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July 24, 2020 - 3:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jay Gsell, county legislature, news, video.
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Soon-to-be "former" County Manager Jay Gsell attended his last Legislature meeting in that role on Wednesday and was honored with a commendation from the members of the body.

Gsell retires at the end of the month after 27 years on the job.

Here is the text of commendation:

WHEREAS, Jay A. Gsell has dutifully served Genesee County for twenty-six years and three hundred and sixty-four days as County Manager beginning August 15, 1993, when his appointment became effective; And  

WHEREAS, Immediately upon his appointment, Jay applied his education and vast municipal experience to his position of county manager while immersing himself in the Genesee County community; And

WHEREAS, Jay has brought passion and energy, a positive “can-do” attitude and undying enthusiasm to the County where he served as a beacon during socially, economically, and personally challenging times; And

WHEREAS, Jay maintained a healthy respect for the delicate balance of providing quality affordable services while adhering to ever-expanding state mandates while working for thirty nine different legislators and six different legislative chairs: And

WHEREAS, During his tenure as county manager several magnanimous projects were completed; construction of a new court facility, county-wide water project, upgrades, and enhancements to the County Airport, forty-year sales tax agreement, as well as shared services initiatives, enhanced relationships with businesses and schools to name a few, and

WHEREAS, Through his unwavering commitment to community, Jay has deservedly received awards and recognition for his participation and service from the Chamber of Commerce, GCASA, United Way, HomeCare & Hospice, Rotary Club of Batavia, Leadership Genesee and YMCA, Now, Therefore Be It

RESOLVED, The Genesee County Legislature does hereby pause in its deliberations to honor and congratulate Jay A. Gsell upon the occasion of his retirement and Be it further,

RESOLVED, That heartfelt wishes are extended to Jay and his wife, Ann Marie for a retirement abundant with good health and happiness for many years to come.

March 23, 2020 - 5:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, covid-19, coronavirus, county legislature.

Open letter from Legislature Chair Shelly Stein:

Dear Friends,

This is an unsettling time for our country and our community, as we are in a public health emergency due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Your elected leaders, public health and emergency management officials are working around the clock to slow the spread of the virus and provide care to those who need it.

It is important to remember that we need to be prepared, not scared. Heed the advice of public health experts who agree that the most effective way to “flatten the curve,” or slow the spread of the virus, is to practice social distancing.

Below is some helpful information regarding COVID-19:

How can you be infected?

  • Coronavirus can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Because these droplets can travel up to six feet, public health experts advise maintaining six feet of distance from others.
  • The virus can also remain on a surface or object and enter the body through the mouth, nose, or eyes. This is why it is important to wash your hands before touching your face.

How long does it take to show symptoms after being infected?

  • It takes 2 to 14 days to develop symptoms after exposure to the virus. The average is about five days.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

When should you seek testing?

  • If you are exhibiting symptoms;
  • If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus;
  • If you have recently traveled to one of the high-risk countries.

Except in the case of an emergency, please call your healthcare provider before seeking treatment in person.

While it is normal to feel anxious, there are ways to take control of the situation and be prepared. We urge you to take the following precautions to keep yourself and our community safe.

  • Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid physical contact like handshakes and hugs.
  • Stay home if you feel sick.
  • Avoid large crowds.
  • Abstain from unnecessary travel.

What is the difference between “Safer at Home” and “Social Distancing”?

Safer at home is a stricter form of social distancing. There are some differences. Safer at home means:

  • Stay home (stay unexposed and do not expose others);
  • Only go out for essential services;
  • Stay six feet or more away from others;
  • Don’t gather in groups.

It is important during this national emergency that we unite as a community, follow the advice of experts, and take responsibility for our actions to #SlowTheSpread of coronavirus.

For more information, visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov or call the NYS Novel Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.


Rochelle M. Stein, Chair 
Genesee County Legislature                                         

On Behalf of the Genesee County Legislature

  • Marianne Clattenburg, Vice Chair, City of Batavia, Wards 2 & 3
  • Andrew Young, 2nd Vice Chair, Towns of Batavia & Stafford
  • John Hilchey, Towns of Alabama & Oakfield
  • Christian Yunker, Towns of Elba, Bergen, Byron
  • Gordon Dibble, Towns of Darien, Pembroke
  • Gregg Torrey, Towns of Alexander, Bethany, Pavilion
  • John Deleo, City of Batavia, Wards 1 & 6
  • Gary T. Maha, City of Batavia, Wards 4 & 5
January 9, 2020 - 10:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, news.


The Genesee County Legislature held its organizational meeting Wednesday evening and Shelly Stein was sworn in as the new chairwoman.

Christian Yunker was sworn in as the newest member of the legislature.

Top photo: Legislator Andrew Young places the nameplate for Shelly Stein in front of the chair's seat in the Old Courthouse, where the full Legislature meets.


Marianne Clattenburg being sworn in as vice-chair.


Andrew Young taking the oath of office as second vice-chair.


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Genesee County Legislature and Staff 2020: Front row, Andrew Young, Shelly Stein, Marianne Clattenburg; Back row, Pam LaGrou, clerk, Matt Landers, assistant county manager, John Hilchey, Christian Yunker, Gordon Dibble, Gregg Torrey, John Deleo, Gary Maha, and Jay Gsell, county manager.

November 2, 2019 - 1:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, batavia, Colin McAllister, county legislature.

Colin McAllister is a candidate for County Legislature, District 8. His opponent is Marianne Clattenburg.

If elected, what will you recommend to your fellow legislators for county priorities over the next five years?
While I look forward to working with fellow legislators to address the routine needs of the county, a major priority would be getting the county out of corporate welfare. Taking wealth from businesses and individuals to fuel the projects of the few is not morally right. I would also like to focus on challenging NYS mandates and their overreach into county affairs. Legal challenges are one avenue to actively resist the state’s control of our county budget and dictating how our elected government can operate. Together with the citizens of Genesee county and local governments in the region, I hope to come up with solutions to get power back to the local level.

What can or should the County government do to help foster business growth in Genesee County?
We need to work on getting the best tax rates for everybody year in year out, with no hoops to jump through. The county should focus on existing infrastructure needs and not projects we hope will happen. Mainly, the county should get out of the way for business wherever possible. I have faith that the business leaders in this county will excel with less government involvement.  

Should the County build a new jail?
The consensus seems to be that we need a new jail to come into compliance with current regulations and, without more in-depth knowledge, I cannot refute that. Given bail reforms’ impact, the previous estimates need to be reevaluated with a fresh perspective. The focus of jail discussion needs to be a realistic look at the county’s needs and coming into compliance with state regulations, not potential revenue from housing overflow from other sources.

Are you satisfied with the way the County has been run for the past decade or so?
To a large extent, I think the Legislature has done its very best for the residents and businesses in Genesee County. The county could stand up to state mandates and overreach in some more substantial ways. As a county, we have been too absorbed in the race to beg a business to come to us when we should actually make an environment that all businesses and residents can prosper in. 

What book first published in English since the Enlightenment has influenced your outlook on life the most?
That is a hard question. At this moment running as a third-party candidate, I would have to go with Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. With as much absurdity and excess as Hunter S. Thompson’s writing contains, it managed to challenge my thoughts on the two-party political paradigm and my understanding of politics in general. His writings provide insight into Nixon that I have yet to find elsewhere. To cover such a complicated time involving such complex people in an insightful way is impressive. Mainly, I have found in his writings, and in life, that conventional wisdom is worth challenging especially if you want meaningful change.

November 2, 2019 - 1:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Marianne Clattenburg, county legislature, news, batavia.

Marianne Clattenburg is a candidate for County Legislature in District 8. Her opponent is Colin McAllister.

If elected, what will you recommend to your fellow legislators for county priorities over the next five years?
First and foremost the main priority will remain the same, to serve the citizens of Genesee County by providing them with the services that are important to them. The second priority will be to provide those services while maintaining the fiscal stability of the county. Part of those services will be to address the growing need in the county for an increased supply of clean water. Another priority is the safety of our citizens. This includes investments in law enforcement and the construction of a new county jail. This construction has been mandated by the state, but must be implemented with the taxpayer in mind.

What can or should the County government do to help foster business growth in Genesee County?
The County has a responsibility to provide the foundational needs that businesses require to expand their existing operations and to attract new investment in the county. The primary reason to foster business is to provide for employment opportunities for our citizens and to expand our tax base. Foundational needs include investment in public works projects. It also means investing in the education and training of our workforce. Whenever possible this is done through private/public partnerships coordinated by the county’s economic development agency. Through this agency, new and existing large companies and small businesses can apply for assistance in reaching their goals of expanding their businesses and job opportunities in Genesee County.

Should the County build a new jail?
The current building that houses our jail is over 100 years old and does not meet the Department of Corrections' operational standards. It also does not allow for the housing of female inmates. The state commission has notified Genesee County that we must bring our jail up to state standards. Due to the age and structure of our existing jail, it was determined that investing in our current jail was not an option. With pressure from the state, we began to look at the options for building a new jail. The members of the legislature spent time touring existing jails to see what size and configuration would work for Genesee County. The process we are currently undergoing is determining the size of our new jail and the operational costs that will be associated with it. We are also very concerned with the financing requirements associated with a major project such as this. All the work done thus far can be found on the county’s website. I will be seeking public input on this decision and I look forward to hearing the views of my constituents. We need to build a new county jail that meets the requirements of the state, but we should build a jail that is financially acceptable to the taxpayer.

Are you satisfied with the way the County has been run for the past decade or so?
The employees who are responsible for the day to day operations of our county work extremely hard to serve our citizens. We have been fortunate to have our County Manager, Jay Gsell leading this effort. Jay and all our employees have given us a county that we can be proud of. From our senior center, veteran’s service office, public works, county parks, youth services, health, and human service providers, law enforcement and emergency services as well as our county clerk’s office, these departments exist to serve the taxpayer. The legislature has worked with our manager and his staff to implement policies that provide for the safety and well-being of our citizens. We have had our challenges and sometimes disagreements. It is challenging at times to satisfy all the required state mandates, but still maintain the service level that our county citizens expect. I believe the county has done a good job during the past decade meeting these needs.

What book first published in English since the Enlightenment has influenced your outlook on life the most?
As a Christian, the book that has influenced my life the most do not meet the language or timeframe requirement of your question. A book that I did enjoy and was thought-provoking was “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” by Mitch Albom. It explores the idea that our lives are connected to the lives of others in ways that we may not know. For those who have not read it, I strongly recommend it!

January 19, 2019 - 1:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Robert Bausch, news, bergen, notify, county legislature.


When Bob Bausch joined the County Legislature in 2010 he said he was making at least a four-year commitment to serve. Nine years later, at age 75 and with a new four-year term looming, he thinks it's time to step aside.

Bausch announced today that he's not going to seek reelection this year.

"When I was pushing for the four-year terms, I knew that at 75 I shouldn't run for a four-year term," Bausch said. "I'm in good health but I'm 75. There's no denying it."

Bausch editorialized and lobbied in support of staggered four-year terms for the county legislative members, replacing a system that had all nine members up for election every two years. County voters approved the reform in November.

Before joining the Legislature, he served as a Village of Bergen trustee for eight years and for 10 years before that, he was on Bergen's Zoning Appeals Board.

He became chairman of the County Legislature in 2017.

Once his term is up at the end of this year, after 27 years in either elected or appointed office, Bausch said he will have plenty to do to keep himself busy. He will continue to serve on the boards of community groups. He also has family spread across the country from Philadelphia to San Jose, Calif., and so will travel occasionally to see them.

"There are still things I would like to get done but I should step aside," Bausch said.

Photo: File photo.

October 21, 2018 - 10:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, news.

Statement from Genesee County Legislature Chairman Bob Bausch:

November 6th is Election Day. On the ballot is a proposal to change the term of office for county legislators from two to four years. This proposal is widely supported and now the voters are being asked for their support.

In 1967, the voters of Genesee County approved a change in the format of county government from a Board of Supervisors to a County Legislature. The term of office for the legislators was set at two years to mirror the terms of town supervisors, village mayors, town council and village board members as well as other locally elected officials.

In the last 51 years much has changed including extending the terms for many locally elected officials from two to four years. This is due to the breadth of issues and the complexity of local government; plus ever expanding mandates from state and federal governments. During this time, county legislators’ terms have remained at two years to the detriment of the county.

A few examples of the changes in county government over the last 50-plus years would be the addition of Genesee Community College, the Public Defender Office, the Genesee County Parks, the Medicaid program, Office for the Aging, countywide water program, plus numerous other programs that were initiated locally but more often mandated by the state.

During this same period, the county government budget has expanded from $9 to $158 million. Further complicating county finances is the state’s imposed property tax cap with severe penalties to counties if they exceed the tax cap.

The size and complexity of county government creates many challenges for legislators and a two-year term is not adequate to become an effective legislator. Many towns and villages have acknowledged this problem and voters have approved lengthening terms to four years. To become reasonably proficient on county issues is barely possible in two years as any newly elected legislator can attest.

An issue that all governments are facing is finding local candidates for public offices. During the past election cycles for the nine legislative seats, on average only one district seat was contested in either a primary or general election. There are many reasons fewer citizens choose not to seek elected office; the requirement to campaign every two years is among those reasons.

The proposal, if approved by the voters, would authorize staggered four-year terms, i.e.: four legislator districts would be up in one year, and two years later the other five districts would be up for election. This would allow better continuity on the legislature. Also, minority political parties and other interested organizations would be better able to concentrate their efforts.

The county legislature commissioned two countywide studies of the issue over the years, with bipartisan groups recommending an increase in term length to four years. Now it is up to the Genesee County voters, so please give this proposal your serious consideration. The proposal will appear on the back of the paper ballot on Election Day.

July 3, 2018 - 6:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, news, notify.

Eight years ago voters turned down a proposal to shift the years served in a single term for a county legislator from two years to four but the idea has resurfaced again and the county is scheduling a public hearing on the proposal for 5:30 p.m., Aug. 8, in the Old Courthouse.

The proposed change in the local law would take effect with the 2019 election and have four current members of the legislature run for four-year terms and five would run for two-year terms; then in 2021, those five final two-year term seats would become four-year terms in that election. Thus, the terms of legislators would be staggered instead of all nine members running at once.

That, said Marianne Clattenburg, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, raises the possibility that at some point in the future a majority of the legislature could consist of all new members with few experienced members.

"There's a lot to learn in this job," Clattenburg said.

Members on Monday shared a common experience: Voters surprised that somebody they seemingly just voted for coming around and asking for petition signatures for office.

"I know," Clattenberg said, "I’ll be passing out petitions and they’ll say, ‘what are you doing?’ and I’ll say, ‘I have to run again.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Well, it’s only two years.’ ‘It is?’ They just sometimes automatically assume we’re like the City Council."

Clattenberg said the County Legislature is the last elected body in the county with two-year terms.

Legislator Shelly Stein agreed.

"Whenever I’m at people’s doors with petitions they say, ‘why are you here again?’ " Stein said. "It really is the fact that they expect our terms to mirror everybody else’s in the county.”

It's up to voters to change the local law that governs the length of terms for legislators, Legislator Andrew Young noted, and said, "I think it just makes sense."

At the public hearing in 2010, two people spoke in favor of the change and two against, including former Legislator John Sackett.

"I believe that you cannot have representative government by having longer terms of office," Sackett said.

The proposal failed among voters, however, despite getting popular support in The Batavian's admittedly unscientific online polls. The Batavian ran three polls about the topic (one, two, three).

January 4, 2018 - 4:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, genesee county, news.


Gary Maha, Gordon Dibble, and John Hilchey, the three newest members of the Genesee County Legislature, along with the rest of the Legislature, took their oaths of office Wednesday night prior to the Legislature's organizational meeting at the Old Courthouse.


Robert Bausch, representing Elba, Byron, and Bergen, was chosen to chair the Legislature.


From left, Pam LaGrou, clerk to the legislators, Gary Maha, Gordon Dibble, Shelly Stein, Andrew Young, Bob Bausch, John Deleo, Marianne Clattenburg, Gregg Torrey, John Hilchey, and County Manager Jay Gsell.

November 1, 2017 - 10:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, news, batavia.

There will be local elections Nov. 7. 

The one contested race for County Legislature is in District 9 where retired Sheriff Gary Maha is challenging incumbent Ed DeJaneiro. We asked each candidate to answer five questions. Below are their verbatim responses.

Q&A with Ed DeJaneiro

If elected, what’s your #1 priority? To insist on maintaining the County Sharing of Sales Tax with the City of Batavia as agreed 16 years ago with the Water Agreement. Also if and when the County is faced with the decision to alter or build a County Jail that we explore all possible cost alternatives to include a joint jail facility with another county. State consolidation incentives may be available. We must continue to improve infrastructure roads and bridges and provide public water to county residents and businesses. We need to maintain a level property tax (stay under the 2% tax cap) and use proceeds from the sale of the nursing home if needed.

What can you do if elected to help improve the business climate
in Genesee County?
Continue to support GCEDC efforts and promote our shovel-ready industrial sites for business to move here and create jobs. Maintain a friendly governmental approach with businesses and take advantage of State and Federal incentives.

What services currently provided by the County should be cut or eliminated, if any? How and why? We need to aggressively investigate consolidation of services where ever possible and provide the current county services in a more efficient matter.

What business, leadership, or economic training and experience to you have that make you more qualified for a job on the Legislature over your opponent? I have served as a City Councilperson for 10 years, Legislator for 16 years. I have worked in private business for 38 years of which as a manager of a savings and loan for five years and as an account manager in the supply distribution industry for 33 years. I manage the accounts for over 100 small businesses in Western New York. I also have a graduate degree in Public Administration.

What one, two, or three books first published within the past 250 years has most influenced your thinking about society and government? Miracle at St. Anna, Rediscover Catholicism, The Seventh Step, My Shadow Ran Fast.

Q&A with Gary Maha:

If elected, what’s your # 1 priority? My # 1 priority is keeping taxes low and improving the quality of life in the City of Batavia and Genesee County. I would also like feedback from the residents of Wards 4 & 5 as what they perceive as priorities.

What can you do, if elected, to help improve the business climate in Genesee County? Improvement of the business climate in Genesee County must be a collaborative effort among all involved agencies, organizations, governments and the community. Including, but not limited to: Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), Batavia Business Improvement District (BID), Genesee County Legislature, Batavia City Council, County Manager, City Manager and members of the community. As a County Legislator, I would encourage such collaboration and/or facilitate such collaboration. Keeping property taxes under control is essential to improving the business climate in Genesee County and as Legislator; this would be my primary goal.

What services currently provided by the County should be cut or eliminated, if any? How and why? At this time I am not recommending any services currently provided by the County be cut or eliminated. If elected, I intend to meet with every department head to get an in-depth review of the programs and services offered and then formulate a position to determine greater efficiencies.  County departments and their programs and services need to be reviewed and evaluated annually for effectiveness and if they are cost-effective.

What business, leadership, or economic training and experience do you have that make you more qualified for a job on the Legislature over your opponent? I am in a unique position as a candidate for the County Legislature as I have served this community as their Sheriff for 29 years, overseeing a total of approximately 130 employees and an approximate 13 million dollar budget. I am familiar with County government and its operations. If elected to the County Legislature, my experience as a department head would be an asset to the residents of Wards 4 & 5 and the Genesee County Legislature. I have held leadership roles locally, in New York State and nationally. I was Past Chair of the Genesee County Traffic Safety Board; Past Chair of the Genesee County Criminal Justice Advisory Council; Past President of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association; Past Chair of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association’s Executive Committee, Past Vice-chair of the National Sheriffs’ Association’s Criminal Justice Information Systems/Technology Committee, and Past President of the Kiwanis Club of Batavia. I am a graduate of the F.B.I. National Academy, Quantico, VA where I received training in leadership, decision making, and management. I have also attended numerous courses and training seminars related to personnel management, homeland security, counterterrorism, incident command system, media relations, and law enforcement liability. This training and experience is an asset to my qualifications as a candidate for the Genesee County Legislature.

I am a lifelong resident of Genesee County and have been a resident of Vernon Avenue in the City of Batavia for almost 50 years. I have been an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Batavia for 29 years, serving the children of our community. I am a U.S. Army Veteran and have received numerous awards and accolades while serving as Sheriff of Genesee County. My wife, Susan, and I have raised our two daughters in Batavia and we care deeply for this community.

I serve as a member of Genesee Community College’s Criminal Justice Advisory Board and previously served as a member of Genesee Community College’s Housing and Ventures Committee. I also served as a member of the New York State Executive Committee on Counterterrorism, the New York State Local Law Enforcement Accreditation Council (Governor’s appointment), the New York State Interoperable & Emergency Communications Board (Governor’s appointment), and the National Sheriffs’ Association Homeland Security Committee. 

I feel my vast experience and training over the years makes me more qualified for the position of County Legislator than my opponent. I have served the people of Genesee County for my entire career and hope to continue that service as your County Legislator.

What one, two or three books first published within the past 250 years has most influenced your thinking about society and government? I recently read the book entitled “The Swamp” by Eric Bolling which discusses corruption and cronyism in Washington, DC. It was stated that cronyism involving sex, bribery, blackmail and backroom deals contradict public policies and cost taxpayers millions and billions of dollars. Personally, this is very disturbing to me being a taxpayer and the fact that I taught ethics for several years to new Sheriffs at the New Sheriffs School sponsored by the New York State Sheriffs’ Association.

I have also read several books pertaining to corruption over the years within the NYPD and books pertaining to leadership including “Leadership Under Fire” by Brigadier General Nick Halley and “Vigilance” by former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

June 18, 2015 - 4:42pm

The Genesee County Legislature objected to a salary increase in the proposed union contract with the Deputy Sheriff's Association at the Ways and Means Committee meeting Wednesday night.

The proposed contract called for a 7.5-percent salary increase over three years. County officials said the total cost of deputy salaries for three years would be more than $390,000. The contract would have covered 46 employees.

For the legislature to make a decision, Jay Gsell, county manager, provided information on deputy union contracts in adjoining counties and all of their salary increases were lower. According to county officials, the salary increases stated in deputy contracts in Orleans County and Livingston County were 2 percent for two years.

"I think based on the numbers involved and what it's going to cost the county I think it's excessive," Legislature Chair Raymond Cianfrini said. "If this contract came from any other union in the county, I would have had the same objection."

The legislature recently approved a management salary schedule for an average 1-percent increase for five years in an attempt to bring nonunion employees in line with what they pay union employees. According to Cianfrini, if the legislature approved the Deputy Sheriff's Association contract it would be unfair to other management employees.

Cianfrini hopes to resolve the contract issue with the Deputy Sheriff's Association as soon as possible.

January 23, 2015 - 2:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature.

County government involves a $140 million budget, more than 700 employees in 27 departments, guided by a myriad of state and local laws, a tiered committee and commission structure and covering topics as diverse as criminal justice, mental health, roads and bridges and government assistance programs.

It would be impossible for any new member of the Genesee County Legislature to "hit the ground running."

The shared wisdom among local government observers is it takes at least a year to get even a basic knowledge of how the county operates.

With that in mind, the Legislature's newest member, Darien's Mike Davis, is taking a measured approach to learning his new job.

He's attending every committee meeting he can, making the rounds to various county departments and listening and reading.

"I need to learn what it's all about," Davis said. "I need to go to all of them (committee meetings) right now to understand the breadth of what's going on. Jay (Gsell, county manager) has taken me to on maybe a one-third tour of the county departments to meet the department heads and employees, and I'll continue to do that. We're going to schedule another one next week. I'll try to see who all these people are -- some 700 employees -- and figure out who does what and where."

Davis was a town justice in Darien and he said he's taking the same approach he did when first appointed to the bench: work hard and learn.

"I think I use common sense, and that's how I'm going to approach this," Davis said.

Davis's first committee assignment is Human Services, taking the slot once filled by Annie Lawrence, who is now supervisor in the Town of Pembroke.

Appointed to the office, he'll run for election in November.

January 8, 2015 - 10:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, pembroke, Darien.

A Town of Darien justice has been tapped to become the newest member of the Genesee County Legislature.

Michael Davis, a town justice for about five years and employee of the Upstate Niagara Milk Cooperative, will replace Annie Lawrence, who resigned to become Town of Pembroke supervisor.

County Republicans selected Davis to fill the vacant seat -- which must be filled under county law by a person from the same party as the person who left the seat -- and Wednesday, the Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to recommend the appointment to the full legislature.

The legislative vote is expected at the start of its meeting next week and Davis would be sworn into office immediately. 

Before then, Davis is expected to resign as town justice.

The committee also reappointed Lori Longhany as the Democratic Party's commissioner on the Board of Elections.

Also on Wednesday, the committee approved the hiring of Ruth Spink as director of the Office for the Aging, who will replace Pamela Whitmore. Whitmore is retiring at the end of the month.

June 12, 2014 - 1:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, county legislature, dairy queen.

In honor of Dairy Month, the Genesee County Legislature presented Dairy Princess Kayla Wormuth with a proclamation recognizing the contribution dairy makes to the local economy and the nutrition of people. Legislator Shelly Stein, right, presented the resolution. Also participating were dairy ambassadors Becca Slattery and Mary Sweeney, and Georgia Luft, dairy maid.


April 1, 2014 - 11:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature.

Amid the piles of papers on the glass-topped conference table in the Old Courthouse yesterday were shiny new iPad Airs.

Each member of the Legislature had one and with varying degrees of success were trying to adjust to reading their agenda and background material on the Gorilla Glass screens. Some members found everything they needed on the tablets. Others still sifted through papers.

It's going to be an adjustment, Chairman Ray Cianfrini said, as the Legislature tries to go paperless. The county won't be able to quit paper cold turkey.

"It's new. We're learning," Cianfrini said. "Everything I'm seeing, though, this is going to transform the way we do business and it will save money. I think it's great. I've been advocating for us to go paperless since I first came on the Legislature when I saw how much paper we generate."

According to Cianfrini, the county spends $35,000 a year on printing agendas and back-up material for the nine members of the Legislature. They go through 1,098 cartons of paper a year, printing on more than five million sheets of paper.

The iPads should eventually eliminate all most all of that paper, Cianfrini said.

Newer members of the Legislature such as Greg Torrey, above with Bob Bausch, and Andrew Young, acted a bit as mentors during the Human Service Committee meeting, helping other members learn how to use their new iPads. Young recommended members change a setting so the iPads wouldn't go to sleep after two minutes of not being touched (requiring a new login to see the screen). Torrey showed Bausch how to access something on the iPad.

"We have an excellent working group," Young said. "From a personal perspective, this is all new to me over the last three months and I've had more than my share of help, so if I can help somebody change the time on their iPad, it's a bit of a payback."

Bausch said there is a learning curve and adjustment, but he also thinks the switch is necessary.

"We don't have any choice," Bausch said. "We have to go this direction just because of the amount of paper we push every week. There's just some fine-tuning to work on managing it."

The one concern Bausch has is the perception of speakers during committee meetings. Will they still feel Legislators are paying attention to them when they've all got computers open in front of them?

"It's one thing when you've got a pile and you glance down and glance back up," Bausch said. "It's a different perception than when you're looking at a computer screen. For our regular visitors who come in only once or twice a year I want to make sure they feel comfortable and make sure we don't look like a bunch of geeks sitting there messing with our computers."

Cianfrini shares that concern and said it's one of the things Legislators will need to learn to manage.

"Remember, this is all new to us," Cianfrini said. "We're just learning as we go. I'm just waiting for the time I can say, 'we made it. We're paperless.' "

January 15, 2014 - 8:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, Oakfield, Ray Cianfrini.

The Ray Cinanfrini era of the Genesee County Legislature has officially begun and the lifelong Oakfield resident certainly has some plans to try and make an impact.

In the top drawer of the desk in his county office Cianfrini keeps a sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece paper filled from top to bottom with ideas he would like to pursue.

Whether any of them are ever brought forward, pan out or receive the support of the other eight members of the county's legislative body, only time will tell.

"I think this job is going to be a challenge," Cianfrini said. "We have a group of legislators who are dedicated. We have some new members who are young and energetic. I'm excited, but I'm also a little scared. Whatever happens, I'm going to give it everything I've got to ensure the county is in as good of shape, if not better, than when I took over."

Cianfrini, who served seven years as the mayor in Oakfield before being elected to the Legislature in 2007, replaces Mary Pat Hancock, who held the chair for 13 years.

Hancock's former office has been cleared of its mementos, photos and paintings. The walls are now bare. Since taking over the job, Cianfrini said, he simply hasn't had time to deal with decorations.

"I used to say I was a full-time attorney and a part-time legislator," Cianfrini said. "I think the roles have been reversed right now."

The job will be daunting, no doubt, in a time when state government is more and more burdensome, infrastructure is aging and the county struggles to find ways to grow its economic base, there's nothing easy about leading a whole county.

Cianfrini is an unabashed booster of Genesee County, but he's also more than aware of the problems we face.

"I don't like the idea that we might lose industry," Cianfrini said. "I hope we're able to maintain the high level of active, large employers we have. Agriculture, of course is a big industry for us and we have the two new yogurt plants, so I'm hoping our dairies will be around for a long time. If anything scares me, I would hope crime does not seep into Genesee County. I know we have crime, but I hope we don't get the overflow of crime that seems more prevelent in the larger cities around us. And I worry about whether our children will have a place to find jobs locally."

That focus on jobs and industry is one reason Cianfrini appointed himself as the Legislature's representative on the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board.

While Cianfrini has gained a reputation as something of a GCEDC critic at a time when many local residents worried about seeming excesses in the agency, Cianfrini said his position about the IDA is often misunderstood.

"My criticism in the past has been focused on their operations, their internal operations, in particular their compensation for employees," Cianfrini said. "I've never criticized the GCEDC in their performance. I think they do a bang-up job. I think they're intelligent and hard-working people. I'm not in there with an agenda. I'm not there to impose on them any of my particular feelings. I'm there to learn more about the GCEDC. I'm there to help, if I can."

Top on Cianfrini's agenda is assisting the development of the STAMP (Science, Technology & Advanced Manufacturing Park) project in Alabama, which is part of his district.

"I'm a huge supporter of STAMP," Cianfrini said. "It's a transformational project that's going to be a tremendous economic boost for Genesee County."

It's in the county's best interest, Cianfrini believes, for GCEDC to succeed in attracting new business and growing local industries and he's supportive of those goals.

"I know this may sound crazy, but I'm going to be there rooting for them to achieve their goals and create new opportunities for economic development."

At the same time, he said, he's mindful of his responsibility to provide both oversight and communication about GCEDC activities for the rest of the Legislature.

"I am there as the only representative of the county Legislature, so I will scrutinize what goes on. If there's issues that I think need to be addressed, I'll bring those back to the Legislature," Cianfrini said. "I did not put myself on the board soley for the purpose of changing the way in which they do business. I'm there to learn. I'm there to offer any assistance I can, but if there's something I don't think is right, I'll be, as most people know, the first person to bring that to the attention of the Legislature."

The 68-year-old Cianfrini graduated from Oakfield-Alabama High School in 1963. His undergrad degree is from the University at Albany and he was drafted into the Army after his first year in law school. Following a two-year hitch, Cianfrini completed his law degree in 1972 and moved back to Oakfield.

He has practiced law in Oakfield for 42 years.

He's married. His wife, Karen, is a nurse at UMMC. They have three children.

Their oldest son, Michael, 39, is also an attorney. He and his wife, Melissa, worked for big law firms in Pittsburgh, but decided they wanted to move to Oakfield to practice law and joined Cianfrini's law firm more than 10 years ago. Late in 2013, Michael Cianfrini was appointed deputy county clerk. Melissa Cianfrini is in her third year as an assistant district attorney.

Daughter Christy Connor is an epidemiologist in San Diego. She and her husband have three children.

The Cianfrini's youngest son, Steve, 33, served eight years in the Army as a combat helicopter pilot, with an 18-month tour in Iraq, where his helicopter was once shot down, and a tour that included heavy combant in Iraq. In search of a more tranquil life, Steve left the Army not long ago and took a job in Grand Rapids, Mich., as a postal carrier.

Not too many months ago, when asked about the anticipated vacancy in the Legislature's chair, Cianfrini demurred, expressed little interest.

That changed, he said, when Annie Lawrence, the more senior Republican on the Legislature, made it clear to her colleagues that she didn't want the job. 

Cianfrini decided he was up for the challenge and that he could make the time to do the job right.

"The way I look at it, there was county government for 200 years before I came in and there will be county government, hopefully, for 200 years after I leave," Cianfrini said. "I just want to make sure while I'm here at the helm that government runs efficiently at the lowest cost."

The job is important, Cianfrini said, because Genesee County is important.

"I just love Genesee County," Cianfrini said. "I think anybody who has been born here has difficulty giving it up. We have two major metro areas around us. If we want to go to a football game, if we want to go to the opera, or to a show or shopping, we have it. The beauty is, we've got the serenity of Genesee County. It's a beautiful area. It's a great place to raise children. I think the school systems are excellent. Why give that up to go someplace where you don't know what you're getting into?"

To help make this an even better place to live, there are some ideas Cianfrini would like to pursue.

For example, he thinks the Legislature should take a look at public safety in county-run buildings.  He wants to, maybe, propose opening up the County Park in Bethany to bow hunters during bow season. That would generate revenue for the county and also help deal with the exploding deer population in the park. Perhaps, he said, the county government should go paperless, with Legislators carrying around iPads instead of binders and folders. He would like to look at a public-private partnership to build more hangars at the Genesee County Airport.

That's just a part of the list he keeps in the top drawer of his desk.

He also anticipates working out an agreement with the GCEDC that would lessen the burden on taxpayers to help support the agency.

Last year, the county supplemented GCEDC's revenue (which comes mostly from fees paid by businesses that use the agency's services) with a $215,000 expenditure. 

Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, has always argued that the county government needs "skin in the game" to prove to site locators that economic development is supported in Genesee County, and that the money helps GCEDC balance its books.

Cianfrini has another approach he would like to try and be thinks just might fly.

"I've talked with GCEDC and they're willing to talk now about the possibility of working out a formula that might minimize the county's contribution," Cianfrini said. "At times when their cash flow is good, we don't pay as much taxpayer money to support them, but on the other hand, when maybe money is tight, or revenue is drying up, maybe we increase our contribution rather than have a fixed amount. They seem willing to talk about adjusting that payment."

Now that Cianfrini has a more comprehensive responsibility in Genesee County than just representing one district, or just chairing one committee, he's working hard to get to know the rest of the county's business, learning as much as he can as quickly as he can about all of the county's departments.

He sees his role as a facilitator to develop and implement policy, and that means he needs to really understand the nuts and bolts of county government.

"I kind of look at it like this," Cianfrini said. "From a team perspecitve, we're like a football team. The people are the owners of the team. The taxpayers are the owners. The Legislature, we are kind of the board of directors to set the policy for the team. Jay Gsell, our county manager, is kind of the general manager of the team. Our department heads, they're the coaches. They're the ones working with the players. The players are the employees. I'm seeing my job as the chairman of the Legislature as one to help move policy along and to maybe offer some fresh ideas."

Asked if he thinks his new job makes him one of the more powerful people in Genesee County, Cianfrini said, no, not really.

"I think I can influence certain things, what things will come before the Legislature," Cianfrini said. "I think I can influence the direction we may be going in. If that means power, so be it, but I don't think of it as a powerful job. I don't want power. I don't seek power. I want efficiency and I want results. That's where I'm coming from."

November 12, 2013 - 4:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, Elections, Le Roy.

A one-vote margin was all the difference needed to elect Michael Welsh town justice in Le Roy.

He beat Scott McCumskey 817-816, according to the Genesee County Elections Commission, which completed counting absentee ballots from last week's election.

In the other closely watched and tight race, incumbent Ed DeJanerio held onto his 21-vote margin over challenger Bob Bialkowski for a 405-372 victory.

November 6, 2013 - 12:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, election, county legislature.

With only 21 votes separating the two candidates for the District 9 seat on the County Legislature and 100 absentee ballots yet to be counted, neither incumbent Ed Dejanerio nor challenger Bob Bialkowski were interested in predicting the outcome of the race.

"I'm in the minority and who knows," Dejanerio said, acknowledging his role as the sole Democrat on the Legislature as well as the slight registration advantage for the GOP in District 9. "I do my best and that's all I can do."

Both candidates worked hard, they said of each other, and presented a stiff challenge throughout the campaign.

The unofficial tally has Dejanerio up 362 to 341.

Dejanerio is simply hard to beat, Bialkowski said.

"There's a lot of Democrats in the district," Bialkowski said. "Ed's been there a long time. Ed's a likable sort of guy. People like Ed. I'm pleased I've done as well as I have. Other people have tried running against Ed but have never done so well."

City GOP Chairman Matt Landers agreed.

"It's hard to beat an incumbent," Landers said. "Ed's been there a long time. He's beaten Republicans in the past. Bob worked really hard and we'll see how it breaks."

Things broke better for the GOP in the other three contested Legislature races.

Shelly Stein beat Earl Funderburk 1087 to 427 in District 5. Gregg Torrey beat incumbant Esther Leadley, a Republic who didn't get her party's nomination, 706 to 373, and the race was apparently made closer by the presence of a Libertarian on the ballot. Marianne Clattenburg beat Bill Fava 385 to 271 with Bob Brown picking up 82 votes.

"Bob did hurt us," Landers said. "We were worried that he would peel off Republican votes and it was relatively close between Marianne and the Democrat."

None of the big issues facing the County Legislature seemed to play a role in voters' decisions, based on the feedback candidates were getting while walking precincts. Voters rarely mentioned the nursing home, the Genesee County Economic Development Center, mandates, or hiring more jail guards.

People were concerned about taxes, but in the District 9 race, there isn't much difference on the issue between Dejanerio and Bialkowski.

"People are against any kind of property tax increase," Bialkowski said. "People in the city are hard pressed right now and when they hear that they're going to have a public hearing on going over the tax cap, that doesn't sit well with people. It doesn't sit well with me."

Top photo: Ed Dejanerio, city council candidate Diana Kastenbaum with Pat Burke at O'Lacy's while awaiting election results.

Matt Landers congratulates Gregg Torrey on his District 6 victory.

June 19, 2013 - 3:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, county legislature, GCEDC.

It's not every year that a local election has at least one issue that might sway voters. With all the attention garnered by the Genesee County Economic Development Center since the last County Legislature election, this November the opinions candidates hold on GCEDC funding and its policies might be an important issue for voters. We thought it a worthwhile public service to get candidates on the record on this issue as soon as they were declared candidates.

In posing the questions to the GOP candidates -- the first group to declare -- we found not all of the candidates agreed with that assessment.

We received objections to answering questions along the lines that it was too soon; wait until the election is closer; "my position is already well known"; and, most surprising, that candidates shouldn't have to answer questions before all of the candidates are declared.

There is apparently some concern that since there's still weeks left for candidates to declare, some candidates thought they shouldn't be asked policy questions until after the filing deadlines. None of the candidates explicitly stated that they fear their answers might prompt another candidate to enter the race. They did express concern that they would be sharing opinions that would be read by potential opponents before those opponents needed to answer the questions.

That's not a line of thinking The Batavian finds terribly persuasive. Any candidate should be willing to speak openly and publicly about their positions without fear of the political repercussions. If an opinion might spur another candidate to enter the race, well, then, that's good for democracy. If a candidate lacks sufficient confidence in a position that it will be easily targeted by opposition, then perhaps he or she should reconsider that position.

The filing deadlines are July 11 for candidates running on an established party line, and Aug. 20 for a candidate running as an independent (creating his or her own party line).

Below are the answers to our three GCEDC-related questions we received from six of the declared Republican candidates, the three declared Democrats and the lone independent to enter the race so far. After the three questions are statements we received from the three candidates who did not answer the questions. 

Question 1: Traditionally, there has been an item in the county budget to transfer money to GCEDC to assist funding the operations of the agency. Last year,  GCEDC received $215,000 in the county budget. Do you support continuing this fund transfer to GCEDC, or should it be eliminated or modified?

Shelley Stein, incumbent, Dictrict 5: The Genesee County Legislature has supported GCEDC at approximately 20% of the GCEDC 2013 approved budget. Moving forward I would support same level of funding to provide for foundational costs of GCEDC operations. Eighty percent of GCEDC’s budget must be derived from providing services and collecting fees for services from business community, grants and contractual annuity payments, not taxpayer dollars. Additionally, LeRoy Business Council and small businesses located in LeRoy are very supportive of the foundational funding of the GCEDC.

Earl Funderburk, challenger, District 5: I do not support the continuation of county budget funds to GCEDC. They have millions of dollars from fees and no longer require funds from the county.

Esther Leadley, incumbent, District 6: Every year the upcoming County budget gets several months of intense scrutiny – by the whole legislature, not just a committee. GCEDC’s funding request is always included in that scrutiny. Please note that State and Federal mandates continually erode the County legislators’ ability to provide a quality of life that Genesee County residents have come to expect.

We legislators have already begun general discussions about the 2014 budget. As we go forward, I am confident GCEDC’s funding request, when it is received, will be one of the topics of discussion. I will weigh all input and make my decision at that time.

Please also note that companies considering making a significant investment in Genesee County want concrete evidence that the County’s leadership has financial “skin in the game.”

Gregg Torrey, challenger (GOP endorsed), District 6: Every item included in the County budget needs be evaluated and that includes the funding which assists the operations of the GCEDC. With the increasing pressure put on County Government by State and Federal unfunded mandates each department must justify its funding request.

I was encouraged to see that the incentive compensation system at the GCEDC was eliminated last year. I am now more confident that the funding is directed to the intended purpose of supporting the economic development mission for the County.

With that being said, the EDC has shown a tremendous return on investment for the County and makes the County money while its funding is only a very small portion of the overall budget (under 1%). The County funding also shows that we are committed to investing in ourselves and the County’s support of the EDC’s efforts which include leveraging other State and Federal money. This support of the GCEDC does not go unnoticed during the attraction process when potential companies are considering bringing investment into our community.

Marianne Clattenburg, incumbent, District 8: My position on this issue is well documented and on the record. This was my first budget vote as a new legislator and I took the opportunity to voice the concerns that many of my constituents have expressed regarding GCEDC funding.  Many opposed the salary and bonus structure of the organization. My position is that public employees who enjoy the benefits of a NYS retirement should not receive bonuses. The second reason I did not support the funding was that I wanted to send a strong message to the GCEDC that redevelopment must also become a priority of the organization. I represent the City of Batavia. We have needs and issues that are different than those of the rural towns around us. If the GCEDC is going to work as the county’s public benefit corporation dedicated to development, then it must strive to improve all areas of the county. I will dedicate my second term to working with the organization to see that this is done. My future support would be contingent upon the organization's willingness to work toward the goals of redevelopment, particularly in the City of Batavia.

William Fava, challenger, District 8: I would support a modification of the amount transferred from Genesee County to the GCEDC Agency. Originally, the agency needed the start up fund support, but now the agency has been successful in meeting yearly goals. The Agency has increased internal manpower to parallel anticipated growth and created sub organizations to minimize potential legal problems for Genesee County. In addition, the Agency continues to look forward (to) bringing in more business growth opportunities to the area…from all points of view, this State/County endeavor appears to be a success for the County. Modifications should be appropriate over the next few budget cycles to bring the annual fund down to a more reasonable amount. In doing this, the Agency can continue to document County support in any advertisement to a potential customer. The appearance of “Lack of County Support” has been mentioned many times during previous discussions concerning a decrease in funding…this is  simply a reduction, not an elimination of the fund. A modification would be a win-win solution for the Agency and the County taxpayer.

Ed deJaneiro, incumbent, District 9: It now appears that the GCEDC finances are strong enough to continue without a County contribution.

Bob Bialkowski, challenger, District 9: I am very prudent when it comes to spending tax dollars so I would insist on a complete accounting of this expenditure. The way the state has the EDCs set up is that if you want to participate you have to pay. This means that if the county doesn’t support the GCEDC we won’t be considered for the grants the EDC receives, so yes I would vote to continue this support. Genesee County has done very well for itself considering that in a recent survey New York State placed 49th in economic development out of 50, but here we have seen tremendous growth. Last week Texas announced that it was aggressively marketing for New York businesses to move there. They have no state tax. New York needs to learn to treat all business the same and discontinue making special deals.

Andrew Young, candidate, District 4: Yes, I support the County investing in its goal of creating jobs, promoting business capital investment (which converts to tax base) and keeping our kids in our community.

Frank Ferrando, incumbent, District 7: As you indicated, the $215,000, or an amount similar, has been transferred to the GCEDC for several years. It’s not new. What I believe was disturbing to most local citizens was the bonus pay model used by the GCEDC with the assumption that the subsidy supported the bonuses. I and two colleagues on the Legislature voted against last year’s budget in objection to that practice. Bonuses are no longer a part of the GCEDC’s compensation practice. This year I will vote for the subsidy if the GCEDC Board presents to the Legislature a detailed description of a specific project the subsidy will be used to support. A demonstration of support by the County is important and it represents about .1 percent of our overall budget.

More after the jump. Click on the headline to read more.

June 8, 2013 - 8:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, county legislature, alexander, Pavilion, Bethany.

It smarted, Esther Leadley, when she didn't get the GOP's endorsement for the District 6 seat on the Genesee County Legislature.

The incumbent legislator vowed not to run a primary against the endorsed candidate, Greg Torrey, but that doesn't mean she will give up her seat without a fight.

Leadley announced today that she is running in November's general election.

"I am challenging the endorsed candidate for the District 6 seat on the Genesee County Legislature," Leadley said. "District 6 consists of the towns of Alexander (which includes the Village of Alexander), Bethany and Pavilion. I believe my experience on the Legislature and knowledge of the district and county are of considerable value to District 6 and all residents of the county."

It's been a challenge, Leadley said, to learn the ins-and-outs of running as an independent candidate.

"It smarted when I wasn't endorsed but I never lost my footing and my integrity is intact," Leadley said. "It took several weeks to decide what to do with what had been handed to me.  The outcome of this challenge will be decided at the polls in November."

Leadley also said running primary elections add to county expense and so it's better to run in the general election if she wants to retain her seat.

The new voting machines create an enormous cost because they have to be moved from and back to the controlled storage space," Leadley said. "Staffing at the polls and paper ballots add to the costs. District 6 taxpayers should not have to pay for a political disagreement. The County Board of Elections also sustains large expenses for a primary. Indirectly, those costs come out of taxpayers' pockets at the County level as well. In effect, District 6 taxpayers would pay twice for a primary. I would be irresponsible if I were to force a primary."

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