Some gains, but Orleans still near bottom of county health rankings in NY

Orleans ranked dead last in clinical care

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 March 2015
ALBION – The latest health rankings for counties in the state and country are out and Orleans County again ranks in the bottom quarter in New York, although Orleans showed some gains from the previous year.

Orleans is ranked 47th out of 62 counties for “Health Outcomes,” which measures rates of premature death, low-birthweight babies and days of poor physical and mental health.

The 47th spot is up from 49th in the 2014 report and 52nd two years ago.


Orleans ranks as among the worst in the state for “Health Factors,” which includes alcohol and tobacco use, diet and risky sexual behavior. Orleans was ranked 59th out of 62, which is up from 61 in the previous study.

“Obviously there are needs in the county for various services,” said Paul Pettit, public health director in Orleans County.

He also leads the Health Department in Genesee County. Pettit said the two counties, plus Wyoming County, are working collaboratively to pursue grants, expand services and build a coalition to work on the overall health of the three rural counties.

“It’s the whole community that needs to be involved,” Pettit said. “It’s not just the Health Department or any one agency.”

The Orleans County Health Department is working with service providers to target mental health, behavioral health and substance abuse issues, he said.

Some of Orleans’ dismal rankings are due to poverty issues, and Pettit said those factors will take work and resources from government, non-profit organizations, businesses, the faith community and individuals to improve.

The report’s breakdown of Health Factors are divided into four categories and Orleans ranks among the worse in all four – Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, Social & Economic Factors, and Physical Environment.

In fact, in clinical care, Orleans is dead last, 62nd out of 62. The county’s low ranking in that category was partly due to the high ratio of dentists and primary care physicians per resident.

State-wide, there is one primary care physician for every 1,210 residents, but in Orleans it’s one for every 5,355 people. State-wide, there is one dentist for every 1,305 people, but in Orleans it’s one for every 5,279 people, according to the report.

The county ranks 55th for Health Behaviors, and that includes the county’s adult smoking rate of 29 percent, far above the state-wide rate of 17 percent. The county also has an adult obesity rate of 31 percent, compared to 24 percent state-wide.

Orleans ranks 50th for Social & Economic Factors. The county’s high school graduation rate of 86 percent exceeds the state average of 77 percent. Orleans lags in the percentage of adults with “some college” at 48.7 percent, compared to 65.7 percent state-wide.

The county’s unemployment rate, 9 percent, also tops the state rate of 7.7 percent. Orleans, with 25 percent of children in poverty, also is above the state average of 23 percent.

Orleans ranks 54th for Physical Environment. The air pollution of 12.7 is above the state average of 11.7. Orleans didn’t have any drinking water violations, compared to 26 percent in the state. Severe housing problems are listed at 16 percent in Orleans, compared to 24 percent state-wide.

Orleans tops the state average for percentage of residents with a long commute who drive alone, 38 percent in Orleans compared to 36 percent in the state. The number of people who drive alone to work, at 83 percent in Orleans, tops the state average of 54 percent.

Click here for the Health Outcomes and Health Factors reports on Orleans County.


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Webelos from Holley and Kendall cross over to Boy Scout Troop

Provided photos Posted 30 March 2015
HOLLEY – Four Webelos Scouts joined Boy Scout Troop 94 in Kendall during the Arrow of Light Ceremony on March 22.


John Patt and Kyle Surowy from Pack 3062 in Holley, crossed over with Kendall Pack 3094 boys Colby Kerry and Michael Clark.


All four boys received their Arrow of Light during a ceremony attended by the Kendall Boy Scouts and their Troopmaster Ken Spohr.


Michael Clark, Colby Kerry and John Patt also were awarded Super Achiever status, for earning all 20 achievements.

Photo by Annemarie Ruoff

Cub Scout Pack 62 of Holley also hosted its annual Pinewood Derby on March 7 at the Hulberton Fire Hall in conjunction with Pack 59 of Clarendon. A record-breaking 48 racers entered with 27 Cub Scouts racing, including Ryker Knight in center of this photo.


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Collins doesn’t want federal funds used for lake plan

File photo by Tom Rivers
A boat approaches the Oak Orchard Harbor last summer off Point Breeze in Orleans County.


Staff Reports Posted 30 March 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter sent last week to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, U.S. Representatives Chris Collins (NY-27) and John Katko (NY-24) requested language preventing the use of any federal funding to implement the International Joint Commission’s Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Plan (Plan 2014) for the 2016 Fiscal Year.

“Plan 2014 is not in the best interest of homeowners and other stakeholders along the Lake Ontario shoreline,” Collins said. “The plan would quicken erosion along Lake Ontario’s already rapidly deteriorating shorelines, lower property values for homeowners and have a negative impact on the region’s economy by limiting recreational and commercial boating. I remain committed to working with my colleagues to fight Plan 2014’s implementation, and am happy to be joined by Congressman Katko in this effort.”

Plan 2014 will increase the frequency by which Lake Ontario’s water levels are raised and lowered, Collins said ina news release today. This has the potential to cause substantial damage to the lake’s south shoreline, which houses hundreds of businesses and residences.


The plan would also raise the current maximum water levels by 2.4 inches and increase the annual cost of shoreline maintenance and protections by 13 percent. These water level changes threaten the economic activities of hundreds of communities, residents, businesses, and farms, Collins said.

He held a news conference last July at the Oak Orchard Harbor and was joined by many county officials from Niagara and Orleans.


Six southshore counties have 10,025 parcels of land with a total assessed value of $3.7 billion, Lynne Johnson, an Orleans County legislator, said then. If they suffer a 10 percent loss, those communities would lose $370 million in value.

Katko also is joining in the call for the federal government not to fund the lake-level plan.


“As a lifelong hunter, sportsman and conservationist, I recognize the value of preserving our natural resources and supporting conservation measures – but the IJC’s Plan 2014 could irreversibly damage the Wayne County shoreline, as well as local tourism, recreation, and agriculture,” Katko said. “Before adopting a plan that puts Lake Ontario south shore communities at risk to suffer millions of dollars of damage, it is critical that a more detailed analysis of the plan’s economic impact is provided. Right now, that means taking steps in Congress to ensure that federal dollars are not provided to implement the Plan.”

The binational International Joint Commission approved the new plan last June, the first significant change since 1958.


Prime real estate could be washed away, gobbling up back yards and the tax base, Collins said. During times of low lake levels, boaters may not be able to get out of harbors and into the lake, harming the fishing and recreational industries that are important economic engines for lakeshore communities, he said.


To see the letter from Katko and Collins, click here.


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New director leads ‘Agency of last resort’

Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern assists many working poor, senior citizens

Photos by Tom Rivers
Laverne Bates, new director at the Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern, is pictured with Jacki Mowers-Sciarabba, the client advocate in Orleans County and Just Friends coordinator.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 March 2015
ALBION – A two-county organization known as “the agency of last resort” has a new executive director, eager to push the mission of serving children who need mentors and residents who face crises, from shut-off notices for utilities to not having basic furniture.

Laverne Bates is the new leader for the Genesee-Orleans Minsitry of Concern, which has offices at 121 North Street in Albion (third floor) and in Batavia at Community Action on 5073 Clinton Street Rd.

“This is an agency that really cares about the people who come here,” Bates said. “We work collaboratively with other agencies in the area, but nobody else does what we do in the area.”

He started at GOMOC on March 3, and has reached out to community and agency leaders.

Bates has led churches, including the Northgate Free Methodist Church in Batavia. He has worked for other agencies, including most recently as an employment specialist with the Employment Connection, assisting people with traumatic brain injuries, strokes, or developmental disabilities find meaningful employment.

He has been well received by the staff at GOMOC.

“He is our face in the community,” said Jacki Mowers-Sciarabba, the client advocate for GOMOC in Orleans County and Just Friends coordinator. “He’s been out in the community advocating for us.”

The Ministry of Concern is seeing the need rise in the community. The number of people served by the agency in Orleans County jumped 35 percent in 2014, from 2,076 in 2013 to 2,797 last year.

The Genesee County numbers increased 54 percent, from 635 in 2013 to 978 last year.

Assisting people with utilities is the biggest category of need for GOMOC in Orleans County. GOMOC served 1,281 clients with utility bills in 2014. The breakdown of other cases in Orleans includes 664 with furniture and appliances; 247 for holiday assistance; 223 for personal care items, food and baby supplies; 92 for prescriptions; 79 for school supplies; 50 for gas and transportation; 25 for emergency shelter and housing; and 136 for other.

The agency saw its client services expenditures jump 68 percent from 2013 to 2014, from $43,232 to $72,461. National Grid's "Care and Share" program accounted for much of that increase, going from $13,241 to $31,958.

The Albion Lions Club donated $2,500 to GOMOC last week.

“The Ministry of Concern is the last straw for a lot of people,” said Ron Albertson of the Lions Club. “There is no where else to go.”

The Albion Lions Club presented a $2,500 check to GOMOC last week. The group pictured, includes, from left: Lloyd Wright, Lions Club treasurer; Jeff Post, finance director for GOMOC; Jacki Mowers-Sciarabba, the client advocate in Orleans County and Just Friends coordinator; Laverne Bates, GOMOC executive director; and Bill Robinson, Lions Club president.

The Lion Club was particularly moved by the agency’s efforts to provide school supplies for children in the community.

“There are kids who need pencils and backpacks,” Albertson said. “That issue hit home with a lot of the guys (in the Lions Club).”

Mowers-Sciarabba said the Ministry of Concern works with many residents in dire conditions. It will provide one-shot funding to get them through the crisis, and GOMOC often teams with other agencies and the Department of Social Services to get people on track long-term.

“The whole point of our agencies is to get people through the rough spots and not make them dependent on our services,” she said.

Many people need beds, mattresses, stoves, dressers and other furniture. GOMOC runs an ongoing program where people in the region can donate used furniture, GOMOC will pick it up and deliver it to a family that needs it.

It’s a lot of coordinating, but Mowers-Sciarabba said it is a needed service.

She makes a lot of phone calls during the day, staving off shut-off notices, connecting with other agencies, and lining up supplies and materials for families and senior citizens in need.

GOMOC often asks residents to pay a portion of the costs and will try to set up a payment plan with utility companies. Residents don't just want freebies. They often want to pay some of the costs, she said.

“It’s great for their self confidence to be self sufficient,” Mowers-Sciarabba said.

She also spearheads the Just Friends program, trying to match children with mentors in the community. There are only about a half dozen mentors in the program right now, with 55 children in Orleans County and 32 in the Batavia area that would like a mentor.

“We could use many, many more,” she said.

For more information on the Ministry of Concern, click here.


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Albion students see DC and experience government ‘close up’

Provided photo
Albion students who attended the “Close Up” trip include, from left: Morgan Seielstad, Daniel Beam, Andrew Hollenbeck, Kaitlyn Pieniaszek, Ben Miller, Jacob Squicciarini, Dylan Bader, Drake Arnold, Alyce Miller and Scott Daniels.


Press Release, Albion Central School Posted 30 March 2015
ALBION – Each year, high school students from around the country gather in Washington D.C. to share ideas, embrace geographic differences, make connections and ultimately gain a better understanding of how our government works.

This experience is hosted by the “Close Up” Foundation with a mission it is to inform, inspire, and empower young people to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy. It brings together students from a wide variety of backgrounds and communities so they can share their outlooks and immerse themselves in national policy.

This year 10 students from Albion High School participated in this self-funded week-long educational experience. The trip included touring national monuments, meeting with representatives from the military, Secret Service and exploring many other opportunities.

Each of the students had different opinions of the highlights of the trip.

“This trip has taught me that even as someone who is not eligible to cast a vote, there are outlets for my voice to get heard,” said student Scott Daniels said. “A citizen in America holds immense power, we are the government, and once we become informed, we can be politically effective.”

Andrew Hollenbeck said: “The trip made it apparent that in the future, politics was going to be up to us. We are the future of this country and we better be prepared.”

Ben Miller attended one workshop which discussed the “Pledge of Allegiance.” “Being able to participate in the Close Up trip and this workshop in particular opened my eyes to the views of many people from around the U.S. and their ideas on how to improve our government.”

Alyce Miller found a unique experience that really impacted her. She said: “While on the trip to Washington, D.C., we were fortunate enough to speak with a man who had been homeless. This experience really opened our eyes to what the world is really like. He is now heading up a soup kitchen to help others who find themselves homeless. His hard work and perseverance demonstrated that you should never give up!”

Jacob Squicciarini summed up the trip by echoing a common theme amongst students. “Although it may seem that one person cannot possibly make a difference, if that one person works hard and spreads the work, others will join the cause and better times will come,” he said.


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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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Temps will rise on spring break

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 30 March 2015
ALBION – The Erie Canal is pictured on Sunday looking east from Keitel Road towards the Densmore Road canal bridge.

The State Canal Corporation will start filling the canal in about a month in time for the historic waterway’s 191st season.


This week is spring break for the local school districts. The temperatures are forecast for highs of 41 today, 36 on Tuesday, 38 on Wednesday, 56 on Thursday and 49 on Friday.

This photo was taken Sunday on Keitel Road looking northwest towards a barn on Zig-Zag Road.


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Governor, Legislature leaders announce consensus on state budget

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office Posted 29 March 2015

ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced an agreement on the 2015-16 state budget.


The budget agreement includes landmark education reforms and investment, an ethics package with the nation’s strongest disclosure laws for legislators with outside income, and new investments in rebuilding and growing the state’s economy, including $1.5 billion for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and $500 million to make New York the first in the nation to have statewide broadband.


The budget agreement holds spending growth below 2 percent for the fifth consecutive year, continuing a record of fiscal discipline that has reversed decades of state budgets where spending grew at a higher rate than inflation or personal income growth.


Governor Cuomo said: “With this agreement, we address intractable problems that have vexed our state for generations. After decades of leading the nation in education spending but lagging in results, New York will set an example for all other states with a complete overhaul of the entrenched education bureaucracy. These reforms – accompanied by an unprecedented financial investment – will put students first by bringing accountability to the classroom, recruiting and rewarding our best teachers, further reducing over-testing, and finally confronting our chronically failing schools.


“I said I would not sign a budget without real ethics reform, and this budget does just that, putting in place the nation's strongest and most comprehensive rules for disclosure of outside income by public officials, reforming the long-abused per diem system, revoking public pensions for those who abuse the public’s trust, defining and eliminating personal use of campaign funds, and increasing transparency of independent expenditures.


“This is a budget that all New Yorkers can be proud of.


“I commend Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Skelos, and their colleagues in the Legislature for their hard work and leadership in reaching this agreement.”



The budget agreement includes spending in the following categories:

Total State Operating Funds: $94.25 billion; 2.0% growth
School Aid: $23.5 billion; 6.1% growth
Medicaid: $17.741 billion; 4.6% growth
Funds from financial settlements: $5.4 billion, including $1.5 billion for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and $500 million to make New York the first in the nation to have statewide broadband.


Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said: “I am pleased that we have arrived at a responsible budget agreement that lives within the 2 percent spending cap, rejects tax increases and meets the needs of every region of this state – reflecting the priorities of our Senate Republican conference. Thanks to a dramatic reduction in the Gap Elimination Adjustment along with an overall school aid increase of approximately $1.4 billion, students will continue to have the resources they need to learn and thrive.


“The budget also includes a blueprint for significant new reforms designed to improve performance in the classroom, reduce over-testing and promote excellence in teaching. In addition, we make sound investments in our infrastructure to create new jobs and encourage the private sector to build and grow. Working together, the Legislature and governor have also significantly tightened up the state’s ethics and disclosure laws to improve transparency and restore the public’s trust. I thank the governor, Speaker Heastie, Senator Klein and all of the members of the Senate and Assembly for their hard work and contributions to this year’s enacted budget, which we expect to pass on time before April 1.”


Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie said: “Throughout this budget process, the Assembly Majority pledged to stand strong for New York’s families. This financial plan provides historic increases in education funding for our children, funds our Higher Education Road to Success initiative, provides safe and affordable housing for a growing number of New Yorkers who are on the brink of homelessness, and grows our economy.


“I am particularly proud that this agreement builds upon our core values to strengthen our families, uplift our communities, and restore faith in our government. I thank Governor Cuomo and our colleagues in the Senate for their hard work in crafting a budget that will help move New York forward.”


The governor's office said more details about the budget will be released on Monday.


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Brett Kast named a ‘Young Apple Leader’ by US Apple Association

Provided photo
Brett Kast of Albion is pictured in Washington, D.C. He was in the nation’s capital recently to press for immigration reform and other issues that affect the apple industry.


Press Release, U.S. Apple Association Posted 29 March 2015

ALBION – Brett Kast, a fifth-generation apple farmer from Albion, was selected by the U.S. Apple Association for the 2015 Class of Young Apple Leaders.


In its sixth year, U.S. Apple’s Young Apple Leaders Program mentors the next generation of American apple growers and leaders. The program provides orientation, understanding and encouragement on public policy issues affecting the apple business.


It is designed to foster fellowship and cooperative working relationships across U.S. apple growing regions through discussions about key apple industry issues, trends, research and other activities.


This year, 16 young growers were selected from across the country, representing seven states.


“These young people will be the future decision-makers in their businesses, communities, and at U.S. Apple,” said U.S. Apple Chairman Mark Nicholson.


Kast was one of two chosen from New York, which is the second-largest apple producing state in the country, behind only Washington. Also, apples are the fourth-largest agricultural commodity produced within the state of New York.


Kast grew up on the family farm, Kast Farms. He is now the orchard manager and works closely with his father David and brother John in the operation.

Brett returned to the farm in 2008 after a year working on the oil rigs of Texas. He works mainly in the fruit side of the operation. He has expanded it into modern tall spindle plantings, including acreage of the new varieties Snapdragon and Rubyfrost.

Brett is a part of the NYAG organization and serves on the variety evaluation committee. Brett is an avid hunter and traveler. He is now spending days on the farm working in a partnership with his father and brother.

The young leaders joined forces with apple leaders from coast-to-coast for U.S. Apple's Capitol Hill Day, an annual event hosted by U.S. Apple. They brought a unified message to Capitol Hill: pass immigration reform, our business is depending on it.


Kast met with the offices of Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gilibrand (D-NY) as well as Representative Chris Collins (R-NY) and House Majority Leader Kevin Mcarthy (R-CA), among others.


The apple industry is heavily dependent on migrant labor, H-2A, and H-2B workers to grow, harvest, pack and process apples and apple products. For a perishable crop like apples, a delay in the arrival of harvest workers can impact the quality and value of the apples.


Growers also emphasized the economic impact they have on the local community and the jobs that harvest workers support. Securing a legal, stable and reliable workforce will continue to be U.S. Apple's top legislative priority.


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