County will tackle bridges, culverts and new roof at Public Safety Building

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 April 2015
ALBION – The county is moving forward with several infrastructure and capital projects, including the replacement of the roof on the Public Safety Building.


The County Legislature approved a bid on Wednesday to replace the roof at a cost not to exceed $476,820. The Public Safety Building has a large flat roof. It is prone to leaks and the project should not be delayed, said Legislator Bill Eick.


“It’s at the point where we have to do something and we will do it,” Eick said during Wednesday’s Legislature meeting.

 

The Legislature last October approved an $8 million bond to work on replacing bridges, culverts, roofs and other infrastructure work.

 

Most of that money, about $5 million, will go towards replacing six bridges from 2015 to 2017. The county is moving forward with some of the projects after getting little state and federal dollars for bridges. Another state and federal funding cycle doesn’t come up until 2017.


The bond will also provide funding for projects at the county buildings, including the roof replacement at the Public Safety Building. That contract was approved for Garland/DBS, a company from Cleveland, Ohio.


Legislators also approved spending $48,814 from the Capital Project Infrastructure Account on Wednesday for a natural gas emergency generator from Southworth-Milton CAT, Inc. in Boston, Ma.


The Legislature also approved engineering agreements for culvert and bridge projects. Labella Associates in Rochester will be paid up to $96,000 for engineering and design work for the Oak Orchard Road Bridge over Manning Muckland Creek in Barre, up to $80,000 for work on Waterport Carlton Road Bridge over Beardsly Creek in Carlton, and up to $40,000 for work on two culverts in Ridgeway on Knowlesville Road over an Oak Orchard River tributary.


The county also approved an agreement with the state Department of Transportation for replacing the Hulberton Road Bridge over the west branch of Sandy Creek in the Town of Murray. That project will be $1,338,900. The county share will be $66,945 with the state and federal governments paying the rest. This is one of the few bridge projects in the county with the federal and state contributions.

 

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Legislature issues many proclamations

Crime Victim Rights’ Week, Motorcycle Awareness and Safety, Older Americans among several recognized

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 23 April 2015
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday issued several formal proclamations to highlight citizens and programs in the county.

 

The top photo shows legislators Ken DeRoller and Lynne Johnson reading a proclamation in honor of Crime Victim Rights’ Week, which is April 19-25. Terri Drennan, second from left, is the Crime Victim's Services Coordinator for the county. Christi Waldron, left, works with Restore, providing services for sexual assault victims.

May is also “Foster Care Month.” Legislator Bill Eick, right, presents the proclamation to Jeannine Larkin, supervisor of the foster care program in the county. Holli Nenni, left, is the deputy commissioner of Department of Social Services.


Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Month will be observed in May. Legislators Ken DeRoller and Lynne Johnson presented a proclamation to Chuck Persons, president of the Orleans County Chapter of ABATE of New York. There will be a motorcycle safety and awareness rally at 1 p.m. on May 3 at the courthouse steps. Motoryclists will then go on a ride throughout the county.


Legislators also issued a proclamation for “Western New York Armed Forces Week” with a special appreciation for Gold Star Mothers. Legislature Chairman David Callard, left, presents the proclamation to David Kusmierczak, a veteran from Medina.


Legislators also declared May to be “Older Americans Month.” Melissa Blanar, director of the Office for the Aging, is pictured with legislators Bill Eick, center, and Fred Miller.

The Legislature also issued a “Special Recognition” award to Niagara County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross, who is retiring after this year. He has been an elected official in Niagara County for 30 years.


He supported the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance with the two counties working together to fight a plan changing the way Lake Ontario water levels are managed.

 

The two counties are also working together on a Broadband initiative to bring high-speed Internet to underserved areas in the two counties.


“We can share the problems and solve the problems,” Ross said. “I can’t see a better partnership than with Orleans County.”

 

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Deputy DeFilipps says ‘huge thank you’ to community

County Legislature honors first responders, dispatchers in March 21 shoot-out


Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 22 April 2015
ALBION – Deputy James DeFilipps (right), who was wounded in a March 21 shoot-out in Clarendon, made a public appearance today at the Orleans County Legislature, joining other law enforcement officers, first responders and dispatchers in accepting “Special Recognition” awards from the Legislature.

 

DeFilipps is pictured with deputies Brian Larkin, left, and Kevin Colonna.


DeFilipps was shot twice in the abdomen. A bullet proof vest blocked the bullets, but DeFilipps sustained deep bruising in his torso. He is recovering from those injuries.


He was shot twice by James Ellis, 44, of Wyoming County. Ellis allegedly pulled a handgun on an ex-girlfriend in Shelby on March 21. Ellis was then chased by law enforcement before crashing his vehicle into a telephone pole on Route 31A in Clarendon.


DeFilipps was working the east end of the county and responded to the scene in Clarendon. Police say Ellis open fired on responding officers, including DeFilipps. After DeFilipps was shot twice, he fired at Ellis, killing him.


Evidence from the incident will be presented to a grand jury to review the actions by DeFilipps and law enforcement. DeFilipps declined to speak extensively about the incident until the grand jury is done reviewing the case.


He said he looks forward to offering “a huge thank to the community” for its support.


The Legislature honored police, firefighters and dispatchers involved the incident, including from left: Deputy Kevin Colonna, State Police Trooper Kevin Bentley, Deputy Brian Larkin, State Police Trooper Scott Gregson, Holley Police Officer Guy Burke, County Legislator Lynne Johnson, Deputy James DeFilipps, County Legislator Ken DeRoller, Albion Police Sergeant William Scribner, Orleans County Dispatcher Julie Vendetti, Dispatcher Michael Schultz, and Jon DeYoung, fire chief for the Clarendon Fire Company.

 

Orleans County Sheriff Deputy Josh Narburgh also was recognized, but he was not present at the meeting today.


The “Special Recognition Award” stated the following: “At a moments notice, First Responders risk their own safety in the execution of their duties to protect others. Courageous men and women are the first to arrive and assist at an emergency scene and are our first line of defense against all public safety threats.

 

“On the 22nd of April 2015, we do hereby recognize your devotion to duty and unwavering commitment to our fellow citizens, specifically in the early morning hours of March 21, 2015. Orleans County is fortunate to have such excellent and distinguished Responders who are ready to quickly react and assist in times of emergency and crisis.”


The certificates were signed by all seven county legislators: David Callard, Lynne Johnson, John DeFilipps, Don Allport, Bill Eick, Fred Miller and Ken DeRoller.

 

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Orleans-Niagara BOCES grows, local school districts shrink

Dr. Clark Godshall

 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 April 2015
MEDINA – The 13 school districts in the Orleans-Niagara BOCES have shrunk from about 44,000 students eight years ago to 36,000 today, a result of a low birth rates locally and an out migration of residents, Dr. Clark Godshall, BOCES superintendent, told the Medina Board of Education on Tuesday.


However, the BOCES program has grown during that time from 1,400 students to 1,600 currently.


BOCES has career and technical centers in Medina and Sanborn with a 99 percent graduation rate, Godshall said.


“We have a 100 percent job placement in some of our programs,” he said. “You have a set of skills in your back pocket.”


BOCES continues to assess its programs to make sure students are learning skills that are needed in the local workplace. That has resulted in expanded welding and culinary programs, and a push for more STEM (science technology, engineering, and mathematics).


Godshall said some of shrinking school districts are sharing programs and staff to maintain programs for students.


“It has implications on how small can we get,” he said about the shrinking schools.


The rate of reduction has slowed and Godshall believes school districts will soon see their enrollments level off without more significant decline.

 

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GCC touts commitment to Orleans County

File photo
GCC's Civil War Re-enactment returns April 24-26 for the final time. This photo shows re-enactors from the Confederate States of America firing on the Union soldiers during last year's encampment and mock battle.

 

Staff Reports Posted 21 April 2015
ALBION – The Genesee Community College Board of Trustees held its monthly meeting at its Albion campus last week, and the college highlighted several efforts in the county. The board also heard from students and staff about the college experience at the campus centers in Albion and Medina.


James J. Simon, Associate Dean of the two campus centers, reported that GCC served 712 Orleans County students over the last year, with 316 of these students participated in courses offered in Albion and Medina.


Each of the two campus centers has been developing informal academic specialties over the last several years, Simon said. Albion has specialized in Art, Business, Criminal Justice, Office Technology, and Spanish courses, while Medina has specialized in Human Services, Biology and Chemistry courses. The Medina Center has a multi-disciplinary science lab, he noted.


Both campus centers emphasize service to the community. Simon cited GCC’s driving courses, OSHA courses, field placements, service learning, GO-ART gallery (located at the Albion Center), Heritage Heroes awards, and Civil War encampments as examples of initiatives that have served numerous area residents.


The third annual Civil War Encampment at the Medina Campus Center is scheduled for April 24 – 26, 2015 featuring demonstrations, exhibits, reenactments, camps, workshops and the Victorian Cotillion with City Fiddle performing. (Click here to see the schedule of events.)


• Edward J. Grabowski is a GCC alum (class of 1973), GCC adjunct faculty member, former Shelby town justice, and local attorney. He commented on the impact of the Albion and Medina campus centers on area students.


“A lot of our faculty members have experience and knowledge from life, and GCC does a great job bringing real-world experience and the classroom experience together,” he told GCC trustees.


Grabowski also praised GCC’s use of instructional technology, noting that online courses and video-linked courses make higher education available to many students whose schedules prevent them from attending traditional classroom-based courses.


• Two students who have completed several courses at the Albion and Medina centers described their experiences.


Christine A. Chennell of Albion, who is planning a career in Veterinary Technology, spoke about dropping out of college at a young age and coming back to GCC as an older student.


“Life happens. I found myself as a single parent, trying to support my child,” she said. “Now, it was 15 years after I dropped out of UB [The University at Buffalo], in my second marriage, out of a job, and I realized I liked helping people. I thought, why not a Human Services degree? But the idea really scared me. I didn't think I could do it. I passed by the campus center a million times.”

 

She eventually decided to begin her studies on a part-time basis, and found out that she could excel in the classroom. She praised GCC faculty who, she said, gave her the knowledge and inspiration to excel.


“They are really awesome,” she said.

 

Keith McKinney also addressed the GCC trustees. After completing 27 ½ years of active duty in the U.S. Army, McKinney moved to Lyndonville with his wife and decided to pursue his dream of becoming a history or political science teacher.

The transition was challenging at first.


“I had spent years in the military and I was a very dedicated soldier, but walking into college I was scared to death,” he said. “I was older than many students and some of the instructors. But I felt welcomed by everyone.”


McKinney also praised the faculty.

 

“These are the best educators I have ever met in my life,” he said.


• David Callard, chairman of the Orleans County Legislature, welcomed the Board of Trustees to the Albion Campus Center.


Callard told trustees that he and the Legislature appreciate GCC’s service to Orleans County residents and hope for even greater collaboration between the college and the county in the years ahead.


“Education is the greatest gift we can give,” he told trustees.


He said he intends to make transportation to and from Batavia via Routes 98 and 63 a priority project in the next year.

 

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Sales tax revenues fall in many counties, including Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 April 2015
Orleans and several other counties in New York have falling sales tax revenues for the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same time in 2014, the New York Association of Counties is reporting.


The sales tax money is a critical source of revenue that pays for services and eases pressure on property taxes.


There are 62 counties in the state and 33 collected less in sales tax in the first quarter of 2015 compared to 2014. Of these counties, 12 saw their collections drop by more than 5 percent. Orleans County had a tiny drop. It went from $3,617,157 to $3,614,715 in the first quarter.


Outside of New York City, the average change per county was -0.9 percent, NYSAC reported. New York City had an increase of 1.2 percent in sales tax revenue.

 

Overall, the state sales tax collections were up from $2.87 billion to $2.95 billion. However, the counties' share was a much smaller increase, from $1,714,967,327 to $1,718,676,745.


It is not clear what the reason for the sharp drop off for some counties, but there are two major factors that may be contributing to these numbers, said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. He cited the harsh winter and gasoline prices that were 32 percent lower in the first quarter of 2015 compared to 2014.


“Sale tax collections are an important economic indicator,” Acquario said. “These taxes have a direct relationship to consumer confidence and the general direction of the economy measured during a certain period of time. As property taxes remain flat across the state, sales taxes are even more important to local governments trying to continue essential governmental services. This quarterly distribution continues to demonstrate volatility and uneven collections across the state.”

 

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Opt-out rates jump at local schools

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 April 2015 Updated 6:48 p.m.
Local school districts are seeing big increases in the percentage of students refusing to take state tests with Common Core learning standards.


Students in grades 3 through 8 are taking ELA (English Language Arts) this week for three days and the math tests from April 22-24.


Holley had the largest percentage of students, 39 percent, opting out of the tests in Orleans County, according to the local districts that provided data.


Medina, Lyndonville and Kendall all reported that at least 20 percent of their students refused to take the tests. Albion reported that 18 percent of eligible students opted to not take the tests.


“We appreciate and understand parent's right to refuse the assessments,” said Julie Christensen, Kendall school superintendent. “However, this is an adult political debate that places students in the middle of the discord and that is unfortunate.”


Kendall has 26 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 “opting out,” compared to less than 10 percent last year.


Districts need a 95 percent participation rate to be considered meeting “adequate yearly progress.” Medina had an 80 percent participation rate on Tuesday. Last year it was over the 95 percent rate, said Jeff Evoy, district superintendent.


Medina is classified as a “Focus District,” and Evoy said the district has been making gains in test scores. But because the district fell below the 95 percent participation rate for the ELA tests, Evoy said Medina will stay on the list of “Focus Districts.”


“We are a Focus District and failure to meet the participation rate means we stay on the focus list which is unfortunate because we have made some significant improvement in the area of academic achievement,” he said.


Lyndonville had less than 3 percent of students opt out of the tests last year, but has 20 percent refusing the current test, said Jason Smith, district superintendent.


The school districts could lose some federal Title I funds. If the state as a whole is below the 95 percent participation rate in the grades 3-8 assessments required by the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Education Department could impose sanctions on the state, including financial penalties and those could filter down to school districts, according to the New York State Council of School Superintendents.


If the opt out trend continues and districts are below 95 percent participation for three straight years, the State Education Department could require districts to develop a Local Assistance Plan to address low participation.


While the Orleans County schools saw big increases in students opting out of the tests, the rates weren’t nearly as high as some of the suburban schools in Erie County.

 

West Seneca had 70 percent of students refuse the test, followed by 58 percent at Lake Shore, 56 percent in North Tonawanda, 49 percent in Lackawanna and 42 percent in Springville-Griffith, according to The Buffalo News.

 

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