Study soon to begin on policing services in Orleans County

Committee will look at dissolving village police into county force, and other options

Photo by Tom Rivers
A deputy patrol car for the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office is parked outside the county jail.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 April 2016
ALBION – A study will soon get started looking at law enforcement services in the Orleans County, an investigation that will include police chiefs and elected officials from the four villages and Orleans County.

County officials, representatives from the business community and other yet-to-be-named members of a committee will explore the efficiency of current local law enforcement operations and compare them with alternative policing models, including the potential consolidation of all local departments into one.

The state is providing a $36,000 matching “Local Government Efficiency Grant” for the study. The county is paying the other $36,000. The county is seeking proposals from consultants to help with the study. Those proposals are due May 18.

County officials have set May 2017 for completion of the report with recommendations and alternatives for the community.


The study will look at the operations at the Sheriff’s Office, and the Albion, Medina and Holley police departments. Lyndonville also has a part-time officer.


There may be opportunities for shared administration, joint purchasing and other initiatives that would keep the existing village police departments. Or the committee may suggest the village departments be dissolved with a county-wide force taking the lead.

If the villages dissolved their police departments, it would provide significant tax relief for villages. However, county taxes would likely then go up.


Holley has talked before of dissolving its police department and Medina, as part of a failed dissolution proposal last year, said a town-wide force in Shelby and Ridgeway could be created.


County Legislature Chairman David Callard has said he wants to be proactive in looking at policing services and not be caught off guard by a village that dissolves its force, expecting the Sheriff’s Office to assume village road patrols and calls.

The study will look at alignment of current compensation and benefits
agreements, determining the costs of a combined police force. The committee will look at potential obstacles to consolidation and provide guidance to overcome those obstacles, according to the county’s RFP. (Click here to see the 12-page RFP.)


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Merger approved for Orleans, Genesee Arc

Photos by Tom Rivers

John Huber, president of the board of directors for The Arc of Orleans County, congratulates Mary Lou Tuohey for 21 years of service on the board. Huber also announced on Friday that NYSARC, the state agency overseeing The Arc, approved a merger between the agencies in Orleans and Genesee counties.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 April 2016

HOLLEY – The state organization that oversees 48 chapters that provide services to people with disabilities has approved a merger between The Arc of Orleans County and the Genesee ARC.


NYSARC's board of directors voted to approve the merger on April 15, John Huber, president of the board for The Arc, announced on Friday during the Best Friend awards banquet.


Staff and board members from the two chapters have worked more than a year to develop a plan for merging the two agencies. Huber said that plan will now be implemented over the next year. The goal is to preserve services for people served by the agency and to "safeguard people's salaries and benefits as much as possible."


The new merged agency will be known as The Arc of Genesee & Orleans. It combines the Genesee agency that has about 350 employees and an annual budget of about $13 million with the Orleans agency that has about 300 workers and a budget of nearly $11 million.


Huber said the "managed care model" has cut into reimbursements for Arc services. Leaders in both Orleans and Genesee see a stronger agency and economy of scale working together, he said.


Both Orleans and Genesee feared the shrinking reimbursements could create a financial crisis for the agencies. They chose to merge in a "forward-thinking" vision of the future.


"We didn't want to be in a position where we were taken over by another chapter," he said.


The two agencies need to merge boards of directors with four representatives from each county. They also need to merge billing, bank accounts and other programs.


"As of now we are one agency," Huber told about 300 people at The Arc's awards banquet. "Now the devil is in the details."


The two agencies have been meeting for about 2 1/2 years to discuss ways to share some staff and services. Those talks led to a push for a merger.

Combined, the two agencies serve over 1,200 individuals with disabilities.

The Genesee chapter celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and the agency started 46 years ago in Orleans.


"Next year will be year one of a brand new agency," Huber said.

Matthew Degnan shared the blessing for the food during Friday's banquet. He thanked The Arc for its support while he was growing up. "The Arc has given me independence, respect, dignity and freedom," Degnan said. "I just got my hand controls in my car and I can drive now." Degnan said the new merger with Genesee ARC will allow the bigger agency "to help all who are differently abled."


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Few campaign signs in heated presidential primary

Photos by Tom Rivers
This sign in support of Bernie Sanders is placed in a front yard on Park Avenue in Medina. It’s one of the few political signs out despite a heated primary season.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 April 2016
It may be a heated primary and a rare chance in New York for a spirited presidential race, but you wouldn’t know it driving around Orleans County. There are few signs for presidential candidates out on front lawns.


Local Republican and Democratic leaders haven’t ordered signs. The few that are out have been picked up at candidate rallies or purchased by local residents.


Ed Morgan, the Orleans County Republican Party chairman, said federal election laws require reporting by the local parties if they spend on the presidential race. He didn’t want to be committed to the lengthy paperwork if the party bought signs or placed ads.


“We’d have to file a federal campaign contribution form,” Morgan said.


He and the GOP Committee have endorsed Donald Trump for president. They made Orleans County one of the first counties in New York to endorse Trump.

Morgan said Trump has a strong following locally, even if there aren’t many signs in front lawns. He said he expects more signs will go out before the vote Tuesday as signs are distributed from Buffalo and Rochester sites trying to get out the vote for Trump.


There are also a few signs out in the county in support of John Kasich and Ted Cruz, who are seeking the Republican nomination.

A Barre resident on Route 98 has a sign out in support of John Kasich.


Morgan is traveling to New York City today for the State Republican Committee annual gala where the three presidential candidates are expected to speak. All three are making a hard push for votes in New York.


Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton also are in a tight race for the Democratic nomination. There aren’t very many signs out for them, either.


Jeanne Crane, the Democratic Party chairwoman, said a few of the Sanders and Clinton supporters have bought signs and put them out, although some of the Clinton signs appear to have been stolen. Morgan said some of the Trump signs also have been snatched.

Crane said she didn’t push to hard to get signs out when she noticed there were so few Republican ones.

“If they’re not too worried about it, then I’m not,” she said.

Crane and the Orleans County Democratic Party Committee last week voted to endorse Clinton for president. It wasn’t unanimous. Sanders has some support on the committee.

Crane said she has backed Clinton since 2000, when Clinton (then the first lady) ran successfully for the U.S. Senate, representing New York.

Crane said Clinton stands out among all of the candidates for her experience, particularly with foreign policy.

“She’s better prepared,” Crane said.

Although they won’t be pushing for yard signs for candidates, Crane said she and the Democratic Party leaders will be making phone calls, urging local Democrats to back Clinton on Tuesday.


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Board of Elections makes big order for primary ballots

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 April 2016
ALBION – Normally, when New York has its turn to vote in the presidential primary, the race is over with the nomination for both the Republican and Democratic candidates locked up.

But Tuesday, the race for coveted delegates remains in play for both parties, and turnout has been huge at other states.

So instead of printing a small percentage of ballots for Tuesday, the Orleans County Board of Elections had ballots made for 80 percent of the registered Republicans and Democrats.

“There has a been a big turnout in other states,” said Sylvia Shoemaker, the Republican election commissioner in Orleans County.

The Republican and Democrat candidates have been campaigning vigorously across New York with rallies and other get-out-the-vote efforts.

Shoemaker said some counties in New York are printing ballots for 110 percent of their registered Republicans and Democrats. Each voter is allowed up to three ballots in case they make mistakes.

The Republican candidates on the ballot include Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson. Shoemaker noted that Carson has suspended his campaign, but he remains on the ballot. That may confuse some voters.

The Democratic candidates on the ballot include Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for president. There are also 12 delegates on the ballot, and voters can choose up to six.

The county has 10,360 registered Republicans and 5,320 registered Democrats. The ballots are about 45 cents each. Printing enough for 80 percent of the total registered Republicans and Democrats – 12,544 – will cost an estimated $5,644. Shoemaker said the county hasn’t been billed yet for the ballots. The Board of Elections also has about 1,000 absentee ballots ready.

An 80 percent turnout would more than double the percentage of voters in the November election, which included a hotly contested race for county sheriff. The turnout in November was 38.2 percent in Orleans County.

Shoemaker said the county wants to be prepared for a big turnout on Tuesday. The Board of Elections doesn’t have the option of printing more ballots throughout the day in case it runs out. The county doesn’t have the specialized printing equipment for the ballots and contracts to have them printed.


The ballots arrived last week, and the BOE is setting up the optical scan voting machines to handle the ballots on Tuesday.


Voting is from noon to 9 p.m. For more information on polling sites, click here.


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Rental subsidies available for small businesses to move into downtowns

$4,500 max to rent storefronts in Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina

Photo by Tom Rivers
Diane Blanchard, director of the Microenterprise Assistance Program, will manage $60,000 in downtown rental subsidies, plus $100,000 in grants available for small businesses. She is pictured on Main Street in Albion.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2016
ALBION – The Orleans Economic Development Agency has money to entice businesses to move into the downtown business districts in Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina.

The EDA’s local development corporation voted Thursday to make $60,000 available in the next two years for downtown rental subsidies. Businesses can seek $3 per square foot annually if they move into the downtown. The EDA is capping the subsidies at $4,500 a year, the maximum for a 1,500 square foot space.

They subsidies aren’t available to businesses currently in the downtown. The fundign comes from a $200,000 state grant approved for the EDA last December. The EDA also has $100,000 in grants to share with small businesses (5 or fewer employees) that need working capital, equipment purchases or inventory. The grants are capped at $15,000 per recipient.


Those grants are targeted for businesses that completed the Microenterprise Assistance Program, which offers small business training. However, the EDA will consider start-up businesses and other small businesses that didn't go through the EDA, said Jim Whipple, the EDA executive director.


The EDA ran a similar grant program about five years ago and gave $20,004 to help businesses with their rent, including seven in Medina, four in Albion and two in Holley. The subsidies then were capped at $3,000 per recipient.


Blanchard said the program should result in new commercial activity in vacant storefronts.


She is on a committee to decide the funding along with Whipple, and three members of the EDA's Finance Committee.


The grant from the state also provides $40,000 to the EDA to administer the funding.


The EDA runs the MAP program providing small business training in a 10-week class. The spring class just started last week and includes 15 entreprenuers.


For more on the EDA, click here.


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Canal Corp. leader expects state funds for canal bridges, infrastructure

Touts new state budget in visit to Orleans

Photos By Tom Rivers
Brian Stratton, director of the NYS Canal Corp., went over highlights of the new state budget in a visit to the legislative chambers of the Orleans County Legislature on Thursday.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2016
ALBION – The state budget brings good news to Orleans County residents, with a boost in the minimum wage, a Middle Class tax cut, more aid for schools, and numerous other funding options for municipalities to address aging infrastructure, and spur economic development, the director of the NYS Canal Corp. said in a stop Thursday in Albion.

Brian Stratton met with about 25 local officials in the legislative chambers of the Orleans County Legislature. Stratton and other many of the governor’s cabinet are discussing the new state budget in stops throughout the state. Stratton was also in Seneca Falls on Thursday.


Stratton said the higher minimum wage will benefit the state’s economy and residents. The new budget deal calls for phased in increases that bring the minimum wage to $15 in New York City and $12.50 for most of Upstate by the end of 2020. If the economy struggles, Stratton said there is a safety value “if catastrophic failure.”


He said the economy added jobs after six of the last nine times the minimum wage was increased in New York.


The County Legislature formally opposed raising the minimum wage in a recent meeting.

“That is the great debate: will it move the economy forward or will it have a depressing effect?” David Callard, the Legislature chairman, said on Thursday.

Callard said his top concern remains property taxes. He said the county and local governments have worked to share services, reduce staff and consolidate some departments. He said the state should follow that example.

Stratton said the state has been paring personnel costs.

“We’ve been doing that,” he responded to Callard. “We’ve retrenched, we’ve contracted. We’re all in this together.”

Stratton said the property tax cap, enacted by the governor and State Legislature, tries to limit property tax growth to about 2 percent. Sometimes the cap is lower because it’s tied to inflationary increases. The state has also capped the increase to counties for Medicaid and introduced a new less generous public pension tier that eases some of the financial pressure on municipalities, Stratton said.

He noted the budget includes more incentives for local governments to pursue consolidation to reduce layers of government.


Stratton said New York is in a much stronger position in the five-plus years Andrew Cuomo has been governor. The unemployment rate has dropped dramatically in all regions of the state, and the number of jobs has increased, Stratton said.

The budget includes a $27 billion commitment for infrastructure in Upstate. Stratton expects some of that money will address aging canal infrastructure, including some of the bridges that are more than a century old.

Many of those bridges in Orleans County have reduced weight limits, been closed or limited to one-way traffic. Orleans County officials in recent years have been pressing the state to spend more on repairing or replacing the canal spans.


Ed Morgan, the Murray town highway superintendent, said there are 10 canal bridges in Murray. He told Stratton many of the bridges are not properly posted by the state. He called it a public safety issue.

Dale Banker, the county's emergency management coordinator, thanked the state for grant funds to help upgrade 911 emergency dispatch centers, but Banker told Stratton more funding would be helpful to make the systems interoperable with nearby counties.


The county also has made maintenance of the Lake Ontario State Parkway a top priority. Kendall Town Supervisor Tony Cammarata said the recreational route is in deplorable condition.

“It’s a horrible stretch of road,” Cammarata said. “The Parkway is the gateway to the east and the west. People aren’t taking it because it’s not drivable. It’s not a convenience issue, it’s a safety issue.”


Stratton said there are “many, many needs” in the state for the infrastructure. The funds haven’t been earmarked yet for projects.


He also highlighted an increase in school funding, a middle class tax cut, $500 million for Broadband, a $100 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative, a poverty reduction initiative, and a $200 million increase to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure.

“With this budget, New York will continue to lead the way forward,” Stratton said.


He also addressed the switch in the canal’s operation and maintenance from the Thruway Authority to the New York Power Authority. Stratton said the Thurway Authority was a great steward of the canal the past 25 years, spending about $1 billion in the 524-mile long system.

The NY Power Authority is a good fit for the canal, where 27 hydroelectric power systems use canal water, he said.

“We think this is a great economic opportunity by partnering with the New York Power Authority,” Stratton said. “The canal is a wonderful historic treasure and economic engine.”


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Orleans extends contract giving deputies 2% raises in 2016

County also keeps contract with lobbyist at $60K annually

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 March 2016
ALBION – Deputies with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office will be receiving 2 percent pay raises in 2016, according to a contract extension approved last week by the County Legislature.

The agreement extends the existing contract with the Orleans County Deputy Sheriffs Association for one year.

The Legislature last Wednesday also renewed an agreement with Park Strategies in Albany for government affairs services in the state capital.

Park Strategies was hired a year ago for $5,000 a month or $60,000 for the year.
The firm has helped the county connect with state officials, and form a plan for pressing the state for maintaining canal bridges, working on the Lake Ontario State Parkway, and other issues, including grant funding, legislators said.

In other action, the Legislature:

• Set a 4:15 p.m. public hearing on July 27 for the review of a county-wide consolidated agricultural district. The hearing will be at the legislative chamber in the County Clerks Building, 3 South Main St., Albion.

• Approved spending $22,324 for a new industrial fish grinder at the Orleans County Marine Park. Grinder will be purchased from Corrosion Products & Equipment in Rochester.

• Approved a four-year lease for phone systems from American Capital in Lisle, Ill., to be paid $23,863 annually or $89,353 over four years. The lease will allow the county to have a more reliable telephone system, legislators said.

The county also approved an agreement with Time Warner in Buffalo to establish a point-to-point circuit between the Public Safety Building and Clerks Building for five years at annual cost of $13,680. The move will allow for greater telecommunications and data communications between multiple campuses of Orleans County government, legislators said.

• Purchased a 2016 Chevy Tahoe for Sheriff’s Office patrols for $45,850 from Joe Basil Chevrolet in Depew, and a 2016 Chevrolet Express Cargo Van for $57,392 from Joe Basil Chevrolet for the county jail for inmate transports.

• Authorized the sheriff to seek a $10,000 grant from the State Canal Corporation for marine patrols on the canal from April 1, 2016 until March 31, 2017.


• Set Aug. 6 as a household hazardous waste collection day when residents can dispose of aerosol cans, anti-freeze, fluorescent tubes, household cleaners, oil filters, pesticides, poisons and other household hazardous wastes.

• Appointed Nancy Mack of Albion to a three-year term on Office for the Aging Advisory Council.

• Appointed Julie Christensen, Kendall Central School superintendent, and Darlene Waters of Medina as new members of the county’s Board of Ethics. Their terms run until Dec. 31, 2018.


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Several Orleans church pastors unite in pact to transform community

Photo by Tom Rivers
These pastors are among the members of the newly formed PACT – Pastors Aligned for Community Transformation. The group pictured, includes, from left: Russ Peters from Alabama Full Gospel Fellowship, Randy LeBaron from the Albion Free Methodist Church, Tim Lindsay from Harvest Christian Fellowship in Albion, and Dan Thurber from Oak Orchard Assembly of God in Medina.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 March 2016
ALBION – Several church pastors in Orleans County have united in an effort to transform the community through the good news of Jesus Christ.

The church leaders are calling their new group, Pastors Aligned for Community Transformation (PACT). They worked together to plan the Good Friday service today at Alabama Full Gospel Fellowship on Route 63, south of Medina. That service starts today at 6:30 p.m. and six pastors have roles in the service, including serving communion.

The pastors in PACT have been getting together for several years to pray for each other and the community. It was an informal group. But they have given their group a name, developed a mission statement and a purpose


“Christ is Lord and we want to share him with the region,” said Randy LeBaron, pastor the past 12 years at the Albion Free Methodist Church.

The pastors say the group isn’t elitist. It’s open to Christians who share the PACT mission, an evangelical message that they say will take people from personal transformation to a bigger impact in the community.

The PACT leaders say they aren’t splitting hairs over denominational differences, or worship style preferences. They want to focus on prayer and the Gospel message.

“It’s a message of unity under Christ,” said Thurber, who has been pastor at Oak Orchard for 13 years. “The churches will come alongside each other and not compete. We're stronger together."

Tim Lindsay has served as pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Albion for 29 years. He said vibrant churches will help build a stronger community.

“When the church is revived, the community will be revived,” Lindsay said.


The churches will also host individual events open to other congregations. Albion Free Methodist, for example, hosts several movie nights with Christian-themed movies. Oak Orchard last week hosted a prayer meeting open to the community. Harvest Christian Fellowship is planning a trip to Israel and organizes the annual Father-Daughter Dance.

Peters has led the Alabama Full Gospel church for 3 ½ years. His father, Robert Terry Peters, was the church’s pastor for 30 years. The elder Peters met frequently to pray together with Thurber’s father, Stanley, who led Oak Orchard for 41 years.

Russ Peters said PACT provides the pastors with a support network.

“We minister to each other,” he said.

The Good Friday service this evening also will include Chad Wirth, pastor of Faith Covenant Fellowship in Medina, and Richard Allis, pastor of The Light of Victory Church in Albion.


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Latest Census report shows more population loss for Orleans

Rate of loss since 2010 among highest in state

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 March 2016
New data from the U.S. Bureau, showing population changes for counties from 2010 to 2015, shows Orleans County’s population is down by 1,301 residents in those five years, a 3.03 percent decline, among the biggest drops in the state.

Orleans County’s population was 42,883 in 2010, and it dropped to 41,582 in July 2015, according to the Census Bureau. Going back to 2000, the county had 44,171 residents. That’s a drop of 2,589 residents or 5.86 percent in 15 years.

The Census data shows that only 19 counties out of 62 added population since 2010. In Western New York, seven of the eight counties went down, except for Erie County, which added 3,514 people, a 0.38 percent growth to 922,578.

Orleans had one of the biggest rates of decline at 3.03 percent the first half of the decade. Other counties saw bigger losses, according to the Census Bureau.


Schoharie County declined 4.32 percent, down 1,414 persons (from 32,744 in April 2010 to 31,330 in July 2015) and Delaware County dropped 4.04 percent, down 1,936 people from 47,980 in 2010.


Tioga County went down 3.27 percent, a population loss of 1,670 (from 51,123 in April 2010 to 49,453 in July 2015); Chenango County declined 3.24 percent or 1,634 (from 50,478 in April 2010 to 48,844 in July 2015).

Two other counties also topped the population decline in Orleans: Greene County lost 3.24 percent of its population (from 49,218 in April 2010 to 47,625 in July 2015) and Chautauqua County was down 3.05 percent (from 134,894 in April 2010 to 130,779 in July 2015).


For more on the Census Bureau report, click here to see an article in Buffalo Business First.


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Chamber sells furniture, other items as it closes office

Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 20 March 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce sold many desks, tables, chairs and other possessions on Saturday. The Chamber is closing its office at 102 North Main St., Suite 1.

Samantha Roskowski, executive director for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce, will work out of her home and remotely in other spots in the community.
Roskowski, right, is pictured with Brooke Pontillo, president of the Chamber.

The organization announced last month it would be closing the office. Pontillo and Roskowski said there was little foot traffic to the site, and it made more sense to close it. That way Roskowski isn’t tied to the office and can better network in the community and promote businesses. The Chamber also will save money, allowing it to do more for Chamber members, Roskowski said.

Saturday was unusual at the Chamber site: There were a lot of visitors looking over items. Many of the furniture pieces were acquired by the county for the tourism office at the County Administration Building.

Roskowski said the Chamber may revisit having an office again someday. If it goes that route she would prefer to share space with another organization.

The Chamber is planning one of its biggest events, the Home and Garden Show on April 16-17 at the 4-H Fairgrounds in Knowlesville. It will include a wine-tasting on April 16.


For more on the Chamber, click here.


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4-H Fairgrounds prepares for record use in 2016

File photos by Tom Rivers

Joseph Cecchini, 11, of Medina cleans a cow on July 27, 2015 at a new wash rack at the 4-H Fairgrounds.

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County Posted 4 March 2016

KNOWLESVILLE – The Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds will be the place to be this year.


The fairgrounds on Route 31 has experienced a steady increase in use over the past few years, but 2016 will be a banner year. The addition of 10 horse shows, a major dog show on Labor Day Weekend, and a Fiber Festival in November along with the return of existing horse, dog, & rabbit shows; the April Home & Garden Show; spring horse pull; and fall Christmas Antiques Show mean just about every weekend at the fairgrounds will be busy.


These activities will be held in addition to Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension’s educational programs in agriculture, horticulture, nutrition, food preservation, and 4-H youth development, which includes the annual Orleans County 4-H Fair held July 25-30 this year.

Teams of powerful draft horses, with participants from eight states, competed on April 25 last year at 4-H Fairgrounds in the “Pull of Champions.”

Community members are encouraged to view the schedule of Events at Orleans Extension’s website, Registration forms and contact information for event organizers are posted online and the website has a contact box to email questions directly to Extension staff. The website also includes a "Facility Use" page with registration forms and information for groups interested in using the grounds.

The fairgrounds was purchased in 1965 by Orleans Extension and its first building, the Trolley Building, was built in 1966. A majority of the funding for purchase and development of the fairgrounds was raised by 4-H volunteers, members, and their families along with donations primarily from farmers, business owners, and long-time residents.


In recent years, technology-centric companies such as Baxter and Xerox have contributed to the growing 4-H Robotics program and Extension staff has sought grant funding to maintain strong programs.

With the fairgrounds 50th anniversary in 2015, significant infrastructure improvements were made and continue as funding allows. The rabbit & poultry barn, named for the Wachob family, received a new floor, a new wash rack was installed near the cattle barn, and a fitness trail was established. The Trolley Building kitchen also received updates including a 3-bay sink, fire suppression hood and updated range oven, and commercial refrigerator.

During the Home and Garden Show last April, Cindy Smith, right, of Batavia eyes the wine choices by Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms in Gasport. Mindy Vizcarra, left, served up wine tastings throughout the day, April 12, 2015.


In 2016, updates will continue with new plumbing, flooring, and stainless countertops and storage units. Orleans Extension has also requested $25,675 in grant funding to complete the kitchen update with commercial appliances, islands with prep sinks, and a stainless steel serving window, along with $250,000 from New York State for renovating the entire Trolley Building, which is estimated to cost a total of $350,000. Options are also being explored to upgrade the fairgrounds’ restroom and shower facilities, which could cost an additional $240,000.

Orleans Extension board member, Charlie Pettit, sees grant funding as a significant component to continuing fairgrounds renovation. The board has tasked Executive Director, Jennifer Wagester, with seeking funds and streamlining operations to make every dollar count.


Over the past two years, the Extension has implemented changes and renegotiated vendor contracts to save over $10,000 annually. These changes are allowing Extension to maintain services amidst rising costs.


Currently, about one third of Extension’s budget is supported by funding from the Orleans County Legislature, one third by state funding, and one third by funds raised by Extension through program participation fees, rental of the fairgrounds, winter storage, and fundraising by volunteers. Federal funding has increased in the past year from about $9,000 in Smith-Lever funds to over $50,000 with Orleans Extension’s participation in the federal Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program; however, it remains a small part of the overall budget.

John Steier and his son Evan haul tires on Oct. 8 at the new fitness trail at the 4-H Fairgrounds, which opened that day to the public.

The Orleans fairgrounds is one of three in the state that is owned and operated by a county Cornell Cooperative Extension association. The others are in Niagara and Orange Counties. While owning and operating a fairgrounds requires a major investment in infrastructure, it ensures the Orleans community has a facility for learning, gathering, and holding activities.


Extension staff are excited about the increase in use and look forward to introducing new people to 4-H, Extension, and Orleans County. If you or your organization is interested in using the fairgrounds or reserving a classroom or building, contact the Extension office at 585-798-4265 for details.


Staff are housed in the Education Center at the fairgrounds, which is open year round, and office hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday.


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Orleans County GOP endorses Trump for president

Donald Trump has emerged as the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 February 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Republican Committee endorsed Donald Trump for president today in a unanimous vote among about 60 committee members.

The county might be the first to officially endorse Trump for president, said Ed Morgan, chairman of the Orleans County Republican Party.

“He’s a businessman who has been very successful,” Morgan said. “Government should be run as a business and not political.”

Trump, the real estate mogul and reality television star, has emerged the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Morgan asked the local committee if any members wanted to endorse another candidate. Everyone backed Trump.

Morgan said he has met Trump several times, including when Trump was weighing a run for state governor against Andrew Cuomo in 2014. Trump opted not to run. Morgan and other Republican leaders in Western New York travelled to Manhattan in January 2014 to meet with Trump.

Photo courtesy of Ed Morgan
Donald Trump, left, poses for a photo with Ed Morgan, Orleans County Republican Party chairman, at a meeting in New York City in January 2014.

Morgan said Trump in person and on the phone is different from the bombastic persona on television.

“Yes, he’s a little radical and he pulls no punches,” Morgan said. “But in person he’s a totally different person to talk to.”

Trump has surrounded himself with skilled leaders in his businesses, Morgan said, and he expects Trump would do the same as president.

“He will pick the best, whether Republican or Democrat,” Morgan said. “He will have the brightest and smartest cabinet we’ve ever had.”

The Orleans County GOP Committee follows an endorsement from Congressman Chris Collins this week. Collins was the first member of the House of Representatives to back Trump.

Collins attended today’s Orleans GOP meeting, and he stated his support for Trump.
In announcing his support for Trump on Wednesday, Collins said Trump would “end business as usual” in Washington.

“Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he has both the guts and the fortitude to return our nation’s jobs stolen by China, take on our enemies like ISIS, Iran, North Korea and Russia, and most importantly, reestablish the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to attain the American Dream,” Collins said. “That is why I am proud to endorse him as the next President of the United States.”

The Orleans GOP also endorsed Collins for a third term in Congress. The Clarence businessman was first elected to the 27th Congressional District in 2012.

The Orleans Republicans also endorsed State Sen. Robert Ortt of North Tonawanda, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley of Batavia and State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin of Clarence for two-year terms in the State Legislature.


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$500 million called ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ for Orleans, Finger Lakes communities

Photos by Tom Rivers
Vincent Esposito, director of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, addresses about 150 people during Thursday’s council meeting at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Joel Seligman, University of Rochester president, is at left.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 February 2016
ROCHESTER – Leaders and community members in nine counties in the Finger Lakes region, including Orleans, are encouraged to dream big with ideas for promoting economic development and lifting people out of poverty.

The Finger Lakes region is one of three in New York approved for $500 million each over the next five years as part of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

The council wants to support “transformational” projects. That doesn’t mean they have to be in Rochester or in a more populated area.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year tasked the 10 regions to put together plans for how to best spend the $500 million. The Finger Lakes council worked on that for nine months and was picked one of the winners – along with the Southern Tier and Central New York.

The $500 million will be spent over 5 years in each region. Those regions also can continue to seek the normal state funding for economic development through the Consolidated Funding Application process.

The Upstate Revitalization money is available on a rolling deadline, meaning communities don’t have to follow the usual summer deadline for the grant proposal and then wait until December to find out if it was approved.

“No one is more impatient than the governor,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. “He wants it to happen now.”

She said the funding will be used to jump start photonics, optics, “next generation manufacturing and technology,” food and agricultural projects and other economic development efforts.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said at Thursday’s Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council meeting.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the Finger Lakes region, including Orleans, has an opportunity to transform itself. Danny Wegman is pictured at left.

Vincent Esposito, the council director, said the community will soon here funding announcements for projects. Already, 70 applications have been submitted for money in the Upstate Revitalization Initiative for the Finger Lakes.

Hochul said the big infusion of dollars follows the example of the Buffalo Billion, the state investment that led to several economic development projects.

“There was a lot of cynicism and disbelief in Buffalo,” she said. “But now in Buffalo there has been a major shift in confidence.”

Hochul said some areas within a region are struggling, despite the money made available by the state in recent years. The governor, as part of his budget proposal, wants one “distressed downtown” to be picked in each of the 10 regional councils.


The governor has proposed $100 million total for those 10 downtowns. The details of the program will be released if the funding is included in the state budget, which is due to be passed March 31.

Esposito encouraged community leaders in a distressed area to start brainstorming significant projects that could be included for the funds. The council wants to identify a community with high unemployment, population loss and economic decline, and then give a one-time infusion of money to change the community’s direction for the good.

The funding will come with planning experts to help the community identify viable projects, Esposito said.

Danny Wegman and Joel Seligman, University of Rochester president, are co-leaders of the council. They told about 150 people on Thursday they want the $500 million to be shared in the region.

“It was easier winning the money than figuring out how to spend it,” said Wegman, CEO of Wegmans Food Markets. “It’s trying to do things right and fairly for everyone.”

The Finger Lakes council includes Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties.

“The fun is just beginning,” Seligman said. “We have a chance to revitalize this region.”


For more on the Finger Lakes council, click here.


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Orleans ready to go for broadband Internet money

Photo by Tom Rivers

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul attended the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council meeting in Rochester on Thursday. She said a $500 million push from the state to expand broadband Internet will be a big boost to students, residents and businesses in underserved areas of the state, including Orleans County. Hochul is pictured with Danny Wegman, left, and Joel Seligman, University of Rochester president, who both serve as co-chairmen of the council.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 February 2016
ROCHESTER – New York State will begin accepting applications next week for $500 million to expand high-speed Internet. Orleans County officials are ready to pounce on the money.

Orleans has been working on the issue for several years, determining the needs in the county and working with an engineer on how to best to best expand the service. Orleans also has teamed with Niagara County, in a two-county effort to bring high-speed Internet to areas with no service or low speeds.

“We’ve been doing our homework for years,” said Lynne Johnson, an Orleans County legislator working on the issue. “We’re two voices.”

Gov. Cuomo and the State legislature are setting aside $500 million, which needs to be matched by private industry in expanding the service. That means there is at least $1 billion directed to improving the service.

The merger of Time Warner and Charter Communications also will result in expanded coverage, said Vincent Esposito, director of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.

“As part of the Time Warner and Charter Communications merger, they will have to upgrade service,” Esposito said on Thursday during a meeting of the Regional Economic Development Council at the Rochester Convention Center. “Orleans County will be part of the Time Warner upgrade.”

About a third of the geographic area in Orleans County does not have access to high-speed Internet. That is the same in Niagara County. The two counties are proposing that companies use more cable to serve those areas and also install wireless technology.


"A blended solution is the only way you will reach the last house," said Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey.


It is too costly for companies to run cable on roads with a few houses. But wireless technology is more affordable for sparsely populated areas, he said after the meeting in Rochester on Thursday.


Orleans is part of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, and Niagara is the the Western New York council. The two counties are seeking funds through both councils, which Godfrey and Johnson said boosts the chances for more coverage in the two counties.


The applications to the state will be accepted from March 1 to April 15.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul attended the meeting at the Convention Center. She said much of upstate lacks access to high-speed Internet. That puts those areas at a major disadvantage, she said.

Many employers require prospective job applicants to fill out applications on-line, and students are required to do homework on-line. Businesses increasingly sell products by the Internet and need to fill out reports and do research on-line. Residents also enjoy streaming movies.

“If you have it, you don’t think about it,” Hochul said about high-speed Internet. “If you don’t, you’re gasping for air.”

Hochul said the upcoming investment in broadband will make New York more attractive for residents and businesses.

“We’ll be the most covered state in the nation,” she said. “It will be a big advantage for us.”


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Nominations sought for outstanding youths, dedicated adults

Staff Reports Posted 26 February 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Youth Bureau seeks nominations of outstanding youths, and also adults who volunteer and work in careers on behalf of youths.

The nominations are due March 18, and the award-winners will be recognized on May 12 during the 34th annual Youth Recognition Banquet.

The Youth Bureau wants to recognize youths for community service or for their “extraordinary role” within their families. Examples of eligible youth award winners might be someone who helps developmentally disabled students at school, serving as a tutor or volunteer “hugger” at the Special Olympics. The Youth Bureau also has recognized youths for part-time jobs after school to help their family pay the bills.

The Youth Bureau wants to recognize community service where school credit isn’t given. Nominees must live in Orleans County and be ages 14 to 21.

Nomination forms are on the Youth Bureau website. Click here for more information.

The Helen R. Brinsmaid Memorial Youth Worker Award goes to a paid professional who works with youths, including administrators, caseworkers, counselors, school personnel, juvenile justice workers and others that work with youth and families.

The Eileen Heye Adult Volunteer Award goes to an adult volunteer who is a role model for youths and gives of his or her time to better the life of a child.

For more information contact the Youth Bureau at 585-344-3960.


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County jail will step up services for drug-addicted inmates

Photos by Tom Rivers
Scott Wilson, superintendent of the Orleans County Jail, said the county is working on initiatives for inmates struggling with drug addictions and also mental health issues. He addressed the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition this morning.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office is teaming with other agencies in the county to soon start several initiatives for inmates wrestling with drug addictions and mental health issues.

When inmates are released form the jail, they will be injected with a shot of Vivitrol, which helps fight opiate addictions. The Sheriff’s Office secured free shots from a manufacturer. The shot lasts for about 14 days.

The Sheriff’s Office also has been helping inmates secure health insurance coverage. Scott Wilson, the jail superintendent, said many inmates do not have health insurance. After a recent push, he said about 98 percent are now on Medicaid.


That program will start covering Vivitrol in July, which should ensure people who leave the jail can receive continued shots of Vivitrol to help fight their opiate addictions, and reduce the rates of committing new crimes, Wilson told the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition this morning.


He shared other initiatives at the jail and community. Wilson is part of a team from the county going to Albany next week for crisis intervention training with mental health. The training will give guidance for law enforcement, mental health staff, probation and other agencies who work with people having mental health issues.

Police officers will be trained in using discretion in making an arrest and using force with someone having a mental health crisis, Wilson said.

The team from Orleans will work with other professionals next week in Albany to map out how services can best be provided in Orleans County, said Mark O'Brien, director of the Orleans County Mental Health Department.

Wilson said a re-entry coordinator will be added at the jail from an existing staff member. Wilson said addressing the addiction and mental health issues should reduce the inmate population, saving taxpayers and helping more people to be productive citizens.

The Drug Free Communities Coalition shared other efforts today, including a Narcan training program on March 10 at Hoag Library in Albion. Agency leaders and community members at 3 p.m. can learn how to administer Narcan to someone having a heroin overdose.

The Drug Free Communities Coalition is offering the Narcan training in response to opioid epidemic. For more information contact Sarah May at

Roland Nenni, the police chief in Albion and Holley, is helping to organize the National Night Out on Aug. 2 at Bullard Park.

The second annual National Night Out will be at Bullard Park on Aug. 2 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will include demonstrations from K9 teams and law enforcement professionals, as well as games and activities for children.


Roland Nenni, the police chief in Albion and Holley, urged agency leaders to come to the three-hour event and offer games and prizes to make it more fun for families.


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