‘Citizens for a Constitutional Sheriff’ survey sheriff candidates in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 September 2015
ALBION – A group that wants a “Constitutional Sheriff” has surveyed the candidates – Tom Drennan, Randy Bower and Donald Organisciak, asking them if have training in the Constitution, if they would be willing to meet regularly with citizens’ groups, and how they would protect residents from “government overreach,” and other questions.

 

Orleans County Citizens for a Constitutional Sheriff is part of a grass roots movement in the country to have sheriffs knowledgeable about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and who will use the office of sheriff to protect residents from government overreach and Constitutional infringements.


“We’re trying to educate the candidates and public about a Constitutional sheriff,” said Judy Larkin, a member of the Orleans County Citizens for a Constitutional Sheriff.


The group asked the three candidates for sheriff a series of questions and the answers are posted on the group’s Facebook page (click here). The candidates are asked about use of red light cameras and drones, which are opposed by the Citizens for a Constitutional Sheriff.


Drennan, Bower and Organisciak all responded in the survey that they would be willing to be trained on the Constitution, and also would gladly meet regularly with citizens around the county.


The Citizens for a Constitutional Sheriff are not endorsing a candidate for sheriff.

Here are some excerpts from the survey:


Question: “Are you willing to step out and diffuse the situation if there is a Constitutional breach by putside police agencies?”


Drennan: “Yes, it is important to build strong/positive relationships in an effort to diffuse a situation before it starts. Everyone needs to work together to mend strained relationships.”


Bower: “As sheriff, I would do anything in my power to uphold the Constitution of the United States.”


Organisciak: “Yes, I would diffuse the situation in order to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of every a county citizen.”


Question: “How do you feel about red light cameras or drones?”


Drennan: “We do not have any red light cameras in our county so I have not read any studies on them. I would only be guessing that awareness of the cameras has prevented accidents but don’t (know) if it is worth the cost vs. public safety or just another ‘tax.’ A drone would be a nice crime scene tool to take aerial photos vs. the cost of a helicopter that may not be available when needed.”


Bower: “I’m not in favor of red light cameras. I feel drones have a purpose, for example to aid in search and rescue and help locate missing children or lost hunters.”

 

Organisciak: “Both could be good tools if used properly in the law enforcement field.”


Each candidate was also asked an individual question.


Bower, who is paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident when he was 18, has worked the past 29 years as a dispatcher. He was asked, “How will you compensate for your disability in filling the requirements of this job?”


Bower: “Disability is only a perception. In fact, it has only driven me to succeed in anything I have put my mind to. There is nothing I have not been able to do as a parent or community member. My mobility limitation has not limited me in having a rich history of 29 years serving the public.”


Drennan has worked 23 years for the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office and is currently the chief deputy. He started as a road patrol deputy in September 1992 and has been promoted to lieutenant, criminal investigator, major and chief deputy.


He was asked if a law enforcement background is a prerequisite for the Sheriff’s Office.


Drennan: “Yes, I think it is important to have that background to draw from when needed. Even as an administrator in a small department you have to have that legal background and experience to draw from on a daily basis. Even as sheriff you will be expected to get involved and lead your personnel.”


Organisciak worked 30 years as a police officer for Medina, with 16 years as a patrolman, then a year as a sergeant and the final 13 years as the Medina Police Department’s first full-time criminal investigator. He retired in June 2008 and then worked two more years as the school resource officer for Lyndonville Central School.

 

He was asked what is his motivation for wanting to get back into law enforcement at the county level after retiring from the village police, and what he would bring to the Sheriff’s Office.


Organisciak: "Having served the village of Medina for 30 years, I believe my experience is most important and would be very viable to the office of Sheriff. I don’t know if you would call it motivation. I like to listen to people about their concerns about law enforcement and then help them to better understand the law enforcement side of things. I also entered the sheriff’s race to give people another choice for the candidacy.”


For more on the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, click here.

 

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Fulcomer will retire in November as director of Veterans Service Agency

Photo by Tom Rivers
Paul Fulcomer accepts a check for $6,000 from the Albion Rotary Club last week. Becky Karls, right, helped plan the Rotary Golf Tournament that raised the money to go towards a van to transport veterans to medical appointments.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 August 2015
ALBION – The director of the Veterans Service Agency in Orleans County will retire on Nov. 28 after 13 years of helping veterans and their families receive benefits through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.


Paul Fulcomer works to bring money to veterans from the VA, but also is active in planning services to honor veterans and also leads a volunteer-run van transportation service that takes vets to medical appointments.


Fulcomer is proud of the van transportation service that operates with five used vans. He thinks Orleans County is the only county offering such a volunteer-run service.


Last year, volunteers took 1,743 veterans to medical appointments with the vans. There are 33 volunteers in the van service, either driving or helping to arrange appointments.


“The people of Orleans County step up and help the veterans out,” Fulcomer told the County Legislature last week.


Donations help pay for the vans. Last week the Albion Rotary Club presented a check for $6,000 to go towards replacing one of the five vans. The Rotary Club also donated $5,000 in 2014 for the van service. This year’s golf tournament was able to raise more for the van service.


Fulcomer and his office helped return $20.3 million to the veteran community in Orleans County last year, he told county legislators in a report last week. That includes $11,467,000 for compensation and pension, $7,961,000 for medical care, $755,000 for rehabilitation and vocational services, and $178,000 for insurance and indemnities.


In addition, Fulcomer acts as the veterans’ burial officer in the county and was responsible for nine veterans’ burials last year.


The county cost for the Veterans Service Agency is $87,592. Fulcomer said his office returns $232.45 to the community for every $1 spent by the county for the Veterans Service Agency.


There are 3,239 veterans in the county and about 2,500 widows. Fulcomer’s office made 13,825 contacts last year with veterans, widows and children of veterans.

 

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Chamber names annual business award winners

Hinspergers declared ‘Business of the Year’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 August 2015
MEDINA – A Medina company that makes pool covers and other durable plastic products has been named Business of the Year for 2015 by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

 

Hinspergers Poly Industries employs about 60 people at 430 West Oak Orchard St. The Canada-based company opened a manufacturing site in Medina in 2002 and has steadily grown since then.

 

Hinspergers will be recognized during the Chamber’s annual awards banquet on Sept. 18 at Tillman’s Village Inn. The celebration goes from 5:30 to 9 p.m.


The chamber will also honor the following:


• Small Business of the Year: Erie Way Tree Farm of Holley.


• New Business of the Year: 810 Meadworks of Medina.


• Agricultural Business of the Year: Circle R Fruit Farm in Kent.


• Phoenix Award: a lily and a sparrow in Medina.


• Community Service Award: Barb Flow of Kendall.


• Business Person of the Year: Lora Partyka of Kendall.


• Lifetime Achievement Award: Bob Waters of Medina.

 

The award program is open to the public. For more information, call the Chamber at (585) 589-7727.

 

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Drennan supporters say he has experience, commitment to excel as sheriff

Photos by Tom Rivers
Tom Drennan greets some of his supporters, including Michael Hanlon at left, during a chicken barbecue dinner this evening at the Elks’ Club in Albion. Drennan, the current chief deputy at the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, is running for sheriff and faces a Republican Primary on Sept. 10 against Randy Bower.

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 August 2015
ALBION – Tom Drennan’s supporters showed up in force today to buy chicken barbecue dinners and lend support for the chief deputy seeking to become the next county sheriff.


Drennan has worked 23 years for the Sheriff’s Office, starting as a road patrol deputy in September 1992. He has been promoted to lieutenant, criminal investigator, major and chief deputy.


He is running a campaign with a message that “Experience Matters.” He faces Randy Bower in a Republican Primary on Sept. 10. Drennan has the Republican Party endorsement. Former Medina police investigator Don Organisciak has the Democratic Party endorsement for the Nov. 3 election.


Drennan’s supporters include a who’s who of local law enforcement leaders, including District Attorney Joe Cardone. The DA says he can’t endorse a candidate, but he said Drennan would be an asset for the county as sheriff.


“I've worked with Tom for 23 years,” Cardone said. “There hasn’t been a major investigation he hasn’t been involved with. He brings years and years of experience and good judgment to the job.”


Tom Drennan was out directing traffic on Route 98 during the 10-mile race in Albion, the debut of the Metro 10 that included about 400 runners.


David Green, a retired sheriff, served in that role for 20 years as a Democrat. Green is now the vice chairman of the Democratic Party and has taken some heat from Democrats for backing Drennan.


Green said he has known Drennan since he was a young boy. Green was friends with Drennan’s parents, the late Jack and Helen Drennan.


“I have known him and his family for 50 years,” Green said at the Drennan benefit this evening.


Green was sheriff when Drennan was hired 23 years ago. Green said Drennan has received many promotions and completed numerous training classes, developing contacts in the law enforcement community.


“The other two (Bower and Organisciak) are both good guys,” Green said. “But I think Tom is the best prepared. He’s worked hard to get to this point.”

Four members of the civilian staff at the Sheriff’s Office, who all work with Tom Drennan, serve up chicken barbecue dinners. The group includes, from left: Sandy Wolfe, Nicole Spohr, Debbie Hughson and Allison Lavigne. Karen Narburgh also is pictured at the end of the line. The group served 700 dinners today.

 

Allison Lavigne works as civilian staff in the office with Drennan. She and her civilian co-workers helped serve the chicken dinners today. They support Drennan to lead the Sheriff's Office.

 

"He's one of the most honest and respectful people I've ever met," Lavigne said. "I believe he has the county's best interest at heart. It's not personal for him. He's thinking of the county."

 

Rocky Sidari, a former Albion fire chief, has 25 years with the Fire Department. He also started as a county cornorer in January, and he said Drennan has been helpful since Sidari started the new job.

 

"Whenever we had a serious fire, he's been there," Sidari said. "He's dedicated and professional. It doesn't matter the call, he'll jump in. Honestly, I think he'd be one of the best sheriffs we've ever had."

 

Drennan greeted people at the Elks door during the benefit. He said he's pleased with the campaign and the encouragement from the community.

 

"The support has been awesome," he said. "It's been a lot of hard work, but it's been enjoyable."

 

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DA seeks law in Orleans for pawn shops, scrap yards to ID merchandise

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 August 2015
ALBION – Orleans County is considering a local law that would require pawn shops to wait 2 weeks before selling merchandise.


The legislation would also make pawn shops and scrap yards photograph merchandise purchased second-hand and keep records on who sold them the items. The shops also would be required to check photo identification from people selling merchandise.


The merchandise would be listed on a web site, LeadsOnline.com, and law enforcement would have access to the site, to see if any of the items match descriptions of stolen property.


District Attorney Joe Cardone presented the proposal to the County Legislature on Wednesday. He was joined by County Attorney David Schubel and Chief Deputy Tom Drennan of the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office.


Cardone said drug criminals will often steal others’ property, and then take those items to pawn shops to cash in and feed their drug addictions.


The 2-week waiting period at pawn shops will give police time to recover the items. Sometimes people who have property stolen may not realize it or report it right away, Cardone said.


The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office has been using LeadsOnline.com and was able to locate missing property for Orleans County residents, whose belongings were taken to pawn shops and scrap yards in Rochester.


“We’ve had a lot of success,” Drennan told county legislators. “In the 30-day trial we’ve solved some burglaries.”


The law would require second-hand dealers to get a license through the Sheriff’s Office or registration through from the District Attorney’s Office. It wouldn’t apply to garage sales, charitable entities or local firearms dealers.


The Legislature will likely have a public hearing on the proposal next month before it considers approving the local law.

 

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County approves deal to collect TVs and other “e-waste”

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 August 2015
ALBION – Orleans County residents will soon have three drop-off sites for televisions and other “e-waste.”


Garbage crews stopped picking up the televisions on Jan. 1, and residents instead have been discarding many of the TVs into ditches and along country roads.


Legislature Chairman David Callard said about 500 have been picked up by highway crews this year.


The Legislature on Wednesday approved a deal with Sunnking Incorporated of Brockport to pick up and dispose of cathode ray tube televisions, monitors, computers, peripheral devices and other household electronics.


The company will be paid $14,782 annually for the service, effective Aug. 26.


“This is a plan in the interim while the state gets its act together,” said Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer.


Residents will be able to drop the household electronics at the Murray Town Hall, Orleans County Highway Department in Albion, and Shelby Town Hall.


The state on Jan. 1 began banning curbside disposal of older TVs with cathode-ray technology. Many residents have upgraded from those televisions, switching to popular flat screens. Many of the older TVs have been dumped in ditches along rural roads.


Manufacturers were supposed to take back older TVs, but the state capped the amount of discarded material companies have to accept each year. Manufacturers have been hitting that cap midway through the year.


“The issue is exacerbated by the fact that electronics currently sold today are much lighter than the obsolete CRT devices that make up about 70 percent of the weight of e-scrap generated, which are cost intensive to responsibly manage,” according to a resolution passed by the County Legislature and other local municipalities.

 

“As a result, many local governments across the state have grappled with the burden to fund or cease e-scrap collection, which has been particularly difficult in rural communities that do not benefit from retail collectors or economies of scale,” according to the resolution.


The County Legislature and other local municipalities are asking Gov. Cuomo, the State Legislature and State Department of Environmental Conservation to work towards a long-term solution for electronic waste recycling for both urban and rural areas.


“We’re excited to get this under control,” Callard said on Wednesday, when the county announced the plan. “It’s a commendable program.”

 

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Orleans Arc votes to merge with Genesee ARC

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 August 2015
ALBION – An agency that serves people with disabilities in Orleans County voted to merge with a sister agency in Genesee County.


The Arc of Orleans County and Genesee ARC are already sharing a director, Donna Saskowski. The Arc of Orleans board of directors wants to join the two agencies, seeing an opportunity for reduced administration costs while preserving needed services for residents, said Don Allport, a member of the Arc board and a past president for the agency.


“The services will stay here,” Allport said during today’s Orleans County Legislature meeting. He is also a county legislator.


“It was a unanimous vote,” he continued. “We’re looking to a bright future.”


Allport said the smaller-county ARC chapters have struggled with Medicaid reductions and reimbursement changes through the Affordable Care Act.


“The smaller Arc’s are being forced to combine,” he said.


However, he thinks Orleans and Genesee are the first to do it.


The Genesee ARC board still needs to approve the merger and Allport said that board is expected to back the union this evening.

 

An exploratory committee has been looking at the issue with help from a consultant. The agency in Genesee County operates on about a $13 million annual budget with 340 staff members. In Orleans, the Arc has a $12 million budget and about 300 employees.

 

Saskowski, in an interview earlier this month, said some of the ARC chapters in the state are reducing programs and staff due to shrinking government reimbursements and other fiscal challenges.

 

“We might be able to provide services in a better manner and be more stable as an agency,” Saskowski said about a possible merged agency.

 

Two counties with a bigger land area, Livingston and Wyoming, have a single ARC chapter, the Arc of Livingston-Wyoming.

 

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Bower and his supporters believe they are poised to pull off upset

Photos by Tom Rivers
Randy Bower meets with about 100 of his backers and campaign team members on Wednesday night at St. Mary’s Athletic Club in Albion.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 August 2015
ALBION – Randy Bower’s campaign to be the next Orleans County sheriff may have appeared over on May 7.


That night, the Orleans County Republican Committee endorsed Tom Drennan to be the next sheriff, succeeding Scott Hess who is retiring on Dec. 31. About 70 members of the committee gave about 60 percent of the group’s support to Drennan.

 

There was speculation that Bower, a county dispatcher the past 29 years, would drop out of the race. He already had the Conservative endorsement, but many wondered if he would buck the Republican Party leaders and force a primary.


Bower refused to back off. He submitted Republican petitions signed by more than 900 people, well above the 525 threshold to force the primary.


“The energy has been phenomenal,” Bower, 50, said after a meeting with about 100 campaign supporters at St. Mary’s Athletic Club in Albion.


Bower has gained a following on the campaign, impressing his supporters with his energy in going to so many community events and talking to residents regardless of their background, from political party affiliation to socioeconomic status.

“I’ve seen him a lot more than his opponent,” said Bill Francis of Albion, who attended a rally for Bower on Wednesday night at St. Mary’s. “He’s thought this through from the get-go.”

Randy Bower speaks with his campaign supporters at St. Mary's with about three weeks to go before the Republican Primary.


Francis chatted with Bower at the Lyndonville Fourth of July Parade. Bower had a booth after the parade and gave Francis one of the red “Bower for Sheriff” T-shirts. More than 300 people have those shirts and Francis said he is proud to wear it.


“You want my vote, you have to come talk to me,” Francis said.


Bower has been paralyzed from the waist down since a car accident at age 18. Francis has a daughter Erica, 25, who is legally blind and deaf. He sees a determination in his daughter to not let her disabilities keep her from an active life.


“Just like my daughter, Randy lets nothing bother him or hold him back,” Francis said.


Bower talks about living a “blessed life” with his wife Robin and their children: Jessica, 23; and Jacob, 20.

 

He is running to be sheriff to build a strong team in the Sheriff’s Department that he said will focus on service to residents, from stepping up road patrols by Lyndonville and Kendall schools, to timely delivery of civil papers to pushing for state-funded drug and alcohol addiction programs for inmates in the county jail.

Bower thanked his campaign team for their help the past few months, and then gave them more instructions before the primary on Sept. 10.


Bower has been campaigning with Chris Bourke, a 31-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, who would serve as undersheriff if Bower is elected. Bourke has been a lieutenant the past 18 years and a K-9 handler.

 

(Besides the primary, there is a general election on Nov. 3 and the Democratic Party has endorsed Don Organisciak, who worked 30 years in Medina, with 16 years as a patrolman, then a year as a sergeant and the final 13 years as the Medina Police Department’s first full-time criminal investigator.

 

Both Bower and Drennan have other lines for the general election with Bower backed by the Conservative Party and Drennan picking up the Independence Party line.)

 

Bower has attended numerous community events, from chicken barbecues at churches to big community parades.


He has 700 campaign signs out on yards, bold red signs with the sheriff star. At least 300 people are wearing “Randy Red,” the bright red shirts that say “Bower for Sheriff.”

Randy Bower urges his supporters to keep wearing their red "Bower for Sheriff" shirts and work to get out more campaign signs.


He has the support of the Deputy Sheriffs Association, and the union for corrections officers and other civilian staff. Each of those unions has given $2,000 towards his campaign.


“They have been tireless in their efforts,” Amy Jenks, a member of the Deputy Sheriffs Association, said about Bower and Bourke. “If they are working this hard campaigning, imagine what they could do for the county if they win the election.”

 

Bower said the support within the department, plus the community has him optimistic he will win the Republican primary on Sept. 10.

 

His father, George Bower, was an Orleans County legislator for more than two decades, and won more than 10 county-wide elections.


“I’ve been very impressed,” George Bower said about his son. “He is surrounded by a lot of good people. He goes to the chicken barbecues and talks to the people. He has a great personality and he is a great kid, and he has been like that since he was 18.”

 

Randy Bower said voter turnout will be the key for the primary. He and his key supporters will be reaching out to Republicans to get out the vote on Sept. 10.


“This is the first time I can remember a contested sheriff’s election with this kind of energy,” Bower told his supporters.


He showed no signs of exhaustion from the pace of the campaign.


“Throughout this whole time, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed this job and being with the people of Orleans County,” he said.

 

Drennan has been chief deputy in the Sheriff’s Department the past nine years. He has worked in the department for 23 years. He has a campaign event on Aug. 27 at the Albion Elks Club. Orleans Hub plans to stop by and talk with Drennan and his supporters.

 

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Opt-out rates in Orleans exceeded state rate for math, ELA tests

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 August 2015
The State Education Department announced today that 20 percent of students did not take the grades 3-8 math and ELA tests in April, and the “opt-out” rate was higher in Orleans County.


“This year, there was a significant increase in the number of students refusing the annual assessments,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said in a statement. “We must do more to ensure that our parents and teachers understand the value and importance of these tests for our children’s education.”


State Education Department data show that students who did not take the tests without a valid reason were more likely to be white, more likely to be from a low or average need district, and slightly more likely to have scored at levels 1 or 2 in 2014, the lowest levels.


Tisch said the tests provide a “honest look at how prepared our students are for future success.”


“Without an annual testing program, the progress of our neediest students may be ignored or forgotten, leaving these students to fall further behind,” she said. “This cannot happen.”


Buffalo Business First compiled the opt-out rates at school districts in Western New York (Click here). In Orleans the rates include:


• Albion: Math, 29 percent; ELA, 22 percent.


• Holley: Math, 43 percent; ELA, 40 percent.


• Kendall: Math, 34 percent; ELA, 30 percent.


• Lyndonville: Math, 26 percent; ELA, 19 percent.


• Medina: Math, 30 percent; ELA, 21 percent.


Brian Kolb, the leader of Republican conference in the State Assembly, posted on Twitter that he hopes the opt-out rate jumps from 20 percent to 40 percent next year if the state doesn’t make reforms to Common Core and its controversial teacher evaluation system.


State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said she wants more students to take the tests.


“We must also do a better job of explaining to parents the benefits of higher standards and annual testing,” Elia said in a statement today. “Since I became Commissioner, I’ve made it a priority to establish a dialog with parents so they better understand why we test. Annual assessments provide important information about individual students for parents and classroom teachers and allow us to keep track of how all student groups are doing. This year’s results show our scores are not yet where they need to be, but we will work to ensure continued improvement.”

 

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Arc of Orleans, Genesee ARC have shared director

2 agencies are looking at more collaboration, possible merger

Photo by Tom Rivers
Donna Saskowski has been leading the Arc of Orleans County as executive director since April 1 on a six-month trial basis. She also is the executive director for the Genesee County ARC. She has led that agency for 11 years.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 August 2015
ALBION – The Arc of Orleans County and Genesee County ARC, two agencies that serve developmentally disabled residents, have collaborated with joint staff training for several years, as well as shared information technology services.


The two agencies since April 1 have shared an executive director. Donna Saskowski has led the Genesee County ARC for 11 years. The Arc of Orleans had been without a permanent executive director since Kellie Spychalski left in December to work in Niagara County with Opportunities Unlimited.


Patricia Kepner served as interim director for the Arc of Orleans for more than a year until Saskowski became the shared director on April 1. Kepner continues as director of quality assurance and the Camp Rainbow director for the Arc.


The two agencies are looking at more ways to share services, a discussion and study that could lead to a merger, Saskowski said today at the Arc’s administrative offices on Caroline Street.


An exploratory committee is looking at the issue with help from a consultant.


“I see opportunities,” Saskowski said. “We certainly compliment each other.”


The agency in Genesee County operates on about a $13 million annual budget with 340 staff members. In Orleans, the Arc has a $12 million budget and about 300 employees.


Saskowski said some of the ARC chapters in the state are reducing programs and staff due to shrinking government reimbursements and other fiscal challenges.


“We might be able to provide services in a better manner and be more stable as an agency,” Saskowski said about a possible merged agency.


Two counties with a bigger land area, Livingston and Wyoming, have a single ARC chapter, the Arc of Livingston-Wyoming.


Saskowski said if the discussion and study doesn’t lead to a merger, she expects there will be more partnering among the two agencies.


Her goal is to preserve as many programs and services as possible for developmentally disabled residents and their families. She has pushed for shared services, even when it resulted in more work for her by working in two counties.


“I’m more of a believer of being more efficient at the administrative level and putting those savings into programs,” she said.


She said the Arc chapters are wrestling with how to provide and foster community based employment for development disabled residents. The state is limiting sheltered workshops, where Arc consumers do light packaging and other tasks for businesses. The state isn’t allowing more people into those sites, instead pushing for other employment in the community.


Saskowski said agencies need to continue prevocational services, and try to have choices for developmentally disabled adults in the workplace.


She also wants more housing choices for developmentally disabled adults, which could be semi-independent living in apartments, additional “group homes” known as IRAs (Individualized Residential Alternative), or certified apartments where a staff members check in periodicaly to make sure the residents are taking medications and maintaining their living space.


Saskowski also worries about the state push for a $15 minimum for fast food workers. That could pull away employees from human services agencies, she said.


She would like to see more funding from the state for the ARC chapters, so ARC employees can earn more money.


Unlike fast food restaurants, which can raise prices to pay employees more, Saskowski said the agencies can’t pay employees more without assistance from the state.

 

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Orleans, Niagara pick vendors for rural broadband

Staff Reports Posted 5 August 2015

County leaders in Orleans and Niagara have formally approved a Memorandum of Understanding with vendors to develop a rural broadband network with the goal of making high-speed internet access available in every household.

 

The two counties, working together as the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, have entered into an MOU with the team of Seneca Solutions and Resolute Partners.

 

These vendors will work closely with previously retained project managers at Wendel to obtain grant funding and then design, install, operate and maintain the rural broadband network.

“We have spent a lot of time studying the need for this project and identifying gaps in broadband Internet coverage,” said Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson. “Choosing who we work with to tackle this problem and make access possible for everyone was our most important decision.”

 

The Orleans County Legislature on Friday picked Seneca Solutions and Resolute Partners for the project. Johnson said the companies have the technical expertise to deliver the service in Orleans and Niagara.

 

“Our team has been in discussions with them for a number of months,” she said. “We’ve seen what they were able to accomplish in creating a network on the Cattaraugus Territory, and we are pleased to announce them as the right partners for advancing our NORA project.”

 

The framework provided in the MOU will help position the NORA Broadband Initiative for funding from the New NY Broadband Program, an unprecedented $500 million broadband access grant program included in the 2015-2016 state budget.

 

County leaders, while maintaining regular contact with the NYS Broadband Program Office, are targeting this funding source as a game-changer in making the build-out of a new network possible. The ultimate goal is to eliminate all coverage gaps and make service available to 100 percent of households in the two-county region.

The MOU outlines high-level responsibilities of the counties, which include making previous studies and reports available, ensuring access to county infrastructure to build-out the network, identifying funding opportunities and grantwriting, and helping with any necessary permits.

 

The Seneca Solutions/Resolute Partners team will be responsible for designing a broadband solution to meet the two counties’ needs; develop plans for operations, maintenance, sales, and marketing; and providing all technical expertise necessary to implement the project.

“In today’s world, high-speed internet access is a necessity, just as electricity and other utilities have become necessities,” said Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey. “We owe it to our residents in rural areas to not leave them behind. Quality Internet access in the home is critical to business operations, education, and an infinite number of personal activities. Seneca Solutions and Resolute Partners will design and implement a system that will ensure these opportunities are available to everyone.”

 

Niagara and Orleans counties retained Wendel for project management services earlier this summer. The Amherst-based engineering firm will provide oversight for NORA as the project moves through a planned pilot phase and later into full implementation.

“We are doing our homework, we are meeting with state officials and industry leaders, we are attending broadband conferences – we are ready to take the next step in serving our residents,” said David Callard, chairman of the Orleans County Legislature. “Helping to expand rural broadband access will be one of the most innovative and collaborative projects our county has undertaken. Our MOU with these private partners moves the Broadband Initiative forward in a big way.”

Seneca Solutions is a tribally owned, Native American 8a Small Disadvantaged Business located on the Cattaraugus Territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians outside of Buffalo, New York.

 

Resolute Partners, established in 1997, engineers, installs, operates and maintains a complete range of Internet access and fixed wireless communications solutions for healthcare, government and commercial enterprises around the world, including hospitals, education facilities, military bases and office parks.

 

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