Orleans unemployment rate falls to 5.3 percent

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 November 2015

The unemployment rate in Orleans County dropped to 5.3 percent in October, which is down from 6.3 percent a year before and 8.5 percent in October 2013.

The State Department of Labor reports that the rate state-wide is 4.8 percent, the lowest rate in New York since November 2007. That includes a 4.8 percent rate in New York City and 4.9 percent in upstate.

The data from the DOL shows that 17,400 people were working in Orleans County in October, up by 400 from the 17,000 in October 2014. The number of unemployed fell from 1,100 in October 2014 to 1,000 last month.


The state’s private sector job count increased by 168,600 from October 2014 to October 2015. In October 2015, the number of private sector jobs in the state reached an all-time high of 7,859,000, according to the state DOL.

Unemployment in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area fell from 5.4 percent in October 2014 to 4.8 percent last month. The jobless rate in the Rochester metro fell from 5.1 to 4.5 percent in that time.

Other nearby counties have unemployment rates below Orleans County’s: Genesee, 4.2; Wyoming, 4.4; Livingston, 4.2; Monroe, 4.6; Niagara, 5.2; and Erie, 4.8.


Only two counties in the state had rate a 6.0 percent or higher: Oswego (6.0) and Bronx (6.5).


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County sets budget hearing for Nov. 30

Chairman Callard says budget prevents tax rate increase

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2015
ALBION – Orleans County officials will have a public hearing at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 on a $64,435,941 budget. The spending plan for 2016 reduces costs from 2015 and keeps the tax rate at $9.89 per $1,000 of assessed property.

“It’s been an extremely good year,” David Callard, chairman of Legislature, said about the budget. “We’ve maintained costs, which we started six years ago and we’ve done extremely well.”


The public hearing will be at the county courthouse. Following the hearing, the Legislature will convene at the legislative chambers next door in the County Clerks' Building to vote on the budget.

The county in recent years has worked to streamline staffing and have employees pay more towards health insurance costs. The selling of the county nursing home also reduced the county workforce by about a third.

The county’s workforce has shrunk from 416 full-time and 164 part-time positions in 2014 to 318 full-time and 89 part-time for 2016.

The $64,435,941 budget is the county’s smallest since 2007, and is down by $579,325 from the $65,015,266 in 2015. In 2014, the last year the county owned a nursing home, the budget was $79.8 million. That year the tax rate was $10.11.

Callard said efforts to fight welfare fraud are paying off with social services costs at a “historic low.” The county has reduced welfare caseloads and that will reduce welfare costs to local taxpayers by an estimated $200,000 in 2016.


The tax rate will be unchanged, but the county will take in a slight increase in taxes. The tax levy will increase by 0.7 percent from $16,209,165 to $16,323,150. Property taxes represent about 25 percent of the revenue for funding the budget.


Sales tax also represents about a quarter of the revenue for the budget. After budgeting for no increases in 2014 and 2015, county officials are going to recommend another $250,000 in sales tax to $14,035,000.

County officials don’t foresee too many additional opportunities for significant cost saving by reducing staff. Callard said the county wants to maintain the tax rate by boosting tax assessments. That can happen by addressing many of the vacant homes in the community, Callard said.

Many of those houses are owned by banks but sitting idle. The homes should be put in the hands of owners with a plan and purpose for the houses, Callard said.


Medina has started a vacant housing law that tracks the houses and assesses a fee to the owners. That law may spur the owners to take action on the properties. Callard said Medina's law could serve as a model for other local municipalities.

“We want them to get turned over before they deteriorate,” Callard said about the houses. “We need to improve the housing stock and explore it on a countywide basis.”

There are about 250 vacant homes in the county, Callard said. He expects there will be more demand for housing with the new Pride Pak vegetable processing plant in Medina and the developments at the STAMP site across the Orleans line in Genesee County.


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4 Lego teams from Orleans put smarts and creativity on display

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 22 November 2015

BUFFALO – Bryce Wilson, left, and Wesley Parker react after the Lego robot they helped create performed a task during Saturday's qualifying tournament at the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School.


Bryce and Wesley are members of the "Battery Boys" team from the Orleans County 4-H program. Orleans County sent four teams to the competition. In addition to having to build and program a Lego robot, teams had to research an issue with recycling and propose a solution for helping the environment.


The Battery Boys created collection boxes for used batteries which they said could be placed at sites in the community.

The "Three Musketeers" receive instructions from a judge during Saturday's competition. The Musketeers include, from left: Zachary Grinnell, Nate Scott Avery and Nick Burke.


The Musketeers for their project researched used eye glasses and thought of ways to have more reused.

Zachary Neal of Albion is a member of the KOWZ (Kids Only Work Zone) team. His hat has buttons from other teams he has met in the past three years.

The KOWZ team gets its robot ready to compete at a table with obstacles and challenges. The teams have 2 1/2 minutes to complete as many tasks as possible. Only two members of the team should be at the table, and members can swap out during the competition.


The teams started meeting in September to design and program their robot, using different attachments for tasks.


They also had to create a display board and research a recycling topic. KOWZ researched ways to recycle sneakers. Some sneakers are ground up with those pieces used at playgrounds and on playing fields.

The Robo Foam team watches its robot complete a task. Team members include, from left: Jacob Foote, Isaac Becker (in back), Reuben Rivers, James Michael Beach, Cole Moyle and Jaiden Farrell.


The Robo Foam team for its project suggested ways to reduce the use of Styrofoam and also made a Syro-Shredder that turns Styrofoam cups into packing peanuts.


The four teams from Orleans County are part of the 4-H program led by Marlene and Erik Seielstad of Albion. About 25 kids were in the program from Orleans County.


There were about 170 students participating in the competition on Saturday from about 20 teams. Four teams advanced to a regional competition next month at the University of Rochester. None of the Orleans County teams were able to get past the qualifying round.

Many of the teams put together colorful outfits for the competition.

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County hires new director of Veterans Service Agency

Photo by Tom Rivers
Earl Schmidt addresses the Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday after he was appointed to serve as new director of the Veterans Service Agency, replacing Paul Fulcomer, who is retiring.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 November 2015
ALBION – The new director of the Veterans Service Agency in Orleans County served 23 years in the military, including combat in both the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan.


Earl Schmidt of Ridgeway has worked the past 3 ½ years as an accredited veterans’ service officer with the Niagara County Veterans Service Agency. He will start on Dec. 7 as the director in Orleans County.

The County Legislature appointed him to the job today. He will succeed Paul Fulcomer, who has served in the position for 13 years.


“I wish to continue what has already been started with the Veterans Service Agency and I wish to strengthen it,” Schmidt told county legislators today.


Schmidt served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army National Guard for 23 years, retiring as sergeant first class; reconnaissance platoon sergeant. He earned 17 medals including a Bronze Star.


He is active with the American Legion as a service officer, the VFW and sits on the VFWNYS Department service officer’s committee as well as a member of the Iraqi Afghan Veterans of America.


Schmidt, during his comments to the County Legislature, recited a quote from Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1865: “Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”


Schmidt said Lincoln’s words “are the backbone of all that I do.”


He will make helping veterans access their benefits the focus of the Veterans Serice Agency. He said the rules and regulations change frequently, and he is happy to help veterans work through the bureaucracy.


“There are benefits they may not even realize,” he said. “The laws change on a fairly consistent basis. My goal is the maximum benefit in the shortest amount of time.”


Schmidt and his wife Catherine have four children. He was welcomed today by legislators, including Legislature Chairman David Callard, who said the new director is a great addition.

“He’s very passionate about veterans’ issues and I’m sure his energy and dedication will make an immediate impact for our Orleans County veterans’ community,” Callard said.


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Tentative budget keeps county tax rate at $9.89

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 November 2015

ALBION – After several months of effort, Orleans County officials have put together a tentative budget for 2016 that keeps the tax rate at $9.89 per $1,000 of assessed property.

The $64,435,941 budget plan filed Friday reduces spending by $579,325 from the $65,015,266 in 2015. In 2014, the last year the county owned a nursing home, the budget was $79.8 million. That year the tax rate was $10.11.

The county’s workforce has shrunk from 416 full-time and 164 part-time positions in 2014 to 318 full-time and 89 part-time for 2016.

County officials have pared other departments, and negotiated health insurance deals where employees pay more towards insurance. That has resulted in costs for salaries and benefits below what the county was paying in 2012 for non-nursing home departments, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.

He is also the budget officer and filed the tentative budget on Friday, before the Nov. 15 deadline. The County Legislature is expected to discuss the budget during its 4:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. The Legislature will also set a public hearing on Wednesday for the budget.

The tax rate will be unchanged, but the county will take in a slight increase in taxes. The tax levy will increase by 0.7 percent from $16,209,165 to $16,323,150. Property taxes represent about 25 percent of the revenue for funding the budget.

Sales tax also represents about a quarter of the revenue for the budget. After budgeting for no increases in 2014 and 2015, county officials are going to recommend another $250,000 in sales tax to $14,035,000.

“Weak gas prices and continued economic uncertainty causes us to look at this number with a great deal of caution,” Nesbitt says in his message with the tentative budget.

State reimbursements are also big revenue sources for the budget, but Nesbitt said the state has been slow with its share of the money, which often forces the county to use its reserve funds.

With the nursing home’s “enterprise fund” being closed out last month, some of those funds (over $2 million) will likely stay in the county’s fund balance to provide a bigger cash flow cushion. Some of the enterprise fund will also be set aside for workers’ compensation claims and a self-insurance fund.


The budget also accounts for a drop in welfare expenses as caseloads decrease and the county has more success with welfare fraud. There will also be a slight drop in community college expenses from $1,740,000 to $1,700,000 (county pays a third of tuition costs for residents from Orleans County).

Funding for agencies includes:

• $232,500 for Cornell Cooperative Extension (requested $254,966) – $225,000 in 2015;

• $166,500 for Economic Development Agency (requested $166,500) – $170,000 in 2015;

• $77,500 for Soil and Water Conservation District (requested $85,000) – $75,000 in 2015;

• $10,000 for four public libraries (requested $42,883) – $10,000 in 2015;

• $5,000 for Mercy Flight (requested $5,000) – $5,000 in 2015;

* $5,000 for Friends of Mental Health (requested $5,000) – $0 in 2015;


* $3,000 for GO Art! (requested $5,000) – $3,000 in 2015;

* $1,000 for Sportsmen’s Federation (requested $1,000) – $1,000 in 2015.


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3 veterans receive medals – decades after service

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 11 November 2015

ALBION – William Fox of Lyndonville was presented with medals today from his service in the Navy from 1959 to 1963. Fox was one of three local veterans to receive long overdue medals. David Hellert of Shelby and Ronald Jewell of Holley, both Vietnam War veterans, also received medals.

Fox was in the blockade of Cuba in 1962 and President John F. Kennedy came aboard his ship, an experience that Fox said was a highlight of his service in the Navy.


“It was awesome,” Fox said. “Not everyone had that opportunity.”

Fox served in the U.S. Navy from Aug. 13, 1959 to July 26, 1963. He was presented with the National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Navy Expeditionary Medal.

“I wish my mother was alive,” Fox said. “She told me to go get my medals.”

After his military service, Fox worked 23 years for the former Abex Corporation in Medina and then 17 years for a steel mill in Lockport.

David Hellert is handed his medals from Orleans County Legislator Don Allport, who spoke during a Veterans Day program today outside the Veterans Service Agency on Route 31 in Albion.

Hellert was in the Army from Oct. 10, 1969 to May 5, 1972. Today he was presented with the Bronze Star Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Bronze Star Attachment, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with device, and Marksman Badge & Auto Rifle Bar.

Hellert worked as a plumber and steamfitter for the State Canal Corp. after his service in Vietnam. He remains active with the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company.

Ronald Jewell of Holley, left, is presented with medals for his service in Vietnam, including an Army Commendation Medal for an act of valor when Jewell risked his life to put out a fire. Jewell left his bunker on March 8, 1967 to help put out an ammo dump, which caught fire from a mortar attack.


Jewell was in Vietnam for a year, leaving on Oct. 25, 1966 and returning a year later. He left for Fort Hood in 1966 when his son was 2 months old.

“I was kind of loose and crazy and it calmed me down,” Jewell said about his military service.

He would work 33 years at Rochester Products. He said his wife of 49 years, Dianne, has been a great influence in his life. The couple raised three sons.

The three veterans presented with medals today include, from left: William Fox of Lyndonville, Ronald Jewell of Holley, and David Hellert of Shelby.


Paul Fulcomer, the Veterans Service Agency director, helped the veterans secure their medals.

Fulcomer, pictured at right, is retiring at the end of the month after 13 years as the Veterans Service Agency director. He is pictured with his grandson, Mason Berry, during today's Veterans Day program.


"It's the best job I've ever had in my life and the most rewarding," said Fulcomer, a Vietnam War veteran.


There will be a retirement celebration and open house for Fulcomer at the VFW Post in Medina from 2 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 22.

Tim Lindsay, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Albion, shared an opening prayer and also the benediction at today's Veterans Day observance. Lindsay has three sons serving in the military.


He said the military draws out the best qualities of valor, duty and honor.


"Their service has made us a better people and nation," Lindsay said about veterans.

Markeya Lucas-Drisdom of Albion, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, served in the Honor Guard during today's observance.

County Legislator Lynne Johnson delivers remarks at the service today.


"Veterans are ordinary and yet extraordinary human beings – men and women who offered some of life's most vital years in the service of their country, and who sacrificed their ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs," Johnson said.


She urged the community to thank veterans for their service.


"Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in their eye," she said. "Others may carry the evidence inside of them: a pin holding a bone together, or a piece of shrapnel in the leg."

Members of the Honor Guard do a gun salute in today's Veterans Day program.


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Yates had best turnout in election; Ridgeway the worst

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 November 2015
The controversy over the wind turbine project, as well as contested races at the town and county level, brought a higher percentage of voters to the polls in Yates than any other town in Orleans County last Tuesday.

Yates has 1,466 registered voters and 736 cast ballots on Tuesday, for 50.2 percent of the registered voters. Countywide, the turnout was 38.2 percent.


One of the Yates races still isn't over. Absentee ballots will be counted Tuesday at 9 a.m. to determine the winner of the town supervisor race. Incumbent John Belson received 352 votes on election day. Jim Simon, an anti-turbine candidate, ran a write-in campaign and is 14 votes behind Belson.


Yates also had races for Town Board seats, a local county legislator position, and the contentious county-wide sheriff race.


While Yates had the best turnout, neighboring Ridgeway had the fewest at 29.8 percent or 1,066 voters out of 3,579.


Here is a breakdown of turnout at the 10 towns.


Community Voters Registered Percent Voted
Albion 1,230 3,147 39.1
Barre 566 1,219 46.4
Carlton 706 1,771 39.9
Clarendon 771 2,149 35.9
Gaines 743 1,800 41.3
Kendall 692 1,593 43.4
Murray 923 2,516 36.7
Ridgeway 1,066 3,579 29.8
Shelby 998 2,829 35.3
Yates 736 1,466 50.2
County 8,431 22,069 38.2

Source: Orleans County Board of Elections; Orleans Hub calculations.


Turnout was higher than in a typical local election but was down from a year ago in the gubernatorial election, when 9,742 people voted on Election Day in a race highlighted by Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino for governor.That was about 1,300 more than voted last Tuesday.


Bower won the sheriff's election, 3,951 to 3,507 for Tom Drennan and 847 for Don Organisciak.


Drennan is from Kendall and the town had a bigger turnout at 43.4 percent than many other towns, even though Kendall had unopposed candidates at the town level. That was the same issue for Murray, Bower's hometown, which had a turnout of 36.7 percent.


Besides the Yates town supervisor race, another close election will be determined Tuesday morning when absentees are counted in the Town of Albion. Darlene Benton has a 6-vote lead over Paul Fulcomer for a Town Board position.


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Murray, Clarendon carried Bower to victory in sheriff’s race

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 November 2015
Tom Drennan won four of the 10 towns in Orleans County on Tuesday, including a huge advantage in his home town of Kendall. Drennan had 290 more votes than Randy Bower in that town.

However, Bower won six of the 10 towns, and had big leads in Murray and Clarendon. Bower topped Drennan by 334 votes in Murray (Bower’s hometown) and by 257 in Clarendon.

Bower won county-wide by 444 votes, 3,951 to 3,507 for Drennan. Don Organisciak had 847 votes, running as a Democrat.

Here is the voter breakdown in each of the 10 towns:


Town Bower Drennan Organisciak
Albion 583 515 120
Barre 281 225 46
Carlton 347 307 48
Clarendon 481 224 52
Gaines 320 342 71
Kendall 181 471 36
Murray 603 269 50
Ridgeway 433 439 182
Shelby 352 454 172
Yates 370 261 70
Total 3,951 3,507 847


Source: Orleans County Board of Elections


The strong support in Murray and Clarendon was critical in Bower's election. Murray was his most supportive town with 65.4 percent of the votes, 603 out of 922 cast for sheriff. He received 63.5 percent of the vote in Clarendon.


Bower received 47.6 percent overall in the county running under the Republican and Conservative lines.


Drennan wasn't too far behind with 42.2 percent of the vote under the Independence and Reform lines. Drennan had strong support in Kendall, receiving 68.5 percent of the vote. That was the most dominant showing in a town for any of the candidates.


Drenann also won Shelby by 102 votes over Bower and had narrow leads in Ridgeway and Gaines.


Organisciak, a retired Medina police officer and investigator, received 10.2 percent of the vote for sheriff countywide. He had his best showings in Shelby, 17.6 percent; and Ridgeway, 17.3 percent.


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Drennan says he will retire from Sheriff’s Office

Photo by Tom Rivers
Tom Drennan is pictured directing traffic on Route 98 in Albion in August during the Metro 10, a 10-mile race. After a 23-year career with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, Drennan said he will retire.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 November 2015
ALBION – After a close election defeat on Tuesday, Tom Drennan said he will retire “with my head held high.”

Drennan posted a statement on Facebook, thanking his supporters and saying he looks forward to the future.

“We will take a few days to regroup and then move on," he wrote on Facebook this morning. "As I look out the window I see a beautiful sunrise. Just like we knew there would be.”

Drennan, the chief deputy of the Sheriff’s Office the past nine years, lost to Randy Bower in the race for sheriff, 3,951 to 3,507. Bower received 47.6 percent of the vote on the Republican and Conservative lines.

Drennan ran under the Independence and Reform party lines and received 3,507 votes or 42.2 percent of the total.

Don Organisciak, a retired Medina police officer and investigator, was backed by the Democratic Party and received 847 votes or 10.2 percent.

Drennan said he ran on his qualification in an “Experience Matters” campaign. He was challenged within the Sheriff’s Office by Bower, a public safety dispatcher the past 29 years.

“#1 I am a cop and not a politician,” Drennan said in a Facebook post last night. “Tonight the people of Orleans County spoke and they want to be led by a politician. I wish them the best.”

Many of the deputies, corrections officers and staff in the Sheriff’s Office openly campaigned for Bower, although Drennan also had many supporters in the department.

“To the satisfaction of some at the OCSO I will be retiring soon,” Drennan said. “I have had a great career and will be walking out with my head held high and it will be someone else problem to figure out.”

He thanked the community for a rewarding career.

“To the residents of Orleans County it has been an honor and privilege to serve and protect the past 23+ years,” he wrote. “As one door closes another door opens. I wish all of you safety and happiness in the future.”


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List of election results in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 November 2015
Here are the unofficial results for the town elections, with 40 of the 40 polling places in Orleans County reporting. Some of the races are too close to call until the absentee ballots are opened next Tuesday, Nov. 11.

Orleans County
Sheriff – Randy Bower: 3,951
Sheriff – Tom Drennan: 3,507
Sheriff – Don Organisciak: 847

County Coroner – Rocky Sidari: 5,983


Orleans County Legislature
At-Large (west) – David Callard: 5,413


At-Large (central) – Don Allport: 4,543
At-Large (central) – James White: 2,244

At-Large (east) – John DeFilipps: 5,285

District 1 – Bill Eick: 1,457

District 2 – Lynne Johnson: 1,147
District 2 – Paul Lauricella: 552

District 3 – Fred Miller: 1,123

District 4 – Ken DeRoller: 1,566

Town of Albion
Town Supervisor – Matt Passarell: 844

Town Councilman – Anthony Jake Olles: 803
Town Councilman – Darlene Benton: 526
Town Councilman – Paul Fulcomer: 520

Highway Superintendent – Michael Neidert: 845
Highway Superintendent – Jed Standish: 340

Town Clerk – Sarah Basinait: 938

Town of Barre
Town Supervisor – Mark Chamberlain: 322
Town Supervisor – Cyndy Van Lieshout: 229

Town Councilman – Larry Gaylard: 298
Town Councilman – Richard Bennett: 285
Town Councilman – Sean Pogue: 268
Town Councilman – Joe Grabowski: 201

Highway Superintendent – Dale Brooks: 474

Town Clerk – Maureen Beach: 460


Town of Carlton
Town Supervisor – Gayle Ashbery: 448

Town Councilman – John Fitzak: 454
Town Councilman – Dana Woolston: 446
Town Councilman – Marcus Coville: 422

Town Justice – Patricia Russell: 440

Town of Clarendon
Town Supervisor – Richard Moy: 559


Town Councilman – William Campbell: 506
Town Councilman – Allen Robinson: 495

Highway Superintendent – Larry Swanger: 453
Highway Superintendent – Tracy Bruce Chalker: 232
Highway Superintendent – Frederick Seeman: 58

Town Clerk – Susan Colby: 594

Town Justice – Thomas DiFante: 483
Town Justice – Kevin Rombaut: 458


Town of Gaines
Town Supervisor – Carol Culhane: 432
Town Supervisor – Patrick Swiercznski: 252

Town Councilman – Mary Neilans: 445
Town Councilman – Richard DeCarlo: 361
Town Councilman – Bill Lattin: 347
Town Councilman – Pete Toenniessen: 209

Highway Superintendent – Ron Mannella: 620

Town of Kendall
Town Supervisor – Anthony Cammarata: 496

Town Councilman – Margaret Lynn Szozda: 507
Town Councilman – Barbara Flow: 527

Highway Superintendent – Warren Kruger: 553

Town of Murray
Town Supervisor – John Morriss: 582

Town Councilman – Lloyd Christ: 544
Town Councilman – Edwin Bower: 555


Town of Ridgeway
Town Supervisor – Brian Napoli: 750

Town Councilman – Mary Woodruff: 706
Town Councilman – Sarah Fisher: 656
Town Councilman – Paul Blajszczak: 208

Town Justice – Joseph Kujawa: 865


Town of Shelby
Town Supervisor – Skip Draper: 733

Town Councilman – Ken Schaal: 671
Town Councilman – Dale Stalker: 677

Highway Superintendent – Mike Fuller: 601
Highway Superintendent – Ed Houseknecht: 361


Town Clerk: Darlene Rich: 715

Town Justice – Dawn Keppler: 783

Town of Yates

Town Supervisor – John Belson: 352
Town Supervisor – Jim Simon: 338

Town Councilman – John Riggi: 457
Town Councilman – Wes Bradley: 412
Town Councilman – Glenn Maid: 310

Highway Superintendent – Roger Wolfe: 582

Town Clerk – Michele Harling: 591


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After win, Bower says he’s ready ‘to go to work’

Photos by Tom Rivers
Randy Bower, right, and Chris Bourke celebrate late on Tuesday night after Bower won the sheriff’s election. Bourke, a lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Department, is Bower’s choice to serve as undersheriff.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 November 2015
HOLLEY – Randy Bower celebrated a stunning victory for Orleans County sheriff on Tuesday night with many of his co-workers who are dispatchers, deputies, and corrections officers at the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department.

Bower, 50, has been a public safety dispatcher for 29 years. On Jan. 1, he will be the new Orleans County sheriff, succeeding Scott Hess who is retiring.

Bower topped Tom Drennan, 3,951 votes to 3,507, with Don Organisciak getting 847.


Drennan has been chief deputy for nine years and a 23-year member of the Sheriff’s Department. He ran a campaign on “Experience Matters.” He had support from past sheriffs and key leaders in the law enforcement community and Republican Party.

Randy Bower and his supporters had a big presence in Lyndonville during the Fourth of the July parade.

Bower had the backing from most of the deputies and the unions in the department. They wore red shirts, “Bower for Sheriff,” and they were highly visible at community parades and events in support of Bower.

“I think the people are ready for a change,” Bower said after the results came in Tuesday night. “Now we have to go to work for the people of Orleans County.”

Bower gained more momentum after forcing a Republican Primary and winning by 21 votes over Drennan on Sept. 10. Bower also had the Conservative Party line.

Drennan stayed in the race on the Independence and Reform lines, while the Democrats backed Organisciak.

Bower said he will be the “People’s Sheriff.” He said he reached across party lines, including to Democrats, and attended numerous community events the past 10 months. He intends to keep up that pace in the community.


He recently met with church leaders at predominantly black congregations, including the Royal Church of God in Christ in Carlton, Glad Tidings Baptist Church in Medina, and The Lord’s House in Waterport.

Bower was joined by Lt. Chris Bourke, Bower’s choice for undersheriff, at many of the community events and church visits.

“We felt these are people who feel ignored and we want to reach out to all people,” Bourke said at the Bower election headquarters at Hickory Ridge Golf Course. “All people in the county should be involved in the process.”

Bower and Bourke have worked together for nearly 30 years. When Bower decided to run for sheriff, courting town and county Republican Committee members in the spring, he reached out to Bourke for undersheriff.

They ran as a team. Bourke said he was confident Bower could be an effective sheriff back in the spring when they began the campaign. Bower’s work ethic and optimism over a grueling campaign has Bourke even more confident the new sheriff will be a a strong leader.

Bower named team leaders for the campaign, and challenged them to get 21 people out to vote on Tuesday. The goal was originally 20, but Bower raised it to 21. That was his margin of victory in the Republican Primary.

Randy Bower leads a meeting of supporters in August at the St. Mary's Athletic Club in Albion.

Bower led frequent campaign rallies, but they were also work meetings, where he gave tasks to his campaign volunteers and discussed his strategy for sharing the campaign message and getting out the vote.

Dennis Piedimonte, an election commissioner, has known Bower since he was a kid. Piedimonte was impressed with Bower’s skills during the campaign.


"He is organized," Piedimonte said. "He knows how to motivate people."

Bower has been paralyzed from the waist down since he was in a car accident at age 18. He hasn’t let the accident keep him from an active life.

He said he lives a blessed life with his wife Robin and their two grown children, Jessica and Jacob.

Bower said during the campaign he loved his job as a dispatcher. But he felt compelled to lead the department. His plan includes more community policing, particularly for the rural schools in Kendall and Lyndonville.

Bower also said he will push for drug treatment programs in the county jail. That message connected with many residents, Bower said, because so many families have felt the pain of a loved one battling drug addictions.

“We got to help them,” Bower said Tuesday night. “They are our people.”

Bower is a high-energy person, who led a turnaround as Holley’s girls basketball coach a few years when his daughter played. The team went from winless to the playoffs.

Bower said he has support from the employees for his vision for the department. Many of the deputies, corrections officers and dispatchers actively campaigned for him.

“We’ll set a pace,” Bower said. “They know my philosophy and they’ll work for me.”

Bower had a busy Tuesday, driving to all 10 towns. When he got out of his vehicle, he said many passing motorists waved and gave him honks of support. He was warmly greeted with handshakes while making stops throughout the county.

Jim Halstead, a retired deputy, worked with Bower for 20 years. Halstead said the department will rally behind Bower.

“He’s going to be an outstanding leader,” Halstead said. “He’s not going to be distracted by the pride thing.”

Halstead also worked with Bourke, who was Halstead’s shift supervisor. Bourke is a respected manager in the department, Halstead said.

“He makes you feel like you’re working with him,” Halstead said.


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County officials decry higher gas prices in Orleans

Photo by Tom Rivers
The Crosby’s gas station and food mart in Albion is selling gas for $2.35 a gallon today. That matches the average price throughout Western New York. However, gas stations in Albion recently were selling fuel significantly higher than others in nearby counties, local officials said.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 October 2015
ALBION – Motorists in Orleans County often pay more in gas than they would in surrounding counties, and sometimes the difference can be 20 to 25 cents a gallon, county officials said this week.

The issue gets raised periodically, and did again about a month ago when gas prices were noticeably much higher in Orleans County than in neighboring Monroe and Genesee counties.

Orleans County Legislator Don Allport said he reached out to the Attorney General’s Office about “the huge difference.” The AG’s Office reported that “zone pricing” often results in higher prices in Orleans County, and the practice isn’t illegal.

That has been the answer – zone pricing – given whenever the issue is pursued by local officials or State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia.

Other areas have complained about zone pricing, including in Long Island. The State Assembly in June passed legislation to end the unfair practice of geographic zone pricing regarding gasoline sales.


“I am proud to announce that the Assembly has finally taken measures to end the unfair practice of zone pricing, known as gouging, for gasoline sales in my district and across New York State,” Hawley said on June 16 when the Assembly passed the legislation. “Three separate undercover investigations conducted by two different attorneys general have found that gasoline prices were excessively higher in Genesee and Orleans counties than in neighboring counties.”

Allport said Hawley said since requested a fourth review of the issue by the AG’s Office.

County legislators on Wednesday said they would press State Sen. Robert Ortt to support the Assembly bill in the State Senate.

County Legislature Chairman David Callard said the higher prices hurt Orleans motorists, and also the county’s sales tax revenue. With some of the Orleans sales tax money lost to neighboring counties that means less funds for the local government, either raising property taxes or resulting in reduced services.

“It has negative ramifications for our sales tax,” Callard said. “You can go to Elba or Oakfield and (gas) is 20 cents less.”

That gap seems to have narrowed lately. In Albion today, gas was $2.35 at Crosby’s and $2.34 at the Kwik Fill. AAA reports the average price today in the Buffalo area is $2.35 a gallon. However, the average price in the Rochester metro in $2.24 and it’s down to $2.18 in the Syracuse metro today, according to AAA. (Click here for more information.)

The price has dropped more than $1 per gallon since a year ago, when the average Buffalo price was $3.475 per gallon.


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Organisciak says former Holley police chief would be first choice for undersheriff

Don Organisciak


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 October 2015
HOLLEY – William Murphy, the former Holley chief who worked at small and large police departments in a 30-year law enforcement career, would be Don Organisciak’s first choice for undersheriff, the candidate for sheriff said on Wednesday.

Organisciak, a retired Medina police officer and investigator, is endorsed by the Democratic Party in the Nov. 3 election for sheriff. He faces Randy Bower (Republican and Conservative lines) and Tom Drennan, who is running under the Reform and Independence lines.

Bower has said Chris Bourke, a lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Office, would serve as undersheriff and Drennan last week said Brett Sobieraski, a sergeant with the Rochester Police Department and a Kent resident, would serve in the role if Drennan is elected.

Murphy, an Albion native, started his career with Holley in 1985. He went on to work at the Albion, Rochester and Greece police departments and then retired. However, he took the opportunity to return to Holley as police chief about 7 ½ years ago.

He led the department with 10 part-time officers until Sept. 1.

“He would be my first call,” Organisciak said about Murphy.

The sheriff candidate said Murphy’s experience with small, medium and large departments would be an asset. Murphy has been an officer and worked in management, Organisciak said.

“He has a good background,” Organisciak said. “If I had to leave the office or go out of town, I would feel comfortable leaving him in charge.”

Organisciak has said the election should be about the sheriff. However, he wants the public to know if he is elected he will have a qualified and experienced undersheriff in the post.

“I want someone I can trust, someone with a level head, someone who can communicate with the staff and the citizens, and Bill can do that,” Organisciak said.


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