By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 4 March 2014
State Sen. George Maziarz has the endorsement of the Niagara County Conservative Party for re-election in the 62nd Senate District, which includes all of Orleans and Niagara counties, and the towns of Sweden and Ogden in Monroe County.
“Standing strong for conservative principles has never been more important in Albany,” Maziarz said in a news release. “I am extremely grateful that the Niagara County Conservative Party knows where I stand on the issues, and I appreciate their support and partnership. I look forward to working with them on everything from improving our economy to protecting gun owners’ rights. ”
Maziarz was first elected to the State Senate in 1995. He may face a challenge for another two-year term from Gia Arnold of Holley, who is a leader in New York Revolution, a group opposed to the SAFE Act.
Daniel Weiss, chairman of the Niagara County Conservative Party, said Maziarz consistently receives high marks from the state Conservative Party in the organization’s annual ratings system.
“Sen. Maziarz has been a great advocate for the conservative values we hold dear,” Weiss said. “These include controlling spending, reducing the tax burden, and respecting the morals of all New Yorkers. We want to thank him especially for his ardent support of Second Amendment rights and his vocal opposition to the SAFE Act. On this issue and others he has been our steady voice.”
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 4 March 2014
ALBION – Leaders of the eastern battalion, the fire companies and departments in eastern Orleans County, gave strong support to a proposal by Monroe Ambulance to have an ambulance stationed in Orleans County.
“We 100 percent support Monroe Ambulance,” Bob Freida, chief of the Clarendon Fire Company, said during a public hearing Monday about the Monroe Ambulance plan.
Monroe Ambulance said it would keep at least one ambulance in eastern Orleans at the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray fire hall. Right now the company tends to keeps two ambulances about 3 miles from the county line in the Brockport area.
Monroe Ambulance, because it wants to be stationed in Orleans and it isn’t based in the county, needs the state Department of Health to sign off on the request. Monroe Ambulance submitted more than 1,500 pages as part of a certificate of need. That application was the focus of a public hearing Monday with the Big Lakes Regional EMS Council.
“It’s our belief that service at this time has been exceptional,” Pete Hendrickson, chief of the Holley Fire Department, said about Monroe Ambulance.
The Holley Emergency Squad split off from the Holley Fire Department in 2003. The Emergency Squad has about 300 calls a year, but can only handle 20 percent of them with their own EMTs and drivers, said Ron Meiers, president of the Holley Emergency Squad.
He expects the Emergency Squad will discontinue in the next year due to a shortage of a volunteers and the need to upgrade an 11-year-old ambulance. The group doesn’t have the money for a new ambulance, he said. Right now the squad has three active drivers and five active EMTs, but many of them work outside the community.
Meiers praised Monroe Ambulance for being on scene quickly for emergency medical calls in Holley. Meiers said Monroe Ambulance could be faster to calls in eastern Orleans if it was permitted to keep an ambulance in Orleans County.
Monroe Ambulance responds to 600 calls in eastern Orleans on a mutual aid system, and those calls have been increasing in recent years as the local departments struggle with volunteer manpower, said Michael Bove, Monroe Ambulance assistant chief and project manager for the eastern Orleans proposal.
Monroe Ambulance currently keeps ambulances in western Monroe that respond to calls in Clarendon, Holley, Murray and Kendall, Bove said during a public hearing at the Orleans County Emergency Management Center on Countyhouse Road.
Another ambulance provider wants to be the primary provider for eastern Orleans. Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance based in Albion said it would commit to putting an ambulance in Holley. COVA leaders said the organization should be given preference for the ambulance services because it is based within the county.
“If we have to put a rig or a substation in Holley that is what we’ll do,” said Kevin Sheehan, vice president of the COVA board of directors. “There is no call we can’t handle.”
COVA has three fully equipped ambulances and a trained crew that responds to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Wade Schwab, president of the COVA board of directors. COVA will add a fourth ambulance if it is approved to provide primary ambulance service for eastern Orleans.
Monroe Ambulance has already submitted its certificate of need to serve that section of the county. COVA is preparing its application.
The eastern Orleans fire department leaders said 90 percent of their patients go to hospitals in Monroe County. With Monroe Ambulance the local departments also can meet Monroe partway going east towards Rochester. With COVA, the fire officials said that group is coming from the opposite direction, and the local fire departments might have to wait for a COVA crew to show up and transport the patients.
Schwab said COVA is willing to have an ambulance on the eastern end of the county, which will speed up the responses. He said some of the eastern Orleans fire officials work for Monroe Ambulance and may feel an obligation to back that company, not only for the certificate of need but in requesting ambulance services. He worries Monroe Ambulance crews could be dispatched from Rochester rather than from COVA.
“I don’t think we’re getting the full consideration for providing service in our own county,” Schwab said.
Albion is about 10 miles from Holley. Monroe Ambulance’s crews in Brockport are closer than that. Gary Sicurella, a Fancher-Hulberton-Murray firefighter, said state officials shouldn’t look at which county the ambulance provider is based when determining which company is picked to provide primary services in eastern Orleans.
The focus should be on which ambulance company can provide the best service with the quickest response time. He said Monroe Ambulance has proven itself, working well with the eastern Orleans firefighters.
“If I have a patient I want the best and fastest care,” Sicurella said during the hearing. “I don’t care where it’s coming from.”
The Big Lakes Regional EMS Council will make a recommendation about the Monroe Ambulance CON to state officials, which will then make a final decision.
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 3 November 2014
BUFFALO – The Erie County Democratic Party has endorsed a Buffalo police officer to challenge incumbent Chris Collins for the 27th Congressional District, which includes Orleans and seven other WNY counties.
Collins was elected in November 2012 after winning a close race against Kathy Hochul. Jim O’Donnell, an Orchard Park resident, was endorsed on Saturday by the Erie County Democratic Party.
“Jim O’Donnell knows firsthand the hard work and sacrifice it takes to achieve the American Dream,” Jeremy Zellner, Democratic Party chairman, said in a statement. “As the son of a Marine and nurse, Jim has been working hard his entire life. He is a Buffalo Police officer with a Masters in Economics who has put his life on the line to serve our community. He’s also an attorney who will fight for the district and to end partisan gridlock in Washington.”
O’Donnell is critical of the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. On his Facebook page, he said the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is “a well meaning but flawed bill.” Collins has called for its repeal. O’Donnell believes the new healthcare law can be improved rather than outright rejected.
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 3 March 2014
ALBION – Orleans County officials are pushing to expand high-speed Internet to areas in the county without the service.
First, the county and local municipal officials need to know precisely which houses have access to the service and which don’t.
The county is working with town governments in the 10 towns to create a database of vertical assets that could be used to mount equipment for wireless Internet. The towns will also try to document which sections of roads have access to cable and high-speed Internet.
BP Greene, a Holley company, will work with the towns and county to help determine where the service currently is provided. BP Greene also has been hired to prepare a Request For Proposals for Internet service providers to expand service in Orleans. The County Legislature last week approved paying BP Greene $27,980 for its work on the project.
Town supervisors and county officials have been working on the issue for about three years. Pockets of the county have very limited service and that hurts residents’ ability to use the Internet for school homework, to apply for jobs on-line and run businesses, Legislature Chairman David Callard has said.
The county has heard anecdotally that service is spotty in Orleans. But Callard said the service providers claim 95 percent of the county is covered with high-speed Internet, a figure that the towns and county say is an overexaggeration.
The work from the towns and BP Greene should provide accurate data on access to the service. Callard expects the study will show gaps in coverage in the county.
“If we can demonstrate the need, we may be able to get a grant to expand the service,” he said.
The state has been providing resources to expand the service in rural, underserved areas. In December, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $14.5 million in state funds for nine broadband projects that will expand access to broadband services for nearly 30,000 residents and more than 2,000 businesses in Upstate New York.
Callard said he expects the study will produce needed data for the towns and county to determine the next step in expanding high-speed Internet.
“We want to make a determination this year,” he said.
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 28 February 2014
ALBION – When a resident can’t afford an attorney for criminal or family court, a judge in the case will often pick an attorney from the 50 on the county’s assigned counsel roster.
Judges need to make sure the attorneys don’t have any conflicts or past dealings with others involved in the case. Judges sometimes scramble, making several phone calls to find an attorney for a resident. Sometimes a judge will pick an attorney who happens to be in the courtroom.
The Orleans County Bar Association would like to see the county approve a part-time assigned counsel coordinator who would work with judges to find attorneys for cases. The coordinator could also ensure the residents meet income qualifications for indigent defense, and the coordinator could assess the quality of legal services in each case.
The coordinator of the program would make sure the cases are also rotated among the attorneys and that they follow consistent billing and reimbursement practices, said Shirley Gorman, chairwoman of the Bar Association’s assigned counsel committee.
The county spends about $600,000 a year through the public defender’s office and for assigned counsel, said Public Defender Sanford Church.
The state pays about $110,000 to $120,000 towards the cost. The state designates how its money should be used. A coordinator for assigned counsel is one of the functions that would be funded through the state Office of Indigent Legal Services. It has offered to pay for the coordinator for at least three years, Church said, as long as the County Legislature approves the position.
Church and Gorman presented the plan for a coordinator on Wednesday to the County Legislature, which said it would likely support the plan for more oversight with assigned counsel. Church and Gorman said the plan would match attorneys with clients sooner, and speed up the time their cases are in the court system.
The coordinator could also try to match the expertise of attorneys with the difficulty of each case, Gorman said.
“This is the best way to provide representation right away,” she told county legislators. “You have attorneys who show up right away who are prepared.”
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 27 February 2014
ALBION – Gov. Cuomo and state officials plan to issue rebate checks to residents if their local governments can stay under a state imposed 2 percent tax cap. It’s another incentive from the governor to pressure local governments to rein in costs.
But Orleans County officials, and the state-wide New York Association of Counties, believe the governor and state legislators are unfairly pointing fingers at the local governments as the cause for high taxes.
County officials for years have tried to get the state to assume more costs of state-mandated programs, including Medicaid and others that strain the county budgets.
The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday passed a formal resolution, asking the state to consider taking over the county share of the Medicaid program. That would result in a “historic” reduction in lower local property taxes, legislators said.
In most states, the federal government and state split the costs of Medicaid. In New York, the Feds pay 50 percent, while the state pays about 35 percent with the counties shouldering about 15 percent. In Orleans County, that local share is more than $9 million.
The state should bear those costs, said County Legislator Don Allport, R-Gaines.
“They should keep the costs at Albany, where they can control the program and not make the counties the culprits,” he said.
The NYSAC organization believes the most effective way to cut the local taxes would be for the state to assume more share of Medicaid.
However, that wouldn’t allow the governor and the state politicians to cut a rebate check, even if it’s tiny, right before the elections, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer.
If Orleans met the threshold for staying under the cap, Nesbitt said residents could receive a rebate check of perhaps $10. However, it would cost $5 or $6 to have the check printed, administered and mailed, he said.
Cuomo is pushing hard to push his plan, unveiling a new web site on Wednesday: www.CutPropertyTaxes.ny.gov. He asks state residents to call their state legislators to support his proposal. Cuomo said property taxes in New York are too high, causing an exodus of residents and businesses.
“High property taxes have been the number one burden on New York’s families and businesses,” he said on Wednesday. “Right after I took office we capped property taxes to stop skyrocketing hikes that were driving people from this state. Now we need to lower property taxes and we need your help to do it.”
The governor also says there are too many layers of government – about 10,500 total in the state. He wants to see more consolidation of local governments.
The NYSAC group put out a report (click here) that sites examples of municipal sharing and cooperation, arrangements that are savings taxpayer dollars. NYSAC cited the example of Orleans and Genesee counties using the same public health director, and Orleans contracting with Genesee for youth bureau services.
"It's long past time to lower taxes on behalf of New Yorkers, but local governments can't do it alone," said NYSAC President Mark R. Alger. "Counties remain committed to working with the state to address the root cause of property taxes and will continue to implement modern and efficient local government operations by working with other units of local governments, fire districts, special purpose districts and school districts."
By Tom Rivers, editor Posted 27 February 2014
GAINES – Leaders of the Orleans County Republican Party endorsed Chris Collins for another term as congressman and also backed three incumbent state legislators for another two-year term in Albany.
Collins, a former Erie County executive, was first elected to Congress in a close election in November 2012 against Kathy Hochul. He lives in Clarence. The 27th Congressional District includes 105 towns in eight counties. For more on Collins, click here.
The GOP also endorsed George Maziarz of Newfane for the 62nd Senate District that includes all of Orleans, most of Niagara and a portion of western Monroe. Maziarz was first elected to the Senate in 1995. For more on Maziarz, click here.
Two members of the State Assembly have districts that include portions of Orleans County. Steve Hawley of Batavia represents the 139th District which includes all of Genesee, four towns in Monroe and all of Orleans except the town of Shelby. He keeps his district office in Albion. He was first elected to the Assembly in February 2006. For more on Hawley, click here.
Jane Corwin of Clarence represents the 144th District, which includes portions of Erie and Niagara counties, as well as Shelby in Orleans County. She was first elected in November 2008. For more on Corwin, click here.
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