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April 5, 2021 - 9:32am

When it comes to Genesee County’s water supply, municipal officials are fixated on a goal of a regionalized system under the umbrella of the Monroe County Water Authority.

Projects continue to move forward to the east and west of Genesee County as part of what is known as Phase 2 – resulting in an additional two and a half million gallons per day. And much more work is planned for Phase 3, which is expected to increase the county’s daily water output by another six million gallons.

With a steady influx of economic development in the county and the prospect of large-scale manufacturing at the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama in the near future, the demand for water is bound to amplify.

“We’re flipping over rocks everywhere we go to find more water,” said Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, who is responsible for carrying out the county’s strategy.

Hens said that developing a regional water supply will result in a “resilient, safe and affordable” commodity for years and years.

“That’s probably the best thing for everybody,” he said. “The cost of repairing stuff down the road would be borne by the entire MCWA service area, not just the Village of Le Roy, for example, trying to replace its own water plant.”

Great Lakes water: Safe and plentiful

He said water coming from the Great Lakes is safe and plentiful.

“The water is safer (because) you’re dealing with Great Lakes water as opposed to water that might be contaminated with a flood or runoff or anything else that might go wrong,” he said. “It’s safer and, honestly, it’s more redundant because we will have potentially water supply from four different water plants on the Great Lakes.”

Genesee County has been working over the past two decades to achieve its quest for eight and a half million gallons per day, Hens said, calling the effort “very complex with a lot of intermunicipal relations.”

He said the county’s system currently pumps about four and half million gallons a day through the City of Batavia’s water treatment plant. That water, in turn, is sold to the communities in the central part of the county.

The key player in all of this is the Monroe County Water Authority.

“We get about two and a half million gallons per day from the MCWA through the North Road booster station in Le Roy,” Hens said. “And then Monroe County buys a little bit of water from Erie County to feed Darien, Pembroke and Corfu on the west side.”

Pump station upgrades ongoing

Hens said several pump station upgrades are either in progress or on the schedule as the county works to meet the demand:

  • Mumford and Churchville, small portions of Phase 2 that are set to come online by April 15;
  • Morgan Road in Scottsville; Scottsville; Riga, and North Road, which were submitted to MCWA for consideration last week;
  • Golden Road booster station in the Town of Chili, which was submitted to MCWA on March 5.
  • Bissell Road in Bergen, which calls for the installation of 1,700 linear feet of water main to the MCWA connection, and would provide up to 35,000 gallons per day. Hens said this minor project should be done by June.

Additionally, Hens said that installation of water mains on North Road and Vallance Road in Le Roy and a water line on Chestnut Ridge Road in Chili (that will feed into the yet-to-be-constructed Golden Road booster station) is finished.

Hens said that the pump station upgrades and the Golden Road booster station will mark at end to Phase 2 work.

“All of those projects combined will increase our water supply,” he said. “Hopefully, by this time next year we will have everything done and we can have that water available for the summer of 2022.”

Hot days tax the water supply

While Hens said he looks forward to the warm summer months, he is concerned about “those 90-degree days that put a strain on the water supply.”

“Right now, we’re kind of tapped out on water supply,” he said. “On a hot summer day, like last year on the Fourth of July, we were kind of in drought conditions. We’re pretty much – there was no water left to tap. We were producing all the water that we could produce, and it was being used up on a daily basis.”

Genesee County is taking steps to secure water for its central (including the City of Batavia) and western zones as well, Hens said.

“The city water plant draws water from two primary locations – the Tonawanda Creek and the wells on Cedar Street (in front of the county highway department near O-At-Ka Milk Products),” Hens advised.

He said Well A and Well B are active, but are susceptible to an extended drought. For that reason, the county is looking at adding a third well, Well C.

“Given the fact that we are at – kind of peak supply, peak demand right now until Phase 2 is completed – we need to make sure the Batavia water plant has enough water coming out of it to meet the demand, especially in the summertime,” Hens said. “Well C would be there not necessarily to produce more water but as a backup in case one of the other wells has an issue. That way, we can be assured that the city plant can produce as much water as needed.”

Well C is vital to the overall plan

Hens said the county has completed an environmental review and may be ready to award a bid to Frey Drilling to get this project moving.

“It will probably be late summer or the fall before its online. It’s going to be a critical piece for the next few years to have that,” he said.

On the west side, Hens said the county gets about a million gallons a day from Erie County to serve residents in Darien, Pembroke, Corfu (and a small area in the Town of Alabama).

“We’re looking at every single drop of water that we can get until we can do Phase 3 and eventually Phase 4,” he said.

He said he looked into a project with Erie County that officials thought would create an additional two and a half million gallons per day, but it fell through.

“Last fall, we did some hydraulic testing with Erie and Monroe counties, combined, and artificially created a demand by pumping into Genesee County to see the effect on Erie County. When we were pumping in at a higher rate, we caused pressure issues in Erie County as far west as Cheektowaga along Walden Avenue,” Hens said. “Because of that, it would actually cost more money because of the need to do system upgrades, and we kind of shelved the idea."

Looking ahead, the county is embarking on the environmental, design and master planning work for Phase 3.

Phase 3 completion three years away

“In a perfect world, we would start Phase 3 construction by 2023, but it’s hard to say. I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that Phase 3 can be delivered, complete and operational by 2024 -- 2025 at the latest,” he said.

Hens said a major component of Phase 3 would be to run pipelines back into Monroe County, all the way to the Shoremont Treatment Plant in Greece.

“That’s quite a bit of pipeline, with a lot of it through urban areas, and will be a very expensive project,” he said.

Upon the completion of Phase 3, Hens said that the City of Batavia water plant would be taken offline.

Furthermore, county officials are discussing a proposal to establish a Niagara County-MCWA relationship similar to the current Erie County-MCWA pact, Hens said.

“This could benefit us as we await Phase 3 and provide water to STAMP’s large water needs in the future and benefit MCWA in the long-term as they might be the source beyond what Niagara County could provide to STAMP at full build-out,” Hens explained. “Monroe County, if it agrees, would operate the systems. We’re not sure if it’s feasible; it’s just an option because we’re definitely going to need the water.”

Previous: Genesee governmental leaders ready to address call for a countywide unified water rate

March 11, 2021 - 9:15am

Batavia City Manager Rachael Tabelski was spot on Monday night when she predicted the “lower figure” would be allocated to the city through the $1.9 trillion federal relief act known as the American Rescue Plan.

Tabelski reported at this week’s City Council meeting that she received estimates “ranging between $1.57 million and $2.5 million, so I’ll go with the lowest figure -- 1.5 to come into the City of Batavia, specifically.”

Tentative dollar amounts released Wednesday by Sen. Charles Schumer’s office and the National Association of Counties indicate that the city will get $1.58 million as a result of the legislation.

Tabelski categorized the funding as a “windfall” in that the money must be used for certain projects such as infrastructure and not to “stabilize our operations.” Municipal leaders are waiting for more details on how the money can be spent.

Genesee County is targeted to receive $11.11 million, in range of what County Manager Matt Landers had forecasted. 

The county’s 14 towns are expected to receive $4.66 million, divvied up as follows:

  • Town of Alabama, $190,000;
  • Town of Alexander, $270,000;
  • Town of Batavia, $750,000;
  • Town of Bergen, $320,000;
  • Town of Bethany, $190,000;
  • Town of Byron, $250,000;
  • Town of Darien, $330,000;
  • Town of Elba, $250,000;
  • Town of Le Roy, $810,000;
  • Town of Oakfield, $330,000;
  • Town of Pavilion, $260,000;
  • Town of Pembroke, $450,000;
  • Town of Stafford, $260,000.

Allocations to Orleans and Wyoming counties are expected to be $7.83 million and $7.73 million, respectively.

In other City of Batavia government news:

  • Tabelski and City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said they are waiting to receive some outstanding invoices before determining the total amount that was spent to conduct the nationwide search for a permanent city manager.

Jankowski previously told The Batavian that he figured it would be around $5,000. The city contracted with The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio, to assist in the search following the departure of Martin Moore last June. (The Batavian has requested an itemized list of all expenses).

Some residents have criticized the city for conducting another search (Novak was involved in the search that resulted in Moore’s hiring in 2018) when it could have hired Tabelski, who had been serving in an interim role for the past eight months.

Council opted to conduct a full search, however, as a stipulation in the contract with Novak indicated it would be provided at no cost, other than travel, advertising and related expenses.

As it turned out, even if the expenses involved to reach a decision to appoint Tabelski as the permanent city manager increase to $6,000, for example, the city will have saved significantly in salary over that time.

If Tabelski was hired in July, her salary would have jumped from (approximately) $7,398 per month to $9,166 per month – a difference of $1,768 per month. Multiply that times eight months and you get $14,144. The city did give Tabelski a stipend of $1,000 per month for the additional duties, so the savings decrease to $6,144.

But what also must be considered is that if Tabelski was hired in July, she would have brought on an assistant manager in short order. Even at a salary of $75,000, for example, that would have cost the city another $45,000 to 50,000 or so in personnel expenses.

Jankowski said initially he was in favor of “speeding up the hiring process” as he supported Tabelski for the job, but he thinks the decision to conduct the search was the right one.

“Looking back on that, I’m glad I acted on the feedback I received and supported moving on with a full and complete search,” he said. “It was fair and thorough. The search committee did a great job and I’m proud to have been a part of the process.”

  • Tabelski, responding to an email from The Batavian, confirmed that Ray Tourt had opted not to accept the permanent position of Department of Public Works director.

“After additional consideration, Ray Tourt has decided not to take the permanent/provisional appointment of Director of Public Works,” Tabelski said. “Ray, a 20-plus-year veteran of the city, is committed to the City of Batavia and will remain the interim director while the city conducts a full search, and hiring process for a new director.”

Once a new director is hired, Tourt will go back to his former position of superintendent of the Bureau of Maintenance, and the city’s Human Resources department will begin to advertise for the position of DPW director in the near future, Tabelski added.

Tourt was appointed DPW director in December after Matt Worth’s announcement that he would be retiring.

March 9, 2021 - 10:51am

As the New York State-run mass vaccination clinic at Genesee Community College concludes its five-day run, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he believes the operation has gone well enough to justify a repeat performance.

The clinic, which offered 3,500 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, began on Friday and wraps up at 11 a.m. today.

While governmental leaders in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming were upset that it wasn’t limited to residents in their tri-county area, Landers said that, procedurally, after some initial confusion, things went smoothly.

“As soon as the first couple hours died down, on Saturday, Sunday and yesterday, this thing has been a well-oiled machine,” Landers said this morning. “I think the state has been very impressed with the location and the ease of getting people in and out. I think we could have probably doubled the doses easily if the state would have given it to us.”

Landers said he hopes GCC could host another mass vaccination clinic in the near future.

“We’re hoping that the state looks at this as, maybe, a location that they can permanently staff with their own people, and not have it interfere with the Genesee County allocation. I hope the state looks at this and sees the positives that this location affords,” he said.

He said the college is a “logical place” for a clinic.

“They have one in Buffalo and one in Rochester, and the one here in Genesee County -- if they keep it the same way -- they’re still serving people from the western and eastern sides of Monroe and Erie counties (respectively) along with residents in our area,” he offered. "So, they’re still accomplishing (vaccinating people in) a large region and they have a great site.”

Landers did acknowledge long lines in the first couple hours on Friday as a result of the switch from the county’s regular clinic to the state clinic.

Going forward, he said it is important that any operation run by the state does not interfere with the Genesee County clinic nor the vaccine allocations that come directly to the county.

“Also, we would to have the state use its people to staff its site,” he said. “It’s one thing for us to use all of our staff to assist over a five-day span, but we need our employees for our needs here in Genesee County.”

Previously: Nearly half of the 3,500 COVID-19 vaccine doses at first GCC clinic booked by Erie County residents

March 9, 2021 - 8:58am

As much as $2.5 million could be on its way to the City of Batavia through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that is expected to be approved by the House of Representatives either today or Wednesday before being sent to President Biden for signing into law.

“We’ve had figures ranging between $1.57 million and $2.5 million, so I’ll go with the lowest figure -- 1.5 to come into the City of Batavia, specifically,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said after Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room.

The massive COVID-19 relief bill includes another round of $1,400 direct payments to income-eligible citizens as well as money for schools, small businesses, vaccines and expansion of the child tax credit. It has been hailed as a great victory for the Biden Administration, but lawmakers on the Republican side have opposed it, stating that only 9 percent of the funds go directly to coronavirus relief.

Already passed by the Senate, the current plan on the House floor appropriates $23.8 billion for New York State, broken down as follows:

  • $12.569 billion for New York State government;
  • $6.141 billion for New York’s metro cities;
  • $3.907 billion for New York’s counties;
  • $825 million for New York’s small cities, towns and villages;
  • $358 million for New York State broadband investment.

Tabelski termed money earmarked for Batavia as a “windfall.”

“The issue with the revenue is that it is not sustainable … it’s a windfall to the city,” she said. “You have to look at it for one-time type projects, and it can only be spent on certain things, like water, wastewater, infrastructure, broadband infrastructure, things of that nature.”

She said that the funds aren’t “something we can use at this point to stabilize our operations” but can be used to advance projects identified by city leaders.

She said it is unclear exactly how the money can be spent.

“Does it have to be COVID-related or can it be open-ended? So, when those rules and regulations are promulgated, we’ll have a lot better picture of how we’re able to move that forward on behalf of the residents of the city,” she advised.

Looking at Genesee County, its chief administrative officer anticipates the county receiving between $11 million and $12 million once the bill is passed.

“Guidelines are still coming out to help municipalities such as counties and cities better identify how we can allocate those monies in our communities,” County Manager Matt Landers said this morning.

“Basically, the broad strokes, the big picture that has been provided to me so far is that we can spend it on things like economic development projects, and infrastructure needs like broadband and water.”

He also pointed out that the money can be used to replace verifiable lost revenue.

“And we certainly can demonstrate lost revenue in Genesee County from lost sales tax and even lost state aid,” he said. “And also cover current and future COVID costs … and costs related to the pandemic that may qualify, such as the delay of our (proposed new) county jail. We have delayed our jail probably a good year or two, and the prices have gone up since then.”

Landers said he will be on a conference call with New York State Association of Counties officials on Friday to learn more about the parameters of the American Rescue Plan and share ideas with other county administrators.

“To my knowledge, you can access the money for prior lost revenue … things that have happened as a result of the pandemic and then there are specific projects in the community that we can put it towards,” he offered.

“That’s where the economic development and infrastructure projects come in, working with the Chamber of Commerce and GCEDC (Genesee County Economic Development Center) to see of there are some projects that will meet the criteria – when we actually learn what the criteria is.”

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post said he has not received specific details, but indicated any funding for the town would likely be funneled through the county.

“We received absolutely nothing officially, in fact we’re still trying to get FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) reimbursements and work through that process,” said Post, adding that the town board will convene on Wednesday to possibly find out more about the latest relief package.

Post said there’s “a lot to offset” because municipalities did not receive the state aid that was expected.

“Counties are still recovering from that as well as a lot of towns,” he said.

March 2, 2021 - 5:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, video, livestream.
Video Sponsor

Police Reform and Reinvention Committee for Genesee County

February 5, 2021 - 11:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in matt landers, live stream, video, genesee county.
Video Sponsor

We're planning on talking with Matt Landers, county manager, at 1 p.m. We'll talk about the status of county government, tax revenue, COVID-19 response, and other topics.

At 2:30 p.m., we're scheduled to talk with Rachael Tabelski, interim city manager.

January 28, 2021 - 10:06am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, Richmond Memorial Library.

With a helping hand from Genesee County, a Richmond Memorial Library program vital to reaching residents unable to make it to the Ross Street facility is able to keep on rolling.

On Wednesday, the Genesee County Legislature approved a contract with Genesee Valley Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Avon to accept a submitted bid to provide the library – as well as any other municipalities that wish to use the bid via the "piggyback clause" – access to vehicle pricing that was submitted as part of the bid.

The contract is in place for 90 days, beginning on Dec. 10.

What this means is that the library, after contacting the county’s Purchasing Department to assist in buying a new vehicle, is able to purchase a 2021 Jeep Latitude SUV to replace the 2011 van that it had been using as part of its Library Visits program.

According to the library’s website, the Library Visits program provides library services to older adults in Genesee County who are unable to visit the library. It is funded by a grant from the Muriel H. Marshall Fund for the Aging. The late Muriel Marshall was a former school librarian.

Genesee County residents at least 60 years old who are confined to their homes due to a short term or extended illness, disability, or lack of transportation may be eligible for the services of this program, which also offers rotating mixed media collections to senior housing complexes, adult daycare facilities, nursing homes, and veterans' facilities in Genesee County.

The cost of the new vehicle, which reportedly will be delivered by early March, is $13,557 -- significantly less than the retail price – and is a result of using the county’s purchasing power and trading in the van. The resolution also states that the county does not expect to use this particular contract to purchase vehicles.

"We were able to trade in the van, which was about 10 years old but it only had 10,000 miles on it, so we got $10,000 for it," Conrad said. "Add the municipal discount and the fact that we pay no tax, and we got a great deal."

Conrad said the vehicle is used a couple times a week for the Library Visits program -- traveling to group living homes and switching out material every four to six weeks -- but also could be used to carpool librarians to Nioga Library Systems headquarters in Lockport, to the annual conference in Saratoga Springs or other training opportunities wilthin the boundaries of the Western New York Library Resources Council that is based in Buffalo.

He said the plan is to either apply vinyl wrap or place a sign on the vehicle for advertising purposes.

Conrad credited Library Visits coordinator Lucine Kauffman and Batavia City School District Business Administrator Scott Rozanski for pointing him in the direction of Genesee County Purchasing Director Eve Hens.

Hens said she was happy to assist Conrad in the process.

“Bob Conrad called me because they don’t have a purchasing department, obviously, and he wasn’t really sure how to proceed with the purchase and wanted to make sure that it was done the right way – following all of the laws and procedures that are in place,” Hens said.

She said the county has advertised and issued bids for vehicle purchases in the past, with the stipulation that “while Genesee County was sponsoring the bid, we would not be the one to purchase the vehicle – it was specifically for use by the Richmond Memorial Library.”

The transaction was accomplished by using the procurement “piggyback clause,” Hens said, wording that states that a contract put into place as a result of the bid will be available for use by other municipalities with the mutual consent of the vendor and the municipality that will be using the bid.

“It also states that Genesee County will not be responsible for any contracts that are put in place using our bid,” she added.

While the “piggyback clause” calls for competitive bidding for anything over $20,000, Hens said it was wise for the library to go this route because it was “hard to tell what the cost would be up front.”

“So, I would always err on the side of caution when issuing a bid. If it’s estimated to be around $20,000, I would do the bid just to be make sure that we’re covered,” she said.

Hens said she wasn’t sure how much money the library saved, but figured it was significant because of the trade-in and the utilization of municipal pricing. This process can only be used by municipalities that receive tax revenue, which Richmond Memorial Library does through its relationship with the Batavia City School District.

She also noted that she puts the piggyback clause in all county bids to make them available for use by the towns and villages, mentioning that towns and villages use the county’s road salt and highway materials bids to secure favorable pricing.

January 19, 2021 - 5:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, law enforcement, livestream, video.

Genesee County Police Reform & Reinvention Committee Meeting Jan 19, 2021. The committee will review its draft report.

January 12, 2021 - 2:42pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, vaccination procedures, genesee county, news.

Press release:

With New York State under increasing pressure to allocate the various COVD-19 vaccinations that in some instances have been destroyed or continue to be stored without being used, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Jan. 8 that a new group of recipients would be eligible to receive the vaccinations.  

This new group – categorized as 1b – is confined to those 75 years and older as well as utility workers, corrections officers, first responders (police, firefighters, EMTs and support personal) and primary through grade 12 school faculty and staff, including licensed childcare providers.

For a full list of priority workers, click here.

People age 75 and over will primarily be vaccinated at pharmacies and other sites that are part of the “retail network.” Use the online tool to find a location.

As of Monday, Jan. 11, the COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline will open for scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible New Yorkers: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).

“Residents need to be aware that we have already received reports where people are being contacted by scammers about how they can get a vaccine,” said Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein. “We are asking those who are eligible for the vaccine to please register on-line or call the COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline to schedule an appointment.”  

For others in groups 1a and 1b they can see local information about clinics and clinic schedules here and fill out a registration form and schedule an appointment. Clinics may fill quickly, so please be patient and check the site periodically.

In Genesee County, there are approximately 4,892 residents/ employees in 1a; and in Orleans County 4,321 in 1a residents/ employees. 

There are approximately 8,525 residents/ employees in 1b in Genesee County, including 4,809 age 75 years and older; and 6,032 residents/ employees in 1b Orleans County, including 2,959 age 75 years and older.

To date, approximately 200 doses of the vaccine have been received by both counties (400 total). Not all of the doses of the vaccination have been administered, but all of the doses are already scheduled for vaccination over the next few days.

“As the numbers demonstrate, there is nowhere near the amount of vaccine for the number of people who are eligible to receive it. This is a rapidly changing situation, so we understand the frustrations, questions and concerns that we are receiving from many residents,” Stein said.

“This whole process will be determined by the supply of the vaccines and as such we need to be flexible as we anticipate the situation will continue to change. We ask and urge patience among our residents.”

December 21, 2020 - 5:41pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, genesee county.

The federal government’s decision to not include funding for state and local governments in the latest stimulus package is disappointing, according to City of Batavia and Genesee County municipal officials.

“It is very disappointing, especially considering that our frontline workers – our police and fire personnel – have been dealing with COVID for many months and we could really use that money right now,” Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski said today.

On Sunday, Congressional leaders agreed to a $900 billion stimulus bill that, per a report in The Washington Post, will release a second stimulus check of up to $600 to qualifying adults and their dependent children -- but not dependent adults.

The package also extends a federal unemployment benefit check of $300 per week for another 11 weeks and the Payroll Protection Program to cover employee wages.

Democrats were unable to deliver direct funding to states and local governments, but they were successful in getting $22 billion to help municipalities with expenses such as COVID-19 testing and vaccines.

Tabelski said the city continues on its COVID-19 austerity budget this year, and isn’t planning on any revenues from the federal government as it embarks on its 2021-22 budget that takes effect on April 1. Staff is working on the spending plan now, she noted.

“We are projecting 20-percent cuts in state aid next year, and we’re still operating under that premise for this year,” she said.

She also said it is “concerning” that Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated he may put off drafting the state’s 2021-22 budget until February or March as he holds out hope for federal support.

“We are planning our budget and they are going to wait in Albany. Normally, the state puts out a (preliminary) budget in the first few weeks of January. It is another challenge we have to face, but we’ll get through it,” she said.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said, “I’m definitely disappointed in the fact that no money is there for state and local governments, but I’m glad that there is was a package put together that benefits a large number of our citizens in other ways – with the stimulus checks, with extending unemployment benefits, with additional assistance for fighting COVID."

Landers said that since he had already budgeted for 20-percent less in state aid, “the lack of a relief for the state government should not have any further impact on us.”

“I budgeted very conservatively, assuming we wouldn’t get any relief and, so far, it looks like it was a good idea,” he added.

November 23, 2020 - 1:19pm

Having a role in the successful completion of a municipal project has provided a sense of satisfaction to City of Batavia Public Works Director Matt Worth, but it pales in comparison to his appreciation of and attachment to the people he worked with over the past 34 years.

“The people I have worked with I just can’t say enough about. I’m getting all choked up thinking about it, really,” Worth said during a telephone interview with The Batavian as he winds down a distinguished career with the city.

Worth’s official retirement date is Jan. 15, but his last day on the job – due to time earned – is Dec. 11.

His final City Council meeting is tonight’s Conference session at the City Centre Council Board Room, where he will receive a proclamation from lawmakers, honoring him for his dedicated service.

The 56-year-old lifelong resident of the Pembroke area said he has a special place in his heart for the people who believed in him and labored by his side.

“A lot of people gave me an opportunity or a chance, and I can’t thank them enough. I can name names, but I don’t want to leave anyone out,” he said.

Still, he first mentioned (the late) Dennis Larson, the former Public Works director who hired him back in March 1987 – “Dennis is someone I always thought the world of,” Worth said – and he thanked John Schaefer (former Water & Wastewater superintendent) and Len Walker (former Public Works director) for their expertise.

City Workers a Close-Knit Group

When it comes to his coworkers, Worth said they were like family.

“Those guys were special. When there was a water main break in the middle of the night and you’re out there in the freezing cold, you counted on each other to be there for each other,” he said. “Jim Ficarella and Bill Davis (retired and current Water & Wastewater superintendents, respectively), and the crews. There’s a sense of camaraderie and friendship and professionalism that I will always treasure.”

Worth began his career with the city – following a short stint with the Genesee County Highway Department – as an engineering technician and was promoted to deputy superintendent of water/wastewater in 1999. He took over as superintendent of that department three years later.

In July 2015, he was appointed Public Works director. The promotion put him in charge of the Bureau of Maintenance (Streets & Sidewalks), Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Water Plant and Sewer Plant), Bureau of Inspections (Code Enforcement) and Bureau of Engineering, with responsibility for approximately 50 employees.

During his tenure, he has been involved in numerous public works projects, including street reconstruction, water and sewer plant upgrades, and capital infrastructure planning.

“The projects that we’ve done over the years are the things that I’ve really craved,” he offered. “A project gets done and there’s a tangible change that happened – something that you can really see … the road got plowed, the road got paved, a new water line got put in, whatever that may be.”

Keeping a Low Profile is Just Fine

He said he understands how important public works are to residents and doesn’t mind flying under the radar.

“If we’re doing it right, the people don’t notice you’re doing it. There’s a certain satisfaction in that,” he said.

“When the kids come through on tours of things, we tell them that Public Works is the department that you touch and feel every day. You’re using the streets, you’re walking on the sidewalks, you’re using the water, you’re flushing the toilet. That interaction is very real with the services that Public Works provides compared to fire and police and other big departments that really you don’t have to interact with them, even though they’re a higher profile profession.”

In January 2018, Worth took over as interim city manager after the departure of Jason Molino and served in that role for about 10 months.

“That year of me being upstairs as the interim city manager, I really missed DPW,” he said. “The city manager position is more of a higher-level planning, with stuff more in the future and not readily tangible, so that’s why I was quite ready to get back to Public Works.”

He did such a fine job as interim city manager that he was selected by the Genesee Valley Branch of the American Public Works Association as the 2018 recipient of the Public Works Leader of the Year in the Administrative Management Category.

Worth said he had plenty of support during that time.

“I was very fortunate that I had really good people (department heads) when I was upstairs here – Ray Tourt (Department of Maintenance), Jim Ficarella, the two superintendents – they really ran the Public Works department for those 10 months, and did a really good job as there were projects still going on,” he said. “A lot of people pulled together, understanding that there was a vacuum and we all needed to help each other to get through it.”

Looking Back at Specific Projects

When asked about specific projects that stand out, Worth mentioned the new sewer plant construction, a $45 million venture that took place during his first year with the city.

“Being a young kid who doesn’t know a darn thing and walking into a huge project like that, I got exposed to so many different aspects of construction and large-scale projects,” he said. “What an opportunity to observe that and learn from that. That was on the very front end, but that sticks in my mind.”

He also said mentioned the Main Street reconstruction in 2003 and 2004 – “the road was in such bad shape,” he noted – and talked about some of the benefits of the smaller, residential street projects.

“You got to meet the people who lived there and you built relationships with them,” he said. “I remember some older people who lived on the street – by the end of the summer they were giving me canned tomatoes and offered to pray for you at night. That was a fun aspect of working in a municipality. You get to meet the people.”

As far as unfinished business, Worth remembers his first day on the job, performing survey work on Oak Street to prepare for a new street, Cecere Drive.

“It was a small subdivision with a few houses to be built there, but there ended up being a conflict over some property deeds or something, and that project never happened. That one never made it to the finish line.”

Hope Ahead for the City Centre Mall?

Worth acknowledged some “missed opportunities” in regard to building a new police station, but is pleased to see that it finally is on track.

“We always were going to do something, but something would come up and it got put off. The police need a new headquarters. The old City Hall (former Brisbane Mansion) is about 200 years old and trying to function as a police station.”

He said he is optimistic that a solution to the City Centre Mall dilemma is near. He called the initial concept of the Genesee Country Mall a mistake, “having all of these individual ownerships with this common hallway in the middle of it.”

“I was involved in that on several different levels over the years. I think frustration would be the word here, but I think moving forward there are opportunities that will be very positive – considering the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) redevelopment work.”

When it was mentioned that at least the roof has been repaired, Worth said the last section is scheduled to be done in the coming year … “and then all the buckets go away, right?”

Council President: He’s Going to be Missed

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said Worth deserves to enjoy his retirement, admitting “we’re going to miss him tremendously.”

“He’s done a lot of work; he’s involved in a lot of the projects. He stepped up even as assistant city manager for a time and was able to lead the ship for a couple months while we got things squared away so, he’s going to be missed for sure,” he said.

Jankowski said he is sure Worth has imparted his knowledge to put the city in position to promote his replacement from within.

“Hopefully, we’ve done our job and there are people in place to take over, but I know that Matt is that kind of guy -- a teacher and a mentor to a lot of the employees that he works with. So, I’m sure there will be somebody qualified to take the reins,” he said.

Tourt, a city employee for nearly 22 years, started out in the Engineering Bureau, working with Worth.

“They’re really going to miss him and they don’t realize how much yet. He’s been a real good boss and he’s been a great mentor and he’s been a good friend. He has really looked out for the operations of the city and always put the city first,” he said.

Worth said he intends to find another job, but is not sure of the line of work.

“I’m hoping to find somebody that has a need for an old, washed-up Public Works director, I guess,” he said, downplaying his experience. “I’m leaning toward something local. I really do enjoy living here and have lived here all my life.”

He also said that he and his wife, Joan, will have more time with the family – their grown children, Adam and Kathryn, and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3 – and continue to enjoy their walks at the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge.

“It’s a chance to give the dog some exercise,” he said.

November 21, 2020 - 12:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, Ways & Means Committee.

Genesee County governmental leaders have trimmed the fat from the county’s self-funded employee health benefits plan that has been hit with consecutive years of double-digit premium increases, County Manager Matt Landers said this week.

“I will say that the plan is run lean, believe it or not,” Landers said following a vote of the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee to approve monthly rates for 2021, effective Jan. 1. “There is no healthy reserve fund balance in that fund. We are just covering our costs.”

And the costs to the county are considerable as participants pay an average of 15 percent of the total premium, with the county picking up the other 85 percent.

Genesee County has budgeted $13,994,483 for 2021 for actual claims plus administrative and ancillary costs. Approximately 680 employees of the county and Genesee Community College are enrolled in the plan, with total participation including additional family members at approximately 1,660.

Landers said that medical and prescription drug premium rates are increasing 17.6 percent in 2021, and this is on the heels of a 10-percent increase for 2020.

“While it is painful, we are increasing the premiums as little as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to be mindful of the impact it has departments, on taxpayers and on individuals that are paying these increased premiums through cost sharing.”

He said the goal is to have everyone on the plan pay 15 percent of the total premium – which will be achieved through negotiations with the county’s four unions – and that each county department has a budget for the health care costs for its employees.

“Right now, the average county employee is pretty close to paying 15 percent,” he said.

For an illustration of the cost, an employee signed up under “Family (3 or more)” in the Health and Wellness Plan will pay around $339 per month for that coverage in 2021.

With the total monthly premium set at $2,261, the county is responsible for $1,922 per month.

Landers explained that being self-insured means that all medical and prescription drug bills come directly to the county.

“We’re self-insured, so when a person goes in for a surgery or somebody has a premature baby delivered and stays in the hospital two months, we’re not sending (bills) to Blue Cross & Blue Shield, we are our own self-insured company,” he said. “So, basically the doctor or the hospital … sends a bill to Genesee County for $175,000 and we’re the ones paying that.”

Other monthly rates under the Health and Wellness Plan include Single, $696; 2 Members, $1,391; Retired, single, $696; and Retired, family 3 or more, $2,261. The county also offers dental and vision benefits for both Single and Family.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said management and health plan consultants did their best to keep costs as low as possible.

“We understand that this increase in premiums is necessary, but if you go on to the market, you will see that it is right in line. So, I’m just pleased with this, considering where we are today,” she said.

November 10, 2020 - 2:22pm
posted by Press Release in news, notify, covid-19, Yellow Zone, genesee county.

Press release:

Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein and Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit are urging county residents and businesses to step up in taking precautions to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Their call is the result of an increase of infections in Genesee County and the GLOW region and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement earlier today about parts of Erie and Monroe counties being placed in Yellow zones.  

The Governor and his health experts have created three zones to manage the spread of the virus: 

  • Yellow Zone designates an area as being in a precautionary phase;
  • Orange Zone designation denotes a community is in a warning phase;
  • Red Zone means the community is in a cluster zone which imposes the strictest rules and regulations.

You can learn more about the zoning designation by clicking here

“We don’t want restrictions that will negatively impact businesses and the local economy, but if we continue to see increases and spikes, New York State is going to come in and create the zones that were announced today in Erie and Monroe counties,” Stein said. “Unfortunately, that is where we are trending if we don’t take action fast and become more vigilant to fight the spread of the virus.”

Among the restrictions in a Yellow Zone includes that:

  • Houses of worship can have no more than 50-percent capacity.
  • The maximum number of people at nonessential indoor or outdoor gatherings is limited to 25 people maximum.
  • Businesses can remain open but for restaurants there is a maximum of four people per table for both an indoor and outdoor dining.
  • Schools can remain open but there must be mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings.

Stein said that Genesee County will be reaching out to various government agencies and business partners to urge the community to step up their vigilance in wearing masks, maintaining appropriate social distancing, hand washing and other common sense things to prevent further spread of the virus. The County is asking these partners to spread the message through email and social media channels.

“The key thing at the moment is similar to what we experience with the cold and flu season and that is people feeling compelled to go out if they are not feeling well,” Pettit said. “If you feel ill in the slightest, then please do not go out or to work and contact your physician immediately in order to schedule a test.”

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays right around the corner, the temptation of larger gatherings particularly of family and friends who travel from outside the region poses another way of how the infection rate can spread.

“Cold and flu season is here, and eventually bad weather will force people to gather inside which is a recipe for the spread of the virus and this becomes even more concerning with the holidays right around the corner,” Stein said. 

Testing locations in Genesee County can be found here.

November 10, 2020 - 6:22am

youth_board_.jpg

If City Council Member John Canale has his way, there is no way Batavia’s youth programming will be cut.

Canale, attempting to allay the concerns of City Youth Board representatives David Twichell and Paula Fischer, said he sees the city’s youth program as “an invaluable gem” and said he would do everything in his power to continue or expand offerings to its young residents.

Speaking at Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, Canale responded to public comments by Twichell, Fischer and Fischer’s son, Andrew, who are troubled about a proposal to contract with the Genesee Area Family YMCA for city youth services.

Currently, the city has a contract with Genesee County to partially a fund a youth bureau executive director, Jocelyn Sikorski, but a resolution – currently placed on hold by the County Legislature – would dissolve that agreement and compel City Council to devise a new plan for youth services.

“Much like Paula, (who) spoke about the youth programs in the city, I grew up every day of my life as a kid at MacArthur Park on Monday through Friday, all day there except for lunch because when I was a kid, they didn’t provide lunch,” Canale said. “The youth bureau is an invaluable gem that we have here in the city, and I have no intention of decreasing the services the bureau offers.”

Canale said the cost to run the youth programs in the city “is miniscule in the whole budget picture.”

“So, I can assure anybody that is here tonight that is concerned about Council doing away with the youth bureau or doing away with the services that we provide our local youth, I can guarantee if any of my Council colleagues brought that up, I would definitely be dead set against it,” he said. “And I don’t think there is anybody here tonight that is against that.”

He then warned people about reacting solely from what they read on social media as well as The Batavian and another local news outlet.

“Don’t believe everything that you read, number one, and try not to formulate your opinion as to what the City Council’s actions are going to be based upon what you're reading on social media,” he offered.

Canale: No Discussion about Cutting Services

Canale said he didn’t recall any discussion pertaining to doing away with the youth bureau or cutting any services.

“Correct me if I’m wrong. Maybe I misunderstood or missed something, Rachael,” he said, looking at Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski. “Did Jocelyn not come to us as a county employee contracted with the city to share services? Did she not come to us and request that we cut that contract out?”

Tabelski replied, “That is correct.”

Canale responded that “for some reason, it seems like the public is under the impression that we in the city want to cut that out.”

“And the county manager (Matt Landers) also made public comment that I read that they were going to kind of leave it in our lap first to see what move we made first. I want the public to realize that this was the county that came to the city … and requested that maybe we could discontinue that contract.”

Canale said no decision has been made on the status of the contract with the county, stating that it is at the discussion stage.

“We’re looking at all possibilities and Rachael is looking into other possibilities as well as she approached the YMCA to see what they might be able to do to offer as good of services, if not better services,” he said.

He then aimed his remarks at Twichell and Fischer.

Advisory Board will be Involved

“For whatever reasons, the (Youth) board has not been in the communication circle yet, but I would only assume that at some point when the decisions are going to be made, that we would go to our advisory board and say that these are some of our thoughts (and) what do you guys think?” he said.

Canale urged people to not have a “knee-jerk reaction” to the situation based on social media or news accounts.

“This is all still in the talking stages. Nothing has happened. No programs have been cut,” he said.

The city’s youth center – the Liberty Center for Youth on City Church’s St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street – has been closed due to COVID-19 and because the city doesn’t have any youth services employees at this time.

“Maybe, like (Council Member) Rose Mary (Christian) said, 'maybe it’s time to look at that,' ” Canale said. “I don’t know. That should be part of the discussion as well. As things start to open up, we could look at that. Or now, obviously on the rise again with COVID, maybe this isn’t a good time to look at that, I don’t know.”

Youth Programming: More than Meets the Eye

Fischer, a member of the City of Batavia Youth Board for 10 years, said she has “fond memories” of the city parks’ program having attended Kibbe and Pringle parks. She is the director of school-based health programs for the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine.

She said she has volunteered during city youth events, providing oral health education and giving out hundreds of toothbrushes and toothpaste to kids and families. She called Batavia a great place to raise a family due, in part, to the services it offers to its young people.

Fischer emphasized that the youth bureau “is more than just the summer rec program -- although the rec program is well-known, serving hundreds of children every summer, providing safe, fun and educational programming – including lunch, which is a big help to many families.”

She mentioned several other events and programs under the city youth bureau, including:

  • The community garden;
  • National Night Out in conjunction with the city police;
  • The Liberty Center for Youth with services provided in conjunction with the YMCA;
  • Programs run by City Church at the St. Anthony’s campus;
  • A partnership with the Batavia City School District for busing to the youth center;
  • Summer safe carnival open to the community;
  • Youth and volunteer awards banquet at Terry Hills Restaurant;
  • A partnership with the Arc of Genesee Orleans for Saturday programs;
  • Visitation at nursing homes and the Senior Center;
  • Open gym nights and grants for summer recreation tennis programs.

“All of these programs provide a sense of pride in the community to the city residents,” she said.

Fischer said she was asking City Council to work with the advisory board to address budgetary issues and “come together to see if there’s a way we can be mindful of the city budget without decimating youth services.”

“A reduced level of service may be appropriate at this time with time to rebuild in the future,” she said.

Youth Board is ‘Open, Willing to Cooperate’

Twichell, the City Youth Board president, extended an invitation to all City Council members “that we are open and we are willing to cooperate with the city, and we are willing as an advisory board to help guide the process.”

“We know … with these COVID restrictions and the tough economic times we’re facing, we know the city is facing great challenges,” he said. “But there are times when we feel that there is somewhat of a disconnect between the board and the City Council.

"I’m here tonight to open and maybe knock down some of those barriers, and tomorrow I will be putting together an email for each and every one of you that will list all of our contact information.”

He then urged Council members to reach out to the advisory board if they have any questions about youth services.

Fischer’s son, Andrew, a former youth board vice president, said he worked for the summer rec program for five years during his summer breaks from Canisius College, where he earned an MBA in Accounting.

“A lot of our youth programs, specifically summer rec, are great ways for youth in our community to interact with one another and interact with the rec leaders,” he said. “It instilled in me a sense of leadership and a sense of empathy toward some of the kids, who obviously were from tougher situations.”

He said it didn’t “sit right” with him when he heard about youth services possibly changing, and noted that he looked at past city budgets on the website and saw that the summer recreation came in below budget last year.

McGinnis Objects to Sending Letter

Prior to Canale’s comments, Council Member Al McGinnis, the city’s liaison to the youth board, said he didn’t get a copy of a letter sent by the youth board to the media last week – a letter that objected to the resolution to terminate the city/county agreement and expressed the viewpoint that contracting with the YMCA instead was a done deal. (Fischer said that McGinnis and the other Council members did receive the letter).

“If you’re an elected or public official and you’re on a board, it is incumbent upon you to make sure that everyone on the board, whether they agree or disagree, knows that correspondence is going out to the public,” McGinnis said. “If not, the public gets confused when they hear two different sets of a thing. When you do it unilaterally, and basically conduct a rogue operation, without informing everyone, it looks bad for everyone concerned.”

He added, “At the time, the board members could have spoken to us at the meeting and said 'here are our points of view – we’d like to make sure that this is heard by the public.' No one is going to censure or stop a report … We owe it to the public to speak with a unified voice, or at least if it’s not unified, everyone gets a chance to say their piece.”

Christian asked how many kids attend the youth center on Liberty Street and if the city had any youth bureau employees at the center.

Tabelski said attendance ranged between 30 and 50 – “sometimes as low as five” – and that the city had no youth program employees, other than Sikorski, who directs city, Genesee and Orleans county youth activities.

“I look down the street and I see tons of kids out there,” Christian said, referring to the Liberty Center for Youth. She also asked about costs should the YMCA get involved.

Tabelski said that, pre-COVID-19, the city and the YMCA each supplied three or four staff members at the center, depending upon the number of children there, and that the YMCA did not charge the city for those employees,

She also mentioned that the city’s program coordinator, Lydia Schauf, recently took another job with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

Could Youth Center Have Stayed Open?

Christian then questioned why the center has been closed for so long while school is in session.

“It was supposed to be because of COVID," she said. "I see people at Walmart, I see people downtown. I see them at the grocery store, I see people here. I see people everywhere in the city. Those kids could wear a mask like anyone else in the city and they, I’m quite sure, would stop anyone from coming in without a mask.

"And I’m quite sure they would be disinfecting that facility for the kids over there. And they’re playing basketball on Tuesday nights and I haven’t heard of a soul from that center who has COVID.”

After Tabelski explained that the city was unable to hire part-timers (due to a hiring freeze) and, as a result, she contacted YMCA leadership to see if that organization could provide youth services in an attempt to cut costs and “also provide the same level of service.”

“I engaged in a discussion with the YMCA if they could staff the center and until we come to any preliminary contract terms, you’ll have nothing (in the form of a resolution) in front of you,” Tabelski said. “At such point, you would have a presentation by the YMCA on the programming that they can provide for us that is the same or better than what we’re providing today at a lower cost to the residents.”

Christian’s response indicated that she wasn’t buying that explanation.

“Yeah, it was mentioned on The Batavian that we have to think of the taxpayers,” she said. “We sure as hell don’t think about the taxpayers when it comes to lights for Ellicott Street over there for the trail, especially when at 4:30 at night it’s going to be dark in the winter time and the summer time around 9 o’clock. We don’t think about salary increases either, now do we?”

At that point, Paul Viele, who was presiding over the meeting in place of City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., who was out of town, cut Christian off.

Tabelski: Let’s Give it Another Try

Minutes later, Tabelski directed her comments to Twichell and Fischer, stating that she came to them during an Oct. 27 meeting in “good faith with ideas on our situation and our strategy.”

“And when you attended the meeting, you sat there, you listened to what I had to say, you listened to my ideas, we had great dialogue. And I am willing to continue that dialogue with you. But I prefer we did it in a committee setting and not go around the committee setting with emails and letters outside of the people on that committee and to the media, so we can really achieve something,” she said.

Tabelski credited the youth board for its commitment to the cause, but said “we have to think differently about this.”

“I am willing to come back and sit with you guys. And this time at the meeting, please speak up because when I left that (previous) meeting, everyone was in agreement to the strategy that I was going to look into and bring to Council.”

After she finished, Fischer attempted to present a “rebuttal,” but was told that she was not allowed to do that. 

“Then I will give my rebuttal to the media and you can read it there,” Fischer said.

Following the meeting, Fischer repeated the youth board’s claim that Tabelski had indicated to them that the decision to dissolve the city/county contract had already been made, and that Sikorski had obtained a grant to direct a Safe Harbor program and “wrote herself into that and changed her job description.”

Fischer also said there is someone who was employed by the city at the youth center who is willing to return to work there.

“When Lydia resigned, they didn’t feel like they had to go back and readdress this,” Fischer said. “They said, ‘OK, great, everybody is gone, and now we can really go and outsource youth services.' ”

She said the youth board is “leery about that.”

“They outsourced the county youth director, and look where we are,” she said. “And I don’t think we’re going to have the same quality of services – and it was our feeling that we had to let the community know.”

Photo: City Youth Board members David Twichell and Paula Fischer speaking to the media following Monday night's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 8, 2020 - 1:18pm

Press release:

County Manager Matt Landers is pleased to announce that Assistant County Manager, Tammi Ferringer (inset photo left) successfully completed the High Performance Leadership Academy, a partnership of the National Association of Counties (NACo).

The High Performance Leadership Academy features a robust curriculum developed by the Professional Development Academy in partnership with Fortune 1000 executives, public sector leaders, and world-renowned thought leaders, including retired four-star General Colin Powell and executive leadership coach and author Marshall Goldsmith, Ph.D.

The High Performance Leadership Academy focuses on five essential skills; leading, organizing, collaborating, communication and delivering. It emphasizes real-time instruction, small-group learning and knowledge exchanges.

“This training will enhance Tammi’s leadership skill set and help benefit Genesee County as a whole," Landers said. "I am thrilled that the Manager’s Office will be able to utilize these enhanced skills in leading County government forward in these challenging times.” 

More than 2,489 professionals from more than 1,343 counties across the country completed the Leadership Academy since 2018.

File photo.

November 6, 2020 - 5:29pm

Don’t go grouping Genesee County with five other rural counties outside of the heavy-populated hubs of Erie and Niagara when it comes to private-sector job losses over the past five years.

That’s one of the themes emanating from a Nov. 4 story in Buffalo Business First that reveals the findings of a federal report, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, pertaining to the Western New York business climate prior to the economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the BBF article, Genesee County “is an exception to the generally gloomy news about the six outlying counties” – the others being Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Orleans and Wyoming.

Genesee County, per the QCEW, created an additional 718 private-sector jobs between 2015 and March 2020, a period that culminated before the adverse effects of COVID-19 took hold. That represents a 4.4-percent increase.

Citing the BBF story, “The six outlying counties (including Genesee) collectively lost 4.1 percent of their jobs during the 2015-20 span, a period in which the national economy was prospering. A total of 4,303 private-sector positions vanished” from the six counties.

The number jumps to a 5.7-percent decline in employment for those other five counties when removing Genesee’s performance.

Steve Hyde, president and chief executive officer of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, contacted today said he’s not surprised by the report’s favorable news.

“In Genesee County, the continued collaboration among the various levels of government with our strong private sector is resulting in economic growth through capital investment and jobs,” he said. “The results shared since 2015 are visible at Genesee County’s eight shovel-ready business parks and the sustained growth of many Genesee County companies.”

Hyde contributed the growth to investments made by the county’s major employers as well as smaller businesses that have expanded their operations.

Some of those major employers include HP Hood, O-At-Ka Milk Products, Liberty Pumps, Wright Beverage and Tompkins Bank/Insurance.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said the QCEW report validates that Genesee County “is indeed a great place to work and live.”

“We are fortunate to have excellent companies in our backyard that are growing and investing right here in Genesee County,” Landers said today. “The combined efforts of the GCEDC, Batavia Development Corporation, Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, and Chamber of Commerce have helped to attract and retain many of these private-sector jobs, and have us positioned for continued growth for years to come.”

The BBF story called Genesee County “the one exception” to a downturn in job growth in the rural counties when compared to increases in the number of private-sector businesses in Erie and Niagara counties, per the QCEW study.

“A total of 4,303 private-sector positions vanished from Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties … while at the same time Erie and Niagara counties were adding 11,845 private-sector jobs, representing an increase of 2.7 percent,” according to the BBF article.

The story also pointed out that Orleans and Wyoming counties "essentially broke even" during the five-year span.

November 5, 2020 - 3:45pm

Although Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski believes the Genesee Area Family YMCA could play a significant role in the future of youth services in Batavia -- enabling the city to cut ties with Genesee County to fund a youth bureau executive director, an advisory group linked to the city isn’t convinced that is the best way to proceed.

A resolution to terminate the county’s youth bureau operating agreement with the city, a contract that calls for partial payment of the salary of Jocelyn Sikorski, Genesee/Orleans and City Youth Bureau executive director, came before two Genesee County Legislature committees this week.

On Monday, the Human Services Committee approved the measure, sending it to the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday for a final vote before being forwarded to the full legislature for ratification.

Ways & Means decided to table the resolution, however, minutes after a letter from the City Youth Board opposing the dissolution of the inter-municipal agreement found its way onto The Batavian and, likely, into the hands of Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg.

No one on the committee would comment when asked why the resolution was being tabled, but it is clear that the Youth Board’s opposition as well as the committee’s desire to let the city make the first move are the major reasons.

As a result:

  • The county is stuck in a holding pattern as the city leaders work through their differences. All indications point to a public discussion in some form or another at the City Council Business Meeting at 7 p.m. next Monday.
  • Tabelski is saying that there was no indication of any disagreement from the Youth Board with her proposal for the city to go in a different direction – looking at the YMCA to provide youth services -- and cut the $20,000 annual expense to help fund the executive director’s position.
  • The City Youth Board, in its letter, contends that it was not afforded an opportunity “to discuss alternative options with the Interim City Manager … prior to her decision.”

County Manager Matt Landers said he is dismayed over the situation.

“With any board or organization that dedicates so much time toward improving the community, it is obviously not a good thing to read the dissatisfaction and unhappiness of such a board,” he said. “As far as the county’s perspective, we’re a partner with the city and we certainly want to assist the city in meeting their needs with the youth. But at this point in time, it is important that we let the city decide how they want to move forward and then we can react accordingly.”

Landers said he and the legislature agree that the city should take the lead in this matter.

“We kind of put it in their hands … instead of the county going out in front and dissolving a contract. If it’s something the city really wants to do, then that’s something that they can lead out with first.”

He also said that it could be the right time to assess the agreement and explore other options.

Landers: Time for Reevaluation?

“At the end of the day, the relationship that we had with the city for a youth director was a good idea – and it was something put in place before my time as county manager, but it was a way to share services,” he said. “With any kind of agreement, you evaluate and see if there’s a different way to do it.”

Tabelski said she articulated a “different way” during an Oct. 27 meeting with the Youth Board, whose members are Dave Twichell, president; Paula Fischer, Nick Russo, Kathryn Fitzpatrick and Kristen Gloskowski. Al McGinnis serves as the City Council liaison.

“I had the pleasure of meeting with the Youth Board to talk about the situation the city finds itself in regarding budgeting amid COVID in our current budget year, the programming that we weren’t able to perform over the summer – summer recreation – and the strategic hiring freeze at the city,” Tabelski said. “We talked about what the upcoming budget for the city was shaping up to be, which is early in the budget process.”

Tabelski said she outlined big ticket items for which the city is responsible, such as snowplowing, public works, leaf collection, yard waste services, and police and fire response, and other services such as youth programs, economic development, contracting for the operation of the Falleti Ice Arena and maintaining athletic fields (including Dwyer Stadium) for residents to utilize.

“While Council won’t look at the budget until January, right now department heads are working with vendors on pricing and setting up contracts for services with the goal of providing a budget to City Council that remains within the tax cap,” she advised. “We are fiscally responsible to the citizens of the City of Batavia while still providing services that we know residents demand from the city.”

She said financial constraints and the impact of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 summer recreation program and the ongoing closure of the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool location on Liberty Street.

Unable to Reopen Youth Center Yet

“The ability to reopen the Liberty Center for Youth is still taking time to make sure protocols are in place, barriers put up and bringing back staff. So right now, the YMCA and the city share staffing requirements for the Liberty Center for Youth to open,” she said.

Since the city has not been able to hire part-time employees (due to the hiring freeze), a discussion with the county ensued, leading to a proposal to terminate the joint agreement for youth bureau supervision.

“Knowing what our budget looks like for next year, I said that we were willing to look at that and the goal was to have the program coordinator and the assistant city manager, which is myself, take on any responsibilities needed to get the youth programs up and running, and to continue,” Tabelski said.

Currently, the city is in the midst of a job search for a permanent manager – Tabelski was hired last year as the assistant manager – and also has no youth program coordinator as Lydia Schauf resigned that position to accept another job.

“We were left basically with the commitment from the Y to help reopen the center but with no employees available to staff it,” she said.

Tabelski said she explained this to the Youth Board, emphasizing that it “was time to look at it to understand what the city might be able to do in an effort to save money and deliver the programs at the same level to the residents and potentially use the YMCA as part of the strategy that I am looking into.”

Tabelski Promotes Pact with YMCA

She said she has a high regard for the YMCA, calling it a “professional organization that has an expertise in providing recreational services in our community.”

“In my mind, it makes sense for us to look at this as a broader partnership,” she said, noting that she has kept City Council informed of her activities in relation to youth services. “This could be a huge win for the YMCA and the city.”

Tabelski said she is negotiating with the YMCA to gauge its “capacity and ability” to provide afterschool and summer recreation services for the city’s youth, and added that other communities, including Perry and Geneseo, contract with the YMCA to provide their summer programming.

She said she left the door open for City Youth Board members to contact her, Sikorski or McGinnis but, to her knowledge, that has not been done. She also said that she was not informed that a letter would be released to the media.

“At the meeting, the youth board members indicated they understood the financial hardship that the city was in, they gave examples of their workplaces having to cut and lay off people, and they indicated a willingness to continue to be involved in youth programming and services and make sure those programs continue,” Tabelski said.

The interim city manager is hopeful the city would be able to enhance its youth services by contracting with the YMCA. She also defended her stance.

“I think it is incumbent upon a good manager to look at every piece of the organization and especially when we’re faced with challenges such as COVID and employee shifting,” she said. “I guess it was a perfect storm to examine how we deliver this service and see if there was an agency, such as the YMCA, that would be more capable, have more capacity and more resources to actually deliver the program and possibly enhance that program on behalf of the city.”

Tabelski said the goal is to continue to provide youth services at no or at a minimal charge – especially for summer recreation – and is convinced there are “multiple ways that can be negotiated to do that.”

“Right now, we have a contract with City Church for the St. Anthony’s building for the Liberty Center for Youth that runs another four years,” she said. “I think that as we do some long-term planning, we certainly want to look at the interaction between the current site for afterschool and what potential there might be for the (YMCA) Healthy Living campus (one of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects).”

Youth Board Reacts to 'Done Deal'

Fischer, responding this afternoon to emailed questions after talking with Twichell, said the City Youth Board’s intention was to send the letter with their concerns to City Council, but when The Batavian ran a story from the Human Services Committee meeting, it felt it was necessary to inform the public of what seemed to be a certainty.

“Once the information from the October 27th meeting was digested, it was apparent that the proposed changes to youth services would affect the quality of youth programming,” she said. “Many of the comments made by Rachel Tabelski and Jocelyn Sikorski were concerning. Ms. Tabelski was not aware of the differences between the County Youth Services and the City Youth Services. The City Youth Bureau provides direct youth programming and the County Youth Bureau does not.

“Despite the resignation of the only full-time city youth bureau employee, Ms. Sikorski was still in favor of abandoning the city program with no experienced staff remaining by ending the contract between the City and County with a year remaining. Also, Ms. Tabelski’s comment in the article, 'The city’s goal is to continue its youth programming – Liberty Center for Youth at the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street and the Summer Recreation Program – to the extent we that we can' was also alarming."

Fischer said the youth board did not contact Tabelski or Sikorski before sending the letter since the board is appointed by City Council and that Tabelski and Sikorski are employees and not voting members of the board.

As far as the Oct. 27 meeting is concerned, Fischer’s position is that Tabelski did receive comments from the board “regarding the outsourcing and charging for youth programming.”

“It was apparent that Ms. Sikorski had already went to the legislature and City Council with the proposal and was presented as a done deal,” she said. “When asked who would run the youth programming, the interim city manager shrugged her shoulders and said the assistant city manager, and the board asked who that would be and she said ‘me’. So, it was apparent that this was not well thought out after the resignation of the youth bureau coordinator. This sent up red flags that the youth programming was being phased out.”

The City Youth Board also does not agree with Tabelski’s plan to contract with the YMCA.

“The Board feels this would not be in the best interest of city youth,” Fischer said, adding that youth board members should be brought into the decision-making process.

“We are an advisory board. I would hope City Council would engage the City Youth Board on all matters going forward during these trying times,” she said. “The board would like to see services at the Liberty Center for Youth and the Summer Recreation Program resume once it is safe. These valuable services are less than 1 percent of the city’s budget.”

November 5, 2020 - 10:56am

 

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With a company name of three+one, it was appropriate that four members of the Pittsford investment firm’s leadership team traveled to Batavia on Wednesday to present Genesee County Treasurer Scott German with the National Leadership Award for his role in maximizing the municipality’s assets.

Company CEO/Co-founder Joe Rulison, Vice President Garrett Macdonald, Relationship Specialist Alex DeRosa and Public Partnerships Director William Cherry each spoke of German’s exemplary efforts.

The presentation took place at the start of the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

“This is a really special time for us to come together and honor the county … honor Treasurer Scott German for excellence in leadership across the nation,” said Macdonald, a Batavia native. “We have partnership with the National Association of Counties and we’re looking for counties that have exemplified strategic liquidity management for their taxpayers. We really couldn’t think of a better treasurer to honor than Scott German.”

The county treasurer’s office has been working with three+one for just over three years, Macdonald said, adding that his firm has agreements with county governments across the United States.

He credited German for considering any and all prospects of saving money for taxpayers.

“When it comes to looking at every single opportunity to earn and save on the taxpayer dollar, whether it be investment for a week, two weeks, a month, two months, longer, it’s a lot of work to look for opportunities to create value for the taxpayers,” he said. “And that’s what we’re all here for – to create value for taxpayers.”

Macdonald said that over the past 12 months, the county’s liquidity analysis and management practices have resulted in a benefit of $1 million “when (interest) rates were little to nothing.”

“That one million dollars, looking at the county’s tax levy for 2021 of about 31 million dollars, equates to about 2.89 percent – which would mean having to raise taxes in order to generate that kind of income,” he said.

Rulison emphasized German’s commitment to the firm’s “cutting-edge” strategies and recognized the impact German has had on other financial officers.

“It’s amazing to know that you adopted it (three years ago) and he (German) has taken it and implemented it,” Rulison said. “I can’t tell you how significant that is. There is only one person in the country that gets this award. And we’re thrilled for it to be able to be your treasurer, Scott German.”

Rulison recalled a phone call he received from a person from Washington who attended, along with German, a conference in the Midwest.

“Who is Scott German, the person said. I said he’s the treasurer of Genesee County. He goes, ‘He resonates what is a best practice that should be followed nationally.’ And he goes, ‘I think seeing that he is able to give and show his experience to others, is what really is going to be incredible – and that helped us to become a part of the National Association of Counties.’”

Cherry, retired Schoharie County treasurer and former president of the New York Association of Counties, said that he has known German for about 20 years, noting the latter’s participation in the state County Treasurers Association.

“Scott is always the first in line to want to learn how to do something better – best practices put into place – and he’s recognized throughout the country,” he said.

DeRosa said Genesee County has set a great example for him in his two years with three+one.

“I couldn’t think of a better example, a better county government for me to learn from – not only in your liquidity management practices but just how you treat your staff and it’s clear that you are a family together,” he said. “It’s truly going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure the taxpayers are getting that maximum value – and it’s an incredible example for counties across the state and the country.”

Afterward, German said he was surprised to learn that he was this year’s recipient of the award and said it is all about being responsible to county residents.

“I worked with them now for just over three years, and it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to my taxpayers. They pay me to do what I do so I’m doing what I can for them,” he said, noting that the county has earned around $3 million through its partnership with three+one.

Photo: From left, Alex DeRosa, Joe Rulison, County Treasurer Scott German, Garrett Macdonald and William Cherry. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 4, 2020 - 9:14pm

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Supported by an audience of department heads and legislators, first-year Genesee County Matt Landers tonight formally presented the municipality’s 2021 proposed budget, a $142,953,227 all funds spending plan drafted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It increases the tax levy by $400,069 but lowers the property tax rate by 31 cents per thousand of assessed value.

No one from the public signed up to speak at the budget hearing at the Old County Courthouse.

That left it to Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein to credit management and departmental leaders for being able to “flex and pivot” to develop a budget that doesn’t override the New York State tax cap, and to Landers to summarize – or “Landerize” as he put it – the path that got the county to this point and set a course heading into 2021.

“It certainly was a challenge to put together a 140-plus million dollar budget in a pandemic, but here we are today able to present a balanced budget that is under the tax cap,” he said.

Aided by PowerPoint slides, Landers presented the following key dollar amounts and percentages for 2021:

  • Recommended All Funds Budget is $142,953,227; a decrease of $759,766 or .53 percent;
  • Recommended General Fund Budget is $110,241,924, a decrease of $3,767,378 or 3.30 percent;
  • Recommended Property Tax Levy is $31,451,727, an increase of $400,069 or 1.28 percent;
  • Tax Rate Decrease from $10.11 to $9.80, approximately 3.06 percent;
  • Recommended Fund Balance Usage of $2,334,857, an increase of $534,822 from 2020 adopted budget.

Although the tax levy is going up, the tax rate is going down due to an increase in the county’s assessment.

To illustrate the property tax impact, Landers showed a slide depicting the median residential household in Genesee County with an assessed value of $106,800. It revealed that the 31-cent tax rate decrease amounts to a decrease of $33.11 in property taxes, assuming no assessment increase.

Barring any last minute adjustments by the legislature, the budget as it currently sits is scheduled to be adopted on Nov. 23.

Landers outlined several parameters that needed to be followed before his team, that included Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer and Executive Assistant Vicky Muckle, could dive into the numbers. Those instructions were to keep county support to the various departments “flat,” hold the line on contributions to outside agencies and funding of Genesee Community College, taking a team approach and, per the legislature’s wishes, not overriding the tax cap.

“It was a consensus that we would not be cutting them (outside agencies) but we would be at flat funding, which in itself is asking a lot of some of these agencies that are feeling the same budgetary constraints and costs and COVID-related items that we are,” Landers said. “So, I was pleased that they would accept flat funding, and most were appreciative that we did not cut them.”

He said it was a difficult decision to not increase funding to GCC, which he called “an excellent economic engine” in the county.

Landers also mentioned other factors, some triggered by COVID-19, that carried much weight in the formation of the budget, notably word out of Albany of a 20-percent reduction in state aid for most programs, double-digit increases in health care and retirement costs, $23 million in yearly state mandated services provided by the county – “with no end in sight,” he said – plus a 10- to 15-percent loss in sales tax revenue and decrease in projected interest earnings.

In response to these challenges, Landers pointed out he used more of the unexpended fund balance that he was anticipating and hopes that the county will be able to replenish it over time. He gave credit to former County Manager Jay Gsell for implementing a strategic hiring freeze, furloughing employees and deferring capital projects as the pandemic took hold.

The county also made the decision to reduce its revenue sharing with towns and villages, with Landers stating that the previous agreement was “unsustainable” in this current economy.

On the bright side, Landers said this allowed the county to increase its budget for infrastructure by $1 million next year -- $900,000 for bridges and culverts and $100,000 for roads -- a benefit that will “lessen the blow” to towns and villages because "that money will be going into their communities."

He said the budget also calls for the creation of three full-time positions (a dispatcher and two human resources employees) and a part-time person to assist the veterans service coordinator.

Looking forward, Landers said the focus will be on six areas:

  • Sales Tax Revenues;
  • Status of a Federal Stimulus Package;
  • Status of State Aid Reductions;
  • Status of COVID-19 and a Hopeful Vaccine;
  • Effects of Bail Reform on Jail Population;
  • State Allowing Possible Joint Jail with Orleans County.

“The (new) Genesee County Jail, pre-COVID, was the biggest story going on – right up there with water (the county’s water project),” he said. “It will be getting started shortly … as a consolidation effort with Orleans County.”

At the present time, state law prohibits joint county jails, but Landers said he his hopeful that the governor could change his position in his 2021-22 budget.

Landers acknowledged that legislators could make some “tweaks” to the budget before stating “that it is in the legislature’s hands now.”

Stein closed the session by saying the legislature is determined to fund the operations of this county, adding that the manager’s and budget office “door is open” for people to express their feelings.

“We are here to serve with you and for you,” she said.

Photo: Genesee County Manager Matt Landers at tonight's budget public hearing at the Old County Courthouse. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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