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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County approves $817K bid to replace 2 Platten Road culverts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 June 2016
YATES – Two culverts on Platten Road in the Town of Yates will be replaced likely late this summer or early fall.

The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday approved the low bid, $817,643, to Keeler Construction of Albion. The county will soon have a preliminary construction meeting with Keeler to determine the work schedule, said Jerry Gray, the county highway superintendent.

The county bid the two culverts together to get a better price on the project, Gray said. There is one culvert east of Swett Road and the other is west of Swett. The culverts carry water from Oak Orchard Creek tributaries.

Other bids for the culvert project include: $833,667 from Villager Construction in Fairport; $837,750 from Ironwood Heavy Highway LLC in Rochester, $848,845 from Union Concrete and Construction Corp. in West Seneca, $880,806 from Zoladz in Alden, and $884,607 from C.P. Ward Inc. in Scottsville.


The project will be paid from an $8 million bond the county took out two years ago for a series of infrastructure projects.


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Orleans County administrator named VP of state-wide association

Photo by Tom Rivers
Chuck Nesbitt, chief administrative officer for Orleans County, is pictured outside the County Clerks’ office this afternoon. He is in line to be president of the New York Association of Counties.

Staff Reports Posted 7 June 2016

ALBION – Orleans County Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt was elected last week to serve on the executive committee of the New York State Association of Counties as 2nd Vice President.

NYSAC is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate, advocate for, and serve member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.

“I am honored to be elected to serve on the NYSAC Executive Committee by such a distinguished group of county leaders from across the state,” Nesbitt said. “There are many common challenges that we face as we move ahead and I look forward to assuming my new role on the NYSAC board as 2nd Vice President, and to doing my part to address issues going forward.”

Nesbitt has served as the Orleans County chief administrative officer for the past decade and has been an at-large member of the NYSAC Board of Director since 2014. He was elected as the president of the NYS County Administrators’ Association in 2008 and has served in that capacity since then.

As Chief Administrative Officer, Nesbitt acts on behalf of the County Legislature and works closely with Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard to implement county policy and overseeing the activities of all county departments. He also serves as the county’s budget officer.

“Orleans County is extremely proud of our Chief Administrative Officer being elected to the NYSAC Executive Committee as 2nd Vice President,” Callard said. “This is a great testament to our commitment to NYSAC and our shared cause as well as Chuck Nesbitt’s dedication to bringing a new level of professionalism to the Orleans County government. NYSAC is a first class organization that does a tremendous job fighting for counties and we think Chuck will be a real asset in the fight.”


Nesbitt said he expects the association will continue to press state legislators and governor for mandate relief, easing the burden on counties to pay for state programs.

He said NYSAC has been an effective advocacy organization for counties, and the group values the opinions from counties of all sizes. He will assume presidency of NYSAC in September 2019 after serving as second vice president, first vice president and then president-elect.

“Chuck is a highly regarded county leader, and his experience will provide added value to the deliberations of the board,” said NYSAC President William E. Cherry, the Schoharie County Treasurer.


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Sheriff’s Office starts new effort to help addicts transition from jail to community

Photo by Tom Rivers
Michael Santoro, an inmate in the Orleans County Jail, has been drug-free for about nine months after four years of using cocaine and heroin. He is pictured with Jail Superintendent Scott Wilson, left, and Sheriff Randy Bower.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 June 2016
ALBION – Scott Wilson has worked 20 years in the Orleans County Jail. The jail superintendent has seen the repetitive cycle with many inmates coming in for drug offenses, or drug-fueled crimes such as burglaries. They are in jail often for a few months to a year, and then are released only to commit new crimes because of the strong pull of their addictions.

Wilson said these residents never quite get control of their drug demons, leading to years of criminal conduct and time in the county jail at taxpayer expense.


"Right now there is a very high recidivism," Wilson said Thursday at the jail on Platt Street.

A new program has started this week in the county jail to help break that pattern of drug addiction and crime. The jail will offer Vivitrol, an injection that blocks the effects of opioids, a powerful narcotic. (The drug manufacturer is making the first injection available for free at the jail.)

The Sheriff’s Office has teamed with the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to have Vivitrol available for six months after an inmate leaves the jail. The monthly injections when an inmate is released from jail will likely be covered by health insurance programs at $800 per injection, Wilson said.


GCASA also will have counselors to help released inmates transition into the community. GCASA recently opened transitional housing for residents fighting addictions. That transitional shelter is next to the GCASA offices on Route 31 in Albion. That site puts addicts in a supportive community where they are urged to stay drug-free.


Sheriff Randy Bower, Wilson and GCASA staff will screen soon-to-be released inmates to determine if they will be in the new Sheriff’s Transitional Addiction Management Program or STAMP.

The Orleans County Mental Health Department also is part of the new effort. Wilson and Bower said three other counties in the state offer transitional programs for addicts. Bower believes Orleans is the first to have both addiction and mental health services available for inmates.


"These are people who made a mistake and can't quit," Bower said. "These are people from our community that come to our jail. We need to give them the best opportunity to not come back to us."

Bower said he is pleased to see the support for the program from jail staff, GCASA, Mental Health and other county officials. Bower said more services have been needed in the jail to help drug-addicted residents. Bower said it will ultimately save taxpayer money, should reduce crime, and improve the lives of addicts and their loved ones.


Michael Santoro will be released from the jail in two months. He is serving a six-month sentence for attempted burglary in the second degree. Santoro, 23, grew up in Medina.


He said he was addicted to heroin and cocaine for four years. He tried to quit by using prescription narcotics such as Methadone and Suboxone, which are used as painkillers. Santoro said he still had powerful drug cravings when he used Methadone and Suboxone.


He was constantly thinking about his next drug fix until he entered a drug treatment late last year and received a Vivitrol injection. Vivitrol took the cravings away by blocking the pull of opioids. Santoro said Vivitrol has been a key in helping him stay off drugs.


"I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be clean," Santoro said Thursday while in the jail. "But you have to want it."


Santoro admits he was a mess last August when he entered the jail after being arrested for a break-in in Ridgeway. Santoro was down to 140 pounds.


"Addiction, it destroys you mentally, physically and spiritually," he said.


He went through withdrawal in jail, spending 55 days behind bars before entering a 28-day drug treatment program in Buffalo. That was when he was given Vivitrol to help fight the addictions.


"It was the first time in four years I didn't go mentally insane," Santoro said. "I could go all month without thinking about drugs. It worked wonders for me."


Santoro now weighs about 180 pounds, up 40 pounds from last August. He is enrolled at Erie Community College and wants to be a drug abuse counselor. He moved to Cheektowaga because he said he needed to change his surroundings to not fall back into the trap of addiction. (Last month he was sentenced for the attempted burglary and has two months left in jail.)


Wilson and Bower see Santoro as a success story. They want to him to be an example to other addicts, to show the turnaround that is possible in fighting addictions.


Bower said an addict needs to hit rock bottom, and want to change. He will personally interview people who want to be in new program through the jail.


The sheriff and Wilson, the jail superintendent, said the program will be modified as they see what works and what needs improvement. Bower said the addicts now have the support services in place to help them when they are released from jail.


"The big thing is the hand-off from when they leave the jail," Bower said.

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School superintendents meet regularly with law enforcement leaders

Photos by Tom Rivers

Superintendents from school districts in Orleans County discuss safety issues with law enforcement leaders last week at the Orleans County Public Safety Building. The group has been meeting regularly for about two years.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 May 2016
ALBION – Orleans County school leaders have been getting together regularly the past two years with law enforcement officials to discuss safety plans, emergency responses, drunken driving awareness programs and other initiatives, including bringing mental health counselors into schools.


The collaboration was called unprecedented in Western New York by a state police official during a meeting last week at the Orleans County Public Safety Building.


The group discussed drug trends in the community, including a rise of prescription narcotic abuse, heroin and meth. Just recently, law enforcement have discovered meth labs in Holley and Albion.


The crackdown on prescription drug abuse has led more people addicted to drugs to seek out heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs, District Attorney Joe Cardone told the group.


"It's here," said Joe Sacco, the supervising investigator of the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force. "You're going to see it more."


The Orleans County Sheriff's Office has displays warning students and community members about drunk driving. Sheriff Randy Bower said he is working to bring in displays and experts to tell students and parents about the dangers of using painkillers and prescription narcotics, how they can often lead to addictions.


"We want to press prescription drug abuse," Bower told the school leaders. "We could bring programs into the schools."

Sheriff Randy Bower shows a "Shattered Lives" pamphlet that gives victim perspectives from drunken drivers. Bower would like the pamphlet to be widely distributed in the community.


The Sheriff's Office also will go to schools to discuss Internet safety with students, and the dangers of sharing some photos, Bower said.


Schools are planning drunk driving simulations where a smashed car is brought to schools, and students role play being injured or killed from a crash. Those simulations are start reminders about drunk driving, especially with the upcoming proms and graduation parties.


School and police leaders are also planning an active shooter drill over the summer. All teachers in the county may be at the exercise, which is tentatively planned to be at Holley Central School. The county last had an active shooter drill on May 31, 2014, and that one was at the former Towne Primary School in Medina.


Since then, there has been a significant turnover with law enforcement officers and leaders of the departments, said Roland Nenni, Albion police chief.


He also advised the group that Albion will again host a National Night Out at Bullard Park on Aug. 2, with activities for children and families, as well as demonstrations by police agencies. Last year's event drew 250 people, despite rainy weather.


Nenni also offered to make Albion's K9 unit available to other communities, including school districts for drug searches.


The school leaders all said there have been significant efforts in recent years to make their buildings more secure. Kendall and Albion are working on capital improvement projects that will add even more security.

Robert D'Angelo, superintendent at Holley Central School, was among the school leaders at last week's meeting.


Cardone, the district attorney, said his office frequently gets calls from parents of students who complain their kids are being bullied or harassed through social media. He suggested the school officials create a subcommittee to create a policy for using social media.


Julie Christensen, Kendall school superintendent, said she urges parents to take their children's phones away if they are harassing others. She said turning the phones off at night is also a good idea.


Michael Bonnewell, Albion school superintendent, said kids should adhere to the age limit for being on social media. Facebook says users need to be at least 13. Districts already must follow the Dignity for All Students Act, a state law ensuring children to the right to attend school in a safe, welcoming and caring environment, free of bullying.


Cardone said parents need to talk with their children about social media, especially when so many kids have Smart Phones with access to the Internet and social media sites.


"Hardly a week goes by when a parent doesn't call upset," Cardone said about cyberbullying. "Parents are besides themselves."


The meetings among school and law enforcement have expanded to include some agency leaders, include representatives from the Orleans County mental Health Department and Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.


Marc O'Brien, director of the county's mental health department, has worked with four of the five school districts to establish satelite mental health clinics in the schools this year. The county and Albion Central School also are planning to make a county mental health therapist available at Albion beginning next school year. That therapist would likely work out of the elementary and middle schools, and be open to high schoolers as well.


The mental health therapists help students with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Having those personnel at schools eliminates the transportation issue for students, and also means they are out of class for less time because they don't have to travel to the Mental Health building in Albion.


O'Brien announced last week the county also is working with Medina Memorial Hospital to have a satelitte mental health office at the hospital in Medina.


"Every school has been fantastic to work with," O'Brien told the school leaders during the meeting.


The therapists are on the county payroll, with the service paid for by the students' insurance companies.


The school-law enforcement meetings also include Jim Simon, dean of the Genesee Community College centers in Albion and Medina. He said those sites have also bolstered security wth staff members receiving "bystander training" from law enforcement personnel.


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Orleans, Niagara still pushing for broadband Internet, but ‘in a holding pattern’

Photo by Tom Rivers
Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson, left, and Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey, leaders with the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, update the Albion Rotary Club on the efforts bring more high-speed Internet to rural areas in the two counties. Rotary member Bruce Landis is at right.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 May 2016
GAINES – Officials from Orleans and Niagara counties continue to work to expand high-speed Internet access in the two counties.

The two counties have formed the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, with the push for more broadband Internet a top priority for the two-county alliance.

However, the effort is “in a holding pattern” due to the merger of Time Warner and Charter Communications, Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson told the Albion Rotary Club last week.

As part of the merger, Charter needs to expand service to 145,000 homes that don’t already have high-speed access. The FCC on May 6 approved Charter Communications' $79 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Charter has 45 days from May 6 to provide addresses for the 145,000 homes where it plans to extend service. Once those addresses are known, Orleans and Niagara officials can see how it effects service coverage locally.

The state has made $500 million in funds available to expand high-speed Internet. New York is seeking at least a matching commitment from private industry to extend broadband to underserved areas.

Orleans and Niagara have identified 4,300 homes without high-speed Internet access. The lack of service is a major deterrent to attracting and keeping residents and businesses, Johnson said.

“Our message is we haven’t given up,” she said. “As two counties we stand ready for what is so desperately needed on our rural roads for schools, residents and farms.”


The two counties last year 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. The companies developed a network on the Cattaraugus Indian Territory.


They are ready to pursue grant funding and to design, install, operate and maintain the rural broadband network for Orleans and Niagara, Johnson said.


Godfrey, the Niagara County legislator, expects the network will be mostly wireless. That is the wave of the future, and it is cheaper and more practical than installing cable, especially in rural pockets of the two counties with few homes, he said.


“We’ve been shovel-ready for two years,” he said about the broadband push. “We’ve done our homework, we’re just waiting for the money.”


Godfrey lives in rural Wilson. He said two families recently built new homes in that Niagara town, but moved out because there wasn't broadband Internet. The families moved because their children couldn't do homework without high-speed Internet, Godfrey said. Fast Internet also is needed for businesses to submit reports and residents to search for jobs and fill out applications.


"We're more than disadvantaged," Godfrey said. "We're discriminated against."

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, also is pushing for rural broadband money. Upstate New York could lose more than $170 million in federal aid for expanding high-speed Internet because Verizon has turned down the money.


Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo want the federal aid to be available for other companies that would expand coverage in New York.


“We have a lot of very loud voices speaking on behalf of Orleans County,” Johnson said.


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New home construction has steadily dropped in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 May 2016
The number of new houses built annually in Orleans County has been declining, with only 18 built in 2015 compared to 76 in 2003, according to county officials.

The 18 new homes last year is the fewest since 2003, except for the 16 in 2010, when the community and country were in the grip of an economic slowdown.

Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller, a former Kendall town assessor, shared the data during on building permits for new houses in Orleans County. DeRoller received the information from the Orleans County Planning Department. The information was discussed during Friday's meeting with the board of directors for the Orleans Economic Development Agency.


Year New Homes
2003 76
2004 83
2005 49
2006 39
2007 33
2008 29
2009 23
2010 16
2011 20
2012 23
2013 21
2014 27
2015 18

Source: OC Planning Department


DeRoller said the housing starts have slowed in the county, partly because of the big reductions in the workforce at Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb. Those companies used to employ many Orleans residents.


"We took a real hit and haven't recovered from that," DeRoller said about the downsizings at some of Rochester's major manufacturers.


DeRoller said the county still has lots of open affordable land that could be used for new housing. The local governments also should work on getting vacant homes occupied, he said.


DeRoller said he worries with the county's falling population and students enrollments at local schools.


"We need to stabilize our student enrollments," he said.


Some of the houses have been vacant for several years and have fallen into significant disrepair. Those homes will take big investments to make attractive to residents. Those deteriorating houses also are dragging down neighborhoods, EDA board members.


"It's not very inviting in many of our communities," said Gabrielle Barone, vice president of business development for the EDA. She gives company CEOs tours of the local communities, and they often note the rough shape of the housing stock.


Some communities have stepped up property maintenance enforcement, and Paul Hendal, EDA board chairman, said that often comes with resistance from property owners.


"The pushback is unbelievable," he said.


DeRoller said he expects the STAMP site just outside Orleans in the Town of Alabama to bring new residents looking to build homes and also revive existing houses. However, DeRoller said the appearance of the community needs to be improved to draw some of the STAMP workers as residents. It is an issue to be worked on for officials at all levels of the government, he said.


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School budgets pass by big margins

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 May 2016

The school budgets and propositions at all five school districts in Orleans County passed by big margins today.


Medina and Lyndonville presented budgets that reduced taxes, while Albion and Kendall didn’t raise taxes. Holley will increase taxes by 1.99 percent.

In Albion, the results include:
• School budget passed, 444-94;
• Authorization to spend up to $460,000 for buses, 452-86;
• Approval to collect $687,211 for Hoag Library, 385-153.
• Choosing one of four candidates for a five-year term on the Board of Education. Steven LaLonde was elected with 310 votes. Other candidates included Dylan Hellems, 31 votes; Kevin Doherty, 114; and Anitrice Riley, 93.

In Holley, the results include:
• School budget passed, 373-207;
• Authorization for the purchase of schools buses, 368-213;
• Approval to collect $116,061 for Community Free Library, 418-166. 
• Choosing two 3-year term seats on the School Board. Brenda Swanger, 423 votes, and John Heise, 370, were elected. Christine Klafehn received 266 votes.

 In Kendall, the results include:
• School budget passed, 282-90;
• School Bus Replacement Capital Reserve Fund passed, 294-80;
• Voters elected Charless Patt, 218 votes, to another five-year term on the Board of Education. He outpolled Debi Szczepanski, 163 votes.

In Lyndonvile the budget passed with more than 90 percent approval, 132-11.
Other propositions all passed including:
• $91,589 for Yates Community Library, 121-22;
• Establish 2016 Transportation Reserve Fund to fund bus and vehicle purchases, not to exceed $720,000 over 8 years, 125-15;
• Authorization to purchase one 66-passenger school bus at a maximum estimated cost of $110,000, 124-16;
• Three incumbents on the Board of Education – Harold Suhr, Terry Stinson and Rick Mufford – all were re-elected to three-year terms. Mufford received 123 votes, with 118 for Stinson and 116 for Suhr.


• In Medina, the budget passed 522-59.
Six people ran for three three-year terms on the Board of Education. Incumbent Board President Wendi Pencille was the top vote-getter with 425, followed by Lori Draper with 384 and Brenda Lindsay with 369. Those three were elected. Other candidates include Timothy Dunham, 181; Virginia Nicholson, 165; and retired Medina school administrator Alberta Suozzi, 160.


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Conservative Party won’t endorse long-time elected officials

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 May 2016
The Orleans County Conservative Party has decided to withhold endorsements from long-term local elected officials seeking re-election this year.


The Conservative Party Committee says it will no longer endorse candidates who have served more than three terms in their elected positions.


The Committee decided not to endorse Joe Cardone, the county’s district attorney for more than two decades, in his candidacy for another four-year term.


Conservative Party leaders also aren’t endorsing Charlie Smith and Scott Schmidt for additional terms as coroner due to their long service in the positions.


“The Founders never intended for a person to go into elected public service and make a life-time career out of it,” said Paul Lauricella, Conservative Party vice chairman. “Our committee strongly believes that the problems we have in this country are the direct result of career politicians that never know when to leave and will never vote to fix this problem.”
The Conservative Party did make one endorsement during its meeting last week. It is backing Rocco L. Sidari for coroner. Sidari, a former Albion fire chief, has served as coroner for about a year. He is seeking his first four-year term.


The Orleans County Republican Party Committee has endorsed Cardone for DA, and Schmidt, Smith and Sidari for coroner. The election is in November.


In addition, the local Conservative Party isn't backing state legislators who have served more than three terms. That includes Steve Hawley of Batavia, who has been the assemblyman for 10 years. He is seeking another two-year term in the post. He was interviewed by the local Conservative Party Committee, but Lauricella said the group decided not to endorse him.


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Speakers at rally in Albion seek to split New York into 2 regions

Provided photos
Several speakers attended a rally in Albion on Saturday seeking to divide NY into two regions. Some of the speakers included, from left: Pastor Earl C. Wallace from Liberty Christian Fellowship in Halfmoon (eastern New York); Cathy Sapeta from New Yorkers United for Kids; John Bergener, Jr., Divide NYS Caucus, Inc.; Mattie Zarpentine of Holley representing New York Revolution; and Stephen Aldstadt, president of SCOPE (Shooters Committee on Political Education).


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 May 2016
ALBION – Upstate New York is outnumbered in the State Legislature, and the dominating influence of downstate drives up costs for upstaters, and leads to social policies outside community norms for Upstate, speakers at a rally in Albion said on Saturday.


The Divide NYS Caucus, Inc. wants to create two autonomous regions with the New York region consisting of the counties Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester.


The rest of the state would be the New Amsterdam Region, consisting of the other 53 counties in the state, including Orleans.


John Bergener, Jr., one of the leaders of the Divide NYS Caucus, said the group is pushing for residents to support a Constitutional Convention in 2017. The goal isn't to create two different states, but to divide the state into two autonomous regions. That effort would not require Congressional approval and can bypass the NY Legislature through a NYS Constitutional Convention, Bergener said.

John Bergener, Jr. speaks at Bullard Park about a push to divide the state into two autonomous regions.


Every 20 years, New York residents have an opportunity to vote on whether to hold a NYS Constitutional Convention. The convention would focus on the State Constitution only. The next opportunity for a convention vote will be November 2017.


Bergener and the Divide NYS Caucus said the state has very diverse population with the majority of the counties small to medium sized communities set in a rural and suburban climate. Those communities tend to be conservative with their values. The state also is home to New York City and the surrounding counties that are far more liberal than Upstate. The divergent regions make it difficult to govern the state.


For more on the Divide NYS Caucus, click here.

Mattie Zarpentine, a state coordinator of New York Revolution, speaks at the rally in Albion.


New York Revolution (click here) formed soon after the state passed the SAFE Act in January 2013, a controversial gun control law. Zarpentine said the group is focused on fighting for Second Amendment rights, but sees other problems in the state encroaching on the rights and lifestyle of upstate residents.


"The SAFE Act got many of us involved," Zarpentine said. "But this is much more than a Second Amendment issue."


The downstate influence in the State Legislature and governor's office has driven up costs for businesses and taxes for residents, making Upstate uncompetitive for many businesses and driving away people.


"Albany does not care how we feel, how we live and will just continue to push forward their agenda," Zarpentine said. "How is upstate being served by a downstate governor and a downstate controlled legislature?"


Zarpentine said Albany politicians continue to be mired in scandal, with no end in sight. The governor and Legislature haven't enacted ethics reform, she said. This month the former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were both sentenced to prison for corruption.


Zarpentine, a Holley resident, said she was encouraged by the different groups that attended the rally in Albion. The groups are trying to build support for the Constitutional Convention.


It was a fairly small crowd at the Albion rally, which was held with rain, gusty weather and temperatures in the 50s. Zarpentine said she met people from Jamestown, Saratoga and other parts of the state. They are determined to have a state that preserves residents' rights and works for solutions for attracting and keeping businesses and families.


"A small number of people can make change," Zarpentine said.


Pastor Earl Wallace of Liberty Christian Fellowship spoke on the Biblical basis of the Bill of Rights. Wallace said the Founding Fathers were influenced by the Bible, especially the 10 Commandments, and historical documents such as the Magna Carta from 1215 that treat citizens according to Biblical principles.

Kathy Sapeta of New Yorkers United for Kids wants to repeal Common Core in schools.


Stephen Aldstadt, president of SCOPE, discussed the SAFE Act and NY regulations that make New York the highest taxed state in the country.


Zarpentine said the groups will make their feelings known to state legislators.


"Our representatives are not advocating for us to the full extent that they should be," she said.


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Orleans GOP endorses DA, 3 coroners

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 May 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Republican Party has endorsed Joe Cardone for another four-year term as district attorney.

Cardone of Medina has served more than two decades as the county’s top prosecutor.

“He’s done a great job,” said Ed Morgan, the county’s GOP chairman.

There are only four positions on the ballot in county elections this year. Besides Cardone, three coroners are up for election. The GOP Committee endorsed the incumbents: Charlie Smith of Ridgeway, Scott Schmidt of Medina and Rocky Sidari of Albion.

Schmidt is the current president of the New York State Association of County Coroners and Medical Examiners. Smith and Sidari are both active firefighters.


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Legislature asked not to leave historic Albion building

moon over Orleans County Courthouse
File photo by Peggy Barringer
Peggy Barringer took this photo in January 2014 of a full moon over the Orleans County Courthouse and the County Clerks Building. County officials may shift some of the government offices from the Clerks Building to a possible addition to the County Administration Building on Route 31.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 May 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature was asked to not leave the current legislative chambers for a possible new site on Route 31.

The county is exploring putting an addition on to the County Administration Building. It might put the Board of Elections, Public Health Department, and Legislature staff and offices in the new addition.

The county voted last week to hire the Wendel firm in Williamsville to examine the feasibility of the project. Wendel will be paid up to $30,000 for the work.

Bruce Schmidt, a local attorney and the Gaines town justice, said the Legislature shouldn’t move from its current chambers, where the body has met since soon after its inception in 1980. The Legislature replaced the former Board of Supervisors, which met in the first floor of the county courthouse in space now used by Family Court.

The county judge used to have Family Court in the Clerks Building, which was known as the Surrogate’s Building. The building was built in 1888 in the Eastlake Style and is part of the Courthouse Square historic district, which is named to the National Register of Historic Places.

“This building is of a historic nature,” Schmidt told county legislators last week. “This body is of a historic nature.”

Schmidt said the Legislature should stay in the Courthouse Square and not leave for a site that is outside the village, the county seat.

“Creative thinking could keep us here,” Schmidt said.

Legislature Chairman David Callard responded to Schmidt that the historic building wouldn’t disappear if the Legislature left for the new space on the possible addition.


That site might also include conference and training rooms. Schmidt said the Legislature could use existing conference and training rooms at local schools or the library.

Callard said nothing has been determined with the Legislature’s future location. The study is just exploratory, he said.

“How we utilize the building hasn’t been determined,” he said.

The Legislature used to meet the second and fourth Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. in the upper floor of the Clerks Building. However, last year the Legislature changed to having only one meeting a month on the fourth Wednesday.

The walls of the legislative chambers include many photos of the former Board of Supervisors and members of the County Legislature.

“It is significant to this building and for this Square for the Legislature to stay here,” Schmidt said.

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County will study feasibility of solar project

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 May 2016
ALBION – Orleans County has hired a firm to examine the feasibility of a solar energy project on county-owned property.

The Orleans County Legislature last week agreed to pay $10,500 to the Wendel firm in Williamsville to study if a solar array would benefit the county.

Orleans officials see potential in a project because of current incentives for utilizing renewable energy.

The county could lock in its electricity rates for 30 years with a large-scale project and also sell back electricity through the solar effort.

“Right now the incentives are at a maximum and the technology continues to improve,” Legislature Chairman David Callard said. “The time may be right.”

Wendel would look at publicly owned land, including sites owned by the Orleans Economic Development Agency, for a possible project, Callard said.

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OONA gets thanks for playground donation at Marine Park

Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 2 May 2016
ALBION - Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller, left, reads a "Special Recognition" Award that was presented last week to members of the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association, which donated $3,249 for a swing set at the County Marine Park.


The donation is part of an effort to relocate and upgrade the playground at the park. OONA members also put on a summer concert series at the park, and lead other efforts to promote the Point Breeze community.


The new playground equipment should be installed soon. "We're waiting for the ground to firm up," said Jim Bensley, the county's director of planning and development. He also oversees the Marine Park on Route 98.

Melissa Ierlan receives Special Recognition Award

Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard, left, and Legislator John DeFilipps congratulate Melissa Ierlan of Clarendon for receiving a "Special Recognition" Award for repainting 15 historical markers in the county. Ierlan started by redoing all four in Clarendon, and now has given a facelift to many others in Orleans County, including one outside Orleans in Elba.

First week in May declared Western New York Armed Forces Week

County legislators also issued a proclamation declaring May 1-7 as "Western New York Armed Forces Week." Pictured, from left: Former Legislator Frank Berger who is active in veterans' causes, Legislator Bill Eick, Legislator Fred Miller, and Earl Schmitt, director of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency.


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Motorcyclists remind public they’re back on the road

Chuck Persons

Photos by Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 May 2016

ALBION – Motorcyclists held a rally on Sunday in front of the Orleans County Courthouse to remind the public to be careful and look out for motorcycles. Chuck Persons, president of the Orleans County chapter of ABATE, addresses the group that gathered in the rain in front of the courthouse.

There are about 100 members of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education in Orleans County. The group promotes driver safety among its members, and tries to educate other motorists to be extra vigilant in sharing the road with motorcyclists.
Senator Robert Ortt
State Sen. Robert Ortt thanked motorcyclists for many of the causes they support, including the Patriot Guard, where they provide an escort and presence for a member of the military killed in the line of duty. Motorcyclists also raise funds for many important causes, including Camp Rainbow in Orleans County.

“I want to thank all of you who are big supporters of our veterans,” Ortt said. “That’s what separates many of you from the general public.”

Ed Morgan and Chuck Persons

Ed Morgan, right, represents State Assemblyman Steve Hawley at the rally. Morgan and Ortt both said the new state budget includes a big state investment in roads and bridges that should improve safety of motorcyclists and other drivers.
motorcycles at Orleans courthouse rally
After the rally outside the courthouse, motorcycle riders took off on a ride to the Vets Club in Medina. The awareness ride is usually 50 miles throughout the county, but was shortened to 10 miles on Sunday due to the rain.

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Some of most powerful horses in country show strength at Fairgrounds

Brian Armison

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 1 May 2016


KNOWLSEVILLE – Brian Armison of Centerville in Allegany County competes with his team of powerful horses in Saturday’s “Pull of Champions” at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

This was the third year the Fairgrounds hosted the horse pull for the New York State Horse Pullers Association. About 25 teams of horses, including many of the top teams from the U.S. and Canada, competed in the event, which kicks off the horse-pulling season.

Armison is on the board of directors for the NYS Horse Pullers Association. The association used to hold the “Pull of Champions” at the state fairgrounds in Syracuse. It was moved to Knowlesville in 2014 through the efforts of horse pull competitor Nick Nesbitt of Waterport as well as the support of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County.

Armison said the Fairgrounds in Knowlesville has proven a good fit providing a more central location for horse pulling teams, as well as a supportive host. He praised 4-Hers for selling food and the Extension staff for maintaining a nice dirt track.
“They’re super accommodating,” Armison said. “They even send us a thank you note.”
Dennis Weinberger's group
A team owned by Dennis Weinberger from Reading, Michigan, captured first place in the lightweight division. Weinbegrer, in black hat, also won the title in 2015 at “The Pull of Champions.” He said the horses need strength and stamina to compete at such a high level. His team won by pulling a dynamometer, 16 feet, 7 inches when the dynamometer was weighed down with an additional 4,400 pounds. The dynamometer, in the final pulls, can simulate 160,000 pounds.
Danny Smith
Danny Smith from Cummington, Massachusetts, gets a horse ready for competition. This horse was part of a team of two that combined weighed less than 3,425 pounds. There were 25 teams competing in either the lightweight division (3,425 pounds or less), or the heavyweights for teams that exceed 3,425 pounds.
Charles Blanchard
Charlie Blanchard of Winchester, New Hampshire, puts the harnessing equipment on his horse. He is partners with Danny Smith of Massachusetts.
Josh Wickum
Josh Wickum of Menomonie, Wisc., leads his team in the finals of the lightweight division. Wickum’s team finished second overall in the division.
4-H kids
4-H kids and volunteers sold food and other concessions at the pull. This photo shows Gail Ebbs and 4-Her Jordan Boccacci selling cotton candy.
The Armison brothers
The Armison Brothers from Centerville – Caleb, left, and Chris, right – get their team ready for the pull. The brothers, who are Brian Armison’s nephews, just jogged the horses as a warmup for the pull.
People at the horse pulls in Knowlesville
About 800 people attended the horse pulls on Saturday. The crowd size and numbers of teams continues to grow with the event since it was moved to the 4-H fairgrounds in Knowlesville.


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