Legislature also weighs expanding senior tax exemptions
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 September 2014
ALBION – The new Orleans County tax bills that come out in January will no longer list taxpayer costs for the nursing home, state-mandated programs and other general services.
The Legislature voted last week to go back to one line item for the tax bills. The break-out was confusing to residents, said Legislator Lynne Johnson.
The county also expects to close on the sale of the nursing home by the end of the year, meaning there shouldn’t be county taxpayer subsidies for The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in the future.
The Legislature in 2011 voted to have “Truth in Taxation” on the tax bills, trying to highlight key cost drivers in the county tax bill. Legislators say they will continue to raise awareness on the impact of state mandated programs on the county budget. State programs such as Medicaid, indigent defense and several others account for more than the county’s total tax levy of about $15 million.
The Legislature also is considering expanding the tax discounts for lower-income senior citizens. Seniors who earn less than $19,200 are eligible for discounts on their county taxes. That level hasn’t been changed since 2007. The new level would be increased by $2,000.
The Legislature held a public hearing on the issue last Wednesday and set a second hearing for 4:25 p.m. on Oct. 8.
Paul Lauricella, vice chairman of the Orleans County Conservative Party, said the county should work to giving every resident a tax break, not just a select group.
“I feel for the seniors,” Lauricella said during the public hearing. “But when you do these target groups everybody else pays the difference.”
Right now the county offers 50 percent off for seniors with household incomes up to $13,500. The sliding scale exemption drops to 20 percent off for seniors with annual incomes between $18,300 and $19,199. It's 0 percent for seniors with incomes at $19,200 or above.
The new proposed schedule includes the following percentage exemptions:
• 50 percent off for incomes up to $15,500;
• 45 percent off for incomes between $15,500 and $16,499;
• 40 percent between $16,500 and $17,499;
• 35 percent between $17,500 and $18,499;
• 30 percent between $18,500 and $19,399;
• 25 percent between $19,400 and $20,299;
• 20 percent between $20,300 and $21,199;
• 0 percent after $21,200.
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 September 2014
Gia Arnold worked hard for several months to secure the Republican line for the State Senate, but lost a Sept. 9 primary to Robert Ortt, the mayor of North Tonawanda.
Today, she is coming out in support of Johnny Destino, a lawyer in Niagara Falls who is running under the Democratic Party line. Destino ran as a Republican two years ago in an unsuccessful attempt to get the GOP line from George Maziarz.
Maziarz announced in late July he wasn’t seeking re-election. Ortt was picked by Republican Party leaders to be a last-second switch for Maziarz.
Arnold, 24, had already been working on a campaign against Maziarz. She said the party leaders picked an establishment candidate rather than backing her. She would later withdraw from the race after admitting an affair, but jumped back in after support from residents in the district, she said.
Ortt won the primary on Sept. 9, getting 71 percent of the vote.
Arnold still had a shot to appear on the November ballot, but her petitions for the Libertarian Party were challenged in court. She lost the court fight and won’t appear on the ballot.
She is still determined to have an impact in the race. Today on her Facebook page she said she is backing Destino, and urged people to back Destino who she said is “anti-establishment.”
Destino will fight for Constitutional rights and personal freedom, Arnold said.
“Not only has he vowed to stop corruption and increase transparency, but he has also been fighting against the two-party elitists longer than I,” she said. “You can trust that Johnny will not cater to the pressures of party power, and will only work for the best interests of the people.”
Destino on Thursday also picked up the endorsements of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and Congressman Brian Higgins.
Ortt on Wednesday announced he had the endorsement of National Federation of Independent Business. Ortt is the endorsed Republican, Conservative and Independence party candidate.
Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 25 September 2014
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature was presented an official 9-11 flag on Wednesday from Larry Montello, commander of Medina's Butts-Clark American Legion and also the coordinator of 9-11 memorial events in Orleans County.
The flag given to the Legislature was the first one to fly in front of the courthouse about four years ago. Montello, left, presented the flag to David Callard, Orleans County Legislature chairman.
Montello thanked the county for supporting a 9-11 memorial near the flagpole in front of the courthouse. Callard commended Montello for heading the memorial events every 9-11.
Nationally, Orleans ranks more in middle of pack
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 September 2014
A study that looks at 3,135 counties across the United States puts Orleans County below average at 1,894 based on a ranking of quality of life issues.
However, when comparing counties in New York State, Orleans would be the sixth hardest to live out of 62 counties.
The New York Times used six criteria for determining the rankings for an article called, “Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?”
The report is based on ranking the median household income ($50,113 in Orleans), education or percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree (15.8 percent in Orleans), unemployment rate (10.4 percent), disability rate (1.3 percent), life expectancy (78.3 years) and obesity (41 percent).
In New York state, five counties ranked worse than Orleans, including Fulton County (ranked 1,992), St. Lawrence (2,048), Oswego (2,052), Cattaraugus (2,064) and Montgomery (2,149).
In Montgomery, the median household income is $42,830, more than $7,000 less than in Orleans. Montgomery tops Orleans with a 16.1 percent college educate rate, ties with a 10.4 percent unemployment rate, has a higher disability rate (2.1 percent), a similar life expectancy at 78 years and a slightly lower obesity rate at 39 percent.
The upstate counties that are in the worse shape or considered the hardest places to live are a long ways from the bottom of the heap nationally. Consider Breathitt County in Kentucky, ranked 3,129 of 3,135 overall. That county has a median household income of 23,049, a college education rate of 10.2 percent, an 11.9 percent unemployment rate, 11.5 percent of adults on disability, a life expectancy of 71.4 and an obesity rate of 47 percent.
Six counties in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky are among the 10 hardest places to live in the country, according to the report.
Six of the top 10 counties are in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. New York state has six counties in the top 200, including Tompkins at 170, Saratoga at 129, Westchester at 98, Rockland at 96, Putnam at 66 and Nassau at 63.
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 September 2014
ALBION – The three-person local development corporation that was formed to sell the county-owned nursing home will meet Thursday for the first time since Feb. 6, the day the nursing home was sold to Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC for $7.8 million.
The sale isn’t final until the state Department of Health gives the final OK. That is expected before Dec. 31, said Russell Martino, chairman of the Orleans County Health Facilities Corporation.
The County Legislature voted in 2012 to transfer the nursing home, The Villages of Orleans, to the Health Facilities Corporation. That group then worked with a firm, Marcus and Millichap’s National Senior Housing Group in Chicago, that specializes in nursing home sales.
The LDC board of Russell Martino, Richard DeCarlo Sr. and Richard Moy on Feb. 6 accepted the $7.8 million bid from of Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC. That company also recently purchased three Catholic Health facilities in Buffalo.
The $7.8 million will more than offset the remaining debt following a renovation of the nursing home about five years ago. County officials also say the sale will relieve the county from taxpayer subsidies for the operating deficits at the site, deficits officials feared would grow to $2 million or more annually.
The public meeting Thursday will be at the at Health Department’s building, 14012 Route 31 West. The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m.
“This is just to catch up on where we are,” Martino said about the meeting.
Former bait shop owner in Gaines says SAFE Act deserves public support
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 September 2014
GAINES – About a week ago Al Capurso put up two lawn signs, both in support of the SAFE Act.
That might not seem newsworthy, but Capurso might be the first Orleans County resident to make such a public declaration of support for the state’s controversial gun control law. Capurso sees many “Repeal the Safe Act” signs, and he knows all of the elected town, village and county boards in Orleans have passed formal resolutions, calling for the law’s repeal.
Many of the law’s opponents see it as an attack on the Second Amendment’s Right to Bear Arms. Capurso doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t believe the framers of the Constitution foresaw a citizens’ arms race where they have to get bigger and faster guns to feel safe,” Capurso said today. “A citizens’ arms race is not the Second Amendment.”
Capurso, a long-time sportsman who owned a bait shop for more than 20 years, said the anti-Safe Act voices don’t acknowledge the good with the law, mainly a restriction against magazines with more than 10 bullets. (The law, passed in January 2013, first limited it to seven bullets, but was overruled in a court challenge to a 10-bullet limit.)
Capurso also worked in the mental health field, retiring as an intensive case manager at the Orleans County Mental Health Department. He supports background checks and the pistol permit process. He supports the 10-bullet limit so madmen can’t fire off numerous rounds before reloading.
“Extremist” vices have dominated the SAFE Act discussion locally, Capurso said. He would like to see the public consider other viewpoints, and respect people with differing views.
Paul McQuillen of Buffalo is the Western New York coordinator of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. He sent Capurso one of the signs in support of the SAFE Act. Capurso hand-painted the other one, which says “Keep S.A.F.E.”
McQuillen says a “silent majority” supports the SAFE Act and efforts to rein in gun violence. He gives out many of the organization’s signs, although he said they are often stolen from front lawns.
He pointed to a Sienna College poll in March that showed the majority of the state by a 2 to 1 ratio backs the SAFE Act. In New York City, the law has about 75 percent of the public’s support. In Upstate New York, a slight majority opposes the law, according the poll.
Capurso would like to see the public, including local elected officials, offer constructive criticism of the law, looking for ways to make it better rather than roundly rejecting it.
“There needs to be another side of this story told besides the extremist point of view,” Capurso said. “I’m not seeing a voice of moderation out there. The pendulum is swinging so far to the extreme. They’re afraid the government might come get their guns and that’s nonsense. They’re afraid the bogeyman will come get them.”
Capurso also took issue with the anti-Safe Act message that proclaims those supporters as “true patriots.” Capurso considers himself a “patriot” who supports the Second Amendment and “common sense” gun laws.
“I respect people’s rights to have signs in their yard,” he said. “I would defend that to that hilt. But I don’t have to agree with them. That’s what being an American is about: You have the right to speak out.”
Staff reports Posted 19 September 2014
The Orleans County Democratic Committee is keeping its leadership team. The Democrats met on Wednesday and re-elected Jeanne Crane to serve as the party chairwoman.
Other leaders, all re-elected unanimously, include: Tracy Jennings, vice chairwoman; David Green, vice chairman; Agnes Recco, secretary; Sandra Walter, treasurer; and Janice Grabowski, elections commissioner.
The Democratic Committee is looking for members for town committees in Ridgeway, Yates and Murray.
The group also will be seeking candidates for next year’s town and county elections.
Press release, Congressman Chris Collins Posted 17 September 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Chris Collins (R-Clarence) today released the following statement after voting to support H.J. Res. 124 and the coinciding amendment.
The legislation funds the government, extends the Export-Import Bank’s authorization, and provides the President authorization to combat ISIS.
“Although far from perfect, this legislation takes steps towards achieving a number of necessary initiatives,” Collins said. “Ensuring the government has the funding necessary to operate provides stability for the country. Additionally, extending the Export-Import Bank’s authorization is a big win for small businesses across the country. I have been leading the fight on this topic from the onset, and will continue to push for a long-term reauthorization of the program. This extension allows the Export-Import Bank to continue its operations while Congress considers reforms to the program.
“In our current economic atmosphere, we need to be doing all we can to promote business growth and create job opportunities. Extending the Bank’s charter affords businesses access to services that are vital for their operations.
“In regards to authorizing the President to combat ISIS, we are taking immediate action to destroy a grave threat to our country’s security. The current events in Iraq and Syria prove that the absence of American leadership enables and emboldens our enemies, and puts our country and citizens at risk. It is an unfortunate situation, but America must stand tall and provide the leadership warranted to secure a positive outcome.”
27 pieces of artwork are for sale to raise money for art scholarships
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 September 2014
ALBION – The Chamber of Commerce has organized a public art project for the second straight year. Artists created 27 paintings on canvas that are displayed at local businesses.
The Palettes of Orleans project will conclude with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 2 at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, 10609 Ridge Rd., Medina.
The community is welcome to submit bids for the artwork. The proceeds will go towards art scholarships at each of the five school districts in Orleans County.
“We have a lot of really nice pieces,” said Samantha Roskowski, coordinator of the project for the Chamber of Commerce. She also painted a canvas on display at Creekside Florist in Medina.
The Palettes of Orleans debuted last year with 70 paintings on palettes. This year the numbers were reduced and the format was switched to an 11-by-14-inch canvas.
The list of participants includes:
Arnold’s Auto - Mark G.
Bloom’s - John Hewitt
Bindings Bookstore - Chris Versteeg
Knight’s Pride - Kim Martillotta-Muscarella
Hazy Jade - Connie Mosher
Orleans County Chamber of Commerce - Ed Rosko
Orleans County Farmers Market – Kim Nesbitt
Tillman’s Historic Village Inn - Sue Wells
Five Star Bank - Connie Maines
Marti’s on Main - Kim Martillotta-Muscarella
Partyka Farms - Amanda Wilmier
A Lily & A Sparrow - Glenda Gross
Apple Blossom Florist - Connie Maines
Ashlee’s - Brandi Zavitz
Blissett’s - Kim Martillotta-Muscarella
The Book Shoppe - Jen Scott
Case Nic Cookies - Nicole Tuohey (also sponsored by OC Farmers Market)
Creekside Florist - Samantha Roskowski
C&H PC - Clara Lake
Della’s Chocolate - Jen Scott
East Center Stop N’ Shop - Jim Nicholson
English Rose Tea Shoppe - Patricia Worrad
Lakes Wine N Spirits - Clara Lake
Leonard Oakes Estate Winery - Eric Valley
Orleans County Farmers Market – Kim Nesbitt
Roberts Farm Market - Todd Eick
Rosenkrans - Mrs. Hamm
Vision 2000 - Glenda Gross
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2014
Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, have about 60 percent of the state-wide votes with 55 percent of precincts reporting. That is enough for the Associated Press to declare them winners.
Cuomo and Hochul faced spirited challengers in law professors Zephyr Teachout for governor and Timothy Wu for lieutenant governor.
Hochul, a former member of Congress whose district included Orleans County, campaigned hard in New York City in recent weeks. Neither she or Cuomo made an appearance in Orleans during the campaign.
Orleans is hardly Democrat country. Republicans have about a 2 to 1 edge in enrollment. Voting today in the Democratic primary was particularly meager with 248 voting for Cuomo, 119 for Teachout and 36 for Randy Credico, a comedian and activist. There are about 5,500 registered Democrats in the county so today’s vote totals – 403 – was less than 10 percent of the Democrats.
Hochul had a bigger majority in Orleans than Cuomo. She received 297 votes to Wu’s 103 or 74 percent of the total. Cuomo received 61 percent of the Orleans vote.
Hochul issued this statement at 11:04 p.m.:
“I am sincerely honored that Democrats from every corner of this state have put their faith in me to be their nominee for Lieutenant Governor. As a proud daughter of Buffalo, I have a deep gratitude for the support and encouragement they have shown to me. And I would also like to thank Tim Wu for running such a spirited campaign.
"I congratulate Gov. Cuomo, who has once again shown that he is the choice of all New Yorkers. His accomplishments over these past four years have been nothing less than extraordinary, and his vision for the future of our state is exactly what we need to keep New York moving in the right direction.
"New York has made so much progress under the leadership of Gov. Cuomo. From creating jobs to cutting taxes, to getting government to function once again, we have turned this state around, and this November, we will continue our march forward."
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