Vets Service Agency getting a makeover with sign, office renovations

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 5 February 2016
ALBION – Earl Schmidt stands in the main office of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency, where a inside service window is being added, doors widened, and space reconfigured to make the place more accessibility for veterans and more secure for staff.


The County Legislature has authorized up to $7,560 for the project, which is expected to completed later this month at 13996 Route 31 West, next to The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center.

The sign out in front of the office will be changed from Veterans Administration to Orleans County Veterans Service Agency.


Schmidt, the new director of the Veterans Service Agency since December, said the Veterans Administration sign is confusing to the public. Some residents and veterans think the county office is part of the VA, and Schmidt said the county site isn't affiliated with the federal agency, although he can help veterans navigate the VA bureaucracy.

Bert Mathes, a Buildings and Grounds employee for the county, measures the new window in the office.


Buildings and Grounds employees are making doors wider for veterans in wheeelchairs and motorized scooters so they can get through the front door and a bathroom.


Schmidt said he expects there will be an open house for the community after the project is done.


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Sheriff’s Office will now accept unused prescription drugs during normal business hours

Provided photo
Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower, left, is pictured with Chief Deputy Michael Mele, center, and Jail Superintendent Scott Wilson at the front lobby of the Sheriff’s Office with the new collection box.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 February 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office added a collection box today so residents can safely dispose of unused prescriptions during normal office hours for the Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office in recent years has held two or three collection events in cooperation with the Holley and Medina fire departments. An event last April resulted in more than 300 pounds of unused pharmaceuticals being turned in.

The Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with Medina and Holley fire departments for those events on occasion during the year, said Sheriff Randy Bower.


However, residents now don’t have to wait for those events if they want to safely dispose of prescriptions, prescription patches, prescription ointments, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and pet medications.


The Sheriff’s Office acquired the collection unit for its office through CVS Pharmacy’s Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program.


The collection box can be used by the public during normal business hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Sheriff's Office is located in the Orleans County Public Safety Building, 13925 Route 31.


Residents are discouraged from flushing unused medicine down the toilet because trace amounts of pharmaceuticals can get in the water supply.


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County approves $70K repair to Fire Training Tower

Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 1 February 2016 UPDATED 1:28 p.m.
ALBION – The Orleans County Fire Training Tower will get a $70,000 repair and upgrade. The tower/burn building on East County House Road was inspected by LaBella Associates and that inspection showed defective burn room panels per National Fire Protection Association 1403 standards, county legislators said last week.

The Legislature approved two bids for the training tower. Fire Facilities and Sun Prairie of Wisconsin will supply parts and materials not to exceed $26,759 and Call’s Metal Building Erectors, Inc. of Somers, Wisc. will provide the labor at a cost not to exceed $22,785, for a combined total of $49,544.


The Legislature also authorized about $21,000 in other work, including new paint on the staircase, new window latches and locks, a new concrete pad in front of building and other repairs to the training facility which was built about 15 years ago.

The Legislature also appointed the following voting members to Fire Advisory Board for 2016: Will Francis, Albion FD; Jerry Bentley, Barre FD; Andrew Niederhofer, Carlton FD; Robert Freida, Clarendon FD; Allen Turner, East Shelby FD; Chris Chilson, Fancher-Hulberton-Murray FD; Kevin Dann, Holley FD; Michael Schultz, Kendall FD; Scott Buffin, Lyndonville FD; Josh Wolck, Medina FD; Randy Davis, Morton (H-W-M Fire District); Francis Woodard, Ridgeway FD; and Andrew Benz, Shelby FD.

The following were appointed as voting members of the Emergency Medical Services Council: Chuck Prentice, Albion; Patrick Lamka, Barre; Lynn Miller, Carlton; Donald Mosier, Clarendon; Michael Fuller, East Shelby; Debbie Fiorito, FHM; Susan Dann, Holley; Sue Maslyn, Kendall; Tina Woolley, Lyndonville; Steve Cooley, Medina; Kristin McAdoo, Ridgeway; John L. Miller II, Shelby; Jason Spencer, COVA Ambulance; Al Cheverie, Orleans County Health Department; Dale Banker, EMS coordinator; Randy Bower, Orleans County sheriff; and Allen Turner, Orleans County dispatch.


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New playground, other improvements headed to County Marine Park

File photo by Tom Rivers
This staircase will be replaced as part of an improvement project at the Orleans County Marine Park on Route 98 in Carlton.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 January 2016
CARLTON – A new playground with a Jungle Gym and swing set are expected to installed this spring at the Orleans County Marine Park, with additional upgrades to follow at the park.

The County Legislature on Wednesday voted to spend $19,497 for a new playground system from Miracle Recreation Equipment Company in Syracuse.

Additional work planned for this year includes new shore power at all 36 docks for boaters, and a new stairway and walkway on the north side of the park.

All of the projects, including the playground, could total about $166,000. The state is providing a $81,500 matching grant for the upgrades. The Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association is chipping in $3,287 towards the local share of the projects.


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Many counties are poorer than Orleans in NY

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 January 2016
It’s often said that Orleans County is one of the poorest counties in the state, and the poorest in Western New York.

But Census data shows that Orleans, with a median household income of $48,502, is far from the bottom. That distinction goes to the Bronx at $34,388.

There are 62 counties in New York and Orleans ranks 25th worst in median household income, according to the Census Bureau. The Census compiled the data in household income from 2009-2013 in the American Community Survey.

That report (click here) shows the statewide median is $58,003, with Nassau County the highest at $97,690.

Orleans rates higher than several Western New York counties. Chautauqua is the second lowest in the state after Bronx and the lowest in WNY at $42,429 with Allegany at $42,445, and Cattaraugus at $42,603. The median household income in Orleans is just above Niagara’s at $47,955.

Orleans may fare higher than expected countywide, but the Census data shows the household income is down significantly in the villages of Albion and Medina, compared to the county median.

In the Village of Albion the median household income is only $33,924. That is less than in the Bronx, which has the lowest countywide median in the state.

The Village of Medina at $40,014 does better than Albion but it is still less the median in every county except the Bronx.


Here are the 30 lowest counties for median household income:


1. Bronx, $34,388; 2. Chautauqua, $42,429; 3. Allegany, $42,445; 4. Cattaraugus, $42,603; 5. St. Lawrence, $43,647; 6. Chenango, $43,941; 7. Montgomery, $44,156; 8. Fulton, $44,276; 9. Delaware, $44,470; 10. Herkimer, $45,047;


11. Franklin, $45,667; 12. Broome, $45,958; 13. Kings, $46,085; 14. Jefferson, $46,484; 15. Lewis, $46,840; 16. Schuyler, $46,976; 17. Cortland, $47,151; 18. Essex, $47,380; 19. Steuben, $47,476; 20. Seneca, $47,618;


21. Otsego, $47,765; 22. Niagara, $47,955; 23. Oswego, $48,051; 24. Sullivan, $48,089; 25. Orleans, $48,502; 26. Oneida, $48,729; 27. Chemung, $48,804; 28. Yates, $49,335; 29. Greene, $49,655; 30. Genesee, $49,992;


Erie County is 33rd at $50,653; Wyoming is 34th at $51,100; Monroe is 39th at $52,394; and Livingston is 42nd at $53,518.


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County Legislature goes on record against raising minimum wage

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2016
ALBION – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to raise the minimum wage from $9 to $15 would cost New York hundreds of thousands of jobs and add to the onerous tax structure in the state, Orleans County legislators said on Wednesday.

New York just raised the minimum wage in three steps over three years from $7.25 to $9. That increase resulted in job losses in the county, the County Legislature said in a formal resolution opposing the proposed minimum wage hike.

“This proposed increase in minimum wage will also create pressure on local governments, as employers, to increase wages in order to attract workers,” legislators said.

Cuomo wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 in New York City on Dec. 31, 2018 and on July 1, 2021 for the rest of the state.

County legislators said the state’s tax cap only allows a 0.12 percent increase in taxes next year due to inflation. That is less than the 2 percent cap that was advertised by Cuomo and the State Legislature.

The wage pressure from Cuomo makes puts local government under strain to meet the tax cap. Legislators said local governments would likely be forced cut non-mandated programs for youth employment and senior citizens.

County Legislator Lynne Johnson serves on the board of directors for Orleans Community Health, parent organization for Medina Memorial Hospital. A $15 minimum wage would be a jolt to the hospital's bottom line, she said.

“It is one more thing that could cripple our only county hospital,” she said.

Legislator Don Allport said the big jump in the minimum wage would force a lot of local businesses to close or not hire workers.

The County Legislature is sending its resolution to Cuomo and state legislators, asking the state officials to reconsider the proposal.


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Elections commissioner retiring after 18 years

Dennis Piedimonte helped see county through big changes with voting machines

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 28 January 2016
ALBION – Orleans County Legislator Bill Eick presents a special recognition award to Dennis Piedimonte who is retiring after 18 years as an elections commissioner.


Piedimonte was appointed as the Republican elections commissioner 18 years ago, succeeding Bob Batt.


Piedimonte and Helen Zelazny, the former Democratic elections commissioner, saw the county through implementation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. HAVA resulted in the end of the old lever voting machines and transition to new electronic machines that scanned ballots.


Piedimonte said he enjoyed working in the elections office with Zelazny, who was later succeeded by Janice Grabowski. Clara Martin and Eileen Aina have been deputy election commissioners, with Martin switching about a month ago to become confidential secretary for Sheriff Randy Bower. Dorothy Morgan is the new deputy elections commissioner.


“It’s been a wonderful 18 years,” Piedimonte said at Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting. “We never once had an argument in the office. There were never any loud voices. I don’t know how many places can say that.”

The Legislature appointed Sylvia Shoemaker of Carlton to serve as elections commissioner. Shoemaker worked for the county for 17 years as a welfare fraud investigator. She is currently vice chairwoman of the Orleans County Republican Party. Her husband, Jim Shoemaker, is on the Carlton Town Board.


Sylvia has worked part-time the past four years as clerk in the BOE.

“I think she is an excellent selection,” said Legislature Chairman David Callard. “She served the county for many years already and did a wonderful job.”

Shoemaker will be paid $18,860 for the part-time position.

Orleans County legislators Fred Miller, left, and Bill Eick, right, are pictured with the county's elections commissioners, Janice Grabowski, second from left, and Sylvia Shoemaker, who starts her new job on Feb. 1.


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Batavia Downs success means more revenue for Orleans County

Photos by Tom Rivers
Western Regional Off-Track Betting, which is owned by 15 counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester, has been returning profits to its municipal owners due to the success of Batavia Downs, which recently completed an expansion and major renovations to the gaming center/race track on Park Road in Batavia.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2016
ALBION – The revenue at the OTB branch in Albion has taken a big drop in the past five years, with betting down from $1.3 million in 2010 to $517,000 last year.

However, the county received more revenue from Western Regional Off-Track Betting last year due to the success of Batavia Downs. The casino-like site on Park Road in Batavia is owned by 15 counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.


The municipalities, including Orleans, get a share in the profits from Batavia Downs, which last year topped $52 million in “net win.” That's the amount of money patrons of the nearly 800 video lottery terminals lost – an average of $1 million a week throughout the year.

WROTB sent $32 million of those profits to New York State, said Michael Nolan, vice president of WROTB.

The municipal owners saw an increase in revenue in 2015 from WROTB, including Orleans. The county’s revenue was up from about $39,000 in 2014 to $52,000 last year, Nolan told county legislators on Wednesday.

Michael Nolan, center, is vice president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting. He addresses the Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday with Ed Morgan (right), the county's representative on the WROTB board of directors. Sean Schiano (left) is director of branch operations for WROTB.

WROTB expanded the video gaming last year at Batavia Downs and also did major renovations of the race track complex. That $28.6 million project is done, and now WROTB is working with a private developer on a new 84-room hotel that will open this year by the race track.

Since Batavia Downs opened with video gaming a decade ago, it has increased revenues every year from the video lottery terminals. It reported $52.6 million in profits from the machines in 2015, a 7.4 percent growth from the $48.9 million in 2014. That percentage gain led the nine video gaming sites in the state.

Batavia Downs was given a big facelift as part of a $28.6 million capital project.

Nolan said Batavia Downs has led the state in growth in three of the past four years.
He expects the hotel project will be a boost to Batavia Downs. WROTB also is looking to get into fantasy sports betting at its OTB parlors. Nolan said WROTB is awaiting direction from the state attorney general on the issue.

If the attorney general allows the fantasy sports betting at OTB parlors, Nolan said it would be a boost to the sites. WROTB operates 27 OTB parlors, including the one in Albion. That is done from 72 during the peak of OTB about 30 years ago.

Despite the drop in handle or betting in Albion, WROTB is determined to keep the site open, said Sean Schiano, director of branch operations for WROTB.

“We don’t want to lose our foothold in the county,” he said.

WROTB also has 25 E-Z Bet sites where patrons can bet on horses at restaurants, bowling alleys and other establishments. Schiano said he would welcome an E-Z Bet in Orleans County. Those sites draw customers for the host business, and also benefit WROTB by boosting the corporation’s revenue with minimal work on WROTB’s part. The E-ZBets also introduce new customers to betting, he said.

“We’re doing everything we can to squeeze water out of the rock,” Schiano said.


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Orleans sees drop in sales tax in 2015

Photo by Tom Rivers
Main Street is pictured in downtown Albion in October 2015.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2016
One measure of the local economy – sales tax revenue – showed Orleans County and much of Upstate New York lagged in 2015 compared to 2014.

The sales tax collections in Orleans dipped 1.5 percent or down $233,412, from $15,703,362 in 2014 to $15,469,950 last year, according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

Not only does that show a decline in the local economy, but it means less money for the county government for services and to ease pressure on property taxes. (The county has budgeted a $250,000 increase in 2016 from the 2015 budgeted amount.)

Other smaller nearby counties also saw a decline. Genesee County was down 0.12 percent or by $47,206. Its sales tax receipts dropped from $37,994,929 to $37,947,723.

Wyoming County, which has nearly the same population as Orleans, declined 1.56 percent, from $16,853,447 to $16,591,138, a decrease of $262,309.

There are 62 counties in the state and 30 experienced negative growth in sales tax receipts in 2015, according to the New York State Association of Counties.


“According to NYSAC’s analysis, it is not clear whether these lower receipts are related to a lackluster economic growth, lower motor fuel and energy prices, minimal wage growth, household deleveraging (debt reduction vs. spending) or some combination of factors,” NYSAC said in a news release.


Overall, the counties combined saw sales tax increase 0.7 percent from $7.369 billion to $7.418 billion.

While upstate sales tax numbers were sluggish, New York City saw big growth, 7.3 percent, from $6.653 billion to $7.140 billion. State-wide, total sales tax was up 3.0 percent from $27.536 billion to $28.366 billion.


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New GO-Art! director wants stronger presence in Orleans

Jennifer Gray


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 January 2016
BATAVIA – The new director of the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council wants to establish a stronger presence for the arts agency in Orleans County.

Jennifer Gray was named executive director of GO Art! last week. She had been serving in the position on an interim basis.

She is impressed by the artists in Orleans County, as well as the libraries, service clubs and other organizations that put on cultural activities.

“There are some amazing things going on up there,” she said by phone from Batavia today.

Gray would like to establish satellite art galleries in the county. They could be at businesses, libraries or other public spaces. Those galleries would promote local artists and also be a draw to the host sites.

She also wants a liaison in Orleans County that could help advocate for the artist community. The liaison could be an artist, business owner or a resident who supports and appreciates artists and cultural programs. People interested in being a Liaison are welcome to give her a call at (585) 343-9313 or check the GO Art! website for more information.

The agency is in a better position position to step up its efforts in the two rural counties of Genesee and Orleans. In December it was awarded a state grant for $37,500. Those funds will be used to create an assistant director position. GO Art! currently has a full-time director and two part-time positions.

Gray is a former middle school art teacher. She and her husband Matty own Alex’s Place in Batavia as well as being part owners of three restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina. She leads the marketing efforts for those businesses.

As a volunteer in Batavia, she also helped with a chalk art festival and painted one of the fire hydrants in the city as part of a Vibrant Batavia initiative.

She wants to use her background as an art teacher and marketer to promote the artists and cultural attractions in the two counties.

“There are a lot of dynamic programs,” she said.

She highlighted the winter concert series on Fridays at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina as a successful program drawing in the community.

Gray also is looking for a spot in Orleans County to have office hours once a week.

“We need to have more face time in Orleans County,” she said. “We want to do more in Orleans County because there is big culture there. I’ve really been impressed with the amount of artists and culture.”


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County government has experienced ‘complete transformation’ in past decade

Photo by Tom Rivers
Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson speaks during Friday’s Legislative Luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 January 2016
GAINES – Orleans County government leaders are tackling infrastructure projects, streamlining departments, and partnering with neighboring counties for some services in a push to reduce costs to taxpayers.

“The county is witnessing a complete transformation of county government over the last decade,” Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature vice chairwoman, told about 100 people Friday during the Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Luncheon.

The county has reduced the number of employees on the government payroll by 124 full-time and 69 part-time since 2011, with the sale of The Villages of Orleans, the county nursing home, accounting for many of those.

The sale of the nursing home, shared services among local governments and other staff reductions are part of $10.5 million identified in taxpayer savings the past three years, Johnson told the Chamber crowd.

Johnson said the workforce is leaner, and is working faster and smarter, utilizing more technology.

“The business of county government has gotten increasingly complicated over the last decade and we strive to hire good, smart, creative leaders to face those challenges,” she said.

Orleans has become a leader in the state with its “unprecedented” collaborations with other counties, she said, citing shared public health services, tax mapping, Stop DWI and the youth bureau with Genesee County. Orleans also is partnering with Niagara County in a push for high-speed Internet in rural underserved areas.

Johnson highlighted investments in new emergency communications for first responders, $8 million in capital projects with new roofs, bridges and culverts. The county also staved off pressure from the state for a new jail by spending $1 million in the current building, making it meet state standards.

County officials are pressing state leaders to better maintain state-owned bridges and roads in the county, she said, and the federal government also hears from Orleans on the importance of dredging the Oak Orchard Harbor for boaters to support the county’s tourism industry.

Johnson praised the efforts of the Orleans Economic Development Agency for recruiting Pride Pak, a Canadian company, to spend $12.5 million for a new vegetable processing plant in Medina. Pride Pak is expected to have 40 employees in its first year, another 40 the second year and would reach about 200 at full capacity.

The EDA also has worked for “shovel ready” sites in Medina and Shelby that have access to infrastructure. Johnson said a new hotel could commit soon to the county, and the EDA secured a $600,000 state grant for a “spec” building that will make it faster for a developer to be in business in Orleans County.

She also cited efforts by the county’s Mental Health Department to develop satellite offices at school districts and expand same-day, walk-in services at the county clinic.


Unfunded mandates, crime and community development remain challenges, but Johnson said the county is “better positioned than ever to make a difference.”


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Hochul says governor making Upstate a priority

Photo by Tom Rivers
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul stopped by the Legislative Luncheon for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce on Friday at Tillman’s Village Inn.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2016
GAINES – New York State is making billions of dollars available for upstate infrastructure and economic development, bringing attention to a part of the state that had been largely neglected by state officials for many years, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said at an Orleans County Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday.

The governor’s proposed budget includes a multi-year plan with $22 billion for upstate roads and bridges, another $750 million for economic development through the regional economic development councils, and a cap on Thruway tolls until at least 2020, with tolls eliminated for agriculture vehicles.

Hochul said Cuomo’s efforts in his five years as governor are paying off with a shrinking unemployment rate and rising job numbers. She said the unemployment rate in Orleans is down from about 9 percent to 5 percent with Cuomo as governor.

“The governor has done an amazing job,” Hochul told about 100 people at the Legislative Luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn. “He has been making up for years of neglect.”

Orleans County has received some of the funding through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. Municipalities, businesses and organizations apply for the funds, with the council directing dollars to projects that will create and retain jobs.

Albion and Holley have both received grants through the NY Main Street program, and Medina was just approved for that grant.


The latest announcement in December included $600,000 to the Orleans Economic Development Agency for a new building in the Medina Business Park; $335,000 in a Main Street NY grant for Medina; $220,000 grant for Bent’s Opera House stabilization, facade improvements, asbestos abatement and interior renovations at the three-story building in Medina; $200,000 to the Orleans EDA for microenterprise support; $126,210 for the chapel restoration at Hillside Cemetery in Holley; $40,000 for the Kendall-Yates-Carlton Local Waterfront Revitalization Program; $36,000 to Orleans County for a law enforcement shared service and efficiency study.

The state also approved $1.5 billion in an Upstate Revitalization Initiative with three regions getting $500 million. Orleans County is in the Finger Lakes region which was awarded $500 million last month.

Hochul said the funds will create many economic development opportunities for businesses and communities.

“The $500 million is a once-in-a-lifetime grant,” Hochul said.

She likes the governor’s approach, where regions need to develop plans for economic growth.

“The old way there was a pot of money that went to those who were politically connected,” she said.

She highlighted other parts of the 2016-17 proposed budget from the governor:

• An increase in the Environmental Protection Fund from $177 million to $300 million;


• An overall state budget that limits the budget to an increase of 1.7 percent;

• $250 million in support for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the state, predominantly in upstate;

• $500 million to dramatically expand and improve access to high-speed Internet in communities statewide;

• $200 million to revitalize upstate airports;


• $100 million for downtown revitalization, funds that would be available to villages and not just cities, Hochul said.

“It’s ambitious,” she said about the governor’s budget. “The governor views no challenge is too great. He’s not afraid to challenge the status quo.”

Hochul arrived at 1:30 p.m. for the Legislative Luncheon and went through a PowerPoint on the governor’s budget. She missed comments from State Sen. Robert Ortt and State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who said the governor and state Legislature need to direct more dollars to upstate projects and communities.

Hawley said many of the big projects announced in the governor's budget were directed at New York City, including a new airport to replace LaGuardia, a $3 billion transformation of Penn Station, and a redeveloped Javits Convention Center at an estimated $1 billion.

“Pieces get thrown out all the time by downstaters,” Hawley said. “But the bridges on the canal, where’s the money? The Lake Ontario State Parkway, where’s the money?”


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Officials say big hike in minimum wage would hurt upstate businesses

Photos by Tom Rivers

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley says raising the minimum wage to $15, after recently hiking it from $7.25 to $9, would be “ludicrous” and damaging to the economy.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2016
GAINES – The governor’s push to raise the minimum wage to $15 dominated the discussion at the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Luncheon on Friday.

The governor would like to implement the higher wage for New York City by 2018 and then the rest of the state by 2021.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul attended the luncheon and she said the higher wage would lift people out of poverty and put $15 billion more into the economy.

She said the state is offering $300 million in tax credits to help offset some of their costs with the higher minimum wage.

But that isn’t a good trade for businesses, having to spend $15 billion more to get $300 million back, said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of The Business Council of New York State.

Pokalsky said New York City could better absorb the increase. The city has experienced 14 percent job growth since 2000. However, Pokalsky said upstate has only had 2 percent job growth since 2000 and Orleans County has declined by 10 percent with jobs.

“It is a very soft labor market,” he said during the Legislative Luncheon attended by about 100 people at Tillman’s Village Inn.

Ken Pokalsky, vice president of The Business Council of New York State

The state just raised the minimum wage to $9. It was $7.25 three years ago, but would more than double from $7.25 with the governor’s push.

“This is a huge problem,” Pokalsky said. “It’s an issue of real concern to us.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said a $15 minimum wage would force businesses to eliminate positions and not hire people looking for work.

“The real minimum wage is $0,” he said. “It’s a ludicrous proposal.”

Hawley, owner of an insurance company, said the higher minimum would force him and other people, who pay well above the current minimum wage, to also raise their pay. Hawley said the governor should let the market dictate salaries.

“It’s absolutely un-American,” he said.


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EDA sees positives for 2016, including likely new hotel in Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 January 2016
ALBION – The Orleans Economic Development Agency expects 2016 will be a big year for economic development in the county, with several projects years in the making expected to bear fruit this year.

Pride Pak has a new manufacturing facility under construction on Maple Ridge Road in Medina. The company is spending $12.5 million on a new vegetable processing facility that will add 80 jobs.

That is the biggest project expected in 2016, but there are other sizable efforts expected this year, including a new hotel in Medina, a new facility for Helena Chemical in Ridgeway, and an expansion of Western New York Energy in Medina, as well as other projects, EDA officials said during a board meeting this morning.

A commitment on a $4 million hotel could be announced soon, said Gabrielle Barone, vce president of business development for the EDA. The hotel would add four direct jobs, but would also keep visitors in the community longer which should benefit other local businesses.

Western New York Energy opened a new ethanol plant in November 2007. The company produces about 55 million gallons annually of ethanol. It is looking to expand capacity by about 30 percent, Barone said.

Helena Chemical is looking to move from Platt Street in Albion to a new site in Ridgeway on Allis Road, off Route 31. The $2 million investment will create 10 jobs, EDA officials said today.

Niagara Food Specialties also could commit to a $3.5 million project in Yates adding 20 jobs. EDA leaders said other projects are identified, including ones in Holley and Albion, but those company names can’t be disclosed.

Altogether, at least $22 million in projects creating about 115 jobs have been identified.

That follows 2015 with $6,270,000 invested in the county by businesses creating eight jobs. Empire Fruit did the biggest project, a $3,520,000 investment in Yates that added three new jobs in agriculture storage.

Western New York Energy also spent $2 million on a new 800,000-bushel grain bin.
Velocitti also invested $750,000 in an adaptive reuse in Medina, adding five jobs.

The EDA spent a lot of effort in 2015 preparing business parks and other land for projects in the future. That work will begin to pay off next year with new construction and investment, including Pride Pak and the possibility of the new hotel on Maple Ridge Road in Medina.

“It’s been a good year getting ready for 2016,” said Jim Whipple, the EDA chief executive officer.

Paul Hendel, chairman of the EDA board, agreed that 2015 was a foundation year, laying the groundwork for projects in the future. Hendel commended Whipple and Barone for their efforts to make several sites attractive to businesses.

“In my humble opinion you do an awesome job,” Hendel said.


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County sets salaries for undersheriff, other appointed positions

Dorothy Morgan new deputy elections commissioner

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 January 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature set salaries for some appointed positions, including for Chris Bourke, the new undersheriff in the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department.

Bourke will be paid $63,814 as the No. 2 leader in the Sheriff’s Department. Bourke, a long-time lieutenant for the department, started as undersheriff on Jan. 1 when the new sheriff, Randy Bower, took office.

The Legislature last week also reappointed Nadine Hanlon of Kendall as clerk of the Legislature at a salary of $55,535. David Schubel of Medina also was reappointed county attorney at $84,273.

The Legislature authorized filling a deputy elections commissioner position. That position was vacated when Clara Martin left to become Bower’s confidential secretary in the Sheriff’s Department.

Dennis Piedimonte, the Republican elections commissioner, makes the appointment for his deputy and he appointed Dorothy Morgan of Murray at a salary of $39,776. She had been working at the Orleans County Health Department. Her husband, Ed Morgan, is chairman of the Orleans County Republican Party and also the Murray highway superintendent.


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