County formula cuts sales tax to villages

Villages see share drop from $404,666 in 2013 to $398,110 in 2015

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 December 2014
ALBION – The revenue-starved villages in Orleans County will see their shares of the sales tax for towns and villages drop because of a formula that ties the town and village share to their assessments.


The towns’ assessments are going up while the villages have been shrinking in recent years.


The county takes in about $15 million in sales tax. Since 2001, it has set aside $1,366,671 from that total for the 10 towns and villages. In 2013, the four villages – Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina – received $404,661. That fell to $400,681 in 2014 and the apportionment for 2015 drops the village share to $398,111.


The Village of Albion will get $175,305, which is down from $180,457 in 2013. Medina’s share is $159,586 next year (down from $160,988 in 2013), with Holley at $47,746 (down from $48,596 in 2014) and Lyndonville at $15,473 (compared to $15,511 in 2014).


To determine the village share, the county divides the village taxable value by the town taxable value. As the villages lose assessed value and the towns gain, the village share gets smaller.


For example, in the Town of Albion, the village accounted for 57.14 percent of the total taxable value in 2015. The village was 57.45 percent in 2014 and 58.59 percent in 2013.


The apportionment for 2015 includes the following amounts per town: Albion, $115,666; Barre, $64,536; Carlton, $95,418; Clarendon, $116,261; Gaines, $86,558; Kendall, $86,813; Murray, $111,220; Ridgeway, $124,828; Shelby, $101,179; and Yates, $66,082.

 

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Collins votes for spending bill that narrowly passes House

Staff Reports Posted 11 December 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives narrowly approved a $1.1 trillion spending package on Thursday that will fund most of the federal government’s operations for a fiscal year.


Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, was among the representatives who supported the accord, which passed 219 to 206.

“This legislation is a tremendous win for Western New York,” Collins said in a statement issued tonight. “It holds the line on discretionary spending ensuring continued deficit reduction, while fully funding vital government programs. In politics it is crucial not to let perfect be the enemy of good, and although people on both sides have their concerns, I’m proud of what this accomplishes for Western New York.”

Collins highlighted the following from the bill that he said directly affect Western New Yorkers.

• Provides $122 million for the improvement and expansion of the VA Medical Facility in Canandaigua.


• Provides $68 million for OMEGA at the University of Rochester to expand their nuclear fusion laser lab facility.


• Increases funding for the National Institutes of Health grant programs that help fund research centers like the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.


• Eliminates funding for the Race to the Top Initiative, reducing the incentive for States to continue the implementation of the Common Core Standards.


• Blocks the EPA from applying the Clean Water Act to certain farm ponds and irrigation ditches.


• Allows more flexibility to school districts implementing new whole grain nutrition standards in school lunches.


• Cuts EPA funding for the fifth consecutive year and brings staffing to the lowest level since 1989.


• Cuts IRS funding by $345.6 million and bans the agency from targeting organizations seeking tax-exempt status based on their ideological beliefs.


• Provides $300 million to improve and restore the Great Lakes.


• Increases funding for the Harbor Maintenance Trust fund by $100 million.

 

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State approves funds for Intergrow, Marine Park

File photo by Tom Rivers
Dirk Biemans is co-owner of Intergrow Greenhouses, which built its first 15-acre greenhouse in the Town of Gaines in 2003. The company put on another 7.5-acre greenhouse this year, bringing the total space to 55.5 acres.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 December 2014
Two projects in Orleans County were approved for funding in an announcement today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo through the fourth round of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative.


Intergrow Greenhouses on Route 98 in Gaines was awarded $600,000 for a facility upgrade that includes adding “grow lights” to the 7.3 acres of the greenhouse complex. Intergrow will also need to upgrade its electric supply with the project.


Intergrow started in Gaines about a decade ago and has completed several expansions, and now has 55.5 acres of greenhouses. The company grows hydroponic tomatoes and employs about 100 workers.


Orleans County also was approved for $81,500 for its Marine Park along the Oak Orchard River on Route 98 in the Town of Carlton.


The funding will help replace the north stairway and walkway, and also provide shore power service. The county will also prepare a feasibility study to explore options to protect public docking facilities from ice damage.


Orleans County is part of the Finger Lakes Region which was named a “top performer” with $80.7 million approved for 100 projects.


For more on the projects approved in the region and state-wide, click here.

 

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Orleans included in governor’s request for disaster relief from storm

Staff Reports Posted 11 December 2014
Orleans County was barely touched by the big snowstorm that hit the Buffalo area last month, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has requested Orleans be included with other counties and be eligible for federal disaster aid.

 

The governor today said he has requested a major disaster declaration be issued for Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Orleans, St. Lawrence and Wyoming counties due to snowstorm and flooding that occurred from Nov. 18-26.


State and local governments had more than $46.6 million in response costs and infrastructure damage verified as a result of the storm, the governor said. A major disaster declaration for these counties is the next step in seeking financial assistance from the federal government once the $27.3 million damage threshold is met to allow local communities continue to recover.

 

“Once again, extreme weather came to New York and once again New Yorkers came together to help our neighbors in their time of need,” Cuomo said. “The state, working with communities from every corner of New York, mobilized an unprecedented response to the storm that struck Western New York and the North County. As we continue the recovery process, federal assistance is critical to helping these communities and their residents move beyond this storm and prepare for the rest of the upcoming winter season.”

 

A total of 14 fatalities and six injuries were attributed to the Lake Effect Snow event. More than 370 structures experienced roof damage from the weight of snow with an additional 38 structures completely destroyed.

 

In rural communities, barn collapses killed and injured livestock, including cattle and horses. Dairy farmers were forced to dump more than 250,000 pounds of milk. Damages to the agricultural industry alone are estimated at more than $15 million.

 

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Long-time tourism and planning official retires with praise

Photo by Tom Rivers

Wayne Hale, left, receives a special recognition citation from Orleans County Legislator John DeFilipps on Wednesday.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 December 2014
ALBION – Wayne Hale is retiring after a 31-year career with the county government, leading the Planning Department and also serving as tourism director and Marine Park manager.


He was praised by the Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday for serving in multiple roles. Hale postponed his retirement to stay on in a part-time role in recent years.


Hale stepped up to manage the Marine Park in the late 1990s. The site was largely underutilized but quickly had nearly all of its 80 boating slips rented and became a popular spot for concerts and picnickers.


He said he is most proud of the Marine Park and the $350,000 in grant funds directed to upgrade the site. (Another state grant is expected to be announced for the park today.)

 

The county also has worked to improve public fishing access and promote local events and attractions, Hale said.


Hale thanked the county legislators and chief administrative officers for their support over the years. He also praised Jim Bensley, the county’s senior planner for 25 years, and Mike Waterhouse, the sportsfishing tourism coordinator.


Hale the past two years took on a leadership role for the southshore lake counties, leading the effort to develop a dredging plan for about 20 harbors.


Hale’s willingness to delay his retirement gave the county a chance to transition to a new approach for tourism services. Waterhouse will continue as sportsfishing coordinator at a cost not to exceed $19,070 in 2015.


The county hired Lynne Menz of Kent for tourism coordination services at a cost not to exceed $13,000 for 2015. She will focus on the non-fishing side of tourism, working with businesses and organizations. She already had been working with Hale on the county’s tourism web site.


She is active with the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association and the Medina Sandstone Society.


The county also approved an agreement with Corporate Communications, Inc. in Rochester for $12,000 for 2015. The company will administer state tourism dollars through the I Love NY program and also work with the tourism web site.

 

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60 firefighters heeded call to assist Buffalo area hit by storm

Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 10 December 2014
The Orleans County Legislature commended volunteer firefighters who went to the Buffalo area after a monster snowstorm hit beginning Nov. 18.


In the photo above, the following are pictured, from left: Dale Banker, Orleans County Emergency Management Office director; John DeYoung of the Clarendon Fire Company; Bob Freida, Clarendon fire chief; Rocky Sidari, Albion fire chief, Stan Farone, Albion firefighter; County Legislator Lynne Johnson, Jason Watts, Shelby fire chief; Joe Morlino, captain with Fancher-Hulberton-Murray Fire Company; and County Legislator Ken DeRoller.

In all, 60 firefighters from the county would serve at least a shift in the Buffalo area, with many of those volunteers staying for several days.


“Our volunteers stood ready and were available to help our neighbors,” County Legislator Lynne Johnson said today during the Legislature meeting.


Firefighters went from the following fire departments: Albion, Barre, Carlton, Clarendon, East Shelby, Fancher-Hulberton-Murray, Holley, Kendall, Lyndonville, Ridgeway and Shelby. Some of those departments brought along fire trucks and off-track four-wheelers.


Dale Banker, the county emergency management director, coordinated the efforts from the local firefighters with Erie County fire departments that needed help.


Banker said the 60 firefighters collectively gave about 3,000 hours in Erie County.


“Everybody did a great job,” he said.

 

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NEA gives $10K for ‘Fiesta Latina’ in Orleans

Press Release, GO Art! Posted 10 December 2014
BATAVIA — National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu announced that the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council (GO ART!) is one of 919 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant.

 

GO ART! is recommended for a $10,000 grant to support the presentation of “Fiesta Latina” in Orleans County in 2015.

“Fiesta Latina” is an educational and festival project featuring Latino arts and traditions. Week-long artist residencies with master artists will be offered to area youth, culminating in a full day public festival in Orleans County.

 

The festival will feature performing traditions in concert, demonstration and workshop formats, including various traditional arts such as paper-cutting, mask-making, textile arts, music and dance. Artists will represent folk arts of Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil, and encompass indigenous, Hispanic, European and African cultural streams.

“I'm pleased to be able to share the news of our support through Art Works including the award to GO ART!” NEA Chairman Jane Chu said. “The arts foster value, connection, creativity and innovation for the American people and these recommended grants demonstrate those attributes and affirm that the arts are part of our everyday lives."

 

GLOW Traditions Director, Karen Canning, additionally says, “This project will offer our rural community an opportunity to learn about and interact with traditional Latino artists from our region and beyond. Festival events and workshops like these are often only accessible in metropolitan areas, so we’re excited to bring them to our Orleans County towns.”

Art Works grants support the creation of art, public engagement with art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts.

 

The NEA received 1,474 eligible applications under the Art Works category, requesting more than $75 million in funding. Of those applications, 919 are recommended for grants for a total of $26.6 million. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at arts.gov.

 

The Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council (GO ART!) is a private, nonprofit organization, dedicated to developing the cultural life in Genesee and Orleans Counties by facilitating the creation, presentation and experience of art, heritage and traditions. For questions or more information, please contact GO ART! at 585-343-9313, info@goart.org or visit our web site at www.goart.org.

 

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Hawley wants $5B surplus for schools, broadband and infrastructure

Press Release, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley Posted 10 December 2014
Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia ) is looking to make the $5 billion surplus from the Paribus Bank lawsuit work for the people of Western New York. He’s proposing the money go toward eliminating the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) that callously cut funding from our schools, providing better broadband access, and improving local roads and bridges to better accommodate the agricultural and tourism economies.


“A lot has been said and is going to be said about the opportunities that this $5 billion surplus affords our state,” Hawley said. “I will be fighting for the elimination of the GEA, which has caused our schools a great hardship over the past few years. We must restore these cuts and make sure our schools receive the funding necessary to provide an equal education for all students.”


Many residents and businesses do not have access to high-speed Internet. “In rural communities like mine, we struggle with access to broadband internet connection,” Hawley said. “We can use these funds to ensure all New Yorkers have access to broadband internet, and continue moving New York ’s economy into the 21st century.”

 

The state should also direct some of the $5 billion towards infrastructure, Hawley said. “We also have bridges and roads that are not structurally capable of handling our growing agricultural economy. This is stifling the growth of our regional and state economies. By repairing these bridges and ensuring they have the capacity to carry the products created by our agricultural-based economy as well as support the plows needed to clear our roadways during the winter months, we can make a remarkable difference not just in our community and in Western New York, but across the state.”

 

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Falling gas prices could cut into local tax revenues

Orleans has seen growth in sales tax, but that could stop with cheaper gas

Photo by Tom Rivers
The gas prices are getting close to $3 at the Crosby’s gas station at the corner of routes 98 and 104 in the Town of Gaines. This photo was taken Monday evening.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 December 2014
Consumers are getting relief at the gas pump with prices locally falling near $3 per gallon, down from prices that were closer to $4 in the spring.


Prices nationally on average have dropped below $3 for the first time since 2010. The falling gas prices could cut into the sales tax revenues for the state and county governments.

 

Gas is taxed 8 cents per $1 with the state and county splitting that for 4 cents each. Every time someone fills up, a few dollars is typically generated in sales tax.


But a smaller gas bill means less in sales tax.


Orleans County officials opted not to forecast higher sales tax revenues in 2015, even though the county is currently 5.4 percent ahead of the 2013 pace.


“We’re seeing gas prices drop dramatically and we could see our revenues drop dramatically as well,” Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer, said during a county budget hearing last week.


The county has budgeted $13,785,000 in sales tax revenues for 2015, the same as in 2014. In addition, another $1,366,671 from the local share goes to towns and villages in the county.


Orleans in 2013 was about $363,000 below its sales tax budget. This year, through the first nine months, it’s up by $601,482 (from $11,111,414 to $11,712,897) for the first three quarters of the year, according to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.


The percentage growth in Orleans is the ninth highest of 57 counties in the state. State-wide, sales tax receipts are up 2.7 percent for the nine months, compared to 2013.


Sales tax is important for the local and state governments because it helps offset the need for other revenue, including higher property taxes. If the sales tax revenues fall, Orleans might have to either raise taxes or dip into its reserves to maintain existing services.

 

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Victim hotline now has texting option

Press Release, Orleans County Sheriff Scott Hess Posted 8 December 2014

ALBION – Orleans County Sheriff Scott Hess announces the launch of an enhancement to the New York Sheriffs’ Victim Hotline (VINE) that will enable crime victims to receive a text message notification. Those messages will come in the event of any change in the custody status of an offender incarcerated in a county correctional facility in New York State, including in New York City.

VINE allows crime victims to learn the custody status of an offender, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by telephone or online. This new notification option, “SMS Text Messaging Notification,” adds text messaging to the existing notification options. The additional outbound notification method will be in Spanish and English.

“Crime victims need and want timely and accurate offender information to proactively ensure their personal safety and that of their families,” said Sheriff Hess. “I applaud the addition of texting and predict crime victims will embrace this new technology.”

In 2014, almost 2.8 million crime victims searched the VINE Database, using either the toll free number (1-888-VINE-4-NY), the VINEMobile app, the Sheriffs Mobile Patrol App (both available for IPhone and Android), or the website (VineLink.com).

 

Also in 2014, over 100,000 crime victims received notification of a change in their offender’s status either by phone or email. It is anticipated that the addition of the text messaging option will result in even more crime victims receiving timely notification of vital offender information.


“I welcome this new feature as my office continues to seek ways to better serve the public safety needs of the citizens of Orleans County,” Hess said.

 

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Sheriff offers crime prevention tips during holiday season

Press Release, Orleans County Sheriff Scott Hess Posted 6 December 2014
ALBION – The holiday season is upon us and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office wants everyone to remember the basics for maintaining your safety while shopping and at home:

 

• Thieves look forward to the holidays as much as you do. When outside of malls or shopping plazas, stay in well lit areas. Do not leave valuables in open view inside your car. Lock them in the trunk or cover them in an unobtrusive way. If you place purchases in the car with the intention of doing some additional shopping, take time to move your vehicle to another location. You never know when thieves are watching.


• Don’t flash large amounts of cash when making purchases. Carry your purse or shoulder bag close to your body, not dangling by long straps. Carry your wallet in an inside pocket of your coat or front pants pocket. Carry only the credit card(s) you intend to use. Leave the others at home.


• Always lock your vehicle and your house. Leave lights turned on both inside and outside your residence after dark. Most burglars prefer to practice their craft under cover of darkness. If you plan on being away from your home for an extended period of time, put lights and the TV on timers. Also make arrangements for someone to pick-up your mail and newspapers. An overstuffed mailbox or newspapers piled up on the porch is a sure sign that no one is at home.

 

Opportunity is the key ingredient to a criminal’s success. By following these basic safety and prevention tips, you can significantly reduce your chances of becoming a victim. The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office joins with other law enforcement agencies in wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

 

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Orleans budget seen as strengthening one of better-run county governments

Photo by Tom Rivers

The Orleans County Courthouse and County Clerks Building are landmark sites in the historic Courthouse Square.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 December 2014
ALBION – A report earlier this year by the New York State Bar Association ranked Orleans County as the fourth-best county-run government in the state.


Orleans was credited with a low debt per capita, for not overspending its budget, and for keeping a strong rating from Moody’s. The county also hasn’t neglected infrastructure maintenance, according to the report. (Click here to see earlier article.)


James Coffey, Dr. Robert Christopherson and Patrick Bowen presented the results of their study in last winter issue of the New York State Bar Association’s Municipal Lawyer.


The 2015 county budget puts Orleans even in a better position based on the metrics cited in the study, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer.


The county is committing to more infrastructure projects, including replacing two bridges and two culverts next year and will replace roofs on the County Administration Building and Public Safety Building.


The authors in the study also ranked counties based on their reserves funds. Orleans had about $5 million in reserves when the study was published about a year ago.


“We were not as strong in infrastructure investments and we had low reserves,” Nesbitt said during a budget hearing on Monday.


The new budget will grow the reserves and use $1,347,844 less in fund balance, mainly by not using $1,084,000 from the nursing home enterprise fund like in 2014.
County officials expect the reserves will grow after the end of this year, but it’s an unknown with sales tax and other fluctuating revenues.

 

The budget in 2015 budget dipped into $1.4 million in reserve funds, which was down from the $1,527,000 in 2014. Susan Heard, the county treasurer, said the county is now in a good position to boost its reserve funds.


Orleans is the fourth-rated county in the Bar Association report, with Herkimer the top-rated followed by Clinton and Seneca. Delaware rounds out the top five.

 

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County legislators finally get a raise

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 December 2014
ALBION – Orleans County legislators will finally get a raise in 2015, although the pay is still less than they were getting in 2008.


Legislators have been paid $10,948 annually from 2009 to 2014 with the chairman getting $16,424 a year.


The new budget approved on Monday provides 2 percent raises with $11,167 for legislators and $16,752 for the chairman. The budget for the first time gives the vice chairman additional pay for serving in that role. The vice chairman will be paid $12,667 in 2015, a $1,500 boost over regular legislator pay.


The Legislature voted to cut its pay during lean budget times after 2008, when the county was struggling with escalating Medicaid costs.


In 2008, the chairman was paid $16,932 with the six other legislators at $11,287 each.


The Legislature, in a special meeting on Monday following a budget hearing, also set the rates for garbage pickup at $190 per household with another $2 added on for an administrative fee.


The Legislature also named the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle as a legal newspaper for publishing notice of in rem foreclosure proceedings. The county will continue to use The Daily News of Batavia for legals. The Legislature voted to add the D & C after The Journal-Register in Medina went out of business in May.

 

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County approves budget with tax cut, more infrastructure projects

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2014
ALBION – Orleans County property owners will get a break in their county taxes in 2015 after the Legislature unanimously approved a $65,012,266 budget this evening.


The budget cuts taxes by 1.5 percent and reduces the tax rate from $10.11 to $9.89 per $1,000 of assessed property.


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


“It’s been a tough five years the county has gone through,” Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer, said at a budget hearing. “We can finally invest back in infrastructure.”


The county has been burdened in recent years with the rising costs of Medicaid ($8.4 million of the county budget in 2015) and mounting deficits with the county-owned nursing home. The growth of Medicaid for counties has been capped and the nursing home will soon be sold after Jan. 1. That eliminates some of the big increases for the county budget.


The nursing home sale will take about 100 full-time workers and another 50 part-timers off the county payroll. The change to private ownership will spare the county a projected $1.5 million taxpayer subsidy in 2015, Nesbitt said.


He thanked department heads for running tight operations in recent years, with fewer employees and delayed equipment upgrades.


David Callard, the Legislature chairman, said the county has weathered the storm and now is in a better position to tackle infrastructure and other projects.


He, too, praised the county department heads for their efforts to control costs and provide needed services.


“We’re very fortunate and grateful to have people as outstanding as you,” Callard said after the hearing when the county voted to pass the budget.


The budget was unchanged from the tentative budget presented by Nesbitt on Nov. 12. Only one resident besides the county officials spoke at the public hearing.

 

Charles Pettit, a Ridgeway farmer and member of the Cornell Cooperative Extension board of directors, thanked the group for its funding for the agency.


The Legislature gave the Cornell Cooperative Extension an increase from $219,150 to $225,000. The Extension wanted more to bring back a part-time master gardener coordinator who would work in food preservation.


“You folks don’t have a big enough pile of money to work with and we don’t have a big enough pile of money to work with,” Pettit said during the hearing.


He also thanked the county for committing to replace six bridges in the next three years. He worries about the state-owned canal bridges. Many have weight restrictions that keep farm equipment and emergency vehicles from using them.


“If we don’t do something with them soon we’re in trouble,” Pettit said.


While the budget allows the county to increase services and projects, Nesbitt said the state-mandated programs continue to strain the county budget. Nine mandated programs represent 105 percent of the county’s $16,209,165 tax levy. That eats up some of the county’s sales tax revenue as well.


To make a significant dent in local county taxes, the state will need to fund its own programs, and stop consuming so many county dollars, Nesbitt said.


Even with the state mandates, the 2015 budget offers lots of good news for residents, Nesbitt said.


“It’s great to come here and say we’re cutting taxes and improving services, he said.

 

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Some organizations want funding boost from county

Photo by Tom Rivers
4-H members walk miniature horses and livestock in Saturday’s Parade of Lights in Medina.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2014
ALBION – Orleans County legislators will have a public hearing at 7 p.m. today on a proposed $65 million county budget. The spending plan proposes a cut in the tax rate, from $10.11 to $9.89 per $1,000 of assessed property.


The hearing will be at the county courthouse with a vote from the Legislature to follow at the legislative chambers next door at the County Clerks Building.


The budget doesn’t include a full year of the nursing home, which is expected to be sold early in 2015. Without the nursing home, the county expects to be spared a $1.5 million subsidy that was projected for 2015.


The county is using some of those savings to tackle bridge projects, and building improvements. It also is boosting allocations to some agencies. However, not all agencies are satisfied with the county offering.


The share to the Cornell Cooperative Extension is proposed to increase from $219,150 to $225,000. That $5,850 is less of an increase than what the county has proposed giving the Orleans County Economic Development Agency (from $150,000 to $170,000) and the Soil and Water Conservation District (from $57,750 to $75,000).

 

The Extension would like to get at least a $15,000 boost. That would allow the organization to bring back a coordinator for the Master Gardener program. That position was eliminated about a year ago. If the county can boost the Extension to at least $240,000, a part-time position would be added to serve the master gardeners and also work with a food preservation program, said Jennifer Wajester, the Extension executive director.


“We’re at the point where we can’t cut anymore,” she said. “We would like to be at core staff level. We believe we’ve met their (legislators’) expectations. We really need that $15,000 so we can build the consumer/horticultural program.”


The county set aside $243,500 for Extension in 2010 and then approved cuts to the agency when the county was struggling with the costs of the nursing home as well as other programs.


Extension is working towards a stronger presence in the community. The 4-H program has grown from about 300 kids a year ago to more than 350 now, plus another 65 in a club program at Kendall Central School.


Wajester and Extension officials have been trying to rally support for the agency through emails, asking supporters to press legislators for a bigger funding increase.

 

The four public libraries also sought an increase from $10,000 to $42,883 or $1 per county resident. But legislators aren’t inclined to raise the funding, saying libraries can already generate tax dollars on their own.


Libraries are tied to tax cap just like the county. The $1 per resident “is pretty standard” in other counties, said Emily Cebula, director of the Yates Community Library.


Library leaders met with legislators in October to state their case for more funding. Cebula said her library would use an increase to help pay for more books and other materials.


“It seems like a minimal place to start for supporting a public library,” Cebula said.


The county budget also proposes increases for the Genesee-Orleans Regional Council on the Arts from $1,000 to $3,000, and the Sportsmen Federation from $500 to $1,000.


The Cobblestone Museum remains out of the budget, and that puzzles Mary Anne Braunbach, the museum’s president. Museum leaders gave legislators tours of the complex, a National Historic Landmark, in October and co-director Matt Ballard also addressed the Legislature in October.


David Callard, the Legislature chairman, said he is sympathetic to the museum, but he said the group hasn’t submitted a formal request for funding.


Braunbach is out of town today and will miss the public hearing. She thought the museum had made its case for being in the county budget.


Callard said legislators are eyeing bigger increases to Soil and Water and the Economic Development Agency because both have a big role in supporting businesses, whether agriculture or industry, which can lead to more jobs in the county.


“We don’t have the wherewithal to do everything for everybody,” he said.

 

The county has directed contingency funds to some agencies, including Extension and the Cobblestone Musuem. The county last year approved $11,500 at year end from contingency. That included $4,000 to GO Art!, $2,500 to the Extension, $2,000 for Soil and Water, $2,000 to the Sportmen’s Federation and $1,000 to the Cobblestone Museum.

 

Callard said the county could continue to direct contingency funds at the end of the year to agencies, if the money is there. That makes it unpredictable for the agency leaders, who are working on their own budgets for 2015.

 

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NY residents have new way to dispose of electronics

Press Release, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley Posted 25 November 2014
Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) is advising his constituents about the new way consumers are required to dispose of electronic equipment. Starting Jan. 1, the New York State Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act will require that consumers dispose of electronic equipment by either returning it to either the manufacturer or a designated New York State Waste Collection Site.


“There is now a new way that consumers are required to dispose of their electronic equipment. I want to make sure that my constituents are aware of this change to the law so they are in compliance,” said Hawley. “The new way electronics must be disposed of is simple and easy to understand and costs the consumer nothing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact my office and we will be happy to help.”


Under this law, there are two ways to dispose of your electronics. The first way is the use the newly required product manufacturer’s take-back program. A listing of manufacturers and how to contact them about the take-back program can be found by clicking here.

 

The second way you can drop off your electronics is at a designated New York State Waste Collection Site. A list of collection sites can be found by clicking here. Call ahead to make sure the specific collection site is able to take back your specific piece of electronic equipment.


For more information about the new take-back program, click here. This includes a listing of electronic equipment that is covered by the program. If you have any questions or encounter any problems, call the DEC at 518-402-8706.

 

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Local government websites get failing grades

Photo by Tom Rivers

Orleans County's government website was given a failing grade for posting public information and ease of navigation. The picture shows the Orleans County Courthouse.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 November 2014
Local government websites that were evaluated for their effectiveness in posting and sharing public information were all given failing grades by the Empire Center.


The organization reviewed 500 government websites in the state for village, town, county and school districts and gave failing marks to 427 of them, including Orleans County and the villages of Albion and Medina.


None of the Orleans County towns and school districts were in the report (Click here). However, nearly every town and district in the study was given an F.


Orleans County’s government site was given an F grade for its score of 74 out of 146, according to the ranking system by the Empire Center. Orleans was ahead of 21 other counties, including neighboring Genesee, which got a 60, according to the study.


The Empire Center ranked the websites for ease of navigation, conspicuous posting of public meetings, contact information for elected officials, information on services, and financial information, including budgets, taxes and fees, expenditures and contracts.


Most sites at least post meetings, but only five out of 500 reviewed achieved a passing grade for posting information on contracts, including agreements with employee unions.


The Village of Albion (click here) was ranked slightly higher than the county with an 80, while the Village of Medina (click here) was given an overall score of 53. Both villages were given an F.


The Empire Center evaluated the websites of all of New York’s 62 cities, the 57 counties outside of New York City and the state’s most populous 103 towns, 98 villages, and 180 school districts.


“By implementing changes based on the results of this assessment—most, if not all of which can be achieved at little or no cost—local governments of all sizes can greatly increase the usefulness of their own websites and better connect taxpayers to the range of information to which they are entitled,” Tim Hoefer, study leader, said in the report on the Empire Center website.


He noted some sites with failing grades were far worse than others. For example, two villages in the Hudson – Ballston Spa and New Square – were given 0 scores because they don’t have websites.


The following were recognized for the best government websites: Southern Tier’s Schuyler County, New York City, the town of Wilton in the Capital Region, the town of Penfield in the Finger Lakes and the Clarkstown Central School District in the Mid-Hudson valley.

 

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3,600 houses in Orleans lack Internet access

Companies are due to submit proposals by Dec. 19

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 November 2014
Government officials in Orleans County have talked for years about a lack of Internet access in parts of the county. It hurts students, farms and other businesses, putting them at a competitive disadvantage in an increasingly wired world.


Industry leaders would say 97 percent of the county was covered, but town and county officials sensed it was lower. Now there is data that identifies 3,600 households without access to the Internet. Out of about 20,000 households in the county that represents 18 percent of homes without Internet.


The four villages – Albion, Holley Lyndonville and Medina – have 100 percent access. But out in the country it’s a different story.


“There are entire segments of roads with no access,” said Evhen Tupis from BPGreene.


His firm is working with Orleans and seven towns in Niagara County on a Broadband Internet initiative.


The communities completed a study to determine how many houses do not have access, and also compiled a vertical asset inventory, which includes water towers, barns, buildings and other structures that could serve as transmission points.


The counties put out a request for proposals to Internet providers to serve the unserved areas, and those proposals are due Dec. 19. Tupis said it will take time to analyze the proposals.


The project is being spearheaded through the Orleans Land Restoration Corporation, which operates under the Orleans Economic Development Agency umbrella.


The data and proposals could be used as part of grant or other funding application.
Tupis said some of the $2 billion approved for schools in a recent ballot proposition could be used. He has sent letters to the five districts in Orleans County, urging them to set aside some of the technology funds through the state program to boost “connectivity” at the school districts.


He is hopeful there will be lots of interest from Internet service providers to boost the service in underserved areas of the two counties.


“The RFPs should determine how much money is needed,” he said.

 

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Hawley says he will again push to split Upstate, NYC

Staff Reports Posted 17 November 2014

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley says he will again push to split New York City from Upstate New York. The recent governor’s election highlighted the “deep divide” between NYC and Upstate, said Hawley, R-Batavia.

 

Hawley is pushing a “Two New Yorks” legislation, would seek a referendum in each county asking voters, “Do you support the division of New York into two separate states?”

 

Hawley says this is an important first step toward true representation for upstate New York.

 

“I’ll be making my ‘Two New Yorks’ legislation a top priority to find out if Upstate New Yorkers want to take the step to separate from New York City and downstate interests,” Hawley said.

The upstate/downstate divide was made abundantly clear in this year’s gubernatorial elections, where Gov. Cuomo’s entire margin of victory came from New York City alone, Hawley said.


New York City gave Cuomo an edge by 569,278 votes. The incumbent only won the election by 480,605 votes. This means that without New York City, Cuomo would have lost and New York’s next governor would be someone more aligned with the Upstate priorities of lower taxes, a better business climate, and the restoration of Second Amendment rights, Hawley said.


“These recent elections have made one thing clear: New York City has a tight grip on the electoral politics of this state, and it is not working for Upstate New York,” Hawley said. “Longtime Upstate New Yorkers are being driven out of the state they were raised in because of oppressive taxes and the lack of well-paying jobs.”


Orleans County was the second most anti-Cuomo county in the state. Voters in Orleans cast 73.4 percent of their votes for Astorino (6,530), compared to 24.2 percent for Cuomo (2,179). Only Wyoming County was more pro-Astorino, giving him 76.0 percent of its vote.

 

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Officials celebrate opening of Waterport bridge on Route 279

County plans work on 6 more bridges next 3 years

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 17 November 2014
WATERPORT – Pictured in a ribbon cutting this morning for the reopening of the Waterport Bridge on Route 279 include, from left: Kathy Blackburn, executive director of Orleans County Chamber of Commerce; Gayle Ashbery, Carlton town supervisor; Jackie Tarricone, secretary to county highway superintendent; County Legislator Ken DeRoller; Legislature Chairman David Callard, County Legislator Bill Eick, Highway Superintendent Jerry Gray (with scissors); Legislator John DeFillipps; Legislator Fred Miller; John Papponetti, project manager for LaBella Associates; Chris Bayer, structural engineer with LaBella; Scott Scharping, chief engineer and project manager for Keeler Construction; Tom Keeler, vice president at Keeler Construction; Lucinda Mayer, resident engineer for LaBella; and Tracy Sheffer, project supervisor for Keeler.

The bridge was closed for five months while it received $1.5 million in upgrades, including new railings, repairs to concrete piers, a new deck, asphalt top, two new fascia beams and drainage improvements.

 

With proper maintenance, the bridge should last another 50 years, said John Papponetti, project manager for Labella Associates, a Rochester engineering firm.


The bridge is the longest county-owned span at 700 feet, crossing Lake Alice and the Oak Orchard River.


“It was inconvenient while it was closed,” said Gayle Ashbery, Carlton town supervisor. “We’re glad it’s back open.”


David Callard (center), chairman of the Orleans County Legislature, praised county employees, Labella Associates and Keeler Construction for their efforts with the project.


The federal government paid 80 percent of the costs, with the state contributing 15 percent and the county the remaining 5 percent. The county opened another bridge last week on Hulberton Road after a new bridge was completed. Federal and state funds paid 95 percent of that project's cost.

 

Those state and federal dollars for bridges will be hard to come by for rural counties in the next few years.


The county has opted to borrow $8 million for capital projects, including about $5 million to repair or replace six bridges, with two being tackled annually from 2015 to 2017. The two targeted next year include a bridge from 1934 over Beardsley Creek on Waterport-Carlton Road in Carlton, and a bridge from 1968 in Barre over Manning Muckland Creek on Oak Orchard Road.


“We’re continue with our efforts,” Callard said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony today.


Other bridges identified for improvements include a 1959 bridge in Kendall on Carton Road over Sandy Creek, a bridge from 1936 in Ridgeway over Fish Creek on East Scott Road, one from 1928 in Ridgeway over Fish Creek on Culvert Road, and a bridge from 1956 in Kendall over Sandy Creek on Norway Road.

 

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