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Don Read

Former GC Clerk Don Read to be feted Nov. 7 at Terry Hills

By Billie Owens

Plans are being made to honor Don Read, former Genesee County Clerk who retired on Sept. 11, with a dinner at Terry Hills Restaurant. He served as county clerk for 22 years.

It is planned for Saturday, Nov. 7th, with social hour starting at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7. Cost is $30 per person.

To reserve a seat, send your check -- made out to Richard Siebert -- to P.O. Box 171, Batavia NY 14021.

Also, if anyone would like to participate honoring Mr. Read, please let Mr. Siebert know.

Clerk's office offering cards to veterans that carry discounts with local merchants

By Howard B. Owens

Genesee County Clerk Don Read has organized a program to help honor and reward U.S. military veterans.

It's called "Return the F.A.V.O.R." and provides registered veterans with a card that can be presented to some local merchants for discounts on goods, services and meals.

"We need to show the veterans, beyond that first day they come back and beyond Veteran's Day, how much their service has meant to Genesee County," Read said. "We would not be in the position we're in as a county, as a state, as a nation if it weren't for the veterans and the service they have put in."

The program requires veterans to visit the County Clerk's Office and present their DD214, which serves another purpose for Read, who wants to see all veterans keep copies their DD214s on file with the clerk's office for safekeeping and easy retrieval should the veteran's copy get lost.

A DD214 is a federal document that proves both honorable discharge and military service and is required for a wide range of veterans services.

Some 40 merchants have signed up so far to offer discounts to veterans who show a copy of the "Return the F.A.V.O.R." card, including Delavan's, Oliver's, Settler's, Lambert's Design Jewelers, Valle Jewelers, Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles, Batavia Downs, Roc-City Total Care Care and Tire, Ken Barrett Chevrolet and Kreative Design Kitchen & Bath. (For a fill list, click here).

The card costs $3 and the program adds no extra costs to taxpayers.

Any veteran of any era with a valid DD214 is eligible to receive the card.

County Clerk pushing to get EZPass sold at DMV

By Howard B. Owens

Soon, Gensee County residents could have another convenient location -- and perhaps one of the more logical places -- to buy EZPass for Thruway tolls -- the local DMV office.

On Wednesday, County Clerk Don Read received approval from the Ways and Means Committee (the proposal must also be approved by the full Legislature) to establish a funding mechanism to buy EZPass stickers to resell at the DMV and County Clerk's office.

"We’d like to be the first one in the county where somebody could come in, know they’re traveling this weekend and pick up an EZPass and they can use it immediately," Read said.

The idea started at a meeting of the state's county clerks in Albany, Read said, when the Thruway Authority met with the clerks and offered to allow them to start selling the automatic toll passes.

Getting started takes some effort, according to Read, from getting funding approval -- the passes must be paid for in advance -- to filling out a tightly spaced eight-page application.

If the program doesn't work, though, Read said, the County won't be out any money. Any unsold EZpasses can be returned to the Thruway Authority for a full refund.

State's fund 'sweep' makes liars out of local officials, chief clerk complains

By Howard B. Owens

It's called a "sweep." Imagine if all the money for the state's various special funds were on a big table, and Gov. David Paterson reached out his arm and dragged it across the top of those stack of bills and pushed the greenbacks into a giant gunny sack labeled, "General Fund."

New York has been doing it for years -- taking money earmarked for dozens of special programs, collected from dedicated fees, and using the funds to make up budget imbalances.

"Much of it is money that would be expended but the time has not come up yet for it to be spent," said County Clerk Don Read. "In (sweeping), they tend to make liars out of us who have to collect that money and tell people (what it’s used for)."

Two examples out of the County Clerk's Office: document fees and snowmobile license fees. The state has taken more than $500,000 from that fund over the past three years, Read said.

The first fee is used to fund grants for cities, schools, libraries and other smaller agencies to store, maintain and retain important records, and to modernize old systems.The snowmobile fee -- $90 for a non-snowmobile club member, $45 for members -- is used to maintain trails and facilities for snowmobilers.

Paterson's office is planning a $1 million sweep from the snowmobile fund this year.

"By sweeping out that money, there’s less to distribute to the grants, so a number of grants just don’t get funded," Read said. "Yet, we still have to tell the people that’s what we collect the money for."

The New York Post recently ran a story about Albany sweeping $8.5 million from a fund dedicated to building a veteran's retirement home.

Photo: Don Read from a previous story about license plates.

Passport office in WNY will help in urgent situations, says County Clerk

By Howard B. Owens

There are a couple of places in Genesee County where you can go to get a passport, such as the post office or the County Clerk's office, so Rep. Chris Lee's indefatigable push to get a regional passport office in Western New York seemed a little over done.

Yesterday, I e-mailed County Clerk Don Read and asked him to clarify the urgent need for such an office.

Read explained that normal processing through his office can take 4 to 6 weeks, and eight weeks during peak periods. There is a process for expedited processing, but these options are either inconvenient or expensive.

June 1, The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative takes effect and it will require passports or passport cards for people traveling to and from Canada.

Read said the change in travel requirements will catch more people by surprise as unexpected trips arrive.  A passport office in WNY will make urgent acquisitions of passports easier.

"Many people are preparing for this by obtaining one of the acceptable documents, but there will be many whose travel to Canada will not be anticipated or routine," Read said. "These are the cases where a Passport Agency in Western New York will be extremely valuable and will provide our area with the same type of service which already exists in other areas across the norther border and also the southern border.  The Niagara Frontier is one of the busiest access points to Canada."

Lee's and Rep. Brian Higgin's constant attention to this issue seems to have paid off. On Friday, Lee put out a press release stating that the State Department has agreed to open a passport agency office in the Buffalo-Niagrara Falls region.

In a joint statement, the lawmakers applauded the State Department’s decision, while cautioning that it was not yet official:“The State Department has informed us of its intention to open a passport office in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls region. This is great news for Western New Yorkers, who currently have to travel to New York City or Detroit to acquire a passport in short order, all while living just miles from one of the nation’s busiest border crossings. Of course, this is just the beginning of a process, but we are confident that at the end of the day, Western New Yorkers will have access to this one-stop shop for passports. In the meantime, we will continue to work with federal, state, and local officials to ensure the implementation of the next phase of WHTI goes as smoothly as possible for local residents and businesses.”

County Clerk's Lincoln collection

By Howard B. Owens

Don Read was kind  enough to show me around the County Clerk's office today. When I arranged the tour, I didn't expect to find a mini-Lincoln museum.  Read has been collecting Lincoln memorabilia since he was a teenager, he said. What you see in the picture is only portion of the items on display at the clerk's office.  Read has also topped a line of file cabinets along one wall with a collection of Lincoln books.  Among The display alone is worth a trip to the clerk's office. After work today, Read was off to another auction where he heard there were a number of Lincoln-related items available.

County Clerk and District Attorney begin campaigns for re-election

By Howard B. Owens

County Clerk Don Read and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman announced their campaigns for re-election Friday at Larry's Steakhouse.

Because of a prior commitment in Monroe County, I was unable to attend. 

Read sends along the following statement:

I would like to briefly say that I have been proud to serve the residents of our County for four terms as the County Clerk.  We have a fantastic staff who really knows what service to our residents constituents means and believes in what they are doing.  I still love the work, the challenges, and especially the people who we serve.  There are still several things that I had hoped to accomplish as County Clerk which are not complete.  I look forward to the opportunity to continue working to improve accessibility to the records, to preserving the older records for the historical heritage of our county, and to providing the best possible experience for our residents in handling their motor vehicle transactions, real estate recordings, passport applications, pistol permit records, etc. 

County Clerk warns about deed scam

By Howard B. Owens

County Clerk Don Read warns that companies are sending out mailers attempting to entice home owners into buying copies of their deeds at highly inflated prices.

While the price for a certified copy of a deed in Genesee County can run from $5 to $10, some companies are charging as much as $50 for the same document.

Here's Read's press release:

Genesee County Clerk Don Read advises property owners to beware of a spreading deed copy scam.  Property owners may receive a mail or e-mail solicitation offering to do the research and secure a certified copy of the deed to their real estate for a fee of $50 to $60.  One of the companies offering to do this is “New York Retrieval, Inc.” You can obtain that same certified copy from the County Clerk’s Office for $5 to $10 depending upon the length of the deed.  If you desire just a plain (uncertified copy) the fee will be between $2 and $5.  If you receive a solicitation such as this either notify the County Clerk or just discard it.  If you would like a copy of your deed, you can write, call or stop by the County Clerk’s Office.  It only takes a few minutes to obtain the copy. 

Area political leaders call attention to new gun legislation making its way through Albany

By Howard B. Owens

Four prominent area elected officials -- all Republicans -- gathered on the steps of the old Genesee County courthouse today to call attention to legislation that shows every sign of being enacted that will curb the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer led the press conference, which included Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Sheriff Gary Maha and County Clerk Don Read.

The four men underscored three key points: The legislation will do nothing to curb crime, it is out of step with the interests of upstate New York, and it will burden county governments with yet one more unfunded mandate.

While there are more than a dozen new gun restrictions being pushed by legislative Democrats, the key piece of legislation under fire by Ranzenhofer today would require the renewal of gun carry permits every five years.

Both Ranzenhofer and Hawley noted that such legislation will do nothing to deter criminals, who don't bother with gun permits anyway.

"Basically what you have legislators from New York City who feel it might be appropriate in their community trying  to impose their New York City will on Genesee County," Ranzenhofer said.

Here are five related documents (PDF):

I had a couple of video problems -- sound, misbehaving tripod, chiefly -- with covering the press conference today, but the worse problem is that I had to change tapes (it seem that long ago that I started a new tape) during the PC, and that tape somehow did not make it home with me tonight for editing.  Below is what little video I have available now, where in Ranzenhofer, at the very end, sums up some of the key points of opposition to the legislation.

UPDATE 5/4/09:  I got ahold of the other tape and pulled off what was recoverable, which was statements by Hawley, Maha and Read

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