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January 1, 2016 - 7:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

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Photo from last night's fireworks show in Le Roy submitted by Dylan Brew.

January 1, 2016 - 5:02pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, woodward memorial library.

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Woodward Memorial Library clerks Samantha Bortle, left, and Trisha Riggi, center, are pictured at the circulation desk with Children and Teen Librarian Betsy Halvorsen.

If you have an overdue library book or DVD, then Woodward Memorial Library has a deal for you.

The Le Roy library will begin the new year with back-to-back fine forgiveness weeks.

During the first week — from Monday through this Saturday, Jan. 9 — patrons will not be fined for returning overdue Woodward Library materials.

The library cannot waive fines on books from other libraries, or outstanding fines on previously returned books.

But anyone with an existing fine on their account, should be patient — because the library will trade “Food for Fines” during the second week of January. The library will forgive $1 in previously existing fines for every nonperishable food item donated to the library from Jan. 11-16.

The library will trade up to $20 in fines per account.

Patrons are advised to bring donated food to the library circulation desk, rather than the outdoor drop-off box, to receive credit.

Of course, food donations are welcome even if no fines are owed. All the donated food will be given to the Le Roy Food Pantry.

This is the second year the library has offered a fine-forgiveness week.

Betsy Halvorsen, children and teen librarian, said she’s not sure exactly how many long-overdue library items have worked their way into private collections over the years.

“But it’s a lot,” Halvorsen said. “There are things that have been gone so long they’re assumed lost.”

When that happens, usually after three months, the replacement cost is charged to the patron’s account.

“It’s easy for stuff to get mixed into your own collection, especially DVDs,” said Samantha Bortle, library clerk. “Then there’s this mindset, ‘It would cost me as much to buy it, as it would to return it.’ ”

So beginning Monday, getting back in the library’s good graces will make good financial sense.

Woodward Memorial Library, 7 Wolcott St., is open from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays; and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For information call (585) 768-8300.

December 31, 2015 - 7:36pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Jell-O Museum, tourism.

Bill Cosby was the public face of Jell-O for many years.

And while his ties to Le Roy’s Jell-O Museum were never strong, they're almost nonexistent now.

Cosby visited the museum for about an hour in 2004, to help open an exhibit commemorating his 30 years as Jell-O’s spokesman. To mark the occasion, a pair of commemorative bricks were added to the “Jell-O Brick Road” that leads pedestrians from Main Street to the museum.

Last year, when sexual-assault allegations against the comedian were brought to wide public attention, the bricks were discreetly removed and placed in storage.

“We just thought it was inappropriate (to keep them there),” said Lynne Belluscio, the museum director. “We also worried a little about vandalism.”

At the time, Belluscio also worried the museum would get some unwelcome media attention.

That never happened.

And it didn’t happen on Wednesday, when a felony charge was filed against Cosby in Pennsylvania.

“We kind of braced ourselves, and we got nothing,” Belluscio said Thursday. 

“I was expecting a lot more,” she added. “In fact, I came in this morning to see if there was anything in the e-mail — and we got nothing.”

A collection of Jell-O TV commercials featuring Cosby used to be part of the museum exhibit, but isn’t anymore. Cosby’s photograph is included with advertising displays — along with other famous Jell-O spokesmen, including Jack Benny.

So when Belluscio is asked about Cosby, she points out that he’s not the reason for the museum.

“Our kind of pat answer is, we don’t have an affiliation with the Jell-O company and that we really focus on the history of Jell-O in Le Roy,” Belluscio said. 

That history begins in 1897— when Pearle Wait invented the gelatin dessert  — and ends with General Foods’ 1964 decision to close its Le Roy factory and move Jell-O production to Delaware.

The Jell-O Museum draws more than 10,000 visitors a year. That number reflects the enduring popularity of the dessert — not Cosby.

Even in 2004, Belluscio said, his role as pitchman was already “old hat.”

“Which to me, is indicative that the brand has moved beyond him — and had, for a long time,” she said. “In today’s advertising market, that’s the way it is.”

December 30, 2015 - 5:15pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Le Roy Village Board.

The Village of Le Roy has tapped the expertise of a veteran forester to facilitate the sale of timber.

John Eisenhard will help market timber on village-owned land along Oatka Creek adjacent to the Sewer Treatment Plant on Red Mill Road.

The Village Board voted Dec. 16 to hire his company, Eisenhard Forestry of South Street Road, for a 6-percent commission on the eventual sale.

The idea to sell timber originated at the treatment plant, where walnuts were falling into outdoor settling tanks. Superintendent Steven Carroll approached village officials about having the trees removed, and they contacted Eisenhard.

He spoke to the board for about a half hour about the village property and woodlot management.

The village owns several wooded acres along the creek bank, as well as a wooded island in the creek. Black walnut predominates, and there are about 81 walnut trees large enough to attract buyers, the board was told.

Eisenhard said culling mature trees should make the property more valuable in the long term. Underbrush is smothering the growth of new trees, he said.

“When you walk in the woodlot it’s pretty obvious you're not getting the typical regeneration (expected) in typical woods,” Eisenhard said. “You’re lacking a dramatic amount of seedlings and you’re lacking a dramatic amount of saplings.”

Eisenhard has helped more than 300 landowners market their timber in the past 13 years, according to information provided to the board. He stressed that he represents landowners, and neither works for nor represents any lumber company.

The Village Board will be asked to authorize bids when it meets next month.

Eisenhard said bidding information would be sent to at least six companies. He did not speculate how much the village could expect to receive, but said sale offers vary widely based on the available markets and sawmill volume needs.

Eisenhard advised the village act soon to sell at least the ash trees on its property. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has severely restricted the movement of ash lumber, in an effort to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer.

This invasive species that has killed millions of ash trees since it was first discovered in the United States in 2002. The insect — which has been confirmed in Caledonia and Darien — kills individual trees within two to four years of infestation.

Eisenhard said ash lumber will likely fetch a higher price during winter months, when it can be sold to buyers outside the area.

“I would recommend you sell every commercial stick ... on the property because they’re going to be dead in five years,” Eisenhard said.

December 30, 2015 - 11:06am
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Le Roy Business Council, New Year's Eve.

The Le Roy community will ring in the new year with its annual fireworks display.

And there’s no need to wait until midnight.

The display is planned for 9 p.m. Thursday. The best viewing locations are along the Oatka creek bank near Main (Route 5) and Wolcott streets.

The New Year’s Eve forecast calls for a high of about 35, dipping toward freezing in the evening. Flurries or snow showers are possible.

Several stores and restaurants Downtown will offer specials between 5 and 9 p.m.

Also, the historic Le Roy House, 23 E. Main St., will open at 7 p.m. for warm cider and coffee, old-fashioned games and more. 

The annual event is sponsored by the Le Roy Business Council, whose First Night Raffle raised funds to pay for the fireworks display.

The drawing for six prize packages was Dec. 21. Winners were:

— Grand Prize (dinner and limo ride): Jen Hart

— Wine Time: Ann Walters

— Around the Home: Mary Gugino

— Dine All Day: Nicole Vink

— Health & Beauty: Francis McCall

— Tailgater Special: Mike Smith

December 26, 2015 - 9:24am
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Main Street Fitness, business.

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Michele Martinez, right, is the new owner of Main Street Fitness in Le Roy. She bought the business from Fred Merica, left, who will continue to operate Le Roy Karate at 66 Main St. Martinez is joined by her fiance, Dan Saeva, whom she met at the gym.

Being a competitive weightlifter meant Michele Martinez was very serious about her workouts at Le Roy’s Main Street Fitness.

It also meant lots of advice for the gym’s proprietor.

“The truth is, Michele used to break my chops a lot,” Merica joked earlier this week. “ ‘You’ve gotta clean, you’ve gotta buy this, you’ve gotta buy that.’

“Finally I said, ‘Why don’t you just buy the place and do whatever you want with it!' ”

Which is pretty much what finally happened.

Martinez, who lives in Le Roy, took ownership this week. She’ll be leasing space from Merica, who owns 66 Main St. and will continue to own and operate Le Roy Karate.

Martinez is looking forward to meeting the public and sharing her plans for Main Street Fitness during an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Main Street Fitness grew out of the karate studio Merica, 54, established in 2005. He gradually added weightlifting equipment to diversify the business. Now, the gym also features a cross-training room; a cardio room equipped with treadmills, stair machine and Arc Trainer (sort of a cross between a treadmill and an elliptical machine); and, in the basement, a circuit-training room.

In short, something for every age, skill level and interest.

“Everyone thinks it’s just weights, and it’s not,” Merica said. “I think that’s what separates this gym from most gyms in the area.”

It’s also a 24-hour operation, with keyless entry available to members. Merica said he preferred to focus on karate, and needed to find someone who could give the gym the attention it demands.

He said Martinez is the ideal buyer. 

They met in 2012, when Martinez enrolled her daughter Skyler, now 11, in one of Merica’s karate classes. At the time, Martinez was in training — at different gym — for the Ms. Buffalo Bodybuilding Championships.

“We started talking, and he ended up letting me work out up front to supplement my training,” Martinez said.

She went on to win second place in the women’s heavyweight division in 2012. The following year, she claimed first place.

“That’s one of the reasons I thought Michele would be a perfect fit,” Merica said. “It adds another component to the gym, because she’s competed; she’s got that experience.”

But Martinez was reluctant to take on the responsibility. She already works full-time as a training manager for Sutherland Global Services in Rochester; is a part-time sign-language interpreter; and is also raising a second daughter, 9-year-old Kori.

Her outlook changed with her engagement earlier this year to Dan Saeva, whom she met at the gym. He’ll oversee day-to-day operations at Main Street Fitness, while Martinez focuses on the business side.

Martinez and Saeva, also of Le Roy, are planning an April 26 wedding in Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, Martinez doesn’t expect major changes at Main Street Fitness. She will rearrange existing equipment in a way that makes better sense for bodybuilders, add more powerlifting equipment, and do some remodeling. Her contacts in the fitness field may mean expanded services, including nutrition supplements, fitness beverages and benching competitions.

She’ll also have special offers, including discounted rates on group memberships.

“I’m excited,” Martinez said. “I’m overwhelmed; I’m anxious. I think this next month will be the real test for us.”

For his part, Merica said he’s grateful to longtime members for their support as he bows out of the gym business. But he’s also thankful to have less on his plate.

“I’ll be getting more sleep,” Merica said.

And Martinez?

“I’ll be getting less,” she said.

For more information about Main Street Fitness, visit www.fitness-karate.com.

December 24, 2015 - 3:26am
posted by Billie Owens in Le Roy, accident.

An accident with minor injuries is reported on the westbound Thruway at mile marker 382.1. Le Roy fire and ambulance are responding. A car reportedly rear-ended a tractor-trailer, then rolled over several times.

UPDATE 4:01 a.m.: A 39-year-old victim in the car that rear-ended the semi is being transported to UMMC in stable condition.

December 23, 2015 - 12:34pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, santa claus, Christmas.

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Carols, candy and Christmas wish lists were the order of the day Wednesday, when Santa and Mrs. Claus visited Imagination Station Child Care and Preschool in Le Roy. Mrs. Claus read the holiday classic, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," and handed out candy canes as the children took turns on Santa's lap. The children also sang some of their favorite carols, including "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

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December 22, 2015 - 11:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy.
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   Nick Hawkins

State Police have arrested a 32-year-old Le Roy man after he allegedly drove the car of an acquaintance intentionally into a tree, causing heavy front-end damage and airbag deployment.

Nick Hawkins was jailed on $1,500 bail and charged with petit larceny and criminal mischief. 

According to State Police, Hawkins was involved in a dispute with the acquaintance and he drove the person's car north on the driveway into the back yard and straight into a tree. 

Hawkins declined medical treatment for minor cuts and was transported to the Batavia Barracks for processing. 

Le Roy PD assisted at the scene.

December 21, 2015 - 8:43pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Orcon Industries, business.

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Employees of Orcon Industires paused to wish America's veterans a Merry Christmas during the company's annual holiday party Friday at Batavia Downs.

Workers at the Le Roy company recently decided to donate their year-end bonus to the Liberty Fund, a North Carolina-based organization that provides all-terrain wheelchairs to wounded veterans. Orcon management matched the donation, allowing for the purchase of two wheelchairs.

News of the donation reached Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly — a major supporter of the Independence Fund — who thanked the Orcon team for their donation during an "O'Reilly Factor" broadcast last week.

(Submitted photo.)

December 19, 2015 - 12:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, Le Roy.

The Yellow Goose convenience store, 1110 W. Main St., Le Roy, is reportedly charged with smoke.

It's a possible electrical fire.

A Le Roy fire chief is on scene. 

Le Roy fire is responding with mutual aid from Bergen.

December 18, 2015 - 5:50pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Le Roy New York LLC, business.

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The investment group Le Roy New York, LLC, is hoping its plans to renovate 24 Main St. will move forward next year.

A group of Le Roy investors is hoping their efforts to renovate 24 Main St. kicks into high gear in the new year.

The Le Roy Board of Education in January will consider offering tax breaks for projects like the one proposed for 24 Main St. Plans call for its conversion to a mix of commercial and residential uses.

The school district is the last of four taxing entities being asked to offer the tax incentive.

Meanwhile, a revitalization group that has been pushing for the creation of a downtown historic district, hopes to win state approval by March. When that happens, properties within the district would be eligible for preservation tax incentives.

The investment group, Le Roy New York, LLC, was created in 2013 in an unsuccessful effort to save the former Wiss Hotel from the wrecking ball. The group turned its attention to 24 Main St. — the former Java’s coffee shop — last year, and announced plans to convert the property to ground-floor retail with three apartments on the top two floors.

The LLC is hoping to raise $250,000, and so far has $180,500 toward that goal, said Bob Fussell, a village attorney and LLC member. He said tax incentives are essential for attracting new investors.

“We’re not going to start the project until we find out whether the schools approve (the exemption) and until we find out whether we get into the historic district,” Fussell said.

“Once those things are done, it’s going to make sense to invest,” he added. “But until then we’re not giving the investors the full advantage.”

The Residential-Commercial Urban Exemption Program (Section 485-a of the state Real Property Tax Law) allows municipalities, counties and school districts to offer a declining, 12-year partial property tax exemption for non-residential property converted to a mix of residential and commercial uses.

Projects must cost at least $10,000 to be eligible. Properties are 100-percent exempt from taxes on assessed value attributed to the conversion project for the first eight years. The exemption then gradually falls to 20 percent in the final year.

Counties and school districts are allowed to approve the exemption program once the municipalities have done so.

The Le Roy Village Board approved the program on July 22. The Town Board followed suit on Aug. 27, although councilmen included a provision limiting its application to buildings within the planned historic district.

The Genesee County Legislature adopted the program after a public hearing on Nov. 23. The Le Roy Board of Education has scheduled its own public hearing for 7 p.m. Jan. 12.

Fussell said the program encourages local investment, without cutting local tax revenue.

“It’s not like we’re not going to be paying taxes on the property,” Fussell said. “We’re just going to be paying the same taxes we are now.”

Although an investor could claim the tax exemption for conversion of any property in Le Roy, its focus is effectively on the village’s commercial district.

“The whole object is to revitalize Main Street,” he added. “The idea is to take buildings that are degrading and falling apart, and make them vibrant and successful.”

A minimum investment in the project is $1,500. For more information, visit www.24mainleroy.org.

Tax incentives offered via inclusion in a registered historic district, may take longer to materialize.

The Preservation League of New York State awarded a $4,000 grant to Le Roy in October 2014. The grant was to hire Preservation Studios of Buffalo to complete a State and National Register of Historic Places nomination for a historic district in Downtown Le Roy.

The grant was secured by the Main Street Revitalization Committee, under the auspices of the Le Roy Business Council.

Jennifer Keys, who chairs the committee, said state approval has taken longer than expected.

“Apparently there was a combination of things,” Keys said. “The project was a little bit bigger than (Preservation Studios) thought it would be. At the same time, they had pretty massive growth as an agency and they were understaffed.”

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation rejected the first draft of the nomination submitted this past summer. Preservation Studios was able to dedicate staff to the project, and a second nomination was submitted in late October, Keys said.

The hope is that Le Roy’s application will come up for review sometime in March, Keys said.

“It’s definitely taking a lot longer than we thought it would, but it is moving forward,” Keys said.

December 18, 2015 - 11:17am
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground, business.

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The Le Roy Zoning Board of Appeals conducted a public hearing Thursday on Frost Ridge Campground. Pictured, is Board Member Thomas Spadaro and Chairperson Debbi Jackett. (Photos by Howard Owens.)

After months of legal wrangling, the argument over concerts at Frost Ridge Campground on Thursday returned to where it began.

With the Le Roy Zoning Board of Appeals, whose members listened to about 90 minutes of testimony and public comment on whether the concerts are an allowable, non-conforming use under town zoning law.

The board adjourned without voting. Debbi Jackett, chairperson, said the ZBA has 62 days in which to issue a decision.

About 60 people attended the hearing, which was held in Town Court. The hearing was conducted a day before a deadline set by a Supreme Court judge earlier this month.

The ZBA in 2013 ruled concerts allowable. Neighbors as well as the Town of Le Roy subsequently filed lawsuits aiming to reverse that decision.

On Thursday, the ZBA heard formal testimony from David Roach, attorney for Frost Ridge owners David and Greg Luetticke-Archbell; and from Mindy Zoghlin, an attorney representing families who are opposed to the concerts.

Roach maintained that the “campground and attendant recreational activities, including amplified music/concerts and limited food service” are all prior, non-conforming uses.

Citing case law, he said larger outdoor concerts may represent a change in degree, but do not alter the “essential character” of the facility and are still considered an allowable prior use.

Zoning law draws no distinction between concerts by small bands with lower amplification, and performances on a large stage using a professional sound system.

“What’s the difference? They both emit sound — that’s what we’re dealing with,” Roach said. “The primary difference is that one is louder than the other.

“What I suggest to you is that’s not a land-use issue, that is a noise ordinance (issue),” he added. “Anyone who has an issue with the decibel levels can seek relief through the noise ordinance, not through the land-use argument.”

Zoghlin urged the ZBA to reject the Frost Ridge application. Outdoor concerts of the type Frost Ridge has been hosting, are beyond what could be reasonably considered prior use.

“Even if music was played in the campground for skiers and campers in the past, Frost Ridge has illegally expanded that use,” she said.

“There’s a big difference between using an amplifier to play radio music, and hosting large commercial concerts on a specially constructed sound stage using professional audio equipment,” she said.

“Concerts with national acts, a professional stage and a sound system that attracts hundreds of people at a time were never held at this campground until 2010,” Zoghlin said. “Therefore they cannot be a prior non-conforming use as a matter of law.”

Reid Whiting, attorney for the Town of Le Roy, was offered the opportunity to give formal testimony but declined.

Thirteen residents also spoke, several of them in support of Frost Ridge.

Barbara Buchanan has lived on North Road near the campground since 1974.

“Frost Ridge has a history of providing music from different venues,” she said, including amplified music on the ski slopes.

“None of the music, over 40 years, has ever bothered us,” she said. “We consider the campground to be a very good neighbor — we don’t have a single complaint against them.”

Not so for Nancy Palmer, who has lived on Wilcox Road since 1997. She said summer concerts at Frost Ridge are too noisy.

“I find it very disturbing,” she said. “I can hear it through my house … I can hear the bass pounding through my walls and through my windows.”

Palmer said the concerts are loud enough to spook her horse.

“For those of us who are close, it is very loud and it is very disturbing,” she said.

Others speakers cited the positive impact Frost Ridge has on the community, such as fundraisers for the Le Roy Fire Department.

David Pullyblank, of Parmalee Road, said Frost Ridge campers support local businesses — including the farm market he owns on Lake Street Road (Route 19).

“Campers are people that want to come to our community and spend money,” he said. “I think it’s essential to have their business in our area.”

The Luetticke-Archbells have owned the Conlon Road campground since 2008, and have been hosting concerts in an outdoor amphitheatre since 2012. In 2013, the ZBA found the concerts permissible under zoning law.

Neighbors of the campsite and the Town of Le Roy both filed lawsuits challenging the ZBA’s ruling. Supreme Court Judge Robert Noonan invalidated the decision in April on technical grounds, and ordered the ZBA to conduct a new public hearing.

In November, the Town Board set a Dec. 10 public hearing on a local law to establish a new, town-only zoning board. Earlier this month Interim Supreme Court Judge Mark Grisanti ordered the town to cancel its hearing, and ordered the existing ZBA to conduct a hearing on Frost Ridge by Dec. 18.

Jackett set a number of ground rules at the beginning of Thursday’s hearing. Attorneys submitted written statements and evidence, but were given limited time to address the board directly. Residents who signed in, were allowed one minute to speak.

ZBA member Robert Scott, who ran unsuccessfully for town supervisor against incumbent Stephen Barbeau in November, recused himself from any involvement in the Frost Ridge application.

Jackett did not indicate when she expects the ZBA to issue a ruling. Comments on the matter will be accepted in writing by the Town Clerk until Dec. 27, she said.

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December 17, 2015 - 10:29pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground, business.

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David Roach, attorney for Frost Ridge Campground, offers testimony to the Le Roy Zoning Board of Appeals during a public hearing Thursday on the issue of live concerts at the campground. (Photo by Howard Owens.)

Le Roy’s joint Zoning Board of Appeals reached no decision Thursday night on the question of live concerts at Frost Ridge Campground.

The ZBA adjourned after a 90-minute public hearing on the matter. About 60 people attended the hearing, which was held in Town Court.

Debbi Jackett, the board chairperson, said the ZBA has 62 days in which to issue a decision on whether concerts are an allowable, non-conforming use under town zoning law.

Comments will be accepted in writing by the Town Clerk until Dec. 27, Jackett said.

The ZBA heard formal testimony from David Roach, attorney for Frost Ridge; and from Mindy Zoghlin, the attorney representing families who are opposed to the concerts. Gene Sinclair, who served as the town zoning/code enforcement officer until 2012, also testified.

Reid Whiting, attorney for the Town of Le Roy, did not comment during the hearing.

Thirteen residents also spoke, several of them in support of Frost Ridge. At least two residents, however, said the concerts are disruptive.

Thursday’s hearing was conducted a day before the deadline set by a Supreme Court judge earlier this month.

A complete story will be posted Friday morning.

December 17, 2015 - 7:13pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Orcon Industries, business.

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Employees at Orcon Industries in Le Roy have decided to donate their first year-end bonus in several years, to an organization that provides all-terrain wheelchairs for wounded veterans. Company management matched the gift, allowing for the purchase of two wheelchairs.

America’s wounded veterans sacrificed to protect our freedom.

This holiday season, employees and management at a Le Roy manufacturer made a sacrifice of their own — to help some of those same veterans better enjoy their freedom.

Workers at Orcon Industries have agreed to donate a portion of their year-end bonus pool, to the Independence Fund. The North Carolina-based nonprofit provides all-terrain wheelchairs and other services to disabled veterans.

The donation amounts to $15,000 — the cost of just one of the rugged “track chairs.”

In light of the employee decision, the management at Orcon — which makes industrial packaging at its facility on Lake Street Road — matched the gift.

“We thought we’d give our employees the opportunity to participate in something that’s pretty meaningful,” said Bruce Olson, the company president and CEO. “Something that they probably wouldn’t have been able to participate in, without us at least being the conduit.”

The key word, is “conduit.” Olson said he is a proud patriot and cares deeply for veterans' issues. But he gave all the credit to the employees.

The Independence Fund was established in 2007 to provide resources and therapies to veterans with service-connected disabilities.

Many veterans had enjoyed hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities before they were wounded. The Independence Fund’s Mobility Program allows them to get back outdoors using a variety of devices, including all-terrain wheelchairs and adaptive bicycles.

“The great thing with the Fund, is that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the soldiers,” said Michael Olson, Bruce’s son and Orcon’s general manager. “There is no administrative cost.”

Proceeds are not spent on publicity, either. In consequence, the Independence Fund is not very well-known.

It does however have a high-profile champion: political commentator Bill O’Reilly. He has not only featured the organization on his Fox News program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” but has helped it provide 1,400 wheelchairs to veterans.

That is how the Olsons first heard of the Independence Fund.

“Michael and I were talking, and we started looking at the year we had last year, which was probably the best year in the history of the company,” Bruce Olson said.

“In the past, we’ve always shared our success with our employees,” he continued. “So we were looking at what we had for a bonus pool this year to give back to the folks and it was, for us, pretty significant.”

They talked it over with partner Rick Flanagan, vice president for package design and engineering. Together, they decided to ask Orcon’s 60 employees if they would contribute to the Independence Fund. 

It was a big question. This was the first bonus pool the company has been able to offer in years.

At a company meeting this past Friday, employees watched an “O’Reilly Factor” segment on the Independence Fund. Then they were asked if they would donate.

“The room just exploded in applause,” Bruce Olson said. “The response was overwhelming — tears, hugs, thank-yous.”

There weren’t many dry eyes, he said.

Certainly not his own. 

“I’m a really emotional jerk,” he said. “So I lose it — I mean, I literally can’t finish the rest of the story. Michael finally got the message that he had to bail me out.”

The rest of the story was this: The company would match the gift.

“And they went nuts again,” he said.

Olson contacted the Independence Fund on Saturday to let them know Orcon would be making a donation. The Independence Fund, in turn, shared the news with O’Reilly.

And so during his broadcast on Wednesday, O’Reilly took a moment to thank Orcon.

Bruce Olson appreciates the attention. But he hopes any publicity generated by his company’s gift will help spread word about the Independence Fund and the work it does.

The story could have a sequel. Michael Olson said employees are already talking about ways to raise funds to make another contribution next year.

For more information about the Independence Fund, visit www.independencefund.org

To view “The O’Reilly Factor” segment on the Independence Fund, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onZmuZSl82w

December 16, 2015 - 11:09pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, crime, Ryan Young, Kyle Johnson.

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Le Roy Police Officer Ryan Young, left, is pictured Wednesday with Village Police Chief Christopher Hayward.

Le Roy Police Officer Ryan Young was honored by his department Wednesday, for his actions at the scene of a house fire and armed standoff Dec. 1 on Selden Road.

Village Police Chief Christopher Hayward presented Young with a Distinguished Service Award and accompanying bar during Wednesday’s Village Board meeting.

Kyle G. Johnson, 53, has been charged with murder in the shooting death of John Ball, 69. Johnson is accused of then setting his own house on fire, and firing a shotgun in the direction of responding firefighters and police officers.

None of that was clear when Young and Hayward arrived to back up Genesee County Sheriff’s deputies at the scene of the shooting shortly after 4 a.m. at Ball’s home at 7421 Selden Road.

The fire at Johnson’s house was reported minutes later. Genesee County deputies approved Young’s request to provide backup at the fire.

“I just had a feeling on my way from the homicide scene to the fire that it was too close to be a coincidence,” said Young, 27, a part-time village officer for three years.

“That’s when dispatch sent out the warning and kind of confirmed my suspicions,” he said.

Hayward continued the narrative, in a letter of commendation addressed to Young.

He said Young stopped just east of the fire scene and got out of his vehicle. Three Le Roy Fire Department vehicles passed Young on their way to the fire.

“You observed the silhouette of a person walk from the brush and point a long gun in (firefighters’) direction and fire two to three times,” Hayward said.

Firefighters quickly left the scene. As Young took cover he heard two shots being fired in his direction, and saw something pass over his left shoulder, Hayward said.

After the gunfire became a standoff, Young established a perimeter and directed residents of the neighboring home to take shelter in their basement, Hayward said.

“For the next three and a half hours you used different positions of cover — always in harm’s way — and continually called in the suspect’s location to other units at the scene,” Hayward said.

“Eventually the suspect was taken into custody,” he continued. “But I attribute the successful outcome to you and the exceptional actions you took after being fired upon.”

Johnson was arrested at 7:55 a.m. by members of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team. 

He entered not guilty pleas to murder, burglary, arson and attempted murder during an arraignment Tuesday in County Court. He remains in jail without bail.

Hayward also read a letter from county Sheriff Gary Maha, offering “thanks and appreciation” for Ryan’s help and for the assistance of the village police department.

“This is another fine example of cooperation and collaboration between our two agencies,” Maha wrote.

Hayward said the incident is a reminder of the hazards law enforcement officers face every working day. 

“We don’t walk out the door with a lunch pail,” Hayward said. “We walk out the door with body armor and a gun.

“I bristle when people tell me, ‘It can’t happen here,’ ” he added. “Well, it can happen here, it did happen here, and unfortunately with the society we live in today, it certainly can happen again.”

December 16, 2015 - 9:40am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, basketball, Le Roy.

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Le Roy's basketball team ran into a talented and disciplined Perry team Tuesday night, resulting in a 71-47 loss.

Perry's Autin Croll led all scorers with 25 points, missing only two field goal attempts all night and hitting a trio of threes in the first half.

For Le Roy, Tom Dunn scored 12, Canyon Roster, nine, Holden Bonnell, eight, and Jason Doomling, six.

Also in double digits for Perry were Zach Lowery, 14, and Tyler Cowie, 10.

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To purchase prints, click here.

December 15, 2015 - 9:50pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Le Roy Food Pantry & Help Fund.

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Sarah Luetticke-Archbell, 8, presents a donation of fleece blankets Tuesday to Judith Ridley, coordinator of the Le Roy Food Pantry & Help Fund. Sarah bought the blankets with funds she raised by selling homemade chocolate-chip cookies.

She may be only in third grade, but Sarah Luetticke-Archbell already has a well-developed gift — for giving.

That much was clear on Tuesday, when Sarah, 8, donated rolled fleece blankets — 37 in all — to the Le Roy Food Pantry & Help Fund.

She bought the blankets with funds she raised by selling chocolate-chip cookies during Le Roy’s Winterfest celebration on Dec. 5.

The idea was all her own, said Sarah, who attends Wolcott Street School.

“I really wanted (needy families) to get blankets for the winter so they wouldn’t get cold,” she said. “I wanted them to be warm — that’s why I got blankets instead of toys.”

Sarah is the daughter of David and Greg Luetticke-Archbell, who own Frost Ridge Campground in Le Roy.

David Luetticke-Archbell said Sarah first raised the idea for a fundraiser three months ago.

“I didn’t really grasp how strongly she felt about it,” he said. “She stuck with it.”

Sarah baked 40 cookies on her own, with a little parental help with oven temperature and timing. Sarah’s siblings — Christopher, 12, and Sophia, 9 — helped mainly by staying out of her way.

Although they did buy one of the cookies, which Sarah sold for $1 apiece at Village Hardware. She also accepted donations, and ended up raising $194.

She bought the blankets at Kmart. They were delivered Tuesday, stuffed inside an oversized, holiday-wrapped gift bag.

Judith Ridley, food pantry coordinator, was touched by Sarah’s act of generosity.

“I think this was fantastic,” Ridley said. “I think it is fantastic that she has an understanding of what it means to give, and to share with other people.

“She’s got that in her little heart right now, and it’s only going to continue to grow.”

The blankets will be given to children this winter.

“If we can match them up with children, we’ll give them out this year,” she said. “And if not, we’ll put them in storage and give them out next year.”

Ridley said the Le Roy Food Pantry & Help Fund serves about 25 families a month. It also delivers packages of food and gifts to area families every Christmas season. Ninety packages — which included gift certificates for either a turkey or ham — were delivered last Saturday.

The Food Pantry & Help Fund is open from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays in the basement of Town Hall, 48 Main St. It is open to residents of the Le Roy School District.

For information call (585) 768-4559.

December 15, 2015 - 4:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Kyle Johnson, crime, Le Roy.

Cindy Ball wants justice for her dead brother-in-law and his family, and that's the goal of the prosecution, said District Attorney Lawrence Friedman outside of County Court this afternoon, where Kyle G. Johson entered not guilty pleas to the murder, burglary, arson and attempted murder charges he faces.

Ball, who is married to the brother of Norman D. "Don" Ball, the man Johnson allegedly shot in the head while he slept in his bed in his Selden Road home, cried after the not-guilty plea and cried outside the courtroom.

"He (Don Ball) had four beautiful grandchildren and this man came in his house in the middle of the night and shot him," Cindy Ball said. "It's just wrong. It's so wrong. My brother-in-law had an open door policy. He helped everybody. I've known him since I was 15. I'm just totally broken and he pleads not guilty. There's proof."

There's also due process and defense attorneys are charged with ensuring the prosecution has a solid case, either through a plea bargain process or by taking the case to trial. It's every defendant's right.

"Basically, everyone pleads not guilty at arraignment," Friedman said. "That's they way it goes. Whether there would be a guilty plea, in any case, it normally doesn't happen at the time of arraignment on an indictment."

Johnson was indicted last week by a Grand Jury of Genesee County on the eight counts that include murder in the second degree. The charges stem from events on Selden Road, Le Roy, on the morning of Dec. 1, when Johnson allegedly entered the home of Don Ball through an unlocked back door, entered his bedroom and shot him. He then allegedly went back to his own house on Selden Road and set it on fire. When a Le Roy fire chief and police officer arrived on scene, Johnson allegedly fired his shotgun at them.

Friedman said his goal for the family is to "seek justice."

At this point, Johnson will continue his stay in jail without bail while his defense attorney, Public Defender Jerry Ader, prepares pre-trial motions, which Friedman will then answer, and then both attorneys and Johnson will appear in court at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 23 to argue those motions.

There may be an appearance in court by Johnson Dec. 21 on a request by Friedman to get a DNA sample from Johnson, but Ader may not contest that request, in which case there will be no appearance Dec. 21.

Johnson shuffled into court in the jail's orange jumpsuit, shackled by chains, his head down and disheveled, and said little during the short arraignment, except to acknowledge his name, agree to continue with Ader as his attorney and enter his not guilty plea.

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