Businesses again showcasing art with Palettes of Orleans

27 pieces of artwork are for sale to raise money for art scholarships

Photos by Tom Rivers
This painting was done by Christine VerSteeg of Kendall and is on display in Bindings Bookstore in Albion. There are 27 paintings in the Palettes of Orleans.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 September 2014
ALBION – The Chamber of Commerce has organized a public art project for the second straight year. Artists created 27 paintings on canvas that are displayed at local businesses.

The Palettes of Orleans project will conclude with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 2 at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, 10609 Ridge Rd., Medina.

The community is welcome to submit bids for the artwork. The proceeds will go towards art scholarships at each of the five school districts in Orleans County.

“We have a lot of really nice pieces,” said Samantha Roskowski, coordinator of the project for the Chamber of Commerce. She also painted a canvas on display at Creekside Florist in Medina.

Five Star Bank in Albion displays this painting by Connie Maines.

The Palettes of Orleans debuted last year with 70 paintings on palettes. This year the numbers were reduced and the format was switched to an 11-by-14-inch canvas.

The list of participants includes:


Arnold’s Auto - Mark G.
Bloom’s - John Hewitt
Bindings Bookstore - Chris Versteeg
Knight’s Pride - Kim Martillotta-Muscarella
Hazy Jade - Connie Mosher
Orleans County Chamber of Commerce - Ed Rosko

Orleans County Farmers Market – Kim Nesbitt
Tillman’s Historic Village Inn - Sue Wells
Five Star Bank - Connie Maines
Marti’s on Main - Kim Martillotta-Muscarella


Partyka Farms - Amanda Wilmier


A Lily & A Sparrow - Glenda Gross
Apple Blossom Florist - Connie Maines
Ashlee’s - Brandi Zavitz
Blissett’s - Kim Martillotta-Muscarella
The Book Shoppe - Jen Scott
Case Nic Cookies - Nicole Tuohey (also sponsored by OC Farmers Market)
Creekside Florist - Samantha Roskowski
C&H PC - Clara Lake
Della’s Chocolate - Jen Scott
East Center Stop N’ Shop - Jim Nicholson
English Rose Tea Shoppe - Patricia Worrad
Lakes Wine N Spirits - Clara Lake
Leonard Oakes Estate Winery - Eric Valley

Orleans County Farmers Market – Kim Nesbitt
Roberts Farm Market - Todd Eick
Rosenkrans - Mrs. Hamm
Vision 2000 - Glenda Gross


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Cuomo, Hochul get most of meager turnout in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2014
Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, have about 60 percent of the state-wide votes with 55 percent of precincts reporting. That is enough for the Associated Press to declare them winners.

Cuomo and Hochul faced spirited challengers in law professors Zephyr Teachout for governor and Timothy Wu for lieutenant governor.

Hochul, a former member of Congress whose district included Orleans County, campaigned hard in New York City in recent weeks. Neither she or Cuomo made an appearance in Orleans during the campaign.

Orleans is hardly Democrat country. Republicans have about a 2 to 1 edge in enrollment. Voting today in the Democratic primary was particularly meager with 248 voting for Cuomo, 119 for Teachout and 36 for Randy Credico, a comedian and activist. There are about 5,500 registered Democrats in the county so today’s vote totals – 403 – was less than 10 percent of the Democrats.

Hochul had a bigger majority in Orleans than Cuomo. She received 297 votes to Wu’s 103 or 74 percent of the total. Cuomo received 61 percent of the Orleans vote.


Hochul issued this statement at 11:04 p.m.:


“I am sincerely honored that Democrats from every corner of this state have put their faith in me to be their nominee for Lieutenant Governor. As a proud daughter of Buffalo, I have a deep gratitude for the support and encouragement they have shown to me. And I would also like to thank Tim Wu for running such a spirited campaign.


"I congratulate Gov. Cuomo, who has once again shown that he is the choice of all New Yorkers. His accomplishments over these past four years have been nothing less than extraordinary, and his vision for the future of our state is exactly what we need to keep New York moving in the right direction.


"New York has made so much progress under the leadership of Gov. Cuomo. From creating jobs to cutting taxes, to getting government to function once again, we have turned this state around, and this November, we will continue our march forward."


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Ortt wins GOP primary for State Senate

Photo by Tom Rivers
Robert Ortt, mayor of North Tonawanda, is pictured on Monday speaking at a pro-gun rally in Albion. He defeated Gia Arnold today in a Republican primary, getting 71 percent of the three-county vote.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2014
NORTH TONAWANDA – Robert Ortt won a decisive victory in a Republican primary today against Gia Arnold of Holley.

Ortt, the North Tonawanda mayor, received 71 percent of the vote from Republicans in three counties, 4,927 votes to Arnold’s 2,007.

Ortt received 78 percent of the votes in Orleans County, 829 to Arnold’s 229.In Niagara County, Ortt had 3,998 votes to Arnold's 1,154. The district also includes a portion of western Monroe County, where Ortt received 100 votes to Arnold's 24.

He now has the Republican, Independence and Conservative lines for the Nov. 4 election against Johnny Destino, a Niagara Falls attorney running as a Democrat.
They are vying for the seat currently filled by George Maziarz, who opted not to seek re-election.

“I want to thank everyone who contributed to this victory tonight,” Ortt said in a statement tonight. “We won this race the same way we will win in November – with grassroots campaigning, taking our message directly to the voters of Niagara, Orleans and Monroe Counties.


“Albany is broken and we need a proven public servant to fight on behalf of the residents of the 62nd Senate District. As a combat veteran and mayor of my hometown of North Tonawanda, I have dedicated my life to public service and am committed to fighting for the values of my community.”

Ortt, 35, said he will work to reduce the cost of government and help create good-paying jobs.

“I will commit myself to standing up for your constitutional freedoms, something I swore to do when I put on the uniform of a United States solider,” he said. “Tonight is only step one. Tomorrow we continue to take our message to every corner of the 62nd Senate District to ask for their support in sending a combat veteran and chief executive to Albany.”


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93% of Orleans County teachers get good grades

Overall state and local reviews count 14 out of 632 as ‘ineffective’

Provided photo
Jim Wood, the former elementary school principal in Albion, helps to direct students getting off the bus on the first day of school last Wednesday. Wood is now the teacher evaluator for the school district. He is pictured with Greta Bohn, a speech teacher at Albion.


Teacher evaluation results, by district
District Ineffective Developing Effective Highly effective

Albion (155 teachers)

0 13 (8%) 85 (55%) 57 (37%)
Holley (87 teachers) 1 (1%) 0 54 (62%) 32 (37%)
Kendall (66 teachers) 0 5 (8%) 48 (73%) 13 (20%)
Lyndonville 1 (2%) 4 (7%) 34 (62%) 16 (29%)
Medina 4 (3%) 5 (4%) 54 (42%) 66 (51%)
Source: NYS Education Department

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 September 2014
Nearly all teachers in Orleans County school districts are either effective or highly effective, according to teacher evaluation reports recently released by the State Education Department. (Click here to see county data.)

The report rates 632 teachers in the county and 93 percent get strong reviews, including 270 or 43 percent rated as “highly effective,” and 314 or 50 percent as “effective.” The report also counts 34 or 5 percent of 632 teachers as “developing” with 14 or 2 percent receiving the lowest grade of “ineffective.”

Overall, state-wide there were 125,956 teachers evaluated with 51 percent rated as highly effective, 44 percent as effective, 5 percent as developing and 1 percent as ineffective.

“We look at is as a gauge, as a starting point,” said Robert D’Angelo, Holley Central School superintendent. “It’s another spoke in the wheel for teacher evaluations and increased dialogue.”

Only about a third of students locally and state-wide are meeting proficiency levels with state standardized tests from grades 3 through 8. The students' standardized test scores account for 20 percent of a teacher’s grade, while local test scores account for 20 percent and teacher observations make up 60 percent of the evaluation.

The local criteria are the strongest factor in a teacher’s score and the local districts seem to vary widely in how they rate teachers. Take Holley, for example, where 85 of 87 teachers were rated highly effective based on the local input.

In Kendall, the district didn’t rate any of its 66 teachers as highly effective. The district gave 65 of 66 “effective” scores, with one teacher considered ineffective. When the state scores were added into the equation, Kendall had 29 of 66 teachers meet the highly effective category. That boosted Kendall’s overall score for highly effective teachers to 13 percent. That’s the lowest of the five districts in Orleans County, yet the district tends to be the highest-performing district academically in Orleans.

Holley tends to have the lowest student scores on standardized tests in the county, yet its teachers have the highest scores in the teacher evaluations with 99 percent ranked as effective or highly effective.

The high marks given by the district – 85 of 87 considered highly effective – accounted for the big overall scores. If the evaluations were only based on student standardized test results, Holley teachers would have fared far worse in the evaluations with only half considered effective or higher.

The state results put 17 (20 percent) of Holley teachers as ineffective, and another 26 (30 percent) as developing. Another 24 (28 percent) are ranked as effective and 20 (23 percent) as highly effective.

The state results made for tougher teacher scores at every district in terms of teachers considered at least “effective.”

Albion’s local measures rated all 155 teachers as effective (70 percent) or highly effective (30 percent). The state scores put that level at 82 percent with 27 percent effective and 55 percent as highly effective.

Kendall said 98 percent of its teachers were effective and none at highly effective, yet the state test scores say 48 percent are effective and 44 percent are at the highest level.

In Lyndonville, the district rated all of its teachers as effective or higher with 15 percent considered effective and 85 percent at highly effective. The state test scores put that as 36 percent effective and 35 percent as highly effective. The test results identify seven (13 percent) of the 55 teachers as ineffective and nine (16 percent) as developing.

Medina identified the most ineffective teachers with local measures, putting 7 (5 percent) of 129 teachers in that category, one teacher (1 percent) as developing, 41 (32 percent) as effective, and 80 (62 percent) as highly effective.

The state tests results say 12 (9 percent) of Medina teachers are ineffective with another 6 (5 percent) as developing. About half of the teachers, 64 of 129, are effective and 47 (36 percent) are highly effective, according to the state scores.

Students First NY, an educational advocacy group, said the teacher evaluations put too much weight on local scores and factors. The group noted that many districts did not rate any of their teachers as ineffective despite the low scores state-wide on assessment tests.

“Any part of the teacher evaluation system that finds zero percent of teachers to be ineffective, when less than a third of students are on grade level, raises serious questions,” said Jenny Sedlis, Executive Director of Students First NY.

“New York is to be congratulated for being a national leader on teacher evaluations, and we should use the first year of results to strengthen the evaluation system so that it serves its purpose to differentiate between the great teachers who deserve recognition and those who need more targeted support,” she said.

The teacher scores are based on the 2012-13 school year. D’Angelo, the Holley superintendent, welcomes the data and believes it will be more valuable over multiple years.

“We are going to look at all of the variables,” D’Angelo said. “It will force us to get better as we work with our staff. There has already been increased dialogue for all stakeholders in the district, including parents.”

Click here to see an article about the differences in teacher evaluations based on the wealth of school districts.

Capital New York reports that teachers with the highest ratings tend to be in wealthier school districts while poorer districts have more teachers with low ratings. Wealthier districts also have very few teachers rated as “ineffective” while poor districts have 12 percent with that rating, according to the publication.


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County increases security for Legislative offices

Visitors now have to use elevator and be ‘buzzed’ in

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 29 August 2014
ALBION – Residents who wanted to see the County Legislature typically would ascend the stairs at the County Clerks’ Building at 3 South Main St.

But visitors now have to use an elevator from the bottom floor and be “buzzed” in.

The county took out old tall wooden doors and replaced it with smaller doors with a steel frame. The old doors are being stored. (This picture was taken in late July while the old doors were still in place. A new door is in the back.)

Most of the Legislature's visitors won't be using the new door. They are directed to a door just outside the elevator on the top floor. Legislature David Callard said legislative staff were often caught off guard with two entrances leading to their work area.

The upgraded security is part of an effort to make the county buildings safer for employees, Callard said.

“We’re looking at other departments,” he said. “This is concern for all municipalities across the nation.”

The finished product includes a secure entrance leading into the top floor of the County Clerks' Building.


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All 10 towns, 4 villages join county in seeking more state funds for roads and bridges

Photo by Tom Rivers
The Allens Bridge Road canal bridge in Albion has a weight limit of 7 tons. It is one of several canal bridges that can not carry heavy trucks.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 August 2014
It doesn’t happen very often but the elected town, village and county boards are united on an issue. They have all passed formal resolutions for more state funding for roads and bridges.

The money is already there, said Legislatore Ken DeRoller, R-Kendall, but the state diverts funding for roads and bridges to other purposes.

The County Legislature, 10 Town Boards and four Village Boards in the county have all formally approved resolutions “Urging Structural Reform of the State Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund.” Carlton was the most recent to approve the resolution, making it unanimous among the elected municipal boards.

Taxpayers pay billions into the Highway and Bridge Trust Fund through taxes and fees but 75 percent of the money is then “siphoned off to pay for borrowing and operating costs of state agencies, leaving fewer dollars for improving our infrastructure,” according to the resolution.

The local government leaders are urging the governor and State Legislature to develop a multi-year plan for the fund to meet the infrastructure needs for bridges and roads in the state.

This is only the second time all municipal boards in the county have passed the same resolution. The boards did it for the first time last year in opposing the SAFE Act, a gun control law approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature in January 2013.

The county, towns and villages also have been pressing the state to better maintain bridges in the county. The canal bridges are particularly worrisome, officials said. There are 26 canal bridges in the county, including seven lift bridges.

Twelve of the 26 bridges have been declared “functionally obsolete.” Another six are considered “structurally deficient” by the state Department of Transportation. Two are closed – Brown Street in Albion and Hindsburg Road in Murray. The Knowlesville lift bridge is limited to one lane and 6 tons.

Other bridges have reduced weight limits below 10 tons, including Transit Road in Albion at 9 tons, Allens Bridge Road in Albion at 7 tons, Presbyterian Road in Albion at 5 tons, and Groth Road at 9 tons in Murray. Most of the bridges are about 100 years old. They were installed when the canal was widened in 1909 to 1914.

The closed and weight-reduced bridges forces longer trips for school buses, fire trucks, tractor trailers and big farm equipment, hindering public safety and commerce in the county, legislators said.

With less state funding for bridges, the county is considering using more local dollars for infrastructure projects so more bridges aren’t closed in the near future. That will put the burden of the projects on local taxpayers.


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Sportsmen give thanks to County Legislature

Photo by Tom Rivers
Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard, center, accepts a plaque from of the Orleans County Sportsmen Federation, including Mike Elam, at left, and Mike Donahue, the group’s president.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 August 2014
ALBION – When the log cabin at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds needed repairs beginning about three years ago, the County Legislature directed $5,000 to replacing three of the walls at the site.

Volunteers, including Legislature Chairman David Callard, have worked steadily at removing the old rotted walls and replacing them with new wood.

The refurbished log cabin, including a new front fence, was done in time for last month’s fair, providing a safer and better showcase for local conservation and sportsmen’s clubs.

Leaders of the Orleans County Sportsmen Federation stopped by the Legislature’s meeting on Wednesday to thank the group for their support. The Sportsmen presented a plaque to Legislature Chairman David Callard, who spent a couple days working with volunteers on the project, removing old mortar and tearing out the rotted wood.

The cabin was first completed in 1976 and is used for many hunter safety classes, and conservation programs.

File photo by Tom Rivers
Volunteers work on removing a wall at a log cabin at the 4-H Fairgrounds in this photo from June. A new wooden wall was built in time for the fair.


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