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July 17, 2017 - 9:26pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in Genesee County Fair, genesee county, news. agriculture.

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The Genesee County Fair opened Monday at 9 a.m. and will be open through Saturday. There is a $5 admission per carload and the daily schedule is located here

This year, as always, there are carnival rides, food, farm animals, livestock competitions, music performances and large farm equipment. 

Monday is "Emergency Responder Night"; Tuesday is "Senior Citizen Day"; Wednesday is "Children's Day"; Thursday is "Veterans Day"; Friday is "Community Day and Thrill Night"; and Saturday is "Farm Bureau Day and Bring Your Tractor to the Fair Day." 

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June 30, 2017 - 2:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in genesee county, public health column.

From county health officials:

It is officially summer, a popular time for home renovations. Home renovations can be a complicated undertaking and renovating an older home presents its own unique set of challenges. Specifically, homes built before 1978 could contain lead-based paint and other lead sources which pose a health hazard, especially to children.

“The biggest problem with renovations involving lead is the dust that is produced during sanding, cutting, and demolition. Dust can settle on various surfaces and be inhaled into the lungs or ingested through common hand-to-mouth activities,” said Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services for Genesee and Orleans counties.

The first step in any home renovation project is to decide if you are going to hire a contractor or if you are going to “Do-it-yourself.” Please note that, in most cases, landlords are required to hire a professional and cannot do the work themselves. In either case, safe work practices need to occur in order to protect you and your family.

Hiring a contractor:  When hiring a contractor, ask about their work practices to minimize lead hazards. Also, you should verify that your contractor is certified by the EPA. The EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule requires contractors working on buildings built before 1978 to be certified by the EPA, use renovators that are properly trained, and follow safe work practices. Finally, make sure that the details of your renovation are clearly laid out and that everyone involved understands what will be happening during setup, renovation, and cleanup

Do-it-yourselfer:  If you are a homeowner undertaking a renovation project yourself, you need to be educated on proper work practices to keep you and your family safe from dangerous lead dust.

Consider hiring a certified lead inspector before you begin your project to determine if your home contains any lead in the work area.

Work safely by removing any furniture, rugs, and other household items before you begin the project which could get covered with dust and use plastic covering to seal off doors and vents to prevent the spread of dust outside of your work area.

Use the correct equipment including certified respirators, HEPA vacuum cleaners, protective clothing, etc. to minimize the risk involved.

When the work is finished, clean-up must be done properly. Use of a vacuum cleaner, with a HEPA filter, wet wiping, and wet mopping to remove any dust and debris from all surfaces is important. It is also important to remember that lead dust may not be visible to the naked eye; just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there! Contractors need to use a cleaning verification card to confirm cleaning was done properly. You can also choose to have a lead-dust test performed. Testing should be done by a lead professional. Contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD for more details (If using a contractor, lead-dust testing should be discussed before the project begins.).

If done properly, home renovation should be a safe process for you and your children. Of course, don’t forget about your pets! Pets are just as susceptible to the effects of lead and should be considered when planning your project. For more information about home renovation involving lead and for a more complete list of safe work practices, visit the EPA website at https://www.epa.gov/lead. Your local health department can also provide educational materials and advice with regards to lead.

For information about health department services contact:

June 30, 2017 - 1:19pm

A Special Weather Statement was issued a few minutes ago by the National Weather Service stating: "An area of strong thunderstorms will bring torrential rains to Northern Wyoming and Southern Genesee counties. 

"Strong thunderstorms were clustered near Attica, or eight miles south of Batavia, moving east at 15 mph.

"These storms will bring very heavy rainfall to Attica and nearby locations with more than an inch of rain possible in an hour or less. Locations impacted include... Darien Lakes State Park, Le Roy, Bennington, Attica, Pavilion, Stafford, Covington, Alexander, Wyoming and East Bethany. This includes Interstate 90 near exit 47. Torrential rainfall is also occurring with this storm, and may cause localized flooding. Do not drive your vehicle through flooded roadways."

These conditions are expected until 2 p.m.

June 26, 2017 - 4:16pm
posted by Billie Owens in weather, news, genesee county.

A hazardous weather outlook was issued today for portions of Western New York, including Genesee County, by the National Weather Service.

It says "An anomalously cold upper level trough crossing the region combined with warm lake temperatures will result in the development of lake effect rains tonight and into Tuesday, potentially resulting in localized flooding, particularly across low-lying flood-prone areas."

June 16, 2017 - 1:58pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in news, Boys State, genesee county, Le Roy, corfu, batavia, Oakfield, byron.

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The Genesee County representatives for the American Legion Boys State of New York met on Thursday night in Le Roy, before they depart on June 25. 

The American Legion Boys State is a weeklong program that immerses high school youth in citizenship and leadership training. While at Boys State, they learn the practical aspects of government in New York and participate in physical fitness, teamwork and other activities under the guidance of counselors and Marines. 

This year, Boys State will be held at SUNY Morrisville.

Bryce Bordonaro, Ryan Driscoll and Thomas Mellon are representing Le Roy; Jacob Brower is representing Waterport; Ethan Fischer, John Kindig, Nathan Loria and Joseph Marchese are representing Batavia; John Igoe is representing Oakfield; Nathan Knickerbocker is representing Byron; and Tyler Wood is representing Corfu.

(Photos by Maria Pericozzi.)

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June 5, 2017 - 1:50pm
posted by Billie Owens in genesee county, news, UMMC, dairy industry.

In conjunction with June Dairy Month, the Genesee County Dairy Princess honored the first baby born in Genesee County. 

Isaac, a baby boy, was born to Hannah Gimlin and Matthew Guiste at 6:13 p.m. on Thursday, June 1, at United Memorial Medical Center. Isaac weighed 7lbs. 8oz., measured 19 ¾ inches long and was delivered by Patricia Beverly, CNM.

The Genesee County Dairy Princess, Rebecca Slattery, presented the family with a gift basket of items including dairy products coupons, infant toys and a number of other items.

June is National Dairy Month, which honors traditions and celebrates the contributions of the dairy industry by promoting nutrient-rich dairy foods.

June 2, 2017 - 11:30am
posted by Billie Owens in steve hawley, news, genesee county.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced Wednesday that he has introduced legislation to revamp the Assistance and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) formula, a large pool of state funding to help local governments undergo projects and conduct local operations of the government.

Currently, about 90 percent of this funding goes to cities and Gov. Cuomo is requiring local governments to devise consolidations plans to receive the funding as part of this year’s budget.

“Unfunded mandates like Medicaid handed down by downstate politicians continue to strangle the budgets of our local governments and are the driving force behind high property taxes,” Hawley said.

“This legislation would level the playing field for many small municipalities and help them receive their fair share of state funding. The AIM formula hasn’t been revised in a number of years and a more equitable formula would help our town, village and county governments reduce taxes and undergo projects like road and bridge repair. I am calling on Assembly leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote before be adjourn for the summer next month.”

May 26, 2017 - 4:34pm
posted by Judith Piscitello in bible study, nursing home, ministry, genesee county.
Recently the Genesee County Outreach Ministry (GCOM) has offered a weekly Bible Study at the Premier Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Facility, formerly known as the Genesee County Nursing Home.  Residents are encouraged to choose topics or Scripture passages.  Examples include:
  • The Lord's Prayer
  • The Beatitudes
  • Faith
  • The Holy Spirit
  •  Spiritual Gifts
  • The Book of Romans
  • The Book of First John
We average between 8-12 residents weekly.  With many in wheelchairs, an aide is always present. We have had great support from the staff! If you’d like to help us to build this ministry, please contact us! - David Twichell (716) 704-9623 and John Yerger, Jr. (585) 880-5215
May 11, 2017 - 6:08pm
posted by Norm Itjen in genesee county.
National Corrections Officers Week 2017. A great debt of gratitude to all the Corrections Officers working for the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. You do a very difficult job with little or no appreciation.  
May 4, 2017 - 4:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, shared services, consolidation, news.

The latest mandate on county governments isn't all bad, the way at least one local legislator and County Manager Jay Gsell see it.  

It's not a bad thing, they say, to look at opportunities to institute new shared services agreements among local agencies.

The difficulty may come in finding where those cost savings can be realized when the county has already consolidated many operations with other government agencies.

To meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo's requirement, the county must convene a committee of people representing the other government agencies in the county -- the city, schools, towns, villages -- and explore options for consolidation of agencies or shared services among agencies. The committee's work will result in a report approved by the County Legislature and delivered to the governor's office within two years.

There's no requirement that any of the ideas generated by the process actually be implemented.

That's certainly the governor's goal, Gsell said, but right now he just wants to push along the process of local agencies talking along these lines.

"In the initial year this is more (about) dialogue and discussion, (to) gauge whether there is interest in doing some of the things we’ve talked about," Gsell said.

Legislator Andrew Young said he thinks it's a good idea to have these discussions anyway.

"It helps get the discussion started," Young said during yesterday's Ways and Means Committee meeting. "I’m not saying it’s going to be easy because when mandates come down on us from the almighty it bothers us, but we should try to embrace this.”

Going back to the 1990s, the county has been involved in finding opportunities for shared services, Gsell said, starting with the Highway Department and its arrangement with town highway departments. The county has also been involved in creating shared services for emergency dispatch, consolidating the youth bureaus, including combining with Orleans County, and the health departments between Genesee and Orleans counties.

None of that will help the county with this report, though. The participating local governments must look for new opportunities.

Those might include a consolidated assessors office (right now, three assessors are shared among multiple agencies), or the creation of a centralized procurement office, consolidating code enforcement and zoning.

Right now, those are just examples and all come with their own challenges. Identifying those challenges will be part of the reporting process for the governor.

There may be ideas for consolidation or shared services that require the approval of legislators in Albany, and big projects, such as a shared jail between Genesee and Orleans counties, come with an array of challenges and potential legal complications.

The fact, though, that the county has completed so many shared services projects bodes well for officials to find more opportunities to cooperate, Gsell said.

"All of that stuff is behind us, but the fact that we’ve done this is an indication to me that we can do more," Gsell said. "We just have to put it on the table and get people to put on the table what are their issues, what are their constraints, and how do we get past them."

April 6, 2017 - 1:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in drugs, drug use, genesee county, news.

There has been a sharp increase locally in overdose-related deaths, usually involving a combination of drugs including opiates, over the past four years, according to a report prepared by the Genesee County Health Department.

The rise is alarming, said Director Paul Pettit, and emphasizes the need for the work of a three-county task force that has come together to find ways to address the drug-use epidemic that has hit the region.

It's not just the number of deaths that have increased, Pettit said. There are more drug-related arrests, more drug-related visits to emergency rooms, and first responders are using the drug Narcan more frequently to help revive opiate overdose victims.

In 2013, there were five deaths in Genesee County that the Monroe County Medical Examiner attributed to the overuse of opiate-related drugs. 

There were 18 in 2015. 

In 2016, 17 deaths with toxicology completed were attributed to drug mixtures that included opiates, with four toxicology reports for last year still pending.

To date in 2017, there are seven deaths where toxicology is still pending.

"That's a pretty significant increase over the past four years," Pettit said. "It's indicative of a problem going on out there."

Of the 17 known OD-related deaths in 2016, only five were attributed to heroin mixed with other drugs, whether prescription drugs and/or over-the-counter medications. (Note: the ME for 2016 was Erie County.)

There were nine deaths caused by a combination of prescription opiates mixed with other drugs.

There was one death caused by "acute and chronic substance abuse."

It's possible that some of the heroin deaths linked to other substances might mean the heroin was laced with fentanyl or another drug.

Fentanyl is frequently linked to overdoses because users never know how much fentanyl has been added to their heroin and fentanyl is more powerful than heroin. 

A 30-gram dose of heroin will kill an average size male, but only three milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal.

Of the 18 overdose deaths in 2015, 14 involved prescription opiates used in combination with other drugs and two were caused by heroin used in combination with other drugs.

In 2014, there were 12 drug-induced deaths. Nine of the 12 involved prescription opiates combined with other drugs. Heroin, used singularly or in combination with other drugs, contributed to three deaths. 

There were no heroin-related deaths in 2013, but there were five opiate-related deaths involving prescription medications.

The stats do not include Genesee County residents who died in other jurisdictions, but it does include non-county residents who died here. 

The Health Department is still in the process of compiling statistics prior to 2013.

Pettit said officials would like to get much closer to real-time statistics for drug-related deaths. When seven people in Erie County died within a 24-hour period last week, officials there were able to know almost immediately the cause of death was heroin laced with another substance. 

For Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties, officials sometimes wait months for toxicology reports from Monroe County.

One goal, Pettit said, is for the counties to come together and work with the medical examiner offices to get more timely reports, at least within a month of the deaths.

Of the some 500 deaths in the county annually, only about 50 resulted in a request for a toxicology report.

"We want to hone our data collection, look at trends on how things play out in the community," Pettit said. 

The stats will help inform community-wide responses.

The Genesee, Orleans & Wyoming Opioid Task Force has held one meeting and will be meeting again from 10 to 11:30 a.m., Wednesday April 19, at Genesee Community College, Room T102.

The task force is comprised of health officials, addiction specialists, law enforcement personnel, church leaders, other service providers, former drug addicts and the family members of addicts. About 75 people are participating from the three counties. 

"It's great to see the community coming together on this issue and show a desire to have a positive impact to help those folks in our community who are struggling," Pettit said.

February 21, 2017 - 3:01pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in genesee county, crime, accident, news, Stafford.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office filed charges Feb. 16 against Nicole K. Sullivan in relation to a one-car accident that occurred during the early morning hours of June 10.

Sullivan, 31, of Perry, is charged with: falsely reporting an incident in the third degree; unlicensed operator of a motor vehicle; aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree; operation of an unregistered motor vehicle; failure to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of change in address; no seat belt; and driving left of pavement markings.

On June 10, at approximately 2:25 a.m., an accident on Fargo Road, Stafford, was reported. When deputies arrived on the scene, they say they found a male, later identified as Zachery W. Schwartz, 20, unresponsive in the vehicle and a female, Sullivan, on the front porch at a nearby home.

At the time, Sullivan told officers that there was a third occupant, who was driving the car, and fled the scene, traveling north on Fargo Road.

Schwartz was flown via Mercy Flight 5 to Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester, for extensive head injuries. Sullivan was taken via Mercy ambulance to Strong for head and leg injuries.

Fire personnel conducted a thorough search on foot of the surrounding areas using FLIR Technology (thermal imaging) in an attempt to locate the unknown driver involved in the crash. The New York State Police assisted by maintaining a roving perimeter of the area. Area hospitals were also notified to call the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office if they received any potential car accident patients.

Approximately three hours after the accident was reported, Sullivan admitted to police that she and Schwartz were the only occupants in the vehicle and she was the driver.

The charges stem from the allegation that Sullivan was in fact the driver of the car at the time of the collision and she gave false information concerning the details of the incident. It is further alleged that there was not an unknown driver of the car who fled the scene as originally reported by Sullivan.

Assisting at the scene of the accident included Stafford, Batavia, and Le Roy fire departments, Genesee County Emergency Management, and Mercy medics.

For original post, click here.

February 9, 2017 - 10:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, genesee county, state of the county, news.

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In his State of the County address on Wednesday evening, County Legislature Chairman Ray Cianfrini said the City of Batavia has been "put on notice" about the county's desire to reduce how much sales tax revenue it shares with the city.

Reached later that evening, City Manager Jason Molino said, "I don't know where those comments are coming from because the City and the towns and villages have been very engaged in an open, constant and engaged discussion about these issues."

There is a working group of legislators, council members, along with two town supervisors and members of both county and city staff, who have been working diligently for months on a new sales tax agreement and water services agreement, Molino said. Cianfrini is a member of that oversight committee. 

Molino shared with The Batavian a 42-page PowerPoint presentation titled "20 Identities ... One Genesee County Community" that goes into comprehensive detail about the process, timeline, history of the issues involved, and milestones that need to be reached to hammer out a new agreement covering how sales tax will be allocated and water issues handled.

Molino said he thought the whole process over the past several months has been cooperative and productive but repeated several times over the course of the conversation, "I just don't know where he's coming from."

The committee had seemed to be on the same page, he said, about reaching a mutually beneficial agreement, taking into account the shared needs -- which includes a possible new jail and infrastructure repairs for roads and bridges -- facing all of the municipal entities in the county.

"We made it very clear in the beginning that bridges and roads and a new county jail is more than just a county responsibility," Molino said. "It's all of our responsibility. There is an ownership responsibility that we all agree we must find a solution together. It's been a very cooperative process with the staff and oversight committee."

Currently, the county sales tax rate is 4 percent. That revenue is shared with the city and other municipalities in the county. The city gets 16 percent of that 50 percent and the other 34 percent is split among the other entities. The 10-year agreement expires in a year.

In his speech, Cianfrini said the county is facing some difficult financial issues in the future and suggested the county needs to keep more of the sales tax revenue for itself. He noted that Genesee County's share is more generous than Orleans, Livingston or Wyoming counties. He mentioned specifically the need to fund a potential new jail, a cost of $34 million to $42 million, and the backlog in repairs to roads and bridges, at a cost of $17 million. 

"Negotiations for a new agreement began eight months ago, in July of last year, and the pace has been excruciatingly slow," Cianfrini said. "I can certainly understand the City’s desire not to have changes made to the agreement, but the needs of the county today and for the future are much different than they were when the last agreement was signed 10 years ago."

Cianfrini said changes need to be made that benefit the county.

"The county has put the city on notice that if a new agreement is not in place by February of next year, the county will consider the current sales tax sharing agreement to be terminated," Cianfrini said. "We await the results of the negotiations, but again, I want to be clear, time is of the essence and changes need to be made."

Among the milestones the oversight committee has agreed to, Molino said, is a review in May that will determine if any changes in the process need to be made. The May deadline was selected because if there is a new agreement, the state's comptroller needs six-months notice to implement changes.

The committee is also working on water supply issues for the county and the city, assessing the needs and challenges that may be faced in the future. 

The document outlining the scope of work for the committee recognizes that are different goals and needs for the various entities involved, and each faces significant constraints, such as reduced staffing, the need not to increase property taxes and growing expenses. It also lays as a ground rule for the committee's work that everybody is going to have to give up something -- the people involved must focus on the big picture. 

The oversight committee includes Cianfrini, legislators Bob Bausch and Marianne Clattenburg, council members Eugene Jankowski Jr. and Kathy Briggs, and representing the towns and villages are Darien Supervisor David Hagelberger and Bergen Supervisor Don Cunningham.

The working group, which meets regularly and reports back to the oversight committee, includes Molino, County Manager Jay Gsell, Assistant County Manager Matt Landers, Assistant City Manager Gretchen DiFante, County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens and City Director of Public Works Matt Worth.

If the process yields an agreement, the timeline for approval includes presentation to elected officials in each entity in June and approval by July.

"This was an approach that everyone bought into," Molino said. "Everyone is committed to a mutually beneficial agreement that benefits the towns and villages, the city and the county. Everyone bought into this and everyone was supportive of this process."

Click here for a PDF of the oversight committee document.

February 9, 2017 - 9:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, news, state of the county.

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Full text of Legislator Ray Cianfrini's State of the County speech, delivered yesterday evening in the Old Courthouse in Batavia:

I would like to begin my program as I have in the past by recognizing individuals who are serving in new leadership positions in our county government.

We first want to welcome Bill Sheron as our new county sheriff. Bill is not a new face but a veteran who has served as undersheriff for many years and has over 38 years in the department and he brings experience, dedication, and stability to the office. We wish you and your new undersheriff, Greg Walker, nothing but success and we’ll continue to pray for the safety of all your deputies. A new face in an important position in our county government is Kevin Earl, our new county attorney. Kevin comes prepared with many years of experience in municipal law and he has hit the ground running knowing that he comes into office at a crucial time with the new sales tax and water agreements to be resolved. Welcome on board Kevin.

The last new county positions to be filled are those of county court and surrogate’s court judge and we were proud to see our former colleague and former county attorney, Chuck Zambito, elected to that office in November. It is reassuring to have someone so eminently qualified as Chuck to serve as our county court judge and know that the county is in good hands with him on the bench.

Last year in my state of the county address I  indicated that 2016 would be a year of challenges and I was right. In looking back on 2016, I  reflect on the disappointments and successes we faced. It was truly a year of highs and lows.

I originally intended to bemoan our failure to complete the sale of our nursing home by the end of the year as a major disappointment and in some respects, it was. However, as we are now all aware, at 7:56 am on Thursday, February 2, the sale was completed; the balance of the purchase price was deposited into our account and the county is no longer in the nursing home business. Let us all rejoice!

The long wait is over and all our hard work has paid off. However, with that door closed, another now opens and we must now go forward to ensure that we allocate these net proceeds in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

As you know, Genesee County suffered through a severe drought last summer that tested the resiliency of our local farmers. Many took a major financial hit in combating the drought, but with determination and hard work, and a little help from the weather, it looks like the worst is over.

Also, because of state mandates and an ever shrinking tax cap from the state, it was disappointing that we, as a county legislature, found it necessary to override the tax cap and pass a budget that included a tax rate increase for 2017. No one likes to raise taxes, especially me.

Our county manager presented us with a budget that kept us under the tax cap and included a tax rate decrease, but a majority of my colleagues felt strongly that we were continuing a policy of deficit spending and a need to raise rates to meet our future demands. We can only hope that in 2017 we return to a healthy fund balance from the use of our nursing home proceeds, that we find increased sales tax revenues and that we have decreased spending by having eliminated the nursing home as a fiscal “dark hole” and hopefully we can avoid having to raise taxes again.

It was a major disappointment last year when we saw no relief from the dreaded state mandates that eat up over 75 percent of our county tax levy.

How disappointing was it when both houses of the state Legislature approved a state takeover of indigent legal defense only to have the governor veto the legislation when it came to him for his approval? How disappointing and frustrating wait when the state approved pay raises for district attorneys in our state only to discover that we, the counties, must pay the raises? And how disappointing was it that our state-imposed tax cap originally set at 2 percent was reduced to only .68 percent this year?

Quite frankly, upstate counties, including our own, are getting sick and tired of being the governor’s “piggy bank” that he can tap into whenever he wants to fund or promote a part of his downstate New York City-centric agenda.

Governor, enough is enough! But for all these disappointments, we had great progress and successes on the county level last year.

Our unemployment rate continues to remain the lowest in the GLOW region; the City of Batavia, in collaboration with the GCEDC and the county, has begun its “pathway to prosperity” with hopes for a revitalized downtown and new economic growth; we opened our new $5 million airport terminal that enhances the airport’s ability to be a major revenue source; construction has begun on the River Street bridge much to the delight of Legislator Dejaneiro; construction started last year on our new state of the art Chamber of Commerce headquarters that had its grand opening just last month: construction also began on the new success center and the wellness and event center at Genesee Community College, both scheduled for completion this summer; and in a move to attack the devastating opioid and heroin addiction crisis affecting not only families in Genesee County but across the state, our own Genesee Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, better known as GCASA, has received an $820,000 state grant for an opioid treatment program that can handle 150 treatment slots.

And finally, in the public safety sector, a new cell tower in Le Roy has been approved and funding became available to enhance the performance our public safety radio communication system. With 2016 behind us, what do we have to look forward to in 2017?

1. Because the nursing home sale is now complete, we face a new challenge as to how to best allocate the proceeds to best meet our current and future county needs.

2. Genesee County is responsible for the repair and maintenance of over 250 miles of roads and we own and maintain 379 bridges with over a five-foot span. It is no secret that this infrastructure is failing. We desperately need to fix our country's roads and bridges and the nursing home proceeds and hopefully sales tax revenues will go a long way in accomplishing that goal. I note that our current president and our governor are both advocating for major infrastructure improvements and we can only hope that federal and state funds will find their way to Genesee County to help us rebuild our roads and bridges.

3. I’ve referred to it as the “elephant in the room,"  but I think it's time to begin discussions with Orleans County, as informal as they may be, about the feasibility of a new regional jail. The governor talks about sharing county assets and services and I think we should take him seriously on this matter and “go outside the box” about looking to share the cost of such a large undertaking with our adjoining county. I have had a brief conversation with my counterpart in Orleans County and I can say with certainty that they share our concerns regarding a new jail and they too are interested in beginning the conversation.

4. Let’s get serious about shedding some county owned real estate that continues to be a drain on our finances. Specifically, I’m referring to the former engine house property and the Holland Land Office building. The engine house property is little used and its loss would be insignificant to the county. This is low-hanging fruit. Let’s sell it! I understand that the Holland Land Office is more controversial and there has been a recent campaign of misinformation coming from their board making the public think the county wants to close the Holland Land Office Museum. Let me be clear about one thing: Neither I nor any other member of the Legislature has advocated closing the museum. But I find it difficult to accept paying over $60,000 a year to own and maintain the building when it could be better served by being owned by the Holland Land Purchase Society or some other nonprofit entity. As a historical building, I recognize that it has a place in our local culture and continues to be a major tourist attraction. However, other towns and village share their own historical buildings and museums that we don’t subsidize or support and it is increasingly more difficult to justify having the county own, insure and maintain the building. We should transfer ownership to the Holland Land Purchase Society for a nominal fee and leave it to them to make it successful. The society has to learn to stand on its own or we need to pass ownership to someone who has both the means and desire to house the museum.

5. It now appears rifle hunting for big game will become permanent in Genesee County this year. Our legislature has passed the necessary resolution seeking permanent status and the next move is for the state legislature to give final approval. Our state senator and state assemblyman will be working diligently to make this happen. Now if only we could repeal the SAFE Act!

6. STAMP is moving forward. We haven’t seen ground breaking for 1366 Technologies yet, but GCEDC has approved the engineering work necessary to have the infrastructure work begin on the water lines to Alabama and the STAMP site and bids will be solicited soon with groundbreaking expected in early spring. Let’s continue to be optimistic that STAMP will become reality.

7. It’s hard to believe that in today’s fast-moving technological world there are still areas of Genesee County that are without high-speed Internet services. In the words of Governor Cuomo, “…Internet connectivity is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity as vital a resource as running water and electricity.” The state is currently investing $500 million into a new broadband program that provides funding for high-speed Internet access to unserved and underserved areas across the state. Also, it was recently announced that more than $170 million in federal funds for rural broadband services will be coming to upstate rural communities in New York. Because it is both essential and critical to the furure of our local economy, our children’s education and the safety of our citizens, it is imperative that we in Genesee County, together with private enterprise, take all necessary steps to go after these broadband funds to ensure high-speed Internet access to every household, business and farm currently unserved or underserved so that they may be able to participate in the global community.

8. A huge issue confronting the county this year is the current sales tax agreement with the City of Batavia, which expires a year from now in February 2018. Under the current agreement, sales tax revenues are shared 50 percent to the county, 16 percent to the City and the remaining 34 percent is divided among the towns and villages proportionate to their assessed valuations. Let’s keep in mind that Genesee County is one of the most generous counties when it comes to sharing its sales tax revenue. For example, in the GLOW region, Orleans County retains 77 percent of 3 percent with a cap of $1.367 million and the other 1 percent is retained by the county; Livingston County keeps 93 percent of 3 percent and retains their 1 percent for Medicaid expenses and Wyoming County keeps 100 percent of their 4 percent local sales tax. Negotiations for a new agreement began eight months ago, in July of last year, and the pace has been excruciatingly slow. I can certainly understand the City’s desire not to have changes made to the agreement, but the needs of the county today and for the future are much different than they were when the last agreement was signed 10 years ago. While not directly tied into the sales tax agreement, our current and future water demands and our ability to pay for water and complete Phase 2 of our countywide water project are major components of our future sales tax needs. Throw in the need for a new county jail projected to cost between $34 and $42 million and infrastructure repairs to our roads and bridges projected to cost over $17 million and it becomes evident that an increased source of revenue is needed, without raising property taxes, and it is imperative that the county make the best deal possible with the new sales tax agreement. In other words, changes must be made to benefit the county. The county has submitted a plan to the city and towns that keeps their sales tax revenues capped at the current level together with a phased-in reduction or elimination of water plant rent and payments for lost water currently paid to the city. The county has put the city on notice that if a new agreement is not in place by February of next year, the county will consider the current sales tax sharing agreement to be terminated. We await the results of the negotiations, but again, I want to be clear, time is of the essence and changes need to be made!

And in closing, I feel it necessary to respond to the governor’s recent proposal (which is really nothing more than another state mandate) that requires counties to prepare a plan for shared or consolidated services among the units of local government contained within the counties, excluding school districts, resulting in a countywide referendum for approval.

This proposal is not only an affront to all the counties, like Genesee County, that have worked diligently over the years to find shared efficiencies and limit spending. But it is also a blatant attack on our sacred principle of home rule! As NYCOM recently stated regarding this misdirected and unworkable proposal “the last thing New York needs is another mandate from Albany; particularly one that would circumvent local democracy via a county-determined, all-or-nothing referendum. New York’s strength is our representative form of democracy, not government by plebiscite.” Somehow the governor has this warped view that local governments do not or will not work together to share or consolidate services. Maybe he should get out of Albany and come to Genesee County to see what we’ve done with our health department, youth bureau, highway department and police communication systems.

If it is his goal to shrink the size of government, why not start with his own bloated state bureaucracy? And don’t tell us you’ve “done all you can to reduce property taxes in the state” and then throw the counties under the bus. You saddle us with an unrealistic and ever shrinking tax cap; you handcuff us with unfunded mandates; you limit our ability to choose how to administer them; you force us to either make drastic cuts in services or raise our local property taxes; and you hinder our ability to achieve maximum economic growth and then you have the audacity to proclaim you’ve “done all you can to lower property taxes.” How many times do we have to tell you we need mandate relief and why do our pleas continue to fall on deaf ears?

Genesee County has survived, is surviving and will continue to survive while we wrestle with these burdensome unfunded state mandates, but just think, if only for a minute, what we could accomplish without them. Thank you.

February 2, 2017 - 2:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, tourism, business, news.

A weak Canadian dollar kept many tourists from the north out of New York and Genesee County, as a result, saw a decline of 3 percent in bed tax revenue, Tom Turnbull, president of the Chamber of Commerce, told county legislators yesterday.

Turnbull and tourism director Kelly Rapone provided a review of chamber and tourism activity at the Ways and Means Committee meeting.

"People were not traveling as much," Turnbull said. "But talking with our friends in Buffalo-Niagara, we did better than them. They were down 10 percent."

The weak exchange rate for Canadians didn't keep too many golfers away, though, Turnbull said. Because the prices at local golf courses are so competitive, the chamber was still able to sell a number of golf packages.

Turnbull thinks the county's bed tax revenue will return to a level of $420,000 or higher in 2017 in a large part because this will be the first full year of operation for the new hotel at Batavia Downs and this year a new hotel should open on the north side of the Thruway in Batavia, the Fairfield by Marriott.

Group sales have continued to do well, if not better, Turnbull said. Genesee County continues to be a popular location for soccer, lacrosse and baseball tournaments. 

"That brings people into the hotels and they spend money and that’s what we’re looking for," Turnbull said.

Rapone shared copies of the new tourism promotional material the chamber has available. She also debuted the totally redesigned tourism website visitgeneseeny.com. The modernized website will make it easier for tourists to find information about visiting Genesee County, she said, and it will also make it easier on both golfers and staff to handle bookings for golf packages.

During the meeting, Legislator Ray Cianfrini also floated the idea of creating an entertainment tax. He noted that when he's gone to venues in other counties he's noticed the ticket price includes an entertainment tax, so he's been researching it. The tax, if implemented, would likely apply only to venues over a certain size, say with seating of 2,500 or more, and colleges would be exempt.  

The only current venue where such a tax might apply is Darian Lake Performing Arts Center.

"It might be another source of revenue," Cianfrini said.

February 2, 2017 - 10:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in nursing home, genesee county, news.

County Manager Jay Gsell just announced that as of 7:56 a.m., Genesee County is out of the nursing home business. 

The sale of the Genesee County Nursing Home to Premier Healthcare Management, LLC is complete after state regulators cleared the way for transfer of title. 

The county has received payment in full in the $15.2 million transaction, Gsell said.

January 27, 2017 - 4:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, news.

Press release:

Legislature Chairman Raymond Cianfrini will deliver his annual State of the County Address at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, in the Legislature Chambers at the Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia.

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