Chamber is launching ‘Solarize Orleans’ program today
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 July 2016
KENDALL – The new director of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce has a track record of promoting the community and businesses in Kendall.
Rebecca Charland organizes Kendall’s annual Scarecrow Festival. She was one of the first to have a painted quilt block on her property in the Country Barn Quilt Trail in the Kendall area. She also has been the leader of the Kendall Garden Club, which beautifies the Town Hall property, town signs and planter boxes in the downtown.
Chamber officials see Charland as a community dynamo, who is organized and knows the challenges facing a small business.
She started as the new Chamber director on May 23. The organization closed its Albion office in late March. Charland is running the Chamber from her home on Norway Road in Kendall.
She is working to increase membership from the current total of about 150. She is planning events to promote businesses, as well as an overhaul of the Chamber website.
“One of my goals is to boost membership,” she said. “I want to help businesses network and grow.”
A new event for the Chamber will be a wine garden walk on Aug. 18 at the Robin Hall Nature Preserve on Platten Road in Lyndonville.
The Chamber today is also launching a “Solarize Orleans” initiative.
The Chamber last year applied for a grant from the NYSERDA Community Solar program for funding and technical assistance to run a “solarize” campaign in Orleans County. The campaign is a targeted effort to educate the business community and the public about the benefits of solar energy, and to link interested parties with a preferred solar installer for discounted rates.
The Solarize Orleans Campaign will kick off today at the Hoag Library in Albion with two informational sessions – from noon to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Homeowners and businesses can learn about options for using the technology. (Hoag Library is the beneficiary of large roof-mounted solar panel array.)
People are welcome to “walk in” for the sessions, or they can RSVP to the Chamber at (585) 301-8464 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The launch events will feature representatives from CIR, the Solarize Orleans campaign’s preferred solar installer. CIR was selected from among several area firms through an RFP process. CIR representatives are also expected to join the Chamber at its booth during the upcoming Orleans County Fair. Additional public information workshops will be planned.
The Solarize Orleans campaign will continue through the summer and early fall. Any business or homeowners looking to inquire about solar opportunities, discuss a project feasibility, learn about savings and financing, or get questions answered is encouraged to participate.
Charland said the solar initiative is a way the Chamber wants to help residents and businesses save money on their energy costs.
For more information, or for assistance in going solar at your home or business, please visit www.solarizeorleans.com.
Jennifer Wagester pushed for facility upgrades, plan for future
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 July 2016
KNOWLESVILLE – In Jennifer Wagester’s nearly three years leading the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, the agency has tackled several important capital projects at the fairgrounds, seen a big increase in 4-H participation and expanded some programs while preserving important services for the agricultural community.
Wagester also has helped the agency plan for its future, Extension leaders said. Wagester had her last official day in the office on Friday. She and her family are moving to Colorado.
Her husband Ray Wagester has accepted a job with the Farm Credit parent company, CoBank. He will serve as vice president of appraisal services.
Jennifer Wagester secured nearly $200,000 grants for the Extension since she was hired on Oct. 1, 2013. Some of those funds went towards transforming the 40-year old Trolley Building kitchen into a modern, commercial grade teaching kitchen. That project was finished last month.
Besides the Trolley Building improvements, Wagester and Extension volunteers have developed a long-range capital plan for the fairgrounds, making it a year-round facility to serve agriculture, science and other community needs.
"She got the Extension looking forward," said Barry Flansburg, one of the Extension volunteers who has served on the capital plan committee. "It was a great accomplishment by her to get Extension on a direction with a plan for the future."
Wagester also led the organization while it rebuilt horticulture and nutrition programs. The 4-H program jumped from about 300 members to 450. Wagester's two daughters, Anna and Alison, joined the 4-H program and showed meat goats and market rabbits.
"She was a great steadying force," Peter Toenniessen, a member of the Extension Board of Directors, said about Wagester. "She thoroughly analyzed things and listened to all sides before making a decision. She got everybody working together."
Deb Roberts, former director of the Extension, will serve as interim director while the agency seeks a long-term replacement.
Wagester praised the dedicated staff at the Extension and the committed volunteers, from the board of directors to the many who help with 4-H and the fair.
"We were able to get a lot done, and there is still more to do," Wagester said about the Extension and its many programs and the fairgrounds complex.
Wagester may stay connected to the Extension once she moves to Colorado, helping to write and manage grants for the agency.
‘He was just like you and me. He got up every day and went to work.’ – Mother of 28-year-old who died from overdose
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 July 2016
ALBION – Robert Bale had a good job as a HVAC technician. He often worked 50 hours a week.
Bale, 28, also had a secret addiction. He used heroin. His family didn’t know it, nor did his roommate or close friends.
On March 10 he had a fatal overdose at age 28.
“He was just like you and me,” his mother Tammi Bale said Wednesday during a community meeting about the opioid crisis at GCASA’s Albion clinic. “He got up and went to work every day.”
Her son, a Brockport native, didn’t give signs of drug use. He didn’t steal or commit other crimes to feed his addiction.
“He kept it from everyone for four years,” his mother said.
The opioid epidemic has reached Orleans County with several recent deaths from heroin overdoses, according to the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.
Kathy Hodgins, director of treatment services for GCASA in Orleans County, said it is the biggest community drug crisis she has seen in her 20-year career, affecting people from all walks of life.
“This is the first time in my 20 years that one drug has caused such an impact in our community,” Hodgins said during Wednesday’s meeting.
GCASA officials said crisis has grown partly due to painkiller abuse. Many people become hooked on painkillers and then their prescription expires. Some will turn to heroin to get their fix. The heroin can be deadly, especially when mixed with fentanyl and other drugs, Hodgins said.
Tamara Ashton lost her daughter, Christina Ashton, to a drug overdose on June 27. Christina had been clean for 19 days. Her mother left the house for a 40-minute errand. When she came back her daughter was found dead in the backyard after someone dropped off heroin and her daughter took a fatal overdose. Christina was 34.
“I want people to know it can be anybody,” Tamara Ashton said.
Her daughter started using drugs about two years ago. She lost too much weight, stole from loved ones to buy drugs, and would be gone unaccounted for often for two or three days.
She went from drinking alcohol to crack cocaine to heroin.
“She just wasn’t the same girl,” her mother said.
The opioid crisis has the attention of local, state and national leaders. Orleans County has started a program in the county jail to help addicts transition from the jail to the community. That includes connections to addiction counselors and shots of Vivitrol, a treatment that blocks the effects of opioid addiction.
“Every person that gets clean is less crime in the community,” Sheriff Randy Bower said.
The addicts also need to be connected to the community, finding a strong purpose through perhaps work, volunteerism, church or service clubs, Bower said.
“It’s an illness,” Bower said about the addicts. “We have to be able to accept these people.”
Bower said the Sheriff’s Office wants to go to schools in Orleans County, giving presentations to students about the dangers of using painkillers without a prescription, and how they can lead to more dangerous and fatal drugs.
The issue has been in the news throughout the region, state and country due to the increase in overdose deaths. In nearby Erie County, the community is on pace to have 500 people die from overdose deaths this year.
GCASA wants to educate Orleans County about the crisis and give insight and help to parents and friends of people struggling with addiction.
The agency on Wednesday trained about 20 people in using Narcan, which can take someone out of an addicted state. The people trained received a Narcan kit to use in case of an opioid overdose.
Sherri Bensley, assistant director of prevention for GCASA, discussing commonly used opioids during a presentation Wednesday.
She said addicts get the drugs often from friends or relatives, "not the street corner drug dealer."
GCASA leaders said the agency will have more community meetings to educate the public and get more people involved in fighting the crisis.
"This is just the start," Bower said.
Press Release, Sheriff Randy Bower Posted 8 July 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office has a new radar speed sign. Sheriff Randy Bower issued this statement today about the sign:
“In our continuing attempt to provide for the safety of Orleans County residents, the Sheriff’s Department has recently purchased a new radar speed sign using grant money secured by State Senator Robert Ortt. Using radar technology, the sign detects and displays the speed of oncoming vehicles, thus alerting drivers to check their current speed to the posted speed limit and adjust accordingly.
“These traffic control devices have been proven very effective in improving traffic safety, especially in transitional speed zones, work and school zones, residential neighborhoods, and on roadways adjacent to special events such as concerts, carnivals, festivals, and fairs. Researchers believe that a majority of speeding occurs when drivers become complacent or distracted.
“While motorists may overlook ordinary speed limit signs, they are more likely to see and pay attention to these traffic-calming innovations. The device’s electrical system is supplemented with solar energy and the entire unit is very mobile and can be easily moved to different locations as needed.”
Staff Reports Posted 6 July 2016
New York State is making $100 million available to almost 1,600 municipalities throughout the state to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of local highways and roads.
This funding, provided under Governor Cuomo’s PAVE NY initiative, is being administered by the New York State Department of Transportation as part of its $21.1 billion five-year Capital Plan.The PAVE NY program emphasizes projects that improve the physical condition of local roadways, create jobs and enhance local economic competitiveness.
“From replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge to the transformative redesign of LaGuardia Airport, New York has been leading the way in reshaping our infrastructure to meet the demands of the 21st century,” Cuomo said. “PAVE NY funds strategic investments in local roadways, helping ensure roadways across the state are in good repair, remain reliable for motorists and able to help foster regional economic growth for years to come.”
PAVE NY funds are awarded to New York City and cities, counties, towns and villages for activities such as roadway resurfacing, widening and realignment; construction of turning lanes at intersections; and new drainage to mitigate the harmful effects of flooding.
In Orleans County, the funds add up to $573,186.38. That includes the following: County of Orleans, $294,362.76; Town of Albion, $13,926.46; Town of Barre, $35,103.49; Town of Carlton, $28,017.44; Town of Clarendon, $24,172.92; Town of Gaines, $9,150.03; Town of Kendall, $15,135.70; Town of Murray, $16,431.93; Town of Ridgeway, $26,726.17; Town of Shelby, $25,454.18; and Town of Yates, $20,231.67.
The shares to the four villages include: Village of Albion, $22,775.05; Village of Holley, $6,145.02; Village of Lyndonville, $3,963.36; and Village of Medina, $31,590.21.
Staff Reports Posted 2 July 2016
HULBERTON – The New York State Canal Corporation has announced that temporary repairs to a section of the Erie Canal, approximately 500 yards west of the Hulberton Lift Bridge in the Town of Murray, have been completed allowing for the Canal to re-open effective Sunday between the villages of Brockport and Middleport.
“This temporary repair enables the Canal Corporation to re-open the Erie Canal with the least possible impact to the summer boating season, as well as to the local farmers who depend on Canal water for irrigation,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “The Erie Canal is an economic engine for tourism and this expedited repair, accomplished through a multi-agency response, gives mariners the opportunity to visit their favorite villages and towns on the Canal without further interruption.”
Engineers from the New York State Department of Transportation developed a temporary repair plan that was executed on an expedited schedule by C.P. Ward of Scottsville.
“I would like to thank the dedicated teams from the DOT and Canal Corporation for coming together to quickly address these emergency repairs,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll. “The expertise from multiple state agencies helped ensure safety and minimize the need for a long term closure for all users of the canal.”
This section of the Erie Canal provides vital irrigation to 25 farms and two commercial golf courses. The accelerated repairs have allowed for minimal disruption to the agricultural growing season.
“We thank the New York State Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation and the Department of Transportation for their quick response to the situation and for their partnership in identifying a solution that had a minimal impact on the area’s farmers,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “There are more than two dozen farms in the region that rely on the Canal for irrigation, so we are grateful repairs have been completed so quickly and efficiently.”
The detour on the Erie Canalway Trail from the Hulberton Lift Bridge to approximately 3,500 feet west of the lift bridge will remain in effective until Tuesday, July 5, 2016.
The Canal Corporation appreciates the public’s patience and understanding while this necessary maintenance work was completed, spokesman Shane Mahar said.
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 June 2016
ALBION – A steering committee studying law enforcement services in Orleans County picked the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester as a consultant on the project.
CGR will be be paid about $74,000 for its work over the next year, presenting options for how law enforcement could best be provided in the future, whether with the current model of three village police department plus the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office or perhaps a full takeover with the county providing the service without the village police.
“We will be looking at multiple options,” said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.
Transitioning from village police departments to a county-only model would require several public referendums. Nesbitt said the committee may consider a phased in approach.
The committee wants to keep the public aware of the initiative, and get feedback from the community, Nesbitt said.
There has already been efforts by law enforcement agencies to share, including Albion and Holley using the same police chief with Roland Nenni.
There may be opportunities for joint training, shared equipment and other projects. CGR will work with the local law enforcement agencies collecting data on services, and will analyze ways for the service to best be provided in the future. The firm has a May 2017 to complete the report.
CGR has done many studies for shared services and consolidation of government agencies, including the report that looked how the Village of Medina could be dissolved.
The steering committee for the law enforcement study includes four village mayors – Dean London of Albion, Brian Sorochty of Holley, John Belson of Lyndonville and Michael Sidari of Medina; Orleans County legislators John Defilipps, Lynne Johnson and David Callard, who are members of the county’s Public Safety Committee; Police chiefs Roland Nenni of Albion and Holley, and Chad Kenward of Medina (represented during Wednesday’s meeting by Lt. Todd Draper); Sheriff Randy Bower; County Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt; union representatives including Jeff Gifaldi of the OC Deputies’ Association, Dave Mogle for the Albion police, and Brian Marsceill of the Medina police; and community members, Cindy Robinson (president of the Medina Business Association) and Dan Monacelli (principal of the Albion Middle School).
A state grant for $36,000 was approved for the law enforcement shared service and efficiency study. The county is paying the other $38,000.
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 June 2016
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has approved an agreement with the Wendel firm to design an addition on the County Administration Building, new space that could be used for relocated county offices and perhaps as a meeting room and offices for the Legislature itself.
The Legislature on April 27 announced that is was considering new construction on the County Administration Building at 14106 Route 31 West.
The Legislature on April 27 authorized paying Wendel $30,000 for a feasibility study for an addition to the County Administration Building.
The county may shift several offices to the addition, including the Board of Elections and Public Health Department, which is leasing space from Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services.
Comprehensive purchased the former county nursing home for $7.8 million in January 2014. The county has been leasing space from Comprehensive for Elections and Public Health because those offices are part of the nursing home complex.
The county could also shift information technology (currently in Treasurer's Office), the legislative chambers (in County Clerk's Building), the county's administrative office (also in Clerk's Building) and create large multi-use rooms to accommodate training for large groups, conference rooms and offices.
The Legislature last week approved paying Wendel up to $70,000 to design the addition to the Administration Building. That scope of work not only includes designing the building, but determining parking and circulation needs, site access, utility service requirements, energy efficiency and sustainability requirements, and other analysis of the site.
David Callard, the County Legislature chairman, said in April that moving Elections and Public Health from leased space will free up money that could go towards the addition, perhaps making the project cost neutral to county taxpayers.
Callard said he and county officials have looked at existing buildings, including sites in Albion's historic downtown, but those sites wouldn't improve efficiency of the county government operations.
(Editor’s Note: Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard delivered these remarks during the June 22, 2016, Legislature meeting.)
Every year it seems that the Empire Center for Public Policy puts out a list of the highest tax rates in the state - and every year the citizens of Orleans County are treated to a rehash of news articles highlighting certain parts of the study and scolding local officials, whether they be village, town, county, or school, for their role in achieving that dubious ranking.
Most recently there was an article on village taxes within the county reporting them among the worst in the state. What is lacking in this news article, however, was the whole story. (Click here to see "Medina community has highest combined tax rate in region.")
Villages are constantly being ranked regardless of size. Given that premise - one benchmark that is always used is the Top 20 Property Tax Bills on Median-Value Homes. That list has never included an Orleans County village, but that is never mentioned. Or more significantly, included in the report, but is never mentioned in articles, is that the county taxes paid per capita in Orleans County are the SECOND
LOWEST of the 57 counties in New York State. Again - the second lowest taxes paid per person in New York State.
People tend to be negative without acknowledging all of the facts. This is something the state government does all the time when deriding the counties. The town of Ridgeway is a solid 816th out of 932 for towns in taxes per capita. The Medina School district is also very solid at 625th out of 702 for local spending per pupil among school districts. Even the Village of Medina's 238th out of 557 in
taxes per capita doesn't seem so earth shattering considering the high level of services.
Let's face it; casting blame without an acknowledgement of all the facts is something we get plenty of from people in Albany. We don't need to do it here as well. It would be responsible to cite those other stats as they give a fuller picture.
Orleans County pays over $16,000,000 to the state in unfunded mandates- our entire tax levy. But articles and the critics constantly disregard that fact, and seldom if ever criticize the Governor and the New York State Legislature for the property taxes at the county level alone and even more at the school level.
According to every academic study ever undertaken on the subject, the fundamental differences between New York State and the other states in the country boil down to two basic things: 1) the way New York State funds Medicaid and 2) the way New York State funds education. Sure we have lots of other over-regulation and taxation issues beyond those two. But, those are the really big ones.
New York is the only state in the country to require a significant local share of Medicaid be paid by the counties and the average state funds two-thirds of public education through income taxes while New York State funds about one-third. It's really that simple.
Indeed the village governments of Orleans County face tremendous challenges, not the least of which is the high property tax rates. The dissolution efforts in the Village of Medina, though rejected by Medina residents, if nothing else, forced a conversation, a necessary conversation.
In some areas of our local governments, we are doing business in the 21st century on 20th century terms. In some cases, we are holding on to old ways of doing business that could be changed for the betterment of the community at
large. This isn't to say that people are wrong for feeling that they want to hold on to their village, or their town, or their school district.
What it does tell us, is that it's time for us to challenge ourselves, people on both sides of the argument, east and west, north and south. Challenge ourselves to take a hard look at what we are doing and ask ourselves "If given a clean slate, would we build our service delivery models the way they are now, or completely different?"
Inevitably, we are going to find areas where we can build a better mousetrap together. We have the ability to fix what ails us to some degree. We can work with our
friends and neighbors and make changes that will raise all boats. We can realign service models, adjust cost centers, and change the landscape profoundly.
If we are going to seek honesty about mandates and education funding from the state, we also need to be honest with ourselves. This is a conversation that should take place in earnest and should seek solutions that remove Orleans County and its villages, towns and school districts from such a list forever.
Apologies to those that believe the answer is to complain that the county should give away more sales tax. The answer to this challenge is not to have the taxpayers of the county surrender cash to the village governments, to throw at their existing service models, buying them time until the inflation and expense curve catches up with them again as some suggest.
The answer is change. Change that we can all buy into that alters the equation. It requires compromise. It requires faith. And, it requires casting off old
notions of provincialism.
Truth be told about sales tax, when examining statistics from 2013 on New York State Counties, there are 14 counties under 50,000 in population like Orleans County and four in the Finger Lakes Region, of which we are a part. Orleans County ranks as the fourth highest for the percentage of sales tax shared.
However, two of the 14 counties have cities (Cortland and Montgomery) that are able to preempt and capture much larger shares of the overall revenue. Dropping those two counties lifts Orleans County to number two in the state among small counties without a city in terms of sharing sales tax, second to Schuyler County, the home of Watkins Glen International Speedway.
Delving further into those same statistics, it's evident that eight of the 14 counties do not share sales tax revenue at all, zero percent. So, the majority of small counties in New York State do not share sales tax. Orleans County is the only county in the Finger Lakes Region under 50,000 in population that actually shares sales tax revenue.
The local law enforcement community in Orleans County is about to embark on a comprehensive study of the way we are doing business. Orleans County and our partners, the Villages of Albion, Medina, Holley and Lyndonville, along with the Orleans County Sheriff's Office, and all the law enforcement unions in the county have agreed to undertake a process to look at new service models and explore
what can be done.
There are ways to change the way we do business that could guarantee that our
communities are never negatively reported on the annual list put out by the Empire Center again.
This is going to be hard and it will require that we work together. This legislature is bound and determined to make positive change for all within our county. We can begin to say goodbye to the dark cloud over our heads. Those that offer only criticism and opposition absent of solutions will be forgotten. This legislature will be remembered for leading and making a difference.
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.
Closure expected to last several weeks
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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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