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County Legislature

City, Genesee County races uncontested but one newcomer and three propositions

By Joanne Beck
Derek Geib
File photo of Derek Geib in 2019, when he first opened The Coffee Press on Jackson Street in Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens.

It’s not a very exciting election year in Genesee County, as the two largest jurisdictions — the City of Batavia and Genesee County — are marked by uncontested races for every seat up for a vote on both City Council and County Legislature.

However, there is a new City Council candidate and three propositions on November's ballot.

The City Council election features incumbents Paul Viele for Ward 1, Alfred McGinnis for Ward 4, Kathy Briggs for Ward 5 and Tammy Schmidt for Ward 6, all who are running unopposed for re-election. 

David Twichell, who filled the seat of Patti Pacino for Ward 2 earlier this year, is running for his first full term unopposed. 

Newcomer Derek Geib is running to fill the seat vacated by John Canale, who opted not to run again for Ward 3. 

Geib, a city business owner, president of the downtown Business Improvement District and member of the city’s Planning and Development Committee, is also running unopposed. 

Unfortunately, voters won’t have an opportunity to learn why he’s running for a seat on council or why he would like to represent his section of the city, because Geib declined an interview with The Batavian.

“I don’t have interest in doing interviews ever for anything honestly,” he said.

These are the uncontested races for Genesee County positions:

  • Genesee County Clerk  - Michael Cianfrini
  • Genesee County Coroner - Wade Schwab
  • Genesee County Coroner (unexpired term) - Donald Newton Jr.
  • Genesee County Legislator, District 2 Towns of Bergen, Byron, and Elba - Christian Yunker
  • Genesee County Legislator, District 4 Towns of Batavia, and Stafford - Brooks Hawley
  • Genesee County Legislator, District 6 Towns of Alexander, Bethany, and Pavilion - Gregg Torrey
  • Genesee County Legislator District 8 City of Batavia, Wards 2 & 3 - Marianne Clattenburg

Three propositions are on the ballot this year:

Proposal One: Removal of Small City School District from Special Constitutional Debt Limitation.

The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 4 of the Constitution removes the special constitutional debt limitation now placed on small city school districts, so they will be treated the same as all other school districts. Shall the proposed amendment be approved? Yes or No.

Batavia City Schools administrators are in favor of this amendment, because it would allow the district to borrow more money for projects in the future. As is, the limit means Batavia can only borrow up to five percent of its debt limit, versus other school districts that can borrow up to 10 percent.

This measure does not include the current $45 million capital project that’s on the table, Superintendent Jason Smith said, as it would take effect after that project vote. 

Proposal Two is to extend sewage project debt exclusion from the debt limit. The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution extends for 10 years the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to remove from their constitutional debt limits debt for the construction of sewage facilities. Shall the proposed amendment be approved? Yes or No. 

Proposal Three is for voters in the towns of Byron and Bergen only: Shall the Town of Bergen  (Town of Byron) establish an annual tax in the amount of $0.55/$1,000 (fifty-five cents per one thousand dollars) of assessed value in order to support the operation of the Byron-Bergen Public Library, commencing in the fiscal year beginning January 1, 2024. Yes or No.

Library board President Sally Capurso recently explained why she and board trustees are asking town voters to approve this measure. 

County legislature chair on WROTB changes: 'Completely unfair, totally unnecessary'

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein expressed “shock and surprise” today over the circumstances surrounding the profound changes made to the structure and voting parameters of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.’s board of directors.

On Tuesday night, it was announced that language in the just-adopted state budget includes a bill to dismantle the current 17-member board and revoke the one-person, one-vote arrangement that has been in effect for 50 years.

“I was not of the understanding, quite frankly, that this was going to be part of the budget,” Stein said by telephone. “That to me was a shock and a surprise. It is surprising the policy is so wrapped up in a financial document.”

Stein segmented her thoughts into specific areas affected by the legislation, namely the removal of the 17 current directors, the appointment process, the weighted voting format, the county legislature having to appoint or reappoint the director and the host agreement status of Genesee County, the Town of Batavia and the City of Batavia.

“What is even more surprising is that it calls for the immediate removal of the 17 current directors, and the counties will be faced with reappointing or appointing a new director,” she said. “Directors, for counties without executives, would be chosen by boards of supervisors or county legislators.”

Richard Siebert has been Genesee County’s director on the WROTB board for nearly 30 years.

Although the process of selecting a director for Genesee County wouldn’t change, it would have to start from scratch as a result of the new provision.

“When we get the bill back, the bill itself, we will work with our county attorney to ensure that when actions must be taken, we will have to comply with the law,” she noted. “That’s number two.”

The third point she addressed is what she called “the incredible change to a weighted voting (system).”

“If my math is correct, 62 percent of the vote will be held by Monroe and Erie counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo,” she said. “What means to me is that an organization that is returning funds back to its owner municipalities – and is proven to be highly successful – … will see a reduction in the influence and the leadership and guidance that has proven valuable for this organization to grow …”

Stein said that the county has reaped exponential returns from the initial $23,000 investment it made in 1974 to buy into the public benefit corporation.

“I know that this county has been well benefited by those returns,” she said. “And we in Genesee County are more impacted because we currently have host agreements with the Downs as we provide to the entity fire, public safety, highway services. Since OTB is a non-taxpaying entity for property taxes. So, these three communities -- the county, town and city -- receive a host benefit.”

Stein, echoing several Republican state representatives, called the bill “a power grab.”

“It’s so political, and it has been so toxic because of certain individuals,” she said. “The rest of us still have to maintain a decorum where we can get business done at the Downs and at OTB because record profits have been shared out to counties.”

She noted that revenue is shared through a “home rule” statute that was passed many years ago by the state legislature and approved by the governor. 

“All that could change, but I hope it doesn’t,” she added.

The legislature chair also said she was disappointed that the county’s representatives in Albany were unable to read the bill beforehand.

“George Borrello and Steve Hawley were not able to read that bill until after it was passed. So again, the three people in a room (actually two men and Gov. Kathy Hochul) have not served us well at all here in New York State,” she said.

Stein also spoke about the state Comptroller’s audit that found deficiencies in certain areas that triggered State Sen. Tim Kennedy’s push for board restructuring.

“OTB is just like any other public entity,” she said. “They’re audited. There are deficiencies found. The organization has an opportunity to address the deficiencies and to improve or change aberrations.

“That's exactly the same behavior pattern that we have in our local governments that the OTB just underwent, and they certainly have taken those deficiencies, and they've corrected them. They took those words and made themselves stronger, better and more resilient.”

The Batavian sought comment from Kennedy today, but his media manager said he was unavailable today.

She did email a statement from him, however:

“We talk a lot in the state legislature about prioritizing accountability and transparency - about rooting out corruption. Last night, we created an opportunity to deliver on that. From audits to investigations, the Western Regional OTB has been plagued with a pattern of mismanagement and misconduct for years, and a slap on the wrist isn't going to fix this behavior long-term.

“By including a reform I've sponsored to restructure the OTB's board in this year's budget, we're introducing an opportunity for fair representation that serves the public good. This is a common-sense, good government policy, and it's a reflection of the real, meaningful work we continue to advance on behalf of Western New Yorkers.”

Stein took exception to the use of the word “corruption.”

“That's a really strong word. The value that we have in our rural county representatives is that actually most of them know how to run a business. So, they have been sharing their expertise and guidance for years, which has proven beneficial to the off-track betting, to Batavia Downs, to the plans to grow the opportunities here in Genesee County.”

She also said the bill reinforces the perception that “only New York City matters to the powers-that-be in Albany.”

“For the state only to look at Western New York when there are four others (OTBs) really makes this smack of retaliation, it makes it smack of It makes it smacks of a power play. For an organization that is returning funds back to its member counties, it is throwing away years of guidance and leadership and business development at OTB and the Downs.”

Stein concluded by recalling something that Siebert said to her about the merging of Batavia Downs and WROTB.

“One thing that Mr. Siebert told me a long time ago was when the racetrack was approached by OTB to join together, they were very concerned about where their representation might go,” she said. “Well, today's the day it happened. And I can't respect the process that this went through. In my view, it is completely unfair and totally unnecessary.”

Longtime tradition of ag district review continues to ensure 'farm protections'

By Joanne Beck


Only one person spoke during a public hearing about Genesee County’s Agricultural District 1 Wednesday, and it was the organizer of the hearing, Director of the county Planning Department Felipe Oltramari.

He explained the process and importance to conduct reviews and hearings for Ag Districts, which occur every eight years for each of four different districts.

“It’s a very well-known program, it's been around since the 70s. It benefits the farmers and gives them the right to farm protections from the state. So it's a voluntary program that landowners enter into, and we administer. It's an eight-year term that they have to agree to, so this is their one chance to move their property in or out of the district," he said after the hearing and county Legislature meeting. “It’s fairly common for there not to be any speakers because it's not very controversial and protects the farmland, protects the farmers from being able to do the things that farmers need to do without fear of lawsuits and things … it's mostly protection from nuisance lawsuits or from regulations that a town government may place upon them that wouldn't allow them to continue their operations.”

The public hearing was about the review and modifications “for the folks who have asked to be removed and the folks that have asked to be put back in,” he said.

District 1 includes the towns of Alexander, Batavia, Bethany, Darien, Pembroke and Stafford. There are 69,193.97 total acres, and of those, 17,119.86 are owned by farmers, and 7,514.13 are rented by farmers. Since the last review, 1,507.13 acres have been added and 414.82 removed.

Oltramari asked the Legislature to adopt a resolution stating that the public hearing was conducted and the ag district review “has been determined to have no significant effect on the environment after preparing and evaluating a Short Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), and "WHEREAS, the Committee on Public Service does concur with the recommendation of the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board. Now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, that the Genesee County Legislature does hereby approve of the adoption of the proposal for the continuation and modifications of Agricultural District No. 1 in the Towns of Alexander, Batavia, Bethany, Darien, Pembroke, and Stafford as recommended by the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board for a period of eight years."

District Review Worksheets were mailed to the 1,200 landowners listed under District 1 on January 22, 2023, allowing them to make modifications to their land’s status and requesting information about their operation, Oltramari said in the county planning report

Owners responded to the mailed worksheets by either returning the included paper form, completing a web-accessible form, or calling the Planning Office. Of the 1,200 worksheets sent, 49.5 percent (596) were returned or had a response recorded.

Returned worksheets account for 64.6 percent of the parcels and 68.3 percent of the acreage. The return rate was higher than the 2015 review, which had a return rate of 40.2 percent, he said.

Altogether, farms account for 39,507 acres (58 percent) of the District. This data analysis is incomplete, however, as the calculations include only a partial estimate of the data attributable to the 50.5 percent of the landowners who did not respond to the mailing.

As a result of the review, 48 properties consisting of 1,440 acres were added to the District, and 220 properties totaling 2,589 acres were removed from the District. These modifications account for a net loss of 1,149 acres or a change of -1.7 percent, the report stated

In accordance with the Department of Planning’s process to revise the Agricultural Districts, properties of less than 2.5 acres without apparent farm-related activities and large-scale non-farm-related commercial properties received a targeted mailing which specified that if they did not respond, the parcel would be removed from the Agricultural District.

As part of this process, 144 targeted mailings were sent out, and 103 parcels totaling 124 acres were removed due to no response being received. These removals account for 4.8 percent of the acreage removed from the District.

Smart Growth, Farmland, Comprehensive Plans
The County has adopted a Smart Growth Plan, an Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan, and a Comprehensive Plan. The renewal of Agricultural District No. 1 “will be in harmony with the long-term goals of agricultural protection and the economic growth strategies contained within these plans.” The benefits and protections afforded farm operators enrolled in the Agricultural District program help to meet the long-term goals of these plans and are integral to their strategies.

Genesee County’s Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan (adopted in 2001 and updated in 2017) prescribes a plan of action to boost the economics of local farming. At its core are a series of land use and economic incentives designed to address the bottom line of farm operations. The benefits of the Agricultural District program help to achieve these goals as an incentive to keep lands in agricultural production, the plan states.

The Plan’s second recommendation is to “reaffirm the importance of existing agricultural districts, especially with regard to water and sewer extensions.” The 2017 update found that “Extension of water and sewer infrastructure has been effectively controlled through the County’s Smart Growth Plan, which, as noted above, respects the importance of Agricultural Districts. Recognizing the impacts of extended infrastructure into Agricultural Districts, "the Genesee County Legislature adopted the Smart Growth Plan in May of 2001 to prevent new waterlines from encouraging the development of prime agricultural areas in the County," it states.

What does the renewal of ag districts mean for the county? It gives a boost by "maintaining a financial incentive to keep prime agricultural land in agriculture," the report states. 

Local Comprehensive Plans
All of the Towns with lands in Agricultural District No. 1 have adopted Comprehensive Plans. According to the planning report, the adopted plans indicate "a strong desire in these communities to preserve and protect agricultural lands and their rural character." These local plans include:

  • The Town of Alexander’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2003) indicates a strong desire to preserve and protect agricultural lands and their rural character.
  • The Town of Batavia’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2017) supports agricultural land uses by stating goals to “promote the continued economic viability of agriculture,” “preserve a large, contiguous area of high-quality farmland to ensure a viable land base for continued agricultural production in the Town,” and “reduce the potential for conflict between farmers and non-farming neighbors.”
  • The Town of Bethany’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 1997 and amended in 2007) indicates that “many residents support the preservation of viable agricultural activity.” The Plan encourages the “development of new agricultural related businesses” and states that “Residential and other developed land uses should be appropriately sited so as to minimize potential conflicts with agricultural activities.”
  • The Town of Darien’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2005) states a goal to “Provide for the protection of farmland for agriculture as an important environmental, economic, and aesthetic component of the community, and consider the impacts on agriculture in all actions of the Town.”
  • The Town of Pembroke’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2007) provides an objective “to ensure that agricultural land in the Town is protected and remains a viable economic opportunity,” and the Town lists these as action items: “Utilize cluster development and planned unit development practices in rural areas, implement existing land uses ratios to restrict the subdivision of land in viable agricultural areas, and study and inform agricultural Businessmen/ Landowners about the benefits of land trust easements to preserve agricultural land.” The future land use map within the plan identifies the majority of the land in Agricultural District No. 1 as Agricultural and Agricultural/Residential.
  • The Town of Stafford’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2007 and revised in 2009) states as a goal to “Support and protect agricultural lands” and “recognize the importance of farming to the character, economy, and spirit of the Town.” The Plan recommends the Town consider “adopting a local ‘right to farm’ law.

The Town of Batavia is the only municipality with lands in Agricultural District No. 1 that has a locally adopted and State certified Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan. The Plan, adopted in 2010, identifies one of its actions to create an Agriculture Production Zone, stating, “The Town should establish a zoning district that establishes agriculture as a priority use and limits the extent of non-agriculture development.”

Agricultural District No. 1 has met its intended goal, the report summarizes, and in conjunction with the other three Agricultural Districts in Genesee County, it has formed the foundation for the County’s future actions toward agricultural protection and enhancement.


Top file photo of Felipe Oltramari, by Joanne Beck, and image above provided by Felipe Oltramari as part of the Planning Department report.

Fair Housing Act a step forward in human rights celebrated in April

By Joanne Beck


Hard as it may be to imagine, it was only 55 years ago that a law preventing discrimination against who can live where was officially recognized with the Fair Housing Act. It was established in April 1968.

Genesee County Legislator John Deleo, speaking on behalf of the Legislature to celebrate this feat, shared a little history about the early days of Batavia.

“When I was a kid growing up, I was on the south side. And of course, there used to be a division. Not as bad when I was younger, but my dad and my grandfather would say the railroad tracks were the dividing line in the city of Batavia,” Deleo said during a recent county meeting. “And if you lived on the south side, you stayed on the south side with the Polish and the Italians, and so on, in the north side. And they kind of stayed there.

"But as time has gone on, and due to the Fair Housing Act here, I think it really helped out, I mean, I think we still have a few problems, but we don't tolerate it here in Genesee County. We're all in the ship together.”

Before that piece of legislative action, prospective home-buyers and renters had much less chance of getting into properties and neighborhoods if they weren’t deemed of the right ilk — ethnicity, skin color, or culture. And although that hasn’t gone away, the Fair Housing Act has been one measure to recognize the issue and serve as a legal avenue for folks to lean upon when encountering such issues.

Genesee County officially celebrated the month of April for the establishment of the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968. Deleo read the proclamation as follows:

The County of Genesee celebrates the month of April as the anniversary of the establishment of the Fair Housing Act,
enacted on April 11, 1968. This Act outlines a national policy of fair housing for all individuals who live in the United States, and WHEREAS, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, sex, disability, religion, family status and national origin, and is committed to recipients of federal funding to affirmatively further Fair Housing in
their communities, and

WHEREAS, the County of Genesee is committed to the mission and intent of Congress to provide fair and equal housing opportunities for all, and WHEREAS, Fair Housing is essential to the ethical commitment of the County and is crucial to serving our community. Now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, the Genesee County Legislature fully embraces fair and equal housing opportunities and promotes an inclusive community devoted to Fair Housing.

Be it further RESOLVED, that the Genesee County Legislature proclaims the month of April 2023 as “Fair Housing Month” advocating for equal housing opportunities for all residents and prospective residents of Genesee County.

Deleo presented a proclamation to Nate Varland of Batavia Housing Authority, which oversees Edward Court, The Pines, The Terraces, and 400 Towers in the City of Batavia.

The Batavia Housing Authority’s board members work every day to “provide high quality, safe, affordable housing here,” Varland said.

Photo of Legislator John Deleo presenting the proclamation to Nate Varland of Batavia Housing Authority during a Genesee County Legislature meeting, by Joanne Beck.

County legislators receive special tour of jail-in-progress

By Joanne Beck


Nineteen miles of electrical wiring.

That’s one of the amazing facets making up the new $70 million county jail, Legislature Chairwoman Shelley Stein said Monday after taking a tour of the facility-in-progress.

Stein and fellow legislators Gary Maha, Marianne Clattenburg, Brooks Hawley, John Deleo, Gordon Dibble, Chad Klotzbach and Christian Yunker were afforded a special inside glimpse of the jail under construction between County Building 2 and the animal shelter.

Members of the media were not invited to participate. The Batavian asked Stein why not.

“The people who go to work there every day, they sign in, and they sign out, they have an obligation to the eventual public safety of that building. We sign in, we sign out, no pictures,” she said. “This today was an awareness of how far our building has come, to help us, those of us that have been involved in the design, been involved in funding, to see where we are and to ask questions. So it's an obligation of ours, to the public, to the public safety, that the sheriff has responsibility of.”

The Batavian asked why couldn’t a few members of local media sign in just as legislators did.

“I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m gonna be real honest. It would not be something that’s comfortable to me, because you’re going to see there are open places that are not yet fully built out, to protect what’s inside, such as our wiring, our Internet things like that,” she said. “Again, it is all about protecting, those are people who will be held there. And it’s protecting our staff, who will be helping to keep everybody safe and secure.”

It’s not about keeping any secrets from the public, she said, especially since Senior Project Manager Carl York from The Pike Company presents a monthly report about jail progress. She deferred to Sheriff William Sheron, as the one who oversees the jail and public safety, for answering when the public will be able to see photos of the jail’s interior via a media tour.

“I would say at some point, I don't think we're there right now. Because, you know, it's still in the developmental stage where I'd rather have you see more of a finished product,” Sheron said. “I’d really rather have you see the finished product rather than, for safety concerns, I don't want those kinds of pictures out in the media, that, you know, here's how the wiring is or whatever. It's really about the safety and the welfare of those people who are in our care and custody, and also our staff.”

He estimated that a tour might be more feasible closer to the end of the year.


During his report to the Public Safety Committee after the tour, Sheron reviewed some “project quick facts” about what has gone into the jail so far, including:

  • 55,000 cubic yards of earthwork
  • 115,000 building concrete masonry units
  • 190 tons of structural steel
  • 57.5 tons HVAC ductwork
  • 19 miles electrical wiring
  • 1,800 electrical light fixtures

The footprint is 101,377 square feet of four-pod configurations with 184 beds. The facility will house jail administration staff and Genesee Justice.



Photos of the jail by Philip Casper. Photo of Diana Prinzi and Sheriff William Sheron by Joanne Beck.

County salary increases on tap for public hearing

By Joanne Beck

There will be a public hearing on Nov. 21, the same date the Genesee County Legislature is to adopt a 2023 budget, regarding a 2.5 percent salary and cost of living increase and/or any step upgrades for several county positions.

The employees listed in the local law for vote by the county Legislature have to go through this process every year they get a salary increase in the middle of their elected or appointed term.  When an elected or appointed official starts a new term they do not need to be listed in the annual resolution, County Manager Matt Landers said. 

“Employees in different bargaining units received an increase that their current contract calls for, along with any steps they are still eligible for, and any grade adjustments that were negotiated,” Landers said to The Batavian.

For example, he said, if the county clerk were up for election in November, he would not need to be listed in this resolution.  But since he is getting a cost of living adjustment and step increase mid-term, he is required to be listed.

The county resolution is to approve the following salaries to be effective Jan. 1, 2023:

  • Commissioner of Elections (2) -  $53,966
  • Director of Human Resources - $102,565
  • Commissioner of Social Services - $95,325
  • County Clerk - $105,819
  • Treasurer - $111,639
  • Sheriff - $117,121
  • Highway Superintendent - $128,922
  • County Attorney - $137,519
  • Public Defender - $111,239

The public hearing has been set for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Genesee County Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia.

A new jail, public safety and water in focus with proposed 2023 budget

By Joanne Beck


Genesee County legislators knew one thing for sure after Wednesday’s budget presentation, Chairwoman Shelley Stein says.

They weren't yet ready to say how the Legislature was leaning toward a proposed $162.5 million budget with a 2 percent tax levy increase.

“We have one more budget session and we’re going to use it,” Stein said after the presentation and related public hearing.

No one spoke up about the budget during the hearing. County Manager Matt Landers said it was the first budget in quite awhile that didn’t focus on the impacts of COVID. When drafting a budgetary plan — which he did with assistance from his support staff and the treasurer’s office — he looks at the net impact of all decisions.

“That’s what drives my red pen,” Landers said. “When I meet with the department heads, I want to know what the net impact of the county taxpayer is.”

There was a clear understanding that a tax cap override was “off the table,” as he worked with department heads to ensure that all spending was out of necessity, he said. Out of a $32 million tax levy, $25 million of that is for state mandated services, he said.

Of course, the elephant in the county room has been the new county jail, with a price tag of $70 million and a 30-year debt service payout schedule. Landers hasn’t been shy about discussing it, or admitting that it’s a huge chunk of money — about $4 million — to pay off each year.

“We’re trying to be smart, and not shock the system all at once,” he said.

The county is paying not only for the new facility expected to be ready in 2024, but is also designating $300,000 for the latter part of next year for eight new jail-related positions that include six correctional officers, a mechanic and a deputy jail superintendent.

Other full-time positions created in this proposed budget include an investigator and emergency services dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Office, a position in the Highway/Facilities Department for the jail, and a position in the Health Department (to be grant-funded).

“Some key investments that are being made in this budget, so there's public safety positions, there is the investigator in the Sheriff's Office. This is to better serve the public,” Landers said. “It was very bluntly said when talking to the sheriff when he was proposing this, there is an expectation when there's crimes committed in this community that our investigators can investigate these crimes in an inappropriate and timely fashion. The caseloads are starting to build up. So this is our response. It's a public safety request and a need in our community, and I have 100 percent of the Legislature’s support.”

He highlighted factors that will need to be monitored during the next fiscal year, such as sales tax revenues that are largely dependent on gasoline, and can be “volatile.” He also questioned the future and what may happen to those sales tax benefits once electric cars become more the norm and people aren’t buying gas as often.

An ongoing water project will mean spending an estimated $150 million for the next phase three on the horizon, though with labor, supply chain and inflation issues, that number could be upwards of $160 or $170 million, he said. Two union contracts will be coming up for negotiation next year as well, he said.

One part of the process that was not a challenge involved department personnel, he said. They didn’t balk at his suggestions or otherwise make the job more difficult.

“I cut from every single department,” he said.

Stein pointed out that the county’s public services — an area of significant focus in the budget — do come at a cost.

“We are a very conservative county. There is a continual balance between our quality of life here and the cost to our taxpayers. And the legislature that serves as an entire body keeps that balance right at the front of our minds,” she said. “And also, you will see that in our actions and in our questions, and in our commitment to providing the highest quality of life at a cost that is affordable. And we don't apologize for that.”

The levy increase would mean a tax rate decrease of 8 percent, going from $9.18 to $8.44 per $1,000 assessed value. That is due to the overall property assessment increases. 

Legislators have until Nov. 21 to discuss the financial plan and vote to adopt it. Feedback and comments are always welcomed, Landers said.

'Fitting time' for fire prevention recognition this week

By Joanne Beck


Who says that Fire Prevention can’t sometimes be cute?

Emergency Management Services Coordinator Tim Yaeger and Deputy Coordinator Gary Patnode lightened up the topic a bit with Sparky, the spotted dalmatian mascot that’s part of National Fire Prevention Month.

Legislator Gary Maha, on behalf of the Genesee County Legislature, presented a proclamation to the trio Wednesday. The goal during October is to raise fire safety awareness and help ensure “your home and family are protected,” Maha said.

“Fire is a serious public safety concern both locally and nationally, and homes are the locations where people are at greatest risk from fire,” he said. “And whereas two of every five home fires start in the kitchen, with 31 percent of these fires resulting from unattended cooking.”

The reminder there is to stay in the kitchen when frying food on the stovetop, retain a three-foot distance between kids and the cooking areas, and keep flammable objects away from stovetops, the proclamation stated.

Residents are encouraged to map out and practice a home fire escape plan, as the more prepared families become, the better their rate of survival. Working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in half, and “first responders are dedicated to reducing the occurrence of home fires and home fire injuries through prevention and protection,” Maha said.

Genesee County Legislature, therefore, proclaimed October as Fire Prevention Month, and urged all residents to participate by checking their smoke alarms and kitchens for fire hazards, all the while using safe cooking practices in October and beyond.

Sparky didn’t utter a word — not even a bark, per Maha’s suggestion — but his happy demeanor added some levity to an otherwise somber subject, especially given that fires have recently brought destruction to homes and businesses in Genesee County.

Yaeger thanked legislators and emphasized that it’s so important for fire protection systems to be safe.

“The men and women of Genesee County Fire and EMS work every day, training and preparing to provide fire safety training and response,” he said. "The fire dog is not able to speak, but he's here to make sure that both children and adults stay safe. Please, please, please check to make sure you have a clean smoke detector in your home as well as a carbon monoxide detector … be safe everybody.”

Legislative Chairwoman Shelley Stein said that the proclamation and recognition of the county’s emergency management local fire companies “couldn’t be more fitting” right now.

“After the fires that we've had around us and in our county, we need to be reminded one more time about the preventative measures … thank you for the operational expertise that we have in our fire and EMS service here in Genesee County. Our community and our citizens are well served.”


Top Photo: Genesee County Legislator Gary Maha shakes the paw of the fire dog during Wednesday's legislative meeting; above, Maha, poses with Emergency Management Services Deputy Coordinator Gary Patnode, the fire dog, and EMS Coordinator Tim Yaeger, who accepted a proclamation for National Fire Prevention Month. Photos by Joanne Beck.

Town supervisors appeal to county for more revenue

By Joanne Beck


Ernie Haywards’s words were humble and to the point Wednesday in regard to his town’s need for additional revenue.

With a depleting fund balance and shrinking sales tax, Hayward turned to the people he believed were responsible for some help.

“I am  here tonight on behalf of the Genese County taxpayers who live in the town of Bergen to plead with the Legislature to consider additional aid to the town of Bergen,” the Bergen supervisor said during the county meeting in legislature chambers. “The loss of sales tax/voluntary contributions from the county has meant a cut in revenue of $211,147 per year since 2018.”

Given his total budget of $2.3 million, a loss of that amount year after year “is having a major impact,” Hayward said.

He highlighted the reduced and capped level of sales tax going back to the town, which, with a modest inflation rate of 3 percent, means the town “will have exhausted the fund balance,” he said, plus raise taxes from $2.35 per $1,000 assessed value to more than $10 per thousand.

“The Genesee County taxpayers who live in Bergen are suffering from the economy and have just been hit with an assessment increase,” he said. “We have cut services to try and balance the budget, we have closed our transfer station and cut funding to the library, to name a few items. There is nothing left to cut, and at this rate, we might have to consider workforce reductions, which would mean a suspension of provision of snowplowing for the county.”

He referred to Legislative Chairwoman Shelley Stein, and how she “often speaks of the strong partnership between the county and their local town and village partners.” However, a partnership implies a give and take and sharing of good and bad, he said.

The municipalities shared in the financial pain of a new county jail by accepting a significant reduction in sales tax so that the county could build a reserve for jail expenses.

They also agreed with the county’s adoption of water contracts, and believed it when Stein “made a promise to keep county funding to municipalities at 2018 levels, he said. Yet, since 2020, municipalities have received “roughly $3 million less,” than was promised, he said.

“Now I am asking the county to be a partner and demonstrate concern for the Genesee County taxpayers in Bergen and share in the good times by increasing funding,” he said.

County Manager Matt Landers had recently announced that the county budget would include a 2 percent tax levy increase that, due to increased property assessments would mean a slightly lower tax rate. Fellow Town Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. said that the county gets to be the hero with its proposed budget, while his town of Pembroke and the others struggle with decreased revenues.

“The sales tax agreement is really taking a bite out of all the budgets,” Schneider said.

His predecessor dealt with the water contracts, which meant Schneider “ate a pretty good crap sandwich” from that deal. He surmised that it may be too late for serious discussions at this point in time, but asked for the county to consider a future review of the water and sales tax agreements.

Stein thanked both of them for their input, and said “we hear you.”

After the meeting, she said that yes, it was too late in the season to do anything about the county’s budget now. Stein also said that each county municipality had ample opportunity to share concerns, including during the monthly Genesee Association of Municipalities meetings.

"We have liaisons that attend the Association of Municipalities meetings every month that they are called in, and our county manager Matt is there almost every single meeting, and that is a committee that is on that agenda. And there is always the opportunity for conversation at that point in that forum," Stein said. "Before the sales tax agreement was put into place, I hosted a meeting here a while ago, as they both noted, it was in July when we talked about the necessity ... to change the sales tax sharing agreement, because of the unknown cost of the jail.

"And as I said to the supervisors at that time, it will be at some point in the future when we can share more, but now is not the time. (Collecting water funds to improve the distribution system) helps every single person in our community, even people like me, who don't have water, who don't have access to public water yet, but that change out of that distribution system becomes our first paramount project and obligation to the county's taxpayers. We are doing the business of the county, and we absolutely respect the fact that the supervisors are doing hard work, and they're being responsible to their taxpayers as well."

Landers expects to release his budget message on Thursday. The proposed 2023 budget is $162,567,180, and the tax rate is to decrease by 75-cents due to higher property assessments. The Batavian will have a more detailed budget article in the near future.

Top photo: Bergen Town Supervisor Ernie Hayward speaks to Genesee County legislators during their meeting Wednesday at the Old Courthouse, and Pembroke Town Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. also shares his concerns regarding decreased sales tax revenues. Photos by Joanne Beck.

County legislature votes yes to say no to Concealed Carry act

By Joanne Beck


There’s only one problem with creating a law to restrict weapons from would-be criminals, Gary Maha says.

Law-abiding citizens will be the only ones to follow it.

“If they want a gun, they’re gonna get a gun,” the legislator said during Genesee County Legislature’s meeting Wednesday. “If you’ve got a shooting somewhere, do you want the good guy without a gun? You don’t just want the bad guy with a gun.”

Maha first proposed that Legislature sign a letter of opposition to the newly adopted Concealed Carry Improvement Act, and send it to Albany for Gov. Kathy Hochul and state Legislature members to see.

He had no idea that about 10 people would show up for the vote, with two of them there to speak during a public hearing about issues other than Concealed Carry.

Glen Adams represented the Genesee County Federation of Sportsman's Clubs, which consists of about 12 clubs throughout the county. He stood at the podium alone, but spoke for some 1,200 members, he said.

Adams voiced his concern that the Concealed Carry act was not for the average gun owner and hunter, and was, therefore “unconstitutional.”

Likewise, Jim Tuttle, chairman of SCOPE — Shooters Committee on Political Education — appealed to Legislature members to join Maha and fellow legislator John Deleo, both of who have been most vocal about the act’s flaws.

“We all took an oath to support the constitution of the United States, which is the Second Amendment,” Deleo said.

He added his full disclosure that he was a member of the National Rifle Association and SCOPE and pointed to the ill-conceived bail reform problem.

“A criminal charged with having a gun … is let go,” he said. “We’re the salt of the earth here.”

During a prior meeting, legislators discussed Maha’s proposal to send the letter and underscored the prominence of the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and how the Concealed Carry act is no improvement for the typical gun user.

The Second Amendment states that “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The legislators’ resolution states that the act “presents procedural roadblocks in the form of privacy violation, subjective standards, financial burdens, and overt restrictions on individuals seeking to exercise a fundamental right.”

A subdivision of the law was added to state that no license shall be issued or renewed pursuant to this section except by the licensing officer, and then only after investigation and finding that all statements in a proper application for a license are true.

It further states that no license shall be issued or renewed except for an applicant 21 years or older (military veterans honorably discharged are exempt from the age requirement), and be of good moral character, which means having the essential character, temperament and judgment necessary to be entrusted with a weapon and to use it only in a manner that does not endanger oneself or others.

Legislators Shelley Stein, Gordon Dibble, Brooks Hawley, Christian Yunker, Chad Klotzbach, Gregg Torrey, Delo and Maha voted for the resolution to send the letter. Legislator Marianne Clattenburg was absent.

Will it make a difference? Maha wasn’t sure.

“Well, at least we want to make our voices known in Albany that we oppose this,” he said. “You know, we're a Second Amendment community out here in Genesee County and many of us grew up hunting and carrying guns. It's a lot different downstate around New York, and we think these laws are unconstitutional.”

Top Photo of SCOPE Chairman James Tuttle, and Glen Adams, Vice Chairman of Genesee County Federation of Sportsman's Clubs, as they appeal to Genesee County Legislature to approve a move to send a letter opposing the Concealed Carry act Wednesday at the Old Courthouse. Photos by Joanne Beck.

Genesee County proceeds with 'staggering' $6.3 million water project for pumping station upgrades

By Joanne Beck


Some of the circumstances are different, but Genesee County could be like Jackson, Mississippi if upgrades aren’t made.

Things might not be as harsh as the southern state is experiencing, but it’s a worthwhile scenario to keep in mind, county Highway Superintendent and Engineer Tim Hens says.

Hens shared that perspective with county legislators during a meeting Wednesday. He reviewed the last pieces remaining for the second phase of the county’s water project that began three years ago.

“This is the last significant piece of Phase Two required to get the full expanded capacity that we anticipated long ago,” Hens said. “And with the continuing supply chain disruptions and labor shortages and equipment delays, and everything that you can imagine under the sun in a post-pandemic world, every day and week that we can grab onto the schedule to advance these projects is much appreciated.”

He laid out two bids each for general construction and electrical work within this phase, selecting C.P. Ward, at $4.17 million for existing pump station upgrades, and electrical construction work to Concord Electric Corp. for $2.2 million, for a combined total of $6.35 million for the project. That is “a staggering double” figure to what pumping station upgrades would have been pre-COVID, he said.

“That’s obviously a significant pill to swallow,” he said.

The county received a $1.23 million grant, which isn’t nearly enough for that $6.35 total, and other options considered were to apply for another grant, or rescind the one received and go for a larger amount, plus obtaining a loan. The risky part of rejecting that grant money already in hand is that the county might not receive that larger request, he said, and the county cannot apply for a second grant on the same project.

Assistant County Engineer Justin Gerace was talking with New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation on Wednesday to learn how to go about applying for funding that is available through that state agency specifically for water, and he will be working on applying for a $2.7 million low-interest loan, Hens said.

“So Justin's already diving deep with the EFC on how to apply for that and when to apply for that,” Hens said.

That would alleviate the county from having to come up with that cash right now, he said.

Why such an overage from what was originally calculated, Legislator Marianne Clattenburg asked. It was a number of issues, including overly busy contractors, inflation, and supply chain and labor shortages, Hens said. Other than those reasons, “nothing substantially changed … nothing that significantly increased the cost.”

“It's probably the worst time to try and build anything,” he said.

Legislators — somewhat begrudgingly — agreed that it shouldn’t be put off any longer. Legislator John Deleo suggested that “kicking this can down the road” wasn’t a tactic that will accomplish anything. Fellow Legislator Gary Maha agreed.

“I don’t think we have any choice but to keep going,” Maha said.

The group unanimously approved:

  • A construction contract as specified in the bid documents for the existing pump station upgrades – General Construction — to C.P. Ward, Inc., 100 West River Rd, Scottsville, for a total amount not to exceed $4,166,000.
  • A construction contract as specified in the bid documents for the existing pump station upgrades – Electrical Construction — to Concord Electric Corporation, 305 Pinewild Drive, Suite 4, Rochester, for a total amount not to exceed $2,185,000.

The total cost of both contracts is $6,351,000 and will be funded from the bonds issued by Monroe County Water Authority for the Phase 2 construction and grants secured by the county under the IMG program offered by the state Environmental Facilities Corporation.

As for the turnaround time, Hens said “realistically,” completion would be around the end of 2023 into 2024.

“It’s going to be a long project,” he said.

If the work isn’t done, however, Genesee County could be looking at — instead of close calls during hot, dry summers — actually running out of water due to the pumping stations’ current production abilities, he said. Poor infrastructure and lack of upkeep has led citizens of Jackson, Miss., into a dire situation with no drinkable water, and although that’s due to the actual quality of water due to flooding, it’s a lesson to be learned, he said.

“So for the last three years, we've been kind of maxed out on our water supply. And then the few hot dry days we get in the summertime, we're tapped out, we don't really have a lot of water to go around,” he said. “So the last couple of summers we have been asking people to save water, not water their lawns, not fill their pools. It usually ends up being like two or three weeks of summer. But until these pumping stations are completed, we're gonna have the same thing happen again in 2023.”

The problem with a continuous message to conserve water use, he said, is that people eventually tend to ignore it. He becomes “the boy who cried wolf,” since there hasn't been an actual water shortage that they can see. Hens argues that it’s because of the messages and cooperation from at least some folks to conserve, that the well has not run dry, so to speak.

“We have a water supply in Genesee County, it’s just that we're using everything that we produce. Okay, so this phase two project that we've been working on since 2019, is designed to increase our supply from Monroe County. So it's basically bringing another two and a half million gallons a day into Genesee County from farther away," he said. "So these pump stations are the last piece of the puzzle to get that water here. Once these four projects are done again, which will be a year, year and a half away, we won't have to do the emergency water restrictions every summer, hopefully, for a while.”

Photo: Genesee County Highway Superintendent and Engineer Tim Hens answers questions from The Batavian in the lobby of the Old Courthouse after a meeting with the county Legislature. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Genesee County officials weigh in about ReAwaken tour: traffic biggest concern

By Joanne Beck


Despite the calls of alarm for a scheduled ReAwaken America visit next month, Genesee County officials are hopeful, or at least reassured by the Sheriff’s Office, that the concern may be for naught.

The Batavian asked legislators for comment, and the Sheriff’s Office for a security plan, regarding the impending and irrefutably controversial tour that’s making its way to several states, including Batavia, New York.

“We’ve received a few complaints,” Legislator Gary Maha said after Wednesday's Legislature meeting. “We have no authority to stop it from coming to the church. We have spoken to the sheriff to make sure he’s aware, and that extra time is taken to make sure that the public is safe.”

County Manager Matt Landers said that of the people that reached out to him directly, the majority were on the “con side” of the pro-con issues expressing their concerns.

“However, after speaking with the sheriff, he has had one of his chief deputies, I believe, doing the investigation, speaking to other communities that have hosted these events. And I've been pleased to find out that there have not been any reported issues of the magnitude of the concerns that have been raised to me,” Landers said. “The concerns have been about the element that comes into our community, as far as any kind of disruptions, any kind of fights, any kind of lawlessness. None of those have occurred in the research done by the sheriff's office, which was heartening to me.”

Legislature Chairwoman Shelley Stein had but four words after Landers' response: "He took my words."

Brian Frieday, chief deputy on road patrol for the Sheriff’s Office, said that he has been in contact with Pastor Paul Doyle of Cornerstone Church, who agreed to host the tour, and Frieday expects additional discussions “regarding security and what is expected there.”

“Any information we receive will go toward planning for our potential presence in the area,” Frieday said.  “We have reached out to other jurisdictions that the event was held in and have had no reports of any confrontations or violence.” 

While that information has provided some relief for Landers, the actual basis of the tour is another thing altogether.

“As far as the content that goes out of the church like that, there’s freedom of speech, and the government can't take a position,” he said. “Personally, as a citizen, I'm not a fan of the rhetoric that comes out of an event like that. But as a county, the position that we're taking is that the free speech issue that they are entitled to, we have our local law enforcement … ensuring everything is gonna go smoothly, and I have all the confidence in the world that everything will go smoothly.”

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg wasn’t even certain what “reawaken even means,” she said. She does have faith in the people of Genesee County to act responsibly.

“This county tends to be very peaceful and tolerant of one another,” Clattenburg said. “Hopefully it goes off smoothly and they have their peaceful assembly.”

She, Maha, and Legislator John Deleo wondered if there would be a traffic issue, considering the possible volume of people from other counties attending the two-day event. The tour was originally scheduled in Rochester until the venue operator backed out due to protests and heavy pressure not to host — and thereby approve of — the event in Monroe County.

One potential scenario is that, in addition to those from Genesee County, flocks of other people from out of the county may also attend. It wouldn’t be the first time that parking was tight at Cornerstone, as last year’s tent meetings required extra security, traffic guards, parking up and down Bank Street Road, and an extra parking lot across the street at Batavia Soccer Park.

Maha and Clattenburg said that the soccer park would not be an option this year.

Legislator Brooks Hawley said that he has received “one email and one phone call,” and was going to respond to them Thursday. The event is at a church, and that means “it’s not really under our control,” he said.

Chad Klotzbach and fellow Legislator Gordon Dibble had little to say about the event as county officials. They didn’t feel it was in their jurisdiction to offer comment, and Dibble added that “I don't know enough about it to really give an educated comment.”

The tour is set for August 16 and 17 at Cornerstone Church, 8020 Bank Street Road, Batavia.

Photo by Lisa Casey of Genesee County legislators at Genesee County Fair this week.

Genesee County officials recognize Parks and Recreation Month

By Joanne Beck


This year’s theme for Parks and Recreation Month, assigned and organized by the National Recreation and Park Association, is to “Rise up” in support of the many parks and recreational activities throughout the country, and especially for those that help to make it all happen.

Genesee County Legislature heeded that call Wednesday and presented a proclamation to Deputy Highway Superintendent Paul Osborn and Conservation Education Program Coordinator Shannon Lyaski in honor of July’s Parks and Recreation Month designation.

Lyaski acknowledged how much volunteers "have added to the facilities and programs" within the parks and recreation department.

“We appreciate that, and how many opportunities there are to enjoy those blessings we have, and that natural environment,” Lyaski said during the Legislature’s meeting at the Old Courthouse. “It means that the community supports us and appreciates us. Thank you very much for your support.”

Both county employees have worked on Genesee County Park and Forest to ensure that its seven programs and grounds, including the Interpretive Nature Center, are well maintained and operate smoothly. County history cites that, for more than 30 years the park has developed because of the interest and dedication of community groups and organizations such as 4-H, Boy Scouts, BOCES, Jaycees, Lions Club, Sertoma and Vietnam Veterans. These groups planted trees, constructed pavilions and playgrounds, cleared hiking trails, and placed memorials.

There is also DeWitt Recreation Park on Cedar Street, complete with grounds, a walking path, pavilions, and a pond.

Thanks to those volunteers and committed employees Osborn and Lyaski, residents can enjoy DeWitt's popular offerings and 430 acres of forest and rolling hills, which includes over 10 miles of trails, five ponds, and a variety of wildlife, trees and woodland plants.

Osborn has a Bachelor's Degree in Landscape Architecture from the State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry. He has been with Genesee County for more than 23 years and said that none of his department’s success could have happened without ample support.

“We’ll continue to do that with your support, and with the support from the cities, towns, villages, the state and the federal government,” he said.

The National Recreation and Park Association established the Rise Up theme to recognize all of the professionals “who build strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation.”

“This July, we are bringing attention to how important it is to rise up and support our field because every day, park and recreation professionals rise up for their communities in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being,” the organization’s website states.

“There’s no better way to celebrate Park and Recreation Month than by highlighting the people who faithfully serve their communities all year long. Join us this July as “We Rise Up for Parks and Recreation.”

According to county history, did you know that …
Genesee County Park & Forest, at 11095 Bethany Center Road, East Bethany and which attracts thousands of visitors each year, was established in 1915 and is recognized as the first County Forest in New York State?

The land was originally purchased in 1882 in order to supply wood to the County's Poor House for cooking and heating.

The County Forest was created through the efforts of George Fleming, County Home superintendent, who initiated the planting of 31,000 trees. During the 1920s, New York State helped by providing the evergreens and manpower to plant additional trees. By 1935 over 169,000 trees had been planted.

The first proposal for the creation of a County Park was entertained in 1949; however, the project was not started until 1966, when the thinning and pruning of trees began. As the park expanded so did the need for forest management. In 1971, the County Legislator appointed the first full-time Park Supervisor-Forester.

In 1998, an Interpretive Nature Center was erected in the park. Constructed by volunteers and funded by environmental grants, the Nature Center is open year-round. The Nature Center houses several environmental education displays and plays host to a variety of interpretive programs. An environmental educator is on staff to assist residents and coordinate volunteer efforts.

For more information about county parks, click here

Photo: Genesee County Legislator Brooks Hawley looks on as Shannon Lyaski says a few words of gratitude and thanks, and Paul Osborn stands to her right during the county Legislature meeting Wednesday. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Traditional prayer gives way to current times at Legislature meeting

By Joanne Beck


In a time when gasoline has hugged the $5 a gallon price, and everything from food and clothing to furniture seems to be climbing in cost, sometimes it makes sense to flip the script.

That’s what Genesee County Legislator John Deleo did for the traditional prayer before Wednesday’s meeting.

Instead of posturing for divine guidance, he simply asked for some comfort.

“We ask you to look over us,” he said in the Old Courthouse chambers. “Inflation, the state of the nation … are taking a toll on us. People are finding it harder to buy food, or gas to go to work.”

In a June 10 article, “Inflation Sped Up Again in May, Dashing Hopes for Relief,” The New York Times pointed to high inflation and the Federal Reserve’s attempts to control it as contributing to “a sour economic mood.”

“Consumer confidence, which has been sinking since last year as households shoulder the burden of higher prices, plunged to a new low in a report out Friday,” the article stated. “President Biden’s approval ratings have also suffered, and Wall Street economists and small-business owners increasingly worry that a recession is possible in the next year.”

No wonder Deleo put away the platitudes and took to straight talk. The pressure is mounting, he said, and he asked the “heavenly Father” to keep people in His care.

“And give them the strength to get us through this,” the legislator said.

He also tacked on a plea that, instead of turning water into wine, that there are other, more valuable commodities to focus on.

“Let’s go with gas and diesel,” he said.

2022 File Photo of Genesee County Legislator John Deleo during a county meeting. Photo by Joanne Beck.

After-hours crisis services extended to end of 2022

By Joanne Beck

An approved request for $55,000 to pay for after-hours mental health services for the remaining six months of this year will extend Spectrum Health and Human Services to Dec. 31.

Genesee County Legislature approved the request Wednesday as one of 11 items previously reviewed by the Ways & Means Committee earlier this month.

The county’s day treatment program was closed, and funding for that will be redirected to the after-hours, on-call mental health needs of the county, Director of Community Mental Health Services Lynda Battaglia had previously said.

The goal is to potentially use county mental health staff for the after-hours needs, however, that’s not feasible given a current staffing shortage, staff had said. At the time, Legislator Gary Maha questioned the $55,000 price tag and short-term time period.

“For six months?” he said. “That’s a lot of money.”

The services were used mostly during the pandemic, staff said.

Genesee County Legislature agreed to provide a total not to exceed $55,0000; it will be transferred out of personal services, arts and crafts, activity fees, and food and paper monies that were not expended due to the closure of the Day Treatment program earlier this year.

Spectrum Health and Human Services is based in Orchard Park. The agency’s original contract was due June 30, which has now been extended to the end of this year for crisis services.

Other approvals included:

  • To set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. July 27 for an amended local law regarding the county’s weighted voting plans. There is also to be a public hearing at this time for a proposed operating budget for Genesee Community College's academic year 2022-23 in the amount of $37.2 million, with a sponsor share of $2,736,374. Genesee County is responsible for the sponsor share, and this reflects a $50,000 increase from the past year's share.
  • To set a temporary part-time position for the Board of Elections to assist with early voting, per election law mandates. The position has been established at a rate of $20 per hour effective June 27, and has been created due to the impending retirement of a current Democratic board clerk/machine technician. The departing employee is to be available to help train the new, part-time person. This move has a budgeted salary of $55,000, deemed “sufficient for 2022.”
  • A bid of $1,468,100 by Montante Construction for stonework at Genesee Justice, 14 West Main St., Batavia.

Proclamation ceremony a display of thanks to Genesee County EMS

By Joanne Beck


Representatives of various emergency medical providers throughout Genesee County were given an appreciative nod of thanks Wednesday for the "vital public service" that they provide to local citizens. Genesee County Legislator Gary Maha read a proclamation in honor of the dedicated people who are part of the Emergency Medical Services of Genesee County.

The proclamation states that access to quality emergency care dramatically improves the survival and recovery rate of those who experience sudden illness or injury.

"Whereas, emergency medical services have grown to fill a gap by providing important, out-of-hospital care, including preventative medicine, follow-up care, and access to telemedicine," Maha said during a brief ceremony at the old Courthouse. "The members of emergency medical services teams, whether career or volunteer, engage in thousands of hours of specialized training and continuing education to enhance their lifesaving skills, and whereas, it is appropriate to recognize the value and the accomplishments of emergency medical services providers."

The emergency medical services system includes first responders, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, educators, administrators, emergency medical dispatchers, pre-hospital nurses, emergency nurses and physicians, trained members of the public and other providers that work outside of a hospital, the proclamation states. 

Genesee County Legislature recognized all involved in county emergency medical services and acknowledged "the emergency medical services strong theme "Rising to the Challenge."

"As we encourage the community to show gratitude to our EMS for their hard work and dedication," Maha said. 

Photo above: Members of Genesee County Emergency Medical Services, including Sean Huggins and Craig Huntoon from the City of Batavia; Scott Buffin from Mercy Flight; Christopher Scopano of Le Roy EMS; Mike Heale of Elba Fire Department; and Sean Downing from Genesee County EMS, represent their units and colleagues as Genesee County Legislator Gary Maha reads the proclamation in their honor Wednesday at the Old Courthouse in Batavia. Photo by Howard Owens.

Got Groceries? OFA may be able to help

By Joanne Beck


Stephen Pribek likes to go grocery shopping. In fact, not only will he go out shopping for his family, but also for a friend.

Pribek, a retired Batavia City Schools teacher, is a volunteer at Genesee County’s Office For the Aging. For the past 10 months or so he’s been picking up groceries for a senior citizen who can’t quite get out as easily anymore.

“I really look forward to it,” Pribek said during an interview with The Batavian. “It fills a need for both of us. I need to feel productive and he has trouble getting around.”

The “Got Groceries?” program evolved out of a pilot to try out the concept during the pandemic, OFA Director Diana Fox said. While some people had physical issues that limited their ability to shop, many others didn’t feel safe to go out during a virus running rampant or didn’t even have a computer to do online shopping, she said.

“It created a barrier for some people. And so if there was somebody that, maybe they didn't have a caregiver in the area, and they needed some help with getting their things,” Fox said. “We started this with just a couple of people that needed it, then added in one of our staff … And so they connected up.”

The service is not a free grocery program, she said, and clients need to be able to pay for the goods themselves. Volunteers take a gift card issued from the agency, purchase the groceries, provide a receipt to the agency and client, and OFA then bills the client for the items.

Got Groceries? has worked so well that OFA was invited to apply for additional funding to continue and expand it, Fox said. She has applied for three grants, including $88,000 for centralized intake, $16,225 for marketing coordination and $14,464 for the Got Groceries? program.

They are through the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Muriel H. Marshall Fund for the Aging and are up for approval at Wednesday’s Genesee County Legislature meeting. The request has already been given the nod by both the Human Services and Ways and Means committees.

“There’s no cost to the county,” Fox said. “I don’t anticipate any issue with that.”

There are eight clients currently, each with a different volunteer, for the pilot program. Fox would like to increase that to 20 participants. Volunteers aren’t on the hook for any money, as gift cards are used for the purchases, and the helpers often tack the errand onto when they do their own personal shopping, she said. If anyone is interested in volunteering for this program, contact the OFA at (585) 343-1611.

Pribek’s time so far has been rewarding, he said.

“I ended up being friends with the client; we chat,” Pribek said. “I use a gift card, and I like the way it works out; it seems to run very smooth. And the people at the Office For the Aging are very nice to work with; it seems very well organized.”

Top photo: Got Groceries? connects people having issues with their shopping and volunteers to do it for them. Photo by Howard Owens 

Funding for Mercy Flight, Genesee County Fair, new jail construction on tap for Legislature's meeting

By Joanne Beck

Money — or the talk of it — flowed during Wednesday’s Ways and Means Committee meeting as members reviewed everything from a grant for $14,464 to a $2.9 million bridge construction contract and $414,000 related consultant fee.

These items and several others will now move onto Genesee County Legislature for final approval. The group is to meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Legislature Chamber in the Old Court House, 7 Main St., Batavia.

Legislature members are expected to vote on the elimination of a financial clerk-typist position and creation of a program manager for the Sheriff’s Office; bids and consultant agreement for South Lyon Street bridge construction; additional insurance cost to cover elements of the Genesee County Jail construction; a contract award for the jail and capital project construction; apply and accept grant funds as a budget amendment for the county’s Office for the Aging, and a related contract with Arc GLOW’s meal preparation services.

During the committee’s meeting Wednesday at Genesee Community College, Sheriff William Sheron explained that a review of the staff positions indicated that the clerk-typist role “wasn’t aligning with that title,” and he felt that a program manager better suited the duties involved.

A reclassification review conducted by the county’s Human Resources department resulted in a reclassification of the clerk-typist position to that of a program coordinator-sheriff position.

“We do have the money in our budget,” he said.

The monetary difference would be $5,616, which is covered by multiple vacancies that list in the department and have already been accounted for, the resolution states.

Jail construction costs won’t just mean the actual labor and materials, as the county’s insurance broker, Lawley Insurance, sought quotes to add a builder’s risk insurance for the construction project, a Lawley representative said during Wednesday’s meeting. The estimated tab will be up to $73,031.

“Don’t contractors have a policy to cover this type of thing?” Legislator Gary Maha said.

It’s always better for the county to have its own policy to “protect your assets,” the rep said. The extra policy would cover gaps for certain damages due to theft, for example, she said.

Add another $195,000 for special inspections and testing services during the jail building project. These services test things like the soil and asphalt, County Manager Matt Landers said. County officials will receive an inspection report within 24 to 48 hours, he said, and these services are performed for all construction projects.

Additional agenda items up for vote from the Human Services Committee include acceptance of a grant for a public health drinking water enhancement program; a Tobacco Enforcement Program; a contract with Mercy Flight/Air Medical Transfer Service; and a contract with Genesee County Agricultural Society for funding toward this year’s Genesee County Fair.

A Committee of the Whole (Genesee County Legislature) meeting is to follow at 6 p.m. to discuss Conservation Easements Opportunities in Genesee County and approve March 30 minutes.




County officials to meet with Darien Town Board over what they see as a Medicaid tax 'misunderstanding'

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers and Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein are prepared to meet with the Darien Town Board over what they say is a “misunderstanding” about the practice of including the Medicaid portion of the tax rate on the annual county tax bill.

The situation was brought to the legislature’s attention via a letter dated April 7 from the Darien Town Board on behalf of a longtime Darien Center resident who objected to having to pay $2.90 per thousand of his assessed property value toward the county’s state-mandated Medicaid costs.

The resident wrote to the town board, bemoaning the fact that he was charged $782.14 in taxes for Medicaid, this coming on top of the $340 per month that he and his wife already have deducted from their Social Security checks for Medicare.

In the letter, he suggested that instead of taxing property owners “for other persons’ Medicaid,” the county could raise the sales tax rate slightly from the current 8 percent (of which 4 percent stays in the county) to cover the cost.

The town board, in turn, drafted its letter – supporting the resident’s viewpoint.

“As most County Taxpayers, he (the resident) and his wife do not use the programs offered such as HEAP, SNAP, free medical insurance, rent subsidy, over-the-county general use cards, etc.,” the letter states. “(As the expense is applied to property owners only), this burden is not shared equally by all county residents.”

The town board’s letter indicates a sales tax increase from 4 to 4 ½ percent would generate approximately $3.1 million per year “and these funds would be dedicated to stabilizing the Medicaid tax bill.”

At Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting, Landers and the legislature addressed the resident’s concerns and the Darien Town Board’s letter and accompanying resolution that authorized mailing it to county officials.

Landers noted that the county has broken out the Medicaid share of the tax rate on its annual bill since 2004 – doing so for informational purposes.

“The county tax bill is broken up into two lines,” Landers said. “It really is the total dollar amount – the whole levy in taxes and then we have a line broken out separately for the piece that is attributable to Medicaid. This was done purely as a message to taxpayers to understand how much of their property taxes are going towards Medicaid.”

He said that each year the county uses the same formula to figure out the mandated Medicaid expense.

Landers then pointed out that the county’s 2022 tax rate was flat (at $9.16 per $1,000, which includes the $2.90 per thousand Medicaid tax) “because you remember the rates have been dropping as assessments are going up.”

“I think it’s more or less just a misunderstanding of the way our tax bill is (displayed). It’s purely informational only,” he said, noting that the real property tax office could break the rate out “into a 100 different items but that would become more complex.”

Furthermore, the county doesn’t have the authority to raise the sales tax rate, Landers said.

Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg put it another way, stating, “The idea (of placing the Medicaid portion on the tax bill) was to show the taxpayers that if we didn't have this Medicaid mandate on our backs, this is what your taxes would be.”

“If they just look at that other number ($6.25 per $1,000 of assessed value), that's where they're getting their police, their EMS (Emergency Management Services), their roads, their bridges -- everything that we do in the county is that other item, and that Medicaid is a New York state mandate,” she explained.

Clattenburg acknowledged the “misconception” has grown from one citizen to the entire Darien Town Board, “which is under the impression that we have a control over that number, which we don't.”

After several more minutes on the topic, legislators decided to respond to the town board, starting with a letter and following that up by having Landers and Stein attend a board meeting in Darien in the near future.

Legislator Brooks Hawley agreed with that, saying, “I think it would be better if it was face-to-face instead of sending letters back and forth. It could be misconstrued.”

Commitee advances measure to utilize funding entity to assist RRH's multi-county capital improvement plans

By Mike Pettinella

Updated: April 21, 4:30 p.m. with additional information about Laurie Oltramari nomination:


The Genesee County Legislature, understanding that it has zero financial liability, is expected to pass a measure to allow the Genesee County Funding Corp. to secure up to $275 million in revenue bonds to finance a wide-reaching project of the Rochester Regional Health system.

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution that describes RRH’s plan to finance or refinance capital improvement projects at several locations, including its new medical specialties building under construction on Route 98, north of the Thruway interchange in Batavia.

About $47 million in Series 2022 Bonds will be used for the “Batavia project:”

  • Construction of an approximately 105,393 square-foot medical facility on Route 98 that will house extension sites of three RRH affiliate hospitals to be used for outpatient cardiac care, women's health services, primary care, urgent care, outpatient surgical services, gastroenterology, outpatient radiology and other outpatient services;
  • Construction of approximately 56,147 square feet of related ground floor parking, and the acquisition and installation of machinery, equipment and other personal property.

A formal vote of the full legislature likely will take place at next Wednesday’s meeting at the Old Courthouse.

Last month, representatives of the Genesee County Economic Development Center proposed the idea of using the GCFC to act as a conduit bond issuer for RRH. Subsequently, the legislature voted to change the entity’s bylaws to allow for projects outside of the county as long as the business had operations in Genesee County.

RRH fits the bill as its network of hospitals and offices stretches across the state. According to the resolution passed yesterday, other capital improvement projects to utilize this round of funding will take place in the City of Rochester, Town of Potsdam, Town of Pittsford, Town of Penfield, Town of Canton and Town of Massena.

Before supporting this action, Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg asked for assurance that Genesee County bears no fiscal responsibility in the transaction. The premise of the resolution is that RRH would be able to issue bonds at a reduced interest rate by going through the GCFC.

“I support this as Rochester Regional Health has made a commitment to the county,” Clattenburg said. “It’s hard to get doctors to work in rural communities.”

In other action, the committee approved:

  • An application for a New York State Office of Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant of up to $750,000 to support La Fermiere Inc.’s plans to develop a yogurt and dessert production facility at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park on East Main Street Road in the Town of Batavia.

Per the resolution, the project will create 135 new jobs and represents a private investment of more than $20 million. If received, the grant would help finance part of the costs of machinery and equipment, including furnishing and fixtures, as well as working capital expenses.

  • The appointment of Robert Sotir of Batavia, organizer for the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 NY, to the GLOW Workforce Development Board for a term at the discretion of the GLOW chief executive officers.


It also was announced that Gov. Kathy Hochul has nominated Laurie Oltramari of Batavia to serve as a representative on the Rochester-Genesee Transportation Authority board for a term of six years.

Contacted today, Oltramari, senior library clerk at Genesee Community College, said she initially was nominated by the Genesee County Legislature and went through "a lengthy process of submitting documentation and answering questions in terms of financial disclosures, conflict of interest, background check, public officers law, and board duties."

"I received notification yesterday that I was nominated by the governor to the Senate. I am now awaiting my Senate confirmation," said Oltramari, who previously served as executive director of the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District.

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