Legislature leader says selling nursing home one of county’s best decisions

Photo by Tom Rivers
Lynne Johnson, vice chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, said selling the county nursing home has proved a wise decision, saving local taxpayers millions of dollars. She was one of the speakers on Friday during the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Luncheon.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 January 2015
ALBION – It was a controversial choice, and resulted in lots of protesting and public disapproval. But the decision to sell the Orleans County Nursing Home has proved a good one, Legislature Vice Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said.


“Selling the nursing home is the best thing we’ve ever done as a Legislature,” Johnson told about 75 people on Friday during the Legislative Luncheon.


She was one of the featured speakers during the event at The Village Inn. The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce organized the luncheon.


Johnson had legislators in attendance all stand up for supporting the nursing home sale. The $7.8 million sale became final on Jan. 1. It removed what had been about a $1 million annual expense to local taxpayers. That deficit was forecast to hit $2 million or more annually, especially as federal Intergovernmental Transfer Funds dry up.


“Job well done, gentlemen,” Johnson told the legislators.


The new owner, Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC, took over the nursing home on Jan. 1, acquiring the 120-bed Villages of Orleans Health & Rehabilitation Center.


The new owner has kept 99 percent of the former county employees, Johnson said. The company has also offered benefits and seniority for the employees.


With the nursing home out of the county budget, legislators cut taxes by 1.5 percent and reduced the tax rate from $10.11 to $9.89 per $1,000 of assessed property for 2015.


The county also committed to an $8 million bond for a series of bridge, culvert and county building projects in the next three years. That annual payment will be covered from $260,000 in gambling money approved by the state, Johnson said.


“The sale of The Villages takes the pressure off,” Johnson said. “We can rebuild our bridges and culverts.”


The county cleared a major milestone in 2014, wrapping up $7 million upgrade to its emergency management system, Johnson said.


The county is now working to expand broadband Internet coverage throughout Orleans, especially in the outlying rural areas that do not have high-speed Internet. Four companies have submitted bids for expanding broadband in the county. Those proposals are being reviewed.


The timing of the project fits with Gov. Cuomo’s push to extend broadband throughout the state.


“We stand ready to go after that money,” Johnson said about the governor’s broadband initiative.


Johnson told the Chamber crowd that county leaders are vigilant and active in fighting a plan to regulate Lake Ontario water levels.


Orleans, Niagara and other southshore lake counties worry a new plan for lake levels will lead to more extreme highs and lows in the lake, putting commercial and recreational businesses at risk, while also eating up valuable lakeshore property due to erosion.


“When property owners assessments go down, it affects all of Orleans County,” she said.


Johnson and Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey travelled to Washington, D.C. in July to press the counties’ concerns about the plan from the International Joint Commission. Johnson said it was unprecedented for a county legislator to visit the nation’s capital and press a cause on behalf of the county.


She praised the partnership with Niagara County and their two-county Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance.


“NORA gives us a bigger voice for concerns,” Johnson said.

 

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Weather Service warns of freezing drizzle

Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 24 January 2015
The Pullman Memorial Universalist Church is pictured in this recent photo in Albion with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the First Baptist Church in the background.

 

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory from 1:18 p.m. to 11 p.m. today for Orleans and several other Western New York counties.


The Weather Service warns there will be snow and freezing drizzle, which could result in slippery roads, sidewalks and parking lots.


Today is forecast for a high of 32 degrees, followed by a high of 17 on Sunday, with highs of 16 on Monday and Tuesday, according to the Weather Service.

 

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5 injured in Albion accident

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 24 January 2015 12:20 p.m.
ALBION – Five people were injured in a two-vehicle accident this morning at the intersection of Gaines Basin Road and West Countyhouse Road.


The accident occurred at about 10:50 a.m. The driver of a pickup truck likely sustained internal injuries while four people in a minivan had lacerations and other injuries, firefighters at the scene said.


Two of the people in the minivan were ejected.


Two Mercy Flight helicopters, and ambulances from COVA and the Medina Fire Department transported those with injuries.


State Police, Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance and firefighters from Medina, Albion and Barre all responded to the scene.

 

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Medina HS senior wins award in Distinguished Young Women

Provided photos
Regan Stacey of Medina competed in the Distinguished Young Women of New York on Jan. 10 in Albany.


Staff Reports Posted 24 January 2015
ALBANY – A Medina High School senior competed in the 2015 Distinguished Young Woman of New York and won the award for “Be Your Best Self.”


Regan Stacey, daughter of Trisha and David Stacey, competed in the Distinguished Young Women competition, which was formerly known as Junior Miss.


Heather Dorler of Stockton in Chautauqua County was the overall winner of the state-wide competition on Jan. 10 at Cohoes High School Auditorium in Albany.


Stacey and Dorler were among 11 high school senior girls from New York who competed to represent the state as the Distinguished Young Woman of New York for 2015. Participants were evaluated in the categories of Scholastics (20 percent), Interview (25 percent), Fitness (15 percent), Self-Expression (15 percent) and Talent (25 percent).


The scholarship program awarded $5,000 in scholarships, with Stacey earning $200 for the “Be Your Best Self” award.


The 58th National Finals will take place on June 25-27 in Mobile, Ala. Dorler will travel to Mobile along with 49 other state representatives to participate in personal development activities and community service projects before competing for the opportunity to become the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2015 and for additional cash scholarships.


Abigail Feldman of Lyndonville was the NY state winner in 2014.

 

The New York State program is now accepting applications for any high school junior girl, with graduation date for 2016. Click here for more information.

Participants in the Distinguished Young Women of New York include, front row, from left: Sarah Pierson – Southampton; Heather Ryan – Crown Point; Sarah Burbank – Moriah; Regan Stacey – Medina; and Heather Dorler – Stockton.

 

Back Row: Christine Schmidt – Elmira; Jonni Mills – Red Hook; Lillith Ida – Ticonderoga; Keneally Phelan – Harriman; Hillit Avnon-Klein – Queens Village; and Rachel Lavin – Whitehall.

 

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Man found dead in Carlton fire

Deceased has not been positively identified

Photos by Tom Rivers

Firefighters work on putting out a fire on Friday afternoon at a house owned by George Swartz.

 

Press Release, Orleans County Sheriff Scott Hess Posted 24 January 2015
CARLTON – A man was found dead following a structure fire that started Friday afternoon on Route 98 in the Town of Carlton.


At about 1:40 p.m., Carlton firefighters were dispatched to 2086 Oak Orchard Rd. A Sheriff’s deputy on patrol arrived at the scene within a minute of the call and reported the two-story dwelling fully engulfed in fire.


The owner and sole resident of the home could not immediately be located and it was believed that he might be in the structure. In addition to the Carlton Fire Department, seven other fire departments from within the county were called to the scene. It was several hours before the fire was completely extinguished.

It took several hours for firefighters to put out the blaze in the two-story house.


Once the fire was completely out, a search was initiated and shortly before 10 p.m., an individual was located in the basement of the remaining structure, and pronounced dead by Orleans County Coroner Scott Schmidt.


The body was subsequently removed and transported to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office in Rochester for autopsy and positive identification.


In addition to the Sheriff’s Office, the incident remains under investigation by the Orleans County Office of Emergency Management, and the NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control. A New York State Police K-9 team assisted with the search for the deceased.


Fire Departments responding to the scene were as follows: Albion, Barre, FHM (Fancher-Hulberton-Murray), Kendall, Lyndonville, Ridgeway and Medina. Fire Departments providing station fill-ins were Elba at Barre and Shelby at Albion.

The dark smoke from the fire could be seen from several miles away.

 

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Firefighters remain at Carlton scene

Route 98 remains blocked off north of Route104

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 23 January 2015 8:20 p.m.
CARLTON – Firefighters remain at the scene of a fire in Carlton that destroyed much of a house at 2086 Oak Orchard Rd.


The property is owned by George Swartz and the site was condemned by the town recently as living quarters. Swartz was at the scene earlier today, trying to clean up the property, law enforcement officials said.


Fire investigators are on scene sifting through the rubble, looking a cause and also checking to see if anyone remained inside the house during the fire.

 

Fire departments from throughout Orleans County responded to the fire, which was first reported at 1:39 p.m.

 

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Update: No verdict yet in Roy Harriger trial

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2015 6:33 p.m.
ALBION – The jury has been sent home for the weekend after failing to reach a verdict in the trial against Roy Harriger, a former pastor in Lyndonville who is accused of molesting three of his grandchildren.


The grandchildren testified against Harriger, 71, on Wednesday, alleging he performed sexual acts on them and forced the kids, when they were 5 to 7 years old, to perform acts on him.


Harriger’s attorney Larry Koss said the claims are not true. He said one of Harriger’s sons, George Harriger, has orchestrated the claims against the elder Harriger. Both George and his brother Robert testified they were abused by Harriger.


“George says he was abused as a child and then he takes his children there,” Koss told the jury during closing arguments today. “Either his moral system is so degraded or it never happened to him.”


Koss implored the jury to “examine the proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”


District Attorney Joe Cardone said Harriger’s grandchildren, including one who is in the military, all detailed the abuse from their grandfather. They said they weren’t coerced into testifying, as Koss suggested.


“Do you really believe someone made these kids come up with all this stuff?” Cardone told the jury.


Cardone said Harriger used his position of power to silence his victims for years.


“There has been a wake of destruction caused by this defendant,” Cardone said. “He is a man who puts himself before anyone else in his family.”


Cardone noted the case has split the family with many on one side of the courtroom and others, including Harriger’s church supporters, on the other side.


“Look at the divisiveness this man has caused,” Cardone said.


Harriger was the pastor at Ashwood Wesleyan Church in Lyndonville when the alleged abuse occurred in 2000 and 2001. After leaving Ashwood in 2009, he started a new church in Hartland, Community Fellowship Church, where he continues as a pastor.


Harriger faced charges of incest and course of sexual conduct, the latter charge means the crime lasted more than 3 months.


Orleans County Court Judge James Punch this morning dismissed the incest charges. Harriger faces the more serious charges, which carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.


Koss told the jury there is no way to prove the crime, if it occurred, lasted more than 3 months. Because the charges were brought long after the alleged incidents, Koss also said Harriger was denied the chance to offer an alibi.


The defense attorney said the layout of the Harriger house in 2001 and 2001, the church parsonage, didn’t offer privacy for Harriger to commit his alleged crimes. The house was also busy, with people over all of the time, Koss said.


“Jurors, apply common sense and see if the whole story makes sense,” Koss said. “I submit to you it doesn’t.”


Koss acknowledged the Harriger family is “dysfunctional.”


“You’re talking about personalities,” Koss said. “Look at those personalities.”


During his testimony on Thursday, Harriger denied any inappropriate sexual contact with his grandchildren, his two sons and one of his daughters, as was alleged. He denied any sexual relationships outside his marriage, and he denied Cardone’s claim that Harriger has an illegitimate daughter in Pennsylvania.


Cardone said the grandchildren admired their grandfather, who was a leader in the church and family. After he committed the alleged crimes, he would tell them, “You don’t talk about this,” Cardone said.


On Wednesday, the three grandchildren, now all about age 20, testified about the alleged crimes.


“The dysfunction has been going on in this family for generations,” Cardone said. “Thank God they’ve had the strength to come to you to put an end to it and it ends right here.”


Judge Punch told the jury they are not to talk about the case over the weekend, or follow any of the news reports about the case.


“You’re going to have to go into a media blackout,” the judge said. “If you’re on Facebook, just stay off of it for the weekend.”

 

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Several fire companies battle blaze in Carlton

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 23 January 2015 2:48 p.m.
CARLTON – Firefighters form several fire departments are fighting a fire in Carlton on Route 98.


The dispatch call went out at 1:39 p.m. for a fire at 2086 Oak Orchard Rd. The property is owned by George Swartz.

Ammunition was inside the barn and was going off as the fire gained strength.

Fire Investigator Walter Batt walks towards the rear of the structure to take photographs.

Dark smoke can be seen from several miles from the fire.

Several fire companies are on scene, working to put out the blaze.

Albion and Medina both have their ladder trucks at the scene.

Carlton Fire Chief Andrew Niederhofer was one of the first on scene. He is on the phone, describing the situation and summoning help.

 

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Orleans sees big jump in sales tax revenue

Photo by Tom Rivers
Downtown Albion is decorated for the holidays in this file photo.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2015
ALBION – Orleans County saw its sales tax revenue jump 6 percent in 2014, an $883,457 increase, according to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.


State-wide, sales tax was up 3.00 percent, from $26.74 billion in 2013 to $27.54 billion in 2014. Orleans had the biggest gain among the four rural GLOW counties.


Genesee County had a slight decrease, down 0.16 percent or $62,107, from $38,057,036 to $37,994,929.


Wyoming County's 2014 revenue was almost identical to the 2013 sales tax. The county increased by 0.13 percent or $22,255, going from $16,831,191 to $16,853,446.


Livingston County saw a sizable increase, growing 2.97 percent or by $899,100, from $30,229,388 to $31,128,489.


Orleans saw the most growth of them all, increasing 5.96 percent from $14,819,904 to $15,703,362.


While Orleans saw the biggest rate of increase, the county still lags in sales tax per capita. Wyoming County, with 42,155 residents, has almost the same population as Orleans with 42,883 residents, according to the 2010 Census.


However, Wyoming collects about $1.1 million more in sales tax than in Orleans. The sales tax is an indicator of the economic health of a community, and the money also reduces pressure on property taxes and helps pay for government services and programs.


In Wyoming County, the per capita for sales tax was $399.80 in 2014. In Orleans, the county averaged $366.19 per resident. The sales tax also includes money spent by visitors.


Livingston and Genesee do far better than Orleans and Wyoming. Livingston, population 65,393, has a sales tax per capita of $476.02, while Genesee County (population 60,079) has a per capita for sales tax at $632.42, about $266 more than in Orleans.

 

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17 days after fire, Amish farmer will milk cows today at rebuilt parlor

Photos by Tom Rivers

One of Marcus Miller's Jersey cows is pictured at his farm on Thursday.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2015
RIDGEWAY – Six weeks. That’s how long it would normally take to build a milking parlor, to put in the piping, the steel, the refrigeration system and all of the pieces.


That’s been Brent Snyder’s experience. He is the owner of Trapper Creek Enterprises in Attica, which installs milking systems.


Snyder and his team worked with Marcus Miller to put in a system in four days. Today Miller expects to milk his herd of 45 Jersey cows for the first time at his farm since a fire Jan. 6 destroyed his milking parlor.


“You’re not going to find somewhere else where there is a fire and 2 ½ weeks later you’re back milking,” Snyder said at Miller’s farm on Thursday afternoon.

Marcus Miller, left, and Brent Snyder are pictured inside the milking parlor on Thursday. The parlor needs hoses, and some finishing touches. Miller expects he'll be milking his cows at the site today.


Miller is close to being back in business. On Thursday afternoon, he was waiting on some rubber hoses and the inflations used on the milking units.


He’s been working at a frenetic pace since his milking parlor was destroyed in the fire. Miller and the Amish community torn down that parlor on Jan. 6. Within a few days a new building was erected – the same size at 42 by 70 feet.


Miller, 34, needed milking equipment. He went to a farm in Barker that was no longer milking cows. Miller and his friends used some of that equipment and he bought some new pieces to create a working Swing 10 Paraket Stall milking parlor. Miller will be able to milk 10 cows at a time on each side of the parlor.


He is a member of the Upstate Niagara Cooperative. Officials from the cooperative will be at Miller’s farm this morning, testing his rebuilt system.

Some of Marcus Miller's Jersey herd has remained at his farm on Fruit Avenue. His milking cows were moved down the road while Miller's parlor was rebuilt. This picture was taken on Thursday afternoon.

Here is how the site looked on Jan. 7, a day after the fire.


Miller’s neighbor on Fruit Avenue, Jim Smith, has been milking Miller’s cows since the fire. Smith, a dairy farmer, is not Amish.


Miller said many of his neighbors have pitched in to help him get his farm going. He estimated about 60 different people have helped rebuild the milking parlor and get the farm back on-line.


“It’s not what I have done,” Miller said. “It’s what everyone else has done.”


Cows tend to be creatures of habit. Miller is looking forward to getting them back at his farm and settled into a schedule.


“They’re ready to come home,” Miller said. “They like a routine and I’m ready to get back into a routine, too.”

 

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Sheriff Hess won’t seek re-election

Sheriff Scott Hess

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 January 2015
ALBION – Scott Hess, Orleans County’s sheriff for nearly 12 years, intends to retire after Dec. 31, ending a 31-year career in law enforcement.


Hess said today he won’t seek re-election as leader of the Sheriff’s Department. Prior to being sheriff, Hess was police chief in Albion for five years. He worked with the Albion PD for nearly 20 years.


“I’m looking forward to my next challenges in life,” Hess said today.


He has led the Sheriff’s Department with technology upgrades, including improvements in the dispatch operations. Hess also oversees the Orleans County Jail, which recently received more than $1 million in upgrades, staving off pressure from the state for a new jail.


Law enforcement agencies in the county also created a SWAT team under his watch.


Hess praised the law enforcement officers for their commitment to the community. He also said the county has made the resources possible for upgrades in the department.


“It’s been a collaboration with others,” Hess said. “I really can’t take any of the credit. We’ve accomplished many things working with the legislators and staff.”

 

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2 from Medina jailed on drug charges

Staff Reports Posted 22 January 2015
MEDINA – Two Medina residents were arrested today and jailed on drug charges, the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force reported.

 

The arrests were made following a 2-month-investigation into the sale and distribution of crack cocaine in the Village of Medina, the Task Force reported.


The Task Force, the Orleans County Multi-Agency SWAT Team and the Medina Police Department executed a search warrant at 125 Starr St., lower apartment.

 

The following were arrested:

Shine

 

• Andre D. Shine, 31, of 125 Starr St., lower apartment. He was charged with four counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree (a class B felony) and four counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree (class B felony).


He was arraigned in the Town of Ridgeway Town Court by Justice Joseph Kujawa. Shine was committed to the county jail without bail, due to a previous criminal history, the Task Force reported.


Shine is to appear in Town Court at 1 p.m. on Jan. 28.

Major

 

• Amanda L. Major, 24, of 125 Starr St., lower apartment. She is charged with one count of both criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, which are class B felonies.


Major was arraigned by Ridgeway Town Justice Joseph Kujawa and remanded to county jail on $20,000 bail.


She is due back in Town Court at 1 p.m. on Jan. 28.

 

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Hawley, other GOP assemblymen call on Sheldon Silver to resign

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 January 2015
Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the State Assembly for about two decades, was arrested today on public corruption charges and accused of using his position to obtain millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.


The speaker is accused of accepting $4 million in bribes and kickbacks.


State Assemblyman Steve Hawley issued a statement calling on Silver to resign.


“Speaker Silver owes it to his legislative colleagues, the State of New York and his tens of thousands of constituents to step down as speaker,” Hawley said. “Speaker Silver owes the public an explanation for his actions, and it would be outrageous and irresponsible to allow him to continue his Assembly duties while he faces a possible indictment for corruption charges.

 

"It is time for members of the Assembly Majority to do the right thing and elect new leadership that will serve our state with a greater sense of honor and dignity. We have important business to conduct as public representatives, and the upcoming budget negotiations deserve our utmost attention. Silver’s resignation would allow us to continue the people’s business.”


Hawley made his comments after Silver turned himself in to the FBI this morning following an investigation about incomplete financial disclosures required by state law.


Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, said in a statement that it's “imperative” Silver step aside as speaker.


“His resignation as speaker is in the best interest of the Assembly, of the state and the best way for us to conduct the business that we are elected to do. We cannot afford this distraction with the important business before the Assembly and the people of New York state."


Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, said Assembly Democrats support Silver.


“I am continuing to support the speaker and I would say that the members, overwhelmingly in the conversation that we just had, are continuing their support,” Morelle said at a news conference. “There is a strong feeling, as I think we should all reflect on, that there is a presumption of innocence and we have every confidence that the speaker is going to continue to fulfill his role with distinction.”


Assemblyman David DiPietro, R–East Aurora, also called on Silver to resign.


“Speaker Silver, D-Manhattan, is appearing in court today on bribery and fraud charges. Does this surprise anyone?” DiPietro said. “It’s more of the New York City corruption issues being brought to Albany. The people deserve better than this. You cannot expect Silver to negotiate in good faith with anyone. He must step down effective immediately. This chamber can’t afford any more embarrassment by this man.”

 

Common Cause of New York issued this statement with Silver’s arrest:


“The arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver by federal authorities for undisclosed income further reveals the crucial role the Moreland Commission played in bringing corruption in New York State government to light,” said Executive Director Susan Lerner. “This sad development underscores, yet again, the sorry state of ethics enforcement in New York.


“These circumstances make it particularly egregious that the statutorily mandated Review Commission which was supposed to have been appointed by the governor and legislative leaders to review and evaluate the performance of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the Legislative Ethics Commission was never named. Common Cause/NY supports requiring New York's Legislature to work full-time for New Yorkers along with strict limits on outside income.

 

"In the meantime, New York State needs stricter disclosure laws requiring elected officials to fully open their books to public scrutiny and a wholesale overhaul of ethics laws and enforcement. New Yorkers deserve a Legislature that does not function under a persistent and permanent ethical cloud. Common Cause/New York urges the U.S. Attorney and Speaker Silver to do everything possible to facilitate an early trial to resolve these troubling charges.”

 

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Pastor denies sexual contact with grandchildren

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 January 2015
ALBION – A pastor accused of incest and sexual abuse against three of is grandchildren denied the criminal activity today during his trial.


Roy Harriger, 71, took the stand a day after three of grandchildren detailed abuse by their grandfather. Harriger’s son Robert also testified on Wednesday that his father abused him from when he was a young boy into his teen-age years.


Two of Harriger’s other grown children also say their father was sexually abusive when they were children, District Attorney Joe Cardone said in court today.


“You deny all of this?” Cardone asked Harriger.


“Absolutely,” Harriger responded.


Harriger, a former pastor of the Ashwood Wesleyan Church in Lyndonville, denied all of the allegations, including accusations from Cardone that Harriger had sexual relationships with several other women, including one who he allegedly had a child with.


Harriger said he has been faithful for his entire marriage to his wife Darlene. They have been married for more than 50 years.


Harriger said his son George orchestrated the accusations.


“Is it your position they are saying these things because of problems with your son George?” Cardone asked Harriger.


“Absolutely,” he responded.


Harriger’s daughter Joy Fanale spoke in defense of her father, saying he was never abusive to her. Fanale was 24 when she was in a near-fatal car accident on May 1, 2001. She and her daughter, then age 4, moved in with her parents during her recovery.


One of Harriger’s grandsons alleged the grandfather abused him and Fanale’s daughter. But Fanale’s daughter, now 18, testified this morning she was never abused by her grandfather.


“He lied,” she said about her cousin.


She said she was never left alone with her grandfather back in 2001. Harriger is accused of abuse in 2000 and 2001. The granddaughter said her mother was always home when they moved in while Fanale recovering from her injuries, except when she went to a doctor’s appointment. When she went to an appointment, she took her daughter with her or the daughter was in school, the granddaughter said.


Fanale said she sometimes left her daughter alone with Harriger or Mrs. Harriger.
George Harriger, one of the pastor’s sons, has alleged abuse by his father, and he also says Fanale told him their father abused her. But Fanale said she never said that to George.


The case shows a divided family, with Harriger’s wife and one daughter supporting him, while his three other children are estranged from Harriger. Cardone pointed that out in court.


“Is Joy the only child you talk with?” Cardone asked Harriger.


“Yes,” he responded.


Testimony resumes Friday morning at 9:30 with closing arguments expected later in the day.


Orleans County Court Judge James Punch said on Wednesday he was dismissing three misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child due to statue of limitations.


However, the felony charges – course of sexual conduct and incest – remain. Harriger could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

 

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GCC poised for ‘transformational project’

College pursues $20 million-plus expansion, adding buildings and scholarships

Photos by Tom Rivers
The clock leading to the entrance of GCC in Batavia is pictured with the Conable Technology Building at left. A new “Student Success Center” will be built in front of the clock at what is now a parking lot. GCC in May expects to start site work for the building, shifting the parking lot.


College supporters and staff, including President Jim Sunser at right, gather for the campaign kickoff Wednesday for the college’s biggest building effort since it started in 1966.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 January 2015
BATAVIA – In 1965, a year before Genesee Community College officially started, Carl and Bernice Yunker took up the challenge to help create the college.


They talked to neighbors and friends, and local town and county officials. The idea wasn’t popular. People worried their taxes would go up with a new community college.


The Yunkers and other GCC supporters were able to convince the public to back the effort. The Yunkers’ son, Craig, observed his parents a half century ago and their push to make GCC a reality.


He is taking a turn in the spotlight now, working to rally friends and neighbors, and the general public on behalf of GCC. The college is planning a $20 million-plus project, its most ambitious since its beginning.

Craig Yunker, managing partner at CY Farms in Elba, addresses a campaign kickoff for GCC on Wednesday at the college. About $4 million of a $5 million goal has already been raised.


Yunker is the chairman of the fund-raising campaign that seeks $5 million in donations from the public. Donors have already stepped forward with $4 million.


“This campaign will change this college,” Yunker said during a campaign kickoff on Wednesday evening with about 100 GCC supporters. “It will propel it for the next 50 years.”


The college in the spring expects to start site work on two buildings – a 9,000-square-foot “Student Success Center” and 43,000-square-foot “College and Community Event Center.”


GCC also is working to raise $1 million for scholarships. That endowed fund will allow GCC to offer financial help to 80 to 100 local students each year.


Jodi Gaines, CEO and founder of Claims Recovery Financial Services in Albion, is heading the fund-raising efforts for GCC in Orleans County. She said the college is an important asset for the local business community. It gives many residents a chance to improve their skills as they pursue careers and higher education.


GCC has campus centers in Albion and Medina, and four others in the GLOW counties, in addition to the main campus in Batavia.


“GCC and Orleans County have a very good and longstanding partnership,” Gaines said.


She has assembled a campaign team for Orleans County that includes Joe Martillotta and CRFS employees Jessica Downey and Jackie Gardner. Gaines welcomes more help to raise money for the campaign. There will be a kickoff for the campaign in Orleans County next month. Those details are still being worked out.


The college has grown to 7,200 students with 398 full-time staff and 284 part-timers. GCC President James Sunser said the college needs more classrooms. Right now GCC has 56 square feet of instructional space per full-time-equivalent student, which he said is much lower than the 80 to 100 square feet ratio present at other SUNY community colleges.


“Space at Genesee is extraordinarily limited,” he said.


GCC plans to add 15 to 20 new classrooms, labs and other instructional space to house new programs, including food processing, agri-business, heath sciences, STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) initiatives, expanded tourism and hospitality, enhanced mathematics and language arts tutoring and lab support, and on-site bachelor’s level courses in collaboration with other colleges and universities.


Rather than just add new classrooms, GCC is proposing a Student Success Center that would provide a clear, one-stop destination for students and first-time visitors to GCC, and “second-career” students.


The building would include student support services to boost student achievement and retention. The vacated space for some of these services at the William W. Stuart Forum will be renovated for classrooms.

Bob Boyce, president of the GCC Foundation, addresses the crowd at the campaign kickoff inside the William W. Stuart Forum. The Foundation has set a $5 million fund-raising goal.


The new "College and Community Event Center" would be next to the college’s athletic fields. The building would include classrooms, coaching facilities, food service facilities and a wellness center.


The building would have public floor space that could be used for student gatherings, trade shows, community exhibitions, athletic competitions and charitable events.


New York State will pay $10 million towards the $20 million-plus projects. Genesee County, the college’s host county, has committed $7 million.


The College Foundation is trying to raise $5 million, with $1 million of that going to scholarships.


Yunker urged the community to support what he called “a transformational project.”


“We have important work to do,” he told campaign supporters and volunteers. “We accept the challenge the Foundation has put to us and we will raise the $5 million and bring this vision to reality.”


To see a campaign video for the project, click here.


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