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Volunteers needed for United Way Day of Caring on May 23

By Press Release

Press Release:

United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes is hosting its annual Day of Caring on May 23. Day of Caring is the largest single day of volunteering in the region. Six counties, including Genesee, Ontario, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, and Wyoming will mobilize over 6,000 volunteers on May 23.

The dedicated committee of volunteers in Genesee County has helped to match agencies with volunteers for 15 years! Hundreds of volunteers in Genesee County will work together to meet the needs of dozens of local agencies and non-profits.

By participating in these engaging, hands-on projects, volunteers help create a brighter future for local communities and help those in need.  

There are still volunteer spots available and agencies to support in Genesee County. Sign up as an individual, or as a team with friends, family, or colleagues using the contact information below for a fun-filled day of giving back to the community! Register to volunteer in Genesee County by April 19 to receive a T-shirt. Registration for volunteer opportunities will be open until May 10.

Join us for the Genesee County Day of Caring kickoff on May 23 at Dwyer Stadium, starting at 8 a.m.

Looking to volunteer in Genesee County? Contact Caitlin Farnung at caitlin.farnung@unitedwayrocflx.org or (585) 242-6517.  

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Reach out to MarcAnthony Bucci at arcanthony.bucci@unitedwayrocflx.org or (585) 242-6449 to learn more. 

Genesee County Park staff prepared for eclipse visitors on Monday

By Steve Ognibene
Left to Right pictured Ashley MCKeown, acorns friends group Claudia Nusstein program coordinator, Brad Nickerson acorns friends group preparing the public for many events at Genesee County Park
Left to Right pictured Ashley McKeown, Acorns Friends Group, Claudia Nusstein, program coordinator, Brad Nickerson, Acorns Friends Group preparing the public for many events at Genesee County Park

The first photo ever of the total solar eclipse was taken by Johann Julius Friedrich Berkowski in Russia on July 28, 1851.  Almost 200 years later, photographers throughout parts of the United States, including Western New York will have their own opportunity to capture their own picture of the rare astronomical event.

The rest of us will be content to slip on ISO 12312-2-rated sunglasses and take in the perhaps once-in-a-lifetime scene. (Be advised, your camera also needs a special filter to get photos of the eclipse, or you risk damaging the censor.)

One place eclipse gazers can go to enjoy the event is the Genesee County Park and Forest, which has prepared for many activities on Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  A partial eclipse starts at 2:06 p.m., with totality lasting from  3:19 to 3:23 p.m. The partial eclipse will then last until 4:30 p.m.

Claudia Nusstein, conservation education program coordinator, said memory lane will be one-way, and the public will have to enter off Bethany Center Road.

She suggested visitors start at the interpretive center, where some activities indoor and outdoor activities.

Pinhole viewers, a telescope to look through, slide shows, different clay and paper models to create, along with sundial, corona eclipse hat, bookmarks, and chalk art are to name some of the many activities throughout the day. 

As you follow the trail around, there are six stations between the center and end at the Raymond Road exit. The parking fee is cash only and is $10.00 per vehicle; however, solar eclipse glasses will be available for free. 

Areas Fleming, A, and B will also host events. There is a map and directions to follow at the gate, and staff will direct people.

A mobile eclipse solar system made out of paper, cardboard materials is one of different things to make on eclipse day.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
A mobile eclipse solar system made out of paper and cardboard materials is one of the various things to make on eclipse day.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

As the eclipse draws near, you may want to run errands ahead of time and plan for traffic

By Joanne Beck

While the path of totality may not lead to a wild and crazy affair, it should — and can be — a fun and safe event for everyone as long as they keep in mind some basic rules of behavior, Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger says.

“It’s not a rock concert, but we can make sure it’s a safe and enjoyable time. We sometimes border on making it seem like bad things are gonna happen,” Yaeger said Thursday. “We’re prepared to respond to anything. We want everybody to take their time and have a good time.”

Yaeger’s department and other sectors of law enforcement and transportation, including the county sheriff, Batavia, Le Roy and New York State police, Department of Transportation and state Thruway officials, plus emergency responders, began to have eclipse-related meetings a year ago. 

How many people are expected to arrive here?
“It's difficult to tell. I mean, there's estimates all over and we kind of look at not only our county but the region because what happens in the region is going to affect us. We've been planning and in public safety planning for about a year. So our biggest concern is traffic. It's just the amount of truck traffic congestion that can occur with that many people coming to our region in a short term or time frame because I just actually got an update from the Chamber of Commerce, and they're getting so many phone calls that so many of these people are coming in the day of,” he said. “So they're not coming in over the weekend, although there are many people coming in already. I know in the state, there's already many airports that are receiving small aircraft coming in already. So traffic is the biggest issue. We're working with, obviously, the state partners in New York State Thruway Authority, the state police, York State emergency management, New York State DOT. And they're part of our planning program along with all the public safety partners in Genesee County, as well as the state agencies and probably our biggest concern right now is the New York State Thruway.”

The plan is to make sure there are no stranded motorists on the Thruway, he said. Extra tow trucks and the means to respond to vehicles in need of fuel or an electric charge will be available.  

“I think they've learned by talking to other state agencies that have experienced these eclipses from 2017 and what their deficiencies were and how they can plan better. So I'm very confident that we have a good plan in place,” he said. “And working with the state partners, our county Emergency Operations Center will be open. It will have a representative from New York State emergency management there, along with our Sheriff's Office. And then we will call in if we need near state DOT, New York State Police representatives, they're all in the area, if they need to come in to support, they will come in, it's just a matter of they want to be where they need to be. So we don't want to tie up personnel that need to be somewhere else because we know the Niagara Erie region is going to be very busy. So the exodus is back, both coming through our county and then leaving through our county. So we're going to be watching that and monitoring that.”

What can spectators do to help alleviate the traffic congestion? 
“We don't want people pulling over to the side of the road to watch this. We want them to go to the county park, to the steam show grounds in Alexander, to Genesee Community College (refer to the eclipse list below). So we're working with them to try to get people into safe locations to watch it and make it a great, enjoyable event instead of being on the roadway where it can be dangerous. We expect the state roads to be busy. We expect a lot of traffic in the city of Batavia,” he said. “So people need to be patient and basically plan for those things. There is going to be a lot of traffic congestion, so plan for it. That's really even talking about making sure that if you're planning to get medications or you need to run to a store for food, you may want to be doing that on Saturday or Sunday and not wait to the last minute and then get frustrated because there's so much traffic on the roads which there will be.

“There will be a lot of people; that's why we ramped up our EMS capability and our departments to be staffed. Our concern is if the amount of traffic, if it's that heavy, and if we have to transport the patients to Buffalo or Rochester, Erie County or Monroe County, they all have lights and sirens, so they're gonna get there, it's just there may be a lot of traffic for them, it's going to be a little bit slower than normal. So we put on extra ambulances,” he said. “There is a lot of public safety entities, the state, county and city throughout the region, throughout the state that are prepared to respond to pretty much anything, but they're also the reminder out there that this is an event that should be enjoyable. So everybody just takes their time, be patient, and we'll be fine.”

WROTB, Genesee County honor Richard Siebert for dedication, commitment to Batavia Downs

By Mike Pettinella
Dick and Dennis
Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. Board Chair Dennis Bassett, right, shows his appreciation for Richard Siebert's many years of service to the company with a smooch on the cheek at this morning's ceremony honoring Siebert at Batavia Downs Gaming. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

As lifelong Batavian Richard E. “Dick” Siebert thanked those that have helped turn a once decimated Batavia Downs into what it has become today – a successful gaming and horse racing destination, he turned his attention to Dennis Bassett, the current chair of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. board of directors.

Speaking this morning at a ceremony at the Park Road facility honoring his 29-plus years as a WROTB director, Siebert turned his head, looking for Bassett in the crowd of well-wishers.

“Dennis and I disagreed about things over the years, but Dennis, I got to tell you,” Siebert said before being cut off by Bassett, who approached the lectern and proceeded to plant a big kiss upon Siebert’s left cheek.

As the audience roared with approval, Bassett said, “I miss you, I miss you.”

WROTB management set this time aside to dedicate a plaque in Siebert’s honor, which has been erected outside the remodeled Genesee Banquet Room adjacent to the Hotel at Batavia Downs lobby on the second floor.

plaque

The plaque reads as follows:

“In grateful appreciation for your years of tireless leadership and commitment as a longtime member and past chairman of the board of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation. Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel Board of Directors, 1994-2023. We applaud you for your unwavering guidance and contributions to the success of this company. Dedicated on this day. March 28th, 2024.”

Siebert, active for many years as the Genesee County Republican Party chair, was a key figure in WROTB’s purchase of Batavia Downs in 1998 after it encountered hard times. He has been a staunch supporter of the track (and now casino).

“Batavia Downs has always been in my heart,” he said, acknowledging that he was “overwhelmed and humbled” by the gathering and plaque dedication.

“When I got out of college in 1958, I thought I was going to set the world on fire. I got a job working for M&T Bank … a bookkeeper for 55 dollars a week. I found out that Batavia Downs was hiring bankers to work in their money room. So, being a banker, I applied at Batavia Downs way back in 1958 to work in the money room.

“I got hired right away for $14 a night … I worked in that money room for 15 years, and when I think back on that if somebody ever told me in that money room that someday I would be on the board of directors for Batavia Downs—and even be the chairman for one year or so—I would have said, ‘What are you smokin' man?’ (to a burst of laughter).

“It is what it is, and things worked out. I’m just glad that I could be a part of this board for the 29 years …”

Siebert recalled when the former owners, the Sambergs, ran into financial difficulties and when the harness track was empty “with nothing in it but seagulls and asbestos.”

“When we bought it, it was a wreck. The board worked on it. Many people wanted to sell it … but we stayed with it, and this is a whole tribute to our county and the whole scope of things – Genesee County, the City of Batavia,” he said.

He then mentioned the current staff at Batavia Downs Gaming, giving leadership credit for what the organization has become.

“Just looking at the staff, (President/CEO) Henry Wojtaszek, (Chief Operating Officer) Scott (Kiedrowski), (VP/Administration) Bill White and (Chief Financial Officer) Jackie Leach,” he said.

“Jackie Leach, especially, … is the one who really saved the day for us because when COVID shut us down, we were empty. She kept the banks away from our doors. She arranged for the loans that we got to keep our staff working, which we did pay back.”

Looking around, he found her in the crowd and said, “You did a great job,” to more applause.

“I have to say this is the best staff … that I’ve ever seen in my 29 years.”

Siebert closed by acknowledging former Genesee County Judge Charles Zambito, who replaced him on the board last May.

“I can’t think of a better person to take my place, Chuck. I know you’ll do a great job.”

Several people praised Siebert prior to the unveiling of the plaque.

WROTB PRESIDENT/CEO HENRY WOJTASZEK
“The thing that strikes me the most, in this world of rough and tumble, actually cutthroat, this world of politics in the gaming industry – a very tough industry, is that I’ve never met a gentleman like Dick Siebert,” he said. “Just a great man. If I had to sum him up … I would talk about the following adjectives -- respected, dignified, caring, savvy, a true family man, dedicated, calm, cool, collected, fearless and always willing to take a chance. Nobody, in my opinion, … no one loves Genesee County and Batavia gaming more than Dick Siebert.”

WROTB BOARD CHAIR DENNIS BASSETT
“Richard -- a true legend, a true legend. I had the pleasure of being on the board with Dick for 14 of his 29 years. And I want to say, a gentleman's gentleman. And if there's anyone who loved Batavia Downs, it was Richard Siebert. He consistently brought his colleagues, his friends, and his neighbors to participate in whatever we had at Batavia Downs. And at the board meetings, he didn't fail to thank the staff for treating his guests and him in the utmost positive manner. But as you would imagine, Dick always had areas for improvement, so he shared that with them as well. But Dick, I want you to know that the board is a better place because you passed this way. Your unwavering support, your unwavering dedication for what we were trying to do and what we've been trying to do here at Batavia Downs is going to be etched in your plaque and in this banquet room for years on.

ROCHELLE STEIN, GENESEE COUNTY LEGISLATURE CHAIR
“We're so thrilled for you today. Not only did you spend almost 30 years, which was your goal of being on that board, but you actually got to write the check from Genesee County for the inception and the investment that the county made. And you have always taken great pride and great privilege in having that hands-on opportunity for this entire entity here. And we are grateful for that. And we are grateful that you continue to guide and to challenge and to take courageously bold steps at times on behalf of all of the counties that are members here. We know that when you served us, you kept the fact that Genesee County is the host community in the forefront of your mind and that our people work here, and our people are benefited from their careers here. And our economy here in this region is benefited by this organization.”

GENESEE COUNTY LEGISLATOR GREGG TORREY
Torrey spoke of his time working at the OTB branch in the Genesee Country Mall while in high school and then working at the Ellicott Street headquarters after graduating from college in the accounting department. He said Siebert stood by him and “brought me over here when we first opened the track.”

“It wasn’t always like this. Batavia Downs went through some lean times, and I appreciate he was always there for me … I hope I've let you know how much I appreciate you over the years. But if I haven't before … And nobody deserves this more than you do.”

EILEEN BANKER, REPRESENTING ASSEMBLYMAN STEPHEN HAWLEY
“I had the opportunity of working with you because when I first started working here -- when we first opened way back here at Batavia Downs -- and it certainly has come a long way, and I'm sure your leadership is the reason why it has gotten this far. (Relaying a message from Hawley): Congratulations to my lifelong friend and mentor. Your years of service to our Western New York community should serve as a prime example of what citizens should emulate in terms of leadership in their communities. Congratulations.”

Dick Siebert
Photo by Mike Pettinella.
Dick and Charles
Richard Siebert and Charles Zambito, who took over as Genesee County's representative on the WROTB board last May.
Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Need another reason to go view the eclipse? How about feeling some awe

By Joanne Beck
paul piff
Paul Piff

Of the reasons given to take some time and watch the upcoming total solar eclipse next month, Paul Piff, associate professor of psychological science at the University of California, offers one that has nothing to do with atmospheric science, nostalgia, community, commerce or capture the once-in-a-lifetime moment that it’s likely to be for so many folks in Genesee County and beyond.

Piff’s focus was on one magical word: awe and how that emotional experience can actually begin to transform a person’s outlook and treatment of the world.

“In the West, we find it’s predominantly brought about due to encounters that one has with nature or powerful natural phenomena such as the Eclipse. We define, or very broadly define it an emotion, or emotional experience that really arises out of two different, or the configuration of two different factors, as brought about by experience,” Piff said during an online panel presentation about the upcoming total solar eclipse. “It could be something you perceive or something you recognize in other ways, but when you experience or perceive something that's so fast, so complicated, so powerful, that it makes you feel like you need to reconfigure, readjust or update your mental schema, your understanding of the world, to accommodate the experience.

“And so, as kind of described by people, often as a mind-blowing experience of the people, they're just trying to describe that feeling of, well, I can't really make sense of, at least right now, the thing that I've just experienced, we find, as have others and other psychological laboratories across the globe, that all has a lot of really interesting effects on people,” he said. “Our experiences are described by people with some of the most meaningful in their lives, those individuals that experience improved health outcomes, greater or better well-being, they report more humble or somewhat insignificant views of the self. And we find somewhat interestingly, it seems to trigger more kind, compassionate, empathic behavior among people.” 

One of his studies situated participants in a towering growth of eucalyptus trees among the tallest and oldest stands of eucalyptus trees in North America. They spent either 60 seconds looking up at those tall trees, or with their backs to the trees; they looked up at a comparably tall, but far less awe-inspiring, big building. They were then approached by an experimenter who gave them a questionnaire to complete.

Scenarios were posed to them, such as “If I were on the Titanic, I would deserve to be on the first lifeboat,” and “we imagined how much participants wanted to be paid for their participation in the experiment,” he said. 

“And we measured their levels of ethical decision-making by giving them different moral decision-making scenarios … they would indicate what they would do in these ambiguous situations,” he said. “What we found… They reported less entitlements, so they felt less deserving of the things in life relative to others. They wanted to be paid about half as much for their participation in the study as the participants who looked up at the big building, so maybe all seems to bring about less materialism, and they made more ethical decisions.”

Does this relate to the total solar eclipse? They did a study on one of those too. In a paper published a couple of years ago from the 2000 solar eclipse, his team conducted a study on the social and psychological impacts of those who participated in some way. 

That eclipse had a path of totality that reached across North America, “and we had about 3 million participants in this across the studies in this paper, when we compared residents within the path of totality to residents outside the path of totality, looking at spontaneous shifts in how people talked about themselves and talked about their motivations towards one another surrounding their experience of the eclipse,” he said. “What we found is that individuals who resided within the path of totality, who experienced the Eclipse and its fullness and its, you might say, its full awesomeness, or its full power, exhibited more often. And as a result of that increased experience, they became less self-focused, less likely to talk about themselves, individuated or eccentric ways.”

Those participants used language that reflected a collective focus — we and us — and expressed more desire for affiliation to connect with others, he said. They became more pro-social, exhibiting tendencies to be kind and care for others.

“In broad strokes, what we're finding is that experiences that bring about all and most predominantly really powerful feeling experiences, like the solar eclipse, seem to attune people and connect us to one another, to connect us to entities that are ourselves,” Piff said. “And that's how the experience of all might have evolved. It's the conduit to things bigger than ourselves and motivates us to care for others.”

Shannon Schmoll

Will stopping to watch the eclipse change your life? Maybe not. But participating in an event that Shannon Schmoll said will not happen again until 2045 might just help rally friends, family, and co-workers together for a special moment.  

Schmoll is an expert on basic astronomy, naked-eye astronomy, eclipses, constellations and the night sky. She is director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University and has a doctorate in astronomy and science education. 

She spoke about the 2017 partial eclipse and how it offered all sorts of experiences, from good to bad. 

“It gets a little eerie and strange, and temperatures will change. And it is a really breathtaking sight,” she said. “On the not so good part do be prepared for traffic, there is going to be a lot of people who want to see this. And so I ended up stuck in traffic for about 13 and a half hours during the 2017 Eclipse. So just be prepared for that. But really, this is a wonderful, beautiful sight in order to see that corona. And so, if you can go to totality and are able to, we highly encourage it. And it is. The next time this will happen across a large portion of the United States like this is 2045. So it is definitely worth it if you can go see this.”

And the last bit, she said, there is a lot of science that can be done around the solar eclipse. One is studying the sun itself. And the Corona—that outermost atmosphere — is a really hot region of the sun. 

But we don't fully know why it's super hot. And we can't see the most lowest part of that corona very well most of the time, even with some of our spacecraft that we have. And so this is a great time to study this region of the sun at the base of the corona,” she said. “And also, right now, the sun is nearing its peak of solar maximum. It's this 11-year cycle with a lot more activity and sunspots happening, solar flares and prominences and solar storms, there's a lot going on, and it was near minimum during the last Eclipse. So we're heading towards maximum, which will hopefully give us a lot more to look at. And this is also a great time to study the earth and the effects of the sun on the earth in particular, the uppermost level of the atmosphere called the ionosphere.”

The total solar eclipse is set to arrive on April 8 in the afternoon, beginning at about 2 p.m. and ending around 4:30 p.m., depending on one's viewing location. For more information about the eclipse and a countdown and viewing time clock, go HERE

GC government offices to close early April 8 for solar eclipse activities

By Press Release

Press Release:

In preparation for the upcoming 2024 Solar Eclipse, Genesee County Government will implement a temporary closure for all County Offices and non-emergency services, effective from noon on Monday, April 8 until 8:30 a.m. on April 9.

This decision reflects the county's proactive approach to eclipse readiness. By suspending county operations during the eclipse, the county aims to reduce traffic congestion, enhance public safety, and enable residents and visitors to partake in this extraordinary event. County offices will remain open in the morning on April 8th to accommodate residents who need to conduct business that day. 

"Ensuring the safety of our community is our top priority, and the closure of County Offices during the eclipse will contribute to ensuring a safe environment for all to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event," stated County Manager Matt Landers.

To learn about the eclipse in Genesee County, visit: www.geneseetheeclipse.com For important safety information on the eclipse, visit: www.iloveny.com/events/eclipse-2024/safety/

Eclipse viewing plans are drawing food, dance, parades, communities together

By Joanne Beck
September 2023 file photo of batavia silver stars
September 2023 File Photo of a Batavia Silver Stars square dancing event in Batavia. This is one of the groups that plans to be at the Village of Corfu's eclipse festivities during the dance on April 6 at Pembroke Intermediate School. It will be open to all ages with DJ Leon Perry and include square dancing demonstrations.
Photo by Julia Ferrini

As news of the impending eclipse visit in April continues to ramp up, it’s likely a fair share of folks still aren’t feeling equal enthusiasm for something that’s supposed to last only a few minutes once it gets here. 

Tom Sargent, Corfu village mayor, can relate.

“I probably talked to Katy Hobbs from the Chamber back a year ago; I didn’t really know what was really happening. I knew it was a total eclipse but didn’t know how close it was going to be to us. So I didn’t really put much thought into it myself,” Sargent said to The Batavian, noting how his attitude shifted once he learned more. “Then, in the fall, you start hearing more about it; the Chamber’s got some activities going on. And then it was like ok, so this is a big deal. This is a historic event that none of us will ever see in this area again. So we decided to put something together to remember it and bring the community together." 

“We've got an opportunity to show off the village to people who are not from around here, they're talking the county population could double or triple, you know, they talked about that,” he said. “So, we just wanted to have an opportunity to do something else … we sat down and I thought we were gonna come up with a day and we were going to do some stuff.”

Was he ever off the mark. The committee of seven municipal, fire, church and community members were not just in — they were all in. A one-day viewing event turned into a party for the village:  someone suggested a parade and then a dance, which led to a family movie night, and then square dancers at the Grange wanted to get involved to offer lessons and demonstrations, and then a craft fair was organized, food trucks were lined up, and before they knew it, the village had a three-day eclipse extravaganza going on.

The committee has mapped out a full three-day slate of events, beginning with an Alien Parade at 6 p.m. on April 6 at Corfu Fire Hall. 

Participants are to line up at 5 p.m. at the fire hall, with the route to end at Pembroke intermediate School. All are welcome to join in, and enter your alien-themed float.

Then there’s a dance party at 7:30 p.m. at the school for all ages, with DJ Leon Perry and demonstrations of square dancing.  

Sargent said that the square dancers had originally offered to host it at the Grange, but the village welcomed them into the mix for one more activity at the school. 

“I know I haven't done it since I was in elementary school. It's a thing that's unique that a lot of people don't do, it’s something that I guess old timers, they talk about it, and the older generation, that they do, but if we can do something to bring it back or expose people to something that they don't get to see every day, then why not?” he said. “They're gonna bring in square dancers from all over the area, there'll be some demonstrations, there'll be some instruction, and you know, we're hoping to get some people to come out and do a little do-si-do and have some fun with it.”

Just as with the annual Christmas parade and Autumn in the Village, Sargent is hoping that this event will be a success as well: “I would love to see the gym filled that weekend,” he said.

They already have 23 vendors signed up for the Craft Fair, he said.

Admission for the dance is $5, and children under 10 are free. There will be food trucks available on both April 6 and 7.

“It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it’s not going to happen again, not in this way,” Village Clerk-Treasurer Jennifer Eck said.  “I feel like we talked about this a year ago. We were going to have a craft show on the lawn and then said what if we have a snowstorm? It’s in April!”

The committee has involved firefighters, church members, residents, and village staff, and everyone has been eager to see this come together, Eck said.

A later addition has been a pancake breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. on April 7 at the Community Center, 116 E. Main St., followed by the craft show and a planetarium exhibit in the school gym from 1 to 5 p.m. and then Family Movie Night at 7 p.m. featuring “Home” and “E.T.” Sort of gives one the feeling there’s a theme going here in Corfu.  Admission is a food donation for Corfu Food Pantry.

“So the historic aspect of it is probably one of the driving factors. But really, it's just an opportunity for the village to get together, come out, have an activity, winter's going to be over, we'll have an opportunity to come out of our houses and see what the world looks like,” Sargent said. “You know, kind of like the groundhog coming out and seeing his shadow. But really, that's probably the biggest drivers is, our community is really starting to become more and more and more active. People are looking for things to do. We just want to give them an opportunity to do it.”

An eclipse viewing party is set from noon to 5 p.m. April 8, with a corn hole competition, live trivia, a miniature golf course and those funky 3D-like glasses safe for eclipse viewing will be available for purchase. 

Viewing action is to happen at 3:19 p.m., and guests at all events on April 8 are asked to stay put for awhile to help alleviate traffic congestion. With corn hole, yummy food and trivia, why would anyone be leaving anyway?

All events in Corfu are to carry on rain or shine. For more information about an event, call 585-599-3327 or email clerk@corfuny.gov.

So what will happen on April 8? 
According to NASA, A total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. 

The sky will darken as if it were dawn or dusk. During a total solar eclipse, if the skies are clear, people can see the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, with their own eyes.

The corona is otherwise too dim to see against the bright face of the Sun. A total solar eclipse is the only type of solar eclipse where viewers can momentarily remove their eclipse glasses (not the same as ordinary sunglasses) for this brief period of time when the Moon is completely blocking the Sun. This is what will happen in the U.S. on April 8.

While the moon makes its closest approach to earth on this day, at 223,000 miles, there are a whole lot of Genesee County communities planning to take advantage of that distance by pulling together for all things in the name of eclipse totality.

Employees will be taking a day off from work; students will be excused from classes; businesses will feature themed meal, dessert, drink and snack options and thousands of folks are expected to be donning those special glasses for safe eclipse viewing. 

It’s all set to happen on April 8, although, as is the case with Corfu, some municipalities are taking advantage of expected out of town visitors with a full weekend array of activities.

Elba is also planning its share of lively action for this rare space occurrence, School Superintendent Gretchen Rosales said. 

“Considering that this event will put the spotlight on our county, we want everyone to see just how special our community is,” Rosales said. “Elba is incredible, and we are very proud of it. We have a beautiful school, great businesses, and a wonderful small-town feel.  My hope is that our businesses gain long-standing customers who otherwise wouldn't know about our products and services.

“It is also my hope that our school families are able to enjoy the eclipse, either at home or at school, and make some great memories of this once-in-a-lifetime event!” she said.

The village of Elba and school communities have worked together since last November to plan and organize ideas, she and Village Clerk-Treasurer Jerah Augello said.

“Our science department began to attend instructional collaboration meetings with the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce to plan for instructional activities to teach our students about the solar eclipse,” Rosales said. “We are hosting a block party at the school, which includes games/food booths/local vendors.  Many of our school clubs and organizations will also be setting up tables and booths.  There are also local businesses that will be featuring special merchandise or offers.  For example, Chap's Diner will have eclipse themed meals and will have a dessert table at our school.”

 Everyone's favorite band, The Front Porch Pickers will be playing at the school, she said.

“We thought the chances of people coming to Elba were pretty great, given it’s on Route 98, so we worked with Elba Central School and local businesses,” Augello said. 

Chap’s Diner will have food specials, along with Oliver’s and Sweet Life Winery will be selling special chocolates, she said.

“All money will go back into the local community, whether it’s the school, a fundraiser or business commerce,” Augello said. 

She has served as a constant reminder to folks about the upcoming event, and “we’re getting excited about it,” she said. 

A viewing party will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on school grounds, with food, games, face painting, live music, the Boy Scouts will be selling onion soup as a fundraiser, Elba eclipse bumper sticker sales with a free bag of onions from Torrey Farms, will benefit the Jordyn Torrey Augello Foundation, and each purchase of I Saw the Solar Eclipse in Elba, NY shirt will benefit Elba school. 

Other activities include a martial arts demo by Amerikick Batavia, a variety of foods for purchase at the school, including hotdogs, burgers, nachos and baked goods, beverages of hot chocolate, coffee and flavored lemonade. Chap’s dessert table sill be filled with caramel apple pie, raspberry dream pie, coconut cream pie and Texas chocolate sheet cake.

To alleviate traffic congestion, there will be shuttles to and from key points in the village, stationed at Elba Central School, Sweet Life, Veterans Memorial Park (parking and viewing site), Chap’s and Elba Presbyterian Church. 

Porter Farms will also be hosting a watch party from noon to 5 p.m. April 8 at 4911 Edgerton Road, Elba. This free event will include music by the Bluesway Band, a bounce house, concessions for sale from Alabama Hotel, and heated barns. To attend the party, registration is requested HERE

The Tonawanda Reservation Historical Society at the Tonawanda Indian Community House is hosting a free event from noon to 5 p.m. for viewing on April 8 "for a fun day commemorating the Eclipse.”

Activities will include "Iroquois Legends of The Eclipse" historical presentations throughout the day, public tours and viewing of the exhibits and artifacts within the Community House.

"We are participating because we also have a book club and have been reading about legends, and we like to do things for the community,” Society leader Juanita Poodry Dunn said. “We're listed on the county page for our activities, legends, food, free glasses, and viewing of artifacts in the community house. There are also restaurants, gas stations, gift shops and dispensaries.”

Hot dogs, macaroni salad and soft drinks will be available for purchase, and visitors are asked to bring a chair and dress appropriately for the day. Temperatures may dip as much as 10 degrees during the eclipse arrival.

According to the Society’s website, the Seneca people are one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, known as the Haudenosaunee or People of the Longhouse, who have occupied Western New York for centuries. The majority of their settlements were located along the Genesee River Valley. Senecas have lived along the Tonawanda Creek since the early 1700s. The Reservation is located east of Akron, New York, where Erie, Genesee, and Niagara counties meet.

Oakfield Betterment Committee also jumped on the bandwagon to provide some western county action, and it’s not too late to participate, President Jamie Lindsley said.

“OBC wanted to host an event surrounding the total solar eclipse because it’s such a rare event at any given location. OACS students are still on spring break on Monday, April 8, so we are hoping families will come out to enjoy the live music by Salvatore, savor food by Caryville and treats by Sweet Ally’s, and make use of the spacious park for games as well as eclipse-related activities,” she said. “Students will receive glasses at school and should bring them along, plus we will have some available on that day. 

“There is great potential for local commerce, and we love the scientific as well as historic nature of being directly in the path of totality. We encourage people to arrive early and stay as long as they can to avoid any potential traffic,” she said. “There will be plenty of parking and admission is free. We are trying to get a few more groups involved, so it’s not too late if they’d like to be a part of the festivities.”

If interested in being part of Oakfield’s event, call Lindsley at 585-704-6663, or email jamie@oakfieldbetterment.com.

Everyone is invited to bring a chair or blanket and sit on the lawn at Richmond Memorial Library for a viewing event from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. April 8, said Kelly March of the library’s Youth Services department. 

“We will have outdoor lawn games, and hands-on science stations for folks to record data on their science apps. Pre-registration is not required for this free event,” March said. “The official timing for the astronomical event in our zip code is 2:05 p.m., the beginning of moon to eclipse, the sun and the sky will begin to slowly darken (even if it’s a cloudy stormy day). At 3:19 p.m. the moon will appear to be in full coverage of the sun and last until 3:22 pm. The completion of the solar eclipse is expected to occur at 4:32 p.m. with normal light restored.”

The library last hosted such an event in the sunnier and warmer month of August 2017, bringing out 400 people to observe a partial solar eclipse. The staff was able to distribute 2,000 free eclipse glasses prior to and on the day of the event, and the biggest difference between then and now will be the uncertainty of the weather conditions, March said.

“Anyone who saved their eclipse glasses from 2017 and the lenses have no damage can use them in April,” she said. “This once in a lifetime viewing event is open to all members of our community free of charge.”

The library is at 19 Ross St., Batavia.

For more information about these and other events, exhibits and lodging throughout the county, go GeneSEE the Eclipse.

Law enforcement prepares for statewide STOP-DWI for St. Patrick’s weekend

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Batavia Police Department and the Village of LeRoy Police Department will be participating in a coordinated effort with the STOP-DWI program to bring awareness to the dangers of impaired driving. 

The statewide STOP-DWI efforts start Friday, March 15 and will continue thru Sunday, March 17.  

St. Patrick’s Day weekend is a notoriously deadly period for impaired driving due to the number of celebrations and drivers on the road. New York State Police, County Sheriffs and municipal law enforcement agencies will be out in force during this across the board effort to reduce the number of alcohol related injuries and deaths.

While STOP-DWI efforts across New York have made great strides in reducing the numbers of alcohol and drug related fatalities, still too many lives are being lost because of crashes caused by drunk or impaired drivers.

Have a plan to designate a driver. Don’t let alcohol take the wheel. Visit www.stopdwi.org for more information and may the luck of the Irish be with you.

Moving forward with GO Art! means continuing to do 'cool things'

By Joanne Beck
Gregory Hallock gives annual report
GO Art! Executive Director Gregory Hallock shares the good news of receiving more grant money during the Human Services meeting this week, along with the caveat that some of the online community complains about taxpayer dollars being spent. "We're excited they're being spent here, as opposed to everywhere else in the state," he said. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

Genesee Orleans Regional Arts Council received the second largest funding in New York State, falling only behind Manhattan, of $336,000, which will be dispersed to artists in both counties, Executive Director Gregory Hallock says.

He considers that a pretty major deal, and rightly so. The money will go somewhere, and he figures it might as well go into the hands of local people for their creative projects. 

“So we were pretty ecstatic about that. Hoping to continue to increase that. When I came in, we were about $47,000 that we were giving out, so we've jumped up dramatically. And last year was $210,000. So we did a big leap from last year to this year. We had nearly $400,000 in requests this year, so I would like to give credit to the community for jumping up to put on more stuff, but a big credit goes to our statewide community regrant coordinators at GO Art,” Hallock said while presenting his annual report to legislators this week. “We have two of them now that the state funds. We stressed that in our area, it's not just about putting an advertisement out there that people might not necessarily see, but even if they see that, grants scare people. They see grants, and they run. So our coordinators basically hold hands all the way through. They answer every question that anybody has, they basically help with anything but write the grants. But if you write the grant, they will review the grant afterward and give you suggestions and all that.”

He said the nonprofit’s goal is to continue asking for more money and “make more of that happen out here,” which has recently also meant a spate of responses online. 

“We'll continue to get more of the negative comments on social media and everywhere else. And we're okay with that. It was a harsh year for that for us. But, people getting upset saying ‘our dollars being spent, our tax dollars being spent,’ but we're excited they're being spent here, as opposed to everywhere else in the state,” he said. “So we're gonna keep pushing for that to happen here. We really like to stress, I don't think most people know that if they're going to something that's arts related, that generally GO Art! is funding that. The $336,000 doesn't go a long way, but it goes quite the way out here, so we will continue to do that.”

He said the agency had more than 100 events this past year in Genesee and Orleans counties and is planning to do the same volume with new types of programs, such as a capital campaign that will draw more use out of the basement. The basement has an entrance and will include an emergency exit that will open up into the music garden portion of the building at 201 E. Main St., Batavia. That expansion will add about 4,000 square feet to GO Art!’s use, he said.

“We’ll be putting a whole bunch of studios and space down there. We just got a grant called black space. We’ll be working with the community and Black architects out of Brooklyn to bring in the Black community to help them help us design something that will be inviting to them to come into our space,” he said. “We’re putting in a dark room, pottery studio, wood shop, and a whole bunch of other studios to expand our happenings and our classes. Our classes have been doing really well; the last four that we’ve offered have all completely sold out. And we’ve had to add additional classes that have also sold out. So we’re really finally starting to get up there, and people know about us.

“We’re really excited about the expansion. It includes an elevator, somebody who can’t get up and down the stairs … I think that’s our major thing.”

He also mentioned The Harve, where artists MaryJo Whitman and Brian Kemp “took a space and artified it” to make use of an industrial building by painting and decorating walls directly or using them as backdrops for exhibits and live musical performances. “We’re going to keep doing cool things,” Hallock said.

It takes money to do those cool things, and the agency runs on a budget of nearly 62 percent public support, or $601,050; $200,661 in Foundation support; $107,334 from individual and corporate donations; and $64,272 from events and earned income. Expenses for the year were $225,800 for grants, $166,190 for programs and events, $16,773 toward fundraising efforts, and $324,744 for administration costs.

The Batavia building includes dance, podcast, film, and music studios, a library and cabaret theater, a darkroom, a pottery studio, a cultural culinary kitchen (used for demonstrations), a gallery with seven exhibition spaces (maintaining a collection of donated and permanent on loan works by highly esteemed local artists), and a bar area that is also used as a small gallery space. 

GO Art! has hired a consultant to put out a request for proposal as part of a GLOW region cultural plan, he said. He submitted a grant application last year for $150,000 that was turned down for a larger scope of Western New York that he fine-tuned down to opening a new space in Medina, expanding in the space currently in Batavia, and adding a cultural garden. Hallock hopes to receive a more positive response to the request this year.

“This is possible by the relationships we have already forged and the ones we hope to build. Through our arts education initiatives, workshops, events, and outreach, we continue to establish new and growing community relationships,” he said in his annual letter. “The accomplishments of the past year make our members, board of directors, and dedicated staff excited about the thriving and diverse arts in Genesee and Orleans Counties. Together we will continue to ‘Make Art Happen.’

"We already have everything ready to get that moving, so that we can put together our cultural plan and figure out how we're going to progress, and bringing tourism into the glow region for arts and culture, and continuing to expand upon what we have for our region,” he said. 

County Manager Matt Landers, in his yearly allocations request for GO Art!, asked for $7,500 — the same amount as for 2023 and 2022. That total was increased by $1,000 from 2021, when it was $6,500 since 2018. Funding for the nonprofit was at all-time high in 1997 of $10,000, including a $4,000 matching funds state grant. Before that, county funding was $2,500 in 1993, but it took a big leap four years later and has hovered around the $6,500 to $9,000 mark.

Genesee County Legislature is to vote on the request during its meeting on March 13. 

Site Selection Magazine again recognizes Genesee County for economic growth

By Press Release

Press Release:

Continuing two decades as a top micropolitan area for business success, Genesee County was recognized today by Site Selection Magazine for being in the top one percent of peer communities for attracting corporate investments over the past 20 years.

In 2023, projects placed the Batavia-Genesee County Micropolitan Area as 16th in the nation among micropolitan communities of 10,000 to 50,000 residents in the Site Selection’s Conway Projects Database.

Site Selection’s Annual Governor’s Cup rankings focus on new corporate facility projects resulting in significant economic impact, including headquarters, manufacturing plants, R&D operations, and logistics sites. Qualifying projects must either have a capital investment of over $1 million, create 20 or more new jobs, or add at least 20,000 square feet of new floor area.

“Site Selection’s annual rankings have shown the success of Genesee County’s development strategy and our focus on delivering industry-ready workforce, infrastructure, and sites,” said Steve Hyde, President and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center. “As we pursue a season of implementation to support business growth, this year’s honor highlights the unique benefits that micropolitan communities generate for economic development projects.”

The Batavia-Genesee County Micropolitan Area has been ranked as a Top 20 Micropolitan Area for 20 consecutive years, including 11 years with a top-five ranking. Genesee County has welcomed over $2 billion of committed investment over this period.

Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein cited the development of the STAMP Mega-Site, Genesee Valley Agribusiness Park, and robust business attraction expansions in the advanced manufacturing, food and beverage manufacturing, and semiconductor industries as major achievements of the past 20 years.

“With long-term GCEDC investments, focused on high-quality careers for our residents and families, Genesee County’s strategy is a winning formula, as proven by our consistent national rankings,” Stein said.

With half of $1.6M grant spent, GO Health needs extended deadline to expend what's left

By Joanne Beck
Paul Pettit

Public Health Director Paul Pettit has an unusual problem, given the perception of a spend-happy climate of many municipal entities these days.

He has only gone through about half of a $1.6 million COVID-19 grant issued to the department for purchases to prevent and deal with COVID-related illnesses. 

Pettit just received another in a line of grant amendments from New York State to be able to spend down the remaining funds on needed items, he said. The last extension was given until Dec. 31, 2023. 

“So this is the COVID funding. They basically have extended it through July 31 of this year from when it was supposed to expire on December 31. So, you know, currently, we're not spending much of it. Obviously, we are still purchasing some test kits, and we're getting requests for PPE, emergency preparedness supplies and wastewater supplies, which we've been spending the money on, but we believe this will be the last extension. We have about $800,000 left in the grant, I guess it's the last tranche,” Pettit said during Monday’s Human Services meeting. 

“I mean, they've kicked it a few times now to this point. Obviously, you know, the CDC changes recommendations were made, and I think the state will probably be adopting those here sometime this week. So you know, I think it's time to move on. I mean, it's helpful to purchase certain supplies with (the money) for sure. This kind of boom bust cycle we see a lot of times with emergency preparedness dollars, you get an event, you get a lot of money, you buy these things and they sit on a shelf and expire, unfortunately, before you need them again," he said. "So, you know, we're trying to balance, obviously, what we can buy that's not potentially going to expire, and expendables, so that we can be prepared for potentially what may come.”

New York State doled out various grants in the thick of the pandemic and beyond to enhance COVID-19 prevention and response measures, including this funding that went to GO Health for purchases of personal protective equipment, testing kits and other resources that, as Pettit said, do not have a short expiration date that would render the items useless in quick time. 

The federal government pulled $2.6 trillion from its wallet in response to COVID-19 and spent $1.6 trillion in fiscal year 2020. In July 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul freed up $387 million for COVID relief efforts statewide for everything from encouraging New Yorkers to test early and often, getting them vaccinated and boosted, and readying stockpiles of PPE and 20 million tests ready to deploy.

Legislator Brooks Hawley wanted to know how the county health department was spreading the word about such resources being available locally.

“How do you get this out to the community? I went to Rite Aid, and they’re still selling test kits for $30 at a time,” Hawley said.

Test kits are available in the front of County Building #2 on Route 5 in the town of Batavia, Pettit said. They do have expiration dates, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stockpile those types of supplies, he said. 

“We’ve done different press releases on them before that they're available. We'll get referrals and calls back, you know, people will call, we try to get out as best we can. The demand has started to drop off. Obviously, as we're getting into the spring, our case numbers are down as far as prevalence in the community. So I think it's kind of running its course,” Pettit said. “Unfortunately, a lot of those have expiration dates, so it's kind of a hard one, you don't want to stock up on a bunch of them, because they're gonna expire anyway. But, I mean, if people are looking for them, they're right up front at County Building 2 and at different locations throughout the winter for people to pick up.”

The remaining COVID-19 enhanced detection grant funds of $1,601,284 now have until July 31 to be spent. 

NYS Association of Counties recognizes deputy manager, other leaders with certificate

By Press Release
NYSAC photo with Tammi Ferringer
Submitted Photo

Press Release:

County officials from across the state this week honored five of their peers for graduating with a certificate from the County Government Institute. The Institute, founded in 2004, is part of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC). 

The graduates included:

  • Tammi Ferringer, Deputy County Manager, Genesee County
  • Anthony J. Nemi, Legislator, Niagara County
  • Elizabeth Partee, County Supervisor, Seneca County
  • Lou Anne Randall, Director of Finance, Madison County
  • Paul Ruszkiewicz, Legislator, Orange County

The graduation was held during the 2024 NYSAC Legislative Conference in Albany County, in a ceremony honoring the county officials for upholding the pillars of leadership, accountability, and integrity at their graduation ceremony from the County Government Institute.

“CGI has been instrumental in helping me stay current on a broad array of issues and topics that go right to the nuts and bolts of local government operations,” said Anthony J. Nemi. “I am convinced that CGI has made a more effective legislator for those I represent.” 

The County Government Institute is an educational program in partnership with Cornell University. CGI instructors are NYSAC staff, county leaders, and Cornell faculty members who are experts in local government structure and issues. County leaders who graduate from CGI have earned a certification that demonstrates their dedication to good government and to upholding CGI’s high standards of county leadership.

“The County Government Institute’s comprehensive curriculum prepares county officials with the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the intense demands of local government today,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario.

The Institute's curriculum includes extensive course work on government ethics, building consensus in a political environment, principles of county budget and finance, and public sector labor/management relations. The courses are supplemented with electives, training sessions, and continuing education courses.

“The wide range of topics and chance to meet with colleagues from around New York State oftentimes give me a new perspective on an issue we may be facing,” said Lou Anne Randall. “We need to continue to encourage others to take advantage of the great resource we have in NYSAC. 

“The County Government Institute is an outstanding program that has helped me to more effectively perform my duties as a County Legislator,” said Paul Ruszkiewicz.

Courses are offered at all NYSAC conferences, and regionally throughout the year, to enable county leaders to stay up to date on timely issues and opportunities in local government. The knowledge and skills gained through CGI will serve county officials throughout their time in public service and beyond.   

“By completing the County Government Institute coursework, graduates demonstrate a commitment to excellence in local government that is at the heart of our association’s mission,” said NYSAC President Daniel P. McCoy. “The skills and knowledge they acquire are a great asset to them and the communities they serve. On behalf of our entire association, I offer my congratulations.”  

For more information about the County Government Institute, visit www.nysac.org/cgi or reach out to Chancey Young, NYSAC Member Information Manager via email at cyoung@nysac.org.

Professional development courses give boost, broaden ethics insights, to deputy manager

By Joanne Beck
Tammi Ferringer with wall art
Deputy County Manager Tammi Ferringer in her office at the Old County Courthouse in Batavia.
Photo by Joanne Beck

A quick glance around Deputy County Manager Tammi Ferringer’s office gives the impression of a light-hearted, whimsical air, with upbeat quotes on the wall from Dr. Seuss to author Erin Hanson, a mischievous elf devilishly hanging upside down near the window and other unpretentious decor dotting the shelves.

Yet this administrator -- a longtime county employee of more than 18 years --  has taken her career and job duties seriously while shying away from the limelight. So when her boss, County Manager Matt Landers, publicly congratulates her for a job well done in completing the necessary course work for a certificate from the state Association of Counties and Cornell University, it’s worth noting.

Ferringer was recognized this week at NYSAC as one of five graduates from the County Government Institute. 

"First, I just want to recognize Tammi Ferringer, who was recognized at the conference we always went to for completing the training of the county government institute," Landers said during Wednesday's Legislature meeting. "This is something that I had gone through and some legislators have gone through as well. So she's done the coursework and the classes ... good work."

Ferringer's class included a legislator from Niagara County, a supervisor from Seneca County, a Madison County finance director and an Orange County legislator. She registered for the program in 2022 and celebrated graduation Tuesday in Albany.

“There's criteria that they outline, from learning about budgets to learning about the organization of county government and how it works with the state. It helps to guide leaders in county government and the ins and outs of New York State,” she said. “And from ethics to the organization of counties, how they intertwine. And then there's electives that you can choose to take throughout the program. And there's specific courses that you have to take. And then, when you go to conferences, there are other criteria that can count as credits toward graduation. It's not something that you have to do; it was something I was interested in. And I was going to conferences anyways, so I might as well record that as credit towards continuing education.”

Required courses for a certificate of achievement include Building Consensus in a Political Environment, Principles of County Budget and Financial Management, Foundations of County Government, Public Sector Labor Management Relationships and Ethics in Government.

There are many other electives to choose from, such as health and human services, public safety, social media training, government technology and economic and rural development.

What did you find to be most insightful?
“I think that ethics piece was the most insightful because I only knew what I knew from our ethical procedures. But this broadened that for me,” Ferringer said. “I knew the importance of serving your community and our role and how important that role is to the community. And no one should take advantage of that power along the way.”

Ferringer, a Batavia resident, has worked in many positions since beginning her career with Genesee County in 2005, first as señor financial clerk-typist in the Health Department after earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration/finance from Brockport State College and steadily advancing from that point on. 

She became an accounting supervisor, administrative officer, director of fiscal operations and child support for the Department of Social Services, and county compliance officer before accepting her current role during the 2020 pandemic. Her job title was changed to deputy county manager in January 2024.

She appreciated the opportunity to strengthen her skills and understanding through these professional development courses, which have also been taken by the county manager and legislative chairwoman, Shelley Stein.

So just what is a piece of whimsy on the wall of her downstairs office in the Old County Courthouse? It’s a popular quote borrowed from author Erin Hanson that she has obviously taken to heart:

“What if I fall — Oh, but my darling, what if you fly.”

Schumer supports Genesee County's broadband expansion efforts

By Press Release

Press Release:

Genesee County is embarking on an ambitious mission to ensure universal broadband access, with the County Legislature demonstrating unwavering determination to reach every unserved address point.

County Manager Matt Landers personally engaged with leadership in each of the thirteen towns with unserved residents, leaving no address point overlooked in the pursuit of connectivity.

In a significant stride towards enhancing the quality of life for all residents, businesses, and educational institutions, Genesee County has approved a contract with Charter Communications Inc. to spearhead the deployment of high-speed internet infrastructure.

“This project will help close the digital divide in Genesee County and will bring gigabit broadband connectivity to over seven hundred residents and small businesses,” said Mark Fitchett, Regional Vice President of Operations at Charter. “We look forward to building our network and serving new customers.”

The Genesee County Legislature, in conjunction with the County Manager, has designated $2 million from the county's $11.1 million allocation of ARPA funds to support the broadband project. Allocation of ARPA funds must adhere to criteria established by the US Treasury Department. Senator Schumer has been a vocal advocate for infrastructure and broadband investments, and his proactive approach has played a pivotal role in securing the resources essential for advancing this project. 

“Access to reliable, fast internet service is not a luxury, but a necessity. In my first major act as Majority Leader, I led the American Rescue Plan to passage with billions to help hard-hit communities recover from the darkest days of the pandemic and make long-term investments to strengthen their communities, including essential infrastructure like broadband,” said Senator Schumer. 

“I am proud that Genesee County is leveraging $2 million of the overall $11.1 million in ARPA funding I delivered to finally close the digital divide in Genesee County and get Finger Lakes residents and businesses the service they require in the modern economy. Today is the start of connecting Genesee County to the future and a better quality of life for all families in every corner of the county to access the high-speed internet they need to succeed.”

The broadband expansion project aims not only to connect every corner of Genesee County, but also to elevate the overall quality of life in our communities. By increasing access to online resources, educational opportunities, telehealth services, and economic development prospects, the County is paving the way for a more vibrant and inclusive future. 

"Our contract with Charter Communications marks a significant milestone in our efforts to ensure equitable access to high-speed internet for all residents, students, families, businesses, and government entities in Genesee County," remarked Shelley Stein, Chair of the Genesee County Legislature. "With Senator Schumer's unwavering support and tireless efforts, we are poised to usher in a new era of connectivity and opportunity for all."

Catholic Charities seeks volunteers for home visitation and friendly phones program

By Press Release

Press Release:

Catholic Charities of Buffalo is looking for both older adults and volunteers to participate in its free Home Visitation and Friendly Phones programs in Genesee and Orleans counties. 

Both programs depend on dedicated volunteers to provide one-hour weekly visits or phone calls to isolated seniors aged 60 or older who have limited ability to leave their homes.

“Social isolation, especially during the cold and dreary winter months, can impact the health and well-being of older adults,” said Linda Chadderdon, program manager, of Catholic Charities. “Volunteers can help make a difference in alleviating some of the loneliness with regular conversations and socialization.”

During visits, participants and volunteers often engage in friendly conversation and partake in activities such as board games, puzzles, and crafts. Volunteers do not help with personal or medical care, banking, shopping, or transportation.

Interested volunteers must be at least 21 years old, and an interview, and background check are required. Training will be provided upon acceptance into the program.

The Home Visitation Program is funded through a grant from the Muriel H. Marshall Fund through the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

If interested, please call Catholic Charities at 585-343-0614 to request an application as a participant or for more information on volunteering.

County's deputy treasurer announces candidacy for treasurer

By Press Release

Press Release:

andrews-photo-1.png
Submitted photo of
Kevin Andrews.

Genesee County Deputy Treasurer and Director of Real Property Tax Services Kevin J. Andrews announces that he is running for Genesee County Treasurer in this year’s elections. 

Mr. Andrews has nearly 14 years of experience in the Genesee County Treasurer’s Office. Kevin started his career as Deputy Director of Real Property Tax Services shortly after the Real Property Department was merged into the Treasurer’s Office. 

In 2013, he was appointed Director of Real Property Tax Services, and he completed the certification training program from New York State to become a Certified County Director. 

In January of 2015, he was appointed Deputy Treasurer by current County Treasurer Scott D. German. This mix of experience will be beneficial to Kevin in managing all of the operations of the Genesee County Treasurer’s Office.

In his role as Deputy Treasurer, Kevin has gained experience with managing the county’s financial operations, including issuing and refunding bonds, managing cash flows and investments, and financial reporting. 

He has helped to implement new accounting standards from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), such as additional accounting requirements for pensions (GASB 68) and new accounting requirements for leases (GASB 87). 

He has also helped to modernize and increase the efficiency of procedures within the Treasurer’s Office over his tenure.

Kevin is a lifelong resident of Genesee County, having grown up in the Town of Elba and now living in the Town of Le Roy along with his wife and three children. Kevin graduated at the top of his class from Elba Central School. He then went on to attend college at the University of Rochester, where he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Financial Economics and Mathematical Statistics.

“If I am elected as County Treasurer, I plan to manage the fiscal operations of Genesee County in a responsible, accurate, and transparent manner. I would also like to continue making progress on modernizing processes within the Treasurer’s Office to increase efficiencies both internally with other county departments as well as externally with the public,” Kevin said.

GC treasurer not seeking another term, says 'It has been an honor and privilege'

By Press Release

Press Release:

scott german
Submitted photo of 
Scott German.

Genesee County Treasurer Scott D. German has announced that after five terms as Treasurer and what will be 31 years in the County Treasurer’s Office at year-end 2024, he will not be seeking another term as County Treasurer so that he can pursue other opportunities. 

German started his career on Jan. 1, 1994, as Deputy Treasurer, becoming County Treasurer on May 1, 2004, by appointment by then Governor George Pataki. Mr. German was elected County Treasurer in November of 2004 and has run four additional times.

Treasurer German was elected by his fellow New York State County Treasurers to serve as President of the New York State County Treasurers and Finance Officers Association in 2012. In 2016, German was named New York State Finance Officer of the Year by his peers.

For the past 10 years, German has been one of two New York State Directors to the National Association of County Collectors, Treasurers, and Finance Officers (NACCTFO), an elected position by his New York State colleagues.

In 2020, Mr. German was presented the Inaugural National Leadership Award from a Pittsford NY company Three + One, which does business with hundreds of municipalities nationwide in assisting with liquidity analysis. German was presented this award for his role in maximizing the return on Genesee County’s cash.

Mr. German wishes to thank the voters of Genesee County for the last 20 years for entrusting him with the county’s finances. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of this county as the county’s Chief Fiscal Officer,” German said. 

“I wish to thank all the county legislators that he had the opportunity to work with and the Genesee County Republican Committee for their support over the last 20 years. I’d also like to thank all of the employees of the Treasurer’s Office who I have had the pleasure to work with over the last 31 years. It is those employees that I owe a debt of gratitude to for their work that has allowed me to be a successful County Treasurer.”

German also wishes to thank his three deputies for their loyalty, dedication, and hard work over the last 21 years. They are L. Matthew Landers who served 10 years, James Stack for one year, and Kevin J. Andrews for the final 10 years of German’s tenure as County Treasurer.

Genesee County seeks public input to enhance its website experience

By Press Release

Press Release:

Genesee County is seeking input from residents and users of its website, co.genesee.ny.us, to improve the overall citizen experience online. The County is committed to making the website more user-friendly and relevant to the community's needs.

The survey, accessible at this link: https://bit.ly/GenCoWebSurvey, is designed to gather feedback on various aspects of the current website, such as layout, content organization, and functionality. Genesee County encourages community members to participate and share their thoughts on improving the website.

"We want to make our website more efficient and user-friendly, and we need the input of those who use it most – the residents of Genesee County," said Steven Falitico, Public Communications and Web Design Specialist for Genesee County. "This survey is a straightforward way for people to provide their insights and help shape the future of the online platform."

The survey will remain open through Feb. 26, and all responses will be confidential. At the end of the survey, there will be an option to sign up as a “test user.” This test would take approximately 5-10 minutes to complete.

Individuals who sign up as test users will receive an email in early March. Genesee County appreciates the community's involvement in this effort and looks forward to implementing changes based on the feedback received.

Revving the Engine House for another renovation to meet county's growing needs

By Joanne Beck
Paul Osborn and Matt Landers on second floor
Genesee County Manager Matt Landers and Deputy Highway Superintendent Paul Osborn discuss plans for a $4 million future renovation of the Engine House at 3 W. Main St., Batavia, if the county Legislature gives the green light, to create 14 offices, install an elevator, extend the second level over the first floor and make other upgrades to the site that houses the Public Defender's Office and Batavia Peace Garden.
Photo by Joanne Beck

A need for space, and to more efficiently use what’s already available at the Engine House at 3 West Main St., has prompted Genesee County officials to map out plans for an approximately $4 million project to add several more offices and amenities, install an elevator, extend the second level, and temporarily move out all of the attorneys.

If the project is approved and construction begins in April, everyone will vacate the premises, and the Public Defender’s Office will move over to the current Genesee Justice site, which is set to move over to the new county jail on Route 5.  That will also mean finding a new home for Batavia Peace Garden folks after planting their roots at the site for the last seven or eight years, Barb Toal says. 

“We’re looking for a place; we’re going to be homeless,” Toal said Friday. “We talked to the city manager, we’re trying to keep it as close as possible to the Peace Garden as we can.  The town of Batavia is working with us as well. We can get by with an 8 by 10 space, all we need is a desk and a computer.”

Toal and County Manager Matt Landers each said that he gave the nonprofit advance notice that this would likely be happening once the project was officially approved by the County Legislature. It has gone to one county committee already, has received a loose nod of approval from legislators to proceed, and will go to the Public Service Committee for review Feb. 20 as architectural plans get adjusted and bids are sought before final cost estimates are brought back to the county leaders for a final vote later this spring.

“We’ll be putting a change order to our existing engineering contract, to finish the full engineering and then follow through with the project afterward. And that means bidding it out, and all that comes along with that, and then we'll bid it. Once we bid it, and those bids come back, then we will go to the full Legislature for approval," Osborn said.

That gives the Peace Garden volunteers until April to find a small space with similar minimal rent that the county was charging. The town of Batavia has freed up a space for the group’s meetings, Toal said, but again, it would be ideal to find a location closer to the garden that’s alongside Holland Land Office Museum for use as an office. 

A walk-through of the Engine House, which certainly has had its share of renovations over the years — being used initially for municipal services, including to house pumps that forced water from the Tonawanda Creek into the water mains, and perhaps most notably for locals, as Engine House #1 Restaurant and Lounge from 1980 to 1991, and in more recent years housing the county’s History Department and then the Public Defender’s Office. For more about 3 West Main St., go HERE

Sadly, for those who frequented the restaurant and bar, that iconic booth with an inlaid wooden circle will be removed during future construction. The heavy-duty black, intricate wrought iron gates at either end of the entrance may get sold or repurposed, Landers and Osborn said, and many pieces of the house, such as a quarter moon stained glass window now hidden in a ceiling truss, will be incorporated as pieces of nostalgic history. 

Paul Osborn and Matt Landers with booth behind
Paul Osborn points to the brick wall that will remain on the east side of the building. Behind him is the booth that will be removed as part of the renovation. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

Due to the funky steps that wind around and are not handicap compliant, an elevator will answer that call, and allow attorneys and visitors, when necessary, better and safer access to the second floor. That upper level now stops short at about a third of the way over the first floor, and will be extended some 10 more feet to about halfway, Osborn said. 

The eastern wall will get more lighting with glass windows on the upper portion so that staff can have an outside view and look down, he said. The hallway leading toward West Main Street will include an elevator and three single bathrooms closer to the entrance.

“One of the coolest spaces that you’d want to see is the Turret Room,” Landers said, of the small tower-like room that almost seems like a standalone entity unto itself. Tall and slender, it takes a couple of small steps to get into this room, traditionally used as a defensive position allowing covering fire to the adjacent wall in the days of military fortification. This particular room contained a fire pole for firefighters to slide down during emergencies and later served a more refined purpose as private dining for a table of six. 

“The pole was for the fire department; it came from upstairs where their sleeping quarters were. That's where they would slide down,” Osborn said.

That room’s future calling is to be a kitchenette and break room for employees, and the remaining hallway will lead to offices and a conference room toward the west end of the building.

Public Defender Jerry Ader has obtained a grant for just under $1 million to put towards the project cost — an elevator in particular -- to allow better access to the second floor, and although the deadline has been extended, Landers believes that if it can proceed and officials can demonstrate that it’s on track, another extension is possible so as not to lose that funding. 

There’s also additional potential funding to come, he said. The remaining expense would be paid for with county reserves, Landers said. 

Given its varied levels, steps, and spacing — not to mention the outside layout of little to no public parking — selling the property has not proven successful, leaving a renovation and creation of at least 14 offices with room for more as the most feasible option, Landers said. 

“There's always been a desire to try to find a way to put an elevator in this building to make it accessible and find grant funds to do it. So I’d say, what, 12 months at least that Jerry has been looking at, 12 to 18 months, that we've been kind of looking at this more seriously with Jerry having this money, and it could be a little longer than that. But it's been a goal for a while to try to find a way to utilize the space,” Landers said. “It was out on the market for a little bit years ago, but there wasn't a lot of interest in the space because of the challenges of parking, and the cost of renovating an old building like this. So we have come to the realization that we have a need for employees over in the current court facility and that this is probably the best use of it to stay in county hands.

“One of the deterrents from developing this building before was not having accessibility to the second floor. And now that we have the ability to utilize the funding to the Public Defender's Office to get an elevator in here, that opens up the entire building, but the public defender is still going to be utilizing half the building for their own needs to justify them putting the money into the building,” Landers said. “But that helps us open up the back end. And we're doing some renovations here in this corner of the building to allow for other county offices to start spilling over into this location. And the ultimate goal, if the Legislature approves the contract coming up later in February, is that we would be renovating this building fully for county purposes.”

There will be a handicap-accessible ramp built at the south end of the building for a proper ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant egress, Osborn said. 

“So if we have an elevator that allows them into this space, they can't just drop themselves down off the steps. So we have to create them a means of egress for them out as well,” he said. 

Paul Osborn at iron gate
Paul Osborn points down the hallway that leads to another area to be filled with more offices and a conference room toward the west, and a kitchenette and break room on the east end in the Turret Room. About halfway will be the elevator and three single bathrooms. 
Photo by Joanne Beck
Paul Osborn with blueprints
Plans are not final and have not yet been officially approved by the county Legislature. 
Photo by Joanne Beck
Paul Osborn in the Turret Room
The "cool" room, also known as the Turret Room, which once housed a fire pole for the fire department, and much later was a private dining room for Engine House #1, will eventually be a kitchenette and break room if this project proceeds. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

Leadership Genesee announces class of 2024

By Press Release
group-pic-cropped.JPG
Members of the Class of 2024 and their sponsoring organizations are (from left to right): 
1st row: Katy Hobbs, GC Chamber of Commerce; Arvind Sridharan, Liberty Pumps; Heather Tabor, Lawley  
2nd row: Abby Ball, Batavia Housing Authority; Missy Blum, Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union; Carla Aceto, GC Health Department; Raylyn Kingdon, Town of Batavia; Karen Vallese, DelPlato Casey Law Firm, LLC; Melanie Rhodes, WNY Rural Area Health Education Center
3rd row: Jamie Lindsley, Oakfield Betterment Committee; Mark Wheeler, WNY Tech Academy/ GV BOCES; Sheila Harding, UConnectCare Behavioral Health Services; Krista Galdun, City of Batavia; Jill Mapes, GC Department of Social Services; Peter Mittiga, GC Mental Health Service; Jessica Riley, GC Office for the Aging; Jennifer Waldron, GC Department of Social Services; Kelly Starchok, Genesee Community College; Lauren Casey, GC Economic Development Center
4th row: Dave Hetrick, RRH United Memorial Medical Center; Branden Riggs, Clark Patterson Lee; Adam Doktor, GC Information Technology; Mark Williams, Genesee Patrons Cooperative Insurance Company; Tim Hagen, Town of Alexander; Bill Bogan II, GC Probation; Dave Bell, GC Health Department; Destin Danser, LeRoy Ambulance Service, Inc.; Craig Wagner, Alleghany Farm Services; Jodi Fisher, Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council

Press Release:

Leadership Genesee welcomed 29 individuals from all walks of life representing our community’s public and private organizations, on January 24 and 25 for the 2-day Opening Retreat.  

First time organizations include LeRoy Ambulance Service, Oakfield Betterment Committee Inc., WNY Rural Area Health Education Center, and DelPlato Casey Law Firm, LLP. The class represents a broad cross-section of the community, including education, finance, manufacturing, healthcare, service industry, not-for-profits and the public sector.

Leadership Genesee Director Peggy Marone said, “Leadership Genesee believes we owe it to future generations to provide a community with people who are knowledgeable, able to have civil conversations about both sides of an issue, and create trusting and respectful relationships!” 

She continues, “There is a lot going on in our world, we must have leaders who embrace inclusion, listen generously, and understand that it takes little or no effort to allow others to have their feelings and opinions. This kind of respect is missing in many conversations, it’s up to each of us to bring that respect back to our relationships.”

The retreat was sponsored by Leadership Genesee Alumni and was facilitated by Skip Helfrich of Human Energies. Leadership Genesee is a program of CCE Genesee County, an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and individuals with Disabilities, and providing equal program and employment opportunities.

For more information, visit LG’s website at http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/leadership-genesee; “like” LG on Facebook at www.facebook.com/leadershipgenesee; or contact Director Peggy Marone at (585) 343-3040, ext. 118 or mem77@cornell.edu.  Up next for the Class of 2024: Our Business, Our Economics on February 28.

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