Beth Stella heads into the church this afternoon for her wedding. The church is part of a museum complex that is a National Historic Landmark. The church is the oldest cobblestone church in North America.


Many of the couples that get married at the Cobblestone Church will then have their reception at Tillman's Village Inn.


The church is available for weddings between May 1 and Oct. 31. For more information, click here.


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Marker goes up on Gaines Basin Road in memory of deputy

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 16 June 2016

GAINES – This roadside sign was installed on Wednesday on Gaines Basin Road, about a quarter mile south of Route 104. The marker is a memorial for Deputy David Whittier, who was fatally injured here in 1989.

The Orleans County Sheriff's Office had a reception on Monday afternoon with Whittier's family and former colleagues to unveil the sign for the only Orleans County deputy ever killed in the line of duty.
David Whittier worked 20 years at Kodak before following his dream of being a police officer. He was hired as a full-time deputy on June 22, 1987. Whittier made many arrests for people driving while intoxicated. Ironically on Jan. 19, 1989, Whittier was on routine road patrol when he came upon an unoccupied pickup truck on Gaines Basin Road. The driver of that truck was out hunting.

While Whittier was inspecting the truck a young man who was driving drunk struck the parked pickup truck. Whittier had dove between the pickup and his patrol car. He was crushed between the two vehicles after the pickup was hit. He was then dragged about 100 feet and left for dead under the truck.
He survived the accident and remained in the hospital until April 1989. After being home for a few months, his condition did not improve. He had contracted cancer, which doctors said was trauma induced. Doctors said his immune system was too compromised due to injuries sustained from the accident. He and his family were advised that treatment was not an option and would only cause further pain and suffering.


Whittier was 41 when he died on Sept. 8, 1989. About 700 people, including police officers around the state, attended his funeral in Clarendon at the Disciples United Methodist Church.


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Watt turbine is back up after repairs

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 15 June 2016

GAINES – An employee with Xzeres Wind reinstalls the turbine today at Watt Farms on Route 98 in Gaines. The turbine was taken down on April 14 for repairs.


The turbine was originally put up in August 2011. Xzeres gave the turbine new blades and other parts. The main issue was with the alternator. Chris Watt said there was bad insulation on the wiring, which resulted in signals being sent for the turbine to not run.

The 10-kiloowatt turbine is 154 feet above ground. It has three 12.6-foot-long blades. It has a swivel head with a tail so it can face the wind at its peak strength.


The turbine was the focus of a lawsuit from the Town of Gaines, which claimed the 154-foot-high turbine needed to be moved farther away from a farm market and storage building.
Judge James Punch, acting as a State Supreme Court justice, ruled in December the turbine didn't need to be moved. The State Department of Agriculture and Markets also sided with Watt Farms, saying the turbine location met the proper setbacks.


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Eagle Harbor church celebrates 15 years with Pastor Susan Boring

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 5 June 2016
EAGLE HARBOR – Susan Boring, pastor of the Eagle Harbor United Methodist Church, shares a laugh with the congregation this morning after the group sang Happy Birthday to her.


Boring and the church celebrated 15 years of ministry together. Boring, a fifth-grade instrumental teacher at Brockport, grew up and lives in Albion. She embraces music, including the Agape Ringers behind her, in church services.


Steve Watkins and his wife Chris have been attended the church for over a year. They praised Boring and the congregation for their warmth and compassion.


Watkins grew up in Albion knowing Boring as a kid. She visited Watkins and his wife while both had recent hospital stays.


"This is a church that has made me feel whole," said Mrs. Watkins, who has been cancer-free for seven months after battling the disease for two years. "They're very supportive. It's like a family."

Boring, in orange, director the bell ringers during the service today that was attended by about 75 people. This photo was taken from the balcony where a brass choir played during the service.

Susan Boring and Mike Vick sing a duet of praise songs, including "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High" and "Psalm 100."

Marsha Rivers, a member of the pulpit supply for the church, shares a reflection on Boring's ministry during today's service.

Linda Haight, a pastor from Albion who leads the South Byron and Stafford United Methodist churches, shared a prayer during today's service that included several local ministers.

Greg VanDussen, former pastor of the Albion United Methodist Church and a retired district superintendent for the conference, was a key church leader in encouraging Boring to pursue the ministry. He praised her for using her talents to serve God and care for others.

Jeff Post and Aleka Schmidt play with the Agape Ringers during today's service. Schmidt leads the First Baptist Church in Albion. That congregation had church in Eagle Harbor today.

The Eagle Harbor United Methodist Church has been meeting in this brick building since 1875. It replaced an original wooden structure from 1826.


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Weather Service warns of thunderstorms

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 5 June 2016
EAGLE HARBOR – Winds blow the flags on the lift bridge of Eagle Harbor this morning. The bridge has flags for the canal, the U.S. and New York State.


The National Weather Service in Buffalo is advising there is a slight risk for severe thunderstorms this evening in Western New York, including Orleans County. A cold front is crossing the state, bringing the chance of damaging winds and heavy rainfall, the Weather Service advised.


The forecast for the next few days calls for a high near 77 on Monday, high near 68 on Tuesday, high near 61 on Wednesday and high near 66 on Thursday.

Orleans County is home to seven of the 16 lift bridges on the canal, including the one in Eagle Harbor.


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Cobblestone Museum adds wine to latest art show

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 4 June 2016
GAINES – Gretchen Schweigert of the Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina serves wine on Friday to Alex Green, back left, Leanne Serrato and Peggy Barringer. The Cobblestone Museum hosted its second First Friday art show at the Cobblestone Church on Ridge Road.

The art show featured retired Holley art teacher Tony Barry. He has been traveling in recent years to places he often talked about as a teacher. He is pictured with a painting of the Blue Dome of the Santorini in Greece and men playing cards in Sicily.


Barry travels with his wife Annette, a retired school librarian at Holley.

Barry is pictured with Georgia Thomas of Medina, who bought this painting of maple sugaring in Edinboro, Pa.

This painting shows a scene from Venice. Barry will paint a small watercolor on site, and then do a larger oil painting when he gets home. He said it's too difficult to travel with all of his art supplies.

This painting shows a cafe in Paris. Barry said the city is "block after block" of outdoor cafes.


"As an art teacher I was dying to see some of these places I've been telling the kids about," he said.

Barry lives in Holley, which he said is a beautiful place. Some of his paintings show canal scenes. He was happy to see the clock hands restored last year to the former church bell tower in the Public Square. He did this painting on location.


Cobblestone Museum President Matt Ballard said the organization is working to establish strong partnerships in the community. He welcomes the First Friday art shows, as well as Leonard Oakes Estate Winery and an ongoing partnership with Tillman's Village Inn. (People who attend a July lecture series at the museum, paying $5, will get a $2 coupon for The Village Inn.)


The series runs July 8, 15, 22 and 29. Ballard will speak at 7 p.m. on July 8 about the local World War I effort. on July 22, Ballard will highlight notorious criminals from the county's history.


Bill Lattin, the former county historian and museum director, will give lectures on July 15 about infamous fake Victorian paintings and on July 29 about "church stories you don't hear in church."


For more on the Cobblestone Museum, click here.


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Intergrow will expand in Webster, add 100 jobs

File photo by Tom Rivers
Dirk Biemans is co-owner of Intergrow Greenhouses, which built its first 15-acre greenhouse in the Town of Gaines in 2003. The company has done multiple expansions to 55.5 acres under glass in Orleans County. Today, Intergrow announced plans to expand in Monroe County.

Staff Reports Posted 19 May 2016

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that agricultural company Intergrow Holdings, Inc. will expand its operations to Webster, creating 100 new jobs in the Finger Lakes Region.


The expansion will include building two new, 25-acre state-of-the-art commercial greenhouses to grow produce year-round for the Northeast market.


Intergrow began operations in the Town of Gaines in 2003 with an initial 15-acre greenhouse. It has expanded to 55.5 acres at its site on Route 98.


Dirk Biemans, CEO of Intergrow Holdings said: “We continue to see a growing demand for locally grown, year-round produce from our customers and are excited to stay in Western New York where we have found an opportunity in Webster for a greenhouse project to produce this product.”


Intergrow will build two new, 25-acre greenhouses at the intersection of Salt and State Roads in Webster. The produce grown will provide local, year-round, hydroponically-grown tomatoes, an alternative to produce that requires warmer, distant climates. The greenhouses will utilize state-of-the-art and sustainable growing practices, and product packaging will be performed on site. Construction of the first greenhouse is scheduled to be completed next fall. The second greenhouse is scheduled to be completed by 2020.


The first 50 employees at the Intergrow site in Webster are expected to be hired by July 2018; the remaining 50 employees will be hired before June 30, 2021, according to the Governor's Office.


“Our strategy to drive economic growth across New York has focused on investing in regional potential,” Governor Cuomo said. “By expanding its operations in the Finger Lakes, Intergrow is driving job growth in a vital sector of our economy while offering New Yorkers greater access to high-quality, locally grown produce.”


Empire State Development, New York State’s economic development agency, will provide up to $750,000 in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits and a $750,000 capital grant in return for job creation commitments. Rochester Gas & Electric will be providing a $400,000 grant to help offset electric infrastructure costs. Farm Credit East is providing a farm credit loan. The County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency has offered mortgage and sales tax abatements, as well as a 10-year standard PILOT.


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Crowd turns out for art show at Cobblestone Museum
Kim Martillotta-Muscarella
Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 7 May 2016
GAINES – The Cobblestone Museum hosted its first art show in about three decades on Friday and 75 people attended to view work by local artists.

Kim Martillotta-Muscarella, pictured, organized the show. She is pictured next to some of her paintings that are displayed in the Proctor Room in the lower level of the Cobblestone Universalist Church, which was built in 1834.

Martillotta-Muscarella ran Marti’s on Main, an art gallery at her home on North Main Street in Albion, for seven years. She held opening receptions the first Fridays each month. Martillotta-Muscarella is shifting the shows to the Cobblestone Museum, where she said there is more room to display work and for people to gather in a place that is also open to the public.


She said Friday's show brought out her faithful attendees and also many new people to First Fridays. She is planning more art shows at the museum each month through October.
R.J. Bannan
R.J. Bannan was among the attendees of Friday’s art show. He is looking at work by Connie Mosher. Other featured artists include Tony Barry, Tom Zangerle, Pat Greene and Suzanne Wells. Al Capurso and his band, Of the Bear, also played during the opening reception on Friday.

The museum opens for the season on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. with free admission for mothers.

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Gaines says it’s willing to pay more for fire protection, but wants a fair contract

Firefighters in Gaines
File photo by Tom Rivers
Firefighters are pictured in this photo from April 13, 2015 at a fire on Eagle Harbor Road in Gaines.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 May 2016
ALBION – The Town of Gaines agrees it needs to pay more for fire protection, but town officials don’t believe it should be three times what town residents are currently paying the Village of Albion in a fire protection contract.

“We have acknowledged the rate is low,” said Andrew Meier, the town attorney.

The Village Board on April 13 voted to terminate the contract with Gaines, effective 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 31. Village officials said the town has rejected Albion’s offer for the fire contract.

Albion was seeking $100,000 from Gaines for fire protection. That is the same as the Town of Albion pays the village for fire protection outside the village.

That contract resulted in a fire protection tax rate of $1 per $1,000 of assessed property for the Town of Albion. In Gaines, where the town pays the village $33,860, the rate is 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed property, by far the lowest in the county. The Town of Yates is next lowest at 49 cents with Carlton at 75 cents. Every other town pays at least $1 for fire protection.

Meier and the Gaines Town Board have asked for the fire department’s budget, and then want to discuss how to fairly share those costs among the two towns and the village.

The village has wanted to share the costs with a formula based on assessed value. Gaines has suggested a hybrid approach that would include the call volume per municipality.

The gross assessed value for the Town of Albion (outside village) is $109.7 million, nearly the same as the gross assessed value in Gaines ($112.2 million.) The village’s gross assessed value is $189.6 million or about 46 percent of $411.5 million total.

The village in 2013 accounted for 66 percent or 193 of the 269 emergency calls, while the Town of Albion represented 52 calls or 17.9 percent with Gaines accounting for 46 calls or 15.8 percent.

In 2014, the village represented 167 of the 291 emergency calls for 67.1 percent, with the Town of Albion at 64 calls (23.8 percent) and Gaines at 38 calls or 14.1 percent, according to data provided by Meier.

Given the shares of gross assessed value and call volume, Meier said Gaines should pay a small percentage of the fire department budget. He agrees Gaines should pay more than the current rate, but he wants to dissect the fire department’s budget and determine a fair system for sharing the costs among the village and towns.

Meier said the village’s breakdown of fire department expenses show a total cost of $243,839 for June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017. It wouldn’t be fair if Gaines and the Town of Albion each paid $100,000, with the village only paying $43,839, Meier said.

John Gavenda, the village’s attorney, said in correspondence to Meier that the budget is actually closer to $300,000 to $350,000. Meier has sought clarification on the total expenses.

The village’s $243,839 budget for the fire department breaks out the following expenses: $80,000 for approximate bond payment for new fire truck: $16,216 for approximate bond payment for AFD roof: $65,512 for budget; $1,500 for AFD building repairs; $7,043 for chief’s vehicle payment; $7,899 for AFD pickup; $6,512 for Engine 31 repairs; $6,367 for worker’s compensation; $20,458 for vehicle insurance; $4,063 for life insurance; $1,459 for fire accident coverage; $5,000 for electric; $1,500 for heat; $599 for Internet and $19,707 for insurance.

Gaines officials have contended that Gaines should simply pay the same contract as the Town of Albion, even if they have similar tax bases with both at about $110 million.

Meier, in a letter to Gavenda on Feb. 1, 2016, said Gaines is almost entirely residential, although it does have several businesses and a museum on Ridge Road, and two large agricultural processing/production facilities.

The Town of Albion in contrast has higher-risk businesses, offices and institutional properties, such as two correctional facilities, Wal-Mart, the nursing home, car dealerships and county offices.

“We extended requests to keep talking about this,” Meier said in an interview. “We haven’t agreed upon a methodology for a number. So far we’ve only been presented with a demand to triple our contribution.”

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Albion village tells Gaines fire protection contract terminated Aug. 31

File photo by Tom Rivers
Albion firefighters respond to this fire in Gaines on Oct. 25 at a house owned by Watt Farms at 3161 Oak Orchard Rd.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 April 2016
ALBION – The Village Board has notified Gaines Town Supervisor Carol Culhane that the village will terminate a fire protection contract with Gaines on Aug. 31, at 11:59 p.m.


The contract between the town and village expired on Dec. 31, 2015. Village officials have pushed for Gaines to pay $1 per $1,000 of assessed property for fire protection. That is what the Town of Albion pays the village.


Gaines pays only 32 cents per $1,000, by far the lowest rate in Orleans County. Village officials said Wednesday that Gaines officials have resisted paying more and haven't responded to village requests for the two municipal boards to meet and discuss the issue.


"The Village Board regrets having to terminate a longstanding association with the Town of Gaines regarding fire protection services," according to an April 22 letter from village attorney John Gavenda to Culhane. "Since the Town of Gaines has rejected the proposal made by the Village of Albion for said services, it has no alternative but to sever the association."


Gaines officials had suggested the town pay based on percentage of calls in Albion fire protection district, which includes the Town of Albion, village and Gaines. Village officials want it based on assessment with the two towns each paying $1 per $1,000 of assessed property.


Village officials are hopeful a deal can be reached with Gaines before the contract expires after Aug. 31. Albion wants to keep Gaines partly because 20 to 25 volunteer firefighters live in that town. If Gaines isn't in Albion's service area, those members should join whatever fire department serves the town. But that would leave the Albion Fire Department with fewer members.


Gavenda, in his letter to Gaines on April 22, urged the town to "take all necessary measures to secure fire protection from an alternative source to avoid any lapse of service."


The village agreed in 1995 to a 20-year deeply discounted fire protection rate in exchange for Gaines making the sewer plant on Densmore Street tax exempt.


Here are the fire protection rates for towns for 2016:


Albion, $1.00; Barre, $1.45; Carlton, 75 cents; Clarendon, $1.02; Gaines, 32 cents; Kendall – $1.40 to Kendall and $1.61 to Morton; Murray – $1.58 to Holley and $1.59 to Fancher-Hulberton-Murray; Ridgeway, $1.29; Shelby, $1.74; and Yates, 49 cents to Lyndonville.

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Culvert work in Gaines will close section of Route 98 in May

Press Release, NYS Department of Transportation Posted 27 April 2016
GAINES – The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is advising motorists today a portion of Route 98 (Oak Orchard Road) in the town of Gaines, Orleans County, will be closed to traffic for up to two weeks beginning Monday, May 9, while a deteriorated culvert under the highway is replaced.

The culvert is located midway between Route 104 (Ridge Road) and the intersection of Route 279 (Gaines Road) and East/West Bacon roads.

A posted detour will direct traffic to use Route 279 (Gaines Road) and Route 104 (Ridge Road) to bypass the work site.


The schedule calls for the road to be re-opened by approximately May 23.

This work is being coordinated with a planned paving project on Route 98 between Route 31A (W. Lee Road) in the town of Barre through the town and village of Albion to Route 104 (Ridge Road) in the town of Gaines this summer. The construction schedule is yet to be finalized.


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Watts file notice they may sue Gaines for slander

File photo by Tom Rivers
Chris and Karen Watt had this 154-foot-high wind turbine at Watt Farms on Route 98 erected about four years ago. The construction and location resulted in lawsuits from a neighbor and the Town of Gaines.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 April 2016
GAINES – Chris and Karen Watt, owner of a fruit farm and farm market on Route 98, have filed a notice of claim against the Town of Gaines, saying they intend to sue the town and four town officials for “slanderous and libelous” comments in regards to the wind turbine near the farm market.

In an Orleans Hub article in January (click here), Town Supervisor Carol Culhane voiced her disappointment that James Punch, acting Supreme Court justice, allowed the turbine to stay put following an order from the state Department of Agriculture of Markets.

Culhane and three Town Board members – Richard DeCarlo Sr., James Kirby and Susan Smith – on Jan. 5 passed 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 resolution also stated that the Watts “attempted to evade the requirements of the Town Law by obtaining a permit for a wind tower which required site plan approval.”


The Gaines resolution, approved by four Town Board members, also stated the Watts received “illegal assistance” from the former Planning Board chairman in obtaining an improperly issued permit so the turbine could be sited “in a location which directly threatened public health and safety.”

Frank Aloi, the attorney for the Watts, said Chris and Karen Watt did nothing wrong with the turbine permitting process. He said they went to great lengths to follow the local and state laws.

The resolution on Jan. 5 from the town clearly infers an “illicit conspiracy” between the Watts and the former Planning Board chairman with the building permit, according to the legal papers filed by the Watts. However, previous litigation showed the Watts and prior town officials did nothing illegal, Aloi said in the notice of intent.

Culhane, the town supervisor, when contacted by Orleans Hub declined to discuss the issue because of the possible litigation.

When she first took office in January 2012, she moved to abolish the Town Planning Board and have those functions handled by the Zonings Board of Appeals. The ZBA then had the Watts reapply for a permit, which had been approved in 2011.

The second time around the town told the Watts the turbine needed to be moved away from the farm market and a U-Pick orchard. The Watts and Ag & Markets said that could cost $20,000 and was unreasonable. The town wanted the turbine 169.4 feet away from areas where people gathered. (That represents 1.1 multiplied by the turbine height.)

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.

Ag and Markets also said any U-Pick area within the 118 feet could be off limits to the public.

Judge James Punch, acting Supreme Court justice, made final ruling on the matter in December, saying the turbine should stay put. He based that decision partly on the determination and order from Richard Ball, commissioner of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.


Ball on Jan. 14, 2015 said sent official notice to the Town of Gaines, saying it was wrong to insist that the turbine be moved away from a farm market and U-Pick orchard at Watt Farms. Ball sent the letter to town officials, telling them they needed to comply with the Agriculture and Markets Law.

Culhane and the board majority have alleged “immoral conduct” by Ag & Markets and said the state agency has “falsely represented the facts of the case.”

Those comments are noted in the notice of intent from the Watts. Aloi, in the March 4 filing, said the Town Board didn't appeal Punch's decision in December, but instead used a "bully pulpit" at the Town Board meeting and in the local media to "intentionally and maliciously libel" Chris and Karen Watt.


Aloi said the potential damages against the Watts from the alleged defamation are unknown right now. The farm market hasn’t opened yet this year to see if the Watts will lose customers from the attacks on their character. The Watts also sell fruit at many farmers’ markets in the region, in addition to selling fruit wholesale to larger customers.

Filing the notice of intent gives the Watts the option to file a lawsuit within a year. Aloi, in the court papers, said the Watts have already spent $35,000 in litigation costs, and most of that could have been avoided if the Town Board hadn't dissolved the Planning Board and launched a "personal vendetta" against the Watt family.

The notice of intent names the four Town Board members who voted in favor of the resolution on Jan. 5. It doesn’t name Mary Neilans, a new Town Board member who was sworn into her position as town councilwoman on Jan. 5. She abstained from the vote on the resolution about the turbine. Neilans lives next to the Watts, and she filed the first lawsuit in the matter after the turbine went up in August 2011.


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Watt turbine taken down for repairs

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 14 April 2016
GAINES – The turbine at Watt Farms was taken down today for repairs. The turbine needs a new alternator and will also get new blades. The replacement parts are on order and an installation hasn't been scheduled.


The turbine was the focus of a lawsuit from the Town of Gaines, which claimed the 154-foot-high turbine needed to be moved farther away from a farm market and storage building.


Judge James Punch, acting as a State Supreme Court justice, ruled in December the turbine didn't need to be moved. The State Department of Agriculture and Markets also sided with Watt Farms, saying the turbine location met the proper setbacks.

The 10-kilowatt turbine is expected to be repaired and placed back on a tower soon.

A big crane was brought in to bring down the turbine so repairs could be made. The turbine is located behind Watt Farm Country Market on Route 98, next to a fruit orchard.


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Gaines officially turns 200 on Feb. 14

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 February 2016
GAINES – The Town of Gaines has long marked the year 1809 as the birth of the town. That’s when several pioneer settlers started to arrive, making a new home in what was then a wilderness.

The town marked its centennial in 1909, its 150th anniversary in 1959 and a bicentennial in 2009.

However, Town Historian Al Capurso said the town didn’t officially exist until Feb. 14, 1816. That’s when the State Legislature recognized the Town of Gaines.

The first official Town Board meeting was soon after the state’s move to recognize Gaines. Capurso shared the tidbits with the Town Board on Tuesday. He noted that this Valentine’s Day will mark the town’s 200th official birthday.

Capurso shared other news with the Town Board. He is part of a committee working on the new Orleans County Heritage Festival the second weekend in September. Capurso said the event, which includes assistance from Genesee Community College, will highlight transportation, architecture, historic gems and historic cemeteries in the county.


He would like the Gaines Cemetery on Ridge Road, behind the Gaines Congregational Church, to be included on the cemetery tour. Capurso said that is the first cemetery in the county and includes two Revolutionary War soldiers.

At least one new historical marker will go up in Orleans County this year, with the Orleans County Department of History and the Orleans County Historical Association splitting the estimated $1,200 cost, Capurso said. He expects historians will vie for sites for the marker around the county. He would like one on Route 279, just south of Route 104 in honor of James Mather, one of the early Gaines settlers.

Capurso also has been leading the effort to preserve a former cobblestone schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the Erie Canal. Capurso said a variance has been approved to allow the site as a meeting house for the Historical Association. Attorneys are working on getting the title for the property for the Historical Association.

In other action at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting:

• The board discussed options for water accessibility for employees in the building. The Town Hall only has sinks in the two bathrooms. There isn’t a utility sink.
Town Supervisor Carol Culhane said that makes it difficult to fill a coffee pot or wash a dish.

“I think it’s unreasonable that we have something like this,” Culhane said. “We wash a dish in the bathroom sink because there is no sink.”

She thought water from the Culligan company, which would include 5-gallon jugs of water and a water cooler, would solve the problem temporarily. Culligan would charge $6.25 a month for the cooler, plus $7.99 per jug.

Town Councilman Richard DeCarlo wants to explore running a waterline in the building and creating a utility sink.

The board will look at options for either bottled water, Culligan or a waterline.


Ultimately the Town Hall needs some renovations for security and handicapped accessibility. Those changes could include a sink for the employees, Culhane said.

“But that’s down the road,” she said.

• The board approved spending $2,709 to Star Electric of Pavilion to add phones and upgrade the phone system for the Town Hall, where the phones haven't been updated in more than a decade.


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Gaines works to implement zoning changes, updates to comprehensive plan

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 February 2016
GAINES – The Town of Gaines in January approved a comprehensive plan for land use and now the town is pushing to implement some of the changes, including creating a land use map


The Town Board on Tuesday voted to spend $11,400 for General Codes to revise the town zoning map to reflect changes from the comprehensive plan. The current map is confusing with contradictions, Town Supervisor Carol Culhane said.

“It would bring us a lot of clarity and confirmation,” she said.


Mike Grabowski, the ZBA chairman and town’s representative on the Orleans County Planning Board, also was given permission by the Town Board on Tuesday to work on digitizing the map with James Bensley, the director of the county’s Planning Department.


One big change includes an expanded commercial zone on Route 104 from west of Brown Street Road to east of Route 279.


The comprehensive plan also encourages the town to create an overlay district to better preserve and promote historic sites in the town, including the Erie Canal and the Cobblestone Historic District.


The town also wants to encourage single-family development to preserve the rural character of the community. The town is also open to extending public sewer lines in the future, with the priority given to higher-density areas for residential and business development, and also for residents with pollution problems from their sewage disposal systems.


The comprehensive plan also adds multiple definitions of farming including enclosed farm operations (greenhouses), agricultural industrial operations (large-scale cattle, hog, dairy and poultry farms). Traditional Open Land Farming Operations include crop farming (vegetables, fruit, grain) and hay farming.


Culhane said now that the comprehensive plan has been adopted, there is more work needed to implement the plan.


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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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