Staff reports Posted 19 August 2014
ALBION – A public transportation agency that started in 2003 in Orleans County will soon have a new name.
The Orleans Transit Service will be rebranded as RTS Orleans, the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority announced today. The parent organization runs regional transit services in Orleans, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.
The new branding will call all of the smaller county operations RTS, followed by the county name. RTS stands for Rochester Transit Service.
“Our current logos were crafted decades ago, and as we took on new subsidiaries there was no naming structure in place to tie operations together,” said Bill Carpenter, CEO for RGRTA. “We believe this refreshed brand identity more accurately represents our organization—one that’s driving forward to become our community’s preferred transportation choice.”
RTS will continue to be the bus company’s brand name in Monroe County. Lift Line, the authority’s paratransit service in Monroe County, has been renamed RTS Access—highlighting the benefits that the service provides to ADA customers—access to vital destinations that enrich their lives, RGRTA said.
“Our new tag line, Enjoy the Ride, reflects the shared commitment of our 900+ employees to make it easy for our customers to enjoy their journey—wherever their final destination,” Carpenter said.
The public will see RTS’s new identity reflected immediately on its refreshed website (myRTS.com) and in digital communications. Changes will be phased in on bus operator uniforms, bus passes and schedules. Buses and other vehicles currently on the road will incorporate the new logo and design elements gradually. New vehicles will bear the new design as they are purchased.
Regional operations have been renamed to connect them to RTS and reflect the counties they operate in, such as:
• RTS Genesee (replaces Batavia Bus Service/BBS)
• RTS Livingston (replaces Livingston Area Transportation/LATS)
• RTS Ontario (replaces County Area Transportation Service/CATS)
• RTS Orleans (replaces Orleans Transit Service/OTS)
• RTS Seneca (replaces Seneca Transit Service/STS)
• RTS Wayne (replaces Wayne Area Transportation/WATS)
• RTS Wyoming (replaces Wyoming Transit Service/WYTS)
Hawley, Corwin rate above Maziarz in report
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 August 2014
ALBANY – An organization that says it is “pro-taxpayer” and “pro-business” has given two local State Assembly members perfect scores for their positions in the 2013-14 legislative session.
Steve Hawley of Batavia and Jane Corwin both received 100 out of 100 from Unshackle Upstate. The organization rated legislators on their legislative and budget votes as well as sponsorships of targeted bills during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions. (Click here to see the scorecard.)
State Sen. George Maziarz received a score of 83. He lost points from Unshackle for co-sponsoring S.3995-B Mail Order Pharmacy Limitation and S.3863 Healthy Workplaces. Unshackle said the legislation would slow or repress the growth of the state economy.
Maziarz, R-Newfane, also lost points for supporting S.3564 Job Order Contracting.
“Recent polling has shown that taxes and job creation are key issues for people across the state,” said Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate. “Our 2013-2014 legislative scorecards accurately reflect which legislators have advanced measures that help taxpayers and job creators. As we head into the election season, we encourage voters – especially in Upstate communities – to look at how their legislators performed over the past two years before they cast their vote.”
Maziarz is not seeking re-election. Unshackle said he supported 14 of the 17 legislative actions favored by the organization.
Unshackle highlighted legislation for brownfields redevelopment, healthcare cost containment, energy costs, asbestos remediation tax credit, liquefied natural gas, rural broadband and the state budget.
Hawley represents a district that includes all of Genesee County, most of Orleans and part of western Monroe. Corwin represents the town of Shelby in Orleans and portions of Niagara and Erie counties.
Unshackle will endorse candidates this election, but the organization said a minimum score of 85 is needed for its support.
“There’s no doubt that this year’s elections will have a significant impact on the state’s ability to continue its economic progress,” Sampson said. “In order to keep our economy moving in the right direction, it’s critical to gauge a candidate’s commitment to reducing taxes and improving the business climate. Any candidate that receives our endorsement will be held to a very high standard. Taxpayers and employers deserve nothing less.”
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 August 2014
The second round of state standardized tests, which are aligned with Common Core Learning Standards, show that most local students are not meeting proficiency levels in the tests for grades 3 through 8.
State-wide only about a third of students are at proficiency levels for the math and English tests. The percentage of students who are proficient in math rose from 31.2 percent to 35.8 percent, according to test results released last week by the State Education Department.
The percentage for English Language Arts barely changed, with proficiency rates increasing from 31.3 percent to 31.4 percent, according to the state Education Department. Students who are proficient or higher score a 3 or 4 on the exams.
Here are the proficiency levels for each test in the five local districts in Orleans County:
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2014
CARLTON – The winner of the Orleans County Fishing Derby just started coming to Orleans County to fish about two years ago. Debbie Murphy of New Albany, Pa., made the trip to the county on Monday.
She landed a 27-pound, 7-ounce Chinook salmon that day. Murphy and her boyfriend were on his boat, about 2 miles from the Oak Orchard Harbor when she reeled in the heaviest fish for the Orleans County Fishing Derby. She received her $4,000 grand prize during an awarded ceremony this afternoon.
Murphy and her boyfriend Allen Hubler fished in Orleans after some of their friends talked up the area. The couple hasn’t been disappointed.
“It’s always a good time,” she said. “There’s always the chance when that line goes off that something big could be on it.”
Hubler landed the second biggest Chinook in the salmon division with a 26-pound, 3-ounce fish. Murphy caught hers on Monday morning. After they brought it in to a weigh station, they returned to lake and Hubler caught his big fish, which was good for a $300 prize for second in its division.
Murphy said she has been fishing all of her life. She said she still has a lot of learn about fishing in lake Ontario. She caught the grand prize fish with a silver-streaked spoon. She said she will be back to fish in Lake Ontario again.
“I love this area,” she said. “It’s a very beautiful area.”
The Albion Rotary Club organizes the annual derby. Typically about 700 register for the competition, which runs for about two weeks. This year the entries was down to 531, mainly due to a tough final week with cool weather and choppy waters.
This year’s derby winner was smaller than the one last year. Foster Miller of Holley won in 2013 with a 34-pound, 13-ounce Chinook.
The derby gives out $8,800 in total prizes. Besides $4,000 for the biggest fish, the four division leaders each get $500, followed by $300 for second, $200 for third, $100 for fourth and $50 for fifth. The Orleans County resident that catches the biggest fish gets $200. Heather Saeva won that prize with a 23-pound, 15-ounce Chinook salmon.
The following were the division leaders:
Bill Magee of Northwood, Ohio with a 26-pound, 13-ounce Chinook; Destiny Bickel of Burt with an 18-pound, 11-ounce brown trout; Mike Schaeffer of Sligo, Pa., with a 14-pound, 1-ounce rainbow trout; and David Johnson of Rochester with a 17-pound, 6-ounce lake trout.
Ashley Ward has been chairman of the derby for the Rotary Club for many years. He said this will be the last time he will be the chairman. He is handing off the reins to Bill Downey and Brad Shelp.
“It’s kept my mind occupied and it’s kept me busy,” Ward told about 100 people gathered for the awards program at the Carlton Recreation Hall. “I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve enjoyed seeing you folks every year.”
Jeff Winters helped lead a turnaround at local YMCA
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 17 August 2014
MEDINA – Four years ago the YMCA was mired in an $80,000 annual operating deficit, a building in need of significant repairs and a modest membership base.
Jeff Winters had a law degree and a good job at the time. The Medina native likes a challenge and likes people. He took on the task of leading the Orleans County YMCA.
Four years later the organization is nearly complete with $400,000 in renovations to its historic building, a former Armory on Pearl Street. The organization is profitable and has quadrupled its members to 2,200.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done here,” Winters said. “The organization is set up for the future. It’s on a good path.”
Winters, 31, is leaving the Y on Sept. 12. He will be executive director of the American Cancer Society in Albany. He has been living in the state capitol since last October, when he got married to a woman he met in law school. He commuted to Medina on Monday mornings and left for Albany on Fridays for nearly a year. Winters was committed to seeing the Y work through a capital project.
He leaves with praise and deep appreciation from the Y board of directors.
“Jeff has infused a level of energy and professionalism that has been instrumental in helping us achieve growth and renewed confidence in a key institution,” said board member Dean Bellack. “He will be missed. On behalf of the board, we wish him the success that we are sure will grow in time.”
The Y is accepting applications for the director’s positions until Aug. 29. Resumes should be sent to Scott Taylor, GLOW YMCA director, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the position, click here.
The Y in Orleans County now has 52 employees. Winters credited the “Y Team” for making the organization and its programs sought after in the community. Residents are drawn to Y programs that promote healthy living, social responsibility and youth development, Winters said.
The Chamber of Commerce honored Winters with a community service award last September for his efforts at improving the Y in Orleans County.
Editorial by Tom Rivers Posted 14 August 2014
MEDINA – Town officials from Ridgeway and Shelby seem to be making a good faith effort at shared service talks with the village of Medina. It could lead to easing the tax burden for villagers in Medina, who pay the highest combined tax rate – about $54 per $1,000 of assessed property – in the entire Finger Lakes region.
Maybe the town officials, who have been given Medina’s budget figures, can pull a rabbit out of the hat and find ways to knock down the village tax rate. Shelby Town Supervisor Skip Draper said the town might take over some of the village’s non-emergency costs. It would seem that would raise the town taxes, but we’ll see what the town and village officials can come up with.
A committee that looked at dissolution of the village already has a plan for continuing village services in the two towns or through local development corporations. The town leaders say they will not consider that plan.
But at least the town is at the table, talking with the village. They had a joint shared service discussion on July 28.
Other elected officials should come to the table and the discussion should be broadened. I don’t think shared services will make much of a dent in the village’s tax burden. Shared services won’t bring any new money into the community. With dissolution, Medina would get $541,000 from the state annually as an incentive for reducing the layers of government. That money is the most compelling factor to dissolve. The projected savings through efficiencies in government only amounted to $277,000, or less than 3 percent of the combined $11 million budgets for the two towns and the village.
The village has been starved with next-to-nothing in state aid and very little in sales tax from the county. Medina’s downtown business district has enjoyed a renaissance, but that sales tax generated by Medina businesses feeds the coffers of the state and county.
That is the real problem in Medina: not enough revenue. County and state officials should take a seat at the table and explain why there is so little state aid and county sales tax for the village. The state gives the village about $7 per person in aid while similar-size small cities get $100 to $150 per person. See a Jan. 27 article in the Orleans Hub, "State shortchanges villages with aid, leading to their demise," to see the painful realities.
The local leaders should pass resolutions demanding a fair formula for “Aid and Incentives to Municipalities.” Orleans Hub laid out a chart showing the disparities in aid between cities and villages in the Jan. 27 article. I thought there would be genuine outrage and our county, town and village leaders would unite in demanding more money for our villagers. If this formula was tied to the wealth of a community – like school aid – Medina and Albion, with about 6,000 residents each, should be getting well over $1 million in state aid. Instead each village gets about $40,000.
But there hasn’t been a single resolution calling on the state for an equitable formula. We’ll keep beating that drum at the Orleans Hub, hoping to spur the locals to engage in that fight, which may require a lawsuit against the great State of New York. (This is how the schools were able to get more money.)
In short-term, our state legislators or their staffs should join the discussion in Medina, and offer ways to make the community viable long-term. The Medina downtown is home to many new businesses in recent years, but that is a mirage to the problems in the village. The overall tax base is going down while taxes continue to go up.
The county has frozen the sales tax share to towns and villages since 2001. The sales tax revenues have jumped in the past 13 years, but all of that increase has gone to the county.
The towns and villages are given about $1.3 million of the $15 million total local share. The four villages collectively only get about $400,000 of that and the village share drops because the formula is tied to the assessment of the community.
The sale of the nursing home presents an opportunity to revisit the formula. The county will soon be freed from paying nursing home debt and deficits. About $800,000 to $2 million will be taken off county taxpayers annually.
The county should unfreeze the formula, and have at least a 90-10 split with the towns. Some of those nursing home savings should be giving back to the villages and towns in sales tax revenue. It would take about $150,000 more to get the towns and villages to $1.5 million of the sales tax, or 10 percent of the $15 million local share.
A revamped formula, giving the towns and villages 10 percent of the sales tax, may not be enough. Maybe an 89-11 split or 88-12 – or even more is needed to fight the decline in the villages. The county leaders should share their position on the issue at a joint meeting with local officials.
The county might be able to assume some of the village and town services. Some counties, such as Wyoming, handle all code enforcement. Orleans should consider taking on that job to take some of the workload off the villages.
I give Medina and the two towns credit for at least talking. Our other villages – Albion, Holley and Lyndonville – would be wise to have joint meetings with their town neighbors as well, and the county and state should show up with ideas and determination.
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 14 August 2014
Gia Arnold may have withdrawn from her State Senate bid, but she will still appear on the ballot for a Sept. 9 Republican Primary against Rob Ortt, the North Tonawanda mayor.
Arnold halted her campaign after admitting to an affair. She has since moved from Holley to Lockport.
However, she told The Buffalo News if she wins the Republican Primary she would resume campaigning in the general election against Johnny Destino, a Niagara Falls attorney who has the Democratic Party line. (Click here to see Buffalo News article.)
The News reported that it’s legally too late to remove her name from the ballot, according to the state Board of Elections.
Ortt issued a statement on Wednesday about Arnold withdrawing from the race:
“Anyone who has ever been involved in politics knows the importance of putting family first. I respect Ms. Arnold's decision to focus on her family at this time and wish them all the best,” he said. “I remain committed to the task of earning the support of the people of the 62nd Senate District in hopes of serving as their Representative in Albany.”
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