Bower says many campaign goals have been met at Sheriff’s Office

Photo by Tom Rivers
Sheriff Randy Bower talks with deputies and members of the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office last week when Jim DeFilipps was recognized at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds as NY Deputy of the Year.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 August 2016
ALBION – Sheriff Randy Bower was elected last November with some bold initiatives, including drug treatment services for inmates in the County Jail.


Bower said the Sheriff’s Office has met many of his goals in his six months of office, including a new Sheriffs Transition Addiction Management Program (STAMP), which provides inmates with drug and mental health counseling. Inmates approved for the program also receive Vivitrol, a drug that helps block opiate cravings.


Bower went over some of the highlights of his first six months in office in a report last week to the Orleans County Legislature.


• The Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division K9 Unit to have a drug-sniffing dog come through the jail to search for drugs. Bower said it has made the jail safer and been a deterrent for people trying to smuggle in contraband.


• In the first months of the year, deputies have made 526 traffic stops, served 501 papers, responded to 317 motor vehicle accidents and 167 alarms, executed 57 warrants, and responded to 18 assaults, 45 burglaries, 106 larcenies, 116 calls for harassment or aggravated harassment, and 61 overdoses or psychiatric calls.


• The Sheriff’s Office has pushed to bring a “STOP DWI” traveling display to local school districts. The display includes victim statements, personal items from crashes, newspaper clippings and aftermath accounts.

Provided photo
Chief Deputy Michael Mele and Holley Principal Sue Cory are pictured with the STOP DWI “Courage to Serve” traveling display at the Holley school in April.


• The Sheriff’s Office has collected more than 1,000 pounds of prescription narcotics during drug take-back days. There is a drug take-back bin in the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office and Bower said he wants drug take-back collections sites to also be available at the Albion, Holley and Medina police departments.


• The Sheriff’s Office has boosted participation in community events, including DWI crash simulations at local school districts during prom and graduation season.


• The Orleans County Marine Division added patrols along the Erie Canal, using an $8,000 state grant. The Marine Division also patrols 24 miles of Lake Ontario shoreline and Lake Alice.


• On June 15, the Sheriff’s Office and County Highway Department erected a roadside sign on Gaines Basin Road in memory of Deputy David Whittier, who was struck by a drunk driver on the road. He died on Sept. 8, 1989. Bower said Whittier is believed to be the only Orleans County deputy to die in the line of duty.

Photo by Tom Rivers

This sign was installed on Gaines Basin Road, about a quarter mile south of Route 104. The marker is a memorial for Deputy David Whittier, who was fatally injured here in 1989.


N The Sheriff’s Office added a part-time animal control officer, Ariel Strickland, to help with a high call volume, Bower said. Starting June 1, the county assumed animal control duties in the Village of Medina.


N Bower, in his campaign for sheriff, wanted public safety dispatchers to have access to school cameras in case of an emergency inside schools. Medina has partnered with dispatch to allow access to its cameras, and Bower said he is working to have all school districts in agreement by the start of the new school year.


“The men and woman of the Sheriff’s Department have really stepped it up,” Bower told county legislators in highlighting the initiatives.

The sheriff has other goals including establishment of a K9 service to be led by Deputy Jeff Cole. Bower also said he is pursuing grant funding for a bomb-sniffing dog.


Bower has also reached out to the faith community and has about a dozen chaplains, from a diversity of faiths and denominations, available to assist staff on calls.


“A lot has happened and we’re excited about some of the new programs being developed,” said David Callard, Legislature chairman.


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Courthouse, Clerks’ Building will be painted for $106K

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 28 July 2016

ALBION – The paint has been flaking off the historic Orleans County Courthouse in recent years.


The iconic building, the centerpiece of the Historic Courthouse Square, will soon be repainted. The County Legislature on Wednesday approved a bid from Panek Coatings of Albion to paint the building, as well as the neighboring County Clerks’ Building, for $106,450.


Construction of the courthouse was completed in 1858 in the ornate Greek Revival style. The dome is 36 feet wide.

The courthouse and 34 other buildings are part of the Courthouse Square Historic District, which was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.


Most of the $106,450 bid by Panek is focused on the courthouse, but the Clerks' Building will also be painted. That building was built in 1888 and brought the Eastlake architectural style to Albion's Courthouse Square.


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Unemployment rate in Orleans falls to 5.0%

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 July 2016
The unemployment rate in Orleans County fell to 5.0 percent in June 2016, that’s down from 6.2 percent in June 2015, according to the state Department of Labor.
The state-wide unemployment rate was 4.5 percent last month, compared to 5.2 percent in June 2015.

The DOL reports there were 17,200 people working in Orleans last month, compared to 900 unemployed. That compares to 17,300 working in June 2015, and 1,100 who were unemployed.

The unemployment rates for other nearby counties include: Niagara, 4.8; Monroe, 4.3; Erie, 4.4; Genesee, 3.8; Wyoming, 4.1; and Livingston, 4.4.

Columbia County has the lowest unemployment rate of any county in the state at 3.2 percent, and the Bronx has the highest at 7.0 percent.


The state DOL reports the state’s private sector job count increased by 120,700 since June 2015. In June 2016, the number of private sector jobs in the state was an all-time high at 7,918,400, according to the DOL.


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DOT puts Parkway paving, canal bridge repairs in capital plan

File photo by Tom Rivers
The Main Street lift bridge in Albion is slated for rehabilitation in 2018-19 as part of the DOT's capital plan. The Albion bridge, plus the one on Route 19 in Brockport, are scheduled for $7.8 million in rehab work.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 July 2016
ALBION – A five-year capital by the State Department of Transportation includes repairs to the lift bridge on Main Street in Albion, $13 million to rehab six other canal bridges in Orleans County, and money to pave the Lake Ontario State Parkway.

Orleans County officials have been pressing the state to spend money to fix bridges and pave the Parkway. The DOT plan includes more than $14 million for Parkway work and nearly all of it is in Monroe County.

The Parkway paving includes $8.97 million to pave the parkway from Route 19 east to Payne Beach, and $5.2 million to pave the Parkway from Route 19 in Hamlin to Route 237 in Kendall. The Parkway paving projects are slated for 2017-18.


Some of the other projects in Orleans, identified in the capital plan, include:

• $430,000 in preventive maintenance for 8 bridges in Orleans County (2016-17)

• $3.13 million to pave Route 98 in Albion (2017-18)

• $13 million to rehab six bridges over the Erie Canal in Orleans County (2017-18)

• $1.63 million for Holley pavement preservation on Route 31 and 237 (2018-19)

• $7.8 million for lift bridge rehab on Route 98 in Albion and Route 19 in Brockport (2018-19)


• $1.35 million for bridge rehabilitation on Route 104 over Oak Orchard Creek (2019-20)


State Senator Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) highlighted the list of projects. He said he was pleased to see several canal bridges in the five-year DOT capital program plan.


In addition to the bridge construction work, the state will install sensors on weight restricted canal lift bridges to monitor the structural integrity and to better assess appropriate corrective measures, Ortt said.        


“For years, our local roads and bridges have been dangerously underfunded by the state,” Ortt said. “For the first time in more than a decade, the State Legislature has achieved true parity in transportation funding between upstate and downstate – the DOT and the MTA – with $27.1 billion for each entity over a five-year period.”


There are 16 lift bridges on the canal and seven of them are in Orleans County. There are more than a dozen other steel truss canal bridges in Orleans that are about a century old.


“This money is a good start to help fix the structural problems in our region,” Ortt said. “The infrastructure improvements to the two canal lift bridges will contribute to economic growth while maintaining the safety of the individuals who use them, including our farmers and emergency personnel. We need reliable infrastructure to stimulate the economy, create jobs and protect future generations.”

A complete list of DOT projects can be found by clicking here.


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New Chamber director looks to promote businesses in Orleans

Chamber is launching ‘Solarize Orleans’ program today

Photo by Tom Rivers

Rebecca Charland is pictured in Kendall. She ran a flower business and gift shop, Just a Design Above, at the site behind her on Norway Road.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 July 2016
KENDALL – The new director of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce has a track record of promoting the community and businesses in Kendall.

Rebecca Charland organizes Kendall’s annual Scarecrow Festival. She was one of the first to have a painted quilt block on her property in the Country Barn Quilt Trail in the Kendall area. She also has been the leader of the Kendall Garden Club, which beautifies the Town Hall property, town signs and planter boxes in the downtown.

Chamber officials see Charland as a community dynamo, who is organized and knows the challenges facing a small business.

She started as the new Chamber director on May 23. The organization closed its Albion office in late March. Charland is running the Chamber from her home on Norway Road in Kendall.

She is working to increase membership from the current total of about 150. She is planning events to promote businesses, as well as an overhaul of the Chamber website.

“One of my goals is to boost membership,” she said. “I want to help businesses network and grow.”

A new event for the Chamber will be a wine garden walk on Aug. 18 at the Robin Hall Nature Preserve on Platten Road in Lyndonville.

The Chamber today is also launching a “Solarize Orleans” initiative.


The Chamber last year applied for a grant from the NYSERDA Community Solar program for funding and technical assistance to run a “solarize” campaign in Orleans County. The campaign is a targeted effort to educate the business community and the public about the benefits of solar energy, and to link interested parties with a preferred solar installer for discounted rates.
The Solarize Orleans Campaign will kick off today at the Hoag Library in Albion with two informational sessions – from noon to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Homeowners and businesses can learn about options for using the technology. (Hoag Library is the beneficiary of large roof-mounted solar panel array.) 


People are welcome to “walk in” for the sessions, or they can RSVP to the Chamber at (585) 301-8464 or
The launch events will feature representatives from CIR, the Solarize Orleans campaign’s preferred solar installer. CIR was selected from among several area firms through an RFP process. CIR representatives are also expected to join the Chamber at its booth during the upcoming Orleans County Fair. Additional public information workshops will be planned.
The Solarize Orleans campaign will continue through the summer and early fall. Any business or homeowners looking to inquire about solar opportunities, discuss a project feasibility, learn about savings and financing, or get questions answered is encouraged to participate. 


Charland said the solar initiative is a way the Chamber wants to help residents and businesses save money on their energy costs.

For more information, or for assistance in going solar at your home or business, please visit


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Extension director leaves with praise, accomplishment

Jennifer Wagester pushed for facility upgrades, plan for future

Provided photo
Jennifer Wagester, director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans since Oct. 1, 2013, accepts a plaque on Friday from Ed Neal, chairman of the extension board of directors. Neal thanked Wagester for leading the Extension, particularly with the overhaul of the kitchen at the Trolley Building.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 July 2016
KNOWLESVILLE – In Jennifer Wagester’s nearly three years leading the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, the agency has tackled several important capital projects at the fairgrounds, seen a big increase in 4-H participation and expanded some programs while preserving important services for the agricultural community.

Wagester also has helped the agency plan for its future, Extension leaders said. Wagester had her last official day in the office on Friday. She and her family are moving to Colorado.

Her husband Ray Wagester has accepted a job with the Farm Credit parent company, CoBank. He will serve as vice president of appraisal services.


Jennifer Wagester secured nearly $200,000 grants for the Extension since she was hired on Oct. 1, 2013. Some of those funds went towards transforming the 40-year old Trolley Building kitchen into a modern, commercial grade teaching kitchen. That project was finished last month.

Provided photo 
Three years and $60,000 later, the kitchen at the Trolley Building is ready for food and nutrition education, small batch food processing, and large scale cooking for events that can be held in the adjacent 50’ by 70’ space. The kitchen features stainless steel countertop table units with an ample 3-bay sink, hand wash sink, and two prep sinks - each in one of the large stainless steel work islands. 


Besides the Trolley Building improvements, Wagester and Extension volunteers have developed a long-range capital plan for the fairgrounds, making it a year-round facility to serve agriculture, science and other community needs.


"She got the Extension looking forward," said Barry Flansburg, one of the Extension volunteers who has served on the capital plan committee. "It was a great accomplishment by her to get Extension on a direction with a plan for the future."


Wagester also led the organization while it rebuilt horticulture and nutrition programs. The 4-H program jumped from about 300 members to 450. Wagester's two daughters, Anna and Alison, joined the 4-H program and showed meat goats and market rabbits.


"She was a great steadying force," Peter Toenniessen, a member of the Extension Board of Directors, said about Wagester. "She thoroughly analyzed things and listened to all sides before making a decision. She got everybody working together."


Deb Roberts, former director of the Extension, will serve as interim director while the agency seeks a long-term replacement.


Wagester praised the dedicated staff at the Extension and the committed volunteers, from the board of directors to the many who help with 4-H and the fair.


"We were able to get a lot done, and there is still more to do," Wagester said about the Extension and its many programs and the fairgrounds complex.


Wagester may stay connected to the Extension once she moves to Colorado, helping to write and manage grants for the agency.


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Opioid deaths leave shattered families

‘He was just like you and me. He got up every day and went to work.’ – Mother of 28-year-old who died from overdose

Photos by Tom Rivers

A former addict speaks in this video from the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. The addict discussed how she went from smoking marijuana and drinking to using pain pills, and then more dangerous drugs. The video with other testimonials was shown in GCASA"s community room, with a banner on the wall, saying, "The Time To Take Action Is Now!"


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 July 2016
ALBION – Robert Bale had a good job as a HVAC technician. He often worked 50 hours a week.

Bale, 28, also had a secret addiction. He used heroin. His family didn’t know it, nor did his roommate or close friends.

On March 10 he had a fatal overdose at age 28.

“He was just like you and me,” his mother Tammi Bale said Wednesday during a community meeting about the opioid crisis at GCASA’s Albion clinic. “He got up and went to work every day.”

Robert Bale

Her son, a Brockport native, didn’t give signs of drug use. He didn’t steal or commit other crimes to feed his addiction.

“He kept it from everyone for four years,” his mother said.

The opioid epidemic has reached Orleans County with several recent deaths from heroin overdoses, according to the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Kathy Hodgins, director of treatment services for GCASA in Orleans County, said it is the biggest community drug crisis she has seen in her 20-year career, affecting people from all walks of life.

“This is the first time in my 20 years that one drug has caused such an impact in our community,” Hodgins said during Wednesday’s meeting.

GCASA officials said crisis has grown partly due to painkiller abuse. Many people become hooked on painkillers and then their prescription expires. Some will turn to heroin to get their fix. The heroin can be deadly, especially when mixed with fentanyl and other drugs, Hodgins said.

Tamara Ashton lost her daughter, Christina Ashton, to a drug overdose on June 27. Christina had been clean for 19 days. Her mother left the house for a 40-minute errand. When she came back her daughter was found dead in the backyard after someone dropped off heroin and her daughter took a fatal overdose. Christina was 34.

Christina Ashton


“I want people to know it can be anybody,” Tamara Ashton said.

Her daughter started using drugs about two years ago. She lost too much weight, stole from loved ones to buy drugs, and would be gone unaccounted for often for two or three days.

She went from drinking alcohol to crack cocaine to heroin.

“She just wasn’t the same girl,” her mother said.

The opioid crisis has the attention of local, state and national leaders. Orleans County has started a program in the county jail to help addicts transition from the jail to the community. That includes connections to addiction counselors and shots of Vivitrol, a treatment that blocks the effects of opioid addiction.


“Every person that gets clean is less crime in the community,” Sheriff Randy Bower said.


The addicts also need to be connected to the community, finding a strong purpose through perhaps work, volunteerism, church or service clubs, Bower said.

Sheriff Randy Bower receives training in using Narcan from Diana Fulcomer of GCASA. About 20 people received the training on Wednesday. Narcan can help someone suffering an overdose.


“It’s an illness,” Bower said about the addicts. “We have to be able to accept these people.”


Bower said the Sheriff’s Office wants to go to schools in Orleans County, giving presentations to students about the dangers of using painkillers without a prescription, and how they can lead to more dangerous and fatal drugs.

The issue has been in the news throughout the region, state and country due to the increase in overdose deaths. In nearby Erie County, the community is on pace to have 500 people die from overdose deaths this year.
GCASA wants to educate Orleans County about the crisis and give insight and help to parents and friends of people struggling with addiction.


The agency on Wednesday trained about 20 people in using Narcan, which can take someone out of an addicted state. The people trained received a Narcan kit to use in case of an opioid overdose.

Sherri Bensley, assistant director of prevention for GCASA, discussing commonly used opioids during a presentation Wednesday.


She said addicts get the drugs often from friends or relatives, "not the street corner drug dealer."


GCASA leaders said the agency will have more community meetings to educate the public and get more people involved in fighting the crisis.


"This is just the start," Bower said.


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Sheriff’s Office adds speed radar trailer

Provided photo, Orleans County Sheriff’s Office
Sheriff Randy Bower, left, and Undersheriff are pictured with a new radar speed sign.


Press Release, Sheriff Randy Bower Posted 8 July 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office has a new radar speed sign. Sheriff Randy Bower issued this statement today about the sign:


“In our continuing attempt to provide for the safety of Orleans County residents, the Sheriff’s Department has recently purchased a new radar speed sign using grant money secured by State Senator Robert Ortt. Using radar technology, the sign detects and displays the speed of oncoming vehicles, thus alerting drivers to check their current speed to the posted speed limit and adjust accordingly.

“These traffic control devices have been proven very effective in improving traffic safety, especially in transitional speed zones, work and school zones, residential neighborhoods, and on roadways adjacent to special events such as concerts, carnivals, festivals, and fairs. Researchers believe that a majority of speeding occurs when drivers become complacent or distracted.


“While motorists may overlook ordinary speed limit signs, they are more likely to see and pay attention to these traffic-calming innovations. The device’s electrical system is supplemented with solar energy and the entire unit is very mobile and can be easily moved to different locations as needed.”


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NY paving funds include nearly $600K for Orleans municipalities

File photo by Tom Rivers
In this photo from last October, Jay Pahura, a motor equipment operator for the Albion Department of Public Works, runs a roller over fresh pavement on Hamilton Street. The village will receive $22,775.05 in state paving funds, part of the $100 million fund state-wide.


Staff Reports Posted 6 July 2016

New York State is making $100 million available to almost 1,600 municipalities throughout the state to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of local highways and roads.


This funding, provided under Governor Cuomo’s PAVE NY initiative, is being administered by the New York State Department of Transportation as part of its $21.1 billion five-year Capital Plan.The PAVE NY program emphasizes projects that improve the physical condition of local roadways, create jobs and enhance local economic competitiveness.


“From replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge to the transformative redesign of LaGuardia Airport, New York has been leading the way in reshaping our infrastructure to meet the demands of the 21st century,” Cuomo said. “PAVE NY funds strategic investments in local roadways, helping ensure roadways across the state are in good repair, remain reliable for motorists and able to help foster regional economic growth for years to come.”


PAVE NY funds are awarded to New York City and cities, counties, towns and villages for activities such as roadway resurfacing, widening and realignment; construction of turning lanes at intersections; and new drainage to mitigate the harmful effects of flooding.


In Orleans County, the funds add up to $573,186.38. That includes the following: County of Orleans, $294,362.76; Town of Albion, $13,926.46; Town of Barre, $35,103.49; Town of Carlton, $28,017.44; Town of Clarendon, $24,172.92; Town of Gaines, $9,150.03; Town of Kendall, $15,135.70; Town of Murray, $16,431.93; Town of Ridgeway, $26,726.17; Town of Shelby, $25,454.18; and Town of Yates, $20,231.67.

The shares to the four villages include: Village of Albion, $22,775.05; Village of Holley, $6,145.02; Village of Lyndonville, $3,963.36; and Village of Medina, $31,590.21.


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Canal will reopen soon after temporary repairs to culvert in Hulberton

Staff Reports Posted 2 July 2016
HULBERTON – The New York State Canal Corporation has announced that temporary repairs to a section of the Erie Canal, approximately 500 yards west of the Hulberton Lift Bridge in the Town of Murray, have been completed allowing for the Canal to re-open effective Sunday between the villages of Brockport and Middleport.
“This temporary repair enables the Canal Corporation to re-open the Erie Canal with the least possible impact to the summer boating season, as well as to the local farmers who depend on Canal water for irrigation,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “The Erie Canal is an economic engine for tourism and this expedited repair, accomplished through a multi-agency response, gives mariners the opportunity to visit their favorite villages and towns on the Canal without further interruption.”    
Engineers from the New York State Department of Transportation developed a temporary repair plan that was executed on an expedited schedule by C.P. Ward of Scottsville.
“I would like to thank the dedicated teams from the DOT and Canal Corporation for coming together to quickly address these emergency repairs,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll. “The expertise from multiple state agencies helped ensure safety and minimize the need for a long term closure for all users of the canal.”
This section of the Erie Canal provides vital irrigation to 25 farms and two commercial golf courses. The accelerated repairs have allowed for minimal disruption to the agricultural growing season. 
“We thank the New York State Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation and the Department of Transportation for their quick response to the situation and for their partnership in identifying a solution that had a minimal impact on the area’s farmers,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “There are more than two dozen farms in the region that rely on the Canal for irrigation, so we are grateful repairs have been completed so quickly and efficiently.” 
The detour on the Erie Canalway Trail from the Hulberton Lift Bridge to approximately 3,500 feet west of the lift bridge will remain in effective until Tuesday, July 5, 2016.
The Canal Corporation appreciates the public’s patience and understanding while this necessary maintenance work was completed, spokesman Shane Mahar said.

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CGR hired to help with law enforcement study in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 June 2016
ALBION – A steering committee studying law enforcement services in Orleans County picked the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester as a consultant on the project.

CGR will be be paid about $74,000 for its work over the next year, presenting options for how law enforcement could best be provided in the future, whether with the current model of three village police department plus the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office or perhaps a full takeover with the county providing the service without the village police.


“We will be looking at multiple options,” said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.


Transitioning from village police departments to a county-only model would require several public referendums. Nesbitt said the committee may consider a phased in approach.


The committee wants to keep the public aware of the initiative, and get feedback from the community, Nesbitt said.


There has already been efforts by law enforcement agencies to share, including Albion and Holley using the same police chief with Roland Nenni.


There may be opportunities for joint training, shared equipment and other projects. CGR will work with the local law enforcement agencies collecting data on services, and will analyze ways for the service to best be provided in the future. The firm has a May 2017 to complete the report.

CGR has done many studies for shared services and consolidation of government agencies, including the report that looked how the Village of Medina could be dissolved.


The steering committee for the law enforcement study includes four village mayors – Dean London of Albion, Brian Sorochty of Holley, John Belson of Lyndonville and Michael Sidari of Medina; Orleans County legislators John Defilipps, Lynne Johnson and David Callard, who are members of the county’s Public Safety Committee; Police chiefs Roland Nenni of Albion and Holley, and Chad Kenward of Medina (represented during Wednesday’s meeting by Lt. Todd Draper); Sheriff Randy Bower; County Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt; union representatives including Jeff Gifaldi of the OC Deputies’ Association, Dave Mogle for the Albion police, and Brian Marsceill of the Medina police; and community members, Cindy Robinson (president of the Medina Business Association) and Dan Monacelli (principal of the Albion Middle School).

A state grant for $36,000 was approved for the law enforcement shared service and efficiency study. The county is paying the other $38,000.


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County will spend up to $70K for design of addition on administration building

File photo by Tom Rivers

The Orleans County Legislature approved hiring the Wendel firm to design an addition on the County Administration Building on Route 31, behind The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 June 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has approved an agreement with the Wendel firm to design an addition on the County Administration Building, new space that could be used for relocated county offices and perhaps as a meeting room and offices for the Legislature itself.

The Legislature on April 27 announced that is was considering new construction on the County Administration Building at 14106 Route 31 West.


The Legislature on April 27 authorized paying Wendel $30,000 for a feasibility study for an addition to the County Administration Building.

The county may shift several offices to the addition, including the Board of Elections and Public Health Department, which is leasing space from Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services.


Comprehensive purchased the former county nursing home for $7.8 million in January 2014. The county has been leasing space from Comprehensive for Elections and Public Health because those offices are part of the nursing home complex.


The county could also shift information technology (currently in Treasurer's Office), the legislative chambers (in County Clerk's Building), the county's administrative office (also in Clerk's Building) and create large multi-use rooms to accommodate training for large groups, conference rooms and offices.


The Legislature last week approved paying Wendel up to $70,000 to design the addition to the Administration Building. That scope of work not only includes designing the building, but determining parking and circulation needs, site access, utility service requirements, energy efficiency and sustainability requirements, and other analysis of the site.


David Callard, the County Legislature chairman, said in April that moving Elections and Public Health from leased space will free up money that could go towards the addition, perhaps making the project cost neutral to county taxpayers.
Callard said he and county officials have looked at existing buildings, including sites in Albion's historic downtown, but those sites wouldn't improve efficiency of the county government operations.


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Legislature chairman says report on high property taxes doesn’t tell whole story

David Callard


(Editor’s Note: Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard delivered these remarks during the June 22, 2016, Legislature meeting.)

Every year it seems that the Empire Center for Public Policy puts out a list of the highest tax rates in the state - and every year the citizens of Orleans County are treated to a rehash of news articles highlighting certain parts of the study and scolding local officials, whether they be village, town, county, or school, for their role in achieving that dubious ranking.


Most recently there was an article on village taxes within the county reporting them among the worst in the state. What is lacking in this news article, however, was the whole story. (Click here to see "Medina community has highest combined tax rate in region.")

Villages are constantly being ranked regardless of size. Given that premise - one benchmark that is always used is the Top 20 Property Tax Bills on Median-Value Homes. That list has never included an Orleans County village, but that is never mentioned. Or more significantly, included in the report, but is never mentioned in articles, is that the county taxes paid per capita in Orleans County are the SECOND
LOWEST of the 57 counties in New York State. Again - the second lowest taxes paid per person in New York State.


People tend to be negative without acknowledging all of the facts. This is something the state government does all the time when deriding the counties. The town of Ridgeway is a solid 816th out of 932 for towns in taxes per capita. The Medina School district is also very solid at 625th out of 702 for local spending per pupil among school districts. Even the Village of Medina's 238th out of 557 in
taxes per capita doesn't seem so earth shattering considering the high level of services.


Let's face it; casting blame without an acknowledgement of all the facts is something we get plenty of from people in Albany. We don't need to do it here as well. It would be responsible to cite those other stats as they give a fuller picture.

Orleans County pays over $16,000,000 to the state in unfunded mandates- our entire tax levy. But articles and the critics constantly disregard that fact, and seldom if ever criticize the Governor and the New York State Legislature for the property taxes at the county level alone and even more at the school level.


According to every academic study ever undertaken on the subject, the fundamental differences between New York State and the other states in the country boil down to two basic things: 1) the way New York State funds Medicaid and 2) the way New York State funds education. Sure we have lots of other over-regulation and taxation issues beyond those two. But, those are the really big ones.


New York is the only state in the country to require a significant local share of Medicaid be paid by the counties and the average state funds two-thirds of public education through income taxes while New York State funds about one-third. It's really that simple.

Indeed the village governments of Orleans County face tremendous challenges, not the least of which is the high property tax rates. The dissolution efforts in the Village of Medina, though rejected by Medina residents, if nothing else, forced a conversation, a necessary conversation.


In some areas of our local governments, we are doing business in the 21st century on 20th century terms. In some cases, we are holding on to old ways of doing business that could be changed for the betterment of the community at
large. This isn't to say that people are wrong for feeling that they want to hold on to their village, or their town, or their school district.

What it does tell us, is that it's time for us to challenge ourselves, people on both sides of the argument, east and west, north and south. Challenge ourselves to take a hard look at what we are doing and ask ourselves "If given a clean slate, would we build our service delivery models the way they are now, or completely different?"


Inevitably, we are going to find areas where we can build a better mousetrap together. We have the ability to fix what ails us to some degree. We can work with our
friends and neighbors and make changes that will raise all boats. We can realign service models, adjust cost centers, and change the landscape profoundly.


If we are going to seek honesty about mandates and education funding from the state, we also need to be honest with ourselves. This is a conversation that should take place in earnest and should seek solutions that remove Orleans County and its villages, towns and school districts from such a list forever.

Apologies to those that believe the answer is to complain that the county should give away more sales tax. The answer to this challenge is not to have the taxpayers of the county surrender cash to the village governments, to throw at their existing service models, buying them time until the inflation and expense curve catches up with them again as some suggest.


The answer is change. Change that we can all buy into that alters the equation. It requires compromise. It requires faith. And, it requires casting off old
notions of provincialism.


Truth be told about sales tax, when examining statistics from 2013 on New York State Counties, there are 14 counties under 50,000 in population like Orleans County and four in the Finger Lakes Region, of which we are a part. Orleans County ranks as the fourth highest for the percentage of sales tax shared.


However, two of the 14 counties have cities (Cortland and Montgomery) that are able to preempt and capture much larger shares of the overall revenue. Dropping those two counties lifts Orleans County to number two in the state among small counties without a city in terms of sharing sales tax, second to Schuyler County, the home of Watkins Glen International Speedway.

Delving further into those same statistics, it's evident that eight of the 14 counties do not share sales tax revenue at all, zero percent. So, the majority of small counties in New York State do not share sales tax. Orleans County is the only county in the Finger Lakes Region under 50,000 in population that actually shares sales tax revenue.

The local law enforcement community in Orleans County is about to embark on a comprehensive study of the way we are doing business. Orleans County and our partners, the Villages of Albion, Medina, Holley and Lyndonville, along with the Orleans County Sheriff's Office, and all the law enforcement unions in the county have agreed to undertake a process to look at new service models and explore
what can be done.


There are ways to change the way we do business that could guarantee that our
communities are never negatively reported on the annual list put out by the Empire Center again.


This is going to be hard and it will require that we work together. This legislature is bound and determined to make positive change for all within our county. We can begin to say goodbye to the dark cloud over our heads. Those that offer only criticism and opposition absent of solutions will be forgotten. This legislature will be remembered for leading and making a difference.


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Bargains aplenty at property tax auction

Pennysaver Market in Lyndonville sells for only $1K

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 23 June 2016
ALBION – Rob Doyle, principal auctioneer and appraiser for Absolute Auctions and Realty, seeks bids for the former Lyndonville Pennysaver Market. The property sold for $1,000 to Jonathan Daniels of Waterport in the Orleans County tax foreclosure auction on Wednesday.


The Pennysaver Market closed three years ago. The property had $37,945 in back taxes.


The county sold 41 properties for a $324,200. The properties collectively carried $497,914 in back taxes. The auction didn’t cover the back taxes, resulting in a net loss of $173,714. (Winning bidders have to pay the current year's taxes on the properties.)

Several of the houses in the auction sold for less than $1,000.

Frank T. Pietrzak, auctioneer for Absolute Auctioneers, seeks bids for house at 134 West Bank St. in Albion. It sold for $300 to Phillip Newbould of Kendall.


Business sites also didn’t command much money. A site in downtown Medina at 333 Main St., next to the Starlite Cleaners, sold for $200 to Demetrios Bitsas.


The former S.A. Cook Furniture Factory, where there was a small fire on Monday, sold for $100 to William Grathouse III of Holley. The 70,600-square-foot building is located at 525 East Ave.


In Kendall, a 3,584-square-foot building in the downtown at 1841 Kendall Rd. sold for $400 to Phillip Newbould of Kendall. One of Holley's attached row buildings in the downtown also was up for sale. The site at 89 Public Square fetched $100 from an online bidder, The Eaton Agency in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.


One property was in command. An apartment complex at 218 Linwood Ave. in Albion sold for $100,000, the highest bid of the day. Brad Bokman of Albion bought the site.

The auction drew a crowd of bidders and some curiosity seekers to the Elk's Club on West State Street.


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Canal will be drained in Orleans to allow for emergency culvert repair in Hulberton

Closure expected to last several weeks

Photos by Tom Rivers
The State Canal Corp. has posted a detour on the towpath for a section just west of the lift bridge so emergency repairs can be made to a culvert.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 June 2016
HULBERTON – The Erie Canal will be drained between Brockport and Middleport beginning on June 27 so emergency repairs can be made to a culvert in Hulberton. The Canal Corporation estimates the canal closure will last several weeks.


The problems with the culvert, about 500 yards west of the lift bridge, were discovered during a routine inspection. The Canal Corp. has spent the past three days discussing how to address the situation with its engineering team and a consultant, Bergmann Associates.

The team of experts determined the repairs can’t be put off until after the canal boating season, said Shane Mahar, canal spokesman.

The Canal Corp. wants to fix the culvert so there isn’t a bigger problem, including the potential for a blowout.

“It’s not ideal,” Mahar said about draining a section of the canal at the start of the summer boating season. “But our team of experts believes it is necessary or it could lead to bigger problems.”


After the canal is drained between Brockport and Middleport and preliminary construction work is started, the canal between Middleport and Albion will be refilled with water. 

However, a 15-mile section of the canal between the Albion Guard Gate (just west of the Village of Albion) and the Brockport Guard Gate (just west of the Village of Brockport) will remain de-watered until repairs are complete.

A tender heads east on the canal towards the lift bridge in Hulberton. The canal will be drained in this section beginning on June 27.


Mahar said the Canal Corp. is putting off dewatering the section for about 10 days so contractors can be mobilized and boaters given notice to plan their navigational trips.

An advisory from the Canal Corporation states:
“Residents who live along the Erie Canal in the immediate vicinity of the culvert repair work are safe. Local mariners are advised to remove their vessels from the Canal prior to Sunday, June 26, 2016.


“The Canal Corporation will assist in towing boats outside of the above referenced closure area if requested by the owners, but shall not be responsible for any damage to vessels, as a result of towing or that are not removed from the Canal prior to the closure.
“Effective immediately, a detour on the Erie Canalway Trail from the Hulberton Lift Bridge to approximately 3,500 feet west of the lift bridge is in effect utilizing Canal Road on the north side of the Canal. Users of the trail should follow the posted detour signs.

“Mariners seeking information on alternative routes should contact the Canal Corporation at 518-471-5014."

Several farms have permits to siphon water from the canal in the 15-mile stretch. Mahar said the Canal Corp. will work with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to make sure farms are notified.


The Canal Corporation appreciates the public’s patience and understanding while this maintenance work is completed, Mahar said.

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Sign will mark spot where deputy was hit by drunk driver in 1989

Crash led to death of David Whittier

Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 13 June 2016
ALBION – The family of David Whittier is pictured with Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower this afternoon when a roadside was unveiled to mark the spot on Gaines basin Road in Albion where Whittier was fatally injured in 1989. Bower is pictured with Whittier's daughter Kellie Spychalski, Whittier's wife Connie and son Thad Whittier, who all live in Holley.


The Orleans County Sheriff's Office had a reception this afternoon to unveil the sign that will likely be installed on Tuesday on the west side of Gaines Basin Road, about 1/8 mile south of Route 104.


David Whittier worked 20 years at Kodak before following his dream of being a police officer. He was hired as a full-time deputy on June 22, 1987.

Whittier made many arrests for people driving while intoxicated. Ironically on Jan. 19, 1989, Whittier was on routine road patrol when he came upon an unoccupied pickup truck on Gaines Basin Road. The driver of that truck was out hunting.

David Whittier

While Whittier was inspecting the truck a young man who was drinking drunk struck the parked pickup truck. Whittier had dove between the pickup and his patrol car. He was crushed between the two vehicles after the pickup was hit. He was then dragged about 100 feet and left for dead under the truck.


He survived the accident and remained in the hospital until April 1989. After being home for a few months, his condition did not improve. He had contracted cancer, which doctors said was trauma induced. Doctors said his immune system was too compromised due to injuries sustained from the accident. He and his family were advised that treatment was not an option and would only cause further pain and suffering.

Whittier was 41 when he died on Sept. 8, 1989. About 700 people, including police officers around the state, attended his funeral in Clarendon at the Disciples United Methodist Church.


"We are so pleased and humbled the sheriff would remember our family more than 27 years later," said Spychalski, who was 21 and in college when her father was hit by the drunk driver. "We miss him and think about him every day."


The sign was designed by Deputy James DeFilipps and made by the Genesee County Highway Department. Gaines Basin Road is a county-owned road. The sign will be installed by the Orleans County Highway Department.


Spychalski named her son, David, after her father. Her son is now nearly 25.


As her father's condition worsened, Spychalski said her father wanted Mrs. Whittier to let the driver know he forgave him for the crime.


Whittier is the only deputy to die in the line of duty in Orleans County history.


He was a popular, well-liked man, his wife recalled. He was lead singer in the band, Defiance, and played in weddings for many of his police officer friends.


"He was a good guy," she said. "Everybody loved David. He really, truly loved his job. He gave his life for it."


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Churches unite wanting to bring hope for people fighting addictions, poverty

Photos by Tom Rivers
A participant has outstretched hands during Sunday’s multi-church service at Oak Orchard Assembly of God in Medina. Jennifer Printup and Steve Hodgins, right, are members of the praise band at the church.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 June 2016

MEDINA – Several local church leaders say they have been praying for a revival for years, that more Orleans County residents would give their hearts to God and seek God’s help in fighting addictions, and overcoming barriers that keep people in poverty.


About a dozen local pastors were part of a service Sunday at Oak Orchard, which included featured speaker Debbie Davis, founder of the faith-based “One Voice,” a non-profit organization that works with people fighting addictions in West Virginia.

Davis said God needs to be part of a community’s rebirth, but the people need to want God. She urged churches to reach out to people struggling with addictions and feelings of hopelessness.

“God bless them in their mess,” Davis told about 300 people at Sunday’s service. “I can tell you everyone sitting here in the pews has a mess. It just looks different.”

Debbie Davis shared how churches in West Virginia united to start the "One Voice" ministry to help people of all ages fighting addictions.


She praised the churches in the Orleans County community for wanting to be part of helping people with addictions. The dozen church pastors took turns speaking at the service, and church-goers from several congregations attended the service, many with hands outstretched during the music.


“This doesn’t happen everywhere, people,” Davis told the group about the spirit of fellowship and unity among the churches. “This is special.”

About 300 people attended Sunday night's "Awakening" service at Oak Orchard.


Several church leaders in the county have been getting together for about a decade to pray for a spiritual awakening in the county.


The church leaders recently formed PACT, Pastors Aligned for Community Transformation. The pastors and many of their church members get together regularly for prayer and ecumenical services.


The church last month showed the documentary, Appalachian Dawn, at the Albion Free Methodist Church. That documentary shows how churches took the lead in pushing the community in eastern Kentucky to fight the drug problem and help people get clean.


Davis, a middle school teacher, said the effort united churches and many in the community, and is now leading to spiritual fervor especially among high school students.


Davis said pastors and people from churches met every Saturday for 5 1/2 years before they saw the spiritual awakening in their communities.


She urged the community to pray, including for specific people who are wrestling addictions.

Several local pastors ask for God's blessing on the community, especially for those feeling the hopelessness of poverty and addiction. The pastors also praised the work of local organizations, such as Care Net Center of Greater Orleans, Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern and Hands 4 Hope Orleans.


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