Orleans, Niagara still pushing for broadband Internet, but ‘in a holding pattern’

Photo by Tom Rivers
Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson, left, and Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey, leaders with the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, update the Albion Rotary Club on the efforts bring more high-speed Internet to rural areas in the two counties. Rotary member Bruce Landis is at right.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 May 2016
GAINES – Officials from Orleans and Niagara counties continue to work to expand high-speed Internet access in the two counties.

The two counties have formed the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, with the push for more broadband Internet a top priority for the two-county alliance.

However, the effort is “in a holding pattern” due to the merger of Time Warner and Charter Communications, Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson told the Albion Rotary Club last week.

As part of the merger, Charter needs to expand service to 145,000 homes that don’t already have high-speed access. The FCC on May 6 approved Charter Communications' $79 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Charter has 45 days from May 6 to provide addresses for the 145,000 homes where it plans to extend service. Once those addresses are known, Orleans and Niagara officials can see how it effects service coverage locally.

The state has made $500 million in funds available to expand high-speed Internet. New York is seeking at least a matching commitment from private industry to extend broadband to underserved areas.

Orleans and Niagara have identified 4,300 homes without high-speed Internet access. The lack of service is a major deterrent to attracting and keeping residents and businesses, Johnson said.

“Our message is we haven’t given up,” she said. “As two counties we stand ready for what is so desperately needed on our rural roads for schools, residents and farms.”


The two counties last year approved a Memorandum of Understanding with vendors to develop a rural broadband network with the goal of making high-speed internet access available in every household.
The two counties, working together as the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, have entered into an MOU with the team of Seneca Solutions and Resolute Partners. The companies developed a network on the Cattaraugus Indian Territory.


They are ready to pursue grant funding and to design, install, operate and maintain the rural broadband network for Orleans and Niagara, Johnson said.


Godfrey, the Niagara County legislator, expects the network will be mostly wireless. That is the wave of the future, and it is cheaper and more practical than installing cable, especially in rural pockets of the two counties with few homes, he said.


“We’ve been shovel-ready for two years,” he said about the broadband push. “We’ve done our homework, we’re just waiting for the money.”


Godfrey lives in rural Wilson. He said two families recently built new homes in that Niagara town, but moved out because there wasn't broadband Internet. The families moved because their children couldn't do homework without high-speed Internet, Godfrey said. Fast Internet also is needed for businesses to submit reports and residents to search for jobs and fill out applications.


"We're more than disadvantaged," Godfrey said. "We're discriminated against."

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, also is pushing for rural broadband money. Upstate New York could lose more than $170 million in federal aid for expanding high-speed Internet because Verizon has turned down the money.


Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo want the federal aid to be available for other companies that would expand coverage in New York.


“We have a lot of very loud voices speaking on behalf of Orleans County,” Johnson said.


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New home construction has steadily dropped in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 May 2016
The number of new houses built annually in Orleans County has been declining, with only 18 built in 2015 compared to 76 in 2003, according to county officials.

The 18 new homes last year is the fewest since 2003, except for the 16 in 2010, when the community and country were in the grip of an economic slowdown.

Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller, a former Kendall town assessor, shared the data during on building permits for new houses in Orleans County. DeRoller received the information from the Orleans County Planning Department. The information was discussed during Friday's meeting with the board of directors for the Orleans Economic Development Agency.


Year New Homes
2003 76
2004 83
2005 49
2006 39
2007 33
2008 29
2009 23
2010 16
2011 20
2012 23
2013 21
2014 27
2015 18

Source: OC Planning Department


DeRoller said the housing starts have slowed in the county, partly because of the big reductions in the workforce at Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb. Those companies used to employ many Orleans residents.


"We took a real hit and haven't recovered from that," DeRoller said about the downsizings at some of Rochester's major manufacturers.


DeRoller said the county still has lots of open affordable land that could be used for new housing. The local governments also should work on getting vacant homes occupied, he said.


DeRoller said he worries with the county's falling population and students enrollments at local schools.


"We need to stabilize our student enrollments," he said.


Some of the houses have been vacant for several years and have fallen into significant disrepair. Those homes will take big investments to make attractive to residents. Those deteriorating houses also are dragging down neighborhoods, EDA board members.


"It's not very inviting in many of our communities," said Gabrielle Barone, vice president of business development for the EDA. She gives company CEOs tours of the local communities, and they often note the rough shape of the housing stock.


Some communities have stepped up property maintenance enforcement, and Paul Hendal, EDA board chairman, said that often comes with resistance from property owners.


"The pushback is unbelievable," he said.


DeRoller said he expects the STAMP site just outside Orleans in the Town of Alabama to bring new residents looking to build homes and also revive existing houses. However, DeRoller said the appearance of the community needs to be improved to draw some of the STAMP workers as residents. It is an issue to be worked on for officials at all levels of the government, he said.


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School budgets pass by big margins

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 May 2016

The school budgets and propositions at all five school districts in Orleans County passed by big margins today.


Medina and Lyndonville presented budgets that reduced taxes, while Albion and Kendall didn’t raise taxes. Holley will increase taxes by 1.99 percent.

In Albion, the results include:
• School budget passed, 444-94;
• Authorization to spend up to $460,000 for buses, 452-86;
• Approval to collect $687,211 for Hoag Library, 385-153.
• Choosing one of four candidates for a five-year term on the Board of Education. Steven LaLonde was elected with 310 votes. Other candidates included Dylan Hellems, 31 votes; Kevin Doherty, 114; and Anitrice Riley, 93.

In Holley, the results include:
• School budget passed, 373-207;
• Authorization for the purchase of schools buses, 368-213;
• Approval to collect $116,061 for Community Free Library, 418-166. 
• Choosing two 3-year term seats on the School Board. Brenda Swanger, 423 votes, and John Heise, 370, were elected. Christine Klafehn received 266 votes.

 In Kendall, the results include:
• School budget passed, 282-90;
• School Bus Replacement Capital Reserve Fund passed, 294-80;
• Voters elected Charless Patt, 218 votes, to another five-year term on the Board of Education. He outpolled Debi Szczepanski, 163 votes.

In Lyndonvile the budget passed with more than 90 percent approval, 132-11.
Other propositions all passed including:
• $91,589 for Yates Community Library, 121-22;
• Establish 2016 Transportation Reserve Fund to fund bus and vehicle purchases, not to exceed $720,000 over 8 years, 125-15;
• Authorization to purchase one 66-passenger school bus at a maximum estimated cost of $110,000, 124-16;
• Three incumbents on the Board of Education – Harold Suhr, Terry Stinson and Rick Mufford – all were re-elected to three-year terms. Mufford received 123 votes, with 118 for Stinson and 116 for Suhr.


• In Medina, the budget passed 522-59.
Six people ran for three three-year terms on the Board of Education. Incumbent Board President Wendi Pencille was the top vote-getter with 425, followed by Lori Draper with 384 and Brenda Lindsay with 369. Those three were elected. Other candidates include Timothy Dunham, 181; Virginia Nicholson, 165; and retired Medina school administrator Alberta Suozzi, 160.


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Conservative Party won’t endorse long-time elected officials

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 May 2016
The Orleans County Conservative Party has decided to withhold endorsements from long-term local elected officials seeking re-election this year.


The Conservative Party Committee says it will no longer endorse candidates who have served more than three terms in their elected positions.


The Committee decided not to endorse Joe Cardone, the county’s district attorney for more than two decades, in his candidacy for another four-year term.


Conservative Party leaders also aren’t endorsing Charlie Smith and Scott Schmidt for additional terms as coroner due to their long service in the positions.


“The Founders never intended for a person to go into elected public service and make a life-time career out of it,” said Paul Lauricella, Conservative Party vice chairman. “Our committee strongly believes that the problems we have in this country are the direct result of career politicians that never know when to leave and will never vote to fix this problem.”
The Conservative Party did make one endorsement during its meeting last week. It is backing Rocco L. Sidari for coroner. Sidari, a former Albion fire chief, has served as coroner for about a year. He is seeking his first four-year term.


The Orleans County Republican Party Committee has endorsed Cardone for DA, and Schmidt, Smith and Sidari for coroner. The election is in November.


In addition, the local Conservative Party isn't backing state legislators who have served more than three terms. That includes Steve Hawley of Batavia, who has been the assemblyman for 10 years. He is seeking another two-year term in the post. He was interviewed by the local Conservative Party Committee, but Lauricella said the group decided not to endorse him.


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Speakers at rally in Albion seek to split New York into 2 regions

Provided photos
Several speakers attended a rally in Albion on Saturday seeking to divide NY into two regions. Some of the speakers included, from left: Pastor Earl C. Wallace from Liberty Christian Fellowship in Halfmoon (eastern New York); Cathy Sapeta from New Yorkers United for Kids; John Bergener, Jr., Divide NYS Caucus, Inc.; Mattie Zarpentine of Holley representing New York Revolution; and Stephen Aldstadt, president of SCOPE (Shooters Committee on Political Education).


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 May 2016
ALBION – Upstate New York is outnumbered in the State Legislature, and the dominating influence of downstate drives up costs for upstaters, and leads to social policies outside community norms for Upstate, speakers at a rally in Albion said on Saturday.


The Divide NYS Caucus, Inc. wants to create two autonomous regions with the New York region consisting of the counties Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester.


The rest of the state would be the New Amsterdam Region, consisting of the other 53 counties in the state, including Orleans.


John Bergener, Jr., one of the leaders of the Divide NYS Caucus, said the group is pushing for residents to support a Constitutional Convention in 2017. The goal isn't to create two different states, but to divide the state into two autonomous regions. That effort would not require Congressional approval and can bypass the NY Legislature through a NYS Constitutional Convention, Bergener said.

John Bergener, Jr. speaks at Bullard Park about a push to divide the state into two autonomous regions.


Every 20 years, New York residents have an opportunity to vote on whether to hold a NYS Constitutional Convention. The convention would focus on the State Constitution only. The next opportunity for a convention vote will be November 2017.


Bergener and the Divide NYS Caucus said the state has very diverse population with the majority of the counties small to medium sized communities set in a rural and suburban climate. Those communities tend to be conservative with their values. The state also is home to New York City and the surrounding counties that are far more liberal than Upstate. The divergent regions make it difficult to govern the state.


For more on the Divide NYS Caucus, click here.

Mattie Zarpentine, a state coordinator of New York Revolution, speaks at the rally in Albion.


New York Revolution (click here) formed soon after the state passed the SAFE Act in January 2013, a controversial gun control law. Zarpentine said the group is focused on fighting for Second Amendment rights, but sees other problems in the state encroaching on the rights and lifestyle of upstate residents.


"The SAFE Act got many of us involved," Zarpentine said. "But this is much more than a Second Amendment issue."


The downstate influence in the State Legislature and governor's office has driven up costs for businesses and taxes for residents, making Upstate uncompetitive for many businesses and driving away people.


"Albany does not care how we feel, how we live and will just continue to push forward their agenda," Zarpentine said. "How is upstate being served by a downstate governor and a downstate controlled legislature?"


Zarpentine said Albany politicians continue to be mired in scandal, with no end in sight. The governor and Legislature haven't enacted ethics reform, she said. This month the former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were both sentenced to prison for corruption.


Zarpentine, a Holley resident, said she was encouraged by the different groups that attended the rally in Albion. The groups are trying to build support for the Constitutional Convention.


It was a fairly small crowd at the Albion rally, which was held with rain, gusty weather and temperatures in the 50s. Zarpentine said she met people from Jamestown, Saratoga and other parts of the state. They are determined to have a state that preserves residents' rights and works for solutions for attracting and keeping businesses and families.


"A small number of people can make change," Zarpentine said.


Pastor Earl Wallace of Liberty Christian Fellowship spoke on the Biblical basis of the Bill of Rights. Wallace said the Founding Fathers were influenced by the Bible, especially the 10 Commandments, and historical documents such as the Magna Carta from 1215 that treat citizens according to Biblical principles.

Kathy Sapeta of New Yorkers United for Kids wants to repeal Common Core in schools.


Stephen Aldstadt, president of SCOPE, discussed the SAFE Act and NY regulations that make New York the highest taxed state in the country.


Zarpentine said the groups will make their feelings known to state legislators.


"Our representatives are not advocating for us to the full extent that they should be," she said.


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Orleans GOP endorses DA, 3 coroners

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 May 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Republican Party has endorsed Joe Cardone for another four-year term as district attorney.

Cardone of Medina has served more than two decades as the county’s top prosecutor.

“He’s done a great job,” said Ed Morgan, the county’s GOP chairman.

There are only four positions on the ballot in county elections this year. Besides Cardone, three coroners are up for election. The GOP Committee endorsed the incumbents: Charlie Smith of Ridgeway, Scott Schmidt of Medina and Rocky Sidari of Albion.

Schmidt is the current president of the New York State Association of County Coroners and Medical Examiners. Smith and Sidari are both active firefighters.


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Legislature asked not to leave historic Albion building

moon over Orleans County Courthouse
File photo by Peggy Barringer
Peggy Barringer took this photo in January 2014 of a full moon over the Orleans County Courthouse and the County Clerks Building. County officials may shift some of the government offices from the Clerks Building to a possible addition to the County Administration Building on Route 31.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 May 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature was asked to not leave the current legislative chambers for a possible new site on Route 31.

The county is exploring putting an addition on to the County Administration Building. It might put the Board of Elections, Public Health Department, and Legislature staff and offices in the new addition.

The county voted last week to hire the Wendel firm in Williamsville to examine the feasibility of the project. Wendel will be paid up to $30,000 for the work.

Bruce Schmidt, a local attorney and the Gaines town justice, said the Legislature shouldn’t move from its current chambers, where the body has met since soon after its inception in 1980. The Legislature replaced the former Board of Supervisors, which met in the first floor of the county courthouse in space now used by Family Court.

The county judge used to have Family Court in the Clerks Building, which was known as the Surrogate’s Building. The building was built in 1888 in the Eastlake Style and is part of the Courthouse Square historic district, which is named to the National Register of Historic Places.

“This building is of a historic nature,” Schmidt told county legislators last week. “This body is of a historic nature.”

Schmidt said the Legislature should stay in the Courthouse Square and not leave for a site that is outside the village, the county seat.

“Creative thinking could keep us here,” Schmidt said.

Legislature Chairman David Callard responded to Schmidt that the historic building wouldn’t disappear if the Legislature left for the new space on the possible addition.


That site might also include conference and training rooms. Schmidt said the Legislature could use existing conference and training rooms at local schools or the library.

Callard said nothing has been determined with the Legislature’s future location. The study is just exploratory, he said.

“How we utilize the building hasn’t been determined,” he said.

The Legislature used to meet the second and fourth Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. in the upper floor of the Clerks Building. However, last year the Legislature changed to having only one meeting a month on the fourth Wednesday.

The walls of the legislative chambers include many photos of the former Board of Supervisors and members of the County Legislature.

“It is significant to this building and for this Square for the Legislature to stay here,” Schmidt said.

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County will study feasibility of solar project

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 May 2016
ALBION – Orleans County has hired a firm to examine the feasibility of a solar energy project on county-owned property.

The Orleans County Legislature last week agreed to pay $10,500 to the Wendel firm in Williamsville to study if a solar array would benefit the county.

Orleans officials see potential in a project because of current incentives for utilizing renewable energy.

The county could lock in its electricity rates for 30 years with a large-scale project and also sell back electricity through the solar effort.

“Right now the incentives are at a maximum and the technology continues to improve,” Legislature Chairman David Callard said. “The time may be right.”

Wendel would look at publicly owned land, including sites owned by the Orleans Economic Development Agency, for a possible project, Callard said.

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OONA gets thanks for playground donation at Marine Park

Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 2 May 2016
ALBION - Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller, left, reads a "Special Recognition" Award that was presented last week to members of the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association, which donated $3,249 for a swing set at the County Marine Park.


The donation is part of an effort to relocate and upgrade the playground at the park. OONA members also put on a summer concert series at the park, and lead other efforts to promote the Point Breeze community.


The new playground equipment should be installed soon. "We're waiting for the ground to firm up," said Jim Bensley, the county's director of planning and development. He also oversees the Marine Park on Route 98.

Melissa Ierlan receives Special Recognition Award

Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard, left, and Legislator John DeFilipps congratulate Melissa Ierlan of Clarendon for receiving a "Special Recognition" Award for repainting 15 historical markers in the county. Ierlan started by redoing all four in Clarendon, and now has given a facelift to many others in Orleans County, including one outside Orleans in Elba.

First week in May declared Western New York Armed Forces Week

County legislators also issued a proclamation declaring May 1-7 as "Western New York Armed Forces Week." Pictured, from left: Former Legislator Frank Berger who is active in veterans' causes, Legislator Bill Eick, Legislator Fred Miller, and Earl Schmitt, director of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency.


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Motorcyclists remind public they’re back on the road

Chuck Persons

Photos by Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 May 2016

ALBION – Motorcyclists held a rally on Sunday in front of the Orleans County Courthouse to remind the public to be careful and look out for motorcycles. Chuck Persons, president of the Orleans County chapter of ABATE, addresses the group that gathered in the rain in front of the courthouse.

There are about 100 members of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education in Orleans County. The group promotes driver safety among its members, and tries to educate other motorists to be extra vigilant in sharing the road with motorcyclists.
Senator Robert Ortt
State Sen. Robert Ortt thanked motorcyclists for many of the causes they support, including the Patriot Guard, where they provide an escort and presence for a member of the military killed in the line of duty. Motorcyclists also raise funds for many important causes, including Camp Rainbow in Orleans County.

“I want to thank all of you who are big supporters of our veterans,” Ortt said. “That’s what separates many of you from the general public.”

Ed Morgan and Chuck Persons

Ed Morgan, right, represents State Assemblyman Steve Hawley at the rally. Morgan and Ortt both said the new state budget includes a big state investment in roads and bridges that should improve safety of motorcyclists and other drivers.
motorcycles at Orleans courthouse rally
After the rally outside the courthouse, motorcycle riders took off on a ride to the Vets Club in Medina. The awareness ride is usually 50 miles throughout the county, but was shortened to 10 miles on Sunday due to the rain.

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Some of most powerful horses in country show strength at Fairgrounds

Brian Armison

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 1 May 2016


KNOWLSEVILLE – Brian Armison of Centerville in Allegany County competes with his team of powerful horses in Saturday’s “Pull of Champions” at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

This was the third year the Fairgrounds hosted the horse pull for the New York State Horse Pullers Association. About 25 teams of horses, including many of the top teams from the U.S. and Canada, competed in the event, which kicks off the horse-pulling season.

Armison is on the board of directors for the NYS Horse Pullers Association. The association used to hold the “Pull of Champions” at the state fairgrounds in Syracuse. It was moved to Knowlesville in 2014 through the efforts of horse pull competitor Nick Nesbitt of Waterport as well as the support of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County.

Armison said the Fairgrounds in Knowlesville has proven a good fit providing a more central location for horse pulling teams, as well as a supportive host. He praised 4-Hers for selling food and the Extension staff for maintaining a nice dirt track.
“They’re super accommodating,” Armison said. “They even send us a thank you note.”
Dennis Weinberger's group
A team owned by Dennis Weinberger from Reading, Michigan, captured first place in the lightweight division. Weinbegrer, in black hat, also won the title in 2015 at “The Pull of Champions.” He said the horses need strength and stamina to compete at such a high level. His team won by pulling a dynamometer, 16 feet, 7 inches when the dynamometer was weighed down with an additional 4,400 pounds. The dynamometer, in the final pulls, can simulate 160,000 pounds.
Danny Smith
Danny Smith from Cummington, Massachusetts, gets a horse ready for competition. This horse was part of a team of two that combined weighed less than 3,425 pounds. There were 25 teams competing in either the lightweight division (3,425 pounds or less), or the heavyweights for teams that exceed 3,425 pounds.
Charles Blanchard
Charlie Blanchard of Winchester, New Hampshire, puts the harnessing equipment on his horse. He is partners with Danny Smith of Massachusetts.
Josh Wickum
Josh Wickum of Menomonie, Wisc., leads his team in the finals of the lightweight division. Wickum’s team finished second overall in the division.
4-H kids
4-H kids and volunteers sold food and other concessions at the pull. This photo shows Gail Ebbs and 4-Her Jordan Boccacci selling cotton candy.
The Armison brothers
The Armison Brothers from Centerville – Caleb, left, and Chris, right – get their team ready for the pull. The brothers, who are Brian Armison’s nephews, just jogged the horses as a warmup for the pull.
People at the horse pulls in Knowlesville
About 800 people attended the horse pulls on Saturday. The crowd size and numbers of teams continues to grow with the event since it was moved to the 4-H fairgrounds in Knowlesville.


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3 municipalities want moratorium on mobile home construction outside of mobile home parks

Planners support gun shop in Clarendon

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 April 2016
Three municipalities in Orleans County plan to enact six-month moratoriums on mobile home construction outside of mobile home parks.

Location has generally been limited to mobile home parks, but new state legislation allows construction of manufactured outside of designated mobile home parks as long as a manufactured home “is aesthetically similar to site-built single-family homes in a residential district,” and is deemed a single-family home by the local government’s zoning law, according to the state legislation.

The villages of Albion and Holley, and the Town of Murray want a six-month moratorium on mobile home construction outside designated parks so those municipalities can work on amending their zoning ordinances. The Orleans County Planning Board backed those efforts by the three municipalities.

The Planning Board on Thursday also recommended the Town of Clarendon approve a permit for a home occupation at 4257 Hindsburg Rd., which is in a residential/agricultural district.

Erin Neale wants to operate a firearms sales business from the site. He sold firearms from the site from 1999 to 2009. He wants to reopen the business with the same setup.

The gun shop would be set back about 500 feet from Hindsburg Road in a detached structure east of Neale’s house. In addition to selling rifles, pistols and shotguns, Neale plans to sell black powder, ammunition and accessories.


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Town supervisor says Barre just now hearing about possible wind project

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 April 2016
BARRE – Town Supervisor Mark Chamberlain said he is just learning this week about Apex Clean Energy’s new plan for a 200 Megawatt wind energy project focused in Barre and stretching into Elba, Albion and other neighboring communities.

Apex made the announcement on Wednesday. The company sent a letter to Barre town officials earlier this week, requesting a meeting to discuss the project.

Chamberlain said he hadn’t heard any talk of the project until this week.

“This is the first that the community has heard of it,” he said this afternoon. “This has all come very quickly and very fast.”

Barre was considered for a wind energy project about a decade ago, but the developer backed off after concerns turbines would be sited too close to the Pine Hill Airport.

Chamberlain said the Apex project appears to be away from the airport, with the new focus apparently in southeastern Barre.

Apex is proposing a project in Yates and Somerset that would include up to 71 turbines that would peak at 620 feet high. Those turbines are about 200 feet taller than the ones proposed in Barre a decade ago. Apex hasn't detailed the size of Barre turbines.

There is a big change, compared to a decade ago, with the new “Heritage Wind” project proposed for Barre: the Article 10 process. That gives the majority of the siting power to state officials.


“It takes town input out of it,” Chamberlain said.


Apex said today it will have many public meetings with officials and residents in Barre, Albion and the rest of the project area.

“This is a process that has just begun, and we are reaching out to various stakeholders simultaneously, including officials with the Town of Barre, the Town and Village of Albion, Orleans County, and many others,” said Cat Mosely, Public Affairs manager for Apex.


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Apex announces it’s looking at second wind energy project in Orleans

Apex Clean Energy
Apex has identified Barre and surrounding area for the focus of a wind energy project.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 April 2016
BARRE – Apex Clean Energy announced today the company is looking at a second wind energy project in Orleans County that would be focused in Barre and spread out in surrounding towns, as far northeast as Fancher and south into Elba.

The project would be called Heritage Wind and would represent a private investment by Apex “in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Apex said it’s too early to say how many turbines would be in the project, but it said is looking at a 200 Megawatt project, the same as the proposed Lighthouse Wind in Yates and Somerset.

The company will be actively meeting with landowners, community leaders and the public in the next several months, Apex posted on a website for “Heritage Wind.”

“The Heritage Wind project would provide an opportunity to help address New York's growing electricity demand with clean, homegrown energy, while diversifying Orleans County's economy and supporting jobs in the local community,” the company states on the website.

Apex is working on Lighthouse Wind, a project with about 70 turbines in Yates and Somerset in those two towns along Lake Ontario. The project has faced community opposition and is going through the state Article 10 review process.

Apex Clean Energy is based in Charlottesville, Va. It sees several positives with a project in the Barre area, including: verified wind resource, existing high-voltage power lines, expansive private land, and proximity to state highways.

The existing high-voltage power lines and highways would limit the need for new infrastructure, the company said.

Apex said Heritage Wind would create hundreds of jobs and significant local spending during construction, and up to 10 full-time local jobs for operations and maintenance.

The company would pay “millions of dollars” annually over 30 years to county and local landowners.

“Apex has spent the last few years working in Orleans County, and we’ve talked to hundreds of local people who are interested in bringing more wind energy to their county,” said Mark Goodwin, president and COO of Apex Clean Energy in a news release. “Orleans County is blessed with a very strong wind resource, and we look forward to working with the people of Barre to bring the benefits of wind energy to their community as well.”

For more on Heritage Wind, click here.


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Orleans may relocate offices to new addition at County Administration Building

Photos by Tom Rivers
The County Administration Building on Route 31, behind The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center, could have an addition to make room for relocated county offices.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 April 2016
ALBION – Orleans County legislators are expected to vote this afternoon to hire a firm to look at putting on an addition to the County Administration Building.

The county may shift several offices to the addition, including the Board of Elections and Public Health Department, which is leasing space from Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services. Comprehensive purchased the former county-owned nursing home for $7.8 million in January 2014. The county has been leasing space from Comprehensive for Elections and Public Health because those offices are part of the nursing home complex.

Public Health leases space next to the former Orleans County Nursing Home on Route 31 in Albion.

The county could also shift information technology (currently in Treasurer's Office), the legislative chambers (in County Clerk's Building), the county's administrative office (also in Clerk's Building) and create large multi-use rooms to accommodate training for large groups, conference rooms and offices.

A resolution at today’s 4:30 p.m. meeting calls for paying the Wendel firm $30,000 for a feasibility study for an addition to the County Administration Building.


David Callard, the Legislature chairman, said the feasibility study will look at many options with a goal for improved efficiency in county operations.


He said moving Elections and Public Health from leased space will free up money that could go towards the addition, perhaps making the project cost neutral to county taxpayers.

Board of Elections uses part of a wing in the former county-owned nursing home.


Callard said he and county offices have looked at existing buildings, including sites in Albion's historic downtown, but those sites wouldn't improve efficiency of the county government operations by being "in remote locations."


Moving out county staff from space owned by Comprehensive could allow that company to add services, Callard said, suggesting assisted adult care.


If the Legislature and its staff also move to a new addition at the Administration Building that would free up space for the Real Property Tax Services Department to move from the building's basement to upstairs, Callard said.


If the Legislature leaves the Clerk's Building, an iconic historic structure next to the courthouse, Callard said the community can be assured the building will remain well cared for by the county.


"We aren't letting that building go, ever," he said.


He said nothing is set with the addition and which offices might go there.


"There's all sorts of variables," he said. "We're just exploring the possibility of consolidation."


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Hawley pushes letter-writing campaign to chairman of Racing and Wagering Board

Fire departments need updated legislation to continue lucrative fund-raisers
Press Release, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley Posted 27 April 2016

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) is encouraging groups that hold raffles for fundraising and charity to write letters of support to Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mt. Vernon), chairman of the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee.


Hawley is asking people to write Pretlow to encourage him to introduce legislation that would help groups like the Stafford Fire Department legally operate their raffles.

“It is gravely important to our end goal of bringing back the Stafford car raffle that local groups write letters to Assemblyman Pretlow urging him to introduce the legislation that I have written,” Hawley said. “This is the first step in getting legislation passed. We have to show Assembly leadership that there is intense grassroots support for this legislation and that thousands of non-profits and charitable organizations will be gravely impacted if this injustice isn’t corrected.”

Current gaming regulations do not allow charitable groups and non-profits to collect raffle fees using check or credit cards and do not allow the sale of tickets outside of the county which the event will be taking place. The Stafford Fire Dept. previously sold tickets nation-wide for its annual car raffle and used the proceeds for charitable donations and to fund the department.

Letters to Assemblyman Pretlow should include information about the group’s previous raffles and what profits were used for. A copy should be sent as soon as possible to Pretlow’s Albany office, his district office and Hawley’s district office. If you have any questions please call Hawley’s office at 585-589-5780. Pretlow’s office addresses are below.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow
LOB 845
Albany, NY 12248


Assemblyman Gary Pretlow
District Office
6 Gramatan Ave.
Mt. Vernon, NY 10550


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Study soon to begin on policing services in Orleans County

Committee will look at dissolving village police into county force, and other options

Photo by Tom Rivers
A deputy patrol car for the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office is parked outside the county jail.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 April 2016
ALBION – A study will soon get started looking at law enforcement services in the Orleans County, an investigation that will include police chiefs and elected officials from the four villages and Orleans County.

County officials, representatives from the business community and other yet-to-be-named members of a committee will explore the efficiency of current local law enforcement operations and compare them with alternative policing models, including the potential consolidation of all local departments into one.

The state is providing a $36,000 matching “Local Government Efficiency Grant” for the study. The county is paying the other $36,000. The county is seeking proposals from consultants to help with the study. Those proposals are due May 18.

County officials have set May 2017 for completion of the report with recommendations and alternatives for the community.


The study will look at the operations at the Sheriff’s Office, and the Albion, Medina and Holley police departments. Lyndonville also has a part-time officer.


There may be opportunities for shared administration, joint purchasing and other initiatives that would keep the existing village police departments. Or the committee may suggest the village departments be dissolved with a county-wide force taking the lead.

If the villages dissolved their police departments, it would provide significant tax relief for villages. However, county taxes would likely then go up.


Holley has talked before of dissolving its police department and Medina, as part of a failed dissolution proposal last year, said a town-wide force in Shelby and Ridgeway could be created.


County Legislature Chairman David Callard has said he wants to be proactive in looking at policing services and not be caught off guard by a village that dissolves its force, expecting the Sheriff’s Office to assume village road patrols and calls.

The study will look at alignment of current compensation and benefits
agreements, determining the costs of a combined police force. The committee will look at potential obstacles to consolidation and provide guidance to overcome those obstacles, according to the county’s RFP. (Click here to see the 12-page RFP.)


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Merger approved for Orleans, Genesee Arc

Photos by Tom Rivers

John Huber, president of the board of directors for The Arc of Orleans County, congratulates Mary Lou Tuohey for 21 years of service on the board. Huber also announced on Friday that NYSARC, the state agency overseeing The Arc, approved a merger between the agencies in Orleans and Genesee counties.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 April 2016

HOLLEY – The state organization that oversees 48 chapters that provide services to people with disabilities has approved a merger between The Arc of Orleans County and the Genesee ARC.


NYSARC's board of directors voted to approve the merger on April 15, John Huber, president of the board for The Arc, announced on Friday during the Best Friend awards banquet.


Staff and board members from the two chapters have worked more than a year to develop a plan for merging the two agencies. Huber said that plan will now be implemented over the next year. The goal is to preserve services for people served by the agency and to "safeguard people's salaries and benefits as much as possible."


The new merged agency will be known as The Arc of Genesee & Orleans. It combines the Genesee agency that has about 350 employees and an annual budget of about $13 million with the Orleans agency that has about 300 workers and a budget of nearly $11 million.


Huber said the "managed care model" has cut into reimbursements for Arc services. Leaders in both Orleans and Genesee see a stronger agency and economy of scale working together, he said.


Both Orleans and Genesee feared the shrinking reimbursements could create a financial crisis for the agencies. They chose to merge in a "forward-thinking" vision of the future.


"We didn't want to be in a position where we were taken over by another chapter," he said.


The two agencies need to merge boards of directors with four representatives from each county. They also need to merge billing, bank accounts and other programs.


"As of now we are one agency," Huber told about 300 people at The Arc's awards banquet. "Now the devil is in the details."


The two agencies have been meeting for about 2 1/2 years to discuss ways to share some staff and services. Those talks led to a push for a merger.

Combined, the two agencies serve over 1,200 individuals with disabilities.

The Genesee chapter celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and the agency started 46 years ago in Orleans.


"Next year will be year one of a brand new agency," Huber said.

Matthew Degnan shared the blessing for the food during Friday's banquet. He thanked The Arc for its support while he was growing up. "The Arc has given me independence, respect, dignity and freedom," Degnan said. "I just got my hand controls in my car and I can drive now." Degnan said the new merger with Genesee ARC will allow the bigger agency "to help all who are differently abled."


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Few campaign signs in heated presidential primary

Photos by Tom Rivers
This sign in support of Bernie Sanders is placed in a front yard on Park Avenue in Medina. It’s one of the few political signs out despite a heated primary season.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 April 2016
It may be a heated primary and a rare chance in New York for a spirited presidential race, but you wouldn’t know it driving around Orleans County. There are few signs for presidential candidates out on front lawns.


Local Republican and Democratic leaders haven’t ordered signs. The few that are out have been picked up at candidate rallies or purchased by local residents.


Ed Morgan, the Orleans County Republican Party chairman, said federal election laws require reporting by the local parties if they spend on the presidential race. He didn’t want to be committed to the lengthy paperwork if the party bought signs or placed ads.


“We’d have to file a federal campaign contribution form,” Morgan said.


He and the GOP Committee have endorsed Donald Trump for president. They made Orleans County one of the first counties in New York to endorse Trump.

Morgan said Trump has a strong following locally, even if there aren’t many signs in front lawns. He said he expects more signs will go out before the vote Tuesday as signs are distributed from Buffalo and Rochester sites trying to get out the vote for Trump.


There are also a few signs out in the county in support of John Kasich and Ted Cruz, who are seeking the Republican nomination.

A Barre resident on Route 98 has a sign out in support of John Kasich.


Morgan is traveling to New York City today for the State Republican Committee annual gala where the three presidential candidates are expected to speak. All three are making a hard push for votes in New York.


Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton also are in a tight race for the Democratic nomination. There aren’t very many signs out for them, either.


Jeanne Crane, the Democratic Party chairwoman, said a few of the Sanders and Clinton supporters have bought signs and put them out, although some of the Clinton signs appear to have been stolen. Morgan said some of the Trump signs also have been snatched.

Crane said she didn’t push to hard to get signs out when she noticed there were so few Republican ones.

“If they’re not too worried about it, then I’m not,” she said.

Crane and the Orleans County Democratic Party Committee last week voted to endorse Clinton for president. It wasn’t unanimous. Sanders has some support on the committee.

Crane said she has backed Clinton since 2000, when Clinton (then the first lady) ran successfully for the U.S. Senate, representing New York.

Crane said Clinton stands out among all of the candidates for her experience, particularly with foreign policy.

“She’s better prepared,” Crane said.

Although they won’t be pushing for yard signs for candidates, Crane said she and the Democratic Party leaders will be making phone calls, urging local Democrats to back Clinton on Tuesday.


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Board of Elections makes big order for primary ballots

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 April 2016
ALBION – Normally, when New York has its turn to vote in the presidential primary, the race is over with the nomination for both the Republican and Democratic candidates locked up.

But Tuesday, the race for coveted delegates remains in play for both parties, and turnout has been huge at other states.

So instead of printing a small percentage of ballots for Tuesday, the Orleans County Board of Elections had ballots made for 80 percent of the registered Republicans and Democrats.

“There has a been a big turnout in other states,” said Sylvia Shoemaker, the Republican election commissioner in Orleans County.

The Republican and Democrat candidates have been campaigning vigorously across New York with rallies and other get-out-the-vote efforts.

Shoemaker said some counties in New York are printing ballots for 110 percent of their registered Republicans and Democrats. Each voter is allowed up to three ballots in case they make mistakes.

The Republican candidates on the ballot include Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson. Shoemaker noted that Carson has suspended his campaign, but he remains on the ballot. That may confuse some voters.

The Democratic candidates on the ballot include Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for president. There are also 12 delegates on the ballot, and voters can choose up to six.

The county has 10,360 registered Republicans and 5,320 registered Democrats. The ballots are about 45 cents each. Printing enough for 80 percent of the total registered Republicans and Democrats – 12,544 – will cost an estimated $5,644. Shoemaker said the county hasn’t been billed yet for the ballots. The Board of Elections also has about 1,000 absentee ballots ready.

An 80 percent turnout would more than double the percentage of voters in the November election, which included a hotly contested race for county sheriff. The turnout in November was 38.2 percent in Orleans County.

Shoemaker said the county wants to be prepared for a big turnout on Tuesday. The Board of Elections doesn’t have the option of printing more ballots throughout the day in case it runs out. The county doesn’t have the specialized printing equipment for the ballots and contracts to have them printed.


The ballots arrived last week, and the BOE is setting up the optical scan voting machines to handle the ballots on Tuesday.


Voting is from noon to 9 p.m. For more information on polling sites, click here.


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Rental subsidies available for small businesses to move into downtowns

$4,500 max to rent storefronts in Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina

Photo by Tom Rivers
Diane Blanchard, director of the Microenterprise Assistance Program, will manage $60,000 in downtown rental subsidies, plus $100,000 in grants available for small businesses. She is pictured on Main Street in Albion.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2016
ALBION – The Orleans Economic Development Agency has money to entice businesses to move into the downtown business districts in Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina.

The EDA’s local development corporation voted Thursday to make $60,000 available in the next two years for downtown rental subsidies. Businesses can seek $3 per square foot annually if they move into the downtown. The EDA is capping the subsidies at $4,500 a year, the maximum for a 1,500 square foot space.

They subsidies aren’t available to businesses currently in the downtown. The fundign comes from a $200,000 state grant approved for the EDA last December. The EDA also has $100,000 in grants to share with small businesses (5 or fewer employees) that need working capital, equipment purchases or inventory. The grants are capped at $15,000 per recipient.


Those grants are targeted for businesses that completed the Microenterprise Assistance Program, which offers small business training. However, the EDA will consider start-up businesses and other small businesses that didn't go through the EDA, said Jim Whipple, the EDA executive director.


The EDA ran a similar grant program about five years ago and gave $20,004 to help businesses with their rent, including seven in Medina, four in Albion and two in Holley. The subsidies then were capped at $3,000 per recipient.


Blanchard said the program should result in new commercial activity in vacant storefronts.


She is on a committee to decide the funding along with Whipple, and three members of the EDA's Finance Committee.


The grant from the state also provides $40,000 to the EDA to administer the funding.


The EDA runs the MAP program providing small business training in a 10-week class. The spring class just started last week and includes 15 entreprenuers.


For more on the EDA, click here.


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